Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy Easter

The window of Goosey Gander's this week.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Small Business Saturday

Fleur-de-Lys Antiques, run by Sally, who will always give you a warm welcome, and sometimes the little dog Lucy is in there as well.
This shop used to be an estate agents.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Water Music

The people who organise classical music evenings at Booths (and occasionally elsewhere) have come up with a brilliant idea!
There will be a performance of Schubert's song cycle The Miller's Beautiful Daughter, which will be performed by Julian Boyce of the Welsh National Opera, with David Doidge on piano - and they're doing it in the Baker's Table Cafe next to Talgarth Water Mill. The big windows along the side of the cafe look down to the stream that runs the mill, and there will be a chance for concert goers to tour the mill, too.
They are also providing a supper included in the ticket, though puddings and soft drinks are extra, and the cafe doesn't have a drinks licence, so any alcohol will have to be brought in by the audience.
The concert starts at 6pm, with viewing of the mill before supper at 8pm, on Sunday April 14th. Tickets are £18.00 from Old Forest Arts at Hay Craft Centre or Talgarth Mill.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Eighth Best Place to Live

Only eighth? Surely the Times Top 30 Places to live in the UK has made some mistake?
Top of the list came Arundel in West Sussex, but they do have a cathedral as well as a castle, and we don't want to give Father Richard delusions of grandeur!
Also on the list is Grantham, birthplace of Baroness Thatcher, and Beaconsfield, home of Enid Blyton (though her house was pulled down some years ago). Bradford-on-Avon is there, and that is a lovely town - and so is Keswick in the Lake District, which has jazz, beer and literary festivals (and there are some very good breweries up in that part of the world).
Second on the list is Bakewell, which has a tart and nearby Chatsworth House. The weather was not all it could have been on the day I visited, but I'm sure it's lovely on a sunny day.
Chipping Norton, home of David and Samantha Cameron (and lots of other very rich people) is on the list, as is Alnwick, where the castle was used as the location for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films (obviously, they couldn't film at Hogwarts itself during term time!).
Clitheroe in Lancashire surprised me, but they too now have their own jazz festival, a food festival, and a cycle race called the Clitheroe Grand Prix.
Tetbury is just down the road from Prince Charles' estate of Highgrove, a foodie heaven and multiple winner of Britain in Bloom awards.
Uppingham in Rutland is lovely, home of a public school and close to Rutland Water - and it has a lovely little castle where I've spent a weekend being medieval (pity about the stone throwing local yoof).
Lewes is famous for its Bonfire Nights and Thirsk is famous for James Herriot, and close to the North York Moors.
And then there's Altrincham, near Manchester. Seriously? Altrincham is number 28?
And it doesn't even have a castle.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Food, Glorious Food!

While my Young Man was here, we managed to eat out quite a bit, and thoroughly enjoyed the treats.
For the first time in eight years, we went into the Granary, where we both devoured their all day breakfast when he first arrived. Later we went back for coffee and cakes, which were also yummy.
On the Monday, we were invited to Red Indigo by friends, and encouraged to stuff ourselves with gorgeous Indian food - and when Eklim the manager discovered it was my birthday, he insisted on giving me a free liqueur coffee (with Tia Maria, because that was what I had on my first Grown Up Meal Out when I was eighteen, while watching the planes come in to land at Manchester Airport).
We also sampled a sausage roll from the Wholefood shop. Forget the limp, miserable specimens you see in Greggs and the like - this was meaty and tasty and the pastry wasn't greasy - absolutely delicious with a couple of their samosas.
We bought flat breads and spread them with Trealy Farm cured meat and Ragstone goat's cheese (also from the Wholefood shop), with a topping of Hereford Hop cheese for a lunch time snack.
On the Tuesday, we walked up to the other end of town to try the Yakmobile - and their Mountain Lamb curry was delicious, and so was the Gurkha's Delight.
On another evening, we went over to the chippy (the Young Man was craving fish cakes).
On Thursday, we bought focaccia from the lovely chap on the market by the clock tower, which we cut up into small slices for our Pirate Party the following evening, and we also treated ourselves to possibly the best hot cross buns I have ever tasted, from Kate the Bread in the Buttermarket.
Normally when the Young Man comes to Hay, he buys lots of sausages from Gibbons' butchers. This time, we almost ran out of time, but we did manage to squeeze in some Welsh Dragon sausages with local free range eggs before he had to go home.
I had promised him a meal at Tomatitos, but we ran out of time.
"If I lived here full time, I'd be three times my size," he said cheerfully.

