Yule notice a common theme here ….

If only I had started this post yesterday !  The snow was all but gone, I had even managed to get 1200ft up in the Black Mountains and do some dry stone walling……. if only I had started yesterday.

Dry Stone Wall in the Black Mountains.

This was only two days ago; the lovely upper reaches of the Rhiangoll valley near Talgarth, a view of last year's rebuild, it has a certain 'New World' quality don't you think !

I’m not going to say much about SNOW this week, no I’m not,  suffice to say it has come back with a vengeance, such a bit of nastiness on the part of nature,  we have clearly angered her.  We are expecting twice as much tomorrow – that means the 10″ (25cms) that fell today will turn into nearly 3ft (80cms) or so.  At least we had warning – give them their due, the forecasters did warn us correctly -and so I was able to get to the local town and get some supplies in.  I’m disappointed not to get a good section of the wall built before Christmas, but that just ain’t going to happen now, the snow has covered the standing wall and stones already on the ground won’t be seen for several weeks.  There’s nothing for it but to concentrate on other matters, and there is without doubt a surfeit of them !

Heavy pre-Christmas snow falls

This is what I woke up to today, and it just carried on and on. The Land Rover was parked ready, it will be well used in the next few days.

To start with I had just enough time to get my Land Rover ready.  The 90 Defender is a very (very very) rare vehicle.  Although built in 1990 it has done little in the way of mileage.  It was assembled in Turkey by a firm called Oktocar, which was licensed to assemble KD Land Rovers (KD stands for ‘Knocked Down’).  I acquired it back in 1997 when it was ‘released’ from military service with only 5000km showing on the clock.  It was my daily work vehicle for five years, until a combination of a massive rise in the cost of diesel fuel oil and the increasing distance of walling jobs from home, forced me to buy a small economical van and the 90 was parked up.  For five years or so – to my shame – it just stood abandoned, unloved (in a later post I may give the full story of what it was) until the return of snow last year gave it a new lease of life.  Despite it being a ‘left-hooker’ (the steering wheel etc. are on the ‘wrong’ side for our roads !) it really is the only vehicle for these conditions.   I used it a great deal last winter (which was also a snowy one) and then in the summer – ah, the summer….. – with its roof off it is the open top tourer.

So here I am, just a few days out from Christmas, and I’m stuck in the house.  Actually apart from the eventual shortage of cash which will inevitably arise in January, its not a real issue.  I have plenty to do for sure.  The biggest concern I have is the serious shortage of mince pies that will occur quite soon.

This time it is looking serious, this is already proving to be more snow than we’ve had in a generation.  It is noticeable how, at last, folk have heeded warnings; the roads and town centres are quiet.

One of the side effects of the crazy minus temperatures of a few weeks ago is that work has started to come in, ready for the New year.

A 90, the Best 4 X 4 X Far

The Best 4 X 4 X Far, a 90 on G90s, gets you anywhere - well almost - it got me back home too !

You see, once the ground freezes to the sort of sub-zero temps. we’ve been getting, strange things happen.  The ground ‘heaves’, which is to say it rises up – spooky really – and that results in dry stone walls collapsing.  At least parts of the wall which are nearing the end of their time, finally succumb.  It can’t be helped and there is little that the waller can do in the building of a wall that mitigates against this phenomenon.  For the majority of my walling years it has never been a problem, we just have not had the extremes of freezing conditions we have experienced these last few years.

I do not recall when I was young, the sub-zero figures that now commonly occur.  In 1963, the last seriously big snow fall in Britain, minus 5C was thought extreme.  Then the snow began on Boxing day and didn’t really clear for 12 weeks.  In 1947 – by far the worst in living memory – 10ft-15ft was general in rural areas.  I recently read an account of farming in the Yorkshire Dales at that time, it came without warning – the forecasting service was not good then – and thousands of sheep were caught out on the slopes.  Hundreds of farms were totally wiped out,  losing all their stock.  The last carcasses were not finally retrieved until June !

I grew up in a ‘grocery and bakery’ business, my grand-father and uncles had a local store which daily sent out three ‘bread vans’ to serve the local community, which was increasing yearly due to the building of a New Town in Cwmbran.  Bread came from a large bakery high in the valleys at Abertillery – the Wonderloaf Bakery – and was delivered in trucks daily.  After several weeks of no bread my uncle heard that the miners had cut a roadway through the deep snow, across the top of the valley linking the western and eastern valleys of Gwent.  He thought he could get through to Abertillery by going a very circuitous route and utilising that road.  He, my father and me,  jumped in a small Bedford van and set off.  It took four hours to cover the 12 miles, when we reached the miner’s road it was unbelievable; a single roadway cut into the snow to a depth of over 12ft !  It went for 3 miles or so, as there was no way of seeing the road ahead to see if any other vehicle was approaching (there were no passing places) I was made to stand on the roof of the van as my uncle slowly proceeded, to warn of any problem.  I remember falling off more than once! (where were Social Services in those days !).

