Monday, 27 June 2011

Hay Man

I saw our Poet Laureate sitting by the bank this lunchtime, and he told me that there are still a few copies of his book 'Hay Man' available from the Sandwich Cellar in Backfold. It was published by a New Zealand company, which decided to sponsor him when they came over for the Festival!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Nuts (or Hay 1 - London nil)

My young man has got himself a second hand double bed. Being second hand, not all the essential bits were there when he tried to re-build it. Specifically, the nuts he had wouldn't fit on the bolts.
So he went to a few hardware shops in London. No luck.
In desperation, he sent one of the bolts up to me in Hay.
I went to Walter Jones, and they had the right width of nut, but the thread wasn't right, so they wouldn't fit on.
So I trundled Islay down to Williams' in her trolley (when I lifted her out, she managed to find the only mat in the place to lie down on - and it was in the best place for anyone coming in and out to give her fuss!). The man behind the counter disappeared for about five minutes - and came back with all the nuts I needed! The price was a grand total of 38p! It seems that the thread on the bolts was Imperial rather than metric (how old is this bed, anyway?)
When I phoned the young man up to say the nuts were on the way, his response was:
(Imagine a Burt Kwouk voice here) "Well done, Lin Chung - you have stolen the Imperial nuts from the unspeakable Kau Chu, and soon the warriors of Lian Shan Po will no longer have to sleep on the floor!"

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Food Fair

A blustery day, but plenty of people turned out to go to the Food Fair in the square. When I got there, a ladies' choir was singing. Lots of lovely local food there, as usual, and cider and other drinks - I'm afraid I made a beeline for Breconshire Brewery and got one bottle of each of their beers. Islay had her picture taken in the trolley.

Before I went to the Food Fair, I was down at the School for the Car Boot. I think the blustery weather must have put people off, because there were only a few boots there, but I did get a pretty little terracotta pig to send to my mum. She likes pigs.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Paying Council Tax

This morning I went down to the Library to pay my Council Tax for the first time, not entirely sure what the set up would be when I got there.
According to the Post magazine: "local people will be able to recieve a wider range of council services from the library, as part of a project to bring together more services under one roof."

It's a phone.

So none of the services are on offer actually at the Library, apart from spare bin bags. You just get a phone line to an office somewhere else. This means that I had to read out the number of my council tax account, followed by my credit card details, in the middle of the library, where anyone could overhear.
And if I had a problem for the Council to solve, I would have to tell them on the phone, in the middle of the library, where anyone could overhear.
I was not impressed.
I also don't understand how it is more efficient to then send me the receipt of payment by post, when previously it has been printed out and in my hand instantly.
The person responsible for this bright idea is Councillor Liam Fitzpatrick, Powys County Council's Cabinet Member for Change, Communication and Performance. He is quoted as saying: "this project shows that Powys County Council is unafraid to review the way in which we deliver services and we will change where we can deliver them more efficiently." He expects to save £100,000 for the Council when other libraries have the same set up.
As a Cabinet Member, too, he'll be one of the ones who recently got a 40% pay rise.

I could pay online, or apparently if I had a blue card I could pay at the Post Office, and I'm sure that this is what the Council actually wants people to do. Then they can say there's no demand for their "Library +" and it will quietly disappear.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Hay Music

There's another programme of music going on at Booth Books over the coming few weeks. Sadly, my computer doesn't seem to be compatible with the organiser's computer, so I can't show the actual poster (although he sent it to me three times!).
However, on Friday 1st July, 7.30pm, The Castalia String Quartet will be playing music by Dvorak, Barber and EJ Moeran.
On Thursday 14th July, 7.30pm, Katherine Thomas and Laurence Kempton will be playing. She is, apparently, one of Wales' leading harpists, and he plays violin, and they are both soloists from the Mid-Wales Chamber Orchestra. (I didn't know Mid-Wales had it's own Chamber Orchestra!).
Moving on to August, on Friday 12th Louise Thomson will also be playing the harp, and on Saturday 13th, Rory Russell will be playing classical guitar.
Decisions, decisions! The last concert they organised with classical guitar was brilliant, and I also love harp music - and it's £10 a ticket so I can't go to all of them. (I'm supposed to be saving up to go to London on holiday....).

