Saturday, 31 July 2010


A group of jousters come to Baskerville Hall every summer, but this year they're here over several weekends. I was kindly given a free ticket, so I went over to have a look.
Of course, I went in costume - I've been missing doing re-enactment this summer.
As I suspected, it is firmly aimed at the kiddies - which is not a bad thing. When I was a kid I went to several jousts, and they really got me excited about medieval history and wanting to know more. They have a Black Knight, Sir Guy of Gisbourne, leading one team, and Sir Lancelot of the Lake leading the other team - which probably tells you everything you need to know about who to cheer and who to boo. And they aren't wearing real chain mail.
What did rather disappoint me was that the gates opened at 1pm, the joust started at 3pm, and there was nothing to look at in those two hours if you happened to turn up early (which I did). There are the hotel gardens, and you could get refreshments, and there was a stall selling plastic swords and shields, but that was it. Which is a long time to wait if you're six. Even if they do put on a good show.
It's a long time to wait if you're 49. After a very pleasant chat with the chap on the gate, I walked back home, and took Islay in her carriage up to Kilvert's for a drink. I had Summer Meltdown from Dark Star (with a touch of spice, it said - and there was, too), which was very pleasant indeed.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The National Park and Green Energy

What does the National Park Authority think about green energy?
If you read the B&R for any length of time, you might be led to believe that they don't like it very much.

There's been the long running legal saga of Great Porthamel Farm near Talgarth and the anaerobic digester they want to build. They thought they had finally been given permission to build it, only to have the decision reversed over a technicality.
This week, it's Dan yr Ogof Caves who are complaining. They wanted to build a hydro-electric scheme which would, they say, create 25 local jobs (much needed in the area). Now, though, they're pulling out of the project, and say they're not going to invest any more money in Dan yr Ogof because the Parks Authority have made life so difficult for them. Instead, they're going to invest their money in projects in the French ski resort of Meribel, in the French National Park of Vanoise in the Alps.

However, things are rarely so clear-cut, and at the same time as these big projects are being bogged down with paperwork and legal quibbles, the National Parks are actually supporting the Green Valleys project to bring mini hydro-electric plants to mountain streams throughout the Park.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Transition - from What to What?

One of the main topics of conversation last night at the Transition Towns meeting was what a rubbish name Transition Towns is! At any rate, it's very hard to explain in one sentence when someone asks. There's a book about it, but that's about an inch thick!
However, one definition might be that the transition is from a world with cheap oil to one with very expensive oil. That will have an impact on our communities, and the transition towns movement is there to ease the transition from one to the other by encouraging local food, and transport that isn't all based around the car. There's a lot more to it than that, of course, but I think that would do to begin with.

The Transition Hay group were also talking about a lot of positive and fun things.
Sadly, the local Friends of the Earth group has folded, but Charles,their representative and treasurer, came along to offer all the money they had left in the kitty to the Transition Towns group - which is around £100.

Next week, Steph Bradley is coming to Hay. She's walking around the country (in flip flops!) collecting stories about what life was like before we all relied on the car, and talking about it. She'll be talking to some of the old people in Cartref (the old people's home on the edge of town). There'll also be a party up at the Community Garden on Tuesday evening, with music and a campfire. On Wednesday evening at around 7.30pm she'll be talking at the Globe (free!) and on Thursday morning at 11am she'll be talking at the Library (also free!).

On 25th September, a big street party is planned. Last year there was the bike day, which was a great success, and this year they're planning for it to be bigger and better. They're even applying to have Castle Street closed for the day, as well as the market square. So far they've approached several traders along Castle Street to see what they think of the idea. Isis cafe would like to do a tea party in the street for the old people from Cartref and the Luncheon Club from Open Door - they rather enjoyed having the gas mains dug up, when they put a carpet down in the road and had the tables outside. There should be hopscotch and skipping going on nearby, which should get the children and the old people talking. They're also hoping for communal games to be played in the Castle Gardens, a cycling proficiency course around the square, and people to refurbish bikes, and lots more!
Of all the people they've approached so far, four are positive, one was put down as 'neutral negative' ("he wanted to object but he couldn't really find a good reason") and one said "Over my dead body!".
Some of the older kids from Gwernyfed will be doing stewarding and general helping out towards their baccalaureate qualifications - some of the Transition town people have been doing talks in the school.
The art exhibition may well be put up again in the Buttermarket - hopefully this time more of the parents of the children will be able to see the results.