Monday, 25 March 2013

What has been Occuring?

A lot has been happening in the week I spent off enjoying myself!

Powys County Council voted to build a new school on the present school site, with no involvement from the developer who had been part of the plan to build a supermarket there - but there's no more detail yet about how it will be funded or what will happen about a new community centre.

Peter and Martina Limbrick are collecting information on the dangers of wifi to children, in view of the proximity of the new O2 phone mast to the school.

Plan B for Hay have had their AGM, and decided to keep going as an organisation while they see what exactly the County Council are going to do.

Hay Together have been offered an office and meeting space in the Castle Courtyard, to use as a community hub. They are asking for help with office furniture, painting and decorating the office, and manning the office. Johnny Kramer is organising all this, and he can be found at The Bridge B&B.

And tonight I'm off to the Fairtrade meeting, to talk about future plans for Fairtrade events in Hay (see the FT blog on the sidebar).

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Small Business Sunday

Hay's Kitchen, which used to be the Mixing Bowl, one of the local take aways.

I have been spending some time with my Young Man. Normal service will be resumed shortly!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Small Business Sunday

Haymakers Gallery - local artists, artisans and craftspeople, exhibiting together. They also sell silverware and leatherwork from the Tuareg people of Timbuktu.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Yak Shack

I'd forgotten that this existed until one of my colleagues at work decided to treat themselves. It's a long walk to the other end of town, and I rarely get takeaways anyway, but this does sound very tempting.
The Yakmobile is a takeaway van with a difference. It pulls up in the layby near the Festival site every Tuesday evening, and serves up Nepalese and Thai food. They don't have a long menu, but what they do have is (according to my friend) absolutely delicious.
Kathmandu Curry, Gurkha's Delight, Thai curries and fish cakes, chicken Satay, crunchy wok vegetables, dal, and rice and noodles, and you can phone ahead with your order so that it's ready when you go to pick it up.
I don't have the leaflet, sadly, but it sounds worth searching out.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

News on New School

It's there in black and white on Gareth Ratcliffe's facebook page - there's been an official announcement from the County Council that they have decided not to proceed with the developer and will seek government funding to rebuild Hay School. They have already committed to getting it done by 2015.
The new "best offer" from the developer didn't cover the whole cost of the re-build, leaving a considerable burden on the County Council anyway. They say it does not appear to offer value for money for the Council or taxpayer.

Councillor David Jones, leader of the County Council, says:
“The cabinet is being recommended not to proceed with an options agreement with the developer but to explore alternative government funding arrangements for building a new school on the existing school site. The move will give the council greater control over the project and certainty about delivering a new school for the town.”

They'll make the final decision on 19th March - but this does seem to be very good news for Hay.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Cattle Market and the Blue Boar Memories

"Do you remember who wrote Pookie?" the lady asked. I didn't, though I knew about the little rabbit with wings from an old series of picture books. I looked it up - of course! It was Ivy Wallace! The lady knew her daughter, who had recently written a novel about the model factories of New Lanark in the early Industrial Revolution.
They had lived in Scotland for some time, but the lady's husband came from somewhere near Hay.
"I used to come here years ago, with my uncle," he said. "We came to the cattle market, and my job was to run between the rings and the auctioneer with the slips."
They asked about places to have coffee, and eventually decided on the Blue Boar. I told them that Ivy Wallace had once been in the Blue Boar, to make a little film. If anyone remembers the old advert about Fly Fishing by JR Hartley (and the chap enquiring turns out to be JR Hartley himself) - that's what they were doing, only with Pookie and Ivy Wallace. She sat by the fireplace in the side of the bar that is set up for food, pretending this was her own home - I remember peering in through the window to see the filming taking place.
"The landlord of the Blue Boar used to buy meat from my uncle," said the man. "And my uncle would always tell him to keep a steak aside for him when he came in." He held up his fingers about an inch apart to show how thick the steaks had been.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

