Thursday, 31 December 2015

Food for Calais Refugees

I came across this post on Facebook this morning, from the group Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees:

"Request to the good folk of Hay on Wye and surrounding areas for food for Calais.

Ben from the Parsnipship in Cardiff is going to Calais on Monday to help cook (& bring supplies) at the Refugee Community Kitchen there. For those who don’t know, The Parsnipship are a vegetarian streetfood organisation who come to Hay for various events.
Derek from Hay Deli is driving to Cardiff on Sunday with food that he’ll be donating on behalf of the business but would be delighted if others would like to donate from the following;
Oil – Coconut Vegetable Olive
Tins – Tomatoes, Chickpeas, Pulses
Fruit – Apples, Bananas, Oranges
Veg – Onions, Ginger, Leeks, Mushrooms, Garlic, Carrots, Beetroot, Cauliflower , Cabbage (red & white) etc
Herbs – Parsley, Coriander
Dried pulses & rice – Chickpeas, Kidney, White beans, Lentils, Rice (In minimum 10kg bags)
Misc: Sugar, Salt
They don’t want pasta or potatoes...

Cash donations gratefully received, so that they can buy supplies when he gets to Calais- which can be made to Derek in Hay Deli today, Thursday or Saturday 2nd.

Derek.Hay Deli t: 01497 820708"

I've just been up to the Wholefood shop to give a donation.

For those who want to remember the hungry at home, there is also the Hay Food Bank, the Community Cupboard, who can be contacted on 07908 876978

A Rousing End to the Year

I've had my New Year's Eve party a little bit early!
It was the last acoustic evening of the year at Baskerville Hall, and a good crowd turned out for it. The German lady with the harp came with a friend who does step dancing - and she just happened to have the proper shoes with her. A piece of board was found somewhere in the hotel so she could dance in the middle of the bar - it doesn't work on carpet!
And there was poetry from Huw - a beautiful love poem he'd written as recently as Christmas Day, and classic nonsense from Lear (the Dong with the Luminous Nose) - and I'd found a ballad about the Great Flood of 1872 in Manchester, which was my attempt to be topical.
There were also guitars, ukeleles, mouth organs, tambourines, flutes and Irish whistles from Thomasin, pop and rock and roll and, as a finale to the evening, The Potato Song from Geoff.
The Canadian lady was back for a visit, too, sketching the musicians.

Bob Evans, who keeps the evenings going with a swing, made a CD a little while ago, with Di Esplin the cellist and Alan Cooper the fiddler. He's having an official launch for it on 8th January, at the Muse in Brecon. It's £5 on the door, and it should be another good night.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Mission Accomplished

I went into Hereford this afternoon on a mission. Ever since the Young Man told me there was such a thing as a Jedi Librarian, I've wanted to make the costume. In fact, I already have most of it - a brown skirt, brown top and boots. All I needed to finish it off was a length of material to make two strips of cloth over the shoulders, and a broad belt. Like this:

So I went to Doughty's on Capuchin Yard, and found some cotton in just the right buttery yellow colour - the design of lines will be drawn on later, with a marker pen. The young man there was very helpful, and even measured over my shoulders to get the right length of material from the roll (100 inches should do it). So I'll be pulling out the sewing machine from where it's hiding in the next day or two, for some costume making.
Flushed with success, I headed next to Cartridge World to get new ink cartridges for my printer....only to find they have completely vanished and the shop is to let.
So I tried WH Smiths, but they don't do the right make.
I bought the printer from PC World, right out of town up Widemarsh Street. Ah, well, I had plenty of time for a walk.
Fortunately they still stock the right ink.
Back in the middle of town, I stopped by a very busy Lichfield Vaults for a half. It was so warm I sat out in the beer garden.
And then I had leisure for looking round a few charity shops, and browsing through Marks and Spencers to see if there was anything that caught my eye to buy with the gift voucher I got for Christmas. I think I may use this as an excuse to go to Cardiff sometime soon.
And right beside the Oxfam Bookshop, I found a new printer cartridge shop - so I may try there first next time, so I don't have to walk all the way out of town, and dodge the cars at the roundabout by the Heart of Oak!

Sunday, 27 December 2015


I was very pleased to see a news story on the BBC a few days ago about the start of a study in Powys to find out how old some historic buildings are by looking at the timbers they are build with. Dendrochronology has a pretty good track record of accuracy, and can even show which season of the year a tree was cut down.
The Three Tuns pub in Hay is one of the buildings to be tested - probably built at the beginning of the 16th century - and the gates of Hay Castle, which are thought to be 12th century, and the oldest castle gates in Wales. Some testing has already been done on the Jacobean part of Hay Castle, which was thought to have been built in 1660, but has now been proved to be earlier.
Elsewhere in Powys, Tretower Castle is also one of the buildings that will be tested.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Boxing Day Hunt

They'll be getting to Tack Wood about now - because the fields are so wet, they've started off on the roads, but the Master of the Hunt said that he was very pleased that all the farmers had allowed them open access despite the wet conditions.
It was a good crowd, with seven or eight small children on ponies - they just come for the parade at the clock tower, and not for the hunt itself - and a big crowd of spectators. I was standing with Mary Fellowes, who used to hunt herself, and she said that most of the riders had come over from Radnorshire today. I would have a photo, but my camera is being unco-operative today.
Apparently, it's the seventieth anniversary of the Golden Valley Hunt meeting at the Clock Tower on Boxing Day - the applause at this made half the horses skittish - and they're hoping to still be doing it in seventy years time.
Despite a quite detailed speech against the Hunting Ban, though, it was announced that the hunt would be complying with the law today - though the Master is hopeful that the ban will be overturned during the present Parliament.
And next Tuesday, they'll be meeting again somewhere in Boughrood, to go over jumps - the Master said that children were especially welcome.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Greetings

Angels in the window of Bain and Murrins.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Equine Reflections

I hadn't realised that, as well as being an accomplished cellist, Di Esplin (who sometimes comes to the Wednesday night acoustic evenings at Baskerville Hall) is also a horsewoman. She is part of Equine Reflections, a new forum for horse lovers which will be starting monthly meetings at Baskerville Hall on 18th January from 7pm to 9pm. They hope to get guest speakers as well. They'll be talking about different, and gentler, methods of horse handling and training horses.
Angela Dunning, the other forum leader, works with people who want to increase their self confidence and empathy by working with horses. She calls it Equine Facilitated Learning. They'll also be doing practical work with horses, either one-to-one or in groups.
They have a website at

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Best Christmas Window in Hay

Here's the winner of the Christmas Window competition this year. It's Hay-on-Wye Booksellers, and they filled the window with quotations from A Child's Christmas in Wales. This is just a part of the display, with the little chair by the fire.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Hay Vouchers in Use

We had our first Hay Voucher in the Cinema Bookshop, a few days ago. A little boy came in and bought a couple of children's books with it, and it was all very straightforward and easy (basically, you treat it just like cash).
Lots of shops around Hay, selling all sorts of different things, have the sticker up in the window to say they take vouchers now, and the organisers say that they have issued over £1,000 of vouchers so far.
Possibly they'll be turning up in people's Christmas stockings, or slipped in with a card.
The vouchers are available from Londis.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Small Business Sunday

Drover Cycles in their new premises.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Special Council Meeting

I've been in bed with a bad cold - didn't even feel like crawling to the computer!
So of course I missed the announcement of a special Council meeting to consider what they call an "easement" - permission to put a pipe through Council land to alleviate flooding on the field where Persimmon want to build their eighty houses. When I went out today to buy cough mixture, a chap stopped me in the street and told me, and then I came on line to find out what was going on.
The meeting will be in the Council Chamber at 6.30pm on Tuesday evening, and I think there may be quite a crowd there! According to Hay Together, a reporter from the Hereford Times will be there.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Council Meeting - Parking, Job Coaching, Gwernyfed School and Housing

Poor gold post box - you'd think it would get noticed, but it's been hit by cars more than once, which is why there's been a suggestion to protect it with bollards.
Further down the hill, the new owners of the Swan have approached the relevant authorities to ask for the exclusive use of the car parking spaces on the road outside the front of the hotel. It is doubtful whether they will be granted this.

And here's something I'm sorry I missed - a young lad with learning difficulties has been to the Council to give a presentation to them through the Job Coaching scheme. With help from his Job Coach, he's got a job at Baskerville Hall, and he came to talk about how the scheme had helped him. Powys County Council wants to drop the scheme to save a bit of money, which would be a great pity. Rob Golesworthy said he thinks it's a very useful scheme, and he's all in favour of equal job opportunities for all.

There's a document (100 pages to wade through) from One Voice Wales about reorganising local government, which the councillors felt gave more power to the Welsh Assembly, and weakened local democracy, with Powys County Council getting cut out of the process in the middle. With the County Council devolving responsibility for the toilets and playing fields and so on to the local councils, and the Welsh Assembly taking on responsibility for health and education, soon the County Council would only be responsible for roads and collecting rubbish!
This includes a suggestion that small local councils should be amalgamated into larger districts, almost like it was back in the 1960s and 70s. In this case, Hay would join up with Llanigon. Clyro would perhaps be a better partner for Hay, but it's across the old shire boundary, and the proposals seem to be following the old shires. These larger units would also require full time clerks, unlike the present where the clerks are part time.

