Saturday, 29 April 2017

Small Business Saturday - Mayalls to Let

Mayall's the Jewellers closed a little while ago, and has been quietly sitting there behind the black wooden shutters.
Today, the shutters are down, and a "To Let" sign is in the window.
All trace of the jeweller's shop has been swept away - the partition wall across the middle of the building has gone without trace, leaving it open to the back wall, where there is another outside door and a window, and a fireplace. The staircase runs across the middle of the room at a slant, and the old floorboards have been revealed - black, and wide, and very old.
I peered in the window with the lady who has a spinning wheel on the Saturday market. She could just see herself spinning in there - though she doesn't really want to be tied to running a shop. She prefers the freedom of just doing the markets when she wants to. It could be a pretty card or gift shop, or something of that sort.

Friday, 28 April 2017

A Kind Gift

Many thanks to the kind person who left chicken soup on my doorstep yesterday!

Thursday, 27 April 2017

This Week's Interesting Events

Interesting things have been happening all this week, and I'm only just now taking an interest in the world again - and reading my emails to find out what's going on.

On Saturday, a phone call I missed turned out to be one of the ladies from Stitch and Bitch asking if I wanted to go to Wonderwool - which would have been a wonderful day out if I'd been well enough.

On Monday, Emma Balch hosted an evening at Pottery Cottage, Clyro, with three of the book artists whose work is in shop windows around town. About 25 people turned up, and it sounds as if it was a really enjoyable evening.

More seriously, tonight is a Special General Meeting of the Bronllys Well Being Park at Bronllys Hospital, 7pm, to talk about their progress and to vote on the new Bronllys Well Being Park (CLT) Ltd Board.

One thing which I'd been looking forward to for a while is the Campfire Convention meeting at the Old Electric Shop on Saturday, from 7pm until late. I've been on the fringes of testing their website (I haven't been as active as I would like, what with one thing and another) and it sounds like a really interesting evening of conversation, talking about global issues and local concerns, grass-roots democracy and anything else that is sparked off by the discussion. I don't think I'll have the energy to do that and then totter into work the following morning! The evening costs a suggested donation of £3, and Pete Lawrence has a website at

Also, the University of Cusop Dingle is meeting tonight, Thursday, at the Swan at 7pm. Chris Bradshaw will be presenting a talk called The Dead Man's History of the Universe - and King Richard will be at the Swan at 6pm on May 1st to celebrate his 40th anniversary of Glorious Rule, to which he invites all his loyal subjects!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017


I have a chest infection - I started coughing on Thursday, but I thought if I just took it easy over Friday and Saturday I'd be fine for work on Sunday.
I wasn't getting any better - in fact, I was getting worse, and by Sunday I also had pain in every joint in my body.
I knew I needed medical assistance, but I wasn't sure what to do - it's several years since I've been into Hay Surgery, and I couldn't find their phone number (and they'd be closed on Sunday anyway). I tried NHS 111, and found it was only for England - and then my neighbour brought me the number for ShropDoc.
The first young lady I spoke to took my details, and said someone else would phone back within the hour - and please to keep the line clear. "I'm not going to be chatting to all my friends," I said, somewhat tartly. I tend to get querulous when I feel ill, and it had taken me all my time to crawl downstairs to the phone.
Within the hour, I spoke to a Sister, who took more details, and said I really ought to be seen. Could I get to Brecon? Since I could hardly totter around the house, the answer was no - and I couldn't face the thought of ringing round people I knew with a car to take me. It just seemed like a monumental task which was completely beyond me. By this time I was nearly crying and saying I just wanted the pain to go away. So she said she would send someone to see me.
I crawled back to bed.
A little while later, a lovely lady came and examined me, and to my alarm said that she'd really prefer it if I went into hospital. She wanted to put me on a drip. At least I knew I hadn't called them out for something trivial, but I said I'd really rather not, so she left me with a stack of painkillers and some antibiotics for the chest. And, bless her, she even made me a pot of tea. "I couldn't find a teapot," she said, as she came upstairs with teabags floating in my cafetiere. So she said I should go into Hay Surgery on Monday, and left me to it.

I asked my neighbour to run me down to the surgery, and then I was very surprised to get a phone call from one of the doctors on Monday morning, to find out how I was (better than I had been) and to say that I was already on the list of appointments, as the paperwork from ShropDoc had just come through. I was very impressed.
So I spent a while in the waiting room of the surgery. They have a screen on the wall now where patients who knew what they were doing could check in and see the time of their appointment, and they have a box on the wall which people were using to post forms for repeat prescriptions - and there was a steady stream of people coming in to collect prescriptions from the receptionists (who were all lovely and helpful).
Also, Radio Two is very soothing.
So I was seen, and examined again, and told to keep taking the tablets I'd got.
And now I intend to spend the rest of the week in bed!

I was very impressed with how smoothly it all came together - and I'm very grateful for the NHS!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Book Art

Another example of the book art on show in the windows of Hay shops.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Buskers on Market Day

As I was heading towards the clock tower, I couldn't help noticing the two young men busking at the top of the Pavement - I've never heard the Star Wars theme played on guitar before!

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Fantastic Night at the Baskie

The ballroom was packed - I oounted 26 musicians at one point, so there was only time for a couple of songs each. Fortunately there were a lot of songs where everyone could join in, including one song that Becky started a capella, with guitarists gradually joining in round the room.
Susan passed round photocopies of a painting of George, the dragon and the maiden, and read out a UA Fanthorpe poem about it (where the maiden ponders whether she really wants to be rescued, the dragon complains that the painter missed his feet off, and George comes with diplomas in dragon management).
My contribution to the evening was two songs I sang at the EasterCon filk session (filk is science fiction themed folk music) - the first one was based on Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, and I got the songwriter to autograph my songbook. I sang the second one (Welsh History 101, failed), looked up from the book at the name badge of the chap sitting opposite me, and realised he was the songwriter - so I got him to autograph my book, too!
And then there was the new trio, who sang Copacabana with enthusiastic accompaniment.
A great time was had by all!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Keep the Hay Ho Bus Rolling

The spring newsletter for the Hay Ho Sunday bus service is now out from Drover Holidays - and the good news is that the fares are staying the same.
The bad news is that numbers using the service have gone down over the autumn and winter months.
Although they receive a small grant from Herefordshire County Council and Powys County Council, they also need supporters among the community for the service to continue - this includes local bed and breakfast establishments along the route, and the likes of Addyman Books and Eighteen Rabbit in Hay - or anyone who is interested in the bus service continuing to operate.
So they have a suggestion - many of the pubs along the bus route do food on Sundays, and the bus times make it easy to go for a short walk and then lunch in the local pub without worrying about driving home.
For the May Bank Holiday, when the Hay Ho bus will be running, which is also during Hay Festival, the team have organised a 4 to 5 mile walk with bus ride, using the 11.55 bus from Hay to Hardwick, and walking back along the Wye Valley walk. Les Lumsden and Mike Ledlie have both written local walking books, and Les also has a blog called Slow Travel in the Marches (also the name of his book).

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Small Business on Tuesday

I've only been gone a few days - and a new shop has opened!
So it's now possible to get falafels in the middle of Hay, rather than once a week from a market stall.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

A Short Holiday

I'll be off line for a few days over Easter.
In the meantime, here is a picture of some of the book art that's being displayed in shop windows around Hay.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Hay Tap

I met the lady from Kilvert's last week, walking Freddie the dog. She said she was looking forward to her retirement.
And when I next passed Kilverts, there had been a transformation!
There's a shelf of Brecon Brewery bottled beers opposite the door, and Tommo behind the bar was wearing a smart new waistcoat with the Brecon Brewery logo.
I had a half of Gold Beacons.
This is now the sister bar to the Brecon Tap. I'm looking forward to trying their pie.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Coach Trip to Lichfield

