Friday, 31 December 2010

More Swans A-swimming

Thanks to Andy Poole for this photo of the swans on Boxing Day, showing just how icy the river was.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Betwixtmas Market Day

I picked up the word 'Betwixtmas' from Craig Charles on Radio 2 the other day, meaning that little bit between Christmas and New Year which is neither one thing nor the other.
So, off up town with Islay in her trolley to meet and greet (her) and do a bit of shopping (me).
I got some seriously delicious plum and mulled wine Christmas jam from the Women's Institute stall on the Buttermarket (I'm eating it on toast as I type this). Just near the entrance, a potter from Caerphilly was selling off some seconds, so I treated myself to a little beaker that I can use for medieval re-enactment. The potter is Gwynneth Rixon, and her website is
Down to Londis for some groceries, and when I came out there was a little boy dressed as Robin the Boy Wonder outside. "Where's Batman?" I asked. He ran a little way up the pavement.
"I'm Batman," said his grandma.
"Ah, you're in disguise," I said.
"Yes - we're looking for the Penguin," she said.
"If I see him, I'll let you know."

Funny how a good mood can just vanish instantly.
I pushed Islay's trolley round the corner, minding my own business as I walked down the pavement, when a big car started to park right next to and in front of me, up on the (narrow) pavement! I bent down to peer in the car window - he obviously hadn't even noticed me, and I hardly blend into the background, with my Sherlock Holmes coat and the trolley with the dog in it!
He parked giving me just barely enough room to pass, so I came round to peer in at his front windscreen. No acknowledgement at all - he was an older man, with a tweed jacket - so I waited for him to get out of the car - again, he completely ignored me.
There was a small group of people clustered just below me around the shop that used to be Horsewise. The Horsewise sign board was on the floor. "Look at that!" I said at random to one of the group. "Illegally parked, up on the footpath, hardly left me any room to squeeze past - and he doesn't care, does he?"
(I had twigged by this point that the older man seemed to be with the other group, whose car was also illegally parked on the double yellow lines and up on the pavement.)
None of them seemed inclined to apologise, though the lady I addressed looked a bit worried.
If this is what the people who are starting Lion Street Gallery are like, I can't say I'm impressed so far.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Famous in Japan!

A few months ago, a Japanese couple came into the bookshop and asked if they could take some photos. They said they were writing a guide book for Japanese tourists visiting the UK, and they said that they'd send us a copy when they'd published it.
(You know how people say that, and then everyone forgets all about it?)
This week, the book arrived!
The only word in the Western alphabet on the front cover was Yubisashi, with addresses of bookshops inside, the rest being in Japanese characters. Several bookshops in Hay are listed, and for the Cinema, there I am, sitting behind the front desk (it's a tiny picture, so you'll have to take my word for it!).

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Boxing Day Hunt

A bit of a disappointing turnout this year - we saw the pack of hounds passing the front of the Cinema on their way out from the Clock tower, with the chap blowing his horn, and four or five riders - and we waited....
...and that was it!
Usually there are thirty or forty riders - but the snow was still bad. It's thawed quite a bit now.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Swans A-Swimming

The Wye is frozen solid, right the way across, from the Warren down to the bridge.
Just below the bridge, all the swans that usually spread out upstream among the fields around Hay are huddled together in the remaining open water around the canoe landing stage. There must be about fifty of them. Even there, the stones under the water are sheathed in thick ice.
A couple of days ago, I was passing the flower shop on Lion Street when a wren flew out from among the Christmas wreaths on display. It hopped around on the pipes on the wall beside La Maison and then flew across to the windowsills above Phil the Fruit's shop.
In the garden of the Children's Bookshop, on the Clifford side of town, many different birds have been seen around the bird feeders. When I was visiting, several redstarts were perched in the hawthorn bushes (we had to look them up in the bird book), and a sparrowhawk flew down and grabbed one of the small birds as the whole flock of them took flight. Within moments, all the other little birds were back at the feeders as if nothing had happened.
Back in town, the recycling and trade waste vans managed to get round on Wednesday, followed by the black bag van on Thursday, so town was all clear of rubbish for Christmas. The men from the Council really have been working hard to keep the streets clear and safe. However, both public toilet blocks are frozen up - and so are the toilets at the Cinema!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Deep and Crisp and Even

There's something magical about coming out of Midnight Mass into a churchyard muffled in thick snow, with the stars clear and bright above us, and the moon almost full (why couldn't it have been this clear for the eclipse?). Then going to a neighbour's house for good whisky* and home made Christmas cake finished off the evening perfectly.
I rolled home about 2am.

*Ardbeg from Islay.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Cheer, Christmas Beer

I'd like to wish everyone Nadolig Llawen - Happy Christmas!

Over on Pete Brown's Beer Blog (see the bottom of the side bar for the link), Pete Brown has made a little video matching the perfect beers to Christmas dinner, from a champagne like aparatif to a port like stout. I mention this here because it's almost local - the film was made in the Morgan pub in Great Malvern, with Pete Amor from Wye Valley Brewery, which runs the Morgan (and their beers are available in Hay). So I can highly recommend their Dorothy Goodbody Imperial Stout, which has been brewed to celebrate their 25th anniversary as a brewery, and is made from ingredients which all come from Herefordshire.
Today, my loyalties lie across the border with the Breconshire Brewery, as my Christmas dinner is a venison stew, marinaded in Night Beacon stout. Gorgeous!

Friday, 24 December 2010


The Village Quire performed at the Globe last night, to a packed house. (I had to ask at the bar how to pay for a ticket, as the lady who usually sits at the door for events wasn't there).
One neighbour who was there had seen the Village Quire a couple of weeks ago, doing the same show, and was so impressed that he wanted to see them again.
The bad news was that the Mari Lwyd couldn't be there - the group that had her live in Llantrisant and didn't want to risk the snowy roads. Mari Lwyd is a horse's skull on a pole, wrapped with a sheet and bedecked with ribbons, which was traditionally carried from door to door in Wales. The party with the mare's head would engage in riddling competitions with the householders to win entry to the house.
The good news, though, said the conductor of the Quire, was that he had been offered a horse's head "and he wasn't a member of the Mafia!" So they may have their own Mari Lwyd for next year.
The evening was a selection of traditional songs, sung a capella, interspersed with readings about how Christmas was celebrated in the Welsh Marches, the Cotswolds and Goucestershire (with one reading from Parson Woodforde sneaked in from Norfolk!).
The songs were a mixture of West Gallery songs (originally sung in the West Galleries of parish churches), folk songs, wassails, medieval music, and plygain, which come from a traditional Welsh church service held before dawn on Christmas Morning.
But was that our Christmas Day, or Old Christmas Day? According to writers like Ella Leather, who collected the definitive book of Herefordshire folklore, many people would not accept the change in the calendar in the eighteenth century, and continued to celebrate Christmas twelve days later, on Old Christmas Day.
It was a wonderful evening of superb music and beautifully read passages from Cider with Rosie, A Child's Christmas in Wales, and various works of folklore. Another neighbour I met there said that this was the evening that he felt Christmassy for the first time this year.

Combines in Camera

Yesterday morning I wandered over to Broad Street Book Centre, where yet another local author was holding a book launch.
As soon as I walked through the door, I realised that I knew her - and that her idea of a good time really is going round looking at farm machinery!
Sue Morgan has taken photos of vintage combine harvesters, and has written about the history of the different models and the companies that made them. There are several books about tractors about, but I'd say that this book fills a niche that hadn't been looked at before. And the pictures are beautiful.
Sue has also produced calendars, with one combine a month, which she is selling in aid of the Macmillan Cancer Support charity.
While I was there, munching on a very good home made mince pie, Sue signed a couple of books for eager customers. The wellies and overalls made me suspect that they were actually local farmers. One chap said that he'd come all the way down from Rhayader - though the main point of his visit to Hay was to buy something essential from Williams Hardware just on the edge of town.
For anyone interested in combine harvesters, the book and calendars can be purchased from Broad Street Book Centre in Hay, or online from Japonica Press.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Astronomical Disappointment

There was a complete lunar eclipse early this morning, the first to be on the Winter Solstice since 1638 - and I missed it. Thick cloud covered Hay, though I'm told they had a good view in Scotland.
And the snow continues to fall. I went up to the Cinema to collect the bough of mistletoe I'd forgotten yesterday, in the rush to get away early. I told my colleagues that I was now looking for a man to go with it! "You should try your luck going through town," said Julia - and I'd only got a little way along Castle Street before another neighbour came along and said "Give us a kiss!"
The Council have been brilliant, digging narrow little paths all over Hay, and my new neighbour was out early too, digging a path for the removal men who are bringing the rest of the furniture (though they haven't managed to turn up yet).
I attempted to make a snow cat with the pile of snow she made. About half way through I almost gave up and called it a snow Glastonbury tor, but with a bit more sculpting it now looks like - a wierd shaped lump. Oh well.
While I was out there (and before Mr Pugh was about) I dug out his path for him.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Big Freeze

More snow - I've been let out of work early, and on my way through town most of the other shops were shut too. Some people weren't even able to come into town today, from the surrounding hills where gritters fear to tread (or at least, don't go very often). The buses have stopped running, too.
Never mind - I have supplies, and the heating cranked up to full, and my new Snuggie, and a warm dog (and a decent bottle of whisky), so I shall be all right!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

More Snow

I came home from doing a bit of shopping yesterday to find Mr Pugh clearing a path to my door through the snow. He'd come out to do his own path, which includes steep steps and cobbles, so none too safe in slippy weather, and while he was at it, he cleared paths for the three cottages as well.
Mr Pugh is over eighty.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Time's Legacy

This May, I went to the event at Hay Festival where Barbara Erskine and Phil Rickman read extracts from their latest works in progress (co-incidentally both about Glastonbury) and talked about their work. Barbara Erskine's novel, Time's Legacy, is now in the shops, and it's just been reviewed in the Church Times. This is because the main character is a woman priest and, like many other Barbara Erskine heroines, she becomes involved in time-slip events, this time in Glastonbury around the time that Jesus visited with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, according to the legend. The reviewer is Dr Natalie K Watson, a theologian and writer, and she seems to have enjoyed it, but not been hugely impressed. Her conclusion is:
"Time's Legacy is a good and, at times, even entertaining read, somewhere between Susan Howatch and Dan Brown."

