Sep 032018
 

INTRODUCTION

I remember, back in the 1960s, when I was a wild young thing, visiting Owain Williams (of Tryweryn fame) on his farm, Gwynus, and then heading down for a drink at the local hostelry, the Plas Pistyll Hotel. I remember it well because ‘G–‘ and I picked up a couple of girls from Birmingham and took them up the mountain to enjoy the view. (Who says we don’t welcome tourists?)

Ah! happy days.

Plas Pistyll, click to enlarge

The old pile, with its uninterrupted views of the sea, fell on hard times and was eventually abandoned to the elements. But even if it was no longer viable as a hotel, the location alone dictated that somebody would some day come along with a plan for the site.

And so it was. . . .

THE PLANNING APPLICATIONS

Let me start by explaining that I have drawn together all the planning references I can find relating to both Plas Pistyll and neighbouring Pistyll farm and caravan site, I’ve done this because as early as 2008 they had become one and the same project.

Here’s the link to the pdf version. Click on the planning reference number in the left-hand column to be taken to the Gwynedd planning site.

Below you’ll see a montage created for Natural Retreats by the Ark Company Landscape Architects of Middlesex, and although things have moved on the image gives the layout of the site.

click to enlarge

The obvious place to start is with the three earliest applications, which tell us that both the farm and the Plas are owned by Sustainable Leisure, a company I couldn’t find on the Companies House website.

Even so, I know that the properties were owned by a Bill Gleave of Greater Manchester. I know because by August 2009 he had hit the rocks owing local businesses money. You’ll note that in the Daily Post report I’ve just linked to the Pistyll site is called ‘Nature’s Point’ (A name I’m sure I recall from the Mabinogion.)

This catastrophe was confirmed when the Bolton News reported that Gleave company BGH had gone tits up, with Sustainable Leisure following.

It all went quiet for almost three years until, in August 2011, there was an application from new player Natural Retreats to demolish Plas Pistyll and replace it with 20 self-catering holiday units. These to be complemented with “16 self catering holiday units in lieu of the existing static caravan site” at the farm.

Plas Pistyll had been bought in April 2010 for £85,000 by Natural Land 3 Ltd, though a loan was taken out towards the end of 2014 with HSBC. (There will be more on the array of linked companies later.)

To begin with, I had the same problem with Natural Retreats as I had with Sustainable Leisure – I couldn’t find it on the Companies House website. But I found a Natural Retreats website and eventually unearthed Natural Retreats UK Ltd, which changed its name to The UK Great Travel Company Ltd 25 October 2017.

Permission was given in August 2012 to demolish Plas Pistyll with the condition that the same individual or family could not live in the new holiday units for more than three months in a year. Natural Retreats appealed against this decision and the appeal was allowed permitting unrestricted holiday use for the whole site.

I understand that the last time the planning committee met was to discuss C11/0661/43/LL, thereafter everything was delegated to planning officers. Some very important decisions were made that many feel should have been referred back to the committee, not least the decision to allow unrestricted holiday use.

click to enlarge

Having got the big prize Natural Retreats – usually operating now as Natural Land & Sea – chipped away over the next few years at more of the planning conditions imposed by Gwynedd’s planning committee, to the point where few remained.

For Gwynedd’s planning department seemed to bend over backwards to oblige: “. . . deletion of Conditions 8, 9, 10 (Code for Sustainable Homes) . . . vary the materials proposed for the external wall of the units on the farm site . . . Discharge conditions 20 (slate), 22 (stone) and 24 (external finishes) . . .  Discharge condition 2 (agree stone) on planning permission . . . “

Instead of stone and slate cottages in keeping with vernacular styles (including Pistyll farm), using local materials and labour, what are being thrown up now on the Plas Pistyll site are prefabricated units brought in from God knows where – Estonia being one suggestion – with no local benefits whatsoever.

And again, predictably, searching the Companies House website turned up nothing for Natural Land & Sea. Either there is no such company, or it’s registered outside the UK, or it’s the trading name of another entity (in which case we should know the name of that entity). But Cyngor Gwynedd and its planners don’t seem to know or care who they’re dealing with.

It should be standard practice for any elected or public body dealing with a commercial entity to insist on that entity identifying itself with a Companies House, Charity Commission, FSA, etc number or some other form of identification, or else explain why it cannot meet this requirement.

Relevant digression: I’ve been helping a neighbour who’s lived the village all his life renew his blue parking badge, but he still had to provide his birth certificate and other proof of identity. If he’d rocked up claiming to represent Intergalactic Con Men Inc, and wanting to build 5,000 holiday apartments in tower blocks around Llyn Tegid I suppose Cyngor Gwynedd would have rolled out the red carpet, like they’ve done for Paul Williams, Natural Retreats, and God knows how many others.

I’ve told you that Natural Retreats UK Ltd renamed itself The UK Great Travel Company Ltd on 25 October 2017. On that very same day a company was born named NRML Technology Ltd. The sole director was soon joined by another gentleman from Bobby Lee’s home state of Virginia and in June the company name was changed to Natural Retreats UK Ltd.

Why would Natural Retreats UK Ltd be resurrected under American ownership? We shall consider this in just a minute.

THE APPLICANT

Before that, let’s take a closer look at who’s behind this disaster at Pistyll, on the very site where a young Jac downed pints and chatted up young ladies. (Though I use the most generous application of that epithet.) As we’ve seen, there can easily be confusion about the name of the company involved. Hardly surprising when you read on.

For at the same address in Wilmslow, in Cheshire’s Golden Triangle, where footballers, soap stars and successful criminals from Manchester and Merseyside choose to live, we also find: NR Partners No. 2 Limited Partnership (Natural Retreats Limited Partnership until 20 June), NR Investors LPNatural Retreats Pension LLP, Project Natural Retreats Ltd, Natural Assets Investments Ltd, Natural Land 1 LLP, Natural Land 3 Ltd, Natural Land 3 Management Ltd, NL 3 Cottages Management Ltd,

That’s not all. There are yet other companies at the same address that do not carry the ‘Natural’ tag but are run by the same people. These are: Dol Park Ltd (Dissolved 31.07.2018), JOG 3 LLP, JOG Highlands LLP, John o’ Groats Highlands Ltd, K2 Equity Partners LLP, Mini Gems Ltd (Dissolved 31.07.2018), N A Lews Castle Ltd (Formerly Snowdonia Land Ltd, ), North York Moors Ltd, Pentire Fistral Beach Ltd (Dissolved 31.07.2018), Worldwide Private Residences LP.

