Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Music Notes

Went with my mate Philly to see Bob Catley play an acoustic set at the Muni in Pontypridd last Friday night.

A couple of members of local rock band Skin supported, and were fantastic. The lead singer Nev McDonald, sounded very Kelly Jones-esque, and in very good form. They have reformed after a long absence and are playing the Download Festival at Donnington in the summer. There are some photos of the Ponty gig on their website.

On the other hand, Bob wasn’t up to a solo show. All the fabulous mannerisms were there, but his long blonde hair suffered from the lack of a wind machine and his voice suffered from the lack of a backing band. The audience was there to hear Magnum tunes, but there were none to be heard. I recognised just two of the songs, coming from Bob’s Live at the Gods CD.

The good news is that Magnum will be back at the Muni on 1 November as part of a full UK tour to promote a new album due out in June. I’ll be there.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Anniversary Notes

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is my second wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary, Janesy! I love you.

Film Notes

Went to the pictures on Saturday night, and saw the new film State of Play, an intelligent thriller starring Russell Crowe as an old fashioned newspaper hack uncovering a big story of corruption and murder in Washington’s corridors of power.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, but couldn’t help comparing the offices of the Washington Globe to those of the Western Mail. Methinks the corrupt politicians of Wales (if there are any, of course) can sleep soundly in the beds.

Hotel Notes

Ava was down with her grandparents in Swansea this past weekend, so Cath and I had a night away, at the Milton Hill House hotel near Abingdon in Oxfordshire.

On the face of it its quite plush, with a small well-equipped gym, nice indoor pool and comfy lounge with free coffee on tap. It was just a shame that the bedrooms were a bit faded and pokey. Still, I booked it through a cheap deal, so can’t really complain.

Sunday night’s dinner was at the Hare in nearby West Hendred. The reviews said that the steaks were good, and my rib eye was no exception. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Caravan Notes

Easter was spent down in west Wales at our caravan in Tresaith, at Gwalia Falls. I was going to call it a caravan park, but it’s badged as a ‘retreat’ and more and more the site has lodges rather than static caravans. Very nice too – if you have the spare cash.

The weather was really good, and we managed to get out and about every day. We took Ava to Cardigan Island Farm Park, and we got to see ponies, donkeys, pigs, and even seals swimming off the coast. Ava also had her first day on the beach at Penbryn, and she enjoyed playing in the sand.

Probation Notes

At the invitation of the Butler Trust, the Princess Royal visited the Merthyr offices of South Wales Probation Trust last Friday.

She toured the offices and met probation officers and offenders, and heard about how detailed sentence planning is designed to help and support individual offender intervention programmes that will aid the offender to change their offending behaviour. She was told about unpaid work activities (community service), basic skills training, and the drug, alcohol and domestic violence education programmes that are provided.

As a Probation Trust member I was fortunate enough to meet the Princess Royal and have a brief conversation with her over coffee. She is clearly very knowledgeable about probation issues and was interested in the work undertaken by the Trust.

A huge amount of work was done behind the scenes to make sure that the event was a successful one, and whilst everyone contributed, Peter Morgan, communications manager, and Lyn Evans, unpaid work team manager, stand out. Congratulations to everyone involved.

Rugby Notes

Another two matches to report on. Last Tuesday Ebbw Vale put on a poor showing in losing 33-17 at home to Cross Keys. Then on Saturday they gave a better, but not good enough, performance in losing 31-29 at Glamorgan Wanderers.

Just one point from the two games means that we are still in the relegation picture, along with six other clubs. For Ebbw to get relegated we would have to lose our last game (at Aberavon next Saturday) and both Bridgend and Pontypool win both of their respective remaining games. An unlikely scenario, but…

The picture is of Simon Pengelly sporting a wonderful black eye following a disagreement with a Cross Keys fist, courtesy of Graham’s top website Ebbw players.

Match reports here and here.

Team v Cross Keys: Matthew Edwards, Ieuan Coombes, James Davies, Shaun Powell, Andrew Bevan, Aaron Bramwell, Calwyn Morgan; Aaron Coundley, Matthew Williams, Anthony Lott, Matthew Griffin, Jonathan Griffiths, Rhys Jenkins, James Thomas, Simon Pengelly

Scorers: Try for Andrew Bevan and four penalties for on-loan full back Matthew Edwards

My man of the match: Matthew Williams, for a good work at the set pieces and in the loose.

Team v Glamorgan Wanderers: Andrew McLaughlan, Kevin Morgan, Tal Selley, Shaun Powell, Andrew Bevan, Aaron Bramwell, Rob Lewis; Anthony Lott, Richard Wilkes, Marc Jones, Nick Eaves, Matthew Griffin, James Thomas, Rhys Williams, Rhys Jenkins.

Scorers: Tries for Rhys Williams, Tal Selly and Nick Eaves, one conversion and three penalties for Aaron Bramwell and another penalty by Andrew McLaughlan.

My man of the Match: Rhys Williams, as he is almost every game he plays.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rugby Notes

Ebbw Vale have played two homes games since my last rugby blog. I didn’t get to see either. I was away down the caravan for the Pontypool game. But for the Swansea game I was sitting at home blissfully unaware that the second had been rearranged. Arghh!

Ebbw lost to Pontypool on Easter Saturday 12-34. Then the following Tuesday they beat Swansea 18-5.

Match reports here and here.

There are just three games left in the season, a season which started so promisingly but had a shockingly bad patch in the early new year before a couple of good late results have pulled Ebbw back into mid-table respectability.

