Monday, 30 January 2012

The Biggest Development Since the Castle Was Built

... was one comment at the meeting at Hay School this evening, which gives some idea of the scale of what is being proposed for Hay.
It was the re-run of last week's meeting, which was split into two meeting - for all the people who couldn't get in the first time, and again it was split into two meetings. This time, everyone had a seat in the school hall, and there were fewer initial speakers, which meant that people could go into more detail.
So, again, this is going to be a long post.

Tim Organ was able to add to what he said last week that he and his team had been in touch with the Highways Department of the County Council - and they have said they would assist Plan B with creating routes for children to be able to walk or cycle to school. This would have a knock on effect of benefiting everyone who wants to walk or cycle around Hay.
He mentioned Bulletin 99, a government document laying out the criteria for school facilities, which said that 8% of the floorspace should be given over to whatever the teachers think is important locally for the school - which makes it important for them to communicate with the architects, something that has not happened with the developers in this case.
He also mentioned something called REAM, which has to do with sustainability and the standards of building of new schools - something that the present government are thinking of getting rid of, which means that future school buildings would not have to be built to the present requirements. Do we really want another sub-standard school, and look forward to having the same discussions about replacing it in 30 years time? Tim Organ was talking about a school which would still be viable in 100 years.
He talked, too, about the Castle, and the plans for development there which would include arts and educational facilities. Far better to have the school in its present position so it is easy for the children to cross the road to access those facilities when they become available.
The Highways Dept have also said that, considering the increased volume of traffic which would need to use Forest Road, should the school, care home and community centre be built there, they would need to put traffic lights in at the Forest Road/Brecon Road junction.

The question and answer session was much concerned with the way the money is being worked out, and who owns what.
It seems that the developer doesn't actually have any funding for the community centre they have promised, and the care home would be a private scheme, funded as a PFI like the present doctors' surgery (and with the same owners).
So, would the school building be a PFI? The only word from the County Council is that they "don't believe" it would be.

Tim Organ described a project he'd been involved in on the edge of Bristol, which started with a passionate physiotherapist and £100 in the bank, and grew into a horse riding therapy centre which was also used by police horses, and a project for the blind, and was opened by Princess Anne! All the community had come together to do this, he said, so if we really want something, we can make it happen.
Plan B are already talking to the Welsh Government about direct funding for a school building.

Someone brought up the subject of the money that had already been raised for a new community centre, dating back at least 10 years, if not more. That money is presumably sitting in a bank somewhere - but it seems to be under the care of the Sports Association, as far as anyone knows. Also on the subject of raising money to go towards the new development - how much would the sale of the present community centre raise? It was believed that it would bring in about £350,000. The money from sale of the other schools in the area, which the County Council means to close, would not be put towards a new school in Hay, even though that is where the children from those schools would be re-located to, but would go into a general County Council pot.
So there's a problem here - nobody can get the figures to add up to cover all the building that has been promised.

Another concern is that some people have gone into the history of Gaufron in its various forms over the years. They were involved in the building of Clifford School and Ysgol Y Bannau and other local projects - and in each case, they went bust half way through the building work.

It seems that it was Gaufron, together with the Sports Association, that approached the County Council with the deal - with the result that the County Council then did not apply to the Welsh Assembly for the funding to replace Hay School, but depended on the Gaufron scheme going ahead. They seem to have no alternative plans if anything goes wrong - and it is a high risk plan, with several different elements. If one of those elements fails, then the whole plan fails. The County Council have said this themselves, at the same time as they said: "There is no Plan B."
So, if it did fail, the smaller schools would close and the children would be sent to the present Hay School - which has room for 170 children but would be expected to cope with 240, and the headmaster would be on the phone to the County Council asking for more portacabins! The County Council couldn't say that they didn't forsee this problem, because they are the ones closing the other schools, and putting their faith in this high risk scheme.

As a side issue, one lady said that a company (McCartney's?) had approached the County Council with an offer to buy one third of the present school site to build retirement flats on it - they offered one million pounds, but the County Council have not responded to them.

On the matter of engaging with the public, the County Council have been less than forthcoming. So far there have been two press releases, one meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, and one meeting with the Town Council which the town councillors were told to keep secret! This was followed, of course, by the stakeholders' meeting just before Christmas, where only a few groups were allowed to take part (including Plan B and the Chamber of Commerce).

