Sunday, 27 February 2011

Springing up like a Mushroom!

A stone bench has appeared out of nowhere on the picnic area near the river. It's beautifully carved with a celtic cross in the middle of the seat, and the words "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" in Welsh and English.
I wonder if it was put there by the same people who planted all the daffodil bulbs a little while ago?

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Drowning my sorrows....

It was the only thing to do, so I loaded Islay into her carriage and headed up to Kilvert's.
I feel much better after a half of Kitty Wilkinson stout from the Organic Liverpool Brewery.

The fact that I only needed a half shows that it wasn't exactly the end of the world.
My hoover blew up in the middle of vacuuming my living room carpet.
As the lady at Kilvert's said, "You'll just have to leave the cleaning and come to the pub instead."
Which sounds like quite a reasonable option - until the dog hairs build up so much they threaten to become a new life form, that is.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Auction for the Cheese Market

The group who are trying to restore the Cheese Market in the middle of Hay are trying to raise a bit of money by having a Grand Spring Auction. It'll be held on Saturday 12th March at the Community Centre, at 2pm, with viewing beforehand, but at the moment they're looking for things to auction, like bric-a-brac, furniture, (working) electrical goods and an auction of promises. They also have a website at

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Grand Clearance Sale

Wandered past the Bookshop on the Pavement yesterday, doing my shopping while pushing Islay in her trolley - and stopped, and looked at the signs in the window, and dumped shopping and dog back home, and came back.
A "£2 or less Stock Clearance Sale" was on, and the shop was packed. There were quite a few familiar faces stacking up the bargains, too. Of course, the best books had already gone, but there were still plenty of interesting books left on the rapidly emptying shelves. I picked up a bumper book of Mexican cooking, and a Best-Ever Jewish Cooking book (stretching my culinary expertise), a couple of thrillers by Faye Kellerman, whose detective is an Orthodox Jew in Los Angeles, and a book on paper collage art for when I'm feeling artistic.
Of course, this means that the shop will be closing as a bookshop soon.
It will be interesting to see what takes its place.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Coming Soon

St David's Day is coming up soon, and already I have a choice of where I can celebrate it.
St Mary's Church is having a songs of praise service, featuring hymns with a Welsh theme, at 6.30pm on March 1st.
At the same time, more or less, at Salem Chapel, a new exhibition of Welsh artists will be opening, with Welsh song, poetry and story-telling in the Chapel. This follows on from the great success of Burns Night, and a St Patrick's celebration is also planned for the 17th March, with poetry, song, Irish stew and whiskey.
At the Globe, local poet David Steer will be hosting a Poetry Competition on 10th March, the prize being a performance slot during the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival later this year, and on the 12th, Suzy Davies will be exhibiting some of her magical photography there, with a special emphasis on trees to raise awareness of Britain's forests and woodlands which are freely accessible to the public.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Good News for Talgarth Hospital?

It seems there's a local developer interested in building a hundred houses on the site. He's Phil Collins of Collins Design and Build in Pontrilas, and he wants to keep the Victorian facade of the hospital and the chapel, and build some office space as well as the houses. Some of the houses, he says, will be designed for a live/work arrangement too.
He met a full hall of concerned Talgarth residents last week to talk about his plans. One local group, MWHAANG* (!) seems cautiously optimistic. Phil Collins is about six months away from making a formal planning application, so he's engaging with the local people at an early stage.
Full details are in this week's B&R.

*Mid Wales Hospital Adjacent Adjoining Neighbours Group!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

I'm practicing with my new (to me) camera, so it's still a bit wobbly, but this is Booth's window at the moment.

Sunday, 13 February 2011


All quiet in town, which is just as well, as I'm huddling at home with a bad cold and a bottle of Hay-on-Wye Mead Liqueur from Jones the Chemists. Will emerge again when it doesn't hurt to speak.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Tourism Survey

It's called the Brecon Beacons Sustainable Tourism Strategy Enterprise Survey (take a big breath to say all that in one go!), and it's from Punch Maugham. We got one at work today, so I had a quick look before I sent it upstairs to the boss.
The first question was: "Name your enterprise or visitor facility"
And it kind of went downhill from there.
I don't think it's going to be terribly helpful, somehow (though I was tempted to fill in all the bits about needing more public transport!).

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Management of the River Wye

There's been a lot of outrage recently, particularly in places like the Forest of Dean, about the government's plans to sell off the national forests.
Something much less well known is the situation with regard to the River Wye.
I saw this information as part of an article, mostly about the woodlands, in the Church Times, of all places!

