The Latest Normal

They say that the sky has grown bluer

while we’re yearning through these

year-filled days

we follow the curve

watch it bend

spend the sunrise mourning

what we once had

lamenting, loss, looking for

“The New Normal”

cuckoo call

swallow fly

seagull cry

grass grow


watch the sky link arms

deal with it

they’re still selling bombs and dropping bombshells

telling us to stay safe

to stay home

to lock our hopes away

too late to fix the roof

to protect us from the invisible rain

they’re still peddling their “Alternative Truths”

ask not for whom the bell tolls

but rather, who is ringing it

a late April shower silences the dawn choir

pitter patter replacing the songbirds

sunrise hides behind new, slate grey clouds

an empty coffee cup beside me

and another day in lock down ahead

The Garifuna Collective/Gasper Nali/Racubah – Neuadd Ogwen


In the same week Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour sells his 1969 Black Fender Stratocaster for £3.1m, Gasper Nali sits alone on the Neuadd Ogwen stage in Bethesda, ready to support World Music legends The Garifuna Collective with the home-made bass guitar he plays. The instrument is actually called a babatoni. It is about 3 metres long, with one string, and a cow skin drum as a resonating box. Nali plays the instrument by hitting the string with a stick and changes the notes by placing an empty bottle along the string’s length. It makes a unique sound. Gilmour and Nali couldn’t be further apart on the musical spectrum but for one vital similarity. They both create magic from their art.


Nali opens his far too short set with the relatively sedate “Olemera” from his 2015 album, ‘Abale Ndikuwuzeni’. The album’s title translates as ‘People, Let Me Tell You’. Near the end of the song the single string on the babatoni breaks. There’s a groan of disappointment from the crowd, and while Nali restrings the instrument his tour manager comes on stage and explains how the strings are in fact made from the wire found in car tyres. The rubber of the tyres is melted and the wire is removed. There is a 50/50 chance a string will work. We shouldn’t worry though, as they have around 75m of wire on tour with them. This raises a laugh from the audience and then Nali is ready to carry on.

The babatoni hums and buzzes like the hazy days of Summer that Bethesda is currently basking in, while the beat from Nali’s single kick drum proves to be irresistible, the audience soon dancing and clapping in time to the second song, ‘Aliyense Adzaonetsa’.

It isn’t long though before Nali is announcing the last song of his set. It is the title track from ‘Abale Ndikuwuzeni’. The moan from the crowd is even louder than when the string broke at the start of the evening, and so Nali milks what little time he has left on stage for all it is worth, getting the audience to sing along to the song. By the time he’s finished you’re left wondering why this guy is a support act.

The Garifuna Collective are in a class of their own though, of course. Their 2007 album ‘Wátina’, recorded with the late Andy Palicio, is one of the most praised world music albums ever released, and was selected by as the Greatest World Music Album of All Time; beating Buena Vista Social Club, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti and other worthy contenders to the title. And here are nine of the collective on stage in Bethesda.

The band appears wary at first, hesitant, testing the crowd. To be fair, Gasper Nali is a tough act to follow, no matter how short his set was. But these are seasoned artistes and they are in their element, in front of a receptive and appreciative crowd, and by the time they break into ‘Ubou’ (The World), from the album ‘Ayo’, the floor is packed with dancing bodies. Rhythms and melodies swirl through the crowd, complex structures of sound that take the feet hostage.


The Garifuna Collective is a multigenerational collection of musicians tapping into the rich history of the Garifuna people, telling stories, keeping their culture alive by infusing the traditional with their own musicianship. The result is sublime.

The audience just about raises the roof when it starts singing along to ‘Merua’ from the 2008 album, ‘Umalali’, and when two women in the audience are invited up on stage to dance along with the band you know that this isn’t just a gig, this is a full on party!

At one point the Collective plays a “Christmas” song and a dancer comes on stage dressed in an outfit that wouldn’t look out of place in a ‘Pet Shop Boys’ video. The audience might not be entirely sure what’s going on but they’re loving every second of it.


Local DJs Racubah kept everyone occupied between sets.

Neuadd Ogwen is making a name for itself with the rich tapestry of music it is promoting, and The Garifuna Collective joins an illustrious list of world renowned talent that has performed in the independent music venue over the past few years.

