Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Save Sunday Buses!

The Transition Towns movement is all about local sustainable development and self-sufficiency, so they're concerned enough about the threat to the 39A Sunday bus service to have called a meeting about it, along with the public transport group Rail for Herefordshire. The subsidy for the service is shared between Powys and Herefordshire, and the loss of the service would mean that people without cars along the route from Brecon to Hereford would be unable to travel anywhere on a Sunday, and tourists visiting the area by public transport would be unable to move around either.
It's on Tuesday 6th May, at the Swan Hotel at 6pm

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Tom Raymond's Writing: As it happens

Tom Raymond's Writing: As it happens: One of the things I used to hate when I was travelling was being told that somewhere had deteriorated. You were expected to feel culpabl...

Here's a visitor's view of Hay at Festival time...

Monday, 28 April 2014

The Festival Booklet is out!

The Festival programme has been available online for a while, but today we got a delivery of the printed programmes. This year's arty cover shot is of buttercups.
I've already booked the One Special Thing that I'm going to see - Steven Moffat of Doctor Who and Sherlock fame - but today I went through the programme rather more carefully to see if there was anything else that caught my eye.

Phil Rickman is speaking about Magus of Hay, along with an Icelandic crime writer, and Barbara Erskine is talking about her Battle of Britain romance.
There are several talks about Vikings, with the British Museum exhibition still on. The Fonz, Henry Winkler, will be here to talk about his children's books (will children know who the Fonz is? Their parents almost certainly will).
Carrie Fisher is also here - Princess Leia herself!
There's Billy Bragg and the Pub Landlord, and a talk about the recent Dorstone Dig - but that's on a Sunday, so I won't be able to get to that.
Jenny Agutter and a couple of other people are talking about Call the Midwife. I wonder if she'd answer any questions about her other recent work, like the role of the Professor in Minister of Chance - and wasn't she one of the committee that voted to blow up New York in the Avengers Assemble movie?
Nicky Gumbel, creator of the Alpha Course, will be talking about his faith - I did half an Alpha Course once, to give support to a chap who was considering Christianity, but then decided he preferred the Goddess!
The great Bill Bailey will be closing the Festival with his one man show, his Remarkable Guide to Modern Living (but that is £25).

Eventually, though, I settled on Jonathon Porritt talking about a sustainable future, and the Alegria Trio playing "an East-West fusion of classical traditions and contemporary improvisation." It was the mention of a lute as one of the instruments that swung it for me. So tomorrow I'll trot round to the ticket office and see if there are any tickets left.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Small Business Saturday

Barnabee Books, underneath La Maison. The name is a dialect word for Ladybird, and Ladybird books are one of their specialities. They also do Shire books and other 'series' books.
This shop has had a variety of uses. I remember it being a rather nice coffee bar for a while (run by Nino?) and I think this is where the dancing bear was kept when the fair came to town back in late Victorian times.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Bike Fest

What a pity about the weather! There are stalls and flags up all round Hay Castle (and a sign advertising local craft beer on site!), but I wouldn't like to be out cycling in this rain.
Hopefully, it'll be better for them tomorrow.

Some good news from their website, though - the Beacons Bus may have been cut, but the bike bus has been saved. The Cardiff to Brecon bike bus using a 24 bike trailer will continue to run from 25 May to 28 September on Sundays and bank holidays.

The service will interchange with the Hereford 39A service in Brecon and then shuttle between Brecon and Abergavenny twice during the day.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

What our MP's been doing

It was really nice to see all the stalls under the Cheesemarket today for the Thursday market. Apparently the last time it was done was around forty years ago.

