Thursday, August 25, 2005

Column, August 16, 2005

IN less enlightened times the insane would be displayed for public entertainment in the infamous Bedlam asylum.
Sometimes I feel this column fulfils the same purpose.
It seems that those who feel that to say out loud quite what the voices in their head are telling them might attract the attention of the men in white coats often feel that dashing it off in a letter to me will do just as well.
I’m happy to help, but you do worry a bit about folie a deux – that to be exposed so often to those to whom Mr Sanity is only an occasional caller might lead to barking at the moon myself.
Witness the two letters which dropped on my doormat this week – from opposite ends of the spectrum, as you’ll see, but both delightfully barmy in their own very special way.
The first is from, well, we’ll just leave her name as H shall we? She knows who she is and I’m not sure it’s wise that her neighbours should know who she is and what she’s writing about them.
H is unhappy at my support for Liverpool in its offer to host the 2007 National Eisteddfod. Here goes, you were warned.
“Dear Mr Banks,
After living next door to a couple from Liverpool for 43 years I have not got a good thing to say about Liverpool. Most of the time I kept out of their way, they were evil, they hid behind curtains watching me all the time.
I was quite sure someone was paying them for watching me, they had quite a few crooked friends around. I could go on and on 25 times and more.
She had men going to see her, found out that she was saying that they were coming to my house, whom to I just don’t know, not me that’s for sure. How evil can you get?
The reason why they blame me for everything is because I’m Welsh and a Welsh speaker and proud of it, and I wouldn’t go bowing to them.
If I had money I’d give it to Flint to hold the National Eisteddfod of Wales there. I’d hate to see it going to Liverpool. When I hear people saying that Liverpool is the capital of North Wales I shiver. I think of Caernarfon as the capital of North Wales, I was born in Caernarfonshire.
I can’t think of one good thing to say about Liverpool after 43 years of hatred, they left their hatred behind to the woman that’s living there now, her family are from Liverpool.”

Well, H, all I can say, and I think it’s inadequate in the face of such an onslaught of bitterness, is that it’s time to let go of the hatred. Whatever your neighbours did or didn’t do to you, it’s a little unjust to think ill of a whole city on the basis of two people who happen to come from it.
I dare say there are one or two rum coves in your beloved Caernarfon, but you wouldn’t write off the whole town because of them would you?

The next is another from my new-found correspondent in Rhyl. You know the one, he thinks the Welsh Not never happened and he has, incredibly, found a pub in Rhyl where everyone switches to Welsh to talk about him when he walks in.
A friend e-mailed to point out that it’s a little puzzling to make such a claim, because if you don’t speak Welsh, how do you know everyone is talking about you?
Anyway, without further delay, here’s the next instalment from Rhyl:
Who are you to criticise my spelling!!
You can’t wrote, it allways goes pear shaped in that s*****e (here he even manages to misspell an expletive) paper!
And get your facts right I sent the letter days before that muppet Cottle said what he said. I’m 100% genuine, problem is Welsh nationalists like you don’t like the truth!!
The pub in Rhyl I went to is near my flat in West Rhyl they won’t serve me cos I’m English.
and about that resuvror (he means reservoir, we established his inability to spell it in his first letter) it had to be built cos people wanted water, where do you think it should have been built? Moon? Mars? No-one lived there anyway cos it was full of trees and sheep.
I won’t be writing again so I bet you won’t publish this letter.
From a proud Englishman”

If I were a betting man I’d say that, despite his promises, this is not the last we’ve heard of him, more’s the pity.

LEIGHTON Andrews writes of take me to task for crediting him with being the first AM to draw attention to the Natwatch website.
This honour, he points out, was not his, but the Lib Dem AM Peter Black got in there first and would I mind setting the record straight?
I am, of course, happy to do so and confirm that a whole day, 24 little hours, before Leighton Andrews pointed people in the direction of the Natwatch site, Mr Black had got in there before him.
So that’s clear then.
What is not so clear is who is behind Natwatch. It could be a private individual with an intense interest in Scottish and Welsh politics, particularly those of a nationalist persuasion.
On the other hand, as has been suggested, it could be a little project by political opponents of parties like Plaid and the SNP.
While you’re perfectly at liberty to say what you want about any political party, if you do so from behind a cloak of anonymity, you shouldn’t be entirely surprised if people wonder who you are.

