Monday, 30 June 2014

Drums in the Deep

It was Friday evening - the street was deserted, but it sounded as if there was a marching band going up and down. Various neighbours came out to have a look, and eventually one lady peered into the windows of the Three Tuns - where a samba band was performing!
I saw them later putting their drums into the back of a van - they'd come over from Brecon for the evening, or so it said on their turquoise tshirts.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Getting Lost in Debenhams

So, my brown shoes (bought at the Royal Welsh Showground when I was volunteering at the Fairtrade stand at the Smallholders Fair a few years ago) and my black pumps both gave up the ghost at the same time and went to the great re-cycling bin in the car park. I have boots of various colours, and I have one pair of sandals, and a couple of pairs of pumps, but no light shoes suitable for work.
The first step in these circumstances is to see what's available in Hay - and there was really nothing I liked.
So I went round Hereford - I like Hotter's shoes, but again there was nothing that jumped out and said "Buy me!"
The one shop I didn't try was Clarks, because they have moved to the new shopping centre.
So this Friday I tried again, and got off the bus at the Old Market stop.
The first open door I saw led into Debenhams. "They do shoes," I thought, so in I went.
In fact they do very nice shoes, in a vast array of different styles, and I saw something I liked almost immediately. They were even in the sale. I didn't want to pay straight away, though, so I wandered round to see what else was in the store with the pair of shoes in my hand.
Coming down the escalator from the home furnishings department, I was just ahead of a lady and her toddler grandson - who was trying out the moving stairs for the first time. So I hopped on first, to show him how it was done, and off again at the bottom, and told his gran how it had always been a big treat when I was young to go into Manchester Town Centre to go in the department stores with escalators (and in Kendals, a real lift!). By that time I'd lost where the desk to pay at was, which was at the far end from where I found the shoes, and then I walked out of a completely different door to the one I'd walked in at.
It was the first time I'd walked round the new shopping centre - and it really could have been anywhere in the country. It has nothing about it to indicate that the shops are in Hereford.
I still needed black shoes, but Clarks was unexciting when I found it, and though I wandered through Next and Fatface and various other stores, I didn't see anything I liked.
So it was back into the town centre, where I found some perfectly adequate and quite comfortable pumps in Sports Direct.

When I went to Mallyfest, I tried out some poi - they're a sort of weight on the end of a string that you whirl round your head in patterns. I believe they were originally some sort of Maori weapon. Some of the re-enactors I know do it with poi that they set on fire, which never really appealed to me, but the ones I tried had ribbons attached, which seemed much safer, and also a rather good way of exercising the arms. Theres a shop up by Peacocks that sells juggling equipment, and they had just the thing, so I shall be practicing in the back garden soon.

Dylan with fire poi - this is NOT what I'll be doing!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Small Business Saturday

Monica's clothes shop - which became briefly notorious when Bill Clinton visited Hay for the Festival!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Jane Austen, Mrs Gaskell and the King David Hotel

The Young Man went back to the Big City - on a Sunday bus, while he still can - and I went back to work.

It's been a fascinating week in the shop.
On Monday three ladies came in from the Jane Austen Bookshop in Novelty, Ohio (what a wonderful name for a town!). They were stocking up with titles that were difficult to get in the States for a big Jane Austen Convention, so they were also looking for books about the Regency period, and diaries of clergymen and so on.

Then a lady came in, and started rummaging around in her bag. "Where can I get more of these?" she asked. She was holding one of the Quirk poetry anthologies that are produced by Chris the Bookbinder. "This was in the B&B I'm staying at, and I was reading it, and one of the poems almost moved me to tears," she said. So I sent her off to find Chris's shop next to the launderette, near the bus stop to Hereford.

Four ladies came in from the new Mrs Gaskell Museum in Manchester. The house she lived in, as the wife of the Congregational Minister, is being refurbished and opened to the public. They had lists of books she had borrowed from the library, and books that she was known to have owned (partly from a sale of the house contents after she died), and they are trying to re-create her library, to give an idea of the books that influenced her work. They were also buying books about Victorian Manchester. It sounds like a fascinating project to be involved in.

