Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Medical Notes

Our brother has got a knee. He went down when clearing up after the recent ice storm that hit the north-east USA a couple of weeks ago. The medics reckon it could be a torn meniscus, which might mean an op. Anyhow, get well soon.

Here’s a link to some of the pics he took of the ice storm – presumably before the injury.

Our mum has got a knee too. She had another steroid injection today, and the latest news from the GP is that if there isn’t any improvement a replacement knee might be the solution. Well, whatever works.

Ava's Diary

I know, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged but, hey, I’ve been busy.

It’s been very busy at the crèche for the past few weeks, as we’ve been rehearsing for our Christmas concert. Such was the demand that we had to do three shows. I had the important role of “a star” which meant sitting on stage and shaking my sleigh bells. Which I did very well.

We had a photographer visit the crèche too. And you can see a scan of the results here. I reckon I scrub up pretty well.

Last week was a first for me. Charlene, my assistant at the crèche, babysat for me when mam and dad went up to Ebbw Vale foe dinner with Jon and B. I didn’t play up too much ‘cos I like Charlene a lot.

My crawling is moving forward. Well, actually, its mostly me crawling backwards. Which means I tend to back myself into corners and then get wedged.

On Saturday I met Santa. I was surprised that he had time to be at Tredegar House, what with have to make a list and then checking it twice. Anyway, I’m looking forward to spending Christmas with nanna and gramps in Swansea, where I will be spoiled rotten.

Mele Kalikimaka

For me, this is the Christmas song of 2008. KT Tinstall's version has been all over the radio for the past few weeks, but this is the original Bing version as featured in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, one of the best Christmas films ever.

Rugby Notes

Ebbw Vale had a comfortable win up in North Wales on the weekend, and, no, I didn’t go.

They beat Llandudno 70-odd to 3. There’s some doubt as to the exact score. This article makes it 76-3, Ebbw’s website reckons it was 74. Anyway, it was a nice change for Ebbw to get some tries.

Their reward is a home game against Ynysybwl in the 5th round, to be played on 24 January.

Scorers: Tries for almost everyone - Andy McLaughlin (2), Shaun Powell (2), Aaron Bramwell (2), Kristian Owen, Andrew Bevan, James Thomas, Anthony Lott, Jonathan Griffiths and Richard Wilkes. Bramwell converted eight.

Team: Andrew McLaughlan, Kristian Owen (c), Aaron Bramwell, Shaun Powell, Andrew Bevan; Dai Langdon, Llyr Lane; Anthony Lott, Mathew Williams, Marc Jones; Matthew Griffin, Jonathan Griffiths; Rhys Jenkins, Simon Pengelly, James Thomas. Subs: Richard Wilkes, Aaron Coundley, Nick Eaves, Gavin Lucas, Ieuan Evans.

Ebbw’s next game is away at Pontypool on Saturday 27 December.

The photo comes from Whitcomb’s flickr site. Ta.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rugby Notes

I was down with a particularly bad strain of manflu on the weekend, so I didn’t get to see Ebbw Vale’s 0-8 defeat at Bedwas.

Amongst the comments on the supporters’ forum was…

“On my entrance ticket it said ‘Admit one adult to view rugby’. I reckon I can sue under the trade descriptions act because I certainly didn't see any rugby yesterday. In fact, that has to go down as one of the worst games I have ever seen. Talk about two poor sides.”

It sounds like a good one to have missed.

There’s more, if you can bear it, on The Steel Daffodil’s blog, from where I nicked the photo.

Team: Andrew McLaughlan, Ieuan Coombes, Kristian Owen (c), Aaron Bramwell, James Lewis; Dai Langdon, Ieuan Evans; Aaron Coundley, Richard Wilkes, Marc Jones; Jonathan Griffirhs, Matthew Griffin; James Thomas, Rhys Jenkins, Rhys Williams. Subs: Mathew Williams, Anthony Lott, Nick Eaves, Gavin Lucas, Llyr Lane, Shaun Powell, Andrew Bevan.

Scorers: er, nope, not a single one.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rugby Notes

Ebbw went down 11-14 at home to the Wizards of Aberavon on Saturday. Though frankly wizards they were not; we wuz robbed.

”C'mon the honest XV” was the call from the terrace, fat lot of good it did us. Aberavon conceded 20 penalties, most of them for offside and many of them cynical, and received just one yellow card. Ebbw on the other hand got one yellow (Andrew Bevan, well deserved) for just a handful of penalties.

What does this say about how to play the game? I guess you just go to spoil and disrupt & if the ref doesn't have the balls to stand up to you (and most don't) then you win. I guess that we have a young team which needs to be more streetwise (which translates as being good at playing the ref).

We didn't help ourselves by some silly mistakes and a few missed kicks, and we never led, but we didn't deserve the last minute kick in the teeth that came in the form of the winning drop goal.

Number 8 Rhys Williams was excellent and centre Shaun Powell made a huge impact when he came on.

Photo courtesy of Whitcomb.

Scorers: Try for Ieuan Coombes and two penalties for Aaron Bramwell.

My man of the match: Rhys Williams, excellent in picking up from a retreating scrum and all around the pitch.

Team: Andrew McLaughlan; Ieuan Coombes, Kristian Owen (c), Aaron Bramwell, Andrew Bevan; Andrew Williams, Llyr Lane; Anthony Lott, Mathew Williams, Marc Jones; Nick Eaves, Jonathan Griffiths; James Thomas, Rhys Jenkins, Rhys Williams. Bench: Richard Wilkes, Gareth Jones, Matthew Griffin, Gavin Lucas, Ieuan Evans, Peter Smith, Shaun Powell.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Food Notes

We ate out at Fwrrwm Ishta (no I don’t know how to pronounce that either) in Machen with Jon & B last night.

