At a recent N.U.T. rally outside the Senedd in Cardiff only Plaid Cymru were represented of the main political parties (by a certain Bethan Jenkins A.M. ).
  When she tweeted this fact, out from the building springs ex-Education Minister Leighton Andrews to interrupt Wales N.U.T. leader David Evans' speech.
   He was initially jeered and then cheered as he pledged support for Comprehensive education. Compared to England's multi-tiered and semi-privatised system , Wales does appear egalitarian and fair, yet......to what extent?
   There remains an overriding sense of failure, with many pupils not achieving the magic 'C' grade at GCSE. As I've blogged previously, only when schools are run democratically and the exam system  abolished so pupils are rewarded for what they achieve throughout their school careers, can we even approach a fully comprehensive system.
   Moreover, all public schools should be closed down.
   'Public' schools are a misnomer : they aren't for the 'public', but are elitist.
   The average annual fees for the likes of Howell's, Christ College and Llandovery range from £5000 - £8000.
   The average wage in my home town of Merthyr Tudful is about £26000 per annum. In order to send little Callum or Caitlin to these places, parents would need to go without food or heat for a year.......not advisable!
   Scholarships do exist ,but there are a limited number and all these institutions exist to make money, despite having charitable status.
   A friend who used to work for the Charities Commission was always appalled by the fact that private schools were regarded thus.
   Some deliberately fulfill community roles in order to feign this, but they are essentially places for the wealthy and privileged, often feeding the major universities like Oxford and Cambridge.
   When we think about private schools we tend to envisage Eton and Harrow, yet there are many smaller ones, some of which depend heavily on the State for their very existence , as the children of the Armed Services board there (another State subsidy).
   Many of these employ unqualified teachers and very dubious ones at that. I know because my father taught briefly in one in the Vale. He was a highly intelligent man with a serious mental illness, who should never have been allowed near school pupils. When dismissed for literally making them kiss his feet I wasn't surprised!
  At University I had two close acquintances who attended private schools and took an extra year to try to get into Oxbridge. Both failed , and ended up at Aber . To their benefit, I'd argue.
   Much has been made of the fact that many of the present Government attended the 'top' schools and that alone is proof of their shortcomings. However, they do produce a sense of entitlement, as well as a direct path to Oxbridge and many of the upper echelons of society.
   Other factors emphasize the benefits of private education , including their outstanding facilities and small class sizes.
   However, their serious faults are generally ignored.
   Recalling those two students , there were common patterns of behaviour which could be ascribed to their education.
   Both had an unhealthy obsession with porn, born out of all-male environments.
  Both had peculiar relationships with parents based largely on financial obligations to them. Normal,loving relationships had been distorted
  and numbed by years of absence and replaced by the feeling of being an 'investment'.
   Recently, State schools have been criticised for enabling parents to leave their children from 6 am - 6 pm, yet the private system goes way beyond this, allowing parents to abandon children at an early age and deprive them of family 
affection ( so much for the Tories mantra of the importance of 'the family').
   Much has also been made of the way the present Government are totally divorced from most people and cannot comprehend how they live.
   Private schools cater for one section of society only and inevitably cut them off from contact with people of all different classes. The schooling of the Government is one explanation of their ignorance and their ideologically-motivated cuts and austerity.
   In short, we should stop lauding private education and examine the reality  of a system which stunts and perverts the development of children.    
   It may bring them success in terms of money and status, but it doesn't make them successful, rounded human beings.

                               THE  VALUE  OF  EDUCATION

He slept above those bodies ,
hooking them out
with a deft and practised stroke
to finger through at night
under the covers.

He was at ease at the crease
or setting field-placings,
a 'born captain'
his House Master had insisted.

He went sleep-walking
once standing semi-naked
in the landlady's bedroom
and even when she screamed,
stood hollow-eyed.

He always told me -
'There's nothing wrong with my schooling,
my parents made an investment!'
He paid them back at the wicket,
or stuffy library not lingering long.

They rarely came to visit
but when they did, bought him
half the high street
of that small seaside town.

I knew he'd sleep-walk
into his father's profession
and his son would follow
into Prep and dormitories,
know the value of education
down to the nearest penny.


