Monday, 31 December 2018

End of the Old Year; the Start of Something New

Taking a moment for some quiet contemplation....

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Roman Marching Camp

I felt like a walk to blow the cobwebs off me, so I went out along the Offa's Dyke Path on the other side of the river. It goes through the wooded area that the owners want to make into a camp site (planning permission pending). They've certainly done a fair amount of work on the land, clearing undergrowth and a lot of Himalayan Balsam, and the path itself has been improved.

Up above the public footpath are the remains of a Roman fort. I haven't been up there for years, but yesterday there were no sheep in the field, and the gate at the top was open, so I went to have a look.

It's on the official lists as Clyro Roman Fort, and it's on Boatside Farm, overlooking the River Wye. Photos always seem to flatten out earthworks like this, but I think I got an angle where you can see the sudden rise in the ground where the rampart is, with the track cutting through it. On either side, in the next fields, there's nothing visible left at all.
This is where the Silures tribe almost wiped out the XX Valeria Legion, killing the prefect and eight centurions as well as many of the rank and file.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

'Hostile Environment' Comes to Hay

News of refugees and deportations can seem very far away from life in Hay, but occasionally something happens that demonstrates the sort of ties people in Hay have with international events. Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees has been very active, organising days out in the countryside for refugees living in Swansea, but sometimes helping refugees means doing a little bit more than offering them a nice day out.
Otis Bolamu is an asylum seeker from the Republic of Congo. He was a government employee there, and also active in one of the main opposition groups to the government. When he was accused of spying for the opposition, he knew his life was in danger, and he fled the country, ending up here in Wales. At the moment, official government advice is not to travel to the Republic of Congo, due to political unrest, state violence and a deteriorating human rights situation.
Otis hasn't been idle while he was waiting for his claim to be processed - although asylum seekers are not able to get a job, he became a volunteer at Hay Festival, and in Swansea he has been volunteering at an Oxfam shop.
And then he was refused leave to remain in the UK. He appealed against that decision, but he was taken into detention by immigration officers just before Christmas - they planned to send him back to the Congo on Christmas Day.
On Facebook there has been a petition going round to allow Otis to stay here, supported by Hay Festival, and at the moment he is still in this country, thanks to the work of Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees, Oxfam and churchgoers in Swansea, the opposition group Apareco in the Congo, and various concerned MPs and lawyers.
This is only a temporary reprieve, but Otis and his lawyers are preparing a fresh case to allow him to remain in the UK.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Boxing Day Hunt

Just before they set off, around 11am.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Nadolig Llawen

This year's winner of the Small Window prize in the Window Dressing Competition - at the Red Cross shop.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Busking for Refugees

Here are Justin and Bob, singing Message in a Bottle. They were also joined by Toby, and together they raised £194.90 for Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Celebrating Local Personalities in Art

The Hereford Times publishes a local walk every week, and last week they chose a route around the public art of Hereford. When I go into Hereford, I usually stay around the centre, so I wasn't aware of one of the sculptures on the list, which features Josie Pearson, the Paralympic athlete from Hay.

It's actually a Portrait Bench, featuring Elgar with his bicycle, Josie Pearson and Violette Szabo, who was the first woman to be awarded the George Cross, for her work in the Second World War with SOE.
To get to the bench (and I will try this the next time I'm in Hereford) you go past the Volunteer Inn on Harold Street, onto Crozen Lane, and Outfall Works Road, to cross the Greenway Bridge over the Wye. The bench is fairly close to the bridge, on the railway line.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Christmas Dinner at the Rhydspence

Last year we were at the Globe for the staff Christmas party, but this year none of us were that keen on the Christmas menu there.
The menu at the Rhydspence looked promising, though, so we hired the Booktown minibus taxi to take us all out there (apart from the staff member who lives in Clyro, who stuck to half a glass of white wine all night and drove herself home).
There was a big party in the restaurant, so we were put in the Welsh Bar, which is nice and cosy, with a real fire.
The food was very good indeed, and the drink flowed freely - I had salmon mousse for starters, and pork for my main course - I'd considered the pheasant, but I had pheasant at Kilverts with the Stitch and Bitch party. There were generous helpings of vegetables, and three different sorts of gravy!
There was a rather nice sticky pear pudding afterwards. The menu also included the traditional turkey and Christmas pudding options, and a butternut squash dish as the vegetarian option.
The pinot grigot was very nice, and they had a Hobsons beer on hand pump at the bar - Old Prickly Snuffly Hedge Grog (with a picture of a hedgehog on the pump clip). It's a fairly local beer, coming from a brewery in Cleobury Mortimer.
The Christmas crackers had something I've not seen for years - the plastic fish that curls up in your hand to indicate what sort of person you are (I got "Passionate"!).
The taxi was right on time both ways, and we had a bit of a magical mystery tour going back to Hay, as we had several people to drop off on the way. We crossed the toll bridge, which now works with a three digit code if you re-cross on the same day that you bought the original ticket. Mist swirled in patches near the river, as we took the back lanes back to Hay.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Busking for Refugees - and some other ideas to help

Look out for Justin Lewis Preece around Hay on Saturday - he's busking in aid of Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees.
Other charitable things going on in the run up to Christmas are a collection of socks at the Old Electric Shop for refugees - the idea being that they are bought from the Sock Man on the Thursday Market to boost local businesses while helping the needy. They are also looking for the following (copied and pasted from the Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees Facebook page):

What is needed:
• Men’s jogging bottoms or jeans,
size 26-34 waist, joggers with cuff bottom
• Sleeping bags
• Men’s new boxer shorts
(esp small and medium, tight fit only)
• Socks, hats and gloves
• Men’s waterproof walking boots, sizes
38-45 (but most needed sizes 40-43)
• Mens and boys coats (especially small
and medium sizes)
• Unlocked mobile phones with chargers
• Power banks
• Tarpaulins
• Rain ponchos
• Tents..
Needed, but not a priority:..
• Toiletries and toiletry pack
• Hoodies
• Blankets
• Emergency blankets
• Rollmats
• Men’s T-shirts
• Trainers
• Wind-up torches and lanterns
• Batteries
• Bin bags
• Anti-bacterial hand wash.

St Mary's Church, and the Lib Dem offices in Brecon, and Talgarth Library, are also collecting a Reverse Advent Calendar - the idea being that you add a useful item to a box every day in the run up to Christmas, and take the box along to the collection point in the week before Christmas so the things can be distributed to refugees living in Swansea or Ystradgynlais. This could be tinned food, toys for children, toiletries and so on.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Small Business Saturday

I'm sorry to hear that the Forge Gallery on the Craft Centre will be closing at Christmas.
Also closing is Hey Hair, as the bay window which was damaged by a car crashing into it last year has still not been repaired. According to the B&R there have been problems with the insurance claims. The hairdressers from Hey Hair will be going mobile in the New Year.

Meanwhile Haystacks in Backfold has also featured in the B&R, this time as a success story! They were celebrating the resurgence of interest in vinyl records. They have just moved to new, larger premises, all of 12 yards from their old shop. The shop also features in a new music video. Les Penning and Lou (oops, should be Robert!) Reed have made a lovely little film to go with a new recording of In Dulci Jubilo, which is set in Hay. It can be found on YouTube.
There are also builders working in the shop which used to be Boz Books. For the Winter Festival, the new owners put an art display in the window, and now they're re-shaping the shop to their own requirements. It will be interesting to see what they do with the place.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Stitch and Bitch Christmas Lunch

We chose Kilverts this year, and we were not disappointed.
Ten of us came to sit in the lounge just down the steps from the bar. It was lovely to see Ros again, who had come all the way from Llanidloes, where she seems to be enjoying life.
It wasn't busy, so we more or less had the place to ourselves. During one lull in the proceedings, one of the ladies said there were so many interesting conversations going on round the table she was trying to listen to them all!
Did Neanderthals interbreed with Homo Sapiens?
Any suggestions for the next choice for a book club? One of the members doesn't like fantasy, so not Terry Pratchett! There were a few good suggestions including local author Horatio Clare.
What about books for the children of some of the ladies there, one of whom had just read Terry Pratchett's non-Discworld book Nation?
One lady was looking forward to a holiday in Guatemala and the Yucatan peninsular - another was suggesting Mayan pyramids to visit.
How would the world be different if whaling hadn't happened in the 19th century? (Probably in a better state as far as climate change is concerned, interestingly).
There were also discussions about health, and the state of the nation, and car crashes people have walked away from....
The food was delicious (I almost started someone else's turkey, having forgotten I'd ordered pheasant), and they were able to cater for one lady who needed gluten free food with no bother.
And we all saved the little gold ribbons from the Christmas crackers!