When they talked to Hay School, Fiona Howard mentioned the "walking bus" that they run, and said that it would be nice to make it a "cycling bus" except that some of the children don't have bikes. Transition Hay have found four bikes so far, and are re-furbishing them for the children, but they would like to find more. Other schools in the area might like to join in, too.

So there's lots to organise!
(There may also be "I'm Making Hay for the Future" Tshirts....)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Fabric, the Designer Dog

That's Tim the Gardener's name for her, anyway. "Look at her markings," he said. "If Athene got a blanket like that, she'd go wild!" She's a lovely brindled lurcher, and he walks her for Athene - who has called her Boudicca, or Boody for short.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Dancing Policeman

I went off to Hereford this afternoon to get some recycled printer ink at Cartridge World (that is, the cartridge is recycled - not the ink!). The bus stopped in Peterchurch by the hairdressers, opposite the side road that goes down between the church and the Boughton Arms. There was a group of lads there, and a couple of policemen were talking to them. One of the policemen was obviously miming something - and then he started hopping about on one leg!
I'm sure it made sense if you could hear what he was saying!

In the Mind's Eye

I went along to the Oriel Gallery at Salem Chapel yesterday evening, to sip a glass of white wine while looking at the exhibits. What a lot of talented people!
One name that jumped out at me from the catalogue was Gena Davies. I knew Gena years ago when we were both volunteering for the Brecknock Wildlife Trust, and she was very much into photography then. Now she's expanded her skills to include small sculptures - she has several alabaster carvings on display, and a rather lovely dolphin in limestone, as well as some photographs.
There were also watercolours, and screenprinting, and something called a collagraph, oil paintings, linocuts, ceramics, and a sculpture made of round pieces of wood mounted in a sinuous line, bolted onto metal, which reminded me of a backbone in a frame, and was called Adam and Eve.
All the people exhibiting belong to 'take pART', the Brecon Community Arts Workshop - and they are all brilliant!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Local Solicitors

The first local solicitor being Major Armstrong, the (alleged) Hay Poisoner. A couple came into the shop today looking for the books about the case - there's one supporting the verdict that led to him being hanged, and one opposing it. There was also a fun film/mini series called Dandelion Dead, which I remember being filmed around Hay. I was hiding off to one side when they drove a herd of cattle up Broad Street for the title sequence, and I remember them erecting fake gravestones in Cusop Churchyard when they were filming up there. They also dressed up the Buttermarket with market produce, as they had the two solicitors' offices at opposite ends, where the Red Cross Shop and the bookshop are today. They couldn't use the actual solicitors' offices on Broad Street because Martin Beales believed Armstrong was innocent (it was his book that supported that view, or at least that the evidence given at the trial would not be sufficient for a guilty verdict today). There is also a modern phone box in the way, which couldn't be filmed around. He also lived in Armstrong's house in Cusop Dingle, and he wouldn't let them film there either. They used Brobury House instead.
Martin Beales is the second Hay solicitor - he died recently, and his funeral is on Friday. He was the senior partner of the practice.

