Monday, 21 June 2010

Heroine of World War Two

"We're looking for a book about Violette Szabo. You know, there was the film 'Carve her Name with Pride'? She was Odette?"
I did know, and I sent them upstairs to find the World War Two espionage section.
They came back empty handed, but while they were away, I remembered that I'd visited a church somewhere in Herefordshire, years ago, where there was an exhibition about Odette. I think she must have had some local connection.
A quick look at Wikipedia confirmed it, but since I'd visited, the exhibition must have grown because it's no longer in the church. Now there's a cottage in the village of Wormelow Tump which has been turned into a Violette Szabo museum. Virginia McKenna, who played her in the film, went to the opening of it.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Back to the Drawing Board

We had the road trials of Islay's chariot last night.
It would have been okay for an inanimate weight - but not for a reluctant passenger who tried to get out every five yards.
I'll just have to think of something else.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

The Seventies Are Back

They had big platform boots, long hair (or wigs), and wore psychedelic tunics and pink crushed velvet, among other things. And that was just the men.
They were standing outside the British Legion, so I imagine there was some sort of fancy dress event going on there - hard to see with the windows draped with England flags. No-one passing gave them a second glance.

Friday, 18 June 2010

A Chariot for Islay

For some time now, people have been seeing Islay hobbling round town and have said to me "What she needs is a skateboard," or "You should put her on wheels."
This morning, Benjy's Mum came round with a basket and a two wheeled trolley, the sort of thing that might have a big shopping bag attached to it.
The first thing to do was to take the handle off the basket. One of the workmen who are renovating the house next door saw me struggling and sawed it off for me.
It worked fine when Islay wasn't sitting in it.
A longer wheel base was called for, I decided, and more wheels.
I went up to Jones's for some castors, and spent the rest of the morning fixing them to a plank.
Islay consented to sitting in the basket and being wheeled up and down the living room floor.
Then I lashed the plank to the trolley with a bit of rope, and now the experimental vehicle is awaiting its first trials....

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Open Mic Night

I never quite know what to expect when I go up to Kilvert's on Open Mic Night. A good real ale is expected, of course - this time it was Magna Carta from Lincoln Cathedral Ales, which I tried on the basis that I hadn't heard of it before. Last week, I think it was something called Boondoggle, which was also very nice.
And last week nothing much was going on - I think Briar was off at a Festival - so we just sat around and chatted for a while. This week, some friends of Tim's were there. I didn't catch their names, or the band they belonged to, but I'm pretty sure they were professional musicians. One of them said something about being the support band soon for a concert by Alvin Stardust. When Tim got his guitar out and started singing, they disappeared for a bit, and came back with a guitar, little drum kit, and a double bass! They set up by the fireplace inside - and they were good. When I left, Briar was singing, but she'd promised that the band would play again later. Chris had said he was going to read out a bit of his book - I don't know whether he did or not.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Hay Parking

I was going up by Kilvert's this afternoon, on my way to the launderette, just at the right time to find a big silver Range Rover not so much parked as abandoned in the middle of the road outside the British Legion. It was sticking out so far into the road that nothing could get past it, up or down the hill, and two men were taking pictures of the number plate with their mobile phones. One of them said that the driver was either one of the solicitors from the office next to the British Legion, or had gone to visit a solicitor. Either way, he should have known better.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

New Word Coined

I was shelving in the shop the other day when Peter sidled up to me with a scrap of paper in his hand. "Have a look at this," he invited me.
So I've had a look, and it shows quite a different side to Hay to what I usually see.
Simon Clayton has invented a new word, syncredent, which he attempts to explain on his new website
They're trying to get it recognised by the OED. Peter was involved because he's written a poem on the site, and Simon also talks about another Hay character, Mr Babb the retired orchestral conductor. There's a link from that site to Simon's own blog, which is at the moment chronicling his problems of access to his daughter via his estranged wife (I thought I hadn't seen Esti around for a while - now I know why).

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

watchthatcheese in Hay

This is not some strange country pastime! This is, in fact, a fellow blogger from New Zealand, recently arrived to live in Swansea, and staying in Hay for a few days. I met her and her husband this lunchtime as I was giving Islay a biscuit outside. They were just coming out of the house next door but one which is often let out to holiday makers, and of course they recognised the dog. Who was a tart and wanted her belly scratched.
So, welcome to Wales, and welcome to Hay, watchthatcheese - and her blog can be found at

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Book House

Half Moon House was up for sale a little while ago, and it seems it is now under new ownership. It was originally a pub called the Half Moon, and when I first came to Hay I met one of the last landladies, who was in her eighties then, and had supplemented the earnings of the pub, which she ran with her husband, by working as a nurse.
I'm pretty sure that it is also the building named 'Sixpence House' in the book of that name, about an American who lived in Hay for a while. He slightly disguises names, and I'm guessing that his idea was Half Moon House = The Moon and Sixpence = Sixpence House, which is a literary reference (George Orwell or someone?). It's quite an interesting book, though some locals have complained about his portrayal of Lucy and the Three Tuns in it.
Anyway, it now seems to have become The Book House, offering accomodation to book clubs and others for literary themed holidays, and offering "discounts and special access to events in Hay". I picked up their card from an outside table at the Granary as I was passing during the Festival. They also, of course, have a website at

Monday, 7 June 2010

Good News on the River

I saw the swans today, with four little cygnets! There may possibly be more still in the nest.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Another Day in Planet Hay

"My dear friends. This is a very interesting book. But..." He opened the book and pointed to the price.
Boo was at the counter serving. I was only there because I was collecting my bag to go for lunch. "I'm sorry," she said, "but we've had a four page document given to us which basically says 'Don't give any discount'."
The man sighed. "But I have come all the way from the Caribbean - no, I've come from Sheffield...." He smiled hopefully.
I left Boo to it, but as I went out, I said to the man; "You do get extra points for being charming!"

