Tag Archives: Western Mail

The Sight of Free Speech

In which The Author isn’t the victim of an April Fool’s joke

Back in the good old days of Punk, the seminal DIY band Crass released their first EP/maxi-single/mini-LP/whatever, entitled The Feeding of the 5000.
The initial release (of five thousand copies) came out on the Essex-based Small Wonder label. Unfortunately for everyone’s favourite anarcho-hippies, the pressing plant refused to handle the content of the first track, ‘Asylum’. As a result, the record hit the shops with about two minutes of silence before ‘Do They Owe Us a Living’ kicked in. The band subsequently referred to this John Cage tribute song as ‘The Sound of Free Speech’.
I found myself in a similar position yesterday evening, when I had a phone call at home. The local Labour group had taken exception to something I wrote in this blog a couple of months ago, and had gone to the Western Mail about it. I agreed to delete the offending posting ASAP – although I couldn’t do it last night, for obvious reasons (no Internet access at home, and no library access at 6 p.m.).
I thought about it afterwards, and realised that it was only two paragraphs in an otherwise innocuous discussion about housing estates. It seemed like overkill to remove the entire entry. I would have had to delete all the subsequent links, and alter quite a bit of the external content as well. It would have been the blogging equivalent of sending Crass away from Southern Studios at the outset.
I headed straight to the library this morning and read the article for myself. Martin Shipton, the chief reporter, had also emailed me yesterday to ask for my thoughts on the subject. I’ve just emailed him back, explaining that all views expressed in my blog are entirely my own (unless I’m quoting someone else, obviously). They don’t reflect the opinions and policies of any political group with which I may (or may not) be involved at any level.
I also pointed out that there’s a considerable amount of criticism of the ruling party scattered throughout the last eight years’ worth of content. It’s funny that they’ve never picked up on my entries about the declining library provision, or the public transport cutbacks, or the antisocial behaviour in our town centres, or any of a dozen other issues I’ve mentioned over time.
So I decided on a compromise. I’ve just redacted the post in question, in the way that redacted documents appear on NCIS. Instead of being able to read slightly jaundiced and tongue-in-cheek comments made in a personal capacity, you’ll now be able to enjoy the sight of free speech in the one-party state of Rhondda Cynon Taf.
It looks like this:
twas brillig and the slithy toves
did gyre and gimble in the wabe,
all mimsy were the borogoves
and the mome raths outgrabe

Emily Clark – a tribute and a note of hope

In which The Author reads some sad news

As my regular readers will know, I’m a passionate supporter of the wonderful work done by the Anthony Nolan Trust. I’m not alone, either – a devoted network of people throughout the UK are regularly fund-raising, taking part in sponsored events, or recruiting new people to the stem cell and bone marrow donor register.
I can attest to the great work the charity does. I got involved with them when the Shake4Mike campaign was gathering momentum. I’ll briefly recap the story for you here. A young man from Bristol named Mike Brandon was battling a particularly aggressive form of leukaemia, and an international appeal was launched to find a stem cell donor. Mike’s fiancée Kate is the niece of my mother’s next-door neighbour, which is why I got invited to help spread the word via social media. Time was not on our side.
The good news is that a suitable match was found. The even better news is that Mike and Kate got married last summer. He’s still got a lot of treatment ahead, but he seems to be responding well.
However, another young person was not so lucky. This weekend the people of Wales have been saddened to hear of the death of 18-year-old science student Emily Clark, from Llantarnam, near Cwmbran. Emily was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin (Burkitt) lymphoma in December 2013, and had to endure chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. She had been cancer free for a year following the treatment, but unfortunately she suffered a relapse and passed away on Saturday.
In spite of this, Emily maintained a positive attitude, and her social media campaign inspired many people to sign up as tissue donors. She and her family and friends also raised some £5,000 for the Anthony Nolan Trust and the Teenage Cancer Trust. She was a student at the University of South Wales, and was hoping to proceed to medical school. Emily’s determination, optimism and tireless campaigning have done a great deal to raise the profile of the tissue donor register.
So I’m going to appeal to my readers again. If you’re aged between 16 and 30, and in good general health, you can sign up to the register as well. If you have a look at the Anthony Nolan Trust website, there’s a lot more information there. (If you’re outside the UK, you can sign up to the tissue register in your own country.) The testing procedure is painless and non-invasive; you simply need to spit into a little plastic bottle and send it back.
If you’re eligible to join the register (and I’m a few months over the cut-off point), I’d really urge you to get involved. Whether you’re eligible or not, you can always help with fund-raising. If seven collection boxes dotted around South Wales can raise nearly £350 in under two years, imagine what we could achieve if every pub and independent business agreed to host one.
Let’s try and let young Emily’s tragic story be the foundation for a lasting legacy. May she rest in peace.