Tuesday, 27 June 2017

New Cabinet

One of the last things that Paul Harris left outside for anyone to take away was a glass fronted cabinet, which I thought would look very nice in my front room.
Then I tried to lift it.
Fortunately, my neighbour The Welsh Girl was outside the front of her house potting geraniums to put up the steps to her shop over St John's Place. She sells ponchos made of Welsh tweed. She did have lavender, but in the heat wave it went all crispy.
She helped me into the house with the cabinet - and it does, indeed, look very nice in my front room.
I saw Paul this evening - the house is empty, everything is packed, and he's off to Spain early tomorrow morning.

Monday, 26 June 2017

The Doomed Bench

I was standing at the counter at the Cinema Bookshop when I heard the bang. It wasn't particularly loud, but when I looked up, I saw a car up on the pavement across the road, and another car stopped in the road. The drivers were getting out to talk to each other and inspect the damage.
Later, it became clear that the car on the pavement had driven right into the new bench next to the BT cabinets, and demolished it.
The new bench had only just been put in a week or so ago - to replace the one that BT took away and then put back, much lower than the original. There had been a length of concrete under each leg, which made the seat up to a reasonable height, and those pieces never made it back. There was a lot of correspondence between the Town Council and BT on the subject.
And finally, there was the new bench, with the brass plaque commemorating Arnold Wesker.... and now it's gone again.
Gareth Ratcliffe is looking for a replacement - I hope it lasts a bit longer than this one!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Valerie Singleton - National Treasure!

I had thought that I wouldn't be able to go to Llyswen to see Valerie Singleton, but then a friend said she wanted to go and offered me a lift.
We arrived a bit early, and popped into the Bridge End for a swift half. I don't think I've ever been in there before, though I've been past plenty of times. There was Butty Bach on the hand pump, and a pretty extensive menu chalked on the wall, and a few locals playing darts at the back.
The village hall is just a few yards along the main road (we moved the car from the pub car park), and they have a plaque on the wall saying that the hall got a grant from the EU for improvements.
She was in the area to stay with a friend, who was up on stage interviewing her - his name was James something, and he'd gone to Finland with her some years ago for some filming work, where he crashed a snow mobile into a snow drift. She also called out to a lady in the audience who runs the B&B where she's stayed on previous visits to the area.
I've met quite a few famous people over the years, and sold books to some of them - thanks to the Hay Festival, mostly - but this was something different. I grew up watching Blue Peter twice a week, like millions of other children, and I found myself in awe to be sitting only a few yards away from Valerie, who certainly doesn't look as if she's just celebrated her 80th birthday. She was very eloquent, and had some amusing stories to tell about her life. One of her first friends, for instance, at the convent school where they practiced archery along a long corridor, was the daughter of Odette, the World War Two spy, and another friend was the daughter of Mary Norton, who wrote the Borrowers. Then she went to RADA, along with several very famous people, including Albert Finney, who she rather fancied at the time.
Video clips interspersed through the evening included some of the adverts she was in before Blue Peter, including one where she's spring cleaning a house with Flash. She was taken on by the BBC as a continuity announcer, which stopped the advertising work, and then auditioned for Blue Peter, which at the time was a fifteen minute slot once a week, mostly about model trains. After a while, she was told she had to choose between Blue Peter and continuity announcing, and thought Blue Peter sounded more interesting. She had no idea what a phenomenon it was going to be - and then came Biddy Baxter, and they went twice weekly, and started the Blue Peter Appeals, and so on.
Another video clip was the famous one showing her walking a young lion and taking him into a corner shop.
Then she was chosen to go to Kenya with Princess Ann, to film around a school for street boys. Over the years she's done a lot of travelling and travel writing, starting with the Blue Peter Special Assignments. She talked about going to Hong Kong when the first fleet of Vietnamese boat people arrived in the harbour - and how she was given a script, but ended up describing the scene in her own words, only referring to the script occasionally. She said she never had any training as a journalist, but she was proud of that piece of work, and got quite a bit of praise for it when she got back to London.
When she left Blue Peter, she moved to Nationwide, and other news programmes like Tonight (another video clip showed her interviewing Bryan Ferry and David Bowie). She also worked on PM and The Money Programme, on radio.
The most recent video clip showed her as a guest (coming out of a time capsule) on the Graham Norton show, where she made something very rude with a serviette! She said she'd been shown how to do it on a cruise she'd been on, and it seemed just the thing for Graham Norton!
She's still doing a bit of TV work - she's been filming for one of those antique programmes, where you're given £300 and have to go out and buy something with an expert, and try to make more money when it goes to auction.
The last thing she did, though, was to attend John Noakes' funeral. She said that, over the years, they'd lost touch (partly because he lived in Majorca), though Peter Purves remained good friends with him, and gave a speech at the funeral which told her a lot about him that she'd never known, like what a good actor he had been.
To finish the evening Rev Charlesworth stood up to thank Valerie for such an entertaining evening - she said that she'd been described as an "icon", which she didn't really like, though someone had once described her as being like a listed building, which she liked better - and Rev Charlesworth said that she ought to be a National Treasure!
At the end of the evening, my friend brought out her Blue Peter Book of Teddy's Clothes, which she'd had since she was eight, and got Valerie to sign it for her, and we ended up having a nice chat about what the shops in Hay were like (and I spoke to Valerie Singleton, and managed to stay coherent, even though I felt that I'd regressed to being eight years old!)
It really was a fantastic evening, and the light supper they put on in the interval was really nice, with all sorts of tasty nibbles included in the ticket price. We were slightly surprised that there weren't more people there, but I don't think it was terribly well advertised. Some of us, certainly, were of exactly the right age to be complete fan-worshippers!

