Friday, 30 December 2011

Canals

There's a story in the B&R this week about the local canals.
To be honest, I tend to forget that this is a good area for canal holidays - even though the Brecon Canal comes right up to the edge of the town centre in Brecon, where Theatr Brycheiniog is, and I used to visit the Star at Talybont, which had the canal just behind it.
2012, it seems, is the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. It's 35 miles long, winds through beautiful countryside - and there are lots of activities planned to celebrate its bicentennial.
One of these, in conjunction with the B&R, is to find the canal dog of the year - all you need to do is take a picture of your dog along the canal and send it in. See the Brecon Beacons website for details. Other information about the year's activities can be found at www.waterscape.com/monandbrec200

A little while ago, I met a couple who had been holidaying on the canal with the same company for 20 years. Last year, the original owner of the company retired and moved to Newport, so when they came on holiday with the new owners, they invited him up for a day to come on the canal with them.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Rhydspence Remaining a Pub?

The Rhydspence, just outside Hay in Whitney-on-Wye, has a 600 year history as an Inn, but it seemed as if this was about to come to an end. The present owner wanted to retire, but the pub was on the market for a long time, and it looked as if it might be sold as a private house rather than an existing business.
The Herefordshire branch of CAMRA have been campaigning to save the pub, and the latest news (from CAMRA's national newspaper What's Brewing) is that the planning department have turned down an application to turn the Rhydspence into a private house, after evidence from the branch that it had not been offered for sale as a going concern at a price in keeping with the market value.
The owners of the Rhydspence are now seeking a tenant on a 10 year lease, and this is being handled through Sidney Phillips on 01981 250333.
So, if anyone would like to run a rural, half-timbered, 600 year old inn....

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Not Quite the Last Open Mic of the Year

There was a good showing from the Scott-Wilson family last night at Open Mic, both father and son. Malcolm played electric guitar, a guitar that had been converted into a mandalo(?), and an accordion, and recited Albert and the Lion in good Lancashire dialect, while Robin sang some of his own songs to the guitar.
Tim and Toby both sang, and one lady recited some of her own poems while her friend (visiting from Oxford, I think) sang a Billie Holliday song, and was persuaded to give an encore of a traditional Welsh song.
I kept up my reputation for weirdness by singing a version of the 12 Days of Christmas called Poacher's Christmas (it did seem a little bit odd to sing "my dog and I brought back" without Islay playing the part of the dog).
And of course, Dirty Ray was there with Bury Me Standing and Cherry Tree.
I left before the latest installment of The Green Book of Olwen Ellis.
Dirty Ray is playing again this evening at Kilvert's, and Toby is playing tomorrow night at Michaelchurch Escley, at the pub there.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Boxing Day Tradition

There was a good crowd for the start of the Boxing Day hunt around the clock tower.
I don't support hunting, and I'm glad the law was changed in favour of the fox - but I do love the spectacle. There must have been fifty or so horses there, all beautifully groomed, and some with the manes and tails plaited and decorated. There was a good crowd to watch, too. And, of course, Karl Showler was there, with his Santa hat and wheelbarrow, ready to clear up all that lovely horse manure when they'd gone.
Of course, there had to be one idiot - a young man in a car who tried to drive up past the clock tower through the middle of the riders, and hooted his horn before he gave up and carried on up Belmont Road. Very risky behaviour in the middle of a crowd of horses.

So, up the road I went to work - to find that the huge willow tree that overhung the road (in a manner that was starting to look distinctly dodgy) has been cut back drastically. It's surprising how much lighter it feels outside the cinema! And of course, it will regrow.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Peaceful Christmas

St Mary's does the big Christmas service at Midnight Mass, so there was a congregation on Christmas morning small enough to fit into the choir stalls - and it was a quick jog trot through the liturgy, as Fr Richard (and the holy hounds) had to be at Llanigon for the main Sunday/Christmas Day service at 11am. He was also doing duty as priest and organist, so had to keep dashing to the organ, playing the first verse of the carol, and then leaving the congregation to sing on unaccompanied while he went back to the altar.
Agnes the poodle howled daintily through the first carol, and then went to sleep.
It seems, by the way, that Fr Richard is building a shrine to Our Lady of Capel-y-ffin. Apparently a Norman lady had a vision there.

As Islay became gradually less able to walk, so my walks became shorter and shorter - until they became trolley pushes. So this year I decided to head up Cusop Dingle in the afternoon (pleasantly full of game stew and plum and cinnamon sponge, and a wee dram of whisky). I got as far as Llangwathan Mill, which is one of my favourite cottages up at the top end of the Dingle, before I felt I had to turn back. I'm sadly unfit, so I'll be getting the maps out and planning a few more long walks in the New Year. It was a lovely mild day, and all my favourite waterfalls were looking beautiful.

All this, and Doctor Who in the evening. I cried - "happy tears", of course (you'll have to watch the episode to understand the reference....).

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Shopping

Yeo Valley butter and spreadable butter is back at Londis/Pughs "by popular demand"!
It was 'delisted' a little while ago. The spreadable butter is perfect for my baking, and it's organic, and if not local then at least regional. And they have brilliant adverts! Nothing else available in Hay seemed to quite compare, though the olive oil spread from the wholefood shop is perfectly good for baking.

And this morning a friend knocked on my front door to ask if she could leave her heavy shopping bag while she walked down to the Co-op to see if they had any national papers. She'd been in Spar and the newsagents already. The newsagents had a notice up saying that there were none in today "due to Smiths". Apparently, WH Smiths have bought up the lot! The Co-op had none either. "So, no cryptic crosswords this Christmas," she said. "We'll have to make do with jigsaws."

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Festive Open Mic Nights

I missed all the enjoyment of two Open Mic nights, one after the other. On the night of the first, at the Globe, I was at County Hall in Llandrindod Wells, and on the night of the second, at Kilverts (with Naughty Nibbles), my Young Man phoned me just before I was going to go out - and I put the phone down an hour later. By which time it was too late to go out, really.
I missed two very good nights, with performers (especially at the Globe) who don't normally come to Open Mic nights. There was Alan Cooper, a brilliant fiddle player, and someone "who sounded very much like Little Rumba" according to Tim the Gardener, who had come all the way from Presteigne (or possibly Knighton).
There will be another special Open Mic night at Kilvert's for New Year's Eve - and I really don't want to miss that!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Inside Monday's Meeting

Thanks to Plan B for Hay and Transition Towns for this information.

Here's the list of the people attending the meeting on Monday:
Cabinet
Councillor Gareth Ratcliffe
Jeremy Patterson, Chief Executive
Paul Griffiths, Strategic Director Communities Skills and Learning
Clarence Meredith, Strategic Director Law and Governance
Geoff Petty, Strategic Director Finance and Infrastructure
Parry Davies Strategic Director Care & Well being
Douglas Wilson, Head of Schools
Nygaire Bevan, Head of Adult Services & Commissioning

Andrew Cottom, Chief Executive Powys teaching Health Board

Hay & District Sports and Community Association – Robert Goldsworthy
Paul Elkington

Chamber of Commerce – John Evans (Chairman)
Ruth Hovmand (Director)

Town Council – Councillor David Gittins
Councillor Johnny Kramer

Hay-on-Wye Primary School - Mrs Fiona Gray, Chair of Governors
Mr Stuart Fiddes, Headteacher from January.

Plan B for Hay – Andy Fryers
Jenny Valentine

Developer

Also invited: Roger Williams MP
Kirsty Williams AM
William Powell AM


And here's what they discussed:


The meeting was minuted, this was as a result of the Flashmob, PCC had originally said that it was not going to be. We will circulate the full minutes when they have been received and checked for accuracy.

There follows a series of bullet points, which outline the key points of interest.

* PCC and Gaufron both confirmed that there is no deadline when an option agreement needs to be signed by although they do not want it to be delayed if there are no alternative plans.
* PCC stated that they would welcome alternative plans, but had not received any yet.
* PCC confirmed that they had received legal challenges to the Option Agreement process and that they were still investigating the issue. They did state that they had already taken independent legal advice on the process from lawyers based in Leeds.
* PCC stated that the whole deal was like a pack of cards, if one element failed then everything else failed.
* Gaufron confirmed that it is a supermarket that they are looking to build on the school site.
* PCC stated that there was no money in the new Welsh Government schools funding allocated for Hay. Moreover they had included the developers’ contribution (£5 - 6million) in their original bid to WG as part of their match funding requirements. This was done around April 2011.
* PCC and Gaufron claimed that they have scoped out the needs of a new school for Hay, according to Gaufron " even down to the number of whiteboards needed". Neither of them has talked to the school at all about what the teachers or pupils want.
* PCC stated that Gaufron have not offered a cash amount but have said that they would build a new 240 pupil school if they are successful with their planning application on the existing school site.
* Both PCC and Gaufron state that the new school development is entirely dependant on planning being granted for the whole project.
* There seemed to be a little confusion in the Cabinet about the potential cost of a new school with a new figure of up to £8million being quoted by one member alongside the £5-6million by another.
* The care home seems to be a fairly stand alone development although it has been bundled up into this proposal to help fund the sports centre. It would be built Gaufron with input from PCC and the Health Authority at the developers’ invitation.
* In summing up, the leader of the council said that it seemed like a reasonable request to ask for a little more time however the cabinet would discuss the outcomes from this meeting and decide on the way forward. They were asked to hold a public meeting before any option agreement was signed and they agreed to consider this request. So no promises or commitments on anything.

There was another letter in the B&R today, too, from a gentleman in Swansea who is horrified at the thought of a supermarket in Hay, and talks about the destruction of his local high street in Morriston by a national supermarket opening nearby.

