Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Somewhere Nice to Sit

This is the new bench outside the Rose and Crown.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Small Business Saturday

This is the shop which used to be in the Alley, now moved up opposite the Buttermarket. It looks lovely now the retro furniture is in, and it's a shop with a very calming feel to it.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Words the Turtle Taught Me Launch

I arrived at the Poetry Bookshop a bit late, but managed to find a stool near the door (which was being guarded by a very friendly big brown dog). The weather was so lovely that even after 7pm it was warm and sunny enough to have the door open.
Susan Richardson is an extremely good performer of her poetry, which she has all by heart, and between the poems she talked about the different creatures she had written about, all of which are endangered in some way. The list goes from Critically Endangered (like the European sturgeon, which once swam in the Wye and is now found only in the River Garonne in France) to Least Concern. One unpleasant surprise was that Puffins are now considered to be Vulnerable, partly because of climate change. Another unpleasant surprise was the number of blue sharks that are killed every year - twenty million! They're on the list as Near Threatened.
She wrote the poems while she was poet in residence to the Marine Conservation Society. She's also poet in residence for World Animal Day and the British Animal Studies Network.
As part of the launch of this book, and to raise awareness, she is holding 30 readings, one for each of the creatures she has written about (sharks, whales, puffins, and more), mostly in coastal towns, but a few inland ones as well. Her website is at www.susanrichardsonwriter.co.uk.
The pictures that go alongside the text are by pat Gregory, who is based in Cardiff. She also has a website, at www.patgregoryart.co.uk
And Cinnamon Press have brought them together in a book that contains essays as well as the poetry and art, an unusual format that Susan Richardson said would have been very difficult to place with a large publishing company. Cinnamon Press is small, and based in North Wales. They publish fiction and non-fiction as well as poetry, including Welsh writing. They also run Envoi poetry magazine. Their website is at www.cinnamonpress.com
I bought the book, and although I suspect there will be a lot more unpleasant surprises like the 20 million blue sharks, I'm looking forward to reading it.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Last Chance to Get Your Hay Passport!

Or your HAY bumper sticker, or any of the other Hay memorabilia sold at the King of Hay shop on Castle Street - as they are closing down soon.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Words the Turtle Taught Me

There's a poetry evening coming up at the Poetry Bookshop on Thursday at 7pm.
Cinnamon Press are launching the books Words the Turtle Taught Me by Sue Richardson with a multi-media reading from the book, accompanied by illustrations by Pat Gregory.
Sue Richardson was the resident poet with the Marine Conservation Society and, as well as the poems, has written a long essay Thirty Ways of Looking at the Sea - the Marine Conservation Society had launched an appeal to tackle the threats facing thirty different marine species while she was involved with them.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Changes to the Plans for the Castle

The original plans for renovating the Castle have been modified a bit recently, a case of fitting the dream to the budget, I think.
So now there will not be a new café in the coach house. Instead, it will be in the body of the Castle, on the ground floor. They've put on a café for events there before, quite successfully. They're also omitting a proposed window into the Medieval tower, and delaying the second floor reading room.
And they have a grant of £150,000 from the Clore Duffield Foundation to put in a Clore Learning Space on the first floor. This will be only the second Clore Learning Space in Wales - the first is at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. The room was chosen because of the good natural light, and will be used for workshops, talks and so on.
The contractors will be starting work soon....

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Changes at Kilverts

On the surface, hardly anything has changed, but behind the scenes things have changed a lot.
I usually do my washing at the launderette on a Friday afternoon, and spend the time that the washer is working to have a half in a nearby pub. Often, this is Kilverts, and that's where I went yesterday.
I noticed that there was no Brecon Brewery beer on offer at the pumps. Since this is the Hay Tap for Brecon Brewery, I thought that was odd, and asked about it.
It seems that, since 1st April, Kilverts has not been the Tap for Brecon Brewery. I don't know the details of what happened, but Brecon Brewery is still brewing beer, and the manager of both Brecon and Hay Taps has taken over the pubs, with a friend. They want to retain all the staff, so nobody loses their job, and to keep the pubs as unchanged as possible under the new ownership.
So the good news is that they will still be serving the same menu with the hearty pies.
However, they haven't worked out yet what they can do about the orange loyalty cards. At the moment it's not possible to use them, but they hope to get some sort of scheme going to honour the cards soon.
So I wish the new management every success in the future, and hope that Brecon Brewery continues to brew good beer.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Citizen of the Year

Congratulations to John Evans, who ran the Thursday Market and chaired the Chamber of Commerce for many years. He got the first Citizen of the Year award at the Parish Hall during the Independence celebrations, together with a cheque for £100 to donate to a charity of his choice.
I'm afraid I wasn't there - I was at the Quirk poetry readings instead.

Also, over the Independence week Hay's very own brewery, Lucky 7, brewed a special Independence ale. I tried it at Beer Revolution, and liked it (but I do like very hoppy beers on occasion). This one had been double dry hopped, which also made it cloudy, and really zapped the taste buds!

Thursday, 12 April 2018

What's Through the Arched Window?

The windows and door of the old Midland/HSBC Bank have been taken out. It'll be interesting to see what the new ones look like as the transformation of the bank into a shop progresses.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

An Evening of Pies and and Evening ofTapas

My sister and her family came to visit last week, and we spent a couple of very pleasant evenings eating out.
Usually, they stay in a local field in their camper van, but this time they decided to go for a campsite with hard standing over the river at Bronydd, because the ground has been pretty wet and they didn't want to get bogged down.
We didn't really have a plan, so the first evening we peered in through the windows of Tomatitos and saw how busy it was, and went on up the hill to Kilverts.
The meal there could best be described as hearty! The pies are big and tasty - Peter was impressed with the chunks of kidney in his Offa's Dyke pie. I had the lamb, with a nice minty tang to it, and Jule and James had the steak and ale.
We couldn't manage a pudding.
The following night we got into Tomatitos early - my sister wanted me to reserve a table on the way home from work, but they don't actually do that. Fortunately they weren't quite as busy as the night before, and we had a lovely selection of dishes (the lamb tagine went down well, and so did the meatballs). Because we were able to choose a selection, we didn't end up quite so stuffed as we had the night before, and we had room for a sweet. Young James suspected telepathy when my sister and I both chose the same one, plum and apple crumble. It came in a pretty little pear shaped glass bowl.
So, two lovely, and quite different, meals out, in pleasant surroundings, with pleasant company.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Quirky Poetry

As part of the Independence Celebrations, there was a poetry hour at the Globe on Saturday afternoon, featuring poets from Quirk magazine, and hosted by Chris Bradshaw and Wayland Boulanger, who produce the magazine (there should be a new one coming out in time for Hay Festival).
They're a varied (and talented) bunch.
I particularly liked Chris Bradshaw's poem about Taliesin as the Big Bang and creative scientific force of the Universe. When I spoke to him later, though, he said he didn't have any plans to include it in Quirk, because it's 4 pages long, and he wants to make room for as many different poems as possible.
A young man called Hugh read several poems (from his phone, the only performer using modern technology!), and gave a disclaimer that he didn't only write poems about older women, after his hilarious ode to Mary Berry and the Great British Bake-Off!
Tracy Thursfield read a poem about a mermaid diving for a pearl, which a member of the audience later compared to Edward Lear - and someone else said she was an "intellectual Pam Ayres"! She also read a poem which should be appearing in the next issue of Quirk.
Simon brought a rather grim note to the proceedings with a poem called Walk Like an Egyptian, which was about someone who was tortured by the Egyptian police.
Wayland, and Adrian Crick, also read some of their poems - and Wayland also read out a poem for a woman who couldn't be there, about getting dressed up for a night out, and now I can imagine him rocking four inch stiletto heels!

As the poets gradually wound down at about ten past three, the Bookstagrammers were beginning to arrive for their event at 3.30pm, a panel discussion entitled Meet The Boys! Bookstagramming is not Just for Girls! about what it's like to be a minority in a mostly girls' world.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Only Connect

The new booksellers map and leaflet came out just before Easter and the Independence Celebrations, organised by Addymans, as usual. Last year, the leaflets were black text on a dark red background, which some people found difficult to read. This year the leaflet is a light orange - to match as closely as possible the cover of Eugene Fisk's last book, Only Connect.
This book is sub-titled "Encounters with refugees on days out in Wales". The Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees group organise days out in the countryside for refugees who have ended up in South Wales. Eugene Fisk wanted to help with this, and as he was an artist, his way of helping was to draw portraits of the people who came on the days out. Eventually this turned into a book.
Sadly, Eugene died shortly before the launch of the book, which was held earlier this afternoon as the last event in the Hay Independence Celebrations, at the Globe. The books are £12 each, and the money goes to the charity, which also collects items such as bedding, computers, clothing and homeware to go to people who need help. They also talk to our elected representatives to help improve conditions for people seeking asylum or refuge.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

The Kilvert Walk

Strangely, in all the time I've lived in Hay, I've never been on a Kilvert Walk!
On Sunday, though, I had the chance to join the Kilvert Walk led by Oliver Balch, as part of the Hay Independence celebrations.
The Rev. Francis Kilvert was a Victorian curate, who lived in Clyro for much of the time he was writing his diary, which he began around 1870, so he knew Hay well, and often wrote about Hay and the local characters. As Oliver said, he was in a unique position in Victorian society - well educated (he went to Oxford), and welcome in the homes of the local gentry, but it was also part of his job to visit the poorest members of his parish, so he had a much broader view of local society than most people did.
We started, around 20 of us, at The End, the shop on Castle Street which was used for the Wayzgoose the day before. In the window was a special offer - a copy of Oliver Balch's book Under the Tump, about the local area, with a free goose egg!
As we went around town in a big loop, we stopped at intervals so that Oliver could read passages from the diary and talk about them. We also had a member of the Historical Society along to tell us about the history of the castle. Oliver also said that he had promised not to talk about the history of Hay, so as not to overlap with the History Walk later in the day.
We went into the Castle grounds to stand on the very lawn where croquet was played at a party Kilvert went to, and he also mentioned people going down to the archery field. Oliver didn't know where that was - I called out that it was now the car park.
Down under the bridge, by the river, Oliver told the sad story of a girl who had become pregnant, was not allowed to marry the father of the child (or have access to her own money in the bank - she needed her brother's permission to take it out, and he wouldn't give it), and eventually drowned herself in the Wye, close to where we were standing.

