BBC: When Toffs Attack

The jackals are out for the BBC.

All the usual suspects are crawling over the media, trying to haul down the broadcaster in order to devour it and make a financial as well as a corporate killing.

Charles Moore, a long time Tory hack who edited the Daily Telegraph, said this morning on the Today programme on Radio 4, that the BBC was a corporation which complained of fake news whilst itself faking the news. This was not true and a gross calumny.

If you have missed the thrashings of the rats tearing at one of the few (only?) politically neutral news agencies in the UK, if not the world, you may be forgiven for thinking this was about  the BBC making up a story that led to a war at the very least; it wasn’t (they leave that to politicians – WMD anyone?).

What we are actually talking about is Martin Bashir mocking up a couple of bank statements in order to get Earl Spencer on board with journalistic access to his sister, Princess Diana. The resulting interview Bashir did with her was one she said she wanted to do. After its airing on BBC she wrote that Bashir had not shown her any documents, was not pressured to do the interview and she had no regrets at having given it.

Now if Charles Moore reckons the BBC was peddling fake news it seems he is saying that Princess Diana was the one lying, doesn’t it? Bashir may have used a dubious method to get close enough to her to suggest the interview, but he didn’t make any news up. Charles was having an affair with his now wife, Diana had had an affair with another man and she was desperately unhappy in the marriage. Prince William saying that the interview worsened his parents relationship hardly seems tenable in this light, it was already doomed.

Spencer has claimed this interview led directly to her death two years later, which seems to stretch the laws of causality beyond reason. But this whole affair has nothing to do with reason, it has all to do with establishment payback melding with a long term commercial media hatred of the BBC born of greed.

This opportunistic attack on the BBC comes on the back of 11 years of swingeing financial cuts on the Corporation by an ideologically opposed party in power. And the BBC hadn’t been in favour with New Labour before that, given its part in exposing the lies about WMD and the government exposure of the man who helped the BBC, Dr David Kelly, who subsequently died in mysterious circumstances.

Should Bashir have had the documents mocked up? Probably not. Is it a hanging offence? No. Was the interview faked? No. Did it reveal the truth about the state of the marriage of the heir to the throne and say something about his fitness to govern? Yes.

Did the interview lead directly to her death? In the same way as being born inevitably leads to our death. The choices all parties made after that took her to that terrible end. The fact that it was commercial journalists and paparazzi hounding her into that Paris tunnel, make the baying for BBC blood now all the more sickening.

Beware Patriarchs Bearing Covenants

I blame Abraham for a lot of things.

Perhaps the least contentious, in terms of not being arrested for hate crime, being blown up by suicide bombers or annoying friends and relatives, is the fact that he fucked up my relationship with my father for a few more years than was necessary. It would have happened anyway I guess in that stupid testosterone fuelled male competitiveness crap around puberty. But the supposedly reassuring tale that God has our interests at heart and that he had chosen to make a covenant with us by getting Abraham to sacrifice his ‘only begotten’ son was a bit of a downer for me.

I was my father’s only begotten son and I was worried about history repeating itself. Isaac was always portrayed in those picture books beloved of Christian Sunday Schools as looking calm and relaxed, like he knew the fix was in, but I wasn’t convinced. The whole voice of God, the deus ex machina bit at the fifty ninth minute of the eleventh hour didn’t help. I mean there weren’t a lot of thorn thickets around our terraced house and there were definitely no rams getting caught in them to do the whole super sub routine on the altar.

Don’t get me wrong, my father hadn’t until this point, I was about six or seven when the portent of this tale struck home, done a lot to suggest he was listening to voices in his head advocating filicide as a strong career move. But you never knew.

Actually the more I read the Torah/Pentateuch/Old Testament, the less certain I became about the whole reliability of God’s contract and Abraham’s version of events.

The whole ‘only begotten son’ bit was a crock for a start. Abraham (Abram at the time as he had not yet been renamed by God) already had a son. Ishmael hadn’t chosen to be born and certainly got the shitty end of the stick. Sarai/Sarah persuaded Hagar to have Abram’s child as she couldn’t and then she kicked the pair of them out when she had her own child. Nice lady.

