Andrew Currie

Oct 062015
 

GREENWOOD FOREST PARK

Last Saturday, overcome with an uncharacteristic bout of generosity, I took a couple of grandchildren (plus wife, to look after them) on a day out to the Greenwood Forest Park near Caernarfon. Obviously an ancient Welsh name for the area, to be compared with Oakwood, and Folly Farm, and Plonkers’ Playground. Whereas along the coast, we invariably find ‘Sands’ in the name, so as to make it clear to even the stupidest potential visitor that these places are near to the sea: Golden Sands, Sunny Sands, Happy Sands, et-bloody-cetera.

For what it is, a few slides, some sorry-looking rabbits, pedal ‘go-karts’, one small roller coaster, archery and donkey rides, I suppose Greenwood is OK. But I couldn’t help but notice there seemed to be no locals employed there. Or let me put it this way, I don’t doubt that those working there live locally – they must do – but I didn’t hear one local accent. And let’s remember we’re a few miles outside Caernarfon, near the village of Bethel where, until very recently, everyone spoke Welsh. (Though, chwarae teg, all signs were bilingual, so that would satisfy Cymdeithas yr Iaith . . . if that organisation still exists.)

As you might expect, I made a few enquiries about Greenwood. It’s owned by husband and wife Stephen and Andrea Bristow and seems to be quite healthy, in financial terms. Which may not be surprising, given some of the grants Greenwood has received. For example £25,000 from the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Tourism Investment Support Scheme (TISS) for signage (without which perhaps the signs would have been in English only). Greenwood is now lined up for another grant from the TISS, this time for £250,000, for a few more slides.

Tourism Investment Support Scheme

I don’t know about you, but 311 jobs claimed by the ‘Welsh’ Government as the dividend for an investment of fourteen million pounds seems like a pretty poor return. Especially when not all of the 311 were new jobs, some were ‘safeguarded’; in other words, they were jobs already in existence that we must believe would have been lost without this investment. Either way, it works out at around £45,000 per job.

And remember, this being Wales, there are probably other funding pots claiming to have created or ‘safeguarded’ the very same jobs. Also remember that we’re discussing tourism, so many of the jobs created / ‘safeguarded’ will be seasonal . . . but you aren’t supposed to know that, so forget I mentioned it.

In 2013 Greenwood was ranked the ninth most popular (paid for) attraction in Wales, and a year later it saw 146,000 visitors. Divide 146,000 by 365 and you get 400 a day, and it’s not much more impressive if you go for a six-month ‘season’ giving 800 visitors a day. But then, there’s always the grants.

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COED Y BRENIN

On the way home from Greenwood we stopped at the visitor centre in Coed-y-Brenin, north of Dolgellau.

There was obviously some kind of mountain biking event being held because the place was full of mud-caked hearties and fitness fascists; nothing but rippling calf muscles and machines the cost of which could support a family of Andean peasants for a lifetime (and put the eldest boy through college). Conspicuous consumption was everywhere, from the fancy motors with the bicycle racks on the back to the £200 shades. But that wasn’t the only reason I felt a little uncomfortable, for it soon dawned on me that our family group might be the only Welsh people there . . . in the heart of Meirionnydd.

I later learnt that the event was the Trek Coed y Brenin Enduro, and although the results do not use the ‘Country’ column a quick glance through the names suggests that Welsh participation was minimal. I further suspect the event into which I stumbled was organised by Mountain Biking Wales or possibly Dyfi Events. Though the Coed y Brenin forest, and indeed the visitor centre, is owned by Natural Resources Wales, and therefore all paid for out of the Welsh public purse.

Coed y Brenin and Greenwood are examples of the ‘Playground Wales’ phenomenon that sees indecently large amounts of Welsh public funding used to encourage strangers to see our homeland as nothing more than their playground; an arrangement for which we pay, but from which we derive little if any benefit.

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WHOSE COUNTRY IS THIS?

Don’t misunderstand me, there is little intrinsically wrong with responsible tourism from which the indigenous population benefits without it being overwhelmed or having its environment degraded. But in Wales we have the worst kind of exploitive and damaging tourism, one that interprets people queuing to climb Snowdon as a tribute to the ‘success’ of Welsh tourism rather than a warning of impending environmental disaster.

That’s because no one will concede there might be a limit to the number of tourists Wales can comfortably cope with, which in turn is partly due to the fact that the money tourists spend here works its way back to England, unlike money spent by English tourists overseas. So the more the merrier, and sod the consequences!

