Revving up support for a memorable rally

Many senior readers will remember the John Harries Bakery in Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen with fond memories.  Sadly, the business no longer trades.

This was a bakery that employed the whole family and played a big part in the Amman Valley community, in the good old days when everyone shopped locally.

But one day, in 1987, everything changed when three members of the family tragically lost their lives in an accident.

One of these family members was Mel Harris, a very keen motor sport competitor, a driver with flair and a promising future in the sport and a founder member of Ammanford Motor Club.

In honour of Mel, “The Mel Harries Rally” was set up by Ammanford Motor Club to run in his memory.

This year, the rally will take place on the evening of Saturday, November 23, and will officially start at the Mart in Ffairfach, Llandeilo. An estimated 75 cars will be battling it out in the Welsh lanes well into the early hours of Sunday morning.

Motor club chairman, Dean Wiltshire said: “We feel that it is important to keep the memory alive. Mel was a colourful character and an inspiration to so many who shared our passion of motorsport. We, as a motor club, feel that we owe it to Mel, his family and the club to continue this tradition.”

IT’S HIS SHOUT!

Life’s full of mysteries – like why can’t people who buy energy drinks drop their empty cans in a bin instead of in the street?

Maybe it’s the manufacturers’ fault for not filling their products with sufficient energy?

There’s the mystery of how a certain President of a certain country can say and do so many stupid things in one day.  I know the answer to that one. He gets up early.

I also know the answer to the question, “Who is the man who stands on College Green, Westminster 12 hours every day shouting “Stoooppp Brexiiiiitt!” through a megaphone so loudly he can be heard behind TV interviews with MPs, pundits and opinion makers?”

‘Opinion maker’ wasn’t a career option when I left school. If it’d come with medical benefits and a decent pension it might have been worth considering… in my opinion!

The anti-Brexit man with the megaphone who wears a European blue coat and matching top hat is Steve Bray. He’s 50, a coin dealer and comes from Port Talbot – the same town being visited by UFOs that I wrote about recently.

Steve Bray drove to London to begin his vocal protest in 2017.
He lived on his savings for the first year and has since lived in 14 different places, including his car.  At one point, thanks to financial help from supporters he lived in a luxury flat opposite the London home of Brexiteer MP Jacob Rees Mogg for two months.

Although he’s making what he believes is a serious point, Steve doesn’t take himself too seriously.  On the day we learned that the-then Transport Minister Chris Grayling had handed ferry contracts to a company who didn’t own any ferries, Steve appeared behind him holding a model boat named “S.S. Disaster”!

Bob Geldof once put his arm around Steve and told him “You deserve a **$$!! medal!”.  That he does.  For allowing Bob Geldof to put his arm around him and swear in his ear!

So, what will Steve do if/when Brexit happens?

Well, he could bring his megaphone back to Port Talbot and start shouting “Stopppp UFOOOOOS!”

Is the truth really out there – in Port Talbot?

Here’s a statement you don’t hear every day.  “I think Port Talbot is on some weird alien map. Like some sort of lay-by.  The Little Chef of the galaxy!”

It’s years since I visited a Little Chef, but I don’t recall it being staffed by Martians. Just the usual young lad taking his time with the orders and his mum cooking an unidentified frying object behind the counter.

That astounding comment about Port Talbot was made by none other than internationally-famous actor Michael Sheen – who always gives a ‘polished’ performance.  (Sorry! I couldn’t resist.)

As you probably know, Michael grew up in Port Talbot, but when the actor first became famous one or two national newspaper mistakenly reported the steel town was his place of birth.  That error has been repeated many times ever since.

In fact, he was born in Newport – the city that had once been in Monmouthshire, then moved to Gwent and was last seen thumbing a lift along the M4. His parents moved to Port Talbot soon after his birth.

Being very small at the time, Michael was obliged to go with them.  Michael is convinced Port Talbot’s a UFO ‘hot spot’, because so many people around the town have had extra-terrestrial encounters, like the very respectable lady next door to the Sheen family.  Not the type to make up fanciful stories, she reported seeing a flying saucer hovering over her garden one morning as she was in her kitchen making coffee.

