Dippy’s Jurassic larks

On my 11th birthday, which also happened to be my pet dog’s 11th birthday, I was given a magic set, which included the classic ‘How to saw someone in half’ illusion.

As none of my family volunteered to be my assistant – probably because I’d borrowed my Dad’s hacksaw to add an element of danger – my only option was to rope-in the dog. His name was “Stay”, which confused him whenever he was taken for a walk.

But “Stay” had a cheerful disposition, ate almost anything put in front of him and was prone to expelling loud noxious gasses almost every hour on the hour. So, he fitted-in with my family perfectly.

Anyway, as I approached the animal, he took one look at my cardboard wizard’s hat and the sharp-edged hacksaw blade glinting in the sunlight and promptly ran off, never to be seen again.

So, to this day I still wonder whether it’s really possible to teach an old dog new tricks.

Here’s another age-old conundrum . . . If you knew something important that the majority of people were unaware of, would you leave them in blissful ignorance or tell them?

It was recently announced in the media that ‘Dippy The Diplodocus’, the famous dinosaur skeleton which has stood in London’s Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall for 37 years is to go on a tour of the UK, including Wales, in 2018.

Details were given about how the iconic skeleton would need to be carefully taken apart bone-by-bone and packed away in readiness for its travels.

More than 32,000 people signed a petition to stop ‘their’ favourite dinosaur skeleton leaving its home after almost 40 years to go on the road.

However, I want to share with you something I’ve known for many years. It’s not a real dinosaur skeleton!

It’s a replica! Dippy isn’t millions of years old.

He’s a plaster cast taken from a skeleton unearthed in Wyoming in 1898 and bought by Andrew Carnegie for a museum in Pittsburgh.

After King Edward VII told Carnegie he’d like to see a diplodocus skeleton in London, the copy arrived in 1905.

It wasn’t even a complete replica because various missing parts were replaced with pieces from other finds!

So, by all means go and see Dippy when he arrives at the Welsh Assembly in 2018.

But be aware that, unlike many inhabitants of that building, he isn’t a genuine dinosaur.

Business heroes

On Friday evening I had the pleasure of hosting the BNI Business Awards held at the Diplomat Hotel, Llanelli.

This was their very first awards dinner. The group has been established and has served the local community for more than nine years.

In addition to this, the generous businessmen and women and their guests raised a substantial amount of money for the MIND charity, which is supported by the members.

The award recipients were: Gareth Isaac of G I Carpets and Flooring, John Lewis, of Tegeus Computer Services and Graeme Fox, of Davies Craddock insurance brokers. True contributors and well-deserving winners.

This event clearly demonstrated to me that we have so many hard working ambassadors within our communities that have a hugely supportive and professional network behind them.

This group has a clear aim to serve the community and help local businesses thrive and grow so that they can reach their true potential.

They demonstrate a ‘Givers Gain’ mentality which in this day and age is so refreshing to witness.

Answering questions on Trump

What links Donald Trump and Aberystwyth? Not a lot at face value, but I have found a little link.

Trump’s victory in the US presidential election will be analysed at a special roundtable discussion at Aberystwyth University on Tuesday 29 November.

Hosted by the Department of International Politics and the David Davies Memorial Institute, a panel of experts will debate the election results, raising questions and providing insights into the new world order.

The debate follows the successful election night special hosted by the Department on Tuesday 8 November when more than 200 staff and students gathered until the early hours of Wednesday morning to watch the results coming in from the States.

Professor Richard Beardsworth said: “Like the rest of the world, our students and staff here at Aberystwyth avidly followed not only the remarkable results on election night but also the extraordinary twists and turns of the campaign leading up to 8 November.

“The outcome raises significant questions now about American domestic and foreign politics which will be debated at this latest roundtable event. Our aim is to seek to explain and understand the challenges that this momentous change has brought upon us, and to provide a historical perspective on the result.”

The discussion will be held from 6.30pm to 9pm on Thursday 29 November 2016 in the Main Hall of the Department of International Politics on Penglais campus. Entry is free and all are welcome to attend. I have it on good authority that Mr Trump will not be attending.

Bay TV Swansea

Not more TV stations!

So much has gone on during the past week – and I’m starting to think that someone is speeding up the world. I seem to be constantly experiencing new things, most of them good, I might add – and questioning so much more.

