Posts Tagged ‘ Wales ’

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.

Evening reading.

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New books in today,an evening of Welsh politics in store.

Wales: Local Elections.

It was all fairly inevitable in the end. You imagine that even if we had enjoyed a record turnout for voters in the local elections, the results would not have differed much from the final tallies revealed yesterday. Labour clawed back a percentage of their previous losses to the Conservatives, and took a good number of seats from other parties who appeared to be caught up in the wake of an anti-Cameron backlash. So how might everyone be feeling after this mini test of the current electorates mood?

For Labour it was all cheers and dancing in the shadow of Nye Bevan as the liberal democrat strongholds in Cardiff buckled and snapped. Carwyn and that visitor from London Peter Hain were there to eat up the accolades, though neither seemed to play any prominent role whatsoever in the campaigning. Ed Miliband was also congratulated for the impact of his leadership, though perhaps the applause came from those harbouring sentiments along the lines of ‘well done for not completely cocking this up for us’. As senior Tory politicians were quick to note, Labour candidates in many locations could easily have rolled up to the hustings wearing nothing but a red leather gag, spanking themselves with kippers in something remiss of XXX Morris Dancers Gone Wild Special Edition DVD (part of me hopes such a thing exists), and still comfortably win.

For Wales, in time of economic crises, voters have this consistency above all other parts of the world. If things look uncertain, vote Labour, if the economy is a bit shaky, vote Labour, if there is a chance of rain tomorrow, best vote Labour just to be safe. Often there is no rationale to be found in these patterns, it’s simply a case of that’s how it’s always been – and little will change that. So, for all the celebrations in Cardiff city centre, there will be little doubt about many newly elected Labour members, that the real work is about to begin, the challenge of getting elected for many will have been no more taxing than getting out of bed.

So what of Plaid Cymru? This was supposed to be the grand recovery no? The return from the abyss. Despite Leanne Wood leading the most positive campaign of them all, Plaid went on to lose some 40 councillors – where then was the great revival? As has previously been explore in EyeOnWales, asking a new leader to turn a party around in a month is a ludicrous challenge. An indictment on the leadership of Wood? Gibbering nonsense. Plaid was always going to suffer in light of a Labour revival, coupled with the legacy of Ieuan Wyn Jones. Had he of stood aside several months earlier, who knows how Leanne Wood might have shaped the party by now, it’s impossible to say. As much as anything can be concluded, the rotting corpse of Wyn Jones’ leadership can now be finally shovelled out the door, and the work of rebuilding Plaid can officially being.

As for the Tories and the Liberal Democrats in Wales, plenty of losses to choose from, though Rodney Berman’s exit from the Welsh political stage was both the most amusing and welcome development of the night (though how the disastrously inept and self aggrandising figure of Neil McEvoy survived will be a mystery for the ages). Again, no surprises, but really, with the party leaders in general absence, the losses should really have been much greater. Where on earth where Andrew R T Davies and Kirsty Williams? The respective Tory and Lib Dem leaders seemed to almost entirely vanish from the main stage when campaigning got underway. One can only presume that the pair had long since concluded that a series of humiliating losses across the country was inevitable, and that the only appropriate course of action would be to hide out together in one of the Senedd’s basement bathrooms, playing canasta, hoping that by the time they finished, it will all be over and that nobody will have noticed that they weren’t there. What should really worry both is that no, nobody did notice their absence, something which surely cannot bode well for a few years time.

So there we are, the big four in Wales covered, and only one of them is smiling. Yes even their smiles will only have been flown in for the day, before the forced grins would be put back in their packaging, to be saved for a day when those who won their seats might be able to say, ‘we earnt this’, as opposed to saying ‘the Tories are crap…that helped’.

 

Monarchs in Cardiff – Twitterverse Responds.

So, we understand the English monarchy were in town today. Apart from some unnecessary traffic congestion, we didn’t really notice the difference. However, there was an interesting and at times amusing set of twitterings on the subject, some welcoming them, some very much not welcoming them, and a handful of views that were somewhere in between. Frankly, we were a little disappointed by the range of comments, nothing overly incendiary at all in the end, still, the range of comments provide an interesting cross section of views on the visit.

 

Those not so happy said:

bethanjenkins@bethanjenkins

I choose to air my republicanism. I reserve my RIGHT to not go and bow before queen, born to a position of power, who has never been elected.

David Raybould@daveraybould

Going to try to be positive today. Promote the benefits of visiting German royalty.

