Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Wynford Vaughan-Thomas on: Modern Music

En Dee Three Player

I love my viewpoint.  It's quiet.  All you can hear is the wind creeping over the hills and the occasional bleat of a sheep.  However, it can get a little monotonous.  Especially when you find yourself naming the key in which the nearby sheep are farting.  As ever, Coyote and Roadrunner came to my rescue...and they brought me one of those new-fangled 'En Dee Three' players.  Well.  I was astounded.

They explained to me that I could hear music by putting two little earplugs in and pressing the play button.  I was very dubious indeed.  Where did the stylus go?  How on earth was one supposed to fit one's Rachmaninov LP in such a small gadget?  I had so many questions.

Thankfully, they explained to me that I didn't need to crank it in any way.  I put the funny little earplugs in and was shocked to hear what sounded like a small animal in great pain.  Of course, I was deeply concerned!  Coyote quickly allayed my fears by telling me it was 'James Blunt'.  Now, I must confess that the fellow's voice wasn't to my liking...but I don't think there was any need to call him that.  

They introduced me to some remarkably shocking sounds.  'Wrapping' confused me.  It would seem that nowadays youngsters like to listen to people talking over a piece of music that repeats itself incessantly.  It's akin to listening to a news script being read by someone on pep pills while another person hits a dustbin with a broom handle.  As for 'screamo'...well.  That sounded like my wife when I told her that I'd accidentally put the cat in the washing machine with my smalls.  It was an honest mistake; but my word she really wasn't happy.  The fur rendered my y-fronts completely unwearable; and I'd only had them for three years.  I suppose we must all face these tragedies at some point in our lives.

No.  I wasn't at all impressed by modern-day music.  After another two or three songs my head was pounding and I had to go for a lie-down in a darkened room with a bottle of brandy and a straw.  Give me a good brass band EP any day.  You just can't beat a satisfying, resounding trumpet.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Sex, Drugs and Bacon Rolls


Coyote likes it hot and juicy in the studio.  I like it quick and saucy when I'm out and about.

During our journeys around Wales we often spot things that make us ponder.  We might pause in a lay-by to stretch our legs and see a little bird pecking the ground that makes us question the importance of material possessions.  It might happen that we take a wrong turn and see a beautiful derelict church that brings us to think about the impact of religion on today's modern society.  Or we could stop in some grotty industrial estate in the arse-end of nowhere for a fag and see a sign that reminds us how much we love bacon.

Bacon.  All sizzling and aromatic.  Grilled, fried or griddled; streaky or back; crispy or pink...it's marvellous.  Ketchup or HP Sauce; tasty rashers lovingly yet firmly embraced by two pieces of fresh, moist, buttered bread.  Oh yeah.  It's practically pornographic.  Porkographic, if you will.

Pigs are stout,
pigs are kind;
pigs are seldom clean.

Snout before
and tail behind...
and bacon in between.

I'm off for a cold shower.  And a bacon butty.  Phwoar.

Wynford Vaughan-Thomas on: Welsh Travel Books

A Book About Wales

I once wrote a book about Wales.  It was called 'Wynford Vaughan-Thomas's Wales'.  In it, I explored the beautiful hills, coasts and mountains of our magnificent country.  I wanted to feel my country; so I spent a lot of time in pubs drinking beer and writing notes on the back of fag packets.  Of course, I lost the fag packets and had to wing it about three days before the deadline...but that made for a genuine book.  A book full of passion; a book that encapsulated the hungover magnificence of Wales.

My chapters wove from hill to pub and back again.  I wrote about the verdant majesty of Cymru; the trees, the rivers, the beer, the poetic air, the beer, the sheep, the beer...did I mention the beer?  I wrote about the beer as well.

Nowadays, though, it seems that books about Wales are becoming increasingly flouncy.  Coyote and Roadrunner recently brought me one to have a look at and I wasn't impressed.  The photographs were adequate; but they were in colour!  Everybody knows that Wales is in black and white!  Especially Fishguard.  The chap who wrote it made out that he did a lot of walking when it was clear that he just went from place to place by helicopter and, judging by his prose, he didn't write a single chapter while lying on the sticky carpet of a dark pub squinting through one bloodshot eye.  Where's the soul?

I made £1.94 out of my book.  Back in those days that was enough to buy you a three-storey house in Pontcanna, a Triumph Spitfire and a pair of green corduroys.  I wouldn't like to think how much this man made from his book.  I bet he got at least £10.  Disgusting.

I made my feelings known.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Strumble Head Lighthouse

Strumble Head Lighthouse

Sometimes even Coyotes and Roadrunners have to stop for a few minutes to catch their breath.  When they do, they sometimes find themselves in beautiful places.

We took an impromptu trip to Fishguard.  Our objective: to find The Fishguard Nearly Dead Society.  We think we saw a couple of members, but their HQ is so well hidden that we drew a complete blank.  

Feeling as deflated as a balloon 5 days after a party, we sat on a wall by the port and watched the seagulls swoop and chatter as they came in to roost.  A ferry was about to depart and Coyote thought it would be a fab idea to drive as high as we could to get a good shot of it departing the harbour.  Back in the car; off we went.

