Saturday, 30 June 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here's the garage round the back of the Drill Hall, just off Lion Street.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Codlins and Cream Visits Hay

I follow a blog called Codlins and Cream, written by Bovey Belle, who lives somewhere in the depths of rural Wales. Just before the Hay Festival this year, she visited Hay, and has some interesting photos on her blog, dated 1st June. She can be found at:

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Open Mic at Kilverts

What a lovely evening!
Tim the Gardener is back from Sark, and he was in mellow mood to start off the proceedings. Anna Fry played, and so did Briar. Mel read one of her riddling poems, and I sang a Kipling poem. The Queboid beer from Hardknott brewery was very fine (but am I and Eddie the only ones drinking it?) but one 8% beer is enough for an evening, so I went on to Wandering Beacon after that. When I came away the sound of singing drifted after me down the street.
Tim is going to start doing his newsletter again. He's going to call it Hay Diddle Diddle, and it will come out every two or three weeks rather than every week, as he managed for a whole year last time he tried this.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

From the Mountains to the Sea

I've just had an email from the local Transition Towns group about a project called "From the mountains to the sea" which will work with communities along the River Wye from the source to the sea and along the South Wales coast to Atlantic college near Llantwit Major. John Whitehead is the chap in charge of the project, and he says:

"The journey will begin on foot and by horseback until Glasbury where the groups involved will continue down the river in a small fleet of Currachs, the traditional Celtic sea going vessels. We aim to carry a cargo which could include produce from sustainable businesses from one community to the next along the route. We also aim to deliver a cargo of hopes and visions for the future to the Welsh assembly, sailing into Cardiff bay and right up to the steps of the parliament building. We would like a group from Hay on Wye to be involved and would be interested in meeting you and any other interested parties from Hay to talk through the project. We will also be having project planning sessions at the first Currach building workshop 14th - 17th July on the banks of the river at Glasbury. See attached for details.
You can contact me on 01874 713107 or email this address. Cheers.. ..... John Whitehead. "

What a wonderful thing to get involved in! I remember the Brendan Voyage, when Tim Severin sailed across the Atlantic in a currach, showing that it was feasible for St Brendan to have made a similar trip in the early days of the Celtic Church. They reckon it will take about seven days to sail down the Wye and round to Cardiff.

Anna Heywood is the Transition Towns contact person in Hay, at Drover Holidays.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Hidden Gems in Hereford

My printer died - so I needed to get a new one. I had some vague idea of looking for a printer that used the same sort of ink cartridges as the old one, so I needed to go to a place with a wide choice. This meant a long walk out of the centre of Hereford to Curry's - which is at one of those out of town developments that was designed for cars rather than pedestrians.
On the way down Widemarsh Street, though, I stopped at the ruined abbey to take a few photos.

This was the home of the Black Friars, or Dominicans (the ones who started the Inquisition against the Cathars, under St Dominic, who also invented the rosary which is still used as an aid to prayer today).
Right next door to the abbey was the priory of the Knights of St John, or Hospitallers. The museum was open, so I went in and had a look around. After seeing the museum at Clerkenwell in London, I thought I really ought to make the effort to see the local Hospitaller museum!
it was fascinating. The chapel (which was originally bigger) is still in use. Up above was the infirmary, with an open balcony arrangement so the sick men upstairs could hear the services. After Henry VIII dissolved all the monasteries in England, the buildings were unused until a chap called Coningsby came along and founded a hospital there. This was not really a hospital as we know it - more like sheltered accommodation for twelve old men, who wore a uniform including a red coat. Nell Gwyn knew the Coningsby Hospital when she lived in Hereford, and it is said that she persuaded Charles II to found the Chelsea Hospital - and the Chelsea pensioners still wear a red coat. In the chapel there was a coat of arms carved on the wall, with three cute bunnies on it - this was the Coningsby coat of arms, punning on the old word for rabbit, which was "coney".
The museum is well worth a visit, and the curator was very helpful and friendly.

I did get a printer - and of course it had completely different cartridges to the old printer, but at least it works!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Shops Round-Up

The scaffolding has come down from the front of the Red Cross shop, and the window displays are back in place, so it looks as if they are ready to re-open after the fire.
Meanwhile, just down the Pavement, one of the shops has had their sign stolen.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here's the Black Lion, on Lion Street. When we first came to Hay, it was just after we had finished working as archaeologists in Norwich. When the landlord of the time found that out, he invited us down to his cellars to see the medieval cobbled floor.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Children's Authors Write about Hay Festival

There's a shared blog called An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, which is written by a group of children's authors. It's at
This week Celia Rees has been writing about the talk she took part in with Melvin Burgess, (on 21st June) and Ellen Renner has been talking about her first visit to the Festival (on 19th June).