The couple who were looking for Armstrong information were revisiting the scenes of their youth - they used to come on holiday to Hay as children to stay with their Trumper relations, some of whom are buried in Cusop churchyard.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Royal Welsh

I've never been to the Royal Welsh before.
It's quite an admission, after over twenty years in Wales.
Today, though, I went for the very first time.
I've been to other events at the showground, of course, like Wonderwool every year, so as long as I could see the permanent buildings I more or less knew where I was - though I still got us lost at one point.
First we had to get to the showground, though, and the only option was park and ride from outside Builth, with a fleet of coaches running, and a chap walking up and down the queue reminding us all that our cars were in carpark South 1. I don't know how many other car parks there are around the show ground.
We were there most of the day, and we didn't even see the main show ring.
We did, however, see the Sheeptacular, which was fun - twenty rams of different breeds, all of them magnificent, more or less trained to climb steps on a big podium where they could be admired. "This one's a trainee - and he probably weighs more than I do," said the compere, a shepherd called Mr Powell, as he hauled one of the rams into place with the help of his brother, who later sheared another, smaller sheep.
And Fly the sheepdog sat in his kennel all the way through, accepting the adoration of small children.
After seeing one sheep sheared, we found our way to the competitive sheep shearing - and it was a revelation! There were shearers from all over the world - with their own groupies in the audience, which was huge! We saw a couple of chaps from Croatia, some Americans, Spanish, a Japanese man, an Austrian woman - and there were TV cameras there, and shearers giving interviews afterwards. There were Germans, too, and we sat near a Swiss couple who had come over specially. They each had six sheep to shear, not taking the fleece off in one complete piece, like Mr Powell had done, but just doing it for speed (with the poor sheep looking up the shearers' backsides at times, as they held the sheep between their legs). There were girls with long pieces of wood clearing the loose fleece from the stage into big hoppers as they worked.
It wasn't all sheep oriented - there was also rather wonderful icecream from Sub Zero, which had won lots of prizes and a big cup - very creamy, and the proud father of the owner of the business said that they used to be called Mr Creamy until Kerrygold took the name for themselves and they had to re-register. They're from the Rhondda Valley.
There were also some not so wonderful sausages from Parson's Nose, though the pasty from Oggie's was very nice.
We saw the Fur and Feather area, too, though today it was all feather, with pigeons and ducks and chickens and geese of all sorts and varieties.
It was all great fun - but what we were really there for was collecting signatures for a petition, and to find out about that, you should visit the Fairtrade Hay blog on the sidebar.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Art in the Buttermarket

The Buttermarket was covered with children's art work today, all on the subject of Transition Towns - basically, saving energy, growing your own food, eating local food and other related green issues. Nigel Birch was passing just as they were giving out the prizes to the kids, and when he found out what it was all about, he hurried away - he's not exactly a fan of green issues.
Five local schools took part, and the overall winner came from Llanigon School. It's a picture of a hot air balloon, with the basket full of fruit and vegetables, and the caption "Food miles. If only it were that simple". In the 4 - 6 age group, a picture of a strawberry won, with a caption telling readers to grow their own. Old Forest Arts made the winning entries into greetings cards for sale. The art shop provided one of the judges, and all the prizes too.
There were some wonderful pictures there - you could tell that the children had really thought about the issues. We rather liked the banana shaped plane depicting food miles, and the lady digging in her garden, though I was slightly worried by the caption "Eat me - I'm from Hereford!" on one picture. I thought cross-border cannibalism was well in the past!
The organisers were slightly disappointed that very few parents turned up, but they have ideas to get the message out to them if they should run another competition.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Good News for the Cheesemarket

It's been languishing in the middle of town for several years now, and it needs a lot of work doing on it - but help is at hand. Hay's Community Enterprise group has been given a 99 year lease on the property, for a peppercorn rent, so that they can use the building for community events, and convert the upper floor into a holiday flat to provide an income. It'll be interesting to see how it develops.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Changes around town

Walking up the hill the other day, I noticed a sign on the door of Horsewise, the shop that sells everything to do with riding and horses (even toy horses and stables for little girls to play with). After many years of trading - certainly well before I arrived in Hay - they are closing down. The corner won't be the same without them.

Meanwhile, my informants tell me that old ladies have been going into the new Hay Baby shop to wish the new owners well - and to say how nice it is to see a baby shop there again, after a gap of forty years!

