Monday, 30 May 2011

Swansea or Reading. Who to Support?

As a life-long Bluebird (for foreign readers that's a Cardiff City fan) I am perplexed over who to support this afternoon.

I thought I could be altruistic and support Swansea - for Wales, Welsh football, etc. after all the team waving the Welsh flags has to come before those waving the English flags?

But it could be too much to bear.

Listening to Radio Wales, and the Swansea fans are singing anti-Cardiff songs - even before their important match against an English club!

This morning I asked my boys who they would be supporting this afternoon, and they replied, instantly and unanimously, "Reading".

So, I guess "blood will out."

I think I will be quietly supporting Reading, but hoping that the better team win. If Reading win I will enjoy the schadenfreude of the whole situation (it will help that Cardiff will have been knocked out by the winning team), but if Swansea win I will enjoy them singing 'Hymns and Arias' even though it will mean me taking a lot of stick from my friends who are Swansea fans!

A teacher of one of my sons who is a rabid Swansea fan said that he feels the ref in the Cardiff-Reading game was biased, on purpose (not giving Cardiff penalties etc.) because the authorities did not want the headache of a Cardiff-Swansea final -- and that from a Swansea fan!

When I look back, although Cardiff players played with all the enthusiasm of a damp squid, they "was robbed" by some awful ref decisions -- and could it be that feeling that 'nothing was going right' for them, their heads dropped and they became defeatist?

Well, no use 'chewing the cud' let's just hope that we get a good game this afternoon and the best team wins. Hoping its Reading (the team that beat Cardiff!?!), but not too upset if it's Swansea. Honest. ;-)

Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Tale of Freddie the Field Mouse

Yesterday we had quite an adventure.

For some weeks we knew we had a little visitor in our Summer House. And I don't mean the kind of little visitor(s) that goes into the kitchen betwixt the hours of 12 and 1, gets goodies out of the fridge and leaves the Crunchy Nut Cornflake box in the middle of the kitchen table.

No. This was the rodent variety (no, no! No more comparisons with teenagers!). He had been getting bedding from many sources (including my paint and concrete stained Harlequins top!) and helping himself to chicken and rabbit food.

So yesterday "the boss" had a good sort out and emptied the Summer House, ready for me to board up a little mouse hole at the back which we assumed our little visitor was coming through for his nocturnal treats.

Towards the end of the emptying/tidying process there came a little yell from the depths of the Summer House and your hero (yes: that's me!) appeared on the scene, ready to be all, well... heroic.

The boss had located our little visitor. He had made a cosy little des res in the centre of a large roll of twine in an old fashioned shop display glass-fronted set of drawers we bought long ago in Scotland. Boadicea Bodices were the garments it was made to display. Racy stuff.

As an aside, we saw the same display drawers in an antique shop on one of the myriad of BBC shows about antiques buying and the seller wanted over £100 for it! Wowzers. You know me, dear reader, I wouldn't part with that kind of money for an item destined for a shed (albeit a poshed-up version called a Summer House).

So, picking up the roll of twine and asking my glamorous assistant (all very West End) to grab a nearby plastic container I had the little grey field mouse trapped in an easy to carry container. Calling on our youngest (knowing she would be excited at the prospect) we walked down to our local park to release the little critter.

On opening the container and tipping the twine out on its side two huge black cute eyes popped out just behind a twitching nose which couldn't have been any, well... twitchier. He sussed out the situation for about two seconds and then -- ping! He was off! He shot out so fast it was a blur, into the long overgrown grass at the edge of the park, for new adventures and to find another source of warmth and sustainance, mayhaps never to chew on a rugby top again!

Good luck Freddie.

What an adventure!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Tara Hill - Seat of the Ancient High Kings of Ireland - Songs and Protest

One of my favourite songs is Tara Hill by the the Fureys. OK, its an old romantic song, in the sense of idealised Ireland and historic romanticism, but it's still wonderfully evocative.

We all have a place we remember with fondness, a place that we'd long to go back and see perhaps for personal memories, for associations with times past, or because they link in with our national psyche.

It could be the pub where you first met your sweetheart, a park where you used to ride your bike as a child, or a windswept ancient building which speaks to you of the stories of the people who lived, fought, or died there.

And sometimes, people just don't realise what treasures they have:

And look: Even the apostate King Henry VIII is out for saving Tara Hill! ;-)

And to think I was happy to see Roath Park after a few years away! ;-)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A Hurley at MSN... me next?