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


and a gathering down at the Warren to say goodbye to Andy, who died of cancer in March. Briar arranged it. They thought that Midsummer would be a good time to gather and say goodbye properly.
I went down with Islay in her trolley - I don't think I've been down the Warren for nearly two years, back when Islay could still make it under her own steam. People sat on the beach, there were a couple of guitars, dogs running in and out of the water, a few was lovely.
And then off to Kilvert's for open mic night.
I left quite early, but there was a good crowd in and some good musicians, including a lad from Canada who'd brought his guitar!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Bee Auction

Over the weekend, someone I know went to a bee auction in Hay, and posted pictures on Facebook.
("How do they bid?" asked another friend. "Do they wave their little wings around?")
It was lucky the weather was good, because it was done in a field, with all the bee hives laid out in rows. My friend is getting her swarm from somewhere near Arthur's Stone, having recently done a beekeeping course.
If she hadn't mentioned it, I would never have known it was happening, but there seemed to be lots of people there.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

I Like Vouchers!

Or - how to spend a day out shopping without actually spending anything.

Every so often, I'm sent a survey to fill in, showing everything I eat for a two week period. It's one of those consumer things to see where people shop, and which brands they buy and so on. For doing this, I get sent vouchers I can use in various high street shops. Since none of those shops are in Hay, this means a day out in Hereford, which is what I did yesterday.
I think I did rather well. I managed to find 8 pairs of coloured tights at New Look - you can get black everywhere, which is okay but boring. These are plum and purple and cream and grey.
Tie Rack is having a sale, and they had some lovely pashminas in a silk/wool blend that had been £29.99. Now they were in the sale, and 3 for the price of 2 - so with the vouchers I got three pashminas that should have been £90.00 (all but thruppence) for the grand total of 45 pence in cash!
I didn't only have shopping vouchers. When I joined CAMRA this year I was sent vouchers that give 50p off a pint of beer from Wetherspoons, so I went there for lunch. I normally drink halves, but this voucher was only for pints, so I wanted to choose something I knew I'd like. Marstons Old Empire was very nice indeed, though a bit strong for me at lunch time at 5.7%. Still, it went rather nicely with the sweet chilli noodles, which I first tried when my young man came to visit last time.
And they were doing a special offer with the food, so I got the meal for £1 off, too!
I did spend some real money - I wanted the new Fleet Foxes CD, Helplessness Blues, and by that time I'd run out of vouchers, but all in all, it was a very successful day!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

HOMNN goes to two pages!

The weekly newsletter of Open Mic Night, lovingly scribed by Tim the Gardener, has doubled in size for its twelfth issue! As well as noting down the playlist and artistes, he has included a "Social and Fashion Section" to note who was in the audience of note, and a Supplement entitled "Poet and Singer", in which he describes the effort that goes into a singer's performance, especially if they're playing the guitar at the same time.
One thing he didn't mention, though, was what a wonderful MC George the Town Cryer made, introducing acts with such gems as: "There's someone coming towards me with a guitar and I haven't got a clue who they are...."

Friday, 17 June 2011

Pigeons Again

Remember the poor pigeons who tried to build a nest on top of my neighbour's porch?
It seems they've taken a fancy to more comfortable surroundings. They've been found inside the top bedroom at Rest for the Tired, flying in and out through the open window.
I don't think they're going to be very welcome there!

