Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Hoping for a Good New Year

The Swansea Pipe Band from earlier this year, at the Castle.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Small Business Saturday

The cheese stall on the Thursday market.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Solitary Pleasures

I had half-planned a long walk this morning, after seeing off the Boxing Day Hunt from the clock tower. I took Basil Brush with me (a toy I found for 50p at a car boot sale at Hay School) and there was a child in the crowd wearing a hat in the shape of a fox's head.
I go for the horses, rather than the hunting, though I was surprised to learn, from the speech made by the lady leading the hunt this year, that the hunting legislation forbidding them from killing foxes has been in force for ten years now. "We're still here," said the lady, adding that they would be hunting within the law, which they want to be repealed. (but if they're still here after ten years, and still charging around the countryside with the hounds and the horses, what's the big problem with the legislation? They obviously didn't need to catch anything to continue doing it.)
They haven't had the best of weather, anyway - it's been far too drizzly for me to venture out from my warm fireside.
Yesterday, though, had some lovely sunshine between the showers. I went down to the Warren, where a vivid rainbow was showing just across the river. I went paddling in the Wye in my wellies along the shingle beach and on the way along the river bank I came across a flock of long tailed tits. Simple and solitary pleasures, but it all made me feel ridiculously happy.
I hope readers of this blog have had a similarly happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Monday, 22 December 2014

The Official Discworld Beer

Discworld, for those unaware of this magical and fantastical series of books by Terry Pratchett, is a flat world carried on the backs of four elephants, which in turn are standing on the back of the great turtle A'Tuin, who swims slowly through space.
Terry Pratchett has peopled this world with the wizards of the Unseen University, witches and dwarven armourers and members of the Night Watch (who are also werewolves and trolls and, occasionally, humans), vampire lawyers, and Lord Vetinari the Patrician, who rules over the city of Ankh-Morpork.
There are cartoon and live action films, and figurines to collect - and there is now an official Discworld beer - Modo's Midden, a golden ale which is hoppy and full of flavour. I discovered this when I went into Kilvert's the other afternoon - I usually go for a half while my washing is in the launderette. And the mark of quality was on the pump clip, because Modo's Midden is brewed under license by none other than Buster Grant of Brecon Brewery. Which makes him an honorary inhabitant of Ankh-Morpork, I think!
Online, the beer can be bought from

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Getting a Settle

When I first moved into this house, I had no furniture at all. Fortunately, my mum was clearing out the furniture from her old house in North Wales, as she'd decided to stay on her Greek island permanently, and she generously donated the lot to me.
Her house was slightly bigger than mine is, and some of the furniture was always an awkward fit.
Then a small amount of money was left to me in my step-dad's will (which I wasn't expecting) so I decided to use it for special treats.
I started to look at furniture.
Last year, I bought a new double bed, and then I started looking at a replacement for the sofa. I've always fancied a settle, partly because they are good for storage under the seat, which is always useful in a small house.
I saw a wonderful Prairie settle, with drawers under the seat, at Huws Gray - but it was bigger than the sofa I already had, and cost around £2,000. A bit out of my price range, even if it hadn't been too big to get into the house.
I considered the sort of bench where the back swings over to make a table top, but couldn't find one that I liked.
Then last weekend I was chatting outside Nantiques in Backfold, when I looked through the doorway and saw the perfect thing. It's a solid wood chest, with carved arms and an upright back, with a cushion for the seat and upholstered back.
I looked at it.
I sat on it.
I went away - and came back with the deposit.
It was delivered yesterday.

So now I need to get rid of the sofa.
It's a while since I was on Freecycle or Freegle, though I still get their emails regularly - and I found that I couldn't get access to their Yahoo Groups. My password took me to a 404 error message, even when I changed it. Fortunately, Hereford Freecycle now also has a Facebook page, and Brecon Freegle is on the ilovefreegle website. So I'm hoping that somebody will give it a good home.
In the meantime, my front room looks like an old-fashioned railway carriage.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Small Business Saturday

The sheets and towels stall.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas Dinner at the Three Tuns

They put us on Table 13 - which seemed a bit ominous, but we had a very pleasant evening. The last time we had Christmas dinner at the Three Tuns, we took over most of the upstairs, and had quite a rowdy night. This time we were in the room at the front, on the far side from the bar, and we were far more restrained.
The room was hardly ever opened up in Lucy's time, but I remember a slide show being held in there. The speaker was an Arctic explorer, and about ten of us managed to cram ourselves around the big round table that took up the middle of the room, and pile ourselves onto the armchairs at the side, with the screen wedged in the far corner, and the projector near the door.
Now, the refurbishment has revealed the original features - the stone fireplace that was hidden behind the Victorian mantleshelf, and the thick plank wall at the back of the room, which once went all the way across.
The crackers at the Three Tuns are very posh, the waiters were very attentive and the Christmas dinner servings were more than ample. I nearly rolled home at the end. We were a bit puzzled by the abundance of beetroot in the menu, though - was it on special offer at the wholesalers, perhaps?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Hereford Railway Station

At first glance, there's not much of interest at Hereford Station. But on Monday I had a little time to wait for the train, and I noticed the history boards on the wall in the waiting room on Platform 2.
There were once three railway stations in Hereford, each belonging to a different railway company. The present station (built in 1856) was the biggest, and when it was decided to amalgamate the stations in the interests of efficiency, this was the one chosen. At the same time, in 1883, they re-designed the rail layout to be safer. And what you see now is almost unchanged since then - though they are now rebuilding the bridge across the tracks, and there's a temporary bridge at the other end of the platform.
I hadn't noticed until it was pointed out, because it's quite subtly done, that each of the Bath stone corbels around the station are carved to show different local wild plants.

At Great Malvern Station they did something similar with the ironwork, which is beautifully painted up and makes quite a feature on the platform, but this fades into the background unless you're the sort of person who makes a habit of looking for architectural features.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Keeping the Christmas Feast at Abergavenny

When I went to Shrewsbury, it happened to be the anniversary of the execution of Prince Dafydd in 1283 - although his older brother Llewelyn is always called the last independent prince of Wales, technically it was actually Dafydd, who held out until the June after Llewelyn's death.
So when I thought of having another day trip, I decided on Abergavenny because of the (rather gruesome) connection with Christmas.

The Lord of Abergavenny Castle, Henry de Braose, was ambushed and murdered by the retainers of Seisyllt ap Dyfnwal. Henry's heir was his nephew William. On the pretext of announcing a proclamation from the King, he invited the leading Welsh landowners of the district, including Seisyllt and his son Geoffrey, to a Christmas feast in Abergavenny Castle. As they sat to dinner the Sheriff of Hereford, Ranulf le Poer, started a quarrel - and gave the signal for the men at arms to attack the unarmed dinner guests. It was a massacre which became one of the inspirations for George RR Martin's Red Wedding in his Game of Thrones series - there was also a similar (and even bloodier) Scottish massacre.
And this is where it happened:

The hall was on the same level as the windows, with storage below.

Later, the sons and grandsons of the murdered men attacked the castle - but William was not at home. Gerald of Wales records that he saw one of the arrowheads from the raid, embedded in the thick oak door of the castle, six years later. The vengeful Welsh did catch up with Ranulf le Poer later, though, and killed him.

It took me a long time to find the castle. I followed the signposts which are scattered through the town, but I ended up going round in circles. Partly this was because I was assuming that the castle would be at the top of the hill. It is not. When I found the map at High Cross in the town centre I saw that the castle was actually built at the bottom of the hill, overlooking the River Gavenny, with the town sprawling up the hill behind it. It's still a superb defensive position, and the town walls would have provided good defence there. The town museum is in the Victorian building where the keep was originally, and it's all free.
The Romans recognised the potential of the site, too - their fort was just next door to the castle, under what is now the Castle Street car park, which also has one of several public toilet blocks around the town.

The Priory was outside the bounds of the walls, as was traditional, and is now the largest parish church in Wales. I went there looking for the wooden statue of Jesse, the ancestor of Jesus, who was originally the base for an enormous carving of Jesus' entire family tree. He's lying on his side as if asleep, and he's unique in Medieval art.
I hadn't realised that there are a whole lot of other monuments in the church, mostly in the Herbert Chapel to one side, and I was delighted to find that one of them is Eva de Braose. She was the granddaughter of Matilda de Braose, who built Hay Castle. In 1230 her father William (another William - the family didn't have a lot of imagination with names) was hanged after being found in bed with Llewelyn the Great's wife Joan (another Llewelyn - grandfather of Llewelyn the Last. That family didn't have much imagination with names either). William had four daughters, and Eva got Abergavenny Castle. She still had interests in Hay, though, as it was she who applied for permission to raise a murage tax to build a town wall for Hay. She died at Abergavenny - she is said to have fallen from the walls of the castle while chasing her pet squirrel.