Susan wanted company when she went on a coach trip last week, so I joined her for a day out in Lichfield.
It's a charming town, and the main reason for the visit was the Doctor Johnson Museum. The coach was full, so we split into two groups for the guided tour.
We were in the first group, and we just had time for lunch at a lovely old pub called The Scales - all oak beams and three good real ales. I had the spicy bean burger and Susan had the bacon and cheese burger, which came with chips served in a mini deep fat fryer. Some people dislike quirky serving methods like this, but I quite liked this one.
Thus fortified, we were ready for the tour - the house was built by Samuel Johnson's father, Michael, who was a master bookbinder, and also had a book shop, and he decided he wanted eleven bedrooms! I think he wanted the tallest house on the square. Down in the basement was the kitchen, where the family spent most of their time (it would be the warmest room, after all), and on the ground floor was the bookshop, now the gift shop and charity bookshop, and Michael's work room where he did his bookbinding.
Upstairs, the biggest bedroom was where Samuel was born - his mother was quite elderly for a first pregnancy, and it was a difficult birth, which left him with a life long limp, partially sighted and partially deaf. However, she later gave birth to another boy, Nathaniel, about whom very little was known - he died at the age of 27 and left very little in documented evidence apart from a letter where he is apologising to his mother for his drunken behaviour!
Samuel went to the local grammar school, where he was saved from beatings for late arrival by his friends carrying him to school on their backs! In return, he did their homework for them.
The family were not wealthy enough to send Samuel to university, but he did manage to spend 18 months studying at the cheapest college, with a legacy of £40.
After that, he became a jobbing writer and went to London. For a while he and his wife Tetty ran a school, which was not successful, though one of the pupils was David Garrick (a Hereford lad) who became a great friend, and the leading actor of his age.
As we learned more about his life, we climbed higher up the house.
The thing that Samuel Johnson is most famous for is his dictionary, the first of its kind - it took him 10 years to complete, with various problems including a patron who didn't provide the money he had promised. However, on the strength of his work, Samuel was awarded an honorary doctorate from Dublin University, and was thereafter known as Doctor Johnson.
By this time, he had met his biographer and friend, Boswell.
Meanwhile back in Lichfield, his father had died, and his mother and a cousin who acted as maidservant ran the bookshop for thirty years.
The guide who took us round had done some research on the women of the family, and also on some of the words in the dictionary. She said she had been surprised to find the word "barbeque" included, with the meaning "cooking a whole hog in the West Indian style". One word which has changed its meaning is "nice". In Johnson's day, it meant "exact" rather than "pleasant".
When Tetty died, Samuel fell into a deep depression, so a friend decided to give him a little black slave boy as a present "rather like giving someone a puppy", the guide said. Samuel was vehemently against the slave trade, so he freed the boy, adopted him as his son, and educated him. This was Frances Barber, who was with him when he died, along with his wife, a white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, called Elizabeth.
Recently a family in Stoke-on-Trent were doing some family history research, and discovered that they were descendants of Frank and Elizabeth - which explained the family traits of either having curly hair and brown eyes or blonde hair and blue eyes! Now they get invited to all the events at the museum.
I'd known a bit about the life of Doctor Johnson when I went in, but I found the tour, and the details about the rest of his family and the people he surrounded himself with, fascinating.

Then there was time to have a look at the cathedral, which dates back to St Chad in Saxon times (the Lichfield Angel and the Lichfield Gospels were sadly not accessible when we were there).
The other important time in the cathedral's history was the Civil War, when the cathedral was besieged, and a marksman in the tower managed to shoot the leader of the besiegers. I stood on Dam Street not far from where the soldier fell, and was impressed at the accurate shooting!
After that, disaster struck, and the cathedral needed to be rebuilt - Charles II, whose statue is at the top of the post, gave money towards the work.
Lichfield Cathedral also has the most gorgeous Flemish stained glass, and the tomb of Bishop Selwyn, who was Bishop of New Zealand after he was Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry.

On the way back to the coach, we looked at the plaques on the church wall on the square where a market was being held - and found that four people were burned at the stake in that square over the years, including one woman, and the last person to be burned at the stake in England, in 1612.
All in all, it was a fascinating day out!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Council Meeting - Bits and Pieces

It seems the bridge is about to be painted, at long last! But plans for an extension to the cemetery are no further forward.
The Town Council needs another admin assistant, as Kevin is leaving. At the moment the post is for ten hours a week, on flexi-time, but there have only been four applicants for the job and the councillors wondered whether they are offering enough hours.
A letter arrived, concerned with the 19thC maps which were being kept in the cellar. The writer recommended moving the maps to a dry place, and that "three or four councillors" could work on the maps to restore them! As if the councillors don't have enough to do! Which reminded some of the councillors of all the records that the County Council just threw out some years ago....

Work is going on to make sure that the wards for elections of councillors are about the same size throughout the county - in fact, this is an international initiative, to ensure that the votes of each member of the public have about the same effect. The idea is fairness of representation, and in Powys it will mean that the total number of councillors will go down from 72 to 65. Some councillors wondered what the county councillors would find to do, since so many of their functions are being devolved down to the town councils and other functions are being taken over by the Welsh Assembly.

There are two vacancies at the Harley Almshouses - applicants need to be single and female, according to the terms of the charity.

At Hay School, a crane has been on site to lift in temporary classrooms, as the infants area is due to be knocked down over the Easter Holidays. So work is progressing well there.

SpeedWatch has also been doing well, and the police are considering extending the scheme to Gipsy Castle, as soon as they find a suitable place for the volunteers with the speed guns to stand without endangering themselves.

The town council are unsure about what is happening at the site of the old community centre, where Wales and West are supposed to be building social housing. Fiona Howard was distinctly unimpressed with the plans - she described the houses as "sheds" and said that they have only the tiniest of gardens, and there are still problems with the main access to the site, as well as problems with flooding. Wales and West are supposed to be engaging with the local community and the town council, but there has been no contact with them so far.
And at the other building sites around town - Readers Retreat has put up a sign directing people interested in the site into a dangerous situation they then have to reverse their cars out of. They were also refused planning permission for a portacabin on site. On the railway line, they've cut down two trees that they were not supposed to cut down, and gone onto private land to put a fence up. It seems they are not interested in getting permission for what they do - they're just going ahead and doing what they like.

The next meeting of the council will be the AGM on the 8th May, after the elections.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Council Meeting - Fly tipping, Recreation Facilities, Woodland Group, Hay Festival Parking

Pictures were shown of the cattle market. Brightwells, which lease the market, have been told to clear up the mess there. However, Fiona Howard said that, in her experience, Brightwells are very good at clearing up after each market - she has a back way into her garden which goes through the market. She also pointed out that the bath in the field shown on one of the pictures wasn't fly tipping - it was the trough for water for the sheep!
However, it was agreed that the fencing needs attention.
County Council officials had said they wouldn't come to Hay to discuss fly tipping with local councillors because the County Council is in purdah before the elections, and they can't do anything political. It was pointed out to them that fly tipping is not a political issue, and Gareth Ratcliffe agreed not to attend the meeting so there would be no whiff of impropriety.

Meanwhile at the sports pavilion, the Tennis Club has folded, with a small amount of money in its bank account. They have agreed that £250 will go towards cleaning the tennis courts, and the balance of the remaining funds will go to more cleaning and maintenance. The various sports clubs are sorting out the grass cutting between them, and HADSCAL have announced that they won't be getting involved. There is still some problem with the water supply and sewage to the Sports Pavilion, which needs to be resolved before the Town Council take over responsibility for the running of the building, and the estimate for the gas bill seems unreasonably high - they only use hot water for showers. Meter readings are going to be taken to check to see if the gas is coming on and heating the water when no-one is there.

The garage which was to become the headquarters of the Woodland Group has still not been cleared out - there is stuff from the football club still in there. However, a new idea was suggested - the Town Council could buy a shipping container and site it by the gas sub-station, nearer to the riverside paths. As it would not be a permanent building, it would not need to have planning permission. They estimated that a suitable shipping container would cost between £2,000 and £4,000. The money could come from the recycling fund or the council reserves, and the Woodland Trust would pay a nominal fee to use it.

There will be parking for Hay Festival on the cricket ground this year, but this needs to be manned so that cars are not parked there when it rains (which would damage the ground) and to take money. The sports clubs will have to find a rota of volunteers - and also to man the Gliss, if they want the revenue from the Festival parking there. Fiona Howard said that she wanted nothing to do with it, after many years of being stuck with the school car park duty.

Which leads on to more parking problems at Berry's Cottage, which has no on-road parking, and is just outside the boundary of the residents' parking scheme. It was commented that the residents' parking scheme was still a pilot scheme, with no signs of it coming to an end, in its third year! Councillors felt it would be too complicated to sort out a new boundary for the scheme to include Berry's Cottage right now, and are therefore leaving it as a job for the new town council after the elections.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Council Meeting - Library, Independence Celebrations, Car Parks and Town Plan

The councillors wondered how they were going to calculate the amount the community will have to pay towards the running of the Library in 2018 - 19. Powys County Council are still being vague about the figures.
Fiona Howard pointed out how much the Town Council has done behind the scenes to save the library, and added that, when there was a public meeting on the issue, nobody came along to say that the Library shouldn't be in the new school building. However, now there are people complaining about the library being moved to the school building.
A comment was also made about how local people often confuse what the town council do with what the county council do, so complain about the town council when it is actually the county council which is at fault.
There was some confusion about what HOWLS (the Hay-on-Wye Library Supporters) want to do next, as there has been some discussion about using the existing library building and adding more community activities. The councillors were unsure whether HOWLS wanted to take over the library building and run it themselves - in which case, how were they going to fund it? One suggestion was that HOWLS should put forward a candidate to be a town councillor in the coming elections.

The town council commended the organisers of the weekend's 40th anniversary of Hay independence celebrations for their hard work, and said that they had been told it might become an annual event. The town council gave a grant towards the Arts Trail, which will be in shop windows around town until May 1st. There was also a complaint about the county council charging for the closing of the town square for celebrations such as this - and sending extra traffic wardens into town to make a bit more money from fixed penalty notices.
Apparently, the Welsh Assembly recently offered to pay all the county councils in Wales for their car parking, so that all council car parks would be free across Wales, thus encouraging tourism and shopping in Welsh towns. All the county councils agreed to this - except Powys. Powys will continue to charge for the use of their car parks. In Hay, the income from the main car park is now supposed to go towards funding things like the public toilets, which the county council used to be responsible for.

Meanwhile, the Recycling Fund has been asked for a contribution towards St Mary's church, which needs better disabled access and some work on the heating system - at which Steve Like suggested that they should "burn sinners"! The Recycling Fund has offered them £500.

