Thursday, 30 June 2011

No One But You (Only The Good Die Young)

It's been a tough few days. Indeed, as June closes, I look back at what has been a distressing month.

I've already commented about the sad and premature death of Andrew Reeves at only 43 of a heart attack and of my journey to his funeral in Edinburgh. The following week I attended the funeral of a well respected elder statesman of the Cardigan community who passed away in his early 90s.

Over the course of the past week I've done my best to support Alyson as her family have prepared their farewells to her grandmother who also passed away, aged 94. On leaving the funeral yesterday and coming back north from Llanboidy to Cardigan, I heard the heart-breaking news of the premature death of a lovely lady who though is only related to me through marriage, has along with her husband and children, always felt a part of my wider family. She was only in her 60s and it just made me despair again at how, as the old saying goes, 'only the good die young'. It very much brought to the fore the memories of my father's early death back in 2003 at the age of 66. Last night I broke down in tears for the first time in a number of years and I'm thankful that I had Alyson there to console me.

So as a tribute to all of those who have passed before their time, one of the most under-rated of songs from the best band of all-time.

No One But You
The impetus for this Queen production was the death, at the age of just 36, of Princess Diana in August 1997. It is however, largely a eulogy to Freddie Mercury who passed away aged just 45 in 1991.

The song features the three remaining members of Queen and was the last new recording to feature John Deacon, who subsequently retired from public life.

Queen - No One But You (Only The Good Die Young)... by M_Ouyhey

It is a truly moving piece of music and the video for me adds to the poigniancy of the lyrics, sang so well by Brian May and Roger Taylor.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Belgrano sink River Plate? Hold the Front Page!

It's one of the most famous front page headline images in British press history.

When the British sank the Argentinian Navy light cruiser the Belgrano on May 2nd 1982, it resulted in the death of 323 Argentinians - just over half of their total death toll during the Falklands War.

The Sun's notorious front page summed up what was for many, a jingo-istic campaign. It was also controversial because it was said that the Belgrano was both outside the exclusion zone and also pointing away from the Falkland Islands and towards Argentina when it was struck.

It was named after Argentina's Founding Father Manuel Belgrano.

Club Atlético Belgrano
Argentina's Founding Father was also the inspiration in 1905 for the formation of a football team based in Córdoba.

Having yo-yo'ed between the Argentinian First and Second Divisions over recent decades, they sent shock waves through Argentinian football this week when they defeated River Plate in a promotion/relegation play-off.

It was this article in yesterday's Independent that brought this incredible footballing story to my attention.

River Plate are the Manchester United of Argentinian football. They have won a record 33 Argentinian titles in their long and proud 110-year history as well as a number of intercontinental trophies (the equivalent to our Champions League in Europe) and have never, yes that's right, NEVER, been relegated since they were formed in 1901.

Juan Manuel Belgrano
As a world-wide football fan (which I owe in no small part to the Championship Manager football management computer series!), the concept of River Plate being relegated struck me as being extraorindary. As the Independent article explains, it is even more so because relegation is determined over a 3 year, 6 mini season time-period so it works in favour of Argentina's main teams. But incredibly, River Plate have had an awful past 3 seasons since winning their last title in 2008 and found themselves as a result on points average, in a relegation play-off.

It was seeing that that play-off opponent was indeed Belgrano that caught my attention in addition.

Belgrano? As in that Argentinian Ship that got sunk during the Falklands? Has now in turn sunk Argentina's most successful ever football-team?

There is of course no link between the ship and club apart from their both being named after the same individual but for a historian like me who is also interested in sport, it was one of those quirky bits of coincidence that caught my eye.

What would Juan Manuel Belgrano make of it I couldn't say.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Circus Wild Animal Ban Must Become a Reality

I was very pleased to see a rare showing of unanimity this past week in Parliament in support for Conservative MP Mark Pritchard's non-binding motion to ban the use of wild animals in the circus here in the UK.

The fact that he stood up so resolutely against his own leader and party Whips under intense pressure to withdraw his motion is to his personal credit and it is lamentable of the Conservative Party and David Cameron that they attempted to silence Mr Pritchard in the manner of which he described at the start of his debate.

My Thailand Experience
I can't recall having ever visited a Circus but my thoughts on this matter come from an episode of my life when I was on holiday in Thailand back in 2008.

Are Elephants supposed to be great artists?
I was in Chiang Mai in the north of the country when we took up the option of visiting an elephant trekking centre and I was very excited at the prospect. The trekking itself through a forest was a real 'once-in-a-lifetime' experience and I felt comfortable with it. For in history, these animals have been well versed in carrying human kind and indeed were powerful weapons of force and strength in battles past under Alexander the Great and Hannibal.

What I found greatly disconcerting however was the use of elephants before hand, to perform 'acts'. I couldn't help but notice that their feet were chained into position so their movement was limited and what followed for me, was a crass attempt to attract visitors and their tourist baht (the local Thai currency).

The two photos you'll find in this blog post are those taken by me whilst we were there. I must admit that I was not enamoured by the sights of elephants drawing pictures with their trunks or playing a form of basketball.

Are Elephants supposed to be great sports stars?
Because I may be wrong here but somehow I don't think elephants were put on this Earth to play basketball or to paint (please note the sarcastic tone).

It all felt un-natural and I can remember feeling a great sense of unease at what I was watching and felt guilty for my wilfull visual participation in the event.

"barbaric" practise that has "no place in civilised society in the 21st Century".
Those were the words of Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester Bob Russell during the debate last week. I have to agree with his sentiment.

The RSPCA estimate that only a handful of circuses in England still keep wild animals which includes any non-domestic species, such as tigers, zebras and camels but that there are currently some 46 of these naturally wild animals currently being used in circus performance in the UK.

This is not their natural habitat. This is not what they were born to do.

I will leave the final word to Mr Pritchard who said in the debate that he orchestrated, that these performances are cruel and outdated and compared them to outlawed practices such as dog-fighting and badger-baiting.

It is simply for these reasons that I hope that the Government legislates fully on the clear will of Parliament on this issue and ensures that this form of 'entertainment' is disgarded to the history books which is the only place where it belongs.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Carl Sargeant, the WLGA Conference and Ceredigion's Party Political Truce

For a dew days this past week, I was down in Swansea for the Welsh Local Government Association annual conference.

Ceredigion County Council usually sends up to 10 delegates, comprising mainly of elected members and some officials. I've never attended before in my 8 years on the County Council but as the newly elected Vice Chair of Council, felt that it was worthwhile for me to put my name forward.