With such artists as Lorkin O’Reilly performing soon, with his fusion of 60’s American folk music and traditional celtic vibes, plus home grown hero Gruff Rhys set to play at the venue in September, as part of the 3 day Ara Deg festival, and the return of Cate Le Bon, Neuadd Ogwen looks set to continue with it’s mission to bring the best music there is out there to Bethesda.

The night was like many nights at the venue, brave, enlightening, and entertaining.


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)

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 #2 Mind Your Language

I was sitting sipping overpriced coffee from a tiny cup, in a nondescript hotel bar in the centre of the city. The wafer thin biscuit they’d put on the teeny saucer was no compensation for the miserly brew.

There were more mirrors than walls in the place. I guess the owners either wanted to make the bar look bigger, or were catering for a clientele that was very much in love with itself. I suspect it was the latter.


Anyway, I was there with a small cast of fellow actors. See what I mean about the clientele? (That was a joke by the way. A lot of the actors I’ve met are racked with self-doubt). We were rehearsing for two murder mysteries coming up later that month. I say “rehearsing”, but there are no scripts for these 3 hours + performances. They are totally improvised. What we were doing was cementing our characters’ backgrounds and connections.


If on the night of a performance for example, someone asked my character what colour my fiance’s front door is, my answer would match my fiance’s; or indeed that of any other actor whose character might have visited my fiancé on a regular basis. Yes, we go into that much detail, even though the chances of being asked to confirm the colour of a door are slim to say the least, but it has happened.


When we’d finished figuring out where we’d all been on what dates, and with whom, and what colours our respective doors were, we settled down for a natter, and I somehow had to find a way to subtly steer the conversation around to the subject of my imminent move to North Wales of course.


“Did I tell you I’m moving to North Wales next month?!” I declared, out of the blue; already swiping through my tablet, looking for photos of where I was moving to, which my girlfriend had teasingly sent to me via Messenger. And as for my grin, well I doubt I’ve worn a smile that wide since I was a child on Christmas Eve, telling my parents that Santa was coming.


“Yes”, said my poor beleaguered colleagues with a collective sigh. Undeterred, I continued. “It’s the language I’m worried about” I confessed. At which point, a young Polish actor piped up.

“Do not worry. Everybody speaks English there” she said, with a better grasp of English than many native speakers I’ve met over the years. Nevertheless, she was wrong.


“Not where I’m moving to. About 80% of the population are Welsh speakers where I’ll be living” I explained. Another actor (and fellow writer) confirmed this. “They’re massive on the language in North Wales, very passionate about it”.


To illustrate my dilemma, I mentioned about the time just recently, during a visit there, when I’d almost lost my cash card to the local ATM. I’d been on auto pilot at the time, and had forgotten to choose the “English” option on the touch screen. I was suddenly staring at a string of letters that made no sense to me at all.

I opted for the Big Red Button with a massive X on it, then snatched my card out of the slot, and started again.


Even after my move, it took me five months to figure out that we weren’t driving past Gwasanaethau Services every time we drove into the village, but that “Gwasanaethau” was the Welsh word for services. In my defence, I was usually distracted by the spectacular scenery during those journeys.


I have also had to tackle the toilet problem since moving here, not knowing the Welsh for either “Ladies” or “Gents”. Often there are pictures on doors to help you out; the basic trouser/skirt combination usually does the trick.

But a few months back, I did my first bit of acting work around these parts; as an extra in a Welsh Soap*. We were on location in a church, and during a break I needed to pee. Off I went to the loo, only to return a minute or two later. I approached another actor.


“Excuse me, I need the toilet and…”

“They’re just out the door, turn left, then left again” the actor directed.

“Erm…I don’t know which is the Gents” I confessed sheepishly.

The actor told me which door to go through, and I went off again, praying I wasn’t about to be set up for some traditional prank that the Welsh like to play on us English**.


I know two Welsh words so far; “know” as being able to speak them, spell them, and know what they mean. The first word is “Llys”*** and the other is “Diolch”. It’s a start.


