Saturday, 31 May 2014

Small Business Saturday

Hay Baby, good quality clothes for babies and small children, and a few toys.
This used to be a photographer's shop, until everyone started to use digital and mobile phones, and the owner also let out a place in South India that he owns for holidays.

Green issues and music

I managed to get up to the Festival site for two events yesterday. I also found Shelley and Richard's stall there - selling Richard's art and Shelley's scarves, so I made sure I was wearing the scarf she had given me for my birthday! It was lovely, too, to see the workshop where children were making their own stools, with proper woodworking handtools. BBC Radio Wales had a van there, too, with live music outside it, on air. When I passed it was a group of young black women singers, who were very good.
The first event I had tickets to was the Joseph Rotblat Lecture, given this year by Jonathon Porritt. Joseph Rotblat, it turns out, was a nuclear physicist who was involved in the Manhattan Project - and was the only scientist to resign from the project when it became clear that Germany was not developing a nuclear bomb. After the war, he was involved with Pugwash, a group concerned with trying to prevent nuclear proliferation and working for conflict resolution - they're still working today, behind the scenes in war zones like Syria, and between North and South Korea.
Where Joseph Rotblat felt that the most important threat to the planet in his time was nuclear war, today Jonathon Porritt feels the same way about climate change. But he hadn't come to talk about doom and gloom and how screwed the planet is - he's just written a book about how we can have a sustainable future. Looking back from 2050, he looks at all the different technologies that exist now, and can solve the problems that the planet faces. He said that he'd been campaigning for years, but only when he needed to do the research for the book did he sit down to take a good look at the science and technology that exists, and put all the pieces together.
The only weak link in the whole thing is the political will - politicians carrying on with their heads in the sand, as if they don't need to do anything. He said that even the most Republican of states in the US now accept that changes need to be made to deal with what they call "weird weather" (because they don't like to admit that it's climate change). Car companies are now investing heavily in electric and hybrid cars; the cost of solar panels is going down every year, while their efficiency is rising.
During the questions at the end, he was asked about fracking - and said that it was the last spasm of the oil industry, desperately clinging on to the current business model. It can never be a long term solution. He had spoken admiringly of Germany, with all the renewable power being generated there, but agreed with a member of the audience that it had been crazy to shut down the nuclear power plants before the natural end of their lives and make up the difference in power needs by burning brown coal.
Rosie Swales was on stage to interview Jonathon Porritt after his talk, and she said that Hay Festival is almost carbon neutral - the one area they can't be is in transport to the Festival site, especially when people fly in, and there is no real alternative to that at the moment.
I went down to the Festival shop after the talk - but I ended up walking out with one of George Monbiot's books rather than Jonathon Porritt's. I've been meaning to get a copy of Feral, about the "re-wilding" of Britain, for some time, and I couldn't really justify paying £24.99 for a book, no matter how good the talk had been!

In the evening, I went down to the Festival site again to see the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The small Oxfam Moot tent wasn't full, which was a pity, because the music was excellent. I'd been drawn in by the promise of a lute - as it turned out, though, Ben Salfield had brought a strange hybrid of lute and guitar with him, called a lutar. He was joined by Jon Salfield on guitar (he started off as a flamenco guitarist) and Simon Stanton, who was sitting on one of his instruments - basically a tea chest, as first used for musical purposes by sailors in Cadiz. He also had a rain stick and triangle, and various drums, and a black pottery gourd thing from Africa.
They seem to have spent a lot of time touring around the world. Ben talked about writing one piece of music on the balcony of an Italian classical guitarist's flat, with the smell of fresh bread wafting up from the bakery below, while another was written on a tour of Poland, and the title is the motto of Solidarity. They also talked about visiting South America, and a city with the highest murder rate in the world!
It really was a lovely evening, and the applause at the end "was worth the long drive up from Cornwall"!

Friday, 30 May 2014

Warhorse and Wolves

Yesterday Michael Morpurgo was speaking at the Festival, about Warhorse - and the Warhorse puppet from the stage show was there as well! I met someone who had seen the talk, and they said that there had been other puppets there, too, including one covered in feathers but shaped like a horse!
Then I went up to the Castle to see the wolves - Sally Matthews has made two sculptures to stand around the ruined part of the Castle.

This was the best picture I could get with my weedy little camera. The other wolf overlooks the Honesty Gardens, and is standing on a windowsill.

I met Tim the Gardener walking through town, as well. He's still very enthusiastic about Homer, and is now writing a book about his thoughts about the Iliad. His theory is that it wasn't Helen's beauty that started the whole Trojan war - it was Thetis, the mother of Achilles, and the prophesy that her son would be greater than his father. He's also been doing a lot of research about Hermes, who he reckons was the working man's god, and the god of people who had been dispossessed by the new Greek aristocracy, because of various festivals in his honour where masters had to serve the servants, like the Roman Saturnalia - and there was one festival where devotees of the god were encouraged to go out and commit highway robbery in his honour! Hermes was the god of thieves, among other things.

Today, Platform One Crafts are in the Buttermarket (from Erwood Station) and there are vintage and craft stalls in the Cheesemarket as well.

