Friday, 31 May 2013

Celebrities Seen in Hay

There's a guy works down the chip shop swears he's - Johnny Vegas.
Gareth let him serve behind the counter one evening this week - though I don't think he's going to take him on full time!
And Eklim at Red Indigo has had his photo taken with George Galloway, who went in for a curry.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

More Exhibitions, and the Festival Site at last

I finally got a chance to go down to the Festival site this afternoon. There was even a bit of sunshine! It's been re-organised so that the main entrance is a bit further round than previous years, and laid out inside differently. It's actually a bit easier to navigate, I thought. There seemed to be food and drink everywhere - the Richard Booth Cafe, the local/organic tent with Welsh venison and seafood and pizzas and real ale, various cafes, XOX organics van and Shepherd's ice cream. I stopped to chat with Richard Evans, who has a stand there selling his own prints and his partner Shelley Faye Lazar's silk scarfs.
Athene English is there again with tweed and tribal jackets and a selection of other things from her shop on Castle Street, and Hay Does Vintage is there with a selection of vintage clothing, including some rather gorgeous Japanese kimonos.
Hay Does Vintage have also put out a map of all the vintage and antique shops in Hay, to go with the bookseller map that has been produced for many years. They've got eleven listed, plus two stalls on the Thursday market and the four charity shops. They're doing a "Town of Temptation" day on Sunday 30th June, with 60 traders scattered around Hay in four locations (a marquee - presumably on the Square, the Buttermarket, St Johns Place and the Parish Hall).
Instead of getting the shuttle bus back, I decided to walk along the Brecon Road to have a look at the stalls that have mushroomed in several front gardens along the way. I got a jar of marmalade from one (in aid of a charity I can't now remember), and there were knitted items and wooden crafts. There's one rather nice antique tent - I stopped to read the sign attached to a chair outside, which gave a story of how old it was when various historical events were going on, from 1770 to the present. Inside the lady had some suffragette jewellery - made in the colours of the Votes for Women campaign of white, green and violet. She said she'd had to explain to one customer what suffragettes had been, and I told her I'd had to explain what Hanoverian meant to a lady on the phone recently (she had bought some eighteenth century silver spoons which had been described to her as Hanoverian, and she had no idea that the word related to the three Georges who reigned for the majority of that century).
A little further along, the Masonic Hall was full of local artwork and photography, with a coffee tent outside, and there's a house opposite the Swan with a garden full of baskets.

Back in town, I went round the art exhibition by the Clock Tower (lots of cloudscapes), the art and antique place next door (Russian icons, African items, French silver, antique furniture and some paintings), and Tinto House gardens and gallery, with some more burned wooden sculptures (they get displayed there every year).
Further along Broad Street, I saw this:

It was outside the shop that used to be the Hay Craft Company, and before that has been a book shop. Inside was the work of two artists who work in the Black Mountains, one of whom carves wood to look like pillows and socks, and a painter who had several studies of draped fabric.
Up in Brook Street Pottery, meanwhile, there was an exhibition of slipware by Paul Young and stained glass by Daniella Wilson-Dunne - which looked like this:

So many beautiful things....

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

More Consultations

This time it's the Residents' Parking Scheme which is due to be trialled in Hay - oh, any time in the next decade, the way things are going. There will be a display in the Library from 3rd to 10th June, and Powys officers will be around to talk about it on Friday 7th June and Monday 10th.
The chap who has been running CRAP - the campaign that did all the research about the need for a parking scheme in Hay - is concerned that the County Council seem to be ignoring just about everything that they suggested in favour of a quite different sort of scheme based on zones.

Monday, 27 May 2013

More Around Town

Today I dressed for summer - so of course, the temperature plummeted!
That's why I didn't linger in the tents around the Globe, where lots of food and drink was going on, along with local musicians and poets performing. In other tents, and inside the main building, talks were going on.
One of the cosiest places in Hay today must have been the Salem Gallery, where Richard Greatrex (and his little grey dog) was exhibiting his photos. There were three groups of pictures, one based around the film Resistance, from the novel by Owen Sheers and set in the Olchon Valley near Hay, one of Cuba, and one of Catalonia (including a quite surreal image of a picture within a picture, with a man about to dive into the sea in one, and actually diving in the bigger picture surrounding it). There was also a warm fire, a cup of coffee, and comfy seating.
In the Buttermarket was the CD and record fair - I picked up a couple of nice folk albums, though most of the music seemed to be rock, and punk and indie. I've done well with musical purchases this weekend - yesterday I saw Alan Cooper and his friend Simon Newcombe busking (Alan plays the fiddle beautifully, and Simon plays guitar), and I bought their new CD, Street, which has some original compositions, and some arrangements of traditional tunes. When I see them again, I'll get the other CD that was on offer, of Alan Cooper and several friends playing together, but they are also available from They quite often play at open mic nights at the Globe.