Meanwhile, on the streets of Hay, I passed a lady with her mobile phone pressed to her ear, obviously asking for directions. "Have we passed the Three Huns yet?" she asked. I pointed back along the street, trying not to laugh - I had a mental image of a pub sign showing three men in spiky First World War German helmets, with big moustaches.

Another lady was looking for a cash point machine, since there was a long queue for the one at Barclays. I told her where the HSBC and Nat West were. "There's a whole other part of Hay," she said in amazement, "with shops!" I think she'd only seen the Festival site and Broad Street.

And in the town square, the Full Moon Morris team was dancing.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Yet More Festival

No post yesterday because I was doing the late shift at work, until 9pm, and then got persuaded to join some friends at Kilverts as I was innocently passing, walking the dog (she went in first, honest).

This morning, I was minding my own business, listening to Radio 2, when Chris Evans announced that he was coming down to Hay today - and one of the things he had to do was visit Shepherds cafe (a good choice - yummy ice cream, among other things).
I don't know if he finally took possession of it, but he was also very interested in the dinosaur from Dan yr Ogof recently - they were giving away an old one to make room for something else, and all you needed was a low loader to take it away.

I had to get out early, though, because I was going to the 9am talk by Richard Evans about album covers. He was being interviewed by John Harris, who used to live where herbfarmacy now is, and he was very entertaining. I did like the sequence of Frank Sinatra covers (poor old Frank, always on his own - and the last one in quite bizarre pierrot makeup which he'd designed himself and won an award for), in contrast with Les Baxter and his orchestra (who sank without trace), whose cover featured a glamorous woman looking up at what was clearly meant to be a suave and seductive man (possibly Les himself?) as a cover for various orchestral tracks.
When they were talking about Richard's career, he mentioned that one of the first album covers he designed was A Nice Pair for Pink Floyd - which I own! (It came to me from my late husband's record collection, so I can't claim the credit for good taste - at about that time I was more into Donny Osmond!) And Richard also designed platform boots for the Osmonds when he was part of the company Daisy Roots.

One of the crowd I was sitting with last night was Chris the Bookbinder, who was doing a reading of his new novel this afternoon at the Globe, so I went up to support him. It's an unpublished novel, and he said that 'new novel' was a bit misleading, since he started this magnum opus twenty five years ago. And finished it last week. He was obviously nervous to start with, but he was very entertaining - I did like the idea that two great discoveries of the 19th century were instant mashed potato (which prevented scurvy on long sea voyages) and penguin poo (an important fertiliser)!
He did the reading round the side of the Globe, where they've set up a couple of yurts and a double octagonal tent containing the High Tea Bar and the stage, with a bar tent and smoothies tent further down. I hadn't realised they had so much room round the side there, and it was very pleasant out in the sunshine. Following him on the stage were a three piece band, a chap on guitar and two girls on trumpet and saxophone.

And tonight? Well, I might possibly be passing by Kilvert's again....

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

The "Oh, My Goodness" Moment

I was doing the late shift at work (we open until 9pm over the Festival) and I got talking to a customer who started off by complaining, jokingly, that I hadn't warned him he might get lost in the shop! He was a rather good looking black man, wearing a beret that made him look as if he'd just stepped out of a 1950s Parisian jazz club. As he left, Chris came in and said "Wasn't that Ben Okri?"
Oh, my!

Earlier in the day, a photographer from the Guardian came in and asked if he could take a few photos. He was in the foyer just at the same time as a family with a rather elegant looking whippet, who may be appearing on the Guardian website even now.

Meanwhile, Red Indigo seem to have lost their blimp.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Interesting Customers

Unlike yesterday, there was a bit of time to slow down and chat today, and I met some interesting people.
A lady who bought the Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown told me that she had been married on Orkney, and this was to remind her of the islands.
Another lady asked for recommendations for nautical fiction. She was going on holiday on a tall ship, and the previous year they had sat around in the evening reading out Moby Dick. They'd also been reading Hornblower. I suggested Alexander Kent's Bolitho series, or Patrick O'Brien.
In the evening, Douglas Hurd came in briefly!
And when I was making a list of the different nationalities who came into the shop yesterday, I completely forgot the Norwegian chap who asked me if I knew what the population of Wales was! (I haven't got a clue!).
Just as I left work in the evening, I met Anita and her chap from Penmaenmawr, who had come down from the fastnesses of North Wales to enjoy a few days of the Festival.

The soggy (and partially non-existant) Festival bunting has been taken down, and plastic bunting has been put up.