Apology

To everyone in Gypsy Castle - I really shouldn't have said that, and I apologise wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Dynamic Assembly Member

Kirsty Williams doesn't hang about - I've got an email from her about last night's meeting at County Hall already!
She didn't seem too impressed with the County Council. However, she did say that: "Council representatives did confirm that if the Plan B Group came forward with alternative proposals as to how the investment in Hay could be achieved without the supermarket they would consider any such proposals."
Which seems rather carefully worded, to me.
Kirsty Williams also said that she is emailing the Chief Executive of the County Council to make the following points:
"for a confirmation that the Council will now make a decision on a public meeting
for a commitment to proper community consultation
for details of the timescales under which the cabinet will make a decision".
The County Council still haven't agreed to holding a public meeting, but they haven't ruled it out either.

Monday, 19 December 2011

County Hall by Night

I bought a torch today. It's a little wind-up one in the shape of a ladybird. I thought that would be more appropriate than turning up with a sonic screwdriver (currently my only other torch!). I needed a torch so I could join in the protest outside County Hall in Llandod. The meeting between Powys County Council, the developers, Hay Town Council, the school, Chamber of Commerce "and others" was being held there (and may, indeed, still be going on as I type).
Unfortunately, the "and others" did not include some of the 'stakeholders' who had earlier been identified around Hay. The committee of Fairtrade Hay certainly weren't invited, and we had been asked if we wanted to be stakeholders.
In fact, it seemed that only a carefully selected few had been invited. This included two representatives of Plan B for Hay - they could hardly exclude that group, as it is the focus of the opposition to the development scheme.
So, the idea was to gather outside the council offices in Llandod and hold torches under our faces, silently, while the people who had been invited to the meeting went in. There were about fifty of us.
Of course, these things never go to plan. Gareth Ratcliffe and a couple of town councillors came in the front way - and Gareth came straight back out to talk to everyone, to ask them what questions they wanted to be raised in the meeting. Most of the other people at the meeting, however, had sneaked in the back way.
Once the protesters realised that, they started ambling in to the main reception area, where several men in grey suits appeared. The conversation had already started by the time I got through the door, but I did gather that Mr Patterson, the Chief Executive, was one of the men. They were busily explaining that this was intended to be a private meeting between interested parties, and none of the people who had turned up would be allowed in because they had not catered for a public meeting. Various people asked why not, since that was what had been requested - and furthermore, why hold it at 6.30pm, on the Monday before Christmas, in Llandrindod Wells, rather than in Hay? They also said that, because this was an informal meeting, no minutes would be taken, at which there was polite outrage from several quarters, not least the retired Town Clerk of Hay, who knows all about the legal requirements for minuting meetings, and who volunteered to take shorthand notes herself (she was turned down, of course). At length, the chap who did most of the talking promised to take notes and make them available to the public - but it was clear that he hadn't been intending to do anything of the sort until pressed.
They said that the people invited had been carefully selected for a balance of views, and that the protesters wouldn't be allowed in because they were all of one view - which is quite an impressive feat of mind reading. From the people I spoke to, I found a range of opinions around one central core - that no-one there wanted a supermarket in Hay - but there were many varied ideas about the way to achieve that, and also get a school, and community centre, which everyone agreed that Hay needs, and has needed for years.
They said that other people in Hay might have other views than the protesters, and they might not be as articulate in expressing those views as the protesters clearly were, and that their views had to be taken into account as well. But how does the County Council know what the views are if they haven't asked anyone, or released enough information on which to base an informed opinion? I'm taking a wild stab in the dark here now, and assuming that the County Council representative was implying that the protesters are mainly middle class, well educated, and incomers, and that he was trying to put himself on the side of the poorer and less well educated residents of Hay. [Edited to remove offensive comments - my apologies].
It was the man from the County Council who brought up the word "democracy" - at which there was much derisive laughter. One seemingly well informed gentleman countered this claim by stating that it was an oligarchy that ruled the County Council, in the form of the Cabinet, which is chosen by the Leader of the Council, rather than democracy.
So there it stands - and the original demand for a public meeting, in Hay, still stands, too. Preferably before anyone signs an option agreement - because after that, it will be too late to consider the other options which exist.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Hay School Development on the BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-mid-wales-16158458

Here's the link to the BBC news page with the latest story about Hay School and the development project.
I see that they report that Simon Hoare, the spokesman for Gaufron Developments, has said that Plan B for Hay is "not fully informed". If that's his concern, maybe he should have thought to fully inform the people of Hay of their plans?
Apparently, the meeting between Powys Council, the developers, the town council, school governors, the Chamber of Commerce "and others" will take place on Monday.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A Trip up the Borders

I've been a bit preoccupied this last week - my stepfather passed away suddenly last weekend, and I had to get up to Wrexham today for his funeral.
On the plus side, this meant a train journey through some of the loveliest scenery in Britain, through Ludlow and Shrewsbury and up until we crossed the River Dee (several times - it's a very meandering river) and came in to Wrexham General. Then I got a lift up to the village outside Wrexham that dad retired to. I lived there for a while too, but I had difficulty remembering much of it.
It's the first time I've ever been to the graveside at a funeral - most of the previous services I've been to have been cremations - and as the church is quite close to the cemetery, we walked down behind the hearse, with the cars for the less mobile members of the family behind. And the hailstone came in horizontally - everyone said dad must have arranged it specially!
And then we went to the pub - well, one of many pubs in the village - where there was a buffet and a tab behind the bar. Egg sandwiches. You've got to have egg sandwiches at a funeral. And ham. And little sausage rolls. (It was like going back in time to the 1970s!). The real ale on offer was Jennings Redbreast, which was quite pleasant. And I got a chance to chat to members of the family I hadn't seen for maybe twenty years.
On the way back to the station, my memory started to come back, as we drove cautiously down a very narrow lane which was in the process of being re-surfaced. There was the hall where I'd given blood (and was given orange juice afterwards, instead of tea, because I looked much younger than I was). And there was the bowling green where the Zulu dancers practised for the National Eistedfodd one year.
I was surprised how easy it was to get to Wrexham by train - I was there by 11am after catching the College bus from Hay at crack of dawn. It was just a shame I had to get back early so I could catch the last available bus from Hereford to Hay.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Latest News on New School

I got a letter from Roger Williams, MP, today. I wrote to him, along with many others, about the development proposals for the school site. As a result of the letters, he requested a public meeting with Powys County Council. Mr Patterson, Chief Executive of the Council, has now replied to say there will be a public meeting (date still to be decided).
Here's his full answer to Roger Williams, which was included with my letter.

"Hay on Wye - Development Proposals

Thank you for your email concerning the above. I confirm that the Cabinet has not yet signed an Options Agreement in relation to the development of a new school in Hay. The Cabinet has agreed that a Stakeholder Meeting consisting of a range of representatives from the Community would be helpful in formalising views on the way forward. Such a meeting will allow a full explanation of a project to be provided with opportunities for questions and comments to be made. It is proposed to hold such a meeting during December/January and a date will be identified shortly. The Cabinet has agreed such a meeting will take place prior to any decision being taken in respect of an Options Agreement.
As has already been widely acknowledged an Options Agreement would in effect be a Statement of Intent subject to a range of other issues being resolved, not least of all a Planning Application. As such an application would be handled by the Brecon Beacons National Park, this will allow further detailed scrutiny of the project by a wide range of Stakeholders. Given that this exercise would be undertaken by the National Park and not the Council's own Planning Department, it is considered this would be an extremely robust mechanism for testing any development proposals."

A couple of things strike me from this email. The first is that the meeting proposed is a "Stakeholders meeting", not a public meeting. I know that various local groups, including the Fairtrade group, have been asked if they wish to be Stakeholders - but surely every parent in Hay should be considered to be a stakeholder. And an explanation of the project with opportunities for questions and comments doesn't seem to leave much room for alternative plans to be put forward or considered.
The second thought is that any planning department can only consider the plan in front of them, and not whether that plan should ever have been presented to them in the first place, nor whether there might be a better plan.

I also got the B&R this morning, and two stories caught my eye. On the front page is the headline "£78 million for schools". It seems that Powys County Council will be getting £78 million from the Welsh Assembly towards new school building projects. Okay, it will be spread across seven years, and needs to be match funded with savings and borrowing on the part of the Council - but if this amount of money is available, why do we need a deal with a supermarket - or a developer - at all?

The second story concerns Mid Wales Hospital in Talgarth, which has been bought by a man from Pontrilas called Phil Collins. The paper says he has forty years experience in the building industry. He wants to build affordable homes and retirement homes on the site - so here is someone in the industry who thinks that it is feasible to build houses rather than "retail developments". He also wants to build a 60 bed care home. Since the plans for the new school site in Hay also include a 60 - 80 bed care home, just how many care homes do we need locally?
Mr Collins, unlike Powys County Council, seems to have kept local people informed of what he's doing, with an exhibition and talks with local people, before he is ready to submit the planning application to the National Park.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Christmas Shopping

It's been a madly mild day - I saw roses blooming on a traffic roundabout, in December!
I was leaving the Winter Festival in Hay behind to go to Hereford for the day.
What I actually wanted, boringly, was printer ink from the refilled cartridge place - and once I'd got that, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I've been incredibly organised this year, and got most of my Christmas presents already, locally. Then I ran into Amo near the Cornish Pasty shop. She was on her way to a local beekeepers' Christmas dinner (she started keeping bees this year), but she'd just come from the Steiner School Advent Fair at the Shire Hall. (Thanks, Amo!)
I don't think I've ever been in the Shire Hall before. It went back a lot further than I expected, with stalls all along the main corridor, and then a flight of stairs to the main hall. There were children's activities, a puppet show and a Snow Queen, refreshments up on the stage, and lots of lovely crafty, presenty things on the stalls. I was very impressed with the rag rugs - which reminded me that here was a craft I'd like to get back to. There was pottery, too, and leather goods, and Christmas wreaths, and Fairtrade clothes (including some made with giant nettle fibre), and hand spun wool and wool for felting, and recycled sari yarn.... I had a lot of fun going round, and I eventually emerged, blinking, into the sunlight clutching a variety of wooden spoons and spatulas for the kitchen, all hand made, for about the same price as plastic tat that wouldn't last five minutes.
The Saturday market was on in the main square, too, which made it pleasantly busy - including a live barn owl on one Owl charity stall.
So I came away with a few ideas, and a bag full of things I hadn't set out to buy (but which will come in very useful), with just enough time to buy a magazine from the shop near the bus station, and peruse the beer shelves of Morrisons (mmm, Adnams, and Batemans, and Old Thumper, and Rosy Nosy....) before the bus was due back to Hay.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Strange Animals

There's a horse in Lion Art Gallery.
Well, to be perfectly accurate, there is a life sized statue of a horse, made out of wire and wool and other stuff, standing with its head towards the door (probably the only way they could get it in!). It's by Sally Matthews, who is really extremely good at that sort of thing.
Meanwhile, in Hourglass Gallery, there's a museum standard resin model of a sabre tooth tiger skull. Again, it is really extremely good.
Just as long as the two don't meet....

