Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Eating Out in Hay

It's always nice, when the Young Man comes, to eat out for a change.
This time, we started off at the Blue Boar, where we drank Old Hooky beer with a Morrocan lamb tagine and cous cous. The Young Man has a Morrocan friend, who has introduced him to real Morrocan food, and he said that the Blue Boar version was very good. It was certainly tasty.
On Thursday, we had lunch from the Falafel stall at the market. The Young Man tried their falafels at Mallyfest last year, and still thinks they're the best he's ever tried.
In the evening, we went up to Blue Indigo for curry. I think they have a different chef from when I was last there, because the chat massalla was nice, but not the taste sensation I remembered. Still, as the Young Man said, he doesn't think they could turn out a terrible meal if they tried! It's been a while since he went out for an Indian meal, and he thoroughly enjoyed it - and we were too full to have a sweet.
On Friday, we had lunch at the Old Electric Shop, because we were curious about what a Buddha Bowl might be. Very tasty, is the answer. It's a vegetarian meal with a balanced set of ingredients. Ours had kale on the top, and pieces of avacado, and some sort of grain at the bottom, with a dressing. I wasn't sure if I'd like it (I tried avacado years ago, and hated it) but this was lovely.
And finally, we got a portion of chips to go with our Welsh Dragon sausages one evening, too.
The Young Man said that he's glad he doesn't live here - all that good food available all the time would make him pile the pounds on!

Monday, 30 March 2015

Powys School Re-organisation - Gwernyfed Meeting

I was on holiday last week, so of course all sorts of things have been happening!
One of the most important, to the families in Hay, was the sudden proposal from Powys County Council that they wanted to close Gwernyfed High School and Brecon High School and build a new "Brecon Learning Campus" in Brecon (I really can't understand why they always seem to have money for building works). This would cost around £50 million, and would mean high school pupils from Hay would have farther to travel. And if they want instruction in Welsh, they'd have to go all the way to Builth. There are also plans to re-organise Builth Wells and Landrindod Wells schools.
So there was a meeting last Wednesday at Gwernyfed, chaired by the head of the governers, Ian Charlesworth. It was standing room only, and they are determined to save their school.
Apparently there will be a consultation period after the General Election in May - so it's very important that anyone with any connection with the school makes their views known. Of course, this is right in the middle of exam season for the school, when everyone is at their busiest. Gwernyfed is a thriving school with a good reputation academically - and they're only just going through changes to their sports facilities so that they will be cheaper for the County Council to run. If the school closes altogether, so will those sports facilities, which are open to the wider community. The school has also been fundraising for a new minibus.
More information can be found at the school website http://www.gwernyfed-hs.powys.sch.uk/

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Small Business Sunday

Flow, which sells clothes on one side, and upstairs, and retro kitchen accessories and other small, gifty things to one side.
I always get my candles from there.
The shop used to be Fields' greengrocers.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Live Opera at Booths

Or at least, live opera singers.
It's not really my cup of tea, but I saw a couple this evening looking at one of the posters for the event next week, and they looked really interested.

So, on Tuesday 24th March, at 7.30pm, at Booths Bookshop, soloists from the chorus of the Welsh National Opera will be singing a selection of songs from:

Offenbach,Verdi,Lehar,Gilbert & Sullivan,
Sondheim,Gershwin and others...

Tickets are £12, and there are still some available.

And looking forward to the end of next month, when the First Hay Chamber Music Festival is on:
Some tickets are still available for Friday April 24 in St Mary's Church
The Fitzwilliam String Quartet & friends play
a Schubert String Trio,a Haydn String Quartet and
Mendelssohn's Octet.
Tickets £15.00 from Richard Booth's Bookshop.

