The High Street lives on!

You’ve heard about the so-called death of our High Streets which are struggling because ‘Everyone shops on-line these days’.

In truth, not ‘everyone’ does.  Yes, some main shopping streets are lined with empty premises, their doorways occupied by homeless people in tents.

But, only last year, I wrote about Crickhowell, Powys, winning the award for the Best UK High Street – 2018.

Well, Wales has done it for a second year running!

Treorchy is perhaps most famous for its Male Voice Choir and Max Boyce’s career-making ‘Live At Treorchy’ album recorded at the wonderful Parc and Dare Theatre.  The Rhondda Valley town has now added another feather to its cap as it recently won the award for Best UK High Street – 2019!

The bustling main street has more than 100 shops and a 96% occupation rate.  Two empty shops, currently being refurbished, will be opening their doors soon.  So, why is Treorchy, as they say, ‘bucking the trend’?

Perhaps it’s because the majority of the shops and cafes are independently run and have been there for years, so they’ve each built-up a loyal customer base that spans the generations.

There are many cities and towns where shops open and close almost before you’re aware they exist, so I find what’s happened in Treorchy really heartening.

The UK’s High Street Minister Jake Berry said: “The award reflects the grit and determination of local people who are determined to support their community.”

The person who started the ball rolling for Treorchy to receive the award is local pub owner Adrian Emmett and on the day the award was announced ITV Wales sent a female reporter and camera crew to his pub.

Unfortunately, while Adrian was being interviewed, some of the local ‘characters’ at the bar started behaving childishly, taking turns to slide up behind Adrian and gurn at the camera or give a ‘thumbs up’ sign before laughing at their own ‘hilarious’ but not very original antics that I thought died out in the 70s!

A new award should be given to the stoic ITV Wales reporter for keeping her professional cool in the face of ‘absurdity’!

When you almost park on top of a Fiat 500 in a hospital car park

Research has shown that we spend four days a year searching for a car parking space – unless you’re in Morriston Hospital car park, then it’s four days a week!

No doubt, it will continue to be for years to come as the challenges faced with parking seem to be increasing on a regular basis.

Millions have been spent on new buildings and improved services, which it provides for thousands of patients in Wales and beyond.

The Morriston site is home to many unsung heroes, with a passion for making a difference, despite being grossly underfunded. The overworked staff are stretched to the limit, but still manage to do a great job, many of whom perform at a level over and above the normal call of duty.

Anyway, I digress.  Car parks!

Do you know what my latest gripe is?  When you are going round and round in circles to try and find a space, then out of nowhere it appears, you eagerly approach the space and position the car for the perfect reverse manoeuvre, only to find a Fiat 500 is parked there already, but is so small you can only see it as you almost park on top of it!

Don’t tell me I am the only person to have done this?

Do we complain? You bet we do!

As my loyal readers (Stan and Ethel Gristle of Gasworks Terrace) know, this time of year the media, as a respite from covering politics and the exploits of ‘celebs’ from ‘Love Island’, obsesses about the ‘Awards season’.

Even though the ‘Big Ones’ are given out in the rarefied, expensively coiffed and designer-dressed surroundings of Los Angeles, we’re supposed to be enthralled . . . desperate to know not only who won one, but what one wore when one won one.

That makes perfect sense when read ve-ry slow-ly.

I’m sure Stan and Ethel will tell me if they disagree, but I’d hazard a guess most of us just aren’t that interested in the ‘Awards Season’ and have more important things to concern us between January and March.  After all, we British have a lot to put up with!

Apart from our damp gloomy weather that starts in October and won’t release its grip until April, we’ve got commuter trains that often don’t turn up and when they do they’re so crowded we can’t get on ’em.

We get scary post-Christmas bank statements and even scarier escaped circus camels rudely roaming around our back gardens chewing our geraniums . . . or is that only me?

And do we complain?  You bet we do!

Awards ceremonies are like London buses.  They’re bright red, full of tourists and tend to get stuck in Oxford Street traffic.

No, that’s not right.  If you miss one, there’s always another one behind.
That’s it!

After the Golden Globes came the SAG awards – which despite how they sound, aren’t given to the worst examples of failed plastic surgery performed by Hollywood surgeons.  SAG stands for the Screen Actors Guild.

The Oscars are closely followed over here by the BAFTAs and that most prestigious of all ceremonies . . . The TV Quick Awards.

I’ve never gone to see a film just because it won an award.  I go to see films, as most people tend to, if the story sounds interesting, if there’s someone in it I like or when there’s nothing much on the telly.

Stan! Ethel! Fancy seeing a film tonight?  The Mivvis are on me!

