The Gentle Giant

I don’t know why this picture came out all orange but it shows Ian Rush opening The Gentle Giant exhibition at Rhydycar Leisure Centre in Merthyr Tydfil yesterday.
Rushie – back from watching a couple of games in the World Cup – paid quite a tribute to Wales’ greatest ever footballer, John Charles, before taking a look around the exhibition.
Some great stuff there, including a ball suspended in mid-air apparently at the height Charles could reach to header a cross into the back of the net.
It is very high. Exhibition creator Phil Cope made me have a leap for it as assorted Merthyr councillors and Dowlais choristers looked on.
I probably wouldn’t have reached it if I’d sat on the council chief’s shoulders.

Death and Taxes (update)

Anti-war campaigner Marie Walsh (see Death and Taxes, April 13), who is withholding part of her income tax in protest over Iraq and Afghanistan, is due in court next week.
Marie believes that those opposed to the wars should be allowed to divert the 10 per cent of their tax used for the military to a peace fund instead.
On Tuesday, June 20, she will be in court in Abergavenny. The day before she will make an 18-mile protest walk from her home in Oakdale to Abergavenny in order to talk to people about the issue, give out leaflets and collect names on the Peace Tax petition.
In addition, a demonstration in support of her campaign is planned outside Abergavenny Magistrates Court from 9.30am on Tuesday.
Marie sets out her argument in a leaflet: “I believe, if we have an army it should be used only for self-defence.
“But today the Government is using war to try and solve problems that can’t be solved that way… In the short run it might look like it helps but it only makes things worse in the end. Innocent people suffer.
“Our armed forces, paid for by my taxes and yours are now being used for wars that are illegal, unjust and that bring future trouble back on our country too.
“Part of my taxes (about 10 per cent) is funding the armed forces and the tax office and my MP tells me I don’t have any choice about that. Well, I can’t accept that. That is wrong.
“Everyone should have a choice when it comes to such a matter of conscience. I want to say, ‘count me out’. And I believe everyone should have that right.
“I’m not saying I want to pay less tax. I’m asking the Government to take that 10 per cent of my tax and promise me they won’t use it for the military but they will spend it on peaceful, non-violent ways of solving conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Set up a dedicated peace fund. Give all of us the right to opt out of military spending and in to the peace tax, so that everyone can follow their conscience.”

Standing the test of time

Spent the last couple of weeks doing writing workshops with the good people of Tredegar Youth Café.
I didn’t know Tredegar well before and was directed to the café with the instruction that it “lies in the shadow of the town clock and everyone knows the town clock”.
I’m not surprised either. It’s pretty impressive.
Built during 1858/9, theironclocktower is a symbolic reminder that it was the iron industry which led to the town’s growth during the 19th Century.
It stands in what was then called Market Square, now known as The Circle, and cost £1,000. The money was raised by a bazaar and with a donation from the manager of the Tredegar Ironworks. Dozens of men were sent from the iron works to help erect the 72ft tower and the job took 16 weeks.
Writing on the tower celebrates the ironwork industrialists and “Wellington, England’s Hero”.
There must have been many more pressing things for £1,000 to have been spent on in 1858/9 than the iron bosses’ egos. Nearby Bedwellty Workhouse, for instance, was ‘home’ to something like 300 of the town’s desperately poor.
But the town clock has remained a focus as the town around it has changed, and I suppose the people have won it back for themselves. At the end of the Second World War (and the blackout), residents lit it up with hundreds of lamps.

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