Musings from a Valley Boy

Day in day out

The Best Friday Ever!!! (But another legend gone)

I bet you’re expecting some salacious tale of post office boozing of cocktails and the like, ending up in some kind of drug addled orgy of disgrace, morally defeated to be found in a lump on the floor with just my work pass to my name.

Fortunately not.

I opted instead for a night out with my family, young Louie of 3 years and 5 months and my dear wife Krys of 36 years and 7 months ( yes, I’m a toy boy) in the idyll of Roath that is the Pear Tree – a fine establishment that welcomes your average Guardian reader, a few luvvies, a good section of surfers ( they have free wifi) and a smattering of young parents that think it’s cool to take their offspring to a ‘pub’ for tea (that me by the way)!!!

Ive spent a few evenings with my good friend Gareth Jones (no relation – we managed to wheedle out the ginger gene in 1917 when uncle Arthur was tragically lost in the war – a schadenfreude moment of epic proportions in Ebbw Vale but we sort of all gasped a sigh of relief when we realised no more offspring would be mistaken for one of the travelling folk variety!) in the Pear Tree – quaffing a few ales and mulling over the finer points of life and of course our beloved music!

Anyway, my family and I, after meeting outside the museum, made our way to the Pear Tree for some nourishment and quench, to escape the rigmarole of a Friday that normally entails Krys taking young Jonesy to slumber while I try and conjure up a mushroom risotto without drinking the bottle of wine I’ve just opened to cook with. Now I could freely booze, in public, without the fear of over stepping the glass of wine to hour on the clock ratio that normally pervades my quaffing appetite.

I can’t express enough how much fun we had this evening.

Louie was a model child (after being a proper little shit most of the week with me) – enjoying the freedom of waving to strangers on the double decker bus from the second floor bistro window and trying to get them to wave back! (he managed a few gingerly offered waves from two closeted extroverts and a full set of wave/thumbs up/peace sign from one lad on the 54 going to town – he was so happy/simple).

We made witches fingers from sugar packets (this only works on kids fingers unless you have some kind of bone degenerative disease), count the tramp (good on a friday since the beard has come back into fashion), see how many times you can make your parents take you to the toilet even though you’ve just been but you can’t risk it just in case and you haven’t brought clean pants for him, and the piece de resistance ‘rock, paper, scissors’.

I can’t believe how quickly Louie took up the rulings and indeed patterns of the game. Within three goes he had me in a corner, cowering, with a Lilliputian sized scissors ready to slice my man sized paper hand to pieces!!! He’s the devil incarnate!!!

The walk home, after a few plates of tapas and red wine was eventful. I say eventful because every new path was an event! ‘On your toes Dad’ he’d say – at which point I’d have to crouch like Usain Bolt and wait till he said ready, steady, and the he was gone – expecting me to chase which I dutifully did!!! The problem is, as he’s getting older he’s getting faster. As I’m getting older, I’m getting slower. Much slower. He does humour me though and slow down when he notices me wheezing!

Bed time, which had basically been a car crash of human and tired emotions last night, was a breeze of joviality and overtired giggles.

I’m glad I opted for family tonight. There’s far more to Friday nights than drinking yourself into a stupor and waiting ages for a taxi. Just take your family for a bit of grub and few civilised glasses of vino tinto (like the French do) and then drink yourself into a stupor watching documentaries about Fleetwood Mac and Pearl Jam on your settee with superior wines from your local independent wine outlet safe in the knowledge that you’ve pleased everyone and yourself. Sometimes not easy with a family.

Dylan once said ” you can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. Even though that, in its essence, is completely true, i found that you can please all of the people all of the time as long as your people are:
A) your son – who’s happy with chips and a mobile phone; and
B) your wife – who’s glad to have some support after a day of chasing a son around who’s affectionately known by his grandfather as Forest Gump!

“Heart Attack Man”
Beastie Boys



Great design, great book, great musician.


While wandering around a well known pharmacists today I spied this fantastic piece of package design. It’s basically a special shampoo that’s supposed to stimulate the follicles and enhance hair growth, not sure if it works but the packaging design is awesome – surely if you were a man losing his hair and wanted something to help you whilst still feeling manly about the fact that you were in the shampoo aisle of a well know pharmacists, then this would do the trick! If I ever start going bald (I should be ok – my father has an extremely healthy head of hair at 60 with no signs of thinning) then I would definitely go for this, it’s awesome! Although I must say that it’s pretty stone age that some men of today need to resort to buying that kind of thing to retain their machismo image! Quite seventies really!