Thursday, 16 June 2011


I've been busy this week. And out nearly every night. And the night I wasn't out was the night I updated the Fairtrade Hay blog (see sidebar) - because the committee has been busy, too. We're arranging a community picnic over at Hayfield Gardens on 3rd July from midday to about 4.30pm in association with Transition Towns - everyone is welcome. Just bring a picnic and there are free things to do for the kids.
On Tuesday, it was back in the tent at Kilvert's for open mic night, which was fun as usual, and there was a new Breconshire Brewery beer on called The Mayor's Inspiration. 5p of the price of a pint goes to the Mayor of Brecon's charity.
On Wednesday, I had the minutes of the meeting to write (before I forgot it all) and the Fairtrade blog to update.
And tonight was Stitch and Bitch. I have started the second side of my jumper. It should be ready by Christmas.

Meanwhile, the big news of the week is that Elizabeth Haycox, along with the Hay Castle Trust Limited, are the new owners of the Castle - and they want to open up the Castle to the public for events. "arts, culture and history as well as a public space and gardens", they say, though of course the building has to be made safe first.
The shops in the Castle grounds are remaining as they are for the moment, but Adele at Nepal Bazaar has decided that now is a good time for her to sell the business on - so she's also having a big clearance sale. So I shall probably be passing by the shop tomorrow....

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Ladies of Leisure

It was Car Boot day at Hay School this morning, so I went along to browse. Once again, I came away with something completely frivolous! I got chatting to a chap who used to do a lot of archery. He didn't have the bows he wanted to sell with him - he wanted to take them to a more specialised audience who would appreciate them, especially the 1920s yew longbow with staghorn finials that allegedly once belonged to a Lady Champion Archer. He also had a little horn made from a cow's horn with a brass mouthpiece, and a leather carrying handle. He used to wear it on his belt while doing archery, and said he'd had it for forty years, but it was probably about sixty years old.
Now all I have to do is learn how to blow it!
While I was there, I met two friends who were going on to Booths Cafe next, and invited me to join them. I've never eaten in the cafe before, so this was a good opportunity to try it out. They had the Thai fish cakes drizzled in a sweet sauce, with salad, and I had the carrot, ginger and honey soup. This was 'scrape the pattern off the plate' good! Nothing was left when the waitress came back to take the plates, and the side dish of chips were the best chips I have eaten for years! It was pretty busy, with people waiting to be seated when we came out. Highly recommended.
It is also National Yarn Bombing day today - and there will be new photos shortly on the Yarn Bombing Hay-on-Wye blog.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Shop Dogs of Hay

Spot the real dog!
Here's Hartley outside Bullring Antiques.

Thursday, 9 June 2011


I happened to listen to Midweek on Radio 4 this week, and one of the guests was the lady who started Gifford's Circus, which has just moved on from Hay on tour. They tour for six months of the year, and rehearse the show in winter quarters, on the farm where they also make their own vintage style wagons.
I was telling a fellow dog walker about it this morning, under the bridge, and her first comment was: "Is she still alive?" The vintage style had misled her into thinking that it was a much older circus than it actually is - they only started in 2000. Nell Gifford started out by taking all sorts of jobs in different circuses, from selling popcorn to selling tickets in the box office to working with horses, to learn how circuses worked from the inside. The website is at
In the shop at the end of last week we had a customer who bought several books on circus and theatre. Rachel was on the desk at the time, and had a pleasant chat with him, and he said that he was going to supper with Gifford's Circus that evening. He turned out to be Gerry Cottle, who also owned a circus, and recently bought Wookey Hole! He knew Goffee, our local clown and mastermind behind Hay-on-Fire, as well.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Poor Pigeons

The pigeon/dove pair who took up residence on top of my neighbour's porch seem to have given up. After a lot of stick collecting work on Saturday, an egg was laid on Sunday - I know this because I found the smashed remains of it on the floor on Monday. Since the 'nest' was essentially a few loose twigs on a flat shelf, I suppose it was inevitable. Basically, they were a bit rubbish at nest building.
I hope they've gone off to find themselves a better spot.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Local Talent and Favourite Places

