Friday, 31 July 2015

Spirited Away!

When I passed Spirit of the Andes at the beginning of last week, it was open as usual.
The next morning, the shop had been stripped!
Apparently the whole (quite small) chain has gone into liquidation, very suddenly.
Which is awful for the ladies who thought they had a secure job there - they seem to have had slightly more warning than the general public, but not much.
So there's a fine, Victorian fronted shop in a prime position in town that's empty now.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Military Commemoration in the Town Square

Keep watching the skies on Sunday afternoon - a Mustang from the Second World War will be flying over Hay as part of the parade in the town square to commemorate the war dead of the twentieth century. This includes the Hay Territorials posted to Aden to fight the Turkish Empire in 1915, right the way through to the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan today. They are also marking the 70th anniversary of VJ Day (Victory in Japan) and VE Day (Victory in Europe) and the end of the Second World War.
Father Richard will lead prayers at two o'clock at the cenotaph, followed by the fly-by, and there will then be a talk by retired Territorial Army Colonel Tim Van Rees from Brecon. Wreaths will also be laid, and the Swansea Pipe Band will be there.
From noon, in the Cheese Market, there will be exhibitions from the Welsh Guards Museum, the Military Vehicle Trust and Hay History Group. A World War One field ambulance will be there, and a World War Two replica hospital in front of the castle.

Alan Nicholls, of the History Group, now has a book out about the First World War as seen through the pages of the Brecon County Times - he's been displaying some of the information he's discovered in the Cheese Market over the last year.
Since the article appeared in the Brecon and Radnor yesterday, saying that the book was available from Broad Street Book Centre, they've sold out! More supplies will be available soon!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Spun Gold at Hereford Library

When I was in Hereford last, I found the time to visit the latest exhibition at the Library. Spun Gold is all about wool, particularly from the local Ryeland Sheep, and it's really very good. It covers spinning - and there was a rather interesting table spinning wheel on display, used by turning a handle (I think I'd have problems with that, as I generally need both hands on the fleece!). There was weaving, on an upright loom that anyone could have a go at, and a peg loom. There was art - a student project jazzing up boring woollen jumpers and some wild wool bikinis. As well as history about shepherding and other uses of wool, such as in insulation.
Just the thing for a rainy Saturday morning!

Monday, 27 July 2015

The True Story of the Mail Coach Monument

Since I repeated the legend rather than the facts when I wrote about a recent trip into Carmarthenshire, I thought I'd better look up the facts.
It seems that the Mail Coach Pillar is a warning against drunken driving. It was erected in 1841 by the Royal Mail as a warning to its drivers of the dangers of driving whilst intoxicated, according to the South Wales Guardian, which carried a story about the repair of the monument in 2011 (the repairs don't seem to have been carried out, though, as the railings around the monument look as if they have been bent out of shape for some time).
Edward Jenkins was the drunk driver in question, at the reins of the mail coach between Gloucester and Carmarthen shortly before Christmas 1833. The coach was being driven at a furious pace, on the wrong side of the (narrow, winding) road, when it met a cart coming in the opposite direction, and plunged over the side of the road and into the river below. Amazingly, there were no fatalities (though no-one seems to mention what happened to the horses).

Here's the inscription on the front of the monument:

"This pillar is called Mail Coach Pillar and erected as a caution to mail coach drivers to keep from intoxication and in memory of the Gloucester & Carmarthen mail coach which was driven by Edward Jenkins on the 19 day of December in the year 1833 who was intoxicated at the time & drove the mail on the wrong side of the road and going at a full speed or gallop met a cart & permitted the leader to turn short round to the right hand & went down over the precipice 12 feet where at the bottom near the river it came against an ash tree when the coach was dashed into several pieces. Colonel Gwynn of Glanbrian Park, Daniel Jones Esq. of Penybont and a person of the name of Edwards were outside & David Lloyd Harries Esq of Llandovery solicitor and a lad of the name of Kernick were inside passengers by the mail at the time and John Compton guard."