By now, the meeting at Gwernyfed School has happened, but Hay Council did discuss a meeting of the Hay School governors with representatives of the County Council at Gwernyfed.
Steve Like was annoyed that he had been appointed representative of the council for the Gwernyfed Sports Centre, but the committee seemed to have been wound up without anyone being told. The management of the sports hall has been handed over to the school to run, and the committee of local reps seems to have got lost in the changeover. He thought it was important that the local communities that use the facilities there should have a voice in the running of the halls.

The site of the old Community Centre was also mentioned briefly - Wales and West Housing Association are involved in the redevelopment plans there. Apparently they want to put twenty houses on the site, which will be affordable/social housing. I had a chat with someone who lives in Garibaldi Terrace, very close to the site, who was wondering how they would fit twenty houses on there.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Council Meeting - Transfer of Assets and Funding

The Annual Christmas Party for the older residents of Hay will be held on 12th January at the Masonic Hall, at a price of £6.50, with the help of many local volunteers. Invitations should be going out now.
And also on a Christmas theme, comments have been made about there being no lights on Broad Street this year. Rob Golesworthy said that his shop would be prepared to put lights in the nearby trees, as long as they are pollarded, which will extend the lighting a little further.

Powys County Council seem to have gone very quiet about the Transfer of Assets to the local council. They were very keen to offload the responsibilities (such as the public toilets and the playing fields), but Hay Council hasn't seen any money yet from the car park, which was promised - this may be payable in April, and needs to be chased up so that someone at the County Council can give a definite answer.
And regarding the toilets - Rob Golesworthy has been keeping an eye on the ones by the Clock Tower, and has already fixed a couple of blockages. Local opinion seems to be along the lines of: "It's a pity we have to charge, but what an improvement!" The local person who cleans the toilets was praised - they're looking very good at the moment.

The lease for the playing fields has been agreed by the councillors, and was declared ready to pass back to HADSCAL for approval, so soon that should be resolved - apart from the part Powys County Council have to play. Once again, they haven't done anything that they were supposed to do. The various sports associations will have to see a copy of the new, improved lease as well.

There's another plea for new councillors! Two are needed to make up the numbers.

A Circus troupe would like to visit Hay next summer and have written ahead to ask about suitable places for them to pitch their tents.

The Council agreed to give £1,000 to Dial a Ride for 2016. They have also been asked for a contribution to the Hay Ho Sunday bus. Steve Like wanted to see figures for the year they have been running already, when they apparently made a loss - but someone did the maths and reckoned that, if they raised the fare by £1.50, they could cover their costs. Steve was also anxious to find out if other local councils along the bus route were being approached for money - which they are. I think Madley were the only ones who refused last year. Fiona Howard gave a grant to them when they started from the Mayor's Discresionary Fund.
They have also been asked for money from the Food Fair, and it was established that the Council usually give £250. One of the councillors said that they'd been to the Food Fair at Kington, and it was much better than the one in Hay! They suggested that the lighting in the marquee could be improved, and that they should remember that they fund this when they are thinking of how much precept to charge (that's the local part of Council Tax).

Monday, 14 December 2015

Council Meeting - Traffic and Roads, Floods and Bethesda Chapel

I've been a bit slow about getting round to writing this up - I've been going out in the evenings quite a bit in the last week.

I came into the meeting a bit late, to find a discussion about the lane beside the proposed development next to Gypsy Castle in progress. They were talking about upgrading it in some way. The fire alarm was beeping at intervals - apparently someone was supposed to come earlier in the day to fix it, but they hadn't turned up.
The National Parks are still deliberating about the planning application for the 80 houses. One of the most important things for them to consider will be the drainage problems of the site. Rob Golesworthy said that he'd spoken with the developers and is now satisfied with their ideas for the pond they want to build as part of the flood defences for the area, but traffic calming still needs to be looked at. The Highways Department can't put down speed bumps around Gypsy Castle, and a chicane would cost around £10,000, and is not a priority for the County. A 20 mile an hour limit would be good, but the Welsh Assembly only want to have 20 mile an hour areas around schools. Another problem comes where the road narrows by the church - there were suggestions that a one way system would ease matters, but this would have to be worked out between Persimmon, the County Council and the landowners.
There are also difficulties with the Powys Local Development Plan, including an access road.
There have been problems with speeding on Newport Street, but the police are aware of it. This is another place where better signage might make a difference. One of the councillors suggested that someone from the Highways Department should be invited to speak to the council to explain what the criteria are for this sort of thing.
The car park on the Gliss had some flooding at the beginning of the month - further up the Wye there was a lot of flooding at Builth Wells. Apparently the police said that someone from the County Council was supposed to be coming down with sand bags, but nobody saw any signs of them.
Welsh Water want to move the gate to the water treatment works down there, to make it easier for their tanker to come in and out, and it was suggested that this would be a good opportunity to clarify the ownership of the land between them and the Council.

On a happier note, Bethesda Evangelical Church has re-opened after a long period of rebuilding work. Alan Powell went along to the opening service and met the new young pastor. They will be having a Christmas service at 10.30am on 20th December.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Important Meeting at Gwernyfed School

Don't forget - 7pm on 16th December there is an important meeting about the future of Gwernyfed School, being held at the school.
The idea is to start the community involvement in the decision making process which should have been part of it from the beginning. All stakeholders and interested parties will be able to produce Community Impact Assessments for their organisations, it says on the school website.
Meanwhile, the group which has formed in opposition to the plans to close the school have been pointing out that Powys County Council are not complying with the law with their present plans for the schools of the area. According to the Schools Statutory Code they have to make the consultations that will begin at the meeting on Wednesday, and take them into account when making their decisions.
So it's rather important that everyone who has any involvement with the school, including using the facilities there as a community group, should make their voices heard.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Small Business Saturday

A to Z Expeditions, on the industrial estate on Forest Road.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Stitching... and Bitching

We're a nice friendly group of ladies, on the whole, in the Stitch and Bitch group.
In fact, I've just waddled home from an excellent Christmas lunch at the Black Lion, where we all had a wonderful time.

Sadly, though, in the New Year we will be looking for a new place to meet.

We've been going to the Swan on the first Thursday of the month, and sometimes a Thursday in the middle of the month, for several years now. We've sat in the little room at the end of the bar, or the lounge, or the meeting room by the front door, or even in the back bar. The agreement has always been that we buy a drink when we come, and then we can spend a couple of hours knitting, crocheting, sewing and chatting. If another group has paid to book a room, we've always been happy to move elsewhere, because we have always understood that the hotel needs to make a profit.

However, times have changed. The Swan has new owners who want to take it upmarket, and I understand that all the community groups that currently use the rooms of the Swan have been given a letter with the new terms and conditions.
Okay, they're re-furbishing and spending an awful lot of money on the building....

The new terms are that each member of the group should pay £10 a session, which will include a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit.
That would be fair enough - the hotel has the right to charge what it wants (though as a group we don't want to spend that much to meet anywhere), and the young man we spoke to was very pleasant, but at the end of our last session there, we were given a letter. Here's the bit we were annoyed about:

"I have kept my side of the agreement, but disappointingly your club has not, at the last meeting of your club. On Thursday 3rd December 2015 only £23.20 was taken. This is not acceptable and this is why the property was in a loss making position."

So, the staff were totting up what we were buying (and we did all buy a drink), and somebody (possibly even that pleasant young man) was typing in the details while we were right there in the next room.
It's worth pointing out that this is £23.20 the hotel would not otherwise have taken, and they would have had the heating and lighting on in that room anyway.