The concerts on April 25 and 26 have sold out.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Small Business Saturday

Focus, another clothes shop on Castle Street.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Changes to the Market

There are more stalls round the Clock Tower than there used to be on a Thursday, so the end of Lion Street that leads down to the Clock Tower is being closed to traffic for the day in future. Up until now, shoppers at the stalls were co-existing with the cars trying to get through, which was fine when there were only a few stalls, but now there are half a dozen or more.
It actually looks a lot better, with the stalls being set up across the wide space where Lion Street meets Broad Street, and round the edges, and it's nice to see the market expanding.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Gwernyfed Meeting

Just in case people miss the comment under the post about secondary schools, Ian Charlesworth, the Chair of the Governers of Gwernyfed School, says there is a public meeting at the Drama Studio there, at 7.30pm on Wednesday 25th March, to see what can be done about the County Council's plans.

And in a last minute article for Wye Local, Lisa Marie is looking for comments about the County Council's plans from anyone who might be affected - and that doesn't just mean parents of pupils. Closing the school will have all sorts of knock on effects for the wider community. The magazine's going to print very soon, so she would like comments of up to 50 words sent to lisamarie@wyelocal.co.uk by Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

New Plans for Secondary Schools

I walked into the middle of an animated debate in the newsagents this morning. The subject was the front page headline in the B&R - "Gwernyfed and Brecon High to Close".
The County Council wants to completely re-organise the secondary schools in the county, and as part of this grand plan, they want to close both Gwernyfed High School and Brecon High School and move them both to a new "Brecon Learning Campus" in Brecon - on the site of the present Brecon High School. At the moment, Gwernyfed is rated "effective" by the Welsh Assembly inspectors, and Brecon High is in special measures.
They also want to merge Llandrindod Wells and Builth Wells schools, and move all Welsh medium teaching to Builth - which is a heck of a long way to go from Hay every morning if you want a Welsh language education for your children.
The plans for the schools would also finish off a plan to re-develop the Brecon leisure centre, which is next door to Brecon High - and which is going to be transferred to a private contractor later this year.
The councillor in charge of schools says that there aren't enough pupils in Powys, and that's why they will have to start merging schools.

Needless to say, the two ladies discussing the plans in the newsagents thought the councillors were all mad.
"I bet they won't have thought about the cost of bussing all those kids half way across the county," one said (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it).

The new Campus would cost £50 million, and not re-developing the Leisure Centre would save £70 million. And then they'd have a spare site at Gwernyfed to dispose of, as well.

We've seen grand schemes like this before, though, and not so long ago. The grand plan for primary schools was to shut the small village schools and consolidate the pupils in larger schools. One of those larger schools was supposed to be Hay. Some of the smaller schools have, indeed, closed, but there's still no sign of any building work in Hay to accomodate the extra children, or the existing children who have been waiting for a new school building for years. They don't seem to have mentioned any of these plans to the schools before they were announced publically, either. The headmaster of Gwernyfed said the whole school was in a state of shock, especially since they had been doing so well.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Return of the Bench!

Today the bench was re-positioned on the slope opposite the Cinema Bookshop - the installation of the BT broadband box had just left enough room for it!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Antique and Vintage Shops around Hay

I got an International Rescue badge as one of my Christmas presents, and I've been looking round ever since for a Thunderbirds hat to sew it onto.
In the real world, the closest you can get to a Thunderbirds hat is an RAF flight hat - and yesterday I found a box of them in The Old Electric Shop, in the unit near the back which is also used as a sewing workshop.
I don't quite look like one of the Tracy brothers, but it's close enough (and again proves that you can get anything in Hay!).
While I was in there, I noticed that there's a new version of the Booksellers' Map, but for the Antiques and Vintage shops in Hay - of which there are sixteen, so quite enough to need a map to get round them all.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Small Business Saturday

Number Two clothes shop on Castle Street

Friday, 13 March 2015

Election Campaigning

It's not all that long until May 7th and the General Election, and electioneering is starting to get under way in Hay.
On Monday 23rd March, at 7.30pm at the Parish Hall, Matthew Dorrance will be there to answer questions. He's the Labour candidate.
At the Globe, a series of meetings is being planned, to bring together several candidates at the same time to talk about the policies of their parties. This is still being sorted out, but they will be in April.
In Brecon, a Green candidate has been selected, but I don't know if he'll be coming to Hay yet.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Thoughts on the Film Festival