So, along with fellow Welsh Liberal Democrat colleague Cllr Paul Hinge, the Independent Leader and Deputy Leader of Council Cllr Keith Evans and Cllr Ray Quant and the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Plaid Cymru opposition Cllr Ellen ap Gwynne and Cllr Paul James as well Plaid Cymru Councillors Ian ap Dewi and Lyndon Lloyd, I spent an informative few days at the heart of Welsh Local Government.

The Speakers
The main conference was on Thursday and was chaired by the BBC journalist Rhun ap Iorwerth . We heard first of all from First Minister Carwyn Jones and then from his Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant. Now I have some time for Mr Sargeant because unlike some of his predecessors, I feel that he at least has a feeling for local government having been a Councillor previously before he was elected to the Assembly. The fact that he turned up to the pre-conference reception the evening before as an example, for a small thing, went down well. His message though was quite forthright and he pulled no punches.

Carl Sargeant AM

Councils must collaborate closer with each other to ensure a better level of service and for better value was the thrust of his speech. If we didn't do so quickly enough, he would willingly legislate to do so. But how? By forcing upon us the local government re-organisation which he stated was not on the table at this time? He had I felt a reasonable reception for his words but then those that were expressed immediately following in the panel debate afterwards by Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams AM, Plaid Cymru's Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM and the Conservatives' Janet Finch-Saunders AM were even better received and they were critical of his no nonsense stance.

Because here's the thing. Councils are collaborating (what an awful word with negative war-time conotations!) with each other more so than ever before and here in Ceredigion we can see that with greater workings with Powys on issues such as Social Services and Highways related matters. No one size solution fits all here so his protestations were perhaps ill-placed no matter how well meaning his sentiments may have been.

We had a speech as well from the leader of the WLGA, the Independent leader of Pembrokeshire County Council Cllr John Davies. John spoke very well and also spoke magmanimously for Aled Roberts and John Dixon - two former hard-working members of the WLGA who face a critical week in their political lives as they wait to see whether the Assembly re-instate them as Assembly Member this coming Wednesday. John also announced his intention to stand down as leader of both the WLGA and of Pembrokeshire County Council when those terms end next May. I was surprised to hear him say that but then I'm told that he did state back in 2004 that he would only serve two terms as leader of Pembrokeshire County Council and he's keeping to his word. It was a very statesmanlike speech though I probably should declare an interest here as John is my second cousin!

We had an useful workshop on collaboration in the afternoon and another panel discussion, this time on Wales' political place within the United Kingdom. In all, it was a worthwhile and productive day.

A Party Political Truce
What was also very pleasant was the atmosphere surrounding the conference. As a Ceredigion unit, we were all stationed in the Ramada Hotel (after the Marriott Hotel admitted to over-booking and having to move our reservation!) and on the Wednesday evening following the pre-conference reception, we all came back to the Ramada for a meal. I'd been told that in years past, the Ceredigion contingent would always eat together in perfect harmony even though as members of opposing political parties and none, we'd often bark at each other across the Council Chamber floor from time-to-time.

But the atmosphere between us all was great and it followed the following evening at the formal Conference Dinner at the Marriott when again, 7 of Councillors along with our Chief Executive Bronwen Morgan, all had an enjoyable evening in each others company. This is how it should be because the one bound that unified us all there was a desire to serve our respective wards and its residents in the county of Ceredigion.

It must be said that I don't think that every Council in Wales could've done the same as us. I certainly saw Powys share a table to their credit but I very much doubt what with all of the seemingly personal animosity between the main protagonists that the same could be said of Carmarthenshire.

Indeed, the evening and conference finished very nicely with an impromptu gathering of enthusiastic singers from across Wales and from across the party political spectrum in the corner of the bar as we sang Welsh hymns, rugby songs and popular tunes from popular culture. A rather surreal but enjoyable part of it was harmonising with a Plaid Cymru Councillor from Caerphilly as we led this mini-Glee Club gathering into a rendition of the Beach Boys hit 'Sloop John B'!

We sang then that 'I want to go home', but now that I am back here a few days later in Cardigan, it'll be back to the day-to-day political reality of Ceredigion politics. But it was nice to have that truce in the WLGA conference and to remind ourselves that at the end of day, we are all just human beings doing our best for our communities.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Dear Lembit Opik, With All Due Respect, Your Opinion Doesn't Matter Here Anymore.

I've been away for a few days at the WLGA conference in Swansea. On my return, I found to my consternation this BBC Wales website article in which Lembit Opik stuck his oar into the 'Lib Dem Assembly 2' debate.

With the news yesterday that the police have found no reason to continue with their investigation, it is now hoped that AMs will vote on the issue of revoking Aled Roberts and John Dixon's expulsion from the Assembly next Wednesday.

It has been a frought number of weeks for the party in Wales and undoubtedly so for Aled and John as their political careers have hung in the balance due to the technicalities that has seen their elections questioned.

Lembit Wades In
The Welsh Liberal Democrat party and its leader Kirsty Williams has in my mind, responded well under what has been immense pressure since the news broke. It is quite right in my mind that they concentrate their efforts on ensuring that Aled and John are given every opportunity to resume their seats in Cardiff Bay.

As the Welsh Liberals Democrats have said: "...her priority was to make sure that Aled Roberts and John Dixon were treated fairly and justly".

It doesn't help when fallen names like Lembit decide to give their tup'pence worth of opinion on the matter.

How much political stock does he think he still has within the Welsh Liberal Democrats let alone within the Welsh political arena more generally? After the way he threw away one of the safest of liberal constituencies when he lost his Montgomeryshire seat last year, his words need to be taken with a great pinch of salt.

This remember is a seat that elected a Liberal / Liberal Democrat MP between 1880-1979 and between 1983-2010 - that's for 126 of the last 130 years. Although I'm sure Lembit wouldn't accept this himself and indeed I gather he doesn't, there is no doubt in my mind that the seat was lost because of his antics. The residents of Montgomeryshire, like here in Ceredigion, like hard-working grounded Members of Parliament who put the constituency first. That's why Mark Williams increased a 219 majority in 2005 to an astounding 8,324 in 2010. Lembit in latter years, was more likely to be seen on the TV or in the glossy magazines - giving the impression that his own stardom was of greater importance than serving his constituents.

So it grates to see him embroil himself in this unfortunate predicament.

What really grates is the fact that he states "I'm asking Kirsty now through your programme..."

No, Lembit. If you've got something to say, say it to Kirsty yourself instead of pandering to the press for more attention.

As the Welsh Liberal Democrat response read: "It's odd that Lembit's helpful advice has been offered through the media rather than directly".

"The Liberal Democrats are focused on making sure that Aled Roberts and John Dixon are able to take up their seats as quickly as possible and this strategy is widely endorsed by party members active in Wales."