Speaking of “starts” and the Welsh language, my first Welsh Beginner’s lesson is tomorrow morning; which also happens to be my 54th birthday. My girlfriend has suggested I ask her fourteen year old son (aka “The Youth”) to help me out, bless her naïve cotton socks. I’m sure we all know how that would work out.


ME: What’s the Welsh for “I like your hair”


THE YOUTH: Erm…it’s “Rwyf wrth fy modd â’ch gwaelod”**** (wanders off sniggering to himself)


It never crossed my mind not to learn Welsh once I knew I’d be moving here. Why would it? After all, during that rehearsal just over a year ago, my Polish friend never once expected us to understand Polish, in order for us to communicate.


“Ah, but Wales is a part of the United Kingdom, and the official language of the UK is English”, some have argued; to which my reply is “cau i fyny!”


Anyway, we’ll see soon enough whether it’s possible to teach this old dog some new tricks, but until then, diolch for reading.

*The soap is called “Rownd A Rownd”

**For the record, I consider myself a Yorkshire-man first and foremost

***See Living The Dream #1

**** This joke will only work if the translation is correct.

Living The Dream #1 Translation Experiment

“Ydych chi erioed wedi difaru symud yma?” Gofynnodd ffrind, wrth i ni sefyll yn y drws ystafell wydr a gwylio cynnydd yn lleuad llawn dros y goedwig silwedig, i’r chwith o’r byngalo symudais i mewn i flwyddyn yn ôl i’r dydd.

Gwelwyd y wiwer goch yn y goedwig honno yn ddiweddar. Nid wyf wedi gweld un fy hun eto, ond rhowch amser iddo. Mae hwn yn le lle mae’n rhaid i chi aros am bethau, hyd yn oed pan fyddwch ar frys.


Yr unig synau y gallem eu clywed ar y pryd oedd y twit a dau o ddau dylluanod yn gorwedd rhywle yn y coed cyfagos, a fy anhwylderau anhygoel fy hun wrth ofyn y cwestiwn dwp hwn eto; a chan gyfaill sy’n ddeallus iawn.


I fod yn deg i’m ffrind a’r chwilwyr blaenorol hynny, mae’n bosib y byddaf yn colli rhai agweddau ar fy mywyd *. Roedd y cyfle i fod yng nghanol amgylchedd prysur a masnachol helaeth i ddechrau. Neu y cyfle i ddod i mewn i fy hoff siop gomic llyfr annibynnol ** a thori drwy’r nofelau graffeg pryd bynnag yr oeddwn eisiau. Yna roedd y tocynnau rhad ac am ddim a gefais yn rheolaidd; i fynd i’r theatr, yr opera, y bale, dangosiadau ffilm, a gigs cerddoriaeth, yn gyfnewid am adolygiad. Peidiwch ag anghofio y ffaith fy mod yn agos at fy nghynhonnell incwm sylfaenol ar y pryd, roedd Cwmni Mystery Murder I wedi ei ail-ddatgan; y gwaith a gymerodd i mi o gwmpas y wlad.


Roedd y rhain i gyd yn bethau yr wyf yn hapus i roi’r gorau iddi am gariad pan oeddwn yn codi ffynion ac yn symud y rhan fwyaf o’m nwyddau bydol i Ogledd Cymru, felly gallai fy nghariad a minnau setlo i lawr gyda’i gilydd. Symudom i mewn i gartref ysblennydd a ddarganfuwyd i’r ddau ohonom, yn agos at y man lle bu’n byw ers bron i 30 mlynedd.

Roedd gan ein cartref newydd ddigon o le ar gyfer ein casgliadau llyfrau cyfunol, ynghyd â rhywle arall y gallem barcio ein car a’n fan, ac mae lle i westai allu ffitio â’u cerbyd hefyd. Ddim yn gyffrous gan hynny? Byddech chi petaech chi’n byw o gwmpas yma.


Lle nad yw fy nghariad a minnau’n byw yn dawel, ond rydych chi’n fwy tebygol o weld gwiwer goch cyn i chi weld tŷ arall o fewn pellter cerdded i’n cartref sydd â pharcio oddi ar y ffordd a modurdy. Yn wir, rydych chi’n fwy tebygol o weld pentwr o gac ceffyl creigiog yn y ffordd.