And on the side of the monument:

"I have heard say where there is a will there is a way, one person cannot assist many, but many can assist a few, as this pillar will shew which was suggested, designed and erected by J. Bull Inspector of mail coaches, with the aid of thirteen pounds sixteen shillings and sixpence received by him from forty-one subscribers in the year 1841"
and below:
"The work of this pillar was executed by John Jones marble and stone mason Llanddarog near Carmarthen. Repainted and restored by postal officials 1930"

So there we have it - a cautionary tale from history.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Phil Rickman Appreciation Society Go Up the Dingle

Fortified by lunch (in my case a salmon and broccoli quiche and salad with elderflower presse, which was very nice) the PRAS group set off again, along Broad Street and down to the river. A couple of important scenes in Magus of Hay take place at the mouth of the Dulas Brook, where it joins the Wye - and the Dulas is also the border between England and Wales, so we went there first, and then ambled along the Riverside Path to St Mary's Church. There we admired the organ, and the icon of Our Lady of Capel-y-ffin (painted by an icon painter from South Wales - other icons in the church were painted by Christina Watson, who is also in the choir). [edited for accuracy - I originally thought Christina had painted all of them]
The minibus was conveniently parked just up the hill at the cattle market - we passed the old castle mound on the way (this weekend really was well organised!).
The minibus took us, and a couple of cars following, to Cusop Dingle, where we went up to Cusop Church and parked in the car park there. I'm very fond of Cusop Church. There we were looking for Major Armstrong associations (though the grave of his poor wife is unmarked), and also admired the huge yew tree by the church door.
Cusop Church also has the grave of a Methodist Martyr in the churchyard - William Seward, who was stoned by a mob when he preached on Black Lion Green in Hay, and later died of his injuries.
From there we stepped across the lane and into the field which is the site of Cusop Castle.

Here's one of the pictures that was shared on Facebook.
One chap in the party was convinced that the site was originally Iron Age, from the way it was laid out and the positioning on the spur of the hill overlooking a small stream. It's certainly a very defensible position.
Somewhere near there is the fictional bungalow and barn belonging to the Magus of Hay, whose body was found in a pool of the Dulas Brook, which is where we went next. It's always been my favourite pool along the Dingle, just on the Hay side of the Mill, because of the waterfall. On the day that Frannie Bliss was called out to look at the body, the stream was more swollen. On the day we were there, the sun was shining through the trees and it was just lovely. We did go a bit further up the Dingle than we needed to, though - it's very hard to turn a minibus round in that narrow lane. Polly turned out to be very good at manouvering!

And then it was back to Hay for a bit of light book browsing and maybe a Shepherds ice cream.

I forgot to mention before that the main car park in Hay also plays an important part in the Magus of Hay, when the hapless American who owns Thorogood Pagan Bookshop becomes a suspect in the murder case because of where he parks his car....

In the evening, some of the group went to the Three Tuns for an evening meal.
On the Sunday, I had to be at the desk of the Cinema Bookshop, but the minibus took everyone up to Capel-y-ffin and Llanthony Abbey, which also feature in Phil Rickman's books, with lunch at the Skirrid.
And I think I'm right in saying that a good time was had by all!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Small Business Saturday

The End - all sorts of interesting vintage items, including French linen.

This used to be a gift shop - the owner had a sweet spaniel, and kept dog biscuits behind the counter. My dog picked up on this very quickly, and always wanted to go in when we passed to say hello!

Before that, it was once the ticket office of the original cinema in town, and I think a bike repair shop.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Phil Rickman Appreciation Society Comes to Hay

