Monday, 19 March 2007

And we were singing hymns and arias

It may have been St. Patrick’s Day but by the time we reached capacity and the doors were locked, more than two hours before the kick-off in Cardiff, the majority of revellers at the Famous Three Kings in West Kensington were Welsh.

There were a few folk in green shirts, to be sure, but this most multi-cultural of London’s sports boozers is not really the place you’d go to meet Irish people, especially not on St. Pat’s in a city full of Irish theme pubs.

There were enough city boys in England shirts to put up a reasonable rendition of Swing Low Sweet Chariot at the point where England temporarily drew level but it was carried home to the tune of She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain and a lyric that told them where their chariot could be stuck; in a good-natured way, of course.

The Famous Three Kings receives literally thousands of satellite television channels. If there’s a sport being televised anywhere in the world it can be watched from North End Road. So a handful of Slovakian ice hockey fans were ensconced on the mezzanine, willing Bratislava to victory in their national cup final, and a few Pakistani fans stood glum-faced in one corner, transfixed with disbelief as Ireland knocked their mighty
cricket team out of the World Cup.

But the party held by the Red Dragonhood overshadowed everything else that was going on in London on Saturday evening. Armed with lyric cards handed-out by, we belted out Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau with a ferocity you’d rarely encounter at home.

The Brains Dark had run out by half time but the SA kept flowing until well into the next morning. We sang Calon Lân and Cwm Rhondda with tears rolling down our cheeks and, for me at least, it was emotional to meet the lovely folks who came along wearing our T-shirts.

Good people from all over Wales celebrated a memorable victory and partied into the night, embracing each other in brotherhood and sisterhood in a city far from home. And the English wonder why it’s so important to us?

Click here to check out The Red Dragonhood.

Friday, 9 March 2007

It’s easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than find a disabled parking space

Disabled people in my area all seem to drive big, expensive German cars and SUVs; or perhaps I should say that the big, expensive German cars and SUVs all seem to display disabled parking permits.

I wouldn’t want to give you the wrong impression. I live in an ex-council house on a nice, friendly council estate, but it is surrounded by very expensive real estate and a big shopping centre. Council parking fines are fiendishly expensive. Cars often have to queue for, oh, minutes to park at the shopping centre.

Disabled parking permits are not personalised or restricted to specific vehicles, so the people who drive the big, expensive German cars and SUVs – the wives of city brokers and bankers mostly, with a smattering of diamond traders and businesspeople – buy the permits from the poor disabled people on the council estate. The black market price is a difficult-to-resist £600.

A permit saves rich people from having to queue or walk more than 50 metres from the disabled parking places at the shopping centre. It also means they can park on a single yellow line without risking a fine.

Of course, a genuinely disabled driver hasn’t got a hope in hell of finding an empty disabled parking space.

I can handle the myriad examples of inhumanity that assault my senses every time I switch on the television, but the fact of rich people masquerading as disabled drivers in order to get a better parking spot is somehow profoundly depressing.

Click here to check out The Red Dragonhood

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Some people have questioned my methods

The journalist from the tabloid newspaper opened in a sombre, world-weary, slightly accusatory yet slightly sympathetic yet slightly uncomprehending tone, much as I imagine a veteran Catholic priest might adopt to encourage an habitual sinner to explain in the confessional his latest bout of mindless, damnation-inducing transgression. He was enquiring about an enigmatic story I wrote to suggest that Jimi Hendrix might have recorded Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the Welsh National Anthem.
“Why’d you do it, Martin?”
“Why’d you do it?”
“To get over a complicated message that would otherwise go unheard if I’d used conventional methods of communication.”
“Yes but why’d you do it?”
“I’m not sure you’re asking the right question here. Have you looked at my website?”
“So you understand where I’m coming from?”
“Er, yeah, I suppose”
“Alright then. I wanted to be provocative, obviously. I also wanted to entertain. I wanted Welsh people to think about their origins; to kindle pride in their Welshness. But at the same time I wanted to ask questions about why we need the kind of endorsement of our national identity implied by the premise of my story to feel good about ourselves. I wanted to make a point about the myths of Welshness, most of which have been handed down to us over the centuries by English propagandists and Welsh apologists. I wanted to create a Welsh myth of my own to show how easy it is to do. Ironically, Land of My Fathers is one of the few ‘Welsh’ things that is truly, authentically ours. In my opinion it’s the most beautiful national anthem in the world, and John Ellis’ solo guitar arrangement of it illustrated that fact perfectly, even if he wasn’t actually trying to impersonate Jimi Hendrix.”
He quoted me thus: “I did it for a bit of fun.”

Click here to read the original 'Jimi Hendrix Welsh National Anthem' story
Click here to read the Tich Gwilym story
Click here to send a free ecard featuring John Ellis' 'Hendrix' arrangement

Friday, 2 March 2007

"Taff time-waster"

Several people have called me to ask why I didn’t nut Newsnight’s Steve Smith when he referred to me as a “Taff time-waster”. To be fair to Steve, we had poured a couple of pints of Brains Dark, a couple of pints of SA and a couple of large Penderyn chasers into him before we did the interview. That might also explain why Welsh BBC producer Meirion Jones failed to spot that I was wearing The Red Dragonhood Three Feathers T-shirt, which carries the feathers emblem - the personal property of Charles Windsor obviously - with the motto ‘Twll dîn pob sais’.

Click here to see The Red Dragonhood Three Feathers T-Shirt
Click here to see the BBC Wales News Item