20120419-223752.jpg Also on my luncheon time I popped to a reputable booksellers to buy a book for a good friend of mine that escaped to Australia over a year ago and is still there living her dream. To my surprise she’s never read any Kerouac, I thought On The Road was a must for anyone with the tendency to travel, so I bought a copy to give to a mutual friend that’s going to visit next week to pass on to her. Hope she enjoys it, changed my outlook on life in a small way, actually it’s time for a re-read!

20120419-230219.jpgSadly as I was listening to the new See Of Bees album, a tweet popped up to alert me to the fact that The Band drummer and vocalist Levon Helm had passed away. I’d seen him on Elvis Costello’s Sky Arts show a couple of months ago and he looked pretty thin and weak – could still play with the funk and soul that he’s exuded throughout his career though! I remember watching The Last Waltz for the first time and being struck how much of a good time he was having on stage, and how off stage he had such an easy smile and an obvious love of life. He didn’t put on any rock star affectations, posing for a group shot in a contrived manner, he just oozed enjoyment of the music he was creating with the musicians he was surrounded by – you can’t fake that and to me that’s the coolest thing on earth! He seemed like such a genuinely nice man and there’ll be a place at my Fantasy Dinner Party Table from now on. It’s pretty sad when someone passes away that’s inspired you in some way and given you so many hours of listening enjoyment. Not the kind of grief that hits you when you lose a loved one obviously, but a kind of disappointment that they’re no longer on this earth. I’ve still got the records to listen to though and I’ll be playing Levon’s music all weekend in remembrance! Rest in peace Levon Helm – your easy smile will have to light up another room some place else now.

Suggested listening
Don’t Do It
The Band
from the album The Band

Peppa Pig & Shark Infested Waters


Just returned home after an exhausting 2 days at Paulton’s Park in Southampton, home of Peppa Pig World. I was up early Monday – feeling already exhausted after a weekend of watching my hometown team lose a place in the SWALEC cup final despite drawing against Crosskeys (due a fairly new ruling that takes into account tries scored rather than going to extra time), and a Sunday spent running around getting last minute things for our little trip with our friends Owen, Maria and 9 month old Tal.

We left Cardiff and arrived, after dozing in the back of the car in between reading the unread weekend papers, at about 11. After meeting with our holiday companions, who drove from Ebbw Vale, we ventured forth into the world of Peppa Pig. It was pretty good actually and we spent a couple of hours enjoying the kiddies rides. I say kiddies rides, the first two we went on surprised the life out of me, yet Louie, my 3 year old son, failed to batter an eyelid! He then spent the rest of the day shunning the more pedestrian rides in search of attractions of a more thrill seeking nature.

The weather held off long enough to make it into Paultons Park proper and sample some of the other rides there. Owen and I tried ‘Cobra’ – a high rollercoaster ride that won’t have looked out of place in Coney Island circa 1972, but we found in thrilling enough!

We arrived at our hotel, the Meon Valley Marriott, around 4.30 in time to sample the swimming pool and cucuzzi, which Louie absolutely marvelled at until I saw a sign that said under 7’s not allowed! We joined the girls waiting for us at the bar and had some pretty average food. I mean is it too much to ask that an establishment like the Marriott serve proper chips with their beer battered catch of the day rather than OVEN CHIPS?!?!?! The rest of them enjoyed the food but I was pretty nonplussed!

Owen and I repaired to the bar while Krys and Maria took the kids back to our rooms for slumber. Arsenal were losing to Wigan by the time we turned in for a well earned kip.

Back at the room, Louie was still wide awake and enjoying the pleasure of a double bed all to himself. He looked so small amongst the vast white hillside of duvet, pillows and sheets. After half an hour of me tickling his back he was soon in the land of nod though, leaving my wife and I to an exciting game of scrabble on the iPad! These weekend getaways mean something else when you’re with the kids!

Come the morning, after an eventful night of being awoken to the sound of Louie rolling out of bed, we met with the others and enjoyed a delicious full English breakfast, fruit, pastries and croissants before Louie and I headed for the swimming pool once more.

