Thursday, July 31, 2008

Santa Revisited

Another comment on an old post arrived today, which contains information which I really should pass on. It seems that Valleys Mam caused offence in Lapland. I'm not sure of the details of my original post, except that it concerned disagreements within the world Santa movement. Here's the comment I received this morning;

Santa has left a new comment on your post "The Spirits of Xmas.":

I have just read the comment about commercialism and Santa and I'm sorry but I feel it has to be addressed.

"Santa is a cocoa cola marketing symbol enough said"

By Valleys Mam

I am really sorry you feel that because you have been misled by the marketing. Santa has been around for many hundreds of years, in one form or another. Santa has worn a red suit for most of this time although Father Christmas was often seen in a green suit harking back to his appearance as a winter solstice visitor in Druidic times.

The Cocal-Cola company loves telling people that they invented Santa, they are wrong. Nobody denies that they helped make him more popular but Santa is far more than just a marketing agencies creation.

If you were to research this you would find that the Santa as expressed by the artist for Coke, he has 5 buttons down his front and fur around his neck and to the hem of his jacket.

By far the majority of Santas around the world follow the 'bishop' style of suit with the fur in a line down the front and no buttons showing. That style comes through from Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra.

Yes, shopping centres and big stores capitalise on the image of Santa for Christmas in the hope of making a pound or two in the Christmas Season. Most of us real Santas know in our hearts that this is the only way many children are going to see Santa so we accept the commercial trappings in the goal of spreading our love and hugs as widely as we can.

Valleys Mam, please don't fall into the trap of believing the commercial hype, the real Santa is alive and well and still the lovely man you used to know as a child. Look into your heart, remember the great joy that Santa would bring, and find a way to share that joy with the young ones of today, they surely don't get enough chances to be innocent children so you can help share that with them.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Russian Relations

John McCain has not been very polite about the Russians. Today's Telegraph informs us that the Republican Presidential nominee told ABC television last week that "We need to improve their behavior" and that when he had looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes he "saw three things, a K, and a G, and a B". Strong stuff, and seems a highly unusual and interesting way of campaigning.

But if you also think this is strong stuff, just imagine what my good friends, Helen Mary Jones AM or Leanne Wood AM would have to say to the Russian judge who is reported on the next page of the newspaper to be enthusiastic about sexual harassment. The allegation being made against a 47 year old male employer was that "He always demanded that female workers signalled to him with their eyes that they desperately wanted to be laid on the boardroom table as soon as he gave the word. I didn't realise at first that he wasn't speaking metaphorically". A pretty clear cut case of sexual harassment I'd have thought. But not according to the Russian judge. He threw the case out, concluding that the employer had acted 'gallantly' rather than 'criminally', and added for good measure that "If we had no sexual harassment, we would have no children". I remember those recent 'macho' photographs of Putin out shooting and fishing, stripped to the waist, looking rather like a Russian version of Rocky Bilboa. It looks as if this 'machismo' could be catching on. It seems that Russia would be a challenge for those who share my feminist instincts at the moment, if these Telegraph reports are true.

Goodbye Tourists

This impressive building is the purpose built Tourist Information Centre at Welshpool. I could well have been Chairman of the local authority when the decision was taken to build it. It seems to me a crying shame that Powys County Council intend to close it down, as part of a policy of withdrawal from the provision of information to tourists. Bearing in mind the importance of tourism, this seems an economically illogical and short-term decision to me.

This local decision is symptomatic of a wider national lack of commitment to the tourism industry. A few days ago, the Conservative Group in the National Assembly issued the following press release, outlining the scale of cutback in Assembly Government spending on the industry.

July 29th, 2008


WELSH Conservatives today published new evidence of the Labour-Plaid Assembly Government’s failure to invest in the Welsh tourist industry.

Figures obtained by the party reveal that the coalition government is spending £5mn less on tourism marketing than the Wales Tourist Board did five years ago.

Shadow Heritage Minister Paul Davies AM described the news as “startling” and accused ministers of a “narrow-sighted approach” to investing in one of Wales ’ key industries.

Responsibility for tourism in Wales passed to the Assembly Government in 2006 when the Wales Tourist Board was abolished.

According to the Assembly Government’s own website tourists spend more than £8mn a day on trips to Wales , amounting to £3bn a year.

But figures obtained by South Wales Central AM Andrew Davies show the marketing spend on tourism in Wales has fallen from £17.7mn under the WTB in 2002 to £12.7mn in 2007/8 under the Assembly Government’s Visit Wales arm.

The figures show Assembly Government marketing spend in the UK only rose by £400,000 last year despite more people wanting to holiday closer to home due to the credit crunch.

The overseas marketing budget has remained static over the last two years.

Earlier this year Welsh Conservatives revealed how visitor spend in Wales has fallen since 2000.

The number of tourists visiting Wales last year also fell by more than quarter of a million, according to figures published in May.

Amongst many notes to this release was the following;


Figures obtained by the Welsh Conservatives in May reveal that visitor spend in Wales from tourists was £3.421bn in 2000, falling to £3.262bn in 2007. The figures show that total visitor spent also fell in the year immediately after the abolition of the Wales Tourist Board.

Now I accept that the level of public spending is not the only indicator of commitment, but these figures do make it difficult to believe anything but that the Governing Coalition has turned its back on tourism as an economic driver and wealth promoter. I feel sure this withdrawal from tourism support is a mistake, particularly since last years tourism spend in Wales was significantly reduced. But then, I spent five years as a member of the Wales Tourist Board, under the 'leadership' of Prys Edwards and Paul Loveluck, when tourism was seen as an important part of the future Welsh economy.

'Sweaty Armpits' Revisited.

When this blog receives comments on old posts that I feel could be useful to readers, I like to ensure that the potential benefit is not allowed to pass unnoticed. Some months ago, I posted on the embarrassment visiteded by a tendency towards sweaty armpits. At the time, no-one treated this physiological problem with the seriousness that it warranted. Well today, I received the following comment, which may bring blessed relief to fellow sufferers.

Armpit Sweating Treatment has left a new comment on your post "Sweaty Armpits":

Hyperhidrosis is a fairly common disorder shared by millions across the world. By definition, Hyperhidrosis is the excessive sweating of the head, face, hands, feet and armpits no matter the temperature or conditions.

The sweating is erratic, unpredictable and uncontrollable. You do have some options.

To stop the excessive sweating try:

1. Drysol

Drysol is a prescription deodorant that works wonders for underarm, hand and foot sweating. Apply it to your hands, feet, armpits or anywhere else you sweat at night before bed. You only need to apply it once a day - it's not like regular deodorant. This stuff is Clinical Strength. Beware of irritation with Drysol. You may have to take a day or two off from this treatment if your skin gets too dry, sensitive or red with a rash.

2. Drink more water to lower your body temperature.

A lot of people are confused by this solution. They think if they drink more water, it will give them that much more fluid to sweat out. This is totally incorrect. Drinking more water cools your core temperature and will alleviate some of the excessive sweating. Of course now you'll need to worry about all those bathroom breaks. :)

3. Drink Green Tea or Sage Tea at night

Tea contains an astringent property which will dry out oils and prevent excess moister from escaping the skin. It essentially drys you from the inside out.

In addition to helping your complexion, green tea will neutralize many of the toxins that create the pungent odor in sweat. By the way, that odor is caused by bacteria that treats your sweat as a breeding ground. Gross!

4. Try Certain Dri (non-prescription deodorant)

You can buy this one at most pharmacies. Certain dry is a little less abrasive than Drysol so you won't need to worry as much about irritation. It is however a little less strong. You'll want to gauge your level of Hyperhidrosis by first trying Certain Dri. If your sweating continues, upgrade to Drysol and that should do the trick.

5. Avoid spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine

Don't underestimate the power of your diet. Onions, Garlic, Curry, Coffee and a whole host of other ingredients are powerful triggers for hyperhidrosis sweating. Cut out some of these culprits and see gradual but noticeable results. Add leafy greens and tea into your diet for a positive effect on sweating. Changing your diet will really cut out the spontaneous sweating from your daily lunch breaks.

6. Try Iontophoresis treatments.

This is more of a phase 3 solution. Try the clinical deodorants and diet fixes first. However, there is a treatment called Iontophoresis where you place your hands and feet into bowls or plates. The plates are filled with mineral water. Connected to the plates is an Iontophoresis electromagnetic device. Gentle electric pulses are distributed through mineral water. The minerals bond and temporarily change the nature of your sweat pores to block the sweat. This treatment works well. You can learn about it through the Source link I've provided below.

7. Try a Sage Tea Soak

There's something called a Sage Tea solution what you do is...
a. Buy Sage Tea from your supermarket
b. Fill a large bowl with room temperature water
c. Put the sage tea bags in the bowl and let the tea dissolve a bit.
d. soak your hands for 15 minutes in the bowl.

Sage Tea will act as an astringent to dry the skin and prevent excessive sweating for many days to follow.

Don't just do this soak one day. Do it everyday for 5 days straight (15 minutes at a time) and you'll see great results.

If your hands tan from the tea, just wash them in the sink with antibacterial soap. The residue will come off easily.

8. ETS (Endoscopic Thorasic Surgery)

If the sweating is bad enough, some people will opt towards ETS (Endoscopic Thorasic Surgery). This is, however, a LAST resort. I recommend you try everything else possible before opting towards surgery. You can speak with your Dermatologist to find out more.


