Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Column, December 27, 2005

IT is time we bit the bullet and accepted that the right to name children needs to be taken off some people.
Not everyone, just a minority. The minority for whom inspiration is mere flick of a TV remote control away.
They hit the first soap they find and then the cast list is their oyster.
This can only explain the abomination revealed in the latest statistics for baby names revealed by the Office of National Statistics for England and Wales.
The ONS results showed that the number of people choosing to inflict the name Aleesha on their children had risen by 298 per cent.
What could possibly be the reason for deciding that your child should have a name like a dyslexic take on Alicia?
Step forward ‘Eastenders’, where, reportedly, this is the name of a baby born to a character rejoicing in the title of ‘Demi’. Don’t ask me what part these characters play in the circle of hell that is this particular soap, as even a minute spent watching that dross is a minute of your life you’ll never get back.
I say that it is a minority of people who choose such utterly appalling name for their children because the ONS figures reveal that the top 10 names are far more sensible options.
Boys, in general, get good solid names like Jack, Joshua, Thomas, James, Oliver, Daniel, Samuel, William, Harry and Joseph.
The girls’ top ten is Jessica, Emily, Sophie, Olivia, Chloe, Ellie, Grace, Lucy, Charlotte and Katie.
Alright, there’s a bit of movement for fashion in there. David used to top the chart regularly, but now, inexplicably, has fallen from favour. A gross injustice.
In Wales there is not as much variation at the top as you might think, with the Biblical, but not especially Welsh-sounding Joshua topping the boys’ chart. However, Dylan and Rhys both make the top 10.
The girls’ chart, however, was topped by Megan, and Ffion made an appearance there at number 5.
But they’re all good names, spelt conventionally and which do not seem to owe their popularity to the fact they’ve been applied to some Z-list celebrity who’s famous for five minutes before being discovered snorting cocaine in the company of a gaggle of call-girls.
In fact, that’s a good guide for choosing your child’s name. Do not pick a name that you are likely to see splashed in 160-point bold across the front page of the News of the World. You won’t go far wrong.
But while the top 10 for girls and boys are fine names, it is in the nether regions of the ONS chart that you find the eccentricities.
Keira, as in Knightley, comes in an number 38. Scarlett, as in Johansson, makes an appearance as does Sienna, as in Miller.
As well as inspiring Aleesha, Eastenders is, apparently, the reason that Alfie, as in Moon, has suddenly gained in popularity, climbing to number 21.
You have to wonder whether the vicar at the font is tempted to turn down some of these bizarre choices. “What, you want to name your precious child after a cockney wide-boy on a TV soap played by Shane Richie? Get out an don’t darken my door again until you’ve picked something from the Old Testament.”
Before you accuse me of snobbery though as you hide your beloved Chardonnay’s eyes from this cruel column, this is not a class thing. For while Aleesha may certainly have been the choice of those with a lot to TV-watching time on their hands, you know the sort, more likely than most to appear on Trisha, the upper classes are just as capable of inflicting dreadful names on their offspring.
A swift perusal of the Daily Telegraph’s births marriages and deaths columns shows the lengths to which they will go in pursuit of originality. One poor mite this week was lumbered with the name Hanover, destined to spend the rest of her life saying no, not Hannah, Hanover, yes like the place in Germany, yes it is unusual isn’t it?
The sole consolation for the child is that at least she has safety in numbers, with siblings rejoicing in names such as Hadrian, Brittany, Blaec and Donnchadh.
But, it would seem, that one particular naming foible has died the death it so richly deserves, and that is the practice by some parents of naming their children after entire football teams.
My how their offspring must have laughed as they filled in yet another official form with the entire Liverpool European cup-winning side’s names.
There are a couple of reasons for this I think. Firstly the squad system means you no longer have to pick 11 names, but you’ve got 20 or 30 to get in. Secondly, the insidious rise of the football agent and big-money transfers has meant that by the time you get to the registrar, your beloved child’s name no longer plays for your favourite team, they’ve signed for Inter Milan for £50m.

IN the past I have written somewhat scathingly of those who adorn their houses with as many Christmas lights as their overloaded fuse boxes can cope with.
I have not looked kindly on those whose homes flash away like a festive Chernobyl, illuminating the entire neighbourhood with their comedy climbing Santas and their luminous reindeer.
Bah, humbug, said I.
That is until I took my son past them. Now two and a half, he’s old enough to reaslise what’s going on and to him matters of taste, scale and decorum are just daddy being dull.
The bigger, brighter, more luridly-coloured, the better he likes it.
Driving down one particular street was like being on Sunset Strip, and he loved it. Pointing out each and every lit-up home where neighbours had clearly been trying to outdo each other in wattage, flash-rate and garish colours. Who would have thought you could buy and illuminated Santa descending from a roof…by a parachute.
I felt like Scrooge as he looked upon the crutch left behind by the departed Tiny Tim.
The lights chez Banks may remain minimalist white, but I’ll try not to be so snooty about those of you who entertain the children of the neighbourhood with every colour of the rainbow and a few extra too. And with that resolution I’ll wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2006.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Column, December 20, 2005

WELL what have we learnt from Sue Barker’s rib-tickling gag about Charlotte Church and Gavin Henson – or Churchgate as I’m going to christen it.
Churchgate – d’you see what I did there? Oh well, save it up till the end and give it me big.
Well, firstly we’ve learnt that some people should not tell jokes. Sue Barker is one of those people.
It’s like your aunty the church organist trying to do it, it just doesn’t work, you want to make them stop, but they insist on blundering on embarrassing all around them especially themselves when they realise that the punchline is X-rated and they’re talking to the vicar.
Secondly it’s about our attitude to the BBC and it’s probably a hangover from the days when its presenters would tell us the news from the Empire in full evening dress while being slowly strangled by their dicky bow.
You just don’t expect Auntie Beeb to deliver a gag as crude as ‘keeping Henson out of Church.’ As double entendres go it’s about as subtle as being hit from behind by the Pontypool front row.
The beauty of the double entendre, when it is well-crafted, is that it is on the face of it, entirely innocent, and it is only slowly that its dirty alternative meaning dawns on the listener.
And the true beauty is that the listener has to have a slightly dirty mind to even get it, so they can hardly complain can they?
None of this was the case with Sue’s not-so-funny at the Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
Firstly, for it to work, Henson would have to have a reputation as a church-goer in the truly Biblical sense. Which he hasn’t. He’s a nice lad, but it can’t be said that he’s chapel through and through can it?
He might be God-fearing, but he’s better known for wearing gel on his hair thatn his faith on his sleeve.
So keeping him out of Church is less of a double entendre and more a single entendre isn’t it?
Sue Barker may as well have just said to coach Mike Ruddock: “So, if you can make sure Henson doesn’t have too much rumpy-pumpy with Charlotte, what do you think your chances are of another Grand Slam.”
So it was a poor joke, and badly delivered by someone who really ought not to deliver jokes.
And that should have been the end of it really. It’s not the end of the world, just a bad joke on what has become a bit of a big, baggy monster of a year-end programme.
But no, we have to have the guaranteed, wind-up, shocked reaction after someone like Sue cracks a joke so crude don’t we?
I’m surprised questions weren’t asked in Parliament such was the moral outrage expressed the next day.
Apparently, we are told, Henson, though he wasn’t there when Sue expressed an interest in his sexual exploits, sat ‘stony-faced’ through the rest of the ceremony.
Stony-faced eh? How could they tell?
He will always be my hero for that kick and for that tackle on Matthew Tait, but I don’t look to Gavin for the whole gamut of emotions writ large upon his features.
I think he tries to keep his face as still as possible for fear that any seismic furrowing of his brow when he smiles might bring the whole edifice of his hair-do tumbling about his ears.
But really, come on, he’s a rugby player for heaven’s sake.
Now I know rugby has cleaned up its act ever so slightly in the days since the Lions knocked lumps out of the Springboks for looking at them funny, but you’re not telling me that a rugby dressing room is not the home of banter so near to the knuckle it would make an Ark Royal stoker blush.
What’s more I’m willing to bet that if Gavin is ever the target of such banter he gives as good as he gets and a bit more.
Furthermore if the worst anyone ever hears in a rugby dressing room and a rugby pitch for that matter is a minor crudity about Charlotte Church then rugby is not the game I used to play and love.
I could recite rugby songs that would make your hair curl and recount behaviour that would have its participants serving lifelong ASBOs. But this being a family newspaper, were I to repeat them here it would probably make this column my last.
Now, I’m guessing that while Gavin himself may never have participated in such behaviour, he was aware of it going on around him and front row forwards are not known to deploy the sort of wit made famous by Oscar Wilde.
In fact when it comes to crudity, they’d be far more at home with Sue.

LITTLE did I know what a raw nerve I’d be touching when I suggested yet another supermarket was not the answer to North Wales’s problems.
Christine Price is the latest to set me straight and she writes:

“David,David,David what a short-sighted article in todays paper re Prestatyn.
On your own admission you do not live in the town- if you DID you would be on your knees praying for the arrival of Tesco.
How many peope in what is virtually a retirement town have the transport to travel out of town to shop,the physical ability to carry the shopping home on the bus or a decent enough pension to pay top prices.
Tesco would address all of these problems, not just for old codgers but for young families on limited incomes too.
We could actually shop at reasonable prices and either afford a taxi home or - glory be - have home delivery.
When was the last time you walked up Prestatyn High Street?
The bottom of the town looks like a scud missile has hit it,Ethel Austen have been forced to close their doors ( supposedly a temporary measure but I have serious doubts about that),shops all the way up have closed and are boarded up precious few true shops remain.
There are plenty of charity shops and multitudes of "visitors" gift shops but you can count on two hands the shops which locals use.
If (please God ) Tesco do come I and others will not abandon our butcher, fruit shop or chemist(the local one).
We will have CHOICE and hopefully be able to purchase it and get it to our homes with the minimum of effort.
I enjoy your column - especially the caustic comments - but please consider the whole community when writing on such an emotive subject,we are not all still working,we are not all in the best of health,we don`t all have cars.the low skill,low paid jobs ARE STILL JOBS FOR SOMEONE !"

