Monday, June 29, 2009

Birthday Notes

This is a Ava's-eye view of Sunday's get-together to celebrate mum's 80th birthday. We all met up at the Golden Lion in Magor for good grub and lots of catching up.

Hopefully there will be more photos on Flickr sometime soon.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Training Notes II

One of the more unusual sessions at Summer School was the creative thinking slot. Its aim was to give us some tools to involve people in problems, to share, participate or simply break the ice at team events and away days. As well as physical role play, we even got to write limerick. Here’s mine…

A man with a budget did sigh,
I do not know how we’ll get by.
We need to make cuts,
No ifs and no buts,
What I need is a sign from on high!

Not bad for 10 minutes work, I reckon.

Training Notes

All of the speakers and workshop presenters at PSMW’s Summer School have been challenging and thought-provoking, but one stands out. Nick Smith, an entrepreneur and now the author of the blog Life2point0. He challenged all our precoinceived ideas about what success looks like, what leadership is about and talked about having courage to make decisions.

A chaotic presentation completely from the heart; I got the feeling that he could have talked all day about his life. And I would have happily listened.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TV Notes

I’ve just seen the news that Setanta Sports has gone into administration and has ceased to broadcast in the UK.

I don’t know what this means for ESPN America, ESPN-lite for the UK and part of the Setanta package. It could be that ESPN will make the channel stand alone (as it did previously when it was NASN) or it could spell the end for widespread US sports coverage on British TV.

Training Notes

I’m writing these blog notes whilst at ‘Summer School’ organised by PSMW - Public Service Management Wales. Its theme is ‘Leading in Turbulent Times’ and its being held at Lampeter University. It's such a pretty university, and very small with around 900 students on campus. In the summer though, with the exception of a few MA Theology students we 200 or so on the Summer School have the place to ourselves.

The course runs all week, and is residential, which means student accomodation. Yikes. I think ‘spartan’ would be a charitable description. The weather is as wonderful as this pic shows, and coffee breaks in a sunny courtyard feel very continental.

But no, its not a holiday, its 9 – 6 each day of intensive learning – lectures, workshops and group work designed to take the learning and translate it ways which it can be used to improve performance and make improvements back at my place of income generation. If you want to join in, you can watch the main lectures on the PSMW website.

PS – I’m updating the blog in the University’s computer lab whilst avoiding the organised karaoke in the Students Union bar. My team did come second in the quiz last night though.

Expenses Notes

Another magnificent own-goal by Parliament last week when MPs expenses were all published online. But they have been “redacted”. Or censored to death. Huge swathes of black block out any attempt at meaningful understanding of what our elected representatives in Westminster are spending our cash on.

The Sunday Times has another wonderful example of how the message can be distorted and the reader can assume the worst when redaction occurs; this from My Fair Lady ...

"I could have XXXXXXXed all night
I could have XXXXXXXed all night!
And still have begged for more.
I could have spread my XXXXXX
And done a thousand things I’ve never done before.

Rugby Notes

So the Lions finished their non-Test games with a 13-13 draw against the Emerging Springboks at Newlands. BBC report here.

And so now the management has to pick the team for Saturday’s 2nd Test. Tempted though they may be to hold faith with most of last Saturday’s team, the fact that the subs made such a good impression can’t be ignored and a few of them are going to get starts this time around.

My team: Byrne (if he’s fit, if not Kearney), Shane Williams, O’Driscoll, Roberts, Bowe, Jones, Phillips, Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Adam Jones, Adam Wyn Jones, Paul O’Connell (capt.), Croft, Heaslip, Wallace.

And I predict a Lions win.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ava's Diary

Another busy weekend to report on. It was a scorcher, so I was plastered on Factor 50 and wore a hat that makes me look like I’ve joined the foreign legion.

Saturday we all went to Duffryn Gardens. Again. They do a mean ‘kid’s lunch’ which is pizza and spaghetti, strawberry milk and a banana or apple. And I hoover (or is it dyson) it all up.

I then got to ride my trike around the gardens. Well, actually I get pushed, but its still great fun. Mam and Dad sat under a big tree and I kicked my Mr Men ball around.