Phil Rickman is noted for using real locations in his Merrily Watkins mysteries - or almost real locations - so there are plenty of places in Hay that were mentioned in Magus of Hay.
I went up to the Granary on Saturday morning to meet the rest of the PRAS crowd (I'm the only one who actually lives in Hay). There had been a meet up the night before for the early arrivals, at the Blue Boar, but I missed that.
The Granary had put us upstairs, around a long table - there were about 19 of us, and some had come quite a distance to be there. One American lady lives in Denmark, and the weekend was part of a longer trip to England. Another couple had been to Leominster the day before as fans of another author - Ben Aaronovitch, who was talking in Leominster library about his book Foxglove Summer, also set in Herefordshire. It was easy to spot them - they were wearing badges that said "Foxglove Summer - Peter Grant is on my case!". (Phil Rickman says that PC Peter Grant and Rev Merrily Watkins will never meet - their worlds are just a bit too different to mesh together.)
After coffee, we walked up through town to the Castle, where the organisers (who made surre everything went wonderfully smoothly over the weekend) had booked a private tour. We had to sign a disclaimer, because we were going into parts of the castle not normally open to the public, and not exactly safe!
Our tour guide was wonderful, with a succession of different props to use when he was talking about different times in the history of the castle. He started with a Norman helmet, donned a vicar's collar for the bit about Rev. Kilvert visiting in the time of Archdeacon Bevan, and even had a crown (for Richard Booth) and a Prince Charles mask! This last was when we got up to the attic of the castle, where I'd never been before. The beams are pretty dodgy up there, not so much from the 1977 fire, which caused substantial damage, but some of them had been cut and pegged together from different pieces of wood over the years. There was, however, a bit of original panelling up there, and the only bit of the original staircase from the 1600s to survive the fire.
And at one time, there was a bath.
When Prince Charles came to visit, and he was given a tour of the castle, there was a Victorian bath up in the attic. "That's rather nice," he said, and the next thing to happen was the bath being brought down from the attic (they had to take a window out and swing it down on a crane!) and Elizabeth Haycox was driving it in a trailer all the way to Dumfries House (owned by the Prince) where it now resides!
So, we saw the gargoyles holding up beams in the kitchen, and the floor safe that was put in when Richard Booth had it as a book shop, and the stone lintel of a fireplace that had once been in Clyro Church and may have been some sort of medieval standing stone (no-one was sure how Richard had acquired it, but it was lying in the grounds, and was just the right size to repair the fireplace after the fire).
We saw all the scaffolding in the Norman keep - no-one is allowed in the dungeon at the moment, until some work has been done on the fabric of the building - and went round to admire the gateway, and the curtain wall which is being held up mostly by habit and ivy. There are plans to open up a walkway at the top of the keep, which has an amazing view of the surrounding countryside.
I learned a lot about the different phases of building - you can see the styles of window change over about a hundred year period - and new work suggests that the big fireplaces might be the original medieval fireplaces in origin, and not new to the Jacobean manor house.
And then it was back to the Granary for lunch, via Backfold, where Phil Rickman inserted several shops that aren't really there - and outside the Granary we looked at the side alleys across the road and pictured Gwenda's bar up one of them (Phil was deliberately vague about where this might be).
For lunch we were downstairs in the room that used to be the Granary Bar (easier for some of the party who walked with sticks), where we sat on a cluster of tables. By this time, we were all getting on really well, and it was a very happy party!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Events this Weekend

Adele Nozedar will be at the Felin Fach Griffin, on the way to Brecon, this weekend. She's doing a talk on Saturday evening at 7pm about her book The Garden Forager. Proceeds from the evening will go to a charity in Nepal.
Adele has been busy this week, because she's at the Royal Welsh Show as well.

And also on Saturday evening, between 5pm and 7pm, Eighteen Rabbit are celebrating their move from the shop in the Castle outbuildings to the shop on Lion Street which was recently Lion Antiques. They've got a lot more space to display everything now, and two big windows. So glasses of wine will be available there.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Good News for Gwernyfed School

Two cheers, anyway. Powys County Council have withdrawn their plans to close Gwernyfed School after a parent of a pupil at the school submitted an application for a Judicial Review. It seems that the County Council have not been following due process, and will have to start their plans again, with proper consultation this time. (Thank goodness for legal aid!)
That's why it's only two cheers - this is just a breathing space, and the school still needs supporters to fight for it, and for better education for secondary school pupils across the county.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Dorstone Hill Dig

The students from Manchester University are back on top of Dorstone Hill, and they've already been finding interesting things. Among them are pieces of Neolithic pottery, a fragment of flint axe, and the remains of a wall.
They'll be giving talks over the summer about the dig.
Some of them have also been singing at an open mic night at the Pandy in Dorstone.