One New Year’s Eve, Michael’s father, who hadn’t touched a drop, saw a strange formation of lights in the sky and even Michael himself had a close encounter when he was still at school.

“One afternoon”, he recalled, “I’d just got off the school bus and turned to walk up the path to my house when from around the mountain came a formation of lights which went out to sea and disappeared.”

Is it possible that aliens are walking around un-noticed among the steel town’s population of 37,000?  And, if they are, is it a case of “PT…phone home”?

Wind Street fashion won’t keep me warm on cold winter nights

I don’t know about you but over the past couple of days I’ve had some trouble warming up.  At this rate, I will be digging out the thermal underwear garments which have been hidden away up until now following last winter’s holiday.

On Saturday evening, I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of the punters frequenting Wind Street in Swansea were wearing next to nothing.  Yes – bare legs and flimsy tops and certainly no fur coats.  And the women were just as bad!

Don’t get me wrong, extremely fashion-conscious, but zero practicality.
It’s now dawned on me that I’m at an age where comfort and practicality takes precedent over fashion.  Boring to some, I know, but I’d rather be warm and happy than cold and miserable.

Please don’t say that I’m alone on this?  For the record, it must have been cold last weekend.  As I passed my local councillor, I observed he had his hands in his own pockets.  Just sayin’ . . .

Get help to lift that black cloud

While I realise everyone’s fed up to the back teeth with the ‘B’ word, I was surprised to learn about the first ever recorded case of a mental breakdown brought on by Brexit!

A Nottinghamshire man in his 40s was so stressed-out by the 2016 referendum result, he eventually began suffering hallucinations, including one in which a relative threatened to fire a heat-seeking missile at him.

Unable to mentally cope with the painfully drawn-out complexities of Brexit, he was diagnosed with acute and transient psychotic disorder.  Thankfully, after being prescribed suitable medication, he recovered within a fortnight.

While that’s an extreme example of stress-related illness, the fact that he was cured in such a short time is a testament to the massive strides made in mental health treatment.

There was a time long ago when, if a relative was mentally ill they’d probably be committed to an asylum – an upsetting situation you’d never discuss with anyone outside your family.

To a great extent, those dark days are behind us due to the spotlight being shone on mental health issues via TV and radio programmes; campaigns like Mental Health Day; and an increasing number of celebrities from the worlds of sport and entertainment who’ve willingly gone public and declared that they’ve either had mental troubles or are currently being treated for them.

We’re seeing a gradual acceptance that someone with a mental illness should be treated just like they had any other medical problem we humans are prone to.

Ironically, many comedians, whose job it is to lift people’s spirits and forget their troubles, suffer from severe depression – Spike Milligan and Robin Williams, for example.  Many others are wracked by crippling fears and insecurities.

A well-known comedian prone to depression once confided to a writer friend of mine, “I have a beautiful wife, children and home and a million in the bank.  But I can’t remember the last time I was happy”.

If you have mental health issues, there’s absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about.  Seek professional help and that black cloud hovering above you can be lifted…permanently.

Christmas is coming – with all the trimmings

Is it just me, or does it feel like Christmas is arriving earlier each year?

Last week, I attended two dinner functions and was amazed at the fact that Christmas trees and all the trimmings were on display.  The only thing missing was Christmas crackers, hats and Nana standing up at 3pm for the Queen’s speech.

Personally, I’m not at all ready for the festivities due to work demands, but shops, hotels and restaurants are gearing up for the silly season.  It’s great to see so many venues already booked up for Christmas.

On the plus side, the comedy material virtually writes itself at this time of year as stories of old tend to get resurrected, much like that old Christmas jumper.

One thing is for sure – you won’t catch me dressing up like a Christmas tree and wearing a silly Val Doonican cardigan anytime soon.  Well, not in public anyway . . .

Right then, I’m off to start my Christmas gift list ready for my dash around the shops at 3pm on Christmas Eve . . .