Friday, 1 September 2017

Merchant Navy Day

Fly the Red Ensign for Merchant Navy Day

Merchant Navy Day is celebrated across the UK on September 3rd. It was introduced in 2000 in honour of those who helped keep us afloat in wartime and continue to supply us with some 95% of our imports. A growing number of councils show their support for the day by flying the Red Ensign, the official flag of the Merchant Navy.

TCBC are flying the flag, and Cwmbran Community Council held a full flag hoisting ceremony this morning at the Council House.

For more information on the day and how you can get involved, click the banner below:
Merchant Navy Day

Out and About in Torfaen

Thursday, 31 August 2017

CCYP - Cwmbran Centre for Young People

CCYP - Cwmbran Centre for Young People - was established in 2000 and has grown from strength to strength. This year they became the first organisation in Wales to achieve the Gold Quality Mark for youth work, and they engage with hundreds of young people every week both on site and via commissioned projects like the school counselling service.

I used to volunteer there myself, a vague number of years ago that will make me feel less old (!), and I'm on the management committee this year - so I can speak firsthand as to the excellent work they do and the life changing outcomes they achieve for young people in Torfaen. Because in addition to providing a safe environment for young people to hang out and spend time with friends, the centre also provides support ranging from alternative education provision, to work based learning, to a food bank and help with setting up home.

We popped in yesterday for the open day to mark the relaunching of the centre, complete with new logo, opening of the Pump It Up! gym, and the most gorgeous mural on the outside wall. Seriously, if you have chance, go and take a look at it - it's amazing! (If you're not familiar with the centre, it's next to the Leisure @ Cwmbran complex, just across the road from Wetherspoons.)

For more info on the centre, give them a follow on Twitter and Facebook!

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Out and About in Torfaen

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Torfaen Residents' Survey 2017

If you have a spare ten minutes, fill out this year's residents' survey to help Torfaen County Borough Council determine whether or not council policy is making a difference on the ground. Here's the official survey blurb:

Residents Survey 2017 

Our annual residents survey is your opportunity to tell us whether the actions we are taking on your behalf are making a difference to the lives of the people living in Torfaen. This year the survey is a lot shorter and focuses on the key priorities of the council:

 - creating a clean, green Torfaen
 - supporting our most vulnerable residents
 - raising educational attainment

Following the feedback from the last survey we have taken a number of measures based on what people said including:

  • the Torfaen spring clean - a deep cleanse of the borough including roadside verges and open spaces and events to support communities to improve their local environment 
  • provided extra funding to enable stronger enforcement of dog fouling and litter 
  • provided £1 million extra funding to help improve roads in the borough 
  • focussed our capital investment on improving our school buildings 
  • invested extra funding for social care services to vulnerable residents.

Click here to complete the survey in English.

Arolwg Trigolion 2017 

Ein harolwg trigolion blynyddol yw eich cyfle chi i ddweud wrthym os yw’r camau rydym yn eu cymryd ar eich rhan yn gwneud gwahaniaeth i fywydau pobl sy’n byw yn Nhorfaen. Eleni, mae’r arolwg yn llawer byrrach ac yn canolbwyntio ar flaenoriaethau allweddol y cyngor:

 - creu Torfaen lân a gwyrdd
 - cynorthwyo’r trigolion sydd fwyaf agored i niwed
 - codi cyrhaeddiad addysgol

Ar ôl yr adborth o’r arolwg diwethaf, rydym wedi cymryd nifer o fesurau yn seiliedig ar yr hyn ddwedodd pobl, gan gynnwys:

  • glanhau mawr y gwanwyn - glanhau’r fwrdeistref yn drwyadl gan gynnwys ymylon ffyrdd a mannau agored, a digwyddiadau i gynorthwyo cymunedau i wella eu hamgylchedd lleol 
  • darparu cyllid ychwanegol i alluogi gorfodi rheolau baw cŵn a sbwriel yn gryfach 
  • £1 filiwn yn ychwanegol i helpu ffyrdd yn y fwrdeistref 
  • canolbwyntio ein buddsoddiad cyfalaf ar wella adeiladau ysgol 
  • buddsoddi cyllid ychwanegol ar gyfer gwasanaethau gofal cymdeithasol i drigolion sy’n agored i niwed 

Cwblhewch yr arolwg yn Gymraeg.

