Monday, 31 December 2012

A Happy ABBA New Year to all!

I know that I'm probably sounding like an old record with this now regular New Year's post, but this is ABBA and it is New Year, so you're stuck with it!

I do adore this song though and as the lyrics of this highly under-rated ABBA hit goes...

"Happy new year, Happy new year, May we all have a vision now and then, Of a world where every neighbour is a friend".

I wish all of my blog readers a happy, prosperous and peaceful 2013.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Roger Williams MP & Rodney Berman Honoured in New Years Honours List

Stephen Glenn this morning was hot off the press with his response to the Olympic-laden New Years Honours List.

I was delighted to see the likes of Bradley Wiggins receiving a Knighthood and our Welsh Taekwondo Olympic wonder Jade Jones receiving an MBE for their efforts. But for the exhaustative Olympic list, please do check out Stephen's post for the run-down.

I would like to add from a sporting context that Andy Murray was awarded the OBE after a stellar year on the court and well deserved that accolade was too.

Roger Williams CBE
Roger Williams CBE
I wanted instead however, to say a word about those away from the sporting arena who have been honoured.

Roger Williams MP in particular stuck out for me as a wonderful nomination for the CBE and his surprise at the honour is a mark of the man. I've known Roger now for near on a decade and since 2001 he has been a staunch advocate for the residents of the Brecon & Radnor constituency in Westminster.

As the BBC article above notes, Roger was one of the founder members of the break-away SDP in the early 1980s when he joined his (and my) political heroes Shirley Williams and Roy Jenkins in leaving the moribund Labour Party to form an exciting, new and progressive centre-party that would shake-up British politics.

Roger is an under-stated man but I could not think of anyone better deserved for the CBE that he has been awarded today.

Rodney Berman OBE
I was also delighted to hear that Rodney Berman has also been recognised for his work in local government after his 8 year stint as leader of Wales' largest council in Cardiff.

Again, a dedication to public service has been rewarded in what I'm sure for Rodney was an unexpected nod of approval by the Cabinet Office.

My warm congratulations go out to them both in particular as I know them personally, but also to all of those in Wales who have been recognised for their works in today's list.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Saturday, 22 December 2012

"We just won the Olympics!" - My 2012 Top 10 Sporting Highlights

For such a sporting nut as myself, I have barely touched upon what has been an incredible year in sport.

The incredible Premier League finale, Chelsea's dramatic win in the Champions League, the astounding Olympics and Paralympics, the Tour de France, Andy Murray and the rise of British female tennis, Rory McIlroy and the Ryder Cup and even to end it all, a first England cricketing win in India in a generation.

I happened to miss the Sports Personality of the Year Award on Sunday as I was away in Manchester. Of all the years to miss, it's a shame that I had to miss this one.

But having said that, it could not have altered what for me were the defining moments in sport in 2012. These were not necessarily the moments chosen by the mass crowd, but those that I witnessed as they happened - searing seconds or minutes of brilliance that had me at the edge of my seat, literally screaming at the TV screen.

There are by definition therefore, moments that I did not see live and that, no matter how extraordinary or momentous they were in their own right, could not repeat themselves so vividly for me in replay when the result was already known. In particular and as a classic example, I missed 'Super Saturday' during the Olympics when the UK won a stunning 3 track and field Gold Medals within an hour of each other. I was out having a rare evening out with an old friend and so I could only relay in amazement the feats that were unfolding via the BBC Olympics internet text coverage via my mobile 'phone. I also missed the Tour de France but used the BBC website for regular updates to keep me up-to-date with Bradley Wiggins' historic first British win in the Tour.

So here are what for me, were the defining 10 moments of my sporting year...

No.10 - Team GB Showjumping Olympic Gold
I've always had a particular love of show jumping because compared to its dressage counterpart, it's actually quite easy to understand.

Here, we see the incredible jump-off between Team GB and Holland which was described by the BBC commentary as " a penalty shoot-out" I vividly recall watching and going mad as Peter Charles gave Team GB a 3rd clear round out of 4 to guarantee their first team showjumping Olympic Gold since 1952!

No.9 - Alan Oliveira Vs Oscar Pistorius (200m Paralympics Final)
It was an incredible sight to see the poster-boy of the Paralympics from South Africa who had wowed the world by qualifying for the semi-finals in the Olympics, be brought back down to size in such amazing fashion.

As Oscar Pistorius strode into the final straight, it looked as if Gold was once again his after his exploits in Beijing 2008. Then suddenly, Brazil's Alan Oliveira shot past in the final lengths for an incredible victory. It was one of the stand-out moments in a fabulous Paralympics and was made more so by the surprisingly unsportsmanlike response to the result by the previously imperious Pistorius.

No.8 - Usain Bolt (100m & 200m Olympics Gold Medals)
He had already made his mark in Beijing but it was in London that Usain Bolt made his mark in sporting history indelible and permanent.

No-one had ever retained the sprint double in Olympic history but I watched in awe as the Lightning Bolt strode away in the 100m in an Olympic best of 9.64 seconds and then did the same in the 200m. Despite the concerns that he was not fully fit going into the competition, there was a sense that the world wanted this man to do something that had never been done before and we cheered as he raced into the record books.

No.7 - David Weir (800m Paralympics Gold Final)
The Weirwolf took all before him in London 2012 which acted as a wonderful example of the human spirit when faced with adversary.

I hadn't seen his earlier 5000m and 1,500m victories but was on the edge of my seat as he prepared for the 800m. It was incredible to consider that he could compete in this sprint race having completed his earlier longer victories and with the Marathon to run days later.

So I yelled and yelled in encouragement as Weir went into the final lap placed second and with as tough a challenge as he had faced throughout the whole 2012 London Paralympics. He managed to take the lead around the outside and held on against a late challenge to complete a hat-trick of track Gold medal performances. His marathon victory that would followed crowned what must surely go down as one of the greatest feats in Olympic and Paralympic history.

No.6 - Andy Murray (Olympic Gold & US Open Success)
After reaching his first Wimbledon final, the sense of loss that I felt when he failed to fulfill his potential against a rejuvenated Federer made what was to follow the more remarkable.

Only weeks later, he showed the courage and determination required to reach the pinnacle of any sport when he returned to the same Wimbledon surroundings and beat that same man Federer for Gold.

It was a critical break-through for the man from Dunblane but it was not a Grand Slam triumph. But it was a critical confidence boost as he went into the year ending major at Flushing Meadows. I stayed up into the early hours as Murray once more showed his determination as he resisted a Djokovic comeback from 2 sets down to force a decider. Just when it seemed that momentum had swung against the Scot, he immediately broke the Serb and in the early British hours, finally ended a 76 year long wait for a male British major tennis winner.

No.5 - Team GB Team Gymnastics Olympic Bronze
Gymnastics was always a sport that I watched rather forlornly as a child. Those who competed were always wonderful proponents of their art, but none of them in the higher reaches ever seemed to be British.

Suddenly I was transfixed as 100 years of waiting for a British Gymnastic team medal came to a glorious though controversial conclusion.

It was deeply ironic that in Team GB's dual with the Ukrainians, it was one of the apparatus that I had always least enjoyed watching, 'The Floor' that was to prove pivotal. Suddenly I was mesmorised as Dan Purvis and Kristian Thomas nailed their performances for a sensational team medal. Then there came the Japanese controversy which temporarily had Team GB placed in Silver position.

It mattered not one jot to me that Japan were re-instated. I was just delighted to have watched live as Team GB did something I thought I would never see in my lifetime. I did however feel pretty sorry for the Ukrainians!

