Monday, 30 September 2013

Hay Walking Festival

At the Hay Together gathering the other week, I picked up a leaflet for the Hay Sustainable Tourism Action Plan.
The first of the events on the plan is coming up soon - it's the Hay Walking Festival from 10th to 14th October. This is the third walking festival and they have been designing their walks around some of the feedback they received from the first two.
48 walks are on offer around Hay and scattered through the Brecon Beacons. In fact, the very first walk starts from Erwood, up towards Builth Wells, and visits the cannon on the hilltop above the village, Twm Tobacco's grave, and Prince Llewelyn's cave (Llewelyn the Last was supposed to have hidden in the cave shortly before he was killed, though I suspect it is far more likely that he stayed in Aberedw Castle instead!).
Some of the walks concentrate on map reading skills, while others focus on the local archaeology - and in one case, beer! There are also walks to look at the local geology, learn Nordic Walking, and just to look at the views. One walk looks at positive responses to climate change (I think this one will be up Cusop Dingle, where there are some houses with interesting alternative energy sources), and another follows the drovers' road from Brilley. There's foraging, and geocaching, and a search for the Black Dog of Kington, and even some sketching tuition.
One walk that will not be taking place as advertised, though, is the walk around Hay-on-Wye, which was to have been led by Rob Soldat, who is now no longer with us. I presume they will have found someone else to lead the walk, though no-one could take his place.
The walks are graded from Easy (low level, gentle pace) to Very Strenuous (for experienced walkers over long distances) and they can all be booked online. The website is

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Visitors from Timbuktu

They're here, having finally got their visas, and yesterday there was a party at the Castle to welcome them. There was lots of information from Hay2Timbuktu about what is going on in the city and the links between Hay and Timbuktu, including a mention of the motorbike ambulance that Medics4Timbuktu raised money for, and the Girls in Schools project, which encourages girls to stay in education - some of our visitors are teachers.
The Fairtrade group was there, and so was Chris from Haymakers, with some of the silver jewellery that they sell for the Tuareg silversmiths. There was a string trio at one end of the room, too (though I did hear comments from some people who weren't sure whether they were tuning up or actually playing a piece!).
This morning, the visitors were walking the Timbuktu trail around town, which links a building in Hay with one in Timbuktu - so it goes by the Council offices, and the Medical centre, and also the Cinema Bookshop, where the link is manuscripts and books. Timbuktu has a great wealth of medieval manuscripts. Although some of them were sadly lost in the recent occupation of the city by rebels who did not see the value of the manuscripts, many more were hidden by local people.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Small Business Saturday

Just opened in the Castle stables - the Thoughtful Gardener.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Shopping in Hereford

There are very few things that I need to go into Hereford for any more, but one of them is ink for my printer, which I get from Cartridge World, the recycling place.
Yesterday I had a couple of other things I wanted to get as well, so I went in on the afternoon bus.
When I paint my toy rifle to make it more Steampunk, I want to add a bit of verdigris on the copper, so I went into Games Workshop to look at the paints. The chap in charge there was lovely! He was very enthusiastic, and showed me exactly how to achieve the look I wanted, and which paints to use to do it. He even showed me a model he'd painted, so I could see how it should look when it was finished.

In the centre of town, the Old House is surrounded by hoardings, which looks worrying, but it appears to be due to maintenance work taking place on the plaster, so hopefully it will re-open again.

I'd heard that The Entertainer was one of the toy shops which had promised to stop segregating 'boys toys' (in the blue aisle) and 'girls toys' (in the pink aisle), so I went in to check. The blue and pink backgrounds are still there, but now they are labelled 'action and adventure' and 'imagination and' - something, and toy boxes with pictures of girls on the lid are right next to boxes with pictures of boys on the lid, although in the science section the toys clearly aimed at girls are for making perfume and soap and cosmetics, and the other toys are all about creating gooey gloop, and erupting volcanoes. There are even 'girly' nerf guns, but at least that's an acknowledgement that girls might like to play with them too!

Down towards Edgar Street, I got confused by the layout of the road and pavements, and had to take my life in my hands to cross the very busy road. I hadn't realised just how awful the ring road is for pedestrians - and just how far you have to walk to find a safe crossing point or underpass. I was going down there to have a look at the stumps of the trees that were cut down (at 7am, on a Sunday morning) despite great local opposition, by Acorn Environmental for the County Council. I understand they had to bring the firm in from Birmingham - presumably at some cost to the local taxpayers.