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Column, December 13, or rather the lack of it

Yes, well, due a series of technical hitches too tiresome to go into here - even for a blog. I had to write my column on my wife's laptop - rather a natty little iBook - tangerine.

Anyhoo, I had to send it from her e-mail and here's the thing, I forgot to send a copy to myself. Quelle dommage.

So here's the abridged version.

Wrexham is as in love with the motor car as LA, so a survey of European cities has revealed.

It is the most motored up place in Europe for commuters.

That's because, I said, it has a public transport system that is a bag of bobbins.

Oh and I had a funny letter from a bloke called Charlie Roberts about panto. He remembers one in 1946 allegedly starring Issy Bonn (singer, comic, was one of the images on Sgt Pepper album apparently)

The panto, Sleeping Beauty, went on - no Issy, until ten minutes from the end, when the Good Fairy asked Beauty what she would wish for.

"I'd like to hear Issy Bonn sing 'The little Boy Santa Claus Forgot'" replied Beauty.

One comes Issy in full evening dress, belts out four numbers, and exits. Crowd loved it.

On reflection, Charlie's letter was the best bit of the column.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Column, December 6, 2005

HOW will suing Alder Hey get justice for Luke?
Luke’s life was cruelly short, the hand life dealt him meant he was never out of hospital and that’s where he died after just 10 months.
When Luke’s mother Ruth was battling in the courts for her son’s right to life, I wrote in support of her fight.
I thought it was wrong for doctors, who had developed the means to keep gravely ill children alive, to wash their hands of the decision not to use those skills.
By asking the courts what to do they were essentially passing the buck, making it the courts responsibility, not their own.
But now I’m afraid I don’t see any purpose in suing Alder Hey for what happened.
Ruth Winston-Jones says it is not about money, and I’m sure that is the case. No mother would ever argue that mere money could compensate for the loss of a child.
And anyway, the figures handed out by the courts for the loss of children – unlike those for, say, the loss of a wage-earning parent – are always so shockingly small as to be insulting to the memory of those who have been lost.
But I’m afraid that even though the family insist that it is justice for Luke, not money, that this is about, money is what it will become about.
Because to sue a hospital requires lawyers, and they need money. And once a hospital is sued it will need lawyers to defend itself, and they will need money too.
In the end you will have two sets of lawyers making money hand over fist from a case between two sides who want absolutely nothing to do with money.
And what if Mrs Winston-Jones wins, what then? Where will a compensation award come from? Presumably from health authority coffers or at least from their insurers.
Then what will happen? Their insurance premiums go up and there will be less money to spend on what they should be spending it on – children’s care.
Is that a fitting memorial for Luke?
This is not an argument that hospitals should never be sued, but I certainly don’t think they should be sued as often as they are.
All too frequently a hospital is hauled before the court because a grieving relative believes that to do so is the only way they will achieve some recognition for the errors that were made in their loved one’s treatment.
Money is the last thing on their mind, but, if they win, they succeed in taking money off the hospital. And of the errors in care were caused by underfunding then money is the last thing they can afford.
I know it’s not possible to make hospitals immune from prosecution, but if parents aren’t interested in money and yet the only way they have of seeking redress is to ask a court for money, surely it’s not beyond the wit of man to come up with a better way of acknowledging fault.
If all a family want is a public statement of responsibility and an apology, isn’t there a way of them getting that without employing horrendously expensive lawyers?
And the fact is that, if all a family wants is an apology, very often that is exactly what they don’t get, as out of court settlements usually bring civil actions to an end with no admission of responsibility.
But is this really a case of negligence? At his inquest Ruth said life-saving equipment was removed from his room moments before his death.
But, given the fact that the court had said the doctors had the right to refuse aggressive treatment of Luke if his condition worsened, does that amount to negligence?
The inquest decided not, Merseyside Police never brought any charges. I can understand a parent’s pain and desire to have someone answer for what happened, but is that someone the doctors, nurses and management of Alder Hey?
Is anyone responsible for the death of Luke other than whatever genetic fluke caused his condition – fate, chance, or God.
But then it’s easier to blame a hospital than to blame God I suppose.

SOMEONE out there shares my almost obsessive dislike of pantos, particularly those whose cast-list is made up of former soap stars and reality TV cast-offs.
Someone calling himself ‘Pantodame’ left me this message: “Anyone wanting an entertaining time on a cold, miserable Manchester evening must try the Palace Theatre's festive offering – 'Peter Pan' – featuring that excellent 'Eastenders' japester Steve McFadden paired with another comic giant, ex-Eastenders actress Sophie Lawrence!
“My wife and I are about to get our house repossessed but we won't mind putting ourselves further in debt for the potential hilarity that this union promises.”
My advice to you pantodame, and I’ll put it in charming Eastenders patois is to “Leeeve it, it’s not worf it.”

NICE work if you can get it – being a Gwynedd councillor that is.
Especially now that you can rely on the council tax payers of the county to pitch in with £30,000 to a special pension fund being set up for departing councilors.
It’s been defended by those who claim it will attract younger people into local politics.
I’m not entirely sure I want someone coming into local politics, which after all, should be about public service, on the basis if how well they can feather their nest.
After all they get very healthy allowances, plenty of foreign junkets and now they can expect a pension for the privilege as well.
And it does leave you with a bit of a dilemma at the ballot box too – if you can’t stand your councilor you might want to vote against him, but now by doing so you’re just putting a pension in his pocket.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Column, November 29, 2005

WINTER draws on (drum roll, cymbals, I thank you) and once again we are breathless with excitement as panto season is upon us.
Excuse me while I’m away to a darkened room with a bottle of whisky and a loaded revolver, I know what I have to do.
I know complaining about panto is akin to shooting Santa from his sleigh, or taking an axe to your Christmas tree, but it’s not all pantos I’m against, just modern panto.
I’m as keen as the next man on your traditional panto, who can complain about a thigh-slapping principal boy winning the heart of his true love. As long, that is, as the principal boy, is a girl.
That’s one of the problems with modern panto, they cast men in the role of principal boy, usually some outcast from a recently defunct boy band.
They can’t do this to panto, to have a boy kiss a girl in the final scene is against nature. In its traditional form it is the only moment in a panto that you can rely upon the dads in the audience paying any attention whatsoever.
But that’s not my main objection. My big problem with present-day panto is the tinkering with the plot and cast that the ‘writers’, for want of a better word, seem to feel they have a right to do.
Here are stories which can trace back their origins for centuries and now you get some jumped-up impresario who thinks he can improve on a plotline that has entertained millions.
They do this in a vain attempt to keep the adult audience engaged and in the foolish belief that it somehow makes panto ‘relevant’ to modern audiences.
And so my predictions for this year’s panto season are as follows:
· Some character somewhere will do a ‘yeah but, no, but’ line a la Vicky Pollard of Little Britain
· Another one will do a Ricky Gervais-style dance routine, thinking that it’s still current, and worse still, that it’s funny when someone other than Gervais does it
· Someone will use the line ‘Am I Bothered Though?’ to utter silence as the youth of the audience and the age of their parents leaves them blissfully unaware of Catherine Tate
· Were it not for the eagle-eyed lawyers protecting the Harry Potter brand he would be swooping on his broomstick into every panto in the land as all pretence of a traditional plot flew out of the window

Hilarious no?
If you are one of those writers slaving over a last draft of your script save yourself the time, stick to the original plot and characters.
But then for many of the writers, tinkering with the plot is unavoidable because of the cast they have to accommodate.
And this brings me to the other affliction of modern-day panto.
Local radio DJs.
What it is that makes them think a few minutes of inconsequential twitter every day between the pop pap they play gives them any stage presence I’m not entirely sure, but there they are, top of the bill every Christmas.
And there’s so many of them, panto writers are left with no option other than to invent characters with daft names like Razzmatazz, just so local DJ Zak Moron can slap on the greasepaint and puff a little more hot air into his already over-inflated ego.
I have a little experience of these characters and my theory is that somewhere back along the evolutionary tree, just after we came down from the trees, one particularly vain set of monkeys started fiddling with a record deck and stopped developing around about there.
But, Lord help us, at least local DJs have a day job and there are only so many hours a day they can take to the stage.
But they are not the worst thing to appear on the panto stage, oh no, not by a long chalk.
That title belongs firmly to former reality TV contestants.
How did that happen? A bunch of people who have excelled at revealing just how nasty, brutish and thick they really are, get to entertain our kids at Christmas.
You may as well stand outside Walton Prison and wait for the next inmate out and give him a pixie suit and invite him into your home.
The only consolation is that when these buffoons fail in a third-rate theatre, with half an audience, on a rainy January night, perhaps it might just penetrate their numb skulls as to just how talentless they really are.

WHY all the howls of indignation at the prospect of an all-Wales police force?
There are lots of reasons why you need local accountability of your police service – individual communities will have differing crime problems that they will want to raise with local commanders.
But who has suggested that an all-Wales force would change that? You will still have local divisions with senior officers who are answerable to the communities they police.
One senior officer I was talking to about this last week was all for the idea because he was a detective involved in cracking serious crime.
As far as he was concerned the regionalisation could not come soon enough.
He explained that while there are plenty of officers who can pound the beat, ther are fewer detectives who have the mental resources and the experience to deal with serious crime like murder, rape, armed robbery and drug dealing.
Big regional forces, he said, would have access to more of those specialised resources to deal with serious crimes.
As for the rest of the objections, all I can see so far is petty North-South rivalries. It’s also true that an all-Wales force might involve fewer committees overseeing the force and perhaps that might explain some of the squeals of protest.