Simon Coopey@SimonCoopey

Wales has a ‘queen’? I don’t remember voting for one. #gweriniaeth

Al Iguana@aliguana

I know, let’s take a leaf from North Korea’s book and give every child a Union Jack, then get them to line up and wave them at Liz. Oh wait.

Fartpants@halfienoakes

I notice the queen not coming to North Wales on her tour…good #stayinEngland

 

 Those who were in the middle, or just not aware said:

Elizabeth Windsor@Queen_UK

Stand by Wales. Your Queen is coming for you.

Dean Burnett@garwboy

Cardiff Bay is crawling with Police today. Apparently because the Queen is coming. I don’t get how someone this dangerous is head of state

Samantha Bull@raccoonteeth

Why is the queen in Cardiff? I keep seeing tweets about it

Kez@Goleudy

Is it bad that I’m totally unfussed about the Queen visiting Wales? I was more excited when I got a Care Bear back in 1987.

 

 And those who rolled out the red carpet suggested:

suzy davies@suzydavies

Very much looking forward to lunch with Her Majesty later!#diamondjubilee

Daran Hill@DaranHill

A very warm welcome to HM The Queen to Cardiff today. A hero we can all believe in #diamondjubilee

Alex Powell@Alex_D_Powell

Fantastic to see so much support for the monarch in Wales!! Queen starts Wales tour at Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff http://bbc.in/Ideqah

SorryI’llGetMyCoat@woweegoodstuff

Despite what Republican Leanne Wood and barmy #Plaid Cymru would like us to think we always welcome the Queen to Wales.

Poor Sales for Olympic Football…Go Figure.

It would appear that Olympic bods are a little concerned about the state of ticket sales for their under 23 knock about football tournament. The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, better known for hosting 70,000+ fans cheering on fifteen gents in red, currently looks set to welcome around a mere 15,000 people to watch the so called ‘TeamGB’ join other youth teams from around the world in a contest for the 7th most significant tournament in world football. Why then is this leg of the Olympics, part of what is usually sold as the greatest show on earth, failing to whip up the sort of fervour that competitive sporting fixtures usually invite when hosted in Cardiff city centre?

From a Welsh perspective, attention would well be drawn to the most recent press conference regarding the forthcoming tournament. Plenty has been written over the lack of a Welsh FA endorsement for the TeamGB concept, and there is little point wading through all of that once more. But if anyone wanted an insight as to why Welsh fans are not flocking to snap up their taste of the Olympics, look no further at the figures who made up the press conference panel. At one end, we have the manager of the England Women’s team, Hope Powell, next to her, occasional England Men’s team manager and former England international Stuart Pearce, and then over to the other side could be found Clive Woodward, former England rugby international and manager of the winning English Rugby World Cup squad. So, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, these are the figures spearheading your campaign, do you feel the pride in your English, English, English, oh so very English management team, well, do you? Not even an attempt of tokenism towards the non English elements of this TeamGB farce, a sentiment not helped by manager Pearce asserting that he would have no qualms selecting an all English first XI (though he stressed the same for an all Welsh XI, though that would require having enough of said nationality to put out that many players…we will wait and see on that one).

TeamGB was a pandering to England’s love of their beautiful game, and in it the authorities in London saw a chance to soften up those noisy ‘regions’ of Britain who felt they were being shafted financially in order to give London yet another advertising boost in front of the world for a few weeks. Well London, we are not buying the trade off, and we are not buying the tickets.

Couple that with the fact that the whole concept of football being played out in the Olympics is a farce in itself – remember everyone, if it’s in the Olympics, then the Olympics has to be the pinnacle of that sport’s ambition. Well, I don’t see the football World Cup being downgraded, so Cardiff and Hamden get the pleasure of hosting a second rate tournament which should not even be in the Olympics, which barely represents them, as part of a pat on the head for not making too much noise about being sold out so that the English capital can enjoy another day in the sun. Thanks London Olympic Committee, but no thanks.

TeamGB football has been a misguided concept from day 1, while dropping some events outside of London (hello London Olympic Committee, you do realise that you are shipping off parts of the Olympics to a different country yes? Was that in the French plan, to give Belgium some long distance track events?) is a nonsense. Wales will not be sold on the idea, and Wales will not be sold out for some colourful rings. Sadly, we don’t seem to have much choice about it, apart from not turning up to see any of the meaningless matches, and that, for us, will be exactly what we will do.