So we're looking around Hay for an alternative place to meet. All we need is a room with a good source of light - so we can see to knit and sew - and we always buy a drink each.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Holly Bears The Crown

I've been out a lot over the last few days....
On Saturday, I was taken to Cwmbach by Brian, clutching my cushion for the hard pews and wrapping up warm - because last year it was very cold. This year it was comfortably toasty! Susan, who has started to go to the Baskerville musical evenings with us, joined us at the church. Earlier in the evening she was elsewhere in Glasbury watching a puppet production of a story from the Mabinogion. Jo, who also sometimes comes to the Baskerville with us, joined us too.
It was a fairly full church, lit by candles in jam jars - the Village Quire have little lights clipped to their music scores.
The first half featured a poem by John Clare, interspersed with the singing, and the second half was mainly Cider with Rosie. Each half ended with a Welsh plygain - and the encore was getting the audience to join in with Gaudete!
There were mince pies (lots of them!) and mulled wine at the interval, delivered to the audience in their seats by the singers and helpers, and a raffle with a secret draw - the winning numbers were taped to the prizes and the tickets consulted on the way out.
It was, as ever, a great evening out, and Phil Smith, who does the readings, finished off with a very funny performance about a Northern man describing the production of the Messiah he's just been to - "and I 'ope they find them sheep they lost."
I came out feeling quite festive!
The Village Quire will be performing at the Globe next week (though the acoustics are not so good there as they are at Cwmbach Church). They also have a new CD out, and their website can be found at

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Photography Exhibition at the Globe

Torn is an exhibition by Tottie Aarvold, up around the gallery of the Globe. I was invited to the preview, which I rather enjoyed. I'm not sure that I'd want the pictures on my walls at home, (except maybe the blue graffiti head that seems to be eating a flight of steps!) but the pictures certainly give you something to think about. Several of them were taken in Ibiza, and others in Birmingham.
We sipped mulled cider from china tea cups, and ate the most gorgeous canapes. The Globe has been advertising their fantastic new chef for a little while now - and he really is good! I believe someone said he'd come from Bristol. At the moment they have screened off part of the upstairs gallery for him to work, but they are putting in a better kitchen in the basement, and will be doing more with the cafe side of the Globe in the New Year.
Tottie has also been responsible for several of the more dramatic window displays at the Red Cross shop in the last year or so, and also at Number Two.
The exhibition goes on until the 28th February next year.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Small Business Saturday

The new Hay Vets building, on Forest Road, tucked behind the industrial units.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Important Visitor Coming to talk about Timbuktu

Here's some news from Hay2Timbuktu which sounds quite exciting:

"Dr Cynthia Scneider, former US Ambassador to The Netherlands, and Director of Renaissance Timbuktu, an international project seeking to support the rebuilding of Timbuktu's rich and extensive cultural life, is visiting Hay-on-Wye next week to discuss possible collaboration with Hay2Timbuktu.

Cynthia will speak at an open meeting at 8pm on Friday 11 December, in the Council Chamber, when she will both introduce Renaissance Timbuktu, and also update us on the current situation in Mali generally and Timbuktu specifically, following her visit a few weeks ago.

All are very welcome, and refreshments will be available."

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Flood Warnings

This is what the Gliss car park looked like on Tuesday night - the picture's from the Hereford Times. Apparently the Wye was up about 5 metres above normal and there was flooding upstream in Builth Wells and across Herefordshire.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Food Fair

On Saturday, the weather was still pretty foul, but there were still plenty of people in the marquee for the Food Fair. I was looking for Christmas presents - I like to give local food - and there was plenty to choose from, including flavoured teas and coffees, a variety of chili sauces and chutneys and jams, and (for my own freezer) local meats. Penderyn whisky had a stall, too - and they were offering an interesting looking Elderport - and Brecon Brewery had a stand by the door. Other local breweries were also there.
Outside, but undercover, a ladies' choir was singing while I was there, and there were also craft stalls in the Buttermarket and Cheese Market.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Turning on the Christmas Lights

Most of the pictorial lights that used to go up around town, reindeer and so on, have gone now, the victims of poor storage - and this year the display that usually goes on the clock tower fell over in a gust of wind while the workmen were putting the lights up, and that was the end of that one too.
And the blue lights that went in the trees on Broad Street went kaput, as well, though Broad Street Books/Rest for the Tired have put up their own coloured lights, which gives a festive air to that part of the street.
But we still have the festoons of LED lights along the eaves of Castle Street and the centre of town, and strings of lights down the Pavement, and it all looks very pretty when it's turned on.
The marquee was up for the Food Fair on Saturday and Hay Does Vintage on Sunday, and for Friday evening it was taken over by Hay School and various community groups. A new one was collecting for Syrian refugees under the banner Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees. They feel this area is best suited to offer "respite sanctuary" - short term help for refugees who probably won't want to settle in the area permanently, but who will need somewhere peaceful to get themselves together and be helped with their immediate needs. They were also handing out leaflets with information to combat common myths about refugees (they don't get huge handouts from the State and they don't jump the queue for Council housing, for instance). And it's a sobering thought that there are 4 million refugees from Syria, and only 143 of them have been resettled in the UK so far.
Also in the marquee was Dial-a-Ride, and the Globemakers, a craft group that meets monthly at the Globe - they were making candle lanterns out of jam jars in a corner, which they were encouraging children to decorate. Pughs from Londis were there selling the new Hay Vouchers and displaying one of their Christmas hampers. Outside, Stuart the Greengrocer had a stall.
In another corner were Drover Cycles with a tinsel decorated bike. They are having an open day on Saturday 5th December. They're having a sale of outdoor clothing, and are also selling off ex demo and hire bikes, with competitions and a Turbo Training Demonstration. That's up at their headquarters on Forest Road, near the Doctors' surgery.
The Community Choir sang carols in the Cheese Market, followed by the children of Hay School, and at 7pm the lights were turned on. Despite the foul weather, there was a good turnout, and several shops stayed open for the evening, including Shepherds and Timeless Treasures down the Pavement. (I'm afraid I'd chickened out and gone home by then!)

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Small Business Saturday

So I'm back to where I started, back at the beginning of 2012 (!) and things have changed. Gone are River Strokes Kayak School, Llangwathan Marquees and the Welsh Sandwich Company, and Andrew O'Donaghue has expanded.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Community Rallies Round for Old People's Christmas Party

It started with a comment on Gareth Ratcliffe's Facebook page, asking when the Christmas Party for the older residents of Hay would be, because the commenter hadn't recieved an invitation yet.
I missed last month's Council meeting - they always organise it - but at the meeting before that, they had decided not to hold the party at the Swan again, because of cost, and were looking at other options.
Pretty soon all sorts of local people were commenting on Gareth's Facebook page, all with the aim of making sure that a party went ahead. Pughs/Londis offered prizes for the raffle, various people offered to be waiters and waitresses, and Gareth organised a meeting for everybody who wanted to help to get together.
So the party is going to happen on 12th January, and the invitations should be going out now.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Thin Ice

With the Climate Change Summit coming up in Paris, here's a topical film at Talgarth Town Hall on Sunday evening. There'll be a discussion afterwards, with Grenville Ham of Green Valleys - who is also standing as the local Green Party candidate for the Welsh Assembly next year.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Another Book Launch

Hanging around Booth's Bookshop with a glass of wine in my hand is getting to be a habit!
The occasion this time was the launch of Mollie Lord's novel Paradise Lost, which involves painters in Provence and someone who works for the NHS. I saw Mollie in the Wholefood Shop earlier in the day, and she invited me to come along.
Mollie read three extracts from her book, perched on the bookshop stepladders (as is traditional at these events). Lyn Webster Wilde was there, too, and she said that Mollie had started writing the book when on a writing course Lyn was running in the Dordogne. So Lyn has seen it taking shape right from the beginning.
One of the characters in the book is an alcoholic, and Mollie made an impassioned speech about the NHS cutting funding to addiction clinics, making the point that it's not just the alcoholic who is affected, but the entire family around them, who need help as well.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Opportunities for a Low Carbon Economy

I've been following Richard Priestley's blog for a while - he lives in Herefordshire and writes about environmental issues, and is always interesting and well informed. So when I heard that there was a chance to hear him speak in Hay, I was interested in going along. His blog can be found here: and I've added it to the sidebar.
He was giving, in fact, the same talk twice, at 2pm and 3pm on Friday, at the Old Electric Shop. The intention was to have a "dry run", as he's been invited to speak at the House of Commons on 25th November. He's also done his talk in Leominster, and was going on to do it again in Birmingham.
The idea was to look at the solutions to the problems that climate change is causing around the world, and how we can use renewable energy efficiently now.
So he talked about floating wind turbines in Japan which also have a marine turbine underneath. The oceans around Japan also have the greatest differential between surface and deep temperatures, and there is technology to extract energy by pumping the sea water (there was a diagram, which made sense while I was looking at it!). Still with the oceans, he talked about desalination plants which run on solar power. The extracted salt can be used to store heat energy from the solar panels so that they can provide energy day and night, all year round - but only in hot countries. Morocco is very keen on this technology, and they already have a cement factory which is partially powered by solar energy.
Meanwhile in Australia they are using desalination to provide water for crop growing in the desert, also powered by the sun - and are growing bumper crops of tomatoes right now.
He talked about Fintry in Scotland. When a company wanted to put 14 wind turbines next to the village, they expected opposition - but were surprised to find the villagers in favour, as long as they made it 15 wind turbines, and the 15th was to be the property of the community. The profits from that wind turbine have transformed the village - all the houses got extra insulation, to start with, and they have been doing all sorts of other community projects.
Also in Scotland, he said that the Orkneys have such abundant electricity now that a company making electric cars in Leicester opened their second branch in the Orkneys.
He also mentioned a company making refrigerated lorries which run on liquid nitrogen. So instead of using diesel to run the engine and more diesel to run the refridgeration unit, they can combine the two into one engine which uses the liquid nitrogen to cool the refridgeration unit and run the lorry. They're looking at exporting the lorries to China, and maybe India, where there's a great need to keep food from going off on the way to market.
So all sorts of things can be done now - if there is the political will (he wasn't very complimentary about certain members of the present government - and laughed, and said he'd have to tone that down when he was in the House of Commons committee room).
And when he threw the session open to questions from the audience, there was a lady there who knows people who live close to Fintry - and her grandfather was a wind power pioneer in Scotland right back into the 1930s.
She made the point that MPs and other people in government have all sorts of information they need to cram into their minds, and to be most effective, Richard Priestley's talk has to get straight to the point and give them the most pertinent information - he obviously has a huge amount of knowledge at his fingertips, but he needs to edit it down precisely to what they need to know to take the ideas further.
She also discussed wave power with him - the scientists from Edinburgh University who were working on that in the 1970s (and I remember a programme on Radio 4 at the time that sounded as if they were getting somewhere with the scheme) had their funding cut - and some of them moved to Portugal, which is where they developed a commercially viable wave power scheme.
And then he said that, when he had first been contacted, he had understood that he would have an audience of MPs, most of whom would have no background in science, but now he has been told that there's a debate on the Budget that day and the whips want all the MPs in the Chamber - so he's been drumming up another audience to fill the committee room, which will include several venture capitalists who might be interested in investing in some of the schemes that are happening in this country now.
When I left, he was just starting his slide show again for the second audience of the day.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Small Business Saturday

