Archive for the ‘ News ’ Category

Cardiff Declares War on Bicycles.

And not before time! Police in Cardiff have today launched a new crackdown on bicyclists flaunting the law and merrily weaving their way around the pavements of the city. While a £30 fixed penalty notice might not appear to be much of a threat, any deterrent for the increasing menace that the Cardiff cyclist can be can only be welcomed. A note of caution initially though, we don’t want to go painting all cyclists in Cardiff with too broad a brush. No doubt the majority of those on pedal powered twin wheels are all good sorts, very respectful and such, but equally there can be little doubt that a growing number of those who enjoy the un-motorised means of transportation have as much regard for the pedestrians in their way as a scorching sun has for the last ripples of a drained puddle – they are equally treated as an irrelevance, something to dismiss as were they not even there, and it is those cyclists that are the problem.

Increasingly in Welsh city and town centres, the travels of the pedestrian are marked by the need to dodge out of the way of those speeding past (and we do mean speeding) through clearly marked pedestrian areas. A trip through Cardiff City Centre can be measured by the number of times you are ‘ching chinged’ out of the way, if even that simple ‘courtesy’ is offered. More likely would be for you to suddenly jump to one side as some sun glass wearing blur of lycra shoots by. For too long, pedestrians have had to suffer the whims of cyclists regarding highways law, and it is good to see that the police in the capital are finally taking some action.

Plenty of debate has been stimulated by this, mostly regarding the lack of choice faced by cyclists when travelling. How can we be punishing those poor unfortunates? After all, too many cycle lanes are blocked by cars, while how many deaths do cyclists cause to pedestrians compared to motorists on cyclists? Well, for starters, it is simply against the law for cyclists to be on the pavement in the first place, so it is a very weak place to argue from. But if we put that to one side, what of those concerns?

First of all, cycle lanes, and indeed the dangers faced by cyclists on the roads, are both valid points of concern. While the cycling community needs to be much better regarding pedestrians, the motoring community in turn must raise its game regarding cyclists, who are no doubt vulnerable to the lack of attention given them by many British motor vehicle users. However, there is nothing that forces a cyclist to ride on a pavement. Unless said cyclists is physically welded by the groin to their bicycle, then there is no reason why the rider in question cannot dismount, push the bicycle to the next clear cycle lane or safe stretch of road, and continue. The decision to use pavements by cyclists is just that, a decision, a choice, and one not afforded to pedestrians. Pedestrians cannot amble down the middle of a dual carriage way at their choosing, they only have the pavements to make use of. If the roads are too scary for the cyclists of Cardiff City Centre, then get off the bike and push, you have the option.

As for injuries and deaths, fine, we do not see many pedestrians killed by cyclists, and the statistics are irrelevant almost when compared with cyclists killed by motor vehicles. What these death counts do not cover though, is the very real sense of fear instilled by cyclists whizzing through pedestrians. They might not get killed by the bike, but many are sure as hell scared witless by the cyclists who belt through those relying on foot. Put simply, pedestrians should not be made to feel intimidated while out walking in the only access routes available to them.

Cardiff in particular has a wealth of cycling provisions in place, offering the choice of using roads or a variety of cycle paths. There is no such diversity for the pedestrian. A cyclist weaving at speed through a pedestrian filled pavement, may not be as dangerous to pedestrians as were a car driver to mount the curb and commit a similar crime, but the risks are still there, the fear is still very real, and it remains a crime. While it may be a minority of cyclists who are responsible, it is a minority that is large enough now to warrant firm action, and we certainly hope that Cardiff police stand by this announcement rather than leave it as an empty threat.

RCT: Right Idea on Metal Theft, Wrong Focus in Video.

Rhondda Cynon Taf council made it into the news today for the launch of their so called ‘hard hitting’ video on the impact and dangers of metal theft. There can be little doubt about the damaging nature of this crime wave that is blighting Wales, and those to suffer, in particular schools, community sites and religious centres, not too mention the commemorative memorials to be destroyed through these petty thefts, are all amongst the most vulnerable victims in terms of those who are able to foot the bill for the expensive repairs required after such acts of vandalism. Why then do RCT dwell for so long on the perpetrator of the crime in their video?

