Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Around Town

Sad to see that Grandma Hetty's sweetshop is re-locating. Our loss is Leominster's gain! They will be closing on 3rd Sept. I'll miss seeing Grandma Hetty and her two black labradors on the riverside path in the mornings (and so will Islay!).
And, as I was looking at the sign in Grandma Hetty's window, I noticed that Hat to Have it is now empty! Another loss for Lion Street.

However, since Village SOS went out on Talgarth Mill a few weeks ago, I have been noticing people coming into Hay wearing the stickers to show that they have been round the mill. It's nice to see the mill doing so well - and they've now opened a gift shop as well as the mill and cafe. It's another good attraction to bring tourists to the area, so it was a pity to see a rather mean-spirited letter in the B&R last week, saying that all the people involved were incomers and what was the point anyway (I paraphrase, but that was the gist). In fact, all the people involved aren't incomers, as a letter in reply states this week, and it's a start to attracting new businesses to Talgarth as more people visit - and it's already providing some new employment which is sorely needed, even if it couldn't replace the old Hospital in terms of numbers.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

More Gappiness, and Parking

Sadly, the remnants of the denture were pronounced irrepairable by the dentist this morning, and a new one will cost me £177 (less the money I've already spent on the one that broke). Which will take some time - so until then I remain Gap Tooth Gertie.

Meanwhile, the people from CRAP have been busy! This is the parking survey, the results of which will be laid in front of the town council early in September. They've been considering extra parking bays and resident's parking permits (for which there was huge support), and have made detailed plans. They have their own blog at for those who are interested, rather than me trying to summarise their efforts. It can be found near the bottom of the sidebar under Parking Restrictions for Powys, and it has maps and everything.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Another Beer Festival

This is my third beer festival this year!
This time, it's within easy walking distance, at Kilvert's, where they have 35 or so real ales from Wales on offer this weekend, plus various music.
I went down this afternoon (so I'm still under the influence), because I wanted to listen to Pete Brown's talk on matching beer with books. I would have stayed for the later talk by Adrian Tierney-Jones of Called to the Bar, but the tasters were quite generous and I'd had more than enough by then.
The talk started a bit late, with a bit of a 'rounded up' audience - 'intimate' is how Eddie described it in his introduction, but we were enthusiastic.
Pete Brown started with Martin Amis' London Fields and a lager - Jever pilsner. He said that Martin Amis quite obviously didn't like people who went to pubs in London, but he described them brilliantly, so we got Keith the darts player in different readings, drinking lager and extolling the virtues of keg!
Next was the classic Moon Under Water by George Orwell - an ideal pub that never really existed (despite Wetherspoons using the name!) With that went the Otley version of Burton Ale, which George Orwell would have been familiar with - and what a fragrant beer that is! Though he preferred his beer from a china mug.
The third reading is a bit of a taster for Pete Brown's next book, which will be about the history of the George Inn in Southwark. It's called 'Neath the Mask, by John M East, and is a theatrical memoir of his grandfather and a relative who was the landlady of the inn in the 1920s and 30s. Dickens is very much associated with the inn (and many others in the area), with mentions in Little Dorrit and Pickwick Papers (though that was probably the White Hart next door!). I went to the George with my young man, and it truly is a wonderful building (though it's now a Greene King pub). For this reading there was a porter, which would have been Dickens's favourite tipple.
Pete Brown was musing on the nature of nostalgia at this point, a word that only came into common use in the 1920s, when stories of Dickens were doing the rounds, and how that impacted on the history of the pub, which is now claimed to be haunted by Sam Weller, who is a fictional character!
Finally, it was Hops and Glory, Pete Brown's own book, and the story of his transporting a cask of IPA to India by sea for the first time in 140+ years. He read out one of my favourite bits, where he actually broaches the cask, and a little man accosts him to say "This isn't beer! This is wine!" For this reading the beer was Yspridd y Ddraig from Breconshire Brewery. When Buster Grant recently moved from Breconshire Brewery to set up his own Brecon Brewery, Eddie bought the last casks of this beer, which was aged in whisky barrels for four months (possibly Penderyn - nobody seemed to be sure).
As well as these rather nice beers (including the Jever pilsner - and I'm not normally a lager drinker), I also tried Dark Side of the Moose from Purple Moose, which was full of flavour and rather lighter in colour than I'd expected, Celt Experience Golden Ale, an organic ale, and Monty's Midnight stout from Montgomery.
One nice touch was the inclusion of how many miles the beer had travelled to get to Hay - beer miles!
Oh, and cutest thing of the day? It had to be Freddie the Kilvert dog grabbing the lead of a visiting little dog and pulling it down to the lawn to play with him.
(For full disclosure, I have to say that Eddie kindly didn't charge me for the beer tasters, though I did offer).