Monday, 12 July 2010

New Exhibition

The Oriel Gallery, beside Salem Chapel, are putting on a new exhibition, and they're opening it with a Welsh-Argentine Guitar Duo! The Welsh colony of Patagonia is in Argentina, of course, so there will be a mixture of Welsh folksongs and Argentine tangos to celebrate the cultural links. The exhibition of paintings, prints and ceramics, is called In the Mind's Eye, with the subtitle Celebrating Difference, and the artists all belong to a group called Take Part.
Opening day is Sunday 18th July, with the Welsh-Argentine Duo playing on the evening of Friday 23rd July from 7.30pm on.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Third Time Lucky!

Success! Doing the Happy Dance!
I took the trolley out last night and lifted Islay into it. She was a bit doubtful at first, but when we started whizzing along, she started grinning and doing her "this is interesting" expression. A couple of people made a fuss of her while she was in the trolley, too. And when she wanted to get out, I lifted her out.
So we're now fully equipped to go further, faster, to infinity and beyond.... (well, okay, maybe not that far!).

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Of Beer and Wheeled Transport....

I got a lift into Hereford with Mary, who was going down to see her mum. She dropped me off near the bus station, and I went into Rockfields to see if they had any sort of trolley for Islay (she didn't like Plan A, which was a bit cobbled together; Plan B came without any wheels because I hadn't read the advert properly - and if Plan C doesn't work we'll go for Plan 9 From Outer Space!).
Nothing there, so I moved on to the Early Learning Centre, and just about every other shop in Hereford that sold anything with wheels.
I came close a couple of times, but didn't see anything ideal - so I went to drown my sorrows at Beer on the Wye, the Hereford Beer and Cider Festival at the Rowing Club.
This turned out to be a very good idea.
I started with a Norfolk beer, a mild from the Wolf brewery called Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, which was a nice, tasty one to start with. I drank Wolf's beer many years ago when I was an archaeologist in Norwich. He was the brewer at the Reindeer pub, and that was the diggers' pub of choice (apart from the Rouen, aka The Ruin, which was perched right on the edge of the big pit which would shortly become the Castle Mall shopping centre).
For an encore, I saw that they had a barrel of Continuum there, from the Hardknott brewery. After the taste sensation at the Rake in London, I had to try that one! It wasn't quite as 'bright' as I remembered, but then Dave the brewer was on hand at the Rake to make sure it was served at its absolute best, whereas at the beer festival it was only one of 120 different beers - and 70 ciders and perrys - and 39 foreign bottled beers. It still went down very pleasantly, though.
And finally, a beer I hadn't tried before (I was gradually working my way northwards up the country). Lia Fail is from the Inveralmond brewery in Perth, and the tasting notes say "A dark, robust beer with a deep malty taste and balanced finish."
And that was where I called a halt, though there were many more beers there that I would have liked to have tried.
Instead, I went back into town, and went for the least awful of the trolley choices. It's a big, square shopping trolley with four wheels, so it'll be nice and stable, and once I've padded it up with cushions I reckon Islay won't complain too loudly when I put her in it. Road trials tomorrow evening....

Friday, 9 July 2010

Old Buildings

Coming back down the hill from the launderette this morning, I noticed the scaffolding up round the side of Kilvert's. They appear to be taking the old pebbledashing off the side of the building. It's been put onto battens, which have been nailed over an original timber framed building! Underneath, its all beams and white plaster!
It'll look fantastic when they've finished.

Thursday, 8 July 2010


The Wye is known as a good fishing river, and on Sunday one of my neighbours was walking down the riverside path when they got talking to one of the fishermen. He had a bulging catch net, mostly full of dace, but there was one rainbow trout.
"Would you like it for breakfast?" he asked.
They did, and it was delicious.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Mentioned in Another Place!

Down the side bar of this blog is a link to the Rosemary Sutcliff blog on wordpress. I had a look at it a few days ago, to find that I've been mentioned in a post about the Hay Festival!