Very quiet there, probably the last lull before the Crimbo rush kicks off. The food was terrific as was the service, and of course the company.

For the record, the haddock and prawn risotto, Beef Wellington and pecan cheesecake all went down a treat.

Theatre Notes

Cath and I went to see Simon Yates - Beyond the Void at Abergavenny’s Borough Theatre last week.

Simon is best known as the man who cut the rope when his mountaineering partner Joe Simpson fell into a crevasse. (A story summarised here and made into the film Touching the Void.)

His story was about this and the rest of a remarkable career climbing up most of the world’s most difficult mountains. An enjoyable couple of hours, but it made me thankful that I didn’t shin up ice-covered mountains to get my kicks.

Ava's Diary

Here’s a flavour of what I’ve been up to in the last few weeks.

I am now sitting up on my own, and while I can’t actually crawl, I get around a bit on my hands and one knee and one foot. And then I roll over and have to start again.

My newest party tricks are clapping my hands and pointing (not at the same time).

I was ill a couple of weeks ago. I had a bout of thrush, a yeast infection in my mouth. Mam took me to casualty at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, and then the next day to my GP, Dr Gail. Just to prove that I wasn’t faking anything, I threw up over Dr Gail. I recovered after mam gave me some strawberry flavoured stuff and lots of cuddles.

I’ve spent a couple of weekends down in Swansea with nanna and grandpa. The first time mam and dad were both sick with a stomach bug (nanna called it the Bonymaen cottage hospital). The second time mam and dad went down to Tresaith to winterise the caravan, and I stayed with grandpa to watch Wales on TV.

At the crèche, we are in the middle of rehearsals for the Christmas concert. I am playing the part of a star. Mam has made me a starry, sparkly outfit and she is determined that I will be the best star in the show. She reckons I look like Diana Ross. Two concerts were originally planned, but due to demand another show has been added for grandparents. I’ll report on how the concert goes next week.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rugby Notes

At a cold Eugene Cross Park last night, Ebbw Vale were well beaten by Llanelli, 17-25. The red pack (well, they’re not ‘scarlets’ are they?) dominated throughout, and #10 Luke Richards hoofed the ball so often the ball was heard to yell “ouch”!

Llanelli dominated the set pieces, and under the circumstances it was bizarre to see Ebbw opt for a scrum in their own half when awarded a penalty. Ebbw duly got shoved off the ball and conceded a penalty which Llanelli kicked.

It wasn’t a night for good handling, as Ebbw’s frequent drops demonstrated. Llanelli played with four deep defenders forcing Ebbw to play with ball in hand and waited for the mistakes to come; which they did. Llanelli on the other hand kicked for position all the time. To my recollection Richards made just two passes all night, one to his centre and one for an interception try.

Ebbw had a purple patch (well, puce anyway) early in the second half when they got within sniffing distance of the Llanelli line, but mistakes and a few well-judged hands in the ruck prevented Ebbw from getting the score which could have made it closer.

Management of substitutes went awry: all Ebbw's subs were used 10 minutes before the end. A late injury meant that Ebbw ended the game with just 14 on the field. Would have been more embarrassing if we had really been in with a chance at the death.

Scorers: Tries for Shaun Powell and Morgan Allen, two conversions and a penalty for Andrew Williams.

Team: Dai Langdon, Andrew McLaughlan, Kristian Owen (c), Shaun Powell, Andrew Bevan; Andrew Williams, Ieuan Evans; Aaron Coundley, Mathew Williams, Anthony Lott; Gavin Lucas, Nick Eaves; Jon Griffiths, Rhys Jenkins, Morgan Allen. Subs: Richard Wilkes, Marc Jones, Gareth Jones, Matthew Griffin, Llyr Lane, Peter Smith, Dai Absolom.

My man of the match: Andrew Williams, who distributed the ball well and gave Ebbw lots of territorial advantage early in the second half, which unfortunately was not capitalised on.

Ebbw Vales’ next game is at home to Aberavon on Saturday, 6 December, 2:30 kickoff.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Travel Notes

On the way to work one day last week, I saw a student cycling to his class. Nothing unusual, except that his mode of transport was a unicycle.

A bunch of builders nearby burst into the traditional circus theme tune - http://wurlitzer-rolls.com/6526-9.mp3

Rugby Notes II

Wales yet again flattered to deceive on Saturday, plucky losers again. Losses to South Africa and New Zealand bracket a poor showing against Canada, and things don’t look too clever in Gatland’s world. They face Australia this coming Saturday.

In things you can’t make up, Shane Williams has been selected as IRB Player of the Year.

Now the dancing one hasn’t had a bad season, and was just about the best player in Wales not called Ryan Jones, but the best in the world? Give me a break. Obviously Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and the rest of the New Zealand team weren’t eligible this year.

The former internationals that decided the award probably felt it would look bad if New Zealand won every award.

Player of the Year: Shane Williams (Wales)
Team of the Year: New Zealand
Coach of the Year: Graham Henry (New Zealand)
Junior Player of the Year: Luke Braid (New Zealand)
Sevens Player of the Year: DJ Forbes (New Zealand)

The previous winners of the player of the year award have been:
2001 Keith Wood (Ireland, hooker)
2002 Fabien Galthié (France, scrum-half)
2003 Jonny Wilkinson (England, fly-half)
2004 Schalk Burger (South Africa, flanker)
2005 Dan Carter (New Zealand, fly-half)
2006 Richie McCaw (New Zealand, flanker)
2007 Bryan Habana (South Africa, winger)

Rugby Notes I

In the category of better late than never, a quick report on Ebbw Vale’s loss to Glamorgan Wanderers last week. Ebbw lost 9-13 in the dullest game of the year. Yet again Ebbw failed to cope with a team that was streetwise but had limited skill. The Ebbw Vale RFC website called it forgettable, and The Steel Daffodil called it disappointing.

