The Royal Family is the Single Most Important Thing In the World – BBC.

Staggering really, staggering on a number of levels. Here we are, the world as we know it, buckling under the weight of 7billion hungry mouths, all of them scrabbling around for what remains of the world’s currency, which is not much given that so much of it is being pushed around in Greek wheelbarrows, the eastern world is sinking under successive waves of floodwater, while the middle eastern nations are taking it in turns to cut the heads off of successive world leaders, and the top story, the very top story according to the BBC, is the rules regarding succession to the Royal throne, are being tweaked. So important a story this is, that David Cameron, a man who one might expect to be focused on tackling his own parties internal squabbling, or the fact that the leaders of the European nations seem to be attempting to forewarn the world that the good ol’ days of the Napoleonic Wars are about to come back (presumably led by a host of nations looking to recoup their financial losses by simply invading Greece to take it all back), is flapping around in Australia, kissing the royal arse as if this is the most pressing matter on the world stage today.

It’s hard to gauge which is more disgusting, the fact that the leader of British politics is wasting what seems an incredible amount of time and resources during a crippling period of economic austerity, to reword some mind bendingly irrelevant pages of documentation regarding who gets to stand where when the inbreds line up to sit in a chair and wear a shiny piece of metal the moment the previous inbred drops dead from a well covered up case of hereditary syphilis, or whether it is more outrageous that the BBC should commit so much air time and debate (at time of writing, ‘Girls equal in throne succession – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15492607, is the top story on the BBC website) to a story that surely can have no more relevance to British or World society today than whether or not I put socks on today.

Seriously the BBC, the fact that I chose to put on a pair of black socks as opposed to the blue with green trim socks that I briefly pondered upon this morning, is as, if not more, socially relevant to Britain and worthy of ‘top story’ billing, than the rights of some royal tart to follow in the footsteps of some royal twat. Cameron, the BBC, get a hold of yourselves. The World is on the cusp of falling over itself and crushing us all when it lands, and you think that this is what we all want to hear about?

To summarise, The BBC = Idiots, David Cameron = Idiot, the Royal Family = Socially irrelevant idiots.

St Cadoc’s, Llancarfan – Conservation

Some images and a video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQQ-M1sXWKQ of ongoing conservation work at Llancarfan, a hugely important project just outside of Cardiff, uncovering some very exciting medieval wall paintings.

More here: http://www.stcadocs.org.uk/en/paintings-selection.html

7 Billion…

So, UNESCO is rubbing its hands at the prospect of baby number 7,000,000,000 being kicked out of the other end of the production line that is now the human factory. 7 billion of us. Of course the news carriers are wracked with confusion, do we celebrate this, the wonders of human life and it’s on-going expansion, or do we despair as the foundations of the earth begin to creak and shiver at the weight brought on by its 7billionth passenger? It’s a tricky one eh, good thing, bad thing, a joyous life, too many mouths to manage…tricky.

One way to look upon this is from the perspective of those who see themselves as elderly today. Those who are reaching the natural end of their lifespan, they will go out of this world knowing that they leave it with a population that has more than doubled in their brief period of existence. They will pass on and be forgotten, only to be replaced by the hurried pressed feet of five more replicants, entering the race to desperately identify some form of meaning and self worth to their respective lives, before they themselves fall out of existence. Perhaps the struggle for meaning, for identity, will take on new precedents as time goes on. As more and more of us trip over the bodies of our ancestors, and stamp on the faces of those too slow and old to get out of our way, the pressure to justify ourselves will grow, the need to hear our name shouted out over the bubbling throng of human existence will come to consume us.