Is it someone else’s job to pick up all our rubbish?

Why is it in this day and age, people continue to drop litter without a care in the world or without consideration to others?

Recently, I watched a football match in my home town of Ammanford, a place where the locals are blessed with a beautiful big recreation ground that facilitates several football pitches and a cricket pitch.  And yet, when the players and spectators leave, there are huge amounts of crisp packets, pop bottles and empty cans strewn across the field.  A few more strategically-placed bins wouldn’t go amiss either – as there seems to be only one bin in the whole area!

Picture the scene: you call round to a friend’s house for a cuppa and a few biscuits, you wouldn’t throw the empty biscuit packet on their lounge carpet before you went home, would you?

Do we not care enough about the environment anymore?  Are we oblivious to it all?  Or is it just the fact that we are too blooming lazy and it is someone else’s job to pick it all up?

Let’s start taking responsibility for our own mess, each and every one of us.  Don’t even get me started on a whole bag of rubbish being launched out of a car window from a certain fast food chain . . . McDisgusting!

Questions that nobody knows the answers to

Questions, questions, questions!

There are so many these days that nobody knows the answers to.

Certain questions niggle away at my brain. Perhaps, you might share some of them with me?

Questions like…can vegetarians bring home the bacon or have a beef with someone?

Questions like…if a vicar developed a large boil on his neck, could it be described as a religious gathering?

Questions like…if milk, butter and cheese are bad for us, why aren’t the fields full of cows having heart attacks?

Questions like…who was the TV executive with such a low opinion of the great British public, he/she created “The Masked Singer” and dumped it on us without one word of apology?

Be fair, even when the singers take their masks off, it’s not that easy to work out who they are.  The show would work just as well if they got rid of the masks, walked on stage and simply asked “Hello folks! Any idea who I am?”

And questions like…why did the Met Office come up with the ridiculous idea to give male and female names to storms?

There’s absolutely no point.  You can’t send a birthday card, text or e-mail to a storm.  Well you could, but you’d soon be visited by the men in white coats – or be given your own series on ITVBe.

Strong gales, dark skies and continuous, miserable, lashing rain make up a storm and are natural phenomena which Mother Nature didn’t see any point in calling, for example, ‘Cledwyn’.  By the way, why does the Met Office only name bad weather?

See what I mean about there being so many questions?

We never hear Carol Kirkwood, Derek Brockway or any of the other 250 weather forecasters who pop up every 15 minutes on the rolling news channels with a cherry grin on their face tell us…  ”Next week Britain will be visited by a warm gentle breeze coming up from the Azores that we’re calling ‘Angelica’ … followed by a long period of sunshine that we’ve christened “Princess Fairy Belle”.

But it’s only a matter of time until they do!

Just think, if he was alive today….he’d be in a hell of a state!

Will you be raising a toast for Burns Night?

I have to confess that until I did my research, I thought Burns Night was an episode ofCasualty.

Casualty has been running for 30 years.  A mate of mine does walk-on parts and he’s played ‘Man lying on trolley’ since it first started.

The way things are with the NHS these days, a patient lying on a trolley for 30 years isn’t unusual . . .

Burns Night celebrates the birth of Scotland’s greatest poet – Robbie Burns, born in1759.  That’s more than 250 years ago.  Just think, if he was alive today . . . he’d be in a hell of a state!

It may come as a surprise to you that Robbie Burns died at the age of 37.  It certainly came as a surprise to him!

Robbie Burns had three great loves in his life – Haggis, whiskey and women!

He over-indulged in all three and they eventually did him in.
The constant diet of haggis wore out his digestive system.  The non-stop drinking wore out his liver.  And his bedroom antics eventually wore out his . . . . appetite for haggis and whiskey!

Burns suppers have been part of Scottish life for 200 years.
‘Burnt suppers’ have been part of my life since the first time I came home late from the pub.  Men never learn, do they?

Failure to clean up is simply foul play

Regular readers know I often use this page to rant about my pet peeves – of which I have a long list!

What they don’t know is, I also have pet snakes, pet birds, pet goats and a pet crab.  Well, he used to be a pet, but for the last month he’s been hibernating in the freezer, waiting to be cooked.

While he was alive we had lots of fun, playing war games, recreating famous battles of World War Two – and d’you know what? Without fail, the little blighter always used to win.  He was a master of the pincer movement.

If he hadn’t annoyed me by winning all the time, he might still be chilling on my sofa watching back-to-back episodes of “Blue Planet” instead of chilling in my freezer.  This leads to the point I want to make – which is a peeve about pets.