Thursday, 25 August 2011

....and Back to Gappy Again

Distinctly less than impressed again - just about 24 hours after I got the tooth back, it cracked across again. I was only eating bread and jam.
And the dentist who did it is on holiday until Tuesday....

I should really have been at the meeting about car parking this evening, since it's an issue that local people are very concerned about, but I couldn't summon up the enthusiasm after the tooth went again - and I work until 7pm anyway, which is the time the meeting started. Having taken the dog out for her much needed 'comfort break' and fed her, the meeting would be well under way by the time I got there. I'm sure I'll find out what went on pretty quickly, though.
Meanwhile, on the way down to the river bank, I passed 4 cars parked on double yellow lines, one of them right up on the pavement so I could barely squeeze past with the trolley.
I'm now about to drown my sorrows with a bottle of Hobgoblin.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Toothy Grin!

Well, the speed has been impressive!
I had the impression done at 8.30 this morning, in pink jelly stuff, and the tooth was ready by 2pm. And it wasn't too horrendously expensive, either, at £39.
So I can now smile at the customers with confidence again!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Gappy Teeth

I should have known it wasn't going to be straightforward....

On Thursday lunchtime, I had a little calamity. I have a false tooth on a plate, one of the front ones, and I was just chewing a bit of lettuce when the plate cracked right across, and fell out. For a moment of madness I considered the UHU glue option - then I saw sense and put the false tooth and plate in a little bag and took it round to the dentist.
"Oh, yes," said the receptionist. "Just come back on Monday afternoon to pick it up."
So I waited until Tuesday lunchtime, to give them plenty of time to fix it.
"Oh," said the receptionist. "We need you to make an impression."
So they hadn't even started to fix it.
"A pity I didn't know this when I dropped it off," I said.
"Oh, well, I didn't know either," she said. "Can you pop in tomorrow?"
"I'm working," I said. No negotiation there.
So I shall be going in first thing tomorrow, before I start work, to bite down on that play-dough stuff they use - and I don't know how long it'll take to get a new one after that's done.

Monday, 22 August 2011

3rd Festival of British Cinema

The leaflets are out for the next Festival of British Cinema, put together by the local Film Society, and as in previous years there's a wide variety on offer.
I remember the Draughtsman's Contract coming out, but I never got round to going to see it at the time - it's playing at Richard Booth's Bookshop on Friday 23rd September. The following morning, there's The Thief of Bagdad, the 1940s version starring Sabu, which I've never seen on the big screen. The effects were amazing for their time - and there'll be an ice cream break! A real Saturday matinee!
There are short films from the Newport Film School - the one described as "a werewolf from Cumbria talks about his life and loves" sounds intriguing.
Patagonia is in Welsh with sub titles, set in the Welsh colony in South America.
Jane Asher stars in the 1960s film Deep End, set in a public swimming pool, and another 1960s film is If...., starring Malcolm McDowell.
There are silent films from 1900 to 1929, the classic SF movie Things to Come, and work from the Hereford School of Arts Film Students.
Archive film from the Huntley Film Archives shows Welsh life from 1890 to 1960, and Dirk Bogarde plays an Oxford professor whose marriage is falling apart in Accident (which was also Michael York's first film role).
There will even be a chance for local students from Gwernyfed High School to learn more about behind the scenes in film making, with The Rural Media Company. The film the students made last year, The Race for 2012, won a national competition, and will be shown at the Olympic stadiums in 2012!
And there are more films, too, all showing over the weekend of 23rd, 24th and 25th September at Booth's Bookshop, the Parish Hall and the Community Centre.
Visit for more details and tickets.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Ale and Literature Festival

I stopped by Kilvert's yesterday afternoon for a half of Black Sheep (first out of the pump!) and Eddie showed me the menu for his Beer and Food Matching Dinner. Pete Brown (beer blogger and writer) will be there to match the tastes of the beers to the different dishes - something that he's rather good at. It'll be held on Friday 26th August at 8pm and costs £35 for four courses and the beers (and Pete Brown's erudition, of course).
They're having:
Chicken Liver and Brandy Terrine with Glaslyn Ale from Purple Moose and Orval
Haddock topped with Welsh Rarebit and ratatouille with O7 Weissen from Otley and Goose Island IPA
Belly Pork with Rhymney Export and Trappiste Rochefort
and summer pudding and cream with Blackberry Stout from Waen and Boon Kreik
Which should make for an interesting evening.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Lazy Days

I've been really quite lazy this last couple of days, after all the running around and holidays and so on. So yesterday I was sitting in the garden, (and chopping down a rampant tree), and today I had a wander round the car boot sale at the school. My heart wasn't really in it, though - I only came away with a scarf and a bag of onions!