Then we walked along the Bailey Walk - narrower than the old railway track, but with a better view of the river - to the old castle tump where we stopped again, and some of the party took advantage of the wooden bench with the carved bears on the ends to sit down.
Then it was back to The End, where somehow we all managed to cram ourselves into the shop for the last part of the talk, where Oliver also read from his own book. Earlier, he read a passage where Kilvert was embarrassed because he had preached at Clyro Church in the morning, and then come over to Hay and was asked to preach again for the afternoon service there - and sitting in the congregation he noticed someone who had heard the same sermon that morning! So I had already heard the passage Oliver read out, at the event at Booths where he was the "warm up act" for Lizzie Harper and Adele Nozedar - but it's a very good passage, and fitted perfectly with the end of the Kilvert Walk.

Friday, 6 April 2018

The Dylan Thomas Mobile Bookshop and the Traffic Warden

Over the first weekend of the Independence celebrations, the Dylan Thomas Book Bus was parked in the main car park. The owner, Jeff Towns, is known as "The Dylan Thomas Guy" and was giving several talks over the weekend. He's been selling books in Swansea for 40 years.
I went in the bus to browse (he has a range of books in there) and to buy a CD called The Boy With a Note, described as "an evocation of the life of Dylan Thomas in words and music" by Ralph McTell. (it's very good!).
So I overheard Jeff Towns talking to another customer about the traffic warden who had turned up on the first morning he parked there. Who gave him a parking ticket.
It took the appearance of the Mayor of Hay, Trudi Steadman, to convince the traffic warden that Jeff Towns had permission from the Town Council to park there and open his shop.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018


I wondered how everything would fit into The End, the small shop on Castle Street which was this year's venue for the Wayzgoose (a meeting of printers). Last year they had all of Baskerville Hall to spread out in!
The answer is - they used every available inch of space, and some of the members of the public going through had to get quite friendly in the passageways!
To the side of the stairs, Alan Cooper and Simon Newcombe were playing fiddle and guitar, and everywhere were examples of the printer's craft. They also had information about the project to build a printing press at Baskerville Hall. The Woodblock Letter Press man had come all the way from Stroud. A stall in the next room had a display of coasters, including one with a slogan about tea which I rather wanted to buy. Sadly it was for display purposes only, made during a course the printers had run. They were called Mostly Flat.
There was also hand made paper from Maureen Richardson, and a display of Braille books. I met one of the young women involved in that - and found I'd met her before. She, and another girl from the Hereford College for the Blind, got a guided tour round the Cinema with me as part of their work experience week, organised by Emma Balch, who was also organising the Wayzgoose. Now she's working at trying to persuade publishers to publish more books in Braille, especially books by new authors, so that blind people have better access to modern literature. Braille books are expensive to produce, so publishers tend not to want to take risks with the titles they produce. The other girl on the tour of the bookshop is now at University in Swansea.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Meet a Hay Bookseller

The Globe was the host to this event, and it was packed out, even up on the balcony.
On the stage were a selection of experienced local booksellers, some generalists, some specialists, and the lady who has taken over the books at Oxfam.
Judith Gardner, at the far end of the stage, came to Hay with her husband Bob. She started working for Richard Booth, and he went on a clock mending course. When they opened their first shop, half of it was clock mending and half children's books. There was a feeling back then, Judith said, that library books were the lowest of the low, but she had picked up some good quality children's library books from Richard's 30p section, where she was working, and she considered the authors to be good, so it started from there.
Pat Thornton, who works at Booths, mostly with philosophy and religion ("Richard used to buy seminary libraries for me"), first came to Hay with her family for the fishing! Now, she doesn't see herself retiring from the book trade anytime soon.
The Oxfam lady (I missed her name) came the farming route. Most farmers stay in one place for generations, but her family had moved around from farm to farm, at one point owning a vineyard in New Zealand! When she came to Hay, she discovered that the farm they were looking at had been mentioned in Kilvert's Diary, and she wondered why they didn't use that information in the brochure. Then she read the passage, which described the farm as damp and gloomy, and all sorts of words that estate agents don't want to use!
Mel Prince got involved because of her husband Chris - who's story was, she said, far more interesting than hers. He had been travelling round the country, wondering where he would like to put down roots, and everywhere he went, he headed straight to the nearest bookshop. He comes from a very literary family. Eventually, his sister told him he should try selling some of his books, and sent him to Hay. Within a week, he had got a job with a bookseller, Andrew Morton, and bought his collection of poetry because Andrew wasn't interested in them and needed to get rid of them! So he was really thrown in at the deep end!
Derek Addyman is a local boy whose father worked as a builder - and he got taken on by Richard Booth, and picked up bookselling on the job, now having 3 shops scattered around Hay.
They talked about the differences between when they started in business and now - far more dealers used to come to Hay, for instance, and the internet and Kindle have made a big impact on the book trade. But the book is not going to go away - research has shown that people who read a book retain more information from it than people who read the same thing on a computer screen. There's something about handling the physical object that helps the brain remember things. The Oxfam lady said that what she liked, and which you can't get with a Kindle, are the recipes and postcards and inscriptions in books, that give that particular copy of the book a history.
They talked about the most exciting find they'd ever made, too - for Mel it was an original copy of William Blake's poems, which had been kept in a box under the bed of a junk dealer for years, and needed a lot of TLC because there had also been a coal fire in the room, and the ash had got everywhere. That's a book she and Chris are not intending to part with.
One thing that all the panel agreed was that there was a magic about books, and there was always a sense of excitement when you opened a box or bag that someone had brought to sell, because you never knew what you were going to find. When that goes, is the time to give up.
The panel was excellently moderated by Joshua Boyd Green of Green Ink Books, who is also a local bookseller, though I don't think I'd seen him before.
It was a fascinating talk, and could have gone on far longer - at least one person crept out before the end to see the Independence Parade at the Cheese Market.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Champagne Reception for Foraging Books

On Friday evening there were several events for the Independence celebrations.
I went to the earliest of them, the Champagne Reception at Booths Bookshop where Adele Nozedar and Lizzie Harper were talking about the books they have worked on together - The Hedgerow Handbook, The Garden Forager, and Foraging with Kids.
First, though, Oliver Balch read a section of his book Under The Tump, about the vote for Hay Independence, with interjections from Anne Brichto, speaking her own lines from the book.
This was followed by Tom Bullough reading from Addlands, his novel which is set locally. He managed to find a passage that at least mentioned Hay. He couldn't stay too long, because he was the guest of honour at this month's Desert Island Picks at the Globe at 8pm.
But this was, as Oliver said, just the warm up act. The main attraction was Adele and Lizzie talking together. They were sitting on the stairs, in impressively sparkly dresses, and couldn't move around too much because it was all being captured for a live feed to Facebook.
The conversation ranged over many topics, including a creepy survivalist who thought he could poison people with honeysuckle (which is actually edible), roaches in a Washington ice cream parlour (Lizzie's first job - Adele's was as window dresser and bingo caller!), the problem of plastic pollution, and sugar. Adele said that old recipes often have a lot more sugar than they need because it was being used as a preservative, in the absence of refrigerators - but also that the average ten year old now will have eaten as much sugar as their grandparents ate in their entire lives. This led to pondering on why Medieval people's teeth were so bad if they didn't eat much sugar. This was something I could answer, as I used to be an archaeologist - it was the flour, which often had grit in it from the millstones that ground it, and which wore the teeth down.
And then there was the glorious story of a recipe for walnut and cherry tablet, which was claimed to be a traditional sweet somewhere in Scotland. This was taken up with such enthusiasm that the local forestry people actually planted a walnut and cherry forest. When someone asked the person who had first written down the recipe, they said they had made it all up! But it's quite wonderful that there is now a real cherry and walnut forest because of an invented recipe.
They also said that they had a bit of trouble getting Foraging with Kids published, because the publishers kept asking: "But what if a child tries something and dies?" Adele and Lizzie pointed out that the plants in the book were all easily recognisable, and none of them were deadly, but it still took them three tries to get it into print. Adele said that she had tried to make the books global rather than just UK-centric, naming plants in seven different languages, and including plants that grow in many different parts of the world.
Adele had also brought along an experimental bottle of wild garlic vodka, which a brave member of the audience tried. He said it was very garlicky. It was also very green.
There was a raffle, too, for a mugly mug with a picture of hops on it, drawn by Lizzie - and won by Elizabeth of Booth Books! The mugs are available from Beer Revolution, and also from the website https://mugly.love/ and there are two other floral designs to choose from.

