Thursday, 28 February 2013

New History Group for Hay

This has grown out of the Cheesemarket Research Group, which is broadening its interests. We met in the upper room of the Three Tuns, one of the most historic buildings in town (and I was happy to see I'm not the only person who regularly points out Lucy's bathroom - now where a cosy table for two is situated - to new visitors!). More than 20 people turned up - the place was packed out.

There was a presentation about the information that has been gathered about the Cheesemarket so far - I think my favourite bit was the story about the Town Band, who asked permission to practice there. They were given permission in the April - and in the May there were letters complaining about the noise, so they were thrown out again!
The chap whose done a lot of the research on the Cheesemarket lives in one of the new houses where Underhill's Garage used to be, and he's also been researching the tanneries and mills that were there, mapping photos onto a 3D program to make a model of what the buildings looked like in the 1930s. Yet he still says he doesn't know whether the mill wheel was overshot, midshot or undershot.

Brecon Museum is in the process of being refurbished (almost rebuilt!) and as part of this they are re-designing the exhibits for the different towns and villages of Breconshire. As Hay doesn't have a working History Group, they approached the Cheesemarket Research group, and one of the ladies has been going along to meetings. One of the ideas was to base the exhibits around a notable inhabitant of the town or village, and after some thought, they chose William de Braose for Hay.
"Which one? was called out from somewhere in the room.
"The nasty one!" she replied.
"There were three or four (and they all came to a bad end!). I think one was beheaded and one was hanged...."
"What about Matilda?" I asked - there was only one Matilda, after all, and it's always good to acknowledge the women in history. There's also the more recent link with Barbara Erskine's book Lady of Hay.
When the Museum people looked at the names that had been chosen, they found something unexpected - almost all of them had been incomers to the area. William de Braose, of course, was a Norman. It made them think that the theme of the group of exhibits should be immigration to the area. It's easy to assume that this part of the world has been an unchanging rural backwater, full of sheep and farmers, but the history of the area is actually a lot more dynamic than that.
Another suggestion for an interesting person from Hay was the head of the Howe family - a watchmaker from London who came to Hay to own a fulling mill, and was invited to move to America to start a flannel factory there in the 18th century.

So the next step is to start holding monthly meetings, and to work towards a couple of events. The next meeting will be on 27th March - but they weren't sure of the venue (possibly somewhere bigger than the room at the Three Tuns).
In September, there's going to be a Powys wide history weekend - or week if a town is feeling particularly enthusiastic - and there will be open historic houses and guided walks and so forth. There's quite a bit of scope for that sort of thing in Hay, and it would be good to be part of it.
There was also the suggestion of having a History Day, where local people would be asked to bring along their old photos and documents to be scanned, and the group could show what they've been doing for the Cheesemarket and any other research.
Rodney Mace is also on the Hay Together committee, and said that it might be possible to use a room at the Castle - Hay Together are talking to Elizabeth Haycox about the possibility of having a base there which would be a point of contact for all the groups in Hay, so everyone would be able to find out what was going on, and do things like borrow equipment instead of each group in isolation trying to raise money for their own projector or whatever it might be.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Top Notch

A chap who has a business in Hay came to me the other day to ask me to put a link on my blog to a video company run by a relative of his. From what he said, I assumed that the video company was based in Hay or nearby, but when I had a look at their website, I found that they are based in Wimbledon.
I'm sure Top Notch Productions are lovely people and will make a very good video - but Wimbledon is a bit too far away from Hay for me!

Sunday, 24 February 2013


Coppicing on the Riverside Path.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Small Business Saturday

The pottery at the top of Chancery Lane. They don't just sell pottery here, they make it on the premises - and at the moment there are some lovely wooden bird sculptures in the window as well.

Meanwhile, it's goodbye to Hay Craft Company on Broad Street but hello to the Hay Loft at the entrance to the Castle. People with long memories will remember this building as Five Star - it's where Richard Booth had his military books, and later his science fiction section. More recently, it was Nepal Bazaar. Hay Loft have a mixture of new and vintage, and it looks so bright in there with all the pastel coloured kitchen dressers!
It's also hello to The Shed, tucked in the passageway next to Monica's dress shop, and selling vintage clothing and accessories.

Friday, 22 February 2013

New School - Here We Go Again!

