Wednesday, December 26, 2007

More Rugby Notes

The Boxing Day local derby (not) saw Ebbw Vale play host to Llandovery. A very festive day was had by all, with the exception of the Llandovery team who had their backsides handed to them, going down 38-13. And so Ebbw Vale go top of the Premiership again.

This year’s festive theme was pirates and there were many fine examples on display, as well as a selection of Santa hats. Pride of place had to go to former mayor Don Wilcox whose pirate outfit included a stuffed parrot on his shoulder that sung Jingle Bells.

On the field, the result wasn’t in doubt really as Ebbw soaked up some early pressure and then went down the field to earn a penalty try. Tries from Kristian Owen, Michael Delore, Simon Hunt and Andrew MacLaughlan followed, four of which were converted by Simon Hunt.

The only blot on the day was the sending off of Nio Aiono for a challenge which was adjudged to be dangerous challenge. It was clumsy and misjudged, yes, and the Llandovery player had to be stretchered off, but it didn’t appear to be malicious. Hope he recovers quickly.

My man of the match - Rhys Williams who helped the Ebbw pack to dominate the day.

Next game is this Saturday when Ebbw (and me) make the short trip to the flood plain known as Cross Keys.

Rugby Notes

The draw for the forth round of the Konica Minolta Cup was made behind closed doors last week. Ebbw are home to Caerphilly on Saturday 26 January.

The rest of the draw is:
Aberavon v Llandovery
Aberavon Quins v Blackwood
Bonymaen v Bedwas
Builth Wells v Bridgend
Carmarthen Quins v Cardiff
Glynneath v Narberth
Llanelli v Pontypridd
Maesteg v Glamorgan Wanderers
Merthyr v Cross Keys
Neath v Swansea
Newport v Llanharan
Newport Saracens v Ystrad Rhondda
Old Illtydian v Tondu
Waunarlwydd v Tonmawr
Whitland v Bargoed

Winter Notes

As well as some festive activities, this past week also saw the start of winter. I know the freezing temperatures of the past few weeks were just autumn; the worst is yet to come.

The debate on when winter starts has been knocking around for ages, with everyone except BBC weathermen conceding that winter starts at the Winter Solstice on 21 December. The Beeb in the wisdom (bless them) think that winter is December, January and February. The rest of the northern hemisphere think that its 21 December to 20 March.

Wikipedia provides a useful guide.

Garden Notes

Having a few days off over Crimbo has given us in the Janes-Veale household a little chance to sit down and watch the world for a short while.

The garden has been full of birds - collared doves, coal tits and long-tailed tits, dunnocks and greenfinches, as well as magpies and crows. Pride of place at this time of year of course goes to the robin.

Strangely, no squirrels at all this year. They obviously haven’t needed to venture far from the park to find their food.

TV Notes

Highlight of the Crimbo TV viewing was The Great Escape. The film has been around as long as I have; by now you would have thought that they would have learnt from their mistakes, but no, they still get caught. That motorbike is never going to get over the fence, Steve McQueen.

Dr Who was the only ‘must see’ TV this Crimbo, and even that was a little disappointing. Roll on Torchwood, which has become Dr Who for grown-ups.

But there was of course the glorious Christmas movie that is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I’m sure that by now I know the script better than Chevy Chase, but its laugh-out-loud funny every year.

Fantasy Football Notes

Who would have thought it. I managed to win both of my fantasy football leagues (US football, none of that soccer nonsense).

In my season-long league, I scraped into fourth place with an 8-6 record. I knocked off the number 1 seed 83-72 through a great performance in the snow by Jamal Lewis. In the final I beat the number 2 seeds 79-54 with huge games by David Garrard (first start for me, having finally give up on Carson Palmer) and Green Bay’s Ryan Grant.

Almost the same story in my half-season league. Scraped into the playoffs with an average 5-4 record through more points scored. In the semi-final I beat the number 3 seed 74-61 through late pick up RB Earnest Graham. The final saw a match-up with the 8-1 number 1 seed. New England’s Randy Moss and Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck came through for me and I won 66-63. Didn’t really deserve to win, having not noticed that Willie Parker had a broken leg and leaving Clinton Portis’ 21 points on the bench.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Frank's new step machine

A new Christmas pressie. Some co-ordination problems to start though!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Thursday, December 20, 2007


No good reason, just thought I'd post this pic of the hound.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More train notes

From BBC commentator’s Betsan Powys’ blog

35,000 metres of fencing
30,000 tonnes of ballast
21,000 metres of rail
8,000 metres of cabling
800m of platform
382 parking spaces
45 years
30 million pounds
24 cycle lockers
17 daily journeys
15 days of public exhibitions
13 signals
8 passenger help points
6 new stations
5 new switch and crossing units
4 days of press releases
3 minutes for WAG to turn on Blaenau Gwent Council
2 million pounds before the line gets a clean bill of health
1 almighty blame game
0 first passenger train since 1962 to arrive at Ebbw Vale Parkway at 11.42 on Friday 14 December.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Car Notes

Bought a new car today. Well, ‘pre-enjoyed’ to use the new language (‘second hand’ in old money).

It’s a Toyota RAV4. The spec is 2005, five door, automatic, alloys, electric sunroof, radio/CD, air conditioning, electric windows, ABS, immobiliser, remote locking, roof rails, and a pile of airbags. Oh, and its blue.