IT wasn’t long before I was set right by a supermarket worker after I blamed them (supermarkets, not their workers) for society’s ills last week.
One, Miss CJ, wrote in saying: “I have been working in Tesco for just over a year and a half now, I started off in the cafe and now I’m a semi-skilled baker earning £6.15 per hour, time and a half on a Sunday, plus on a bank holiday I’d get time and time and a half, which to me is a good wage.
“Prior to Tesco I was working in hotels earning around £4.50 an hour, no extra pay for working Sundays, bank holidays and Christmas time.
“I look back now and think how did I survive? The North Wales coast is an area in which a lot of jobs do pay the minimum wage, but thanks to Tesco I can take home a decent wage each month and gain more experience.
“I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels the same and could I just remind you that Tesco actually pay the most wage out of the supermarkets.
“I hope they do get to build a store in Prestatyn as this would help a lot of people who are on the minimum wage to gain more experience and have a better wage.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hello Sweden

Someone from Sweden, using the Bostaden-net ISP, has spent a staggering 3 hours 14 minutes here, apparently after searching for 'Banksy' and 'napalm' on Google.

That's three hours 14 minutes of your life you'll never get back, so perhaps it's time to meander to pastures new. But thanks for improving my visit length stats.

Column, November 22, 2005

ON hearing of a battle between Somerfield and Tesco for dominance of a North Wales town you might see little to choose between the contestants.
“A plague on both their houses,” the Shakespearian scholars among you might be tempted to say, if it were not such an appalling analogy.
The Montagues and Capulets at least gave birth to the beautiful couple of Romeo and Juliet.
Tesco and Somerfield cannot lay claim to such beautiful connections, the closest they got to beauty is three for one on the cosmetics aisle.
Instead of Shakespeare we have to look to pantomime for a more apt comparison – two ugly sisters, and they are fighting to win the heart of Prestatyn’s shoppers.
Tesco wants to build a grand store there, Somerfield didn’t want them to and lost a legal battle to stop them.
But Tesco’s plans have been delayed because they need some land owned by Somerfield if they are to proceed.
The dispute is grinding on like a Jarndyce and Jarndyce of planning applications and now Tesco wants the start date to be put back to 2007.
If I were living in Prestatyn I’d be backing Tesco all the way – put it back to 2007, no better still, all the way back to 2012, in fact, why not never come here at all?
Can anyone say that their life has been infinitely improved by the arrival of a supermarket on their doorstep?
I’ll accept that they bring a slew of jobs with them when they arrive in town. Set against that is the fact that the majority are relatively low-paid, low-skilled jobs. And you also have to weigh against them the numbers of jobs lost from shops that have to tighten their belts or close in the face of overwhelming competition.
A truly depressing statistic that came out this year was that one pound in every three that is spent at a supermarket is spent at Tesco. This accounts for the fact that they posted profits of £2bn this year.
“Every little helps” they claim on the advert. How would they know, there’s nothing little about them.
And I know that Tesco, Somerfield and the rest will claim to save you money,. But do they really?
Of course they’ll sell you a tin of beans for less that you would pay at the local shop, but who goes to a supermarket for just a tin of beans. More to the point, who goes to a supermarket for just a tin of beans and manages to come out with just a tin of beans.
They’re not really saving you money if you go in for a tin of beans, but come out with a tin of beans, a pair of jeans and two CDs that you didn’t really need but couldn’t resist at the price they were charging.
And another thing, those loyalty cards they make so much of are a marketing scam. They keep a record of each and every thing you buy and then they target you with more and more offers. Offers that will all, of course, save you money. Except for the money you use to buy them that is.
You might not mind so much if supermarkets just sold groceries, but now they sell you everything from nappies to pension plans – and the Co-Op will even sort out your funeral.
They are a malign influence killing our high streets and convincing us that all our needs can be catered for under one roof.
I haven’t got time to get into their effect on the price of food. But consider how expensive lamb is in supermarkets and how little farmers get paid for it at market. Somewhere in between someone is making a mint out of lamb, and sorry for the unpardonable pun.
Everyone supplying them has to dance to their tune whether it is farmers growing veg in Kenya, or raising sheep in Wales, if their product isn’t up to supermarket standard then they’re scuppered.
They are also a malign influence on the way we shop. Shopping was once a sociable experience, where a relationship was struck up between the shopper and the butcher, baker, fishmonger.
Supermarket shopping is a solitary almost hostile affair to be endured rather than enjoyed. A Saturday morning ordeal spent marching up and down soulless aisles which sell the same no matter which store you are in.
They recruit their celebrities to charm us in whether it’s Jamie Oliver, Prunella Scales or, God help us, Sharon Osbourne. I’m sorry, but just how demented do you have to be to decide where you’ll do your weekly shop on the basis of a recommendation from Ozzy’s missus?
Prestatyn’s economic well-being is depended on the arrival of Tesco, according to the town council. And that is the saddest comment of the lot, that the future of yet another Welsh community is dependent on it becoming yet another town, with yet another Tesco.

“JP” writes in with a few remarks about my column last week, in which I bemoaned plans to extend the national curriculum to newborn children and the headlong rush to shove them into nursery so parents could get back to work.

“My last job was working for the NHS and they had a scheme called Career Break, the employee could take a break for anything from six months to - it was either 5 or 10 years. Of course this would be without pay but the employee would be guaranteed a similar job when they decided to return to work. Out of approximately seven women with children only one took up the option.
“If you ask any woman working whether they would rather be at home looking after the children, the answer might be "yes" but if they are perfectly honest the answer would be "no". It's hard work being a housewife and mother and you can get very bored. A lot of the modern generation are aware of this and hand over the reins to the Grandparents. We haven't got Grandchildren at the moment but I would not want the responsibility of looking after a young child five days a week. Been there done that!
“The opportunities for women in the work place are manifold and quite rightly too. And in my own experience older women in the workplace are valued far more than in the past. That has got to be an improvement even if along the way hard decisions must be taken, it was ever thus.”

INSTEAD of entertaining knee-jerk calls for the return of the death penalty after the murder of PC Sharon Beshenivsky we should note the fact that we are still shocked by such events.
The killing of a police officer is still one of those crimes that causes us all to pause and mark the sacrifice that they make as an unarmed service.
We are still, predominantly, a peaceful people and the reintroduction of the death penalty brings back a barbarity that we did well to consign to history.
To start executing murderers again, no matter how judicially sanctioned, brings us one step closer to the level of those who killed PC Beshenivsky.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Column, November 15, 2005

“IT is a wise child that knows its own father, and an unusual one that unreservedly approves of him,” according to Mark Twain.
Precious little chance of approval nowadays, when it would seem we spend most of our time disapproving of anyone under the age of 20.
Society’s ills can be laid at the door of anyone who has not yet had a hand in shaping that society. As long as they are young, they can bear the blame.
Unsurprisingly then, Wales’ children’s commissioner, Peter Clarke, has said that the nation’s youth are a bit cheesed off at being blamed for everything.
UK politicians, Mr Clarke said, should be ashamed of the way they have conducted the anti-social behaviour debate, which has marginalized young people and made them feel they are a problem.
Young people, he said, felt they were not respected by the adult community. And quite right too, the day you’re respected by your elders is that day any teenage coolness evaporates in a puff of cheap aftershave and breath mints. If I were a teenager again, respect if not what I’d be looking for, bewilderment tinged with fear is the effect I’d be after, it’s much more rock’n’roll.
But is it entirely surprising that adults have so little respect for their juniors when they hardly know them at all.
We are reaping the results of a decision by successive governments that when it comes to bringing up children the state knows best.
Mum and Dad can, no, not can, must. Go back to work, slinging their newborns into whatever childcare they can find or afford.
Some of that childcare is, I’m sure, very, very good, where children are given lots of stimulation and learn to play with their little friends.
Some of it will be indifferent and some of it will be very bad. Unfortunately, you put children in these places when they are too young to tell you what a miserable time they are having. Then parents wonder, after such an atrocious start in life, why their children grow up with problems.
In these days when everyone has a right to a career come hell of high water it is rather unfashionable to point out that the best person to look after a child is that child’s parent. Furthermore, the latest research into the subject suggests that the best parent to look after a child is its mother.
Now, before you unsheathe your pens, I know, I know, I know there will be plenty of men out there who are just as nurturing as their female partners, but the research shows that as a whole, a baby responds better in its very early years to its mother.
That might be unfair, misogynistic, chauvinistic, or just plain offensive. Hard luck, it’s nature. You can tell me all you like how much a six-month-old loves being left in a nursery full of strangers – if it could talk it would tell you you can stick your nursery where you put the dirty nappies, hand me back to mum.
We are told that it is our choice whether we go back to work or stay home to look after our kids, but how many families can afford that? And how many men or women relish the ‘choice’ of going back to a battery farm call centre job just to make ends meet when they would rather be at home with their kids?
The fact that children thrive in the care of their parents is no great secret, studies have shown this time and time again, as has, well, evolution. Our primate forebears did not manage to descend from the trees by abandoning their offspring to the nearest ape.
So what does government do with this knowledge? Encourage both parents back into full time work by providing them with a range of childcare ‘options’, that’s what. Because they want as many of us in work as possible, all paying tax, a tiny bit of which they’ll hand back in the form of child care options.
The problem is that once you create a market for childcare options you find some are very good and some are awful.
And you can’t really blame the parents when you have made it economically impossible for one of them to stay at home and look after the children can you?
So that’s why, last week, we had the farce of a Labour government extending the national curriculum to 0-3 year olds. They are just trying to get a grip of the mess they’ve created in the first place.
They literally want a say in how your child develops from the moment its head crowns.
You do have to wonder whether there is any aspect of our lives that they do not feel at ease tinkering with? What happened to children just playing?
The age of three should be a time of untrammelled joy, not a time to be weighed in the balance by the government inspector.
Why they’ve stopped there I don’t know. Earlier and earlier is obviously the way forward, not back, and can it be very long before the Home Secretary announces the first in utero asbo for an unborn baby they know is going to be trouble?
I am hoping that Wales’ education minister Jane Davidson will treat this piece of Westminster tripe with the contempt it deserves and refuse to foist it upon the children of Wales.
I have to say though the noises she is making are not promising. Launching ‘Flying Start’ recently she enthused about free, ‘high-quality’ childcare for two-year-olds.
“International evidence has shown that supporting our children when they are very young gives them a better start in life and helps their development in the longer term.”
Quite what ‘support’ means I’m not sure, but I’m willing to bet it’s not support for a parent to stay at home.
And then after a lifetime in childcare and school, we wonder why the teenage rebel scaring the wits out of us is such a stranger. We used to scoff at the upper classes who dispatched their children to boarding school at the earliest age, and look at us now, we’re all at it.
But if you’ve endured one more surly episode from a truculent teenager and despair of ever understanding them, remember what else Mark Twain had to say on the matter: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Column, November 8, 2005