Mae’r rhanbarth hon o’r wlad yn ddrysfa o lonydd cul, ac mae gan y rhan fwyaf o bobl yma y rhagwelediad i wthio eu drychau adain pan fyddant yn parcio eu cerbyd. Na, efallai na fyddai fy nghariad a minnau’n byw mewn palas, ond pan ddaw i barcio o gwmpas y rhannau hyn, rydym yn byw fel breindal.


Felly, mae fy hen ffrind a minnau yn sefyll yn y drws haul. Mae’r ystlumod eisoes wedi ein diddanu gyda’u sioe nos. Mae’r nosweithiau yn dod i mewn, ac felly mae’r sioeau hyn yn mynd yn gynharach gyda phob nosw.

Dilynodd un ystlum mor agos fel ein bod ni’n camu’n ôl, oherwydd ofn y gallai ein taro ni. Rydym wedi gweld dwy sêr saethu hyd yn hyn, a beth mae fy ffrind yn honni ei fod yn Venws. Gallai fod yn iawn. Mae cael gafael ar thelesgop da yn uchel ar y rhestr o bethau yr hoffwn eu gwneud, unwaith y byddaf yn gwneud digon o fyw boddhaol o’m ysgrifennu; er mwyn manteisio mwy ar y diffyg llygredd golau yma.


Roeddwn i’n gwybod y byddai’r un lleuad arian y byddai fy ffrind a minnau’n gwylio yn cwympo allan o’r tu ôl i’r treetops yn fuan yn disgleirio ar y ddau gopa mynydd y gallaf eu gweld o gefn y byngalo yn ystod y dydd.

Rydw i wedi byw yma am flwyddyn yn awr, ac yn gweld llwch eira y brigiau hynny yn ystod fy ail tymor yma. Ar hyn o bryd dyma’r adeg o’r flwyddyn pan fydd coed yn colli eu gwyrdd a throi aur a brown.


Pe baem yn sefyll ar ddrws y gegin, i flaen y byngalo, byddech chi bron yn gallu gwneud trydydd mynydd mynydd yn y pellter, wedi’i chwistrellu â goleuadau cartref oddi wrth un o’r pentrefi cyfagos; yn ogystal â’r goleuadau teithio prin hwyr y nos yn y car, beicwyr, neu gerddwr yn troi eu ffordd ar hyd un o’r lonydd. Yr unig sŵn i’w glywed o’r ochr hon i’n cartref fyddai pryfed rhaeadr, llai na phum munud o gerdded i ffwrdd.


Gallaf gofio munud o siom ar ein noson gyntaf yn y lle newydd pan glywais y swn honno, gan ei gamgymryd ar gyfer y tyfiant cyfarwydd o draffig y gallaf ei glywed yn gyson yn y cefndir pan oeddwn i’n byw yn Leeds. Roeddwn i’n arfer byw dim ond ugain munud o gerdded ar hyd y llwybr doll o ganol y ddinas; yn ddelfrydol i ddyn sy’n ceisio gwneud ei farc ar fap diwylliannol dinas fawr, ond nid yn union o gymorth i “fynd i ffwrdd o’r cyfan”.

Cymerodd foment neu bump i mi weithio allan mai’r swn yr oeddwn i’n gallu ei glywed, yn wir, yn ddŵr o un o’r ddwy afon gerllaw, yn cwympo dros y creigiau a’r cwymp, a pheidio â chwythu’r peiriannau, gyda’u gwyllt yn ysgogi gwenwynau i’r atmosffer.


Mae gan fy nghartref enw, nid rhif. Fe’i gelwir yn “Llys Menai”. Mae’n Gymraeg. Ystyr “Llys” yw neuadd, llys, neu palas o ryw fath; er fel y soniais eisoes, nid ydym yn byw mewn palas, rydym yn byw mewn byngalo.

Mae’r “Menai” yn yr enw yn le, fel yn yr Afon Menai cyfagos. Fodd bynnag, os ydych chi’n cyfieithu’r gair “Menai” o Lithwaneg i’r Saesneg, mae’n golygu “celf”.