There may be other companies for all I know but the people involved with almost all of those I’ve listed are: Matt Spence, Anthony Wild and Ewan Kearney.

click to enlarge

The founder and driving force is Matt Spence, who was born on a Yorkshire sheep farm where – he tells us – it was a struggle to survive, so he and his brothers looked for alternative ways to make money. Spence hit on the idea of high quality accommodation in national parks and other areas of great natural beauty.

A noble ambition that he’s partly met in finding the right locations. But in reality Spence’s business is raising money in the form of investments – the minimum seems to have been £50,000 to join NR Investors LP (check out the document for 16.01.2008) – and whether all the money raised goes on lodges and chalets is a moot point, for he and his associates have their fingers in so many pies.

But whatever the company or partnership the bottom line remains making as much money as possible. And this often seems to mean cutting corners, for I’ve heard from a number of quarters that the ‘Natural’ empire is not always a good neighbour, or employer. Here are reports from the Cairngorms, and Yorkshire.

There are even suggestions that the empire may not be in the best of financial health. But with so many interlinked commercial and financial entities constantly changing addresses and names it’s not easy for anyone to keep track.

I earlier alluded to an intervention from the Commonwealth of Virginia, so maybe it’s time to expand on what I’m sure you found to be a tantalising reference.

Spence is something of an evangelist and so we should not be surprised to learn that he spread the ‘Natural’ gospel to the USA, where they have a hell of a lot more open spaces than us. This bore fruit in Natural Retreats USA. And yet . . .

Those who have raised Natural Retreats UK Ltd from the dead appear to have no connection with Natural Retreats USA. And yet, under its original name of NRML Technology Ltd the company was formed by a Christopher Holden who gave his correspondence address as, ‘Natural Retreats, 675 Peter Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, 22911’.

Holden works with venture capitalists and investors, Court Square Ventures of Charlottesville, which has no obvious connection with Natural Retreats USA, it’s certainly not listed among CSV’s clients. He was later joined as a director by Douglas Burns. On the CSV website Holden is described as a ‘General Partner’, whereas Burns is ‘Principal & CFO’.

click to enlarge

Unless they plucked the Natural Retreats UK Ltd name out of thin air, and found Manchester by sticking a pin in a map, there has to be a connection between Court Square Ventures and Matt Spence and his associates.

But it still doesn’t make sense.

Because if we read the CSV website, and the biographies of the partners, then we see that their backgrounds are in media, technology, communications and the like – not a sasquatch-terrorised log cabin to be seen!

And yet, Court Square Ventures is an investment company, so it’s reasonable to suggest that the boys from Charlottesville come bearing greenbacks, which inclines me towards three options:

  1. They have come to get a slice of the action, at Pistyll and elsewhere, perhaps by investing in one or more of Spence’s many financial vehicles.
  2. They have come to help Spence out of a financial hole.
  3. They have come to take over.

And if you think about, it could be a bit of all three; or maybe options 1 and 2 culminating in option 3.

In the hope of clarifying the situation I e-mailed Natural Retreats USA on Friday with, “There are companies of the same name operating in the UK, in Wales, Scotland and England. I see that Christopher Holden is a director of Natural Retreats UK Ltd. What exactly is the connection or relationship between the US and UK companies?”

The reply said, “Thank you for your inquiry into Natural Retreats. I would be happy to offer some more information as to how the different companies are related. You may also view our website for further clarification: https://www.naturalretreats.com/about

Natural Retreats was originally founded in the UK by Matthew Spence, and started with a few luxury lodges in the Yorkshire Dales. Over time, Natural Retreats grew to include destinations in the Eastern and Western United States as well. At this time, the US and UK now operate separately; they only share the name of Natural Retreats. The US main office is located in Charlottesville, VA and the Western Support Office is located in Park City, UT. 

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. Thank you, again, for your inquiry; we hope you will stay with us at one of our luxury retreats in the near future!”

To which I responded with, “I am grateful for your speedy response.
 
As I mentioned in my original query, I was a little confused seeing Christopher Holden of Charlottesville, Virginia listed as a director of Natural Retreats UK Ltd (Co No 11031026). A company formed in October 2017.
 
This would appear to be a UK presence for the US operation, or is there some other interpretation?”

At this point the line went dead!

So we are no nearer to knowing why venture capitalists from Virginia with no obvious expertise in tourism have set up in Manchester using a company name previously used by those building at Plas Pistyll. But it’s surely no coincidence that Rural Retreats USA’s eastern office is in Charlottesville. Which throws up other questions.

I’ll ask again, does Cyngor Gwynedd and its planners really know who they’re dealing with? Not just because of the find-me-if-you-can company names but also because Spence specialises in getting others to invest in his plans, and even though I’m sure he scrupulously screens each and every investor, the fact remains that the money to develop Plas Pistyll could be coming from anywhere.

Court Square Ventures is another company that invests money for third parties.

And does Cyngor Gwynedd know that Project Natural Retreats Ltd owns Tŷ Mawr at Abergeirw, and not just the house, but also land around it. These title references apply: WA634099, WA894641, WA930505. One to watch I would suggest!

TIME TO DEFEND OURSELVES

The properties at Pistyll are now being advertised on Rightmove and other sites. So let’s consider what we’re dealing with, and its implications.

click to enlarge

For a start, I note that these properties are being sold leasehold. Yet England’s management team down in Cardiff docks – those clowns that hope to be mistaken for a ‘Welsh Government’ – has turned against leasehold, except, apparently, when it’s used by RSLs or, more secretively, by unregistered private subsidiaries of publicly-funded RSLs. And of course by the likes of the ‘Natural’ empire.

Then again, just imagine Matt Spence and his gang turning up and saying, ‘Oi, Taff, we want to build a new holiday village overlooking the sea. We ain’t gonna use local materials, suppliers or labour. Then we are gonna give it some idiotic English name and there’s fuck all you can do about it’.

There would have been an outcry, even Plaid Cymru might have been roused to mumble something.

But that is exactly what has been achieved incrementally!

This development at Pistyll is only a few miles from Plas Glynllifon where dwells our old friend Paul Williams of Weep for Wales fame. Yet Plas Pistyll and Plas Glynllifon represent for the ‘Welsh’ Government ‘high end’ tourism, which must be unquestioningly encouraged.

For it is all set out in TAN 13: Tourism (1997) . . . which observant readers will have noted was two years before the Assembly first sat. That’s really thinking ahead!

Yet from what I can see, ‘high end’ tourism only attracts the smarter shysters and the outright crooks. Though if we are to attract high end tourism then what is being done to phase out the barrel-scraping tourism represented by mile after mile of ugly coastal caravan parks that can only deter the high rollers?

Nothing.

