Photo by Dave Lloyd
Whisky bottles reach the ceiling,
the barmaid's climbing a ladder,
eyes upward but not praying,
her legs get fingers twitching
and 'Binghamton's' on something
he says it's all happening here
lives in the next town nothing doing,
the band play the Blues again
announce their retirement mid-song
but 'Binghamton' can't sit down
he's dancing in his chair,
he's banging his head on the shelf,
he's outside with the smokers,
his eyes are popping out
and 'Binghamton's' finding out
the girl from the pasta restaurant
gyrates like a charming snake,
as he tells his own to keep down
for fear he'll catch the venom
and 'Binghamton's' here then gone
the buses have long since left,
the girl from Eastside's struggling home,
he's hustling and dealing on the sidewalk
his hands are pigeons pouncing.
Republican protest in Merthyr
On Saturday March 1st at 11.50 a.m. hundreds gathered in the newly-laid Dic Penderyn Square (Red Square?) in Merthyr Tudful to witness Keir Hardie deliver a speech pledging nothing short of a 'revolution'. He stood on the balcony of the Hen Neuadd Yr Dref dressed in flat cap, not his characteristic deerstalker and appeared to have lost most of his Scottish accent.
He spoke eloquently about the Labour Party and how great changes were on the way to alter the plight of working people. He vowed to campaign for women's suffrage and, as a committed pacifist, to resist all wars.
Somehow, he conveniently forgot to say how he would make a stand against the First World War as a conscientious objector and , significantly, avoided dealing with his avowed belief that a republic was the only way forward.
Needless to say, his solidarity with Irish republican socialist James Connolly (executed by the British Gov. in 1916)was totally neglected.
When he'd finished everyone clapped our MP from 1900 - 1915, or at least the air-brushed version of him.
Local hero and actor Richard Harrington then took over to start up the clock on the tower of the Old Town Hall, rebranded as Redhouse.
An historic moment for Merthyr and genuine hope for the future and he assured us that this would be no place for the 'crachach'.
Yet, the day before the very epitome of that 'crachach' Carlo Windsor had officially opened the building, unveiling curtains on a very red plaque.
Already a venture sponsored by the likes of Miller Argent - multi-national plunderers of our land with their destructive opencast mining - had become something of a contradiction.
As a place of creativity for Merthyr Sixth Form College and the community it could well be a driving force in the town ; as a symbol of our times, it has already insulted our proud history.
In the Commons in the 1890s Keir Hardie delivered a speech highly critical of the monarchy, railing against Carlo's ancestors. Pertinently, he later commented that ' the life of one Welsh miner is of greater commercial and moral value to the British nation than the whole Royal Crowd put together.'
If the spirit of Hardie was anywhere last Friday it wasn't with the sycophants in the Redhouse ( 'red as in dragon / red as in flag/ red as in fire'.... so the website explains).
Outside, our protest consisted of the usual sloganeering,but also some megaphone poems from Red Poets myself, Tim Richards and Patrick Jones.
It's interesting that there has been no mention of the protest on the media, even though ITV did cover the event.
Charles Windsor is a greedy landlord who is quite happy to rake in money in the form of benefits handed out to his hard-up tenants. He owns the vast Duchy of Cornwall (worth £847 million), yet pays no taxes on these assets.
He claims to be an environmentalist yet, like his mother, stands to make millions from the fracking which will be carried out on the Crown Estate.
He claims to care about endangered species, yet freely murders deer, wild boar, foxes and wild bears in the name of blood sports.
Labour AM Huw Lewis happily welcomed this symbol of wealth and privilege to our poor and struggling town.
This really does show how the Labour Party have altered so profoundly since the days of Hardie and how one of our greatest ever citizens Prof. Gwyn A. Williams was right when he argued that, for the working class to progress, that political party needs to be buried forever.
I really do hope that the Redhouse (why not Ty Coch, by the way?) defies my nagging sense of doubt.
Who will be allowed to create a work of art there which questions Miller Argent and their ludicrous fossil fuel future, when they are one of the main backers?
Who will be able to question the role of an antiquated and anti-democratic monarchy in a modern Cymru, when there's a prominent plaque saying 'Opened by HRH Prince of Wales' ?
Gwyn Alf Williams once delivered a memorable speech in Merthyr calling on people to set up their alternatives, what he called 'shadow-communes'.
The work that has been done to restore the building and its possibilities are very exciting, yet it must not be full of cubby-holes and comfort zones.
We have so much talent in this town it would be a tragedy to waste it on a censored or edited version of reality.
KEIR HARDIE RETURNED
The day Keir Hardie returned
and strutted down High Street
from Pontmorlais Circus
and everything so derelict
he thought there'd been a war,
thought someone had shelled
the Old Dole, the YMCA
the day he wore his deerstalker
(called a common flat cap man
in the Commons, despite his tweed)
and greeted folk in a voice
gruff from the dust
breathed in so young,
with his Karl Marx beard
and granite forehead
to the Old Town Hall
(befuddled by its name)
where a limousine stopped
and the Prince ushered out
grinning wide, till Hardie accosted him,
where crowds once cheered
his vision and theirs shared
'You and your kind still here
in this town of so many poor,
still oppressing, still demanding
your subjects bow low......'
then hauled away like a bag of coal
as police asked his name, scoffing
' Oh yeah, and I'm Robert Peel!'
