Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Tea at the Castle

Here's another fun event that's happening in October - a Tea Party at Hay Castle, on Friday 17th, from 10am to 11am.
It's also an appeal for any vintage crockery that people might like to bring along, though they are unable to accept anything that's chipped. They're looking for cups and saucers, plates, bowls, tea pots, glasses and cutlery.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Things to do in October

This is nothing like an exhaustive list - it's just the things that I think look interesting, and I might take part in.
So, from Wednesday 8th to Sunday 12th, is the Hay Walking Festival. It's the fourth Walking Festival, and they organise walks ranging from Easy (with no steep climbs, at a gentle pace) to Strenuous (requires fitness and stamina and lasts all day). This year they have decided not to allow dogs on any of the walks. One of the walks will be up Cusop Hill by torchlight, ending at Cusop Village Hall for soup and bacon butties. Some of them involve history (there's an interesting looking one around Painscastle, for instance), some involve a bus ride, and some involve practical lessons in navigation. There's also a meet and greet at the Blue Boar on Thursday evening, and a pub quiz on the Sunday evening.
In the middle of the Festival, on Friday 10th, the Globe is having a Females Who Folk evening, with several local folk singers. That starts at 8pm.
On Friday 17th, there's a book launch at Booths Bookshop at 6pm. The book is called Framespotting, and it's about how news and debates are presented to make you think in a certain way about a topic - and how to get past that to see the bigger picture.
And finally, Hallowe'en is coming up at the end of the month, and what could be more appropriate for that than Phil Rickman giving a Ghost Talk at Booths Bookshop? It starts at 6pm, and he will also be signing his new book, Night After Night.

Sunday, 28 September 2014


Coming home from work this evening, I came across a small cavalcade led by a neighbour pushing a supermarket shopping trolley down the road - full of sheepdog puppies! She had a small mattress for them to stand on. Mum sheepdog was trotting along by the side, and their other little dog was scampering up and down going "Look at me, too!".
There are about eight of the puppies, half of them black and white, and half of them brown and white, some with blue eyes - and they are entirely adorable!
But I can't have a dog just at the moment - I'd have to leave it at home all day, which wouldn't be fair....

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Small Business Saturday

Janette Hill & Co, Solicitors. This shop has also been an antique shop specialising in pottery, and a bookshop.

Friday, 26 September 2014

The Stargazer of Hardwicke

I was lent a book, after someone I know saw a previous blogpost about Rev. Webb, the Victorian vicar of Hardwicke who was also a well-known astronomer.
It's a fascinating read.
In 1986, Janet and Mark Robinson moved into The Haven, just past the Hardwicke turning from Hay, to run it as a B&B. They knew it had been the old vicarage, and decided to do some research on what they thought would be a fairly boring old parson, who had been mentioned in passing by Rev. Kilvert in his famous diaries. At the time they knew nothing about astronomy - so they were surprised to find that Thomas William Webb was held in such high regard, mostly because of his book for amateur astronomers, Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes. In fact, their little research project grew into a book which has contributions from a range of astronomers, a geologist and a historian of science, and a foreword by Sir Patrick Moore!

Webb's early life gives an interesting view of what Oxford University was like in the early nineteenth century - Webb was a meticulous diary keeper, and also kept notebooks of his scientific observations, many of which, along with letters and other material, still survive, and are kept at the Library of the Royal Astronomical Society, Hereford City Library and Hereford Cathedral Library (see how useful libraries are!)
When he moved to Hardwicke, he did a lot of his early observations with a telescope he kept in the front hall and carried out onto the front drive at night, where he spent a lot of time kneeling on the gravel! Later he had a little observatory built in the garden, which was really just a wooden shed with a roof that opened up.
He also built a lot of his own equipment, especially in the early days. The best mirrors for telescopes were made of speculum, a metal made from copper, tin and a little arsenic, and astronomers like Webb would make these themselves, spending hours grinding and polishing. Later, he became friendly with local astronomers Rev. Henry Cooper Key of Stretton Sugwas, and George Henry With, the headmaster of Hereford Blue Coat School. Both of these men made telescope mirrors, but it was With who really made it into a serious sideline - he made over 200 over his career, both of speculum and the new technology of silvered glass. The silvered glass was lighter in weight, and easier to prepare, than the speculum, and mirrors could now be larger for more powerful telescopes. Webb didn't only know local astronomers, though - when he went on holidays to Europe later in life, he often visited astronomers on his travels.

