Sunday, 31 January 2010

First Snowdrop

In previous years, I've been out and about to the places that wild snowdrops grow, but now that Islay can't get about as far, the first snowdrops that I've seen were in a garden in Carlsgate. Last year I saw my first snowdrops on 12th January, up on the Wyecliff - we haven't been that far on a walk for months.
Down by the river, near the bridge, I saw a bulfinch hopping around in the bushes, with his magnificent red breast.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Making St Mary's more beautiful

I spent a very pleasant afternoon with a friend, and finished it off by going to Evensong with her at St Mary's. There were only five of us - and three dogs!
Father Richard has plans for the arched roof over the high altar - he's getting the ancient varnish stripped off the wood and then it's going to be painted, with gold stars. He's thinking of getting people to buy a star in memory of a loved one, and then there'll be a star map showing which star belongs to which person or family.
It's going to look lovely - but the church decor is already confusing visitors. Mr Babb, who read the lesson this evening, said that an American girl from Missouri had come to Evensong the previous day - and had made the comment that she belonged to a Protestant church, not a Catholic one. She was reassured that this was a Church in Wales (and thus Protestant) church, but it must have been a bit of a culture shock for an American Evangelical!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Return of the Signboard

Di Blunt has moved out of her house on Broad Street and headed off to Glasbury, and the new people have started to move in - and the Globe has put a sign board right by the horse trough, immediately!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Hay in the News

Well, the Church Times, anyway. Last week, the Church Times included a 16 page section on travel and retreats, which included a piece about Hay. They mention the Festival, of course, but point out that Hay is a book lover's paradise all year round. They do make the mistake of saying that Hancock and Monks music shop is now only on-line - in fact it is one of the largest units in Broad Street Books, and Jerry can be found on the desk once a week (usually Saturday).
And for visitors staying over in Hay, they mention other local attractions like Kilpeck Church, Llantony Abbey and Abbey Dore church, all of them worth a visit for anyone interested in old churches (and Llantony Abbey has a pub in the crypt!).

Meanwhile, in a recent Reader's Digest, there was an article about making money from the things stuck up in the attic. The person they contacted for advice on books was Mary-Rose from Booths. She makes the point that it's impossible to have a general guide to book prices - "it would be impossible to lift", and "just because someone is asking £800 for a book on amazon or abe doesn't mean it'll sell for that." She adds a word of warning: "People think a book is valuable because it's old or signed, but it depends on the signature and the book."

Monday, 25 January 2010

Famous Resident on the Move

When I got an old copy of The Week recently, I noticed a page entitled "Houses with famous former occupants" - which tells me that one of Hay's famous residents, Sir Arnold Wesker, is moving house.
Blaendigeddi Uchaf, just outside Llanigon, near Hay, is on the market if anyone has £597,500 to spare, with amazing views of the Wye Valley, and a stream going through the grounds. Of course, being up in the hills, it can be difficult to get to in the snow!

Meanwhile, in Hay itself, the Hourglass Gallery is closed until April, and Backfold Books and Bygones is closed for refurbishment until March. Kilvert's is still being re-furbished, too, making it easier for customers to find the function room, I believe.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Archaeology Update

"You know the bit in Kilvert's Diaries?" the archaeologist doing the watching brief asked me. "The bit where he's talking to a lady in her bedroom and he's almost on the same level as her? Well, I think we've found the floor of that cottage, set back a bit and low down."

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Blues Reaction at the Globe

This was sort of in the nature of a 'works outing', as the guitarist in The Blues Reaction is Troy from the warehouse, so just about everyone from the Cinema was there. There was a good crowd apart from that, though.
At one point the drummer, who was also the singer, said "You won't know whether you're on the Mississippi or the Nile, but just go with it."
Boo said it reminded her of when she lived in London and went to music clubs.
I could see the skill involved (Troy is a very good guitarist), and I enjoyed the evening, but it isn't really my kind of music. For those who do enjoy 'blues with a twist' (I suppose), go and see them when they play again - they're good.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Antiques in the Launderette

I was packing my dry clothes away into the rucksack, and chatting to a chap who was waiting for his washing to finish - he was glad to be out of the house, as he'd been stuck at the top of Clyro hill during the snow.
While we were chatting, an old farmer came in, carrying a pair of large vases. They were a sort of deep pink, with a picture on each side, and obviously quite old. He said that he'd been trying to get rid of them at one of the Hay antique shops, because his wife had threatened to smash them.
"Ah, those are seconds," the man from Clyro said, in a knowledgeable tone of voice. "See there, where the glaze isn't even? The fairground people used to buy them up by the truckload and use them as prizes - the makers would smash them otherwise." He said they were worth fifty quid of anyone's money. The old farmer said he hadn't even been offered a tenner for them.
"Well, I'll offer you a tenner now," said the man from Clyro, and did the deal right there and then.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Great Porthamel Green Energy Plan

