Tag Archives: Cynon Valley

A Letter to the Editor 2

In which The Author doesn’t have a letter
printed in the local newspaper

Here’s another one from 2001, just before the general election. This one was sent to the local paper, but was never published. However, I posted it on a local website once it became apparent that the paper wasn’t interested. I also dug it out and reposted it before the last election – just to show how little the situation had changed.
Ann Clwyd won the seat in a by-election in 1984, and remains our MP today. She appears in the constituency a couple of times a year, for the Remembrance Day service, and occasional visits to factories threatened with closure. People still vote for her …
Cynon Valley Leader
19 Commercial Street
June 1 2001
Dear Sir,
We have been told for the last month by Mr Blair and his chums that ‘voter apathy’ is the greatest threat facing New Labour – possibly even letting the Tories in ‘by the back door’. Until now, nobody has mentioned the other side of the coin – Candidate Apathy.
Two Saturdays ago I walked through Aberdare town centre, expecting to be accosted at every turn by strangers of all political hues, pressing flesh and kissing babies in order to avoid talking to anybody for more than the recommended thirty seconds. The town was strangely quiet: no loudspeaker vans blaring the names of the various candidates; no children carrying balloons in red, blue, green or orange (their first taste of political hot air); not even the peddlers of Moribund Marxism, who normally emerge from their cocoons, blinking in the light of the free market, at this stage of the parliamentary life cycle.
In fairness I did see Mr Julian Waters [the Conservative candidate] in Commercial Street, trying to give a leaflet to a shaven-headed and much tattooed mate of mine who’s more of an anarchist than I am. (Another example of what happens when politicians meet real people – luckily for Mr Waters, my friend is opposed to battery farming and couldn’t get his hands on a free-range egg!)
This very morning I received my copies of election leaflets from Messrs [Steven] Cornelius [the Plaid Cymru candidate], [Ian] Parry [the Liberal Democrat candidate] and Waters. Nothing from Ann (who has mislaid her surname for the campaign, judging from the few posters I’ve seen). Last week, your paper published a brief statement from each of the candidates, which seem to have been culled directly from their official literature. With less than forty-eight hours until the polls open, I have yet to receive a knock on the front door from anyone canvassing my vote on Thursday.
The few billboards I have seen offer only a website, which people can visit in order to get more information about the various parties’ policies – a fat lot of good to the vast majority of us without access to the Internet. In the past, they would at least give a phone number so that people could get in touch; now voters don’t even have that option.
We all know the old joke about a donkey with a red rosette winning Cynon Valley hands down. Is Ann Whats-her-name so confident about holding her seat that she doesn’t even need to send leaflets setting out her aims if re-elected? Are Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats so sure that they’ve got no chance that they don’t even bother knocking doors, or meeting people on the streets of the commercial centre of the constituency on the busiest day of the week? Hats off to Mr Waters for showing his face – not that he’s got a snowball’s chance of winning, but at least he’s making an effort. The Green Party aren’t even fielding a candidate this time round – if they were, I might have been tempted to vote for them.
As things stand, unless I get a knock on the door in the next two days from someone willing to discuss the atrocious state of our public transport system, the drug problem blighting the lives of our young people, the desperate shortage of mental health services, and half a dozen other issues which have gone unmentioned so far, then I’m afraid it’ll be another case of ‘None of the Above’ on Thursday.
And no doubt Mr Blair will put it down to ‘voter apathy’.

