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December 28, 2017

EVERY year around now, a chronically understaffed and under resourced police press and PR team sells to a chronically understaffed and under resourced media a story about idiot timewasters who clog up 999 with ludicrous calls.

The one I heard on Radio Wales today was about a Mr Richard Head who dropped his fag down the side of his armchair and couldn’t find it. He was asked by the operator at emergency control if he was concerned about the possibility of fire and he answered no, not at all, it was unlit and he was just concerned because he couldn’t have a smoke. Another called because he couldn’t access XXX pornography (I suppose that that was an emergency to him).

It is a story but it is not THE story. It’s a convenient, easy lie rather than an inconvenient, costly truth.

Because all calls are recorded, you can trot the weird or amusingly pointless ones out in the media with ease, filling space and air time delightfully cheaply and effortlessly.

I bet the telephone operators compete with each other for brownie points over how many of them they can “give to the media” each year to give the false impression that they are being inundated with Richard Heads who don’t think twice before picking up the phone and thereby costing the lives of others with genuine issues.

THE story, of course, is about how police station cells are crammed full with mentally ill people who have attempted suicide or are senseless after a lethal combination of prescription drugs, recreational drugs and alcohol. They’ve tried and failed to get meaningful and helpful interventions from their understaffed and under resourced community mental health team or their GP and overcrowded hospitals have turned them away so often they have nowhere but a cell to sleep in.

This, of course, is the inconvenient truth of life in a country with an understaffed and under resourced police and NHS, both of which are rated as abysmal.

It is the many genuine calls for help which are not recorded and trotted out each year but which would capture the truth that many callers get short shrift with no officers available or they do not meet the strict criteria for help. Now that really bothers me a lot more.

BBC Radio Five Live ran a piece on the fact that shoplifting is not even investigated by police now if it is less than £200 in value. Desperate shopkeepers called in to say that they are in despair as professional thieves target them and they cannot get a police officer to help for love nor money.

There is also, I have to say, something in the brisk and autocratic process-led tone and demeanour of the telephone operators sitting in their plush centrally heated offices immune to everything nasty in the world that is just a tad intimidating. The same, regrettably, can often be said about GP practice receptionists, who I frequently find far too robotic.

It is a well-known psychological fact that a kind of institutionalised confidence settles on them so that they lose all sense of shock or of genuine feeling (all emergency services personnel soon develop this because of the disturbing nature of the work they do). They maintain a sometimes dangerous distance from the caller at all times for sometimes very sound reasons but this can also be a desperately disabling affliction of dismissiveness which makes them emotionally tone deaf and no longer capable of responding appropriately and with real feeling to a caller. Effectively listening to what they want to hear rather than what the caller actually says.

I don’t expect these people to be calling me from time to time to see if I am alright and I always think twice before ever calling them but I take exception to them concentrating on the timewasters (what percentage of calls are classified as time wasting, I wonder. The media didn’t ask that for some reason) in an annual effort to conceal and mask the real, disturbing truth.

More and more recorded, impersonal and off-putting computer call destination openings – which require you to choose at the outset from as many as six options when your head may already be spinning or may be half off and your hearing may be faulty – are increasingly being built-in to the telephone call experience for no good reason at all. It takes me many minutes of listening to pointless recorded information then Greensleeves before I speak to anyone at the surgery.

And, of course, THE meaningful statistics are and always will be what percentage of calls are dealt with to the satisfaction of the caller. That, though, would take a lot of hard work and time to gather.









December 24, 2017

I HAVE just finished reading a book about a footballer who was hailed as the greatest centre half of all time by numerous top players of the 1930s and 1940s who I knew as a shopkeeper and newsagent in my home town of Bangor many years ago.

The Prince of Centre Halves, The Life of Tommy “TG” Jones, by Rob Sawyer, De Coubertin books, £15.99, tells the story of a hugely talented man born in Connah’s Quay in 1917 who would go on to win the first division championship with Everton in 1939 – a team rated by many as their best ever –  before falling out with them after bitter and acrimonious rows with directors which left him resentful but then going on to manage Bangor City to a technical victory over Napoli in European competition in 1962.

