Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A Tale of Two Tables

When I first moved into this house, I'd just come back from Greece, and I had no furniture at all. Fortunately for me, this was at the same time that my mum decided to stay in Greece permanently, and sell her house in North Wales, which she had been renting out fully furnished.
She needed to clear the furniture out of the house, and the easiest way to do it was to give it to me. All I needed was a van, and a couple of kind friends to drive and to help me load it up.
Mum had a big kitchen, and a big kitchen table with four chairs. It's always been a bit too big for my front room, especially when I also had two small settees which could only fit in by making it look like an old fashioned railway carriage. And a Welsh dresser.
Freecycle was a great help. One of the settees went to help furnish a granny flat some years ago.
After my success with the new bed, I decided it was finally time to get myself a table that would fit the room better. A drop-leaf table maybe, with chairs that folded away underneath. I saw just what I wanted online - but in the States, and they didn't seem to be making that design any more anyway.
So I went round the antique shops of Hay with a tape measure in my pocket, and once again, local shopping has turned out to be best. I am now the proud owner of an oak drop-leaf table about half the size of the old kitchen table, with barleytwist legs. It came from the new shop, the Basement (it used to be part of the big bookshop on the corner at the top of the Pavement). Even better, the chap in the shop carried it home for me!
Freecycle split into two groups some time ago, so I thought I'd advertise the old table on Freegle first (the Brecon side of the border). I've had six replies, and I'm just waiting now for the first person who asked to decide whether they want it.
My front room is already looking less cluttered, even with the table propped up against the wall with its legs off!

Monday, 30 December 2013

"Time to Remember the Poor"

...as the old Christmas carol has it.
Mike Sivier, who has a blog called Vox Political at http://mikesivier.wordpress.com, lives in Powys, and his MP is Roger Williams, who is also the MP for Hay. On 21st December, he wrote a post about the debate on food banks in the House of Commons, at which Roger Williams spoke. I'm sorry to say that he was not impressed with Mr Williams' performance. For instance, he was only aware of two food banks in Powys, in Llandrindod Wells and one which is about to be set up in Brecon. In fact, there are also food banks in Hay, Knighton and Ystradgynlais, with Rhayader being covered by Llanidloes in Montgomeryshire.
The phone number for Hay Community Cupboard is 07908 876978.

There were no food banks when I first came to live in Powys, but this year 60,000 people in Wales needed to be referred to them because they were in crisis.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Celebrating New Year in Cusop

Cusop Village Hall sounds like the place to be to see the New Year in - in a rather unusual way. Revellers will be gathering for a New Year lunch, from 11.30am on New Year's Eve, so they can celebrate New Year arriving on the other side of the world!
The lunch will consist of Maori and Asian dishes.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Small Business Saturday

The Green Room on Lion Street, which also has a quite charming little garden out the back, to display some of the garden ornaments it sells.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

St Mary's church, Cusop, in the snow, taken by Ros Brodie.

Monday, 23 December 2013

A Taste of the Raj

A Christmas treat the other night was to be taken out to Hereford for a curry at The Taste of the Raj. I think I was last there about fifteen years ago, also near Christmas, when they were frantically busy and short-staffed (those waiters deserved a medal!).
It was a lot more relaxed this time, with only a couple of small parties in.
I had a very nice dhall soup followed by lamb bhuna. They also do an interesting range of fish dishes.
On the way, we came into Hereford via the Roman Road. Seeing all the roundabouts and lights and so on still surprises me - I remember when it was a very narrow lane with passing places.
And on the way back, there was a wonderful view of Orion over the Wye Valley, with Sirius the dog star at his heels.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Small Business Saturday

CommuniKate - mobile phones on Lion Street. She also owns a race horse!

All Change for Christmas

There's some sort of obscure religious festival on Wednesday, and the Boxing Day hunt on Thursday, so the Thursday market in Hay will be happening on Monday, just in time to stock up for the festivities.

Friday, 20 December 2013

A Visitor to Hay

Rambles from my Chair can be found at http://scriptorsenex.blogspot.co.uk/
The blogger (Old Writer) lives near Liverpool, but recently he came to Hay, and his pictures can be seen on his blog, on 25th November.
He didn't have very good weather....

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Dog-Sitting - and Customer Service

I've been away from the computer for a couple of evenings, dog-sitting for friends. It's been lovely - a delicious meal and a bottle of beer by a real fire, with a sweet young lurcher cuddling up to me (as well as a dog with such long legs and narrow body can cuddle) and a good book.
I was reading The Beekeeper's Apprentice, a sequel to the Sherlock Holmes stories where he teams up with a young woman after he has retired to Sussex to keep bees. And about half way through the book, while investigating a kidnapping case, they come to the Brecon Beacons (though Laurie R King, the author, is careful not to name any of the villages they pass through)!

Meanwhile, Athene English on Castle Street has been displaying some tweed jackets outside her shop for a week or two, and I was rather taken by a brown one. A couple of days ago, I decided to pop in on the way back to work from my lunch break to see if it would fit.
When I got there, the jacket was hanging outside, but there was a "Back Soon" sign on the door, which was locked. So I tried the jacket on in the street - and it fitted beautifully.
While I was waiting for Athene, or one of her assistants, to come back, Tim the Gardener came by to take her dog for a walk, so I told him why I was waiting. He went round the back to get in through the garden, but I had to go back to work.
About an hour later, Tim strode into the shop and tossed the jacket onto the counter. "Here's your jacket!" he said. When he'd got back from walking the dog (they went up Cusop Dingle a fair way) Athene and co. were back in the shop - they'd gone out for their staff Christmas lunch. So I paid Tim and back he went.
It's the sort of service you wouldn't get from a chain store!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Mabinogogiblog: Wind Turbine Controversy?

I think this is quite a fair assessment of the arguments around wind turbines, by a Green councillor somewhere near Stroud.

Mabinogogiblog: Wind Turbine Controversy?: I was spurred by criticism of wind turbines on a Green Party email list to review the controversy over wind turbines for my blog - somethi...

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Phoning BT - and some Whovian Excitement!

I wasn't online much yesterday - or rather, I was online, but I was spending all my time trying to sort out a problem with my virus protection - and eventually I had to admit defeat and call the BT helpline.
I got three different Indian men on the line, and they couldn't have been nicer. They were all incredibly patient, and helpful, and when we couldn't completely solve the problem last night, the chap I was talking to seemed genuinely sorry, and told me all the steps I needed to take to finish off the process. (Gosh, but I got my money's worth out of them yesterday!)
And it seems to have worked! I'm now back online and safe behind my little McAfee shield.

Meanwhile in the real world, we had a rather special customer in the bookshop last week. She was looking for leather bound books, and she'd come from Cardiff. She was collecting them for set dressing for Doctor Who! So some of our books may possibly end up in the Tardis Library! That's almost more exciting than being by Royal Appointment! (No, actually, it's a lot more exciting!). Knowing my fannish tendencies, Deb in the antiquarian department tried to get her to offer me a bit part. "But I'm a rubbish actor!" I protested, when they told me.
She was nice enough to give me the latest Doctor Who magazine, though, and we had a little chat about favourite Doctors (mine has to be Jon Pertwee, from the classic series - all those capes and velvet jackets, and racing around in Bessie the vintage car, and all the other vehicles that Jon Pertwee used to love driving).

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Small Business Saturday

The Keeper's Pocket, a recent arrival to Lion Street. They do antiques with an interesting line in taxidermy - in the window is the head and shoulders of a draught horse, stuffed around a hundred years ago by a loving owner.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Toilets To Be Proud Of

Last night there was a meeting in the Parish Hall about the future of the public toilets in Hay. It wasn't packed out, but there were still about 50 people there, and all of the councillors who could make it. Rob Golesworthy thought it was worth putting on his Mayoral chain for the evening.

Earlier in the day, the Chief Executive of Powys County Council, Jeremy Patterson, and Paul Griffiths, the Director of Powys Highways, came for a private meeting with Hay Council. They took them to see the toilets at the top of Hay car park, and suggested strongly that it would be a good idea to have a small levy on top of the car park charge to pay for them.
Then they went back to the Council Chambers, where a "small but vociferous" protest rally was being held outside the Clock Tower toilets. The petition against the closures started by Ellie Spencer gained 1,122 signatures, with an online version hosted by 38 Degrees and a paper version.

At the meeting with the councillors, a few concessions were made. If Hay Town Council sends a letter of intent to take over the toilets, the Cabinet may delay the closure to April 2014 to enable them to get the funding in place. They also agreed to look at the possibility of a levy on the car park, first of all to see if the idea was legal, and then (if it is) at a mechanism to get the money to Hay. They are considering raising the car parking charges across the county anyway. A levy of 5p per ticket would raise £14,000 and a 10p levy would raise £28,000, based on the number of cars using the car park last year (280,000). Hay doesn't get the car park money because in 1974 the town council gave responsibility for the car park over to Powys.
The toilets are expected to cost £13,393 for the ones at the car park and £6,373 for the clock tower toilets - Rob had a breakdown of the figures from the county council, including water, sewage, electricity, rates, cleaning and toilet rolls, and a climate levy of £13 a year. There's also an annual health and safety inspection charge, which has to be done by law.
They will give their answer early in the New Year. The town precept (which is the amount of money Hay gets from the council tax to run everything they are responsible for in the town) is £13,900 and Hay council have to set the amount of the precept that they need by the 24th January.