Judgement Day

In which the Author experiences some
technical difficulties

Fans of the Terminator films will know that Judgement Day is the day that Skynet achieves self-awareness, and the machines turn on their creators. On Tuesday, I felt like Sarah Connor must have felt, with the forward knowledge of the holocaust to come. By three in the afternoon, I kept waiting for the big man in black leather biker gear and shades to appear around the next corner. What a fucking day!
The Good and Evil Twins (see ‘Bloody Women!‘) had asked me a couple of weeks before to prepare a quiz to mark their birthday on 27 February. They were born in 1981, so I decided I’d base the entire quiz on that year. I looked up a few reference books and a couple of websites, and soon had the raw material for the quiz on my hard drive. I had pictures of people who made the news in 1981, twenty questions to do with events of that year, and the twenty songs that occupied the No 1 slot in the UK charts. I was on fire – it was going to be a great quiz, the best this year so far – and it was all ready to go.
Then Skynet took over …
My printer’s been out of commission for some time, so I phoned the library in town and booked a PC for 1.00 p.m. It used to be easy enough – I’d copy the files to a 3½” disk, take it to the library, plug it in, and Robert was my father’s brother. Then the library upgraded their hardware, and the disk drives aren’t there any more. Dim problem, as we say in the Valleys. I was meeting my friend Angela in town beforehand, so I emailed the Word files to myself. All I had to do was to log into my email, retrieve the attachments, and print them off.
After a nice pub lunch, Angela and I headed to the library and I tried to log in to my email account. And waited … And waited … And waited …
So I went to the reception desk and asked Judith G. if anyone else had reported any problems. She said nobody’d mentioned it to her, but Menna said that someone had experienced problems earlier that day. She didn’t know if it was Hotmail or not, but this person couldn’t access their emails. Even while I was trying various back routes into the MSN site, someone else on a neighbouring terminal was having the same trouble.
Thinking that this might have been purely a library-based issue, we decided to try an alternative tack. Since Angela’s PC also doesn’t cater for the old disks, I decided to buy a memory stick. (I’ve been meaning to buy one for ages anyway, so it seemed like a good excuse.) The plan was to go to Angela’s house, and see if I could log in on her PC – then transfer the files and go back to the library to print them off. (Angela’s printer is very temperamental too!)
On the way to Argos, I stopped off at the cashpoint. I put my card in and keyed in my PIN. The machine went through the motions until the very last moment, then displayed a message:
That usually means that the machine’s just run out of money, so I crossed the road and went to another cashpoint. After going through the motions again, the machine displayed a different message:
By now, I was starting to get rather worried. I decided that the Link network must have gone down – maybe there was some sort of virus attack on the Internet. It would certainly explain the Hotmail and the cashpoint …
We went to my own bank and tried the machine there. Again, I had a message telling me that the card was invalid. So I went inside …
I gave my card to the woman at the counter and explained what had happened. She took one look at the card and tried not to laugh. I’d been trying to use my old card, which expired in the summer. I don’t even know why it was even still in my wallet!
I said, ‘Have you got a pair of scissors?’ and left it with her. Armed with my current card, I took some cash out and we headed for Argos.
At the little stock check terminal, I keyed in the catalogue number for the cheapest 1 Gb stick. It was out of stock. So I keyed in the number of a slightly more expensive 1 Gb stick. That was out of stock as well! Five minutes later, I came out with a 2 Gb stick, and we headed straight to Angela’s. Where I failed to log into Hotmail again.
The quiz was Wednesday night. By now it was nearly 4 o’clock  on Tuesday afternoon. I needed to print the sheets ASAP. I left Angela’s place and legged it home, phoning the library on the way to book another terminal for 5.00 pm. When I got home, I had to restart my PC as I’d put some updates on. It took fucking ages! I was watching the minutes tick by, waiting for it to get ready so I could copy the files to my new stick. Finally, I was ready. I grabbed all the rest of the stuff (the music CDs and things) and headed down to the library again.
Now I was ready. I loaded the files up, sent them to the printer, and went to pay Judith to have the copies released from the job queue. And nothing happened. So Judith phoned Paul W. in Hirwaun to see if he could unlock the pending jobs from his network terminal. He couldn’t. I pocketed my money and headed back to the terminal.
I logged in to my Yahoo! account, attached the files to a new email, and sent them to myself in work. The subject line read Twins Birthday Quiz! DO NOT DELETE THIS, IT’S NOT SPAM!!
I removed my stick, logged off in despair, and headed for the pub. Gaz was there, having finished work early, so I recounted my tale of trying to print off three sheets of bloody paper. He didn’t believe me. When Nick B. came in, we tried the CD on the sound system to make sure it worked. It did! It was the only part of the quiz that hadn’t been affected by Skynet! To celebrate, I had a few more beers and headed home after stop-tap.
And on Wednesday morning I couldn’t find the folder containing the music discs. I hunted high and low, and eventually realised that I must have left it in the pub the night before. Thank Goddess I didn’t stop off for a Chinese on the way home. When I got to work, I phoned the pub. Nick had found the folder and tucked it away behind the bar. I printed the sheets out in work and we were ready to rock.
On Wednesday evening, one team asked me where the colour pictures were. I said, ‘If I told you what I’ve been through to get these printed, we wouldn’t have time for the fucking quiz!’
It’s now Saturday evening, and as far as I know my sheets are still in the job queue in the library network. Just as long as they don’t try to charge me for the copies when they do eventually print out, I don’t really mind!