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Badger and the season of goodwill

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AND SO, like a particularly obnoxious curry, December has once again come around to torment poor Badger. This, readers, this is Badger’sbadger84image least favourite time of year: scarred by decades of exposure to Christmas ‘specials’ Badger is afflicted with chronic tinselitis. The very sound of the word ‘merry’, or worse ‘merrie’, is enough to give Badger fond thoughts of emigration to climes where jolliness and holly-ness is a touch less de rigeur. Events this year have compelled Badger to cast his mind back over the years. Along that journey, Badger has tried to try to discover where it is that this seasonal disorder has its origins. And, readers, it has come to Badger that there is no one, single reason why Badger dislikes Christmas so dyspeptically that the merest scent of a Brussels sprout is enough to engender dyspepsia itself. Badger has memories of finding the tangerine wrapped in tissue paper among the games, toys and annuals that made up his presents on Christmas morning.

Those memories are fond and suffused with recollection of the thrill that Christmas brought to his childhood. Badger remembers Christmas cake iced impenetrably with the type of covering they used on space shuttles; mince pies; fruit puddings and turkey dinners that had a half-life of half a week or more. Even those, readers, even those bring Badger pin-sharp and pleasant recollections of his grandfather sitting in a rocking chair in a crowded cottage reading a Louis L’Amour western and smoking a Kensitas cigarette with nary a thought for the fire hazard caused by doing so after a carbohydrate heavy meal. Badger’s misty-eyed reminiscences are shot through with memories of execrable Christmas television. Dick Emery. Dickbloody- Emery. The great Clive James, it was, who described dear old Dick as “the man of a thousand faces, all of them the same”.

You can’t improve on that type of criticism. Badger isn’t even going to try. Badger’s childhood was, by and large, the era of three channels on the telly, all of which stuck to the same formula throughout Badger’s childhood. Badger says “by and large” because there was always a strike hovering in the air threatening to take BBC or ITV off the air over Xmas. BBC had Billy Smart’s Circus, ITV had Chipperfield’s Circus; there was Val Doonican, Cilla Black, and Peters and Lee. And these shows had viewers not in the millions, but in the tens of millions – although the nature of sampling as it was then meant that these figures were extrapolated from data provided by those taking part in a survey limited to those watching television. Badger can tell you with confidence, readers, that when people say the past was a time when they made their own entertainment, a glance at television schedules from Badger’s childhood will tell you why that was the case.

Crooners and carols and King’s College, Cambridge: these are not a few of Badger’s favourite things. But even the recollection of Dick van Dyke in Chitty-Chitty Bang- Bang, does not explain Badger’s disinclination to join in festive fun. So having discounted appalling television, indigestible food and tangerines in tissue paper, Badger decided to press on with his inquiry to get to the bottom of his end of year malaise. He peeled off the layers of the years like wrapping paper, trying to get to the issue’s kernel without losing the Sellotape that holds his Christmas reminiscences in place. The more he looked, the less he knew.

There were memorably awful Christmas presents: crimes against knitting and crochet that cannot easily be forgiven; the cigarette lighter that damned near cost Badger his eyebrows; thoughtless socks; and games of such stupefying tedium that – even now – when Badger sees a Monopoly Board he can’t wait to find someone wearing a monocle and top hat to beat over the head with one. Badger thought about religion, the root cause of Christmas. Now, readers, Badger has views on religion. Please feel free to worship how and what or whom you want, readers. Badger would rather believe in humanity (in the general, not in the particular: after all, readers, who would willingly believe in Noel Edmonds?).

But no, readers: all that holly and ivy, those little donkeys and the shepherds who washed their socks by night; Badger refuses to judge how he felt about them then by the standards of his adulthood. Neither is Badger going to jump on the bandwagon that blames consumerism and greed for why Christmas is no longer as ‘special’ as it used to be. There was less choice in the gifts Father Christmas would deliver to girls and boys when Badger was a boy, but he does not believe that children now are any more acquisitive and grasping than they were when he was young. It is only that there is a greater range of opportunity than was afforded by the Co-op, WH Smiths and Woolworths. Space-Hoppers or I-Pads: these are symptoms, not causes. And not one of these things, not a one, readers, can Badger say led him to regard Christmas with a jaundiced eye and bitter chuckle. Finally Badger decided that he was looking at the question the wrong way.