I feel sorry for the people who are camping tonight!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Mast

It doesn't look like much - but this is what all the fuss has been about. It's the O2 phone mast just up Forest Road behind the industrial units. I didn't even notice it at first, since a new unit is being build behind the original ones.
It's now going operational, and even though the school is now going to be rebuild on its present site, it's still rather too close for comfort, and the surgery is even nearer.

Saturday, 25 May 2013


A stone carver at work at the Fair on the Square.

Inside the tent there were a couple of ladies with spinning wheels, and a painter, and a florist. There were also stalls to the side selling vintage clothes and stuff, and a table with information about the Cheesemarket restoration.
Meanwhile in the Buttermarket there was a craft fair (with a Dickensian street urchin selling his origami just outside. He was getting as much money for cuteness as for his skill in folding paper!)
The Abergavenny Food Fair was in the Castle Gardens, with stalls selling baskets and woven stuff, too (and another lady with a spinning wheel).
In the Castle Gardens on the other side, there was a medieval fair. When I got there a jester was entertaining the (small) crowd by juggling while lying on a bed of nails.
Here he is, about to juggle with fire clubs while walking across broken glass - only he didn't bring the paraffin as he was told he was going to be performing inside a tent, so he had to improvise with paper flames sellotaped to the clubs! (This is his assistant from the audience, just before my camera decided to give up on me).

There was a chap demonstrating archery with a crossbow and longbow, the chap who goes round all the big medieval shows making replica medieval money on another stall, and a surgeon talking about medieval medicine. There were some stalls selling wonderful leather goods, too, and costumes, willow baskets, soaps, beeswax and honey, calligraphic scrolls, chocolates, garden ornaments and toys for the children. And there was a bar run by Hobsons brewery. I went up there in my medieval costume (well, how could I resist?) and it was a shame that there weren't more members of the public there, because the displays were high quality stuff.
Meanwhile back in town one of the pop-up shops in the shop on the Pavement is selling bubble making kits, and a girl was standing in the street making huge bubbles when I passed by.
And the sun was shining! And it was warm!
So naturally, I spent half the afternoon in the Cinema at the back of Booths, watching Iron Man 3 (which is a fun movie - I highly recommend it).

I haven't even made it as far as the Festival site yet.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Health Care - The South Wales Plan

South Wales seems to be quite a long way from us in Hay - but the South Wales Plan for health care included this area. Some people are very concerned that A&E services will be cut - and since we're in a rural area, on the border with Herefordshire, which also has plans to cut services, that could be a problem. Ambulance services are at full stretch now.
So there are going to be some public meetings and drop-in sessions locally for people to find out more. They are at:

03-Jun 6-8pm Public meeting Three Cocks Gwernyfed School
06-Jun 1-4pm Drop in session Brecon Bishop Bevan Hall
06-Jun 6-8pm Public meeting Brecon Bishop Bevan Hall
07-Jun 1-5pm Drop in session Hay on Wye Parish Hall
10-Jun 10.30am-1.30pm Drop in session Bronllys Basil Webb Hall

It's easy to get distracted while the Festival is on, but serious things are still happening in the area.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Royal Visit

Prince Charles and Camilla are inside the shop - honest!

