Thursday, 19 July 2018

Three Tuns Grand Opening

This evening I picked my way across the road, where Welsh Water are digging it up (traffic lights are controlling the flow along Broad Street), to where a new signboard has gone up outside the Three Tuns.
They are having their Grand Opening on Friday 27th July, from 5pm, and are also advertising Sunday roast dinners, and Italian food from 20th August. They also mention gin cocktails!

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Plastic Free Hay

New local group Plastic Free Hay will have a stall on the Market on Thursday, to give advice about reducing the use of plastic. They have quite snazzy cloth bags, too.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Commemorating the First World War

There's a weekend of events planned for the 4th and 5th of August in Hay, with First World War living history groups, exhibitions, a parade, choirs and military band -but preparations are starting now, with posters going up in shop windows around town. Each one shows a different First World War soldier from Hay, and says a little about his life, and how and where he died - like the man who had been a policeman in Hay, with a wife and three children, who joined up as a private, was promoted to Lance Corporal, and died in the trenches.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Walking to Llowes

I thought I'd take advantage of the fine day to walk along the Wye Valley Walk to Llowes.
I thought that would probably be my limit for comfort, and I was right.
It's an easy path to follow. You go out of Hay across the bridge and up the hill, and then take the path along the top edge of the field on the left hand side, just above the Community Garden. This takes you down, across somebody's orchard, and over a little wooden bridge to a track to the house opposite the Warren. The path follows the riverbank from there, and it was glorious, with crops on one side (wheat and rape and potatoes) and the overgrown riverbank on the other.
There is one area that had signs up from the farmer, warning dog walkers to keep the dogs to the path as they had put poison down on the river bank to kill moles - and it would also kill dogs.
The path got a little overgrown as I got further from Hay, but still easily passable, and in places a path had been cut through the wheat along the edge of the field.
Eventually, the path meets the main road. For a while the path is down the hill from the road, but then it goes up to a layby and the rest of the way to Llowes is along the footpath by the side of the road. There's another loop of the path that crosses the road and climbs the hillside, for views of the Wye valley, but I wasn't feeling quite that energetic.

There isn't much at Llowes. The church of St Meilog's was almost completely rebuilt in 1855 - the lower part of the tower is older, but that's about it. This was an ancient Christian site, the original small monastery being founded by St. Meilog himself in the 6th century. He was a son of Caw, a chieftain in the North of Britain who was mentioned in the early legends of King Arthur, and a brother of St. Gildas, who wrote one of the main sources for the history of the period, his Complaining Book.
The name Llowes may mean a retreat or a refuge, and it's only a shortish walk to the next Celtic monastery along the Wye, which was at Glasbury.
In the 13th century an anchorite lived there, in a cell by the church. His name was Wechelen, a contemporary of Matilda de Braose, who built Hay Castle, and a friend of Giraldus Cambrensis, who wrote about him.
The church was open, and inside there is a very simple early font, along with the 1855 font, and a rather fine Celtic cross from the 12th century, carved in low relief on a slab of stone. This used to stand outside, and was moved into the church in 1956 by the Ministry of Works. It weighs three and a half tons, apparently!

There used to be a pub restaurant called the Radnor Arms, just across the main road from the church. It is now the Serenbach camp site. It's a very pretty village, which used to have a Dairy and a Post Office, going by the names of the cottages, but there are no shops there now, and although there is a bus stop, buses are infrequent. Even the church isn't often used for services, though it's obviously well looked after. It's part of a group including Clyro, Glasbury, Cwmbach, Bronydd, Bettws, Felindre, Three Cocks Ffynnon Gynydd and Ciltwrch - quite a lot for one vicar to handle! The next service is on 5th August!

I had intended to come back to Hay by a smaller footpath, which seemed to cut across the meander of the Wye as a shortcut, but I couldn't find it where it was supposed to cross a potato field, and I couldn't see any way through the hedge where I thought it should run, so I kept to the Wye Valley Walk on the way back.
I rewarded myself by heading for Kilverts for a pint of Wadworths 6X, which went down very well!

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Recording a Podcast

This is a first for me!
Huw Parsons has made several podcasts, interviewing local musicians and poets and putting them up on his website.
Every week, at the acoustic evening at Baskerville Hall, I try to sing a different TV theme song. They're getting more and more obscure as time goes on, but I haven't run out of material yet, and that's what Huw wanted to interview me about.
He took me over to Clyro Church last Friday morning, for the good acoustics, and we set up in the side chapel, under a monument to a previous owner of Clyro Court who had a Greek name (Spyridion something), and was a Captain in the British Army who died in Jerusalem in 1930. His life story must have been interesting!
Most histories of Baskerville Hall/Clyro Court skip straight from Conan Doyle visiting the Baskerville family there to the end of the Second World War, so I haven't been able to find out anything else about him yet. The monument says that his wife was called Dorothy, though.

So I was asked to choose three TV themes so that Huw could find the originals and edit them into the conversation later. I chose White Horses, which is the first TV theme I ever sang at the Baskie, The Beverley Hillbillies, and The Lightning Tree from Follyfoot. I sang a lot of cowboy related songs as well, remembered the BBC radio programmes for school music lessons with fondness, and really enjoyed the conversation. Huw has a nicely relaxed interviewing style that put me at ease.
Huw has now done all the editing, and has put it up on his website at

Monday, 9 July 2018

Beer and Pilgrimage in Hereford

On Saturday I had a day out to Hereford.

The first port of call was the Cathedral, where a new heritage route called the St Thomas Way was being launched. This is based on a real pilgrimage in 1290, from Swansea to Hereford, by a man called William Cragh and a group of pilgrims who included the man who had tried (and failed ) to hang him. When William came back to life after his execution as an outlaw, it was considered to be a miracle, so the pilgrimage was to give thanks, and William de Briouze, who sentenced him to hang, was one of the party, along with his wife.
The new trail isn't a straight route from Swansea to Hereford. It's 13 circular walks along that route, each including local historical places of interest. There is a website at You can even collect badges along the way, like a real pilgrim.
So there were various activities scattered around the cathedral, including a labyrinth at the West end, medieval re-enactors talking about pilgrim medals and telling stories (and playing the bagpipes!), lectures in the Lady Chapel and specially brewed real ale in the Chapter House garden. I bought a bottle of Hanged Man Walking, which is brewed with yarrow by Mumbles Brewery. I also overheard Tom Tell Tale enthralling his audience with the story of the King with donkey's ears (he was also the bagpipe player). Later I had a chat to him, and admired his kit - he said he was very glad to be in the cool of the cathedral in all that wool!
I measured myself to St Thomas, too, by the shrine. Medieval pilgrims would cut a candle wick to the same height as themselves to make a candle to offer at a shrine of a saint. These lengths of ribbon and wool were being tied together to make a trail round the cathedral for children to follow.

Then I headed down to the Rowing Club for Beer on the Wye. I'd brought my own stool for the occasion, but I didn't really need it - there were far more chairs this year, and posher loos!
I'd had a look at the list of beers online before I went, so as soon as I got into the marquee I headed straight for the Uley Old Spot, which was delicious.
I aim to try halves of as many different beers as possible, with the proviso that my limit for any drinking is around 3 pints. Beer at the festival is paid for with tokens that you get at the door as part of the entrance fee, along with the souvenir glass, and I got extra tokens for producing my CAMRA card, and that was enough to buy me two and a half pints, by which time I'd really had enough.
Uley Old Spot is a strong bitter; my next choice was a ruby mild, Beartown's Black Bear from Congleton in Cheshire. When I was being served, the chap behind the bar asked me if I'd tried the Underworld. I hadn't, but on his recommendation that was my third choice, a milk stout from Big Smoke Brewery in Surbiton, which was absolutely gorgeous. I drank that one while enjoying falafels from the stall at the festival - there was also a hog roast, and pizzas and other snacks.
Choice number four was from Manchester's Marble Brewery, a bitter just called Pint, which was light and refreshing and quite grapefruit-y. My final choice was also from Manchester, a best bitter called Crex from Squawk Brewery.
Being on my own, I'd taken a magazine to read - and this month's Current Archaeology has a short article about Clifford Castle, with a very good picture of the top of the tower! I also picked up Pete Brown's latest book Miracle Brew from the CAMRA stall (at a small discount because I'm a member).

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Plastic Free Hay

There's a new group in town, working to cut out non-essential plastic use.
They'll be meeting at Kilverts on Wednesday 11th July, at 7.30pm.