Someone asked about the Sports Association and any history there might be between them and Gaufron. It seems that the dealings go back twenty years. The Sports Association has changed its name several times, and became a registered charity in 2001. That was when the last lot of plans were doing the rounds for a development on Forest Road including the school and community centre. At that time, many people gave money to the fund for the new community centre. In fact, the sports grounds were originally purchased with money from public subscriptions and from the various sports clubs. Land was then sold for the doctors' surgery (to Gaufron Healthcare) and later for the new houses that have been built to one side of the doctors'.
It was pointed out that, although the Sports Association was consulted and was involved in the plans, the actual sports clubs that used the facilities were not involved or consulted - and they really ought to be, since the development plans would involve the loss of a football pitch.

On the community aspect of the whole thing, one lady pointed out that, at Chris Gibbons' funeral recently, the church was packed - and that wouldn't happen for any supermarket employee.
And someone else asked why everything was being moved out of the centre of town up Forest Road anyway.

Coming shortly will be questionnaires to all the residents of Hay and an area about 4 miles around Hay. Oxfam and the Red Cross shop will have copies, and will serve as collection points.

As we came out, more people were coming in for the second meeting of the evening.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Campaign Updates Again

It seems that CRAP hasn't been forgotten about after all! Councillor Geraint Hopkins just hasn't got the budget to go as quickly as he'd like, or so he says in an email to the organisers.
So something is going on behind the scenes....

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Small Business Saturday

I thought I'd start a little project - going round and taking a photo of all the small businesses in Hay. I've started at the Brecon end of town - and I'm beginning to realise that this is quite a large project, because there are a lot of small businesses of all sorts in Hay. So I can't promise to get round all of them, but I'll certainly have a go!
Here's Dolls House Fun, on the Brecon Road, with a window display of little shops made out of household rubbish, made by the craft group that meets there regularly.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Campaign Updates

I've just come back from a cosy evening in the Blue Boar (very nice Timothy Taylor Landlord) with the publicity group of Plan B for Hay. They were concerned about the number of people who were unable to get into the meeting on Monday at the school - and who went away without being aware of a second meeting being put on for the people who couldn't get into the first meeting. So they're doing it all again on Monday evening. It'll be at Hay School again, with the first meeting at 6pm and the second meeting at 7.30pm.
Someone was counting people as they came in to last Monday's meeting, with a clicker, and said that there were 203 at the first meeting and 159 at the second (not counting anyone who sneaked in at the back).
They did say that people who had come up to speak to them had been mainly positive, with only a few comments along the lines of 'Who are Plan B anyway?'.
Meanwhile, the signs that were on the market today may be put up in the windows of the shop by the Buttermarket that used to be Mark Westwood's bookhop, while it's empty, for a couple of weeks. These are the plans to show where the school might be placed and the land that is under discussion - of course, some of the information is only guesswork as the County Council aren't saying anything.
The campaign is also on Twitter (I don't tweet, so I know nothing about this - the person who does tweet says it's going well!)
There was a Facebook page, but it all got a bit nasty - on both sides - and has had to be taken down again. A new Facebook page may appear if a moderator can be found to run it, and remind everyone to play nicely.
And letters have been sent to the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly, Caerwyn Jones, and five Ministers with various relevant portfolios, such as education, to see what they think of the situation here in Hay.

Meanwhile - does anyone remember CRAP? The Campaign for a Realistic Approach to Parking has rather got swamped by more recent developments, but they are still waiting for a reply to all their hard work from Councillor Garaint Hopkins - who was supposed to get back to them in December, and when he didn't get in touch then, at the beginning of January. They're still waiting for a response.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Local Boy Making Good