Actually Abraham and Sarah are a right pair. Abusing the home help, planning on murdering their son for a chance at the top job in the tribe and helping destroy two cities because they (possibly) didn’t persecute homosexuals enough.

You have to wonder if Abram might not have been disguising a rapacious desire to succeed at all costs under the veil of doing God’s will. It’s as if a really good PR firm had got hold of the life story of some of today’s tech giant/social media creators and done a snow job on them. ‘Sure he destroyed millions of high street jobs and drove down wages and avoided all the existing labour and tax laws…but he was doing it for a higher purpose!’ Watch out for new Messiahs/Patriarchs coming to a digital app near you!

My Dad didn’t exhibit any kindling collecting tendencies but I confess his understandable crossness at some of the things I did at times, triggered a distinct wariness. I wish I had explained my reserve to him at the time.

 As it was we grew more distant than we needed and puberty made things worse. It took me some years (decades?) to move back to a respect, and yes a love, that I had had when Daddy was the best thing in the world, before bloody Abram stuck his oar in. We did get there but I wish it hadn’t have been so protracted and skewed by a mythical character and his self aggrandising PR story.

Three great religions and the justification for millions dead.

Beware men building pyres and listening to voices no-one else can hear.

Or hi-tec business empires.

A Farrish By Any Other Name

Inspired by a NaPoWriMo prompt on Carol J Forrester’s site: Thanks to her – I wouldn’t have seen it and had the idea otherwise. Oh, and go and read her pages – she writes proper poetry!

What’s in a name?

Everything and nothing

A consummation devoutly to be wished

And an untimely ending

Played out on a stage

Of someone else’s making.

Did I choose my name?

Did you?

My name holds promise

Something strange, exotic perhaps

Al Faris in decades gone by?

Lost in a scribes lazy transcription

A Moor maybe?

 I look at my freckles,

Red hair, fair skin and wonder

Is there anything in genetics?

Or maybe there’s Moor or less

Than meets the eye?

Of course the answer’s simple.

An internet search

Cuts the work of decades now

To an origin lost in time

Not that long it turns out

But long enough to wipe memory

An itinerant Dumfriesshire man

A William of that ilk,

My ilk it turns out, give or take

An ‘R’ that was a scribes addition

Came to my home town and never left

But left me his Border name.



Hoping everyone has a terrific St David’s Day.

After the way the last three Six Nations Rugby matches have gone for Wales I would guess that God, if not a Welshman, certainly has some sort of deal going with Wayne Pivac.

If  he/she/it is Welsh – just look after the rest of things as well as the rugby eh?


Action Monday

A news presenter on radio has just wasted several precious minutes of air time wibbling about ‘Blue Monday’. Apparently that is today, 18 January 2021.

The slot started off moderately light heartedly but rapidly drooped into the usual misery about the ‘last year’ and how we can all avoid our suicidal depression.

Well I’m not in one.

I’m sure there are some people who are down about life, and I sympathise but there are obviously a lot of people who are not and designating a day at random as ‘the low point of the year’ isn’t helping anyone.

I’d never even heard of ‘Blue Monday’ as a concept until today, and thirty seconds of searching online revealed what I suspected. There is no evidence for this as a real thing at all. It was a creation of a psychologist, Cliff Arnall who was suckered into the idea by Sky Travel in 2004. They were seeking a way of getting people to book holidays early for that summer and used this concept to prod people into parting with their hard earned cash. Arnall has since asked people to ignore the whole thing as irrelevant to real life. But as Dr Frankenstein found out, these monsters are harder to slay than create.

So here we are then on the most depressing day of the year (not). And you would, under the current circumstances, be mad to book a sun packed overseas beach holiday any time soon. So do you end it all now?


Lift your head up and look at the glory of creation. Whether you ascribe the wonders around you to a God, or to a Gaia type concept or to the random chance events of scientific evolution they are pretty amazing and so are you. Your sheer existence is a wondrous victory over chance. Celebrate it.

Vaccines are on the way to offer a hope at least of a path through the Covid-19 minefield for many of us fairly soon so we should bear up under the strain and keep a clear head.

Actually if we are looking for something to be less than happy about, it might be that idea of vaccine rollout.