The Town Plan is so complex that the councillors feel they need a Town Manager to deal with it - there are so many intersecting parts to it. The National Park will work out how to join projects together across the park to help with funding, so that people are working together, instead of independently trying to do the same thing.
The best way to appoint a Town Manager to deal with this would seem to be to treat it as a project, in which case government funding may pay for the post as part of their leader programme. What they need is someone to have oversight of what's going on so that they can catch problems before things go wrong. The council have some experience of running a big project like this, with the Timbuktu project - and they also have some experience of how projects like that can go wrong. Whatever happens, it will mean a lot of extra work to do on top of what they are doing already.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Council Meeting - a Bench, the Gliss, Defibrillators and Festival Buses

This was the final Town Council meeting before the elections on 4th May. So everyone is anticipating change.
Fiona Howard will no longer be mayor.
A new chap (Derek?) had been co-opted onto the council this time, and he seemed quite on the ball, asking pertinent questions from time to time.
Here's hoping that enough people stand for election to make it a contest (though town councillor is a pretty hard job these days). Rob Golesworthy has already been out campaigning (I got a flyer through my door). He's standing as a Conservative.
And at the end of the meeting, Steve Like announced that he will be stepping down, because he can no longer work with Powys County Council - who have consistently failed the community of Hay for years, he added.
Gareth Ratcliffe is standing for re-election to the County Council, and thanked everyone for their support. Several County Councillors will not be standing for re-election this time, so after the 4th May the PCC may look quite different, and maybe different decisions will be made.

But the first item to be addressed yesterday evening was the on-going saga of the bench by the BT boxes opposite the Cinema Bookshop. BT have still failed to replace the bench they moved properly (it's way too low now), so the councillors were considering issuing an ultimatum. They want to site a memorial bench to Arnold Wesker there - and were half-seriously considering siting it across the front of the BT box so that BT couldn't open it! And they're thinking of issuing a bill to BT for the re-siting of the bench, and all the time the Town Council have spent on dealing with the matter when they could have been doing something more important.

Meanwhile down at the Gliss there are four abandoned vehicles, and no authority seems to want to do anything about moving them. It seems to be down to the Town Council to take action.
"We sit here and look at problems," Fiona Howard said. "We've got to find answers."
"We're not backed up by the relevant authorities," Alan Powell added.
They were also concerned about people camping overnight down there, and discussed installing a lockable gate. Another consideration is charging for parking over the Festival - it might be possible to get someone down there to collect money for the Festival, possibly someone from one of the sports clubs, which would assist them in fund raising.

And the transfer of assets from Powys County Council to Hay Town Council is also on-going. The PCC seems to want town councils to take on more responsibilities, but seem reluctant to take the final step of signing the assets over to the town councils. And of course there is no extra money available to the town councils to take on these extra responsibilities. At a recent meeting between representatives of town councils and the PCC, all the other town councillors and clerks reported similar problems. Although they had all come individually, without talking to each other before hand, they presented a united front against the PCC representatives. In fact, the people from Llandrindod Wells said that they always had a solicitor present when discussing anything with the PCC!

Nobody is sure what will happen after this year's elections....

Some good news, though, is that the town council are applying to have more defibrillators sited around town. The Gliss was suggested, but turned down as there is no electricity supply available there, but the Co-op was agreed to be a good site, in association with Cusop Council, and possibly the Craft Centre and St Mary's Church, to serve the estates at that end of town. "They can't always rely on prayer!" Steve Like said.
The Sports Ground was also suggested as a suitable site.

Although the Chamber of Commerce sent an email round recently saying that the Festival shuttle buses through town will be returning this year, it seems that things are not that simple. Herdmans Coaches have been given the contract, but apparently the bus drivers don't want to stop outside Tinto House/Clocktower - they claim it is dangerous. However, this is the site of the regular bus stop for the Browns bus into Hereford - they don't seem to have a problem with it for the rest of the year. Clarification will be sought from Hay Festival.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Long Live the King!

I should have mentioned yesterday that Josie Pearson, Hay's Paralympic gold medallist, was also knighted by Prince Derek - I missed that because I was at the back of the crowd, gossiping with the Stich and Bitch ladies!

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Celebrations and Wayzgoose

Plan B, as far as costumes were concerned, was easy - I dressed as Sherlock Holmes and headed over to Baskerville Hall. I walked most of the way, though one kind gentleman stopped to offer me a lift (I didn't recognise him until I saw him later, at the Hall). Then Tracy and Ian stopped for me, and I came from the Petrol Station up the drive with them.
I was quite pleased with the walk, though - I'm very out of practice now I don't have a dog, and the last time I tried to walk to the Baskie I was wearing medieval boots, which crippled me, being slightly too tight (yes, those are the boots I'll be selling shortly - they'll be fine for someone with slightly smaller feet than mine).
There were lots of cars in the car park, and the exhibition rooms were crowded - there were a surprising number of people there who I knew, including Maureen Richardson the paper maker and book art maker, who had a stall next to an anarchist printer. I hadn't realised there were so many small press printers in the area, though one was on his way to Oxford from another show, and had decided to break his journey at Hay.
I picked up a flyer from Ludlow Bookbinders and Jemma Marbling, thinking to get as many cards and flyers as I could, but I soon got distracted. Also, several people asked to take my photo, one with the head of a giant hound in the background!
Outside in the hall was the book sculpture from the Sidney Nolan Trust, as well as cakes and coffee stalls, and round the back of the main hall was the printing press, together with plans of what the organisers want to do with the newer part of the building, where the raves used to be held, to make it into a museum and workshop space. One of their ideas is to use the bunk house accommodation for groups who want to come on printing courses, while bibliophiles can book the more luxurious bedrooms to stay, surrounded by first editions.

I went back into Hay with Tracy and Ian, and though we missed the parade, we were in time to see Prince Derek give out honours, accompanied on stage by George the Town Cryer. Mac Eager was knighted, and so was the author Phil Rickman, while our other local author, Barbara Erskine, was given the title First Lady of Hay, and Jeffrey Babb became Master of the King's Music.
I met up with a group of ladies from Stitch and Bitch, and Tracy produced a ball of wool from her bag so that it would be an official Stitch and Bitch meeting! Ros had dressed to incorporate a variety of books, including Watership Down shoes (with a picture of a leaping rabbit on them) and book ear-rings with The Hunting of the Snark in them. Sharon, who runs the campsite on the way to Llanigon, said that several Instagrammers were staying with her, and she was amazed at the distances they had come for the weekend. Ann Brichto, who has taken to Instagram as her favourite form of social media, managed to collect them together, and they had a meeting last night of sixty or seventy people.
Then there was African drumming, and a photo opportunity on the terraces of Hay Castle, with the photographer popping his head out of the skylight of one of the houses across the road.
I posed for photos with the Snow Queen as well (and foolishly failed to get anyone to take photos with my camera).
Down in the square, circus skills were in full swing, with tightrope walking, and diablo, and hula hoops and stilt walking. Two young boys stilt walking down Castle Street explained seriously that you had to keep moving all the time, or you fell over.
Also in the square was a stall selling accessories for period costume, mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries. The lady in charge was in full Jane Austen finery, with a tiara. I'd been told that she'd moved into the area by several people, though she specialises in a very different period of history to my interests, and it was fascinating to chat to her. She's living for the moment at Glasbury House, and said that one of the best things about this area, after life in London, was the fresh air!
Finally, I popped into Beer Revolution to try the Lucky 7 Independence Ale, which is very tasty, and hoppy. Derek from the Wholefood Shop told me they were getting some bottles in yesterday afternoon - the brewer was reportedly still sticking the labels on the bottles the night before! This is, of course, Hay's own local brewery, so the beer didn't have to come very far.
King Richard, sadly, did not make an appearance, but he was there in effigy, in the windows of Booth Books and the Flower Shop.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Alas! Medieval Costumes No Longer Fit!

For the Independence Celebrations, costumes are encouraged, especially of book themed characters. So I thought I'd bring out my medieval costume and portray Matilda de Breos again, who is historical, Hay-related, and the star of Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine. So she covers pretty much all the bases.
It is some time since I last looked at my medieval costumes, since I haven't been doing much historical re-enactment lately.
None of them fit any more.
Well, I could get into the surcoat, if I wanted to portray a man, and the braies and leggings are one-size-fits-all, (that's the male underwear) but the dresses are all out of the question, and the undertunic is very tight around the arms, which is a pity because it's genuine vintage French linen.
They'll all have to go.

So if anyone wants 13th century costume, plus one Saxon tunic and one Viking dress, I will be selling them off at very reasonable rates! Also size six boots!

I am, however, keeping the chainmail and helmet, just in case....

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Celebrating 40 Years of an Independent Hay

All sorts of fun things are happening this weekend!
Tomorrow the Globe is staging a Desert Island Picks evening with Deborah Moggach, who wrote the book which was adapted into the film The Best Marigold Hotel. Meanwhile, Bookstagram attendees will be meeting at Booths Bookshop, and Oliver Balch will be talking about his book about the local area, Under the Tump.
At the Old Electric Shop, there will be book themed cocktails and live music.
I won't be going to any of these, because Hidden Figures, the film about the black women mathematicians at NASA in the 1960s, is on at Booths Cinema, and I've been waiting for it to come to Hay since before it came out.

