Pupils shine in eisteddfod heats

More often than not, youngsters are given a hard time and labelled as lazy, sit around in front of computer games all day and are generally moody.

On Saturday, at the Amman Valley Comprehensive school, this couldn’t have been further from the truth.

With a whole host of schools competing in the Urdd National Eisteddfod heats, I had the pleasure to witness some outstanding performances, from one of the most talented group of children I think I have ever seen.

This event is leading up to one of the largest national cultural youth festivals – The Urdd National Eisteddfod, to be held in Caerphilly, between 25 and 30th May, 2015.

The enthusiasm of the children and their hunger to entertain was a pleasure to watch.  Children, parents and teachers must have dedicated so much time to perfecting the songs, poetry and performances and this shone through as I was thoroughly entertained all day.

This is all about the celebration of the Welsh language and culture. The children put so much emphasis and confidence into their performances it really didn’t matter what language they were speaking; it was mesmerising. Da iawn indeed!

Whatever happened to Beeb’s standards?

A PRONOUNCED DETERIORATION IN BBC NEWS REPORTING

Even though in the minds of the public, a comedian lives a life devoted to creating an atmosphere of laughter, merriment and joyfulness, it may surprise you that that there are times when we’re just as grumpy as everyone else.

And it can take the smallest thing to make comedian Phil Evans grumpy. From the pain of getting an unexpectedly large bill through my letterbox to the even bigger pain of getting a finger unexpectedly caught in my letterbox.

But those dark clouds of grumpiness usually appear when I’ve come off stage having failed to create an atmosphere of laughter, merriment and joyfulness.

Because my shoulders are broad – and my stomach’s starting to expand slightly, too – I’m able to take a philosophical overview of what happened…and always blame the audience.

It’s hardly objective, but it saves me worrying and I can be home in time for ‘Family Guy’.

However, although my episodes of grumpiness used to be well-spaced  apart, last week I suddenly realised that I was officially becoming a  grumpy old man when I found myself shouting one word, over and over, at the BBC Breakfast programme as a result of something a reporter had said.

It’s alright. The word I was shouting wasn’t rude.

I was shouting “Research! Research! Research!”

Because not only did the BBC reporter mispronounce the word as ‘Ree-search’, but the two presenters on the sofa who introduced the reporter also said ‘Ree-search’.

I was so annoyed I bit through two slices of toast at the same time.

Everyone in the media now incorrectly emphasises the first syllable of the word as ‘Ree-search’ and it’s now ingrained as the correct way to say it.

But unless you’re an American, it ain’t!

I was being ironic with the ‘ain’t’ by the way.

But it gets worse…

During that same BBC Breakfast show, another reporter mispronounced the word ‘resources’ as ‘ree-sources’, again incorrectly emphasising the first syllable, American-style.

By now I was so annoyed I bit through the plate which held my two slices of toast.

But it gets worse.

There’s an annoying speech and spelling error in current use which drives me crazy.

I don’t know how it happened but I hear it all the time in the street and have seen it written down by ‘on-line’ posters.

Maybe their excuse is a poor education, but I didn’t think I’d ever hear it on a BBC news programme.

I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard BBC Breakfast’s Steph McGovern blithely say to a reporter

You should of….” instead of “You should have!”

That’s sloppy grammar, girl! Write out 100 times….

We don’t say, “You should of been here earlier/”

We say, “You should have been here earlier.

By now I’d bitten through two slices of toast, my plate and the kitchen table.

So I poured myself another cup of tea and calmed down.

Until a male reporter appeared on my screen…without a tie!

Now don’t get me started on reporters who don’t wear ties….

GI Joes’ Welsh peaks challenge

Members of the G.I. Joe Personal Training fitness-family from Llanelli are taking on the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge in June.

This will involve walking up (and back down!) Cadair Idris, Snowdon and Pen y Fan in 12 hours or less, a total distance of 16 miles and making a total ascent of around 2000m in some of the most remote landscape in Wales.

The reason behind this incredible feat?

To raise much needed funds for the local charity, Week on The Street.

GI Joe’s aim is also to help people realise that being fit and healthy isn’t just based on completing marathons, going to the gym every day or being on a diet all your life. It’s about being imaginative, enjoying yourself and having a bit of fun!

There are people from all walks of life and fitness levels taking part, but leading them on this challenge are instructors Joe Williams and Gareth Evans, both of whom have already climbed Snowdon at the start of March in some very poor conditions.

I’m off for coffee and cake now; I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Good luck, guys!

 

Get ready for a laugh a minute

Nobody loves a good party or festival more than the Welsh.

