22 May 2010

A weekend away

Cymer in South Wales was for a hundred years a mining village, a history that is kept alive in the only remaining pub: the Refreshment Rooms, a building that was originally a railway station (one of three stations in the village, all long since closed)
Photo Jane Elizabeth
A wide, shallow pub one bar leads off another which leads off another and in each room are scores of photographs recalling the former life: black faced miners in cramped passages stare bleakly back at the camera. A painfully young Prince of Wales opens the apprenticeship and training centre. The Cymer Rugby Club smile grimly out of 1952. There are photographs of new lifts, machinery, cranes, towers being opened, and of collieries being closed. In the room with the pool table a vast large-scale map of the area shows the seams of coal, and the mines they sank to dig them, collieries that closed, one by one, from 1970 to 1996 as the seams were gradually, eventually exhausted.

It was Saturday evening and the pub's restaurant were getting ready for a busy service. In the lounge bar, at the table next to us five ladies of a certain age enjoyed a pre-dinner drink while they studied the menus. They were dressed smartly and their combined perfume gently suffused their corner of room. They didn't speak to each other much - perhaps the evening was still young, perhaps our presence was inhibiting. I wondered where their husbands were. The barmaid took their order: the popular choice was a steak, well-done, not cheap at £14.50. "No, no peas with it" said one, firmly, affronted at the suggestion.

The other side of us sat a family : parents, daughter-plus-boyfriend, younger sister, granny. The boyfriend was making an effort: sitting up straight, hair and green t-shirt both well clean, Earring, yes, but a discreet one. Bracelets, yes, both wrists, but not too many; Necklaces? Yes, three, but including a crucifix so not too menacing. He sipped his beer and listened carefully laughing in the right places. I concluded that the pair hadn't been going out very long. The barmaid took their order, the popular choice was a steak, well done 'does it come with french fries ?'

In the next bar a group of men watched Leinster v Munster on S4C. with the commentary in English. They were drinking cold Guiness and lager.

And then there was us - three egregious English Mountain Bikers with wild stories of how fast we had descended White's Level* and hitching up our trouser-legs to compare cuts and bruises. For where there were once mines and freight railways in the Afan Valley, there is now the Afan Forest Mountain bike centre, with 100km of purpose built, hair-raising single-track bike trails which draw mountain bikers from all over the country, alien lycra-clad beings in the valley communities. The barmaid came and took our order: The popular choice was three more pints of bitter.

We cycled 70 miles in three days, back-breaking climbs and tingling descents. In the evenings we cooked for ourselves and at lunchtimes we had vast and welcome portions of carbohydrate based meals at the Afan Mountain Bike centre. I punctured twice and broke a valve once We got soaked to the skin and covered from head to toe in mud. We had an excellent time.

We were there from Friday to Sunday and between us we probably spent £500 in Cymer. I wonder if that is enough to keep the village afloat.

*not quite this fast

11 May 2010

Ups and Downs

Well I, for one, welcome our new ConDem overlords.

Picture by Origamidon

But I am grumpy about finding myself older than the Prime Minister. Too soon, too soon.

(Did the Tories give away too much?)

06 May 2010

What really bugs me about the #ukelection

Three things really bug me about the election

1 - The ballot is not secret:
  • each ballot paper is numbered.
  • the returning officer carefully records your elector number against the ballot paper number.
  • anyone who imagines that the ballots papers are not later retrieved, and reconciled to the electoral roll is living in a dreamworld
2 - Party activists outside polling stations impersonate officials in order to collect the identities of the gullible.
  • Here is a video of a conservative activist quite shamelessly doing just that http://bit.ly/dpJIcf
  • One time I voted there was a policeman in attendance and I involved him in the matter - he was completely uninterested. What was he there for?
3- Postal vote fraud

This is the postal vote fraud election

05 May 2010

Thirty-Two Songs - Day 1

day 01 – your favourite song
day 02 – your least favourite song
day 03 – a song that makes you happy
day 04 – a song that makes you sad
day 05 – a song that reminds you of someone
day 06 – a song that reminds of you of somewhere
day 07 – a song that reminds you of a certain event
day 08 – a song that you know all the words to
day 09 – a song that you can dance to
day 10 – a song that makes you fall asleep 
day 11 – a song from your favourite band
day 12 – a song from a band you hate
day 13 – a song that is a guilty pleasure
day 14 – a song that no one would expect you to love
day 15 – a song that describes you
day 16 – a song that you used to love but now hate
day 17 – a song that you hear often on the radio
day 18 – a song that you wish you heard on the radio
day 19 – a song from your favourite album
day 20 – a song that you listen to when you’re angry
day 21 – a song that you listen to when you’re happy
day 22 – a song that you listen to when you’re sad
day 23 – a song that you want to play at your wedding
day 24 – a song that you want to play at your funeral
day 25 – a song that makes you laugh
day 26 – a song that you can play on an instrument
day 27 – a song that you wish you could play
day 28 – a song that makes you feel guilty
day 29 – a song from your childhood
day 30 – your favourite song at this time last year
day 31 – a song you inherited from your parents
day 32 – a song you'd like to pass on to your children
So here's the game: choose thirty-two songs, following the list in the the panel, one a day. Explain yourself; how can I resist?

Meme from Russell M Davies who has been working wistfully and wittily through the project over the last few weeks.

Encouragement from younger Botogol daughter who completed the project in thirty minutes flat and then one evening talked us through her intriguing, wonderfully eclectic, occasionally revealing and frequently surprising playlist.

I don't want to swamp the next whole month of Greenideas with this, so after the first one - I am going to post up the rest of them on a sub-blog 32-songs.greenideas.com , and there will be daily links the post on the sidebar here (See it - on the right?)

So.. here is the first of thirty-two.

Day 01 ~ Your Favourite Song ~
Graceland - Paul Simon ~