Probably one of the simplest car-buying transaction I’ve ever done. The interweb has levelled the playing field. All the research can be done at home, so that you know exactly what’s out the and how much they cost. So instead of sales reps the guys on the forecourts are not much more than cashiers.

Pick it up tomorrow, and hand over our old Saxo and a small pile of cash.

Rugby Notes

Ebbw Vale saw off a robust challenge from Llantrisant yesterday to go through to the last 32 of the Konica Minolta Cup.

They won out 46-13, and led from the very first minute. A cold, frosty day and a muddy pitch ensured a good, old-fashioned cup game. A physical game saw both teams adopt a brawn over brains approach, with the rolling maul much in evidence.

Draw for the next round will be held in secret sometime next week.

Scorers: Two tries for Ian George, a hat trick for Simon Hunt, fresh back from representing England in the Dubai Sevens, and also tries for John Bowd, Bryan Shelbourne and Rob Lewis. One conversions for Bryan Shelbourne and two for Aaron Bramwell.

Man of the match: Rhys Williams. Simply everywhere.

Highlight: In the crowd, Gareth, freshly returned from Africa, was wrapped up in 9 layers against the far-from-tropical weather. Bitter, mun.

Elsewhere, there was no giant-slaying - all of the Premiership teams got through, although Tredegar came very close to toppling Aberavon, going down 24-29.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ponty Notes

A sign sprung up a few weeks ago to say that a batch of land is available for sale just below our house, on Ynysangharad Road – the land shown on the left half of the picture from the auctioneer’s website.

It was due to go to auction last week, and is described as a “sloping parcel of overgrown land”. The slope is somewhere in the region of 45 degrees! Despite this, the estate agent/auctioneer believes the site “would appear suited to a residential development, subject to gaining any necessary consents.”

It doesn’t appear to have been sold, but as a warning to any potential purchasers, here’s notice that I’ll be objecting to any ‘necessary consents’.

Baby Notes

Not long now. Just over a month to go to Cath’s due date (18 January).

There’s a final scan scheduled for 27 December, and then in January the three ante-natal classes start. Since one of the classes is a tour of the maternity suite at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, it doesn’t feel like a whole lot of training.

Thanks goodness we’ve got a big group of friends with children, all of whom are more than willing to pass on their advice and stories – both good and bad. One of the secrets is to filter out large chunks of the stuff we get told.

Rugby Notes

Rather than rained off, the Swansea game at St Helens was monsooned off on Saturday, as was the rest of the Principality Premiership. Which means that Ebbw Vale stay top for another week.

Had a chance over the weekend, amongst construction of IKEA wardrobes (lightly covered in arterial splashback), to see some of the Heineken Cup rugby on Sky.

Highlight was referee Wayne Barnes stopping the Scarlets v Munster game “for 30 seconds whilst this blows over”, on which Scott Quinnell commented “he’s obviously not been to Llanelli before”.

Travel Notes

Getting to London a little early for my meeting on Monday (at the Treasury since you ask), I got off the Tube one stop early and took a lunchtime stroll through St James’ Park. On a brisk December day it was very reminiscent of Boston Common.

The pond was teeming with wild birds – greylag and Canada geese and swans – with one black swan getting all the attention and bread.

With views of the London Eye and Big Ben lit by a low watery sun against distant grey clouds, it was an oasis of calm amongst the chaos – a wonderful retreat away from the general hustle and bustle that is London in the run up to Christmas.

More Train Notes

Following yesterday’s post below; things have taken a turn for the worse.

The BBC website and elsewhere report that the official opening of the Ebbw Vale train line has now been cancelled and the start date of 22 December has been put back to some indeterminate date in the New Year. This cancellation comes just two days before the official opening, and demonstrates a staggering lack of planning. Was it the wrong sort of frost this week?

WAG Ministers blame Blaenau Gwent council, who in turn seem to blame their contractors – contract management, anyone? The council said "We were assured by all parties that the date of 22 December for commencement of services was achievable, and are bitterly disappointed that last-minute issues have forced a delay.” Not the only ones, mate. Disappointed, but frankly, not surprised.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Train Notes

Today’s Western Mail carries the story that the official opening of the Ebbw Vale train line to Cardiff is happening as planned this Friday (14 December). However, that doesn’t mean that services start that day, or even the next one – the scheduled hourly service doesn’t actually start until Saturday 22 December, another 8 days away. So, the answer to the question ‘when is an official opening not an official opening?’ is ‘when it’s a PR exercise.”

Even after the delays (the original start date for the service was “summer 2007”) two stations, Cross Keys and Llanhilleth won’t be open - but will open for business in another 3 months. Allegedly.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Steelmen go top

Rather than write my own match report from Saturday evening floodlit (and flooded) encounter with Llanelli, here is a report from the South Wales Argus that tells a pretty good account.

Ebbw Vale 16 Llanelli 0

EBBW Vale showed those watching their clash with Llanelli on television just how tenacious they can be with a bullying victory that sent them to the top of the Premiership table.

The awful conditions that blighted sporting events throughout the UK meant that the S4C cameras didn't capture a spectacle that many would have hoped for, but it was an absorbing contest none the less.

It was weather that made the hardy souls getting drenched on the terraces realise how lucky they were not to be the poor cameraman stuck 50 yards up a crane in howling winds.

