A BANK HOLIDAY STROLL THROUGH TOWN - Parked in the Kingsway Centre and walked through a mostly shut and deserted Shopping Mall to Wiilkinsons. Spoke to an E-on sales person before buying a pitch fork, small candles and shower gel. Walked back to the car just glimpsing one Talk Talk sales rep lobbing a sweet accurately across the forecourt to his mate, like feeding time in the dolphin enclosure. Dropped the shopping off in the car before heading out of Kingsway opposite Park Square car park, along Commercial Street, past the empty shops, charity shops and money lenders. Barons Corner is now some form of cash a cheque place. In to Deichmann, surveying and eventually buying shoes. A bitter day with bitter winds. Out of there and past a clutch of well patronised coffee shops and a thinly populated Greggs. Monsoon set to close on April 30, In to a bleak BHS that has always been bleak, nothing to do with the austere times. After declining a Big Issue a coffee in the new Costa, a customer said the sign says 'toilets' when there's only one. A tray of tea fell over breaking a cup and an assistant cleared it up, replacing it with another. The floor in the cafe, the carpet, was covered in crumbs inevitably. Not good. Then away past the Newport's Open for Business signs, back to the car.
Driving Along Queensway beside the market bus station and Admiral office development, both under construction, hopefully a sign of brighter times, please. Then to pick up my daughter. To the unflattering, badly designed, futuristic railway station with drop off area littered with beer bottles and KFC cartons from the Easter weekend, a procession of cars picking up and dropping shoppers going to Cardiff.
FT VIEW OF DA PORT - "Welsh speakers became a minority in the Victorian era, as English economic migrants flooded into the town, many of them from the rural Midlands. Later, some of them banded together in the St George Society of Newport to assert that the town was really part of England. These days Newport feels definitively Welsh, but with the cheeky street swagger of post-industrial South Wales rather than the sometimes rather earnest Welsh-speaking accents of the rural and coastal west.
Hip-hop, a music often used for asserting aggressive black masculinity, has been seized on by white working class Newportonians as a medium for self-parody, for example by Goldie Lookin’ Chain, a comedy rap crew clad in cheap chain store sportswear. Repetition of their choicer lyrics is precluded by the FT’s rules against gratuitous obscenity.
Mulling over Newport’s industrial heritage, Tracey Lee, managing director of Newport City Council, says: “This is a gritty city with a fantastic sense of humour. People are very proud of where it has come from.”
"Newport faces one unfortunate problem in attracting investors – its name. There are at least a dozen other Newports in the UK, and more than two dozen Newports in the US.
So Newport in South Wales needs to work harder than most to differentiate itself, not only from its closest rivals, Cardiff and Bristol, but from the host of other Newports dotted around the world. Although the economic recession has slowed the pace of growth and regeneration, the critical success factors that have established Newport as one of the prime investment locations for business in Wales remain in place.
Experian Business Strategies, in a 2007 report, ranked Newport seventh in terms of predicted output growth of UK towns and cities up to 2020."
CITY SOUL - TJ's in the SQUARE "It was an outstanding success. Four thousand people filled the square over the course of the day. Newport is a special city. The hunger for, and love of, live music here goes beyond the standoff-ish 'passion' in the bigger British cities.
Great credit has to go to those organisers - Andy Barding and Emma Corten - because, although they'll modestly defer any credit onto the shoulders of the artists, the stage hands and the engineers who turned their idea into such an amazing, memorable and fitting tribute for their friend and inspiration, it was their idea.
Credit also has to go to the authorities in Newport for allowing it to happen. All too frequently, city councils forget about the kudos and good reputation brought to their city by its noisy folk. This would never happen in the city I live in. Here, the council prefer to decorate the streets with bicycles made out of flowers. Give me Newport's soul over that aesthetic poncery any day of the week." Adam Walton BBC
GLC RESPOND TO SPOOF VIDEO - the authentic voice of the 'Port. Even Paul Flynn says "Hard to be objective about a hip-hop song that has the line 'Big up to Paul Flynn, not the Welsh Assembly.' My critical faculties are disarmed. Goldie Lookin Chain have amassed 53,000 hits on the video that was posted on YouTube yesterday. This is a spoof on a spoof. The first spoof has had two and a half million hits. Both have provoked a robust gritty eruption of Newport nationalism and, no doubt Cardiff-based, antagonism. The GLC's simple tune has got through to me and the self-mocking humour is infectious. It even mentions the next major city pride of the Ryder Cup. 2010 is shaping up to be a fascinating year for the 'Port.
RAPPER CLASH - near Newport City Footbridge, hmmm! Listen yer. Newport dialect downtown.
GERMANY - I was driving back from Wolverhampton this afternoon aiming to get home in time for the match but had to turn the radio off in disgust at the appalling attitude to Germany's football team. Along with a number of less than astute commentators Allan Green described the German team as 'very poor'. The radio went off until the start of the game. Two hours later Germany had hammered a deflated England 4-1.
BLAENAVON WORLD HERITAGE DAY - Not in Newport either but a true celebration of a valleys community. There for the whole day on Saturday, a steaming day but a wonderful carnival spirit. The parade was a little threadbare but there was band music, and choral and street song performances. Our carnivals are different, far bigger, multi-cultural, urban in character but this was a throw back to something warmer in tone, a little archaic but touchingly traditional. (For a Newport multi-cultural carnival see our film of the 2009 Maindee Festival here).
RUGBY SHAMBLES - The case of Richard Dale underlines the malaise at the centre of Newport rugby or rather Rodney Parade Limited. Newport RFC itself is now basically a stooge of Paul Turner, Bob Beale and all the valley herberts now running rugby out of Rodney Parade. Newport's well intentioned, work from the inside brigade who have gained ground since the inception of the regional set up are now extremely damaged. There is no prospect of Newport RFC returning to the top of Welsh rugby, forget the shares, the Newport identity has been fatally subjugated by a host of small and parochial Gwenters who ultimately have no respect for it. Soon we will have a stadium redevelopment, how will the Newport identity be represented in that? Does anyone care? At least the Corpa Road terrace is painted black and amber. Don't expect to see Newport or our city represented in any emphatic way in the new development. Subtle and understated is the best we can expect. After all, it is only our stadium, our City and its mostly Newportonians who are financially supporting this pathetic shambles.
LIB DEM VOTERS - Are Lib Dem voters now being duped as they were in Newport. Our Lib Dem councillors wasted no time getting in to bed with the Tories, and have proceeded to wreak the havoc on local authority services. Now Lib Dem voters in the General Election have to stand and watch as Nick Clegg proceeds to deal with the Conservatives, the anti-progressive force in UK politics. Will the pursuit of power rather than political reform be more attractive to the Lib Dems? If the result is a Conservative Government underpinned by Clegg and Co. some of those progressive Lib Dem voters will never forgive them.
TURKEYS VOTING FOR AN EARLY CHRISTMAS - The polls are moving inexorably in the Tories favour. They may get a small majority from their 34-38% of the vote next Thursday. It is a long way short of the mega majority they were seeking but it could be enough to get the Tories in particularly if the Lib Dems lap up the progressive vote from Labour. David Cameron, who has never run anything of consequence and who has got every major economic decision wrong over the last couple of years, will be entrusted with running the nation's economy. Whether or not this is with Lib Dem support remains to be seen. In Newport we have seen this partnership in action, closing a leisure centre, asset stripping, putting up service charges for the needy and threatening the run down of other services. The Lib Dems have said one thing in the election and have done quite another in practice when they have been blessed with power. Labour has fought a mind numbingly inept campaign in the face of the gloss offered by Clegg and Cameron. The leadership debates have become the focus of the campaign, everything else has been largely irrelevant and as a consequence Labour has failed so far to make an impact. Their only hope lies in getting their core vote out in the dying days of the campaign - it may even save their bacon in the two Newport seats.