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Gawain and the Green Knight in Hay

Gawain and the Green Knight is one of my favourite poems. Every Christmas I play a tape of a programme first heard on Radio 4, where the story is narrated by Ian McKellen, and this week Melvyn Bragg was discussing the poem with experts on In Our Time (also Radio 4). One of the experts was Simon Armitage, who has written a new translation of the poem.
Now Clive Hicks-Jenkins, who illustrated Simon Armitage's version of Gawain and the Green Knight, is coming to The Story of Books in Hay. He'll be there on Saturday 15th December from 12.30pm to 1.30pm.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Christmas Experiences

There's apparently a growing trend to give "experiences" rather than "stuff" for Christmas, and there are various opportunities to do that locally.

Talgarth Mill is offering bread class vouchers - learn to bake Christmas breads on Sunday December 16th. The course is a full day for four people, and the cost for all four is £125, including lunch, tea and coffee and home made cake.

The Story of Books is offering a papermaking course on Saturday 22nd December, at £10 each. Maureen Richardson, who has been making paper locally for around forty years, will be teaching a Vegetable Papyrus Workshop, making paper from carrots, parsnips, beetroot and turnips. They also have an exhibition at the moment of Wordless Books.

A bit further afield there's the Brecon Mountain Railway Santa Special, on Saturday 15th, and a Mari Lwyd Winter Solstice Eve event in Brecon, hosted by the Brecon Mummers and Brecon Mari Lwyd, on Thursday 20th. The Mari Lwyd is a decorated horse skull on a pole - traditionally this was taken around the area, and at each house would stop to have a poetry "battle" with the householders. It also involves lots of singing and making music (and pubs!). They're meeting to start processing round the town at the Brecon Tap.

Just after Christmas, on 5th January, Westons Cider Mill are holding a Wassail. The Silurian Morris side will also be there. This is at Much Marcle in Herefordshire, and the proceeds from the evening will go to St Michael's Hospice locally.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Christmas Weekend Away

I've just come back from a lovely weekend in the Cotswolds, staying with old school friends.
Over the last few days, I've ridden a train from Chepstow up the Severn Estuary, attended a Druid Mistletoe Blessing, had lunch at Highgrove, drunk mulled wine before an open fire in a pub in Tetbury, shopped in Stroud and visited a narrow boat in a marina near Frampton-upon-Severn. And we never stopped talking the whole time we were together.

So that was my Christmas treat, and now I'm back in Hay for the run up to Christmas here. I'm going to two Christmas meals so far....

Thursday, 6 December 2018

War and Pieces

This looks as if it's going to be good.
I had intended to go, but I'll be elsewhere that evening.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

For a Flower Album - Colette Exhibition

There's a new exhibition in the Hazy Daze shop by the Clock Tower, featuring embroideries inspired by the life of Colette, by French publisher and embroiderer Agnes Guillemot.
It runs until 15th December.

The latest issue of The Cabbage Leaf from Botany and other Stories tells more:

Colette was, of course, one of the great French writers - she was granted the honour of a State funeral when she died in 1954, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. TS Eliot won the prize that year.

In her old age, Colette became crippled with arthritis. Once or twice a week, Mermod, a publisher in Lausanne, proposed to send her a bouquet of flowers, and when she wanted to, she could write about them. The 22 essays were collected into a book called Pour un herbier, which was published as a limited edition in 1947. One of these rare books is part of the exhibition. It was found in a second hand bookshop in Lausanne called OH 7e CIEL (Seventh Heaven is one translation).

Also in the Cabbage Leaf, on the theme of embroidery and other fibre arts, is an article about the local Stitch and Bitch group; an appreciation of the book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, by Gareth Howell-Jones, local garden designer and Hay Festival bookseller; some facts about roses; and a flower design which can be pasted onto card as a template for an embroidery. Botany and other Stories are planning to bring out embroidery cards next year.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Extinction Rebellion

Here's some information from the leaflet I was handing out on Saturday, to give a general idea of what the march and the Extinction Rebellion movement are all about:

On the front of the leaflet, below the large word "REBEL", they note that scientists have been warning governments about climate change for 30 years, and in that time emissions have increased, so that now forests are burning and the average temperature is rising all the time.

The leaflet goes on to emphasise that Extinction Rebellion is about non-violent and respectful direct action.

On the back, there's some more science. Global CO2 levels hit a new record high in 2017. 200 species every day are becoming extinct. Since 1970, 60% of wildlife globally has disappeared (World Wildlife Fund report in 2018), the oceans are becoming more acidic and filling up with plastic.
Campaigners have been drawing attention to the problems for years, but now drastic action really does have to be taken. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has said we have 12 years to cut our emissions to zero to avoid dangerous global warming. However, the Arctic is melting faster than their predictions, and the ice may disappear in ten years, or less. This sets off a feedback loop which makes further global warming inevitable, as there is no ice to reflect the heat of the sun back into the atmosphere, and the darker sea water absorbs the heat instead. (and, of course, melted ice means sea level rises, means low-lying cities and land around the world flooded).

And yet our government supports fracking, which releases methane into the atmosphere (a greenhouse gas), and has pledged £30 billion for roads - car exhaust emissions are, again, bad for the climate.

Extinction Rebellion wants to see these policies reversed, and carbon emissions reduced to zero by 2025.

This really could be the "end of civilisation as we know it" yet, as Richard Priestley said in his speech on Saturday, it is possible to do it with present technology - it's just a matter of applying what we already know.

One of the problems with any campaign like this is that it's impossible for individuals to change the way the climate is changing, no matter how much they recycle or switch to Green energy companies or cycle instead of drive. It needs a mass movement, putting pressure on governments and corporations to change their behaviour in a radical way. Several of the people at the march said that they had been involved in campaigning for years, but it really did seem as if there was a change in the air now - that people were starting to realise what was happening and that we need to do something about it.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Rising Up for Climate Action in Hereford

I can't easily get to London when there are big protest marches planned, but I have no such excuse when the march is in Hereford, so on Saturday morning I headed off on the bus.
The rules for the free bus service on Saturdays on the T14 have been tweaked again. Last time I went into Hereford I was able to get a free return ticket but this time the driver was only issuing single tickets, which meant I had to pay the usual £8 for a Powys Rover to get home - so no saving at all.

Once in Hereford I headed for Castle Green where the marchers were meeting. The plan was to have several speakers there, and then march, and sing, at various points around the centre of Hereford, ending up at the Shire Hall. Clipboards were being passed around the crowd to collect email addresses for future contact from the organisers, and also to sign a petition which was going to be handed to Jesse Norman, MP.
The dress code was either bright and colourful and nature-related, especially for the kids, or black, for mourning the terrible state the planet is in. Bearing in mind that it was 1st December, and therefore cold (though mild, and the sun came out), I decided to go for black - and was almost mistaken for a vicar! There were lots of kids in costume - a little girl dressed as a bee was very good, and there were kids in onesies that looked like gorillas and other animals. Among the adults, there was a lady with a peacock tail and hat, and another with elf ears and a white dress (Galadriel, maybe?). Gandalf was there, the spokesman of Don't Frack the Shires, who were helping to organise the event. He also introduced the first speakers from a little stepladder by the PA system:

We were standing between the River Wye and a large tree on the edge of the Green, a good place to be speaking up for the natural world.
The first speaker was from the Herefordshire Green Network, talking about organising locally. She was followed by Ben Salmon, who was at the big protest in London a week or so ago when five bridges across the Thames were closed by protestors. A poem was read out by his eleven year old daughter about how all nature is connected.
Then there was a lady from the local Wildlife Rescue, who had brought along a barn owl and a tawny owl, who are both trained to go into schools for educational purposes. There was also a hedgehog! Owls and hedgehogs have seen their numbers fall drastically in recent years - barn owls can't live within 25km of an A road, because so many get mown down by the cars as they fly too low. The solution to this is well-known - if trees are planted along the sides of A roads, the barn owls perch higher and go over the cars. The trees are also traffic calming, and improve the air quality, among the many benefits they have. So solutions to the decline of species are there - it's just the political will to use them.
This theme was carried on by later speakers, Kathy Monkley, who said a few words about the science of climate change, and Richard Priestley, who has been writing a blog for several years now about solutions to the problems of climate change around the world. It's called Global Problems, Global Solutions. There was also another poem, by Gary Snyder.

Some of the marchers - there were more behind me, and more round the corner of the Cathedral

We marched from there to the Cathedral, led by mourners carrying a painted coffin labelled Nature, where we stood on the paved area with the picture of an apple tree outside the West End and sang choruses, including "Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Helpfully, two of the marchers were carrying a banner with the words on it, which they held up at the front.

