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.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Ghostly Goings On

Apparently, the Rose and Crown is haunted!
I was told that someone who is sensitive to this sort of thing was in there recently, and saw an old chap in a tweed jacket, sitting in the back bar. He called the landlady over - she couldn't see anything, but when she put her hands out over the chair, they felt cold and tingly!
I suppose there are far worse ways to spend eternity than propping up the bar in your favourite pub!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Regime Change

So, it's out with Nigel and his strimmer and in with High Ground Maintenance at the Castle - I saw them chopping back bushes up there over the weekend.
And at the Globe, Mandy is handing over the reins to Scarlet, Johnnie and Lucy's daughter from the Blue Boar.

Monday, 26 September 2011

A Collection of Characters

I was going up the little road at the side of the Wheatsheaf when I met Brian and the two Staffies, so I stopped to thank him for the loan of a video. He'd lent me Timeslip, a 1970 children's serial (black and white!), starring Denis Quilley as a 1940 naval commander and 1970 physicist. Brian does some book dealing by post, so we moved on from children's TV to talk about the relatives of various authors that he's sold books to, like the son of John Creasey, and a Mr Simenon in Switzerland.
Rob Soldat cycled up then, just out of the library where he'd been telling stories about amber. He showed us a couple of pieces from the Baltic, including one with a fossilised fly inside it.
And as we were talking about Whitby and Gdansk, an old chap walked by, and Brian said: "My hero!" explaining that he had been a Sherman tank driver in the Second World War. There then followed a very technical discussion of Sherman and Tiger tanks (way over my head).
I'm sure this sort of eclectic conversation could only take place in the back streets of Hay!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Powys Arts Month

"Look at the detail on this," Mary said, pointing to one of the drawings in the new art exhibition at the Globe (she was there in her official capacity as Mayor, for the opening). "Isn't that wonderful? And then he's got a tree growing out of his nose...."
Lynette Margerison's view of the world is - interesting.... She paints in oils on driftwood, collects plastic bottles on the shore (around Ogmore) and tries to float little boats inside them, and made a sculpture of a fence post, some wire fencing and a lot of children's shoes spray painted in peacock colours. She's recently moved from the seaside to Talgarth, and is gaining inspiration from walks in the Black Mountains.
This new exhibition at the Globe is only one small part of Powys Arts Month - I got a booklet from Athene in Castle Street, and there are all sorts of things going on. Locally, Lion Street Gallery is listed, as well as Hay Makers and Kate Freeman the painter. Clyro Village Hall has an exhibition called The Lives of Others (a collaboration between four visual artists, a storyteller and the wider community, it says); Karin Mear and Nigel Evans of the B&R are opening up their home for animal inspired pop art, photography and paintings, called At Home with Baaah! (Children and pets welcome), and the photo for Artbeat Brecon, the Brecon Arts Festival, is of one of Huw Parsons' poems printed on a brown paper bag filled with apples - he did a collaboration with the local greengrocers!
Further afield, there's photography, paintings, sculpture, the Beulah Music Festival, pottery, Shakespeare from the Mid Powys Youth Theatre, glass, woodcuts by Guatamalan artists and wickerwork stags. There's even 'art to wear' made from felted wool on organza, with embroidery.
And it's happening in venues spread between Welshpool and Machynlleth in the north down to Ystradgynlais and Crickhowell in the south (Powys is big - really big. You may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's nothing to Powys)*

*with apologies to Douglas Adams

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Next Cannes?