My favourite Old Etonian George Orwell seems to be everywhere : the excellent comedy series 'Room 101' and the human take an animal experimentation 'Big Brother'.
CCTV cameras wherever you go and, as Edward Snowden demonstrated,
our internet exchanges intimately monitored by the Security Services of GB and USA.
We hardly even question advertising any more ; the ultimate capitalist propaganda which tries to create a illusion of choice while promising eternal youth, life and the ability to attract the opposite sex with any manner of items from car to perfume. The only voices raised in dissent focus on whether ad's are PC about certain things.
Piss-pot lager can be presented as elixir and it must work, because enough people drink the stuff.
Poets I admired (Roger McGough) and one the greatest singer-songwriters (Bob Dylan)are all paid hefty sums for voice and music to plug total pap.
If Tom Waits and Karine Polwart were to appear on ad's plugging Bourbon and Scotch I think I'd despair.
What brought this on was a letter. Like many others at the recent Red Poets event at the Blast Furnace, Pontlottyn, I signed a letter of protest to be sent off to Caerffili Council against the proposed opencast mine at Nant Llesg near Rhymni.
I received a prompt reply from the Regeneration and Planning Dept. (Orwell's Ministry of Truth writ small). For 'regeneration' read 'eco-vandalism' and for 'planning' read ' short-term gain'.
The letter's full of newspeak, the word Orwell used in '1984' to describe the propagandist language which deals in opposites.
The letter calls opencast 'surface mining' : this sounds like a delicate process and the exact antithesis of the huge hole (at least 60 metres deep) which will devastate the landscape, as it has at Ffos-y-fran near Merthyr. 6 million tonnes of coal will be extracted and this will last at least 25 years, yet there's no indication of the longevity.
The word 'new'' is repeated five times in the opening paragraph, as though everything will be so much better. It refers to 'road improvement', but not to the massive increase in lorry traffic as a result, bringing consequent air pollution.
The reclamation - carried out after many years of opencasting - is called 'aftercare', as if the land has long suffered some dreadful illness and only the multi-national company Miller Argent can bring the cure.
The most laughable example of newspeak is the bi-lingual slogan at the bottom of the letter - ' A greener place / Man gwyrddach'.
So, some 478.1 Ha of land will be excavated ( about 500 footie pitches) for coal to be used at coal-fired power stations like Aberthaw and, miraculously, the whole place will be greener!
Perhaps the 'green' refers to the colour of people's faces with sickness, when they breathe in the dust and fumes?
More likely it refers to the colour of money which Miller Argent will use to 'bribe' the Council, as it has done in Merthyr . Our once anti-opencast Council now call Ffos-y- fran 'reclamation' in similar newspeak.
The letter's signed by the Development Control Manager , another contradiction.
If he/she were genuinely controlling development then this scheme wouldn't proceed, instead we'd have investment in homes properly insulated and in sustainable energy sources not fossil fuels.
The signature on the letter is indecipherable, but it could be that of Winston Smith.......this is where he ended up after the brainwashing!
The answer 'lies with the proles' as Orwell said in '1984' ( an often forgotten socialist statement) and in this instance the local people.
Orwell was a prophet who would years ago have warned us of the frightening consequences of climate change, I'm sure of that.
From Tower to Ffos-y-fran he would, with his acute sense of smell, have sniffed impending doom in the wind.
'D'yew wan some 'Dream o Beckham'?'
'D'yew wan some 'Smell o Beyonce?'
I nearly asked for 'Smell of Beyonce',
just to confound gender stereotyping
from the tills of Savers in town;
mechanised as handed out receipts.
I was tempted to ask if they stocked
'Aroma of Baldrick', combo of dandruff,mud and gob!
Or, being a romantic, for 'Dream of Julie Christie',
a retro Zhivago hint of fur and snow.
But no, I just chuckled inside and smelt poverty:
made on Wigan Pier, Eau d'Orwell.
Mountain above Ton Pentre
You pass through the Valleys on the A470 en route to the picturesque Brecon Beacons.
You briefly admire the ironmaster's castle at Cyfarthfa from the Expressway and cannot fail to notice the 'Arches', or Cefn viaduct.
You may even head to one of our few designated tourist destinations such as Big Pit, the Civil War manor house of Llancaiach Fawr or the Rhondda Heritage Museum.
Once there was a Cowboy Village at the end of the Rhondda, but it disappeared with the gunsmoke into glooming clouds over the Rhigos.
Once there was a dry ski-slope near Merthyr, which was supposed to be a wet one ( as in snow from a machine); that too melted overnight.