Happy Easter!

I couldn't get a photo of the Red Cross shop's Easter hare/bunny from the outside because of the reflections on the window, so I asked them if I could lean into the window from the inside.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Quirk Exhibition

Quirk magazine is one of the quiet successes of Hay. It's put out by Chris the Bookbinder twice a year (from the shop next door to the launderette), and has a regular group of contributors who write poetry and create art. It's been going now for five years.
The first event in this year's independence celebrations was the opening of an art exhibition at the Globe, by contributors to Quirk. As it turned out, I know at least three of them!
The pictures are arranged around the upstairs gallery of the Globe, and I think my absolute favourite is at the top of the stairs. Adrian Crick has painted a view from the Castle, looking down into Backfold and out to the hills beyond. It's not a real view - it's a composite of several different elements, but put together beautifully. A few years ago, he hosted an exhibition of his work at his home, and he'd done the same sort of thing with views of Borough Market in London.
Tracy Thursfield has some of her lino cuts there, with a mermaid theme, and right in the far corner Sarah Putt has some of her portraits, including a very good one of Eugene Fisk, the artist who died recently. Other artists with work on display include Martina Jirankova-Limbrick, Jess Watkins and Llew Watkins - and copies of the Quirk magazine are available.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Visiting Musician at Baskie

When Brian is out and about, he is always encouraging people he meets to go to the Baskerville Hall acoustic sessions. Maybe one in ten actually take him up on it. On this occasion, though, he was walking Denzel the Staffie down by the river, and stopped to talk to a young man mending his car. While they were chatting a lady with a dog passed by, and he got talking to her as well - and invited her over to the Baskie on Wednesday evening.
She came, with her dog Gwillim, who she bought in Crickhowell (so had to have a Welsh name). Her name was Jane, and she was from Canada.
The evening started slowly, but gradually filled up, with a lot of newcomers, which was nice to see - several people were singing unaccompanied, and there was a lot more folk music in the mix than we sometimes get. We all liked the Barley Mow song, which named all the measurements of liquid from a barrel right down to smaller than a gill (that's an eighth of a pint in pre-decimal measurements), very fast and all in one breath!
Jane from Canada had to borrow a guitar when it was her turn in the circle, and sang some of her own songs, which went down well. She got chatting to some of the other musicians, too - and even bought one of Bob's CDs.
The next morning, Brian looked her up on the Internet, and it turns out that she's a well-known singer songwriter in Canada, Jane Siberry. She'll be in Shrewsbury soon, doing gigs at one of the cafes there, and she's worth looking out for.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Statues and the Regimental Exhibition

I was in Hereford on Saturday to see my Young Man off at the station, and when he had gone I had a bit of time before getting the bus back to Hay.
So there was time for a little light shopping (I had a gift voucher for Marks and Spencer to use, which I turned into a rather nice pair of navy linen trousers).
Then I went up to Doughties, to see if they had any pom poms - I'm making some knitted rabbits and so far I've made little pom poms for the tails, by wrapping the wool round a fork, but I thought I'd try some ready made. The assistant was very helpful - we were both on our knees by the display as she pulled out the reserve stock, and as the pom poms were 10p each, I only spent £1 at the end!
Then it occurred to me to wonder if the Hereford Beer House was open (I was going to go into the Lichfield Vaults, but it was heaving with people), and I treated myself to a bottle of Anchor Porter - they have a very good range of American beer there. For unusual British beers, I can go to Beer Revolution in Hay.

So then I wondered what was new in the charity shops. I got as far as the Town Hall, where there was a sign pointing to a Regimental Exhibition, so I went in.
There were photos of the Herefordshire Regiment, and medals, and uniforms - and a bomb disposal machine - and displays about the SAS, all in quite a small space to the side of the main entrance. There was also a display about Allen Lewis, VC, and the statue that's proposed for Hereford city centre.
I got talking to one of the chaps looking after the exhibition, who told me that he had been appointed General of the Hay Armed Forces by King Richard Booth (he'd also been in the real British Army), and he told me that they have almost raised enough money to make the statue, and the sculptor is starting work. She's already done a maquette, and done a lot of research on the uniform. The chap said that this will be the third new statue in Hereford over the last eight or so years - there's Elgar looking up at the cathedral (made by the same sculptor as is working on the new statue), the Hereford bull beside the Old House, and soon, hopefully, Allen Lewis, VC. He said it would be nice to see another statue, representing another aspect of Hereford's history - "Maybe Nell Gwynn!" he said enthusiastically.
I was chatting to him for so long, I had to hurry across to the bus stop at Maylord Orchards to get home.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Music from the Sirinu Ensemble

The concert on Friday evening was supposed to be at St Mary's Church, but the heating system failed, so this became the very first concert to take place in the new school building! It was organised by Hay Music.
The sub-title for the evening was "The Man Hurdy-gurdy and Me" - and it was the Hurdy-gurdy that got my attention, that and the medieval harp (and it was a gorgeous harp!).
Although the Ensemble were playing medieval instruments, though, the music was modern and, as the poster said, eclectic. The composer, Howard Skempton, was there, and talked about his work before the music started. This included a concerto for accordion and oboe which opened the concert, and which the Young Man said sounded like the sound track to a 1960s low budget SF movie crossed with a 1970s children's series.
There were also pieces by Satie and Stravinsky. One of these was a French/English piece for children, with lines like "The dog has smoked all my cigars, and now he has tummy trouble"! We thought they were quite brave to do that when there was a real French couple in the audience!
Another piece in the first half featured an Indonesian gamelan, or about one eighth of one - in Indonesia these instruments are an orchestra in themselves, and all percussion, with gongs and so on, which was fun to see played. There was also a vibraphone - a sort of xylophone, and a long necked stringed instrument called a theorbo.
Howard Skempton had also set Feste's Song from Twelfth Night to music (recorder and guitar), which reminded me of an open air performance I went to at Kinnersley Castle back in the early 1990s. The rain poured down, but the actors kept going, and the audience kept sitting there, getting soaking wet - the actors' makeup was running down their faces - and at the end, Feste sang The Rain it Raineth Every Day, to huge applause!
The Man, Hurdy-Gurdy and Me was interesting - all about looking up at the stars throughout history - it was written for a touring exhibition about space in 2011.
And they finished off with the folk song Bring Us In Good Ale.
In the interval, wine and other drinks were served in what will soon become the new library, at present an empty room, so it also gave people who hadn't been to the school open evenings a chance to see where the new library and "community space" will be when they open.
So, it was interesting to see and hear the instruments, but I don't think contemporary experimental music is quite my glass of tea.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Eating Out in Hay

Whenever the Young Man comes to stay, we treat ourselves by eating out during the week.

The snow was thick on Sunday, and there wasn't much traffic on the roads, so we pretty much had Red Indigo to ourselves, apart from a small group waiting for take aways. I had the lamb Rogan Josh with pilau rice, and recommended the Chat Masalla to the Young Man, as it's one of my favourites on the menu. He said it was delicious - he'd never had it before.

On Thursday, we went to the little falafel shop opposite Bartrums. There's only room for one big table in there, with half a dozen chairs round it, and the counter. There's a small exhibition of lino cut art by Tracy Thursfield on the walls, mostly of animals. The Young Man told the chap behind the counter that he's tried falafels all over London, but he hasn't yet found any to match the ones in Hay.

And on Friday, the Ladies Who Lunch got together to go to the Globe. This was Ros's suggestion, after the excellent burgers we had there last time. The chef was doing a special offer of a starter and burger for £10 - he makes the burger a little smaller than usual, but that's fine, because I could only just finish what I had. I chose the butternut squash soup and the spicy bean burger. Ros went for the fish and chips, for £6, and said they were excellent, and Em splashed out with the Caesar salad. It was all very good, and the Young Man finished off my gherkins for me with his burger - gherkins are evil!. Em said that anyone who doesn't like gherkins must be an alien - so my secret is out!

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Poppies in Hereford

Last Saturday, I went into Hereford to meet my Young Man at the train station.
On the way, I passed the Cathedral, where the Weeping Window of Poppies had just opened.
Despite the bitter cold and swirling flakes of snow, there were a few people there to see it.
I came round the corner to see this:

Yesterday, when I went back to Hereford to see the Young Man off, I noticed signs all over Hereford pointing the way to the Cathedral and the installation, and telling coaches where to drop off passengers, and there was a good crowd around the poppies.
There is also a small Home Front exhibition.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Plastic Pollution - Meeting

Half way through my holiday, but there is something coming up that I think needs to come to wider attention.
There will be a meeting of The Waste-Free Initiative at Kilverts, on Saturday 24th March at 11am, to look at ways of reducing the use of plastics and other waste in everyday life (including food and other packaging).
Although we have the plastic recycling bin as part of the regular refuse collection, there's still quite a bit they won't take (like plastic film), and there's also the problem of reducing the unwanted plastic before it gets to the consumer, in the supply chain. That's why initiatives like the new waste free shop in Crickhowell are such a good idea.
In the local area, too, it's probably worth thinking about the use of plastics in agriculture.