They also have leaflets around town with a few ideas about how people can reduce their plastic use, such as carrying a refillable water bottle, bringing your own shopping bag (preferably one made from natural materials), refusing take-away cups, cutlery and straws unless they are compostable, and avoiding heavily packaged goods in shops.
Some local shops have already signed up to this, and stickers are going up in shop windows.
They also have a Facebook page called Plastic Free Hay.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Hebron to Hebron Challenge

I met two ladies in purple in Hay the other day, with the words "hebron2hebron challenge" on their t-shirts. They told me that they had come from Hebron House in Norwich, and they were heading for Hebron in Wales. They had five days to do it, by any means possible, and with no money.
They're doing it to raise funds for Hebron House, which is an all female, 10 bed, alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre.
They started off with a tractor ride out of Norwich, and they had just got to Hay after getting a lift from Worcester. They were invited onto local radio to talk about the challenge, and someone phoned in to offer them a lift - and the Baskerville Arms in Clyro had offered them beds for the night. So they were spending the rest of the day looking around Hay.
There's a story about them in the Eastern Daily Press, the local newspaper for the Norwich area.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Latest News on Barclays Bank

This is 'hot off the press' - I've just seen the post on Gareth Ratcliffe's Facebook page.
He and Kirsty Williams AM and Councillor James Prothero met with representatives of the bank to discuss the proposed closure in September.

It's still going to close.

However, the bank has agreed to keep the cash machine in Hay - as long as there is a local business that will agree to having it. The machine takes up 2m x 2m of space. If that can be done, they will continue to run it as a Barclays ATM which will be free to use. They have also agreed to keep the present ATM up and running until the new one is ready.
They have also agreed in principle to having a presence at the Post Office one day a week, to support customers who will be using the Post Office for their banking - but this has yet to be agreed with the Post Office.
On 19th July, the bank will be running training sessions for customers, to help them change to online and telephone banking.
Any customers who do all their banking at the Hay branch should have been contacted by now so that staff can help them to find alternative banking arrangements. Anyone who hasn't been contacted yet should contact the branch.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Busy Enjoying Myself

It's too hot to do anything serious, and the first week of the month tends to fill up with interesting things to do.
So on Monday I was round at a friend's house for a poetry evening. We each brought three or four poems on the theme of the Sea (next month's theme is Dogs), and read them in turn. Brian had just picked up a book at random, by someone called Mitchell - and it turned out to have several really good poems about the sea, including a lovely one about the Great Orme at Llandudno. I took along the book I got at one of the events at the Poetry Bookshop, about endangered marine species - they liked the one about the basking shark and the man who fell in love with it. The book is Words the Turtle Taught Me by Susan Richardson. I also found a couple of poems in the local magazine Quirk, both by people I know, one about mermaids diving for pearls of wisdom and the other about dolphin mythology.

On Wednesday I was at Baskerville Hall, commemorating the sad death of Peter Firmin (one of the creators of Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine, Pogle's Wood, the Clangers and Noggin the Nog) by reciting the introduction to Noggin the Nog. There were comic songs (Earwig O, the man in the elephant's bottom), poems and a vaguely American theme to the evening since it was the 4th of July, with "I'm as corny as Kansas in August" and even the Star Spangled Banner. I sang Streets of Laredo.
We were in Moriarty's Bar, which can get a bit over warm in summer weather, but there's a festival of some sort going on at the Hall at the weekend, and they were setting something up in the ballroom. There was a bit of a party going on around the porch (where people could smoke) when we came out, and two of the younger singers and guitarists (just back from University) almost missed their turn to sing because they were out there enjoying the ambience.

And tonight we were sitting overlooking the garden at Kilverts, with the window wide open to catch the breeze, for Stitch and Bitch. We were having such a good time that one of the ladies said we should be live blogging the conversation - and then everyone looked at me!
I successfully de-cluttered a triangular weaving frame with the instruction booklet and all the necessary bits to a lady who thought she'd like to try it. I bought it at Wonderwool a couple of years ago, and didn't really get on with it.
Emanation has kefir on the go, and often has a surplus to get rid of, so she managed to pass some on to another lady in the group. Someone else has been given 6 fleeces, and wanted to know what to do with them, so Tracy and I talked her through the process of cleaning the fleece (very carefully so as not to felt it!) and Tracy gave advice on natural dyeing. She's going to start washing the fleeces this week, and will come round to borrow my carders and a hand spindle so she can try hand spinning soon.
We also talked about the Trump Baby balloon which will be flying over London next week - and some of the awful things happening in the US now; assisted dying; and a community arts project that may or may not get off the ground locally. And one lady brought an enormous ball of pink yarn along which promptly got nicknamed "the uterus".
The Wadsworth 6X went down a treat.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Red Kite over Hay

As I was walking home for lunch, a red kite was flying low over Broad Street, towards Clifford. It's always exciting to see, and they're getting more common in the area.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Open Garden

Ty Glyn is a historic house in Cusop Dingle, and they are opening their garden, and having a fete, on Saturday 7th July, from 11am to 3.30pm.
Ty Glyn is the house with the Victorian post box in the wall outside, originally built in the 1850s, with extensions in the 1880s, according to the information given to Cusop History Group by the current owners. The garden runs down to the Dulas Brook, which the house once used to power a hydro scheme which made it the second home in the area to have electric power. I think the first might have been Brynmelin, further up the Dingle, which has its own mill.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

What is that noise?

It could be heard across half of Hay.

The cause was easy to track down though, by the haze of dust in the air and the sand blasting van outside the shop and house in Castle Street that had the fire last year. Today is the day they've been dealing with some of the smoke damage.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Music License at the Three Tuns

Work is going on now to get the Three Tuns ready to re-open, and a sign has gone up in the window saying that they are applying for a music license, which would mean they could continue musical events until 1am. The Three Tuns hasn't had a music license before, as far as I know - though I do remember the belly dancing evenings in the days when Lucy was landlady.
Some residents of Broad Street are very concerned about this, and will be making formal complaints.
However, The Old Electric Shop has occasional music, just up the road, and the Globe has music regularly until late, to the great annoyance of some of their neighbours, at the other end of Broad Street. So I'm inclined to wait and see what the new owners of the Three Tuns are planning.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Historical Hereford Day

I'm just back from a pleasant day out in Hereford, dressed as a suffragette to celebrate Historical Hereford Day on Castle Green. The theme was celebrating remarkable women and Herefordshire history, and I wasn't the only suffragette there:

There was a very good display of local history information, including the history of the women's suffrage movement in Herefordshire and history of the River Wye and hop picking. One of the leaflets I picked up was for Herefordshire Life Through A Lens, about a film called Stories from the Hop Yards, inspired by the photo archive of Derek Evans, who died in 2009 after a long photographic career. There is a website at and Derek Evans' photos can be seen at
Also in the tent was a woman dressed as one of the Rotherwas factory girls from the Second World War - I didn't get a picture of her because she was busy talking to people while I was there. There is a book out about them, called Bomb Girls.

Out on the Green there were activities for children, including Have A Go Archery and a traditional Punch and Judy show, and stalls selling crafts and vintage stuff, as well as stalls for local history groups and campaign groups.
I'm now the proud owner of a badge saying "Save Mortimer Forest", for instance. A local group wants to stop the Forestry Commission from making a deal with Forest Holidays to build 68 holiday homes, with a shop, restaurant, bar and cycle hire facilities inside Mortimer Forest, near the border with Shropshire. They can be found at (with bird song!).
There was also a campaign group opposing the present plans for a Hereford Bypass. They are in favour of more cheap, reliable public transport, such as electric buses and trams, more trains and carriages, and safe cycle and pedestrian routes. Like the Mortimer Forest campaigners, they are against the destruction of the local environment, especially ancient woodland, along the route which will cross the River Wye on a high bridge. They can be found at

I also picked up the leaflet for this year's Three Choirs Festival, which is in Hereford this year ( One of the highlights of this year's performances will be Ethel Smyth's Mass in D - she was, of course, a prominent campaigner for women's suffrage. It's also the centenary of the death of Hubert Parry, local composer, and of 24 year old Lili Boulanger, who wrote a setting of Psalm 130 as a response to the horrors of the First World War.

I rounded off my trip to Hereford by having a bottle of Liberty Ale from San Francisco at the Hereford Beer House - while I still can. Many of the small businesses in that area have been forced to move out because of huge rent increases, and the Hereford Beer House may have to follow. I hope they're able to find another home in Hereford.

And finally I went to St Peter's Church, where a big suffragette rally was held over a hundred years ago. There was a photo of it in the exhibition tent on Castle Green, with a lady addressing the crowd from a platform that must have been just about where the war memorial is now. The war memorial was built in 1922. I'm not sure if the person in the archive photo was local campaigner Mrs Massey, or one of the Pankhursts who visited Herefordshire to campaign.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Celebrating the NHS

Owen Sheers has written a new play, To Provide All People, to celebrate 70 years of the NHS - and what a star--studded cast BBC Wales have assembled to perform it! The actors include Michael Sheen, Eve Myles, Sian Phillips, Jonathan Pryce, Aimee Ffion Edwards, George Mackay, Martin Freeman, Meera Syal, Celia Imrie, Tamsin Grieg, Rashan Stone Michelle Fairley, Suzanne Packer, and Michelle Collins. It covers a day in a single hospital.