For those coming into the world, while those who knew a time of only 3billion go out, one wonders how many they will have to share their dying days with – 10billion, 13billion, 15billion? As more and more of us bump elbows before dropping to the gutter to breed, and breed and breed some more, what aspiration will be left, but too breed? As the planet crowds over, the evils of pollution and starvation will come to trouble our collective less and less. The needs of others will vanish in a soup of me, me, me. The human conditioning, becoming one of identity, recognition and attention, will lead the masses from one computer screen to the next, from one reality tv show to the next, from one iphone to the next ilife – look at me they all will scream, at their televisions, at their computers, at their phones, at the backs of the heads of the billions who stand in their way, the billions who will not look back to those they can help, but only look forward to those in the way who can be surpassed.

7billion. 7billion lives, or, if you care to dream, 7billion souls. 7billion units, 7billion drones, 7billion equations , 7billion mouths, 7billion hearts, 7billion wallets, 7billion I was here firsts…we all were here first, we all got in the line before you did, we all deserve more than the other 6billion odd bastards getting in our way. 7billions I don’t cares, 7billion fuck yous, 7billion end of the lines, 7billion rotten lives. 7billion.  

Is it something to celebrate? Are we all something to celebrate? We could be, 7billion of us, plus one more, might be something to celebrate, if we were not us. If we were something better, something that looked out for the other 7billion, that gave a crap about the other 7billion, that cared for the other 7billion; then yes, we would be something to celebrate. But what we are, and the prospect of more of us being added to the festering pond that we have nurtured into our own toxic graveyard of mortal existence…no, what we are is not something to celebrate. 7billion of us is something to fear, something to jeer, something to weep about, something for which we might shed a tear.

7billion is too many. Yet, we will add to it, every single day.

Remembering the Crowd…

 With the World Cup now on its way to being no more than a memory, it seemed as good an opportunity to remind the world of how good the fans of Welsh Rugby are. The cup may not have provided what Wales wanted, but we showed the world once more just how committed the country is to the sport.

Wales’ World Cup: Stars Born, Kicks Missed.

Well, in many respects, Wales’ defeat to Australia in the third place play off of the 2011 rugby world cup smacked of a game too far. The legs were not pumping as hard as they had been, the gain line breaks failed to travel as far as they could a couple of weeks ago, and all the time everyone in red pondered the absence of Priestland, Jones (Adam) and Warburton and what could have been with them on the field. The strength in depth to cover such absences is developing, but it is clearly not there yet. So fourth for Wales in the world cup (and a much lower world ranking to boot) and a sense of disappointment from a tournament which in the warm up period offered so little, yet grew to offer so much. The defeat to France and the infamous red card will be one to stand the test of time in Welsh irritations, probably outstripping the Andy Haden lineout dive in 1978 as the most controversial and bitter of reasons for defeat (though I wager Haden’s dive will ultimately hold more sway over Welsh rugby’s bitter taste buds). But despite consecutive defeats at the end of the tournament, and a string of sore bones and bruises (most of which will be focused on George North’s head), there is much cause for optimism as this squad moves forward, as will be considered below.

Welsh Player of the Tournament: There are so many players in the Welsh squad who could raise their hands for this accolade, Warburton, North, Priestland, Lydiate, Adam Jones could all make their case, but Toby Faletau for me has led the way, and should do so for a long time in a Welsh jersey. The man has been a monster in defence, hammering every single person down who was foolhardy enough to get within his grasp. In attack he proved a nuisance, crashing forward and making waves of space for those around him. At the end of the tournament he was asked to move out of position, and still proved his worth: he certainly won’t force Warburton out of his No7 jersey, but he proved his versatility in covering for the captain. Not since Scott Quinnell have Wales had such a presence from No8, and Faletau is already looking better than Quinnell did in his prime.

Star Find: Again, plenty to choose from, but Priestland probably stands out, more so by his absence than his presence on the field. All of the talk in the tournament focused on the Welsh backs, Roberts in particular, but so much of what went right for Wales in attack came from the mind of Priestland. He offered a sense of vision that has long been lacking in the No10 jersey for Wales, and both Hook and Stephen Jones’ efforts in the role highlighted just how important Priestland had been. Another one who will have hopefully a couple of World Cups in his future, Priestland has inherited the outside half crown and made it his own.

