In the midst of pots and food,
above the whir of oven's hood
a tip-tapping sharp and hard.

At the French windows, so close,
a visitor to our house, stranger
from the land of grain, my youth.

Rare pheasant, tame at my sight,
perhaps befriending a reflection,
strutting the patio, raised head curious.

'Adopt it !' my son had  suggested
though he , no doubt, would say fair game,
thinking of sauces and fattening.

She stepped the stone as if on ice,
once lying down like it was a nest ;
for hours beaking on glass, obsessed.

With the darkening evening, gone.
Pictures a proof it was not delirium,
no messenger from barley-fields once known. 
      Owner of Cardiff City FC Vincent Tan has a phone conversation with his personal advisor :-

P.A. (on work experience at CCS, painting walls) - Uncle Vinnie.....I've heard there's a big game on Friday and it's almost a sell out!
VT - What? Nobody tells me anything. And the new manager just appointed.
PA - Yes, and I have very good news for you. You know your new red-seater stand where nobody normally goes?
VT - Yes, yes!
PA - It will be full and , what's more, all the fans will be wearing red!
VT - My boy, this is marvellous! must be the influence of Slade.
PA - Yes, I love their songs, especially the Christmas ones, didn't know they were doing a concert.....
VT - Enough of that, you sound like a 'Western Mail' reporter. Tell me more, good boy.
PA - Well, the dragon will be displayed everywhere and we will have one of the best players in the world playing for us.
VT - Not Etien Velikonja at last?
PA - No, a local Cardiff boy called Bale.
VT - Never heard of him. Did we sign him on loan? Slade is a magician!
PA - No. Just one problem Uncle Vinnie. We will now be called Wales.
VT - I like it.....that means the whole country will support us, even Swansea fans , and I get to hug the big dragon mascot.
PA - You must turn up for this one and wear your best red shirt.
VT - Who are we playing?
PA - Bosnia- Herzegovina.
VT - Don't I own them as well?
PA - I don't think so, Uncle Vinnie.... they play in blue!

   Something truly remarkable happened last Friday at the Cardiff City stadium.
   No, I don't mean the Wales footie team drew 0-0 with Bosnia to maintain their unbeaten record in the Euro qualifiers.
   I mean the fact that over 30,000 fans turned up (over 2,000 Bosnians, of course) and the atmosphere was simply the best I can recall since....well, actually, I can't remember.....probably v. England at the Millennium.
  Though, in a way, this was better as a smaller ground generates that much more intensity and passion and the Bosnian fans were great, bopping up and down and chanting throughout.
   A beautiful mistake, I thought I'd ordered tickets for my usual Ninian Stand, but had them for the standing section of the Canton instead.
   I love standing. It took me back to the days of the old , wooden Grange End when I first starting following the Bluebirds : chanting, singing and ranting at the referee.
   (The fact that a single spark from fag or match could have sent the whole thing up in flames like the dreadful Bradford disaster doesn't extinguish my nostalgia).
   The truth is (as I've blogged before) football and not rugby is our national sport.
   Rugby internationals may attract a lot more fans, yet there are whole swathes of Cymru which have no interest in it.
  A lot of the Welsh-speaking north-west, such as Caernarfon and Bangor, as well as the north-east like Wrecsam all have much stronger footie traditions. Growing up in Aberystwyth even, it was football not rugby we played on street and park.
  Rugby's areas of support come predominantly from the south, stretching from Carmarthen to Newport: it is a south Wales rather than national sport.
   If our football team actually managed to qualify for a major tournament, I predict that the support would be unprecedented and come from the four corners of the country, as it did last Friday.
   Swansea's Premier League success and the Bluebirds brief spell there has only added to this and it helps that the Wales captain is also captain of Swansea, Ashley Williams.
   The team could even boast a Welsh-speaking midfield in Joe Allen, Emyr Huws and Aaron Ramsey ; common in rugby, this is a new phenomenon in footie.
   What heartened me last Friday was the total unity of the chanting.
   To be frank, I couldn't believe it!
   There were constant chants for Ashley Williams and even a proper rendering of the Swansea song 'Ar Hyd Y Nos' ; all happening in the midst of many CCFC banners!
   Of course, it's possible to read too much into this.
   On Monday we could lose to Cyprus and fans could turn on Williams with that galling chant 'You're not even Welsh!'
   All that unity of purpose, which saw players hug after the game, could disappear into disillusionment again.
   However, there was a glimpse of what could, not just a 'glimpse' but a surge of emotion......a feeling of a small nation full of joy and confidence.
  A moment, yes, but a significant one.