During the opening of the Cheesemarket, I saw our MP Roger Williams in attendance. A couple of days later, I saw his name on a list that was being circulated on Facebook. Last December there was a Labour motion in Parliament to investigate hunger and food poverty in the UK. Roger Williams was one of 294 MPs who voted against an enquiry. Presumably, he followed the whip. I wonder what he'd say to the people who need to use Hay's food bank?
After all, when I first came to Hay it seemed inconceivable that anyone in the UK should need to have handouts of food - and now there's a food bank here. Somebody should be asking why, and holding those responsible for this state of affairs to account.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Books for Prisoners, and Drinking Around Wales

There were around twenty people still in Booth's Bookshop when I turned up - I was working late, so couldn't be there for the talk. I did drop off a couple of books, though - there were a wide variety of titles laid out on a table near the door which had been donated. At the back of the shop, the speakers for the evening were signing books. One of them was called The Good Prison. One of the people I spoke to said they had been told that something like 40% of prisoners are illiterate, and need remedial help with reading and writing (which they're not always getting), which is one good reason why cutting off a supply of books is so short sighted.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the literacy spectrum, Tim the Gardener is still enthusiastically studying the Iliad, and comparing various different translations while taking issue, at the moment, with a chap called Gilbert Murray, who had certain anthropological theories about Homeric society, and wouldn't let a little thing like the actual text worry him when it contradicted his entire thesis! I met Tim on the way home, when he gleefully expounded on the subject.

And there was a multi-national crowd in the Rose and Crown the other night, including a couple who were attempting to drink a sample of every beer in Wales. They had sheets with the names of the beers on them, and columns for where they had tried the beer, and hand-drawn pictograms to remind them what it had tasted like (a picture of a river meant it was weak!). They were also passing round samples of some sort of strong spirit which was local to them, but my informant didn't try any!
A couple of campers there were complaining about the cold - whereupon one of the local drinkers actually went home to pick up a duvet to lend them overnight!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Easter Weekend Pottering

One of the nice things about Hay in holiday time is the interesting things that seem to happen quite spontaneously - like the harpist who was playing at the front of Kilverts this Saturday (she was very good, as well).
The little tea shop inside the Antique Centre has now opened for business, with three tables, a few plates of cakes and an urn for hot water. Jackie, who was selling Castello de Haia soaps in the Buttermarket with the Artisans of Hay, reminded me of it, so I went in to look.

I've just finished a lucetted project - a long medieval style belt in two colours - and I thought I might get back into some blackwork. I used to do quite a bit, but gave up because I couldn't afford to get them properly framed, and couldn't do the job myself. Now I'm more confident of my framing abilities, and I fancy doing a picture of the space shuttle against a background of stars, maybe with Earth in blue and white underneath. Looking round the net, I found very few embroideries with a space theme, which made me more enthusiastic about trying it out.
I thought I'd have to go into Hereford to pick up some evenweave linen, since blackwork is counted thread work and you need a very regular background material, but then I remembered that Marina at The End has linen. It's antique French, and it's beautiful stuff (so it's not cheap!) - I just hope I can do it justice when I come to design the picture. While I was in there, I found an antique French spindle, too. Even though I don't do much re-enactment at the moment, I still find myself looking out for things I can use in demonstrations, and this was a style of spindle I didn't already have. I have the standard stick and disc hand spindle, in various sizes, and a Turkish spindle, like so:

The French style is quite different, and I'm looking forward to trying it out:

Monday, 21 April 2014

Books for Prisoners

What better time than Shakespeare's birthday to celebrate World Book Night? And what better way to do it this year than by collecting books to give to prisoners, now that they are no longer allowed to have books sent to them?
Booth's Books will be open from 5.30pm to 7.30pm, with a talk about the ban on books for prisoners with question and answer session from 6pm to 7pm. The bar will also be open.
I'll be going along with a couple of books to donate.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Grand Opening of the Cheesemarket

It's a bit hard to see, but at the front of the crowd is King Richard, in his crown and robes, opening the Cheesemarket. Beside him is George the Town Cryer. We actually had two Town Cryers for the occasion - Ken Smith returned to the role for what he said was his last shout, and he's still got a good voice that doesn't need a microphone!
Everyone else did. Juliette Noble gave an account of the last six years of hard work by all the volunteers - the committee and the people who had gone to Brecon and Hereford and Aberystwyth to search for local records, and the potter who had made the tiles that were sold to raise money for the project, and the ones who had wrestled with the planning bureaucracy and applications for grants, and organised the furnishings for the new holiday flat.
As a by-product of the Cheesemarket project, we now have a History Group in Hay - and the meeting they had last week resulted in half a dozen people willing to lead guided history tours around Hay.
So, the tiles are up around the inside walls of the Cheesemarket, and the information boards showing some of the local history, including historic photos of the fair and the dancing bear and the railway station, as well as old photos of shops paired with their present appearance. It all looks very professional.