There's still a Climbing Centre near Bedlinog, but the proposed white water rafting course never materialised and now, of course, there's one in Cardiff Bay.
If you go walking you head for Pen-y-fan, so you can say -' I've done that one!'
The Valleys are all slag-heaps and pit villages with no point left to them.
When I used to teach in Cardiff this was the prevalent attitude. People from the Valleys are supposedly parochial, as opposed to cosmopolitan Cardiff.
On the contrary, most Cardiffians knew very little about the Valleys, so I took pleasure in reminding them that their city was built on the very coal which came from our communities.
Rare exceptions were cyclists who used the Taff Trail, but found that, like most cycle tracks in Wales, this one too often merged into town and village.
In terms of cycling we could learn from England and the likes of Barnstaple and Wadebridge, where the tracks are almost entirely independent and bike hire is reasonably priced and freely available.
Walking is something that we need to publicise far more widely, as there exists innumerable interesting ones throughout the Valleys. Thanks to Taith Bevan I have experienced three of these in the last few weeks.
Never mind Coastal paths and National Parks, our own Valleys are a wealth of walking possibilities.
Above Mountain Ash is the hamlet of Llanwynno ( although I'm not sure what defines a 'hamlet', except I once smoked them!). We went on a long hike in a circle which took in a stream called Sychnant which was anything but 'sych' (dry) and the waterfall of Pistyll Goleu (nothing to do with 'pissing', but a little spout nevertheless).
This is the ideal walk because you begin and end at the Brynffynon pub and can toast the local legendary runner Guto Nyth Bran with a pint of the best real ale, after a seven mile trek. There are shorter routes, of course.
The next weekend, we three intrepid explorers set off to conquer the mountain above Ton Pentre. Sherpa Jamie Bevan took the lead, followed by the music-man himself Andrew Bartz, balancing on the uneven stones and myself taking up the rear and surreptitiously mainlining chocolate biscuits.
This was more difficult than the sheltered conifers of Llanwynno, as we headed upward onto boggy moorland and a huge cloud. I had never experienced such a weird weather sensation of fog and strong wind at the same time.
We carried on walking and landmarks of car-park and lake had been mysteriously lifted. We would've continued till we reached Cardigan Bay had I not suggested veering left towards the forest to begin our descent.
Amazingly, we arrived back at Ton at the point where the instructions specified and a welcome 'paned o de' at a local caff. With perfect timing, the rain came tampin' down just as we made our way back to the car.
My favourite hike - though one I'm still recovering from several weeks later - was the circular route down from the Rhigos (between Hirwaun and Treherbert) ,into Blaencwm at the very head of the Rhondda Fawr and back up to the Rhigos again.
Taith Bevan excelled with this one and not once did we stray, except to ask a fella in Blaencwm, who gave us several alternatives routes.
This walk took in all the varied Valleys' landscapes in one.
At the top of the Rhigos were carefully placed flowers where someone had a fatal accident. This mountain is renowned locally for its micro-climate and can be very dangerous for drivers.
Downward , we passed the remarkably preserved Stone Age settlement of Hen Dre'r Mynydd, with its remains of circular stone dwellings. Our path was often blocked by rusted car chassis and we debated whether they were there because of accidents or whether joyriders had torched and pushed them over the edge. We were glad it was a quiet Sunday!
After Blaencwm, there was a steep walk up to the high ridge overlooking the village: it took us past waterfalls in full flow. At the summit there's a Man U. flag and a plastic memorial to somebody's Taid (grandad).
Down into the forest and we thought we'd spied our first sheep of the three walks (so much for cliches!). They turned out to be beautiful mountain goats; the Billy goat looking rather menacing with his large, sharp horns.
'Don't stare 'em in the eyes! ' I suggested,' just like we were in the Wyndham!'
Finally, upward on a knee-cracking, heart-bursting path beside a fast-flowing stream, disturbing a heron which gracefully flew away doing its pterodactyl impersonation.
We'd seen the huge gap in the hillside left by the mine which once gave Blaencwm its sole purpose.
There's an equally large gap in the experiences of many in Cymru, myself included.
I know programmes like 'Weatherman Walking' have sought to remedy this ; but the Valleys are all too easily dismissed with stereotypes and cliches.
I would like to thank Taith Bevan and Balancin' Bartz for three fascinating journeys into the unknown........and for getting us home without recourse to the emergency services!
They worshipped at the Shrine of Plastic
before pushing cars off the edge,
torched and burnt before they somersaulted
down the steep slope and now only crows
pick insect offerings in rusted hulks.
Red Devils' flag flapping on the summit
of the ridge, waving like the young boy
taken before his climb ; black plastic lettering
of TAID overlooking the valley houses
running like channels coastward.
In the forest, making pledges of peace
to a herd of goats white as stream-surge,
the Billy's butting horns axe-like,
returning to pupiled stones of Hen Dre'r Mynydd,
carried out of time by wild sights.
