Saturday, 31 August 2013

Small Business Saturday

Greenways bookshop on Backfold.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Not Very Joined Up Thinking

I've been reading through the Hereford Times this week - and I'm confused.

Here we have the news that work has started on building a new archive building for the county. It will be modern, and eco-friendly, using the Passivhous system to save lots of money on heating bills. It is costing £8.1 million pounds and it is hoped that having the archives in the new building will encourage local historians and schools to use it. Isn't this wonderful?

Also in the news this week is the cache of Roman coins found in a farmer's field near Kington, by members of the Hereford Metal Detecting Club, while at Dinedor an archaeological dig is taking place on Garrison Meadow by the community archaeologist for the county and Dinedor Heritage Group.

Can this be the same county that is planning to close all its museums and dispense with the services of a County Archaeologist?

Reading a little further reveals that the County Council would be responsible for paying for the archives wherever they were housed - but they haven't decided what to do with the present archive building, a former army barracks, yet. A letter to the paper states that it's not only the County Archaeologist whose job is at risk - the Council wants to cut six posts from the department. And someone else wants to know what happened to the Hereford trow, the boat that was built to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and was rowed along the Thames in that vast flotilla of boats, which could surely be used as a tourist attraction in Hereford?

So, on the one hand, a new, state of the art, building to house the County's archives, along with archaeological discoveries being made throughout the county, and on the other hand the Council cutting back those very same services.
So, does anyone know what they're doing up at Herefordshire County Council offices, or is every department in a similar state of confusion?

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

New Businesses in Town

Here's an example of the gorgeous artistic Buddhist calligraphy in the window of Hay's newest art gallery. It's called the Tashi Gallery, and all the artwork in there is by Tashi and based on Buddhist scripts. This is in the shop on the Pavement which was once a sweet shop, and has also been a bookshop and, most recently, a pop-up cafe.

Meanwhile, round the corner,

Bartrum's the Stationers has now opened as well. This was most recently Adela's Dress Agency, and I remember it as Antique Annie's Vintage clothes shop, where I was once a Saturday girl!

And in Backfold, the little shop which was most recently the Bone China Tea Room is now being re-invented as a computer shop!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Herefordshire Art Week

It's not just history that's being celebrated in the early part of September - from the 7th to the 15th it's Herefordshire Art Week as well. This is something that happens every year - galleries are open all over the county, exhibitions are put on, and there are workshops at 119 different venues. Look for the pink signs!
This year Tracy Thursfield, one of the ladies who goes to Hay Stitch and Bitch, will be exhibiting her hand-knitted hats, scarves and jumpers, and her prints, in Clifford, at The Workshop, Paddock House, along with Benjamin Hill's furniture and Clarissa Price's pen and ink drawings.
Meanwhile, at her home Romilly in Brilley, Maureen Richardson will be exhibiting her hand made paper and book art. Her home is worth seeing as well - it is self-built, with a turf roof. The Self-Build Book, written by Maureen's late husband Brian, talks about how it was built.
The exhibition at The Courtyard in Hereford is based around the A49 Lime Trees, which local people are trying to save from being felled.
In Presteigne, Marijana Dworski (who used to be a bookseller in Hay specialising in foreign languages) has teamed up with Clare Keil to produce Books4Looks - furniture, books, posters, cards and so on based around vintage book designs.
At Wickton Court, Stoke Prior, Jenni Stuart-Anderson is exhibiting her rag rugs as one of a group of artists in various media, with ragwork demonstrations through the week. She taught me how to make rag rugs many years ago when the Hourglass Gallery in Hay was Rogues Gallery, and hosted workshops for different crafts.
Adam Watson, who weaves (and used to be a book binder) is exhibiting at Aardvark Books at Brampton Bryan with a group of textile artists.
I've picked out these particular artists because I've met all of them, and I admire their work, but the h.Art booklet is full of artists producing wonderful things - art, ceramics, furniture, textiles, metalwork, photography, stonecarving, sculpture, wood and willow, and more.
Looking for the exhibitions and workshops is a fun way to explore the county, too.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Hay History Weekend