Friday, 17 December 2010

Christmas Windows

There's a lot of artistic talent in Hay when it comes to decorating shop windows, especially for Christmas - just look at this wonderful picture of Booth's Bookshop, taken by Suzy Davies! It's all done with paper - the Ice Queen, her mask and crown, and the rabbit and raven at her feet.
There's also a white peacock (stuffed) in the window of The End on Castle Street, a Jan Pienkowski-style nativity (all done with silhouettes, which I can't spell) at Addyman Annexe, and penguins searching for the Antarctic at The Bookshop on the Pavement (with one holding the map upside down, and a polar bear lurking in the background).

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

More Archaeology

Following on from my visit to Cardiff Museum, I've found some pictures of the things I was looking at.

The Caergwrle boat comes from the BBC website, contributed by Cardiff Museum, and the Red Lady comes from Cardiff Museum's own website.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Culture in Cardiff

Down to Cardiff for a day out at the National Museum and Art Gallery.
As I'm dependent on public transport, there were two ways I could do this. One was to get up at the crack of dawn for the early bus from Hay to Brecon, change there for the Sixty-Sixty bus to Cardiff, and come back on the early bus from Cardiff. The other was to take the later bus into Cardiff, but risk missing the last bus from Brecon to Hay on the way back.
I took the early option. I don't want to look at my watch at Libanus again and realise I should be in Brecon bus station at that point (even if I did manage to catch the bus to Hay that time).
It was a lovely run down - the reservoirs were iced over, and there were frozen waterfalls by the side of the road up in the hills, and spotlights of sunshine turning the bracken orange on the moors.
The bus stop is just by Cardiff Castle, and the Art Gallery and Museum is just round the corner. A couple of weeks ago, a lady came up to Hay with leaflets promoting the Museum, which gave me the impetus to visit - they've just refurbished the art gallery, which has quite a good collection of Impressionist art. I've taken much more of an interest in Impressionist art since the Doctor Who episode featuring Van Gogh - there was one of his later works on show (and I'm sure I recognise the staircases in the Museum from that episode, when the Doctor and Amy were on their way to the Paris exhibition!).
The big thrill, though, when I got there, was the Monet. They have several pictures and, up close, they tend to look kind of blurry. Then I remembered an artist who used to try to sell his pictures of sailing ships at craft fairs when I lived in London - quite successfully, because of his patter, which went along the lines of "You really see it at it's best from about ten feet back...." So I started walking backwards, and sure enough, got to the point where the individual brushstrokes faded away and the picture sort of came into focus. My favourites were San Giorgio Maggiore by twilight, and Charing Cross Bridge, London - they also had several water lily pictures.
I happened to head for the ladies' at the same time as a school party of seven or eight year olds. "Oooh, these are very posh!" said one little girl as she went down the marble stairs in front of me. It sounded like the highlight of her visit!
From there it was a short step to the Evolution of Wales - some good little films of the formation of the Earth and the movements of the continents, lots of fossils, and films of volcanoes exploding, followed by dinosaur skeletons and a cute woolly mammoth that moved and trumpeted.
After a reviving cup of coffee and a toasted tea cake at the cafe (they also have a restaurant downstairs, but I only wanted a snack), I went into the Origins gallery.
This really was the highlight of my visit, starting off with hominid skulls and moving right the way through to an archer at the time of Agincourt. I found a lot of 'old friends' in there! As an archaeology student, I studied the 'Red Lady' of Paviland (who is actually a chap from the Mesolithic period, and red because of the ochre that was scattered on the body at the time of burial) - but I'd never seen the actual skeleton before. Likewise, I'd seen a copy of the Bronze Age Caergwrle boat (a gold and shale model which looks like half an Easter egg) but never seen the real thing before. They also had a Roman donkey mill from Clyro, just over the river! (The stones were moved by a donkey walking round and round). And there were more bronze axe heads than you could shake a stick at, and some lovely flint arrow heads, and an Iron Age cauldron.... I had great fun.
There was just time for me to wander round the Cardiff Christmas market (with singing Big Issue seller) before it was time for the bus home.
One small hold up was the sheep on the road just outside Cardiff. We watched in admiration from the bus as a policeman leapt the barrier in the middle of the road to chase the sheep - but it was finally cornered by a minibus full of soldiers who jumped out to help, and was last seen lying on the central reservation surrounded by police and soldiers.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

National Politics

Roger Williams was in the B&R this week, apparently about to do himself out of a job. He supports the proposals to change the method of voting in General Elections, including the proposal to change the constituencies from the present 650 to 600 of more or less equal numbers of voters (I think it's around 76,000).
In spite of its great size, 78 miles from top to bottom, Breconshire and Radnorshire are sparsely populated, with about 53,000 voters. So either the Brecon and Radnor constituency grows to become impossibly huge, or it gets dismembered amongst the surrounding constituencies.
Meanwhile, I see that Roger Williams has stuck to his Lib Dem principles by voting against the bill to raise students' tuition fees.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

"If you want to get ahead...."

..."get a hat," as they used to say, and I've just sold my hat!
It was the day of the Fairtrade Fair in the Buttermarket (for more details go to the Fairtrade Hay link on the side bar). I was wearing my coat with a cape, a la Sherlock Holmes, and to go with it I had my deerstalker with a Fairtrade badge. Well, I had to get the hat to go with the coat. We were just packing up when a chap came into the Buttermarket and offered to buy my hat for charity! He offered me £25, and said something about raffling it for a charity of my choice.
He went off wearing it.

(Must get another deerstalker now).

Friday, 10 December 2010

Hereford Times

I don't often get the Hereford Times (reminds me too much of futile job searching in the days when I had to do that), but this week there were two reasons for buying it. The first was to see if there was anything advertising our forthcoming Fairtrade Fair (though that was covered last week), and the second was to see what hereford Times reporter Jess Childs wrote about the meeting on Monday about the Globe. She has, after all, sung at the Globe on occasion (and she's got a very good voice).
As it turned out, there are all sorts of stories about Hay in this week's edition. On the Globe, the article was entitled "Meeting Called to Iron-Out Arts Venue Gripes". Then there was "Market Appeal is no Victim of Fashion", on a recent fashion show put on to raise money for the Cheesemarket. Eighteen independent shops took part, and raised nearly £1,000 to restore the building. More fundraising events are planned, the next being an auction at the community centre next March.
The Old Stables is one of ten countywide winners in this year's Talking Local Food and Drink competition, put on by the Welsh Assembly.
We have a new local author, Lynette Gallagher, who has written a children's fantasy set on the Begwns and called The Buggins. They are little creatures who care for the world, and the plot concerns the building of a beacon to celebrate the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969 (which really happened). The book is on sale now at Booths Books and Pembertons, and there's something going on at the Library, too (sorry, I forget the date).

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Magical Artwork

I've been footling about on the web this evening, and stumbled across a website of rather wonderful photography which includes images of the Brecon Beacons and the Malverns (which are almost local), as well as some mystical and magical artwork.
The artist is Angela Jayne Barnett, and her website is at
I was so impressed I bought one of her calendars.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Globe: Matters Arising

"There have been rumblings," Mary said to start off the meeting (she being Mayor, and in the Chair).
So to clear the air, the Town Council were facilitating a public meeting for all the problems to come out and be talked about. Mandy and Jo from the Globe were there, several councillors, Gareth Ratcliffe the county councillor (who had to crawl under the table to get to a chair) and PC Thomas.
After Mary took her letter round to the neighbours of the Globe, the Council got 17 letters in reply. Nine were complaints, but the rest were in support (though two of the supporting letters came from further afield).
The complaints could be broken down into parking, and noise. Mandy said that, in future, when they knew they were going to get a lot of deliveries, they would try to stagger the timings better so Heol-y-dwr wasn't blocked by lorries or cars, but that was pretty much all they could do, besides saying on the website and publicity that there was no parking for customers at the Globe. She also agreed with the audience that there should be a resident's mailing list to alert neighbours to potential problems.
PC Thomas broadened it out a bit and said there were four areas around Hay that he got most complaints about with regard to parking: the area opposite Bridge Street, the corner around the Blue Boar at the other end of town, and around the zebra crossing on Oxford Road, and along Castle Street, where people sometimes overstayed their time. The new road down to Millbank was mentioned, but that hasn't been adopted by the Highways Authority yet, so there's very little the police can do yet. He said that if there are problems, then the number to ring is 101, the police non-emergency number (I didn't know about this number before tonight, but it seems a lot better than dialling 999 for some trivial problem like the woman on the national news who had her snowman pinched!).
As far as the noise was concerned, PC Thomas has been keeping an eye on the place to make sure they kept within their licencing agreements - which they have done. He also said that Trading Standards have been around the town doing test buying, and the Globe passed. Which means that someone under age tried to buy a drink and the Globe refused to serve them.
Another noise issue was that groups of people had tried to go into the Globe after they'd come on from other pubs and had been refused admittance because it was after 11pm, in which case the Globe had acted properly, and it wasn't their fault that the people in the street had been rowdy.
Privacy was a particular issue for one neighbour, and Mandy said that they would be planting trees along the edge of the new patch of ground that they've bought, which should also reduce noise.
Another neighbour brought up the safety problems of the road, with no footpath - and small children go to events at the Globe at times. This turns out to be the responsibility of the Highways department, who have been to look at the junction, but who have no money at the moment to do anything. It's too narrow to put a footpath in, and other options include making Heol-y-dwr one way, or changing the priorities so that cars coming up Newport Street have to give way to those coming out of Heol-y-dwr. But that's not going to happen until a bit of money materialises.
On the plus side, both Fiona Howard, as headmistress, and PC Thomas, mentioned that the Globe's events for children and young people mean that kids that would otherwise be hanging around and possibly getting into trouble were, instead, sitting in the Globe watching a film, which has to be a good thing.
As I was leaving, there was a little cluster of people round the bottom of the staircase talking about sending letters to the Highways Department to get them to do something to improve safety on Heol-y-dwr. There may be a campaign starting there.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Brilley Christmas Fair