U3A Meeting

The University of the 3rd Age is meeting again on Tuesday 19th March at the Swan, with a morning session starting at 10.30am and an afternoon session at 1.30pm.
In the morning, the guest speaker will be Elen Phillips, the Curator of Textiles and Costume at St Fagans. She'll be talking about the Wrexham Coverlet.
I've seen the Coverlet! It's the most amazing piece of work, an intricate quilt made by a master tailor from Wrexham in his spare time - it took him ten years to make! It's about a hundred years old now, and anyone with any interest in quilting or patchwork or embroidery would find something to interest them in it.
In the afternoon, the members will be bringing textiles or other objects which have a special meaning to them, to tell those stories.
The Swan provides light lunches between the sessions, and the entrance fee is £3 for members and £5 for non-members.
The U3A often has interesting speakers along - it's a shame I can't usually manage to get along. They have their own website at, and can be contacted via Rodney Mace on 10497 820679.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Small Business Saturday

Tomatitos Tapas bar, previously the Wheatsheaf pub.
(We're getting into the centre of town now - it's only taken about a year and a half!)

Friday, 8 March 2013

Planning Matters, and More on the Council Meeting

I'll start off with the O2 Mast.
There was a meeting last week between EMF (the agents for O2 who are building the mast) and parents at the school. The mast is going to be built - but they have agreed to do some sort of before and after survey, presumably of the local radiation levels, to see if there is a measurable difference in emissions. The monitoring will be carried out by independent monitors paid for by EMF. Apparently the acceptable levels in Switzerland and Sweden are among the lowest in Europe, and the levels being given off by the Hay mast will be even lower than that. However, eight children have been taken out of Hay School because of the news of the mast - it was thought they had gone to Clifford School. This affects the budget of the school, which is calculated on the number of pupils, so eight leaving all at once is pretty bad news for them.

Meanwhile, on the Warren, there is a possibility that the fishing rights are for sale. The Warren Club owns the land up to one yard from the river, and the owner of the fishing rights wants around £40,000 to £45,000 for them. This is beyond the reach of the Warren Club, or the Town Council. There was a suggestion that, if every B&B in town contributed £1,000, they could buy the rights, and advertise that they had "a rod for life" to encourage fishing tourism. There was some concern, too, about big fishing clubs from nearby cities coming in, and keeping the fishing on the river for their members.

And then we came to the letters.
Tim Organ has written to the Town Council to ask for a meeting. He is the architect who has done a lot of work for Plan B, including drawing up plans for a possible new school, on the same site as at present, and using sustainable methods.
At this point in the proceedings, you could have cut the atmosphere in the Council Chamber with a knife. Some councillors didn't even want to hear the letter read out. Others insisted that Tim Organ should be listened to, and that the goal for everyone was to get the best school possible for Hay. There has been a huge amount of bad feeling generated over this issue, but here was a polite letter, offering reconciliation between the two sides. It was pointed out that there had been four public meetings to view the plans that Tim Organ drew up - such was the public demand to see them - and that the Town Council should not remain in ignorance.
Finally, it was agreed that he would be asked to speak to the Council in the same way as other guest speakers, who have a half hour slot at the start of the meeting.

Onwards, to happier matters.
The town was given a new Welcome To Hay sign a little while ago, to celebrate the twinning with Timbuktu, as part of the Welsh Gold Star scheme. It appears to have been mislaid, but they think it might be at Gwernyfed School. There are also three actual Gold Stars, and at the moment they don't seem to be displayed anywhere either, and it would be good to have them in a public place for everyone to see.