And finally there was the lady who bought a book about Palestine just after the Second World War, just as it was becoming the State of Israel. She showed me a photo in the book of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, just after it had been blown up by a terrorist bomb, planted by the Jewish group the Irgun in 1946. "My mother was in the next room to that," she said, "so she survived, and my father came down to help to set up everything again, and that was how they met!" The King David Hotel had been the British Army headquarters, which was why it was a terrorist target.
She was surprised that I knew anything about it, until I told her that my dad had been stationed out there as well, and when I was twelve he sat me down with a book called The Land of Green Ginger, which was all about that period, (and not to be confused with the children's book about a tortoise!) so that I'd know what he'd been through there.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Mallyfest - Mind Your Plums

Last year, Mally Powell died - he was only 48, the son of a local farmer, Fred Powell (who also died a few months ago) and front man of rock bands called Zip Zip Undo Me and Super Pumped.
On Saturday, Baskerville Hall was taken over for twelve hours of music - over twenty bands on three stages - including Zip Zip Undo Me and Superpumped, for a festival organised in his honour.
I hadn't realised just how big Baskerville Hall is though I knew they used to hold raves there. At the back of the Victorian house there's a built-on disco area (and swimming pool) - one of the stages, and a bar, were there. Further back again a hall with a big stage had been built, with a bar at the back of the hall, and the third stage was outside in the garden.
The weather was glorious, and the views of the Black Mountains were stunning. Under an awning there were food stalls and a couple of craft stalls - one young lady selling soaps and tshirts was wearing an impressive white wolf mask.
There were wood-fired pizzas, and the queue for that lengthened over the evening, the Falafel stall that comes to the Thursday market (Mark had some of those, and they were served with the best tzatziki I've ever tasted, even in Greece), Shepherds ice cream van (the toffee and honeycomb flavour was very fine) tea and cakes by Johnny Kramer (his wife Katherine was performing in the afternoon) and the XOX organics van, with another ice cream seller, on a tricycle with an umbrella, at the far end.
In the bars, the real ales were Guilty, brewed specially for the occasion by Jones the Brewers (light and hoppy - Mark made the brewer very happy by saying it reminded him of Jaipur from Thornbridge despite only being 3.8%), and Hobgoblin. Guilty was named after one of Mally's songs. Trust us to arrive and find that the first people we talk to are the brewers!
There were lots of red Mallyfest tshirts around, with the picture of Mally looking like Che Guevara, and I wore my new I Love Hay-on-Wye tshirt which Addymans are selling in aid of St Michael's Hospice.

Me and the Young Man relaxing, with falafels. Picture by Emanation Smith

The lawns were like a huge family picnic, with children running around and climbing the ruin of the Cedar of Lebanon which fell in the storms last year, and there was a lovely friendly, happy atmosphere.
And you could just wander from stage to stage for the music, or chill out on the grass. We liked Kung Fu Vicars, and local musicians Dirty Ray and Malcolm Scott-Wilson were amongst the players on the outside stage (Malcolm's wife was selling ear-rings - as Mrs. Duck's Shiny Things - and can be found at
I hadn't realised that Emanation, who I know from Stitch and Bitch, had been an original member of Zip Zip Undo Me, so it was quite exciting to see her up on stage with the rest, shaking a tambourine. It was a pity that she left the band before some of the songs they performed were written, so she only knew the words to a couple of them, and it had been over twenty years ago, and the other lady on stage was about a foot taller than her, so they couldn't really share a mic! But the band agreed that it was important that she should be there, up on stage. The most famous song seemed to be Mind Your Plums, and the band had us all singing along by the end.
We had to leave fairly early, but Em said later that she'd been there until 2.30am!

It really was a great afternoon and evening out - the bands were very generous with their time, and there was a lot of hard work behind the scenes, which raised quite a bit of money for the Stables Project at Pen-yr-Hoel chapel in Llanigon, where Mally and his father Fred are buried.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Donbgeek Visits Hay

Lots of lovely photos of Hay on this blog from a recent visitor - the post is on 19th June at

Mouse Castle

We thought we'd make a Famous Five adventure of the day, and started off by getting a picnic together with lashings of ginger ale! Well, a carton of Cawston Press apple and elderflower juice and a couple of delicious sausage rolls from the Wholefood shop.

