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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Column, August 29, 2006

I'LL tell you one thing I absolutely hate.
And when I say hate, I mean despise with all my heart.
It's the one thing that causes an involuntary shudder of loathing whenever I hear it mentioned.
Horse racing.
I cannot stand it, and I hate everything associated with it.
What has brought on this strop with the world of the turf you might well ask. Well, sitting, no, being trapped, in the quiet coach of a train this week only to be joined by what might charitably be described a ‘punters in high spirits’, or more accurately a boozed-up horde.
The quiet coach, mind, quiet. Not the coach where you conduct your mobile phone calls at full volume while laughing raucously with your mates and drinking even more than you’ve obviously already imbibed.
Perhaps this hatred dates back to dull Saturday afternoons when BBC2 was showing the test card and so it was a choice between Mick McManus giving Mark 'Rollerball' Rocco a richly-deserved half-nelson, or racing from Kempton, Lingfield, Catterick or some other Godforsaken outpost of the racing empire on the other side, ad nauseam.
Or perhaps having worked in Chester I've seen how it brings out in those who are unwise enough to attend it, the worst traits in their personality, and then magnifies them.
Whatever it is, if some equine version of foot and mouth were to clear our racecourses forever more, I would drink to that happy, happy day in almost the same measure as those who imbibe with such gusto on what they annoyingly refer to as 'a day at the gee gees.'
Where to start, where to start.
First there are the men, some of whom are clearly not used to wearing a suit and who last pressed it into service around the time of their wedding, or court appearance, and who by the end of the day are much the worse for drink and have that hunted air of someone who has spent a lot on booze and even more on unsuccessful bets and who is now going to have to explain his demeanour and his bank balance to a disapproving spouse.
This state does not stop him from drinking even more as he makes his way home, thus rendering him belligerent, as well as broke. Not a happy combination at all.
Then there are the women. I would venture to use a cliché as cruel as mutton dressed as lamb, were it not for the injustice this does mutton.
They may have started the day looking sophisticated in their gauze creations topped by a feathered hat, but by the last race what elegance they had managed to muster has disappeared in an inebriated battle to stay aloft on heels that are probably a good two inches too high for them.
Put the two groups together and you have a rough approximation of what it must have been like to have Genghis Khan and his Mongol horde descending upon you, accompanied by the cackling camp followers.
And yet I'm sure that on any other day these people are quite respectable pillars of the community. They obviously have disposable income, because they are disposing of it with gay abandon, mostly on the basis of the fact they like the horse's name (more of those stupid names later).
These are the very people who, were a group of behooded teenagers to appear on their street corners, would be the first to summon the police to have the lot of them ASBOed lest the value of their houses be sullied by the presence of lumpen youth.
But if it's a choice between the behaviour of a hoodie, albeit sullen, and a boozed-up, boorish, racegoer, give me the Goth who wouldn't be seen dead, or should that be undead, with a copy of the Racing Post in his hand, any day of the week.