Copies of the book are available from the Poetry Bookshop.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Hay-on-Wye Rocks

That's the name of a new Facebook page for a group that is painting pebbles and leaving them around Hay for people to find. They are encouraging people to paint their own rocks to leave out, and anyone who finds a rock can either leave it where it is, or take it home, or put it somewhere else for another person to find.
Here's one, lurking somewhere in Hay....

Monday, 18 June 2018

HOWLS Meeting

HOWLS will be holding their AGM on Wednesday 20th June at 7pm, at what we must now call the Old Library.
It will be a time to say goodbye to the old Library, look back on the campaign, get updates on the new library, and plan for the future.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Dan the Elgar Dog and other Statues

When I was talking about statues around Hereford a little while ago, I was told about a statue of a dog down by the river, in King George V Playing Fields. So yesterday I went to find it.

This is the bulldog that belonged to the organist at Hereford Cathedral, who was a friend of Elgar's. The story goes that they were walking along the riverbank one day when the dog fell in. It's quite a steep bank there - there's another memorial nearby to all the people who have drowned in the Wye, adding sternly "Don't Let It Be You".
The dog paddled furiously to a place where he could pull himself out, and shook himself vigorously. The organist said to Elgar something along the lines of: "I bet you can't make a tune out of that!" Elgar took up the challenge, and the tune he wrote became part of the Enigma Variations.

I was also told last week about the three legged statue in Hereford Cathedral. I didn't take a picture, because my camera is a bit weedy indoors, but I went to pay my respects to Sir Richard Pembridge, 14thC knight, with his head resting on his great helm. One of the statue's legs was badly damaged at some point, and a wooden leg was carved to put in its place. Then in the 19thC an alabaster leg was carved as a replacement, and the wooden leg passed into private hands. And now it's back, donated by the owner, and propped up against the pillar beside the tomb.

A little way along the wall from the tomb (opposite the main door of the Cathedral) is the new SAS memorial, in rather beautiful polished blue stone, very plain, and with a modern window above it, also in blue, with the title Ascension.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Clifford Castle

What a wonderful evening!
Cusop History Group organised a trip to Clifford Castle, which is privately owned, yesterday. The present owners have been there for 7 years, and have just completed extensive renovation of the castle with the help of Historic England. As part of the agreement with Historic England, they have to open the castle to the public for 20 days a year. The castle is also open today and Sunday morning, though they do ask on their website for any group larger than 5 people to contact them in advance. The website is
Parking is limited in Clifford, so the group met up in the Co-op's car park for car sharing. Signs are now up in the Co-op car park restricting parking to one and a half hours for customers only, but permission was granted for the History Group to park there.
I've been to Clifford Castle before, many years ago, as the guest of Mrs Parkinson, who used to own it. The people who owned the castle after her were not well liked in the area - there were stories of them stopping local people from walking their dogs and so on - but the present owners seem both enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the castle.
We were taken round by the owner, who had prepared laminated sheets with details of the castle's history and features, and a rather good reconstruction drawing. One of the group is an expert on Fair Rosamund, who was the daughter of Sir Walter de Clifford and mistress of Henry II. Henry was known to have visited the castle, and the owner commented that he couldn't see the king being entertained in the Great Hall of the keep, because it's really quite small. There is a possibility that there was a larger, wooden great hall in the outer bailey, though there would need to be more excavation to find out.

As part of the renovation work, several trenches were dug around the site, and the soil taken out of the tops of the walls was sieved, yielding mostly Victorian pottery. They think that Dr. Trumper, who owned the castle in the 19th century, and built the present house there, deliberately planted ivy in the walls to make the keep look more like a "romantic ruin". All that ivy, and the several trees that had burrowed their roots into the walls, have had to be removed to save the stonework from further damage. They also had to remove masses of brambles. The owner said that he only found one of the five towers by accident, when he fell into it while strimming - it was completely covered in brambles, and he went into them up to his waist.
The trench in the middle of the shell keep revealed, somewhat disappointingly, that the present ground level is about a metre above the original ground level - and across the courtyard stones from the castle walls had been neatly stacked on end. They assume that this was done by Dr Trumper, who probably intended to use the stone to rebuild some of the walls. When he came to sell the castle, not having used the stone he collected, he just covered them with earth. The owner said he wished he'd known the stone was there - they wouldn't have needed to buy in new supplies!
Other walls have primitive repairs, with little columns of stones holding up walls where there are gaps or the facing stones have disappeared. One wall, overlooking the river, has a solid buttress at one end, provided by the railway engineers who were building the railway down below, between the castle and the river, presumably so stones from the castle didn't fall down onto the tracks!

View of the entrance to the keep

And here's the reason that the castle was built on that spot in the first place - the ford across the river Wye, as seen from the walls of the castle. You can see how high above the ford the castle is, hence the "Cliff" part of the name.

There is a lot of potential for more work to be done to discover the secrets of the castle - they still don't know where the kitchen was for sure, and they don't really know the purpose of the hornwork behind the keep either - but the work that has been done has ensured the castle's survival for perhaps another hundred years.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Changing Banking Arrangements

Well, that was easier than I thought it was going to be!
This morning I went into Barclays and withdrew all the money from my savings account. I'm leaving the current account, because that's kind of essential for paying rent and direct debits and so forth, and there is no other bank in town I could transfer it to. The savings, though, went straight across the road to the Yorkshire Building Society, where I already have a small account. I suppose that means I don't count as one of the 67 people that the leaflet from Barclays said use the Hay Barclays branch exclusively for their banking needs, even though I do 95% of my banking through Barclays. The lady at the Yorkshire Building Society said that they'd been busier than usual over the last week or so. She banks with Barclays too, and said: "Don't mention that name to me!"
I had thought that I'd have to go into Hereford to get the Barclays savings account closed, but Helen did it all for me on the spot.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Meanwhile, at the Library....

The Library has closed its doors to the public for the last time, and the books are being boxed up.
The new Library, at the School, will open on Monday, in what the County Council are calling a "brand new flexible community space" according to the article in the B&R. Also according to the B&R, the County Council are saying that they hope the new library space will "open up opportunities for residents and community groups" to utilise a community resource for a multitude of activities. They say that the space can easily be re-arranged to suit a variety of activities.
Every single one of those activities, except perhaps the suggested possibility of cookery demonstrations, could be done in the existing Library building, which also has more space than the new building at the school. I'm not sure how practical cookery would be at the new building, even though it has a little kitchenette.
One of the suggestions was a "knit and natter" group - I belong to the local Stitch and Bitch group, and we meet at Kilverts on the first Thursday of the month from 6pm to 8pm - where we can also buy a drink, which won't be possible at the Library. Maybe the Council should have talked to the local groups before blithely declaring they could meet in the new Library.

The new Library will only be open for 12 hours a week - Mondays and Thursdays from 9am to midday, and 1pm until 3pm, and Saturdays from 10am to 12.30pm.
So any adults at work during the week will only be able to go to the library on Saturday mornings.
Any secondary school pupils who want to use the library will only be able to go on Saturday mornings.
The parents of children at Hay School are already complaining that their children will not be able to go to the library after school, and it hasn't even opened yet. The school has already decided to use the space for after school clubs most afternoons.

Rachel Powell, the portfolio holder at the County Council for young people, culture and leisure, says that the new library will include "a great range of books" as well as computers, wi-fi and information for residents on other council services.
But there's no point in having "a great range of books" if you can't get to the Library when it's open, and in any case there will be fewer books, because the space is smaller. And the "new and exciting activities" could have been housed in the original Library building if there had been the will to do so.

This morning, I was approached by two ladies who want to start some sort of community activity for local mums (I forget what it was). They wanted to know if I'd put a poster up, and if I had any idea of where they could go to find a suitable venue.
There used to be a community centre, which was knocked down, of course. The new school only provides a small fraction of the space that the community centre used to offer. Rachel Powell can talk about "new and exciting activities" all she likes, but the new school and library complex is not an adequate replacement for the amount of space there used to be in Hay for community activities.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A Pub Without a Till

I went to Stitch and Bitch at Kilvert's last Thursday, and we had an interesting chat with the lady who has come out of retirement to run it again, after Hay Tap, and then the management buyout of Hay Tap, failed. She had to come back from Spain to pick up the pieces.
And the till behind the bar had just been taken away by the company it had been leased from, because Hay Tap hadn't paid the bill - so now they're operating without a till. Which rather begs the question - what happened to the till that Kilvert's used to have before Hay Tap took over, which they owned?

