Sunday, January 21, 2007

Shark Boy, Lava Girl & Chicken Tikka Massala

Last night, our usual Curry House had a queue out of the door, and onto the pavement, so we drove on to our second choice, The Lal Qila.
Dylan insisted on taking in his newly acquired The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl DVD and while we waited for them to cook our food (and hour and 20 mins!!!), the waiter saw him clutching the film and offered to play the DVD on the restaurant's player. What the take-away customers, and those waiting for a table on a busy Saturday, made of this screening, I shall never know.

About 30 mins into the show, Dylan left the table to go to the loo, pausing by the bar to politely request that the film be 'put on pause'. We were mortified at his cheekiness, but luckily the staff and nearby customers thought that it was hilarious! 3 minutes later he emerged from the loo, paused to request that the film be started again and sat down to continue watching the film......
The lads that work in the Lal Qila are a lovely bunch, and always make a fuss of the kids when we take them - which is probably more than is considered decent! Dylan loves his Chicken Tikka Massala which he calls Red Chicken curry - he is certainly his father's son.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Whilst 'noodling' (hat tip, Nick) around Wikipedia, hot on the trail of Captain Robert Fitzroy & Jemmy Button, I discovered the word Mamihlapinatapai , from Jemmy's now almost extinct language.

Over to Wiki:-

Mamihlapinatapai (sometimes misspelled mamihlapinatapei) is a word from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the "most succinct word", and is considered one of the hardest words to translate. It describes a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start. This could perhaps be translated more succinctly as "eye-contact implying 'after you...'". A more literal approximation is "ending up mutually at a loss as to what to do about each other".

Saturday, January 13, 2007

World Freehand Circle Drawing Champion


Friday, January 12, 2007

"nice nuff" (sic)

I had my first rating on rate my this week
apparently I'm nice nuff :)

I may even be Mr Powel?

Spooky, eh?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

La Plume de ma tante:- Ivor & olive

Uncle Ivor (and Auntie Olive)

Ivor was my favourite because he looked most like Dad. He always had a twinkle in his eye and liked a bit of fun. When he and Frank were boys they were naughty, particularly in St Paul’s Church, would forget to pump the organ and the music would peter out. They also taught little Don to sing the rude words of the hymn he was to perform there. Ivor was a lay-about, according to his wife. He was apprenticed, and did well in the RAF, enjoying his time there when he was a pilot, I believe, and when he was de-mobbed he blew all his pay on a sports car, much to Olive’s annoyance, as she had had to struggle to keep his business alive. Afterwards he was not too keen to knuckle down to making a living, though they had inherited a lovely house in Caswell when Nana Howell had died, and Olive was determined to keep it up to scratch. Ivor couldn’t even be bothered to collect rents due to them, Olive said. He loved golf and bridge and played both well (in Clyne Club.) He and Olive divorced in their late 40s and she married a wealthy man and lived in Derwen Fawr. She said that Ivor had an affair with Winnie (Frank’s wife) but I never believed her stories for some reason. It was more likely to be a smoke screen for her affair with the wealthy man. Mum was also sceptical of her tales. When her second husband died however, she and Ivor re-married. She said she’d thought he had changed, but he hadn’t. They seemed to get on well enough. She was a non-stop talker and they spent a lot of time in the golf club. She was always a gifted gardener too and even in her later years managed to take cuttings in a greenhouse and weed standing up with a hoe.

I remember one lovely afternoon when Alan and I visited them with Mum when Alan had persuaded my mother to place a number of bets on the Grand National. We all got very excited watching Mum’s horses on their TV. The neighbours commented on the noise next day. Ivor didn’t wake one morning when she took him in his cup of tea. Olive lived on in the Mayals on her own and became even thinner and more frail. She had a couple of break-ins, which upset her, but she was still determined to remain independent. Don and her brother’s son, Bruce, kept an eye on her and she would go out to lunch with them occasionally. Eventually she went into Campion Gardens nursing home on the common near where she had lived and then to the Penmaen Nursing Home overlooking Three Cliffs Bay. She died there in the summer of 2006 in her 90s.

I remember a little of Ivor as a thin, still rakish figure living in the house in caswell, and trying to entertain me as a little boy with a putter and a few golf balls out in their back garden. I think they had a "monkey puzzle" tree, just like margaret's in London.

