Friday, October 27, 2006

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere

Got my Jimmy Buffet CD packed, I going south – changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes and all that stuff. Yep, flying from Manchester early on Friday morning with Karen & Ray & C (of course) to the Maldives. Or specifically Hakuraa Club, part of Meemu Atoll. It’s about 2 degrees north of the equator. The flight is via Doha to Male (the Maldivian capital) then to the resort by seaplane!

This will necessitate a break in transmissions for a few weeks.

My Bit of Welsh Heaven

This is in today’s Western Mail. It’s by David James, a builder from Beaufort (no, don’t know him).

“When people ask us Ebbw-ites to suggest somewhere nice to go for a meal, we always tell them to go anywhere “down the country”. What they really mean is anywhere in Crickhowell or Llangynidyr.

“For me, paradise is getting in the car outside my house in Beaufort, heading out past the housing estate in Garnlydan and then dropping into a brave new world of beautiful countryside and lovely houses.

“All of a sudden you go over this bump in the road and in front of you is the valley, rich and glorious. It’s a long, windy road to get from the top of the moors down to Crickhowell, but the views are so spectacular you won’t want the drive to end.”

Here, here. It’s one of the best drives in Wales (as long as the fog doesn’t come down or you run out of petrol!)

Concert Notes

Went to see Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the Coal Exchange on Tuesday night. I think it was my fourth time, and every time they’ve been excellent. This time was no exception. It’s one of the best nights out anyone could ask for.

They’ve got a new CD out, called Into the Harbour, but of course the concert had all the old favourites too. There was also I Hear You Knocking, Rebel Rebel and Help Me Rhonda, Dueling Banjos, and pretty much whatever Southside could think of or someone in the audience shouted out. It started with “Try to Understand…” and came to a chaotic end some 2½ hours later. I don’t know how they find the energy (especially since they must be knocking on by now) but I was knackered just watching.

Interesting Fact I: the two roadies were fabulous stereotypes – one had grey hair and ponytail, the other balding with a ponytail. And with way too much workman’s bum on display too.

Interesting Fact II: the clock in the Coal Exchange has the inscription underneath it “Tempus Fugit”. Well, it certainly didn’t apply to the clock itself, which was stopped at ten past five.

Rugby Notes

I’ll be missing Ebbw Vale’s home game with Pontypridd and the away game at Cardiff. Check out the scores on

Blues number 10 Nicky Robinson has admitted that his team's policy of buying in foreign players has cost him a place in the Wales squad. The Blues region (their word, not mine) bought New Zealander Ben Blair now gets all the kicking responsibility for the Blues, and so Wales opted for kicker Ceri Sweeney as their second outside half as cover for Stephen Jones.

So much for developing Welsh talent, eh?

Fantasy Football Notes

A big win last weekend thanks to LT and my makeshift QB John Kitna, and I had the most points of any team in the league. I’ve got to pick sides for the next three weeks before I go away though, so I’ll be happy to still be in the top 4 when I get back.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Aberaeron and beyond

Bit of a catch-up of the past week’s events. Spent last weekend (and a bit of the week) down West Wales. We stayed at the Harbourmaster Hotel in Aberaeron. The suite we were in occupied the whole of the top floor and had wonderful views of the harbour and the sea. The price you pay for old fashioned charm? Whacked my head a few times on the wooden beams!

Spent Monday morning on Penbryn beach. It’s owned by the National Trust, and you can only get there by walking through the woodlands, Lost-style. This, combined with the fact that it was a Monday morning in October, meant that we had the whole beach and the beautiful blue sky all to ourselves.

As we left the heavens opened though, so we retired to Newquay for lunch, and partook of one of the great holiday traditions: eating fish & chips in the car.

Restaurant Notes

It seems an age ago, but it was only last week, we went with Jon and B to the Felin Fach Griffin near Brecon. The food there was superb. I had Wild Mushroom Tagliatelli, Welsh Venison & Sticky Toffee Pudding (not all at the same time). Faultless.