Well, apart from the Irish, who, famously, like to party at funerals.

The Scots have a reputation for partying hard, as do the Cockneys, who enjoy a knees-up. And the Mexicans, Italians and Spanish love a religious festival, complete with parades, costumes and music.

So, let me start again. If the rain stays off and there’s a plentiful supply of portable loos, the whole world enjoys a festival.

As well as today’s big festivals, like Glastonbury and Reading, there are hundreds more all over Britain every year, some having their origins in medieval times, when they attracted huge crowds on the village green.

There was always a long queue at the wolf-burger stand!

Villagers would join the Lord and Lady of the Manor to celebrate the coming of Spring or a successful harvest, with singing, dancing, juggling and human sacrifice.

Okay. I exaggerated for comic effect.

There was very little juggling.

Decades before dance halls and discos became places for the opposite sex to mingle, festivals were the only social gatherings where young, unmarried people from different villages could meet potential future partners.

Otherwise they married their cousins, which today is unthinkable.

I could never marry my cousin. Although, in a good light, Stan’s not bad-looking.

If you haven’t experienced one, there are festivals to suit all tastes and they’re not all outdoors.

Rock, folk and jazz festivals. Food festivals. Literary festivals. Flower festivals. Beer festivals. Film festivals. And my favourite – comedy festivals.

These events are important for the local economy and give us the chance to practice our communication skills whilst preserving what our ancestors did generations ago.

Except today, if we pull, we can adjourn to a warm tent or hotel room, rather than a haystack,

The biggest comedy festival in Britain is Edinburgh in August, which I’ve visited a few times. I’ve also performed at the Machynlleth Comedy Festival, which this year runs from May1st to the 3rd.

Between those, there’s one closer to home – the Neath Comedy Festival.

I recently met Paul James, from Neath, who is one of the busiest and hardest-working comedians on the circuit, making a name for himself with a style that delivers slick, side-splittingly funny original one-liners.

He has gags that many comedians would give their agent’s right arm for.

He was also the founder and drive behind the Neath Comedy Festival, based at the Clowns Pocket comedy venue, which has been running and growing over the past few years, giving new talent a chance to gain valuable experience, whilst also enticing some already well-established TV comedians to the town.

Many of them used the Clowns Pocket to test material prior to performing at other festivals and on TV.

Clearly Paul has entrepreneurial skills which he uses to his advantage and are serving him well.

Neath Comedy Festival starts in July.

Will I be appearing?

As the man said to his wife when he found somewhere to park….watch this space!

Who shouldn’t be driving?

In my job, I travel a lot, up and down the country on its increasingly busy roads and at all hours of the day and night.

The more I travel, I can’t help thinking that there are so many people on the roads today that shouldn’t be behind the wheel.

This is just my opinion of course, but I’m sure a lot of you have also witnessed near misses and inconsiderate driving in the last month.

Recently I have seen vehicles that have made turns without indicating, causing oncoming traffic to take evasive action and drivers swerving into the middle of the road and well over the white line, approaching a corner.

DVLA sources show that 14,000 people aged over 70 were banned from driving on health grounds last year.

Each of these occasions I witnessed, the cars were being driven by elderly drivers, appearing nervous and clearly lacking confidence. This can’t be good. The roads are so much busier than they used to be.

Should the elderly need to take a further test to ensure that they are able to and understand the demands of today’s roads and driving conditions? What do you think?

 

Impressive amount of comic cash

Last week, Friday 13th saw another night of Comic Relief fundraising activity all over the country and widely covered on TV.

Here we saw a whole host of performers, entertainers, members of the public young and old pulling together in the name of charity, in a fun and entertaining way.

But why do we do it, what makes a nation pull together and raise such an outstanding amount of money?

This year was the first year that Comic Relief raised over 1 billion pounds.  That is a phenomenal amount of money to go towards good causes.

On this particular night I found myself entertaining members of the UNISON union, following their annual general meeting in Newport, Gwent.

This was the first time that they had taken the decision to end their AGM with a comedian for entertainment….. and this was also the first time I’d ever closed a union AGM!

From the great feedback, I already have a feeling it won’t be my last.

It was a fun and very memorable occasion for me, but more importantly, fantastic to witness a passionate union that is very much alive and working for its members.

 

A new definition of neglect

He’s the little boy that Santa Claus forgot

And goodness knows, he didn’t want a lot

He sent a note to Santa

For some soldiers and a drum

It broke his little heart

When he found Santa hadn’t come

Those lyrics often run through my head at Christmas when I see people out shopping for presents, because I know there are households that Santa fails to visit.