Oh, and when you do drop into Cardiff London Olympic Games, clean up after yourselves, London is a filthy little place – don’t treat Cardiff as if it was one of suburbs…which of course, is exactly what you are doing.

Welsh Regional Rugby: The Legends Leave

As weekends go in the RaboDirect Pro 12, this was a fairly good one for the Welsh regions. Yes the Scarlets’ unlucky draw at home to Munster put pay to their play-off hopes, but one draw and two wins (someone had to lose in the Ospreys – Dragons Welsh derby) is an above average set of results. However, as seasons ago, there has been little to shout about, with average displays overall in Europe, and only the Ospreys left to fight for the league title. With the passing of the regional season and its collective disappointments, comes a changing of the guard. Well, perhaps an exodus of the guard is a more apt description given the lack of a new guard coming into replaced the old one. Whatever description fits best, it is certainly the end of a playing era for many favoured faces from the Welsh regional scene.

Plenty of star talent is on its way out, the likes of Gethin Jenkins will be missed, but you would not bet against his return to Wales in a couple of seasons time, while the scything runs of Tommy Bowe will certainly be missed on the Ospreys wing. Beyond the stars, there are the plucky figures who found their moments to push beyond their ability. Deiniol Jones was one to punch well above his weight, while Ritchie Rees was one to fight his way to a brief ownership of the Wales No 9 shirt. Special mention should go to the hair styling’s of Maama Molitika, the likes of which will not be seen in Cardiff colours again anytime soon. That’s five mentioned, the list of those leaving Welsh rugby is much longer.

There are three figures in particular who are deserving of special mention though, as the weekends fixtures saw the curtain drawn on the Welsh playing days of three of the modern day greats, Stephen Jones, Martyn Williams and Shane Williams. Two move into retirement, one to pastures new (we imagine Stephen Jones will never actually retire – don’t bet against his boots being laced in 2015), all three have played their part in the resurrection of Welsh international rugby, all three played their roles in two Grand Slams, the first one delivered to a nation that never dared to dream that they would see such a feat again.

For Stephen Jones, the record cap holder for Wales, it will probably be his searing second half break against France that will live longest in the memory. From his own 22, Jones tore open the French defence with the sort of incisive run that so many of his critics loved to suggest he couldn’t do, yet so often did. However, in a scramble to find some classic clips, this wonderful face off between Jones and O’Gara surfaced. At EyeOnWales, we’ve always hated O’Gara and made no secret of it – and enjoying Jones giving him what-for is almost, almost as enjoyable as the Grand Slam break.

For Martyn Williams, it was probably the return out of retirement that was most memorable. The master on the floor of any rugby field, such was his importance to the Welsh cause that successive Welsh coaches would go to him cap in hand, pleading for the Ponty product to pull on the red shirt one more time. In 2008, Williams sealed the second Welsh slam with a wonder break, tip toeing through a battered French defence, but perhaps this highly unlikely clip shows off a touch of his versatility – how long until Warburton attempts one of these? (It’s not pretty, but it’s a bit of a classic.)

Then there was Shane, the little big man who made the Welsh left wing his very own. Try scoring records were made to be broken by this man. Probably the biggest hero of them all for this generation, Shane Williams highlighted once more that rugby was a game for players of any size, and we can only hope that he is indeed not the last of his kind. If he is though, those who saw him play will remember his ability and efforts with the same fondness as any effort by Gerald or JJ. There are probably too many tries to chose from really, but this one, probably not his best, but one that highlights his ability to baffle a defence – how many South Africans did he beat there, three, four, five…great stuff, a try the likes of which only man in world rugby could score.

Three legends who lit up the game, three who will long be remembered, and will be sorely missed in Welsh club colours.

Cardiff Blues – The Downward Spiral

There were some desperate sweaty palms on display in Cardiff Blues corners this week, as yet another star looked set to part ways with the crises club. The fear element for the Cardiff Blues though must be that now one of their young guns, Grand Slam winner Alex Cuthbert, looks to have packed his bag. Previously it was a case of the aging foreigners and light weight Welsh journeyman quota who seemed to be lining up to walk out of the city centre, but now the future of the Blues seems to be following the present away from the club as well.

