Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A New Radnor

It's plain enough that the Radnorians who settled Pennsylvania's Welsh Tract at the end of the 17C named the local creek after the river back home. There's some background here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Up the Fron

When I was a young lad living down the Gravel Road, the Fron - and we always called it the Fron, a translation I guess of Y Fron - was a mere suburb of Crossgates. Nowadays, it seems to have graduated into a place that deserves its own roadsign, which is only right and proper, as it surely had an identity long before Crossgates had a gate.

The 15C bard Lewis Glyn Cothi composed a couple of poems to Dafydd Goch ap Maredudd, a local chieftain from the parish of Llanbadarn Fawr - the 1995 edition of Glyn Cothi's work says Llanbadarn Fynydd but that doesn't make much sense. Firstly because Dafydd's descent group - Llywarch ap Bran - had land in Llanbadarn Fawr but not in Llanbadarn Fynydd, secondly because references to the river Cymaron being in the locality - nowadays misspelt Cwmaran by those who should know better - are much more appropriate to Llanbadarn Fawr. The clincher for me is this line in one of the poems - Yn y ty fry ar y fron - OK you could translate that as "in the house up on the hill" but isn't "in the house up on the Fron" more likely?

Oh I just realised that some readers might not know that the Fron and Crossgates are both in the Radnorshire parish of Llanbadarn Fawr - nothing to do with Aberystwyth.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Nice Work If You Can Get it

Journo Andrew Gilligan makes the following point in today's Sunday Telegraph:

"For bureaucrats of the Welsh Assembly Government, the retirement age is actually lower, at 50, than the average police officer."

Now I'm sure this will come as news to the average toiler at the Assembly where the retirement age - if they can afford to - is actually 60 like everywhere else in the Colonial Civil Service.

One wonders where Mr Gilligan got this information? Down the pub? From a friendly local Taxi driver? From a pal in UKIP?

Seemingly Mr Gilligan is now away on holiday, hopefully someone will put him straight if he ventures west of Offa's Dyke.

UPDATE: The Sunday Telegraph has a circulation of over half a million, so that's a fair number who will have read Mr Gilligan's ridiculous claim last week that Assembly staff retire at 50. Has anyone from the Assembly refuted the assertion, have any of the Welsh political bloggers mentioned it? Not that I can see. Even the redoubtable Robyn Lewis has failed to get a letter published on the matter. The thing is you need to stamp on these false stories before they get legs. Come the referendum there will be thousands of hard-working souls who believe that Assembly staff retire at 50 whereas they are faced with the prospect of working until 70. The Welsh political class really need to wake up and get their act together.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Edge of the Forest

Hay Horse Fair was a good place to go if you enjoyed a fight, at least that was the opinion of the old-timers in my local Radnorian pub when I was growing-up. Nowadays locals surely approach the Hay Literary Festival in much the same way as Amazonian Indians view so-called civilisation, peering out at an alien world from the edge of the forest.

Back in the good old days Welsh writers were more likely to be found in prison than in the pages of the Guardian, now it seems that the present generation can't wait to rub shoulders with the London glitterati in Y Gelli. But wait ..... no-one of consequence noticed that they were even there or that Hay on Wye was actually in Wales. It seems we're missing out on a great marketing opportunity by not raising the Welsh profile at Hay - although none of our politicians seemed bothered when the very successful Biker show was hounded out of Builth for no good reason.

Anyway, ever eager to help here's a suggestion .... why don't the Assembly government arrange for a few "Home Rule" slogans to be painted around the town. It was Paul Theroux who said the English only took an Irishman seriously when he was holding a gun and I guess the same thing applies to the Welsh. Give the glitterati the frisson that they are entering a conflict zone and the Welsh profile of the festival could be raised for the price of a couple of cans of Dulux.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Nothing on the Telly

YouTube is chock-a-block with Andean huaylas and huayno music - marvellous stuff.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Back in the early 1950s when London decided that Wales deserved a capital city, there were those who thought that an out in the sticks sort of place like Llandrindod would make a mighty fine Welsh Canberra.

Now, as young Karen Brockman might say, I've been to Canberra, so I'm glad that Cardiff eventually won out. Stick a few thousand civil servants in the middle of nowhere and pretty soon the main topic of conversation becomes the latest flexitime rules.

Maybe it was Jan Morris who said that Canberra was built for a race of giants, but whoever it was, it's certainly true. Canberra is a great place to cycle but not much fun for a pedestrian, when even marching up to the counter across the huge marble floor of an empty bank is quite a hike.