Here are some of them, trowelling back over the site.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Coming Up for Air Farewell Arrivederci Gig

When I got home from the day in Hereford, I passed Melanie from the Poetry Bookshop setting up a little gazebo on the grass outside the library. She was getting ready for a musical evening - the musician was leaving to go to Taunton, apparently, and wanted to do a final gig in Hay before he went. He's Italian, hence the "Arrivederci".
So I went back a bit later on to listen, glass of Pimms in hand, with a small band of Chris and Melanie's friends and neighbours.
I never did catch the chap's name, nor that of his fellow musician who was accompanying him, but they were very good, and he sang in English, Italian and Spanish over the evening.
Having been gorgeous weather earlier in the day, of course it turned cold in the evening, but it was still a good evening, and thanks to Melanie for inviting me.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Small Business Saturday

Brin Jenkins' shop, selling bags, hats, sportswear, jewellery and gifts.
I'm not sure if they still do, but they used to have an arrangement with a cobbler - they would take in the shoes to be mended, and the cobbler would come once a week to take away the shoes, and bring back the ones he'd finished. He even mended a pair of my medieval re-enactment shoes!

Friday, 17 July 2015

A New Camera (Sort of)

One of the errands I was doing on Saturday (which cut into valuable drinking time) was to buy a new camera.
I got the one I've been using second hand from Jo Eliot, which has been taking photos for the blog all this time, but when I went out to take a picture of Tomatitos the other day with all the plaster off the walls, it finally stopped working. I tried changing the batteries, taking the memory card out and putting it back.... Nothing worked, and there it was, stuck with the lens half way out.
So I thought I'd have a look for a brand new camera.
There's a little camera shop in Hereford, and they showed me something very nice, but the bottom end of the range was £100. They said there's not a lot of demand for basic "point and click" cameras any more, because that sort of picture can be taken on phones now.
That was a little bit above my budget, so I went round the corner to Argos. The cheapest camera they had was £49.99 - but I really needed someone to explain to me what the different features were, technologically challenged as I am.
So I went up to Cash Generator, the second hand shop, and a lovely girl came to help me. She said she'd only been working there three days, and she was brilliant! We had a look at a little Nikon, and she demonstrated how it worked, and we talked about batteries and memory cards. The camera body was only £20. She had a sale!
I took the memory card out of the old camera, and it seems to work fine - better than the old one, in fact. It even makes a little camera shutter noise when you take a picture! I'm about to go out to play with it now.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Beer on the Wye 11

I couldn't spend as much time as I would have liked at the beer festival on Saturday - the bus into Hereford was late, due to a funeral at Glasbury, and I had several errands I needed to do before I went there.
I didn't have time to go to the Historical Festival on the Castle Green either, but I did see the medieval musicians near the Cathedral, and three or four Sealed Knot soldiers coming from the general direction of the beer festival. I'm not sure which side they were on, but I shouted "The King and the Cause!" after them anyway (in the dim and distant past, I was a Royalist pike person).
The festival was jam packed with people, and Gwyn Ashton was up on stage doing a one man blues rock performance. Which was very pleasant, but I was sorry to have to go before the Eastern European folk band Flatworld came on.
I started with Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby strong bitter (maybe a little stronger than I was expecting) and moved on to Norfolk beers that I can't normally get on this side of the country. I'm very fond of Woodforde's Wherry - it brings back happy memories of living in Norwich - and the Wolf Golden Jackal was also very tasty.
Alas, there wasn't quite time to finish off the session with a half of Jaipur from Thornbridge (which has won Beer of the Festival twice).
The festival also places a great emphasis on cider and perry, and this year they had a petition to sign, because small cider and perry makers are under threat. There were 132 different ciders and perrys at the Festival this year, over 100 of them from Herefordshire. The EU wants the UK government to change the tax rules so that small producers no longer have an exemption from Excise Duty. This would not only close down a lot of small producers, but would mean that a lot of orchards would disappear along with them. 26,000 people have already signed the online CAMRA petition.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Tomatito's - Naked!

Here's the picture that Tomatito's shared on Facebook, showing the structure of the walls now that the plaster's been taken off. They're still open for business, and while the workmen are reconstructing the walls, it's interesting to see how they were originally put together.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Another Foray into Carmarthenshire

So, I was walking along Llandeilo High Street with the head of a Cyberman in my hand.... as you do....