Posted by Armpit Sweating Treatment to A view from Rural Wales at Tue Jul 29, 05:11:00 PM

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Making Devolution Work.

When I lost my treasured position as an Assembly Member, it took me a while to decide whether to continue in politics at all. Several people were encouraging me to have a crack at the Montgomeryshire Westminster seat. But there had to be a reason. I had to feel that I could bring something distinctive to the job - beyond being a committed constituency MP. I decided that my experience in several different public life roles would enable me to help England and Wales sleep together more comfortable in their new devolved bed.

This ambition raised a few eyebrows. Several comments on my blog at the time accused me as hankering after the lost National Assembly role - not letting go. They were completely wrong of course, but I can see why they thought it. Others thought it odd that I'd not changed my opinion about the need for the National assembly to be granted law making powers (key to creating constitutional stability) - not being able to understand any politician who seeks to give 'power' away. Anyway, since counseling the disagreeing partners each side of Offa's Dyke is my objective, its important that I build up contacts and knowledge - just in case I win!

This morning, I spent some time at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital at Gobowen, meeting the new Chief Executive. About 40% of this Hospital's business has traditionally come from Wales. Its an Anglo-Welsh hospital. It would be completely mad for the Assembly Government not to look on this Hospital as part of the NHS that provides a service to Wales. Even though she has no direct responsibility for it, I believe the Assembly Health Minister should visit the Orthopaedic to register her support. Where I live, its our Hospital.

I then visited Hope House, the Children's Hospice which serves North Wales. The Hospice is in Oswestry (and linked to Ty Gobaith in Conwy). Again, it is located in England, but serves Wales. At present about 20% of the cost of providing services to England are met by the NHS, while only 10% of the cost of services to Wales are met by the Assembly. The Hospice costs about £4 million a year to run and employs around 120 full-time-equivalents. Its a big operation and is another cross border issue that must matter to any MP for Montgomeryshire.

This post could go on and on and on...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Interesting Times.

Blimey. Things are getting serious. I've been out of politics for 3 days, switch Newsnight on to see what's going on, and there's Polly Toynbee on TV telling us that "Gordon Brown has to go - for the sake of the Labour Party". The Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Tony Lloyd was on defending the Prime Minister (couldn't they find anyone more senior than that?) and he tried to say that there were only 3 MPs who wanted Gordon Brown to go. He might as well have been talking Chinese for all the credibility that carried. After saying something so daft, he was rightly ignored by Gavin Estler. Polly Toynbee just said that "Everybody thinks he's done. Inside the Party, there's a real crisis". Labour's most avid supporting journalist (after Polly that is), Steve Richards could offer only one reason for not getting rid of Gordon Brown, and that was that there is no alternative. Talk about damning with faint praise. Steve, there is always an alternative.

The position has advanced so much since last Friday, that the resignation of Gordon Brown must now be a real possibility. And everybody accepts that a General Election must follow within months of a new Prime Minister taking over. I'm going to arrange an 'emergency' campaign meeting tomorrow.

And now I've just read the front page of today's Telegraph. The headline reads 'Give us vote on Brown, MPs to tell Cabinet'. Well that really would be a stupid idea. Mind you, the spectacle could be entertaining for everyone outside of the Labour Party. If there is a vote on Gordon Brown's leadership, he's finished. Doesn't seem much doubt that there's going to be a drip, drip, drip of undermining through the next month. Mrs D and I are intending to take a few days off, perhaps starting tomorrow - to recover from the last few days which have really exhausted us. I wonder what will have happened when I'm next at my keyboard. I'm beginning to feel a sense of anticipated tension.


For the last few weeks everything has been BTW at Cil Farm (Beyond The Wedding). Hard to believe that its all over. This morning Alun Price (electrician) and Wrekin Conveniences (obvious) have already been, Derwen Nurseries are due in 30 minutes, the catering equipment company will be along this afternoon, and finally Hinstock Marquees should be along to reclaim their property later today. The refuse collectors and Cae Post recycling have made a record haul on their weekly visit. By tonight, the whole weekend will be confined to memories.

And what memories they will be. The weather was just brilliant. Everything went like a dream. Tim and Adrienne did really look the business. She's from a Fienna Gael family, emanating from the Cork area. Its going to be tough for me, having a family member with strong political opinions, all well thought out, and well argued. Edward and Patrick, the joint best men did a great job, even using a PowerPoint presentation to ensure the entire tentful could see the embarrassing photographs.

I even managed to make a speech myself. It wasn't planned, and I was only programmed to read the cards. The family know that I struggle with the emotional pressure of watching the three 'boys' up there performing as three grown up confident men. But the last card was from Colin and Sarah, who are stuck in Hong Kong, and it was in Chinese. I think I managed to persuade a good half of audience that I was fluent in Chinese. So then I announced that I was going to repeat the message in a language that they could understand, so I did it in Welsh. By now, I was into my stride - and had the freedom to choose words of my choice, when I eventually reached the English translation. Finished up referring to the Anglo-Irish agreement.

It was Paula, from Cork, who delivered the inevitable. The 'Happy Couple' had crossed by boat for photographs on the little island in the middle of our pool. The Irish decided to take the boatriding seriously, with the inevitable result. Anyway, a couple of spins in the tumble drier and her dress was serviceable again. In fact, Paula reckoned that the red wine stains had gone. Derrick also made an impact last night at the Conservative/Parkinson's Disease cocktail do in the marquee, when he flew over the pool in his aeroplane, and after two circuits landed it about 30 meters from the marquee. Most people thought it was Lembit Opik, who flies a similar plane, just dropping in.

Have not seen a newspaper since Friday. No idea what's happened. Has Gordon Brown resigned yet? Has the General Election been called? I can't put it off any longer. Have to face up to life BTW.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Now that readers have been introduced to Dennis, the man who can do everything, I felt that he should 'appear' on the blog. So here he is, along with Steve and myself, yet again involved in an unlikely mission. I'd decided to establish an obelisk grove in the garden, to set off the wedding marquee site. So I had to get the job finished today. I'd 'planted' the slate pillars, which I bought from Blaenau Festiniog, in large plant pots, filling up with concrete on Monday. They were ready for planting today. I asked Steve to drive the digger and Dennis couldn't resist taking over operations. They do look rather good and are bound to appeal to Snake who is doing the photographs tomorrow. No idea why he's called 'Snake', but I'm told its something to do with his prowess in certain directions.
And after the grove was planted, and for something completely different, I nipped over to St Garmon's Church in Llanfechain to help with the flowers. One of the ways I keep in touch with my feminine side is flower arranging. Our good friend, Ann Markwick is in overall 'flowers' control, but I was roped in to do the pedestals. Just in case you don't believe me, I've appended a photograph of one of today's efforts. I arrange then in such a way that they can just be picked up and transported to the Wedding reception. The rest of the day was given over to beautifying the garden - finishing touches. Please don't let it rain.

Choking on their Weetabix.

Plaid Cymru supporters must have been chewing hard on their Weetabix this morning. As they tucked into their first bale they would have enjoyed watching the Nationalist First Minister of Scotland crowing about winning a by-election by securing a swing of 23%. There is no doubt that a lot of this is due to the personality of Alex Salmond, and the way he has used his position of First Minister. As the second Weetabix went down, they will have started thinking that this might have been us. And it might have. But Ieuan Wyn Jones wobbled, and chickened out, and decided that he would rather be Rhodri Morgan's Deputy, rather than First Minister himself. I always thought it was an utterly unwise decision. I suspect a few Plaid supporters were feeling the same as in anger, they took a third bale of Weetabix.

Plaid Cymru got absolutely nothing out their deal with Labour, when they decided to prop up Rhordi Morgan in office 14 months ago. They made a big song and dance about 'getting into' Government for the first time ever, and Ieuan becoming Deputy First Minister. The word 'Deputy' has value only as 'in the unfortunate event' way. The truth is that no-one ever remembers the 'deputy'. And Plaid would probably have had three Ministers and the First Minister if Ieuan had gone for the 'Rainbow Coalition' with the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.

Some Plaid supporters claim that the Plaid/Labour Coalition was the only way to get a referendum on law making powers for the National Assembly. Well, its become clear that they are not going to have a referendum in the current Assembly anyway - so no gain there. And as far as I can see, there is a good majority of Conservative and Liberal Democrat AMs who would agree to a referendum if Plaid pushed it - which they won't. And the 60% threshold would have been guaranteed because there are a good few Labour AMs who would have voted with the 'Rainbow' on this.

And who knows what else Plaid might have squeezed out of the deal. Many Conservatives felt as I did, that we had to do our damnest to get into Government ourselves, to promote our policies, and to enable Assembly politics to grow up by not always having a Labour dominated Government.

As Plaid ponder the fallout from the sacking of their most charismatic Minister, they can move on to reflect on Glasgow East and the biggest missed opportunity of their Party's existence. Three weetabix will not be enough

Reflections on Glasgow East.

It was a bad night for Labour, in particular Gordon Brown. Losing Glasgow East to the Scottish National Party was a spectacular defeat. I cannot believe that Labour MPs will not be busy on their mobiles over the next few weeks, and they will not be discussing how to ditch Gordon Brown. The Prime Minister himself will hope that the summer will allow his problems to recede, but I no longer believe that they will. I'm not sure what I want to see happen. On one hand, I would like to see a quick change of Prime Minister, and the early General Election that would mean. On the other hand, if Gordon struggles on until June 2010, history shows that Labour will be annihilated and David Cameron will probably have a bigger majority.