Not mine.  Other peoples…

Last week I read an article about a South Wales rugby team who were unable to play on their home pitch in the first game of the New Year because, over the Christmas holidays, dozens of dog walkers had allowed their pets to do their business on the grass…then merrily walked away without clearing it up.
That is outrageous!

When I’m President, such irresponsible behaviour will be punished with 30 years hard labour!

The nasty stuff was spread right across the pitch, so the rugby players had to cancel the fixture and spend the day clearing up the mess.

There was so much, they filled 18 refuse sacks.  Forget hard labour. I’d make it a capital offence!  Who’s with me on that?

Okay, dog owners may occasionally forget to take a doggy-doo bag with them when they take their pet for a ‘walk’.  But this particular mess had accumulated over a couple of weeks on daily dog walks by lazy, thoughtless people who don’t realise pound shop doggy-doo bags are cheaper than paying a £50 fine for dog fouling.

President Phil would increase it to £5000.  Remember! If you own a dog, you own its log!  So clean it up!

Sorely tempted by bargain holiday offers to sunnier shores

Have they been after you yet?

Over the past week I’ve been bombarded with summer holiday offers and special deals at a rate of three a day.  This is no exaggeration.

My email inbox, Facebook account and Twitter feeds seem to be coming up with fascinating offers to tempt me, from both the big household names to some I’m sure have just been set up in someone’s front room, such as Gr8 Holidays 4 U and Flyjetsunbargains R Us.

In all fairness to them, they are putting their sales and marketing machines to good use and offering deals and destinations that are extremely tempting.  However, I do detect an element of desperation in their urgency at this time.  Either that, or I’m getting more cynical with age.

But as I write, the weather is cold and damp with more rain on the way and the thought of a walk along the beach in a warm and sunnier climate is quite appealing as I apply my Deep Heat to my aching joints.

I’m all for a bargain holiday, but do I wait and book closer to the date or book early and take the so-called offers now being presented?

What do you think?

Specialist’s dreary tone almost sent me to sleep

No lie. This actually happened before I sat down at my steam-punk, bellows-operated, Victorian word-o-puter  (bought on line for just £4.99… plus £300 p & p) to write this article.

Being the highbrow type – I have my highbrows done once a month and my nails manicured at the same time – I was listening to PM on Radio Four on what I assume was a quiet news day.  After a hurried round-up of all the days world events, the programme bizarrely segued into a random segment on sleeplessness.

Is there an extra ‘ness’ on the end of that word? ‘Sleeplessnessness’. Yep, sounds about right.

Calling it an ‘segment’ doesn’t do it justice, because it took up so much of the programme that when it ended I felt like I’d just listened to someone narrating 10 chapters of “War and Peace”. Ve-ry slow-ly. In the original Russian!

A sleep specialist was being interviewed by Evan Davis, a man who is living proof that those so-called and much-mocked conspiracy theorists who believe that aliens have been living amongst us for decades, may not be the loose cannon, fruit loop, nerdy-geeks they appear to be.

After Evan asked each brief question about the length of sleep we need to stay healthy etc, every one of the sleep specialist’s replies went on sooooo long you could have timed them with a calendar.

Not only did his replies ramble relentlessly, he delivered each one in such a dreary sonorous monotone, that after listening to him for five minutes a sudden fatigue came over me…my eyes started getting heavy…and I could easily have dropped off for a lovely little nap.

Not only would this have been embarrassing at five o’clock in the afternoon, I could also have crashed my car. That’s not true. I couldn’t. I was driving a friend’s car and could have crashed that.

The sleep specialist was obviously born to enter his particular profession because I recorded his interview and at bedtime I play it back and I’m asleep within minutes.

But, just between us, Evan Davis is from ‘somewhere up there’ isn’t he?

Goals are so hard to stick to – despite good intentions

So, the Christmas decorations are all down and safely stored away. When you think about it, Christmas is just a cardboard box in the attic now!

By the end of this week, it is most likely that I would have broken at least three of my New Year resolutions – and probably four of the Ten Commandments.

Why is it we head into January full of good intentions, yet find it so hard to stick to our goals?

On the 31st December I filled the fridge with salad and ironed my running vest.  By the 2nd January, I’m sitting in a well known coffee franchise, writing this column while sampling their freshly-baked goodies and cream topped hot chocolate.  At least I lasted one more day than last year.

For many, January is the time of year when we feel in ‘limbo’.  The fun and excitement is over and the harsh reality of paying for an elaborate Christmas hits home.

There’s one question I always ask myself during the Christmas period:  Whatever happened to soap on a rope?