What if it was not Christmas that had changed, but Badger? And, if so, what had changed? Looking at the problem that way: Badger came to think that it could be the loss of childhood innocence that has led him to his current predicament. Was there some existential dread at his own mortality or sense of loss to which Badger could ascribe Yuletide ennui. But that, readers, is far too trite and easy. It is the kind of thing a priest or game show host might say in patronising tones to bring home just how magical Christmas is for children. That, readers, would be a cop out.

Then it came to him, readers! In a moment of perfect clarity it came to Badger that the reason he disliked Christmas was because while Badger can be persuaded he will not be compelled. It is the forced jollity to which Badger objects. Badger does not want to be told “smile, it’s Christmas.” Badger would rather find his own reasons to be cheerful, and not just for one season but for all seasons. Goodwill for one season and greed, gluttony and bigotry for the rest? Is that what we want? In Badger’s view either all seasons – all days – are special, or none are. Despite everything, Badger is optimistic about humanity (with the caveat above) and will opt for the former every time. So, this season of goodwill, readers, Badger wishes that you are all at least as happy and no less filled with goodwill towards humankind as you are the rest of the year. Or vice versa, just in case.

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Lifeboat rescues yacht stranded on rocks off Pembrokeshire coast

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A LOCAL lifeboat was called into action yesterday afternoon, May 26, after a 40-foot yacht became stranded on rocks off the Pembrokeshire coast. The incident occurred at Horse Rock, Ramsey Sound, at low tide.

At 2.38pm, the St Davids all-weather lifeboat was dispatched following a request for assistance. The French vessel, which had three people on board, had struck Horse Rock. Fortunately, the yacht was freed without sustaining any damage by the time the volunteer crew arrived.

In a statement posted on their Facebook page, RNLI St Davids Lifeboat reported: “St Davids all-weather lifeboat was requested to launch at 2:38pm on Sunday 26th May to aid a 40-foot yacht stuck on rocks in Ramsey Sound. The French vessel, with three people onboard, had hit Horse Rock at half tide. The volunteer crew were soon on scene and found the yacht had managed to free itself without damage.”

The lifeboat crew conducted a thorough assessment to ensure the safety of both the crew and the vessel. Once it was confirmed that everything was in order, the yacht was able to continue its journey to Fishguard Harbour. The lifeboat then returned to its station.

This successful rescue highlights the vital role of the RNLI and its dedicated volunteers in ensuring the safety of those navigating the challenging waters around the Pembrokeshire coast. The quick response and professional handling of the situation by the St Davids lifeboat crew ensured a positive outcome for all involved.

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Second row Max Douglas becomes latest Scarlets signing

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THE SCARLETS say they are delighted to secure the signature of highly-rated Australian forward Max Douglas.

The 24-year-old has just completed his second season with the Yokohama Canon Eagles in Japan.

Before his move to the Japanese top division, the 6ft 7in Douglas, who has played in the second row and back row, featured for the Waratahs in Super Rugby and the Manly club in Sydney.

He will link up with the Scarlets in the summer.

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel said: “Max is a young, athletic second row who has experience in Super Rugby and more recently in Japan’s top division.

“He is comfortable with the ball hand, which suits how we are looking to play and is excited about coming on board and being part of the Scarlets journey over the coming years.

“Max is another strong addition to our forward pack following the signings of Marnus van der Merwe and Alec Hepburn and we are looking forward to welcoming him here to Parc y Scarlets this summer.”

Max Douglas said: “I’m really excited to be joining the Scarlets. This is a club with a strong history and I’m excited at the challenge of trying to contribute to that.

“I’m looking to bring over some of the experiences and learnings I’ve gained from my time in Australia and Japan to hopefully add to what is a really strong playing group.

“I can’t wait to meet all the players and staff and get into our work.”

Douglas is the Scarlets’ fourth signing to be announced ahead of the 2024-25 campaign with Exeter Chiefs prop Alec Hepburn, Toyota Cheetahs hooker Marnus van der Merwe and Nottingham full-back Ellis Mee on their way to West Wales.

Tongan second row Sam Lousi, Wales internationals Tom Rogers and Harri O’Connor and back-rowers Dan Davis and Ben Williams have also signed new contracts with the club.