It was a great night for the Scottish National Party, in particular Alex Salmond. He has used his position as First Minister of Scotland to devastating effect. I will return to this issue, and its relevance to Wales in a separate post.

It was a reasonable result for the Conservatives, even though we were a distant third - but it was third, which is better than a lot of commentators were predicting. There remains a huge challenge for the Conservatives in Scotland, but David Cameron's willingness to put himself about in constituencies like Glasgow East shows that we are serious about being an all UK Party.

Another very bad result for the Liberal Democrats. Yesterday, fellow blogger Peter Black posted that he thought that the Lib Dems were going to make a fight of it. They lost their deposit, with a whimper. Nick Clegg looks to have been a very bad choice.

I must say that Labour spokespersons have been totally unconvincing today - and personally, I've not seen any of the potential leadership candidates making any public comment. Sniff of cordite, and under the desk they go - only to emerge when others have done the dirty work. It really does look as if there is change in the air. Better hang an to our hats in the autumn I think.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Opportunity Missed.

Really miffed today. David Cameron visited the Royal Welsh Show, and I wasn't told about the visit until it was too late to change my plans. I really could have done with one or two action shots, which could have been so useful in my election campaign. I'd arranged deliveries to Cil Farm, in preparation for the coming weekend's wedding festivities. No option, but really really annoying just the same.

BBC are reporting that David backed Elin Jones' decision to establish a large scale cull of badgers in a Bovine Tb hot spot. I'm pleased that he did that. In my opinion Elin took a difficult and brave decision, which will have already caused her much angst. She showed herself to be twice the man that Hilary Benn is at Defra, who chickened out of taking the same decision in England. In fact, things have worked out rather well. I accept that the science concerning the best way to tackle the Bovine Tb issue isn't certain, but the destruction being visited on our dairy farms warrants at least a pilot scheme to see if a badger cull helps. And since the science isn't certain, it could be argued that just one pilot is enough. Wales leads the way.

I was interested to see a few MPs recently being given some publicity for saying that Elin Jones should back down from her proposal. The only thing that surprised me was that the number of MPs making the demand was so small. And no surprise that Alun Michael seemed to be the leader of this group of MPs either, since he shares a constituency with Lorraine Barrett, the Assembly Member most opposed to a badger cull. Its also clear that Alun still doesn't seem to have got to grips with what devolution means.

My Favourite Bond.

Was walking down Broad Street in Welshpool this afternoon, when I was accosted by two young women armed with clipboards, and photographer, Phill Blagg trailing along behind them. Was I willing to answer a topical question, and have my photograph taken. OK I said. Perhaps they wanted to know whether I think we should pull out of Iraq, or whether rural Wales should be covered with wind farms. Turned out they wanted to ask "Who is your favourite James Bond". An easy one for me. Daniel Craig - because he is only 5' 10'' and a bit, same height as me. Every other Bond has been well over 6', same height as Lembit Opik.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Value of Knowledge

Disaster. Lawn mower conked out today. Luckily, we have a builder named Dennis on site, converting a farm building into a house. Now Dennis is an unusual man, in that he can do anything. I never had the slightest doubt but that he would fix my mower. He looked at it for a couple of minutes, fiddled a bit, and then hit what he referred as the solenoid with a hammer. Problem fixed.

Reminded me of an anecdote. Plumber is called to fix a broken boiler and simply hits it with a hammer, which fixes the problem. He then charges £100 for the repair. The owner of the boiler protests, informing the plumber that he's not paying £100 for one strike with a hammer. "But sir" replied the plumber "I charged you only £1 for the strike with my hammer, but I did charge you £99 for knowing just where to hit it".

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Marquee Arrives

Been to the Royal Welsh Show today. Its an amazing event. The biggest drawback was the hastle getting in - waiting in the 'park and ride' area for a bus. After half an hour, and some moaning, it arrived. Seems that it was over an hour yesterday. The Show organisers will need to get this right by next year.

I went to the President's Lunch as a guest of the Renewable Energy Systems Group, RES, a member company of the Sir Robert McAlpine Group. Bearing in mind that I'm President of the most anti wind farm organisation in Wales, this may come as a surprise. It shouldn't do. I'm a pragmatic fellow. Despite all the protestations and arguments that I and the CPRW have put forward, the Assembly Government has decided to build huge numbers of wind turbines on the mountains of Wales. I don't like it, but I have concerned constituents (not sure if a mere candidate is allowed to so describe) who want to influence how these developments take place. For example, I was trying to persuade RES to 'spread the load' of the essential lorry movements associated with wind farm construction - reducing the potentially devastating impact on the town of Montgomery. I think I made some progress on this.

One stunning thing about the Royal Welsh is the number of marquees on the show field. And when I got home, another one had arrived in our own garden. This has really instilled the sense of panic that Saturday's wedding is finally upon us. Full blooded tidying up over the next three days.

Fag Ash Lil ignored for Culture job.

So Alun Ffred has finally been named as Wales' new Minister of Culture, Media and Sport. Looks a sensible appointment. He was a decent footballer, has lots of media experience and has at least one highly successful singer in the family. And with the essential plus that I've never seen him with a cigar in his hand - or doing anything else with one of these offensive objects either. He's also a very likable politician, and I wish him better luck than his predeccessor.

Now, there wasn't much chance of the lady painted by Sir Gerald Kelly being offered the job. It wasn't so much that she allowed herself to be painted, stark naked, and in highly brazen pose. I recall the now sadly departed previous occupant of the job doing just that, posing for a charity calender. So no bar there. The lady, who is hanging on the wall in Newport's Museum and Art Gallery, is not named but referred to as DD, because these initials are written on the painting. Occurred to me that the letters, DD could indicate something else entirely. Anyway, the reason she would have had no chance is that she is holding a cigarette in her hand. No way the Plaid Cymru high command could put up with a 'Fag Ash Lil' as the Culture Secretary..

Monday, July 21, 2008

Not so daft.

So 'lunatics' and 'idiots' are going to be allowed to become MPs, according to today's Telegraph. "What's so new about this", I hear you cry out. "I thought it was already compulsory". Well, OK it sounds a bit daft, but its a serious issue. The reality since Elizabethan times is that these two categories of people have been banned from standing as MPs in their non lucid periods. The problem has been that 'lunatics' and 'idiots' have not been allowed to stand for Parliament even after they have fully recovered. Participation of those who are not capable of reasoned judgement in our democratic processes is a subject that has become of great interest to me recently - since I became involved with specialist elderly care, often involving people with dementia. My conclusion is that because it impossible to be sure when capacity to reason disappears, and because the path towards a loss of reason is not a straightforward constant deterioration, it is unacceptable to bar anyone from full participation in our democracy on health grounds. Its a subject that isn't given enough serious thought. So news that there is to be reconsideration of outdated laws about lunacy is welcome.

Juanita Powell 1927-2008

Missed the opening Monday of the Royal Welsh Show today for the first time in many years. At least I'm told I was lucky to have missed awful traffic problems. Sorry to miss the President's Lunch though, and various other receptions, but I couldn't but attend the funeral service for Edith Juanita Powell.

'Nita', as everyone knew, and Stewart lived next door to us. We've known then for 40 years, and I did not know her name was Juanita until I saw the Order of Service today. I don't think anyone knew. Funny how its possible to know someone really well over such a long period - and not even know her name. The funereal was at St Beuno's, the magnificent Parish Church in Berriew. Its a pity I have to go to funerals to hear 'The Old Rugged Cross' and 'How Great Thou Art', two of my favorite hymns. Nita was 81 years old and had not been in good health for many years. She died suddenly in the end. 'Salt of the Earth' is a phrase that comes to mind.

Anyway, I will be at the Royal Welsh tomorrow - and I have another invitation to the President's Lunch. I'm also speaking at a Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales reception. Its going to be a rushed visit, because I'll need to be home in time to take Mrs D out for dinner. Its her birthday. And I can't go to the Show on Wednesday of Thursday because I'll be weeding the borders before Saturday's wedding and associated events, which will dominate this blog from Friday to Monday.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Carwyn Jones is instoppable

When my thoughts turn to National Assembly matters tonight, its a job to move away from the recently sacked Rhodri Glyn Thomas. I reckon Ieuan Wyn Jones has completely cocked up - as much as Rhodri has. Just don't know what he was thinking about. Perhaps he thought he might look decisive if he fired somebody. To me, he looks more 'wobbly' than ever.

The sickening bit is the retrofit and character assassination that is being spread, probably by the Plaid Press Department. Supposedly there have been concerns about Rhodri's behavior for years. If that's so, why on earth did Ieuan Wyn Jones make him a Minister in the first place. Every report on this issue will make reference to Rhodri Glyn having a penchant for a drink, quickly followed by the qualifier that there is 'nothing wrong with that'. But the implication is clear enough. Rhodri was desperately unlucky to have messed up at the Welsh Book of the Year Awards, which did make him a bit of a joke - but I'm told that it was just that, unlucky and could have happened to anyone. No Ieuan wyn Jones fired his Culture Minister for walking into a pub with a lit cigar in his hand. Remember that when you are smothered in the 'spin' that there was more to it. The Plaid Press Office are desperately trying to bolster the credibility of the Deputy First Minister. Politics is a dirty game.