If the Cabinet don't agree to these things - what then?
Rob Golesworthy was adamant that the toilets would not be closed down, even if he has to clean them himself! They are too important to the future of the town.

Dawn Lewis, one of the new councillors, has been in touch with someone at the National Park - I think it was the Sustainable Tourism Manager, and she also mentioned a Mr Tyler who is the Director of Countryside. They are concerned about what the county council are doing, but feel it is not their place to lobby them. They agreed that Hay is the jewel in the crown of the area as far as tourism is concerned, and raises a lot of money.

The Disabled Access Group are also looking for a meeting with the county council, as they want to ensure that disabled people are able to get to toilets when they need them. There may be a legal issue with closure, as disabled people are a "protected group" which needs to be catered for.

The other options the town council have are to ask volunteers to clean the toilets, to start charging for the use of the toilets, to find another local body willing to fund the toilets, such as the Chamber of Commerce. This could start off on a voluntary basis, like paying for the Christmas lights.
Another possibility would be to increase the precept, meaning that the council tax payments for everyone in Hay would go up by around £10. But this would mean charging the people who, on the whole, don't use the toilets, rather than putting the cost onto the visitors who do.
There is a grant available of £6,500 a year from the county council to run the toilets - but this doesn't remotely cover the cost.

The use of volunteers was considered to be a bad idea - it might start well, but people would drop out and leave others to carry the load, and it would be better to hire someone to do the cleaning, because then there would be someone to hold to account for the state of the toilets. One suggestion was that if Hay, Talgarth and Glasbury got together, the cleaning of all those toilets could be the basis for a start up business for someone.

At a recent meeting in Glasbury, a group of volunteers have come forward to run the toilets themselves (they are trying to set up a Trust), and the meeting was practically unanimous in agreeing that the precept in Glasbury should be raised to pay for the toilets. But as Anna of Drover Holidays pointed out - they don't have a car park to raise money from.

There were worries about vandalism - some towns that started to charge for their toilets found that people were breaking the locks and causing damage. However in Llandovery, vandalism went down. Luke of Drover Holidays pointed out that the problem with vandalism wasn't whether the toilets were free or cost money, but anti-social behaviour generally, and if it wasn't the toilets, it would be something else in town that was damaged.
Rob said that the last time the toilets at the car park were seriously damaged, it was by adults from out of town. They were caught on CCTV. There's also a problem in that one of the gent's toilets by the clock tower is broken, and the county council will not mend it.
One of the ways to combat vandalism would be to lock the toilets earlier, around 5.30pm, but there are people around town in the evenings who can't always go into pubs to use the toilets, such as the boys who ride their BMXs around. It could also be a problem for walkers and canoeists who come to the town out of business hours.
Just recently Hay became a "Walkers Are Welcome" town, and the early closure of the toilets in the evenings might jeopardise that status. Talgarth and Crickhowell are also "Walkers Are Welcome" towns, and it would be worth getting in touch with them and working something out together.
Another suggestion for raising money would be to sell advertising space in the toilets. Gareth is going to look into the cost of turnstiles and coin operated locks. Anne Brichto suggested that booksellers could leave some surplus books in the toilets - "spend a penny and get a free book".
Another suggestion was to turn the toilets into "eco-loos", with solar panels for the lighting, and cisterns that use less water.
If anyone else has ideas - the council would love to hear them!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Castle Tap

On Saturday night, I went up to the Castle for an evening out. It was a mini beer festival, with beers from several local small breweries, as well as ciders (and wine). The tickets included 2 pints of beer, food and the band Lonesome Stampede, all for £10. It was all to raise money for Hay and Clyro Schools.
I was a bit cheeky at the bar, and asked if I could have four halves instead of two pints, so I could get round as many beers as possible (two pints is getting close to my limit!) and they were very good about that - I had some Abigail's Party from Jones the Brewers, Oliver's Twist (quite citrus-y and refreshing) and Auntie Myrtle's. The organisers had gone for fairly hoppy and light beers on the whole, but a variety of strengths.
Food was being cooked in the Castle kitchen - I got a sausage, beefburger and salad, in a bun, from a man with a sweatshirt emblazoned with the slogan "Heisenburg's Cookery School". I asked him if this meant he was uncertain about what he was cooking.*
Lonesome Stampede are a good local band, and they will also be playing Tomatitos on Saturday 21st December for their Winter Solstice gig.
The Castle was packed out - and when I saw one of the organisers yesterday evening he told me they could have sold the tickets about three times over. Also, they ran out of beer! They raised £400 each for Hay and Clyro Schools, and they will certainly be doing it again!

*It's a science joke - Heisenburg's Uncertainty Principle

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Christmas Dinner

It's that time of year when groups book Christmas lunches and dinners in restaurants and pubs, and on Friday I went with a group to the Black Lion.
I just want to say that their rice pudding with fruit compote is possibly the best rice pudding I have ever eaten in my life! And the rest of the meal was pretty good, too. The squash and apple soup for starters was delicious, and there was plenty of meat for the main course (I had beef rather than the traditional turkey) - it was all very tasty.
And there was good conversation too.

Monday, 9 December 2013

More Council Discussions

The Two Towns One World project is just finishing, thankfully on target after some problems along the way. Now it remains to wind down and do an audit (which could be expensive in itself). Steve Like pointed out that councillors put a lot of their own time and effort into things like the recent visit from Timbuktu - such as Fiona Howard driving a minibus to the airport and back - and in future that sort of thing should be written into the costs of a project rather than donated for free by the councillors. Hay-on-TV now has a second film channel dedicated to Timbuktu.

Problems continue with the plans for the new Hay School. The provisions for the Council in the new building are not adequate nor appropriate, with the council meetings having to share space with community groups doing yoga and the town clerk having to share an office with the registrar. There are also concerns about the County Council's plans to sell the Council Chambers and the Library (which will also be moving into the school building). It would be nice to know where the money from those sales is going to go.
Fiona Howard, who couldn't be present at the meeting, had said she was going to work out a business plan for the Council Chambers so that the town council can continue to use it. The rent from the offices is enough for the day to day expenses, but some serious maintenance work needs to be done and there is no money spare for that. The roof will need replacing soon, for instance. The present lease from the County Council has expired, and it was suggested that the best plan at the moment was to ask for a further five year lease, by which time the school might actually have been built, and councillors would have a better idea of their options.
If the town council have to move, one suggestion was that they should move into the present Library building when the Library moves to the school.

Apparently, there is £200,000 in the bank which is supposed to be for the benefit of Hay, but which the town has not been able to touch. It was put to one side by the County Council in 1996, when there were plans to extend the main car park. So someone is going to investigate the terms on which the County Council will release the money to Hay.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Hay Council Meeting

I've already taken a couple of points of discussion out of the notes I made at the last Council meeting - about Hay's toilets and the wind turbine - but plenty more was discussed as well.
And at the beginning of the meeting, two new councillors were welcomed.
As there were two vacant places, and only two people came forward to fill those places, Dawn Lewis (of the LDP Plan Action group) and a lady called Helen (Davies? Sorry - I didn't catch her full name) there will be no election and the council is now up to strength again.
Also at the beginning of the meeting, Rob Golesworthy invited all the councillors to the Conservative Club after the meeting for Christmas drinks - if they finished in time for last orders!

The Woodland Group have been doing some clearing along the railway line path - I met Anna from Drover Holidays last night, who was one of the volunteers, and has been working her way up from saplings to cutting down really quite big trees as she gets more practice. They are waiting until they have enough waste there to get a chipper in from Powys, and it was suggested that they wait until January, and then they can get people to come down with their old Christmas trees to dispose of them.
Although the Council put a request in for fruit trees from Powys, they haven't managed to get hold of any. The County Council say they were inundated with requests. Councillors wanted more information about why their request failed, so they can put a better application in next time the offer is made.

PC Fion Thomas was there to give his police report. The police are doing an anti-shoplifting patrol in the run up to Christmas, and have been testing local licensed premises on whether they sell to under age drinkers along with the Trading Standards people. It's also been magic mushroom season up on Hay Bluff recently, and 8 people were dealt with for drugs offences ("They tend to bring other things with them as well," he said). The brass plaque from the British Legion Club has been stolen - and of course, it's not the British Legion any more; it's now a social club.

Red biodegradable dog poo bags are now available free from the Library (cue all the dog walkers in the room waving one which happened to be in their pocket!). Dog waste can be put in any of the bins around town, and the wicker baskets that were woven over the summer are filling up.

Mr Gittens has offered to shot blast and paint the old Hay sign to make it ready to put up on one of the approach roads to Hay again, possibly by the bridge, and Alan Powell has framed the Timbuktu sign ready to be put up by the Tourist Information office.

The old Hay fire appliance has been offered to someone else to restore, but at present is buried in a barn under a load of stuff. When it's cleared out, the owner will inform Alan Powell so he can go down and take photos. A similar Shand-Mason Horse Drawn Fire Appliance is at a museum in Worcester.

