Friday, 31 August 2007

The Wedding Practice

Now that I no longer have a parish it's always fun to do weddings. That's because it's only people who really want you to do their wedding who will invite you to marry them (so to speak). That's nice. It's one of those ultimate compliments and it's really appreciated.

This afternoon, I spent an hour or so in the middle of a fairly busy day helping Leah and Eilir practice their wedding in Llandaff Cathedral. Eilir is brilliant at leading choirs - especially the famous Welsh choir CF1. Our two families met years ago on a holiday at a caravan park in Scotland for "spent vicars". We've remained friends ever since.

It was during one of those holidays that the owner of the caravan park taught me how to fly fish in the middle of a field. Don't worry I didn't catch anything when I fished by water either. Eilir's dad, who was another spent vicar (or minister in his Presbyterian case) was good at golf - that is, if beating me is a measure of being good.

Leah is just brilliant but had the misfortune of being one of my parishoners for eight years. She and her family survived the experience and have been so kind in their friendship that they now want me to do tomorrow's wedding.

I'm really looking forward to it. There is no greater honour than being asked to share people's special moments. So here's a big thank you. Tomorrow will be brilliant and fun!

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Women Connect First

I knew that I would enjoy today. After spending a couple of hours with my colleagues at the Cytun office I spent most of the day enjoying an inter-faith tour day arranged by Women Connect First in Cardiff.

With a number of Welsh Assembly Officials I went from an Indian Centre to a Synagogue to a Gurudwara. I gave the Mosque a miss because I ran out of time.

It was a really good time but I was reminded that secular society has watches and faith communities have time. That's why faith communities have their focus on eternity I suppose.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Back to Work Gadgets

Today was my first day back to work, and to be honest, I wasn't looking forward to my holiday coming to an end. It went OK though and I worked hard to get rid of what seemed like hundreds of emails.

Just before the break I had got myself a fantastic O2 Triton which does everything except breath. My colleague Sion did me a huge favour by putting all my work emails on Microsoft Outlook which means that I can now get rid of my emails on trains and at meetings where the word eternal seems inadequate. I won't have to come back to them at the end of already busy days.

The truth of it is, I really enjoy gadgets. Some people think that I play with them all day. I don't. I work on them all day and make sure that I enjoy the experience.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Twin Torture

I had huge fun today talking for three quarter of an hour with Sian Thomas on Radio Cymru. She's a joy as a presenter and good fun when doing interviews.

Sian wanted me to talk about me. I can do that without really trying.

Towards the end of last week the producers of the show thought that it might be a good idea if I got my twin sister to appear with me. Thankfully, she would rather be buried several times over.

When I say she is unlike me that's what I mean!

As children, however, we used to suffer sympathy pains. Thankfully, that habit stopped long before she had children. I couldn't cope with having phantom giving birth pains.

I still torture her however when I go public about things like how old I am. It's tough on twins if you are not that keen on people knowing how old you are.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Anniversary Mat

I did remember today that, tomorrow, Marie and I will have been married for thirty one years. A long time. That's good for a man I'm told. Remembering that is!

We've always had a pragmatic approach to gifts. One Christmas I brought her half a dish washer. She brought me the other half.

For our anniversary this year I wanted a book on criminals (I just can't read novels) and she wanted a pair of binoculars for our South Africa trip in October. We got neither after spending several hours in Cardiff shops.

Marie did buy a door mat though. It wasn't an anniversary treat.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Rugby Shirt Sabbath

Eating my low calorie lunch today in KFC in Queen's Street, Cardiff I suddenly remembered yesterday's repeat of the Vicar of Dibley.

It was the disapproving comments on the street of someone I used to know concerning my wearing of a Welsh rugby shirt on a Sunday with its Brains Beer advert that made me think about the hit TV show.

I like my Wales rugby shirt because that's just what most men who go to see Wales on an international day do. I also like my rugby shirt because my son and his fiancee, my almost a daughter in law, brought it for me as a Christmas present.

Poor Geraldine in the Vicar of Dibley had acquired a certain media profile after appearing on the Terry Wogan show. She was thrilled to bits but David Horton, the pompous Chair of the Parish Council, chastised her for apparently putting herself above the community she had come to serve.

