Sometimes the impossible does happen. Okay,it's not like Thea Gilmore is up for a Mercury Prize (not quirky enough, songs not self-indulgent, been around too long and doesn't sound like Kate Bush). It's not as if Merthyr Council have suddenly named the Civic Centre after that great leftwing prophet from Dowlais Gwyn Alf Williams!

   But enough has happened to make me believe. Thea has actually been played regularly on the radio : her excellent new song conveniently entitled 'You're the Radio'. Above all, Craig Bellamy has signed for Cardiff City. The 'gobbiest footballer ever' as Bobby Robson dubbed him, has returned to his native land and the club he supported as a boy.

   When this was mooted at the beginning of the close season, I thought it was sheer footie fantasy ; an attempt to cheer us all up after the Wembley doldrums. I never thought........

   And what a summer it was, full of winding up orders, transfer fees unpaid from last season, Chopra threatening to quit and a transfer embargo which meant we couldn't sign anybody, let alone the captain of Wales and one of the best players in the Premiership last season.

   I was clicking text buttons and mouse in the hope of finding the embargo lifted, but nothing happened for ages. Rumours of manager Dave Jones's imminent departure to Fulham, West Ham or any job going, including litter- picking in Merthyr, only added to the misery.

   The worst close season for decades turned around with the signings of players like Olofinjana and , above all, one of my all-time favourites Jason Koumas (or 'Special K'), one of the most skillful players I've seen at CCFC.

   When Bellamy finally signed it was like I'd been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature :for once  fantasy became reality. Yet it made total sense : he was coming home to be with his family, Man City were paying half his wages and he wanted to lead us to promotion.

   Moreover, 'Bellers' first game of the season was also mine, at home to Doncaster. '39 Bellamy' shirts were everywhere, with no sign of throwbacks to past-it Fowler. This wasn't a crocked or ancient Premier player we'd picked up on his way to retirement. This was total class cast off by Mancini, but feared enough not to want any rivals to possess.

   And a 'Roy of the Rovers' debut it was. Bellamy scared the shit out of the Donny defence every time he had the ball, even when he fluffed a few passes early on. He made Burkey's goal with an astonishing 60 yard pass and scored our fourth with an unstoppable free-kick from 35. He blew kisses at the fans. What a homecoming for a boy from Kaairdiff and on a day we mourned the loss of one legend, Brian Clark, we witnessed the birth of another : 'Bellers of the Bluebirds.'

                                      THAT DEFEAT

At Wembley my phone broke.
When Chops scored our first
I leapt and yelled and bounced
like a kangaroo celebrating
the retirement of Rolf Harris.
It fell and imploded on concrete,
the screen a snowy blur
resembling my brain as they scored
from a free-kick -' It'll be worth it
if we win!' I  cracked.
When Ledley shot us in front
nothing was left to break
except my vocal chords.

In the first half our defence fell apart
like a house made from balsa wood
and our previously immaculate keeper
flapped like a one-flippered seal
which had been bingeing on tuna.

The silence after that match
was like some hero had died,
Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits;
the long walk down Wembley Way
with the wreath of my scarf
and Blackpool chants stabbing my skull
like woodpeckers thought my skin was bark.
I couldn't face anything orange for weeks:
juice, fake tans and even the sun,
hiding in the shade of that defeat.

  
 
 
   Imagine my pride when my 10 year-old daughter had her story published in last Friday's G2 Kids section of the Guardian and her main character, Goby the Alien, was actually featured on the front of the newspaper! I've never even made the letters' page and only once had a mention in dispatches by Owen Sheers saying how much he liked my work.

   My wife was gobsmacked and shouted 'Bloody hell!' in the foyer of our holiday hotel, so uncharacteristic my daughter was more interested initially
in her expletive - 'You said a naughty word!' she kept repeating.

   Maybe there'll be another writer in the family, who knows? My son was always destined to become a cellist, but ended up as a TV journalist and my elder daughter loved drama but became disillusioned when she was picked for bit parts like a chicken in the stage version of 'Animal Farm' and is now a politician. So who can tell?

   Nobody in my family was particularly interested in writing, though my father did once acquire a pseudonym and try to publish various things. He even changed his real name to that nomme de plume at one stage, so it must have been serious for a while. But I also recall him being into painting, photography, gliding, judo, sailing, horse-riding......... My mother was the poetry fan in the family, first Dylan Thomas and then Gerard Manley Hopkins and she did encourage my interest, giving me a paperback of 'New Poetry' which included Lowell and Berryman.

   My young daughter enjoys reading and writing funny poetry especially and had a recent Limerick phase, which she found was ideal for insults and crudity.

   It's hard to predict which way she'll develop and certainly there's no point pushing her, but she could well be inspired by seeing her story in print. For me, the moment of truth came when I won a school poetry competition and was later published regularly in the school magazine. It was recognition for a solitary pursuit. I'd hide my poems away in drawers till, in the 6th form, I remember showing some to my sister, who was at uni.