This regular feature is back!
I've had a brief break by going round all the places of worship locally, but now it's time to have a look at all the new businesses that have arrived in Hay while I was going round last time, as well as some which have moved premises.
Hay never stays the same for long.

So here we are on the outskirts of town, at the premises which used to be FJ Williams, which sold all sorts of building supplies and tools and so on. They sold the business to Huws Gray, which is more a medium sized business, as it has several outlets nationwide. The staff are still as friendly and helpful as ever, though. They've also now got a kitchen, stove and bathroom showroom.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Mrs Illingworth

I hope this works - there's a lovely little film on Vimeo about Mrs Illingworth, who has just died aged 92, where she talks about her Christian faith.
She was one of Hay's characters.
So here's the link, as I'm too technically challenged to share the video here:

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Bovey Belle Visits Hay Again

Bovey Belle is the author of the blog Codlins and Cream 2. She lives somewhere deep in the Welsh countryside, and sometimes she visits Hay. When she does, she always takes interesting photos - which can be seen on her blog posts for the 8th October and 23rd October.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


On Saturday, the Buttermarket was being used for a craft fair called Fabazaar.
Among the stalls was a fascinating one with goods from the Ukraine. The young lady had nettle and hemp fabric - which isn't made any more in these days of mass production - and embroidered blouses, and decorated eggs. She explained the process for decorating the eggs, which was very time consuming, for some very intricate decorations in four colours. There were blankets, too, and wooden spoons, and everything is made by local families in the Carpathian mountains.
They also run holidays in the Carpathian mountains, and can be contacted at

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Opportunities for a Low Carbon Economy

Richard Priestley is coming to Hay on Friday to give a talk at the Old Electric Shop at 3pm. [Edited to add: He's actually doing his talk at 2pm and again at 3pm]
He's going to be giving a presentation in a committee room of the House of Commons on the 25th November, so he's having a trial run here, and also (last week) in Leominster and (shortly) in Birmingham.
There will be tea and cakes afterwards!

I've been following Richard Priestley's blog for a while now, and it always makes interesting reading. He can be found at and the blog is called Global Problems, Global Solutions.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Pick and Mix

On Saturday evening, I was invited to the Hay Writers' Circle book launch at Booth Books.
On sale was their new collection, Pick and Mix, and they were celebrating with wine and an impressive selection of nibbles.
Some years ago, I thought about joining the Writers' Circle - but when I write, fantasy and science fiction comes out, and the ladies (and it was nearly all ladies) in the group back then didn't really know what to make of dragons or space ships.
Having chatted to a few of the present members, though, I may just give it another go.
Several of the people there were also musical, belonging to the choir that meets in the Catholic church, and sings at some of their services though they are not all Catholics. The lady I was talking to said it seemed like a fair exchange for the use of the building.
Lyn Webster Wilde was there, too, so I asked her how her film The Dancing Floor is progressing. She said they're at the stage of looking for investment, which is something she's never done before - she's having to become a Jack of all trades!
Another lady there has just turned her manuscript in to her publisher - she's written a crime novel, so I'll be looking out for that when it's finally ready.
It was a very pleasant evening, and I hope the book sells well!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Sunday Worship

Here's a vintage picture of Cusop Church, including the schoolhouse next door - it was a lot more open then than it is now!
This is halfway up Cusop Dingle, on the English side of the Dulas Brook.

Saturday, 14 November 2015


A very clever idea, and Crickhowell is only a few miles down the road from Hay.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Voucher Scheme in Hay

I was sceptical at first, when I saw the email sent out by Andrew at the Chamber of Commerce to all the local businesses.
Then I had a chat to Derek at the Wholefood shop, who showed me some of the vouchers, too, and it seems to be quite a reasonable idea.
The idea is that gift vouchers for £5 and £10 will be available from Pughs, and can be used at any shop in Hay with a door sticker that says they're in the scheme. Then the shopkeeper can redeem the money from a central point (presumably, Pughs will be administering it).
I can see it would be quite a good idea when work colleagues have birthdays - it can be hard to think of suitable presents, but a voucher would always be useful if it could be used along with the normal shopping.
There are similar schemes elsewhere in the country - the Totnes Pound, for instance, and there's another scheme in Bristol. The idea is to keep money circulating within the local economy, instead of it being spent in chain stores and disappearing who knows where.
The scheme will be launched at the turning on of the Christmas lights on 27th November.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Down At Baskerville Hall

I was at Baskerville Hall last night - another fun night, in the more intimate surroundings of the bar this time, rather than the ballroom.  Susan is branching out from Noel Coward and Hillaire Belloc to archy and mehitabel (archy is a cockroach poet who can't use the shift key on the typewriter).  My mum had such a good time when she came over to visit that she sent me a poem to read out so she could join in by proxy (she didn't write it - she clipped it out of a newspaper).  And there was Bob and George and Justin and Thomasin, Huw the poet and John the Banjo, Paul with his giant bass guitar and Sara with her drum, and a couple of others.
Last week, George sang his version of what happens at Baskerville Hall to the tune My Love's in Germany ("send him home" became "Baskerville"), and now Dave has put his song about Baskerville Hall on Youtube!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Remembrance Day

I missed the Remembrance parade on Sunday. I usually see them march past, on the way to the church from the cenotaph, but this time I must have been doing something else when they passed by.
They didn't have very good weather for it.
But, the wreaths were laid, and the names of the war dead of Hay were read out (51 from the First World War and 17 from the Second World War). According to the B&R Father Richard preached a good sermon, reminding the congregation to think of present day refugees, and also praying for peace in Afghanistan and around the world.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Winter Festival

Not long now until the Hay Winter Festival.
Which is also the weekend of the turning on of the Christmas Lights (on the Friday).
And the Food Festival (on the Saturday).
And Hay Does Vintage (on the Sunday).

And Santa will be in Booths Bookshop on the Saturday.
So there's lots going on that weekend.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Refurbishing the Swan

When I arrived at the Swan on Thursday for the monthly Stitch and Bitch meet up, I found one of the new managers of the Swan talking to one of the other ladies. The hotel was recently sold to the Llangoed Hall group - they have three hotels - and the new management is keen to renovate the Swan to a high standard. The young man was very enthusiastic about the plans they have.
They are also keen to chat to all the groups that meet in the hotel, including Stitch and Bitch, though the overall manager has to divide his time between all three of the hotels, one of which is in Oxfordshire, so it could be difficult to find a convenient time to meet.
At any rate, the hotel will be closing for three months in the new year, apart from events which are already booked - in which case the renovation work will go on in different parts of the hotel while the event is happening.
So Stitch and Bitch will be looking for somewhere else to meet for a while, with good lighting so we can see to sew and knit. I have vivid memories of when the group moved out of Wool and Willow in Backfold, some years ago, and was looking for a new home - the hall at the back of the British Legion was so freezing cold we couldn't take our coats off, and the radiators were stone cold, despite the staff saying the heating had been on all day. Kilverts was too gloomy to see properly, and so was the Blue Boar, so we were very happy to find the good lighting and comfortable seats at the Swan.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Sunday Worship

Llanigon Church, a little way out of Hay. The belfry is over the porch.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Singing and Fireworks at Baskerville Hall

I was up at Baskerville Hall with Brian for the usual Wednesday evening session - in the ballroom that night, as it's bigger. It was fairly quiet for the first half, but after the break for chips at 9pm a group of ladies on a course came to join us (something to do with play?) and it all got a lot more participatory! George had them standing on chairs and waving their arms around!
Brian was up there the following night as well, for the big fireworks display. The Lions put it on, and raise money for Dial-a-Ride. He had volunteered to help with the car parking, and ended up marshalling all the 4x4s onto the field, where it was better for them - if it was wet, they had more chance of making it back out again through the mud!
There was a good crowd:

