Monday, November 14, 2011


It’s been a busy couple of weeks, so not a lot of chance to blog. So let’s get to it.

Rugby Notes

Ebbw Vale have moved to the top of Division 1 East, having notched up a string of convincing wins. 27-10 in the pouring rain at Merthyr, 34-5 at home to Rumney (which I missed), and 39-17 at Mountain Ash. All bonus-point wins to boot.

Reviews on the EVRFC website at

The fallout from England’s dismal showing at RWC continues. Simon Barnes administers a spectacular shoeing to (ex-)England captain and tenth in line to the throne Mike Tindall. As The Times now charges for access to its website I can’t put a link on here, but in summary he says:

“Tindall is a stupid lecherous drunken mendacious untrustworthy disloyal loser. He's let down his team-mates and his in-laws and half the country beside. He is the Arsehole of the Year.”

Ava’s Diary

Back in nursery after the half term holidays. There are lots of things planned for this term including a trip to Green Meadow community farm, but mostly it’s the headlong race into Christmas. My Jingle Bells is coming along nicely.

Been busy. Went to Cardiff to see Chris and Pui off the telly (BBC’s Show Me, Show Me) in the theatre last weekend. Lots of kids sang and danced, but I was far more circumspect. Had a nice time though.

Then it was Pontypridd’s fireworks display. The best view in town is to be had by sitting on the windowsill in Mam and Dad’s bedroom. I stayed up past my bedtime as the show started at 7:30 but by the end I was so tired that I asked to go to bed.

Firework Notes

This terrific video of when fireworks go bad has been doing the rounds. This is what you get when Oban’s entire fireworks display goes off at once.

Travel Notes

It’s been nuts. The last couple of weeks have included two days in Edinburgh, and trips to Aberystwyth, Llandovery and the ancient forests of the Trellech Ridge in Monmouthshire.

Edinburgh, I hear you say. Lovely this time of year. Well, all I saw was an airplane, a bus, a hotel and an office.

A day in the forest? Autumn colours, nice day out? Picture torrential rain. Then picture lots more.

Sick Notes

Got struck down with the gout the other week. I thought I’d broken my foot. Across the top of the foot isn’t where it traditionally shows itself – it’s usually the big toe.

Typically, it struck during half term when I had booked a few days off work. So instead of paying one last visit to Tresaith and the caravan I was restricted to hobbling and generally feeling sorry for myself.

Baseball Notes

Didn’t see much baseball on TV this season. But right at the end I happned upon two games that seem to define the 2011 season.

First was the final game of the 162 game season: Boston Red Sox lost to Baltimore to complete the biggest collapse in baseball history and miss the playoffs. Later revelations about clubhouse camaraderie, or lack of, seem to make this end of season disaster more explainable. The Boston Globe’s coverage of the meltdown is an excellent read.

The second memorable game of the season was Game 6 of the World Series, already regarded as one of the best World Series games ever played. With the Texas Rangers 3 games to 2 up in the best of 7 series, the St Louis Cardinals had their backs against the wall. Twice the Rangers were one strike away from winning the title, and twice the Cards dug themselves out. The Cards won in the 11th inning, and almost inevitably went on to win Game 7 and the Series.

Chip and Pin Notes

I seem to have an endless series of passwords and PIN numbers to remember. So some of the ways to remember them are unusual, but no clues here.

Alexei Sayle was on the radio last week telling the story of when he realised that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office wasn’t for him. On job experience from university, he was being led around a government office, and the civil servant escorting him tapped in a code to access a room, and said “Don’t worry if you forget the code, it’s the year of the Treaty of Utrecht.”

TV Notes

After Wallander (Swedish), The Killing (Danish) and Spiral (French) my subtitle reading is coming on leaps and bounds. Thank goodness for BBC4. At last there is some intelligent TV that takes time to tell a story and build some plotlines.

Now there’s Braquo on FX. Another French cop show, but this time it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. And from now on I’ll look at Paris in a whole new light.

The new series of Curb Your Enthusiasm on More 4 is as good as ever. Last night’s episode, featuring Bill Buckner and a Mr Softee ice cream van was as good as it gets.

