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....

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 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
Leader of PCC Councillor Michael Jones
Hay PCC Councillor Gareth Ratcliffe
or by post to County Hall, Llandrindod Wells, Powys, LD1 5LG
Roger Williams MP
Kirsty Williams AM
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 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 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, 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.