And finally I stopped at Wetherspoons to wait for my bus home, and had a very pleasant pint of Exe Valley's Autumn Glory, and a half of Red Beacons while I read the comic book I'd picked up from Waterstones - Winter Soldier: Black Widow Hunt (which was the only one I found that I liked the look of which had any female characters in it at all!). So now I know a bit more about Bucky Barnes, sidekick of Captain America, and the Black Widow's numerous ex-boyfriends.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Local Shopping is Best!

I've been looking for a pair of green boots.
Next year, I'm going to the World Science Fiction Convention in London, and one of the costumes I want to wear is the comic book character Green Arrow. After all, I'm an archer, so I already have the bow and arrows, and a long green cloak. So I was looking for some green boots to go with the costume. There were a few I saw on line - but the ones that would have been perfect were sold out.
So I looked around Hay. Number Two on Castle Street has some lovely dark green suede boots, and Adela's has some sturdy green leather boots. After a little deliberation, I decided Adela's boots would go with the rest of the costume best, so that's one thing bought locally instead of the internet.

Then the rucksack that I use to take my washing to the launderette is just about at the end of its life. Half the back is paper thin, and I didn't want to wait for the catastrophic tearing sound, and my unmentionables scattered across the pavement by the British Legion, to get round to replacing it! The camping shop on Castle Street had the perfect replacement, in a dark grey cloth. I have an old suitcase that will become the launderette bag, so the new rucksack will be for when I need a larger bag than I usually carry, which will also look stylish. The one I chose was also considerably cheaper than the leather shoulder bags I had been looking at.

And then there's the gun! While I was away in Lincoln, at the Steampunk Asylum, I got involved in a Wild West Shoot out. I already had a child's toy six gun - but I went into Country Supplies to get new dishcloths the other day, and there among the toys was a toy rifle, with cartridges for target shooting. It was only £5! So I shall be getting some paint from the Games Workshop in Hereford to make it look more copper and brass to fit in with the Steampunk theme, and I'll be ready for the next shoot out! Watch out El Zombiro!
My Young Man had been going to get a rifle for me, and adapt it for Steampunk purposes, but the shop he tried in London was more expensive, and only carried toy rifles at certain times of year. So, once again, local shops are best!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Hay Community Cupboard

Sadly, there are some people around Hay who really need the occasional potato truck to spill its load.

When I was up at the Castle on Saturday, I was chatting with Ellie Spencer, who has been putting a lot of time and effort into setting up the Hay Community Cupboard - a food bank for anyone in need who lives within 9 miles of Hay. The Cupboard will offer a three day supply of food, household items and personal necessities to people who ask for help (who will be assessed by the staff) and people who have been referred to the Cupboard by GPs or social services, charities, schools or other agencies. Staff will also work with the people who come to them to find support such as debt counselling, benefit advice, womens aid, and so on.

So, they are looking for donations of non-perishable food (because it might have to be stored for a while before it is given out), such as long life or powdered milk, long life fruit juice and squash, tea bags and instant coffee, soup, pasta, rice, tinned goods of all sorts, cereals, biscuits, toiletries and washing up liquid. They will also be offering pet food where needed.

Their phone number, either to get help or to offer food or voluntary services, is 07908 876978.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Great Potato Scrabble

It's potato harvest time, and the tractors are roaring through town with big trailers of potatoes on the back.
Yesterday, one of them didn't have the tail gate quite closed properly, and as it went down Broad Street, it tipped thousands of potatoes out onto the road! People came out from everywhere to collect the potatoes up - the tractor didn't stop. A lady from the Granary came out with a broom to sweep them to the sides of the road; people came with boxes and bags and all sorts of receptacles - and the only sign that anything has happened is the occasional squashed potato on the road.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Afternoon at the Cobbles

