Friend picks Harvey Nix

Midweek round up from Wales:
Work has started on the St David’s 2 development in Cardiff. For those of you who haven’t been to the city in a while the whole of the centre around The Hayes, currently occupied by a series of shops, is to be replaced – by a series of shops. There are rumours that either Harvey Nichols or Selfridges will come to the city. That is making some very excited.
I misjudged the mood on this the other day when sat with two friends watching the football in the pub.
“More blooming shops!” I grumbled, moaning pompously that I hoped the council made sure they replaced the library which is also being demolished.
“What are you on about?” said my friend, who is in his 50s and goes shopping every Saturday morning with his wife. “It will be great for the city.”
“Yeah,” said another mate, the bright side of 40, a Smiths fan of generally excellent judgement. “What are you, man – some kind of Luddite?”
Meanwhile, Welsh super songstress Katherine Jenkins is taking out a £10m personal insurance policy to cover her forces sweetheart concert in Basra. Fair play, but I’m sure she’ll be safer on her single trip than the average Iraqi is going for a loaf of bread or queuing up for a job paying a few quid a week.
News in brief: Gavin Henson, who apparently used to play rugby, has upset lots of people with his new book…Band of Brothers star Damian Lewis is to make Wales’ first gangster flick, The Baker…The Welsh Breakfast has been revealed – it’s sausages, eggs, bacon, tomato, fried bread, cockles and laverbread cake. It’s a feast which I imagine is enjoyed by 0.0000001 per cent of the population. And he can’t move until teatime.

Guns back in the ground

Swansea University is under fire for owning 1.3 million shares in arms companies.
The information comes from the Campaign Against Arms Trade, which looks at how companies, universities and public bodies invest their pension schemes.
A few years ago I reported how a tiny church in Wales had £6,000 invested in a company making the Apache helicopter.
The money was a parishioner’s legacy – leftover war bonds – and they got rid of it when they found out what it was.
Swansea University says that the firms involved in its investment portfolio – including BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, Cobham and Smiths Group – are not exclusively weapons manufacturers.
Britain is already the second largest arms exporter in the world, flooding the world with killing machines.
According to Amnesty International there are 639 million small arms in the world, or one for every ten people, and 6 billion units of ammunition are produced every year – enough to kill every man, woman and child on the planet…twice!
Seems to me, there’s already enough investment in guns and killing without universities and councils ploughing workers’ pension money into the trade.

More info:

You won’t have a name when you ride the big aeroplane

“Send ‘em home!” one drinker shouted, turning to his mates as if he’d cracked the greatest joke in the world.
It wasn’t the greatest. The greatest involves necrophilia and I’m not recording it here.
The man had come to the door of a pub in the centre of Cardiff to see what the fuss was about. There was a bit of shouting and chanting, and a group of around 250 people or so turning into High Street.
At the head of the march was a banner with the words ‘Defend The Right To Asylum’ in English and Welsh.
Last week the UK government came a cropper with its policy of sending people back to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.
But it is still returning people to other troublespots. Check the figures – they are easy to find on the net. In the first half of this year 515 asylum seekers were ‘removed’ to Afghanistan and 395 to Iraq.
The march was about stopping these deportations and repealing Section 9 of the 2004 Immigration Act, which removes the right to benefits for asylum seekers waiting to appeal.
People fighting for their right to asylum are being made destitute and having their children taken from them.
It’s a double whammy: make them seem like ‘scroungers’ while they are here so stop their benefits at the earliest opportunity (and starve them out of the country).
Then, to make it seem like foreign policy in Afghanistan and Iraq is working, return them to their ‘newly liberated’, ‘safe’ homelands.
The tribunal into the Zimbabwe deportations was shocked to find the Home Office could provide no evidence about the safety of the deportees.
They’d been sent home, alright. But to what?

I grabbed you by the guilded beams, that’s what tradition means

One of the best press releases in a while drops into my inbox. It’s from National Assembly member William Graham and marks Trafalgar Day – it’s 200 years since Nelson’s last battle.
William is happy that the Queen will be toasting the ‘immortal memory’ of the admiral on board HMS Victory.
One of the wines on offer will be a Marsala.
This, I learn, was made popular by old Horatio when, on returning from the Battle of the Nile, he ordered 500 pipes of it for the British fleet.
Five hundred pipes, says the Tory AM, is the equivalent of around 348,000 bottles.
It’s unusual to learn something from a press release. No matter how irrelevant the fact to my everyday life.

In the beginning

Three people – strangers to each other – suggested I start a blog the other day.
Three people. Same thought. Same day.
So here it is.
I’m blogging. From Wales.
Next to England.
I’ve called the blog ‘What is Wales?’ because I know people are asking that question.
We’ll also be asking ‘What Is It For?’
Three people. Two questions. One blog.
And the whole future ahead of us.
So over the next few weeks, months, years, let’s tackle those questions.

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