There is also a rather fine Wetherspoons at the top of the hill, which was once the Coliseum Cinema. Judging from the grand staircase, it must have been a real picture palace, but I didn't see any way to get to the bar if you can't climb the stairs.
In the morning, I had coffee at the Cwtch Cafe, down near the bottom of the main street. The speciality of the cafe seemed to be Canadian pancakes with crispy bacon and scrambled eggs and maple syrup, so I went back for lunch, only to find that the owner is the only one who can cook it, and he wasn't there that day. The scrambled eggs I had instead were beautifully fluffy, though - I shall have to go again.
Monday is also a bad day to visit the Priory, as the Tithe Barn heritage centre is closed, and they have costumes based on some of the tombs in the Priory. One of them, of Gwladys, wife of William ap Thomas, was on display in the Priory, complete with bejewelled head dress copied from the tomb.
I went by bus to Hereford, and caught the train. The ticket cost £12.20, and trains are frequent. However, the station is nowhere near the centre of town. It was quite a trek down the hill to the river, but at least I could see the bright green top of the Market Hall, so I knew I was going the right way!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Keeping Up Old Christmas

All Saints Church at Cwmbach is bitterly cold! I went with Brian, and we could tell the people who had been to evening performances there before, because they arrived shrouded with shawls and carrying blankets and seat cushions! There is heating - high up the wall so it warms the air in the roof space - and the church was lit by candles in jam jars for the performance itself. The singers had small lights clipped to their song books.
The occasion was the Village Quire (with Phil Smith) singing old carols and songs, interspersed with readings from local folklore, poetry and memoirs. In the first half, several of the readings covered the visit of the Green Knight to Arthur's Court from the medieval poem Gawain and the Green Knight (complete with grisly green head at the appropriate moment, with long red ribbons coming from the neck to signify the blood!) Quite by chance, I had been listening to a version of Gawain and the Green Knight that afternoon, narrated by Ian McKellan before he was a Sir (or Gandalf), so it was interesting to listen to a different translation, recited with such gusto.
There was mulled wine and fruit juice in the interval, and a mince pie each.
In the second half, several readings were taken from Cider with Rosie, when the boys of the church choir go carol singing.
I love hearing the Village Quire. It was a pity that there weren't any younger people there, though, because the songs are beautifully sung, a cappella (the only accompaniment was the occasional use of a drum), and the readings are by turns interesting and amusing. It was a really good night out.
They're a multi-talented lot, too. Two of the singers are a local baker in Hay and his wife, who also dance with Foxwhelp Morris, and they performed a rapper sword dance in the middle of the song Rainy, Haily, Windy Night - when the girl has been persuaded to let the soldier into her bedroom....
The bakery, round the back of the little parade of shops by the Drill Hall, is up for sale as a going concern at the moment. Brian is hoping that the secret recipes will be passed on, because he loves their bread! I do wonder whether even they have an oven big enough for the pie that was described in one of the readings, though, with all sorts of birds from pigeons to a turkey in it, along with game of all sorts, four pounds of butter and a bushel of flour for the pie crust! That was from The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, by a Lady, written in 1747 - and a bushel of flour is something around 50lbs in weight! (so roughly 25kg, for the metric users).
Having seen it before, we were delighted that Phil Smith's encore was his rendition of a bell-ringer's Christmas, in which the bell-ringer got more and more drunk as the festivities went on!

When we got back to Hay, we finished off the evening by visiting the Rose and Crown. Paul has The Creature from Jones the Brewer on the hand pump, which I tried at the Castle Tap the other week. He's been serving various beers by Jones the Brewer lately, along with the Woods that he usually has on.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Fairtrade Christmas Fair

It was a cold and frosty day, even in the Buttermarket, so the mulled wine and mince pies were most welcome, provided by the Fairtrade committee. I think just about every stall there had been before - Love Zimbabwe with their pottery and metal garden ornaments and printed fabrics, Zimele with felt Christmas tree decorations and finger puppets, the two Timbuktu twinning stalls with silver jewellery and leather boxes, and make your own lavender bags with local lavender and African printed cotton, and there were handbags and felted slippers and hats and mittens and gloves and wallets made out of re-cycled car tyres, and lots more.
Rob Golesworthy, who is Deputy Mayor this year, officially opened the Fair (sadly, George the Town Cryer couldn't manage to be there), and after his short speech he got chatting about some of the problems Hay faces in the future. To be specific - toilets.
"How much do you think a toilet door costs?" he asked. They have come to the conclusion that the Council will have to charge for use of the toilets in future, 20p seems to be the usual sum to "spend a penny" now, so they have been looking at exterior doors with a coin slot - and they cost £6,500! And they need four of them.
Jo was also keen to promote next year's Borderlines Film Festival, which she is involved in. The first weekend of the festival will be taking over the Festival of British Cinema, which started off as the brainchild of the Hay Film Society, and ran very successfully. Joining up with Borderlines takes it to the next level, and means they can do more, and get more publicity. For instance, Ken Loach has chosen the three films which most influenced his work, one of which is Brief Encounter.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Small Business Saturday

Another stall in the Cheesemarket on the Thursday Market.

Friday, 12 December 2014

First Christmas Meal of the Season

All the local pubs with Christmas menus this year seem to be going down the non-traditional route, occasionally with some rather strange combinations that made it difficult for me to work out what I would like.
We went to the Black Lion this lunch time. One of the starters was pickled herring, which came in a little Kilner jar - everything was beautifully presented. I'm not a fan of pickled fish myself, but the lady who had it said it was delicious. So was the smoked salmon, arranged in the shape of a rose on top of a wasabi potato salad, and the polenta chips (which looked like mini fish fingers) and mushroom stroganoff. I had the duck liver on toast and confit leg with crispy Parma ham - which was absolutely delicious.
The nearest thing to a traditional turkey for the main course was Rooster, basically chicken reared slowly, with more flavour, so most of us had that. The beef was brisket, and there were two vegetarian options - the lady opposite me had the goat's cheese, walnut and sprouts roulade.
Talking about the rooster led us on to the subject of broiler sheds in Golden Valley. Planning permission has been applied for, and the County Council have been agreeing to previous applications. It's not just one farm - it's a group of farms up and down the area, all to feed into the chicken processing factory run by Cargill - and those chickens wouldn't be reared slowly for better flavour. It's hard for local farmers to make a living - sheep farmers earn an average of £26,000 a year, and the vast majority of that is subsidy. If they didn't raise sheep (and on hill farms it's very difficult to raise anything else) they wouldn't be able to survive, so it's no wonder they're keen on diversifying into things like broiler sheds.
Most of us around the table had read Feral by George Monbiot, about the need for the re-wilding of Britain. If the sheep were gone from the hills, or their numbers were greatly reduced, then regeneration of the plants would take place and the hills would support a much greater variety of wildlife. At the moment the hills are bald and barren for mile after mile, and the system of farm subsidies is one of the main reasons for that.
I rather wish I hadn't gone for the Tuscan Christmas cake for afters - it was very dense, and everyone else's sweets looked gorgeous. There was cinammon rice pudding with apple and blueberry compote, in a sundae glass, and orange and almond chocolate box, and a couple of other options. I don't think any of us could finish - we were all very pleasantly full.
One of the ladies had to get off promptly to take her kids to the Walking Nativity. It was supposed to be yesterday, but was postponed because of the bad weather. They started at the Bridge Inn at Michaelchurch Escley (there were rumours of mulled wine for the mums and dads) and a procession was going to head out, singing carols and enacting parts of the nativity story along the way, until they came to a local barn, where they finished the afternoon's celebrations.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Markets and Fairs

Christmas Day and New Year's Day are going to fall on a Thursday this year, so the weekly market is changing its day. So on Christmas week, the market will take place on Monday the 22nd, and the New Year's Market will take place on Wednesday 31st December. After that it's back to Thursday as normal.
And on Saturday 13th there's the Fairtrade Christmas Fair, with lots of old favourites like Love Zimbabwe, Tools for Self Reliance and, of course, mulled wine and mince pies!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Artisans' Fair and Castle Tap

The Buttermarket was taken up with the Artisans' Fair on Saturday, so I stopped by for some last Christmas presents and to say hello to Shelley, who was selling her silk scarves, and Richard, who was selling his prints. Pottery and knitted things and other crafts were also on offer.

And in the evening, it was up to the Castle for the second of the Castle Tap events.
Like last time, I was cheeky and asked if I could have four halves of beer instead of two pints, so I could try a wider variety, and they were happy to oblige. I started off with Castell Coch Ruby Bitter from Celt Experience, which was very pleasant. I found a quiet corner with some benches and a blazing log fire, chatting to the Heywoods from Drovers Holidays while Anna made a fuss of the Castle cat - for a while it seemed as if we were the only ones there, but when we stuck our heads round the corner we realised that everyone else was clustered round the bar. Later, the main room filled up - which is when the cat realised that his castle was filling up with people, and stalked off in disgust!
The second beer I tried was Copper Fox, from Mayfield, which they describe as a session bitter, and then I went for The Creature from Jones the Brewer - definitely the highlight of the evening, with some very complex tastes going on. The chap behind the bar told me that a friend of Jones the Brewer had died unexpectedly only a couple of months ago, and his nickname at university had been The Creature, so the beer was brewed in his memory.
And finally (because my limit these days is two pints) I went for Brecon Brewery's Cwrw-istmas, which was mildly spicy.
Also going well during the evening was Fubar's Pale Ale - but I'm afraid the music didn't do anything for me at all! Sorry, Sixteen Tambourines and Desmondo Lopez!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Council Before Christmas - Housing and Land