Well - Jack Harris comes from Builth, so he's reasonably local, and he's just been on Mike Harding's Folk programme on Radio 2. Mike Harding played a track from Jack Harris's new CD The Flame and the Pelican. If anyone wants to listen on iPlayer, the track is played at about 20 to 8.
I heard Jack Harris play at the Globe a while ago, and I was very impressed.
I only knew that I should listen to Mike Harding because I went along to the Open Mic last night at Kilverts. A chap called Les sang a few songs to his guitar, and mentioned Jack's appearance. He also had a few photos that he'd printed out after clearing them off his phone - of people performing at Kilverts.
"Chris looks a bit rock and roll there," was one comment (this is the Chris of The Green Book of Olwen Ellis - he sings sometimes, too).
Another photo was given to Tim the Gardener. "Only one person would read Virginia Woolf in wellies," said Les.
Last night there was, indeed, more Virginia Woolf, in honour of her 130th birthday - Tim read a piece about Peter the Porpoise, who had been captured and put in an aquarium. He also read a bit of Mervyn Peake's Letters from a Lost Uncle, in which the Uncle, accompanied by his servant (a turtle called Jackson), meets a polar bear in the Arctic, and only escapes by tickling it under the armpits!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Hay on TV

There are a couple of interesting little films on the Hay on TV site at the moment - Gareth Ratcliffe is interviewed, and so are local traders - and Tamara goes shopping. The link is on the side bar.

Monday, 23 January 2012

"A New School For Hay Without Ruining the Town"

This was the banner behind the stage in the school hall this evening, and such was the interest in the meeting that it had to be done in two sessions - the second session is still going on as I type this. The school hall was full, and so was the room to one side of the hall, and I was standing right at the back of the classroom beyond the hall, so at least 300 people, and another similar number for the second session.
And this is going to be a long post....

The meeting was held to tell people what is happening about the new school development, and the proposed retail development that the County Council insists needs to take place along with it - as well as the care home and community centre which are part of the deal. So far, an option agreement with the developer, Gaufron, has not been signed, and until it is, nothing concrete can be decided (in every sense), but in the meantime there is plenty that can be done by the people of Hay in response to the proposals.

There were several speakers to start with - Jenny Valentine from Plan B for Hay started off by explaining where we are at the moment.
I didn't get all the names, though the main MC said he was a parish councillor in Cusop.
A chap called Jason from Llandrindod Wells told us what his town was like now that Tesco's has opened there. They have lost one newsagent, a bakers, sweetshop, clothes shop, electrical shop, and several others, as well as half the market traders. The ones that are left are surviving, but have less diversity of stock than they used to have.
A local beekeeper (who used to be the Company Secretary of the Royal Welsh) described his business, supplying 100 outlets in a 40 mile radius with honey - though his output ranges from nothing in a bad year to five or six tons in a good year. In the last couple of years, he has lost 50% of his business in Brecon, as tourists haven't been coming and a couple of shops he used to supply have closed down. His sales are 37% down in Llandrindod Wells, and still falling - but sales in Hay have risen by 15%. He employs four part time staff, all of whom do specialised work - and he attributes his loss of sales to the supermarkets in Brecon and Llandrindod Wells.
Ali from Londis, who has lived in Hay all her life, gave a passionate plea for Hay to remain a special place, where customers are known personally to the shop staff.

Tim Organ, the architect, has been drawing up plans for an alternative school building for Hay and, unlike the County Council and developers, he and his team have been talking to the teachers who will actually be using the school to find out what their needs are. He had a plan with him, though the press of people was such that it couldn't be seen at the meeting, and will be shown instead on Thursday's market, where people can comment and volunteer to join Plan B if they wish.
He did say that it would be possible to build a new school on the present site without disruption to the present school - at which there was a loud round of applause. He also mentioned the present swimming pool - which would be lost in the current plans for a new school on the Forest Road site.

The meeting was then opened for comments.
One man asked if the school facilities could be also used as part of a new community centre, and Tim Organ said it was certainly possible, and it was important for a new school to be at the heart of the community's cultural life.
Someone asked about the cost - figures of 5 to 6 million pounds have been mentioned by the developer, and 7 to 8 million by the County Council, but those figures could probably be reduced greatly by judicious use of local suppliers. It was also mentioned that there are other local schools that are going to be closed under the County Council's school re-organisation scheme, and those school sites would be sold - with that money presumably becoming available to fund the new building in Hay. Having one central school will, of course, make the running costs lower.
The Welsh Assembly announced new money for school buildings in November, as long as there was match funding but so far the County Council has chosen not to look at ways of match funding as they prefer the developer option.
It would also be cheaper and quicker to use a prefab building - and prefabs have come a long way since the bad old days of the 1960s, with some very high standards. Tim Organ was talking about making a school fit for purpose to last 100 years, and that this was one option they were looking at. There's also a new European company doing prefab buildings coming to Hereford.
One chap near the front pointed out that the County Council would be bandying about all sorts of costings in the next few months, and they needed to be looked at forensically - because, he said "they get it wrong most of the time." He pointed out that they had suggested that they would save 2 million pounds in the secondary school re-organisation, but when the figures were actually looked at in detail it turned out to cost 2 million more!