James Hurley is the music editor at MSN and has authored books on travel, cinema and music.

It seems, as with Chad Hurley, the Hurley name is spreading through the upper echelons of the internet.

I await the call of the headhunters! ;-)

Monday, 23 May 2011

OBama's Irish Gift Hurley Stick

The Irish Teashop - sorry Taoiseach - Enda Kenny gave President Obama a Hurley stick today on his last day in Ireland, before he left to visit the UK (slightly earlier for fear of another Icelandic volcanic ash cloud).

Yes, we Hurleys know that our name comes from an implement that is quintessentially Irish, so much so that it was the obvious choice as the ultimate gift from the Irish leader to the American leader.

According to the Belfast Telegraph:

Holding the stick with two hands, Mr Obama said: "If members of Congress aren't behaving, give 'em a little paddle, a little hurl."
So raise a glass fellow Hurleys! Our name, our heritage and our fame spreads far and wide once again.

We all know that Obama is in Ireland to garner Irish-American votes for when he stands for reelection, but the image of an American president waving a Hurley stick will stick in many peoples' minds. And that can't be a bad thing.

£81,100.01 for Beatrice's Toilet Seat Hat?

So Princess Beatrice's hat sold for £81K.

What a mad, mad world.

You can get toilet seats at your local DIY emporium for a tenner.

Is this the keyring she took to the wedding?

It's not so much the Princess and her hat - as the Emperor and his clothes.

At that price I can only be certain of one thing: my dad didn't buy it! Mind you, he still thinks £20 is expensive for a pair of trousers. Old habits die hard.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Sock Puppets Against Consumerism

You know how lots of people moan about everything becoming homogenised? Every high street is the same. Every out-of-town shopping area is the same. Every "mall" is the same. Pop music is hand-picked, toys are mass-produced. And so on.

Sometimes, despite the neon lights, the bright colours, the sugary tastes -- the very feeling that we are all playing, eating, watching, wearing and buying stuff made and sold by the same handful of companies can make everything seem, well, a bit bland.

Sony, McDonalds, Tesco's, Coca Cola, Asda, Adidas...  It's getting to the point where we're all "consumered" out.

Now being a man of a certain age (the nomenclature "bloke" seems apt), being a Hurley, and the apple not falling far from the tree and all that - it is rare for me to open my wallet. 'A fool and his money are easily parted' is my favourite saying. Oh I do my fare share of alms giving to deserving causes - but I loathe giving money to big businesses when I can help it.

Of course I live in the real world and when the boss brings the shopping in to assuage the fears of my mouths-to-stomachs-on-legs - sorry, I mean the children - I detest the fact that some fat cat is sitting by his pool toasting my health as items from Lever Brothers, Kellogg's and others go into the pantry.

So anything we can do to buck the trend is akin to a small victory. A tiny guerrilla ambush against the huge armies of the corporations invading our metaphorical homeland.

We have to pay our utility bills, mortgage, credit cards and much else besides too, all of which is like being an indentured slave. All those fat cats must be toasting my health (so long as I can work every hour God sends just to pay their over-inflated bills) as they sit by their heated pools.

So the other day when the boss (Mrs H) and our youngest made these sock puppets, from er... socks, using buttons and such like I gave an ear splitting war cry, held them aloft in the living room and cried out to heaven: "Take that Mattel and Hasbro. I will not be your consumer-slave any longer."

Then I dashed to the kitchen, dug out some blue poster-paint from the corner of a cupboard, smeared half my face in it a la William Wallace (the Welshman), ran out into the street and cried "FREEEEEDOM!"

I have asked the judge for clemency. ;-)

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Cardiff Were Pants

Oh wow. I mean wow. In a bad way. In a very bad way.

Cardiff were bad last night. They played like a Sunday morning team sitting mid-table. Where was the determination? The will to win? Some of the mid-fielders were strolling around. I think some of them took picnics out with them.

In fairness the first two goals were down to luck - good luck/bad luck, and Cardiff were denied some penalties. But when it boils down to it the Cardiff team can only blame themselves.

Is it time for Dave Jones to go? Many will think so. I have defended him before now, but I think a manager with the strength needed to push the players when it's important (e.g. against Blackpool last year, and versus Middlesborough and Reading this year) could give Cardiff that extra yard they need.

I denied being a Cardiff fan thrice last night, then the cock crowed. Aye carumba.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Come on Cardiff my Little Beauties!