On Saturday the History Group are doing a Bookshop tour at 11am, from the Cheesemarket, with Alan Nicholls talking about the development of the book trade in Hay.
At Baskerville Hall there is the Wayzgoose - an exhibition of printing, alongside a touring exhibition of book art from the Sidney Nolan Trust.
There's more printing, of the linocut variety, at the Globe.
On the square (in marquee if wet) there'll be circus skills and samba drumming and breakdancing.
At mid-day there's a book themed fancy dress parade, starting from Hay School, and ending at the Honesty Gardens at the Castle, where the Hay flag will be raised. Knighthoods and other honours will be conferred on worthy Hay characters. There will also be a Family Photo for everyone in Hay who wants to take part!
The Bookstagrammers will be meeting at the Globe for a panel discussion about what they do (books on instagram for beginners, I assume!). The Globe will also be screening a film called The Rum Diary, with an introductory talk by writer and director Bruce Robinson.
Addymans Bookshop will be open until 7.30pm, which is when the Old Electric Shop starts serving cocktails again, with more live music.
Or there's the Independence Ball at the Parish Hall, starting at 8pm.

Sunday starts with a booksellers' breakfast at the Globe, while over at Baskerville Hall there will be a book themed walk led by Oliver Balch in the morning - and at 2pm he'll be at the Clock Tower to lead a second book themed walk around Hay.
Alan Nicholls will also be leading another history tour of the bookshops.

Already appearing in shop windows around town are the exhibits for the Book Art Trail - taking in 26 venues, including the Library, Beer Revolution, Shepherds, and Alana's Baby Corner as well as bookshops and Eighteen Rabbit, it even goes out to Drover Cycles and Pottery Cottage in Clyro! Amongst all the bright young artists, some of whom I saw when they were setting up the window at the Cinema Bookshop (which has a Shakespeare theme), it's nice to see local names like Maureen Richardson the paper maker, Tracy Thursfield, Sarah Putt - and Hay Primary School!

The full schedule can be found at, and more information on the Book Art is at

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

HOWLS Gets Organised!

The Hay-on-Wye Library Supporters meeting last night, in the Library, was for the people who wanted to start getting things organised into proper sub-committees.
First, the good news - funding for the Library has been retained for the coming year, thanks to a one off payment from Hay Festival to HOWLS (the money to be used as they see fit) and an agreement with Powys County Council.
But - this is only a stop gap measure. By the end of the year, HOWLS needs to have come up with a plan to keep the library on a more long term basis.
At the moment, Powys County Council is in "purdah", meaning that they will not deal with anything prior to the election on May 4th. After May 4th, the make up of the Council may have changed considerably - the Leader, Barry Thomas, is stepping down, and so is the holder of the finance portfolio. With new people in those positions, it will probably be worth approaching them to get them to re-consider the PCC policy on branch libraries. However, the fact remains, as Kirsty Williams pointed out, that the Council still has no money, and has to cut something to balance the books.
Some libraries have already come to a compromise agreement with the Council - as Kirsty Williams said, each community is different, and different solutions can work for them. Asked how this would affect a county wide policy on libraries, she said that she thought it could still work well, even with different ways of working in different libraries. Llanwrtyd Wells, for instance, has gone for a mostly volunteer model, with some professional help.
What Hay needs is a solution which works for Hay.
One problem is that it is very difficult to get firm figures from the Council showing exactly how much it costs to run the building. So far, they've given four different answers. Kirsty Williams said that she would look into it, and see if she could pin them down on a definitive answer. Without proper figures, it's very hard to work out a budget!
Another problem is that Hay Library serves surrounding communities as well as Hay residents - and as Hay is on the border, some of those communities are in Herefordshire, so they have no democratic say in what Powys does. However, on the Powys side of the border, HOWLS are encouraging people in Llanigon and Glasbury and other local villages to talk to their candidates about the importance of libraries.
At the moment, HOWLS are in the process of opening a bank account ("if you can find a bank that's still open" was the comment from the audience). One possibility here is that Nat West have been talking about having a community banker in Hay once a week when their branch closes down, and they need an office to work out of. It could be possible for them to work out of the library, which would give the library income from renting them the space.
Rev Charlesworth said that a great help in the fight to keep Gwernyfed School open was the existance of Estyn, the schools body, which was on the side of the campaigners. There is no equivalent for libraries, and though there is the Libraries Act and Welsh Assembly standards, it is difficult to hold County Councils to those standards.
One possibility is to make the argument that libraries are useful across other parts of the Council budget - as Jayne said, libraries are the secret social service. They provide a place for social interaction for people who are isolated, such as the elderly or parents with young children, for free. One argument to make could be that closing the Library would cost the Council more than keeping it open, because of these hidden benefits of social cohesion and helping with problems of isolation, as well as other advice that can be gained at the library. There's a good argument to be made for involving health visitors in local libraries, for instance. The first two years of a child's life are extremely important for the long term outcomes for the child, and the library is a good place to see toddlers as they are brought in for their first picture books. It was emphasised that this is not a case of poor people not knowing how to be good parents - professional women who have their first baby can find it's a culture shock as well (as my sister discovered when she had her first child).
Kirsty Williams pointed out the similarities with the Day Care Centres that she has been trying to keep open - the Council had not considered the cost of closing them due to people who were being supported by the Day Care Centres then needing residential care, or the impact on the carers who also needed their needs to be taken into account.

This weekend is the 40th Anniversary of Hay Independence Celebrations, and there was some discussion of HOWLS marching in the parade - though they have left it a little late to make a banner and wolf masks!

The meeting then broke up into different small groups, and I found myself with the Publicity sub-committee. We successfully devised a slogan for the on-going campaign: Giving Hay Library a Future, and decided that we would wait until after the Independence Celebrations to issue a press release about the library funding for the coming year.

And on the way home, still chatting, we thought of an event we could hold in the future. Ian Finlayson was planning to have a Soapbox for anyone to give speeches from for the Independence Celebrations (borrowing the Kilvert's Soapbox for the occasion) but decided against it, because so many other things will be going on (mostly Circus-related) in the square. However, the Soapbox would be very useful for a group of people to do readings from library books, and it would be very simple to organise....

Monday, 27 March 2017

Growing Business, Shrinking Banks

Good news for Geraldine, who took over Gibbons Butchers from her father Chris five years ago. The business has been increasing trade, and they are now ready to expand. They will be moving to new premises on Castle Street, with space to expand their range of products, and add deli and bakery sections, and they are planning to be open in March 2018. They intend to employ another four people. The meat has always been very good there (Chris Gibbons used to be a judge at the Royal Welsh Showground), and Geraldine has added pies and baked goods to the range. Chris Gibbons opened the butchers in 1984, with one member of staff.

They were able to do this with a business loan from the Nat West - which is ironic, as the local branch of the bank is going to be closed in October, leaving Barclays as the only bank in town with a face to face service and ATM - and they're only open three days a week now.
NatWest customers will be able to do some transactions via the Post Office. The management also said that they were intending to have a mobile bank in Hay for one day a week - for an hour, when they met with County Councillors Gareth Ratcliffe and James Gibson-Watt, Kirsty Williams AM and Fiona Howard (who is mayor this year).

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Remembering Lucy Powell, Legendary Landlady

I was sad to hear yesterday of the death of Lucy Powell, legendary landlady of the Three Tuns before the renovations, which were done after the fire which ended Lucy's time there.
In the early days of Hay Festival, the Three Tuns was an essential watering hole for journalists from national newspapers who covered the Festival.
Lucy also claimed that the Great Train Robbers drank there, while in hiding in the area.
I remember belly dancing demonstrations, in the middle of the tiny bar - which also featured in Dandelion Dead, which was filmed in Hay in 1994. Just about the only thing they did to change it for the filming (which was set in 1923) was to take out the 1970s broken games machine.
Tim the Gardener used to play his guitar there.
The film crew with Monty Don drank there when he was filming a series about small towns - and one of them over indulged in the cider and was very ill indeed the next day.
Local characters Sid and Lil used to drink there (Sid worked at Booths Bookshop for many years).
Lucy used to cook her tea over the fire in the bar - now the fireplace in the refurbished bar, but stripped back from the Victorian overmantle that it used to have then.
And she talked to everyone. You couldn't go in there for a quiet drink on your own - you would end up talking to everyone else in the bar. This featured in a memoir about Hay by Paul Collins, Sixpence House, about an American who came to live in Hay, worked for Richard Booth and tried to renovate Half Moon House, which he renamed Sixpence House for the book. He also renamed Lucy - she's "Violet" and the pub becomes "The Hogshead".
I also remember her opening up the room on other side of the building, not usually open to the public, for a slide show by a chap who had just come back from the Arctic. Most of the room was taken up by a big round table, and we were squashed in like sardines wherever we could fit!
Once, Lucy locked herself out, and my ex-husband came to help with a ladder, which I think we borrowed from Rest for the Tired. The bathroom window was open, but Lucy wouldn't let him climb up to let her in - she insisted on climbing up herself, while he steadied the ladder for her. I think she was 76 at the time.
I was told that, in her youth, Lucy was a keen dancer, in the dance hall round the back of the Rose and Crown which is now a gym.
And of course, she played the part of St Lucia several times, at the Three Tuns and at Primrose Farm, with a crown of candles and wearing a white nightie.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Eating Out in Hereford, Hay and Brecon - and New Plans from the Brecon Tap