She was damned by the terse words: "That's not why you came here." She then went on a guilt trip and abandoned her widely commended media work.

Much to the annoyance of some over the years, I don't do church guilt trips. They flow usually from actions that are really just bullying or harassment by another name - even the gentler form.

It's just exercising power over others to get them to do what they otherwise wouldn't do. It's not at all like asking someone not to do what is genuinely offensive or hurtful.

When I went to church this morning for communion, I noticed that all the readings were about what to do on the Sabbath. Jesus upset the religious types of his day by daring to make people better on a Sunday (Saturday for him of course). Man was not made for the Sabbath, it was the other way round.

Telling anyone else to take an article of clothing off is just rude. Telling middle aged men to take their shirts off in a public place is not really a good idea. Sabbaths are generally not made for such sights.

I'm posting today's blog defiantly from the Millennium Stadium with my shirt on as Wales come to the end of their game with France. I'm in the good company of some 30,000 other fans who haven't taken their shirts off - thank God!

Good game. Pity about the result though. The French will be a team to watch. We are getting there though however slowly - as in very slowly.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

The X Factor

The early morning interview with Radio Wales went OK. On the way in I shared a studio with a fit looking young man in a Welsh rugby shirt.

His interview was good and funny. Everyone in the studio took an instant like to him. So did I. The producer allowed his interview to overrun. I'm pleased it did.

He looked fit because he has to be fit as a soldier. But he was there by his own admission to talk about a far more frightening experience than soldiering - appearing on the X Factor.

I must admit I have grown a little tired of this expression of humiliation TV but I'll still watch it especially as they get to the really talented stage. Whatever happened to Leona though?

Ryan didn't tell us then whether he got through or not. He certainly did though with an unanimous vote. I watched him tonight.

He'll go far I think. He'll get lots of votes - especially Welsh ones.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Asylum Legacy Cases

With a view to doing an interview early tomorrow morning on Radio Wales as Chair of Displaced People in Action, I received some good news tonight. Apparently, the Home Office intends to allow some 70-80% of the asylum legacy cases to remain in the UK. It's not an amnesty however.

It's ages since I did an asylum issue interview. My friends have briefed me well and quickly. I'll be OK.

Local authorities are justifiably concerned, particularly over the issue of housing. People will have to move on from asylum based housing. The problems are however, not insurmountable with good planning. The process of making so many new refugees as opposed to asylum seekers should be phased in.

Human beings allowed to work and prosper are not a drain on any nation. The transition between being asylum seekers to being refugees with leave to remain will demand good planning and some flexibility for the immediate future.

If what I have been told tonight is true it will bless the lives of so many people I know. It will devastate others who will probably now be removed quickly.

I'll probably call by one of the families that I know tomorrow morning after the BBC interview. They come from Iran. I hope and pray that they are within the 80%. I'll be devastated if aren't.

I was quoted in the Western Mail today defending the status quo regarding school assemblies. Peter Black AM had started a debate about the issue in his blog.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Dan O'Neill and The Cardiff Eisteddfod

Tonight I tried to heed the lesson highlighted in one of my favourite episodes of The West Wing. One of the characters, Josh Lyman, foolishly responded to a published article designed to incurr a response.

He paid a heavy price for forgetting the no response rule.

Dan O'Neill's article in the South Wales Echo discussing so called 'language fascists' was way over the top. He meant to offend and duly did so. Welsh speakers, like everyone else, don't like being discussed in the same breath as any form of fascists.

Some two years ago, Trevor Phillips was asked by a black activist at a meeting in Cardiff why he did not condemn people for being 'racists' or 'fascists'. He said that such words should only be used when they are appropriate otherwise they lose their meaning when they are appropriate.

He was right - enough said.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Spare Ticket

I was getting slightly concerned how I would carry on blogging without access to my home PC. Mobile blogging is nothing other than amazing.

The thought that I can e-mail my blog while being away at rugby matches and the script just appears on the web is brilliant.