Oh and whilst you're at it Lembit, if you're serious about being the Liberal Democrat Mayoral candidate for London, maybe you should concentrate on that?

On which matter, I've heard that Mike Tuffrey is a very good candidate. I wish him well.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Andy Murray Needs to Summon the Rory McIlroy Spirit for Sporting Immortality

Rory McIlroy confounded the critics who queried his nerve and his ability to hold onto a commanding lead after his US Masters collapse in April, by racing to a famous and dominant US Open victory on Sunday evening.

Can Murray end that 75 year wait?
I blogged here and here about how enormous that success would be in the history of golf. Now, as a sporting fan of some compare, I'm looking forward towards the remainder of Wimbledon as another British sportsman looks to emmulate McIlroy's reach towards the sporting Gods.

Andy Murray - Wimbledon Champion?
Having won the Queens Tournament running into Wimbledon and having reached the semi-finals of the French open in impressive style prior to that, Murray is clearly in very good form.

But can he really do what no British man has done in 75 years?

Back in January, on the eve of his Australian Open final, I blogged here about that interminably long wait for a British man to walk out from Fred Perry's long shadow. Unfortunately, Djokovic comfortably dispatched of Murray in that final which made it 3 losses out of 3 Grand Slam final appearances for the boy from Dunblane.

Fred Perry won his last Grand Slam at the US Open in 1936 just months after winning at Wimbledon. It is those marks that any British sports fan will hope that Murray can overcome in the days ah.

He has never reached a Wimbledon final - indeed no British man has done so since Bunny Austin in 1938.

Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray
Murray clearly has the ability to win his first slam and to do so, at of all places, Wimbledon. It would also be incredibly apt for him to do so on the 75th anniversary of Perry's last victory and on the 125th anniversary of Wimbledon itself.

But he needs the fight, the sheer belief and determination and the focus shown by McIlroy at the Congressional Country Club golf course in Maryland, USA last weekend to do so.

It will all be required and some to overcome the likes of reigning champion Nadal, 6 times Wimbledon winner Federer and the seasonal form man Djokovic - all of whom along with Murray make up an impregnable Top 4 in the men's World game at present.

Murray Vs McIlroy?
What is certain is that Murray will join McIlroy in the pantheon of British sporting legends if he can do so.

What is incredible is that despite McIlroy's heroics last weekend, if Murray is indeed successful in his quest this Wimbledon, he will not only walk out of Perry's shadow but will in doing so, more than put McIlroy's magnificent achievement into the shade.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Golfing Redemption for Rory McIlroy?

Back in April, I waxed lyrical about Northern Ireland's finest golfer and the leap of faith that Rory McIlroy needed to jump to join the immortals of golf.

That was prior to his final round at the Augusta National where he led by 4 strokes and was on the verge of a historic US Masters, green jacket victory. I watched on in dismay as he imploded on the back 9 and the dream vanished.

How would he cope with such a crushing disappointment?

US Open Records - Smashed
Well, quite remarkably, his form this week in the US Open has shown that it has not impeded on his ability to play at the highest level in the slightest.

Indeed, he has probably played the 3 greatest rounds of golf of his young sporting career. He has become in the meantime, the first golfer in the 116 year history of the US Open to reach 14 under par. His 3 rounds to date have all been sub-70 and his 54-hole total of 199 is the lowest ever recorded at the US Open. He has a commanding 8 stroke lead over his nearest rivals - double that of his lead going into the final round at the US Masters.

If he does win this evening, he will became at 22, the youngest US Open winner since the legend that is Bobby Jones won it as an Amateur back in 1923. He will also win his first major at a younger age than Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros.

He just needs to hold it together for the final 18 holes to fully banish that Augusta ghost from April. I've got a feeling he's going to do it and I'll be listening to his every move and shot on Radio 5 Live this evening when he does.

Good luck mate.

Kennedy & Sinatra - High Hopes

I enjoyed an absorbing 'Kennedys evening' of TV on BBC2 last night. Between family archive film footage, the second in the controversial 8-part Kennedys mini-series and an intelligent discussion on it and JFK's Presidency, I was glued to my sofa all evening.

I found The Kennedys fascinating. Though it plays in much part on historic licence and in some places has to be taken with a great heft of a pinch of salt, I found it compulsive viewing simply down to the excellent casting and acting (particularly Tom Wilkinson as the patriarchal Joe Kennedy Snr). It must be said that from what I have seen, the mini-series does seem set to play up on all of the personal negatives of the Kennedy clan of which of course there were plenty but doesn't seem destined to go into as great a depth with the actual politics of the era to which JFK would get more credit.

But despite these misgivings, it is because of the acting, a must watch mini-series.

What particularly struck me was the sound of Frank Sinatra's wonderfully upbeat and optimistic 1959 hit High Hopes. I hadn't heard the song in years so I decided to find it on-line and found both the original which he sang with school children which made it an even more infectiously catchy tune, and his 1960 adapted recording for JFK's Presidential election campaign.

Here are those two contrasting productions...

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Phillip Schofield is in the Priory?

I'm not the biggest of Twitterers but I couldn't help be taken aback when I saw this Tweet from TV maestro and all-round Twitterer Philip Schofield a few minutes ago -

"Time to come clean. I must admit that I am currently in The Priory".

Is Gordon the Gopher's best mate having a laugh or is he serious?

Friday, 17 June 2011

17 Days in June - A Villa Park Farce

It has been an absolute shambles.

Ever since the men in command at Villa Park made the not unreasonable decision to relinquish Houllier of his position due to his ill health, they have presided over a comedy of errors which has resulted in probably the most extraordinary managerial appointment in the club's history.

When Houllier was let go with a severance pay on June 1st, little could anyone have guessed that his replacement, some 17 days later would be the manager of second city rivals Birmingham City, Alex McLeish.

The Candidates
There was talk of former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti being linked to the post but his severance conditions with Chelsea ruled him out from managing a Premier League club for 12 months.

There was talk of David Moyes and he was my favourite as I blogged here at the time. But nothing came of that.

Who'd have guessed it?
Alex McLeish - Manager of Aston Villa

The early money was certainly on Mark Hughes who resigned his post as manager of Fulham very suddenly although apparently as far as he was concerned, the timing was merely coincidental. Had the Villa Park suits been talking to him before hand and tempted him away from Craven Cottage with the nugget of the hot seat with the Villains? It's quite possible but after the bad press that he got after he resigned at Fulham, they seemingly went cold on him. As I said in my blog post then, though he was no David Moyes, he wouldn't have been a bad choice. He is however still available but has been passed over and it would not be wholly inconceivable to find him in the hot seat in St Andrews next season.