Monday, 11 June 2018

Meet the Builder

On Wednesday, 13th June, Hay Castle is having an open evening to meet the builders who will be carrying out the restoration work (the metal fencing has already been going up around the Castle). The open evening starts at 5.30pm, and entrance is by the Oxford Road gate.
On the Hay Castle Trust Facebook page, they say that conservation expert Nathan Goss of John Weaver Contractors will talk about their approach, critical conservation works, opportunities for the community, and how long the work will take.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

More Thoughts on Barclays Closure

Just a small point that I've been pondering - the leaflet I was given at Hereford concentrates on customers of the Hay branch, and how they say that those customers have been finding alternative ways to do their banking. They do not seem to have considered Barclays customers from elsewhere who come to Hay as tourists.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Barclays Bank is Closing

I'd been planning to do a little gentle retail therapy in Hereford (I needed new pumps/gym type shoes for summer) - and then I got the letter from Barclays, telling me that the Hay-on-Wye branch will be closing on Friday 28th September.
I don't often swear, but on this occasion I think it was an appropriate reaction.
An hour on the bus on the way to Hereford made me think I was feeling calmer - still furious, but calmer.
So the first thing I did when I got to Hereford was go round to the Barclays branch there.
It's all do-it-yourself screens now, so I queued for the one desk that has real people behind it, and I said I wanted to make a complaint. As soon as I mentioned Hay, the young lady went to speak into some sort of intercom on the wall to tell the manager.
After a short wait, the manager came out to see me and took me into a little side office.
Honestly, I can't fault the staff in the branch at all. They were as helpful and professional as they could be, and I did my best to be polite, and told them that I knew it wasn't their fault and I wasn't angry with them.
The bank had obviously been prepared to receive complaints, because the manager had a leaflet all ready to give me, explaining the decision and offering alternative ways to bank.
They claim that only 67 people use the Hay branch exclusively for their banking, which I find difficult to believe, with other customers using telephone and online banking more. They also say that they have "taken into consideration the availability of other branches in the wider community", and then say that the next nearest branch is in Brecon. Oh, and there's a free cash machine at the Garage at Llyswen….
I informed the manager that the bus fare to Brecon is £8.30 (Explorer ticket), and the bus only runs every two hours, so that's half the day gone every time a customer wants to use another branch in the wider community.
The leaflet also says there is help available for people who want to switch to online banking.
The other option appears to be the Post Office, which is on the market at the moment. They recently had a cash machine put in, though it's had teething problems and breakdowns.
I have no wish to do online banking, so it looks like it's the Post Office or nothing for me - which led me to ask why I should remain a Barclays customer at all, having banked with Barclays since 1977? She had no answer for that.
I also mentioned local businesses, who need to bank their cash frequently, and get change for the tills. Are they supposed to drive across to Brecon to do this? The manager had no real answer to that, either, but mentioned some sort of collection service that might be offered, and said that all the businesses that bank with Barclays will be contacted.
The manager also said that, although Barclays was taking feedback, the decision had been made.

I feel a bit sorry for Gareth Ratcliffe. No sooner had he posted on his Facebook page that he was going away for a couple of days, all this blew up and he's been taking calls on his mobile. Most people commenting are against the closure, and are angry. Barclays is the only bank left in Hay, since the HSBC and Nat West closed down.
The Nat West send a van once a week. They've already changed the original arrangement of Thursday lunch time for an hour. At the moment it comes to the front of the Cinema Bookshop on a Friday, for three quarters of an hour.

Having done all that I could, I went shopping, and I did find some nice pairs of pumps.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Discovering Historical Hay

When Tim Pugh came round to tell me what had happened to the Le Redu twin town sign, he also gave me a new leaflet which should be appearing around town now. It's called Discovering Historical Hay, and costs 50p, which is to raise money for the Warren Club.
There's a good map in the middle, and it's really comprehensive, starting with the biggest and most important historic building in town, the Castle, and working round the Cheese Market, Butter Market, chapels, the sites of the old town gates, the oldest pub (the Three Tuns), the town clock, St Mary's Church, and the various historic wells and springs which used to provide the water supply for the town.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Update on the Sign

A couple of people dropped by today to tell me what had happened to the Le Redu twinning sign.
Apparently it was taken down because the wooden frame was rotten, but once that is repaired, the sign will be going up again. It probably won't be in the same place - the Castle were not very interested in having it back, it seems. But another possibility is the Buttermarket.
At the same time, wall space is being sought for a new slate sign celebrating Hay's twinning with Timbuktu, so they may go up together some time soon.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The Disappearing Sign

For many years, there was a sign cemented into the wall beneath the castle, commemorating the twinning of Hay with Le Redu. This is a village in Belgium, in the Ardennes, and it became a Village du Livres in 1984. I don't think that many people, in either Hay or Le Redu, now remember the twinning. Certainly I don't think there have been any visits between the two book towns for many years, though Richard Booth did have a friend who lived in Le Redu. I met him in 1991.
And then, last week, I noticed that the sign had been taken away.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Goodbye Beer Revolution

Beer Revolution's closing night was on the last evening of the Festival, so I went down there after work to have a last half. There were lots of local people there to give them a good send off (Beer Revolution will still be trading online, though), and the sun was shining, so people were standing outside.
The beer they stock has always been interesting, and they had a very successful vegan menu for a while.

Meanwhile, in Backfold, Greenaway Books will be closing on 15th June, and George will be leaving for sunnier climes after 16 years there, and 15 years before that working for Richard Booth.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

On the Ocean with Barry Cunliffe

This was the talk I'd been most excited about when I got my Festival programme. Barry Cunliffe was a big name in archaeology when I was in college, and he's written several good books over the years.
We were in the Oxfam Moot tent, one of the biggest venues - and before we went in staff were taking some of the fixed panels out of the walls so there would be a breeze. At last the weather had turned hot and sunny.
This was a lecture, with slides, picking out some of the stories from the book, from the very earliest beginnings of seafaring in the Mediterranean. Recent research has pushed this date back to 130,000 years ago, after a field survey on Crete (I think) found hand axes datable to that period. Previously it was thought that nobody got to those islands before about 10,000 years ago.
One interesting snippet of information was that archaeologists can tell whether people got to an island and stayed there, or whether they went back and forth to the mainland, by the skeletons of mice. If the mice came with a human population which stayed on the island, then the mouse population would drift, genetically, from the mainland population. If there was constant travel between the two, new mice would constantly be arriving, stowed away in cargo, so the populations would remain the same.
At the end of the lecture, a chap stood up to ask a question in the audience and said that he had been involved in researching mice on islands, and gave Barry Cunliffe a bit of information that he hadn't previously known, about an island off the coast of Ireland. The mice there had similar DNA to the mice on mainland Ireland - but the fleas came from Southern Spain!
Another story, and the place Barry Cunliffe got his book title from, was of the voyages of Pytheas, a Greek explorer who had circumnavigated Britain and either went to Iceland or met people who had and wrote down their stories. The impetus for these voyages was to find a source of tin that the Greeks could access, as the Phoenicians had cut off their access to the source they had been using, in Spain.
And then there were the Viking journeys that led to the coast of Newfoundland. Columbus was really a late comer to the continent of America - even Bristol fishermen were ahead of him. Here we learned about latitude sailing, by which ships can travel in a straight line by measuring the distance of the sun above the horizon at noon, or of several stars at night, out of sight of land, instead of hugging the coasts.
And it's worth mentioning that all the maps in the book look unusual because north is not at the top. Barry Cunliffe said that the direction of sunset would be of more interest to an early sailor, so all the maps are oriented with west at the top.
He also spoke about Phoenicians, and later Portuguese, traders and explorers heading down the coast of Africa. There's an island at the mouth of a big river in Senegal, Port St. Louis, that may well have Phoenician archeology under the modern town, but no digs have ever been done there.
He also mentioned St Brendan the Navigator, who headed out to sea to put himself into the hands of his God - the exploration was of his own mind as much as the wonders that they came across in the journeys.
He also spoke about the delight of being an archaeologist - that a new dig could unearth new evidence that completely changed the story we thought we knew, such as the hand axes that changed the entire timeline of seafaring in the Mediterranean.
I was delighted at having the opportunity to listen to a really good archaeologist give a lecture - and that I recognised quite a bit of what he was saying.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Music and Poetry at the Drawing Room