The holiday flat was also open for viewing - and they have done a marvellous job. I was last up there about eighteen years ago, when the Camera Club met there, and I remember a rather dusty empty space. After the Camera Club moved out (the last in a long line of uses for the room, which has also been a Catholic Church and furniture showroom amongst other things), the building was more or less derelict until the Cheesemarket project started. Now there's a double bedroom with shower and toilet at the staircase end of the building, and the rest of the space is open plan with a kitchen and dining area at one end, and living room at the other. There's a book in the flat listing all the people who paid for tiles, and some of the job titles they have chosen are quite imaginative - Lincoln Ratcliffe (son of Gareth) who is only about three or four, is down as "Future Fireman".
It all looks very posh, and the views from the windows are wonderful:

At the bottom of the picture you can just see the green and white awning of the stalls that had been set up, with displays of photos and pictures by children from Hay School. They were also serving cheese (of course!) from Neal's Yard, and wine.
After Richard declared the Cheesemarket open, the community choir sang, starting with a song about the Martyr of the Storm, a farmer who froze to death on her way back from market to her six children, just before Christmas around a hundred years ago. One person I spoke to said they would have preferred a more cheerful song - about cheese!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Small Business Saturday

The Hay Clinic - alternative therapies and tarot readings.

Castle Gardens

I'll be honest - I never thought the Castle gardens were anything special.
However, experts have been having a look at them, and they have apparently got quite excited. It is, after all, unusual for a mid-seventeenth century garden to survive pretty much intact and unchanged. That's the terraces with the evergreen trees on the Castle Street side of the Castle.
On the other side, the lawn was laid out in the Regency period, so the Castle has two pretty much intact historic gardens of different periods. This is sufficiently interesting for Sir Roy Strong to agree to be the Patron of the new gardens committee. He is, of course, a garden expert, and lives quite locally in Herefordshire. The Castle Trust are hoping to restore the gardens - they're looking for garden designers to submit tenders - so that they can be fully opened to the public.

Even in their unrestored state, the gardens are being well used. Just before the Spring Fair, which made full use of the Regency lawn, Clifford School had an Easter Egg hunt around the grounds, and made about £500 for the school funds! Part of this came from the teas table, where they asked for donations rather than having a set price for everything.

And one of my favourite modern sculptors, Sally Matthews, has been commissioned to build a site specific piece to go in the derelict part of the Castle. She's going to make wolves, and they should be ready in time for the Festival. A couple of years ago, one of her horses was placed just outside the Castle gates for the Festival.

I first came across Sally Matthews' work back when the Globe Gallery was first converted into an art gallery. We had gone to see the exhibition and entered through the lower doorway. As we climbed the narrow stairs to the main floor, I said: "What are Jenny's deerhounds doing in here?.... Hang on, they're not moving...." Sally Matthews had sculpted a group of deerhounds, and she had based them on Jenny's, which are often seen being taken for walks around Hay.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Fire Engine

Over the past few months, there has been talk at the Council meetings of the old Hay fire engine, which has been found in a barn somewhere near Hay.
About a week ago, Alan Powell went along to take photos.
Sadly, it was not the fire engine they had thought it was. He showed me some of the pictures the other day.
What they had thought was that this was the horse drawn wooden fire engine - he showed me a photo of it, painted bright red and in pretty good condition.
There had been another fire engine, though, which was a horse drawn steam engine - and this was the one in the barn. Or rather, the remains of it after it had been stripped down for salvage during the Second World War. Only the bottom part of the boiler remained, and it would take an awful lot of work and skill to get it back to anything like the original condition. He showed me another picture of the fire engine in its heyday, with all the firemen posed around it, with gleaming brass.... Sadly I don't think it will ever look like that again.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Beacons Bus