No.4 - Justin Rose' putt on the 17th Vs Phil Mickelson (Ryder Cup)
I had finally given in and purchased Sky TV at the start of the year and I can not think of a time when it was better justified than when I watched in incredulity as Europe came back from the dead to defeat America on the final day in historic fashion.

As Alyson tried to sleep upstairs, I was bellowing out from time to time as Europe made a putt here and there to claw their rivals back.

There were particular moments in the whole of that weekend which were critical but I'd pinpoint one putt that stood out above all others. Having salvaged a half on the 16th, Justin Rose went onto the 17th green a shot behind Phil Mickelson and saw his rival go within an inch of chipping in for a critical match point for the team in red. As it turned out, Rose had a lightning quick put from great distance for the hole or a more likely two-putt for a half which would've meant he'd had to have won the 18th to gain a half point for Team Europe.

It was a sensational putt and the look of sheer confidence on Rose's face spoke for a team that was on the march. It became clear how critical the putt would become as Rose went on to win the 18th to record an incredible and absolutely vital 1 hole victory over Mickelson.

As it turns out, a number of other critical putts went Europe's way as they not only held onto the trophy with a match tie but won it outright.

It was pure sporting drama of the highest level and Justin Rose and Team Europe rose to the occasion.

No.3 - Welsh Rugby Union 6 Nations Grand Slam
As a child, the likelihood of Wales winning a Grand Slam was little more than that of Team GB winning an Olympic gymnastic team medal.

Then came 2005 and 2008. But after the heartbreak of a World Cup semi-final defeat to France last autumn, there were nerves about how the team would fare. They were dispelled when a last minute Leigh Halfpenny penalty beat the Irish in the opening match in Dublin. I remember punching the wooden table in Aberystwyth's Llew Du in delight when the ball went through the posts. Said hand was in much pain afterwards!

Then came a fast-improving England at Twickenham. Only once since 1988 had Wales won at 'HQ' and that was in 2008. I was in Thailand at the time and didn't know the result until a day later after a long-distance call home from the banks of the River Kwai.

So I had NEVER seen Wales beat England at Twickenham - NEVER. So it was with utter joy and amongst many English supporting fans in Aberystwyth's Pier Snooker Club that I saw this hoodoo ended when Scott Williams broke a 12-12 deadlock with a sensational rip, kick through, run and score under the posts with just minutes to go.

The Grand Slam decider against France oddly does not register in my memory as vividly. It was the encounters against Ireland and England that stand out as Wales equalled the record of their heroes from the 1970s of a 3rd Grand Slam in 8 years.

No.2 - Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking (Women's Lightweight Double Sculls Gold)
This for me was pure magic.

There were greater rowing performances during the 2012 London Olympics and who can argue against Katherine Grainger's Golden performance after 4 consecutive Olympic Silver medals?

But for me, the sheer joy and amazement that was etched on Katherine Copeland's face as she and Hosking crossed the line gave me one of the images of the Olympics.

But it didn't end there! The wonderfully joyful and childlike response by Copeland afterwards where she exclaimed "we just won the Olympics!" was brilliant! Then there was the emotion of the medal ceremony when they both fought back the tears - demonstrating just how much it meant to them.

This one race epitomised in a team context everything that London 2012 and the Olympic spirit was all about.

No.1 - Jade Jones (Taekwondo Olympic Gold)
A surprise for most I'm sure, but if there was one moment in a wonderful Olympic year that stood head and shoulders above all else for this proud Welshman then it was this one.

What made Jade Jones' progress to her Taekwondo Olympic final extraordinary for me was that as she did so, I quickly came to be an expert and fan of a sport that I had hardly ever watched beforehand and of which I certainly had no knowledge.

It was late evening when the final came to pass and I went absolutely barmy as the seconds elapsed and at every scoring point made by the Welsh wonder.

When the Gold medal was won, our Jade gave that wonderful look of elation as she took off her protection head guard and flung it in the air. The commentary also added to my sense of utter jubilation - "You little beauty! And the teenage kicking superstar from North Wales is the Olympic Champion!"

Really, what could top that?!

What a year it has been. I don't think it could ever be topped but for whilst it lasted, I lapped it all up!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Justice for the 96: One Step Closer - Now for Xmas No.1

A great stride forward in the search for justice for the families of Hillsborough was made today when the Lord Chief Justice quashed the verdicts of the original inquest into the 1989 disaster.

It follows the Hillsborough Panel's report which was published on the 12th September - a damning document that made today's news surely inevitable.

Nervertheless, it will hopefully gives those families who have fought for so long, some respite this Christmas in the expectation that the New Year will bring the full justice that they have long craved.

The Justice Collective
In the meantime, I sincerely hope that come this weekend, the charity single being sold to raise money for the families as they continue to fight their legal challenges, becomes Christmas Number One.

The Justice Collection's take on the beautiful and haunting Hollies hit 'He ain't Heavy, He's my Brother' has, at the mid-week mark, edged ahead of the X-Factor's James Arthur by a wafer-thin 3,400 copies.

Here it is...

It may well be only the second time that an X-Factor winner hasn't taken the Christmas crown. That in itself should be a reason to rejoice but this year, we have a deeper reason to support an alternative to the Simon Cowell juggernaut.

2012 was a breakthrough year in the fight for justice for the 96. It would only be apt if it were concluded in such a fashion - a win for the underdog against an all-mighty machine.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Joining a New Political Party

Today I joined a select group who are members of the dual party membership club. 

I've been a member of the Liberal Democrats since I joined Aberystwyth University in September 2000 - I never thought I would join another. But today I have joined their sister party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland as a show of support after the outrageous recent events that have befallen David Ford and his colleagues in recent days over the Unionist flag dispute.

Source: The Guardian
It comes after a vote at Belfast City Hall earlier this week in which the nationalists wanted to remove the Union flag from flying from the building completely but the Alliance Party which holds the balance of power on the Council put forward a compromise which meant the Union Jack would be flown on designated days.

Alliance Party offices and the homes of Alliance Party members have been attacked since that vote as the old and ugly sectarian face of the past has reared its head once more. In Carrickfergus on Wednesday for example, the constituency office of Stewart Dickson MLA was burnt out by protestors. David Ford, the Alliance leader and Minister for Justice in the Stormont Parliament called it an "assault on democracy".

As this BBC article states, threats have also been posted on social media sites against party members and only today, the Alliance Party MP Naomi Long has reported on Ulster TV that she has received a death threat which she said has warned her not to continue living in her East Belfast home.

'Today we all vote for the Alliance Party'
Today's Belfast Telegraph has pulled no punches as its editorial sides with moderation as espoused by Alliance and against the old forces of hate that have appeared once more this week.

To quote the Belfast Telegraph today...
"The city council is democratically elected, which has been conveniently forgotten by some, and a vote was taken to fly the flag on designated days. This was a result of the Alliance Party trying to broker a compromise between the intractable positions of unionists and nationalists/republicans. The rest is now another dark chapter in what is supposed to be, at least as far as the outside world cares anymore, our peace time society".
It continues...
"This newspaper takes no political sides, choosing to seek out the good in all parties. But the targeting of Alliance, a party which has much to contribute to a forward-looking political debate, represents a desperate recent low in community relations".
I love Northern Ireland and as I have written before in this blog, I have visited Belfast on a number of occasions. It's a fantastic, vibrant city offering so much potential. When friends ask me with trepidation about the 'Troubles', I have countered positively that whilst it will take generations for the wounds to heal, this is a country moving forward.

So it has been with great sorrow that I have witnessed from across the water, this fall back to the ways of old.