After quite a bit of controversy, the plans for the anaerobic digester on Great Porthamel Farm near Talgarth have been approved by the National Parks. They decided it comes under the heading of farm diversification (which they are in favour of). It will provide electricity for up to 300 homes.
At the moment, the waste products from Merthyr Tydfil abattoir are spread on the fields direct - when the plant is built they will make electricity first (and anaerobic means the process is sealed off from the air, because they don't want any oxygen in there - so no smell), and what's left will be used as fertiliser. They say the liquid fertiliser is almost odourless, too.
Deliveries to the farm must be routed to avoid going through Talgarth and Bronllys.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Chaos at the Community Centre

Hay School is still closed. First it was the gas leak (now fixed), then it was the snow, and now it's rats! While the rats are being dealt with, and the school is being given a 'deep clean', the children have been moved into the Community Centre.
Which meant that, on Monday, all the mothers who usually roll up to the big car park to drop off their children rolled up at the tiny car park at the community centre instead. This was not a good idea, and the school then requested that parents should drop their children at the school, from which they would be walked down to the community centre in a body.
This now seems to be called a 'walking bus'. When I was at school, it was known as a 'crocodile', or even just 'walking in twos'.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


When I came out of my house this morning, a chap had just parked on the road outside, and was putting on his yellow reflective jacket and looking in the boot. Very politely, he asked if it was okay to park there, and we got talking, especially when I saw the sign "Monmouth Archaeology" in the front windscreen of his car.
Work is going ahead with the new drain, that's going along Wyeford Road and around the outside of the medieval town walls on the English side of Hay. There was a town gate there originally, and the chap from Monmouth Archaeology has the watching brief.
These days an archaeologist has to be on hand to keep an eye on contractors who are digging around near sensitive archaeological areas, and the town gates is one such place. They've already uncovered stone masonry, and not reached the bottom of it yet - the only problem they're having is that they haven't found any pottery yet, which is important for dating the masonry.
It's all rather exciting, and he's promised to keep me updated with any new discoveries!

Monday, 18 January 2010

An Italian Version of Hay?

It would seem so.
When the nice lady across the road sorts out her old magazines, she passes them on to me instead of throwing them away, which is how I came to be reading The Week for the week of 19th December. Sadly, it seems that His Tremendousness, Prince Giorgio I of Seborga, has just died aged 73. Seborga is a bit bigger than Hay, at around 5 square miles, but has only 364 inhabitants.
By a clerical oversight, it seemed that Seborga had never been officially incorporated into the Italian state, so the position of Prince was free and local man Giorgio Carbone took up the post. He designed coins, stamps and a flag (white cross on a blue background) for his principality, and held court in the Bianca Azzurra bar, wearing a bright blue sash and a sword.
The Italian state has never officially recognised the state of Seborga, saying that Giorgio only dreamed the whole thing up to encourage tourism. His Tremendousness's response to that was "The Government are imbeciles! Tourists! Pah!"
It seems that there is no heir to the title, which I think is rather a shame.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

And After The Snow...

Rain yesterday and today has cleared the vast majority of the snow (the occasional snowman may still be toughing it out) - with the result that the river is in flood, with the water right up over the canoe landing stage, and an interesting orange colour with added flotsam and jetsom.
So, pretty much back to normal for January, then.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Wickedness of Printers

It was a quiet day in the shop - we only made one sale, and that was to a member of staff, so didn't really count.
I decided to tidy up the European history shelves, which I'd been ignoring for a while - and found that some of the books were in entirely the wrong place, and the ones that were left would benefit from a bit of re-organisation.
In the middle of this, I came across a book by Erasmus. What did I know about Erasmus - where to put him? Friend of Sir Thomas More, Dutch scholar - what else? I flicked through the text, and came across this gem, where he's in full rant about the evils of printers:
"They fill the world with books, not just trifling things (such as I write, perhaps) but stupid, ignorant, slanderous, raving, irreligious and seditious books, and the number of them is such that even the valuable publications lose their value."
It's enough to make you look nervously around Hay and think that, 400 years on, he may still have a point.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Looking Forward to Apple Themed Activities