Elsewhere on the Borders, the Borderline Film Festival is still going on, but here in Hay all the films were clustered around last weekend.
It was a pity that the cinema in a lorry didn't make it to Hay. Apparently they broke down, but some films were put on at Baskerville Hall, and a minibus was put on to ferry people over there.
One person I spoke to enjoyed the Welsh films very much - there was Dan y Wenallt (a version of Under Milkwood) and Dark Horse, about a community that buys a race horse.
I was most interested in the vintage films - the sort of thing that it's hard to find a copy of. For instance, I'd never seen Night Mail all the way through, so it was fascinating to see the whole thing - and to ponder the fact that in those days the Royal Mail had its own film unit!
Because Night Mail is only 24 minutes long, it was paired with Housing Problems 1935, a 13 minute long film about slum clearance and how much better the new estates were going to be. One of the new estates was Quarry Hill in Leeds - which was knocked down in 1978 after it, too, had got run down and awful to live in. But in 1935, those flats really were a lot better than the old Victorian terraces that people had come from.
Later in the afternoon, I was back at the Parish Hall (which also housed the Fairtrade Cafe for the weekend) for a lecture with film clips by Ian Christie. He'd just flown in from Czechoslovakia, and had to leave Hay that evening because he was on grandparent duty the following morning! He gave a fascinating talk, on women directors of the 1940s and 50s, starting with a short film called They Also Serve, which was about how housewives in 1940 could help the war effort. You could tell it was early on in the war - she sent off her daughter to work with a packed lunch that included a banana! Ruby Grierson, who made that film, had also worked on Housing Problems, prompting the ordinary working people with questions while sitting right under the camera. She died during the war when the ship she was travelling on from Canada was torpedoed.
And to follow up on the housing problems of 1935, there was a short film called Homes for the People from 1945 - when the Luftwaffe had got rid of a lot of the old slums! It was an election film for the Labour party - very different from the election broadcasts of today! They had a vision of a better country for all, with decent homes for all. I'd quite like to be able to vote for that Labour party! Someone in the audience asked how election films were distributed - and the answer was that no-one really knows now. Some may have been shown in ordinary cinemas, or they might have been distributed to local party members who hired church halls to show them. It's been forgotten.
The Labour party were also responsible for the film about equal pay for women, from 1951, and made by Jill Craigie, who married Michael Foot. She met Michael Foot when he was the MP for Plymouth and she was making a documentary about the town called The Way We Live. The equal pay film got cheers from women in the audience - with only a very few changes, the same thing could be broadcast today. We really haven't progressed very far. One of the places they filmed was a factory in Pontypridd which I'm sure I've passed on the way to Cardiff. It was intended to provide work for ex-miners with lung problems, but most of the workforce was female - because they were cheaper to employ, and the ex-miners were still out of work.
There was another clip, with a very young Diana Dors, of a feature film about girls who went to the bad, and we were shown the trailer for another (in colour!) called The Passionate Stranger, which was about an Italian chauffeur having an affair with his employer - including a hilarious sequence where Ralph Richardson, as the husband, careered down a hill in a wheelchair that the brakes had been tampered with. I'm sure it was supposed to be terribly dramatic at the time.
And at the end, there was a sequence from an almost silent film called Together, about two deaf-mute men who lived in the East End of London, which was beautifully shot. The maker of that film was Lorenza Mazzetti, who studied art at the Slade, and the men were an artist and a sculptor, Michael Andrews and Edwardo Paolozzi.
Sadly, though, many of these women film makers were unable to continue as directors, basically because of the sexism of the industry, and several of them took jobs in continuity or other areas of film when they were unable to make films of their own.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Another Questionnaire

A few days ago, members of the Town Council hand delivered questionnaires to every house in Hay. I've already filled mine in and taken it into Golesworthy's, which is one of the collection points.
Haven't we filled in questionnaires before?
Well, yes, we have, notably for the Plan B campaign, but this one is important because the Town Council can use the results to put pressure on the County Council, with solid evidence of what the people of Hay want and need.
I was impressed with the thought that had obviously gone into framing the questions, and I think it's a good idea to encourage anyone over the age of twelve to fill one in, so that the young people of Hay can have an influence on what is provided for them.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Small Business Saturday

