Monday, 30 April 2012

India Rising

There's an interesting-looking talk at Booth Books on the 10th May, at 7pm.
Oliver Balch has a new book coming out on the 3rd May called India Rising, and he will be talking about it, and selling copies. The cost is £5, but that is discounted against the price of the book if it's bought on the night.
Here's a link to the website:

Also coming up at Booths - there are still a few tickets left for the Fitzwilliam Quartet on Thursday!

May Day

An American lady asked today if all the shops would be shut for May Day - she thought that everyone would be off Morris dancing!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Lost Glasses

The weather has been - wet. Very, extremely wet.
A few days ago, a chap came into the shop, and mislaid his glasses. He came back three times during the day to look for them, with no luck. Finally, he left his name and phone number, just in case they turned up.
When I went home that night, I noticed a sign on the railings of George House, saying that they had found a pair of glasses.
So, the following morning, I phoned the chap who'd left his details (now back home in the Midlands) and left a message on his answerphone.
Later, he rang back to say he thought they might be his, and gave his address so we could send them on.
I went round to George House that evening, and picked them up - the lady was delighted that they had been claimed. The chap must have walked straight past the sign on their railings without noticing it, because of the rain (and of course, he didn't have his glasses!).
Well padded with bubble wrap, the glasses are now on their way back to him - and everyone is happy!

We've done this sort of thing before - there was a chap who lost a very distinctive red sweatshirt, with a Welsh slogan done in Cyrillic writing like the old style Russian Communist party. I found it half way along Castle Street, in a heap on the floor, and we managed to get that back to him, too!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here's Kutz, one of the hairdressers in town.

Friday, 27 April 2012

More Question Time

I think this will bring us to the end of the candidates' meeting....

There was a question about single issue candidates, which went back to the conflict of interests question which was answered previously.
David Penrose answered this one. He works for the local authority in Herefordshire, so he has worked with single issue councillors - he said it doesn't work.
Ros Garratt said that there would be less of a conflict of interests if Rob Golesworthy or Mary Fellowes got elected as County Councillors for Gwernyfed or Bwlch than there would be for Gareth as County and Town councillor for Hay. In planning issues between the town and the National Park, for instance - Gareth also sits on the Park committee, so has to choose which body he will speak for and sit out of the other in planning matters.
Mary Fellowes said that Gareth chooses to sit out of the Town council meetings in these cases so he can argue the case at the National Park level.
There was, however, a feeling that Gareth was compromised by belonging to both - or that he could not be as effective
The next question was about the Transition Town movement - was there any interest in this from councillors?
Rodney Mace likes the idea of Transition Towns, which can energise the community to deal with local issues which are also international issues. This includes food (local food vs. food brought in from all over the world) and energy issues.
Mary Fellowes said she thought Hay had a strong Transition Town group, which she had worked with in the past. She supported the idea of a Transition Towns representative to the town council.
Tim Organ, from the audience, said that the Transition group in Hay was not strong enough, and needs a vision to move forward.

Franka Addyman, the youngest person in the room by far, said that she thought a Youth Town Council was a great idea. Teenagers in Hay have nothing to do, and there is a drug problem.
Mary Fellowes said that it had been tried before, and had just petered out, but there was no reason it couldn't be tried again.
Liz Singh and Richard Evans were also very keen on the idea. The young people of Hay should have a say in the future of their town. It's important that teenagers can get together in a comfortable place just to hang out together.
Ellie Spencer said that she had started the Cubs and Beavers - but when the children leave the Cubs at the age of ten, what's next? A Scout group could be organised, but that finishes at fourteen - and what happens after that? Anti-social behaviour is a way for teenagers to say that something is needed. They don't have another way of getting that message across.
Ros Garratt said that there is a youth club in the community centre, but it needs extra support.
The next question was about the "elephant in the room" - Plan B. Why had there been no interest in the town council before this issue came up? The questioner also asked existing councillors how they had felt about personal attacks.
Rob Golesworthy said that nobody had attacked him personally, but he knew others had been, and it had been hurtful.
Peter Lloyd was not standing for election this time because of the negative comments, and he had worked very hard for Hay over the years. He also said that he was scared at the thought of lots of new and inexperienced councillors on the town council after the election.
Mary Fellowes said that there had been hurtful comments, but nobody was perfect and everyone tries their best.
She thanked John Stark and Gwyneth for organising the meeting.
A questioner at the back said that he had been on Talgarth Council for eight years, and he had started out knowing very little. It hadn't been a problem, because of the support of the Town Clerk, and so it shouldn't be a problem for new councillors in Hay either.