And I think Marcus Brigstocke may have walked by when I was chatting in Backfold - or it could just have been a bloke with a beard!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Jim Saunders and the Bookshops of Hay

The other day I stopped by Broad Street Books because I noticed a new book about Hay in the window. It's called Hay: Landscape, Literature and the Town of Books, by Jim Saunders. The photographs are lovely, and we were wondering who Jim Saunders was, because neither I nor Dale knew him.
This evening, I met Paul Harris stomping up High Town with steam coming out of his ears. "Have you heard of Jim Saunders?" he asked. It seems that he was giving a talk at Hay Festival on Saturday, about his new book. It seems that he has lived in the area for 25 years, and runs a business called And it seems that a snippet of his talk has been on the news today, in which he said that, if all the bookshops in Hay disappeared, Hay would be fine.
Er - what?!!!
Does he seriously think that removing twenty businesses from a small town - businesses for which the town is known around the world - would do no harm to the local economy at all? He's certainly infuriated at least one local bookseller.

Meanwhile, I met another friend in the morning, and we chatted about what we'd been to see at the Festival. She was going to go to the talk about Everest - because she had been the babysitter to the family when the speaker was a little boy! "How did he go from that to climbing Everest?" she asked. She was going to go along to embarrass him - but decided not to be so unkind in the end.

And welcome back Toby Parker, who used to sing at Kilvert's Open Mic and then the Globe, who has been busking around town today.
There was a little bit of sunshine this afternoon, but someone told me yesterday that it's supposed to be the wettest year since 1770 this year!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Traffic Chaos around Hay

I don't know why it is, but this year the traffic problems have seemed to be a lot worse than previous years. We've had wet years before where the car parks in fields were closed and shuttle buses brought people in from Clyro and Gwernyfed, but this year there seem to be a lot more traffic snarl ups.
Some people are blaming the Globe, which takes advantage of all the extra parking organised by the Hay Festival without doing anything to provide extra parking themselves.

Meanwhile in Hay, troops of Morris dancers appeared in the town square yesterday evening to dance. I don't think it was an event that was advertised - they just turned up and did it.

And this morning I listened to Midweek on Radio 4 broadcast from the BBC tent on the Festival site. Sir Roy Strong was one of the guests, together with a lady who sang a beautiful a capella setting of an AE Houseman poem (she runs a community choir and organises folk singing events) and a local racehorse trainer.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Festival - Steven Moffat's Talk, and Exhibitions around town

There was a little girl in the bookshop wearing a light blue sun dress, decorated with daleks and tardises. She was also wearing a Tardis necklace.
"I bet I know where you'll be this afternoon," I said, and I showed her the Tardis badge I was wearing under my waistcoat. "I'll be there, too."
The Cinema Bookshop opens until 9pm every night this week, and last night it was my turn to be there late. This means that we get two hours off during the day, and I used my time to get to Steven Moffat's talk at the Festival. If I missed that, I really couldn't call myself a Whovian any more! He was in the Tata Tent, one of the biggest on the Festival site, and it was very nearly full.
Alan Yentob was interviewing him, and went through his career in television, including marrying into a TV dynasty, headed by Beryl Vertue, who had been involved in Dr Who in its early days, and had also invented the idea of selling the format of a show to the US. So Steptoe and Son here was re-made as Stamford and Son there, and the US version of Till Death Do Us Part was a huge hit, too. They also talked about Coupling, as well as Sherlock and Doctor Who.
Steven Moffat said that there are certain things that make a story part of the Doctor Who universe. One is the mixture of the domestic and the epic - the amazing space and time machine in a Police Phone Box; the family details in the middle of an alien invasion, or the little boy in a gas mask asking "Are you my mummy?". The other is the Doctor himself "who should look like a senior consultant, and act like a student." Steven Moffat reminded everyone that, when they were first cast, no-one thought that either David Tennant or Benedict Cumberbatch were remotely sexy! But when they'd seen Casanova, where David Tennant played the young Casanova (and Peter O'Toole played Casanova at the end of his life) they thought that some of what he did was very Doctorish. "He was basically making a long audition video!"
Steven Moffat said it was very easy to spot brilliance in the actors who came up for the parts of the Doctor and the Companions - so making the casting decisions, he claimed, was just a matter of looking at the group of actors that the casting director has gathered together and going "That's brilliant" when the actor and the script click together.
Most of the questions at the end were about Doctor Who, of course ("What can you tell us about Season 8?" "I could tell you lots of things...."). One little boy admitted to calling Cybermen Cidermen "when he was little", and Steven Moffat instantly said; "I used to do that as well!" and added that the Weeping Angels ("scary ladies with big faces") weren't very scary on the set.
As the talks were running a little late to accommodate people using the wet weather parking, which is further away from the Festival site, I had to creep out just before the end to get back to work, but I did manage to hear one more question: "Why is Doctor Who filmed in Cardiff?"
Steven Moffat said: "Because it is the place on the planet that looks most like the future, in space! Or at least - it does now." And then admitted that it had been the BBC's decision to film it in their Cardiff studios.
I didn't learn very much that was new to me, but it was a very entertaining talk, and well worth skipping out of work for!

