Monday, 25 July 2011

Sad News

It's been a bad week in Hay for deaths.
At the beginning of the week a car crashed between Dorstone and Hay, and one of the passengers died. One of the ladies who comes to Stitch and Bitch said that her husband is a volunteer fireman, and his fire engine was first on the scene - and he knew the girl. It's quite a reminder of how many people a sudden death like that can affect.
And this evening I passed by Chris Gibbons' butcher's shop to see a note in the window, saying that Chris Gibbons died last night. He'd been suffering from cancer. He'll be sadly missed from Hay.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Paying Council Tax Part 2

And it was a much more pleasurable experience the second time around! There was no reciting my credit card number down a phone so the whole library could hear me, for a start. Instead, Jayne the Librarian took charge, and did it all on the computer, just like I was used to in the Council office.
It was busy in the Library this morning. Two little boys were choosing their six books for the Ser y Syrcas/Circus Stars challenge - which is to read six books over the summer holidays. While I was being served, a couple of people came to have their books checked out, and there's a whole shelf of requests waiting to be picked up behind the desk. A chap from the local fishing association was having help working the photocopier, too.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Hayfield Gardens Needs YOU!

You can imagine a picture of Kitchener pointing accusingly out of the frame at you!
I sat in on the Transition Towns meeting at Kilvert's last night, and probably the most important thing to come out of the meeting was that Hayfield Gardens needs community help. Phoebe is doing a wonderful job, but she has a life as well (and a job!) and she can't carry on doing the bulk of the work. There's a lot of potential for expansion at the Gardens, and doing different things - linking up with the Youth Club was one suggestion - but it all needs extra people willing to put the ideas into practice. The Gardens always have someone there on Wednesday mornings and all day Saturday, which is when the volunteers come in to actually do the gardening - and they get a share in the produce of the garden too, so it's something worth doing quite apart from getting out in the open air and getting some exercise! It's easy to get to - just across the bridge on the road out to Clyro.
So, don't leave it all to the "usual suspects" - please get involved!

Later, Tim the Gardener came by to tell everyone that Open Mic was out in the tent at the back. I hesitated by the bar. To get Islay round the back, I have to load her back into her trolley and wheel her round the outside of the building. This is difficult when also carrying a full glass of beer. I was going to leave it on the bar and come back for it, but a helpful chap I'd been chatting to about the beers on offer said he'd carry it through for me, which was very nice of him.
Tim was reading out his history of Open Mic Night (Part 2), which goes back to the regulars at Lucy's, also known as The Three Tuns (before the fire and the renovation!). He recalled St Lucy's Night, with people singing the Santa Lucia song in Swedish, and Lucy herself dressed up in a long white dress (or possibly a nightie) with a crown of electric candles on her head. She was always very gracious on these occasions. He also recalled other special occasions, such as a "Humorously Carved Vegetable Competition", for which Lucy opened up her second front room.
And then there was the usual mix of guitars, singing and poetry (and me doing a monologue - people laughed in all the right places!). It was a bit cold sitting out the back, considering it's midsummer, and there were a few half-hearted attempts to decamp to the indoor bar, but it was another enjoyable night all the same.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Persistent Pigeons

Persistent, but stupid.
The pigeon and dove pair seem to have given up their attempts to squat in the top room of Rest for the Tired (they were trying to make their nest in the waste paper basket, and flew in every time the window was left open). Now they're back on top of the porch of my neighbour's house, where they've already attempted one nest and abandoned it when an egg fell out and smashed.
Maybe Hay has no suitable pigeon nesting sites left?

