Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blog Notes

So close, but yet…

The result of the Visit Wales blog awards has been announced, and the winner is Dalesman’s Welsh Ramblings, which frankly is a far better effort at selling the beautiful landscapes of Wales (especially North Wales) that this blog could ever do.

That said, I reckon it’s a bit of a one trick pony, and it certainly doesn’t a toddler’s perspective of Wales!

Congrats to Dalesman, aka Brian Sherwin.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

University Notes

Shocking news from the University of Glamorgan in the last few days. A first year student was raped at the Treforest halls of residence on Saturday. Police are investigating, and the latest news and a police video clip are here (Western Mail) and here (BBC).

The University has a good reputation as being a friendly community-spirited one, and this incident is all the more shocking for that.

Ava's Diary

The week before last I went with mam and dad for a long weekend at our caravan at Gwalia Falls in Tresaith. The weather was terrific but since all the bigger kids are back in school, everywhere was nice and quiet.

We spent all day Sunday on Tresaith beach, where I had a great time playing with the sand and paddling in the sea. (Lots more pics on Flickr; link on the right hand side.) Needless to say I slept well that night.

Monday was a bit more overcast, so dad took me to Teifi Mania in Cardigan. We had the place to ourselves when we first got there, so I had fun on the slide, jumping into the ball pit, and trying to kick a football into the goals.

Rugby Notes

Ebbw Vale got the result we were all pretty much expecting on Saturday. We got well beaten at Neath. When they’ve got Arwel Thomas and Peter Sidoli on the bench, you realise that the difference in the depth of the squads is substantial.

Anyway a 41-7 defeat could have been worse, but again (trying to be positive) there were some good showings. Wales U-20 back rowers James Thomas and Rhys Jenkins were impressive, a far-from-fit Simon Pengelly made a second half impact, and scrum half Nathan Jones impressed, particularly when moving to full back for the second half. (Thanks to Graham for this top pic of Nathan Jones.)

But its still pretty grim watching. We were only in the game for the third quarter, but that’s simply not good enough. It doesn’t get easier either, with the next two games being Llanelli home and Aberavon away. Yikes.

Match reports are here and here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ava's Diary

Dad took me to watch Ebbw Vale play down at Neath yesterday. I enjoyed it, but dad and his friends were less happy.

Today mam and dad took me to Cyfarthfa Castle. We had a nice lunch in the cafe (sausage and beans, since you ask) and then went for a stroll around the grounds. We finished up in the playground, where I went on the swings and the slide. A good day was had by all in the late summer Merthyr sunshine.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rugby Notes

I’ve been plucking up courage to write about last Friday’s game.

In the end Ebbw Vale came a poor second to Pontypridd. Ebbw lost 3-28, the second successive home tanking this season. And worryingly, Ponty weren’t that good; even their own website called it a ‘workmanlike performance’.

Ebbw defended well and gave a reasonable account of themselves in the first half, and did well to get to half time at 3-3. A revolving door tackle just after half time gave Ponty their first try, and from then on it looked like an uphill battle.

On the plus side, the lineout has improved, and we took some Ponty ball as well. Match report on Ebbw’s website as well as on Ponty’s.

Next up on Saturday is a trip to Neath, where we have done well in recent years. Let’s hope for a first win, eh?

Ava's Diary

Again, I've got a bit of catching up to do. (Dad's not very quick at downloading his pictures from his camera.)

This is me enjoying myself on the beach. You'd think from the cloudless sky that I was in Spain or some other exotic clime. But no. I'm on Aberavon beach. This was the weekend before last.

A good smearing of sun cream means that the sand sticks everywhere!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Music Notes

Last Thursday I went to Pontypridd’s Muni to see aging rock legends Michael Schenker Group. Now, on the whole I’m not a great fan of the old heavy metal scene, but having heard a couple of MSG and UFO albums back in the ‘80s, I thought I’d give it a go.

Good decision. They were supported by local bands Your Local Hero (very young, raw, OK) and Skin (been around, acoustic set, terrific). There were a few songs even I recognised, such as Doctor, Doctor and Rock Bottom, but on the whole it was just great to enjoy some good music from a famous band so close to home.