But there's another game in town. Matt Withers in today's Wales on Sunday, asks whether anyone can stop the Carwyn Jones 'march' to the First Minister's desk. Well, I (and others) don't think so. Carwyn's a good debater, is quick on his feet, has presence - and best of all, he's got a lovely mum. I'd half expected Rhodri Morgan to announce that he was standing down last week - he likes to spring a surprise on the last day of term. I reckon he'll be gone by Christmas, unless Gordon Brown resigns first. So we have Huw Lewis and Carwyn Jones (and perhaps Leighton Andrews) limbering up, and some talk of Andrew Davies as a runner as well. Well, my money's on the Bridgend Boy. Come on Rhodri. Put a bit of spark into Welsh politics. Lets get on with it.

High Season Colour

Tis the season when Heleniums start to really make their mark. But I'm not at all sure that this is one! Tell me if you know. Its no more than 18 inches high. Background are Hemerocallis and the ubiquitous Pokers.
Now this is a Helenium. I will be cutting most of them on Thursday, because I'm charged with doing the pedestals in Llanfechain Church for Tim and Adrienne's wedding next weekend. There will be a yellow theme to the arrangements. To the left are Verbascums, which seed themselves about our garden. I let a few of them flower every year, especially the white ones. And behind another group of pokers.
We always grow some Monarda. They smell nice, attract butterflies and are very easy to grow - and a bit unusual. Behind is a favorite bush of ours, a Leycestaria formosa. Unusually, its a yellow leaved one that seeds itself readily - so we have a few dotted around.

Gordon Brown is an economic disaster.

I'm not an economist, except in the sense that I have run a small business. Still do. But I do know that you can only spend money that you earn, or are given, or that you borrow. And if you spend too much, you have to borrow too much, and when the borrower doesn't think you will be able to repay, you are in big financial trouble. Now I concede that running an entire country is probably a tad more complex, but the same basic principles apply. And its becoming clear that the current Labour Government is borrowing far too much - probably between £100,000,000,000 and £200,000,000,000 per annum too much. And we're not even in recession yet. Importantly, we have stopped believing what Gordon Brown, our Prime Minister is telling us. We think he has destroyed the British economy by his ideological obsession that it is only the state, through more public spending that can respond to every challenge. For a decade, he conned us into believing that he knew what he was doing. He even conned himself. In the beginning he acted responsibly, but in the end, he's wrecked the British economy. And there is going to be a very high price to be paid, mostly by the less well off. Gordon Brown has turned out to be another Denis Healey.

And then we have the spectacle of Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, announcing that his party's manifesto at the next election is going to promise a reduction in the overall tax take. No matter what depth of crisis the British economy has plumbed, no matter how eye-wateringly large is the budget deficit, Nick Clegg has said he intends to cut the tax burden. You believe that if you want to. I'd rather buy a car from Arthur Daley.

And what do the BBC do - or at least Andrew Marr. They take Clegg seriously. And they make a song and dance about David Cameron's refusal to act in the same irresponsible make-believe way. Even Brown's Ministers realise the game is up - James Purnell has realised that the Prime Minister is a busted flush, and has started talking some sense. As William Rees-Mogg says in today's Mail on Sunday, Cameron is now the only man who has the integrity to turn around the Gordon Brown inspired economic disaster. And Rees-Mogg is an economist.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Iain Dale's Column

I usually agree with the stuff that Iain Dale writes in his regular column for the Telegraph, but I didn't today. Iain's lauds Nick Clegg for stating publicly that liberal Democrat policy is to reduce public spending, and consequently to reduce taxation. Iain's first wrong assumption is that many will find this statement at all credible. For as long as most voters can remember, the Liberal Democrats have called for greater public spending, and consequently more taxation. And its no good adopting a policy if no-one thinks you mean it. To most voters its just not credible.

This is not to say that I disagree with what Nick Clegg is saying - even if none of his own party will have any truck with it. I, too believe, that public spending and taxation should be cut - but my view, and it seems David Cameron's, is that this should not be promised in a manifesto unless there is a certainty that it could be delivered. And how can there be certainty, when the current Government is borrowing money as if the world is going to come to an end next week.

And how can Iain give any credibility to Clegg's promise to cut £20 billion from public spending, without giving us any idea where the cuts are going to be made. There has probably never been an election when opposition parties didn't announce that they were going to save money on 'bureaucracy' - especially those who did not have the slightest chance of actually forming a Government which had to deliver on the promises.

The biggest problem facing politicions in Britain is that the people no longer believe what they say. I would love to hear my party promise to spend and tax less, but how on earth can we be certain of being able to do so in the immediate aftermath of a General Election victory resulting from a Labour inspired collapse of the national finances. It's right that David Cameron says that his aim is to lower the taxation burden over time. I believe this is true, and I think the general aim is believable. The reason that the Osborne announcement on Inheritance Tax last October had such a dramatic effect was not because it was going to reduce the tax burden (it didn't) but it did convince people that what is often called 'the direction of travel' was in the right direction. The Conservatives would reduce taxation when they could reasonably do so. The promise worked because it was entirely believable - and people liked it. Nick Clegg's promises are not.

Today's World News

What the devil is going on. I've just logged on and looked at the BBC's UK website (Yes the UK page) and read that Rhodri Glyn Thomas is going to lose his job as Assembly Culture Minister because he inadvertently walked into a pub with a lit cigar in his hand. That's right. Just read that again. Rhodri Glyn walked into a pub with a lit cigar, thus breaking the law, for which he could technically receive a £50 fine - and he gets the sack. It wasn't even in his mouth. You can totally screw up the Health Service, or the Education System, and there's no probs. But walk into a pub forgetting that you have a lit cigar in your hand, and up the spout goes your career.

So every time a Minister (or I suppose a Shadow Minister) in future is found to have a defective tyre, or breaks the 60mph speed limit, both rendering the criminal liable to a fine, a resignation must immediately follow. And it isn't even necessary to be apprehended by the Police. Oh No. All that needs to happen is that the crime is referred to on someone's blog, and then some politician decides to make an issue of it and Bingo, its reshuffle time. And what about going back a few years. Have any of the Ministers or Shadow Ministers got points on their licences. Clearly they must all now resign. Oh and there's a few thousand people losing their jobs, and there are wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the world's financial system is falling apart - and the top story is Rhodri Glyn Thomas. I can't go on with this. Words have failed me.

UPDATE - Emily Maitlis has just announced Rhodri's resignation on Newsnight. Well, the Broadcasting Committee wanted more references to Wales on the UK network. I'm going to bed plunged into despair.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Group Meeting

Joined the new Powys County Council Conservative 'Group' meeting at Llandrindod Wells this morning. Its only 9 strong. To readers in the South of England this might seem no big deal. Or in Monmouth or the Vale of Glamorgan for that matter. But in Powys, winning 9 seats in May's Council elections was akin to a blue revolution. The grand total at previous elections would have been none.

I consider myself to be a honorary member of the Group, as does Suzy Davies, our Parliamentary Candidate in Brecon and Radnorshire, and Assembly Member, Nick Bourne. We're very keen to operate as a team. Poeple are suspicious of political groups in Powys and traditionally have stood as and voted for 'Independents'. Our aim is to demonstrate, through the way we behave and preform that belonging to the Conservative Group is the best deal on the Council. I'll do whatever I can to help them do that.

Today we discussed two big issues. Firstly there was a motion before the Council to recommend removal of 'Development Control' powers from the Brecon Beacons National Park. And secondly there was an Assembly paper on restructuring the electoral boundaries of the Council. Both were interesting to me. The first because I pressed for a review of the role of National Parks in exercising the Development Control function when I was Conservative Spokesman with the relevant responsibility in the National Assembly for Wales. And the second because I've 'warned' (if that's the word) that once Councillors were paid a salary which doesn't contain within it a substantial 'voluntary' element, it would follow that the number of councillors would be slashed to the minimum. Can't say much about the discussion. wouldn't be invited again if I did.

Hugely encouraged by the way the group operates. Willingness to compromise and committment to the 'team' and a real sense of knowing where we're going. All of us want to build on the momentuim that we've built up.

The ups and downs of birdland.

I've been something of an amateur ornithologist for the last few years - no expert, no Ken Clarke, but I do notice what's flying around the place. So I was interested in today's bird pop chart in the Telegraph. Who's up and who's down. Top riser over the last few years has been the Ring Necked Parakeet. I must admit that I don't like them. Parrots shouldn't be taking over from thrushes (or whatever) in England. They belong in Africa and Asia. And anyway they just don't look British. And they have horrid voices. Next biggest riser is the Red Kite, which is joyous news. Humankind almost poisoned and shot these beautiful, graceful birds into extinction, but they were saved for the nation in Mid Wales. And my own garden observations cause me to be unsurprised to see the Great Spotted Woodpecker, Canada Geese and the Nuthatch in the top ten.

Biggest faller was the Willow Tit Willow. I can't differentiate it from the Marsh Tit myself, but since I've not seen either for years, I'm not surprised its sinking. Sorry to see the Spotted Flycatcher losing ground. It was the bird which inspired my interest when it nested in honeysuckle at eye level about two feet from our front door - and I could see it wasn't a sparrow. Then I noticed that a lot of other birds weren't sparrows either. Also sorry to see the Swift in the list of fallers. It flies high over Berriew and makes even the Red Kite seem clumsy. And the Grey Partridge. When as a young man, I took pleasure from walking our farm with my 12 bore, I used to bag as many Partridge as I did Pheasant. Now they're as rare a Vote Labour poster in Montgomeryshire.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

So childish.