I would pop into his shop in the Garth area of Bangor as a boy in the 1970s and he always struck me as physically imposing and taut for his age (he swam religiously in the local baths every morning and sometimes in the sea and maintained good physical fitness until dementia struck him) but he was emotionally remote, generally uninterested in his customers or the business and had more than a hint of dry contemptuous cynicism about local life and its players. I knew nothing then of his illustrious playing career – he was rated better than John Charles and those who saw him likened him to Franz Beckenbauer for his skill, passing and intelligence at the back. Evertonians still hail him as a soccer idol and their best defender.

He captained Wales and was voted second only to Ian Rush as the greatest player ever to come from north east Wales, an area particularly rich in footballing talent and Kevin Ratcliffe, another Everton defending great, writes in the foreword to this book that, “If he were playing today, he would be a global star”.

Unlike Gareth Bale, who is swimming in money and adulation at Real Madrid, Tommy or “TG” ended up in obscurity in modest rooms above a poky newsagent shop and died in 2004 of a ruptured aorta relatively unsung and unrewarded and deeply resentful of the fact that Everton would not allow him to go for a £15,000 plus transfer to AC Roma in 1948 (Everton, whose directors come across in this as heartless tyrants, were told that the lira was worthless currency so the Italians pulled out).

He was a victim of ruthless bosses before today’s player power, agents and the wealth generated by TV coverage entered the game. Throughout his life, he harboured ill will towards those who he believed scuppered his career and he never forgave them, very rarely ever venturing back to Goodison Park to make personal appearances and only very grudgingly talking about his days there.

He first blamed an Everton director for trying to force him back on the field at Anfield after he had to be carried off with an ankle injury in 1944. “That’s nothing,” he said “I’ve seen plenty of fellows play when much worse than that. He was most annoyed when I refused to go back. I couldn’t have done so for a thousand pounds.”

He heard from the press that Tommy Lawton was made captain of Everton in his place and that he and his lifelong friend former Arsenal captain and Manchester City manager Joe Mercer were being slated behind their backs by club officials.

He ended up angrily walking out on Everton when Pwllheli and district FC offered him a role as player manager along with ownership of a big hotel in the area. Many other top league clubs had offered him places in their teams but he chose to ply his trade in the lower leagues and always dominated the field with his superior passing, game reading and technical ability with many of his opponents in awe of him.

What I was also aware of was that he was not totally unaware of his own ability as a footballer or of the fact that he was something of a physical prize specimen standing over six feet tall with film star looks and had a racy devil-may-care demeanour. Tommy did not exactly embrace humility, unlike some of his compatriots who may very well have indulged him in this.

I saw him again many years later in 2000 when he was made an honorary freeman of the City of Bangor in a ceremony alongside my father arranged by the local council to decorate its noteworthy servants.

Among many hugely funny stories told in Sawyer’s excellent little book is the one when his old mate Joe Mercer visited him at Bangor City in 1958. Ifor Roberts recalls in the book an episode which encapsulated his high opinion of himself. Tommy asked Joe if he had seen the World Cup matches on television that year. “Watching that, I still think I am the best centre-half in the world” That was the vainness of the man. Joe looked at me and just smiled!”

Joe Mercer and Tommy Lawton have both made the English football Hall of Fame yet TG Jones has not – but there is still time to right an old wrong.










December 24, 2017

YES folks, it’s that time of year again when we think of Christmases past, cherish happy memories and also look forward to an uncertain (is anything ever certain?) yet exciting future out of the European Union with our blue passports and our self-respect back and, with any luck,  a referendum to disband the Welsh Assembly Government hard-on-the-heels of that to boost our self-respect even further.

No more unelected barmy Brussels bureaucrats to tell us how much sugar we can put in our tea, no more conniving continental pointy-heads to tell us how straight or bent our bananas should be (Oooh missus, don’t) and no more ludicrous false bonhomie and collective pride with our detested far-flung eastern neighbours the Germans and those other new European countries with capital cities we neither know nor know how to spell as we gather around that ludicrous blue European flag (a blue frankfurter would summon up more collective pride in being European than that pathetic flag) as we watch our golfers try to trounce the Yanks at the Ryder Cup (Will it be a three way next with Europe, USA and UK?) 

