Writing in Welsh seems to me like a journey back to my home town. On the one hand familiar territory after all those lessons, but on the other it can be tortuous as you think you know your way when suddenly everything's changed and you are lost.
   My ambition is eventually to produce a book of poems specifically for learners. Whether this ever comes to fruition I don't know, but I shall certainly try.
   At present , the journey is two ways : there is a deep sense of discovery and reclamation of roots  and an even greater one of an exciting new place, beneath the surface of things and slowly being revealed.
   My first steps writing poetry in Welsh were taken just over a year ago, when I wrote a poem called 'Croesi' ('Crossing') for the University of Glamorgan Eisteddfod y Dysgwyr. After that, I wrote several haiku yn Gymraeg as part of a challenge to write one poem a day last April.
   Last Friday I felt as if I had arrived , even though it was only a moment, a fragment buried for too long.
   It is like being a child again : finding and relishing new vocabulary, yet also making many mistakes , as though there are shards of rusted metal and fragments of china in among the valuable finds.
   Last Friday I was filmed by Cymdeithas Yr Iaith's Sianel 62 reading two poems in Welsh in Cyfarthfa Park, where the recent republican protest against Mrs Windsor's visit took place. I sat on a bench next to a red flag. Behind me were two peculiar sculpted heads of Springboks! It should be ready for viewing soon and I hope I don't look and sound like an 'eejit'!
   As I think more in Welsh, so I find myself drawn to certain phrases and patterns. It is different to most of my poetry-writing in English, where the imagery is often the inspiration.
   I am conscious that my poems may be too simple ; they may well be full of cliches which I, as I learner, am not aware of.
   The first one I read is called 'Yr Ymweliad Y Windsors'( about the recent visit of the Windsors to Merthyr)  and my experience as a poet did matter in its composition, because everything about it came from the shape and immediacy.
   It moves from side to side on the page like a film, shifting between the progress of the Windsors from Llandaf to Cyfarthfa Castle and the main events of the protest itself.
  It is unique for the poems I've attempted in Welsh, because it uses rhyme and half-rhyme. I honestly didn't think I was capable of doing this!
   The second poem I wrote originally as two separate pieces, but it made sense to join them together under the heading of 'Baneri' ('Flags').
   The first part looks at the red flag, so important to my political beliefs and also to the history of Merthyr and beyond. I look at the colour red and what it signifies, taking a swipe at 'the rose cut from the bush' (with its Labour connotations).
   The second is my angry response to the sheer ubiquity of Union Jacks down town at present. I make a link between the Jubilee and Olympics , calling it a strange marriage.
   Sometimes what I want to say defeats me. My latest poem is about Aberystwyth and the importance of my blues-harp when I was there. The last line totally stumped me, not just because of grammatical construction but the awkwardness of the sound.
   I wonder if I'll ever express myself in Welsh with the fluency and ease I can in English  or even in Merthyr dialect, despite not being a native!
   I am in awe of those writers in Cymru like Gwyneth Lewis who seem just as assured in both languages.
   I cannot imagine reaching a point, as Harri Webb did, where he refused to write poetry in English at all. The language is so integral to my past and everyday existence, it would be like cutting out part of my brain!
   Yet Cymraeg was the language of my forefathers (on my father's side anyway) and , above all, it represents the future : one where we are a fully bi-lingual nation and do not need to question an education system where it is at the core and a society where Welsh is used daily.
   I fear this will never  under either 'devo-mini' or 'devo-max', only when something far more fundamental and revolutionary happens here.

                                     BANERI

                                           1.
Coch fel y baner
coch fel y ddraig
coch fel y gwaed

gwaed yr oen
yn Ffair Waun
lle oedd y gwrthdystiad yn dechrau

coch fel gwaed Penderyn
oedd yn rhedeg trwy'r nant
i lawr mynydd Aberdar

coch fel y gwefusau
sy'n siarad am y dyfodol
pan briodiff gobaith a chyfiawnder

nid coch y rhosyn
cafodd ei dorri
wrth y llwyn

ond, coch y gwaed
sy'n llifo eto
yn afonydd y pobl.