But while others grimace at such conditions, the Vale pack just get on with what they do best - grinding the opposition down. In fact, when the likes of John McPhail, Rhys Williams and John Bowd see puddles on the pitch they probably break into a smile. The Steelmen's back-row trio were immense and it was them who took the plaudits rather than Llanelli's promising youngsters.

Andrew McLaughlan was named man of the match by the commentary team, but while the full back's covering and big right boot was key to Vale's victory, the sponsors' choice of Williams was a better option.

The number eight has been blighted by injury since returning to the club from Cross Keys, but he looked back to his best on Saturday as he charged into Llanelli, making hard yards with every carry.

Vale bossed the game from the off and should have had a much more comfortable lead than the 6-0 one they held at the break. Two Aaron Bramwell penalties, the second with the last kick of the half, were all they had to show for their efforts with the wind at their backs, and a more experienced side could have made them pay for that.

Llanelli spent 20 minutes down to 14 men, Scotland prop Bruce Douglas and hooker Craig Hawkins both seeing yellow for pulling down mauls, but they defended with far more determination than they did in defeat to Newport a week earlier.

Vale were frustrated after numerous attempts to drive over the line were repelled, but were also fortunate to keep their lead when centre Richard Thomas intercepted a pass by Aussie outside-half Michael Delore inside his own half, only to throw an inaccurate offload to Alec Jenkins.

And things looked ominous when the visitors began to dominate territory and possession in the second half. However, not for the first time this season, the Steelmen showed tremendous discipline to defend their line without incurring the wrath of referee Jon Mason.

And that restraint paid off when Bramwell made it 9-0, a large lead given the conditions, on 53 minutes when Llanelli ended Vale's best move of the match from an offside position.

Lock Neil Edwards, who is ominously starting to regain the form he showed last season, came up with a couple of big steals off Llanelli throws to distinguish the visitors' hopes and then Vale added some gloss in the closing stages.

Llanelli were deep inside and put in to a scrum inside their own 22 but the front row of Ian George, Richard Wilkes and Anthony Lott applied the squeeze and won it against the head to allow McPhail to cross unopposed. Job done.

Ebbw Vale: A McLaughlan, J Williams, K Owen, A Bramwell, A Bevan, M Delore, R Lewis (B Shelbourne 65), I George, M Williams (R Wilkes 75), M Jones (A Lott 56), W Thomas, N Edwards, J Bowd (captain), J McPhail (G Donaldson 79), R Williams.

Scorers: try - J McPhail; conversion - A Bramwell, penalties - A Bramwell (3).

Friday, November 30, 2007

Rugby Notes III

There’s an excellent column by the legendary REL on the new and improved, best ever Ebbw Vale RFC website, reproduced here. All I can say is here, here!

Things I don’t want for Christmas – books by Dallaglio, Catt and Thomas. Things I was once happy to have for Christmas – books by Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett and Bleddyn Williams.

Another thing I would like for Christmas is a local derby on Boxing Day. You will remember we had to travel to Llandovery last year, and they will have to travel to us this time. What a coincidence!

The Boxing Day fixtures for 26 December 2006 were:- Aberavon v Neath; Bedwas v Cardiff; Bridgend v Maesteg; Cross Keys v Newport, Swansea v Llanelli (all local derbies) and Llandovery v Ebbw Vale (anything but).

The Boxing Day fixtures for 26 December 2007 will be:- Neath v Aberavon; Cardiff v Bedwas; Maesteg v Bridgend; Newport v Cross Keys, Llanelli v Swansea (where have we heard that before?) and Ebbw Vale v Llandovery (Oh! No, not again).

We have had some close games with our friends The Drovers, but isn’t it time someone else had to travel more than a few miles the day after Christmas? Isn’t it obvious that every year the same neighbours play each other EXCEPT US?

I am not suggesting someone Down There (they would say UP there), has it in for Ebbw and Llandovery, but travelling a few miles for a Boxing Day game is good for players and supporters and it’s a benefit that should be shared. But don’t hold your frosty breath, the Spirit of Christmas does not permeate the fixture making department. It must be run by a Scrooge before he saw the light.

Rugby Notes II

There are a bunch of rule laws (not rules, this is rugby not soccer) being proposed for next season.

The key changes include allowing hands in the ruck, no number restrictions at lineout, no passing back into the 22 for a kick into touch on the full, and a 5m offside line from the base of the scrum in defence.

The IRB is hoping to trial the new laws in the Super 14 this coming (northern hemisphere) summer. As this link to a great New Zealand site Rugby Heaven shows, the arrangements are yet to be finalised.

Rugby Notes I

Ebbw Vale are flying high again this season. They are currently second in the Premiership and it’s this, plus the advent of SatNav, that will bring the cameras of S4C up the valley to televise our game against Llanelli this Saturday.

5:30 kick-off. Be there if you can, but if you can’t watch it on TV (in Welsh).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rugby Notes

Rather predictably, Wales went down 12-34 to South Africa, who showed some clinical finishing despite never really needing to be at full speed for most of the game.

Congratulations to Colin Charvis who set the record for the most international tries by a forward with his 22nd score. On a similar subject, Mark Jones must be closing in on a record for most times a player has coughed the ball up and given the opposition a try.

What’s in a name?

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink scored for Celtic on the weekend. My reaction was, Wow, what a fantastic name. So I did a bit of research (quiet weekend visiting friends).

