Sunday, 31 July 2016

Computer shopping in Hereford

I came to the conclusion recently that I want a basic laptop to back up files from my desktop computer, and to work on my stories when I'm not sitting at the desk. Basically, a memory stick with a keyboard. A small amount of research made me think that a Lenovo IdeaPad may be the right one to go for.
So I set off for Hereford. I got ink for my printer at the shop near the cathedral, where they're very helpful, and then I went looking for computer shops in the town centre. I'd looked online first - but neither of the shops I'd found on the map seemed to exist on the ground. However, there is a shop that sells iPhones and other computing stuff (very swish) on the main square, and there is a shop near Peacocks that sells a small amount of Technology along with home furnishings, called Bright House. Neither of those had anything like what I was looking for.
So I also had a look in the second hand shop that sells a lot of second hand DVDs (no luck there), and finally ended up at Cash Generator. That's where I got my camera from, and some really good advice from the sales assistant.
This time, it was a male supervisor who helped me out - and talked me out of buying the Lenovo laptop they had on display and into doing a little more research.

While I was at that end of town, I thought it was time to have a look at the Beer in Hand, a pub which used to be a launderette, on the other side of the ring road. I've been hearing some good things about it.
It goes back a lot further than I'd thought, and has been tastefully converted into a pub - a long, narrow pub. The barrels are near the back, and there's a wide selection. I went for the Butcombe Yeti, which was hoppy and bright and just what I needed after a long trek round town.
There was a sign up saying that they want to encourage community groups to meet there, too. They already have a book club and a craft club meeting there, and they held a mini beer festival at the same time as Beer on the Wye, called Beer on the Eign as they are on Eign Street. I think they've had live music there too.

So next time I go into Hereford, it'll be the long trek out to PC World to see what they have on offer....

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Awel Wind Power Co-operative

A sign appeared on Hay Bridge a little while ago, advertising a local wind power scheme, and I've just got round to looking up their website and finding out more about them.
Awel is offering an opportunity to become part of a new Welsh wind Co-op - you can buy shares for as little as £50. The plan is for them to build two wind turbines at Mynydd y Gwrhyd, twenty miles north of Swansea. They started building in March, and are expecting the work to be complete in December.
Any profits the wind turbines make will be used in combatting fuel poverty through a local charity, Awel Aman Tawe, and developing other renewable energy projects.
This isn't the group's first foray into the world of renewable energy. They have already set up Egni Solar Co-op, which has installed 119kW of solar panelling on five community buildings.

According to the website, the scheme grew out of community meetings, where local people said they'd prefer wind power to the opencast mining in the area. They add:
"An 82-year-old woman telephoned the project to say: ‘We’ve put up with the noise and the dust from these pits for years. What are we worried about a few windmills singing in the wind?’"

Friday, 29 July 2016

Change of Date for Acoustic Session

Bob Evans, who runs the Wednesday evening acoustic evenings at Baskerville Hall, has given us plenty of notice - on Wednesday 10th August the Hall is booked for a wedding, with sole occupancy. So the evening has been re-arranged for Thursday 11th August. Will it have the same great atmosphere on a different evening?
It'll probably look something like this, though....

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Remembering the Somme and the Battle of Jutland

A commemoration of the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Jutland will take place in the Square by the War Memorial on Sunday 7th August, starting at midday.
There will be re-enactment groups there, and vehicles from the Military Vehicles Trust, as well as Hay History Group and the Royal British Legion Riders. There will also be a stall raising money for the Poppy Appeal.
Leading the parade will be the Swansea Pipe Band, followed by the standards of various British Legion branches and military associations. There will also be a choir - Voices in Unity from Rhayader, and a brass band from Brecon.
The heart of the commemoration will be a ceremony in which 12 red roses will be laid at the foot of the War Memorial, one for each of the Hay and Cusop men who lost their lives at the Somme, and the midshipman who died at the naval Battle of Jutland. The organisers are hoping to track down descendents of the men who died, to lay the roses.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Wonderful Tea