Astronomy is having something of a resurgence locally, thanks to the Dark Skies initiative - Brecon Beacons National Park has some of the darkest skies in the country, and they are making efforts to reduce light pollution to keep it that way.
I went looking for a picture, and found this amazing shot from the Guardian:

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Pirates at Baskerville Hall

The regular musical evening was pretty quiet, with just a few regulars - but we were sharing the Hall with pirates!
It was some sort of corporate bonding session, and everyone had made an effort with the costumes, ranging from obviously fancy dress to some very nice corsets and frock coats. It seems that these were the staff of a Hereford based company called SHIP (hence the pirate theme) which works with homeless young people - so they probably deserved a good night out!
So of course, we all tried to think of nautical songs to sing, going as far as including the Monkees because they had Davy Jones! And I discovered that the songs of the Seekers suit my voice - I was really rather pleased with the way The Carnival Is Over sounded, and Morningtown Ride. So I'll be looking for more songs in a similar vein.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

"A New Way of Delivering Services"

One suspects that this is code for "cuts".
There will be meetings all over Powys shortly run by the County Council and the Teaching Health Board, and the nearest one to Hay will be in Brecon on 8th October at Elim Church. There will be workshops from 10am - 1pm and 2pm - 5pm, which need to be booked in advance, at consultation@powys.gov.uk or by ringing Melanie Hardwick on 01597 826160. Then from 6pm - 8pm there will be a drop in session.
Powys County Council has to find £70 million in savings by 2020, so they want to discuss new ways of delivering services - which presumably means getting residents to provide the services for themselves as "volunteers", or passing services over to local councils who can't manage to provide them either (like the toilets, which are still under threat).
The Health Board has been experimenting with Leg Clubs and Virtual Wards, apparently.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Building a Chocolate Factory

The window of the Wholefood Shop has got a display of bricks at the moment, which are built into a low wall using chocolate as the cement.
It's to illustrate an aspiration.
Nomnom chocolates are a Welsh company, who sell some of their (very nice) chocolate through the shop, and they want to build a chocolate factory.
They don't want to raise the money for the project by going to the banks. To quote their handout:
"This is an idea, an idea to change the way our business is built; it's an idea that says no thanks to the venture capitalists, the banks and their bureaucracy. We like ideas that do that."
So instead, they are making 500 chocolate bricks to raise the money.
"The brick will include a fine array of exclusive delights and offerings from our company and from our hearts. It is not just a brick."
Each brick will be numbered, and will include a small hammer and chisel hand forged by their local blacksmith.
"It will be a gesture of great craftsmanship and of great flavour and will represent a future where small ideas are funded by the people, not the banks."

So if anyone would like to help to transform an old cow shed in West Wales into the best chocolate factory in the land, nomnom would like to hear from you at

I think it sounds a brilliant idea!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Africa Comes to Hay

Bienvenu a nos amis de Mali - as the signs in Golesworthy's window say.

Today is Mali Independence Day, and on Friday 26th September, the Malian Consul, Mark Saade, will be visiting Hay. That evening there will be a big celebration at the Globe, with a film and African curries.