Rosemary Sutcliff was one of my favourite authors as a child - I loved Eagle of the Ninth and all the other stories following the history of the Aquila family through the Roman era and out into the Dark Ages (recently re-published, I believe). I was shocked by the ending of Mark of the Horse Lord (which was also so right for the character), and I was lucky enough to have a good English teacher at secondary school who introduced the class to Warrior Scarlet. It's no wonder I ended up as an archaeologist and historical re-enactor, really, when my imagination had been stimulated by such wonderful stories.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Art in Hay

I went down to Abel's to get some art supplies. It was a bit more chaotic than I remembered, but they had exactly what I wanted in stock. The lady who runs the shop seems to be much more interested in encouraging local people to produce art and crafts themselves than in selling the products. She runs quite a lot of classes, including one that makes craft work out of junk that would otherwise be thrown away or recycled. She told me she had plans to make the back part of the shop into a little museum for the dolls' houses and the craft works. Her art groups also had an exhibition on during the Festival, across the road at the Masonic Hall, for which they produced over 280 works! They're planning another exhibition later in the year.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Hay Girl in the Big City Again Part Four

Mmmm, beer....

The week before I went down to London, I happened to be reading Pete Brown's Beer Blog. He mentioned a little pub by the Borough Market in Southwark called the Rake - and it really is tiny. It also sells some truly superb beers, some of which are also for sale in bottled form on the Market itself. He said that an independant brewer would be at the Rake while I was in London, showcasing his beers and talking about them. His name is Dave, and the brewery is Hardknott, in Cumbria.
We had to go.
The beer I particularly wanted to try, from the description by Pete Brown, was Aether Blaec, a stout that had been kept in a 30 year old whisky cask for several months before bottling.
It was £8.00 a bottle.
It was worth every penny.
We had bottle no. 185 of 458 between us, served in big wine glasses to keep the scents of the beer in.
After that wondrous start, we drank our way along the beer pumps, a half pint of each (except the ginger beer, which we thought might spoil the taste sensations of the other beers).

Continuum is the standard bitter, nice and hoppy, and I really can't do better than quote the handout that came with it. (NB. This is a perfect beer for Doctor Who fans, because of the timey-wimey stuff). "Space-time is a theory that helps scientists explain difficult to explain stuff. It's a continuum, apparently. Whatever your spacial location and where ever you sit in a temporal dimension, Continuum is a perfect long beer. Unfortunately, the space-time coordinates in which you can find this beverage are resticted to a very narrow region known as Earth in the 21st Century and even there, it's quite rare."

After that, we tried Infra Red, their ruby beer, and followed it up with another stout, Dark Energy - which they explain as the 'fudge factor' that scientists use to make the universe add up. "We are unable to help on the issue of dark matter," says the handout, "as its total mass is far too great for even the power of Hardknott to be able to deliver. However, we have managed to come up with Dark Energy, only a small amount, but every bit counts."

I love the scientific names for the beers. Until last week, when I thought of Hardknott (if I thought of it at all), I thought of the Roman fort which is there. Now I will immediately think of fine beer, and I'll seek it out wherever I can. They also have a website, of course, at

It's not on the usual tourist trail, and I would never have known it was happening if I hadn't read that blog - and what a lovely afternoon it was.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Scottish harps at the Globe

Still officially on holiday, so I treated myself to an evening at the Globe on Friday to listen to the Duplets. They are superb harp players, doing a mixture of traditional and new music. They started with The Twa Corbies which, as they said, was a rather spooky tale about two crows eating a dead knight. There was another song about Surtsey, the Icelandic island that appeared out of the sea in 1963 as the result of a volcanic eruption. Towards the end, they played an old piece called Tree of Strings - which I have on record played by Alison Kinnaird, bought in Edinburgh in the mid 1980s (so I've had a thing about Scottish harps, or clarsachs, for a very long time).
It was a casual performance - they both kicked off their shoes while on stage and played barefoot. There were small children in the room, and at least one small dog, and people having meals - I think it's about as close as we can come today to a performance in a medieval hall!
They thanked Tom of Tom's Record Shop at the end, for getting them the gig.
They also belong to a five piece Scottish folk band called Abagail Grey, which should be worth looking out for if the harp playing is anything to go by.
They can be found at
(Sadly, I have to report that the iced coffee at the Globe isn't a patch on the iced coffee at Terra Nera on Camden Market - that was really something special).