I do find all this stuff in today's newspapers about David Cameron 'not ruling out tax rises' as being really irritating. Its so childish. No wonder young people are turned off politics. I watched Gavin Estler interviewing the Shadow Chancellor on Newsnight last night, and his line of questioning was puerile in the extreme. George Osborne needed the patience of Job. All the Newsnight producer wanted was to be able to run a clip which portrayed (incorrectly but who cares about that Gavin) the Conservatives as being a tax raising party. No matter how often the answer came back that its just not possible to make promises without knowing the position that the outgoing Government will leave, Mr Estler kept on asking the same inane question. Mind you this didn't stop Nick Clegg promising to cut taxes - no matter what the state of the nation's finances. He really is an irresponsible flop as a pary leader.

Its so ridiculous that even I don't feel that I can state the obvious on my blog, because someone will leap out of the bowels of the media and try to use me to embarrass the Party. It happened to me once before. During the last General Election, there was row about the revaluation of property for Council Tax purposes. I was the Conservative Finance Spokesman in the National Assembly and had said a few months before that for a property based taxation system to have integrity, regular revaluations are needed. Now this had been hedged in caveats, but it made no difference. For one day during the last General Election campaign, I was the lead story across the UK - driven by the Labour Party rebuttal unit. So I've learned my lesson. Despite the childishness of the pathetic attempt to portray today's Shadow Cabinet as a tax raisers, and the temptation to write the bl***y obvious, I will leave it alone. Nothing to stop sensible comments though.

Steady on chaps.

The front page headline of today's Telegraph really bothers me. "You have the right to shoot dead a burglar" This is strong stuff. We should not be encouraged to shoot people dead, unless we are at war, or have no choice.

I was happy with the first two paragraphs. 'Home owners and others acting in self defence were yesterday given the legal right to fight back against burglars and muggers free from fear of prosecution' and 'They will be able to use force against criminals who break into their homes or attack them in the street without worrying that 'heat of the moment' misjudgements could land them in court.' I reckon this is sensible, even if there will inevitably be grey areas where difficult judgements will have to be made.

But the aim of our legal system must be to reduce the level of violence and criminality. I remember the massive support there was for Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer who was sentenced to imprisonment for manslaughter after shooting a burglar. Like many others, my first instinct was to be on Mr Martin's side, but I finished up not being at all sure. I don't think we want burglars who are running away to be killed, and we don't want homeowners to be lying in wait with guns either. The paragraph in today's report which made me think 'Steady on' was 'Home owners would be able to stab or shoot a burglar if confronted or to tackle them and use force to detain them until police arrive. Muggers could be legally punched and beaten in the street, or have their own weapons used against them.' Well yes, within reason.

I don't know whether there has been a significant change in the law, or whether its another Gordon Brown gimmick, using strong language to describe what is already legal anyway. What worries me is reading a front page of a national newspaer which could well lead to a more violent society, rather than the opposite. I know. Its the wimpish side of my politics coming through again. But there we are. That's what I think.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stupid Rules

Did you know that if someone nicks your car, and the police vehicle giving chase is damaged, you will get the bill for its repair. This seems to me to be utterly stupid - so stupid as to be incredible - but its what happened to Jason West of Stoke-on-Trent, according to today's Telegraph. A thief stole Jason's Golf GTI, and when the Police spotted it, they gave chase. The thief then rammed the Police car, causing significant damage. The Police then sent the bill for repairs to Jason. It seems this is what they always do. I suppose we've been told before that the law is an ass. Hard to argue with that.

I was once involved in something equally stupid. Sorry if I've blogged on this before. About 20 years ago, I was driving along a road in Newtown when a 10 year old just walked out in front of my vehicle. Absolutely nothing I could do about it. I saw the boy fly up into the air and genuinely thought he was dead. I can see it as if it was yesterday and I'll never forget it. I was lucky that my vehicle was in good nick and there were dozens of witnesses. I was so relieved when the boy recovered consciousness about 10 minutes later. An ambulance was called to take him to hospital. I was shocked when a few weeks later, I received a bill for £13 to pay for the ambulance.

Because I can be awkward when I decide to be, I objected. Not because of the money, just to the pronciple. I was told that I could claim the money back from the boy. Honestly, that's what I was told. A 10 year old boy. Well, I dug my heels in and decided not to pay, unless instructed to do so by the courts. I defended myself in the Small Claims Court, where I inevitably lost. Knew I would, but wanted to make a point. The Court must have agreed with me because no costs were found against me. I don't know whether the law has been changed by today. So Jason West, you are not alone.

Well Done Russell

Not often that a new young councillor pulls off a big score. But new Powys Conservative Councillor, Russell George did just that today. The Council was considering a proposal to sell off the old Market Hall in Newtown, Montgomeryshire, which in my and Russell's opinion would have been a failure to show reasonable responsibility towards the 36 Market Traders who run businesses from there. Well, Russell managed to persuade a majority of the Council's Executive Board to back him. Any decision to dispose has now been deferred until a planning application by Tesco, which is currently being considered, has been decided. I'm not sure what the thinking is behind this. Perhaps, Tesco may be 'persuaded' to pick up some of the cost of maintaining the Market Hall. Who knows. But it was a great decision.

I was very surprised to hear that the Liberal Democrat members of the Executive Board didn't support Russell, and the Market Traders of Newtown - despite the Market Hall being in the ward of a Lib Dem Councillor. I understand Montgomeryshire's MP, Lembit Opik had also been in touch with the traders. The Lib Dem councillors seem to have totally ignored both of them. Interesting - and especially so for the Market Traders. Anyway, lets hear it for Councillor Russell George - a man who gets things done.

Losing Control.

Do you remember John Cleese thrashing and kicking his mini outside Fawlty Towers. It was funny because most of us get to feel like doing something similar from time to time. We can relate to how he felt. Must admit that I've kicked a lawnmower or two in my time - and hurled a chain saw into the ground when the b****y thing wouldn't start. I can feel my hackles rise again, just typing out the words. Oh, and I've also sacrificed a mobile phone and a pitching wedge on the alter of momentary satisfaction on the golf course. And it's only momentary. Just imagine what I might have done if I'd been born to nobility.

Well, the Honourable Linda Granville was so born. With my record, I don't feel well qualified to criticise the Honourable lady, but driving her Landrover at a farm gate, forcing the stable owner, Lynda Rankin to dive into a hedge to avoid being mown down was going too far - in my opinion. Especially when her fiancee raised a 'pair of nunchucks' above his head during the same incident. Some things only the well bred are capable of. I suppose its the inbreeding. The two were found guilty of criminal damage and threatening behaviour. All to be found on page 8 of today's Telegraph.

All this puts me in mind of Milton who used to work for us. He'd saved up to buy a 250cc Triumph. To this day its the only motor bike that I've ever ridden. Milton was very proud of his motor bike. Until one day it wouldn't start. So he took a hammer to it, smashed every smashable part of it and threw it over the hedge, - before stalking off, with flames pouring out of his nostrils. Actually there were not any real flames. And then was Julian, another friend who returned to his car parked on the side of the street in Welshpool, to find only one inch between himself and other cars both fore and rear. Understandably he was cross. So cross that he decided to have a go at getting out. The facts about what happened next remain in dispute, but unfortunately the magistrates found Julian guilty as charged. The word 'nudge' is a legal term which has always been open to interpretation. And then there was the time when I.......

50 inch knickers.

Last week's newspapers carried photographs of what were claimed to be Queen Victoria's knickers (or bloomers). They had a 50 inch waist. Blimey thought I, that's a fair girth. But today's 'Letters' in the Telegraph comes up with a possible explanation. Maggie Hughes on Gnosall writes to say that her granny, which must be getting back to Her Majesty's time, used to wear very long vests and roll them up into a huge 'pad' around her waist, and tuck it into her knickers. And there was a television satire programme that suggested that at least one of our male Prime Ministers supposedly tucked his vest into his Y-fronts, which would have had the same effect (if it were true that is). As the old Chinese proverb says 'You can't tell the size of potatoes from the size of the bag they're in'.


Its 1.30 in the morning and I was going to have a real moan, but I've just read the headlines in the Shropshire Star about two youngsters being killed in a motor cycle accident. What have I got to moan about. But I'll tell you what was annoying me just the same - Barclaycard and our rail service.

I'd filled up my car on Friday, and Mrs D's car on Sunday, and my card came up as 'Not Authorised' on both occasions. So happened that I had my cheque book with me and was able to pay. Anyway checked up with the number that my bank gave me this morning and it seems my card was stopped because there's a police investigation involved. Well "Thank you Barclaycard for not bothering to tell me". And what would I have done if I'd been somewhere without another means of paying? The 'voice' which informed me of this development refused to say another word, didn't apologise, and just said that another card would be sent in x days. He sounded as if he couldn't give a damn.

And then I set off for Green College, Oxford for a round table discussion about 'Social Care' (in England). Planned to catch a through train from Wolverhampton to Oxford. But the road between Welshpool and Shrewsbury was closed. An accident, on a stretch of road where there have been so many. Youngsters have been killed in motor cycle accidents on Cefn Bridge - which is why I drew back from a full blooded moan. Anyway, I missed my train, and took another that changed at B'ham New Street. From Birmingham to Oxford - almost 2 hours - it was standing room only. It seems that there was a carriage short. And to make matters worse it conked out for ten minutes - and I couldn't hear a word over the tannoy, stuck amongst other sweaty bodies between carriages. So I arrived for my brainstorming session late, sweaty and knackered. I've just made it home.