One note of caution for the victor, putting aside the blandishments of an appalling campaign - The Governor of the Bank of England has warned that the spending cuts and tax rises after the election will be so severe that the party which implements them will be thrown out of power for a generation.
WASTING PUBLIC MONEY? - Three stories about the Welsh language.
When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed. Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated". So that was what went up under the English version which barred lorries from a road near a supermarket. This has happened before - Cyclists between Cardiff and Penarth in 2006 were left confused by a bilingual road sign telling them they had problems with an "inflamed bladder". In the same year, a sign for pedestrians in Cardiff reading 'Look Right' in English read 'Look Left' in Welsh.
Are you ok with this spending on our behalf? If so, yes, ok, fine.
M4 NOT A MOTORWAY - Paul Murphy is right. The M4 is no longer a proper motorway. In the Newport area we have had a 50 mph restriction for months now. On Friday night I headed from J24 to J25 at 50 mph along the inside of the motorway while bizarrely lanes 2 and 3 crawled along at 10 mph towards the Brynglas Tunnels. Motorists were implored not to suddenly change lanes in English and Welsh but this was not a safe journey and I expected at any moment a motorist in the outside lanes to move across.
NUMBER 9 BUS - A bus running from Admiral Langstone to the City Centre was always a pretty bizarre idea, particularly at the expense of a less frequent service for Ringland residents. And so it has proved. The bus runs virtually empty every day and does not pick up passenger numbers of any significance until reaches Chepstow Road in the City.
CHANDLERY RESTAURANT - Simon and Jane Newcombe made a fantastic success of the Chandlery restaurant. Good food at affordable prices was very apt. But it seems the new owners may be risking a move away from this formula. Prices have increased markedly, the fixed price lunch has increased from by £2 for two courses and £3 for three courses and the evening grill menu has disappeared altogether. Main courses from the a la carte menu come in at £25. My message to the new owners is do not kill the goose that laid the golden egg!
REVENGE OF THE ANGLO-WELSH? - We are ground down by the daily proliferation of a language very few speak or understand in Newport. In the Post Office the announcement telling you an assistant is only available in Welsh (it seems). At the railway station the initial announcement is in Welsh and often there is not sufficient time for the English version before the train leaves. In certain retailers we also have to put up with Welsh first. The 1993 Welsh Language Act put Welsh on an equal footing 'in the course of public business and the administration of justice, so far as is reasonably practicable, the Welsh and English languages are to be treated on the basis of equality.' The 2001 census put the number of persons speaking Welsh at 21 per cent. According to the 2001 census just 9 per cent of people in Newport understand Welsh, largely those who have been taught it as a mandatory subject at school. Why are we having this language forced upon us in such an unreasonable way?
Only 81 per cent of Newportonians were born in Wales anyway. We have a strong culture of our own which is distinctive and unique, born of an identity with a significant English input as well as from around the world. Slated for being too English by the Welsh, with a red rose on our rugby club's motif, a football team that fought tooth and nail to stay in the English Football League, an accent which has as much Bristol as South Wales valleys in it, we ought to be proud of our border mentality. This means we are not carried away by the tides of nationalism, it should give us a tolerant, practical outlook particularly as so many of us are from Anglo-Welsh families, where issues of language have no impact whatsoever as the daily discourse is in English, a language we can all understand.
John Briggs excellent recent photographic record of our city 'Newportrait' illustrates this well, with significant symbolism of Englishness alongside the increasing prevalence of the Welsh identity, flags, dragons et al. So, yes Newport is changing, if anything the atmosphere is tending towards the petty, nationalistic, politically correct view of life here. But the Anglo-Welsh are still predominant and one day we will wake up to the uniqueness of our identity, culture and language. Perhaps one day also we will even have our main language,English, first before Welsh on public announcements!
MOTORHEAD AND THE SCADDINGS - Rip roaring review of their Newport Concert on stereoboard website. And Gig website states "Welsh EuroMillions winners Les and Samantha Scadding are hoping to buy Robert Plant's £2.25million mansion. The couple who scooped a whopping £45,570,835.50 confirmed in a press conference that they had made an offer for the Led Zeppelin legend's sprawling home in Penallt, Wales. A 'friend' told Wales Online: “Les is a real hard rock fan but until now he’s never dreamed of living that lifestyle. But he was delighted to find Robert Plant’s country pile is up for sale and he could buy it 20 times over.” Robert Plant lived in the seven-bedroomed home for four years and has recently put it up for sale.Rock fans the Scaddings are also reported to have celebrated their EuroMillions win with Lemmy from Motorhead who was staying in the same five-star Newport hotel (the Celtic Manor) as the couple".
LEICESTER RUGBY - beat South Africa. Should have watched our Drags beating Sale in the LDV challenge but was captivated by the endeavour of a Leicester side slugging it out with the World Champion Springboks in front of 24,000. Newport had this once but have lost it forever now. A club side toe to toe with an international side. The Tigers, the English Champions, shorn of as much talent as the Springboks displayed the sort of yeoman, obdurate spirit typical of their approach to rugby. This is a very good South African side. It will be a night and a game that will live forever in the memory of Leicester fans. A truly fantastic achievement.
"Thinking about it now, I owe my career to Liam Maher, the frontman of Flowered Up who died yesterday. Back in 1990 I was just another a teenager in thrall of the music press itching to leave my hometown of Newport. There were no clubs in South Wales playing acid house or its low-slung rock'n'roll counterpart, "baggy" (not yet a term of derision). Flowered Up were part of that new breed. They had graced the cover of the Melody Maker before releasing a note. They embraced a club culture that seemed utterly vital from my voyeuristic standpoint on the wrong side of the Severn Bridge. I put a call in to Flowered Up's record label – Heavenly Recordings – and asked whether I could book them to play "the legendary TJ's". I had never promoted a gig before – I didn't even know what a rider was. With a float that I'd cobbled together doing summertime odd jobs, I set about learning.
On the night, we shoehorned 400 people into a 180-capacity venue. The band made a sound that seemed to strip the paint from the ceilings. They were gloriously unhinged, as only five council estate kids with seven songs to their name and every A&R man in town on their tail could be. Liam was the singer, and the main reason they stood out from a hundred other post-Happy Mondays also-rans. With his butter-wouldn't-melt face, Liam had A-Bomb energy on stage – Shaun, Bez and the Artful Dodger rolled into one. Over a decade before the Libertines, he was "street" London elevated to Top of the Pops and the cover of the NME. And, like the Libertines, his band would be broadsided by drug abuse." - The Guardian, 21 October 2009
DETECTIVE WORK - Looks like retailer coming to the ex-Woolies store in Kingsway is going to be a combination of Au Naturale Homeware and Ethel Austin! Does not set the pulses racing exactly but at least there are signs of life there. The new car park and cafe are excellent facilities, personally I do not want to be greeted by the Teletubbies on entering the Mall and I could do without the spiv stands selling handbags, chavtastic mobile phone covers and offering to buy your gold off you.
MOST POINTLESS TRAFFIC LIGHTS - the most pointless traffic lights in Newport near South Wales Motor Factors and Masala Bazaar on Granville Street have been covered up!
WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, CITY CENTRE - Two young women walk among the Classics section in M&S say 'this is crap' and walk out again. Still no sign of Per Una coming to Newport. In the Cambrian Car Park Level 2 a man seated cross-logged by the ticket payment machine smoking and begging each driver paying for their ticket for some cash. Totally stoned and a nuisance particularly to single women.