So, the County Council have issued a press release which was reported on in the Brecon and Radnor this week. They acknowledge the need for a new 240 pupil school in Hay, and are promising to provide one in two years, - so they are going to the same developer who was approached before so that he can give them a "final 'best offer'".
Hang on - haven't we been here before?
And shouldn't these things go out to tender?
Meanwhile, Malcolm Smith, the chairman of Plan B for Hay, has had a letter printed in the Hereford Times, pointing out that it would make far more sense to combine a new school building with a new community centre, on the same site that the school is currently occupying. They've had plans drawn up, and looked at the economics of it, and have demonstrated that it is feasible. They have also, of course, compiled a survey to show what the people of Hay actually want - which is a school funded by the government (rather than a developer), on the present site, without any new "retail development".
It seems that everything Plan B has done so far has been ignored by the new Cabinet, although they have been in contact with the County Council for the past 17 months, and have provided them with a lot of information. The County Council also says that they have consulted with the Town Council - but it hasn't been mentioned while I've been sitting at the monthly meetings, and it doesn't seem to be in their minutes either.

There also seems to be some sort of proposal to move the Library to the school site, which seems puzzling. What would happen to the present Library building in that case? And would the Council's "Library +" facilities still be provided through the library now that we have no other point of contact with the County Council in Hay?

So it seems we're no further on than before - we have a promise of a school, but no clear way of paying for it, or any other details yet.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Events about Women

8th March is International Women's Day, and in Hay there's going to be an event at the Swan called Our Women: Our Inspiration.
It will be themed workshops celebrating the achievements of local women - and hopefully inspiring other women to achieve things, too!
It will take place between 3pm and 6pm on the Friday afternoon, with a voluntary admission fee of £2.
Tickets are available from the Swan, Rohan and Londis.

Meanwhile, some of the Hay Feminists went down to Cardiff on 14th Feb to be part of the One Billion Rising march. It's a world wide movement to stop violence against women and girls. Their motto is "One Billion Women Violated is an Atrocity - One Billion Women Dancing is a Revolution."

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Family Reunion

A group of fairly elderly people had gathered in the foyer of the Cinema. One of the party had gone upstairs to look at the military books, and the others were waiting for him.
Just as they were all standing there, the lady from the butcher's in Broad Street came in, to ask if she could park her car in the Cinema car park for a while.
She turned out to be a long-lost cousin!
One of the ladies told me that her gran used to be a cleaner at the Cinema (before it was a bookshop). "There were eleven of us," she said, "in a two bedroom house in Chancery Lane - all the girls in one bedroom and all the boys in the other - and gran and grandad in the bay window downstairs!" Most of the brothers and sisters had gone off to live in Hereford. She said she had 36 cousins.
Another of the ladies told me about her life of crime! When she was about twelve, she came to the Cinema while a film was on, and let down the tires of all the bicycles that were parked there! She was seen by the local policeman, who made her pump them all up again!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Two Very Different Parties

On Friday evening, Booths Bookshop was transformed with soft lighting and rose petals, and long strips of paper with fragments of poetry printed on them. It was the book launch of Storms of the Heart, poems written by an Iranian woman to the professor she left behind in Tehran. It's an achingly sad story - they were soul mates from the moment they met, and spent two years together. Then she was parted from him, and came to England, and in 1979 she sent a letter to him and never got a reply. She never found out what happened to him, and 40 years on, she still thinks about him every day.
There was a recording of her reading some of the poems - she was too shy to come to the event - and a dramatic reading of some of the poems for two voices, with another recording of the author's open letter to the professor, hoping that the book of poetry might somehow find its way into his hands.
The book itself is beautifully produced - everyone said that Seza, who published the book, is a perfectionist (and they meant it as a compliment).
Sarah had been hard at work with the window display, too. She said it had taken her a month, and that she'd finished setting it up at around 2am, when she could hardly keep her eyes open!

It's hard to see here, but there are some very detailed paper birds in the display, along with lots of fragments of poetry.