Speaking of which, I have a spare ticket for the Wales versus Fiji match in Nantes on 29th September. I'd really like to go but just sometimes I have to work on weekends. It's a bit of an occupational hazard for a clergyman.

I don't want the ticket to go to waste.

He's Not a Brazilian

I am nothing other than a loyal fan of BBC's Breakfast. Sometimes however, the program's Anglo-centric view of the world really gets up my nose.

I know that they have to cover the England versus Germany match but I just wish that they recognised that some of us have other games on our minds. I simply don't belong to any "us" or "we" when England are playing.

What really mattered to me today was that a very young and inexperienced Welsh team had a fantastic one nil win in Bulgaria. It's not that I don't like England, it's simply that I have my own team to support. That team is Wales.

During the last World Cup, just to make the competition interesting, I put a bet of £10 on Brazil to win. One night in Cardiff, of all places, I was asked by a garage proprietor if I would like an England souvenir with my petrol.

He got terribly upset when I (in total innocence) said that I would rather have a Brazilian souvenir. It took me a while to register why he was so annoyed. He wasn’t Brazilian!

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Not a Good Day Really

My day was OK despite having to go to the office during my holidays. God gave me a hint though. My office computer crashed while I was there.

One of my neighbours with a large four wheel drive went on holiday towing his caravan this morning. Sadly, his car broke down. The four wheel drive came back on the back of a large rescue lorry. The lorry had to tow the caravan.

Just at the mouth of our street the rescue lorry broke down with the four wheel drive on its back towing the caravan. As everyone in the street told the poor driver that he was blocking the road, all he could say was "I know, its not my day". Everyone except him and the poor guy who was going on holiday, smiled. It's not funny though.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Fogiveness and My Sister's Cat

On yet another long journey from north Wales I had a lot of time to think. These days I seem to do most of my thinking in cars or on trains.

Today, I thought a lot about forgiveness. It had a lot to do with last night's good sermon, yesterday's good company, watching the Bourne Ultimatum and my sister’s cat.

It also had something to do with allowing people who had given me some grief of late to enter back into my head. That’s always a mistake. It brings out the worst in me especially when knuckle sandwiches come to mind. Oh yes, my forgiveness issues get to be that bad sometimes. One of the reasons I remained an Anglican is so that I wouldn’t have to be a pacifist.

My sister’s cat taught me a valuable lesson. As I got ready for bed last night I noticed a damp patch on one side of the mattress. My sister has the most comfortable spare bed in the whole world. Rip Van Winckle couldn’t get out of it after falling to sleep for twenty years to avoid his nagging wife. I wasn’t going to allow some spilt water, I thought, to come between me and that fantastic bed.

As I lay in the bed I gradually realized that there is something quite distinctive about the smell of cat urine. I got up, went down to sleep on the settee and thought my family wouldn’t thank me for getting them up at that time of night.

It wasn’t really the cat’s fault. He should have been thrown out of the house earlier. I also learnt that if you sleep in a bundle like a cat it’s a little warmer. Beyond that, as much as I glared at it, it simply didn’t notice that it had offended me. I decided that if the cat could walk away from it all, then so should I.

As a rule of thumb, I think that’s a good approach. Sometimes however, knuckle sandwiches are justified (metaphorically!!). Also, somewhere around Hereford I remembered that people in my street as a boy used to drown excess kittens in a bucket. Forgive me, but that thought also helped a lot.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Bathafarn and the Bourne Ultimatum

Preaching in my sister's chapel in Rhuthun, Bathafarn, was good today although getting there meant getting up at quarter to six in the morning. There was a good response to a sermon on the transfiguration and people were kind.

On the way up I decided to follow the "Tom Tom" instructions and go through mid Wales. The road between Builth Wells and Welshpool always reminds me of snakes and ladders. Mind you, the only thing I saw on the road worthy of note were two dead sheep.

Tonight, after chapel, was really good. We all went to Rhyl to watch The Bourne Ultimatum. The film is brilliant. I just could not let a minute go by.

I didn't notice any dead sheep around the car chases though. The film makers simply didn't chose Welshpool as one of their exotic places. That's their loss. Driving in a hurry between Builth and Welshpool would have been worth seeing in any film.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

A Hooker Between Two Large Props

In the stadium today I saw the whole of the second half and half of the first half.