And on Saturday 11th October, this is happening in the Parish Hall:

It's being organised by Fairtrade Hay and Medics4Timbuktu to celebrate Black History Month. There will be drumming workshops in the afternoon, a talk by Martha from Love Zimbabwe, one of the regular stalls at the Fairtrade Fairs in the Buttermarket, and a dance workshop before the disco starts at 8pm.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Small Business Sunday

The Antique Market - eighteen units under one roof, though it's more like sixteen at the moment as one unit upstairs is empty and another unit holder at the front has just retired. The little cafe that was in there for a while has moved on, too.
The building used to be known as the "Atom Factory" back in the 1950s when some sort of electrical components were made there. The owner tried to burn the place down for the insurance, forgetting that the fire station was only just round the corner, so they arrived within minutes. He was Hay's other murderer (the most famous one being Herbert Rowse Armstrong). I'm afraid I've forgotten his name, but he was the pilot of a light aircraft that dumped a body over the Fens in the 1950s - when in Hay he used to claim that he had been an RAF fighter pilot during the War.

Meanwhile, just down the hill, Monica's has quietly packed up and disappeared. The clothes shop has been on the corner there for longer than I've been in Hay, and shot to brief notoriety when Bill Clinton visited Hay for the Festival.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Referendum Results

And it's a resounding YES for Hay Independence!

Here are the votes being counted.

The total votes cast were 530. Of these, 43 were NO votes, 483 were YES votes, one was SHANT and three were spoiled.

The ballot box was also taken down to Hay School, where all the children from the ages of three to eleven were given the opportunity to vote, along with a lesson on the history of voting, the history of Hay's independence, and why it was important to vote. Many of them did not know that a hundred years ago women could not vote. They also had suggestions for what they would bring in if they ruled Hay. These included better public transport, bring back trains, a new community centre, larger roads and houses, a hospital and a bike shop.

The total votes cast at the school were 149. Of these, 6 were NO votes, 141 were YES votes and 2 were spoilt.

The results of the vote were announced at the Swan Hotel at 7.30 on Thursday evening by King Richard and John Bramble, the head of the University of Cusop Dingle.

Now Prince Derek has the mandate of the people, he can go on to the next phase, which is to demand World Heritage Status for Hay and to change the postcode to HOW1.

More coverage of the referendum can be found at Wales Online and Hay TV, and there's also an article in the Western Mail.

The ballot was also a raffle - the winner of the raffle, and the Hay independence mugs and pens, is yet to be announced.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Different Sorts of Open Mic Nights

While I was sitting outside the Globe on Tuesday, I was chatting to Tim the Gardener about the differences between the Globe evenings and the ones at the Baskerville.
Tim prefers the Globe, because he can get up and do a full set - three songs or so, one after the other, with mic and Bill the Potter on the sound board and all mod cons.
To be honest, it's a bit too professional for me. I like to sing, but I've got no pretensions that I'm any good. I'm just enjoying myself, and joining in communal music making. That's why I prefer the Baskerville approach - no stage, no mic, no electricals at all. People perform one song at a time around the room from wherever they happen to be sitting, and the room is small enough that you don't need the boost to the volume that electric gives. And if you know the song, you're encouraged to join in with whatever instrument you happen to be playing.
So it was a pity, the other night, when a couple of chaps turned up at the Baskerville with their instruments, and got out an extension lead to plug in their bass guitar. On being told (politely) that it was an acoustic evening only, they picked up their instruments and went straight back out again.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Independence Referendum

Voting in progress to confirm Hay's historic independence, presided over by Prince Derek.
Earlier in the day, they took the ballot box down to Hay School. Children as young as three years old were encouraged to vote, because, after all, it is their future that is being decided.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Outside the Globe

Tim the Gardener very kindly gave me a bag full of apples, so I went up to the Globe last night to give him a bottle of beer as a thank you.
Open Mic Night at the Globe starts shortly after 8pm, but Tim sits out under the tree at the front beforehand, chatting. Last night, he was being enthusiastic about the birth of the Da Da movement, in Zurich in 1916, and was hoping to organise something at the Globe to mark the centenary, with surrealist poetry and music. James Joyce was there, mixing with all sorts of European intellectuals who were avoiding the First World War and hanging out at the Cabaret Voltaire.
It's also almost ten years since the first musical evenings (not quite open mic, as there was never a mic) took place at Lucy's - so Tim was going to perform his version of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
They're a very erudite bunch, the regulars at the Globe - as Adrian and Chris the bookbinder joined us, the talk turned to magical realism novels (something about women giving birth to pumas), and Tim recited his poem about Toad of Toad Hall. Adrian has published a small volume of verse, too.
When Dirty Ray arrived, there was a very technical discussion about guitar strings.