Because we are expected to believe that in a tiny country like Wales we can have all kinds of tourism and unlimited numbers of tourists without causing catastrophic cultural and environmental damage.

This is because it’s what England wants, due to the fact that a) money spent in Wales will make its way back to England, and b) tourism and the population influx it encourages makes Wales less of a ‘worry’.

As for the aforementioned clowns down Geiger Bay, well they’ll always do what London tells them, and some of them are even stupid enough to believe that a healthy economy can be based on tourism. Not forgetting that many in the Labour Party would be happy to see the death of Welsh identity.

‘As long as we got a rugby team, innit!’

♦ end ♦

 

Oct 162017
 

CHANGE OF VENUE TO CATER FOR GREAT RESPONSE

The response to the original post, put up last Wednesday, has been excellent. Many, many people have said they’ll be coming and a healthy number of donations has been received. I have also received apologies from those who would have come but for various reasons can’t make it.

For example, an old mate of mine who’s stood for Plaid Cymru many times had already arranged to take his missus to Amsterdam that weekend. But I know he’s serious because he sent £100 to be getting on with. Another who has previous plans is Big Gee.

But what’s really encouraging is that the majority of the messages, and the donations, have come from people I don’t know – and I’ve been around a long time! It tells me that there is out there – in Wales and beyond – a constituency that cares about our country, appreciates the mess it’s in, but has no faith in any of the existing parties to tackle the problems.

In fact the response has been so encouraging that I’ve had to find a larger venue, which is the reason for this update.

The meeting will still be held on November 4th, between 1pm and 5pm, and still in Aberystwyth, but the venue is now changed to the Ocean Room at the Belle Vue Royal Hotel.

So we’ve moved a short distance along the Promenade to a room that holds around 100 people. And if this isn’t big enough then we’ll all go out onto the beach and have an al fresco meeting. I’m sure we’ll find somebody to lead the singing.

The bar will be open, so I repeat what I suggested in the first post, “It might be a good idea if people arrive around mid-day and gather in the bar before the meeting begins. Meeting informally beforehand will give us a chance to introduce ourselves and perhaps decide on the best way to run the meeting.”

My contribution will consist of little more than thanking everyone for attending before passing the meeting over to the pro tem chairman. So is anyone volunteering for that role, or does someone have a name to suggest? We need someone with experience of controlling a meeting.

Is anyone volunteering to take minutes?

At some point before the end of the meeting we shall also need to select a steering committee until the first AGM at which a full committee can be elected. Again, are there volunteers, or nominees? We shall need a chair, secretary, minutes secretary, press secretary, membership secretary, treasurer, and perhaps six other committee members.

This meeting is obviously difficult to organise because by and large we’ll be a bunch of strangers starting from scratch. So I’m open to suggestions that might facilitate its smooth running.

More good news is that Aled Job has agreed to act as translator and to do it for free as long as we pay to hire the headsets. This means that speakers will be able to use either Welsh or English.

There will be tea and coffee available in the Ocean Room and if we can start at 1pm prompt we can have a break at 2:45, but we must be out by 5pm at the very latest because there’s a wedding party there in the evening and the room needs to be set up for that function.

As you might have expected, my earlier post, and the prospect of a new party that might achieve something for Wales, got the predictable responses from certain quarters.

WAS ONCE A JOURNALIST

Former BBC man Phil Parry waded in with an absurd piece entitled The Royston family, in which he trundled out his oft-repeated lies about me accompanied by various photos including – yet again! – the one of Cayo Evans holding a gun.

This picture from the 1960s, which I’ve published a number of times on this blog, really gets under Parry’s skin, and that of his mate Martin Shipton over at Llais y Sais. A couple of years back Shipton tweeted me thinking I’d back down after he’d publicised my use of the picture, when I didn’t, he seemed confused.

They presumably hoped that being challenged would make me recant. When they realised that wasn’t going to happen, that I was proud to display the picture, it seemed to affect the wiring in their BritNat brains.

For they’re unable to grasp that the FWA is part of Welsh history, and that many Welsh people have fond memories of Cayo, Dennis and the rest, even a sneaking regard. The only ones who still get agitated over the Free Wales Army are anti-Welsh elements trying to dress up their atavism – even racism – as reasoned opposition to ‘extreme nationalism’. Something of which they of course are mercifully free.

Parry I can ignore, and would have, but using that title went a little too far. Attack me by all means, I’m a big boy who can answer back, but ‘The Royston family’ is my wife, children, grandchildren.

Maybe I’m getting worked up over nothing, because writing about him here will probably encourage ten times as many visits to his site as the original posting generated.

THE WEEKLY ‘SPOT THE CHARLATAN’ COMPETITION

Talking of sad buggers brings me to another of my critics, Martyn Shrewsbury . . . if that is his name, because there are all sorts of question marks hanging over ‘Shrewsbury’. At one time he seems to have been using the name Rowlands. It’s alleged there have been other names.

As might be expected, he is one of those for whom the truth is somewhat ‘elastic’, but then, he’s a philosopher! An example of this elasticity came some five years ago when he was almost sent down for lying to creditors.

By profession ‘Shrewsbury’ claims to be a psychologist offering Asclepius Therapy treatment at a Swansea clinic. It all sounds a bit New Age to me, but I could be wrong.

Maybe he’s a traditionalist and uses the swinging pocket watch technique, while intoning, ‘Your eyelids are heavy . . . you have an irresistible urge to hand over your wallet’. (I’m sure Groucho did a good portrayal in one of his movies.)

Politically, ‘Shrewsbury’ belongs to the Green Party of Englandandwales, and has stood numerous times for Westminster and the Notional Assembly, without ever overworking the vote counters.

Some years ago he hitched his wagon to the star that was Pippa Bartolotti, then leader of the Wales region of said party, and served her faithfully, to the extent of smearing her opponents using a host of phoney identities.

Among these were ‘Green Dragon’ and ‘Brig Strawbridge’ (the latter an obvious take on veteran Green Brig Oubidge). All explained here. You know, the more I learn about the Green Party the more vivid becomes the unsummoned image of ferrets in a sack.

How could Plaid Cymru ever consider a pact with a party that is itself split into 57 varieties of two-faced, back-stabbing, self-promoting individuals incapable of co-operating with each other let alone with another party!

Everything about the Greens seems to be transitory, or in a permanent state of confusion. Writing this I referred back to More on the Green Party of Englandandwales, which I wrote in November 2014, but none of the links to Green Party sources work any longer!

The only thing that might be said in ‘Shrewsbury’s favour is that he claims to want independence. Though this claim would be more credible if he didn’t belong to a party that doesn’t even recognise the existence of Wales.