It's finally sunny and warm, and people are coming to the Brecon Beacons and surrounding areas (like Hay) to go walking - so of course, Powys County Council have cut the Beacons Bus to save money.
The bus was originally introduced to make it easier to see the area without using a car, and has been operating over the May to September period, on Sundays and Bank Holidays. It's not going to be running in future. Neither is the Offa's Dyke Flyer, which went up to places like Longtown.
The Sunday 39A bus service was designed to link up with the Beacons Bus, and it was used by backpackers. The Sunday service is irregular anyway, and any loss of passengers may put that route in jeopardy too. At the moment, Herefordshire County Council, which provide part of the subsidy for the route, are holding a consultation, which is open until April 21st. It can be found at

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The University of Cusop Dingle

King Richard has been wintering in Spain, but now he's back he's lost no time in putting together his new venture.
The University of Cusop Dingle (motto: "We get wise by asking questions, and even if these are not answered we get wise, for a well-packed question carries its answer on its back as a snail carries its shell" from Irish Fairy Tales by James Stephens, 1920 - the logo of the university is, of course, a snail) held its first meeting last week, at the Rose and Crown, with a talk on Homer by Tim the Gardener. I'm sorry I missed it, because it seems that Tim went to a great deal of trouble, even photocopying handouts for the audience. When I spoke to him later, he was still enthused enough about the subject to tell me about how Homer saw himself: "He wasn't just a praise singer - the only mention of a lyre, which was the symbol of his craft, was when Achilles was playing it and singing of the heroes of old, so you've got a little bit of Homer inside Homer, you see what I mean?" However, he was rather unhappy that no-one in the audience offered to buy him a drink!
Apparently Eugene Fisk, the artist, has expressed interest in doing a talk about the relationship between the artist and the person viewing the art, which may take place next month, date and venue to be decided.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Local History

On the way home from work, I met two ladies who were taking part in the History Group meeting at the Three Tuns. As part of the evening's activities they had been sent out with paper and pencil to collect six dates from buildings between the Three Tuns and the Clock Tower. The History Group are looking for people to lead tours around town to talk about the history, as Ken our retired Town Cryer used to do. And there are all sorts of interesting things to talk about, such as Matilda de Breos who built Hay Castle and the Armstrong poisoning case in the 1920s, to name two notable Hay characters.

Meanwhile, work is going on at the Cheesemarket to put up the interpretive panels on Hay's local history, and the tiles with the names of local businesses. The mosaic panel showing the town crest is already up - and one piece of the river in the background is mine! Even unfinished it's looking rather smart.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Spring Fair

The weather was gorgeous and hot on Friday, so of course it was grey and a bit cold on Saturday for the Spring Fair in the Castle grounds. Despite that, a lot of people turned up, and there was a lot to see. In the main tent there were crafts, many of them either recycled, Fairtrade or wildlife related, together with Green Valleys giving out booklets on their new share offer - they're raising money for four small hydro-electric schemes somewhere in the Brecon Beacons.
There was a food and beer tent - the beer was local, and the Fairtrade group were running one of the teas and cakes stalls (and doing very well, when I passed by).
A third big tent held activities, including spinning, peg loom weaving, pottery and wicker basket making.
In between the big tents there were little tents, selling herbs and bee related products and so on. One lady had come all the way from Warwickshire with her Squeaky Green towels and washing kits. Another tent was providing balls of various sizes for children to play with. There was a stage - I heard the community choir singing, and there was a samba band later. There was a chainsaw artist, too - I rather liked this one:

In the Castle, there were talks on Green issues all day, starting with Nigel In Transition, a film about setting up a Transition Town (which is a town coming to grips with the problems caused by the world coming to the end of cheap fossil fuel energy and becoming more self-sufficient).
I had been in the Mending Shed, the Hay Together venture on the other side of the castle, where various experts were waiting to mend anything from computers to holes in cardigans. There were a couple of bikes to mend, and one or two electrical items, and I sewed up the holes in Ellie's cardigan, but after that I wandered off and caught the talk on Energy.
The general idea was to look at Hay and the surrounding area to see where we could produce our own energy as a community, but of course the speakers also went off on various tangents.
So, we have a big river - but it moves slowly and the weir on the Warren isn't really worthy of the name according to a man who has canoed down it. The tributaries, which drop a long way over a short distance are a better bet for producing hydro-electricity.
We have some public buildings upon which we could place solar panels - at the moment Dave Prescott from New Leaf, one of the speakers, is involved in setting up solar panels on an old landfill site outside Hereford, which is land that can't be used for growing crops or for building on because of the landfill contamination. In Leominster, there is a community project which has solar panels on the leisure centre and the school.
We have woodland which was once coppiced, and could be again, to provide biomass, as is being done in Fownhope.
We have wind - but the proposed Clyro wind turbine recently failed to gain planning permission, with a lot of local opposition. One of the wind schemes that was mentioned is in Scotland, where 50% of all energy is now renewable, and wind is quite popular. As one chap in the audience said - roads are polluting and noisy, so we should close the roads and build turbines instead!
One chap at the back of the hall said that he was interested in starting a co-op in Hay to provide community energy, and asked about the possibility of a regional framework rather than one local co-op after another. It seems there are a couple of reasons why schemes are done on a small scale - one is that each new co-op gets a certain amount of tax relief, and the other is that people who are passionate about solar power are often not interested in wind power, or other forms of renewable energy, so it's best to be specific rather than general with schemes. The chap who wants to start something in Hay was hoping to go for solar panels on public buildings first, and then branch out later to hydro-electric and finally wind power, while collaborating with Bronllys and Talgarth.
I was going to come back to listen to the talk about affordable housing locally, but by that time I was ravenous and disappeared back home to eat.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Small Business Saturday

The Boutique, in the side road going uphill from Lion Street. When I first came to Hay, this was a carpet and rug shop.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Dragonfly Ensemble

I never could resist a good harp solo!
So last night I was at Booths Bookshop for a sell out performance by Dragonfly Ensemble, which consists of violinist Marcia Crayford, viola player Susie Mészáros, flautist Sarah Newbold and harpist Katherine Thomas. All of them have had really impressive musical careers - the violinist used to lead the London Symphony Orchestra, for instance! - and the music they make together is sublime!
It was also a very relaxed evening. They started with a piece by Dubois for flute, viola and harp, and the second piece was going to be by Ravel - but they said that Dubois hadn't liked Ravel, so instead there was Bach on the harp followed by Mozart for violin and viola, and they finished up with tangos by Piazzolla, an Argentinian composer who had been influenced by jazz musicians. So there was a wide range of musical styles.

After the interval, they started with three pieces by Elgar for violin and harp. The next piece was Saint-Saens - his only work for harp (though he had included harp music in his operas apparently), which he had written in Italy for two sisters.
They finished the evening with a piece by Debussy which was written in 1915 - the year the tank was invented, and gas was used in the trenches (and Pyrex was invented!). Debussy was trying to compose music that harked back to a more innocent, pastoral idyll, though the lady who introduced the piece said she could still hear the sounds of modern life in it, like trams speeding past.
I don't think I'd heard any of the music before apart from some of the Elgar, and it really was wonderful - next time I go into a music shop, I'll be looking for more by those composers.

The organiser thanked an organisation called Night Out, which gives grants for concerts, and is something to do with the Welsh Assembly, for providing help to put this concert on.

There will be more concerts throughout the year - the next one is the Tre Voci Cello Trio on 5th May. On 1st July there will be a wind quintet from Welsh National Opera, and they will be playing the first concert to be held at Hay Castle. "It'll be like a mini-Glyndebourne," he said.