Someone else asked if there are other communities out there who have fought off a supermarket and won? Ledbury was mentioned, where they recently stopped a new Tesco development - but Sainsbury's have immediately come in with a new application. However, most other developments have been fought at the planning stages when the supermarket already owned the land they wanted to build on. In Hay, that is not the case, and any objectors are in a stronger position because that all important option agreement hasn't been signed yet.
Someone else asked if the Co-op, which has been in talks with the developer, and also has been looking at selling its present site, could be able to block any other supermarket from coming in? The chap from Plan B pointed out that this would be a risky strategy, partly because the developer and the County Council would want the maximum return from the school site land, so would be inclined to go with the highest bidder.
The community, he said, should explore the options, not a developer.

One lady said that "the men at the other meeting" said that the community raising the money to build a new school was not an option. She wasn't sure who the men were - the Plan B man said they had been from the County Council - and that they hadn't thought that the community could do it at the time. Now that they've seen the depth of feeling, they have said (at the December meeting in Llandrindod Wells) that they would welcome other ways of funding a new school, but there's no guarantee that they would give the land to build on if the people of Hay do come up with the funding.

The next question was - did anyone in the room think that a new supermarket was a good idea? And could they explain why? There were several Town Councillors in the room, and Nigel Birch shouted out that the Town Council were as much in the dark as everyone else. Then Peter Lloyd got up on the platform - he's deputy mayor at the moment - and asked "Where have you all been for the past twenty years?" He said that the Town Council have quietly been working away to get a new school for twenty years, with no interest from the public and now there's mention of a supermarket suddenly everybody wants to know. He seemed to think that the County Council's plan was the only way to get a new school for Hay.

Another lady was looking further into the future. The daughter of a local hill farmer, she said that the people of Hay shouldn't just be looking to get a new school but they should keep the momentum up to fight for all the vulnerable people in Hay.

So who are Plan B for Hay? another lady asked, and the Plan B chap outlined the first public meeting in Booths Bookshop, from which have come several sub-committees, and he encouraged anyone with any interest to join in. There are all sorts of people (including a group of lawyers who are challenging the way the County Council are going about things legally).

One chap with a long memory said that the present school was always intended to be temporary when it was built, until a permanent school could be built - and were there any restrictions on the school site so it couldn't be used for commercial use? The Plan B man said they had heard that too, but when they looked into it, it seemed there were no restrictions.

Another man said that there was a group behind Gaufron called Edinburgh and Kensington Estates, who specialise in offering "sweetheart deals" in return for retail developments. They have been active all over Wales and in Scotland, though not always successfully. They have a website at

The County Council had been invited to the meeting, but decided not to come, but Roger Williams, MP, was there. He said he couldn't stay for the second session, because he had to get to London early in the morning - and he was actually missing a debate this evening about food poverty! He has been championing a cause called "Planning for Real", which is trying to involve the public in planning decisions, so he was very pleased to see how many people had turned out this evening. "The County Council could have handled this better," he said, to general agreement. He said he used to be proud that his constituency was a Tesco-free zone, but now there are two Tescos - and he pointed out that supermarkets are very determined to get their own way, so it will be a hard and long fight against them.

So what comes next? The planning boards will be on display at the Thursday market, together with comment cards (everybody at the meeting got a card to fill in with their details and any comments they wanted to make). There will also be a survey coming shortly, not only in Hay but in all the surrounding area. And again anyone interested was encouraged to volunteer.
Plan B for Hay now has a website at

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Just another evening in Hay

"Yes! Yes!! YES!!!"
(from the bar of the Rose and Crown as I was passing)
Our team must be winning....