I had forgotten where the stile was for the public footpath into the wood, so we ended up climbing a field gate and getting in that way, on what had obviously once been a path. At this time of year it was chest high in brambles and nettles, and we had to crawl under a fallen tree before we found a maintained path. "Don't worry, we're not coming back this way!" I assured the Young Man as we toiled up the hill.
About halfway up the hill, quite a steep climb, is the spring, just off the path with a holly bush next to it, and muddy ground all around. The water is sparkling and clear, though, and there's a wonderful air of stillness and calm in the woods there.
Right at the top of the hill we found the ramparts, and sat on a fallen log to eat our picnic. Above us wheeled crows, that we had disturbed from their nest in the oak tree on top of the mound.

The goblets are a bit more elegant than anything the Famous Five would use, but have the virtue of being virtually indestructible.
Then we walked slowly clockwise around the central motte, on the rampart. The earthworks are a bit more complicated than you might expect for a simple Norman lookout tower, which is why I think they may be partly Iron Age. The Young Man is quite sensitive to atmospheres, and he definitely felt something round to the north of the mound - so did I, but I'm less sensitive to these things than he is. I'd taken a map up with us, and the odd feeling was on the side of the hill that lined up with the river - not that we could see the river, through the trees. Through gaps in the trees, we could see right across Herefordshire. On the opposite side of the hill is the valley, and then Cusop Hill beyond that.

That was the way we came back, along the road - longer, but without the added bonus of brambles and nettles!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Yak-y-da and Local Archaeology

The Yakmobile used to dispense delicious Nepalese curries from the layby out by the Llanigon turning on the edge of Hay on Tuesday evenings. I occasionally treated myself - but then they moved into the Hollybush a couple of miles out of Hay, calling themselves Yak-y-da. It's a bit too far to walk, even if the road were safe to walk along, which it's not. So I was waiting for an excuse to treat myself to a proper meal out.
The Young Man likes the Nepalese curries too, so we decided to hang the expense and get a taxi out there. Mike from Booktown Taxis ferried us there and back, for a fiver each way.
The Hollybush hasn't really changed much (though it's years since I was inside) - it's just added a few Buddhist trimmings to the decor. The caravan site has gone, though. We decided to go for the meal with a bit of everything - the Young Man had chicken curry and I had lamb. So it started with pappadoms and dips, and then everything arrived at once, including an absolutely delicious dhal soup. The curry was just as good as I remembered, and we were too full for a sweet, so we had a fruit juice to finish instead - the Frobishers apple juice was very nice.
We had a little time to wait for the taxi to pick us up, so we walked around the garden, with the peacock wandering about, and the chickens roosting here and there. A group of young men who were staying in the pub were stacking their canoes in the garden - the river is just at the back through the trees.
We had a really good meal, reasonably priced, and with friendly service.

Back at the Clock Tower, Mike didn't have another job straight away, so we had a chat about his hobby - local history and archaeology. He hasn't been out with his metal detector for a while, but he knows the area like the back of his hand, and told me something that I don't think I've seen mentioned elsewhere - the prehistoric burial chambers, which are fairly evenly spaced along the Wye Valley in prominent positions, all have their entrances aligned with the flow of the river. Mike suggested that this had been for the souls of the dead to depart along the river.
He also pointed out something that I had forgotten - that the river used to be much larger than it is now - the flow decreased significantly when the dams were built upstream. There are traces of different routes that the river took in the past along the valley in the shape of ox bow lakes, and he was puzzling over the Roman presence around Hay, at Boatside, but also with finds all the way to the Warren, and whether the position of the river at that time would have been different and so affected the placing of the gates of the fort.
And then there were his theories about Mouse Castle, which is a Norman motte and bailey, but almost certainly on the remains of an Iron Age hill fort - it's a good position and there would already have been earth ramparts for the Normans to re-use. There's a spring half way down the hill, too, which both of us are convinced must have been a sacred spring. It just has that sort of feel to it.
So that gave us an idea for what we would do the next day. The Young Man had said something about wanting a long walk - going over to Mouse Castle seemed to be just the thing for a day out.

Monday, 23 June 2014

A Relaxing Time at the Blue Boar and the Globe

I've never been in the Blue Boar's garden before - I hadn't realised how lovely it is out there! The day was gloriously sunny and hot, and the Blue Boar has Hooky and Old Hooky on tap, so there was really nothing better we could think of doing....