The bungalow by the school is still not ready for the Youth Group to move into it - there seems to be some problem about change of use.

Claiming ownership of the Gliss for the Council with the Land Registry is not as straight forward as it first seemed. There is some dispute about the land just in front of Chantic, one of the houses that faces the area, and fishing rights do not seem to be included. The situation is also complicated by the railway that used to pass through the land (and in fact through Chantic's front room!) and by the responsibility for maintenance being split between the council and the National Park. Hay Council should have the fishing rights, which they bought along with the railway line, and the River Authority will be contacted for clarification.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Small Business Saturday

Golesworthy's, selling good quality outdoor wear, hats, shoes, knives, and even archery equipment, for something like a hundred years. Rob Golesworthy is currently Mayor of Hay.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Clyro Wind Turbine

Clyro local council have objected to the development of a wind turbine at Cold Blow (which is about the most apt name you could have for the site of a wind turbine) after a meeting where something like 170 residents were against the project and only about five (being the family who own the farm) being in favour. Apparently someone in the audience had done their homework, and demolished the case for the turbine.
Maybe they would have liked it better if it looked like this:

This is the windmill at Lytham St Anne's, near Blackpool, taken from the blog John Burke's A-Musings. When I was a kid, my family used to take the Yelloway coach from Bury to Blackpool, and spotting this windmill on the outskirts of Blackpool was almost as exciting as being the first one to spot Blackpool Tower!
So I've always rather liked windmills.

A leaflet was put out advertising the public meeting in Clyro, and also mentioning the opposition website at http://no2clyrohillwindturbine.com
The main - in fact the only - argument against the turbine made in the leaflet was basically that it would spoil the view. It will be 84 metres tall(about the same height as Big Ben). They warn that the presence of this turbine will encourage others to apply to build turbines, and this will have a bad effect on tourism in this unspoilt area.
Now, I get my electricity and gas from a company called Good Energy, which provides 100% renewable energy. This includes wind farms in Cornwall, solar panels dotted all over the place, and biogas. Recently a survey was done of tourists in Cornwall. They were asked if the presence of wind farms had made any difference to their decision to come and holiday in Cornwall, and having seen the turbines, would they come back and holiday there again? Overwhelmingly, the tourists said that the turbines had made no difference at all to their holiday plans, and would make no difference to their plans to holiday in Cornwall in the future. The press release talking about this can be found at (again, sorry for the long url):


So I don't really see that a walker who wants to walk the Offa's Dyke Path, for instance, will be put off because he might possibly see a wind turbine in the distance.
The last time I came back from Hereford on the bus, I noticed a wind turbine above the village of Dorstone. In fact, I had to look quite hard to see the wind turbine, as it was almost invisible against a grey sky. In the B&R this week, on the front page, there's a story that claims that the Clyro wind turbine would overshadow Rhosgoch and Painscastle as well as Clyro. All I can say is that the Dorstone turbine does not overshadow Dorstone.
Far more obtrusive in the landscape are the Madley radio telescope dishes. They must have been a huge shock to local people when they were first built, but now they are an accepted part of the landscape, and I've never heard anyone complain about them, or suggest that they have harmed local tourism.
And we don't even notice the vast army of electricity pylons striding across the landscape everywhere in the country any more.
A lady in Rhosgoch is worried about the impact on her small airfield - the dangers of hitting the turbine, and turbulence. I'm not sure how far away from the turbine her farm is, but as far as hitting the turbine goes, in Rugby the huge radio masts on one side of the town used to have small red lights up them at night, and no aircraft ever hit them (I believe that they became obsolete and were taken down, and some people in Rugby were rather sorry about that, because they liked to see them on the skyline).
I can't say anything about turbulence, because I don't know enough about it - but it seems unlikely to me that it could have such a large effect over a wide area.
The piece in the B&R also mentions noise pollution. I understand that wind turbines do make a sort of humming noise. I've never been close to one, but my sister and her husband visited a wind farm in Germany on their holidays - the Germans are far more enthusiastic about renewable energy than the British - and they said that they couldn't see what all the fuss was about. They could still hear the birds singing even when they were standing right under the turbines.

New sorts of wind turbine, which are more efficient than the present model, are being developed. Maybe the people of Clyro would prefer something like this?

Because at the moment, their electricity probably comes from somewhere that looks more like this:

(This is - or was - Stuart Street Power Station in Manchester, where my grandad used to work).

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Save Hay's Toilets!

At the Council meeting on Monday evening, there was some discussion about the recent decision by the County Council to close all the public toilets in Powys (or nearly all of them). They had managed to buy some time by suggesting to the County Council that the Town Council might be willing to take over the running of the toilets, but they have nothing like enough money in their budget to take it on.

Just a little while ago, there was a big public meeting in Glasbury, where they have a toilet block which is on a layby where people park to go walking or canoeing. The meeting had a turnout of around 200 - and Glasbury is a lot smaller than Hay. There was 100% support for keeping the toilets open, and 100% support for increasing the council tax in the village to pay for it, even though the amount they pay locally would have to go up from around £7 to around £27. They are also willing to provide volunteers to clean the toilets.

One of the problems with the funding is that the County Council have only supplied approximate figures for the costs of running the toilets - they must know what it costs exactly, since they are running them, and have been for years, but they're not giving out accurate figures.
The Chief Executive of the County Council is coming to Hay to meet with the Town Council next week. One of the things he's going to be asked is whether he will allow a levy to be added to the car park charges which would be used to fund the toilets - at least the toilets by the car park - but it seems he will be unlikely to agree to this. The County Council are offering a grant of £6,500, but this is only part of the total cost.
Another suggestion was to start charging for the use of the toilets, but in other places the money collected has only really covered the cost of the person collecting it, and there hasn't been enough left over for maintenance - and there have also been problems with vandalism where people have forced their way into the toilets without paying. Which costs more money to fix.
The National Park authority hasn't been consulted, and they are concerned about the effect on visitor numbers, but have been so far reluctant to get involved. And the toilets are running out of time. They will be locked up for good on 1st January unless something can be sorted out before then.
One of the ways to challenge the decision to close the toilets is by going down the equality route - lack of toilets will adversely affect vulnerable groups such as the elderly and disabled - and this could be the basis of a legal challenge against the County Council.
The Town Council are going to have an emergency meeting on Monday evening to discuss what they can do.

So there is going to be a public meeting, at 7pm at the Parish Hall on Thursday 12th December. Barry Thomas from the County Council has already said he will not attend a public meeting (though it's the same day he's meeting the Town Council), but other county councillors will be invited, and so will Roger Williams, MP and Kirsty Williams AM. John Evans of the Chamber of Commerce has offered to chair the meeting, as it's a subject of great importance to local businesses, but it may be Gareth Ratcliffe or one of the Town Councillors instead.

There is also a petition hosted by 38 Degrees, set up by Ellie Spencer. I know it's a long url, but here it is:


As of Thursday evening at 8pm, the petition has 456 signatures, and needs a minimum of 500.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Magus of Hay

Phil Rickman's new book is out - the twelfth in his Merrily Watkins series, about the Diocesan Exorcist (also known as Deliverance Ministry) of Herefordshire - and it's about Hay.
I went to see him speak as part of the Winter Hay Festival on Sunday evening, in the castle (which features in the book), being interviewed by Peter Florence. One of the questions from the audience was why had he waited so long to come to Hay for a story, and his answer was that he was saving it, because Hay has so many good stories associated with it of the sort that he can use for a Merrily Watkins plot. Like Ken Ratcliffe's story of seeing Cusop Dingle lit up as though from within, just for an instant, when he was a young man, which features in the story.
After the talk, I got my arm twisted (they didn't have to twist very hard!) to have dinner at Red Indigo, where Eklim greeted me by saying I was wasting away because I wasn't eating enough curry! The Lamb tikka masalla was very nice indeed, accompanied by good conversation.

I started reading the book (obtained from Addyman's Murder and Mayhem) on Tuesday night, and it was one of those un-put-downable books right from the start. Phil Rickman brings in a couple from an earlier novel, the Crown of Lights, as a pair of beginner booksellers in Backfold. He's added a couple more shops down there, backed up against the Castle wall - and the advice the couple are given about bookselling is absolutely spot on! He mentions Derek Addyman in the credits at the back of the book, and I suspect this is where he got his information from - and being an ex-journalist, he has obviously listened very carefully!
And then he goes and puts his first murder victim in the pool of my favourite waterfall on Cusop Dingle!
Sadly, Jane, Merrily's teenaged daughter, is away learning to be an archaeologist in West Wales, and Lol, her boyfriend, is out on the road performing his music, so Merrily is very much on her own in this story - Phil Rickman said something about not wanting the series to turn into something like Heartbeat!
He has some scathing things to say about Hereford, too. On page 71:
"The City of Hereford seemed to be dying, the way a venerable tree died, from the centre outwards - long-established businesses left to rot while councillors turned away to nurture their doomed, peripheral shopping mall, hand-feeding it with taxpayers' money badly needed elsewhere.
Most people were saying that, but nothing came to save the city."
Which is a concise summing up of the present situation.

