The Royal Cambrian Academy open exhibition: private view

Some arty thoughts and pictures from my partner, Denise

Denise Laura Baker

Selection of work from the Royal Cambrian Academy open exhibition…images taken from the RCA website and artists websites

On Saturday the 6th January the private view and opening of the annual open exhibition at the RCA Conwy took place.  It was a particularly poignant moment for me as last year when I visited my partner and I had just moved in together. This was a big and pretty momentous step for a pair who had been happily living on their own for three years, were confident about their independence and never intended to live with anyone again. We attended the exhibition together and collectively purchased a piece of work entitled ‘hopes and dreams’ by Susie Liddle which pretty much summed up how we were feeling at the time (and just happened to be the judges choice at the exhibition). It perfectly expressed our own aspirations both independently and collectively, as…

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What the hell is #Vejanuary?

Some thoughts on #veganuary

Moel Faban Suppers

I’m sorry, but is it just me and a symptom of my slightly grubby warped mind, that I can’t stop thinking of vajazzle when someone says Vejanuary? If you are not familiar with the term, it is a trend encouraging people to try a vegan diet for the month of January. Vejanuary should not be confused with Vajanuary which was a whole different trend (where women were encouraged to let their lady garden grow; in the same way men were encouraged to love and nurture their facial hair in “Movember”).

These trends have left me scarred, with a head full of slightly disturbing images firmly stuck, like a dysfunctional ‘earworm’, but in this case its an ‘imageworm’. It haunts me, and because of that this post will be the last time I use the word. This post is my therapy, a way to purge the thoughts and dismiss the term…

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Spot The Fake Trump Tweets

Let’s play a game. Hidden in this post are some tweets not made by the current president of the USA over the past year. Without the aid of a search engine or peeking at Twitter, can you spot the fakes?

“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

“In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!”

“People are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again. I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!”

“CNN’S slogan is CNN, THE MOST TRUSTED NAME IN NEWS. Everyone knows this is not true, that this could, in fact, be a fraud on the American Public. There are many outlets that are far more trusted than Fake News CNN. Their slogan should be CNN, THE LEAST TRUSTED NAME IN NEWS!”

“@theresa_may don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!”

“Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named “Man (Person) of the Year,” like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway!”

“The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily”

“Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East”

“After Turkey call I will be heading over to Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, to play golf”

“Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”

“To the three UCLA basketball players I say: You’re welcome, go out and give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China who made your release possible and, HAVE A GREAT LIFE! Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!”

“Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!”

“While in the Philippines I was forced to watch @CNN which I have not done in months, and again realized how bad, and FAKE, it is. Loser!”

“Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would NEVER call him “short and fat?” Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!”

“When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. There always playing politics – bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea”

“How can you blame China for taking advantage of people that had no clue? I would’ve done same!”

“NoKo has interpreted America’s past restraint as weakness. This would be a fatal miscalculation. Do not underestimate us. AND DO NOT TRY US.”

“I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing. Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!”

“My Twitter account was taken down for 11 minutes by a rogue employee. I guess the word must finally be getting out-and having an impact.”

“Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil.”

“What he know about Crooked Dems is earth shattering. He and his brother could Drain The Swamp, which would be yet another campaign promise fulfilled. Fake News weak!”

“I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”

“Facebook was on her side, not mine!”

“Just out report: “United Kingdom crime rises 13% annually amid spread of Radical Islamic terror.” Not good, we must keep America safe!”

“Highly respected author, Christopher Bedford, just came out with book, “The Art of the Donald, Lessons from America’s….” Really good book!”

“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.”

“THIS will drive the easily baited haters crazy! Get some fresh air, folks. Buy some mistletoe. #merrychristmas”

“I am a fucking liability and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near sharp objects, social networks, or buttons”


9Bach live at Neuadd Ogwen

As the North Wales village of Bethesda braced itself for a blizzard, a near capacity crowd battled the bitter cold night, in order to watch 9Bach perform live at the village’s independent live music venue, Neuadd Ogwen. It was a homecoming show for the band, following their co-headlining appearance with Moulettes at the majestic Cadogan Hall in Belgravia, London the previous night.

Fellow Bethesda band Yucatan came on stage first, with a sadly brief set. Just five songs were played in total. Included though was a cover of Across The Universe (Ar Draws y Gofod Pell). Yucatan recorded the track this year, to coincide with The Beatles celebrations at Festival No.6, 2017. The fact that this classic fitted in seamlessly with the band’s own compositions speaks volumes. If you ever dream you are bird soaring over the mountains of Snowdonia, then Yucatan songs like the beautiful Cwm Llym, played tonight, would be the perfect soundtrack to listen to while you fly.