                     ON TO GLORY!

I just love those Welsh songs
'Nah-nah, nah-nah
'Dur-ra dur-ra dur-ra

from the four corners of the globe
well 'o bedwar ban y wlad'

gogs, hwntws, Cardis fel fi
Kairdiffians, Valley Boyz
Wrecsam fans, Westies

I just love those Brazilian rhythms
and the sheepshagger chanting
and, what's that?
'Ar Hyd Y Nos' ?
it's a Jack invasion!

standing on the Canton
like the ol' days of the wooden Grange End,
kids with their mobiles
and those vuvuzelas
and those flappy, snappy
free cardboard things
everyone's clapping
like old-time wooden rattles

one country together
singing 'Men of Harlech' -
well 'Nah-nah,nah-nah'
on to glory....
a 0-0 draw
and an almost victory.


   Last Friday I had great pleasure taking part in an event at Rhydyfelin Library.   It was a Variety Night to raise funds and also awareness of the vital contributions which libraries make to our communities.  
   Last June several local people, including Red Poet Mike Church ( who helped organise the event ) chained themselves to shelves there as a protest against its impending closure by RCT's Labour Council.  
   Rhydyfelin was given a reprieve, while many other libraries, including ones in places like Maerdy - which have little else in terms of facilities - were closed down in the first acts of cultural vandalism.
     This weekend saw the final performance at the Muni Arts Centre in Pontypridd and that town is now left without an arts centre. A loss to present and future generations of performers, who attended workshops there and the many who enjoyed numerous concerts. 
     All this after the smooth-talking MP for that area Owen Smith had the gall to attack the Tories and Lib Dems for their austerity measures. He even suggested at one point that the abandoned project for Ponty precinct could be turned into a 'Tate by the Taff.'  
   Well, now it resembles some of the past entries for the Turner Emin bed of rubbled wasteland, absurdly surrounded by security fences.      
   The evening was an enormous success, but I was saddened to hear that the library's future is by no means safe.  Of all the Labour Councils which are carrying out the ConDem cuts with the selfsame relish that they once administered Thatcher's poll tax, RCT seem to be the worst. 
   Hawthorn Swimming Pool has shut and local schools have to travel to Abercynon and further afield for lessons. Swimming clubs either relocate or disappear.  
   Of course, Labour will shift the blame to central government. Cuts in Wrecsam recently tore that party in half with the resignation of 10 councillors who became Independents. 
   On a British level there are many alternatives, yet no mainstream party will take them. If cuts are to be made then abolish the monarchy, don't subsidise nuclear power and slash expenditure on needless defence.  
   On a local level, what is required is a campaign of mass civil disobedience on the part of the majority party in Cymru (i.e. Labour), with Councillors simply refusing to destroy their communities, while the real cause of the 'deficit', the bankers , still get their bonuses.         Unfortunately,this is not going to happen.   Labour have long abandoned those they represent and it's up to people to protest however they can and, when it comes to voting, make sure they elect anti-austerity candidates.
  One thing's for certain, the Labour Party under Miliband are committed to carrying on with these ludicrous and callous policies.
   The latest service to face the axe in RCT is the entire music service. It faces being wiped out completely, as schools will be left to buy in music tuition by private companies like CAVMS. 
  Once again, Labour will be embracing privatisation!
  28 staff will lose their jobs and there will be no more choirs, harp clubs, orchestras, jazz bands, samba bands etc
   Catrin Finch appeared on BBC Breakfast extolling the virtues of classical music. I would call on her to take a stand and join the protest against this devastation.
   Both my older children benefited greatly from this service  : my son went on to study Music at Cambridge and my older daughter to play in groups and orchestras.
  My younger daughter regularly attends the orchestra and in recent years went on tour with them to Germany.
   The Council contributes a mere £474,000 to maintain this.
   Yet, there is a real possibility that they will give themselves a 15% pay rise next year.
   Money  will be found in RCT for a project called 'Super Schools' , which will vastly increase the size of some schools at the expense of others. But music , it seems - in the birthplace of the composers of 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau' - is an easy sacrifice.
   Once it's gone, then the music service will never to restored again and our children's lives will suffer as a result.
   I would urge everyone who cares about music and the opportunities for young people to express themselves creatively, not just to sign the online petition, but to join the campaign on every level.