At least the weather has diverted the media’s attention away from Mr Wikileak, Julian Assange, oh yes, and those anarchical sub-species we call students !

Now I’m not given to commenting on political happenings – and both the above clearly are just that – but these two stories have engaged me.  Assange and his ‘plight’ is fascinating,  is it not?  Who really believes that two ladies he had a good night with – especially given that they were blonde Swedes (I hope one wasn’t Annieta ! oh I do so swoon over the stunning Abba beauty) -subsequently complained because he didn’t use a condom ! (I always think of an hysterically funny Billy Connolly skit on ‘when is the right time to put the condom on ? – watch it, it’s side splitting)    On the other hand, can we imagine that Sweden – who after all stay out of everyone else’s fights – would really cow-tow to the U.S. ?  Mmm, and what about the rights and wrongs of all those leaks !  I find myself torn on that issue.

Are we any better off knowing what others really think of us ?  Do we need to be fully conversant with what an Ambassador says about the next Prime Minister – was he wrong !  On the other hand, some of the revelations about what has been going on in the military assaults on Iraq and Afghanistan do cause alarm.  Then again, are we really surprised that a military force, consisting primarily of high octane young men, who by and large are of less than high I.Q. , and who have been subjected to a de-humanising training regime – for how else would they be able to carry out the will of the state that employs them – commit,  what appears to we who look in from the outside,  atrocities.  Even so, the air to ground chatter of U.S. attack helicopters and marines has been pretty astounding.

As for those ‘traitors’ who dared to attack HRH and his Duchess whilst on their way to the most tortuous of T.V. programmes – the Royal Variety Performance – how dare they !   My personal view is that I think he slipped them a few sovereigns so’s he didn’t have to go to the bloody thing !!  Unfortunately there weren’t quite enough ‘Trotskyist’ Oxbridge types to cause his armed escort to switch to ‘evasive driving’ and zoom away with pistols firing skyward.  Sorry Sire, I can’t imagine how you could endure the ordeal (of the 3 hours of Variety !).  The look of horror on Camilla’s face (in the now famous photograph) was surely captioned “Oh bugger it Charles, there’s not enough of them, we are going to get through!

Meanwhile, back in Parliament Square and some other nearby venues, a right Royal battle was being enacted.  Of course the reaction of ‘The State’ and its mouthpiece the ‘Media’ was entirely predictable.  Such ‘outrageous’ behaviour demands nothing but that the full force of the Law should be brought to bear on the perpetrators of such anti-establishment thuggery (such as spraying Churchill’s arse with graffitti !).

The response from ‘the other side’ was, naturally, to scream ‘Police brutality !, and quite rightly, the Police are no different here to anywhere else.  Why wouldn’t they bash the brains out of students.

And that’s my problem with it all.  Why is anyone critical of either the Students or the Police?  Surely it is the duty of the students of a country to stand up for right and justice, to challenge unfair and ill conceived acts of ‘oppression’ by the State.  If it was students of some third world country, nay, if it were students in France or the U.S.,  China even,  we would all be applauding them and castigating the heavy response of the forces of the State.  But not here, oh no, we can’t have that sort of ‘bad behaviour’ in Britain ! Shame on us, yes we do need protest, yes it needs to be violent – or no-one, least of all the BBC, takes the blindest bit of notice – and yes it needs to be seen as an integral representation of all that is ‘good’ in the system we (erroneously) like to call ‘Democracy’.

“I never dared to be radical when young

For fear it would make me conservative when old”

Robert Frost.

As for the Police, well they too must ‘over-react’, must use the only method they have at their disposal – violence.  To start with they are outnumbered and in those circumstances only ‘fear’ will cause the ‘enemy’ to falter,  furthermore they are ‘trained’ (brain-washed is not the term as it implies there is something to ‘wash’) to react in that way.  What’s the point in spending all that money on equipment and uniforms that indicate ‘brutal force’ (is it me or are Police SWAT teams looking more and more like S.S. ?) and then not get to use it.  If I was a ‘Bobby’ and had spent hours training to deal with riotous students (or any other members of society who dare to challenge the state – especially criminals !) I would relish the chance of doing it for real.  Make no mistake, it is as scary as hell being faced with a mob and all you’ve got is a baton (and no spare trousers to hand), bashing heads works and does cause the ‘foe’ to falter.

So lets not be moaning about those spoiled privileged little students, lets applaud them for standing up to the State (when ‘I’ am happy to stand aside),  we need them, they are our conscience and our  future; in any-case most of them don’t mean it, it’s just a great way to spend an afternoon, who wouldn’t enjoy a bit of Bobby bashing ! For most its harmless fun, it “stiffens the sinews and calls up the blood” and ok, break the odd window, spray paint on a few statues, burn the flag ! its what protesters do ! Remember Ton y Pandy, remember Tianamen, remember Vietnam,  remember Sorbonne, remember Poll Tax !