Having started the book, I started seeing Phil Rickman's name elsewhere, too. I follow tor.com, which has all sorts of information about SF and Fantasy novels and films and comics and TV, and one of the books recommended in a recent round up is December, a non-series book about musicians playing at a ruined Welsh abbey, with paranormal results.
And in SFX Magazine, one of the reviews of paperback re-issues is for The Man in the Moss, Phil Rickman's book about a remote village in his native Lancashire. It's one that I enjoyed very much, partly for the bog body itself, and partly because of the traditional brewery that is involved in some of the action. "Featuring well-drawn characters, this is a powerfully atmospheric read." says the reviewer.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Glorious Food

The morning after the lights were turned on (and the donations for mulled wine and mince pies raised around £700 for St Michael's Hospice, which was the charity Mac Eager chose), the marquee was filled with stalls of local food and drink. I always get something from Jacobi Brewery - I never see their beers anywhere else - so this time I took one of their cardboard beer carriers with me, and chose bottles of Red Squirrel, Winter Warmer, and Dark Roasted Ale. The chap at the stall was so pleased that I'd brought one of their carriers back that he gave me a 50p discount!
I got some elderflower and gooseberry jam, too ("Grown up jam," the lady at the stall said; "the children go for strawberry.") and some bread from Caroline's Patisserie.
I also thought it was about time I bought a tile in the Cheesemarket mural - for £10 I now have a small piece of the river, and my name inscribed in a book which will be kept in the Library. It's all to raise money for the renovations, and produce something interesting which will last for many years to come.
There were a few craft stalls in the Buttermarket as well, and stalls round the outside of the marquee too. In the afternoon, the Brecon Town Band played in the spot where the choirs had been the night before.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Turning on the Lights

"What sort of carols are those? They're not the old sort we used to sing. They're in another world!" The old farmer in the audience didn't think much of the Community Choir's selection of songs - they were singing the Boar's Head Carol at the time, which is medieval and partly in Latin, and later they did Gaudete (also in Latin) which was introduced as being by Steeleye Span, though it's also medieval.
I saw the farmer again later - he'd bought light up devil's horns for his grand children, and he needed help to switch them off.
Later the Hay School choir sang seasonal songs about shopping and Baby Jesus, with lots of waving at parents in the audience, and the littlest children dancing around at the front. And everyone could sing along to White Christmas and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer!
In the marquee, there were lots of local stalls. Deb was there with children's books from the Cinema Bookshop, and there was fudge and hot chilli and Hay School doing raffles and games - I got a bunch of holly from them, and spent the rest of the evening pretending to be a shrub. Gwyneth was there with some lovely Canadian-style mittens she'd knitted (which really are toasty-warm), and Pugh's were doing hampers.
Outside Jackie and James were sharing a stall between Castello de Haia soaps and The Thoughtful Gardener, and Stuart the greengrocer was selling festive fruit.
In the Buttermarket there were mince pies and mulled wine, and Karl Showler was acting as Father Christmas - it was lovely to see him back in Hay.
Mac Eager (celebrity for the night) was looking very smart, and pushed the plunger to turn on the lights to great cheers.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Small Business Saturday

Tinto House B&B. The beautiful gardens at the back (tended by Tim the Gardener) are sometimes open to the public, and they also have a little art gallery at the back.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Retail Therapy - Not!

I hate shopping in Hereford!
Why is it so hard to get a flat double bed sheet?
Why are lightshades all so hideous?

I started off well at the model shop near the bus station, where I got something special for my nephew for Christmas - and it all went downhill after that!
There's a specialist light fittings shop just up the ring road from there - and the only lightshades that weren't hideous were way out of my price range. (Actually, the hideous ones were mostly out of my price range, too!)
So I went on to Poundstretcher, to look for double sheets for my new bed. And TK Maxx and Wilkos, and the market, and anywhere else that looked as if it might possibly stock bedding - even Tesco. I even went in Laura Ashley to whistle at their prices! Eventually I trekked out to Sainsburys, and they were the first place where I found flat sheets rather than fitted. (I hate fitted sheets. I got rid of all the fitted sheets I inherited from my mum. Which is one reason why I need new sheets.)
I still need a new lightshade. In desperation, I got the least hideous shade I could find - one of those round paper ones from Wilkos - but it's only a temporary measure until I find something I can live with.
At All Saints there was a craft fair going on. I saw Martha from Love Zimbabwe, but I didn't stop to chat because I was feeling a bit snappish by that time.
And on the way through the square I was stopped by three different people collecting for the Red Cross.
I really needed that pint of Christmas Cheers from Hereford Brewery that I got at Wetherspoons while I waited for the bus home!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Getting Ready for the Festive Period

Not a lot has been happening this week (and also I've been geeking out on all things Whovian rather than taking notice of what's going on in Hay!).
However, tonight the marquee is going up for the Food and Vintage Fairs, and the barriers around the Cheesemarket have been pulled back to make room for it. Christmas displays are going up in shop windows, and the Christmas lights are going up all round town.
So, tomorrow night is the switching on of the Lights by Mac Eager, and the start of the Hay Winter Festival, which lasts all weekend.
On Saturday is the Food Fair, and on Sunday it's the Vintage Fair.
And Salem Chapel is hosting an exhibition of driftwood sculptures, kimonos, painted boxes and cupboards, and prints and paintings. They'll be there for a week, and the exhibition is called Artefacts.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Family Furnishers

Rumours that the Young Man and I broke the bed are completely unfounded!

I've been thinking of getting a new bed for a while. The old mattress was starting to get a bit lumpy and 'twangy' - and I've never really liked divans anyway (this bed came from my mum's in North Wales when I cleared the house for her, when she decided to sell up and stay in Greece permanently).
So I did a bit of research online, and when I went into Hereford to see the Young Man off at the end of his visit, I thought I'd walk out to the big furniture showroom and have a look at the beds there.
It was raining when I set off along Widemarsh Street, so when I saw a sign saying "Furniture Showroom 30 yards" I didn't need much encouragement to turn off down Catherine Street.
I saw the bed I wanted as soon as I stepped in through the front door. The young lady at the counter was lovely, and I bought it there and then, together with a decent mattress. She offered me a delivery date on Friday, and even gave me an hour slot (between 3pm and 4pm) for the bed to arrive.
By way of celebration, I went down to Poundstretcher and bought a new 15tog duvet as well.
Bless them, they came on the dot of 3pm, and took the old bed away as well.

I then spent the next three hours trying to put the thing together, and swearing at the top of my voice at the bright spark who invented Allen keys.
But it's done, and it looks fantastic, and it is so comfortable!

So, thank you, Family Furnishers!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Small Business Saturday

Roses Bookshop, which specialises in children's books.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Edgar Street Trees

I'm still trying to work out how this possibly makes sense!
Herefordshire Council paid a company from Birmingham to come at 7am on a Sunday morning to cut down ten healthy lime trees that they said were in the way of widening the road near the roundabout. They would have cut down all the trees if there hadn't been a lot of protest about it.
Now, the same company have been paid to come back, under cover of darkness, to plant ten new lime trees.
Wouldn't it have been cheaper and easier to just leave the original lime trees alone?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

More on the Phone Mast

It was front page news in the B&R this week. After the opposition to the phone mast on Forest Road failed to stop it being built, a parent at Hay School organised someone to come in to the school to take measurements of the strength of the signal from the mast. The results were reassuring - the strength is below the European guidelines (which are stricter than the UK guidelines) and about the same as the signal from the TV and radio mast.
That doesn't mean that it's okay to stop worrying - we're still wandering around in an electro-magnetic soup that just didn't exist a hundred years ago - but it does put it into more perspective.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


Over the weekend I went into the Hay Deli with my Young Man - he loves going in there. He says the smell of the shop reminds him of the Food Hall at Harrods! We noticed that there is a new range of local beers in, and we tried the BV (Black Vaughan) Stout from Mayfields Brewery in Leominster, which was very nice indeed, and uses Herefordshire hops.
So today I went in to get samples of some of the other beers on offer.
Stroud Brewery do an organic pale ale called Budding, after the man who invented the lawnmower in 1830 (he came from Stroud), based on machinery at a woollen mill that cut the excess fluff off newly woven cloth. Their organic barley is grown in the Cotswolds. Derek at the Deli said that it was one of the new range that he liked the best (he's obviously serious about trying his stock himself, to ensure high quality!). This beer won the Champion beer of Gloucestershire in 2006 and 2008 in a CAMRA competition.
I also got Ducking Stool from Mayfields, named after the ducking stool which is still on show at the Priory in Leominster, made with Challenger and Cascade hops grown in Herefordshire, and Auntie Myrtle's from Mayfields, made with Fuggles hops from Herefordshire and winner of the Heart of England Fine Foods 2011 Diamond Award.
So that should keep me going for a few pleasant evenings.

After a long handing over period, Derek is finally completely in charge at the Deli (he's even changed the labels on some of the products, as another customer while I was there pointed out. It's a nice, clear font and simple design). Jenny and Alex Valentine have gone on to do other things (Alex is a musician, and Jenny writes rather good children's novels).

