Swansea. A great mix of progress and past

It’s all change in the City.  The SA1 Waterfront Development has successfully transformed a brown field site into a modern, vibrant area offering apartments, bars & restaurants, hotel accommodation and – if you’ve a mind – the opportunity to wander around the maritime quarter at your leisure.

However, Swansea’s city centre has badly needed a facelift – and in certain parts, major surgery – for decades.

Remember the planned re-development some years ago that would, we were promised, transform Swansea into the ‘Naples of South Wales’?

That it never happened might have been a blessing, considering the Italian city is notorious for muggers & pick-pockets and has a still-active volcano looming over it.

So it was great to hear recently that outline planning consent has been awarded for a 125,000 square metre redevelopment which will include shops, restaurants, a 3,500-seat digital arena and a boutique cinema, which I assume apart from screening independent films will double as a trendy fashion store.

Apparently when the new development’s completed, some of the new thoroughfares created will be named after old streets buried beneath modern developments, including the Quadrant shopping centre.

Not only is it a respectful nod to the city’s past – it’s a unique combination of progress and heritage.

I think the word is ‘progritage’.

So one day, you may be able to buy lemons on Orange Street or ‘hop’ on a ‘bus in Frog Street.

Also under consideration is to name new streets after people who’ve made an outstanding contribution to Swansea.

We’ll all have our own ideas about who should be nominated, but surely, after almost 20 years of delighting audiences in the Grand Theatre pantomimes, Kev Johns is a dead cert.

Then, one day, if anyone asks you “Can you tell me where Kev Johns Street is please?” you can say…

“It’s behind you!”

Children benefit from encouragement

Last week, I came across a programme on Channel 5 that featured a single mum from Port Talbot – Dawn North – who I have had the pleasure of meeting on many occasions over the past few years as a result of my involvement with the Welsh Factor Talent Show.

When the TV programme was made, Dawn was a 47 year old single Mum on benefits, bringing up her two children, Elizabeth and Megan.

Elizabeth goes to dance classes and wants to emulate the talent of her big sister Katie, who won the Welsh Factor a few years ago.

Dawn does not want to spend any longer than she has to on benefits and is studying to better herself by doing a 6 year degree course in University, studying history.  She is setting a great example to her children about the importance of education and proving that you are never too old to learn something new!

Dawn stated, “I also took part in the documentary to prove that it was possible to survive on benefits and although I often went without, it was important that I encouraged my children to be creative and pursue their passion in the performing arts.”

Marvellous mirth

Marvellous mirth:

It’s safe to say that laughter comes in many flavours: the giddy giggle, the mild chuckle, the lusty guffaw, the sarcastic “ha!”

Its meaning is just as varied, signalling everything from amusement to discomfort and distain.

For researchers, understanding how our brain interprets this complex behaviour is serious business. Yes, such research does exist.

Every day we are faced with stress and challenging situations and, as time goes on, as we get older, relaxation and laughter can slow down or halt the ageing process.

We are bombarded with information relating to weight loss, diets, exercise and such like.

But little is said about the health benefits of laughter. This is probably because of the lack of understanding by the masses . . . up to this point!

My recent visit to America, where I was party to such a discussion, left me convinced that the benefits of humour and being around uplifting people can add years to our lives, reduce the need for anti-depressants and keep our brains active for much longer.

Now, isn’t that interesting?

Political reality check needed

Political Reality Check Needed!

I’m angry again!

I’m annoyed by politicians and pundits who appear on TV expressing the idea that the pressures on the NHS are mainly due to (wait for it!) . . .

“Our ageing population”.

They also have an unfortunate tendency to refer to the State Pension as a ‘benefit’.

This, of course, is nothing short of an insult.

I won’t say which orifice these idiots talk through, but when they sit down you can’t hear a word they say.

The State Pension is not a ‘benefit’.

Those who diligently paid Income Tax and National Insurance all their lives are entitled to it.

Although it is worth pointing out that the age at which they can claim this entitlement keeps being put back.

There are 10 million people over the age of 65 in the UK today and the large number of them who don’t have a company pension rely solely on the not over-generous State Pension.

Despite what some snide politicians infer – that old people are becoming a burden on modern society – they are a major asset. Why?

A huge number carry on working well into their 70s and pass their experience on to the next generation.

A vast army of grandparents are unpaid, but willing, baby-sitters, child-minders and school-run taxi drivers, allowing their sons and daughters to work full time.

This work generates more tax and National Insurance contributions for the Government.

And on any weekday, if you pop into a cafe, coffee shop or department store restaurant, they make up the majority of customers.

If it wasn’t for them, these places would be empty. Ask yourself: what currency is mainly spent in garden centres during the week?

The answer is, of course, ‘The so-called Grey Pound’.

Go to a weekday matinee at your local multiplex or professional theatre and the majority of the seats will be occupied by ‘re-cycled teenagers’.

It’s time politicians and pundits admitted that, far from being a burden on the economy, the old generation keep it going!

A Bond farewell to a real film icon

Farewell James Bond, Lord Brett Sinclair and Simon Templar.

And, for older readers, farewell Ivanhoe!

That icon of British film and television, Sir Roger Moore, has left us.