The Cobbles is what the area around the back of the Castle is now being called, where there are several shops and an open space where the stables used to be.
Saturday was one of those glorious late summer afternoons, perfect for sitting out and drinking white wine, and there were two events going on up there at the same time.
Hay Together were opening their office and meeting room (with glasses of wine) and the Thoughtful Gardener was also having a launch party (with wine) and 10% off. The other shops were also opening late, so there was a lovely relaxed party atmosphere.
Hay Together have a small office next door to Eighteen Rabbit - and they're still looking for donations of office supplies and furniture - and they have also been given the entrance area next to the Castle kitchen, straight in through the door under the porch, as a meeting room. There they had displays on the walls of the new plans for the school, and plans to put trees in the car park (without losing any parking spaces), and posters for various groups who have shown an interest in using the room.
They also have the shed outside, which has the map of Hay across one wall (salvaged from the Ordnance Survey map stand at this year's Hay Festival). There they have a notice board for the use of all local organisations, and they hope to soon have another board up for things offered or for sale. They are also planning to display forthcoming events, situations vacant and wanted, lost and found, volunteering opportunities, lift sharing, and properties to let.
The Hay Together office is going to hold all the local planning and listed building applications so that members of the public can have a look at them, and the Local Development Plans and proposals. They'll also have the minutes of the local council meetings, and documents from both Powys County Council and Herefordshire County Council that affect Hay. They also want to hold a list of all the local organisations, groups and clubs, a list of local trades and skills, local professions, and provide community support and assistance.
They can also use their space for art and craft exhibitions, displays by local groups and organisations, and displays of community initiatives.
Also drinking wine in the sunshine was Ellie Spencer, one of our local councillors. She had her letter with her for people to sign to call for an election to the empty council seats, and she already had 17 signatures and the promise of 30 more when I signed. She was also up there as a representative of the Hay Community Cupboard, of which more in a later post.

I took advantage of the late opening of the Old Curiosity Shoppe to buy a couple of vintage sheets for my bed. I've been meaning to treat myself for a long time, and the time finally came when I had only one clean sheet in my blanket box and the rest in the wash! They didn't have a large selection when I went in - a lady from a local B&B had just been in and bought eight double sheets from them, but I have a three quarter size bed, and we managed to find two sheets that would fit it perfectly - and all for £10.

Then I ambled along with my wine glass to James the Thoughtful Gardener, who has set up his shop in the old stables. It's been used before as a temporary shop during the Festival for crafts and so on, as it still has the original horse stalls in place, and it really does look very good with the Royal Horticultural Society tools on display, and prints on the walls (some by Lizzie Harper, the illustrator who organised the social media meeting at Tomatitos last week), and Castello de Haia soaps made by his wife Jackie, as well as potted plants. I bought a cyclamen - I usually kill them, but they remind me of a wonderful holiday in Italy, so I thought I'd give them one more try. I saw Jo Eliot, who is on the Fairtrade group with Jackie, and her husband Noel, who is a gardener (and has a blog listed on the side bar), who had come up to give encouragement before heading off to the cinema to see the new Alan Partridge film.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Visitors From Timbuktu

A party of midwives and teachers from Timbuktu were supposed to be arriving in Hay this weekend, but because of delays with their visas they will now be coming next week instead. So the party at the Buttermarket yesterday had to be cancelled, and next week will take place at the Castle instead.
There was going to be a communal pottery firing party on the community gardens this weekend as well, but sadly funding for part of it was not forthcoming in the end, and that, too, has had to be cancelled.
However, shop windows around town are decorated with Malian flags and things African in preparation for the visit.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Small Business Saturday

Outside the Hay Loft, on the way up to the Castle.
When I first came to Hay, this was Five Star, which had been the military section of Richard Booth's bookshop (hence, Five Star General) and kept the nickname when it became the Science Fiction department. Vi was in charge - she never read a science fiction book in her life, but she knew what sold!
In those days, the entire building was one shop. Later the staircase was taken out and it was divided downstairs into what is now Greenaway Books and the new little gardening shop.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Resignations from the Town Council!

Ros Garrett, the Deputy Mayor, resigned from the Town Council last month, and was replaced by David Gittins, who was elected by a vote among the councillors. I honestly wasn't expecting any further resignations, but I've just had confirmation that both Sue Campbell-Felgate and Rhona Muirhead have also resigned. Both of them were among the new intake of councillors at the last election, which means that four of the new councillors have now resigned (Richard Evans resigned due to ill health some time ago). Both Rhona and Sue came on to the council full of enthusiasm and full of plans for the future of Hay, so it's very sad to see them decide that they can no longer continue.

Here's an extract from Sue Campbell-Felgate's resignation letter, which has been circulated by email via Hay Together. Both she and Rhona Muirhead have written open letters, which they want to be publicised:

"Composition of the Council: At the last elections, the first in a number of years, there was a 54% turnout of voters in Hay, a magnificent result. Five new councillors were elected to join the council, and garnered between them 2,900 votes. Six standing councillors were re-elected, garnering between them 1,900 votes. This was a clear mandate for change from our electorate, who through their vote was asking for fresh viewpoints and a greater breadth of opinion to be represented. Since then, two of the new councillors have resigned; one through ill health and the other for reasons that have not been publicly shared. In both cases the council has elected replacements who have previously served on the council and therefore do not represent the fresh people/fresh ideas/ fresh energy that was mandated by the election results.
I do not think that the electorate’s wish for change has been honoured."

