Friday, September 13, 2013

Random Stuff

Parking Notes

This is how not to park. The moron manages to take up 4 spaces with his idiot-mobile. Pic taken at Midway Retail Park in Pontypridd.

Cricket Notes

Astonishingly, Glamorgan are in the final of the Yorkshire Bank 40. They have blown hot and cold all season, and I seen a range of performances from top quality to embarrassing. But good luck to them, and hopefully they can put on a good show at Lord's.

Rugby Notes

After the trip to north Wales was safely negotiated last Saturday, with a win over RGC 1404, it's the home opener for Ebbw Vale this weekend with another tough game. This time it's Bargoed, who are always a physical side (to use a euphemism).

It'll be my first chance to see how the new guys, mostly in the back line, have settled in. And this year, it's serious. After three successive titles but no promotion, this year the winner of the Championship will go up into the Premiership. Subject to passing the playing conditions criteria, known as an A License. Of course, as always, its all subject to the WRU not changing its mind.

Movie Notes

Richard Curtis has a new movie out, called About Time. It's a time travel rom-com apparently. Any (frankly unlikely) thought of going to see it was scrapped after seeing the review headline in The Times. It read: "If time travels existed, I'd unsee this movie."

Travel Notes

Two...

Spent a night in London this week. Do you know what £115 buys you nowadays? A pretty crappy hotel, that's what. The Wigmore Court Hotel, despite reasonable reviews on Tripadvisor, was awful. Lumpy bed (bizarrely a four poster in a tiny room), peeling wallpaper and indelible breakfast - the biggest sin of all.

Walking down Newport Road in Cardiff the other day a saw a bloke, wearing just shorts and boots. Carrying a 40 inch fault screen TV. Strange sight, and I reckon a good opening to a short story.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Nature and Other Stuff

Nature Notes




 
A few wonderful brushes with nature during our week away in west Wales.

First, the ritual of sitting on the jetty at Newquay watching the sun down down. A glorious evening was topped off by the sight of two bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay. They seemed to be enjoying the evening as much as those gathered to watch them.

A couple of days later we visited cardigan Island Farm, a visitor friendly farm overlooking Cardigan. the walk to the cliff edge overlooking the island was rewarded by several seals peering backing at us. We counted at least three, although we were told that the day before 15 had been seen. A real treat.

On our final day we went Llanerchaeron, a National Trust house and gardens. during our walk around the walled garden we were swamped by butterflies. Yellow, white, orange, tiger striped. Everywhere. A beautiful view. Since then I've seen features saying that thie year has been a good one for butterflies and moths. Good news.

Agricultural Notes

Went to the Vaynor Show on Saturday. I've seen the ads for it around Merthyr for years, but this was our first visit. Its a very scled down version of the Royal Welsh Show, with sheep, cow and horse competions, a fur and feather tent, and even a gymkhana. A very gentle day out, which Ava enjoyed because of the face painting and the candy floss.

TV Notes

Footie is back. Meh.

And BT Sports has made a land-grab for ESPN. In the drive for more and more footie on the box, ESPN America has been a bystander casualty (or casuality as Satellite City would have it). So now there is an occasional baseball game buried in ESPN's schedules, and no Kornheiser/Wilbon analysis in PTI.

I shan't be shelling out, BT.

Travel Notes

Driving and commuting has been far less of a chore this past few weeks with the summer holidays in full swing. No if they can only get the trains to run on time.

One notable exception. It seems that Ebbw Vale is having wholescale roadworks. The have taken the big bang to roadworks, and it seemed last week that it was almost imnpossible to get in or out of town. Still, I'm sure it'll be nice when its finished.

Film Notes

Went to the Chapter Arts Centre for some scoff and a filum. The range of vegan, vegetarian, halal and kosher meals always makes we smile, and I always rebel against all of it by ordering the burger! A reasonable selection of beer though, and a nice pint of Rascal washed down my hunk of red meat.

Anyway, went to see The Bling Ring, which is based on the true story of LA wannabees burgularizing (their word, not mine) the homes of celebrities when they are away. Paris Hilton left the key to her house under the front mat, and several others simply left their houses unlocked. Some had som much "stuff" that they didn't even know they had been robbed.