So why is the good TV buried in the schedules and mindless guff served up on the main channels?

Honourable mention has to go to BBC1 for making Frozen Planet. Natural history isn’t always my bag, but this series is magnificent. Dedicated doesn’t start to describe the filmmakers that spent months at the Poles. Neither does “a bit parky”.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Stuff You See

Spotted in Home Bargains. A classy joint if ever there was one, but this is a new low even for them.

Oh, I'm being told its short for Assorted...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes

Two and a half hours of pure joy. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. Badged as “the best bar band in the world”, it seems like an annual event for them to show up in Cardiff and just blow up a storm.

The Glee Club is hardly a cathedral to rock and roll, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone. It was a top night of juke joint rock and roll and barrelhouse blues. Johnny is showing no sign of letting up, and the completely impromptu nature of the set shows what the tight team the band is. Requests from the audience launched into without a moment’s pause.

Southside Johnny looks completely at home on stage, chatting to the crowd, joking with the band, directing operations and blowing a mean harmonica. No wonder his shirt was soaked well before the end of the set.

Talk to Me, The Fever, I Don’t Want to Go Home, Hearts of Stone, and Walk Away Renee. Who could ask for more?

One problem though. With aging bands comes an aging audience. No problem. I am expecting to see old tour T-shirts and faded denims topped with greying/thinning hair and even the odd ponytail. But cardigans, James May-style shirts and dad dancing should be banned.

Monday, October 24, 2011

RWC Notes

Ten RWC Things I Think
1.    I think that if only one or two of the 50/50 refereeing decisions had gone their way, France could have easily won that Final.
2.    I think that Wales were inspired. They played with flair and the unconcerned air of youth. But in bald statistics it was played 7, won 4, lost 3. The only ‘top’ level team beaten was Ireland. You simply can’t miss as many kicks as Wales did.
3.    I think I was surprised at how bad England and Fiji were.
4.    I think that despite Romania going backwards, the Georgian and Russian teams showed that the gap will continue to narrow. The Georgian pack was immense.
5.    I think that the draw won’t open up in future like it did in 2011. When Ireland beat Australia all of the southern hemisphere teams landed in one half of the draw. Without that I don’t think a Six Nations team would have been in the final.
6.    I think Scotland will wonder what if. Almost, almost, almost.
7.    I think that, despite being 13th in line to the throne (perhaps not for much longer), Mike Tindall’s days in an England shirt are over. Likewise Johnny Wilkinson.
8.    I think that Martin Johnson’s days in charge of England are limited. His “rugby players drink beer shock” press conference was cringe-worthy. Sir Clive Woodward - Shaun Edwards dream team, anyone?
9.    I think the eligibility rules have to be sorted out. It just feels wrong that two brothers can play for two different countries.
Manu and Alesana Tuilagi played for England and Samoa respectively.
Salesi and Campese Ma’afu both propped, for Australia and Fiji.
Sailosi and Michael Tagicakibau played against each other for Samoa and Fiji.
10. I think I’m amazed at how poor some drop goal attempts have been. Shane Williams’ Arthur Emyr-esque effort was a shocker. Seriously, do players practice or just have a go when panic sets in? He, Stephen Jones and Dan Parks need to get some rehab at the convalescent home for shell-shocked drop-kickers.

My RWC team of the tournament (for what it’s worth)

15 Israel Dagg (NZ) – Brilliant in attack, solid in defence. Went from the margins of the squad to centre stage in just 2 games. It was a shame that Aussie fullback Kurtley Beale was injured early in the tournament
14 Digby Ioane (Aus) – When on song, the Aussie backline were unstoppable. Ireland of course found a way to stop them.
13 Conrad Smith (NZ) – Awesome tackler and quick thinker. Brain O’Driscoll (Ireland), as always, got serious consideration here.
12 Jamie Roberts (Wales) – Close to being man of the tournament. Just immense. Felipi Contepomi (Arg) deserves mention for playing despite having (a technical term this) a shirtful of lack ribs.
11 George North (Wales) – 19. Imagine how good he will be when he grows up.
10 Quade Cooper (Aus) – Showed glimpses of what he could do, but carried the weight of the nation on his shoulders. The NZ faithful booed him even has he was carried off with a serious knee injury. Rhys Preistland (Wales) rose from nowhere to be a serious contender here.
9 Mike Phillips (Wales) – Superb return to form and scored the try of the tournament. Nobody else got even close.