This morning, I bumped into Athene English on my way to work, and she pointed out the place where a poor man had slipped and impaled himself on railings the night before - the air ambulance had been called out, and there were police cars, and some of the railings had to be cut away. There was red and white tape around the gap where they had been. She'd seen it all from her bedroom window. We have a charity box at work for the Air Ambulance, and they do really good work in this area. So, I hope the man wasn't too badly hurt. At least he was in good hands.

And on a happier note, the Hay yarn bomber has been putting up crocheted 'works of heart' around town.

There was a craft fair in the Buttermarket today, and I went in to admire Pedran Harps, who had come over from Pembrokeshire. I wish I were musical! They have a website at
There's also an exhibition on at Salem Chapel, of art made out of driftwood, called Artefacts, and another at Cae Mawr Studio, down the Offa's Dyke Path near the big car park, where Gaynor and Georgina Funnell are showing their pictures, along with Sarah Putt and Tracy Thursfield, Francesca Kay and Cassie Rendle. They all do really good and interesting work, in various media from painting and sculpture to knitting.
And at the Hourglass Gallery on Broad Street there's an exhibition called "Hay: People and Places as seen by Local Artists". Gaynor and Georgina Funnell, and Sarah Putt, also have work there, alongside Simon Burrage, Mark Clements, Henrietta Price-Daly, Kate Pritchard and David Pitt. That exhibition will be going on until the 7th July.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

More From the Festival

I spent a lovely, relaxed evening at Tomatito's last night, out in the patio garden at the back. The bench was damp but the rain held off and the music was wonderful. Alan Cooper the fiddler was playing, with his friends Simon Newcombe on guitar and Di Esplin on cello. They have a new CD out together, called Alive, which they were selling, along with an earlier CD, Street (which I already have - I bought it from them when they were busking in town one day). They played music from Ireland and Scandanavia, and even Venezuela, all completely acoustic - there were no mics.
There were quite a few locals in the audience who appreciate good music. One of them was Chris the bookbinder, who had brought a few copies of the new poetry magazine/book Quirk along. It's the fourth issue, (though number 3 as they started with zero) and I was speaking to Cotters a few days ago about it. One of his poems is in it, with an illustration specially done by Martina Jirankova-Limbrick, which he was very pleased about. There are quite a few other familiar names there, like Sarah Putt from Booths, Tracy Thursfield from Addyman's, Chris himself, Tim the Gardener, and many more poets and artists. I was sufficiently impressed when leafing through it to part with a fiver.
I slipped away as it was getting dark, so I missed music from Jasmine, who had just arrived.

I started this morning by listening to Broadcasting House on Radio 4 as usual, but today it was coming from the BBC tent at the Festival with an audience of around 200 people, and two members of the public were up on stage doing the newspaper review along with David Aaronovitch and Lauren Child the children's author.
I also saw a silver BBC van leaving town, which had been up at the Castle for a new antiques programme that they were filming yesterday.
The rain wasn't quite so bad today, but it was fairly heavy in the afternoon.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Festival Diary - Saturday

The picture says it all, really. It's Wet.

I went over to Racquety Farm this morning to the craft fair. It's called The Big Skill, and there are lots of people there demonstrating crafts and getting people to try things - or at least, they would if more people were braving the rain and mud to get to them. There's a master thatcher, and a potter, and two ladies doing pyrography, and others doing spinning and weaving and crochet and knitting and needle felting. There are also people selling photographs and clothes and jewellery and all sorts of other things, all of them lovely. One lady was showing off a rather wonderful 18th century wig made out of felt - the sort of piled high look that women used to embellish with little sailing ships or bird cages at the court of Louis XIV. Sadly, I wasn't quick enough to get my camera out.
Hopefully, the weather will be better for them tomorrow.

In town, the Fair on the Square has lots of interesting vintage goods. I just wish I had a bigger house!
On the way back, I popped into the old jigsaw shop, now The Old Electric Shop. There are several different areas run by different people, including a small art gallery at the back, vintage clothes, handbags, and interesting junk. There's an old fashioned football game out the back, which had a whole family round it playing while I was there - the sort with the men on a long pole across the pitch that you can move them sideways on and then get them to kick the ball. At the front is a bar area.
The breakfast room of Tinto House has become a cafe for the week (or they may move outside to the garden if it ever stops raining).
I went up to the Globe, too, which seems to have a lot of food stalls, as well as a cinema tent and the big bar area with live music and Festival bookshop. There are events in tents, too, and of course in the main building.

Later I took the shuttle bus up to the Festival site to meet a friend. She'd just been at a talk and we ambled around a bit to see what was there. Both of us are customers of Good Energy, who are one of the sponsors of the Festival this year - there's a Good Energy stage, and a stall advertising the company, partly powered by bicycle. We got free cheerfully yellow mugs.
A little further along was a stall talking about water power and a tidal energy project in Swansea bay. They also had wall displays about other tidal bays around the country, like Morecambe Bay. The energy comes from the difference in level between the sea and the lagoon as the tide goes in and out - and the lagoons could also be useful for flood protection. There's a website (of course) at

I decided to walk back to town, despite the rain, to have a look at the stalls in gardens along the Brecon Road. There were lots of opportunities to buy Welsh cakes for various good causes. And also dog biscuits. And 5 different real ales for £3 a pint at the front of the Masonic Hall.
One paved front garden had a horse box parked on it and lots of hay strewn around. The lady from Hay TV was there, just setting up a mini cafe - which she's calling Whips and Spurs! There are hay bales in the horse box to sit on, and a counter, and tables outside for better weather, and she was just putting up lots of horsey stuff like rosettes and whips around the place. And trying to work out how the gas ring worked for the hot chocolate. Fortunately, one of her friends happened by, and knew how to put the gas canister in, so I watched him carefully. I got a very similar gas ring after the last major power failure, but I haven't used it yet.