The closing date for the survey is September 30th.

Also, if one survey just isn't enough, check out the Torfaen Peoples' Panel.

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Out and About in Torfaen

Friday, 25 August 2017

Pride Cymru

TCBC Rainbow Flag Day

We can't get to this year's Pride march in Cardiff, but we did get involved with some fundraising this morning. TCBC flew the Rainbow Flag and staff wore rainbow clothes and accessories to raise money for Stonewall Cymru.

Marianna with Stonewall Poster

Monday, 21 August 2017

Parkinson's UK - Torfaen Support Group

We were recently invited to a fundraising tea for Parkinson's UK, organised by the Torfaen Support Group. Parkinson's is a progressive neurological condition - there is currently no cure, and it is not yet known why people get it. This makes funding for research absolutely vital.

There were over 90 sufferers, carers, and supporters in attendance for a gorgeous tea followed by strawberries and ice cream. Over £540 was raised and that amount looks set to more than double after local supermarkets pledged a day for bucket collections in the near future!

We had a great time and, for the first time since becoming Mayor, I actually won a raffle prize! Marianna chose from the table, and picked out some bubble bath. Only she can use it though, apparently, because it was her 'present'. Who am I to argue??

The next event is a concert at St. Alban's R.C. High School on Friday 10th November. Tickets cost £5 - you can purchase from the school or contact

For more information, check out

For more info on the Torfaen Support Group, click HERE. They meet the third Thursday of every month, 2:30 - 4:30pm, at The Log Cabin in Penygarn.

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Out and About in Torfaen

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Trolley Free

this is a trolley free zone

We went out this morning with Bron Afon's neighbourhood caretaker team to deliver a new poster to help tackle abandoned trolleys. It has been a longstanding problem in Cwmbran - we're sadly renowned as one of the worst areas in the UK for it - and Northville is a particular hotspot. In one day alone 229 abandoned trolleys were counted around the estate.

Everyone knows why it happens: a high concentration of supermarkets in a small area, easy pedestrian access, and the low car ownership among residents. What is more difficult is coming up with a workable solution to the problem.

Trolleywise collection service work with a number of the stores, and have just signed a contract with Morrisons which will hopefully have a big impact over the coming weeks. The Bron Afon leaflet lists contact information for Cwmbran stores, or you can also use the Trolleywise app to report trolleys for Asda and Morrisons.

We had a pretty good response on the doorstep, and walking back we saw that a few people had already put the poster up in their windows. Fingers crossed it will have a positive impact!

Bron Afon trolley poster

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Out and About in Torfaen

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Pontypool Town Educational Digital Resource

Pontypool Town Educational Digital Resource

I was up at Pontypool Museum this morning for the launch of the Pontypool Town Educational Digital Resource - otherwise known as the Townscape Heritage Initiative Educational Resource. That's a bit of a mouthful but, basically, it's a new online tool for schools, students, and anybody else interested in the history of Pontypool.

The base of activity is the website - - which has a page for each module or topic. These include Pontypool Town Centre, Pontypool Park and The Hanbury Family, Pontypool and Japanware, Pontypool Market, Pontypool Townscape Heritage Initiative, and 21st Century Pontypool. Each module is supported with worksheets, downloadable resources, digital heritage trails (which have their own app), and online games. I particularly like the town jigsaw and the Georgian or Victorian? architecture games! :)

Georgian or Victorian architectural Features Game

The other great feature is that alongside the teaching guides and suggested activities are a wealth of copyright free primary sources available to download, ranging from maps to historical photographs. Obviously these will support learning, but can also serve as the basis for arts and crafts projects both in and out of school.

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Out and About in Torfaen

Friday, 7 July 2017

Friday Frivolity

Friday Frivolity

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Torfaen Family Information Service

Torfaen Family Information Service

Torfaen Family Information Service is something you might not have heard of before, but once you've checked them out you'll wish you had known about them sooner! They provide free and impartial information on childcare (providers, careers, and tax credits / vouchers), services and activities for children, young people and families (including parents-to-be) in Torfaen.

The website - - is crammed with useful information about local childcare providers, explanations of the early years curriculum and its delivery, as well as things for kids to do in Torfaen from a listing of sports clubs to support groups for children with additional needs. If you have children it's well worth following FIS on social media as they post regular information on what's going on in the area - especially the free and the inclusive.