1 Gethin Jenkins (Wales) – Did his job in the set piece and was everywhere in the loose.
2 Mario Ledesma (Arg) – Frankly the whole Argentina front row were in contention for this list.
3 Adam Jones (Wales) – The difference was obvious after he went off in the semi-final.
4 Paul O’Connell (Ireland) – Worth his place for the effort against Australia alone.
5 Victor Matfield (SA) – Towering lineout presence and intimidating across the field.
6 Thierry Dusautoir (France) – The IRB player of the year was immense in the Final against NZ, and completely outplayed Jerome Kaino (NZ), most people’s pick at blindside.
8 Imanol Harinoriquy (France) – Cup final man of the match. Sergio Parisse (Italy) was exceptional again, and Toby Faletau (Wales, by way of Tonga) was a wonderful revelation.
7 David Pocock (Aus) – Sorely missed in their key loss to Ireland. If he was fully fit Ritchie McCaw (NZ) would have run him very close.

Coach Warren Gatland (Wales) – There will be a tempting offer from the NZRFU arriving any day now.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rugby Notes

Lifted straight from the Ebbw Vale RFC website,

"When the teams in 3rd and 4th place meet, you can expect a nervous, tight affair with the game turning on a missed tackle here, a spark of brilliance there, a penalty kick sailing over - or wide. Not so at Eugene Cross Park on Saturday, when 3rd placed Ebbw Vale handed out a real drubbing, 57-3, to a very disappointing Blackwood side, scoring 9 tries in the process.

"Producing some of their best rugby of the season, and with the pack dominating every aspect of the forward battle, Ebbw's backs clicked, playing with a precision and pace that the visitors could not counter. The first try came after 5 minutes. Blackwood's forwards conceded two scrummage penalties in their 22 and scrum half Gareth James took a quick tap for Wes Cunliffe to cross wide out. It was soon 12 - 0 as Tom Ashmead on the other wing left defenders for dead, running in from over half way. At this stage, Blackwood were still competing well and, with more accurate kicking, might have drawn level. As it was, only a Gareth Price penalty found the mark and Ebbw ended the half 19-3 up, the pack having won a penalty try after a succession of offences by the Blackwood eight earned the ire of referee Phil Harrhy.

"The floodgates showed every sign of bulging when Charlie Simpson crossed for the bonus point and they burst wide open as Nicky Coughlin, Simpson, Cunliffe, Dai Jones and Ashmead snaffled touchdowns - the final one after a superb tackle, steal and pass by Dan Dearden. Mention should be made of Dorian Jones's excellent kicking and general play and it was great to see the superb work - both destructive and constructive - of open side Ronnie Kynes. Charlie Simpson was named as Man of the Match, although it could easily have gone to any number of others in what was a superb performance by every Steelman."

All this report misses out on was an enormous "99"-type bust up just before half-time and an inept refereeing performance. Ronnie Kynes, pictured was my MotM. Next up, a chance for revenge when Ebbw travel to Merthyr, scene of the crime where Ebbw snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last year.

Charlie Simpson, Wes Cunliffe, Tristan Davies, Dan Dearden, Tom Ashmead; Dorian Jones, Gareth James; Ross Jones, Mathew Williams, Jonathan Williams; Damien Hudd (capt), Ashley Sweet; Nicky Coughlin, Ronnie Kynes, Ethan Matthews. Bench: Dan Goode, Ben Parry, Alex Williams, Dai Jones, Dan Haymond.

Monday, October 17, 2011

More Stuff

Ava’s Diary

Castell Coch
It was the Nursery’s day trip to Castell Coch on Tuesday. Mam and Dad came too. We got to listen to The Spellbinder tell us stories about animals who used to live at the castle, and then we Prince Andy taught us sword-fighting. But a) he didn’t look much like a prince, and b) we didn’t do any sword-fighting. We did learn all about being a knight though.

