Monday, 31 December 2012


A Happy Welsh New Year!
Calennig means New Year gift, and this is the Mari Llwyd from the Chepstow morris side, which is traditionally taken from door to door on New Year's Eve.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Small Business Sunday

This is the solicitor's office on Broad Street that was originally the workplace of Major Armstrong, Hay's notorious poisoner (allegedly!), up until 1923.
Later, it was the workplace of Martin Beales, who lived in Armstrong's house in Cusop Dingle, and sat in Armstrong's chair at work, and wrote a book casting grave doubts on Armstrong's guilt.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

St Mary's Gets a Facelift

St Mary's Church has had a nice little windfall - the Heritage Lottery Fund has granted around £13,000 to set them off on a programme of improvements to the church.
There's quite a bit of maintenance work to be done, including a new roof, guttering, and repairs to windows and stonework. The money obviously won't cover all of that, but it does give the church committee a start to their plans so they can apply for a full grant later, and it will allow them to complete Phase 1 of their plans.
Phase 2 is the installation of toilets, something that has been talked about for several years now.
Phase 3 will be the installation of a kitchen, so the church can be used for concerts and recitals more easily. At the moment, they have to hire toilets which are put under the yew tree near the porch, and can't offer refreshments.
There's space at the back of the church for a lot of this, though I think they will need to move the font forward.
The church has already spent a lot of time, effort and money on the area around the altar, and the rather splendid new organ. Kitchens and toilets may be a bit more mundane, but they will transform the building both for worship and as a new musical venue for Hay.
Wouldn't it be nice if they could do something about the balcony, too, so they could accommodate even larger crowds?

Friday, 28 December 2012

New License for the Globe

A decision has finally been made on the new license for the Globe.
As reported in the B&R, they have not been given the late night opening they had hoped for - instead, they can only sell alcohol outside until 11pm on Festival weekend nights for When the Light Gets In and The Crunch, and until 10pm on weekdays over those festivals. The same hours apply for live music outside, though inside the building they can stay open until 2.30am. Regular opening hours remain the same - until 11.30pm from Sunday to Thursdays and 12.30am on Fridays and Saturdays, extended to 1.30am on New Years Eve and bank holiday weekends.
Hilary Lawson said after the decision that he would have to consider the future of the two festivals he puts on in the light of the new hours, because the extra revenue from food and drink sales during the festivals keeps the place running.
I'm not sure what he's got to complain about - I looked back through the blog to the discussions that were held before the Globe opened, and all the problems about noise were raised then, yet Hilary Lawson still went ahead and opened. Here's an extract from my post on 19th May, 2008, after a meeting at the Globe with concerned local people:

"Hilary and Mandy said that any music events they put on would be done in the basement area, which does not have the large windows and would be easier to keep soundproofed. They weren't entirely sure what sort of music, only that it wouldn't be the same sort as Clyro Court.
Hilary said that he was very happy to work with people and have a conversation about the space - but the problems that the local residents brought up at the meeting seem to be intractable ones that any owner of the Globe could do nothing about. They can have no power over where people park in the area, however much they would like them to walk or park on the main car park, and they can have no power over the level of noise when people have left the premises."

I'd forgotten about that promise that music events would all take place in the basement - it certainly didn't last long in practice, and I've been to lots of music events in the main hall, upstairs, the latest being the Village Quire just before Christmas.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Footpath Problems

It occurred to me, as I was pulling my wellies on, that I haven't worn them for at least a year, and I haven't been on a long muddy tramp in the countryside for more than that. It felt a bit strange going out without a dog, though I did meet a friendly sheepdog on Nantyglasdwr Lane.
I was going out to check on one of my favourite little bridges around Hay, after being told that the footpath had been closed temporarily for safety reasons. It's in the little dingle between Black Lion Green and Nantyglasdwr. This is what I found:

The large flat stone in the middle of the stream is the little clapper bridge, and with all the heavy rain the stream has cut a new course around it, leaving it in the middle. The notices at the ends of the footpath said that the closure would only be temporary, so they might be planning to repair the bridge soon.

In the field on the Nantyglasdwr side of the stream, the hedge has been newly laid, and as I walked on, I saw a rainbow in a patch of sunshine along the Wye Valley.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing Day Hunt

Basil Brush, getting a good view of the hunt.