The video opens to a churchyard, one location of many included in the video to have been hit by the metal thefts, but we do not focus on the church or its parishioners, instead we hear the disembodied voice of the mournful metal thief. Clearly talking to us from beyond the grave, we hear how his lift was not supposed to end like this, his widowed wife expresses her anger but qualifies in her thoughts how he was in fact a good man. The video rumbles on, a shot of school closed for the day because of metal thefts, then our perpetrator is seen near death, told he cannot have his life saving operation because of metal theft. Have we got the message yet? Metal theft is bad yes? But watching this campaign, it’s hard not to be left with the thought of ‘why should we care?’ due to the central figure of the narrative. The core ‘victim’ featured is the thief himself, not the innocent bystander who suffers because of the thief, but the man who was stupid and selfish enough to do the robbery in the first place.

While the sentiments are fine, RCT would have done well to recast its lead figure, the ‘hero’ of the piece if you will. As it stands, the video seems to be attempting to play on the viewers sympathy for the thief, which is the exact opposite message that should be pushed here. Why should we care about this individual? Frankly, we shouldn’t. A better take would have been to feature our ‘hero’ frying himself on his freshly swiped electric cable, before the cindered corpse is ditched into a lake by his disgusted partner. That might ‘send a message’, as it is, this effort, while well intended, only serves to frustrate and ultimately fail to deliver the hard hitting message that it could have done.

A Plastic Bag in the Eye.

EyeOnWales found itself wading into an impressively pointless argument on the good ol’ 5p plastic bag debate last week. In an argument of head banging against the wall proportions, we found a bizarre blogger ranting about the sinister nature of businesses exploiting the 5p bag law to generate revenue and supply low grade bags to customers, while simultaneously suggesting that the Welsh Government policy had been a failure in the first place, having no impact on bag usage, and in turn, no positive impact on the environment (this was all before said blogger descended into a diatribe on the state of Wales generally, including the Welsh language in a wonder moment of gogwatch-esque randomness – suffice to say it was not the most sensibly of constructed arguments that we’ve come across this year).

So, it was with some pleasure that the results of a couple of reports were published by the Welsh Government today, giving some indication as to the actual impacts of the 5p bag legislation. Without wanting to totally rehash the original press release, the key figures can be summarised in 70% of the survey sample now supporting the legislation, backed up by over 80% of customers making use of reusable bags, with food retailers in particular recording an impressive 96% reduction in bag use. This was coupled with the Keep Wales Tidy charity being held up as an example of one of the beneficiaries of the redirected funds from those bags which remain sold, tipping the £100,000 mark.

Now, when the evidence suggests such massive reductions in plastic bag use, with wide scale public support for the new form of legislation, topped off with large scale charitable donations, can it really be described as a failure? If this is a failure then lets hope new legislation introduced in the future has a similarly catastrophic rate of success! Now let’s be clear, the Labour led government in Cardiff is not having the best of times of it, and Carwyn’s lumbering speech today on the trident issue was a particularly good example of the bad on offer. But that is not to say that all is bad, and on this piece of legislation, Wales has a success story, and one perhaps, even if it is held in temporary isolation, that we might be proud of.

Well done WG, you’ve got something right, now work on all the rest of it!

 

(not actual) Welsh NHS Spending Solutions.

It has been revealed that several Welsh local health boards have been the recipients of Welsh Government grants, issued in order to meet spending targets and keep the books balanced for the financial year. At a time of difficult austerity measures, swinging cuts to the Welsh health service have been made, but it would appear not early enough and solutions are being sought.

Leading fictional independent health advisor Doctor Scalpel highlighted ‘the main problem that we have with the NHS in Wales, is that there are people who need treatment, it’s been a problem since day one’. Pressed on solutions to the current spending issues, Doctor Scalpel suggested that ‘what we need now is a redistribution of NHS resources into more layers of management and staff training, to make our work force better equipped to not administer medicine. We will only start to see real savings when we get better at closing the door to patients’ adding ‘it’s about time we had a reality check on what the NHS is actually here for, patient care is our number 1 priority, but we will only achieve that goal if we treat less patients, it’s quite simple really’.

