Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day

I went to the Christmas morning service at St Mary's (Midnight Mass is way past my bedtime!), and it was lovely to see Curate Jimmy in his fluffy white halo. It was attatched to his collar, and wobbled every time he shook his head.

On the way back up town, I passed Jones' Hardware shop, and noticed their sign advertising Christmas closing times:
Christmas Day: Stuffing our faces
Boxing Day: We've all eaten too much
Sunday: Nursing the Hangover

This morning there was a good crowd as usual for the Boxing Day Hunt, who meet at the clock tower. I usually amble down to have a look, but this year Islay contented herself with barking at the hounds from the comfort of the windowsill, while I was listening to David Tennant and Catherine Tate on the radio. All the snow has melted, except on the very top of Hay Bluff, so they'll come back covered in mud this afternoon. (the Hunt, not David Tennant and Catherine Tate....)

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Nadolig Llawen

...or Joyful Christmas, to all.

I notice in Backfold that the Honesty Bookshop there is now the No-Name Honesty Bookshop. I have visions of Clint Eastwood in his poncho turning up to empty the Honesty box every night!

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Monday, 21 December 2009

New Plans for Brecon Library

Last week's B&R is still hanging around the house, and there's a story on the front page which follows up something I wrote about hear a little while ago.
Powys County Council want to re-develop the centre of Brecon, and this would involve knocking down the Library. Earlier in the year, they put a bid in for Lottery Funding to re-develop the Museum site - which badly needs something to be done about it - but the bid failed.
Now it seems they intend to put in a revised bid to the Lottery for the Museum site, which would include a new Library building next door. This would clear the way to re-develop the present Library site.
Maybe the County Council just likes the idea of constant building works in the middle of town for years to come?

Meanwhile in Vita, the free magazine that occasionally comes with the B&R, there's an article about Glasu which includes a picture of Trevor Walder, a visiting engineer from Dubbo in New South Wales, standing on a soap box in the Buttermarket as part of the Hay Speaker's Corner initiative. He was talking about solar panels, apparently. This was set up by the Commonwealth of Hay, and partly funded by Glasu. The last of the three sessions will be on 27th December, if anyone wants a chance to rant over Christmas!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Climate Change Skeptic?

I don't normally watch a lot of TV, but I did manage to catch a couple of episodes of a late night programme on climate change the other night.
As I was watching, a familiar name popped up. A film called Greenhouse Conspiracy was made for Channel 4 in 1990, by Hilary Lawson. It was casting doubt on the reality of climate change.
Could this be the same Hilary Lawson who bought the Globe?
I wonder what his thoughts on climate change are now.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas Window Competition

I happened to be talking to the judges of the competition today, at the Fairtrade Christmas Fair (see Fairtrade Hay blog, link in the side bar, for more details of that).

So, The Winner Is: Shepherds, with their giant ice cream cone.
Second Prize: Vampire Christmas at Murder and Mayhem
Third Prize: vegetable nativity at the Granary.

Sadly, the vegetable nativity has had to be removed, as it started to rot!

Friday, 18 December 2009

A Bench for Carmel

Last March, an eighteen year old girl in Hay committed suicide.
I didn't mention it at the time, though I knew about it, because it was private to her family, and no business of mine.
I mention it now because there's a picture in the Hereford Times of her family and friends clustered round a new bench on the Warren. It's really rather a fine one, designed by Danny Thomas who makes chainsaw sculptures, and with one of his little trademark bears holding each end. The money to build the bench came from a fund-raising gig at the Globe, and they also gave some money to the charity MIND.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Well Done, Primrose Farm!

I see from the B&R that Primrose Organic Centre, just on the edge of Felindre, has won a record six awards at the Welsh True Taste Food and Drink Awards at Abergavenny.
They got a gold award for their salad packs, which I can confirm are very good - I eat a lot of them over the summer.
I've watched from afar as the Farm has developed over the years - they've got a Celtic round house, and garden plots for local schools, and produce an amazing £20,000 worth of vegetables, fruit and salad from a 1.5 acre plot. They've also had a lot of input from WWOOFA over the years, the environmental volunteer scheme. I think that's the right acronym - volunteers go off to smallholdings and so forth for their holidays, and help with some of the hard work that goes into running them. It's a good way for people who could never have a smallholding themselves to get involved.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Let there be Light!