There was a good crowd out for the traditional Boxing Day Hunt this morning, with mince pies and mulled wine being passed around, and Santa with his sack of goodies for the children.
I had to take Basil Brush along - after all, as a fox, he's fairly safe these days from the hounds (in the speech at the beginning of the hunt, the Master of the Hunt did say that trails had been laid, and they would be keeping within the law).
As usual, they set off up the hill just after eleven - and twenty minutes after that, it started raining!
In previous years, Karl Showler has come along with a wheelbarrow (and a little santa hat) to shovel up what the horses had left behind for his garden. He wasn't there this year (and he's moving to Brecon shortly) so there's an opening there for someone local who wants good horse muck on their garden!

Someone else getting a good view!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Monday, 24 December 2012

Village Quire

When I got to the Globe, it was already quite full. I went up on the scaffolding balcony, which had been decorated with jam jar and tea light lanterns - there must have been a hundred and fifty of them, or more. The lighting was subdued - the Quire have clever little lights that clip on to their music books.
It was a Christmas theme, of course, with Phil Smith doing the readings from the pulpit (which he was sharing with a large Christmas tree), and the Quire singing some little known carols.
Well, mostly little known. One of the readings (I think it was from Laurie Lee) described a group of boys from the local church choir going out carol singing, and at the squire's house one of them suggested "Lets give them 'Wild Shepherds'!" So after the reading, the Quire sang 'Wild Shepherds'/While Shepherds Watch - but to an unfamiliar tune.
Two of the songs had been collected by Ella Leather, the Herefordshire folklorist, in Dilwyn, from a gypsy woman who she persuaded to sing into one of those ancient gramophones (state of the art technology then!) to record her voice on a wax cylinder - which was then sent off to Rafe Vaughan Williams to transcribe. "He arranged it," said the leader of the Quire, "and I un-arranged it, because what he did was quite hard!" And it was beautiful, as all the music of the evening was.
The encore, after rapturous applause, was Phil Smith performing the drunken bell ringer, describing how the bell ringing team spent their Christmas and New Year, and a song in Welsh.

The Village Quire now do CDs. I have one called High Days and Holidays along the Welsh Border Marches. There's one based around readings from Thomas Hardy, and the latest collection is The Holly Bears the Crown, which is the Christmas songs and readings. They can be found at

Sunday, 23 December 2012

A Quiet Drink

I went out to the Three Tuns the other night for a quiet Christmas drink with friends.
At least, it was quiet until the entire Talgarth Male Voice Choir entered, singing Sospan Fach at the tops of their voices!
They were collecting for charity - Air Ambulance and Marie Curie. They had a man with a tinsel-decorated bucket and everything, though I suspect that the cost of the beer and the minibus would have cancelled out anything they collected!
They'd already been round several pubs in town - this was the last one before the minibus picked them up to ferry them over to the Baskerville Arms, and from there gradually back to Talgarth.
It was rather nice to hear a few good traditional carols, with harmonies, though, and they certainly seemed to be enjoying their night out!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Small Business Saturday

The next shop in the row is Herbfarmacy, but I mentioned them quite recently, so I'll move along to Oxford House bookshop.
This building and the one next door used to be a single house. I've been round both of them, and you can see how they were divided, with floorboards running under the walls from one house to the other, and the same door latches in each house.
Just about all the houses on this row have been modified in some odd way or other!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Four Candles

First of all, congratulations to Flow for winning the best window display award this year! All that knitting (for the Twelve Days of Christmas) was worth it!
I treated myself to some new candlesticks from Oxfam - they're an unusual design, of a brass circle with four candle holders on the top, sort of like an Advent wreath without the greenery. So I needed four candles to fill them - actually eight candles, because there were two of them, but I bet everybody of a certain age is thinking of the Two Ronnies now!
Flow do them for £1 each, and they're tall - I think they're very good value. The best thing about them, though, is how carefully they're wrapped in tissue paper when you get them to the counter! I was most impressed.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Morwenna's Tower

I've just started a new blog to replace Gateway to Ytir.
This one is called Morwenna's Tower, after a character in my fantasy novels, and I'll be filling it with all sorts of things that make me happy but which have nothing to do with Hay - things like old films, historical re-enactment, Welsh history, costumes, and anything else that my magpie mind picks up. (Morwenna talks to magpies, after all!).
And occasionally I'll say "Please buy my books!"

Donations to Charity Shops

I was in the St David's Hospice Shop the other day when the lady behind the counter was talking about one of their more unusual donations.
She was down in the stock room when a chap called down to her: "There's a black kitten in the basket here." She looked up, and thought that he looked like a farmer, though not a local farmer that she recognised, and by the time she'd got up the stairs, he'd gone.
When she went to the back of the shop and looked in the basket, there was a tiny black kitten sitting there.
She's taken it home, and was in the process of introducing it to her own two cats when I saw her (I don't think they're too impressed!).