Team: Andrew McLaughlan, Ieuan Coombes, Kristian Owen (capt.), Shaun Powell, Andrew Bevan; Dai Langdon, Robert Lewis; Aaron Coundley, Richard Wilkes, Jamie Corsi; Gavin Lucas, Matthew Griffin; Jonathan Griffiths, Rhys Jenkins, James Thomas. Subs: Mathew Williams, Anthony Lott, Nick Eaves, Simon Pengelly, Ieuan Evans, Andrew Williams, James Lewis.

Scorers: 3 penalties for Dai Langdon

My man of the match: A struggle to pick out someone who stood out, but Matt Griffin grafted well.

Ebbw’s next game is tomorrow (Tuesday) night when Llanelli visit, 7:30 kickoff.

One game I will be missing is the 4th round of the cup. Ebbw Vale has been drawn away again this year, and the trip is even longer than usual: Llandudno on the north Wales coast.

For rent

The property in Canterbury Road, Beaufort, Ebbw Vale (my old house) consists of a hallway, a large lounge/dining room with laminate wood floor, a fitted kitchen with cooker & fridge.

The first floor has two double bedrooms with fitted wardrobes, a single bedroom and a fitted bathroom that was done out only a few years ago.

The property is double glazed throughout and has gas central heating. A new conservatory has been constructed in the past two years.

The property has a garage and a driveway, a workshop with power at the rear, a patio, and gardens front and back.

£450 per month. Email me if interested.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Typo Notes

Thank God for church ladies with typewriters. This list of church bulletin bloopers, or a variation of it, has done the rounds on the interweb, but its still worthy of repeating here. Enjoy!

The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water.” The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus."

Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.

Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.

Miss Charlene Mason sang "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.

The Rector will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing: "Break Forth Into Joy."

At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What Is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice.

Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

Scouts are saving aluminium cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.

Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.

This evening at 7pm there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.

Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7pm. Please use the back door.

The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7pm. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.

The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: "I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours".

Today in History

The Allied powers a signed a cease-fire agreement with Germany at Rethondes, France on 11 November 1918, bringing World War I to a close.

Between the wars, November 11 was commemorated as Armistice Day in the United States, Great Britain, and France. After World War II, the holiday was recognized as a day of tribute to veterans of both world wars. Beginning in 1954, the United States designated November 11 as Veterans Day to honor veterans of all U.S. wars.

Owl Notes

The front page of the Gwent Gazette amazed me this week. Blaenau Gwent council and the RSPCA raided The Owl Sanctuary at Ebbw Vale Festival Park and removed all of the birds. The Council said that they were responding to a complaint. This is the same Council that gave Malcolm Jones, the owner, an environmental award for his work only a couple of weeks ago.

There’s more about the story in the Gwent Gazette and the South Wales Andrex.

I hope that everyone comes to their senses very soon and that Malcolm gets his owls back very soon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Blog Notes

What a great discovery is the blog The New Adventures of Mr Stephen Fry. It covers a wide range of musings, including highlights from his technology column in the Guardian, his travels in Africa and general ephemera.

Stephen Fry’s travelogue on the BBC, Stephen Fry in America, is currently one of the few TV shows worthy of setting the Sky+ box for. Catch it if you can on BBC TV or iPlayer. A slice of the world viewed through Stephen Fry's particular point of view.

Travel Notes

Not my travel note, but Bev and Philly’s. They went down from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff by train to watch the Wales v South Africa game. So far so good. But when the arrived back at Cardiff Central to board for the return journey, they found that the train goes from Platform 0.

A bit like Platform 9¾ in the Harry Potter books, it’s a bit make believe to think that someone on crutches can manage the 20-odd steps to the platform. There’s no disabled access to Platform 0, which is a makeshift platform used as an overflow.

Eventually the train managers realised the cock-up (which allegedly will be fixed when Cardiff Central gets a makeover in the next couple of years) and Bev and Philly were given a voucher for a taxi ride home instead.

Ava's diary

We had a great Halloween party at the crèche; I had sandwiches and cakes and threw most of it on the floor. Great fun.

The following weekend we all went down to Swansea to visit nanna and grandpa. Mam and dad weren’t well, so nanna looked after me, and we walked for miles (well, nanna walked, I slept in my pram). Mam got me a new fleecy ‘cosytoes’ liner for the pram, which means that I’m all snug whatever the weather.

With everyone feeling sick and bard, I stayed down in Swansea until Tuesday, but then was back in crèche as normal on Wednesday.

On Friday mam went to Glasgow on a weekend shopping trip with her best friend Louise. So dad and I were left to fend for ourselves. It was a close call as to who was the most helpless!

But we survived. On Saturday we went to IKEA. We went early and beat the crowds. Dad still managed to get lost in the store.

Visited nanna Ena on Saturday, and snoozed all the way to Ebbw Vale. We had pasta and caramel cream and I loved it. Then dad got into an argument in Morrisons’ car park when somebody tried to park in the parent & baby spaces without having a small child in tow.

On Sunday I visited auntie Bev and uncle Philly. (Yikes, am I really related to uncle Philly?) Bev’s family Deb and John were home for the weekend too. I was a bit overawed by the crowded room and cried.