WHATEVER happened to Guy Fawkes?
Well, I know what happened to him, he was hung, drawn and quartered, a fate that would make gently roasting on a bonfire seem like a breeze. What I mean is whatever happened to guys?
Has the march of political correctness finally stormed the bastions of our national Catholic-baiting festival?
It’s just that I haven’t seen many of them recently. Time was that every year you could trot along to your local municipal display to see the original fall-guy burnt in effigy.
Happy that we had once again commemorated the knavish, Papist plot to blow up Parliament you could toddle home.
But suddenly it’s no longer Guy Fawkes’ Night is it. Now it’s just Bonfire Night and that’s all you get, a big bonfire, nothing else.
No overstuffed effigy sitting atop the motley collection of flotsam and jetsam whose head inevitable falls off when the first flames lick around his toes to the oohs and aahs of the crowd.
You can perhaps just about understand why your local council display has decided that burning a guy is as inflammatory as making the Satanic Verses compulsory reading in primary schools. So perhaps you can be charitable and forgive them their abandonment of tradition.
But now everyone’s at it. There were kids going round asking for a ‘penny for the guy’ last week – with no guy. Why not abandon all pretence of history and just say: “Give me money for fireworks.”
Even the village bonfire has abandoned its guy and was just a bonfire this year, not the recreation of the immolation of the nation’s most hated traitor.
But why? Everyone knows it was a set-up, Guy was just a patsy and it was orchestrated to foment anti-Catholic feeling.
If we burn a guy nowadays we’re doing it ironically aren’t we and no, we don’t really hate all Catholics and everything they stand for do we?
But I blame this abandonment of tradition for the two-month long expenditure of ordnance that follows what used to be Guy Fawkes’ Night.
There was a time when November 5th would be preceded by the occasional banger and then the whole lot would be expended in one glorious night filled with the smell of gunpowder.
After that Rover and Tiddles could be let out safe in the knowledge that high explosives would not illuminate the skies for another year.
Not now. Oh no. November 5th is just the first salvo in a display of rocketry that lasts until New Year’s Eve.
Either they are making more gunpowder nowadays or people have more money to send up in a puff of smoke because every evening is punctuated by explosions that would raise a few eyebrows in downtown Baghdad.
And while we’re about it can we have a word about people’s aim when they’re setting the damn things off?
There was a point on Saturday when the village bonfire resembled the closing scenes of Apocalypse Now. Banks Junior was fortunately too young to know the danger he was in as the incandescent phosphorus fell around us.
“Ears daddy, ears,” he said, complaining that my hands which had been hitherto protecting his delicate eardrums from the sound of the explosions, were now occupied carrying him out of No Man’s Land and to what we hoped would be a place of safety.
Can we return to the days when Bonfire Night meant just that – one night? Set off your fireworks now or keep them until next year. If you let off as much as a banger on November 6 you get locked up.
And if we’re not going to have a guy on the top of our bonfires can we at least have some acknowledgement of the historical significance of the day?
What about burning the Houses of Parliament in effigy? A neat reminder to its present occupants of what might have been.

IT is often said that barristers do not ask a question in court that they don’t already know the answer to.
The theory being they like to know where the questioning is going.
Perhaps AMs would do well to take a leaf from their book.
Conservative Mark Isherwood has asked for an independent review of AMs’ workload after remarks made by Peter Hain.
Be careful what you wish for Mr Isherwood, you just might get it.
As a soft-handed journalist I’ll cast no aspersions about workload, but voters might think that an AM’s workload compares very favourably to their own.
And come to think of it – you asked for the job and all you need to do is ask the voters to sack you if you don’t like it.

I’VE figured out why we lost to the All Blacks.
Too much singing.
Not in the game that is, you can never have enough while the match is on to raise the spirits and so on, and boy did they need raising on Saturday.
But all this singing at the start.
First you get the New Zealand national anthem, which is fair enough, then the Haka, which, again is part of the grand occasion.
I do think it’s got a bit testosterone-driven though. If you see archive footage of its origins it was no more threatening than a bout of pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.
But I digress.
Then we get Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and there can be no more rousing sound than the massed choirs of the Wales fans singing that.
But then, instead of getting on with it when everyone is fired up, we have yet another song. Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer, led from the stands.
Just get on with it.
The great beauty of ‘Bread of Heaven’ as a rugby anthem is, like You’ll Never Walk Alone at the Kop, the way you just catch the first hints of the melody spontaneously starting in the crowd. Usually it’s when Wales are at their lowest ebb and need all the encouragement they can get.
Then gradually the rest of the crowd pick up the theme until it is being roared around the ground. Now that is inspiring.
They shot their bolt on Saturday before the match had even kicked off.
The next Six Nations looms, next time we should keep our powder dry until we need our best songs.

Banksy and Graffiti

Apologies to those of you who have arrived at this site expecting to find the graffiti artist who also goes by the name of Banksy.

I'm not him.

The little counter thingy in the bottom right tells me what people have searched for to get here and lots of them appear to be trying to find him, but instead they pitch up at the site of an intemperate, middle-aged Welsh hack.

The latest viewers looking for my namesake arrived here from the Kent Institute of Art and Design. I'm guessing that Welsh blather was not what they were looking for, which might explain the 0 seconds they spent here.

Anyway, I'm sorry, but I'm older than him, and Banksy was my nickname first, so the site's name stays.

Oh, and I thought his stuff on the wall in Israel was very good.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Column, November 1, 2005

IT is a good job that we have someone as hard-faced as Dr John Reid as defence secretary.
Only he could claim high employment was the real reason that army recruitment was at an all-time low and that the ongoing scandal of Deepcut barracks and a highly unpopular and vicious war in Iraq were mere sideshows.
Still, at least he couldn’t keep his face that straight and had to admit that the deaths of four young recruits, including Cheryl James, of Llangollen might have something to do with the fact that the infantry is now 1,859 men under strength and the Territorial Army was 6,000 below target and at its lowest point since it was founded in 1907.
Dr Reid may well have the figures at his fingertips, but I’m guessing that between 1907 and now there were other times of high employment, and yet it is now that the forces are struggling so badly.
And is it that much of a surprise? No-one joins the Army thinking they might not have to get involved in a fight. The British Army has not stood by idle when there is fighting to be done and has thrown itself, with the exception of Suez, pretty successfully into everything that has been asked of it since the Second World War.
Even in retreat the British Army has covered itself in glory, witness the renaming of an unknown hill in Korea after the ‘Glorious’ Gloucester Regiment who withstood the might of the Chinese Army, fighting to the last bullet an when the bullets had run out making do with fists.
Whether it is putting a stop to the brutality of drug-crazed militias in Sierra Leone or winning back the Falklands from a murderous military dictatorship, there has been nothing beyond the capabilities of our armed forces.
Which is why Deepcut should have been taken more seriously from the very beginning.
It is a stain on the good name of the British Army. Something was rotten at the heart of that establishment. Something that should have been cut out with the efficiency for which the army is so famous.
It was not and now it has become a festering wound. A blot on the roll of honour otherwise occupied by men and women who have given their lives for this country.
But let’s not pretend that the Army is a bed of roses, it’s a tough life. The men and women who join need to train hard so that when they go into battle they are as well prepared as they can possibly be. They need to be able to look after themselves, their mates and what’s more they need to get the job done.
It’s the Army’s job to train them up to do just that. That is going to involve a regime which toughens them up, gets them used to physical and mental exertion and yes, sometimes, discomfort and pain.
Some people can cope with the demands of being a soldier, some cannot. It is the Army’s job to find those who can and make them into good soldiers. It is also the Army’s job to find those who cannot cope and train them so they can, or else come to a parting of the ways in an honourable manner.
It is not the Army’s job to bully people who are barely more than children.
Next week we will mark Remembrance Day and the Remembrance Sunday when we pay our respects to those who gave their lives so that we would be free.
Do you think that they died on some foreign field so that 60 years later some bully boys in training barracks could drive young recruits to such a point of despair that they took their own lives?
Do you think that they would think their memory is being well-served by the Army in which they served?
I think they would be ashamed.
And I wonder whether they would allow their children or grandchildren to enlist in an Army that, at Deepcut, seems to have forgotten the traditions and values it has defended for so long.
I think they would tell them to do anything other that join an Army that had sullied its name.
Unless and until the Government ends the scandal of Deepcut Barracks by having an independent public inquiry then Dr John Reid does not deserve one single recruit more.