The usual suspects in Merthyr precinct
The Red Poets did our first benefit for a good while last Wednesday at The Blast Furnace pub in Pontlottyn, an anti-opencast event organised by UVAG ( United Valleys Action Group).
Along with musicians Huw Pudner/ Chris Hastings and Merthyr's own Jamie Bevan we were delighted to show our support and help raisefunds for the cause.
It is vital that proposals to carry out opencast mining locally are resisted as strongly as possible so they are jettisoned forever. There's no future in fossil fuels and the air and noise pollution which are a consequence of these vast sites are intolerable. The proven incidence of asthma and lung diseases in areas close to the opencasting only reinforces the argument.
In the newspeak of the company behind it Miller Argent (and now Merthyr Council as well), all this is merely 'land reclamation'. But the land, once dug up, can never be reclaimed by the forces of Nature which existed there.
Years of strip-mining (as they term it in The States) and extension after extension leave a massive whole to be filled in : the wildness is banished and eventually replaced by a plasticky surface, a mockery of grass.
After 20 years of existence Red Poets is still going strong and Wednesday night provided the perfect platform for the return of local lass Sian Roberts (on top form), old-timers like Tim Richards with his signature poem 'Fuck 'Em' and youngsters like Josh Allen and Tom Rickarby who've only recently joined the throng.
Red Poets invariably thrive at such venues, working-class pubs with no pretensions.
As Sian Roberts rightly said in her intro. , ours is a poetry for the people by the people, not an elitist art-form which tries to be deliberately obtuse.
That's not to say we don't have variety : from Julie Pritchard's poem- and- song to John Williams' street couplets and Mike Church's up-to-date take on Dylan Thomas, there are many contrasts.
Much of the evening was filmed by Debbie Price who , along with other members of UVAG like Jim Davies and Dave Green showed what a talented group they are.
MC for the night was another member Alun Roberts, who has contributed a great deal to Red Poets over the years, including the power of his stapler to put together issue number 1 , after the printers failed to deliver.
It was great to be doing a benefit and I hope we can do more in future. In the past we have supported the Liverpool dockers, anti-poll tax union and Cymru-Cuba.
We missed our regular heckler Andrew Bartz and wish Jazz would return with his earth-quaking 'Giro City'.
Another invaluable poet down the years has been John 'Maesycymmer' Davies, sadly confined to a wheelchair for a number of years and we have all missed his rollicking humour and p-ing into the microphone.
This is the busiest time for Red Poets I can recall and we're so grateful to the singer-songwriters who join us, Huw and Chris and Jamie and Barry Taylor.
On February 18th we return to Clwb-y-bont in Pontypridd, with Jamie Bevan doing some songs as well. On March 12th we are at Newport doing an Open Mic. at Stow Hill.
On April 25th we are being let out of Cymru for the first time (unless you count Hay!) and the border guards have been warned! We are performing at The Bird's Nest pub in Deptford, London where exhibitions by John Williams and Gus Payne will also feature on the walls. A chance for our contingent across the border , such as Owen Gallagher and Alan Hardy, to come along and read.
At the Imperial Hotel in Merthyr on June 5th, as part of the Dic Penderyn events, we are lauching the very first collection of poetry by Tim Richards, 'Subversive Lines'. This will consist of the poems which have appeared in the magazines for every issue except the first one, plus some new ones.
And all this leading up to the launch of issue 20 at The Imp once again, in late September.
I'd say we are unique, not just to Cymru, but to Europe. Expect not to see us at the Hay Festival or on the pages of the NWR. Expect instead to see us at The Imp and in the 'Morning Star'.
People who think we benefit from being a part of this Disunited Kingdom should take a look around Merthyr, my home town. Once the deep mines and ironworks and almost every other manufacturing industry had gone, we have been left like a colony, abandoned. We're on crutches, hobbling from pawnbroker to Pound Shop, from Food Bank to Charity.
The Boomdays never happened here and, with all the Cuts, we've never been more Bust :-
NO BOOM, JUST BUST
Never seen a Boom in Merthyr
we've only ever seen Bust ;
Government stats say it's getting better
as we scrabble for a crust.
We'll be back to searching
for lumps of coal on the hillsides ;
Pound and Charity shops and Pawnbrokers
are the ones who thrive.
Get a job in the Retail Park,
get a zero contract or minimum wage,
stats claim there's loads of work........
you'll have to move to London to live.
They've cut all the benefits
like lopping off our limbs
and next come the Council cuts
making our brain-cells rust.
Cameron and Osbourne claim it's improving
and they've got the numbers to prove it ;
tricking us with figures like loan sharks,
while debts are screaming the opposite.
Marina Towers Observatory, Swansea
A week of mourning : two great men of the left and of peace have died, but I'm sure their impact will be lasting.
One, Pete Seeger, the inspirational American folk-singer and campaigner has rightly had international coverage while the other - a key figure in Welsh literature - was Nigel Jenkins who died aged 64 from cancer.
Though Nigel's death has hardly had a mention outside his beloved Cymru , I hope this will be rectified in years to come, as his work is fully acknowledged.