As if that wasn’t enough to worry about, what we experience in Wales is to all intents and purposes English tourism. Most of the businesses taking the money are English owned, most of those employed are English, the vast majority of the visitors are English and, as I’ve already said, the money they spend in Wales will make its way back to England in VAT and other taxes, utility bills, payments to suppliers, etc., etc.

The extent of how ugly, alien and exploitive tourism in Wales has become is laid bare by people like Chris Osborne, chair of the Wales Tourism Alliance. Osborne, like many of the English running tourism businesses in Wales, believes that if all towns and villages, mountains and rivers, had English names then people like him could make even more money. To put it as he did in this article, Wales should have “accessible names” and “accessible messages”. (Fair enough. How about, ‘Fuck off, you arrogant, colonialist bastard!’. Is that “accessible” enough?)

Playground Wales

It might be comforting if Chris Osborne was an isolated example of those involved in tourism who view Welshness, and indeed Welsh people, as an obstacle to them exploiting Wales. But he appears to be the authentic and unadulterated voice of ‘Welsh’ tourism.

To prove the point, here’s another star performer. Back in July Irene Laird, who has imposed herself on Rhosgadfan, near Caernarfon, was found guilty of racially-aggravated assault and racially-aggravated threatening behaviour, for calling a local woman a “Welsh c—“. The report can be found here. The bit that really struck me was that, ‘when the racial abuse was mentioned by a probation officer to Laird “there was no recognition such behaviour was inappropriate and no element of remorse”’! That is very, very revealing.

That tirade would have been bad enough in any circumstances, but this woman, with her husband, runs a tourism business, Welsh Dragon Tours – which seems to be still in business! (I wonder if they’ve had any grant funding?) When you’re on their website, check out the ‘Testimonials’. They are all from untraceable overseas visitors, with not one from these islands, which set my bullshit sensors all a-quiver.

Here’s a sample: “Ten out of Ten for Everything. Mrs A, Tel Aviv, Israel”. “The scenery was stunning!  Thank you very, very much for all the attention given us over those 4 days. Miss M, Malta.” “Thank you very much for showing us around your wonderful scenic country. Mrs F, Yokohama, Japan.” I suspect that in addition to being an anti-Welsh bigot this woman might also be a falsifier of testimonials. Pins and maps come to mind.

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‘IT’S OUR WALES NOW’

What we see with Osborne, Laird and others is them trying to promote tourism as if Wales was just a scenic part of England. Welsh people, the Welsh language, Welsh place names and other manifestations of a separate identity expose the fact that it is not, and it also exposes them for the interlopers they are. This goes a long way to explaining why these people are hostile to expressions of Welsh identity, and this hostility takes a number of forms.

A few years ago, while sauntering along Tywyn promenade (I enjoy a good saunter), I noticed that one flagpole was, as usual, flying the union flag, but the other, where the Welsh flag had been, now flew a yellow and blue flag carrying what looked to be a fish and a bird. I made enquiries and learnt that new flag was that of Tywyn, and had been dreamed up by local businessman and infamous Britlander Mike Stevens, in his self-appointed role as driving force of the Tywyn Chamber of Tourism and Commerce. There was a bit of a kerfuffle, and the Welsh flag was restored.

Stevens argued that his sole motivation in designing a new flag was to represent and promote the town. Not, as some unkind souls might suggest, an excuse to get rid of the Dragon. But the boy got form for oblique attacks on things Welsh. In this incident, Cyngor Gwynedd quite rightly placed warning signs on Tywyn’s new sea defence island.Cadfan's stone Stevens doesn’t like bilingual signs, but he can’t say that, so he has to make himself look silly with contrived and implausible complaints.

Mike Stevens is now a county councillor, elected by those that tourism has encouraged to settle in Tywyn, to the point where they now make up a majority of the population. A picture replicated across ‘tourist’ Wales.

Around Tywyn now you will see another flag, made up of a rising sun and some goats, said to be the flag of Meirionnydd. Predictably it is favoured by those who have no concept of, and no roots in, Meirionnydd. It’s just another excuse – like the Pembrokeshire flag and others – to avoid flying the national flag of Wales.