CORPORATION ROAD GARDEN TIPS - Is it ok just to dump the contents of your home at the front of your house? Walking from Maindee to Rodney Parade today (29/8/09) I could not help noticing what an eyesore some of the properties near to the rugby ground are. Some have household or building rubbish chucked at the front spilling on to the highway. Not good particularly if you are visiting Newport to attend a sporting event. That is aside from rubbish everywhere and overturned bins.
SCHOOL UNIFORM RIP OFF? - Shop in Cwmbran selling specific school jumper for size 13 - £15.50. Same jumper in Trutex / National Schoolwear in Cambrian Road, Newport - £12.50. Is this blatant profiteering?
SECOND TIER TOWNS - From Saturday's 'Guardian' newspaper - "Nationally, an eighth of all high street shops are empty and unlet, twice as many as last year, with many towns seeing a slow, cancerous hollowing out of their streets that is as bad as here, or worse. Morecambe, Ramsgate, Margate and Holyhead are also running at more than one-third vacancy rates. According to research released by the analysts Experian, in Gateshead, astonishingly, that figure is 59%. It will get worse before it gets better, says the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which this week published a report into the issue, with a forecast national figure of 15% vacancy by the end of the year – every seventh shop closed. "It's plainly a very serious situation," says Tom Ironside, the BRC's head of high street policy. "There is variation across the country, but the national figure disguises some towns which are having an extremely difficult time." Tim Danaher, editor of Retail Week, is even more blunt. "It's really bad at the moment for a lot of 'second tier' towns, a rung down from the big regional shopping hubs. And the problem is, once the decline starts it's very hard to arrest it." This is the challenge facing Newport. It ought to be a 'regional shopping hub' but it most respects it fails to deliver. Experian ranked Newport third for the amount of vacant retail floor space. It found 36 per cent of its floor space is vacant.
RED DRAGON RADIO - "I'm temping in an office this week and the radio is set to the local commercial station and its really starting to wind me up and its only Tuesday. Seems like it’s the same playlist on repeat every hour." Read this, made me think. Ever listened to Red Dragon Radio, Kings of Leon every hour, perhaps some Katy Perry. Yes, the same old playlists, the same old banal chatter (from Cardiff Bay). What is this radio station for?
SPEEDWAY GRAND PRIX - Another Millennium Stadium Speedway Grand Prix thunders by. Razzmatazz, ear splitting noise and...crap racing. It was a good, smooth track but there was no racing to speak of with only two or three passing manoeuvres in twenty three heats. It will hardly encourage the neutral to return to watch the speedway racing. They may still be impressed with the histrionics that surround it.
COCAINE USE - Newport Kaleidoscope, the UK renowned drugs charity, are quoted in the Western Mail as saying in addition to the 20,000 plus heroin users in south Wales, we have approximately 60,000 cocaine users. On a pro rata basis that means there are approx. 2,000 heroin addicts and nearly 6,000 cocaine users in Newport. Apparently, the market for the drug continues to grow because dealers have introduced it to heroin users and it has a kudos or glamour not associated with other substances. I was interested to read (on cocaine-effects.com) that more so than with other drugs addicts are said to "chase the high"; meaning they continue to use cocaine seeking the feeling they felt the first time they used it. Apparently, For people addicted to cocaine and cocaine effects, this high will never again be felt in the same way, and the addiction "can lead to insanity and death". Deaths related to cocaine effects are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures and respiratory failure. * Some of the short-term cocaine effects first time users experience include increased energy, decreased appetite, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. The long term effects are devastating. It is addictive properties vary therefore making treatment difficult - Apparently, brain scans have revealed a possible biological basis for cocaine addiction which may explain why some get hooked, while others can use the drug socially. The scans show cocaine alters parts of the brain controlling behaviour and appropriate decision-making. In effect, the drug messes with willpower - with some maybe more vulnerable than others.
NEWPORT DESERVES BETTER - Newport Unlimited's Business Plan (May 26) is a pretty drab affair. The foreword contains a basic proofing error but that aside there is little to inspire Newportonians in its content. I know we are experiencing a recession but there is no evidence of any energy or urgency on the part of this organisation. It is as if they are not fully accountable to citizens for their actions despite the fact they are receiving a considerable amount of public funding, Their website is full of plans for the future but no detail regarding the present. In fact it has been updated on only two occasions since Christmas. It does not even mention the start of recent significant works. It should be the shop window for Newport Unlimited and the city's regeneration but unfortunately it is mostly out of date.
OTHER WEBSITES DYING / OUT OF DATE - Jessica Morden MP tells us very little about her parliamentary activity or statements on her now revived website. The MP for Newport East has published only four items on her website since Christmas - one of which is a football match between Villa Old Stars and Mathern Veterans! The website typifies the less than dynamic organisation of Labour in the Newport East area. The Lib Dems are not much better, their Newport Lib Dems site has not been updated since Feb 2009, presumably they have stopped being high profile and campaigning since they were accepted into the coalition running the City Council?
PEARLMAN SUMS IT UP - "It is a quite staggering decision for the FAW to vindicate Cardiff City after choosing to punish County. £3000 isn’t much money to the Bluebirds, but it sure as hell is to the Exiles and they had every right to expect Cardiff to receive the same treatment. It has been confirmed that the Bluebirds held preliminary talks earlier this term about joining the Football Association umbrella. Why is anybody’s guess? I was always told turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. If the coin-throwing incident proves anything, it proves that Cardiff City are well served by sticking with the FAW. "
POOR OLD CARDIFF - Sunday, May 3, a bad day for sport in Cardiff. Cardiff City were deprived of a play off place after losing 1-0 to Sheffield Wednesday. Preston North End beat QPR 2-1. Both sides finished on 74 points with identical goal difference, but Cardiff missed out by virtue of having scored a goal less than Preston. Cardiff have taken only one point from their last four matches, conceding 12 goals in the process, which included a shocking 6-0 defeat at Preston last month. Cardiff Blues were beaten 7-6 in a penalty shoot out by Leicester after the two sides had finished level on 26-26 after 80 minutes of normal time and then 20 minutes of extra time. Gutting, if you are Cardiffian, starved of sporting success but of no interest to any self respecting Newportonian. Well done Leicester and Preston.
RHOD GILBERT - OK, quite a funny guy. We saw him at the Millennium Centre on Easter Sunday. Good jokes about sun dried in Pontypridd, and the Beaufort Theatre, Ebbw Vale. But the final section drifted considerably (after 2 twenty minute breaks) to tiresome material about his forty year old penis. It could have been Jim Davidson frankly. Come on Rhod, your better than that. Still it made the lager soaked audience laugh, briefly.
METRO STATION - 'Shake It' could have been in 1984. Its low grade synthesiser and background chanting is wonderful pop kitsch.
RUGBY CROWD VIOLENCE - See this reported anywhere? Trouble before Ricoh Rugby "There are reports of disturbances between supporters of Swansea based Ospreys Rugby Club and Cardiff Rugby Club ahead of the EDF Energy Cup Semi-Finals at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry today. Supporters of two of the four sides playing today at the Arena are reported to have clashed outside the Rocket Pub close to Coventry Railway Station hours before Ospreys game with Gloucester." Fascinating. It seems the that dear old rugby is not immune from a bit of spectator aggro. Can't remember seeing much in my time watching rugby (since the early 1980s). The odd brolly pulling spat maybe. We have been sorely tempted - Newport supporters were commendably tolerant when Tony Brown was subject to a lockout at Ebbw Vale - but I suppose we did outnumber them by two to one if anything had kicked off. The trouble at Coventry is confirmed on the Gloucester supporters website Shedweb. They (the Gloucester fans) seem unsurprised and reserve their venom for the Ospreys followers "The most rude, obnoxious rugby followers I have ever had the misfortune to experience" and another smart comment as follows "Because Ospreys are a made up team with no history the fan base only really turns out for the 'BIG' games and that is when you see the idiots."