The final question of the evening was - what do the candidates say "Yes" to? (in a sentence!)
Rhona Muirhead said community spirit
Rodney Mace said to listen to the people of Hay.
Richard Evans said the shopkeepers and the market
Johnny Kramer said the community rising to challenges
Liz Singh said listening - and having surgeries for councillors like MPs do.
David Penrose said a Community Plan
Rob Golesworthy said a new community centre and school, but he was anti an out of town supermarket.
Ros Garratt said creativity and a sense of pride
Mary Fellowes agreed with Johnny Kramer, and doesn't want to lose Hay's uniqueness
Ellie Spencer said communication.

With that, the meeting broke up, and quite a few stopped to chat in small groups. I met the lady who had been the last President of the old WI - she said that when they wound up the group, all the members of the committee had been doing it for years, and nobody else had wanted to take it over, so they stopped. She was pleased to see a new generation starting it up again though.

Question Time

The first question from the audience was concerned with the lack of experience of some of the candidates, and she was also concerned about people standing for the town council who lived outside the area.
Ros Garratt said that she lived about 300 yards outside the boundary, and Rob Golesworthy said that he lives in Llanigon, but works in Hay (at Golesworthys, obviously). Both of them made the point that people who do not live within the boundaries of Hay use the town for shopping, and work, and the doctor, and so on, and so have an interest in the town.
The second question was addressed to those who were standing for the Town Council and the County Council - they were concerned about the conflict of interests that might arise.
Mary Fellowes said that she had worked with county councillors who just did that job, and county councillors who combined that position with a seat on the town council, and in her opinion, it worked better when the two jobs were combined. Gareth Ratcliffe, of course, is our county councillor at the moment, and also has a seat on the town council.
Someone else asked how conflicts of interest were resolved.
Rob Golesworthy explained that councillors must declare their interests, and withdraw from discussions in those cases, so that the decision makers are not compromised. It can be difficult in a small town, where people are often members of several different committees. However, this is a legal requirement, and councillors who do not do this can be fined or even, in serious cases, sent to prison.
Malcolm Smith, an ex-Mayor of Hay, asked why Rob Golesworthy was standing for the County Council in Gwernyfed, and Mary Fellowes was standing for the County Council in Bwlch.
Rob said that he lives in the Gwernyfed area, and feels he's got something to offer in both Gwernyfed and Hay.
Mary said that she is only a "paper candidate" in Bwlch. The person who was going to be the Conservative candidate there dropped out at the last minute, and she agreed to her name being put forward just so there was a name on the ballot paper.
The next question was about the venue for Council meetings - should meetings be held in a bigger hall, such as the Parish Hall where we all were. (there was applause for this).
Rodney Mace said that it also concerned him that the Council Chamber is not wheelchair accessible, being upstairs, even though there is legislation which says that council meetings should be accessible to all.
Tim Organ asked the candidates what their vision for the future of Hay was.
Ros Garratt works in the community and voluntary sector, where it is important to get different groups together and find a consensus view, and she thought that Hay Together could do this for Hay. She also talked about how a local plan had to fit in with regional plans and European funding, mentioning the Powys Regeneration Partnership.
Johnny Kramer had actually been to the Hay Together meeting, and he said the response had been amazing, with about fifty people coming together at the last meeting. He said the Town Council should be taking a lead in this, but the electorate has to tell the council what their vision is so the council can act on it. Communication is vital.
Ellie Spencer said that there are lots of reasons to come to Hay (not just the books) and publicity is needed for all the good things that are here. Tourism is essential to the success of the town.