And then there are those silly little cardboard badges they give you for the races. Not a ticket, oh no, that's the sort of thing reserved for football matches.
No, if you're going to the races it has to be a badge and there are also gradations of badge available, according to which bits of the course you're allowed into, and if you've splashed out for an expensive badge then it will be big and gaudy and by God you're going to show it off by wearing it prominently displayed on your paunch. It's a sort of caste system of vulgarity, with those who aren't the pariahs in the cheap enclosure advertising the fact as openly as they can.
Of course, there is always one in any group going to the races who pretends to know more about the whole business than anyone else. He will arrive armed with a few tips, which he will divulge to a favoured few, who will then bet more than they should while describing it as a ‘little flutter.’
Then there are the bookies.
Occasionally you are invited to sympathise with these vultures when some 100-1 shot romps home (shot, romps home, give me strength, I've become infected with the language these people use as well – try 'wins')
“It's been a bad day for the bookies,” some chump newsreader will intone when informing us of the unlikely victory.
Oh really? Bad day eh?
Any of them gone out of business then?
No?
Any of them unable to put food on the table as a result of charitable odds they gave their loyal punters even though they knew it would cost them dear?
No?
Any of them not going to be back at the next race meeting because bookmaking, it's a mug's game that they only did for love, now they're going off to be a potter?
No?
Licensed pirates the lot of them, only pirates had the decency to fly the skull and cross bones to warn victims of their intent.
And as for those who actually own horses, well, I might be a little more convinced of their love of the beasts were they not so quick to administer the coup de grace when a horse suffers an injury which would not end its life, but does curtail its earning potential.
And the names they give them are only excused by the fact that horses are so stupid they have no real concept of what their name is so it doesn't matter what you call them anyway. Unless you've got a carrot in your hand, or a sugarlump, the only thing that stirs what little grey matter a horse possesses is a horse of the opposite sex.
Given a choice a horse would amble about a field and eat grass all day long. When coaxed, with a whip, they will run moderately fast for short distances, but not as fast as anything equipped with an internal combustion engine.
If they were invented now how would you convince an incredulous public to take them seriously? Horses – not as fast as a 50cc scooter and more expensive to run. I can't see them troubling the execs at Honda anytime soon, can you?
Naturally there will be those out there who say that I do not understand the 'sport of kings' and they are quite right, and nor do I want to.
Sport of Kings? It is the class system writ large and reeks of snobbery. From the exile of those who cannot afford to bet yet still do to the cheap seats, to the fawning over the so-called gentry by those who have managed to get themselves into an enclosure above their station.
And Royal Ascot. About as regal as a night out on Blackpool prom with ridiculous women in ridiculous hats posing for press photographers who, year-in, year-out, will turn out the same pictures of the same 'fillies' in the same daft hats, and worse, men trying to look like they belong in a top hat..
There, got that off my chest. Next week….Showjumping.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Column, August 22, 2006