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Hereford History Day

I'd been intending to go to Hereford History Day anyway, since it's practically on the doorstep. Then I thought, "Well, why don't I go in kit?" since my medieval costumes are hanging around in the wardrobe not doing anything. Then I saw the programme of events - and thought, "Hang on - I know that red and yellow helmet!" And there were Drudion, doing a skirmish on Castle Green and living history all day.
So here I am, posing by one of the medieval tents.
I had a great time! I took a load of odd balls of wool down for the new group weaver to use (she's been to schools twice now to demonstrate weaving, and seems to be enjoying it), and the medieval/Viking board game that I got at the Hay car boot sale, and tried out my new head dress, as described by Gerald of Wales in his book The Description of Wales.
I got to dress small children in chainmail and chat to members of the public about history - one chap had just done his university dissertation on St Thomas of Cantilupe. I met some old friends, including all four of the group's dogs, who decided my face needed washing all at the same time!
There were Tudor dancers and musicians, some other late medieval groups - and an old friend was with the Freemen of Gwent - a falconer, Devilstick Peat the jester, some World War II vehicles, and a Home Guard obstacle course, complete with tin hats and wooden rifles. The Sealed Knot were there, too.
It was a great day out, and they'll be doing it next year, too.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Music Among the Bookstacks

"I think Elgar must have been a morning person," Alen commented in the interval, after we'd just been listening to the Chanson de Matin. We had a chance to compare it later with his Chanson de Nuit, which was lovely, but not as well known.
It was the latest concert at Booth Books, being given by Katherine Thomas on harp and Laurence Kempton on violin, both of them soloists for the Mid-Wales Chamber Orchestra.
The highlight for me was when Katherine Thomas explained how her harp works. There are 47 strings, colour coded so she can tell instantly what they are, and seven pedals! And each of the seven pedals has three positions to change the notes of the strings, which was why she looked a bit hot and bothered after the Corelli dances, because she'd been doing the job of an entire orchestra, and had been pedalling like fury! It was at this point that she played a short harp piece, La Source by Hasselman - because up until then she'd been pretending to be a whole orchestra or a harpsichord, but never a harp.
Laurence Kempton said he felt quite guilty that he only had 4 strings to tune - but his violin is very old and Italian, and doesn't like English weather, so while Katherine was doing her solo, he had put a tube of water inside his violin so it didn't dry out too much.
They also played some Handel, film music from Shindler's List and Ladies in Lavender, and a beautiful piece called Romance Opus 26 by Johan Svendsen, which was my favourite of the evening.
There will be two more concerts next month. On Friday 12th August Louise Thomson will be playing harp, and on Saturday 13th August, Rory Russell will be playing classical guitar. Tickets are £10 each from Booth Books. And the Mid-Wales Chamber Orchestra will be playing in Brecon in September, at Theatr Brycheiniog.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

News Roundup

Quite a lot going on in town this week, and all of it a bit "bitty" to do individual posts.
Last night was Open Mic night, and a lady from the USA was singing (so was a bookseller from Scotland, but I think he only has the one song!). She was so good, she's been offered a paid gig on Friday!
I wouldn't have thought the News of the World scandal could reach as far as Hay, but it seems I was wrong. Isobel Hulsman's son was murdered 24 years ago in London, and she's been trying to get justice for him ever since. He was a private detective, and his partner has been arrested more than once in connection with his murder, but it has never come to trial. This partner, Jonathan Rees, has worked for News of the World, and Andy Coulson re-hired him when he came out of prison for perverting the course of justice in another case. The man who led the most recent re-investigation of the murder case (which collapsed when it came to court) was Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who is also implicated in the News of the World scandal. It's all there in this week's B&R. It's not just a local gossip paper, as some people think - they do serious national reporting as well!
Also on the front page is the now ex-head of Brecon High School, who has decided to 'retire' after being suspended.
There's happier news on the inside pages, with Karen Smart having a Bond style 50th birthday celebration at Llangoed Hall, complete with helicopter, Aston Martin and ice sculptures. Karen now works for the Hall, but I remember her when she ran the pine furniture shop on Backfold, and started the local Persian cat rescue centre (which branched out to other cats, but she always had a thing about Persians). So she had the Bond villain cat as well! Karen also made a splash in the B&R when she met Bill Clinton, when he visited the Hay Festival and a banquet was held in a marquee in the Castle Grounds.
And Buster Grant from Breconshire Brewery is seen raising a pint glass at the start of the Brecon Beer Festival, which was held at the Boar's Head in Brecon.