And on Tuesday evening, we went along to the Globe for the Open Mic session.
Tim the Gardener had told me he was going to perform his anti-Festival rant, which runs to five or six A4 pages - he had them displayed in the window of the Sandwich Cellar, but reduced to tiny writing so the pages didn't block out all the light! Also there was Dirty Ray, a young man called Alice who did beat-box while playing a flute, and a very good band called Slippery Slope, which included a steel drum in the line up. There were other performers, too, and it was a really enjoyable evening.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Eating out in Hay - the Three Tuns

Often, when the Young Man comes to stay, our first dinner together is provided by the chip shop. However, on Mondays, they don't open, so this time we went across to the Three Tuns.
The chap I'd met in the Blue Boar the day before had been less than complimentary about the Three Tuns - rude and expensive, he claimed, which surprised me. We had pizza, which was delicious, and there was enough to box up for lunch the next day. The chap behind the bar apologised that some things were only on the lunch menu, and it wasn't as clear as it might have been, and he also came and fixed our table's wobble with a carefully placed couple of beer mats. We had a very pleasant evening.

Monday, 16 June 2014

A Short Holiday

I'm off to Hereford this morning to meet the Young Man off the train - so I don't expect to be blogging very much this week!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

An Average Day in Hay

Yesterday I went up to Country Supplies to buy some new dishcloths, and the chap behind the counter was wearing a rather fine kilt with leather sporran and a belt with a stag's head buckle.
On the way down Backfold, I passed Richard Booth sitting outside the Sandwich Cellar, being interviewed by a young Chinese woman. They were talking about Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.
And I popped into the Blue Boar for a half of Old Hooky, and got talking to a chap who was waiting for his wife. "She only stepped into a bookshop for two minutes," he said, and he hadn't seen her since!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Small Business Saturday

The Shed - it's bigger than it looks. The vintage clothing goes all the way up the covered alley, and then there's the Shed itself full of interesting 'stuff' and across the little courtyard there's a further shop with more clothes.
I got a rather fine deerstalker there, to go with my caped coat (for when I'm pretending to be Sherlock Holmes).

Friday, 13 June 2014

Music at the Castle

The people who normally put concerts on in Booth Books are having a change of venue at the beginning of next month - on 1st July Flourish Wind Quintet are performing at Hay Castle to raise more money for the restoration of the castle.
Just recently the Castle Trust learned they had been successful in applying for a grant of just over £500,000 - in fact, the announcement was made during Hay Festival - but of course they need more. For £20, you get the Quintet and a light supper, and there will be a bar. Suppers start at 6.30pm and the music begins at 8pm. The players are all from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and they'll be playing music by composers I'm unfamiliar with - Hindemith and Neilson, and Milhaut and Francaix.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Quinqueremes and Ranting

In my defence, it was dark when I went there before, so I didn't notice the large Hound sitting on top of the porch until yesterday. Fortunately, it didn't look hungry....
The week before, there had been nineteen performers crammed into the bar. This week there were only five, three of whom had come over from Brilley. The lady played flute and recorder, and the two chaps played guitar and accordian, and they said they were part of a band called Much Ado. Conversation moved round to the age of some of the traditional tunes, so they played one that I think had been collected in the seventeenth century, after playing another that had been music for a fairly modern cartoon.
Bob played his Drum Song - possibly the only song in the world to have the word "quinquereme" in it! That's an ancient Greek galley with five banks of oars (because the more familiar "trireme" didn't fit the rhyme!). There was some discussion over whether it would actually have worked, because the top row of oars would have had to be really long to go over the ranks below.

Meanwhile, back in Hay, Tim the Gardener has been writing an anti-Festival Rant, which has gone up in the window of the Sandwich Cellar. He had to make the font really small, otherwise he would have blanked out their window! He will be performing the Rant at the Globe's Open Mic night on Tuesday evening, and Dirty Ray should be there as well. I haven't managed to get round to the Sandwich Cellar yet to see the Rant, but I have a day off tomorrow, so I'll have time to wander round while my washing is at the launderette.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Wildlife in Hay

I was told today of a red kite that was seen skimming the rooftops of Hay, and a couple of weeks ago a badger was seen, scuttling by the clocktower late at night. A pair of goldfinches have started coming to my plant pots at the front, looking for seeds, I think. They seem to like the forget me nots.
Swifts and martens are back for the summer, swooping down the roads, screaming - there were martens nesting in the gateway of Goodrich Castle when we were there, too, coming in and out right over the heads of the visitors.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Hay Does Vintage

The vintage fair returns, with fifty stalls!
I'll probably see them setting up and packing up, on the way to and from work....