Then there was Steve McLaren - apparently the least wanted manager in the running amongst the Claret and Blue faithful. Indeed, having booked an appointment to meet with him to discuss the vacancy, the Villa Park suits then cancelled the appointment when it became clear on-line and in the footballing chat rooms that he was not a welcome choice amongst the fans.

So then we had Roberto Martinez in the frame which I must admit really surprised me. But he then amazed everyone by turning down the role to stay at Wigan Athletic. He's been called principled and a man of integrity as a result of his decision to stay up north but just ask any Swansea City fan whether they feel that Martinez is a man of principle and integrity and they'll give you a different answer...but that's a different story.

With Rafa Benitez another name out of the frame, the whole situation began to turn Villa into a laughing stock and then, suddenly, Alex McLeish walked out on a shell shocked Birmingham City and the comedy of errors began to turn into a farce. Despite apparently listening to the fans furore against Steve McLaren, club owner Randy Lerner and Chief Executive Paul Faulkner clearly decided to ignore the even greater agitation, days later from the faithful, at the possibility of McLeish at the helm.

Alex McLeish - Sinner or Saviour?
No Villa fan, and certainly not this one, could have envisaged barely a fortnight ago when all of the names above were being bandied about that the man who would be given the top job at Villa Park would be Alex McLeish.

This isn't to take away from what is a decent record. Having played in over 500 matches for Aberdeen and won 77 Scottish caps, he began his managerial career with Motherwell and Hibernian before he led Rangers to the domestic treble in 2003 and a total of 2 league championships and 5 cup victories in 5 years. He then became manager of the Scottish national side and in a group comprising of France and Italy, only narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2008 European Championships.

He then moved to Birmingham in late 2007 and in the past 4 years has seen them relegated, promoted, win their first major trophy in 47 years and relegated again. He did well at Birmingham and yet, he still has those 2 relegations on his footballing CV and whilst he did well with Rangers, it isn't exactly the most competitive of footballing leagues is it?

Words to the Wise
It's the the former Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor, who led the team on two seperate occasions who for me has summed it all up. He said:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"It just doesn't appear to have been thought through and for the first time the ownership of the club is coming under severe criticism.

"When Gerard became ill it must have occurred to them that he may not come back, even if the signs were that he may have returned.

"This is not being disrespectful to Gerard in any way, but once he became unwell then you have to immediately start exploring what you might do if he does not come back.

"It doesn't appear to me and many others that this has been done. They seem to be going from name to name.

"Villa don't seem to have grasped that nettle at all. It is disappointing. I still live in the area and have a special feeling for them as you always do about clubs you have managed, but I have been surprised and disappointed at their handling of this."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Club owner Randy Lerner has been seen to be one of the more astute and learned of the foreign Premier League owners brigade and has not put many a foot out of place since he took over from 'Deadly' Doug Ellis. However, both he and the Chief Executive Paul Faulkner must be found to be culpable for what has been a woeful passge of time in the club's history.
Time will tell if this is the big mistake that many believe it to be.
Where for art thou Martin O'Neill?
It's not that I question McLeish's managerial credentials for he has many. But is he of the calibre and stature in the game to take Villa up the league table? I very much doubt it.
I worry because we are losing senior, top quality players from the team and we need a big name manager to bring in the replacements necessary.
The moment that Villa gave up any pretence of being a top 6 club fighting to break into the top 4 for mewas when Martin O'Neill walked out of Villa Park last August. I can remember the shock and delight that I felt when I heard on my Orange Mobile internet whilst on the bus going through Aberporth that he'd taken the job at Villa Park. One of the best managers in the country was coming to the Villa! He took us to new levels of performance and we were on the edges of the top 4 with class youngsters being brought up through the ranks. With a Wembley Cup Final to his credit as well, it was an exciting time to be a Villain again.
But suddenly, whilst on holiday in Prague last summer, my footballing world fell apart as I read the news on our hotel computer, that because of differences with the Board, O'Neill had left the club. I knew then that it would be a tough season ahead and indeed for a period, we were even in the relegation zone.
With top players leaving for what they feel are bigger clubs with greater potential, it is an ominous marker for the season ahead.
It's going to be a very bumpy year ahead I feel and with McLeish at the helm, anything's possible.

But am I hopeful? Absolutely not.

9am: Swansea City AFC - Premier League!

At 9am this morning, the fixture list for the Premier League and Football League 2011/12 season was published and it put into stark reality, what was achieved on that wonderful day at Wembley back at the end of May.


It really hasn't sunk in and we all knew that it wouldn't until this day - the day when the reality of the situation would be down in black and white.

This is, that black and white!

Swansea City will be proudly flying the Welsh flag against the best that the Premier League has to offer and will be welcoming the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and dare I say it, Aston Villa to the Liberty Stadium!

They begin away to Manchester City and then have a mouth-watering first home match against Wigan Athlectic - managed by their old manager Roberto Martinez - there'll be no love lost there! Following a home match against Sunderland, they then have away matches against Arsenal and Chelsea!

Saturday 13th August - Manchester City Vs Swansea City
Saturday 20th August - Swansea City Vs Wigan
Saturday 27th August - Swansea City Vs Sunderland
Saturday 10th September - Arsenal Vs Swansea City
Saturday 17th September - Swansea City Vs West Brom
Saturday 24th September - Chelsea Vs Swansea City

Dates for your Diary:
Saturday 5th November - Liverpool Vs Swansea City
Saturday 19th November - Swansea City Vs Manchester United
Saturday 26th November - Swansea City Vs Aston Villa
Saturday 14th January - Swansea City Vs Arsenal
Tuesday 31st January - Swansea City Vs Chelsea
Saturday 10th March - Swansea City Vs Manchester City

Then, what a finale...

Saturday 5th May - Manchester United Vs Swansea City
Sunday 13th May - Swansea City Vs Liverpool

One word, three letters...WOW!

It's a tough opening and a tough finale but who cares?!

Swansea City: Premier League! Bring it on!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

NOW 29 - That's What I Call Music!

I'll bore anyone when it comes to my taste in music. As the various musical blog posts on this site will testify, it's nothing if not eclectic.

So I may as well add to them with this call out for what in my mind is the finest of the NOW (That's What I Call Music) CD collections. At my last count, the series has now reached No.78 - the first being released back in November 1983.

Of all of those to date, there's one that stands out for me - NOW 29.

Why? Well, it's a mixture of the songs on it and the fact that it encapsulates in one compilation a feeling for a wonderful period of my childhood that no other complilation touches. It was released on 21st November 1994 at which time I would have been 12 years old. The music on the CD would presumably have been high up in the charts in the proceeding months following on from the release on NOW 28 in the August.