Friday, 16 March 2018

A Holiday....

There will be very little, if any, blogging in the next week or so, because my Young Man is coming to stay.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Clyro Press

The Story of Books wants to build a printing press at Baskerville Hall, as part of their printing museum. It's a Dutch press from the 17th century, based on this picture from The Book of Trades by Jan Luyken.
They are looking for volunteer woodworkers to use hand tools to build the press, working with local hardwoods such as beech, oak and ash, and they are also looking for sources of these woods locally. The skill level isn't important - anyone interested can be anything from a skilled craftsperson to someone who wants to learn a skill.
When the press is built, it will be used to print etchings and engravings, and The Story of Books hopes to offer workshops in etching and engraving.
The leader of the project is Roger Gaskell, who recently built a similar press for the Rare Book School in Virginia.
Anyone interested in finding out more should email info@thestoryofbooks.com or visit the Wayzgoose at 20 Castle Street on Saturday 31st March from 10am to 3pm.

Monday, 12 March 2018

A Whole Week of Hay Independence Celebrations

Only a few weeks to go now!
This year the organisers really have pulled all the stops out.
Celebrations begin on the evening of Thursday 29th March, with a preview of artwork from local poetry magazine Quirk.
Over the whole week, there's a colouring competition at Otherworldz and a Bookshop Treasure Hunt.
On Friday evening, there's a champagne reception at Booths Bookshop with readings by local authors Tom Bullough and Oliver Balch. Later in the evening, Tom and Oliver go on to the Globe, where Tom will be interviewed by Oliver for the Globe's regular Desert Island Picks evening.
Meanwhile, further along Broad Street, the Old Electric Shop will be open till late, with literary themed cocktails and live music.

On Saturday 31st, the Wayzgoose will be open at 20 Castle Street (recently The End vintage shop) showcasing the printers' art. They will also be holding a candle lit supper on Saturday evening.

Also on Saturday, a panel of Hay Booksellers will be at the Globe to talk about their bookselling careers. On the panel will be Derek Addyman of Addyman's Books, Judith Gardner of The Children's Bookshop and Pat Thornton from Richard Booths. Between them, they have 120 years' experience! The panel will be chaired by Joshua Green of Green Ink Booksellers.
Hay's Youth Theatre will be parading through town, and in the afternoon will be putting on a free performance of a Variety Show called "Happy Gleeaster" - directed by Janine Sharp from Playaway and Johnny Cartwright (Mr Bamboozle)!
There's also the Inaugural Richard Booth Lecture, given by Jeff Towns 'the Dylan Thomas guy', from his Book Bus in the Market Square. He's been a bookseller in Swansea for 40 years.
And from booksellers to publishers - Richard Davies of Parthian Books will be talking to Oliver Balch about the challenges of publishing in Wales in the 21st century.
And cocktails at the Old Electric Shop in the evening, and the official Independence Party at the Parish Hall, and Saturday Shenanigans at the Globe with Jally Kebbo Susso and Band Manding Sabu. Jally is a traditional Gambian griot, playing the kora in an entirely new way.

After all that partying, there's more on Sunday 1st April, which is Independence Day!
There's Lego Club and Easter Egg Hunt at the Globe, followed by Booksellers Brunch. Then at the Globe Helen Jukes previews her book A Honey Bee's Heart Has Five Openings, which is due to be published in July.
In the Parish Hall, Hay2Timbuktu will be celebrating 10 years of Hay being twinned with Timbuktu.
Adele Nozedar will be holding a Botanical Gin workshop, showing how to make flavoured gin.
Zoe Sadler will be reading her children's book The Lighthouse Keeper and encouraging children to draw their own monster.
Dr Andrew Webb from Bangor University will be talking to Jeff Towns about their new book about the Welshness of Edward Thomas, country life writer and poet who died 100 years ago at Arras.
And there's another Welsh publisher, Penny Thomas of Firefly Press, which publishes books for the 5 - 19 age group, who will be talking about how children's books are published.

On Monday, Zoe Sadler will be in the Parish Hall talking about Mermaids and Butterflies and getting children involved in activities from her book Mysteries of the Deep.
Andy and Karen Johnson of Logaston Press will be talking about Myths, and there's a Croquet Competition in the Globe Garden, refereed by the Red Queen!
This is followed by the Mad Hatter's Tea Party at the Parish Hall (Alice will be there, too).
And Jeff Towns will be talking about Dylan Thomas.

Tuesday starts with Drama and Magic Workshops in the Parish Hall, run by Janine Sharp and Johnny Cartwright (Mr Bamboozle).
At the Globe, Elaine Canning will be talking about the International Dylan Thomas Prize for Young Writers, and what it's like behind the scenes of a major literary award. The books on the shortlist of the prize will be available for sale.
There's also a trip to Hereford Cathedral, including entry to the Mappa Mundi and Chained Library exhibitions, and a talk by Peter Challenger on the History of the Hereford Light Infantry, with a cream tea and a tour of the Bishop's Garden (not normally open to the public). There'll also be a chance to see the Weeping Window - the poppy installation which has just been put up at the cathedral.
Meanwhile in Hay, there's a talk on the Gentle Art of Penguin Book Collecting, by Megan Prince and David Jackson. Megan Prince owns the Ironbridge Bookshop, and specialises in Penguins as well as having an extensive collection, and David Jackson is a private collector of Penguins.
There are more Drama and Magic Workshops in the afternoon, and poetry and story telling at the Globe by Anne Lister. Later at the Globe there's music from visiting Bookstagrammers, followed by the Globe Open Mic Night.

On Wednesday, at the Globe, John Watson, from Edinburgh gives a demonstration of printing using woodcut blocks. Last year he did a similar talk on lino-cutting. In the afternoon he will be running a lino cutting workshop at the Parish Hall for children aged 12 to 15.
There's a full day of events put on by Bangor University on the History of the Book. Highlights include a talk on a Medieval Book of Hours, by Sue Niebrzydowski, a talk on printing in early modern England by Michael Durrant, and in the afternoon a talk on 19th century postcards from North Wales by Carol Tully, Eben Muse on "Fantasies of the Bookstore" and The Book in Cyber Space by Lyle Skains.
Then there's poetry and storytelling at the Globe by Anne Lister and author Bruce Johns at Eighteen Rabbit.
In the evening, Chris Hunter is at the Globe - bomb disposal expert, writer and counter-terrorism consultant.

Thursday is Market Day, and there will also be poetry workshops at the Parish Hall.
Andrew Taylor and Phil Rickman will be talking about writing and the crime novel, and Billie Charity will be holding a portrait photography workshop.
At the Globe serial killer profiler Paul Harrison will be in conversation with local PCSO Helen Scott, and later there will be more crime writers - Guy Fraser-Sampson and Hugh Fraser, in a discussion chaired by Phil Rickman. Hugh Fraser is also an actor, who played Captain Hastings in Poirot.
Also at the Globe Andrew Wilson will be talking about his work, including a book about Agatha Christie.
And on Forest Road, Chris Arden the Natural History Specialist is holding a late night bookshop opening.
The evening finishes off with a candle lit quiz on detective fiction, hosted by Maidens of Murder.

Friday is Flea Market Day in the Buttermarket.
There'll be another trip to Hereford Cathedral and the Bishop's Garden, and a chance to build a Book Igloo in the Parish Hall, with books provided by Hay Castle.
Barbara Erskine will be speaking about her latest work at the Globe, and in the evening it's literary cocktails at the Old Electric Shop and Literary Quiz at the Globe.

Saturday morning starts at the Globe with a talk about women in publishing, and at the Parish Hall local councillors will be holding a hanging basket workshop as part of Hay in Bloom. In the afternoon there's a celebration of our local Olympian, Josie Pearson, followed by a talk about Miles Without Stiles and a chance to meet the Town Councillors. The Hay Citizen of the Year Award will also be given.
There's an hour of poetry at the Globe, and a talk about Bookstagramming for Boys, followed in the evening by the First Official Bookstagrammy Awards. This year's themes are Books and Hot Drinks, Books and Scenery, and a Book Laid Flat, or Shelfie.
Desert Island Picks at the Globe will be with Shaun Bythell, owner of The Bookshop, Wigtown, and author of Diary of a Bookseller.

Sunday starts with a Faber bookseller's brunch, and a children's tea party at the Parish Hall hosted by Adele Nozedar and Lizzie Harper.
There's more Croquet at the Globe.

There will be other events too - I'm working from the draft programme!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Council Meeting - Cycleway, Tennis Courts, County Councillor's Report, Litter - and a Groan-inducing Pun

There are plans to create a cycleway on the track of old railway lines, right down to Ystradgynlais.
However, it was pointed out that Sustrans looked at this in detail some time ago, and without a lot of compulsory purchase orders to get lengths of railway line back from private owners, it's not going to happen unless the route is diverted onto nearby lanes.