The following evening, I was off again, to the Tapas Bar - and I don't think I've ever seen it so packed! Ann Brichto was having a Significant Birthday, and it seemed that half the town had turned up to celebrate! A few booksellers may have been nursing sore heads this morning!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Small Business Saturday

The Poetry Bookshop - I think there are only two or three bookshops in the UK which are entirely dedicated to poetry, and this is one of them!
The building was originally the Ice House. The cellar has been dug out now to give more head room, but originally blocks of ice were stored down there in the winter, to keep food fresh through the summer months.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Music for Valentine's Day

It's a little late to mention the concert at Booth's Bookshop, I know (where does the time go?) but there's another concert coming up soon - and it's a UK premiere!
Michael Jones will be playing a recently re-discovered work for cello by the Spanish composer Rodrigo. It's called Como una Fantasia, and was written for a performance in 1979, for a Mexican cellist called Carlos Prieto. It doesn't seem to have been played since. It was only published in 1989 and the composer died in 1999, so this is quite an important event in the cello world. Rodrigo was blind, and composed all his music in braille - he was taught by the man who wrote the Sorcerer's Apprentice (I wonder if that gives any clue to what his music sounds like?).
Tickets are £10, as usual, from Booths.

And on the 16th March there's going to be a concert in Michaelchurch Escley. It's called Concert for Craswall, and will include music by Byrd, Monteverdi and Bach, sung by a countertenor and soprano, and with viols and harpsichord.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

New Plan B Poster

This is the newest poster that Plan B have put out, using the results of the huge survey they did last year. 1,000 survey forms were returned.

So, 94% of the people surveyed said that the government should fund the school.
82% said that they believed a supermarket would cause local shops to close.
81% said that they thought a supermarket would increase traffic in Hay.
78% said they thought fewer people would come into Hay to shop if there was a supermarket.
75% believed that a supermarket would cause job losses and light pollution.
73% thought that a supermarket would not mean cheaper food.
70% thought there would be an increase in refuse if there was a supermarket.

And 76% said that they wanted to see a new school on the current site.

Meanwhile, Gareth Ratcliffe has posted on his Facebook page that the County Council are promising a new 240 pupil school for Hay within two years. This sounds wonderful, but the rest of his post is a bit confusing. He says that the County Council have been in discussions with a developer, but it's unclear if this is the same developer who was involved originally, or someone else entirely.

Plan B for Hay are holding their AGM on 18th March at 7pm in the Parish Hall.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Photographs in the Buttermarket

A view of the photographic exhibition in the Buttermarket on Saturday. I particularly liked the Then and Now pictures, taken from almost the same spot as the old photos - Broad Street hasn't changed much since 1926!
There were also photos of benches and the river, local shopkeepers, and people who went along to the Globe to have their portrait done. Another photographer took pictures of people against a background of trees, and there was a lovely one showing old ladies exercising while sitting down.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Resident's Parking

The pilot scheme is ready to go, and CRAP, who have been campaigning on this issue for some time, have worked out a way to make the scheme "cost neutral", which means that the County Council won't have to spend any money on it. They have done this by working with existing road signs as much as possible, while encouraging use of the Pay and Display, and selling permits to residents (and temporary permits to visitors). They are also hopeful that a new 48 bay Pay and Display car park on the cattle market will bring in more income.
In the red zone (there will be maps, but this is basically the main retail area of town and the car park by the Cheese Market) it will be resident's parking only, with the usual proviso that cars have to be moved for the Thursday market. There will be two new parking places outside the HSBC bank, where a lot of people stop to use the cash machine. These will mainly be 1 hour bays, between 8am and 6pm, with a couple of 30 minute bays at the wide end of Lion Street near the Clock Tower, and two new bays outside the Wholefood Shop. There will also be two new bays in the Bull Ring, and three more under the Castle wall. Four more new spaces will be along Chancery Lane.
In the green zone, around the centre (Heol-y-Dwr and Oxford Street, mainly) will give residents unlimited parking and anyone else has to stick to the time restrictions. This includes the bays outside the Council Chambers, and the residential end of Lion Street, and down Church Street.
There are also thoughts of a new car park across the bridge opposite The Start, where it would be screened by the trees.
At the moment, Powys County Council sells parking permits for its long term car parks at £150 for a year. A Resident's Permit will cost £52 for a year, with a second permit available for the same address at £78, but only two permits per address. It won't guarantee the car a space, but it will mean the car won't get a ticket when it is parked.
Temporary One Day Parking Permits will be issued in books of 5 or 10 at £4 each day - this is higher than the main car park to encourage people to try parking there first.
And finally, they will be looking at the possibility of putting a zebra crossing in between the Blue Boar and Jones Hardware (I know I'd find that quite useful!).