Also lets not be too quick to scream Police Brutality !  We need them to be that sort of people, we need individuals who can set aside normal human feelings and relationships,  or else Anarchy would indeed prevail.  We need them all, and regretful as casualties are, its a fight for goodness sake, no more and no less than will be occurring in any city centre hot spot these coming nights of festival party excess – except the media will be absent!  And anyway, as one very Senior (retired) Police Commander commented on the BBC  – “Don’t imagine for one minute that, for both sides, its not a real buzz !”

The Snow has sent them all into hiding – or is it that the students have resorted to the traditional Christmas activity of students throughout the generations – they’ve got seasonal jobs with the Post Office trying to clear all the delayed parcels and cards !

I have just about done my ‘shopping’, maybe just one or two presents left to get.  I managed to get an illusive item, which my eldest daughter had requested, from a dear friend at the emporium which takes most of my hard earned cash throughout the year, Trecastle Antique Centre (on the main A40 road from Brecon to Llandovery – see http://www.kingdomofrust.co.uk ).  It is a multi-unit store housed in the old Victorian School building, it has provided me with many of my artefacts. The  two ‘Junkyard Angels’  who operate the ‘Kingdom’ (of rust – you see, I’m not the only one to suffer the ‘Lust for Rust’!) have taken an inordinate amount of my cash over the years but they have been overwhelmingly generous to me and I owe them big time.

A Junkyard Angel at Trecastle Antique Centre

One of my favourite 'Junkyard Angels' from the Kingdom of Rust at Trecastle Antique Centre.

I’ll digress a moment if I may.  You may recall my journey to the New World last year, to build walls on the National Mall in Washington D.C. ?  Tens of thousands of visitors came through the festival each day, many of them stopping to talk to me about ‘rock walls’, ‘dry stacking’ and to enquire “what’s with the sods” !  Well back in the summer, when I was working on the Roman Road wall and passing through Trecastle each day, I happened to call into the antique centre early one morning.  As I was there chatting to R a couple came in.  After a while looking around the gentleman came up to me as I sat chatting to R and said “Excuse me Sir (Americans are just so polite and always call one ‘Sir’), do you build Rock Walls ?”   I was astonished, how did he guess that ! I affirmed and he then said “I thought so, I spoke to you on the National Mall last year, and we were so impressed with the Welsh show we decided to come see for ourselves”.  Can you believe it !  He and his wife were on holiday in Wales, had stayed the night in Brecon and were on their way west, seeing the Antiques sign they decided to stop.  What are the odds on that happening I wonder, I hadn’t been in there for weeks and it was a pure fluke that I had that morning.  Chance or fate…

Tools in the shed of the Kingdom of Rust

http://www.kingdomofrust.co.uk - you can see why I am a 'regular' - well that and the two Junkyard Angels ! !

Don’t pass that way without calling, I assure you it will enthral you.   I’m glad to be working in the other direction – when I eventually get back to it that is – because I know there are three items there that I will struggle to resist !

I think that’s probably enough chatter from Welshwaller for now.  The season of Goodwill is upon us and so I should do my little bit and cut down on your tedium !

I will have a short break to enjoy a hard earned rest at the end of what has been quite a year.  I have already begun to write in my new diary.  I will return to the start of this year’s little book and flip through to revisit and review at my ‘end of year’ Blog post. Thanks to you all for reading and especially to those who have taken the trouble to make kind comments, I am very flattered!  Stay tuned !

Nature Calls.

Whilst out and about recently I came across a very seasonal sight.  A whole field of ‘Reindeer’ getting ready for their busy ‘one-nighter’ !  Actually they were Fallow Deer, Dama dama, a species that was re-introduced by the Normans in the C12th to provide good hunting on their many Forests (not necessarily wooded, more often the hunting forests –fforest in Welsh – were open upland moors) and eventually occupied the great deer parks of the Tudor manors.  Following the demise of the great estates they became ‘feral’ and re-occupied woodland areas.  In the last 20 years or so several deer farms have become established and this one, near Painscastle, is one of the more successful.  It suprises many farmers that deer are active on their land.  I often see them – there are advantages to not having a ‘quad bike’, I see much more wild-life than the farmer – in many places.  As well as these Fallow deer there are Roe deer and even some feral Red deer in the area.  There’s nothing quite like a fawn hiding in the undergrowth, nor the excitement of seeing that white flash as the adults  melt into the cover of deep woodland.

Fallow 'farmed' deer

Its not easy to get close to deer, these farmed Fallow are almost as nervy as their wild cousins.

Fallow Deer on a Welsh field.

This is actually the village football field - many buckets will be needed before it next gets a game on it !

Nadolig Llawen ich y gyd !

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