We then moved on to Health Care in South Powys. The questioner is a carer, and was horrified at the prospect of Llewelyn Ward in Bronllys Hospital being moved into the proposed care home which would be built next to the doctors' surgery if the plans for the new development go ahead. She said that Bronllys Hospital was needed, and that there had been consultation, but what had been agreed was being eroded down to ten beds which wouldn't necessarily be NHS staffed. She wanted to know what the Town Council were going to do about this.
Rodney Mace said that the fear of a new supermarket had taken people's minds off what was happening with the NHS - and we needed to be more vigilant, and have better communication.
Rhona Muirhead said that the Forest Road deal was so complicated, with BUPA offering a million pounds, but only on certain conditions, and the doctors being involved in the care of patients if the care home was built. She asked why an 80 bed care home was needed anyway, when Bronllys is already serving the area.
Mary Fellowes said that the town council hasn't ignored health issues. Karl Showler has been to every meeting on health matters which was accessible by public transport, and reported back to the town council. The Bronllys issue has been going on for years - she remembered Dr Wrench doing a bed push to raise money. The County Council keep changing their proposals, so (again) we have to stay vigilant.
Rob Golesworthy praised the Bronllys League of Friends, and talked about the new day care centre on the end of Llewelyn Ward. He wants Bronllys to stay - his parents went there - but he added that he wants to keep all options open.
Rhona Muirhead, going back to the development plans, asked if they mentioned Bronllys to the town council whent the County Council put the proposals forward. Rob Golesworthy replied that they hadn't realised that there was a threat to Bronllys.

And I think that's enough for Part Two. Part Three coming shortly!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Candidates' Meeting

I got up to the Parish Hall by about five to seven, and the place was already pretty full.
I met Ann and her daughter Franka on the way there - Franka will be voting for the very first time in this election, and she wanted to see the candidates and make her mind up about them.
Eleven of the seventeen candidates standing for the Town Council turned up for the meeting - they were seated along one long wall of the hall, with the audience facing them.
Karen Clare and Sue Campbell-Felgate couldn't be there because of a previous engagement, and Alan Powell also sent his apologies because of previous commitments.
Steve Like, Fiona Howard and Nigel Birch, all presently on the Town Council, said they didn't want to take part.
Gareth Ratcliffe was on his way back from Ireland, where he'd been doing something for the Brecon Beacons National Park, and he had sent a letter to be read out in case he couldn't make it back in time.
Nigel Lewis the Town Clerk was also not there, but the minutes of Town Council meetings are now up to date and can be read at the Library or on the Town website.
John Stark, who organises concerts at Booths Bookshop, chaired the meeting. He and his wife hired the hall for the evening.
And Hay TV were filming proceedings from a corner. They said that, if anyone didn't want to appear on film, to let them know, and they would not broadcast those bits.
John Stark started off by thanking those members of the Council who are not standing again for all their hard work in the past - Karl Showler and Peter Lloyd were there in the audience, and the other one was Mr Gittins, who I don't know by sight (or at least, not to put a name to the face). He then invited each of the eleven candidates to speak for three minutes.
Ros Garratt said that she saw the Town Council as a team, and that she wanted to be a team player. She thought families were important, and affordable housing. She also liked the sound of Hay Together, the new umbrella group which is in the process of being set up.
Rhona Muirhead said she was standing because of the supermarket issue, and to keep the sports facilities in Hay. Up until now, she had been happy to let other people run Hay for her, but now she felt she had to take part. She was also interested in affordable housing and child poverty (how can it be higher in Hay than the rest of Powys?) - and parking is another issue. She said she wasn't sure how it all worked, but she is keen to learn.
David Penrose said he was standing because elections should be contested. At present he is a member of Clifford parish council.