The Affordable Housing group have written to Persimmon Homes, seeking clarification on what they intend to build, and the answer is that 30% of the 80 homes they want to build on the edge of Hay will be "affordable" - a mix of rented property and property for sale.
Persimmon Homes have taken notice of the protest group's assertions that the drainage on the site is bad, and that there has been flooding there, so they are "designing a drainage solution to the flooding problem on site prior to progressing."
To this end, they called a meeting at the field. Jose Ferrera, from Persimmon Homes, sent an email on the 7th November, and a group met on site on the 11th. Fiona Howard, as Mayor, was invited, but she deputised Rob Golesworthy to go in her place. Rob has lived in Hay all his life, of course, and remembers when the field was a rubbish tip. He also had access to the plans from the railway, when it ran that way, which has the original drainage plan for the area on it. Gareth Ratcliffe was also invited, as County Councillor, and one of the neighbouring farmers also turned up. Alan Powell was there too. Persimmon Homes wanted to know who owned the land neighbouring the field, which includes the Town Council, in the area around the old railway bridge. They were also discussing the Llanigon Brook, surface water and sewage/grey water, and were keen to find out any local knowledge.
Dawn Lewis, who started the protest group, was very annoyed indeed that she hadn't been told of the meeting. Due to her conflict of interests, she wouldn't have been able to go, but she said that she should at least have known it was happening. She said that all the councillors get loads of emails every day, some trivial and some important, and there should have been an email about this. She hadn't known about it until one of her neighbours spotted the group of men standing in the field.
Belinda, the newest councillor, asked "Is this a male thing?" and pointed out that all the men on the council had been aware of the meeting, but none of the women had.
There was one other member of the public at the meeting, apart from me, and he'd been waiting quietly for this subject to come up. He was appalled that the building of the houses seemed to have been accepted by the council as a fait accompli - and walked out.

The councillors went on to talk about brown signs pointing to Hay - there's a distinct lack of them and Hay ought to be pressuring both Herefordshire and Powys County Councils to provide more (though I have a feeling that people who want brown signs have to pay a fee for them).

At the Cemetery, the deeds have been looked at, and it seems that there isn't any extra land belonging to the Council in the field above the newest graves. However, minutes of meetings discussing the cemetery seem to be missing from the archives from 1974 - 1982.

It was decided to invite a member of the National Parks to speak to the Council next time, as a sort of meet and greet exercise.

Someone mentioned the planning application for broiler chicken houses in Dorstone, which has caused an outcry locally, but as it's outside the Hay area, they moved on to the next item.

Which was a request from the Ladies' British Legion for the Council to buy flowerpots to put next to the Cenotaph, which they would maintain with plants. The Hay branch, though, has closed down, and the South Wales Branch now covers the area. The councillors were not keen on paying for plant pots.

The Warren Club still needs £20,000 to buy the land by the river, and the fishing rights, that they talked about when they came to do a presentation to the Council a couple of months ago. Though this would be an asset to the town, the Town Council don't have that sort of money - and with the problem of the transfer of the toilets to the town soon, they'll need all the reserves they have. However, there is the Recycling Fund, which could contribute a small amount. They decided to invite Tim Pugh, who is trying to raise the money, to the next meeting of the Finance Committee to discuss it with him.

There was a vote of thanks to everyone who had made the Hay Winter Festival work so well, and praise for Hay School, which is one of the best in Wales (for teaching, rather than the school buildings). As they are advertising for a new head, Fiona Howard has said she will be applying, so it's possible she will get her old job back.

And the next Council Meeting will be on Monday 5th January.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Small Business Saturday

Inside the Cheesemarket, another veg stall.

Friday, 5 December 2014

December Council Meeting - Transfer of Assets

Members of the Council have been meeting with people from the County Council to sort out the details of taking over various "assets" and running them for the town. These are things that have been the responsibility of the County Council, but which they are now off-loading to save money. Most important among these are the toilets and the playing fields.
Over the course of several meetings, the County Council have apparently become much more reasonable. One of the newer councillors said that she'd been to one meeting, and then missed a couple, and when she attended the next, it was as if the people from the County Council were speaking a different language! All the local councils have been applying pressure for the best deal they can get, and the County Council seem to have realised that they have to work with the local councils if they want their plans to succeed.
Llandrindod Wells local council have been talking to contractors, according to the Mayor of Builth (so the various small councils have been talking to each other) to get quotes for cleaning contracts and so on. It might be possible for a group of small councils to band together to get a better deal (though if they have to band together to get something done - isn't that what the County Council is for?)
So Hay's councillors are moving ahead with a business plan for the toilets, even though the County Council haven't been able to supply them with accurate figures for the running costs. The trouble is, the County Council's bill is for a group of toilets, and it's almost impossible to break it down to individual toilet blocks. They will also be looking at the grass cutting costs for the playing fields.
However, one point that came up was - how will the County Council know if Hay is making a saving on the costs that they have been paying, if they don't know accurately how much those costs are?
And if Hay is running the toilets and playing fields, will Hay own the toilets and playing fields? Some of them were originally owned by Hay anyway, and given over to the County Council in the 1970s (it seemed like a good idea at the time). Talgarth Council have taken back their playing fields.
It's always best to go to the people who actually do the work to find out what's really happening, so Alan Powell is going to have a word with Mac, who services the toilets (amongst other things) at the moment. (Mac was the local celebrity who turned on the Christmas Lights last year!)

And on the subject of Christmas lights, there has been a gradual changeover from the old incandescent bulbs to new LED lights (which are much cheaper to run) over the last few years. The display costs about £4,000, shared between the Council and the Chamber of Commerce, and there needs to be a discussion between the two about how much each side will pay next year.
The street lights on Castle Street were dark for a few nights before the lights were switched on this year. I thought that they might have been switched off, to make the Christmas lights look more impressive when they came on - but it seems that they're actually broken, and the County Council haven't sent anyone to mend them yet, despite several complaints. The light by the school is still broken, too, and the school and the youth club have been asking for that to be fixed for months.
One of the new councillors asked about the lights that hadn't been put up this year, and at the end of the meeting I left them waiting for Nigel the Town Clerk to get the key so they could go down to the cellar to look.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Council Before Christmas

It was a slightly depleted Council this month, as Fiona Howard is unwell, so Rob Golesworthy chaired the meeting, and Nigel Birch is in hospital. However, it seems that they may finally have found someone they can co-opt onto the Council, which has had an empty place for some time - so she may turn up in the New Year.
Lots of different things were discussed, so I'm just going to put them down more or less in turn instead of trying to "theme" my post.

The Transition Towns AGM was on in Cusop Village Hall at the same time, and Steve Like wasn't too happy with their agenda, since they were going to talk about affordable housing and other matters that he felt were the domain of the Council. Members of Transition Hay will be meeting with officers of the National Parks soon, too. Steve said he didn't want them to take credit for the Council's work. Steve was also unhappy about the new rubbish recycling system, especially for people like him who live in flats in the middle of town, with nowhere to store their big bins and boxes. However, the new vans that collect the rubbish will only take loose recycling, so they can't go back to the system of coloured plastic bags. Steve said that, in that case, he would stop recycling, even though he thinks it's an important thing to do, and put everything in the purple plastic bags which are collected fortnightly.

Last month, I missed an announcement about a Solar Energy Project, which sounds intriguing, so I'm going to try to find out more.

They were also talking about the annual grant that they give to Dial-a-Ride, which at £1,500 is less than previous years. Questions were asked about the other local councils in the area covered by Dial-a-Ride, Llanigon, Clyro and Clifford, and apparently some years they give a grant and sometimes they don't, though Hay is the main beneficiary of the service, so it makes sense that they should give the largest grant.

There have been complaints about the potholes on the little road down to Black Lion Green, but it was pointed out that there is actually no legal right of way for vehicles there. This is where councillors with a history of local knowledge come in useful, because they remembered when some surplus tarmac was put down about thirty years ago on the (wide) footpath, and a bollard at the top was removed, since when, everyone who lives down at the bottom takes their car down there. So it's not a road, and the potholes are not going to be repaired.

The railings at the end of Castle Street still haven't been repaired, either, since the unfortunate accident when the poor gentleman fell on them. The Town Council erected them, and the bench, in memory of John and Annie Grant, who used to have the old newsagents on Castle Street, but it seems that the responsibility for repair is the County Councils, so a letter will be sent asking them to expedite matters (followed by a plea for Plain English from other councillors - if you want to say "do it as quickly as possible", why not say that?)

The Senior Citizens' Christmas Party will be over and done with by now, but there were still last minute things to organise on Monday night, causing Gareth to disappear to arrange bingo prizes from the Co-op - he had to leave the meeting early to go on his shift, and was wearing his Co-op uniform.