AS I’ve mentioned recently, I moved house in the past couple of months.
Having been invited to dinner by our new neighbours this week it was revealed to us that the lounge of my new home was, until we took up residence, used for meetings of the local Conservative party.
Just think of it. In my house they were toasting Maggie’s election victory; glasses were raised to the defeat of the miners. They probably had a wild party to celebrate the introduction of the poll tax and who knows what debauchery ensued after John Major’s against-the-odds victory in’92.
I was wondering whether to have some sort of exorcism.
Or should I just welcome them back and offer them tea and sympathy?
Your suggestions are welcome.


Rhys Wynne said...

It's a shame that Peter Black and Leighton Andrews thougth that this website was worth highlighting (whichever did it first). If only they cared as much about the accuraccy of the content of Natwatch itself as they did about your error. I can tell by the tone of comments in your column that you're not a great fan of Natwatch, but like me you can't help yourself from visiting it to see what drivel the author comes up with next. His latest offering regarding Nic Dafis, someone I have the upmost respect for reached a new low. It (naturally) deeply infuriated Nic, and he has written a (very) detailed repones on this oen personal blog, see:


It may not be possible for you to mention all this in your column due to it's length, but considering all the publicity the Daily Post gave Natwatch in the first place, someone from the paper might be interested in what Nic has to say.

With regards to the website in question, I honestly believe that there is a place for sites/blogs like PlaidCymruWatch, LaboutWatch, LlibDemsWatch etc, because some stories are not always going to be covered in newspapers either due to a papers bias or simply due to a lack of space or resources. But it has to be done sensibly and more importantly in a fair manner.

Banksy said...

Hello Rhys,

Nic has already linked to his reponse further down in this blog.

I think he's spot-on in what he says, but I'm a little loth to drag it all out in my column in the DP.

Not that I don't thinbk it's worth it, but Im not entirely sure just how many people are that bothered what an obscure little site like Natwatch says.

It's so obviously partisan and that fact that it does not allow responses means that I can't believe anyone takes it that seriously. Although I understand how Nic might have taken umbrage at what was said about him. Although, as I said, I think he's more than adequately dealt with it on his site.

As for fairness on blogs. I'm not sure I agree. Isn't the beauty of the blogosphere that it contains all shades of opinion, soe of it very different from our own?

Rhys Wynne said...

Fairness probably isn't the word I was looking for and you're right, there's probably not much point in giving the website any more milage than it deserves.

Gary said...

"It's so obviously partisan and that fact that it does not allow responses means that I can't believe anyone takes it that seriously."

It's a shame the editor of the Daily Post didn't take the same view when s/he splashed the Aled Cottle stroy all over the front page, though, isn't it?

Mind you, some good has come out of it - I've now found you have a blog as well as a column!

Banksy said...

I'm not sure whather I'd describe that as 'some good' Gary, reading the column is quite enough for most people.

To be fair to the DP, and while you might say that I'm bound to take its side, I would just point out that on many issues my column differs from the editorial line, the fuss was stirred up by Carl Sargeant and the DP couldn't really ignore it could it?

I actually think it's an interesting story, not because of what Aled Cottle posted, but because it exposed the existence of Natwatch.

I think most reasonable people are perfectly well able to draw their own conclusions from that site because of its content.

Nic said...

Ever had someone publish your address on an anonymous website with a suggestion that you deserve to be the subject of an arson attack, because you are a hypocrite?

Does that fall into the category of things that people shouldn't be allowed to get away with?

Rhys Wynne said...

You probably don't have any editorial input with the DP David (Banks), but having read the article about the Employee from Gwynedd who has resigned it is a bit worrying that the Daily Post has published this article, relying on the information of an annonymous person (again), unless he's revealed his identity to Eryl Crump. You may be able to pass on the information regarding what p4p has said about Nic Dafis to your fellow 'journalists', which might make them think more carefully next time when they are notified of another 'Exclusive'.

Banksy said...

Hello again Rhys,

I don't have any editorial input to the DP, I just write a column.

But my reading of the story is this - an investigation was launched after Natwatch had printed what it did quoting Rhodri.

As a result of that investigation Rhodri decided to resign.

The DP was perfectly right to carry this story, and as I read it, Rhodri has spoken to Eryl of his own free will subsequent to his decision to resign.

Look, Natwatch has published something which has cost a man his job. How is that not a news story?

Natwatch's anonymity should not make its actions off-limits to journalists should it? Especially when its actions have the consequences they have.