Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Harry the Swansea Cat (or I Lost my Keys but Found the Door)

The modern world can be a wonderful place. Oh yes, like most other middle aged men (I am gradually accepting my status) I can shake my fist at the evening news and moan about the government as well as the next man, but every now and then a strange story comes along that makes me laugh.

We used to say "only in America," but the truth is that these strange episodes are happening with growing frequency over here in 'dear old blighty'. Just the other day in the South Wales Evening Post just such a story had me chuckling into my morning cuppa.

A firm of "pet detectives" were called into Swansea, according to the very same morning paper, in search of an eight-month-old cat called Harry. What had he done? Were they going to get him in a cold and sterile room, shine a light in his face and question him over some dead goldfish? Or was there an evidence bag with a few lonely yellow feathers that had been found at the scene of a crime, at the bottom of a Swansea bird cage amidst the budgie guano?

No. Roll back a bit. These pet detectives are not (really) like their human counterparts. Well, they are human themselves (now that would be weird!), but rather than quiz felines, canines and aquatic life on crimes committed (wouldn't you love to see the latter being questioned - would they "do a runner" to the shipwreck?), like some Pit Bull who's been running an international drugs cartel, they look for missing pets. Not quite as exciting. Hardly Miami Vice.

Now I am fully aware that a missing pet can cause upset. We all grow to love our pets, unless we are the inhuman breed of human that enjoys making animals suffer (a step away from enjoying making humans suffer). The more attentive amongst you (hi mum) will recall how upset the Hurley household was when our very own Pussykins got run over outside our home. However, there is something so very "American" about calling in the pet detectives to find a missing cat. The firm in question travelled all the way from Birmingham (I can only surmise how relieved they were to get the opportunity to get away from Birmingham).

It is so very 'British' to put up signs for a 'missing moggy' on lamp-posts and so on, with a small reward for info leading to the tracking-down of said feline. Not that it doesn't stop local councils threatening fire from the heavens against those who do so (don't they have ASBO*-brats to worry about?). Sorry Mr. Council Man, I have left the lid of my wheelie bin ever so slightly ajar: "Off to Colditz with him! Life - no parole." Meanwhile the idiots who weekly scratch cars seem to walk through the raindrops. Too difficult to catch I suppose, or at least too difficult to deal with (10p a week off their dole money and another ASBO). The Catholic Church used to say (I hope it still does) that 'defrauding the working man of a just wage' is one of the sins calling out to heaven for vengeance. I forget all the others, but one was homosexuality - not very pc (thank God - literally). Today it seems the worst sin is to leave ones bin ajar, to use one's car or to suggest that homosexuals shouldn't adopt (but enough - the Stasi will be knocking on my door!)

No - in what GK Chesterton would have dismissed as a "fad" and which teeters on the very edge of making our pets into little humans (pet cemetery anyone?), the owner of the missing moggy had the Pet Detectives out and about, searching for the family pet. As much as I understand how upset someone might be at this turn of events (our littlest has been upset over a missing rabbit and chicken - but she has the excuse that she is still in single figures), the day is coming when we will have memorial tablets on the walls of churches for Felix the Cat, that is if Churches still bother with that kind of thing (everyone these days being canonised at the graveside by the vicar/priest/minister/vicaress/priestess/social worker who tells us all that the deceased is already in heaven, thus robbing us all of the greatest act of charity we can do, to pray for the dead; and robbing the dead of all the help they need) not to mention if the churches haven't all become carpet warehouses or pound-shops.

Animal Search UK: The A Team in safety vests
Yet despite the humour that Pet Detectives might evoke in and of themselves, or the idea of people travelling all the way from Birmingham to Swansea to seek out a wandering cat (oh - the carbon footprint! Let us hope they stopped every five minutes to plant a tree), the bit that had me chortling into my morning tea was further down the article.

The Brummies from Animal Search UK announced that their investigation had been a success because they had found... Well, let me reprint the words I found so amusing:

Animal Search UK professional pet detective Lucy Green, who acted as a search coordinator on the hunt for Harry, said that while they didn't find the cat they did locate his collar.
"It was a quite successful day," she said.

News that Shergar's saddle has been found has led to street parties in Ireland and headlines in the Irish Independent: "Shergar find: Quite Successful." The next time I lose my keys (a daily event) I will congratulate myself on locating the door they go into! Is that success in 2011?