They're a sound of my youth but also, an unmistakeable sound of the early-to-mid '90s. At present, we have many 'Flares' clubs for those who enjoy their 70s music and 'Reflex' for those who like their 80s (I like both I must admit) but the whole concept of the 90s club hasn't really taken off yet but I expect that in the years to come it will and when it does, it will play some of the hits that I have selected from NOW 29 right here...

Baby Come Back (Pato Banton with Robin & Ali Campbell)
With lyrics such as "I must admit I was a clown to be, messin' around, but that dosen't mean that you 'ave to leave town, come back, yes and give me one more try, 'cos a love like this shoulda never ever die, come back, yes wi' me colour TV, and me CD collection of Bob Marley, come back".


Baby I Love Your Way (Big Mountain)
Originally written and performed by Peter Frampton in 1975, it is this version of 19 years hence that stays with me. It's upbeat, positive and optimistic sound is one that I absolutely adore to this day...a further 17 years hence...

Saturday Night (Whigfield)
A song that probably encapsulates the 90s more than virtually all others, it just screams 1994 and for those young enough to be alive and aware of music in that year, it just burst out of nowhere and into your face.

Rhythm of the Night (Corona)
Not necessarily my vibe of music ordinarily, it still has to be said that this is a classic of the era and well deserving of a special mention here...

MMM MMM MMM MMM (Crash Test Dummies)
It's just an 'out-there' tune. It's instantly recognisable and is pretty chilled out in my book.

We Have All The Time In The World (Louis Armstrong)
Do I really need to explain why? It's a timeless classic.

Originally made famous as a James Bond theme from On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1969, it came back to public attention 25 years later as part of a Guinness beer commercial after My Bloody Valentine chose to cover it for charity. Armstrong's version was then re-released and reached number 3 in the UK Singles Chart.

Midnight at the Oasis (Brand New Heavies)
It's another chilled out tune from an oft forgotten band - again with the 90s hallmark sound stamped all over it.

Trouble (Shampoo)
It may have been their only real hit but I'll defy anyone to say that they don't know the hook!

Parklife (Blur)
What better way to finish my selection than with one of the 90s finest? It was with the death of Britpop after 1996 and the end of the great battle between Oasis/Blur and Pulp that my interest in modern music began to wane. So here, along with Eastenders' very own Kevin Wicks (Phil Daniels) at the wheel, it's one of the best musical videos of the decade...

They are only 9 of the 38 tracks on the double CD that is NOW 29 but it gives you a flavour of the music of my era.

It's not as if every other of the 29 songs are hits. With compilation CDs, you've always got to sift through the chaf to find the wheat but as the NOW series goes, there are some serious hits on No.29!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Dyfed Celt Troops the Colour! **Photo Special**

Back in the old year, I blogged about a real Dick Whittington style story as our family's Shire Horse, Dyfed Celt embarked on a new life in London with the Queen's Household Cavalry.

I blogged then of Celt's debut in the Household Cavalry during the Emir of Qatar's State Visit at Windsor Castle.

Now, aged only 6 years old and less than 3 years after we sold him, he was the pride of west Wales as he took centre stage at Horseguards Parade during the annual Trooping of the Colour parade to celebrate the Queen's Official Birthday last Saturday.

My brother Huw and his family went down to London to see the event in person. I was delighted after an emotional few days in Edinburgh, to be able to watch it on TV as our hero carried out his responsibilities as one of only two drum horses on display in front of the Queen and her family and millions of television viewers.

His official name was also finally disclosed after months of waiting. Whilst his stable name will remain as Dyfed Celt, his name for official functions will now be Mercury! He also has the rare distinction of having been given an honourary rank in the British Army as a Major!

So please enjoy on this page, thanks to the eagled eyed camera lense of Preseli Pembrokeshire's MP Stephen Crabb, the first photos of Major Mercury strutting his stuff for Queen and country!

Well done Celt! As a family, we're all very proud of you!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Terry Pratchet: Choosing to Die

It's one of the most moving, harrowing, thoughtful and heartbreaking programmes that I have ever watched.

Sir Terry Pratchet's sincere but powerful documentary shown last night on the issue of assisted dying reduced me to tears.

Peter Smedley
The 60 minute long programme can be viewed for the next few days on BBC's iplayer right here -

I encourage anyone who has yet to watch it, to do so.

As a man of faith myself, I can not better the words of Ollie Dunckley who blogged his own thoughts on this most sensitive of issues earlier today.

In his blog post here at How I see it - Who Really Wants to Die... he makes these very apt comments...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Perhaps the most moving part of the whole documentary was the moment in which Peter allowed us to witness him consuming the drugs that would save him from fear and suffering. By doing this, Peter showed people that he had made peace with the decision to die. What a brave man.

"I was quite literally moved to tears. To see a person liberated from fear is a truly beautiful thing. Peter sat peacefully with his hand in his wife's as he gradually drifted to sleep".

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

For such a young man of 19, Ollie has an old head on his shoulders and I commend him on a wonderful blog post that deals with the issues around assisted dying and I would encourage readers of this blog to read his views via the link above.

RIP Peter Smedley 1930 - 2010
RIP Andrew Colgan 1968 - 2010

The Welsh Rugby Union should sack Gavin Henson

I've really had enough of Gavin Henson.

I've blogged time after time after time on this site of my views on his commitment, or lack of it, to the Welsh rugby jersey through his various entertainment contracts but the news this week really takes the biscuit.

Having in my mind, acted as a petulant child in his dealings with his former clubs the Ospreys and Saracens, he then showed an unprofessional side to his nature that saw Toulon terminate his French contract - all this within the space of 12 months.

He's complained that he hasn't been given a chance over the last few years to pull on the proud red jersey of Wales but in my mind, he hasn't deserved it. If his priority is to go onto Strictly Come Dancing, then good luck to him. Let him carve out a new career in entertainment and see how far that gets him. But he shouldn't think that just because he's got a wonderful natural talent and flair that he can walk straight into the Welsh dressing room ahead of other players who have shown commitment and dedication to the cause and who really know the full meaning of wearing that famous red rugby shirt.

Only a few weeks ago, he was given the opportunity to play for Wales again against the Barbarians. His was a mediocre performance and far from what we came to expect from him when he was in his prime. He was basically rusty and who can be surprised when he has had so little first match action in recent times? This lack of match practise is entirely his own doing. If he can not give 110% to his team, be it the Ospreys, Saracens or Toulon, then how in the hell should he expect to waltz back into the Welsh squad?

Henson could take an honorary degree in hubris his head must be so far up in the clouds.