This was proven last week, when the ‘papers quoted 13 poignant words spoken by a five-year old boy from the North of England who’d been taken into care because his mother and her partner had neglected him.

“Santa doesn’t come to my house. I don’t know why. I’ve been good.

If those words don’t touch your heart, telephone the undertaker and ask him to collect you.

In my opinion, ‘neglected’ doesn’t come close to the way the child was treated.

I won’t go into the grim details of the appalling conditions he lived in, but he had no toys, didn’t know what a bath was for and had no idea how to wash himself. He didn’t even have a toothbrush.

Some children feel deprived without the latest gadget or designer trainers. This boy would wake on Christmas morning to find nothing at the end of his bed – not even a stocking filled with nuts, sweets and a Satsuma.

When I was growing up, my family were far from being well-off. But I knew how to wash myself, took baths, wore clean clothes and always had a shiny new annual and a bag of chocolate coins at Christmas.

The boy’s mother and her partner may have found life tough because they were on low wages or benefits. I’m not criticising people on benefits, because it only takes a few twists of fate and any one of us can slip down the financial slope and find we need to claim whatever’s available.

But with so many pound shops around, surely they could have bought some cheap toys, crayons, colouring books etc., which would have thrilled the little lad on Christmas morning?

Those same shops sell soap, shampoo, toothpaste and other basics – and there are retailers where you can kit out a child with T-shirts, trousers, shoes and coats for very little outlay. And caring parents, even those on low incomes, do just that.

The cruel way the boy had been treated was only discovered when he ran away from home.

Fortunately, he’s now in foster care and thriving, but when I think about the unimaginable squalor he’d been living in, a deep rage rises in me that I’ve rarely felt before. I just hope he’s begun a new, happier chapter in his life.

So, if you suspect that a child in your neighbourhood is being neglected, inform the authorities. If necessary say Phil Evans told you to.

If it’s a false alarm, I’ll take the flak.

It’ll be worth it to spare one more child saying…

Santa doesn’t come to my house.”

Crufts: A lesson in grooming

It appears that we are a nation of dog lovers. Whether you’ve got a mad muddy spaniel, a boisterous Labrador or a little Chihuahua tucked away in your handbag, you’ve got to admit they quickly become part of the family and to the point where we wouldn’t be without them.

Watching Crufts last week, I couldn’t quite believe some of the hairstyles and the amount of grooming that goes on to get those dogs into their showring condition!

The poodles looked like, well, trimmed garden hedges, one even had hair that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Diana Ross in the 70s!

It must take hours to get them looking that good; it takes me days to get bits of dried mince off the ends of my spaniel’s ears….

I can almost imagine the show dogs as they get home after Crufts, taking their bobbles out of their hair, throwing off their collar and slipping into their favourite comfy track suit, popping the TV on and catching up on the Crufts highlights with their paws up, relaxing.

Or is that just the way my mind works?

Lost arts interlinked?

There seem to be two things that we are rapidly losing the art of in today’s society, cooking and conversation.

In a way, I think the two go hand in hand.

When was the last time you can honestly say that you sat around the dinner table with the family and ate a home cooked meal, prepared from scratch and sat there for an hour or so enjoying food and catching up on what has happened during the day?

In reality, we seem to be grabbing fast food, and then everyone sits in separate rooms on their laptops, tablets, mobile phones and catches up with the world via social media.

We don’t have to talk to each other anymore. This makes me quite sad. I wonder how many of us ever taught our children to cook? How many of your children and grandchildren can make proper gravy?

Technology can be a wonderful thing, but I do wonder how many great traditions including cooking a meal from scratch and simply holding a conversation are being lost in the process?

Something to think about, eh?

Make the most of our gems

As I’m writing this, it’s pouring down with rain.

I’m dreaming of a holiday, hot sandy beaches, cocktails, waves lapping on the golden sand….. but why do I automatically think of these images being somewhere abroad?

In a recent survey, Rhossilli Beach came in the top 10 beaches in the UK, so you see; we have these amazing beaches right here on our doorsteps!

Ok, I know what you are thinking; unfortunately we don’t very often get the blazing sunshine to go with the beaches, but imagine if we did?

It seems a shame that it is also cheaper to go abroad on holiday, have you noticed?

I also love the fact that you can travel hundreds of miles across the world and usually end up staying in the same hotel as someone who lives a few miles from you at home!

I am definitely going to try and explore a lot more local resorts this year.

I look forward to keeping you up to date with some of the magical gems in Wales that I know are out there just waiting to be explored. Why not join me on this?