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Planning for Plan B

I went to Booths Bookshop last night to join in with a meeting of people who had put their names forward to do things to help with the campaign.
In fact, there were four meetings going on at the same time. I was with the Publicity group, upstairs at the front of the shop in the comfy chairs. Elsewhere were groups discussing Planning regulations, Fundraising, and Legal matters.
There were a dozen people in the Publicity group, and about ten others couldn't make it on that night. None of them were born in Hay, but several had been around for twenty years, and at least one family had put their kids through Hay School, so there's a lot of commitment to the area there. There is a perception that it could become an 'Incomers' vs. 'Locals' issue, though obviously it isn't that clear cut, and as one person there said, anyone who lives in Hay should be listened to, even if they are newly arrived. There were also people there who live in Clifford, Clyro and the Golden Valley - but they use Hay as a shopping centre too, so they deserve to have a say in the future of the town.
As yet, there is little that the Publicity group can do - there are no firm plans in place yet from the County Council, and they also have to wait for the other Plan B groups to discuss the issues before they have anything to publicise.
One positive idea to come out of the meeting, though was that the people of Hay shouldn't have to wait for the County Council to act - why can't we build our own school? This is the same thought that the Transition Towns meeting came to, so I'm hoping that there will be some pooling of resources there.
Later, Johnny Kramer came to speak to us. He's the Town Councillor who called the extraordinary meeting on Monday night, just to ask why there can't be a delay in order to have an impact assessment on the town carried out. Everyone who had been to the meeting agreed that it was a very angry and bitter meeting, with Johnny and Karl Showler on one side, and all the other councillors in favour of the County Council's scheme.
He also mentioned other town council business. The town clock faces have been dark at night since August, because a bulb needs mending. In fact, according to the man who winds the clock, all that is needed is a new starter motor - but nothing has been done about it yet. It is a bit worrying - if they can't manage to sort out a little problem like that, how can the people of Hay trust them to make any big decisions about the future of the town, especially when there is such strong local feeling on both sides?

Monday, 28 November 2011

A 'Rubbish' Idea

I passed by Karl Showler's house the other day. He was outside the garage, making a frame for his new recycling bins.
"I don't want them lying around on the floor," he said. "Look, they just slide in and out."

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Food Fair

Another busy weekend in the middle of town - the marquee was heaving with people! I managed to get a few useful bits and pieces to make up Christmas hampers for the family - and some interesting beers I hadn't seen before, from the Jacobi brewery of Caio, and Untapped Brewing Co.
On Saturday evening, the Christmas lights were turned on - there was a good crowd out for that, as well.
It's now 6pm, and the marquee is already down for another year.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Islay - May 1997 to Nov 2011


Everyone thinks their dog is special.
There are touching eulogies all over the internet for people's beloved pets.
Islay was my special dog.

We first met on New Year's Eve, 1997. Scotch Annie, who dealt in antiques and lived over the launderette, had been persuaded by a friend that what she really, really needed was a little dog to sit in the van with her when she was out on the road. She came back from Brecon rescue kennels with an anxious little thing about eight months old, who stuck to her like glue all through the Hogmanay party. We were drinking Laphroig, but everyone agreed that it was a silly name for a girl - so Islay it was.
That first night, though, Islay ended up sharing my sleeping bag.
Annie had cats. Fergus the ginger tom was very laid back, and didn't care, but Heather the little Korat objected violently. She started a rooftop protest, living in one of the warm air vents of the launderette.
The dog had to go.
We couldn't let her go back to rescue.
So she came to Crickadarn, where we were living at the time, and learned to chase quad bikes - and not chase sheep, and to leap into our arms from a standing start.
She's been a bookshop dog at the Children's Bookshop, where she had a collar tag marked "Member of Staff", and archaeologist's dog ("bone specialist" - which was funny until she picked a medieval bone out of the tray where it was drying and ran round the yard with it), and re-enactment dog, visiting castles and fields all over the country. We took her round Norfolk in the van, which she loved - a new walk every morning as soon as we opened the van door.
She's been called "Imp of Satan", and "Little Friend of All the World".
She's had a social life all of her own, when friends took her out while I was at work, and as she slowed down and needed the trolley more and more, she still enjoyed being pushed round town, meeting her public.
Until this week, when she lost interest in everything.
For the past few days, I've been taking her round to all her friends that I could find, to say goodbye. Everyone has been very kind.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Supermarket Support

In the B&R this week there are two letters in favour of having a supermarket in the middle of town. The arguments can roughly be paraphrased as: "it's all right for well-off people with cars, but poor people who rely on buses need cheap food locally."
Well, I'm not very highly paid, and I rely on buses, but I never go into Brecon or Hereford to shop for food. It is much more convenient to shop locally - especially since you're adding an hour's travel time each way to the shopping time. I once went to Lidl in Brecon and was bemused by the cheapness of the stuff in there, but very little of it was stuff I wanted to buy. I mostly cook from scratch now, and freeze portions for later, and my only real mass produced weakness is chocolate biscuits (and Dunkables from Spar are only £1.03). I don't want to lose the ability to shop at local greengrocers and butchers and the weekly market, and I've seen other towns where small shops have closed because of the arrival of a supermarket on the doorstep.
The issue is not just about whether a supermarket is desirable in Hay, though. It's also about local democracy and public accountability. We are told that there is no alternative to this scheme, which is being decided by people who do not live in Hay, without consultation with the people who live in Hay. There are always alternatives, and local people should always be consulted - and the results of those consultations should always be taken into account.
Hay is an expensive place to live, and we must all adapt to changing circumstances - but we should also have some say in how we choose to adapt, rather than having the changes forced upon us.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Wake up and Smell the Coffee

My young man is a bit of a real coffee fan - strong and rich and dark, for preference (he likes his Hot Lava Java), so while he was here we had to go into the Wholefood shop to get some ground. He explained to Annie what he wanted, and then looked me up and down and said; "but we'd better not go too strong and dark. Maybe a bit more aromatic?"
Annie took down several jars from the shelf and invited him to sniff. "If you take two smaller amounts, you can make your own blend," she suggested, so we went for something strong, for him to take back to the Big City with him, with some Columbian for me to keep.
You wouldn't get that sort of service at a supermarket!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Crime Wave Continues

I hear that the Green Room and Gordon's Flower Shop were broken into last night. I can't imagine that much was taken.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Quiet Time of Year....

allegedly.
I was chatting to Eddie at Kilvert's on Tuesday night, when the bar was packed, and people were eating, and the Open Mic session was going on, and he sighed expansively and said: "This is what makes all the hard work worthwhile."
I went in again on Saturday afternoon, just as they were finishing serving food. They'd just put the Continuum on, from Hardknott brewery, and I felt that I deserved a treat. The bar was so packed I only just squeezed in, and there were four dogs lying under the tables (five when Islay staggered in).
We went into the Swan on Thursday to find the big table we normally sit round has gone - they have reworked that space by the bar as a comfortable little lounge, which is very nice for Stitch and Bitch. Every table in the bar was reserved, and the place was soon packed. "You must be doing something right!" one of the SnB ladies said.
And this week has seen the Globe surrounded by marquees again for Le Crunch - I haven't been able to get to any of the events this time, but it looked like a good programme.
And there's been another classical concert at Booths Books
Next weekend the Food Fair is coming up, and in a couple of weeks time, it'll be the Winter Festival.
It's all go!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Good News by the Riverbank

I was walking along the path near the canoe landing stage the other day when I heard the distinctive wingbeats of swans coming in to land on the river.
The two adult swans who nest on the island were accompanied by two cygnets, just starting to change into their adult plumage.
So they survived after all!
When I didn't see them for so long on the river, I thought they must have gone the way of the one that was shot - I was delighted to see them again.

Friday, 18 November 2011

A Mystery Solved

I live in the end house of three cottages, and I'd often wondered about the history of them. The back wall is hugely thick, and solid, while the front wall is obviously Victorian terrace, so there's obviously been some re-modelling done. Also, I knew that the cottages were originally stables. The flat flagstone area at the front was originally a sloping cobbled surface so the horses could be led up to the stables.
The cottages are also odd in that they are not the same size. From the front, they look identical, but as soon as you get inside, you see the differences. They fit together like pieces from a jigsaw puzzle, with the stairs of the middle cottage fitting between the front room and kitchen of my cottage.

[The remainder of this post has been removed at the request of the lady concerned. My apologies for upsetting her, and I hope she keeps on with her family history.]