EADS - Is a major employer in Newport. It has recently lauded it connections with the City in a number of defence / aerospace publications and websites. We really appreciate the well paid and highly skilled jobs it provides. But it is a crying shame then that this company supports and sponsors CARDIFF BLUES. Perhaps when it next considers sponsorship it will look closer to home?
CLOUGHIE - The 'Damned United' film currently on release has produced a range of retrospectives on Brian Clough, arguably English football's greatest manager. The infamy of his 43 days at Leeds United is the centre point to all this but the talent and unique character of the man and his extraordinary achievements at Forest and Derby still overwhelm me to this day. I was a Leeds United fan in my formative years including the period when Cloughie's Derby won the title. But I remember it was his Forest revival that captivated me. Not only did they win the Second Division in style they stormed to the First Division title with five games to spare leaving mighty Liverpool in their wake. The rest of course is history. I went to watch them on a number of occasions after that a few years later, still a fan not necessarily of Forest but of Cloughie. At QPR in April 1993 on the slippery slope to relegation they lost a stunning game 4-3 with a young Roy Keane magnificent in the midfield and the great man in his green sweatshirt on the touchline. Keane said recently “I have to say, he was an absolute genius. I meet other players who played under him and we have all got our own stories. But he was a genius, an absolute genius, and certainly the best manager I played under, without a shadow of a doubt."
PEARLMAN OF WISDOM - Its rare this site congratulates the Argus but Michael Pearlman's trepidation at the start of the Six Nations in his regular article this week was a brave and spirited piece of journalism. To write of your hatred of rugby in the supposed hotbed of south east Wales could be seen as a self inflicted wound. But Pearlman has a witty and easy style unlike any of his weedy contemporaries at the local rag "Five years after coming to Wales, I still have work colleagues who will mock me if England lose a game in the tournament, as if my birth place automatically makes me involved in the whole business. If England were playing Wales in the Six Nations decider in my back garden (it’d be a poor game with few opportunities for the likes of Shane Williams to play an expansive game, and the washing line could be a serious obstacle) I wouldn’t open the curtains." I don't happen to agree with Pearlman entirely but he makes a brilliant point about all the bandwagon jumping that typifies the Six Nations. Our own O.Dyke wrote this week "The Six Nations fills me with dread. Idiots with leeks and face paint." City centres will be awash with people in red shirts who have not seen a live game of rugby, who do not know the first thing about the game, carrying giant daffodils, spouting rubbish and getting in the way of the traffic.
MEDIA TALKING THE ECONOMY DOWN - Yes, we are in recession. We all know it. But all Friday that is all our media outlets had to say as they served up their familiar diet of doom and gloom. Business failures, unemployment, banking shares, consumer spending, falling sterling blah, blah. All of this is making people afraid to spend and breeding unnecessary pessimism. Pretending the crisis is centred on Britain or is somehow of our own making is a lie. Some of the coverage is rightly concerned about rising unemployment. But some of it is downright reckless and unpatriotic e.g. speculating about sterling or the credit rating of Britain's sovereign debt. In contrast to the recessions under Thatcher and Major where the Government stood by and allowed the markets to take their course and slashed public spending, the Government is intervening, using increased public expenditure and taking financial institutions in to public ownership.
“As inflation falls that means real wages improve. Economies do recover when positive real wage growth starts to kick in. We saw that at Christmas to an extent - people started to respond to lower prices.” these are the words of David Blanchflower, the most liberal member of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee. "We want to see the housing market stabilising, consumer confidence returning and firms more optimistic about their ability to invest. The Bank has its role in this. If people are fearful about what’s coming, they are going to hunker down, so it is part of our job to restore confidence, to return things to normal. Economies turn around, economies recover, and this economy will. The priority right now is to get us out of a difficult situation.”
If the media constantly chucks out this rubbish because it needs to fill up the dead space on BBC News 24 / Sky News / Five Live it will serve no useful purpose. As David Smith of the Sunday Times reports today there was a scare story earlier this week about Britain's credit rating 'Reykjavik on Thames' we were called in the news item. But Iceland's debts are seven times its national income, even Switzerland's are double, whereas in the UK it's roughly equivalent. As Smith reports "I am told there was never a possibility ratings agencies would downgrade the AAA rating of Britain’s sovereign debt and, sure enough, Moody’s reaffirmed it, saying the UK was not even an outlier among AAA economies. But the rumour was reported." The rumour was reported, says it all, damaging, unpatriotic and untrue.
NEWPORT TRANSPORT - Timeless Christmas tradition. Advertisements imploring residents to hop on the bus this Christmas including services stop at 7 on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, no service on Boxing Day and New Years Day and Sunday or Saturday services most of the holiday. There is a big rugby game today (along with other sporting fixtures) but no public transport. Shame.
|MOD MUSIC - Secret Affair, great band. Briefly
gained fame between 1979 and 1981 as part of the mod revival of the
time, including two John Peel sessions. Their music was stunning pop at
the time. 'My World' is just the most fantastic, uplifting tune. 'Time
for Action' was rabble-rousing fun, an anthem for (let's be honest)
white boys. Their fans particularly in the London area were known as the
Glory Boys (as was their most successful album). Lead singer Ian Page
(second left) became spokesman for the new movement. Then, as soon as
they came, they disappeared, splitting up as the mods lost out to 2-tone
in 1982. They have reformed a few times and are now set to appear in
Dublin and London in March 2009, wouldn't mind seeing them again.
Another great mod band, the Action, from North London from an earlier mod revival in 1965. Their music was not well received at the time but was given airplay in the 1980's mod revival. 'I'll Keep on, Holding on" is another wonderful pop tune and I love to hear it.
Although the Kaiser Chiefs and co. acknowledged mod music most recently as an influence we have not had a proper mod revival since the Jam, Secret Affair etc. It would be great to see "parkas, scooters and target T-Shirts" back on the streets of Newport.
CUSTOMER SERVICE IN NEWPORT - Not my experience, someone else's. All too familiar. An appalling comment by a policeman as well 'the armpit of the world'. Find it here.
KINGSWAY SHOPPING CENTRE - The redevelopment of the shopping centre is taking shape but only after a fashion. It is being carried out by HBG (now to be known as Bam - its Dutch owner's name). HBG have lost two recent contracts including the City Centre Campus in Newport to Wilmott Dixon. The car park seems to be a protracted development. Expected to open by early 2008 it is now set to open in March 2009.
The main shopping centre itself appears to be nearing completion (it was due in November 2007) but aside from the significant letting to Wilkinson (in January 2008) no other retailer has joined the scheme. The owners UBS and their agents Chester Properties have conspired to lose a number of other stores including Peacocks, Adams and Partners, the stationers, as well as smaller stores. The loss of Peacocks was particularly bad. Newport now does not have one of the main discount clothes retailers in its city centre. Whoever was involved in this piece of negotiation made an appalling error. Two cafe spaces were created but as yet there are no cafes despite the proliferation of coffee shops elsewhere in Newport as in most towns and cities. The front of the centre facing on to John Frost Square looks superb, airy and spacious. But again there are no stores. Inside a number of units are marked as under negotiation but they have been like that for months. Today (October 28) there was some activity going on in the former Peacocks store, perhaps it will be occupied again soon.