When John Evans, (representing the Chamber of Commerce last night) first came to Hay, the Hay Festival was in its fourth year, and took place in a scatter of venues and tents across the town. Now the Film Festival is in its third year, and it is taking place in a scatter of venues across town.... So, he asked, what will it be like for its 25th year? Will Hay become like Cannes?
(At which Jo Eliot, of the Film Society committee, heckled "But we'll all be in our eighties!")
The first film in Booths Books, after the launch party, was The Draughtsman's Contract, and it was sold out. Elizabeth of Booths Books said that the purpose-built cinema, that is presently being built at the back of the complex of buildings that make up Booths Books, will definitely be ready to use for next year's Festival - but she wasn't going to confirm when it would be finished, exactly. I've been watching the builders at work as I go past the back of Booths, and it should look very fine when they finish.
The other important matter to announce was the winner of the window dressing competition - which was Haystacks in Backfold again, with Addymans as runners up (to some surprise - where I was standing, none of the people around me thought much of the Addymans display). Jane of the Sandwich Cellar collected the prize for Haystacks as, in the best tradition of the Oscars, the actual winner could not be with us.
I was with Elen and Jenny of Backfold Books and Bygones, and I had to admit that I hadn't noticed their window when I'd passed it earlier. So, after the party, I took Islay out in the trolley and went round. I suspect Jenny must have done it - she told me once that it's an old teaching trick, to make a frame for something so you look more carefully at the thing being framed. So it's a large card, covering the whole window, with postcards of old film stars stuck on it (the Carry On team are across the bottom), and squares cut out of it to showcase the cinema books on the shelves within.
I also looked at the Opticians, which was a very subtle autumnal display, with a signpost saying "Arbor 2 miles". The Arbor is one of the films in the Festival, about life on a northern council estate.
Adela's Dress Agency was also admired - they have gone for a sixties theme, with Mary Quant type dresses and a few cinema books and stills.
And after the films, the Late Night Piano Bar! Following their success at Hay Festival, Goffee has brought back the piano bar to Booths for cocktails and sophisticated entertainment from 9pm to 1am.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Congratulations to the Film Society

Even before the British Film Festival starts, over the coming weekend, Hay's Film Society have triumphed! They have won the award for Best Programming at the British Federation of Film Societies annual national conference!
When you look at their brochure, you can see why - there's a lot of variety.
There's that wonderful classic The African Queen, and Liz Taylor in Suddenly Last Summer
A French classic, Belle de Jour
A film from the Congo, about a group of disabled street musicians, called Benda Bilili, a film from Iran called Gabbeh and a film following a platoon in Afghanistan called Restrepo.
An Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers (and quiz, for Christmas)
A film on a religious theme, this year Of Gods and Men, about Trappist monks in 1969 Algeria
and The Station Agent, starring Peter Dinklage, who recently won an award for his role as Tyrion Lannister in A Game of Thrones.
it just goes to show that there's a lot more to films than the latest Hollywood blockbuster about superheroes in 3D!

(Though, having said that, I rather enjoyed Captain America when I saw it in London).

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Window Displays

The Film Festival weekend is coming up, and members of the Film Society have been going round the shops to encourage them to do special window displays. I saw Jo Eliot going into Golesworthy's to ask them (this being the good quality country clothing shop by the Clock Tower). When I asked what sort of film display they could provide, she said "Oh, they can do something like the 39 Steps!"
Well, Booth's have put together an old cinema seat and a movie camera, and La Maison have gone for the local option, with Armstrong the (alleged) poisoner - there was a film called Dandelion Dead which was made in Hay, and those are dandelions in the display. He claimed that he bought the poison to kill the dandelions in his lawn (rather than his wife).

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Via Beata

I passed by the stone bench in the picnic area this morning (actually at about six o'clock this morning - Islay woke me up because she needed to go out NOW), and the mystery of its sudden appearance has been solved by the addition of a little sign on the wall behind it. It's part of a sculpture trail going right the way across England and Wales from Lowestoft to St David's Head, with sculptures inspired by the Christian religion installed on public footpaths and other public places for people to pause and meditate. The sculptor behind the project has a website at He's based in Norfolk. There's also a blog about the sculptures and the walks at
(It means the Way of Blessing, or the Blessed Way).

Thursday, 15 September 2011

And there's More!