I am fortunate enough through happy circumstance, nothing to do with me, to live in a rich, self absorbed country, that had the money and opportunity to bung loads of cash relatively early on to pharmaceutical companies and ensure fairly early access to large numbers of doses of these lifelines. But what about the rest of the world? There are billions of people out there who will not have lifesaving vaccines for months, probably years the way things are going. The Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine is being made available to low and middle income countries at cost. Which is great but still expensive and supplies are currently being snapped up by rich ‘first world’ countries before they can rollout to these other needy areas.

So if you want to shake off the imaginary Blue Monday lethargy, write to your MP and suggest we stick a couple of billion in the pot to help pay the ‘cost’ price for our fellow human beings to be safe. And maybe we could build and licence production facilities elsewhere to stop countries rich from the previous exploitation of other countries snaffling all the available doses first?

‘No man is an island…’ and all that.


I’d like to end 2020 on an upbeat note.

But I have no desire to stick my head in the sand

Civil society in Wales is not in a good place.

Our Covid figures are the worst in the UK nations and the NHS is falling, or probably has already fallen, over.

And political accountability on a range of issues is non-existent.

Starting with the small stuff first, the idea that the majority of people pay the smallest amount of attention to various enjoinders or rules about the Covid situation is a joke.

I see secondary school children, old ladies and athletic looking middle aged men without masks in shops unchallenged by shop workers while pre recorded voice messages play over the tannoy system telling us all how there is a one way system in force, everyone must wear masks and assistants will enforce the rules.

Families have extended family over to visit from many different households and not just in the Christmas window and way beyond those limits.

And why would they pay attention when the rules change seemingly from day to day?

And when someone writes to ask a question via email about the policy, the system, its implications for a Welsh student studying and living in England and whether they can and how they should return for essential services still registered for in Wales, and might the Welsh Government apply a little more thought to those in that position, they are ignored.

The official system my daughter used to contact Mark Drakeford some months ago specifically says that the enquiry will receive an answer. She wasn’t expecting a personally signed vellum scroll in reply, but not to receive even an acknowledgment, as required, undermines belief in even the most basic lip service to democratic accountability and engagement.

But politicians and officials seem to care little about what the pubic want. We have recently had a new superhospital open in our area, The Grange at Cwmbran – the one recently in the news with no beds for A & E and patients sat overnight in ambulances waiting. Which is odd as it is the A & E hospital now for the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. This has a huge catchment area and is not on the established public transport links in the area. Newport is the focal point for transport links in the area. Cwmbran is up one of the valleys and if you need to get there you have to change buses or trains at least once, in Newport, to get there and then the hospital is nowhere near the station in Cwmbran.

But obviously if you need to get there in an emergency you will use an ambulance to get you there in time to save you without the bother of public transport.

The 86 year old grandmother of a friend of my daughter had a fall a couple of days ago. She was in agony and the family couldn’t move her themselves as they suspected she had broken her hip. They rang for an ambulance to take her to the new state of the art centre of excellence that is the Grange at Cwmbran.

26 and a half hours later an ambulance arrived. The ambulance driver said he would complain as his patient was by then in a bad way and he had not heard about the call until recently. That obviously stops the press stories about waiting in ambulances for a bed.

As suspected, she as a broken hip, and will have an operation tomorrow.

I’d suggest writing to someone to complain, but as nobody is even likely to acknowledge it, it hardly seems worth it does it?

In case anyone thinks Covid and/or teething problems with the new hospital in Cwmbran are to blame, nearly two years ago my GP rang for an ambulance for me when my heart went into atrial flutter and I had a resting pulse of c150 beats per minute. I waited for a couple of hours and rang to see what was happening. There were no ambulances. They sub contracted a taxi.

Fortunately my wife got back from hospital and drove me to hospital. The ambulance/taxi never did arrive.

There were no beds. There were no trolleys. I sat in a chair in the waiting room overnight, eventually hooked up to a drip to see if they could get my heart rate down before I saw someone about sixteen hours later and I eventually got a trolley. I moved up through the hierarchy for a couple of days until I eventually got to a cardiac ward bed, got my heart rate under control and was discharged for cardioversion at a later (five month) date.