This picture was taken by Mari Fforde.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Celebrating Hallowe'en

I carved a pumpkin, of course.
And putting it in the window attracted about half a dozen giggly young witches to the door. I never have sweets for them, but I do have a collection of cheap bangles and bits and pieces that I keep to give away, so they went away quite happy.
Then it was up to Red Indigo with the Young Man for a delicious meal. There was a waiter I haven't seen before, who was very jovial. He was chatting about sports cars at another table, and told the Young Man that his choice of main course (the salmon and tiger prawn fusion) was very healthy, and would build his strength up!
When we walked home there were still groups of kids in costume wandering about - the following day I saw a trail of flour that had been left, little heaps at intervals up the pavement, but it seemed to end with an arrow pointing at the Blue Boar, so I don't think that can have been left by little kids!
I'd bought tickets for the Hallowe'en Party at the Globe, and we dressed up for the occasion. The Young Man even put his fangs in, and looked very smart in a pseudo-Victorian way. I wore my Goth dress and opera cloak.
Sadly, this turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. There were very few people there, though just before we left a group of half a dozen came in who had made a real effort with their costumes. I particularly liked the Bride, and the skeleton with the top hat. The DJ didn't seem to have made much of an effort either - the playlist could have been for any time of year, with no Hallowe'en themed music at all.
So we went home and watched Doctor Who on iPlayer. Zygons! UNIT! Lots of fun!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Fairtrade Hay Find out about Shared Interest

Last night, I went to Tomatitos, as Fairtrade Hay were meeting there to listen to a speaker about Shared Interest, which gives loans to Fairtrade organisations. Fairtrade Hay have been investing in Shared Interest for some time now, and it was fascinating to find out more about the organisation and the sort of loans they give.
The full report is on the Fairtrade Hay blog, which has a link on the sidebar.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Housing Development - the Town Council's Position

Here's the post from Gareth Ratcliffe's Facebook page earlier today, setting out the position of the council about the Gypsy Castle housing development:

Dear Officers

In partnership with my community council I wish to submit the following below as local member.

I also wish as local member to CALL-IN the application for committee decision as the application is the largest build of houses in almost 30 years for the residents of Hay-on-Wye and the community wish to see an open process and I feel it is best to hold that in public meeting where people can address the committee.

Re: Planning Application 15/12443/FUL – land opposite The Meadows, Gypsy Castle Lane, Hay on Wye

With reference to the above planning application I write to advise that the Town Council wishes to lodge its objection to this application.

The specific objections and concerns are outlined below, but the Town Council would firstly like to clarify their general position in relation to this application.

The council recognizes the need for affordable homes within Hay and in principle will support developments that meet this need. However, there are aspects of this development that give rise to significant concerns amongst councilors and the residents of Hay.

We would like to suggest that a way forward would be to work collaboratively with both Persimmon Homes and the BBNPA to address areas of concern and bring the development application to a point where we feel able to support it.

The main issues with this application are:

1. Traffic/ Highway Safety

The existing highways infrastructure is not able to cope with additional traffic and site access will utilize a road that is not only predominantly single lane but already viewed as having “dangerous junctions”.

To avoid the use of the ‘lane’ the application suggests that access to/from the site to the main Brecon road would be via an existing housing development (not good industry practice). Access to the town centre would be along a road already viewed as a trouble spot due to its limited width in some areas, lack of passing places and very narrow pavements.

The traffic management assessment does not address the practical problems faced by motorists within Hay and instead makes a judgement based on traffic counts. The top end of the road leading to the town centre has houses where residents step straight onto the road, there is no pavement and no scope to provide one, without significant change to traffic flows and investment in infrastructure.
The Town Council firmly believe that a new access road is essential for this development.

2. Flooding concerns

There are a number of issues to highlight here. The planning application declares that it is not within 25m of a watercourse when in fact there is a brook running through the western end of the field. This has been described in one of the surveys as a ‘dry ditch’, which it may well have been through the summer but does normally contain a flow of water and is a contributing factor to the flooding that occurs in this general area.

The Floodwater strategy put forward by Persimmon does not address the most common cause of flooding in this area, that of flash floods which in this case without the appropriate management system in place would affect house on the site.

The ‘pond’ suggested by Persimmon as containment for surface water runoff also causes some concern. This is shown as being fenced off and located very close to the proposed play area. It is felt that this will be a draw to children and poses an unacceptable health and safety risk.

3. Environmental issues

There is some concern about part of the land to be used for development as this was previously the town rubbish tip, the old railway line is also close by and historically these sites are often found to have contaminated ground.

There do not appear to be have been any tests carried out on this land as yet to determine if there is any contamination and its extent. Residents have also expressed concerns with regards to the potential risk of contaminating the nearby River Wye (which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest) if such ground were to be disturbed.

We would also raise the issue of sustainability; garden sizes at this development are very small leaving no scope for encouraging the growing of fruit and vegetables to encourage self -sufficiency. We equally would hope that the choice of materials and energy for the properties would be energy efficient and cause minimal environmental impact.

4. LDP proposals

The original LDP housing allocation for this site was for 62 dwellings, this appears to have been increased and agreed as 80 by the BBNPA without any consultation or notification.

5. Affordable Housing

We are pleased to see that Persimmon are proposing to meet their obligation for 30% affordable housing on the development and that there is a mix of provision. What is more concerning is our past experience of developers being allowed to opt out of this obligation and pay a penalty which is passed to the local authority. Our feeling is that these houses must be delivered and should be included in the early stages of the development.

6. Impact of other LDPs

This is not specifically a point for the BBNPA but it should be borne in mind that Hay on Wye is impacted by three LDPs (BBNPA, Powys Deposit Local Development Plan and Herefordshire LDP).

Persimmon make reference to the Powys plan which proposes 45 dwellings just a few yards up the road from their proposed development and do not foresee any detriment to the other development or infrastructure required to deliver it.

We have recently been informed that this other LDP has been delayed and without being able to assess the impact on the necessary infrastructure works for both sites we cannot agree to this development.

The impact on the infrastructure of Hay on Wye if all developments proposed in the 3 plans come to fruition is immense and because plans are assessed and approved in isolation is not fully taken into account.

In conclusion although there are significant concerns in relation to this development we would again reiterate that we would be happy to work with the applicant and BBNPA to address the issues and bring the application to a position where we could support it.

Yours faithfully

Best Wishes

Gareth Ratcliffe

Cllr Gareth Ratcliffe
Councillor for Hay-on-Wye

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Sunday Worship

St Mary's Church.
Father Richard Williams is the priest of the parish, which also covers Llanigon and Capel-y-ffin. It's a Church in Wales church, and Father Richard enthusiastically embraces incense, candles and icons in the church.
He's also an accomplished musician, so many musical events are held in the church, including Father Richard accompanying silent films on the organ.
Dogs are welcome in the church - Father Richard has a black standard poodle called Jimmy the Curate, and a younger, white standard poodle called Daisy.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Happy Hallowe'en

It's been a beautifully mild and sunny day.
The Young Man has been here for a few days, and today we had lunch in the Granary, where the Young Man took advantage of their wifi to update his phone apps while enjoying a full English breakfast. We passed by the shop opposite the Buttermarket which used to be Bowie Gallery and has now been taken over by the book and record shop by the Clock Tower and Keeper's Pocket antiques going in together. In the Buttermarket itself poppies and other poppy themed goods were being sold by the British Legion - there were cadets and veterans around town.
He tried hats on at the Old Electric shop, and considered the grey tweed and Irish linen on sale there - we both have costumes in mind that we want to make, and there are units in there which sell good quality clothing in unusual designs.
It's been half term this week, too, so it's been nice to see a few more visitors about, enjoying the sun.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Sunday Worship

Salem Chapel - one of the oldest Baptist chapels in Wales, though it was mostly rebuilt in 1878. It was built for the preacher John Miles, who later emigrated to the United States with most of his congregation. The schoolroom, to the left of the picture, is the oldest part. This has been an occasional art gallery, and at present houses the Hay station model railway layout.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The True Cost of Fashion

Last night I was at the Globe for the Fairtrade Hay film and fashion show - a look behind the scenes at the fashion industry and all the harm it causes, followed by a look at the alternative, Fairtrade fashion from companies that pay decent wages, provide childcare and medical checks, and consider the wider impact on the environment of the materials they use.
For a full account, go to the Fairtrade Hay blog - the link is on the sidebar.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Researching Local History