She goes on to criticise the poor level of debate within the council, the lack of openness to change and to working with other groups in the community and the lack of adequate research into the issues facing the council.

Rhona Muirhead expands on this in her letter of resignation:

"There is also a culture of not challenging the County Council and not engaging fully with some of the problems which have significant and far-reaching effects on the town, such as: the poor state of the primary school building which should have been tackled decades ago; the lack of appropriate, sustainable community facilities; the asset-stripping of Hay properties; the proposed supermarket development; the appalling Hospital re-organisation; the phone mast application; and the lack of involvement in the Local Development Plans. And because there is an historical lack of communication, the people continue to feel uninvolved. "

Ellie Spencer, one of the other new councillors who was elected last time, is concerned about the democratic process now that there are two new vacancies on the Council, and says in her email which has been circulated by Hay Together:

"The vacancies these resignations create can be filled in either of two ways - by election or by co-option. There will only be an election if a) more than 10 electors request an election and b) there are more candidates than vacancies.

If there is no election called, candidates submit an application to be co-opted to the council. This is considered by the council at the next meeting, and any choice is made by vote.....

I believe that the two new vacancies on the council should be filled through proper democratic process, and that existing councillors should not be allowed to 'cherry pick' their favourite candidates.

Two things must happen now. We need to find at least two candidates and we need ten signatories to a letter requesting an election."

If anyone would like to add their voices to Ellie's call for a fresh election, please contact her at with your name, address and phone number so she can contact you to arrange to collect your signature.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Saturday at the Castle

Two events on the Cobbles (as the area at the back of the Castle is now being called) on Saturday afternoon.

From 2.30pm till 7pm is the opening of the Community Hub by Hay Together. For years people have been complaining that there isn't one place in Hay where posters for community events can be put up, and that there isn't one list of organisations in Hay. Well, now there's no excuse - because here is a place for all the posters and all the organisations to get together so everyone can know what's going on.

Starting at 5pm the same afternoon, the Thoughtful Gardener will be having a launch party for his new shop, with drinks (and a special cocktail with fresh mint) and 10% off the plants. There may also be a prize winning garden designer, Rob Kennett, on hand to give advice. Eighteen Rabbit next door will also be opening late, and are offering a 10% discount on their products, and the Hay Loft and The Olde Curiosity Shoppe will be opening late as well.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Social Media to Promote Small Businesses

There's a new group in Hay of self-employed people who are looking at ways that they can use the internet and social media to promote their businesses. Last night they were meeting at Tomatitos to discuss blogging, so they invited me along.
I wasn't the only blogger there - Emma Balch (of Pottery Cottage Clyro) has been blogging for longer than I have, and from more exotic locations, like India and Argentina! And James, who owns Tashi Gallery on the Pavement, works with computers, and knows far more about the technical side of things than I do.
It was interesting to see what other people are doing, though. Among the dozen or so people in the back bar were b&b owners, the lady who runs the Old Electric Shop antiques, a lady from Herb Farmacy, and an illustrator. They were interested in the differences between blogspot, WordPress and tumblr, and whether to Tweet, and what use could be made of Facebook. They weighed up the benefits of having a website of their own versus a blog, and whether the two could be linked - and the benefits of linking to other people's blogs and websites. They talked about tagging posts so that more people came across them while searching on the web, and wanted, above all, to bring more people into Hay as visitors.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Royal Birthday

I missed King Richard's birthday party at the Globe last Thursday, but Hay TV were there to record it for posterity, and it looked like a full house. I'm told that Griff Rhys Jones turned up as well, with a camera crew! He's filming a series for BBC1 about the importance of rivers (something that Richard was talking about in his birthday speech as well), so of course he's following the Wye. He was also seen in Bartrum's the stationers that day.

Monday, 16 September 2013

I Love Lincoln!

I've just been away to the Lincoln Steampunk Asylum for the weekend. This is an annual event, in its fifth year now, where strange Victoriana takes over some of the most historic areas of the city of Lincoln.

Here's a fine looking fellow at the street market just outside the gates of the castle. There were more stalls inside the castle, and members of the Asylum with wristbands could wander in and out for free all day. There was a Parade of Banners belonging to the different Steampunk societies, including the Third Foot and Mouth (named after the regiment in Carry On Up The Khyber), and a Wacky Races event with various interesting home made vehicles - including jet packs!