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Tales from Kilvert's

While my Young Man was here, we had to pop into Kilvert's for a quiet pint at some point. Wandering Beacons was on the pump, from the new Brecon Brewery run by Buster Grant - a man who is known for brewing wonderful beer. We decided to have lunch there as well, and while we were waiting for our meatfeast pizza and garlic bread, the conversation turned, naturally, to beer.
"If only he'd do a Steampunk beer," the Young Man mused, "like that Georgian Table Ale he did a while ago. I know a lot of people who'd buy that in London."
"What's that?" asked Eddie, behind the bar.
"He wants to kidnap Buster, imprison him in a cellar and make him brew beer for Steampunk parties," I said.
"You can't do that! He's my brewer!"
"Lease him?" the Young Man asked.
"How about rental?" Eddie suggested.

A few weeks ago, Lachrymose Glee told me about a visitor to Open Mic Night at Kilverts, which subsequent events kind of pushed to the back of my mind. She had come from somewhere Up North to visit relatives in Hay, and when she first turned up at Kilvert's she was quite tense and wary. After an hour or so, though, she relaxed, and said: "Everyone's so friendly! And there hasn't been a fight yet!"

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Sustainable Schools

I went along to the Transition Towns meeting in Kilvert's last night (we got chips! Thanks, Eddie). Since the big events they put on, the group have been struggling slightly to articulate just what Transition means to people who don't already know about it - but now there's a cause that they can become part of in a positive way.
They agreed that there was no point in banging on about supermarkets - other people are doing that, and there are no firm plans in place yet anyway. Also, there are all the issues of food miles, for instance, that they are already clearly against. Transition is all about making the best use of local resources for when the oil runs out.
On this theme, they decided to concentrate on the new school that Hay does want.
On of the founding members of the group has a background in architecture - and green architecture, at that. There are several schools which have already been built around the country with local materials, grass roofs, insulation made of sheep's wool, and so on - and building in this way would probably also make it a lot cheaper to provide a new school. And there's the potential for such a school to last longer than a cheap conventional build, such as we are seeing struggling along in Hay at the moment. There are even instances of such building schemes including training for local people in building techniques, which would be good for employment prospects in the future. One lady in the group had visited a school which basically came as a timber flat pack construction from Finland (where they do a lot of that sort of thing) with local sheep's wool insulation.
One member of the group also made the point that the Youth Club should be approached to see what the kids there think. After all, they've all gone to Hay School quite recently, so why shouldn't their opinions be listened to?
It could be interesting to see what develops.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Steampunk Soiree

For the Young Man's birthday this year, we thought we'd push the boat out and have a party. And my house is small, so it could only be for a select few - hence the Soiree, but Steampunk?
Steampunk is a re-imagining of the Victorian era, celebrating the fashion, the technology, the craftsmanship - but without the poverty, dirt and disease! It's what the Victorians would have been like if Jules Verne and HG Wells had been true - computers run by clockwork, Her Majesty's Martian Colonies (reached by steam powered space ships), and goggles (to keep the steam out of your eyes).
The Young Man looked very dashing in his bowler hat and goggles, with a waistcoat and pocket watch (and lots of knives - his Steampunk persona isn't called 'Cutter' Conway for nothing). He took over the bar, where we had collected some speciality real ales, and the careful preparation of the absinthe (though one couple did bring some wine).
I was hostess Miss Amelia Harper, in a black lace corset and military jacket. We also had the 'Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder' Fairy and a Dirigible Conductress, and two Goths in costume.
There was good conversation - and opposing viewpoints on windfarms and tattooing.
About halfway through the evening, two of our guests had to leave and a couple more felt the need to indulge in nicotine on the front doorstep - which is when two other good friends came by, having just come out of the Globe from a poetry evening. And having just started a detox, they polished off the fruit punch that the Young Man had prepared.
It was great fun, and I think that everyone enjoyed themselves - so I might be tempted to try something similar again, for the people who couldn't come this time.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Hot Rivetting!

It was a grim, gray and generally 'orrible day that we decided to go to Talgarth.
At one time, you would pretty much have run out of things to do there in five minutes, unless you were passing through the village to go up to the nature reserve at Pwll y Wrach (the Witch's Pool). There was the Tourist information shop, part of the medieval tower, the Mace (now the Co-op), a newsagents, a chemists, the Strand bookshop and cafe, George's the butchers - and a lot of pubs.
Now, however, things are different.
We got off the bus at the New Inn, where we had the set Thai lunch for £4.95 with Brains SA beer ("Do you want lager beer or ale beer?" the Thai girl behind the bar asked). Being the middle of the week, we had the bar to ourselves, but there were a few locals drinking around the corner at the side bar.
After that, we did a quick dash through the pouring rain to Talgarth Mill. When I first came through Talgarth, the building was a semi-derelict corrugated iron shed with older stone buildings around it. Thanks to various grants and a huge amount of volunteer work by the local people, it has been wonderfully transformed.
We were a bit early for the next guided tour of the mill, so we had a coffee in the cafe which has replaced the corrugated iron shed, looking out of the picture window at the little river running by. Unlike the New Inn, the cafe was quite busy, which is a pity, because the Thai food is really very good.
The tour of the mill is £3.50, and we were the only two taking it that afternoon, which was nice for us and also for the volunteer taking us round - it was his first day doing the tour, so he could practice on us! Standing by the turning wheels and cogs, he told us something of the history of the mill, going back to the 12th century, and being used as a fulling mill for woollen cloth at times, as well as being used for grain. Because of health and safety, we couldn't go up the steep miller's stairs, so we had to go out and round to the next level where the millstones were. These are sealed into a wooden box, to discourage rodents, but there's a full size cutaway model to show what's going on there, and one of the millstones (made of concrete!) they found at the bottom of the wheel pit when they cleared it out. The owners destroyed all the workings in the 1950s to prove to the Water Board that they were not extracting water from the river, when the Water Board wanted to charge them.
He talked about the fire risk in mills, and how important it was not to let the millstones heat up. When we went round, they weren't grinding any wheat, just letting the wheel turn gently.
The top floor was originally used for storage, and it looks as if they have meetings there now. There were also lots of pictures of the work in progress to turn the mill into the clean, bright, working mill that we see today.
And then we went outside to see the leat that feeds water to the mill wheel. It was still pouring down, (the Welsh expression is "raining old women and sticks" apparently). We wanted to see everything, though, so we left the volunteer sheltering in the dry, and went out into the little garden they've made on the river bank. The wood and iron work have all been made by local artisans, and they've made it beautiful, with wrought iron birds and dragonflies, and carved fish among the flagstones, and gently curved wooden struts. My Young Man has an engineering background, and he was fascinated at the details of how the shelter had been put together - and then he saw the pipe that led the water from the leat to the wheel. It was part of the original fittings of the mill, and that's where he got terribly excited about hot rivets! When he pointed it out, I could see the difference. The original seam of the pipe had been rivetted together with the hot rivets, and a later patch had been cold rivetted in place (which is easier).
We spent about an hour at the mill, and bought some of their bread - which is delicious.
Then we had a bit of time to wait before the Tower Hotel opened for the afternoon. They are also the home of Rotter's Brewery, and we wanted to try some of their beer.
The stout was on, and very pleasant it was, too. We had a chat with the man behind the bar (who may have also been the landlord - I'm not sure). He pointed out the alterations he was making to the pub, to divide the restaurant part from the local's bar, and said that he was aspiring to become like Kilvert's in Hay! He also had an interesting selection of bottled beers, including Robinson's Old Tom, which I haven't seen for years.
We had to drink up pretty quickly to get down to the square to get the bus back, though it would have been very pleasant to stay at the Tower for a bit longer.
All in all, it's a day out I can thoroughly recommend!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Machine-gun toting Police!

We were footling around on the computer, watching something Doctor Who related on Youtube, when Mark noticed the figure hanging around outside the house in the dark. We looked closer - helmet, flak jacket, sidearm ... machine gun? In Hay?
He hung around there for a while, looking up the road towards the Globe. Some other, similarly dressed, officers appeared and they talked together - and then they moved off and disappeared, leaving us thinking that the world had just become a bit less safe than it had seemed before.
The following morning, we wandered up to the Buttermarket to look at the Artisans of Hay Fair, and we met Brian with his Staffies, who told us all about it.
It seems that a young lad from Merthyr tried to rob the Spar shop, and claimed to have a gun - so the armed response unit was called out. Not being the sharpest spoon in the drawer, he had been working at one of the local pubs and left them a note telling them he was just nipping to Spar for a bit! And of course, they knew where he lived, which was just down the road from me.
And this seems to be only the first incident in a Hay crime wave. When I passed the Sandwich Cellar this morning, after seeing my Young Man onto the bus back to the Big City, there were police there, inspecting a smashed window.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Performance

"Mirth in abundance. A delightful performance!"
So says Lachrymose Glee in his write up of this Tuesday's Open Mic Night, so it must be true! He was describing my Young Man performing Delilah without singing a note, and with various asides and digressions.
Mind you, people were ready to giggle, having just been treated to yet another instalment of The Green Book of Olwen Ellis by Chris Bradshaw (which involved a seduction scene!).
I followed it on with the minutes of a meeting of the United Deities, by Miles Kington, and we were also entertained by Toby Parker, Malcolm Scott Wilson, Dorothy, Dirty Ray and others. A running joke through the evening was the mentioning of Dirty Ray and Toby performing the following evening at the Baskerville Arms. Toby was also acting as the compere for the evening - which led to a bit of an argument with Jason in the audience - I'm not sure what the problem was, but they certainly Had Words after the last act had packed up.
The beer, as ever, was very good - we shared a bottle of Brooklyn Stout, and stayed with dark beer for Three Tuns Stout from the brew pub in Bishop's Castle. I had one of the new beers from Beacon Brewery.