He was somehow connected with Evan Rees, the butter merchant, although I'm not sure how. I can still smell the butter factory now, that sweet, salty smell that suggested cardboard and greaseproof paper, coming from behind an Arkwright style counter in a dim office at the top of a narrow flight of stairs.

Olive, had a permanent meg-end stuck between her fingers. She did get thinner as time went by, but there was not much to get thinner from in the first place. She certainly was a determined woman, had several hip replacements, and remained staunchly independant until the closing years of her 80's. She met kim in Morriston Hospital, and kept quizzing her "how old do you think I am" - she claimed to be 91 then, several years before she died

She was quite a woman.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

La plume de ma tante - Grandemere 'Owell

A story about my great grand mother on my father's side. We never met, but I came close to her by occupying the bedroom above the kitchen where she was killed. as a lad I can remember hearing noises in the night and putting them down to her ghost, as I had been told the tale of how and where she died.

Nana Howell

She was the real matriarch of the family, who managed to buy the Humphrey Street shop and the other properties Don owns around there now. Her mother had only rented lock up shops in the Tenby area. Nana used to travel by the first train of the day to either Llandeilo or Carmarthen markets to buy poultry. She would arrange for a pony and trap there to deliver her purchases to the railway stations for transporting to Swansea High Street where she would collect them with her own pony and trap and then sell as many as possible in the afternoon. This was in the days before shop refrigeration and must have been quite an achievement, as warm weather could cause big losses. Dad used to talk of being sent down with a load of rotting turkeys to the town dump one Christmas. It explained to me why he was essentially cautious by nature, he would never have forgotten an experience like that.

The Tenby area was residential in those days, more like a village, and before supermarkets and people had acquired cars to go shopping in, Humphrey Street was full of small specialist shops supplying all the domestic needs of the streets around Walter Road and the terraces of Constitution Hill up to Terrace Road. I can remember a cobblers, a fish and chip shop, a hardware shop, a florist, a tobacconist, a butchers, a grocers, a dairy, an off licence, a glazier’s, a wool shop/haberdashery, a chemist, a jewellers, two very expensive clothes shops, a bakers, a garage, a dry cleaners/repairs shop and there was a fair sized department store on Walter Road (Ben Evans?) Of course there was also a good selection of churches around. This was years before the solicitors, accountants and estate agents took over. There would have been more in Nana’s day when there was a tram trundling up the hill (you can still see the faint tram lines between the cobble- stones.

Mum and Nana Howell really liked each other. That always surprised me as they were equally strong women and I would have expected them to clash. I think the relationship worked because Mum was still young, came from the same chuch, also had a shop background and was a natural extrovert, quite the opposite of Dad. Nana, I’m sure, realised that Dad was not a great doer, he needed someone with energy to urge him on to make a success of his life. She could see Mum was a worker and would be an asset in a poultry shop, as she’s worked in her parents’ greengrocers for eight years. Mum admired her because she had a great sense of style, which her own mother lacked. Nana Howell adored furs and hats and showed Mum how to tilt a brim to make a hat look fetching. Mum never lost the art of “wearing” a hat. Nana also loved good handbags and patronised the best shops in town. She worked hard and spent well on fine quality clothing. Mum says she was a handsome woman and her photos prove this (see Mum and Dad’s wedding photos) Nana had three sons so was delighted to have a daughter-in-law to spoil and bought Mum presents. When they were courting they often went back to the shop after church for supper with young Frank and Ivor who were a bit wicked and had a lovely time. Nana and Granpa moved from above the shop to 21(?) Woodlands Terrace, a house she had bought in the 1930s with an elderly relative (Grannie Taylor, her mother, or Auntie Jonesy) to look after. Nana wanted to retire from business so suggested to Mum and Dad that she would buy them a house (9 Brynamor Road) and they could pay her back gradually out of their profits if they took over running the shop. This set them up for life. She did exactly the same thing for Frank and for Ivor and fixed them up with food businesses (Frank in wholesale poultry with a house in Lon Bryn Gwyn Ave above Glanmore school, and Ivor in wholesale eggs with a lovely house with a big garden in Caswell) I would really have loved to have known her. When I was born I was named after her and she was delighted. I was the girl child she had never had. When she came to see me for the first time she rolled up a £20 note and tucked it inside my small fist,
“May she never want for money” she said.