There is money available from the old Tennis Club to maintain and upgrade the tennis courts. The Tennis Club was wound up, it seems, because they didn't have enough members to satisfy the Lawn Tennis Club rules.
Meanwhile, all the sports clubs will be running the car park at the sports pavilion to raise money during Hay Festival, as they did last year.

Gareth handed round a little packet marked with a yellow triangle which is designed to keep a person's medical information safe and accessible in case of accidents - it's to go in a car. The Lions do a similar thing with Message in a Bottle, which can be in a person's home or car.
Gareth also brought along a poster showing the UN's 54 Articles of Rights of Children, something that should be taken into consideration when councils are making decisions. The councillors were interested in finding somewhere to display the poster.

And this month's report on the state of the play areas: "Everything seems to be all white!"
(Alan Powell's comment got such a chorus of groans, I had to include it here!)

Despite the snow, (and it has mostly thawed now, around Hay at least - I understand there's still quite a lot of it further up in the hills), two groups were planning a litter pick for today, Sunday. The Woodland Group were doing the riverside paths, and Want to Canoe? were organising a litter pick around town. I believe one group were offering tea and Welsh cakes, and the other coffee and cake, to the volunteers. One councillor asked if any group had plans to tidy up the hedgerows on the routes into town, which also have quite a bit of litter scattered around, including a lot of bottles on the way up to Brecon Road from Readers' Retreat.

And at that point the councillors voted to exclude the public, so they could discuss something secret, and I headed for home.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Small Business Saturday

Keepers Pocket is back on the Pavement, and will be opening soon.
Meanwhile Clocktower Books by the Buttermarket, which was sharing premises with Keepers Pocket, is now re-organising and filling up with books to replace the antiques. The changes mean that the lovely old desk that was being used as a counter has gone from Clocktower Books, and Dale is making do for the moment with a tiny little table which everybody has been laughing at, including him!

Friday, 9 March 2018

Council Meeting -Graffiti, Fly Tipping, Miles Without Stiles and Affordable Houses.

It seems that the Town Council have responsibility for the maintenance of the bus shelters - so the next topic of discussion was what to do about this graffiti. One councillor suggested keeping it for Hay in Bloom! Others suggested a pot of green paint was in order. They also talked about having more town information at the bus stops. Apparently Velindre bus shelter has books in it - no buses, though....

And from graffiti to fly tipping, and the trialing by Powys County Council of imposing fixed penalty notices on householders who fly tip. There's also a warning here for any householders who pay someone to take their waste away - if the person who takes it then tips it, it is the householder who is responsible.

Richard Greatrex was very keen for the Council to get involved with a consultation on how local government should work in the future, from the Welsh Assembly. For instance the Welsh Assembly are asking what community councils should be responsible for. It may seem theoretical, but could change the way things work across Wales in the future, such as combining neighbouring councils. If Hay were to be combined with Llanigon, for instance, the two areas have very different requirements.
One Voice Wales is working on a response to the consultation at the moment, and various councillors said they would be interested in seeing it when it's done. They also agreed that more working together between local councils would be a good thing.

Meanwhile Miles Without Stiles is forging ahead with work on local footpaths. Powys County Council have donated ten gates! And the Lions have donated £1,000, and would like to have plaques on their gates. The next stage is to get grant money - the project minimum is £20,000, which can be match funded with volunteer hours rather than cash, so they're looking for a pledge of 500 volunteer hours, with an additional £6,000 from the Town Council - and I missed the details of the rest of it. The Finance committee was due to meet a few days after the main Council meeting, and they had a lot to discuss!

The councillors were also looking back to last year, when they had a meeting with the National Parks and set out what they hoped to achieve over the year - and the consensus was that they've done quite well!
One area where they haven't been able to make much progress is affordable housing, partly because they were hoping the Affordable Housing Group would do most of the heavy lifting, but the group doesn't seem to have been active recently.
One concern was over the affordable housing in the Persimmon development. One condition for the building to go ahead was that local families in need would get first choice of the housing, but families seem to be moving in from all over Powys, not just the Hay area. There was a point that these families have more points than local families, so were in greater need. There was also concern that some local people have tried to get housing on the new estate, but have been refused, and the councillors wanted to talk to the National Parks, Powys Planning Department and Wales and West Housing Association to discuss this. This was seen to be a matter of urgency, as Wales and West are involved in future developments locally.

Meanwhile, over the border in Cusop, the houses of Booker's Edge are springing up opposite the Co-op, and people applying for affordable houses there have to prove a connection to Cusop. This would include anyone with family already living in Cusop, or someone who is employed in Cusop, which would include anyone who works at the Co-op, or Hay and Brecon Farmers. However, Cusop is unusual in that all the facilities are in Hay. Affordable, in this case, means at a discount of 39% of the full price for the houses. The councillors wanted to publicise this as much as possible, to give local families a chance to apply.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Council Meeting - Hay Festival, Christmas Lights, Powys County Council, Walking Festival, Bonfire Night

Hay Festival have offered the Town Council a slot for a Question and Answer session. This will be on Thursday 24th May, in the afternoon after the schoolchildren have gone home. The councillors want the session to be based around the Town Plan. There was some discussion about whether the Town Council should have "official answers" for questions they thought might be asked, or whether they should show a range of views coming to a consensus. One councillor said that it would be good for the public to see how a consensus was reached.

Now the Christmas lights are back in storage, in the "bear pit" cellar underneath La Maison, the councillors want to have an audit of what's broken, what's left, and they also want to re-use the old frames that had incandescent bulbs, by replacing the bulbs with LED lights. Some councillors favoured more coloured lights, others considered that everything white looked more striking. Councillors will be meeting the Chamber of Commerce to consider what the Christmas lights will look like at the end of this year.

And the Transfer of Assets is still stalled over the problem of the money from the Car Park, which Powys County Council promised to Hay, and then changed their minds. The Town councillors are a little worried about the new Healthmatic contract for the public toilets - car park money was supposed to be available for that.
There's also been no reply from the PCC yet about the library building, in which the Town Council expressed an interest some time ago. However, there will be a meeting soon between Hay School and the Library Services to negotiate when the library at the school will have its opening hours.
As the school building's "community room" is not a like-for-like replacement for the old community centre, HADSCL are trying to move forward with plans for a new community centre. They also want to ensure that the money in the old Shire reserves (£200,000) doesn't disappear before it's used for the benefit of Hay.

Anna from Drover Holidays is keen to re-start the Walking Festival and has asked for Town Council support. As the Town Council are very much involved with the Miles without Stiles project, they would like to see this take off again.

Jim is a member of the Lions, and brought up the Lions' Bonfire Night, which has been held at Clyro Court for around the last 25 years. The members of the committee which organises the event now feel they are getting too old to continue, but they would like to pass on the event to new organisers if they can. So this coming Bonfire Night will be the last one that the Lions organise.
At present, the event is covered by general Lions' insurance, so a new group would have to have public liability insurance, and enough money up front to stage the event. The Lions usually spend about £3,000 on fireworks, and charge £10 for a family entrance fee, and last year they made £800 profit. Clyro Court don't charge for the use of their land, but they do run the bar, and make money from the event that way.
The Town Council didn't feel able to take on the organisation, as they are doing so many other things already, but they did promise to communicate with other groups in the hope that someone would take it on.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Eugene Fisk's Funeral

This afternoon I met a lady who had been to Eugene Fisk's funeral - and she said she'd never seen a funeral like it.
There was the Requiem Mass at St Joseph's at 10am, and then another service at Clyro, starting at 12 noon - which lasted two hours, because of the number of people who wanted to pay tribute to Eugene.

Coming home this evening, I looked in the window of Keeper's Pocket, which has moved back onto the Pavement and will open soon. They've got a portrait of Eugene in the window.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Council Meeting - Benches, Parking, Woodland Group, Hay in Bloom, Warren Close

I was heading down to the Sports Pavilion last night when Alan Powell came out of the Swan to say the Council were meeting in there again. Having tried the Sports Pavilion, they had found it too cold, and since they were in a separate room where no alcohol was being served, they decided that was good enough - and it was lovely and warm in there!

So, benches were discussed. The new bench to be put on Bell Bank has been ordered, and should be installed soon. The British Legion have a metal bench with a cut out of a soldier and poppies on the back, and have asked if it can be sited in the square, since there are going to be commemorations of the end of the First World War later in the year. This may mean finding a place for an extra bench, or replacing one of the benches that are already there, but Gareth Ratcliffe will be liasing with the British Legion to find the right place for it.
Also in the Square is a bench with a plaque on it to Mrs. Aitcheson. Her husband has asked that the bench be given a fresh coat of varnish.
There was some discussion of parking permits, including problems like - should someone with a driveway also be able to buy a parking permit for the road, and what about the motorhome on Broad Street? (It's got a legal permit).