In solidarity for my friends in Northern Ireland who espouse a different way from those of the past and who have found themselves under serious attack this week, I have therefore made the leap of not only supporting them from afar as a member of a sister party, but by joining their ranks outright.

I would urge those who read this and agree with the eloquent editorial in today's Belfast Telegraph to consider doing the same  You can do so here.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Welsh Government Seeks to Censor S4C on the day of Leveson's Report

You really couldn't make it up.

On the day that the Leveson Report was published, the Welsh Government sought to censor S4C by asking it to scrap a repeat of an episode of the 38 year-old Welsh soap opera Pobol Y Cwm, because of its comments on Bovine TB and the the contested issue of the badger cull.

S4C have rejected the call and the repeat of last night's episode has gone out this evening as scheduled at 6.30pm.

It is incredible, on the day when Justice Leveson delivered a damning verdict on politicians and the press and the often concerning relationship between both, that the Welsh Government could consider such an attack on S4C when in the episode in question, both sides of the contentious argument were made.

Leveson Report
I happen to agree with the thrust of the Leveson Report and its recommendations and am pleased to see Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband do too. I'm not so surprised unfortunately to see that David Cameron has held back from given his support to statutory regulation of the press.

With freedom comes responsibility and elements of the press in recent years have shown a scant moral disregard to the many whose lives they have violated in this time. The system of self-regulation has clearly failed but there is no cross-party agreement as yet, on what should take its place. We await to see if an agreement can be made but I am not wholly confident that there will be. If there isn't, David Cameron runs the risk of showing himself to be more concerned about keeping on side with the same media barons who have brought about so much of the great discontent that has been expressed in the Leveson Enquiry.

In the meantime whilst Cameron seeks to square what for him is a potentially impossible circle, the Labour administration in Cardiff has made itself look incredibly foolish with it's attempt to silence the media from portraying a difficult story-line that has in real-life affected communities across the land. Whatever your view on the issue of Bovine TB and the question of a badger cull, S4C have only been portraying on screen the heated differences of opinion on the issue that have taken place throughout the country.

You really couldn't make it up.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The F1 Torch is passed...

It's been a challenging few weeks.

Having collapsed on the afternoon of Remembrance Sunday and taken to hospital, I have since been told to slow down and rest. Easier said than done. It's been a relatively quiet two weeks of recuperation but I have at least had a productive time in catching-up on much needed housework during these past two weeks.

A young Sebastian Vettel with Michael Schumacher
Today, I took some time off from moving my home office downstairs to watch the final race of the F1 season and am delighted to have witnessed Seb Vettel take a 3rd consecutive World Championship victory to level the mark made by Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.

It is particularly apt that Vettel did so today after an extraordinary race (isn't Brazil brilliant?!) on the same day that saw the retirement of the very same Schumacher.

There is no doubt in my mind that Vettel has all the hallmarks to step into his compatriot's large shoes and as the youngest ever triple champion, he has time on his side to do so. Alonso showed his great race craft throughout the year by tenaciously pulling his Ferrari higher up the grid than the marque merited and at the finale was all so close to spoiling the Red Bull party.

It's been an exciting F1 season and 2013 is set to be fascinating with Hamilton moving sideways to Mercedes to take Schumacher's place. Alonso will be itching to put his near misses right whilst  Button will seek to show that he is the undisputed No.1 at McLaren. Those Lotus' are also looking handy and with Raikkonen at the wheel, it would no doubt be dangerous to underestimate them.

Webber will seek to make a better stab at the title than he has this year and last but before he can beat the rest of the grid, he must defeat his team-mate, that man Vettel. Can the young German make it 4 in a row? I wouldn't bet against it.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Charity begins in Ceredigion

It's been a busy 5 months since I became County Council Chairman but one of the most rewarding aspects of the role is the ability to raise additional funds for worthy local causes.

Back in the summer, I shared the proceeds from my civic service collection with the local branch of the RNLI and also with our local Air Ambulance fundraising group.

This month as shown in the photo here, I was delighted to present the proceeds from anonymous donations at my Chairman's dinner to Cardigan Cancer Care.

At present, I am starting a 4th consecutive year of collecting money for the British Legion's Poppy Appeal. In the wider arena, I have also been a keen supporter of the Red Cross and have also sponsored a child in Malawi.

Life is hectic and indeed I'm often told that I'm doing too much and that I need to slow down. That's probably true and I am slowly recognising the need to look after myself better and to at least attempt to manage a more reasonable 'work-life' balance.

But the ability to support others has been of great comfort to me through the years. It goes with the territory I suppose. When taken in the greater scheme of things, we are a fortunate people and I myself have been blessed with good health and wonderful friends. The least I can do is give something back to a community which has given me so much in return.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Goodbye old friend. RIP Ceefax 1974-2012

It's a sad day.

At 23.30 BST in Northern Ireland this evening, Olympic champion Dame Mary Peters will turn off the last analogue TV signal in Northern Ireland and with it, in the United Kingdom.

As the victory of digital television is made complete over it's out-dated and extinguished rival, so too will be the loss of the BBC's much loved text-based Ceefax service.

At its height in the 1990s, it was viewed some 20m times a day and I was one of that regular and happy band of followers.

Watching the latest football scores come through on a Saturday afternoon (page 303?!) was a favourite past-time, waiting as I did for the home Aston Villa score on page 1 of 3 refresh as Ceefax slowly meandered its way through pages 2 and 3, back to page 1! Pages 360 onwards were also favourites of mine as they housed the information on Formula One.

The news section always gave me the latest in the world at the touch of the button and I fondly recall (on the sister Teletext service if memory serves) the old 'Bamboozle' quizes which I adored.

I also recall checking the stock market share prices regularly (page 224?!) with my parents to see whether their stocks were on the rise, or on the wane..

Here is this week's Points of View, giving a final goodbye to a much loved medium of information.

Yes, the 'Red Button' is the new, younger and flashier brother of dear old Ceefax and it does the job well. But call me old-skool if you will, but it isn't a patch on my old and much missed friend.

This below was the first part of the end of Ceefax in Northern Ireland 2 weeks ago. The final goodbye occurs this evening. It will be missed but fondly remembered.

RIP my dear old friend Ceefax

Jimmy Savile: A Redaction

Whilst I have been well aware of the growing news stories revolving around Jimmy Savile in recent weeks, I suppose I hadn't really taken it in until I watched tonight's Panorama on BBC1.

I missed ITVs Exposure so didn't see the evidence in its initial context. Seeing it tonight in the full gaze of weeks's worth of light being shone onto the case was truly horrific.

The revulsion that I felt as the pieces of a barely believable jigsaw puzzle came together was indescribable.

Less than a year ago upon his death, I wrote this blog post about this apparently beloved star of millions of viewers who grew up watching him on TV in iconic shows such as 'Top of the Pops' and 'Jim'll Fix It'.

Indeed, in that very blog post I wrote...
"He was an eccentric character with a dress sense, a vocabulary and a taste in jewellery and cigars that marked him out from the crowd. He was a one-off. At 84, he certainly lived life to the full".
I look back at it now with absolute horror that I could've wrote what I did. In fact, I'm surprised on reading it back that it wasn't more gushing towards him as I had considered myself to be one of his many fans. Yet somewhere, something must've told me deep down to keep the superlatives at bay. I used the word 'eccentric' 3 times in that one piece. Did I use it because I knew that it could cover a multitude of sins?

Perhaps I did deep down because looking back, that Louis Theroux documentary with Savile back in 2000 always sat unesaily with me. I've got no problem with people being different and standing out from the crowd. I am after all, a non-conformist. But there was something in that programme I remember, even watching it as a 17/18 year old, that didn't feel right.