THE thing with brainstorming sessions is that their success, or otherwise, rather depends on the brains that are being stormed.
If the storms are not illuminated by flashes of lightning brilliance, and instead you get a lot of drizzle and murk, then its unlikely that such sessions will produced anything of any value.
No great surprise then that the product of the government’s latest brainstorming is to tackle the all-pervading evil that is alcohol on trains.
Something must be done, they say, after a meeting chaired by Tony Blair, which came up with 40 bright (as in cheap, 40-watt bulb) ideas to tackle anti-social behaviour.
Now, as someone who travels by rail every day, I have to say that the worst drink-related incident I have seen so far was four squaddies burping their way to the town that was home of their barracks. The language was a little fruity too, but otherwise we managed to survive the journey.
Once again a government that has run out of ideas comes up with something that penalises the many for the offences of a very, very few.
This is an example of a brainstorming session that has just got out of hand. They’re tackling a problem that simply doesn’t exist.
And they also fail to see the fairly obvious irony in banning drinking on trains while creating a Wild West free-for-all on the high street.
So you can drink 24 hours a day in a pub, but you can’t get a beer or a glass of wine on a train.
Makes a lot of sense doesn’t it? No. Welcome to government by New Labour. It’s back-of-a-fag-packet policy-making, or it would be if they hadn’t banned smoking.
They’re quite happy to see teenagers tanked up on alco-pops making our city centres a no-go area, but they want the railways to be a temperance zone, take the pledge as you buy your cheap day-return.
Because, of course, no-one intent on getting tanked up will think of doing so in the plethora of bars that have sprung up on every major station concourse in the country will they?
And just how are they going to police this anyway – search your bags and sniff every drink container on the way onto the train?
I don’t know what is more depressing about all of this – that there seems to be no-one in a once great party who has the courage to stand up to the intellectual pygmies in command, or that the Tories in the face of such idiocy still have not managed to put together a credible opposition.

Monday, October 31, 2005

What movie are you?

There are a multitude of these things out there and I don't normally blog them, but as I turned out to be one of my favourite films I thought I'd include this.

Strangely enough, I do love the smell of napalm.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Column, October 25, 2005

IT is rather apt that the latest threat that the sky is about to fall in should have a chicken as its source.
All over the country normally healthy people have been struck down by a terrible condition. The symptoms are obvious, the brain to cease functioning at a normal level and sufferers begin to flap.
Far more virulent than any bird flu, Chicken Licken Syndrome has entered the country and spread like wildfire causing journalists and health ‘experts’ alike to run around like…..well, headless chickens.
Avian flu has arrived in the UK and you would think it had already filled the hospital wards and mortuaries to overflowing. Instead its only victim thus far has been one ex-parrot.
There is no doubt that avian flu is a terrible threat. The flu pandemic that cost millions of lives just after the Great War is evidence of that and that was probably an avian flu.
But we appear to have lost our heads over one dead parrot.
Firstly, this avian flu has yet to cross the species barrier easily. Thousands of people are not being infected by birds and dying. A handful of people who came into close proximity with birds have died.
So far H5N1 has claimed the lives of just 100 people. Global pandemic? Not yet.
Secondly, if this disease were suddenly going to hop across the humans it would not be doing so because one parrot had died in quarantine in the UK.
It will do it in the vast flocks of birds in South East Asia where there are lots of humans with flu and lots of birds with flu and where there is a chance that the flu strains can swap genetic material and become a pandemic virus.
So, can we all just calm down a little.
The fact is that normal everyday flu is a huge killer already and it grim reaps our elderly every year and yet we have not panicked about that.
Is it because it’s ok for OAPs to die of flu, but anything that threatens the young and healthy, well, something must be done?
Also, there’s another cast-iron, proven, certain killer in our midst which we’re turning a blind eye to.
Every year 114,000 people die from smoking-related disease. That’s a certainty, that’s definitely going to happen.
That’s not some remotely possible epidemic that will only happen if the right genetic and environmental circumstances allow it. The hospital beds will be packed by people whose lives will be ended because of exposure to tobacco smoke.
And are we stockpiling nicotine patches and quarantining anyone with a 40-a-day habit who insists on smoking in public like an incendiary Typhoid Mary? No, we’ll make noises about banning smoking and we’ll make eye-catching adverts that show the effect of smoke on a baby, but in the meantime we’ll happily allow the tobacco companies to make a mint from killing people.
And when we finally get around to making the West an uncomfortable place for them to trade we will happily wave them off to Africa or China where billions of customers await their pernicious products.
But you may say smoking is not really a proper disease like flu. Fair enough, let’s take a real disease then, like malaria.
Between 350 and 500 million cases of it every single year, killing one million people every year.
Again, that’s not some theoretical possibility based on enough chickens and humans coming into contact to produce a killer strain. Malaria is doing this right now, across the globe.
And yet how many Western tourists jet off to exotic destinations and then forget to take their malaria medication, or else ditch it because it gives them a dicky tummy?
Yet put the same person next to a chicken that looks a bit under the weather and they would have a fit of the screaming ab-dabs.
We need to get a grip of risk.
A man who keeps birds of prey was on the radio yesterday saying that he was ‘incredibly worried’ about avian flu.
The nightmare scenario for him was a little migratory flu-carrying bird finding its way into his cages where it would be eaten by his birds who would promptly fall off the perch.
So, never mind that this is a disease which flourishes among chickens, who, the last time I checked, do not migrate very far. Never mind the fact that out of the billions of birds worldwide it is more likely that his aviary would be hit by a meteorite than by bird flu.
No, never mind all that, let’s all get incredibly worried shall we?
You are not at risk, at the moment, from bird flu. If your neighbour sneezes in your vicinity do not book yourself in to the doctor for a course of Tamiflu.
Yet while we are all terrified of catching flu, once we have caught any disease we behave in an utterly bizarre manner.
How many people, once they have caught some bug, instead of doing the decent thing and taking to their bed, dose themselves up with something lemony and then struggle in to work to infect their colleagues?
They’ve all seen the advert, the bloke who sniffles at home loses his job to some eager beaver. The message is, get some paracetamol down you and get yourself behind that desk, otherwise you might soon be clearing it.
And every year bosses organisation moan about the number of sick days taken by staff and yet they’re probably the very bosses who are encouraging their staff not to go off sick, so creating the pool of infection that causes their staff to go off sick.
Better to lose one worker to flu for a week than have them struggle in and infect your whole shopfloor.
So, if you catch anything this winter, it will probably not be bird flu, it will be plain old earthbound flu.
If you do, take to your bed, keep warm, plenty of fluids, and try not infect the whole neighbourhood by heroically struggling in by bus.

MY sometime correspondent Hannah contacts me to have a few words about Tryweryn.
She’s none too pleased with my suggestion that the present administration of Liverpool and its people have nothing to apologise for and that the real blame lies in a political system which rendered Wales powerless to resist the flooding of the valley.
This, says Hannah, makes me English, a scouser and a racist.
The English and scouser bit I can understand. After all, if you’re blinkered enough to believe Liverpool owes Wales ‘reparations’ then you’ll resort to any sort of name-calling.
But the racist bit, where did that come from?
Hannah continues: “What has happened to the Irish, aren’t they on the map any more.”
I’m afraid she’s lost me there. Just how are the Irish relevant to this and why is my apparent deliberate snubbing of them in relation to Tryweryn racist?
Answers on a postcard marked Barmy please.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Column, October 18, 2005

A WISE man once said sorry is the hardest word.
Well, actually, it was Elton John, but bear with me.
The burghers of Liverpool may be feeling the same way this week.
There they go saying sorry for an injustice that has been a festering wound in English-Welsh relations ever since 1966.
We’re sorry for Tryweryn they say.
Quite what they are sorry for I’m not sure, as they had entirely nothing to do with the decision to flood Trwyeryn and displace those living in and around Capel Celyn.
Anyway, I’m sure they’ve regretted even considering an apology now, given the ill-mannered way it has been received and the reactions in some quarters which verge on the barmy.
But what’s behind the Liverpool apology? Is it a genuine desire to acknowledge an injustice? Or is it out of some misguided desire to curry favour, in the hope that the Eisteddfod will be tempted there, thus shoring up the city’s claim to be a capital of culture?
If it’s the latter, then it certainly seems to have blown up in their faces when you look at the way some Welsh people have reacted.
An apology, it would seem is not good enough.
The city of Liverpool should apologise and stump up to help fund the £100,000 monument to be built on the shores of Trwyeryn to commemorate the drowning of the valley.
And by the by, £100,000, what are they making it out of, gold?
For some that’s not enough though, they’ve got to apologise and pay for the monument in its entirety.
And in the unlikely event that Liverpool has £100,000 in loose change hanging about doing nothing, step forward Dafydd Iwan to push demands that were already teetering on the edge of the cliffs of daftness over the edge to be dashed on the rocks of insanity below.
“It’s payback time,” he declared, suggesting that Liverpool should also shore up the ailing economy of Meirionydd because of the economic benefit it has derived from Welsh water all these years.
I will skip over the cruel irony to us claiming compo from a city whose occupants are so often linked with a culture of claims, surely this was Mr Iwan’s sense of humour getting the better of him.
Why make demands that are so utterly unreasonable of a city which obviously cannot afford them? Everyone knows things have been hard in many Welsh communities, but if you think the streets of Liverpool’s sink estates are paved with gold you’re sorely mistaken.
It would seem that by placing completely unreasonable demands on the city of Liverpool, there is a desire to make sure the controversy surrounding Trwyeryn lingers on.
Sadly, the truth is that Tryweryn has served a purpose ever since the water lapped over what was left of the roofs of the houses there.
It has served as a beacon for those who believe, and with some justification, that Wales has been treated as serf nation by Westminster governments.
Such a powerful symbol cannot be abandoned lightly and any acceptance of an apology might weaken its power as a totem to Welsh nationalist sentiment.
There is little doubt that Trwyeryn remains one of nationalism’s greatest recruiting sergeants. That sort of symbol is not to be abandoned for a mere apology from city councillors who had nothing to do with its drowning in the first place.
Tryweryn remains the nuclear option in any argument with a disbelieving English person about the ruthless manner in which Wales has been dealt with over the years.
We’ve all been there, you get into a discussion with an English person who seems bewildered at the sense of bitterness that sometimes pervades the Welsh.
The Welsh Not and Trwyeryn are the Little Boy and Fat Man that blow away their arguments, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki that leave their comfortable views in burning tatters and asking where to sign up for Plaid.
But too often we fall into the trap that Scots have, over-sentimentalising past injustices. They weep into their porridge and wrap themselves in their tartan as they recall clearances that happened hundreds of years ago, when in fact many of them are descended from the lowland Scots who actively connived in the clearances.
Tryweryn was a tragedy only for those who were forcibly evicted from their homes. For the rest of Wales its significance was purely political and it was a timely wake-up call to those who thought our best interests were served by a London government.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not an argument for the forgiveness of what happened at Tryweryn. Nothing can change the powerlessness that meant Wales could do nothing to stop what happened back then. You can’t ‘forgive’ a political system that was, and to a lesser extent, still is, weighted against Wales.
Then again, you should not bear your grudges against a city whose present inhabitants had nothing to do with what happened back then.
Save your anger for a Westminster government which continues to deny Wales its right to self-governance, instead installing, however ineptly, a puppet government in charge of a toothless parliament.