The Woodland Group made enquiries about the container on the school grounds, thinking it might be possible to use it to store their tools - but the school wants to store their own equipment in it, so it's not available. There is a little-used shed in the cattle market which might be suitable, though.
The Town Council is going ahead with declaring an interest in acquiring the land around the Castle Motte, as the Woodland Group would like to be able to improve it, and maybe open up the mound and put picnic benches there. One councillor remembered that, in the past, councillors had wanted to flatten the motte to put a car park there, so now they wanted to be sure that it would be protected for the future.
There was also concern about the damaged fence along the side of the church which has been awaiting repair for a year. Powys County Council presently own the land, and have not replied to letters about it - another reason the Woodland Group would like to take it on.
Anna from Drover Holidays has had an idea for Hay in Bloom - using old cycle helmets as planters! In Hereford, apparently, donations of old wellies have been asked for. The idea is to plant them up and dot them around the town.

As part of the Hay Independence celebrations over Easter, the Town Council will be holding a Hanging Basket Workshop at the Parish Hall on 7th April. This will be followed at 2pm by the announcement of Hay's Citizen of the Year, for which Christina Watson will provide an artistic certificate, and after that there will be a guided walk around town. Closing date for nominations for Citizen of the Year is 19th March. Forms will be given out on the Thursday market (it would have been done last Thursday, but there was a bit of snow!). Gareth Ratcliffe instantly took a photo of one of the forms, and Tweeted it! The wonders of social media!

There's been some sort of study that recommends that town councillors for councils of the size of Hay should get an allowance of £150 a year, to cover things like home office supplies needed to do the job of councillor. This should be paid from the Town precept. There were questions about whether councillors had to individually approach the Inland Revenue to ask for a dispensation so that they didn't have to declare the money as taxable income, or if there was a blanket dispensation for every councillor automatically.

Warren Close residents are to be invited to meet soon to discuss the piece of land between their houses and the new development, to talk about planting trees (preferably fruit trees) to screen the view of the new houses and making allotments. It was agreed that householders have no right to a view from their homes (some people apparently don't like looking out on the new houses) but they do have a right to light for their homes. Fruit trees would be a good addition if allotments were made there, though a solicitor will have to be consulted to see if garden sheds are allowed, as originally no structures were allowed on that land.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Starting to Thaw....

But here are some pictures from yesterday:

Down at the Warren, the river was frozen right across.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Fairtrade Fortnight Postponed by Snow

On Thursday, the Fairtrade Hay team were intending to give out free teas at the market, but decided to cancel because of the snow - and tonight three shops were collaborating in a series of talks throughout the afternoon and early evening. The details can be found on the Fairtrade Hay blog and Facebook page - there's a link to their blog on the sidebar of this blog.
Now the talks will be taking place on March 8th instead.

This is what it looked like in town yesterday morning, with a mini snow plough trying to clear the Pavement:

Friday, 2 March 2018

Blizzard Conditions

Last night was the first Thursday of the month, as well as St David's Day, which is the normal meeting time for the Stitch and Bitch group. Several members on the email list had already said that they wouldn't be coming in because of the snow, but Kilverts is pretty much on my way home from work, so I thought I'd pass by there just to see if anyone else had turned up.
It was, of course, still snowing, as it had been snowing all day, and the path to the front door of Kilverts was pristine and untouched. The barman was standing just by the kitchen door, smoking, and he said he hadn't seen anyone yet.
Just as I was turning to go, another lady, Sharon from Blissland Pizzas, came up the road.
So it was just us two, with our chairs pulled close to the wood burner in the main bar, her with her quilting spread across her knees and me with my knitted squares, and we had a lovely time! As the evening went on, the bar got a bit busier, while outside the powdery snow whirled in the wind.

Today, it's still snowing (I think it stopped for a bit in the night) and drifting, and the police are warning that many roads are closed. On the Hay Community page on Facebook, several people are offering to run errands for anyone who can't get out of their houses.
I may get the Arctic gear out later and go and see if any shops have managed to open.... (I've just seen someone who works at the Co-op walking down that way, so I assume they'll be open at least!)

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus!

Welsh suffragettes in 1911!

I was going to use a photo of a Welsh flag in a blizzard, but when I went looking for the one I remembered seeing, I couldn't find it!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Eugene Fisk - Funeral Arrangements

The date of Eugene Fisk's funeral has been set for Wednesday 7th March.
On Tuesday 6th March, his body will be taken to St Joseph's Catholic church in Hay, where there will be a short liturgy at 6pm. The following morning, at 10am, there will be a Requiem Mass at St Joseph's, after which there will be a funeral service at Clyro church at 12 noon. Eugene will be buried in Clyro churchyard, beside his partner, Elizabeth Organ.
There will be a wake afterwards in Clyro Village Hall.
The organisers have asked for flowers to be hand held sprays and posies for the grave and the charity, for anyone who would like to make a donation, is the Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Fundraising for the Allan Lewis VC Statue

There are two events coming up soon to raise money for the statue of Hereford's only winner of the VC.
The first is a birthday party at the Rhydspence, which will have First World War music and food, and a special Hero's Ale from Swan Brewery. That's on Wednesday 28th February, from 7pm.
I hope the weather will be kind!
The second is on 3rd March at Whitney Court, where there will be a Memorial Gala Dinner and Auction. MP Chris Davies will be at that one, as the auctioneer, and so will the Military Veteran's Band of Wales. That also starts at 7pm, with fizz, and dinner at 7.30pm.

Monday, 26 February 2018

New Bin Day

The recycling truck was round bright and early this morning - it's the first day of a new regime, as the recycling and rubbish will be picked up on a Monday rather than a Wednesday from now on. As before, the recycling and compost goes out every week, and the rubbish goes out every three weeks.
Gareth Ratcliffe has been asking, on his Facebook page, for a new name for the rubbish day. He was calling it Wheelie Bin Wednesday. The best suggestion so far has been Muck Out Monday!

Sunday, 25 February 2018

New Schools

The pupils of Hay School have now moved from the old buildings, which are being pulled down, to the new building.
I did try to take a photo, but the fence is still up around the new school, and it was very difficult to get a good shot through the bars of the gate!
Maybe I'll try again when the fence comes down.

Meanwhile, the Brecon and Radnor Express reports that a new teaching block and sports hall will be built at Gwernyfed High School - which the County Council were trying to close down only two years ago. Now they are willing to spend £7.2 million on it. The original Victorian Mansion building will no longer be used for teaching, and they are hoping that some sort of arts organisation might be interested in taking it on - which would enhance the facilities for the High School pupils.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Car Accident

I was over at Baskerville Hall on Wednesday as usual, for a wonderful evening of acoustic music. A group of people who mostly played folk music came to join in - they'd travelled an hour and a half to be there!
So we were heading for home feeling very cheerful until we saw flashing lights on the road near Radnor's End, at the top of the long hill down to Hay Bridge.
Police car.
And after the police car, another car, and a van or tall car lying on its side.
And after that another police car, with officers on the road to guide traffic round the scene of the accident.
We didn't see anyone other than the police there, so I don't know what happened to the drivers of the cars. Presumably, if ambulances were needed, they'd been and gone.
And in the morning, the road was clear, so the vehicles involved had been taken away some time after we went past.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Lizzie Harper's Exhibition

I forgot to add yesterday that I met Lizzie Harper's mum during the interval of the concert, and she was incredibly proud that her daughter had an exhibition on at Booths. It runs until 2nd March, and there are also prints and cards for sale. Lizzie is an extremely good botanic and scientific illustrator, her pictures featuring mainly plants and insects.
She has a website at http://lizzieharper.co.uk

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Oriental Miscellany

"We're very lucky to get to see something of this quality, aren't we?" said the lady sitting next to me in the audience for the Oriental Miscellany concert at Booth Books on Tuesday evening. It was close to being a full house, in seats set out down the middle of the room upstairs, with the stage by the stairs. They'd managed to get a rather fine harpsichord up there.
The player of the harpsichord was Jane Chapman, professor of harpsichord at the Royal College of Music, accompanied by Yu-Wei Hu on a baroque flute and, for a piece called The Bird-Fancyer's Delight, a much smaller flute to mimic the songs of the sky lark, canary bird, East India nightingale and bullfinch. Yu-Wei Hu has performed all over Europe, with many period chamber ensembles and orchestras - and here they both were, performing in Hay. They've also worked with musicians from Afghanistan, who could recognise some of the original Indian songs the pieces were based on.

It was a fascinating evening. Around 1789, there was a small colony of British people living in India, mostly working for the East India Company. Some of them were keen musicians, who had begun to collect the music of the Indians they lived amongst and adapt it for Western instruments.
Between the pieces, Jane Chapman read extracts from letters and diaries of women who were living in India - one of whom lamented the effect of the local climate on the tuning of her harpsichord, which sounded as if someone had thrown water all over it in one particularly damp period. Margaret Fowke wrote about persuading Indian musicians to retune their instruments so that she could join in with her harpsichord, and Sophia Plowden also collected music. Songs in various Indian languages were also translated into Persian for the benefit of the Western listeners who could understand it.
In 1789, William Hamilton Bird went to India, collected music which he called the Oriental Miscellany, and arranged it into a sonata - for harpsichord and flute.
They also played popular pieces from Europe which had reached India, including some Old Scots Tunes and some Handel, and they finished of the evening with Bird's Sonata. They really brought to life the social scene in India, where ladies like Sophia and Margaret organised musical parties (some in Indian costume), and gentlemen came home from their work in the offices of the East India Company to play the flute while a young lady played harpsichord. Yu-Wei Hu commented that the flute was usually a gentleman's instrument, because it involved the player pulling faces, which a young lady with marriageable prospects wouldn't have wanted to do!