So it comes to pass. Of course we will never know the full truth and Savile himself will never answer the allegations made against him. But the sheer volume of accusations that have been made in recent weeks and the admittence by so many well known celebrities of the time that they knew of his tendencies but did nothing about it, is astonishing. I particularly found it difficult this evening to watch a favourite of mine, music mogul Paul Gambaccini admit that he too was aware of the rumours surrounding Savile in the early 1970s when he began to work at the Beeb.

So, to mark my total loss of faith in a man who was supposed to be the one who made children's dreams came true but who actually, prayed on the vulnerable and made their lives hell, I have redacted (for want of a better phrase) the original blog post as can be seen via the link above.

As I've mentioned in the postscript, I will not remove it because what I wrote then was based on what I knew at the time but now we know differently and my update has had to reflect that whilst leaving the original, marked-through post alive, on this site.

As I mention there, I have never in my blogging time had to go back and totally distort an original written piece, but in this case here was no alternative. I sincerely hope that I never have to do the like of such a thing again.

In the meantime, I hope the police use any new evidence that has come to light against those still living who like Savile, grotesquely took advantage of a vulnerable minority for their own evil satisfaction.

Friday, 19 October 2012

The West Wing 2012 Election Reunion

It's been a manically busy time and my blogging (or the lack of it) has suffered as a result over recent months.

One of the many topical issues on which I should be blogging is the on-going American Presidential Election. I haven't had the time to go into detail on the latest comings and goings in this intriguing Obama Vs Romney drama but I had to blog briefly on what is now a 4 or so week old (see, I'm clearly out of touch!) campaign add for Bridget Mary McCormack for State Supreme Court on a non-partisan election ticket which I first saw last night.

What's the fuss? Well for any self-obsessed West Wing nut (eg me), this campaign add is nothing but jaw-droppingly awesome!

Yes, our West Wing favourites have returned for this educational but ever so slightly personally partisan ad and it was like a wonderful walk down memory lane.

The 4 minute clip sees the brief return to our screen of old favourites CJ Cregg, Josh Lyman, Donna Moss, Will Bailey, Kate Harper, secretary Carol Fitzpatrick and my personal favourite, Toby Ziegler.

Indeed, the link here is that the Bridget Mary McCormack mentioned in the ad is the real-life sister to Kate Harper's alter-ego Mary McCormack.

The clip was going along smoothly enough. All characters had aged remarkably well apart from the distinguished features of a rather chubbier looking Josh Lyman, when to my absolute delight, in came President Jed Bartlet with Debbie Fiderer to add to the proceedings.

Here it is...

That final, iconic swirl of Martin Sheen's jacket was the perfect conclusion to an unexpected 4 warm minutes that felt like the finding and wearing of a lost but found comfortable pair of old slippers.


Sunday, 30 September 2012

"You're just to good to be true" - RIP Andy Williams

It's been a few days now since the sad news of the death of Andy Williams, but I still wanted to say my bit on the loss of a true 20th century musical legend.

I've always had a great fondness and love for the crooning, mellow sounds of the 'Rat Pack' era. Be it Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin or more latterly the likes of Matt Monro, I have never strayed far from those cool, relaxing tones that soothe away the tensions of the day.

I can very happily and easily add Andy Williams into that list and I grew to adore his sound ever since the Welsh football team unofficially took his anthem 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' as their own in those heady days of 1993 when we came within a whisker of qualifying for the 1994 World Cup.

Years later in the autumn of 2002, Wales reached those almost unreachable heights when we beat Italy 2-1 in the Millennium Stadium in a Euro '04 qualifying match. I vividly recall signing-along from the upper reaches of the stadium to Andy and this wonderful song as it came over the tannoy to celebrate a famous win.

Happy days and happy memories!

But Andy Williams was no one-hit wonder. Here are just a few of  the songs from a long-ranging back catalogue which I abolutely adore.

But of all of those mentioned above, including the headlining song of this post, there is possibly one other that, due to the nature of modern advertising, I have fallen in love with and possibly adore above all others.

It's 'The Quest' and Andy Williams' 'Impossible Dream'.

He was an icon of his age and of his profession and a part of my wonderful, musical upbringing.

Thank you and RIP Andy Williams

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Andy Murray - US Open Grand Slam Champion!

It's 3am and I stayed up to watch it. Andy Murray gave us tension and anxiety in the bucket load as has become his way but it was worth it.

In fact, it has all been worth it. The long journey to watch that prodigious young talent from Dunblane in Scotland make his way to Olympic glory and now to this, the first British man to win a Grand Slam since Fred Perry himself lifted the US Open title back in 1936, is over.

Andy Murray - 2012 US Open Champion
It's been a rollercoaster ride but Andy Murray can now rightly claim to be a truly world class tennis player.

This of course is hopefully only the beginning. His coach Ivan Lendl went on to win a hat-full of majors after his first on his 5th final attempt - just as it was with Murray today.

The future now is looking bright. With the confidence of knowing that he is good enough to win a major, anything is now possible.

Well done Andy, a truly memorable way to bring down the curtain on a truly memorable British summer of sport!

Oh and my tip for British Sports Personality of the Year!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

"What The World Needs Now" Hal David

Everyone knows the name Burt Bacharach. Or at least they should do. Yet does everyone know the name Hal David? To my eternal shame I must admit that I didn't until I read about his death this morning aged 91.

Hal David was as American lyricist who was famed for his musical collaborations with Burt Bacharach. David won two Oscars for his work on the soundtrack for the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - one for best music, and the other for the song Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head. Both awards were shared with Burt Bacharach.

Many of their greatest collaborations were with Dionne Warwick but there were so many more. Here are only a handful of timeless hits which I have adored since childhood and which I had not realised, until now, were all influenced by the great Hal David...

Popular culture know-it-all and all-round good-egg Paul Gambaccini called him " of the giants of all-time of popular music songwriting". I can't really top that.

RIP Hal David (1921-2012)

Amsterdam's Finest Tulips for Max Bygraves

Life can be very peculiar sometimes and so it has turned out once more.

I must admit that I have never considered myself a great Max Bygraves fan. It's nothing to do with his era or his genre - indeed, I am as much a fan of 1950s and 1960s music as I am of any other decade. My father's influences have clearly resonated with me throughout the years.

Indeed, I can add that his comic hit 'You're a Pink Toothbrush' really grated with me and didn't endear the man to me.

Yet despite this, I have happened in recent weeks to have fallen upon another favourite of his which I have taken too. 'Tulips from Amsterdam' is a beautiful, melodic song which I adore. As it happens, Alyson and I have spoken about our thoughts of travelling for a short break in Holland and this musical revelation has added an orange colour to my summer. I was only listening to the song and singing along to its simple but happy lyrics yesterday morning.

So it was with great sadness that I heard yesterday that Max had passed away in Australia at the grand old age of 89.

He can forget his toothbrush, be it blue or pink, but let there be tulips awaiting him as he moves along to a quieter and more peaceful place.

RIP Max Bygraves

Friday, 31 August 2012

Turning 30...

I couldn't really stop the passage of time and so it was that I decided many months ago that if I must turn 30 then I may as well do so with good company and in happy surroundings.

So last weekend, a group of over 30 of my friends from across the UK (including Glasgow!) got together for a Bank Holiday weekend by the sea in Tenby. As a born and bred south Pembrokeshire boy, I could think of nowhere better to stay than in Tenby and with better than forecast weather, we make the most of Tenby South and North Beaches during our stay.