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Songs from Lucy's Cottage

I'm quite a fan of Phil Rickman's novels, especially his series about Merrily Watkins, who is a lady vicar and diocesan exorcist for Herefordshire. Each book is set in real Herefordshire places (though Merrily's own parish is a composite of several villages) and involves real Herefordshire folklore.
And there's a character in the books, Merrily's boyfriend, called Lol Robinson. He's a musician who's spent some time in psychiatric care - but during the course of the books he re-starts his musical career.
And now there are CDs of 'his' music. In the books, Lol's major influence is Nick Drake, and these songs have a very 'Nick Drake' feel to them, with beautiful guitar playing and soulful voices. There are tracks which are mentioned in the books, which is quite fun, and which refer to various characters. The Lucy of Lucy's Cottage is a character from the first book, who was extremely knowledgeable about local folklore. Phil Rickman himself appears on the CD, reading extracts from the local mystic Thomas Traherne, and other extracts from Ella Leather's work on local folklore are read by Margaret Price.
They're lovely listening even if you don't know the books - and it's music that seems to capture the soul of Herefordshire.
The first CD obviously did well enough for a second CD to be made - A Message from the Morning. This one even has a track in honour of Gomer Parry, who is a regular character in the books, and owns the local plant hire firm. Other tracks are for Alfred Watkins, of The Old Straight Track fame, and Thomas Traherne, and a final one for Nick Drake.
I'm so glad I treated myself to these - and my thanks to Shelley and Richard, who played the first one when I went round one evening.
They can be ordered from Phil Rickman's website,

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Nigel in Transition

I went up to Kilvert's last night for the Transition Towns meeting. I thought about staying for Open Mic (which was apparently pretty good, with a couple of new people performing) but crawled home to bed instead.
A chap from Builth Wells had come down to meet the Hay Transition people, and he told us about the 7 acre garden they have - I think it's actually in Llandrindod Wells, and they sell the veg on Llandod market.
And this evening I happened to come across a short film on Hay On TV, called Nigel in Transition, which shows some of the things that the transition group have done, and reactions to it (not all of them positive!), with interviews with a lot of familiar Hay faces. It's about 20 minutes long, and ends up at Hayfield Gardens, and it's well worth popping across to see it.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Honesty Gardens

I looked in at the door to the Honesty Gardens yesterday - and the metal shelves are gone! I don't think that stone wall's been visible for twenty years.
I remember the metal shelves going in. I think Richard Booth got them from the Department of Education library, and he thought they would be a good idea as outdoor shelving because they had a sort of roller blind that could come down if it rained. Sadly, the roller blinds soon seized up.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Shepherds window

Work has started on repairing the window at Shepherds - and I like the notice that's been put on one of the boards - "This is not a drive-in cafe!"

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Meetings at the Swan

The Fairtrade Group met at the Swan last night, to discuss plans for Fairtrade Fortnight (for more details, go across to the Fairtrade Hay blog - link on the side bar).
Before the meeting got going, we were given a gentle hint that the management would appreciate it if we all bought a drink! The room we use is given for free, after all. Apparently, some other groups who shall remain nameless have been meeting, but not drinking. "What about Stitch and Bitch?" Jo asked, knowing that I belong to that group too.
"Oh, they drink more than anyone!"

Also, before the Fairtrade business could be discussed, there were other considerations - Friendship cake to be passed on, for instance. This is a cake that is made with a mixture that ferments, and fermented portions of the mixture are passed on to grow and make more cakes in their turn.
And there were the eggs from Jo's chickens that were snapped up, too (they're popular with the Screen at Hay committee, too).

Friday, 13 January 2012


On the grounds that some of Foxwhelp Morris side come from Hay, head over to youtube and type in "Dorstone Wassail". It's the first time for a hundred years that there has been a wassailing celebration in Dorstone, to bless the apple trees so that they produce lots of lovely cider next year. Herefordshire is very much an apple producing county (and hops, of course) and wassailing used to be common. It looks as if it's making a come back - they got a good crowd, and the pub was packed out afterwards!
I was also told of a good night of wassailing in Eardisley - cars parked up and down the main street when my informant went out there by chance for a meal out, and they got to see the procession with flaming torches.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Poet's Last (and only) Book

If anyone would like to own copies of some of Brian Caton's poems, they are on sale in a booklet called Hay Man, at the Sandwich Cellar, price £4. They're trying to raise money to buy a bench in Brian's memory.
And the poems are really pretty good.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Shepherds' Smash!