Rwy’n hoffi hynny, mae’n briodol. Lle rydw i’n byw bellach yn hafan ar gyfer artistiaid, awduron, cerddorion, crewyr. Rwyf o fewn pellter cerdded i fynyddoedd, rhaeadrau, caeau, llynnoedd, afonydd, coedwigoedd, a gyrru pymtheg munud o arfordir Cymru. Ewch i arddangosfa gelf o gwmpas y rhannau hyn, ac rwy’n gwarantu y byddwch yn gweld mynyddoedd a’r môr yn cael eu harddangos. Rwy’n byw mewn Parc Cenedlaethol. Daw pobl am eu gwyliau yma. Yn wir, mae bwthyn gwyliau ar frig ein gyrfa.


Gan fod Northerner, dosbarth gweithgar lliw-wlân, yn byw mewn baradwys gwledig fel hyn, mae pethau breuddwydion; y math o freuddwydion sy’n gorfodi pobl i dreulio wythnos yn wythnosol allan mewn swydd y maent yn ei gasáu, fel y gallant fynd i ffwrdd a chuddio am bythefnos unwaith y flwyddyn, am wyliau.

Felly, wrth ateb y cwestiwn yr wyf wedi ei ofyn dro ar ôl tro dros y deuddeng mis diwethaf dywedais “Ydych chi wedi gweld lle rwy’n byw?”


Living The Dream #1

“Do you ever regret moving here?” asked a friend, as we stood at the conservatory door and watched a full moon rise over the silhouetted forest, to the left of the bungalow I moved into a year ago to the day.

Red squirrels have been seen in that forest recently. I’ve not spotted one myself yet, but give it time. This is a place where you often have to wait for things, even when you’re in a hurry.


The only sounds we could hear at the time were the twit and twoo of two owls perched somewhere in the nearby trees, and my own incredulous silence at being asked this stupid question again; and by a supposedly intelligent friend.


To be fair to my friend and those previous inquisitors, it is possible I might miss certain aspects of my city life*. There was the opportunity to be at the centre of a busy and commercially abundant environment for a start. Or the chance to be able to pop into my favourite independent comic book shop** and browse through the graphic novels whenever I wanted. Then there were the many free tickets I received on a regular basis; to go the theatre, the opera, the ballet, film screenings, and music gigs, in return for a review. Not forgetting the fact I was close to my primary source of income at the time, a Murder Mystery Company *** I freelanced for; work that took me all around the country.


These were all things I happily gave up for love when I upped sticks and moved most of my worldly goods to North Wales, so my girlfriend and I could settle down together. We moved into a roomy home she’d found for the two of us, close to where she’d been living for nearly thirty years.

Our new home had plenty of space for our combined book collections, plus it also had somewhere we could park both our car and our van, and still have room for a guest to be able to fit their vehicle in as well. Not excited by that? You would be if you lived around here.


Where my girlfriend and I reside isn’t palatial, but you’re more likely to see a red squirrel before you spot another house within walking distance of our home that has both off road parking and a garage. In fact you’re more likely to see a pile of rocking horse shit in the road.

This region of the country is a maze of narrow winding lanes, and most people here have the foresight to push their wing mirrors in when they park their vehicle. No, my girlfriend and I might not live in a palace, but when it comes to parking around these parts, we live like royalty.


So, my old friend and I are stood at the conservatory door. The bats have already entertained us with their nightly show. The evenings are drawing in, and so these shows are getting earlier with every dusk.

One bat swooped so close as to make us step back, for fear it might hit us. We have seen two shooting stars so far, and what my friend claims to be Venus. He could be right. Getting hold of a good telescope is high on the list of things I want to do, once I make a decent enough living from my writing; in order to take more advantage of the lack of light pollution here.


I knew that the same silver moon my friend and I were watching creep out from behind the treetops would soon shine down on the two mountain peaks I can see from the back of the bungalow during the day.

I saw snow dust those peaks during my second season in this region. Right now it is that time of year when trees are losing their green and turning gold and brown.


If we were stood at the kitchen door, to the front of the bungalow, you would just about be able to make out a third mountain peak in the distance, sprinkled with home glows from one of the neighboring villages; as well as the rare late night travelling lights of a car, cyclist, or walker winding their way along one of the lanes. The only sound to be heard from this side of our home would be the rush of a waterfall, less than five minutes’ walk away.