Like . . .Do we need another TV station? And will a local TV station add value to the community? Or is this just another crazy idea that will fizzle out after haemorrhaging loads of money?

Well, I’ll let you judge. Last Friday, I was invited to the studios of Bay TV, Swansea, for a live interview, which was a total surprise as I was unaware that the station existed.

What a great set-up and run buy truly enthusiastic people. Here we have a station in the heart of the Swansea, running on a tight budget, producing quality content and developing talent and growing at lightning speed.

My interviewers were Cai Williams, Henry Darby-Cook and Carwyn Evans, who had all done their homework on me in advance, ensuring appropriate questioning and giving me the opportunity to share something colourful to benefit the viewers. They were talented and professional from the off.

Following this experience, I’m now more convinced than ever that local radio and TV is a must and had I had more room to write this week I would easily convince you as to why.

The ‘C’ Word!

It’s here then – even though none of us are ready for it.

It suddenly arrived like an unexpected relative turning up on your front door step with a pile of suitcases and an expectant smile on his face, demanding two month’s free board and lodging – and a wad of your cash.

I’m referring to Christmas – which, as any of you who’ve ventured outside your homes in the last week will realise, has begun. If I sound less than happy about it, allow me to explain why.

A couple of days before Bonfire Night I walked into a well-known department store’s coffee shop and was surprised (nay, shocked, double nay, flabbergasted) to see that the staff behind the counter were wearing T-shirts bearing slogans along the lines of “We Wish You A Flat White Christmas” and “Santa Only Has One Shot At Christmas. But You Can Have Double Shots Any Time You Like!”

Obviously that slogan was printed on an extra-extra-large T-shirt worn by an extra-extra-extra-large staff member.

Then, as I joined the queue, I was amazed (nay, stunned, double nay, horrified) to realise the muzak seeping out of the loud speakers around the place was a selection of Christmas carols. On November the 3rd!

I was so cheesed-off with the shop’s blatant, much-too-early attempt to nudge their customers into spending their hard-earned on turkey, tinsel and toys (goods that were taking up shelf space vacated just a few days before by Halloween merchandise) that I walked out.

I sought refuge in a nearby cafe which, thoughtfully, provided the sort of background music that normal, intelligent people enjoy – i.e. none!

I know people say every year that “Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier!”, but this year I think shops definitely and very cynically started banging us over the head with ‘seasons greetings’ far too early.

Between November the 5th and 8th, I visited a variety of shops and in every one, carols and seasonal songs were playing in the background, Christmas stock was piled floor to ceiling . . . and staff members were wearing Santa hats at a jaunty angle.

Somehow, I doubt the hats or the staff would remain very jaunty after hearing Wizzard’s raucous Christmas anthem 20 times a day until December 24th.

Had Roy Wood called it “I Wish It Could Be Christmas For One Sixth Of The Year”, when he wrote it in 1973, by now his dream would have come true.

GI Joe is raising The Bar

As you know, I love a good catch up and this week I had the pleasure of a skinny latte with my good friend Joe Williams, otherwise known as GI Joe.

Well, how things can change in a few months!

Joe has moved his successful personal training gym to fantastic new premises in Llanelli to accommodate the increase in business he has seen over the last 12 months.

I love a good success story. Joe has worked so hard and we have kept in touch to see if he can cure me of my fitness phobia. Joe has moved from a small gym that was around 5m squared into the old KK Club in Llanelli which has three floors of awesome space. I’ve seen it, it is very impressive.

Currently within the gym there are showers, changing rooms with the essentials such as hair dryers and straighteners, that’s me ok then!

And it is also child friendly, so those mothers struggling with childcare can be catered for. Don’t you just love the attention to detail?

Now called “The Bar”, I can see this being a huge success for Joe and the team. It’s lovely to see a local business doing so well.

Take up my talent challenge

The highlight of the week for me was attending the ever-popular Welsh Factor talent show, held at the Diplomat Hotel, Llanelli.

I do enjoy these occasions immensely as they keep me in touch with the grass roots of the entertainment industry.

Once again a sell-out audience witnessed acts from all across Wales. The place was alive with new raw talent just waiting for their big break.