I met Val Harris outside the empty shop on Lion Street next door to Booths Bookshop. It was, until recently, Carlisles, and is now being renovated. Val was very pleased because she had sent off for some green tiles to match the 1930s tiles on the shop frontage - and they match exactly!
So we got talking about what the shop used to be. She remembered it being the dentist's surgery (scene of the siege when a man with a gun took the dental staff and all the people in the waiting room hostage - the gun turned out to be a fake, but it was a major incident, and went on into the early hours of the morning).
Contemporary with the green and white tiles is the mosaic at the entrance, spelling out LCM Co in green on white. This was the London Central Meat Company (we think Central?) and they sold New Zealand lamb in the 1930s - in the middle of Welsh lamb country! I don't think they were very successful.
Val said she wanted to do more research about the history of the shop, so I told her about Kelly's Directories. They are very much sought after by people researching family and local history, and give details of the owners of properties, and what the shops were and so on.
When I was researching local history, I went to Hereford Library to consult the Kelly's Directories in their reference section - but then I remembered that isn't possible at the moment. Hereford Library has been closed - they say they've found traces of asbestos. The County Council have not yet set up a temporary library while it is closed, though there is talk of having one in the Shire Hall. Meanwhile, all that reference material is unavailable to the public.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Latest News on Planning Application for 80 Houses

It seems there's another vacancy on Hay Council as Dawn Lewis resigned over the contentious issue of the building of eighty houses on the field by The Meadows, on the edge of Hay. She joined the Council in the hope that she would be in a more influential position, as an opponent of the scheme, only to find that her hands were tied by protocol.
There was a meeting on Monday night, which I didn't get to, though I read in the Hereford Times that one member of the public brought up the issue of the impact that eighty new families would have on the doctors' surgery and the school. And of course, where would they all find jobs?
Rob Golesworthy, the Mayor, is in favour of the scheme, because of the opportunity to have 30% of the development as affordable homes - various people have looked at other plots of ground around Hay, some of which are owned by Hay Council, but they haven't managed to solve all the problems associated with building on those plots.
In the end, the councillors voted against the scheme, partly on the grounds of extra traffic problems. The other problems with the site that they mentioned were flooding, environmental concerns (there used to be a rubbish tip there) and the fact that the original plans in the Local Development Plan were for 62 houses rather than the 80 which are now planned.
However, the application now goes on to the Brecon Beacons National Park Planning Authority, who might still approve the plans.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Gypsy Jazz at St Faith's

Brian came by on Friday afternoon - he'd just been offered two tickets to a concert, as the couple who bought the tickets decided they didn't want to go after all.
So at 7pm, he picked me up and we drove to Dorstone. We parked in the little car park opposite the Pandy, next to the Dorstone Living Room (the community room and shop in the middle of the village), and walked down the hill to the church.
The performers were a bit late (well, Dorstone isn't that easy to find if you don't know the area), which gave us the opportunity to browse the paperbacks at the back of the church, buy a glass of wine (for me) and orange juice (Brian never drinks and drives), and look around the church.
When they did arrive, they set up and swept into the first piece - Tea For Two - with impressive speed.
The performers were Tim Kliphuis, from Holland, and his trio, Roy Percy on double bass and Nigel Clark on guitar, and they were performing pieces made famous by Stephane Grappelli, as well as an arrangement of Aaron Copeland music called Hoe Down For the Common Man, and some classical pieces - the encore was by Strauss.
What amazing musicians they all were! I've never been much of a fan of jazz, but I've always liked listening to Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt - I remember Stephane Grappelli performing on TV in the 1970s. And I could recognise Stephane Grappelli's unique sound from the first moments of the first tune. Tim Kliphuis said that he had actually met Stephane Grappelli, when he was starting out with his "tribute band".
They're doing a tour right around the country at the moment, heading north to Scotland, where the bass player comes from, and the concert at St Faith's was organised by Arts Alive. The lady giving the announcements mentioned that Arts Alive were having their budget cut severely by both Herefordshire and Shropshire County councils, so who knows how long they will be able to bring such excellent musicians off the beaten track?
I was one of the youngest there I think, apart from the little girl who drew the raffle tickets and a girl who may have been her teenage sister - but the audience filled the church, and was very appreciative. I saw several people I knew from Hay, and one Dorstone lady chatted to us and showed us the Dorstone calendar which was also on sale in the church, full of lovely photos of the area. And I won a handbag in the raffle!
I also bought a couple of CDs after the show - the "Double Dutch deal" of two for £20, rather than £12 each. So I can now enjoy the Grappelli Album and the Hilversum Sessions (where they are playing as a sextet with three classical musicians).
The couple who decided they didn't want to go missed a great night!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Sunday Worship

St John's - half the building is a chapel in the Church in Wales group along with St Mary's and Capel-y-ffin, and the other half, which used to be rooms used by the parish, is now St John's Restaurant.
The building was renovated by the daughters of Archdeacon Bevan, who was the vicar of the parish for many years in the Victorian era, and also lived at Hay Castle for a time. The half which is now the restaurant has been, in the past, a bank and a butcher's shop amongst other things.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Cap & Share

I was at the Stitch and Bitch meeting on Thursday. Usually it's on the first Thursday of the month at the Swan, but this month nearly everybody forgot, so we had a mid-month meeting.
One of the ladies had asked if anyone with odd balls of wool or knitting needles they didn't want could bring them along, because her daughter is doing a knitting project at school - they're starting with squares, and they need equipment and supplies. I was so busy sorting out some of my wool and needles for that, that I forgot to take my own project to work on (the cross stitch badger is coming along really, really slowly).
But the conversation, as always, was fascinating.
Alison was there - a little while ago, she and her husband Laurance launched a book at Booths bookshop called Framespotting, about how topics are presented affects the way people think about them. (It's very good, and thought-provoking).
Now they're involved in a campaign to cap the production of carbon globally - this all ties in with the Paris summit on climate change. The idea is - well, I'll share their short video, which explains very clearly what it's all about:

More information can be found at

Friday, 16 October 2015

Cowboys and Indians, and Music

The acoustic performers were back in the bar on Wednesday, as there was a Wild West evening happening in the ballroom. So there were lots of saloon girls (and one lady who wore a badge proclaiming her to be a banker's wife) and a Sheriff, cowboys and one lady in a full Plains Indian war bonnet. As always, Cally remained unruffled at the bar while dealing with everybody.
The music was excellent, as ever, and varied, with a visitor from Bridport singing songs from her album, and another lady singing traditional Herefordshire songs, with pop and blues and folk mixed in. Some of the cowboys and Indians seemed to enjoy it, too. Apparently, they finished the evening with a bonfire in the field.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Going to China

Simon from Brook Street Pottery is off on his travels shortly - he's going to Jingdezhen in China for a month long ceramics residency - "to play with porcelain", he says!
While he's away, Miranda Leonard from The Restless Gallery will be holding an exhibition at the Brook Street Gallery. The dates are from 24th October to 5th January.
Here's the website:

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Concert in Aid of Nepal

One of the chaps from Yak-y-da, the Nepalese/Gurkha restaurant just outside Hay on the road to Brecon, is going back to his home village soon, and he wants to be able to take some money with him to help the villagers, who were affected by the earthquakes earlier this year.
So there's going to be a concert at St Mary's Church, on Friday October 30th at 7.30pm.
Cellist Sonia Hammond will be performing Bach, there's singer/songwriter Jakey Boy Hughes, and the folk band Ethel will be there, consisting of Kate Hardy, Sonia Hammond and Justin Lewis Preece.
Justin was one of the performers at the church earlier this year, when he and a couple of others stepped in when the performers meant to be there that evening couldn't make it. They gave no indication of being a last minute replacement, and it was a beautifully atmospheric evening. Justin also comes over to Baskerville Hall to play on Wednesday nights fairly regularly - one of the few performers who go there able to sing in Welsh.
So they're good, and well worth listening to - and the cause they're raising money for is a good one as well.
Tickets are £7, and refreshments will be available.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Sunday Worship

Bethesda Evangelical Church, on Oxford Road - but don't go here for services at the moment! The floor was taken up some time ago, and there's extensive renovation work going on.
Instead, services are being held around the corner in Lion Street, at the Mission Hall.

This evening they're holding a Harvest service there, and this morning they held an All Age Family Service in Hay School Assembly Hall.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Hay Castle Information Day

I didn't plan it that way, but I was first on the doorstep when the Castle doors opened at noon today! Around the entrance hall there were plans of the building, for each floor, and booklets showing what was intended. There were artist's impressions of what the castle would look like, too - the idea for a sort of glass box on top seems to have been discarded, in favour of restoring the Jacobean roof, for which the Castle Trust now has a grant.
The viewing platform on top of the Norman tower is still on the plans though. Mari, still frantically pinning pictures to a display board as people came in, said that she'd been round the tower with the CADW archaeologist the day before, and he had been pointing out all the changes and rebuilds there had been over the centuries, so that not much that is actually Norman remains.
Mari was displaying information about the Victorian era of the Castle, with photos of a garden party, and also information about a small pendant whistle which is now in the V&A. Apparently it was given to a Captain Gwynn by Ann Boleyn on her way to the scaffold, and had been kept in the family ever since, including when members of the family lived at Hay Castle.
And then there were the Wellingtons, who lived in the Castle for 200 years, but have been almost completely forgotten (they were, apparently, grocers). Alan Nichols is working hard to change that, with the research for his new book about the Lords of the Manor of Hay. He's come across all sorts of fascinating documents, like the will of Miss Harley who built the almshouses from 1702.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Latest Castle News and Music in the Evening

Hay Castle will be open from noon on Saturday to show the latest plans for the restoration project. There will also be presentations at 4pm and 6pm, with opportunities for questions. Some of the latest research about the history of the castle will also be on display - Alan Nichols of the Hay History Group has been doing some delving into the history of the Lords of the Manor of Hay.
The Hay Castle Trust has been very fortunate in finding funding recently - they've been granted £100,000 from the Country Houses Foundation, the first time they've awarded money to a country house in Wales, and one of the largest grants they've ever given. This will make it possible for the Trust to replace the Castle roof, which is Jacobean, and apparently a quite advanced design for the early 1600s. They've also got £50,000 from the Headley Trust, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, to support conservation across the site, and to help towards the Castle becoming a centre for the arts, culture and education.