Good work, Muni. They say more gigs like this are planned; I hope so.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blog Notes

This humble little blog has got onto the shortlist for the Visit Wales Blog Awards. Its for Ava’s Diary rather than the whole blog. Her journalist skills clearly come from her mam rather than her dad.

Its one of the seven shortlisted to win the Visit Wales Blog Competition. The winner will be announced at the end of the month. The others on the shortlist are:

A Writer’s Journey
Dalesman’s Welsh Ramblings
Goodbye, Mould!
Jazz in Wales
Painting Wales Diary
Welsh Hills Again

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ava's Diary

I’m now in crèche four days a week. I’ve started going on Mondays as well as the usual Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Mam has got lots of work on at the moment, and the short work week meant that she was trying to work and look after me at the same time. And we all know that plan was doomed to fail.

Last week mam had a story in The Times about a day in the life of the fire service, as well as a bunch of stuff in The Guardian.

Anyway, I have a hoot at crèche. Abigail, Bethan and I now rule the Under-2s section, and reek havoc whenever we have the chance. When its sandplay time, I’m the one climbing head first into the sand pit. And dad can tell what I’ve had to eat by the front of my T-shirt!

My favourite pastimes are handing out hugs, and running away when its time to go to bed.

Last weekend mam, dad and me went to stay with nanna and grandpa down in Swansea. Grandpa filled up the paddling pool in the back garden and I splashed furiously. I was asleep by the time grandpa lit the bonfire – or BBQ has he called it: I think the flames have just about subsided by now.

Sunday I went to the beach in Aberavon and enjoyed running into the sea. I was covered in sun cream and sand; nanna reckoned I looked like a big emery board.

Needless to say, I was completely knackered last night and slept until gone 7am. (Thank goodness – Ed.)

Rugby Notes

Didn’t go to Dave Parade on Saturday, where Ebbw Vale went down to Newport 13-22. Full report on the Ebbw Vale RFC website and in the South Wales Andrex.

Lots of injuries and a huge turnover in personnel from last season means that its taking time for the team to gel, but it sounds like this was a huge improvement over last week’s 3-30 defeat at home to Cardiff. There have been some encouraging signs though. The Andrex had new centre Nick Wakley (pictured) as its man of the match last Saturday, and he was my pick in the Cardiff game too.

At least at this time of year the games come thick and fast, and there’s a chance to get into the win column with a home game when Pontypridd make the same trek as me to Ebbw on Friday evening. Hopefully there’ll be a few celebratory beers afterwards. As DNG asks "are we out?" Aye.

Travel Notes

Travelling down the M4 from Cardiff to Swansea we saw the Mystery Machine. Now any self-respecting fan of kids TV will know that it’s the van used by Scooby Doo, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne and Velma.

As we overtook, I could see two paws holding the steering wheel. The driver was a guy in full Scooby Doo fancy dress, even down his ears wedged against the roof of the van. Ava waved and Scooby waved back. Wonderful.

If you want to hire the Mystery Machine, the website is, appropriately, Scooby Doo Van Hire.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Biscuit Notes

As someone with a professional interest in risk management, I read the story of the dangers lurking in the seemingly innocent matter of eating a biscuit. A survey has revealed that there are many ways for the innocent biccy to book you a trip to A&E. Of the 500 they indentified:

29% had been splashed or scalded by hot drinks while dunking or trying to fish the remnants from hot tea.

28% had choked on crumbs

10% had broken a tooth or filling biting a biccy

3% had poked themselves in the eye with a biscuit

7% were bitten by a pet or "other wild animal" trying to get their biscuit

And one man ended up stuck in wet concrete after wading in to pick up a stray biscuit.

From the research, a Biscuit Injury Threat Evaluation (or BITE) has been carried out. Custard creams are the riskiest biscuit and get a score of 5.63.

The full list of biscuits in risk order:

  • Custard Cream 5.63
  • Cookie 4.34
  • Choc Biscuit Bar (eg: Rocky) 4.12
  • Wafer 3.74
  • Rich Tea 3.45
  • Bourbon 3.44
  • Oat Biscuit 3.31
  • Digestive 3.14
  • Ginger Nut 2.99
  • Shortbread 2.90
  • Caramel Shortcake 2.76
  • Nice Biscuit 2.27
  • Iced Biscuits/Party Rings 2.16
  • Chocolate Finger 1.38
  • Jaffa Cakes 1.16

I’m sticking to Jaffa Cakes from now on.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Bank Notes (geddit?)