Up and up through narrow winding roads we travelled; the light fading fast.  I snapped my 300mm lens on and readied to grab a shot of the ferry...but suddenly all thoughts of the ferry and her wake faded.  In front of us, flashing elegantly, stood Strumble Head Lighthouse.

It was a breathtaking scene.  Her lambent white paint reflected each flash; silently guiding, warning and protecting.  The sun was dropping ever closer to the horizon, setting the clouds aflame with vibrant oranges, reds and purples that no hand could reproduce.

We were joined by a handful of photographers who set up their tripods and sat patiently; waiting for the perfect shot in the approaching twilight.  The sea lapped gently at the rocks below as gulls flew by soundlessly; their wings as soft as the breeze.

It was a lucky find that neither of us will forget.

The Legend of the Pembroke Dock Poo Bag

Pembroke Dock Dog Poo Bag

Pembroke Dock; the third largest town in Pembrokeshire.  Lying north of Pembroke on the River Cleddau, it was originally a small fishing village known as Paterchurch; greatly expanding in 1814 onwards following the construction of a Royal Naval Dockyard.

So much history to be found!  We simply couldn't resist the lure.

Pembroke's one-way system scared me.  I couldn't take the excitement.  Coyote told me to close my eyes and reassured me that we would be safe, but I curled up in the passenger seat and whimpered until I felt the car slow down.  I peeked through one eye and saw a sign that told me we were on Meyrick Owen Way.  Where would such a grand thoroughfare lead us...?

To the ferry terminal.

Coyote bought a coffee that had all the depth of a dehydrated paddling pool while I stood gazing at the Irish ferry; smiling as I imagined Michael Flatley getting pushed off the stern by a disappointed old lady in a beret.  We walked outside into the car park; the tumbleweed rolling idly across the tarmac.  (Ok; there wasn't any tumbleweed.  But there should've been.)  

But then our interest was drawn.  A dog poo bin.  And next to the dog poo bin...a plentiful supply of splendid green and black dog poo disposal bags.  We had to have one.  Looking around stealthily, we swiped one and legged it to the car.

Tearing away in a haze of triumphant adrenaline, I noticed that - the wonder!  The awe! - the poo bag was scented.  Yes.  Pembroke Dock ferry terminal has scented poo bags.  For free.  Not only that; but they even have a picture of a dog actually doing a poo on them; just so you don't mistake them for carrier bags and put your groceries in them.  That would be embarrassing.  Needless to say, we were both completely astounded and awestruck.

To this day we haven't found another scented dog poo bag.  Not at a ferry terminal, anyway.  

Well done, Pembroke Dock.  Marvellous.

Wynford Vaughan-Thomas on: Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

It doesn't taste of butter or nuts; and I tried to make squash out of it but it came out lumpy.  They shouldn't call it a 'butternut squash'.  It's misleading.

I think Coyote and Roadrunner brought me this purely because it looks rude.  They're infantile, those two.  You should see them when they come up here; they stand around sniggering like a couple of street urchins.  They're adults!  He should be working in an office while she stays at home with their children; scrubbing the doorstep with carbolic soap.

But I digress.

The butternut squash is no good for a quick snack when you're up a mountain; it takes up too much room in your knapsack.  I had to leave my flask at home so I could fit it in.  Not only that; but I also had to leave my maps behind.  Inevitably, I got lost.  I was wandering around for hours; growing weaker and weaker (I only had four oggies, a slab of Kendal Mint Cake, a large bar of Dairy Milk, two ham sandwiches, a family-sized pork pie and a litre of whisky to keep me going.)  Then I stumbled, weary and weather-beaten, upon a small hamlet.  'Machynlleth'.  The natives seemed friendly enough so I stayed around for a while; taking in the sights and sounds.  The timeless architecture; the toy town clock and the scent of mung beans wafting on the breeze.

I refreshed myself in a little shop called Tuffins.  I availed myself of a coffee and walked to the Dyfi Bridge; her fine arches spanning a lazy river.  I sat a while on the finely built wall and watched the traffic trundle by.

I think I must've dozed off because I fell off the wall and got hit by a number 34 bus.

That's the last time I have anything to do with butternut squash.  I dread to think what they'll bring me next.

Wynford Vaughan-Thomas on: Pineapples


Pineapples.  Funny-looking things, aren't they?  With their scales and their punk hairdo.  They make me think of Hawaii; and I'm not a fan of tropical places.  Apart from Tenby.  They also remind me of a BBC do I went to once where I was offered a pina colada.  I was outraged, let me tell you!  I knew that kind of thing went on; but I was shocked to the core when I was propositioned so brazenly in broad daylight!  When it was explained to me that it was a drink, I was a little less taken aback and moved away from the wall.  But still; I prefer a nice pint of bitter.

As a journalist, I've done some research on pineapples for this piece.  Some of the facts are quite incredible.  If you eat an unripe pineapple, you get the trots.  If you mix pineapple juice with sand, it makes a splendid cleaner for boat decks and machete blades.  Del Monte began growing pineapples in Oahu in 1917.  That's just after quarter past seven.

They're not my kind of fruit at all.  I prefer simple, honest fruit.  Give me a nice Granny Smith any day; or a Golden Delicious.  If I'm feeling adventurous, I might treat myself to a Pink Lady.  My mother used to say, 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away' and she was right.  I used to throw one at him from my bedroom window when he cycled past to work every morning.  He never came near our house.