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Taking Shelter

A couple of customers were telling me that they had been wandering round town the previous evening - and then the heavens had opened. "We were forced to take cover in Kilvert's!" they said (and drink a little something while they were there).
Later, another customer said much the same thing - they had been sheltering near the antique shop, and dashed over to take cover in Kilverts - where the lady had lost her ear-ring. Luckily, the lad behind the bar had his mobile phone with him, and he used the light from its screen to illuminate the floor while several people shuffled round on their hands and knees to find it!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Open Mic - Globe or Kilverts?

Since the selection of beers is far better in Kilvert's, I went down there last night to see who would turn up for the Open Mic. Also, Eddie has a keg of Queboid from Hardknott brewery on, an 8% Belgian style beer, and I wanted to have another taste of that. Yes, it's keg, and it's good!
First there was the football game on the big screen - which England won. Wayne Rooney scored, and they play Italy next - and I know nothing more than that. I'm not even sure who England were playing!
There were a few new faces to me there - some girls with really good voices, and guitars and a lad with a fiddle. There's a Scottish book dealer who goes along when he's in town (if he can stay awake that long after a 5am start), and he sang a Scottish folk song - and I sang Lily the Pink in Latin (translated by my old Classics teacher). It was all acoustic, and very informal, and a lovely evening.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Bee Mystery

"Hay is full of stories," Karl Showler said to me the other day - and proceeded to tell me one of his.
Over the Festival, he found a ceramic bee which had been left in his garden. Karl is known for his bee-keeping - he used to have a small bookshop dedicated to books about bees as well - so he thought that this must have been left by one of his friends. He knew that the bee was fairly expensive, so he made a few enquiries.
None of his friends knew anything about it.
So he went to the gallery in Hay that he knew the bee had come from.
"So that's where it is!" they said.
The bee had been bought by a man from Holland, and left on display with a discreet "Sold" sticker until he picked it up. When he came back for it, it had gone.
So someone had taken the bee from the shop, and left it in Karl's garden....
Fortunately, now the man from Holland can have the bee he paid for.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Pilgrimage to Sark

If everything has gone according to plan, Tim the Gardener should be on Sark by now, on a literary pilgrimage to places associated with Mervyn Peake.
I saw him in Kilvert's the evening before he was due to set off, and he told me that he'd been preparing for the trip by reading histories of Sark. He was particularly taken with the autobiography of the Lady of Sark, who was Lady of the island when the Nazis took over the Channel Islands, and was apparently quite a formidable woman.
More recently, the Barclay brothers have settled there, and caused quite a stir, but Tim said that the important thing was that there were still no cars on the island!
Over the time that he's been saving up for the trip, his resolve has wobbled more than once - the last time he started to think that he wouldn't go, he happened to go into Broad Street Books to browse through the music section.
"I was leafing through a box of guitar technique," he said, "though I've got no interest in it really, and I found a book that shouldn't have been in that box at all!"
It was a book of guitar pieces written about Sark, and he's going to work on them when he comes back to perform at Open Mic.

Tim had a good Festival. He wrote a poem, criticising Elizabeth and her plans for Hay Castle, which was displayed in the window of Addyman's Annexe and printed in the latest Hay-on-Wire. It's called "Welcome to the Rich Queen's Dream". After it had been published, Tim went into the Sandwich Cellar, and found that a mystery admirer of his work had left £20 behind the counter for him to have whatever he fancied! He chuckled as he described the sandwiches he'd chosen, calling for another cup of tea as he 'spent his inheritance' on good living! All he knows about the poetry fan is that he said he was an Arctic Explorer.

It could only happen in Hay.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

By popular request (well, one person asked!) here is the scaffolding in the middle of town. Okay - it doesn't quite meet in the middle, but there is a lot of it!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Small Business SaturdayH

Here's the side view of La Fosse B&B, on the corner of Oxford Road and Lion Street (perhaps not the building's best side - but it does show the conservatory window that Islay used to jump through to play with her friend Charlie!)