Liz Singh said that she had been to the Town Council meeting where the council had discussed sending a letter to the County Council to ask that the decision on the future of the school site be delayed so that consultation could take place - and said that she was shocked when all the council except the proposer of the motion voted against it. That's why she's standing - because there was no chance for local people to discuss and decide on the issues involved.
Rodney Mace said that local elections historically get a low turnout of voters. He'd done some research, and of the 73 County Councillors in Powys, 23 of them had been returned unopposed to their seats, and 88% of councillors in Brecknock were returned unopposed. He thought that those standing for seats should have to account for themselves to the electorate - and we, the voters, should use our votes.
He also said that he supported Hay Together, which should include the Town Council. He wants a Youth Town Council, and is interested in better parking, public seating, and better public toilets.
Rob Golesworthy said that he'd been a Town councillor for seven years, and that he had been co-opted (it has been twelve years since the last elections when more candidates stood for office than there were seats on the council). But, he pointed out, there are elections every four years, and nobody has come forward to stand until now. That's not the fault of the sitting councillors - it's the fault of the electorate. As things stand, there will be a minimum of four new councillors on the town council, if all the existing councillors are re-elected - and he said that he welcomed new blood.
Richard Evans said that he's been living in Hay for three years, and he chose to come here to make his home. He said that there were two reasons that had decided him to stand for the council, after following the minutes of council meetings on the town website. One was the supermarket issue (that was the big one) but the other was very small - the fact that it took five months to get a new light for the town clock when it failed.
Mary Fellowes is the present Mayor of Hay. She was also co-opted originally, but has also gone through an election. She had an impressive list of achievements to read out - she has been working with the County Council and the National Park, so she knows how those organisations work. She's a school governor, founder member of Dial-a-Ride, involved with the Bell Bank Club for the blind and partially sighted, part of the Chamber of Commerce, involved with the Christmas Lights and the Tourist Bureau, she's been working with the County Council to improve parking, and she was involved with the re-furbishment of the Gypsy Castle playground, which re-opened last year.
Ellie Spencer is from Yorkshire, but has spent a lot of time over the years around the Hay area - she finally came to live here full time six years ago. She has three daughters, the oldest being ten years old. She has been looking for niches where she can fill a gap in provision. She started the Cubs, and they now have fifty Beavers and Cubs in the group. More recently, she re-started the WI in Hay. She's been going to Council meetings to see how they work for some time. She said that the supermarket was an important issue, but being a councillor also involved all sorts of other things, like the old people's Christmas Party, and dog mess, and litter. She wants to see a toy library in Hay, and a playgroup - and she is also concerned about parking, and getting a new wedding licence for the Council Chambers so civil weddings don't have to take place in a little office next to the filing cabinets. She said that communication was very important - why not have a phone number with a councillor on call, and a website?
Johnny Kramer started off with an impressive list of things that he wanted, ending with World Peace! "But I'm only standing for the Town Council," he went on, and town councils have limited powers. However, the powers they do have are important to local people. He is also a standing Council member, and pointed out that it is a voluntary position. He welcomed new faces, but said that local knowledge was also needed. What he wanted was for the council to work together, listen to what the community wanted, and to communicate that to the County Council and other bodies. He wanted to improve the quality of life in Hay.
As Gareth Ratcliffe was still somewhere between Hay and Bristol, John Stark then read out his letter. He had been on the town council for ten years, and had been mayor three times. He is the Chairman of the Football Club, and referees matches. He has also been involved with the Christmas lights and the old people's Christmas Party.