The strings were torn off
to be used as snares.
The wood axed for fires.

Brass made into ornaments
and the drums became
units of storage.

The harps wheeled away
and preserved in museums.
Guitars and keyboards sold on e-bay.

The voices of the choir
and beat of the Samba band
lost in the empty Arts Centre.

Even staves were turned
upright and into columns
of an accountant's ledger.

Mid rehearsal the orchestra
were stopped forever ;
children holding onto air.

In reply to  Paula, I am citing my lifelong experience of the Labour Party in 'action' in the Valleys. They have consistently carried out Westminster policies which are totally contradictory to what they used to stand for. I'm not a member of any party, but I would urge everyone who opposes the Cuts to vote for anti-austerity parties next May and that means the Greens, Plaid Cymru, Socialist Party etc. Anyone voting Labour will be voting for more cuts if they get into power.

                              A   SMILE

How long is a smile?
You can't measure it
in hours, days or seasons.

It doesn't translate
into any language
known to mankind.

It's the song of lips
and eyes and teeth
together in unison.

It's the seed
of an expression
planted in the skin.

It's the running
of an underground stream
heard beneath your heart.

A smile is as long
as you can't calculate
distance between one and one.


   Thursday evening at The Imp in Pontmorlais, Merthyr should be a momentous one for Red Poets.
   Yes, we are 20 years old!
   Issue 20 is one I'm especially proud of and includes a number of writers making their first appearances like Ponty's Steve Hitchins and fellow Cardi Paul Steffan Jones.
   There's a posthumous poem from Alun Hughes, who was one of our most avid supporters and contributors down the years.
   We are featuring three Welsh language poems : from myself, Chris O'Neill and Meic Stephens ; the latter a letter-poem about the Merthyr Rising of 1831.
   Dave Lewis's cover photo is so arresting : a stark reminder of wreckage amongst the beauty of the Valleys.
   There are vital contributions from regulars like Tim Richards, Patrick Jones and Alun Rees.
   Enough of the plugging....I want to praise certain people who haven't had enough recognition during these 20 years.
   As well as my invaluable co-editor Marc Jones from Wrecsam
(who's responsible for all this in the first place with the original Red Poets' Society), a great deal of vital work in our early years was carried out by Alun Roberts and his wife Sian. Sadly they disappeared from the scene for a while, but have now returned and Sian has a poem in the forthcoming issue.
   I'm hoping Al Jones will make a comeback also.
   Hirwaun's Zen Buddhist tree-climbing Belgian beer officionado was a vital part of our team.
   He was the main chauffeur and referee when the discussions got heated on the way home (invariably about religion). I'll never forget his Zen theories in a rough pub in Port Talbot, claiming that we were all dead / alive at the same time!
  Al's black and white photos graced many covers and he soon came to write poems to accompany them.
  Now's the time for an Al Revival!
   My good butty Andrew Bartz
has been our trusted audience ( well, we needed someone!) and official heckler. He designed several covers and contributed many witty cartoons.
   Now, like others, he has taken to writing and ,hopefully, will have something in next year's one. His surrealist poetry and stories reflects his fascination with that art movement.
  He has been through very tough times of late : unemployed at present and with his benefit stopped twice.
  A truly talented and intelligent person who desperately wants to work, it's a real ConDemnation of our society that he has been treated so appallingly.
   Both Julie Pritchard ( making her third appearance in the next issue) and Debbie Price have been regular supporters and performers at events over the last few years and, like Merthyr-born John Williams, their energy and enthusiasm has been a joy to experience.
   In terms of music, Hastings and Pudner, Jamie Bevan and Barry Taylor have all added so much to our live performances (as opposed to previous dead ones!) giving us the chance for a singalong and much needed songs yn Cymraeg.
   It's been wonderful to realise that Red Poets can galvanise such writersand singers, even as we sadly lose the boundless creativity of the likes of Alun Hughes.
   This poem is based on Andrew's atrocious treatment . Although it's a fiction, it's close to what he's told me.