There will be more beery goodness happening up at the Castle on Saturday 7th December, too. The Castle Tap will be featuring beer from local brewers like Jones the Brewer, RedStone and Wobbly Brewing, with cider and wine as well, and food, and music from Lonesome Stampede - all for £10 including two pints and food! I've had some of Jones the Brewers' beer before, at the Rose and Crown and at the Hereford Beer Festival Beer on the Wye, and their Abigail's Party is very good.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Mally Powell

I didn't know Mally Powell, but a lot of people in Hay did. One of my friends, who knew him, told me a bit about him. She told me about his music, and that he could fix anything mechanical.
He was from a farming family near Llanigon, and his funeral took place over the weekend, at a little chapel high on the hills above the Wye Valley. He was only forty seven, but he'd been ill for some time.
He was, in a small way, a rock star, and a lot of the people standing outside the chapel (because there was no room inside) had come up from London to see him off.
Over on Hay on TV, there's a video of him with his band.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Small Business Monday

Also tucked away behind Rose's Bookshop near the clock tower is this silversmith's.

My Young Man was visiting over the weekend, but posting will be back to normal now.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The One Show in Hay

I saw Pudsey Bear and some of his helpers hanging around by the clock tower at lunch time. One of them had a sign under his arm which said something about them being sorry for any inconvenience.
It seems that some of Hay's school children will be on the One Show this evening, and they were getting ready for filming!

[edited to add - it seems the Hay film footage was left on the cutting room floor!]

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Winter Festival

There's going to be a lot going on over the weekend of the 29th November to 1st December.
First of all, it's the weekend of the Hay Winter Festival. As usual, they have an interesting and varied line up of events - Ranulph Fiennes, the life of Eartha Kitt, the history of cats, and Peter Pan among them. Alison and Laurence Matthews are doing a talk called Zoom Control on the Sunday morning - looking at the big picture and hoping to unlock a saner future! Alison is one of the ladies who goes to Stitch and Bitch, and another Stitch and Bitch lady, Kitty Corrigan, is chairing a talk on Women in Business on the Saturday, with local businesswomen Claire Trumper of Trumper's Tea, Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods and Allie and Ella Thomas of Cradoc's Savoury Biscuits.

I went down to the Drill Hall to book tickets only to find that my first choice, the Inaugural Smith-Soldat Memorial Lecture on the Buildings of Wales by Robert Scourfield, had sold out very quickly. They have organised a second talk on the Sunday, but sadly, I will be working then, so I'll have to miss this one. I was pleased to see that Rob Soldat, the storyteller and local historian who died earlier this year, will be remembered in this way. I hope there will be many more lectures to come.
So I went for my second choice - Phil Rickman talking about his latest Merrily Watkins novel, The Magus of Hay. He had to get round to Hay sooner or later! This is on the Sunday evening, so I can go after work. Yet another Stitch and Bitch lady, Tracy, does occult and esoteric research for Phil. (Stitch and Bitch sessions are really just a front for a cunning plan to take over Hay! And after that, the world!!!)

Over the same weekend, there will be a marquee erected on the car park in the middle of town for the Food Festival, always a good excuse to stock up on little luxuries. That's on the Saturday, and on the evening of Friday the 29th, the marquee will be used for local businesses to show off their wares for the Turning on of the Christmas Lights. Guest celebrity this year is Mac Eager, who has been keeping the streets of Hay clean for over twenty years, and there will also be carol singing and mulled wine. The fencing around the Cheesemarket will be coming down to make room for everything, and then going up again the following week.

Then on the Sunday, it's Vintage Day. This will be the third Hay Does Vintage Fayre, and will include furniture, jewellery, curios and upcycled items as well as vintage clothes. It also includes the Travelling Tea Room, serving tea and cakes on vintage bone china.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Artisans at Hay

On Saturday the Artisans at Hay were in the Buttermarket. Shelley was there with her silk scarves, also looking after Richard Evans' prints; Jackie was there with the Castello de Haia soaps; there was a chap with wooden toys and a chap with wrought iron garden ornaments, and a potter.
A few days before, I'd dropped my metal trivet that I stand my hot pans on, and it cracked right across. I'd had a quick look round the charity shops for a replacement - and came away from the Red Cross Shop with a lovely jug decorated with ivy leaves instead. In fact, it was so lovely I went back for the plates that matched it the next day.
So there on the potter's stall was a round ceramic trivet, made (as he said) with his own fair hands. If it lasts as long as the last one, £12.50 is a bargain price!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Residents Parking

A few days ago, I got a questionnaire from Powys County Council through my door, on the subject of residents' parking permits. Since then, I have had two more leaflets. One is anonymous, but very firmly opposed to the scheme and the other is from CRAP (and has a contact phone number).
I actually sent my form back before these two leaflets arrived. I'm neutral on the whole matter, as I can't drive and have no vehicle. I do see parking problems, but they don't generally affect me. So on the form I said I wouldn't be buying a permit for that reason, and in the notes I added that I had seen parking permits introduced elsewhere in the country, and seen the resentment that was caused when people had to pay for something that had previously been free.
It's not going to be cheap, either. As the anonymous leaflet points out, it will start at £65 a year. There is also a permit for the main car park which currently stands at £150 a year, and since only one permit per household is being offered, a household with two cars would need one of those as well. In fact, a household might need a car park permit for both cars, because a permit for the street is no guarantee that a space will be available when they need it - which would work out at £365 a year. They also point out that, once the scheme is in place, it is easy for the County Council to put the fees up - they say, for instance, that fees have risen by 400% in Bristol, and even more in other areas, with very little residents could do about it. They are also concerned about the effect that the parking issues could have on local shops.
The CRAP leaflet breaks down the area of Hay street by street, in most cases recommending that residents support the scheme, but add on the form that the charges are far too expensive. The exception is for Lion Street and Heol-y-Dwr. Here they suggest: "SUPPORT THIS PROPOSAL and you will enjoy less pressure on your current parking and extra residents' parking outside the Drill Hall. REJECT THE PROPOSAL and cars belonging to residents, particularly those owning more than one vehicle; visitors' cars and those owned by employees of local businesses, driven out of restricted areas will put even more pressure on the parking spaces available to you."
CRAP also says, more generally: "The proposals are far from ideal and the permit cost iniquitous BUT this is the last opportunity to get residents' parking for Hay and as it is a trial, some details can be sorted out later.
Powys County Council needs more than 50% approval for the scheme to go ahead.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Small Business Saturday

Belle Books, tucked away behind Rose's Bookshop near the clock tower. The proprietor, Brian, named it after the elder of his two Staffies, and has a great interest in military history and old science fiction, among other things.
Previously, the building was Outcast Books.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Council Meeting - Cuts and Planning Issues

Plans for the new school seem to have become bogged down again at the County Council level. However, there was an interesting bit of history mentioned as they untangle who originally owned what. The community centre was originally owned by Breconshire Council, and the Council Chambers, which was also the Library, was owned by Hay UDC (Urban District Council). Breconshire Council built the present library in the 1970s.
There was a sense of regret that the old Hay council hadn't hung on to the car park - because if they had, the town would get all the revenue from it, rather than the County Council!

The County Council are also failing to reply to Hay Council about the public toilets - Nigel the town clerk sent a letter on 19th Sept and hasn't had an answer yet. He has, however, had to declare an interest on the part of Hay council in taking over the toilets and running them. If he hadn't done that, they would be closed now. As it is, they will remain open until 31st December. The County Council say it costs £26,000 a year to keep a toilet block open (but somehow it could be done for £10,000, which makes one wonder why they aren't doing it for less). Gareth has been talking to Talgarth Council, to see it Hay and Talgarth could combine forces and have a cleaning contract for the toilets between them. It would be cheaper if done for more toilet blocks - (but isn't that what a County Council is for - doing the things that town councils can't do well on their own?).
The Craft Centre was built by the Welsh Development Agency, and the toilets there could be said to be part of the car park provision, so there is an argument there for keeping them open.
Nigel Birch suggested a protest against the closures in which a group of old ladies would drop their knickers in the car park! And at the end of the meeting Ellie Spencer suggested a new campaign - Save Hay's Important Toilets!
The County Councillor responsible for all this, by the way, is Barry Thomas.
Gareth pointed out that the furore over the toilets is only the tip of the iceberg. Closing them will save the County Council only 1% of the amount they need to cut.

On to planning matters, and as part of the G4 mobile phone network being rolled out across Wales a mobile phone mast has been applied for along the A470. Councillors weren't optimistic about objecting to it - after all, it didn't make any difference last time.
Hay Council has also been contacted by Clyro and Painscastle councils about the application for a wind turbine on Cold Blow, (a very apt name!). Again, the Hay councillors didn't want to get involved, especially as the wind turbine will not be visible from Hay. (I've seen the planning application map, and the turbine is tucked away just about as far from anything as it can possibly be). There is already a Facebook page for a group called Say No to Clyro Turbine.
At the new houses in de Breos Court, the softwood frames of the windows are already rotting, and there has been an application from one of the houses to replace them with PVC frames. Alan Powell said it would make no visual difference to the properties (he would know, as a carpenter).
Work on the Cheesemarket will be going on until February, but the scaffolding will be coming down for the Food Fair at the end of this month.