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Plan B at the Castle

"Dress warm", it said on the ticket - and "bring a torch".
I had visions of being led down secret passages far under Hay Castle - but the dressing warmly is only because the place is almost impossible to heat, and I didn't need a torch to get up the drive - there were plenty of lights on for us to see our way.
So around 100 people associated with Plan B met to chat, drink wine, nibble snacks and find out what the state of play is at the moment.
Which is in Limbo.
Once again, Powys County Council seem incapable of making a decision.
Members of Plan B have worked incredibly hard over the past year, issuing and collating a survey to show what the people of Hay actually want in their town, and presenting a report to the County Council. Tim Organ has designed a new, green, school, and there's been fund-raising going on, and meetings and so on.
So Malcolm Smith, the chair of Plan B, made a speech setting out the situation as it stands at the moment.
For the moment, there will be no new development, so Hay School continues to crumble while the surrounding schools either stay open for a bit longer or close and the children are moved somewhere more crowded.
It seems that the developer, when investigated, did not have an audit trail. "That means they hadn't done their sums" was the translation on the evening. It also seems that they have put a new submission in to the County Council, but nobody knows what it is.
Meanwhile, the chap who was in charge of education for Powys seems to be no longer in that position - and there are rumblings from the Welsh Assembly. They seem to be dis-satisfied with the way Powys are running their education service and may step in to take over in the county.
Myfanwy Alexander, from the Welsh Assembly, has said that Hay is the jewel in the crown of Powys - "no, of Wales!" - and they would not take any decisions which would spoil the town.
So things look vaguely hopeful for Plan B - but that didn't mean that they wanted to spend any of their fighting fund on drinks and snacks, hence the £5 ticket for the evening. It may be necessary yet to pay lawyers.
But the main purpose of the evening was to get to know each other. Plan B is such a large group that a lot of members are not sure who else is involved. I seemed to spend a lot of time chatting about the castle to various people - now the bookshelves have been removed, you can see the floor plan on the ground floor much more easily, with a large fireplace at each end of two rooms, with a corridor between them. The original staircase was behind the door at the end (that was destroyed in the fire of 1979) and the modern staircase is close up to one of the big fireplaces. Which sucked all the heat up out of the rooms, despite heaters having been on for hours.
There was a couple from Eardisley who always seem to have visitors while Hay Festival is on, and the couple who did a marathon bike ride for charity, and the chap who has a field for caravans where my sister and her family stay when they come to Hay, who asked me how they were getting on. And many others. Maybe it was the time of the meeting, or the time of year, or that these were the people who had most free time, but it was generally a crowd of older people from Hay - no young parents, for instance, that I noticed.
So now we'll just have to wait and see what the New Year brings.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Gateway to Ytir

For a few months now, I've been writing a second blog about fantasy and other things that interest me (but have nothing to do with Hay). The blog is called Gateway to Ytir.
Or, at least, it was.
Now it seems that it's become infected with malware, from a site called publetariat, so I'm shutting it down to stop the malware from spreading anywhere else.
Rats and botheration.

Rubbish Collection

I always get confused about when to leave my rubbish outside over the Christmas holidays. Fortunately, Gareth Ratcliffe has published the full list, over on his Facebook page, and here it is for everyone's delight and delectation!

Monday 24th December 2012 __ As normal – no change
Tuesday 25th December 2012__ Thursday 27th December 2012
Wednesday 26th December 2012__ Friday 28th December 2012
Thursday 27th December 2012__ Saturday 29th December 2012
Friday 28th December 2012__ Sunday 30th December 2012

Monday 31st December 2012__ As normal – no change
Tuesday 1st January 2013__ Wednesday 2nd January 2013
Wednesday 2nd January 2013__ Thursday 3rd January 2013
Thursday 3rd January 2013__ Friday 4th January 2013
Friday 4th January 2013__ Saturday 5th January 2013

Week beginning Monday 7th January 2013
All recycling and rubbish kerbside collections will return to the normal day.

In areas where kerbside recycling collections have been introduced and wheeled bins are emptied (or purple sacks are collected) every two weeks your week will not change.

Sunday, 16 December 2012


Val Harris (who bought a nice hat from the Stitch and Bitch stall at Clifford the other week) is starting something new at the Parish Hall on Wednesday. From 7pm until 9pm, there will be Gongs! The idea is to take a mat and a pillow and a blanket, and relax on the floor as the sound washes over you.
Val has been along to the open mic night at the Globe recently, where she played one of her gongs - here's the picture from the HOMN* Facebook page:

*Hay Open Mic Night

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here's the Hay Craft Company, a new addition to Broad Street this year, with all sorts of knitting and patchwork and pottery and wooden things on offer.
At the moment, they're flying a white flag outside - but I don't think they mean to surrender to anyone!