Pet Detectives Join Hunt

* For bemused readers everywhere ASBO means Anti-Social Behaviour Order. Some say these court-issued "warnings" meant to stop criminal behaviour, are viewed as badges of honour by low-life criminals.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Yellow Plaster Adventure

Some names in the following account have been changed to protect the innocent - and the guilty.

We were at our municipal leisure centre for our "early bird" swim, which we mostly spend in the training pool so the little one can improve her strokes. We also have a great game of piggy in the middle with a flotation-aid ball, as for the first half an hour at least we tend to get the little pool to ourselves.

Circa 20 minutes into our fun, one of the children - let's call him "Superboy" - asks aloud "has anyone lost a yellow plaster?"

We all stopped in our tracks and look at each other in a bemused way. After some face pulling, with the evidence being produced, another child (let's call him "the Inquisitor") asked why he had picked up a yellow plaster from the bottom of the pool.

Superboy replied: "because I thought it was a Maoam."

Cue fits of laughter. Isn't life sweet?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

An Ode to Super Joe

I normally enclose a poem to my dad on special occasions, but just before his last birthday a sickness bug crept up on me, and I had to rush to get his card in the post, poemless!

So here, better late than never, is a poem dedicated to my dear old dad. I hope it encapsulates all that is best about him, caricatures it in an amusing way, and hope he (and you) enjoy it (and forgive me!):

If your pub ever runs dry
And teetotalism is your foe,
Look up to the sky:
You might see Super-Joe.

He boycotts (expensive) shops,
Saving pennies is no game!
He's no dandy and no fop:
Super-Joe is his name.

Armchair expert par excellence
No ref or player can escape, 
For none match his eminence -
When Super-Joe wears his cape.

He swoops down on wastrels,
Like vengeance from the sky,
Like a mustachioed super kestrel,
Yes Super-Joe is nigh.

No alcohol-free beer please!
You will absolutely offend,
The numero uno big cheese:
Super-Joe, the good guys' best friend.

Like a Western hero of yore,
He's rode right into view,
His powers you can't ignore:
Super-Joe, his cause is true.

Sponsored by Brains Beer,
He's Cardiff to the core!
Everyone starts to cheer:
Super-Joe knows the score.

The Cons Club and St Peters
Are his (semi) secret lairs
Like an extra from The Sweeney
Super-Joe has true flair.

So give a cheer dear reader
His heroism is no game
He is our one true leader
And Super-Joe is his name.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

C'est La Vie, C'est La Guerre, Say "Oh No!"

Why? Why? Why?!!!
We were almost hoarse yesterday after Ireland's victory over England: it left the road open for a Welsh win in Paris.

Sadly it was not to be despite three "almost" tries from a battling Welsh side, France were on the ascendancy following their verbal mauling from their coach after their defeat in Rome last weekend.

Oh well. Being Welsh, I should be used to these ups and downs. A possible first place was ceded for a fourth place.

Still, my Irish genes were placated by a great sporting triumph (against the odds) in Dublin.

And Cardiff City drew 3-3 with Millwall -- hardly the field of sporting dreams...

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Vive La France or Forza Italia? Depends if you Want Your Tea.

Sacre Bleu. Mamma Mia.
Last weekend I texted (!) an Italian friend on their magnificent win over the French rugby team.

He replied that he was very proud, but now his wife wasn't speaking to him.

I forgot his wife is French.

Oh oh.

I am sure he was pulling my leg, but it was a salient lesson on how rugby can divide families. Growing up in England, I wonder which team his children will support? Wales?

Stranger things have happened. Simon Danielli is playing today for Scotland and Luke McLean is playing today for Italy.

Vive La Différence.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Why Do the Irish Sing Two 'Anthems' at the Rugby? After Tomorrow Will I Care?

And you thought my post on the English singing God Save the Queen before their Six Nations matches was controversial.

An Irish acquaintance (through work) sent me this reply when I asked him about the Irish national anthem (I always wondered why the Irish got to sing two songs - was this a ruse to unnerve the opposition, an aural war of attrition?).

He replied:

The second song they sing is We'll Answer Ireland's Call or something like that. It's about the same as the English supporters singing Swing Low, Sweet FA.