Wales LVP: Possibly a harsh branding, and a harsh recipient, but James Hook has gone from being the pundits first choice 10 for Wales, to the nations pariah…his journey to France could perhaps not be more timely. What happened to Hook one wonders? Once so calm with his kicks, once so dangerous running forward, he now looks a shadow, a wraith like presence scaring the Welsh attack into ignominy with his mere presence. As others have pointed out, Wales lost three games by a collective margin of 5 points – looking back over Hook’s missed efforts how can fans help but point a finger of judgement in his direction. Probably most telling of Hook’s contributions was against Australia in the build up to Shane Williams’ try. Hook broke, panicked, and flung a ball at Shane’s feet – chance then created the try, not Hook. A startled man, a broken man, perhaps a sabbatical in France is just what he needs, because far from being a grand slam hero, Hook is now damaged goods, and we must hope that this incredibly talented man can find a path to rugby redemption – he certainly needs it.     

The Good: When Welsh attack sparked it was the best in the tournament. From 1-15 there were occasions when Wales played something approaching rugby perfection. With one or two key personal lost, it could not be sustained, but when the Welsh first choice 15 took the field – what a joy it was to see them play. The Irish game will stand the test of time as an example of how rugby should be played – and boy did Wales play that day.

The Bad: The strength in depth is coming, but it’s not here yet. Hook for Priestland, Paul James for Adam Jones, no more openside flankers when Sam’s not around…it’s only one or two players but when they are not available to Wales we looked like the team that was caught in the Six Nations headlamps not so many months ago. The Welsh coaches need to grab a shovel and start digging to find the next tighthead prop and openside flanker and fast. Without support in those areas Wales go from being great and average – and it happens with alarming ease

The Ugly: Warburton, poor Sam Warburton. The debates are still raging as to whether it should have been a red card or not, yet even those who conclude it should have been, still pity the man for his punishment. Warburton stood as the leader, the man who would carry Wales to the world cup final. It did not happen. A referee made a decision and took it all away from him. Put aside the debate, if the card was right or wrong, his loss from the tournament was an ugly underserved moment.

Finally, The Future: Wales must not get too excited too soon. They leave this tournament having played the best rugby, and at times, having looked like the best team, but not always. A Six Nations is coming, and Wales can win it. With the first XV available this Wales squad could take any nation, but we must find backups to the starting line up who are up to the task. 10, 7, and 3, positions on the field that are essential. Wales have three excellent players to start in those berths, but currently have no stars to step up. Without support in those positions, any ambitions of Grand Slam success will remains as ambitions alone. We have shown how average we are without stars in those positions, and the future of Welsh rugby will stand and fall not on the ability of Priestland, Warburton and Adam Jones, but on those who replace them when the need arises. Keep searching Wales, we have the power, now we need to back it up from the bench.

Video Blog: Welsh Fans in Cardiff

You’ll find here a short video of the thousands of Welsh fans  cheering on the only try of the game in the Millenium Stadium. Whatever your views were on the game and the red card that, in the opinion of these pages, was at best unfair, at worst an injustice, the crowd that poured in to Cardiff to shout on their team, together, as one voice, however many miles they were away from the action, deserved so much more: http://youtu.be/6fBA6arGZlA

This was a wonderful occasion, and to be part of it will be something remembered for all time, if only the gods of fate and justice had smiled on us once more, how this crowd would have sung and cheered, and how they would have deserved it They will be there in four years time, ready to lead the charge from the stands once more, maybe then, with four years of experience behind the 15 on the field, the crowd watching them will be rewarded.

RWC 2011: A Brief Word on Red Cards and Spears…

There will be a cold light of day moment to go through Wales’ defeat against France today, but just q quick entry is required now, as I am in bewilderment at the volume of needling little oiks out there who think that the red carding of Sam Warburton was justified. Plenty have been citing IRB regulations, and fair to do so, so let’s cast an eye over them quickly:

 •The player is lifted and then forced or “speared” into the ground. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.