We’ll probably be banned from entering the Eurovision song Contest, which we could never win anyway despite throwing the kitchen sink and Bonnie Tyler at it –  bringing a whole new meaning to Lost in France. That means we will no longer have to listen to that furiously annoying little limp leprechaun Graham Norton whining and simpering on about songs and sequins in a frantic high register thinking he is as funny as Terry Wogan when the old Togmeister himself was dreadfully wooden and as funny as an oil slick on the M4. Who knows, perhaps Gary Lineker will be scooped up by some remote and distant European Scorchio TV channel and we’ll see the last of him. Now that really would be something to celebrate.

What joyous liberation as the very faintly raunchy in a school headmistressy way Mrs May high-heels it out of Brussels in 2018 with her very own version of a Victory in Europe Day. “They’ll be dancing in the valleys” on that night, as the patronising Bill McLaren would have said.  

Yes folks, it’s that time of year again where we realise that one book is being closed and another is being opened and suddenly and blissfully the days start to get longer and lighter (my favourite part) and we step out into a world transforming before our very eyes. New life breaks free and sets out on life’s journey as spring brings with it new hope, lightness and a whole new world of exciting possibilities.

Yes folks, it’s that time of year when we look back on the few highs and very many lows of 2017.

Well, who would have thought that one Tory politician, Damian Green would be alleged to have pornography on his computer (can you put porn on a computer, wouldn’t it fall off?) while another  Anna Soubry would tell anyone who would listen that as many as ten vile and despicable internet trolls have said that they would happily see her dead (I thought that there would have been way, way, way more than that).

School headmistress Mrs May went to the country after going on a walking holiday in Snowdonia and got a nasty shock in June when all those people who voted for Brexit the year before kicked her in the teeth in the ballot box by reducing her “strong and stable” majority, forcing her to do a deal with an obscure Irish woman who I can never understand when she speaks as she sounds as if she is eating a huge boiled sweet at the same time.

But above all else, 2017 will be remembered as the year of acting inappropriately.

Notorious predator Harvey Weinstein – who thought that giving an actress a part meant something totally different to what we think it means – started a domino-type collapse of middle-aged men who had “acted inappropriately” with attractive women. Suddenly all the greatest TV news presenters in America and numerous film and screen icons became toast before our eyes as women, and sometimes men, complained that they had groped or attacked them.

Even Aled Jones – the Menai Bridge choirboy most mums would welcome warmly into their homes as a cuddly innocent little lamb, he presented Songs of Praise for God’s sake – was outed as a sex pest at the BBC after its outraged and vengeful female presenters discovered that their entire combined salaries didn’t amount to even half that of Gary Lineker alone. Aled muttered something about regretting his “juvenile” behaviour in the past. Gary said nothing about his throughout his entire life.

I wondered if the Archbishop of Canterbury would be next. The Catholic church, by contrast, seemed quite uncharacteristically chaste and “appropriate”. At least they only abuse young boys and actresses are generally safe.

Who can forget that the year started in America with Donald Trump, who beat Billary Clinton, being sworn-in as president. Yes folks, Donald Trump!

The Donald had gone toe to toe with Hilary in a bitter battle which resembled a dysfunctional and disrespectful heavyweight boxing contest where both were trying to inflict as much damage as possible on themselves and the country of their birth, always aiming ten inches down below the belt rather than anywhere above it. I longed for a referee to step in to stop the bruising contest to save us from any more punishment.

Trump began 2017 by picking members of his entire family for high office as if time spent as hotel waiters and porters meant you were naturally suited to running the FBI.

And he brought the term “fake news” into our lexicon. Anything the Donald disagreed with or didn’t like – that usually means almost everything – he instantly dismissed as “fake news” as if only the greatest salesman in the world with a long and illustrious record of passing off kitsch and gaudy, grubby events and places as high-end gold had higher values around counterfeit goods and accuracy.

Today, the big issue is whether or not he will get an invite to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen.

Brenda has been practicing for any future presidential state visit by spending plenty of time with her future grand daughter-in-law the corn-crunching cheerleader-in-chief Meghan “the sparkle” Markle and boning up with her on American whims and fancies.