The Woodland Management Group have asked for a grant from the Recycling fund, and members of the group left the room while it was considered. They need public liability insurance to cover the volunteers (having been covered this year by the insurance of another woodland management group) and they also want to buy some maintenance materials. They started off by relying on donated tools and so on. The grant was agreed, since the group have done a good job and it certainly benefits the town to keep the riverside walk tidy. Newer members of the Council were talked through the criteria used as guidelines for these decisions. It was also agreed that they should review the guidelines, and bear them in mind in future.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Food Fair, new shops and Beer

The centre of Hay was busy on Saturday, with the marquee full of delicious food. Buster Grant was there from Brecon Brewery, and as I passed by the stall, he was handing over three cases of his beer to a couple who were going to make up the three bottle beer carriers themselves, presumably for Christmas presents. He handed over eleven flat packed boxes and the handles. I'm looking forward to Knight's Beacon, "an intense Welsh stout", to be available in bottles. He had it on draught on the day.
I also got a few goodies to use as Christmas presents, including some flavoured teas in little jam jars from Llantrisant. And I got to try some chuckleberry jam, a new berry which is a combination of redcurrant, gooseberry and blackcurrant, quite curranty, but with a depth of flavour. The lady from Painscastle Preserves said that they grow the fruit, and they have two websites - and
Outside, choirs were singing - Talgarth, Aberhonddu/Brecon Male Voice Choirs and Builth Ladies' Choir while I was there.
In the Buttermarket there were crafts from Erwood Station - in the B&R last week was the sad news that the son of the man who started the craft centre would be selling up soon, but hopefully it will be taken over as a going concern. They had problems over the last year or so while the bridge was being repaired, which meant that they were cut off from the main road (and therefore potential customers) for a long time.
Meanwhile, down at the Clock Tower, Clocktower Books and Tangled Parrot were opening for the first time. When I went in, they were blowing up balloons and handing a tin of Quality Street round.

The previous day, I went up to have a look at Beer Revolution, the new bottled beer shop on the Cobbles at the Castle. The building was originally some sort of store room, so be warned - the doorway is Really Low! They've got a marvellous selection there, though - and as it was Black Friday, they had a 10% discount on black beers.
I like dark beers.
They also had some Meantime Pale Ale - and I've been to the Meantime brewery, in the buildings of Greenwich Naval College, as close as it's possible to get to the Greenwich Mean Time Line, hence the name - and also very close to where the climactic scenes of Thor 2 were filmed, and the Dark Elf spaceship lands. (My first thought when I saw the film was "I hope the brewery's all right!").
And they had Hardknott's Infrared and Continuum, from the Lake District (Hardknott was previously known only for the nearby Roman fort). I first had those beers at a tiny pub called the Rake, at the side of Borough Market in Southwark, where many of the small and independent brewers go when they're in London - Hardknott were having a tasting session that afternoon, and I think we tried everything they had to offer except the ginger beer, and got to chat with the brewer, too.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Turning on the Christmas Lights

It's been the Winter Festival this weekend, and at the beginning of the Festival, the town also came together to turn on the Christmas Lights.
The local celebrities chosen to push the plunger this year were Vera North and Betty Weir, of the North Weir Trust, which has been helping local people to undertake special educational projects for over fifteen years.
I've known about Betty and Vera and the Trust for years. I've bought plants from them - it's one of the ways they raise funds. They also have coffee mornings and table sales, and fees for public speaking, and accept donations - but no grants of any kind.
They explained that, wanting to give something back to the community that had welcomed them, they wanted to put something in their wills. The solicitor asked them why they didn't do what they wanted to do while they were still alive, so they could get the pleasure of it, and that's how it started.
I had no idea, too, that the grants enable people to take up opportunities world wide. One beneficiary went to Nepal for three months, to care for disadvantaged children in Kathmandu. Another went to an orphanage in Tanzania, and another assisted at a clinic in Kenya. It's not all aid to the third world, either - one grant went to a student completing a mini-research project in the Nuclear Medicine Physics department of Harvard Medical School, another grant was used to have a school visit to London's theatreland, and another helped a student on a Farrier Access Course at Holme Lacy in Herefordshire.
So the Trust has had many and varied benefits over the years, and looks set to continue the good work.
Before the big moment, though, the tent (used for the rest of the weekend for the Food Festival and Hay Does Vintage) was open with local groups - there were tombolas and cakes and toys and some local shops selling a variety of Christmassy things - Dandelion Wishes flower shop, Eighteen Rabbit with toys made out of flip flops washed up on a beach in Kenya (it's something to do with the ocean currents - they get millions of the things), children's books from the Cinema Bookshop, The Thoughtful Gardener (with Castello de Haia soap). Sunderlands the estate agents were handing out calendars, and there was holly from someone's garden.
In the Buttermarket there was Santa's post box and mulled wine.
There was also the Community Choir singing a medley of Christmas songs, including one that was a mash-up of about ten together, starting with The Twelve Days of Christmas and including Frosty the Snowman and The Hills are Alive. They were followed by Hay School - I liked the one with actions, trying to convince Santa that they had been good all year!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Small Business Saturday

Up in the main square, here's the fruit and veg stall.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Christmas Windows

There are some creative people in Hay!
This year, the Addyman Annexe has gone for a Christmas in the Trenches theme:

There's a roll of barbed wire, and First World War memorabilia.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Poetry Pop-Up, Remembering Nick Drake

Normally, I go across the river to Clyro on a Wednesday evening, to the musical evening at Baskerville Hall, thanks to Brian, who drives. This week, however, I was tempted by the Poetry Pop-Up at Tomatitos. There's one at the end of every month, organised by Marva Lord. I don't know much about performance poetry, but I do know about Nick Drake, so I decided to go along.
There have been several events focussing on the work of Nick Drake in the area recently. On the Tuesday night there was a musical evening at the Castle Hotel in Brecon. Some of the people at Tomatitos had been there, and said it was a really good night. Another event was at the Tabernacle at Talgarth, an old Baptist chapel which has been transformed into a music venue, and was highly recommended by the chap who was talking about it.
We started late, waiting for two chaps who had been inspired to drive to Tamworth-in-Arden to lay flowers on Nick Drake's grave. It was a 170 mile round trip, and they thought it was totally worth it! The singer/songwriter died at the age of 27, while suffering from depression, partly brought on by the lack of interest in his music by the world at large. Today, he would probably have found his audience.
So we started off by chatting informally, and I had to admit that I hadn't heard of Nick Drake until I started reading Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins' series (though I was aware of his sister, Gabrielle Drake, who appeared in a purple wig in the early 1970s series UFO). One of the main characters in the Merrily Watkins series is Lol Robinson, a musician who is deeply influenced by Nick Drake's music (and becomes Merrily's boyfriend).
Marva led the conversation around to a discussion of song lyrics as poetry, and read out some that she thought were particularly good, including The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (which she brought up to date with some modern references), a song she chose because of the news from Ferguson, Missouri. She has a great knowledge of blues singers, something I'm totally ignorant about.
Someone else in the audience said that another singer who would be worth commemorating in the same way as Nick Drake would be Paul Robeson - especially in Wales, where he had seen the similarities between the black experience in the United States and the Welsh experience of English rule. He was a noted campaigner for civil rights as well as a singer with a wonderful voice.
Some of the other regulars had also brought poems to share. Chris the Bookbinder had brought the lyrics of a song he had written with a friend in 1979 - or at least, the lyrics he had reconstructed from hazy memories of the song he had written with his friend - called Ursula Was.
Another chap, ex-army, had brought along The Naming of Parts, reading the instructor's dialogue with an authentic military bark. He said he thought that the class who were learning the names of the parts of their rifle must have been subalterns rather than squaddies, because at one point the instructor says "Please"! I first heard this poem at school, when Mr Jones, the Classics teacher, read it out, (he'd served in the desert during the Second World War) and it had stuck in my memory so well that I could join in with some of the lines.
The second half of the evening was a performance by Llew Watkins, with songs accompanied by an autoharp, which is an instrument with lots of strings, like a harp, or a very tiny piano, and a bar across the widest part of the base with buttons like an accordian, which are pressed to get different chords while the other hand strums the strings above. He was reading his poems off his phone, because his printer had died! There was a set of haiku poems, each based on one of Nick Drake's songs, and several more of his own work. Chris had brought copies of the latest Quirk magazine along, and one of Llew's poems, the Griffin, was printed in there, so he could read that one off the page. Llew has come up to Hay from London, where he lives in Limehouse and is involved in the performance poetry and music scene. He was talking about a performance that is in the process of being developed, a one night only magazine. He's been making eight foot tall pages, using papier mache, some of which will have cut outs to show a performance behind them. He's taking the part of the contents page. It sounds like the sort of thing Tim the Gardener was telling me about, when the surrealists were doing strange things on stage in the middle of the First World War.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Transition Hay AGM

This year the AGM will be taking place at Cusop Village Hall, at 7pm on Monday 1st December.
There will be updates on what the group has been doing in the last year and campaigns they have been involved in, including the community gardens, the Hay Ho Sunday bus, the Hay Town Plan, the Affordable Housing group, the energy group and the woodland management group.
Anna at Drover Holidays would appreciate it if people who want to go to the meeting contact her so she has a rough idea of numbers to expect. Her phone number is 01497 821134, and her email is

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Lucky Seven

Saith Lwcus Y Gelli Gandryll.

Hay has a brewery! Lucky Seven Beer comes from Garibaldi Terrace, and is available at the Wholefood shop as a bottle conditioned real ale. The one I tried is a Pale Ale, brewed with Simcoe and Citra hops - very flavoursome, at 3.8%.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Small Business Saturday

Weobley Ash, local meat and apple juice.