My usual routine is to do my washing at the launderette fairly early on Friday afternoons, but what with one thing and another it was ten past six when I finally transferred my washing from the washer to the dryer. I knew that there was a free event on at the Drawing Room (which used to be Mayall's the Jewellers), and when I got there the shop was full, with standing room only at the back. In fact, I ended up sitting on the floor, almost underneath a three legged table with a jug of cow parsley on it.
At the front of the shop were fiddler Alan Cooper, cellist Di Esplin, and poet Simon Armitage. The musicians were adding background music to the poetry. However, they were quite conscious of the possibility that they might drown out his voice, so it tended to be a bit of improvised music with the poems slotted in between. They hadn't rehearsed, but they are so good at playing together it sounded fantastic anyway.
I think my favourite poems came from a time that Simon went on a 10 day silent retreat, with meditation for 11 hours a day, especially the one about the Male Ego, in which the men's side of the meditation hall was full of the sounds of coughing, farting and belching (as if to say "I'm here! Look at me!") while the women's side was silent apart from the odd sneeze every two or three days.
I also enjoyed the poem he finished on, looking for Christ at the Warren in Hay, and deciding that seeking was probably better than finding.
The event was Alan's idea, and the owner of the shop generously allowed them to use the space. I saw several local people there, including Chris the Bookbinder, who also produces Quirk poetry magazine.
As they were packing up at the end, Alan said that he was on his way to the Bean Box, in the garden by Hay Bridge, to play there for the rest of the evening. He said there would also be pizza.
I had to go and pick up my washing, and when I walked down past the Poetry Bookshop another poetry event was going on in there, with several poets reading their work.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Library of Wales - Welsh Writing in English

There seems to be a theme running through my Festival going this year - as the three speakers settled into their chairs at the Starlight Stage, one of them said: "I'm not Dai Smith - I'm afraid he's indisposed."
I was there because someone had advertised on the Hay Community Facebook page that they had spare tickets for the event. They'd won 4 but only two people wanted to go - so I was the third. I don't know if anyone was interested in the fourth ticket.
The Starlight Stage is one of the smaller stages at the Festival, and even then it wasn't full, which is a pity because it was a fascinating event. I'd never heard of the Library of Wales before, but they have been publishing since 2006, and now have a list of 50 books, all of them out of print or forgotten novels, memoirs, journalism or short story collections by Welsh writers in English.
One of the more recent authors was up on stage. Rachel Trezise is from the Rhondda and said that, when she started writing she thought she was the first writer to come from the Rhondda. In fact, there were several previous writers from the area, but she'd never been taught about them in school or university. Tomos Owen, who teaches Welsh literature, said that when he was in University there was a particular book that the tutor wanted to teach, but it had gone out of print, and this was just before the Library of Wales started and republished it. Later, though, she said that she was a bit embarrassed that her book had been published by Library of Wales, because she had been very young when she wrote it, and wished In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl had been forgotten.
The conversation ranged widely. Topics included Welsh authors having to write in a certain way in order to get published by London publishers. One author had actually won a Gollancz prize, but his book was then not published because it was considered to be too bleak! The view of the Valleys in How Green Was My Valley was considered by the speakers to be a saccharin version of Welsh experience, and they were pleased that there are now more opportunities for work to be published within Wales.
On the other hand, some authors have been criticised by local people for their depictions of Welsh working class life. The chap who was standing in for Dai Smith (I'm afraid I don't remember his name) said that he had worked on a film once about life in the Valleys in which one of the characters relieved himself on top of a car. When he went to talk to the Rhondda WI about the film, 240 women turned up to tell him that this was not the image of their area that they wanted to be publicised!
The books on the list are not just from the Valleys - they come from all over Wales, and over a span of about a hundred years. Tomos Owen said that some of the most interesting writing came from the Borders, because the writers were grappling with problems of identity, and how this came into sharp focus in the Border areas.
They also talked about the future of the list, and whether it should be widened to admit more contemporary writers. Rachel Trezise said she thought it shouldn't, because the purpose of the list was to bring back into publication writers who had been forgotten or were out of print. There was also a question of how far back in time the list should stretch - there had been an explosion of writing during the Industrial Revolution, but where had that writing come from? Who were the writers who influenced the later ones?
There are only 10 women writers on the list of 50, and there were hopes that more would be included in future. The list is very much Dai Smith's personal choice, and when questions were being asked at the end one woman said that there were plenty of good Welsh women writers if you took the trouble to look for them. However there are other Welsh publishers, like Hano, who publish women writers.
Another lady who got the mike commented with passion that she was sick of not being considered properly Welsh because she couldn't speak Welsh - having grown up at a time when speaking English was considered necessary to "get on in life", and Welsh was discouraged. So it was good to see Welsh writing in English being celebrated as being properly Welsh.
The final question couldn't be answered for lack of time, but she wanted to know if there were plans to publicise the Library of Wales outside Wales. I think the conversation carried on after the event finished.

I went straight to the Festival bookshop while the names they mentioned were fresh in my mind, to find the Library of Wales shelf. The books have black spines with a red bit at the bottom. Gwyn Thomas was much admired, as well as Dorothy Edwards, Lewis Jones, and many others. I came away with A Rope of Vines by Brenda Chamberlain, about her time on a Greek island. And while I was there, I picked up Mary Beard's Women and Power, and 101 Things You Need to Know about Suffragettes.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Something Happening at the Three Tuns

I was standing on Broad Street, chatting to Brian, when we noticed a big car pulling in onto the double yellow lines opposite the Three Tuns pub - so we were quite prepared to be judgemental about people who don't park properly during the Festival. There were quite a few problems around the Globe during their How The Light Gets In Festival, with vans and lorries delivering to the site, with the police getting involved, over the weekend.
In this case, though, the young chap dashed across the road to the Three Tuns and opened the front door, and then started unloading kitchen chairs from the back of his car, while a young woman stayed with the car. So we went over to help, so that they didn't have to stay on the double yellow lines any longer than necessary.
I didn't catch their names, but they are the new owners of the Three Tuns, and although they couldn't manage to get it re-opened in time for the Festival, they hope to be re-opening the pub soon.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Sitar on the Pavement

The sitar player was back in town this afternoon, at the top of the Pavement. He was even using a blues slide on the strings at one point.
Unfortunately, the policeman in the background of the picture came over after he'd finished a piece, to ask him to move because people had stopped to listen in the middle of the road.
I bought his CD, Sensorium by Omnivibes. His name is Paul Jackson, and he has a website at

Monday, 28 May 2018

More Festival Happenings

The Handmaids were, indeed, heading for Margaret Atwood's talk at the Festival site, after walking all around Hay.
I had some time in the middle of the day to go into Booth's Bookshop, to have a look at the Jackie Morris exhibition (at the entrance to the café), and I'm sure the ones at the top of the stairs on the first floor were by local artist Jean Miller. There was a Jackie Morris print of a hare and fox sitting together that I think was my favourite of the ones there (though the swooping barn owl on a gold background was gorgeous, too). They were all a bit out of my price range - the originals ranged between £1,000 and £4,000 - but at least I have the set of cards of art from The Lost Words, which I've been displaying round my bedroom.
Later, I chatted to a young man who had his face painted and decorated with stick on gems in purples and blues. There's been a young lady outside the Hour Glass Gallery with a table over the weekend. If I said she was doing face painting, that usually suggests children painted as tigers or butterflies, but what she does is far more intricate and beautiful. The young man had the make-up done for partying down at the How The Light Gets In Festival later in the evening. He'd been stewarding there over the weekend, and had really enjoyed the experience.
Another couple I chatted to said they'd had a wonderful time over the weekend, but were a bit confused - they thought How The Light Gets In was the same as the Hay Festival, rather than two separate events.
I also stopped to chat to the lady at the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust stall in the Cheese Market. They'd brought along a lot of animal skulls, most of which I could recognise, but there was one big one that stumped me - it turned out to be a grey seal.
The lady said she'd been coming to Hay since 1981, and said she always looked up at the Castle and noticed the big cracks in the stone work, so she was glad it's being renovated now. She said: "Please don't say it's going to be a wedding venue!" I had to admit that weddings had been held there - but there are plans for lots of different things too.

Seen in Hay Today

A procession of Handmaids from the Handmaid's Tale, identically dressed in red with big white bonnets. I think Margaret Atwood is speaking at the Festival today.
The weather, thank goodness, is better.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Festival in the Streets

The weather has been horrible in the mornings and clearing up to be glorious in the afternoons so far.
Usually, my neighbour sets up a stall outside her house, and I join her with my bits and pieces, but the weather was so horrible that we thought we'd postpone it - until about 3pm, when the sun came out and stayed out, and she came round and said: "Shall we risk it?".
It stayed fair for the rest of the afternoon, and we sat in the sun and chatted, and sold a few bits and pieces.
Over the road, they had to stop letting people into the Rose and Crown because it was so full - I think because they were showing a big football match, or something - and the queue for the fish and chip shop was the longest I've seen it for years.
My neighbour admired a man's hat as he was passing by, so he stopped to chat. He was Edward, a magician, and he did some card tricks while he stopped to chat. He'd also been canoeing up the Wye, and had been a speaker at a Canoe Festival! While he was standing there, he noticed another couple passing by, and called out: "Are you from Portsmouth?"
It turned out that they were both part of the boat building community down there!
A lady was collecting for the Hay2Timbuktu appeal, to build new toilets at schools in Timbuktu. This is especially important for the girls at secondary school, who often miss school days every month because they can't use the toilets. They were hoping that they'd collect enough over the Festival to be able to start building work.
And when I was sitting in Kilvert's, having a quiet half of Trooper from Robinsons while my washing was at the launderette, a lady came round collecting for an animal sanctuary in Rossendale, Lancashire, which was fairly random!