There was a Wild West shoot out, and a Brass Button Hunt. There was also a Steampunk market round the back at a local school hall, selling corsets and leather goods and jewellery, and events at the Assembly Rooms, and table top gaming at one of the local pubs, so there were people in costume wandering up and down the hill (and they weren't joking when they called it Steep Hill!) for the whole weekend, and gathering in various pubs and eateries, and generally having a good time.

I couldn't help but compare Lincoln to Hereford.

Lincoln has a very fine castle and cathedral at the top of the hill, with medieval buildings scattered down the hill to the river at the bottom. All over this area, there are small, independent, specialist shops - selling whisky and tea and fine sausages and vintage clothes and soap, as well as bookshops and restaurants and pubs. Further down the hill are the larger chain stores, mostly in buildings that date to the Victorian era or thereabouts. At the bottom of the hill, the High Street contains takeaways and smaller shops that sell things like second hand vacuum cleaners and so on. This is also where car showrooms are, and a big Wetherspoons that was once the Ritz cinema.
They have made good use of existing old buildings - a small chippy is housed in an octagonal building that originally housed machinery for the railways, for instance. Also along that stretch there are two (or possibly three) churches of Saxon origin, and there are also Roman remains. There are sign boards all over the older area of town describing the local history.
They also have public toilets - which are open - and lots of green spaces.
They advertise their green credentials with signs that describe local environmental projects.
There is a modern museum, which is light and airy and has a cafe. We didn't have time to look around, but what we saw of it when we went in to see the Steampunk exhibition was impressive. Nearby there is an art gallery.
There is also a university, with buildings dotted around the city.
The railway station has trees planted in front of it.
There seem to be frequent buses, and the taxis are reliable and reasonably priced.
And the locals are friendly, even to the odd people who turn up in elaborate costumes.

Why can't Hereford be more like that?

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Small Business Sunday

The Sandwich Cellar in Backfold.
When I first came to Hay, this was a shop that sold children's clothes.
It's had several different owners as a cafe.
Mike now drives a taxi.
Malachi used to have a great double act with Islay the dog. She had been told, in no uncertain terms, that she was not to beg at the tables - but that didn't stop her from sitting close by and looking at people who were eating in a hopeful way. Malachi would come out and tell her off, waving his arms around, and she would slink away as if she was frightened of him - and then she would nip back when his back was turned, and get treats from customers who felt sorry for her!
The present Sandwich Cellar ladies are lovely, and do very nice snacks!

I've been away for a few days in beautiful Lincoln, so I'm only just catching up on blogging tonight.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


A young woman came into the shop today and said she was from Powys Volunteer Agency. She asked if we needed any volunteers to work at the shop. I told her we didn't use volunteers. She looked surprised and said: "Oh, you're all paid staff then?"
Well - yeah!
She went away again - and I was left wondering. Do Powys Volunteer Agency really have so many people clamouring at their doors to become volunteers that they are now scouring the county for volunteering opportunities for them? Who are all these people with so much time on their hands that they don't mind what they do when they volunteer, as long as they are volunteering?
It all seems very strange.
I've volunteered in the past, but it's always been with a specific aim in mind, such as helping out the Wildlife Trust on dormouse surveys or clearing bracken. I'd never approach a volunteer agency in order to be put forward for anything that needed voluntary staff.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


I was in the greengrocer's on Castle Street the other day when a lady came in with a bucket full of apples. She left them for Stuart to look for, and said she'd be back to discuss payment later.
This is something no supermarket could ever do!
I think it's great that it's possible for local people to bring their surplus fruit and vegetables to the local greengrocer so that other local people can buy them. It keeps money in the local economy and the surplus fruit and veg don't go to waste.

Meanwhile, in the Thoughts of a Greengrocer, in WyeLocal, Stuart has been doing a bit of market research. He compared prices between Waitrose in Abergavenny, Tesco in Belmont, the Co-op in Hay and his own shop and Gibbons the Butchers in Castle Street.
The dearest for the same basket of shopping (chicken and veg) was Waitrose, followed by Tesco, and then the Co-op. The local shops on Castle Street cost mere pennies more than the Co-op - and of course, that price doesn't include the time and petrol to get to the supermarkets out of town.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Royal Birthday

Richard Booth will be holding court at the Globe on Thursday 12th September to celebrate his 75th birthday. The flag of Hay will be run up the flagpole at 2pm, and the Hay National Anthem will be sung.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Hay Local Development Plan Action Group