Can't say much about the discussion. Chatham House rules. But the issue is the meaningful 'empowerment' of people needing social care. In principle, I like the idea of 'empowerment' of the individual, but going down this road without some very careful thought could prove to be a disaster. OK, so Care Homes and Nursing Homes have got a chequered history, and no-one argues with effective regulation. But the alternatives could well be worse. We did no more than scratch the surface tonight.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Crime against Humanity

Christopher Booker, who writes for the Sunday Telegraph, is no fan of the European Union. That is an understatement. But today's attack is fully justified. This blog has been at one with Christopher about the evils of a mass switch of farm crops from producing food into producing biofuels. Everyone now realises what a disastrous policy it has been, Everyone except the foolish people who decide on European Commission policy that is.

I don't expect Government's to act on this blog's advice. Not all the time anyway. But last week, the Chairman of the UK Renewable Fuels Agency advised the British Government to change tack, and concentrate on wood and crop wastes. The British Government accepted the advice immediately, but not the European Commission. Oh No. High food prices, and the violence that follows hunger, is nothing to do with biofuels according to the Commission. Its rising demand, bad weather and speculators. As Christopher Booker ends his article today "this crime against humanity looks set to continue.

More July Colour.

We don't grow many Astilbes, because our garden is quite dry. But I had to grow this one because its name is 'Montgomery'. Easy to grow, easy to divide and colourful
One advantage of a wet summer is that the Ligularias do well. In a prolonged dry spell, they are awful. So bad that we don't grow many now.
Had to put up another Kniphofia, Tawny King. About 5' tall and stand well. Its one of the best.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

What to do with Dwain.

Not much doubt that Dwain Chambers is the fastest human being in Britain. He did what everyone expected him to do tonight. He was in the first two in the Olympic Trials held in Birmingham. He won in 10.00 seconds, after a poor start. He will now have to be chosen to represent the UK if his legal bid for an injunction against the British Olympic Association's ban on his participation in Beijing next month is successful. Now, I don't know what to think about this - but I don't like it.

Dwain Chambers cheated. He was a drugs cheat. In my opinion, the rules should be clear. If an athlete cheats, it should be the end of selection for the British team, full stop. But these aren't the rules. Chambers has done his time and qualifies to run in all championships except the Olympics. Where's the sense in that? Either you're banned or you're not. We will find out what the High Court thinks of this next Wednesday. Athletics is in a mess.

The really maddening aspect of this is that Dwain Chambers is a fabulous athlete, who had no need of drugs. Even at the age of 30, with an intermittent career behind him, he still shows a clean pair of heels to every other Brit. And even if he were to win an Olympic medal, he would still not win a place in the hearts of the watching public.

How bad is it for Labour?

Just catching up on Friday's papers. Couldn't let John Kamfner's column pass without comment. Aan of the left wondering whether the Labour Party will "be wiped off the map" at the next General Election. I don't think many Labour Party activists really believe this (yet), but it's obviously being talked about. If Labour lose the Glasgow East by-election in 12 days time, a lot more people will be contemplating wipeout.

Tonight's ICM poll suggest that Labour will hold Glasgow East, and allow Gordon Brown more time to reconnect Labour with the people - or make things worse. The by-election may make it more likely that the General Election will be delayed until the last possible date in early summer, 2010. This is not necessarily good news for Labour, in that history tells us that the Prime Ministers who hang on to the last minute usually perform very badly indeed. Even more importantly, when we approach next June, all parties will have the same firm timetable to plan to. The pereiod up to the conference season is going to be very interesting for we politicos.

Being a responsible landlord.

This building is the Market Hall in Newtown, Montgeryshire. It is owned by Powys County Council, and is let to 36 market traders, many of whom have been tenants of the Council for a very long time. It is also an important part of what makes Newtown distinctive, something I believe is particularly important in a town that has undergone great change as a consequence of its being a statutory 'New Town'. Newtown's population was increased from about 5,500 to 11,000 by Government investment in housing and industrial premises. I played a big part in that process in the 80s and 90s.

At present, the Council is faced with huge maintenance costs. I'm told that about £200,000 is needed immediately, with another half a million to put the place in good order. Unsurprisingly, the Council have decided to sell it, rather than put such an imposition on the already hard pressed Council Tax payers. The issue is not so much whether the Council sell it, but whether any requirement to protect the interests of the Market Traders is included as a condition of sale. I believe that there should be.

The Council can and may just sell the building, allowing the buyer to kick out the tenants, and convert the building into standard retail space. It cannot be knocked down because some parts of it are listed. A widespread rumour around my Broad St coffee pitstop is that Weatherspoon's want it - but there's no confirmation of this. If we were talking about a private landlord in the 19th century, we wouldn't expect sympathy for the tenants. But Newtown is the birthplace of Robert Owen, perhaps the world's most renowned thinker and practitioner in the field of fairness within industry. How ironic it will be if the Council just say, "Lets take the best offer, and stuff the traders". I really do hope that they don't.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Spirits of Xmas.

What is it with the Father Christmas suit. As soon as a group of normal, well meaning people pull them on, all hell breaks loose. Today's Telegraph has a substantial article about the 'civil war' between the Fraternal Order and the Red Suit Society, two rival gangs of Santa Claus's in the US. There promises to be a riot at today's annual conference of the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas which takes place in Kansas. Accusations of profiteering, unethical behaviour and even Claus-on Claus violence are rife. The Internet based exchange of information on belt supplies and beard dying has become a war zone. The story's on Page 16.

Now you may think this sort of thing could only happen in the US. But No. Something much worse has happened in my quiet part of Rural Wales. A few years ago an incident occurred in Newtown, in Montgomeryshire. It was the first Sunday in December - middle of the peak packaging season for every Father Christmas. There had been a 'Santa Run' around the streets of Newtown at lunch-time, when a world record 3700 Santas had taken part. I completed the course in around 25 minutes and came in about 25th. I joined a few other Santas for a post-race pre-Xmas drink in the Sportsman, and then went home for lunch. Unfortunately some of the other Santas decided to stay on for a liquid lunch, and did a William Hague plus (which involves at least 14 pints). At around 9.00 some Claus on Claus violence broke out, which finished up with several fully suited Santas fighting like dogs on Severn Street. There were injuries, arrests and the story made news across the world. The most amusing aspect of the entire story was that the police spokesman, who became a star on Sky News, was named Police Constable Slaymaker. Every word of this is true.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

David Davis is a hero

Its the sneering I dislike most. The dismissive tone of those politicians and commentators who cannot grasp that there is some greater purpose for an MP than reaching a lofty position on a greasy pole. Oh how they will mock the turnout, which will inevitably be down on the General Election. Oh how they have already mocked a man who did something extraordinary, when they can only understand the ordinary.

I believe David Davis has achieved a great deal. He has made us face up to the insidious advance of state surveillance - the remorseless chipping away of our civil liberty. He caused Bob Geldof to write (or have written for his approval perhaps) this fine article in today's Telegraph. By his actions David Davis has pushed open a window and allowed some light to be shed on the intrusive tentacles of a domineering state as they encircle the neck of our liberty in their suffocating grip.

Some comments on one of my previous posts on this issue seem to challenge my right to hold this opinion - because of a previous Conservative Government's association with a policy of Internment in Northern Ireland. This seems odd to me because when internment was operational, I had almost no interest in current affairs. I did have a passing interest in the future of my home area as a result of involvement in Young Farmer's Clubs competitions, but from my early 20s, life was dominated by sport and family and then working to make enough money to provide for them. Developed an interest in local public service when I became involved in local government, and in national issues when Lord Walker plucked me out of obscurity to chair the Development Board for Rural Wales. It was only in the early 90s that I started reading national newspapers on a regular basis, and joined the Conservative Party. I've stiven to catch up since , but always suffered from the lack of historical perspective on some issues. None of this is not to dismiss 'Internment' as anything but a hugely important issue - just that I wasn't in the least bit interested in it at the time. Reading about it on the Internet, I reckon that I would have been opposed to it, though I accept that its easy to comment with hindsight.

Anyway, I do comment on detention without charge, and ID cards, and CCTV surveillance. I just going to watch Newsnight now, to learn what the BBC's take is on it all - but for me David Davis is a hero.

UPDATE - As expected, Emily Maitlis sneered and mocked, but Michael Crick surprised me by acknowledging a much higher turnout than expected, and was clearly impressed. The turnout % is expected to be in the mid 30s which David is right to describe as 'Spectacular' in the circumstances.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"Look, I can crawl."

Been out to a concert tonight, and want to go to bed - so no time for blogging. Just time to add this latest photograph of our little Ffion. Cute or what

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Great Eliza.

I've just watched Dame Eliza Manningham-Butler on News at Ten. She was demolishing Gordon Brown's appalling plans to allow 42 days to pass before a suspected terrorist is charged. We've seen many others make the same argument, most notably David Davis, who has potentially sacrificed his political career to raise the profile of this shocking assault on civil liberty. But this Dame is special. She was Director-General of MI5. And she was supported by Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, Lord Faulkener and Lord Goldsmith. They all tell us that its not needed. It looks as if the Prime Minister's opportunistic appeal to populism has been sunk. The wonders of a bicameral system of Government.