Today, the Fair in the Square was packed when I came out of work, with music in the marquee. A Big Issue seller was outside Spar, dressed as a sheep. Down on the Pavement, a young man was playing the sitar, with a bird of prey sitting on a perch beside him. I think it might have been a peregrine falcon, and it was very calm with the crowds going by so close to it, considering that it didn't have a hood on.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Friday at the Festival

It's been wet all day, but it does really feel like the Festival now.
This morning I went into Shepherds to see Lizzie Harper's exhibition (and buy some gooseberry and elderflower crumble ice cream). Francoise and Pierre were there, sipping coffee and reading the morning papers - they were looking forward to several Festival events.
Adam Tatton-Reid has pictures in the Granary too - I'll try to get round to seeing that exhibition during the week. He does some wonderful photos.
My first event, though, was not at the Festival site, but at the Poetry Bookshop, where Owen Sheers, John Retallack and Dan Krikler were doing a free event, meeting the creators of the play Unicorns, Almost, which has started its run at the Swan.
Sadly, Owen Sheers couldn't be there - struck down with a migraine, he was tucked up in bed, so he couldn't tell us himself about how much the poet Keith Douglas meant to him. John Retallack, the director of the play, said that Owen first discovered the poetry when he was 24 - which was the age that Keith Douglas had died in the Second World War. He also talked a lot about Owen Sheers other play, Pink Mist, about three Bristol lads joining the army and being sent to Afghanistan. Pink Mist is an extended poem, originally written for radio - which caused a few problems when trying to stage it, according to Dan Krikler, who also starred in that play. On stage, you can just pick up a cup of coffee - for radio, the text actually says "I picked up my cup of coffee", so they had an interesting time getting that to work. However, Pink Mist ended up being a very physical play, and when John Retallack directed it at the Bristol Old Vic he wanted to work with someone else who had a particular type of theatrical training, to get the right physicality (I forget the name of the place that did the training) and the Old Vic had just taken on someone who had exactly that training.
So Dan performed the beginning of Pink Mist - first asking if there were any Bristolians in the audience, because his accent was a bit rusty!
He also performed some of Keith Douglas's poetry, which was quite different, complex and beautiful. Dan mentioned some criticism that Keith Douglas had from poets back in London during the War, complaining that his later poems had lost some of their musicality, to which Keith Douglas replied that he was in the middle of people being blown up in the Western Desert, so of course he'd lost some musicality! At the same time, though, he had access to the big luxurious hotels of Alexandria, which is why there's a chandelier hanging from the roof of the tent in the set of the play. Dan was wearing a flying jacket with a polo neck sweater - with the small moustache he has, he reminded me of Douglas Fairbanks!
When questions were taken from the audience (nobody left when Melanie announced that Owen Sheers couldn't be there) one man said that he had been stopped by four people already who all told him he had to go and see the play, because it was so good. Another lady, who had been unaware the play was on, asked where she could go and see it, because what she'd heard so far had been so interesting (tickets are available at the Poetry Bookshop). Another question was whether the play would be shown to children with no experience of war - and children from Fairfield School locally are being brought to see it.
I hadn't noticed it when I went to do my shopping in the morning, but the shop which used to be St David's Hospice, by the Buttermarket, has become Grove House Gallery for the Festival, with paintings by Martin Andrews round the walls, bog oak sculptures, Irish handmade woodcraft (many beautiful bowls) by Malcolm McAndrew The Wood Wizard, and leather belts, pouches and purses - and two friendly rough coated lurcher-type dogs.

Then it was down to the Festival site - there are a few stalls along Brecon Road as usual, one selling "posh kebabs", the usual woodturner and craft tent, with rebound notebooks and a Christian tent outside Cartref, and a couple of others, but the weather wasn't really on their side today.
I had time to browse the Oxfam bookshop, and the Festival bookshop, and look around the Festival site. The Quakers are here again, and I got a little bag of leaflets from them. There's also wine, cheese, vinegars, Celtic Spirits, and ice cream, vintage clothes, and charities including Greenpeace, the Woodland Trust and the Cat's Protection League. There's an art gallery, which will be open tomorrow (they were still setting up), and a Make and Take tent....
Which leads on quite nicely to the talk I went to see, which was How to be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest. This was supposed to be Jonathan Porritt talking to Sarah Corbett, the author of the Craftivist book - but Jonathan Porritt has had to go into hospital for a knee operation, so Martin Wright stepped in instead.
Sarah Corbett has had an interesting life - brought up in one of the poorest areas of Liverpool where her father was (and still is) a vicar and her mother a nurse, on the 14th floor of a tower block. That's what started her life of campaigning and activism, when her mother was worried about fires in the block and couldn't get a satisfactory answer. From that beginning, Sarah grew up around lots of local campaigns, and got to see what sort of things worked and what didn't work. She also once made an old lady cry, during a conventional placards and petitions protest outside Primark, which made her feel awful, and made her think about the wider issues - the old lady couldn't afford to buy clothes for her grandchildren anywhere else.
As she started work, that was the sort of thing she went into, working for several big charities, and one of her successful campaigns, using craftivism, was to get a large department store chain to pay the living wage to its staff - by sending the Board members a hanky.
Each Board member got a personalised embroidered hanky (the craftivists did research on what sorts of things each person was interested in to personalise them) and the gifts were given, along with a handwritten letter about the benefits of the living wage, at the AGM. By the next AGM, the Board members had persuaded the CEO to change his position, and introduce the living wage. The name of the company isn't in the book, for legal reasons, but they did say who it was on stage, which made me sad, as I grew up believing that this particular company was well known for looking after its staff.
There were some good questions from the audience. One lady wanted to know how to do a Plastic Free Challenge with her Rainbow and Brownie group (so girls between 5 - 7, and 7 - 10), and another lady wanted to know how to be a craftivist if you'd never picked up a needle before. Up to the age of 7, children have less dexterity and find some crafts difficult, but there's always scope for something creative to be made to give to a local politician, for instance, and if an adult has never tried any crafts, then a gift from them, even if it's a bit messy, is all the more thought-provoking, because they'd made the effort.
Something else thought provoking were Sarah Corbett's thoughts on the "pink pussy hats" made by women who marched against Trump in the early days of his presidency. Yes, they were hand made, but the movement didn't really go anywhere because they didn't have a clear aim in mind, and they didn't have a specific question to put to Trump, so he could ignore them. Another question from the audience was about the effectiveness of gentle craftivism against an opponent such as the NRA gun lobby in the USA. Sarah Corbett said that the best way to approach something like that was to see what the two sides had in common, and to have a clear vision of what they want the future to look like - so for instance someone who didn't believe in climate change (she worked on campaigns for this, too) might be persuaded by something local like clearing up pollution in their local area, rather than "Climate change is terrible, we're all going to die, and it's all your fault". She also pointed out that using crafts to protest is just one thing in a toolbox of different methods - alongside marching and placards and petitions and so on.
It was a fascinating hour, and I'll be looking up the Craftivist Collective online.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Festival Window

The volunteers at the Red Cross shop are talented!
The manager was just shutting up shop when I took the photos and she said she'd had an offer for one of the book art vases of flowers already! As the person asking was local, she said she'd keep a note of it, and they could come back after the Festival.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Getting Ready for the Festival

So the bookshop windows are being cleared to put out books by Festival authors, there's an art exhibition at Tinto House and another in one of the empty shops, stalls are going up in the Honesty Gardens, the Fair on the Square will be happening again, and the Hourglass Gallery has been painted green.
Meanwhile at the Globe, a neighbour saw a group of people manhandling a gypsy caravan up the sloping path past the front of the Globe and into the little meadow at the side of it - and this morning Emma Balch came into the Cinema Bookshop to buy some books on the British Army to put in her display for the play Unicorns, Almost. One of them was a history of the Sherwood Foresters Yeomanry by Jonathan Hunt. Their nickname was the Unicorns because of their badge, and the author will be coming to Hay to see the play.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Swan Well

I was asked today where the "wild spring" was in Hay, so I sent them to find the Swan Well, which is tucked away behind the almshouses beyond the Swan Hotel on the way out of Hay, on the Brecon Road.
By coincidence, I'd taken advantage of the beautiful weather yesterday to do a circular walk. I started off along the riverside walk, as far as the church, and at the top of the path, it occurred to me that I hadn't been past the Swan Well for a while, so I took that path, and took a photo:

Before piped water to every home, this was one of the public wells in Hay.