We had so much in common, apart from the surname and the fact that many editors confused us, so I did have poems taken just because they thought I was him!
When we both met the great Scots Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean many years ago I explained to him the difference between us - ' I am the Welsh Socialist Republican and he's the Welsh Republican Socialist!' I elucidated.
We both played blues harp, though Nigel was much more professional, wearing his harmonica belt around his waist with many keys, while I stuck with the trusted old E.
We shared a love of John Cale's music, though Nigel's preceded mine and I recall his very interesting review of Cale's album 'Words For The Dying' in 'Arcade' magazine in the 90s. Only later did I manage to catch up with his comprehensive collection of Cale and, even then, he possessed 'La Naissance d'Amour' , an album I couldn't get hold of and which, according to Malcolm Lewis in 'Planet' (another Caleite) was one of his finest ever.
Nigel was, like myself, an officianado of 'tidee beer', real ale that is. It's typical of him that one of his poems in 'Poems For A Welsh Republic' (which Red Poets brought out in Jubilee year) condemned Britain as 'a moribund weak beer monarchy'........even if it's less true today, with the proliferation of superb micro-breweries.
Like him I had my own foray into journalism as pop/ rock correspondent for the early 'Wales On Sunday', a broadsheet he helped fashion with John Osmond. He was far more experienced in this field however and played a key role in the pioneering left nationalist magazine 'Radical Wales'.
We even met up at a job interview where we were both candidates (his last post as director of creative writing at Swansea Uni.). When they asked me about journalism I knew I didn't stand a chance but, meeting Nigel as I was leaving, I realised that he did. He went on to do a wonderful job, inspiring so many students.
He was always an organiser and motivator and I remember him asking me to do a reading at a pub in Salubrious Passage ,off Wind Street . It was packed and buzzing and he had the excellent idea of inviting along Writers' Groups to perform their work, whilst also having a guest or two. It was this format that I used as a model for our successful Open Mic. nights in Merthyr, which have been going for over 5 years now.
I agreed totally with his commitment to a poetry which could take on almost any form or style, from haiku to satire, and from free-form to rhyme.
Some of his fascinating space poems can be found on the Marina Towers Observatory in Swansea Bay ( photo at the start of this blog). If you are ever that way, it's so rewarding to go there and soar upwards with his imagination.
As well as four poems in 'Poems For A Welsh Republic', he had three in the very first issue of what was then 'Red Poets' Society' and these can be read on our website - www.RedPoets.org
We were both 'dysgwyr' and the importance of Cymraeg throughout his work is clear. In 'Hotel Gwales' for example, there are a number of translations from contemporary Welsh language poetry, including his friends Menna Elfyn and Iwan Llwyd.
He was a committed man of Swansea, a proud 'Jack', though we never discussed the footie. His views on sport (especially rugby) were quite cynical and he saw the donning of national identity for a day as rather pathetic. It was, to him, part of the shallowness of Welsh identity.
Unlike myself, he was a party man , though never one to tow the Plaid Cymru line. As he was a local member I was so grateful for the tremendous support he gave to my daughter Bethan ( the AM for his constituency). He totally empathised with her politics and could fully understand the way she had been treated.
He possessed the barbed wit of a Harri Webb, the lyricism of a Dylan and the gentleness of Vernon Watkins.
His poem 'Advice To A Young Poet' is a must for all aspiring writers. It finishes with , ' but a poem's ending is not its end'.
The same could be said about a poet like Nigel.
TOWARDS THE UNKNOWN
er cof am Nigel Jenkins
From the Rhondda we began
a hike towards the unknown.
We didn't grasp it at first,
only the aerial and ancient hill-fort.
We had a map and instructions
which became irrelevant up the steep track :
the footpaths were blown skyward
and landmarks obscured by the fog.
We trudged across the boggy moor
cursing our hearts which raised alarms.
Below was a thick forest of conifers
in orderly lines like Roman legions.
The mine at the valley's head,
black whiplash strokes on green.
We carried on walking into cloud
until even the reason was unseen.
Pistyll Goleu , near Llanwynno
FEET FALL FREE
for Jamie & Andrew
We set off in pursuit
of Guto Nyth Bran -
not the streets of Aberpennar
and the Nos Galan race
and rain tipping down
like old farmers with sticks -
but a steady walking pace.
The sun popping its head
from out of the mist
now and again, losing
our sense of direction
despite a map, except one
with his third dimension ;
compass in his dizzy head.
Conifers too dark, no lift of wings
and reservoir where all's contained;
warning of a house and dogs loose.
Water running rapidly barefoot
down narrow forest paths :
I hear his feet fall free
at Pistyll Goleu's liquid light.
Cawr by Gus Payne / Cover of 'Bach Yn Ryff' Jamie Bevan
Courtesy of repeats of the innovative S4C series 'Fideo Naw', I've recently revisited roc Cymraeg from the 90s in particular and realised just what I missed.