There's a lot more detail in the actual documents, but I think this gives the general gist of it.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Hay Together Meeting (or "Blimey! Table One Have Done a Lot!")

About forty people turned up at the Parish Hall to find out more about Hay Together on Wednesday night.
It's not a single issue group - it's far more long term and over-arching than that. The idea is that Hay Together can give a communal voice to all the many and varied groups in Hay, which will give them more influence with outside organisations than smaller groups on their own.
At present the steering group consists of Johnny Kramer, who has the B&B on the Bridge; Sophia Bird, belly dancer; Gareth Davies, footballer and coach; Nick Hankinson, who runs CRAP, the sensible car parking group; Rodney Mace, chair of U3A and on the committee of the film festival; Liz Meres, who's interested in affordable housing; Gareth Ratcliffe our County Councillor, and Ellie Spencer, Town Councillor, who's involved with the WI, Cubs and Dial-a-Ride.

There was a short presentation first, to show how the idea of Hay Together came about. First, there was the big meeting about the school and development plans that led to the creation of Plan B.
Then there was a book - The Big Society by local MP Jesse Norman, which talks about a "new kind of association, based on affection". Whatever anyone might think about the way the phrase 'Big Society' has been used by the government, it seems there are some good ideas in the book.
The third thing was the Localism Act of 2011, which applies to England rather than Wales, but includes some interesting ideas that can be used in Wales, such as the idea of community rights, neighbourhood planning and Local Development plans, and empowering communities to take back power which has been taken away from local level by the government, supermarkets, banks and so on.

As usual, when new groups start, there are always some people who say; "it's been tried before," or "it'll only be a talking shop". But the Community Fair at the Castle last September showed that it was possible to bring people together, and show them all the different things that Hay has to offer in one place at one time. Thirty local groups paid £20 each to come to the Fair. Josie Pearson was there, meeting her fans just after her triumph at the Paralympics. There was also storytelling, and people collaborated to make murals, one of which is on show at the Library now.
One of the things that generated a lot of interest was a sign board where people could post sticky notes saying what they liked about Hay, and what they didn't like about Hay. (One of the top "Don't Like"s was dog mess!)
Hay Together want to make a study of Hay's commercial health and as a tourist and Festival destination. Where do the tourists come from? Why do they come? Would they visit again? This information would be very useful to enable people in Hay to advertise the town in the most effective way. Johnny Kramer said that one goal would be to have a permanent office, perhaps in the newly refurbished Castle, where anyone could come in and find out what was going on, share information and access services.
The most important thing they want to do, though, is to put together a Community Plan - a document to say what the people of Hay want their town to be like. It should involve everyone who lives here, include local knowledge and take into account existing interests and motivations, so that there aren't a lot of different groups all pulling in different directions. Johnny said that the motto should be "An even better Hay for the benefit of everyone."
So, the group has to be democratic, make better use of the available resources, and be able to work with Councils and other outside bodies.

Then the room was divided up into four groups, each of which was given a different topic to think about, with the ideas to be shared at the end. I was in the group which was thinking about working with other organisations. There is so much going on in Hay that people miss because they just don't know about it. So we thought it was important to have a complete list of all the groups in Hay and what they do - Community Support have something along those lines, but no-one was sure how complete it was, and some hadn't known that it existed.
There was a meeting of the Tourism Group on Monday (and some people didn't know that this group existed!) where they suggested that the different Festivals that go on in Hay should get together to get group insurance to cover all of them, and also share equipment, instead of each group doing everything themselves and duplicating a lot of effort.
Another thought was that there should be a calendar of events, listing everything that goes on in Hay in one place - such as a community notice board in a prominent place, like the one for Cusop.

Then it was time to share our findings. For our group, there was an extra suggestion that there should be a competition to design a new noticeboard - and find a central location for it.
The group that was thinking about promoting Hay to the wider world had gone back to first principles and thought about how and why Hay should be promoted. They thought of Cotswold towns that were over-run with tourists to the detriment of local life, and thought that they didn't want to see that in Hay - there should be some control of development, and it shouldn't just be about making more money. Making enough money was acknowledged to be important, but Hay has a lot of other things going for it. Hay's individuality is it's strength. They also thought about the problems of parking - and public transport, and that Hay should be seen as a welcoming place (with less enthusiastic parking wardens!)

