Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Cheesemarket Questionnaire

The results are in, and mentioned in WyeLocal.
It seems that, of the 1,300 questionnaires given out, 250 were handed back in - which is roughly 20% of the total. Which means that 80% of people in Hay are really not very interested about what happens to the Cheesemarket. Of the 250 that were returned, just over half didn't want any changes at all, and the rest broadly agreed with the proposed changes. Which is roughly 10% of the total.
Therefore, the organisers have decided to concentrate on raising the money to renovate the Cheesemarket, and have abandoned plans to change the market square for the moment.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Wye Valley Life

This month's issue of Wye Valley Life (happy first birthday to them) has a feature on Tinto House in Hay, which has been beautifully done up by the lady who owns Sage Femme, just across the road from there. They also mention the rather wonderful garden at the back.
"Tim, the man who tends it all so carefully for the couple, whom they inherited with the house, also happens to be a poet and one of the best-read gardeners you'll ever come across; not many will have read James Joyce's Ulysses three times!"

"Actually," he said, when I met him, "I've only read Ulysses once, but I started it several times. It's like cracking a code, and once you've got it, it's actually very funny."
One of Tim's poems is somewhere on this blog - back, I think, around last September. And he plays guitar at open mic nights.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Ragged Glory

Well, they were a cheerful bunch!
There was something on to suit my musical tastes two days running at the Globe - so off I went to see the folk band.

Before they went on stage, they were sitting under the wall where the silent, arty films are projected throughout the evening. They might be shadows on a wall, or traffic at an intersection, or people walking up and down a street - that sort of thing. As they were due to go on, the lead guitarist said: "We can't go yet - something exciting's going to happen in a minute. A pigeon is going to fly across there."
That started them off creating a narrative for the piece of film they were watching. "That guy on the sand heap's been waiting for the train for fifteen years, and that guy in the background is jealous because he isn't sitting on the sand heap..."

The line up for the first half was a fiddle player, singer and guitarist, and about the third song they did was called Ragged Glory, "...and we are such people," said the lead guitarist in his introduction.
"It's eponymous," said the singer.
"A hippopotomous? Right, this is a song about a hippopotomous...."

In the second half, the first three were joined by a drummer and bass guitarist. It was, apparently, only the second gig they had done all together - and there was also a flute player in the band, but he was up at Shrewsbury Folk Festival. "We thought he might be able to play his bit up there and phone it down to us, but it hasn't happened yet," they said. The singer also played the flute for one song, when the guitarist was singing.

A fun evening!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Medieval Music

Gothique were playing at the Globe last night. They play medieval instruments, with music ranging from Sweden down to Morocco and across to Turkey! The main instrument was the oud, "the grand-daddy of the lute", which is still made in the same way as it was a thousand years ago. The chap bought his in Syria.
He was accompanied on the hurdy-gurdy, which is a modern reconstruction of an instrument only seen in illustrations from the Middle Ages - so they knew it was a box with a handle at one end, and keys, but had no real idea of what was inside it. The lady took the lid off to show the way the strings went, and how the keys changed the notes.
In the interval the chap spent some time explaining the tuning of the oud to an interested member of the audience. These are people who are passionate about their music, and want it to be better known.
They explained that, in the 9th century, the important thing for musicians was improvisation - audiences wanted music that was for themselves alone, which had never been heard before - so in the spirit of this, the Globe got its own improvised piece, never heard before and never to be repeated.
In the second half, they played French folk tunes on two different sized bagpipes. The larger one, copied from an illustration in the Canterbury Tales, sounded a bit like modern Scottish bagpipes, but the smaller one had a much more mellow sound. They were made by someone who lives in Scotland, but makes English bagpipes (in the Middle Ages it was the English who were more known for bagpipe playing - the aristocratic instrument for the Scots was the small harp).
One nice thing about the evening was that it was completely acoustic. There was no electronic clutter of mics and speakers and so on - just the instruments and the players and the audience, just as it would have been back through history.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Facelift for the Launderette

I wasn't sure that the launderette would be open today, having seen workmen in there when I passed by on Tuesday, but I took a chance and walked up with my washing anyway.
The workmen were still there, and there was a strong smell of damp plaster - they've put in a new ceiling and boarded across the far wall. The machines were still in use, though, with the men working round them.
When I was in Spar the other night, the subject of the launderette came up. "Huh," said the chap at the till, "he'd do better mending the machines instead of doing up the roof."

Thursday, 26 August 2010


I met a neighbour coming along Broad Street with her foreign guest.
"No, really, you take the umbrella. We're English - we're used to it!"

Monday, 23 August 2010

Edict from the King

The Anvil Pierrot Troupe are coming to Hay Castle on Wednesday to do Old Time Music Hall, Commedia dell'Arte, scenes from Shakespeare and Dickens and Melodrama (the story of Grace Darling - I wonder how they'll get the rowing boat on stage!). Bravely, they're suggesting it might be an outside performance (bring your own chairs) but there is the option of being inside if wet.