Friday, 14 December 2012

New Hearing for the Globe

Since the councillors couldn't make a decision at the meeting in Brecon, they have scheduled another meeting to decide on the new license for the Globe.
This time it's at The Chamber, County Hall in Llandrindod Wells, at 10am on Wednesday 19th December.
It seems that part of the new license conditions includes installing CCTV covering the area just outside the Globe, as well as existing CCTV inside, and section 18 of the Additional Conditions (I got the list as an interested party) states "The primary use of the premises should not be as a public house or nightclub but as an art/entertainment complex."

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Another Christmas Window

Marina, at The End on Castle Street, always has inventive window displays.
This one has a sort of badgery thing offering a Christmas tree to the white deer.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

If in Doubt, Do Nothing

There was a public meeting at Theatr Brycheiniog on Monday to consider the Globe's application for a revised license, so they could extend their opening hours for various festivals throughout the year.
The meeting lasted for an hour and a half, and presumably the County Council had to pay for the hire of the hall - and at the end of it the result was....decision deferred until another meeting later. So that's another evening that people who wish to go to the meeting will have to turn out - the new meeting will be on 19th December, but the B&R has no knowledge of the venue yet.
At the end of the meeting, around 25 people stood up to show their support for the Globe's application, but the B&R doesn't record how many people were there to oppose the application.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Christmas Windows

It's a little hard to see, but here are all the Twelve Days of Christmas, hand knitted by the mum of the lady in the shop on Castle Street - a real labour of love!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Beacons Advent Calendar

The Brecon Beacons Tourism blog is doing a kind of Advent calendar, with a post about a different part of the area every day. On the 7th December, they chose Hay.
It's a good blog, and it does show the diversity of this area. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live in this part of the world!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Clifford Christmas Fair

It's a long time since I last went to Clifford Community Centre - it's not on a bus route - so it was lovely to be able to get a lift up there with other ladies of the Stitch and Bitch group (and one long-suffering husband!). We had decided to share a stall and try to sell some of the things we'd made.
Clifford doesn't really have a village centre, so this sort of thing brings the locals out in force to mingle and socialise, as well as to buy things.

One of the lovely things about the Fair was how someone went out and bought all the morning papers and laid them out on the tables where teas and cakes were being served!
The hall and the side room were both full. Apart from us and our crochet and knitting and other crafts (and art):

there was chocolate and bread and sausages, and cakes from Lucretia who bakes for the WI stall in Hay market. There were other crafts, too, including a lovely young couple who painted little wooden plaques with messages and pictures. I bought a fridge magnet from them which says "Shine Your Light" and he bought a hat from our stall. One of the lovely things about the day was looking round the hall and spotting all the hats we'd just sold being worn instantly!
There was a lady selling Palestinian cross stitch items and Palestinian Fairtrade olive oil, too. I now have a new purse in blue geometric patterns. Having seen recent reports from Gaza, I wanted to take the opportunity to do something, even if it was only to buy a couple of Christmas presents from the stall. The women doing the cross stitch are in Bethlehem, rather than Gaza, but the population there needs help too.
We all had fun doing the stall, and sold more than we really expected to - a couple of commissions might have come out of it, too, as well as a possible new member of the Stitch and Bitch group.
(Edited to add: Thanks to Ros for the photos!)

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here's the organic butcher's on Broad Street - local, delicious meat, interesting things like goose fat, and some local cheeses and milk, too.
And they're always cheerful when I go in.
I used to get all my dog food from there - they do freezer packs of the offcuts, and Islay loved it, just thawed out and squidged into her bowl with a few biscuits.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Restaurant Reviews

I went out for a couple of really good meals with my Young Man when he was here - and I haven't had time to write about them until now.
When he comes to stay, we usually have a take away for the first evening. I suggested Red Indigo, but this time we were feeling in more expansive mood so we decided to have a sit down meal. I've never had a meal at Red Indigo that was less than delicious, and it was lovely to feel pampered for a change!
(After all this time, I can't remember what we had! Or maybe the romantic atmosphere distracted me from the food!)