PictureMikecu for a christening

   I have started doing haiku on wooden plaques.
   These are called 'Mikecu'. This isn't a company name or a brand.
   I'm not about to appear on 'Dragon's Den' asking them for a £100,000 investment for a 25% stake.
  I couldn't bear Duncan Balletine's interrogation about my profit margins.
   'What's your projected net profit for the first year of trading?'
   'Uh.......fuck all!'
   'Errrrr....right! So you expect me to hand you 100 grand for no return?.....I am oot!'
   So, I have begun by doing two for birthdays (one a 21st) and one for a Christening.
   And no, it's not the pimping of a Red Poet because I have written haiku for years, just never on wood to be hung up (or used for the fire?).
   They can be about almost anything (yes,even daffs and sheep!), but Nature and the seasons do remain primary themes.
   I like their brevity : out-tweeting Twitter and their focus ( even after a few pints of Celt).
   I have written a few yn Cymraeg, but mostly in English and ,unlike some other exponents, adhere strictly to the 5-7-5.
   I believe there's something magical about those syllables, even though they may be more apt in Chinese or Japanese.
   Some who have received one have never heard of the haiku form before.
   In one case my wife sent a text saying 'Hope you enjoy the haiku' and the recipient was expecting a scarf!
   I also like the challenge of writing to commission and trying not to fall into the deadly pit of cliches.

A  haiku is not
a scarf, it's a paper snake ;
so wear the shed skin.

PictureCardiff Central station

   I've become a professional complainer.
   The more I use public transport, the more cause for complaint. Both Arriva Trains Wales and Stagecoach (the buses not the drama workshops!) have felt my ire of late.
   The latter didn't give proper compensation despite the fact that the bus due to take us from Pontypridd to Merthyr late at night
simply didn't appear.
   I heard later that the driver's son had been taken ill ; but there should've been a replacement all the same.
   The taxi home was extortionate, but as I failed to get a receipt, the only thing I received was a voucher for the price of the journey.
   Arriva do generally respond with vouchers, yet often deny any wrong-doing.
   Twice in a matter of weeks both myself and younger daughter were thrown off the train (along with all the other passengers) at Merthyr Vale, so it could make up the time
. The train then proceeded on to Merthyr empty!
   When confronted, Arriva denied this had even occurred , claiming they had electronic records to prove it. I had texts and calls from my distressed daughter to prove otherwise!
   Should this happen again, I will refuse to alight. Haven't they got an obligation to passengers?
  Actually, their only obligation seems to be to targets, like the rest of society from the police force to stressed-out teachers.
   Customers seem superfluous, as we are expected to travel in ancient rolling stock which belongs in the Industrial and Maritime Museum.
   We are expected to wait for some far-off electrification, as Westminster and Cardiff Bay hit responsibility back and fore in an endless match of political tennis.
   I'm in danger of repeating myself, but none of the major political parties dare mention the 'n' word.
  Even Plaid Cymru, who could afford to be adventurous, talk about 'not-for-profit' rather than nationalisation; not arguing for a Tren Cymru network owned by the people of Wales, or buses returned to Council control as Cardiff's is today.
   Comedians used to mock British Rail, as did the right-wing press, yet companies like Arriva and Stagecoach get off very lightly.
   Just as our first ever privatised train in Wales happened to be a bus, so that tradition is regularly maintained.

   The two most popular destinations for commuters in Wales are places called 'Delayed' and 'Cancelled'.
   I genuinely admire the small firm which provides our bus service in my area of Merthyr, as they offer an alternative to Stagecoach's monopoly.
   You get to know the drivers and they know many customers by first names. They often stop outside people's houses and help the old and infirm with their bags.
  They too can be erratic with their 'phantom' buses, yet give me them over the big, impersonal companies any day.
   They're like the village pub ,however, with a 'For Sale' sign always looming above.
   Stations can be places of intense observation and inspiration, though I sometimes wish I spent less time gazing up with anxious eyes at the screen, anticipating yet another cancellation.