It's been warmer than previous days - and much more treacherous underfoot, as rain fell on the packed snow and glazed it over with ice. Islay decided she didn't want to go out, and I didn't blame her after I'd got a few yards.
However, up in the Buttermarket intrepid souls from Brilley had come down from the hills to sell their handicrafts - and they'd brought three alpacas with them! They were in a pen in the corner of the Buttermarket, on straw, looking quite unconcerned. There were two caramel coloured ones and one dark chocolate - and so fluffy!
There was mulled wine, mince pies and cakes, a badge making machine, a make your own Christmas star stall for the kids, patchwork, Christmas wreathes, mistletoe and holly. There was even someone selling organic potatoes! I bought a forked hazel walking stick, and I needed it on the way home!
The men from the council were out in force, though, gritting the paths with a dinky little hopper on wheels that sprays the grit out from underneath.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Stitch and Bitch Christmas Lunch

I haven't been in the Old Black Lion for a few years (and that was for a Christmas do, too). The last time I went in there regularly, they still had a stool by the bar for Bruce Addyman, who lived next door and liked to go in for a quiet pint now and then. We'd got friendly with John and Joan Collins, previous owners, and used to chat to their visitors about the area and generally make them welcome.
They'd set up a table for us in the corner near the fire. Ten of us managed to get there, and that included Elinor who'd come all the way from Newtown!
The food was excellent (and there were rather too many vegetables!). I chose the melon and prawn starter, expecting a big smiling slice of melon - but it had been carved into little balls, dotted around the plate, with the prawns and dressing in the middle. Ros had the tomato soup, and that nearly filled her up on its own.
I went for the traditional options for the rest of the meal - turkey and Christmas pud. Both were delicious, and plenty of it. The trout looked gorgeous, too, and so did the vegetarian option, leek and mushroom pancakes. Other sweets were pannecotta and a big, fluffy cheesecake with enormous blackberries.
The conversation flowed freely, too, moving from an anti-Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer (like the anti-Christ - "Rusifer!") to the novels of Terry Pratchett and Phil Rickman, and meandering over crochet, weaving, geckos, the wonders of double glazing, having your hair dried in a mangle (!), unpleasant vicars - and fun vicars like Father Richard, and much more. Elinor said we were much more interesting than the Builth Stitch and Bitchers!
In short, a good time was had by all.
The group is going to try to meet again on 16th December between 6pm and 8pm at the Swan, or failing that on 4th January.

We did think of having our meal at the Swan, as we meet there, but different ones of us asked at least three times for a Christmas menu to look at, and the only one they came up with was for Christmas Day itself, which we didn't want at all.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Winter Wonderland

It was a beautiful run up to Brecon on the bus today, like travelling through a Christmas card - though the bus driver said that there was no snow in Hereford at all.
I stopped by the Tourist Information office to pick up a bus timetable, as I'd lost my old one, and the lady there told me that she's been interviewed for Radio 4! As she works in the Tourist information office, she got the phone call to ask who they should interview about Hay when the Festival wasn't going on. She suggested Richard Booth, but they wanted someone else as well, and after talking to her a bit, the chap on the other end of the phone said "Don't bother thinking about anyone else - you can do it!" A lovely man in a pink turban came down (he's something to do with the One Show), with a sound man, and they chatted for about twenty minutes. "It'll be edited, of course," she said, "the programme's only half an hour." He asked her what she didn't like about Hay, and she said the fact that Hay has a Hereford postcode when it's in Wales, and that she didn't like the mispronunciation of some of the Welsh names, "like Heol-y-Dwr, that turns into Holy Door, and I told him, there's nothing Holy about it!"
She gave the BBC men some lunch, and a few days later, she got a beautiful bouquet, with a note thanking her for the lunch and the "lively interview".
The programme will be broadcast at 11am on Boxing Day, on Radio 4.
I had a few bits of Christmas shopping to do in Brecon (when a man says he wants cucumber seeds, and even goes so far as to state a preferred variety, that's what I'm going to get for him), and I slid into the empty front bar of the Boar's Head for a half of Welsh Pale Ale from the Breconshire Brewery - they had four Breconshire beers on tap, two of them CAMRA champion beers (Cribyn and Rambler's Ruin).
Back in Hay, there's a very impressive set of icicles on the porch of bwa design on Broad Street. The longest is over two feet long.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Getting Ready For Christmas

Santa's going to be busy this year - he's appearing at Booth's Bookshop and the Old Railway Line Nursery, and I saw a Santa's Grotto at the Buttermarket over the weekend too (but Santa must have been hiding inside).
The Granary have put up their Christmas window display of gingerbread people (which should last the course better than the vegetable display they did last year. Wonderfully imaginative, but with a tendency to go off). Cotswold Collections aren't even trying this year, since they close down on the 4th December. Rumour has it that Spirit of the Andes will be taking over - at least they're used to the cold up there!
Today I sold books about Mount Everest and Eskimo art - I think everyone's thoughts are revolving around snow at the moment.
And one person told me that the thermometer in their car had shown a reading of -13.5C this morning.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Down at the Rose and Crown

Sometimes, you've just got to go out down the pub.
Happy Thanksgiving, Jackie!

(But I missed the switching on of the Christmas Lights).

Meanwhile, the Food Fair was fun, and this year Islay could see the tops of all the stalls from her perch on her little trolley - last year she was down on the floor tripping everyone up. I got some useful stocking fillers, while listening to the music of the Brecon Town Concert Band.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Special Council Meeting

I bumped into Shelley yesterday, and she asked me if I'd had a letter from the Town Council about a special meeting to discuss the Globe. I hadn't, so she photocopied her letter and dropped it round.
It's addressed to the residents neighbouring the Globe, in Heol-y-Dwr, Booth Gardens, Brook Street, Mill Bank, Newport Street and Broad Street. I dare say Mary (our Mayor) thought she'd see me over the weekend so she didn't need to drop a letter off - I have to drop in to Broad Street Books so Islay can have her daily biscuit(s) after all.
The meeting is "to discuss any issues relating to the Globe", and it will take place from 6.30pm to 7.30pm on Monday 6th December in the Council Chambers.
Because this is an official Council meeting, members of the public are not allowed to speak or comment during the meeting (it'll be held just before the usual monthly meeting of the Council). However, written submissions can be sent in, or dropped at the Council offices, as long as they are received by Monday 29th November. Representatives of the management of the Globe will be there to comment on any issues raised.
Which should be interesting - I intend to go along as an observer. One of my colleagues at work is a neighbour of the Globe, and is very much opposed to their continued existance.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Is this the last of the court cases?

Headlines in the B&R this week seem to give the green light for the biomass digester at Great Porthamel Farm at last - but they've thought they were cleared to start before and been wrong.
It must have seemed like a good idea when they started. Farm diversity, green energy - it seemed to tick all the right boxes, and they were having the abbatoir waste delivered to their farm already anyway, to be spread on the fields. Making electricity out of it must have seemed like an obvious next step.
The National Parks authority seems to have gone out of their way to be obstructive, though, and the legal costs mounted. First the planning application was accepted; then the plans were sent back to the committee and this time they were rejected.
An inspector from the Welsh Assembly came down and gave the project permission to go ahead, subject to certain restrictions - but the National Parks wouldn't accept his findings and sought a Judicial Review. Which has just been heard in court - and thrown out by the judge. "I regard this application as unjust and do not consider it can be granted and I dismiss it," he said, also ordering the National Parks to pay legal costs of £14,500.
The Welsh Assembly, meanwhile, has given a grant of £690,000 towards the cost of the digester.
When the digester is finally in operation, it should be able to supply enough electricity to power 300 homes.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Globe on Fire

"If anyone feels a little bit nervous," said Goffee, through the megaphone, "they can hold the hand of one of the stewards." At that point in the proceedings, the stewards (and the St John's ambulance people and the policeman) outnumbered the marchers in the parade from the Market Square to the Globe. There were, however, two girls from the Ukraine, and one from Germany, who had made lanterns to carry, and later some children arrived with lanterns that they had made in the workshops at the Globe.
Rob Soldat, in swirling cloak, led us through the streets, and we picked up marchers on the way. "This is Lion Street - watch out for the Lion!" he cried. By the time we got to the Globe, the Japanese drums were throbbing in the background and there was a queue to get in.
I just went along for the fun of the procession (I don't get that many opportunities to wear my Goth dress and cloak), so I didn't go in to see the show. I didn't want to go home straight away, though, so I went up to Kilvert's for a half of Brewdog's Trashy Blond before I carried my little candle lantern home.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Crime Wave in Hay

It's Children in Need day, and my neighbour always puts on a coffee morning with lots of nice cakes. This year, Mary Fellowes came across the road with her mayoral chain over her ordinary clothes - she said people are always asking her to wear the chain, so she thought she'd make the coffee morning an 'official' event for the town.
Another neighbour told us about the theft he'd suffered on Tuesday night. He'd parked his car down by the river, and in the night someone had come along and cut off the catalytic converter. He called the police when he found out, and they sent two PCs from Brecon, but there was nothing they could do about it. All they wanted, he said, was to know his date of birth and his religion, and they'd fill a form in and then close the case. He said that they had told him that another car had its catalytic converter stolen on the same night.
"Well, that's three then," said Mary. One of the Dial-A-Ride vans was parked down in the Co-op car park (which is well lit, unlike the riverside). It wasn't used on Wednesday, but on Thursday morning the driver found that it, too, had had the catalytic converter removed. She was going to tell the police as soon as she left the coffee morning.
The general opinion was that a gang had come into town from the Valleys, or Birmingham, or somewhere equally distant, taken what they wanted and disappeared whence they came. It's making people rather worried about the places they park their cars though.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Goings On at the Globe

So the rumours are true - I'd heard that the Globe had bought the bit of spare ground where the Ship Inn used to be, but I didn't know if it was true until I saw the purple, yellow and blue flags in place, matching the ones outside the front of the building.
They've levelled the ground off, and done a bit of landscaping down towards the retaining wall by the road. They've put in a nice wooden staircase to get down to the terrace, and a ramp made of those wire baskets full of stones. There are three big green containers on the terrace, which are to house art works for the Crunch weekend, just coming up. On the upper level, two yurts have been erected, and behind them I assume is where the mad morris dancers and fire show will be tomorrow night....