Wye Local always do an in-depth interview with a local person for each issue, and the latest one has Sarah Putt, who had her portraits and other art work on show at Booths' Cafe over the Festival. She also does the amazing window displays. She's another fan of Sally Matthews, and she has a website at
Meanwhile, in Wales View, the magazine guide to Proper Holidays in Wales, I found another local person's words. Anna Heywood of Drover Holidays was one of the people asked to describe their favourite place in Wales:
"If you go by bike, you can smell the gorse as you twist and turn past Llyn Clywedog. A star-topped bronze monument marks the high point of the Lon Las Cymru long-distance cycle route and then, finally, you top out and begin the swoop down to Machynlleth. It's a blast."
I came across the magazine at the Welsh stand at Hay Festival, together with some stuff about the amazing food that Wales produces (with recipes in Welsh and English).
And my favourite place in Wales? (apart from Hay, that is). It would have to be Caergwrle Castle in North Wales, which I helped to excavate when I was an archaeologist. It was the place where Prince Dafydd, younger brother of Llewellyn the Last, launched his attack on Hawarden Castle on Easter Eve, and started the rebellion against Edward I that led to the downfall of the Princes of Gwynedd and the end of Wales as an independent country. It's also an interesting mix of Welsh and English castle-building styles, and where I met members of the re-enactment group Regia Anglorum for the first time.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Exercise for the Brain

Chatting to a customer today, as the Festival packed down, he said he'd enjoyed it, but one thing in particular had made him think. He'd been to a couple of talks, one after the other, and said that he felt more tired at the end of them than he did after a day's cycling!
"I suppose it's because we're not used to concentrating for a long period after we leave school," he said. "You've really got to keep exercising the brain as if it was a muscle."

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Last Day of the Festival

...and it's drizzling again.
Yesterday I went round some of the exhibitions I'd missed first time round. At St John's Aneirin and Meibion Jones (hope I've got the spelling right) have some luminous pictures that make even an old man sitting alone with his pint look beautiful.
Too late for the posters was Sally Matthews, with some pictures of animals and three statues of dogs. I love Sally Matthews' work. A few years ago, she exhibited at the Globe Gallery, when it was under different ownership. We went into the exhibition through the cellars, and as we climbed the stairs, we said "What are Jenny's deerhounds doing in here?.....Hang on, they're not moving!"
My neighbour did a car boot stall outside her house, and I joined her for a bit - the time being enlivened by a low flying pigeon! A pigeon and a dove have set up home over the porch next door, and they have absolutely no fear. One of them, collecting sticks for the nest by the horse trough, actually skimmed Pam's head on the way back to the nest!
I was invited down to Tinto House by Tim the Gardener, who was holding a "Tinto Fringe Festival" - otherwise known as an excuse to drink white wine in the garden. By the time I'd packed up my stuff, they'd been rained off, though, and were heading towards the Globe to regroup somewhere drier.
George the Town Crier was out in his finery - he said he thought the women went for his white socks! He was publicising events in the Buttermarket. I went up there for a bit in the morning, and saw Jane Meredith, who teaches dyeing, spinning and weaving in her garden by the River Wye - her website is, and she comes under the umbrella group Creative Breaks, who are at
Later, I passed by as Bandemonium were playing to an appreciative audience.
Today I was busy in the shop again, and as I came home, I passed stallholders in the Castle Grounds packing up their stuff.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Another Day at the Festival