In the 80s, with DJ John Peel as musical guru, I would listen avidly to punk band Yr Anrhefn and the most challenging but original of all Welsh groups Datblygu, who were greatly influenced by that genius Captain Beefheart.
Records were hard to find and I once discovered Yr Anrhefn in the World Music section at HMV! Now they have a whole Welsh shelf, but no Welsh language bands on it.
At the time my Welsh was rudimentary, but I did my best to pick up some lines, words and phrases. Singer-songwriters like Dafydd Iwan and Meic Stevens were much easier to comprehend and the latter's songs such as 'Dic Penderyn' and 'Bobby Sands' I really relished. Seeing him perform at a Welsh republican event in Cardiff further convinced me of his special place in music.
I believe that had he decided to record only in English, then Stevens would be up there with Dylan and Cohen today and it's a sad indictment of the dominance of the English language that he is still so marginalised.
The same applies to Geraint Jarman, who began as a poet and now publishes verse once again. He doesn't even get the recognition he deserves from Welsh-speakers, who tend to pigeon-hole him as 'white reggae'.
Yet every Jarman album comprises so much more , especially the best ones like 'Gwesty Cymru' and 'Rhiniog' : the music ranges from rock to more funky and folky influences and Tich Gwilym was simply a guitarist to rival the very best. Jarman's lyrics were always those of a true bard.
So, to the bands I missed out on and notably Y Cyrff, Ffa Coffi Pawb and U Thant. The first gave rise to Catatonia, the second boasted a certain Gruff Rhys as singer and the third must have been quite phenomenal live (they even started the Bluebird fans 'ayatollah' according to legend).
Today, I think the talent in terms of Welsh language music lies with the many singer-songwriters, so varied both in music and lyrical emphasis. In English, on the other hand, it's bands like The Joy Formidable, Paper Aeroplanes and Future of the Left who lead the way.
This is the best scene since the absurdly-named Cwl Cymru of the 1990s, a secret that has to be let out one of these days.
In a way it's more intriguing, simply because it's such a long way from Future of the Left to Georgia Ruth, like the train journey from Cardiff to Aberystwyth, where they're from respectively!
Welsh singer-songwriters tend to be more original than Welsh language bands because the latter are too in awe of the Super Furries and too inclined to imitate them (Sibrydion being just one example). However, the singer-songwriters feel greater freedom to borrow and adapt.
Interestingly, all four I'm looking at have released bi-lingual material recently, just as Gorky's Zygotic Mynci did in their heyday.
Firstly there is Huw M. (or Huw Meredydd Roberts) who , on 'Gathering Dusk', has 5 tracks in Welsh, 4 in English and one in baby-talk.
While the English lyrics come over as rather sentimental at times, the Welsh songs are more edgy such as 'Ystafelloedd Gwag' and the more playful 'Brechdanau Sgwar'.
Huw M. is influenced by the earlier Sufjan Stevens but never lets that music overpower him and his version of the traditional song 'Dyma lythyr' is one of the album's high-points.
Lleuwen Steffan's 'Tan' comprises songs in both Welsh and Breton and, as she lives in Llydaw at present, that's not surprising.
Her music blends folk and jazz effortlessly and reminds me of the sadly-missed band Gilespi and what they could have gone on to do with a smaller group of musicians.
Out of the four, she is the most experimental, taking standard folk forms and developing them with quirky rhythms and distinctive vocals : her voice has all the agility of a jazz singer .
The opening track 'Lle Wyt Ti Heno Iesu Grist' is a classic with its staccato strings, breathy singing and quick-step harp. Her Breton songs are more traditional, while songs like 'Paid a Son' show how she can evoke a sensual mood so well.
She is a unique talent and I look forward very much to her next offering.
Aberystwyth's Georgia Ruth is very much the artist of the moment. She featured greatly in the WOMEX international music festival at the Millennium Centre as both performer and presenter and won last year's Welsh Music Award for her debut album 'Week of Pines'.
I like the importance of her harp-playing on the album and I'm told she is even better live.
She is undoubtedly under the spell of Joni Mitchell, yet I'm sure she will gradually break away and find an even more distinctive style. There is enough on the album to suggest this and the imagery of her lyrics is subtle and never pretentious, such as the title track and 'Mapping'.
With his backing band Gweddillion, Merthyr's Jamie Bevan sounds the most traditionally folk of all four (tin whistles, pipes and accordion providing some the backing). Characters from Merthyr and the streets of his home town play a crucial role in his songs, like 'John the Lamb', a portrait of an infamous landlord and his pub in the 1960s.
Opening track 'Bron' is Radio Cymru's record of the week this week and Frank Hennessey has played the raucous singalong 'No Lentils In Cawl' several times on Radio Wales.
'Bach Yn Ryff' is a lively and tuneful e.p. and Jamie is happy to venture into English. It would be interesting to see what would happen if his folk persona met up with electronic experimenters Twlc Tlwc (with whom
he has close associations) and produced some music.