                                                 2.
Y faner Prydain
ym mhob man
yn y dre tlawd fi

dros ffenestri y siopau
dros y llyfrau
dros y bagiau

dros y taflenni
dros y posteri
fel wyneb Tito neu Stalin

y cwpl rhyfedd
Olympaidd a brenhines
yn priodi y flwyddyn hon

dyn'r briodas i gadw
yr Undeb sy'n colli canghennau
fel coeden yn y storm.
  
  
  
  
 
 
   It's official! You can google it, so it must be true! Welcome to the Jubilympics!
   Ever since the joke was created for BBC comedy series 'Twenty Twelve' they have become very much a reality.
   As Princess Horse, accompanied by 'sporting royalty' in the form of David Beckham (described as 'Sir David' in an effortless prophecy) dispatched the flame from its home in  Greece and onto a plane, we immediately became aware of the link between monarchy and Olympics.
   If this is this last year of the British Empire, then it's making a desperate attempt to make its presence felt everywhere.
   There are now more Union flags in Merthyr than there were before Mrs Windsor's visit ( a place, incidentally, where there have no applications for street parties!) and the Jubilympics is behind them.
   If I were to boycott all the shops parading the 'butcher's apron'- a flag which (thank goodness!) has no hint of Cymru on it - I'd be left to live off cheapo crisps and chocolate from the Pound Shops.
   Window displays, books, bunting and even many  grocery items are daubed with it. It's like the Council have been taken over by hardline Ulster Loyalists, determined to have their way.
   So, there is this odd marriage between Jubilee and Olympics, suggesting Britain is one jolly entity united in celebration, instead of the reality of a class-riven society, where Scotland ,at least, is increasingly disillusioned with the Union.
   Just as Mrs Windsor and Carlo entertain the vilest of autocratic monarchs like the King of Bahrain, everything is seen to be so rosy because of a simple flame, guarded by Beckham in what resembled several miners' lamps.
    Am I alone in reacting against all the hype surrounding the Olympics?
    In the past I have quite enjoyed watching the athletics, failed to see anything interesting in the football and longed for monarch-hunting to be made an official Olympic sport!
   I am not British, however, and so have no team to support.
   When I lived in England the people there considered themselves English (which was the same as British to them). When I moved to N.Ireland the last thing I wanted to be was British, which meant Loyalist Unionist to the core. When I worked in Germany I was infuriatingly called 'English' , because they didn't know Wales existed in a separate sense. When I returned to Wales, it was to another nation.
   The whole controversy surrounding the football team has brought all this to the fore.
   For me, it is fundamentally a question of political allegiance, not just the threats to the independence of the FAW.
   There are plenty of arguments against Team GB, such as the utter irrelevance of Olympic football in the past and the obvious desire to sell tickets this time. From a purely footballing viewpoint, the new manager of Wales Chris Coleman has expressed his opposition because Wales actually play an important friendly a few days after the Olympic football final. Understandably, he doesn't want his key players, like Allen, Bale and Ramsey injured playing for this, in football terms, cowboy tournament.
   For me, there are more singificant issues. I know players may be willing to see themselves as both British and Welsh, but I also know there are a lot of fans who don't.
   This is heightened by the fact that there's no precedent in football for a British team. In rugby there are the Lions ( who do not interest me) and in cricket there are certainly fans from Wales who support England. But in all the years I've watched the Olympics, I've never known Welsh footie fans to show the slightest bit of enthusiasm.
   Indeed, a lot of Welsh fans have a history of nonconformity which contrasts starkly with their rugby counterparts, who kow-tow to monarchy by wearing the three feathers on their shirts, sporting the saying 'Ich Dien', German for 'I serve'. Footie fans have consistently booed 'God Save The Queen' (an English republican friend joined in on one occasion) and often chanted 'Argentina!' at the time of the Falklands War.
   As Carlo's image is being remade by Clarence House, expect his role to be inextricably tied in with the Olympics.
   Will he light the final flame? Will he be presenting medals with a joke and a smile? Will he towel down Tom Daley after he does a medal-winning dive?
   Every time you switch on the telly, there's the torch relay, starting at that little Celtic country of Cornwall (or is it a 'region'?) ,yet it'll be mostly driven by car, which you will not see.
   Or there's Mrs Windsor greeting her very own armed forces, as Commander in Chief, before they're sent off to be killed or maimed in another pointless war like Iraq or Afghanistan.
   Yes, the Jubilympics are this year's thing. Britain needs them. Just as it needs young working-class people desperate for anything (the Queen's Shilling) , because there's nothing back home except empty factories.