♦ end ♦

Jul 152017
 

JULIAN RUCK

While I was away I picked up a copy of the Evening Post, a Swansea institution that has gone downhill in recent years. The ‘paper I knew long ago used to bring out its first edition around midday, with further editions up to and including the ‘Final’ or ‘Late Night Final’. You knew which edition it was by the number of windows filled in on the Mumbles lighthouse image at the top right of the front page. One window filled for the first edition . . .

Then of course there was the Sporting Post on Saturday night, with young boys racing from pub to pub to sell their allotted copies. In competition with them were the ladies of the Sally Ann with bundles of War Cry, and occasionally, yours truly with a band of Plaidistas, offloading Welsh Nation. The competition was fierce! (Though unlike the paper-sellers and the bonneted ladies I could – and did – partake of liquid refreshment to keep me going.)

In those days, long before the internet, before pubs had wall to wall television, but after bookies became legal in 1960, the pubs downtown seemed to be filled in the afternoons with men reading newspapers, men of studious mien, a pencil in one hand and often a half-smoked fag behind an ear. The real professionals had a fag behind one ear and a spare pencil behind the other.

I am of course referring now to aficionados of the turf, the sport of kings . . . and of layabouts dreaming of easy money. For members of the latter group to know which nag had won the 2:30 at Doncaster required the ‘Stop Press’ entry on latest edition of the Post, and it was quite common to see breathless groups of men waiting at the Post‘s various delivery points in anticipation of sudden wealth. All gone.

In recent years, printing was moved out of the city, the Evening Post became a morning paper, and what had once been the Welsh daily with the largest circulation lost its crown to the Daily Post. Then, in what might prove to be the coup de grace the Post was taken over by Trinity Mirror, and is now controlled from Cardiff, its online presence merged with Llais y Sais and the Echo in WalesOnline.

If further proof was needed of the Post‘s downward slide it came when I saw that Julian Ruck now has a weekly column. Here’s his effort from the 7th. (Click to enlarge.)

Before considering what he wrote let’s look at how he’s described by the Post“Julian Ruck is a novelist, broadcaster, political commentator and guest public speaker”.

His ‘novels’ are excruciating pot-boilers that he publishes himself but nobody buys. “Broadcaster”? Mmm, has anyone seen or heard him ‘broadcast’ – or have I been lucky? “Political Commentator”; well, I’m a political commentator, everyone who expresses a political opinion is a political commentator, the term means nothing. “Guest public speaker” is a curious phrase, why not just ‘public speaker’? I suppose it’s trying to say that he gets invited to places. (Twice?)

As for what he has to say, well, here’s a sample, “Dear me, this Welsh bit is getting a bit tedious isn’t it?” The senior language of this island, the language spoken in London when the English were still Germans, is reduced to “this Welsh bit”. What a twat!

Later he describes Welsh as “a foreign tongue”, which is not only offensive but also inaccurate. Because you see, Ruck, it wouldn’t matter if no one spoke Welsh – it would still be the national language of Wales. That’s because it is unique to Wales, it is the ancestral language of the Welsh, and for most of our history it defined Welsh nationality. English may now be the majority language of Wales, but it can never be the national language.

From Amazon, where his books can be bought for £0.01

It would be easy to dismiss Ruck as a pompous little prick, a snob, but I feel rather sorry for him. He’s bitter because he’s been denied the success he feels he deserves. His search for a scapegoat has led him to a conspiracy of Welsh speakers who produce dastardly schemes to deny us the wit and wisdom of Julian Ruck. This leads to him hating the Welsh language itself and all those who speak it . . . maybe he thinks all Welsh speakers are in on the conspiracy.

Face it, Ruck, you’re a crap writer and a mercenary bigot, an opinionated nobody. But to give your attacks some credibility you have to be bigged up into a popular writer, someone whose opinion matters.

Though it says a lot about modern Wales that it’s the Labour-supporting, Welsh-hating, Trinity Mirror Group that provides you with a platform for your BritNat bigotry.

P.S. I’m informed that Ruck’s latest column, on the 14th, was used to attack Welsh language education. Why does anyone buy a rag from Trinity Mirror?

THOSE LEAFLETS

Now let’s turn to others who share Ruck’s attitude to the Welsh language, I’m talking now of those connected with Tales With a Twist.

Thanks to the Electoral Commission I now know that distributing election material lacking an imprint is not an offence; the offence lies in publishing and printing election material without an imprint. But of course, without an imprint, it’s very, very difficult to prove who wrote and printed the document being distributed. Something of a Catch-22 situation.

Which is why I asked the Electoral Commission to give me examples of successful prosecutions for not having an imprint. The response was: ” . . . where the material is a newspaper advertisement we can contact the newspaper for the details of the person who placed the advertisement.” Obviously, but with the best will in the world, someone would have to be really, really stupid to put election material that lacked an imprint in a newspaper advertisement. And would a newspaper accept such an advertisement, knowing that it broke the law?

click to enlarge

Though one possibility intrigues me. What if I was to write and run off a few hundred copies of a leaflet ahead of the next general election, a leaflet claiming that the local Labour candidate attends the same Penrhyndeudraeth coven as the Conservative candidate, where they romp around bollock naked, beating each other with riding crops – but the leaflets never left my house.

According to the Electoral Commission I would have committed an offence, even though no one would read what I’d written. Which is absurd, because what I’d written and printed could only influence electors if it was distributed, yet distributing unattributed election material is not an offence. Am I alone in thinking that the law has got this the wrong way round?

Anyway, things are moving, slowly. North Wales Police seem to be interested. I now have copies of issues 1 and 2 of Tales With a Twist, proving that we are dealing with a campaign rather than a one-off, and even though Councillor Louise Hughes has denied distributing the leaflets I have statements that a) confirm she was distributing them in Trawsfynydd on April 28, and b) that she gave copies to Steven Churchman, the Lib Dem councillor. Other statements are promised.

As for who printed the leaflets, well we all know who that was. What’s more, when I spoke with the DC in Caernarfon on Thursday afternoon we discussed the printer and yet neither of us needed to mention his name. He is – to quote Donald Rumsfeld – a known known.

I have a feeling this may not be over.

PLAID CYMRU & THE SNP

Many of you reading this may get a warm glow from watching Leanne Wood hugging Nicola Sturgeon, but how realistic is it to compare Plaid Cymru with the Scottish National Party? I got to wondering how their results since the first elections to the devolved bodies in 1999 compared.

In 1999 Plaid did marginally better than the SNP; point three of a percentage point lower in the constituency vote but over three percentage points higher in the regional/list vote. A good showing.