Meghan, of course, has bagged a prince who first saw her in Suits by seductively and skilfully hinting to him exactly what she would look like without her Suits, or anything else, on. “Suits you sir?” she said and he answered “definitely”.

She will now be pulling crackers (although she’s already pulled the richest one she will ever pull) at Sandringham on Christmas Day with all the family in front of a roaring log fire, sipping port and tucking into stilton while telling bawdy and off colour Yankee jokes to her new “Grandpa”. “Here Phil, have you heard the one about the Canadian Mountie?”

Me? I’ll be enjoying a lovely, succulent, tender bird and all the trimmings on the big day (the turkey should be good, too!) as Fergie and I have a secret room for the outcasts in the draughty north wing at Sandringham all to ourselves where we can make merry to our hearts’ content with the servants who will ply us and themselves with plenty of fabulous fizz to fuel our frantic, frivolous frolics behind closed doors –  but sshh, don’t tell anyone. It’ll be our little secret. Is that the helicopter I can hear now?








December 18, 2017

RECENT research into British Library archives of my home town newspaper, the North Wales Chronicle, unearthed this item in 1911, the date of my paternal grandmother’s birth and one year before the Titanic sank.


The North Wales Chronicle and Advertiser for the Principality of December 1, 1911, established in 1803, cost one penny and consisted of eight pages – Page 1 – all adverts, larger at the top and smaller at the bottom of the page; Page 2 – Sports news, mainly Bangor City football and adverts; Page 2 – Woman’s World and Bangor petty sessions; Page 4 – a leader column, social diary of the great and the good, obituaries and classified advertisements and snippets of news on items like the servant tax and Welsh disestablishment; Page 5 – Stop Press, latest news, BMDs and some national and international news; Page 6 – Sport, not football; Page 7 – letters and local stories; Page 8 – City news in briefs, district news, parish notes and Sunday church services.

Out of Print, a boo0k by journalism professor George Brock (Kogan Page, London, £19.99) chronicles the slow and gradual death of print products as we speed ever faster into a digital new world and invites us to engage in a debate about what should replace newspapers.

“Because journalism lives on the frontier between democratic purposes and the commercial market, it is constantly being reorganized and renegotiated. But for all the fluctuations, something of enduring worth is captured by the term “journalism”. That value now has to be made visible again by a new generation,” he concludes at a time when we read in UK Press Gazette of new newspaper closures and sackings every day.

Journalists, or perhaps, more accurately, staff on newspapers who covered community events and affairs generations before the young people who aspire to be journalists now appear, to me, to have been holding up a mirror to the privileged, entitled classes – probably because they could afford to pay subscriptions for their products – rather than even attempting to expose and prevent their wrongdoing and corruption.

In order to do that, of course, the journalists had to be either members of the local educated and prosperous elite themselves with meaningful and close connections to the movers and shakers (many of whom appear in reports to be pompous and self important idiots) or must have been aspirant social climbers with more to lose by offending these bigwigs than to gain by exposing them.

This revelation is hugely significant to me as academics ponder the implications for society and for democracy, both local and national, in a future without mainstream press where citizens now regularly have their own uncensored and unrestrained voice with no professional standards and rules on social media and in blogs like mine.

Scans of the newspaper from 1911, for instance, show that Bangor society seemed to very clearly and unambiguously, almost enthusiastically, in fact, separate into A, the great and the good – land owners, civic servants on the local council, freemasons, the gentry living in permanent luxury, military officers and prominent trade and retail magnates – and B, the low and the bad – imbeciles, lunatics and the feeble minded housed in asylums, poor people in workhouses or paying rent in slum dwellings, petty criminals and deviants and the morally sinful, who were shunned and avoided.

Staff on the North Wales Chronicle who wrote up reports of Bangor City Council in 1911, for instance, were taking copious shorthand notes at meetings in an attempt to faithfully and accurately give an almost verbatim report of what was said, when and by whom and they were doing so completely without irony or criticism of any kind (perish the thought).

Some of it reminded me of an erstwhile colleague of mine who insisted on quoting people he had interviewed exactly as they had spoken (rustic types often with no coherent rhythm or formal command of language) and objected when I tried to re-write their utterances to make them seem less rustic and obviously untutored as an act of kindness to these poor people.