Dragonfly Ensemble will be playing again on 16th April at St Michael's Church Discoed, but with a second violin played by Lowri Porter, and a cello played by Moray Walsh, for Haydn's The Seven Last Words of Christ.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

More Council Business - Toilets and Missing Documents

The future of the public toilets in Hay is still causing concern. Kirsty Williams, the Assembly Member, has got involved, and the Welsh Assembly has made a ruling that there should be public toilets. However, the wording of their statement is that the County Councils should "develop a strategy" to keep the toilets open, rather than they should run them themselves. The Consultation document runs to fifty pages, and not many people will want to plough through all that. There was talk of a survey of privately owned toilets that were accessible to the public, and of toilets in libraries and other public buildings that would be available (as long as the libraries remained open, of course), and there was also the concern that when public toilets were handed over to local councils or groups like the one in Glasbury, they should be fit for purpose, which means that the County Council should be maintaining them now. There's one in Hay that has been broken for some time, and no sign of it being fixed.
Meanwhile, the County Council have been asked to provide a list of the assets from Hay which were passed over to them in 1974 - and they have replied to say that they are too busy! There have been a lot of redundancies from the County Council (I wish there was a better word than that - if there aren't enough people to do the necessary work, then the ones that were got rid of weren't 'redundant' at all) but that's no excuse for not providing the service that the County Council has a responsibility to provide. It may be necessary to go down the road of making a Freedom of Information request, which they have to comply with - as Nigel Birch said, the "softly-softly" approach doesn't work. It's also possible for members of the public to go through the deed system themselves (much of which is now online), and when the relevant documents are found then they can assess whether specialist legal help is needed.
Work is also needed to maintain the War Memorial, with the centenary of the start of the First World War coming up. When the British Legion were approached, they said that the Town Council owns it. It seems that, over many, many years, proper records of who owns what have either never been kept or have been lost.
Some of the councillors had a day trip to Swansea, to look at the Land Registry, to clear up the ownership of the Gliss. At the moment, the land can't be registered as belonging to the Town Council, because British Rail still have to be contacted about the part that was once railway lines (or whatever body has taken over those functions of British Rail).
Then came the welcome news that Alan Powell has organised the planting of fifteen fruit trees, and has a plan of where they are and what they all are (he took the labels off so no-one would be tempted to transplant them to a private garden somewhere), and he has also bought 20 oak trees himself, which will be ready to plant around Hay in the autumn.
And then they started talking about grass cutting, and I left....

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Council Meeting - Timbuktu and Police Report

The meeting had started so well, too.
Over the past three years, there has been a project running called Two Towns, One World, forging links between Hay and Timbuktu with various activities. It got off to a rocky start, and got through two co-ordinators before it was extended for an extra year, but Sandra Skinner was there at the council meeting to present the final report on what the project had been doing, and what it had achieved.
A lot of their work was educational, with materials relating to world development issues developed for primary and secondary schools, which are now available for other schools to use. Linked to this was the visit last year of several teachers and midwives from Timbuktu. This also helped break down stereotypes that some people had about Africa, because they could actually meet and talk to real people about what was happening there.
Several things started in Hay that would not have happened without the project, and the initial injection of EU money - like the Drover Holidays Cycle Club, and the Telling Tales project in schools which looked at legends around the world. The Globe hosted events for musicians and drama and dance, and the Mali Consul came to Hay Festival last year to take part in a debate on Channel Four.
There's now a Timbuktu Trail round Hay, linking buildings here with buildings there, and two CDs have been produced to raise money for the people of Timbuktu as well.
Sandra said that it was difficult to tease apart what had been achieved by Two Towns, One World, and what had been done by the other links with Timbuktu in Hay, like Hay2Timbutu and Medics4Timbuktu.
The recent conflict in Mali was an unexpected set-back to the project, throwing many things (like education for girls) into disarray, and communication with Timbuktu is still not as good as it could be. Another set-back was the death of Roger Hammond, whose idea it had been originally, before he saw the work completed.
The organisers are also still in communication with the EU about some of the funding for the project, which was okayed (so they spent the money) and then the EU changed their minds one day before the project came to an end!
However, they had a target of getting four other councils in Wales interested in doing something similar, and they actually have ten other councils interested, and people in Hay (according to the survey they did) are much more knowledgeable than the general population about Africa and Timbuktu.