Hay's new History Group are certainly starting off with enthusiasm!
They're putting on a History Weekend on the 7th and 8th September. This is at the same time as Brecknock History Week, over in Brecon, and I think there might be other towns and villages taking part too.
Here in Hay, there will be guided tours of the Castle and Church (with Father Richard playing the organ). There's an exhibition in the gallery at Salem chapel of photographs of Hay (and they're hoping to persuade the choir to sing, too). A pop-up museum is opening up at St John's, where anyone can bring along artefacts and pictures relating to the local area. There will be films - On the Black Hill, and a documentary about Real Life On the Black Hill, and there will be walks around the town.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Small Business Saturday

Wool and Willow, which provides a space for small producers to sell their wares. Previously, this was the paperback branch of the Children's Bookshop, where I worked for a while, while Islay the dog lounged around in the alleyway.
Once, I helped out for a day at Wool and Willow, and while I was behind the counter, Islay disappeared. We found her fast asleep on top of the sheepskins on the bottom shelf!

Friday, 23 August 2013

New School Plans

I've just been to the Library to pay my Council Tax. I could do it online, but I want the "Library Plus" services to stay available in Hay, since we no longer have a Council Office with a full time member of staff, and the only way to ensure that happens is to use them.

While I was there, I had a look at the plans for the new school.

It's lovely that Powys County Council say how committed they are to excellence in new school buildings, and that they will be using the latest environmentally friendly methods in the building, such as PassivHous construction techniques.
They also want to put the Library in the same building, together with youth services, and community services for adults, along with a coffee bar. What bothers me is that they don't seem to have allowed much room for all these different functions to operate - there only seems to be the one room, which is the Library itself, and a small office for the Town Clerk. I hope that Library Plus would transfer over along with the Library, so I would still be able to access County Council services there?
But I wonder where the Town Council is supposed to meet if everything that takes place now at the Council Chambers is transferred down to the school? And what happens to the other groups that have offices in the Council Chambers, like Dial-a-Ride? And what happens to the existing Library building and community centre? None of this is mentioned on the display.

There was another chap looking at the plans while I was there, and he pointed out that the plans on the English side of the board were different to the plans on the Welsh side of the board (somehow teachers' desks seemed to have disappeared, and so had the children's area of the library). He said the plans on the County Council website were different again. He was concerned about the number of computer terminals available in the Library, since Universal Credit will only be available (when it is brought in) via computer and the only way some people will be able to apply will be through the computer at their library. He also noticed that there were six toilet cubicles between two classrooms (unisex) and only two cubicles and a disabled toilet between the other two classrooms for presumably the same number of children to use.
He didn't think there were enough fire exits, either.

So it all looks very nice, but there still seem to be some problems that need sorting out.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Memorial for Rob Soldat

We were at the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia in London last Wednesday. My Young Man had encouraged me to try a special beer from the Greene King stand, 5X, which was only being put on sale at certain times throughout the day, and was only available in a third of a pint at a time. There was a long queue.
When we got our drinks we went to find somewhere to sit down, and the Young Man had a quick look at Facebook on his phone - and that's when we found out that Rob Soldat had died. At least we had an appropriately special beer to toast his memory with.

This was the picture shared by Richard Booth's Bookshop on Facebook.

The memorial service was this afternoon, at the Masonic Hall - and it was packed out. Rob was a well-loved man, and everyone there said what a gentleman he was - as well as being remarkably knowledgeable about history, folklore and literature. His brother said that the family name came from East Prussia, when their great grandfather had come to England in the mid nineteenth century (and his father was described as a "gentleman"). A few years ago they discovered that the ancestral family home still existed, and went to see it - it was being renovated by a Russian billionaire!