Canoeists Rescued

It was a grim day yesterday, bucketing with rain, but somebody was out on the river.
To be precise, somebody was out on the river and needed to be rescued. Around lunch time, there was an ambulance, a fire engine, and a couple of other emergency vehicles heading for the area around Hay Bridge. There's a little island there, and four youngsters had got themselves trapped on it. Fortunately nobody was hurt.
The Hereford Times has the fullest version of the story.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Open Mic Changes Venue

There's been a disagreement at Kilvert's (I missed all this - I was too tired to go out on Tuesday), and as a result Toby has approached the Globe, and the Globe have offered a regular Tuesday Open Mic spot. They have a better sound system, but no keyboard, so Anna Fry will be unable to join in with her piano playing.
The Open Mic has been meeting at Kilvert's for six years now, so it's a pity that they don't seem able to sort out their differences this time - and I've only heard one side of the story, so I'm not going to comment on the rights and wrongs of it.

Edited to add: I've just looked on Facebook, and it seems that the Original Kilvert's Open Mic will still be happening (with Anna Fry on piano) and there will also be a Globe Open Mic with Toby and Dirty Ray and friends.

Thursday, 14 June 2012


The Festival is over, the bunting is coming down - and the scaffolding is going up.
First of all, there's scaffolding around the Red Cross shop, as they repair the fire damage, then across the road there's scaffolding going up all around the shop at the top of the Pavement - the one that used to be a bookshop and is now being renovated.
It almost looks as if they're going to meet in the middle.
Then, round by the Library, there's some sort of insulation being put on the outside of the brick building there - I imagine it's going to be covered with some sort of skin when they've finished.

Monday, 11 June 2012

"Is it a Bouzouki?"

The grand finale of the Festival was Bill Bailey's new show Qualmpeddler, and I was there with three friends.
We met in the Festival Bar earlier, and were joined by a chap I'd sold a book to that afternoon, with his wife. He had heard from the landlady of his B&B about the whole furore over a new supermarket, and declared that he would shout out to Bill during the performance to ask him what his thoughts on Tesco were.
Which he did, in the middle of something else entirely. Muttering about "local supermarket politics", Bill Bailey came to the front of the stage and declared that Tesco must be defeated. "There, that's sorted that out," he said, as he went back to what he'd been doing.
It was a splendidly bizarre evening, with stories about rescuing Chinese owls, pot shots at politicians - "Is it possible to loathe someone on a molecular level?" - Death Metal in a West Country accent ( Emanation went home singing Ripped Apart By Badgers), and a new stringed instrument that Bill asked the audience to name.
"Is it a bouzouki?"
And a few moments later: "Is it a bouzouki?"
And then he went into an inspired rant about the Eurocrisis and all sorts of things happening in the world - but here in the tent, time had stood still, while people were still asking: "Is it a bouzouki?"
In the end, he told us - it was a bouzouki hybrid with a Turkish saz - or "sazuki".
Later, he played something on the keyboard and asked us to name the type of music - someone shouted out Mozart (which was half right, as Mozart used it), and then someone else suggested it was Murder, She Wrote!
He did a dub version of Downton Abbey, and Match of the Day as a Jewish folk song, and talked about the Large Hadron Collider, and Rowan Williams as the (increasingly hairy) face of Anglicanism, and a Lady Gaga song....
.... and it was all brilliant!
And for one of his encores, he played the tuned car horns, finishing with The Final Countdown.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

...and then the Sun Comes Out!

I've been having a very pleasant day.
It's International Knitting in Public Week, and Yarn Bombing Day, so a group of the Stitch and Bitch ladies decided to go up to the Globe to chill out and knit - or crochet or, in my case, lucet.
I met Emanation on the way up, and when we got to the field beside the Globe we met David and Annette and their friend Chris. Annette was waiting for her spot on the stage in the Chai tent as one of the performance poets, accompanied by Chris on guitar. David had brought his didgeridoo with him, but while Emanation was demonstrating her skill at circular breathing, one of the stewards came across and asked us to keep the noise down, because there was a talk about Steven Hawking and Quantum Physics going on in the next tent!
I got chatting to a chap who wanted to know what lucetting was (it's a medieval craft that makes cords, with a very simple fork shaped tool) because he thought he'd like to have a go, and it looked less complicated than knitting.
Then we found out that the rest of the gang had been in the chai tent all along - we just hadn't got that far.
Tracy told me that the Phil Rickman talk at the Festival had been very good - he was interviewed by Peter Florence this year, and the paranormal aspects of the writing seemed to boggle Peter's mind somewhat - and that was before the woman vicar was invited up on stage by Phil to tell the true story of the "Psycho shower incident" where she had been called in afterwards to bless the house.
It was a very pleasant afternoon, with performers coming and going behind us - a very good woman singer, accompanied by a man on a flute, and another poet who claimed to have written his own stuff - but the first poem he recited was "I am my own Grandpa" which I remember Jim Dale performing (with a family tree on a blackboard) on Sunday Night at the London Palladium! The rest of the poems probably were his own.
We all went our separate ways after a while, and I went back home, where my neighbours had set up a table sale between them at the front of the houses. I joined them with a few bits and some book art, and actually sold quite a bit! I also bought quite a bit from Julie and Pam, and Julie very generously gave me some of her stuff as a thank you for letting her use the space outside my house. So I now have a very nice blanketty wrap with a knitted collar, which everyone agreed was very me.