Table one was considering democratic participation. A group like Hay Together has to be flexible enough to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. It should be welcoming and accessible (not just for the sort of people who always join committees). It should have a collaborative approach. Rhona Muirhead drew a diagram! Rather than the traditional top-down pyramid approach, it should be a round, interconnected network.
They also wondered whether it should have a different name, like Assembly, or Forum.

The last table to speak was thinking about local skills and encouraging participation. They'd like to see another community event like the fair, with more for children to do. They thought that achievements (such as recent action on dog mess) should be celebrated. Local tradesmen should be used for jobs, and WyeLocal could be asked to publish a noticeboard of local people with skills. There are a lot of talented people in Hay, with all sorts of different skills. They also said that we should publicise what we haven't been able to achieve, and ask for help.

The steering group are looking for new members with communication skills, and knowledge of how to get funding, financial management and creative skills.

The next meeting of Hay Together will be at the Granary on Thursday 21st February, at 1pm.

"Living together, working together, stronger together," were the parting words.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Small Business Saturday

Tucked into a back alley between the pottery and the Conservative Club is Catmint, a business that takes old furniture and re-crafts it into something wonderful!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Part Three of the Council Meeting

The next topic for discussion was the O2 Mast - and in this case, all the councillors felt that they had done all that it was possible for them to do as a council. After all, they had made their feelings known when the planning application went through (they were all against it). Any further protests or campaigning, they felt, should be left to those members of the public who feel passionately about it.

One of those is Peter Limbrick, who is planning a Health Survey with the help of Prof. Chris Busby of Green Audit. The idea is that they measure the health of the town now, and come back again in a year or so to see if there have been any changes. This will cost around £500 and they are asking for help with donations and to get the survey forms out to residents, and collecting them back.

In general discussion of the topic, it was mentioned that the UK regulations on phone masts are actually more stringent than those in Italy and Switzerland, which had been held up as the best in Europe. Apparently, staff at Hay School don't have the wifi switched on all the time, either - when they don't need it during the day, it is switched off.

Ellie Spencer went to the stakeholder's meeting on Bronllys Hospital recently.
One of the topics of discussion there was the move of the stroke unit from Bronllys to Brecon, and she felt there was a need for an explanation of the clinical necessity for the move (rather than a move designed to save money or to run down the services at Bronllys). The people at the meeting were talking of Bronllys as a "mixed use site" rather than as a hospital, with a vision of some sort of care home, out patient services, and offices.
Roger Williams, MP, commented that they had made their decisions before the consultation took place, and Kirsty Williams, AM, asked where people were supposed to go for treatment as beds closed. Meanwhile, building work is going on at Brecon hospital to remove asbestos.
During the meeting, the people in charge changed their minds several times about whether members of the public would be allowed to speak, and in the end decided that they wouldn't.
The next meeting of Bronllys Hospital League of Friends will be on 13th February at 10.30am at the hospital, and they are holding their AGM on Wednesday 20th March.

The council then got on to reading through the letters they had received since the last meeting.
One of these was from a fast food business called Big Pan. They used to have a stall in the Honesty Gardens during Hay Festival until last year, when Elizabeth Haycox changed all the stalls there. They have asked if they could set up their Big Pan on the grass in front of the Council Chambers for the Festival - and then added that they would need electricity, and water, and toilets, and access to a room to lock their stuff up at nights.
The request was denied - the Council, they felt, is there to look after local businesses. They didn't mind food stalls being set up around town for the Festival - there is clearly a need, and the local cafes and take aways can't cope with all the demand - but it shouldn't be in front of the Council Chambers. (Gareth Ratcliffe went and made himself a cup of tea while this was discussed, as the owner of a take away business himself).

The Fair on the Square have also made a request for financial assistance over the Festival, as they felt they couldn't ask local businesses for as much this year. Any money they raise during their weekend will be going towards the Cheesemarket Restoration. Since the Council has a tiny budget anyway, they felt they couldn't help - and if they did want to help, it would make more sense to give the money direct to the Cheesemarket rather than to Fair on the Square.