Friday, 21 November 2014

The University of Cusop Dingle Discusses Dylan Thomas

The group met in the little sitting room to the side of the bar at the Swan. It was small enough to be intimate, but the group was large enough for a lively and wide-ranging discussion after the talk. This was given by Patricia Daly, who has been a fan of Dylan Thomas for years. The title was "Dylan Thomas: Famous for all the wrong reasons".
This is the 100th anniversary of Dylan Thomas's birth, somewhat overshadowed by the commemorations of the Great War, and Pat was talking about "brochure-culture", the way the Welsh Tourist Board's brochures encouraging people to visit Laugharne, where he wrote a lot of his work, superficially encouraged the myth of the drunkard poet who died a tragically early death.
The real man behind the myth was far more interesting, as is often the case, and he didn't drink himself to death - he died of bronchial pneumonia made worse by the mis-diagnosis and treatment he got in New York. As Pat said, if he had been in Britain with the NHS, he would probably have survived, but the pressures of an American tour and the lack of health insurance or anyone around him prepared to pay for treatment up front meant that it was far too late when he finally was taken into hospital.
It was an excellent talk, including extracts from Dylan Thomas's work, and several people in the audience said it ought to be published. It led to a discussion about the way a myth obscures the real person behind it, bringing in DH Lawrence as another example, and also Lawrence of Arabia, whose myth was written by a journalist who was only in Palestine for ten days! The background knowledge of the audience was impressive - I never knew that DH Lawrence's German wife was related to Baron von Richthoven! Lewis Carroll is another author whose myth bears little relation to reality, with an emphasis on the photos he took of Alice Liddell overshadowing the rest of his long and interesting life.
Then there was a discussion about outsiders and creativity - how Dylan Thomas may have felt he had to play the part of the "no good boyo from the Valleys" when he went up to London, for instance. It was noted that he didn't seem to need to drink when he came back to Wales, and Wales was where he did the bulk of his work. DH Lawrence, similarly, came from a provincial background and married "above himself" as they used to say then. Caitlin, Dylan's wife, came from the milieu in London in which he found himself, so she had the contacts that he didn't initially (and a gold designer swimsuit that cost £17!)
Nature vs. Nurture was another topic of conversation - apparently Dylan Thomas's great uncle was a Welsh Bard. His Bardic name was Gwylym Morlais (after a local stream) and Dylan's middle name was Morlais. Dylan comes from a character in the Mabinogion, the great cycle of Welsh myths. It would be interesting to see if there were any similarities in style or subject matter between the Welsh bard and the English-speaking poet, but it's something that could only be done by a Welsh-speaking scholar. Dylan's father, too, was a poet, but trapped by the need to make a living for his family as a grammar school teacher in Swansea. He nurtured Dylan's talent from a very early age, and it was pretty certain that Dylan grew up thinking himself to be something special. He was also given elecution lessons to get rid of that undesirable Welsh accent.
We also talked about poetry more generally, and how poets need to make a living to support themselves - difficult in Dylan Thomas's day (he needed the patronage of the Bohemian set in London, starting when Edith Sitwell recognised his talent), and difficult today, when there doesn't seem to be a large audience for poetry. The modern education system came in for criticism here; apparently Dylan Thomas is not taught in schools because the poems are "too difficult".
"And Shakespeare is easy?" one chap asked from the back.

Having said that, there is a regular Poetry Pop-Up event at Tomatitos. The next one is on Wednesday 26th November, and is based around the work of Nick Drake.

The University of Cusop Dingle will be meeting again in the New Year, on January 8th, at 7.30pm at the Swan. This time there will be a small charge so that they can hire a room. One of the people who has agreed to contribute a talk is Tracy Thursfield, who thought she might talk about Yeats and the influence on his poetry of the Golden Dawn society.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Midwinter of the Spirit

Good news for Phil Rickman and his fans!
Midwinter of the Spirit, the second of the Merrily Watkins series, will be made into a TV series. Filming on the three episodes will start next April, and the film company have said that they want to do as much filming as possible around Herefordshire. Merrily is the Anglican priest in charge of Ledwardine, a fictional village in deepest Herefordshire, though most of the other locations in the books are real.
This is the book where Merrily starts her Deliverance Ministry (which means she becomes the diocesan exorcist), taking over from the dour Rev. Dobbs. Some of the main cast of characters had already been introduced in the first book, Wine of Angels, which is more of a prequel. It was intended to be a stand-alone story originally, but has developed into a series which uses Herefordshire folklore and real places in stories of supernatural mystery, also featuring recurring characters including Merrily's teenage daughter Jane (here rebelling by becoming a practicing pagan); Merrily's boyfriend, musician Lol Robinson; Sophie, the secretary who serves the Cathedral, and DS Frannie Bliss and his boss Annie Howe on the police side. Here, much of the action takes place around the Cathedral - the Dean and Chapter are about to discuss whether they will give their permission to film there, according to the Hereford Times.
If the first mini-series goes well, more books could be adapted for TV.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Children in Need

Fund raising this year included a couple of cyclists in the Buttermarket, a local fireman and his son, their bikes fixed to one place, where they were intending to pedal for twelve hours to raise money. I saw them at about half past ten, but they started off at 4am!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Walking Up Cusop Dingle

I've been trying to do more walking, and Saturday was fine and mild so I decided to head up Cusop Dingle. I have memories of collecting a delicious mushroom called The Prince from Cusop Churchyard - it's a brown capped mushroom - but that was twenty years ago, and there were none there when I looked this time.
I looked into the church while I was there. It's good to see that it is still kept open - and it was lovely to see that they have a kettle and tea and coffee there for anyone who wants to make a hot drink, too.
I came out of the lych gate and down the footpath beside the earthworks of Cusop Castle, just a mound now, but once part of a group of local castles with Hay, Clyro and Mouse Castle, who would signal to each other with beacons when danger approached.
At the bottom of the hill is the mill that was converted, around 1910, to produce electricity for Brynmelin, the house above it on the next hill along, and one of the first houses to have electricity in the area.
The Dingle is still an area where home owners are keen to generate their own power - there are lots of solar panels on roofs, and one of the houses takes part in, the Herefordshire week of celebrating green energy. They have a little water wheel/generator in the Dulas Brook. The brook used to power quite a bit of industry - there was a paper mill (and there's still a Paper Mill Cottage, with a lovely garden), and there was a brick works further up the Dingle.
Near Ty Coch farm, I ran into the Hay Walkers, who had been doing a circular walk from the church - they were heading back as I was going up, and said they had had a very enjoyable walk.
There's a cottage I've always liked, a bit further on. You can only get to it across a footbridge over the Dulas Brook. It used to be screened by trees on this side of the stream, but they've all been felled. It must have been done quite recently, because the field is looking very raw now. I don't know what they're planning to do with the ground. On the other side of the road, though, the trees were looking beautiful in their autumn colours. That's where I stopped this time and turned back.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Singing Old TV Themes

"Aren't they famous? They look as if they ought to be familiar." We were talking about a couple who came along to sing at the Baskerville last week - obviously professional musicians, because they were performing, unlike people like me, who just like to sing occasionally. They called themselves Valeryan and Thunderclap.
The last song I sang that evening was White Horses, which I can do from memory because I learned it from the 1960s TV series about the Lippizzaner horses, and it made me start thinking about other TV themes I could sing, just for a bit of fun. I'd also sung a song in honour of the Philae lander which touched down on the comet this week.
"Ground Control to Major Tom?" Bob guessed, when I said I was going to sing a space song.
"Older than that," I said, and launched into Fireball XL5.
So I remembered The Lightning Tree, which was the theme song to Follyfoot in the 1970s.
I looked up the words, and found that the song was the big hit of a group called the Settlers.
And then I got a Friend request on Facebook from Valeryan - who turns out to have been a member of the Settlers (so she was famous, after all!) along with her singing partner Thunderclap. She said that she wasn't the first singer for the group (that was Cindy Kent, who is now a priest in London according to Wikipedia!), and she learned the words to The Lightning Tree in the back of a van on the way to Taunton, where she was singing it that night on stage!
And because it was so close to Remembrance Day, several of the songs from other regulars were on that theme - one haunting song was about a reluctant soldier in the Second World War who ended up helping to liberate Belsen, from a chap who usually sings comic songs.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Small Business Saturday

Still down near the Clocktower - the lampshade stall.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Beer, Books and Antiques

There's a lot of moving around at the moment, as local businesses flit from one shop to another, and new shops open.

First of all, a new shop - Beer Revolution will be selling craft beer at the Castle Cobbles from next week. They're taking part of the building that used to be the Old Curiosity Shop (the other part is now the Thoughtful Gardener). It's already possible to get some really good beers in Hay. Londis do Wye Valley and several other real ales as well as good local ciders, and there's a very interesting range in the Wholefood shop - at the moment I'm sampling the Left Hand Brewing Company, which is American and does some really good dark beers. So I'll be interested to see what craft beers the new shop will be stocking.
Also up at the Castle, on the 6th December, will be another Castle Tap mini beer festival. It's sponsored by Jones the Brewer, and there will be music from 16 Tambourines and Desmondo Lopez. The first one was very successful, and a lot of fun.
And while we're still up around the Cobbles, Hay Together wasn't the only place that got broken into the other weekend. Sadly, and just before their second birthday party, Eighteen Rabbit were also broken into - but they say their suppliers have been really good, and they got up and running again very quickly.