At one with The Duchess

We all adjust our opinions as we grow older, as clouds of uncertainty drift across the stark clarity of youthful vision. One area where I've adjusted relates to the freedom people have to live where they want. When I contested my first election, hoping to become the Montgomeryshire District Councillor for Berriew, the main plank of my manifesto was that people should be free to build a new house wherever they wanted to. My suspicion of 'The State' which underpins my politics to this day, was undiluted in those days. My policy stance was that development control should be abolished.

How on earth can a man capable of such thoughts ever become President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales I can almost hear you hiss. Well such a man couldn't. I've adapted my opinion. But I've not changed it completely. Which is why I welcome the new approach to development in rural Wales being taken by Jane Davidson, Assembly Minister for the Environment, Sustainability and Housing.

No longer do I want there to be a free-for-all. We do need a planning system. But I do want more flexibility given to Local Planning Authorities to grant permissions in support of the indigenous population. I welcome the Minister's proposal to allow housing for part-time help on farms. I also welcome her proposal to allow housing in support of other rural businesses. And I welcome new 'local needs' housing being allowed next to small clusters of existing houses. These changes will deliver more social stability in rural communities - a return to the position before the planning Taliban took over a few years ago.

Another area I hope will be supported by the Minister is granting greater freedom for Planning Authorities to adapt policy to suit their own areas of responsibility. Local democracy will only thrive if Councillors are allowed discretion. There is an unhealthy obsession with 'training' Councillors before they can serve on LPAs. I've never trusted this. Too much like brainwashing to support officer guidance. Mustn't complain though. Minister has moved policy a long way towards where I want to see it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Multi-purpose Footwear

Both the Telegraph and the Western Mail are reporting today that police sniffer dogs may have to wear 'bootees' when searching the homes of Muslims. Many Muslims regard dogs as being unclean and it is thought that unshod canines searching their homes for drugs and explosives would cause offence. This may well have unforeseen consequences if there happens to be a tortoise in the house.

Last Saturday, someone called VL emailed the Telegraph's pet expert about a problem with his/her 30 year old tortoise. Apparently, the creature makes a nuisance of itself by trying to have sex with shoes. This causes particular embarrassment when strangers visit. I understand this problem. My mother-in-law used to have a West Highland Terrier named Archie, which occasionally performed what she called 'actions' with visitors legs. This caused her acute embarrassment.

Now I'm no pet expert, but I'd have thought that the best advice would have been to go buy a lady tortoise, and give her a good covering with boot polish before introducing her to the problem male. But the Telegraph's pet expert suggested that when visitors arrived, the poor old tortoise should be locked away in a cupboard. Lets hope it wasn't the shoe cupboard.

Food Sense at last.

Don't suppose many Welshmen have been harvesting palm oil in Malaysia - but I have. The technique involved using a very long handed hooked blade, and pulling sharply downwards, and then ensuring that the dislodged fruit didn't land on my head. For those who disbelieve me, I still have a video of the harvesting. But the abiding memory of my tour of Malaysia was of the massive clearances of tropical forest to make way for new plantations.

It was 17 years ago, and the experience made me sceptical about the drive to biocrops. Seemed to me that it would cause huge damage to the great forests of the world, with accompanying damage to biodiversity, and lead to both increased populations and decreased food supplies. I recall discussing the impact on the world's climate with Malaysian Government representatives at the time, and being told that Britain was in no position to talk to any developing nation about land clearance, bearing in mind our colonial past. It was a fair point, of course.

Well, the chickens that this blog has been warning about have come home to roost. Food riots have followed price rises. It seems that the Government is waking up to the consequences of the crazy rush to biofuels, and wants to stop the biofuels juggernaut. About time too. I hope George Bush is taking note. There's nothing wrong with promoting biofuels, but not by diverting the entire product of the US corn belt from the food mill to power station.

And what is our Prime Minister talking about at the G8 Meeting in Japan while all this is going on ? Zimbabwe, perhaps ? Or Iraq and Afghanistan ? Or the credit crunch ? No, he's telling us to leave a clean plate. Its not that I disagree with this advice. After all, its what my nain used to insist on when I was a lad. Tomorrow, he'll be telling us to clean our teeth and change our underwear every day.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Parkinson's Disease Week.

When I was a young man, middle distance running was a hugely popular sport. I used to train for hours on end. At schoolboy level the reward was the pick of admiring school girls. Anyone winning the Olympic men's one mile or 1,500 metres title was admired across the world. Just think of the pick he had. Women's sport didn't have quite the same following in those days. In 1976, the Olympic Champion was New Zealander, John Walker. I can still see his flowing locks in my mind's eye, as he beat all comers for years.

In all, he ran 135 sub 4 minute miles. 16 years ago he was diagnosed as suffering from Parkinson's. The Mail on Sunday has a great piece on him today. As is common with Parkinson's sufferers, he's incredibly positive. Unfortunately I can't find the story online. Its on pages 92/93.

The MoS has another Parkinson's Disease story today - about the link between Dopamine and compulsive behaviour, in this case gambling. Dopamine is produced naturally in the brain, but not after Parkinson's strikes. Medication is based on stimulating the production of Dopomine. Today's story was about how gambling had destroyed the marriage of a sufferer. A sad story.

Over the last few days I've attended two Parkinson's Disease events. The first was in Cardiff when Edwina Hart, the health Minister spoke. John and Sue Day from Montgtomeryshire were there, and joined me for the above photograph. Both of them are sufferers, as is John's brother and father. And yesterday, I joined Karen Emberton on their stall at the big fair in Montgomery - that's the other photograph. Reason I take such an interest is that I'm president of the Montgomershire Branch.

Hot July Colour

Not sure what this poker is called, but it could be Wrexham Buttercup. I don't think that the photograph quite does justice to the strength of the yellow. Probably my best kniphofia, which is why we grow several clumps in the hot border.
Foxtail Lilies always impress visitors because they are not widely grown. There's no reason why not. Eremurus is quite a tall plant(5 ft), and here its hiding its untidy leaves behind a pink alstreomaria.
Penstemons are wonderful value plants - easy to manage and long flowering. Reputed to be tender, but we've not had any trouble. We don't cut them back until the spring though, (to about two inches from the ground) allowing the old foliage to give a bit of frost protection. More altreomarias behind.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

MP snogging on TV - Uch

Picked up today's Western Mail with some trepidation. Martin Shipton, the paper's top reporter was on the phone yesterday asking me what I thought of the decision of my local MP and General Election opponent to participate in a TV film, which includes him snogging with his fiance. Martin's article is here. It seems that the film is being broadcast on Living TV at 9.00 next Wednesday evening. I said that I won't be watching it, but Martin wanted to know what I thought just the same. In general, I don't comment on my opponents behavior, but neither do I like to say 'no comment'.

So I'm quoted as merely saying that

"Lembit has a different approach to politics from me. I just don't want to do that sort of thing myself. I'll leave it to the residents of Montgomeryshire to make a judgement. I think a lot of them were not aware of this sort of thing until recently."

That pretty well sums up how I feel. One thing about the response of the Lib Dem 'Spokesman' (didn't anyone want to go on the record? ) that did interest me was that the Montgomeryshire MP had raised an issue in Parliament about a flood plan which was important to his constituents. I wonder if this was the following intervention that he made on John Healy MP that other bloggers have referred to elsewhere. On her excellent new blog, Heledd Fychan writes;

He also has a terrible habit of popping in to debates at parliament rather than staying for their full duration. As a result, he often makes the most ridiculous comments which have no relevance to the subject under discussion. Yet, every time he does this, its noted that he's spoken. He can then say to his constituents that he's spoken so many times on different issues. What they don't realise is that there's no substance to those contributions and, therefore, he's not ensuring that the opinions of his constituents are adequately and properly relayed to Parliament. This following quote from a debate last Wednesday is a classic:

"Lembit Öpik: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way to me, and I shall be brief. He mentioned the public's right to be heard, but many people are worried about how areas subject to flooding and standing water are handled. Is he confident that the new planning process will give local residents the opportunity to have their opinions heard before the Environment Agency turns an area into a standing water flood plain?

John Healey: I rather regret giving way to the hon. Gentleman now, as he has a habit of coming in halfway through a debate and going off half-cocked. The Bill does not cover those matters, nor does it touch that part of the planning system."

Perhaps it was another intervention that the 'Spokesman' was referring to. I hope so because the Environment Agency's Catchment Area Management Plan for the River Severn is a hugely important issue for Montgomeryshire. Anyway, I don't think I can bear to watch my MP (or any other MP for that matter) snogging on TV, so if you watch it, you can telephone Martin Shipton and tell him what you think.


South Wales Police have released a tape of a conversation with a worried caller. Its worth reading.

More John Lewis News

All this free publicity that our MPs have been giving John Lewis doesn't seem to helping the upmarket retailer cope with the credit crunch. Sales last week were 'very weak' according to analysts. Today's Telegraph reports bad news. Electrical goods and home wares, which MPs have been buying from allowances were down 15% and 13% respectively - while clothes, which I've seen no reports of MPs buying were up 2%. There must be some sort of message here.