The Beacons Bus was also making a request for funds, as they're having their funding cut this year.

Finally, before I crept away, there was news of a proposed media/arts project centred around the Castle. As far as I can make out, they are talking about a new opera, based on the Mabinogion, to be performed in the Castle in 2014 during Hay Festival, with a DVD, with a theme of what it is like to live in a Border town. Elizabeth Haycox and Peter Florence both support this. I'm not a great fan of opera, but it does sound like a lot of fun!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

More Council Meeting - Mostly Timbuktu

Coming up soon is a chance to see a coppicing demonstration down on the Bailey Walk. These will be held on 13th February and 23rd February. The idea is to show what sort of work goes into maintaining the riverside walks, as well as to collect wood to be used for another project later this year. 2Towns1World has a "Link and Learn" fund, where people in twin towns can learn more about the skills of the people in the other town. In this case, the skill is communal pot firing, and the coppiced wood will be used to fire the pottery kilns. In Timbuktu, they turn the event into a party, with music and food, and it is hoped to do the same sort of thing here, possibly getting the community choir involved, as well as other local musicians. A special pottery sculpture, as a peace monument, will be fired and either kept in Hay or sent to Timbuktu.
Steve Like had grave concerns about the insurance cover, but 2Towns1World and Hay2Timbuktu both have relevant insurance, and Sid Morris, who will be doing the demonstration, also has insurance cover. Ros Garrett and Sid Morris have also done a risk assessment. She's going to be hosting the pot firing at the Community Gardens in September, around Michaelmas.

Sue Felgate, meanwhile, has been having a busy time talking to the national press and BBC about the situation in Timbuktu. The Tuaregs need to be included in the political process in Mali now - a real grievance about being ignored by the powers that be led to the Islamist extremists coming in and taking over. Haymakers were concerned about labelling the jewellery and leather boxes that they sell as Tuareg, because the name has such a bad press at the moment - but it wasn't all Tuareg who were destroying libraries and tombs in Timbuktu, just the ones who were involved with the rebels.

Hay TV have been given an award for their Timbuktu 'stream'.
Girl's football is being played in Mali again - and the team is through to the semi final against South Africa!

The recent forum on Timbuktu at the Swan was attended by 30 to 35 people, and the next one will be either on the 6th March or (as this might clash with another meeting) the following Wednesday. It may be held at the Youth Club, with an idea of moving it around the town to get different people attending.

The regular report on local crime began with the sound of a speeding car racing along Broad Street! Happily, our local PC was able to report a downward crime trend, with 15 crimes reported in the area compared to 19 last year, with 8 of those crimes being in Hay. The two most exciting crimes were a shoplifter in the antiques centre who was caught on CCTV, and a B&B guest running off without paying. The police were called out in the bad weather to accidents, and to deal with the effects of floods and high winds and snow (sometimes all on the same night!) They're also concerned about a recent internet scam which looks as if it is coming from the police. Soon they are hoping to set up a public meeting to meet the new PCSO and Inspector Reed.

And finally, development matters involving the school were mentioned, but there was nothing to report this month.

More coming soon....

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Time for Another Council Meeting

I didn't stay all the way through - I left when they were going through the letters the Council had received - but I still saw a lot of topics covered.

First up this time was Affordable Housing. There will be a meeting on the 6th March of interested parties, and it will be open to all. Some people in Hay have already done a lot of research on this subject, and it would be a pity not to pool all that knowledge. Ros Garrett would also like people who are in need of housing to be involved. There was a survey to find out about housing need around Hay in 2005, but this is now out of date, and another one should be done soon. They also need to identify acceptable sites for new building, and empty properties that could be renovated and returned to use. One of the housing associations that might be interested in moving into this area - they already have properties in Brecon and Crickhowell - is Merlin.
One of the problems with the existing council houses is that they are managed through the County Council, so there is no local control, which is what Fiona Howard wants from this project.

