Monday, October 16, 2006

Column, October 10, 2006

ALUN Pugh is either a fool, of the variety that is soon parted from his money, or a Machiavellian manipulator of the media who is wasted in the dead end of Cardiff Bay .
By now I’m sure you know that Mr Pugh was casting about for Christmas card ideas recently.
Now, when you and I hunt for Christmas cards, we might pop into WH Smiths and buy a box or two. If we’re feeling particularly munificent we might choose the type produced by various worthy charities.
Snow might feature on them, Santas, reindeer, elves, halls decked with boughs of holly – you get the picture. Alun Pugh didn’t – get the picture that is, or rather he didn’t get that picture. He got a picture of a Scrabble board, at a cost of £2,000 to the public purse.
Well what he actually got was the rights to use a picture of a Scrabble board on his Christmas cards this year. Not just any old Scrabble board, oh no, a Welsh Scrabble board.
So that’s alright then. Well, no, not, with a rather tedious inevitability, to his political opponents.
First up fulminating against the criminal waste of 0.06p per person in Wales was Owen John Thomas, of Plaid Cymru, who demonstrated the sort of decisive thinking which has seen his party govern so well for so many years…erm, hang on.
“I find it highly irresponsible and shall be getting in tough with Ieuan to see if we should be calling for his resignation,” said Mr Thomas.
Ieuan Wyn Jones, who shall henceforth be known as Geppetto, has yet to pull the strings to let us know whether indeed Mr Pugh must go.
And would that be the same Plaid Cymru that did not blush to squander cash on a new logo, a Welsh poppy done on a child’s Spirograph, as well as a sonic logo – no I don’t know what one of those is either.
Alright, it was their own cash, but it hardly fills you with confidence in their management of our money when they throw their own about with such gay abandon.
Then the Tory leader Nick Bourne weighed in with his contribution to Scrabblegate.
“How many points can you get in Scrabble for the word ‘profligate’” he inquired.
Oh, you see what he’s done there, it’s funny because, well, in Scrabble you score points for putting down words. If I were Alan Pugh I might be tempted to empty the Assembly coffers and splash the lot on the poker tables in Las Vegas, because quite frankly if this is the best the opposition can offer his position is unassailable.
“They don’t deserve to remain in office and the people of Wales will have the opportunity to get rid of them next May,” said Mr Bourne.
Oh really. And just which focus group has told him this. Because the last time I checked people tended to vote on the basis of stuff like, how much money they’ve got, how good their schools are, how they get looked after when they’re ill.
I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m fairly certain that come May if you trawl the polling booths of Wales you will not find one single person who has arrived there determined to vote out the party in power because of a £2,000 photo of a Scrabble board.
But there is just the slim chance that Alun Pugh’s Christmas card choice could be the work of a political mind like a steel trap. Unlikely I know, but bear with me while I explain.
Picture the scene, Alun is hunched over his Scrabble board, pondering what to do with his last double-L while at the same time the problem of Christmas card choice is looming.
In one fell swoop he decides that he’ll go for the Scrabble option, knowing that his political opponents will be unable to resist rising to the bait, thus ensuring that the Welsh language gets far more column inches than it ever would had he picked a boring old card with yet another snow-clad Welsh valley or mountain on it. Job’s a good ‘un.
So, Alun Pugh – media-manipulating genius, or spendthrift who shouldn’t be let loose with a piggy bank never mind our hard-earned cash – you decide.

SO the 'glorious' October 1st has passed and pheasants across the country are keeping their heads down if they know what’s good for them.
Pheasant season is upon us and in the fields around Banks Acres (Well, alright, it might not be acres, but I’m wondering if I can claim set-aside for a lawn that has remained resolutely unmowed most of the summer) resound to the sound of gunfire and red-faced chaps in ill-fitting tweeds bellowing at gundogs.
The surrounding land is not a natural home to wild pheasant – is there anywhere that is? – and so the poor blighters blown from the skies this weekend were reared for the purposes.
Now, I’m no rabid anti-bloodsports, dog-on-a rope saboteur. After all, while they were banging away at pheasants I was tucking in to a roast chicken and there are depths of hypocrisy to which even I will not stoop.
If you want to rear and shoot pheasants that is entirely up to you. But having seen these birds at close quarters in the past couple of months, since they were released into the woodlands hereabouts as little more than chicks, I do have to wonder how much sport there is to it all.
After all, we are talking about birds so terminally dumb that their favourite place to while away a sunny afternoon was sitting on the road outside our house, oblivious of the traffic which was far more efficient at culling them than were the poor shots with Purdeys this weekend.
I just think that if you want to shoot something that needs the persuasion of a line of beaters and a supporting cast of baying dogs to get airborne, then there’s not much of a challenge to it.

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