New Welsh music is on it's way.........where to , I'm not sure.....but hopefully the ears of the world.
( I wrote this poem in response to Jamie's song 'No Lentils In Cawl').
Cawl Yr Iaith
Dw i’n moyn lentils yn y cawl
ac Eisteddfodau heb gystadlu.
Dw i’n moyn ymuno a’r cor
sy’n canu yn y tafarnau.
Dw’n lico gweld yr oen bach
yn y cae nid yn y llestri.
Dw i’n lico cerddoriaeth Gymraeg
ond ble mae e ar y teledu?
Dw i’n edrych ymlaen at farddoniaeth
gyda’r gwybodaeth y strydoedd.
Dw i’n edrych ymlaen at gawl yr iaith :
bwyd symyl heb farwoliaeth.
'He does what he wants'
It's rarely safe and steady being a fan of CCFC.
Just when you think everything is hunky dory : in the Prem with the best manager I've known (yes, better than Scoular, DJ or Frankie), just after we've beaten Man. City, drawn with Man U at home and, above all, beaten Swansea.......just when we've signed class acts like Caulker, Medel and young Theo.....it all goes awry.
Moody, the head of recruitment and manager Malky Mackay's trusted side-kick gets the boot from owner and full-time megalomaniac Vincent Tan, Malky himself is told in an email from Tan to resign or be sacked and then summarily dismissed.
The players only find out about it on TV , as Tan does his best to out-crazy the Venkys at Blackburn. Malky is supported fully by just about every pundit, manager and , indeed, Cardiff City fan.
Afterwards, there's even talk of the return of Dave Jones ( will he bring back Bothroyd and Chopra?). Tan himself is quoted at 66-1 to get the job. Any significance in the demonic numerals?
Finally, the candidate everyone seemed to want, Ole Gunnar Solskaer, is appointed and we win away at Newcastle in the FA Cup, his first game in charge. Moreover, both subs score in very good imitations of the 'Baby-faced Assassin' as a player.
If we carry on doing well, there's no doubt that 'Ole, Ole, Ole!' will be embraced by those selfsame fans who were so enraged at the treatment of Mackay.
Many like myself, truly wish Tan would sell up and get out, so we revert to our traditional colours and bluebird badge. However, this is wishful thinking at present.
Should Solskaer fail to keep us in the Premier though, I believe there will be a very strong backlash.
So far , he gives the impression of being an excellent choice. He is intent on signing the right kind of players to alter our style of play to one more suited to the top league, rather than the overly defensive and cautious approach Malky understandably deployed.
Solskaer has rightly identified this problem and will change tactics to encourage more possession and patient build-up, rather than the tendency to play long balls out of defence.
Some players will find it hard to adapt. Ben Turner for example, is a resolute defender, yet never comfortable on the ball and , too often, passes long straight to the opposition.
In times of such upheaval it's hard to look at the many positives from this season to date.
Amazingly, despite the conflicts caused by our intransigent owner, players have tried to remain focused, even though our poorer run did coincide with the tribulations.
Craig Noone has come into the team recently and looked the part, Campbell threatened without sufficient support, Theo has been dangerous as an attacking full-back and Medel superb as the modern 'libero' (in front of the back four).
Keeper Marshall has saved us on many occasions with truly world class stops and how captain Caulker doesn't get into the England squad is totally baffling.
Mutch and Kim have promised, well......much. The former looks a real prospect, especially when running at defences.
Yet in many games the one player who has oozed Premier class has been one Peter Whittingham. Against Man U he executed several long passes to Campbell which, from the boot of Giggs would've had the commentators swooning.
Though he has scored less goals than usual, he has had many assists (often from free-kicks and corners) and has been asked to take on various roles ( wide, defensive midfielder and play-maker) and risen to each one.
It seems shocking to me that, in picking their ideal Cardiff teams for the West Ham game, not one of Wales Online's experts selected Whitts. Odemwingie and Bellamy, both of whom having been largely ineffectual, are preferred, as is Kim, who seldom looks like scoring.
Whitts may be a little slow, but he has improved markedly over the years, under both DJ and Malky.
He began as a talented left-winger, signed from Villa for only £200,000. He was always full of skill and scored many spectacular goals, some from free-kicks. As penalty-taker and dead ball specialist he is one of the best.
He never used to tackle much , track back, or use his right foot and this meant he would get stick from some fans.
In the last five years he has acquired much more aggression, defends well and even uses that right foot.
This week Solskaer signed his first player, Norwegian international midfielder Magnus Wolff Eikrem, described as a 'quarter-back' (I thought that was American football?), and pundits have suggested that Whitts' place is threatened.
I sincerely hope that one of our longest-serving and most improved players continues to play a major role.
When I recently bought a blue away shirt for my daughter, she let me decide the name on the back. I had no hesitation!
He is special. His goal celebrations are so fascinating because they are so different : he'll shrug his shoulders or give a bewildered stare. When he scored with a header against West Brom I honestly thought Campbell had got it because he ran away in jubilation, while Whitts collapsed on his face!
