Monday, 19 November 2012

The Project

Greetings from a soggy Dulas Valley!

Just thought we'd keep you posted with what we're up to at the moment.

We've decided to lay our sprout guns down for a while and concentrate on something a little more artistic.  That's not to say, of course, that sprout guns aren't artistic (sprout purée shows up lovely on black paint and chrome), we just want to have a crack at something that involves longer attention spans.

This is where the problem may lie.  You see, we have the attention spans of goldf...ooh!  A MOTH! hour later...

That was a very unusual moth.  He looked a bit like Michael Gambon.  Anyway...where were we?  Oh yeah. We want to create a video that features some of Wales' gorgeous scenery.  Be it lakes, cityscapes, forests, waves on the sand, busy shopping centres or sprawling mountain vistas, we want to capture a bit of Wales in pixels.  However, we don't want to do it the easy way.  Taking a few photos and bunging them together in a slideshow is a bit is setting up a camera on a tripod and letting it roll for a few seconds.  So - how to make it that little bit different?  Combine the two into something like this!

That's just a test batch we took in Aberdyfi yesterday.  39 photographs condensed into 9 seconds.  Ideally, we'd like around 30 different locations, all edited together in sections to present a funky tour around this unique country.  It'll be quite a big undertaking, but we hope to create something that reflects the beauty of Wales...with a little Coyote and Roadrunner edge.  The photos will be polished and the timing tightened up, so the finished result should be quite snappy and bright.

If you have any suggestions for places we should visit for this project, please let us know!  We've got a few in mind, but your input would be fabulous.  As regular readers will know; we've seen a fair old bit of Wales (656 places so far) but not all of it.  Your suggestions would be a slice of hot, melted cheese on toast.  Mmm...melted cheese on want that now.  You know you do.

So yes - please get in touch!  Many of you have already got my email address - so use it!  Or you can tweet us: @Goleudy or @MarkTheTravel.

Tarra for now.  We hope to hear from some of you soon! xx

PS: We saw a fully-grown man skipping down the road past HQ last night.  Just thought we'd mention that.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Humble, Gentle Sprout

I am a humble, gentle sprout,
I mean no ill or harm;
How can I be of any threat?
You can fit me in your palm!

I am a simple, healthy veg,
Little sister of a cabbage.
I do not wish to hurt or maim;
I am not wild or savage...


I see a BOFmobile. 
Chrome glinting in the sun.
Then my placid air wears thin
And my calmness comes undone.
I feel a rage build in my stalk,
My leaves begin to twitch;
Darkness creeps throughout my veins
And my layers start to itch.

I see the tinted windows gleam;
I note the linen jacket.
Chelsea boots of finest hide
That cost a fecking packet.
Filofax on the passenger seat
Listing several dinner dates;
Financial Times in the back
With circled shares and rates...


I know what I must do.
I have to make a stand.
Protect the innocent from the BOFs
And purify our land.

I leap towards the windscreen,
War-cry booming from my soul.
No more pacifistic thoughts;
My heart as black as coal.
I hit the target with a SPLAT
Obscuring the BOF's vision;
He swerves onto the muddy verge
And I cackle in derision.

Then night falls upon me;
I'm broken; start to fade.
But as my purée clouds the glass
I know my point's been made.

I may have been a single hit;
A solitary message,
But I will not be the last to fight
And instil a fearful presage. 

How can I scare a BOF, you ask?
Make them shake and twitch their snouts?
It's simple, oh dear reader:
BOFs are terrified of sprouts.

For all their grand bravado,
Their armour has a chink.
They're too intent on following trends 
And worrying what others think.

Sprouts, of course, are not well-liked
And folks are quick to state
That sprouts are something they abhor;
They deeply, truly hate.

So naturally, a BOF will follow
The consensus of the masses;
Not wishing to daringly deviate
From their piers and higher classes.

And that, O brothers, is how we fight.
Give the bourgeois bunch a clout.
The BOFs will never beat this nemesis:
The 'humble', 'gentle' sprout...

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Taking the Mic

When you turn your radio on, what do you do it for? I do it for information and entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less. When those speakers kick into life and those voices waft out, I'm after news, weather, good music, fun and - perhaps - a hint of enlightenment. I like it when it's so sleek that you don't even notice the professionalism.