So, I saw the Young Man onto the train this morning, and now things are getting back to normal.
I don't eat out often, unless I have guests, so last week we indulged ourselves.
We started in Hereford, straight off the train. At the market in the square we saw the Falafel stall which comes to Hay on Thurdsdays, and treated ourselves to freshly prepared falafels - the Young Man reckons they're the best he's ever tasted.
And, having discovered how good the chilli and chips are from the chip shop on Broad Street, on a previous visit, that's what we got for our first evening meal in Hay.
We also sampled the pizzas at the Three Tuns - a large one to share between us - and they were delicious too. On the first visit we tried the vegetarian option with Perl Las cheese, and on the second we had the beef brisket option.
On Tuesday, we went to Brecon - a visit from the Young Man is not complete without a pie and a pint at the Brecon Tap. We thought it was going to be fine and sunny in the morning, so we could have a wander round Brecon and maybe go down to the Regimental Museum - but the weather was so foul in the afternoon we never left the pub! The Brecon Tap had several special pies on, as well as the usual menu, so I went for the Morroccan lamb, and he went for the coq au vin, which you get with two side dishes of your choice. The Young Man was most impressed with the coq au vin, and tasted my Morroccan lamb. He has a colleague from work who is Morroccan, who has occasionally brought food into work to share, and he reckoned the chef had got the taste just right!
We also took the beer carrier with us, so that the Young Man could choose some Gwynt y Ddraig cider to take to his friends in London who appreciate such things (the last time he took some back, one friend said that the contents of the bottle had not touched the sides on the way down his throat!)
While at the Brecon Tap, I noticed a leaflet about a proposed Hay Tap. They are crowd funding now to be able to move into Kilvert's bar with the same sort of range of beers - and the pies - as they are doing in Brecon. It sounds like an interesting project. For more information, call 01874 620800 or email The website is at, where they are talking about the ???? Tap - but on the leaflets, they are clear that they are talking about Hay and Kilverts.
Meanwhile, they have also been celebrating the first birthday of the Brecon Tap.

Friday, 17 March 2017

There will now be a Short Intermission....

I will not be online much for the next week, as my Young Man is coming to visit.
So, here is a picture of some wolfhounds (and their people) seen in Hay last week:

Help From an Unexpected Source for Local Groups

Persimmon Homes seem to be a generous lot - last week there was a report in the Hereford Times that they will be giving £1,000 to Hay School to pay for outings and extra-curricular activities. They have offered this money because Hay School usually makes money from providing car parking for Hay Festival on their grounds for extras for the children, but this year the grounds are taken up with the foundations of the new school building, so they can't do that.

And this week Hay Theatre group are the lucky recipients of a grant of £1,000 from Persimmon too. They're about to run a project in collaboration with HayDay, to help people who suffer from dementia, or who are at risk of developing dementia. HayDay runs a regular cafe for people who suffer from dementia and their carers. Hay Theatre is planning a series of drama workshops for the elderly, in which familiar household objects come to life and tell a story.

Apparently, Persimmon Homes does this sort of thing regularly, as part of their Community Champions scheme - they donate up to £2,000 a month to community groups and good causes in all 29 of their regions.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

New Blood Needed at the Chamber of Commerce

Andrew of Eighteen Rabbit is stepping down as chair of the Chamber of Commerce this year, though he will still be involved. Clare Fry is therefore looking for someone to replace him - and anyone else who would like to be more involved will be welcome, too!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Denuded Backfold

While I was taking some more twigs down to the garden waste bins in the car park on Saturday, my attention was directed to the work going on at the Castle. Tidying has been going on, including at the top of Backfold, which has had overhanging bushes for years. This is what it looks like now:

At least they left the little bush in the middle of the picture, which was planted a few years ago in memory of Graham, who ran the pet shop where The Thoughtful Gardener is now.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Dark Age Herefordshire

I went up to Cusop Village Hall on Saturday - Cusop History Group had a visiting speaker who was talking about Dark Age Herefordshire, starting just before the Romans legions left, and going up to the death of King Offa.
It's useful to look at history sometimes on a local level. Herefordshire is tucked away from the coasts, so the early incursions of the Saxons, Angles and Jutes on the eastern side of the country, and the Irish from the west, didn't make much impression on the area which would eventually become the county at first. The Roman roads were not maintained, and the iron smelting in the south of the county with ore from the Forest of Dean stopped being economically viable. Meanwhile, Celtic Christianity produced St Dubricius in the south of the county - who may possibly have crowned King Arthur at Caerleon before he went off to become Bishop of Llandaff. And St David may have been born at Much Dewchurch. There's even a church which claims to have a chair made for St Augustine when he came to visit the Welsh bishops, in an important meeting between Roman and Celtic Christians (the Welsh bishops weren't too impressed by Augustine).
The River Wye split the area in two, with one side eventually being taken over by the Mercians, and the other becoming the Welsh commote of Archenfield.
One thing which was really useful was seeing the map of the area, with the names at different periods, and the locations of the towns. Hereford itself wasn't built until quite late in the period, but when it was it seemed to become the pattern for boroughs elsewhere in Mercia, with a grid iron layout of streets surrounded by a stout wall. Some of the streets in Hereford still follow the original Saxon lines.
The hall was full, and I think we all found the talk very interesting - and there was time to chat over tea and biscuits afterwards. I found myself discussing the course of the Wye, and whether the Roman road went to the north or south of the river near Hay - and was it really the Silures who attacked the Roman fort at Boatside? Nobody was sure. And I learned that a Roman coin was found, years ago, in the garden of Rest for the Tired on Broad Street in Hay, the only trace of Roman occupation in Hay itself.
Cusop History Group and Hay History Group are quite different in the focus of their activities, even though there's some overlap of membership. The border really does divide things up so that Cusop looks to the east and Hay looks to the west and Welsh history much more.
Cusop History Group costs £5 for a year's membership, and £5 to attend a talk for non-members "so you may as well join!" they said. Members pay £3 for a talk, which includes the tea and biscuits.
The next Cusop History Talk will be at Cusop Church next month, talking about the history of the church.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Speaker's Corner

I was chatting to Iain Finlayson, of the Keep Magazine, a few days ago, and he told me that one of the things he wanted to do over the 40th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations was to set up a Speaker's Corner.
The last time this was tried was shortly after the Republican Uprising (when we cut off King Richard's head) and Tim the Gardener was a stalwart speaker. Eventually the bad weather and lack of audience because of the bad weather put even Tim off, and the soap box was abandoned.
But the weekend of the Independence celebrations might be a good time to bring it back. It would be open to anyone who wants to have a rant, or has a pet topic they want to bring to public attention.
Iain can be reached at or 07969 537798 for further details.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Wayzgoose Fair at Baskerville Hall

As well as the Hay 40th Anniversery of Independence celebrations over the weekend of 1st April, there will be a Wayzgoose Fair at Baskerville Hall. This is a traditional annual gathering of printers, dating back to late medieval times. Experts in the field of letterpress and intaglio printing, bookbinding, papermaking, marbling, book illustration and design will be showing off their work.
And there will be an exhibition called Re-imagining the Laws of England and Wales, put together to celebrate 800 years of Magna Carta. A set of ‘Halsbury’s Statutes’, the accepted authoritative texts for statute law (Acts of Parliament) of England and Wales, was donated to the Sidney Nolan Trust by a local court service whose staff now use online reference. The 27 volumes were destined to be pulped had the Trust not taken them. Each volume has been transformed into a work of art exploring themes related to topics covered in the particular volume as well as ideas around legislation and society.
The exhibition is open on 1st April from 10am to 3pm, along with the demonstrations, and entry is free.
There is also a supper in the evening, costing £15, and a book themed walk on 2nd April, led by Oliver Balch (so I imagine there will be some Kilvert references in there!). The walk is also free, and starts at 10am.
A collection of early printing presses is going to be housed at the Hall, and the plan is for there to be events all year round celebrating books and printing. There is a website for more information on, as well as updates on Emma Balch's blog A Book A Day in Hay.
Any profits from this Baskerville Wayzgoose will be donated to Hay Dun, a new not-for-profit organisation that will offer opportunities for respite, learning, training, supported employment, residencies, and volunteering at Baskerville Hall.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Enid Blyton's Signature

There's a story in the Hereford Times this week about a lady who was browsing the outdoor bins outside the Cinema Bookshop, and found a copy of Silas Marner, which she bought for £1. When she looked more closely, it had a note glued inside it. The note was congratulating someone called Mary for winning a competition, and was signed Enid Blyton!
There's been a bit of interest in this from the media - my boss Greg has been talking to BBC Hereford and Worcester about it.
We, of course, had no idea the note was there. The outside bins are the "last chance saloon" for books which have previously been on the shelves indoors at a higher price.
Finding Enid Blyton's signature is probably not quite as exciting as the student some years ago who bought a copy of TS Eliot's poems to read on the beach from a second hand bookshop for 20p - and discovered he was holding a first edition, but it's still very interesting, even though the note is probably a generic one which Enid Blyton sent to all the winners of competitions - she edited a magazine called Sunny Stories - with the winner's name added in.
Enid Blyton died in 1968, and back then it was highly unusual for authors to do signing sessions. Now it's a common part of publicising an author's work - the readers get to meet the author, who signs their copy of the book. There's a joke that the unsigned copies of Terry Pratchett's books are more valuable than the signed ones, because he did so many! And Neil Gaiman signs books in bulk, in advance of appearances - he's given himself repetitive strain injury as a result.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Helicopter at Baskerville Hall