The place has a very comforting atmosphere with a roaring fire. Not surprising that it has won a string of awards. Well worth the trip – but book a table beforehand.

TV Notes

The new BBC spinoff from Dr Who started on BBC Three last night
Torchwood. It’s a more adult-orientated series about a secret group tracking aliens on Earth and features Captain Jack from the recent Dr Who series. The series is set in Cardiff, and the headquarters of Torchwood are located under the Wales Millennium Centre. Lots of shots of Cardiff landmarks, and jokes about being Welsh are scattered throughout. And to prove its aimed at adults, they occasionally say f***.

It’s shown on Sunday nights at 9pm on BBC Three. A more than adequate substitute for those who are missing their Dr Who fix.

But is it Art?

Stopped off at the Chapter Arts Centre in Canton last week for a meal after work before meeting some friends. It seemed to be populated by a very “right on” crowd, the sort who knit their own yoghurt (© Alexi Sayle) and who singularly seemed unable to smile or laugh about anything. I was expected a menu made up of purely quinoa and beancurd, but there were actually some meat dishes on the menu. Very informal place, but with good, cheap food.

The main exhibit at the Chapter at the moment is a gallery given over to a work by Simon Pope. It’s an entirely empty, whitewashed gallery with a single inscription on the wall: “you are invited to recall, from memory, a walk through a gallery space.” OK, this is final proof that I’m turning into my dad, but come on, what a load of bollocks.

Needless to say, the media has finally caught up with what you are able to do with an Arts Council grant, and has been giving the artist, Simon Pope a good kicking.

Living Notes

A recent survey by Channel 4 drew up a list of the worst places to live in the UK. Merthyr Tydfil came 3rd and Blaenau Gwent came 9th. The survey was based on 5 criteria: crime, environment, lifestyle, education and employment. The rest of the top ten:

Hackney, London
Tower Hamlets, London
Merthyr Tydfil
Newham, London
Islington, London
Strabane, N Ireland
Blaenau Gwent

But on the plus side, Blaenau Gwent has some of the cheapest house prices in the UK, it’s on the doorstep of the Brecon Beacons, the train line is being built and its home to Ebbw Vale RFC.

Rugby Notes

Ebbw traveled to Bedwas on Saturday and came away with another hard fought win. This one was too close for comfort. It could have been a 40-pointer if the early chances had been taken, but in the end we had to settle for a 19-16 win. It was one of the dirtiest games of the year, with the second half being full of niggles. Bedwas gave away a string of penalties, some of which we bizarrely ran and other, more difficult ones resulted in missed kicks.

We say 3rd in the table as the top 4 all won.

Scorers: an interception try for Simon Hunt, with the rest of the points again coming from Sam Mills (who should have had plenty more)

Highlight: Neil Edwards again was excellent, and the scrum on occasion looked like a force to be reckoned with.

Lowlight: halfbacks were poor, and failed to get the back line going. Its worrying than a series of passes to get the ball out to the wing sometimes looks beyond us. And Nio Aiono got get another yellow card, his third of the season, which will probably lead to a ban for him.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rain stops play

Came home at 19-1 for the Haddocks (see last post).

Rugby Notes

Another great win on Saturday, this time 24-13 at home to Swansea. We never looked in real trouble. The pack was wonderful, causing the Jacks some real grief in the scrum and lineout (picture shows captain Craig Cleaver leaping salmonesque), as well as scoring a try from a 25 metre rolling maul.

Swansea never looked like winning and scored their only try when Greg Roberts was in the sin bin just before half time. This despite some dodgy refereeing by Hugh Watkins and by Swansea back rower Ritchie Pugh, who didn’t shut up the entire game. The ref proper managed to add 10 minutes of injury time in the second half. Good job we were a score clear, or the nerves would have been jangling again.

We are now riding high in 3rd in the table. A first home outing for the blue change jerseys, as seen in the pic. Very nice too.