Monday, 9 June 2014

Just Stopped off for a Swift One

Seen outside the Rose and Crown the other day - I think this may have been Tim the Gardener on his way home....

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Castles and Cafes - a Day Out

My sister and her family came to stay, so yesterday we all went out in the campervan for a day out.
I'd been collecting brochures for local places of interest (bearing in mind that my sister used to be a National Trust member) and we had a good look through them before we decided on anything.
There was a 1914 Garden Fete at Hampton Court, and a bee keeping weekend at Croft Castle - but the rain at the beginning of the day put us off any events set in gardens. So we headed down to Goodrich Castle.
I'd never been there, though the re-enactment group I belong to did a show there once. We'd done a day's show somewhere else and everyone else was heading down to Goodrich so that some of the younger members of the group would have a chance to take part in a bigger battle than we usually got to do. I was dropped off in Hereford on the way because I had to get back to Hay. I had some time to wait for the bus, so I went into the Cathedral, where a service was just about to start. I was in full medieval kit, towing a wheelie suitcase and carrying a longbow - but the chap handing out hymnbooks never turned a hair! I was most impressed with him.

So yesterday we arrived at a slightly damp Goodrich for a good look round - and what a fine castle it is. The main builder of the castle was Edward I's uncle, William de Valence, and it seemed he was doing his best to model his castle on the Tower of London as much as possible.
There's an area just before visitors got to the gatehouse, the barbican - and if I'd been a guest uncertain of their welcome, waiting there in easy crossbow range, I'd have been pretty worried. It's a very well defended castle, with a deep dry moat cut into the red sandstone - which was probably also the quarry for most of the stone used to build the castle, apart from Goodrich's very own White Tower, a miniature version of the one in London. The White Tower is still quite tall, and there's a rather exciting narrow and dark spiral staircase to the top. The views are well worth the climb, but I was clinging to the rope (there's no room for a handrail) on the stairs. We were also very impressed with the medieval toilet block, and all the hand basins everywhere - and big fireplaces in guest rooms that must have been quite luxurious for the time. They must have used huge quantities of firewood.
The castle was also under siege during the Civil War, and one of the cannons, Roaring Meg, is in the courtyard, along with some smaller cannonballs that had been found in the ruins of one of the towers.
The chapel has a modern stained glass window to commemorate the Millennium, and a window to commemorate the Radar Research Squadron, the connection being that a Halifax stuffed with experimental gear crashed not far away.
Down by the carpark is the shop and cafe, full of friendly staff - but the food in the cafe was heavily cheese oriented, and my sister can't eat cheese, so we decided to go on to Ross and find a cafe there.

After a gentle stroll around the town, we ended up at Hunky Dory cafe - and just in time, as they closed not long after we got our baguettes and coffee. There were scones too - fruit, lavender and cheese - and all heart shaped.
Down at the bottom of the hill we found a wonderful second-hand showroom. It seemed quite small at the front, but it went back, and across a courtyard, and back again, room after room full of furniture and clothes and games and electronic goods and china and sports equipment and musical instruments and .... There were regrets that a fine sideboard would never fit in the back of the campervan....
St Mary's Church is worth seeing too - there are several finely carved tombs. I'd never known that the symbol of Ross is the hedgehog. There was a hedgehog trail for children, to find all the fourteen or so depictions of hedgehogs in the church.
In the porch, there's a sign saying that Herefordshire Diocese is against prejudice and discrimination, which is lovely - but I think they've got some way to go if the cakes I saw at one bakery were any indication. Each cake in the window had a different little figure on the top - a clown was one, and there were several others, but they included an African warrior with a spear and a Chinese man with a coolie hat, the sort of thing that would have been unremarkable fifty years ago, but seem somewhat out of place now.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Small Business Saturday