On Sunday we had a picnic at Chepstow Castle. We met up with Mam and Dad’s friends Pete & Sibylle and their little boy Sebastian. (Actually, he’s 8 and looked enormous to me.) I snoozed in the shade with Mam and Dad played rugby with Seb.

Monday I went in the paddling pool at Ponty Park with Nanna and Gramps.

Phew, in between that lot, I’ve hardly got time to keep up my part time job of reorganising all of Mam and Dad’s books and CDs.

Cricket Notes

Its Twenty20 semi-final time, and its South Africa v Pakistan today and Sri Lanka v surprise package West Indies tomorrow.

Sri Lanka look unstoppable, with Dilshan (pictured) in brilliant form. It should be a South Africa v Sri Lanka final, but Gul’s bowling and Gayle’s batting mean that an upset could happen.

My picks? Pakistan and Sri Lanka, with Sri Lanka to win it all in Sumday's final.

Rugby Notes

Don’t say that Vealey don’t know rugby. I got the Test team right.

Here’s a link to the BBC website with the official news. I had Wallace for his physical presence ahead of Martyn Williams and Monye was the prime choice to partner Bowe even before a strong showing against the Southern Kings on Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rugby Notes

Just ahead of the Lions last “warm-up” game before the first Test on Saturday, here’s my pick for the starting XV…

Lee Byrne, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Ugo Moyne, Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Lee Mears, Phil Vickery, Alun Wyn Jones, Paul O’Connell (capt.), Tom Croft, Jamie Heaslip, David Wallace
Of course, some of this could change if some marginal players in today's game "put their hands up".

Monday, June 15, 2009

Birthday Notes

Happy birthday o my cousin Sarah, pictured here a couple of months ago with Ava.

I hope you managed to book a shift off today & got to do something nice instead.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cricket Notes

During the Twenty20 match between South Africa and Scotland, Kyle Coetzer pulled off a magnificent catch on the boundary to dismiss Mark Boucher. Is this the best catch ever?

Cricket Notes

The Netherlands beat England to start the Twenty20 World Cup, but the ludicrous group system means that they go no further. And Ireland beat a frankly poor Bangladesh team to progress to the last eight on run rates.

But the biggest shock was Australia being knocked out. Played two, lost two. Still, they’ll have more time to prepare for the forthcoming Ashes series.

So now the top two from each group will advance to the semi-finals. None of the points from the first round of games carry forward to this stage – which means that England’s defeat doesn’t impact here at all. Someone’s got to come up with rules for these types of events which aren’t as contrived as this!

Group E: India, England, West Indies, South Africa
Group F: Pakistan, Ireland, Sri Lanka, New Zealand

My 50p bet would be on India and South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka advancing.

Ava's Diary

We’ve had a photographer come to crèche and so Mam dressed me up in my finery for the day and hoped I wouldn’t get breakfast down me. Fat chance. Now I’m trying to feed myself, my success rate is around 50%, with the rest ending up on the table, the floor, Mam, Dad or me.

My confidence on my feet grows and grows. In fact, I’m pretty fearless, and walk endlessly. My new favourite thing to do is push a baby pushchair or a shopping trolley around the house. I’ve got my first doll, but rather than dolls I like my Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy, and of course Bedtime Bear.

Mam and Dad are very pleased that my walking everywhere is wearing me out. That means that I sleep really well at night, and sometimes even have to be roused to get ready for crèche.

Last weekend was Nanna and Gramps’ 40th wedding anniversary, so we all went to stay with them in Swansea for the weekend. I went to Toys R Us, had lunch at the Swansea Waterfront Museum and then went for a walk along the front. I’ve done so much travelling that I think that the travel cot has been worn out. Gramps fixed it though, so that the cot won’t collapse in the middle of the night.

I stayed on with Mam at Nanna and Gramps when Dad went home Sunday night. I didn’t see him for two whole days. I think that I was too busy to miss him too much. He said that he missed me though.

Some changes at Little Inspirations. A couple of new kids have arrived at crèche, so I have had to show them the ropes. I’m one of the older ones in the Under-2s group, what with being 17 months now. Some new staff have started too, and Bethan and I are giving them the runaround – I suspect they may not come back for a second week!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rugby Notes

So its four wins from four for the Lions. And with 10 days to go to the first test its time for my first guesses at the Lions test team.