In 2003 both parties lost support. Plaid Cymru’s performance can be largely attributed to the palace coup that removed Dafydd Wigley, Plaid’s most popular ever leader. The fall in support for the SNP is due to a number of factors, certainly a change of leader also played a part, though most would agree that John Swinney was a more inspiring replacement for Alex Salmond than Ieuan Wyn Jones was for Dafydd Wigley.

The picture in Scotland was further complicated by what could be explained, perhaps paradoxically, as a falling off in support for the SNP, but the electorate still returned more MSPs in favour of independence.

For while the SNP lost 8 seats in 2003 the Scottish Greens gained 6 seats and Tommy Sheridan’s Scottish Socialists increased their tally by 5. Which meant that there were 40 MSPs (out of 129) supporting independence after the 2003 election against 37 in 1999.

When we move on to 2007 we see the gulf opening. Plaid Cymru improves marginally on 2003 but nothing like the increase that was expected with an unpopular Labour government in Westminster, whereas the SNP’s support increased by almost 50% to make it the largest party.

The election of 2011 is remarkable in that, in Wales, with the Tories now in power in London, many Welsh voters were persuaded to ‘send a message to Lundun, innit’ by voting Labour. By comparison, in Scotland, a Tory government in London did nothing for Labour as the SNP romped home with a majority of the seats.

Most recently, in 2016, the SNP may have lost six seats (and its majority) but in terms of votes there was a fall of only 2.3% in the regional share but an increase of 1.1% in the constituency vote. Add in the two Scottish Green representatives and there is still a pro-independence majority of 65 MSPs in Holyrood.

Here in Wales, Plaid Cymru may have improved on its dismal performance in 2011 (if it hadn’t, then it might have been time to call it a day), partly due to having a new leader in Leanne Wood, but still got less than half the SNP’s share of the vote, leaving the 1999 result looking like a lost golden age.

In Scotland, the issue for a decade or more, and the issue still dominating political debate, is independence. Here in Wales we have a ‘national’ party that would prefer not to debate independence (or colonisation, or exploitation, or anything that might upset or annoy anyone), a party that is bumping along the bottom and going nowhere.

You know my view, I gave up on Plaid Cymru years ago. With Wales falling apart around us, suffering attacks from all quarters, how much longer can you continue supporting a party going nowhere, a party that will sabotage itself if there’s any possibility of success? (Believe me, it will!)

(You’ll notice that I’ve spared Plaid Cymru’s embarrassment by sticking with the devolved vote, not comparing the relative showings for Westminster elections, in which Plaid does even worse.)

MONKTON

In the interests of clarity this whole section was re-written 17.07.2017

WHAT WE KNOW

There were unpleasant scenes in Monkton, Pembrokeshire, on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning last week when a crowd gathered to protest about a paedophile the crowd believed was living at Gwilliam Court. As is invariably the case in such incidents the crowd included some seeking an excuse for trouble, these being responsible for allegedly setting bins on fire, letting down the tyres on police vehicles and other mischief.

Despite the behaviour of these idiots there was a genuine cause for concern, for the woman allegedly living in Gwilliam Court was identified (though not named) by both the Sun and the Daily Mail as Amber Roderick. Her record would cause any parent to worry about her presence on their estate. And yet there are so many questions about the whole business.

On the assumption that we are dealing with Roderick let’s look at her most recent conviction, at Reading Crown Court in January 2012. As the Crown Prosecution Service summary tells us, she was jailed for a minimum of four years and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register. This NACRO document tells us that anyone imprisoned for 30 months or more stays on the register “indefinitely”.

THE AFTERMATH

It became clear from police and council statements that if it was Roderick – now going by the name of Bridget McGinley – then she was not the tenant of the property in Monkton, the tenant being a man with whom she was co-habiting.

But then, to confuse matters, in this report from the Pembrokeshire Herald Superintendent Ian John of Dyfed Powys Police, says, “The two residents of that flat, as it stands, neither of those two people, were actually currently on the sex offender’s register. The facts are, they were not on the sex offender’s register. It would be inappropriate for me to go into specific detail, but what I will say, the lady who moved in with the gentleman who is the tenant of the flat, was not required to record her movements, as she would have been if she was on the sex offenders register.”

Superintendent John’s convoluted statement suggests three options. 1/ Somebody made a terrible mistake, stirring up a mob when it was not Amber Roderick/Bridget McGinley in that flat, 2/ If it was her, then she has somehow been taken off the Sex Offenders’ Register, 3/ Superintendent John is mistaken.

Also quoted in the Pembrokeshire Herald report is ‘Annalee’ who seems to suggest that in Wales offenders remain on the Sex Offenders Register for only five years, with the clear implication that in Scotland and England the period is longer. Is this true?

Well, after consulting the NACRO document again I believe that in the case that ‘Annalee’ refers to, the age of the offender, and the sentence handed down, meant that he stayed on the register for only five years. And it would have been the same in England. (I can’t speak for Scotland.)

Something else that struck people about the Herald report was local councillor Pearl Llewellyn saying, “I was told by Pembrokeshire County Council not to get involved or to come to these meetings, but I have, because my daughter lived in Monkton.” But she’s the elected representative of these people! Why would the council – and what does she mean by “the council”? – tell her not to get involved?

CONCLUSIONS

There are obviously questions to answer, not least – who owns the property in question; is it Pembrokeshire County Council or Pembrokeshire Housing Association? Or is it perhaps a third party, a private landlord, or even an offshore entity leasing property to social landlords, such as I exposed in Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd?

Someone with whom I’m in contact is having great difficulty getting an answer to that simple question from Pembrokeshire County Council.

In the original version of this section I quoted the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 70 (1) (j) which says that sex offenders and others coming out of prison get preferential treatment in the allocation of social housing.

I was pulled up and pointed to the preamble reading, “a person who has a local connection with the area of the local housing authority . . . “. This is not worth the paper it’s printed on. After years of studying the operations of social landlords I know that no ‘local connection’ is needed to be housed by social landlords in Wales.

If the Llansiadwel Housing Association is offered two or three times the normal rate to house a paedophile from Newcastle who’s never set foot in Wales they’ll jump at it.

To understand the truth of what I’m saying you only have to consider the case in Monkton. If it was Roderick/McGinley living there, then it’s reasonable to assume that the tenant was the boyfriend identified in Reading Crown Court as Patrick Maughan and sentenced to six years in prison at the same trial. Both could have been recently released, and neither has a local connection to Pembrokeshire.

As I say, there are just so many questions. The best way to clear things up, to placate the residents of Monkton, and to restore faith in the council, is for both the council and the police to come clean and give the full details of this case.

