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

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

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!

Friday, 2 February 2018

Dogs in Shops

This sign was on the door of Flow, the clothes shop on Castle Street yesterday.