Friday, 19 January 2018

My Recycling Bin Blew Away!

We've been having some very strong winds over the last couple of days (and lashing rain, etc.), but it didn't seem too bad when I put my recycling bin out. Nevertheless, it's disappeared.
This has happened before, and I've usually found it outside someone else's house a little further along the street - but not this time.
So I needed to contact Powys County Council to get a new one. To be honest, I was slightly dreading this, expecting it to be a complicated procedure, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It was easy to find the section of the website I needed, and straightforward to fill in the request form.
So now I'm just waiting for it to be delivered - but so far, it's a nice change to be praising Powys County Council for something!

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Botanical Beauty at Booths

Lizzie Harper, local botanical illustrator, is having an exhibition at Booths Bookshop at the end of the month. The exhibition begins on Tuesday 23rd January and runs until March 2nd. As well as botanical pictures, she also draws birds and butterflies and other wildlife.
She will also be holding a private viewing on Saturday 27th January from 6pm to 8pm.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

News from Hereford Hopvine

I went into Hereford today for a bit of shopping and, finding myself at the end of town near Sainsbury's and Aldi, I stopped for a rest at the Beer in Hand, with a refreshing half of Bristol Beer Factory's Independence.
While I was there I picked up the Christmas edition of the Hereford Hopvine, the local CAMRA magazine.

There was quite a bit in there of local interest.
For instance, there was an event at the Boat, Whitney-on-Wye, in early December to raise awareness about the campaign to have a statue put up in Hereford to the memory of Lance-Corporal Allan Lewis, who won the VC during the First World War.
Dawn Lewis will also be hosting a Bingo evening at the Baskerville Arms, Clyro, to raise money for the statue, on Thursday 22nd March.

The Beer in Hand, where I was drinking, changed hands in November, and is now owned by two cricket playing friends who have been regulars since the pub opened in 2013, Neil Box and Ben Owens. They have already had a live music event there, and are planning quiz nights and some additions to the regular pizza menu.

The Barrels in Hereford, at the end of St Owen Street, first home of the Wye Valley Brewery (which long ago outgrew the back yard of the pub), was voted Herefordshire Pub of the Year for 2017 - the sixth time it's been chosen! They also run a successful beer festival in August - last year was the 30th!

Meanwhile local Morris sides have been celebrating the turn of the year with wassailing and Mummers' Plays all across Herefordshire, including tonight, when Leominster Morris will be performing at the Hereford Archives and Records Centre at Rotherwas.
Foxwhelp Morris are also performing tonight, at Longtown.

And Beer Revolution in Hay are helping people to avoid drinking and driving by offering a 10% discount to any customers who came on the Hay Ho Sunday bus! All they need to do is produce the bus ticket.

Astronomy and Art, Welsh Myths and Legends

This sounds like exactly my cup of tea!

According to Sue Hodgetts, of the Cusop History Society:

"Friends of St Mary’s, Cusop present an evening with Martin Griffiths “Astronomy and Art, Welsh Myths and Legends” on Friday February 2nd 2018, 7.30pm at Cusop Church. Tickets £6 (students £4) from Sue & Keith 01497 822523, Celia Cundale 820396 or on the door.
Martin Griffiths, astronomer and science presenter with Dark Sky Wales, former senior lecturer in Astronomy at the University of South Wales, was a founder member of NASA's Astrobiology Science Communication team. He assisted the Brecon Beacon national parks successful campaign to gain International dark sky status and in 2014 became Director of the Brecon Beacon Observatory. He is the local representative for the BAA campaign for Dark Skies.
He is internationally renowned for making astronomy exciting and accessible and in this wonderfully illustrated talk he shows us astronomically interesting art and objects combined with Welsh literature that tells us something of our heritage of the night sky. His latest book is “Dark Land, Dark Skies” published by Seren Books."

Friday, 12 January 2018

Portraits by Billie Charity

When I went up into town to do my shopping today, two people stopped me to say they'd seen my picture in Shepherds! So I had to pop in to have a look. Billie Charity is very good at capturing interesting faces, so I'm quite pleased to be up there among them!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Welsh Heros at Hay History Society and Opera from Hay Music

Hay History Society are starting off the year with a speaker from the Royal Welsh Regimental Museum in Brecon. Ann Reese will be talking about the Welsh Heros project and reading from some of the diaries and letters they've seen.
The meeting is at Cusop Village Hall on Friday 19th January at 7.30pm.