The floor was then opened to questions, but this post is already quite long enough, so I will continue with those tomorrow. (I think my new middle name is "Copious Notes"!)

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

World Book Night

This is a rather wonderful idea!
I was in the Swan last night for a Fairtrade meeting, and part way through a man with a rucksack appeared.
He was giving out free books for World Book Night! The idea is that there is a list of about 25 books, and the person who wants to take part chooses one title to share with as many people as possible. This chap had given out about 20 books before he got to us, and was going on to give out more. He said that he had been in the army, and had only started reading books again quite recently - but now he was doing a degree in English Literature! The book he'd chosen, that blew him away when he read it, was Small Island, by Andrea Levy, which is about black immigrants to Britain around the time of the Windrush. Jo had read it, and agreed that it was wonderful, so Julia decided to take a copy and pass it on to me. One copy he's given out will be going from Kilvert's to Norfolk shortly. Each book has a serial number in the front, which they ask you to enter into the website to show how far the book has travelled, and how many people have read it.

Candidate's Meeting

I've been asked to make this quite clear - the public meeting tomorrow night, to which all the candidates for the Town Council have been invited, has been organised by individuals who are not connected with any group in town.
The very first advert went out to WyeLocal under the Plan B logo, but after that Plan B were not involved.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Fresh Voices for Hay

Electioneering is beginning now (only a little while to go!).
I saw some leaflets in the Wholefood shop, and they're also being pushed through letterboxes across Hay.
Eight of the nine new candidates have got together to produce a flyer with their pictures on it, and a brief description of who they are and what they want for Hay. Looking at the pictures, I know more of them than I thought I did!
Ros Garratt is on the flyer, and has also produced her own postcard sized leaflet - which even has a bit of Welsh on it (my Welsh isn't up to much, but I think it's something about writing to you in Welsh?)
Karen Clare wants to improve the quality of life and support local businesses.
Sue Campbell-Felgate wants a Council that listens to the people, and a Community Plan.
Richard Evans wants to care for all the things that make Hay such a special place.
Ros Garratt wants to provide for the young and keep our community assets in public ownership.
Rodney Mace wants to work with young people and improve the public toilets - he wants special parking rates for residents, too.
Rhona Muirhead wants affordable housing and residents' parking, and to tackle child poverty.
David Penrose wants a Community Plan and a new school, but also to protect the sports facilities.
Liz Singh wants to help young people and preserve the local economy.

Don't forget the meeting on Wednesday at 7pm at the Parish Hall - all the candidates have been invited!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Hay Castle

I have a request from Elizabeth Haycox, for the Hay Castle Trust. They are looking for old photos of the Castle that they can use to give them ideas about how to improve the Castle for the future. It might be of an event that took place there, or just a view of the castle (from any angle!). They already have an article from Country Life (I think it was) in 1914 showing the (rather boring) rose garden, but anything would be welcome, and can be dropped off at Booth Books.
Meanwhile in the Honesty Gardens, the new shelves are starting to take shape - they are using local craftsmen (instead of scrounging tatty old shelves from libraries that were closing down, like Richard did) and the canopy over the top will be wide enough to keep the books dry, and to shelter browsers, even if they're in a wheelchair (if the wheelchair can make it through the gate).

The Cinema at Booths Books is almost ready, too - it should be opening on 25th May, just before the Festival.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Small Business SaturdayT

This rather wonderful dragon is one of the first things you see when crossing the border from England to Wales at the top of Cusop Dingle. It's at the gateway of the accountant's office at Brooklands - and it's the size of a small pony!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Normal - for Hay!

I went to Stitch and Bitch at the Swan last night. It's the middle of the month, so only a few of us turned up. We started off by talking about Dr John Dee, the Elizabethan magician and astrologer. One lady had been doing some research about him. She had also cast an astrology chart for one of the others, and they went to sit quietly in a corner so she could explain what it all meant. At the other end of the room, a lady who seemed to be staying at the hotel came in, bought a drink, and settled down with a book. After a while, she got up and left. "I think we wierded her out," the astrologer said. "But this is normal - for Hay!" I said.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Don't Forget!

There will be a public meeting at the Parish Hall next Wednesday, 25th April, at 7pm. All seventeen of the candidates for the Town Council have been invited. The publicity is going out under the Plan B banner, but the hall was actually booked and paid for by an individual, rather than Plan B. There is room for eighty people in the hall - so if more people turn up, priority will be given to people who can actually vote for those councillors. I saw one of the Haykus today - it said: "Hay's Politburo Quake in their Kremlin Sensing their time has run out"

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Hay in the News

Earlier this week, there was an article in the Daily Express about Mary Portas and supermarkets that mentions Hay.
Meanwhile, the B&R is full of Hay news - there's the latest news from Mali, and the fundraising efforts in Hay to help; also, Hay Festival is 25 this year, and they will be having a sound stage in the Castle grounds.
While I'm thinking about the Festival - the brochure is out today! It's the biggest one yet - I think the days of treating the programme as a disposable brochure are over. This one is almost the size of a paperback! It's packed with all sorts of things, of course - I spent some time this afternoon going through it to identify topics that I can use for a Festival book display, and noticed that one of the local authors featured is Adele Nozedar, who used to own Nepal Bazaar, with her Hedgerow Handbook! Phil Rickman is back again, and Cat Weatherill the story teller will be performing.
Interestingly from a local point of view, both Mary Portas and the former CEO of Tesco, Terry Leahy, will be speaking - Terry Leahy has a book out called Management in Ten Words.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Latest News from Mali

I got most of this from an article in the Church Times, which is mainly interested in the religious aspect of the conflict. It seems that there are two main Tuareg rebel groups, one of which wishes to impose sharia law, and another that says it only wants to recover land for the benefit of its people. The religious group has been destroying bars, and a night club, and wants women in the areas it controls to wear veils.
Meanwhile, the President of Mali was deposed in an army coup - and while the army were busy doing that, the Tuaregs took more land in the north of the country, including Timbuktu. Most of the Christians in Timbuktu (and there were only about 300 of them) have fled. "And they are right," said the Mayor. "I cannot guarantee their safety. And these are people that have lived side by side with us for centuries."