Its a boggling story of wealth and vacuousness, and proves the adage that fools and their money are soon parted. The movie was far better than I had been expecting. A Vealey thumbs-up.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Holidays and Other Stuff

Ava's Diary

Nice week in Tresaith. It was sunny almost all week, so I spent most of it on the beach. Sandcastle-building, jumping waves, collecting shells and my first go at surfing meant a busy week.

One rainy day and so that was a trip to the cinema with dad to see The Smurfs 2. It was smurfing funny.

The pcture is the view from our caravan park, Gwalia Falls, down to Tresaith beach.


Cricket Notes

Went to see last Friday's T20 game between Glamorgan and Northants. Good crowd (7,000 or so), good start but an inability to bat consistently and not give away cheap wickets cost Glamorgan dear. Four catches at long-on or long-off shows a spectacular lack of learning. And the odd poor ball meant that Glamorgan failed to build pressure in he field, and consequently the result was never in doubt.

Other thoughts on the game: The four that was a six. A pull from Chris Cooke cleared the boundary by a clear yard. The umpire asks the nearest Northants player Muhammad Azharullah who shrugs. Umpire has no option but to signal a four. Next year's guide will list Azharullah as qualified for England by residency but for Pakistan by cheating.

Marcus North. His 7 off 100 balls (probably not actually 100 balls) was torture to watch. Most others teams have overseas players who add to their teams, in Glamorgan's case this is another expensive mistake.

Travel Notes

Different pace of life down in west Wales. A lot of  the roads around Tresaith are single track, which means quite a bit of squeezing past and reversing to lay-bys. All of this is done with very good grace, and an extraordinary array of cheery waves. I have been growing my portfolio of waves to other motorists. A nod, a salute, a regal wave, the list (Robert Crampton-style) continues.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bruce and Other Stuff

Concert Notes

Bruuuuce!

The Boss, Bruce Springsteen himself came to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Tuesday. Getting old, I opted for a seat rather than to stand for what everyone knew would be a marathon session. 

True to form, Bruce came on stage at 7:40 and hauled himself off, completely drained, at 11:15. During that time he did not stop being the ringmaster to a wonderful show featuring the E Street Band and a host of supporting musicians (I counted 17 in all). Not bad for a 63-year-old.

He collected requests from the audience, including one, TV Movie, which he claimed he had never played live before. He got some people out of the audience to dance on stage. He mugged with the crowd at the front. And he got a 7-year-old on stage to help him sing Waitin' on a Sunny Day.

I still find it strange to see Steve van Zandt in person. I still see him as Tony’s sidekick in The Sopranos. And he plays the same role here – as the foil for all of Bruce’s antics and jokes.

That’s my third time seeing Bruce. The first was at Wembley way back in 19xx and the other was Bruce’s only other visit to Cardiff in 2008. One of the best concerts you could ever wish to see, and comfortably in my Top 3 of all time. 

Setlist
1. This Little Light of Mine
2. Long Walk Home
3. Adam Raised a Cain
4. Prove It All Night
5. TV Movie
6. Cynthia
7. Roulette
8. Death to My Hometown
9. We Take Care of Our Own
10. Wrecking Ball
11. Spirit in the Night
12. Hungry Heart
13. My City of Ruins
14. We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place (with Eric Burdon)
15. Boom Boom
16. Cadillac Ranch
17. Summertime Blues
18. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
19. Pay Me My Money Down
20. Shackled and Drawn
21. Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
22. The Rising
23. Badlands

Encore 1
24. Tougher than the Rest
25. Born to Run
26. Ramrod
27. I’m a Rocker
28. Dancing in the Dark
29. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
30. Shout
31. This Little Light of Mine

Encore 2
32. Janey don’t you Lose Heart (Solo Acoustic)
33. Thunder Road (Solo Acoustic)

Ava’s Diary
 
It’s been an exciting week. Finished reception class last Friday and went home with three certificates for good behaviour, lovely work and for being a great member of the class.
 
Then on Saturday I lost my first tooth. The tooth fairy duly arrived on Saturday night and left me with one pound. Going to use that and my piggy-bank money to buy a Disney princess book on the weekend.
 
As school is closed, this week I’ve been to gymnastics (RSD gymnastics in Treforest) and playgroup (Rhydyfelin) where I used to go before big school. Today its Nanna’s turn. It’s a busy life for me.
 