A couple of days later, we noticed that Kilvert's were doing a meal with faggots and peas for £7.00. This used to be the Young Man's favourite birthday meal, so we turned up all anticipatory in the evening - only to find they had run out of faggots!
Instead, they did us the best fish and chips I've had for years - a small portion, but just enough, with crisp batter and wonderful chips. And, of course, fine beer.
At the moment, I think the kitchens at Kilvert's are out of action for a few days while they're being done up, but I hope they hang on to the chef!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Many Meetings

I wasn't very well over the weekend, so I've been taking it quietly this week.
So I wasn't at the Council meeting on Monday, much as I would have liked to find out what the latest news is on all sorts of local issues.
I also missed the Transition Towns AGM - which sounded very interesting. That was at the Globe last night, and they'd invited someone from the Green Valleys project to talk to them. I've seen a chap from Green Valleys talk before, and he was quite inspirational about what can be achieved. They put micro-generators in streams all over the Black Mountains, using the water power to make electricity just as the old mills used to provide power for all sorts of small industry back in the 19th century. They do other things with green energy, too, and it's worth visiting their website to find out more.
And tonight it was the Hay Tourism meeting in one room of the Swan, while I was with the Stitch and Bitch ladies in another. "Why didn't I know about that?" seemed to be the question of the evening, as we talked about the Hay Feminists, and a new group that seems to have come out of a talk at the Winter Festival about women in business, and the credit union, and Hay TV - and there are two jobs available in the office of Dial-a-Ride. There are also new rumours about supermarkets and the school, and "can't something be done about the phone mast?"
We were trying to convince one lady to go to Ireland as apprentice to a famous weaver in Donegal - "You could commute!" - and there were also arrangements to be made for a stall at the Clifford Craft Fair on Saturday - several of us are going to be there with a variety of knitted or crocheted or woven items, and some original watercolours, too. So it was, "who's got a cloth for the table?" "Should we bring something to hang the scarves on?" and "What about a float?"

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Parking Problems

Here's a picture of a poster I've started to see around town, pointing out how unfairly Hay is being targeted by the County Council for parking fines. Underneath the poster (I couldn't quite fit it in) was a graph showing just how much more is being collected from Hay than the other major centres of population in Powys.

In better news, however:

From 8th December, parking will be free in the car park for Christmas shopping.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Hay Feminists

This is a group that has been meeting for a little while now, mostly on Sundays at the Globe (that's usually the second Sunday of each month) - so that women with children can take part while their children are watching the free film. Over the weekend, though, I managed to make it to an evening meeting, over Mexican food and wine.
The idea of the evening was to try to find some way to help women in Timbuktu in this difficult time when Islamic fundamentalists are in charge of the city and are enforcing sharia law. It's very difficult to get in touch with anyone in Timbuktu at the moment, though, and the group here in Hay needs to find someone in Timbuktu to talk to so they can find out what the women and girls there actually need, and what we can do to help.
The Hay WI and Two Towns One World groups also want to do something, but it's hard to see what will be possible under the present circumstances.
Nearer to home, the group have been discussing government funding cuts (which affect women far more than men) and local problems with domestic violence. There's a website specifically for Wales about domestic violence and what can be done about it at
As well as the blog on the side bar, there is a Facebook page.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Consultation Period Extended

According to a message on Gareth Ratcliffe's Facebook page, the Powys teaching Health Board has decided to extend the period of consultation about the stroke services in South East Powys for a further two weeks, until 14th December. Members of the Powys teaching Health Board will be available at Mansion House on the Bronllys Hospital site in person on 11th December, from 10am to 6pm to talk to any member of the public who wants to come along. They will then be holding a further stakeholder meeting in January, and will receive a report from the Community Health Council at their board meeting in February.
So there's still some time for members of the public to make their wishes about Bronllys Hospital and the Stroke Unit known.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


The shop part of the business closed a few months ago, so they could concentrate on the therapies and wholesale business, but herbfarmacy will be open on 8th December for a Pre-Christmas Table Sale, with make up, nail varnishes, natural perfumes and more.
And a glass of mulled wine, too.
They're also offering 15% off a mini facial - though it's best to book in advance for that one.
(They did a table sale yesterday, too, but I didn't get round to mentioning it until now).

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here's Gym and Tonic, where everyone who wants to get fit goes. It's reached through the little alley way between the fish and chip shop and the butchers on Broad Street.
At one time, it was used as a dance hall - it was said that Lucy from the Three Tuns was a good dancer, and enjoyed the dances there.
Later it was the auction hall for regular book auctions, and still had the shiny parquet flooring from the dance hall days. I remember Islay (famous dog of Hay) discovering that she could take a little run up and then slide across the hall - and she had such a cheeky grin that the staff let her get away with it!