As Coyote and I spend a lot of time driving around Wales, we often have the radio on in the car. (Between you and me - there's only so many 70s and 80s cheese albums a Roadrunner can take!) Of course, traffic and travel updates along with weather forecasts are extremely useful to us - but so too are good tunes and fun chat.

It's not a difficult request to fill. So why is it, then, that radio stations are becoming increasingly debate-based? It seems to be phone-in after phone-in, with less and less time set aside in the schedules for things that people actually want. Of course we all like a good debate - but isn't that what friends and family are for? Wouldn't you rather throw forth your points of view on the day's hot news with people you can actually see - as opposed to listening to a few people in a studio/on phone lines all talking over each other?

As with all media today, radio can only survive if it appeals to everyone. That’s why I understand that it has to feature things that I may not enjoy. It’s like a buffet – you choose what you want and ignore the rest - which is exactly what I do. I’ll tune in for certain programmes and turn off for the ones I don’t. It’s the way it works. However; recently I’ve noticed that I’m turning off more often. I’m listening to fewer hours of radio per week than I ever have done – and that’s sad.

I grew up in a radio-loving family. My dad always listened to The Archers, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and Just a Minute. My Nan enjoyed magazine programmes like Woman’s Hour and never missed an episode Desert Island Discs. Then there were wonderfully written productions like Bleak Expectations – that was just brilliant!

Sir Philip: We resolved to escape from St. Bastard's or die in the attempt!
Sourquill: And what happened?
Sir Philip: We died in the attempt.
Sourquill: Oh, how awful!
Sir Philip: Of course not, you blundering idiot! How would I be talking to you now?

Pure class! Now...where was I?

Oh yes. I suppose I should mention sport at some point. Sport doesn’t appeal to me at all; so when a station broadcasts a live match I turn off. That’s my choice and it’s one I’m happy with. But when a station (one that isn’t dedicated to sport) churns out so much sport that even the sport bulletins overrun, it gets a bit frustrating. But I won’t dwell on this too much. I will, in fact, be a good sport about it. See what I did there?! No, you’re right. It was crap.

Which, in an almost seamless link, brings me to ‘celebrity guest presenters.’ I will never understand what drives the decision-makers to plonk a comedian, musician or singer behind a presenter’s mic and give them free reign. Just because these folks can warble a tune or tell a joke does not mean that they can engage an audience in a radio show. Frequently I hear a ‘name’ burbling into a microphone about how he/she is so honoured to have been asked to host the airwaves, and then immediately adding that they don’t actually know what they’re doing. It’s not endearing. It’s annoying. If I wanted to hear someone giggling hysterically because they don't know the name of the newsreader, I’d gatecrash a Channel 5 Christmas party.

It gets even more baffling when you realise that there are people out there with presenting skills that would save radio stations a few bob. In many cases, these people are already in the broadcasting industry and pottering quietly right under the decision makers’ snouts. They’re people who have the gift of the gab and can self-op; meaning there would be no need for an audio supervisor and they could, perhaps, bring down the amount of phone-answerers and broadcast assistants. This would save cash, and that cash could be put towards interesting outside broadcasts or, maybe, promotional merchandise a little more exciting than badges and car stickers. But no. The Powerful Ones (who may or may not drive BOFmobiles. But probably do) prefer to hire an expensive name in the hope that it brings celebrity-worshipping ears to their station. I’m not denying it works...but there’s no longevity. Listeners can’t warm to a temporary voice; no matter how many awards that voice has perched on its mantelpiece.

I’ve spoken to many people in my quest for opinions. Some bemoaned the lack of live comedy shows; others wondered why there were so many ‘shouty’ people on air these days. One person even told me that he’d started listening to a commercial radio station because the adverts were more entertaining than the output of the regional station he used to listen to. The one thing that really struck me was how many people said, in one way or another, that they don’t feel radio is as ‘friendly’ as it used to be. Some of the older people said that they almost regarded those familiar voices as friends – people they would invite into their homes by flicking the ‘on’ switch; but now they feel those once-friendly voices are more like lecturers than friends.