She died in the Swansea blitz. 3 or 4 of them had taken shelter under the stairs and she had become impatient. She went to the kitchen to make tea before the “All clear” had blown. A bomb dropped in the back yard of Woodlands and she was suffocated. Grandpa went to live over the shop again.

Monday, January 08, 2007

La plume de ma tante - Grandepere 'Owell

More from my lovely aunt:-

Grandpa Howell

I didn’t really become aware of him until I was 6 or 7. Because he was a widower and lived in the flat above the shop in Humphrey Street he was never part of the family who cared for me while Mum and Dad worked. That task fell wholly to Mum’s side of the family. Grandpa Howell was an old man living quietly upstairs on his own after Nana’s death.

Mum would serve up lunch in the shop kitchen and put his on a tray with an inverted plate on top, which I would then carry round the corner to his front door and collect his dishes from the day before. He was a smoker, and looked like Dad did at the end of his days, rather bent over with wisps of thin grey hair. I would carry his tray into his smoky living room and chat for a while but never for long as we both had lunches waiting and getting cold.

He had a dry sense of humour, very much like Uncle Frank’s. Don said he remembers him having a condition of the hand where the 3rd and 4th fingers could not straighten and he explained,
“Your grandmother would insist on sleeping on it.”

I remember him having a rather splendid Pre-Raphaelite story-picture over the fireplace in his front bedroom. (I guess it was a print). It was of a mother wrapped in a shawl sheltering under an oak tree, breast-feeding her babe. I was a prudish child and was rather shocked.

Mum told me once that he worked as a mason and he told me he put the steeplecock on top of St Paul’s(?) church in Sketty, but it might have been one of his stories. I asked Mum why he hadn’t worked in the shop with Nana and she said that he had done once, but that had been the reason why they had lost their lucrative and reliable kosher trade, because he switched the labels on the legs of the chickens that authenticated that they had been correctly killed. This was an unforgivable act for the Jews and they took their business elsewhere. He went bankrupt at some stage in his life which was even more of a disgrace in those days than now. That’s probably why he took a job and left the running of the business to Nana. I wish I had talked to him more. He must have been quite a character and was probably lonely. Don will remember more about him than me, as he would have been very special to him as the first and only grandson. There’s a lovely photo of him with Dad and Don in one of Mum’s albums. I’ll try and find it for you

If margaret finds the photo, I'll publish it here.


The Ups & downs of course rugby

How are "The Ups" doing this season, I hear you ask?

The answer seems to be Here

I guess they have had better seasons...........

At least the old Illtydians are having a better season

The Ilts

Sunday, January 07, 2007

International Rugby Fixtures 2007

Link to

International Rugby Fixtures 2007

hat tip, John Browne ;)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

La Plume de ma tante (cont)

Over Christmas, I found out that my talented, lovely aunt had sent me more of her stories based on the past, but due to the impreciseness of the Internet, they never reached me.

I was distraught to think that she had sent them, and thought for weeks that I had not even bothered to acknowledge their sending.

Now I have had the chance to take a look, and realise what gems they are.

Here is the first one, based on auntie Alice, and a rather painful operation that was on the horizon for M


Worst Foot Forward

“You’ll need crutches,” the physiotherapist said as she thrust the poles towards me.
“So I was told.”
“Well, take them, they won’t bite. You’ll get nowhere without them.”
“Right, thanks.”
They had strong handles and rubbery bungs on their feet, but were lighter than they appeared.