Small Business Saturday

Pugh's electrical shop, one of the old established shops in Hay.
Eric Pugh has a huge collection of old photos of Hay, and put some of them into a book, Old Hay in Pictures and Prints. He also has a website, Old Hay, which has a link on the side bar.
Tim Pugh also mends computers.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Concern Universal

I had to admit, when the young man stopped me in the street, that I'd never heard of this charity before. Apparently, they don't do much advertising, because of the cost, but they have been on Radio 4 recently, where Marcus Brigstocke talked about the Flower Pot Stoves that have been introduced in Malawi. The stoves use one third of the wood of traditional fires, which means that women don't have to walk so far looking for firewood - and the charity trains local people to make the stoves, so that they have an income as well. They also put people in touch with banks that can provide micro-finance, and act as facilitators to help people in remote villages get goods to market without being ripped off by middle men.
This afternoon, the new CEO of Concern Universal, which is based just down the road in Hereford, will be talking to Andy Fryers at Hay Festival along with the Director of the World Development Fund, in a Free but Ticketed event. The young man under the brolly was intending to go down and see the talk - a chance to get out of the awful weather for a while!
I always think street collectors have a dispiriting job, particularly when they are actually involved in the charity rather than employed for something they know little about. They have to spend the whole day being positive and enthusiastic, and not many people will sign up to give to the charity.
The Concern Universal website can be found at

Thursday, 22 May 2014

First Day of the Festival

We've had traditional Festival weather! That is, rain.
It's been schools day, so lots of coaches bringing kids to the Festival site, and the beginnings of adult visitors wandering round Hay with their brollies.

Meanwhile, it's also been European Election day, and for the first time the polling station has been at the Bowling Centre on the Brecon Road, round the back of Doll's House Fun. It's a lot smaller than the Community Centre, but quite cosy. I did my civic duty at lunch-time.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

As Ready as We'll Ever Be!

Hay Festival starts tomorrow - and in the nick of time, the new Booksellers map has been delivered round the shops. This year it's purple - and this blog is in it! As the official blog of the Hay Independence movement, this is the place to come for all the campaign information as we move towards our referendum in September - the same date as Scotland (if they can do it, so can we!)

Of course, just as I featured Barnabee Books on Small Business Saturday, they've moved out of town to Gwernyfed Farm Barn in Felindre - only a short drive out of town, for Ladybirds, Observers, Pan, Penguin and Puffin books, but it's now by appointment only. I don't know yet what's going to take their place in the basement under La Maison.

I have noticed two pop-up shops, though. Next to Golesworthy's, where the Keeper's Pocket was (and the Keeper's Pocket has moved just across the road onto the Pavement) is the Pop-Up Pantry, selling takeaway food. I think Alex Gooch's wonderful bread is part of the selection (he has a stall on the Thursday market, and I love his focaccia).
And down where the Jigsaw and Teddy Bear shop used to be, The Old Electric Shop has moved in for the Festival with all sorts of vintage furniture and stuff. I presume these are the same people who had the shop on Castle Street for a while which actually was the old electric shop (SWALEC) and is now House of Vintage.
In the Castle grounds the tents have gone up for the food stalls, as seen at Abergavenny Food Fair, as well as flags - white around the Castle and purple around the Cinema Bookshop.

Tomorrow, five thousand children from a hundred schools will be coming to Hay for the schools programme, but the events aren't just for the kids - on Friday evening Al Murray, the Pub Landlord, is doing a show, and so is Billy Bragg (and his friends). Billy Bragg will be collecting books to donate to Parc Prison in Brigend, now that books can no longer be sent to prisoners.

And on Saturday and Sunday there's a craft fair over the river at Racquety Farm which I'm going to try to get to, as well as all the events in town.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Re-building the Bed

A few months ago, I treated myself to a new bed - only to find that it was designed rather differently to what I had expected. I thought that, like the bed I had in the 1980s, the slats would go all the way across the frame, instead of going half way and resting on a plank which went the length of the bed and was in turn resting on a leg (which was not much better than an extra length of plank on end).
I didn't feel safe - so I finally got round to going down to the hardware place on the edge of town.
It's changed hands since I was last in there, and is now Huws Gray, so I bimbled into the first building, where the main counter used to be, to find it in the process of being converted into a showroom for stoves and kitchens. The hardware counter was now in the second building along.
So I explained what I wanted to the young man at the counter.
"It'll take about five minutes," he said, and shot off to saw planks into lengths for me.
He also had the good grace not to laugh when he carried them outside for me, to pack them into my shopping trolley rather than the boot of a car!
It all cost a little over £20, and I now have a bed that I feel safe to bounce up and down on!