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Hay Girl in the Big City Again Part Three

(I did get around a bit).

Having been to Harrods and Selfridges, we went for a completely different shopping experience - Camden Market!
It's enormous - you could lose Hay in it!

We approached along the canal at Camden Lock, to an area of little wooden shed stalls - lots of Tshirts, tops, tights - and one stall offering a fish pedicure. They have bowls of water with little tiny fish swimming around in them. You put your feet in the water and the little fish nibble off all the dead skin!

This is another place, like Greenwich Market which we visited last time I was in London, where you can eat your way round the world. And there's coffee, speciality coffee which smells amazing and is sold by knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff. "Try the smell of this one," he said, wafting beans under our appreciative nostrils. He had one coffee from Vietnam, not a place I normally associate with coffee, which smelt amazingly rich and chocolaty, and another that had been fed to a little weasel and then picked out of the weasel's poo (the price on that one was astronomical!). As well as the beans, they did iced coffee which is the best I've tasted since I spent a year in Greece. The company name is Terra Nera, for any coffee lovers reading this.
I had some freshly squeezed orange juice which was the best I've tasted since I was in Greece, too - it was a very hot day, and I was reverting to hot country drinking habits.

Part of the market is called The Stables Market, and it is in the buildings that originally made up stabling for hundreds of horses, dating back to 1854. It's the largest complex of its kind still surviving, and they also had life sized statues of horses, and blacksmiths, and larger than life ones, too, just dotted around the walkways.
In the middle of all this was a shop that I really wasn't expecting. Cyberdog is hi-tech, full of flashing lights and science fiction-y clothing.
And then there were the Goth shops - lots of black and red clothing, lots of leather, corsets and flouncy shirts and beautifully tailored jackets. I was rather taken by the little angel wings in a choice of black or white (only £10), that strapped on your shoulders, with real feathers.

Friday, 2 July 2010


I don't know - I go away for a week, and when I come back Things Have Changed!
The little shop that used to be Adela's Dress Agency before they moved over to the shop on the corner that used to be the Sensible Bookshop will shortly become Grandma Hettie's Sweet Shop. They've got a couple of sweet jars in the window with Sooty and Sweep at the moment (though thinking of the havoc that Sooty and Sweep tend to cause, are they really a good advert for a sweetshop? You'd be covered in sugar and sticky stuff before you could say "Izzy Wizzy, lets get busy"!).
Down on the Pavement, the photographic chap is now working from home, and has been replaced by Hay Baby, with clothes and other stuff for babies and toddlers.
And the Wheatsheaf is to let - again. The pub is owned by Enterprise Inns, and the big pub chains tend to have a high turnover of publicans, because they make it very hard for them to make ends meet.
Finally, the sign on the door of Tom's Record Shop says 'Closed', but rumour has it that he might not be re-opening.

Hay Girl in the Big City Again Part Two

I went to meet my young man's sister at Spitalfields, where she took us to a special little place for lunch. It's called s & m, for Sausage and Mash! The decor is kind of greasy spoon, but the sausages are wonderful, with proper red onion gravy and mash, and big mugs of tea.
At the end of the road is a big white church, Christ Church Spitalfields, the sort of thing that was built after the Great Fire by the likes of Christoper Wren or Hawksmoor. We ambled up to have a look at it, to find that a free concert was in progress. There was a harpsichord on stage, and a sort of jumbo lute, and various other instruments, with a soprano giving her all, followed by two men singing some sort of duet. It was all very twiddly and baroque, and perfectly suited the building.