She’s a bit brusque, I thought, but at least I’m being treated like an individual now. I had queued at the entrance desk, been ticked off the reservation list and had waited to be summoned in the reception area. I had been called, labelled and siphoned off into the appropriate area until I felt like I was on a production line. The ward was well lit, shiny floored, and full of complicated equipment. We sat on chairs at the foot of our beds all facing in the same direction, like parents in Disneyland waiting to be launched at “The Wall of Death.
“Just a minute! You are tall, aren’t you? Stand up!”
I did as I was bid, as my fellow travellers were watching.
“I’ll have to adjust them.”
“No! Stand still! Put your arm down.” She wrestled with one crutch after the other, there was a clicking, ratcheting sound and both shafts were extended.
“Try these. No!” she shook her head, “the other way round. “That’s better. Now, have a practice. You’ll need to get used to the feel of them. Worst foot first, then swing your weight onto your good one. Don’t leave it till afterwards and don’t expect it to feel natural.”
“Um…I broke my arm a year ago,” I said, tentatively. “I did mention it to the pre-assessment nurse.”
“Well, nobody told me,” she frowned. “A year?”
“And a bit… more.”
“Ah, you’ll be alright. Concentrate, don’t rush it.”
I swayed and tottered backwards, “O…ops!”
“Careful! Its not easy, is it?”
“Not when you’re my size.”
She didn’t agree but I noticed a nod.
“Now turn around. No! In stages! Don’t put your foot down to balance. That’s better. Got the hang of it?”
“I think so, but it hurts when I put weight on my arm.”
“Well, that’s all we’ve got.”
“What about ones that go under the armpits?”
“Haven’t used them since the First World War. They cause problems.”
I had an aunt who used them in the 1940s but I was cowed by her certainty. I began to get more of a rhythm into my hopping until I slewed sideways like an overweight skier. It was on the turn I had most trouble….


I pulled the curtains around me and changed into the open backed hospital smock we know and love. I tried to cover my rear end but failed, so I slipped on a dressing gown, and folded my clothes into my overnight case. I couldn’t stop thinking about my aunt. I suppose it was the bossy physiotherapist, but also Aunt Alicia had leg trouble. I’m the age she would have been when I first encountered her. I realised that it was not the operation that bothered me. My leg was marked clearly with red arrows, my details had been checked and double-checked, so what could possibly go wrong? No, it was the crutches: I would be moving around just like her.

Aunt Alicia was the eldest of Mum’s aunts. The Hopkins’ family were a typically large, Victorian family with all the children, bar the last one, given a trade. Alicia became a teacher. In the 1880s clever children were encouraged to stay on in school and teach the juniors. She had not received a formal training, her parents could not afford it, but she was bright enough to learn from her mentors and soon developed the natural talent she had in controlling her brothers and sisters. I heartedly disliked her. Mum did too. Whenever I visited the house, which she shared with Nana and Auntie Maria, who was the youngest of the aunts, who cooked, cleaned and cared for her, she tried to trap me.
“Come here, child. Sit by me and do this sum.”
“I don’t want to.”
“Here’s an interesting puzzle: If you were on a train and it was travelling…”
“Why not?” she snapped.
I wasn’t bright enough to think of an excuse. .
“Alright, maybe you’d like to practice your handwriting?”
“No, thanks.”
“How about reading out loud to me from the newspaper?” “It would be fun, wouldn’t it?”"
“Nah,” and I wriggled up my nose. “I don’t have to work on Saturdays or Sundays.”
“Come along now, you’ll enjoy it.”
“No I won’t.”
“Just think, you’ll get ahead of the others.”
“I don’t care.”
“It’ll do you the world of good.”
“I don’t wanna be done good.”
“Come here!” she lunged, and I ran out of the room and down the corridor to Nana’s because I knew she couldn’t chase me.

I pulled up a chair and speared a slice of bread onto a toasting fork and held it in front of the bars of the stove.
“You haven’t been long,” Nana said as she grated cheese into an old cup without a handle. She mixed it with mustard, a drop of milk and some salt and pepper. She sat it in a blackened saucepan of simmering water on the hob until the contents melted and formed a thick cream, which she poured onto the toast I had buttered. It was my Saturday treat. Nana never tried to teach me anything, she chatted and told me stories as we ate our rarebits and licked our fingers. Tales of Henry VIII and his six wives, The Great Plague and The Fire of London, she saved all the goriest tales for me, that’s why her stories stuck in my mind. We peeled and ate grapes and poured over illustrations in a set of ancient volumes of thin paper for hours.

I was chastised for being rude to my aunt and for carving letters in a leaf of her aspidistra with a nail file she kept behind the net curtains on the bay windowsill.
“It wasn’t me!”
“You’ve signed it, you stupid child.”
But I considered it was well worth it.

