Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Trail notes

Happy birthday, Cath. I love you.

C had a great birthday card from her mum and dad: the front read “We’re smiling because your our daughter” & inside “and laughing because there’s nothing you can do about it”.

Things I saw on my run dow the Taff Trail last night: 2 white cows, several horses (one wearing a coat), 3 rabbits, lots of sheep and little lambs, dogs of all shapes and sizes being walked by their owners (also all shapes and sizes) and 2 cyclists (one going very slowly and jovial, the other very fast and surly).

Excellent Sunday lunch at the Newbride in Tredunnock near Usk (http://www.thenewbridge.co.uk/). Beautiful setting on the banks of the Usk river, and great food too. Worth the trip.

Ebbw Vale First Responder is a great volunteer service which provides support to emergency ambulance services in critical cases. They do a superb job of supporting the scarce ambulance service in the area – Aberbeeg, Tredegar and Neviil Hall in Abergavenny. (www.evfirstresponder.co.uk)

If you want to download music to you iPod, MP3 player or just your PC and are tired of paying 99p or so for each track, here’s a cheaper alternative. AllofMP3 (http://www.allofmp3.com/) is a site which offers a huge selection of music at a fraction of the price. I just downloaded new CDs from Van Morrison and Donald Fagen for under £1 each.

Random thought – there are some great pig-related words: porcine, suckling, rasher and, of course, bacon.

TV notes

Boston Legal on Living TV is great fun. William Shatner (yes, Kirk himself) is on top form as Denny Crane, the slightly deranged lawyer.

The Apprentice – Tuan got the heave-ho this week. He really was a useless waste of space as a leader. If the others are even half-good, then Sir Alan has the opportunity to get rid of Syed. But no, someone goes & messes up so badly that he has no choice & Syed survives to give the great British public another bout of BS.

Travel notes

Aggravating I – The dualling of the Heads of the Valleys road (the A465) is moving on slowly. One stretch has been completed, between Merthyr Tydfil and Tredegar. Well, I say completed. The last half mile near Tredegar was open for a whole week before the ubiquitous cones were erected around a small landslip near the Tredegar junction, until remedial work could be done.

No problem, I hear you say. Except that these cones have been in place for almost 2 years! When traveling to Ebbw Vale this week I notice that even more cones have sprung up. Does this mean that the repairs are finally going to be done? Don’t hold your breath.

Aggravating II – Mobile phones being used in the quiet carriage of the train to/from London. They need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Cricket notes

Amazingly, Glamorgan’s Sophia Gardens has been added to the “A” list of UK cricket grounds, and are scheduled to host a Test Match between England and Australia in 2009. A bit like holding a Wagner opera at a Womens Institute hall, reckoned The Times. The current capacity is around 7,000 and they are aiming to expand up towards 20,000. So this is all subject to lots of improvement works around the ground and getting planning permission past the Pontcanna residents.

That might be tricky. They successfully saw off Glamorgan’s plans to build an ice rink at Sophia Gardens to host the Cardiff Devils franchise, and seem to have some influential contacts in the Welsh media. We’ll see.

Rugby notes

Another good win for Ebbw Vale against Pontypool in midweek. They have raced up the table to 12th, and would appear to be one win away from safety. We were down to 13 men at one stage, with bizarrely a wing and fullback yellow-carded.

Three good tries for Simon Hunt. I would heap lots of praise on him, but I met him in the clubhouse after the game and he doesn’t seem to have any problems with self-confidence! Collectively the team played their hearts out and they were out on their feet for the last ten minutes. Nevertheless, a stout defensive line kept Maesteg out.

The scheduling of the two remaining home games (Llandovery and Pontypridd) is yet to be resolved. There are issues around access to the ground with the cricket taking precedence after 1 May. So rumours abound that the games may be played at Abertilery Park. Let’s hope that Friday night games at Eugene Cross Park can be organised.

Close game on Saturday at Dave Parade where Ebbw narrowly failed to turn over the old enemy, going down 21-22. Augers well for the remaining three fixtures, starting with a visit to Cross Keys on Saturday coming.

Garden notes

The patio is now complete. C finished the planting around the pond on Saturday. See the photo post below.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Garden Note

After days of blood, sweat and tears the patio is finally complete. Hurrah!!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


This is the view from the water bungalow in the Maldives that I will be chilling out at come October. I'll be packing light - trunks & snorkel!

Great Train Robbery

Good natured bank holiday crowds gather, as they always do, at Easter-time. The crowds were something to behold. There were traffic jams on the streets leading to their church. The church of DIY - B&Q. Why do they all believe that DIY can only be started at Easter?

The boys of summer are back. Saw my first Red Sox game yesterday on NASN. They won it with a walk-off home run to beat Seattle. Nice to see David Ortiz helping my fantasy team again.

Cricket season also kicks off this week. Glamorgan’s home opener is against Essex on the 26th. What a great way to spend a lunch break away from the office.

Haven’t seen much of the endless cricket coverage on Sky this winter. This is the problem when there is wall-to-wall coverage; you don’t know what to watch so you don’t watch any. If the swallows of Capistrano flew past my window every day it simply wouldn’t be a big deal. Sometimes less is more.

Another funeral last week. You know you are getting old when the priests start looking young.

Travel notes

I noticed last week that the old benches on the platform at Pontypridd station were no longer there. They were so old that they had “GWR” molded in the ironwork on the end of the benches. I asked one of the guards why they had been taken away. “They were nicked” he said, “even though they were bolted to the floor.”