I can remember a moment of disappointment on our first night in the new place when I heard that noise, mistaking it for the familiar growl of traffic I could constantly hear in the background when I lived in the city; a mere twenty minutes’ walk along the toll path from the city centre. This was ideal for a man trying to make his mark on the cultural map of a major city, but not exactly conducive to “getting away from it all”.

It took me a moment or five to work out that the noise I could hear was in fact water from one of the two nearby rivers, crashing over rocks and falling, and not the roar of engines, with their exhausts spewing poisons into the atmosphere.


My new home has a name, not a number. It is called “Llys Menai”. It is Welsh. “Llys” means hall, court, or palace of some sort; although as I’ve already mentioned, we don’t live in a palace, we live in a bungalow.

The “Menai” in the name is a place, as in the nearby Menai Straits. However, if you translate the word “Menai” from Lithuanian into English, it means “art”.


I like that, it is appropriate. Where I now live is a haven for artists, writers, musicians, creators. I am within walking distance of mountains, waterfalls, fields, lakes, rivers, woods, and a fifteen minute drive from the Welsh coast. Go to an art exhibition around these parts, and I guarantee you will see mountains and the sea on display. I live in a National Park. People come for their holidays here. In fact there is a holiday cottage at the top of our drive.


As a dyed-in-the-wool working class Northerner, residing in a rural paradise like this is the stuff of dreams; the kind of dreams that compel people to spend week in, week out in a job they hate, just so they can run away and hide for a fortnight once a year, for a holiday.

So, in answer to the question I’ve repeatedly been asked over the past twelve months I say “Have you seen where I live?”


* That city being Leeds, Yorkshire

** OK Comics

*** Murder One



June Round Up

I pinched this format from my cousin’s daughter, Becky and I’ve tweaked it to fit my needs. Hopefully it will serve as a much-needed kick up the backside, and encourage me to keep up with my blog posts.

So here goes…

Financial status: Money continues to trickle in and gush out of my account on a regular basis. Fortunately I tend to eat food that was destined for bins, avoid contracts wherever possible, avoid buying “stuff” even more, wear charity shop finds, read second-hand books, and earn just enough cash to cover my half of the rent, contribute something towards the utilities, and still have a bit of brass left in my pocket for “essential treats”

Jobs done: My regular day and a half a week spent working on  the community radio station I’m setting up here in Bethesda, Pesda FM.

There were also two Life Modelling Sessions; one in Gerlan, one in Bangor. I struggled to come up with 10 two-minute long, off the cuff poses during the busy Bangor class.

There were two washing up gigs for Moel Faban Suppers ; and I’m still not being given enough tea towels and scourers to do the job properly by my boss (AKA “The Girlfriend”)

Another call to do some extras work for Rownd A Rownd This time I had to walk into the shop and pick up a basket. Judging from the decorations in the window, you’ll be able to see the scene sometime this Christmas. I don’t think it’s as big a storyline as the last scenes I shot for the show, not too long ago.

Writing done: I revisited one of the short stories I wrote when I first considered taking my writing more seriously. I wrote “The Woman Who Yelled At Puddles” about a decade ago. There were plot chasms and clumsy sentences everywhere. I rewrote it, and got it down to 1000 words, gave it to my manager to read, argued with my manager about her editing suggestions, kissed and made up with my manager (AKA “The Girlfriend”) and am now going to make most of the changes she suggested, and then submit it for a competition.

I also submitted four poems to 3 sites; in a variety of combinations. Oxy Bloody Moron I Love (Dot Dot Dot) Victor’s Secret and Blue Girlfriend Blues (note to self: post Victor’s Secret and Blue Girlfriend Blues on here).

I made a little more progress on a “work in progress” I’ve been working on for well over two years now; it’s gone from a novel to a short story to a collection of short stories over a 30 month period…it’s progressing, slowly.

Mostly wearing: I’ve rediscovered my “Don’t Let Your Tongue Cut Your Throat” T-shirt. And I recently dug out my Captain America T-shirt; since it turns out he’s been a sleeper agent for Hydra all these years.