All acts on the night were worthy of a place in the final, which will be held in the early part of 2017. The event was hosted and held together by one of the safest hands in showbiz, the Swansea legend that is Kev Johns.

More than 20 acts graced the stage, many of whom I hadn’t seen perform previously, which demonstrates that we do have an abundance of talent here in Wales.

I challenge each and every one of you to check out the local entertainment scene and support live entertainment as often as you can.

This can be extremely beneficial to your local community. Go on, I dare you. You know it makes sense

Why there’s snow time like now to stock up

So, after a relatively mild Autumn, the Meteorological Office have (rather too enthusiastically, it seems to me) predicted that the whole of the United Kingdom will be hit by blinding blizzards, ferocious snow storms and 25ft deep drifts from mid-November in our worst winter for five years.

But, as Jimmy Cricket says, “Ladies and gentlemen . . . there’s more!”

It might keep snowing for 120 days, so there’s every chance we’ll all be buried under the white stuff until February.

Jimmy Cricket didn’t say that. The Met Office did.

So, if the milk in your fridge is running low and your bread bin is looking depleted, pre-empt the rush.

The minute you finish reading this newspaper, nip down to your local shop and buy a small brown loaf, a pound of butter, some tea bags and a large carton of semi-skimmed.

If you eke that lot out ‘ve-ry carefully’, they should see you through to the Spring.

I’m making light of it now, but if the weather forecasters’ prediction turns out to be correct, I’ll end up with egg on my face.

Well, only if I remember to buy a dozen free-range beauties before the snowflakes fall, otherwise the yoke will be on me!

It’s a difficult one this.

After we’ve been told really bad weather might be heading our way, which might result in food shortages because supplies might take longer to reach the shops, ideally we should put on a brave face and adopt the legendary British, ‘We can take it’, stiff-upper lip attitude.

Surely we can survive on the tins and packets in our kitchen cupboards for a few months?

And, in the freezer, there’ll be meat, fish and a half-eaten vegetarian curry which was frozen so long ago we can barely remember when we put it in there . . . or why.

Alternatively, wouldn’t it be sensible to buy a few extra tins of beans, soup and mandarin oranges in syrup, just in case?

As much as I love mandarin oranges in syrup, I really don’t know.

But I will buy some candles and matches, because if we have power cuts this winter, I don’t want to watch TV in the dark!

Should snow start falling so thick and fast that businesses in Swansea and surrounding areas grind to a halt before my next column goes to print, may I be the first to wish you a “Merry Christmas!”.

Billions of pounds going up in smoke

This week’s writing comes to you from the beautiful city of Edinburgh, as I have spent a long weekend visiting one of the friendliest parts of the UK.

The secret to surviving the bitter cold Northern climate at this time of the year is to wear plenty of layers and tuck into lots of haggis, neeps and tatties.

Well, that’s what the locals suggest, so who am I to argue?

I hadn’t considered the date when I booked my flight and accommodation, but it soon became clear that November 5th presented us with a spectacularly colourful skyline and wonderfully entertaining bonfire night.

This, again, got me thinking . . . aren’t we a strange species?

We are all aware that the country as a whole are facing some big financial challenges and the majority of the population are struggling to make ends meet.

Unemployment is on the increase, yet, last weekend more than £2 billion worth of fireworks went up in smoke. What are we like?

Curtain up on another gem

The Lady in the Van:

Well, I’ve never failed to see a production from the Llanelli Little Theatre company that hasn’t left me thinking that these guys should be on the stage in the West End of London.

I’ve heard a rumour that they are about to pull another gem of a show out of the bag, performing the classic Alan Bennett play “The Lady in the Van” at the Ffwrnes Theatre, Llanelli on Thursday and Friday 24th and 25th November.

The play, which opened at the Queen’s Theatre, London in December 1999, starred Maggie Smith. In 2015, the play was turned into a film with Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Frances De La Tour and Jim Broadbent in the cast.

In 1974, Alan Bennett encountered Miss Mary Shepherd, an elderly eccentric living in a van in the street near his home in Camden Town.

He eventually allowed her to park her van in his garden, the idea being that she would stay three months – but those three months extended to 15 years and thus provided Alan Bennett with a funny and moving dramatisation of his memoir of Miss Shepherd. Tickets are available from the box office. See you there!