Archive for the ‘ Wales ’ Category

5p Plastic Bag Threat Grips Nation.

One woman not afraid of the threat of plastic bags.

It might be an indictment on the Welsh Governments’ agenda, that the most news worthy story coming out of the Senedd these days is one that follows the reactions of a nation to the looming dread of individuals having to pay 5 pence for a plastic bag in shops. Or perhaps it is an indictment on many in the nation, that so many should prove to be sounding so indignant towards the reality of having to pay what could be found dropped on a pavement for a single plastic bag. Whoever we feel in the mood to indict, the reality is that shoppers in Wales will, as of tomorrow, be facing up to the fact that, occasionally, and in some circumstances, they will have to pay a little extra should they wish to take home their shopping in a carrier bag, made of plastic, and provided by the shop. Exciting isn’t it?

Well, exciting is not the phrase that would be chosen here. It is a story of passing interest perhaps but little more. Indeed, one of the most impressive parts of the public reaction to this Welsh Government policy, is that so many companies have been charging for the use of their plastic bags for much longer, and mores the point, have been charging more for the privilege (10 pence in many cases). Yet coverage of this story dominates the Welsh media, and has received plenty of attention on the BBC 24 hour news channel. It is a fine enough policy in many respects, though one wonders why the Labour group did not take things further. 5 pence per plastic bag, in relation to the well discussed environmental arguments, seems a fair price to pay (indeed, the bag is a product provided by a company, a price of pennies for a product, environment debates to one side, seems a fair price to pay), yet Labour could have taken the move to ban them outright – that would have been newsworthy.

So the steady stream of voxpops roll out, gibbering of ‘it’s good for the environment’, ‘I already have a bag for life’, face off against ‘how can they expect us to afford it when the country is in the state it’s in’ and ‘it’s not fair, it’s not fair’…

It’s a tough one to argue against, not coherently anyway. There are too many bags floating around Wales, as well as plenty of other places in the world. Will a 5p bag tax fix this? No, not entirely, but it is a start, and frankly, given the UK governments plans to inject more money into collecting more waste, this seems an immanently more environmentally conscious scheme. As for those who seem to be hailing the impending 5penny bag as the coming of the end of days, what exactly do you think will happen as a negative consequence of this proposal? Will the elderly be financially crippled by the cost of a bag so much so that they will fear shopping in the first place? Will those on benefits be left to drop dead in the streets as they weigh up the choice of a bag over rice, a bag over vodka, a bag over cigarettes? Will families with more than one child to raise, be forced to leave their other offspring behind the bike sheds, because they just can’t afford to maintain another mouth as well as their five a week shopping bag habit? Of course not. It’s a damnable 5 penny price on a plastic bag. You can afford it, it won’t ruin your life, and it might just help to make the world slightly better for the rest of us.

It’s not exciting stuff from the Senedd, but it’s also not the end of the world. So stop your bleating, look behind the sofa before heading to the shops for those five small pieces of bronze coin, or better yet, keep the bloody bag you bought last time.

But come on Wales – please get over yourself, it’s 5p for a bag, not a taxation policy on our ability to produce blood, just relax, take the medicine (prescribed for free by the way) and let’s get on with our lives without letting the rest of the UK think this is the most pressing matter to trouble our lives here.

Flatholm Island: Part 2

Second batch of images from around Flatholm, including some of the creepier offerings of the military buildings on site.

RWC 2011: Wales in record win, but fail to impress?

Wales served up yet another frustrating performance, yet managed to establish a number of records in dispatching a wearying Namibian team. What Gatland will make of his team’s efforts will be very difficult to gauge, after all, it is not every day you dispatch a team by some eighty points and record twelve tries in the process. Indeed, South Africa managed almost the exact same score line and were generally applauded for their efforts, so why is there margin for grumbles for the Wales camp today?

Simply, and without wanting to indulge in clichés, Wales offered a game of two halves. The first was uncertain, rushed, lacking in polish, a disjointed affair that helped to make Namibia look a much better team than they were on the day. The second half, an enjoyable romp, as first team players arrived on the scene and stretched their legs against a shattered Namibian team who had taken more tackles than they will face again in their next three games combined.

With the numbers of changes made to the starting line up, Wales might have been forgiven for the odd lapse in concentration, the odd ball not reaching its man, but this was not at the heart of Wales’ early struggles. Indeed, there were no early struggles as Wales played a fast game, forcing Namibia into mistakes which returned three convincing early scores. Yet with those early breakthroughs, the Welsh mentality turned to one of complacency. ‘If we take it up the middle, we’ll probably score’. The mental side of Wales’ game went missing, and with it went the scoring opportunities.