After the packed lunch (as is the tradition some ate theirs on the bus on the way to the castle) it was time for a treasure hunt in the forest. In the rain. We found a treasure chest full of chocolate coins. I had two. Then it was time to go home and some kids (and parents) slept on the bus home.

On Sunday I met all of Dad’s family for lunch. I played with Sarah and Helen, but was very shy because there was a new man around: Helen’s new guy Mark. I played cards (clock patience rather than poker) and did some colouring. Oh, and ate every carrot in the pub.

Rugby Notes

Levitating Dan Aj
Not a great day on Saturday. Wales somehow managed to be plucky losers yet again. And the focus had to be Sam Warburton after my blog last week.

And then Ebbw Vale went down to Newbridge 9-6. The crowd was very quiet, and it had a “after the Lord Mayor’s show” feeling. Almost inevitably it was a rather flat and frankly very poor game.

As last year, Ebbw got turned over by a physical Newbridge team, and thus allowed a one-dimensional Newbridge team to simply shoe the ball down the pitch and then take it back off us. Not streetwise or organised enough. It’s all very well making half-breaks, but if the support doesn’t clear out the opposition then you have no chance. The lack of a neutral zone didn’t help us though. Ronnie Kynes was my MotM, for what it’s worth.

So both my teams lost without conceding a try, without conceding 10 points. But both had kicks to win the game, and shouldn’t look elsewhere for excuses.

Next its home to Blackwood on Saturday, and a rather pointless 3rd place playoff against Australia.

Travel Notes

Room for one more inside? No, there bloody well isn't
Work took me to London last week. God, I’d forgotten how much I dislike it. The Underground is permanently heaving, and of course hot and unventilated. Prices were almost laughable, such as £2 for a cup of flavourless “coffee” (their word not mine) on the train.

One oasis was accommodation. Tired of the soulless, expensive dumps that pass as London hotels, I opted instead for a B&B. Good decision too. The Kennington B&B was everything you want. Quiet, clean, convenient, friendly. Will definitely go there again, if I have to spend time in London.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sam Warburton Facts

Sam Warburton, Wales’ captain is now turning into one of the best open-side flankers in the world. In his honour a Twitter thread (#SamWarburtonFacts) has been collecting so little known stuff about him. Here is a short list of my favourites.

1.    If the Large Hadron Collider breaks again, Sam Warburton will just throw two atoms together and see what happens
2.    Sam Warburton once slammed a revolving door
3.    Superman wears Sam Warburton pyjamas to bed.
4.    The Bogey Man checks under his bed for Sam Warburton.
5.    Ghosts sit around a campfire telling Sam Warburton stories.
6.    The Ghostbusters call Sam Warburton when there is something strange in their neighbourhood.
7.    Sam Warburton is the reason Wally is hiding.
8.    Voldemort refers to Sam Warburton as “He who must not be named”.
9.    Some pee their name into snow, Sam Warburton does his into concrete.
10. Bruce Springsteen calls Sam Warburton ‘the Boss’.
11. Sam Warburton can draw a circle with a ruler.
12. When Sam Warburton is running late, time slows down.
13. There are 5 natural elements: earth, fire, wind, water, Sam Warburton.
14. Sam Warburton can love AND hate Marmite simultaneously.
15. Sam Warburton makes onions cry.
16. When Sam Warburton looks in the mirror his reflection avoids eye contact.
17. The AA have gone out of business. Sam Warburton beat them to every breakdown.
18. Watching TV with Sam Warburton is a nightmare. He always turns over.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Checkout Hell

Ava and I do the weekly “big shop” on Saturdays and duly stand in line at the checkout. We chat to the checkout person. On Saturday it was a woman with an impressive knowledge of Formula One.

Anyhew. Sunday. Asda, Coryton. Just a few bits and bobs. Decided to use the use the automated check-outs.

When will I learn? “Unauthorised item in the bagging area.” “Authorisation required.” “Please rescan.” “Supervisor (read surly assistant) needed.” Arghhhh.

Why is it that in this age where “customer is king” that this is one area where a shockingly poor system seems to come as standard?