From there we continued to All Saints, where we stopped again. I didn't hear much of the speeches this time, because I had been asked to hand out leaflets, and got into conversation with an old chap who told me all about how he was encouraging his grandson to enjoy the countryside and old games that he had enjoyed, and how everyone used to use glass bottles for milk, and the same carrier bag every day.
On we went again to the middle of the market stalls in the Square, for more singing, including the chorus of the English version of This Land Was Meant for You and Me ("From the coast of Cornwall to the misty Highlands").
And from there we continued to the Shire Hall for more speeches - no microphone this time, and sadly one of the speakers couldn't project, so a really interesting speech got lost because only a few people could hear it. The second speaker, from the Green party, was much better at getting her voice heard at the back of the crowd.

The event was organised by Don't Frack the Shires, Ban Fracking in Herefordshire and Human Mappa Mundi, all of whom have Facebook pages. This was the launch of Extinction Rebellion in Herefordshire, and they can be found on social media at @extinction.rebellion.hereford and @Extinction Rebellion and Facebook Xr.hereford

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Small Business Saturday

Hay has a new jewellery shop, which also changes watch batteries and so on.
They're hidden away in the courtyard just below Eve's café and above the Falafel shop.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Town Council News

I haven't been going to the meetings lately, but I was pleased to see the Town Council's sixth newsletter tucked into the latest edition of WyeLocal.
They start by asking if any local group would be willing to take over the annual firework display at Clyro Court - the Black Mountain Lions have been running it for years, but this year was the last year they were prepared to organise. They will be on hand, though, to give advice to any new group that wants to step into their shoes.
The Council have set up a Low Carbon Hay Steering Group, to look at lowering the carbon footprint in Hay and looking at various energy solutions. They are looking for local residents, businesses and landowners to take part in the planning.
The annual senior citizens' party will be at the Masonic Hall on 8th January this year, with Dial-a-Ride involved to get people there and home again.
The Recycling Fund awarded a £500 grant to the Canoe Club to put on free taster sessions this summer. They organised nearly thirty free canoeing sessions with over a hundred local children, and also managed to support a regular group of twenty paddlers.
The Hay in Bloom prize for best dressed window display went to Golesworthy's this year. The prize was a gift voucher from the Old Railway Line Nursery and a certificate and silver salver to keep. The hanging baskets were themed red, white and blue to commemorate the end of the First World War. In the small window category, the winners were Satori, Otherworldz and the Fudge Shop on the Craft Centre. Runners up were the Old Black Lion and Oscars Bistro. Private gardens also got prizes for best hanging baskets and best container, and the Town Council hopes to encourage more people to take part next year. It not only makes the town look nice, but it encourages bio-diversity as well!
As part of the Hay in Bloom scheme, the Town Council is hoping to plant native trees and bulbs around Hay, and encourage more wild flowers in the open spaces.
As well as putting a lot of energy into the Hay in Bloom scheme, the Council would like to revive the Hay and District Show, if they can find someone local who would like to organise it.
Miles Without Stiles is still continuing, with new kissing gates planned for footpaths around Hay to improved disabled access, and also ramps for businesses around town to use.
The Community Speed Watch group is looking for new members, too.
Nigel Lewis has now retired as Town Clerk, after many years of service, and Nick Burdekin (his assistant) has been promoted. Nigel will continue to work for the Council as the Responsible Financial Officer.
And there's a new Councillor, Syd Morris - reviving the Hay and District Show was his idea. He's a shopkeeper and part-time gamekeeper, and was a volunteer fire fighter for twenty years.

Contact details are: for the Lions Fireworks Display for Low Carbon Hay, the senior citizens' party, Hay in Bloom and the Hay and District Show for Speed Watch.

Meanwhile, the saga of the Transfer of Assets still rumbles on in the background....

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Helping Our Homeless

There's a new collection tin on the counter of the Cinema Bookshop, for a charity called Helping Our Homeless.
The group of friends, based in Mid-Wales, who set the charity up are focussing their attention on the homeless of Wales. In 2015/16, there were about 240 rough sleepers in Wales, with the numbers going up to 313 the following year. When I last went down to Cardiff, I noticed more rough sleepers on the streets than I had before, with sleeping bags in doorways and so on. The problem certainly looks as if it's getting worse, not better.
The new charity doesn't think they can defeat the issue, but they can do something to help.
So they make up care bags, containing things like deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, razor, hats and gloves, food like cup-a-soup and biscuits, notebooks, a novel, puzzle book and pens and so on to give out to rough sleepers. They also accept donations of clothing and food.
They have a Facebook page at Helping Our Homeless Wales.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

A Talk from the Moon Lady

I always try to get to see something at the Winter Festival, and my choice this year was Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who was talking about the Moon.
I hadn't been to the Festival tent before - I thought it was just an auditorium, but there was a whole mini Festival space in the first tent, with the auditorium behind it. There was a bar, coffee bar (with recycleable cups), art exhibition with pictures of horses, wild wreaths made locally, and a book shelf and signing table, with space for a signing queue, at the far end.

The speaker probably should have been in bed - she was still wearing a hospital wristband from earlier in the week - but she gave an enthusiastic and fascinating talk, interspersed with TV clips so she didn't have to talk all the time. She was wearing a rather wonderful dark blue dress, with a pattern of the faces of the moon on it.
She's a co-presenter of The Sky at Night, so it's no surprise that one of her astronomer heroes is Sir Patrick Moore, whose maps of the surface of the moon were so good they were used by the Russians during the Space Race.
She spoke of the moon as a family heirloom, lighting her father's way home from school on his bike across the plains of Africa, and fascinating her as a child through the street lights and cloudy skies of London - and it's a love of the moon she is trying to pass on to her own daughter, who is now eight years old and was sitting in the audience with her dad.
She talked about the importance of the moon to the earth, deflecting meteor strikes, controlling the tides and possibly even causing the creation of RNA (the ancestor of DNA) in tidal rock pools, thus creating life, and all of us. There was a clip of her in a helicopter in Arizona, circling a crater, and another of her in a boat going through a rip tide in Scotland, from a documentary she made about eight years ago. She got the email about the documentary about two days after her daughter was born, and her husband had to go along on location to look after the baby (by then about four months old).
There was another film clip of her explaining how eclipses worked to Jeremy Paxman, and actually getting him to sound quite impressed. On stage, she demonstrated the tidally locked moon with a plushy toy that she waved around, its face always towards her.
She also talked about the history of observations of the moon, from the earliest observatory discovered recently in Scotland, formed of pits that corresponded with the phases of the moon as observed from that cliff top, 10,000 years ago.
Then there was En-hedu-ana, Astronomer Priestess of the Moon Goddess in Ur about 4,000 years ago. Hers is the first female name recorded in history, and she is also the first poet known by name - she wrote poems about the moon, of course, and also ran the temple. Maggie Aderin-Pocock said that she was aiming for a similar official title, but Astronomer Priestess of the Moon Goddess of Guildford didn't quite have the same ring to it!
When she was asked to write the Sky at Night guide to the Moon, her first reaction was terror. Although she's a serious scientist as well as TV presenter, she's dyslexic, so writing a book was a difficult task for her.
I bought the book, of course.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Food Festival

On Saturday, the Food Festival was in the marquee on the Square and the Fairtrade Christmas Fair was in the Buttermarket (see the Fairtrade Hay blog for more on that).
Some of the stalls had already set up the night before, for the turning on of the Christmas Lights, when Hay School also had a stall. Most of the takeaway food stalls had set up the night before too, including the Welsh Italian Pizza Company, with their portable pizza oven.
There were old favourites there like Brecon Brewery and Rhymney Brewery, as well as newcomers like an interesting looking gin stall (for those that like gin).
Theoretically, I was looking for Christmas presents, but I ended up mostly buying for myself.
I picked up a loaf from Talgarth Mill - they're also running sessions called the Taste of Milling Experience now, where people can take part in everything that makes the mill work, and end up with a bag of flour they've milled themselves. They do bread making classes, too, including special Christmas ones for German Stollen, and Italian Panetonne.
On the way into the tent, there was a butcher's stall - Coity Bach from Talybont - selling goat sausages! I've never knowingly eaten goat, so I treated myself to a pack.
And on the other side of the entrance to the tent there was an Indian takeaway. They've been before, so I knew my last port of call was going to be them, to treat myself to some spinach samosas for later and Samosa Chaat to eat right away. It was delicious.
Meanwhile, two different choirs were singing while I was shopping (I didn't notice which choirs they were) - with the Kinnersley Singers in the Buttermarket, just far enough away that the music didn't overlap.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Wayzgoose and Cider Mill

