Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year!

A picture of the stars from the car park at Hay Bluff, by Will Dowd, whose work can be found at http://instagram/will1dowd

Friday, 30 December 2016

Tree Felling Party

I've been worried about the tree in my back garden for a while. It's some sort of willow, which grows like a weed, and above it is an electric (or possibly phone) cable, stretching from a post on Heol y Dwr to the back of one of my neighbours' houses. That's to say, the wire is actually running through the branches now, as the tree has got so tall.
Until today, that is.
I had tried to tackle the problem myself, but I don't have the upper arm strength or the right tools to chop through the branches myself. I did for a while, but a wet summer meant that the tree grew faster and I couldn't get out to deal with it, and it got away from me.

Enter Brian, Jane, her friend who is staying with her, and a selection of loppers and tree pruning equipment.
We've spent the morning chopping through branches, and making a huge twiggy pile on the lawn. We looped rope round some of the branches to pull them to where we wanted them to go - with some success, though we all got hit by falling branches at some point in the proceedings. There was a suggestion we resembled the Three Stooges, but we quickly got better with practice and started working as a team. We were invited into next door's garden to tackle some of the branches from that side, too.
After a morning's vigorous work, the electric wire is safe, and Brian has a few more logs for his wood burner. He's coming back for more tomorrow!
I have some of the best friends ever!

It made me think - the last time I did anything like this was over 15 years ago, when I was helping to convert old farm buildings into a retreat centre in the middle of the Forestry plantations near Abbey Cwm Hir. In the evening, we had a bonfire, which meant moving a lot of green pine branches, after a day of pushing wheelbarrows of soil and hauling rocks around.
I was a lot fitter back then!
I don't even know if the retreat centre is still there.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The Hedge

I picked up the latest edition of The Hedge in Hay Wholefoods with the last of my Christmas food shopping. The sub-title is "A fund of information and inspiration from the wild edges", and it's a collection of articles on "alternative" issues in the local area. So in the latest edition there's information on fracking, and compost making, the disappearing hedgehog, shopping locally, and poetry and more. It's a not-for-profit publication, and any profits it does make is given to local small charities, a different one each time. This time, it's the Hay, Brecon and Talgarth sanctuary for refugees. The paper is recycled, and the printers are a small, local ecologically minded workers' co-operative, Footprints.
The "shopping locally" article is about a new sort of Farmers' Market in Peterchurch, The Food Assembly, where food is ordered in advance, and brought to a central point for collection on a certain day, in this case 4.30pm to 6.30pm on Mondays at the St Peter Centre - there is also a pop up cafe, with music, talks and storytelling. It all helps to build a stronger community. It's an interesting read, and links up with things that are going on in the area which are sometimes difficult to find out about.
They have also just launched a digital version of the publication, at

Monday, 26 December 2016

Santa Sighting

Just before Christmas Day, Santa was seen in Hay - dashing up and down Broad Street in an American jeep decorated with tinsel and the Stars and Stripes!

Meanwhile in Hereford, a couple of days before, I saw three tractors decorated with white ribbon in procession near the bus station - a farmer's wedding?

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Ladies Who Lunch

I had to use up my holidays before the end of the year, so I took a day off to go round the Thursday market - I usually see them setting up, and when I come out of work for lunch, they're packing up, but this Thursday I had plenty of time to look round and get all the food I still needed to get for Christmas (including a pot of Christmas Pudding Ice Cream from Shepherds!)
On the way round, I met Emanation and Ros, and later bumped into Tracy, who was just on her way to Booths Cafe to meet Emanation and Ros, and invited me along. They all go to Stitch and Bitch with me.
Tracy said that Marion from Addyman's bookshop is retiring. She's been working there for a long time, so it'll be strange to go by and not see her at the desk anymore. Tracy was at the leaving party when a bin lorry misjudged the corner and reversed into the corner of the shop! When I went past the following day, I saw Ann from Addymans looking up at the corner, and wondered what she was looking at - it was the damage the lorry had caused!
I haven't been in there to eat for a long time, but I remember the food being good - and it still is excellent, and beautifully presented on the plate. I had the pancakes and maple syrup. I very rarely get maple syrup, and my pancakes tend to turn into frisbees you could use as weapons, but I do like it when it's done well! The cafe was full, and several people had brought their dogs in with them.
It was really nice to do something different and totally spontaneous, with three good friends!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Pilgrimage Down The Wye

Stephen Payne is a re-enactor, and this year he's decided to re-create a pilgrimage St Brendan took in the 6th century from Plynlimon (the source of the Wye and Severn) to Llancarfan Abbey on the South Welsh coast. St Brendan made his journey to get to Llancarfan in time for the New Year, which is why Stephen is doing it now, in authentic 6th century costume.
He will be walking part of the way, and paddling down the Wye on his coracle, which he will be carrying on his back when walking, and sleeping under at night if he can't find alternative shelter. He wrote to the Archbishop of Wales to ask for permission to sleep in churches along the way, as a medieval pilgrim would have done. He's also eating, as much as he can, food which would have been available in the 6th century.
He reached Erwood today, and should be coming through Hay tomorrow or the next day - look out for the man in the white "monk's robe" (though ordinary lay people wore the same sort of robes back then)!

