Six am departures again did not materialise. I could rationalise it by saying I like to wait for the morning sun to have dried off all the dew, but I would only be fooling myself and none of you. I got going about nine, but, incidentally, at least all of my stuff was dry!
I stopped for baked beans out of a can for breakfast about half an hour later and I was already going downhill. I chose not to go to Hay Bluff—which I imagine has fabulous views down onto Hay—because it was two steep declines rather than one more gradual one (with incredibly steep bits). Have I told you yet how much I dislike downhills. I am not a fan.
And sheep? What is it with sheep? Why do they call people who are scared chickens when sheep are the scaredest creatures on the planet? This is what I thought until on the way down today I actually game across a chicken who nearly had a coronary as I came past it. Lord. Pheasant is also a good contender—I think it is the word for someone who is scared and also runs away in a completely ridiculous fashion.
By the time I got to Hay I was starving. I had a burger. Sated, I started looking for B&B’s. It’s the most touristy place I have seen so far—that is I have seen the most tourists here. I tried a dozen places and then was finally found a room by a man with a dog who liked Wes. I was paranoid and unsettled because he had spoken to a guy who owned the place but who doesn’t usually take the leading role in its day-to-day business—that’s the wife—and that man in turn ‘couldn’t find the booking book, take room 3, it’ll be alright’. I kept expecting a knock on the door and the wife telling me she is awfully sorry, but … I left to look around town and hoped for the best. I really wanted to stay and felt I deserved to as the place was called Rest for the Tired/Tyred and I certainly was the former. It was also magical. The house was a crooked little Tudor place. I had had to duck more and more with each flight of steps I climbed. When I got to the door of my room there was a plate with a cake on it that said ‘Eat me’ in icing—it was the only way to get in through the tiny door. Absolutely brilliant.
I am a book lover. I have so many books on my ‘to read’ pile that I don’t actually think I can read them all before I die. But Hay was too much. How did it happen? Well, actually, I did find that out. A Booth, of Booth Books was a scholar and worked in a book store in London. On a visit home to Hay he noticed the old fire station was for sale. He decided to make it into a book store. His vision however on purchasing it was not to have a book store, but that the whole town would be a town of book stores and he made it happen. They are, incidentally, the Booths of Booths gin.
But I was overwhelmed. I went to the Honesty Bookshop, which is one the lower terrace of the Hay Castle and is basically a series of shelves around the terrace, exposed to all the elements, and selling for a pound for hardbacks, fifty pence for soft, put the money in an honesty box—I love that the English still do so much on the honesty box system. I also went into Booth’s Books which is in a beautiful store. Apparently the Booth’s sold it and an American woman owns it now—and is spending a small fortune on it. I didn’t go in, but I was attracted by the outside and the generally dark appearance of the Murder and Mayhem bookstore—it was cool.
Things were too open and busy for me. Being on the road is a solitary occupation and the presence of people and bustle after the aloneness of the Ridge was a little cloying. I had coffee on a lovely terrace in the middle of the street—you carried your tray away from the shop and across the road—and tried to sew sequins but it was windy and now there are sequins blowing through Hay, taking a little mirrored sunshine with them. This, on top of the busyness sent me back to the B&B for a couple of hours. I came out later when everything was closed and toured around town and took lots of photos. Love that ten pm sunset! There is so much day for doing stuff. Quick dinner and home to bed.
Good night to Hay, good night to you.