Scorers: tries for the front row men Ian George and Richard Wilkes and for both wingers, Matt Jess and Simon Hunt. Two conversions for Sam Mills

Highlight: the work rate of Kris Gay who covered a huge a mount of ground and played the entire game. Good turnaround, Kris.

Lowlight: a red card for Kristian Owen for fighting on the fringe of a melee late in the game.

Fantasy Football Notes

Big win on the weekend, beating the top team 89-81. Huge 4 touchdown performance from LaDamian Tomlinson and 4 TDs from my WRs and TEs sealed the win. Need to sort out my QB position though; with Culpepper out for a while it looks like it’ll have to be Jake Plummer. Yikes.

Link of the week

Buzzwhack is a website that has all the corporate speak (bullsh*t bingo, in other words) you could ever want. Here are a few examples:

carbon-based error: Error caused by a human, not a computer (which would be a silicon-based error).

featurise: To add features to a product - often unnecessary - in the name of meeting a customer's needs. "As users identify new ways of using it, we try to featurise the product to meet those needs."

fugitive information: I once knew it and it didn't matter then so I let it go. But it does matter NOW and I can't remember it.

landspam: Spam delivered the old-fashioned way - on paper and via your local postman. Some of us still call it "junk mail."

non-verbal leakage: Body language, particularly in business where you can tell more about what the buyer's truly thinking by his or her body language, not by what he or she is saying.

plutoed: To be unceremoniously dumped or relegated to a lower position without an adequate reason or explanation

ringxiety: Triggered by the ringtone of a cell phone, it's when everyone in a public place or meeting reaches simultaneously for their cell before it begins its second embarrassing ring.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Haddocks up

It was the presentation evening for the Cardiff Midweek Cricket League last night, held in the glamorous surroundings of the Electricity Club in Pontcanna.

The Haddocks were there in force to collect our trophies as runners-up in Division 3. The squad representing the club last night was (in strict batting order):

Jon C
Matt G
Rich "The Ghost"

It was generally agreed that the best performance of the season came from Knotty, whose administrative skills pushed us up the table when our athletic skills weren’t able.

Guest of honour was Robert Croft, until a month ago the captain of Glamorgan. He had some strong views to express on the current Glamorgan team, the future without overseas players, the England team and in particular Nassar Hussain and Duncan Fletcher.

There was £6.80 left in the kitty at the end of the night. As there's not much you can get for £6.80 these days, one of the boys decided to stick it on a horse. With a cricket theme we went for “Rain Stops Play” in the 4:55 at Newmarket. Needless to say...

Full results for the season are on the CMCL website here. Photos from the event will also show there in the next couple of weeks.

Travel Notes

The train ride home from work follows the line of the river Taff. As I was gazing out of the window of my train carriage the other evening I spied a game of canoe polo on the Taff. I was impressed with their skill and their ability to cope with the cold!

Fantasy Football Notes

43-32 win in this week’s fantasy football. Thanks to Robbie Gould, the Chicago K who got 19 of my points. Culpepper didn’t play, and I left 2 TDs on the bench through Gates and Keyshawn Johnson. That’s one lucky win.

Rugby Notes

Ebbw Vale welcome Swansea to Eugene Cross Park tomorrow in good spirits after a fine win over Aberavon last weekend. Neil Edwards has recovered from the injury to his right foot that he suffered against Aberavon to take his place in the second row.

The Ebbw Vale team: Andrew McLaughlan, Matt Jess, Kristian Owen, Gareth Roberts, Simon Hunt, Sam Mills, Bryan Shelbourne, Ian George, Richard Wilkes, Kristian Gay, Matty Griffin, Neil Edwards, John Bowd, Nio Aiono, Craig Cleaver (c).

Replacements: D Williams, L Williams, R Bowen, J Lydiate, P Horgan, D Phillips, J Quirk.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Top afternoon walking some of the Forestry Commission land at Garwnant. Lots of dog walkers there, but these days its all a bit too much for Marvin who stayed at home.