Comment or speculation was completely off the agenda and all staff, who were never named themselves as there appeared to be no bylines or staff names, appeared, to me, to accept totally and without question the concept of a two-tier society and invested wholeheartedly in the concept of a hierarchical structure with God and the King and Queen and the Prime Minister  at the head leading down to local drunkards and ne’er-do-wells in the town gutter.

Brock’s book starts with this quote from Google’s director of news Richard Gingras: “The time is gone when one side of the (news) organisation can practise determined ignorance of the other.”

Brock rightly criticises mainstream media companies for arrogance and contempt for their readers and a ridiculous inability to accurately predict the future and then change their working practices and worldview to keep themselves relevant and valuable but fails to offer any solutions or alternatives which would safeguard journalistic jobs.

Google, of course, is both the newspaper and the shop now and no money changes hands at all. The educated, prosperous elite no longer pay for wholehearted, official weekly, daily or monthly confirmation of their prejudices and worldviews.

The local bigwigs in 1911 were never challenged, confronted or in any way held accountable as society was structured specifically to enrich and enoble them.

Does this reflect the fact that modern society is not as socially divided and more readily enables and empowers more people to challenge and confront established norms and deferential structures in society? I’m not so sure.

“News hungry consumers have spotted that established media have managed for a long time to hide their drift into a high degree of sameness, duplication and oversupply. This slow convergence happened because of pressures on reporting resources, laziness and the common herd instinct to imitate success. But most of all it happened because it could; readers didn’t know or care,” writes Brock.

But why would readers – many of whom must have been gradually rising to dangerous boiling points of anger over decades at the deferential indulgences of the mainstream press – care about the future of a product they never really had a stake in at all?

The question, of course, revolves around authority and who should have the authority to write, comment and report and who should read or receive it.

If there are no longer deliverers or messengers and receivers and acceptors are we now just throwing rubbish masquerading as information around in the air with no strategic destination or system of ordering or tailoring it?

I read blogs rather than mainstream media because of the fact that they are deliciously authentic in a way that mainstream media never was. They also offer genuine interaction in a way which newspapers never did

Newspaper journalism was always a cunning conceit that prevented and protected far more than it ever exposed and illuminated. The absence of authenticity was due to the fact that we were working for wages, reporting to bosses and offering value for money so we were writing what we were paid to write rather than what we really wanted to write.

But, of course, the requirement to verify the accuracy of the information published online is casual and haphazard as I know only too well.

“How strange that technology has brought us into a world where there are no fixed places any more. You speak out of nowhere, you can be anywhere and because nothing can be checked, anything you choose to imagine is, at bottom, true.” writes Daniel Kehlman in his novel Fame.

And there is the requirement to persist in producing words and pictures when there is no guarantee of payment or of anyone who expresses interest in what you write and photograph.

This raises questions about the true purpose and role of a journalist in society and it brings us back to the North Wales Chronicle of 1911 when no attempt was made to offer balance, challenge and impartiality at all.

Rules on objectivity and impartiality, factual accuracy and fairness “did not take hold until journalism was being bought by mass readerships composed of many varieties and belief.” Indeed, one wonders if the concept of being “impartial” “balanced” and “unbiased” really hampered rather than helped?

I can allow you to read for yourself other articles, books and photographs simply by placing their addresses on this blog. You don’t have to go to the library any more, the library is in your mobile phone.

No such service was available to me or to you when I was reporting for newspapers. I wrote it because I had been told it and you read it because you were a consumer and not a producer.

Brock poses two key questions:

1, Are journalists prepared to be judged by a standard of truth? and

2, Is journalism doing something of public value?

The fact that I can access the North Wales Chronicle in 1911 and read about what life was like in my home town then, even if from a bizarrely weird standpoint, shows that it is and always will be of public value. Family history researchers have made massive discoveries – many unpleasant and shocking when they find that great, great granddad was a mass murderer – by scouring archive material in newspapers from centuries ago.