Friday, 11 November 2011

New Things in Hay

First of all, there's the Artisans in Hay, doing their Fair in the Buttermarket tomorrow. Shelley will be there with her silk scarves, Richard with his pictures, and Jackie with her rather lovely soaps.
Meanwhile, back at the Clock Tower, Hazy Daze has moved into the shop that Carlisles has moved out of. It seems to be gifty things, though I haven't had chance to take a proper look yet.
Up at Bookends-as-was, a new antique shop opened yesterday. It's nice to see those big windows filled with things to sell, rather than being empty just as visitors come into the town.
And down at the other end of town, phase two of the Millbank houses has just started. The houses facing Broad Street/Newport Street are going to be faced in stone rather than brick, according to the plans - and of course, they'll hide the backs of the present houses there.
The other big change in town this week, of course, has been the bins. I saw Gareth Ratcliffe out this morning in his dayglo yellow and big gloves, along with the bin men to make sure there weren't any problems with the new regime.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Plan B for Hay meeting

Monday night was busy! It was the evening of the regular Town Council meeting, and I was told there were about 30 members of the public there, in the Chamber and standing outside on the staircase, including Richard Booth. I'm not sure whether anything useful came out of the meeting, as I couldn't be there myself.

However, the Plan B for Hay group also met that evening, and they do now have a plan of campaign worked out in some detail.
The first step is to try to delay the signing of an option agreement with Gaufron, the property developers. They don't see much chance of success on this one, but if an agreement is signed, then the planning process will have started, and there will be something concrete to deal with.
They want to commission an independent impact assessment to look at the potential effects a second supermarket on the present school site would have on Hay, as well as real effects supermarkets have had on other market towns. The developer/supermarket is obliged to pay for their own impact assessment, but if the developer is paying for it, it can't be seen to be independent.
They want to invoke the Freedom of Information Act to keep as much information about the development in the public domain as possible.
There will be a petition.
They want to approach the chief executive of the Co-op to see what his opinion on the situation is.
They want to find sympathetic candidates to stand for election to the Town and County Councils.
And if a development does go ahead, they are planning a local and national media campaign.
They are also quite clear that they want a new and better school for Hay - and there must be a way to have that without having a supermarket.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Bonfire at the Castle

We went in costume, of course (my Young Man does look rather good in a bowler hat!), and as we walked up towards the Castle, we could hear drumming.
The party itself was by invitation, mainly the various shopkeepers (and their staff) in town. I didn't see anyone else from the Cinema - but they may have been down at the Pagan bonfire at the Globe!
The bonfire was a bit slow in getting started (but it was huge!), and the fireworks were very good - I'm told they could be seen in Clyro. The spooky lights up the ruined tower were also much appreciated.
The Hay Castle Trust are hopeful that this is the first of many events to be held at the Castle. We certainly had fun, and chatted to several interesting people.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Pleasant Surprise

I was getting my washing together to go down to the launderette when I realised that, last time I'd been there, I'd left my washing powder behind. It had been over a week, so the likelihood of the powder still being in the launderette was slim.
So, on the way up I got another packet.
And when I got to the launderette, there it was, just where I'd left it!
One of the good things about living in Hay.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Being Neutral

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be shot at by both sides (that's how you know you're doing it right!)"
Poor Gareth Ratcliffe! He says he's getting it in the neck from both sides of the re-development dispute because he's not taking sides. The problem is - he can't take sides. As soon as he comes down on one side or the other, by the Council's rules, he won't be allowed to speak on the issue. He thinks it's better to be there, in the discussion - and for that, he has to be neutral.
Meanwhile, he has managed to get the Cabinet to agree to have a meeting to discuss how they are going to respond to the public. They're meeting on Tuesday - but they haven't invited Gareth!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Rubbish!

After all the song and dance about new methods of collecting rubbish, and the new system of recycling - the new bins have been delivered today.
I saw the van in Carlesgate yesterday, delivering all the wheelie bins and boxes - but most of the rest of town, it seems, is getting none of that. I got a green 'food waste caddy' with everything else packed into it. It seems that my house has been 'identified as not suitable' for the wheelie bins, which is something of a relief, so I get the food caddy for outside, the kitchen caddy (for all the food waste I don't compost already in the kitchen caddy I already have), biodegradable liner bags for the kitchen caddy - and some more plastic bags. These are purple for non-recyclable, clear with blue writing for paper and clear with red writing for plastic and cans. It seems that glass recycling won't be happening from the doorstep for the moment. I'm not entirely clear why they had to issue new bags when we all had plenty of bags from the old scheme which are now obsolete (the red bags seem to be the same).
However, I'm now all set for the new system - not so different from the old system except that the non-recyclable stuff will be collected every fortnight. There's a handy little calendar to show which weeks are which.
Something that is rather useful is a checklist showing exactly what is deemed recyclable and what isn't. (But - why not labels off food cans? They're just paper, aren't they? And what about envelopes with clear windows? I dare say all will be revealed in time.)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Creation boss Alan McGee says Hay-on-Wye is perfect example of how our towns should look as coroprate 'clone towns' encroach - Wales News - News from @walesonline

Creation boss Alan McGee says Hay-on-Wye is perfect example of how our towns should look as coroprate 'clone towns' encroach - Wales News - News from @walesonline

More Hay in the news....

Council Meeting

Just a reminder that the next Council Meeting will be at 7.30pm in the Council Chambers, and there will be a portion of the meeting called the public presentation session, where members of the public will be allowed to speak (normally, members of the public can attend and watch the meeting, but not speak).

Reply from the Leader of the Council

This is the reply I got from Cllr. Michael Jones:

Development of Hay on Wye School Site

Thank you for your recent email concerning the above. The Chief Executive has explained the Council’s position and please find below a copy of his reply for your information.

“Although consideration is currently being given to the development of a new primary school in Hay (along side new indoor recreation facilities) the plans have not yet been developed in detail. If and when such proposals are developed they will be subject to significant scrutiny through the appropriate planning process. As you are probably aware such a process would be overseen by the Brecon Beacons National Park .

There will be a consultation exercise should developments currently being considered be progressed to the next stage i.e. planning application. I realise that by placing the matter in the public domain, concerns will be raised. I can assure you that all proper processes will be followed should the potential for any developments relating to a new school, retail developments, etc be taken forward in respect of Hay on Wye. This will include detailed analysis and assessment of such matters as potential traffic problems, access to the site, and the economic impact on the town.”

I trust the above response answers the questions you have raised.

Yours sincerely

County Cllr. Michael Jones
Leader, Powys County Council

Meanwhile, at the other end of Powys....

I see that Powys County Council are also embroiled in contention about a 1,000 cow dairy unit somewhere near Powis Castle. There is strong local opposition (not least from the local primary school), the Planning Department have advised against it - but it has been approved by the councillors.
The group Not In My Cuppa are campaigning against it, too.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Plan B For Hay

There was good coverage of the meeting last week in today's B&R, together with the details for contacting the group that is organising to think of alternatives to the plans of the County Council. They say there is no Plan B - therefore, that's the group's name!
If anyone has any bright ideas and/or would like to contribute to the debate, please contact planbforhay@hotmail.co.uk

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Monday, 31 October 2011

More Letters and Emails

Roger Williams has now confirmed that he has written to the County Council requesting a public meeting - so now we're waiting for the date and time to be confirmed.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

And on a Lighter Note....

...Hedgehogs!
While taking Islay for her evening trundle, we stopped at the grass beside the Library - and there was a little hedgehog, ambling along around the silver birch tree. It let me get close enough to touch it.
Islay paid it no attention whatever.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Emails and Letters

I've had a reply to the email I sent to Kirsty Williams, in which she says she has already had several emails from other residents of Hay, and she also says:
"I fully agree that there should be a public meeting with representatives of the Council present to fully discuss any proposals for the school site."
She says she has written to the Council about having a meeting.
So that's all good.

There's also Hay-on-Wire. The problem with sending letters to the Council is that they can be ignored, and the Council can also say that they didn't receive very many - and there's no way for individuals to check whether that was truly the case or not. If people also write to Hay-on-Wire, then their opinions are public, and everyone can see how many letters have been written, because it's published for anyone to read.
So, please send letters to Hay-on-Wire, 21 Broad Street, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5DB or email editor@hay-wire.org by November 18th, when the magazine is going to print.
The editor says: "We promise to print every letter we receive in a Christmas edition, and are prepared to dispense with most of our usual advertising so that there's enough room for anyone who feels strongly about what might be happening. If you wish to protest (or support) aspects of supermarket development in Hay, here is one chance. Anonymous letters are fine, but we think your objections (or otherwise) will carry more weight if you're prepared to wear your heart on your sleeve."

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Word on the Street

I've often said that half the business of Hay is carried out by people meeting and chatting on the street - and I've certainly been talking a lot today as I trundled Islay round in her trolley to do the shopping.

One shopkeeper told me that he'd known Michael Jones, the leader of the Council, for many years. In 1985, he was chairman of the local Conservatives, and he put himself forward to be the parliamentary candidate. Jonathan Evans was selected instead, at which point Michael Jones left the Conservative party and went into the County Council as an Independent. As the Independent group is the largest 'party' in the County Council, he is now leader. I'm not sure how the 'cabinet-style' government of the Council's business started, but I was told that Mr Jones appoints all the members of the cabinet, where all the important decisions of the Council are taken - which we could see in action on the subject of the schools re-organisation recently, when Gareth Ratcliffe challenged the cabinet to bring the decision about school closures and re-organisation before the full council - and narrowly lost the vote. (It's all in the B&R, for those who want the details).