In defending his contrived banner Stevens argued that the raven it carried was the “historic emblem of Tywyn“. In fact, the Raven belongs to the Anglo-Norman Corbet(t) family, but in the local church you will see, on St. Cadfan’s stone (see panel on right), the oldest example of written Welsh, possibly from the 7th century. Much older than any Corbet(t) connection, but of course it’s Welsh, and therefore of no interest to Stevens and his ilk.

You mustn’t think that this ugly attitude to all things Welsh, this belief that rural and coastal Wales was a desert ere the arrival of the English tourist, is confined to people like Ukip-leaning Mike Stevens, for this prejudice infects others. Brought home to me a couple of years back in an exchange of letters in the Cambrian News with a Greenie named Andrew Currie, who wrote, “He (moi!) has also missed the fact that coastal towns and villages came into being because of tourism in Victorian times.” My response to Currie was not published, but you can read it here.

What a frightening and insulting mindset we see exposed here. It is nothing less than the traditional justification for colonialism, along the lines of, ‘Well, yes, there were natives living here before we arrived but the silly buggers couldn’t do anything for themselves, and now they wouldn’t be able to manage without us’.

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TOURISM OR WELSHNESS? YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH

For some 50 years we Welsh have been subjected to one of the most sustained and successful propaganda offensives in history. We have been brainwashed into accepting that tourism is the economic salvation of the greater part of Wales, that we Welsh derive huge benefits from tourism, and that there are no downsides whatsoever. I think it’s time we woke up to reality.

Tourism as practised in Wales is nothing but colonialist exploitation. People from a neighbouring country come to exploit our country, and not wishing to be reminded of our existence, or their position as incomers, they seek to deny and destroy what is indigenous in order to promote a sanitised and more “accessible” West Anglia. Not only do those claiming to represent us welcome this exploitation, this discrimination, this ‘cleansing’, they are even prepared to fund it!

name change 1

The very survival of Welsh identity is jeopardised by tourism and the influx it encourages. Consequently, Wales needs a national debate on tourism. A debate informed by facts and independent research, not more propaganda from the tourism industry’s sponsored academics. If we are denied that debate then we must decide how we defend ourselves against this threat. For it is the greatest, the most serious threat, the Welsh nation has ever faced.

Nov 102014
 

As I informed you in MBrig Oubridge 1ay, I have broken with the habit of a lifetime and stopped voting for Plaid Cymru, a party I ceased to believe in decades ago. One of the reasons for my losing faith in Plaid Cymru was its infatuation with the Green Party, and its desire to cover Wales with wind turbines (a position from which it has now retreated). So, as you might guess, among the parties I shall definitely not be voting for in future is the Green Party of Englandandwales. I’m dealing with this subject now because there is talk of another electoral pact between Plaid Cymru and the Greens.

Plaid began to get seriously enamoured of the Earth-botherers back in the late 1980s, which was almost certainly connected with the fact that at the June 1989 European elections the Green Party (formerly known as the Ecology Party) gained 99,546 votes in Wales, 11.1% of the total votes cast, and a massive increase of 10.9% on the party’s performance in 1984. In fact, the Green’s total vote was not far behind Plaid Cymru’s 115,062. Someone in Plaid Cymru who could do big sums calculated that if the two numbers were combined then the result would be, well . . . a big number. That’s my take on it, but Cynog Dafis would have us beleve that the links between Plaid Cymru and the environmental lobby go back further, as he explains in Plaid Cymru and the Greens: Flash in the Pan or a Lesson for the Future? which I advise you to read, as I shall refer to it later, and also because I get a mention! (Did I really say that!)

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The first test of this love-in came at the 1991 Monmouth by-election following the death of Sir John Stradling Thomas when Mel Witherden stood as a Plaid / Green candidate. He came fifth, with 277 votes, behind the Monster Raving Loony Party. Admittedly, Monmouth is not ferile ground for Plaid, but the Plaid candidate at the 1987 General Election got 363 votes. (There was no Green candidate in 1987.) In the 1992 general election Witherden stood again, this time winning 431 votes, an improvement of sorts. Though the real significance of Monmouth was what the candidate said some time later. In essence, Witherden confessed that many Greens refused to vote for a joint candidate because, quite frankly, they were anti-Welsh, and displayed crude, colonialist attitudes. Which was no more than many nationalists suspected, and for which some of us had clear evidence. Damning proof of Green attitudes from a Green Party member.