Yes; radio is floundering. The airwaves do still offer some good quality output and people can find something they like if they look hard enough, but the former is getting scarcer and the latter is becoming more difficult. What I don’t understand is why this has happened. Surely there are enough listener panels and audience councils out there; diligently firing ideas at the ones who ask for them? I even applied to be on a panel myself once. As it was, I filled out a questionnaire and never heard anything back. I wasn’t one of the chosen ones.

Perhaps it’s just as well. I don’t think I would’ve given them what they wanted to hear...which, when you think about it, is worthy of a wry smile. Do they actually listen to and act upon the opinions and ideas given to them by their panels? Or do they set these groups up as a mandatory courtesy - almost like asking someone how they are in the street, knowing full-well that the person is highly unlikely to give you a true and accurate reply?

This post isn't an argument; it's an opinion. It's not the rant of a disgruntled radio listener, but the tentative words of someone who's wondering what's happened to something she cares about: British radio. Of course, there's nothing I - a small voice in a cacophony - can do to make anything better; but at least I can say I've said my piece. Things don't change unless change is instigated; and I hope that this post might just inspire people to speak up and make themselves heard if they can.

So - ideally, what would I change? Hmm...

1. More Improvisation

Radio gold often comes from mining the Improv. Quarry. Scripts are all well and good, but these days they don't allow for genuine fun. Presenters are increasingly reliant on bits of paper and this creates a rather starchy, unfriendly air. Think of those priceless times when a listener has called in with a tale and made everyone laugh. Do they have a script in front of them? No. How about loosening the restraints a little? Colouring over the margins? Of course you have to be careful not to wander off the page - for there be dragons...and possibly litigation - but a good presenter will know the boundaries and be more than capable of working within them and getting the most out of their input. Which brings me neatly to...

2. Fewer Celebrity Guest Presenters
The odd one can be fun. I can even think of a couple who have done so well that they've been given full-time presenting gigs - but they're as rare as rocking horse poo. More often than not, station editors collar arty types who wouldn't know a fader if they sat on it and probably think that RadioMan is a very pretty version of Microsoft Excel. That means they have to have an army of knob-twiddlers behind a pane of glass, ferreting away to make sure the show doesn't fall flat on its face. Many also seem to struggle with listener interaction; not knowing what to say to callers or how to respond to emails and texts. When this happens, empathic embarrassment has us reaching for the off switch.

3. Well-Scheduled Debates and Phone-Ins

I'd be lying if I said I didn't like to hear people having a good argument now and then...but there's a time and a place. It appears that editors seem to think that a great time to have people yelling at each other is first thing in the morning. It isn't. When I'm pouring the first coffee of the day, still yearning for the warmth of the bed I've just dragged myself out of, I really don't want to turn the radio on and hear people at each others' throats over the best place to situate their wheelie bins. Give us some time to wake up. Feed us the news gently, give us some nice music...and when we can walk and talk at the same time, then unleash the fury of the masses. Besides, I for one am in no capable state to ponder the intricacies of wheelie bin location until I've had at least three coffees. And a bacon sandwich.

4. More Eclectic Playlists

Yes - I know this is a minefield; what with royalties, rights and suchlike...but if I hear Robbie Williams wailing on about candy one more time, I swear I'm going to cry.

Well; I think I’m done here. I’m off to watch TV. There’s not much on; but at least if you throw a shoe at a screen you’ve got a visible target.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Pisses

Once upon a time, on the edge of mystical Snowdonia, stood a stone cottage.  It wasn't grand by any means, but it was cosy and homely.  It nestled against a rocky hillside, looking out on a vast valley of pines.  Blue smoke curled from its chimney and mingled with the languid mist, waiting patiently for its owners to return home from their expedition.  Suddenly, the bucolic hush was shattered by Roger Whittaker whistling like a possessed kettle as a dark blue car pulled up outside.  It was the headquarters of Coyote and Roadrunner; two intrepid travellers who harboured the curiosity of a thousand cats.  They were also fond of catnip, but weren't very good at walking on this is where the comparison with cats must end.