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

How Times Change

I was chatting to a chap who used to come to Hay regularly, but who hasn't visited for some time.
"The bookshops all used to be freezing cold in winter," he said, "and they smelt of calor gas - now they're warm and they've all got settees and stuff!"

Monday, 15 November 2010

Cold and Frosty Morning

Greg came down from his office shortly after the shop had opened, ready to open the lids of the outside shelves under our canopy in front of the shop. "We'll only get the Scott of the Antarctic Appreciation Society browsing out there today," he commented.
Then he noticed that Julia was already out there opening up. "Captain Oates!" he shouted, "Come in! You're not dressed for it!"

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Wye Valley Life

I've been flicking through the pages of this month's Wye Valley Life. One of the headlines on the front cover is "Party Pictures of People You Know". This is never usually true, but in this case one of the parties was the launch of Hay's second Festival of British Cinema. I couldn't get to it, so it was nice to see all those familiar faces in the magazine.
There was Haydn Pugh (looking like a Welsh James Bond in his tuxedo) being presented with a bottle of wine for winning the Best Bookshop Window award. Jo Eliot and Seza Eccles were there from the Film Society, without whom none of this would have happened, along with Francine Stock of Radio 4. There was Mandy, Mary Fellowes the Mayor with Gareth Ratcliffe our County Councillor, Betty and Vera from the NW Trust, and Elizabeth Haycox who was hosting the event in Booths Books.
The good news along with these pictures is that the Festival has secured funding for a further two years.

Elsewhere in the magazine the winners of the Flavours of Herefordshire were being announced. The only local name I noticed was The Bull's Head at Craswall, which was a finalist in the Pub category. The winner was the Three Horse Shoes at Little Cowarne, with the runner up being the Sun at Winforton, which isn't too far away.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

"To The Fallen"

As it's 11th November, it seems only right to mention a new little book out around town. It's called "To the Fallen" and it provides photos, anecdotes, personal and service information on the men commemorated on the Hay and Cusop War Memorials. So often all that's left is a list of names, but this turns them back into people who lived here, marched away, and never came back.
It's available from Eric Pugh on the Pavement, the British Legion Club (all proceeds are going to the British Legion), and various booksellers around town. If anyone who isn't in Hay would like a copy, contact Eric Pugh via the Old Hay website on the side bar.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Pumpkin Song

I went to the Open Mic Night at Kilvert's last night with watchthatcheese, who also goes to Stitch and Bitch, and it was a very jolly evening. And silly. I sang the Mead song, which is "Doh, a Deer, a female deer" from the Sound of Music - except this version starts "Dough you need to buy the mead".
All the usual suspects were there: Marta sang a Lithuanian folk song, Toby played guitar and harmonica, Tim and Briar sang, Chris read the next extract from his magnum opus (to uncontrollable giggling from certain sections of the audience!). Three visitors, two men and a woman, sang in close harmony, starting with "Full Fathom Five my father lies" from the Tempest (Shakespeare! A bit of culture!) done as a round, and finishing up with a version of the 500 Mile song celebrating the life of a bricklayer "And I can lay 500 Bricks...." With actions.
After that, it kind of turned into a community singsong, with everybody and their instruments joining in for Summertime and Ring of Fire - and then Chris grabbed the guitar and said "I'm going to sing the Pumpkin Song", which is even sillier than the mead song. "You walk like a pumpkin, you talk like a pumpkin, you'll look like a pumpkin when you grow old...."
It may not be the best singing in the world (though the visitors were very good) but the laughter and enjoyment are first class.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Christmas Lights

Well, they're going up around town now - not sure when the switching on ceremony is going to be yet, but I'm sure there will be posters up soon.

Meanwhile, I saw someone coming down the alley by the Library this evening. "You know the back of Booths, where all the scaffolding is?" she said. "I saw scattered in the road - 50p, 20p, 20p, 50p - all of them stuck down with superglue!"

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Churches and Shops

I met a lady who goes to Open Door, as I walked through town today. That's the little chapel at the bottom of town, near the vets' surgery. She told me they'll be closing their doors at the end of December for good - though they will be having a Carol Service on the 18th December. They're lovely people, and they've done a lot of good in the town, but it is all run on a voluntary basis, and it's very hard work.
On a happier note, the grand organ in St Mary's Church is almost ready! There will be an organ recital on Sunday 5th December, at 5.30pm (free but ticketed) as part of the Hay Winter Festival.

Meanwhile, rumours abound in Hay about various shops that are (or might be) changing hands. Will Horsewise become an art gallery? Who has bought the Pavement Bookshop (and will it still be a bookshop?) and is Cotswold Collections closing down? One lady I spoke to said: "I hope it is - then they'll have a Closing Down Sale and I might be able to afford one of their alpaca jumpers!"

It looks as if there might be an interesting few months ahead.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

What Respectable Ladies Get Up To

There was a good crowd at Stitch and Bitch tonight - we were learning how to turn a heel of a sock (with several demonstration socks on show!). At least, one end of the table were grappling with the complexities of socks - the other end of the table were doing something complicated with crochet. The Cinema Bookshop now closes at 6pm, for the winter, so for the first time in ages I was able to attend the whole session. It was also 'show and tell' night - one of our ladies has knitted a most wonderful throw, in colours that look like jade and coral, from a kit she got at Wonderwool. Another lady brought an almost finished T shaped jumper with short sleeves (with a nice cable pattern around the arms). She hand spun the wool herself, and she can't finish it until she's spun some more. She's also putting some of her art work on display in Glasbury soon - and she's going to be in panto again this year! The lady who runs the Swan is about to start a patchwork quilt for a friend's baby - there's a new Dunelm's in Hereford and she said they have some lovely material in. (It's just along from B&Q).
Yarn Craft Rebel is becoming famous. After the yarn bombing of Hay for Hallowe'en, she's been interviewed for the Hereford Times (it's on their website), and she's also been interviewed for Radio Hereford and Worcester! The programme is going out between 7am and 9am on Monday, with additional interviews in various shops around town to ask them what they think of the yarn bombing. One of the hats (bright orange with eye holes and little devil horns) has been seen around town on someone's head.
We'll be meeting again in 2 weeks' time to decide what we want to do for a Christmas meal, though Red Indigo is out as curry disagrees with one lady, and another can't eat cumin.
As I reached home, I met Jackie from the Fairtrade group, about to go into the Three Tuns. She and Christina were about to set off on a Fairtrade pub crawl around Hay, to see if any more pubs would sign the pledge to provide Fairtrade products for sale.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Trick or Treat

I am a bad person.
Four little girls dressed as witches turned up on my doorstep last night, and I had nothing to offer them in the way of treats.
Even worse, one of the little girls dropped one of her chocolate bars on the path as she left.
I ate it.

Fairtrade Cycle Ride

Pop across to the Fairtrade Hay blog (link on the side bar) to find out how much fun we've been having over the weekend....

Sunday, 31 October 2010


On Tuesday night, my sister and her family retired early to their camper van to put little James to bed at a more reasonable hour, and Mark and I went up to Kilvert's for the Open Mic evening.
Mark does quite a bit of karaoke back home, so he was determined to sing - but it's not so easy when it's just you and a microphone with no backing track.
While he was there, though, he got chatting to Eddie at the bar, and when he came back to where I was sitting he told me he'd been invited to a private beer tasting session on Thursday night! Apparantly he'd been extolling the delights of King Goblin, the special version of Hobgoblin which was on the hand pump for Hallowe'en.
Earlier on Thursday evening, we were engaged in nefarious pursuits around town with the Stitch and Bitch ladies, but we had plenty of time to get up to Kilvert's afterwards.
I have to confess, my memories of the evening are slightly blurred. We were trying Dorothy Goodbody's Wholesome Stout; Night Beacon, the stout from Breconshire Brewery, and Brewdog Punk IPA, all of which are very fine beers. With Eddie was Buster from the Breconshire Brewery, and later in the evening a chap from Adur Brewery turned up with something special in his knapsack for Eddie. The chap from Adur Brewery said he was still learning, but the brewery already brews twelve different beers.
Looking at the Dorothy Goodbody beer clip led to a discussion of complaints that have been made against breweries - it's now a head and shoulders view, rather than showing Dorothy with her legs tucked up in front of her. The brewery got a complaint that Dorothy wasn't wearing any knickers! (Though how they could tell, unless they were scrutinising the picture very carefully, is a moot point). Buster said that the pump clip for Rambler's Ruin had also been complained about - because the picture is of a cartoon character, and therefore (went the slightly warped reasoning) they were encouraging minors to drink.
As a mere drinker of real ale and ex-member of CAMRA, it was quite a privilege to be in the company of a group of people with such an encyclopaedic knowledge of beers. They talked about malts, and the different varieties of hops, and the Georgian table ale that Buster is re-creating (he's pleased with the bright ruby colour of it). Knowing now how passionate Buster is about creating good beer has given me an extra reason to visit Brecon, where his beers are available at the Boar's Head, and to look out for his bottled beers - the Night Beacon was a very nice stout, with complex flavours, and quite distinct from the equally delicious Dorothy Goodbody's.
The bar was quiet that evening, but there was a group of drinkers sitting quietly down at the other end - one of whom turned out to be the social secretary of the East Bedfordshire CAMRA Branch, on her holidays! She told us that she has recently widened the scope of their local newsletter to include a section called "What I did on my Holidays", where members can write about beers they have tried which are not generally available in their local area - and since she wrote down details of who was there, I think a glowing report will be published there soon!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Castles and Churches