Great story in the papers this last week or so about cockney ATMs.

Around here nowadays you get a choice of English or Welsh instructions, but some London ATMs now have English or Cockney options, as the picture shows.

It’s nice to see that someone in banking has a sense of humour (other than Fred Goodwin and the other overpaid execs, who seem permanently to be taking the mickey).

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Food Notes

Cath and I found a wonderful
‘gastro pub’ whilst down at the caravan last weekend.

The Daffodil Inn is in Penrhiwllan, near Newscastle Emlyn. Welcoming sofas, good menu, cosy atmosphere. The scoff was superb too. Following a shared tapas starter, I tucked into a fillet steak and Cath had what looked like a whole tuna.

Definitely a place we’ll go back to, and if the weather permits, a table on the deck overlooking the valley is planned.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Ava's Diary

I spent Tuesday afternoon painting.

As you can see, I was very successful. I painted anything that came near me. Paper, the table, chairs, my hands, my face, mam. What a hoot. Clearly I have got grandpa’s artistic streak.

Ava's Diary

Last weekend I went to stay with nanna and grandpa in Swansea. Had a whale of a time, playing with grandpa (who was knackered by the time I went home) and going for long walks to the park with nanna (equally knackered). I slept well each night; I guess they wore me out too.

Nanna managed to get me to sit still long enough to put some pigtails in my hair. Cute, eh?

Ava's Diary

Lots to catch up with. A few weeks ago I spent some time down at our caravan with mam and dad; one of the few nicer weeks all summer. They tell me that it doesn’t rain every summer. I’m not convinced.

I went to see a local sheepdog trail at, appropriately, St Dogmaels. Anyway, the result was that the sheep won. There wasn’t a single dog and owner that could round up the sheep and get them into the pen. Most of the time the sheep stood around biding their time before making a bid for freedom. Sometimes through the fence and into the next field. It was great fun.

The next day we went on the Teifi Valley steam railway at Henllan, pictured. I waved to the trains and had a great time.

I had my first trip to a ‘soft play’ indoor play centre, Teifi Mania. It was a rainy day. And it was chaos. I had great fun though, climbing up some big steps and sliding down the slide, and I played in the ball pit. I was only allowed to go in the toddlers’ area though.

On the way back to the caravan after a day in Newport (Dyfed, not Gwent), and guided only by a brown tourist sign, we went to visit Penlan Uchaf Gardens which, officially, are in the middle of nowhere. After miles on single track roads leading up the hillside and with no signs of civilisation, suddenly the farm appears, like the Lost Gardens of Heligan. With the wind blowing hard, and the gardens being on the side of the Presili mountains, I spent far too much time falling over.

I spent some time on Penbryn beach, but the wind was blowing so hard it was like being sand-blasted.

Rugby Notes

Ebbw Vale lost their opening game of the season, 23-27, at Glamorgan Wanderers. After going up 23-0 at half time, Ebbw shipped 27 without reply in the last 20 minutes. By all accounts though, it was a huge improvement over last season and there were lots of positives from the match, along with one bonus point.

There are match reports on the Ebbw Vale RFC website and the Glamorgan Wanderers’ website. The Western Mail’s report was clearly mailed in and not worth reading.

Next Saturday, Ebbw’s home opener is against Cardiff. I’ll be there.

TV Notes

Its back. The headlong charge to the Christmas Number 1 started last week with the new series of The X Factor. Its sort of a guilty secret, and probably the only programme that ITV makes that’s worth watching nowadays. There’s some terrible singers, but some gems get unearthed.

The video is Jamie Afro’s wonderful audition, singing Sex on Fire by the Kings of Leon. Skip the first 2 minutes to get to the audition proper.

Meanwhile, over on BBC, Shooting Stars is back, in exactly the same format as it had 20 years ago, even down to George Daws. For me, the funniest thing on TV.