IF anyone was in any doubt just how out of touch the Conservative party is you only have to look at the way David Cameron has been treated over the issue of drugs.
There can be few families in the country who have not been touched by hard drugs and their dreadful effects.
Furthermore, if you are in your 40s and you have managed to grow up without any contact whatsoever with cannabis, then I would suggest you’ve lived a very sheltered life.
That, or you’re hoping to get on a shortlist for a safe Tory seat and you’re pretty sure no-one saw you inhale.
David Cameron would seem to be that rare thing in Tory circles, someone a non-Tory voter might just one day consider voting for.
So what do his opponents do? Get their spin doctors to brief against him like mad in the hope that some mud, however undeserved, might stick.
All we have found out is that someone connected to his family had a heroin probl;em and that person has undergone treatment.
That he hasn’t wheeled that poor soul out for the cameras to boost his campaign is to his credit.
If anything the experience will probably make him better at coming up with policies to tackle such problems.
And an electorate who are all too familiar with what his family have gone through might respond somewhat more kindly than some members of the Conservative party have.
That is if he gets a chance. It is the Tories’ grey men in grey suits with grey ideas and squeaky-clean pasts who will continue to render them completely unelectable.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Blog Cymru

The little Blog Cymru icon over to the right will take you to a blog aggregator set up by Aran Jones to collect English language blogs about Wales - he also set up, which aggregates Welsh-language blogs.

If you want to add your own blog to blogcymru, you'll find instructions how there, as well as code for the little icon.

You'll also find a whole bunch of blogs, all of which are more diverting and miles more technically proficient than this.

So I'm not sure why I'm directing you there in the first place. In fact don't go there, move along, nothing to see.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Column, October 11, 2005

AS military disasters go it is unlikely that the cancellation of Operation Pilgrim’s Progress will merit a mention in the history books.
After all, when it comes to things going awry for the poor bloody infantry (as well as the sailors and airmen) a brief perusal of history books yields plenty to choose from.
Whether it’s the Charge of the Light Brigade, Dunkirk or Dien Bien Phu, we all enjoy disaster, retreat and heroic defeat as much, it would seem, as we do victory.
But the battle of Carmarthen, when the crack troops of the FUW met, matched and routed the Army’s top brass, should not go down in the annals of glory.
The farmers wanted to make a point about hunting, namely that they were unhappy it had been banned. And they made that point by banning the Army from, using their land for a nine-day SAS recruiting exercise called Pilgrim’s Progress.
The exercise which would have taken place in an area stretching from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen has now got to find another home after the farmers’ fit of pique.
Because that’s what it was. A collective spitting of dummies simply because they don’t like the hunt ban.
Now, the farmers have every right not to like the hunt ban, and of course they are perfectly within their rights not to allow the Army onto their land.
But what on earth was the point that they thought was being made by this action?
Do they think that urgent dispatches were sent to Whitehall where ashen-faced officials informed the minister who took the news with all the gravity of a man being informed of the fall of Singapore?
Do you even think this fit of petulance even registered on the radar of the Ministry of Defence?
We’re talking about a Government which fights a war with one hand while cutting back the Army it uses to fight that war with the other. They could not care less what access the SAS have to land to train on.
Do you think Dr John Reid’s brow furrowed in even the slightest to hear of the FUW protest? No it will have been business as usual – which regiments are we axing and which are we sending to Iraq?
The only people this protest will affect is the soldiers who were due to take part in it, no-one else whatsoever.
I’m sure the SAS will find another home for Pilgrim’s Progress, but that’s not really the point is it. What sort of message are you sending to our armed forces if you are not prepared to allow them to train on the most rugged terrain available?
We’re happy for them to fight for us, to die for us, but not to crawl across our mountains training to do so?
I’m sorry, but that’s a pretty poor thing to say to a soldier who, in the next few months, may be facing down a baying mob intent on separating his head from his shoulders.
No matter how wrong you believe the hunt ban to be, that does not justify taking out your opposition on soldiers who have no part in making government policy and who probably oppose it themselves.
I appreciate the frustration that farmers must feel faced with a government that is so out of touch with rural affairs, and what is more, a government that does not really care about that because it knows that it has got enough votes sewn up in the cities to carry it to power.
But if protest is to do any good whatsoever it needs to have an electoral effect. Blair and his cabal will pay no heed to anyone who cannot deliver, or withdraw, enough votes to make a difference at the next election.
I’m afraid that stopping a few troops from exercising on your land will not cause the collapse of this government.
Of course if enough landowners stop enough of them training all over the UK then the end result might mean more of them dying – which could have an effect of the odd by-election.
But I’m not sure even the most ardent huntsman would say that was a price worth paying just to chase a fox.

WORDS I thought I’d never hear myself speak: Robyn Lewis has a point.
He rightly draws my attention to the fact that a Welsh gold medal winner would ascend the rostrum to the dirge that is ‘God Save The Queen.’
If we do not have our own Olympic team then that is what we have to face should one of our sporting countrymen and women win the ultimate prize.
That can’t be right, even though we know that in their head they’d be humming Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and in their mind’s eye it would be a Dragon fluttering in the breeze, not a Union flag.
So, though I have grave reservations about it ever getting off the ground, and though I think that athletics is unlike rugby in the way it is supported, I’m prepared to see the argument of those who want a Welsh Olympic team.
But on musical grounds only.

IT is encouraging, but a little foolhardy from Assembly ministers to promise that an e-coli outbreak ‘will never happen again’ in Wales.
Yet this is exactly what they are promising will be the outcome of the inquiry into what has happened that allowed schoolchildren to be fed food that poisoned and killed one of their number.
It shows a worrying lack of understanding of just how e-coli infections happen and how Assembly ministers feel they are going to eradicate bacteria that have thus far avoided all measures to do so is a bit of a mystery.
However, increasing the number of environmental health inspectors and increasing the frequency and likelihood of random inspection of premises might be a step in the right direction.
Oh, and as long as you pay a pittance for school food you will get what you pay for, despite all your promises of a new healthy regime for children’s dinners.

WELL done to Anglesey County Council for listening to reason over the issue of school bus fares.
It was a lot to expect families to find £60 at the start of term and it would have caused great hardship to some.
Now families on the island can look forward to a daily panic to find that elusive 20p for the bus fare.
My advice – down the back of the sofa is always a safe bet if you don’t mind your bus fare covered in fluff and a toffee wrapper.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Column, October 4, 2005

WHEN the Tories’ enthusiasm for selling off state assets reached its height even their own elder statesmen blushed.
Lord Stockton, Harold Macmillan as was, neatly exposed the Conservatives’ car boot sale, accusing them of selling off the family silver.
But at least they were selling off things like railways, telephones and gas suppliers.
Even they drew the line at radioactive material – but perhaps only because they hadn’t thought of it.
Now, we hear, that the decommissioning arm of BNFL is up for grabs and this will affect ownership of Wylfa nuclear power station.
Splendid, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water because Wylfa and others were being decommissioned, BNFL decides to flog off the operation to clean the place up.
Because that’s who you want decommissioning a nuclear power station isn’t it? Not a company answerable to government, but a private sector firm answerable first and foremost to its shareholders.
After all, hasn’t the private sector just covered itself running the rest of our former nationalised industries?
Trains for instance, they might not run on time, they might run on a clapped-out network that causes horrendous crashes, they might cost you an arm and a leg to travel on – but hey, you can plug your laptop in while you travel, so that’s alright.
And while we’re on the subject of trains, have you noticed the way they announce trains earlier now. The station announcer will tell you the train approaching platform 5 is the 10.15 to Auchtermuchty, thus fooling you into thinking it’s on time. Of course it’s not approaching at all, it’s still 20 minutes away, having been delayed by loose leaves or the wrong kind of snow.
Recently I heard an announcer say that a train was late ‘because of a late departure from Edinburgh.’ Wonderful, so it’s late – because it’s late.
Wildebeest, it’s about the only excuse I’ve not heard them use for train delays – the 4.15 to London is late because of the annual migration of wildebeest across the line in Coventry, we would like to apologise to all passengers for the delays caused by migratory beasts beyond our control. It’s only a matter of time though.
And can anyone say they pay less now for their gas, electricity or phone and they get better service as a result of it all being hawked off the back of a lorry by Thatcher’s Traders?
I know you’ll be told that ‘in real terms’ you’re paying less. You’ll be told that ‘in real terms’ the power companies are practically paying you to take their gas and electricity.
Here’s a little tip about the phrase ‘in real terms.’ It is a phrase that is only, ever, used by politicians and that should tell you something about it for a start.
It means ‘I’m lying but I’m going to use this important sounding little phrase in an effort to keep a straight face and not give away the fact that I’m telling contemptible porkies.’ You watch the next politician who uses the phrase, I swear their nose grows when they do.
So no, my heart does not leap with joy when I hear the private sector will be bidding to do the clean-up at Wylfa.
This is how a private sector company will deploy the cash set aside for the clean-up, all £1.7bn of it.
“One billion for the shareholders, half a billion for the directors’ bonuses….erm…what were we meant to be doing with it again? Ah yes, the clean-up, can it be done with a really long brush?”
You see though, for politicians this is a no-brainer, clearing the Wylfa site will take another 30 years and none of them will be around to deal with the mess, but our children will.
Whoever is in power at that time can blame it on the previous, previous, previous Government. And then they’ll find something else to sell.

