CARLING CUP SEMI-FINAL -  Cardiff City 1   Palace     1                
                           ( Cardiff win 3-1 on penalties)

   It was one of those games! My insides were burning up throughout the whole 120 minutes and more ; though that can be explained by the chillis I injudiciously gobbled up in the pre-match warm up at Chapter.
   No, it did little for my high blood pressure and I was relieved I wouldn't be going to the surgery the next day for a check-up.
   As the game went on our manager Malky Mackay became increasingly frenetic. His sign language from the dug-out took the form of a Primary teacher on speed doing motion songs last lesson Friday afternoon. He seems determined to be the exact antithesis of last boss Dave Jones, who made a statue appear animated.
   Despite an early o.g. courtesy of the same player who'd scored against us in the first leg, Anthony Gardner ( someone quipped that he was on a hat-trick!), we seemed determined to fulfil their manager Dougie Freedman's gibe  that we were ' the nearly men'.
   We nearly scored, three times hitting the woodwork, and even in the dying minutes our Icelandic midfielder Gunnarsson should have buried at least one of two headers he had on goal.
   It looked as if Wembley wasn't to be when our top scorer 'King' Kenny Miller skyed our first penalty in the shoot-out.
   But second-choice keeper Tom Heaton (who has been favoured for every Carling Cup game) was magnificent. At fault for the goal in the first leg, he more than compensated by astonishingly saving two penalties, their first taken by Cardiff boy Jermaine Easter ( maybe a mistake on Freedman's part?).
   When their fourth pen. was skyed in an imitation of Miller's by their Norwegian international Parr, there were scenes of utter jubilation and pandemonium.
   You'd have thought Wembley wasn't our second home and nobody had been tempting fate all night by chanting - 'We're the greatest Cardiff City and we're going to Wem-ber- ley! Wem-ber-ley! Wem-ber-ley!'
   Heaton dashes over to embrace fellow keeper Marshall, pursued by all our players. Pitch invasion by ecstatic fans. Malaysian owners summoning the ghost of Sam Hamman by doing the ayatollah on the field. Freedman left to rue his statement that we'd be 'scared stiff'.
    'Us?' someone said on Facebook. 'How can you say 'us' ?'
    Yet anyone who supports a team properly knows that fans play a massive part in games and the atmosphere last Tuesday undoubtedly lifted the players.
   Heaton became an instant hero. He appeared on 'Sport Wales' and also a programme called 'Soccer AM' on Sky1, which appeared to consist of a studio audience press-ganged into laughing at the presenters inanities.
   What is especially ironic is that long-term CCFC fan and 'character' Dai Hunt was in trouble for accosting Heaton at the club's training ground days before Tuesday's match, accusing him of losing us the tie! Hunt was banned from the second leg , the only  time he has missed a game since falling off his bike in Swansea .  I heard that someone shouted for him to 'do the ayatollah', but.......in Swansea?
   So, we are off to Wembley with the knowledge that Malky is very different from Dave Jones and we stand a better chance this time. Not only do we have incredible team spirit and work-rate, but this team never give up. Moreover, he can pick different players and vary tactics according to the opponents. This season we have played 4-1-4-1, 4-3-3, 4-4-1-1 and 4-5-1........sometimes in the course of a single game!
   If Dave Jones had asked our players to play 'the diamond', then the likes of Chopra and Bothroyd would have insisted on gold instead!
   Amazingly, on the Carling Cup highlights programme with Manish Bhasin and Mark Bright, the latter actually stated we hadn't deserved to win ( Palace didn't have one shot on goal in the second leg!). I take it he was speaking as an ex- Palace player and not as the objective pundit he was getting paid to be. He begrudgingly wished us 'Good luck!', his voice hoarse from cheering for Palace the night before.
   So, I'm looking forward to taking on Liverpool and hope we 'lamp' them.
The reason I especially dislike them has nothing to do with being an Everton fan in the 60s before I returned to Wales, or the role of Liverpool Council in the drowning of Treweryn.
   No, it has everything to do with recent events regarding Suarez. I was appalled by the support given to him by Dalglish and the players, wearing t-shirts which displayed this openly. Found guilty by the Football League of racist abuse against Patrice Evra, the Liverpool fans yesterday continued to support him by booing Evra every time he touched the ball and flying Uraguan flags.
    Every single tv pundit said the match had passed off without incident and Mark Lawrenson merely stated that  the whole situation 'added spice' to proceedings!
   The club's dreadful stance had made that booing acceptable. Every decent Liverpool fan ( and I'm sure there are many) should come out and condemn the actions of those who continued to abuse Evra : he was the victim not the perpetrator.
   When Cardiff City fans abused the gay footballer Justin Fashanu who played for  Torquay against us in the 80s, I was just as horrified and many of my friends were as well.
   Anyway, I am looking forward to the match and to our contest against of one my favourite players, Craig Bellamy, despite the fact that he said over the summer that he would play for us 'for nothing'. 


