A rather strange occurrence in Llanfoist tonight, with Debbie, James, Emma and I staring out of the open skylight windows just after 10pm looking up at the night sky.
Now if we could have afforded £20 each we could have joined a local astronomy society in the Brecon Beacons to view the meteor shower that is the Perseids as that is an ideal dark sky.
Still, by looking out of the den windows the roof obscured the street lamps of Steele Crescent which are unfortunately quite bright, although by looking vertically upwards you could see a huge number of stars through the patchy low level clouds.
Personally I’ve never seen the Perseids before and very impressive the transient streaks of light are as particles the size of a grain of sand from a comet hit earth’s atmosphere and burn up brightly as a result.
I always find that when one looks at such natural wonders such as these, it brings you down to earth ironically and makes you remember just how insignificant and transitory we all are.
Now I’m not that big on paying for memberships that offer discounts, either they cost too much, or they don’t give me discounts on things that I actually want to buy.
The Defence Discount Service is different though. It only costs £4.99 and lasts for five years, but to qualify you have to be a serving member of HM armed forces (including reserves) or a veteran, or a MOD civil servant, or a spouse/partner/widow(er) of armed forces personnel and be able to prove it.
I bought mine a few years ago and to be honest didn’t really use it until I retired and moved to Wales. Much to my surprise it qualifies me to free swimming at our local leisure centre which I’ve used three times now. It also allows you discount on-line to hotels such as Travelodge (10% discount) and International Hotel Group (30% discount at Holiday Inn including Express) both of which I’ve used recently.
I’ve also used it to get 10% discount at a number of shops while buying clothes for my daughter – New Look and my wife – Bonmarche! Sadly I’ve yet to get a KFC (10%), Harry Ramsden’s (30%) or YO! Sushi (25%) since joining but you never know!
It really is worthwhile to join and I’ve definitely saved ten times the cost of membership in the last few months alone.
A heathy democracy depends on MP’s being accessible to their constituents and to be fair both of the Conservative MP’s who have represented me in Surrey and Monmouthshire, despite the fact I have never voted for them, have corresponded with me over the years.
When Debbie and I moved to Thorpe village in Runneymede we were ecstatic to move to a large four bedroom detached home called Kent House in what could only be described as a quasi-countryside retreat on the outskirts of Staines and Chertsey. We fell in love with the chocolate box cottages, Frank Muir’s field and overlooked its proximity to the M25/M3 motorways and the Heathrow flightpath.
Of course this meant it was very convenient for me for work as it was only a 3 mile drive to Egham where Gartner’s European HQ was based in the Glanty and on my frequent trips necessitating taking a flight meant that I could get home on my return quickly. Alas the latter advantage was somewhat diluted due to constant delays from congestion at the airport and the noise and air pollution.
The first issue I contacted “Philip” about was over Surrey County Council’s inability to take seriously a fire risk to Kent House due to several conifers growing on a strip of land they owned adjacent to my double length attached garage. The gutters were completely full of detritus from the trees which overhung the garage roof with their branches.
Surrey CC was liable but replied to my letters of complaint with the response “they had no budget available” for such redial work that financial year even though they owned the strip of land and were responsible for its upkeep!
A strongly worded email to my MP cc the council seemed to work a treat and in the first instance they came and lopped down about 8 conifers down to stump level and the following year actually removed the stumps and landscaped the strip. Result!
My next interaction with Philip came with the government announcement that Heathrow expansion was going to be decided imminently despite protestations by local people including those he was supposed to represent. I sent him an email saying how much pollution had increased since we’d moved to Thorpe as the airport traffic had increased so much.
Alas in reply this time I got a weaselly worded reply that “he had made his views clear over many years and that he also had to think about the national interest”. Translated that mean he wanted the Chancellor’s job, a position he achieved soon afterwards… Ho hum!
Escaping to Wales I thought little about my new local MP David Davies until history repeated itself when Monmouthshire County Council launched a “consultation” to impose charges on the free car park in Abergavenny used by dog walkers in Castle Meadows (including yours truly most days) and of course by the workers in the town’s shops and offices none of whom are paid a fortune.
The consultation involved writing to the council’s Chief Operating Officer who’s primary responsibility I translated to “Chief Revenue Officer” so I made my objections by email copying my MP! I noticed that he then responded back to the COO cc myself insisting that my views along with many others be taken seriously.