The last home game is tomorrow night vs Cross Keys. Then the next two Saturdays see trips to Glamorgan Wanderers (oh, how I hate them) and then Aberavon to round off the year.

Sick Notes

Apologies for the break in transmission.

The Easter weekend was spent down at our caravan at Gwalia Falls, and then almost immediately I was sick ‘n bard with tonsillitis.

I’m just about back to normal (whatever that is), and will try to catch up with a few posts in the coming days.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Thought for the Day

Time flies like an arrow,
Fruit flies like a banana.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Ava's diary

I’m feeling a lot better now, thanks for asking. To make up for being under the weather a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been eating like a small horse and am now full of beans and on the go all the time.

I’ve just about managed to climb the stairs, under dad’s close supervision. The spoilsports keep the stair gate closed when they are not around.

I’m almost walking too. I can stand up pretty much unaided and will stand all day as long I’ve got something to cling onto.

On Saturday, to celebrate dad’s birthday we all went to Portcawl for the day. It was my first trip to the funfair, and I enjoyed going on the little train with nanna Irene. She said she was a little queasy when she got off the ride but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had great fun waving my windmill – a great toy to have as the wind was blowing a gale off the sea.

TV Notes

Here, a little late, is week 2 of The Apprentive in Lego. The next firing is tomorrow night.

Travel Notes

After a winter of pretty punctual service, it’s all gone pear-shaped on the Valleys line service run by Arriva Trains Wales. The last three journeys home from work have all been disrupted, the worst being last Thursday when a 12 minute trip was delayed by 30 minutes. Pretty impressive when you realise that trains run through Cathays to Taffs Well every 10 minutes or so.

Some cynics might think that that the nice weather and now school holidays has affected the availability of staff, but I think its probably down to the shockingly poor rolling stock. A small fortune has been spent in the last couple of years on lengthening platforms to accommodate 6 carriage trains. But I have never, ever seen a 6 carriage train been run. Indeed, 4 carriage trains are not always the norm. At rush hour, 2 carriage trains are regularly laid on, meaning that passengers are crammed in like sardines and standing room only for anyone getting on at Cathays.

Some positive news though. The car park at Taffs Well is being extended, as the original one is always full by 8:30. And at long last, the dump that is Pontypridd train station is going to get a thorough and long overdue revamp.

Rugby Notes

In probably the shock of the season thus far, Ebbw Vale went down to the Gnoll and came with a 20-15 win. Ebbw completed their first double of the season (having turned Neath over 29-10 back in October), and got their first win in the Premiership in 2009.

Something very significant must have happened to change things around following last week’s loss at Pontypridd, and some of it may fall on Christian Loader, pictured, who has joined Ebbw last month as forwards coach.

I wasn’t there, deciding (very wrongly) that it would be a wasted journey. There are reports here, here and here.

Team: A McLaughlan; I Coombes, P Smith, S Powell, A Bevan; A Williams, L Lane; A Coundley (A Lott 53), M Williams (R Wilkes 75), M Jones (A Coundley 59), W Jones, M Griffin, J Griffiths (S Waldron 76), G Lucas (capt) (J Thomas 66), S Pengelly

Scorers: Tries for Ieuan Coombes and Andrew Williams, two conversions and two penalties for Williams.

Man of the match: by all accounts, Simon Pengelly led the way. Boy, are we a better team when he plays.

Next week its Pontypool at home, another one I’ll be missing as its bank holiday weekend and I’ll be in Tresaith. The game scheduled for the week after has been postponed as its cup semi final day and Swansea are still in.

To avoid rugby withdrawal symptoms, I’ll have to take in the Heineken Cup quarter finals this weekend. The fixtures are:

Saturday 11 April
Cardiff Blues v Toulouse and Leicester v Bath

Sunday, 12 April
Harlequins v Leinster and Munster v Ospreys

My heart says Toulouse, Bath, Leinster and Munster and, mostly, my head agrees.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Birthday Notes

Happy birthday to my brother Tony who lives over the pond in Massachusetts, USA.

We don't get to see enough of each other, especially now that Ava has curtailed (at least temporarily) our our travelling over to the US. I reckon next year should be OK to make a visit - I'd better start saving my air miles.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Fantasy Baseball Notes

This weekend sees the start of the baseball season when the ‘boys of summer’ return. As usual, I’ll be rooting for the Boston Red Sox, watching as many games as possible via my TV subscription to ESPN America.

As well as watching the TV coverage when time permits, I also have a fantasy baseball team, where I’m usually in a league with a bunch of people who know much more about this stuff than I do.

Anyway, the draft is over, and my team for 2009 (Ava’s Red Sox) is:

C Bengie Molina (SF)
1B Prince Fielder (Mil)
2B Chone Figgins (LAA)
3B Aubrey Huff (Bal)
SS Alexei Ramirez (CWS)
OF Ryan Braun (Mil)
OF Carl Crawford (TB)
OF Vernon Wells (Tor)
U Milton Bradley (ChC)

Bench Ryan Therriot (ChC), Billy Butler (KC)

SP Cole Hamels (Phi), Scott Kazmir (TB), Carlos Zambrano (ChC),
Javier Vazquez (Atl), John Maine (NYM)
RP Brian Fuentes (LAA), Mike Gonzalez (Atl), Brandon Lyon (Det),
George Sherrill (Bal)

DL Justin Duchscherer (Oak)

I reckon the batting line-up is pretty good, but I’m a little concerned about the rather fragile pitching. We’ll see.