Come the second half, and what one hopes was a stern dressing down in the changing rooms, Wales restarted the game with for more direction and urgency, and it did not take long for the Namibian defence to wilt. Some sixty second half points is an achievement in its own right, and Wales will take heart that, as other tier 1 nations have slowed their scoring towards the end of matches, the Welsh fitness came through again, to leave the Namibian try line chequered with divots from try scorer after try scorer.  

In the end, it was largely the score line that everyone in Wales wanted, even if the scoring had to come predominantly in one half of the game. In terms of performances, well, players like Scott Williams will have done their reputation no harm at all with the running in of three tries, but others failed to set the world alight. The front row failed to cause the damage that would have been expected from the scrum in the first half, Charteris was notable through his absence in the lineout, regardless of how tall the Namibian second row might have been, while the backline, as a creative unit, simply didn’t have the spark required to breakdown the Namibians  from first phase play. Now, with players such as Stephen Jones, Tavis Knoyle and Lee Bryne, we might argue that this was their first game of the tournament and rustiness might be expected, on the other hand, this was their best chance to shine before final selection against Fiji. On the evidence of the first half at least, few players have put their hand up for selection next week (Scott Williams aside). During the second half, figures like Gethin Jenkins came into their own, and the front row replacements, technically Wales’ third choice front row, exploded with energy and rampaged across the field. George North and Lloyd Williams coming off of the bench excelled as well, and in the case of Williams, may well have done enough to become another ‘on paper’ third choice player, to find himself on the bench next week as well.

Perhaps it was the changes made that caused the first half to stutter, perhaps it was the simple reality that, try as they might, players like Aled Brew and Lloyd Burns just are not up to the test of international rugby, whatever the case might be, and however enjoyable the second half turned out to be, apart from enforced changes, it seems unlikely that the team who faced South Africa and Samoa, will be losing much sleep over their positions in the starting line up for Fiji.

Star Turns: Scott Williams and George North gave exhibitions in attacking and finishing.

Damp squibs: Aled Brew’s handling let him down, Lloyd Burns seemed off the pace against Namibia even, while Andy Powell continues to make poor decisions and throw passes wherever his sprit takes – which more often than not is not towards Welsh hands.

Images around Flatholm Island: Part 1

This is proving to be an increasingly busy week, so while there are no shortages of political developments in Wales worthy of debate, I’m left with time only to root around the photo albums, and pull out some archive shots of Flatholm, a fascinating Welsh island, and a haven for anyone with archaeological inclincatons for the last 200 years or so. (Part 1 as there are plenty more of these to share some other time.)  

Snapshots around St Fagans

Just a few quick snaps from around St Fagans today – nothing special, nor artistic in merit, nor showing the best of the site, just some snaps here and there.

RWC 2011: A Try of Fortune and Style…

Despite a report on Wales victory over Samoa already having been produced, special attention is required for Wales’ only try, scored by Shane Williams, not so much for the finish, executed in perfect manner by Williams, but by the contributions by the two players in the  build up to the crucial score.

First up, Leigh Halfpenny, a wonderful Welsh wing who has a huge future in the starting line-up, once Shane does finally decide to pack it all in. Out for much of the last season with injury, and possibly fortunate to be at the World Cup with limited game time behind him, Halfpenny looked assured in defence and dangerous going forward against Samoa. But as he broke through three Samoan tackles to launch the surge up field that secured victory for Wales, there was one wonderful moment which highlighted just how fast Halfpenny is. With Samoans bearing down on him from all corners, Halfpenny still had time to slow down and adjust his scrumcap. While likely done as an aid to his line of sight, one hopes just a little bit that this was a spilt-second fashion based adjustment, making sure that everything looked good in-front of the cameras before making headway downfield.

Secondly, Jon Davies. Brilliant support running to back Halfpenny up, and great running to commit the remaining defenders, but then that pass. Davies had a look on his face, as if to say ‘there’s probably going to be somebody out there, let’s chuck it’. There was no obvious need to throw a blind pass, the Samoan was going to tackle him, after all, the defender was a Samoan, he was going to hit the nearest red shirt to him, the two Welsh men outside were safe. Still he threw blind, and could so easily have cost Wales their one and only try scoring chance.

So a touch of style, and a touch of luck, not forgetting of course a touch of class in Shane’s finish.

Well done Wales.

RWC 2011: Wales battle to cheer the Nation.