There's been a lot happening around town this weekend. I was working on Sunday (I always seem to miss Hay Does Vintage), but I managed to see a lot on Saturday.
I got to the Story of Books shop quite early. Upstairs one of the Blind Bookworms was just setting up for music making later - he had his trumpet with him. There were several representatives of local small presses there, and downstairs there was the opportunity to try printing myself. Someone from the Letterpress Collective in Bristol had set up his Printing Bike in the front of the shop, and was offering to let people print their own bookmarks.
A person can never have too many bookmarks!
I think on the Sunday it was Christmas cards that were being printed.
The Letterpress Collective can be found at

Just a few doors along, at the greengrocers, there was a cider tasting session going on. The shop was filled with a wonderful scent of mulling cider. Fair Oak Cider is made on a farm in Bacton, Herefordshire, where they've brought an old cider press back into production after a gap of about a hundred years, working it with a horse. Tommy is a Gypsy Cob gelding who lives in the hills above Hay-on-Wye. They think it's the only horse-powered commercial cider press in the country, and they use old cider apple varieties like Dabinett, Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill and Foxwhelp, from small orchards around the Golden Valley.
Even when the mill is not working, visitors are welcome to taste and buy cider by appointment. Their website (with a little film of Tommy in action at the cider press) is at

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Friday, 23 November 2018

Tobago Traces Exhibition

Hay is dressed for the Winter Festival now. All the shops have put up their Christmas windows, and Festival events have already started. Tonight the Christmas Lights are switched on - there's already a light in the window of Keeper's Pocket that makes it look as if it's gently snowing across the street at Golesworthy's.

Meanwhile, at the River Cafe in Glasbury, Deborah Gillingham is putting up an exhibition of her paintings which are anything but Christmassy.
On her flyers she promises "Sea, fish, colour, pelicans and stately matrons, sea, colour, noise, lush vegetation and cool dudes, elegant crinkly elders, sea, birds, cacophony."

There's going to be a lot of sea.

The exhibition starts on Wednesday 28th November, and goes on until early next year.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

The Library and the Winter Festival

One of the events for the Winter Festival this weekend will be taking place in the new library. Between 3.30pm and 5.30pm on Friday children (and adults, I suppose) can make their own Christmas lantern, which they can then take up to the Town Square in time for the Switching on of the Christmas Lights by Kate Humble at 6pm.
The marquee was going up in the car park when I passed on my way home from work this evening, and there will be things going on in the Square from 5pm to 7pm, with stalls and choirs and so on.

Hay Library has been open on Friday afternoons since October, and it's proving very popular, especially for parents with young children, regularly attracting over a hundred people each session. HOWLS is hoping that this will continue - the County Council will be reviewing the situation in March.
Meanwhile, work is going ahead to install a screen between the two parts of the library (which was in the original plans, but library shelves were put up where the screens were supposed to go). When that's done, and more funding can be found, it should be possible to open the library on other afternoons in the week.

Meanwhile, the "For Sale/Ar Werth" signs have gone up at the old library building.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Nights at the Movies

I can go months without wanting to go to the cinema - and then two films I want to see come along in the same week.
The first was Peterloo - as a proud Mancunian, I had to go and see this. It's about the peaceful meeting in 1819 on St Peter's Field in Manchester that turned into a massacre. Over the years, I've done a bit of research into this important piece of Manchester history, and Mike Leigh got it right - the vicar gabbling the Riot Act while no-one could hear him, the disagreements between Henry 'Orator' Hunt and Sam Bamford (I've read his memoirs, too), even the removal of stones from the Field on the morning of the gathering. I was amused, though, when they talked about practicing drill and marching on Kersal Moor and the scene shifted to somewhere that most certainly was not Kersal Moor! Having said that, it would be impossible to film on Kersal Moor today, because it has been so much encroached on by more modern buildings (I used to live there).
There was another scene that had been filmed in Lincoln, in the square between the Cathedral and the Castle, at the top of Steep Hill - we recognised it (where the coach pulls up outside the newspaper office) straight away!
So, 'enjoyed' is probably the wrong word to use about such a grim tale, but I'd recommend the film to anyone who wants to know the history.

Then at the end of the week we went to see Bohemian Rhapsody.
The music was marvellous, of course, and the actor playing Freddie Mercury, Rami Malek, looked uncannily like the real Freddie - the actor playing Brian May could have been his twin, too. The Live Aid concert at Wembley was recreated extremely well, with original film of the crowd in the background of the modern actors - and when Freddie started to sing Bohemian Rhapsody on stage I was almost in tears, having seen what he was going through in his private life at the time. Again, a very good film, and I've been singing Queen songs all week!

The 7.30pm showing was fully booked when we got tickets, so we went to the 5pm showing, and went to Red Indigo for a very good curry afterwards, which made a perfect last evening before my Young Man had to go back to the Big City.

Monday, 19 November 2018

From Peterchurch to Orissa

Two local young people, with help from the North Weir Trust, recently travelled to Orissa in North East India to volunteer at a girls' school there. One of the ladies who founded the North Weir Trust died recently at the age of 100, but the Trust continues to give grants to local people for projects that will advance their education or extend their professional expertise through voluntary work.
Bella and Ludo took photos while they were there, which have been turned into a rather lovely calendar to raise funds for the school.
Calendars are £10, and are available from 18 Rabbit, The Old Electric Shop, the Globe and the Dorstone Front Room.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Trip to Cardiff - Not Exactly Going to Plan....

When my Young Man got here, he wanted to re-watch some Peter Capaldi episodes of Doctor Who. We chose Heaven Sent and Hell Bent. The story begins and ends in a diner in Nevada, which turns out to be the Tardis that Me and Clara stole from Gallifrey, and which is now stuck in that form ("Awesome" says Clara).
"You know that's in Cardiff?" I said casually.
So we looked it up - it's called Eddie's Diner, on Mermaid Quay, and we planned a day out to go to see it (and have lunch there) and also visit a comic shop that I'd found near the railway station on a previous visit.
Online, we checked out the opening times, and the buses that go to the Bay, so we were prepared.

The trip down started on the T14 school/college bus, which only goes as far as Brecon, but we only had about ten minutes to wait for the T4 to take us on to Cardiff. We got off at the Castle, checked with the driver to find out which bus stop we needed to come back, and went for coffee at the Rendez-Vous in the Queen's Arcade.
Then we ambled round to Forbidden Planet and made a few purchases - I found Art Matters by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell, and part 5 of the Green Arrow story I've been slowly collecting - and I know I have too many books that I haven't read yet already!
Then we walked down towards the railway station, and this is where things started to go wrong.
I couldn't remember exactly where the comic shop had been, so after a couple of false starts we decided to get the bus to the Bay.
We got on the No 8. It clearly said "Cardiff Bay" on the destination display. After a while, though, we got a bit concerned. The part of Cardiff we were going through was an area of multicultural small shops, which was interesting but unfamiliar - and surely we should be at the Bay by now?
I went to ask the driver - who was going to Heath Hospital, in exactly the opposite direction to the Bay, but swore blind that he'd changed the destination display before we got on. All he could do was to drop us at the next bus stop, where we crossed the road to get the next bus back. We just managed to scrape together the right amount of change for the fare. So now we had to go all the way to the city centre, and then down to the Bay.
On the way, we passed a parade of shops which included the comic shop we'd been trying to find. It had closed down.
By the time we got to Mermaid Quay, it was almost 2pm.
The last bus back to Hay went from the Castle at 3.10pm.
We found the Diner on the map of Mermaid Quay, went round the corner - and it was closed.
By this time we were both ravenous, and had a quick scout round to find somewhere that could feed us fast. The Young Man suggested Wagamama - which was brilliant. We were served the chicken ramen in rich sauce with a pottery cup of green tea in record time, and gobbled it down. (I'll certainly try the one in Hereford now, for a more leisurely meal).
Then we dashed round the corner to the taxi rank - we were in no mood to try the buses again - to get back to the Castle.
It was only when we had sat down on the bus, certain in the knowledge that it was going in the right direction, that we felt able to relax.
By the time we got back to Hay Castle (after 3 changes of driver!) we were exhausted.