Brian offered to take me out for the day again, and we went back to Llandovery and Llandeilo. Even though we'd been there the previous week, we still found new books to buy - and a Cyberman mask, and an action figure of the 11th Doctor (the ladies in the Red Cross shop had no idea who the man in the tweed jacket and bowtie was supposed to be, so they let me have it for 50p!). I also found a stack of 1970s Marvel comics at Trecastle Antiques - and Brian found a device for making paper logs. He's planning to go into mass production over the winter months.
This time, at Llandeilo, we had a bit more time, so we went down to the other end of the high street, where the church is. The church itself isn't all that interesting architecturally - the tower is medieval, but the rest of it seems to have been totally rebuilt probably in the early Victorian era. However, it has recently been re-ordered inside, and they've done it very well. One aisle is now a kitchen and toilets below and a meeting room and offices above, with access near the font by a spiral staircase. It could have looked quite ugly, but this has been made into a sculptural form of the Crown of Thorns, and looks quite spectacular.
There were flower arrangers at work in the church, getting ready for a music festival which is still going on, and at the front of the church a stage had been put in, and a pianist was practicing on a grand piano.
St Teilo himself was a saint of the Dark Ages, around 500 - 560AD, and founded the monastery at Llandeilo. He was also Bishop of Llandaff, and built the first church there, and was reputed to be a cousin of St David.
So Llandeilo Fawr was a place of learning, and in the tower we found some computers running that showed images of the Llandeilo Gospels - which contains the earliest surviving example of written Welsh. The story goes that the Gospel book was presented to the church by a man called Gelhi, who had swapped a good horse for it!
The book may be better known as the Lichfield Gospels, as the book was later given to the King of Mercia, and has been kept in Lichfield Cathedral ever since. It's very similar to the more famous Lindisfarne Gospels.

The previous week, I'd said that I'd never been to Carreg Cennen Castle. Brian used to take the dogs up there fairly regularly - there are some good walks around the valley - so that was where we headed next.
We stopped first in the little village of Trap (one pub, one house that used to be a post office, several "Best Kept Village" signs). As it was a hot day, we took the dogs down to the river there for a splash about - and noticed that there had once been a bridge straight to the post office, just a few yards from the present bridge. We met a couple of local ladies at the Castle later, and they said that they thought that the Post Office had been isolated from the rest of the village originally, and that was why the bridge had been built.
It wasn't the only odd bit of industrial archaeology in the village though. There's a building which looks as if it was once a mill, and just down the hill from it there's a wall built parallel to the river, about the height for loading and unloading carts. The modern drive to the house cuts across it now. It would be interesting to find out exactly what was going on there.

Back at the car, we looked up through the trees.
Imagine a fairytale castle atop a high crag. No, higher than that.
That's pretty much what Carreg Cennen looks like from a distance.
I wouldn't like the job of besieging it!
Nowadays there's a decent visitors' car park (though the toilet block was padlocked shut), and you walk out of that into a farm yard. The odd thing about this castle is that it is owned by the local farmer, thanks to a legal error when the farm was bought from the Cawdor Estate. They tried to buy the castle back (for the grand sum of £100!) but the farmer wouldn't give it up and now the family run the visitor centre as well as farming longhorn cattle, and CADW maintain the castle fabric. There's a huge barn with fully stocked bar that they rent out for weddings and corporate events, with a stunning view over the valley. There's also a newly built visitor centre (they seem to get a lot of school parties) and an 11thC longhouse full of agricultural implements and with an 1820s living room on one end of it. And swallows nesting among the rafters.
We had lunch there - the chicken pie with new potatoes and salad looked very nice. The beef they serve is from their own longhorns, and the cakes (I had rhubarb crumble cake and ice cream) are home baked. A sparrow hopped down onto the table to watch us eat.
Then we took Denzil up the hill, past a meadow full of butterflies, to the entrance to the castle, where a gate leads to a pathway down the hill on the other side. Denzil loves this walk, though we didn't go far as we'd left Belle in the car (she'd had all the exercise she wanted for the day and didn't want to budge). The woodland is partly on sandstone (oak trees) and partly on limestone (ash trees), and the limestone goes right under the castle, where there's a cave that can be visited - you can hire a torch at the gift shop/cafe. The cave also provides the water source for the castle, which is why they could build it in such a commanding position.
It was a marvellous day out, and I was delighted to be able to pick out the Bronze Age cairns on the opposite ridge before I looked at the information board that showed their positions!