THERE is something fitting about the English sending us their rubbish to be deposited in large holes left after they extracted whatever useful that once resided there.
They left us a legacy of large, worked-out quarries and so I suppose that, in a way, it’s thoughtful of them to come up with a handy way of filling them up.
The world is built with Welsh brick and roofed with Welsh slate, so there’s a kind of symmetry to them sending us something to put back into them. Just slightly sad that it wasn’t something a little more desirable than millions of tonnes of rubbish.
I’m not objecting to us taking it because it’s English rubbish mind you. I’d like to know the figures for how much rubbish is exported from Wales to English landfill sites before I sallied forth on my high horse.
I suspect though that, as a predominantly rural nation without the huge urban sprawls generating the vast mountains of rubbish that English cities do, we are a net importer of rubbish – with more coming in than ever goes out.
You also have to be ever so slightly careful about levelling such criticism against a neighbour as near as Liverpool.
The city was built by the Welsh. We even held eisteddfodau over the water in Birkenhead. So many of its present residents who are generating the rubbish to be dumped in Hafod Quarry, near Wrexham, are Welsh by parentage, if not by birthplace. At least they’re sending something to the old country.
As the nearest large city to North Wales it still provides a ready source of employment to many young people, so it’s a little difficult to object to disposing of rubbish from them that would have been coming our way anyway had they stayed.
So those fulminating against the idea of English rubbish sullying our pristine Welsh landfill sites ought, perhaps, to take a deep breath and – in the words of those Scousers who would foist their refuse upon us – calm down.
But what is objectionable is the fact that we seem to have no control over what rubbish is dumped in our back yard at all.
This is clear from the fact that rather than our Assembly dealing with this matter, as it should, it has taken the redoubtable Martyn Jones, who has had to ask for a meeting with Environment minister David Milliband to try to sort this out.
You’ll note that this a Westminster MP talking to a Westminster minister. Presumably this is one of those irritating things that remains the preserve of the London parliament and so despite the Assembly’s ability to talk, oh my how they can talk, this is not one of the things they can talk about.
Or rather, they might be able to talk about it, but there is precious little they can do about it. And there should be something they can do about it.
The UK as a whole has a scandalous record when it comes to recycling its rubbish, preferring instead to burn or bury it, resulting in massive landfill sites stroing up who knows what problems for the future, or incinerators belching out who knows what into the atmosphere.
One authority which set up a high-profile recycling scheme was even found to be shipping the supposedly recycled rubbish off to India for sorting violating all manner of international treaties governing what rubbish can be shipped where.
But it seems that if you want to ship your rubbish to Wales then come one, come all, plenty of room here. And if Liverpool can do it, then you wonder where else is eying up our redundant quarries in the hope they will provide a home for their unwanted waste.
I’VE written before about the joys of the correspondence that this column attracts. Some of it a real pleasure to read, and not just when people are agreeing with me.
But now an again you get the odd, the very odd, letter or e-mail that just rocks you back on your heels.
The latest comes from someone who believes he has something useful to add to the discussion about the Rhyl Cycling Club tragedy.
In his email ‘Mr Williams’ says: “To look at both sides of the coin I do not believe it was a wise decision by the Rhyl Club to organise an outing on such a frosty morning with icy roads. There are faults with both sides.”
In other words, we’re all fine to share the roads when the conditions are fine, but if it a bit nippy then the roads become the preserve of the people who have the only real right to be there – the motorist.
So that’s cyclists put in their place then, save your weird habit for when it’s sunny.
As I said, as more and more people take up cycling the nation is dividing into those who know what it’s like to ride a bike on public roads and those who don’t.
And I know which of those groups makes the better car drivers as a result.