I trained as an archaeologist, and I got interested in history as a child partly because we visited lots of castles and churches on family holidays.
There happens to be a rather fine castle in Grosmont, not far from Monmouth, so that was the plan for Tuesday. It was a bit of a rainy day, but we all had wellies and waterproofs.
Grosmont castle is free to get into - there are a few signboards dotted around to tell you what you're looking at, but apart from that you just wander straight in. It was built as part of a system of defence against the Welsh, along with the nearby White Castle and Skenfrith, but Grosmont soon became a sort of Royal holiday cottage. The fine chimney which once served the private chambers at the back of the castle is known as Eleanor's chimney, after Queen Eleanor of Provence, wife of King Henry III - though the chimney itself was built after her time, when the castle was held by the Earls of Lancaster. Eleanor was known as the White Rose, and that's supposed to be where the badge of the House of York comes from. One of the side chapels in the local parish church, St Nicholas', is known as the Eleanor Chapel.
It's a beautiful little castle, very compact with a deep dry moat (well, dampish at the bottom), standing in what is now a sloping field but was originally the outer bailey of the castle, where all the stables and bakehouse and brewery and other essential buildings were. Sadly, the cloud cover was low over the hills when we were there, because the view from the top of the wall is very fine.
I think the highlight of the visit for little James (though he did enjoy climbing up to the battlements) was when he found a dead slow worm in the grass near the moat!
Just across the way from the castle (and there would have been a small procession every Sunday from the Castle led by whoever was in residence at the time) is St Nicholas's Church, which is rather larger than a normal medieval church for a small town, because of the importance of the castle.
You enter the nave, which is cleared of chairs and just as it would have been in medieval times, with round pillars and a stone flagged floor. The church was renovated in Victorian times, and basically split in two by a wooden screen. The part that is used today as the church is through the screen, at the chancel end of the church, with two side chapels. The font has been moved to one of these. There's also an organ which doubles as a barrel organ, playing 12 hymn and psalm tunes for when an organist was not available, showing that programming keyboards is nothing new!
Their memorial to the soldiers of the First World War is quite unusual - first it lists all the men of Grosmont who went to fight, and underneath that those who died. There were some unusual jobs, too, like Air Mechanic and Driver, which aren't normally mentioned. We couldn't find anything to commemorate the Second World War - maybe nobody from the town went.
After that, it was time to repair to the pub, the Angel, which served good, hearty food and some excellent real ales and ciders. One of the choices was Angel Burger, which worried me a bit - thinking of those poor, defenceless angels being hunted down for their meat. It was delicious, though. My young man had a rather wonderful cider called Black Dragon, from Gwynt y ddraig, and they had three real ales on hand pump, including Otter. I asked for a half, and Mark wanted to know if I wanted the top half of the otter or the bottom half.
On the way back to Hay, we passed through Abbey Dore, so we stopped at the church there. In the middle ages, this church was enormous. It's big now, and only the stump of the East end is left. When the Cistercians had the abbey, the nave of the church stretched the entire length of what is now the graveyard - 60 metres. There's plenty of space inside for concerts - the stage was set up when we went in - without that interfering with the area around the altar, which is the original Cistercian one. Perhaps because it's so simple, it looks strikingly modern. The altar and pews are set in the centre of an ambulatory which goes right round the outside of the church, and where fragments of the original decorative stonework are displayed.
It was lovely to get out to these places again (it's very difficult without a car), and to share them with a group of interested people, including a fascinated five year old boy. We'll make a historian of him yet.

Friday, 29 October 2010

I've had Visitors!

Hence my silence for the last few days. My young man came up from the Big Smoke for a week, and in the middle of that my sister, her husband and my little nephew James arrived for a few days in their camper van ("Are they hippies?" I was asked at work when they heard about the camper van - my sister is just about a polar opposite of a hippy.)
Because of the camper van, though, I could take them all to see things outside my usual range.
On Monday, we did some light shopping around Hay, finishing up at Kilvert's for lunch. They seemed to be having a bit of trouble with the kitchens, as the wait for food was quite long, and at one point the chef sent two meals out that nobody had ordered.
However, we then set off for Kington's Small Breeds Farm and Owl Centre. It's the sort of thing you kind of need the excuse of entertaining a five year old to visit, though all the adults were fascinated too. We never knew there were so many different sorts of owl! The collection here is the biggest in Europe - burrowing owls, fish eating owls, spectacled owls that look like penguins, owls from Africa and the South American jungles, and the Arctic, and more.
Then we went into the field, where there were pygmy goats and miniature donkeys and Kune Kune pigs and Golden Guernsey goats, and fluffy legged chickens, and geese with a shoe fixation - they followed people around pecking gently at their toes! In the corner of the field were a couple of pavilions housing fancy pheasants and red squirrels - the squirrels could move between the cages in wire tubes.
Further down were the buildings with the small animals - chipmunks and chinchillas and guinea pigs and rabbits - and tortoises. There were ducks and geese in little ponds, and finally three reindeer and three llamas! I'd like to say that I was interested in the llamas because their wool can be hand spun, but actually I just enjoyed stroking them. And there were plenty of places to wash your hands afterwards.
There's a little cafe as well, and I think it was well worth the £7.50 for adults and £4.50 for children.
They have a website at

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Hereford Fire

Hereford Town centre was closed off today after a fire near the Old House, which damaged a card shop and Booth Hall. The Hereford Times (link in the side bar) has the full story, with a video.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


The bad news, which everybody had worked out by now, is that there will be no Hay-on-Fire this year. The good news is that a scaled down version will be part of Le Crunch Arts Festival at the Globe instead. So obviously it will be called Globe on Fire. This will take place around the weekend of 19th to 21st November, with lantern making workshops, a parade and fire-y things happening on the Globe's little field.

The other rumour going round town has been that there will be no Christmas lights this year, and that one turns out to be not quite true. Instead of spending £4000 on erecting the lights, this year the local Council will be spending £1000, with match funding from the Chamber of Commerce. So there will be some lights, around the centre of town. Roughly, this works out to spending 50p per person in Hay (assuming a nice round population total of 2,000) rather than £2 per person.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Bovey Belle in Hay

And since she takes much better pictures than I can, here's a link to her blog, Codlins and Cream 2. The Hay entry is around 6th October.

Sunday, 17 October 2010


Baskets and boxes full of different varieties of apples are filling Stuart the Greengrocer's shop at the moment.
I particularly liked the label on one box: "Very local, probably Worcester".
When I asked him, he said they came from the tree next door - so you can't get more local than that!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Art of the Album Cover

"They're very reasonable, you know," said Jean Miller, with a copy of the new book tucked under her arm.
It was the launch party for Richard Evans' new book, The Art of the Album Cover, and there was a good crowd in Booth's Bookshop (and a ginger dog). Richard Booth himself was there, recently back from Berlin - "They're very big on science fiction there," - and talking about SF in Croatia.
There were also a fair few people wandering around with a glass of wine in one hand and a book tucked under their arm. A surprising number of them seemed to have been at Richard Evans' talk at the Festival. One of them was Mike, who sells railway books in Broad Street, who confessed an early passion for collecting albums and posters, though now he mainly collects railway posters.
As I was leaving, Jean Miller was coming back in, with a sheaf of bank notes in her hand. "I'm going to get another one," she said, as she made a bee line for the signing table.

If you would like your very own copy, copiously illustrated and surely definitive, there is a website at

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Open Mic Night again

It began, this week, with Tim the Gardener and a visiting Scotsman quoting Robert Graves' poetry at each other - Tim was reading The White Goddess again. Later, the Scotsman sang two traditional songs, unaccompanied. As well as singing, Tim recited some poetry - I did like the one that started "There is no dwarf!" - but though the lady protests her innocence, the man notices the love bites on her legs.
So a good mix of singing, poetry, guitar and banjo and something that looked like a long necked lute, and Chris the Bookbinder reading another bit of his magnum opus (is Olwen Ellis really dead? And where does the property developer come into the story? Tune in next week....).
Late in the evening, the TV on the wall got switched on, silently, for the breaking news that the Chilean miners were about to be rescued - they were testing the cage for the final time before it went down the shaft.
I drank some more of the Paradox - and it seems to have mellowed over the last week. Last week, the 'old port' taste came first, followed by a strong smokey flavour - this week the smokiness is more mingled with the 'old port' taste, and very nice it is too.
The other beer I tried was the lovely porter from Acorn Brewery. It's the season for warm, dark beers, I think.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Brecon re-development

New plans are on show for the re-development of Brecon town centre. They can be seen at the museum and the library at the moment, and until 23rd October - the re-development of the museum is an integral part of the scheme. There will also be an open day on Saturday 16th October from 10.30am to 3.30pm with representatives from the museum, library service, Powys Archives and the project architect - which I presume will be at the Museum, but The Post, where I got this information from, doesn't actually say, and the B&R doesn't mention an open day at all.
The original plans, revealed late last year, involved knocking down the Library, which may not be beautiful, but is a very good library - and there didn't seem to be any plan to build a new library anywhere else.
Now a new library is part of the plan, to be put on the present site of the New County Hall building, which used to be used as the Magistrates Court, at the back of the museum.
There's been quite a bit of controversy about the plans - not just about the library, but also the plan to attract high street chain stores into town.
The National Parks is the planning authority over the area, and the County Council are putting the plans forward and plan to sell some of their existing buildings to partly fund the scheme.
Now they're waiting to see if their lottery bid is accepted.

Meanwhile in Hereford, there is huge opposition to the plans to build what amounts to a whole new town centre on the old cattle market - when the present town centre is struggling to survive (could the large number of supermarkets in the city have anything to do with that, I wonder?).