Restaurant Notes

Sunday lunch at Nant Ddu Lodge. Its a hotel, bistro and spa, located on the A470 north of Merthyr Tydfil. Top scoff.

Tigers in Four!

If the Boston Red Sox can't win the World Series, then the next best thing is that the New York Yankees don't either. They were knocked out of the playoffs yesterday by the Detroit Tigers 3-1 in the best of five series.

The New York Mets look like a good bet right now - they swept the Los Angeles Dodgers yesterday.

Rugby Notes

Great win for Ebbw yesterday over Aberavon. 27-25 in a thriller. We could have wrapped it up early but a few forward passes meant that we didn't capitalise on early pressure, and we let Aberavon back into the game.

Some great work in the lineout by Neil Edwards again, and the front row worked hard too. Our backline looked good going forward, with Matt Jess impressing every time he had the ball. Tackling was a bit loose on occasion though. Good heart though, and we managed to fight some loose officiating which let the Wizards get away with muder on the fringes. After 48 second-half minutes the ref eventualy called time & we came away with a much deserved win.

Scorers: tries for Simon Hunt, Nio Aiono (in his best game for the club) and John Bowd, with 3 conversions and two penalties for Sam Mills.

Highlight: best all-round performance of the season.

Lowlight: the way that the lineout disintegrated in the last ten minutes without Neil Edwards to organise it. Could have cost us the game.

Friday, October 06, 2006

New arrival

Our friends Sion and Cath had a new baby boy this week, in rather dramatic circumstances. They chose to have a home birth, and on the fateful day the midwife determined that nothing was going to happen and went home. Cath then went into labour and Sion ended up delivering the baby, being talked through it by the ambulance driver.

Both mother and baby Amig are fine. Sion reckons he’ll be dining out on the story for years to come.

Cube Notes

Excitement this week has been caused by something in the water. Someone reported a worm in their glass of water from one of the water fountains in the office. Probably more worrying was the response to the email that went to our facilities management people:

Q - I just found a worm in my water from the dispenser on the second floor, south wing AO5; I have it by my desk in a cup. I hope I have not taken a worm in this water. What do I do with it?

A - We will send a Handyman up to check it out.

After a day or so of rumour and wondering, an official announcement came.
There is a low risk from drinking the water. All the water fountains are now out of action and water samples have gone off to the public health laboratories. It transpires that this “worm” is now being called a “non-specific bacteria”. Well that's OK then.

Travel Notes

Enjoyable - Was up in London earlier in the week, and stayed in the Thistle Selfridge Hotel. Nice too. Very convenient for Selfridge's (downstairs) and the rest of Oxford Street.

Aggravating - the quiet car on the train was only disturbed five times by various idiots/executives making self-important phone calls.

Ebay Notes

My first venture into the world of Ebay has been a successful one. We had roof tiles left over when we put a fibreglass sloping roof on the kitchen and porch instead of the leaky tile roof. Having tried salvage yards and even the Council to get rid of them, I turned to Ebay. And I sold them for £145, when I was going to be happy just getting rid of them!

Rugby Notes

The Daily Andrex has this as the Ebbw team for tomorrow’s game against Aberavon at ECP. I’m yet to be convinced about Roberts in the centre (may as well play NCR!) or Aiono in the back row – hopefully they can both good this week.

A McLaughlan, S Hunt, K Owen, G Roberts, M Jess, S Mills, B Shelbourne, I George, D Williams, K Gay, M Griffin, N Edwards, J Bowd, N Aiono, C Cleaver (captain).

Replacements: R Wilkes, J Corsi, R Bowen, J Lydiate, P Horgan, D Phillips, J Quirk.

Aberavon have lost coach Kevin Hopkins to the Ospreys set up, but still have Mark Jones: probably not the best tactician but a good motivator!