From there, I took the path by the side of the cemetery, up to Hay Common. It's up a steep gully, with several little bridges over the stream, and in dappled shade from the trees overhanging it. At the top it opens out into a wide meadow - and from one side there was a good view over the Hay Festival site, with all the tents up, dazzling white.
Going down again, I cut through the cemetery, and took this photo of the military graves near the entrance, most of them Italian and German prisoners of war, who died at the end of the Second World War, at the Military Hospital in Talgarth:

Then I took the path from Forest Road round the back of the school, and came out on the fair at the bottom of the car park, and then home.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Hay Fair

Down at the bottom of the car park.
It'll liven up later into the evening.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Black Mountains College

Last Saturday, while I was in Hay for the Grand Opening of the new bench, a meeting was taking place in Talgarth Town Hall which sounds quite intriguing. Apparently, plans are being drawn up for a new Black Mountains College - and the organisers are considering the old Talgarth Hospital site for it.
It's obviously a serious proposal - Kirsty Williams, AM, was there to introduce Owen Sheers (the local novelist) and Ben Rawlence (journalist), the founders of the idea. They have also been given seed funding by the Brecon Beacons National Park to conduct a feasibility study into establishing a college for rural skills and higher education, and teacher training. They are also supported by Talgarth Town Council (it may become part of their Town Plan), Powys County Council, several colleges and universities, including Swansea, local environmental organisations Green Valleys and Ty Mawr Lime Ltd., Good Energy, Hay Festival, Cerys Matthews, and the Wye and Usk Foundation.
What they say they want ( their website is is an environment dedicated to creativity, experimental learning and adaptive thinking. The aim is to encourage a zero-carbon economy, which is why there's an emphasis on traditional rural skills, but they also want to offer new solutions, so there will be computer coding, and courses on renewable energy, transport, and organic farming, leading up to a real-world research project for each student.
It all sounds very interesting, though as yet it's only a concept - and it would be a great use for the old Talgarth Hospital, which is presently mouldering away into ruin.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Royal Bedding Day

No, I haven't spelled that wrong!
I was at the Baskie for a brilliant evening of music and laughter last night. The usual Wednesday session was moved to Tuesday because a group had booked the entire hotel for Wednesday, and when we arrived, we saw a big banner over the porch for the Gunfighters' Motorcycle Club! They'd gathered from all over Europe, the UK, and the US. Some of them came to listen to the music, and sang along! According to their website, the group started in the US in 2005, and is made up entirely of active and retired police officers.
At the end of the evening an announcement was made that there would be a special event at the Red Lion in Sennybridge on Saturday, the day of the Royal Wedding. There will be music from 2pm until late, as part of a nation wide campaign called Musicians Against Homelessness.
This is a response to Windsor council wanting to clear homeless people off the streets of Windsor in advance of the Royal Wedding, because they make the place look untidy. The intent was not to help them, but just to get rid of them out of sight.
Musicians Against Homelessness have already raised £100,000 for charities which help the homeless.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Clothes Moths!

So I have a small infestation - fortunately I noticed the little so-and-sos fluttering around quite quickly.
The place they had taken up residence was the big basket stuffed with my medieval spinning and weaving supplies, including raw fleece and hand spun wool.
So, all that had to go.
I haven't actually used the contents of the basket for some time now - I think the last time was around the Agincourt 2015 festivities - as the group I used to belong to has disbanded/moved to Scotland. But I still had the thought in the back of my head that, if a medieval spinster was needed, I was ready!
The clothes moths forced a decision, though - realistically, I'm probably not going to be doing any medieval spinning or weaving in the near future, and maybe it's time to sort out the spindles and de-clutter a bit.
When I was demonstrating, I also had a variety of natural plant dyes that I showed to people, and I've already managed to find a good home for them where they will actually be used for dyeing. Annie, the lady who spins in the Cheese Market, was happy to have them - madder and woad and dyers' greenweed and St John's wort and dyers' chamomile.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Dedicating a Bench

Here are members of the Bell Bank Club and the Monday Choir getting ready to dedicate the new bench (hidden just round the corner of the stone building), which has a plaque on it in memory of Eileen Bufton, who belonged to both the Bell Bank Club and the Monday Choir. The crowd that had gathered to watch was across the street - and there was a police officer up in the square making sure no cars came through while the ceremony was in progress. A number of people walked straight through the middle, though. County Councillor Gareth Ratcliffe, and Josie Pearson from the Town Council, were also in the crowd, as well as members of Eileen's family. John Price was the Master of Ceremonies, and the Monday Choir sang three of Eileen's favourite songs - Summer is icumen in, The Lord's My Shepherd, and (with help from the crowd) Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
The plaque reads "The Bell Bank Club for the blind and partially sighted" at the top, around a picture of bells, and under that "Fond memories of Eileen Bufton and all departed members and helpers of our club."

Friday, 11 May 2018

Next Council Meeting

Hay Town Council normally meets on the first Monday of the month, but because of the Bank Holiday this month, they will be meeting on Monday 14th May instead, at the Swan Hotel, at 6pm. I saw the announcement on Facebook this time. It's also the AGM for the Council, and the time when the new Mayor is chosen.
I won't be there this time - I'd already promised to go to a friend's poetry reading before I realised the date clash.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Cool and Unusual Bench

Seen in Kilverts' garden.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Remembering Eileen Bufton

At noon on Satuday 12th May, there will be a ceremony to unveil the plaque on the new memorial bench by the Cheese Market, in honour of Eileen Bufton and the Bell Bank Club. The Bell Bank Club is the local group for blind and partially sighted people, and Eileen Bufton was well known around town with her guide dog - she also sang in the church choir at St Mary's. The Monday Choir will sing for the ceremony.

And at St Mary's Church, the following Friday, 18th May, there will be a concert in memory of Eileen Bufton and in aid of the Bell Bank Club and Guide Dogs for the Blind. Cost is £5 including refreshments, and there will be a raffle.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Snodhill Castle

It was another weekend when there were several good and interesting things happening that I'd have liked to go to. In Hereford, it was the River Festival, and up at the Bull's Head at Craswell there was a protest/party because the pub has been closed for 3 years now with no sign of re-opening.
But I really wanted to go to Snodhill Castle, where the Snodhill Castle Preservation Trust were having an open day and party to celebrate all the hard work that's been done to renovate and preserve the castle - and it really is a fascinating castle!

The best thing about this trip was that I could get the bus there and back.
I did ask how much a return to Dorstone was, since it's such a short trip, but it was only about 10p cheaper than the Explorer ticket, which gives limitless travel for a day, so it didn't really seem worth it.
There is no parking at the castle itself, so the Friends were using the yard at Dorstone Court as a car park, and running a shuttle bus to the Castle - on a one way system around the lanes because they are so narrow.

It was such a lovely day that I walked up, together with a couple from the Hay History Society and a couple from Bristol who knew the chap who is one of the leading lights of the efforts to preserve the Castle.
Snodhill is not a village, as such, but there are several big houses near the Castle, including Snodhill Court Farmhouse. As we passed it, the lady from Hay History Society asked me if I'd ever been inside. "It's got a Justice Room," she said, when I said that I had only ever passed by it. "And cells - so the Justice of the Peace must have used it." It's a rather fine 17thC farmhouse, with some earlier bits, and some corbels incorporated into the building which had originally come from the Castle - which must have been a rather fine building itself in its heyday.

Everyone got a printed plan of the Castle as they arrived, which sent you up the mound in a gentle spiral. We had entered by the West Bailey, and you could either go the "heart attack route" straight up the side of the mound, or the gentle track round the edge....
...which led to a tree with a bat box, and a level terrace around the mound. The slope down to the lane is very steep.
Moving on, the route went under the North Tower, and round to the hornwork that protected that side of the Castle from attack. There's also a fair sized badger sett on that side of the mound. Looking down the slope, there was the old pear orchard, and a large flat area which might be a prehistoric settlement, or a Norman outer bailey to the Castle, or medieval gardens. A dig there would be very interesting.
Further round, there's a good view up to the Keep itself:

It's 12 sided, which is unique.