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Brawdy space radars campaign launched over safety fears

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A CAMPAIGN group, fighting against proposals to for a deep space radar dish array in north Pembrokeshire has been launched, saying it would be one “of the most health-hazardous military installations ever proposed anywhere in the UK”.

The UK/US military plans for a 27-dish Deep Space Advanced Radar Concept (DARC) at Cawdor Barracks, Brawdy is part of AUKUS, a three-way security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to build three DARC radar installations around the world, one in each of the three countries.

The radars would track foreign countries’ communications and military satellites in space, so that British, US and Australian aircraft could then destroy them with anti-satellite missiles at will.

Pembrokeshire Herald report from December 2023

A scoping report was submitted to Pembrokeshire County Council early last year, as reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, which said DARC would track active satellites some 22,000 miles above the Earth.

That application stated: “The Ministry of Defence has a duty to protect the UK national interest around the world. This includes the Space Domain, which offers both the UK and its Allies an important strategic advantage, but also emerging threats and vulnerabilities that need to be monitored.”

It added: “As part of the ongoing investment into this domain, the UK is working with its allies to identify a location for a new deep space monitoring facility to protect and defend its interests.
“An area of brownfield land at Cawdor Barracks has been identified as one of the potential locations for the delivery of the installation.”

It added: “The Deep-space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) is a United States Space Force (USSF) led programme that aims to set up three geographically dispersed radar sites to increase global Space Domain Awareness with the UK and Australia being offered to host one of the three sites.”

Cawdor Barracks is currently the headquarters of the 14th Signals Regiment, which is due to relocate from 2028. Late last year, Cawdor was identified as the preferred UK site, with the-then UK Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps.

It was said that retention of the base for DARC would create up to 100 jobs.

The DARC scheme would be subject to an as-yet unsubmitted planning application.

A new campaign group, PARC Against DARC has been officially launched today, May 29, hoping to stop the scheme, describing the proposals as the proposals are “one of the most health-hazardous, tourism-ruining, skyline blighting military installations ever proposed anywhere in the UK”.

PARC Against DARC, which is to is to host a public launch meeting at Solva Memorial Hall at 7pm on June 27, has asked: “When did Dewisland, Pembrokeshire or humankind ever vote for the US military to control all of space?”

PARC (Pembrokeshire Against Radar Campaign) was originally set up back in 1990 when the US Military unsuccessfully attempted to build a similar radar installation on the Dewisland peninsula, north Pembrokeshire.

The revamped 2024 operation already has support from groups including Welsh and UK organisations such as CND and Stop the War Coalition, as well as individual supporters.

One of them is Keith Griffiths, architect and owner of Roch Castle, Twr y Felin and Pen Rhiw Priory known collectively as the Retreats Group, who said the scheme “will be a huge eyesore to the National Park and of no economic benefit locally”.

“Any new use should benefit the local economy and respect the beauty of the surrounding Pembrokeshire Coast National Park,” he added.

More detail in this informative Youtube video

A spokesperson for PARC Against DARC said: “The fight is on. We fully intend to win the battle to stop the radar as they did in the 90s. The MOD are making out as if it’s just a formality to gain planning permission for this huge project, even insinuating in their press that they just need to ‘run it past the local parish council’ or such like.

“This is simply not the case; we know that major infrastructure projects like these require specialist planning permission which can only be granted by Pembrokeshire County Council, and that there will be several environmental impact assessment stages they’d have to clear long before they could ever begin building.”

“Our plan is to fight them at every level and on every front to make absolutely sure that these proposals are never passed by our elected representatives in County Hall.

“We will build on the strong history of the previously victorious campaign and echo all of its strengths & successes. Last time there were huge rallies, marches and demonstrations and ultimately the entire county stood strong together to fight off the proposals.

“We are absolutely confident that we will create this avalanche of opposition once again so that these plans will never see the light of day.”

The campaign group has also launched a change.org petition webpage and an online crowdfunder page, along with social media pages.

Identifying Cawdor as the preferred site last year, Grant Shapps said: “As the world becomes more contested and the danger of space warfare increases, the UK and our allies must ensure we have the advanced capabilities we need to keep our nations’ safe.”

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