Monday, 11 July 2011

The Last Fete?

Huntingdon Fete is going to be held on Saturday 16th July this year, from 3pm to 5pm - and it might be the very last one!
I've been invited to a couple of the Fetes over the past few years, to dress up in medieval costume and do spinning and weaving, and it was a lovely afternoon each time, with excellent teas and interesting stalls and a real family atmosphere, all in the grounds of the big house, Huntingdon Court.
According to the B&R, this will be the 57th annual Fete, since the very first one was held by Dorothy Jack and her husband the local GP to help raise funds for the local church, one of the very few in the country named for St Thomas Becket, as well as Huntingdon Castle and the local United Reform Church. Since then, they've raised thousands of pounds for good causes. Dorothy Jack is 96 this year, and about to move into Kington Court, so the house will be sold.
Huntingdon is a tiny community - only 85 inhabitants - yet they attract visitors to the fete from all over the area, even as far away as Rhayader and Presteigne. I hope they can find somewhere to carry on the tradition next year.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Photography at the Globe

There's a new exhibition at the Globe, put on by Frank Busch, who is a large animal vet and professional photographer!
It was a lovely evening to go up there, and sit in the sunshine looking out from the garden over the Wye Valley, sipping sparkling white wine (I didn't really want to drink again this evening, but - well, it was free and I am weak-willed). Looking round the table as I sat there, I counted three aspiring authors and a poet!
We did look at the pictures as well - there's a very striking portrait of a horse as you go in that Mollie thought her daughter would like, so she was quite pleased to find that, as well as the wall mounted pictures at £150 or so each, there were also some more reasonably priced prints for sale. I think my favourites were a silhouette of the London Eye through trees and a ricketty fence in woodland, that just looked so peaceful.
Frank Busch has a website at
One friend also told me that she's met the new sous chef at the Three Tuns, an Italian called Salvatore. I think the politest way to put it is to say she thinks he fancies himself as a Latin Lover!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Beer on the Wye

Damn you, Beer on the Wye!
I had a list of beers that I was anxious to try at the Great British Beer Festival - and I've had them all today!
I started, as I usually do, by walking along the bar to see what took my eye. It happened to be Lagonda IPA from Marble brewery in Manchester. I'd heard good things about Marble brewery, so that had to be my first choice. Unfortunately, it's also 5%, so quite strong.
It was a good choice, and while I was drinking it I looked down the list for more.
This was Joseph Holt's Humbinger, made with English malt and Mexican honey. It's an old brewery from the North West. Not so hoppy as Lagonda, and not as sweet as the Mexican honey would suggest, but very pleasant, quaffable ale. This is the beer pictured above.
Next, a local brew. I rarely have time to get as far as the Victory when I go into Hereford for shopping, so I thought I'd try one of the Hereford Brewery ales, and I like milds, so Herefordian Mild it was. I wasn't sure I was so keen at first, but it grew on me.
After the mild, a stout - back to the Marble brewery for Marble Chocolate, which was Very Nice Indeed.
I was starting to feel a little half-cut by this time, but I still had some time left before the last bus home, and I still had some beer tokens left. I overheard some people on a nearby table discussing the merits of the beer they were drinking, so there was only one final choice - Jaipur from Thornbridge was here (and expected to run out very fast!). I'd heard a lot of good things about Jaipur, and they were all true. It is an exceptional beer, and also won the rosette for best in show. The volunteer behind the bar told me that all the beers were tasted, from about mid-day on, and the best of the lot was Jaipur.
So, five very good beers tasted, and just time for me to wobble back to the bus station to get the last bus home.
I do enjoy Beer on the Wye.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Importance of a Local Library

I got to the library at about five past ten this morning, and there were already about half a dozen people in there. Oh, and two maintenance men doing something to the Library+ point. One lady, from Felindre, was doing some Council business with Jayne the Librarian. If you want to get out of Felindre without using a car, you have to walk all the way to Three Cocks to get the nearest bus.
While I was there, I could see that there's far more to a local library than just lending books. Jayne seems to know everyone, and could stop for a chat.
A group of French people came in, too (not sure why they were there!).