Several storytellers were there - Rob was a noted storyteller and went to the storytelling festivals. He had an arrangement with Judith Gardner of the Children's Bookshop to take books of folklore along on a sale or return basis. He also worked on the market on Thursdays, and gave guided tours of Hay Castle, and took part in courses on folklore - one of the speakers read out a poem he had written on one of the courses, in the style of Taliesin, about a cat (which he had chosen as his totemic animal). It began "I am the mew by the foodbowl".
After the speeches, and the singing of Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer, which Rob had chosen, there was a buffet.
One of the ladies there told me that her little girl had wanted to come to the memorial service, because she was sad that Rob had died too. "Why are you sad?" her mother said, thinking to have a serious talk about death with the little girl.
"Well, you're a rubbish storyteller!" she said.

On display along the edge of the hall, and in the entrance, were photos of Rob, and some of his weaponry - a couple of swords and a pair of gauntlets, and a helm, which he used on several occasions. One photo was of him dressed as a Knight Templar for the launch of one of Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins novels, which was done at Hay Castle. Father Richard was there, too, to bless us all and save us from the Templar Curse!

Also on the table was a little box for donations towards a planned storytelling event later in the year, in Rob's memory. The organiser is hoping to put it on around October, and if it goes well to maybe make it a regular event.

I went looking around the web to see if I could find any photos of Rob, and came across this blog entry, from 2008, which seems typical of him. The writer is a young man from Oman on a sponsored trip to the UK in search of "an authentic picture of UK culture", as part of the Crossway Foundation's Offscreen initiatives to make connections between young people in the UK and the Middle East:

"We were in a beautiful ti-bi in the green field near the house that we live in and Robert ” a story teller” was with us in the ti-bi. He made an interview with us for the BBC radio. He asked us about the offscreen project and how did we enjoyed our trip in the different countries in UK. After that he started to tell us wonderful stories. The stories were short but we enjoyed them very very much. He said that the stories are traditional but each story teller has to use his own way of telling these stories. We all listen to him carefully because he was very good."

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

An Overwhelming Response

Front page news in the B&R this week is that the decision on future hospital provision known as the South Wales Programme will be delayed. When the plan went out to public consultation, they had over 53,000 responses, many of them very detailed, and they obviously weren't expecting that level of interest. So now Opinion Research Services are providing an independent analysis of the responses received, and there should be some sort of decision by the end of the year, instead of October, as they had originally planned.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Consultations about the new School

From Thursday 22nd, the plans for the new school will be on display in the Library, until the 16th September. There will be a comments box and the opportunity to make comments by email and post as well.
Then on the 19th September there will be a drop-in event at the school, with the same plans on display, but this time with the opportunity to talk to the architect, school modernisation officers, a library officer, a youth service officer and several other people from the County Council. This will probably be in the afternoon, but times have not been confirmed yet.
The plans will also be on the web soon, as part of the County Council website, though the page is not ready yet.
There will also be meetings with the parents at Hay School and Llanigon School.
So they seem to be making an effort to be thorough.

Monday, 19 August 2013

British Toilet Association

There is one, and they were on the Today programme this morning!
With all the fuss about the public toilets closing down across Herefordshire, and possibly about to close down in Powys, it's nice to know that there is a campaigning organisation devoted to keeping public toilets open and as accessible as possible for all members of society - for the disabled who need to plan ahead for toilet breaks, the elderly, and parents who need to change their babies, as well as the other shoppers and tourists who bring money into the area. They also give out Good Loo awards every year, and they can be found on

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Small Business Sunday

The opticians in Backfold. This was the last building in Hay to be built in the old millennium, which is written into the concrete inside the walls. It was built by local builder Ron Smart, whose wife Karen originally had it as a pine furniture shop, with a little four poster bed in the window for her white Persian cat.

Friday, 9 August 2013

A Holiday

I shall be off to the Big City to spend a few days with my Young Man (and drink rather a lot of beer!), so there won't be any posts here for a while.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Customer Suggestion

A customer came up to the counter with a book the other day, and asked; "Do you do a discount for someone who's bought a book in every single shop in Hay?"
I had to admit that we didn't - but it's quite a fun idea. We could have a card that each shop would stamp as the customer went round.