Fiona Howard is hoarding Town Cryers' uniforms! She has three, as well as a bell and other accoutrements, which she is keeping for a time when Hay has a museum.

Another letter was from Germany, politely asking what was the correct form of address for the King of Hay, and when was Richard Booth's birthday?

There will be a meeting to start organising the River Festival at 6.30pm on 12th March, in the Swan - this is intended to be a celebration of arts, community and history centred on the River Wye, and will be starting at Hay, going down towards Chepstow, with boats on the river and events along the route.

Dial-a-Ride has a completely new committee, and Community Support have asked for financial support for the coming year.
Hay Together is looking for volunteers to sort out their new Community Base at the Castle (which makes it sound a bit like a Bond super-villain's lair!)
On 11th March they are having a meeting at the Granary from 1.30pm, and on the 24th March, from 2pm to 5pm they will be in the Swan for an Ideas Factory!

Stuart, the headmaster at Hay School, is ill at the moment, and there may have to be a new head teacher. Fiona Howard (who retired as headmistress) is back in school on supply to help out.

And that's it for another month.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

From Dog Poo to Timbuktu, and Swimming Pools

No-one can say that Council meetings are predictable! They covered all sorts of different topics last night, and I only rolled home at 10.30pm!
Often, they have a visiting speaker for the first part of the meeting, and this month it was a chap from Ross explaining how their community dog warden scheme works. It's been so successful they've had enquiries about it as far afield as Glossop. In Hay, we would have to liase with the Powys Dog Wardens, and it might also be possible to get the traffic wardens to issue fixed penalty notices for dog fouling and littering (fly tipping is also one of the things the community dog wardens look out for). It would also be worth getting in touch with the Cusop Council, over the border in Herefordshire, as people walk their dogs in both Hay and Cusop.
Rhona had heard of a churchyard where they stuck little coloured flags in every patch of dog poo - and embarrassed dog owners into clearing up the mess. She sat and designed her own little flag during the meeting. The man from Ross said that some places have had similar success with the florescent paint that they use to mark pot holes in the road - the poo becomes more visible, and people start clearing up after their dogs.

Meanwhile in Timbuktu, the schools have re-opened, but there are no books or pencils or any supplies at all. They have water, but mostly no electricity, and food is very expensive and in short supply.
The Tuareg quarter of the city is empty - they have fled for fear of reprisals from the non-Tuareg population after what the rebels did.
A second speaker was Ann from the Two Towns One World project, who had come to give the Council an update on what they are doing. She was confident that they would be able to deliver all the projects that they had planned, though she didn't have time to go into any detail about what those projects are. They did talk a little, though, about making the project more visible in Hay, for instance by taking over one of the empty shops for an exhibition, or having a display in the Library. The project comes to an end at the end of this year.

It seems a cloud is hanging over the future of the school swimming pool, which usually re-opens for the summer at Easter. This year it may remain closed. However, there is a statutory duty on the school to teach the children from Year 3 to swim. This would mean bussing them to Brecon to the pool there - but there are no free time slots for this to happen at the moment, and it would cost quite a bit of money.
Apparently, Hay and Sennybridge got swimming pools some years ago as part of an experiment - the idea being that every small rural community would be able to have their own pool. In fact, this never happened, and a while ago the Council stopped funding Sennybridge pool. The community took it over, but were unable to keep it open for more than three years. During this time, they even ran the heating and lighting by using a steam engine which they fuelled with scrap wood!
There is another swimming pool in Hay, at the Seven Stars B&B, and there was a suggestion that people should be encouraged to swim at the school pool instead when it was open, as it is quite close to breaking even economically. Of course, this would take customers away from the Seven Stars.

