Monday, July 31, 2006


Theatre Notes

Went to see The Tempest being performed at Castell Coch on Friday evening. It’s a summer tradition of touring outdoor shows around Wales, and good fun although I’m not entirely sure it’s a proper way for grown men to make a living.

This performance is touring for the rest of the summer (, although another group, the Wales Actors Company, got cancelled last year after the Arts Council withdrew its funding.

Restaurant Notes

Found a new restaurant nearby, in Nelson. It’s called Sergeants, and it used to be the local police station. Great food: haddock chowder, fillet steak & lemon cheesecake; but the words alone don’t really do it justice. Top scoff, and all locally sourced and prepared on the premises – no ping cuisine here. (

TV Notes

The West Wing has finished. Forever. There’s now a gap in my life, which could only possibly be filled by the new series of the Sopranos being shown soon. Let’s hope.

BTW, it’s clear that the US could only get Presidents like Jeb Bartlett and Matt Santos on TV. In reality they got the President it deserves.

There’s a new series of Brainiac on Sky, the pop-science show which answers the great science questions, such as will it blow or will it glow when two chemicals are mixed. That’s the kind of chemistry I wish I’d had in school (of course Gwyn Williams tried his best to blow the school up on a couple of occasions). Things get put in microwaves and lots of caravans get blown up (slogan – we do this so you don’t have to).

Rugby Notes

New Zealand ran out winners over Australia 13-9, and in the process claimed the Bledisloe Cup. Australia fought well, and threatened to score a precious try late on, but they were let down but some average kicking by Sterling Mortlock. He and Percy Montgomery are made to look very average by Dan Carter, who looks like he’ll never miss.

The Wallabies host the Springboks in Sydney next Saturday, 10:30 on Sky. (

Cricket Notes

Surprisingly England dispatched Pakistan within 3 days in the 2nd test. Steve Harmison on form was the difference. He and Monty Panesar got all the wickets except for one run out.

Elsewhere in the world, Sri Lanka ran riot with the bat and world records tumbled. They scored 756-5 declared with Mahela Jayawardene getting a massive 374 and Kumar Sangakkara chipping in with 287 for a world record 3rd wicket partnership of 624. Jayawardene’s “knock” sits only behind Brian Lara in the individual scoring records.

They duly beat South Africa by an innings.

Probably even more surprising was that Glamorgan won by 10 wickets at Gloucester on the weekend. Again it was Mike Powell with another double hundred who led the way – getting out on 299 must be a terrible feeling but getting 299 but be a great feeling. Crofty wheeled away and finished with 13 wickets, his best performance for 14 years and got the papers saying that he is now the best off-spinner in the country (England and Wales I guess that means).

Link of the Week

Richard Brunstrom, the head of North Wales Police, has a blog. Or rather, a “plodcast”. He is best known for his ludicrously strong anti-motoring views and is Jeremy Clarkson’s Enemy Number One. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see a boss open up his daily life like this. (

Friday, July 28, 2006


It was hot weather for the pigs and all the other animals at the Royal Welsh Show this week. Went up to Builth Wells on Tuesday, where it topped out at 91F (33C for all you metric people – back off Brussels).

Visited all of the animal areas and saw the pigs being judged. How exactly can you tell how good a pig it is unless it’s converted into bacon butties?

In the bird hall where more different varieties of chicken, ducks and geese that you could wish to meet. Did you know that there is a breed of chicken called a leghorn? I say, I say boy - Foghorn Leghorn is for real.

Theatre Notes

Went to see Rodney Bewes on Wednesday in his one-man show The Dairy of a Nobody. Straight out of the same drawer as his Three Men in a Boat show last year. Wonderfully quirky and with a very gentle humour, it was perfect entertainment for a warm summer evening.

TV Notes

Tommy Lee’s Rockstar Supernova is the second series of the reality TV show to find singers for bands. Last year INXS found a new lead singer in JD Fortune and have been touring.

This year’s project is to find a frontman (-person) for Supernova, a newly formed “supergroup” – Tommy Lee on drums, Gilby Clark of Guns ‘N Roses on guitar and Jason Newstead of Metallica on bass. Pop music it ain’t. But it is one of the few occasions on TV nowadays to actually hear someone sing live, rather than mime. It’s on Sky One.

Top of the Pops has been cancelled, and after 42 years this week sees the last ever show. If you can find it, that is. It was a staple of my youth, and it was always 7pm on Thursday, BBC1. In recent years it’s been left to die in the backwater of BBC2 on Sunday evenings, but actually it’s been dying ever since the emergence of MTV. Music videos replaced mimed performances a long time ago.