The sort of attitudes Cynog Dafis was to learn about the hard way. In the paper linked to above he talks of meeting leading Greens from Arfon and Meirion, John Nicholson and Chris Busby, who were outraged that community councils in Gwynedd conducted their business in Welsh (which presumaChrisBusbybly prevented them from taking over the meetings), and that their kids were being taught Welsh in schools. Dafis says, “I tried to respond, rather lamely, and through rational defence rather than counter-attack, but I came from the meeting feeling quite shaken”. Rarely does one come across a passage from a leading Plaidista that so perfectly sums up Plaid Cymru’s fundamental weakness when confronted with naked racism and colonialism. In such circumstances “rational defence” will get you nowhere. When faced with colonialist bigotry like that the only response must be: ‘You don’t like Wales the way it is? – then fuck off home!’

(Following the Fukishima nuclear accident in 2011 Busby sought to capitalise by selling his anti-radiation pills online and suggested that the Japanese government was deliberately spreading cancer throughout the country in order to hide or disguise the ‘clusters’! He has a number of companies selling £25 reports, his self-published books and assorted medicinal products that experts believe do nothing except enrich Chris Busby.)

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Despite this insight into the Green colonialist mindset Cynog Dafis stood at the 1992 General Election on a Green-Plaid ticket in Ceredigion and Pembroke North. He gained the seat from the sitting Liberal Democrat MP Geraint Howells with a majority of 3,193. To a number of nationalists at the time, myself included, Howells was a good old stick, a Welshman of the old school, and preferable to Dafis, especially if the latter was going to dance to some hippy tune for the duration of the parliament. Though there remains some dispute as to whether Dafis was ever a joint Plaid-Green candidate, certainly, the official record lists him for posterity as a Plaid Cymru candidate, and some grouplets within the Green Party insist he was never formally adopted. Whatever the truth of his position, Plaid’s leadership, Dafis to the fore, had convinced itself that the party needed Green votes to win Ceredigion, and perhaps other seats.

So were the Green votes influential, even decisive? Well, let’s look at the neighbouring constituencies where no deal was struck to see if they can point us towards an answer. To the south, in the Pembroke constituency, the Green candidate got 484 votes, or 0.8% of the vote. To the east, in Brecon & Radnor, the Green candidate limped in last with 393 votes, or 0.9% of the vote. Moving north, into Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, there the Greens – in the form of Busby’s mate, Bill Pritchard – were ecstatic over their 471 votes and 1.8%.  Though in Carmarthen the Greens couldn’t even find a candidate. The flash-in-the-pan nature of the Green Party’s 1989 Euro election result was betrayed at the first ‘serious’ election, which also told us that Plaid Cymru would have comfortably won Ceredigion and Pembroke North without any pact or agreement with the Greens.

After which it was all downhill, and to cut a long story short . . . in July 1995 the inevitable, yet amicable, parting of the ways came, and here’s an extract from the statement announcing the divorce, taken from Dafis’ document: “‘a bridge was built between the indigenous people of Wales and those who had moved here to live’ for progressive and enlightened purposes”. (I bet you want to read that again!) So condemning Welsh community councillors for speaking their own language is progressive and enlightened! Now if I’d made up that statement in an attempt at ridicule or sarcasm I would be rightly criticised, but a Plaid Cymru luminary who bent over backwards to accommodate a bunch of arrogant, dictatorial and often racist immigrants can write such bollocks without any sense of irony. But that’s all in the past, and I’m not a man to bear a grudge (yes, that is sarcasm) so what of today’s saviours of the planet?

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One worth noting, for the wrong reasons – though I assure you I have no evidence that he sells pills of any description – is that five-letters-a-day (to the editor) man, John Childs, who has opinions on just about everything. I mention him because he has imposed himself on the Treboeth neighbourhood in Swansea, an area close to my heart, and indeed close to where I was raised. I recall my father telling me that, pre-war, once you’d left Brynhyfryd Square and started walking up Llangyfelach Road into Treboeth you automatically switched from English to Welsh. Treboeth was the home patch of Daniel James (‘Gwyrosydd’) writer of Calon Lân. Also where Dewi ‘Pws’ Morris has his roots, and I understand Cynog Dafis himself was born there. Nowadays the name Treboeth is seen in newspapers and other publications on a daily basis when people read the opinionated and offensive drivel of an English environmentalist.