Last year, he re-created a 14th century pilgrimage to Canterbury, wearing authentic medieval clothing, and staying only at places which existed at the time of the original pilgrimage - something which is a bit more difficult for the 6th century!

It's a fascinating thing to do, and he's chronicling his journey on Facebook. Of course, Hurricane Barbara has struck just as he's set off - but he has a thick wool cloak and sheep's fleece in his boots to keep him warm and dry!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Comparing Christmas Dinners

It's that time of year for Christmas dinners and this year I've been to two (eating out again!)
Earlier in the month, the ladies of Stitch and Bitch went to the Three Tuns for a Christmas lunch - that's where we meet on the First Thursday of every month, and sometimes in between (gentlemen are welcome, but at the moment it just happens to be all ladies).

We had a long table at the back, fourteen of us. I wore my scarlet Superheroine skirt that I made over a couple of sessions, and Sharon brought her neck wrap. She's been knitting it for three years, and it's finally finished! It is now an honorary member of the group in its own right! Chrissy, a new member this year, was quite excited as she'd got a stall on the Thursday market selling wool. I saw her out there - of course, the weather was atrocious for her first attempt, but she had plenty of room as a neighbouring stall holder didn't turn up and she was told to spread out.
The food was great, of course, the traditional turkey main course, with several different options, and loads of vegetables. I had the game casserole, and slightly regretted it when I saw the parsnips served with the turkey. The waitress was asked what would happen to the vegetables we didn't eat, and when she said they would go in the bin, several ladies asked for carry out boxes to take the left overs home. We didn't want good food to go to waste. There were even mince pies at the end, by which time most of us were so stuffed that we couldn't eat another thing, so we took those home with us too (I took two, to share with the Young Man when he arrived the following day).
And this week it was the Works Do, in the evening, this time at the Black Lion. There were eight of us in the area near the door, with a much bigger party round the corner from the Vets. Again, the food was excellent - the mutton melted in my mouth, it was so tender. One of us went for the vegetarian option, and he said it was excellent (he's not generally vegetarian - it was just what he fancied from the menu). We had plenty of time to pace ourselves through the meal, but we were still very full when we walked home. And there was Morlands beer, which I haven't seen for a long while, so I stuck to that while everyone else enjoyed the wine and prosecco.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Christmas Shopping in Hereford

One thing I needed to do while my Young Man was here was to get him to Doughty's in Hereford - the patchwork and fabric shop. He wants a new Jedi costume, but the only one he's seen online that he likes is $170 (plus p&p). Last year I made a Jedi librarian costume for myself, and it turned out very well, so I volunteered to make the surcoat for him. He already has the under tunic and trousers. And the light saber. Of course, he wants to be something unusual - a Grey Jedi, somewhere between the Dark Side and the Light. Fortunately, Doughty's had the perfect charcoal grey fabric, in a suiting weight. The lady in the shop even remembered me: "You're the lady who makes Star Wars costumes, aren't you?"
The fabric cost £20, and the costume will be tailored to fit (she says optimistically!). I've got until Easter to get it ready.

On the way through the Market Hall, we spotted another Hay friend, who has recently moved house, and now lives in the only thatched house in Hereford! She said that half her friends think she's mad, and the other half want to move in with her. I looked up a picture, and I'm definately in the latter category!

I had no idea this house existed (when I'm in Hereford I rarely get beyond the central shops). It once belonged to David Cox, who is considered to be (according to Wikipedia) one of the foremost English landscape artists. He lived in Hereford from 1814 - 1827, when he was the drawing master for Miss Croucher's School for Young Ladies in Widemarsh Street. He was paid £100 a year for two days work a week, which left him plenty of time to paint and take on private pupils. Cox Cottage was custom built for him in 1817 as a cottage-cum-studio, and he lived there until 1823.

On Saturday, I went into Hereford to see the Young Man onto the train back to London, and had plenty of time to go round the shops before the bus home. So I wandered into the cathedral, just catching the tail end of Carols for Shoppers. The nave was packed, with lots of people standing, and I got to hear the choir singing the last song of the service. All around the nave and into the side chapels were craft stalls selling all sorts of lovely things, as well as mulled wine and teas and coffees. I hadn't realised it was happening, but I'll look out for it next year for last minute presents.
On the way round the cathedral, I came across their new Christmas Crib, carved out of limewood at about half life size by Paul Caton, from Lingen (there was a leaflet beside the crib). He's been working on it for three years now. In 2014 he made the Holy Family and an angel; in 2015 he added a shepherd holding a sheep, a lamb and a sheepdog, and this year he did another shepherd and the Three Kings, who I kind of missed because they were lurking behind one of the craft stalls - they're not supposed to reach the Stable until Epiphany, so many churches have them separate, and gradually getting nearer over the holidays. The Bishop of Hereford is due to dedicate (bless) the Crib on Christmas Eve, during Evensong, at 5.30pm.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Good Food and Good Company