Sunderlands and Thompsons, the estate agent on the Pavement. This used to be part of one of the biggest bookshops in town.
And, as soon as I featured Hay Baby, I found that they are leaving! The shop is up for rent, and they are going on to different premises, and to run a sewing course (which is just called SEW).
I'm also told I was wrong about the dancing bear - the cellar it was kept in was a bit further up the road, somewhere under what is now Bartrums.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Council Meeting - Cemetery and Youth Club

Someone in the County Council is planning far into the future - they want to extend the cemetery so that it will have enough space for burials for the next 90 years, even though the present extension still has room for another 20 years of use.
However, they want to take the land from the playing fields to one side, which the councillors weren't happy with. Hay Council used to run the Burial Board until it became too expensive for them, when they transferred responsibility to the County Council, and it was the old Burial Board that bought the present extension to the cemetery. And land in the field above the cemetery, which could be used without touching the playing fields.
Here we have the problem, which keeps coming up, that no-one seems to know what land the various councils actually own, and there don't seem to be any easy to access records.
Rob Golesworthy has been searching the Land Registry, and other records, but there seems to be no trace of any list of assets which were transferred from Hay to the County Council back in 1974. It's so far in the past that the farmer using the field may end up being able to sell it to the Council again! Someone is going to get in touch with Betty Maura Cooper, who was the Town Clerk at the time, to see if she remembers anything.
However, compulsory purchase of land would only be a last resort - there were mutterings about it being difficult to do because of Plan B! Apparently, the legal challenge that Plan B mounted to the building of a supermarket would cause problems for any future compulsory purchase orders from the Council. I'm not sure how that would work, and it's a pity that there is no longer anyone on the town council who could clarify the position from Plan B's side of the story.
One interesting snippet that came up in the conversation is that Hay Council still own the medieval manorial rights to Hay Common, from the time when there was a reservoir and a golf course up there.
The conclusion of the conversation was that they would go back to the County Council and say that they were not satisfied that other avenues had been investigated sufficiently, and they didn't want the playing fields to be used.

There was also some discussion of the transfer of public assets - as can be seen above, it seems to be a complete shambles, and no-one knows what went on, or what was owned or transferred. There's someone (I missed the name) who wants to do a study and use Hay as an example of the problems local councils face when dealing with county councils. One of these is the problem of the local council being expected to take over the provision of services, while losing the assets (in the form of buildings or land) which are needed.
One comment was that the County Councillors get an allowance - since their responsibilities for the provision of services are getting fewer, maybe a portion of that allowance should transfer across along with the service that is being devolved to the local council!
The problem is that different agreements about the transfers were made all over Wales. Sometimes the building went with the service, and sometimes it didn't. And no-one knows who has the authority to arbitrate if there is a disagreement between the local and county councils. One case in point would be if Hay wants to take back the running of the car park, and the County Council says no. Who would decide?
Another knotty problem is the provision of toilets - there are moves in the Welsh Assembly to make the public provision of toilets a matter of public health (why wasn't it already?) to make it a statutory requirement for the authorities to provide them.
The local council, if it wants to take over the services, has to provide a strong business case to show that they would be able to run the services effectively. Fiona Howard pointed out that the Two Towns One World budget had been £65,000, and they had managed that all right, so they should be able to make a case for other things. There is also training available from One Voice Wales (I think), so if they can get 20 people together at £20 a head, they could invite someone along to do the training day.

Meanwhile the Youth Club has finally moved into the bungalow by the school - and it's a shell. It needs a lot of work doing, including painting. The County Council were supposed to have taken out the old kitchen units and replaced them with something new, including a breakfast bar. Well, the old units went into a skip, and that's as far as it went. There's nothing in the kitchen now.
It doesn't help that, when the youth services chap came down to speak to the council, he said that a building is not necessary to provide the service - it can be done from a bus shelter if necessary! Huws Gray the builders' merchants have been approached to sponsor some of the work, but they get approached for help from all over Wales, so there's only so much they can do. It was agreed that he Recycling Fund would contribute £500, and Gareth said he would help with the painting. He's also going to take the town council's list of work that was agreed to be done on the bungalow back to the County Council and make a fuss about it.