The certainties: Lee Byrne at fullback, Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts at centre, Lee Mears (pictured scrong against the Sharks) at hooker. Er, and that’s it.

Probables: Tommy Bowe at wing, Stephen Jones and Mike Phillips as half backs, Gethin Jenkins and Euan Murray at prop, Paul O’Connell at 5, Jamie Heaslip at 8 and Tom Croft at blindside flanker.

Remaining battles: little Shane Williams/ Fitzgerald/ Monye, Hines/ AW Jones/ O’Callaghan, Williams/ Wallace.

But what do I know? And of course McGeechan's decision is the only one that matters.

Anniversary Notes

A belated happy 40th anniversary to the in-laws, Frank and Irene. It was their ruby wedding anniversary on Sunday, but I've only just had my photos back from the chemists.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Twitter Notes

So many people post so much drivel on Twitter that I find it’s impossible to read anything meaningful on there.

Athletes are even posting tweets at half time of games. The same banalities that you get in post-match interviews. Sometimes the reporter’s filter helps protect us from some of the guff that celebs and sportsmen comes out with. Twitwits is a good term.

My solution has been to set up an automatic feed so that my blog posts go on Twitter and to Facebook too. That saves me having to go there and post just to prove that I’m still alive.

Sports Illustrated’s Norman Chad, sportswriter and self-proclaimed Couch Slouch, imagined how previous generations would have used Twitter…

Michelangelo: “Sistene chapel ceiling larger than it looks; back is killing me.

Christopher Columbus: “No sign of land yet.”

Robert Peary: “Man, its cold up here.”

Ebbw Vale Notes

This photo is of the Garden Festival that was held in Ebbw Vale in 1992. I had a season ticket for the festival and spent many an afternoon there, usually in the rain.

The Ebbw Vale Garden Festival was one, and the last, of just five such events:

Liverpool (1984)
Stoke-on-Trent (1986)
Glasgow (1988)
Gateshead (1990)
Ebbw Vale (1992)

The concept for the festivals was to reclaim large areas of urban derelict land. The sites have all now been used for other things, just as it was planned. But as Blaenau Gwent MP Dai Davies says on the Garden Festival website, it’s a shame that more of the festival hasn’t been kept.

Many of the photos on the website feature Gryff, the festival’s mascot. I recall an Ebbw Vale rugby game when Gryff went onto the pitch to promote the festival. A ‘wag’ on the terrace shouted: “Ref, now there’s two clowns on the pitch!”

There are more Garden Festival pictures and history on this unofficial website.

This video is so funny. The song isn't Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart, but rather a literal description of the video. Enjoy.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Old Jokes' Home

Usain Bolt goes to the clubhouse in Augusta and asks to become a member.

The secretary says: "I'm sorry, Sir, we can't accept you here but there's a multi-racial club 10 minutes down the road."

He replies: "But I'm Usain Bolt!"

"Ok. Five minutes down the road".

Travel Notes

Last Thursday saw me in London for a meeting at CIPFA's offices. 6am start. Good job that I’ve got used to getting up early with Ava.

Nowadays the train journey is tortuous. Busy. Noisy. Overcrowded. Slow. Expensive. Impossible to get any work done.

Network rail boast that punctuality has improved. No doubt it has, but that is because the scheduled journey times have got longer and longer. Its now over 2 hours from Cardiff to London Paddington. I’m sure that it used to be 20 minutes or so quicker than that in the not too distant past.

Weather Notes

It’s summer. So it must been torrential rain and flooding.

We shouldn’t complain about the rain. After all we did have a couple of weeks of pretty much non-stop wall-to-wall sunshine. It’s simply that the drainage doesn’t have the capacity to cope with the water in the valleys. The rain pours down the mountainside and ends up at the bottom of the valley – where the houses are.

The picture is Treforest, less than half a mile from home. It poured with rain on Saturday, but the lessons learned seem to be non-existent. There was exactly the same pattern of floods back in November. Cilfynydd and the A470 south of Abercynon. Rhydfelin. Treforest near Glyntaff cemetery. The railway bridge near the University of Glamorgan.

