Archive for January, 2018

A Voyage With My Son, Part 2.

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

Day 3: It was a normal grey morning for Swansea, and undaunted we drove towards Gower, 64 square miles of beautiful scenery  and designated the first AONB (area of outstanding natural beauty.) I like to think that I contributed in some small way to conserving its natural beauty. But first we paid a visit to Pennard Castle where my parents’ ashes are scattered. How many golf courses have the ruins of a medieval castle within their boundaries, and affording panoramic views of a coastline second to none?

We continued our journey towards Rhossili which  has a magnificent curved beach ideal for sand yachting, if you don’t mind negotiating a difficult access. The scenic gem is Worm’s Head which extends sublimely from the mainland into the English Channel. We decided to have lunch at the Brittania Inn located in the picturesque village of Llanmadoc. It also houses a 12th Century Church where my wife pictured us getting married nearly 25 years ago. Unfortunately, the pastor refused to marry us because we were both divorced, but ignoring the fact that the Church of England was formed because of Henry v111’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon which the Catholic Church refused to acknowledge.

The planning laws in Gower are very strict much to the chagrin of many farmers, but one of my pride and joys was initiating the conversion of redundant barns into living accommodation. I showed my son many examples of barn conversions, and I hope he wasn’t too bored with the reminisces of a retired town planner.

My biggest achievement in town planning of which I am most proud was advising a retired dairy farmer to convert his treasured acres into a golf course. Mr. Jenkins, the farmer, was a bigger than life character, and thought I was crazy suggesting he apply for planning permission for a golf course on his land. Twenty years later the Gower Golf Club is going strong. Sadly, Mr. Jenkins has passed away, but the dream that turned into reality continues under the tutelage of his son and daughter.

We couldn’t leave Swansea without a visit to Underhill Park in Mumbles. I played many a game for Nalgo in the friendly confines of Underhill Park. I was primarily a defender, but I once scored a hatrick there. On another occasion, I was summarily sent off for the only time in my career. Underhill Park contained many happy memories for me which I hopefully shared with my son.

We ended our visit to Swansea with a meal with my friends, Phillip and Marian, at the King Arthur in Reynoldston. King Arthur’s stone is situated about a mile from the pub on Cefn Bryn which was arguably the cornerstone of Camelot. Make of it what you will. I hope this journey down memory lane encourages some of you to visit Gower, but hopefully not too many. I like the remoteness.

A Voyage with My Son, Part 1.

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

I’m not sure how this pilgrimage transpired, but my son and I agreed to spend two or three days travelling around my home town of Swansea visiting various landmarks of my childhood and some dubious haunts that played a role in my formative years. Perhaps it was an opportunity to discover what made his old man tick. He left Swansea when he was nine, but nevertheless he said he was excited to partake in the exploration.

Day 1: Landed at Heathrow Airport around 11.00am. Rented a car from Enterprise, picked my son up from Fleet and drove to Cardiff to stay the night with my brother. On the way we stopped for a snack at a service station and I enjoyed fish and chips courtesy of Harry Ramsden. It cost 6 pounds and change to cross the Severn Bridge into Wales. No wonder Englishmen have a low esteem for the Welsh.

We dined at a Lebanese restaurant which was devoid of alcohol much to the disappointment of my son and I. My lasting memory of the restaurant was  a particularly noisy fruit juice machine which made conversation nearly impossible.

Day 2: The next morning my brother served up a wonderful Welsh breakfast comprising lava bread, cockles, bacon and all the trimmings. Fortified by an exquisite start to the day we bade our farewells and headed for Swansea, home of Dylan Thomas, Katherine Zeta-Jones and Harry Secombe.

We were welcomed by a bleak overcast morning as we hit the outskirts of Swansea, and I was surprised by the number of pubs that were now vacant and boarded up. Ignoring the negative vibes I quickly gave my son a tour of the houses I lived in from about the age of 5, quickly followed by two schools I attended, Gwyrosydd and Penlan Comprehensive, that had a huge impact on making me the old crabby cynic that I am today.

Penlan Comprehensive is no longer with us today, but the building which could easily be mistaken for Stalag 17 now houses a Welsh speaking Secondary School. I believe it rained most of the seven years I spent there, and I recall trudging up the long narrow driveway only to receive a soaking by various teachers’ cars kicking up spray as they sped for safety of the staffroom, and then having to tentatively attempt a crossing of a sea of mud. Happy days!