Subsequently and much to my amazement all plans were dropped and the status quo maintained. Result!
Sadly the following events confirmed to me that indeed “history does repeat itself” when I grew frustrated after giving the Conservatives the benefit of the doubt at the local government elections by voting for the for them for first time ever in my 58 years…
What caused my angst was the Conservative party manifesto on social care costs aka “the dementia tax” being introduced along with means testing pensioner benefits. Added to this was the increases in Student loan principals and interest rates coming in for the new academic year and the continued funding through government debt of the foreign aid budget.
An email duly was sent with the following weaselly reply “that all political parties supported the continuation of the 0.7% GDP commitment to foreign aid even if this would not be a personal priority for myself”.
Then my concerns over yesterday’s announcement of the increase by a year for young people to receive the state pension on the last day of Parliament before the summer recess (no doubt to bury bad news) was responded today with the fact “that I am affected too and the country can’t afford the status quo” although I had to point out in reply that he wouldn’t be affected due to the MP final salary pension scheme being one of the most generous in the UK… Ho hum!
So in summary, if you want to use your MP to attack unfair decisions being made by your local council go ahead, you’ll likely be well rewarded. 🙂
If you want them to fight for you on a national cause – forget it! 😦
Yesterday we decided to go for a short drive to try and dry off Molly after her usual “dip” in the Usk, Hamish having dipped his toe in wasn’t as bad thank goodness but as the odour emanating from the rear of the Freelander got worse I decided it would be a good idea to get out and dry them both out with a further walk.
I remembered reading Chris Barber’s book on following in Alexander Cordell‘s footsteps that they paid a visit together to see the ruins of the Clydach ironworks which run parallel to the A465 Head of the Valleys road that is currently being “duelled” through huge earthworks in the Clydach gorge.
So turning sharp left from the A465 under the new bridge being built and following the road round for 1/4 mile we saw the turnoff for the car park to the right.
By now it was quite hot and Molly was literally steaming as we made our way across the River Clydach on an old metal bridge into a clearing with some stone ruins to the rear shaded by some young trees.
After trying to identify the ruins today with the drawing of the ironworks above as it would have appeared in 1840 we retraced ourselves back to the car across the old bridge again, remembering that if we’d bought the house in Gilwern rather than Mountain View it ran all along the side of the property.
With Molly and Hamish now only slightly damp we decided to continue exploring and rejoined the A465 only to double back at the next mini roundabout and take the road off to the left towards Blackrock running parallel to the main road but on the other side this time.
After reaching the Brynmawr summit we then decided to take a single track road called Hafod Road that followed the contour of the ridge of the mountain above the road we just driven up. There were excellent views of the old quarries cut into the mountain opposite, as well as sadly a tin can that had been carelessly thrown out of an earlier car!
Following the road round to the left it readily became quite steep to the right and narrow so to take this photo I pulled into a passing point. We didn’t encounter any cars thank goodness but quite a few pedestrians and their dogs and push bikers enjoying the scenery.
Continuing on to the left we passed the odd hill farm to the left until we reached a large cross roads with a car park to the left and a Youth Hostel sign to the right. We carried on until we reached a dead end and having retraced our path for 1/4 mile we then headed off downhill hoping to find a country pub to refresh ourselves and the dogs.
This was when the adventure really started as the road down was very steep, very narrow with few passing points should a vehicle be coming up the other way. With my heart in my mouth and silent from the three other passengers I threaded the Freelander down between two houses gingerly and made our way to Llangattock and civilisation!
There was nothing to do further than celebrate continued life by visiting the Bridge End Inn in Crickhowell where this selfie and picturesque view of the bridge over the River Usk made an excellent end to the adventure.
By the time we got back to the car the hounds were dry, our thirst quenched thanks to San Miguel and we headed off home exhausted but happy!
Just over 100 years after his death in Flanders, this brave soldier’s sacrifice together sadly with many others was commemorated during the presenting of the Royal Welsh colours in Abergavenny yesterday.
The parade of 70 regular army soldiers was organised in reaffirmation of the Freedom of Monmouthshire parade being granted to the regiment in 2011 in Monmouth.