Probably the best thing about the FIS however is that they can tailor their information to your inquiry. If you send them an email at they can send you an info pack back to you via email or post, or you can give them a ring on the freephone number 0800 0196 330 - the phones are staffed during office hours, and there is a 24 hour answer machine service.

Alternatively, you can speak to someone face to face at the Cwmbran Integrated Children's Centre, based on the Nant Celyn school site on Ton Road.

Find out more at or connect with them on social media via:

Link to Torfaen FIS Facebook page. Link to Torfaen FIS Twitter account

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Out and About in Torfaen

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Unique Boutique Salon - Beauty at Furley's

Beauty at Furley's Open Evening

Since becoming Mayor I've been invited to all kinds of different events, but one of the more glam was definitely an open evening for Beauty at Furley's! (There was even a topless waiter who you can kind of see in shot there. Definitely a change of pace from the usual Mayoral engagement!)

Leanne Furley is a hair and make-up artist, beauty therapist and nail technician - she even managed to work my own nails into a condition that has had people complimenting them. I literally cannot remember the last time that happened. It was before Marianna came along, I know that much.

Beauty at Furley's

The open evening was to celebrate Leanne making Unique Boutique Salon her new operating base, offering everything from prom and bridal hair / make-up through to tanning treatments and acting as a rep for Timeless Truth face masks. Check out the full range:

Beauty at Furley's price list

A huge thank you to Leanne for inviting me - and raising some funds for my Mayoral charities with a raffle! It was super appreciated and I had a great time. I hope the business only continues to go from strength to strength. :)

See more of Leanne's work over on her blog - - or connect with her on social media via: 
Link to Beauty at Furley's Facebook page link to Beauty at Furley's instagram profile Link to Beauty at Furley's Twitter account

Unique Boutique Salons

The salon itself is also a recent venture, located on Llantarnam Industrial Estate in Cwmbran. The idea behind it is simple yet kind of genius - although they have some staff based full time in the salon, the space is available to be rented out by the hour to mobile hairdressers, beauticians and nail technicians. This might mean having a regular slot to see particular clients, or a more one-off arrangement enabling them to work with a larger number of people than they would otherwise be able to.

It's a gorgeous salon, and the location means there is plenty of parking and scope for early and late opening too. Read more about the details of how it works HERE, or find out more via Facebook and Twitter.

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Out and About in Torfaen

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Torfaen People's Panel

Torfaen People's Panel

The Torfaen People's Panel is all about having your say on the issues which matter to you.

It's a consultative panel of people living in Torfaen and aims to give local people a chance to have their say about public services and life in the Borough. The idea is for it to be broadly typical of Torfaen's population in terms of gender, ethnicity and geography - so we need people of all ages from all across the borough to sign up if we want it to be truly representative!

Panel members will have the chance to take part in:

  • Surveys: members will be invited to respond to postal questionnaires, telephone or internet surveys.
  • Workshops: members will be invited to participate in community workshops.
  • Scrutiny: members will be able to examine local issues in detail by listening to information from public officers and then discussing their views in light of what they have heard in order to advise how local public/voluntary bodies should deliver their services.
  • Focus groups: smaller groups of members will be able to get together to explore a specific issue in depth.
  • As well as taking part in 'observational studies' or working with Public Service Officers on specific projects. 

You can pick and choose what you want to take part in - over time there will be a range and choice of activities and topics to suit different members of the Panel. Your contribution will then help inform the decisions made by the council, the police, voluntary organisations and the local health sector.

If that was all a bit TL;DR, TCBC has even put together this nifty video to explain it better:

If you're interested in having your say and making a difference, you can register online or email for more information. If you would like a form to be posted to you, you can again email or ring 01495 766475.

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Out and About in Torfaen

Monday, 3 July 2017

My Favourite Hymns

My Favourite Hymns

One of the stranger things about being Mayor is that you spend a lot of time at church or, at least, at public services. I have sung more hymns in the last few weeks than I have since primary school, which was when I came to the conclusion I was an atheist. That wasn't the fault of the hymns though, in fact they were my favourite thing about living in what Rowan Williams calls 'post-Christian' Britain!