There was no Covid. There were no teething problems

I’m not having a pop at the NHS staff, but at the failure to finance, organise and direct their efforts while talking gibberish about how brilliant everything is.

A little less effort on the ‘message’ front and a little more at getting the bloody thing right would help.

It’s not just the NHS, and it’s not just Wales.

Underfunding, poor planning and a desire to egregiously lie about how ‘World Beating’ everything is at every verse end is infecting every facet of public life in the UK. And it is not ‘public service inefficiency’ that is the problem. The efficacy of the Government’s remedy of choice, privatised sub contracting, can be seen in the woeful performance the World Beating private test, track and trace system in England. It is undoubtedly setting records but not at the end of the leader board you’d like it to be.

A little more honesty and genuine attempts to fix problems rather than ‘perceptions’ would go a long way.


I heard at the beginning of the week that Ray Edwards has died from an infection acquired in hospital having been admitted with Covid.

It is unlikely that you will know Ray, and your life will have been the poorer for that. He wasn’t a great literary genius or a famous politician or a celebrity. He was simply a great human being.

I knew Ray through a Writers group and through helping proof read his autobiography ‘Lucky Me!’.(available here)

It was a privilege to know Ray and to help him in however small a way to realise one of his dreams; setting his life story down on paper. He wrote sensitively about his childhood and his family which held one of those secrets that could, perhaps should, have come from the pages of a novel rather than the beginning chapter of an amusing kind and sensitive man.

Whatever difficulties life threw at him, and he had his share and more, he overcame them and bought a smile to the faces of those around him. He turned this gift of compassion and human understanding to counselling work after his engineering career was over.

He used his experiences, growing up near Caerphilly, in the RAF and as an engineer with British Airways, and his natural interest in people to fuel a burst of writing enthusiasm which entertained, amused and entranced those who heard and read his stories. It is a great sadness that he has gone before he could have developed more fully the promise he showed.

He leaves his wife, Rosemary to whom I offer my deepest condolences at her loss and to whom I offer my thanks for loaning him to us at Writers every week.

He will be deeply missed.


The room went quiet. I couldn’t really see the problem. She’d let them all have a go and waited until the last call to throw her hat in the ring. But I crossed my fingers she was going to be wrong.

‘Well, if it isn’t our guest.’ The halibut smile touched the MC’s mouth again and he looked at Carol with interest. ‘Do you have a name you’d like to try?’

‘I do. My grandfather would never forgive me if I didn’t know this.’

The MC’s brow furrowed.


‘Because his dad was Bernard Kelly’ Carol paused for effect, ‘winner of the Waterloo in 1953 and 1954.’

‘Bloody hell.’

Some saw the funny side, some, realising they had the descendant of Crown Green royalty in the room, applauded and cheered. Ivor and Ronald began a speculative barrage of “Ringer”, “Cheats”, taken up by others who felt their sacred knowledge of the Crown Green game was being stolen by this female Prometheus.

Jeff and the MC tried to calm things down before anything more than insults were thrown. There was as much invective flowing now between various tables as there was towards us.

I was judging the best route to the door when Jeff disappeared and returned with the huge man who had been taking the money at the door. He loomed over the MC and looked round the room. Even the Homburg wearing Ivor was quiet.

‘Is there a problem?’

The silence was absolute. The MC resumed with a smile, a genuine one this time as far as one could tell.

 ‘Thank you ladies and gentleman. I can confirm that “Bernard Kelly” is the correct answer, and I’d like to extend a warm Red Horse welcome to such a lovely representative of a legendary family.’ There was a ripple of clapping. Ronald opened his mouth a couple of times, but his sense of injustice withered in the looming presence behind the MC.

Carol sashayed up to the front and collected her coasters and the MC’s handshake was long and genuine. Mr Kelly’s fame trumped everything in his eyes. Carol didn’t showboat this time and there was spontaneous applause. The doorman’s eyes swept the room one last time as Carol returned to our table, and satisfied he was no longer required, went back to mind the entrance.

‘Well, we are honoured to have the great granddaughter of one of the greats of Crown Green bowling in our midst.’ The MC announced. He took a breath to recover from his brush, however remote, with fame before continuing. ‘Now, on to the last two rounds and I’d like to remind you all that the last round is a double pointer. The questions are harder but the reward so much greater.’