It was pretty quiet in there, actually we were the only ones apart from a trio of silver haired swingers in the over 7’s cucuzzi. We’d only been in there a few minutes when a girl who must have been mid to late twenties joined us. She noticed i was looking for a clock, and after pointing to the foot wide clock on the wall engaged in a fact finding conversation about what I was doing there and where we were from. She told me she’d recently been made redundant from one of her two jobs but it was ok as she could still hold onto her membership at the fitness club we were now in. Then she asked where my wife was and the penny finally dropped that she was ‘sharking’. I don’t think I’ve ever been chatted up while I was with my son! Fair play to the girl, but she really wasn’t my type – even if I hadn’t been happily married! Then as she continued to talk I slowly started to realise that she probably wasn’t ‘all there’ and decided that she’d probably lost her job due to some weird ‘dead rabbit boiling in a pot’ incident! So Louie and I made our excuses and had a quick dip in the now ‘swinger free’ cucuzzi.

After packing up what seemed like half our home, I took our bags down to the car to find that Shark Girl was waiting in the car park. She fixed her gaze upon me as I opened the boot but mercifully didn’t approach as Krys and Louie weren’t far behind! I forgot to give in my room key so ran back inside to sort it out. When I got back to the car, Krys said that the girl hadn’t stopped staring at her, possibly re-imagining a scene from Fatal Attraction! But we were soon back on the road to the safety of Peppa Pig World.

Our second bite of the cherry was accompanied by torrential rain so we dipped in and out of the soft play areas keeping dry for the most part, apart from the self-soaking experience of the Log Flume that Louie laughed like a drain about! Id soaked right through but Louie was fine so we battled on and conquered all of the rides we wanted to.

The drive back to Cardiff was pretty gruelling after a lack of sleep and another day marching across a theme park. My wife tried to alleviate the slog by enticing me into a round of the name game – only to throw out my offerings of Lullapool, Dunedon, Robertsbridge and Stench. Oh well, she did have a map to check against!

It’s been a great couple of days seeing my little lads face light up at the sight of giant cuddly pigs, rides that make your face wobble and your stomach somersault, a mini pool that’s filled entirely with warm bubbling water and a bed big enough to live in! He slept most of the way home in the car so I didn’t think he’d go to bed too easily but as I type he’s snoring away like an old boot! Hopefully he won’t fall out of bed tonight!

Jesus Won’t Let Me Buy Mint


Another Easter has come and gone without any kind of incident whatsoever. Yet again. I find it to be the most uninteresting christian holiday forced upon us heretics in the calendar year. Unless your a kid of course. All that freely unearned chocolate to gorge on, a few bank holiday disney films, an abundance of toy bunnies and chicks and a couple of weeks off from the toil of school!

Don’t get me wrong, I love a bank holiday, but this one can go either way – a russian roulette of meteorology. Fantastic if you can spend the weekend in the sun, sipping cold cider and running after your son in the park, but more often than not it’s a trial of keeping the little ones entertained long enough to stop your blood pressure rising high enough to give yourself an embolism! After the easter egg hunt in the garden, a visit to the local garden centre to see one of the staff dressed up in a ridiculous ‘head of a rabbit, body of a squirrel, all hidden beneath a canteen tabard’ outfit and the obligatory walk around Cardiff Bay,what do you do?

Fortunately, my brilliant sister had invited the Joneses around her flat for an easter buffet! Perfect!
But for one major obstacle! Sunday trading laws.

Unfortunately, if a shop has a greater area than 3,014 square feet then it must not open on Easter Sunday or Christmas Day!?! This seems oddly unpractical and out of kilter with modern life to me. Most people forget things and need last minute ingredients whatever their plans! Myself, I wanted to replicate Jamie Oliver’s fantastic beetroot and carrot salad that involved said ingredients being grated and mixed with olive oil, lemon juice and a few chilli flakes; all of which i had. But the herb that lifted this divine fiesta of taste; namely mint, was something that my larder lacked!

My wife had unfortunately ‘tidied’ up the garden at the very start of spring and dug up my little flower-come-herb patch up and thrown it in the bin, amongst it a thriving mint ‘bush’. So, off i went to the local sub 3,014 square feet outlets, to find my soil grown jewel. Unsurprisingly, I failed to find what I was looking for, even in a Sainsbury’s Local! Plenty of coriander and parseley, but not a leaf of mint to be found! I fail to understand why I’m subjected to these daft retail constraints – when I myself don’t believe what they are supposed to be respecting? Surely,if you are religiously inclined, then you, out of respect for that religion, would refrain from engaging in any purchasing activities? But then that’s this country all over – do what’s perceived to look right and throw common sense and personal situation out of the window!