That's not going to be the main event of the evening at the Castle as far as the King is concerned, though. He's issued a flyer advertising a drinks party at the Castle before the performance, with the extra incentive of free cider!
He wants to announce a policy for a winter economy in Hay (something he's been banging the drum about for the last twenty years) and he wants to announce the creation of a museum for the town in Hay Castle (something that was considered for the Millennium and abandoned for lack of suitable premises, amongst other things).

He writes: "My departure for Berlin on Sept 8th to formulate a responsible democratic policy for Hay, in relation to the original vision for the town supported in 1976 as the official Rural Tourist attraction for two hundred years of American Independence, on the assumption that cultural tourism could outperform "sun tourism" if supported by millions of secondhand books.
The creation of new booktowns looking to Hay for leadership with a responsible democratic policy.
The holocaust of democracy in the Welsh Assembly which resulted in the name and fame of Hay being given to Rupert Murdoch. In Hay this resulted in a vital millenium election organised by a totally unqualified chief executive putting lies in the mouth of Bill Clinton a few months later, but the issues are far wider.
All my ambitious plans will be paid for by a new barter economy called a "Bootho", linked to the major dynamic of Western civilisation, the ordinary secondhand book. As the prime commercial unit for impoverished rural areas it is confidently expected to outperform the Euro. Top society hostess in Hay, Rhona Muirhead, has agreed to pose naked for the thousand Bootho note."

The mind boggles!
Maybe it's time Richard was reminded that he was beheaded last year - the Civil War re-enactors the Hay Garrison will be coming back to Hay at the end of September to do drill, with muskets (it's a total co-incidence that the beer festival is being held the same weekend - everyone knows that re-enactors don't like beer :)).

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Local Veg

I spotted some locally grown courgettes at Phil the Fruit's and, while I was helping myself to them, he said: "You know who grew those, don't you? Alan Powell, the chippy."
"A man of many talents," I said.
"Oh, he's good in the garden," said Phil. "He used to grow those onions for shows." He held his hands out to describe an onion roughly the size of a football. "Honestly, they were this big," he said.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Felt Making Day

Today, the Stitch and Bitch crowd decamped from the Swan to the Outdoor Training centre in Llanigon to have a go at making felt. With the large amounts of soapy water involved, I don't think the Swan would have been too keen on us trying it in their bar!
I just went along for the company - I have too many craft projects on the go already to add another one - so I sat to one side making a sock on my Knatty Knitter, and watching as the others transformed fleece into small round bags, and experimented with silk.
We were all in a large open-sided shed, clustered around two tables, one of which was used as a den by the three small boys while it was raining. In fact, we had thunder and lightening while we were there! Islay was there too - I pushed her all the way in her trolley, and she was very tolerant.
Sharon kept us supplied with tea and welsh cakes, and we all brought a packed lunch - and everyone ended up with something good to take home.
Next time we meet in the Swan, we're going to be taking a serious look at socks - different ways of making them, and how to rescue them when they've gone horribly wrong!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Transition Tales update

I've finally got round to reading Steph Bradley's blog about her visit to Hay on her walk around the country. She must have liked it here - she wrote a lot!
If I've done it right, this is a photo of the transition garden, with people gathering to sit round the fire and listen to the stories. I'm there with the white shawl round me, and Islay lying by my feet. To see more of Steph's photos and read what she thought of Hay (and all the other interesting places she's visited) go to www.transitionnetwork.org/blogs/steph-bradley

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Food Miles

When I passed the front door of the Three Tuns this morning, I saw their latest veg delivery stacked up there. While I was waiting for Islay to stagger up the hill, I took a moment to read the boxes.
At the top were butternut squashes from Greece, with something labelled in Spanish down below. The potatoes were English, and at the bottom, the pears were Patagonian! (At least there's a Welsh connection there!).
We don't often take time to think how incredible it is that a little pub on the Welsh borders should be serving food that has come all the way from Argentina, or the other end of Europe.
A little while ago, Phil the Fruit had some blackberries in from South America. Blackberries! He said some hotel had ordered them, and then decided they didn't want them, so they got re-sold to him.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Ending the Season with a Bang!

I was going to talk about the Transition Towns Hay Day - and then I was going to mention the second Festival of British Cinema - and then I thought I'd talk about the Beer Festival at Kilverts. Then I thought I'd better wait until I had all the flyers and brochures and information, because they're all happening over the same weekend!
The last weekend in September, 24th - 26th, Hay is definitely the place to be!
Kilvert's are having their Ale and Literature Festival - 50 Welsh ales, local and Welsh authors and live music, and a poetry competition (write a poem about Hay). Pete Brown will be there, who writes Pete Brown's Beer Blog, amongst others.
And while that's going on, the Parish hall and Booth's Bookshop and the Community Centre will be showing some of the best of British films. See www.filmfestivalhay.co.uk for all the details. They are also looking for anyone who appeared in the film It Happened Here, which was about a Nazi invasion of Britain and was shot around New Radnor, with a cast that included a lot of local people.
And on the Saturday there will be bicycles, and hopscotch down Castle Street, and all manner of recycleable, sustainable fun, for the second Hay Day (the last one was mainly about bicycles - this one has expanded somewhat).
It's all going to be marvellous!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Herefordshire Outlaws