I don't think we will be going to Cardiff again for a long time.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Remembrance Sunday

Here's the Remembrance procession heading up the hill from the Clock Tower, with Gareth Ratcliffe carrying the British Legion standard, George the Town Crier, Trudi Stedman the Mayor, Dawn Lewis, army cadets, veterans, and a lone piper. It was a very good turn out for the 100th Anniversary.
The procession was on the way to St Mary's for the Remembrance service, after which they came back to the town square to lay wreaths at the War Memorial.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Planet Buffet

When the Young Man arrived on Saturday, we had quite a while to wait for the bus back to Hay. We normally find somewhere nice for lunch, and this time he didn't want to walk too far from the bus station.
We got as far as the old Odeon cinema beside the bus station, now the Freedom Church. On the end of the building is a round extension housing a Chinese restaurant called Planet Buffet.
It's been there for years, and I don't know why I've never been inside, because it was excellent.
The idea is that you pay a set price for the meal, and help yourself from an island in the middle of the restaurant where there are various kinds of rice and noodles, and all sorts of meats in sauces and vegetables. The Young Man went for a red Thai curry with noodles, and I had pork in a rich sauce. We each got a pot of very good green tea as well.
The steps up to the front door were a little bit difficult with the suitcase, but I'll certainly be going there again when I'm in Hereford.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Saturday Mini Bus

I went into Hereford yesterday to meet my Young Man from the station, and got to the bus stop in good time for the 20 to 10 bus. Which was a bit late. None of us in the queue were very worried about this, because there was a notice about a diversion around Talgarth and Bronllys for the next week or so, which would add a few extra minutes to the journey time.

When the bus finally turned up, we all laughed - it was a minibus!

The driver explained that there had been a breakdown of the usual bus, and the replacement bus wouldn't start - so to keep the service running, this had been the only bus available.
We squeezed in.

He also explained that the "free bus on a Saturday" idea had changed slightly. It was free in Wales, but once he crossed the border into England, he had to start charging the normal fare again. So I could get a free return ticket from the Hay bus stop, but the person who got on in Cusop had to pay full fare, and my Young Man had to pay full fare from Hereford Station back to Hay.

At Peterchurch a lady with a child in a buggy got on.
At Kingstone Church, the driver would only accept the first two people in the queue, but he was very apologetic about it.

On the bus, I was chatting to one of the ladies from the Stitch and Bitch group, who was going to catch the train to London. She said the bus was so full it reminded her of being in India!
In a seat near the back was a chap who used to go to the Wednesday evening music sessions at Baskerville Hall - he was going off to Mirfield for a few days' retreat, and hoping to create some new music while he was there.

The bus back to Hay was the normal size.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Remembrance 100th Anniversary

The Remembrance commemoration this year starts at the Clock Tower at 2.00pm on Sunday afternoon, with a piper playing while the parade forms up. At 2.30pm the parade will march to St Mary's Church for the service of commemoration, followed by a march back to the war memorial for wreath laying.
The British Legion are hoping for as many veterans as possible to join them this year, for part or all of the commemoration. After all, this year is special - being exactly one hundred years from when the guns fell silent at the end of the Great War.

Meanwhile, local churches have been making a special effort to mark the anniversary, too. The poppy curtains and wall hangings at Cusop Church are impressive, and will be there for the rest of the year.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Plastic Free Hay

There's a new group in town, dedicated to the reduction of single-use plastic in our lives. They've been going round the shops with leaflets, suggesting ways that we can reduce the use of plastic in our lives.

For instance, so many people carry bottled water around now - when it would be just as easy to carry a refillable bottle. Tap water is just as good as bottled water.

Or use a shopping bag that is not made of plastic - this idea has been around for years. The Co-op had an initiative a few years ago in which they gave every household in Hay a cotton bag - I still have mine.

Refuse takeaway cups, cutlery and straws unless they are compostable (when I was away for the weekend, I always refused the little plastic lids that they want to put on coffee cups these days). A little while ago, there was a visitor to town who wandered round with her own enamel coffee mug.

Avoid unnecessary packaging - I usually buy loose fruit and vegetables which can go straight into my cotton shopping bag, which can be washed easily. If it's something like mushrooms, I put them in a paper bag at the greengrocers. And I can choose exactly how much of anything that I want, instead of having a pre-packed amount - I might not be able to use it all, and wasting food is another global problem. And the local butchers keep the plastic they have to use to a minimum - no unnecessary plastic trays, for instance.
Shops that support the initiative will be getting stickers for their windows (and yes, I suppose they are plastic, but they're not single use - they'll last for ages).

I looked in the bag for my rubbish just now, and I have put 4 items in it this week - a butter wrapper, the cellophane from a cake, the plastic wrapping from some Welsh Dragon sausages from Gibbons, and the plastic seal from a tub of ice cream (the rest of the tub is cardboard, so will be going in the compost).

Plastic Free Hay has a Facebook page.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

The Isle is Full of Noises

This was the Shakespearean evening in St Mary's Church last night - and it was such a lot of fun!
The Three Inch Fools were the company, three men and a woman who played all the parts, with quick changes on stage, adding jackets and shawls to their basic shirts and breeches - and Prospero had his wizard's staff, of course. They were Alex Wingfield (playing Ferdinand and Caliban from the Tempest), Claire Parry (Ariel and Miranda), Eddie Mann (Jaques and the Duke in the Forest of Arden) and James Hyde (Prospero). They have a website at
They were also all accomplished musicians, playing a variety of instruments (including a musical saw!), starting the performance with The Rain it Raineth Every Day from Twelfth Night, which moved quickly into the storm from the Tempest (enacted with two umbrellas). From Prospero's Isle we moved to the Forest of Arden, and then back to the Tempest (I'm not sure who the slightly sinister herbalist with the pestle and mortar was - I didn't recognise the play his speech came from).
They were full of energy and enthusiasm, and very funny, and it was a wonderful evening's entertainment.
The church was full, and I'm told that Botany and Other Stories, who organised the evening, raised over £900 to maintain the churchyard with regard to greater bio-diversity.

Looking around the church, I noticed that the new heating system is in place, with big radiators along the walls, which means that the short side pews have been taken out.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Another Floral Train

Now Hay has a floral train down by the bridge, I couldn't help noticing this example in Chester railway station:

Friday, 2 November 2018

More 'Bitching' than Stitching!

It was the First Thursday of the month yesterday, so time for Stitch and Bitch at the Swan, where we were greeted with the invitation to sign up for loyalty cards, which is a new initiative. The loyalty cards offer a 10% discount on drinks and food.
Françoise came along to chat with us. She's planning a new exhibition around the works of Colette and embroidery, so thought it would be a good idea to write a little bit about the local Stitch and Bitch group to go into her newspaper The Cabbage Leaf at the same time. She also brought along a reel of paper twine she has been trying to knit - it's very stiff, but she has a project in mind for it (not clothes, though - it's far too stiff for clothing). She also discovered the existence of circular knitting, as Tracy was knitting another Fair Isle jumper on circular needles.
On the whole, though, we did a lot of chatting (we don't really Bitch) and not a lot of craftwork. There were a few light hearted suggestions about changing the name of the group - Stitch and Witch was quite a popular idea, as we do have several Pagan leaning members, but nobody really liked Knit and Natter - too bland, and we're not a bland group!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

A Certain Lack of Joined Up Thinking

Someone I know told me he'd overheard a conversation in Londis the other day.
The lady concerned was telling the ladies behind the counter that she'd had a phone call from Barclays Bank, asking why she was now using the Post Office instead of the bank....
Maybe the fact that Barclays closed the Hay branch just a couple of weeks before might have had something to do with it?

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The End of the Model Railway Exhibition

Salem Chapel is now up for sale, which means that the Model Railway Exhibition in the old schoolroom of the chapel will have to move out.
So, on Saturday 3rd and 10th, from 11am to 3pm, they are having a Closing Down Sale.
It'll be sad to see it go, after they put so much hard work into it, but they're ready to call it a day.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Rhosgoch Tractor Run

A glimpse of the Rhosgoch Young Farmers' Tractor Run as they came round the Blue Boar corner. They were raising money for St Michael's Hospice this year.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Colossal Critter

My camera is too weedy to have done this justice - so this picture was taken by Marva Jackson Lord.
It was just starting to go dark when the colossal critter arrived at the Clock Tower, and there were lights inside its body as the puppeteers walked up and down. They must have been freezing!
I was standing with Huw the poet, who pulled a winning ticket in the raffle - he was given a card to take to Green Ink Bookshop to claim his prize.

After a while I realised what the giant praying mantis reminded me of, with its impressively clacking mandibles and red eyes. It's the creature from the climax of Quatermass and the Pit! (which dates me terribly - but it's still a good film).

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Small Business Saturday

Welcome to Josh and Elen Green, who have just opened Green Ink Booksellers by the Buttermarket.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Campsite in the Woods

Over the last couple of years, a lot of work has been done on the footpath through the woods on the far side of the bridge from Hay. It's part of the Offa's Dyke Path, and the woodland it runs through is under new ownership. They've cleared a lot of undergrowth as well, and cut down some of the trees.