And finally, something far more enjoyable! Someone wants to donate a vintage fire appliance to Hay, as it originally came from Hay Fire Station! It was the hand pumped, horse drawn one, and needs restoration. Alan Powell is going to have a look at it, and it was thought it would be a great addition to the town's resources, and possibly the local Vintage Society would be interested in becoming involved.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Council Meeting - "Dear Father Christmas...." and Volunteers

It's not that long until Christmas, and so one of the important tasks of the evening was to organise the Senior Citizens' Christmas party. This will be at the Swan on Tuesday 10th December at 1pm, and every house in Hay has had a leaflet so nobody is left out - and so invitations are not sent to people who are no longer with us. Dial-a-Ride are acting as the point of contact, as their office is open more often than the Town Clerk's and they can pick people up to take them to the Swan. There was mention of Bingo, and possibly the school choir. There was also mention of limiting the amount of wine available, after several people almost fell over last year!

It's Nigel Birch's turn to write the council's half page feature in the Wye Local for Christmas - a job which he accepted very reluctantly! And started writing on the spot with the words "Dear Father Christmas...."
Ellie Spencer did it last time, but the times given for the Remembrance Day parade were wrong, because Father Richard changed it after the article went to press. The correct time for the Parade will be 2.30pm on Sunday 10th November. Earlier on Monday, Gareth spent an hour cleaning the cenotaph.
St Mary's has also applied to the Recycling Fund for £500 towards the toilets they want to have at the back of the church, and this was agreed.

Also discussed was a TV programme about affordable housing which featured timber framed houses that could be built for £75,000, which included environmentally sustainable features like solar panels, which could be something for the affordable housing group to consider.

Hay Together put in a tender to provide volunteer services for Hay, now that the Community Support is no longer in existence, and PAVO have given them the contract. Ellie Spencer will be working for them for two days a week (Thursdays and Fridays) at the Hub in the Castle, and there will be someone else in the office there on Tuesdays. This will be an entirely new contract, and not taking over what the Community Support were doing, so they are starting off by finding out exactly what volunteer services are needed in Hay. One of the things they have to think about is how to offer volunteering experiences to "difficult" groups like ex-offenders, and people with mental health problems. As a lot of work needs to be done on the Bailey Walk and down by the riverside, this might be something that Hay Together could look at as a volunteering opportunity.
Betty Maura-Cooper was among the members of the public at the meeting, on behalf of the Community Support, and she said that their job had basically been made impossible by the demands put on them by PAVO - who wanted them to find 40 new volunteers, some of them from a certain age group, while at the same time cutting the funding by over 8%. This bore no relation to what was actually needed in Hay; it was just a numbers game and box ticking exercise. She was concerned that Hay Together were taking on something that would become difficult to make work.
Meanwhile the Powys Probation Service are looking for work for their volunteers to do, but it seems that they are only able to do work on Council properties, which may be something to do with insurance cover.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Council Meeting - A Safe Place to Live

There were only seven councillors at the monthly meeting last night, including Mr Gittins, the newest councillor - the ombudsman decided that the rules had been followed and he was allowed to be a Hay councillor after all. There was some annoyance that a letter had been printed in the Brecon and Radnor about the numbers of people who had voted for the new councillors as opposed to the existing councillors - Nigel the town clerk contacted them to say the numbers were inaccurate, and gave the correct figures, but the Brecon and Radnor didn't print that, but there wasn't much enthusiasm for chasing up the B&R for a correction now.

The election of new councillors to fill the places left vacant by the resignation of Rhona Muirhead and Sue Felgate will be held sometime towards the end of December. The Community Centre, which is usually the Polling Station, is no longer suitable - it has deteriorated somewhat since it has closed - so other sites are being looked at and the front runner seems to be the Bowls Club, which has the space and the parking to make it convenient.

Inspector Scrace, the temporary Inspector for Breconshire (though he hopes to become permanent) had been invited to speak. There hasn't been a police report for some time, as PC Fion Thomas was ill, and then went off to work on a wildlife crime job - something he is apparently very good at - so Insp. Scrace was able to give a few up to date figures.
Powys Police are the best in the UK in detecting crimes, but their priority is prevention, and it seems to be working.
There were 16 violent crimes in the Breconshire area since April this year - and last year there were 37.
There were 21 sexual offences this year, and 41 last year.
There were 12 burglaries this year - two of houses and the rest of sheds - and 14 last year, with two being of houses again.
There were 22 thefts this year, including shoplifting, and 22 last year.
So not such an improvement there, but these are crimes that are hard to solve.
There were 31 cases of criminal damage this year, compared to 46 last year.
There were 26 drugs offences this year, of which five were for trafficking and 18 were for cannabis possession - I missed the figures for last year.
There were 174 complaints about anti-social behaviour this year, including boy racers, compared to 232 last year.
The presence of a PCSO has helped a lot around Hay. The present PCSO is Helen Scott, and everyone agreed it was good to see her out and about. The Inspector is also keen to see the PCs out and about, rather than centralised in Brecon Police Station waiting to be called out. He said that one of their priorities is policing the border between Wales and the West Mercia police area, because it was fairly common for criminals to come across and then disappear back to England.

While the Inspector was available, he was asked about dog fouling - but said that getting PCSOs to issue fixed penalty fines was not a priority for them. Another option that Ellie Spencer has been exploring is to give the Traffic Wardens the ability to issue fixed penalties (which are now £80), as well as to recruit dog walkers to become volunteer community dog wardens, to give out poo bags where necessary and report on people who allow their dogs to foul the paths. The volunteering wouldn't mean doing anything they weren't already doing, as it would just mean taking notice of other dog walkers when they went out normally with their dogs, but they would have training from Keep Wales Tidy. There is a scheme running in Hereford which covers dog fouling, fly tipping and graffiti, and they have been talking to Ellie, too.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Bridge Club

I'm feeling slightly guilty, because I met Gwyneth in the Library about a month ago and promised to mention this - and I'm only now getting round to it.
Gwyneth has set up a Bridge Club, which meets on Monday afternoons from 2pm to 5pm at the Bowling Club. It's not meant to be competitive - just a pleasant afternoon of card playing and socialising.
It's not really my sort of thing - I did learn to play bridge, at Sixth Form College, but I wasn't very good at it, and I have now forgotten all the rules. One of the tutors set up a lunchtime club, with the idea that the ability to play bridge would help students "get on" in life. On the whole, I think the Gilbert and Sullivan society was more fun for me.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Small Business Saturday

Belmont House B&B - they also sell surplus veg from their garden on a table by the front gate.

Quick Service!

On 10th July, I wrote about the day trip to Bath that I went on with the Traveller's Club. While I was there, I found a wonderful tea shop called the Bath Tea Emporium, and tried some of their Russian Caravan Tea.
When I went up to Lincoln for the Steampunk Asylum in September, I found another wonderful tea shop, and bought some more Russian Caravan Tea.
Yesterday, I was down to the last spoonful - but which shop should I order more from?
I decided to try the Bath shop first, since I'd found it first, and ordered some more Russian Caravan Tea and some Bath Breakfast tea.
I had a bit of a lie in this morning, as it's my day off - and the postman brought a small package just as I was getting breakfast ready. It was the tea, just in time for my first cup of the day!
That's what you call good service!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Stand Up for Timbuktu

That's what the Globe will be doing tomorrow, with a whole day of celebrations.
Hay Theatre will be holding a "fully participatory" workshop to start with, leading up to an actual performance in the afternoon.
Later there will be stalls in the main chapel building selling arts and crafts and sweets and so on.
And the evening starts off downstairs with comedians from 6pm, followed later by Sheelanagig, and finishing off with DJ Aubrey Fry.
So I'll probably be bimbling down there in the early afternoon to see what's on offer.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Going to the Dentist Can be Frustrating

Last week, I went for my six monthly check up at the dentists.
I've had minor trouble with my gums for years, and this time the dentist recommended that I see the hygienist.
So I came out and booked an appointment with the receptionist.
Then I noticed the sign on the desk. The hygienist is a Private service (I'm NHS) and costs £36 a session. Neither the dentist nor the receptionist mentioned this until I saw the sign and asked about it.
I decided to go ahead with the appointment anyway, and got the time off work to go.
So - I went in today, and I waited, and waited and waited, and after 25 minutes I got up and put my coat on and came away. I have no idea where the hygienist was or what she was doing, but I wasn't prepared to hang around any longer.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Gone to Glasbury

The Old Electric Shop is now empty again - it took most of yesterday to move all the vintage stuff out. They're not going far, though - only to Glasbury, where they will be open by appointment at The Grange.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Totally Locally

I've been seeing these signs in shops around town - and not only shops. I think the first one I saw was in the Swan Hotel. It seems there's a national campaign to encourage people to shop locally, and keep their money circulating in the local economy instead of having it sucked away by big business. There's a website for the national campaign at www.totally-locally.co.uk, and a local website for Hay at www.totallylocallyhay.co.uk. They can also be found on Facebook.
There will be a public meeting on Wednesday evening at 7pm at the Swan to talk about the campaign and how it can help Hay's local shops. Andrew Williams from Eighteen Rabbit, the Fairtrade shop at the Castle, is organising it.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Caemawr Studio