We had been waiting for Prince Charles to appear all morning. There was a rumour that he hadn't been able to use his helicopter, so he would be two hours late. He was supposed to be popping into Golesworthys, and Booth Books, and the Castle, and meeting schoolchildren down at the Festival site. And having lunch at some point.
While I was shelving books (wondering whether he'd have time to pop into the shop on his way down to the Festival site) I met a friend browsing.
"Avoiding Prince Charles?" I asked.
"I'm supposed to be meeting him!" he answered. He's one of the Cheesemarket Renovation committee, and Prince Charles had asked to meet them to find out about the Cheesemarket and how the project is going. With the delay, though, they had time to kill before they had to be back for the meeting.
When I came back to work from my lunch, and turned the corner to go up the hill, there was a crowd round the doorway to Golesworthys - so I did see the Prince, just about, and a silver bobbed haircut that must have been Camilla. Rob Golesworthy was inside the shop, looking very smart in his suit and mayoral chain - he's very tall, so I could see him quite easily from the back of the crowd.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

More Beer at Kilverts

They're re-arranging the bar area at Kilverts at the moment - moving the coffee machine to make room for five more hand pumps.
So then they had the idea to celebrate the installation of the new pumps by getting beer in from every brewery in Wales. And then they decided that wasn't ambitious enough, and decided to serve every beer made in Wales!
So it's going to be a sort of rolling beer festival, and as part of the effort, Eddie will be going off to several breweries to help to brew some of the beers!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Ready for the Festival

Hay Festival starts on Thursday.
The bunting is strung across the streets, the tents are up on the Festival field and the Castle grounds and around the Globe, and pop-up shops and exhibitions are appearing all around town.
In what used to be the bookshop on the Pavement, one of the new units has been taken by a clothes shop, while the shop opposite Booths (soon to be Bartrum's stationers) has bales of hay and picnic hampers in the window - I think it's something to do with a celebration of Welsh food.
Fabazaar have stencilled the words "The Old Electric Shop" on the windows of the shop at the end of Castle Street, which was once the SWALEC showroom and more recently the 321 Bookshop. They're selling Fairtrade goods.
And everywhere people are putting a last minute lick of paint on their shop fronts.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Travellers Club

It's a pity we couldn't go round the gardens when we went out on the Travellers Club coach trip last Tuesday - it poured down all day. However, the interiors of the places we visited more than made up for it.
In the morning, we went to Llancaiach Fawr Manor, a fortified manor house that was set out as it had been in 1645, with costumed guides who spoke seventeenth century English. I was most impressed with the quality of their costumes - and their knowledge. The man acting as the agent and surveyor of Colonel Pritchard's estates asked us where we came from, and when someone said Hay-on-Wye, he said that it was a good thing we were away from home at present, as he had heard the Scottish Covenanters were marching on Hereford (which they were!). He gave the impression of being a Royalist supporter - but one who was exasperated with the King! Another guide, the chief groom, declared himself to be a Republican, and said that if Colonel Pritchard told him to fight for the King, he would leave the Colonel's service. (Shortly after Charles I visited the manor, the Colonel declared for Parliament).
In the kitchens we were entertained by the under dairy maid, and we started and finished with the music master of the house, who demonstrated a bowed psaltery for us in the children's bedroom - and later, in the master's bedroom, became highly embarrassed when one of the coach party asked him where the Colonel and his wife got together to have babies since they had separate bedrooms!
When I got home, I did a bit of research about bowed psalteries - it's a triangular instrument with strings of varying lengths, played with a bow similar to a violin, though the bow only touches one string at a time. It seemed like an ideal instrument to take along on medieval re-enactments, and various websites said that it was very easy to play - so it's a pity that it was actually invented by a German school teacher in 1890!

The armoury, and Colonel's study, at Llancaiach Fawr, from their website

We had lunch there in the modern cafe, and then went on to Castell Coch, near Cardiff.
I've wanted to visit Castell Coch for a long while - the bus down to Cardiff used to pass it, up on the hillside surrounded by trees. The route has since changed. It looks like something straight out of a William Morris fantasy, and it was designed by William Burges for the Marquis of Bute - the same man who designed the wonderfully mad interiors of Cardiff Castle.
Adding an extra frisson to the visit was the fact that the previous Saturday's Doctor Who episode had featured the castle being attacked by Cybermen! They also used footage of the library at Cardiff Castle for the Tardis library a week or so before.
The interior of Castell Coch is wonderfully mad, too - and when we looked at the differences between the Marquis's bedroom (and single bed), and Lady Bute's bedroom (with it's carvings of nesting birds symbolising romantic love, and the enormous dome decorated with pictures of monkeys over the bed) it was obvious where that couple had gone to make babies!
Although the interior of the castle is a High Gothick fantasy, the exterior is actually built directly onto a genuine 13th century castle which guarded the valley, and was built by the Clare family, who were lords of Glamorgan at the time. (Earlier in the day, we had learned that Colonel Pritchard and his wife Mary owned two thirds of Glamorgan between them). It was all stairs - but some of the best bits, like Lady Bute's amazing bedroom and the exhibition of stained glass from the dismantled chapel, are at the top of the staircases.
There was a cafe here, too - a very tight squeeze! - but very nice cake.