Not quite - it just feels like it
Wow. So here we go.

Bellamy is out with his hamstring. Swansea are through via an amazing match last night.

Now it's down to Cardiff. The dream is on. An all-Welsh play-off final.

My heart says Cardiff, my brain says Reading.

PURLEASE! Come on Cardiff. Wembley beckons.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Our First Veg: Radishes are the New Rock n Roll

Here's our first crop from our new raised vegetable bed.

Some very tasty radishes, picked to thin-out the radishes left. The warm weather and occasional rain has meant the remaining veg have shot up very quickly. Given this is our first semi-serious attempt at 'dig for victory' style gardening for circa 5 years or so, it's a success so far. Admittedly it's early days: but the signs, like the patients in an AIDS ward, are all positive so far.

We've started a new plot for our runner beans too, and instead of long rows of beans using bamboo, I have opted for using branches cut from our own trees (saved from a recent pruning session and stripped of minor branches and foliage) to make an organic looking 'wig wam' of wood, which I'm hoping all the plants will grow up to a central point.

Using some branches with slight bends and even some that split into two half way up give the edifice itself a much more natural look, and I can't wait to see the plants in full productive flow. I get almost as much pleasure from the flowers the plants bring forth as the crop eventually produced.

I even put some old uneaten potatoes in the compost heap and they have burst forth, so I am hoping they have seeded and our compost heap will have its own crop of spuds. being next to the chickens we can fork the waste, including chicken poop, uneaten scraps from the dinner table, and the various cuttings etc. the chickens have had a chance to pick through, tear up and generally break apart directly onto the compost heap with its potato plants (already about 30 - 45cm high, that's one to one and a half feet in old money).

So here's hoping for a good Summer and a bumper crop in our burgeoning vegetable garden!

Oh, it seems that tadpoles like fish food as much as the goldfish too. I guess there's no accounting for taste.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Why I'm Supporting Swansea Tonight

Oh my goodness. Have I lost my marbles?

Here is my thinking.

I want a Cardiff V Swansea play off final. To get that, Swansea have to beat Nottingham Forest tonight and on Monday. So I hope Swansea win. And yet if Swansea lose, it will also take some of the pressure off Cardiff. It will also mean that if Cardiff win, they will have one-up on their rivals. It will also mean that if Cardiff lose against Reading (which they might well!) it won't be as bad if Swansea have already left the scene.

Yet I would really love a Cardiff - Swansea final... so I will be supporting Swansea tonight. Just don't expect that many tears if they lose!

(I wrote this on Thursday - but because I edited a label it switched to Saturday! As the Americans would say: 'go figure')

Come on Stoke - You Can do it

I have to support Stoke City for the FA Cup today.

Their manager is Welsh, they are the underdogs. Enough said.

After Cardiff succeeded in not making a mess of their match at Reading, I'm in a feel-good mood. Let's spread the love! So come on Stoke. You're my adopted Welsh team for today.

Come on the Potters.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Hooray for Playgrounds and Playing in the Street

I came across this on the BBC website.

What a great idea! Close more roads. Make more of them one-way/dead ends. Our own road has a school, playground, library, nursery, post office etc. yet cars regularly drive down it at anything from 50 - 70 mph even when the children are walking to school.

I really think more green areas, parks, playgrounds etc. are a must.

I was lucky when I was growing up, we had a great park up the top of our road with a stream in it to go "sticklebacking" with nets and another park a few blocks down with a large playground and football pitches.

Having safe areas to play, ride bikes, hang out with friends, climb trees (health and safety alert!!!) - all this is so important.

There is a playground near us which has been slowly ripped apart year on year. The climbing frame went, then something else, and another, and so on. Now it's an empty shell fit only for dog poop.

Playgrounds and green spaces aren't "sexy" when it comes to government and parliament. Yet they are what really matters. If Blair had spent as much time getting state of the art playgrounds in every community as he spent on starting dodgy wars or pushing through homosexual rights more of the children in society might be a little more well-balanced.

Now I'm off to play on the swings. ;-)

Supporting Cardiff City: A Must for All Catholics

I had a most disturbing fact revealed to me this weekend. Our local parish priest is a Manchester United fan! I had my suspicions. At a conference some weeks back I noticed some icons on his laptop (emblazoned on the wall via a projector) of football games - and even though it was only a brief glimpse before the slide show began, I thought I saw a preponderance of Man Utd games...