I passed by Stuart at the greengrocer's this morning as he was bringing boxes of veg out to put on his outside shelves. Over the top of the shelves, he's rigged up an ingenious arrangement of lights inside half a tube of bamboo.
"It gets dark about four o-clock now," he said, "and the street lights don't go on then, and the Christmas lights are useless, so no-one can see that I'm open."

Friday, 11 December 2009

Transition Towns Social Evening

I was at the Swan early, as it was Stitch and Bitch night - not that anyone else turned up this week. This quite often happens over the winter; we save our energy for the first Thursdays of the month when someone will do a demonstration.
So I sat and knitted while I waited for the Transition Towns people to show up. The social took over the back bar - and one man came armed with a flip chart, which looked a bit serious!
As well as having a pleasant drink together, it turned out that we were also there to do a bit of brainstorming to decide what the committee should concentrate their efforts on in the coming year! Splitting up into groups was quite a good idea, as we all got to know who the other people we were sitting with were, and why they had come along. The group I was with had come from Clifford, Llanigon and Painscastle, and a lady with a house that needed altering found that the man who mends bicycles is also an architect, so that was useful for both of them!
Gareth Radcliffe was in the other group, so it was no surprise that their ideas centred around waste management. Gareth is very keen to make the Council more efficient in this regard. He was also able to give advice about the guerilla gardening ideas - there may be grants available to plant bulbs, or vegetables, around town!
One success from last year was shown by the map of where the new allotments are going to be - 16 of them on a ten year lease, just across the bridge and on the hill up to Radnor's End.
They've also signed up as a group to the 10:10 campaign, to reduce emissions by 10% over the coming year. Several individuals had the 10:10 tag about their persons, too, and a big achievement was for them to persuade the Hay Festival to sign up - though they're going to find it difficult to cut down, as they fly some of the speakers in!
Transition Hay have a page on the WyeLocal website, which they say they will keep updated with current and future projects.
There was a lot of enthusiasm, and optimism, in the room, and quite a few people new to Hay who seemed very keen.

Monday, 7 December 2009


That was the title of the free film that Transition Towns put on at the Globe last night.
The turn out was pretty low, but I did see some people I knew, and there was an interested couple from Glasbury.
The film was beautifully photographed, almost like watching the Earth being made into abstract art, and every shot was from above, so you really got a sense of the scale of things, as the tiny ship ploughed through the Arctic ice, or the combine harvesters moved across a vast American wheat field.
The point of it was to say that human beings have changed the Earth dramatically in the last fifty years, with the help of oil for transport, fertiliser and pesticides, and that the present state of affairs can't go on for much longer - with dramatic shots of the green desert in Saudi Arabia, irrigated with fossil water which cannot be replaced, drying up again.
This was where showing the planet from the air really came into its own, with shots of mile after mile of plastic covering land in Spain where vegetables are produced for supermarkets all over Europe, and vast plantations of eucalyptus trees (for paper) and date palms (for oil) replacing the diverse eco-systems of natural forests.
The film showed Qatar as the apex of the present economic system: Qatar has no water, but it has expensive de-salination plants to make salt water drinkable. It has no agriculture, but it can import food - and with all that sunshine beating down, there isn't a solar panel to be seen, while they spend their oil energy building artificial islands in the shape of palm trees for millionaires.
Of course, recent events have made this miracle in the desert seem rather hollow, as Qatar went bust just the other week.
To balance all the doom and gloom, though, the last part of the film had the refrain "It's too late to be a pessimist", and showed examples of what can be done with renewable energy around the world.
The film is available on the net, free, from

There was a lively discussion afterwards, touching on such issues as over population, which the film mentioned but didn't really go into, and whether or not to go vegetarian - and a general invitation to go to the Swan on Thursday 10th December for a social evening with Transition Towns, from about 7.30pm.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Climate Change and the Hay Hamster Paradox