Rooftop view of the castle.

It really was a great day out!

The next trip the Travellers Club are running is to Lacock and Lacock Abbey, in Wiltshire, on June 14th, used as a location for Harry Potter and Cranford, and home of the Fox Talbot photographic museum.
I'll be going with them on July 9th to Bath, and in August there's a day trip to Aberystwyth.

Sunday, 19 May 2013


It can be inconvenient to work Sundays sometimes - today I missed the private viewing of Paul Young's exhibition of contemporary English slipware at Brook Street Pottery. However, the work will be there until 3rd July, so I've got plenty of time to have a look. Also at Brook Street Pottery is an exhibition of stained glass art by Daniella Wilson-Dunne. Her wildlife panels look stunningly good, and it'll be interesting to get a closer look at them.

Meanwhile, Salem Chapel Gallery is being opened up for the first time since Geoff died - in fact, some of the pictures from the last exhibition held there are still there. The artists don't seem to have ever come back to pick them up.
For the Festival, Richard Greatrex is putting an exhibition on there, based on Owen Sheers' novel Resistance.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Small Business Saturday

The Black Mountains Bindery, one of two book binders in Hay. This is also the place to buy your limited edition copy of The Green Book of Olwen Ellis. Anyone who's been to Open Mic Nights will know of this sprawling epic, as Chris often reads extracts of it out.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Trip to Hereford

I've been wanting to take pictures of the carvings on the front of Hereford Library for a long time, but it always slipped my mind while I was there until now. Here's a rather jolly crocodile near the front door. If the County Council have their way, of course, this will be the only library left in all of Herefordshire, and there will be no funding whatsoever for the museum part of it.

Here's the Old House in High Town, just behind the bull. It's a great place to visit, and it's in the middle of the town - so are they just going to lock the door and leave it when they stop the funding?
One of the other museums in the county has a regionally important costume collection, which people come to visit from abroad as well as the UK. There are also collections of local importance - finds from archaeological digs in the county have to be stored somewhere, and be available for study as well as display. Are these collections going to be dispersed? Nobody seems to know.
The new protest group trying to save the libraries and museums has calculated that, for every £1 spent on museums, they earn £4 - which is surely worth hanging on to and trying to improve. They've also calculated that the money set aside to pay the councillors' allowances would pay for the museum service for 18 months.

It's not only the libraries and museums, of course. Every single public toilet in Herefordshire will be closed - they've already closed quite a few in Hereford town centre.
As I walked round town, I noticed that Accessorize on High Town seems to be moving into the same shop as Monsoon, and half of Maylord Orchards has been boarded up while all the shops that were there are turned into a big new Wilkinsons.
I did get all the shopping I went for - and I treated myself to a graphic novel from Waterstones (a film noir style story called Blacksad), and a Fairport Convention CD from HMV after I'd done the serious business of getting new ink for my printer. I had a very nice pint of Wainwright bitter in Wetherspoons, too - and on the way to get the bus I noticed some hand carved bowls and spoons outside the little craft shop at the side of the bus station. I came away with a lovely dipper/cup made out of willow by a Romanian lady, which I can use for re-enacting.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Council Meeting Part Two - Haygarth Surgery and the Council Chambers

A new group has been formed of patients of Haygarth Surgery (the doctors cover Hay and Talgarth, hence the combined name). It's made up of patients who are also health professionals, so when they complain, they know what they're talking about.
And there does seem to be quite a bit to complain about.
I haven't been to the doctors for some time, but when I did last go, I noticed what a long time I had to book ahead to be seen. It seems that this is a common complaint, and there are other concerns, too. Apparently, they now give a form to patients to fill in, to tell the practice what the patients think of the service, but one person said that the questions on the form are biased, and each form has the name and time of appointment of the patient - so they're not going to be overly critical, are they?
The Town Council has the power to chase up the local Health Board, and they want to know if the Haygarth practice are following the statutory guidelines. They want to meet with the Practice Manager, too, to put the concerns of patients to them. They've been in touch with the other community councils in the area too, because people from Llanigon and Clyro and other villages use the doctors in Hay and Talgarth.