NOT Entirely Surprising News – an Iraqi NCO being trained in Wales has decided that, on balance, he prefers the peace and quiet of Wales to the civil war of his home country.
He and an Iraqi interpreter on a night out in Cardiff at the end of their training course, failed to turn up for their passing out parade, after which they would be shipped back to the war zone that is their country.
So, the choice confronting them was a simple one – do your duty and go back to the war zone that is your home country. Or continue enjoying the welcome in the hillsides, or anywhere else you could evade detection for that matter.
Hmm, Brecon or Baghdad, Brecon or Baghdad – it’s a poser I’m sure you’ll agree. But on balance I think you and I would choose the place where there was less chance of meeting a grisly death by decapitation or power drill.
I’m sure their superiors back in Baghdad won’t see it this way, but at least his British training taught this NCO to use his initiative.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Column, August 15, 2006

TRUST is like money in the bank.
When you’ve got a lot of it – for instance, if you’re a new government, elected to replace a clapped-out, sleaze-encrusted, snouts-in-the-trough bunch of Tories – there might be a temptation to get a bit cocky.
You’re like a wide-boy bond trader in the City, flashing his cash and spend, spend, spending. Of course, governments don’t spend trust by buying a new Porsche, no, they go to the Bank of Trust, enter their PIN and take out enough to take us to war – two, three, or even four times.
And all the time the bank manager is watching your account diminish gradually. You might make a deposit now and again, throw the electorate the odd bone by fulfilling an election promise or too, albeit half-heartedly and not quite how you said you would do it.
But slowly, steadily, you sink into the red, and when you tell the public something, they give you that look that people gave Pinocchio when he started telling porkies.
And you have to say that this government has got form for being economical with the truth. How long have we been in Iraq now? And how many British soldiers have died there? And why did we go there? And just how many weapons of mass destruction have we found?
The answers to those posers, as you won’t get them from a fork-tongued government minister are as follows: Three years; 115; Who knows, but if you believe the official version it was because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction; none, zip, nada, not a sausage, a big fat zero on the WMD count.
So when you wake up to BBC Breakfast to find ‘Dr’ John Reid, home secretary, looking at you grim-faced and telling you that it was about to start raining planes but for the prompt action of our police and security services – your first reaction is to check the length of his nose.
And for a moment I thought it was bring your son to work day, when Dr John made his statement, but no, it was no fresh-faced schoolboy sitting next to him, it was little Dougie Alexander doing his best to look stern or it would be lines for him after school.
Then we had the ridiculous, gurning performance of John Prescott trying to look statesmanlike, and failing, when he said his piece later on. John was apparently ‘incandescent’ at the suggestion he had been sidelined in all of this.
It shows just how bankrupt this government are of our trust when I was rather hoping Blair would come back from his hols because I would rather have him in charge than a bunch of bickering schoolboys vying for position after his departure.
You see the Great British Public (© John Prescott when he’s belatedly sucking up to us having had his thunder stolen by so-called Cabinet colleagues) does not like being taken for a ride.
It will be very interesting to see, if an when this plot comes to trial, just how far advanced it was and whether the alleged plotters had anything with which they could bring down a plane. Or was it still in the realms of a theological discussion debated alongside just how many virgins awaited them in the hereafter (and while we’re at it, if the number of female virgins in Heaven outnumbered the men by 72 to 1, wouldn't the human race have died out somewhere in the Dark Ages? Just a thought…carry on)
As I travelled by train on the day of the police raids, the talk in the carriage was not of the arrests and the possibility that 10 planes may have been blown out of the sky, but whether this was another government ruse to scare the willies up the Great British Public (© Prezza).
And they don’t help their case when, not 24 hours later, their minions start briefing the media about how this proves we need ID cards and 90-day detention for terror suspects. They truly take us all for a bunch of mugs.
The problem this government has is that it has made a miscalculation about just how bellicose the British are. I disagree completely with these wet liberals who claim we are a peace-loving nation. History is littered with the corpses of people who underestimated just how much we liked scrapping.
And when I say we, I mean we, because the British Empire was won by sending large numbers of Welsh and Scots abroad to win it.
But we like to have a good reason for the aforesaid scrapping and most of all we like to win. Committing us to open-ended foul-ups like Iraq where our troops are Aunt Sallies for every insurgent who can lay his hand on a rocket-propelled-grenade is not good tactics.
Sending our troops in with rifles that don’t work, boots that melt, not enough armour and too few helicopters is, in a word, indefensible.
But worst of all is lying to us about why we were going there in the first place. Then, when a real threat emerges, possibly such as the one which happened last week, rather than trusting our government to serve our best interests, we wonder whether to believe them or not.