THE treatment of heckler Walter Wolfgang is depressingly typical of a party that has lost the plot.
There was a day when a Labour politician in the bear’s den of conference would have shrugged off a heckle like Mr Wolfgang’s exclamation of ‘nonsense.’
There was a time when a politician on the conference platform would not have even been able to hear such a heckle above the near-riot going on as the extreme left wing of the party tried to storm the platform and turn it into a burning barricade.
So it’s really rather a poor show that someone, somewhere, at conference felt Jack Straw needed protection from a solitary pensioner telling him he was talking nonsense.
Of course the frustration felt by Mr Wolfgang and others is understandable. We are, after all, involved in armed conflict in Iraq and it’s not unreasonable to expect the party that sent our forces there to be prepared to talk about that.
It wasn’t.
But then Jack Straw did not order the stewards in to deal with Mr Wolfgang, he probably hadn’t even heard him.
Nor do I believe that the stewards decided of their own volition to turf out a pensioner.
Someone within the ranks of the party made that decision and it tells you quite a lot about the calibre of person this party is attracting now.
People who care nothing for free speech, the sort of person happy for our Army to fight a war, but unhappy to hear it even talked about, the sort of person who cannot even handle someone saying they are talking nonsense.

CAN anyone explain the collective madness that seems to have gripped Plaid Cymru over the Olympics?
One would have thought that Plaid, given its failure to exactly set the polls alight recently, might have been focusing on matters closer to home and closer to the hearts of voters.
I don’t think many people wake every morning in Wales with the thought “If only we were fielding our own Welsh Olympic team, my life would be a whole lot better.”
Yet that is exactly what Owen John Thomas is suggesting should happen when the Olympics comes to London in 2012.
Mr Thomas points out that, if you judge medals gained per head of population, Wales came fourth at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002.
Because that’s how people judge Olympic success isn’t it? You can just hear David Coleman’s voice as he tallies up the medal tables and announced that brave little Azerbaijan have trounced the mighty China and the USA put together.
Yet another pointless idea that will never happen from Plaid.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Column, September 27, 2005

THE life of a soldier is not without its risks, as a glance at any war memorial should confirm.
It is not as if, when you take the Queen’s shilling, or whatever it is they pay a young man (or woman) nowadays to abandon their hoody for a short back and sides, that you think you’re signing up for kindergarten class.
Although the Army’s ad campaign which focused solely on ‘learning a trade’ and skilfully avoided the bit about fighting in far-flung climes against your country’s enemies was a little economical with the truth.
Now the ads are a little more accurate, in that they actually show soldiers in battle, which is, after all what soldiers are for – fighting, and, sometimes, dying doing so.
It is not the lot of a soldier to question whether or not he or she should do battle, it is invariably a case of following orders and getting stuck in.
Tennyson had it right – “Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do & die.”
But Tennyson was writing about the Charge of the Light Brigade, a military disaster that covered its participants in glory, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the poetic Lord T.
There is little poetry to be had from the disaster that is unfolding in Iraq, and which claimed the life of another Welsh son, Fusilier Stephen Jones, from Denbigh.
Too tired to function he turned over his Land Rover as he wiped sweat from his eyes as he drove south of Al Amarah last year. That is not a soldier’s death, to be worn into the ground until you cannot function properly and then to die in a crash.
He had been married to his wife, Zoe, for just a month before he was sent to Iraq.
The coroner at his inquest, Nicholas Gardiner, rightly questioned the hours that troops have to endure on active service.
Another question might well be to the politicians who have sent the troops there in the first place. Politicians who have been indecently willing to send our troops in to battle alongside our US ‘allies’, but who don’t want to pay the bill for having an Army that can cope with the demands placed upon it.
The Army has had to deal with cut after cut under a government more willing than any since the last war to throw it into battle.
Tony Blair and his acolytes pay solemn lip service to the heroism of our armed forces, then in the next breath they merge regiments and discard the traditions that built an Army capable of doing the many jobs they see fit to give it.
There will be more Fusilier Joneses to be commemorated before we extract ourselves from the nightmare that Iraq has become.
And if you doubt that it is a nightmare, if you believe the flannel emerging from Downing Street about things ‘getting better’ out there, consider this.
Last week the new Iraqi police force arrested two British SAS soldiers, they promptly handed them over to local militia who, we can reasonably confident, would shortly have beheaded them, with video footage to be shown soon after.
Their rescue involved some of the most extraordinary scenes of the Army in action since this conflict began as soldiers leapt from flaming Warriors and then knocked a prison down.
In a nice piece of Army understatement it was said that a ‘negotiation’ had taken place at the prison. It does tend to concentrate the mind of someone you’re negotiating with if you’ve just driven a Warrior through his wall and he’s not staring down the business end of its barrel.
But let’s just back up a little – the police handed these two men over to the militia – that’s the police that we’ve put in place to make things in Iraq ‘better.’
That’s what they sang when Labour came to power wasn’t it ‘Things Can Only Get Better’?
Perhaps they sing it in Iraq now, on the grounds that when your police force works hand in hand with a murderous militia, it’s hard to see how things can get any worse.

IT is good to see that the tourism partnership in North Wales is not in the habit of examining the dentistry of gift horses.
They expect North Wales to enjoy £2.8m of extra money from visitors when Liverpool if the European Capital of Culture.
They’re even putting their hands in their pockets to fund a worker at Liverpool City Council to develop links in the run-up to and during 2008.
“Wales can’t afford not to have a presence at what will be a global platform in 2008,” said Dewi Davies, partnership director. Never a truer word.
So all the more stinging is the slap in the face delivered to Liverpool when it had the temerity to invite the National Eisteddfod there.
No final decision has been made and I hope cooler heads will prevail at the Eisteddfod and realise what a fantastic opportunity this is to show the world, not just Liverpool, that Welsh culture is very much alive.

REAMS have been written about Tony Blair and his four-letter outburst when the Welsh didn’t duly elect the donkeys wearing red roses, sorry candidates, Labour fielded for the Assembly.
I can’t get too worked up about a Prime Minister not liking us because we didn’t vote for him, despite the fact he had given us the Assembly in the first place. An interesting idea on the part of Mr Blair though – I’ll give you democracy, but you’d better vote for me.
But mostly, I actually like being, as he bluntly put it, “f***ing Welsh.” Not a nation of cuddly, neutered, cod-Celts who weep into our whisky, about a mythical past and who can be relied upon to trot though the polls and vote Labour – but a spit-in-your-eye, troublesome reminder that not everyone can be doctored by spin.
Because the day we stop being the effing Welsh as far as the likes of Tony Blair are concerned is the day we’ve lost the streak of independence that sets us apart.
Better to bite the hand that feeds you than be thought a lapdog. It’s a lesson Tony should learn when dealing with President Bush.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Blair's Outburst (Slight Return)

Hywel Williams has written an excellent piece about the Blair business, in the Guardian here.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Newcastle and lon152

As the one man and his dog who read this blog will have seen, someone calling himself, or herself, lon152, is making a point about Newcastle.

What are they on about you might wonder?

Well, what lon is referring to is the fact that I work in Newcastle Upon Tyne - a long way from Wales.

Contrary to what he has said, I'm not from Newcastle, I'm from Hawarden, a little village on the border with England in Flintshire. I grew up there and lived there for 34 years - apart from my time in Liverpool studying law and Cardiff studying journalism.

lon clearly thinks that Welsh people living outside Wales have no business commenting on Welsh affairs. He's entitled to think that if he wants.

I would just point out that I'm not the first Welsh person whose career has taken them away from Wales and I'm sure I won't be the last. Whether what I write about Wales is worth reading I'll leave others to judge.

Who lon is I'm not certain, other than knowing he is based at the National Assembly, as he used its server to access my blog. Other than that, like so many people making comments on Welsh sites these days, he is anonymous. He set the identity up this month and this is his first appearance anywhere.

It might be nice to know his thoughts on Welsh matters, but that is a little difficult as he has no blog of his own.

But he is part of a pattern of comment being made on Welsh blogs by person or persons unknown who choose to do so from behind a cloak of anonymity.

Some people might find it a bit odd that someone paid by the public purse, or else by one of the political parties at the Assembly, should spend their time on something as pointless as this.

Still, into every life a little rain must fall.