I was glad to see mam when she got home on Sunday evening. But I think dad was even more relieved!

Work Notes

The Welsh Assembly Government’s offices in Cardiff (wiki) were used to film an episode of BBC’s Torchwood over the weekend. I didn’t find any alien artefacts lying about when I went into the office this morning though.

It’ll be obvious when the series is broadcast which episode was filmed at Cathays Park. It’ll be the one with dark, gloomy sets and a distinctive 1970’s feel.

Photo Notes

Gratuitous cute photo of the week.

"Peek-a-boo": a carer holds a giant panda cub in an incubator at the Giant Panda Protection and Research Centre in Yaan, China.

Sick Notes

Both Cath and I were laid low by a virus last weekend, which meant that the toilet seat was never cold! I felt like the world was falling out of my bottom. We took turns in looking after Ava and being ill.

Cath went down sick on Thursday evening and I succumbed on Saturday. I must have been rough – I didn’t even go to Ebbw’s game in Swansea. We spent the weekend recuperating at the Bonymaen Cottage Hospital, the in-laws’ place. Finally got back to work last Friday.

Rugby Notes II

Wales went down again to South Africa, 15-20, in a game they could have won. They never lead, but had plenty of the ball and lots of opportunities. South Africa, though, were more composed and professional, and when their chances came, they did not miss out.

Andy Powell, on his debut, played like a man possessed, and was rightly named man of the match. Other stand-out players included Lee Byrne and Leigh Halfpenny.

But there were too many mistakes. Three missed penalties and too many mistakes at the ruck (diving in) and line out (poor throws). When the lineout came under pressure Matthew Rees failed to find his jumpers consistently and vitally at the last Wales attack. Little Shane Williams ran up too many blind alleys.

And the kicking game was bizarre: why give Steven Jones just one attempt before handing the ball over to Halfpenny? Halfpenny, of course, doesn’t get to kick goals for the Blues, Kiwi Ben Blair gets to kick goals and block development there.

Scorers: one penalty for Halfpenny and four for substitute James Hook.

Team: L Byrne (Scarlets); L Halfpenny, T Shanklin, J Roberts (all Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), G Cooper (Gloucester); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jones, A-W Jones, I Evans, R Jones (all Ospreys, capt), M Williams, A Powell (both Cardiff Blues).

Rugby Notes I

This post is a week late, due to me being sick and bard for most of last week, but rather than skip the game altogether…

Ebbw Vale played Swansea at a deserted St Helens on Saturday 1 November, and came away with a 20-20 draw. I didn’t get to the game, but from all accounts (here, here, and here) Ebbw should have come away with the win.

Scorers: Tries for Andrew McLaughlan and Kristian Owen, and 10 points (two penalties, two conversions) from Andrew Williams

Team: Andrew McLaughlin, Andrew Bevan, Kristian Owen, Shaun Powell, James Lewis, Andrew Williams, Ieuan Evans; Anthony Lott, Matthew Williams, Marc Jones, Gavin Lucas, Joanthan Griffiths, Rhys Jenkins, Rhys Williams, Simon Pengelly.

International rugby got in the way this past weekend, but Ebbw return to action (see, even writing in clichés like a proper journo now!) when they host the feisty (for feisty, read fighty) Glamorgan Wanderers next Saturday, 2:30 kick off.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ava's Diary

So I’m all geared up for Halloween. Except the crèche for some reason can’t call it that, so we’ve got Orange Day tomorrow. I’ve got a ‘Hoppy Halloween’ froggy t-shirt to wear.

In other news from the crèche, we have started rehearsals for the Christmas show. I’m going to play the part of a star. I think it involves sitting on the floor wearing something glittery.

I have great fun dressing up in crèche. Today I was a fairy, and yesterday I had a pumpkin outfit. I have two new best friends. Bethan and Abigail have both started at crèche, and are a few weeks younger than me. I’m still the smallest (and the cutest) one though.

Oh, and I love bathtime, as you can see.

NFL Notes

Last Sunday I got to go to Wem-ber-ley to see the NFL on tour. The New Orleans Saints hosted the San Diego Chargers in only the second regular season NFL game to be played outside of North America. I’m glad that my mate Philly got the tickets through his work, because I probably would have balked at shelling out £125 for a ticket.

There was a great atmosphere before hand, with most NFL teams being represented in the replica shirts worn by fans. Of course that meant that the home team advantage would be lost, so the organisers did everything in their powers to encourage any neutrals to cheer for the Saints.

Great game, and what looked like it could be a blow-out was in the end won by the Saints 37-32. The Chargers could have won it with a Hail Mary at the bitter end, but wouldn’t have deserved the win. Now all the two teams have to do is go and try playing some defence.

The niggling annoyance was that our seats in the Club Wembley section were mostly filled with people on corporate hospitality, and as a result I overheard endless “what happened there?” and “who’s got the ball?” questions.

The event was wonderful, and there were only a couple of glitches. Firstly the Saints ran out from a different tunnel to the one everyone was expecting and caught the cameras unaware. Then there were problems with the ref’s mic and so the penalties weren’t always explained. And finally, a general point about Wembley: they have to do something about the Underground station – it took around half an hour to get a train.

There’s a full report on the NFL UK website and stats and video clips on CBS.

Rugby Notes

Pinched straight from EyeJay's report on The Steel Daffodil...

"A wonderful afternoon's rugby at a windy Eugene Cross Park saw Ebbw Vale overcome the self styled Welsh All Blacks by 29 points to 10.
Perhaps a more accurate description would be Ebbw Vale 29 Neil Ballard 10, as quite frankly Neath got their points from persistent help from the dreadful official. Does he know any of the laws at the scrummage? 90 degrees, binding, popping up etc., etc.