Bethesda based poet Martin Daws was up next. Daws was commissioned to write his poem “Love Letter to Bethesda” by 9Bach for their Llechi show, and tonight he bridged the gap between Yucatan and the headliners effortlessly. His smooth and amiable delivery brightened the room, and his use of the kalimba during the poem “Bring Down the Walls” carried a hint of the international feel of things to come.

Martin Daws

9Bach’s “Tincian” was voted best album at the 2015 BBC Folk awards, and the band includes traditional Welsh folk songs in its repertoire. However, they blend the traditional with other styles in such a way that the label “folk” no longer seems large enough to do their music justice. 9Bach are far from parochial. Their music certainly captures the beauty of the area where the band is based, but it is enriched by rhythms, melodies and stories from around the globe. The Australian aboriginal performance group, the Black Arm Band Company was name checked at one point for instance, and Greek rembetika gets a look in during the set too. There is also a definite funk and groove present at times, to move things along.

So while it is hard not to use the “F” word when writing about 9Bach, these World Music ambassadors are far more than folk music alone.

A song about the last known male northern white rhino left in the world, Yr Olaf blends in comfortably with another about the interconnectedness between people, between us and place, between us and nature; that song, “Anian”, is also the title of the band’s latest album.

9 Bach

The three “London boys” at the back (Ali Byworth, Dan Swain, Martin Hoyland) provided a faultless canvas of drums, bass, and guitar respectively, upon which vocalist Lisa Jen Brown, keyboard player/singer Mirain Haf Roberts, and harpist Esylit Glyn Jones painted enchanting and evocative portraits of the world, of the past, of the slate quarry nearby, and of what it means to be alive in these troubled times.

9Bach exuded warmth and confidence in equal measures on stage, and one can’t help but feel that the audience returned home after the gig all the richer, and with a glow in the heart. It was a night Bethesda could be proud of.

9 Bach 2

(Photographs by Denise Baker)

Three gluten free and dairy free Christmas desserts

I can personally vouch for the yummyness of all these

Moel Faban Suppers

In the run up to Christmas I have my annual date with the Portmeirion Food and Craft Fair . Now in its sixth year the market combines all that’s best of our local crafters, small businesses and food producers.

I have a love hate relationship with Christmas. I detest the corporate grasp, on what was once a pagan festival to mark the shortest day and a turning point as the light creeps back in. Even the Christian story is the antithesis of what Christmas has become. On the other hand I love a traditional family Christmas; I love small handmade presents, gifts with meaning and sentiment, carefully chosen or made. I love to make my own presents, food gifts wrapped in tissue and ribbon, bottles of home-made liqueur, chocolates and Christmas puddings and I love browsing the stalls of Christmas markets; eating mince pies and drinking mulled wine as Christmas carols…

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Living The Dream #4 But I Don’t Need A Holiday!

By the time this post is published I’ll be in Germany, accompanying my girlfriend on a working trip she’s taking. She’ll be giving inspirational talks to students there. I’m her “Plus 1”. The internet will post this for me…I hope.

I’ve never had a girlfriend who gives inspirational talks before. I did have an ex who was an expert at telling people how to live their lives, but there’s a not so subtle difference in the two approaches. Personally I prefer being inspired over a badgering any day.


It’s the morning of our departure, and I’m already missing North Wales, despite the fact that we don’t leave for the airport until early this evening. I woke up at silly o’clock this morning; not because I was excited about the trip, but because I wanted to cram in as much home life as I could before we left.

I stood at the conservatory door, holding a clandestine cup of coffee (I’m supposed to start the day with a healthy cup of hot water, a slice of lemon, a sliver of ginger, and a spoonful of honey, just don’t tell the girlfriend I cheated) and watched the day start; ticking off anything I would be pining for over the next five days.


I’ll miss the persistent precipitation for a start. I’m one of those freaks who loves rain. I was warned about the weather here by a South Waleian film maker I know; “It’s something to do with the mountains” he said. The rain here is often sideways, due to the winds, and it’s been known for people to become hermits during the winter months; hibernating at home until Spring wakes up.


When the sun shines though, it’s a different story altogether. On a hot day it’s down to Ogwen Bank for a sit by the river; and a dip in it too, if you’re young enough, or foolish enough to brave the still icy chill of the river.


Apparently there’s something called “Wild Swimming”. Wild Swimming involves going somewhere where there is water, with no walls around it, no roof over it, and no chlorine to keep it clean and germ free. It’s an activity that people pay good money to try out. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay someone to take me to a river, lake, or beach, with a group of strangers, and…well, swim. I’m perfectly capable of doing this without sticking the word “wild” in front of it, and then handing over my hard earned cash to someone else for the privilege of doing so.