Part of the Local Development Plan for Hay-on-Wye is a proposal to build 83 new houses on the outskirts of Hay along the Brecon Road. Some of these are supposed to be "affordable housing" though I'm not sure how many, and there has been some discussion of the proposals in Town Council meetings.
Now there is a new group in town to object to the scale of these proposals. It's called the Hay LDP Action Group, and has a page on Facebook already. The organisers are Dawn Lewis and Kathleen Branagan, and they have sent a detailed (and quite long) letter to the Chief Executive of Brecon Beacons Planning Authority with all their objections - which include insufficient consultation with interested parties (something that comes up with depressing regularity in plans that local authorities decide to implement). The full text of the letter is available on the Facebook page. Kathleen Branagan was the lady who put her name forward to be considered as a Hay Town Councillor, when David Gittins was chosen instead.

While the Affordable Housing group have identified some 41 families in housing need in the Hay area, it does not seem that more than a fraction of these people would be helped by this large new development, and it does make me wonder where members of 83 new families would find work - would they be commuting to Hereford or Brecon, or even further afield?

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Small Business Saturday

The next shop in the sequence was going to be Vintage Mercantile, but sadly that's closing down at the moment.
So here's the shop next door, Haystacks Juke Joint, specialist in all sorts of music from LPs to CDs. They also do films and DVDs, of course, a few books. This picture was taken in the rain, when the boxes of books out the front had been covered over with plastic sheeting.

When I first came to Hay, the shops along here were tatty old garages/sheds. One Christmas or New Year, the shopkeepers of Backfold arrived for work one morning to find that someone had broken into the shed that stood where Haystacks stands now. Then we realised that it hadn't been broken into - it had been broken out of! The way the lock was smashed had to have been done from the inside. So then we looked up, and pieced together what must have happened. Someone had fallen through the roof of the shed from the Castle above, which only has a low wall at that point, easy to fall over in the dark. They'd landed in the shed, and then managed to break themselves out. We never did find out who had fallen, but they obviously fell onto something soft.

Friday, 6 September 2013

"It's Cutlasses Now, Men!"

This week, I discovered something wonderful - Errol Flynn came to Hay!

Brian-with-the-Staffies has the little shop behind Rose's Books, now called Belle Books after one of his Staffies (because Denzel would be a silly name for a bookshop!). An old chap comes in to buy old Westerns from him, and they got talking. It seems that the old chap's dad was the gardener at Clock Mill in Clifford at the time that Rafael Sabatini lived there, and he still has the letters that Sabatini sent to his father.
Rafael Sabatini was the author of many books with action-filled plots, some of which were made into some of the best swashbuckling films that Hollywood ever produced. Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk, Scaramouche, and The Black Swan all came from his pen originally - and Errol Flynn was the star of Captain Blood (which made him a star, and where he said the famous line I've used as the title for this piece) and The Sea Hawk - though the plot of the film is almost completely different to the plot of the book.
And some time during the 1930s, Errol Flynn came to visit Sabatini for a quiet time away from the pressures of stardom.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Council Meeting Part 3

The National Park has been updating its Local List of buildings in conservation areas, which affects several areas of Hay. The Council has been asked for their thoughts on the matter - and one thought was that the Craft Centre should be included, modern building though it is, so that no-one can do anything else with it! Also it would ensure that the toilets stayed open. Steve Like, who has been in the Council for a long time, said that he didn't like the way that consultations were now done by the National Parks and County Council in dribs and drabs, instead of the Town Council getting a complete document to consider - which is how it used to be done. As it is now, it is easier for the consultations to slip information past the councillors without them realising the significance of it until it's too late.

One member of the public then asked what had happened about the South Wales Health Plan, as she hadn't heard anything. She also made a heartfelt plea for the Council to communicate what they're doing to the public - and one simple way to do this would be to have half a page in the WyeLocal every month rather than the quarter page every two months as at present.

A scam was also mentioned - apparently someone has been going round to local businesses claiming to be raising money for something to do with Hay School, but the school has nothing to do with them.