Join Dan

Next Wednesday, my Montgomeryshire Conservative colleague Dan Munford, is heading up to Hull, to join the David Davis campaign in Haltemprice and Howden. He's attending an evening Question Time session with David, Bob Marshall-Andrews and Shami Chakrabari. Dan's driving up, so he has three seats available for anyone who wants to travel with him. If you're interested, telephone my office on 01938 552315, or comment.

The attitude of the 'Westminster Village' to the decision of David Davis has demonstrated its growing disconnect with the public. On Wednesday, I was talking to several Labour Parliamentarians who seemed to think this would damage the Conservatives, and that it showed David to be an impetuous man who had acted foolishly. When I said that I thought it would benefit the Conservatives because one of our most high profile politicians had been willing to potentially sacrifice his career in order to campaign on a principle, and the people would like that, they just dismissed it. Its the same sort of disconnect that led so many MPs to vote against changing their allowances system last earlier this week. Public opinion should not be treated in quite such a cavalier way.

I've long been an admirer of David Davis, an admiration that has increased as a result of his stance on personal freedom, and resisting the remorseless advance of the Leviathan state. I cannot join Dan Munford myself next Wednesday, but I will be with him in spirit. Go if you can, and become a part of David Davis' People fight Back campaign.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The John Lewis List

One of the consequences of becoming an MP is that so many people think its only a trough of cash that attracts. And nothing has done more to reinforce this negative opinion than the constant reference to 'the John Lewis list'. Surprisingly, a lot of people I've talked to don't understand how this list fits into the scheme of things. So I'll outline how the same situation was dealt with in the National Assembly, as it applied to me.

When I was a member, I had an allowance of about £11,000 to cover expenses relating to living away from home during the week. This could be spent on hotels, the interest on a loan (not repayments) of any property purchased, and all expenses relating to that second home, including Council Tax, electricity, gas, telephone, and furniture etc. Receipts were required for all claims.

I do not know what measure Assembly officials used to decide what was a reasonable claim, but at Westminster it seems that there was a list based on John Lewis prices that was deemed to be the limit. Perhaps if an 'Ikea list' had been used, with MPs paying anything above that out of their own pockets, there would not have been such a media frenzy over this issue.

Individual AMs used the allowance in different ways. Initially I stayed in hotels, but hated it so much that Mrs D came down to Cardiff one week and searched out a suitable flat for me - in Adventure's Quay. Mission of mercy she called it at the time. Most of the costs of that flat were met by the Allowance, including the purchase of some furniature, bought from Hafren Furnishings of Llanidloes. After about five years, we decided to upgrade to a much nicer and more expensive flat. This meant that the allowance did not remotely cover the costs, but it was my choice to pay extra. So for the last few years I was an AM, the whole of my allowance went towards paying part of the loan interest. I paid for everything else myself, so the equivalent of the John Lewis list wasn't applicable to me at all.

Sometimes, politicians make a killing because of an increase in the value of the property, the interest of which having been paid by the taxpayer. All I can say is that because I bought for convenience to my work, rather than for potential profit, I did not make a profit on my first flat beyond what I has personally spent on it - and so far I have retained my second flat, which is worth significantly less than I paid for it.

I have not made any personal profit out of the allowances that were available to me. But like many politicians, I really do not like being portrayed as being on the make. Which is why I was so disappointed that MPs decided to vote against the reasonable changes being proposed to their allowance system yesterday. I accept that a logical argument can be made in support of what they did, but in my opinion that vote did great harm to the standing of Parliamentarians everywhere. I just thought it would be helpful if I listed all those Welsh MPs who voted in favour of retaining the old system - without further comment from me..

Nick Ainger.
Ann Clwyd.
Wayne David.
Dai Davies.
Paul Flynn.
Nia Griffiths.
Dai Havard.
Madelaine Moon.
Jessica Morden.
Paul Murphy.
Chris Ruane.
Mark Tami.
Don Touhig.

UPDATE - Sanddef tells in comments that Madelaine Moon should not be on this list, and that boty Martyn Jones and Ian Lucas should be.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

First Pound Saved

Upon leaving Nucleus Healthcare on Monday, I took a taxi to Newport Station, where I purchased a one way ticket to Cardiff. Normally such a ticket costs £3.00. But on brandishing my newly acquired Railcard, the price was reduced to £2.00 - my first discount.

En route to the station, a lady's voice came over the taxi intercom. "Can all of you shift your taxis off the car parking area, and get George off my back" followed by a man's voice, "What are you doing on your back" - accompanied by a dirty laugh.

Nucleus Healthcare

I missed the speeches at the official opening of the new £10 million private gastroenterology unit at Celtic Springs Business Park on Monday. I'd been detained at a coffee morning in Welshpool before heading South to Newport. So missed Colin Jackson's ceremonial wielding of the scissors. I'd been keen to go because its such an interesting development.

At the unit, Nucleus Healthcare will treat the full range of problems of the digestive system, but the part of its work that interests me is capacity to carry out colonoscopies. Recently the Assembly Government announced that it was postponing the full introduction of its bowel cancer screening programme for 50-74 year olds until 2015 because there is not sufficient capacity in the NHS in Wales to deal with the number of cases that would be identified, and require a colonoscopy, and subsequent surgery. This private healthcare facility could carry out the colonoscopies - and at 'tariff', which is the same price that the NHS pays for them in England. Now I'm not going to play politics with this issue. It matters too much to me. I realise there are complex arguments, but I do hope that people suffering from bowel cancer are not being required to pay with their lives for some ideological prejudice against using the private sector.

We are all conditioned by our experience, and one those which define the way I think, is personal knowledge that early diagnosis of colorectal cancer (bowel cancer) saves lives. It saved mine. So I'm a advocate of screening and early treatment - and if this can be speeded up by using Dr Manny Srivastrava's spanking new facility, then let it happen.

I really enjoyed the event. Ossie and Angela Jackson, Colin's parents were there to keep an eye on CJ. They are such special people. Angela was a colonoscopist with Dr Srivastrava until she retired. I had met them before at an event in Cardiff, when Colin was being inducted into 'The Hall of Fame' a few years ago. Its easy to understand why Colin Jackson is such an unassuming general 'good guy' with such great parents. I really hope that Nucleus Healthcare's big gamble comes off.


Mathew Thomas Roberts-Parks is just 20 weeks old. He was born at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital 27 weeks after he had been conceived. Mathew's mum, Marion tells me that another little baby was born at the same time in the same hospital just 22 weeks after conception.

Soon after returning home, Mathew was admitted to the Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital at Alder Hey for two hernia operations. Which is why his family had arranged the fund raising coffee morning in Welshpool earlier this week, when this photograph was taken. He was downing his bottle as we were supping our coffee, and everyone could see just what a wonderful little human being Mathew is. I have always been very opposed to the legal limit for abortions being more than 20 weeks.

Back Home.

Back after two days on the road, with posts to write, but no time until tonight -apart from this meander while I have a coffee. And its nice to be home too - to check up on the big building conversion project, to see how much damage the deer have done to the garden, and to reconnect with the blog.

Now I'm just a country boy, who over the last few years ventured forth from the farm, and learned to cope (sort of) with the initially unsettling sophistication of Cardiff. Owning a nice little flat in the Bay helped by creating the 'familiar surroundings' to which I could beat a retreat from the dangerous world of sharp suits and power heels when needed. Cardiff has been an ideal 'half way house' preparation for the awesome challenge of London. The good news today is that I've just come through what's been a testing experience. Have to admit that the 'fuel price protest' outside Parliament did make me feel quite at home. I strolled over for a photograph with them, expecting my more worldly old mate, Brynle Williams to be there with his placard.

Yesterday, it was a very nice Claire House Children's Hospice lunch in the Atlee Room in the House of Lords. The place has an almost serene, country-quiet atmosphere. I was sitting next to Baroness Golding, who severely tested my confidence with the sheer ferocity of her opinions. She's from Caerphilly. But I settled down when she told me that she was into foxhunting, horse and dog racing, fishing and boxing. She's a member of the board which regulates British boxing. After an hour I began to feel quite at home. She was so disbelieving when I told her that I thought I was in with a shout in Montgomeryshire, that I offered to buy her dinner if I were to win. She accepted the offer if she could decide where - to which I replied that it depended whether MPs were being paid at all by then. As walking out, I was almost run down by an official looking car. Sitting in the back seat, busying himself with lists and statistics was Gordon Brown himself.

Then things took another turn. I'd planned a meeting on the Terrace with another guest - but it was raining. So he suggested that we retired to a local tearoom called Claridge's. Have to admit that it seemed even more sophisticated than Cardiff. Even my ordinary cup of tea was called 'English Breakfast Tea'. But I think I fitted in rather well, mainly because I naturally 'cock my little finger' to drink tea from any dainty cup. Since I was a young lad my fingers have been so big that there's no room to hold the cup properly. It was a very nice tearoom though, even if it did seem a bit more pricey than I'm used to.

Things seemed to be going well, did take a turn for the worse later on. I'd moved on to another meeting in Chancery Lane, which seemed a most civilised place. But the underground train from there was terrifying. Just surrounded by heaving bosoms in embarrassingly close proximity. When I emerged, proudly unscathed I should say, into Paddington Station, I felt a bit as I did when I completed my first ever shopping expedition to Morrisons last year, when Mrs D was laid up acclimatising herself to a prosthetic knee.

Anyway its all over, and I've made it back to the farm. The thing about country boys is that they are surprisingly adaptable and resilient.