Friday, 19 August 2011


I saw Gareth Ratcliffe in the market square on Thursday, with a map covered table, like a general planning a campaign. He was handing out questionnaires to find out what local people think is needed by way of parking reform - residents' parking? new car park (and if so, where?)? changes in waiting restrictions? changes in the overnight free parking times?
He wants to know - and hopefully he'll then be able to make something coherent out of all the answers!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Electric Blues Reaction

I see that Troy and friends are performing at the Globe tomorrow night - "swamp rhythm and blues" says the blurb. They're also teaming up with Richard Evans "on tin sandwich". Which should be worth listening to. It's only £5, and starts about 8pm.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Called to the Bar

Adrian Tierney-Jones has a blog about beer, Called to the Bar. I was looking at it today, and found three entries about Hay and Hereford.
On the 18th June, he was at Kilvert's doing a tasting session, matching beers to foods.
On 23rd June, he was at the Barrels in Hereford, which used to be the site of the Wye Valley Brewery until they outgrew it and moved to larger premises.
And a few days ago he mentioned that he'll be back in Hay for Kilvert's Ale and Literature Festival over Bank Holiday weekend.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Future is Kindle?

There's a debate about the Kindle versus the old-fashioned book going on in, among other places, the pages of the Writing Magazine. I really had to quote part of this letter from Tracy Cox of Herefordshire on the subject:
"They say the book is dying, a crusty old relic from a past time, but all you have to do is walk around somewhere like Hay-on-Wye where everywhere you turn there's a bookshop and everyone you see shares a love for the good old fashioned book, to realise that it simply isn't so. A town created from the written word, you can touch it, feel it, smell it and wander around in its glory.
The book is dead? I think not."

Monday, 15 August 2011

Family Visit

My sister, her husband Peter and my little nephew James have been to visit on their way to France in the camper van, so it was interesting to wander round Hay and look at it through a visitor's eyes. Peter noticed that the flagstones on top of the wall round the picnic area had been screwed down so that they weren't pulled off and thrown into the river (which happened with the first lot of stones that were put there), and that the picnic tables are fixed to the concrete slabs they stand on, too (a couple of the original picnic tables ended up in the river, too). Thankfully, that group of Hay kids seems to have grown up, and are now trying to kill themselves by driving too fast down narrow lanes, and the latest bunch of kids seem less destructive.
James had fun in the swing park, though we were the only ones there. His favourite ride was the bucket seat that goes round and round and made him dizzy!
Peter was quite impressed with the sporting facilities - the tennis courts, and the cricket club and the football club.
We wandered back along the riverbank, where I don't go very often any more because Islay can't walk, and we discovered that the public footpath around the back of the beast market is about to be closed. I can't imagine why - it gets used, and it isn't in the way of anything.
There was a wedding in town on the Saturday, with a coach and horses going up Broad Street, and later we noticed a big marquee across the river, and could hear music coming from it, so that may possibly have been the reception - or it might have been something entirely different.
Among the canoeists on the river, there was a lad wearing swimming trunks and a yachting hat, and that was about it - he must have been quite cold!
There were quite a few vintage cars around town, of course, because the Steam Rally was on Sunday - sadly, they couldn't stay for that as they had a ferry to catch. Maybe next year. I'll probably take them to see Talgarth Mill next year, too.

We ate out - which I can't afford to do most of the time.
The first night, we went over to the Three Tuns. James struggled through most of an 11" pizza, and had the rest bundled up in silver foil to take away. Julie and I had the Steak and Guinness pie, which was very nice.
On the second night we went up to the Blue Boar, and I had the chilli. James was most unimpressed with the children's menu, and said so, loudly! He was eventually persuaded to have the sausage and chips - "with sauce!". He really wanted to have what the grown ups were having, only a bit less of it. Peter had the ham, though he didn't expect it to be cold ham when he ordered. But there was plenty of it, and it was tasty, and the waitress was very good with James (who is now just six).