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Monday, 4 July 2011

Cider and Perry Festival

I've just heard that the Mid Wales Cider and Perry Festival, due to be held at Painscastle over the weekend of 15th - 17th July, has been cancelled. It was to have been held in the Village Hall. Over the last four years, several beer festivals and cider and perry festivals have been held in the village, and they've all been successful until this year.
The organiser says that there will be a cider pressing in October, and he'll think about organising another cider festival then.

Saturday, 2 July 2011


I told my young man that Adele at Nepal Bazaar is having a clearance sale as she prepares to sell the business.
"In that case," he said, "would you go up there and see if she's got any smoky dragons left?"
What he meant was the incense burner that always sat on the counter of the shop. It was made in the shape of a column with a dragon coiled round it, and the incense smoke came out of the dragon's mouth.
Sadly, she had none left - but she did show me the manuscript of her new book, Fairies!, with some gorgeous illustrations. She also said that her book about dreams is now out in three different formats, hardback, paperback, and something special for the West Coast of America. "They must have different dreams there," she said, "fuelled with different substances...."

Friday, 1 July 2011

Primary Schools Under Threat

According to the WyeLocal this month, a major shake up of primary school education is planned in the Hay area. The County Council's "Modernisation Programme" seems to be to provide no primary education at all in a broad swathe between Hay and Brecon that is now served by four primary schools!
Years ago, I used to help out at Followers, which was a Tuesday afternoon version of Sunday School for the children of Llanigon School. Llanigon is a lovely school, and they seem to be providing an excellent education for the local children - but that doesn't seem to matter. Llanigon is due to close.
When I was unemployed, I went for a job in the Nursery of Glasbury School. Again, it's a lovely school. The teachers spend as much time as they can with the children out of doors, having lessons in the nearby woods or moorland. You can't put a price on experiences like that. Glasbury is due to close.
I have a friend who has children at Ffynnon Gynydd School. It's a very small school, but with a very enthusiastic and committed group of teachers and parents. They're often featured in the B&R doing something interesting. But none of that matters. Ffynnon Gynydd is due to close.
The only school I don't know about personally is Rhosgoch, but I'm betting that it's a lovely school, providing a good education for the local children. Rhosgoch is the other school which is due to close.
This may make some sort of sense on the balance sheet, but in real life it's a disaster for those communities and those families. Small children will have to be bussed in to distant primary schools, or driven in by their families, at a time of increasing petrol prices. Families with young children will either move away or decide they don't want to come and live in those villages, and another community will wither away.
Understandably, there is a protest group. It's called PEGG - Primary Education for Glasbury and Gwernyfed - and they want at least one school in the Gwernyfed/Glasbury area to be retained. There are, after all, a lot of families who live in Gwernyfed, Three Cocks and Glasbury. One possibility being considered is for a primary school to share the site of Gwernyfed High School, though I understand that one of the landowners who has to be consulted on such changes isn't keen on the idea.
Llanigon is only a mile or so outside Hay, so a case could be made to merge those two schools, though Llanigon has little enough in the way of community resources as it is. Taking away the school will leave the church and the village hall, and that's about it.
In the opinion of PEGG, decisions made by the County Council now will decide the schooling available to this area's children for the next 25 years, so it's vital to get it right, and for the benefit of the children and families who live here above all other considerations.
PEGG can be contacted at: Pat Bevan (Secretary) 01497 847653 or, or Andrew Jones (Chair) on 10497 847931 or