His name - one of the longest in European football - derives from the 17th century, when two farming families in Netherlands intermarried. Both the Vennegoor and Hesselink names carried equal social weight, and so rather than choose between them they chose to use both. "Of" in Dutch translates to "or" in English, which would mean that a strict translation of his name would read “Jan Vennegoor or Hesselink”'. So effectively he’s got a double-barrel surname.

And there was me thinking that Celtic had a part-time baron or duke playing for them.

Blog Notes

Dave & Lou recommended this link to me - Book the Cook. It’s a haven for all foodies, written by a chef, writer & food TV presenter David Hall. I can heartily recommend the chicken and bacon pasta dish which Dave knocked out on the weekend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cup Rugby Notes

It’s the Konica Minolta Cup on Saturday 15 December. It’s the third round where the Premiership clubs join in.

Following a contrived WRU draw to ensure that they were kept apart, these are the 14 (of 32) games that feature the Premiership teams.

Ammanford v Pontypridd
Bedwas v Nantyffyllon
Blackwood Stars v Neath
Bryncethin v Bridgend
Carmarthen Ath v Newport
Cross Keys v Loughor
Felinfoel v Maesteg
Glamorgan Wanderers v Rumney
Llanelli v Llangennech
Llantrisant v Ebbw Vale
Pontypool v Cardiff
Swansea v Tredegar Ironsides
Tredegar v Aberavon
UWIC v Llandovery

I fancy that Tredegar v Aberavon should be interesting, and Pooler v Cardiff could be an upset. As for me, I’ll be popping five miles down the road to see the Steelmen visit the Black Army.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Thanksgiving Day in the United States is an annual day of thanks for the blessings of the past year, observed on the fourth Thursday in November, 22 November this year.

It is a historical, national, and religious holiday that began with the Pilgrims. After the survival of their first colony through the bitter winter, and the gathering of the harvest, Gov. William Bradford of Plymouth Colony issued a thanksgiving proclamation in the autumn of 1621. This first thanksgiving lasted three days, during which the Pilgrims feasted on wild turkey and venison with their Indian guests.

Lots more on Wikipedia.

Happy thanksgiving for this Thursday.

British Library

I had a meeting in the British Library in London last week. As well as learning about the risks associated with storing some 150 million books including some of the rarest books in the world. Their collection expands by some 7 miles of shelving every year. (I know the feeling; I was in IKEA last week buying a new bookcase.)

I was able to spend a short while in their ‘Treasures’ museum, which includes the Magna Carta as well as original manuscripts for Handel’s Messiah and Lennon and McCartney’s Yesterday. Side by side.

And it's a library rather than a museum, so you can actually get to touch and read almost all of these books.

TV Notes

Nowadays it’s a diet of repeats – The Sopranos is being shown from the very beginning, and The West Wing is in the middle of a re-run. Both of them on More 4.

Of course the weekend TV viewing, what there is of it, is Heineken Cup rugby and the NFL, both on Sky Sports.

Other Blogs of Note

Interesting to see how many journalists use people’s blogs as the basis for their stories.

This past weekend the papers have been full of the information gleaned from the blog of Alex Allan, newly appointed chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee and Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice. As a board member of a probation board, I guess in some way he is my boss.

Anyway, as well as being a Grateful Dead fan, he also once windsurfed to work up the Thames. Oh, and his home address and phone numbers were published. I say “were”, because they have been hastily deleted.

You, and other journos, can find the blog at

Rugby Notes

After last week’s great win over Newport at Dave Parade, there was a poor showing by Ebbw Vale yesterday at Glamorgan Wanderers, going down 8-16.

Details as always on the newly updated and jazzier than ever Ebbw Vale RFC website.

Scorers: A try for Rhys Williams and a penalty for Simon Hunt.

Highlights: Not too many. I guess the fact that Ebbw came back from a 16-0 half-time deficit after a dismal first 40 minutes should be some encouragement.

Lowlight: The laughable passive scrums after Wands got a prop sin-binned lat on. It’s a stupid rule in those circumstances since the 7-man pack doesn’t get penalised at the set piece.

Man of the Match: John Bowd for another tireless effort.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Pontypridd fireworks show

A picture I took last night of the fireworks display put on by the Council in Ponty Park. Great display.

The weather was perfect and, judging by the traffic, people came from all over to see the show. The best view though was looking out of our bedroom window.

Hopefully I'll get around to putting a few more fireworks photos up on my Flickr site (there's a link in the right-hand column).

Rugby Notes

Another fine win for Ebbw Vale on the weekend, 16-12 at Pontypridd. I say “at Pontypridd” because it’s still an away game for me even though its only less than half a mile walk to Sardis Road.

The pack dominated again but failed to convert lots of early pressure into points. Mental mistakes are still killing us, keeping Ponty and their fans interested. A yellow card for a high tackle by Nio Aiono just before half time helped let Ponty back into the game. Ponty’s Nathan Strong was outstanding in the loose, but Ebbw pack made life difficult and Neil Edwards gave yet another lineout masterclass.

The backs suffered from being switched around, and a few new combinations failed to click. Both wings (Williams and Bevan) were substituted and the reshaped backline defended superbly late on to keep a surging Ponty out.

Ebbw didn’t play well, but came away with the win. No easy achievement down at Sardis Road.

The Western Mail’s report is here and the Wales on Sunday’s here. A less objective view is on the Ebbw Vale RFC site here. As a result Ebbw stay second, and look forward to a trip to the Evil Empire Newport next Saturday.