 For Welsh rugby fans, the loss of the likes of Dan Parks, Ritchie Rees and Rhys Thomas will see few tears shed, and while Lauala is no doubt a star, he is a foreign star blocking a starting spot for a Welsh player, another departure which in itself is not an entirely bad thing. Sounds coming out of the Blues management should also have given reason to be reassured, after all, a commitment from the club to follow a ‘home grown’ path, similar to that develop by the Scarlets, should be welcomed. However, no sooner had the Blues announced such intentions, they did what they have done so well over recent years, flown in some very average foreigners.

 Campese Ma’afu, the Fijian forward to have the briefest of international careers, and star of the English second tier Robin Copeland were the names announced last week as replacements for Lions and All Black internationals… Now, the Blues as with all Welsh teams don’t really have the money to be bringing in the southern hemisphere superstars, however, in Ma’afu and Copeland, the Blues have ‘invested’ in two non Welsh qualified players, who have never shown the star capabilities to inspire young Welsh talent at the club to go on to be anything more than mediocre.

 For Alex Cuthbert, no one in Wales would blame him for leaving. This is in part an issue of money, but far from entirely. We know Cuthbert was offered a substantial figure by a Blues management desperate to appear to be doing their bit to ‘save’ Welsh talent, but for all the money put in front of him, surely Cuthbert can see that this is a club that has, in a very definitive fashion, set its stall out to be an average side, and no more. The recent on field capitulations have shown this all too clearly. Say what you will of the future, last week the Blues were fighting for a shot at a European title and a place in the Pro12 play-offs in the present…they surrendered both opportunities in such a manner that you’d be justified in asking why they turned up in the first place.

 Balancing the books is one thing, but curbing ambition is quite another. If the Blues commit to the current policy of bolstering a depleted squad with the rejects of the lower divisions of English rugby, the concept of ‘holding on’ to their Welsh stars will rapidly become irrelevant, as the Welsh stars won’t be bother bring to be held on to in the first place.

Wales v France: Grand Slam Day in Photos.

An amazing day was had in Cardiff yesterday as Wales brought home a third triple crown in a generation, but what really marked the occasion was the wonderful atmosphere coming from the fans, as Welsh and French alike enjoyed the day together in the best possible spirits.

The Bretons were in full force.

Flags for sale.

Bands paraded the high street.

While bin men and bands joined in musical harmony.

The game builds up.

Injured, but not for long.

Wales on the attack.

Celebration!

The French and the stewards.

Flag flown with pride.

Welsh and French on the streets.

A late night comes to its conclusion.

 

 

 

 

Wales beat Italy, Crowds Call for More.

Time is a funny thing, with it the views and expectations of a nation can rise and fall, to the extent of becoming unrecognisable from one year to the next. Yesterday in Cardiff, Wales won for the fourth successive time, and find themselves on the precipice of a championship and elusive Grand Slam, yet the Cardiff crowd walked away from yesterdays entertainment with a shrug of the shoulders and a despondent sigh – where once a Welsh crowd would craw greedily at the coat tails of any form of triumph, now the most comfortable of victories can barely turn a smile.

Wales and Italy lineup.

Does this stem from heightened levels of expectation? Is the Welsh fan becoming akin to the New Zealander, expectant of only the highest quality of wins, where nothing less will suffice? It’s hard to say, but certainly the atmosphere following the game was a mixture of begrudging satisfaction and (somewhat perplexingly) relief – no singing in the trains back home following this fixture (as accompanied return journeys out of Cardiff following the Triple Crown game).

And yet – where does the despondency come from? There are a number of schools of thought which could pass over this game, but let’s take the more obvious whinging option out of the equation early on – the referring of George Clancy. We should not dwell too long here, because interpretation of refereeing performances are usually far too subjective affairs, yet even the most one eyed critique could see that Clancy came to Cardiff with the sole intention of killing the game, for both Wales and Italy. If home fans were frustrated with the level of Welsh play, much of their ire can be directed towards the man in the middle, for whom the notion of an open flowing game, if something he must have heard of, but dismissed as some form of myth.

If Welsh fans were unhappy with the win, spare a thought for those backing the losing side.

Refereeing excuses aside, there are two ways of looking at things, and let’s get the negative out of the way first – Wales failed to put Italy to the sword, and disappointment steps from this pre-game expectation. Hard to argue with – everyone in Wales seemed ready to demolish Italy by 30-40 points and never be phased by the game. Yet, should we be critical of Wales for this, or positive about Italy? Certainly Italian defensive efforts were beyond committed, and the number of last ditch defences from quality Welsh line breaks was impressive. Last week England were hailed for stopping Wales, this week no word of encouragement for Italy’s endeavours – a touch of post match hypocrisy from some corners perhaps.

