Sunday, 28 February 2010

Ladies who Lunch

The Stitch and Bitch group had their annual meal out on Friday.
We decided to go to the New Inn at Talgarth, which is also the Gatha Thai Restaurant. Part of the attraction, it has to be said, was the set lunch menu for £4.95. The other part of the attraction was that it is cooked and served by real Thai people, so the food is as authentically Thai as it can be.
(Emanation remembers going to 'grungy discos' at the New Inn in her youth - it's a bit smarter than that now!)
The way it worked was that you choose a starter and a soup from a short list, and then the main course from the main menu (seafood and duck £1 extra). The soup was chicken (or 'checken' in the menu) or mushroom, and it came on a plate together with the starter (I had the samosas). They were very obliging about the cooking, too - if you thought something was going to have too much chilli in it, they would cook it with less for you.
The service was good, the food was excellent, and of course we had drinks and a sweet extra - they do coconut ice cream in half a coconut - and the conversation was interesting. We all had a really good time.

We also managed to organise the programme for the coming months. Over the winter, there have been weeks when no-one turned up at the Swan - and I have to apologise profusely to the poor lady who phoned me up to ask about coming along, and turned up on one of those evenings to find herself sitting on her own. By the time I got there, of course she had gone home.
So with that in mind, we're only having a formal meeting in future on the first Thursday of every month, with a demonstration, and if people want to turn up on other Thursdays that's fine, but not expected. Coming up are Crochet and Knit Embellishments on 4th March, Fun with Yarn (!) on April 1st, Knitted Smocking on April 6th, and Backstrap Loom and Stash Swapping on July 1st. June 3rd is the end of Hay Festival, so we might possibly go up to the Festival site and knit in public!
Nearer the time, we'll also organise a Felting Day at Sharon's in Llanigon - but as it will be outdoors, we need to think about the weather for that one.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Songs of Nick Drake

The Globe was packed out last night for the concert.
I was there mostly because of the Phil Rickman books about Rev. Merrily Watkins. Her boyfriend Lol is a fan of Nick Drake's music, and Lol is such a sweet character (and also a musician), so I wanted to get an idea of what his music would be like.
Brian, who came over from Prestiegne, only heard about Nick Drake a couple of months ago, but the article he read interested him enough to get a CD by the musicians who were playing at the Globe, and then he saw that they were actually performing live, so he had to come over and see for himself.
The evening started with a documentary film about the life of Nick Drake, who suffered from depression and died, aged only 26, in the mid-seventies. He left behind three and a bit albums of beautiful, haunting songs (his sister was the Gabrielle Drake who appeared in Gerry Anderson's UFO in a purple wig).
A selection of his songs were played by Keith James, who is himself a singer/songwriter and a music producer - so he does these concerts for the love of the music, and to share it with an appreciative audience.
Not all the songs were by Nick Drake. One was by another singer/songwriter who died young and was forgotten; another was by a friend, about Nick Drake, and a couple were by the guitarist Davy Graham, whose guitar style influenced a generation, including Nick Drake.
The music really was superb, and Keith James was ably accompanied by Rick Foot on the double bass - there were a couple of amazing bass solos.
For the encore, they unplugged all the electrics and moved away from the mics, and played a song purely acoustically. You could have heard a pin drop - until the rapturous applause!
Mark Radcliffe from Radio 2 is quoted on the brochure as saying: "An absolute must", and I think he's right. This is music which deserves a wider audience, and it's very sad that Nick Drake didn't get that sort of success in his lifetime.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Transition Towns - busy times

There's a pretty full programme of events put on by Transition Towns this month.

On Saturday 27th February, they're doing an Orchard Management Work Party at Cwmdu Orchards in association with the Marcher Apple Network.

Friday 5th March is the showing of the film The Age of Stupid at Booth Books, at 7.30pm. This is the film where a chap from the future looks back to now to piece together the evidence that shows where everything went horribly wrong.

Saturday 6th March is a seed swap at the Globe from 1pm to 3pm.

Monday 15th March is their AGM, together with a talk by a chap from the Green Valleys Project, starting at 7.30pm.

And they're still giving free energy efficiency advice to local home owners, and they've got permission to create a permaculture garden at the main entrance to the Hay Festival site this year.
That's quite a lot to be getting on with.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Fun at the Market

The fish van had to change its usual location today, for the first time in at least twenty years! Because Castle Street has deep holes all the way along it, they couldn't get down to the market square, and the road up from the Clock Tower has much too tight a turn for them to get round. So they set up outside the Granary, and had to run their electricity cable into the Granary, over the pavement.
The rest of the market was much as normal, apart from the Fairtrade Tea Ladies clustered around their trolley in the middle of the market (see the Fairtrade Hay blog for more details). It was fun to do - we all had a really great time!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

More Cinema History

A chap came into the shop looking for a book the other day, and we got talking (so far, so normal). We didn't have what he wanted, but he went on to say "I drew the plans up for this place."
His father was the town surveyor at the time, and was also interested in carving. There's a very simple frieze around the front of the building, over the doors, and his father carved the moulds for that, so the whole thing really was a local affair.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

"Right, Said Fred...."