Is it me or does not the management and the running of this centre need a kick up the posterior? Newport has been unable to attract some of the smaller national retailers due to the lack of availability of modern retail units. Before Friars Walk is even started we have a ready made £27 million development with very little happening. Credit crunch or not we should still be able to attract some of the newer retailers but this place is failing to do it. Why?
And another thing, this place has four security guards, why when most of time it is empty of shoppers?
CAMERON - I take personal exception to David Cameron's speech to the Conservative Party conference and his nasty comparison between James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher. Basically he described Callaghan as very experienced having held all the main political offices of state (PM, Chancellor, Home and Foreign Secretary) but also 'useless'. The intention of this comment was to rebut Gordon Brown's charge that this is 'no time for a novice'.
Callaghan came from genuinely humble beginnings in Portsmouth, he was the son of a Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer, his father died when he was nine. He went to a secondary modern school and passed the certificate to attend Oxford but could not afford to go to university. Instead he sat the Civil Service entrance exam and joined the Inland Revenue as a clerk. He later became a trade union official but due to the war joined the Royal Navy volunteer reserve as an ordinary seaman in 1942. He fought and won Cardiff South for Labour in 1945. He commented a number of times about his feelings of inadequacy when faced with colleagues who had been university or Oxbridge educated but he succumbed those feelings of inferiority to be the only person to hold the four offices of state.
Cameron by contrast has no such inferiority complex. He is son of a wealthy stockbroker and from a long family line of financiers and bankers. His mother was Mary Fleur Mount the second daughter of Sir William Mount, 2nd Baronet, Cameron is a direct descendant of King William IV. At the age of seven, Cameron attended the independent Heatherdown Preparatory School at Winkfield in Berkshire, which counted Prince Andrew and Prince Edward among its attendees. The school closed in the early 1980s, and the grounds are now occupied by the Licensed Victuallers' School. A feature on Cameron in The Mail on Sunday of 18 March 2007 reported that in July 1978, when Cameron was 11, Mrs Gordon Getty flew her son Peter, grandson of the oil billionaire John Paul Getty and four of his classmates to the United States to celebrate his birthday. Cameron was one of the classmates chosen to accompany him. Cameron was educated at Eton College, the prestigious and exclusive private school. He then studied at the University of Oxford, where he read for a BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) at Brasenose College. He has whole adult life has involved him in politics.
Given Callaghan's story or that of an Old Etonian twerp I know who I would prefer to trust and run the country.
SHOPPING CENTRE - So the wait goes on for Newport's Friars Walk development to start. Do you remember all the time wasted talking about the Chartist Mural and the associated delaying tactics. If we hadn't had those needless discussions might work not have started already?
MICHAEL PEARLMAN - Credit where its due, this guy does have some passion and insight in to his subject as the County's correspondent for the local rag. He is not afraid to question the judgement of Newport County boss Dean Holdsworth. He will even run critical stories if they are based in fact. Fans do not want lap-dogs they want journalists who have a fair approach, support their team and do not have unquestioning loyalty to the management of the team.
MAGOR - is adorned with 'save our village' posters against a proposed Tesco Express on Newport Road. Short memories. The village has changed out of all recognition and cannot be truly classed as a 'village' any more. The Bristolians who have moved in only know of a Magor since the 1990's but the character and charm of the village atmosphere have been replaced by a small town with more cosmopolitan virtues probably highly suited to a Tesco Express!
NEWPORT CITY NEWS - copies my news pages, why can't they write their own?
RUMOUR - There is a rumour that one of the 'big boys' may have pulled out the Friars Walk development. The same correspondent has repeated the statement three times on www.skyscraper.com
OLYMPICS - Truly inspirational. Unexpected. Proud to be British, gulp, don't often say that, perhaps not often enough?
CWMBRAN PRISON - Shock! Horror! The frontrunner for a new prison in Wales is the old police college site in Greenmeadow near Cwmbran. The 39 acre site is already owned by the Ministry of Justice and is ideally situated for the M4 and Crown Courts at Newport and Cardiff. The site is the only one (of the four publicised options) that can support the required number of prison places. Obviously if this goes ahead with the significant employment boost associated it would entirely inappropriate to also site the regional Specialist and Critical Care hospital in the same locality. Call me cynical but both decisions are likely to be made in October.
ATTITUDES TO GERMANY - Germany reach the Euro 2008 final but again we are told they are mediocre, lack flair or individual skill. We are told they are a tournament team who are disciplined and methodical but we should not like them because they are boring and above all, successful. Alan Hansen epitomises this attitude to Germany in his football punditry but he is after all the man who said 'you never win anything with kids' and incurred the wrath of Sir Alex Ferguson. Hugh McIlvanney, an otherwise illustrious journalist said Germany's win over Turkey was a travesty of justice in the 'Sunday Times' today. A radio 5 headline on Thursday morning stated "Lucky Germany head for the Euro 2008 final". Metzelde and Mertesacker, their central defensive duo, are ridiculed as lumbering and useless.No other country is quite so despised as Germany by football/sports commentators in the Uk, the two I have mentioned are both Scots. But aside from it all what really sticks in our craw is that they work hard and achieve success. Personally, I find those attributes to be inspring and worth celebrating.
Following on from Lord Islwyn's valid comments (above) about the negative hype
surrounding the Germans, I would like to add my thoughts. Nothing has bugged me
more than seeing Lineker's face on the Beeb, cracking yet another Germany joke.
Add to that the English wannabee Hansen and the least exciting man on earth, Mr
A.Shearer. I can only bare watching the BBC's coverage due to Martin O'Neill's
unique way of punditry. He prefers to give teams' credit, rather than slate the
opposition. Personally they are right about a few things, but where are England
and Scotland???? The only thing I have missed about this tournament is cheering
on England's opponents.
Now to the German's, can you honestly tell me that players such as Schweinsteiger, Lahm and Podolski are not flair players, who have lit up the tournament? All 3 I believe have had better tournaments than Michael Ballack, but because he plays in the holy premiership in London, take him out of the team and Germany are nothing we are led to believe. The beeb's coverage is so shocking it almost has me pining for the illiterate David Pleat on ITV. O Dyke
OFFPUTTING SIGHT - Eccentric pirate spotted on Commercial Street today was on closer inspection new Councillor Charlie Ferris, owner of the bus station cafe. Seemed to be dispersing the shoppers well.
ASDA IDIOTS - The
new Asda store on the Retail Park has been advertised in the local rag as new
Asda Living store comes to 'Casnewydd' , there must have been at least a dozen
or more of these ads proclaiming this fact. It just shows you Asda does not have
a clue what it is dealing with, no one calls this City 'Casnewydd' when speaking
English. And of course the Argus prints it without qualification.
BAN ON DRINK IN PUBLIC PLACES - At 5 o'clock in
Commercial Street is anyone enforcing this byelaw as about eight or nine lads
were breaking it.
BRISTOL - Can
you imagine anywhere else in Wales providing such a welcome for Bristol RFC?
Underlines the Newport identity is still not hidebound by nationalism, still
unique, obdurate. Lloyd George castigated 'Newport Englishman' in a speech in
1908, he also criticised the town for it's 'morbid footballism'. Some
truth in both statements.
COALITION POLITICS -
Smart money is on a Lab - Lib coalition for
city but what a disaster for Labour.
RIVERFRONT CAFE - Who's idea was it to adorn the pristene Riverfront Cafe with scruffy paperbacks / mouldy second hand books?