Walking Down Wembley Way

 

We’ll be there, we’ll be there!
Walking down Wembley Way once more!

City followers from Merthyr
doing the ayatollah.

Fans from Cardiff
bearing their midriffs.

Supporters from Bridgend
bantering with friends.

Bluebirds from Barry
chanting for Don Cowie.

All the way from the Rhondda
to see King Kenny score.

Fanatics from Ponty
cheering Valleys’ boy Darcy.

They’ll be coming from Cwmbran

to chant for Super Kev McNaughton.

They’ll do what we want from Caerphilly town,

just like Peter Whittingham.

Walking down Wembley Way once more,

we’ll be there, we’ll be there!


 
 
   In this week's 'Western Mail', under the heading 'Access For All' Merthyr's absentee AM ( he lives in Penarth and sends his children to school there) and Heritage Minister Huw Lewis outlines his views on the state of the arts in Wales.
   Echoing fellow Labourite Prof. Dai Smith, Chair of the Welsh Arts Council,
he uses the National Theatre and ,in particular, their production of 'The Passion', as a symbol of this inclusivity.
   Lewis has seldom championed the arts in Merthyr Tudful and his only real contribution was the advocacy of the Theatre Royal as a venue as opposed to the Soar Chapel, which actually became one!
   Outside Merthyr, he has taken scant interest in the fight to save the Dylan Thomas Centre as Cymru's only regular literature venue, or, equally significantly, to save Gwent Theatre and other theatre in education groups such as Theatr Powys and Spectacle from the Arts Council's axe.
   When I confronted Prof. Smith about this destruction of theatre in education, he merely pointed out that he would sooner have a National Theatre any day ; as though the choice were inevitable.
   Now, I would sooner have both and the money to come from finance wasted on the monarchy and armed forces, or even spending less on elitist opera. However, given the choice, I would claim that theatre in education makes art far more accessible, especially to the very young people Huw Lewis claims to prioritise.
   Certainly, as Lewis implies, productions like 'The Passion' gave the people of Port Talbot a genuine sense of involvement and focus for a few days.
   However, this was temporary and could even be compared to Michael Heseltine's infamous Garden Festivals. One such was  created at Ebbw Vale, of course, and its lasting legacy is an estate of new houses and a retail park!
   Compared to groups like Gwent Theatre, who developed impressively over years of hard work, the approach of the National Theatre is akin to an arts invasion force made up of local boys made good (Michael Sheen), huge rock bands willing to mutilate their own songs for the overall concept (The Manics with 'Design For Life') and the predicatably safe Owen Sheers to devise a script which often sounded laughably absurd.
   Gwent Theatre and their ilk, however, represented a commitment to schools and communities over a long period and if Lewis argues that the arts needs 'access for all', then he should be planning a scheme to resurrect theatre in education, only this time on a Wales-wide basis.
   The National Theatre may be commendably experimental in form, but it is also  extremely conventional in content. It would have been more daring to have used a version of 'The Passion' story which made analogies between Dic Penderyn and Christ, both martyrs of course.
   I doubt very much that Lewis knows what's happening in the arts. It's all very well saying that Treorci is more important than the Millennium Centre, but venues like the Parc and Dare rely almost entirely on outside acts to bring the revenue in.
   His idea of the arts is to bring opera to a converted chapel, while what is needed is a more community-based and dynamic policy.
   Now, not only do we need theatre in education groups throughout Cymru, but residencies at these, whereby dramatists can work with local groups , doing workshops and putting on productions. This happened very successfully in the past, with playwrights like Charles Way and Greg Cullen at Gwent and Powys respectively.
   I've concentrated on drama simply because that was Lewis's focus, but in literature much greater access should be encouraged through a series of Young People's Litfests, such as the one organised in Merthyr last year, when many schools took part in a day of workshops and readings.
   Lewis's twin interests in opera and Shakespeare merely illustrate his elitist view of the arts.
   What will the next National Theatre project be? 'Macbeth' in Merthyr written in Valleys dialect? Well, second thoughts, that might be........
   Interestingly, he states - ' But we want organisations to know we are standing by them during this very difficult period.'
   So why didn't he intervene to save the likes of Gwent Theatre and the Dylan Thomas Centre?
   His claim about 'access for all' is pure spin : it has no substance without
clear policies which will have a lasting affect.
   As in the past, Labour's philosophy is one of giving the people what is good for them, not involving people to devise their own creations. This top-down, Stalinist mentality has barely changed since the days of Bethesda Arts Centre in Merthyr, when they refused to support it and turned it into a Job Club.
   The arts are happening now despite, rather than because of the Minister's encouragement, yet groups and individuals are feeling the impact of the Cuts and receiving negligible backing. He's full is talk, but has failed to act.