Sunday, October 09, 2011

This week's stuff

Ava’s Diary

I enjoyed the last of the summer last weekend at Duffryn Gardens with my friends Abigail and Bethan. They don’t go to the same school as me, so it was nice to catch up and reminisce about old times.

The first school trip of the year is looming as we’re off to Castell Coch this week. It’s a fairy castle and we’re going to explore the castle, listen to fairy stories and practice sword-fighting. I’m looking forward to the sword-fighting most of all.

Mum’s friend Lou has been visiting this weekend, and her girls Eggbert and Tess-egg have been really nice to me. Tess played with all my toys and showed me how to get cakes from the kitchen when Mum and Dad aren’t looking.

Rugby Notes

After a slow start, Ebbw Vale’s dominance up front paid dividends and by the end it was a rout over Tredegar. 59-17 was the final score, and that came after a 0-10 start.

Two yellow cards in quick succession (and frankly the ref bottled another within a minute of the first card being handed out) turned the game, and your correspondent’s worries disappeared at it rained tries (seven of them in the second half).

Scorers: Tries for Nicky Coughlin, Tom McPherson (2), Tom Daly (2), Tom Ashmead (2), Calum Brennan and a penalty try. Conversions for Dan Haymond (4), Dorian Jones (2) and Charlie Simpson (2).

Tough to argue with the choice of flanker Ronnie Kynes as MotM, but McPherson but must have run him close.

Next Saturday it’s a rather tougher encounter when Ebbw travel to another Gwent neighbour, Newbridge.

RWC Thoughts

I think that, rugby-wise, it was a perfect day yesterday. A day when Wales and Ebbw win and England lose doesn’t roll around very often, so it was one to savour.

I think that Wales proved their potential for running rugby and England proved their ability to be clueless when it matters.

I think that Mike Phillips’ try was one Gareth Edwards would have been proud of. Good way to make up for being thrown out of McDonalds.

I think that France were typically French, and who knows which French team shows up next Saturday – the one that lost to Tonga or the one that blew England away.

I think that Australia are impossible to rule out. They beat South Africa without having any ball. The big question is whether New Zealand will allow them any more ball than South Africa did.

I think that I hate the throat-slash haka that New Zealand use when they are bored with their “traditional” one.

Scarlet Nonsense

A lot of the press carried the fact that the Scarlets played their 5,000th game last month. Now, that’s impressive going for a regional team that was formed in 2002 to represent the region of West and North Wales.

There’s a team called Llanelli which existed back in the past and post 2002 has plied its trade in the Premiership. On the other hand, the Scarlets is a region which has Llanelli, Llandovery and Carmarthen Quins, amongst others as their feeder sides. The fact that this PR guff from the Scarlets hasn’t been challenged in the media just shows how much of a sham the “regional” set-up in Wales really is, and does a disservice to their “feeder” club.

It's guff like this that stops me having any interest in "regional" rugby.

Website of the Week

One of the e-newsletters I get each week is from Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis. It’s always full of sound financial advice and has all the best ways of save money – for just about whatever you are spending it.

Anyway, he is collecting signatures for a petition to make financial education a compulsory part of the school curriculum. The petition says:

“It's a national disgrace that in the 20 years since introducing student loans, we’ve educated our youth into debt when they go to university, but never about debt. We're a financially illiterate nation, with millions caught by mis-selling, over-borrowing and being ripped off. Is it any surprise we’ve just had a debt imbued financial crisis. This must change. Companies spend billions on marketing and teaching their staff to sell – it's time we got buyers' training. The most cost effective way to start is to ensure every child in the country gets a basic understanding of personal finance & consumer rights before leaving school. This isn’t a large resource requirement. Some schools already do it, but the majority don’t and that needs to end. Unless it's compulsory, head teachers can’t prioritise for it. 97% of people support this, yet no one will take up the baton. We have one of the world’s most complex consumer economies; it's time our children were taught how to thrive and survive in it.”