COMMERCIAL STREET TODAY -
Seemed to be a high proportion of spotty,
witless young men about - mostly with their hands down the front of their
trackie bottoms. Not a pleasant site, but I suppose it was a cold afternoon.
Music coming out of their phones, just about drowning out the sound of the
diggers and lorries in the distance as the city centre is rebuilt by the men
(and women) of McAlpine and HBG . Yes, they could be working and making a
contribution to their home town but they cannot hear or see what is going on
LITTER IN THE PARK - Took the dog for a walk in Beechwood Park as per unusual on a Sunday. Greeted by a broken up Dominos Pizza cardboard carrier, two kebab containers, a litre bottle of Coke, a can of Tennants Extra thrown liberally near the entrance to the Park. Picked it all up and placed it in the bin provided. Everyday on the road outside my house I pick up some container, crisp packet or plastic bottle left on the pavement or roadside. Is this the price of our liberal society, do we have to tolerate the disrespect for their surroundings shown by others? Beechwood Park in the main is a well kept park, the Council refuse vehicle was touring the patways collecting litter this morning as it does everyday but some people do not seem to understand what the work is for or value it as an asset to our city. Could always shoot litter louts on sight I suppose? But sorry I forgot we are a liberal society.
MOBILE PHONES / BUSES - Took the 8A in to town yesterday. Two girls aged 11-ish inflicting crappy hip hop on their fellow passengers. Get a set of headphones, girls, it's easy. Enjoyed their conversation though. Admiring the mud flats of the Usk one asked the other "What's that the thing called. Where they built under the water?" Her mate replied "Oh, yes, Paris". "Yes, thaz roight. How did they get it under the water like that?". Her mate answered "No, they didn't need to build it, there was something already there." Priceless.
RAIL PULLOUT - The Argus had a handy pullout yesterday (23 Feb). Eight pages on the new Ebbw Vale - Cardiff rail line. Thankfully, a couple of our representatives (Flynn and Butler) spoiled the advert by criticising the lack of a line to Newport. But at the end of the pullout was what it is all about - a big advert for our capital city......The bus link from Rogerstone to Newport station by the way takes FORTY FIVE MINUTES! Commuters find it quicker to travel to Newport from Rogerstone via Cardiff. A day return from Rogerstone to Cardiff by the way costs £5.10 as Rogerstone is now part of the Cardiff Valleys network. From Newport to Cardiff a day return costs £3.10.
COUNTY - Great win at Cardiff City, treated like scum by South Wales Police but had the last laugh.
TREBERTH - The new bungalows around Bishpool and Treberth are an outstanding piece of work. The developers have recreated the feel of the old prefab housing neighbourhod. It is a good place to live save for the odd gathering of no-mark hoodies and chavettes. The only let down is the fact that the streets are tainted by little parcels of dog pooh. This is despite the warnings of prosecution under Council bye-laws. The Council should try and sort this out - prosecute someone and put the frighteners on everyone else.
CALDICOT LEVELS - They are most definitely not the Gwent levels. You would not expect anything else from this site, would you? Where this phrase has come from I don't know. For once Wikipedia has it right "The Caldicot and Wentloog Levels comprise two areas of low-lying alluvial wetlands and intertidal mudflats either side of the River Usk estuary at Newport in south east Wales. The Caldicot Level lies to the southeast of Newport between the River Usk and River Wye and consists of 17,500 acres (71 km²). The Wentloog Level lies to the southwest between the River Usk and River Rhymney and consists of 8,500 acres (34 km²). Both have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest." The Caldicot Levels are an amazing collection of small settlements with some larger villages and towns (following recent development) stretching from Newport to Chepstow and south of the M4 including Mathern and Pwllmeyric in the east and Goldcliff and Nash in the west. A flat hinterland sub divided by reens and enclosures with an amazing history. They are grouped together by an extraordinary flood (or tsunami) in 1607 commemorated by a bullet hole in Redwick Church signifying the level of the tidal surge that took thousands of lives. My formative years were spent in these villages. My friends at school came from St.Brides Netherwent, Magor, Sudbrook, Undy etc. Our days were spent in these beautiful, windswept, often remote places. The villages and landscape seemed unremarkable then but I realise now with the benefit of travel and hindsight that it is completely unique. Unfortunately, it seems the area may be ripped asunder by the new M4 relief road running south of Newport. Let's hope everything is done to preserve this wonderful area of old Monmouthshire.
GRAFFITI - Some
idiot called has scrawled 'Collins Bosss' on one of the walls of the Riverfront
Theatre. This prat has also delighted the residents of Maindee with his
jottings . Perhaps he could put his time to better use (get a job) and stop
defiling public buildings. (Thankfully, the Council has cleaned this one up).
In 'Argus' letters column - of all places. A reader asks when are we going to
have a Commissioner for Middle Aged people to represent the vast majority of
hard working tax paying people who having to fork out for Commissioners for all
manner of other minorities and interest groups. Too true. Where is Richard
Littlejohn when we need him?
CHEWING GUM ON COMMERCIAL STREET - When the Council invested a huge sum of money in the re-paving of Commercial Street and its environs it was widely welcomed but Richard Frame (of NASH / SOLAS fame) struck a cautionary note. He worried that it would be spoilt by chewing gum spat out and disregarded by city residents in a letter to the 'Argus' and so it has proved. Look around Westgate Square most of the area is heavily "gummed", heaven knows what can be done about it?
COUNTY - During the County's win at home against Weston on New Year's Day I turned to my neighbour in the stand at a loss at a decision by the linesman. I said "that's all he has to do, put his flag up!" My neighbour said he had to correct me there. Being a linesman was a difficult job and reeled off all the various responsibilities including throw-in's, offside, foul play etc. It turned out he had retired about ten years ago but had been a linesman in the Premiership! I ended up apologising for my ill-judged comment.
USK FOOTBRIDGE - Walking the dog amongst Newport's soon to be stunning riverside developments...the Usk Footbridge is a wonderful iconic structure it will be a pity if it is spoilt by mindless chavs trying to spell their names (if they can) on it with their latest purchase of marker pens or spray paint, this being their sole contribution to society.
CONVERSATIONS AT A BUS STOP - Pontypool - a cheery chap with his shopping trolley. Four children, married three times, no longer married, been to see his mam in hospital. He said he dreaded it when two of his wives got together. They would make his life hell. One of his sons arrived, shook my hand and considerately helped his dad on to the bus before bidding him farewell. Newport - it could only be in Newport. "Sorry to trouble you mate, do you know where the family planning place is in town?" Family planning is not one of my strong subjects. I remembered there was something in Clytha near the Civic. I turned to look at the young fella asking me, he was probably fifteen. He said he thought that he needed to go to Clytha "only, I need to get a morning after pill for my sister, like". Next minute he was on his mobile telling someone presumably a schoolmate "can you tell 'em I am not going to be in for my first lesson". Town - he was rushing home to get a call from his son, a Royal Marine in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. They have a set time to call on a Saturday evening our time. His son borrows kit from the US troops there, they are better equipped.
CROSS HANDS HOTEL - the lease for the pub is up for sale. Perhaps some enlightened gastro pub entrepreneur will take it over Waterloo-style and prevent its Somertonisation. It has become a pale shadow of its former self.
POVIROTNY - sign of the times. A new Slovenian / Czech mini market has opened near to the Maindee Fish Bar. Oct 28 - There's another one on Charles Street, two thirds of the way up Slovenian again. Dec 20 - A new Polish shop on Commercial Street offering Karp for £5.95 per kilo.