Indeed, former Welsh captain Michael Owen, called the decision to select him again "embarrassing".

He said here: "It's a privilege to play for your national team. I think you've really got to earn that privilege and I just question whether Gavin has earned it in this instance".

"Warren Gatland and the coaches at Wales obviously rate Gavin very highly as a player. He's done some fantastic things throughout his career. But for me it sends the wrong message to the players in Wales who are striving, day in day out, week in week out, to try and get better and try and perform to get the opportunity to play for their country".

Too damned right Michael.

It didn't help that when lined up in readiness for the match against the Barbarians, whilst virtually the entire Welsh squad could visibly be seen singing the Welsh national anthem 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau', one of the few that weren't, was Henson. Does he not know the words? Does he not care to learn the words?

I'm sorry, but Welsh rugby union is the heart and soul of Welsh sport. The passion that comes from playing for Wales must be evident. Seeing the boys sing that anthem with pride is a sure sign of their commitment for the task ahead. If Henson can't be bothered to learn a few lines, then why I should I watch him play for my country?

The Bachelor
Now, it gets worse! This  BBC website article informs us that Henson is now to take the lead in a new TV dating show where he hopes to meet "the right girl". He will be 'The Bachelor' in a UK version of the hit US programme. Channel 5 said viewers should "expect flirting, bitching and heartfelt emotion" as 25 contestants compete to win his heart.

Well Channel 5, I don't know about flirting but I'll give you bitching and heartfelt emotion for free and by the bucketload.

If Henson wants to continue to posture like this, then so be it. But the WRU should have no hesitation in removing him from the preliminary World Cup squad for which he has been unbelievably selected.

The WRU say that "Gavin is fulfilling a work commitment which was in place before he was selected for national squad duty and doing so in the full knowledge of the Wales management team".

Well if that's the case, the WRU were bloody foolish to choose him in the first place if they knew of these commitments.

Until he really commits himself 110% to playing rugby, he should be nowhere near the Welsh team sheet and he should certainly not be anywhere near the preliminary World Cup squad - such places should only be reserved for those who actually show the passion, enthusiasm and commitment to play for Wales and who have that aim as their No.1 priority.

If Gavin Henson wants to go and play games, then the WRU should let him do so. He can then get on with his life and let the Welsh rugby boys get on with theirs.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

A Brucie Bonus for Sir Forsyth! (and how I bombed spectatularly when I once portrayed him in Aberystwyth Students Union)

I won't make any bones about it. I was absolutely delighted when I heard the news yesterday morning that Bruce Forsyth has been Knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

It's not that I'm a huge fan of the honours system in its present state. It needs to be tidied up so that if it is to remain in place throughout the 21st century, it needs to be so on a much firmer, meritocratic footing. Because at present, there are in my mind, far too many people who are getting gongs that they don't deserve and far too many who do deserve recognition but aren't.

Sir Ronnie Barker?
I have always felt that the entertainment industry has always been short-changed by the honours system. It seems that the ability to raise a smile and to raise a laugh has been deemed of lesser importance that sporting prowess or political longevity. This isn't too ridicule these two professions of course as anyone who knows me will testify that politics and sport are two of the cornerstones of my life. But then so is comedy and that absolutely wonderful ability to make people laugh and to make people feel happy is not to be underestimated.

Some of my heroes include the likes of Nelson Mandela and Nigel Mansell, but they also include greats such as Eric Morecambe, Ronnie Barker and Freddie Mercury - born entertainers who knew how to work an audience and to make a positive contribution to their lives.

I personally find it greatly frustrating that Ronnie Barker was never Knighted. He was awarded the OBE in 1978 and yet, despite retiring a decade later, was never given what I felt he justly deserved over the two following decades that he lived before he died aged 76 in 2005. It can not be said that he died too young to have been given the accolade - years came by and passed and the recognition that was bestowed on his protegee the great Sir David Jason was never afforded to his even greater mentor. Ironically, Jason was officially knighted on December 1st 2005, just weeks after Barker passed away on October 3rd.

Bruce Forsyth and me...
One of the greatest oversights in recent years it has been felt by many, is the overlooking of Bruce Forsyth for a Knighthood. He was given the CBE in 2006 but there has been a growing outcry both in the country and even to a lesser extent, in Parliament, for him to receive a Knighthood that is often bestowed on civil servants and diplomats who already get paid handsomly for doing their jobs.

I was therefore relieved that at the age of 83, he has finally achieved this wholly desered elevation. He has been involved in showbusiness for almost 70 years and is one of the most recognisable and loved faces on British television.

For me, as an 80s/90s child, he is synonomous with the game show format which he perfected brilliantly. Bruce's Play Your Cards Right and Bruce's The Price Is Right were firm favourites of mine. So much so that I willingly offered myself to play Bruce Forsyth at an Aber Rag fundraising student event in Aberystwyth University's Student Union when I was a student some 7 or 8 years ago. It was a horrific performance! As a big fan, I knew all of the Brucie catchphrases and in my hired white suit, I enthusiastically bowled into a special edition of Bruce's Play Your Cards Right with student teams chosen from the Union's packed-out Joint floor.

It started so well. My opening rendition of "Nice to see you, to see you..." resulted in a loud "Nice!" from the audience! I then introduced my 'glamorous assistant' Helena to the stage with those immortal words, "Here she is, she's so appealing, come on dolly, do your dealing!" to which she enthusiastically bounded on stage and began dealing the cards as required. It was going so well but I should've realised that I shouldn't have pushed my luck and that the young-ish audience in front of me may not have been as devout fans of Bruce Forsyth as I was. So it passed, that when I explained the rules to the newly chosen contestants on stage, I reminded the audience that you get "Nothing for a pair..." to which one lone voice in the back of the crowd yelped out "Not in this game!"

From what I recall, it was downhill from there and I had trouble managing the crowd and keeping the game on track! Maybe I'm being too hard on myself but it certainly remains in my head as not being one of my finest hours! But I nevertheless now look back fondly on it as a bit of fun that was all for a good cause!

Arise Sir Bruce!
In recent years, many have argued with me that Sir Bruce should retire from hosting Strictly Come Dancing as his age is beginning to show. Absolutely not I reply vehemently! Let him continue for as long as he himself deems fit. It is an often overused term, but he really is a national institution

For being a one-off that has entertained millions and made us howl and cry with laughter on programmes such as the Generation Game over the years and indeed for the 'services to Entertainment and to Charity' which has officially entitled him to the honour, I am delighted to proclaim, at long, long last...

Congratulations, Sir Bruce Forsyth!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

A Service in Memory of Andrew Reeves

It's been an emotional rollercoaster couple of days.