I don't usually get chance to see much of the market on Thursdays - when I'm going to work they're still setting up, and by the time I come out for lunch they're usually finishing off. While the Young Man was here, though, we had plenty of time to browse the stalls. In the Buttermarket there was a chap selling interesting looking teas, and while we were there one of his regular customers came up and told us how wonderful the teas are. "You've got to drink them with a little sugar, to bring the flavour out," he said. The Young Man likes teas with interesting flavours (I'm more of a black tea girl myself, though I do enjoy Russian Caravan Tea, with that subtle smoky taste), so he bought a couple of bags to try.
When he'd gone back home, I got a phone call after a couple of days. "You've got to try this tea!" he said. It was hot and sultry in London, and even 12 floors up in his flat, there was no breeze, so he'd been drinking the Magic Dragon tea iced. He'd also had it hot the previous evening, and he was very impressed!
So this Thursday, I'll have chance to get to the stall before I start work, and I'll have a try for myself.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Recycling Batteries

I'm gradually moving over to rechargable batteries, but I still have a few things in the house that are running on ordinary batteries. So I was pleased to see that there is a collection point for batteries at the Library now.
One more reason to use the local library!

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Small Business Saturday

The Ewe Tree, which sells woollen goods from a variety of local makers, is having a closing down sale. They moved into the shop on Castle Street which used to be the baker's shop, but the building (which is quite extensive at the back) has been up for sale, and has now sold.
It'll be interesting to see what happens to the shop next and whether The Ewe Tree will disappear or move into another shop in town.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Eating out in Hay

I don't normally eat out, but while the Young Man was here, we didn't spend a lot of time in the kitchen (apart from a rather good Chinese stir-fry we made with the Welsh Mountain rump steak I got at the Food Fair). To be honest, we didn't spend much time eating out in restaurants or pubs either, but we did do a lot of nibbling snacks while binge watching Arrow! And our day out in Brecon was planned around a pie and a pint at the Brecon Tap.
It's possible to eat very well in Hay, but this time we were feeling quite lazy, and when we did fancy a proper meal, the chip shop was very convenient. They do generous portions of chips - and the Young Man was delighted that they now serve saveloys, just like he can get in London. They also do a really, really good chilli con carne. I may never attempt to cook my own version again!
We also went to Red Indigo - the Young Man finds it easy to get Chinese food in London, but good Indian food is rarer where he lives. He had the chicken Dansak and I had lamb Rogan Josh, with vegetable rice and naan, and we really enjoyed the food, as usual.
Our picnic lunch and other snacks came from the Wholefood shop - we love their sausage rolls, and the samosas are good too.
We planned to have tapas at Tomatitos, too, but ran out of time.
We ate a fair bit of ice cream over the week, too - which is why I went out today to treat myself to a tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream from Shepherds!

Thursday, 21 July 2016

"Cry 'God for Harry!'"

'England and St George!'

The English camp before the Battle of Agincourt - on Cusop castle tump

We had a bit of trouble getting up to Cusop Church. Normally, I'd walk up, but the Young Man's bad leg meant he couldn't really get that far. So we tried booking a taxi the evening before. Booktown Taxis were already booked up, so I worked my way down a list of local taxi firms. I got answerphones for some, a couple of numbers don't seem to exist any more, and one lady in Talgarth said they haven't done a taxi service for ages (but the number is still on
On the morning of the event, I tried Glasbury Taxis again - and success!

We got to Cusop Churchyard in time to join in with the kids (with foam swords) for the swordfighting workshop. We had brought our own, steel, re-enactment swords. And I found that I was having a lot of trouble with the first two en garde positions. Also I learned that the defence against headshots is called the St George. I'm badly out of practice! We'd had a bit of a practice the night before, but it was good to watch someone who really knew what he was doing, and was great with the kids.
After the workshop, some of the kids who'd been practicing came to chat to us about our swords - talking about swordplay and medieval battles is a lot easier than actually using the sword!
I'd also brought my bows with me, as there was a bowyer set up in the churchyard too. It turned out to be the local bowyer who made my bow - and he recognised it!.
We brought a picnic lunch (delicious sausage rolls and samosas from the Wholefood Shop) but some people there paid extra on the ticket for a ploughman's lunch. There was tea and coffee available too.
Most of the kids went into the church to make cardboard armour. Some of them wore it for the battle later.
The performance of Henry V, abridged by Hay Theatre CIC, was full audience participation. We began in the churchyard where the members of the cast introduced themselves and Chorus (Malk Williams) delivered the first of the famous speeches - "Oh, for a muse of fire!" He also played Henry V.
Then we moved into the church, which was packed, and included King Richard Booth in a wheelchair. The English throne was at the front by the pulpit and the French throne at the back. There were scheming bishops, the gift of tennis balls to the King, Derek Addyman giving his all as Ancient Pistol - and quizzing Chorus on what his fancy speeches actually meant, and Falstaff's death. Then we were off to Southampton, very effectively, as a sail was lowered from the rafters and the audience were invited to wave streamers and seagulls on sticks.
Then it was outside again for scenes around Harfleur, with the four Captains (Scottish Captain Jamie in full kilt and tam o'shanter!) disputing in the lane by the lychgate. They led us into the Castle field, where we saw the French princess attempting to learn English, and then to the battlefield, with the French tent at one end and the English tent at the other. When we'd arrived, we had all been given stickers of the Cross of St George or the French fleur-de-lys, and now the audience divided to become the English and French armies. We hurled Shakespearean insults at each other before charging, and I must say it was very satisfying to run round the field shouting "Die, French dog!"
We'd spent half the day chatting with Tracy and her husband, who turned up after the swordfighting for the picnic lunch, and we were very grateful, at the end of the performance, for the lift back into town!