Aid agencies are warning of food shortages, and the UN has called for one billion dollars to address the food crisis in the Sahel region - Mali is part of this region. There are also power cuts, and a shortage of clean water.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Poetic Campaigning

Campaigning for the local elections has got underway with a poem in praise of Gareth Ratcliffe. I saw it this evening, tied to the post near the bottom of the Pavement. It was a bit long to jot down, but the sentiments are clear - "Be Potent, Vote Rodent"!
It goes on to praise "the Rat" above those "yuppies" and "ex-students" of Plan B.
It seems only fitting that politics in the Town of Books should be expressed in the form of poetry!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Small Business Saturday

Here's the Blue Boar pub, which was the first pub we ever went into when we first came to Hay. We used to spend evenings playing cribbage with a couple of local CAMRA members.
I think it's Geoffrey Fairs who relates the sad tale of a serving girl from the Blue Boar back in Victorian times, who discovered she was pregnant and threw herself into the Wye.

Friday, 13 April 2012

New Shops around Town

The sign went up yesterday on this shop in Castle Street - "The King of Hay". I'm not entirely sure what he'll be doing in there (posing for photos in all his regalia, perhaps? There aren't any bookshelves in there at the moment), but he does have a small window display of items which are at present available at the Castle Bookshop.
Meanwhile, in the Castle gardens, a framework is being put up which may be the next incarnation of the Honesty shelves.
And round the corner in Backfold, the little shop which used to stock magical books and equipment now has a display in the window of pretty ceramics and glass, decorated with butterflies. The shop's new name is Lamb House Gallery.
It looks as if the new St David's charity shop is about to open by the Buttermarket, too. A lot of people have been looking in the window and waiting for the moment to descend on it like a plague of locusts!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Swings and Roundabouts

When I'm serving in the shop, I have to explain to customers that we have to charge for plastic bags now, because we are in Wales. Twice today, I got the reply "Yes, you pay for your bags, but you have free prescriptions!"

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Plan B for Hay Publicity

Can I make a request? If anyone locally has any press cuttings about Hay and the development proposals, could they get them to me, please? I have a few, but not all of them.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Council Elections

The list for the election of local councillors is now out. You can get to it direct on
There are seventeen people standing for eleven places on Hay council - even though three of the present councillors are not standing again, so for the first time in several years there will be an actual contest for seats.
Several people have come forward as a result of the Plan B for Hay campaign, including Rhona Muirhead. Several candidates live on or near Broad Street - at South Bank House, and Tinto House and in Bridge Street. Ellie Spencer of the WI and scouts is also standing as an independent.
I saw Mary Fellowes this morning, and she was hoping that all these new people understand that there's more to being a town councillor than going to meetings - there's also inspecting the public toilets, and removing fly tipping down the railway line, and other things that some people might not want to do.
It looks as if it's going to be an interesting election!

Saturday, 7 April 2012


I have done a scary thing.
I spent this afternoon grappling with the mechanics of uploading my Young Adult Fantasy novel onto Smashwords (the text was easy - it was the cover that gave me trouble).
So I am now a self-published author (gulp).
To go with it, I have created a new blog, called Gateway to Ytir (the name of the fantasy world) - it's down there on the sidebar, and will be updated soon with background on the fantasy world and some of my favourite books, authors and other influences.
The book is called Raven's Heirs, by Lesley Arrowsmith, and it's possible to sample the first part of it for free (hopefully by the time people have read that, they'll want to know what happens next!).

Small Business Saturday

Here's Boz Books, one of the longest established bookshops in Hay (named after Charles Dickens' pseudonym).