I got chatting to a couple who came into the shop a couple of days ago. They were staying at Baskerville Hall, and were quite excited to relate that they were watching when guests arrived in a helicopter! It landed right on the lawn beside the hall! Apparently, they were willing to land further away, in the field, but David, the owner, was happy for them to get as close as possible.
Who could it be? Speculation leapt to reclusive rock stars, or maybe minor royalty!
As usual, I went to the Wednesday night acoustic evening - and there were the helicopter people, in the bar, wearing polo shirts with the logo Skyhook Helicopters.
It turns out that they are not rock stars after all, but they are involved with rocks. They're actually working in the area, using the helicopter to transport loads of stone up the mountain above Talgarth to repair the footpaths there - because it's difficult to get any other sort of vehicle up there.
The bar was packed to the limit with performers and audience, including the couple who had told me about the helicopter to begin with. She'd had her hair done in Hay that day - she asked me for a recommendation, and I suggested Lucinda's on Castle Street. She looked quite pleased with the result.
One of the performers, Les Covenay, has a song (I think it's one of his own) called Helicopter Ride, which he performed with lots of additional solos from other performers round the room. There were also a few nods to International Womens' Day in the song choices - I couldn't resist doing I Hate Men from Kiss Me Kate - and Susan read poems about insects, including the bumble bee which shouldn't be able to fly according to the aeronautical engineer, but does anyway. She also performed a La Fontaine poem about the cicada and the ant in English and French, to the delight of some French visitors at the bar.
There was also Tom on his fiddle, Rae on her cello, Sara on her drum, John Banjo and Mark with his new banjo (as well as the usual blues and acoustic guitars), Lesley on ukelele, Dave on guitar and foot pedal operated cajon (the drum box you sit on) and a variety of other guitars - and Neil doing unaccompanied Scottish songs. It was also close to the anniversary of the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise, so Dave did a song about that. There's always plenty of variety in the song choices.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

HOWLS Adopts a Constitution

I decided on attending the meeting at the library last night, as that's the most pressing local issue at the moment. There were quite a lot of people there, though not as many as came to the Parish Hall last month. I found myself sitting on the floor again, which I always think is fine to start with, until my joints remind me that I'm not in my twenties any more!
The main point of the meeting was for HOWLS, the Hay-On-Wye Library Supporters, to adopt a formal constitution and elect officers to a committee, so that they can go back to the County Council on a better footing. At the moment, it's easy for the County Council to ignore the group, because they are not a "proper" organisation.
Anita Wright did most of the speaking, giving the position so far. HOWLS have been in contact with Hay Festival, which has been donating money to the library for the past couple of years to keep it open an extra few hours a week, to see if they would be willing to continue for the coming year. Gareth Ratcliffe has also been talking to Councillor Brown, of the County Council, to discuss the library funding for the coming year - and so far the outcomes seem to be positive. However, these behind the scenes discussions wouldn't have happened without a lot of effort on the part of all the people who want to keep the library open, including the Town Council, who were discussing the Library as part of their monthly meeting on the same evening. Richard Greatrex of HOWLS was at the Council Meeting to see what the latest news was there.
Library staff have been offered voluntary redundancies, so there will be staffing changes in the coming year.
So the library service will probably look very similar to what it is now for the coming year, but HOWLS were looking forward to the long term future. They aren't wedded to a particular building to house the library - it could remain where it is, or be moved to the school when it is built - what is important is the library service.
Anita went on to say that it was lovely to have volunteers to help to run the library - but it is not sustainable to expect volunteers to run the library without professional staff. They understand that the County Council has no money, as Kirsty Williams said at the big library meeting last month, but there could be changes in the way the County Council allocates the funds they have.
As well as keeping the library open for as many hours as possible, HOWLS are also thinking about how to encourage the use of the library. For instance, they were considering how to encourage ten to fourteen year olds to use the library, and what activities would attract them. Michaelchurch Eskley School wants to be more involved with the library, and Hay School is now bringing a class to the library every Thursday. George the Town Cryer has also volunteered to do Welsh Chat - Welsh conversation practice for anyone who wants it.
All the supporters of HOWLS are being transformed into Members of the organisation (everyone who has given their emails or addresses), and there will be no fee for joining. As Anita said, it would be silly to charge to belong to an organisation which was formed to keep a free library service. Members are entitled to vote for the officers of the organisation.
They were also thinking about the wider picture - libraries are under threat all over the country, not just in Powys - and they are in touch with other groups, including the National Library Campaign. However, each library has its own unique community, and so there can't be a "one size fits all" solution - each solution must be tailored to the particular community the library is part of.
Voting had the following results:
Chair - Anita Wright
Secretary - Mel Prince
Treasurer - Kenny Campbell
with a Vice Chair to be decided shortly.
The Constitution has also been adopted only provisionally. One chap in the audience, with some considerable experience of these things, said that there are a couple of flaws in the way the constitution has been drawn up which could cause problems, such as there being no mention of the committee being able to co-opt members should a committee member drop dead, or resign or something. As it stands, they would have to wait until the next AGM to elect a replacement, which would be awkward if the person leaving was the Treasurer, and they couldn't access the bank account!
As things stand, the Treasurer doesn't have much to do at the moment - they think they only have £139 in total, and no bank account yet. They're not intending to be a fund raising organisation.
So they will be meeting as soon as possible to amend the constitution along the lines suggested, as well as adding a procedure to deal with disputes between members.
They will also be looking at forming working parties for different tasks - such as keeping an eye on what the County Council is deciding, or organising events to support the Library such as the carol concert they had before Christmas. A picnic for the International Day of the Child (perhaps with teddy bears) was suggested. Five people have already volunteered to be on working groups.
In future, they will be able to use the Library for meetings when the Library is closed, so they don't have to have a member of staff there to lock up after them. This was agreed with the Chief Librarian, Kay Thomas.
So Hay Library now has a properly constituted organisation to support it and fight for it.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Of Tangled Parrots and Eighteen Rabbits

Tangled Parrot, of course, being the name of the business which has been selling records and CDs out of the Keeper's Pocket, by the Buttermarket.
They've now moved down to Eighteen Rabbit, the Fairtrade shop on Lion Street, which has a little side room. When they opened, they had a changing room in there for the clothes they sell, but now it is full of music!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Fairtrade Talk at Cusop Hall

The full write up is on the Hay Fairtrade blog (link on the side bar). The talk was given by Taysir Arabasi and Cathi Pawson from Zaytoun, which sells olive oil and other products from Palestine. The talk was called Palestine: Fairtrade as Resistance, and there was olive oil to taste and a variety of products to buy from the stall run by Ange Grunsell. She's the volunteer distributor for Zaytoun products in the Hay area, and can be reached at

It's really very good olive oil, and the farmers are well worth supporting. I even got some olive oil soap there.

Friday, 3 March 2017

World Book Day

For some reason, I thought this was on Monday, but it was actually yesterday, so I missed my chance to dress up as Rev. Merrily Watkins this year. At least I had a daffodil pin for St David's Day!
Rose's Bookshop has a special World Book Day window display, though.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

St David's Day Celebrations at the Baskerville Acoustic Evening

Sometimes, we have a theme for the evening, and yesterday it was Welshness, so there were poems by Dylan Thomas and RS Thomas, and even some songs in Welsh, including Calon Lan.
Tommo brought along the banner of Owain Glyndwr to hang across the front of the bar - he's just lost his dog, Hector, a friendly spaniel who used to greet everyone in the bar, so one of the pieces I chose to read out was about a Celtic dog (an Irish re-telling of the Odyssey, where only the old dog recognises Ulysses when he comes home at last).
There were also more modern songs from Wales, from the likes of the Stereophonics and Bonnie Tyler, and original songs from Thomasin (snowfall on the Rhondda) and Bob (the Heart of Wales line). As ever, a good time was had by all!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Monday, 27 February 2017

Tales of the Castle

Apparently, the people at Hay Castle Trust want to make a film about the history of the castle, and they're looking for local residents who can talk about the history and tales of the castle.
I wonder if they've asked Barbara Erskine?
Anyone interested can contact them at or 01497 820079.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Inviting Heads of State to Hay

It was in the Brecon and Radnor Express this week - for the 40th Anniversary of the Kingdom of Hay, 180 heads of state have been invited to visit. Or if they can't visit, to recommend a good book that best represents their country.
Prince Derek (resplendent in his Henry VIII costume) also said that stockpiles of vegetables were being built up, to pelt heads of state such as President Trump, should he appear - the stocks are also being made ready!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Protesting about Wind Farms

It was unfortunate for the Brecon and Radnor Action Group that they planned their Peaceful Protest March on one of the windiest and generally unpleasant days of the year so far.
They wanted to gather outside County Hall in Llandrindod Wells when the county councillors were inside, attending a full council meeting, in order to make the point that wind farms in Powys would spoil the views.
Meanwhile, a letter in the Brecon and Radnor Express invited residents of Powys to a counter-protest at the same time, in favour of wind power.