Wales attack once again - with below par results.

Yet what of the positives – were there any? Well, while Italy came to Cardiff to defend, they did not come to Cardiff to win. The Italians locked the game down well, but never was the intent on display to do anything other than contain Wales – the result from a Welsh perspective was never once threatened. On top of that assertion, perhaps it’s worth noting that for the second game running the Welsh try line held firm – a home win that was never in danger, and a suffocating defensive effort, can we really complain?

The Italian team head for home, knowing they defended well, while having no intention of trying to win.

Okay, the Welsh performance was a long way from World Class, and of course, a step up will (probably) be required for France in a week’s time (though on current form, the French need to find a gear or two as well). But for all the negativity that can be found in the game, perhaps Welsh fans should sit back and think of the bigger picture. It is a rare thing that any defence can hold out over multiple games – for this championship, only Wales can make such claims so far. It is even rarer that a team will win four games in a row. For all the disappointments from Cardiff, Wales still won, their line was never broken, and their victory was never in doubt – we might want more in Wales, but perhaps we might take some time to enjoy and be grateful for the success that we do have, rather than brace ourselves for possible, even hypothetical disappointments to come.

‘Gogwatch’ and the execution of the Welsh language.

We were introduced this week to the political musings of Gogwatch, an online community who present themselves as having ‘been set up by a group of people who care passionately about Wales and the Welsh people’. Yet, they qualify their intentions by making clear that they ‘are opposed to how the Welsh language is being forced upon our nation as a matter of principle’. Now, in such stated notions there is nothing inherently wrong you might think; free speech and all that. If you are concerned about the impacts of the forced application of the learning of the Welsh language then you would be standing by your beliefs by speaking out against it yes? Yet when working through the pages of this so called ‘voice of the silent majority’, there appears to be something far more sinister at work.

A selection of titles of Gogwatch blog entries offers a clear indication towards the intent of these people. ‘I come from Pembrokeshire – the Welsh language doesn’t belong here’, ‘Quest for “Welshness” is ruining our children’s education’, ‘Welsh education policy is serving nationalism ― not our children’, ‘Don’t speak Welsh? That’s OK, we might discriminate against you!’, and of course, ‘Dying for the Welsh language?’. The last title is particularly revealing, as Gogwatch attempt to paint a picture, where an emphasis on the support of the Welsh language, is the direct cause of cancer related deaths in Wales! These are pages of fear, constructive scare mongering that would make cold war propaganda experts particularly proud.

While the gibbering anger on display is a source of both concern and amusement, it is the volume of traffic that this savage little entry to the Welsh political blogosphere that should be particularly concerning. While the comments sections of the majority of blog entries include a balance of views and opinions, it is clear that the moderators are siphoning out the more vocal responses that oppose the words of the so called ‘silent majority’…interesting how a group can complain about not being heard, while clearly looking to control the voice of those they claim to control them. Put simply, Gogwatch is not a forum for debate, it is a table upon which sits a royal crest, a rose of England, and a white flag of surrender, with serried ranks of the eager to pleasers, longing to suckle from the white elephant of English language, English culture and English control.

Make no mistake about it Wales, Gogwatch is no friend of the Welsh language – they claim to be a friend of Wales and the Welsh people, yet their intentions are transparent to the extreme. Gogwatch is a friend of the Wales that is no longer Welsh. That is not to say that you must speak Welsh to be Welsh, but a Wales without the Welsh language will no longer be Wales, put simply, it would be England. That is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with England, but it is culturally distinct and unique from Wales, and the language plays an essential defining role in that distinction. A Wales without Welsh may as well abandon its rugby team, close down the Senedd (which of course Gogwatch would love to do), pull down the flag of the red dragon, place it in a box, then burnt and cast into the Celtic Sea, hoping that the charred remains might wash up upon the shores of Ireland, where someone across the water might recall their once having been a nation known as Wales.

Gogwatch has a single clear unstated goal – the execution of the Wales language. There is nothing balanced about their commentary, nothing inclusive about their community and no intention bar one, to march the Welsh language into a chamber at night when none are looking, and flood it with the toxic gas of the English word, hoping once and for all to finish the job of generations of invaders and traitors to the notion of Wales, the final solution to the problem of the Welsh language, its total and complete extermination.