 •The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the player’s safety. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.

 •For all other types of dangerous lifting tackles, it may be considered a penalty or yellow card is sufficient.

Most of the Irish referring fan society have been pointing to the second point here, yet in reality, and as is the consensus in most of the rational rugby watching world, point three, and only point three was applicable. Warburton certainly did not force or spear the Frenchman into the ground, on that there is general acceptance. Dropped with no regard for safety though, this one is getting more support. Yet no Frenchman was dropped. Warburton was in control of his tackled man from start to finish. It was a tip tackle. The player raised during the momentum of the tackle, tipped over that key point of horizontal, and was guided to the ground. What Warburton did matches the description of neither points 1 or 2. This was a yellow card offence, at most, more likely a penalty.

Rolland made a rash call, and his retirement will not be missed, given that he has now not only ruined the Rugby World Cup for Welsh fans and players alike, but any purest who enjoys rugby played at its best. France do not offer this, have not offered this, and will not offer this. The worst team won, and Rolland’s shocking interpretation of the laws (not for the first time it should be added) are the primary, if indeed not the sole, reason for this development.

Finally – for all those licking at the heels of Rolland, if you want to see a game where Warburton’s tackle is worthy of a red card, then say goodbye to rugby. There was no malice, and no lack of control, no one went in to hurt anyone, and no one came out hurt. It happens in rugby, and will continue to happen – support that red card as a precedent upon which the future of the game will be run, and you can wave goodbye to realistic contests, if Rolland had his way, you would have a red card at least once a game, for the most innocuous of offences. Ruin the game if you must, because supporting this action will only result in that for the sport formerly known as Rugby Union.

RWC 2011: A Nation Rises (To Watch Television).

 I suppose there are lots of things that we might say ‘only in Wales’ about, but for want of accidentally insulting people, I’ll avoid listing some of the more stereotypical examples for the moment. Yet, only in Wales, surely only in Wales, would a statistically significant proportion of the nation get up early on a Saturday morning, drag themselves down to Cardiff on a day when no international rugby is on in the country, to then watch television. Really, without wanting to undersell the significance of tomorrows gathering, it really can be boiled down to an occasion where over 60,000 people will convene in one place to watch television…at 9am! You could picture it happening in other nations, were it not for the start time, really, 9am, on a Saturday, people in Wales who have jobs to go to at 9am on a Saturday, don’t wake up at 9am on a Saturday!

Truly, Saturday morning will be a remarkable day, and I suppose win or lose, the occasion will be a great one. Whatever result may be provided to greet or punish those hardy souls who make it down into the capital, they will at least be comforted that they go there in the knowledge that it will be shared by thousands. Not thousands down the motorway, or thousands overseas, but thousands sitting to the left, right, in-front and behind – the Millennium Stadium will be a very special place to be tomorrow morning.

I suppose the question that all will be pondering is will Wales win? Will those 60,000 have a second chance to pile into the stadium for the final the following week? Well, as with Ireland before, this blog can only conclude that there is nothing to fear for Wales from this French team. That being said, the assembled ranks of the French media are naturally saying the exact opposite, that France, with the form and weight of recent history on their side, will breeze past the Welsh…memories of south pacific horror stories are short lives in Paris.

Looking over the England v France game again, and with the whatever loyalties viewers might have had put to one side, it is very difficult to see how France secured victory over England. Yes, English defence was shambolic in the first half, yet England created, yes, that word ‘created’ is being used in reference to England, chance after chance. France were either stretched or broken through the middle repeatedly, and it is only for want of confidence and a finishing touch that cost England. Now, without wanting to be too churlish, England are not the fittest team in New Zealand, and they do not have the best attacking ability, by a long shot, yet they opened up the French line with what must be alarming ease for the French coaching team to consider.