Jimmy Saville presented the first show and now presents the last show. Altogether – “now then, now then…ow’s about that then?”

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Welsh travels

Spent a quiet evening down Barry Island after work late last week. Away from the chavs and hot hatches that occupy that main funfair area, the walk around the coastal path is a very pretty one. Here’s a picture of the sunset over the Bristol Channel.

Swansea Notes

Spent the weekend at the future in-laws in Swansea. Went into Swansea on Saturday night for a meal and witnessed umpteen stag and hen night groups stumbling down the street. Wind Street seemed to be awash with these groups, with almost all of them in some sort of fancy dress. I’m sure they all think they’re being original, but…

Sunday was more chilled out. Went to the National Waterfront Museum on Swansea Bay for the first time. I was very impressed (although others were less so). You can learn a lot about the Welsh people and Welsh history, but just maritime history. ( And as a bonus the Tardis and a dalek were on display.

Outside was a BBC Wales open air concert featuring cutting edge musicians such as Shakin’ Stevens and Dave Edmunds. Nice to see the beeb so bang up to date.

The afternoon finished up with a visit to Joe’s Ice Cream Parlour, a Swansea institution. On a hot day the place was doing a very brisk trade. Excellent ice cream, but I’m biased and I think Carini’s is better.

Home & Garden Notes

Score one for the anti-squirrel league. Got home from the weekend away to find a dead squirrel in the street outside the house. Must have got run over. He’s off to that great bird table in the sky – well actually he’s in the bin on the way to the tip!

Rugby Notes

Last Saturday’s game was New Zealand vs. South Africa. Both teams made a bunch of changes, but for different reasons. NZ rested 8 while the Boks made a bunch of changes. South African tactic was to harry and chase everything. Almost paid off but an All Black try on the stroke of half time took the wind out of their sails. 19-7 down at half time was too big a mountain & NZ ran out winners 35-17.

Ebbw Vale's fixtures for the upcoming season have just been published - first home game is the Evil Empire, Newport on 9 September. Use the link on the right to get a full list. Patrick Horgan has been added as backs coach to Alex Codling's staff - everything's falling into place and I'm full of confidence (as always) for the new season.

Cricket Notes

The Haddocks had a fine maximum points win last week when the opposition failed to show. That stunning success has propelled us to second in the table, and worryingly in the promotion places. Another win Monday cemented our spot in the promotion places.

Glamorgan had a last ball win at Middlesex on Sunday in the 40/40 competition. Jamie Dalrymple did well with bat and ball for Middlesex, but Mike Powell’s 81 (following up his 202 in midweek) did just about enough to see Glammy through.

The competition is properly called the Natwest Pro40 League, but to me it’s the John Player League reincarnated – for those old enough to remember John Arlott commentating on Sunday afternoons. There used to be the occasional opt-out when BBC Wales showed Glamorgan games with two cameras, Peter Walker and Wilf Wooller commentating.

At least you get a result in the one-day games. The last two Glamorgan County Championship games have been tedious draws with the two sides unable or unwilling to made declarations to create the possibility of a win. It seems not losing is more important than winning (as England found out against Pakistan in the 1st Test).

Restaurant Notes

Went to La Tasca in Wind Street, Swansea on Saturday night ( It’s an authentic Spanish tapas bar. OK, I know it’s a chain restaurant, but even the waitress was Spanish. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly and the sharing nature of tapas means that you get to sample a whole collection of different tastes. Well worth a visit – there’s one in Cardiff’s Brewery Quarter too.

Travel Notes

School holidays start today, and with it the short period when the morning commute is bearable. Package holiday prices seem to go up this week as well. The two stories can’t be related, can they?

Drove to Mold, Llandeilo and Llandrindod Wells last week. Did 500 miles in the service of the Assembly, spreading the word to new staff due to join the Assembly this year. At least the hire car had air-con.

That’s where the plus-points ended. I share your pain – anyone who has to drive a Vauxhall Astra. Irritating pings to remind you to do or not do a hundred different things, yet the indicators had entirely a mind of their own – sometimes cancelling the second you put them on and sometimes not for several miles down the road.

Go on, do a survey. Next time you see someone driving down the road with the indicator flashing for no reason it’ll be either a white van (naturally) or else a Vauxhall.