Now the owners, at The Start B&B just across the road from the woodland, want to turn the area into a camp site, with 9 "safari" tents, a café, shower and toilet block, and a tree house. They also want to create a new car park and turning area - at present it's not possible to get cars into the area, and until recently the only access was steps, which has now been turned into a ramp.

Alan Nicholls has been leafletting local houses with his objections to the scheme - this is how I found out about it. He is concerned about the impact on the wildlife on the site, and the difficulty of access (cars do tend to come down that hill to the bridge very fast). He's also concerned that this could be the 'thin edge of a wedge' - if planning approval was given for this camp site, it might encourage others to apply. In fact, there was an application some time ago on the other side of the road from the present site, more or less opposite the church across the river, which was turned down.

I have to admit I groaned when I saw the inclusion of a café in the plans - Hay is full of cafes, and only two minutes walk away. The toilets also worried me, until I saw on the plans that they will be composting toilets. The Community Garden, just up the hill on the other side of the road, has a composting toilet, which seems to work well. The "tree house" isn't what I'd call a treehouse, either - the plans are for a wooden hut on stilts with trees round it.

The consultation runs until 7th November, and the full details can be found online at Powys Planning Applications under the code 18/0688/FUL.

I've been reading the Ecology Report on the site, commissioned by Mr and Mrs Farnworth at The Start. It was carried out by an experienced ecologist called Stephen West, who looked for signs of all the species which need to be protected by law, such as bats, barn owls, badgers, dormice and crested newts.
The report says that no further trees are going to be cut down, and the lighting for the area is going to be low level, with no floodlights, and designed to have the minimum impact on nocturnal species.
The ecologist also laid out a plan of woodland management - the owners are intending to put up bird, bat and mammal boxes to encourage roosting and nesting, which would be monitored for two years after installation. He even considers that the woodland management could improve the conditions for dormice, by encouraging a shrub layer throughout the woodland for them to move through and feed on.
They will also be planting native species of trees and shrubs as screens around the camping sites, such as hazel, crab apple, oak, rowan and birch. They are also planning the proposed works so as not to damage any tree roots on the site, and they will be keeping dead wood features (dead tree trunks, for instance) which are important for insects.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

The Colossal Critter and an Isle Full of Noises

Despite good intentions, I haven't managed to make it to the Green exhibition at Hazy Daze, put on by Botany and Other Stories - and it closes this weekend!
For the occasion, the Colossal Critter is back - at six o'clock by the Clock Tower, and lit up!

The next project for Botany and Other Stories is happening at St Mary's Church on Saturday 3rd November at 7.30pm. It's called The Isle is Full of Noises, a line taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest. Theatre company Three Inch Fools have created a musical take on Shakespeare, with passages from the plays that are related to the natural world.
Tickets are £10 for adults, £5 for under 18 and toddlers free, from Hazy Daze, on the market on Thursday, or on the door at the church.
Proceeds from the performance will go to the maintenance and upkeep of the churchyard in a way that is sensitive to biodiversity.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

A Weekend Away at FantasyCon

I've been away for the weekend, in Chester, to attend FantasyCon. I didn't go to EasterCon this year, and I needed to spend some time with my Tribe - authors and academics and people who run small presses and publish magazines, and who can make obscure film, TV and book references safe in the knowledge that almost everyone in the room will understand them without any need to explain.
I had the most wonderful time, met some amazing people, and now I'm really, really tired. Everything went really smoothly over the weekend right up to the moment I got back to Hereford yesterday evening - when the T14 was half an hour late. In fairness, the traffic in Hereford was appalling, and the students who were waiting to go home didn't seem too concerned, so I assume they're used to delays of this sort. Half an hour after we all got on the bus, though, we'd still only got as far as Asda....
I'll be blogging in more detail (much more detail!) about the Con over on Morwenna's Tower, and I'll be back to talking about what's going on in Hay on Thursday.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Music and Dancing at the Baskie

What a brilliant night!
Thomasin (with trumpet and also playing flute and Irish whistle and singing) came along with the Speedgums (double bass, banjo, ukulele and kazoo), and there was lots of collaboration, people getting up to dance, a massed kazoo chorus, Tom with his piano accordion getting everyone to join in, plus guitars, an autoharp, castanets, a clarinet-type instrument, spoons, melodion, a fiddle and harmonicas. The official session stopped at about 11pm, but the players just carried on!
(photo taken by Bob Evans, and shared on Facebook)

Monday, 15 October 2018

In Remembrance

Here's the new poppy by the war memorial.

To take this picture, I hopped across the trench that's being dug right round the Castle for their new utility cables. So far, it's gone all along the back lane, along the edge of the Square, and now it's heading up Castle Street to go into the Honesty Garden next to the door in the wall. I've been peering into the trench to see if there's anything of archaeological interest, but I haven't seen anything yet.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Wet and Windy

I feel sorry for the organisers of the Walking Festival this weekend. It was quite enough for me to go along the Riverside path a little way to take these pictures.
Here's the canoe landing stage, with the water coming right over into the car park.
And here's the view under Hay Bridge:

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Survey of Library Users

Tucked away on page 7 of the Brecon & Radnor Express this week is a small article about a survey of library users across Powys. The survey can be done online at and on paper forms available at the libraries.
There are questions about online library services, and also the various benefits using the library service provides. The survey is only for this week, October 8th to 13th, so there's still time to take part. Users of the mobile library services will be surveyed over the rest of the month.
A library survey was last carried out by Powys County Council in 2015, when over 1,100 Powys residents took part.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Singing Together About a Cowboy

Huw Parsons invited me to do some more singing for his podcast - check out for the finished result.
He took me over to Clyro Church, which has lovely acoustics, and I brought out the booklet the Wild West. I've sung one or two songs from it at the Baskie on Wednesday nights, and Huw particularly liked The Lone Cowboy, which I don't suppose has been sung many times since it was used on the BBC radio schools programme Singing Together in 1971. All the songs in the booklet were specially written for the BBC by Paul Townsend, with the music written by Michael Rose.
We sang one or two other songs while we were there, which was a lot of fun, but this is the one he chose for his podcast.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Hay Walking Festival

The Festival is back, from Friday 12th October to Sunday 14th October, with a variety of walks, including walks with pack ponies! They have a website at where people can book in advance, and last minute tickets as well as information and advice will be available at the Tourist Information Office.
On Friday evening, at 7.30pm at the Swan, is a free event with three speakers talking about the journeys they've taken. Barry Pilton will be talking about walking the Pennine Way (he wrote the book One Man and His Bog about it in 1986); Pete Ward will be talking about cycling the Camino de Santiago, the famous pilgrimage route in Spain, and local dairy farmer Paul Richards took part in the Mongol Derby, racing on horseback across the Mongolian desert! I'm looking forward to going to that, though I don't think I'll manage to get to any of the walks.
Which is a pity.
Catherine Kramer is leading an eleven mile walk to Craswall Priory - I've done that once, and I was nearly weeping with exhaustion on the way back, and that was twenty years ago when I was a lot fitter! They're not all that strenuous, though!
Another walk goes to Mouse Castle Wood, which is a magical place, and others cover the landscape of On the Black Hill and the countryside around Snodhill Castle. Around Talgarth, walk leader Rob Yorke will be talking about the changing countryside, including farming practices, wildlife conservation, rewilding, public access, new crops like the daffodils that are grown locally for a cancer treatment, and food production for supermarkets.
There's a look at the industrial past of Cusop Dingle, and a visit to Talgarth's Witches Pool, and a hike out to Peterchurch with time for a drink at the Nag's Head before catching the Hay Ho bus back to Hay on the Sunday.
Kilvert is not neglected - there's a walk starting from Bredwardine Church, and local author Jasper Fforde will be leading a walk taking in the memorial of a local woman who died in a snowstorm in 1925 and Twm Tobacco's Grave.
In Hay itself, there's a bookshop tour and the Timbuktu Trail, celebrating the similarities and differences between Hay and twin town Timbuktu in Mali.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Lots of Exhibitions at the Globe!