In the teeth of Storm Doris - I wonder how many turned up for either side.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Storm Doris Strikes!

It was so windy this morning that a smaller number of stall holders turned up for the market - and when I came by just now at lunch time, two fire engines were there, and the firemen were dismantling the remaining stalls to stop them from blowing away!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

At Last! Work on the New School Begins!

Here's the "before" picture, and this is what it looks like today....

The recycling facilities have gone, and the fence has gone up. (Lucky I went down on the weekend with the twigs from my garden!)

Monday, 20 February 2017

Cusop History Group Meeting

This time it's Dark Age Herefordshire....

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Independence Celebrations!

On 1st April, 1977, Richard Booth declared Hay to be an independent Kingdom, with himself as King.
Which is something worth celebrating on the 40th Anniversary!

So events are planned over the weekend of 31st March to 3rd April.
On the Friday night there will be a reception at Booths Bookshop, to which all the book sellers in town have been invited.
The Old Electric Shop will be doing literary cocktails.
Deborah Moggach will be the castaway in the Globe's version of Desert Island Discs on the Friday evening. The Globe will also be hosting a panel discussion on the Saturday afternoon for booklovers, and a booksellers' brunch buffet on Sunday morning.
The children of Hay School will be having a fancy dress parade, dressed as their favourite book characters.
The original Hay flag will be hoisted in the Honesty Gardens in front of Hay Castle, and knighthoods will be given out (it is hoped King Richard will be able to attend).
A book art co-operative will be displaying their work in book shop windows around town.
And on Instagram, the organisers want to make this the largest bookstagram meet-up ever.

They also hope to make this an annual affair.
Let's celebrate Hay-on-Wye and second hand books!

Friday, 17 February 2017

We Love Our Library!

Here's the banner that the children of Hay School made, on the night of the last big meeting about the Library.
The date for the next meeting, when HOWLS will become a proper, unincorporated, organisation with a constitution and a management committee, has now been set. It will be at 7pm on Monday 6th March, in Hay Library. The 6th March is also World Book Day.
This will give them, they hope, more of a voice when they are talking to Powys County Council.
Anyone who would like to contact HOWLS should email

I'm kind of wishing I could clone myself, as 6th March is also the date of the next Council Meeting, also at 7pm.
At any rate, I'm thinking of dressing as one of my favourite characters from literature for World Book Day. I thought Rev. Merrily Watkins would be quite easy to do - basically black and a cross - from the Phil Rickman books. Blessings I can do at once - exorcisms will take a little longer!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Hurrah for Local Tradesmen!

My toilet wouldn't flush.
You may think this is Too Much Information - after all, we tend to take toilets for granted until they don't work. I'd been jiggling the handle for a while, and one day even the jiggling didn't work.
So I looked in Yellow Pages for a plumber. The firm I got through to didn't have a plumber in the area on that day, but I asked for a quote anyway....
and after I'd said "How much?!" and put the phone down, I remembered that I know a local plumber. So I phoned Stewart Powles.

Some time ago, he was one of the people putting in a bathroom in the cottage next door but one to me. At that time, the three gardens at the back were open to each other, and my dog could still run about. I used to leave the front door open so she could go and sun herself on the flagstones in front of the house, and back then the side door to the back gardens was usually left open as well.
Stewart Powles was lying on the floor of the bathroom, doing something under the sink, when he heard a thunder of paws coming up the stairs. A moment later, his ear was being licked, and Islay was looking over his shoulder to see what he was doing. Just as well that he likes dogs!

So he came round, found the problem, popped down to Huws Grey for the right part, fitted it - and charged me about half what the other company had quoted.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

The photo of Booths Bookshop window was taken by Emanation Smith, and was created by Sarah Putt.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Hay - and Brecon - Community Cupboard

Hay's food bank, the Community Cupboard, has been running for four years now, and it is now merging with Brecon Food Bank in order to provide an improved and more comprehensive service - there's an advert in WyeLocal.
The organisers thank all their supporters over the last four years, and hope that people will continue to donate food.
Contact details for people in need are now 01874 611723 or

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Goodbye HSBC

And now the HSBC has closed its doors for the last time, and the ATM has been boarded up. This leaves two ATMs in town, at the Nat West, just downhill from the main car park, and at Barclays, by the clock tower.
Rumours about what is going to happen to the building abound, from a Costa Coffee to a private house.
One fantasy suggestion at the last Stitch and Bitch meeting I was at was that it would make a brilliant library building - it even has disabled access in the form of a wheelchair lift at the front door, which was only recently installed.
That's not going to happen, of course.

I was told, though, the other day, that the design of the building may have been influenced by the famous architect Lutyens. Mark Westwood (who used to have the bookshop where the St Davids Hospice Shop has just closed), told me that he had been told this by Karl Showler, who used to be very good on Hay's local history. Apparently Lutyens worked as an architectural advisor for Midland Bank at the time that the Hay branch (originally a Midland) was built.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Goodbye St David's Hospice Shop

We're back down to three charity shops in Hay, as the St David's Hospice Shop closed its doors for the last time yesterday. It was also the newest charity shop in town, as it only opened five years ago.
Of course, it used to be a bookshop....
So I wonder what will take its place now.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Volunteers and the Library Service

At the Library Meeting last week, HOWLS handed out a flyer with all the reasons why a library run by volunteers is not as good as a library run by professionals. I thought it was worthwhile going through the points here.

The first thing is that Librarian is a professional qualification, equivalent to a degree. There's a lot more to it than tidying the shelves and stamping books. Volunteers can be helpful, but a library needs professional staff to run it.

Librarians know all sorts of things about the local community that are best kept confidential. Hand over the service to volunteers, no matter how well-meaning.... and what could possibly go wrong?

That's if enough volunteers can be found to keep the library open long term. Many voluntary projects start with loads of eager volunteers - but come back a year later and there will be only a few left, doing more and more of the work.
And even volunteers cost money - they need to be trained when they start, and there are admin costs and so on.

At present, all the branch libraries and all the libraries in bigger towns are part of one organisation. This would not be the case with a volunteer-run library, which would be operating on its own, leading to wildly differing levels of service across the county.
And what about services like inter-library loans? What happens to them? At the moment, someone doing research on a subject in Hay can ask for books to be sent specially - would they be able to do this in a volunteer-run library?

And, we pay for this already, through our council tax. Why should residents be expected to pay for a service, and then volunteer to run the service for nothing?

Also given out at the meeting was a leaflet about CarnegieUK. Andrew Carnegie was a 19th century philanthropist who decided to use his fortune to provide libraries across the UK and the US. If you look around in many towns, you will see his name carved into the front of libraries, or buildings which used to be libraries.
Andrew Carnegie believed in giving people the opportunity to better themselves by providing them with books, and the Trust carries on that aim.

The leaflet points out that libraries give people access to literature, music, film and theatre that they would not otherwise be able to enjoy. Libraries lend CDs and DVDs as well as books, these days. Libraries widen peoples' horizons - at college, our Gilbert and Sullivan Society were only able to put on a performance of Iolanthe because we could borrow the scripts and music from the central library, for instance.

Libraries help job seekers. Libraries now have computers for the public to use, and this can be essential to jobless people who do not have their own computers - more and more job seeking has to be done online. And libraries contain books about craft skills and DIY and budgeting and how to start a new business, enabling people on a low income to help themselves without spending money they haven't got.

Libraries are one of the few public spaces left that are free for everyone to enter. They help with social isolation, an increasing problem in modern society, and can provide a point of access to a variety of public services.
Remember Library Plus? It was supposed to be a replacement for the County Council office we used to have in the Council Chambers, where you could go to pay your council tax and get in touch with County Council departments to deal with problems. It withered away pretty quickly but libraries could be used to provide services like that - as long as they have a sound proof room for using the phone this time!

And of course, I haven't even mentioned children using the library yet. When I was a child, I practically lived in my local branch library. I had my own coat peg in the staff room, and was a volunteer shelf tidier aged eleven! There is no way my family could have provided all the books I read as a child without access to a public library, even though there was a reasonably good library at school. I want to see that continuing for today's children.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Council Meeting - Trees, Fishing, Recycling and Sport

The Fishing and Estates sub-committee said that a tree survey is needed along the riverbank, to identify trees at risk of falling. This needs to be done by a qualified arborialist, and is expected to take two days - one for walking the path and one for writing up the report. This would cost in the region of £1,000, and they are going to get quotes for the work to be done. The National Park only has responsibility for maintaining the path, not for dealing with fallen trees.

Meanwhile, the income from fishing permits along that stretch of the Wye has gone down, but the Warren Trust are interested in leasing the fishing rights, to add to the fishing rights around the Warren. At this point half the council had to get up and leave the room, as they are all Warren Trustees. The remaining four councillors (just about quorate!) agreed that they should accept the £400 offered by the Warren Trust for the fishing rights. This affects the riverbank from above the bridge to Warren Cottage. Day tickets will remain at about the same price, available from Golesworthys.