It was great fun, and I understand there are plans to do something similar in the winter with A Christmas Carol.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Fun at the Basky

Wednesday night is singing night, and last week the Young Man took his turn to perform in Moriarty's Bar - with Dandy Highwayman, Whispering Grass (for which he did both the Windsor Davies and Don Estelle parts!) and Fagin's Reviewing the Situation from Oliver.
There's always a good mixture of styles and instruments, and last week we had Geoff Tookey of the Border Reelers singing his Potato Song (about the Irish immigrant experience in the USA) and Thomasin with her flutes and whistles. Both were back after a long period away from the venue. As Bob Evans said in his weekly write up of the session on Facebook - there was enough energy in the room to power the National Grid!
And the music ranged from Kate Rusby's Village Green Preservation Society to Simon and Garfunkel, via the Kinks and Thin Lizzy and more.
The rest of the hotel was full of a school party, and there were two Belgian gentlemen in full evening dress!

I see that U3A have started meeting at the Baskerville as well - tonight it's a talk about the Enigma machine.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Brecon Tap

As my Young Man was here all last week (which is why I haven't been updating the blog) I wanted to take him to some interesting places locally. He's a great fan of Buster Grant's beers from Brecon Brewing, so of course he wanted to go to the new pub, the Brecon Tap.
Looking at the times of the buses, we thought we might have lunch and then mooch around Brecon - maybe visit the Regimental Museum.
In the end, we never left the pub!
Lunch was excellent - the pies really are delicious, and so are the side dishes. The Lytham Stout I tried last time had already been replaced by Lytham Blond, a light, hoppy beer which was also very nice.
And after a leisurely meal, we had a look at the off licence shelves at the front of the bar. They stock a wide range of Discworld ales, produced under licence in association with Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. We chose Black Hogswatch, Ridcully's Revenge and Founder's Ale. They can be found online at
There were also several ciders, including Gwynt y Ddraig, which the Young Man had promised to take back to London as a present for a friend.
And we made friends with a very large, very laid-back, dog and his people - dogs are welcome in the bar.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Beer on the Wye XII

They have a bigger tent this year, with more space around the stage area. They're so proud of this that a tent appears on this year's logo!
Saturday was fine enough to sit outside though - and I took my little stool along.
We spent most of our time this year around the World Beers bar, chatting to the volunteers there while drinking Icelandic Einstok toasted porter, and Einstock White Ale, which is a wheat beer. Both were delicious, and I'll look out for them again. Then we moved right round the world to Japan for the Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout, the strongest beer we tried over the afternoon, at 7%.
We also tried William Mucklow's Dark Mild, Batemans XB, Fat Cat Bitter, Nethergate Growler, Darkness Stout from Exeter and Helm Bar's Bandersnatch (just because of the name!). Sadly, Adnam's Mosaic Pale Ale had already run out on the Friday.
All the beers we tried were good - of course, we were only able to sample a small proportion of the 125 beers, 137 ciders and perries (over 100 different ones from Herefordshire alone!) and the 40 or so World Beers on offer.
There were various options for food on site - we went for the pig roast.
The band on Saturday afternoon was Slippery Slope, a mix of accordian, fiddle, steel drum and guitar. They played Klezmer, Gypsy, Folk and Ska music - it was very pleasant to sit on the riverbank, sipping good beer and listening to good music for the afternoon.
When we felt we'd drunk enough beer, we headed back into Hereford, and stopped for a snack at the new cafe near the cathedral, Bodega, which does a very good quiche.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Small Business News

The new Pet Shop, which has just moved in to the shop near the Clock Tower which Alana's Baby Corner has just moved out of.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Would You Buy a Used Book from these People?