The chap I was talking to said he had stayed behind for a bit after the meeting to chat (I went off to have tea with some other people who were at the meeting - I think a lot of people there broke up into little groups to carry on talking). He said that the Council had declared there is no Plan B - well, in about half an hour, he and the people he was talking to had found one. Llanigon school is a good quality building, with the community hall beside it, and it was built to cater for 100 children. There are only about 15 there now, which is one reason the Council want to close it. Then there's Clyro School across the river, which would be staying open under the Council's new proposals. Between the two, they would be able to cater for all the local children who presently go to Hay School. That scheme may not appeal to everybody, but it is a Plan B, which could be achieved with very little cost (and no supermarket), and a bunch of people came up with it in about half an hour. So why can't the professionals at the Council come up with a Plan B?

While we were chatting, another local resident came up with a sheaf of papers printed off the internet. They were the names and addresses of all the companies under the Gaufron umbrella, taken from the Companies House website.
The man named under all these companies is Paul Anthony Rowlands, of Lower Gaufron Farm, Howey, Llandrindod Wells. The earliest of these companies to be formed, back in 1991, names him as a builder and farmer. Not one of these companies seems to have any money at all, and three of them seem to be completely inactive.
When we'd read, marked and inwardly digested, the papers were taken away to be shown to others.

On the way back from the Launderette, where I'd been talking to two other people about the meeting (one was there; the other hadn't been able to attend), I met a man who was concerned about the care home plans in the proposal. "If it is six to eight beds, not 60 to 80," he said, "then it's not economically viable."

Hay In Danger

I'm afraid this is about to become a campaigning blog.
I'd far rather talk about interesting people I've met, or events going on in the town, and I will still be doing that, but this is far too important to the future of Hay for me to ignore or gloss over. I also apologise in advance for the very long post!

I've never seen so many people at a meeting before! There were a lot in the Parish Hall for discussions of the community centre ten years ago, but I think there may have been more in Booths last night. They didn't put chairs out so more people could get in, and even so there were lots of people standing down the side aisles with no view of the speakers - I couldn't see anyone; I just recognised voices.
A count as people left the meeting came to 205 present, and most of those left their names and contact details for further information.

It started with the Chamber of Commerce meeting last Wednesday. Representatives of the County Council were asked to be present, as the traders of Hay were worried about the rumours about the school site. The County Council said they were willing to meet with the committee of the Chamber of Commerce, but not to say anything in public "because the time wasn't right for them".
There were 30 shop owners there, including Emily of Hay Baby, who gave a report on the meeting. The Council representatives gave very little information - but they did say there was no Plan B.
As it stands, so far there has been no official planning application, and no plans, and no supermarket officially interested. The developers are called Gaufron.

Gareth Ratcliffe took questions from the floor, as our County Councillor, but he didn't know much either. He's asked questions, but hasn't been given answers, so what it amounts to is We Don't Know. It's hard to protest about something when you don't know what's going on behind closed doors.
Apart from the County Council and Gaufron Developers, the other major player in all this is the Sports Association, which have control of the land on which the new school would be built. And it's not just a new school. There's an entire package including a new community centre and care home, and extension to the Doctor's Surgery. Gareth has a problem here of conflict of interests, which means he can't vote in council - he was on the committee of the Sports Association, but resigned due to personal differences with another member.

Now, the plan of having a new community centre, school and council offices came up about ten years ago. There was a lot of effort put in, and meetings including the one I remember at the Parish Hall. There were even detailed plans of the buildings, and money was raised which is still sitting un-used in the bank. And it would all have been on the same site, around the Doctor's Surgery - except that some of that site has now been developed for housing, so there is less space there than there was originally. So this is an idea that has been kicking around for years, with quite a lot of support. But in the original plans, the school site would have been redeveloped as housing. In the current climate, apparently this would not be feasible (never mind that there are a lot of people who need homes), hence the rumours of supermarkets and the use of the phrase "retail use" in the County Council's press release.

So, the problem is, do the benefits of the scheme outweigh the costs? If we can have the new school, will we put up with the supermarket?

It's not that simple, of course, because of all the other things that have been included in the package. This care home, for example, which someone said was planned to be 60 to 80 beds - which is huge. Someone else in the hall pointed out that the funding for this would be the existing funding for Llewelyn Ward in Bronllys Hospital, which is six to eight beds - but that brings in the uncertain future of Bronllys Hospital, too. If Llewelyn Ward is closed there and moved to Hay, that brings Bronllys Hospital another step nearer closure.

There's another point, which surely must count as a conflict of interests - Gaufron Developers are actually a group of companies including PAR Homes, which owns the Doctor's Surgery. The whole bunch of companies have their official address as Lower Gaufron Farm, Howey, near Llandrindod Wells. Someone has been doing some digging through the records at Company House, and from what they were saying at the meeting, the whole lot of them look distinctly dodgy. One of the companies deals with care homes, which is also part of their 'package'.
So why have the County Council got involved with them? Why wasn't the proposed sale of the school site put out to open tender? This is something else only the County Council can tell us - and they're not talking at the moment.

And then there's the public consultation - which has been nil so far. Apparently, all the County Council need to do is to stage a two day exhibition of the plans, after they have signed the contract with Gaufron (which they plan to do in December), where local people will be invited to make comments.
Two days. That's all. And I bet it'll be in the middle of the week when people who want to be there will be at work, and I bet it'll be poorly advertised, and I bet that all the comments that they do get will then be disregarded. Yes, I am cynical, but I have also seen this sort of thing happen before.

One lady at the meeting had actually talked to Gaufron Developers. She said they told her the package is all or nothing - if one part fails, it all fails. They also told her that Gaufron would give one million pounds towards the building of the community centre (one of the companies is also a builder's. I wonder who would get the contract?)

There was also discussion about what the plans would mean for Hay - traffic is one consideration, of course, but Gareth said that the Highways Department hasn't been approached yet, and a lady who knows Malvern pointed out that there had been protests about the Waitrose that was built there, and that went ahead even though it resulted in an extra 300 cars an hour going through the town.

Another lady said that she had spoken to the Legal Affairs Department of the County Council - and they had told her that, if the proposal had gone to open tender, Gaufron would not have been eligible to compete for the tender because of their track record - I paraphrase here, but basically because they are a dodgy bunch.

So, what can we do now?

The first thing is to write letters.
We need to have a meeting with a representative of the County Council so that they can tell us all those things that nobody knows at the moment. One man said that it should be the leader of the Council, Michael Jones - nobody else would do. So we need to write/email etc. to him, and also to Roger Williams our MP and Kirsty Williams our AM, and the chief executive of Powys County Council, Jeremy Patterson.

Contact details are:
Chief Executive Powys County Council Jeremy Patterson chief.executive@powys.gov.uk
Leader of PCC Councillor Michael Jones cllr.michael.jones@powys.gov.uk
Hay PCC Councillor Gareth Ratcliffe cllr.gareth.ratcliffe@powys.gov.uk
or by post to County Hall, Llandrindod Wells, Powys, LD1 5LG
Roger Williams MP info@rogerwilliams.org.uk
Kirsty Williams AM info@kirstywilliams.org.uk
or by post to 4 Watergate, Brecon, Powys LD3 9AN

The sheet given out at the end of the meeting (not everyone got one, because so many people turned up) also suggests some points to include in correspondence:
1. To demand Powys County Council agrees to meet with the community in a public forum before any decision is made to enter into an option agreement with any property developer.
2. To demand that the PCC takes into full consideration our belief that there should be no supermarket on the existing school site due to its impact on local small businesses, increased traffic and the potential for it to change the very nature of the town.
3. Given the lack of public consultation, we demand that PCC does not enter into an option agreement with any developer or begin the planning process until due process has been followed.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Important Meeting

A quick reminder that there's a meeting tomorrow night - that's Thursday, at 6pm at Booth's Books - about the possibility of a supermarket buying the site of the school.
The land is being sold for "retail use", which leaves it nice and vague....

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Doing Too Much!

Sometimes I feel as if I need to slow down a bit!
This lunchtime, I took Islay over the road for her daily biscuit, and chatted to Mary about what to do next year for the Golden Jubilee of Hay as a Book Town.
I'd just sat down to my duck egg on toast when George the Town Cryer came across the road to ask me which dates we wanted him to Cry for the Fairtrade Christmas Fair. "If it's not in my diary, it doesn't exist!" he said.
And on the way back to work, I ran into Sara, who told me all about the Arran sweater she's knitting!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Changing shops over the years

There have been a few worried conversations around town about the number of shops that have closed recently. I haven't been quite so worried, and I wasn't sure why, until I came across a copy of the 2000-2001 booktown map in an old file at work.
This is what Hay looked like only ten or eleven years ago:
The Children's Bookshop was on the edge of town - that's still there, but B&K Books, which specialised in books about bees, has gone (Karl still sells honey, though).
West House Books and Montpelier Books on Broad Street are also gone, replaced by offices and Oxford House Books.
Many of the units in Broad Street Books have changed. In 2000, Chris Luddington specialised in Golf Memorabilia - he's now opened Barnabee Books, doing Observers and Ladybirds etc. I used to run Shuttlecraft Books with my husband, specialising in SF and Fantasy - that's long gone now, for various complicated personal reasons. Debbie Harding used to do Mind/Body/Spirit and Green books - she moved to Hereford and learned how to make stained glass! And half a dozen other units, selling a variety of subjects, have been replaced.
Hancock and Monks music used to have their own shop, where half of Rose's Books is now - and they've moved back into Broad Street now.
I can't say I even remember Aonybooks - they were on Lion Street and did first editions, apparently, and Lion Street Bookshop (specialising in Boxing) is now the home and part time gallery of Kate Modern.
Lion Fine Arts and Books, opposite the Black Lion, also had a unit in Broad Street. I think they may still sell a bit through Fleur-de-Lys, but they've pretty much retired now.
The Book Warehouse was at the Old Drill Hall - which is now the offices of Hay Festival.
Mark Westwood has moved to the Lake District but there's still a bookshop on that site by the Buttermarket.
Marijana Dworski now sells her Eastern European and Foreign Language books from home - then she was in the Courtyard behind Monica's, which is now offices.
The Bookshop on the Pavement, of course, has just been sold and is having its closing down sale (and some of the shelves have been donated to a local bonfire night party).
Grant's now sells shoes and clothes and household accessories, closing as a newsagents (with books) after the sad death of John Grant.
The other Children's Bookshop is now Wool and Willow in Backfold, and Castle Drive Books is now a (superior) junk shop.
Brennan's Books has gone too - it was in one of the little shops to the side of the Blue Boar, and so has Castle Street Books.
Y Gelli Auctions, where book auctions took place regularly, is now Gym and Tonic, and Pole Position motoring books has gone from Clyro.
Rare Comics was operating out of a garage in Llowes back then, moved into Hay for a year or so, and then disappeared.
That's quite a lot of change for a small town over only ten years, but it seems to happen so gradually that we don't notice it.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Finding Bargains