Roadrunner eagerly threw herself out of the car and stood looking at the garage up the road.  Her nose twitched.  Coyote rounded the car and slipped a loving arm around her shoulders.  'He's gone home, Roadrunner,' he soothed.  'He'll be back tomorrow morning, though.  Don't be sad!'
     Her shoulders dropped and she trudged up the steps to the front door, leaving Coyote to lug the Pimm's and Space Raiders inside.

Later that evening, they sat on the floor playing Scrabble by candlelight.  There wasn't a power cut; they just liked being able to make animal shadows whenever they liked.  Coyote was particularly good at casting shadows of honey badgers.  Roadrunner scrutinised the Scrabble board.  'I don't think that's allowed,' she frowned.  'It is!' Coyote protested.  'Everybody knows what a Qozxjym is!  And it's a triple word score.  Tot it up.'
     Just as Roadrunner began counting on her toes, there was a flash of light outside.  It was a torch.  She sprang to her feet and ran to the window, beaming from ear-to-ear.  Sure enough, she was greeted by the sight that her heart longed to see.  A man with a white beard and blue overalls was slowly walking down the road, carrying a plastic 4-pint milk bottle.  Blue top.  It didn't appear to contain milk, however.  Roadrunner jumped up and down on the spot.  'Coyote...Coyote...IT'S MISTER PISS!' she squealed excitedly.  Coyote crossed to the window and grinned as the man passed by, carrying his container of dubious liquid.  He waved at his back as he disappeared around the corner.  'Hello, Mister Piss!' he smiled.  'Hey,' he turned to Roadrunner, his brow perplexed.  'Where's Furry Piss?' 
'I don't know,' Roadrunner pondered.  'Maybe she's with Fat Piss?'
'Or Niss Piss?' Coyote suggested.
'I think Niss Piss is still at work,' Roadrunner said, looking out at the drizzle that washed silently through the orange street light.  'She works long shifts at the hospissal.' 
They fell silent for a few moments while they mulled over the possibilities.  With a shrug, Coyote gestured to the Scrabble game in progress and they resumed their battle of probably-not-in-the-dictionary words.

The Pisses were nice neighbours.  Mr Piss owned the local garage where he spent his days tinkering...and probably tinkling.  Niss Piss worked at the hospital (probably in the urology department) and Fat Piss - their daughter - was fat.  Furry Piss was their lovely sheepdog.  She liked to go on evening walks with Mr Piss as he toddled between his Piss Garage and Piss House, carrying bottles of...well, what appeared to be...piss.  
     Coyote and Roadrunner didn't know why he pissed into bottles.  They just put it down to a strong work ethic.  The less time he spent walking home to relieve himself, the more pisstons and pisstributors he could fix for his customers.  It made sense.  The only thing they didn't like about him was his vehicle.  It was a BOFpiss.  Not a BOFmobile, you understand...because Mr Piss was not a BOF.  Although the BOFpiss was indeed a black Range Rover with chrome bits and tinted windows, it couldn't be classified as a BOFmobile because no BOF would be seen dead in oil-spattered overalls; let alone pissing into a bottle.

Niss Piss and Fat Piss couldn't look less alike.  Niss Piss was a willowy, grey-haired lady with a gentle manner.  They often saw her elegantly strolling down the road - probably having delivered an empty bottle or two to Mr Piss.  Fat Piss, as has been earlier stated, was fat.  And short.  It should probably be mentioned at this juncture that Coyote and Roadrunner had no evidence of Niss Piss or Fat Piss relieving themselves into bottles - in fact, if you think about it, it'd be a bit difficult for them; being women and all - but they became Pisses by association.  Their dog, Furry Piss, was allowed to piss pretty much everywhere.  Because she was a dog.
     Coyote and Roadrunner had no interest in discovering their real names.  The village they lived in was quiet and they had to make their own entertainment.  One time, someone kidnapped a hamster and held it to ransom; demanding £5 and a Sherbet Fountain from the owner.  This shocking incident made the front page of the local newspapers and people were talking about it for years.  Yes...the village was very quiet.  So quiet, one might say, that you could hear a gnat piss.  Or a mechanic, for that matter.

To be continued...