I'll leave you to take in those words as I use the defence of Pontius Pilot (moral cowardice) and wash my hands of all responsibility. 

I am, of course, part Irish and so (as opposed to last weekend) I will be supporting Ireland tomorrow, for its own sake, but also because if the Irish win (however against the odds that seems) the Welsh have a slim chance of still winning the Six Nations championship.

I know I'm clutching at straws, but while there is life there is hope.

Come on Wales! Cymru am Byth! Come on Ireland! Eirinn go brach!

A few years ago (1999) I was living in Scotland and the only chance Scotland had of winning the Six Nations was if Wales beat England, which they went and did. That very evening I think I was the most popular man in the bar and didn't have to pay for any beers. Ah! Sweet memories.

If Ireland did the same for Wales (and France continue with their abysmal style from last weekend) tomorrow, then I would think an errant Irishman in a Welsh pub might well find himself in the same situation... Now where did I put my Irish rugby top... ;-)

And do you know what, if Ireland do Wales this favour tomorrow I would petition the president of the Irish Rugby Union to allow them three anthems: even Brian Moore's favourite, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, if they wanted to! ;-)

Thursday, 17 March 2011

St Patrick's Day Greetings to all Nigerians

For those who don't know me, I am Welsh with a bit of Irish thrown in for good measure (the best bit as my local postmaster keeps reminding me).

So today I have lots of reasons to celebrate St Patrick.

It's not known from which area the young Welshman was taken circa the age of 16. It may have been Wales as we know it today, it may have been from the Welsh kingdom of Strathclyde or somewhere in-between.

Other Saints and holy men went to Ireland before and after Patrick, yet it is Patrick the young Welsh shepherd and slave that we remember.

The Welsh retained the Faith that the Romans had brought, even after the Empire fell, took it to Ireland, where the monasticism of Patrick spread. Years later that monasticism was re-introduced to Europe proper, and post-Reformation, the Catholic Faith was re-introduced to Britain by the waves of Irish settlers who came here, including my own grandfather.

So, we have:

  • The Romans convert the Britons/Welsh (Welsh being old Saxon for foreigner/Roman) to Roman Catholicism.
  • St Patrick the Welshman takes the Catholic Faith and Monasticism to the Irish.
  • The Irish take Monasticism to Mainland Europe to reinvigorate the whole Catholic Church even to its heartlands in France and Italy.
  • The Irish come to Wales (and England) to reinforce the few native Catholics (recusants) left after penal laws etc.

It's almost like a large wonderful circle of history. If those Romans hadn't converted the Welsh, and St Patrick hadn't converted the Irish, I may not be a Welsh Catholic today.

So lift a glass to St Patrick, the Welsh-Irishman. I know it's Lent (and I know you have all been keeping your Lenten fast!), but we are allowed an exemption for special Feast Days. I'm sure St Patrick knew this when his number was called on the 17th of March (subsequent calendar changes notwithstanding), which just goes to show he must have been well acclimatised with the natives by then.
Nigerian Bishops: "Hey! It's our day too."

Let me close by asking you to say a prayer for Nigeria and her people.

You see, Nigeria's Patron Saint is St Patrick, so it must be tough for them as I bet nobody ever thinks of Nigeria on St Patrick's Day (apart from Nigerians of course).

So a big cheer for the Nigerians, and a polite clap for the Irish.

As the natives might say: Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! (ban-ock-tee na fay-lah paw-rig ur-iv), St Patrick's Day Blessing Upon You.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Travelling First Class with the Post Office?

Have you ever wondered why you pay extra for first class post? Or how the Royal Mail differentiates between the various rates?

The other day the post office was collecting the mail, so I helped the postie out with the sacks of mail.

After putting the mail sacks in the back of the van, I gave him an international registered package (to call it a parcel gets all convoluted as they have to go via Parcel Force... it's all very confusing).

Lo and behold, the postie said to me "I'll put that one on the front seat" - and so he did! It was placed with due care and diligence on the passenger seat.

In the back - must be standard mail.
I do not know if it was served drinks and canapés on its way to the sorting office, nor if it was placed in a silk-lined box on its journey abroad, via Lord Sugar's private jet; but it certainly left this neck of the woods in some comfort.