Kate Freeman passed by, too - she's been helping Derek Addyman with preparations for Hay Independence Day (it's tomorrow - vote early, vote often!). There's a rather fine picture in the B&R today of Prince Derek, in his Henry VIII regalia, surrounded by his court officials, including French and South African ambassadors, and Father Richard, the Archbishop of Hay - as well as Rodders the archdruid of Hay, so religious tolerance is assured!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The New Timbuktu Ambulance

Here's the new motorcycle ambulance in use in Timbuktu. It's being used to bring pregnant women to hospital, and for other medical emergencies, and it was bought with money raised in Hay.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Honey Cafe

I remember when the main road to Brecon passed right by the front of the Honey Cafe, and took traffic right through the middle of Bronllys. Now there's a by-pass, and the Honey Cafe is hidden away behind earth banks, while the road goes down around roundabouts and also bypasses Talgarth.
I've been to the Honey Cafe before, of course. When I was part of the core group of South Powys LETS System, I remember having meetings in the beautiful garden at the back. I've been to a party in their cellar, too. Back in the 1960s it was known as the Honey Cavern, and discos were held there - the mural of pop stars of the time is still there on the wall.
But I don't think I've ever eaten there until last night.
They do Tex-Mex, and since it's miserable to go out for a meal and sit in a corner on your own, Brian invited me to come with him.
The food was delicious - we had enchiladas - and the service was friendly. They have art work from local artists around the walls, mostly for sale, I think, and all of local views. We sat in a corner with a couple of Meg Stevens' flower paintings, and in the other bar, which wasn't open for food (we just went in to have a look at the pictures) there were several very good embroideries.
So it was an evening of good company and good food in pleasant surroundings - I highly recommend it.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Rats and Wasps and Cockroaches

Rats in the back garden? Wasp nest in the shed? Cockroaches scuttling around?
Don't bother calling the Council any more.
From August 29th, Powys County Council have stopped taking booking for rat, mice and cockroach treatments, and there will be no more wasp treatments after the 26th September.
This is all part of the austerity measures, of course.
But if you can't afford a commercial pest controller, then - tough!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Small Business Saturday

The Bowie Gallery, one of the fine art galleries in Hay, with a lot of pottery.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Art in Hereford - and a New School

I was chatting on the bus to someone I know who was off for the weekend to a jazz festival in Chichester. There's nearly always someone interesting to talk to on the 39.
I was going to get some more ink for my printer - I've been having problems, so I thought I'd better get a new cartridge (if that doesn't work, the fault may be something more serious). So I walked up Widemarsh Street to PC World, and saw that the big Victorian building opposite Thomas Cantilupe School is being renovated, and a new bit is being built at the back. It seems that this is the Robert Owen Free School, moving into new premises. They promise vocational learning and excellent results, but to be honest the leaflet I picked up later on in town was a bit vague. None of their pupils have taken their GCSEs yet, so claims of dramatic improvements and fantastic results may be a little premature, though it's nice to see a school emphasising practical skills and work placements with companies.
Maybe if Hay School decided to go for "Free School" status they might get the building work done at last!
Outside Maylord Orchards, there's a "beach" - small children with buckets and spades were playing in the sand and there were deckchairs dotted around. Meanwhile Poundland have moved into the shop that used to be TKMaxx, now that TKMaxx have moved to the Old Market shopping centre. A life-size, multicoloured statue of a cow has moved into the Old Market, too - I wonder what the bronze bull in High Town thinks of her!
I managed to pick up a copy of Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie, this year's Hugo winner, too, which is promising to be an exciting and complex space opera full of interesting cultures and characters. I started to read it in the Lichfield Vault, over a half of Adnam's Broadside.
I don't think I've ever been inside the Mayor's Lodging, the black and white building at the end of the alleyway near the cathedral, but now it's an art gallery rather than a jewellers' shop I stepped inside, and I was very glad I did. The gallery upstairs has some excellent decorative plasterwork on the ceiling, presumably put in by Mr Lawrence, the Mayor who lived there in the seventeenth century. He also had a picture of Hereford Castle painted on the wall in what must have been the master bedroom at the time. This has been restored, and looks very impressive, though the notes in the room point out that the castle was mostly ruinous by this time, and so the picture owed a lot to the artist's imagination. The artwork in the gallery was very impressive, too - there were lots of local landscapes that I liked.
In All Saints Cafe there's a display of textile wall hangings that I would have loved to have looked at more closely - but it seems a bit rude while people are having their lunch!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