A group of bikers were in town this afternoon, riding around on their Harleys (mostly Harleys - there were a few other makes of bike there too). Some of them had "Outlaws England" written on the backs of their leather jackets - and some of them were "Probationary Outlaws", which made me smile.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Lesley The Lamp-post

I was standing by the horse trough on Broad Street this morning, chatting, when Vee came striding up the road with one of the dogs she walks - a little ginger creature who made friends with Islay. As Vee passed us, walking quite quickly, the little ginger creature cocked his leg against my long skirt!
She was covered with embarrassment - I was too busy giggling to tell the dog off.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Odd Questions of the Day

"Can you tell me about the roads around Liverpool? And does the Mersey Tunnel go under the River Mersey?"
Since Hay is nowhere near Liverpool, that was a bit of an odd one. The questioner was going to see the Gormley statues that are on the beach up there, and was getting a bit confused.

"Do any of you get paid for working here?"
(Well, duh!) Yes, actually we all get paid for working here. This is a business, after all.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

More Transition Tales

I went to the Globe this evening (Islay lay quietly under a table) to listen to Steph Bradley again. As she had several people in the audience who'd heard her story before, she varied some of the tales, so we heard about the builder who wanted an allotment in Ambleside, and ended up with the most beautiful builder's yard in the land.
As she's been travelling, she's been carrying gifts from one place to the next - so she started off with a felted tea cosy, which became a pot of jam, and a tea towel, and a book and a newspaper and many other things. Last night at the garden she gave Malvern's gift to Hay, which was a book written ten years ago, for the Millennium, containing all the hopes and dreams of the community there, together with a DVD made this year showing what they've done about those hopes and dreams. One of which, apparantly, is to replace the electric lights in Malvern with the old gas lights, many of which still exist, which will throw less light upwards so they can see the stars better.
Tonight, she got the gift from Hay to take on to Ross, her next destination. It was three old piano keys, tied round with a ribbon, and a story. Dave, who was at the garden party last night, woke up at three o'clock in the morning, inspired to write the story, which was all about the garden he was involved in making for the Hay Festival. It was intended to have a piano in the garden for anyone to come along and play, and to entertain the workers while they were building the 70 metres of fence and the bridge and the path of wood chippings and planting the wild flowers. When they picked it up, however, it was obviously at the end of its life, and could not be salvaged. Later they got a phone call from the warehouse where they had picked up the piano - to say that the one they were meant to have was round the other side of the building. But Dave kept the keys to the one that fell apart, which he said formed an E minor chord, which was the first chord of a Chopin work which he had playing in his head while he was building the garden. So the keys are to give inspiration and to remind the people of Transition Ross about the garden in Hay.
Of the audience tonight, three people had come from a bio-dynamic farm where they work near Vowchurch, called Fern Verrow (I think). It's at St Margaret's. Sadly, they have made the decision to sell their produce in London, where they can get premium prices for it, rather than locally, but the owners seem to think this is the only way they can survive as a farm at the moment.
Another member of the audience had come to see if he could get advice on permaculture, as he has an overgrown garden he wants to transform.
Tomorrow, Steph will be telling her story at the Library at 11am, and on Friday she walks on to Abbeydore, and then to Ross.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Garden Warming

I've just come back from a wonderful evening - in fact, if I wasn't going to work tomorrow I'd still be up there, sitting round the campfire, listening to people singing to guitar and mandolin.
I was up at the Community Garden, Hayfield, just outside Hay on the other side of the bridge, to celebrate the success of the garden and to welcome Steph Bradley to town on her walk around the country, collecting Transition Tales. She told us about some of the other towns and cities she has visited, since she set off from the "town that is not too big and not too small", and some of the good things that are happening around the country. I rather liked the idea of the Saturday cycle rides in one town, going to one place for a starter, riding on to find a main course, eating and talking and digesting and then riding on again for dessert. Steph has also visited forest gardens, and community gardens, and seen the Cambridge herd of cows, sharing the common with dog walkers and cyclists, and many other fun things. One of the points she made was that Peak Oil is serious, but our response to the crisis can be a lot of fun.
There were also the most wonderful cakes (especially the chocolate one smothered with cream and summer fruits).
The garden itself is quite impressive, too. They've only had the ground for about three months, and already they have a surplus of potatoes, and big healthy courgette plants, and wigwams of beans, and fennel and beetroot and turnips and sweet peas and flowers - and a composting toilet suitable for wheelchair access, which was built when the lower part of the field was rented out for tents for the Festival.
One of our local artists has suggested that it would be a good place for art workshops, too, with such a wonderful view of Hay across the river.

Hay in the Sun!

That's the Sun newspaper, not the round yellow thing in the sky.
We had a reporter round town yesterday, trying to find out if it was true that Jerry Hall had a new boyfriend from Hay!
Apparently, she was at the Festival this year, and she got on very well with the chap who drove her around - a local chap called Philip - and they are seemingly now An Item!
(I know very little about Jerry Hall other than her being tall and Texan, and once being involved with Mick Jagger).