Next on the agenda was the fate of the Council Chambers themselves. One of the plans for the new Community Focused School is that the council chambers should be re-located in the new building - but several councillors felt that it wasn't appropriate for the offices to be in use while the school was in use. They felt it was important to retain a separate building. The present building is shared with several different offices at the moment, and the Annexe at the back is also rented out. And it's damp and needs maintenance, and it seems to be the responsibility of the County Council to do that maintenance. So they will be meeting with officials from the County Council soon to work out what the future of the building will be.

By this time of the evening, one of the ladies on the public seats had had a coughing fit and gone home, and the other lady wanted to go, but didn't want to go out on her own, so I joined her, and left the Council talking about Two Towns One World - they've just put up the Timbuktu Trail around town, but now the lady in charge has resigned and they have to work out how to carry on for the time they have funding.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Council Updates - Youth Services, Community Centre and School

I managed to make it to this month's Town Council meeting. I had been intending to go last Thursday, when they were having an extra meeting to elect a new mayor and sort out all the sub-committees, but in the end they did that on Monday evening before the main Council meeting.
So the new mayor of Hay for this year is Rob Golesworthy, and the new deputy mayor is Ros Garrett, and there was a presentation of flowers to Fiona Howard, the outgoing mayor.
Between the first meeting and the main meeting, there was a minute's silence in memory of Ken Ratcliffe, who sadly died only the night before, I think, and condolences were expressed to Gareth Ratcliffe and his family. Ken Ratcliffe was a former mayor of Hay, too.
The main meeting began with a visit from three members of Powys Youth Service. There's a lot of concern about the community centre, which has been allowed to deteriorate badly. Hay has been waiting for a new community centre for years, and now it seems that a "fantastic new facility" is about to be built, as part of the plans for the new school. The main spokesman for the youth workers was keen to point out that the youth service was not about bricks and mortar, though - it was the activities that mattered, and it would be necessary to hire a hall or use the sports pavilion for a while in between the old community centre closing down and the new one opening. They said that the norm for use of the services was about 25% of the young people in the area, and they are getting that in the Hay area. The Youth Service provides activities and facilities for the age group 11 - 25, with the main emphasis being on the ages 13 - 19.
It was pointed out that, when the Talgarth community centre closed, some of the young people came over to join the Hay youth club, and when they got facilities back in Talgarth they may well go back there. Other activities are taking place in Talgarth Library and sports pavilion and so on.
There was some discussion of the bungalow next to the school, which has been empty for a few years, and which might be suitable for use by the Youth Service while they were waiting for new premises. However, Ellie Spencer said that the scouts had approached the County Council with the same idea, and had been told that the building is unsuitable and riddled with damp.
Meanwhile, the swimming pool at the school has been closed. It now leaks, and the heating system is dodgy - but where are Hay's children going to learn to swim?
Someone else asked what was going to happen to the money from the sale of the site of the old community centre, and the answer to that was that it would go towards the funding of the new school. Hay School will become a Community Focused School, which means that it will combine the functions of school and community centre. They will be talking to teenagers about what they want to see from their youth services shortly, as part of a more general consultation which will feed into the final plans for the school building. At the moment, the school governors and staff are looking at the plans. Then the parents will get to see them, and then the wider community, as part of a standard procedure.
Tim Organ, who made up plans for a new sustainable school building as part of the Plan B campaign, is scheduled to come and speak to the Town Council next month, and it was wondered whether it was worth him coming, when none of the ideas he's had will be used. The counter argument to this was that he was a member of the public who wished to speak to his elected representatives, and it would set a bad precedent if he wasn't allowed to do so. Also, as a trained architect, he could advise the council on the right questions to ask when they saw the plans.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Library Protests

There are several protests planned about the proposed closures of the libraries and museums across Herefordshire (I think only the library and museum in Hereford survives unscathed in these plans).
On Thursday 16th May from 12.30 on, there will be a lobby of Herefordshire County Council at their Brockington HQ on Hafod Road.
On Saturday 18th May, from 10am to midday, there will be a rally in Hightown, Hereford.
On Friday 24th May at 9am there will be a lobby of the Herefordshire County Council meeting at Shire Hall.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Hay Together