Link of the Week

The famous footage of John Redwood failing to sing the Welsh national anthem has been posted on the YouTube website, one of the fastest-growing websites (youtube).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Found a nest of blue tits in one of the walls in the garden. They seem quite happy, feeding off nuts on the bird table. (The squirrels clearly can’t be bothered with malicious damage in this sort of weather.)

The porch is finally nearing completion. But the kitchen now needs a new roof. We’ve found that the existing roof doesn’t slope sufficiently to prevent the rain from going up under the roof tiles. So it’s time to bite the bullet and go for a new fibreglass roof for the kitchen at the same time as the porch is being done.

That aside, the snagging is complete and we now have a new entrance hall for the house. The whole patio area has had a makeover and the finishing touches and new plants put in by Cath have made it quite a relaxing space.

Rugby Notes

It was supposed to be the Springbok juggernaut pack versus the Wallaby backline in the Tri-Nations this week, but in the end it wasn’t even close. Australia pounded South Africa 49-0. And even that’s not a real reflection of the game. Springbok indiscipline cost them; Ricky January at #9 was a liability, giving away penalties throughout the game.

I fear for South Africa when they take on New Zealand on Saturday.

Music Notes

Just bought the new CD from the lostprophets, Liberation Transmission. It’s a top rock/metal album and perfect for blasting out on the car stereo on a hot summer’s day. The Pontypridd boys have really made it big now: it went straight in at #1 in the album chart last week. That clearly proves how trendy my musical tastes are (

I went with DJL to see them at the Cardiff CIA last year, and they were good live too. Didn’t mosh pit though.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Poor old Zinedine Zidane was upset because Marco Materazzi insulted his mother (allegedly). Well, at least is mother is proud that he stood up for her honour. The rest of France is less impressed.

(In related news, it’s been an astonishingly bad few weeks for the lip-reading industry: there have been hundreds of versions of what was said to Zidane. It’s not as though there was only one camera there.)

An article in the paper earlier this week listed some of the best bits of sports sledging, and the one common theme is that there’s always an Aussie involved. It must be taught in school over there, alongside backpacking and barwork. (© Al Murray)

- Merv Hughes to Robin Smith: “Does your husband play cricket as well?”

- After Hughes tells Smith that “you can’t f***ing bat”, Smith hits him for 4 the next ball and replies “Hey Merv, we make a good pair, I can’t f***ing bat and you can’t f***ing bowl”

- The most famous though is the exchange between Eddo Brandes, the Zimbabwe tailender and Glenn McGrath. “Hey Brandes, why are you so fat?” “Because every time I f*** your wife she gives me a biscuit.”

Cricket Notes

Glamorgan crashed out of the 20/20 cup. After 3 wins, there was a rainout followed by 4 defeats. The last home game on Monday was hugely disappointing. Richard Grant made another great start, with 77 off 44 balls. Glam got 190, a reasonably challenging total. In reply, Gloucestershire went well early, but some great bowling from Dean Cosker (4 overs, 2 for 20 is wonderful in 20/20) hauled the game back in Glammy’s favour.

Then with Gloucs needing 36 off the last 3 overs, James Franklin imploded. OK, the ball was wet from the drizzle, but to bowl two no-ball beamers & get taken off mid-over was poor. The over ended up costing 23 runs and Glamorgan any chance of progressing in the competition. Franklin’s 3.5 overs cost 58 runs.

High spot of the batting was when Grant smashed the window of the BBC radio Wales commentary box with a clothesline six. It was the fastest Edward Bevan had moved in years.

The Haddocks pulled off another win on Wednesday in my absence. They knocked over top-of-the-table Penylan for 74 & got them with 6 overs to spare. Mid-table safety looms. It’s fitting that the club motto translates from the Latin as “aspiring to mediocrity”.

Snooker Notes

John Spencer, 3-time world snooker champion, died this week, aged 71. It seems like only yesterday when I was watching him and Ray Reardon dominate the sport in the Pot Black days.

Theatre Notes

Cath and I went to see Evita in the West End on Wednesday night. It’s a new version of the original show which has only been back in London since last month. Very good too. I saw the original on a school trip to London, which means that was over 25 years ago. I still couldn’t help hear the part of Che being sung by David Essex in a cockney accent though.

Travel Notes

Stayed at the Strand Palace Hotel when in London this week. Thinking of staying there? My advice? Don’t. With no air-conditioning or personality, it’s a tired hotel with aspirations to be average. Chock full of tourists getting a bad impression of London.

Aggravating – In the mobile-free “quiet” carriage home from Paddington, there’s a guy on his phone. When challenged he says “the train hasn’t started moving yet”. What an self-important ass.