PC Ffion came to give his update on the state of crime in the area. He's been doing a lot of cross-border work with West Mercia police, because one of the problems they are trying to tackle is that of "travelling criminals" who drive a distance to commit their crimes by night and then quickly leave the area again. There was an attempted break-in at Bronllys Garage by people who were travelling in a car from the Midlands, for instance.
They've also been holding a speed awareness campaign for car drivers, and have been dealing with a number of dangerous dogs, and dogs which have been worrying sheep.
One odd theft was of a granite block from the cemetery. As the weather improves, the police will be turning their attention to shed thefts, poachers and suspicious vehicles.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Council Meeting Confusion

I missed last month's meeting to drink Fairtrade wine - and I almost wish I'd had a bottle and a straw with me last night!

I left early, along with most of the public observers, because of the grass cutting tenders. Six firms have tendered a bid for taking over the grass cutting around Hay for next year, and at first it seemed that the cheapest bid was the preferred one. The bids had been put in sealed envelopes so that the councillors wouldn't know which firms had bid.
Then Fiona Howard objected, and asked how the councillors could properly scrutinise the bids if all they had to go on were the amounts that the firms wanted - they might want to choose which firm would do the best job, rather than the cheapest job, and for that they needed to know who the firms were.
Steve Like objected that it should have been decided by the Estates and Fishing Subcommittee anyway, and then brought to full council for agreement.
Rob Golesworthy said that he didn't want to disclose the names of the firms because of commercial confidentiality, but he would pass a list round as he didn't want the public to know the firms involved - at which point one of the ladies in the public seats said that they'd better leave, then, so the council could have a proper discussion, and I left with them.

Now, the grass gets cut every year, and the councillors around that table have many years of experience of being on the council. This should have been a routine matter, dealt with very quickly - but they were acting as if they'd never done it before and didn't know what the procedure was.

At the beginning of the meeting, there was a minute's silence for Peter Lloyd, who died recently. His death has left an empty place on the council, and another empty place has been left by the resignation of Ellie Spencer, which is another sad loss - though she does so much in Hay that I wonder when she finds time to sleep!
Nigel the clerk said that the County Council had informed him that they couldn't fill both places at the same time, so they were looking to fill Ellie's place first, and Peter's later - I wasn't entirely clear on the procedure to be followed, but somehow it seems that the matter won't be finally sorted out until September!
Apparently they have already advertised for a new councillor, but they must have done it very discreetly because I had no idea that Ellie had resigned.

Now, again, councillors have resigned before, and councillors have died before - yet there was confusion around the table about whether the members of the council should start approaching people they thought might be interested to get them to join the council, and where they should place adverts for the position. They all must have done it before (apart from the two new ladies, of course), so why were they all so confused?

At any rate, there are two seats on the council that need to be filled, so if anyone is interested, they should get in touch with the Clerk....

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Is Hay Truly Independent?

In 1977, on April 1st, King Richard Booth declared Hay-on-Wye to be an independent kingdom. Since then there has been a Republican uprising (during which King Richard's head was cut off in effigy) - but now there seems to be a doubt as to whether we were ever really independent at all. We might even be part of Powys!
Prompted by the example of our Scottish cousins, we will therefore hold a referendum to proclaim our independence, on 18th September.

Our manifesto is as follows:

We want a new postcode, HOW1, to show we are not part of Powys or Herefordshire.

Scotland will benefit from the oil fields; Hay could benefit from the revenue of the car park. Instead of it flowing out to the coffers of the County Council, we would retain the money for the benefit of the Kingdom of Hay

Hay, the powerhouse of the International Book Economy, also recognises that local shops rather than corporate chains are the way forward. A Kingdom that celebrates eccentricity is a state that prospers.