Car Boot season may have finished, but today there was a house clearance sale at the Parish Hall. They were even offering teas and coffees! All sorts of things were on offer - I got a couple of sturdy square canvas storage boxes among other things, and I saw a small woman staggering out with a solid pine rocking chair! Another girl was carrying a surfboard in a case, and a little lad was trying on a life jacket that fitted him really well. Meanwhile another little girl was trying out a pogo stick, and I saw her parents carrying a scooter.
While I was there, I was asked if I was going to the meeting at Booths Bookshop on Thursday. It's at 6pm, and it's going to be about the future of the town. Which sounds a bit ominous. Putting it together with the report on the front page of the B&R this week, it probably is a bit ominous. There are rumours that Tesco want to buy the site of the school. Or at any rate, the prospective buyers of the site have links to Tesco and supermarkets have been built in other places they own. We all know that we need a new school, and that the sale of the site would pay for it - but a supermarket right next to the main car park would be really bad news for the local shops.
So, I think I know where I'll be spending my Thursday evening this week.

Later, I wandered back up to town without the dog, because I couldn't manage a black sack full of jumble for Oxfam and control the trolley at the same time. Getting the storage boxes galvanised me into action, and I had a sort out of some of my craft supplies - and some of them had to go. It was time to be honest with myself and admit that I would never get round to using those balls of yarn, so someone else should get the chance to try. When I came out of Oxfam, I noticed that something was going on in the Buttermarket, so I went up to find a craft fair going on - that is, partly crafts (one lady had brought her spinning wheel with her) and partly a book stall, and a stall selling lingerie from a shop in Brecon, and there was some old linen and antique silver spoons as well. I was quite tempted by the original powder horn, for use with a musket, in spite of the fact that I do re-enactment for a period when firearms haven't been invented yet, so it wouldn't be much use to me.

Friday, 21 October 2011

More interesting people

Over the last couple of weeks, I've had interesting chats with several customers:
There was the man who makes cannons, who was researching ships' cannons in the 18thC.
There was the lady whose daughter used to work at Bloomsbury publishers - and part of her job was to answer all the letters that children sent in addressed to Harry Potter!
There was the chap who was evacuated to Clyro in 1944 - who had just been round Clyro Church and was delighted to find a brass plaque commemorating the headmaster he remembered from his time there. He was looking for more information, so I suggested that he tried Brecon Library, which has a very good local history section.
There was the lady who was on a bell ringing tour of Herefordshire - the team weren't told where they would be ringing until the night before, and then they all got in a minibus and went off after breakfast each day. She took the free map of Herefordshire churches that we have on display, so she had some idea of where she'd been!
And there was a chap from Swansea, who rang up to ask if we had a particular Biblical commentary. He said that he had visited the shop some time ago and, while browsing, came across a book called The Hidden Fire, by Brother Ramon. Brother Ramon is a Franciscan, and mildly famous as a mystic. Leafing through the book, my caller had found an account of teenaged experiences in Swansea which he recognised! Brother Ramon turned out to be a childhood friend and because of the book, they managed to get together again after a gap of 42 years!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

We're only a Little Place!

A few days ago, a customer bought a large boxful of books and needed a taxi to get them to where he needed to go. We had the numbers of three different local taxi firms behind the counter - but it wasn't that easy. One firm was on holiday (yes, all of it), and the other two didn't answer the phone. All we could do was keep the books for the customer, and give him the numbers of the two firms that weren't on holiday to try again later.
The following day, he came to take the books away - without having been able to book a taxi. "You need to book two days in advance!" he said, in horrified amazement. He was obviously used to being able to get hold of a cab pretty much instantly, any time of the day or night. Sadly, we are a small place, far from urban centres, and we can't manage that.
This afternoon a chap came in looking for a shop that sold stationery. I suggested the newsagents, with the proviso that, as it was Sunday, they may well be closed when he got there. It wasn't just any notebook he was looking for, though - it was a moleskine (is that how you spell it? I don't think I've ever actually seen one). I said maybe Hereford or Brecon, but even then, I wasn't sure. Again, he was amazed - but we are a small place, and we can't manage that.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Goodbye Tony


Today was the day of Tony's funeral, in Birmingham.
Tony was a visitor to Hay over many years, often wearing his Shakespeare costume - once he even did a 'book signing' during the Festival! He was also involved in cutting the King's head off - he had a good line with hecklers, flourishing his quill pen and saying "I'm taking names, you know!"
So here he is, not as Shakespeare, in the audience at the back of Kilvert's when the Sealed Knot came over and did pike drill last year.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Green Happenings

Next week, starting on the 15th, is h.Energy Sustainable Herefordshire Week, and one or two events are taking place in Hay, being just over the border.
Hayfield Garden will be open from 10am to 4pm on Wednesday and Saturday (these are the usual working days for the garden, when the volunteers come). Booking is appreciated, and there will be people there to chat to about what they're doing. Contact Phoebe on hayfieldgarden@gmail.com or 07530 265001.
Ty Glyn, in Cusop Dingle, will be open daily from 11am to 3pm, and booking is required. Ainsleigh has lots of energy efficiency tips to pass on, and can show what he's done in the way of solid wall insulation, double and triple glazing, solar hot water, a mini-hydro system (the house is by the brook), and wood burner for central heating and hot water. Contact Ainsleigh on 01497 820332.
The organisers of the week are Herefordshire New Leaf - this is the second time they've done it, and it's 50% bigger already! They have a website at www.herefordshirenewleaf.org.uk and Anna has brochures at Drover Holidays.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday 18th (but not part of the sustainable energy week) the Transition Town group are meeting at Kilvert's at 7.30pm, for a quiet pint and discussion. Topics will include the new carrier bag charge across Wales, talking about the walking festival we've just had (and they're already planning the next one!) and Hayfield Gardens.
Anna also says that one of the community electric bikes is available for use at the moment, so if anyone wants to try it out, that's at Drover Holidays, too.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

All Change!

This evening, I passed by where the sweet shop used to be, and Le Beautique were having their opening party, with a purple and white cake and wine (the wine was not purple and white). It's moved a long way from the oriental carpet shop that it was when I first came to Hay.
Meanwhile, over the road, lights were on in what used to be the Hat shop, as the people from Carlisle's got ready to re-open there. The shop by the clock tower is now closed.
I'm told (I haven't been past to check yet) that there's a sign up at Chattels saying that they have no plans to close - I suppose there's been some confusion in the rumour mill because Carlisle's used to be up there with Chattels.
And at lunch time, I passed by Bookends-as-was at the end of Castle Street, and saw the people from Adela's dress agency looking it over.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Celebrity Chef!

"Can you tell me where the new Italian restaurant is?"
(The lady asking was rather posh.)
"I don't know that there is one," I said, doubtfully.
"Oh, but I heard that Jamie Oliver is opening a new Italian restaurant in Hay. Where is it?"
"I'm sorry, but this is the first I've heard!"
"He's opened one in Cheltenham, and there's supposed to be one in Hay."
"Well, I'm afraid it hasn't opened yet!"

Could it be true? Is Jamie Oliver planning to titillate our taste buds with Italian food?

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Interesting Mushrooms

I was passing Rose's Bookshop when the chap from Outcast Books came up behind me.
"You know about - everything," he said. "Come and have a look at the mushrooms in my garden - I want to make sure they're safe to eat."
I wasn't so sure I could help him with that. I know a bit, but the real expert was my late husband, who used to lead fungus forays for the Wildlife Trust.
So, we went round the side of Rose's, past Outcast Books, and into the long narrow garden beyond. There was a dead apple tree there, and growing all around its base were yellow mushrooms.
I didn't know what they were.
"I think I probably wouldn't eat these," I said, "just to be on the safe side," and I recommended that he look out for Roger Phillips' book on mushrooms, which is the best one I know of.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Interesting Customers

Some days are just more interesting than others, especially when there's time to chat to some of the customers.
These lovely gentlemen all came in on the same day:
Our first gentleman was researching lichens in churchyards, and trying to find lichens in the wild that corresponded to them. (He was buying Natural History books, of course). He was very disappointed by the Radnorshire habit of whitewashing the outsides of churches - before he'd managed to look at the church walls!
Our second chap was setting up a small blacksmith's forge in his garden shed, and was looking for books that gave details of blacksmithing tools. I chatted to him about some of the people I'd met in re-enactment circles that made their own armour, and our local Tools For Self Reliance, that sends blacksmithing kits out to Tanzania from Crickhowell.
Our third gentleman came from Bradford, but was fascinated by all things Welsh. He belongs to the Bradford St David's Society. Over there in Bradford, he is able to take regular Welsh lessons, and spend evenings practicing Welsh conversation with local Welsh people. On St David's Day, the Lord Mayor of Bradford holds a reception for them, and they have dinner (Welsh lamb, of course) at one of the best hotels, and they also have a Noson Lawen (which is a musical evening).
Finally, it was a bit rotten of me, but I had to giggle. A gentleman came in towards the end of the day; he was on a walking holiday, and he'd packed his Kindle to bring with him. So why was he buying books?
It broke.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Cheese Market News

I see Jo Eliot is in the B&R again, this time in a rather fetching orange hat!
It seems that something is happening with the Cheese Market, as the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a grant of £33,000 to Hay-on-Wye Community Enterprise, the volunteer group who are trying to renovate the building and breathe new life into it. They're hoping to get a £259,000 grant, so this money will go towards a professional project manager and heritage manager. Meanwhile, they're also fund-raising - a recent meal at Booth's Bookshop raised £800 and the next fundraiser will be a fashion show (hence the fetching hats on Jo and her friends in the photo) at the Swan on Thursday November 3rd.
(I've just realised that's Stitch and Bitch night - I wonder if the Swan will be too crowded for us to do it?)
Full story, with quotes from John Evans, at the B&R.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

What's Happening to Local Schools?

