Thursday, 29 April 2010

Wildflowers in Hay

This lunchtime, when I took Islay across the road for her daily biscuit(s), Mary was waiting with a question.
"You know those blue flowers round by where the solicitors park their cars, just down from the library? Do you know what they are?" She'd tried the Observer Book of Wild Flowers, with no luck, and another wild flower book on the shelves of the shop, but she couldn't see anything that looked likely.
I said it might be either borage or alkenet, but I couldn't remember the difference, so we got Dale to look up a picture of borage on the net - and there it was.
A customer poked his head round the corner of a shelf to say that his wife called it by the old country name of Fair Lady's Apron.

Meanwhile, my spinach is coming up! I planted seeds and they grew!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


Last night the power went off suddenly - I'd just got round to lighting candles when it came on again.
This morning, I found out what had happened, when I saw Arthur's Dad walking the dog. He and Shelley had been out having dinner at the Swan last night. It wasn't the most relaxing venue in Hay; the gas men have moved up the road, but the sewerage men have moved in outside, and they're working nights. So the meal was accompanied by the sound of jack hammers from outside. The lady at the Swan said that they'd carried on until 1am the night before, and she'd had to call the police to get them to stop!
So, halfway through the evening, the lights went out, and the sound of the jack hammers stopped. One guest said he'd been looking out of the window at the time, and had seen the 'pooph' of blue smoke as the workman hit the electric cable.
The people at the Swan were really good, apparently, putting candles out - and the chef came out of the kitchen to explain that he couldn't cook certain meals because they needed the electric oven, but he could still use the gas grill. Fortunately, power was restored pretty quickly.
So, full marks for quick thinking to the Swan, and minus several million to the sewerage workmen.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Lovely Customers

Some days are just a joy to be in the shop, because of all the delightful people you come into contact with.
Today there was a lady from Northern Ireland on the phone, wanting to dispose of her late husband's library. When she was told that our chief buyer is at present braving the perils of political unrest in Bangkok, she told me about a friend of hers who had also been stuck there in previous troubles, but had got out safely, and she wished the same for Stef.
Then there was a lovely old gentleman from Coventry, again on the phone. He'd been listening to a radio programme about aliens, and this had reminded him of the books of Erich von Daniken. He'd gone to the library, where they'd never heard of the author, (who firmly believed that aliens had visited Earth and left traces behind), and was delighted that I knew about him straight away - and that we had several of his books in stock.
And then there was Steve, the saddler from California, who wanted to know about interesting and beautiful historical buildings on his way round England and Wales. He said that Hay looked very like some towns he'd visited in the Ardennes region, and I told him that Hay had largely been rebuilt in the eighteenth century. He was on his way to Bristol, and wanted to know about other eighteenth century towns, so I recommended Bath. He'd also been to Stonehenge years before, and wanted to go back (although the site itself had been a bit of a disappointment), so I asked him if he'd ever heard of Avebury. Another customer said it was a wonderful place, and the sort of place that one always wanted to go back to when they'd visited, "rather like Hay-on-Wye," she said.
By this time, a French couple had joined us at the counter, and bought a couple of books. Steve said he was going to visit a tannery in the South of France after he'd been around England, to talk to them about leather for saddles. They didn't know the town he was going to, but they had been to California, and both enjoyed books by John Steinbeck.
Later, I was walking home for lunch when a car came around the queue for the red traffic light at the end of the road works and stopped in the middle of the road! It was Steve, waving to me and getting confused by the traffic signals, so I managed to wave him back into the queue before he was mown down by oncoming traffic!

I love this job!

Monday, 26 April 2010

More Memories of the Cinema

A chap came into the Cinema last week, who told me that his dad had played the drums in the dance band that used to play there.
He said that his most vivid memory of those days was breaking up a fight!
One night, when the dance band was playing, his brother was there with his girlfriend, and they got into some sort of arguement with another chap. My informant said he was outside in the foyer, chatting to the girl in the kiosk - it wasn't a desk then. His brother and the other chap came out of the main hall, and his brother was about to take a swing at the other man. My informant grabbed his brother, ran him to the front door, and threw him down the steps! (The steps went right across the front of the building in those days.)
"He didn't want to fight after that!" said my informant, with some satisfaction.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Swans again

They're back, and nesting in the usual site on the little island by the bridge. I hope there are no summer floods this year.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

"High in Fibre...