There's a meeting of Hay Together at the Swan on Friday 17th May at 7pm.
Last time they met, they were looking at a draft constitution - they need a constitution to be able to operate properly - and this meeting will be to agree to adopt it formally.
At the last meeting, they were also talking about sustainable tourism, the office they are getting together at the castle, a bike which has been offered for them to keep in the office and use, Hay School, and an anti-poverty forum, among other things.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Small Business Saturday

The Launderette - the big window gets used as a local notice board by all sorts of different groups.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Cone Amnesty

At the end of the month, we have Hay Festival, and every year traffic cones go out all over town to stop people parking along the approach roads, or other places where it's not safe or desirable to have parked cars cluttering up the place.
Last year, fifty of the cones went missing, and now the police would like them back, please! Gareth Ratcliffe has announced a cone amnesty for anyone who happens to find one.

Thursday, 9 May 2013


A few days ago, I wrote about seeing the new library in Worcester, a gleaming golden building on the banks of the Severn, with a little tower to one side of it with an open air seating area on top. While modern architecture might not be everyone's cup of tea, it does show the importance of libraries in the minds of the members of Worcestershire County Council.

That's why it's so sad to look over the border at Herefordshire, where the County Council are about to slash library funding by 75%, and cut museum funding completely! I'm not sure what this will mean for the library/museum facing the cathedral, with its wonderful Victorian frontage, but it will mean people losing their jobs and libraries closing all over the county. Herefordshire County Council seem to have got themselves into a heck of a mess with their money, but they seem to be cutting all the non-statutory services - in other words, in future they will only be providing the services that they are forced to provide by law. Everything else will go, or be severely reduced.

Meanwhile, the new shopping centre continues to rise over the old cattle market, with less than half of the shops taken by tenants so far - a project that had money thrown at it by the council. And there doesn't seem to be much information on the council's official website about the new proposals, either.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Timbuktu Trail

At first glance, Hay-on-Wye and Timbuktu don't seem to have much in common. Hay is broadly Christian, in one of the dampest parts of the world, and English speaking (not a lot of Welsh is heard round here, sadly). Timbuktu is on the edge of one of the biggest deserts in the world, is French speaking (and local African languages) and broadly Islamic.
The new Timbuktu Trail leaflet, put out by Two Towns, One World, though, emphasises the things that the two places have in common.

The trail starts in the Craft Centre, built to encourage local tourism. Timbuktu is a World Heritage Site, and used to have seven hotels and an international airport until the civil war in Mali last year.
Both Hay and Timbuktu are internationally famous for their books, so the second stop on the trail is the Cinema Bookshop, where Richard Booth launched his idea of international book towns on an unsuspecting world. Timbuktu is internationally famous as a centre of Islamic learning, and at one time had 60 private libraries in the city. Last year the Centre Ahmed Baba was burned down by rebels, but local people managed to save many of the precious manuscripts, some of them dating back to medieval times.
The next stop is the Medical Centre, and Medics4Timbuktu have a maternal health project in Timbuktu, with a clinic for ante-natal care and trained birth attendants.
The Almshouses are the next stop, built for the care of elderly women by Miss Francis Harley in 1832. In Timbuktu, sons are expected to take responsibility for their mothers, who live in the family home.
Water is the next point of connection. The Swan's Well behind the Almshouses is still used to provide fresh drinking water by some Hay residents, and Timbuktu is founded around the Well of Bouctou. "Tom" means "water well," and "Bouctou" means "belly button", and is also the name of the woman who owned the well originally - so both Hay and Timbuktu have a tradition of strong women founders, as Matilda de Breos was responsible for the building of Hay Castle.
Hay's main Christian church is St Mary's, and Timbuktu is home to three large mosques - the Great Mosque has prayer space for 2,000 people and is also a centre of learning. It was built in 1327, but has to be repaired every year, because it is made of mud. The mud construction is one of the reasons that it is a World Heritage Site.
Hay has the River Wye and the Warren, and Timbuktu has the River Niger about 15km away, which used to be the main way to get to the city - but only for half the year, as the river is too shallow for boats during the dry season.
Just across the River Wye is Hayfields Community Garden, and they have been testing out a system of drip irrigation for use in Timbuktu. Jump4Timbuktu have been working on three food security pilot schemes in Timbuktu, to help poor families there grow enough to eat in the short growing season.
St John's Chapel has had many different uses over the years, but one of them was a school - the Pennoyre School, which started in 1670 to educate the poor children of Hay. Timbuktu has the Sankore Madrasah, the university which is shared between the three great mosques, and Hay2Timbuktu supports a project to sponsor 20 girls to go to school. Because of the cost of education in Mali, boys are more likely to be given the chance to get an education than girls are.
Haymakers is a gallery of local artists and craftspeople, and also displays work by Toureg artisans from Timbuktu - mainly silver jewellery and leatherwork. It's a direct trade link between the two places.
And finally we have the Council Chambers, which also houses the offices of Two Towns, One World, and Timbuktu has La Mairie. At least, it has a Mayor, who has visited Hay. The Town Hall of Timbuktu was burned down by the rebels last year and needs to be rebuilt.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Medieval Fair