So now I'm really looking forward to their next concert The Man Hurdy-Gurdy and Me, which will be on Friday 23th March at 7pm in St Mary's Church. As well as a hurdy-gurdy, performers will be playing lute, medieval harp, keyboards, percussion, accordion, oboe, flutes and recorders, combining folk, early music and modern music. Tickets are £14.00 from Booths Bookshop or the Bookshop Cinema.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Visit to Snodhill Castle

I won't be able to go, because it's on a Sunday, but it sounds like a brilliant day out!
The Hay Ho bus is collaborating with Drover Holidays and the Snodhill Castle Preservation Trust for a free but ticketed day out, with a hard hat tour of the castle, which is not open to the public at the moment. Anyone going on the tour will be encouraged to become members of the Snodhill Castle Preservation Trust, and to give a donation to the Hay Ho bus.
The bus leaves from Hereford at 10.15am and returns from Dorstone at 15.09pm. It isn't a very long walk from the centre of Dorstone to the castle.
Further details, and tickets, can be obtained from anna@droverholidays.co.uk

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Cusop Dingle

I went to see the snowdrops in the hedgerows, and to visit my favourite waterfall.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Hay Vouchers

The Chamber of Commerce recently sent out an email to say how the Hay Voucher scheme is doing so far.
To quote them: "The EPIC steamroller of success that is Hay Vouchers is unstoppable right now!"
So far, £22,360 worth of Vouchers have been sold.
Of that, £14,800 worth of Vouchers have been spent in the 69 local businesses taking part in the scheme.
That leaves £7,560 in Vouchers that haven't been spent yet.

Hay Vouchers are available from Pughs/Londis, or from the Chamber of Commerce, and are easy to use. There's quite a lot of admin behind the scenes, done by the team at Pughs, but for the person buying things with the vouchers it's just like using cash.
The beauty of the scheme is that it keeps money circulating within the local economy. Money spent in local shops tends to be spent on local things, as well as paying wages for local people. Money spent in multinational chains disappears out of the local economy into the pockets of distant shareholders.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Ladies Lunching at the Globe

And very pleasant it was, too.
Usually, the Ladies Who Lunch go to the Old Electric Shop. This time, for a change, we decided to try the Globe.
We were a bit surprised, considering it's half term, to find the café empty except for us.
There's also an exhibition on at the moment of local landscape photographs, which continues upstairs in the main hall.
Looking at the menu, we decided on the spicy bean burger with chips to share - all the food was delicious, and all the staff, including the chef, were friendly.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Nat West Changes its Opening Times Again

Today was the day for the Nat West van to come to the front of the Cinema Bookshop for an hour - their replacement service for the branch they used to have in town. One of the staff came into the shop to ask us to put up a sign, because they will be changing the times they come to Hay from the middle of March. From 16th March, they will be coming on a Friday, instead of a Thursday, and for only three quarters of an hour (12.15 to 1pm) instead of a full hour.
They said this was because they were not getting enough customers, but there was a queue waiting for them when they parked up, and at least one customer in the van for the whole hour, according to my colleague who was watching through the window.
One of the customers I spoke to had come to use the van because they have a business account, and we both wondered what small businesses were supposed to do when they have cash to bank - you can't do that online.
It hasn't helped that they have changed the times they come more than once already, adding to customer confusion, and last week they were down at the Clock Tower instead of outside the Cinema Bookshop, also adding to confusion as more than one person turned up at the bookshop wondering where they were.

My colleague has had what I think is a brilliant idea. Wouldn't it be great if the three banks who used to serve Hay had got together to share a building, where they could each have a separate till? I'm sure that would be easily manageable with modern technology.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Tai Chi

I've been getting a bit creaky in the joints lately - to the extent that, it's okay for me to get down to shelve books on the bottom shelves, but it's a bit more difficult for me to get up again!
Before Christmas, the Cinema Bookshop got a collection of martial arts books and I found, to my delight, the David Carradine Book of Tai Chi amongst them. I was a big fan of Kung Fu when I was a kid, so I fondly imagined myself turning into Kwai Chang Caine if I followed the instructions....
Turns out it's quite difficult to do when you're trying to follow one movement per page and then having to stop to turn over.

Then I was looking through Wye Local, and I came across an advert.
Peter Howells is teaching Chen style Tai Chi, the origin of all Tai Chi, at the Masonic Hall twice a week. The classes are on Tuesdays from 6pm to 7pm, and Fridays from 5.30pm to 6.30pm. He follows the school terms, so this week there are no lessons, as it's half term.
I went along on Friday, and it was great fun! There were about 8 or 9 of us, with one chap amongst the ladies, and we learned how to do the warm up exercises, followed by some meditation, and then the three of us who had never been before sat out while we watched the rest do the form - the sequence of moves. Peter Howells explained that the Chen style is the nearest Tai Chi style to martial arts, and it's also good for strengthening your legs, which is what I was looking for.
I've always resisted going to exercise classes before, never really fancied the idea of yoga or pilates, but I think this will suit me very well - and he's a good teacher. One of the ladies who had come along for the first time had to explain to her family that she wasn't about to learn karate, because he used to teach that before he moved on to Tai Chi!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Council Meeting - Cycleway, Finances

Yet again, Hay Council has a vacancy, as David Gittins has resigned. He was also the chair of the Sports Pavilion committee, so the council urgently need someone to fill that post - the AGM is in a few days time!
The swimming pool also needs a councillor to sit on their committee.
And on the subject of volunteers, Dial-a-Ride are looking for more drivers, too.

There was also some discussion of a cycleway from Brecon to Hay, running through Glasbury. The idea was originally that it should follow the old railway line, but that's not really feasible, as in some places the railway line route is no longer there - under the Old Railway Line nursery, for instance. However, Sustrans are interested in finding a route - and if it passed beside the Old Railway Line, they could benefit from the passing trade.

Gareth Ratcliffe had grim news about the finances of the County Council, which will mean council rents rising by 4.5% - which will have a big impact on council tenants' budgets. The County Council had to borrow £10.5 million last week to pay wages (they say not to worry, as they often have to borrow until the new financial year, but £10.5 million seems an awful lot).
At the same time, adult social care and children's care have serious problems across the county.
Gareth said that there is not much left in Hay to fight for(he's done his best!) so he's turning his attention to things he can fight for over the whole county.
Meanwhile, the National Park is cutting the numbers on its committee from 23 to 18, meaning that Powys County Council will lose two seats on it.

On a brighter note, there is now a new development officer for the Bronllys Wellbeing Park, and they now have an office on site.
And there have been more bookings for the flat over the Cheesemarket, which brings in income financing their fund to benefit the town.

And then the council had something they wanted to discuss without the public being present, so Gareth and I went home!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Eugene Fisk

I was sorry to hear that Eugene Fisk, the artist, died unexpectedly a few days ago. He was 79.
There's a vase of flowers in the window of the art gallery on the opposite corner to Tomatitos as a memorial to him.
Eugene Fisk painted many local people, and produced a book of his drawings called Oh Happy Hay! He also spent time drawing refugees on day trips from Swansea, arranged by the Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees organisation.
Sean O'Donoghue has written a message on the Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees Facebook page, in which he says that Eugene was preparing a book of the portraits he had drawn. The book will be launched as part of the Hay Booksellers' Independence Celebrations from 30th March to 8th April.
He was also working on a book about the sites visited by the medieval churchman Gerald of Wales.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Tramway at the Warren

I went up to the Warren this morning to have a look at the new path that's been laid over the top of the old tramway - and it's not as bad as I thought it might be. It seems that some stones from the tramway have been displaced, but most of the spoil on either side of the new path is soil, not stone, and it looks as if most of the tramway bed is still in place.

I walked the whole length of it, and the new surface certainly makes it easier to get along the path beside the house, which had quite a few tree roots across it. They've also renewed wooden edgings on the main Bailey Walk, which should make it good for a few years more.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Council Meeting - Library, Health Care, Miles Without Stiles, an Accessible Town and Woodland Group

There was some discussion about the Library building, and what would happen to it after the Library moves to the school in April. Bearing in mind that Hay Council are already in complicated negotiations with the County Council about the transfer of assets, would it be sensible of them to add to that by declaring an interest in acquiring the Library building?
The County Council have recently changed the way they decide their corporate asset policy to a case by case basis, where no precedents are set by their decisions in other cases. And they will only consider transferring the asset freehold if it is in their interests.
The councillors have discussed this before, trying to decide between the Council Chambers which need so much work doing on them and the Library building - because the County Council would not allow them to keep both.
So they came back to the problem of the tenants in the Council Chambers, which generate income for the Council, against the costs of repairing and making the Council Chambers accessible.
And they decided that they should at least declare an interest in the Library building, and sort out a business case for taking it over.

Health care for the area is another concern, as health care provision is getting centralised further south, in the areas of greater population, leaving rural areas like this part of Powys behind. Apparently, everywhere should be within a 60 minute journey to a Major Trauma Unit. This is complicated for Hay by Hereford Hospital being over the border, and they also talked about the desirability of improving the Air Ambulance service.
There is also a Well-Being Plan coming down from central government - which is all very nice, but the councillors were unsure how, exactly, it would be implemented.