And finally for today, there is a new list out from the County Council, of buildings that have architectural merit, and which should be preserved as they appear now in case of any planning applications. Strangely, this includes the Community Centre, which is not in the best state of repairs and needs to be replaced. They don't seem to be listed buildings (though there are quite a few Grade 2 listed buildings in Hay). The Town Council are going to ask someone from the County Council to come down and explain the list to them.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Designer Charity Shop

Adela has been moving out of her shop on the corner facing Booth's Bookshop, and round to her new premises where Pemberton's Bookshop used to be. She sells good quality clothing, and I think the idea is that people leave the clothes with her, and she does the selling for a commission. She's had a sign up for a while to say that people should pick up the clothes they'd left with her to clear the shop, and that any that are left when she moves out would be disposed of.
Today was the day, and she took a lot of lovely stuff up to the St Michael's Hospice shop. They'll be sorting through it and putting it out for sale very soon.
As I passed the shop, I heard them say that they'd have to call it a "designer charity shop" now!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Travellers' Club

I had such a good time going away with the Travellers' Club last year that I joined again this year.
The list of day trips and weekends away is now out, so I've been marking off the ones that I'm interested in.
They're off to Bristol on 12th March - but I'm a bit busy to catch that day trip this time.
Towards the end of April, they're having a weekend in Suffolk, which is a lovely county. I was rather tempted, because they'll be going to Sutton Hoo, which has a great little museum about the finding of the Anglo-Saxon treasures in the boat burial there. They'll also be visiting Lavenham, one of the prettiest villages in England; Ely, which has a wonderful cathedral, and several other places. I have a couple of other things that I want to spend my money on around that time, though, so I shall be waiting until May, when there's a day trip to Llancaich Fawr Manor and Castell Coch. The Manor comes complete with Civil War re-enactors, being restored and furnished as it would have been in 1645 - and I'm always keen to pick up tips from other re-enactors. Castell Coch is a place I've wanted to visit for a long time, and all the more so since I saw the amazing work of the same architect at Cardiff Castle. Being a place of Victorian opulence and eccentricity, it has also become a popular destination for groups of Steampunks on a day out.

In June, they're going to Lacock, a village often used as a film set, and once the home of William Fox Talbot, a pioneer of photography.
Years ago, I went on a coach holiday to Bath, and we stayed at a hotel which had specially wide staircases up to the first floor - to accommodate the sedan chairs in the eighteenth century! Back then, I didn't have time to visit the costume museum on the Royal Crescent (though I did enjoy the Roman Baths and the Abbey) - I'm hoping to get up there to see the costumes this time.
In August, it's the seaside, at Aberystwyth, and in September the weekend away is to Kent. As my Young Man lives in South London, I can get down there and visit interesting places in Kent with him, but the coach tour takes in Chatham Dockyard, Rochester, Dover Castle, and Knole house.

In October, it's Stratford-upon-Avon. It's a nice enough place, but I used to visit there when I went to see my in-laws in Rugby, to go round the charity shops, so I know it quite well!
Oxford appeals, though, in November. I've visited once, as a stop off on the way to the Great British Beer Festival (I think - beer was certainly involved). I have vague memories of trying to find the church that is dedicated to St Thomas Becket, and an Alice in Wonderland shop. This time, I think I'd like to visit Balliol College, where Lord Peter Wimsey took his degree in the Dorothy Sayers mysteries! There's the Pitt-Rivers Museum, too, which is one of those eclectic mixes of a collection, put together by one of the founding fathers of archaeology.
And in December, there's Birmingham, and the German Christmas Market.

I think there's probably something there for all tastes.
The Travellers' Club is run from the Community Support office, by the dentists, and their email is

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Small Business Saturday

The Bookshop Cinema, down the side alley between Tomatitos Tapas Bar and Addyman's Bookshop, though it's actually part of Booth Books - tickets for the films are sold in the bookshop, and they're showing all the latest releases.
The seats are very comfortable!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Hapus Dydd Gwyl Dewi

Happy St David's Day!