With the many good friends who spent their weekend with
me, celebrating my 30th birthday in Tenby!
On the big day itself, Bank Holiday Sunday 26th August, we had a lovely meal at the Ocean Restaurant overlooking the harbour and it was great that my close family were able to make it to bring us up to a total of 46 there on the day.

It wasn't a matter of looking back forlornly at time lost and looking ahead concerningly at a new decade. Anyone who thought that that was the mentality in which I approached the celebrations, mistook my sense of self and indeed, my sense of humour entirely.

For I can easily describe the past 10 years as being the best decade of my life. I've been very fortunate to have had good health and to have made such good friends and to have lived and enjoyed so many unique moments in that time. This then for me personally, was an opportunity to give thanks to what has been a splendid period of my life.

Looking ahead, I do so with great enthusiasm and with that 'glass half-full' mentality of which I am very proud. Many friends joked during the weekend that they couldn't believe that I was 30 - they thought that I must've been 40 such is my 'old head on young shoulders' persona!

It doesn't bother me one jot. I've always taken life with a slight pinch of salt and a great dose of irony. We don't know what's around the corner and so we must embrace life with a zestful love and thanks for being so fortunate when others in the world are markedly less so.

So if anyone did mistake my self-depracating ironic humour for that of someone lamenting the passing of time, you couldn't have been further from the truth. My 20s were indeed a wonderful time but that is now in the past and I wouldn't wish to re-live it. Life is for the here and now.

So, 30s? Bring it on!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Greatest Olympic Controversy of All-Time? USA vs USSR - Munich, 1972

It's a wonderful, unprecedented Olympic fortnight for Team GB. But more of that at the close of the Games in a few days time.

What it has done has reminded me of the of the greatest controversies in the history of the Summer Games. It's odd, because whilst I have attended a live Basketball game in my life and enjoyed the frenetic nature of the chase, it is not a sport that I have necessarily warmed too.

Perhaps the American domination of the game that in fairness, they invented in the 1890s, plays a part in my relative ambivalence towards it.

But as a child, I vividly recall watching (time and again I may add) a 'Sporting Disasters' video hosted by if I remember correctly Nick Hancock (yes, it was the 1990s). I am therefore a conoisseur of the heartache and the misery in sport.

Doug Sanders missing a 3ft putt to win the Open in 1970? Gordon Smith missing a guilt edged 1-on-1 with Manchester United Goalkeeper Gary Bailey to win the FA Cup for Brighton? Don Fox's last-gasp missed conversion in the 1968 challenge cup final for Wakefield against Leeds? Yes, I've seen them all and many more. I'm not a sporting nut for nothing you know.

But the 1972 Olympic Basketball Final in Munich? It was an incredible drama that ended in the Americans losing their 63-game winning streak that stretched back to the first medalled Basketball competition at the Olympics in Berlin, 1936.

This Wikipedia article states in cold black and white the unravelling drama as the USSR scored a highly dubious last second basket to beat their Cold War foes 51-50. It resulted in the American team contesting the result but to no avail and as a result, they became the first ever Olympians to refuse to collect their medals.

As a result, their Silver medals have apparently to this day been in the possession of the IOC, waiting to be collected - or at least that's what I thought until I watched this fascinating American documentary that marked the 20th anniversary during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

It is a biased piece that only speaks to the American side of the debate and not their Russian counterparts but taking that away, it nevertheless told an incredible moment of sporting drama, sporting theatre that when mixed into the political tensions of the age, surely made it one of the, if not the greatest Olympic controversy of all-time.

We've not seen anything near that kind of anger in London 2012 and that is to be welcomed but still, looking back, it was a British man, the Secretary-General of FIBA William Jones who played a central role in the unfolding drama by coming out of the stands and ordering the officials to put 3 seconds back on the clock even though he later conceded that he had no authority to make such a ruling during a game.

You really couldn't have made it up!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Oh Nice! RIP Onslow/Eddie Yates/Twiggy

It was with great sadness tonight that I heard of the death of Geoffrey Hughes from prostrate cancer aged just 68.

Known throughout the decades as a comedic stalwart on our TV screens, Geoffrey was for a generation best known as Coronation Street's Eddie Yates. He was a regular on the cobbles between 1974-1983 as a part of the comedic triumvirate with Stan and Hilda Ogden. He returned briefly in 1987 for Hilda's farewell.

Whilst I'm a big Coronation Street fan, I'm a few years too young to remember this halycon era.

Instead, I remember him as do many of my age as The Royle Family's Twiggy. Here he is dancing in that immortal clip to Lou Bega's Mambo No.5...

I however, will always warmly remember him most as Hyacinth's bedraggled brother-in-law Onslow in the 1990s comedy Keeping Up Appearances. He had that loveable rogue quality that had a warmth and heart. Here are some of his finest moments...

He was a comedic gem of a man and is a real loss to anyone with a love of British TV.

RIP Geoffrey Hughes

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Strange Resurrection of Saint Vince of Twickenham

There isn't likely to be many more unexpected a sight than that plastered on the front page of today's Labour-supporting Daily Mirror.

It really is quite a stunning endorsement of Vince Cable that the Mirror could state in its editorial:

"We believe this is the time for Plan V: Vince Cable, the only leading light in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition with the expertise and experience, the nerve and verve to pilot Britain out of this mess...We say: "Send for Vince Cable".

Of course, Vince is on the left of the party and has close connections with the Labour Party leadership as The Independent's Steve Richards explained on Tuesday, so if the Mirror were to ever endorse any non-Labour Party MP for such a central role as Chancellor, then it could only be one with Vince's background.

A Star Re-born
Yet, it wasn't so long ago that Vince's name had apparently been terminally damaged by a number of controversial decisions in the earlier days of the Coalition Government.

The old sage, who had long foretold the economic crash and the reasons for it, was that rare creature - a popular politician across the political spectrum and beyond. He did his credentials no harm at all when he adeptly stepped into the role of Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats when Sir Menzies Campbell resigned as leader suddenly in October 2007.

But with the on-set of the coalition government and his new role as Secretary of State for Business, he would face the controversial issue of Tuition Fees in the autumn of 2010. He supported the new policy which caused great distress for his party and his stock fell as a result. During the same period, he was caught in a Daily Telegraph 'sting' declaring war on Rupert Murdoch's empire. He was immediately stripped of his responsibility of deciding on Murdoch's News Corporation takeover bid for BSkyB and his political judgement was called into question.

Yet now, merely some 18 months on, his position at the heart of the coalition is assured. The phone-hacking scandal which has mired the Murdoch empire has in the eyes of many, vindicated Cable's unguarded comments and whilst the Tuition Fees policy still wrankles, he is seen by many as merely being the Minister who had to deliver on a policy that had been agreed as a part of the Coalition Agreement.

To many and to quote a friend of mine, Paul Pettinger, Vince Cable's is:

"The face of a bank bashing, Murdock Empire fighting, idle rich scaring, Saudi King snubbing, economically literate radical. He might not always be a team player...but the whispery hair on his head has the passing resemblance of a halo".

Us liberals really do rather like a radical non-conformist.

Of course, as Stephen Tall states on Lib Dem Voice, there's no realistic chance of Vince Cable succeeding George Osbourne as the next resident of No.11 Downing Street - the Tory backbenchers just wouldn't have it! But the very fact that he is now being openly touted for such a promotion by political journalists, by the public and now, quite incredibly, by the Daily Mirror shows how his political worth has once more grown to impressive levels.

As a member of the Liberal Democrats, I have often heard Vince speak at party conferences and in recent years, his would always be a 'must-attend' fringe meeting or platform speech. He is one of those rare breeds who can make economics sound 'sexy'. He has an ability to explain the complicated in such a way that any layman could understand.