When Jon Aylwin notified me on Tuesday that Andrew Reeves' funeral was to be on Friday, something in me said that I should go. As I stated in my blog after his shock, sudden death, it wasn't that I knew him that well but that I knew him well enough and respected him to feel it only right to make the journey to Edinburgh to show my support to the community of friends and family who have been left utterly devastated at his untimely early passing.

So within the space of 48 hours, Jon Aylwin and I planned our road trip north and accommodation in an Edinburgh halls of residence for the Thursday night. I made my way from Cardigan to Shrewsbury via Aberystwyth on Thursday morning where I met up with Jon who drove up from Cardiff.

Travelling north, it was already a mixture of emotions that I felt as I made my way towards a city that I love but that I hadn't visited for some 7 years. I've always been a big fan of Edinburgh having visited there several times but not since 2004 and I had mixed feelings on making the return under such sad circumstances.

Added to the poignancy of the trip north was the fact that Thursday, June 9th, was the 8th anniversary of my father's death in 2003.

Old Friends and New
We arrived in good time at 6.30pm to check into our rooms overlooking Arthurs Seat before making our way to the city centre to meet up with old friends and new at 7.30pm. We toasted Andrew's memory and shared stories of a life which had touched us all. It was particularly nice to meet up with old Aberystwyth University friend Heather Stitt who now lives in Leith who I hadn't seen in 6 years. We really can't leave it so long before we meet again. It was also nice to meet up with Scottish Lib Dems who I knew but who I had never met in person such as Caron Lindsay. In all, it was nice to be able to prepare ourselves for the day ahead with an evening amongst Lib Dem friends in the capital.

A Service in Memory
Yesterday morning saw an increased gathering as the majority of those attending Andrew's service were travelling up on the day.

It was great to meet up with old friends from the campaigns department who had like us, travelled the length and breadth of Britain to pay our respects to Andrew and we all made our way to the crematorium for the 2pm service.

Jokes were shared and there moments of laughter but then, suddenly, Andrew's hearse pulled up in front of the building and it suddenly hit me. Adorned with his adopted namesake's country's flag of St Andrew, seeing the coffin was heartbreaking.

But whilst there were tears of sorrow, there were tears of laughter to as the service remembered so well a life that was fully lived and a man who was well loved. It was a very apt service for Andrew in a packed room of some 150 friends and family. We entered with the Pet Shop Boys' Always on My Mind and we had music from Take That (The Flood) and Lady Gaga (The Edge of Glory and Born This Way). The Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, gave a pitch perfect tribute which made us laugh and made us fondly recall all that Andrew had achieved both for himself and for others.

After the service, after some confusion about the venue for the wake, a good gang of us congregated at the All Bar One bar on George St where we had also met the previous evening. It was an opportunity to raise a final toast to a man who will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

After saying our goodbyes at 4pm, Jon and I set off on the long road-trip back south and I bought a copy of the Herald which had a lovely obituary to Andrew, written by Graeme Littlejohn. After 7 hours, Jon and I were back in Cardiff at 11.30pm last night having travelled a combined total of over 1,000 miles by car and train to be where we both knew we needed to be on Friday.

It was a desperately sad occasion but one which was made easier by the wonderful support that Andrew and in his absence his partner Roger, received from their extended Liberal Democrat family from across the country.

No doubt if Andrew was looking down at us all, he'd have Tweeted, 'what's all the fuss about'?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Cardigan's Tesco Extension Approved - But at what cost?

After all of the arguing and claim and counter-claim, this current round in Cardigan's Supermarket Wars came to an end yesterday in Ceredigion County Council's monthly Planning Committee meeting.

I've already gone into some depth about the background between the feud between Tesco and the new Sainsbury's store here and here. Sainsbury's finally got their permission last month after years of paralysis on the controversial Bath House site.

Well yesterday, having withdrawn their original plan for a huge extension to their current store alongside the by-pass to the north of the town, Cardigan's Tesco narrowly won approval on a smaller plan to extend their current store despite objections from the Town Council and concerns from local traders on Cardigan'a High St.

I spoke up against the extension in-line with the comments of the Town Council. Having agreed to the new build for Sainsbury's, I didn't feel that there was any need to give an extension to Tesco. There will now be, as well as Aldi and the Co-op in town, plenty of competition. Adding to the amount of non-food conveniance goods that Tescos can sell would I feel, only be to the detriment of the town centre.

The feeling I garnered as the debate unfolded in the Council Chamber yesterday morning was that Tesco for once would end up losing this battle. There were committee members (I, not being a member of the planning committee didn't have a vote but was allowed to speak) from both sides of the chamber speaking against the need to expand so I felt it would fall comfortably. I was therefore rather stunned I must admit when the vote ended with 11 in favour, 9 against and with 2 abstentions.

So Tesco, against the odds I would say, have got their extension. It's akin to going 2 goals down in their fight against Sainsbury's but somehow managing to conjur up an injury-time equaliser.

In the meantime, whilst they fight it out between themselves, I worry for the town centre traders and the impact that this larger out-of-town Tescos will have on them.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Ceredigion's Got Talent!

Last Monday evening, I was delighted to attend the Ceredigion Association of Voluntary Organisations (CAVO) annual awards evening in Aberaeron.

Speaking at the annual CAVO Awards Evening
I was present in my capacity as Vice-Chair of Ceredigion County Council, deputising for the Chair Cllr Catherine Hughes, and I was asked to help with the handing out of awards and certificates to the winning volunteers.

It was a great evening in the Memorial Hall in Aberaeron and it was brilliant to see so many people of all ages, contributing to what is a vibrant community throughout our county. (Thanks to the staff of CAVO for taking the photos - some of which I have reproduced here)

Handing out a Certificate to Volunteer Driver Vince Jones
There's much talk about the vaunted idea of the 'Big Society'. Well Mr Cameron, Ceredigion's well ahead of you because we've been doing community engagement and participation since before you were born. The voluntary sector is at the core of Ceredigion's day-to-day life with an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 voluntary organisations operating in our county alone. I've been well acquainted with many of them since I became a Councillor back in 2004 and met with many more during my Mayoral year in Cardigan in 2009-2010.

With the Award Winners
It was great to see so many at the awards evening, representing as they are, an entire community of volunteers who give of their time, with passion, enthusiasm and commitment, for the greater good and with no recourse to financial gain.

So Simon Cowell can do what he wants as far as I'm concerned but if he wants to take a look at some real local heroes in action then he should come over here to mid-Wales because I can tell him for nothing, Ceredigion's Got Talent!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

You Rang M'Lord? Star Donald Hewlett Dies Aged 90

I am for better or worse, a product of my age.