   She was suitably baffled by their obscurity and I relished it when she responded - ' I can't believe it, my little brother writing poetry which I can't understand!' A follower of James Joyce, I took this as a compliment.

   My young daughter reads as avidly as my wife. I only wish I could devour books with their appetite ; I tend to nibble at them like a mouse on a diet. It stands her in good stead when writing no doubt, yet she's the antithesis of a studious person, preferring instead to be playing with her mates on the streets.

   Up until the 6th form (when I became immersed with T.S. Eliot, Joyce, Ted Hughes and Thom Gunn and the music of Soft Machine) I was exactly the same. Homework was my last priority, sport and friends my first. I was a gregarious roamer, enjoying the kind of independence it's hard to envisage for kids today.

   This is a poem about that first flash of fame : - 


                                   ONE SECOND OF FAME

A poetry competition run by Flash Harry, our English teacher
(nicknamed 'Flash' because of 'E-Type' reading
not looking up as we chatted at the back,
saying 'Jenkins out!' without a full-stop).

The theme was 'First man on the moon' :
it was topical, it was Neil Armstrong,
it was my chance to take one giant step
in the airless craters of free verse.

I popped my entry into the box in Flash's room
one breaktime, making sure no-one was following
and it was take-off till results time,
my mind zooming with possibilities.

Then I recalled Flash's love of animals
and the story I'd written when I'd 'kicked the cat';
it was fiction but Flash didn't see it like that,
wrote an appalled comment at the end.

To be fair to Flash, he'd played us a tape
called 'Modern Poetry', read us Owen and Sassoon:
with my mother's tattered Penguins
it showed us whole new species of verse.

Amazed, I triumphed, landing on Planet Poem
with my cynical warning - 'And trees still stood...'
published in the school mag.,my mate Lart
complimenting so profusely I thought it was mockery.

Learnt afterwards there were only two entries
and the other one was by 'Anonymous'
with the title 'Flash Harry Loves Sheep'.
I was a poet: one second of fame, years of disappointment.
 
 
   'Aberystwyth Mon Amour' was one novel in Malcolm Pryce's series of modern Chandler-type detective fictions about that town way out west, at the end of the line.

   Aber, for me, is the place where most things began. I was born there and first went to school at Penparcau Infants. I had my first accident, almost run over when a car clipped an ankle. I later died there for the first time.......well, it felt like it.......on my 21st after imbibing noxious home brew and realising the meaning of 'blind drunk'!

   I first spoke and wrote there and my first poem (owing much to R.L.Stevenson) was put on the classroom wall for display. I learnt to swim in the icy waters off Tanybwlch storm beach.

   Much later, I signed up to fight in my first war at Freshers' Fair. I very naively put my name to a spoof militia to go to Chile and take up arms against General Pinnochet.  It was there, near the police station I was arrested for the first and only time for drunken trespassing; released without charge, but not before my bootprints had been taken.

   In Aber, I had sex and smoked a joint for the first time (though not simultaneously), swallowed half the joint and brought it up half way down Bronglais hill. Most importantly, I read poetry in public at the Miners' Benefits organised to support the strike of the 70's. I attended my debut demo and occupation of the Education Offices in protest at Healey's cuts : a Labour administration controlled by the IMF.

   I made my first 'friends from the north' who shared many interests, music, football and a distinct aversion to Neil Hamilton (then editor of the Uni. magazine 'Courier'). Amazingly, some of us still meet in Aber to pursue our other mutual interest, alcohol.

   It's a place frothing with ghosts of myself and family. I can't pass Caradog Road without thinking of my grandparents' flat and down town the shop where my grandpa worked for years as a clerk, always greeting me with - 'Hello, young shaver!'

   The pier resonates with the occasions when, as mere 6 year-olds, we'd wander off into town and raid machines, sliding our small palms up openings to extract the chocolate bars for free. The small arched shelters under the castle summon up days of courting , when my wife and I were doing teacher-training. So many streets and buildings pull me back in time.

   I've written about Aber sporadically over the years, but more so in my last collection of poetry ' Walking On Waste', which featured a number of sonnets about both student and childhood days. Poets Paul Henry and Herbert Williams both hail from Aber and have conjured it in diverse ways.Herb has a fine poem about the distinctive memorial I mention below, a poem inspired by Thea Gilmore's song 'Inverigo' and a visit to Aber a few months ago.


                                     SEA    ROOM
                         ' There's the moon and the tide
                           And old songs not written yet' ('Inverigo')

I woke to find
that even with the windows shut
on drunken revellers,
the sea had found a way
into our bedroom.

'Beca, Beca!' a young man
called out to the moon
hidden behind cloud-cover.

Of a sudden, the years
slipped from me
like a seaweed cloak
and I was driftwood taken
in and out with the tide.

There had been fires
on the shingle, fed
with old fences and boards,
students close around barbeques
like families in hearth-huddles.

The naked woman
of the masthead memorial
on look-out for galleon or wreck.

And the years were ashes
and she did not move;
yet the sea filled our room,
my head and bones,
my jagged worries smoothed.