It's nice to know that the Post Office cares, so the next time you splash out extra on first class post (I know I'm not addressing any male Hurleys here as it is counter intuitive for us to spend unnecessary money), rest assured that your mail will probably get treated nicely, even if it does still turn up late.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

I'm Not Going to Fukushima for a Check-Up and Polish!

The next time I go to the dentist I'm asking for a 30 mile exclusion zone.

Just think - I'll be able to drive home in comfort, not having to use my psychic powers to find out if the person on the roundabout is going to turn off or not (the use of indicators being optional it seems).

"But why the exclusion zone oh befuddled know-nothing of the Internet?" I hear you ask (yes you: you know that I know, that you know that I know, who you are!).

Come on son - it's only the dentists!
Well, yesterday on the radio some "expert" (aren't they all?) opined how the radiation from the Japanese nuclear power plant at Fukushima was at the same level as when you have an x-ray at the dentist.

Hmmm. OK.

Today we've been told (by another "expert" - see!) that a 30 mile exclusion zone is a justified and apt response to the events at the plant.

Righty ho.

Funny isn't it? I didn't realise that when I was last in the chair of doom, with a chunk of plastic in my cakehole and a James Bond style death ray pointing at my cheek, that everyone within 30 miles was at risk.

I wondered where the dentist went when he left the room! Flipping heck - he gets to 30 miles away and back fast. He must have a James Bond baddie escape-pod too.

I'll have a word with Dafydd my dentist next time... I'm sure he'll be chuffed at the news that his 30 mile secret is out.

As Wolfie Smith might say: Power to the people!

But what if the government moves all dentists to Cape Wrath? Then my drive home will be slightly more inconvenient. Blast.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Brian Moore Labels English Rugby Anthem a Negro Spiritual Dirge

An Englishman comments on English song choices
My recent post (Do the English Know Who They Are?) on the debate concerning the English anthem at rugby matches raised some (English) hackles, even though at least one of the sites (by English patriots) that linked through to it, lobbies for an English anthem in a way that mirrors exactly what I said (though some people had tried to make out I was being anti-English).

Now at the time I said nothing about the other "English anthem" (albeit unofficial) of English rugby, 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot'.

As that isn't official in any sense, it's not for me to "tell" English fans what they should or shouldn't sing.

But on live TV yesterday Brian Moore - during a very exciting and intense match (England V Scotland) - asked why on earth England had adopted a "negro spiritual" (his words, not mine) and I believe he also labelled it a "dirge."


Now, Brian is English and a sporting legend. So no doubt the "controversialists" who lined up to have a pop at my comments will maintain a revered silence?

Probably not.

As it happens I tend to agree with Brian, but as I say, it is for the fans to decide what their anthem is. We in Wales have our own (one things of Calon Lan, Sospan Fach, Bread of Heaven and of course our beautiful anthem) all steeped in Welsh history and tradition.

Perhaps Brian Moore believes the English should do likewise instead of copying a UB40 chart hit, manufactured at the time (if I remember right?) of the rugby World Cup, with no connection to England, its traditions and history.

Answers on a postcard to Brian Moore c/o BBC TV.

I used to dislike Brian Moore for his one-sided commentaries on the TV, but since hearing of his autobiography and his overcoming sexual abuse as a child, I do believe he is someone who should be admired for getting through such physical and mental torment.

Like many others I now enjoy his one-sided approach and his "speak first, think later" approach which can add a bit of colour to a game and get us "armchair experts" shouting at the TV!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Hurrah for King Arthur, Welsh & Roman

I was doing a search the other week, I forget what for, and I came across this image which I instantly saved.

I'm not one for 'role playing' games, though my children did go through a few years of collecting and painting the Lord of the Rings ones (being a fan of Tolkien I was quietly pleased, though shocked at the prices!). The "new age" type especially can be a bit worrying.

I was pleasantly surprised to see this image though, as it clearly shows King Arthur (or one of his knights - maybe Gareth?) with a shield bearing the Chi Rho: the Roman Papal symbol.

As a Welshman, a Romano-Briton, Arthur would have been a Catholic defending his people from the Germanic Pagan onslaught during the time historians dubbed the Dark Ages, after the fall of the Roman Empire.

All too often films, popular imagery etc. airbrushes out Arthur's Welshness and his Roman Catholicism.