And in the evening, there's music at St Mary's, organised by Hay Music as the perfect antidote to the rugby! It starts at 7.30pm, and includes music by Elgar, Grieg and Debussy, and a talk about the Man Who Saved the Proms! Tickets are £12 from Booth Books.

Two of the ladies at the acoustic evening at Baskerville Hall last night went to the musical evening at St Mary's on Tuesday evening, when Russian singers were performing. They said it had been a wonderful evening, and a perfect setting for the music, and they're hoping that the singers will be asked to come and perform again.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Council Meeting - Burial Ground and Refugees

Powys County Council are offering money towards new burial grounds, but with the proviso that Town Councils that take the money should then take over responsibility for maintenance. The councillors were actually rather glad that they'd got rid of responsibility onto the County Council, so they weren't keen to get it back. However, the present burial ground only has about three more years' capacity (more if more people are cremated). The field behind the present burial ground is owned by a lady who will not negotiate with the Councty Council, so the councillors thought it was probably worth going to see her in person to see if she would negotiate with them.
Fiona Howard pointed out that the burial ground is an important part of the history of the town, and Rob Golesworthy said that he'd want a grave to visit if a family member died, so this was an important thing to think about.

Another important thing to think about is the refugee crisis across Europe.
Mike Gatehouse collected 130 signatures on a petition to make the Hay and Talgarth area a welcoming one for refugees. All of the councillors were sympathetic to this (in fact Rob said that he is the son of a refugee, so the problem has particular resonance for him). However, there is very little that they can practically do. There is nowhere that the Council owns which could be used to house refugees. Also, the County Council voted against giving assistance to refugees, apart from the most vulnerable. They said it would be nice to think that Hay would help anyone who comes here and needs help (Rob mentioned a homeless young man who he helped out in the past) but this problem is too big for Hay - Central Government needs to act.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

October Council Meeting - Planning, Gwernyfed School, Toilets, and Dog Poo

First of all, good wishes go to Nigel, the Town Clerk, who was rushed to hospital a few days ago.
Unfortunately for the Council, he was in the middle of doing several things that only he knew the details of - however, Heather stepped in as deputy Clerk for the evening.
One of these things was the electricity contract for the Council Chambers, which has been proving to be a nightmare to sort out. Apparently the Cheesemarket has been having similar problems with Ecotricity about their electricity contract, too.

The application for planning permission for the eighty houses on the edge of Hay has now been put in and the Council have 21 days to read through a document that's about four inches thick and make comments on the plan. It's very comprehensive, apparently, even including things like a dormouse survey. One of the councillors has been reading it online, from the Powys planning department. There will also be a public meeting shortly to discuss the plans.
Of particular interest to the Council was the "easement" that the developers had asked for, in order to drain the site across land owned by the Council. They could charge quite a substantial sum of money for this, though they still need to discuss it fully in the sub-committee meeting next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Steve Like is concerned about the sports and leisure facilities at Gwernyfed School. Last year he went to meetings where it was agreed to transfer the leisure facilities on the school property into the control of the school - and if the school closes, then the community facilities would close too. There has been no information at all from the County Council on this, though.

This year's Christmas Party for local old people will probably not be at the Swan this year. The hotel has been taken over by Llangoed Hall, and prices have risen somewhat. However, Picadilly Caterers from The Strand at Talgarth have given a much more reasonable quote, as long as the Council can find a hall to hold the party in. A few years ago, they tried the Masonic Hall, but there are problems of access there for disabled party goers. Picadilly Caterers are the ones who have the contract for the monthly luncheon club in Hay.

The Council website is almost ready to go! Giles just needs to do a bit of training with the people who will be updating the site.

A coin sorter has arrived, to count money from the turnstiles on the toilets - but Rob Golesworthy has tried it and can't get it to work for him. Heather will give it a trial run shortly. Fiona Howard suggested that a sign should be put up - "it only has to be laminated" - to explain why the toilets now have to charge 20p. She said that, when people are aware of the reasons, they are usually okay with it. However, there was a recent school trip that had problems because they weren't aware of the charges, and there weren't enough 20p pieces in the party to get them all into the toilets.
The Council have signed the loan agreement for the toilets, and the next step is to pay the contractor who did the upgrading work on them. Most comments about the toilets have been positive, praising the cleanliness (the cleaner is local).

Dog fouling remains a problem though - not quite so much with dog poo being left on paths, but with dog poo being picked up in plastic bags which are then flung into the bushes. More than one councillor has been round collecting them from the riverside path. At this point in the meeting, the lady sitting next to me in the public seats murmured that we should say that the riverbank is an SSSI, and maybe that would deter the dog poo flingers. In fact, the riverbank really is an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), so she has a point.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Sunday Worship

The Catholic church on Belmont Road. The building was previously a Presbyterian Church. Rumour has it that Ian Paisley was staying with Richard Booth at the time that the church changed hands, and that he lay down in the road outside it as a protest!

[Edited to add: I've since been told that Ian Paisley didn't lie down in the road, but he did stand on a soap box to denounce the sale! Apparently, the congregation at what is now the Globe were thinking of moving up the road, with the local Scout troops taking over their chapel. However, the Scout troops had to pull out, and the Presbyterian elders decided that they weren't going to let some Irishman tell them what to do, so they sold the building to the Catholics instead!]

Friday, 2 October 2015

A Full Body Up-Grade

Earlier this week was my 6 monthly trip to the dentist, who whizzed a little tool round my mouth to get rid of stuff that had built up on the teeth and was polite enough not to mention all the dentistry he could be doing to make my mouth perfect (he did that last time, and I know there are teeth broken and teeth missing, but as long as nothing hurts and I can still smile, it's good enough!).
Then I noticed just how many scratches there are on my glasses. My mum had been reminding me of one of my step-cousins while she was here. As a small child, she'd needed glasses, but hated them, so rubbed them up and down in the sand pit to scratch them and make them impossible to see through. Before my glasses got to that state, I thought I'd better get back to the Opticians on Backfold.
Turns out, I was last there in 2008.
However, they were able to see me the same day, and the good news was that my eyes hadn't changed all that much. It was fascinating to have my eyes tested with all the impressive machinery they have now - including the one where you look at a red dot in the centre of the screen and tell the optician how many little green lights are appearing round the edge of the screen. Having passed that one with flying colours, I asked if I was now qualified to be a space fighter pilot! And she showed me photos of the backs of my eyeballs!
While I was there, the ladies at the front desks were talking about Eugene Fisk's new book O Happy Hay! One lady said she'd seen him sketching outside the chemists - and apparently half the retail price is now going to a fund for the refugee crisis.
So, having sorted out the teeth for another six months, and now awaiting the new lenses for my glasses, I thought I'd go round to Jenesis the hairdressers to have a new, shorter hairstyle.
This time next week, nobody will recognise me!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Midwinter of the Spirit

Phil Rickman's book Midwinter of the Spirit has been adapted into a three part serial on ITV. It's the second of his Merrily Watkins series, about the Diocesan exorcist (or Deliverance Minister, in the modern parlance), of Herefordshire. It's shot around Hereford - though the scenes inside the cathedral were shot in Chester - Weobley and Dilwyn mainly, and is marvellously atmospheric and terribly creepy!
They chose this story about Merrily because the first story, Wine of Angels, was originally intended to be a stand-alone novel about Merrily getting her first parish, and the creepy goings-on associated with the nearby orchard and a former vicar of the parish at the time of the mystical poet Thomas Treherne. Midwinter of the Spirit is the story where Merrily first gets the job of Deliverance Minister for the diocese, so seems a more logical place to start for TV.
I've read most of the Merrily stories, and belong to PRAS, the Phil Rickman Appreciation Society, which has a Facebook page, and I've been enjoying it even where it doesn't stick strictly to the book. My Young Man hasn't read the books, but messaged me after the first one to say "that's some wierd stuff", and after the second to say "episode 2 even wierder".