Put simply, Wales will offer the French much, much more to deal with in attack. Hook might offer less direction as a 10 than Priestland, but he more than makes up for that with his individual ability to walk through the very best of defences. Wales can score tries against this French defensive lineup, and France will need to show a defensive grit not seen so far in this tournament. They will also need to find an extra reserve of energy, their flagging against England was almost their ruin, and Wales will be running at them harder and for longer. In short, and as with Ireland, France have to lead Wales by 8 points with 20 minutes to go, or Wales will win this game, any less and, if we base things on form and current ability, Wales should have far too much in the tank for a French team that can score tries, but is all too generous when it comes to giving them back to the opposition.

Whatever happens, tomorrow in Cardiff will be an amazing place to be, and one can only hope that the Welsh form displayed so far, carries us on to make this not a morning of support in Cardiff, but a day of celebration – if Wales do win, let’s hope the Brains brewery has stocked the city well, a win tomorrow for Wales could well see the city run dry.

Best of luck boys.

Hillforts and Fallen Horses

 Snapshots of fallen horses on Welsh hillforts.

RWC 2011: A Final Say on ITV: Steve Ryder Cares.

Given yesterday’s commentary from ITV you would have been forgiven for thinking that the British Isles had been the subject of some terrible natural disaster. A mood of misery overwhelmed the poor men in the ITV studios, as they were left with the heavy burden of having to relay the devastating news to a defeated nation. Brave, brave Steve Ryder was there to hold our hands though and nurse us through this difficult time.

Ryder wanted us all to know that they in the studio shared our pain, us poor viewers were not alone in that difficult time, that he would do his best to help us come to term with the grieving process, and that no matter how bad things seemed in the moment of that crushing defeat, we could take heart from the fact that the commentary team suffered the same agonies as those being endured by the television audience at home. But wait, what we were all supposed to be so sad about…?

In one final, epic effort of indulgence that firmly shoved two fingers up to the other home nations, anyone of an impartial nature, and certainly to any French fans unfortunate enough to be left relying on ITV for their World Cup coverage, ITV veritably vomited their disappointment that England, World Champions elect, had failed in their duty to the nation, to overwhelm all opposition with the most mundane of performances. Yet, many of those tuning in were Welsh and Irish, many of those tuning in were in no need of a comforting pat on the back from Steve Ryder, not in the slightest.

It would be interesting to garner the views of the English rugby community regarding ITV. Do they love it? Do they find every nonsensical reference to England regardless of their relevance to the subject matter, a moment for giddy joy? Do they wonder why, given the enthusiasm that ITV have for their beloved Red Rose, why on earth so many other non England fans have such an issue with them? After all, ITV kept telling us how good England were, they kept assuring everyone that England were certain to waltz into the final. Well, whatever they think, the rest of us hate it. We hate the constant talking up of a team that offered nothing, we hate the constant references to the English during games not involving them, we hate detailed analysis of their cliff jumping leisure pursuits while we should be talking about other rugby teams and other rugby matches.

You never know, we non English might have found the capacity for some sympathy for England’s demise, had we not had their faces forced into our living rooms during every single unit of World Cup coverage. Now, we are delighted that they are gone, we can revel in the fact that ITV have no legitimate reason to talk about the English at all from this point on (yet we know they will, again and again and again). We have no sympathy, because we never wanted them to win in the first place. Yet having been told by ITV week after week, game after game, that we should be backing England, that we should care about what they did on their days off, that we should give a damn about whether an aging flyhalf can kick a ball in a straight line or not – only served to reaffirm and consolidate our position, that we really don’t care about any of that, not one bit.

So thank you Steve Ryder, thank you for looking after us as you presumed our state of despair. I can assure you though that we were far from despairing, we were jumping, bounding out of our seats as France sealed victory, and laughing at your miserable face as you did your best to convince us that we should be sad.

Yet, we should be sad about one thing. Come the next World Cup, hosted, of course, by England, ITV will be there covering the whole thing once again. Nothing will have changed, and the four yearly cycle of having a whole host of new reasons to hate ITV will present themselves all over again.

Bugger off ITV.

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