Had I have been younger than my 28 years, I would quite likely never have known of the actor Donald Hewlett. Had I on the other hand been of an older generation, then I would surely have known of him in the acting role that mad him famous - that of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Reynolds in the 1970s smash-hit British sitcom 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum'.

But no. I was born in 1982 and I was therefore 6 years old when the David Croft and Jimmy Perry comedy You Rang M'Lord? was launched on the BBC at Christmas 1988. It ran for 4 series until 1993 and was therefore a running theme through the formative years of my youth.

A Perry/Croft Collaboration
Perry and Croft are up there with the finest of double act comedy writers in British television history. They wrote Dad's Army, Hi-de-Hi! and It Ain't Half Hot Mum. Croft also wrote, along with Jeremy Lloyd, Are You Being Served? and 'Allo 'Allo!

But all of these were originally screened before I can remember so all I would catch of them were the repeats through the years. As it turns out, as a big fan of British situation comedy, I have become a fan of them all apart from one of them - It Ain't Half Hot Mum. I don't know why, but I've never sat through an entire episode of the series so when I heard that Donald Hewlett had passed away over the weekend, it was news to me that he was a member of the cast.

Lord Meldrum
I shouldn't have been surprised however because the key to much of David Croft's success is his use of well known actors for various roles in his different works throughout the years. They may have been typecast as a result but the likes of Paul Shane, Jeffrey Holland and Su Pollard who all appeared in You Rang M'Lord? can all thank the pen of David Croft for their success.

As well as these leading characters, Frank Williams and Bill Pertwee from Dad's Army fame both made occasional appearances in this 1990s Perry/Croft conception.

So of course did Donald Hewlett and for me, it was this latter role as Lord Meldrum that stays with me.

It was not a huge ratings success and it is often a forgotten link in the Perry/Croft works catalogue - Dad's Army and Hi-de-Hi towering above the rest. But I can recall looking forward to every new episode of You Rang M'Lord? (on a Sunday night if I recall correctly?) and that Bob Monkhouse dittie of an opening tune which heralded in a 50 minute period of enjoyment.

Was it the reflection on social history in the era between the Two World Wars that enticed me? Maybe so. But just as much for me was the comic acting of our heroes. Yet, this was a darker comedy than those that Perry and Croft had previously written and I have always felt that it is an under-rated hit. The fact that none of the main characters were necessarily very likeable probably worked against the series in the long-term. Alf (played by Paul Shane) had a dark side to him whilst James (played by Jeffrey Holland) was rather snooty.

Meldrum, played so well by Hewlett, came across as an affable and pleasant enough character but was nevertheless a bit of an upper class hypocritic rogue - chastising his younger brother's sexual pecadillos whilst himself having an illicit affair and also prone to paying his staff very poorly.

Whilst it may not have been a fashionable hit then and probably because of its longer than normal 50 minute episodes is rarely repeated today, it was still a firm childhood favourite of mine and unlike many others that were the same, did not deteriorate when I watched them for the first time in years having bought the series 1 and 2 DVDs a few years ago. Unlike programmes like Last of the Summer Wine, The Brittas Empire and another David Croft production, Oh Dr Beeching!, it has remained fresh.

Here is an all-cast clip from the show.

I intend to purchase series 3 and 4 on DVD to complete the collection that I have already started. I will do so now in memory of Donald Hewlett.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

My Blogging Mentor - RIP Andrew Reeves

I was on the train on my way to Swansea on Friday morning when I heard the news via Facebook. At first, I thought that I'd got my wires crossed and that there must be two Andrew Reeves because the truth of the situation was so incredulous that it surely couldn't be true.

My Blogging Mentor -
Andrew Reeves
But unfortunately, it is and his position within the party was such that it merited this BBC News article on this sad news. To die aged just 43 of a heart attack and just months after his civil partnership with Roger is just heartbreaking.

Like Anders Hanson said of Andrew in his blog, it would usually only be at Liberal Democrat conferences that I would see him and though I didn't know him that well, he was nevertheless someone who I looked up to in the party.

The outpouring of grief on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook demonstrates just how popular and well liked Andrew was. Through his many years of work for the party in England to his life in his current role as Director of Campaigns for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, he engendered loyalty from those who knew him.

Andrew Reeves Running Blog
My particular connection with Andrew was via this very thing that I'm doing now - blogging.

For years I poured gentle ridicule on bloggers but I must admit that since I fully embraced the medium back in September. I have enjoyed it greatly.

Throughout that time, there are certain bloggers and blogs that I have followed more than others. One of those was Andrew Reeves' Running Blog. It always mixed well his interest in politics with all of his other life passions. What I particularly liked was how he had so fully embraced his adopted city's Ice Hockey team. I'm a Cardiff Devils fan on the quiet and despite the fact that the Edinburgh Capitals languished at the bottom of the Elite League, Andrew still supported them avidly and would report back their progress to us on his blog.

The fact that there was clearly more to him than just the politics endeared me to him. In my blogging, I have also tried to demonstrate my many and various passions in a readable and user-friendly way in the same manner as Andrew successively did.

As well as enjoying Andrew's blog and his style of writing, he was also of much support to me when I began blogging properly back in September. For a relative newbie to blogging, I had many technical questions that needed answering and I knew that I could always send Andrew a message on Facebook and he would helpfully reply and encourage my progress. He was all to happy to offer support and it was greatly appreciated. I also copied some of the trademarks that he had on his blog. For example, his was the only blog that I have seen which had a 'Map Counter' on the front page, showing readers how many people have visited the site from different countries from around the world. As a geographic geek on the side, I thought this was brilliant and on asking him where I had to go to download this application, he told me and the same counter now sits on my blog.

So Andrew was a great help to me and in many regards, he was my blogging mentor. I would visit his blog on most days and everything he said always came across in a balanced, reasoned, belieavable and passionate manner.

Everyone who knew him knows that we are all at a loss without him. His sudden death is a great shock to us all and I personally, still can't quite believe and comprehend it. Looking back on his blog, it was less than 48 hours before he was cruely taken away from us that he was blogging about the E-Coli outbreak in Europe and the need to ban the import of cucumbers from Spain as a result.

Now, he's gone and his blog will not be updated from that final entry. It is just mind-bogingly difficult to think that someone with such a zest for life, could be taken away from us so suddenly and without warning.

To show my appreciation to Andrew, I have changed the header to my blog in his memory. His encouragement played a large part in my decision to blog seriously and the example he set with his is one that I have endeavoured to follow and will continue to do so in the future. This gesture will remind me of his support for as long as I continue to blog.

Rest in peace Andrew and thank you for being such a kind and genuine human being.