Along with millions of his fans, I’ll miss his charismatic presence, whether it’s in a film or on a chat show.

As James Bond, he brought a more debonair feel to the 007 series after Connery’s hard-edged portrayal.

And he and Tony Curtis were chalk’n’cheese partners in the TV show “The Persuaders”.

A tireless worker for UNICEF, at the age of 89 he was still making films.

In a 2016 TV interview, he looked 20 years younger, immaculately turned-out, patiently answering questions and always ready with a quip, usually at his own expense.

He was a policeman’s son who went from modelling knitting patterns to appearing in un-credited bit parts in 1940s low-budget British films before getting the call from Hollywood in the 1950s – when it was still Hollywood.

Many actor’s careers flounder when they’re youthful looks fade, but Roger wasn’t just a pretty face, even though he used to claim he was, in his self-deprecating way.

He was so keen on sending-up his own image that in “The Cannonball Run” (1981) he played a manic rally driver who was convinced he was Roger Moore!

He was co-producer of “The Saint” TV series and, after studying the methods of many directors over several hundred episodes, he went on to direct a few himself, including the weirdest one in the whole series, “The House On Dragon’s Rock”.

This episode was set in a remote Welsh village that was menaced by . . . ahem . . . a giant ant!

It turns up on ITV4 all the time, so seek it out.

Don’t worry.

No Welsh people were harmed in the making of the show.

The world will be a sadder place without Roger Moore’s charm and wit.

Nobody did it better.

Sunny summer days

Sunny summer days bring out a host of colourful characters.

Here in Wales, all we need is two consecutive days of sunshine and our streets are full of characters in fancy dress.

Men with white legs, beige socks and sandals.

Ladies and gents whose skin colour looks quite like the inside of a bag of Wotsits.

Apparently, I’m told that in Neath and Llanelli you have to book in advance for an all over spray tan due to the demand.

Well, who would have thought?

And the tattoo parlours are also seeing a steady increase in trade, as many now want to bare all in order to show off their latest artwork.

The feelgood factor is something that we all crave and why not?

But, for many, it’s all about breaking new ground and pushing things to the extremes.

We certainly live in interesting times and the colourful characters can be seen all around us every day.

Next time you go out, stop and take a good look around you.

Mark my words, it will make you smile.

Right then, enough of this, I’m off to iron my beige socks, polish my sandals and sketch my new tattoo. Have a great week.

Monte Carlo or bust

It’s Monte Carlo or bust for dad and daughter

It’s not often that you hear of someone who is willing to drive a £300 banger from St Quentin, France, to Monte Carlo.

Even more amazing is they’ll start off somewhere much more exotic . . . Ammanford.

That is the journey that Bubbles Launderette owner Kevin Thomas and his daughter Elin will take on next month in the Monte Carlo or Bust Rally, all in aid of a charity supporting people with Dyspraxia.

Dyspraxia is a developmental disorder of the brain in childhood causing difficulty in activities requiring coordination and movement.

Kevin and Elin will be raising awareness of this disorder, as well as vital funds.

The original and now legendary banger rally adventure has sold out every year since it began in 2013. It begins in St Quentin, France, and finishes in Monte Carlo, via Switzerland and Italy.

Driving their faithful old Daihatsu Cuore which has been used to deliver laundry for the business and been the faithful mode of transport for three of Kevin’s children to learn to drive.

I have heard on the grapevine that, as a precaution, they have packed fold-up bikes in the boot, just in case.

Hopefully, the car will last out until the end of their exciting and worthwhile adventure.

But, if not, we may see the start of a whole new event, the Monte Carlo to Ammanford Fold-Up Cycle Challenge. And that would definitely end in tears. Mark my words.

The mindset of a terrorist

The mindset of a terrorist is impossible to comprehend.

On Monday May 22, I didn’t watch the midnight news (as I usually do) before I headed for bed.

So, I was unaware of the horrific event that occurred at the Manchester Arena until the following morning.

As I absorbed the TV reports of what that warped individual had done to so many innocent people, I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach.

I know this is a very delicate subject, but I had to share my anger and frustration about this appalling event with you.

Call it therapy, if you like, but I needed to get it out of me and down in print.

Despite the warped efforts of people like the man who walked into the foyer of the Manchester Arena and deliberately detonated a bomb which could potentially kill hundreds, we live in a free country.

This freedom allows you to disagree with my opinions – and me to disagree with yours without resorting to acts of unimaginable violence and carnage.

It’s called tolerance. A word some sections of British society seem unfamiliar with.

Imagine for a moment you were the bomber, standing there in the foyer, a bomb strapped to your body, your finger poised over the detonator.

The concert ends and thousands of excited, happy people – mostly young girls and children– walk towards you.

What exactly goes through your head the second before you detonate the bomb, knowing you’ll be blown to pieces, along with your victims?

It’s impossible for a rational human being to comprehend that mindset.

Apparently, there are more than 3000 Jihadists in the U.K. Whatever lies they’re fed that motivate them to perform atrocities, the truth is, once they press that detonator, they’ll simply disappear into oblivion.

If they realised this, perhaps these terrible incidents might stop.