And now, another consultation! There are so many consultation documents that need to be looked at, and they're all so long and written in such mind-bogglingly dull prose, that the councillors have broken up into pairs so that each pair can look at one document in detail and report back.
One of the documents concerns the LDP plan, which includes the building of houses in the field by Gipsy Castle - and men with surveying equipment have already been seen on the field.

And finally, the latest news about progress on a new school for Hay - Councillor Alexander from the County Council has announced that the new "strategic outline case" for the area should be submitted to the Welsh Assembly by August, which would include the building of Hay School.
So what happened three years ago? the councillors wanted to know. Hadn't it already been agreed? Haven't there been consultations galore? Did Powys ever intend to build a new school before now? The timetable at the moment is to start building in 2015 for completion in 2016 (silly us - we thought they should have started building already).

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Town Council's Festival Review

The big issue this year, even more than previous years, has been the problems of parking. The weather has been wet this year, but there have been wet years before when car parking in fields had to be closed.
The councillors wanted to have a meeting with the police, traffic enforcement agencies and both Festivals as a matter of urgency, and in private, to deal with parking for next year. Gareth said that the police already want to set up such a meeting, and have already got in touch with him. Clyro and Llanigon councils should also be involved, because of the roadside parking up the hill from the bridge, and the parking that goes into Llanigon's area, so the County Council should also be involved as it affects a group of local councils.
Gareth said that he had spoken to Peter Florence already, after midnight one evening of the Festival.
Alan Powell, whose workshop is close to the Globe, said that he had tried to sort out a traffic jam caused by a delivery lorry at the Globe on one day. It had parked so that the shuttle bus couldn't get past up Heol-y-dwr, and there was a tailback to the clocktower - and he just got a mouthful of abuse. There didn't seem to be anyone from the Globe supervising, either. On another occasion he approached a visitor parking around Booth Gardens, which is supposed to be for residents only, and again got abuse for his trouble - so he's not going to do anything like that again!
Steve Like suggested that the shuttle buses should reverse their route, and it should be easier to get round. It would also prevent tailbacks by the bus stop at the clocktower up the hill if they stopped on the other side of the road.
Gareth put up advisory "No Parking" signs, but several of them were moved about by residents!
Fiona Howard has had emails saying how nice the people of Hay are, and what a pity that the parking spoiled things.
The Globe Festival is expanding every year, but they don't make any attempt to provide parking, whereas the main Hay Festival makes great efforts - they even delivered 50 lorry loads of hardcore to Clyro for hard standing for the wet weather car park at their own expense.
There was talk of refusing the license for the Globe's festival next year unless they made provision for parking, since they are now attracting a crowd of around 35,000. The girders they have put in to extend the area they can use in the little field by the road were mentioned. They do not have planning permission, and they are now being investigated by the County Council's Enforcement Officer (or possibly the National Park - I wasn't quite clear there) after several residents complained.
So Gareth will go to the police meeting and take the council's concerns with him.
The Environmental Health department have also been out to monitor noise levels, because of previous complaints about the Globe. The problem is mainly that of smokers congregating outside and people leaving in the early hours of the morning, but the checks found that the noise levels were within the recommended limits, and the marquees closed at 11pm, with any further events happening inside the main building.
Over the week, there has only been one formal complaint to the County Council.
All the traffic wardens in Powys were in Hay on one day, as well - it was noted that the County Council sees Hay as a "cash cow" - "over-zealous" was the polite term used.
Someone also asked if they could find out how much money the main car park took during the Festival. Steve Like pointed out that neither Festival booklet makes any mention of where to park, whereas when he's gone to Festivals in other parts of the country there are clear directions in the Festival booklets.

Another issue brought up over the Festival period was the pop-up shops, and people selling tea and cakes in their gardens. The Food Hygiene people came round to do spot checks during the Festival, and found that all the pop-ups had their paperwork in order - they need to apply for a license 28 days in advance. None of them seemed to have displayed their hygiene rating, which is a legal requirement, though they all had a proper rating. Gareth said he'd been round with the Food Hygiene people, and it had been quite an eye opener - some kitchens that he thought were very clean (and he has worked in the food industry, being the previous owner of the chip shop) were marked down because of poor paperwork, while kitchens he thought could be better got higher scores because they had all the right paperwork.