Scorers: Tries for Bryan Shelbourne and Will Thomas, two penalties for Simon Hunt.

Highlight: Yet again the pack was excellent. As Ponty tried to disrupt the scrum by wheeling, Ebbw’s loosehead Alistair Lyons would have nothing of it. Instead of being pulled around, he simply stood up with his hands in the air when the Ponty tighthead was going backwards.

Lowlight: A couple of lapses of concentration and/or commitment led to Ebbw conceding tries. Need to ‘switch on’ for the full 80 minutes.

Man of the Match: Will Thomas (pictured, from Graham's site), excellent in the tight and showing up everywhere on the field, including on the wing to nab his try.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Baseball Notes

The Boston Red Sox won the World Series over the weekend, beating the Colorado Rockies 4-0 in the best of seven series. Lots of reports all over the ‘net, including an electronic tree’s worth on the Boston Globe’s website.

But here’s my view, bleary eyed from staying up to late to watch the games or else trying to avoid the score to watch the game on Sky+ from the night before.

Pitching wins matches in the post season. Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Dice-K and Jon Lester all pitched well, and Jonathan Pabelbon closed games with nerves of steel. Next season expect Clay Buchholz to come through as well.

Rookies Justin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury played their parts too, and they look like names to watch. Big Papi and Manny were awesome in getting the Sox to the World Series, but the rest of the team played so well that they weren’t overly relied on to get the job done. Mike Lowell was deservedly named MVP for the series.

There’s no resting on laurels though. Already the world has moved on though, with many players at the end of their contracts registering for free agency. One such story is on Curt Schilling’s own website.

Rugby Notes

Excellent 12-9 win by Ebbw Vale over Cardiff last weekend. Despite a poor showing by the ref Phil Fear, and Cardiff’s ability to be permanently a yard offside, Ebbw held up well. After trying a wide range of kickers with mixed success this year (McCarthy, Bramwell and Shelbourne to name but three), this week winger Simon Hunt stepped up and landed 4 of 5.

Until the last five minutes when panic started to set in, Cardiff seemed unwilling to play any sort of attractive rugby, settling instead of hoofing it downfield or keeping it up the jumper.

Ebbw’s pack was awesome again, but need to be a bit more organised to stop the opposition disrupting at scrum and maul.

You can read some more reports in the Western Mail, the South Wales Andrex or on Ebbw Vale’s own website.

Scorers: Four penalties by Simon Hunt.

Highlight: Excellent defence late on. As the Western Mail says, Cardiff had eight phases of ball at the death, and didn’t make a yard, let alone look like scoring a try.

Lowlight: The shambolic line-outs. Cardiff had clearly been watching the World Cup, as the new tactic of stepping away from the opposition when they start to form a maul was much in evidence. It leads to the bizarre sight of the opposition running away from the maul. The rules have to be changed to a) stop the game be ruined, and b) stop Cardiff looking as though they don’t want to play any rugby.

Man of the Match: Nio Aniono for his tireless work.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

RWC Reflections

As I suspected, there were no great fireworks in the Rugby World Cup final last Saturday. England huffed and puffed, but couldn’t blow South Africa’s house down. In a game of kicks, they lost 15-6. Many England fans and commentators have been lobbying for tries to be allowed whilst one foot is in touch; but the rule hasn’t been changed yet. They could always move the line out a bit though.

To round the tournament off, here are my ‘Six Nations’ and ‘Rest of the World’ teams picked from the form players in the RWC.

Six Nations
15 Jason Robinson (England)
14 Sean Lamont (Scotland)
13 Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
12 Yannick Jauzian (France)
11 Chris Patterson (Scotland)
10 Johnny Wilkinson (England)
9 Andy Gomarsall (England)
1 Andrew Sheridan (England)
2 Raphael Ibanez (France)
3 Phil Vickery (England)
4 Simon Shaw (England)
5 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
6 Martin Correy (England)
8 Julain Bonnaire (France)
7 Thierry Dusaustoir (France)

Rest of the World
15 Chris Latham (Australia)
14 Vilimoni Delasau (Fiji)
13 Seru Rabeni (Fiji)
12 Luke McAllister (New Zealand)
11 Bryan Habana (South Africa)
10 Juan Martin Hernandez (Argentina)
9 Fourie de Preez (South Africa)
1 Rodrigo Roncero (Argentina)
2 Mario Ledesma (Argentina)
3 Martin Scelzo (Argentina)
4 Patricio Albacte (Argentina)
5 Victor Matfield (South Africa)
6 Nili Latu (Tonga)
8 Sisa Koyamabole (Fiji)
7 Juan Smith (South Africa)

Player of the tournament – Fourie de Preez
Game of the tournament – Wales vs Fiji
Unluckiest team – Canada

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rugby Notes

Wasn’t at Ebbw Vale’s 15-12 win over Bedwas on the weekend, but you can read all about the win on the Ebbw Vale RFC website or in the South Wales Andrex.

Ebbw are now second in the Principality Premiership. Next up its Cardiff at home on Saturday.

Basball Notes

Phew. Boston made hard work of it, but has eventually made it through to the World Series. They beat the Cleveland Indians 4 games to 3 in the best of seven series, having been 3-1 down. Pitcher Josh Beckett was deservedly named man of the series for his two wins.

Boston faces the unbeatable Colorado Rockies (they’re won 21 of their last 22 games) in the best of seven final which starts tonight at Fenway Park. Coverage on NASN and five.