The anti-austerity march didn't make it into this week's Brecon and Radnor, but there is a very nice article about the Cinema Bookshop. Charles and Camilla visiting Talgarth Mill have bumped us off the front page, but here's the link:

And mid-morning on Wednesday, a French couple who live locally brought us two bottles of proscecco to celebrate, because they'd seen it in the paper and thought it was such good news!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

A Very English/Welsh Anti-Austerity March

It's about 25 years since I last went on a protest march - but I felt strongly enough about the Anti-Austerity march that I felt I had to go. The idea behind the marches is that Austerity, and all the cuts to government services, are not necessary, but are motivated by a government desire to reduce public services and sell off anything that isn't nailed down. And, of course, the cuts that have already happened are causing a great deal of suffering for the poorest people in society.
There were marches planned all over the country, and the nearest one was in Brecon, which I can get to on the bus.
Of course, the times of the buses and the time of the march didn't match up very well, so I had a couple of hours in Brecon before I went down to the meeting point outside Theatr Brycheiniog.
So I did a foolish thing. I went into Tenovus - and came out with eleven hardback Terry Pratchett Discworld novels!!

One of the things I wanted to do the next time I was in Brecon was to check out the new Brecon Tap, opened by the Brecon Brewing company, which faces the Wellington statue in the middle of town. It was a somewhat incongruous thing to do when I was about to march in support of people who could not possibly afford to have lunch there, even for £9.50. However, I had been wanting to visit since it opened, and this was the first opportunity I'd had - and the carrier bags of books were getting very heavy!
They serve the most wonderful pies. For £9.50 you get an individual pie, in flaky pastry - I had the lamb - with two side dishes of your choice. I had the mashed potato with black pudding and the beans in white wine, washed down with a half of Lytham Stout, which was chosen purely because of the pump clip, which had a picture of the Lytham windmill on it. When I was a kid, going on the coach to holidays in Blackpool, we knew we were nearly there when we passed that windmill!

So that took me until just before 1pm, when I arrived at the start point of the march.

A wide range of people had turned up - the local supporters of refugees, the Green Party, a Labour councillor, a member of the Women's Equality Party, a couple of people walking with crutches and sticks, and people protesting about the cutting of grants to the arts, people concerned about threats to local libraries, and even one placard protesting about the 3 weekly rubbish collection!
I saw a few people I knew, one of whom kindly offered to put my books in the back of his car for the march. We made a circuit around Brecon, with a cheerful policeman managing the traffic for us on the way, making a lot of noise and chanting "No More Cuts". It wasn't very busy around Brecon, but people did come out of shops to watch us walk by. We gathered around the statue of Wellington to finish - and then it was off to the Muse for tea and biscuits! Another lady from Hay kindly gave me a lift home, so I didn't have to hang around for the next bus.

One of the chaps from the Brecon & Radnor was on the march, taking photos, so I'm pretty sure the march will feature in this week's edition.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Food Fair

I have been treating myself, and stocking up for when my Young Man comes to visit, hence the Welsh Black Mountain beef now in the freezer and the three bottles of Brecon beer on the dresser - including the 10%ABV Brecon Mind Bleach, a double black Imperial little voice in the head remover (the label says!).
It was nice to see some genuine Indian food among the stalls, too - a lovely chap in a turban described how they made Samosa Chaat, with broken up vegetarian samosas, covered in chickpea curry, with a selection of sauces, for a riot of flavours in the mouth. It was delicious.
Inside, there were breads (I got a spelt loaf from Talgarth Mill), cakes, teas, coffees, beef and pork, Trealy Farm preserved meats, honey, chocolate, jams and chutneys and sauces.
The Talgarth Male Voice Choir was singing when I first got to the marquee, a medley of World War One and Two songs, and later the Brecon Band played, while a very enthusiastic man sold herb plants, with lots of advice about how best to grow them, and there were crafts in the Buttermarket.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Coach Trip to St Fagan's - and the Royal Mint

Susan, who sometimes recites poetry at the Baskerville Hall Wednesday evening sessions, asked me if I'd like to go with her on a day trip. She belongs to Heritage Country House Tours, which goes to theatres as well as country houses and so on. Their website is and they've got quite a full programme through the year.
She told me that the tour was going to St Fagan's Museum, which I've wanted to go to for years, so I was looking forward to it.
So, she picked me up on Thursday morning, and we drove to the Boat at Whitney, which was the pick up point for the coach. In fact, there was such a lot of interest in this tour that there were two coaches!