"Let's not take anything away, however, from a superb Ebbw Vale performance: rock solid tackling, chances taken opportunistically, and massive commitment. It's difficult to single out individual players in such a wonderful team display, but Simon Pengelly at 7 was immense and Aaron Bramwell makes ground every time he has the ball.

"It's all the more sweet when you overcome such an over confident and arrogant bunch as Neath, who seem to think that you can just buy the league. To see 20 of their supporters stroll up the bank at half time in full expectation of our 22 being the centre of the 2nd half action is just too damned cocky for my liking, and belongs 20 miles further west. I don't dislike Neath as much as, say, Llanelli, but they don't half have a superior attitude to Ebbw Vale."

Here, here.

My Man of the Match: Open side flanker Simon Pengelly, the honorary Welshman from Cornwall, who was everywhere and made countless tackles as part of the in-your-face defence that kept Neath at bay.

Scorers: Two tries for Kristian Owen and yet another interception try for James Lewis (his dad looked happy), a conversion and three penalties for ever-improving Aaron Bramwell, and a penalty for late substitute Andrew Williams.

Team: Andrew McLaughlan, James Lewis, Kristian Owen (c), Aaron Bramwell, Andrew Bevan; Andrew Williams, Robert Lewis; Aaron Coundley, Richard Wilkes, Anthony Lott; Gavin Lucas, Nick Eaves; Jonathan Griffiths, Simon Pengelly, Rhys Jenkins. Subs: Mathew WIlliams, Marc Jones, Craig Jones, Dale Newell, Shaun Powell, Ieuan Evans, Ieuan Coombes.

Next Saturday Ebbw travel to Swansea, 2:30 kickoff, where I will be joined by a busload of Ebbw fans and one man and his dog supporting Swansea.

Baseball Notes

The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series. They beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4 games to one. The winning game was bizarre, it had a two-day rain delay inthe middle.

Didn't watch much of it, due to other sporting priorities, and the fact that it wasn't the Sox...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Travel Notes

I was in Liverpool last week. The conference was held at the Hard Day’s Night Hotel, next door to the Cavern Club in the heart of the Beatles quarter. So yes, it’s a Beatles themed hotel with memorabilia everywhere and 24/7 piped Beatles music.

The logo, pictured, has two links to the Beatles. Firstly, it’s the first chord of Its Been A Hard Day’s Night, the most famous first chord of any record. Ever. And secondly, it represents an overhead view of the layout of the stage when the Beatles performed.

It was great to be in a city where the local accent was the predominant one, unlike London the week before. And I was hugely impressed by the work that’s gone on to develop the centre of Liverpool. Liverpool One is an enormous new shopping area, where plenty of WAG wannabes were out in force.

Cricket Notes

Glamorgan’s poor season is now but a memory, but EyeJay has written a cracking review for the Third Umpire blog.

One of the most encouraging things for the future is the comment that Glamorgan is thinking of getting off the moral high horse and contracting one or more Kolpak players.

Blog Notes

The world of blogging continues to grow in these here parts.

The most recent to enter the fray is EyeJay, whose blog The Steel Daffodil covers his two passions (apart from accountancy) – Ebbw Vale rugby and Glamorgan cricket. A good read thus far.

Baseball Notes

OK, it was a great attempt to stage the big comeback, but the Boston Red Sox fell at the last hurdle, losing Game 7 of the ALCS. That means that the Tampa Bay Rays will play in the World Series, starting on Wednesday, against the Philadelphia Phillies, who convincingly beat the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Interesting fact that may interest only me… I’ve seen games at the home ballparks of all four of these teams. Admittedly, the Philadelphia game was in the old Veterans Stadium, which was demolished in 2004 when the Phillies moved to Citizens Bank Park.

As for the best of 7 World Series, live on NASN and five, I’ll take the Phillies, well rested and with a better bullpen. Plenty of preview stuff here.

Travel Notes

On the way to Tresaith, there’s a village in Ceredigion called Beulah.

It's now my ambition to buy a house there and call it Ferris. The address would then be…

Ferris, Beulah

Rugby Notes II

Some former coaching staff of Ebbw Vale in the news…

Paul Pook (pictured), former strength and conditioning coach has been appointed to that role for Ireland. He joins Declan Kidney’s staff on a three year contract.

Alex Codling, former coach has joined Cardiff as coach this week. Alex left Ebbw Vale a couple of years ago to be coach of London Welsh and to take up a teaching job in London.

Rugby Notes

Another good win for Ebbw at the weekend, beating Llandovery 15-9. I wasn’t there, but by all accounts (here and here).

Good defence and opportunistic attack won the day.

Scorers: Tries for James Lewis (his third in two games) and Dai Langdon, and a penalty and a conversion for Aaron Bramwell.

Team: Andrew McLaughlan, Ieuan Coombes, Kristian Owen (c), Aaron Bramwell, James Lewis; Andrew Williams, Llyr Lane; Anthony Lott, Richard Wilkes, Marc Jones; Gavin Lucas, Jonathan Griffiths; Jamie Ringer, Rhys Jenkins, James Thomas.
Subs: Chris Thomas, Gareth Jones, Nick Eaves, Simon Pengelly, Ieuan Evans, Dai Langdon, Shaun Powell.

Next Saturday will be a big test. Ebbw host Neath, 2:30 kick off.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rugby Notes

Terrific win for Ebbw Vale at Cardiff last Saturday. 26-25 tells the story of the nail-biting end, but not of the way the game see-sawed. We completely dominated the first half and were 16-0 up at half time. Then the early part of the second half was all Cardiff and we shipped 25 points in 25 minutes. A late interception try and touchline conversion got the lead back for Ebbw, and a backs-to-the-wall resistance for the last 10 minutes ensured a well-earned victory.