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Pavement Poet

(find him on Facebook!)

A young man was outside Barclays Bank a few days ago, writing short poems on the pavement in coloured chalk - as well as the information that he could be found on Facebook.
There were some people from the Rainbow Gathering who had been writing philosophical sayings in chalk on the pavements around the Buttermarket previously, but I don't think he was anything to do with them. It was just a coincidence that he came to town at the same time.
On Saturday I saw him again in Hereford, chalking on a much busier pavement near Marks and Spencers, and requesting donations to get him to the next town.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Council Meeting - Town Plan, Rubbish, Buses and Tourists

Here's a good idea for getting younger people involved with formulating a Town Plan - get them to do it via the world of Minecraft! This is a serious suggestion, to get younger people "building" what they want to see in their area on the computer screen.

Meanwhile, problems with dog poo are continuing. The vets are keen to get involved, by providing poo bags, and more poo bins are needed too. They cost £138 each, apparently, but might be cheaper if the councillors provide posts to screw them too and do the work themselves (it's not all sitting around at meetings, being a councillor!)

Down on the Warren there's a problem with human litter - people having late night campfires, beer and (judging from the litter left behind) sex, on the riverbank. Which would be fine if they cleared up after themselves afterwards. The police are sending more patrols down to the Warren.

And just up from Lion Gallery, rubbish bags seem to be left outside more or less continuously, not just on rubbish day, which doesn't look very good in the middle of town. The Powys waste team are dealing with the problem though, partly by contacting the nearby residents. No-one was sure if the flats were holiday lets or not, in which case, holiday makers wouldn't be aware of which day to put rubbish out unless the landlord had told them.

Powys County Council are cutting £500,000 from the transport budget, but there will be no change to the 39 service to Hay. The councillors want more pensioners to apply for the bus passes they're entitled to, to show that there's a need for the bus services.

A recent survey showed that the patterns of tourism locally are changing. More people are staying overnight, which means a greater need for places to eat which are open in the evenings. There was agreement that there seems to be far too many cafes in town at the moment - but they all open in the day, and it would be better if some opened in the evenings. There was doubt, too, that all the cafes in town would be able to survive the winter when there are fewer tourists about.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Small Business Saturday

One of the most photogenic greengrocers around - people are always taking photos of it!
Stuart, the proprietor, also writes a regular column about vegetables in WyeLocal, and swings the thurifer at St Mary's on Sundays.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Council Meeting - Rainbow Gathering, outdoor recreation, allotments

A group of young (and some not so young) people have been camping on Hay Common to celebrate the Summer Solstice. According to one of the ladies at Stitch and Bitch, they call themselves the Rainbow Gathering, and they tend to spend around a month in a place and then move on. There was an article about them in the Brecon and Radnor Express, too. Apparently they club together to provide a communal meal twice daily, and have a strict no drugs or alcohol policy. I've seen a few of them in Hay - the other night a couple of bearded young men with dreadlocks were drumming and chanting outside the HSBC bank while a girl danced, whirling orange flags around her. They all seem very polite and pleasant.
The police have been up to the camp, but told the council that they couldn't move the campers on because it's a civil matter, and the council needs to get an eviction notice. Which they are unwilling to do, because beginning that sort of legal action costs an awful lot of money, and by the time they get the order, the Rainbow people may well have moved on anyway.
Some of the councillors remember similar gatherings up on Hay Bluff back in the 1980s, which were not so polite or pleasant, and they were concerned that the Rainbow Gathering might become an annual event - or that it might become a permanent encampment - but for now they are watching to see what happens.