This was because I found myself squeezed very much as a hooker between two large women. The one to my left kept leaning forward which meant that I could only see half the pitch. The one to my right was just nice. In fairness, the one to my left did say sorry, but her sorry didn't make her change her habits. The second half, I went and sat in another seat. There were over 30,000 going spare.

Being a gentleman, I thought that was the best course of action. I wouldn't rebuke a lady. Beyond that, I wanted to give her the man of the match award by the end of full time. She was better than anyone else at going forward today.

As predicted however. Wales did beat Argentina - just!

Friday, 17 August 2007

The Patagonia Thing

Tomorrow it's Wales versus Argentina in Cardiff. Like most Welsh speakers, I have a warm spot for Argentinians because of the Patagonia thing. For those who don't know, there are a few thousand Welsh speakers in Patagonia.

That's as far as it goes though - I still want to beat them tomorrow and I think we will. I still think that Jenkins, our coach, knows what he's doing. We'll see tomorrow.

By the way, just in case you are wondering, there are more important things in life than rugby. It's just that I can't think of any at the moment.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Tom Tom Tumble

Can you blog too much?

After taking a corner rather quickly in my car tonight I was asked an odd question: "If the car turned over and was upside down, would the 'Sat Nav' screen be upside down or would it correct itself?" I wondered about the question all night.

When I arrived home I took my Tom Tom 'Sat Nav' off the screen and turned it upside down. What happened? I won't tell you.

What I will tell you is this. If you find yourself today during a discrete and private moment in your car turning a Tom Tom upside down to find out, you will realise have read one blog too many today.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

A Level Insh’allah

Today I'm holding an internal vigil for two young people. My niece in north Wales and my asylum seeker friend from Iran, who now lives in Cardiff, are both awaiting their A level results. Both are very gifted and I trust that they will do well. Tonight, they aren't so certain. All I can do is make encouraging noises and, as a Christian, pray for them both.

Muslims and Christians can and should pray for each other under such circumstances. My Muslim friends have a phrase which they use to indicate God's sovreignty in a given situation Insh’allah. Yesterday, one of these friends was late for a meeting. He sent me a text to say that, Insh’allah, he would be arriving soon. It's always nice to be able to blame God for things that go wrong or just for being late.

Since I don't believe in a God who constructs everything that happens, all that I can ask in prayer is that he in his great love and generosity will be in everything - even examination results.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Shrek 3 When It's Raining

Just before the nice lady behind the counter at Cineworld saw my unlimited card she asked me a one word question: "Concessions?"

"Thank you for thinking that I am less than eighteen" was my response. She didn't get the joke and I shouldn't have embarassed her.

I have a friend who works in broadcasting who occasionally sees me in Cineworld in Cardiff. That's usually because he's there to. He's commented rather unkindly once or twice of late that I'm always there alone in a brown overcoat. I won't name him because he's famous and I still like him and his sense of humour.

I have an answer to his comment as well: "That's what happens when no one else in the family wants to go and see Shrek 3 when it's raining."

Monday, 13 August 2007

Gandhi, My Father

Before going to see the film Gandhi, My Father this afternoon, I hadn’t really heard the tragic story of his eldest son Harilal’s life.

According to the comment in Unlimited, the Cineworld Cinemas magazine, Gandhi could transform the soul of a nation but he could not save the troubled soul of his own son. The story of Harilal’s life as portrayed in Feroz Khan’s brilliant film is deeply moving. It’s really well worth seeing in all its bilingual simplicity and length.

I knew that great men like Mahatma Gandhi can pay a great price for their unyielding commitment to nation building. He, in particular, paid the ultimate price in 1948. What I didn’t know was the price his eldest son paid roaming the streets of India like a beggar dying a few short months after his father’s assassination. He couldn’t cope with being Gandhi’s son.

Men and women prone to putting their principles before anything else would do well to watch this film. Giving birth to a nation is a significant responsibility: bringing a child into the world is a far greater responsibility.