Special mention needs to go to the pack who took the game to Cardiff. On the face of it the influence of “consultant” Lyn Jones has started to show through. Whilst they made too many mistakes, they didn’t wilt under the second-half pressure and seemed to start to believe in themselves.

Reports on the game can be found on the Ebbw Vale RFC website here and here, and on Wales Online (the Western Mail in other words).

My Man of the Match: Number 8 James Thomas, who had a storming game, and was all over the paddock until being substituted with an injury late on. The Western Mail and RS agree with me on this one.

Scorers: Two tries from wing James Lewis, and 16 points from the boot of Aaron Bramwell.

Team: Andrew McLaughlan, James Lewis, Kristian Owen (capt.), Aaron Bramwell, Andrew Bevan; Dai Langdon, Llyr Lane; Anthony Lott, Richard Wilkes, Marc Jones; Gavin Lucas, Jonathan Griffiths; Ciaron Ruddock, Simon Pengelly, James Thomas.
Subs: Chris Thomas, Gareth Jones, Craig Jones, Rhys Jenkins, Ieuan Evans, Andrew Williams, Shaun Powell.

Next Saturday Ebbw Vale play at Llandovery, 2:30 kick off. I won’t be there; I’ll be down Tresaith.

Ava's Diary

Had my health check-up yesterday. Got a clean bill of health. I’m now a full 18 lbs and I’m 2 foot 1 inch tall.

My first two teeth have started to show. They are the bottom ones, and I’m told that I’ll have 20 coming through over the next year or so. Plenty more drooling to come, then.

I’m sitting up on my own, and I can stand up – provided I’ve got something or someone to cling on to.

I’ve just discovered a great TV programme. It’s called In the Night Garden
In the Night Garden, and its on BBC cbeebies. When it’s on I squeak at the TV and flap my arms up and down. And I like Mr Tumble from Something Special, a programme that teaches sign language.

Travel Notes II

The thing about going to London is that it could be any big city in Europe, black cabs and red buses apart. I did not meet a soul born within the sound of Bow Bells. Hotel check-in Turkey, the restaurant waiter from Estonia and most of the people in the street weren’t speaking English.

Oh, there was one English guy. He was relieving himself against the window of Borders at 8pm. Classy guy. A trip to London nowadays is definitely more of a chore than something to enjoy.

Travel Notes

Had to spend a night in London last week. Stayed at the Copthorne Hotel at Chelsea FC. Nice, but nothing too special. PIcked it because of a special deal through Travel Zoo, a really useful website which emails you with details of special deals for hotels and holidays.

Anyway, the plus point was to have a night’s sleep without interruption from little Ava. Except that the fire alarm went off at 4:46am! The hotel’s story was that someone was smoking in a non-smoking room. At that time of the night?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The future of nursey rhymes

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
The structure of the wall was incorrect,
So he won a grand with Claims Direct.

It's Raining, It's Pouring.
Oh shit, it's Global Warming.

Mary had a little lamb,
it ran into a pylon.
10,000 volts went up its arse
and turned its wool to nylon.

Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie
kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play
he kissed them too cause he was gay.

Jack and Jill Went up the hill
and planned to do some kissing.
Jack made a pass and grabbed her ass;
Now two of his teeth are missing.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Ava's Diary

There are lots of photos up on dad’s Flickr page.

Now I’m almost 9 months old, I can sit up unaided, but tend to keel over after a while. I’ve been trying to stand up, usually by rolling forward onto all-fours with my bum in the air. As for crawling, I don’t really see the point – everyone brings we whatever I want!

I missed a week in crèche when we all had a week down at the caravan in Tresaith. We had great weather and I went to Aberystwyth, Llanerchaeron gardens, Cardigan and Newport. No, the proper one in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

Rugby Notes

I’m waaay behind with my postings on Ebbw Vale rugby this season. Of course, I’m sure you are all following the action via the official website and the supporters forum.

OK, to catch up…

Back on 13 September Ava and I travelled to Bridgend to see us lose to Bridgend 19-33.

The following Saturday Ava attended her first ever home game and saw Ebbw beat Pontypridd 13-3. Well actually she was sleeping in my arms when we scored the decisive try, so I couldn’t shout and had to make to with jigging up and down the touchline.

I missed the game at Cross Keys as we were all sunning ourselves down in Tresaith. Ebbw won a close one 19-17.

Which brings us up to yesterday. Ebbw hosted Newport in front of the S4C cameras and in rainstorm. Ava stayed at home and had to make do with watching on TV.

The desperate conditions meant that there was a dearth of running rugby. After losing the first half into the teeth of the rain just 0-3 hopes were high for the second half. But the next 20 minutes were poor; Ebbw’s dismal lineout performance was the main difference between the sides. Following the loss to injury of Rhys Williams, Ebbw had just one lineout option, and Newport knew it. Haemorrhaging possession to an experienced Townie side meant that Ebbw had no chance, and in the end 3-9 wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

The whole game will be available to watch again for the next month on S4C’s website.

The game marked the end of Will Thomas’ playing career and his final game as coach of Ebbw Vale as he moves to become Academy coach for the Dragons. Good luck for the future.

In an exciting move ex-Ospreys coach Lyn Jones has been appointed. He was in the stands yesterday and hopefully will bring his experience to bear on our inexperienced squad.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Baseball Notes

So the baseball regular season is over, and now the small matter of the playoffs and the World Series is all that’s left.