                       BIRD-MAN  ON  THE  PLATFORM

Striding up and down the platform
but it's going in his direction

his hands are pigeons taking off,
he keeps on preening himself
in every smutty window

jay tie and starling suit,
checks his mobile, wings clipped
underneath his dove-white shirt

his day's delayed upon the screen,
a hair slips out of place,
a seagull chasing crumbs of time

the next train promising :
a woman asks him a question
believing he's an official there

he's anxious about an appointment
with his former manager

he's preparing for an interview
at an office down the line :
the empty carriages are leaving

finger to ear like beak to a bin ;
in cages of closed-down waiting rooms
his reflection's always frowning.


PictureDylan Thomas' writing shed, currently on tour

   I was standing on Tonypandy station the other day, when I had a revelation. It came from a piece of stenciled graffiti under the bridge.
   I like to think I was possessed by the spirit of Rhondda writer Rachel Tresize (rhymes with 'Dylan Thomas Prize' ), except she's still very much alive.
   Sometimes I see things that make my mind totally boggle and just wonder if anyone else has noticed them.
   Often it's been in Merthyr precinct : two instances being the subject of the poem below and a man I would liken to 'Table Top Joe' in the Tom Waits song from his brilliant album 'Alice'. He was knee-high on the pavement near where Smith's used to be and seemed to have no body, like the character in the song. Everyone passed him by without a head-turn.

  Recently I've been involved in writing workshops at Primary schools as part of Literature Wales'   Developing Dylan project.
  For the last two I used a power-point devised by myself and my clever but often plugged-into-her-i-pad daughter, based on 'The Hunchback In The Park'.
   For the first one  I kept strictly to the power-point provided by them and found it was inappropriate : far too difficult and ,moreover, contained no creative writing element!
   Now I've realised there is flexibility I am delighted that poetry-writing plays an integral role in their response to one of Thomas's most accessible poems.
  'Hunchback' has all his typical hyperboles and thrill with sounds, yet avoids the nostalgic sentimentality of 'Fern Hill' , or the image-tangled obscurity of poems like 'All All and All The Dry World's Lever'.
   I am something of an exception when it comes to his work. 'Under Milk Wood' - for all its wonderful word-pictures and conjuring of atmosphere - seems full of stereotypes and caricatures. It's almost a comic book portrayal of Wales compared with his vivid , realistic stories like 'Peaches' and 'Extraordinary Little Cough'.
   Like Sylvia Plath , I believe that Dylan has been famous, in the main, for the wrong work.
   The Dylan Industry is up and running with Centenary Year and a full programme for the Festival in Swansea. Anyone who happened to meet him over a pint at Brown's is probably now embarking on a lecture tour.
   His beloved shed ( well, a replica) is currently touring the country, minus empties and fag-ash and we're all Dylan's Disciples, leaving out the seedy bits.
   I can't complain, as it gives me an opportunity to go to Primary schools and get them writing about interesting characters, hopefully avoiding Simon Cowell, David Beckham and Minnie Mouse in the process!

   Some pupils have really taken to it, notably the young girl who, when I asked her class who was the most famous Welsh writer ever promptly replied 'You!' Full marks and an A*.
   What I have realised is that less pupils are now writing poetry. After all, it can't be properly assessed, can it?
   I pointed out that Dylan uses virtually no punctuation in 'Hunchback' and one horrified teacher said they could only write like that 'today' and at no other time.
  While the Centenary is laudable, we mustn't marginalise the many other writers who deserve equal recognition, such as R.S. Thomas and Alun Lewis ; not to mention Welsh language poets like Gwenallt and Waldo Williams, who hardly get a look in.
   Like many poets in Wales I was once greatly influenced by Dylan and then rebelled when I came to study American poetry (especially the Beats, Lowell, Stevens and Olson)
. Now I hope I  can be more distanced and discerning.
   His distinctive 'ham actor' intonation can carry me along on a huge wave, but also make me chuckle at its posh tone and bombast.
   Both my late mother and sister were/are Dylanites (or should that be 'Dyldos'?). Maybe their hero-worship makes me overly critical?
   Still, but for him I would never have been on that station platform.

                         AFRICAN WOMAN AT-A  MARKIT

Seen er jest once,
thought I woz allucinatin
(too much medication)
the African woman
servin at-a stall
sellin cheese, bacon an pasties
all embalmed in plastic.