Friday, 8 October 2010

Bizarre Conspiracy Theories

Stuart the Greengrocer has a letter in this week's B&R. He was very unhappy that Castle Street was closed for the recent Transition Towns fun day. Very unhappy indeed. He's talking about wanting compensation for his loss of trading earnings.
Now, when the fun day was going on, Powys County Council sent along a street cleaning wagon that runs on electricity to display for the day. Stuart saw this, and leapt to the bizarre conclusion that Hay Transition Towns group had bought this vehicle and presented it to the Council as a bribe to get them to shut the road!
Hay Transition Towns group are all volunteers - they don't have that sort of money - and they don't need to bribe the council anyway. Anyone can apply to close a street and as long as they meet the right criteria, it is done. I remember Bredwardine Bridge being closed for several days for the filming of Dandelion Dead, for instance.
Stuart did make one reasonable point - although there was a diversion sign at the top of Castle Street, there was no sign or banner saying why the road was closed. If Transition Towns want to do something similar again, they probably should think about having a big banner to put up.
A second point, which I've heard elsewhere, is that the street was not really well used during the fun day. Isis cafe had tables and chairs out, and the Outdoor Pursuits shop had their canoes outside, but there wasn't a lot else to justify closing the road.
Mind you, Stuart also complains that traders on Castle Street were not consulted. This is not true - I was at the Transition Towns meeting where one of the members said he had been round all the shop keepers and he told the meeting how many of them had agreed with the plan, how many had opposed it, and how many were ambivalent, together with the arguements he'd used to bring them round to his way of thinking.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Of Poetry and Paradox

In other words, the open mic night at Kilvert's.
I took along a song (and Anne Brichto remembered singing from the same songbook at school - The Wild West, which went with a BBC schools radio programme) There were a couple of guitars, a banjo, and Briar learning violin by playing along. Chris brought his magnum opus along - and he is officially now a real writer. He's had a rejection letter from a real publisher! Which made three of us sitting round the table outside. I have some young adult fantasy novels stashed away that need a bit of work (the rejection letters were very nice ones) and Simon from Addyman's Annexe has had a couple too. Later, he recited some poetry which he and a friend have been translating from the Czech - and very good they were too. Islay, of course, charmed everybody - she may not perform, but she's a very good listener!
The Paradox is a beer. I don't know which brewery it's from. It's 10%, so they weren't selling it in pints - it was halves or thirds, or enough for a taste at £1. Anne reckoned it tasted like port that had been left out all night, and I could see her point, but it had a strong smoky aftertaste too, possibly because it was aged in a whisky cask. Very much a sipping beer. There was also North Star Porter from Flintshire brewery, which I started the evening with - which slipped down very pleasantly, too.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Book Crossing

Passing by the bank this lunchtime, I noticed a book in a clear plastic bag on the bench. Looking slightly closer, I saw that the bag was labelled BookCrossing. This was my first sighting of a "book released into the wild".
There is a website,, where books are registered. Then they are left somewhere public for another person to pick up and read. The sticker on the book informs the new owner about the website and invites them to join in by leaving other books for people to find. You can also track the path of books which have been left out and read several times.
Then I met Vee, the dog walking lady, who had just been down to the Warren with two of her charges. She had found another bookcrossing book there, hanging from a tree, and was taking it home to read it.
I think it's a fun idea.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

... and the Heavens Opened

It's been a remarkably wet weekend. This morning I had to throw Islay out of the front door or she'd never have gone out and done what a dog needs to do.
It's been the pony sales all weekend, and the car park has been full of horse boxes, and visitors have been reporting long queues of traffic coming up from South Wales. The main road beyond Clyro in the direction of Hereford was closed because of the water, and traffic had to go round by the toll bridge. I think it's open again now, but the river is very high - the canoe landing stage and Booth Island are under water, and the river itself is the colour of ovaltine.
Our interesting customer of the week was a Welsh farmer doing research into family history. He had discovered that one of his ancestors had led one of the Rebecca Riots, down near Carmarthen, where he made coracles for a living.
The nearest the Rebecca Riots came to Hay was a small disturbance at the toll cottage in Glasbury - it was a protest about the high cost of tolls and the restriction of travel for poorer people. The leaders of the riots disguised themselves in women's clothing.
If you look at an early 19thC map of Hay, you can see that a traveller had to pay a penny just to get out of town, whichever direction he wanted to travel in - and then there would be other tolls to pay as he used the main roads after that.

Monday, 27 September 2010

The Strange Case of the Ancient Camp

So why am I writing about the Ancient Camp Inn, which is in Ruckhall near Eaton Bishop in Herefordshire, when this blog is supposed to be about Hay?
Well, the owners of the pub are also the owners of The Swan Hotel, Hay, and the Bull's Head at Craswall. According the the Hereford Hopvine, the local CAMRA* newsletter, the Ancient Camp has been on the market for a couple of years now, at what they consider to be way above its true market value. CAMRA regularly campaigns to keep pubs as pubs, rather than them being sold off as residential buildings. One of the tricks that sellers use is to offer the pub at a vastly inflated price as a pub, claim that there's no interest in it as a licenced property, and then get permission to sell it as a dwelling. This has also recently happened in the case of the Prancing Pony at Stifford's Bridge.
Previous owners of the Ancient Camp had tried to convert the building into a house, and had been refused by the planners, so sold it on to the present owners. They only lasted about two years, and then put it on the market for more than double the price they had paid for it. The government planning inspector, when he was called in, decided in favour of the owners, and within three days (says the Hopvine) it was on sale as a private house, again for about double what they had paid for it.
Having lost the fight to keep the Ancient Camp as a pub, the local CAMRA group seem philosophical. They hope that the money raised by the sale will enable the owners to develop and enhance the Swan and the Bull's Head for the future.
*CAMRA - Campaign for Real Ale

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Sustainable Herefordshire

We've had h.Art, the Herefordshire wide programme of events and open art galleries and craft exhibitions. Now it's the turn of h.Energy, events and exhibitions of sustainable energy all over the county, running from 10th to 16th October.
I mention this because one of the participants is right here in Cusop. Ainsleigh, of Hay's Transition Towns group, is opening his house in Cusop Dingle to the public (booking essential). They have solid wall insulation and double glazed sash windows, solar panels for hot water, a mini-hydro system (they're right by the Dulas brook) and wood burner, and they'll be on hand to discuss the costs of installing the systems and the benefits of using them. They say "Our household should have a negative carbon footprint this year."

There will also be events in Hereford, Leominster, Kington, and dotted around the county. I must say I like the idea of Flash Garden, a musical being put on at the Courtyard: "The planet Mongo is once again held in the evil clutches of the dastardly Emperor Ming. The resistance - led by a beautiful princess - embark on their quest to find Flash Gordon. What they find instead is Flash Garden, a simple gardener from Barnsley! Can he save the entire universe armed only with green fingers and a watering can?"
I think the odds are that yes, he can.

For more information, contact New Leaf at
They also have a blog.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Lots of things going on in Hay!

What a Busy day it's been!

I started off by visiting the car boot sale at the school, and I have to admit that I was expecting about half a dozen stalls, and be round and out in about five minutes.
It's huge! The cars cover the entire school grounds, with a wide variety of stalls. It's not just families trying to get rid of out grown children's toys, or knick nacks they don't want to dust any more. There were fishing rods, and fresh veg, and brass door knobs, and all sorts of general stuff as well. I came away with a pair of boots and some linen trousers and some pot plants. The school gets some of the profits, and WyeLocal, which organises it, gets the rest.

Then I loaded Islay into her trolley and wheeled her up to the Buttermarket and Castle Street for the Transition Towns event. Castle Street was closed off, with Isis cafe expanding into the street, under a canopy, and the outdoor pursuits shop displaying canoes in the street, and children throwing rings at traffic cones at the other end. There were other children cycling up and down as part of a cycling proficiency day, and round the square there were wood burning stoves, and wind turbines, and electric cars, and a little stall doing art where you squirt paint onto a disc that's revolving (I remember doing that, on an old record turntable, in the early seventies). The Young Farmers were cooking burgers, and Drovers Holidays were maintaining bikes. In the Buttermarket there was a quiz about food miles, and children's art, and the winners and runners up of the short story competition (some of which were very funny). There were scale models of barn conversions from a company based in Llanigon, at (CO2 Designs for Life), and information about Transition Towns and the 350 campaign (with a ladder to illustrate where the CO2 emissions are now, and where they should be for a sustainable Earth). Hayfields Garden, the community garden project, were there too, with some of their produce. They're running an Introduction to Permaculture course on the 6th and 7th of November, with talks, discussions, workshops, observation walks, slide shows and practical demonstrations! Contact for further details.

In the afternoon, I was out again with Islay in her chariot (with a new sign on the side in honour of the day saying: "Alternative Transport - green, carbon neutral, organic, no added nuts*)
*well, apart from the nut pushing the thing!
We went up to Kilverts for the beer festival - 50 Welsh real ales in a marquee in the garden, with another marquee for talks.
It was just what I needed, a really relaxing afternoon, sipping good ale and reading the Hereford Hopvine (from the local CAMRA group) and a copy of Permaculture I picked up from the Hayfields Garden stand.
Early on in the afternoon, I saw Richie rushing round frantically, rounding up some American visitors - and Jackie, his wife. He'd got George, our new town cryer, to announce Jackie's brand new British citizenship outside the front of the pub! George finished his announcement with the traditional God Save the Prince of Wales, and the Queen - "and God help her husband Richie!"
At somewhere around 4pm Pete Brown gave a talk, matching beers to books - his books, since he has written a trilogy of beer related books almost without meaning to ("what about my great novel?" he keeps asking his agent). And very well chosen they were too. Man Walks into a Pub started off as an exploration of great lager adverts and morphed while he was writing it into a history of beer with a few lager adverts tacked onto the end. For this we tasted Tudor brewery's Blorenge, which is lager like "but with taste", for those lager drinkers who are dimly aware that there is something more interesting out there but don't really know where to start. The other beer we tasted, to illustrate the Industrial Revolution, was Facers North Star Porter.
For his travel book, Three Sheets to the Wind, we tried Otley's O Garden (a pun on the Belgian beer Hoegaarten) and Breconshire Green Dragon, made with green hops - so green that they were on the vine four and a half hours before they went into the beer. The chief brewer of Breconshire Brewery was there to confirm this - and there were a couple of chaps from the Otley Brewery there too.
The third book is Hops and Glory, another travel book in which he takes a barrel of India Pale Ale from Burton-on-Trent to India by the original route around Cape Horn, or as near as you can manage it without the tea clippers these days. We were running out of time now, so only had one beer to taste - the only IPA on the beer festival's list, Kingstone brewery's Humpty's Fuddle, which had a lot more taste going on in the glass than most big brewery IPAs, and is believed to be closer to the original IPAs that did make the trip to India in the days of the Empire.
It was all great fun, and towards the end of the afternoon I noticed a few of the Sealed Knot re-enactors arriving, who will be doing drill (if they can find the space) tomorrow.
And Islay made friends with Captain, Pete Brown's little grey mop of a dog.

