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