...low in calories, and very good for the soul."
That was the slogan over one of the stalls at Wonderwool this year.
I had a great time again, thanks to Tracy for giving me the lift there, and Shelley for the pass.
In previous years, I've concentrated very much on things I can use in re-enactment - so wool rather than alpaca (hasn't been discovered yet) and nothing plastic! This year, I'm not doing any re-enactment because poor Islay can't camp out any more - so I could look at anything and not think "But it hasn't been invented yet!"
I've had my eye on a tri-loom for some time, and this year, I could justify buying one, from Hazel Rose Looms. It's basically a triangular wooden frame with nails banged into it, but the beauty of it is that you start weaving at once, unlike proper looms which need hours of preparation before you even start. (Well, maybe not hours, but certainly a long time).
Last year, there were some alpacas at Wonderwool. There were only sheep, of various varieties, this year, but I got chatting to the plant lady in Hay when I got back (she has the plants outside Monica's) and she said that they've discovered that alpacas can get the same sort of TB that cattle get, so movements have been restricted until they decide what to do about it.
The name of one stall rang a bell - Freyalyn's Fibres. I follow a blog called Freyalyn's Thoughts, and when I saw the little tattoo of a horse on the lady's shoulder, I knew it was the same person. "Ooh, I've got a stalker!" she laughed, when I introduced myself, because I've never actually made a comment on her blog, so she would have no idea I was reading it.
And finally, a word about the toilets. Nice and clean, but all the doors creaked like the entrance to Vincent Price's crypt, and the one I chose had no bolt on the door!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Yay! Broadband! And Local Fame

I would have gone to the showing of 'In Transition' at Booths Bookshop last night, but I was far too busy sorting out how my new and shiny Broadband connection worked, on my new and whizzy computer (which is officially christened Ianto, by the way - he just seems like an Ianto, somehow). Someone who went to the film came by later to tell me how inspiring and wonderful it was, so it was a pity there was only a small audience for it. Maybe they'll re-show it some time, so I can get inspired too.

Meanwhile, Paul from herbfarmacy has been on TV, on the Grow Your Own Drugs series.

I've appeared, with Islay, in the latest Herefordshire Life magazine! They chose 3 photos from the day that the photography students came to Hay - I was on one of them, and Stuart the greengrocer and Karl Showler were the other two. There's going to be an exhibition of the students' work at Booths over the Festival.

Jo and Annie are back from the desert, where they successfully completed the Marathon des Sables. There are photos up on their website now.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Ffynnon Gynydd Fund Raiser

A lady from Ffynnon Gynydd Primary School asked me to mention their fund raising night at the Globe on Saturday.
Ffynnon Gynydd is a very small school, and active in Fairtrade (the lady who is responsible for them being a Fairtrade school is also on the Fairtrade Hay committee). It also seems to be a very happy school, with lots going on, so definitely worth supporting.
It's £5 to get in, or £3 for under 18s, and downstairs there will be DJs and dancing, with cocktails and chillout upstairs. The DJs are Jonathan Owen and Alan McGee, which means nothing to me, but I'm sure they're very good!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A Happy Customer

Tylluan Penry, of the blog 'The Magical World of Tylluan Penry', has been browsing round Hay recently. Go to her blog at to read about her shopping experiences.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Shops and Roadworks Round-Up

Roadworks first, which are very much still with us, being around the Clock Tower and along the road outside the Cinema at the moment, with more to come.

Down along Backfold there have been a few personnel changes - the Sandwich Cellar has changed hands, now being run by two very nice ladies, but we'll never get the double act that Islay and Malachy used to do again. She would sit hopefully by one of the outside tables, waiting for something to drop into her mouth. Malachy would pretend he'd just noticed her, and threaten her theatrically. Islay would slink away - and return as soon as his back was turned. She knew he didn't mean it!