   I offer the following poem to show there's more to Valleys' culture than opera in church halls........yes, there's KFC!



                              EWMAN  ADVERT

I woz standin at-a bus stop
right by-a KFC
bastin an bakin in-a smell
of chicken fat an chip oil,
waitin f’r a number 9 t Irwin.

The low mornin sun
woz shinin straight at me,
my jacket starts cracklin,
it wuz ot as an oven,
my arms like two drumsticks.

When-a bus come
I couldn wave it down,
I woz totelee paralyzed!
A sign cross my t-shirt read –
‘Colonel Sanders Needs You’
like an army recrewtment poster.

I tried t speak t passin people
an on’y come out with en noises;
theyer dog saluted is leg
an pisses all over my jeans.

The reek ad got inta my bones,
my nose a parson’s,
my skin nothin but breadcrumbs.

‘Ee looks delicious! I’d love t eat im!’
some kids shout, poking
an proddin t make me cluck.

Then, sudden as it ud appened,
the wind changes direction,
clouds cover up-a sun
an rain dampens down the stinkin air.

A free man agen, I forget Irwin
an wing back up the ill
like some petrified chicken
about t ave its throat slit
an its guts bagged in plastic.



 
 
 

   Ers dwy a hanner o flynyddoedd dw i’n wedi bod yn mynd i ddosbarth Cymraeg yn y YMCA Hirwaun.

   Mae’r athrawes Sue Jenkins yn gyfeillgar ac amyneddgar iawn. Mae Sue yn dod o Hirwaun ac yn siarad llawer  am ei theulu yn y dosbarth.

  Mae’r rhan fwyaf o bobol yna yn dod o Aberpennar ac fi yw’r unig dyn!

   Yn y dechrau, roedden ni’n astudio lefel Sylfaen, ond nawr dyn ni’n astudio lefel Canolradd 2 ; hefyd, rydyn ni’n darllen y llyfr ‘Tocyn Lwcus’ gan Bob Eynon bob wythnos. Mae’r storiau yn eitha da, ond tipyn teimladol yn fy marn i.

   Dw i’n wrth fy modd yn darllen llyfrau Cymraeg, yn arbennig barddoniaeth  ac y storiau gan Lois Arnold. Fy hoff lyfr ydy ‘E-Ffrindiau’ gan Lois Arnold ac ar hyn o bryd dw i’n mwynhau  y nofel ‘Pwy Sy’n Cofio Sion?’ gan Mair Evans.