Speaking to the priest this weekend I told him that suspecting him of being a Man Utd fan I had leaned to one of my children and whispered "if he's a Man United fan I may have to become a Protestant!"" Having a great sense of humour the priest burst out laughing.

The priest then said that following Manchester United was a Cross he had to bear. I didn't have the heart to tell him I'm a Cardiff City fan... that is some Cross!

Losing to Middlesborough! Only just drawing with Burnley. And finishing the league in fourth place under Swansea in third? Oh the shame! When we had all dreamed of a second place finish and automatic promotion!

Yes, if we are to think of supporting a football team in the terms of suffering on earth to gain awards hereafter, surely supporting Cardiff City should be a given for any good Catholic?

After the Cardiff Blues (rugby union) lost to the Scarlets on Friday I am inclined to think that several years of Purgatory must have been knocked off quite a few Cardiff fans over the weekend (unless they swore as they threw things at the TV, Radio or players!).

And so, it's Sunday lunchtime. The dust has settled. The tears have dried.

The Blues gave up any chance of glory, and now Cardiff City face the play-off semi finals against Reading next Friday (the day after Swansea play Nottingham Forest).

A friend of mine is a rabid Swansea City fan (I know - what can you do? Heresy is everywhere! But we should all try and help sinners convert). He also supports Man United, even sporting a tattoo of the team - is there no hope for the man? When I bumped into him in town this week he was cheering "come on the 'Boro!" much to my shame. But now we can only hope and dream that Swansea will beat Nottingham Forest in their two legs and Cardiff will beat Reading in theirs.

Cardiff fans after losing last years Play-Off final to Blackpool
Then we will have a play-off final at Wembley Stadium with Cardiff against Swansea - an all-Welsh final with one of the two rival teams guaranteed to get to the Premier League and play the likes of Man United next year!

Just imagine a Cardiff versus Swansea final! Oh the fun. As much as I am looking forward to such an event, I have to say my gut feeling is that Cardiff will lose - ether against Reading or in the final. Such is the plight of a Cardiff City fan.

I think I will have to convert the local priest.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

10p Doughnuts or 3p Crisps: The Tight-Wad Challenge is on!

Americans take note: this is a DOUGHNUT!
There is a person in my family who shall remain nameless - let's call him  "Mr. J  " - who is famous for tottering down the local high street of a Saturday night, just as the supermarkets close, only to pop in and buy a bag of doughnuts, reduced to 10p for the lot.

Oh how he boasts of this mighty feat! He is akin to a superhero taking on the might of the Supermarket (let's call it "Freschco's") and winning. He is known for never spending a penny. No, I don't mean like the Royal Family never spend a penny, I mean he is tight. Like a duck's posterior on water.

So this 10p for a bag of doughnuts has become a cri de guerre for Mr. J. Oh yes! He is proud of his great achievement. He is a mighty warrior in the crusade of saving money. He is the Spendthrift Superhero.

So imagine my joy on popping along to a car boot sale this very morning, only to find it less populated than normal (overnight rain and a light drizzle putting off the fair-weather sellers). There, one seller (purveyor of £1 bags of sweets and other goodies), was selling off his last few boxes of Walkers Crisps with the Red Nose Day special flavours.

So I purchased a box of 48 for £1.50. Tap, tap, tappity tap. That's me working out the sum. I make it a little over 3p a packet. Yes. Three of the queen's very own pennies per pack. Beat that one Mr. J!

OK, I may not have beaten "Freshco's" but come on... and I haven't given to Red Nose Day (I don't like them because they give money to some dodgy "causes"). The only bad thing is they have the militant atheist and ginger beer Stephen Fry on the packs. But hey, I don't have to look at the media-infestation that is Mr Fry as I eat the crisps!

So come on Mr.J! I lay down the gauntlet! Can you beat this bargain? Can you still lay claim to being the best hunter of bargains? The best Hurley tight-wad? I have usurped your crown! The challenge is open!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Why Do Banks Feel Seedy to me? It all Makes Sense!

Even divorce gets a feel-good factor
I find banks particularly soulless places. The staff can be pleasant enough and of the many local banks I've been in, I've always got on with the staff - getting to know some of them quite well.

Yet I still find the places themselves quite morale-sapping. Is it the strip-lighting? The colour schemes? The long queues? The smiley faces on the leaflets/posters?

The other week I found myself in my local Nat West and whilst the teller went off to get some paperwork signed by the management I looked around the branch. I could feel myself getting more and more pallid by the second and so, to ease the boredom and to try and take my mind off the surroundings I picked up their in-house magazine (Nat West Sense).