I’ve always been amazed that there is no domestic finances on any school curriculum, yet it’s probably one of the best things anyone can be taught. If you want to sign the petition you can do so here:


My local (it’s almost at the bottom of the garden) is The Bunch of Grapes. It is holding a bottled beer festival on 14-16 October. 70 plus beers are listed on their website including a few American beers I have sampled when over the pond. I will try hard to find time to visit.

Thanks as always to Uncle Wilco for the heads-up.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

RWC Notes

I think that I thought there would never be a time when Wales would look like they belong in the RWC semi-finals. But today’s performance was assured, with remarkably few mistakes, and a poise you never used to associate with Wales teams of old.

Terrific win guys, and roll on the semis.

Rugby Notes

A rather comfortable win for Ebbw Vale last Saturday at sun-drenched Treorchy (a phrase I never thought I’d write) on Saturday. The 38-8 scoreline just about reflected the one-sided nature of the game, where only the scrum had the Zebras showing any sort of form.

5 tries in all – from Dan Deardon, Ashley Sweet (this one 40 yards longer than last week’s pushover try), Ben Parry, Wes Cunliffe and Tristan Davies, with 5 conversions and a penalty from Dorian Jones.

My MotM was centre Dan Deardon who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Top signing.

Today its a throwback week as neighbours and once-frequent opponents Tredegar visit Eugene Cross Park (still hate EXP as the abbreviation. No, its f**king ECP.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sports musings

Rugby Notes

Number 8 Ashley Sweet gets his try
Ebbw Vale got back on winning ways on Saturday with a convincing 44-18 win over previously unbeaten Gilfach Goch.

The pack dominated, completely unlike last week. The reshuffled pack seemed to work with Calum Brennan adding some size to the second row, Ashley Sweet played at number 8 for the first time, and Ben Parry had his best game for the club, and was my MotM.

Derrick Tredray made sure the ball was used quicker than in previous weeks, Tristan Davies brought some experience to a backline which sometimes is a bit like a headless chicken.

It also has to be said that the referee, Phil Connett has a top game; from the start he didn’t take any nonsense and made sure that both sides were allowed room to play rugby.

Scorers: 3 tries for Wes Cunliffe and one each for Tom Daly, Dan Dearden and Ashley Sweet, with 4 conversions and 2 penalties for Dorian Jones.

Next up, Treorchy away.

RWC Thoughts

Wales v Namibia in shadow of Mount Taranaki
I think that I take back what I said. On the form they showed against France, there is only one winner in this tournament. It was a game for the first ten minutes and then New Zealand exploded with three tries and it was all over.

I think that Scotland blew a golden chance to beat Argentina yesterday. Not the best game of the tournament but certainly the tensest.

I think that Wales haven’t been that clinical in finishing off a team for many years. The 12 tries in the 81-7 demolition showed a confidence that’s been missing for a long, long time.

I think that the best two quotes of the completion so far came this weekend:

·         Fancois Pienaar: “the only difference between my jog and my flat-out run was the expression on my face.”

·         “Alfie” Thomas on Gethin Jenkins’ try: “at that point I think he could smell the burger van behind the try line.”

I think that the commentators need to shut up a bit more. We never get to hear the referee’s explanation of a decision; rather we get some idiot guessing.

I think that Wales playing at Taranaki reminded me of watching a Taranaki side featuring All Black hooker Hika Reid playing at Tredegar many years ago. It seems that club tours have become a thing of the past.

I think that Scotland coach Andy Robinson is looking more and more like Clive Anderson.

I think that barring a freak result (Scotland thrashing England or South Africa losing to Samoa) the quarter finals are now set:
·         Wales v Ireland
·         England v France
·         South Africa v Australia
·         New Zealand v Argentina

Glamorgan Notes

In an enormous act of faith in a) Glamorgan cricket and b) the weather, I have purchased a Glamorgan season ticket for 2012. Its early bird price of just £99 makes a lot more sense than their pricing policies of the last few years.

I will probably be investing in a ticket for the England v South Africa game at Sophia Gardens too, but might wait to see what Santa brings me.

As he’s going to have to be busy over the next few years too, as in the last week Glamorgan has been announced as hosts of test matches against New Zealand (2013) and Australia (2015).

There is a good review of the not-so-good season on the Turn and Bounce blog.