Negotiations with HADSCL are still going on, about the length of lease that they should be allowed - this has repercussions for the sort of grants they can access in the future for improvements to the facilities and so on. The councillors weren't keen on agreeing to a long term lease unless HADSCL and the sports clubs came up with a plan for improving the facilities and encouraging more participation in sporting activities. Long term in this case being a 60 year lease. They want to see the facilities improve, not just maintaining the status quo as it is now. It was also pointed out that the different sports clubs have to be prepared to fund raise in the future.

Behind the Council Chambers there are three allotments. Steve Like grows veg in one of them, so he couldn't take part in the discussions. They pay £20 a year for the allotments, and have always taken water from the Council Chambers for watering the plants. Which horrified a couple of the newer councillors, as the Council Chambers gets the water bill. It was suggested that they should stop allowing the allotment holders access to the Council Chambers water, but that they should buy water butts and collect the water from the drainpipes instead.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Council Meeting - Toilets, Gwernyfed School, British Legion

The Town Council are advertising for an admin assistant to work for ten hours a week - they're pretty flexible about which ten hours, though the successful applicant would need to be on hand to take minutes at some evening meetings. They haven't had any actual applications yet, but a couple of people have made enquiries. The closing date for applications is next Monday.
Meanwhile, the new arrangements for the toilets at the craft centre seem to be going reasonably well. There have been a few complaints - there have been a couple of blockages which need to be sorted out, which appears to be Welsh Water's responsibility. The Tourist Information office have been given a contact phone number because they're the ones who seem to be getting people coming in if they have complaints.
A group from Ceredigion Council will be coming to Hay shortly to look at the toilets and see if they want to hire the company which did the work for their own toilets.
The work on the toilets by the Clock Tower is continuing, and should be finished in another two weeks (much to the relief of the bookshops on the other side of Broad Street - people haven't been going in to them because they can't be seen from the Pavement at the moment).

There was a meeting at Gwernyfed School a couple of weeks ago, attended by representatives of all the local councils in the area. There was lots of support for the school at the meeting - nobody wants it to close.
So the next step should be a public meeting, possibly at Hay School, to let everyone know what's happening so far. Rev. Charlesworth, the head of the school governors, would be available to speak at the meeting.
Steve Like suggested that, if there's going to be a meeting about schools, it should include the latest information about Hay School. And it would be useful to be able to get someone from the County Council to come down to explain what they're doing.
It was decided, after much debate, that it would be too confusing to have one meeting about both schools. One issue is a school being threatened with closure, and the other issue is a new school building, and they should be kept separate.

The British Legion are holding an event on the Town Square on 2nd August:

The councillors are invited, and it was suggested that the Recycling Fund could pay for the reception. The Town Square will be closed for the ceremony, which normally costs £260, but the County Council will be approached to waive the charge on this occasion, as it's a national event.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Pigeon in the Hospice Shop

There was a brown and white pigeon strutting around just outside the door of St David's Hospice shop when I went in - I nearly had to step over it to get in. The lady behind the counter said it had been hanging around for several days, and kept trying to get inside to peck at the crumbs on the mat.
A few minutes later, it got a bit further into the shop than it had bargained for!
The shop has a resident cat, a sweet little thing - who remembered she was cousin to tigers and grabbed the pigeon by the back of the neck.
Feathers everywhere.
The lady behind the counter grabbed the cat, who let go of the pigeon, who flew into the window. A customer scooped up the pigeon and let it fly out of the door.
It may think twice about coming back.

A few minutes later, I was over the road telling the chap at Goosey Ganders that he'd missed all the excitement.
"I was feeding that pigeon!" he said, with horror, and shot off to the St David's shop to make sure that it wasn't dead.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