                               SMOKIN  THE TORCH

It woz an ordinree day in May
an me, Welly an Scripo bin drinkin all day ;
Scripo wuz off of is face.

Somebuddy ud sol im speed
an ee wuz a manic pub screecher,
eyeballs poppin , ands like birds oppin.

The pub starts gettin fulla
an we ardly noticed, people buzzin
with - 'It's on its way!' 'It's comin!'

Jest as Scripo wuz doin
is famous impersonation of a woman givin birth,
ev'ryone charges f'r-a door like January Sales.

Welly moans - 'Not the fuckin Queen agen!'
I jump like I wuz pogoin ;
Scripo dodgin t the front before I cun stop im.

Nex moment, pleece escort, this athlete
oldin a ewge gold torch comes runnin.
But Scripo gets it all wrong.

Arf pissed, arf stoned, thinks it's a giant spliff,
grabs an shoves it in is gob
arfta shoutin - 'Tha's mine!'

As cops catch old of is coat
ee yells out - 'Ardest joint I ever smoked!'
Ee singed theyer eyeballs with-a flame!

They frogmarch im off an Welly starts singin
'God save the Queen, it's a fascist regime!'
ee gets arrested an I'm left alone.

In-a 'Merthyr' next week wuz the eadline
REPUBLICAN DRUNKARDS RUIN OLYMPIC RELAY!
an I made Scripo a You-tube sensation.


 
 