Truth, however, is becoming far more problematic and notoriously difficult to pin down and classify without offending minority groups. We are now moving into a transgendered world where established norms and categories routinely employed in mainstream journalism of old are being aggressively challenged and rejected by liberal feminist pressure groups and this means that the rules are fluid and non-existent and it is difficult to write anything anymore which does not offend or degrade. The next Census will not ask you to state your gender.

I am liberal in many ways and happy to observe and be enlightened by some modern trends but simply refuse point-blank to re-adjust my thinking and expression so as not to offend a small group of other more passive aggressive people. I am comfortable, largely, with Mr Man and Miss or Mrs Woman because it is a remarkably efficient and wonderfully speedy way to establish life’s fundamentals.

The credibility of journalism is also crucial. I heard Watergate veteran reporter Carl Bernstein address a group of journalism students at Cardiff University on declining journalistic standards but he neglected to tell them that he had obtained phone and credit records illegally, deceived sources and outed one of their FBI sources.

It amuses me greatly when I hear of the faux sanctimony of older journalists concerning the activities of phone hacking journos who more recently accessed private voicemail messages on mobile phones. Some of them speak as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.

The public, of course, are not stupid and usually read between the lines of the “illimitable prurience of British newspapers and their ruthless, sanctimonious targeting of public figures”.

Bright, energetic new journalists are “people who throw spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks” Brock concludes.

They will be spending most of their time investigating perceived slights and offences perpetrated on members of the LGBTQ+ community if the journalists at Cardiff University student rag Gair Rhydd are anything to go by (this week’s “scoop” is about a student who went to Revolution nightclub in Cardiff and was turned away by security staff allegedly because the person refuses to be classified by gender and wishes to dress somewhat ambiguously).

But what is missing is a structured, well resourced and authoritative, secure and solid  system of training young people in fact capturing, fact checking and fact presenting.

Old newsroom whisky-soaked trusties who had seen and done almost all would pore over my copy and point out horrendous mistakes I made when I set out in journalism in 1981 to save me from embarrassment and degradation. It was a discipline I benefitted from over many years in many different settings, professional and academic, and it served me well and still does.

Today’s and tomorrow’s journalists, however, will have to make their mistakes online in front of the rest of the world totally without the guiding and disciplining hand of older parental authority figures huddled around warm fires in busy newsrooms who used to warn and guide them against falling on the wrong side of society by offending, abusing or misreporting on the activities of the rich and powerful.

I hope that they will learn, like I have, from the unacknowledged and unrecognised mistakes and mishaps and the offensive conceit of hopelessly compromised mainstream media of the past which made themselves and their masters rich.

The lion kings and queens have all gone home to lick their wounds and live off their pensions or sold out to public relations to confirm all my worst fears. Now let loose the little snarling cubs to wreak havoc.












December 16, 2017

I AM ALWAYS amused by the self-righteous sneering and indignant lofty left posturing of politicians at the Welsh Assembly Government whenever a UKIP politician is around…..

The usual diversity, inclusivity and multiculturalism liberal feminist passive aggressive warriors (we all know who they are) look around them as if someone has just emitted a particularly rank and obnoxious odour into the air from their posterior whenever one of Wales’s only right of centre party members appears in a room to wax lyrical. Always somebody else’s posterior, of course, and always the foulest, rankest smell – the smell of authenticity and outrage from poor lower class people who regard some of Labour and Plaid Cymru’s deodorised demi-goddesses and gods as despicable.

UKIP’s “Welsh Donald Trump” (strangely, there is no left-of centre figure of ridicule invented by the Welsh mainstream press to compare with him – Vaughan Gething as the “Welsh Barmy Bernie Grant” or Julie Morgan as the “Welsh Hattie Harperson” for instance) Gareth John Bennett, a forceful and opinionated young man who seems to specialise in saying the currently unsayable, who was elected to the Sennedd by people in the cardiff area in 2016, seems, thankfully, to be not too easily intimidated by this gaggle of imperious and sanctimonious permanently outraged and superior stiff blouses and shirts. Good on him.

He has been banned from speaking for 12 months for daring to take a frighteningly and de-stabilisingly different view from the current consensus on that horny humdinger of a conundrum of equal rights for the apparently growing transgender community (an issue always ensured to bring out the dormant and benign inner-Peter Hitchens in even the most polite and docile limp lefty) and I read three letters in today’s Western Mail defending him on the grounds of free speech and taking to task Assembly presiding officer Plaid’s Elin Jones for acting unreasonably in gagging him for 12 months.