Food Notes

Cardiff’s international food and drink festival this weekend. At the Roald (can’t spell Ronald) Dahl Plass (can’t spell Place). Top scoff!

Pub Notes

If ever you find yourself in Pontypridd and in need of some liquid refreshment, then this pub guide might come in handy. For my money, Alfreds in the middle of town is good, and of course my local, the Bunch of Grapes. The Wetherspoons pub in town, The Tumble, does reasonable food and as always cheap beer – but I’d probably avoid it at the weekends.

TV Notes

Sky have just brought out a new service for Sky+ viewers. You can now programme your Sky+ box by text message. From anywhere in the world. How cool is that?

Also coming so is the ability to manage your Sky+ system from a PC. So if you go to work & forget to set your system to record the cricket, then you can do it from your desk.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Latest on the car’s CD-changer. Arctic Monkeys.

Some great lyrics, like: “you can see it in his eyes that he's got a driving ban”; and “oh there in’t no love, no Montagues or Capulets; just banging tunes in DJ sets and dirty dancefloors and dreams of naughtiness”

OK, I know I probably just pulled a hamstring jumping on their bandwagon, but what can I say. I like them.

Work Notes

Just got appointed as a financial assessor to the Traffic Commissioners. They are responsible for issuing haulage and bus operators’ licenses. It’s a very part-time add-on to my existing slog in the Assembly.

Travel Notes

The journey to work is almost bearable now that summer holidays have started to reduce the amount of rush hour traffic. Managed to drive home in 20 minutes the other day, when through the rest of the year it’s more like 45 minutes. That’s why I usually let the train take the strain.

TV Notes

It’s clearly the end of season week on TV. There were last episodes of House and Boston Legal. House is one of only two shows on right now which is required viewing in the Veale/Janes household (the other being The West Wing). Boston Legal is great fun though. William Shatner and James Spader are wonderfully eccentric.

Summer season will of course be packed with repeats and reality TV shows (although whose reality I’m not quite sure – certainly not mine).

This week’s sign of the apocalypse

The Government has a Minister for Local Government and Community Cohesion. Community cohesion? Really? It’s so “right-on” it’s painful.

Soccer Notes

OK, I have something to confess. I actually watched some soccer (football as its known in some parts). I tuned in with 10 minutes to go in the final and then watched extra time and the penalty shootouts. I think that I saw one save being made in the 40 minutes that I watched.

Zidane has quickly gone from hero to villain in France. What a complete idiot. Did he think nobody would be watching?

Although I wouldn’t condone such language to describe our colleagues over the Channel, there are some who would describe them as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”.

Rugby Notes

What do the names Ben Blair, Mosese Luveitasau, Taufa’ao Filse, Paul Emerick, Nic Fitisemanu, Ben Daly, Shane Stewart, Filo Tiatia and Deacon Manu have in common?

Give up? They are all new overseas signings made by the Welsh regional rugby teams. Give yourself a pat on the back if you had heard of even half those names.

Not exactly the cream of the crop, eh? Yet these players are squeezing out Welsh players from the regional set up. And to rub salt in the wounds, it is funding from the WRU that is being spent on these Johnny Foreigners. It doesn’t auger well for the future of Welsh rugby.

Game one of the Tri-Nations went according to plan on Saturday and the inexperienced Aussie pack were pushed off the park by New Zealand. It’s probably not a good idea to upset them by making an advert showing the All Blacks doing a haka whilst carrying handbags. (This apparently links to a nightclub incident where Tana Umaga broke up an “incident” between a player and a nightclub patron by using a handbag that happened to be nearby.)

The Tri-Nations this season is expanded to nine games, but I’m yet to think of a good reason why, cash aside.

Cricket Notes

Glamorgan’s home 20/20 game was rained on last week (as was I waiting hopefully, but in vain). It was Sky’s televised game, so the fancy dress was out in force. One group of lads sitting near me were: Scooby Doo, Tweety Pie, Fred Flinstone, Superman, a gorilla and a baby. Needless to say, the Sky cameras found them.

Haddocks were rained out too. Their last game was rained off too, but in the 9 days in between fixtures there was a permanent heat wave.

Carnac the Magnificent

I was reminded of this old sketch while reading a column from Sports Illustrated the other day. Johnny Carson, who hosted the Late Show before David Letterman, used to do a sketch where his sidekick read him an answer & he would then give the question. Here are a few:

A: Green Acres
Q: What Kermit has after Miss Piggy kicks him in the groin.

A: The Orient express.
Q: What is a drink made with soy sauce and prune juice?