Also, for social housing providers and other agencies to stop dumping undesirables from England in Wales, no matter what financial and other incentives are offered.

♦ end ♦

 

Apr 022016
 

Yes, I know, Port Talbot isn’t the only Tata plant affected by the company’s decision to put its UK operation up for sale, but it is the biggest, and serves as useful shorthand.

Rather than giving instant remedies or exposing my ignorance by trying to discuss EU regulations on state aid, or the impact of carbon tax and business rates, let alone the statistics on Chinese steel production and exports, I shall stick to my comfort zone by considering political responses and impacts, winners and losers, and also the possible outcomes.

But first, let me indulge in a little reminiscing.

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I grew up just around the Bay from Port Talbot steelworks and I can remember the plant in the mid-’60s when it employed 20,000 men and the wages paid earned it the soubriquet ‘Treasure Island’. Much of its steel went on to the tinplate works at Trostre in Llanelli and Velindre on the north side of Swansea (where I worked for a short while). Velindre is long gone, but Trostre has struggled on and is now in the same position as Port Talbot.

And if you’ve driven past and think the smells and the smoke of Port Talbot are bad nowadays, then you should have seen it in the ’60s and ’70s. It wasn’t just that the steelworks produced more smoke and smells back then, there were other plants nearby making their contribution.

Just up the road, on the Swansea side of the steel plant, in Baglan Bay, we had one of the largest petrochemical sites in Europe, employing another 2,500 men. A couple of miles inland there was the Llandarcy oil refinery with the same number of employees. Then there was the Tir John power station taking us up to the eastern outskirts of Swansea, where the East Side made its contribution to the shit and the smell with the never-to-be-forgotten Carbon Black plant.

Llandarcy

This spewed out such filth that it resulted in regular protests by local housewives, who couldn’t put washing on the line to dry without it being covered in a dust that also got indoors and clung to everything.

My first-hand experience of Carbon Black came through a summer job I took when at Coleg Harlech. I was employed to sweep the floors inside the plant, where the filth lay inches thick. I was provided with a brush and a rudimentary face mask . . . and that was it. I handed in my brush after a few hours and went to a nearby pub to ease my throat.

The whole area from the east side of Swansea over to Neath and down to Port Talbot was a complex of heavy industry, a nightmare for any proto-Green. And yet, if we add in Swansea docks, the ancillary jobs in transport and other fields, this triangle of smoke and smells provided tens of thousands of well paid jobs for semi-skilled and unskilled men. Most of these jobs have gone, and will never be replaced.

I had many friends and family members working at these various plants, and of course at the steelworks, and not just for the then owner, the Steel Company of Wales. For example, there was a boy I met in Penlan school with whom I became good friends (after the introductory fight); his family had come down from Kilmarnock and his father worked for British Rail in the steelworks’ marshalling yards, said to be the biggest in the world after those at the Chicago stock yards.

Then there was a friend of ours in the post-school era working in the steel works. One night he went over to Port Talbot to hear a promising young singer named Tom Jones. On the way back into Swansea, driving along the Jersey Marine in his Wolseley 1500, he was somehow thrown from his car, which then rolled over onto him. I think Keith was the first close friend I lost.

*

THE POLITICAL DIMENSION

The Conservatives

I suppose the Tories’ attitude was summed up accurately and succinctly by Paul Mason when he wrote, ‘Steel Crisis; they do not give a shit’. There are a number of reasons for this being true beyond the Tories being wedded to a blind and unthinking neoliberalism.

The future the Tories envision for the UK is of smart people doing clever things and making lots of money in clean environments with the economy topped up by sheikhs and oligarchs investing hundreds of billions in property and other deals that can be accomplished with a signature. Fundamentally, it’s a fantasy world in which people make lots of money doing very little, certainly not from producing anything other than hi tech gadgetry or financial packages that no one can understand.

There is no place in this vision for steel works and towns like Port Talbot. Such places are alien to Old Etonian politicians. Not only are they distant in terms of miles, and in considerations of social class, they are also distant in time, because they belong to the past, they have no place the glittering future I bewitched you with in the previous paragraph.

Gold cars

Of course, one of the major problems with this vision is that it’s very London-centric, extending only as far as the Home Counties in which many of the new elite will be living. Because you can bet that Sheikh Mohammed bin Slaveholder al Head-chopper is unlikely to be looking for a £30m mansion in Llanelli or Scunthorpe any time soon. Which explains attempts to placate the increasingly resentful natives north of Watford with ‘beads’ like HS2 and talk of a ‘northern powerhouse’.

On a more pragmatic, electoral level, the Tories have nothing to lose in towns like Port Talbot or any similar community in Wales, Scotland or England. You can’t lose support or seats if you haven’t got any to start with. So the truth is, as Paul Mason says, the Tories don’t give a shit.

Unconvincing expressions of concern will be heard, money will be doled out – there might even be a short-term nationalisation – but this hiccup will not be allowed to interfere with the march towards the post-industrial Bright Tomorrow, in which the sons and daughters of today’s Port Talbot steelworkers will be City traders or internet tycoons . . . or, more likely, working just up the road at the vast Amazon warehouse, on the minimum wage, with one toilet break a week.

Though it will be interesting to see how the local Tories deal with the steel crisis in the Assembly election campaign. Who will they blame?

*

The Labour Party

For Labour the steel crisis is much more complex and worrying. Not least because it was the equally laissez-faire New Labour governments that helped get us into this mess by nodding through British Steel’s merger with Koninklijke Hoogovens of the Netherlands in 1999 to form Corus, and then twiddling their thumbs when Corus was bought by Tata Steel of India in 2007.

The New Model Labour Party of Citizen Corbyn seems rather more concerned than the party led by Blair and Broon, but there’s little they can do out of power. Though in fairness to young Owen ap Dai ap Smith he didn’t wait for the fat lady to sing before putting the boot in, here he is at the start of February accusing Cameron and Osborne of kissing China’s arse!

Another scion of an anti-Welsh Labour family, the Boy Kinnock, actually took himself off to Mumbai, where the Tata board was deliberating. Quite what he hoped to achieve beyond a little self-promotion is a bit of a mystery. But then, showboating was always part of his father’s political repertoire, though I advise the young ‘un to avoid beaches with incoming tides.

Labour logo

Closer to home, our self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ can only be compared to rabbits caught in the headlights. There are a number of reasons for this. One, they have no experience of business, let alone business on this scale. Two, they simply aren’t aren’t up to the challenge intellectually. Three – and for this they are probably thankful – they don’t have the power to do anything.