One of my colleagues left work early this evening - she lives above Shepherds Coffee Shop, and was a little bit worried that the entire front of the building was about to come crashing down!
Apparently, someone parked outside the baker's on Castle Street without putting their handbrake on, and the car rolled down the hill, gathering speed as it went, until it came to rest fairly violently across the doorway of Shepherds, making quite a mess of the lovely curved window and the wooden facings. One report was that there were customers sitting in the window of Shepherds at the time of the accident, which must have been pretty alarming.
When I passed about ten minutes ago, the police were there, and the car was sitting where it had come to rest with police tape - and debris - all round it.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Public Meeting

Posters will start appearing around town shortly - but you heard it here first!
There will be a public meeting at the school on Monday 23rd January - get there around 6pm for a 6.30pm start. There will be speakers outlining where the situation stands at the moment with some ideas about the various options which are open to the people of Hay.
It's worth mentioning here that the Plan B and Transition Towns groups (in the person of Tim Organ, mainly) are consulting with the teachers at the school to find out what sort of building they will need, as well as doing work on a sustainable design. The County Council/developer proposal has been drawn up without any consultation with the people who will actually be using the school at all "down to the white boards".
Plan B for Hay will also be conducting a survey, including a questionnaire (they're getting a bit like buses - wait for one and two come along one after the other!). This will include the probable impact of a new 'retail development' on the businesses of Hay.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Gathering Information

I met Gareth Ratcliffe this morning, pushing leaflets through doors.
He's had a thousand printed, one for every house in Hay, with a questionnaire about the proposed school/supermarket on them. What he wants to know is what the people of Hay really think. Are the majority in favour, against, or don't care? Do they want a school but not a supermarket, or some other outcome?
When he knows what the majority of the people in his constituency want, then he can come down off the fence and represent that majority view.
Thus it's really quite important for everyone to fill in their forms and get them back to him!
Closing date is the 25th Jan.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Travellers' Club

I went over to the Community Support office, by the dentists' surgery, yesterday. This is where to go if you want to volunteer locally, or join the Credit Union, or - all sorts of other things.
I was there to join the Travellers' Club. I'd been aware of it, in a general way, for years - they do day trips and occasional weekends away, by coach. In WyeLocal this month, there was an article about the past year, and the year ahead for the Travellers' Club - and it mentioned that this year they were running a trip to Bamburgh Castle.
I've wanted to go to Bamburgh Castle for years. It's been used as a location for medieval films and TV for a long time - the location, on a broad, sandy beach, is superb.
So I've paid my £5 joining fee and shortly I'll get the list of trips - time to start saving up!

A Poet's End

Some sad news that I heard today - it seems that Brian, Hay's Poet Laureate, died over the New Year. He'd been ill for some time.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Shop Changes again

New Year, and there have been quite a few changes around town. Again.
The Hay Book Company is now empty, and the building is to let. That's the one by the Buttermarket which used to be Mark Westwood's. A pity, because it had one of the best collections of graphic novels in town (and graphic novels are pretty thin on the ground in Hay).
Bookends at the end of Castle Street is still a temporary antique shop (and occasional pop-up restaurant!).
The bookshop on the Pavement is empty, awaiting it's new incarnation as we don't know what yet.
Chris Arden retired, and his shop has gone back to being a private house (though Natural History books are still being sold online).

And I found out today that Pembertons will be closing soon - the only bookshop that sells new books (rather than remainders) in town. However, Di Blunt will continue to do the books for Hay Festival as before.

It's going to be an interesting year.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Medical Emergency

Our ambulance service is wonderful!
I ate something that disagreed with me, and was up all night being sick. Fortunately, I have a wonderful neighbour, who phoned ShropDoc - and they called the ambulance.
And the ambulance man was lovely - calm and reassuring. And most of all, by the time he left I'd stopped throwing up, and was back in bed with a hot water bottle pressed to my tummy and a cup of tea on the bedside table (thanks to my wonderful neighbour).