Dilbert Quotes

Here are some quotes from the people who put the ‘duh’ in ‘Induhvidual’, culled from the Dilbert newsletter:

"There's more than one way to peel a cat."

"That woman uses olive oil like it grows on trees."

"He'd give you the arm off his back."

"You play ball with me and I'll scratch yours."

"We do not have a smoking cow at this point."

"It's our golden goose. We better figure out how to make her purr."

"You are in the top one hundred percent."

"She has four kids, and she's pregnant with her third."

"He'd still be alive today if he hadn't died.”

"How many quarters can you cut an apple into?"

"Why don't they just put the water back in the lake when it's been through the generator?"

"Is your nephew a boy or a girl?"

This Week's Stuff

Link of the Week

James Blunt, the mushy singer-songwriter and rhyming slang, appears to have a sense of humour. He appeared on Sesame Street, and sang a version of You’re Beautiful, about a cute, furry triangle.

“This shape was brilliant / This shape was pure / I saw three angles, of that I am sure...”

See the video on YouTube

Website of the Week

This bizarre website is in the Sion Barry category of splendid waste of time blogs. In this one, Running from Camera a man sets his camera timer to two seconds, and runs:

Old Joke of the Week

1) Just been to my first Islamist birthday party. The musical chairs was a bit slow but boy, pass the parcel was quick.

2) Two aerials got married. The service was nothing special, but the reception was fantastic.

DIY Notes

Found the shower leak! A bit of dodgy grouting was the cause. A good dollop of sealant has fixed it - for the time being anyway.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Update on Wisdom Teeth

Remember a few weeks ago when I blogged about my experience at Prince Charles Hospital when I has my wisdom teeth out? Well, the Western Mail has picked up on the story, and it became part of their front-page story last Saturday.

As the feature says, Paul Hollard, interim chief executive of North Glamorgan NHS Trust, will investigate the issues that have been raised. When (if?) I get a reply I’ll post it here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Travel Notes

Enjoyable – Travelled to London for a conference yesterday. Had to up at a godforsaken hour to catch the 6:55 train from Cardiff. I was pleasantly surprised by the train. It was a shiny new carriage with comfy chairs and smiling staff. My toasted sausage sarnie and a freshly ironed copy of The Times (OK, not ironed) was a perfect start to the day.

But then when the first class return ticket costs £241, I guess it’s no more than I should expect. I’m just glad that work was paying for the ticket.

Aggravating – The return train trip home. The platform number for 4:45 train was announced at Paddington and all heck breaks loose. The stampede to the train was quite a remarkable sight. In the end there’s standing room only – paying over £200 clearly brings with it no guarantee of a seat in first class, or anywhere. Thankfully I was at Paddington sufficiently early to grab my seat.

Eventually, past Swindon, the numbers thin and there’s enough room for everyone to get a seat.


The conference was at Wembley Stadium. Lots of concrete and metal, and at first glance quite similar to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. It hasn’t got a roof, and the slope of the seating is a lot more gentle than in Cardiff. Its in the middle of an industrial estate whist the Millennium Stadium is … Ahh.

Got to sit in the Royal Box. I have to say that it’s nothing special, the seats are a bit more spaced out and have some padding but there’s nothing special about it at all. No different to the other seats on that tier. Also used the loo nearby. Or throne room.

Art Notes

Went with Cath to the Chapter Arts Centre for a quick bite to seat after work on Tuesday. Whilst tucking into my venison sausages (see, it isn’t all knitted tofu and veggie burgers) I had a chance to read their What’s On leaflet.

This is what’s on this coming Saturday (and no, I’m not making this up):

Jeong Geum-Hyung performs a brilliant duet between a woman and a vacuum cleaner, and
Neil Davies in an intimate and introspective self portrait carried out in silence on a carpet of salt.
I’m sure that tickets will still be available. Bring your own hoover and saxo.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Running Notes

I’ve been a little lax in congratulating some of the Ebbw contingent who took part In the recent Swansea 10k race. The veteran (in running terms) Dai Evans did it in 45:55, Ian Janes (EyeJay) in 54:47 and Dai Roberts in 1:06:22. The full set of results can found here.

I missed it this year, having done it every year since I turned 40. To make up for this, I’m going to do the Wyvern Christmas Cracker 10k on 9 December. It starts and finishes on Weston-super-Mare’s beach. I know - when the tide is out you can easily do 10k just running from the promenade to the sea and back. If anyone wants to enter, here’s the organiser’s website.

Anyway, that’s the target, now for a bit of training.

Beaufort House Notes

It’s a bit of a sad day. My old house in Canterbury Road, Beaufort has finally gone on the market. Since I moved down to Pontypridd a couple of years ago I have been renting it out. But now with a baby on the way we have other financial pressures and so releasing the cash would be very useful.

It’s on the market with Darlows in Brynmawr and the Halifax in Ebbw Vale. Very reasonably priced at £139,995, especially when compared with another (albeit extended) house a few doors up going for £175,000 and a dorma bungalow on sale in Hereford Road for £152,000

You can find all the details on Right Move, the estate agent website, by clicking here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

This Week’s Sign of the Apocalypse

Getting off the train at Pontypridd station around 6:30 on Friday evening, I found a cordon of police. They had set up an x-ray scanner and were searching anyone they thought might be carrying a knife.