Monday, 19 May 2014

A Man Can't Have Too Many Guitars

I went over to the Baskerville again last Wednesday with Brian for the music night (it seems silly to call it Open Mic when there isn't a mic!).
As we went in, the lady behind the bar had propped the second door to the bar open, and we noticed that the bar is actually called Moriarty's Bar. I asked if you have to be a super-villain to drink there - "in which case, I'm Catwoman for the evening."
It was another varied crowd - at one point there were eleven people all singing and playing at once, on guitars, accordions, a bodhran, tambourine, and mouth organ! One chap had brought three accordions, all tuned differently. So when Bob suggested a song, he picked one of them off. "It's in F," Bob said - but then remembered that he had to fit a capo to the neck of his guitar, which made it in a different note (or key, or whatever they are), so the chap put the first accordion down and picked the first up again....
Paul, who lives in a chalet in the grounds of Baskerville Hall, had brought along a bass guitar that he built himself. They're a multi-talented lot at the Basky! When he put it down by his chair, I said: "That's not a guitar! That's a cello!" He could only just get it under his arm to play!
And during the evening, Bob played one of his own songs called "(A Man Can't Have) Too Many Guitars", which caused another chap there to strip off his shirt to show off his t-shirt. On the front was the slogan which was also the title of the song, and on the back was a picture of twenty different guitars.
When we went outside at the end of the evening, there was a clear sky, and a full moon over the Black Mountains. Beautiful.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

More Events in Town During the Festival

Once again, the Africa Market will be in the Parish Hall on the first Sunday of the Festival, while Fair on the Square fills the middle of town.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Small Business Saturday

La Maison. This shop has also been an antique shop and an internet cafe in the past.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Extra Events During the Festival

It's not long now....
Marva Lord, of G-Riots Arts, is putting on a couple of events at Tomatitos during the Festival. Here's the poster for the first one, starring Huw Parsons, poet and author of Planet Hay among other things:

So that's at 4pm on Friday May 23rd, and the entry is by donation. Huw will also be selling CDs of his poetry. This will be the first of a series of poetry events, which will be held on the last Wednesday of each month at 7pm - and they will be the sort of thing that can only usually be found in big cities.

The second Pop Up Poetry event features visiting poet Greta Bellamacina, who was runner up for Young Poet Laureate for London, and that will be on Wednesday May 28th, also at 4pm.

Also at Tomatitos, on Saturday 24th from around 7.30pm, Alan Cooper and friends will be playing acoustic music. Alan is a brilliant fiddler, and knows some very good folk musicians, so it should be a good night.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Council Meeting - Sunday Buses and other things

There were lots of different topics covered in the rest of the meeting on Monday - here they are in no particular order:

The Woodland Management group will be meeting in June. In autumn they plan to clear some more trees, and they have been stacking logs for wildlife to live in. They are trying to get some rubbish cleared from around Mill Cottage, and have been in touch with the owner. The benches in the picnic area have also been mended, and the canoe landing stage has been cleaned down. However, some new graffiti has appeared under the bridge. There will be a sign up over the Festival on the Gliss reminding people that there is no overnight camping allowed there.

The Recycling fund stands at £1400. The Fair on the Square asked for £500, but this was felt to be unfair when the Food Festival gets less, so they have granted a smaller amount.

The Council now has a Facebook page! And the website is almost ready to launch. To demonstrate the usefulness of social media, Gareth said that he had put on his Facebook page just after 7pm that Fiona had been voted in as mayor, and had already got 40 "Likes" by quarter to nine.

A lady called Belinda Jenkins has applied to be a councillor, to fill one of the empty places.

There has been a meeting to work on a community plan, and there will be another one next week, on Tuesday 20th at 1pm, to involve the "key stakeholders". After that consultation will be broadened out to the general public. There will be a press release shortly. Hay Together is becoming involved in this, because they are working on a plan that covers the whole local area, including Cusop and Clifford and so on, whereas the council's plan will only cover Hay and will be referred to as the Town Plan. Things like housing and provision of school places are to be covered, which is quite difficult to do in a place where three local authorities converge.
I never knew before, for instance, that Clifford School runs a school bus from the top of Hay car park for pupils.
There were also comments, from those who could remember that far back, that there had been plans in the 1950s to build a grammar school for the Hay area, rather than having pupils scattered between five secondary schools including Brecon and Fairfield - but it never came to anything.

And on the subject of buses, the council came to the problem of the loss of Sunday buses for Hay. None of the councillors use the bus, and none of them were at the meeting about the buses, though Rob Golesworthy said that he'd been meaning to go and regretted that he hadn't been able to. So, since I was there, I gave them a brief run-down of what had been discussed and why it was important to keep the service. The council are going to ask someone from Hereford to come to talk to them about it.

There was another confusion over ownership of the Cenotaph, which needs repair work. There is a grant available to do the work, but first forms have to be filled in by the owners, whoever they are. The options are the town council itself, the British Legion, or the County Council. The councillors knew that Ginger and Tom Price's dad moved the cenotaph to its present position from the middle of the square, where it was first built, but that was about as far as it went. One pertinent question was - who insures it? Because that would tend to indicate ownership.
The Castle has already been approached and there will be discreet bunting for the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. The Castle also has news about grants they have applied for to do work and there will be announcements during the Festival.

There was a Food Waste meeting in April, offering money-saving tips on dealing with food waste, with a view to making Hay a Zero Waste Town.