Well, I went to the Globe last night to see Thomasin's art and ceramics, and the photos from the WyeLocal calendar - but that wasn't all that was on display.
Downstairs in the café Cliff Hatton was exhibiting his cartoons, some on fishing, some topical, and some about Hay. He was having a bit of trouble with the display, having mistakenly thought that sticky fixers would be enough to keep his pictures on the wall - one or two had already come crashing down!
Also downstairs were some of Thomasin's ceramics, including a life sized bust, arranged around the edges of the room, which was set out for a private function later that evening. As I lingered to look at her oil paintings at the top of the stairs, she passed me cradling a small gondola she had made, with tourist couple seated amidships, taking photos with a little camera - the detail was impressive.
Around the main hall were more of Thomasin's paintings. Most were of landscapes, but I rather liked a still life with guitar, entitled Reasons to be Cheerful. I also treated myself to a CD of Thomasin's music. I haven't listened to it yet, but I have heard her perform some of her songs at the Baskie at the regular music sessions there. Her friends the Speedgums are thanked on the sleevenotes, (double bass and ukulele players) so I assume they're featured on the CD. I've got quite a collection now of CDs by musicians I know.
Up on the gallery was the WyeLocal exhibition, a thank you from the magazine to the photographers who had often been contributing to the competition for the calendar for several years. As well as the 12 pictures from the calendar other work by the photographers is on display, and some are for sale. I chatted to one lady (Claire Young?) who visits the area from her home in South Gloucestershire regularly because her family originally came from Carmarthenshire. She had a long drive home, but she said she really liked what she had seen of Hay, and wanted to come back.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Exhibition at the Globe

This evening, I'll be at the Globe for the start of an exhibition by Thomasin Toohie. Thomasin is a painter and ceramic artist as well as an accomplished musician, playing a variety of instruments - mostly Irish folk music.
She also teaches painting locally. I've never seen her paintings, but she says in WyeLocal, where she is featured as this month's Local Talent, that she likes painting in oils. She also sells her work through the Art Shop in Abergavenny and Rostra Gallery in Bath.

At the same time, WyeLocal is also organising an exhibition at the Globe, for the photographers who have contributed to their calendar this year. They have been producing a calendar of local landscapes since 2009, with photos by local photographers, six of whom will be exhibiting the images chosen for the calendar and other works. The calendar will also be on sale (it's really gorgeous this year).

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Sad to See Them Go

Walking through town this lunchtime, I passed the old Library. Parked to one side was a van, and workmen were loading it with the shelves that had been left inside when the Library closed.
Just round the corner, another van was parked outside Barclays Bank, where more workmen were dismantling the bank counter and loading up all the shelves and so on that were left inside.
I peered in - it was strange to see the room looking so big, without the counter across the middle of it.
The bank is now up for sale, but I don't know what's going to happen to the old Library building.

Monday, 1 October 2018

A Walk up Cusop Dingle

Some time ago, I was at a Cusop History Group meeting where a few of the members said they were going to be cutting back the trees around the lime kiln up Cusop Dingle. I rarely go up the Dingle any more, so this was a good excuse for a long walk.
I chose a lovely September afternoon, so warm that I took my coat off, and the leaves were just changing colour on the trees.
The Dingle gradually gets wilder and wilder as you go further up, though it's a fairly gentle gradient beside the Dulas Brook.
The end of the paved road goes past Brickyard Cottage, and then becomes a track across a field (with some curious cows and sheep in it). Gravel has been put down, which makes it look like a private driveway, but this is the pathway to get further up the Dingle.
This was the best photo I could manage of the lime kiln - I wasn't about to go scrambling about in the undergrowth, so I took it where the path rises to go past the top of the lime kiln:

Around the front it looks fairly well preserved, but the top had several quite sizable trees growing out of it, which have now been cut down to stumps. The hole in the top of the lime kiln has a mixture of branches and wire fencing on top to stop the unwary from falling down it.

On the way back down the Dingle, I stopped at a friend's house for tea (I'd been invited when their car passed me on the way up). They told me that most of the bedrock of the Dingle is sandstone (which I already knew - my ex-husband studied geology), but that there's a thin layer of limestone at a certain height up the hill, just about where this lime kiln, and several others in the area, are found. The lime may have been used in the nearby brick works, or spread on fields. The brick works didn't last very long - my friend said they had some of the bricks made there, and they were rubbish!

Sunday, 30 September 2018

More Scaffolding Than Castle!

Having covered the walls of the Castle with scaffolding, they're now building a roof over it, presumably so they can continue working during inclement weather over the winter. The original builders would be amazed!

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Small Business Saturday

It isn't ready to open yet, but there's a new bookshop taking shape next to the Buttermarket, where the St David's Hospice shop was last (the building also used to be Mark Westwood's bookshop before that):

Anne, at Addymans Books, was quite excited about the colour they've chosen to paint the shop. In the Farrow and Ball catalogue it's called "vardo", which is the Romany word for caravan. Traditionally, it seems, Romany caravans were painted in that shade.
This was fascinating for Anne, because Addymans' Books has bookshelves which are made out of decorated wood reclaimed from a Transylvanian church - and it's painted exactly the same shade. Maybe, she suggested, the church had been a Romany church?

This image of some of Addymans' shelving is from theculturetrip

Friday, 28 September 2018

Last Day for Last Bank

At 12 noon today, Barclays Bank closed its doors for the last time. It was the last of three banks in Hay to close, so now there are none. The cash machine was switched off even before that - and the queue was right to the door when I went in to leave some sweets from the fudge shop for the staff. The queue was still right to the door when I left - though Barclays claimed that they were closing the branch because nobody used it.
On my way back from the fudge shop, I met a young chap standing outside the old HSBC, looking lost. He asked me if there was a bank in town, at which I gave a hollow laugh and said he was in luck - there was one for at least another two hours! He told me that his local branch in Llandovery had closed, too.
What he actually wanted was a cash point, so I pointed him towards the Post Office, though I was told later that they've been having problems with the machine again.
I was also told that there had been a BBC reporter in town before I got to the bank, interviewing people about what they thought of it.

So I went down to the Co-op to use their cash machine for the very first time. I was pleased to see that I could check my balance on it, but the maximum you can take out seems to be £50.
On Monday, I'll have to find a different way to pay my Water bill - I've been paying it over the counter in Barclays for years.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Favourite Children's Books at The Story of Books

For the month of October, artist Tessa Waite will be at The Story of Books in Castle Street every Thursday from 10am to 5pm to talk to people about their favourite children's books. She will be helping to create a blog around those memories, which will form an archive for people to share, and she will be creating her own mixed media picture books based on the books that people talk about to her.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Goodbye to Boz Books

Boz Books was one of the first bookshops I ever went into when I first came to Hay, in 1991, and it had been there for a while then. Now Boz is packing up and going online from home, and he left this message behind in the window of the shop doorway:

Monday, 24 September 2018

Saturday Bus

On Saturday morning I went into Hereford to see my mum to the train.
The first bus of the day was the twenty to ten bus (no early bus unless it's a school day now), but the good news was that it was free!
About half a dozen people who had been staying in Hay got on the bus with all their luggage. Then there was a family with a pushchair and a carrycot, and a group of five girls from the Cathedral School all carrying hockey sticks. My mum was fascinated by the modern hockey sticks, which are very compact - the ones she used at school were shaped much more like an open J, and were wooden.
When the second pushchair came on board, there was a big re-arrangement of the luggage to accommodate it. Mum's partner ended up looking after the suitcase of an Austrian lady who had been staying with them in Belmont House (she was seated halfway up the bus), and I had a schoolgirl's backpack on my knee.
Mum was impressed that the driver got out of his cab to sort the luggage out and carry the pushchair ("That wouldn't happen in Cyprus," she said) and, later, how polite the schoolgirls were when they reclaimed their bags.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Black and Tan

While mum was still here, we decided to go back to Kilverts to see if they had any more of those delicious steak pies.
They had just changed the menu, and the pie was now chicken and leek, which was almost as nice.
Mum's partner doesn't drink much any more, but that night he fancied a Murphy's, which they don't serve - so he asked for a Black and Tan instead.
The young man behind the bar had never heard of it, but when it was described to him he filled a pint glass, half with Guinness and half of Bass bitter.
Kevin was pleased with the taste, but headed off to the table where we were sitting muttering: "Fancy not knowing what a Black and Tan is!"
I pointed out that it's a very old fashioned drink (Kevin is nearly 70 after all). Probably he was the first person to ask for that drink in Kilverts this century!

Saturday, 22 September 2018

A Herefordshire Man

I missed the ceremony yesterday, when the statue of Herefordshire's only VC winner was unveiled at the main entrance to the Old Market shopping centre, where the pedestrian crossings are.
So I came along today to see it.
Corporal Lewis is slightly larger than life size, and is standing on a flat plinth which reads "A Herefordshire Man". He's carrying a letter from his parents in his hand, and wearing the VC on his jacket.
In fact, he was never presented with the medal in life, as he died three days after performing the actions that won him the medal, in another battle.