Friday, 6 April 2012

News from the Pavement

I bumped into Chris Armstrong outside the estate agents on the Pavement the other day, and I asked him how his bike ride had gone. He took part in the Hay to Timbuktu fund raising ride, and managed 24 miles in around two and a half hours. "It was over fairly flat going," he said, "around Eardisley." He raised around £150 - but he said the situation in Timbuktu is very serious, and the rebels have now taken over the city.

Also on the Pavement, I noticed a poster advertising a new Dial-a-Ride service. Just recently, they started running a shopping bus to the Co-op once a week - and now they're also running a shopping bus into Hay centre, organised by Plan B and funded by the Chamber of Commerce, on Friday mornings. Dial-a-Ride are also looking for more volunteers, as drivers or passenger assistants, and committee members. They can be reached on 01497 821616 or

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Live Music

We're very lucky in Hay to have so much good quality live music happening in and around the town. There's Open Mic at Kilvert's (and it's lovely that Alan Cooper the fiddler is now a regular there, as well as Dirty Ray) and the Baskerville Arms, all sorts of music happening at the Globe, classical music at Booths Books....

On Good Friday, Dirty Ray and Alan Cooper are going to be performing at the Cock in Bronllys.
Meanwhile, there are two classical concerts coming up. The first is a bit of a new departure, because it's being hosted at a private house near to Hay, with free transport to the venue being provided by Dial-a-Ride. This is the pianist Ivan Ilic, who will be playing Chopin and Eric Satie on April 22nd - tickets from Booth Books.
Then on May 3rd, the Fitzwilliam String Quartet will be placing Borodin and Tchaikovsky in Booth Books. These concerts are usually sold out pretty quickly, so it's worth booking early.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Art and Automata

I went to the Lion Gallery viewing on Saturday afternoon, to see the paintings and pencil drawings of Bryan Smith. There was a little boy there, very seriously giving his considered opinion of the pictures. "I like that one best."
"Why's that?" asked mum.
"Because of all the trees."
One of the paintings is very dark, with a couple of sheep at the bottom, and at first I wasn't too impressed - but then I found my eyes kept being drawn back to it, and it really does have a lot more depth and interest than I initially thought. What really leapt off the wall at me, though, was round the corner - a picture of wild flowers by Dylan Lloyd, which has a very dark background, then a layer of out of focus flowers, with some well defined flowers at the front of the picture. The chap who runs the gallery explained enthusiastically about dry brushing and feathering, but I'm afraid it was a bit technical for me!
He was also keen for people to try out the little automata that were on display, which move when you wind a little handle at the base. There are flying horses, and a mermaid, and hearts with wings that jig up and down. He said that this sort of thing is very popular in Germany, where they take such things far more seriously than we do in the UK.
I also very much liked the seascapes by Ray Wilkinson - you can almost feel the sea spray!

Monday, 2 April 2012

On the Over-Complication of Life

Why are cash tills in charity shops so complicated?
I went into the Red Cross shop the other day, and saw a lovely summer dress (yes, I'm being optimistic that we're actually going to have a summer!). It didn't have a price tag on it, so while the manager went to check how much it would be, I found a jumper I liked as well.
And then they tried to ring the two purchases into their whizzy, modern, over-complicated till. And got it wrong. Twice. So then they had to fill in more paperwork to show that they'd got it wrong (because it all gets checked). And then they tried again. And finally, I had my purchases, and the correct change - and there were three people clustered round the till, trying to make sense of the thing.
I understand that the charities have to guard against theft (hence the auditing of mistakes) but why make it so complicated in the first place? They must know that they are depending on volunteers, who often don't have a background in retail, and are doing it only a few hours a week - so if they are trained to use the till once, it's easy to forget it by the next time they have to use it in that way. And the tills must cost quite a lot to start with.
The manager said that they were waiting for a simpler till to come (it's far more complicated than the one I use at work). It's a pity they can't go back to a hand written book and a tin box under the counter!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Meanwhile, down at the Canoe Landing Stage....

The Castle isn't the only place where trees are being cut down at the moment. There's been quite a bit of clearance around the Canoe Landing Stage too. Rumour has it that this might be to make way for a disabled access route for the canoes.