Friday, 8 June 2012

And the Rain Continues....

I know it's traditional for it to rain during the Festival, but this is getting silly. The car parks in fields have been closed because of the mud, and the hard standing car parks in Clyro and Glasbury have been opened up, with shuttle buses.
Meanwhile, some of the poor confused souls turning up at the Cinema Bookshop yesterday, wanting to see the film, told us that the staff on the shuttle buses were telling them that this was the right place.

In town, there's a sign up in Chattel's window saying that the business is for sale. The new tapas bar had a sign up saying that they had run out of white wine - "sorry, we're new!"
And there's a Poetry Jamboree at Salem Chapel, with art (I wonder what the chap in the tomb would have thought of this!):

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Good Things and Bad Things

I've seen my first celebrity of the Festival this morning - Nicholas Parsons came into the shop! I thought he looked familiar, and then he opened his mouth and that unmistakable voice came out. Apparently Julian Clary came in yesterday evening - and he's taller than you might expect.

On the bad side of things, Drover's Holidays had four mountain bikes stolen last night, two blue and two grey.[edited to add - the total has now gone up to eight bikes stolen - there are signs up around town describing them all]

I did intend to go to Open Mic on Tuesday at Kilvert's. They've been re-arranging things again, and have taken out the curved seats along one wall. They've moved one of the seats opposite the door, but they've opened up the end of the room where the fire (and the 'stage' for Open Mic) is. Someone had put the Kilvert's Soapbox out for use as a small stage. Dirty Ray stood on it, and said; "I don't like this - I'm too high up. There's a reason I was made short."
I did have a nice glass of Motley Crew, from Otley Brewery, while I was there, though.

Plan B have had yarn bombs around town, though some have disappeared again - letter B's with the Plan B bookmark attached to show what they are. When I popped into the shop, the lady collecting signatures for the petition against a supermarket (and for a school) said that so many people had said that the same thing had happened to their town, with a supermarket moving in, and they didn't want to see it happening again.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

More Cinema Confusion

I started work this morning by sending five separate families down to the Booth's Bookshop Cinema to see the film. Later in the day, I sent someone else down there, and they told me that they had asked where it was at the Festival, and the person on the information desk sent them to the Cinema Bookshop - "just across from the Swan", she said. Which is really not very helpful for the people who have paid to see the films, and not very helpful for us at the Cinema Bookshop either, who are nothing to do with the new cinema, or the Festival.
Then a local chap came in, waving his ticket - and he didn't know where the new cinema was, either!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Jubilee in Hay

I found this wooden sculpture at the bottom of the steps in the Honesty Garden.

This morning, the children's procession came past the Cinema Bookshop - first the samba band and then lots of small children wearing crowns, with their families. They went up to the square where there were cakes and entertainment.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Honest Hay

The antique stall chap was just setting up when I went to work this morning - he was standing there with the sail of a small boat in his hand as if he was looking for the lake.
He pointed out a lamp that was lying on the ground. "Look at that," he said. "I left that behind on Saturday night - and I didn't come yesterday because of the weather - and it's still here this morning. Seventy quid's worth of Art Deco lamp! I love this place!"

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Cinema Confusion

When I arrived at work today, I had to tell three separate families that, no, this was not the Cinema where the film was being shown - this was the Cinema Bookshop, even before I'd put the lights on!
I gave them all maps, and sent them down to the new cinema behind Booths Books, but there was a steady trickle of confused people throughout the day, including one speaker at the Festival (she was carrying a long stemmed white rose - it's a dead give away)*, and a couple of Friends of the Festival.