FOR a group that have a reputation as the hard men, and women, of the road, bikers are a touchy bunch. Suggest, as I did, that they don’t all meekly stick to the speed limit and instead overtake on blind bends as if North Wales was an extension of the Isle of Man TT and they’ll fill your e-mail inbox with their electronic whinging.
North Wales deputy chief constable Clive Wolfendale had the temerity to suggest on his North Wales Police weblog that a peaceful holiday in the Lakes had been somewhat marred by the high-pitched whine of motorbikes. An issue which he said the Lakes shared with Snowdonia.
The British Motorcycle Federation said that this was somehow against the rules, that he was using official police resources – the blog – to promote personal opinion.
So, instead of engaging in a debate about the merits or otherwise of motorcycle noise, the BMF’s attitude is simply to say Clive Wolfendale shouldn’t have said what he said, on a North Wales Police blog.
So they’re not even shooting the messenger, they’re shooting the means by which the messenger delivered the message. Like I said, they’re a rum bunch. Perhaps it’s the high-pitched whine of their engines – gets to you after a while.

Column, August 8, 2006

LIFE'S cheap when you're a cyclist.
In fact it's worth a few quid and six penalty points.
The relatives and friends of the four members of Rhyl Cycling Club have been dignified in their silence since the accident that killed their loved ones.
They allowed the judicial process to take its course and what a fine day for British justice it was when we find the driver charged with having three defective tyres.
What's more, three defective tyres that did not contribute to the accident. So that's it then? Four lives lost and the driver involved gets a fine and a few penalty points. And not enough penalty points mind you to take him off the road, for as his solicitor explained, he would suffer extreme hardship if he lost his licence.
The magistrates could only sentence him for what he was charged with, and so that's what they duly did. The statement released by the families afterwards was the modicum of reason and dignity we have come to expect, expressing their disappointment with the decision to go with such a low charge.
Like them I await the inquest into this case with great interest, because the way things are going it is yet another example of no-one being to blame when cyclists come of worst.
It may well be that this was a pure accident. I just find it strange that when motorists come into conflict, their insurance companies somehow manage to work out who it is that's to blame. But when a cyclist gets involved in an accident, they have to accept that accidents happen.
And accidents do happen to cyclists in ever greater numbers nowadays don't they? Accidents involving injury and death to cyclists is the one group of accidents that is growing and yet we see case after case where drivers are able to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the accident.
How many times has a lorry driver/motorist/bus driver elegantly excused themselves for any blame for wiping a cyclist off their bike in one easy manoeuvre by claiming “I didn't see him/her.”
Has anyone in court thought of saying to them: “Yes, and that's because YOU WEREN'T LOOKING PROPERLY WERE YOU?!” And whenever I write these columns bemoaning the fact that drivers claim they can't see something that is actually bigger than a pedestrian, the letter writers come out of their holes.
I was particularly amused by the recent correspondent who complained about cyclists 'riding two abreast.' Gasp, is that the sound of Western civilisation crumbling round our ears I hear? What, two-abreast, as is allowed in the Highway Code? The fiends, you should have run them off the road, and if you didn't, don't worry, odds are someone will soon anyway.
And it isn't long before someone complains about us riding on pavements as well. Look, the reason anyone rides on a pavement is because it's probably been made to dangerous to go on the road in that particular stretch by selectively blind car drivers who don't give us enough room to ride.
There have even been calls recently by particularly idiotic correspondents in national newspapers, for cyclists to have number plates on their bikes, just like cars.
Oh yes, that's the answer to the carnage on our roads isn't it? Never mind about the 3,000 plus deaths caused by drivers every year, let's crack down on the handful of cyclists who cut up journalists on national newspapers shall we? And while we're at it, could
I have good reason to write this as up until recently I had confined most of my cycling to mountain biking on bridleways and tracks far from traffic.
However, a few months ago I decided to do part of my daily commute by bike. As this involved a train journey too, I bought a handy folding bike which would stow away on the train. This is essential on most train journeys as most train companies seem incapable of getting their heads round the idea that someone might want to carry a bike on their journey and so there's never enough room on their trains unless you're bike is junior size with stabilisers, or a folding bike that you an hide so that the conductor doesn't look at you like you're a terrorist attempting to cripple the railway system by means of a solitary bicycle.
Anyway, as if cycling wasn't bad enough, now I'm guilty of riding a 'weird' bike, and you know what that means don't you? Even less leeway given by buses, lorries and cars, that's what. Well, it's a small bike, with small wheels, so I need a small clearance don't I?
Alton Towers could introduce it as a new white-knuckle ride – BikeCommuter – it wouldn't be so bad if you were taking your life in your own hands, but you're placing your life in the hands of drivers who seem to find endless new ways of taking their eyes off the road.
I was travelling in the other day and I saw a woman leaning over into the centre of the car, while using the rear view mirror, I kid you not, to brush her hair – at 60mph.
Of course, if she had wiped anyone out while coiffing herself at the national speed limit, I somehow doubt her defence solicitor at trial would have highlighted her grooming habits and that if she was going to kill someone, she may as well do it with her parting in the right place.
No, no, hers would be the usual excuse – I didn't see the cyclist/the other car/the pedestrian/the barn door before I hit it.
I'm sure the driver of the car that killed the Rhyl cyclists is haunted by what happened, although, not, it's fair to say, as haunted as those who are bereaved.
While one doesn't want to launch a witch hunt of one driver, it would be nice, just once in a while, if the prosecuting authorities contemplated throwing the book at a driver involved in cyclists' deaths, instead of letting them off with what looks like the lowest charge available.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Column, August 1, 2006