I waved the Young Man off on the London train yesterday, after a most satisfactory week.
One of the nice things about having him to stay is that we go out to eat and have coffee a lot, which I don't normally do.
On the day that he arrived, for instance, we headed to the Lichfield Vaults for a Greek platter, which was just right to share as a snack lunch. I think they've tweaked the menu slightly, but all my Greek favourites are still there. And it's the only place I know in Hereford that serves Adnams Broadside beer, too.
Several people in Hay who know the Young Man invited us out over the week, so we enjoyed good conversation while sampling Shepherds' wonderful mocha coffee a couple of times.
We were also invited out for a meal at Yak-y-da - and the Nepalese Mountain Lamb Curry, and the Kathmandu curry, were just as good as we remembered them. Bottles of Gurkha beer were also enjoyed. (I was chatting about the Yak-y-da today to a regular customer - as a good Welshman, he winced when he saw the spelling of the name, until I explained the Gurkha connection!)
On another day, we went to Brecon on the bus - which conveniently dropped us off at lunch time, which we spent in the Brecon Tap, eating their wonderful pies and drinking very good beer. The barman even remembered us from the last time we were there! Discussing which beer to try at the bar, another customer offered to let me have a sip of his pint, so I could see what the Yakima IPA was like (from Great Heck Brewery). It was complex, richly flavoured, and 7.4% - and it ran out just as the barman was filling my glass! Fortunately other wonderful beers were available, and we filled our beer carrier from the bottled selection before we left. It was a slight disappointment to find that they had run out of Discworld beers (all named for characters in the Terry Pratchett fantasy series), and when we were eating out at the Yak-y-da, our friends confessed that they had bought the last bottles only two weeks before!
As ever, we ran out of time before we did all the things we wanted to - there are cafes in Hay that we haven't yet been to together, and we never managed to get up to Beer Revolution (but the Young Man will be back some time in the New Year).

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Another Brilliant Christmas Window

The Map Man from the print shop on Castle Street.

Blogging will be intermittent for a while, as my Young Man is coming to stay!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Persimmon Homes Publicity

A young man in a smart suit bounced into the Cinema Bookshop this afternoon, full of bonhomie, to ask about putting a banner on the railings. He'd been sent to find suitable locations to advertise the Persimmon Homes site on the edge of town, and clearly hadn't been made aware of quite how controversial the development has been around Hay. In fact, he seemed to think I wouldn't be aware it was happening!
A little later, Hay's local French couple came in, with a glossy brochure they'd picked up at the site office when they went down to see what was happening in the field. It all looked very impressive on paper, though they couldn't quite work out from the map where the present lane to the Warren was.
They were more concerned about the Library, though. Unlike me, they had been to the Council Meeting on Monday, where the Library was discussed, and they had come away rather worried about the future.
And Francoise revealed her desire to read a Mills and Boon romance - because she'd heard of them and wanted to see for herself what they were like!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Christmas Shopping

Game hanging up outside Gibbons Butchers.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

A Streetcat Named Bob

I had a treat last night - I was invited to go up to Wyeside in Builth Wells to see the film A Streetcat Named Bob.
I already knew something of the story - I've been getting the Big Issue in Hay (from the chap who stands by Spar) and Hereford (from the lady who stands by WH Smiths), for a few years now, and the story was featured there, as it's a great success story for the Big Issue. James was a recovering drug addict and busker, whose life changed when Bob the ginger cat moved in with him. He also had a spell selling the Big Issue. The book about Bob, and how he changed James' life, was an instant best seller, and has given James financial security.

The film opens here, at Covent Garden, and shows streets I've walked around - a lot of the filming was done on location, including on London buses. I loved the way the camera came down to a cat's eye view of scenes, and Bob, of course, was played by himself. There were other ginger cats as stand ins, but a lot of it was Bob. It was also nice to see Anthony Head in the supporting role of James' estranged father, which I wasn't expecting, in a cast where some of the supporting characters looked vaguely familiar, but not enough to put a name to the face. It was also good to see a film showing how quite small problems can take on epic proportions when you're living in poverty stricken circumstances.
So I highly recommend the film, and I also recommend the Lamb pub, nearby, where we had dinner before the film. I had the beef chili, and the plate was piled high, and Susan had the fish and chips, with really chunky chips. It was a pity it was so quiet - we were the only ones in there.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Christmas Crafts at the Globe

The Globe was full of stalls - up on the balcony, in the main hall and downstairs, which has recently been remodelled for the arrival of Off Grid Gourmet. The bar at the back of the room is now a new cooking area with a big counter, and the original door and windows have been replaced with floor to ceiling windows. A new breezeblock wall has been built at the other side of the room, to screen off the toilets, and everything has been painted white.
There were felted animals, paper decorations, photographs and prints, wooden crafts (some lovely bowls), and lots more. I got some elegant wrapping paper and a card with a picture of a Native American camp on it.
I met one of the ladies from Stitch and Bitch, with her striped knitted hats, and she said she'd had a pretty good day.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Friday, 2 December 2016

Christmas Window

I think this is my favourite Christmas window so far this year - Eighteen Rabbit's dragon themed window, with stockings hung up for Puff, Soup, Smaug and Idris!