There is also a plaque on the ground in front of the statue:

Huge congratulations to Dawn Lewis, who wanted the statue, and worked so hard to achieve it.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Castle Gateway

The wooden castle gates have been taken away for conservation, and the workmen have now covered that side of the castle with scaffolding, too.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Going out for Meals

I've been going round to Belmont House for evening meals - the landlady gets on well with my mum and her partner, and has allowed them the use of the kitchen in the cottage where they're staying, beside the main house. That's worked very well, apart from the evening when the sausages (Hay Specials from Gibbons) set off the smoke alarm!

We've also been out to eat. It's difficult to find an Indian restaurant in the part of Cyprus where mum lives, so she was keen to go to Red Indigo, as long as she stuck to the fairly mild curries. She enjoyed it very much, and I now have a loyalty card - collect four stamps for meals at the restaurant (not takeaways) and the fifth meal, for two people, is half price.
We've also eaten at the Blue Boar (though mum wasn't terribly impressed with the selection of sweets, so she didn't indulge).

The best meal so far, though, was when the Young Man came to visit, and we decided to try out the new regime at Kilverts.
When we went in, the couple from La Fosse were there, having a meal. When mum first came to Hay, about ten years ago now, that's where she stayed, so we went over to say hello. They were eating the steak pie, and it looked so lovely that we all decided to have one.
It was gorgeous! The gravy was so delicious that we asked for spoons to finish it off. It also came with a selection of vegetables, and new potatoes. I'll certainly take visitors to eat there again.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Getting Used to the New Buses

My Young Man came up on Saturday, because he'd never met my mum before, and he was able to get away for a couple of days while she was in the UK.
He had a pleasant surprise when he got on the new T14 service at Hereford - it was free! On Saturdays and Sundays the T14 and T4 services are free, thanks to a subsidy from the Welsh Assembly and Tesco.

On the way home on Sunday, he got the Hay Ho bus, which is £6.00 single and £7.50 return. I went into Hereford with him to see him off. There was time for us to dash across to Morrisons so he could get a snack for the journey, and while I was there I got a small loaf - which made the bus driver laugh when I got back on the bus. "You've come all this way and that's all the shopping you got?" he said.

While I was at Hereford Station with the Young Man, I bought an advance ticket for a weekend away I'm planning. The train will leave Hereford at about half past ten, so I'll have to catch the early bus from Hay. Then I started worrying about the new timetable - they still run the school buses in the early morning, but there doesn't seem to be a replacement early bus for school holidays any more. I had to wait until I got home to check the timetable to make sure that I would be going on a school day (phew!).

Sunday, 16 September 2018

New Hours for the Library

When the Library moved from it's original building to the school, the Hay-on-Wye Library Supporters (HOWLS) continued to work behind the scenes to improve the service. Nobody was really happy with the situation of the library only being open for 12 and a half hours a week, with no evenings.
So negotiations have been going on to improve matters.

From 1st October, the library will enter a trial period of new opening hours:

Mondays and Thursday 10am to 12.30 and 1.30-3pm; Fridays 1.30-6pm and Saturdays 10am-12.30pm

The next meeting of HOWLS will be on Wednesday 17th October, venue to be decided.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Shopping in Brecon

My mum has come to visit, with a long list of things she wants to buy to take back to Cyprus with her. So this morning we set off to Brecon on the new T14 bus.
The 39 used to change drivers at Bishops Meadow, where Stagecoach have a little office, and today the driver changed there on both the outward and the return journey.
On the way back, the new timetable I'd printed out said that the T14 back to Hay would stop at Stand 2 at the Brecon Interchange. When a TrawsCymru bus stopped at Stand 1 at the right time, I went to ask, and that turned out to be the Hay bus, even though it had no number showing. The new timetable was also in Stand 1.

I hadn't realised how long it had been since I last went shopping in Brecon - I spent half the time wandering round saying "I don't remember a coffee shop there," or "Didn't there used to be a charity shop there?"
For instance, I thought I'd take mum to lunch at Giglio's, by Bethel Square - only to find it's now The Dutchess. I have no idea when it changed, but it's very elegant in shades of pink and grey, with bone china tea cups, and it was very busy.
I'd also remembered a garden shop by the church which had seeds in the corner room - which is now a solicitors' office.
Despite my confusion, mum did find quite a bit of what she wanted as we wandered round - it was a good job I'd taken a big bag!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Hay Castle Renovations

What a lot of scaffolding! This will be what Hay Castle looks like for the next few months.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Tai Chi Classes

The summer holidays are over, and Tai Chi classes have started again at the Masonic Hall. I go to the Friday sessions, from 5.30 - 6.30pm and there is another class on Tuesdays from 6pm to 7pm.
Because there were only a few of us at the first session, Peter told us a bit about the history of the Chen style of Tai Chi that he teaches.
The main thing that Peter emphasises is to do the exercises regularly, for the best health benefits - I could feel the difference after a summer without the regular classes, even though I'd been trying to practice on my own.
What we're working up to is the form, a sequence of movements - on Fridays we practice the 19 form, which was cut down from the original Laojia form of 74 movements to make it easier to teach, and it's cut down again to individual exercises called silk reeling. You need to move around a bit to do the form, which involves quite a bit of stepping and turning, but the exercises can be done in quite a small space, and don't need any special equipment. For yoga you at least need a mat, but tai chi doesn't even need that!
And it's not just for health and to improve the posture - it's also a martial art. Even the 19 form that we do has a couple of punches thrown into the mix.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

h.Art Week

There are quite a few exhibitions on around Hay this week as part of h.Art Week. Some of them are going on for longer than the week, of course.
They include the Eugene Fisk retrospective at Brook Street Pottery, upstairs. The exhibition includes sketch books, and some of Eugene's books are on sale, including Only Connect, the book he created from his sketches of refugees at Open Days organised by Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees.
On Friday, I went to the opening night of Sarah Putt's exhibition at the Old Electric Shop. There are some very good portraits there, as well as embroideries and still lives, and sculptures - her work can also be seen in various shop windows around town, for instance her Map Man at the map shop on Castle Street. It was a very good launch party, with lots of local support and some interesting nibbles coming round on trays.
Also in Hay for h.Art is the Carol Peace exhibition at The Table, with a flamboyant sculpture of a figure waving a huge scarf in the window, with drawings and paintings, and larger sculptures in the secret garden [Edited to add] The secret garden is down Brook Street, past the Bookshop Cinema. It's a gorgeous garden, and refreshments are also available.
The Drawing Room has Dry Brush, Wet Brush, with the artist's inspiration taken from Zen scrolls and poetry.
Just up Cusop Dingle, Tim Rawlings is exhibiting his bronze sculptures at the Old Stables, and demonstrating techniques such as lost wax casting and patination.
And at The River Café in Glasbury Polly James is exhibiting her charcoal and pencil drawings of wildlife.
Other studios and exhibitions are open all over Herefordshire, with groups of exhibitions in Hereford, Kington, Leominster, Ledbury and Ross-on-Wye, as well as scattered exhibitions around the countryside.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Change of Venue for Stitch and Bitch

The new management of Kilverts have said that they don't want to use their little back room for meetings any more, and they want to expand their restaurant trade, so there was no room there for Stitch and Bitch to meet any more.
So on Thursday night (SnB meets on the first Thursday of every month, from 6pm to 8pm), we were back in the Swan. The Swan is now under different management from when we were there before, and they welcomed us into the room by the front door which is used for meetings. There was a good turn out, too; eleven of us were there, with a variety of projects on the go including knitting, crochet, sewing a collage picture and embellishing a piece of batik cloth with a picture of a figure on it.
I tried the Swan Gold bitter from the bar, from the Swan brewery, which was very nice. They also serve Butty Bach. The dining tables have been taken out of the front bar, and replaced with comfy seats and sofas, and I'm sure they've put new carpets down since I was last there.
I think we'll be making that our regular venue in the future.

Another group moving to the Swan is the Science Club. They bring in a lecturer about once a month to talk about scientific topics in terms a layperson can understand, and their next meeting is on Tuesday 25th September, at 7pm. I think the topic is nuclear power.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Botany and other Stories in the Buttermarket

Here's an update on the festivities which are being organised alongside the Green exhibition at Hazy Days. The exhibition starts on 12th September, and runs until the 3rd November, but tomorrow, Saturday, things are happening in the Buttermarket from 11am to 3pm.
The weather forecast isn't brilliant, so the proposed picnic by the bridge has been cancelled. However, the Colossal Critter will be walking around the town, and at about 1pm it will lead the way to a musical and botanical promenade by the river from the Buttermarket.
The Buttermarket will have stalls, with nothing to sell, but things to win. There will be puppets, plants from Primrose Farm, flowers, a gardening display, natural dyes by Annie Frasier, artistic activities, and traditional and Welsh songs from Elspeth-miri Funnell and Catherine Hughes. All that, and Mister Mint!