Across the way from the Sandwich Cellar, the No-Name Honesty Bookshop has been sold on to two partners, who wish to remain anonymously No-Name, but will be continuing as an Honesty shop for the moment.

The little shop beside Athene English's shop is still being renovated (Marina said "It's not fun any more - it's taking too long.")

Down in the middle of town, the Bookshop on the Pavement (the one that sacked all its experienced staff) is now up for sale. Next door to it, in the bit that they sold off last year, a sign has gone up to say Sunderland & Thompsons Estate Agents will shortly be opening there.

And across the way from that, the Photographic shop is having a closing down sale. I suspect they are moving out to Southern India, where they have a little hotel - by the beach, with palm trees....

Monday, 19 April 2010

Ponies on the Bluff

I met a friend today who told me that he used to be a grazier on the common land around Hay Bluff, grazing sheep up there. He doesn't do that any more, but he still has an interest in the area - and he has a plan.
Years ago, it seems, wild ponies were grazed up there as well as sheep, but in recent years they've been very much in decline. Peter told me that ponies have successfully been re-introduced around Hergest Ridge and Sennybridge - and he wants to see it happen here. When I saw him, he was on his way to the vet's surgery to ask them to get involved, and he came back very pleased to say that they would be glad to. He's also seen Jean Miller, our local famous artist, who has painted some pictures of the ponies on the Bluff, and she has agreed to be patron of the new group.
So ponies may again be seen on the hills around Hay, continuing a tradition which may go back as far as the Bronze Age!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Rhydspence Postcard

I got talking to a couple in the launderette the other day. They've lived in Hay a little bit longer than I have, and when they go away, they go round fleamarkets looking for old postcards of the area.
So, a few years ago, they were up in Southport, and they found a postcard with a picture of the Rhydspence Inn. This is an ancient black and white building right on the border between England and Wales - in fact, they still have an English bar and a Welsh bar, which was an important difference in the days when Wales was dry on Sundays, but England wasn't....
This postcard was dated 1946, and had been sent by a couple and their young son back to the older son who was still in Birmingham, doing his exams.
The couple happened to know the old lady who had been the landlady of the Rhydspence at the time, and they showed her the card. "Oh, yes, I remember them - they stayed right the way through the War," she said.
It seems they liked the area so much that the little boy who was mentioned on the card later returned to become landlord of the Griffin at Llyswen! He's now retired, of course.
All that local history from one little postcard!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Hay in Other Blogs

Just a couple of mentions I've noticed recently.
The Yarn Bombers have been out again, and pictures of their work can be seen on the blog listed on my side bar, Yarn Bombing.

And Bovey Belle has been to Hay. While she was here, she took photos of Derek Addyman's fine new shelves, as well as other views of the town, and they can be seen at

Meanwhile, I've been enjoying the sunshine.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Freegling in Brecon

For those that don't know, Freegle is the breakaway group from Freecycle, and it's the group active in the Brecon area.
Last week, I got two big cardboard boxes full of cones of weaving wool from a man in Clyro - fantastic, and just what I wanted!
This morning, I headed off to Brecon to hit the charity shops and meet another Freegle member, so I could give her my old computer monitor and keyboard. We met outside Morrisons, and apparently her nephews are delighted!
So, with a couple of hours to kill before the next bus home, I had a wander round the town. I hadn't realised that it's been about a year since I was last there! Several of the shops have changed. Woolworths is no longer with us, of course, being replaced by a factory shop, and the little cafe and bread shop where I used to have coffee and toasted tea cakes is now Bargain Booze, so I transferred my loyalties to Crustys - not the best cafe in Brecon, but nice and quiet and a decent mug of coffee. The rather nice Welsh shop on the main road is now Candyland, and half full of Pick 'n' Mix, which is a shame - they used to sell some local and Welsh interest books which are quite hard to get hold of. The big antique shop on the corner of Lion Street is gone, too, and the rather posh gift shop up the side alley from the Coracle has come over all Indian fabrics and crystals. There's even a little Nepali shop down the hill from the library, there being a lot of Gurkha families in town now.
On the bus route, I noticed a lot of orange Lib Dem posters, a few Conservative, and one UKIP.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Transition Towns meeting

Gosh, they're being busy!
I went along to Kilverts really just to take notes and publicise what they're doing, and it was quite impressive.