Another who feels Swansea cannot do without him is young Ashley Wakeling (or Ŵakeling?), who is contesting the upcoming by-election in the Uplands ward. ‘So who is he?’ I hear you ask. Young Mr Wakeling is a student, and last year he was the Green candidate back home in Maidstone. Here we have a young Green who knows nothing about the city he’s just moved to, but clearly believes that such ignorance is no obstacle to him standing for election to the body running that city. It’s incredible. I sincerely believe that no one should be allowed to stand for election tMatt Cookeo any local authority until they have lived in the area for a minimum of five years. Why should we demand that taxi drivers have more local knowledge than those getting paid to run a city? Another candidate recently announced was Matt Cooke in Torfaen.

Then we have the much more mature – at 27 – Chris Were, alleged to be deputy leader of the Wales Green Party’, though how one can hold any position in an organisation that doesn’t exist is beyond my ken. Were may be 27 but he prefers to behave like a 12-year-old, as his mocking of Wales testifies. (And the silly boy can’t even spell ‘innit’!) Were was a Green candidate in this year’s memorable European elections, in which the Greens achieved 33,275 votes, or 4.5% of the total, proving yet gain what a blip that 1989 result was that set Plaid Cymru hearts all a-flutter. Ah! those European elections of May 2014, memorable because I sincerely believe that the Ukip MEP elected, a Mr Nathan LeeChristopher Were Gill, will provide hours of enjoyment in the years ahead for those of you in possession of the gift of schadenfreude. (A gift that I, alas, have been denied.)

Finally, and much closer to home, I had a run-in not so long ago with an environmentalist living just up the road. It all started with a couple of letters to the local weekly rag on the subject of raising council tax on holiday homes; one headed, ‘Second home owners keep Gwynedd economy alive’, the other arguing that it would be ‘racist’ to increase council tax, before introducng the spectre of arson. Naturally, I responded, then the following week there was a reply that concluded with a reference to “the burning of second homes by Nationalist extremists”. The two letters mentioning arson are almost certainly phoney, and the second cleverly distorts what I actually said. The exchange can be found here.

The debate rumbled on a bit, and provoked a letter from Andrew Currie, the environmentalist who lives just up the road from me. According to Currie, I had missed the point that, “coastal towns and villages came into being because of tourism in Victorian times”. In other words, there was really nothing here until English tourists ‘discovered’ Wales. This is a reminder that the most virulent and outspoken bigotry doesn’t always come from the usual suspects, because what Currie is exposing here is the traditional ‘justification’ for colonialism – ‘They couldn’t manage without us’. The full exchange can be found in this post.

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I can only assume that whoever is gently blowing on the embers of an extinguished love is prompted not by renewed passion but by the very pragmatic consideration that with Assembly elections due in 2016, and Plaid defending a majority of just 1,777 in Ceredigion, the 1,514 votes won by Chris Simpson, the Green candidate in 2011, could be critical for Plaid’s chances of retaining the seat. It might also be worth pointing out that while this figure of 1,514 might look impressive, it should be borne in mind that Simpson was the only constituency candidate the Greens fielded in 2011, so the party concentrated almost all its resources on Ceredigion. A more meaningful assessment of Green support would be that in the (second preference) regional list section they got just 32,649 across the whole of Wales, roughly ten thousand votes ahead of the Socialist Labour Party and the BNP.

This is a party that can deliver, at most, thirty to forty thousand votes across the whole country – and that’s if all Greens are prepared to vote for joint candidates, which of course they aren’t. And not only will joint Green-Plaid candidates alienate most Green supporters, they’ll also piss off quite a few Plaid voters – and there are many more of the latter. A further consideration could be explained as follows. The Greens are an English party attracting English votes, therefore, as few of these votes will transfer to a joint candidate in the event of a pact, it makes more sense to have a Green candidate in Ceredigion, grabbing a thousand or two votes, rather than see those English Green votes transfer to a party that could beat Plaid Cymru.

Crude, electoral considerations aside, the bigger question has to be, why would Plaid Cymru – or any self-respecting party, come to that – want an electoral pact with the Green Party of Englandandwales? A party that refuses to recognise Wales as a country. A party that has members and activists who are positively racist in their attitudes to anything Welsh. A party whose luminaries see Wales as a backward territory ripe for ‘improvement’ by superior beings like them, with we Welsh viewed – at best – as obstructive primitives to be shouted down and brushed aside. Whichever way we look at it, a pact with the Greens could be very damaging to Plaid Cymru, and should call into question the political nous or motives of anyone promoting such a deal.