And from housing, to dog fouling! When the Hay Together Fair was put on at the Castle in September, there was a place to write down things people liked about Hay, and things that they didn't like. Top of the "Don't Like" list was dog fouling! There is a scheme in Ross-on-Wye which has been successful, of Community Dog Wardens. In fact, it has been so successful, Ledbury and Bromyard have started to copy them (and somewhere else, I think, but I didn't get the name down). Community Dog Wardens are people who walk their own dogs regularly, or use footpaths regularly, so it's not something that volunteers would have to spend any extra time on. They'd just have to carry on doing what they are already doing. They are interviewed for the post, and need to be of good character, because the police and other officials have to be able to take their word as witnesses in order to issue fixed penalty notices to people who allow their dogs to leave nasty little messes around the town. The same people in Ross have also assisted in spotting fly tipping, littering, and anti-social behaviour. They are given basic training, and a supply of free poop bags that they can give out if necessary.
Where farmers are concerned about dogs roaming free in fields with sheep, which is a particular worry at this time of year, the same Dog Wardens could keep an eye on that too. It is, of course, legal for farmers to shoot dogs which are worrying sheep, and someone asked if that was possible on the Warren, because a shotgun can only legally be fired 60 yards or more from a footpath or road.
Gareth Ratcliffe said that he would bring the matter up again at the County Council - he last raised the matter in 2010.

Going slightly out of order now - the County Council have agreed to launch a pilot scheme for Resident's Parking in Hay from April. The idea is that there will be a red zone and a green zone (there are maps which are still having the details finalised). The red zone will be the centre of town, which will mostly have the double yellow lines as at present, but where parking is allowed, cars will be able to stay for an hour to help people with their shopping. In the green zone, residents will have permits at a cost of somewhere around £52 for the year (so a pound a week), and visitors will be able to park for up to two hours if there are empty spaces.
As they said, this is a pilot scheme, so there may well be problems - but when they occur, they can then be thought about and dealt with.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Burning Libraries Again

It seems, according to the BBC, that the damage to Timbuktu's precious manuscripts might not be so bad as was originally thought. This isn't the first time in Timbuktu's history that the city has been occupied by hostile troops. Although around 2,000 manuscripts may have been destroyed, it is thought that most (maybe 30 to 40,000) had been hidden around the city or even buried in the desert before the library was burned.
Meanwhile, President Mbeki of South Africa has announced that his country will assist Mali in conserving the manuscripts, some of which have been digitised so work can continue on them by computer in South Africa.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Storms of the Heart at Booths

I picked up a postcard sized flyer for a book launch when I was in the library last week. The book is called Storms of the Heart: Sweet and Secret Messages of Love, and it's based around a true story about two people in the 1960s and 70s in Persia (now Iran).
There will be live music and performance, 'gothic installations', candlelit tables, a cocktail bar, and singing performances into the night! Hay's own Seza Harris has illustrated and produced the book, around the work of Tahereh Zoghi.
All this takes place on Friday 15th February, starting at 7.30pm, and it's free!
(Not the cocktails, I imagine, but the entertainment!)

On Valentine's Night itself, there will be a concert at Booths as well - one of the series of occasional concerts that has brought some extremely good classical music to Hay.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Small Business Saturday

The Seven Stars, once a pub and now a B&B.
It also has a swimming pool round the back which is open to the public.

New Date for Exhibition

The students from Newport who were taking photos around Hay recently had to postpone their open air exhibition in the Buttermarket because of the snow, so they will be coming up again on Saturday, February 9th from 1pm. I'll be in it, in my medieval chainmail, and so will Stuart the Greengrocer, and some "Then and now" shots of various shops.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Burning Libraries

When Hay and Timbuktu became twin towns, one of the reasons for Hay being the winner of the competition that the people of Timbuktu started was books. Hay is, of course, the first Book Town - and Timbuktu has a unique collection of medieval manuscripts, brought from all over the Islamic world to the university in Timbuktu. Every scholar who went there had to agree to have his manuscripts copied, and the libraries of Timbuktu became a treasure house of knowledge.
The situation is a little bit different now. French troops are driving Islamic rebels out of the north of Mali - but these Muslims are rather less interested in knowledge than their predecessors were.
The libraries of Timbuktu have been burning.
There is a blog called Through the Sandglass, which is mainly concerned with sand around the world. The writer has even posted about sand on Mars (you can find a blog on every subject under the sun if you go looking for it!). He'd written about Timbuktu, and the way manuscripts had been buried in the sand to preserve them, before, and his most recent post is called "Vandalism is an inadequate word". He also links to a good article in the Huffington Post called "Timbuktu, ancient seat of Islamic learning".