WELL, having served my time in the trenches of show reporting I have to say I feel a little cheated.
I’ve done my bit for British agriculture – interviewed show judges who swear they can tell one sheep from another; talked to rosy-cheeked men who actually know what suckler premium means and picked my way between the cowpats in a search for elusive winning breeders.
Back in the day I developed the thousand-yard stare as the editor cast about the office for someone to send out in the agricultural hinterlands.
“Banks, you’ve got a pair of wellies haven’t you? I’ve got just the job for you.” And off I’d go into the fields to dutifully file my reports from the showground.
Now, I’m not making any claims to have been a hot-shot reporter, but I believe that if any pole-dancing had been going on, I might just have twigged it was a bit of a story. And anyway, even if I didn’t, I was usually paired with a photographer about as libidinous as a goat on heat and if any stripping had been going on he would have been in there snapping away for posterity and the darkroom wall.
So, now my show days are long behind me, trust the Royal Welsh to stage a show more akin to Vegas than the Valleys.
And trust the Royal Welsh to respond in a manner as po-faced too.
Investigations have been launched, action is being considered and a mountain is being constructed where once resided a molehill.
Gentlemen of a nervous disposition may wish to look away now as I am about to talk about thongs, and not the sort of thong you find on sandals.
After a celebration to mark Enzo Sauro’s winning of a contract to supply beef to M&S a young lady performed a striptease, on a table.
It gets worse.
She was then hosed down with water, shock, horror, with water used to clean the cattle.
Security staff who rushed to the scene – well, yes, they would wouldn’t they, I dare say I might have managed a brisk trot if I’d got wind of what was happening – struggled to grab hold of her slippery body.
Her thong, of which she had divested herself during the impromptu striptease (although there doesn’t seem to have been much teasing about it) was returned to he on the end of a pitchfork.
Past chairman of the Welsh Black Cattle Society OG Thomas was incensed, saying it ‘lowers the standards of the Royal Welsh.’
Mr Sauro has denied any connection with the strip, saying that what the young lady does in her social hours is up to her.
Anyway, witnesses were upset, the ‘incident’ was reported and now the WBCS is writing to all its 1,000 members about it.
Hopefully the change in the weather will allow those so quick to complain to cool down a bit.
This young woman might have hit upon the very answer to Wales’s ailing farming industry.
All the time we hear tales of young people leaving farming and the countryside for better-paid jobs in cities.
You don’t get pole-dancing in cattle-sheds when you do an office job now do you?
And let’s not be sexist about this, I’m sure there are plenty of buffed-up farm hands out there who could have entertained the ladies atop a table should they have been so minded on that hot night at the Royal Welsh.
They already had record crowds at the show this year. Wait until news of the extra entertainment gets out and watch them flocking in.
Alright, they might be seedy little men in dirty raincoats, but hey, paying visitors are paying visitors. And perhaps they can take up the baton in the WI tent – after all, they’ve got form for stripping off haven’t they?
This is an idea that’s got legs…and arms…and, well, you get the picture.
Why can’t the sheepdog trials join in too? Every time the dog makes a mistake, the shepherd loses an item of clothing. That would make them take care with their whistling wouldn’t it?
The Royal Welsh Show – Now With Added Nudity – I think we’re onto a winner.

NOT five months ago I wrote about the national media’s obsession with weather and its inability to distinguish between a wintry spell and a natural disaster that was going to freeze us all in our beds
I predicted that as summer approached the reverse would be true and a few consecutive days of sun would see the ‘Phew, what a scorcher’ headlines dusted off and lo and behold that’s what we’ve got.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with reporting that it’s hot, or that we’ve broken a few records, as happened on Anglesey a couple of weeks ago.
But where it gets slightly silly is when papers portray one hot summer as proof of global warming.
One irony of global warming is that, in all likelihood, Wales and the UK will actually get colder, because the Gulf Stream that warms our shores will stop flowing.
And can we please come up with some better advice to those wishing to cool down than ‘Drink plenty of water. Sit in the shade’ Millions of years of evolution have made us do that instinctively and anyone who doesn’t ought perhaps to lose their place in the gene pool anyway.
Britain is a temperate country and the hot weather will be followed by relentless wind, rain and grey cloud as autumn sets in.
Buy some ice cream and enjoy the weather while it lasts.

LAST week’s column about the paedophile protests in Plas Madoc brought a stream of complaints from those who took part.
Let’s be clear about a few thing shall we?
The people of that area have a right to protest, as I have a right to criticise them.
But as I said to those who complained to me in person – to simple say ‘Paedos Out’ doesn’t really come up with an answer to the problem. Nor does it show the protesters in the best light either.
No-one wants paedophile living in their midst. But unless they are jailed for life – and we can have a whole other debate about how many of them that should happen to – they are always going to be let out into some community somewhere.
If we sited special hostels for them away from all civilisation, they would simply abscond and then where would we be? What we as a society do with this sort of offender is a complex question and placard-waving doesn’t really get us anywhere near an answer.

