Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Hoping for a Good New Year

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

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Small Business Saturday

The cheese stall on the Thursday market.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Solitary Pleasures

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 "We're still here," said the lady, adding that they would be hunting within the law, which they want to be repealed.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

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Monday, 22 December 2014

The Official Discworld Beer

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

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Getting a Settle

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

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

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Small Business Saturday

The sheets and towels stall.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas Dinner at the Three Tuns

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

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Hereford Railway Station

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

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

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Keeping the Christmas Feast at Abergavenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 15 December 2014

Keeping Up Old Christmas

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

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

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Fairtrade Christmas Fair

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

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Small Business Saturday

Another stall in the Cheesemarket on the Thursday Market.

Friday, 12 December 2014

First Christmas Meal of the Season

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

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Markets and Fairs

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

Monday, 8 December 2014

Artisans' Fair and Castle Tap

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

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

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Council Before Christmas - Housing and Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Small Business Saturday

Inside the Cheesemarket, another veg stall.

Friday, 5 December 2014

December Council Meeting - Transfer of Assets

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

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

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Council Before Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Food Fair, new shops and Beer

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

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