Meanwhile, anti-language campaigners were quick to suggest that ‘the NHS in Wales can be saved quite simply, by stopping Welsh language funding. The Welsh language is a huge financial drain and its removal could easily save the NHS here in Wales’. The comments were quickly endorsed by celebrity disc jockey Jimmy Dolphin who eagerly suggested that ‘twenty seven lives are lost a week because of the Welsh language’.

The Welsh Government was not available to comment on these made up observations.

Forthcoming Poetry Event.

Had a request to promote this event, happy to do so – part of the forthcoming Caerleon Arts Festival, outside of Newport, South Wales.

The Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival.

A few snaps from this years festival. Another great occasion, though we were only there with the back up camera on the final day. Must apologise, consumption was the order of the day, so photographic quantity and quality are on the short side with this entry!

The Rebel Brewery in full swing.

Choir in action.

As far as the memory goes.

The Jubilee: All Depends Where the Camera Points.

Anyone following the EyeOnWales twitter feed will know that we had some issues with all of the Jubilee palaver. General consensus from critics have fallen on our complaints as being those of lefty republicans, militant Welsh nationalists, xenophobes and most commonly, unpatriotic bastards. Who knows, maybe a bit of all of the above is indeed applicable. While not a republican blog at heart, we certainly have some issues with our democracy being advertised as a model to the world, while having to bend a knee and open a wallet for a monarch whose position is afforded to her by god (theoretically). We certainly have issue with decades of under investment in Wales coupled by massive contemporary spending cuts, while forking out direct and indirect costs running to the billions for a party. As for being unpatriotic, we have our Welsh flag flying proudly thank you very much, and it will remain flying proudly once all of those little plastic Union Jacks have been discarded to create some of the most festive landfill sites seen in the world – our patriotism is not defined by a government dictate to start celebrating.

But none of those issues has really grated. If people want to go celebrating the life of someone, fine, we don’t like the expenditure, or agree with the sentiment, but hell, there are plenty of things our respective Governments waste money on, this is just one more to put on the pile of burnt money, while people in Britain do far stupider things on a Friday and Saturday night than stand in the rain waving plastic flags at boats, in the grand scheme of things, it’s no great evil.

What does grate though, is the insistence of the national media in portraying the Jubilee as something that ‘everyone’ has got on board for. ‘The Nation comes together’ we are told, ‘street parties held across the nation’ we are told, ‘we are one country’ people insist, ‘the unity of the country’ is on display for all the world to see. You could mostly copy and paste these catch phrases into the commentary of any of the major news carriers in Britain (Wales included) and then on to the world. But was it really the case?

On the morning dog walk, Union Jacks have been spotted popping up here and there, the bunting going up, being blown down across the roads, to be replaced by some more the following day. Point your camera at those decorated houses and you would have yourself a fine snapshot of a nation in party mood yes? Then pan that same camera to the left, then to the right, then directly behind, nothing, just houses, no flags, no bunting, just homes, as they were and as they will remain. The dog walk usually identifies around 15-20 houses where the occupants have gone to the effort of decorating for the Jubilee. For each one of those houses, roughly 20-30 more will be found undecorated. Point your camera here, and what story do you then have for the newspapers? Television audiences are being cited as well by some as proof positive of the national mindset towards the Jubilee. Some 17million watching? Yet when the same argument is presented that some 45million were not watching, it is dismissed out of hand – proof of nothing the Jubilee fans shout loudly, except perhaps that the majority simply don’t care.

For us, it’s not so much an argument about becoming a Republic, or having a free and independent Wales, it’s about not being presented to the world as having taken part in a celebration of all the things that are the opposite of those sentiments. Freedom of choice and expression is a theoretical tenant in Britain, undermined by a national media that has been intent on painting a picture of unity in the worst example of jingoism in recent years, regardless of the reality. So perhaps that reality can be summarised for the many international eyes falling on the British Isles these past four days as such:

1. There are a lot of people celebrating the Jubilee, not everyone, not a majority, but a lot of people, and they had a fun time of it.