However, I digress.


I’ll miss sitting at my desk, tapping away at the keyboard, making stuff up. I guess I can do this in Germany too, but I’m going to be in another country, so I’m going to want to “do stuff”, “see stuff”. I might as well look upon this as a holiday. Only, I don’t need a holiday (and I definitely can’t afford one).


I’m going to miss the birds that have started to use the feeders I’ve put out on the patio at the back of our home; especially now that I own a decent pair of binoculars. I got them yesterday (a couple of days ago now you’re reading this) for my 54th birthday, from my girlfriend. I can practically see the expressions on the faces of the people on the zip line ride now, over at Zip World.

Zip World is “an attraction”. You can hear the whoops of the riders on it from where I live. My new toy adds a whole new dimension to it.


I’ll miss the mountains of course,that goes without saying, and even more so now that I can see individual sheep on the slopes through my binoculars.


And so I’ll start packing shortly, then have breakfast, then do some admin, then write for a while, then go on holiday.

It’s funny, it’s like I’ve stepped through the looking glass, into a topsy turvy world where my day to day life is a daydream, a break. How lucky am I that I can’t wait for a holiday abroad to finish, so that I can fly home and get back to work.

Well, I’d better get packing. My girlfriend has inspired me to get it done umpteen times already this morning. Bloody holidays, getting in the way of my fun!

Living The Dream #3 Rose Tainted Glasses (sic)

People are sometimes accused of painting a rose tinted picture of their lives online. I myself have been know to post a positively skewed status or ten in my time, but we live in a world where the President of the United States claims to have invented the word “fake”, and that’s more than enough real life for this writer to deal with.

It’s not that my life is idyllic. I’m about to lose three teeth (at least), and my bank balance resembles James Bond’s code name at the moment. The car became a nest for some sort of rodent recently, probably rendering it a total right off. I’m supporting my girlfriend through a double bereavement, and I’m constantly concerned that somebody is going to pull the rug out from under my feet, burst my bubble, and insist that I get “a real job”.

But why would I want to share all that troublesome shit with the world; or at the very least with the handful of people who are generous enough with their time to read my stuff (thank you, dear reader. After all, I’m sure you have plenty of other things you could be doing).

I try to look for the positives in most things. It’s not always easy, but it is possible. The teeth currently hurt but they won’t once they’ve fallen out, there’s a few hundred pound going into my account shortly; a grant to take part in a Professional Development writing programme, and the car was already close to becoming a wreck; requiring a new suspension after just about surviving Festival No6. There’s nothing anyone can do about the bereavement. The best I can offer is a shoulder to cry on, some empathy, and as many hugs as required. 

As for the last fly in my ointment, it’s a worry I live with every day. You see, people like me don’t become writers. We’re fodder for the cannon and the factory floor, nothing more. We’re hothouse flowers, forced through a mincer to make up a willing workforce. À hundred years ago I’d be lucky if I got the chance to read, let alone write.

I suffer from imposter syndrome. I was raised to put in a hard day’s graft for an honest wage, and to be grateful for my good fortune. Where my reckless desire to stick two fingers up to the hive came from, I have no idea. When we were at school, we were taken on a careers trip to the dole office, as it was known at the time, where we were shown how to look for work, and how to sign on.

I once made the mistake of putting “Writer” down as a career I was interested in pursuing, whilst filling in my “Job Seeker’s Profile” during a brief period “between jobs”. This did not go down well with my “advisor”.

“I think we can get rid of this, don’t you Mr Stone?” she queried, as she went through my preferences. I suspected the question might have been rhetorical, as I sat and watched her delete my dream from the screen. I didn’t say anything of course. You don’t mess with a job advisor, not if you want to eat while you’re off work. 

Then there’s the fact that I strongly suspect I write drivel, and not the kind of stuff a “real writer” composes.

“Of course you like it” I say to my girlfriend when she compliments me on something I’ve been working on. “You love me, so you’re bound to say you like it”. This does not go down well.

“So you need total strangers to tell you you can write, before you’ll believe it” my girlfriend accuses. Ermm, yes.

And so I babble on for another post, and I pray that I won’t get caught out for being a fraud. No, I don’t view my life through rose tinted glasses, because it is tainted by the fear that I’m not a real writer, that I’m just putting off getting “a real job”. At the same time, I’ll be damned if I’m going to pretend life is shit. I’ve been up that particular creek before, and not only did I not have a paddle, I didn’t even have a canoe. I was also up to my neck in the stuff, with people rushing by me, in speedboats.

When was this? Why, it was back when I had “a real job” of course.