"The contrast between hands-off and hands-on is made sharper by the work of the Wye and Usk Foundation. At present, the River Wye is managed, at great expense, by four statutory bodies: the Environment Agency for Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England and the Environment Agency for England. The same staff (for the Mid-Welsh upper Wye) must travel miles to the lower (Monmouthshire) stretch.
The Foundation, however, is a consortium of fishery-owners and conservationists, who have placed before the Government a proposal for a Wye River Board to manage the river. I [the Revd Neil Patterson, writer of the article] have heard about this Big Society initiative from one of the would-be Board, who is a farmer with a small part of the 134 miles of the Wye in his hands.
Although he would be pleased to see salmon flourishing by his water-meadows, they are not his foremost concern. None the less, looking at the management of the Wye, he has given up many hours in common cause with those who think they can find a better, cheaper and easier way to run it."

This seems to be a slightly different proposal to putting the forests into private ownership, and might even be a good thing - I don't know yet, and I'd be interested to see any further information about my favourite river.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Congratulations, John and Suzie

What a very good party!
And what a surprise, too. John and Suzie got married in the afternoon, at Hay Registry Office - I caught sight of them walking down the road, he very smart in a suit with a buttonhole of double snowdrops, and she in a white suit with a fur shoulder wrap and a big hat. I missed the moment when they came out, though, to walk through an arch of walking sticks held by members of the Hay Walkers!
They'd kept it a surprise from almost everyone. John said that they wanted to have a party to celebrate finishing the new roof (there was scaffolding up around the house for ages), and then thought, why not get married at the same time?
They first met at a Hay Walkers meeting - one of the interesting people I chatted to was the Chairman of Hay Walkers, who's just come back from a holiday in Kerala, at Phillip the Photographer's beach houses. When he still had the photography shop on the Pavement (now Hay Baby) he always had pictures of South India in the window.
Daphne, the lady who runs the Buddhist retreat centre in Brilley, was there too, and so were neighbours, friends, and a whole houseful of people. Suzie seems to know everybody. I found out that Eric Pugh is a great fan of real ale, and met a lady who exhibits her prints of local scenes in the shop on Castle Street. And I was asked by one gentleman to mention how dashing and handsome he was!
Out at the back, a brazier was burning for the hardy souls who wanted to risk the garden, with a gazebo next to the back door. The garden is full of snowdrops - against the grey stone walls around the garden, they look wonderful.
A lot of guests brought food, and the wedding cake was chocolate, with the contents of a box of chocolates stuck thickly across the top and round the sides, and a chocolate 'lid' over that. Absolutely delicious.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Lost World of Tibet

In February, the Film Society usually try to put on a film with a religious subject. One year was the wonderful Into Great Silence, about the monks of Grande Chartreuse, and last night it was the turn of Tibetan Buddhism, through the medium of archive film from the British Film Archive, with commentary from the Dalai Lama and members of his staff, and narration by Dan Cruikshank. The archive footage came from the 1930s to the 1950s, mostly in colour, and they showed a society which was almost medieval. Most people know a little bit about Tibetan Buddhist monks, but I was fascinated by the descriptions of the secular Tibetan civil service. Now I know that the little yellow hats mean 'civil servant', and it was fascinating to see the man who had been a junior civil servant talk about how his hair had come down to his waist in those days, and had to be braided in a particular style, over which went the little yellow hat. It was a place of very strict social heirarchy - one monk was born into a family of tailors, and he is still the Dalai Lama's personal tailor even though he's also a monk - and great poverty for the peasants, but it was also a place of summer picnics in the parks around the capital, and many spectacular religious festivals.
It was also fascinating to see footage of the present Dalai Lama actually taking his final exams as a monk, in front of thousands of spectators, at the age of eighteen, in the form of public debates with the abbots of various monasteries.

There was a real ex-Buddhist monk in the audience at the Parish Hall, in full robes. He said he thought he should come dressed for the occasion. He spent 17 years as a Buddhist monk in Scotland, and his second language is Tibetan.
The film was also an opportunity to publicise the plight of the Tibetan people, and there were leaflets advertising The Tibet Foundation ( ). I particularly liked the Yak for Life scheme that they run.
It seems that there is also a Buddhist retreat centre up in Brilley, just near Hay. It's called Karma Dechen Choling, and is housed in what used to be the New Inn, Brilley. Spectacular views of the Wye valley, seasonal veg from the garden, and its own meditation hall. They have a website too, at

