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, www.evrfc.co.uk

"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: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/8903


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.)