Astronomy Notes

If you are into your astronomy, then the Stargazers Lounge is the place for you. Recommended to me a few weeks ago by a colleague, I’ve only just had the opportunity to take a look.

When I start looking at images like this one, I miss Alan Trow’s ‘Alien Worlds’ class at the University of Glamorgan, and roving the mountainside above Treforest armed with a telescope.

Election Notes

Blimey. The dust has settled on the European elections and we have four MEPs from four different parties, and none of them Lib Dem – perpetually third but now fifth.

The Conservatives topped the voting in Wales. Who would have thunk it?

UKIP get as many seats as Labour. Who would have thunk it?

The Beeb has the full results here. Our MEPs are now Jill Evans (Palid Cymru), Derek Vaughan (Labour), Kay Swinburne (Conservative) and John Bufton (UKIP).

Blog Notes

Just had some good news. This blog has been nominated for the Visit Wales Blog Awards. It’s a competition set up to encourage people to share their stories about holidays and trips around Wales.

Frankly there are people out there with far more time and better writing and photography skills than I (such as this) that I realise I won’t win. But it’s an honour to be nominated…

Oh, and I get use the Blog Awards logo.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Ava's Diary

After we got back from Tresaith on Tuesday it was back to crèche as usual on Wednesday to Friday. My friends Bethan and Abigail are toddling too, so we now roam around the crèche in a gang terrorising Charlene and the other carers.

On Friday night nanna looked after me while mam and dad had a night out in Cardiff. My walking now means that by bedtime I’m completely knackered and so I’ve been sleeping better than ever over the past few weeks. Mam tells me that she gives me a ‘dream feed’ before she goes to bed, but I’m usually blissfully unaware.

Saturday was a whirlwind as I went to Hoffi Coffi for breakfast then dad and I went to Tescos for the weekly shop. By lunchtime we were off to the Green Park festival in Cross Keys, where I waved to everyone and toddled off on my own to explore. I usually keep looking around to check where mam and dad are though.

Went to Dyffryn Gardens on Sunday (pictured). It’s such a pretty place for a day out that mam and dad joined as members a few months ago. It’s just a few miles from Culverhouse Cross, and once you get past the throngs going to M&S and B&Q you enter a different, more tranquil world.

I had pizza in the coffee shop and scoffed most of it. I enjoy feeding myself now, but my messy hands mean that by the end of the meal I’ve managed to get food all over my face. I played on the big lawn in the afternoon, and then snoozed all the way home.

Another fun-packed weekend.

Groundwork Notes

We went to Waunfawr Park in Cross Keys to the Green Park festival on Saturday. The event was arranged by Groundwork Caerphilly, and all of the staff were out in force to make sure that everything ran smoothly and everyone had a good day out.

The weather was fabulous and Ava was happy to wander around and play with all the toys at the recycle stall. We sat under a tree to have lunch and then browsed the stalls and demonstrations; I really wanted to do my Ray Mears impression by making fire with the bushcraft demonstration team.

The centrepiece of the day was the Welsh worm-charming championships, which is reported in the South Wales Argus.

Theatre Notes

On Friday Cath and I went to see The Duchess of Malfi at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff.

The production was put on by the students of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, part of the University of Glamorgan group. And whilst I can’t claim to understand much more than half of what was going on, it was a very impressive show. A minimalist and brooding set design and the sharp political plottings made the play seem current, quite an achievement since it was written in 1614.

A top evening out. I shall keep an eye out for further RWCMD productions. A nice way to mix entertainment with my UoG commitments.

Travel Notes

Getting the train to work is a lot less stressful than driving into Cardiff each day. Except, that is, when pushy-guy is on the train. I have the misfortune to be on the same train as this bloke at least a couple of times a week.

It’s pathetic. He’s seemingly in such a hurry to get to his place of income generation that before the train gets anywhere near the station he’s up and standing at the door. And then there’s the queue to the ticket barriers. He’s content to barge his way through the others who are content to wait their turn. Ever heard of “excuse me”? er, no.

More evidence that the world is going to Hell in a handcart. With pushy-guy leading the charge.