Finally, finally Wales produce the victory over a South Seas Nation in a World Cup that Welsh rugby supporters have longed for. It has been a very long time in the making, and so nearly failed to materialise again today, as Samoa did exactly what was expected of them, and came within a whisker of battering their way at close quarters to a third World Cup victory over Wales on the bounce. Yet Wales, with the finishing touch put on an unlikely breakaway try by Shane Williams, managed to hold on to their dream of progressing to the knockout stages once more.

It was not though the same Wales that dominated the World Champions last week, no longer do the men in red fly the European flag, an honour now held aloft by the Irish after they rediscovered their grand slam form from a couple of years back. It was a nervous, edge and unconfident Welsh team who were bullied in the contact area. It cannot be overstressed though that losing Dan Lydiate was huge for Wales. His physicality and work on the floor helped keep Samoa in check early on, when he left, Samoa were given an almost free ride at the breakdown. Andy Powell. The name is almost a question in Wales following his squad selection, and none of his contributions today indicated that his positions in the squad is anything other than a mistake.

In general though, Wales were outplayed for much of the first half, and Samoa were unlucky to have claimed scores on two occasions before the line was finally broken. Fortunately for Wales, brains and the bench played their part. The game plan changed, and the ball saw more trips to the sidelines, both in kicks to touch and passes to the wings, as Wales tried to keep the ball away from the contact zone that so troubled Wales for the majority of the game. The try that secured the win was one that had its share of luck, as Halfpenny broke from surprisingly weak tackles, and Jon Davies escaped with a pass to no one, which somehow ended up in the hands of an eager Shane Williams, who looked hungry throughout.

But where Wales ignored the bench last week, it was used to good effect today. While losing Hook is a concern, Wales immediately had more penetration from deep with Halfpenny. The scrum looked good with Gethin Jenkins making a welcome return, while Lloyd Burns put in what must be his best performance in a Welsh jersey, and unlike Powell, has done a lot to justify his squad selection. Fitness told as well, and certainly the legs that came on for Wales, joined a starting lineup that certainly had more gas than Samoa. Not once did the Samoan team change their tactics, which continued to work, but with increasingly limited success. It was this combination of factors that saw Wales sneak to victory, which overall, they just about deserved.

It is though with some good fortune that Wales face Namibia first before Fiji, who will be knocking lumps out of Samoa in their next encounter. The fall of matches may well have provided the perfect platform for Wales to progress, though that being said, a very similar match up was provided four years ago, much to the detriment of Welsh hopes. Here’s hoping that just as with Samoa, Wales will be able to put to bed their next World Cup hoodoo team, here’s hoping…

The Saddest of Glyn Dwr Days: Gleision Colliery.

Yesterday should have been an opportunity for celebration in Wales. For many years campaigners have attempted to develop a national day, a bank holiday even, to commemorate the rising of Owain Glyn Dwr some 600 years ago. However it might be manifest, Owain Glyn Dwr day should at the very least afford people in Wales an opportunity to celebrate their identity and sense of national identity. However, there was no such effort to celebrate yesterday. Instead Wales came together in unity and support, for the community hit so hard by the mining disaster at Gleision Colliery.

As many commentators noted, the sadness brought about by yesterday’s news, that four miners had died underground, triggered echoes to the many tragedies that Wales has endured through its’ mining history. And it was with this sense of history, the sense that Wales had been here before, that the Welsh community came together. It was refreshing to see so many of the Welsh political elite come to the community centre where the families of the miners had taken refuge, leaving the tensions that so often divide the likes of Carwyn, Hain and Gillan. This was not a chance to score points, but a chance to support, to offer a community what politicians are there for.

Yet it goes far beyond politicians arriving on location, and the community at the heart of the disaster, this was felt across the nation. This may not have been a disaster on the scale of the recent mining disaster in New Zealand, of which so many comparisons have been drawn over the last24 hours , but the loss of any life in such circumstances is a disaster in its own right, numbers make no difference, and the impacts felt by the loss of life in the Swansea valley will be felt across the country. Wales watched as the news came through, and today the nation wakes from an evening of sad reflection.

This was not a day of celebration, but it was a day when Wales came together. Carwyn Jones spoke of Wales’ sense of community, and that was there to be seen with the support that came into the community, and the support that will continue to come to the area over the coming weeks and months. These families will not be forgotten, they will be supported, as Wales has supported the families of those to perish in mining disasters in the country so many times before.

Little more can be said really, other than this was a bitterly sad day for community and nation alike. Wales grieves with the families, and Wales will work hard to support them through this time.

RWC 2011: Week 1.5. Wales lead home nations, with nothing to show for it.