I finished second in my fantasy baseball league. No small feat when you consider what a dearth of talent I managed to have to swing their bats for me this season.

The offence has been carried on the shoulders of Milwaukee’s 3B Ryan Braun (37 HRs and 100 RBIs) and Philadelphia’s SS Jimmy Rollins (43 steals) kept me in the hunt.

Pitching was led by standout Giant Tim Lincecum who got me 18 wins and Cincinnati’s Edinson Volquez who got me 13. My decision to trade-up for the Cubs’ Kerry Woods was paid back handsomely with 34 saves.

Back in the real world, there’s a one-off game tonight to decide the final place in the playoffs, between the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins. The winner goes on to play the Tampa Bay Rays. The other AL series is the now familiar Boston Red Sox vs. the Los Angeles Angels.

As for the NL, the match-ups are all set. It’s the Milwaukee Brewers vs. the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. the Chicago Cubs. It all starts on Wednesday, and its on NASN and five.

My prediction, for what its worth is for the Rays, Red Sox, Brewers and Cubs to win through.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Travel Notes

Apologies for the patchier than usual service on this blog this week; Cath and I and Ava have been sunning ourselves in Tresaith. Had a week off and managed to pick a great one, weather-wise. Wall to wall sunshine in west Wales is something of a surprise, especially in September.

Photos and general blogging to follow when I have a chance to get a bit more organised.

In other travel news, hope that the family down in Midsomer Norton enjoy their trip to Kenya (I guess sunshine is pretty much guaranteed there).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Blog Notes

The Roberts family have another blogger. Not content with the ramblings of Robo’s blog – or perhaps because of it – Neil’s brother Dai has started his own. Good luck with Thoughts of an Introvert. And good luck with your run in today’s Swansea 10k – it looks like being a warm one.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Ava’s diary

Had a fab weekend staying with Nanna and Grandpa.

We played lots of games, Nanna sung Perry Como songs to me, and Gramps wanted to cwtch me all day. We went down to the lake to feed the ducks, or so I’m told – I slept the whole time.

I am learning to stand up. I need to hold on the sofa and I’m a bit wobbly, but I’m getting there. I can sit up on my own now, but haven’t really found any need for crawling: I just shout and somebody fetches me whatever I want!

I’m loving the crèche. I’m everyone favourite, probably because I’m the smallest and cutest! I’m into eating lots of different things. Pretty much anything that isn’t nailed down will go in my mouth.

Foods? Well, weetabix and toast for breakfast, and fish fingers and beans for lunch are my favourites, but I get to try lots of new flavours every day. Mam and dad say I eat better than they do.

There are lots of pics of me on my dad’s Flickr site.

Caravan Notes

Cath and I ventured down to Tresaith for a long weekend at the caravan. We dropped Ava off with the grandparents in Swansea en route (oi, no French) on the way.

The weather on Saturday was wild – howling gales and horizontal rain. The caravan is very snug though, and its great to watch the white-capped waves crashing in whilst tucked in the warm.

Sunday and Monday were huge improvements though, we even had sunshine. Spent most on Sunday at the Ship Inn in Tresaith with the Sunday lunch and the Sunday papers. Peaceful. Wonderful.

It was great to have a quiet weekend away, but it was great to pick up little Ava this afternoon though.

TV Notes

After the deluge of the Olympics comes the new rugby and NFL seasons. Together with the looming baseball playoffs, there’s little time for any other TV.

Family Guy is a terrific half-hour though, a grown-up improvement on The Simpsons. And its fun to spot the similarities between Ava and Family Guy’s Stewie Griffin.

Re-runs of The West Wing and Armstrong & Miller are pretty much the ony other things worth watching.

Rugby Notes

Ebbw Vale opened the season with a 6-6 draw with Bedwas. As I wasn’t there I’ll leave the report up to RS on the Ebbw Vale RFC website.

There are video clips on YouTube, courtesy of EyeJay.

There were a few new faces on show. To the best of my knowledge, there were three debutants in the XV: full back Andrew Williams, and centres Peter Smith and Shaun Powell.

Scorers: One penalty apiece for Dai Langdon and Andrew Williams.

Team: Andrew Williams, Andrew Bevan, Peter Smith, Shaun Powell, James Lewis, David Langdon, Llyr Lane (captain); Aaron Coundley, Richard Wilkes, Anthony Lott, Will Jones, Will Thomas, James Thomas, Rhys Williams, Rhys Jenkins.

Next Saturday Ebbw Vale play at Bridgend, 2:30 kick off.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Weather Notes

Its been raining again today. Makes a change. Good for the gardens. Etc, etc.

The rain in Pontypridd ends up mostly in the Taff. Which is rising rapidly and looks almost certain to break its banks in Trefforest. The roads all look like rivers and driving causes a bow wave.

The 10 mile trip back from Blackwood to Ponty took over an hour this afternoon, with the A470 down to one lane and several roads closed due either to flooding or retaining walls being washed away.

Houses nearby, tucked underneath the Common in Pontypridd, have water going in the back door and coming out of the front.

Here’s the latest from the BBC. The forecast is for more of the same. From now until doomsday.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Groundwork Notes

In my spare time I’m a trustee (board member) of Groundwork Caerphilly.

Groundwork uses the labels People, Places and Prosperity to structure their work:

  • People is about creating opportunities for more people to learn about and become committed to taking action for the environment whilst, at the same time, realising their personal potential and building strong local neighbourhoods.
  • Places is about creating better, safer, healthier and more environmentally sustainable neighbourhoods for people to live and work in.
  • Prosperity is about training for work, stimulating local social enterprise, and working with the local business community to integrate business competitiveness and environmental responsibility.