How do you nick a small collection of 8 foot cast-iron seats from a train station in the middle of the town and nobody see you? These masterminds are wasted on petty theft. They should be robbing trains, not train stations.

Rugby notes

Best not to loiter too long on Ebbw’s short trip (and even shorter trip for me) to Sardis Road ten days ago. Could have been very different if early chances had been accepted.

Magnificent win for Ebbw on the bank holiday weekend. 52-25. All you could want from a game – some really good tries, lots of local derby niggle, one red and four yellow cards. Another huge game tomorrow night when we take on Maesteg & their collection of 40-year-olds, Kevin Ellis, John Deveraux and Allan Bateman. Another win could see us race up the table to the heady heights of 12th place.

TV notes

Dr Who is back. Hurrah! David Tennant makes a good Doctor, and seems to be from the cheeky-chappie Tom Baker school of doctoring. Have you played the game of spot the Cardiff landmark? In this week’s pile of escapist tosh, the interior of the new Wales Millennium Centre was used as the set for a futuristic hospital.

The Apprentice – Trevor the useless salesman went acouple of weeks ago, followed by Sharon last week. When Sir Alan was given the choice between a liar, a whinger or a planner in the boardroom, amazingly, the liar stayed and the whinger went. The Badger’s looking like a tough cookie to beat.

Grumpy Old Men – yep, that’s me.

Running notes

Got in a one hour run last week, but all spare time since has been taken up by the big garden project.

Garden notes

The holiday weekend was lost to the “lets build a patio” project. Ingredients: 50 square metres of bluestone from a quarry in Swansea, 2 ton of stone dust, 15 bags of concrete, a new frog pond, and lots of blood, sweat and tears.

The new concrete was of course christened by Marv’s paw prints almost as soon as it was laid.

Another bird feeder bites the dust. If the squirrels can’t take them apart (I’ve taken to taping & gluing the feeders together) then they simply eat though the plastic until there’s a hole & then all the seed falls out. Little furry buggers.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Birthdays and baseball

Happy birthday to our brother, 46. OMG, 46.

As well as birthdays, April also brings the start of the baseball season. NASN & five will get well-used in the coming months I’m sure. Go Red Sox!

Of course with it comes fantasy baseball. My Ponty Red Sox are facing off against 11 other teams run by guys who live in the US and know what they’re doing. Never mind, it whiles away the odd lunch break.

A few evenings out this week. Wednesday night was a lovely evening spent at Lorna and Wilco’s. Wilco runs the Readers Sheds website in his spare time, bizarre but brilliant (www.readersheds.co.uk). Thursday was quiz night at the Cwm Conservative Club. Jon’s tough questions were interspersed with chips, scrumps and tinned salmon sandwiches.

Travel notes

Enjoyable – a leaflet landed on the mat this week for the summer sailings of the Waverley, the last paddle steamer operating in the UK. Went on a trip last year from Penarth to Minehead and it was great fun. The average age was around 60, and flasks of tea and sandwiches in cling-film were in plentiful supply. I’m sure I’ll be getting a picnic ready sometime this summer for a trip to nowhere in particular on the Waverley. (www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk)

Rugby notes

Scrum V again provided the entertainment again this week. David Moffat (ex-chief executive of the WRU) laid into Eddie Butler pretty well, and the boys at the beeb didn’t like it. They can dish it out but they don’t like it up ‘em.

Magnificent ending to the Leicester/Bath European Cup quarter final on Saturday. With Bath up 15-12, Leicester camp on the Bath line. A series of collapsed scrums lead to two yellow cards for Bath props. Bath play the last ten minutes with 13 men, and through a combination of their determination & Leicester’s inability to use an overlap somehow held on for an amazing victory. 32,000 stunned midlanders looked on in shock.

TV notes

My Name Is Earl – top comedy from the US. In a complete change from the usual trendy apartment dwellers of sitcom-land, this is set amongst redneck trailer trash. Earl’s task is to make amends for all the bad he’s done in his redneck life. Karma, he says. Some extracts from the list of things he has to atone for:
Had garage sale while house sitting for neighbours
Faked death to break up with a girl
Replaced birth control pills with tic-tacs
Snatched a kid’s Halloween candy when he came to my trailer to trick-or-treat
Planet Earth – OK, I know I’m a bit late in getting to this since the run on BBC1 has just finished, but I know that the beeb will rerun it and when they do – watch it. I’m not normally a big fan of natural history programmes, but Planet Earth is in a different league. The photography is absolutely amazing. It is simply the best thing on TV. The episode that had the first ever TV footage of snow leopards in the wild was breathtaking. As was footage of half a million bats in a cave in Indonesia.

The Apprentice – haven’t got around to seeing it yet, so it’ll be a double review next week.

Running notes

Scamp on Monday, but aching like heck (it’s a family website) after gardening work on Sunday.

Garden notes

Now that spring is well and truly here, its time to widen outdoor issues away from the squirrels (furry-tailed bastards that they are) to all manner of garden issues.

The big project at the moment is to lay a patio where the lawn is. I say, lawn, it’s a collection of weeds and dandelions with grass interspersed. Spent last weekend digging all the grass/weeds up, and trying to level the ground. Tricky when you are perched on the side of a mountain in Pontypridd. Nevertheless, it’s not a bad approximation to flat right now. Upcoming weekend job is to get stones for the patio; trips to quarries have been scheduled prior to the Ponty game on Saturday. The big push to complete will be the Easter weekend, which is a five-day weekend thanks to the generosity of the civil service.