I struggled to remove all the old gold glittery nail varnish from my toenails; before the new bubblegum pink varnish was painted on (hashtag it’s a long story)

I also cut up a pair of ripped blue denim jeans, in order to make a new pair of shorts to wear,during the recent heatwave.

We’re still looking for my wedding dress; for our cross-dressing, cross-gendering wedding at Shambala Festival later this Summer. The groom…erm…bride…erm…Denise is considering wearing a frock coat, with pin striped trousers; hipster style, with full beard. I’m thinking traditional bridal gown for me.

Mostly eating: I’m being encouraged to eat more salads; in order to lose the “cake belly”. Fortunately, living with a chef means salads aren’t boring and tasteless. We’ve been treating ourselves to ice-cream since we found a freezer to put in the garage; and the weather turned warmer…for a while, this being North Wales. There was also a delicious duck dish, left over from one of the Moel Faban Supper wedding gigs recently.

Mostly drinking: Still switching to de-caf coffee around 4pm. There’s an opened bag of the Moel Faban coffee blend in the cupboard at the moment; 60% Columbia/40% Sumatra, blended by Poblado Coffi and I was allowed to use a bit, as a treat. We’re out of Grapefruit juice again though; it never lasts long, because I often gulp from the carton. I know.

Mostly buying: Two notepads from charity shops. One is a large, ledger type hardback, with glossy pages. I’ve had to buy two special pens, so I can write in it. The pens cost more than the pad.

I also found these beauties in a charity shop, as new, £1 each



Major events: June was spent mostly coming to terms with the fact that I had recently held the hand of a man I hardly knew, while he took his dying breaths. It’s the first time I’ve seen someone die. I felt…human.

Reading done: 



Nod was engrossing. I picked it up in the hospice I was spending a lot of time in, and read it in snatches over the next few weeks. Plot aside, the author’s personal story and the circumstances in which I found the book added poignancy to the reading experience.

Secret Invasion I read in two days; another charity shop bargain at £1.50.

I recently started to buy Private Eye again. I was a regular reader for years, and there’s a collection of the annuals in one of the toilets at home.

The Gaiman is autographed by the man himself; from when we went to listen to him speak with Stephen Fry, at the Hay Literary Festival in May.

Films watched: Revisited Turner and Hooch. Watched it with “The Boy” (my girlfriend’s 14-year-old, flakey minded, long-haired, multi-instrument playing, skateboarding, zombie loving geek of a son). He enjoyed it. I wept at the end…again…every time, every time I watch it.

I endured Step Up 2 while down in Dartford, and was duped into watching Grease while there too.

We were also misled by the promo picture and blurb accompanying a Scandinavian film called Girls Lost we watched last night.  We expected a relatively lightweight movie, and were traumatised by the end.8EgUVp2T

Mostly growing: I received a free pack of wild meadow seeds from the Wildlife Trust at the end of May; as part of their Go Wild In June campaign. I planted them on a patch of ground in the back garden. Within a week there were shoots appearing. Eventually I hope to have a patch of garden containing these wild beauties; alongside all the wild strawberries we have growing there already: Lesser Knapweed, Meadow Buttercup, Meadowsweet, Red Campion, Ribwort Plantain, Self-Heal, Teasel, White Campion, Yarrow, Corncockle, Cornflower, Corn Chamomile, Corn Poppy, Ox-eye Daisy, and Lady’s Bedstraw



There’s also the plant pot in the conservatory, but there’s no sign of life there yet. And growing my own mushrooms is still high on the To-Do-List.

Right, that’s it. I’ve probably gone on too long, and broken a number of blogging cardinal rules, but what the hell.

See you at the end of July…but probably before, if the manager dangles the right carrot, or swings the most effective stick.




This recent Bank Holiday saw the return of Bethesda’s annual celebration of live music, “Pesda Roc” at Neuadd Ogwen.

The weekend kicked off on Saturday night, with intimate sets from Lastigband, Argrph, Phalcons, and Dj Delweddau Hen Dduwiau in the bar; but there was a definite buzz surrounding Sunday’s upcoming climax of the two day festival; local legends Maffia Mr Huws were back.