On the way home at lunch time, through the snow which had been falling for hours by that time (and it's still snowing now), I came upon two men manhandling a piano down the steps in front of Di Blunt's house (as was). So it was finally on it's way to join her in Glasbury. It's not the easiest of jobs at the best of times, and even less so in the slippery conditions today. Like the Bernard Cribbins song, they'd taken off the legs and the bit with the pedals.

Just up from the struggling piano shifters a van was parked with a sign on the back of it. "Think! If I stop, can you?" Someone has pencilled in, after "If I stop" "to drink tea".

And, remembering that Bernard Cribbins' other famous song was "Hole in the Ground", Castle Street is closed for three weeks from yesterday - something about the gas mains. At the same time, Gipsy Castle Lane round the Church is closed for two weeks as well.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


I saw one of the chaps who was helping to organise the photography students' day out today. He said that they all had a great time in Hay, and all of them wanted to come back and do more on their project. They've been out to various assignments over the past two years, but they reckoned Hay was the best!
One of the students took photos of every dog he could find - I've had the thought in my mind for a long time that The Dogs of Hay would make a good little booklet!

Meanwhile, I saw the archaeologist who's been watching the drainage works down Wyeford Road. They've nearly finished now, but they did have a bit of excitement the other day when they thought they'd found a skeleton!
Turns out, it was a skeleton, but of a small horse, not a human (but who would have buried a horse down there - and when?).

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Spar's New Door

The local Spar shop has just had a new door fitted - the old one looked as if it had been crowbarred open.
"It looks as if you've been imprisoned," I commented to the lady on the till, indicating the heavy iron mesh behind the new window.
"Well, we have been broken into twice in the last few weeks," she said.

Monday, 15 February 2010

The Roads Around Hay

When I walked down through town this lunch time, I was just in time to see a whole cavalcade of vintage cars turning by the Three Tuns, from the bridge towards Clifford. To my untutored eye, they looked as if they might all be the same make of open top motor.
The weather wasn't too bad then - there was even some sunshine. Later, the rain started coming down, and Greg told me that the Brecon Road was closed because a bin lorry had turned over.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Photography Students

They're about to descend on Hay like the proverbial plague of locusts (except we are assured that they will be far more polite!).
Apparently, this is the third year that students from the Photography courses at Hereford College of Arts have descended on a local town or village to make a record of 'a day in the life'. They've already done Ledbury and Moreton-on-Lugg.
They'll be here on Tuesday, about 50 of them aged from 18 to 60, and they want to exhibit the results during the Hay Festival. A chap came round door to door with leaflets, so we would all be forewarned.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Skip Enclosure

I see that Booth's Bookshop have hired a skip, and surrounded it with a barricade! It's on the grassy area just above the Library - which is ground that does not belong to Booths.
I wonder what they're so worried about. There's been a skip, on and off, down at the other end of Chancery Lane for a couple of years, and they haven't had any trouble. There's another one outside the Black Lion, which has been in operation for a similar length of time, and they don't seem to have had any trouble either.
Is the Bookshop trying to stop people from taking builder's rubble out, or people putting extra stuff in?

Friday, 12 February 2010

Waitrose Wine and Cheese Evening

Well, that was interesting.
Quite a few people turned up because of the rumours of a new Waitrose store, rather than to taste the wine and cheese. The initial mood was polite but hostile (it didn't help that one of the Waitrose posters had the words "resistance is futile" on it - which made them sound more like the Borg than someone who couldn't resist chocolate cake).
That part of the evening was quickly put out of the way, though, when Clive from Abergavenny asked for any questions about Waitrose.

So, straight from the horse's mouth (so to speak) Waitrose have no plans to expand into Hay. We are too small, and too far south to cover Mid Wales. What they are very interested in is a new store in Hereford (he called this 'top priority') and a store in either Builth Wells or Llandrindod Wells. They are just waiting to hear back about a bid they've put in for Llandod.

What he was keen to talk about was their home delivery service, run from Abergavenny - and they cover a huge area, bigger than any other Waitrose branch. They can even provide a limited range of John Lewis items, mostly kitchen and bathroom, I think. The nearest John Lewis is now in Cardiff, and apparently doing very nicely, thank you.
Other expansion plans he mentioned were into the Welcome Breaks places on the motorways, and into Boots, where the snacks will in future come from Waitrose.
I also read recently that they have taken over Duchy Originals from Prince Charles.