And it's suddenly summer!
And I may as well give up writing fiction right now! This morning I heard the winning story from the children's competition on the Chris Evans show, which he was doing live from the Festival site. Anne Robinson read it out, and it was fantastic. And if she's this good at eleven....
Later, I was in the Elmley Foundation tent, where Chris Evans had been in the morning, to hear Phil Rickman, Belinda Bauer and Elly Griffiths talk about their crime novels and the concept of a 'rural noir' tradition. I always go to see Phil Rickman when he's here, because he is such an entertaining speaker - and his 'possibly worst review ever, and simoultaneously best review' had the audience in stitches. He's writing another Merrily Watkins story that involves the writings of Julian of Norwich - and this must be the quote of the day: "Julian of Norwich writes like Patricia Cornwell!"
Belinda Bauer is a new writer as a novelist, though she has previously been a screenwriter and a journalist. Her debut novel, which she described as being about the fall out from crime rather than a crime itself, won a Golden Dagger for debut crime writer - and within about a week, she had a two book deal with a publisher! Elly Griffiths writes about a forensic archaeologist on the North Norfolk coast - and her husband is now an archaeologist, so she should get the details right. I'll be looking out for her books from now on. Though she admitted that she never watched Time Team. "My husband was something in the City until he watched Time Team," she said, so she has a bit of a grudge against the programme!
I just had nice time to get the bus from the Festival site down to the Globe for the next talk. I'd left Islay with my neighbour while she had a clothes and knick-knacks stall outside the front door, so she could bask in the sun and get fuss from passers-by.
The Globe gardens are full of tents - sushi, beer, Pretty Rubbish vintage fashions, a big tent for acoustic events - it's packed. Inside the Globe, I'd come to see a talk called The Old Gods: England's Mythic Past, which turned out to be more about the concept of English culture and how it had changed over the years and how Englishness was not threatened by other cultures, but by capitalism and the concept of quantifying everything to make money out of it. The speakers were Jez Butterworth, Nell Leyshon and Paul Kingsnorth, and I thought it was interesting that Jez grew up on a housing estate with motorways in every direction, and Nell grew up in Glastonbury and the Somerset countryside, but they both had this strong sense of what Englishness was, and how it was more anarchic and organic than anything presented to the populace by governments. At the end of the talk, the speakers were each presented with a sunflower, just as Festival speakers are presented with a white rose.
Then I collected Islay from her blanket on the front step to wander up to the Castle Gardens to buy a t-shirt for my boyfriend. It's covered in bats, and he's a big vampire fan. The chap who makes them (he tie-died in purple and then printed the bats on top) has been coming to the Castle Gardens for years, and I always admire his stuff.
And the sun is still shining, and I'm wearing the vintage white cotton dress I got from The Old Curiosity Shop for the first time, because this is the first time it's been warm enough.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Chris Evans comes to Hay

And he was getting quite excited about it on the radio this morning. He's doing his show from the Festival site tomorrow morning, and doing a talk later in the day.
This morning, though, he was mainly talking about how awesome Shepherds ice cream is, and he thinks the local chippy is wonderful because they spray the vinegar on your chips!
His mystery guest this morning was Ben Fogle, also here at the Festival, who is trying to raise the money to buy Taransay, the island where he first came to public notice as a member of the cast of Castaway, where they lived for a year on the island.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


I met some friends going up towards the Globe. Richard was going to play his harmonicas in the acoustic tent with Troy Redfern. He said: "In church, I had to read the lesson in front of six bishops and an archbishop - and tonight, harmonicas!"
Later that evening, giving Islay another wheelie around town, I met another friend walking up from the Globe to Kilverts, and I joined her for Open Mic Night. They've put a tent up in the garden for it this week, and there were lots of people there I hadn't seen play before. Em had been in the acoustic tent at the Globe before she came up the hill, and she said the set with Troy and the harmonicas and the lad with the bongos was fantastic!
We met Ros up there, who had been working at the Hospice shop. She said they were completely sold out of blankets, duvets - even dog blankets! Anything to keep the poor shivering campers warm!
Later in the evening we were joined by a South Walian up for the Festival. He'd spent the afternoon in Booth's Bookshop doing a workshop on collage. He showed us a picture of his work of art on his mobile phone. He also said that he'd been up in Hay at Easter and had gone for an evening out at the Hollybush. This is the pub and caravan site that featured in The Hotel Inspector on TV recently - and it seems that the owner hasn't taken any of the advice from the programme to heart! He went to see a guitarist who he said was very good indeed - but would have been even better if they'd managed to organise a PA system for him.