I've just been invited to the opening of a new exhibition at the Globe, on 24th September, the same weekend as the Film Festival. Lynette Margerison is an environmental artist who now lives in Talgarth, and her exhibition is part of a cycle of work called Conversations with the Earth. She's done some intriguing sounding instillations, including a powder trail through Leeds and "small smoking volcanoes in Manchester".
Also, Transition Towns are having a meeting (their meetings are quite informal nowadays) in Kilvert's on Tuesday 20th September, before the Open Mic session starts off.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Such a Lot going on!

I'm feeling rushed off my feet already! The summer holidays may be over, but there are still plenty of events going on around Hay.
I missed Open Mic this week because I was busy - I've been asked to do an "in depth critique" of a novel manuscript before the author sends it off to agents and publishers. She chose me because of my background in archaeology, so she particularly wants comments on the historical accuracy of the story. It's quite a responsibility! I know how I feel when my work is criticised.
Tomorrow is Fang Day! I get the new tooth from the dentist (and part with large amounts of cash!).
It's also Stitch and Bitch evening at the Swan - that jumper might possibly be finished before Christmas....
On Saturday, it's the Car Boot sale at the school.
The following weekend it's the Film Festival. If I have any money left, I really want to go to the traditional Saturday Matinee showing of The Thief of Bagdad, with Sabu - and an ice cream break. They're showing English and Welsh films around Hay - long films, short films, silent films, films by students, documentaries - something for everyone!
And over the weekend of 7th, 8th and 9th October (which isn't that far away now), Hay is playing host to its first Walking Festival, with 32 guided walks and events around Hay (only some of them allowing dogs), including three runs with the Hay Hotfooters and map reading sessions. There's such a variety in this area - we have Kilvert, of course, so one of the walks is following in our famous diarist's footsteps. Then there are ancient churches and Llantony Priory, interesting geology, archaeology on the Begwns, star gazing at Gospel Pass, and amazing views. They've even organised some walks to include public transport, for those of us without cars. A polar explorer called Felicity Aston will be speaking, as well as Alan Ward, who has led expeditions in Nepal and Tanzania among other places. There'll even be a Welsh Ceilidh at the Globe (though I think the name for it should be Noson Lawen, myself), and a pub quiz at Kilverts.
I'm rather looking forward to this one. More information can be found at

Monday, 12 September 2011


The Realistic Parking Proposals have now been finalised, and can be seen on the CRAP blog (link near the bottom of my side bar). They'll be passed on to the County Council shortly.

Friday, 9 September 2011


Kilvert's are playing host to a benefit concert on 24th September. All money raised is to go to the daughters of Andy Miller, who died of cancer earlier this year, and it's quite a line up of local talent. The headline acts are Alex Valentine and Dirty Ray, with support from Briar, and a puppet show by Fagner and Rob Soldat. Tickets are £10 each - it'll be in the marquee out at the back.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Unusual Requests

"Three hundred and sixty six feet!" proclaimed one regular customer as he walked through the door. The last time I saw him, he'd come in to find out what the height of St Paul's Cathedral is from one of our reference books, and was delighted to have found the information.
A short while later, another local chap came in. A couple of years ago, he was showing a party of Chinese people around Hay. One of them was a professional photographer, and he is about to stage an exhibition in Southern China somewhere. Part of his exhibition will be some of the pictures he took of various bookshop workers around Hay, so his local contact was going around town with the photos on his mobile, asking for the names of the people he didn't know. I didn't know some of them, either, which surprised me - I thought I knew everyone, at least by appearance, if not name! Two of the staff of the Cinema Bookshop are featured, and Dale from Broad Street Books, who wasn't very sure about his image being used, even if it was in South China.
And finally, a lady who was actually looking for a book! She wanted the biography of Elizabeth Montgomery, who played Samantha in the 1960s comedy series Bewitched - but we didn't have it.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