So it was with a heavy heart that I arrived at my sisters with a bag full of mini chocolate eclairs left over from christmas, a tub of coleslaw and a few bottles of Abbot’s Ale. Fortunately, she and my mother had prepared some delicious mini burgers,roast chicken and vegetables, loaded red peppers and Mam’s special quiche (that incorporates corned beef instead of pastry! I know – sounds crazy but is delicious). We all ate heartily and had a jolly good time whilst catching snippets of ‘Mary Poppins’ and/or ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ on the goggle box!

As i drain the dregs of my bottle of Spanish rioja, and notice that i’ve started rambling, I can’t help but think that a little of Jamie’s beetroot and carrot salad would have gone down lovely!!! Nevermind, there’s always tomorrow! Shit, it’s Bank Holiday Monday – it’s probably only open between the local churches morning and afternoon services, to those carrying a chicken with one eye and a CD Walkman playing a CD of Fame Academy 2003 winner Alex Parks.


Happy Easter Y’all x

Mountain side mugging


I’ve been mugged, kicked in the ribs, had the bottom of my feet beaten with a rowing paddle, a cigarette stubbed out on my middle toe and every joint below my waste twisted by an American wrestler! Not really, I’m merely feeling the effects of completing the south Wales three peaks yesterday – but that’s what it feels like!

A 5am start to the day promised the ascent of the Blorenge, Sugerloaf and Skirrid Fawr, 20 miles of hill walking and country lane rambling! The weeks warmer weather had mercifully cooled to a more manageable temperate for hill walking, but as soon as we started the ascent to the pleasingly named Blorenge, the sweat soon started pumping out of my forehead like a mini shower of salty brine! The ascent was much more challenging than I’d been led to believe but the sight of 600 fellow walkers was great and the camaraderie among strangers was encouraging – I swear one girl laughed all the way to the top with a laugh that would rival that of a kookaburra’s mating call! Once at the top the cold weather surrounded us and one of our group unveiled his zip up top that zipped all the way up, turning into some kind of mountain gimp suit. It was awesome if a little unsettling. Another revelation was that one of our group had an alarm on their car keys that went off intermittently and unprovoked throughout the day. It was a feature that came into effect if you lost them in the house for instance, you give a little whistle and it beeped three time. Quite a cool little gadget you’d think. Not after the eighty seventh though. Fucking thing!

The walk across to the Sugarloaf meandered past the canal and seemed longer than it should have. We passed two children in Govilon that were standing outside their drive shouting ‘free drinks!’ and giving away free cups of squash – this lifted everybody’s spirits and personally put my belief back into society. you wouldn’t see that happening in Cardiff! We were soon passing through the base of the Sugarloaf that presented three routes. We plumped for the shorter, harder one and regretted it quite quickly, but ultimately it felt like the right choice, even though one of our team’s manic laughter often sounded as if it was going to turn into sobs of tears! Once at the top we soon felt the cold again as we had on the previous summit and waited for the rest of the group to catch up.

The last walk to Skirrid Fawr seemed to last forever and fatigue and blisters started kicking in amongst a few of the group. On the upside we saw an alarming fight between two sheep who head butted each other so hard I thought their teeth were going to fall out! After rectifying an ill advised detour we joined up with the rest of the group that had lagged behind a little. The ascent to the top of Skirrid looked a good little challenge, in fact it looked like the elevation from ‘Escape to Witch Mountain’! A few of us started the climb and before long were more than halfway up, wondering why an illuminous pop up tent had been erected. Quickly we realised that some poor woman had got into a spot of bother and we suddenly heard the sound of an ambulance approaching as the mountain rescue chap radio’d through for some back up.

Once at the summit we took in some bananas and fluids and looked out over Abergavenny as the mist swirled around us, waiting for the others to join us. After the others had got to the top and we’d had our final, obligatory group photo we started our descent. We were told that it was about half an hour to the foot of the mountain and then another hours wall into Abergavenny to the final checkpoint. Once we were on the road leading into Abergavenny we eventually broke off into differently paced groups and as the light started to drain form the sky we were back where we started with about 15 minuted to spare. By the time the checkpoint closed it was great to see the rest of our group finish in time to collect their little orange certificates and head on back to their families. It had been a long day and a really great experience. I’d imagined it being easier than it was but glad it was more of a challenge than I’d thought, it’ll all add to the training for the UK 3 Peaks in July!!! I’m so glad we did it as a team. It was great to see everyone doing the UK 3 Peaks together for the first time and everyone did great. I got to know a couple of new people who will be on the main trip and it’ll be good to train with them again.