It appears that Bennett, a former member of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party (you couldn’t make it up!) who abandoned the left over mass immigration, had been chosen to serve on the Assembly’s equalities, communities and local government committee so they obviously must have felt that he had some kind of contribution to make.

But when he made it – predictably warning of “total implosion” if we go on appeasing what he fruitfully called the “nuttiest elements” of the transgender community, there have been reports in more right-wing newspapers about the dangers of male sex offenders who transition and identify as females being allowed to serve their sentence in female prisons and preying on women there – he was rounded on, attacked and banned from speaking.

The usual gaggle of the faux outraged and permanently indignant muttered and railed against him for his “shockingly” off-colour remarks.

Bennett, however, according to his Wikipedia entry appears to be well equipped to fight his own battles – he represented his county in swimming and athletics and has served time as a painter and decorator, pub barman and general building labourer.

My guess is that he didn’t meet many transsexuals in any of those professions but in that, as in many other things, I could be wrong.




December 6, 2017

IT IS crucial that the Welsh public gets to know exactly what the allegations of sexual misconduct against Welsh Assembly Government minister Carl Sargeant really were for us to believe in a just and fair democracy.

Ideally, we would also know who made the allegations (as things stand, we don’t even know if they consisted of any males or were all females) but this is unlikely because anonymity will be guaranteed for life to the complainants.

Josef K in Kafka’s The Trial knew his fate from the moment he was “apprehended”.

On the eve of K.’s thirty-first birthday, two men arrive at his apartment. He has been waiting for them, and he offers little resistance – indeed the two men take direction from K. as they walk through town. K. leads them to a quarry where the two men place K’s head on a discarded block. One of the men produces a double-edged butcher knife, and as the two men pass it back and forth between them, the narrator tells us that “K. knew then precisely, that it would have been his duty to take the knife… and thrust it into himself.” He does not take the knife. One of the men holds his shoulder and pulls him up and the other man stabs him in the heart and twists the knife twice. K.’s last words are: “Like a dog!”.

If this sinister and deeply disturbing Labour Party farce of Stalinist subterfuge and despicable double-speak doesn’t end soon then we can all look forward to dying like dogs guilty because someone anonymously said we were.



December 1, 2017

A PLAN to dispense with GPs in the Welsh NHS has been criticised by health minister Vaughan Gething and the GPs themselves with a letter written by the chairman of the General Practitioners committee in Wales protesting.

I am very keen to engage with my GP online for a variety of reasons but they simply will not. You can book appointments under the Welsh NHS’s My Health Online system and order repeat prescriptions at the practice but cannot ever have a chat online with the doctor or even describe your current symptoms and seek advice or guidance.

The only person you can e-mail is the practice manager and their responses tend to be brief, businesslike and sometimes quite brusque because, generally, they don’t like being bothered by their patients, many of whom may be complaining.

Much of the business I need to carry out with my doctor could easily be done online to save time and money. I don’t particularly enjoy going to the surgery as administrative staff at reception tend to be peremptory and harassed, intense about their own processes rather than my own needs and appear to be always reactive rather than interactive. That sets a bad tone for me at the outset and I then find myself downbeat and usually unable to motivate myself for the consultation.

The waiting room, too, is not a pleasant place because, of course, it is usually full of sick people coughing and spluttering in your face.

The consultation is usually much too short and much too often I leave the practice with a hollow feeling as I head to the chemist to get more prescription drugs.

It’s talking and interacting with someone that I need and some novel, new interventions which do not involve prescription drugs. Talking and interaction is in short supply, however, and I cannot get an appointment with a counsellor.

One GP I asked to refer me to secondary health care wrote about me: “Consultations with this man are complex at the best of times and that is an understatement. He often presents with documentation relating to the internet and detailed letters detailing his symptoms. If in these letters you do not feel there is anything you can help him with I would be most grateful if you could advise him accordingly.”

Now I probably would have preferred dealing with a computer to dealing with him.