The Woodland Management group were concerned about a fly tipping re-offender (their name was found among the rubbish they dumped!). They will be reported to the local police and also to the Waste Enforcement Officer at Powys County Council.
There was a concern that fly tipping would increase because of the actions of Powys County Council, as they have taken away the plastic recycling in the car park.
I had been quite concerned about this, as the report in the B&R appeared to suggest that all the recycling facilities would be removed (just when I have some garden rubbish to take down!), but this is not the case. Now that the PCC will not accept soft plastics for recycling in the domestic rubbish collections, people have been taking it to the recycling bins in the car park - but it won't be recycled from there either.
Since the Town Council gains an income from the recycling facilities, which they use to give grants as the Recycling Fund, they don't want to lose the recycling facilities. Two local organisations are about to apply for grants from the Fund.

A meeting to discuss the Town Plan will be happening shortly, if they can find a suitable venue. The school is unavailable because, during half term, the hall is taken up with Jumping Jacks and the classrooms on the day Gareth Ratcliffe wants to hold the meeting will be taken by Slimming World. They are going to investigate the hire of the Parish Hall.

At the Sports Pavilion, Helen was very optimistic about the future, but Rob Golesworthy felt he had been insulted by members of the Cricket Club, who suggested he and Fiona Howard had a conflict of interests between the sports pavilion and HADSCA, of which they have long been members. The Tennis, Football and Bowls clubs didn't seem to have a problem with it. As was seen with the discussion about the Warren Trust, people in Hay who sit on committees generally sit on several different ones. There just aren't enough people in Hay for each committee to have a completely separate membership. However, the Cricket Club agreed on the proposals put forward, along with the other clubs.
The Bowls Club want to build their own, separate club house on a strip of land to the side of the bowling green, and they seem to have the funds to do do it. They will be given permission to draw up plans, on the understanding that the building doesn't interfere with the cricket out field. There was also some discussion about whether the Bowls Club would continue to fund the main pavilion if they had their own building. The Football Club may be moving to separate premises soon, too, and if this is the case, maybe the Town Council could hand back the building to the PCC, or even see it knocked down to extend the cemetery!
To help in funding the Sports Pavilion they were talking about car parking charges on the small car park by the pavilion, and also on the Cattle Market.

And finally, on the International Border, Hay Town Council will be supporting Cusop Council as they try to get Herefordshire Council to resurface the road there, which is full of pot-holes. They will also be pressing for the work to be done before Hay Festival, not during it! The corner by the Blue Boar will also be resurfaced shortly.

And the next Council Meeting will be on 6th March.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Council Meeting - A Town Manager? And the Library Service

Anita and Richard from HOWLS were among the audience for the Council meeting last night - and one of the councillors, Trudi, joked that she was going to lock the doors and co-opt everyone onto the council. There was, in fact, a new councillor there, but I didn't catch his name. And there was a substitute minute taker for the meeting, as Nigel the Town Clerk is unwell.
The Questions from the Public at the beginning of the meeting were all library related, and as the library was discussed later, I'll include them there. There was also a complaint about the Town Council website not being updated, which Trudi answered was due to pressure of work on the councillors - there just isn't the time....

The Transfer of Assets from Powys County Council to the Town Council rumbles on. The situation at the moment is that the PCC has agreed to everything the Town Council asked for, apart from the amount of money that will be paid to the Town Council from the car park takings. Which is kind of essential for everything else to work. So the Town Council are not repaying the loan they got from the PCC to pay for the toilets being refurbished until the issue is resolved.

Fiona Howard said something similar to her comments during the Library Meeting last week - the role of town councillors has changed enormously in the last five years, and the work load has increased enormously. This is also true for the Town Clerk, as it's part of his job to make sure that everything the Town Council does is legal. Elections are due in May, so there may be new faces around the table - but it's a lot for a new councillor to take on.
So she suggested that what we need in Hay is a Town Manager, to manage the various projects that are now the responsibility of the Town Council rather than the PCC. However, this would be difficult to fund as a long term solution. It would, possibly, work for individual projects if the role of Town Manager was included in the grant applications.
There was the suggestion that maybe Hay Town Council was trying to take on too much, as Talgarth Town Council doesn't do anything like the same amount of work that Hay does, although Talgarth is a similar size. It's true that Hay does not have a full complement of councillors, and hasn't for some time, but even if all the places were filled, it would be difficult to do everything they need to do.

And so we come to the Library.
Anita from HOWLS thanked the Town Council for their support so far, and said that her concern was not so much for the library building as for the library service. At the moment, the library is open for 23 hours a week, some of which is paid for by Hay Festival. On 1st April, the grant from Hay Festival will stop, and the PCC will reduce the hours the library is open to 6 hours a week.
That's right - 6 hours a week. Though the PCC promises that this will increase to 12 hours a week when the library moves into the new school building (when it's finally built). If a third party, such as the Town Council or a charity, were to step in to pay for the building, then the PCC would still only offer a library service of 12 hours a week.
So far, the library staff haven't been informed of any changes to their working hours, though this may be because they could be re-deployed to another library elsewhere.
HOWLS was formed with the intention of keeping the library as it is now, in the same building and open for 23 hours a week. They don't want to start fund-raising, because they would never be able to sustain it long term. And maybe they shouldn't fund raise, as the library service is a statutory requirement for the PCC to fund.
HOWLS don't want to run the library, either - it's not in their draft constitution, which will be adopted at a meeting in mid-March, though there is scope to change the terms of the constitution if they need to.
Gareth has seen Kay at County Hall (I tried to look her up on the PCC website - I think she's the Chief Librarian, but it's quite difficult to track down the names of members of the PCC on the website, and searching brought no match). Anyway, Gareth told her that 6 hours a week was unacceptable.
The Town Council would still like to take on the building, and use it when the library is closed for other groups, but the PCC could still cut the hours of the service. So the Town Council will be writing to the PCC to investigate the possibility of taking the library building on, but without committing to anything as yet. It costs £8,000 a year to run the building.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Local Charities Benefit from Grants

Every year, the Yorkshire Building Society invites its members to nominate three local charities that they think deserve a bit of help. They call it their Small Change Big Difference scheme. This year, I was pleased to see that the Hay Model Railway Society have been granted £100. The other two local charities to benefit are Bryngwyn Riding for the Disables and Hay Day Cafe.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Rose and Crown Re-opens

The grand opening was on Friday afternoon, just in time for the Six Nations, which started on Saturday, and the place was packed.
The lounge bar looks quite different - they've put a pool table in there, and they seem to have painted all the stonework yellow. I've only looked through the window so far, but they have three handpumps on the new bar. I couldn't see what the pump-clips were.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Library Meeting Part Three - Speak Truth to Power

(in other words - PCC has the power, and it's time for the public to hold them to account).

It was pointed out that, as the portfolio holder for libraries on Powys County Council, it is Graham Brown's job to be held accountable to the public. He is paid to do this, and he should have come to the meeting.
The PCC says (and it is true) that there is no money available - but there would be more money available for libraries and schools if the PCC didn't have to deal with legal challenges to their decisions, which then get overturned, as in the case of Gwernyfed School. HOWLS have tried to work with the PCC, and have offered various solutions, but the PCC have rejected all of them.

Libraries play a vital role in society (I think it was Kirsty Williams who said this). They are important for the democratisation of knowledge in our community - in other words, education and knowledge is available to all, not just those who are able to pay for it. More access to libraries, and the services they offer, is needed for the good of society.
The PCC has to consider the knock-on effects of closing libraries for the community.

So what kind of service does Hay need (and the wider area)? The views of the community need to be collected, and relayed to the PCC.
Which is why HOWLS needs to set itself up as a proper, official body. There were copies of their draft constitution on tables throughout the room. Once they are an official organisation, with a committee and so forth, it will be a lot harder for the PCC to ignore them.
To this end, they are holding a Members Meeting in March, in order to formally adopt the constitution. They were collecting emails and addresses of supporters at the meeting, because the committee who have been doing things up to now need help. They've put in a huge amount of work, and they need extra pairs of hands to spread the load.

A chap from Clyro stood up to speak from the back of the hall - he said that he's worked in local government, so he knows how County Councils work from the inside. He had got hold of Councillor Graham Brown's travel expenses - I didn't quite catch the figure, but it was large - if that's the sort of amount he claims for travel, no wonder his excuse was that he was "out of town" for the meeting. His travel expenses, the chap said, are the fourth highest in Powys. For comparison, he also quoted the travel expenses of the same portfolio holder for Carmarthen County Council - another big, rural area. The figure was about a quarter of Councillor Brown's. If austerity means anything, in local government, it should apply to him as well as local communities which are losing their services.
Maybe he could share a car?

The chap from Clyro went on to mention the Budget Simulator which is on the PCC website. With this, members of the public are invited to move money around between departments, to see which ones they want to support and which ones they want to cut - but there is nothing on the simulator for saving money, or moving it around, within the departments. It cost, he said, £5,000 a year, and it's useless. There's some money that could be better spent on actual services for the community.

The meeting closed with the suggestion that concerned members of the public should email Councillor Brown and make their points to him in person. His email address can be found via the PCC website.

Other useful contacts are:
Twitter - @hayhowls
Facebook - haylibrarysupporters
Email -