Meanwhile Hay Music is offering the chance to go to Cardiff, behind the scenes at the Welsh National Opera, including a stage rehearsal of Tosca, followed by a meal at the Cote Brasserie in Cardiff Bay. The trip, for up to 6 people on Tuesday 6th February, is available to the highest bidder - bidding closes on 14th January at 11pm. All proceeds from the auction will go to supporting the Hay Chamber Music Festival at the end of April.
Bids can be sent to music@haymusic.org

Monday, 8 January 2018

New Exhibition in Shepherds

Shepherds Ice Cream Parlour often hosts art exhibitions, and the first one for the New Year will be of photographs by local photographer Billie Charity. She specialises in portraits.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

The Last Jedi in Hay

The Last Jedi is now showing at the Bookshop Cinema, and I went to the very first showing, at 1.30pm on Friday afternoon. There were only a few people in the cinema, so I was able to get my favourite seat near the screen. Although it was quite early in the day, I also treated myself to the traditional bottle of beer (Hooky - glorious stuff).... and then the familiar theme music rang out....
I loved it. Rey's training on the island with Luke (fish-nuns, porgs making Chewie feel guilty about eating his dinner!); Finn and Rose on Canto Bight (Rose is brilliant!); Leia being awesome; Luke being awesome; the fight in the throne room; Yoda; Maz Kanata.... it was all brilliant, fun, touching, spectacular, and it ended on a lovely hopeful note.
I'm not an obsessive Star Wars fan, but I have been watching the films since the very first one, and I came out of this one feeling very happy, and wondering what on earth the Resistance will do next.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Cusop History Society - Imagining the Divine

About half of us had brought a packed lunch, while the other members of the party went off to find a café. So those of us who stayed in the Museum had about half an hour to dash round the main exhibition halls. My eye was caught by the Greek and Roman statues - there's a lovely one of Diana to which the owner in around 1600 added a small dog.
And then I noticed the exhibition on Minoan Crete.
They have the throne from Knossos! I've seen pictures of that throne, with its distinctive curved back, for years (I studied Minoan Crete and Ancient Greece as part of my archaeology degree) - and there it was, almost close enough to touch! Next to it was one of the huge storage jars from the store rooms beneath the palace at Knossos, and the whole room was full of ceramics, with a portrait of Sir Arthur Evans on one side. In the background of the painting is a fresco of a young boy holding a long, narrow cup - and in the niche next to the picture, there is the same type of cup.
Further up the museum there's a large bronze figure, probably Zeus hurling a thunderbolt, though whatever he was about to throw has been lost - I recognised it immediately. It was all very exciting! Nearby was a display of gorgeously ornamented musical instruments - I think I walked straight past a Stradivarius!

At 2pm we gathered in the exhibition gift shop, and were led into the special exhibition Imagining the Divine, where Denise led us through a selection of important pieces (and some of her favourites) to explain the theme of the exhibition. It's about the way that different religions used art to show their beliefs, and how that art was influenced across different cultures and religions. For instance, the head of Jupiter in sculpture is a man with a flowing beard - which became the inspiration for Christian depictions of God the Father. Nearby is a statue of the Good Shepherd - not Jesus, but Apollo three hundred years before Jesus, with a ram slung across his shoulders.
Off in the Buddhist area, we found that the Buddha forbade any depictions of himself, and for 500 years there were no statues apart from things like his footprints, or the wheel symbol. Then Buddhists started to want to make statues - but what had the Buddha looked like? Nobody knew - but there were Jain statues of seated figures with curled hair and serene expressions that seemed to fit the bill, and that's what they adopted.
There was a picture of one of the giant sculptures of the Buddha in Afghanistan on the wall, and Denise told us that, when the Taliban blew up the figures, it was not quite the disaster it appeared. When the sculptures were made, they were intended to be seen by travellers coming up the pass (here's the importance of trade routes again), and the stone was augmented with plasterwork, and finally gilded so that the statues shone. After a thousand years of neglect, they were in pretty poor shape, and the explosions actually made it possible for archaeologists to study the way the statues had originally been put together.
Another really famous piece, in the exhibition, is the Chi Rho mosaic from Hinton St Mary - it's in many books about Roman Britain, and is supposed to be the first portrait of Christ in the British Isles - or is it? "Christ" means "the anointed one", and there was an emperor (I forget the name she gave) who used the Chi Rho symbol on his coinage, and also had a cleft chin like the portrait. So were the owners of the villa just showing their loyalty to the Emperor?
We also learned how to tell the end of each verse in the Koran (there's a circle surrounded by dots to look for) while looking at some of the most beautiful manuscripts - one was written on indigo paper, in gold.
The other religions covered in the exhibition were Judaism, and the depiction of Vishnu in Hinduism, again showing the cross-fertilisation of ideas from one religion and culture to another.
At the end of the exhibition we came to the British Isles - and I got ridiculously excited again over the slab with Pictish symbols carved on it, and the ogam incised on the edge of another slab from Wales.
I'm only scratching the surface here of the objects on display - it really was a fascinating afternoon - and the exhibition will be on until 18th February, and costs £10 to get in.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Cusop History Society goes to Oxford