As a child in Lancashire, I attended a school which once had twelve children on the rolls - but only four in winter because it was such an isolated place! The roads were better when I went, and there were more children, but the teachers all had to leave in time to get the quarter to four bus, because none of them had cars! (and I'm not that old!) Wherever we lived, I was nearly always able to walk to school.
That's not so easy in this area - and there's a lot of uncertainty about the future of some of the local schools.
Last week, our local county councillor, Gareth Ratcliffe, tried to get the County Council to agree to open up the decision on the future of the county's schools to the full council of 73 members, rather than keeping it within the Cabinet of 10 members. He lost by three votes, and the list of how all the councillors voted can be seen at www.brecon-radnor-today.co.uk, where there is also an online poll. The full story can be found in the Brecon and Radnor Express.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A load of Rubbish!

We've had a leaflet through the door about the new recycling service.
Starting on the week beginning 7th November, Hay will be under the new regime, with:
an 'aqua' box for glass (I presume they mean some sort of pale blue)
a blue box for paper and card
a red box for plastic and cans
a green food waste caddy, including kitchen caddy and compostable liners (so, is this two caddies? I already have a compost caddy in my kitchen - it came with the compost bin I got from the council several years ago, so I don't need any of this).
a black wheeled bin for anything else (they really don't want to call it a wheelie bin, but that's what it is.)
or purple bags where a wheeled bin is impractical.
There was also a form to send off to get the smaller version of the wheel(ie) bin - and that's 120 litres capacity! I added a note saying it would take me six months to fill one.
There will be someone in Hay on Wednesday 12th October from 9am to 2pm at the Community Centre to answer any questions - so I won't be able to go, because I'll be at work.
One of the questions I would like to ask is - what am I supposed to do with those rolls of black sacks, and clear sacks with red or black writing on them? And what are the Council going to do with all the bags left over? I hope they're not going to go to landfill....

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Swan Sadness

I haven't seen the cygnets around on the river for a while, so I asked another lady who walks her dog around the same time that I take Islay down to the river bank. She knows just about everything about the wildlife and plants along there.
The answer was not what I wanted to hear.
"They've been shot," she said. "All four of them. Boys. If I could get hold of them, I'd shoot them!"

Monday, 3 October 2011

Ignorance is Bliss?

I'm used to explaining the Sunday Trading Laws to people, every Sunday. The Cinema has to abide by restricted opening hours because of its size, so we open for viewing only before we can sell books to anyone. A lot of people just don't notice trading restrictions in their daily lives, and only come across shops that have to abide by those laws when they're on holiday.
I was surprised yesterday though. I explained to a lady about the new charges for plastic bags, and she was amazed that shops have to pay for the bags they give out! I don't know where she thought the shops got them from, printed up with their own company names and everything, but she'd obviously never given it a moment's thought. She was also amazed when I told her that plastic comes from oil!
Later, we could hear the bidding going on over at the pony sales. I explained about the auctions to another customer, and she said: "I didn't know such things existed!"

Sunday, 2 October 2011

More Bargains

Lots of car boots down at the school yesterday - obviously tempted out by the sunshine! I met a lovely girl who's just come back from Portugal after eight years out there. She was selling rag rug making kits - and I learned how to make rag rugs at a workshop run by Jenni Stuart Anderson, at what is now the Hourglass Gallery on Broad Street, so we got talking, and I ended up buying all her back copies of Sacred Hoop magazine.
One of my neighbours was there too, doing a clear out, and she had some lovely silky shawls from the Far East (Vietnam, possibly?).
I also picked up the Russell Crowe Robin Hood movie for £1, which should be entertaining. (My favourite Robin of all time is, of course, the great Errol Flynn, followed fairly closely by Richard Greene).

After that, it was off to the pony sale. I've never been to one before, but one of my friends was having a Significant Birthday, and decided that the thing she would like to do most in the world was come to the pony sale in Hay for the day. She was bidding, too - she and her partner have started gentling ponies to sell on - though they didn't get anything in the end.
I noticed that some of the ponies were going for around £200 and some were only going for around £20, so I took the opportunity to ask her why. It seems that the fillies are more expensive, because the colts need to be gelded later, and that costs around £200. Other, older, ponies for sale were far more expensive. One of the ponies on sale was being offered by the executors of Chris Gibbons, our local butcher who died recently.
The auctioneer said that there were people there from Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as Wales. The 'meat men' were there too, to pick up the cheap ones to take to France. "They go for the spotty ones," my friend said, "to turn into handbags."
About halfway through the proceedings, we moved from the grass ring (where the awnings provided very welcome shade from the hot sun and the ice cream van was doing a roaring trade) to the indoor ring. Among the pens, there were ladies with tea urns and plastic chairs and tables laid out, and there was food on offer too, and down by the grass ring there were stalls selling tack and boots and so on. You could go to the pony sale for the day, and never see the rest of Hay.
We moved over the road to the Blue Boar, though, for lunch - where our starters and main courses all arrived at the same time (but the curry was very tasty, and the duck pate starters the other two had looked lovely).
It was all very interesting - and I'm glad I went with someone who could explain things to me!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Changes around Town

So, Bookends on Castle Street is empty now - it only took about a day to strip it out, shelves and all. In fact, the old SWALEC sign is now visible over the facade. When I first came to Hay, it was the place where you could pay your electric bills, and where you could go for help with any problems, with a very helpful and knowledgeable lady behind the counter.
Across the way, Chris Arden will be closing his shop shortly - he's the Natural History specialist. Some trade will continue online.
The Bookshop on the Pavement is now having its closing down sale, after a summer of running down the stock.
But, in happier news, Barnabee Books has opened up today, where Sage Femme used to be, near the Clock Tower. He'll be specialising in Observer Books, Ladybirds, Shires, and other series books, and has moved out of Broad Street Books to expand.

In other changes, it's the start of the new plastic bag regime right across Wales. Everyone now has to charge a minimum of 5p for a single use plastic bag, in an attempt to encourage shoppers to bring their own bags with them and cut down waste. It's been very successful in Ireland, apparently. At the Cinema, we have found that our bags are thick enough to count as "bags for life" rather than "single use", so we're charging 20p for them from today (they actually cost us something like 13p each).
And when I was down at the Library, paying my Council Tax, the Council were delivering a new supply of re-cycling bags for library staff to give out when needed. They seemed to be delivering rather a lot, considering that the whole system is going to be changed at the end of the month. Instead of plastic sacks, we will all be getting different coloured boxes to put our paper, cans and plastic, and glass in, and a compost caddy for food waste, and a "wheeled bin" (they don't want us to call it a wheelie bin) for anything else left over. The collection of glass is a good thing - at the moment I trundle down to the recycling bins in the car park when I get a sack full of beer bottles (which isn't all that often, honest!). They've already tried this around Ystradgynlais, and say it seems to work, so we'll see how it goes.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Influential Book People

The Guardian and Observer have brought out a list of the top 100 most influential people in the book world - it's on their website for Friday 23rd September, but I only came across it the other day when I was footling about on the computer.
Our own Peter Florence comes in at number 51, for the Hay Festival, and here are some of the other people on the list that I found interesting:
At Number One, is the founder of Amazon
Number Two - JK Rowling
Number Three - the CEO of Google
Jamie Oliver at number 8 (he's sold a lot of cookery books....)
the bookbuyers for Tesco's at 12
Jacqueline Wilson at 17 (a frequent visitor to Hay)
"the ghost of Stieg Larssen" at 18 (I think this is the only dead person on the list)
Carol Ann Duffy is the top poet at 21
Terry Pratchett at 28
Julia Donaldson, children's laureate and creator of the Gruffalo at 32
Philip Pullman at 38
Salman Rushdie at 45
Richard and Judy at 49 (for their TV book club)
Stephen Fry at 59
Richard Dawkins at 60
Dan Brown at 64
Jeremy Hunt the Culture Secretary at 72
Neil Gaiman (one of my favourite authors, along with Terry Pratchett) at 81
Simon Schama the historian at 91
Alan Moore the graphic novelist (he wrote the originals of V for Vendetta and Watchmen, among other films he has disowned for deviating from his original vision) at 96
and finally, at 100 "you, the reader...." without whom all these authors, publishers and others would all be talking to themselves.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Going Batty!

I left the door open, as usual, the other night, while I lifted Islay out of her trolley, brought her in to lie on the settee, and then went out again to carry the trolley in.
When I went into the kitchen, there was a bat in it.
It was quite big, for a bat, easily the size of a sparrow, and with big furry ears - though it was moving pretty fast for me to see too much detail.
I knew that the old story about bats getting tangled in women's hair was a myth, so it didn't bother me too much to duck under its flight path (round and round the kitchen) to open the window. By which time it had found the door back into the living room, so I went through to open the door again.
Meanwhile, Islay was lying on the settee going "Never mind the bat - what about getting my biscuit?"
And out it went into the night again.