You choose who you think has more to say about the state of Wales.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Column, September 20, 2005

BE careful as you read these words.
I am, it would seem, a recruiting sergeant for the homosexual cause.
By the time you’ve made your way to the bottom, oops there I go again, of the page you might not be the man or woman you thought you were.
All of a sudden a passion for Judy Garland, questionable moustaches and a penchant for comfortable footwear might seize you.
It’s a heavy responsibility I bear.
I’ve been taken to task by Amanda Woodruff, who has set herself up as guardian of public morality and who was not too taken with what I had to offer last week on the utter hypocrisy that lay behind Victorian values that so many people espouse.
Amanda is a worthy successor to my previous correspondent on these matters, the doughty Frances Summerbee, who memorably referred to me as the ‘Daily Post’s pro-homo spokesman.’
It’s not long before Amanda’s thoughts take her to the bedroom, or rather what other people, perverts the lot of them, do in the bedroom, and elsewhere for that matter.
Read on:

“David, you're an immature little boy, who loves courting attention. Am I right or am I right? Your latest piece de nonsense concerns Victorian values? Well, at least they had values. True, they could not live up to many of them, alas. But this present generation has no values at all. No benchmark, no yardstick, and precious few morals and inhibitions. Let me give you just two examples.

There was recently a procession of around 20,000 homosexuals and lesbians through Cardiff. They were parading their depravity before all and sundry. That is the crucial difference between now and then. And they did so with a £5,000 cheque from the Welsh Assembly Government and considerably more from Cardiff Council. And where were the Police? Actively taking part! And what would your advice be to these sad cases? Go and seek some help? No way - you would give them every encouragement to continue in their sordid lifestyle. Or you would not be a Daily Post columnist for long.

Take the government's attitude towards alcoholics and druggies. These freeloaders sign on for what is philanthropically known as 'Incapacity Benefit', which grants its claimants a minimum of £75 a week, which is much higher than JSA, plus rent and council tax paid for by the state. They are not required to even look for work. All they do almost every day is drop into the local off-licence and pub, take a few bottles of cider home, and cause a good deal of hassle to their long-suffering neighbours. And all at the taxpayers’ expense. They are even given an allowance by the welfare state to buy their booze. What a farce.

There was much hypocrisy a hundred years ago. But, hey, look all around you today - the country has gone to the dogs. You mention a 'veneer' of respectability. That veneer separates us from savagery. As the saying goes - 'hypocrisy is the due paid by vice to virtue.' Now even that veneer has been stripped away, thanks in no small part to the efforts of misguided social engineers like yourself. You and your left-wing ilk have much to answer for.”

I have to say that in six years writing this column I have yet to feel the dread hand of the editor on my shoulder and a kindly word suggesting what I should or should not write. Nevertheless, I wonder should I adopt “Homosexuals – encourage them in their sordid lifestyle’ as a mission statement.
Anyway, Amanda gave me pause for thought. Had I spent the past six years campaigning on behalf of the gay community? Had a generation of young Welsh men and women come bursting forth from the closet, empowered by my weekly blather?
Do readers find themselves unaccountably humming ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ every Tuesday morning? Do men, having read my words, not only find they have something sensible to say to their wives about shoes, but realise that it’s not entirely unreasonable to own more than a dozen pairs?
I wondered myself and so set about searching the archives to see, however subliminally, I had been promoting the love that dare not speak its name.
The truth was shocking.
I have written in excess of 300 columns since 1999 and in that time I have tackled gay issues no fewer than five times – six counting today. It’s a wonder they don’t give me my own float at Manchester’s Mardi Gras. Me, in a sequinned dress and a dodgy wig, surrounded by oiled-up hunks, belting out ‘I Am What I Am’ – that would draw a crowd.
Inevitably Amanda, like Frances before her, and a bravely anonymous contributor who decided I was a ‘campaigning homosexual’, suggests that I may be gay myself because of my ‘outpourings over the years’ (five columns, it’s hardly a Dickensian output, but then one is probably one too many for Amanda).
This will come as news to Mrs Banks, who has been trying and failing to get me interested in curtain fabric for months – now I’ll have no excuse.
Thanks Amanda.

AFTER Amanda’s acerbic remarks it was time for a more pleasant diversion.
Up pops another regular correspondent, but this time on a far more pleasant subjects.
Welcome back Alison Jones with another example of ‘The Size Of Wales’ – the ongoing campaign to have Wales recognised as the standard unit of measurement for something that’s ooh, quite big.

“Things have been a bit quiet on this front recently but 'Coast', BBC2 did come up with the fact that the Fens are 1/5th the size of Wales.
I don't know whether to be pleased that Wales was chosen to be fractionalised rather than them searching for somewhere which was just right, or not.
Visualising something the size of Wales is quite hard anyway. I can readily visualise something the size of, say, a white delivery van of 'whitevan man' fame, or even an elephant if told whether it is Indian, Africa, baby or full grown.
These are things within my comprehension, but I am starting to have problems with the enormity of life today.
But hard as it is for me to embrace the full meaning of something the size of Wales, to then ask me to cut this up into 5 pieces and see just one of these pieces floating in front of my eyes..... well, all meaning seems to be lost.”

Indeed, Alison, but it’s yet another mention for Wales in connection with a subject it has nothing to do with whatsoever. That’s the sort of advertising even the Wales Tourist Board can’t buy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Blair's Outburst

Column will be blogged tomorrow, but I've not bothered with Blair and the "F****ing Welsh".

Does anyone actually care that much? Do you expect a politician, in private, to say anything else when results go the wrong way?

I just cannot get worked up about it in the slightest, so I've written about something else and left others more exercised by his language to comment.

In the grand scheme of things, I think taking us to war yapping around the heels of the USA ranks higher in his list of crimes and misdemeanours than does a few ill-tempered words about us.


I appreciate that the eight-figure counter in the bottom right may be a little of the optimistic side, and that it's perfectly possible to change it to a more realistic three-figure sum, or perhaps two.

But just getting it there was a major achievement, so it's staying.

Click on it to get your own, it's actually quite easy, and free.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Column, September 13, 2005

THEY want to open a sex shop in Llandudno.
You can see why, it’s an untapped market. The only thing that passes for erotica there is a dawdle through the underwear section at M&S and then you run the risk of having your collar felt by a security guard should you linger too long amid the lingerie. Not that I’m speaking from experience, oh no.
But the burghers of Llandudno are having no truck with an emporium selling erotic DVDs and videos. The town’s mayor said that to do so would ‘bring Llandudno down to Rhyl’s level.’
Hostilities have inevitably broken out over this insult to the good town of Rhyl with explanations demanded, denials issued and letters flying back and forth as if both towns’ councils do not have better things to do.
Whether a sex shop is more suited to Rhyl than Llandudno I will leave you to judge, personally I have thought that Rhyl’s tackiness was of the innocent kiss-me-quick variety rathe than do-something-X-rated-to-me-quick, but there you go.
No, what stopped me in my stride was Coun Parry’s explanation as to why Llandudno was not a suitable venue for a sex shop.
“We don’t want that sort of thing in Llandudno,” she said, “We are a Victorian town, what would our ancestors think? The Victorians had good standards and principles.”
Just which Victorians is she referring to?
The only Victorians I’m aware of consumed pornography on an epic scale. When the new technologies of photography and then the cinema were in their infancy it was not long before Victorians were using them to produce pictures and films of women with not very much in the way of clothing on at all.
The peep show is a gift to us of those straight-laced Victorians.
And if pornography wasn’t enough, prostitution was rife and what’s more child prostitution at that.
Those who claim the Victorians had high standards are confusing the austere image of Queen Victoria with her subjects, who were at it like rabbits.
She may have spent her latter years in widow’s weeds, but her subjects were engaging in debauchery on a scale not witnessed since the fall of Rome.
The Victorians might have had an outward appearance of principle morality, but it was a thin veneer that concealed the suppressed perversion that lurked beneath.
And those who regard the Victorian era as ‘the good old days’ might like to remember that for many working class children it was a time of malnutrition, forced labour, rampant disease and an early death.
Those who hanker for a return to Victorian values really don’t have the first idea what those values were.
Yes the Victorians left us a magnificent civic legacy with the buildings and other works that were built during that time.
But to argue that their morality is in some way superior to ours now is to ignore what a hard, miserable, short life many people endured then.
So, in actual fact, if Llandudno is to be an authentic Victorian resort, it really should be encouraging the proliferation of sex shops.
It might also consider legalising prostitution, bringing back child labour by sending the little hoody-wearing hoodlums up chimneys, and look into the reintroduction of a few Victorian diseases like rickets, cholera and typhoid.
A dark, satanic mill belching a cloud of noxious smoke over the Great Orme would also add to the authenticity.
It might not do the tourist trade much good – but then, they could always go to Rhyl.

IT would be nice to say Anglesey County Council has seen sense in its row with parents over the £60 up-front fee it was demanding for bus fares.
Splitting it £30 now and £30 in January might, to the councillors, seem like a reasonable compromise.
But if you’re a parent you’re being asked to shell out in September, when you’ve just paid for school uniform and all the other essentials, and then again in January, just when you’ve paid for Christmas.
It does make you wonder just how in touch with reality the council is.
The council claims it has listened to representations of those involved. Listening is one thing – taking a blind bit of notice it quite another.
I’ve yet to hear any sort of reasonable explanation offered by the council as to why parents can’t pay on a much more manageable daily or weekly basis.

WATCHING the Ashes this summer , it has been nice to see a set of England supporters who have been able to have a few (or more) drinks and not then go on to riot.
The banter has been barbed, but good natured and the spectacle will have won many new fans for the game.
Channel 4 should take the lion’s share of the praise for this as their coverage has been informative, witty and entertaining throughout. A real lesson that coverage of a sporting event does not need to dumbed down, overloaded with graphics and/or a musical soundtrack.
What a shame then when the English have found something which helps define them as a nation that the whole lot is sold off to Sky where they’ll have to pay through the noise for a satellite dish to see it from now on.
An example of stupid greed by the England and Wales Cricket Board who should have been capitalising on new-found interest in the game by keeping it on free-to-air TV.
But while I’ve enjoyed watching the series, I’ve yet to join the hordes expressing a new-found love of the game. Silly mid-off is as much a mystery to me now as it was when the Ashes began.