A: Old wives’ tale.
Q: What do cannibals find hard to digest?

A: Head and shoulders.
Q: What do you see if you open the trunk of the Godfather's car?

A: "Follow the yellow brick road."
Q: What are good directions to a urologist's office?

A: Supervisor.
Q: What does Clark Kent wear to keep the sun out of his eyes?

A: Grape Nuts.
Q: What are Ernest and Julio Gallo?

A: Shareholder.
Q: What did Sonny Bono used to be?

Monday, July 03, 2006

I'll si thee

This past weekend marked the passing of the great Fred Trueman. FS was a giant of the game, and was the first player to take 300 test match wickets.

I never saw him play, but as a youth, I came across him presenting Indoor League, a fabulously bizarre show from Yorkshire TV. It consisted of pub teams competing at bar billiards, arm wrestling, shove ha’penny, table skittles, and of course, darts. In its way it was the forerunner to Bullseye.

At the end of each show Fred would raise his pint mug and utter the immortal words “I’ll si thee”.

He went on to be part of one of the best (few?) arguments for the BBC licence fee - Test Match Special.

Interesting fact that may interest only me: The producer of Indoor League way back in the 1970s? Sid Waddell, the god of darts commentary.

People's Voice

Amazing results in the Blaenau Gwent by-elections last week.

Trish Law, Peter’s widow, beat out Councillor John Hopkins for the AM seat, despite having no political experience at all. She said all the right things though, about voting with whoever can give the people of Blaenau Gwent what they need: the oft-delayed rail link, better healthcare and job prospects.

Probably the bigger surprise was Dai Davies winning the MP job over Labour smoothie Owen Smith. Dai was a convenor in the works and Peter Law’s agent last year. His acceptance speech included the line “you underestimate the people of Blaenau Gwent at your peril.”

Indeed. At a time of so-called "disengagement" with politics, the citizens of Ebbw Vale and the rest of Blaenau Gwent decided to buck the trend.

This all started when Peter Law left Labour in protest last year over the party's use of all-women shortlists to pick its parliamentary candidate for last year’s general election. He stood as an independent and became the MP, as well as representing it in the assembly.

I used to regularly bump into him doing the shopping in Tescos in Ebbw Vale, and discussed the dearth of representation in the Assembly of people from Bleanau Gwent. He reckoned that out of over 5,000 people working in the Assembly there were just 5 from the area, including us two. No wonder Blaenau Gwent is so often forgotten in policy making discussions.

Cricket Notes

Great game of pyjama cricket on Friday evening. The 20/20 competition drew a huge crowd to see Glammy play Somerset.

After a measured start, Somerset piled into the Glamorgan bowling, with Justin Langer getting 76no and Cameron White 52 off 32 balls. Crofty was dispatched into the Taff on a couple of occasions. Mark Wallace missed a couple of chances behind the stumps before taking two stumpings late on. Some loose bowling at the death saw the total edge up to 185.

In reply, Richard Grant went off like a train. His 51 off 26 balls & Brendan McCallum’s 20 off 10 balls put Glammy at 81 off 6 overs. (Richard Johnson went for 27 in one over!) Easy, right? Not when you factor in the usual collapse. Batter after batter decided to try to crash every ball they saw and some blinding catches in the deep reduced Glammy to 136-7 off 15 overs. Mark Wallace and Crofty stepped up and almost got them home. Both got out in the last two overs, and so it comes down to the last pair in, Andrew Davies and Dean Cosker to get 1 off the last ball to win.

After a lengthy discussion, Somerset brings the entire field in except for third man and long leg. Must mean a short ball is due. Yep. A bouncer comes down and the hook is top-edged down to third man. Richard Johnson running round makes a full-length dive but spills the ball. Glamorgan win.

Interesting fact that may interest only me: The sponsors Brains award a crate of beer to anyone in the crowd who catches a six. In the first half all the chances were put down (you couldn’t call the ones off Crofty into the river chances though). However, as the crowd got more “tired and emotional” in the second half three catches were held. Clearly beer cricket is the way forward.

Next home game is against Warwickshire under lights on Wednesday (Sky are covering it), summer storms permitting. (

England’s dismal run culminated in another loss to Sri Lanka, who take the series 5-0.

Soccer Notes

That’s what happens when you pin the entire hopes of a country on an immature jerk.

Travel Notes

Told today that there are 50 more units (train speak for trains) on order for the Valleys Lines. Not before time either. The carriages are no fun when they are packed to the rafters for the commute home on a hot summer’s day.