None of us should possess our children in the name of any cause other than their own and we should never ask them to make sacrifices that they cannot shoulder. What was asked of Harilal Gandhi was far too much for him.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Steve Eaves and Moelyci

The road from north Wales to Cardiff nearly always feels longer than the road going up. Today, I had a chance to listen to some music that meant something to me. It made the journey much shorter and brought back good memories.

Since the late seventies I have enjoyed Steve Eaves' music mostly at a distance. Both of us were students at Lampeter University and lived next door to each other for a year. The music even then was good and for free through the walls of Lloyd Thomas Hall. I never had cause to complain. Steve's music always had meaning and something to say to me even when I wasn't in a place to understand.

Both of us eventually moved to the Bangor area to live. Our two families kept in contact for a few short years before we moved again to Botwnnog on the Llyn Peninsula in the early eighties. Sian, Steve's wife, provided good company around the early days of two sets of small children. Their children learnt to walk on the slopes of Moelyci. It's there also that Sian's ashes were scattered.

Thanks Steve, for the music and for much more on two journeys that have occasionally joined at some special places.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Thank You Very Much

Earlier this week the plastic base to our Connect Four game went missing from outside the churches' tent at the Eisteddfod where hundreds of children play.

Being nice Christians my colleagues put a polite sign up asking whoever took it to bring it back - please. Not having the plastic base deprived hundreds of children and lots of adults of a great deal of fun. I thought nasty thoughts instead and remembered going to see the fantastic horror film "Hostel 2" where lots of characters get chopped up.

Today, as we were all packing up, the Connect Four plastic base mysteriously returned. It was either angels or a very guilty conscience. I just hope it wasn't a really naughty angel with a wicked sense of humour who decided to bring it back after annoying me all week. Whatever - thank you.

I Like Politicians

I like politicians. It’s not that I’m blind to their faults or besotted and charmed by their lifestyle. Believe you me, after spending eight years as the Churches’ National Assembly Liaison Officer, I know how frustrating it can be when politicians fail to deliver on what needs to be done.

There is also in Wales the constant complaint about the distancing of those who now, in increasing numbers, live and work in or around the Cardiff basin. It’s an issue that can be too easily exploited by those who have a vested cultural or political interest in keeping Wales divided. Politicians are also too prone to confusing their own interests with those of the public. There is nothing more obvious than a self aware politician. I have noticed that a lot of late especially around the Labour / Plaid Welsh Assembly Government conversations.

This year, more than ever, government ministers have been at the Eisteddfod. We’ve always had ministers visit the Eisteddfod, but they are now increasingly at it socially at the ceremonies and the array of accompanying events during the evenings. The truth of it is, these particular politicians have always been there, it’s just that they have now become ministers. Some of them will even have to get used to receiving protests rather than being in them.

Particularly during the Thatcher years, such ease of contact with Welsh Office ministers would have been inconceivable. It depended a lot, of course, on who they were. The likes of John Redwood, in terms of the sheer volume and intensity of non violent and lawful protest and distain, richly deserved all that they got – even when they didn’t bother coming.

Increasingly, we in Wales now make our own political decisions. We sometimes get it wrong but most of the decisions we have made in Wales since 1999 have been the right ones for us and the United Kingdom as a whole. After all, to quote just one example, we gave everyone else the idea of having a children’s commissioner.

That’s why I like politicians so much, but I still couldn’t eat a whole one.

Friday, 10 August 2007

A Good End?

For the first time ever today, I actually attended the chairing of the bard ceremony. I really enjoyed it and was pleased to hear that T. James Jones from Cardiff had been deemed worthy. His nephew Tudur Dylan Jones won the crown earlier this week. It brought a really good week to an end except for one little thing.

At the beginning of this week I thought that the worst thing that could happen to anyone at the Eisteddfod was for someone to come up to me saying “you can’t remember who I am can you?” I’d sussed how to handle that little problem. Tonight, I discovered something much worse. I greeted someone whom I thought was someone else.

I’ll think about my social gaff tonight and decide whether I should apologise to my friend that I thought his wife was someone else. Alternatively, I could call it a day and stop digging a hole for myself. Such is the life of a seasoned eisteddfodwr!