The Rugby Club looked at each other. This wasn’t quizzing according to Hoyle, but it was the Red Horse’s quiz. League rules didn’t apply if they didn’t want them to. The Red Horse was always a maverick outfit. There wasn’t any judge to run to on this side of town. We’d known that when we crossed the river.

First there was a music round and that might have soothed the savage breast, but the combination of thrash metal, swing and gospel rock was not conducive to that end. The temperature rose. We were not clued up on the works of Metallica, Tommy Dorsey or Cliff Richard but surprisingly, some of the Red Horse teams were. The gap narrowed. We weren’t playing for the prize. We were playing for honour and I had a sneaking suspicion we might have forfeited that in most people’s eyes some time ago. I knew Carol wasn’t answering any of our questions but I wondered how I’d have felt if Ronald or Ivor’s teams had pulled the same stroke. Not that there was a stroke being pulled, but I suddenly saw how it might look. Losing might be the honourable thing to do.


I pulled myself back to the present.

‘Er, no thanks. Keep a clear head and stuff.’ I said.

‘Good thinking.’ Said Steve. ‘Double points next round, we don’t want to let them in at the death.’

‘I wish you hadn’t said “death”‘ Paul said, looking over his shoulder.

‘Nothing to worry about now.’ Steve replied.

‘Not with our get of gaol card.’ John nodded at Carol.

‘They wouldn’t touch the granddaughter of Brian Kelly.’

‘Bernard, and he was my great granddad.’ Carol corrected.

‘I’m not sure how far that amnesty extends.’ I said.

‘Right, ladies and gentlemen, with the scores poised in a very interesting position, we move into the final round, and with double points up for grabs, things can change very quickly.’ He swept the room with his grin. ‘Are we all ready?’

‘Get on with it!’

‘Then I’ll begin.’

The questions were harder, but as well as being an average inside centre at the weekend, John was a pretty mean industrial chemist by day. We knocked over the questions on the Haber process, carbon ring geometry and blast furnace components without breaking stride. Naming German goal scorers in the 1966 World Cup Final proved more of a challenge. Helmut Haller was no problem but we had to go via the German author of “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” to dig up Wolfgang Weber’s name. The rest were somewhere in between but we were confident we had knocked all of the questions over the boundary. Then I remembered perhaps we should be trying to lose. I was still dithering about whether to change some answers as the sheet was collected.

To keep people busy while the serious business of marking and adding went on at the top tables, there was a ‘just for fun’ picture round, but beyond a few ‘Who the **** is that’ mutterings over lesser known movie stars and Bishop Abel Muzorewa, it excited little interest. The frantic calculations by the teams believing themselves to be still in contention were interrupted in fairly short order by the MC.

‘Ladies and gentlemen.’ He called us to order.

He wasn’t going to surrender his power easily and he strung proceeding out as best he could. He thanked the waitresses, the bar staff, the organisers, question setters, markers and “of course all of you wonderful teams” for making the evening possible and the raising of so much money for charitable causes, although they remained unnamed. There was a grumbling in the throng.

He was a committee man, and he stuck to his guns, making amusing, to someone at least, comments about various well known characters from the club and their performance on the green and in the quiz. Eventually he got to the meat of the event.


sode'em and tomorrow

I went to the Newport Writers Group Open Mic night at Hortons in Newport again last night (thanks again Andy).

Poet Des Mannay was there, as he was last month and I should have mentioned this in my write up of that visit. He is a very exuberant and outgoing performance poet originally from Adamstown in Cardiff, now based in Newport and it is a pleasure hearing his work.

It is particularly good to be seeing and hearing him at the moment as he is about to have his first collection of poetry published this week.

The book is called ‘Sod ‘em and tomorrow’, published by LIT-UP, an Arts Council England-funded mentoring and publishing scheme for emerging poets of colour.

The launch will be in London on Saturday 29 February at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, in Tottenham Green, London.1430-1730hrs  entry £3-00 redeemable against purchase of the book.

If you’re in London why not go along, meet and hear Des and buy the book. If you can’t make it on the day, you can still enjoy his work and buy the book at good bookshops or direct from Waterloo Press for £12.

Good luck Des, have a great day.