World Heritage Site Status for Hay?

There's a little vote going on in Scotland on the same day, but that shouldn't overshadow the fact that Prince Derek will be in the Buttermarket on Thursday 18th September, between 11am and 3pm with his ballot box, so don't forget to cast your votes!
But could Hay be a World Heritage Site? That's one of the things that Prince Derek is advocating.
The main World Heritage Site in Wales seems to be the group of Edward I's castles in North Wales - Caernarvon, Conway, Harlech and Beaumaris. Blaenavon is another Welsh site, and there was an attempt to make Blaenavon into a booktown some years ago, though the main attraction there is the Big Pit and the industrial archaeology. The other Welsh site is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal near Llangollen.
So why not Hay? We certainly "bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared" in terms of the books that change hands here every day, and item VI on UNESCO's list could have been written with Hay in mind, being "directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance".

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

So, Where's the New School, Then?

I'll believe it when I see the diggers arrive and see the foundations dug.
Actually, I still won't be sure about it until they put the roof on - and we're a long way from that happening. Again.
It was front page news in the B&R today - Fiona Howard, the headmistress of Hay School, is shocked and dismayed that the date for the new school to be built has been moved back to 2017. At this rate the County Council are going to have to spend more on patching up the old buildings, again, before the new one is built.
And the old Community Centre is now a pile of rubble - and since the new school was supposed to also incorporate the new community centre there won't be anywhere for any of the activities that used to happen there until 2017 either. Or whenever the thing finally gets built.
At least the library is still functioning - that's supposed to move into the new building too, eventually.
And the article also states that the County Council are only now putting together a bid for the funding. Shouldn't that have been done about two years ago?

What use are County Councils if they can't provide basic amenities for the people who pay the council tax?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Sunday Drive

I happened to meet Brian, walking his Staffies, as I was coming home from work.
"Do you fancy a drive out of Hay?" he asked.
It was a lovely evening - so I said yes.
We went up to Erwood and parked by the Craft Centre, to give the dogs a run down the footpath there. Denzel got terribly excited as we got close - he likes that walk.
The people at the craft centre are in the middle of renovating a second railway carriage - the first they have is used as part of the display space for the shop. Lying on the ground nearby was an old crane, with a big new baulk of timber which looks about the right size to replace the old timber. The iron bits of the crane look okay - it just needs a new wire to go round the drum and over the big wheel, and it could probably be used again.
We went on a bit further to see if the Seven Stars at Aberedw was open, but all the curtains were drawn, so we carried on up the road to the picnic area - where the dogs had a splash about in the water.
Then we started to climb out of the river valley onto the tops - the full moon was coming up, with its bottom rim right on the line of the hilltop, looking huge (this month's full moon is another Supermoon). Sheep wandered across the road, and we could see for miles over moorland, and down into green valleys.
We stopped at Painscastle, at the Roast Ox, for a drink. I had a nice pint of Felinfoel Double Dragon. It's a long time since I was last up there - the lady behind the bar said they'd been there three years, and it's certainly longer than that since I visited. The far part of the room was in darkness, but the space round the bar filled up with customers as we stood there.
And then back to Hay - we sometimes forget how lucky we are to have such glorious scenery right on our doorstep.