Hay Festival has agreed for the Transition Town volunteers to re-design the boggy bit of pond near the entrance as a Community Garden. Dave said that everything he needed for the job seemed to miraculously appear - they needed 3 tons of woodchip, and he met someone who could provided it, and now he's after enough hazel to make a 70 metre fence, done as trellises and woven together, and it looks as if that will come his way as well. They'll build a herb spiral, and need bog type plants like meadowsweet and yellow flag iris, and Glasu are giving them some funding.

The new thermal imaging camera has been in use, to show where energy is leaking out of buildings. They've done the school and several houses, and are about to look at the council chambers and the library.

Something else that's taken on a momentum of it's own seems to be this September's Transition Day. Last year it was all about bicycles, and other forms of sustainable transport. This year they want to close off Castle Street for a street party. They've also been looking at schemes for 'sharing the street', where cars and humans can co-exist without humans getting squashed. Apparantly it's been very successful in Holland, and traffic accident statistics have gone right down. Les who runs the Market is keen to get involved, and there was some talk of getting a pavement artist, or letting anyone create their own pavement art. Other suggestions were a giant game of hopscotch down the middle of the street, or long rope skipping. The date they want to do all this is 25th September, so they can have a virtual link to Hay Festival's daughter festival in Seville, possibly via the Booth Bookshop Cinema (if it's ready by then - or if not in the temporary cinema that they're already using). They were also talking about involving the Globe, possibly with street art, and maybe a lecture. There would be sustainability stalls, and the bicycle repair again. All they need now is the licence to close the road.

An associated project is to raise awareness of Transition issues, and one idea to do this, as it's Hay, was to have a writing competition. The winner would be announced at the street party, and there could be a reading of the winning entry. This is intended to be a 500 word story.

An Art exhibition involving all the local schools also seems to be coming on apace, with the Buttermarket already provisionally booked to show the art for Saturday 17th July - the day after the schools break up for the summer holidays.

One of the ladies at the meeting works part time at Cartref, the local nursing home, and Cartref has an under-utilised garden at the back. The Co-op are offering help to do something with it, possibly providing seeds, and they're starting to look at a polytunnel type greenhouse that's accessible for people with zimmer frames and wheelchairs, and raised beds, possibly to grow food. As it's outdoors, at set times and with staff present, there seems to be no problem about CRB checks for volunteers who would be needed to do the heavy lifting.
Over the year, Marches TV are making short films of what's happening with the Transition Towns group, and it was felt that it would be a good idea to interview some of the residents of Cartref about what life used to be like in Hay, and get the results on film. At the beginning of August Hay will be visited by a lady who is walking around the country, collecting 'Transition Tales', and this is just the sort of thing she seems to want to get involved in, too. Jayne at the Library is keen for her to do a story telling session there, too.
It was pointed out that the allotments are just next door to Cartref - I think one of the people on the waiting list rather had his eye on the garden for an overflow allotment area.
There are 20 people on the allotment waiting list, and some of them have been waiting for five years, so it was good to hear of progress on the Allotment site/Community Garden planned for the field just across the river. The next step there seems to be to get all the people waiting for an allotment together to see whether they want their own allotment, or whether they would be prepared to go in with a community vegetable garden which would be shared.

Broadband (or the lack of it).

Still on dial up for the moment, as BT drag their feet and give me a fourth date for connection. The whizzy computer is sitting here and waiting to whizz....