It was lovely to see them, and I hope they'll be back soon.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Village SOS - Talgarth

I think the programme is still on iPlayer.
This was the start of a new series, and featured Talgarth flour mill over a year, from derelict ruin to working flour mill and cafe and bakery, with the help of many volunteers from the village, and grant funding. It was lovely to see the old mill rise like a phoenix from the ashes, with a new mill leat and wheel, and the old tatty sheds cleared away to make space for the new cafe, and the 'bakery team' experimenting with breads and getting advice from All Saint's Cafe in Hereford about how to run a good cafe when none of them had done anything like it before.
And it was a triumph!
I'm looking forward to taking my little nephew there when my sister's family come up for more than a flying visit.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Hay Girl in the Big City: The Place of Beery Happiness

Earl's Court.
Hat Day - on the Thursday of the Great British Beer Festival, the organisers encourage everyone to wear a silly hat. I went in my UNIT beret (thus continuing the Doctor Who and beer theme) and Mark went in an Indian embroidered fez - because Fezes are Cool.
Mark headed for the Welsh stand first - he always starts off with a Brains Dark, which he can't get easily where he is. Sadly, there was no beer from Breconshire Brewery there, though Wye Valley was there with IPA and some bottled Dorothy Goodbody.
My first port of call - well, I started off with some Chocolate Marble, from the small Manchester brewery, but I was actually searching for the East Anglia area, so I could have some Woodforde's Wherry. I was wearing the Wherry t-shirt, after all.
Another essential stopping point was the Thornbridge brewery stand. Mark tried the Jaipur, and agreed with me that this is a very special beer. I went for the Kipling - which is actually alcoholic grapefruit juice! That's what it tastes like, anyway - and the Raven stout was just a little bit odd.
More old favourites were Hook Norton's Old Hooky and Moorehouse's Black Cat, and for Mark Bushy's Shuttleworth Snap (from the Isle of Man).
I also had a Sierra Nevada Porter, experimenting with some of the American brewers. It was very good, and I noticed at Open Mic night this week that Kilvert's have three different Sierra Nevada bottled beers in their fridge. I tried the Glissade, which was very pleasant (but not cheap!).
On the tube on the way home, I was singing. Gilbert and Sullivan. It wasn't entirely my fault. The tube line we were on went through Sloane Square, South Kensington and St James' Park. In Iolanthe, all these stations are mentioned. In the Nightmare Song, the Lord Chancellor sings of his friends and relations: "They're a ravenous horde and they all came aboard at Sloane Square and South Kensington stations", and when Strephon meets his mother Iolanthe, the peers who are spying on them sing "I heard the minx remark, she'd meet him after dark, outside St James's Park and give him one!" So that's my excuse.
The winner of the best beer of the Festival, by the way, was Mighty Oak's Oscar Wilde Mild.
Walking the dog this morning, I met a friend whose comment was: "There's more to do in London than drink beer, you know."

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Hay Girl in the Big City: As You Like It

A bit of culture after the silliness.
This was the first live Shakespeare Mark had ever seen, and we saw it as groundlings at the Globe! ("the PROPER Globe," as one friend in Hay put it, as opposed to the Globe Gallery in Hay).
We had intended to see Much Ado About Nothing, because Mark had seen the Kenneth Branagh film and liked it. I actually got a phone call from him while he was standing in the ticket office of the Globe, to say it was actually As You Like It that was being performed on the night we wanted, and did I mind?
Of course I didn't mind, and I looked it up later to find that it is the only Shakespeare play with a wrestling match in it - and Mark is a big wrestling fan.
So there we were, standing quite near the stage, surrounded by Italian students from the Blair Pascal Lyceo (as it said on their backpacks). One of the girls had a copy of the play open, English on one page with the Italian facing it.
And it was great! It was one of those plays where the actors play several parts, so the Good Duke (straw hat, in the forest) also played his brother the Bad Duke (military jacket) - and Audrey, the love interest for Touchstone the Fool, in a ginger wig and frock! There was a moment when Audrey (who had a beard, as well) is seen in the background of the stage obviously in a bath - bare shoulders, bubbles rising - when Touchstone's head rises beside her, also bare shoulders, with a rubber duck.... And the scene where Touchstone does Very Rude Things to a camera tripod....
The romantic leads, Orlando and Rosalind, were very good indeed (and Rosalind has a lot of the best lines), and Jacques was female. We had a wonderful time!
And boy, did my legs ache the next day!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Hay Girl in the Big City: Toilets Behind the Pandorica