Droitwich Spa are holding a three day medieval and canal fair this weekend, in a little park on the edge of the town centre. I was able to go up for the Saturday, to do some spinning and weaving as part of the living history display put on by Drudion (a 13thC Welsh mercenary group).
What worried me most was the travelling. Last year I went for a little show in the same park - the travel arrangements worked fine until I got back to Hereford (I had left the show early to be sure of getting a bus back from Hereford to Hay). One bus that afternoon broke down, and the driver advised me to wait for the quarter to six bus - the last bus of the day. Which didn't come. After waiting about an hour, I had to get a taxi home, which I couldn't really afford. Stagecoach insisted that the bus had come through, five minutes after I left the bus stop (which I don't believe for a minute), and they therefore declined to pay my taxi fare.
I've been wary of relying on the last bus home ever since.
So this year I had the cash for a taxi with me, just in case. Fortunately, everything went smoothly, and the bus got me home.

On the journey out, I discovered that Worcester has a new library. You can't really miss it - an impressive golden building near the river. The railway line goes right by it. It's nice to see that Worcester's powers that be think libraries are important.

It's not a long walk from Droitwich Spa train station to the park - but the Saltway is not exactly a pedestrian-friendly road, and I don't know the town well enough to risk getting lost by going any other way.
We were camping over in the park, along with several canal boats and a few caravans - and a real ale tent where the Rambling Jacks were playing folk music on the first night.
There were no Indian grannies this year, remembering grinding flour in their childhood villages, but three young boys worked together all morning grinding flour on the group's quernstone, and eventually had enough to make flat breads that were cooked on the fire. (I can't vouch for how edible they were!). We were cooking lamb over the fire as well, to munch during the day (and that was delicious!). One little girl asked what we were cooking. "Lamb," I said.
"What's that?" she said.
"Well, you know the cute little lambs that skip around the fields?" I asked. She nodded. "We ate one."
"Euurgh!" she cried, and ran away!
(Yes, I know that was a bit naughty of me!)
Because the show was organised by the local Canal Trust, there were a lot of canal groups along. One tent was publicising the Canal and River Trust. It's a fairly new charity, set up when British Waterways stopped having responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of canals and rivers last year. It was a cost-cutting move by the government - so now there is no statutory body with responsibility for our rivers and canals, and any work that is done has been thrown into the lap of volunteers who care enough about their stretch of waterway.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Small Business Saturday

This was once the hall at the back of the British Legion club, and is now the premises of a company called It All Begins With Ideas, which used to be based in Broad Street - in the shop which was taken over by the Hay Craft people and is, at present, to let again.
(I have no idea what they do - it all seems very technical!)

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Fifty Glorious Years!

Eric Pugh is celebrating fifty years at his little electrical shop on the Pavement at the moment, with a window display showing photographs through the years, starting with Eric himself in 1942, a little lad in shorts, standing outside the shop. The Pavement hasn't really changed much since then, though Eric has! (He's a bit taller now, for one thing).

Meanwhile, round at the shop on the corner of Lion Street, opposite Booth's, last occupied by Adela's dress shop, a new sign has gone into the window saying that it will shortly be re-opening as a stationer's and "writing equipment" shop.

And Mike Hobday has been seen in Fleur-de-Lys antique shop. He was one of the founder unit-holders of Broad Street Books, specialising in railway books and models. He hasn't done the models through the shop for a while, but it seems he's moving to larger premises where he can deal in a few more antiques alongside the books. There will be a new unit holder taking his place at Broad Street, who will also be dealing in railway books, as customers have got used to the speciality being there.