   In a week where there were more strikes to try and ensure the pension rights of many Civil Servants, it might seem petty and churlish to highlight the plight of Cardiff City FC.   However, the leaked proposals to change the club's emblem from bluebird to red dragon and the shirts from blue to red is something which goes beyond the outrage of many fans.
   My initial reaction was one of complete shock and horror. The association of Cardiff City with blue shirts has been integral to our identity for over a century. All my home memories and those of my son are blue ones and the bluebird itself  has risen higher and higher in our sense of belonging to the club.
   Would Swansea accept an owner who asked them to sport a leek on their badges and play in blue ? Liverpool fans would no doubt stage a rebellion under similar circumstances.
   In the past, our many fanzines have relished the nickname. Think of 'Watch the Red Dragon Fly!' and it smacks of Harry Potter! The confusion with the Welsh national team is obvious.
   The fact that it was presented as a fait accompli ( with the League having been informed of the change) makes it all the more galling.
   Hearing of the compliance of some fans, I seriously imagined whether I would be able to stand among their red throng next season, with my defiant blue scarf, militantly shouting 'Bluebirds!' as these strange red-shirted players appeared out of the tunnel.
   I understand it's hard for those who aren't fans to appreciate the strength of feeling I have ( shared by many others, it must be said). A football club is more than watching and supporting a team: it is the cameraderie developed over the years and the tradition of chants and songs; chants like 'I'll be there' deriving from the 1926 General Strike.
'I never felt more like singin' the Reds / When Cardiff win and Swansea lose' hasn't quite got the same ring to it, has it?
   The knowledge that fans' representatives like Davies and Jefferies were adamantly in favour of change made it all the more difficult to take.
   They were led to believe that rejecting it would call into question the £100 million pledged by Malaysian owner Vincent Tan.
   The nature of this investment hasn't been fully scrutinised. £40 million of it is actually the loans owed to Tan himself, plus interest, together with  the loan still owed to Langston. There were plans for a 36,000 seater stadium which is not needed in the Championship and  equally unnecessary training facilities.
   Cash for players was promised to our manager from the sale of red shirts, yet why would these be bought in Asia?
   Football followers there are fascinated by the Premiership and show scant interest in the Championship. For all the talk of the  lucky colour red and the dragon being a logo showing West/East fusion, a vast number of fans here in Wales would have boycotted the red shirts.
   I was amazed at the sudden U-turn and ashamed at the fawning responses of those representatives, who urged fans to make it up to the Malaysian owners by turning up in red at board meetings and generally rolling over like obedient Welsh corgis.
   The 'Western Mail' also favoured the red option, with their football editor advocating it in response to their own on-line poll showing that a majority backed it.
   I believe that poll was flawed. There were comments on-line by fans who had clicked for blue but had registered red and my experience was the same.
   All this has exposed the callous disregard to Cardiff City's history and tradition by owner Tan and the willingness of certain fans to be taken in and controlled by the situation.
   The whole notion of Tan as some smiling benefactor has been called into question by this.
   There is a conspiracy theory which sees this 'divide and rule' strategy as a means of pulling out of the club.
   There is also the precariousness of Tan's own position and that of his huge business empire.
   He is widely seen as a stooge of the ruling elite and half his gambling business is actually owned (though kept in in his name) by the ruling party Umno, despite the illegality of gambling in that Muslim country!
   With elections due in Malaysia next year or before, there is a strong likelihood that (for the first time since independence) there will be a change of government and with this a real threat to his all-encompassing business influences.
   The opposition (and therefore, a large proportion of the population) do not trust Vincent Tan at all. He has a record of many murky affairs and was subject to a Leveson-type Enquiry, which recommended that action be taken against him for misconduct.
   This week has brought to the fore something which we, the foootball fans, would rather forget : the whole nature of club ownership.
   I understand fully that some fans couldn't care less who owns their club as long as there's plenty of money. We could be taken over by Mugabe or Asad and as long as Malky has cash for players. But for me, there are serious moral and political implications.
   I strongly believe we should move towards the German model, where fans own at least 50% of the club, thus ensuring a strong voice and genuine participation in decision-making.
   I am heartened by the success of my hometown Martyrs team, who are owned and run by a Football Trust, proving that an alternative can work.




                 CARDIFF CITY'S FUTURE HISTORY

When Cardiff City FC were taken over
by multizillionaire fridge magnate
Boris Bogov from the little-known eastern European
country of Rippovia,
fans were dubious at first,
till Bogov promised limitless transfer funds,
a 40,000 seater stadium and brandnew
state of the art double-decker team bus.

Bogov proposed to rename the stadium
the ColdCare stadium after his company
and the four stands after his sons
Ivan, Maxim, Sergei and Lilian.
He wanted to change the bluebird emblem
of over a century to goulash
the favoured dish of many back home
and, indeed, other countries.
He  wanted to change the colour
of shirts to white with purple circles,
like the national flag of Rippovia.

There was outrage among some fans,
though their trusted representatives
knew the club was in dire straits
and Boris Bogov was their saviour.

Some fans protested wearing blue shirts
dressed up as bluebirds, singing blue songs,
while others tried to please Boris
by dressing as fridges outside board meetings
and only getting drunk on vodka.

The whole takeover collapsed when Boris
was arrested in his own country
and dubbed 'The Most Corrupt Man in Europe'
after bribing judges and politicians,
using widespread child labour
and rigging the National Lottery
(he was a friend of Prince Andrew).

Defenders of the Bluebird remarked 'I told you so!'
while fans' representatives announced with optimism
that the King of Bahrain was interested in Cardiff City.
The rest, as they don't say, is future history.
 