The issue was full of financial advice, flashy foreign holidays, celebs and more. All very glossy. I guess it's nice to know people's mortgage extortions are spent (when not on bankers' bonuses!). Now, these mags are usually extremely cheesy. Lots of glitz, lots of glamour. Smiling families pictured in articles about mortgages and loans. There's not usually room for repossessions, businesses gone bust, corruption in government or the more "negative" side of things.

Yet there is something about the glossy, smiley, mags. They are just so glossy, so smiley that it's like being force fed sugar cubes. They might taste kind-of nice to start with, but you know they won't do you any good, and you start to feel sick quite quickly. It's like when you go into a strange city and find yourself in the seedy part of town. All the neon lights may look "nice" but you know that behind the scenes it is all seedy, there is a grubbiness hidden away so as not to frighten the tourists.

I think this is how I feel about the banks when I walk into them. The smiles, the lighting, the colour schemes. There is something seedy and dirty about the gaudy advertising and colour schemes. The posters boast of the 3% their top-paying accounts will give, whilst their credit cards charge 30%. Their loan posters show smiling families, new cars, fancy goods - but rarely the misery and depravation caused by debt.

Kate Winslet is on the front of their glossy mag. I wonder if Nat West customers would prefer fewer bank charges and no magazine at all! Aside from the very ocassional terminally bored customer who puts it back after a few minutes and the staff who are pressurised to read it - I wonder how many customers actually bother. All the hours I've spent in-branch over the last few months I have never seen anyone else go near a copy!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Osama and Obama - in a Steve McQueen Dress

Taking a break from dress-making
Someone who shall remain nameless was talking to me today about the Osama Bin Laden affair and the conspiracy theories doing the rounds came up.

Their argument for collusion? "Obama and Osama. Just one letter difference."

Oh yes.

Mind you, the same person when talking of Kate Middleton's dress said it was the "Steve McQueen dress..."

Escape to Victory indeed!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Ah! Summer in South Wales

I came across this picture of me and the missus on the beach. No mum - not on the beech! ;-)

I think they've captured the best side of us!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Irish Education: Fine Men Taught by the Finest Priests

St Nathy's College, Co Roscommon
A fair few weeks ago, I was pointed to this Blog called "Maria Stops Abortion" which had an entry on St Patrick's Day about years gone by in Ireland and the upbringing of Irishmen 'back in the day.'

I read it and, as my own grandfather came from Kinsale, it was a great comfort to read of how Irish education wasn't one long story of abuse, hatred, evil monks etc. etc. -- which is the over-riding impression we get from the British media, the organised atheists and so many others with an axe to grind.

The hero of the piece, Stan McCarrick who I did meet some 10 years ago, looked back on his college days in Ireland, which despite being "blisteringly poor" he had the fondest memories of:
for the rest of his life he referred back to that college [St Nathy's] as a perfect environment, where boys were brought up to behave honourably and justly. He regarded the teachers in that school – all Priests - as the finest men he met in his life. And his fellow pupils, shaped by those men, as not far behind them.
Not always the picture of bliss (I'm being ironic) we know of UK state schools especially in the big cities, nor even the poshest public schools or boarding schools; let alone council-run orphanages or care homes in the UK.

Might Stan McCarrick's view of the Irish school system and of Irish priest teachers make it to the mainstream media?

Don't hold your breath. Catholicism isn't supposed to be known for running some of the finest educational establishments open to come of the poorest children.

Imagine Jobs for Yobs, or Work for Jerks

Oh well - munch, munch - someone's got to do it!
The other day we were all off "fishing" for tadpoles for our little pond. It was a sunny day and we've found a lovely spot, out of the way and quiet where we can fish for tiddlers, sit in the sun (when it deigns to appear) and while away a few hours.

Whilst there we decided that everyone should only work in jobs that rhyme with their surname, and so we would all have to work for Cadbury's, making Curly Wurlys.

Steve Jobs could work as a social worker ("Steve Jobs cures yobs"). Tony Blair could work at the fair (on the dodgems - he'd be good at that).

Lady GaGa could roll cigars. Colonel Gadaffi could sell salt taffy (that's one for Americans). President Obama could be a llama farmer. Angela Murkel could swim with turtles.

And Jeremy Hunt MP, has already been exposed on Radio 4... as Culture Secretary! ;-)