Radio Notes
 
One of the few time I listen to the radio nowadays is for BBC Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue. Wonderfully funny, and a throwback to the days when you could be funny without saying f*** all the time. Any smut is entirely in the mind of the audience. For example “The lovely Samantha went to the church where the vicar is fond of brass etchings. She helped him rub one out in the vestry.”
 
It’s only a six-week run, so catch it while you can.


Music Notes
 
I am getting old. Or at least I am a worried parent. Why is it that on any given search through the “music channels” on Sky (their word, not mine) you are bound to stumble upon Rhianna, Beyonce or some wannabe warbling away with next to no kit on. What sort of role model does this set to Ava? A world where Liam Gallagher keeps his parka on but Rhianna is stripped down to her pants?
 
Oh, and don’t get me started on “lyrics”. It’s all bitches and hoes (garden hoes? letter Os?) But I’ll leave that particular rant to The Kraken, who does it far better than me. Exhibit A – this wonderful dissection of Robin Thicke’s current ditty Blurred Lines:

Travel Notes
 
I had the pleasure of a mobile sauna last week. It was cunningly disguised as the 14:00 Bangor to Shrewsbury “service”. “Oh, it’s the 175 model has air-cooling” the guard helpfully pointed out, as though I had somehow deliberately chosen to ride a sweltering train. 
 
Beer Notes
 
Spending a quiet lunchtime in the City Arms on a day off is one of the joys of life. A proper pub, with proper beer. 
 
In honour of Bruce later that evening I went for Ed’s American Red from Downton Brewery. A great 4.8% tipple.
 
Things I’ve Seen This Week
 
Saw a Peter’s Pies van on the A470 on Monday. Amongst the advertising for their savoury products was a warning, Securicor-style that “No sausage rolls are left in this vehicle overnight.” 
 
Tweets of the Week
 
“Apparently in Australia they don’t drink tea when it’s hot. Amateurs.”
-       @YorkshireTea (sponsors of The Ashes on Channel 5)
 
“The kid next door just challenged me to a water fight. I thought I’d tweet this while I wait for the water to boil.”
-       @itsWilly Ferrell (Not Will Ferrell)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

It's Back


Blog Notes

By popular demand, it's back. I can't guarantee a weekly update, but I'll have something to say about rugby, cricket, Wales and the world in general on a pretty regular basis.

Ava's Diary

Just about to finish my reception year at Pencoedmaen school in Ponty. Loved every minute of it. I was a bit worried about moving to a new class but was OK when I realised that all my friends would be moving up to the new class too.

Had a school outing to Barry Island last week. Nanna and Mam came with me, but they just watched as I organised my friends to make a really big sandcastle. I fetched the water for the moat, but as the tide went out that became hard work so I delegated it.

Tomorrow is pirate picnic day in school. I get to dress up and Mam gets stressed over making an outfit.
 
Went to cousin Helen's wedding to Mark a couple of months ago. I managed to photobomb most of the pics, as you can see.

Cricket Notes

I had tickets for a couple of the ICC Champions Trophy games in June, the “mini World Cup”. I saw India v South Africa and West Indies v South Africa. Enormous contrast.

The India game saw blazing sunshine and an enormous crowd, and some brilliant batting from India and a comfortable win. A colourful, deafening experience.

The West Indies game saw a long rain delay, effectively making it a T20 game. West Indies were their usual brilliant/laconic selves, and were thwarted by more rain juts as they had the game one. Confusion reigned at it started to rain, and the game ended in a very unsatisfactory tie.

The restrictions and rules around the competition imposed by the ICC were at times laughable. The branding of the ground had to be changed to ensure that only ICC-approved sponsors could be mentioned. So no SWALEC stadium. Fair enough I guess, but they couldn’t even use the old name of Sophia Gardens. So instead it was the rather disconnected “Cardiff Wales stadium”.

The ICC also had piles of stuff around the game too. Anthems before game, half time on-field sponsored activities and such like. All fair enough on a normal sunny day, but when the window of opportunity to play the cricket was limited by the weather, this guff ate into the time available to play cricket and ended up preventing a proper end to the rain effected game. It seems sponsors come above the game itself nowadays.

International games aside, I have ventured to a Glamorgan county game and a T20, and with the weather set fair hopefully I’ll be able to fit in a few more games through the summer.

Rugby Notes

There’s not much that I can add to the miles of coverage of the Lions tour except to say well done to Dan Lydiate, who played for Ebbw Vale and Toby Faletau who as a youngster lived at the Tongan Embassy in Ebbw Vale when his dad played for Ebbw Vale.