The real title was Letter to Copenhagen, and it was a talk given as part of the Hay Winter Festival by Jane Davidson, Andrew Simms and Andy Fryer. Rosie Boycott was due to appear, but sent her apologies as she was far too busy preparing for the Copenhagen summit - which, in case anyone is unaware of it, is the successor to Kyoto and the world's last, best chance to do something positive about climate change.
Jane Davidson is one of the Welsh Assembly's delegation, the Assembly Minister for the Environment - and she's certainly got her work cut out for her. Wales has only a limited ability to create legislation, and a huge public sector which has to be paid for before other schemes can even be thought of. She said that Wales has benefitted enormously from membership of the EU, because of the environmental legislation which has come from Europe. At present, Wales has cleaner rivers and cleaner air than it has had since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and that probably wouldn't have happened without Europe.
Andrew Simms is the Policy Director of the New Economics Foundation. He'll also be at Copenhagen, and he's the man responsible for the Hamster Paradox.
Apparently, the 'must-have' toy this Christmas is a robot hamster. So he got thinking about real hamsters. In the first six weeks of their lives, they double their body weight every week. Then they level off at their adult weight. What would happen if they just kept on growing, doubling their body weight every week? How heavy would they be on their first birthday? Someone in the audience guessed 7 tons, but the real number is around 9 billion! And the hamster would be eating the entire world's output of cereals.
Conventional economics is like that hamster - every country in the world (except Bhutan, which prefers a national index of happiness, and failed states like Somalia who don't have a policy on anything much), they all buy into the idea of unlimited economic growth, and it won't work for much longer.
He also talked about the 350 campaign, the idea that CO2 emissions should be stabilised at 350 parts per million - and we're already at 387, so there's a lot of hard work involved in bringing the world's emissions down, especially as countries like India and China and Brazil aren't going to get on board unless they see real movement from the rich countries, especially the US and Europe. "Stop me if I'm using too many numbers," he said at one point, and Jane Davidson said that the problem with numbers is that they are being used to obfuscate the arguement far too often, rather than clarifying matters.
One of the questions at the end of the session was about the Hay Festival starting a Festival in the Maldives - what was all that about? Andy Fryer, who works for the Festival, explained that they had actually been invited by the President of the Maldives, because his country is one of those in most danger from climate change, being on average only 2 metres above sea level. Tourists come for the sun, sea and sand, but he wanted the world to know that there is an entire culture under threat there, and inviting a cultural festival was one way of doing that.
The Festival have recently signed up to the 10:10 campaign, which involves everyone, from individuals to businesses and even government departments who sign up, in reducing their carbon emissions by 10% in one year - to show that they take the problem seriously. Hay Festival have signed up, and so has the Welsh Assembly, this being one of the last things Rhodri Morgan did in office before he retired.
It was a fascinating morning, and I hope that people like Jane Davidson and Andrew Simms are listened to at Copenhagen, and serious action taken. As they said, it's not like a health budget where you can argue about a bit more here or a bit less there - the biosphere doesn't care about the arguments, and when it's had enough that's it - it's the future of the human race that's at stake here.

Friday, 4 December 2009

New Shops

Coming back from a walk with Islay the other evening, I noticed all the lights on at the shop on Broad Street that used to be Country Pie and will soon be Herbfarmacy. It's the one opposite Broad Street Book Centre and next door to Oxford House Books. I'd seen people putting shelves up and painting in there for a little while, so I knew they were getting ready to open, but now they're getting ready for Christmas with a stained glass exhibition.
Hung up in the windows with the light behind them, the pictures in the stained glass were amazing!
They're made by a lady called Rowan McOnegal, who is also a medical herbalist, and the pictures in the stained glass are all of plants, in great detail.
They're opening every Thursday up to Christmas.

In fact, visitors to Hay (and locals!) are spoiled for choice this month, as there's also the Veronica Guest watercolour exhibition on the Pavement, and Kate Modern is showing off some of her latest paintings, too.

Up at the Castle there are changes too - as I found when I followed the trail of signs that said "New Shop". Mason's Yard shop has just opened in that part of the stables that used to be Castle Drive Books (the lady in the shop, wife of the stone mason himself, said that they'd had to shift a lot of books up to the loft before they moved in!). There were stone fireplaces on display, and a rather fine round stone dove cote, as well as smaller pieces for sale, and a few other bits and pieces for the gift buying public. The plan is for the stone mason to work in a corner of the shop that has been partitioned off, where people can see him.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Christmas Windows

It's the first day of Advent, so let's get suitably in the mood of preparations for Christmas by looking at the shop windows round town - or at least, thinking about them, since I can't really do pictures.
Addyman's Annexe have built a church out of paper, surrounded by Victorian style pop-ups, and in Addyman's main shop, look out for R2D2, who's hiding from a Dalek!
The one that made me laugh out loud, though, was The Granary's vegetable nativity scene! Potato people, cauliflower sheep - and a sign that says no vegetables were harmed in this production! Wonderful!