Now I don't have a dog to walk, it's surprising what I miss! The last time I came down the Offa's Dyke Path opposite the castle, this building wasn't here! There was an old brick building instead, which was always locked up. When Islay was still mobile, I used to put my washing in the launderette, and come down here every week. We walked across two or three fields up the Dingle, and got back in time to take the washing out of the machine and put it in the dryer. But I never took her down here in her trolley, because it wouldn't fit through the kissing gate, and she's been dead for nearly two years - so it must be at least four years since I last came this way.
And now here is this lovely little artist's studio, with the most wonderful views up Cusop Dingle from those corner windows. That's where the new exhibition space is, with Georgina Fussell's studio above, and that's where I was yesterday morning, Bucks Fizz in hand, admiring the art work and chatting. I loved the mask for Fantastic Mr Fox by Cassie Rendle, and the industrial landscapes with birds which were upstairs - I came away with a card showing a high building somewhere in Bristol with a flock of pigeons against a grey sky. There were some very good portraits too - and I'm sure the picture of two dogs sharing a cushion must be Hartley and his little friend Daisy from Bull Ring Antiques.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Small Business Saturday

Red Indigo Indian restaurant - they do very good meals there.
The part of the building nearest the camera was once a chip shop, and later the XOX Organic takeaway. The main part of the building was once the Wine Vaults hotel, and for a while it was a restaurant called the Penny Bun.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Exhibition on the Offa's Dyke Path

Caemawr Studio is just down the Offa's Dyke Path opposite the Castle, and from 26th October they will be staging an exhibition of several different local artists' works. Tracy Thursfield knits, Sarah Putt is a painter and also works in other media, Cassie Rendle is the maker of masks which were recently featured in the Sunday Times, and they are joined by Francesca Kay and Gaynor and Georgina Funnell. The exhibition will last until 21st December and will be open from 11am to 5pm from Thursdays to Saturdays.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Transition Town Meeting

The Transition Town group will be meeting tomorrow night (Thursday) at the Hub in the Castle, which is the meeting room that Hay Together organised. They will be talking about the plans for the new school, safe walking and cycling paths to school, the Local Development Plan and Hayfield Garden.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Living on the Border....

...can be a disadvantage.
It seems that Powys County Council and Herefordshire County Council don't talk to each other.
This can be a problem.
At the moment there is a lot of concern about the proposed 83 houses at the Gipsy Castle end of town - in the Powys area. It seems that this is not the only proposed house building around Hay, though. Just over the border in Herefordshire, there's a plan to build 20 houses near the Co-op, and another possible 28 in Cusop. And then there is the Community Centre site - a possible 25 new houses, and another ten near the doctors' surgery.
In Llanigon there are plans for 20 houses by the Diggedi Brook and another possible 10 on the site of the present school.
That's an awful lot of houses, and some local residents are concerned that this has not been taken into account while planning the size of the new school, for instance, because Powys County Council wasn't aware of the Herefordshire plans.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Good News for Hayfield Gardens

Hayfield Gardens have been given a grant by Environment Wales to make the area easier for disabled people to get access to - they are going to be able to make paths at the top of the garden leading to raised beds so that people in wheelchairs can do some gardening. They're also going to be able to create a new pond, both for plants that like wet conditions and as part of the irrigation system for the gardens.
However, they also need help. This isn't the usual call for volunteers (there are so many calls for volunteers to run this and keep that going) because this is something that can directly benefit the volunteer. Anyone coming along to help with the garden gets to take fresh vegetables home when they're grown. They need people to make the tea as well as do the weeding - and participants don't need to commit to regular hours; it's very informal.
It's an organic garden, and it has been running successfully for some time now. Between now and 31st March, they need help with driving a mini digger, making raised beds, installing plastic water tanks and making some paths. If they can't get the work done, they will have to send the money back.
There is also a garden plot of 130 x 40 feet which is to rent for £30 a year, in which an organic gardener can grow their own food - and sell the surplus if they wish. It would also be possible to split the plot into two halves at £20 each.
They are also hoping to run some countryside skills courses and horticultural courses.

Anyone who's interested in any of these things should ring Ros Garrett on 01497 821520

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Whovians in Hereford

Any excuse to dress up!
This is me as a Tardis Engineer, on the day of the Doctor Who event in Hereford. It was organised by BBC Hereford and Worcester, and we had an interesting chat with the lady from the radio station, who once worked for the Doctor Who Magazine, and who had interviewed several of the actors from the series. I met up with Si from Drudion, the medieval re-enactor group I belong to, while I was there.
I wasn't the only person in costume - there were several Doctors, a very good Cat Nun, a Weeping Angel, a Clockwork Man from The Girl in the Fireplace (one of the Tenth Doctor episodes), and an early Cyberman, among others. They'd gathered around the Tardis, which you could go in - but it obviously wasn't the real one, because it wasn't bigger on the inside. There was a real Dalek (called Derek!) and a couple of fan-made ones, and some Dalek toys for the kids to drive around. It was a very good day out for the kids, with colouring in of face masks and making Tardis models. Some fans had brought their collections along to show as well.
The main hall of the Shire Hall is up a long flight of stairs, and I did wonder how the children in wheelchairs that I saw in the entrance hall were going to be able to get up there. I hope there was a back way up there.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Small Business Saturday

Jones' Hardware Shop - cookware on one side, gardening and DIY on the other. They've never let me down, no matter how odd my requests have been!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Stitch and Bitch

We were in the back bar of the Swan last night because it was so busy. On the first Thursdays of the month, we book a space, but we leave it to chance in the middle of the month and last night Hay2Timbuktu were meeting in the little lounge by the front door, and someone else was in the meeting room - there was a big property auction going on, and halfway through the evening a lot of smartly dressed men came into the bar for a drink. The back bar has been changed around since I was last in there - there used to be a pool table in the middle of the floor. That's gone now, and has been replaced with tables, but the lights that used to be over the pool table are still there, so that's where the best light for knitting and stitching is.
Tracy brought some polystyrene heads along to give back to Emanation. She used them to display her hats over Herefordshire Arts week, and sold them all, so she's now busily knitting more.
Jan was knitting a baby jacket for her grandchild - the family are visiting from Thailand, so he'll only wear it while he's here. She was taking a break from cooking for twelve - Organic Paul at Primrose Farm is running a course involving gongs and sound therapy, and she's doing all the cooking for the participants, some of whom have very complicated dietary requirements.
Emanation brought her crocheted skirt to show everyone. She's been doing a crocheted poncho as well, and is hoping to do more to order - she's got a picture of the original one posted on etsy.
I was plaiting lengths of lucetted cord which will be woven into a rug - a lucet is a medieval wooden tool shaped like a cresent on a stick, which was used to make things like bootlaces and drawstrings, but it can also be used to make a looser cord, which I'm doing, so it feels nice and scrunchy under my feet when I have it as a bedside rug.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Getting Comfortable

Here's the elderly little dog belonging to the CD stall on the market, curled up in the most comfortable place it could find.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Great Gate Concert

Hay Castle has what is reputedly the oldest castle gate in Wales. It dates to the twelfth century. It's also in a poor state of repair.
When I first came to Hay, over twenty years ago, I was involved in organising the wooden prop which holds up the gateway. By that time, my husband and I had been working for Richard Booth for a while, so when the contractor said he could do a job which would last for one year, five years or twenty years, we knew that Richard would go for the cheapest option. So we took the chap to one side and explained that, although Richard was paying for the one year option, could he please make it as strong as possible, because it would probably have to last twenty years.

Here we are, twenty years later, and the Hay Castle Trust now want to do something about the gate.
So they're holding a dinner and concert in the Castle, to raise money to conserve the gates. It will be on November 8th, and the tickets cost £50 - £25 of that is a donation to the gate fund. For that money, the diners will get dinner at Richard Booth's Bookshop, while serenaded by Sarah Newbold on flute, Katherine Thomas on harp, Marcia Crayford on violin, Susie Meszaros on viola and Moray Welsh on cello. They will be playing music from Mozart, Saints-Saens, Tournier, Beethoven and Francaix.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Change at the Catholic Church

It was the funeral today of Father Tim Mahoney, long serving priest at St Joseph's Catholic church on Belmont Road. He died in Bronllys Hospital after a short illness.
It was a big funeral - they had awnings with chairs under for the overflow congregation on the grass at the front of the church, though it was such a beautiful sunny day that they hardly needed protection from the weather.
One rather confused visiting priest came into the shop to ask where the cattle market was, as it had been opened up as a car park for the funeral, and then needed directions to the church. The burial took place at Hay Cemetery.
So I assume that the local Roman Catholic bishop will need to appoint a new priest now.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Problems with the Plans for the New School