Friday, 4 February 2011

Spoilt for Choice

I could be in three different places on Saturday, such is the dizzying social whirl in which I live my life!
I've been invited to Brecon, to a party at St Mary's Church. They're starting off with tours of the tower and bells, and later there'll be poetry and music from Village Quire and a man with a lute and Nigel Evans of the B&R (not just the journalist in charge of the Blue Bit, but also a musician). And Huw Parsons' new book of poetry is out, too. It all sounds wonderful - but I'd already had another invitation, and I wouldn't be able to get home because there are no evening buses in this area.
Then I was told about the Tower in Talgarth, which is having a beer festival. Sounds great, and maybe I could go down in the afternoon before the party in the evening. So I tried to find out more about it. There was nothing in the B&R, nothing in the latest WyeLocal, no posters around Hay that I could see. So I went online. The Tower's own website didn't mention it, and neither did the Talgarth Information office. I don't want to go down in the afternoon and find it's only on in the evening - there's only a limited amount to do in Talgarth while you're waiting for the bus home. So I won't be going to that one.
Which leaves Plan A, a party in Hay. No buses involved, no further information to discover - I just have to turn up on the doorstep with a bottle of wine and some finger food!

Thursday, 3 February 2011


When I lived in Norwich, I once went to a perfect and beautiful Candlemas service at St Julian's Church, and this has been one of my favourite festivals of the church year ever since.
There was a 7pm service at St Mary's last night, to celebrate Candlemas, so I loaded Islay into her trolley and trundled down there.
The beginning of the service was the blessing of the candles - in earlier times, people used to bring their candles from home to be blessed for the coming year. It's also the last day of Christmastide for those churches that keep the liturgical year, so the Christmas crib was still up, to be taken down after the service. And it's the time that Christians remember when Jesus was presented in the Temple as a baby, and recognised as the Messiah by Simeon and Anna.
Islay tends to get a bit anxious and clingy in church, so I couldn't join in the candlelit procession (Father Richard said "We'll all take a little walk and remember Simeon holding the baby Jesus") or hold a candle because my lap was full of dog. She settled down on my coat on the pew later. There were three other dogs in church - Jimmy the Curate, of course, who took himself off to lie on a pew, Henry the retriever, and a sheepdog who took a keen interest in the service, even following the priests right up to the altar to see what was going on.
Christina sang the solos in the choir, and I was rather pleased with myself for working out the Latin anthem the choir sang, which was from the Nunc Dimittis: "To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel".
The priest who gave the sermon even mentioned St Benet's Abbey in the Norfolk Broads, which was an extra bit of nostalgia for me, as I've visited the abbey (it has a large windmill built in the middle of the ruins, now also a ruin itself).

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


Chris Evans is returning to the Hay Festival this year, and doing a Breakfast Show from Hay, as he enjoyed it so much last year. He's also organising a Children's Writing Competition - 500 words of story from any under thirteen year olds. He's got some wonderful people to judge the competition, including an old hand at the Festival, Jacqueline Wilson, Anthony Horowitz, Oliver Jeffers (who writes and illustrates some of Chris Evans' sons' favourite picture books) and Howard Jacobson. Winners will be special guests on the Breakfast Show, and will get book tokens and books for their school library. The Festival is from 26th May to 5th June this year.
When Howard Jacobson was on the Breakfast Show, giving authorial tips to budding writers, he said: "The less in control you are, the better the writing will be."
Anne Brichto would certainly agree with that. Inspired by Chris the Bookbinder's readings at Open Mic Nights, she has spent the last six weeks writing 85,000 words of her own novel! She said she wouldn't be doing readings herself though. "What, too much sex and violence?" she was asked.
"Well, sex!" And Dublin and Molly Bloom, apparently. She said that she's been reading all her life, and now all her creative instincts are coming out.

She's not the only Hay bookseller to write a book as well as selling them, of course. A copy of Where Can I Find Mrs Gaskell? turned up in Broad Street Book Centre this week. It's by Keith Gowan, who ran Arvona Gallery (now Haymakers) in the 1980s. Richard Booth is mentioned, of course, and so is Cotters, who worked for Richard at the time.
Cotters came on a visit to Hay the other day - this is sort of like a Royal progress around all his old friends - so I asked him about Keith Gowan. "Oh, he was a dear friend," Cotters said, and told me that he also collected British art. Cotters always regretted missing the chance to buy a particular painting from him "from one of the Cornish schools".
As he was leaving, he added: "I carry little bags now to carry the weight of my personality because I find the weight almost unbearable."
My very own Cotterism!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A Belated Welcome.... Revd David Sodadasi, who I met this evening. He's the new priest-in-charge of Cusop Church, just over the border in Herefordshire, and also covers Clifford and several other local villages. He's been here since last March and I only just found out!