Business round-up

A few changes around the streets of Hay:
The stone masons have gone from the castle, and have been replaced by Purveyors of Fine Junk - usually seen on the market with Ben the sheepdog. This will give them more chance to display things outside the shop. I believe the Stone Masons needed to spend more time with their bow topped caravans.
Herbfarmacy have a new beauty therapist called Harriet Walker, doing facials and pedicures and manicures and various sorts of massage. She seems like a nice girl. (Here I should admit to having a voucher for a mini massage, or facial, manicure or pedicure. I've never done anything like that before, so I might be tempted.)
And the Three Tuns is in the new Michelin Food Guide, which is quite an achievement.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Crossing the Road with Islay

Islay is not a fast dog any more. Any attempt to cross Broad Street (and we do it most days so she can get her biscuit at Broad Street Book Centre) has to be planned like a military operation, with me making sure the road is clear and then acting like a lollipop lady to see her across.
So, this lunch time there was a van on the double yellow lines on the opposite side of the road to us, and a car behind that. We were about half way across the road when the van moved forward slightly. No problem - we were aiming for the gap between it and the car anyway. So I got to the kerb and turned round to encourage Islay that last couple of yards - and that was when the car decided to reverse towards her. I banged on the back window - banged again when they didn't stop right away, and shouted "DOG!" while pointing down behind their car. Islay was oblivious to all this, calmly making her way towards the kerb. When she reached it, I leaned down to shout through the window "Sorry! Dog behind you - okay now!" The back window was open about an inch, so they must have heard me.
Now, if it were me, and a mad woman was banging on the back of my car, I think I might have at least wound down the front window to find out what was going on. I might even have got out of the car to see what was in the road behind me.
This couple just sat there, even after I'd moved away with Islay. After a while, the van driver, who had seen it all, got out of his van and waved them back.
What worries me is that the driver had obviously not seen Islay crossing the road. She'd seen me, because she waited until I got to the kerb before she moved, but it was pretty obvious she hadn't noticed Islay at all - which makes me wonder what else she doesn't notice when she's driving along.

Monday, 20 September 2010


Seen on the side of the kerb near the Honesty Gardens:
"You are the one, you are the sun, and I'm your dutiful planet."

Sunday, 19 September 2010

"...for I'm to be Queen of the May"

As a lady passed the shop counter today, heading into the depths of the shop, she turned to her friend and said: "This is the bookshop where I had that strange experience...." and just as she was about to say what the strange experience was, she moved out of my earshot.
However, when she came back to the desk, she told me. Her mother learned a lot of poetry by heart at school, as children did back then, and one of the verses she used to quote was about telling mother she had to be up early "for I'm to be Queen of the May." Her daughter had always refused to believe that this was a real poem.
About a month after her mother died, she was browsing in the poetry section of the bookshop. She pulled one book off the shelf to have a look and, as sometimes happens, another book fell out at the same time. It opened to the very poem that she had always said didn't exist! She firmly believes it was her mother, saying "I told you so!"

Friday, 17 September 2010

More Babies

The Green Room, the garden shop between the flower shop and CommuniKate near the clock tower, was closed this morning. There was a sign on the door "Sorry, closed. It's a Boy!"
Which goes rather well with the sign that's been on CommuniKate's door for a little while now, which starts "It's a girl!" and goes on to say she'll be getting back from maternity leave as soon as it's humanly possible.

Meanwhile, the last remaining stock from Horsewise ("No reasonable offer refused") has now been cleared out and the shop is empty (and much lighter inside than it ever seemed before).

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Old Stables does it again

Some of the best restaurants in the country - and a tea shop in Hay! The Old Stables has made it into the Which? Good Food Guide 2011!
Well, they do make some of the best jams and marmalades ever.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

A Life in Colour

Oriel Art Gallery are staging a new exhibition for September, with the launch on Friday 17th September, from 5.30pm. They have a collection of the work of Rachel Windham, who died in 2005 after living in Hay for fifteen years. Before she moved to Hay, she lived in Aberedw, near Builth Wells. There's also a new book out about her, by her friend Cecily Sash, another artist, based in Presteigne. Geoff Evans, the organiser, says that, under Cecily Sash's tutelage, Rachel Windham's work moved towards abstraction and pure colour - but she'd been painting since the 1930s!
Later that evening in the chapel is a concert called September Songs, with local singer Catherine Hughes accompanied by Paul Sweeting on the harp. She'll be singing Welsh folk songs, with some Irish and original songs.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser

Poor Simon Clayton! He must be feeling a bit put upon at the moment. It's bad enough to have your private life raked over in one publication - but here he is in two in the same week!
Uncle Carbuncle, in the latest edition of Hay-on-Wire, tells the story of Simon and his daughter Esti, and his wish to have the saga made into a film (so maybe he'd be quite happy to have his private life raked over!). In brief, when Esti was four Simon, who was estranged from his ex-wife and Esti's mother, Aneta, took off with the child in his camper van and headed for Europe. There was an international search for the pair, and they were only found, in Portugal, because Esti had her pet ferret with her. Simon spent some time in prison for that, but later he was allowed access to Esti - until this year, when Aneta withdrew permission. Esti is now eleven.
On his blog, Esti and Dad ( ) he talks about his fight to get access to his daughter, together with his girlfriend Adele.
This is where it becomes really strange, and where the second newspaper comes in.
Under the title "Restraining Order Issued", the Brecon and Radnor reports Simon's recent court appearance for harrassing Adele Nozedar of Nepal Bazaar between March and May, by sending phone calls and text messages, flowers and emails.
On his blog, dated January, Simon published a press release by Adele in his support. In it, she clearly believes everything Simon has told her about the case and how unfairly he feels he has been treated. If the court case is anything to go by, that had changed by March. Simon is now prohibited from contacting Adele, or loitering outside her shop, for two years. Strangely, this was the ruling despite no evidence being offered by the prosecution.
I happen to remember Simon first coming to Hay. He was very charming socially, but extremely difficult to work for. I know this because one of my friends did work for him for a while. She took the job when his previous assistant left suddenly. She'd lasted half a day, asked if she could go to the toilet (across the road from the shop he was renting from Golesworthy's) and was never seen again.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Interesting people

Some days in the shop are just full of conversations with interesting people.
Today was a good one for that.
We started off with a lady who's learning Mandarin Chinese ("20% of the world's population speak it," she said).
Then there was a Mr Mayall, who may be related to the Mayall's of Hay's jeweller's shop. They're doing some research to find out.
Someone else who was doing research was looking for old maps of the area where their house is in Surrey. It's medieval, and they're trying to find out more of the history of the house.
Then there was the man who was looking for a half-remembered poem by Keats. "Old Meg she was a gypsy," he said.
"Meg Merrilees!" I said. Like him, I learned the poem at school. He was writing an article and wanted to quote from the poem, and didn't trust his memory. It's a good job he didn't - when he found a copy in an anthology, he found that he'd inserted a whole new verse about her little cook pot! But she did "make Mats of rushes, and sold them to the Cottagers, she met among the Bushes."
A girl who bought a book about living and working in Tokyo was about to go off and do just that, and a man who bought a book about Somerset showed me a picture of the house where he lived as a boy in it.
And finally there was the man who asked me to look in a dictionary of American Scholars for him. He'd forgotten his glasses and the print was tiny. He was looking for Elihu Yale, who founded Yale University (he wasn't mentioned in the book) and wanted to know more about him. Elihu Yale is buried in Wrexham churchyard, his home town, and my family lived in a village just outside Wrexham for many years, so I was able to tell him a bit more than he already knew. I've even visited the grave! (Very fine church - used to be one of the Seven Wonders of Wales on the early tourist trails).

Friday, 3 September 2010

Praise for Hay

Nick Bourne, the leader of the Conservative opposition in the Welsh Assembly, has been visiting Hay this summer. He's reported in this week's B&R, saying: "Hay could easily serve other towns as a social and economic blueprint for success; if you could bottle its charms, it would be a sure-fire bestseller."
Vindication for Richard Booth's vision at last, perhaps?

Meanwhile, just to show that Hay is not quite that perfect, I passed workmen at Spar yesterday, turning it into a smaller version of Fort Knox after a number of break ins.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

"Get to Really Know...."

This is a regular feature in WyeLocal, and this month the subject under the microscope was Joy Gardiner from the chemists. What I really liked was her comment in answer to the final question: "Tell us something about yourself which only you know."
She said: "You must be joking! If I wanted all of Hay to know, I'd just tell one person and it would circulate faster than the Wye Local!"