                               STOPPED  MY  BENEFIT

They stopped my benefit
an what ave I got
left to eat?
Two boggin tea-bags
an a tin o sardines
outa date!

Say I never
signed on, but
I know theyer
system's t blame ;
it's appened before
'Fuck off!' a-computer sayz.

I always woz a worker
ever since sixteen :
in factrees
I ad skills
an now I'm a nothin,
too ol f'r ev'ry job.

Lucky my landlor'
is a tidee bloke,
lucky I get adopted
in pubs by frens
buy me booze
take me with em.

Oo wan's somebuddy
cun draw cartoons,
cun tell yew anythin
bout blues, rock an folk?

They stopped my benefit
but carn stop my life :
gimme a pencil an a pint,
juke-box playin Neil Young,
jest gimme a book
an my ead'll be buzzin!


   I sincerely hope that when I wake up tomorrow morning I'll be greeted with a resounding (or even, narrow) vote of 'YES' for Scotland.
   First thing I'll do will be to put on, not the rousing 'Cap In Hand' but Runrig's anthemic 'Alba' , which I played regularly in the 1980s.
   I'll be singing along with Donnie Munro on the chorus (he became a Labour politician, would you believe?) and pour myself a wee dram....of orange juice!
   Actually, I'm pessimistic. I feel that fear will triumph over hope and the abject negativity of the Naws with their top-down hectoring will prevail.
   But even if they just win, everything will have changed.
   The quite amazing groundswell of support for the 'Yes' campaign - especially from the young and the dispossessed, hitherto disenfranchised - has been a revelation.
   Alex Salmond  may well declare that he'll not seek another referendum in the foreseeable future, yet others may feel differently.
   The vision of an independent Scotland which rejects nuclear weapons, military invasions, destructive bedroom tax and crippling cuts will not easily go away.
   There have been so many excellent interviews and powerful speakers from the 'yes' side : Tommy Sheridan, Jim Sillars and Patrick Harvie to name but three.
   I was impressed by actor Alan Cumming also, who had the perfect retort for a reporter who queried him when he talked about threats to the NHS and education if there was a 'No'.
  Reporter : 'Surely, these have already been devolved?'
  Cumming : ' Yes, but they're dependent on Westminster finance. Without the money, they can't be run properly.'
   The idea that  Real Labour will be elected next Spring and deal with this ,as ludicrous George Galloway argued, is a delusion.
   Miliband's party are not only anti-Trade Unions , they are also pro-austerity. They will cut almost as much as the ConDems and their Councils have failed miserably to fight the cuts.
   As with Cymru, Scottish politics is very different from mainstream English concerns and only a government in Edinburgh can give expression to those distinctions.
   Though identity will not play a fundamental part in it, it's nevertheless interesting to see that younger people feel less tied to being British.
   This is totally understandable, as the idea of Britishness has so much to do with past wars and threats, with a wealth built out of Empire.
   It's also heartening to note the number of Asian Scots and English people living in Alba who've been active in the 'Yes' campaign.
   Identity has always been vital to me, even if it was buried deep in my subconscious.
   I only discovered people who called themselves 'British' when I went to live in n. Ireland in the 1970s.
   There the Loyalists flew their Union Jacks not just in cities and towns, but on many farms and fields : claiming ownership over land they had originally 'planted', driving off the Gaelic-speaking population.
  Their worship of the monarchy and fascistic attitude towards Irish Catholics (Paisley once described them as 'vermin', like a Nazi propaganda film about the Jews), represented a magnified version of what all British nationalism was about : ascendency, monarchy and jingoism.
   I lived in England for most of my school years, but never came to regard myself as 'English'.
   I did enjoy being part of a small village in East Anglia, though class distinctions were marked; the families of large landowners a separate breed.
  Everyone defined 'English' as 'British' there......the two interchangeable.
  I encountered the most appalling racism on a school trip to Aberystwyth and, looking back, wish I'd challenged it.
   My fellow pupils really believed the natives lived in caves and expected them to come down like bandits! Ironically, the very same kids looted the town shops on shop-lifting missions.
   Scotland, like Cymru, is generally a very open, inclusive society.....the very antithesis of the narrow UKIPers.
   Anyone who confuses Scottish nationalism with  British nationalism exemplified by the likes of Gordon Brown  - who supported the invasion of Iraq and gave bankers a free rein - is misguided. 'Yes' wants a peace-seeking country, where the banks are put in their place not rewarded.
   Much as I'd love Scotland to go further - nationalize oil companies, declare neutrality and reject the monarchy - I do believe a 'YES' tomorrow will be a huge step in the right direction.
   And, in Cymru, we need  a Bendigeidfran which is not one but millions : a movement to bridge the mountains.