I had supposed, wrongly, that we would be standing around with our glasses of wine while we munched the cheese at random, but it was far more organised than that. Each of the five wines (three whites and two reds) were accompanied by a different cheese, brought to the tables, and Clive certainly knew his stuff about them all. There were also bits of bread to go with the cheese - one of them with figs in coming from a loaf that they sell at £3.95! He was a bit hazy about prices for the other things - he left his notes behind in Abergavenny!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Transition Interview

I came across this interview with one of the leading lights of Hay's Transition Town group earlier today. Scroll down to 2nd February for the full interview:

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Fire and Flood!

Hay has not been doing too well recently in the (minor) disaster area!
On Thursday evening, I walked Islay up towards the Blue Boar, where smoke and sparks were pouring out of one of their chimneys! A couple of people were outside watching the show - I don't know if the fire brigade was called or not, but the staff behind the bar were certainly aware of the problem.

Then yesterday, we had flood, in the form of a burst pipe on Heol-y-dwr.

I suppose an earthquake is next!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Enchanted April

I don't go to many films that the Film Society put on, but I did want to see this one. The book was written by Elizabeth von Armin, who also wrote Elizabeth and her German Garden, which I heard on the radio years ago and fell in love with. The story is that a group of four women hire an Italian castle for the month of April, shortly after the First World War, to get away from their unsatisfactory lives, and they are all changed for the better by the experience.
The film was beautifully shot - there's a scene where one of the women is in the garden at night in a silk dressing gown that perfectly blends in with the shadows of the vegetation - and it really was one of those uplifting, feel-good films. Chatting afterwards, quite a few of us felt like heading off for a month in sun-drenched Italy!
The Parish Hall was packed - they had to bring out extra chairs.

In the announcements before the film started, Jo Eliot mentioned that the Two Stubborn Women, Jo Lord and Annie Day, will be jetting off to compete in the Marathon des Sables on 1st April, and on the 26th February they will be fund-raising by putting a film on at Booth Books' new little cinema. It only seats 45, so tickets are limited. The film is Run Fatboy Run, with Simon Pegg, and the price of £10 includes food and a glass of wine. They are raising money for the North Wier Trust and Macmillan Nurses. If there are any tickets left, they'll be available from the Wholefood Shop.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Waitrose in Hay?

Rumours are flying round Hay about the future of the site of Hay School when Hay School isn't there any more. The fact is that building work on a new school hasn't even started yet - and I'm not sure that a new site for the school has even been chosen yet, so whatever happens is some way off in the future. However, this has not deterred the gossip, the main thrust of which seems to be that Waitrose wants to build a supermarket where the school now stands.
Waitrose themselves have added fuel to the speculation by hosting a Cheese and Wine evening at the school on Thursday 11th February, at 7.30pm, cost £2, and the point of which is to tell the local community what Waitrose can do for us. They already, according to the poster in the Launderette window, provide a delivery service in this area.
Waitrose also have a website with a forum, and one of the threads on that forum was started by a local lady who greets the thought of a Waitrose store closer than Abergavenny with open arms. Mind you, this is a person who says she had thought of selling her home just to move closer to a Waitrose, and she claims that local shops in Hay do not have the selection of food that she wants.
I find that amazing!
Looking round Phil the Fruit's shop this morning, as Islay ate her daily peanut, I could see chillies, limes, sweet potatoes... and if Phil doesn't have something, he can order it for the next day.
We have in Hay, at the moment, two excellent butchers, two greengrocers, one baker's, the Thursday market with the cheese, and fish van and speciality breads, and a Wholefood shop that reminds my boyfriend of the food hall in Harrods!
What more could anyone want?

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Changes on Castle Street (and elsewhere)

I noticed that the Barber's shop on Castle Street has a 'To Let' sign in the window now.
Meanwhile, round the corner on Oxford Road Marlene's Pet Supplies has closed down - but I don't think that has anything to do with economic down turns. I believe Marlene is ill.
The biggest shock, though, came when I was browsing through the property section of the B&R. Chris Gibbons' Butcher's Shop is for sale!
"A rare opportunity to purchase a prime high street shop premises, currently a well known family butchers with self-contained one bedroom flat above. £395,000"
Chris Gibbons was a fixture on Castle Street when I first came to Hay. It will be very sad to see the shop go. Where will I get those lovely Welsh Dragon sausages then?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


It was the bottle of milk that did it - or at least, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Or, in this case, the paper carrier bag. It split all up one side, spilling all my worldly goods over the pavement on Castle Street. There were a couple of books, and a glasses case, and half a packet of biscuits - and the bottle of milk - strewn around my feet.
I managed to scoop them all up into the remains of the bag, and I'd got as far as the HSBC Bank, hugging them to my chest, when a car pulled up next to me, with the window wound down.
"Would you like a plastic bag?" the man inside asked.
"You're a star!" I said, gratefully, and I was able to repack everything in the plastic bag and chuck the old one in the bin.