Thursday, 9 August 2007

I'd Like to Fly

Lots of thing have happened this week. The Eisteddfod has been more than good. One highlight will however remain.

Every year "Aled Chips" takes two of the youngest members of the churches' team for chips. They are now six and nine. Over a diet coke, nuggets and a jumbo sausage a gang of three had a fantastic conversation about what we would all like to do next. A six year old girl wanted to fly. Being an adult, I wanted to know where she wanted to fly to. Lots of nice places in the world I thought. She looked at me as if I were daft and said very clearly: "In the sky".

This Eisteddfod has told many of us a great deal about where we come from. Probably, the Welsh speaking culture doesn't quite know where to go to next. Politcs has begun to change our lives. We have however started to fly again.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007


I'm on my way to see a drama in Theatr Clwyd. It's based on the drowning of the Welsh speaking village of Tryweryn during the early sixties. Going eastwards, this was the next village to my own, Trawsfynydd.

As a child, I got the then Labour Party version of the narrative from my own family. That version was based on a fierce opposition to an emerging Welsh nationalism. The children of Liverpool needed water we were told so communities had to be drowned. The city's plans were opposed at the time by the campaigning of Welsh nationalists. History would now suggest to me anyway that the Welsh nationalists of the time were right. The valley was flooded primarily for money not for water.

I'm hoping for tonight that the drama won't be an exploration of simplistic black and white contrasts between stereotypical characters but a more honest exploration of life's contrasting and competing greys.

In more recent times, Liverpool apologised for the incident. That was good, but the community has gone for ever. That sense of loss brought a new emphasis in Welsh politics that would, in my opinion, lead to the creation of the National Assembly in 1999. For me, some good came from that injustice. It doesn't justify it though.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Do You Remember Who I am?

This Eisteddfod has been truly fantastic and my colleagues have made our church tent a brilliant experience for many. Thousands have already come under our roof for fellowship, worship and lots of tea and coffee. Being at the Eisteddfod is one of the highlights of my year. It's the company that matters.

There is one disadvantage however. Every year, someone from my distant past will come and spring that awful question on me accusingly: "You don't remember who I am do you?" There is within the question an implicit accusation that I am failing them as a pastor. A few years ago I discovered the ideal answer to the question that is given in order to embarrass and belittle: "Oh, I'm really sorry, I thought that I had buried you last year." No one who has been given that answer has asked the question twice.

Monday, 6 August 2007

A Hero and a Giant

Tonight I observed two giants on stage.

The first, Dafydd Iwan, has led many of my generation through his songs, his protests and his willingness to make personal sacrifices for his beliefs. For the rights of Welsh speakers, this man of faith and commitment to peace, has been imprisoned. For many, he will always be a hero who pioneered a course of action for those who chose to speak their own language in their own land.

The other hero on the stage was the former Welsh rugby international, Ray Gravell. Ray had his leg amputated recently following an illness. He received a standing ovation which flowed from a deep affection that is rarely given by a nation to its own.

Both men have walked among us as heroes. Ray Gravell has become a giant in our midst. He is destined now to remain so.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Shooting Welshmen

As if to make up for last Sunday I experienced an over abundance of services today. Some came through the radio as I travelled for three and a half hours from Cardiff to Mold for the Eisteddfod.

For me, the quickest way to travel from south to north Wales is through England. Welshmen have to look out when travelling through Hereford on Sundays. Apparently, according to one prevailing rural myth, it’s still legal for the citizens of Hereford to shoot Welshmen with a bow and arrow while the town garrison is in church.

On arrival, a little late, I enjoyed quite a well planned service around the theme of streams. Contrary to what some may believe about the Eisteddfod no one sought to shoot Englishmen with a bow and arrow or with anything else come to that. I then spent most of the day shooting cups of teas at thirsty Eisteddfod attendees.

I really enjoyed the experience. During the Eisteddfod week, as a first language Welsh speaker, I can begin to imagine what it must be like to belong to a majority.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Rugby World Cup Yet To Come

All rugby internationals between England and Wales matter. Today's game at Twickenham did. It told those who have responsibility for the Welsh World Cup squad something about many of our players and those who might be in the first choice team.