And yesterday evening was the chance to visit some of the work that Groundwork Caerphilly is currently doing. We visited:

We also held launched a horticultural volunteering programme on a site on top of the mountain above Cwmfelinfach. In the rain. Still, the views across the valley were amazing, and we will all go back in 12 months time to see the progress. Good luck to Matt and everyone involved.

Weather Notes

OK, since it looks like it’ll keep on raining forever, these instructions may come in handy…

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.

A cubit is roughly 18 inches, so you're looking at a ship about 450 feet long by 75 feet wide, and about 45 feet high.

And, no, I don't know what "gopher wood" is.

Rugby Notes

It’s the start of the season on Saturday, and its Ebbw Vale at home to Bedwas. I’ve gone and bought my season ticket (VP, natch), but I won’t be there. It’s the last chance for a long weekend at the caravan down in Tresaith.

As always, team news, previews and reviews and the peerless REL can all be found on the Ebbw Vale RFC website.

Good luck for Saturday to Kristian and the boys. In my absence I hope someone on the bank will pick up the traditional call to be made at the first blow of the whistle of the first game of the year: “All the time, ref!”

This week's sign of the apocalypse

You woudn't have thought it would be too difficult to get a guy from npower to come and service our boiler. After all, its what they do.

Yet today marked the second time they they have failed to do so. The first time the guy failed to find the house. So I wasn't full of hope today.

The engineer rang to confirm this morning. I gave him instructions on how to find the house, and he said he'd be here between 1 and 3. So I set off to work whilst Janesey is poised to meet the guy at the appointed hour.

3 o'clock rolls around & no sign. So I ring npower. They'll look into it and ring back. They don't. At 3.40 I ring again. The call centre guy gets in touch with the engineer and reports back "he's been outside your house for 30 minutes".

Whilst I am trying to persuade the call centre guy that its unlikey, even by npower standards, that the engineer would have stood outside the door for 30 minutes without thinking to knock the door (the traditional method of announcing yourself), the engineer rings my mobile phone to tell me that he's arrived!

npower rumbled. By this time I have to break the news thats all too late since Cath has to go and pick up Ava from creche. And so we have to start again another day. My heart sinks.

Why does it have to be this difficult?

Travel Notes

I've had a parking space at work for the summer, but now I'm back on the train every day. Frankly, the parking space isn't the issue; its the traffic. The A470 and Cardiff city centre are back to the post-summer-hols chaos. And its only going to get worse on the run up to Crimbo.

(As an aside, my mate Robbo has got a Cristmas countdown clock on his blog. OMG.)

So I'm back on the trains. Its been interesting working out a new plan in the mornings now that I drop Ava at the creche in Rhydyfelin in the mornings. At the moment I use Trefforest station, but when the students come back they'll nick all the parking spaces.

£4.10 return is pretty reasonable for the train when compared to £3 (at least) to park in Cardiff plus the petrol and aggro involved in getting there.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Olympic Notes

Watched more of these Olympics than most. I guess being up at the crack with little A has meant breakfast Olympics on the Beeb has been the daily routine.

High spots –
1. Michael Phelps and his eight gold medals from week 1.
2. Usain Bolt and his three gold medals from week 2.
3. Some fantastic swearing from the sailors – well, what do you expect them to say straight after winning a gold medal. “I’m f***ing happy” sums it up pretty well.
4. Adrian Chiles, who didn’t know much about most of the sports, but didn’t profess to, unlike the other ‘commentators’.
5. Steve Ovett, one of the very few analysts who gave realistic assessments of the British athletes’ chances.
6. Handball. What a cool sport. A cross between basketball, soccer and mugging.
7. The great women’s high jump competition.
8. The Aussies’ view of the British success - we won our medals in sports that involve sitting down (sailing, rowing, cycling).

Low spots –
1. British athletics. Phillips Idowu and others were highly touted but failed to deliver. And learn to pass the baton, people.
2. Andy Murray. Again.
3. Paula Radcliffe. Not fit enough to compete. The world breathed a sigh of relief when she went over to the barrier and only needed to stretch.
4. The dismal coverage of the tennis, basketball, or indeed any sport that didn’t feature a Brit doing well.
5. Inane interviews with athletes just as they finish the race. You are not going to get any great comments there, are you?
6. A Chinese bias in the judges’ scoring in too many sports.
7. The endless opening and closing ceremonies. Why?

Overall, great fun. I might even try to get tickets for the 2012 games in London.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Train Notes

Here is another story of how common sense and long-term planning appear not to exist.

In re-opening the Ebbw Vale train line, someone did an estimate of passenger numbers, almost certainly without asking the likely users of such a service. And then they built a service which could just about manage to serve their guestimate of 22,000 passengers - a decision was made to provide just three miles of double track instead of nine. That’s enough for an hourly service but with no possibility to add services without further substantial investment.

So now we have a situation where double that number of people is using the train, and they can’t run extra trains because they didn’t put enough dual track to allow any more trains to use the line.


Eisteddfod Notes

So the 2010 National Eisteddfod is to be hosted by Blaenau gwent, and held at the old steelworks site in Ebbw Vale. Good news for the area. All they need to do now is actually find some Welsh speaking locals. My count of Welsh-speaking locals runs to 2, RS and Ray.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Lego Notes

Some people clearly have too much time on their hands. This Lego verion of the Beatles album is just one of a whole bunch of LP covers here.

There’s also the fight scene from The Bourne Ultimatum recreated in Lego here. Wonderful, and what tinternet is really for.