                                  I  REMEMBER  ENGLAND

I remember England :
I lived there for years,
played tennis-racket guitar
with friends to the latest Beatles.

Soon learnt to talk posh
bin my crass Cardi accent
after it was mocked ;
talk country when parents divorced.

I admit I belonged for a while
among the daughters of factory workers,
the sons of farm labourers,
even an aspiring Tory Prime Minister.

Stacked away in drawers
I kept those early poems,
secretive and never crowned.
School once 'Cynddylan..', taken by sound.

Seasons of preened cricket greens
or cowpat footie fields ;
found in the wood's wild ways
sticks of Pen Dinas, wandering games.

Holidays in Barry and Aber,
childhood leaps of streets and sea ;
I returned, instinctively, to live there,
two parts of a broken family.

   Last week and a return to Cardiff City Stadium to conduct poetry workshops for the club and LitWales as part of the All Skilled Up project.
   Delighted to be back, as I'm sure were the others involved, Mike Church and Patrick Jones.
   Nothing and everything had changed.
   The fee had been cut drastically (writers get used to this, I'm afraid), but I was looking forward to working with children from two Primary schools.
   I breezed in like some ex-player rejoining (like Danny Gabbidon , in fact) and told the receptionist of my intentions.
   I confidently walked into the corridors only to find that the Community office had gone, replaced by the Finance Director's (shut). Trapped in the bowels of the ground I envisaged having to remain there till the weekend game, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finding me, so I'd have to tell him -
   'Listen up OGS, with all due respect....... you are clueless!
   Since you took over we've had no team spirit, organisation or tactical awareness. You've changed the team every game, then asked for consistency!'
   Of course, I wheedled my way out and ended up back at reception, like some annoying board game.......never got to meet Ole, or even Scott Young, who used to be head of the Community programme , but has moved on to training youngsters.
   I was fortunate to be sent to the wrong room, the Captain's, where I'd never been before and surrounded by large photos of our finest captains. Age kicked in, when I recalled watching many of them. Kav was one of my we need someone like him now!
   Our proper venue was disappointing, as we used to work in the higher-up suites where pupils could gaze over the stadium and make notes for their poems. The meeting room was windowless,claustrophobic.
   Panic stations as there was no flip-chart, just a computer and screen which went AWOL for the afternoon session ; a bit like most of our players for the second half of last season!
   Yet the kids were tremendous : enthusiastic and imaginative, they volunteered many rhymes for Noone and Ralls, even Marshall and Scott Young (you really can't escape him).Though they asked me for ones for Dikgacoi.
  From the Bridgend area, they included a fair share of Swans' fans and one girl wrote a poem about a derby match where we were the red devils, while Swansea were 'angels in white' !
   But the Swans - for all their excellently-run club with 20% supporter ownership - don't have this particular project : a tour combined with writing workshop.
   The workshops do need a bit more time, especially after lunch and I do think their tour should take in the outside of the stadium as well.