An independent Kingdom of Hay will be able to negotiate with Herefordshire County Council to keep our trade routes open. Due to the present deplorable state of that county's roads, we propose to send a raiding party to commandeeer a road mending lorry, and ensure that visitors can reach our Kingdom easily.

As Putin sent tanks into the Crimea recently, so we are also expecting a military response from the Welsh Assembly, proportional to our threat to the integrity of the Welsh nation. So we are expecting, at any moment, the arrival of the Welsh Guards' regimental goat! People of Hay! Guard our borders! Don't let that goat into your gardens!

(This blogpost was brought to you by the Independent Kingdom of Hay Referendum Committee. God Save King Richard and Prince Derek!)

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Small Business Saturday

Lion Antiques. When I first came to Hay, this was the site of the Wholefood Shop, which is now across the road.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Threat to Powys Libraries

We watched over the border in Herefordshire as the County Council decided it wanted to close every library in the county except Hereford - and the passionate public opposition there has been there. And now Powys County Council wants to close eleven of the county's seventeen libraries to save money.
They announce this when they're already committed to a big new library in Brecon as part of the Museum complex (and that wasn't in the original plans), and they're spending £170,000 on Llandrindod Wells library this year according to the piece on the front page of the B&R. So that leaves the smaller libraries, in the more rural areas.
We already know in Hay that the library is supposed to be incorporated in the new school building - but they haven't started laying the foundations for that yet, and I won't believe it's actually happening until they start building.

And libraries are not just about little old ladies stocking up on detective novels (which is what my mother-in-law used to use her library for). It's a vital point of access to the internet for people who don't own computers - they do exist, and when Job Centres insist that job applications have to be made online, a library computer can be the only way of looking for a job that some people have. Then there are the school children who increasingly need to access the internet for school projects. They are also vital repositories for information on local history. A little while ago a lady asked for my advice about a pamphlet she owned, which had been written by (I think) her grandfather, and was about local life about a hundred years ago. At one time I would have automatically said she should donate it to Brecon library - but now I don't know if material like that will be safe in the library system.
And it can't all be done by volunteers either. I'm beginning to feel bad about even using the word "volunteer" now, because it's become a sort of code for getting people to do a job without paying them the proper wages for the job. There's a reason that librarians have professional qualifications.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

More on Rubbish Sacks

At lunch time today, I met one of my neighbours going across the road to another with some of the purple rubbish sacks that had been delivered yesterday - because our neighbour across the road hadn't been left any. "They don't pick up my food waste, either," she complained. It's hard to see how they miss her, since her front door opens straight onto the main road, and is obviously a separate house from the pub and shop around her.
My other neighbour is harder to find, living up a side alley between two shops, so it's not so surprising that she gets missed out when sacks (or anything else) are distributed. But now there is no County Council office in Hay, she has to ring them up to complain - and then they tell her to order the bags online - and then they don't come, so she rings up again, and they have to be delivered from Llandrindod Wells.... I can't believe that all that hassle is cheaper than having an office in Hay that you can go into in person and deal with another human being. And they used to keep a store of sacks in the office to give out.
So I'm not taking my extra sacks round to the Library now - I'm giving them to the lady who has so far failed to get any, and she can give the spares to anyone else she knows who hasn't got any.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


When I got home at lunchtime today, I saw that the Council had been distributing the purple rubbish sacks around town. These are the ones for non-recyclable waste, and are collected every two weeks. Recyclable waste (in red and blue bags for different categories) goes every week, along with food waste (in the green caddies). Unless you are part of the new scheme where you get plastic containers to put your waste in... it all gets very complicated.
Anyway, they left each house three rolls of sacks.
I use one sack every month, at the most, and when I opened my kitchen cupboard I found that I still had three rolls from last year, untouched, and another two that I have used a few sacks from.
I don't particularly want a kitchen cupboard overflowing with sacks that I'm never going to use. When the County Council had a proper office in Hay, in the Council Chambers, I used to take surplus rolls of sacks there to be re-used. I'm going to see if I can do the same thing with Library Plus.