The councillors also wanted assurances that a troublesome parking warden would not be allowed to work in Hay any more - I understand he threatened someone.

Residents of Warren Close are concerned about the possibility of affordable housing near their homes, and complained about a lack of consultation.
The Affordable Housing group are joining the Cheesemarket CIC, as an umbrella organisation which already has all the legal aspects in place for them to continue their plans.
Rob said that he had gone along to the Cheesemarket opening in his Mayoral chain, but was a bit put out because he felt like a spare wheel - he wasn't asked to do anything beyond turning up and mingling.

And the next meeting is on 2nd June.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Council Meeting - New School?

The lease on the Council Chambers is under review at the moment, and the timing is dependent on the building of the new school, because the offer from the County Council is that the Town Council can keep using the building until two months after the school is ready, at which time they will move into the school building for meetings, and to have the Town Clerk's office there.
There are tenants in the offices in the Council Chambers, and two offices available to rent (well, the second will be ready by the end of the month) but if the future is uncertain, tenants won't want to make a commitment, and the town council will lose rental income.
There's also the matter of the roof, which is in a fairly dodgy condition, and the town council don't want to be lumbered with a huge bill for mending it, if it starts to leak in the next couple of years.
There was mention, during the discussion, of how the library used to be housed in the Council Chambers - and if the present library is closed, it could be moved back to the Council Chambers for a while. Again, the library is supposed to be moved into the new school building - when Hay gets a new school building.
The Welsh Assembly has money to build the new school - but said they wouldn't release it until Llanigon School closed down. That's now going ahead, so the money should be available. The date for the new school to be completed is now late 2016.

Meanwhile back at the existing school there has been a governor's meeting, and they are sick to death of Powys County Council. They say there is not sufficient money to run the school and they are fed up of putting band-aids on band-aids to keep it running. The kids are great, and the teachers are doing their best, but they are being let down by the authorities.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Council Meeting - Toilets and Car Park, and the Return of the Fire Engine

Last week being a Bank Holiday, there wasn't a Council meeting, so it happened last night instead. And it turned out to be one of the shortest Council meetings I've ever been to - we were out by 20 to 10!
When I arrived, Fiona Howard had just been elected the new Mayor, and voting was going on for the deputy - Rob Golesworthy this year. Then they went over all the sub-committees and looked at how many vacancies needed to be filled and whether anyone wanted to move around between them.

The question from the public (only three of us there this time) was about Mike Bullock's warehouse on the edge of Gypsy Castle, and the work he's been doing there without planning permission. The last thing anyone knew was that retrospective planning permission was going to be applied for, but the deadline for that has passed with no action. So it will be chased up with yet another letter to Powys County Council which they will no doubt ignore like all the other communications from the town council.
There was a lot of unhappiness around the table about the way that Powys County Council keep dragging things out and not doing anything when they're contacted, time and time again.

On a happier note, although the horse-drawn fire engine turned out to be not the one they thought it was, and though it's in much worse condition than they thought it would be, they will still be bringing it home to Hay. For the moment it will go in Rob Golesworthy's spare garage, but they want to put it on a rolling chassis and place it in the middle of the Buttermarket, to add a bit of interest and to start collecting for a fund to restore it. It's not all that big, so the market stalls on Thursdays would be able to work round it.

In preparation for the Festival, Rob is prepared to do a deep clean of the public toilets by the Clock Tower. It's the County Council's responsibility, but the staff they send to do the cleaning are not given enough time to do more than a lick and a promise.
The town council are still debating what to do next year when Powys wants to give up responsibility for the public toilets. Brecon are going to refuse to take over, but are determined that they'll stay open - they've already lost some public toilets around the town. One Voice Wales are advising local councils to oppose the move to push responsibility onto them.
The Welsh Assembly are putting out a white paper, with a section on "building community assets for health" in which they argue that public toilets are a public health matter and that they must be provided across Wales. Powys are going to be reminded that the town council wants to talk to them.

The County Council solicitor is going to be tracked down to his lair, after he told the town council that he didn't have time to produce the information that they requested - which was something that he really should have done (I think it's a statutory duty). They want to know the details of the handover of assets in 1974, when Hay gave things like the car park to the county council to run, so that everyone is clear just exactly who owns what and who has responsibility for what. As Fiona said - how can Powys prove that they own the car park? It might still belong to Hay, in which case Hay should get the revenues from it.
There's also the matter of the school, which was built in 1972 on land which had belonged to Jack Like, and there are rumours of a covenant on the land to ensure that it was always used for educational purposes. It would be useful to find a piece of paper recording that, if it's true. So two councillors are going to check the Land Registry and go to Llandrindod Wells to see the solicitor - or his boss.
Meanwhile, the request about adding a surcharge to the car park fees to cover the extra cost has met with the usual silence.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Viva Localism

The Cheesemarket was in use on Saturday for the first in a series of little local food markets. Alex Gooch was there with his bread, and the butcher from Broad Street with a range of organic meats, and there were preserves, and goats' cheese, and pastries and plants and fruit and vegetables as well. It's a pity it was such a blustery day.
They'll be there every other Saturday over the summer.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Small Business Saturday

Spirit of the Andes, which took over the shop from the Edinburgh Woollen Mill. It's the nearest Hay has to a chain store - the company is based in Lancaster, and they work with knitters in Peru and Bolivia.