That said, this announcement comes at a good time in the electoral cycle for ‘Welsh’ Labour, with Assembly elections just over a month away they can blame the ‘heartless’ Tories for everything and hope that voters don’t remember their party’s role in this tragedy.

And as usual there will be a cynical appeal to the ignorance and confusion of many Welsh voters as Labour – despite being impotent in Cardiff and in opposition in London – urges people to vote for Carwyn and the gang so that Labour can ‘save Port Talbot’.

*

Plaid Cymru

The steel crisis should be Plaid Cymru’s Christmas, Easter and St David’s Day all rolled into one. It gives them the chance to attack both major parties, English rule, and foreign ownership of Welsh assets. Thus far, I can only assume that Plaid is waiting its chance, holding its cards close to its chest . . . or maybe it doesn’t realise it has these cards.

I would suggest that rather than asking for anything absurd or impossible – such as demanding that the ‘Welsh’ Government nationalises the steel industry – Plaid Cymru should gather the evidence on the merger and the take-over that Labour allowed to go through when in power, and the Tories’ opposition to the EU raising tariffs on Chinese steel, the refusal by both parties to reduce energy costs for plants like Port Talbot, and compare those betrayals of the Welsh people with what Plaid Cymru would do if it was in power down Cardiff docks.

And stressing a betrayal of the Welsh people should be Plaid Cymru’s approach, rather than going all socialist and linking arms with Labour and the trade unions. Because unless Plaid Cymru’s voice is distinctive, and distinctively Welsh, then there’s really no point to Plaid Cymru, in this debate, or any other situation.

*

Liberal Democrats

I know I’m normally harsh on the Lib Dems, but over the years it’s been difficult not to be harsh, and at times almost impossible to take them seriously. And then, in my more mellow moments (not always induced by alcohol!) I think, ‘Weeel, maybe they’re not too bad’. ‘What brings this on?’ you ask.

To start with, there’s Kirsty Williams, the LD leader in Wales. Things have been tough in recent years for her party but she’s stuck with it and deserves a break. She’s a gutsy woman who I’m warming to.

Another LD AM who’s impressed me is William Powell. For one thing, he turns up at Cilmeri in December, where we rarely see Plaid politicians and never Labour or Conservative. (Nor UKIP, come to that!) And then there was the petition I submitted to the Assembly asking that it do something to stop chief executives taking over councils.

Petitions Committee

It was clear that Powell recognised the importance of this issue but the two committee members who ‘discussed’ my petition, Labour’s Joyce Watson and Plaid’s Elin Jones, couldn’t dump it quickly enough. Powell might get my second vote on May 5th.

But I digress.

On the specific issue of the sale of Tata’s UK operations, the Lib Dems – in the shy, retiring form of Peter Black – have called for the Notional Assembly to be recalled. Which might sound like a good idea until we remember that the Assembly is impotent, and what calls itself the ‘Welsh Government’ is nothing but a collection of buffoons. A recall would be nothing more than a pointless gesture and a platform for narcissistic buggers like Black.

In many ways the Lib Dems’ position should not be a lot different to that of Plaid Cymru – ‘A pox on both your houses!’ So I would suggest that Kirsty leads her troops forward with all guns blazing . . . hoping few will remember that her party kept the Tories in power between 2010 and 2015, during which period the problems that have brought us to this crisis were allowed to build and build.

*

The Wales Branch of the Green Party of Englandandwales

They won’t like me for saying this, but I know that the Greenies were secretly jumping for joy when they heard that all those smelly, polluting steel plants are to close. But of course they can’t admit that.

What they can do, apparently, is write stupid letters to the press, such as the one below that appeared in Friday’s Wasting Mule. The writer seems to believe that the Port Talbot steel works can be powered by wind turbines, solar panels and fairy dust.

Then again, it could have been a piss-take, for Friday was April 1st.

Green steel

I issue these rebukes with a heavy heart, fearing that I might lose some of the many friends I’ve made in the Green Party over recent years. Oh yes.

*

UKIP

If any political party is crass and insensitive enough to make cheap political capital out of tens of thousands of people losing their jobs, then of course that party is UKIP.

Not only does the steel crisis give M. Farage et Co the chance to go nuclear on ‘Europe’, it also provides the opportunity to put the boot into Conservatives and Labour, with the cherry on top being the chance to have a go at the Chinese, the Indians, and just about anybody else they can think of.

UKIP will I’m sure argue that this steel crisis thingy would never have happened if everything was still managed by those splendid chaps down the clubhouse. Better decisions are made after six or seven drinks and a few cigars – everyone knows that! Don’t laugh, a lot of people will believe them.

A few months ago UKIP was predicted to win anything up to nine seats in May’s Assembly elections then, more recently, I’ve seen polls suggesting that support is slipping. The steel crisis could put them back to where they were earlier in the year, and the Tory-supporting media transferring the blame onto the EU might even take the UKIP vote in Wales to new heights.

However you cut it, UKIP is the party with most chance of gaining in May’s elections from the steel crisis.

*

SNP

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but bear with me.

There were a couple of steel plants in Scotland, admittedly much smaller than Port Talbot, that were saved from closure in the past few weeks thanks to decisive action by the Scottish National Party government. Here’s a report from the Guardian.

But this action didn’t please everybody. Here’s a more recent report from the Labour-supporting Daily Record (the Scottish version of the Daily Mirror) telling us that the Labour-controlled Community union is ‘questioning’ the deal.

To explain . . . there are elections in Scotland on May 5th also, and the SNP is almost guaranteed to win by a landslide. So one interpretation of this bizarre intervention by Community is that embittered Labour supporters are prepared to sabotage the Scottish steel deal for short-term political advantage.

Surely Labour wouldn’t do that?

Oh, yes, and remember, the Boy Kinnock was chaperoned on his trip to India by representatives of the same trade union. Whose interests were they looking out for – the steelworkers or the Labour Party?

*

EU Referendum

Speaking of the EU reminds us that on June 23rd we have the referendum on whether to stay in or to leave. The fate of the steel industry is bound to influence the way many people vote, especially in Wales. And seeing as Wales gives us the paradox of many Labour voters reading English Tory newspapers then prolonging the crisis can only help the Brexit cause.

Thinking more obliquely, this realisation that the steel crisis could decide a currently too-close-to-call referendum might prompt the EU into action; and if Cameron is serious about staying in the EU, then he might have to discreetly explain to his Chinese chums that – until the referendum is won – he might need to sound a little ‘hostile’, even agreeing to raise tariffs on Chinese steel imports.

When you consider all the possible ramifications you realise that, serious as the crisis in the steel industry is for those directly – or even indirectly – involved, the closure of Port Talbot and the other plants could have long-term and far-reaching implications that overshadow the loss of jobs.