And special mention to Adam Jones who as well as being one of the best props on the planet is also a really nice bloke. Met him at Llantrisant Starbucks the day before a 6 Nations game.

Ava and I were in the queue and he and a bunch of other players were in front of us. Ava says to me (not exactly sotto voce) “Why does he have so much hair?” So he turns around and asks “Do you think I look scary?” Ava said no, and told him that he looked like a teddy bear.

We watched and he signed autographs, posed for photos and was patient with all the well-wishers when probably all they wanted was a bit of quite time before the big day.

More Rugby Notes

The square ball was drawn out of the bag again by the WRU again. Ebbw Vales’s first game in their defence of their Championship title is the small matter of an away trip on 7 September to… Colwyn Bay. The first game is at RGC1404, newly promoted. Sharn’t be travelling to that one; I’ll wait until the following Saturday when Ebbw Vale “entertain” Bargoed.
 
Nothing like a soft start to the season, eh?

Travel Notes

“Ice cream! Vipers’ noses! Albatross! Squirrels on sticks! Sea snake venom!”

Not the usual fayre offered by Arriva Trains Wales, but nevertheless it’s a different way of getting people’s attention when pushing the tea and coffee cart up and down the Cardiff to Bangor train.

Thanks good ness that there are some people in the service industries who enjoy their work, and like to bring a smile to customers/passengers.

IT Notes

A new abbreviation I heard the other day referring to IT problems: PICNIC. That stands for Problem In Chair, Not In Computer. Often very true.

Podcast Notes

I’m a late arrival at the Tony Kornhesier Show podcast. Latterly a Washington Post sports/opinion columnist and now on ESPN (America), he does a daily radio show for ESPN 980 in the Washington DC area, but the show probably has more podcast followers across the world than radio listeners in the local area.

Not a show or a guy who takes himself seriously, its wonderful entertainment for car journeys, one example being that the show’s email address is thisshowstinks@espn980.com. It’s certainly far better company than the BBC or commercial offerings from in-car radio.

TV Notes

It seems all of the good drama on TV is imported. My current pick of the TV crop is The Americans. This is on ITV, who have ventured into uncharted territory by actually buying a good programme. Set in Washington at the height of the 1980s cold war, it follows undercover Russian spies and their FBI neighbour. Terrific stuff, and the 80s soundtrack helps too.

The Americans is certainly up there with Homeland and the Scandinavian dramas from BBC Four The Bridge, Borgen and The Killing.

My guilty pleasure is The Apprentice. “Angry little business bear” Lord Sugar/Sir Alan/that-bloke-who- knocks-out-Amstrad-computers has a good line in put-downs. Most of them are well earned by the apprentices, whose lack of gumption is sometimes a wonder to behold.

Shed Notes

A couple of weeks ago the 2013 Shed of the Year award was announced. The competition, which good friend and "├╝ber sheddie" Uncle Wilco has grown from nothing, received coverage on the BBC, ITV and the national newspapers. A shed in Machynlleth with an upturned boat for a roof was the deserved winner.

Great headline quote from Uncle Wilco in a recent Wales Online feature: "Like all good things, the idea for the Shed of the Year competition came to me in the pub."

Outdoor Wales Notes

Spent a cooling Sunday at Garwnant, Natural Resources Wales’ forest and visitor centre above Merthyr Tydfil. Plenty of nice walks, and the shady animal puzzle trail kept Ava entertained. Reward was coffee and ice cream.

Beer Notes

The beer on tap at the Anglesey Arms in Menai Bridge is from JW Rees, the Manchester brewer. Given it’s the cricket season, I went for a pint of Streaker, a light-ish 3.7% beer. Very nice. Just the one though.

Someone Else’s Blog Notes

Great spot by Peter King of a wonderful line in an obituary:

“A lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and season ticket holder … he respectfully requests six Cleveland Brown pall bearers so that the Browns can let him down one last time.”

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cricket Notes

The only good thing about being off work with tonsillitis is that The Ashes is on.

My commentators XI...

Boycott and Atherton to open
Gower, Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan in the middle order
Botham and Flintoff 
Alec Stewart with the gloves
Glenn McGrath, Michael Holding and Bob Wiilis

No spinners, but I couldn't drop any of these for Vic Marks.