Monday, 30 April 2018

Library Update

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

Sunday, 29 April 2018

A Splendid Day Out

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

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

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

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Library Move Postponed

I've just seen a sign up in the library window saying that the library will not be moving to the school just yet - I'll try to find out more.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Unicorns, Almost

I have to admit to having never heard of Keith Douglas before - Second World War poets are just not as celebrated as the poets of the First World War. He was a tank commander in the Western Desert, and died 3 days after the D-Day landings, at the age of 24. Although Ted Hughes considered his poetry to be a major influence, Keith Douglas's work has not become more widely known.
However, Owen Sheers (who also wrote Resistance, which was set in the Olchon Valley near to Hay) has now written a play about Keith Douglas, and it's going to be performed at The Swan, twice nightly (at 5pm and 8pm - the play runs for an hour), from 25th May to 7th June, over the Festival period.
They're transforming the hall at the back of the Swan now, making the space into a huge canvas tent (made at a mill in Bradford, according to their website at https//

The ticket price is quite expensive at first glance, at £20, but for that you also get an exhibition of items from the Keith Douglas archives in the half hour before the show, and music from the Blind Bookworms Jazz Band, a group of blind and partially sighted musicians supported by Hereford's Royal National College for the Blind and Ronnie Scott's Charitable Foundation (so they're probably a bit good, then - if you like jazz).
Each play goer will also receive a letterpress printed copy of one of Keith Douglas's poems.
There will be some discounted tickets available for schools, blind and visually impaired young people and some community groups.

This show really brings together some of the passions of Emma Balch, who is the producer of the play. She has links with the Hereford College for the Blind, and organises the Wayzgoose for small printers as well. Also during the run of the play there will be a free exhibition at 20 Castle Street about the life and poetry of Keith Douglas and the making of the play.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Moving the Library

A poster has gone up in the window of the Library. They are closing on 5th May, and will be re-opening in the new location at the school on Monday 14th May at 9am. I understand that they will be able to open for 19 hours a week, thanks to help from Hay Festival (there was a short article in the Hereford Times).

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
The pictures that go alongside the text are by pat Gregory, who is based in Cardiff. She also has a website, at
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
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 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.