Saturday, 24 June 2017

The University of Cusop Dingle Talks About Self-Publishing

Self-published authors were invited to bring along their books to show. I have self-published several Young Adult Fantasies online, on a site called Smashwords, so there aren't any physical copies. I did think of taking my laptop along to show, but decided against it in the end. I haven't used it yet outside the house, and I'd rather practice getting onto a wifi system quietly first, rather than in front of a crowd of people! (I'm sure it's very easy - it's just that I haven't done it yet).
The first part of the evening was King Richard holding court, and talking about writing pamphlets exposing political corruption and the evils of the Welsh Tourist Board. Here's a sample from the flyer he passed round:

"Brexiting BREXIT the King of Hay knew that only in his 400 pamphlets could the truth be told, and that the University of Cusop Dingle, headed by an Oxford Don, could show how a 'Renaissance of the Book and Reformation of the Tourist Industry' was possible with a 1000 book-towns worldwide.
"Hay and Hay Festival clearly showed that the pseudo-democracy of enormous wealth, and the debasement of information for commercial self-interest, was the beginning of a fascist state and totally unsuitable for the 21st century where Global Warming made continents more important than countries."

Among the pamphlets he intends to write is "12 CORRUPT MAYORS OF HAY", starting in the 1960s with a Mr Like, and Dorothy Birch (who I think must have been the mother of Nigel Birch, long time Hay councillor who died fairly recently). Also proposed are: HOW A COMMUNITY ECONOMY CAN CREATE A MILLION JOBS, MUSIC IS THE GREATEST INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE, and SQUEAL, which will be about local corruption.

He finishes, in the flyer, by saying: "For a semi-senile 78 year old, writing pamphlets is the perfect occupation... he can change his mind, repeat himself, adapt to new information, and perhaps above all offer his opponents limitless space to refute his arguments...!"

Richard's sister was also there, in the 1812 Bar of the Swan (didn't it used to be called the Cygnet Bar?), and she is putting on art exhibitions in London, including one of art by Sidney Nolan.

And then it was time for the self-published authors to talk about their work. Chris the Bookbinder was there, with a paperback copy of The Green Book of Olwen Ellis (he used to read out passages from the book at open mic nights at Kilvert's, and later, the Globe - I don't know if he still does that). He also edits the occasional poetry magazine Quirk, copies of which are available from his shop.
Another chap (his name escapes me, I'm afraid) is a teacher in Hereford, but lives in Hay. He has written a utopian SF novel called Sweden, which begins in the distinctly dystopian period of Thatcher's Britain. He said that he'd seen the sort of books his teenage daughter was reading - things like The Hunger Games and other dystopias, and felt that there should be more fiction depicting a hopeful view of the future that we can aim towards. He went into it aware that a utopia for one person might be a dystopia for another, and that fictional utopias are often quite narrow views of possible futures, but hopes he has got round that in his version.
There was some discussion about the difficulties of promoting self-published work, and finding outlets which will sell self-published books, and how promoting self-publishing would fit with the second hand book economy of Hay, which was interesting, but it was difficult to come to any conclusions.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Something Missing at Kilverts

"What do you mean, there's no Bacardi?"
I was sitting outside Kilverts, still warm even as twilight fell (and the swifts were screaming overhead), and one of my friends had just discovered that the bar doesn't stock her favourite drink. I don't know what she ended up drinking (another friend went for vodka with Fentimans rose lemonade, so they do sell some spirits). As I always go for the real ale (Gold Beacons that evening) I hadn't noticed the lack of choice in spirits.
They don't sell Guinness either - Brian was sitting rather unhappily with a glass of Chocy-wocky, which is a bit of an acquired taste, and not much like Guinness at all. I ended up drinking that, and getting him some of the Gold Beacons (which is also not much like Guinness at all, being a pale beer).
What the Hay Tap does, it does very well - local ingredients for the food, local beers and ciders - but they do specialise. Where other pubs might want to offer the broadest range of drinks possible, Hay Tap at Kilverts have decided on their core range, and don't stray far beyond that.
So there's no Bacardi, and no Guinness - but the beer and cider they do stock are excellent (I have yet to try one of the pies there, but if they're anything like the ones at Brecon Tap, the first pub the brewery started, they will be delicious!).

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Last Post

I came to the cenotaph just as the Last Post began, and Gareth Ratcliffe dipped the British Legion banner. The British Legion have been commemorating Hay soldiers who died in the Great War, on the anniversaries of their deaths 100 years ago - I missed the name of the soldier being commemorated tonight.
The moment was somewhat spoiled by a grey car coming down Castle Street, which ran over a racing pigeon which was walking across the road. It died, of course, and not instantly. Rob Golesworthy cleared the body away when the ceremony was over.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Valerie Singleton

The Blue Peter legend is coming to Llyswen Village Hall to talk about her life (and she did much more than Blue Peter, of course) on 23rd June, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £12 to include a light supper, and there will be video clips of moments throughout her career. She's now 80, and she was one of the three presenters back when I started watching Blue Peter in the 1960s, along with John Noakes and Peter Purves. Actually, I just about remember her with Christopher Trace, the first main presenter. I also remember her voice on Radio 4 as a presenter.