Down around the Pavement, the shop that used to be Hay Baby is about to become an antique shop. Bullring Antiques is moving, and they will be renaming themselves Timeless Treasures. They're due to open in the New Year.
And down under La Maison, where Barnabee Books used to be, a group of unit-holders from Broad Street Books will be setting up together - they've been busy down there building shelves over the past few days, and should be open soon.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Hay Ho Bus

My Young Man needed to go home on Sunday - so we were very grateful to the campaigners who saved at least half the route of the Sunday bus service to Hereford. Now it starts from Hay and makes three round trips.
When we got in to Hereford, we found that engineering work on the line meant that the Young Man had to go by bus to Great Malvern - and when I'd seen him onto the bus, I found that the Hay Ho was still having a little break, so I could hop back on and come straight home instead of spending a couple of hours in Hereford. I discovered later that the passengers at Great Malvern had around half an hour to wait for the train to London - but the toilets at the station weren't open. They were sending people out of the station to the public toilets several minutes' walk away! Not really an option when you're loaded down with luggage, and don't want to miss the train.
One of the people organising the Hay Ho bus was on board, chatting, and he said that all the local councils along the route had given £50 towards the continued service, except one. Madley Council said that no-one from Madley would use the service - which was odd, because we'd picked up one woman from the bus stop there on the way in. The chap said that, if they don't make a contribution next year, when the precept is set, the route might change to miss them out, and the shortened route might mean they can squeeze an extra journey into the day.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


"I've been coming here nine years, and I've never been in Oscars," said my Young Man. We'd got up late, and were thinking idly about breakfast, so we decided to see what Oscars had to offer.
It's the cafe opposite Oxfam, and next to Llewelyn and Co. They had some quiche in the window, thick and chunky and with a choice of meaty or vegetarian. It was supposed to go with a salad as a lunch, but the girls behind the counter were quite happy to serve it up to us separately, with our coffee, and it just filled us up nicely.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Party at the Old Electric Shop

The Old Electric Shop used to be the Jigsaw and Teddy Bear shop, so it's a big place with lots of alcoves - one of which has now been transformed into a cocktail bar. The rest of the space is filled with vintage clothes, and an illustrator's studio and art and vintage furniture. The name comes from the fact that they started out at the old SWALEC shop in Castle Street (now House of Vintage), and moved down the hill later. They have a license for occasional sale of alcohol, and Emanation took advantage of their cocktail happy hour to have her birthday party there.
In fact, Bluebelle, at the bar, created a shot just for Emanation, made with absinthe, red vermouth and marmalade syrup. It was delicious (and I'm really not a cocktail drinker)!
There was a DJ as well, and Emanation was given her very own disco light ball to hang around her neck as a birthday present!

Monday, 10 November 2014


The church was packed. There were tables at the back where "Vampires' Blood" (wine) and fruit juice were being sold, and quite a jolly atmosphere. I saw quite a few of the usual Sunday congregation in attendance, too.
The film was introduced by Jo Eliot of the Film Society, who helped to make the whole event happen. She was putting the film in its context for us, of 1922 German Expressionism - so it's not "hammy acting", the director was making a conscious choice to film it in that way, because he wasn't striving for realism, but to make a certain effect.
The lights went down, and Father Richard came down the side aisle in his cloak and sat at the organ - and improvised beautifully. There were nice little touches like a bit of Morning by Greig when the hero woke up. So our innocent young hero, Hutter, left his charming wife and little German town to travel to Count Orlok's creepy castle.
And in the second half the Count travelled by ship (with his coffins and his plague rats) back to the German town (with a little bit of For Those in Peril on the Sea woven into the music there).

During the interval, several people slipped outside for a fag break (under a full moon, in the graveyard). I overheard Father Richard saying that he hoped to do more silent films in the future - but next time, he'd go for full make-up. Black lipstick, whitened cheeks...."just an ordinary Friday night at the vicarage!"

To start the second half, Jo explained that we were lucky to be seeing this film at all. When it came out, the very first film made by that German studio, the estate of Bram Stoker sued them for breach of copyright in court - and won. Changing the characters' names and moving the action to Germany wasn't enough to keep them out of trouble. The studio were supposed to destroy every print, and had to pay such a big fine that they immediately went out of business. However, some prints of the film had already been sent out, and could not be recalled, so those were copied and kept over the years, or we would have no idea of the masterpiece that had been made.
And it is still a fascinating film, with some genuinely creepy special effects (like the Count's shadow coming up the stairs with his long fingers reaching out....).
And at the end, Father Richard got a well deserved standing ovation for his music.
CDs will be available from the church (raising more money for the organ fund) and they hope to do it again, with another film, for Hay Festival.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Remembrance Sunday

I was just in nice time to see the parade forming up at the clock tower for the service at the cenotaph at half past two. It was led by the cadets, with the British Legion banner, and the St Mary's Church banner (and the Mother's Union), veterans, Town Council, Chamber of Commerce, school children and the Fire Brigade bringing up the rear.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Events this Month

On the same evening that I was listening to ghost stories at Booth Books, with Phil Rickman and Barbara Erskine, Hay Castle was hosting Malloween, a Hallowe'en party which was intended as a fundraiser for the next Mally Fest in the summer. The organisers are hoping that they raised around £2,000, according to the story in the B&R.

Sadly, over the weekend at the Castle, the Hay Together office was broken into and a laptop was stolen. Hay Together have said that no personal details of volunteers have been taken, though.

Tim the Gardener is gradually emptying the barn where he lives, and bringing the contents down to Tinto House to sell. These are books that belonged to Rob Soldat, and he thinks there may be a few antiques lurking in the corners, too. Rob Soldat did a bit of book dealing when he wasn't storytelling. Tim will be at Tinto House, doing the garden, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, with the books in a shed there. At the moment he's got some horror, SF, history and children's books.

This Sunday is the Remembrance service at the Cenotaph.

The concert at Booth Books on 12th November will be of Hungarian music, by Dragonfly.

And the booklet for Hay Winter Festival is now out! This year the weekend is that of 28th to 30th November, which is also the weekend that the Christmas lights are being turned on at the Buttermarket (with the Community Choir, stalls and Santa's letter box). The celebrity guest to turn on the lights this year is one of the ladies who runs a local charity, the North Weir Trust, which gives educational grants. Also on that weekend is the Hay Food Festival and Hay Does Vintage in the square, Cheese Market and Buttermarket. They're even having a pub crawl, five historic pubs with time for a half in each as the history is related - easier to do now than when Hay had 41 pubs!
The Smith-Soldat lecture this year is on Waterloo, as it will be the 200th anniversary of the battle next year.

So there's quite a bit to look forward to!

Things will be quiet on the blog for the next few days, as the Young Man is coming to visit.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Council Meeting

Normally, I'd be taking my notebook and pen up to the Council Chambers this evening, but since I've been in bed all day with a stinky cold, I thought I'd better keep my germs to myself.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The Big Skill

Stalls were crammed into the main room of the Globe yesterday for the Big Skill craft fair. There was felting and knitting, and a charity that cannibalises old books to make notebooks, and Adele Nozedar's book about sweets. On one side there was a chap splitting the bark off a hazel rod, surrounded by split hazel baskets, and just beyond him there was a maker of traditional instruments. He was stringing a little mandolin-type thing when I saw him, but on his table was a medieval Welsh crwth and a pipe made with wood and sheep horn that I didn't recognise at all.

These are not his instruments - I found the picture online. The one standing up is a crwth, played with a bow like a violin, though the instrument maker said that he had found that the bowing technique is entirely different. The idea is more to make a sort of droning background sound, over which other instruments like the pibgyrn are played. This is the pipe, which he said was like the chanter of Scottish bagpipes, and could be played attached to a bag as well. The wood is elder, and it was something shepherds could make while they were out on the hills.
I wish I was musical.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Small Business Saturday

Alex Gooch's bread stall - only a few loaves left!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Night After Night/ The Darkest Hour

I've just come back from a very pleasant evening at Booth Books, where Phil Rickman and Barbara Erskine were telling ghost stories and talking about their books.
I wore my Thorogood Pagan Bookshop tshirt, of course (as featured in Magus of Hay) - in fact, the night was so mild that I didn't really need a coat, and the windows were open upstairs in Booths.
Fictional Hallowe'ens are never so mild.
Night After Night is Phil's new book, a ghost story wrapped in a crime story, set in a haunted house in the Cotswolds which has been set up as a sort of haunted Big Brother house by a TV company. The people in the house tell ghost stories to each other, and the extract Phil chose was a Welsh ghost story where the character heard sawing sounds in the night from the workshop across the farmyard, that heralded sudden deaths.
Barbara's book is The Darkest Hour, based on her father's exploits as a World War Two fighter pilot, and is the first time she has ever really accepted the mantle of "romantic novelist" - though the next book is going to be gory, so the label doesn't stick! Most of Barbara Erskine's books feature some sort of time-slip, so there is a present day story alongside the World War Two one, and her extract concerned a teenage girl looking for a ghostly presence in the attic of her home - and when the rest of the family come home, she is nowhere to be found....
When questions were invited from the audience, the conversation ranged from ghosts to Stephen King to being labelled as Young Adult by Amazon ("but my book includes some necrophilia and they're saying it's suitable for twelve year olds!") with a discussion of the atmospheric qualities of Enid Blyton's Rub-a-Dub Mystery and her own ghost story in Five Go Off to Camp - the spook train (which was always one of my favourites). But Enid Blyton always had a rational reason behind the mystery, "usually men, with a gun and Eastern European accents," said Phil. "Some things never change."
At the end of the evening there was a special guest - Alan Watson, who wrote the songs which, in the books, were written by Lol Robinson, Merrily Watkins' boyfriend. He sang Tamworth-in-Arden, which is about a visit to Nick Drake's grave (Nick Drake was a major influence on the songs, and is mentioned often in the Merrily Watkins books), and he and Phil sang the Trackway Man, a song dedicated to Alfred Watkins the inventor (or discoverer) of ley lines. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, a flautist from Tennessee, a violinist in Germany and a drummer who happened to be in South Africa that week were all able to contribute to the second album (and mine was one of the lonely hands which went up when they asked who had any Lol Robinson CDs).