   Bydd rhai o bobol yn y dosbarth yn sefyll yr arholiad o ddiwedd y cwrs ond nid fi, oherwydd dw i eisiau canolbwyntio ar rhwybeth arall.

   Fy uchelgais i ydy ysgrifennu llawer o farddoniaeth diddorol yn Gymraeg .Llynedd  helpodd Sue fi wrth ysgrifennu cerdd ar gyfer  y gadair yn  Eisteddfod y Ddysgwyr, Rhondda-Cynon-Taf.  Enw fy ngherdd oedd ‘Croesi’ ond, yn anffodus, doeddwn i ddim yn ennill.

   Sut bynnag, roedd y cerdd wedi cael ei gyhoeddi yn y cylchgrawn ‘Lingo’ ac roeddwn i’n  gyffrous.

   Gobeithio bodmwy o hyder gyda fi nawr i siarad a ysgrifennu Cymraeg, ac diolch o galon i Sue am ei gwersi frwdfrydig.

   Ysgrifennais i ‘r cerdd syml hon am fy mamgu ; teisen crwn oedd fy hoff teisen erioed!

                                               TEISEN  CRWN

Teisen Mamgu,
teisen teulu,
ond ble mae’r rysait nawr.......
ydy e wedi diflannu?

Edrych fel olwyn,
arogl fel rhosyn,
blas fel menyn,
llawn o afalau,
teisen teulu,
teisen Mamgu.

Brown fel y tir,

dw i’n cofio ‘n glir

fy Mamgu yn brysur

gyda blawd a siwgar.

Eisiau cofio y swyn unwaith eto,

y hud yn ei dwylo,

ei  gariad wrth bobi,

teisen teulu,

teisen Mamgu.

 
 