Brython Shag opened the Sunday night; not an easy band to pigeonhole. Opening number “Bywyd Ei Hon” (“Life Itself”) could be an eighties alt-rock anthem, but before you know it, you’re deep in Ian Dury/Blockhead territory; Deian Jones’ funky bass pumping up the crowd on the dance floor.

Vocalist Ceri Cunnington meanwhile, wanders the stage like a man with no control over his limbs. It’s a captivating, if chaotic performance; at one point, during a delightfully new wave/punk pop, Summer infused “Sana Gwyn A Sandals” (“White Socks And Sandals”), Cunnington almost cuts off the start of a sparkling solo from guitarist Gai Toms.

Sadly, their set had to be cut short; there were three bands waiting to play. They closed with “Dwnsia Ne Granda” (“Dance Or Listen”), and this reviewer was left wishing there had been more time available to do both. They are most definitely on the “Listen Again” list.

Next up were Radio Rhydd. In these days of X-Factor/No Talent nightmares, let’s be grateful there are still angry young men like Radio Rhydd making real music; and urging us to smash up and burn our TVs.

Vocalist Cai O’Marah embodied the bands’ passionate outrage; rasping and ranting and rapping his way topless on stage, singing like a man on a mission to spread the word.

The fact that they grew up listening to and being inspired by Maffia Mr Huws is beyond any doubt really; although they do add their own white, urban hip-hop touch to the punk and reggae mix of their local heroes.

A furious “Bernard Bancs” kicked off the set; Radio Rhydd meant business.

Four songs in, and Brython Shag’s Ceri Cunnington is invited back on stage for “Cariad a Chymuned”, and the audience goes wild.

Drums ticked like a Doomsday Clock approaching midnight, during closing number “Croeso Ir Apocalypse” (“Welcome The Apocalypse”). Radio Rhydd were having a blast, and so were the audience. But there was still one more band to go before the much anticipated return of Maffia Mr Huws.

That penultimate band being Ffug.

The band opened with the spindly instrumental “Be My Friend”, before things turned heavy glam with “Anorexic Alcoholic”. By the time “Love Is Stupid” kicked in, three young skateboarders were leaning against a wall to one side of the venue, nodding their heads in time to the frantic beat, while a group of middle aged men jumped up and down across the room like it was 1977, and a woman shook and swirled around in the middle of the dance floor. Ffug, it appears, have something for everyone who likes their music heavy and loud. It’s hard to imagine such a large noise is coming from the four slight and skinny lads on stage.

Vocalist Iolo Seyfl snarls like Cobain one minute, before switching to a sneer that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Japan album.

Billy Morley’s guitar sleazed and seduced during a slinking, mid set “Speedboat Dreaming”, whilst Henry Jones (bass) and Joey Robbins (drums) smashed their way through “Are You With Us?”; the kind of song you can imagine hearing while the credits roll, at the end of a particularly fast and furiously explosive action movie.

But now it was the moment everyone had been waiting for; Maffia Mr Huws were ready to rock, and the crowd were ready to enjoy. No one was disappointed.

The band hit the stage running with “Newyddion Heddiw” and the crowd went wild; not least the singers of Brython Shag and Radio Rhydd, who stormed onto the dance floor, along with the rest of the fans.

This was old skool punk rock, with a heady dose of reggae thrown in.

When the band started playing “Yr Addewid”, Radio Rhydd’s Cai O’Marah could no longer contain his enthusiasm and climbed on stage; the mic being handed to him by Maffia Mr Huws’ lead vocalist, Hefin Huws. The mic could have been a baton of musical heritage, being passed on from one generation to the next.

Maybe it’s something in the Bethesda water, because towards the end of the set, both O’Marah and Brython Shag’s Ceri Cunnington were back on stage with the headliners; hijacking the mics, while Huws proved that original punks still know how to rebel with style. He lit a cigarette and stood back; allowing the young ones another chance to shine. The crowd lapped up every moment.

The night ended with Maffia Mr Huws, the crowd, and the supporting acts all leaping around, having a whale of a time, and singing along to the motoring fury of “Gitar yn y To”.

Here’s to “Pesda Roc 2018”. This reviewer can’t wait.