  There is much to be seen : the Keenor statue and his extraordinary story, Bluebird gate and plaques, the memorial garden and , of course the pavement of bricks.
   Just a glimpse at those inscribed bricks will tell you how vital blue and Bluebirds are to the club's past. My son bought me one with 'Bluebirds' Poet' on it and I am so proud, even though it's a little faded.
   There are rumours on the messageboards of a change back to blue.
   I think it's possible, not for sentimental reasons or because Tan wants to win the fans support or create unity, but for simple commercial reasons.
   Everyone now buys retro shirts and scarfs, but nobody dons the red. Sales of new shirts must be at an all-time low. Can't be good for business!
   'Lucky red' meant relegation and is now causing panic and talk of Solskjaer being sacked.
   A return to blue would make sense on every level, as players who have left like Fraizer Campbell (whose goal celebration mocking Tan was the best of last season) and Mark Hudson have stated.
   One girl at my workshop sported her blue scarf and declared herself 'Blue, through and through! ' (note the rhyming).
   Workers at the ground in red looked as if they were wearing a company uniform (which, in a way, they were).
  Anyway, it was great to be and Danny Gabbidon,eh?

                             RHYMING  SOLSKJAER


               summoning our ire
               making us into criers
               players without desire
               footie's looking tired
               tactics are dire
               appointed by Tan the Liar
               we are in a mire
               hopes soon in a pyre -
               Pulis is for hire,
               but.....will he be fired?

Capoeira in Sesimbra
under the slatted shade
of a promenade shelter
in the afternoon blaze.

In the circle, the roda,
in white tunics of martial art
high kicking and swung limbs
but never a touching.

Grins and not threats,
the berimbau sets a rhythm
the calls and responses
of exotic birds, agility of dolphins.

Dance, clap and sing
in the circle of their world,
a bare-chested man handstands,
a child close-by mimicking.

in Sesimbra :
sound-patterns on Atlantic breeze,
a body-swirl, a street-swim,
a game that everyone wins.
Protecting the warship at Cardiff Bay

The war-mongers
the world-carvers
the power-blockers

are coming
are coming
to our cities

warships in the Bay
helicopters over the Castle
metal stockades
dividing every roadway

the arms dealers
the drone fliers
the conflicters

are coming
are coming
to take over

machine-guns on the Hayes
riot helmets in Arcadia
bomb-sniffers in John Frost Square

the democracy protectors
the friendly-dictator supporters
the great contradictors

are coming
are coming
to Cymru


                               A  DIFFERENT  FUTURE

High metal structures
dividing the roads
circling the parks
surrounding the hotel
where the leaders plot.

I have been here before :
the police stations
the army barracks
the centre of Belfast.

With friendly blue baseball caps
and reassuring badges of
bulging with weapon musclery
(concealed) , of tazers and truncheons.

Every side street blocked off
by wire-visored vehicles
and a helicopter overhead
tries to shred our chanting.

I have been here before :
the spying lights of choppers
and Saracens like small tanks,
lamps put out for road-blocks.

From Cymru, Alba, Germany, America,
like Chartists from their valleys :
tributaries joining into a river
meeting the sea at the city,
crossing the bridge with banners,
setting sail for a different future.