   This week I decided to re-join Plaid Cymru. As someone highly critical of reformist politics and who believes that ultimately only a revolution (albeit a peaceful one) can truly alter our bankrupt system, this was a major step.
   I joined previously in the mid-80s after the demise of the Welsh Socialist Republicans and before the formation of Cymru Goch and , then again, more recently in support of my daughter Bethan's bid to be reselected as an A.M. Her politics, like those of Jonathan Edwards MP, Lindsay Whittle and Adam Price , are very similar to my own.
   This time I am taking an equally pragmatic approach and joining to vote for Leanne Wood in the impending leadership battle and also to help with her campaign. I have been told that there has been a 10% rise in membership in recent months and I sincerely hope that is a desire to back Leanne , rather than stop Lord Elis-Thomas, the George Thomas of Plaid Cymru, who doesn't support independence and is constantly sycophantic towards the monarchy.
   Leanne Wood's politics are remarkably similar to my own. She is indefatigably internationalist in outlook, believing as I do , that each country must struggle to create their own individual form of socialism according to their history and culture.
   She believes in a decentralised socialism which Plaid have actually espoused since the 80s, but never actually carried out or indeed advocated strongly. The importance of cooperatives is fundamental to this and so too is the land bank she has suggested in her excellent 'Greenprint for the Valleys'.
   Leanne Wood is a politician for the future and her ideals are not steeped in that Stalinist obsession of so-called Old Labour, with their certainty that their party knew what the people wanted and duly imposed it on them.
   What Ms. Wood proposes is much closer to the 'Extreme democracy' outlined so prophetically by Cymru Goch's Tim Richards in the 1980s and 1990s; the non-hierarchical organisation of industries and services, whereby management is totally accountable and subject to recall if it doesn't represent the workers.
   Wood's vision for the Valleys in her 'Greenprint' could easily be applied to the whole of Cymru. It is for a sustainable future based on non-fossil fuel energy and we certainly have ample resources in Wales to make this realistic , in terms of hydro-electric power especially.
   Her consistently socialistic outlook means that Wood does not see independence as achievable in isolation. Independence is an mere illusion without the people of Cymru taking control of their economic destiny, with ownership of water, wind power and railways just a starting-point. How can we achieve independence when multi-national companies retain a grip on the economy, pulling out and leaving whole communities to suffer? Moreover, being exploited by Welsh capitalists means no greater freedom for our people.
   As my friend and comrade Tim Richards once stated 'Nationalism is a position and not an ideology'. Therefore, to attain genuine independence our future cannot be determined by shareholders, bankers, or the IMF. Ireland is surely the classic example of a country which has achieved only 'pseudo- independence': not just because of the partition of the six counties against the expressed will of the majority in Ireland, but because of its adherence to neo-liberal solutions, meaning that it has been prey to the vagaries of capitalism whoever has been in power.
   The other condition for genuine independence must be a republic. How can Cymru possibly claim to be its own country, whilst still bearing allegiance to the English Crown, which is indeliably associated with past wars, the Empire and the continuation of the class system?
   Ms. Wood is the only candidate for Plaid's leadership who has been consistently republican in her stance. She was once ejected from the Senedd for referring to E. Windsor as 'Mrs Windsor' and, with Bethan Jenkins and Lindsey Whittle refused to attend the Assembly when she visited last year.
   Leanne Wood has the determination and idealism to keep to her beliefs despite antipathy from the lickspittle media and, indeed, she has developed her ideas over the years to meet the changing situation.
   She has always backed the trade unions in their struggles against the recalcitrant ConDem Government while many other politicians, from both Plaid and Labour , have either been ambiguous in their support or downright condemnatory.
   I believe she represents an exciting future for Plaid Cymru and , like myself, she is a Welsh learner, who feels passionately about the language and the need for equal status in all areas, both public and private.
   In the end, I do not believe that one politician can make a huge difference and perhaps Leanne Wood would agree on this. It is surely about empowering the people and giving them confidence through meaningful jobs and daily participation in the running of the system at all levels.
   Coming from the Rhondda, she will know that there are many people outside the trade union movement and totally disillusioned with all politics, who must be given hope. Every day this Government are creating more and more of such people: graduates who can't get work, skilled workers made redundant and, above all, youngsters who don't even see a glimmer.
   George Monbiot has backed Leanne, calling her 'the Welsh Caroline Lucas'. Yet , she is very much her own person and not an imitation and if she were to become leader of Plaid Cymru then Prof. Gwyn Alf Williams's vision of the party as a real force for change will begin to take shape. 





                              People  Are  Falling


Every week people are falling
in this place of heavy history ;
not wooden sticks nor metal walkers
can help as they crumble down.

Every week others are calling
at some kind of emergency,
by cafes where smokers sit outside
blowing into a bitter breeze.

Every time they’re taken away
you wonder if they’ll ever return
to this town of chimney-trees
and smashed-glass empty factories.

Every fall’s another reminder
of how we once thought proud :
the pick and the furnace fire,
steam that turned the wheels around.

Every pavement’s seen a casualty
yet no-one acknowledges the war :
the rich are living like Generals,
the fallen are troops of the poor.

 
 