Not like she woz dressed
all bright an colourful
but, sat on er ead
as she served the people,
woz an ewge bag o stuff :
carrots, frewt an thin's,
without a pasty in sight.

All-a time she balanced
tha bag like a footie star
with a ball, so outa place
I wonder now if I dreamt it
on a drab, damp Merthyr day
an nobuddy s much as commented.



for   Al   Jones

Al mun, did I hear you correctly?

Did you say -
'I'll probably see you next in Heaven' ?
or was it 'in Hirwaun'?

You see, there is a difference.

I don't believe in Heaven
or Hell (not even my time
working in Butlins' kitchens).

But, I do believe in Hirwaun.
However ethereal it may seem
when the clouds hang low
below the Rhigos Mountain,
it is your home
and the place of Cymraeg.

Every week at y dosbarth

in the YMCA around a table
still struggling with treigladau.

But if you did say 'Heaven'
what were you inferring?
After all, you are a Zen
could reach enlightenment
through meditation wherever, whenever........
even at the end of the Valley of Lost Meaning,
yes, even in Hirwaun!

Notes -    dosbarth  - class
treigladau - mutations

   The viewpoint in the following poem is mine and it isn't.
  It's certainly one I hear a lot in Merthyr and, quite recently, in Anne's Pantry cafe at the bottom of High Street where I was discussing the rapidly declining town centre with Anne's two daughters who ran the place.   
   Note the Past Tense : in the last week it has shut, along with W.H. Smith's.
   Much as I disliked the latter for various reasons (one being a total lack of support for local writers), we are left with Siop y Canolfan in the Soar, an excellent bookshop but one which inevitably concentrates on Welsh language works.
   Anne's was always my favourite cafe. I have known the owner for years and used to go to Merthyr football games with her late husband. It was a friendly, laid-back place (with very good chips and cheesy toast) which will be missed.
   More closures are impending, with the two Co-op pharmacies surely due to be shut and Burton's is looking increasingly dilapidated. With Burton's, Boots and New Look all in the Cyfarthfa Retail Park, I can't see any of them staying on in town.
   So, at times, I feel exactly like the speaker in the poem and despair for the future ; for talented friends who have worked all their lives and now find themselves in their 50s and on the dole ( Jobseekers) and finding it very difficult to get the work they want so badly.
   At other times though, I do feel more optimistic.
   Not just because there are signs of renovation and general improvement evidenced by the Redhouse and the new Merthyr College, but also because in places like Soar, the Old Town Hall and our monthly Open Mic. at The Imp you'll discover so much creativity and original voices of imagination and dissent.
   You feel a good deal less isolated in the company of those who believe in the transformative nature of the arts, learning Cymraeg, or  helping others to express themselves in classes and workshops.
   I don't think I've ever known a time when Merthyr has been so full of creative energy: from Forge Films in Redhouse to the excellent young singer-songwriter Kizzy Crawford ; from the electronic music of Twlc to the highly imaginative paintings of Gus Payne.
   It is the best of times and the worst of times.  A time to both agitate and celebrate.

                                OWER  TOWN

Ower town is slowly closin down,
one artfa another the shops,
the ouse'old names an local ones,
like old people dyin off
in a neglected Care Ome.

An ev'ryone talkin in
ewsed-t-bes an I remembers
an tha's-where - it - wozs.

Ower Caffi Quarter should be re-named
ower Shut-down Area ;
I ewsed t go t Anne's Pantree
tidee chips and cheesy toast
an Anne's two daughters runnin it......
but now it's shuttered up.

Ower town ave moved out
to-a Retail Park no parkin charge,
though we got posh pavin-stones
an a one-way system, straight in an out.

Ower town is closin down
an waitin f'r-a flame an smoke.