Back in the early months of 2011, his reputation had taken a battering and any lesser man may not have recovered his footing. But not Vince Cable. When the party reconvenes at its Brighton conference this coming September I can see his reception now. He'll be greeted as one of the most able, most reasonable and most likeable of our party's leaders.

He may not have been canonised yet, but if recent public opinion is anything to go by, it can surely only be a matter of time.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

What if? Richard Nixon Resigned in November 1973

In my mind, he is easily the most fascinating of all American Presidents. His personal demons, his paranoid character and his machiavellian willingness to do whatever was required to maintain his position undermined his role as one of the most powerful men in the world.

The inevitability of his position with Watergate was for many, apparent long before his eventual resignation in August 1974. But as a historian, I find the counterfactual 'What If' question of an earlier resignation one that just can not be ignored.

President Nixon (1969-1973?)
One that I have only recently considered is that of an earlier Nixon resignation - some 9 months previously to be precise. My scenario of a resignation in early November 1973 rests on a visit by Nixon's lawyers J. Fred Buzhardt and Leonard Garment to the President whilst he was on a break from Washington in Miami, Florida as explained by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their coverage of Nixon's 'Final Days'. They flew to meet him on November 3rd 1973 with the express intention of advising him to resign as President due to the growing evidence against him.

But before meeting with Nixon, the two White House lawyers had to convince his new Chief of Staff General Alexander Haig Jnr and his Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler that their severe recommendation was necessary. As it turns out, they were refused access to the President and when Haig took their message to Nixon himself, he was unsurprisingly not receptive and unwilling to entertain his advisors or their opinions in person.

What if?
The fact that Nixon refused to countenance the idea of resignation at this period is not unexpected but, taking a leap of faith, what if he had?

Nixon was under increasing pressure with the web of deceit that he had woven slowly closing in on him. The US Court of Appeals had the previous month on October 12th upheld Judge Sirica's order that Nixon must surrender his taped recordings. Then just days later on October 20th, the 'Saturday Night Massacre' saw the firing of the Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and the resignation of Attorney General Elliott L. Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. Nixon was under increasing pressure and in early November had escaped the media scrutiny for some privacy in Florida and under such growing levels of anxiety, may have balked under the pressure and done what had been recommended to him by two of his closest advisors.

But in early November 1973, there was no Vice-President. Spiro Agnew had resigned due to tax evasion charges on October 10th and whilst House Minority Leader Gerald Ford had been nominated for the Vice-Presidency by Nixon on October 12th, he would not take the oath of office until December 6th having by then been confirmed by both Houses of Congress.

So when Buzhardt and Garment arrived in Florida, they knew that if Nixon were to accept their advice, it would cause a constitutional crisis. Their advice however was based on the presumption that Nixon would wait for Ford's confirmation by Congress and would then immediately step down to allow Ford to become the President as of course is precisely what happened 8 months later.

But what if Buzhardt and Garment had persuaded Haig of the need to meet with Nixon in person to give him their grim assessment of the situation and what if his temperamental nature had gotten the better of him on this occasion and led him to decide to resign with immediate effect?

Acting President Carl Albert
Any West Wing connoisseurs with a keen knowledge of the 4th series cliff-hanger would be able to tell you that the 2nd in line of succession to the American Presidency after the Vice-President is the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
Acting President
Carl Albert (1973-?)

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So it would be that on November 4th 1973 after the shock, sudden resignation of President Richard M. Nixon and with no Vice-President in position to take on the position of the Presidency as prescribed by Section 1 of the XXV Amendment to the Constitution, it was the 2nd in line of succession as prescribed by the 1947 Presidential Succession Act, Speaker Carl Albert, who became Acting President of the United States - the first time in the 197 year history of the Republic that the Commander-in-Chief was neither the elected or appointed President or Vice President.

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This of course was not the first time that the 2nd in line had been a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Indeed quite incredibly, there have been 40 occasions where this has been the case before and since including as recently as 2007. Indeed, under the 1792 Succession Act, on two occasions, for 21 days in 1881 on the death of President Garfield and for 12 days in 1885 after the death of Vice-President Hendricks, there was no constitutional successor to the incumbant President. So in the 236 year history of the USA, there were 33 days in which the nation was a heartbeat away from a constitutional crisis of the highest order with no designated alternative in place to take the reigns of power in the event of the death of the President. The Presidential Succession Act of 1886 at least made sure that such an anomolous event could not in any realistic likelihood ever occur again.

But going back to 1973, had Speaker Albert suddenly found himself in the position of being Acting President and in so doing, having to resign his position as Speaker of the House, he would only have been in such a position for some 4 weeks before Ford's confirmation as Vice-President would have instantly elevated him to the Presidency.

But, as a Democratic Acting President serving in the middle of a Republican term of office (in exact contrast to the portrayal given in the early episodes of series 5 of the West Wing), partisan politics could've caused another constitutional crisis had the political will been so inclined. With a Democratic governed House and Senate, the leading party could've blocked Ford's confirmation and in so-doing, extend Acting President Albert's term of office. Indeed, with a majority in both Houses of Congress, the Democrats could have put up their own alternative for Vice-President to lead the nation through to the next Presidential elections in 1976.

The Watergate prosecutions could've continued and with no certainty of a Presidential pardon for disgraced former President Nixon as was given to him by Ford in the summer of 1974, he may well have have been charged with criminal acts such as perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice and imprisoned as would happen to his former Chief of Staff H.R. 'Bob' Haldeman.

An Inconceivable Possibility?
A leap of faith it is of course and a rather far fetched one at that. The politics of the situation would have made any such political manouverings in a time of constitutional crisis deeply unpopular.

But, under the constitutional provisions as laid down by the XXV Amendment and by the 1947 Presidential Succession Act, such an eventuality could have occurred.

Life can hinge on such key moments or chances of fate. Whilst we have never witnessed such an event in real-life policial American history, we have at least seen what could happen in fictional programmes such as The West Wing.

It could've happened back in 1973 had Buzhardt and Garment been ever so slightly more persuasive in their argument.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

That Was The Week That Was (In Photos)

It's been a busy week as County Council Chairman. A very busy week.

Attending the Bwcabus '2'
Launch in Lampeter.

Thanking Prince Charles for his visit to
Aberystwyth where he met with victims
of the recent floods.

The Bwcabus '2' launch in Lampeter at Monday lunchtime with Welsh Government Minister Carl Sargeant AM was followed by a special visit by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to Ceredigion where they met flood victims in the Council's Canolfan Rheidol offices later that afternoon.

Helping Launch Ceredigion County Council's
Local Mortgage Scheme with 
Lloyds TSB in Aberystwyth
This was followed by the launch of Ceredigion County Council's Local Authority Mortgage Scheme at Aberystwyth's Lloyds TSB on Tuesday and another meeting with the Royal couple in Aberaeron on Wednesday. All this whilst attending 4 Aberystwyth University graduation ceremonies from Tuesday-Thursday & a Lampeter University graduation ceremony on Friday after their Honorary Fellows Feast on Thursday evening.

Attending the Aberystwyth University
Graduation Ceremony with the
Head of Geography, Prof. Mike Woods.
Tuesday was particulary busy as I had the pleasure of being accompanied around by a work experience placement, Leah Williams from Dyffryn Teifi, for the day. A birthday meal with Alyson last night was followed today by Gloria Rees' funeral in Penparc before an afternoon at the Cardigan Castle open day.