The print shop on Castle Street

Friday, 6 March 2015

Re-surfacing Broad Street

"It's chaos, isn't it?" one of my neighbours said, as he looked out over the traffic cones and the surface of the road, which has been stripped of the top layer of asphelt.
Actually, no - it isn't. The LaFarge workmen are incredibly well organised, and it's all going very smoothly indeed.
From 2pm to 6pm the road is open while they work, and traffic is controlled by traffic lights. Then from 6pm to 10pm they close the bridge - and last night the top section of the road they're working on, Belmont Road, and divert the traffic. They've stopped each night on the dot of ten o'clock, and to be honest the noise hasn't bothered me.
There was a St David's Day concert at the Globe, and I was told that the people from the Globe had a word with the roadworks men beforehand. For the first half an hour of the concert, while the harpist was playing, they were very quiet outside. "After that," said the lady who had been there, "it didn't matter - the choir was on, and they were loud!"
In a few more days, the work will be finished, and we'll have a nice shiny new road surface in time for Easter!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Fairtrade Event at Tomatitos

Over on the Fairtrade Hay blog, I've written a report of the film and speakers who were at Tomatitos on Monday night. It was a great night, and I learned a lot about Malawi and Nicaragua. There have been serious floods in Malawi this year, and £109.60 was raised for the flood relief fund. This will be doubled to 219.20 by Shared Interest, the Fairtrade loans organisation.

Tomorrow night at Fairfields, Clifford, (up from the school, opposite Green Lane Farm) there will be soup and bread from 12 noon to 2.30pm, and Palestinian olive oil tasting. There will also be a collection for the Lady of Grace Convent, who help families in Bethlehem. I use Zaytoun Palestinian olive oil when I can, and it's very nice indeed.

See the side bar for the link to the Fairtrade Hay blog.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Another Triumph for Father Richard!

On Friday, I went down to St Mary's for a showing of A Cottage on Dartmoor, part of the Film Festival, with Father Richard accompanying the film on the organ. The church was packed.
This was, in fact, the last silent film made in Britain, in 1929 - and part of the storyline was a trip to the "talkies". That scene was brilliantly done - Joe, the jealous barber's assistant, sits glowering at the back of the audience as Sally, a manicurist where he works, sits with Harry, the farmer who fancies her (probably the best groomed farmer on Dartmoor, the amount of time he spends in the barber's shop!). You never see the film they are watching - it's all about the audience reactions. At first, the film is silent, and the band are playing. Then the band put down their instruments and start playing cards. At first, the audience are puzzled, leaning forward to hear (with a few comedy moments from the old lady with the ear trumpet), and then they get swept up by the action on screen.
There's another brilliant scene in the barber's shop. Joe chats to a customer as he cuts his hair. This is shown by clips from news reels, of a cricket match, and then a speedway accident and even Lloyd George pushing a plough! Later, he is distracted as Sally cuts Harry's nails in another chair. This time the customer is chatting to Joe - with similar clips (I wonder if the cricket match was a well known one?) and then the cut is to a chicken squawking, in exactly the same position on the screen as the customer's face (with his rather prominent beaky nose), as Joe gets more and more frustrated.
The costumes fascinated me, too - Sally wears a quite short skirt which would not look out of place today, while the older women still look Edwardian, with lace collars and long skirts, and the barber's shop is prosperous enough to employ a boy in uniform (with a huge peaked cap) at the door. This would have been just before the Wall Street Crash, when everything was going well. I wonder how many of the staff would have kept their jobs during the Depression.
It really is a cleverly put together film, and the director, Anthony Asquith, went on to a distinguished career which included The Way to the Stars. He'd also been in a position to see films that hadn't been released in Britain, like Metropolis and Battleship Potemkin, and films like these, and Hollywood films starring actors like Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, were an influence on his work. In fact, some of the main actors in this film were German.

Father Richard will be accompanying Nosferatu again in May, and there is a CD available from the last time he did it.

Sunday, 1 March 2015