   In last Saturday's 'Western Mail' there was a photographic supplement entitled 'Pictures from the Past - part 3'. One shows the children's paddling pool at the seafront, Aberystwyth, in 1957 and I'm convinced I'm in it.   It must be a real sign of aging that I'm featured in such nostalgia, but four years old it looks like me, on the edge of the pool and gazing down to the beach (which is probably where I want to be).
   In the foreground I can only see the back of a woman who could well be my grandmother, or' Nanny' as we would call her. That made sense : no sign of my parents!
   If their marriage was collapsing, I wasn't particularly aware of it then. In retrospect, I can deliberate about the fact they never embraced, never seemed to kiss even and , most strangely, that there were two 'uncles' who bought us presents.
   One of those 'uncles' lived just down the road and the other in Swansea and my mother would take shopping trips to that city and return with a jar of sweets, a rarity.
   It also seems astonishing now that my father never became aware of this, or perhaps he did and we didn't know the resulting tensions and frustrations.
   It's not as if there were constant arguments in the house. My mother was an expert at 'putting on a show'. Once prominent in local AmDramatics, she used all her acting skills in personal situations and showed few emotions. This was the case even when my father stripped to his underpants and leapt onto the kitchen table, spitting and fuming abuse.
   When I was very young it was my dad who cared more for me and it was he who came to my bedside when I couldn't sleep and cried out, gently smoothing my head.
   With my mother, we three children grew up believing we were 'responsibilities' rather than loved ones. It didn't surprise me when, years later, I discovered that I was a mistake, the product of a burst condom.
   Perhaps, even as a sperm, I was a determined and rebellious little sod!
   When we moved to England with my father's job as an agricultural officer, my mother soon found a way to raise money by taking in a lodger.
   She interviewed all the candidates assiduously and I think she had a set of criteria which few could possibly meet. Eventually, she chose the one who, a decade after, would become my step-father.
   After losing his post in the Civil Service for panning out his boss, my mother encouraged my father to re-train as a librarian. He went away to college, leaving my mother to dote on the lodger, who became the resident 'uncle'.
   Their separation was sudden and a shock to my father, who was suddenly stuck in a bedsit in the city at the beginning of a new career.
   To my mother, on the other hand, it was a long time coming. Both of them were totally self-obsessed, but my father's mental illness and his treatment of my sister had made him impossible to live with.
   Their separation was a great relief to me. I had no desire to see my father, who had long since stopped playing a part in my life ( though I had to visit him once a week by law). Whenever I stayed with him I was constantly wary of his explosive nature.
   My mother carried on seeing that lodger surreptiously, while my father had a few affairs which weren't serious.
    Despite my relief, I was still affected by the disturbances in my life and by the way my mother sought to use me as a spy,to collect data on my father's liaisons. He saw her as 'poisoning my mind'.
   I believe he held out some hope she would return and , amazingly, never seemed to suspect the lodger. I recall one time we walked by the River Cam and he implored me to ask her, on his behalf, to come back to him.
   At school, I changed from being a studious pupil to a very stroppy one and I'm surprised I learnt anything in my first years at Grammar. One teacher, our football trainer who had known my brother, did offer to help. I appreciated it, but couldn't talk to him.
   As I grew older I formed an unofficial club with other boys in school of those with divorced or separated parents and parents staying together 'for the children's sake'. We would debate the issues and that certainly helped at a time when divorce wasn't so common.
   Like my siblings, I soon discovered the need for an alternative family. Without my girlfriend's family in their council house in Cambridgeshire, I think I'd have turned out a complete delinquent. I was taken in as a second son.
   Of course , I thought she was utterly gorgeous : even played footie, loved the Small Faces, read Barstow and Braine ( though she was Sec. Mod to my Grammar) and , above all, could out-snog all the village girls. Her family became my surrogate one and I soon learnt to talk in their burry, rolling accents.
   Divorce was a messy business then and despite my mother being the one who'd left and was having an affair, it was my father who had to undergo the humiliation of private detectives interrupting one of his casual meetings, to capture the evidence.
   It's only with time that I have become aware how deluded and also manipulated my father was in that predicament. My mother should probably have left him before I was born, but then I wouldn't be here staring at that photo in the newspaper and wondering what was going through my little head.

   The poem below is about a very good friend whose relationship has finally ended, though they have been separated for years. She has moved to the next valley, but it might as well be another planet.  


                                      I'M  A  DEAD MAN!

She've left
she've gone
to er I'm a dead man

we lived close by,
teatimes together
an now Aberdare

might jest as well
be Australia
f'r all she cares

I paint, do collages
end up changin them black,
end up burnin them up

all them yers
f'r what?
no kids 

carn even play
my mewsic no more,
I sol the television

tha Clinic turned er
against me an I even
paid f'r er t be there

too many voices
when she shoulda slept,
it woz er father fucked er up

now I'm left t regret
I couldn be er child an usband :
I'll ave a fewnral for myself

I'll drink till my ead's a canvas
stretched an ready f'r-a brush :
but my ands shake.....nothin comes.