Next door was, for a while, Tashi's Gallery of Buddhist art. He's moved to another address which is by appointment only, and The Keeper's Pocket has moved in from across the road. This shop has also been a sweetshop, a travel bookshop and a greengrocers over the years. The small flat above the shop is now the Pavement Palace holiday let.

Friday, 9 May 2014


Despite the reflections on the window, I think the display is fairly clear. I saw this in Golesworthy's window last night, and they're also selling the official Mallyfest t-shirt.
The event is happening at Baskerville Hall on the 21st June, and costs £10 - and for that you get 12 hours of live bands! It's going to be quite a mixture of styles, since Mally's own bands Zip Zip Undo Me and Superpumped are sharing the line up with Catherine Kramer, who sings Welsh ballads and runs the Community Choir. There are lots of other bands too, but I'm not remotely into the local music scene, so I'm afraid the only one I've actually heard of is Lonesome Stampede.
Mally Powell died last year, at the age of 48, of throat cancer. He grew up on a farm in Llanigon - and it's not long since his father, Fred Powell, also died. (I used to know Fred Powell well enough to say hello to, since I was a neighbour of his for a while in Llanigon. We used to call him Brezhnev, because he wore the sort of fur hat favoured by Soviet leaders.) Mally was also the lead singer of the "cult glam rock disco funk band" (to quote the website) Zip Zip Undo Me, with quite a flamboyant stage personality!
The music festival is being put on in aid of the Stable Project at the Pen-yr-Heol Chapel, Llanigon, where Mally was buried.
The Festival website is at

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Music at Baskerville Hall

Brian-with-the-Staffies has been offering to take me over to the Baskerville for an evening's music for a while, and last night I decided to go with him. There's an acoustic music evening every Wednesday, from around 8ish, and it's all pleasantly informal.
I've never actually been inside Baskerville Hall before. The entrance hall is very grand ("Have you got your cudgel to fight off the stoats?" Brian asked. "I'll be Toad - will you be Ratty, or Badger, or Mole?"). There's a grand flight of stairs, which divides at a landing half way up - and I was delighted to see that there was a fireplace on the landing, with two armchairs. It's a feature I don't think I've seen anywhere else.
The bar is just beyond the staircase towards the back. They were serving Wye Valley beer and during the evening the lady behind the bar came round with bowls of chips for everyone. They were also serving food. I took along my Anglo-Saxon lyre, but without the tuning key there wasn't a lot anyone could do to help me with it. (The tuning key should be sent on to me at some point by the chap who mended the pegs, once he can track it down again. It's really fairly low down his list of priorities, during his move back to Canada!)
There were some good guitarists there, some of whom were performing their own songs, and a singer had come over from Hereford, doing unaccompanied folk songs. Bob, who seems to be the man in charge, had also brought a bodhran and a couple of tambourines to play along with. Early on in the evening a young lad called Harry played blues. He'd been at a party there at the weekend, and lost his car keys. He got a lift home to Cardiff, but was back with his spare keys to pick up his car - and the journey had taken him about seven hours because he just missed the connection at Brecon and had to wait another two hours for the next bus! Then he very nearly left without his keys again (which he'd dropped on the floor) but with Bob's capo which he'd borrowed for a song!
I had a lovely time, and I hope to go again, and maybe perform next time! (I can always dust off the Joyce Grenfell monologues!)

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Save Our Sunday Buses!

I've been banging on about Hay needing a better bus service (particularly an evening bus) for years, to no avail. In fact, public transport is another area where County Councils can see savings to their budget, without considering the costs of those savings both to the people who live in the area and the tourists who come here.
So this evening I went straight from work across the road to the Swan, where there was a meeting about the Sunday bus services organised by Transition Towns Hay and Rail for Herefordshire.
I arrived a little bit late, so I didn't catch the name of the chap who was giving an overview of the public transport system to start with, except to gather that he is an academic. Buses, he said, are a pretty big deal - outside London 2.2 million trips are taken every year, and one billion pounds is spent by government on concessionary transport - bus passes.
In this area, the 39A on Sundays is a service contracted by Herefordshire County Council from Yeoman's Canyon, but one third of the cost is borne by Powys County Council to reflect the distance travelled in Powys. The Stagecoach Monday to Saturday service is not subsidised - it's a commercial route, and as long as there are college students who need to get to Hereford or Brecon, the need for it is obvious.
What's less obvious is the knock-on effect of the loss of a bus service on tourism.
The speaker at the meeting said that the subsidy for the Sunday bus is somewhere around £3.80 per passenger trip, but his studies showed that, on average, a passenger would then spend around £38 at their destination. In 2012 - 13, the Sunday bus service carried about 3,500 people, or around 65 people every Sunday - many of them coming to have a day out, and spending around £38 per head. A local councillor from Clehonger asked what the average train subsidy was, to compare, and was told that it was around £18 - so why can't areas without trains have a similar investment in their local transport, he wanted to know?
Other users of the bus have been connecting with the Beacons Bus for a day's walking - but the Beacons Bus has already been axed. Only the bike bus from Cardiff remains of that system.
Others again use the bus to get to Hereford to connect with the train - which is where the Rail for Herefordshire group gets involved. They have a long term objective to campaign for a bus station beside the train station for integrated local public transport, dependent on how the proposed link road fits in (if it ever gets built).
One lady had come from Peterchurch, and was very worried about being cut off from the outside world. Peterchurch doesn't have much more than one shop, a couple of pubs, a restaurant and a hairdressers'.
June Pugh had come, representing the Tourist Information office, and said that their busiest time was for finding B&Bs for Saturday evenings, so that visitors could stay over and leave town at their leisure on Sundays, after a bit more shopping. All that would be lost if the bus was lost.
As it is, there is a problem for hikers with dogs, as Yeomans' Canyon refuse to carry animals, whereas Stagecoach are quite happy to allow dogs. I had trouble with that myself a few years ago, when returning from a re-enactment weekend with my dog, and masses of medieval kit, and had to argue with the driver to get home (and pay full fare for the dog) when I had never had any problems with travelling with her on Yeomans' Canyon before that.