And then we came on to buses and community transport.
This is a bit of a hobby horse of mine, as I rely on the bus service to get anywhere.
Local authorities have had their funding cut for bus subsidies by the Welsh Assembly - so it is the County Councils which have to decide where to make the cuts. This has already begun in Herefordshire, where rural bus services are being cut and the only bus routes which will remain open will be "market town to market town" or even just from market towns into Hereford. The County Council there seem to want volunteer drivers and Dial-a-Ride services and so on to fill in the gaps where they cut the services, to get passengers to "transport hubs" (or "bus stops" as they used to be known).
The future of Hay depends on reliable public transport, Steve Like declared (with me cheering quietly in the background). At the moment people can't get to jobs in Brecon or Hereford because the bus timetable doesn't work for them. I know this from my own experience. When I was unemployed, I lost the chance of two different jobs in Brecon because of the lack of buses. In one, I would have needed to be at the shop about twenty minutes before the first bus from Hay arrived in Brecon, and for the other, I couldn't get home on a Saturday because the last bus to Hay left about half an hour before the job finished.
Gareth Ratcliffe will be talking to Stagecoach soon about the Hay service in the future.
They also mentioned a website called which covers Mid Wales and is aimed at providing integrated public transport for the area. They also cover things like car sharing.
And while they were talking about transport - Gareth is also going to be talking about the residents' parking scheme with the County Council soon.

On a happier note, after the dismal prospect of death by a thousand cuts, the agenda covered upcoming events in Hay. These include a Fashion Week, the Dark Skies Festival (astronomy in an area noted for its clear views of the stars at night), a Walking Festival and a Cycling Festival. There were plans for a Water Festival based along the River Wye, but this seems to have fizzled out due to a lack of funding.

Hay Together wanted it to be known that they now have a meeting room available for hire, which will seat sixteen people, and they would welcome donations of office furniture (this is up at the Castle, in the area now being called The Cobbles). A comment was made that it would be helpful if Hay Together would publicise who is involved, because the only contact name that seems to be readily available is Johnny Kramer, and he obviously isn't doing it all on his own.

And back to Community Support - the Luncheon Club will be continuing with volunteers, and there is a possibility that the Travellers Club will be able to continue too, though the other things that the office organises will not be able to continue.

And Rhona Muirhead has an exciting idea for the Clock Tower Toilets! She didn't say what it was exactly, but she did say that it could make the toilets into a tourist destination! Rob Golesworthy said he thinks she's barking mad, but....why not? Hay does have a certain reputation for doing things that are barking mad, but work.

And that was it for the evening, as we staggered out just after half past ten.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Council Meeting Part 2

One of the members of the public at the meeting was Mr Grafton, who lives down by the Glis/canoe landing stage. One of his neighbours has put a claim in to the land registry for ownership of a piece of land down there that they have been treating as their garden for years - at the same time as the Council has put in a claim for ownership of the rest of the Glis after all the work that has been done on it. He was there to complain about the Water Board, after the storm drain overflowed - again - and spread raw sewage about the place. He said that this has been a constant problem for 35 years, and the Water Board have not sorted it out yet. And why is sewage going into the river here anyway?
Another member of the public, who had come for the item about affordable housing, also knows a bit about water pollution, and she said that the Water Boards in the UK are the biggest polluters of the waterways. However, the Environment Board have the authority to do something about this, and they can be alerted to the problem now.

And then it was time to talk about Christmas! Planning has to start early. The Chamber of Commerce have taken over responsibility for the Christmas lights around town, but the old people's party needs to be arranged. Last year's party at the Swan was a great success, so they want to book it again, but first they need to find out who is eligible to be invited. In previous years, Community Support have been able to help with a list, but this time it looks as if a couple of councillors will have to sit down with a copy of the electoral roll and see if they can come up with a list of their own.

The Recycling Fund has been approached by the Bowling Club, which used to be supported by the County Council. Now they have been cast adrift, they have asked for money for a shed to store their equipment.

There is a vacant office in the Council Chambers which is now available to rent - and it seems that the Council Chambers needs to have a contract with the County Council in order to get their rubbish collected, which will cost £83 for 26 green sacks, plus free recycling.

A large document, with lots of maps, has been produced for the Affordable Housing scheme. One of the sites under consideration is the present Community Centre, where they reckon they can put 19 houses and a little community room. They need to think about this before the County Council make a decision about the land over the Town Council's head. There should be a copy of the Affordable Housing booklet in the Library shortly. The councillors also agreed that the document should be sent to the County Council and the National Parks as a statement of the wishes of the town to be considered during planning applications. A huge document was put together by United Hay some years ago, which should have been taken into consideration in that way, but which has been mostly ignored and is now out of date.