A Trip to Carmarthenshire

I was off on a book buying jaunt with Brian and the two Staffies on Friday.
We started off at Trecastle, where Bob (who runs the acoustic nights at Baskerville Hall) sells antiques. He wasn't there that day, but I came away with a Zorro annual, which made me very happy. The book unit there was having a half price sale.
Brian spotted a picture on the stairs of a steam tug boat which he recognised - it had worked for about a hundred years up in the North East, and when it became obsolete, the Maritime Museum in San Francisco bought it and took it all the way out there. Where it sat, for a few years, quietly rusting, because they had no money to restore it. However, eventually they got the funding, and now it's on display in San Francisco, while a picture of it has ended up in South Wales.
By the time we got to Llandovery, it was really hot. Also my camera had stopped working (it's fine again now), so I can't share any photos of the rather fine statue of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd on the castle mound.
Llandovery was playing host to a Town Cryers' competition this weekend. It's a pretty little town.
We had lunch at the West End Cafe, near the car park, which apparently is a favourite for bikers on summer weekends. Friendly staff and tasty food - Brian had a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings and I had the "light breakfast", which filled me up nicely.
The road from Llandovery to Llandeilo is quite narrow and twisty - and about halfway along it there's a monument in the shape of a broken pillar. This commemorates a stagecoach which plummeted over the edge of the road into a ravine, killing all eight horses, and about a dozen passengers. We didn't stop to look at it closely - it's on a bit of a nasty bend!
Llandeilo is on a very steep hill.
This weekend, they were having a jazz festival.
We stopped at the bottom and went in the antique centre - it's got a garden centre on the side of it, too. From the outside, it didn't look that big, but once inside, we went up steps and round corners and across a courtyard, and through rooms - it's enormous! I got a little model of Scott Tracy from Thunderbirds, which I'm keeping for myself, and I was quite tempted by a Stingray Play Suit from the 1960s, in lovely condition. The little boy who first had this either can't have wanted to be Troy Tempest very much, or he must have been very careful when he put it on!
The chap minding the till there came from the same part of the country as Brian, so they spent some time reminiscing about the ship building and characters they'd known, and quoting the song, the Lambton Worm.
Then up the hill to the charity shops - and a rather wonderful ice cream shop, with comfortable seats on one side for people to sit in and eat the ice creams (they didn't even do tea or coffee - just the ice creams) and a take away counter on the other side. They also seemed to make cakes for special occasions. Brian had the Turkish Delight flavour, and I had the peach and ginger - which was gorgeous, but there was a big chunk of peach in it which was frozen so solid I couldn't bite into it!
We sat eating our ice creams (with Denzil the Staffie watching us very carefully) on a bench near the school. A group of children and teachers were working on a garden plot in the school grounds, and as they did a red kite flew overhead, really low. We shouted to them to look up (I think they thought we were mad!), but they did see it eventually. We saw a lot of kites during the day, so I suppose the children there are used to them.
As we went up the hill, we could hear the school samba band practicing, with lots of big drums!
Back at the bottom of the hill, Brian moved the car round to the railway station.
The walk we went on is totally unsignposted - if you didn't know it was there you'd never find it. First we crossed the railway tracks (there's no bridge between the platforms), and behind the opposite platform there's a narrow path through the trees. This leads to a little suspension bridge over the river, and on the other side of the river is a little shingle beach. The river is the Towy. I thought that we were at a point where two rivers came together, but from the map it seems that there's actually an island there, and it's all the same river.
On the way back, we stopped for something to drink at a roadside garage and cafe near Sennybridge, where we sat watching the red kites fly overhead.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Small Business Saturday

Rohan sports and outdoor clothing. When I first came to Hay this was Edward Foreman's Book Emporium - it goes back a surprisingly long way. Later he moved to the Drill Hall (now the Hay Festival Box Office) and he also had a shop in Builth Wells, I think.

Friday, 3 July 2015

We're Having a Heatwave....

It's been Too Darn Hot in Hay this week, and my evenings have been busy.
It was another good night at Baskerville Hall on Wednesday, made a lot more lively by a group of young women on some sort of teambuilding holiday. At least two of them were Irish, so a lot of Irish songs were sung while they danced and waved tambourines (sometimes at the same time).
On Thursday, a pianist was seen in Hay, steering his grand piano round the streets! Some of the children from Hay School were singing with him. He may possibly be back next week, I've heard. If he is, I hope I get to see him.
On Thursday evening I was in the Swan Hotel, embroidering a picture of a badger while the other ladies of Stitch and Bitch knitted and crocheted.
And today it was Alice in Wonderland's 150th Anniversary, so Rose's Bookshop have the wooden cutout of Alice, with the White Rabbit, in their window, borrowed from our local Alice expert Edward Wakeling (whose new book is available, signed, on the counter of the Cinema Bookshop).