Hailey took us to Selfridges - and there will now be a short commercial break....

Mmmm, cupcakes.... Lola's Cupcakes, in Selfridges, are absolutely delicious. We chose 9 different mini cupcakes in a box, to get the variety, and they were all delicious.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

BT or not BT?

The first thing I did when I got back from the Big City was to pick up Islay from her holiday home at the Children's Bookshop. She was a bit stand offish at first - Judith said she'd sulked for the first two days.
Both the shop and house were without a phone connection.
It all started innocently enough when Colin woke up to find workmen in yellow jackets raising the manhole cover in the road outside his bedroom. They had all the cones up and 'men at work' signs, and they even came into the shop.
Then the phones went dead.
One of the neighbours of the Children's Bookshop is sufficiently important to merit an armed response unit if anything untoward happens. Some sort of alarm must have been triggered, because the next thing to happen was the arrival of armed police, who talked to the 'workmen' for a while and then went away again. The 'workmen' packed up rather rapidly, and it was only later that a real BT man arrived to announce that they had stolen the phone cables. Which are now being replaced.
At least the armed police had film of the men and the number plates of their vans.

Hay Girl in the Big City Again Part One

I've been away for a week - it feels like longer. We packed a lot in - culture, shopping, and good beer!

I'm sure Londoners are getting friendlier. Or maybe it's just me? Anyway, I've never struck up a conversation with a complete stranger on the tube before, in the rush hour (we ended up talking about New York taxis!). And, on the last morning of my visit, when I had to buy a ticket to Victoria all on my own, a young man in the queue behind me talked me through the process and showed me which ticket type I needed.

On the first night in Sidcup, I heard something I've never heard in Hay - foxes having sex! Noisily! (I thought I was supposed to be in the Big City!)

We got a bit carried away in the V&A. There were amazing kimonos in the Japanese gallery - and Mark took me round the cases, explaining what the objects were (like the difference between a saki bowl and a tea bowl) and then confessed that most of his knowledge came from watching The Water Margin! He got it all right, according to the labels, too. We spent some time admiring the katanas and other blades, especially the one made by a master craftsman who had managed to beat the image of a sinuous dragon into the blade as he was making it - it wasn't etched in afterwards; it really was part of the blade.
There was amazing embroidery in the Chinese gallery, and the head of a large statue of a Buddha, up on four pillars that you could walk underneath - which gave both of us a strange wobbly feeling.
The Medieval and Renaissance galleries were spectacular. They have one of the most beautiful statues of the Archangel Gabriel I have ever seen (with slots on his shoulders for the missing wings). There was German stained glass, showing a scene of Jesus getting circumcised in the Temple, which struck me as an unusual choice of subject. I think my favourite item, though was the almost life-sized Jesus sitting on a donkey, on wheels, which was trundled in procession around the streets of a German town on Palm Sundays.
We had a snack in the most opulent of tea rooms, full of original Victorian tile work and stained glass windows. Outside, children were paddling in the pool in the courtyard (the sign said that paddling was permitted, as long as people didn't take their clothes off). Beside the pool was a wooden sculpture which Mark said looked to him like "Ents partying".
On the way out, we passed a man who was ignoring the exhibits to photograph the marble staircase in extreme close up, for an art project. This was just to one side of the main entrance, where they have an enormous modern glass sculpture hanging over the desks, in greens and yellows. It was quite spectacular.

From there, we went on to Harrods, past various embassies. The food halls have changed a lot since I last went in there - I don't remember all the places to sit down and eat they have now. It did amuse me that the ice cream parlour was called Morelli's (Leon Morelli used to be Richard Booth's greatest rival in Hay). They were also selling Tyrell's crisps, which are local - only the best in Harrods! And speaking of the best, how about 22 carat gold leaf tea? They had some on display under glass. And yes, it really was gold.