He is football's anti-hero. A genuine rarity.
ODE TO WHITTS
He sits on his steps
outside his house supping tea,
takes his dog for a walk along the prom,
on Play Station all evening long
while the others are out on the town.
He heads a great goal
then falls flat on his face,
curls a free-kick into the net with grace,
powers an unstoppable pen.,
or his corner bends onto a willing head.
His goal celebrations the ultimate anti
as he walks away almost apologetically,
never punches the corner flag
kisses the badge, does a heart sign,
swings babies, golf clubs
or does a somersault like Earnie.
He'll raise an eye-brow maybe.
Whitts, quietly-spoken, with a hint of Nuneaton ,
can execute a long pass as good as Giggsy
and , with the years, he's tackling back
and using that once obsolete right peg.
In an age of the tweeting
ranting look-at-me celebrity,
Whitts, with his unshowmanship,
is humble and extraordinary.
Last Sunday we returned from the balmy clime of sunny Aberaeron to the remains of snow on roadsides and furious overnight lashing storms. The selfsame ones we'd experienced in that west Wales town nights before.
We returned to our disused trampoline, a warehouse of acorns for squirrels and pigeons and only used by the neighbours' cats .......and not to spring up and catch blackbirds on oak branches! It was overturned like a stray leaf and our white picnic table was upside-down resembling a makeshift raft.
A strange piece of sheeting had been blown against the fence and looked suspiciously like a piece of roofing ( packaging, on close inspection).
All evening and through the night the rain hammered down and I missed the sense of the nearby sea and river Aeron meeting in all its frantic gushing.
Any smugness about our mountain location was dispatched by my young daughter next morning , who was woken by an unwelcome shower......from her ceiling!
Our notoriously prone dormer roof had succumbed to the constant downpours and a crack appeared above her head where the drip-drip began.
And I know that our minor crisis was as nothing compared to the many left homeless and flooded over Christmas, yet it is still really annoying.
Yet in Aberaeron you are always aware of the sheer vulnerability of the place .
The sea - never as ferocious as up-coast Aberystwyth - was nevertheless as powerful as I've witnessed, with bucking bronco breakers, white manes splayed. There was a stampede till they reared at harbour walls and threw their load of stones and silt.
The river Aeron as well was so gentle one day and the next a full-flooded torrent : a viewing bench submerged and mallards trying to seek out the reedy calmer waters.
The sea rose up and river sped and a few sandbags outside the harbour houses seemed as inept as our felt roof against the elements.
A visit to Aberystwyth the Monday before Christmas was conditional on the weather. We made of to the Arts Centre and supermarket, bit the town was impossible : it was in M25-ish gridlock with a house collapsed and diversions and cars at a stop.
Ice-caps melt, seas swell and flood defences seem totally inadequate. Our 'weather weirding' of Jet Stream low pressure systems with isobars like contours of high-peaked mountains is incessant.
The consequences are felt everywhere, yet river and coastal towns seem built from sand.
Precious places threatened by this carbon future made all the more stark by our continued reliance on opencast coal feeding power stations like Aberthaw .
My brother recently visited Aberaeron and was amazed at its transformation. He remembered it as shoddy and nondescript.
Now it's a modest and colourful jewel on our coast with Balamory houses painted alternately in different colours from pastel shades to bolder ones, yet never brazen, like the plethora of ice-creams at cafe Y Cwch Gwenyn overlooking the harbour.
One week there is time spent in a different world where, for my wife and son (who spend so much time driving normally) the pleasure is to leave their cars like workday clothes hung in a wardrobe.
It's a world of honey ice-cream, chips from the renowned New Celtic, the chance to buy a bargain in the £1.20 shop's half-price sale and a couple of pints at Tafarn Cadwgan while watching Cardiff City blow it yet again ( well, it's not all escape!).
A world of skimming stones and feeding ducks and imagining, as in childhood, that your bed's a boat afloat on the wild westerly and you're gliding past bewildered gulls and red kites high above the arcing coastline.
A world where 'mae'r Cymraeg yn byw' in chip shop and pub, cafe and Costcutter, not just as a sop or sign ; more steadfast now against other storms, the crash of coins or steady erosion of American English and its grinding slang.
ABERAERON IN THE GALES
Houses creak and strain in moorings
like boats with their yellow buoys :
an orchestra of rigging plays
high-pitched notes on the ropes.
Mint, lemon, strawberry and blackcurrant,
the windows of these ice-cream houses
are rattled and beaten storm-percussion.
Late night revellers cling to a band
of bright lights on eaves of Y Cwch Gwenyn,
before they're blown onto the street
and their drunken laughter's lost
into a gale speeding so fast
even the local policeman's notebook
is blustered inside out.
Awake in early hours , my head
is a thunder of rolled barrels
from next-door Tafarn Cadwgan
and in my dreams we are adrift
and manned by the three grandfather clocks,
old sea-dogs well past their chime.