What Susan hadn't mentioned was that the first stop would be at a new Visitor Attraction which only opened this year - the Royal Mint Experience.
This is the place that makes every coin in Britain and, it turns out, in 80 countries around the world! They even make Euros! It's a secure site, with high fences and razor wire, but we were able to watch the factory floor through a big window - including fork lift trucks lifting big boxes of coins to empty into hoppers of machines which then count the coins. Which made a very satisfying sound as thousands of pounds worth of coins fell together. The coin counting machines are made in Germany, which has a Mint which is the main rival of the Royal Mint, but the Royal Mint can make coins more cheaply.
One chap on the tour was able to tell the guide (who was very entertaining along with all the information) that some of the raw materials for the coins (cupro-nickel, I think) came from Wigleys in Hereford.
This is where we got to see examples of the soon to be released new pound coin, which will have 12 sides - which means that all the vending machines and anything else coin operated using pound coins will have to be changed. Though the guide did say that changeover would be gradual. The final design for the last round pound is very beautiful, though I did think "Baratheon" from Game of Thrones rather than "Northern Ireland" when I saw the stag's head part of the design! It has a lion for England, dragon for Wales, unicorn for Scotland, and stag for Northern Ireland.
There was also an opportunity for people to have their own coin struck (at 69 tons of pressure) and to be photographed among glass boxes of pound coins - over four million pounds worth, if they were all full!
There was a good exhibition when we came out of the factory, with a good interactive area for school parties (there was a school party in the gift shop when we came out). It covered the history of the Mint from the Tower of London, through the Blitz at Tower Hill and out to Llantrisant - which was arranged by Jim Callaghan, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, and MP for part of Cardiff, before he became Prime Minister.
Another good aspect was the focus on the work of the designers, from the very recent designs for the Beatrix Potter 50p pieces right back to the Italian engraver in the early 19th century, who spent 30 years working on a commemorative medal for Waterloo, which was never used for fear that it would break apart!
The cafe was very good, too - we had lunch there - and all the staff were genuinely helpful and cheerful.

When we got to St Fagan's, I dragged Susan right the way across the site to St Teilo's Church - I'd seen a TV programme about how it was moved from it's original site before it fell down, and decorated with the most amazing wall paintings - traces of original medieval wall paintings were found under the whitewash, and the originals are now kept somewhere more secure, as they are very fragile. It is quite stunning, and I'm so glad I got to see it.

I'm never sure whether my camera will cope with photos indoors, but I think this one came out rather well - and this is the font cover:

We only got to see a fraction of the rest of the site as we made our way slowly back across it, including a Tudor farmhouse, Gwalia Stores, the Ewenny pottery (closed when we were there), a row of ironworkers' cottages furnished for different periods from 1805 at one end to the 1970s at the other, a Miner's Institute and a toll house. There was also a tannery where the tanning pits are being used as a habitat for great crested newts!
Work has started on new buildings - a medieval prince's court near St Teilo's, and a pub from Cardiff called the Vulcan by the Miner's Institute, along with a police station.
I shall have to go back!

On the way back home, Justin, who was the guide on our coach, mentioned the tours he organises with TravelArts Excursions - they include a day trip to London, a new Pinter play starring Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart called No Man's Land, and gardens at Highgrove and The Laskett (Sir Roy Strong's gardens). They can be booked via Leominster Tourist Information office.

It was a wonderful day out, and I'm so glad Susan invited me!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Mallyfest Cancelled

Sad news, from the Mallyfest Facebook page. Apparently the grass in the field needs to be re-seeded due to damage.

Small Business Saturday

Room, the interior design shop on Castle Street, has now moved to Dorstone, but they are retaining a shop window on Castle Street.
Alana's Baby Clothes have moved into the shop on Castle Street where Room used to be, which is much bigger than the shop they had down by the Clock Tower.
Meanwhile, Timeless Treasures on the Pavement have been featured in Bargain Hunt, featuring Leominster. The programme went out on 30th June.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Commemoration of the Somme

I've been distracted by what's going on in the country at the moment, but what happened 100 years ago is important, too. There will be a service of commemoration at St Mary's tonight, 1st July, at 7pm. They will be remembering the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Jutland.
I see on the British Legion's Facebook page that Second Lt. H Grant, from Hay, died in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.