Saturday, 10 April 2010

The Cheesemarket

WyeLocal popped through my letterbox the other day, with a little insert with it.
It seems that the Hay-on-Wye Community Enterprise group has been in negotiations with the County Council, and may shortly be offered a 99 year lease on the Cheesemarket, which has been sitting there doing not very much for several years now.
They want to renovate the Cheesemarket, and when they started talking to people about it, they found that people were thinking about the whole Market Square as much as the Cheesemarket. So they've come up with a plan for the whole area, and they included a questionnaire to fill in to get local opinions. When I took mine up to the Council Chambers to hand it in, the lady there said she'd had a whole stack of them already, so there's a lot of interest in the scheme. (Mind you, I also met another friend who'd given in her questionnaire with 'NO' written in every box, and the comment 'Why can't things be left as they are?' so they can't please everyone!)
There's a display in the Library showing how they think the Market Square will look, and plans are also available to see at the Council Chambers, Hay Primary School, the Community Centre, Gym and Tonic and the Tourist Office.

Friday, 9 April 2010

The Globe "Presidential Debate"

Or "Meet the Election Candidates".
(Anyone who's already sick and tired of the General Election should just skip over this post!)

The Globe was packed - up on the balconies as well as the main floor - and so was the stage. There was only just room for the seven candidates and the chairman to squeeze on. Looking around, though, I didn't see much evidence of any first time voters (maybe there were some there and they were hiding) but I did see plenty of grey hair.

Moving across the stage, we had (and I can't remember many of the names) the UKIP man, bearded, with a smart blazer; the Green lady; the Labour lad (I'm sorry, but he looked about twelve!); the chairman (who did an admirable job of giving everyone a fair chance to answer the questions); Suzy Davies the Conservative lady; Roger Williams the Lib Dem sitting MP; the Plaid Cymru lady and, squeezed on the end because he came in late, Lord Offa of the Dyke of the Monster Raving Loony Party, in a fetching pale blue coat and a top hat with a bobble on the top.

Some of the questions were emailed in and some came from the floor - and each one took quite some time to answer.
Initially, I wasn't too impressed with the Labour lad - he sounded as if he'd swallowed the Party Handbook, but he settled down as the debate went on. Roger Williams was the only one on the platform who could mention his voting record, but the Plaid Cymru lady has eight years experience with the Audit Committee of the Welsh Assembly.

They talked about tax (and the UKIP chap got a bit huffy after he'd been asked to explain his party's flat rate tax for the third time over the course of the evening). They talked about saving money by making economies (but where) and by raising extra taxes like a "Mansion tax" or increasing National Insurance.

They talked about Proportional Representation. The Lib Dems have been in favour of this for years, and the Greens and Plaid Cymru also said they were in favour. The Plaid Cymru lady said that the system she favoured, the Single Transferable Vote, gave the choice but also kept the link with the constituency and the electorate, which could be lost under some methods.
The Labour party are considering holding a referendum on PR. They all agreed that the present system, where people attempt tactical voting in certain marginal constituencies, and other people can never be represented because they live in a constituency with a huge majority for an alternate party, is unfair.
The Conservative lady said there should be a way for a constituency to get rid of their MP - if he's done something criminal for instance - and force a by-election.
When someone asked if the whip system should be abolished, the Green lady said rather smugly that they didn't have whips in Parliament for their party.

When it came to local issues, there was a lot to be said about health, and it emerged that the Labour lad was born in Knighton hospital, and supports Bronllys. The Local Health Board seemed to be a bone of contention, but the Plaid Cymru lady made a plea that the system isn't re-organised again, because they don't know if they're coming or going. Someone from the floor pointed out that there are only six ambulances to cover the entire county, and the average journey to hospital here is 37 miles. In England it's typically 17 miles. The gentleman speaking from the floor said he had been a Disability Advisor for the Health Board, so knew about it from the inside, and his plea was "Bring back Matron!"

They were just talking about how to pay for local services when one of the seats in the audience collapsed! No-one was hurt, and the Green lady went on to oppose privitisation of health services and to propose a Peace Office rather than a War Office (to be told from the floor that we haven't had a War Office for over fifty years - it's the Ministry of Defence).