And then they talked about something that concerned me, as a lapsed archaeologist.
The Miles Without Stiles project has been going ahead, with new surfacing for the Bailey Walk being put down. That's all fine - but the workmen have also been putting a new path in at the Warren, over the old tramway. There were comments that the councillors thought that the new path would be put in to one side of the tramway, but it seems that damage has been done as the path is being put in on top of it. If this is the case, there should have been an archaeologist at least doing a watching brief to see what was uncovered.
I'll be going up there tomorrow to see for myself.

And on a related note, there are plans to improve the town's accessibility, and maybe even make a thing of Hay being an "accessible town". There is, apparently, grant money available. They want two charging points for electric cars (there's one already at Drover Cycles), and there's money for the path improvements for Miles Without Stiles, and Hay in Bloom. This could link in with the well-being ideas, promoting walking and getting out into the countryside for healthy living, and gardening, especially as Hay has an aging population. The council intends to talk to Hay Walkers and the Tourist Information Office, and get them involved.

And, finally, permission has been granted for the Woodland Group to have a container to keep their tools in! It will be sited somewhere near the motte, as the auctioneers who own the cattle market have no objections. It was mentioned that there is a container on site at Hay School, and now that the building work is nearly done, it might become available so the Woodland Group don't have to buy one. The old school buildings are being knocked down now, and the swimming pool is closed while this work goes on - they were told they would have to close for seven weeks.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Council Meeting - Water, Bench, Floral Displays, Toilets and The Car Park

So this Monday I headed down to the Sports Pavilion, which turns out to be a pretty decent place to hold a meeting apart from the noisy heater (which was essential, because it was bitterly cold outside).
When I arrived, the Council was talking about the legal requirement to test the water in the public toilets and the sports pavilion (I think for Legionnaires Disease), and how Healthmatic, who run the toilets, had failed to do the test so far - so they won't be asked to do the sports pavilion. The Council are looking for someone who will do the tests.

And there's a new bench opposite the Cinema Bookshop! This one has a wooden seat and wrought iron ends. The Agincourt bench has been taken away to be spruced up a bit, and it will be sited on Hay Bridge, and the bench there will be moved (I didn't catch where it was going to). So the Council can finally get in touch with the lady who was driving the car that ran into the original bench, as she said she would pay for the damage. Gareth Ratcliffe has the brass plaque that was fixed to the original bench, in memory of Arnold Wesker, so that can now be put on the new bench.
The Council will now go ahead with getting a bench for Bell Bank, now they know how much it costs (installation was only £55) and how easy it is.

The EU auditor has been, looking into the records of the Two Towns One World project that the Council had to take over to bring to completion - and he's mostly happy, apart from querying the fact that rent was charged for the room that the project co-ordinator was using. There was paperwork spread all over the office, apparently, but they managed to find every detail that was needed!

There will be celebrations of Hay's independence again this year, around the 1st April, and the Council will be taking part. They will be awarding the Citizen of the Year Award - there have been several nominations already - and also doing at least one workshop on making hanging baskets in the Parish Hall, as part of Hay in Bloom. They're hoping to get donations of plants and other supplies for this, and they're hoping to encourage local businesses to take part and brighten up the shop fronts.
There was also talk of a planter to be put at one of the entrances to Hay, possibly in the shape of a pile of books.
They also wondered if there was any way of linking the floral displays with the World War One commemorations later in the year.

And negotiations with the County Council about the revenue from the car park are continuing. After the County Council said that they would not honour the agreement made with the previous Cabinet, by which Hay Council would receive a percentage of money from the car park to pay for the extra responsibilities they have taken on, such as the toilets, there seems to be a bit of a change of mind. A report will now be put before the new Cabinet, with all the correspondence that passed between Hay and the County Council for the original agreement, and Gareth, as county councillor for Hay, will be asking questions of the Cabinet on behalf of the town council.
This is also linked to all the asset transfers that are supposed to be going on, with the town council taking over responsibilities from the County Council, and the outcome of the negotiations has major implications for the working of the town council.
The main problem is the public toilets. 80,000 people a year use them, and if there were no public toilets, tourism to the town would decrease. The town council took over the running of the toilets, and took out a loan to pay for the refurbishment, on the understanding that they would be able to pay the loan back with the revenue from the car park. If the money is not forthcoming, the town council may not be able to afford to continue the contract with Healthmatic.
The councillors were sure that the County Council would argue that Hay was asking for too much, since there are also ongoing negotiations about the new cemetery and community centre provision, and that other towns in Powys would think that Hay was getting something they weren't.
But Hay is only trying to hang on to the assets they have - the town council isn't asking for anything extra.
There will be a meeting soon with Liam Fitzpatrick from the County Council, and the councillors will be making sure that they have definite figures on how much they need to run the services in Hay.
There's also the principle at stake that the County Council can't make an agreement and then refuse to honour it just because there's been an election.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Astronomy and Art, Welsh Myths and Legends

Cusop Church was packed for the talk, by Martin Griffiths. He's one of the astronomers behind Dark Skies Wales, former senior lecturer in Astronomy at the University of South Wales, and he was a founder member of the NASA Astrobiology Science Communication Team.
And here he was, in a small church near Hay.
The talk took us through 30,000 years of art associated with astronomy, starting with a cave painting from Lascaux of a bull. The reason this particular bull is associated with astronomy is that six dots were added to the picture just behind the bull's shoulder, exactly where the Pleiades is found - and six stars of that cluster are visible with the naked eye. So the bull is the constellation of Taurus, and here is proof that this group of stars has been known as the Bull from the beginning of human history.
There were lots of slides with the talk - but he was standing just a bit too far from the projector (propped up on a pile of hymn books on a table in the aisle) so he had to keep leaping forward and waving the remote around.
We moved through the Egyptian Book of the Dead (where the sky goddess Nut was supposed to swallow the planets as they disappeared, until they appeared again when they passed through her birth canal!), Greek myth - the Milky Way was supposed to be the breast milk of the goddess Hera, which spurted out when she was trying to feed baby Hercules - and the Welsh myth was the story of Ceridwen, the moon goddess, who wanted to make a potion to make her ugly son beautiful.
Unfortunately, the recipe said that the cauldron had to be stirred for a year, so she hired a boy, Gwion, to stir it for her and, right at the last minute, he knocked the cauldron over by mistake, tried to stop the last of the potion from pouring away, burned his hand so put it in his mouth - and drank the potion. Because it wasn't quite ready, it didn't make him beautiful, but it did allow him to change shape to attempt to escape the furious Ceridwen - until he changed himself into a grain of wheat, and Ceridwen became a hen, and ate him. Then Ceridwen became pregnant, and nine months later produced a baby boy named Taliesin, Shining Brow, who became one of the greatest Welsh bards.
Moving on to the Renaissance, Martin Griffiths talked about Galileo, and how he examined the moon through a telescope, and discovered the four moons of Jupiter - and even worked out the heights of the mountains on the moon from the lengths of the shadows they cast. And then he told a funny story about the first Welsh astronomers to use a telescope to look at the moon, which they borrowed from a friend in London - but they were not so artistically gifted as Galileo, so could only say that the surface of the moon looked like a tart the cook had made the week before, with some parts dark and some parts bright. When the London friend asked to see the tart, they replied they had eaten it....
He also showed a picture he took of a rather gorgeous church in Rome, where Galileo had been forced to repent of his views on astronomy by the Pope. And there was a picture of the Virgin Mary which a friend of Galileo had painted, using Galileo's drawings of the moon as the basis for the moon that Mary was standing on - up to date science right there in the church.
And there was Leonardo da Vinci's first drawing of the moon, on a scrap of paper which had also been used as a shopping list - written in backwards Italian, because Leonardo couldn't just write an ordinary shopping list!
There was Van Eyck's painting of the Crucifiction with the moon - but he got it all wrong! It should have been a full moon when Jesus was crucified.
The part of the talk on Renaissance art was fascinating - there were so many connections between the artists and other famous people - like the painting that was commissioned by Amerigo Vespucci's dad (who also sat for it), and the Vermeer picture called The Astronomer, where the sitter was the man who invented the microscope, van Leeuwenhoek, and it's even possible to see which book of astronomy is open on the table.
So books on astronomy became more widely available, and some of them were beautifully illustrated (though he did show one very strange picture of Orion, who is facing the wrong way).
And then there was the art that was used to popularise science in the 19th century, like the tea cards that used to be collected, including The Race Into Space from Brooke Bond, which I collected - and so did Martin Griffiths, though it had a bit more of an influence on his future career than it did on mine!
And coming up to date with modern artists' renditions of planets, including some beautiful (though not entirely accurate) pictures by Chesley Bonestell, as well as some more recent ones - there's a whole school of artists out there doing what they call descriptive realism - or Space Art - and he mentioned David Hardy as one of the artists.
It was a fascinating talk - and he also had copies of his book there, Dark Land, Dark Skies: The Mabinogion in the Night Sky. I didn't have a chance to buy one last night, as I was offered a lift home and had to leave when she did, but I've sent off for it now, from Seren Books. I hope it'll encourage me to get out there and look at the night sky a bit more!