So that what the average youth takes with him for a Friday night out in Pontypridd. In my day the most lethal thing you came across on a Friday night out was a dodgy kebab.

The police decided that I didn't look shifty enough to warrant being searched. So you can tell how shifty the others must have looked.

DIY Notes

OK. Does anyone know how to diagnose where a walk-in shower is leaking? A drip from the ceiling in the hallway is emanating from the shower, so a few hours were spent on the weekend re-sealing the shower tray and the rest of the enclosure.

This morning was the first shower since and there’s absolutely no difference.

It could a bit of dodgy pipework, which would be a major task. Argh!

Baby Notes

Cath has made it to 26 weeks, and started to look enormous. Without any training she has skilfully adopted the “pregnant woman getting out of chair” choreography.

We already have a pram and a car seat (holiday purchases from the US of A), and we have been promised a crib. A bit of decoration is now required to transform the spare bedroom into a nursery. A trip to the dreaded IKEA is probably in order to get a changing table, and then we’ll be all set.

Now, where’s that baby instruction manual?

WRC Rugby Notes

It’s the nightmare scenario for all rugby fans outside of England who have to listen to the supposedly British media bat on about how wonderful “we” played and how “we” deserve to be in the World Cup final.

Yep, England just about edged out France 14-9 due to a fortunate first minute bounce and a dominating pack. Still no sign of life outside the front nine, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

On Sunday, there was a proper game of rugby. Well, it was a good game for 60 minutes or so until South Africa ran off with it, in the end well beating Argentina 37-13. Argentina’s pack gave the Boks a game throughout, which doesn’t bode well for next Saturday’s final.

Expect to see of lot of huffing and puffing; more piano movers than piano players. Hopefully the Springboks can get enough ball to actually play some rugby and quite down the press for a while.

Ebbw Rugby Notes

A fine 24 -17 win for Ebbw Vale at Premiership table-toppers Neath on Saturday. Considering Ebbw hadn’t won there since 1999, I did not travel optimistically. Indeed, I had considered giving the game a miss. But a couple of 23 – 23 draws between the sides swayed me into thinking that it could be a good game.

And what a game. Best this season by a country mile. Four tries meant a bonus point as well.

More details on the Ebbw Vale RFC website, and various reports of the game can be found here and here.

Ebbw Vale now go third in the Premiership. The table is on Graham’s website. Next weekend Ebbw are home to Bedwas.

Scorers: Four tries, all scored by backs: two for wing turned centre Jamie Lewis (son of ex-Ebbw Steve Lewis, onetime WRU chief exec), one for wing John Rees Williams and one for Dragons loaned outside-half Gareth McCarthey. Two conversions, one each for McCarthey and sub Bryan Shelbourne.

Highlights: Best crowd of the season, and best game of the season. Ebbw’s pack outplayed Neath, and everyone tackled their hearts out.

Lowlights: Very few, but to be picky we missed a bunch of kicks which kept Neath close and could have cost us dear. A few mental mistakes too: restarts straight into touch, and Nio got pinged a few times for not binding in the scrums.

Man of the Match: Tough call, it could have been anyone, but I’d just about give it to Aaron Bramwell, who had a great game at centre.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Things that Welsh rugby can do to save itself

This is a copy of an article from the South Wales Echo by Delme Parfitt. I don't know the chap, but he seems to be the only one in the Welsh media with even the slightist clue.

THE inquest is in full flow, the bitter recriminations have only just begun. Where now for Welsh rugby after the humiliation of the first ever World Cup exit at the pool stage of the professional era?

Well, contrary to some thinking, it does not start and end with the appointment of a successor to Gareth Jenkins as head coach, though that is obviously key. No, there are a whole host of things that the Welsh Rugby Union and the Wales team has to address if we are not to be crying into our Steinlager come New Zealand 2011.

Here’s 10 of the most pressing issues in my book:

1. GO OVERSEAS FOR NEW MAN: No disrespect, but there are simply no suitable candidates among the Welsh regions at present, which in itself says a lot.

There is potential in Phil Davies and Dai Young. Davies would play hard to get at the moment, testing the water to see how the public would take to his appointment, but he would love to do the job. However the chances of the WRU going back to Stradey Park are almost nil. People will scoff at Young, even though he has turned things around at the Blues.

The fact is neither man is the right man at the moment. Gareth Jenkins’ regime was always seen as being infected by West Walian baggage and any Welshman would be at risk of something similar.

This Wales team needs a big-hitting, proven, authoritative, figure who will not suffer fools, someone who will grab hold of the dressing room and lead by example with a rod of iron, someone well in touch with the modern game and the modern player.

In other words, not a Welshman.

2. A WELSH UNDERSTUDY: There’s no point just bringing in an overseas boss if there is no plan for any sort of succession.

The ideal scenario has to be a Welshman coaching Wales and therefore the WRU must insist a Welshman understudies any new appointment with a view to taking charge in four years time having been groomed by his superior during that period.

We cannot be left in the same position we find ourselves in now – with no real idea of where to go for a new leader.

New appointments invariably want their own people by their side. Fair enough to a certain extent, but the union has to put Welsh rugby’s needs first.

3. FOUR-YEAR CONTRACT: When Jenkins was appointed, he was given just a two-year contract which suggested caution on the part of his employers. That caution was eventually proved right because Jenkins wasn’t the right man.