"Retail Trade's Not So Sweet"

Grandma Hetty has made the front page of the B&R this week. She told me she didn't really want to do it - the reporter persuaded her. It's her thoughts about the state of trade in Hay, and why she's moving to Leominster with her sweet shop. This is balanced by a short interview with Derek Addyman at the end. She blames the internet for the lack of visitors to Hay, and Derek suggests there are several factors at work, of which the internet is only one part. She also suggests that more could be made of the river, such as a cafe and gift shop down near the canoe landing stage.
Now, I've heard several visitors to Hay say that they would like a place to sit down with a view over the river and a drink, and it's a lovely idea - but it just isn't practical. The car park by the canoe landing stage is privately owned, and the steep slope behind the houses going down to the river means that there isn't anywhere to put a beer garden or cafe garden. And there are already several cafes in Hay, who would not be very happy if another one were to start up down by the river.
A few years ago, there was an plan to build seats under the bridge, tiled like Gaudi's work in Barcelona, but that fell at the first hurdle because of the amount the county council charged to send out a structural engineer to make sure the plans wouldn't make the bridge fall down. The idea was to use them as a mini open air theatre.
It would be nice to use the cycle path for some sort of event, though. Maybe a sculpture trail, or - when I was going out with the re-enactors, we did a Hallowe'en show along a trail through a wood, with little scenes being played out at intervals along the path, and a fire show at the end, and mulled wine and so on. Two of us were doing a fight scene; I was a witch (I had a jam jar full of 'fairy liquid' - first catch your fairy, then squeeze it....), and there were several members of the local dramatic society being ghosts and so on. That would be fun.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Frivolous Things

I should be saving up my pennies for the new tooth that I'm getting from the dentist - which is why I embarked on some 'retail therapy' this weekend.
There was this corset in the window of the Red Cross shop. It's black lace/embroidery with little brass studs, perfect for a Steampunk outfit*. It's also a size 8. I have never been a size 8, even in my skinniest times. However, it was also too good a bargain to miss. I decided that no-one had to see the back - it'll be covered with a military style black jacket, while the corset is held together with elastic! Which works pretty well, over a black pullover (I'm not showing off that much flesh, even for a costume!). If I wear it with a dark red long skirt and my high heeled lace up shoes, it should look pretty good.
And then there's the vortex manipulator. Got to have the brass and leather based 'technology' to go with it. So I got a rather nice archery arm guard from Merlin Archery. Then I needed to fake some buttons to press, so I can use it to teleport. Bedecked on Castle Street came up with just the thing, some sparkly braid that I cut up small and surrounded by brass washers from Jones Hardware, all jazzed up with some brass bits from picture hanging, and some picture wire.
So now I'm ready for the absinthe party that my young man is planning when he comes down to visit next.
I also found myself inside the Antique Market this weekend, and there was this Victorian nightdress....I'd lifted it down from the hook before I'd even thought about it - beyond the instant reaction of "Mine!" I'm going to wear it as a summer dress, with a coloured sash.
(and, yes, I am weird - why do you ask?)

*Steampunk is what the Victorian era would have been like if the works of Jules Verne and HG Wells had been factual!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Goffee and the Forest Spirits

I went to Open Mic at Kilvert's on Tuesday, having missed a few weeks. One of the beers on the bar was from the Talgarth micro-brewery, and it was pleasantly drinkable.
Goffee was there, famous in Hay as the Clown, but that night he was reading some of his own poetry. He had been to a gathering in the Cotswolds, which was also attended by a group called BakaBeyond (I think). It's a charity that helps a pygmy tribe called the Baka in the Cameroons. During the gathering they did a ritual with the pygmy music to call the forest spirits - "and they came," Goffee said, "three of them." He said it was one of the most amazing experiences of his life - and it had inspired him to write the poem about it.

(I performed too, but not very well - I got nervous and spoke far too quickly).