A few years ago, there was a small pub chain called Mad O'Rourkes. Each pub had a theme - the first one I visited had an entire canal narrow boat as the bar. They'd taken the front off the pub to get it in! Another had a little pottery attached to it, and if you went round all six or eight of the pubs (I can't remember exactly how many he had in the end) and got a token at each one, you'd get a free mug. They were also famous for their Desperate Dan cow pies, huge things with pastry horns sticking out!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Where will One Pee in Powys?

Over the border in Herefordshire, all the public toilets have been shut by the County Council to save money. Despite the annoyance and inconvenience (I know!) it seems that Powys County Council want to follow their lead, and shut all the public toilets in Powys!
That is - not all the the toilets. According to the B&R, Councillor Barry Thomas (the chap responsible) says: "We are committed to providing public facilities alongside or near to trunk roads in the county until the end of the financial year and provide a new grant to private companies to open their facilities to the public."
The toilets at Brecon bus station are to close, as well as the ones in Ystradgynlais - it seems that car drivers are more important to the Council than bus passengers (who would have to scoot over the road to Morrisons if they're desperate, I think, as the nearest alternative). They also want town councils and volunteers to take over running the toilets, so here's another example of people being asked to do jobs for no money.
There are public toilets in Hay beside the Clock Tower, and at the Craft Centre. I have a feeling that the Craft Centre ones are owned by the Craft Centre itself, but it means that we would potentially lose the use of the ones by the clock tower, which are in demand during the holiday season (which stretches through the year in Hay because of the books).

Just the other day I was reading a blog called The Cat's Meat Shop, which is running a series of blog posts about Victorian public toilets, and the reasons they were needed in the first place, which include public health, ladies being able to spend a whole day out shopping, and gentlemen lurking down dark alleys to pee up walls. I think maybe Councillor Barry Thomas should have a read of that before he goes ahead with his plans.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Long Distance Morris Dancers

I'm not sure which Morris side this is - I arrived when they had just finished one set of dances and didn't catch their second show - but I do know that one of the dancers had come all the way from Wisconsin!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Small Business Saturday

A new flower shop has opened in Backfold.

This shop used to be "Uncle" Graham's pet shop. When I worked across the way at the Children's Bookshop (now Wool and Willow) my dog Islay used to laze around in the alley way, hoping to entice passers by into tickling her tummy - and then she'd take them over to the pet shop. There she would look at them as if to say: "You can buy me a biscuit if you want to." And they did! She got loads of treats, and Graham would give her pig's ears to chew. She would never take a biscuit or chew when she went into the shop, though - she always waited to be given one, though she would point to the ones she wanted. When I went to work at the main branch of the Children's Bookshop, taking Islay with me, Graham threatened to sue me for loss of earnings!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Hay Does Vintage

I think this is the first time that I've ever stripped off to my knickers and little tshirt in a corner of the Buttermarket! Admittedly, the corner was well screened with blankets hung on the railings, and an old-fashioned wooden screen, so it could be used as a changing room.
Hay Does Vintage are having a sale in there, with about half a dozen stalls selling clothes, and jewellery, and bags and bric a brac. I had a very pleasant time browsing on my way to do a bit of shopping around town. I got a brooch shaped like a leaf - and then I noticed something unusual among the cotton print dresses on another rail.
It's a - well, I suppose one word for it is a "siren suit". Or you could call it a rather posh boiler suit, or overalls. It's double-breasted, in a dark blue silky material, quite thick - and it's my size. I think it must have been made in the 1980s - there are shoulder pads - and it's long enough in the legs and sleeves to fit me perfectly. All I need is a utility belt (and goggles), and I could be an airship engineer doing Steampunk cosplay.
("Cosplay" is a word that means dressing up in costume, usually at SF conventions, something I was doing long before there was a word for it!).
It's even smart enough for me to wear for work, so I think I did rather well.