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.