Fantasy Football Notes

As predicted, I was well beaten last week 62-47 and I’ve now fallen to 1-2-1. I’m looking for Cadillac Williams and/or Duante Culpepper to break out of their slumps to help my team this week. I could be forced into the transfer market if they don’t shape up soon.

Link of the week

Dilbert, the cartoon strip, now has a blog.

Dilbert’s newsletter (sent out to members of Dilbert’s New Ruling Class) includes some true quotes from people who put the DUH in In-duh-vidual:

That's water over the bridge.
You're dead meat in the water.
They have us by the balls of our feet.
They should lock him up and throw away the book.
Make sure you cross your p's and q's.
Don't look a blind horse in the eye.
I put my wrong foot in the wrong mouth at the wrong time!
Cows died to give us that cheese.
Don't slap the hand that milks you.
Call me back at your least convenience.
It's six of one and one of the other.
I can't do it in the spur of a hat.
That's going to change the whole ball of works.
They're not the brightest box of cookies.
The pro's for are more than the pro's against.
I wouldn't touch him as far as I could throw him.

Good sign!

Monday, October 02, 2006


Finally, there is actually progress in the development of the Ebbw Vale train line. It’s been 44 years since passenger trains last ran to and from Ebbw Vale. It’s been over 4 years since the Assembly made the announcement in 2002 that the line was to reopen.

But last week the first JCB moved in to start the work necessary to get the train line and six new stations ready for opening next summer.

There’s more comment here (the Councils’ view) and here (a more independent view).

Travel Notes

Enjoyable - Spent the weekend staying with some friends in Bobbington. Wonderful lazy weekend. We visited Moseley Old Hall on Saturday, a National Trust property near Wolverhampton where Charles II hid from Cromwell many years ago (in 1651 to be precise).

Aggravating - I have no idea why the M4 was like a car park at 2pm on a Friday afternoon. But the fact that’s it a) just two lanes wide between Cardiff and Newport is just nuts, and b) its the local bypass for Newport residents don’t help.

Welsh Notes

Apparently Wenglish travels less well across the UK than all the other dialects. Great Wenglish words include:

Ach-y-fi! – expression of disgust or repugnance
Butty – a friend, colleague, or one of a pair
Cwtch – to snuggle or lie down
Daps – plimsolls
Mitch – to play truant
Potch – a mess, trouble, even to date
Tidy – good, excellent
Where’s it to? – where is it?

Restaurant Notes

The Drawing Room in Builth Wells has been named as the AA Welsh Restaurant of the Year. Haven’t been there. Yet.

Rugby Notes

I wasn’t there, but all reports tell of another nail biting finish before Ebbw came out victorious at Cross Keys 15-11. The weather was just a touch inclement. One update text I had said that we had the tide with us first half.

Scorers: tries for Andrew Bevan (again) and Andrew McLaughlan, with a conversion and penalty for Sam Mills.

Highlight: the win

Lowlight: another two yellow cards; we’ve got to get our discipline sorted out.

Football Notes

I got to see the New England Patriots’ 38-13 demolition of the Cincinnati Bengals last night. Sky Sports has a doubleheader each week (the US 1pm and 4pm games). But in addition its interactive service offers some alternative games, and this was yesterday’s.

Running Backs Corey Dillon and Lawrence Maroney dominated and made it easy for Tom Brady to throw with ease.

Baseball Notes

The road to the World Series begins with the opening play-off matches starting on Tuesday October 3 with two five-game series' in both the AL and NL before the winner go for the title.

American League Division Series:
Oakland v Minnesota
New York Yankees v Detroit

National League Division Series:
San Diego v St Louis
LA Dodgers v New York Mets

Running Notes

Watched the Great North Run on TV yesterday and thought to myself “I could do that”. So I might next year. I’ve got until the application forms come out to talk myself out of it.

Link of the Week

There’s lots of Pontypridd stuff on, including an excellent article about regional rugby in the Valleys.