I'm looking forward to a quiet Sunday tomorrow but can look back on what was a frenetic but very productive week. The highlight? Easily the many graduation ceremonies that I attended in Aberystwyth and Lampeter - it was great to be in such a positive, happy environment and as a former Aberystwyth graduate myself, I could well appreciate the emotions experienced by those students who were closing a significant chapter of their lives and beginning a new one.

Well done to them all and best wishes for their futures.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Nigel Mansell & Ayrton Senna Sharing a Ride at Silverstone

It's British Grand Prix time and I have myself had the great fortune to have attended 2 of them in the past - in 1993 and in 2008.

But for me, the iconic Silverstone moments of my era were those that I watched on TV.

There was Nigel Mansell's emotional win in 1992 on his way to that long awaited World Championship when his devoted fans broke ranks and surrounded him in jubilation on the track as can be seen here.

Then there was this wonderful moment which for me still stands out as one of the greatest sights in the history of the sport - when Mansell offered his great rival Ayrton Senna a lift back to the pits after he'd won the 1991 Grand Prix and Senna's McLaren had ran out of fuel on the final lap.

The fact that we lost Senna just a few years later of course makes it a poigniant image but it is nevertheless an image of great sportsmanship and camaraderie in a sport that takes no prisoners.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

London Welsh Win Appeal

I was well chuffed last night when I came in late from an evening at Gwyl Fawr Aberteifi to read that London Welsh have won their legal battle for promotion to the Premiership - English rugby's top flight.

They deserved to do so just by the fact that they won the championship play-off final with a 66-41 aggregate victory over the Cornish Pirates.

But the appeal panel ruled that the RFU's MSC contravenes EU and UK competition law and therefore found in favour of London Welsh, at the Newcastle Falcons' expense.

I've been following London Welsh for years from afar and they have always in my memory been a solidly performing 2nd tier English rugby side but in recent years have really upped their game and I've always hoped that our 'Exiles' would one day be given their chance to play at the top level as do the successul London Irish.

So now is their chance and for once, as one who has never been a fan of the RFU's Premiership, I can't wait!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Back to the Future? A Wonderful Internet Hoax!

As a big fan of the 'Back to the Future' trilogy, I was slightly in awe when I realised earlier that today, 27th June 2012, is in fact the date that 'Doc Brown' set in his DeLorean to time travel into the future.

Or at least, that's what I thought when I saw this photo going around the internet earlier!

For although the films were released slightly before what I recall of them, I am nevertheless a big fan. Indeed, I am slightly odd I suppose in being a particular fan of the 2nd film which is generally regarded as being the weaker of the 3. Why do I like it? Because it plays with both the 'present' of 1985, the 'past' of 1955 and the 'future' of...wait a minute here...2012?!

It suddenly struck me that the dates just didn't look right. 1985 minus 30 leads to 1955 so why leap 27 years to 2012 and not 30 years to 2015? Oh, and why to June when it was the fall that always played the central part of the narrative.

On doing some quick investigating, it all became clear - it was a hoax! The actual date that Doc Brown typed into his DeLorean as the clip above shows was October 21st 2015!

So folks, we've got another 3 more years in which to invent that hoverboard!

The Handshake of History

Martin McGuinness shook hands today with Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

Source: BBC Website

Words are important but sometimes, images speak louder. This image signifies a historic landmark event in a relationship long soured my suspicion and bloodshed. 

It is easy in retrospect to say that this meeting was a natural step in the progression of peace in Ireland. But take a step back and look at the image again.

For so many decades, the possibility of seeing such an image was not so much unnatural as it was completely inconceivable.

There are times when the cliches do roll off the tongue and then there are times when, in the great context of history, when even cliches fail to make justice of the situation.

So for once, I'm not going to go into detail about why this image transcends the normal - it really shouldn't be necesary.

All I have to say, quite simply, is wow.

Odyssey - Use It Up And Wear It Out (Funk/Soul Disco 1980)

Associations can take many forms.

As a lover of music, sound associations have followed me throughout my life. A particular sound will remind me, often completely out of context, with a certain time or place. An example is the Eagles' 'Take It To The Limit' which will forever remind me of my time on Thailand's Koh Samui with the Gulf of Thailand lapping against my feet (but that's another story).

Another is one of many songs that I associate with Only Fools and Horses. Having been a fan since I can't remember, I can often recite lines of dialogue off by heart. Throughout its 22 year comedic run, it also ran as a sign of the musical times, playing as it did, hit songs from the period.

So it is that I recall for example Fat Larry Band's 'Zoom' from the Series 2 concluding 1982 Christmas special 'Diamonds are for Heather' and Simply Red's 'Holding Back the Years' in the emotional 1989 Series 6 concluding episode 'Little Problems' where Rodney marries Cassandra.

But winding back to the first series in 1981, the 2nd episode 'Go West Young Man' saw Del Boy and Rodney hit the town. I recall vividly that catchy early 80s disco vibe from that episode including a particularly catchy tune which I have ever since, as a result, been greatly fond.

But until last night, I never actually knew the name of the song or of the band that played it until it came on in the Bell in Cardigan and I instantly recorded it on my Shazam mobile 'phone application.

To my complete surprise, it came from a band that I must admit I had never of so I felt I should share it with those who like me, greatly enjoy a wide range of music.

So here is Odyssey's Funk/Soul Disco 1980 hit 'Use It Up And Wear It Out'.

It's odd how I have always associated this song with that early episode of OFAH and yet could not until now, place it any further than that.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Et tu Brute? Rangers to be Demoted by their Scottish Premier League Foes

The world's most decorated football team is to be sensationally and humiliatingly demoted from its home of 122 years by its own Scottish Premier League rivals.

The disbelieving saga of Rangers' financial turmoil has today taken a severe turn for the worse as Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Inverness Caledonian Thistle joined the voices of Hearts, Dundee United and Hibernian by declaring that they will veto Rangers' application to be re-admitted to the Scottish Premier League as a new company.

This means that the 8-4 majority required can not be achieved with 6 clubs having now already publically stated their opposition to the new Rangers company's re-inclusion in Scotland's top flight.

A Proud History
Formed in 1872, Rangers were one of the 10 original members of the Scottish Football League and have won a world record 115 trophies including a world-record 54 domestic league championships - their last being in 2011. They have won 33 Scottish Cups, 27 Scottish League Cups and won the 1972 European Cup Winners' Cup.

Quite incredibly, they have only had 13 managers throughout this long and proud period of history.

An Uncertain Future for Rangers & Scottish Football
Despite having never played outside of Scotland's top footballing tier, they now face an uncertain future as the official vote on July 4th will formally require their replacement with either relegated Dunfermline or First Division Runners-Up Dundee.

Following the official confirmation of their refused application on 4th July, they will then need to apply to play in the Scottish Football League. Presuming that this is accepted, it will conceivably mean their demotion to the Scottish Third Division - Scotland's Fourth footballing tier.

It is likely to mean that the world's most successful league club with its iconic Ibrox home, could well be playing host next season to the likes of Montrose, Peterhead, East Stirling, Clyde and Annan Athletic.

But what of those still playing in the Scottish Premier League? The loss of such a great iconic, economic draw is going to hit their coffers badly. Celtic, Kilmarnock, Motherwell, Ross County and St Mirren have yet to announce how they would vote and for Celtic, this news would presumably cement their dominance of Scottish football for some years to come.

But there's no hiding from the negative conotations of this move.

As this BBC article states, Inverness' chairman Kenny Cameron has said: "Financially, we examined the various scenarios and, frankly, none of them were positive for our club. It is extremely disappointing to be adversely affected by something not of our doing".