With Georgia doing their best to spook the life out of Scottish fans, all the nations competing in this year’s rugby world cup have now entered the fray and tasted a bit of the action. With the first week and a bit out of the way, all of the home nations are in a position to reflect on their current progress, and most spectators will probably settle for the fact that, by some distance, Wales have looked the best of the bunch. In reality Wales, in their narrow defeat to the Springboks, looked head and shoulders over the other offerings of the northern hemisphere, who have so far either disappointed or embarrassed in their on-field efforts. Whatever happens against Samoa on the weekend, there must be a sense in the Welsh camp that runs a little along the lines of ‘why oh why could we not get one of the other groups?!’

Punishment for poor performances in previous years have left Wales in their unenviable group, yet on current showing, Wales would probably be the only home nation to stand a chance of getting out of it, certainly of having a chance of winning the pool. As Scotland labour past another minnow, as England brush off a shambolic display over Argentina, and as Ireland kneel to the gods and offer thanks for being granted the lightest pool in world cup memory at a time when they have no sense of a world class performance in them, Wales and Welsh fans must be gripped by pangs of pain, knowing full well that they could easily exit the pool stages of this tournament as being the best European nation to compete.

Still, it’s early days, and Wales could yet exit the tournament as having been the worst of the European offerings. For that to happen, Wales would need to buckle under some serious Samoan heat on the weekend. We must hope that that does not happen. Playing tight and through a pack that has shown a degree of steel missing for several seasons, there is no reason why Wales cannot go through the rest of the pool without defeat. Really, with the attacking capabilities of the Welsh backline, each game should still produce a bonus point, but in order to do so, lessons must be learnt.

Wales let South Africa off in two key areas. As the second half moved on, and the South Africans tired, increasing amount of the ball was kicked. A fine strategy usually, but South Africa were weak and tired in the middle and that is where the ball should have been shoved. Samoa will tire in exactly the same position, but punt the ball away for their backs to counter attack with quick line outs, and Wales will lose. In addition, fail to use the bench, and Wales will lose. Gatland’s confidence in the fitness of the first XV is admirable, but the likes of Powell and Halfpenny would have been deadly in the last twenty minutes against a tired South African defence. The failure to use them was an oversight then, and will be again against Samoa. Do everything that we did to South Africa, plus correcting these two areas, and a Welsh win will come, but it must be done, otherwise Samoa will be too good to simply role over as the opposition has done for the other home nations, those other lucky lucky home nations! (And indeed, that is said with seething jealousy!)

S4C: Plaid Find Their Inner Gwynfor.

Finally, after years of being nice and keeping their heads under the parapet, Plaid have decided at their annual conference that they actually have a voice, and some guts behind it as well – at least from a policy point of view. Of course it is yet to be seen how many of the Plaid delegates will actually go through with the proposed boycott of the licence fee in order to protect the current status of S4C, but the mere fact that the proposal has been supported is an indication that Plaid are finding a little of their former strength and conviction.

 

Most with an interest in the future of S4C will be well aware of the threatened hunger strike pitched by prominent Plaid politician Gwynfor Evans in 1980, and the key role it played in the creation of the essential Welsh language channel. While the consensus from Plaid today is not one that goes quite as far as Gwynfor’s plan, it is one that shows a degree of intent not seen from the core party for some time. The key distinction here is that the party membership are actually committing to breaking the law.

 

TV licence payment is a legal requirement, not paying it, or any fines that follow an initial reluctance to pay the licence, can result in imprisonment. Make no mistake about it, Wales’ nationalist party is inciting its membership to break the law, and potentially risk going to jail, and good for them. Again, it waits to be seen how many of those who raised their hands in favour of the motion would actually see through such measures, but one hopes that a statistically significant proportion of members would actually go through with their commitment, to make the sort of difference that Gwynfor did by risking, not his freedom, but his health and his very life in order to achieve his goals for the protection of Wales.

 

For far too long Plaid have been content with gains, small, measureable political gains, a syndrome seen most clearly in the last Assembly election campaign where point scoring became the core of the parties strategy. This move marks a new sense of intent. This is not a move that will appeal to the broadest range of voters in Wales, but a move that will appeal to its core voters, and its historical core intentions, fighting for Wales. We might hope that this is a move that will signal a fresh start to Plaid policies. Remembering where the party comes from, and remembering its core Welsh nationalist goals are essential for the party to grow and reclaim its position as the second party in Wales. Under Ieuan Wyn Jones, the party tasted government, and concentrated on working with what is had, rather than fighting for what it wants. Now as one of the true victories of Plaid’s history, S4C, is under threat, the party now rises to fight for what it might lose. Perhaps this will be the start of the party reclaiming its desire to fight for what it wants once more, though actions still speak louder than words.