They were led by their Regimental Band and Corps of Drums who were all Army Reserve volunteers with the local Army Cadets following them. Separating the soldiers from their band was the Regimental goat mascot on the march to St. John’s Square from the start just opposite Borough market.
The parade started with the familiar commands of “standing/dressing in open order” which brought back memories and not a little tear in my eyes, followed by the band playing – as can be seen in this video.
The personal weapon drilled with was the SA80 with a bayonet attached which looked only slightly easier than my own Sterling 9mm SMG backing in Templar barracks for the Squad 29 pass out parade!
After arriving at the square, the speeches were very good both from the town mayor David Simcock who reminded us of the forces covenant especially as the Royal Welsh had deployed recently to Iraq and Afghanistan with an imminent move to Estonia after recent exercises in Canada.
After the speeches Debbie and I made our way back to the Freelander parked in the rugby car park, stopping along the way to pay our respects at the town’s war memorial in honour of one of the predecessors of the Royal Welsh our own 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment and the statue of a “Tommy” contemplating the fighting in Ypres.
Going back to the beginning of this post of course James our youngest son shares the same name as the poor soldier from 100 years ago awarded the Victoria Cross, long may the peace last that we all enjoy thanks to our wonderful armed forces.
It was a year ago today that myself, Debbie, James, Emma & Hamish drove down to Gatwick in the Galaxy to pick up Molly our rescue golden retriever. We’d adopted her from the Many Tears rescue centre in Llanelli who’d rescued her from an Irish puppy farm.
Molly had been fostered with Julie who lived near Gatwick awaiting her “forever home” and we found out later that she had been considering adopting her but fortunately for us we were very keen to take her on, hence the rapid deployment down south!
Of course we don’t really know her true birthday, nor how old she really is but officially from now on we will treat today as her third birthday which can’t be far out. Many people have told us that taking on a rescue dog is very rewarding and all we can say is that we agree wholeheartedly.
Molly is the most affectionate dog we’ve ever had in the family (sorry Tom & Hamish) and I think seeing her transform from a untrusting, terrified and emaciated creature into the happy and contented member of the family we see today is really heartwarming.
So here follows her monthly adventures over the past year as she too has “escaped to Llanfoist”!
This is how Molly looked when she first came to Llanelli from Ireland, she was looked after by Chloe one of the volunteers at Many Tears who sent us this photo before she was fostered out…
This was us collecting Molly on the 29th June from Julie who lived in Copthorne near Crawley and Gatwick airport. She had a rather smelly slip lead around her neck for the journey home as we were all terrified she’d escape and we’d not get her back.
For the first few weeks we all had to work hard to earn her trust despite inducements such as raw lamb breast and sliced hot dog sausages…
Eventually we started to venture out and I had the Freelander fitted with a dog guard supplemented by a rear window guard so that we could lower the window without them escaping.
Despite being the larger dog Molly will often curl up and sleep in Hamish’s smaller bed and even worse ours!
Eventually we gave up trying to get her to sleep in her cate downstairs and somehow she wheedled her way onto our king sized bed. Not for long though and we found that she quickly preferred to sleep in her own bed next to us, rather than being disturbed in the night as we tossed and turned!
This was her first visit to the seaside at Barry Island and although she only paddled a little in the sea water this must have given her ideas for wallowing in the River Usk later on.
Her first Christmas with us dressed as a reindeer, unlike our neighbours Andy and Helen who dressed as Elves…
A lady in repose relaxing on our bed while she thought we weren’t looking.
Amazingly I can’t find a photo of her in February 2017, the only missing month!
Watching the Rugby with James in her favourite viewing position.
A walk up Sugar Loaf mountain licking her lips in anticipation of sheep…
A later walk down Sugar Loaf after chasing some sheep hence back on the lead!
A classic pose in the River Usk sans tennis ball. This walk is the highlight of her day and she will nudge my hand and prompt me to where we store the dog leads to try and persuade us to take the Land Rover out and park up at Castle Meadows.
So a year on what does Hamish think of her? I’m not 100% sure but I do know he gets jealous of affection that we show to Molly but when we try and do the same to him in return his terrier instinct kicks in, but all in all I think he loves his little (or should that be big) sister don’t you Hamish?