2. There are some people using the Jubilee to campaign for a Republic, not many, far from a majority, but some people, and they had a fun time of axe grinding.

3. Then there is the majority, not everyone, but most people, those who did not watch on television, stand by a river watching a boat, or climbed a hill to light a beacon, those who did not decorate their houses, or eat tea and cakes in the middle of a street.

Categories 1 and 2 have had plenty and some media coverage respectively, category 3 has been lumped in with category 1, and it leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

We are not asking for less coverage of the Jubilee (though that would be quite welcome, I remember something happening in Syria, and some Egyptians being angry about something, but world news really has no place on the BBC while a party is going on in London), what we are asking for is less generalisation in the commentary. Some of the nation came together, yes, the majority did not. It would be nice if the world knew that, and was not painted a picture of everyone in the British Isles as having decorated their faces, heads and homes in Union Jacks; some of us were protesting against it, most of us ignored or didn’t care about it – and when discussing the impact of the Jubilee, perhaps some questions might be asked of why the majority didn’t join in, as opposed to why a vocal minority had a party.

Just one question on that topic perhaps, rather than presenting a million celebrating as being representative of the actions of 60+million, please BBC, are you listening? Oh, I guess not, well, it’s okay, I know you are busy, lot’s more Jubilee to be broadcast after all…

The Jubilee: A Tale of Two Pensioners.

The scene: a small local pharmacy.

The occasion: an elderly gentleman, around 80-90 years old, with the assistance of two walking sticks, making his way to the counter.

The event: said elderly gentleman requests his prescription medicines, multiple large and heavy bags worth of pills.

The discussion:

‘I can’t carry these home, they are too heavy, can they be delivered please?’

‘The next delivery won’t be made until Wednesday I’m afraid’ replies the cashier.

‘But I can’t wait until then for my medicine’

‘Well you can carry them home now if you like?’ responds the ambivalent cashier, ignorant of the man’s age or that his own means of staying upright was through the use of two sticks gripped in both hands.

‘But I can’t carry them, they are too heavy, and I have no free hands’ is the meek and slightly desperate response.

‘Well like I say, the delivery goes out on Wednesday’.

‘Why not before?’

‘Well we are closed for the Jubilee you see’ [that would be Sunday, Monday and Tuesday the man would now have to wait].

‘But that’s not good enough, I need my medicine, I won’t make…’ he pauses, ‘I can’t wait that long’.

‘Well I don’t know what we can do about that I’m afraid’ if all the help provided in the store, and the elderly gentleman makes his way to a seat, slightly confounded by the situation.

Now, in observing this amazing exchange, the eventual conclusion was reached where, after some ten minutes of calling around, the pharmacy managed to find someone with a relationship to the man in question, to assist him, a happy resolution to a situation that saw the mobility challenged pensioner breathing himself into a panic attack, thanks to the initial disregard. A mess cleaned up, but a dangerous situation created in the first place, that could have been avoided.

Why was this the case? Because a very different pensioner is having a party, a party which will have the same impact on the economy and public services as if a general strike had been called.

Want a party? Have it on the weekend, but don’t let this indulgence risk the lives of others, because that is what is happening. Few people seem to be aware of the second bank holiday, the second day of ‘celebration’, and many more will be caught out like this gentleman was today. The stress witnessed today was completely unnecessary and the direct product of this ridiculous extravagance. We can only hope that, for the sake of a party on a weekday, that nothing worse than stress occurs, because what was witnessed today could have been much much worse.

Blowing Up Buzzards: Nature Conservation.

There is not a lot to be said for DEFRA (newly branded today as the Department for the Eradication of Feral Rural Animals). Rarely a season goes by when they fail to infuriate great sections of the British public, while pissing off a fair few Europeans at the same time. Now, having spectacularly failed to impress anyone on the issue of badger culls, the new public enemy of the British rural landscape is the buzzard.