Meanwhile, in Timbuktu, elections have been held, after a fashion. A lot of people were unable to vote for various reasons, but at least the way is clear for international aid to enter the country now - and the people of Timbuktu now have an electricity supply for five hours a day. Schools have also re-opened, though some classes have between a hundred and a hundred and fifty children in them. The rains have failed, too, so the harvest will be poor.
The second co-ordinator for Two Towns, One World has left the project, but it seems that it will be completed on time after all (neither of the two co-ordinators seem to have been entirely satisfactory). Sandra Skinner of Hay2Timbuktu has got involved, and is working on the project on a consultancy basis, which was agreed to be better than having to give up on it and send the grant money back to the EU. The Timbuktu Trail around town is one part of the project which has been completed, but now the links with various local groups, and the educational projects, look as if they are going to be completed by December.
There was going to be a visit to Hay by Timbuktu teachers and midwives, but they are having enormous trouble with getting their visas, due in part to the Border Agency here being paranoid about them being economic refugees.
CDs of music to raise money for Timbuktu are now available at £3 each.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Council Meeting Part One - Finances and Co-Opting

As ever, after the summer break, there was a lot for the council to work through in the meeting. There were also a lot of spectators - about a dozen members of the public lining the room. I found out why later.
The meeting started with a minute's silence for an ex-mayor of Hay, Malcolm Smith, who died recently. He lived in the big house next to the Cinema, and was also involved with Plan B and the original local history group for Hay.

There has been a meeting with Dr O'Reilly of the Haygarth Surgery, after various complaints about the way it is run from members of the public, and the doctor seems to be coming round to the idea of having a Patients' Forum to deal with complaints. He also suggested that part of the new school building should be a "community hub" with access to Health, Social Services and Community Support information all in the same building - which led to the comment: "It's going to be a very big school building!"

And then we came to one reason why there were so many people in the room - Ros Garrett, who was Deputy Mayor, has resigned over the summer, and the Council needed to co-opt a new member. Three people had put their names forward, though only two of those had turned up. The councillors voted by putting slips of paper with their preferred name on it into a milk pan from the kitchen, and David Gittins came out as the clear winner.
"But he doesn't even live here!" came a voice from the corner - who turned out to be the other candidate. Rob Golesworthy, the mayor, pointed out that he didn't live in Hay either, and that Mr Gittins did have business interests in Hay, which made him eligible to stand. Having cleared that up, several of the spectators, and the disappointed candidate, left.

The next item on the agenda was the public liability insurance that the Council has to take out. Nigel the Town Clerk has found a deal which saves the Council money, but it is a five year contract, and there was some concern over whether this was a good idea if the Council Chambers had to be vacated in the next couple of years. It seems that the insurance will cover the Council wherever they meet and have offices - but this all ties up with the new school building, which is where they will be re-locating eventually.

This was followed by appeals for grants from Dial-a-Ride and St Mary's Toilet Appeal. Dial-a-Ride get a grant from the Council every year, but usually the money available is split between them and Community Support. This time, though, the Community Support office is closing down at the end of September. The Council will be sending an official letter to Sandra Havard, who has been running the office for 27 years, to thank her for all her hard work.
Meanwhile, PAVO, the organisation that deals with voluntary groups in Powys, has been in touch with Hay Together about forming some sort of replacement for the Community Support office. There was some annoyance that PAVO had not also been in touch with the Council on the subject (and indeed, the Council had not been officially informed that the Community Support office was closing - they'd picked it up from the WyeLocal). One suggestion was that the County Council should get rid of PAVO if they wanted to save money, rather than really useful organisations like Community Support. As County Councillor, Gareth has already been in touch with PAVO, though, and a councillor will be attending a meeting between PAVO and Hay Together on September 13th.
St Mary's Church was advised to apply to the recycling fund (the money the Council makes from the recycling bins at the bottom of the car park) for a grant.

Back to Council finances, and the quest for a cheaper electricity supplier. Hay Together are looking at collective bargaining on gas and electricity for community groups so that they can get a better deal. Another suggestion was that a group of local town councils should get together and bargain with the suppliers in the same way. There isn't much time to think about this though, as the contract needs to be renewed by the middle of October, and any deal for the Council Chambers may be short-lived because of the possibility that the Council will be moving out.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow

A lady came into the shop today, and while she was at the counter she shared this story with me:

About 15 years ago, a father brought his little boy into this shop, and gave him around £1.50 to buy any book he chose. The little boy chose a Russian dictionary. By the time they had got home in the car, he had learned the alphabet. He went on to study Russian at university, and he now works in the Ukraine!

It's lovely to find out sometimes what effect a book can have on someone's life.