NEWCASTLE RUGBY CLUB - On Sky they had a banner 'One City, One Club, One Love' from Newcastle Falcons, it should be Newport's motto.
POLICE CONCERT - "He reminisced about how one of the band’s first gigs was played at a nightclub in Newport called Alexander’s. Drawing a huge cheer from last night’s masses, he joked, "Don’t pretend you were there, there were only about three people there that night" – a far cry from last night’s experience – before launching into Walking On The Moon." - Western Mail today.
THE COUNTY - The decision by the County board to stand shoulder to shoulder with fans on the poxy terraces of the Lewes Dripping Pan may seem likely a folsy gesture. But it is well meant. Can anyone imagine the directors of a rugby club doing the same? The nearest we got to it was on the poxy terraces of Eugene Cross Park when Tony Brown and Dai Watkins were barred from entering the ground. Inside the Ebbw PA was taking the michael out of the Black and Amber Army. Fortunately, the Port won the game 32-22 and the Ebbw fans had a tantrum around the all too painfully sympathetic BBC commentary box.
GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER'S GRAVE - Last week to my amazement I stood in front of my great great great grandfather's grave in Llanfihangel ar arth in Carmarthenshire. He died aged 90 in 1885. I showed my daughter. It is the only time I will see it probably. Unfortunately I did not have any flowers. I did not expect to see it.
PULL IT DOWN - Everywhere around the bus station and the precinct of shops are markings on the pavement. On Queensway hoardings are being erected. The demolition of this crime pit cannot come soon enough.
MOUTHWASH - "I use mouthwash, sometimes I floss, I have got a family and I drink cups of tea". Kate Nash's latest single. Brilliant, mundanity.
PERCEPTION OF CRIME - a caller to Radio Five Live said today, surveys show the person most likely to feel safe from crime is the most likely to experience it or suffer from it (the young male under 25) and the person who feels most at risk is least likely to experience crime or suffer from it (the middle aged to elderly woman).
FEERING STREET - Nestled underneath George Street Bridge. A one sided terrace of 1920's properties of Corporation Road, presumably the other side of the street was demolished when the Bridge was constructed in the early 1960's. The view of the underside of the Bridge is partly obscured by a copse of trees near the road running below the bridge connecting Feering Street to Corporation Road (aug 10 2007).
BALTICA / WESTGATE HOTEL - No doubt the correspondence will appear in the press shortly, so let's pre-empt it. The entrance to the Westgate has been a mosh pit for some time. Some of the windows along Stow Hill have been boarded up. The night club Baltica is no more and according to the Property Argus is available for lease. Perhaps historically Newport's most significant building could be sold on as a night club. Would it not be fitting to find some way of returning it to the City? (aug 10 2007)
FAVOURITE FLAVOURS - Coffee, fresh orange and chocolate. Bacon and tomato.
PHILBLUEBLACKS - Legend of Gwlad rugby messageboard. Inveterate Cardiffian with no time for pisspoor Celtic Rugby competitions. He finds plenty to take issue with from high pitched west Walians with their rose tinted views of regional rugby and valley herberts complaining of M4 corridor betrayal. Most of the threads are pointless and/or ill tempered, sometimes though they are entertaining. BlueBlacks has kept the faith, that Cardiff are a big club in the failing world of Celtic rugby and that their future is better served by linking up with our English cousins with whom Cardiff and Swansea shared a wonderful breakaway season. In providing this view he is a friend of all those of us who want to see Welsh clubs have control over their own destiny, play at the highest level and attract (aswell as develop) the best players. Many Newportonians share this pragmatic view of the rugby world that could only derive from our common outlook. Instead of appeasing the valley hordes we should restore the great club names of Welsh rugby back to true prominence and provide them with an environment in which they can flourish.
SPEEDWAY WORLD CUP - Poland win the title but only thanks to twelve points from a Norwegian, Rune Holta. He has switched allegiance on two occasions between Norway and Poland but is a Norwegian. He makes no idea to be Polish or claim Poland as his home. He does not even have a Polish grandparent, Shane! But the speedway authorities allow it. He had no idea when they were playing the Polish national anthem at the start of the meeting. But of course Norway are not even in top 20 speedway nations so Rune's only chance of glory lies in claiming he is Polish.
KATE NASH - The most downloaded song on the internet is 'Foundations' by Kate Nash. She is from Harrow in North London, it is sung in pure Norf Laandan, a simple tale of "Oh my god, you got sick on my trainers, i only bought them yesterday" sort of love. Glorious.
BAGS FOR LIFE - We now have at least a dozen bags for life bought at M&S. Each time we go shopping we buy a new one. Self defeating and not helpful to the environment. M&S also offer a free replacement if you tear or rip your old one. But do not have the self discipline to remember to carry the bag for life with me at all times.
TRAIN TO READING - I needed to book tickets to Reading for a business trip recently. The open return tickets for the trip were £84, if you selected specific trips there and back they were £70. A message on the screen said 'single tickets may be cheaper'. So I had a look. Yes they were - £58 - one at £24, the other at £34 but only on specific trains. Intrigued I had a look at single tickets between Newport and Swindon - they were £4 back and forth (£8 in all). Single tickets from Swindon to Reading on the same trains were £10 one way and £19 the other - end result for four tickets £37. I felt a sense of achievement at this but the system left me bewildered. Gone are the days when you can turn up and pay a reasonable fare for a long distance train journey. The internet allows for a sophisticated but highly complicated advance ticketing system. In my simple example on the same train from Newport to Reading you could travel with a return ticket for £70, two singles for £58 or four singles (as I did) for £37!
SEASON TICKETS - Sid Weighell, former President of the National Union of Railwaymen is not remembered for much but he did have a brief period of prominence in the 1970's particularly in the era of pay restraint and clashes with the Government. A comment of his came to mind when news was released of a 10 per cent increase in Dragons season tickets. Weighell once said "10 per cent of nothing is b*gger all".
NEWPORT'S SECOND LANGUAGE - Without doubt, it's Polish at the moment, never mind Welsh. Let's hope we see a bit more in the way of Polish culture developing in the city. A Polish restaurant or cafe would be great (unless there is one already). I went in one once near Clapham Common Station - it was pretty meagre fayre but interesting , lots of potato based dishes including blinis, beetroot, sausages, dumplings.
NEW PLATFORM - It is great to have the new platform up and running at Newport station. Well done to all concerned. However, the signage states "way out to town centre" rather "city centre". Network Rail has obviously overlooked our city status.
ST. GABRIEL'S - The congregation disperse after Mass on Sunday morning. My daughter and I walk towards them. The first young man has an earring, wearing denim, now smoking a cigarette. East European, probably a young Pole. Followed by the jaunty stride of a middle aged Irish woman on her way back to the other side of Chepstow Road.
SPIDERMAN 3 - At Cineworld in Spytty on Sunday for the 11am showing. The cinema was packed, we had to sit in the third row at the front. We never sit there and we gazed up at the screen. The film has been panned by critics but the enthusiasm of the audience was undimmed. Toby McGuire and Kirsten Dunst, under seige in NY from a giant sandman and black slime. Great effects and, despite the critics, wonderful escapism. Isn't that what cinema is for?
PETER BEADLE - In Crook and Blight waiting for an appointment, met the County manager still shell shocked from Saturday. I thanked him for restoring pride in Newport's football. The place could be 'huge' for football, he said, he is hopeful that next season the County will be stronger than this year and up with the best in Conference South. He said he had many happy memories of this season. It was one game too far, after ten games in a month and the players were 'knackered' but he has every right to be proud. At the minute his value on the Newport stock exchange is roughly 10 Turners.