For those unaware, badgers were considered for widespread executions for chemical warfare activities. It appears that secret badger cells had been operating in secure locations, under trees and in prehistoric burial mounds, orchestrating the distribution of the toxin known only as TB, to cattle throughout the country. While there was never any firm evidence of the existence of these weapons of mass inconvenience, badgers were still fingered for on the spot execution.

Now buzzards are on the hit list as well. Their crime, the occasional consumption of baby pheasants. I’m sure we are all in agreement that those terrible buzzards should indeed be lined up against a wall, shot three times to the head, before being disposed of for distribution in canine treat tins for their most heinous crime of eating to stay alive. But wait, there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Why is DEFRA looking to protect these baby pheasants? Well so that they can grow up into slightly bigger pheasants for people to shoot of course.

For the buzzard, I would suggest rehabilitation, rather than incarceration or execution. If buzzards can be trained to emit a horse like laugh, inherit a country estate, master the art of being dressed in tweed by a butler, before equipping themselves with a shotgun, then their rights to blow ten bags of crap out of the same pheasant is perfectly acceptable. If they continue to kill pheasants in a way that is in their nature, then they themselves should, naturally, be exterminated in turn.

As solutions go, it’s about as rational as the initial argument.

What is a shirt worth?

Really Cardiff City…really? For the sake of ‘tradition’, you would sacrifice how many millions of pounds worth of investment? As daft decision go, the sudden desire amongst the Cardiff City community to throw up their hands in disgust at the prospect of their ‘traditions’ being undermined, a move that could well put pay to a planned investment that would not just develop the club for the future, but preserve its very existence, is at the very least short sighted, if not completely daft.

Now, EyeOnWales tends to fight the cause for tradition more than most, usually to a fault. But one wonders where Cardiff City’s traditional values were when the club was sold out to overseas investors? One wonders where the attitude that puts tradition above all things was when their beloved Ninian Park was demolished and given over for a profitable housing development project. Let’s face it Cardiff City, you’ve sold out on plenty of the clubs ‘traditional’ qualities in recent years, what’s a shirt colour to add to the mix?

Were the shirt to change colour to appease those generous Malaysians who own, what is that they own, oh yes, the club, what exactly would change? Would Cardiff City stop being Cardiff City? Would fans upon entering the stadium next season take on the appearance of lost children in a supermarket, knowing that certain shapes and smells were familiar, but having no ideas of where to go or what to do? No, of course not, it would be the same club, wearing a different top. After all, what football club has not been selling out on their away shirts for decades already – where was the tradition when fans bought the arbitrary replica away strip with this season’s random colour selection?

It would appear Cardiff City fans have a choice, they can accept the level of investment that they otherwise would be weeping at the prospect of receiving, in exchange for a new shirt, or they can keep playing in blue until the club folds, and then what, support Swansea City is it? Or how about switching allegiance to Newport County, after all, they play in colours far closer to the shirt originally worn by the foundation club for Cardiff City – if it’s all about the colour on the shirt, then Cardiff City gave up on their ‘traditions’ some hundred years ago.

Those who flap their arms in the defence of tradition in football need a timely slap in the face and the instruction to grow up. There is no tradition left in football! The world game sold out decades ago to Pepsi, Coca Cola, Mars, then the oligarchs, the emirates, the chicken farmers and anyone else willing to spray hot liquid cash onto the faces of those who maintained their verbal allegiance to tradition, while allowing their actions to be remiss of a two penny whore desperate for their next hit.

You want to survive in the big leagues Cardiff City? Then time to face up to the reality of it – you need money, not just to succeed but to survive. Is a new shirt that much of a price to pay? It would seem so. Well, best of luck with it – a defence of tradition at Cardiff City is to be admired. We can only hope that their morals allow them to survive long enough to see all those other oh so ‘traditional’ clubs surge past them. Seeing red? For CardiffCity, it will appear that it is only the bank balance that will now reflect such colours…that is until they face one more, probably fatal winding up order from the HMRC.

*12/05/12 (As has been pointed out on twitter, this was not just about a shirt change, but a badge change as well…of course, that makes such a difference to the debate doesn’t it? *eye-role*)