This time the WRU has to be absolutely certain it has the best fellow for the job and that certainty has to be borne out with a contract that runs until the 2011 World Cup.
And if the guy they court won’t commit for that long then they should say “thanks, but no thanks”.

Wales has gone through five different national coaches in the last nine years. The chopping and changing has to stop. The public and the Press will swallow a few disappointing results along the way, so long as there are signs of progress which were so absent under Jenkins.

4. NEW YOUNG CAPTAIN: You could almost write a book on the mess Jenkins made of the captaincy. Quite frankly he couldn’t make up his mind who he wanted to lead the team and because of that the team suffered.

Gareth Thomas won’t play again and so Stephen Jones and Dwayne Peel are the obvious candidates. I’d go for neither, instead plumping for one of the younger members of the side who is clearly going to be a focal point for years. Alun Wyn Jones or Ryan Jones are two that spring to mind.

The team is crying out for a fresh start, and Jones, great guy though he is, wouldn’t represent that. What’s more, you have to wonder how much longer he will be around.
Peel? He’s under too much pressure from Mike Phillips to be certain of his place, and I can’t see that changing for a long while.

Like the coach, the captain has to be appointed with a long term view. One team, one captain.

5. CENTRAL CONTRACTS: This is an unlikely development because of the competing vested interests of the WRU and the regions, but it is the way forward. Not so long ago the relationship between the two parties was being hailed as the envy of England, but more recently there has been squabbling over World Cup compensation for the use of players and other matters.

I wouldn’t advocate going down the Irish route where the very best players barely play at all for their provinces. But the bottom line is whether we in Wales want the game to be geared to the benefit of the national side. If so then central contracts would ensure players are better prepared for Test rugby and also spread the best talent around the regions making more of them competitive in the Magners League.

For example, would the WRU have allowed Mike Phillips to understudy Justin Marshall at the Ospreys?

6. REVIEW OF BACKROOM TEAM: Here’s a question: what was the point of the Wales team’s psychologist John Neal? He was paid hundreds of pounds a day and barely used by any of the players. The point being that the WRU has to look at precisely what it needs surrounding the head coach.

Any new man will have his own ideas of course, and experts in forward play and defence are part and parcel of modern Test rugby management teams. But appointments have to be monitored. Jenkins went out and brought in a clutch of vastly inexperienced guys, placing their loyalty and potential above anything else.

It didn’t work – and the same errors must not be repeated.

7. SORT OUT ELITE PERFORMANCE DIRECTOR: I can’t remember when this post was advertised it was so long ago. And yet still nobody is in place.

Apparently the delay is because the preferred candidate has one or two personal issues to iron out, but we can’t wait forever. This role is going to be one of arch-overseer and is therefore of crucial importance. Before anyone else is appointed, this position has to be filled and to do anything else would be pure folly.

The EPD has to stand at the apex of Wales team command.

8. IMPROVE MAGNERS LEAGUE: Just how you go about this is almost imponderable, but it goes without saying it requires the commitment of the two other Celtic nations as well. In many ways it’s a double-edged sword because if you commit to the Magners League it is bound to be at times to the detriment of the national cause. But it could all start with greater co-operation between the WRU and its Irish and Scottish counterparts about taking the competition more seriously.

Particularly Ireland, whose disdain of the league up to now did their national team little good at the World Cup.

9. REVIEW THE WELSH PREMIERSHIP: We always get James Hook thrown at us whenever the usefulness of this league is questioned, but we have to look deeper than him. The Premiership is supposed to be a feeder for the regional game and thus the national team, but is it functioning properly in that respect?

Some sides are young and developing, others throw more money at it and value success far more. There has to be more uniformity and clarity of purpose.

And if that means bringing in stricter rules on the use of players with the criteria being age or experience then so be it. When it was first established the WRU wanted the Premiership to go on rival New Zealand’s NPC.

It’s nowhere near it at the moment.

10. BETTER COMMUNICATION BETWEEN REGIONS AND WRU: If players spend 70 per cent of the season playing in a certain position or style and are then asked to change when they link up with the national team, how are we ever going to succeed? Yet in too many instances that is the case, with the examples of Hook and Henson at the Ospreys arguably the most glaring. It’s up to the national set-up – for that is what must come first – to spell out how it would like individuals and regional teams as a whole to play and then for the regions to buy into it.

That way they can hit the ground running when Test match preparation comes around. You can only get to that situation through better communication

Blogging Notes

As you can see in the right hand column here, I’ve set up a label cloud, which shows the tags I’ve used to describe my various rambling and ranting. If you want to copy, the code (that’s IT-speak) is from this website.

Glamorgan season review

There’s no point in me writing a piece when Third Umpire has done such a great job. Well worth reading. There’s a whole bunch of cricket related links there too.

It’s a shame that for the first year in 20 or more years I didn’t see a single day of Glamorgan cricket - a combination of bad weather and shockingly bad cricket.

Baseball Notes

Got most of the Divisional series wrong. Just picked one out of three. Thankfully, it was the Boston Red Sox that pulled through for me and the rest of Red Sox Nation.

The Red Sox, Rockies and D-backs all swept their best-of-five divisional series, and it took the Cleveland Indians 4 games to see off the Evil Empire (or New York Yankees as they are known in some parts).

So the Championship series, starting on Friday, will be contested by:

AL – Boston Red Sox v Cleveland Indians
NL – Arizona Diamondbacks v Colorado Rockies

I'll take Boston and the Rockies.