Someone asked if we should come out of Europe, and just about everyone except the UKIP chap said no. Roger Williams pointed out that he belonged to the first generation ever who had never seen a war in Europe, and the Plaid Cymru lady said she remembered watching the German bombers overhead - and having overpaid Europeans going to endless committee meetings was a lot better than having them going to war with each other.

Finally, with time running on, the chairman got the audience to vote for the most important last question, out of the ones he'd been sent and other suggestions from the floor. The winner was the environment, and here the UKIP chap displayed a slightly surprising (to me, anyway) knowledge of tidal barrages, and supported us all trying to use less energy. The Green lady talked about Peak Oil and how petrol was only going to get more expensive, so the more localised we could become, the better. The Conservative lady praised the Green Valleys project to the skies. Plaid Cymru supported lots of little, local projects rather than big showy projects like the Severn barrage and the Monster Raving Loony was very supportive, and said we should re-open all the disused water mills in the area.

By that time, everyone had had enough, and the meeting was wound up - with plenty of food for thought.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Getting Broadband

Well, I had hoped to be typing this on my new, whizzy computer, all connected up to Broadband - but the best laid plans....
An incredibly generous friend has given me a surplus computer, which is so far in advance of the old one I am still, at the moment, using that I may as well be sending up smoke signals with an old blanket. So I decided that now was the time to take the plunge and join the 21st Century, by having Broadband.
The Hub arrived on schedule (very impressive - after all, Torchwood HQ underneath that square in Cardiff is called the Hub). I plugged it in and waited for the lights to turn blue - and nothing happened.
It seems I did everything right, but there's a problem at the exchange. I'm not really surprised - the gas mains people have moved on from High Town and Castle Street, and the Gipsy Castle end, and have the road up right outside the exchange, with traffic lights letting one way traffic through.
So it's back to the old equipment for a few more days (but I am thinking of getting a pose-able John Barrowman doll to go with my Hub - that's my excuse, anyway).

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Easter Sunday

Well, it could have been a lot worse. I was out under the pavilion outside the Cinema Bookshop, and it was mostly sunny. I spent most of the day explaining to potential customers about the Sunday Trading Laws, and why our main shop had to be shut (it's the size - Booth's and The Bookshop on the Pavement were closed for the same reason).
It was quiet in the morning, so I spent the time filling my Viking drop spindle with yarn. When that was full, I started on the Turkish spindle, with some lovely light brown fleece. Not sure what I'll use the yarn for yet, but it was nice to get back into practice, and it usually gets people chatting.
And in the afternoon I had some lovely ginger cake brought up to me (thanks, Shelley!).
Back to normal tomorrow.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Nearly A Disaster at the Launderette

When I opened the dryer that I thought was empty, I noticed that the drum was going round - and that it actually wasn't quite empty. There was a black plastic bag in it. That is to say, there was a lump of fused plastic which had once been a plastic bag, and was now stuck to the drum. When I pulled it off, it came away like soft toffee.
It belonged to the other lady in the launderette. She had been drying it off because it was damp, and she didn't want her washing to get damp again when it came out of the dryer. Since it was now completely unusable, her washing probably got soaked by the time she got home - but what a stupid thing to do! The thing could have gone up in flames!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Finding Elizabeth

This is the way things often work in Hay....
I took Islay across the road to Broad Street Books during my lunch break, so that she could have her daily biscuit(s). Dale was in there. "Have you any idea where Elizabeth is today?" he asked. "I've been trying to get hold of her."
Glenys, one of the other assistants at Broad Street, was going to a funeral in a couple of days time, so couldn't be in work, and Dale had thought the day was covered, but then found himself double booked with the antique shop where he also works. Hence the need to find the other regular assistant urgently, to see if something could be re-arranged.
I had no idea where Elizabeth might be, but on my way back to work, I passed the Red Cross Shop.
"Ooo-eee! Is your little dog gone?"
I looked inside the shop, from where the shout had come, and found Mrs Jones and Elizabeth at the counter. I reassured them that Islay was fine - it was just that I was on my way back to work - and got Elizabeth to phone Dale. So everything was arranged with time to spare.