Column, July 25, 2006

WHAT I want to know is where they get their placards from?
Does B&Q have a special aisle, between plasterboard and coving, labelled ‘Paedo Protest Materials’, where you’ll find a ready supply of cheap 2by4 timber and plywood sheeting and marker pens, slogans for the daubing of?
The paedo protesters were out in force at the weekend. Well, what would you do on one of the hottest days of the year, lie in a darkened room with the fan blowing full pelt, or take to the streets to make your feelings known about the paedos? (You’re against them, just in case you’re wondering, no-one is in favour of paedos except judges, social workers, probation officers and wet liberals)
There they were in Plas Madoc, Wrexham, outside the Plas y Wern bail hostel, 50 protesters with their placards out.
One of them even read ‘No More Paedos’, as if someone was actually suggesting it as a policy – ‘You know Plas Madoc. It’s lacking that certain je ne sais quoi, I’ve got it, more paedos, that’s what it needs.’
Apparently the protesters were concerned about the bail hostel’s proximity to primary and secondary schools in the area.
Well, yes, if you place any building, in any reasonably urban area in the UK there are going to be primary and secondary schools nearby, because, you know what, a lot of people who live in towns have got kids and they need educating somewhere.
So, why not put the bail hostels up on the moors somewhere, where the only thing to excite the perverts is the occasional red-socked rambler?
I’m no expert in penal policy, but, I’m guessing that it’s because the assorted ne’er-do-wells, rogues and, never forgetting, peedyphiles, would up sticks and do a runner in an effort to get back to civilisation.
Some of them might get caught, some of them wouldn’t, and some of them might end up living in Plas Madoc, where no-one would know they were a paedophile and so they would be more able to offend again than if they are under the supervision of the probation service.
I appreciate that the residents of that area are not going to be happy that sex offenders are in their midst, and I write this as a father of two children. If someone wanted to open such a facility in my village I’d hardly be thrilled.
However, I’m capable of appreciating the logic that if they are going to be anywhere, it’s best that they are under some sort of supervision then not.
Unless of course you hold the view that all paedophiles should be locked up for the rest of their lives. Some, the most serious, are, but others aren’t. No-one with a reasonable knowledge of penal policy would suggest that we should do that and to do so would entail a prison-building programme on a scale last seen in Stalinist Russia.
And you know what happens then don’t you – protesters, placards, ‘No to the Prison in our back yard’.
So, we could just hang them all I suppose, and the, regrettably, Welsh mob who daubed paint on a paediatrician’s house, paediatrician, paedo, all the same aren’t they? – would no doubt approve of such a plan.
But if you hang paedophiles, then what do you do to murderers? Hang them as well…twice?
No, the last time I checked we did have ambitions of being a civilised society and while paedophiles commit utterly disgusting crimes, the law takes the view that there are more and less serious offences.
For example, those placed on the sex offenders register include predatory paedophiles who sexually abuse and kill a child, as well as a 16-year-old who has sex with a 15-year-old child. Both are offenders, but I’m sure most of us are capable of distinguishing between the two and seeing who poses the most risk to our children.
Those who are a serious danger to the community should remain incarcerated until they are no longer a danger. Those who pose less risk should be allowed out once they have done their time, but under strict supervision.
And this is where the Plas y Wern hostel comes in. The local MP, Martyn Jones, a man who has been in the job long enough not to be fobbed off by any civil servant, has received assurances that serious sex offenders are not being kept at the hostel.
I think it’s time the residents of Plas Madoc binned the placards and cooled down.


AS I sat down to write this my attention was momentarily diverted by two low-flying jets that passed so close over my house I could count the fillings in the pilots’ teeth.
I am working on convincing Banks junior that the RAF are nothing to fear, as their daily approach is usually greeted by his flying into my arms in alarm.
“The RAF are there to protect us,” I tell him, “So we should just wave to them.”
He’s slowly coming round to the idea. I’ve skated over the fact that the occasional F-15 is an American plane. He’s a bit young for “Well son, we’ve allowed ourselves to be a runway for a global superpower and it’s the price you pay for the Prime Minister being Bush’s poodle.”
Anyhow, I’m sure many of you have experienced a few flights out of RAF Valley, seemingly skimming the trees.
The MoD website makes it ridiculously easy to complain about such things, but before you reach for your keyboard, consider the example of Wing Commander ‘Grumpy’ Unwin, who departed of this world last month.
A hero of the Battle of Britain, whose courage earnt him the Distinguished Flying Medal…twice, and he was confirmed as shooting down 14 enemy aircraft, although he probably accounted for more.
Here was truly one of Winston Churchill’s few. In his later years he became the Permanent President of the Courts Martial and he said: “I presided over 300 courts martial, and not one chap was found guilty of low flying.” So, before you put pen to paper, or log on, to complain about the jet that has just momentarily disturbed your peace, remember Grumpy Unwin, and the men and women in our skies doing the same duty he performed so well.