Was Arthur, the Welshman, the Romano-Celt Chieftain, a Defender of the Faith? I certainly like to think so.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

House of Hurley Au Couture Summer 2011

If our Nanny Hurley hasn't washed since Tommy Steele kissed her sometime before the telephone was invented, we believe this is a faithful reconstruction of her new wardrobe for Summer 2011.

If you see her on the streets of Cardiff, collecting bags, throwing cats at passers by, cussing at teenagers, please be kind.

Ever since that Tommy Steele peck, it's been downhill all the way! ;-)

She Hasn't Washed Since the 50's? What A Tommy Steele Kiss Can Do.

A vinyl recording from the 19th Century.
I received a rather disturbing email this week.

go to you tube to: - Tommy Steele "Singing the Blues"  and Bill Haley "Rock around The Clock"    and show the kids the music Nan loved and went to see them in Concert.

Tell them that Tommy Steele came out at the back of The Gaumont Cinema in Queen Street (Where Top Rank was afterwards) sang this song and kissed me on my cheek... told my friend Nesta I wasn't going to wash my cheek for a week!!!!!
They will wet themselves laughing at that..

Also Jim Reeves  I love you because and the special one of Nat King Cole singing "When I fall in Love"  Poppa ###* asked for this to be played on board the cruise ship for my Birthday he always says it was his song to me.............. Got the bucket ready!!!!!!! 
Indeed I have! I think it will have to be a vomit trough for the whole family though!

*I have deleted the name for his sanity, his good name down the Cons Club, and just in case I get sued (bad taste etc.)

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Adverts: Love Them or Hate Them?

Annoying Halifax advert #1
I tend to fall in the latter category, and this from someone who, as a child, learnt one of those annoying, repetitive Wotsits adverts off by heart.

Ah the futile and carefree days of youth!

Nowadays I am worldly wise (yes, the throngs beat a path to my door for advice - not). So I have a far more ambivalent stance towards adverts; but as the years pass by I do tend to detest adverts more.

Is it me? A growing number of adverts are just annoying. They are patently false. They are unrealistic? They promise much, yet the product usually delivers little. I loathe sofa adverts with grinning families (can a sofa cure the familial ills which seem to have exploded since the 60s?). I detest car adverts that tell you nothing about the car. I cringe at deodorant adverts that make the user a guaranteed 'babe magnet' or a razor manufacturer that intimates the user will have that chiseled look too. I wonder in disbelief at washing powders that continually promise they are better than before (what crud were they selling us back then?) and then show us brand new white shirts.

Annoying Halifax advert #2
I have often wondered how they get away with so much gibberish.

Adverts for toys on kids' TV (supposedly aimed at the parents) when advertising to children is strictly speaking banned.

Adverts for banks that broke the economy and repossess homes, telling us how helpful they are.

I could go on ("please, dear Lord, no!" I hear you cry), but I'm sure you get the gist of what I'm saying.

Hilaire Belloc said that advertising was rotten because it allowed the money men to promote their (shoddy, rotten or overpriced) wares, at the expense of well-made, healthy or excellent value items, and if he thought that in his day how much more might we say that is the case today?

The old Halifax adverts with Howard the teller in were bad enough, but their new ones (featuring "DJ" tellers) are even worse and really make me want to vomit. No-one gets that excited at the prospect of selling financial 'product' to customers.

Is there a case for banning adverts? Possibly. ITV, Channel 4 and Sky TV would collapse. Even better and that would be reason enough, some might say.

I think if I see another of the saccharine, smarmy Halifax ads I will start a one-man crusade to stop the adverts. After all, there are only so many times one can projectile vomit in a month without losing one's sanity.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Story of Ireland on the BBC

Fergal Keane: Good Job... So Far.
There's a great programme about the history of Ireland put out by RTE and the BBC.

I've missed it on telly, but it is on BBC I-Player and well worth a watch (I just watched the first episode: where they said St Patrick was Welsh. Back of the net!).

If you get the chance have a look at it, the first episode was very interesting (that's not to say later ones won't be controversial, as they are taking quite a "revisionist" line).

Just search for Story of Ireland on BBC I-Player. It's presented by Fergal Keane (didn't he sing for the Undertones, of no I'm thinking of someone else - perhaps he played for Man United?) and well worth viewing.

Just goes to show the BBC doesn't need to make Eastenders and other brain dead drivel.