 
   While Wales is always looking to countries such as those in Scandinavia for models in education, in one aspect we could learn from England.
   That is the matter of school meals and their nutritional value ; also, the standard of them.
   We need to look to England, but not replicate what they've done, because France as well should provide inspiration.
   The source of the problem dates back to the dark days of Thatcher and sweeping ideology of privatisation (which the Con Dems are still intent on in England today).
   When school meals provision was privatised in the 1980s to create competition, all it did was ensure that the cheapest provider won out and pupils suffered. Multi-nationals provided pre-prepared food, with a total lack of fresh, local ingredients.
   Labour's answer was the usual reactive politics, responding to the influence of tv celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, he in effect became the 'school meal tsar' under Blair.
   Though the underlying problems of ownership and control weren't addressed, what we can learn is the need to deal with it on a national basis.
   In England, the food available for school meals has radically changed, though it is now under threat as Gove attempts to free the flagship Academies from what he sees as 'restrictions'. Compulsory Home Economics, healthy food choices and the banning of vending machines could all disappear.
   Sadly, in Cymru we had no such national policy which pushed through dramatic alterations in eating habits ; the meals in our schools remain poor by comparison. Individual councils have tried to redress the balance, but we have failed to counter the 'junk food' epidemic and the serious obesity levels which follow.
   In a recent article in the 'Guardian' the menu at English schools was far more varied and nutritional and also catered for vegetarians in a way we do not in Wales. Science has proved conclusively that vegetarianism is beneficial in terms of health, both short and long term, especially in relation to cancer and heart disease.
   My daughter attends a Comp in RCT and recently asked what the vegetarian alternative was. She was told that there was none and they only wrote it on the menu and didn't actually cook it!
   At her school, burgers and pizzas are available every day of the week and healthier options soon run out. At my wife's Primary the food is served in paltry portions and the standard very poor. Some Primaries still don't have cooking facilities on site, so the food is merely brought in and re-heated.
   Compare this to France, where children from the age of three are given five courses, with three of these often being salad, fruit and cheese. From this age they are encouraged to try everything and acquire a taste for the likes of mussels and artichokes!
   We lag behind both England and France and the behaviour and ability to study of our children are impaired as a consequence. Any teacher will tell you about the dreaded afternoon 'hyper', a factor which could be minimised ,or even eradicated , with real investment in improving school meals.
   Local suppliers must be sourced at every opportunity ( a vital point in Plaid Cymru's local government manifesto) and there must be an ethical thrust to it, with free range or organic products used wherever possible.
   The provision of meals must be returned to our elected representatives at Council and Senedd levels, to ensure that kitchen staff are decently paid, trained thoroughly and investment made into a long term commitment.
   As well as this, I'd advocate the involvement of pupils and teachers in their own meals.
   In Comprehensives, Home Economics Departments should return to more practical work and less design and food provided, not brought in by the pupils. They should be linked to the kitchens themselves, with pupils given chances to devise menus and ,indeed, play a part in preparation of food for consumption by fellow pupils.
   In Primary schools, each form could be assigned a week where they contribute one thing to the school meals, even if it were as basic as a fresh fruit salad.
   Every school should have a plot of land where vegetables and herbs are grown to be used regularly in the school kitchen.
   Imagine the excitement of children following their own produce from seed to picking and on to preparation and eating. Imagine the pride they would take!
   With this sense of participation I believe more pupils would opt for school meals rather than packed lunches (which invariably include crisps and chocolate bars), a trip down the shops or the local chip van.
   Food needs to be exciting and reflect the global recipes available, but also seasonal.
   When I was in Grammar School there was no choice and  though the meals were probably more balanced than today's, a great deal was inedible. The meat, for example, wouldn't have been out of place in a cobbler's window!

   This poem relates to an earlier experience and my first, uncomfortable rebellion!



                                      A BOWL OF FROGSPAWN


Four going on five,
shorts and a bush of curly hair.
Even then, singing and footie
were my desires.


At the Infants, told to eat
whatever was before me.
Refused the bubbly tapioca,
like spawn scooped into jamjars.


Had to stand on my own
at the front,
had to explain
why I wouldn't eat it.


No words to describe
the way I looked
for black dots swimming
in its sticky gloop ;


the way I imagined frogs
hatching in my tummy,
jumping up my throat
and filling my mouth!


I stood speechless,
all eyes upon me
staring poppy-out like toads.
I thought I'd wee ;


I thought the yellow liquid
would make a pool below me
and all those froggy children
would hop towards me, burping loud.