By the time I matured I realised that Aunt Alicia had meant well. She didn’t want to see me confined to a shop counter as my Mum had been. I put more effort into my studies and sat and talked with her in her front window, which I discovered was all she really wanted.
“Are you still doing the pools?” I asked, as I’d seen the forms on the breakfast table.
“Of course.”
“And the stock market?” She studied “The Times” religiously every morning.
“My broker’s become my friend.” I loved the idea that she was a gambler.
“Do you miss teaching?”
“D’you miss your pupils?”
“Oh, that’s different. Yes, I do, very much. They could be lazy little devils, you know, but they were so droll,” and she flung back her head and laughed. “They could make me forget everything.”
“The pain in your leg?”
She gave me one of her quick, searching looks. “That too.”
“What d’you mean then, your step-son?” I’d knew he’d died young, in the First World War. She nodded.
“And Uncle Joe?” I could vaguely remember the widower, a pocket sized version of Oliver Hardy in the Laurel and Hardy films, in a tightly buttoned waistcoat with little round spectacles. She screwed up her face and inhaled deeply.
“Would you tell your Aunt Maria that I’m ready for my tea?”
So I asked Nana.
“Alicia went in to hospital when she was a young woman for a simple leg operation. The surgeon cut the wrong ligament. It was disastrous, and there was nothing that could be done. There was no redress in those days, dear, it was just considered bad luck. In time she was able to continue with her teaching. She was lucky to find a good man like Joe, but she grew more and more arthritic and now in her retirement she needs help with everything.”


Back at home I bent sideways and fished around for my crutches. What cumbersome things they were, but I needed them as much as Aunt Alicia did. Mum and Dad had been wrapped up in their shop in those days and didn’t have time to help me with schoolwork. Nana had helped with history and writing stories, but it was Alicia, the experienced teacher, who had recognised a child who was running away from difficulties with numbers. She had tried to supply what I was in need of. I had never thanked her, not even when I graduated and became a history teacher.

I leaned back and prepared to hoist myself from her old rocking chair, which I had inherited along with her wooden, knobbly handled cane, which was kept “for special occasions.” I had never appreciated how well designed rockers are for people who have difficulty rising. When she died her portfolio turned out to be worthless and she never won a bean on the pools or her crosswords, but that wasn’t the reason she did them: they took her mind off her pains. If only we’d talked more, I could have learnt so much about the past. She had been a feisty old girl. Indignity in old age is often inevitable, but there should come a time when appearance no longer matters. What counts is mobility. So, saying a heartfelt “thank you” to all skilled and bossy women, I balanced on one leg and, taking a firm grip on each handle, swung my worst foot forward.

Friday, January 05, 2007

"you heard it here first" cont.............

Now he's on about The West Wing ! Do I have enough time in my life to start watching 7 years worth of a series?
I think we should be told.........

Thursday, January 04, 2007

My Hands Are Bananas


Silent Star Wars

What if Star Wars had been a silent?

Star Wars Parody

Whilst we are on the subject of parodies.........

Fantastic Firefly Parody

they must REALLY love the show!

More Fireflies

If you are in a the mood for a classy parody of Firefly, click here (I can't seem to get you tube vids to post here, atm)


A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, Dr Rob "you heard it here first" Matthews sent us a copy of Firefly - the first series, which, according to the users of IMDB (Earth's Largest Movie Database tm) rates at an impressive 9.5/10 a rare feat indeed. We had never seen such a rating.

C/F from IMDB's top 250 :-

The Godfather 9.1
The Shawshank redemption 9.1
The Godfather 2 8.9
LOTR 8.8
The good, The bad, & the ugly 8.8

Whilst not agreeing that it tops all these, it was a damn good show, axed under suspicious circumstances by the studio, Fox.

Kim, Hari and I were gutted at the end of the last show, and spent the next hour mooching around, looking at the "special features" on the DVD, and wiki'ing. Then we bought Serenity, the film of the series.
It's hard to believe that such a good show was axed, and hard to accept that no new episodes will be made. There is , however, a faint hope that a series of films
starring the original cast will follow.
If you haven't, I urge you to buy it now.