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Glassblowing in Hay

There's a shop on the Craft Centre that sells beautiful hand blown glass objects - vases and bowls and so on, in gorgeous colours. This year, they also offered something extra - courses on learning glass blowing.
I went to ask about them, but £99 for half a day's tuition was a bit too much for us. You have to be pretty sure that you want to do it for that sort of money!
However, the chap there was very helpful, and showed me round, even opening the furnace for me to see the molten glass swirling around inside. He said that it was a pity really that they were running the courses over the summer. On the one hand, it's when the visitors are in Hay, but on the other, glass blowing is really an occupation for cold winters' days! The heat from the furnace was fierce, and on one course they had nine people in the small space, so it was really sweltering!
The gallery website is at

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Medieval Costume

I was asked today whether I'd dressed up for the Hay History Weekend (of course I did!), so for those who are wondering, here I am in my medieval costume - with 13thC sleeves and 15thC velvet surcoat, which was the best I could do to approach the period of Agincourt!

Here I am in the Castle, with the scribe, a man who really does make his own ink from oak galls, and does beautiful work.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Russian Concert at St. Mary's

John Stark, who organises the music concerts at Booth Books and St Mary's, has really done well for the October concerts!
On Tuesday October 6th, at 7.30pm at St. Mary's Church, the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir will be singing! The perform Russian religious and folk music and have toured Europe and the United States.
And on Saturday 10th, also at St. Mary's, there will be a concert in honour of Sir Edgar Speyer, The Man Who Saved the Proms. In 1902, he saved the Promenade concerts from bankrupcy with his personal fortune. Hannah Grove (soprano),Olivia Gomez (mezzo-soprano)
John Hymas (violin) and Jeremy Fisher (piano) will perform works by Elgar, Debussy, Greig and David Lawrence.
Tickets are £12.00 from Booth Books.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Sunday Worship

I'm taking a break from Small Business Saturday, now that I've gone round all of Hay, so I thought for a change I'd feature a different place of worship every week. A little while ago, somebody said to me that it was a pity that the Open Door chapel was up for sale, and it would be nice to have a record of what it looked like before a new owner changed it. So that's my first place of worship.
The Open Door people were lovely - I used to live next door to them. They were Evangelical Christians, and they organised lunches for the over sixties, among other things. They also had a beautiful sensory garden at the back, which still looks pretty good.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Transition Towns News

The Transition Towns group in Hay is part of a national network which is holding their annual conference in Devon next month. So although not much is going on in Hay itself, they are aware of lots of things happening in the surrounding area.
I've been getting lots of emails over the last month (when I was somewhat distracted by visitors!), with details of a new timetable for the Hay Ho Sunday bus, for instance, which has secured funding for another year and a new, improved timetable.
There have been protests in Hereford about the proposed Southern Link Road (a project that has been talked about for at least twenty years and which would cross environmentally sensitive water meadows).
Fracking has also been a subject of much debate.
Up in Llandrindod Wells, local houses that have been adapted with environmentally friendly features are open to the public today - solar panels, heat pumps, rainwater harvesting to flush the loo, and more.

And coming up next week is, right across Herefordshire. Here's what the newsletter from New Leaf says:
"Come to the h.Energy Markets for creative hedgehog activities, storytelling, pedal powered egg frying, miniature chickens, master composting, energy saving and renewable energy advice, hands on activities for all ages, opportunities to try out crafts and rural skills … and lots of friendly advice, and opportunities to chat and ask questions."

There will also be talks on all sorts of sustainable subjects, about electric cars and green economics, the future of housing in the county and Zero Carbon energy.
There's also Queenswood Autumn Festival with all things woodland-related, and the chance to be a brewer for the day at Wye Valley, one of the Gold Sponsors of That's the first prize in the competition.
And there's a bee safari in Ewyas Harold, a clothes swap in Hereford, a community breakfast in Stoke Lacy, open eco homes all across the county, and lots more.

The AGM of Hay Transition Towns will take place at Cusop Village Hall on Wednesday September 30th at 7.30pm

Friday, 25 September 2015

Entertaining my Mum at the Basky

Wednesday night is acoustic night at Baskerville Hall, of course - I always go with Brian if I can, and I thought Mum would enjoy it too. She was telling me about a similar evening where she lives in Cyprus, when they were entertained by a group called the Mazokists (the village is Mazetos).
Mum had a great time - I sang a couple of Girl Guide songs that she'd taught me, which we would sing in the car when we were going on family holidays, and another girl joined in with the harmonies because she'd learned them at Brownies (You'll Never Get to Heaven and Quartermaster's Stores). Huw Parsons performed a poem about the North in her honour, too. And Malcolm Scott-Wilson performed the sequel to Albert and the Lion, Albert's Return (in which Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom almost get their hands on the insurance money for Albert....).
That was the night that Baskerville Hall was host to an international mathematics convention, and several of the mathematicians came to join in - one very good violinist, who was American, and a French girl who needed a bit of encouragement. Later in the evening, a Dutch guy got up and declaimed a speech from Shakespeare about the perfect woman.
Bob Evans, by the way, who organises the evenings, now has his CD out, with several songs which regulars to the Basky know well enough to sing along to, including the only song in the world with the word "quinquereme" in it, The Drum. (It's an Ancient Greek warship). He is accompanied on the CD by Alan Cooper on fiddle, and Di Esplin, the Lady with the Cello. It's a bargain - only a fiver!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Timbuktu Celebrations

It's Mali Independence Day tomorrow, and Hay2Timbuktu are marking the occasion with celebrations at the Globe. Andy Morgan will be talking about his recent trip to Timbuktu, and the effect that the Islamic rebels had on the music scene there. He will also be previewing clips from a soon to be released Malian film "They will have to kill us first".
There will be kora music from Mosi Konde (it's the Malian version of a harp), and there will be African themed food on offer.
Before the celebrations, starting at 6.30pm, will be the Hay2Timbuktu Annual General Meeting, which is open to all.
Tickets for the celebrations are available from the Globe.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

A Visit from my Mother - with good local food!

I've been neglecting the blog for a while because my mum has been staying with me - and we had ten years' worth of talking to catch up on!
I waved her off for the next part of her Grand Tour around the family this morning, so now I'm as back to normal as I ever get.

So we've been eating very well while she was here.
On the first evening we went up to the Blue Boar and had a lovely chilli.
We've eaten Welsh Dragon sausages from Gibbons on Castle Street, and gorgeous lamb chops from the Small Farm butcher on Broad Street, with veg from Stuart the greengrocer.
We got chips to go with our meal from Terri's Takeaway, and Mum was very complementary about how good they were.
There was delicious boiled ham and roast beef from Londis. I had mentioned getting sausage rolls, so Mum was looking at the sausage rolls there (they're nice, but nothing unusual). I steered her away. "We're not getting sausage rolls," I said. "We're getting Sausage Rolls!" The ones at the Wholefood shop are a meal in themselves. We had the leek and sage ones, which I suggested was a "gateway drug" and Derek preferred to describe as the "gateway sausage roll", to encourage people to try the other varieties. Sadly, there were no black pudding sausage rolls (my favourite) - but this week Mum will be going to Bury Market in Lancashire, the home of black puddings. We've checked - the black pudding stall is still there!
Mum had a special meal she wanted to cook, something she cooks in Cyprus where she lives now, so I set foot in Waitrose in Hereford for the very first time to find the broad, flat spaghetti she needed to go with the mince (local, organic) and bechemel sauce.
There is now a Patisserie Valerie in Hereford. In the corner of Debenhams, to be precise. I couldn't just walk past it! And there we found a very superior double-decker vanilla slice - something that Mum had been really looking forward to eating again, because she can't get them in Cyprus!
On Wednesday night, we had chips at the Baskerville acoustic evening.
We had sticky cakes from the stall in the Cheesemarket.
On Saturday night we went to Yak-y-da, the Gurkha restaurant just outside Hay. Glasbury taxis took us there and back in a minibus because their car had broken down - though that was better for Mum, because she has a bit of difficulty climbing into, and out of, a car these days. She had a Thai chicken curry, and I had the Mountain Lamb curry because I always enjoy that. Both were delicious, and the ice cream we had for dessert was really rich and creamy.
And the final evening meal of her stay was a venison casserole with meat from the Broad Street butcher again, with leek and mushroom and the special sauce that the Young Man brought with him when he came on holiday last.

It's not really surprising that she had a bit of trouble fitting into clothes that she thought were her size when we went shopping!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

More of the History Weekend

Here's the French knight (from Heroes of Chivalry) on the parade around Hay yesterday afternoon. Mari Fforde took the photo.

This morning a Pop-Up Museum of Hay has been set up in the main hall of the Castle, with lots of photos and documents - a performance of the Mikado, the Hay Territorials in Aden and India during the First World War, and various views of Hay. There are maps, too, and a flag that was a present from somewhere in Canada. Books on local subjects are also available to buy - and some of the authors are there, too, doing the organising.
In the entrance hall, Mrs Jones has her Welsh costume on, and a display of Welsh flannels and shawls.
And there's tea and cake - they were busy all day yesterday (and the cakes are delicious).