Now that there has been consultation, and a lot of people have looked at the plans for the new school, it seems that a few problems have come up. Some of this came up at the last Council meeting (see my post for last Wednesday), and here are a few more details.
Both Ellie Spencer, on behalf of the Beavers, and Gaynor, on behalf of the Youth Group, are concerned about using a room in the school for their activities - for a start, it's one more thing that the children are going into the school building to do, and it would be better if they could go elsewhere once in a while. And it's uncertain whether these groups will be able to put their artwork up on the walls, as other groups will be using the rooms, and so will the school during the day. There's also a storage problem - where will the Beavers or Youth Group be able to store their equipment? And will they be able to move furniture out of the way for their activities? And will they be able to kick a ball about in the hall?
Then there's the problem of the kitchen facilities. Will the Beavers - or, indeed, the WI - be able to have cooking activities, or a demonstrator coming in to do a talk involving cooking? It's also unclear how one would get from the school kitchen to the hall on the plans, and whether it would be possible to use the kitchens for tea and coffee making for different groups using the hall and meeting room.
Louise Christie has written a report about this, raising all the possible problems for so many different groups using the same space. For instance, she estimates that about 100 people can be accommodated in the hall. Are there enough toilets available for all these people, and is there a disabled toilet accessible to the library? Will the library be available in the evenings? And will the hall be used for jumble sales, or discos, or concerts? Will the hall be available for yoga classes during the day, or other similar groups?
The large meeting room is shown on the plans as having sofas, a meeting table and a pool table - but how can that space be used for U3A lectures, or for concerts, or talks - surely stackable furniture that could be used more flexibly would be better? And will groups like the Youth Group or U3A have access to the IT facilities within the school?
So it seems that there are some quite serious issues here that need ironing out before building starts, or Hay will end up with a new school, but unsuitable facilities for other groups that also need accommodating.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Raising Money for the School

The Hay School PTFA are having an eBay auction, at this very moment. They're raising money to pay for school trips, sports and play equipment, and IT equipment and software. They persuaded famous artists and writers who were at the Hay Festival to doodle for them, or draw small works of art, or give autographs, and they are now auctioning 24 of them off. The eBay auction can be found by looking for "Hay School PTFA" (that's Parent Teacher and Friends Association).
They really have got some good stuff - Johnny Vegas and Rowan Williams (ex-Archbishop of Canterbury) have both contributed, and so have Quentin Blake and Anthony Browne (famous for Gorilla and other picture books), Cerys Matthews (who used to sing with Catatonia) and Kevin Crossley-Holland, who has donated artwork from his children's novel Arthur: The Seeing Stone. All the sketches are mounted. Not many primary schools are lucky enough to get this quality of donated gift, and they deserve to do well with the auction.

And then on Friday 18th, when the eBay auction has finished, there will be an auction of promises at the Three Tuns, at 7.30pm. These include an hour's ride on a motorbike, a pick-up truck full of logs delivered, a cake a month for a year, a belly dancing class for four, a sailing lesson - and swimming lesson, pictures, jams and chutneys - and a haunch of venison, a visit to the Children's Ward of Hereford Hospital to meet a doctor and nurses and look at an X-ray machine, half a day's Landrover experience, tickets for an event at the Globe and a film at Booth's Cinema, and a day's canoe trip - and more.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Small Business Saturday

The Old Curiosity Shoppe at the Castle, which sells vintage clothing and linens and lots more.
When I went to the Steampunk Asylum in September, in Lincoln (which I wrote up in my other blog, Morwenna's Tower) one of the costumes I wore came from this shop. I was a Steampunk Alice in Wonderland....

That's a (probably) 1950s corset over a Victorian nightdress.

In other business news this week, FJ Williams hardware and builders' merchants, on the edge of town, has just been taken over by Huws Gray, who are keeping on all the existing staff.

Packaging Co-ordinators Inc. are taking on 50 new staff. According to the Hereford Times: "The company, formally AndersonBrecon UK, is a leading global supplier of pharmaceutical commercial packaging solutions and clinical trials services.... Hywel Lucas, director of human resources and organisation development at PCI, said the jobs span from packaging operations through to quality assurance, engineering and project management."
So that seems to be what is known locally as Brecon Pharmaceuticals. They also have premises at Treforest and Talgarth locally.

Marina, who runs The End, a tiny shop on Castle Street that sells vintage - well, stuff, that can be quite bizarre - is one of the proudest mothers in Hay this week. One of her daughters is a talented maker of puppets and masks, and her work has been featured in a photo shoot by the Sunday Times! When I popped in to buy a little potted white rose I saw outside, she had the magazine there, next to a giant fish head her daughter had made, to show everyone.

And finally, Castle Greengrocers is now on Facebook!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Council Resignations in the B&R

The story was on the front page, and page two, of the B&R this week, with Sue Campbell-Felgate and Rhona Muirhead explaining why they have resigned from the Town Council, together with a response from Mayor Rob Golesworthy.
I did feel that Rob Golesworthy had rather missed the points that they were raising. He seemed to think that the rudeness of the councillors who had been there for a long time was a matter of someone using the 'F' word during Council meetings, whereas the new councillors were talking about a general attitude of unhelpfulness and unwillingness to discuss new ideas.
He also seemed to think that the problem was one of not keeping to the point during discussions, whereas the new councillors were talking about important discussions about the future of Hay that were just not happening at all.

At the council meeting on Monday, there was a point, during the report of the Fisheries and Estates sub-committee, where the sub-committee was referring very simple and basic decisions back to the full council for a vote - such as whether they should ring up the County Council to get the railings on Broad Street mended. That's the sort of thing that makes the Council meetings go on for so long, and they can spend as much time on these small matters as they can on really major matters.
The resigning councillors also said that there is a culture of not challenging the County Council - a letter may be written, but time and again there is a slow or non-existent response from the County Council. That's why Plan B came into existence, of course. At the very first public meeting, in Booth Books, Mary Fellowes, who was a councillor at the time, stood up and attempted to defend the Council's inaction on the matter of the proposed supermarket replacing the school building, and eventually had to agree (after much argument with members of the audience) that the Town Council would write to the County Council. Before that meeting, the Town Council were going to accept the County Council's plans (because they wanted a new school at any price), and it was only Johnny Kramer's objections that started the public awareness of what was going on.
More recently, the anti-LDP group has formed because the Council have not been proactive in working out the Local Development Plan, and so the plans for 83 new houses on the edge of town have been added to the plan without any real discussion with the local representatives.

On the positive side of things, Fiona Howard's plans to build more affordable housing in Hay have shown what can be done when the Town Council is proactive and willing to engage with outside groups - there is an Affordable Housing committee which is not part of the Council, and which produced the report that is going to be forwarded to the County Council to show what it is that the people of Hay want from the Planning Department.
Most of the new councillors have said that they want to see the Town Council engaging with outside groups - and making their work more public generally, which is why they are starting to take out a column in WyeLocal regularly.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Bits and Pieces from the end of the Meeting

A bit of a mixed bag now, of all sorts of different things:

Hay Luncheon Club, which used to be under the banner of Community Support, has applied for a grant from the Council - and are going to be told that they need a business plan now, and when they have that they can apply to the recycling fund.

A pedestrian was hit by a vehicle's wing mirror while he was walking along the pavement near Red Indigo. This is a problem with narrow pavements and fast moving traffic, especially the big lorries that pass through Hay, and the Highways Department will be asked what can be done about it in the way of possible traffic calming measures, or a pedestrian crossing.

Also on the roads, the bus timetable for the 39 will be changing slightly from 22nd October, in the mornings so that the service meets up with the T4 service to Llandrindod Wells. There may also be a need for a new bus stop in Brecon Road. Meanwhile the perspex in the bus stop by the Castle needs replacing and this is a job for the Council as they own the shelter. There's still no chance of an evening bus into Hereford though.

Going back to the closure of the Community Centre - councillors were asked to consider where a Polling Station would be when it had gone.

Cheryl Davis of Gipsy Castle has won the best vegetable garden in Powys - and this is the first time she's entered the competition!

Hay Together will be holding a public meeting on 13th November, and One Voice Wales will be meeting in Talgarth on October 18th.

At the Dial-a-Ride AGM, there was a bit of excitement, as they were given a donation of £20,000 to go towards a new minibus! Dr Ainsley Rice gave the money in memory of his mother, who died recently.

The Youth Club will not be moving into the bungalow by the school yet - there are still some issues with the County Council to clear up.

Hay School, meanwhile, is getting ready for an Ofsted inspection.

At the other end of the age range, there is a new Dementia Cafe which meets in Cusop Hall once a month for dementia sufferers and their carers. Training is available from the Alzheimer's Society for people who may have to deal with people who suffer from dementia, and Gareth said that he'd be interested in doing that, as he has occasionally gone round to see people who called him, only to find that they'd forgotten what they wanted to see him about when he got there. Several other councillors were also interested, and apparently the Alzheimer's Society are trying to train people so that communities which are supportive to people suffering from dementia can be created.

The Cheesemarket has been given listed building planning consent by CADW, for the renovations they want to do, so they're all ready to go on that. They are hoping to complete the work by April next year. They estimated that they had 650 visitors during the Hay History Weekend, and most (if not all) of the places that had a poster up explaining what the building used to be used for, have kept the posters on show.
John Evans of the Chamber of Commerce wants to use the Council Chambers to talk to 150 school children soon, about local history (in several groups! They'd have to stack them up in piles to get 150 kids in there all at once!)

Les, who has been setting up the market stalls for many years (apparently the correct term is "market toby"), has now stepped down, and a lady called Claire has taken over. The market equipment is being kept in a lorry which is parked at Henderson's factory.

And at that point, the three members of the public who had stayed right through were asked to leave, so that the councillors could discuss the matter of the new councillor's eligibility to remain on the Council.