Before I got to work, I was down at the Parish Hall, dropping off the Fairtrade banner, and the board of photos of the Fairtrade community picnic that we had last year. There's going to be another one this year, on 8th July, up at the Hayfield Gardens.
When I finally got away from work, I was too late to pick the banner up again - everyone had gone home.

On the way out of work, I stopped to look at the fence. Someone had come into the shop during the day to ask about the Zeitgeist Movement, and what the signs along the fence meant. I hadn't seen them, but it seems that we have been Occupied! One of the signs belongs to Occupy Birmingham, and they're all asking questions about the way we live, and debt, and health care - and "Why can't West Brom win the League?".

And, of course, it rained dismally all day.

* At the end of every talk at the Festival, the guest speakers are presented with a long stemmed white rose. The Globe has taken up this idea, but they present their speakers with a sunflower.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

More Festival

It's a grey day, but the crowds have arrived.
I wandered round Hay looking at the exhibitions and the new temporary shops that have sprung up. There's vintage clothing next door to Golesworthys, and the antique chap from the market has set up outside one of the houses on Broad Street.
In the Buttermarket, there's Artisans in Hay, with iron work, and wooden toys, and beautiful ceramics, and book art, and soap (and more, of course).
Up at the Castle, the Old Chapel Gallery, from Pembridge, has set up next to the "high class junk" shop that's normally there, and in the stables is the Guild of Herefordshire Craftsmen, with ceramics and leather and bags and jewellery. There's a wood worker down in what used to be part of the Castle kitchen, too, and Castle tours, with someone explaining what the new Hay Castle Trust wants to do with the Castle.
In Backfold, there's a tombola stall outside the opticians.
In the square, the marquees and food stalls are up for Fair in the Square, and there's a stall explaining the Cheesemarket Restoration (while the shop fitters are busy down in the Red Cross shop behind them).
On Castle Street, the King has let his shop to someone selling crafts - and told the Plan B people they could use it as a base to get people to sign their petition. And today there's a booksigning for From Cows to Corpses (the life of a Herefordshire publican, I think). One of the craft ladies was most annoyed because she said local people were being excluded from the Festival site - apparently they'd applied for a stall there and been turned down. It's not true, though - Athene English is down there, and so are Richard Evans and Shelley Faye Lazar.
Tinto House has wooden sculptures in the garden again, and an art exhibition in their little gallery.
And there's bunting everywhere.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Festival sights

I had some time today to wander around town. I haven't been round to the entrance of the Castle for a little while - so I was quite surprised to see this (above). They've put a new stone bench in, and that's a Sally Matthews horse - she does wonderful animal sculptures.
There's a Sally Matthews dog by the entrance to the garden of the Swan Hotel, too, where they're having an art exhibition in a tent on the lawn.
Round the front of the Castle, the Abergavenny Food Fair stalls are up and running, and books are on the shelves of the Honesty bookshop. They made the new roof for the shelves wide enough for a wheelchair to get underneath - but now they've put gravel down to make the path, which is really awkward to push a wheelchair over! (Perhaps it's just temporary?)
Meanwhile, in the middle of town, there's an art exhibition in St John's, and the Wheatsheaf has re-opened - except it's not the Wheatsheaf any more. It's now Tomatitos tapas bar.
In Backfold, there's a raffle at the Sandwich Cellar in aid of Cancer Research. The prize is a beautifully decorated Jubilee Cake:

On the way to the Festival site there are lots of stalls in people's gardens and round the entrance to Cartref (the old people's home). I particularly liked The World's Only Witch Photographer, who has come down from Shropshire with some marvellous photos, to which have been added layers of ghosts and dragons and fairies. He accepts Paypal, cash, cheques or magic beans in payment. I complimented him on the steampunk goggles on the brim of his top hat, and he solemnly told me that they were night goggles for photographing small nocturnal fairies.

Up at the Festival site, there were lots of school parties. In Pemberton's Festival bookshop, Philippa Gregory was signing books, and so was a children's author called Andrew Hammond (he had a long queue of school children). As usual there's a lot to see and do around the site, from the Wiggly Wigglers garden to the Oxfam bookshop. One stall was selling board games which I rather liked, a version of Scrabble played with the chemical symbols for the elements, and a Penguin Bookchase game which appears to involve collecting little Penguin books on a little bookcase as you go round the board. They also had some Swallows and Amazons mugs which I fell in love with. A little way along, Richard Evans with his prints, and Shelley Faye Lazar with her silk scarves, were sharing a stall near Athene English.
It's not the full on crowds yet, but there's a good buzz around town.