Friday, 23 March 2007

Where in the world does Wales stand now?

I am at Sam Ash’s music emporium on 48th Street in Manhattan, hanging with Isaac Hayes, when the news comes in. (I’m not shitting you, good people - Zarina can confirm it since she was with me.)

A dark uptown voice beside me says, “You English, guy?”
“Well, no, not exactly, man. I’m from Wales, a small country with mountains and sheep and slate and steel works and coal mines, next door to England. You know…?”
My poor explanation produces a perplexed expression in my interrogator, which is understandable considering it’s unusual to meet an American who knows where the British Isles are to be found.
“Oh. I thought that sounded like a British accent.”
“Well, yeah, it is…” (I was brought up in England, which means I don’t have a Welsh accent, just to add to the confusion of trying to identity myself to those from foreign climes.)
“You wanna know what’s happenin’ in the British elections?”

It is 1997 and Isaac’s friend is keen to tell me that Labour has ended what has seemed an eternity of Conservative misrule with a crushing landslide victory. And he’s right as it happens, I do want to know.

So we stop talking about things musical and repair to a bar down the street where, to my astonishment, the election results are being shown on television. The scale of Tony Blair’s popular victory is such that it has made the main evening news and this is remarkable in that Americans normally pay scant attention to events outside their home state, let alone the federal borders.

My companions join me in a tequila-charged toast to celebrate a new era of social justice and the hope that co-operation between our two great countries - I don’t have the strength to explain again - will establish a more fraternal world order.

These events seem a very long time ago. Ten years have passed and the New Labour promise is mired in the lies that enabled Tony Blair to cause the deaths of tens of thousands of people in Iraq, that concealed the corruption behind British arms dealing and the selling of titles to the rich, immoral bastards who exploit ordinary, decent people.

Now, having stuffed us with a massive bill from his American friends for renewing nuclear weapons we don’t need, it’s time for the old lion to slope off with his reward from Rupert Murdock. The other New Labour big cats, such as our own king of the veld, Peter Hain, are going to change their spots again to save their skins.

Just hang on to the fact that these are the same people who have spoken vociferously in support of the war in Iraq, the same party that may have benefited from the cash for honours scandal. They are going to impose Gordon Brown on us, a prime minister for whom we haven’t voted, a chancellor who just took money out of the purses of poor Welsh people to pay yet another bribe to English middle class voters.

Personally I’d rather struggle with explaining to foreigners where in the world a tiny independent Wales is than live under the leadership of such people.

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Tuesday, 13 March 2007

'Captain Crap' and the lost boys

Stephen Jones being nicknamed ‘Captain Crap’ by his team-mates is reason enough to support Gareth Jenkins’ decision to bring in a sports psychologist. It may be a wittily ironic, inversely supportive reaction to media criticism of Jones’ leadership, but it’s hardly redolent of a winning group dynamic.

In Freudian psychoanalytical terms, it’s the ‘ego’ rather than the ‘id’ or the ‘superego’ that’s at the root of the current problems, and Jenkins is therefore right when he says the players are their own worst enemies.

It’s pointless to speculate on whether Stephen Jones might have chosen more shrewdly, but James Hook’s decision to kick for touch in the dying seconds was hopelessly naive. He may be a technically exceptional player but as yet he lacks the maturity to make a game defining call.

A focused side would have accepted the virtually-guaranteed three points and the ensuing draw, rather than risk their humiliation and the honour of the nation on the slim chance of going over from a lineout. But this is a team in complete mental disarray.

The malaise afflicting the boys might be seen as an extension of our national psyche. After all, this is largely the same group of players who spectacularly won the 2005 Six Nations only to bring about the demise of the architect of their success in an attempt to play their Australian drinking buddy into his job. How bloody Welsh is that?

Beating England on Saturday now looks a tall order. Yet we’ve only been narrowly beaten in the games to date so there’s still reason for hope. Whatever the outcome, we need to remember that Gareth Jenkins is one of us, not some hired gun from the Southern Hemisphere, and he’s trying to engineer exactly what we want for all the right reasons. Let’s leave the guy to get on with it.

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Wednesday, 7 March 2007

A right royal coup

There has been a typically muted reaction in Wales to the news that the Duke of Cornwall has asserted his rights over the Three Feather’s symbol and that the Lord Chamberlain, on his behalf, has instructed a handful of companies producing tacky crap for tourists to stop using it.

There have been no demonstrations in the streets and virtually no comment from politicians. Maybe nobody cares? Or maybe we’re so used to losing what we once thought of as rights that we simply don’t react any more. The Three Feathers emblem belongs not to the people of Wales but to the Duchy of Cornwall, so what? A few tat merchants bleat a little in the media and the Duchy pretends to back down having tested the temperature of the obviously tepid water. It’s possible Charles' marketing people were valuing unexploited assets, exploring ways of monetarising a well-known piece of his intellectual property. If this is so, you can be sure they’ll find a way to do it, eventually.

Like just about everything in life nowadays, the monarchy is more than anything a business, and The Duchy of Cornwall branch is Charles’ private firm. He is its sole beneficiary, meaning that he pockets all of its profits. What he can no longer milk from our taxes through the civil list, he extracts from us in exchange for biscuits.

Unlike my business or your business or even BP Amoco’s, The Duchy has some very powerful players on its side to lean on little people, like the Lord Chamberlain, for instance.

This begs the question: Can anyone tell me why we need these people? Please don’t suggest they benefit Welsh tourism because they obviously don’t. I can see how it might be argued that they’re of benefit to London but I suspect people would still visit Buckingham Palace whether the Royals were there or not. Don’t tell me they do a lot for charity either, unless you can quantify it. I suppose they might be good for opening things or visiting cheese factories but you’d probably get more people along if you asked Charlotte Church to do it instead.

The Duchy of Cornwell obviously cares nothing for the people of Wales. It’s just a money making machine. But it has inadvertently given us a golden opportunity to be rid of an ancient symbol of oppression. Let’s get together and hand it back, eh?

Then, why don’t we begin creating new emblems for the 21st Century, emblems that represent Wales while belonging to all the Welsh people?

Click here to see the Red Dragonhood Three Feathers T-shirt
Click here to see the full Three Feathers, Two Fingers article

Friday, 2 March 2007

Three feathers, two fingers

For once I agree with Charles Windsor. He maintains that the three feathers emblem is his personal property. Fine. It has nothing to do with Wales anyway. It may be symbolic after 600 years, but it’s still the mark of the occupier. Let’s get it off the shirts of our rugby team and erase it from the tat we sell to tourists. Let’s remove it from the uniforms of our soldiers. While we’re at it, let’s stop kowtowing to this pompous, arrogant anachronism and take our country back.

Click here to see The Red Dragonhood Three Feathers T-Shirt

Click here to read the original 'Three feathers, two fingers' article