My friends Phillip and Marian graciously gave us lodgings for two nights, and we fed on a Chinese Takeaway which included my favorite, crispy duck. We washed it down with a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau, which curiously is championed by the pubs and bars of Swansea, and it just happened to be first day of its arrival in the Principality. I don’t know what all the fuss is about because its a very mediocre wine and very overrated. Earlier, we had lunch at the Westbourne which has considerably ascended up market since my days in the Guildhall. You can’t possibly visit Swansea without having a Joe’s icecream, but I didn’t realize I had to use my weekly allowance to pay for one.

Ah, the Guildhall. I spent 28 years in the corridors of power of local government, initially as a Bob Cratchett impersonator in the Treasurer’s Department, and latterly as a poor man’s Hippodamus or to pay homage to the Garden City movement, Ebenezer Howard. We drove to Pantycelyn Road in Mayhill which gives the visitor a panoramic view of the City and the Bay, and marveled at the mess we planners made of a once “Ugly, Lovely Town (sic Dylan Thomas.)

To be Continued:


You Can’t Make a Silk Purse from a Pig’s Ear.

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

I guess my favorite topic appears to be Swansea City AFC, appertaining to the vast number of posts I’ve written on the subject. Well, It was a unique experience for my home town team to climb from the depths of the football league to the elite of the Premiership and survive 6 years.

Unfortunately, the last 18 months have proved to be a bit of struggle. In 2016 we were lying 15th around Christmas and decided to part company with Gary Monk who had led the club to 8th position in their previous season. We subsequently finished a comfortable 14th under the tutorlage of Alan Curtis and Francesco Guidolin. This time last year we were languishing at the bottom of the table. The American, Bob Bradley, who replaced Guidolin two months into the season, was sacked after a disastrous few months. Paul Clement was hired to perform a miracle by walking across the River Tawe into the Liberty Stadium and duly saved their precarious Premiership status.

It was clearly obvious to anyone that followed the Swans that the squad was not good enough to survive another season in the Premiership. They had two outstanding players in Sigurddson and Llorente who could walk into any other team in the Premiership, and Clement was anxious to strengthen the squad in the August transfer window. However, Sigurddson did not want to endure another season at the bottom end of the table, and made it perfectly clear that he wanted a transfer.

Everton made a sizeable offer for his services, but the Club haggled over the transfer fee for weeks until he eventually signed for Everton. However, Clement was given little time to find a suitable replacement, and to make matters worse, Llorente was sold to Spurs on the transfer deadline.

Clement had ratified the signing of Roque Mesa from a Spanish club who performed adequately in La Ligue, but has underwhelmed in the Premiership. Former fan favorite Wilfred Bony was purchased from Stoke City, but he hadn’t played regularly for 18 months, and one TV pundit claimed that “his legs had gone.” I tend to agree. I believe he has scored one goal in the Premiership this season. Hull City was paid 15 million pounds for Clucas’ services which brought the number of players in the squad  who had been relegated with their former clubs to four.

Clement acquired the services of two young players on loan: the much heralded Sanchez from Bayern Munich and Tammy Abraham from Chelsea who last season scored 24 goals in the Championship for Bristol City. Neither player has adjusted to the rigours of the Premiership which at the same time has not affected their over inflated egos!

Okay, to recap let’s take an overview of the nucleus of the squad:

  • Four players, Fer, Olsson, Ayew, and Clucas were with previously relegated clubs,
  • Two players, Carroll and Naughton, were Spurs reserves,
  • Two players, Sanchez and Abraham, who are on loan are immature, flatter to deceive and not effective in the Premiership,
  • One player, Mawson, showed promise last season, but appears to have regressed,
  • Two players, Ki and Bony, are injury prone,
  • Two or three players, Britton, Rangel and Routledge, are past their sell by date,
  • Fabianski and Fernandez are adequate but would benefit with better players around them,
  • The other players, Fulton, McBurnie, and Mesa (he cost 12 million remember) for example, are fringe players and have yet to make an impact on the Premiership.

Twelve months on and Swansea City find themselves bottom of table again. Last season’s miracle worker, Paul Clement, was ushered through the exit door on December 20th, and Carlos Carvalhal was appointed as the new manager on December 28th. He was previously manager of Championship side, Sheffield Wednesday, who dispensed with his service on Christmas Eve. It’s a strange appointment because Wednesday are lying 15th in the Championship, so what makes the Swans owners believe that the new manager can right the ship which is now in very murky waters.

That brings me to the two new American majority  owners who remind me of shifty second hand car salesmen. Need I say more?