(with accompaniment throughout the evening by Fergus the dog and his uncanny whining!)

Wednesday, 29 October 2014


This looks as if it's going to be a lot of fun!
There will be a screening of the classic 1922 silent movie Nosferatu on the 7th November, at 7pm - at St Mary's Church.
Even better, Father Richard will be at the organ, providing live musical accompaniment! The chap who was bringing the posters round town said that he's heard Father Richard rehearsing - and the music is spine-chilling!
Cost of entrance is £5, and proceeds are going to the organ fund.
Jo Eliot, of the Film Society, has organised this, supported by Film Hub Wales and Film Audience Network. She'll be giving a short introduction to the film.
The poster adds an important reminder - bring your own cushion! The audience will be sitting on the church pews.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Red Kite over the Wye

After the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo, we've had some mild, sunny spells around Hay, so I went down by the Wye on the Offa's Dyke Path the other day. When I came out of the trees and into the meadow, I stood for a while on the river bank. I thought at first that a buzzard was wheeling over the tree tops - they're common enough around here, but then I saw that distinctive forked tail, and knew it was a red kite, putting on a show just for me.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The First World War, Week By Week

I was chatting to one of the members of the History Society, in the gateway to the Cheesemarket, the other day. I hadn't realised it, but he's been putting an A4 poster on the noticeboard once a week showing the history of Hay in the First World War exactly one hundred years ago. I didn't get a chance to look at this week's poster at the time, because there was a market stall in the way, but I'll be back to read it as soon as I can. "We're just getting to the first deaths," he said. "There are some interesting obituaries."
The History Society are also running a pub crawl during the Hay Winter Festival at the end of November (more details nearer the time) and this year's Smith-Soldat Lecture will be on Waterloo, as it's almost the 200th anniversary of that battle.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Small Business Saturday

Another recent addition to the stalls by the Clock Tower is Grandma Bees skin balm.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Cider Bread and other Bargains

I've been into Hereford to do a few essential bits and pieces I can't do in Hay. Friday is market day in High Town, and since I nearly always miss Alex Gooch's bread in Hay I had a look at the bread stall there. The lady must have had twenty different sorts of loaf on display, one of which was cider bread, which sounded intriguing, so I've bought a loaf to try along with a more conventional wholemeal.
I think the charity shops in the centre of Hereford are going a bit up-market! I found some lovely bronze coloured spoons in Hay at a stall under the Cheesemarket a while ago, and I've been looking for knives and forks to go with them - but the only charity shops that had any cutlery at all were the Martha Trust shop near the old cinema, and a set of six forks in Oxfam. So I'll just have to keep searching.
Back in Hay, I treated myself to some cookbooks from Backfold Books Retirement Sale, including a Culpeper's Herbal which is much nicer than the paperback Wordsworth Classics version I used to have. Culpeper has the best line in any herbal I know, under the entry for Nettles: "Nettles are so well known that they need no description; they may be found, by feeling, in the darkest night."

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Up-Coming Events

There are a few interesting events happening around Hallowe'en, starting on Thursday with the next meeting of the University of Cusop Dingle. They'll be at the Swan at 7.30pm, with Mollie Lord talking about the contrast between Ayervedic and Western Medicine.
On Hallowe'en itself Phil Rickman and Barbara Erskine will be at Booth Books at 6pm, talking about ghosts, and Phil will be launching his new book, Night After Night. This is a free but ticketted event, and I already have my ticket.
The day after that, November 1st, is the Big Skill at the Globe, with lots of different local crafts on show. This again is free to get in, but of course there will be lots of beautiful and useful things to buy - in nice time for Christmas!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Grand Retirement Sale

Backfold Books is closing down, because Alen and Jenny want to retire. They've been selling books in Hay for around fifteen years, first at Broad Street Book Centre, and later at the little shop opposite the craft centre which they took over from a photography specialist. The sale runs from 22nd October to 22nd November, and the Tourist Information Office is due to move in at the beginning of December, leaving a large space free in the craft centre.
They've always had a nice selection of books and knick-nacks, so there are plenty of bargains to be had!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Framespotting Book Launch

There was a good turnout for the launch of Alison and Laurence's book - it was difficult to get to the bar for the glass of free wine! Alison and Laurence, perched on library ladders so they could be seen, make a good double act, and they gave a short presentation about the ideas behind the book and how they came to start thinking about the subject. This was when they were working with climate change groups, and they found that politicians and activists alike had very set ways of looking at the problems. So this is a book to help people move beyond that, to "see the frames", and to realise when they are being manipulated by the language used to set out a problem. The example given in the presentation was "tax burden", which suggests that tax is a bad thing, and paying it is a "burden", so "tax relief" must be a good thing, rather than framing tax as a "membership subscription", for instance, for which you get public services.

And once you know about framing, you start to see it happening around you.
Today I was looking at a blog post by Kameron Hurley, who won two Hugo awards at this year's World SF Convention (the Oscars of the SF world). She was talking about epic fantasy, and how it is conventionally framed (she actually uses that word) as a pseudo-Medieval, European world, usually with a quest, or a peasant boy who becomes a hero. Anything outside that frame, that doesn't fit the box, gets dismissed by the authors who write to the formula and by the reviewers and publishers who want "more of the same, only just slightly different". So fantasies that are set in Ancient China, or have romance in them, are squeezed into different boxes, even though they might be just as epic as the Tolkeinesque or George RR Martin fantasies.
The blog post can be found at

I'm looking forward to reading my copy of the book properly, but it's already making me think!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Small Business Saturday

This clothes stall is a fairly recent addition to the market, down by the Clock Tower.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Walking around Almeley

It was a golden afternoon. Brian had finished early in his shop, and I was outside doing a bit of weeding when he passed.
"Fancy a walk round the brickworks?" he asked.
So off we went to Almeley with the dogs.
On the edge of the village there's a railway line, with a tiny station that's no longer used, though the little house is lived in, and beside the railway line there was once a brickworks - the railway presumably being convenient to move the bricks to where they were needed. A little narrow valley runs below the railway line, with woods and a pretty stream, and cottages strung out along a narrow track. The dogs love it. It's almost like stepping back in time - none of the cottages can have been built in the twentieth century - they're all timber framed and brick infill (perhaps from the brickworks - we kept finding old bricks in the stream and embedded in the path). The path itself is part of Vaughan's Way, which is 17 miles long, between Kington and Bredwardine.
We emerged onto a tarmac road where a big timber framed farmhouse is being renovated. When we looked it up in Pevsner later, I think this must be Summer House.
The village is all spread out randomly, and a little further on we passed the Friends Meeting House, a charming little timber framed cottage which was built, according to Pevsner, in about 1672, as a meeting house. Just as we walked by, some Friends were coming out of a meeting, among them someone I know as Qlib from the discussion forum Ship of Fools! So that was an added bonus to the walk.
We ended up at the Bells pub, where I had a very nice half of Three Tuns XXX from Bishop's Castle brewery.
The pub has changed quite a bit since I first saw it, when I went in with some friends who were members of CAMRA, and found a surly landlord who hated CAMRA and blamed them because he was going to be forced to buy lined pint glasses.
The next time I went, he had gone, and a temporary landlady was there - she was lovely, and served giant Yorkshire puddings with all the meal inside them, which filled us up nicely.
And now it's a couple with children, and where one bar used to be they now have the village shop. The other bar was being treated as the family living room, where the children were watching TV, and the dogs were welcome inside. As we headed back to the car, the landlord was taking the kids out for a climb up the Twt, the castle mound in the middle of the village.
We walked back to the car, completing a full circle, past the late Medieval manor house, which is timber framed with brick infill, which gave it a nice warm glow in the evening light.
On the way back to Hay we passed through Eardisley, so we stopped at the New Strand for another half (for me) and diet Coke (for Brian). It's a warren of a place, with the cafe and bookshop and bar - where there was the most adorable Alsatian pup, who was being brought out to get her used to people. Brian always carries dog biscuits in his pocket - he gets them from the stall on Hay market - and the pup enjoyed them so much that her owner asked where he could buy them from.