So, what can be done?

One suggestion was that local councils along the bus route should raise their precept to fund the bus service - but there are other demands on the spending of the precept, and local communities can't possibly fund them all. At the moment there is still a serious threat to the public toilets, and raising the precept seems to be the only way of saving them. The 39A goes through several local council areas - which is why there was a councillor from Clehonger at the meeting (but no councillors from Hay).
Another suggestion was that Dial-a-Ride could take on some of the responsibility - but that's just another way of using volunteers to do something for nothing when it has previously been a proper job. The chap from Powys Council who was at the meeting pointed out that Dial-a-Ride drivers can now be paid, and there is no legal requirement for Dial-a-Ride to limit the radius of their journeys to a certain area, but it's still not an adequate replacement for a professional service. He also suggested that local councils and local traders or Chambers of Commerce could get together to find a solution - which was basically a way of saying "Sorry, chaps, you're on your own!"
One chap asked if it was concessionary passes that were part of the problem - but the speaker pointed out that there was nothing to stop the holders of bus passes from paying the full fare if they wanted to. It gets difficult, too, because the rules for using bus passes are different in Wales and England.

The decision at the meeting was to form a working party with members from both Transition Towns Hay and Rail for Herefordshire to work together to campaign to save at least the Hay to Hereford leg of the journey. If possible, they would also like the first bus to get to Hereford by 10am, so that passengers can connect with trains to London, Manchester, and Birmingham, and other Sunday bus services - though the worry is that all the Sunday buses in Herefordshire might be lost, apart from the one from Hereford via Ross to Gloucester. And, if possible, they want to put forward a proposal which would save Herefordshire County Council some money, as they might be more amenable to retaining a service in that case.

At any rate, it's worthwhile having a go.

Sunday, 4 May 2014


The Brecon Beacons is an area full of small streams, and at one time it was also full of small watermills. Up Cusop Dingle, there is still Paper Mill Cottage (which has a lovely garden, seen from the road). Brynmelin, about halfway up the Dingle (and invisible from the road behind trees) was one of the first houses in the area to have electricity, generated by the mill at the bottom of the hill (the millpond there is now part of the garden).

The mill at Talgarth, now restored and a tourist attraction, was a working mill for the best part of a thousand years, right up to 1947, with a mention in some of the earliest records of the area.
There were watermills in Llanigon, now vanished apart from a few foundation stones.
Water is one resource around here which is abundant!
So I was very pleased to send off my cheque to the Llangattock Green Valleys Micro Hydro Co-operative, which is offering shares at the moment to develop four new watermills to generate electricity in the National Park. They haven't quite got their target amount of £690,000 yet, so have been given permission to extend the share offer for another month. The minimum amount you can invest is £250, and the maximum is £20,000. They were at the Hay Spring Fair just before Easter, and have been holding meetings around Powys to publicise the offer. Their website can be reached on the sidebar, under Green Valleys.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Small Business Saturday

The Sitting Room Gallery - art and antiques. Previously Crispin Thornton Jones' Gallery, and once a pub called the Kings Head.
The building is called Tredegar House, probably because the pub was once owned by the Hereford and Tredegar Brewery (according to the excellent book The Pubs of Hay-on-Wye and the Golden Valley by John Eisel and Frank Bennett).

Friday, 2 May 2014

Looking at the Map

I often give directions round town to customers, using the Hay bookseller's leaflet map, and a regular question is "Where is the High Street?"
On this occasion, I'd been explaining that the bookseller's leaflet is about the only thing that all the booksellers can agree on (which always gets a smile). When I told the customer that there isn't one High Street, but there are three streets with lots of shops on them (Castle Street, Lion Street and Broad Street) and that Lion Street is split into two streets, I laughed and added "See, we can't even agree on a main street in Hay!"
"You're all slightly dysfunctional, aren't you?" he said, smiling.
"Yes, but slightly dysfunctional in a way that works very well!"

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Ram-Raiding, Hay-Style

Mayalls the jewellers is open for business, but they can't take their shutters down at the moment, until the window (and the wall under the window) is mended. The driver of a small van left his handbrake off, and it rolled down the hill.
It's happened to Mayall's before, something over ten years ago, and more recently to Shepherd's next door.