England did well though. Somebody once started a vicious rumour that Welsh rugby fans are intolerable in defeat and worse in victory. I wouldn't know about that. I'm just looking forward to the World Cup in France. That will be a whole different set of games and players.

Friday, 3 August 2007


This is the last day to get ready for the Eisteddfod. This year it’s in Flint in north Wales. Fortunately, my twin sister lives nearby so I don’t have to take my tent. My two colleagues, Sion and Rhian, are already up there preparing for the Cytûn (Churches Together in Wales) tent. It should be good.

Sometimes, people from outside Wales don’t quite get the Eisteddfod. It’s a huge and usually welcoming cultural event but it has attached to it the little understood Gorsedd of Bards with its rather druidic and colourful ceremonies. The Gorsedd is something for lots of Welsh nonconformist ministers to do in August. It has some prominent Anglicans as well as a whole galaxy of non-believers.

There was quite a stir in Saint David’s Eisteddfod in 2002 when Rowan Williams was made a member of the Gorsedd. Those not so bright people from the London press pack thought that he was going pagan or Unitarian. Even Sky news came down to observe the event.

I’ll always remember a strange delegation of two from the Church of England (Continuing) coming down on the wrong day to challenge the Archbishop. One was tall and the other was short and both had bright yellow pamphlets. I discerned that I had upset them a bit by reminding them that key members of the UK royal family, including the current Queen, were members of the Gorsedd.

They were also a bit worried about all the Gorsedd stones. It’s all pageant and ceremony really. It happens elsewhere as well – especially England.

According to that fantastic Scottish campaigner Robbie the Pict mentioned in George Monbiot’s Captive State the famous Stone of Scone isn’t really the ancient throne of the northern kingdom. Robbie is convinced that all the kings and queens of England crowned in Westminster Abbey since Edward I have been crowned over a stolen toilet lid from Scotland. Robbie was very much of the view, however, that it was a Scottish toilet lid. He reported the stone stolen to the Chief Constable of Perthshire in 1993. Robbie then launched a private prosecution of the Dean of Westminster. If I were the Church of England (Continuing) I wouldn’t bother too much about Welsh stones. At least they aren’t stolen.

In 2002 I lost a small group of asylum seekers in the rain at the Saint David’s Eisteddfod. They were all wearing ‘S4C’ (the Welsh version of Channel Four) plastic coats the last time I saw them on the Eisteddfod site. They just got fed up and went home early. Perhaps I’ll find one or two of them at the Flint Eisteddfod if it rains a lot. If I do, I'll let you know.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Norma Moses

I used to be a foster carer and enjoyed the experience for the most part. Our household never ventured into the area of offering a home to teenagers. If my memory serves me right, that decision had something to do with our children being small at the time we used to foster.

At times, when the going got tough, I used to have a bad joke about liking King Herod’s child protection policies. It took some time for some to register that I didn’t really admire the megalomaniac from ancient Israel who killed wives as well as children.

I am full of admiration for Norma Moses who “changed the future” of her 17-year old foster daughter according to today’s Western Mail. Kathryn Lewis saw fit to nominate her for the prestigious Believe in Me Awards. Norma and David from Abercynon have fostered more than 50 teenagers. Really well done is all I can say.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Christians Eat Lions

This week, my tickets for next month's Wales v Germany match came through. I'll go but the game doesn't matter any more. Wales can't go through to the finals. Yes, I do have a slightly competitive streak!

If anybody asks me what heaven is like I have a tidy answer. Being in heaven must be something like Craig Bellamy scoring the winning goal against Italy at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in a major championship before a crowd of 72,000. He did that during the qualifying rounds of the European 2004 championship in October 2002. That night, in our fantastic stadium, I felt that the Christians had eaten the Roman lions and spoiled the Azzurri’s day.

Wales almost got through to the finals the following year. I am still of the view that we would have done so if the Russians weren't running on something other than grass during that decisive play off game in Cardiff in November 2003. It was later confirmed that Egor Titov had failed a drug test.

I’m very objective in my approach to issues around Wales playing football!