...(which really was a sign at the Doctor Who Exhibition!).
The streets around Olympia were almost deserted, but there were plenty of people inside the Doctor Who Exhibition - which is of two parts. There's a static exhibition of props and costumes and bits and pieces like how to make a voice like a Dalek or Cyberman, and there's the interactive experience, complete with 3D special effects and a video of Matt Smith ("wait a minute - you're not Amy. You're not even Rory - you're shoppers!"). The best bit was not that, though - the best bit was going through the doors of the Tardis into the real control room (although we weren't allowed to touch anything). There were little control panels for the children to use around the edge.
No-one else would have known it, but I went in costume as Sarah Jane Smith. I had the Tardis key and the sonic lipstick in my pocket, and the watch that scans for alien life forms (yes, I do have a mental age of about 9, why do you ask?). Mark was a Time Agent - though he looked a bit like Professor Yana when he was leaning on the rail round the Tardis console.

Oh, and while we were wandering around Southwark, we came to the exact spot where the Victorian cabbie was murdered by the Chinese, who then got into a fight with the Doctor and Leela, in the Talons of Weng Chiang. It's just outside the Clink.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Hay Girl in the Big City: Essential Shopping

There were two main themes to my holiday this time - Doctor Who and Beer, so our essential shopping took in Forbidden Planet (I now have a torch shaped like a sonic screwdriver), and the Borough Market, where there is a stall under the railway arches that specialises in unusual beers. Sadly, we got there on one of the days when they aren't open - but just round the corner is the Rake.... I had a half of Harvistoun Mild, which was very nice, while Mark had a bottle of Anchor Porter, and we started chatting with the American girl at the outdoor cask bar, and one thing led to another, and (thinking of the Doctor Who theme - the Second Doctor once came up against Yetis in the London Underground) I had a bottle of Yeti from Great Divide Brewery, and Mark had a bottle of 400lb Monkey. The Yeti was very strong and dark, and tasted like liquid treacle (in a good way!). While I was slowly sipping it, Mark also had time for some Nereotype Herkules from Summer Wine, which was part of the Rake's mini beer festival. We had to explain to the American girl why the name Summer Wine is associated with Yorkshire, which is where the beer comes from - I'm sure she thought that this was a little bit of English weirdness!
Another pub we had to visit was the Euston Tap, just outside Euston Station. It's a tiny pub, cram-packed with interesting beers. There I had the Goose Island Summertime, and Mark chose Stone's Smoked Arrogant Bastard.
In case anyone thinks we were only drinking beer, we also stopped at the Terra Nova coffee stall at Camden Market - and they even drew a spider's web on the foam of my coffee and added glitter! We visited them last year, and went back because they are so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the different coffees that they sell.
There was food, as well - The Old Stockpot on Old Compton Street serves some excellent pasta at reasonable prices, and Patisserie Valerie does some amazing cakes. I had a slice of the Black Forest Gateau. There's also a stall just by Southwark Cathedral that does delicious filled baps. I had the lemon chicken, and Mark went for the venison and boar with red wine and apricot.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Hay Girl in the Big City: Psychic Paper

I've just come back from a few days in London.
I've been planning it, along with my young man, for months, but at the last minute I nearly couldn't go at all. My dog sitter let me down (thanks, Vee - I shan't be asking her to do anything for me again). Fortunately I have some very good friends, who were able to take over looking after Islay at extremely short notice. (The sight of me on my knees on their doorsteps might have had something to do with it as well!)
So Islay has been very well looked after, and I have had a fantastic time!

Mark lives south of the river in Bexley Heath, and we were planning to do quite a bit of travelling about while I was there, so the first thing he did for me was to get me an Oyster card. When I lived in London, Oyster cards hadn't been thought of, so this was quite exciting! You just touch the wallet to the big yellow button, and it pays your fare. Magic! In fact, just like Doctor Who's psychic paper, which gains him entry just about anywhere.
Having been told that he had moved into quite a grim and deprived area, the reality was rather a pleasant surprise, with trees everywhere around the tower blocks, and horses from the local traveller's camp tethered on the grassy areas. And someone is keeping chickens in their back garden - we could hear the rooster! Mark has the most stupendous views from his windows, with the city all laid out before you in one direction, and Abbey Wood (all 88 hectares of it) in another, and a boating lake nearby. The city looks particularly fine lit up at night - it's quite a contrast to Hay! And apart from background traffic noise, it's quite quiet up there on the twelfth floor.
so, up in the 'penthouse suite', we planned our days of entertainment and delight....