I’m surprisingly un-achey today and just one blister to boot! The couple of beers I had last night made me feel a bit nauseas at the time but my 730 wake up call from my 3 year old son was headache free if not tired free! A quiet day today though.

I’m sure I can hear beeping?

Mission Quite Possible…

A half an hour ago I was relaxing in front of the idiot box watching Tom Cruise further himself as one of Hollywoods contemporary auteurs in Mission Impossible III. My wife then told me that my son had a teddy bears tea party in school in the morning and that she couldn’t find his teddy bear! My wife is not known for her hunting skills when it comes to a lost possession in the house. I normally follow up her 10 minute blind panic rush about with an investigation of my own that normally results in the discovery of lost item in under a minute! This time however, was fruitless. Padding about in the darkness of my sons bedroom looking for a teddy bear in a welsh rugby jersey (the bear not me) only turned up a lost Woody doll and a twenty pence piece!

Well, there was no chance that any son of mine would be going to a teddy bears tea party without a bloody teddy bear!!! So in a fit of desperation I jumped in the car to find a teddy bear. At 10pm the local Sainsburys would be a dead end – only the queue of cars filling up to avoid the petrol shortage would be in action now! So off to Tescos I trot to find the grand total of 2 ‘kind of’ teddy bears – one that would not look out of place as a keying and one that looked like it had been designed by someone suffering from hallucinations! I sent my wife an MSM with the two options and rang her but she hadn’t received the image, so I stood in the toy aisle of Tescos trying not to look like a weird pervert clutching toy animals and waiting exasperatedly for modern technology to kick in. Unfortunately it didn’t and I thought, fuck it, this is weird, I’m off to Asda’s!

After driving past yet more petrol station forecourts blocked up with queues of cars, I  darted into the gloriously 24 hour supermarket and searched for the toy section. Now normally, they have about 3 aisles full of kids toys. I know this because for a while, my son and I would spend every Saturday morning shopping while my wife had her lie in. Unfortunately he no longer wants to sit in a trolley and the whole experience has become a little bit unbearable! So anyway, 3 ailes now became one and there’s a big mess of various cuddly toys – tigers, lions, dogs, cats, and there at the bottom of the pile a single perfect teddy bear – more perfect than I could have hoped for. So after picking up a bag of mini eggs and paying for them I darted home to show the wife my bounty! When I got home she’d gone to bed! Unbelievable! I made a few alterations to the teddy, like taking off the gay looking ribbon around his neck, and voila! Mission accomplished!

Our friend Tom on the other hand is having the shit kicked out of him by the marvellous Philip Seymour Hoffman, but I’m sure he too, will eventually, after many a plot twist and turn, accomplish his mission!

I’ll rest easy tonight in the knowledge that my son will have a teddy bear to join him at the teddy bears picnic. That is, of course, if my wife doesn’t misplace it by then or it pisses down with rain and the whole thing’s cancelled!

Welcome from the Valley Boy

Having kept a diary of sorts for the last four years or so (since the conception of my son), I have finally succumbed to the obvious fact that, if for some reason, my offspring want to read what rubbish I’ve been writing for the last eighteen years of their life (i say eighteen years as that is the legal age they will have to reach before being able to obtain the official records to find out who their natural parents are after my wife and I have had to sell them to passing travelling circus folk to pay off crippling debts, accumulated from continuing fuel costs) then the only way they will consume anything in written form will be in a digital format!

So I shall put down my pen and pick up my iPad and try and ‘blog’ every night or so much in the same way as I’ve kept a ‘diary’!

There are far more positives than negatives in this migration. I can blog throughout the day on my phone and on the move, make draft changes throughout the day rather than scribbling wildly as I race towards slumber at 1am, add images of the day rather than printing out pictures and sticking them in my diary (that lasted about 2 weeks with my paper based media! My son’s embryonic scan being one of the few images I used), stop using paper (although the costs of energy seem to be spiralling), reach out to a wider audience (fuck knows who else will want to read it though!), and there are probably more reasons that I will find out in the future!

On the downside, there’s the romantic notion of actually writing into a diary and it being a physical thing that needs to be kept safe, but then I suppose that a house fire, flood or tsunami would knock that idea on the head!

We’ll see how it goes anyway – I’m always acutely aware of fellow bloggers,twitterers and the like that fill their spaces with the most mundane shit that nobody would want to read or follow – so I’ll try to make them as entertaining as I can even if I must resort to pure lies!!!

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