Not a lot has been happening in Hay - we're all just hibernating until the snow goes away (though I did see a magnificent snowman down in Carlsgate).
The Transition Towns group have been busy behind the scenes, though, putting a draft calendar of activities together for the coming year.
There are quite a lot of apple-related activities through the year, in association with the Marcher Apple Network. They're trying to do as much as possible with other groups in town, so as not to duplicate effort un-necessarily. So in February and April it's pruning and orchard management,in October it's apple picking and in November it's apple juicing (which sounded like great fun last year).
They're also planning films at the Globe, planting bulbs etc. on under-used green spaces round town (with Hay Council) and a permaculture garden at the Hay Festival site (subject to agreement with the Festival).
In March, there's the Grand Opening of the new allotments, and in September another celebration of "less-oil dependent transport options" - something else that was great fun last year.
So, apples, allotments and bicycles, together with a few films - something to look out for when the posters start going up.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

New Coat

"Tell them about my new coat, mum! Go on, tell them!"

It's still sub-zero temperatures round here, and Islay was sitting quivering on the windowsill. She's never worn a coat, apart from a brief period when Sara was dog sitting her and she borrowed one that Sara had - but it seemed like this was the time to change all that.
I cut a square from an old blanket - no measuring involved; I just draped the blanket over her to get the right size. Then I cut a band about two inches thick to go round her chest, and sewed that on the front so that her head can go through the gap, and two thin pieces of blanket went on the sides to tie under her belly, to hold it close.
It's been much admired around town, keeps her warmer, and only took about twenty minutes to make. She's wearing it now, and she isn't quivering any more.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

And more snow....

Very small turnout at the market today - and someone has made a giant snowball, which is now blocking the gate of the Honesty Gardens. It must be about 3 feet round (well, square-ish).
Someone who went sledging up on Hay Bluff yesterday (4x4s only!) said the snow was over a foot thick up there.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Along Castle Street this morning, a team from the Council were clearing the snow off the pavements with shovels and scrapers. Mr Golesworthy was out around Golesworthy's and the Granary, too. The roads are mostly clear, but the B&R didn't get through.
Meanwhile, Hay School is closed, only partly because of the snow - they also have a gas leak, which is being mended as I type.
Walking with Islay this evening, I saw the first proper snowman of the year, round at Booth Gardens, complete with cap and scarf, carrot nose and twiggy arms.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

All is not well on Offa's Dyke Path

A light dusting of snow as Islay trotted further up Offa's Dyke Path than she's managed for a while. It was really quite beautiful.
I met Jo and Annie (and dog) on their way back to the road. They would have gone further this morning - they do marathons, after all - but they came upon an unexpected obstacle. Someone has put an electric fence right across the path, and sawn down the footpath sign!
Jo and Annie were on their way to phone the National Parks to complain.
Blocking a public right of way is illegal.
I'm assuming this was done by new owners of Boatside Farm - it was up for sale last year - but they must have been aware that a nationally recognised footpath went across the land.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Any News of the Iceberg?

Deep freeze in Hay today - somebody said it might be as cold as -7 degrees.

Outside the Cinema Bookshop there are awnings over the outdoor bookcases. They've been up for some considerable time, and have got saggy in places - and where they've got saggy, they fill with water. Except it wasn't water today; it was solid ice.
So a couple of staff spent half the morning up step ladders hitting the ice with a hammer, and standing underneath the canvas poking it with a broom, in a vain attempt to get rid of the icy weight poised over the heads of innocent customers.
By the time they'd finished, it looked as if the Cinema Bookshop had collided with an iceberg, rather in the manner of the Titanic (except we're not about to sink, I hope!).

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Happy New Year!

I've been occupied with Real Life over the Christmas holidays - my young man came to stay (we spent a lot of time watching pirate movies and Doctor Who).
I saw him off on the train from Hereford yesterday (via Worcester Foregate - the Newport line is closed for engineering works). On the bus back, I sat next to a neighbour, who asked how my New Year's Eve had been. She had a quiet night in, and said she didn't hear anything going on outside.

So, she missed the fight outside the Wheatsheaf, then.

Mark and I started the evening by the real fire in the Three Tuns, and moved on later to see what beers were on at Kilvert's. We planned to finish the evening at the Crown, which has the best selection of whiskies in Hay - I claim Scottish ancestry, so a glass of whisky for Hogmanay is essential!
On the way down the hill, we saw a big crowd outside the Wheatsheaf and up and down the street there. There's a lad in a wheelchair who drinks there with his mates (he was in a car crash a year or so ago) - well, the wheelchair was on its side in the middle of the road and he was sprawled on the floor. We didn't linger to see any more - but there was a police car headed that way shortly afterwards.