What fun to point out, after a long stroll to the National Gallery of Australia, that Aussie treasure Sydney Nolan - that's one of his paintings and they're all like that - was actually living back in Presteigne - OK I know The Rodd is a few yards over the border but ... Anyway my last visit there was in 1996, just after another Radnorian resident, Lord Williams of Elvel (and shouldn't that be Elfael) had published his biography of Bradman. Here was a book that contained the great truth that, quite contrary to accepted opinion, it was Englishmen who were cheats and Australians who were whingers. An opinion that, once shared, certainly got Canberrans off the subject of T&S for a while.

Just a Dream on my Mind

I wonder how many people remember the 1986 World Cup in Colombia? OK I know it was actually held in Mexico but originally Colombia had been selected to host the competition. At the time I knew a few Bogotanas - heck I even had a Millonarios football shirt - as well as folk from Barranquilla, Cartagena and even Medellin; finding somewhere to stay would be no problem. Oh and Wales would obviously qualify, having just missed out on Spain in 1982. The great trip was on.

Of course Colombia did had a few problems - guerrillas, drug cartels, murder and kidnapping on the streets. I remember someone telling me that you could hire a hitman for $10 American and after she insisted on showing me her exit wound I was a believer. As it was in early 1983 with no stadium construction underway Colombia admitted defeat and handed the rights to the tournament back to FIFA.

Any hope of Wales qualifying for the rescheduled competition in Mexico ended with another ridiculous penalty decision at Ninian Park the night Big Jock died. I like to think that in some alternate universe Colombia did host the 1986 World Cup, Wales qualified and we were there.

Apologies if you don't like the new-look blog. I was experimenting and have no idea how to get the old settings back.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Interlude Musical

Down in the dumps? Sheila ought to be able to cheer you up. Still miserable? ....... a few years later Sheila was transformed into Disco Diva Sheila B Devotion, see here. Well I'm happy now anyway.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Sitting Next to a Strange Man is Liable to Make Me Vomit.

There's a jolly article about Turf eccentric Dorothy Paget in today's Mail, by the way the title of this post is taken from a letter she wrote to the Transport authorities requesting that she be allowed to reserve a railway carriage for her own exclusive use - this during the Second World War!

What the article doesn't touch on is Ms Paget's earlier Motor Sport involvement. Firstly Dorothy was a first cousin of the racing driver Whitney Straight and she was, more importantly, the financial backer of Le Mans winner Tim Birkin and the Blower Bentley project. Paget's interest in motor sport ended with Birkin's death. It is suggested that Paget was infatuated with Birkin but given her dislike of men this is debatable. When she greeted her great steeplechaser Golden Miller in the paddock following another victory, a wag suggested that it was the first time she had kissed a male - yes, Dorothy replied, but he is a gelding.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Llandrindod Correspondent

The time was that non-conformist Wales was one of the more philo-semitic corners of the planet. There's little left of that world now, apart from the names of a few emptying chapels and Old Testament Welsh surnames such as Moses, Israel and Jeremiah. Nowadays Welsh opinion formers are more likely to take a lead from the increasingly anti-semitic London media than from the traditions of their own country.

Given that historic philo-semtism, Tredegar's anti-Jewish riots of 1911 were something of an aberration. Attacking the businesses of unpopular shopkeepers was fairly common in the nascent revolutionary years of 1910 and 1911 in the coalfield. The attacks on specifically Jewish businesses in Tredegar lasted only a couple of days before being subsumed into more general unrest. Still it would be interesting to discover exactly who the anti-Jewish rioters were, given the ethnic and religious hotchpotch of Edwardian Monmouthshire.

The London press made a meal of the whole thing, comparing the riots to the pogroms of Russia, but Jewish correspondents from South Wales were quick to dismiss such sensationalised journalism in letters to the press. Indeed there was only one letter from Wales, it was published in the Jewish Chronicle, which hinted at any wider anti-semitism in the country. This came from a Jewish minister, Herbert Sandheim of Llandrindod Wells who seemingly blamed Jewish comedians in the music hall for the situation!

So was there something about Llandrindod and its entertainments which caused Mr Sandheim to express opinions not generally shared by his co-religionists? Infact a glance at the 1911 Census shows that Mr Sandheim was a 28 year old Glaswegian - he must have been holidaying in Llandrindod when he wrote the letter as he had been living in Swansea, with his Russian born wife, for at least a year. Radnorshire can have played little part in forming Mr Sandheim's opinions. You can read about the Tredegar riots here.

The illustration shows Staniforth's Dame Wales apologizing to a Jewish shopkeeper for the depredations of the rioters. Nowadays the BBC would probably call them peace activists.