That bar at Eardisley used to be the favourite drinking spot of Mr Penny, who lived at one of the sadder landmarks in Herefordshire until his death in a car accident a couple of years ago - a tumbledown old cottage at nearby Willersley. The house has just been sold, at an auction held at the New Strand, and the new owner hopes to renovate it. It'll be quite a job - it's been falling apart for years. A little while ago one of the national tabloids (the Mail, possibly) did a full page spread of photos someone had taken when they managed to get inside - the rooms are full of vintage furniture and all sorts of personal belongings and toys from Mr Penny and his brothers' childhood, coronation mugs and china, that looked untouched for years. I think Mr Penny actually lived in a caravan parked out the back. Before it was a private house, it was a pub and cider house called the Old Crow. I hope the new owner can bring it back to life.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Cuts to Hay Library

There was a consultation plan going round a little while ago about what members of the public wanted from their library service. The County Council set out two proposals - they could either close up to 11 branch libraries altogether, or keep all 17 open but at reduced hours. There was no option, of course, for keeping the libraries as they are now.
So, they have decided to go for the option of keeping all the libraries, but with opening hours reduced by 20%, and to reduced the mobile library service from once a fortnight to once a month where it visits. This will begin from April 1st next year if the cabinet of the County Council approves it.
Several councillors have pointed out that libraries are not only important for borrowing books, but for people who have no other way of accessing computers - and this is especially important for the unemployed as so many jobs can only be applied for online now. The mobile library is also an important life line for people who are isolated in rural areas. Gareth Ratcliffe has also spoken out against the cuts, pointing out how well used Hay Library is and praising the excellent staff who run it.

Meanwhile, the B&R reports low turn-outs for the meetings which the County Council organised to discuss how to cut their budget by £70 million overall by 2020. Next year the County Council will be receiving £7.7 million less than this year from the Welsh Assembly but they will have to find savings of around £16 million because of inflation and other "cost pressures".
There is an organisation which is opposing the cuts - called Powys Uncut - and they have been having a public meeting in Brecon this evening (Thursday). They plan to lobby the Welsh Assembly before they formally pass the budget in December.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Bronllys Park

This is a plan to keep Bronllys Community NHS Hospital, on the present site, and to enhance it with a Health and Well-being Park. Over the years there have been all sorts of rumours about the downgrading or closure of Bronllys Hospital, not helped recently by the re-location of one of the specialist wards to Brecon. The Friends of Bronllys are working to keep the hospital open, and to make it the best it can possibly be, and so they have devised an Action Plan. This is a document entitled Bronllys Park: A Vision for the Next Hundred Years, and includes a care home, Maggie's Centre for the Terminally Ill (there are already Maggie's Centres elsewhere in the country), a TeleHealth service (which I think is medical advice on the phone), affordable housing including homes for the elderly, visitor accomodation for families from a distance away who are visiting patients, a community pub/club/cafe, library, pharmacy and concert hall, a solar energy farm based on the Green Valleys model locally, adaption of the chapel for wider use, and the opening up of allotments, a market garden, orchards and greenhouses (there are already mature apple trees on the site), better sports facilities, a helicopter landing pad for the Air Ambulance, a car pool of electric cars powered by the solar farm, and child care facilities (there is already a nursery there). All of which sounds far better than handing the site over to a commercial property developer, and all of which seems to have the costings carefully worked out so that it is achievable. The organisers seem to think that the Welsh Assembly will be sympathetic to the plan, and they need to be on board because of funding arrangements.

There will be a meeting on Thursday 23rd October at Hay School, starting at 7.30pm, to discuss the plans and to talk about taking the proposals forward. It's going to be an important meeting for the future of health care in this area.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Best Sourdough Bread in Britain

There's a good article at Walesonline about local baker Alex Gooch, who has a stall on the Thursday market - and they're often sold out by the time I go by for my lunch, so if they do still have bread or focaccia left, I always try to get some.
Alex won the Tiptree World Bread Awards in London this year with his sourdough, and came runner up in the flatbread category. He also made laverbread rolls which were eaten at the recent NATO summit, by dignitaries including President Obama!
His bread is also available at the Wholefood shop.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

March House Books Visits Hay

I found this blog by chance - and found that, on the 15th August, she writes about visiting Hay, with some good pictures.
The address is

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Small Business Saturday

The music and DVD stall at the Thursday market.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Hay Handbook

Last night was the launch of the new Hay Handbook by Hay Together, a directory of local services and organisations and groups in and around Hay. It's an impressive achievement, since some of the information has been quite difficult to find out. I arrived in the middle of the presentation, given by Ellie Spencer, in the hall of the Castle. She said that they were greatly helped on their way by the Community Directory put together by Hay and District Community Support, which sadly had to close last year. There was a bouquet for the lady who did most of the work checking that all the phone numbers and addresses were right, and acknowledgements to Alison Matthews, who did a lot of work on it, and Jacquie Kennett, who did the design work.
I think it's going to be very useful - it's got all the contact details for local doctors, taxi firms, sports clubs, even down to things like the Stitch and Bitch group that I belong to.
The booklet will be available from the office on the Cobbles, the library and places like the doctors' surgery around Hay. They also have leaflets advertising their volunteering service. The office is open from 9am to 3pm on Thursdays and Fridays.
Hay Together has taken over the work with volunteers that used to be run by Community Support, so work closely with PAVO, who cover the local area. They've found places for something like 32 volunteers so far, and can also offer training and other support. At the moment, they're looking for a volunteer to work with the under-seven's football team.

On my way up through the Cobbles area of the Castle, where the Hay Together office is, I saw The Thoughtful Gardener moving his plants from the stables where he had his shop to his new premises in the building that used to be The Old Curiosity Shop. It's a bigger space - I spoke to Jacquie (the Thoughtful Gardener's partner) over a glass of wine later and she said that they were considering sharing the space with another business, maybe one that sold craft beers. They also want to start selling cider, and she mentioned Dunkertons, which is a good local brand. They're going to see the farm soon. I understand that the stables will be taken over as an art gallery.

Alison and her husband Laurence are the authors of Framespotting, a book about the way people think about problems and how to see the larger picture. They're launching their book (already endorsed by Jonathon Porritt, Rowan Williams and Michael Mansfield QC) next week at Booths Bookshop, on Friday 17th, from 6pm to 7pm.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Last Bits of the Council Meeting - the Gliss and the lack of New Councillors

There have been a few problems caused down on the Gliss by the canoe carriers being parked there. They go down to launch the canoes at the canoe landing stage, but then remain there, which causes a bit of conflict with other vehicles parking down there. Some of the signs that were put up about parking have been vandalised, and they should have been in both Welsh and English, so they will have to be replaced at some point.
One suggestion was that the Gliss could be donated to the Warren Trust, when it becomes a registered charity, so that they can charge for parking and canoe use down there without being liable for VAT.
Apparently, water sports bring £480million into Wales every year!

A new councillor is still needed - there are only ten on the council at the moment and there should be eleven. They even asked me, as I go to the main meeting most months, but I really couldn't devote the amount of time to the job that it deserves. The next elections for local councils will be in 2016, and it's to be hoped that people will come forward then to contest the elections.

Meanwhile, Fiona Howard put the Mayor's Allowance to good use by donating £50 to the Hay Ho Sunday bus service, though she didn't go down to meet the first bus this Sunday for the photo opportunity (John Evans from the Chamber of Commerce was there, amongst others, beaming from the picture in the B&R).

There was also a quick report about the Youth Club, saying how well behaved they are, and that they are no trouble as they are now using the bungalow by Hay School.

The next Council meeting will be on Monday 3rd November, at 7pm.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Council Meeting - Recycling and Development Plans

Getting onto the main meeting, after the presentations, there was a discussion of the Recycling Fund. The Fund is getting less money that it used to, because bottles and glass are now being collected from people's front doors around Hay, so they don't have to take them up to the car park to recycle. Convenient for householders, but a bit of a problem for the Council, as they were making money from it to give out in grants to local projects. However, people are bringing a lot of heavy cardboard to be recycled at the car park, so there was a suggestion that an extra container for cardboard should be asked for, and one for bottles discontinued.
There had also been a request from the Affordable Housing Group for a grant to pay someone to sort out a website and do various administrative tasks. This was refused by the sub-committee on the grounds that local councillors had to do it for nothing so why shouldn't the Affordable Housing Group? A vote of the full council still came down on the side of refusal of the grant.
After looking at the prices of notice boards, Alan Powell has generously offered to make one and donate it to the Council, as he is a carpenter.
The Swan will be booked for the old people's Christmas Party again, though there was a bit of quibbling over the cost of the wine last year.
There is still concern about the transfer of assets from the County Council to the Town Council, with all the expense that this would entail - when the Cemetery Lodge was sold, the money from the sale was supposed to go towards buying the extra land needed at the top of the cemetery - and nobody on the Town Council knows what happened to that money.
They also need to talk to the representatives of the various sports clubs around Hay.

And then we came to the Persimmon Homes plan to build 80 houses on the edge of town.
The Town Council is concerned about drainage problems, and want to know how local amenities like the doctors' surgery and the school will cope with the influx of 80 new families to the area. It was pointed out that it's not Persimmon Homes that are at fault here - it's the Local Development Plan. There are two Local Development Plans - one for the National Parks and one for the County Council, and neither seem to have taken the local infrastructure into account when deciding where new houses can be built. Members of the Council felt that their views had not been taken into account properly, and that they hadn't been told everything they needed to know when they put their views forward for the making of the Plans.
There was also the issue of affordable housing as part of the development. The Millbank development was supposed to include affordable homes, but none have been built, and the developers there have paid a certain amount to the County Council to off-set their lack of promised provision. Which is fine for the County Council, but not so good for local people who need affordable homes.
During all this discussion, one of the councillors was not allowed to speak, or vote, because of a conflict of interests. She is also the leader of the protest group against the LDP and against this development. This is standard practice, and legally required. However, two of the members of the public who were still there were horrified that this was the case, and the councillor herself left the meeting just after the vote, saying she felt unwell.