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".