St Johnstone added: "The board believes that sporting integrity should not be sacrificed in favour of economic expediency".

Hibernian added: "The board is also acutely aware that in making this decision, Hibernian - like other clubs in the SPL - will suffer collateral financial damage at a time of severe economic hardship and uncertainty".

There's no question that the decision being taken by some of Scotland's longest standing clubs against their greatest foe will have repercussions but they all feel, quite rightly in my opinion, that there is a greater issue at stake here.

As Hibernian stated: "This reaffirms the view of the board that the sporting integrity of the SPL is of paramount importance".

As St Johnstone added: "It is important that a clear and unambiguous message goes out from the custodians of Scottish football that this sort of scenario should never be allowed to happen again".

Well, quite.

Rangers' financial turmoil is a sporting tragedy and beyond that, a tragedy for their fierce community of fans.

But pride comes before the fall and even this sporting historian can not over rule the current financial mess in favour of an illustrious history.

In the final analysis, the Scottish Premier League 6 who have made their intentions for that 4th July meeting loud and clear in recent days have made the only moral choice available to them.

Good luck to Rangers in their new identity and in their new home, wherever that will be. Good luck to the remaining members of a very different Scottish Premier League.

Scottish football is about to experience the greatest shock to the nature of its very being in its 120 year+ history. Good luck all involved in the uncertain years ahead.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Ceredigion County Council's New Cabinet

After yesterday's second meeting of the new Cabinet, the first of which I was able to attend, an official photo was taken of the new Plaid-Independent-Independent Voice-Labour executive group.

Ceredigion's new-look Cabinet
I happened to be preparing to chair my first Council meeting as Chairman and was standing near-by and took this quick photo.

Pictured are Cllr Peter Davies (Corporate Resources), Cllr Dafydd Edwards (Environment, Regulation and Planning), Cllr Gareth Lloyd (Economic Development, Community Development, Leisure and Culture), Cllr Ray Quant (Transformation and Performance Management and Deputy Leader of the Council), Cllr Ellen ap Gwynn (Leader of the Council), Cllr Catherine Hughes (Social Services and Housing), Cllr Alun Williams (Transport, Waste and Carbon Management) & Cllr Hag Harris (Education and Lifelong Learning).

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Only You: RIP Brian Hibbard

It was with great sadness that I heard yesterday of the death of Ebbw Vale born Brian Hibbard.

As this BBC website article testifies, he was a well known face on our TV screens having appeared in Emmerdale, EastEnders, Coronation Street, Pobol Y Cwm, Doctors and Casualty to name but a few over the past 20 years.

But please forgive me if I recall what was for me, the abiding memory of Brian Hibbard. His performance as a part of 'The Flying Pickets' Christmas No.1 hit of 1983 has always been one of my favourite musical moments from throughout the years.

I loved the a cappella sound and I loved the down-to-earth video. I loved the sheer simplicity of the sound that for me, made it that little bit special.

So, to Brian Hibbard, thank you for giving me that abiding memory and thank you for that priceless ability of making people smile.

The Fire and the Rain

It's been a madly hectic opening few weeks to my year as County Council Chairman as the great expanse of nothingness in this blog will testify.

Olympic Torch Relay
It began with the Olympic Torch procession that saw that famous flame carried by hand, Welsh cob and electric railway through our county from Pembrokeshire and onwards to Montgomeryshire.

The wonderful work of County Council staff and volunteers throughout the county meant that the Torch received a wonderful welcome as it arrived from Pembrokeshire in Cardigan and moved up the coast through Aberaeron and towards Aberystwyth where it stayed overnight. On its arrival, it was welcomed by some 9,000 local residents who were enjoying a free 'party in the park' atmosphere at the Vicarage Fields. It was a wonderful event and the volunteers and Council staff who put in so much time and effort to prepare not only for the Aberystwyth festival but for the whole procession along Ceredigion's coast deserve great praise. We were blessed with fine weather during that Sunday and Monday morning in late May and thousands upon thousands of excited residents, young and young at heart, lined the route to see what really does amount to a 'once in a lifetime' event.

I saw it, not in Cardigan as it entered the county, but in Aberystwyth where, just 48 hours in post, it was my role to officially welcome it to Ceredigion by giving a short 2 minute speech in front of the assembled 9,000 spectators. Even for one as used to public speaking as myself, it was an incredibly nerve-wracking experience.

The flame itself was a good half an hour or so late in arriving to the stage and when it did and I had just about finished my short address of welcome, those iconic bars from 'Chariots of Fire' blasted across the Fields to announce the entrance of that fabled flame. It was a truly spine-tingling moment to see young Kyle proudly run down the perimeter of the site with the Torch hoisted proudly and athletically aloft to the strains of that incredible soundtrack. When he lit the Cauldron to announce that the Olympic Flame had arrived in Aberystwyth for the night, the crowds went absolutely wild. It was a wonderful, wonderful moment and for a sporting fanatic like me, it was one of the greatest privileges of my life to play a small part in that historic ceremony.

The Ceredigion Floods
The following week saw the communities of Ceredigion celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee and they did it in some style. Cardigan had community parties right across town and I was delighted to have been invited to a good many of them. Again, great weather on that Bank Holiday Monday helped lend itself to what was a carnival-like atmosphere and all was good in the world.

But just 5 days later, the weather turned and turned nastily againt the inhabitants of northern Ceredigion in particular.

I had been attending the Royal British Legion Aberystwyth Branch AGM at Llanbadarn's Park Lodge on the Friday night and the Blaendolau Fields had already flooded under the deluge of rain that had carpeted the area for over 24 hours. Now, Blaendolau Fields as anyone who knows Aberystwyth will testify is prone to flooding but little could those of us at that dinner that evening have realised that within barely 4 or 5 hours of the end of that dinner, that very car park would find itself under 2 feet of water.

I had been due to attend the Aberystwyth Show on the Saturday so had decided to stay in Aberystwyth overnight even though we'd heard late on the Friday afternoon that the show had regretfully been cancelled. In hindsight, it was a relief that it was and that the decision to do so had been taken so early because come Saturday morning, great swathes of north Ceredigion were under water.

Parts of Tal-Y-Bont, Dol-Y-Dont, Borth, Capel Bangor and as far inland in Aberystwyth as the Holiday Village all felt the full force of bursting river banks as the sheer volume of water coming down from the Cambrian Mountains made its presence known.

I visited the Relief Centre in Aberystwyth's Penglais Secondary School that afternoon and was told time and again by those that had been displaced by this early morning flood of how thankful they were for the prompt action of the emergency services and for the Council's support in feeding them and keeping them warm whilst alternative accommodation was found for them. Again, I can not express greatly enough how much praise all of the Council's staff and those of the emergency services deserve for ensuring that there were no fatalities or serious injuries in what was the worst case of flooding in Ceredigion in living memory.

The work of the Council staff however, continues, as the recovery mode has gotten underway and we are now faced with months of work in dealing with the devastation left behind in the wake of this, mother nature's latest incarnation.

Residents whose homes were invaded by the torrent and holidaymakers who found their time off turned into a living hell, now deserve prompt action from their insurers so that they can make a start on re-building their lives.

In the meantime, if anyone requires any advice, please contact Ceredigion County Council's Flood Incident Line on 01545 572233 (Monday – Friday 09:00 – 17:00)

For more information and if you would like to donate to the Flood Appeal Fund which has been set-up by the Council Leader Cllr Ellen ap Gwynn, please do so by this visiting this website.

It has been a rollercoaster couple of weeks for us here in Ceredigion as you can then see but, we carry on, for there is no alternative.

Ceredigion remains open for business.