Going back a little, there's another path up to the Inner Bailey and the other side of the Keep. Kilvert picnicked here, and the views were superb, right along the Golden Valley to Peterchurch one way.
I was determined to get right to the top - it is very steep, and I managed to scramble it. Mari Fforde and her family were up there - she works for Hay Castle, so had a professional interest in this neighbouring castle.
Down in the Inner Bailey, some of the children were finding this very interesting:

and here's a more general view:

The potted history at the bottom of the printed sheet takes the Castle from 1068, when it was built by William Fitz Osbern (also lord of Clifford, Chepstow, Wigmore and Carisbrooke). It was in the hands of the De Chandos family for 328 years, and eventually came to the hands of Elizabeth I, who sold it to her favourite Robert Dudley - who in turn sold it to the Vaughan family. By this time, it had a deer park, like the still existing Moccas Park nearby.

Down in the West Bailey there was a little exhibition of pictures of the renovation and excavation work so far, including a map of the deer park - and two cannon balls, which children were struggling to lift.
And there were cakes, and drinks. Scattered around the flatter areas were tables and chairs, and picnic rugs.
I also caught part of the tour, given by Garry Crook - there was a big crowd for that.

The whole thing has been a magnificent collaborative effort - the acknowledgements section of the printed sheet mentions local families and small businesses for everything from the cakes for the party to the banners that decorated the castle, to the chap who made the new gate from local oak, the fencers, and even the Nag's Head in Peterchurch for the sandwiches they provided at site meetings! And of course, Historic England, Herefordshire Council and Hereford Archaeology for their work on the site and financial support.

Anyone who wants to become a Friend of Snodhill Castle can visit

I managed to catch the minibus back into Dorstone, where there was just time for a quiet half of Pandy Ale (from Grey Trees brewery) at the Pandy before I caught the bus back to Hay. Several lovely people offered to give me a lift back to Hay, but since I'd paid for the bus ticket already....

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Ladies Who Lunch - this time at Booths Cafe

The Ladies Who Lunch only meet occasionally, but this time it was done on fairly short notice, because one of the Ladies is about to move to Llanidloes!
We met up at the Globe, because we'd had good meals there before, but this time the chef was preparing for an event, and so was only offering fish and chips.
So we decided to head for Booths.
There's a printing press in the café at the moment, and it's been used fairly recently to print pictures of cows and fish and vegetables on pages from old recipe books, which were hung up round the walls. Several people came to take photos of it while we were there.
Since the Ladies Who Lunch are also Ladies who Stitch and Bitch, we all noticed when a man came into the café with a long scarf like thing draped over his shoulder.
"Is it woven?"
"No, it's knitted."
"Oh, it's a hat with a long tail!"
"That man doesn't know how close he came to being mugged, does he?"
The food was absolutely delicious - I had the devilled Portobello mushrooms on toast, with egg, and we shared scrumptious chips. And we had to have scones - this time I tried the gooseberry and elderflower jam, which was gorgeous.

So we gave Ros a good send off - with promises to have a day trip to Llanidloes when the quilting exhibition is on at the Minerva Centre. The Minerva Centre also has a quilting group and an embroidery group, and runs courses, so there'll be plenty of opportunities for handicrafts there. There's also a really good vegetarian café on the main street ("I know," Ros said. "We've been three times already!") and the Great Oak Bookshop.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Library Update

So here's the latest news on the Library, from Kay Thomas the Chief Librarian for Powys, via HOWLS:
Until the playground is finished, there is no safe access for the public to the new school building, and the hoardings on the car park side have to stay in place. This should be finished sometime after the Festival, so the present Library will now close on Monday 11th June, and re-open at the school on Monday 18th June.
Also, despite the article in the Hereford Times a couple of weeks ago, it seems that no final decision has been taken on how many hours a week the new library will be open for. Powys County Council said it would be open for 12 hours a week, which is about half the hours it's open now. Hay Festival have said they are willing to put in additional funding again (they've supported the Library financially for several years now) to bring it up to 19 hours a week - but Powys County Council have yet to agree to a date for a meeting to discuss the issue.

The HOWLS AGM will be held on Wednesday 20th June at 7pm - venue to be announced soon.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Memorial to a Small Dog

Sally from Fleur de Lys antique shop called me over this morning to tell me that Lucy, her dog, had died. Lucy was the constant companion of Brian for 16 years (this is not the same Brian that takes me over to the Baskie every week), and she was a lovely little dog.
So this memorial has gone up in the window of Booths.
Brought a lump to my throat.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Kilverts Update

The original owners of Kilvert's Hotel have come out of retirement, as the manager of the Brecon and Hay Taps has decided the new company to run the two pubs won't be able to make it work after all. The pub is still open, with the same staff at the moment, but there's a story in the Brecon and Radnor Express this week about one couple who had booked rooms for the Festival, and paid a deposit, and now don't know what's going to happen about their deposit money.
Meanwhile the ladies of Stitch and Bitch had their usual session in the side bar this evening, and so far it looks as though the group will be able to continue meeting there.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

The Bull's Head in Craswall

This remote pub has now been closed for 3 years, with no sign of it re-opening. I remember walking up there years ago, when there wasn't even a bar - just a hatch in the wall, and you could be there on your own until suddenly 20 pony trekkers appeared for cider and cheese and pickle sandwiches. They even had an under-18s bar in a separate room.
More recently, they served food, and were quite a popular destination for a drive out, but the pub has changed hands a few times, and the present owners don't seem to be doing anything with it.
So on Saturday there will be a protest (polite and well-mannered and peaceful) outside the building, at 12 noon.
The post code is HR2 0PN, to help to find it. There is also a petition on 38 Degrees for it to re-open.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Library Update

I understand that building work has not quite finished at the school, and that is why the transfer of the library to its new quarters is being delayed.
Meanwhile, the official openings of Hay School and the Archdeacon Griffith School at Llyswen happened today. The Archbishop of Wales unveiled the plaque at Archdeacon Griffiths School, which is a Church in Wales school, and Kirsty Williams AM was at Hay School.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

A Splendid Day Out

I really was seriously conflicted this weekend - Wonderwool and the Hereford Steampunk Weekend were on at the same time.
So, friends from Stitch and Bitch went to Wonderwool and I went to the Steampunk Weekend - after all, I'd been working on a costume for it:

The lovely chap at the Lurcher Gallery stall took this for me. I'm portraying Lady Mary Bailey, who was the first person to take photos of archaeological sites from the air - hence the flying helmet and camera. The dig she was flying over (in her own biplane) was run by a woman, too - Gertrude Caton Thompson, in Egypt in 1931. So more Dieselpunk than Steampunk, but the flying helmet was greatly admired. I was given it by Bob, who runs the Baskerville Hall acoustic sessions, and it worked so well that I got called Amy Johnson by one of the chaps from the Waterworks Museum!

There were fewer stalls at the event than there were last September, but Bernie the Bolt was there this time. He is well known in re-enactment circles for supplying authentic and reasonably priced material for costumes. The mead man was there as well, Professor T Bottom (of, and I came away with a bottle of fragrant heather mead. There was a rather fine artist there, too, with a selection of Steampunk and Star Wars inspired works - I liked the silhouettes printed on a page from the relevant book - so a picture of Frankenstein's Monster on a page from the book Frankenstein, for instance. He has an Etsy shop called Brambledown designs.
And there were vintage clothes, and costume makers, and jewellery, from companies like Good Faiy Bad Fairy and the aforementioned Lurcher Gallery, and someone who made bespoke waistcoats.
There were also the most adorable ferrets, from the Heart of England Ferret Association, who rescue ferrets, and they also organise ferret racing evenings - fun for all the family!
There was entertainment from Caroline the lady with the musical saw, Greg Chapman who performs feats of juggling and escapology on a stage mounted on a steam powered tricycle(!), and Ichabod Steam, who has converted a small trailer caravan into a stage for his musical event - it has an animatronic band, a rear "port hole" screen with which he can interact with other characters in his story, and a turret/submarine conning tower on top that he can climb up to. And he plays the guitar. In the evening there was a Cabaret, but I couldn't stay for that. One act had come all the way from Berlin!
And on the Sunday, the miniature railway next door was open, so that was available for visitors as well.
Of course, one of the big attractions of the day was that all the engines in the Museum were in steam, and they looked very impressive - they're mainly pumping engines, including the ones that used to pump water for the city of Hereford. There's a new hall at the back of the site where they issue ear defenders for anyone going into the engine house, though the other engines in the museum are quite quiet.
Food on site was provided by a stall doing rather good grilled sandwiches (I had the pork, which was lovely),and the museum café.
I had some fascinating conversations with interesting people, enjoyed the steam engines and the entertainments by Ichabod Steam and Greg Chapman, and some gentle retail therapy - and had time before the bus was due to have a half of Jaipur from Thornbridge brewery at the Beer in Hand. I returned to the city centre along the cycle route, which brings you out at the back of Sainsbury's, so the Beer in Hand was right on my route to the bus stop!
A splendid day out!