WELSH BEFORE ENGLISH? - The Welsh announcements come before the English. This is well, slightly annoying. Everyone can speak English, less than 20 per cent speak Welsh and barely a quarter of that in the Port. Shouldn't it be the other way around, English before Welsh. Recently Matthew Parris the journalist was travelling to the Hay Festival and changed trains at Newport to go onward to Hereford. He missed his train not understanding the announcement and had to wait half an hour for the next one. As he waited the only non-English language he heard was what sounded like Polish.
SPIN - Spinning an apple in the kitchen as I make my daughter a fruit salad. Who is the greatest bowler of all time Shane Warne or Mutiah Muralitharan? Pass fruit to my daughter, end of query.
DULL - A question from an inquisitive member of the public to a member of staff at Newport railway station (April 29). He was interested in the ongoing work at Platform 4 at the station "Is it for the new service from Ebbw Vale?" was the question. "I dunno" came the response "they keep changing their story". "They" is presumably a reference to Network Rail who are carrying out the work. No, the work is for London-bound high speed trains to increase the capacity elsewhere on the station for other stopping services. There was a story about it in the paper on Saturday.
MANDY LANGLEY - Who the hell is she? Another pisspoor Argus columnist with no personality whinging about how long it takes her to drive to work. Why not get a proper job then.
NIGEL OWENS IS A CHEAT? Surely not, but this West Walian with a high pitched voice gave some highly dubious decisions in favour of the Hairspays in their 'do or die fixture' with the Leinster second XV on April 27 including one that ultimately decided the match in favour of the aforementioned conglomerate. The Magners League must be the only competition with biased officials running the line. No wonder it is useless.
WOMAN IN CONVERSATION ON A MOBILE PHONE (23/04) - "Guess who phoned me today?....Your wife..So you told her, then? That you want to be with me...Yeah, yeah I will phone you later."
EVERYDAY WORDS - Obviously, absolutely, no problem, at the end of the day, no worries, to be honest, the thing is, you know.
COUNTY SONGS - Been to the County twice recently. It's difficult as a Black and Amber-ite to get used to the unfamiliar surroundings but the games have been good and the atmosphere is special. Its great to hear the words "Newport" being uttered without the regional rugby thought police being required to attend. Its pleasing to note "C'mon the Port" transfer quite readily between Spytty and Rodney Parade. Then there are the chants and songs "Newwpoooort" is a chant shared by both teams but other than that the County terraces have a fantastic array of songs "Give us a C...C..give us an O etc" ending in chants of "County! County!", "Peter Beadle's Amber Army", "La la la, la la la, hey Newport County" (to the tune of Hey Jude!"), "Oh when the Port, oh when the Port, oh when the Port go steaming in, I wanna be in that number when the Port go steaming in", "County till I die, I'm County till I die, I know I am, I'm sure I am, I'm County till I die". There are many others including anti-Cardiff and anti-English numbers. But those included the chants from the terraces reflect the identity of our City like no other - rough-hewn, dogged, not afraid of authority, determined, generous of spirit, fighters and ultimately winners (losing many a battle along the way).
MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER -
is a poet. By nature I am not a fan of old style country and western
with its songs about ghost towns in the depression, crop failures and dying
horses but there are some new country singers who use the music for very
personal testimonies. Nanci Griffith and Mary Chapin Carpenter - you listen to
their voices and their songs. "He thinks he'll keep her", "Passionate Kisses",
"You win again". Personal songs, beautifully written and delivered. About women
mostly. "For years she's lived on her own, In a corner of the city, Twice a year
she gets back home, Playing catch-up with the family, She tells her folks what
they need to know
Her mother says she's much too thin, Her sisters ask about her beau, Her dad inquires, how's business been...She gave her heart away one time, and says that she hasn't seen it since, Love's a puzzle in her mind; the pieces match, but don't quite fit; hey...And these days run thick or thin, It never rains, or else it's pouring
All her single friends are men, She thinks married girls are so damn boring" (Middle Ground)
EASTERN VALLEY FOLK -
I work in Pooler. Mention Newport to a local and cue all sorts of anti-Newport
sentiments and misinformation. They will come to eat their words over the next
few years. But as someone said to me the other day "Newport is getting worse,
the other night one friend was stabbed and another was involved in a fight". As
if all the perpretrators of the crimes were townies as opposed to the valley
herberts who make this their playground on a Friday and Saturday night. We are
own worst enemies as some Newportonians spend their time agreeing with the
sentiments or slag the place off themselves. But what is there to do in
Pontypool after dark, maybe have a few pints in the George and listen to a few
out of tune karaoke demons, wrestle with a butch lady in the Greyhound, a game
of doms in the Con Club and then head for the bright lights of our City of
43 - Sinusitis, blocked ears, too many hours on my clock at work and much unfinished business. Reasons to be cheerful part 3.
BRANDON FLOWERS - is a poet. The Killers are unique. "Somebody Told Me", "When We Were Young" , "Mr Brightside". Brightside is right up there with my all time favouries. Extraordinary. I think I know what its about.
ELECTION LITERATURE - we have
never had so much election literature. Labour must be in trouble. I don't mind
getting stuff off the Tories even if I object to being told that David Cameron
leaves a smaller carbon imprint around than the rest of us. Lie. Or material off
the English Democrats who are making the valid if silly point that Newport
should be in England. No its shouldn't. I do object to receiving information
from Plaid Cymru. They are a disgrace and have nothing to offer the people of
Newport except endless Welsh Language Acts and the nationalisation of sheep.
Perhaps one day they will say whether they are in favour of an independent Wales
- after all that is why they were set up!
Above all, I do not want anything from the Lib Dems. We have not
forgotten Thorpe, Pantsdown, Oaten and Opik and his cheeky girl. Or the years of
beards and sandals and CND. They have all lived their dream of a liberal Britain
but the country does not want it. Liberalism, that is. They want to achieve
everything but are not prepared to say how they will pay for it - all their pisspoor
aims of a ganga-smoking democracy will mean that taxes will go through the
EARLY MORNING BUSES - are so quiet. No chavs, scallies or schoolkids with music coming out of every orifice. And the same people travel on the bus everyday.
LITTER - Every time Newport Wastesavers pick up our recycling they leave a small trail of plastic on the road behind them. This is picked up by the Council roadsweeper and is not recycled.
RED ELASTIC BANDS - Every day the postman drops red elastic bands outside our door or on the drive. Everyday I pick up at least two bands he has left behind. Over the year this would make it in excess of 600 elastic bands. Are the red elastic bands standard issue and if so are two bands deposited outside each house in Newport for example (that's 600 x 50,000). Hmm! This is beginning to sound a tad obsessive.
HOW ABOUT THIS FOR A CHILDREN'S STORY? - Socks have characters and personalities of their own. They twiddle and converse with one another at the end of our legs. By day they are known variously as Terry Toe, George Supersock, Sockman, Bobbie Bluesock, Simon Sportsock etc. but by night when they are tucked away in sock drawers or laundry baskets they make the pilgramage or journey back home. They gather on the window sills and head for Sock world - another planet in our solar system. The following day they return as if nothing has happened. Some of them don't return they lose thread, get snagged by birds or planes and that's why sometimes we cannot find one or other of our socks.
DAVID SYLVIAN - is a poet and a shaman. He has written some of the most amazing songs of the last twenty years. "Ghosts", "Orpheus", "Brilliant Trees", "Forbidden Colours" and yet it is surprising how few people have heard his music. "When you come to me, I'll question myself again, Is this grip on life still my own, When every step I take, Leads me so far away, Every thought should bring me closer home."