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Cheesemarket Questionnaire

The results are in, and mentioned in WyeLocal.
It seems that, of the 1,300 questionnaires given out, 250 were handed back in - which is roughly 20% of the total. Which means that 80% of people in Hay are really not very interested about what happens to the Cheesemarket. Of the 250 that were returned, just over half didn't want any changes at all, and the rest broadly agreed with the proposed changes. Which is roughly 10% of the total.
Therefore, the organisers have decided to concentrate on raising the money to renovate the Cheesemarket, and have abandoned plans to change the market square for the moment.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Wye Valley Life

This month's issue of Wye Valley Life (happy first birthday to them) has a feature on Tinto House in Hay, which has been beautifully done up by the lady who owns Sage Femme, just across the road from there. They also mention the rather wonderful garden at the back.
"Tim, the man who tends it all so carefully for the couple, whom they inherited with the house, also happens to be a poet and one of the best-read gardeners you'll ever come across; not many will have read James Joyce's Ulysses three times!"

"Actually," he said, when I met him, "I've only read Ulysses once, but I started it several times. It's like cracking a code, and once you've got it, it's actually very funny."
One of Tim's poems is somewhere on this blog - back, I think, around last September. And he plays guitar at open mic nights.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Ragged Glory

Well, they were a cheerful bunch!
There was something on to suit my musical tastes two days running at the Globe - so off I went to see the folk band.

Before they went on stage, they were sitting under the wall where the silent, arty films are projected throughout the evening. They might be shadows on a wall, or traffic at an intersection, or people walking up and down a street - that sort of thing. As they were due to go on, the lead guitarist said: "We can't go yet - something exciting's going to happen in a minute. A pigeon is going to fly across there."
That started them off creating a narrative for the piece of film they were watching. "That guy on the sand heap's been waiting for the train for fifteen years, and that guy in the background is jealous because he isn't sitting on the sand heap..."

The line up for the first half was a fiddle player, singer and guitarist, and about the third song they did was called Ragged Glory, "...and we are such people," said the lead guitarist in his introduction.
"It's eponymous," said the singer.
"A hippopotomous? Right, this is a song about a hippopotomous...."

In the second half, the first three were joined by a drummer and bass guitarist. It was, apparently, only the second gig they had done all together - and there was also a flute player in the band, but he was up at Shrewsbury Folk Festival. "We thought he might be able to play his bit up there and phone it down to us, but it hasn't happened yet," they said. The singer also played the flute for one song, when the guitarist was singing.

A fun evening!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Medieval Music

Gothique were playing at the Globe last night. They play medieval instruments, with music ranging from Sweden down to Morocco and across to Turkey! The main instrument was the oud, "the grand-daddy of the lute", which is still made in the same way as it was a thousand years ago. The chap bought his in Syria.
He was accompanied on the hurdy-gurdy, which is a modern reconstruction of an instrument only seen in illustrations from the Middle Ages - so they knew it was a box with a handle at one end, and keys, but had no real idea of what was inside it. The lady took the lid off to show the way the strings went, and how the keys changed the notes.
In the interval the chap spent some time explaining the tuning of the oud to an interested member of the audience. These are people who are passionate about their music, and want it to be better known.
They explained that, in the 9th century, the important thing for musicians was improvisation - audiences wanted music that was for themselves alone, which had never been heard before - so in the spirit of this, the Globe got its own improvised piece, never heard before and never to be repeated.
In the second half, they played French folk tunes on two different sized bagpipes. The larger one, copied from an illustration in the Canterbury Tales, sounded a bit like modern Scottish bagpipes, but the smaller one had a much more mellow sound. They were made by someone who lives in Scotland, but makes English bagpipes (in the Middle Ages it was the English who were more known for bagpipe playing - the aristocratic instrument for the Scots was the small harp).
One nice thing about the evening was that it was completely acoustic. There was no electronic clutter of mics and speakers and so on - just the instruments and the players and the audience, just as it would have been back through history.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Facelift for the Launderette

I wasn't sure that the launderette would be open today, having seen workmen in there when I passed by on Tuesday, but I took a chance and walked up with my washing anyway.
The workmen were still there, and there was a strong smell of damp plaster - they've put in a new ceiling and boarded across the far wall. The machines were still in use, though, with the men working round them.
When I was in Spar the other night, the subject of the launderette came up. "Huh," said the chap at the till, "he'd do better mending the machines instead of doing up the roof."

Thursday, 26 August 2010


I met a neighbour coming along Broad Street with her foreign guest.
"No, really, you take the umbrella. We're English - we're used to it!"

Monday, 23 August 2010

Edict from the King

The Anvil Pierrot Troupe are coming to Hay Castle on Wednesday to do Old Time Music Hall, Commedia dell'Arte, scenes from Shakespeare and Dickens and Melodrama (the story of Grace Darling - I wonder how they'll get the rowing boat on stage!). Bravely, they're suggesting it might be an outside performance (bring your own chairs) but there is the option of being inside if wet.

That's not going to be the main event of the evening at the Castle as far as the King is concerned, though. He's issued a flyer advertising a drinks party at the Castle before the performance, with the extra incentive of free cider!
He wants to announce a policy for a winter economy in Hay (something he's been banging the drum about for the last twenty years) and he wants to announce the creation of a museum for the town in Hay Castle (something that was considered for the Millennium and abandoned for lack of suitable premises, amongst other things).

He writes: "My departure for Berlin on Sept 8th to formulate a responsible democratic policy for Hay, in relation to the original vision for the town supported in 1976 as the official Rural Tourist attraction for two hundred years of American Independence, on the assumption that cultural tourism could outperform "sun tourism" if supported by millions of secondhand books.
The creation of new booktowns looking to Hay for leadership with a responsible democratic policy.
The holocaust of democracy in the Welsh Assembly which resulted in the name and fame of Hay being given to Rupert Murdoch. In Hay this resulted in a vital millenium election organised by a totally unqualified chief executive putting lies in the mouth of Bill Clinton a few months later, but the issues are far wider.
All my ambitious plans will be paid for by a new barter economy called a "Bootho", linked to the major dynamic of Western civilisation, the ordinary secondhand book. As the prime commercial unit for impoverished rural areas it is confidently expected to outperform the Euro. Top society hostess in Hay, Rhona Muirhead, has agreed to pose naked for the thousand Bootho note."

The mind boggles!
Maybe it's time Richard was reminded that he was beheaded last year - the Civil War re-enactors the Hay Garrison will be coming back to Hay at the end of September to do drill, with muskets (it's a total co-incidence that the beer festival is being held the same weekend - everyone knows that re-enactors don't like beer :)).

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Local Veg

I spotted some locally grown courgettes at Phil the Fruit's and, while I was helping myself to them, he said: "You know who grew those, don't you? Alan Powell, the chippy."
"A man of many talents," I said.
"Oh, he's good in the garden," said Phil. "He used to grow those onions for shows." He held his hands out to describe an onion roughly the size of a football. "Honestly, they were this big," he said.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Felt Making Day

Today, the Stitch and Bitch crowd decamped from the Swan to the Outdoor Training centre in Llanigon to have a go at making felt. With the large amounts of soapy water involved, I don't think the Swan would have been too keen on us trying it in their bar!
I just went along for the company - I have too many craft projects on the go already to add another one - so I sat to one side making a sock on my Knatty Knitter, and watching as the others transformed fleece into small round bags, and experimented with silk.
We were all in a large open-sided shed, clustered around two tables, one of which was used as a den by the three small boys while it was raining. In fact, we had thunder and lightening while we were there! Islay was there too - I pushed her all the way in her trolley, and she was very tolerant.
Sharon kept us supplied with tea and welsh cakes, and we all brought a packed lunch - and everyone ended up with something good to take home.
Next time we meet in the Swan, we're going to be taking a serious look at socks - different ways of making them, and how to rescue them when they've gone horribly wrong!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Transition Tales update

I've finally got round to reading Steph Bradley's blog about her visit to Hay on her walk around the country. She must have liked it here - she wrote a lot!
If I've done it right, this is a photo of the transition garden, with people gathering to sit round the fire and listen to the stories. I'm there with the white shawl round me, and Islay lying by my feet. To see more of Steph's photos and read what she thought of Hay (and all the other interesting places she's visited) go to

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Food Miles

When I passed the front door of the Three Tuns this morning, I saw their latest veg delivery stacked up there. While I was waiting for Islay to stagger up the hill, I took a moment to read the boxes.
At the top were butternut squashes from Greece, with something labelled in Spanish down below. The potatoes were English, and at the bottom, the pears were Patagonian! (At least there's a Welsh connection there!).
We don't often take time to think how incredible it is that a little pub on the Welsh borders should be serving food that has come all the way from Argentina, or the other end of Europe.
A little while ago, Phil the Fruit had some blackberries in from South America. Blackberries! He said some hotel had ordered them, and then decided they didn't want them, so they got re-sold to him.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Ending the Season with a Bang!

I was going to talk about the Transition Towns Hay Day - and then I was going to mention the second Festival of British Cinema - and then I thought I'd talk about the Beer Festival at Kilverts. Then I thought I'd better wait until I had all the flyers and brochures and information, because they're all happening over the same weekend!
The last weekend in September, 24th - 26th, Hay is definitely the place to be!
Kilvert's are having their Ale and Literature Festival - 50 Welsh ales, local and Welsh authors and live music, and a poetry competition (write a poem about Hay). Pete Brown will be there, who writes Pete Brown's Beer Blog, amongst others.
And while that's going on, the Parish hall and Booth's Bookshop and the Community Centre will be showing some of the best of British films. See for all the details. They are also looking for anyone who appeared in the film It Happened Here, which was about a Nazi invasion of Britain and was shot around New Radnor, with a cast that included a lot of local people.
And on the Saturday there will be bicycles, and hopscotch down Castle Street, and all manner of recycleable, sustainable fun, for the second Hay Day (the last one was mainly about bicycles - this one has expanded somewhat).
It's all going to be marvellous!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Herefordshire Outlaws

A group of bikers were in town this afternoon, riding around on their Harleys (mostly Harleys - there were a few other makes of bike there too). Some of them had "Outlaws England" written on the backs of their leather jackets - and some of them were "Probationary Outlaws", which made me smile.