Monday, 8 September 2014

History and Car Booting in Hay

At last the car boot sale had a decent Saturday, and there was a good crowd out to make the most of the sunny weather. I picked up a variety of picture frames to frame some of my embroideries.
I headed back across town via the Castle, which was open for tours. Outside, looking down onto the Honesty Garden, were stands from Ty Mawr, the lime plaster people, who were demonstrating how they make their historically accurate plaster. There was a stone mason as well.
Inside, there was a display of the various historic nails that had been found while renovating the castle, as well as some decayed timber and a display about Deathwatch Beetle.
I met a chap who lives in Booth Gardens there, who was rather concerned about the state of the medieval town wall that goes round the edge of the little estate. When I left him, he had found someone to talk to about the best way to conserve the wall and deal with the ivy growing on it.
In the next room, Tools for Self Reliance had set up, with an artistic display of tools in a circle in the middle of the floor. There was also a tea table.
Sadly, I missed the pop-up museum, which was on the Sunday, though I'm told over a hundred people came. I also completely forgot that there was a presentation at the Library on Saturday afternoon, for the winner of the children's short story competition set up by Wild Wye Web, which was organising children's activities over the summer.
At the Old Electric Shop, there were more children's activities, making poppies to sew onto a big green backdrop, which went up to the Castle afterwards.
There was even a historic pub crawl around Hay on Sunday evening - but I was otherwise engaged then.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Small Business Sunday

It's quite hard to take a photo of the shops on this row, because the Buttermarket is in the way - this is Chattels, which sells gifts and children's toys and greetings cards.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Bucketless Ice Bucket Challenge for MND in Hay


So this is what they were up to at Hay Castle!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Back to Baskerville Hall

"There'd be no Johnny Depp if it wasn't for Captain Pugwash," said Bob as the accordion played a familiar jig - I don't think the lad playing the accordion had ever heard of Captain Pugwash. He's very talented, though - he played accordion, flute and guitar during the evening, and I can only just manage to keep time with my little tambourine!
I hadn't been to the weekly sing-around for a while, and this week was a small band of regulars. Last week they had some didgeridoo players, there for a weekend of didgeridoo playing, which has inspired Brian to make his own. He's been looking online for ideas.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

New Local Author

It's Hay History Weekend this weekend, as part of a Brecknock wide celebration of local history, and Hay History Group are running a pop-up museum as one of the events. Alan Nicholls has chosen this as the ideal venue to launch his new book, a Historical Directory of Hay-on-Wye, which he has compiled from the census reports from 1841 to 1911. He's a keen member of the History Group, and has done a lot of research on the Cheesemarket and other local history.
Meanwhile there will be stalls at Hay Castle demonstrating traditional building crafts, as well as tours of the Castle.
Down at the Old Electric Shop, there will be craft workshops, and there's a lot more going on around town, much of it on a wartime theme.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge

Something that started with American celebrities has already come to Hay - I've seen videos on Facebook of Rob Golesworthy and Steve Like taking the challenge, and I even saw one of the postmen dashing to a Post Office van to collect his dry clothes after he'd been drenched. Gareth Ratcliffe has done it too.
And now, anybody can have a go!
There's going to be an organised Ice Bucket Challenge at the War Memorial at 6.30pm on Thursday evening. The advert says to bring a bucket and a towel, but water will be provided (and ice, presumably!). I'm not sure which charity this is going to benefit, because the challenge has broadened out considerably from the original ALS/Motor Neurone Disease awareness idea.
Let's hope it's a warm evening!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Road Update

I didn't manage to get to Hereford over the weekend, but my sources tell me that the road is open again, and the new re-surfacing between Hardwicke and Dorstone is a great improvement!
I think there may be a Council meeting tonight, but I'm still feeling Not Quite Right after a migraine last week that knocked the stuffing out of me, so I'm afraid there won't be a report this month.