Also on the topic of the Festival, but not part of the Council meeting - I went into the newsagents the other day, and was given a Festival Telegraph bag with my purchase (for 10p). Margaret there was fuming because she hadn't had very many from the organisers this year, but at the end of the Festival the Telegraph stall on the site had given away a couple of boxes full of bags to one of the charities, when they could have been used during the week through the shop. She has been dividing up the bags she has left as fairly as she can between her regular customers.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Off With His Head!

"I think if you took all the bookshops away tomorrow, Hay would still do quite well”
Jim Saunders, Local author and halfwit.

Hay functions for 365 days a year – it is one of the most visited places in Wales. This is not because of people like Jim Saunders, resident of that well-known hub Knighton. It is due to the unique vision of Richard Booth and the hard work and dedication of the booksellers and other individual shop keepers that Hay is a completely magical experience, unlike Knighton.
If you agree that Jim Saunders should be asked to retract his statement please come in and sign our decree – otherwise OFF WITH HIS HEAD.

Jim Saunders must retract his absurd statement about our town of books.

Seen in the window of Addyman Annexe - they were onto their second sheet of the petition when I went in.

Council Finances, and Matters Arising

No rest for the wicked! The latest Council meeting was straight after the end of the Festival. The new councillor, Belinda, was there, and they are still in the process of looking for another councillor to make up the full numbers. No-one has answered their advert so far.
From the last meeting, Gareth had discovered that the Highways department of the County Council were responsible for the cenotaph and the cleaning thereof, though he'll be going to do extra cleaning in time for the anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, and he'll also give them a push to apply for the grant that's available to repair the monument.
The Town Council have also contacted a Mr Lewis at Herefordshire County Council to request a meeting about the Sunday bus service, though there has been no response from him so far.
The rubbish left around the Gliss was moved, with the help of the owner, and the yellow car is supposed to be moved shortly.
Three fruit trees, recently planted, have been pinched. They're going to try to find replacements.
The website is nearly ready to go, and the councillors will be getting new email addresses shortly, too (apart from Nigel Birch, who doesn't have a computer - and therefore doesn't need to worry about the viruses that are going round at the moment, either).
And the gents' toilets by the clocktower have been fixed by the County Council!!!!
Rob Golesworthy was at another meeting where the question of keeping toilets open was raised, and there are some moves afoot in the Welsh Assembly to make toilets part of the public health portfolio, and to declare access to toilets as a Human Right, so that the provision of toilets by county councils becomes statutory rather than optional - but at the moment, all they have is a "strategy", which can easily be ignored.

There was quite a bit of discussion about finance, including the Mayor's allowance, which I'd never heard of before. Each Mayor gets £600 to spend as they see fit over the year of their term of office, which is supposed to cover out of pocket expenses. Apparently it hasn't gone up for years, though once it was £1,000. Gareth and Rob both said that they had spent more than that during their time as Mayor, though it seems that no-one ever checks up on what it has been spent on. The Finance sub-committee is going to look at other councils of similar size to find out what their Mayors get, and report back.
One of the other members of the public, who had come along for the first time that evening, was chatting to me later, and was quite concerned about the lack of scrutiny - after all, any allowances the councillors get (and they also get 30p a mile travel expenses, as long as they are going to a meeting that the whole council has agreed is necessary) come from taxpayers' money.
They are still pursuing the matter of unpaid rent on one of the offices in the building, too - and the new councillor has some experience with the Small Claims Court so said she would take it forward, this being cheaper than hiring Williams Beales solicitors to do the work. Meanwhile the top office in the building will be vacated this weekend, and they are looking for a new tenant there.
The lease for the Council Chambers itself was discussed too - Sarah Jowett of the County Council has offered two months more than the original offer, which they were distinctly unimpressed by, and said that the Powys Regeneration Team could help to find short term tenants. Gareth said that they haven't met for months, which casts some doubt on how useful they would actually be.

The original United Hay town plan has been unearthed, which should be useful as a basis of a new Town Plan - the next step is to get all the "stakeholders" together at the end of June. It'll be interesting too, to see what was proposed in the United Hay plan (from well over ten years ago now) and how much of it actually happened. One of the councillors, Helen, will be in Cardiff on a day when a free event is taking place about putting town plans together, so she'll go along to find out more.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Two Traditions Combine

George the Town Cryer with a digeridoo player in the middle of town yesterday.