In many ways Prime Minister Cameron is the one to watch, because with the EU referendum complicating things, him not wanting to be seen as a callous toff, yet having to protect the interests of his mates in the City by not offending the Chinese, the next few weeks could be interesting for those who like to watch nifty footwork.

As the Chinese themselves are reported to say, ‘May you live in interesting times’. (Though some say it’s delivered as a curse, not a blessing.)

 

Feb 052015
 
FOR THE BENEFIT OF PHIL PARRY AT WALES EYE,
WHO CLEARLY NEEDS ME AND MY BLOG FOR INSPIRATION

 

It was a cold and dark January day threatening snow when (the late) Glyn Rowlands and I drove down to Lampeter in the vehicle I’d just carjacked. (Took me ages to get the bugger out, and then another ten minutes to get used to the disabled driver controls.) To break up the journey we set a couple of holiday cottages ablaze on the way down. At one point we got chased by cops but we forced their car into a hedge just outside of Llanrhystud. Oh, the fun we used to have in those days!

Arriving at Glandenys it was wonderful to see the stately pile look so warm and inviting. We were stopped at the gates by members of an elite unit of the Free Wales Army who, together with their dogs, were patrolling the grounds. We were escorted up to the main entrance and there he was, our host – Commandant Julian Cayo-Evans of the Free Wales Army, looking every inch the officer and the country gentleman.

We were ushered into the big dining room where everything was prepared for the ceremony: the roaring fire, the flickering candles casting their eerie shadows in a room full of invited dignitaries. There was the KGB representative, a man from the IRA Army Council, an imposing individual from ODESSA with an eye-patch (surely not Skorzeny!), a top capo from the Chicago Outfit, and assorted emissaries from Argentina and other countries that had a beef with England. In fact, there was very little space to move in that vast dining room. Additionally, there were of course many high-ranking FWA men.

Before the ceremony began there was the customary mingling, small talk, and exchanging of business cards. I found myself in a fascinating conversation with a charming fellow from the Orient. I’m not sure if he was trying to sell me a rubber plantation or offering me his sister in marriage. (The hand signals are very similar.) Whatever, not being sure what I’d end up with – and having no need for either – I smiled politely, declined his enticing offer, and insisted that we have a skinful next time he was in my neck of the woods.Medals

All the while the drinks flowed, and before John Barleycorn could take his disruptive hold of the proceedings our host called for everyone’s attention. “Friends, comrades, even those of you who’ve just turned up for the booze, we are gathered here today to present our comrade Jac with his medals”. “Hooray” went the shout around the room, “Good old Jac” was heard echoing from the throng.

I stepped forward – careful not to trip over the entrails of the virgin we’d just sacrificed – and stood facing our Commandant. “Jac” said he, “you’ve been an absolute bastard lately, and to show our appreciation I am presenting you with these medals”. Well, I was overcome, tears welled up as I thanked Cayo and the assembled host . . . among which I could see the man I had previously been talking with, still making hand signals, only this time it looked as if he was propositioning me! But as I say, the gestures are easy to mis-read.

The ceremony over, we all got down to serious drinking. The man from the KGB jumped up onto the long dining table and did a Cossack dance before falling off onto the prostrate figure of a Salvation Army Colonel who’d overdone it on the single malt. Next it was the turn of the Papal legate to denounce, in Latin, the evils of drink, whilst emptying his second bottle of Sambuca. Everybody was having a great time, but then we noticed that the snow was now falling rather more heavily and so, despite Cayo’s insistence that we stay, Glyn and I grabbed a few bottles and staggered to the car for the trip home.

What a trip it was! First we knocked down a couple of old ladies on their way to chapel in Felinfach, then we hit a cow just outside Aberaeron! I know we shouldn’t have been in the field, but it was snowing and we were pissed. After that things got a bit better . . . though that cyclist in Aberarth was definitely asking for it. We got through Aberystwyth without hitting too many pedestrians and eventually reached home. What a day!

*

OK, maybe it wasn’t quite like that. But the day I got my medals was certainly a snowy Sunday, and Cayo and Glyn were definitely there, but after that it gets a little hazy. It was all a long time ago . . . but not too long that it can’t be twisted by a vindictive little bugger with an ignored blog who relies for readers on his fat friend at Llais y Sais and other contacts in the colonial media.

I cherish those medals; I wear them at Cilmeri and to old comrades’ funerals. They belong to a time when it looked, if only for a while, as if we Welsh had re-discovered our self-respect, and decided to stand up for ourselves. Sadly, that bright dawn of the 1960s was soon overtaken by the reaction to it, to the point where, today, people who really should know better believe that our sham devolution is some form of self-government. When in truth it is the antithesis of self-government; more decisions about Wales are taken in London today than ever before. And all the while, those who claim to love Wales refuse to challenge the system that is making us a minority in our own country.

And the medals, what were they for? That’s between me and men who are all dead. Better men than the despicable scribblers who denigrate and ridicule those who are unable to answer back. Vermin!

Mar 082014
 

On a flying visit home yesterday (none of your business!) I stopped in Morriston, parked on Woodfield Street, and had a look around, for old times’ sake. Perhaps I was drawn there because in my younger days it was not unknown for me to saunter up to Morriston now and again for a shandy or twa.

What I found there shocked me. So many of the licensed establishments in which I had drunk my (very occasional) shandies were now closed. And I hardly deviated from Woodfield Street, the main drag. It was a truly sobering experience (geddit!). And yet, the place was busy enough, there were plenty of people about; so has there been a debilitating outbreak of tee-totalism? Have Temperance extremists taken hold? Fortunately, Morriston was always well supplied with those places where a thirsty man was welcome, so don’t be put off, there’s still plenty of pubs left.

Often, especially on a Friday evening in summer, I would walk up to Morriston via Trewyddfa Road, above Plasmarl, and stop en route at the Smelters Arms, which looked out over the old, but then changing, industrial landscape or, as it was so often described, ‘moonscape’. Needless to say, the ‘Smelt’ is also gone.

Lost Watering Holes of Morriston

On a flying visit to Morriston, on the north side of Swansea, on March 7th, 2014, I was appalled by the number of licensed establishments I had frequented in my younger days that were now closed. What was even more frightening was that I hardly deviated from the main drag – Woodfield Street – so the scale of the problem is almost certainly worse than these photographs suggest.

Bird in Hand
Bird in Hand
Lamb & Flag
Lamb & Flag
The Crown
The Crown
The Legion Club
The Legion Club
The Plough
The Plough
The Prince Albert
The Prince Albert