   I refuse to get over-excited about Cardiff City's victory V. Fulham last Saturday.
   The papers may be full of turning-points and our manager Ole Gunnar Solskaer seems to think we can get something from our next two games away to Everton and home to Liverpool, but I have seen too much of our inconsistency to be anything but pessimistic.
   Too often in the past I've built up hopes only to see them dashed, especially against Blackpool in the Play-off Final at Wembley. I refused to drink orange juice for a year afterwards.
   Recently I've been engaged in opinionated and occasionally repetitive debates with fellow Bluebirds about  the merits of Malky ,Ole
and  Vincent Tan.
   Not because I'm a stirrer, but because I have doubts, I tend to take different views with the two of them.
   With one who's a Tanite, I tend to argue the case for Malky
and highlight just how appallingly he and the head of recruitment Iain Moody were treated and sacked without any real reason given.
   With the other who's fervently pro-Malky Mackay I tend to be critical of someone who I still rate as the best manager of my lifetime at CCFC. I focus on his shortcomings and question why he allowed the 2 million Euros signing of Etien Velikonja by Tan without his knowledge (at the time Malky was close to Tan, of course). I doubt seriously whether his tactics of 11 men behind the ball and no counter-attacking policy could've kept us up.
   Having said that, I do think he was disgracefully treated by the owner Tan.
   You only have to look at two of our most consistent performers all season, Steven Caulker and Gary Medel, to appreciate that Malky and Moody got it dead right in most cases.
   Should we go down, then these players will want to stay in the Premier where they belong and we do stand to make a lot of money from selling them. Liverpool and Arsenal have already expressed interest respectively.
   The two M's made one notable error in the summer signings and that was the signing of youngster Andreas Cornelius for £8 million
. The money should've been invested in a proven striker at that level and both myself and my son said last June that if there was one player we'd sign it would be Loic Remy. He hasn't had a bad season on loan at Newcastle!
   Tan was simply looking for an excuse to get rid of Malky and Moody, thinking his money had been misspent ; knowing nothing about football, he even believed we should be in the top ten!
   For every Cornelius, they acquired the likes of Fraizer Campbell, Craig Noone and Jordan Mutch, all of whom are capable of playing well in the Premier.

   All three played against Fulham incidentally.
   Malky was treated unjustly, but will Solskaer save us from the dreaded relegation?
   It's hard to judge against the worst team I've seen all season, but there were many positives.
   We actually played as a team, eagerly supporting each other. As Steve Tucker argued in the 'Western Mail', he also deployed a system which worked, with Campbell much better wide left than alongside Jones looking for knock-downs.
   Caulker and Noone were outstanding throughout and Fabio and Declan John played
their best games of the season at full-backs.
   The real test will come in the next couple of matches.
   The two B's (Baines and Barkley) tore us apart under Malky's regime at our ground and we can't rely on Marshall to save us all the time.
   Solskaer's style is more open ; yet also more open to clear opportunities for the opposition.
   For Liverpool, how are we going to cope with the three S's (Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling)? At Anfield, Gary Medel couldn't get close enough to Suarez even to chop him!

  In a way, Ole has been lucky. All the fans' malice has been directed at the megalomaniac Tan. After the abject performance v. Hull the chant was 'We're Cardiff City, we'll always be blue!' and not 'Ole, you don't know what you're doing!'
   After the Fulham win Tan appeared on the field to do the 'ayatollah' and was greeted with jeers and resounding boos.
   Solskaer's record is poor and , moreover, his January signings have failed to make an impact : Jones has scored one goal, Zaha been very disappointing and , of the three Norwegians, only Daehli looks up to it.
   However, he is enthusiastic and wants the team to play possession football rather than Malky's reliance on set-pieces to score.
   I feel we're in for a torrid time, but if the fighting spirit of the Fulham game is replicated for the rest of the season we might stay up.
   On the other foot, my blue cap could just swing it in our favour!

                             MY  BLUE  BASEBALL  CAP

My Bluebirds baseball cap
made a cameo appearance
on 'Match of the Day';

along with our beloved owner's
dark glasses, trousers up to his neck,
shirt the colour of his birthday dragon-cake.

Gary Lineker failed to interview
my lucky headgear, but if he had
it would've arrogantly replied -

'Our win was all down to me,
not the manager or the team,
or the fact that Fulham were shite!'

Afterwards, I'd have ticked it off,
explained that my trusty scarf
is far more experienced, never haughty.

But now, my baseball cap wants
an agent, wants to be a pundit.........
well, if Robbie Savage can do it!


PicturePhoto 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.

PictureRepublican 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.

                               EAU  D'ORWELL

'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.