What a brilliant day out! And many thanks to Sue for organising it, Nick for letting us all park in his drive, Celia for driving, and Denise for giving two brilliant presentations despite a terrible cold with croaky voice. I'd seen Denise to say hello to before, but I never realised what a depth of knowledge she has - nor known about her work at the Ashmolean Museum.
We set off in the dark, in separate cars, to arrive at Nick's house in Oxford just after 10am - he'd kindly offered his drive for everyone to park in.
From there we all walked down together to the Ashmolean Museum, past Lawrence of Arabia's house, which led to a lively discussion about camels and Brough Superior motorbikes (the type he was riding when he crashed and died).
Nearer the museum we passed the Eagle and Child pub - I wasn't sure, so looked it up later; this is the pub where Tolkein, CS Lewis and the Inklings used to drink! I knew the pub sign was the crest of a noble family - and found later that it was the Earls of Derby, one of whom, during the Civil War, had strong associations with Oxford.
And then we were at the Museum:


There we are, going in.

We had the use of a room on floor -1, passing a couple of gorgeous Greek statues on the way - one of Apollo pointing off to one side, and an Archaic Greek one of a young man, posed with one foot forward in imitation of Egyptian statues.
After leaving our coats we were led up to an upstairs room, where a selection of paintings and artefacts had been laid out to show us.
It was like the Radio 4 programme about the 100 objects from the British museum. For instance, at first glance the first object was a blue and white bowl, but Denise could tell us so much about the way the decoration told us about the fusion of Iranian and Chinese cultural ideas. This in turn demonstrated the trade routes between the two countries, and the way that the Iranians had started making blue and white pottery, been copied by the Chinese, who were able to make porcelain, and then that was copied by the Iranians, who developed their own type of pottery, fritware.
There was a tile showing two jolly chaps drinking together, intended to be a wall tile and which, linked with poetry of the period, indicated the acceptance of homosexual love in late 13th century Iran (and the figures were probably Mongols).
There was more evidence of cross-cultural connections in a page of a Koran in three languages, and a picture of a Dervish kneeling on his coat - and we were able to get right up to the objects, with magnifying glasses, to examine them.
Someone asked about the prohibition in Islam of drawing living things, so Denise explained that this was a misunderstanding - there is a tradition of figure painting running throughout Islamic art, as it is not prohibited by the Koran. However in the Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet show that Mohammed didn't like figurative art, as only Allah could create life. On questions like this, the Koran takes precedence over the Hadith every time, though there were periods of iconoclasm in Islamic history.
I think my favourite picture that we were shown was the one of the Dervish leaving a palace on his white mule, in a picture crammed with detail - two scholars reading on the roof, a man picking sticks up, three women spinning at the bottom of the picture. These pictures were painted by teams of artists, with many layers of paint giving a jewel-like effect on specially burnished paper.
Then, like the court painters, we moved on to India, and saw the way the styles changed.
And finally we got to European influence on the art, finishing with a life size picture of a crane, commissioned by Lady Mary Impey to send back to England to show the different animals, birds and plants of India (and painted on English paper).
It was all absolutely fascinating, and I got the impression that Denise could have talked for the whole session on each one of the objects and their significance.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

The End for The End

There's a note on the door of the little antique shop The End on Castle Street saying that they are now closed, and thanking customers for their support over the years. They say they will be renting the shop out in the spring.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Dark Skies over Llanthony Priory

Here's an interesting event for anyone who can get out to Llanthony Priory on Friday - astronomers from Dark Skies Wales will be there from 7pm with telescopes, talking about the constellations from both Greek and Celtic perspectives, and going on to investigate planets, galaxies and nebulae.
What a wonderful place to go star gazing!

Booking is essential, and tickets are available from Eventbrite at £11.35 each.