We're not a particularly religious nation, but Christianity is still a big part of civic life. And the singing of hymns is part and parcel of that - even when you've never heard of them before... Still, it's inspired me to think about the hymns I do know, mostly from my schooldays, and which of those I liked best. :)

I quickly realised that, when it comes to hymns, I am something of a Sydney Carter fangirl. Carter was a poet and songwriter who penned the soundtrack to my primary school assemblies. First up there's One More Step Along The World I Go, a lovely hymn about life as a journey - making it a favourite at end of year school concerts.

Next up is that perennial school favourite, When I Needed A Neighbour. Not only does this hymn have an important message about breaking down barriers, it also provides an excuse to sing the word 'naked'. What more could a bunch of easily amused eight-year-olds ask for?

The best Carter hymn is also his best known, the 1963 song Lord of the Dance. This was my absolute favourite as a kid, no doubt helped along by the contemporary popularity of Riverdance, and we're going to have it as one of the hymns at my own civic service this weekend. I really wanted to have a hymn all the kids would know - even Marianna. :)

Finally moving away from Carter, another school favourite was Laurie London's 1957 hit (it peaked at #12 on the UK charts) He's Got The Whole World In His Hands. It had actions and everything.

Another hymn I like which has done well in the charts - multiple times! - is Kumbaya which was first recorded in the 1920s.

The top spot has to go to All Things Bright and Beautiful though. The lyrics are by Cecil Frances Alexander, and originally appeared in her 'Hymns for Little Children' in 1848.

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blog tags, memes and challenges

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Two and Half Today!

Marianna is officially two and a half years old! Cue photos... :D

Friday, 23 June 2017

Friday Frivolity - Dogs

Friday Frivolity

This week we're talking about dogs.

Also, if you're in the UK, don't forget to check out my current competition to win a Meg Heath dog collar and lead. :)

When I was a kid my favourite monkey was the little red monkey - the cast of BBC radio comedy Take It From Here released it as a novelty record in 1953. I've tried to convince Marianna it is better than her modern favourites but to no avail.

And then once I was a little older everyone was mad for that Bloodhound Gang track where they dressed as monkeys. Apparently they're still around and even released a new album in 2015 - 16 years after The Bad Touch hit airplay. Man, I feel old..

Monday, 19 June 2017

Review: Meg Heath Dog Leads

Meg Heath Dog Leads Review

If you're looking for dog collars or leads, Meg Heath has you covered. They also sell head collars, training leads and harnesses, and are always adding to the range. Everything is available in a wide range of colours - 18 right now! - and if you have something special in mind they will work with you to create bespoke collars and leads. In fact, none of their products are pre-made as you can customise the size, colour and fittings of every item you buy.

We went for the Double Tag Flat Collar (from £9.99) and the Double Up Lead (from £8), both in electric blue. The latter is particularly handy as you can use it at full length or half length, which is great if you don't want to carry multiple leads with you on walks.

Meg Heath Dog Leads

I was really impressed with the quality - all items come with a five year guarantee and the stitching has a lifetime guarantee! Based in Lincolnshire, Meg Heath have been working with dogs in rescue, training, and boarding kennels since the mid 1980s. In other words, they know what they're doing when it comes to creating top notch products for your pooches.

Here is Bracken modelling her new collar:

Meg Heath Dog Collar

Not satisfied with the challenge of getting Bracken to stay still long enough for a photograph, I then decided to get Marianna to pose with Bracken and the new double up lead. The lead is awesome. Getting a two year old and her best friend to co-operate... not so much.

Meg Heath Dog Leads Review

Meg Heath Electric Blue Dog Lead

Still, you can see what a gorgeous colour that lead is! Check out the range for yourself at Meg Heath Dog Leads. You can also connect with them on social media via Facebook and Twitter.

Meg Heath are also kindly offering a dog collar and lead to one lucky reader! Fill out the Gleam form below to get up to five chances to win. :)

Meg Heath Dog Leads Giveaway

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Reviews from Babi a Fi - food, fashion, beauty, baby, toys, books, tech, days out, and more!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

This Week - 18/06

Always treat people as ends in themselves, never as means to an end.
Life This Week

I opened my first shop this week! I was invited up to cut the ribbon at Pretty Little Paws, a new dog grooming parlour at Fairwater shops. After that we went on to the offices of Vitalize Radio for the official launch - read more about the venture HERE.

On Friday we went to an open day at Llanyravon Court Care Home. Greenmeadow Farm had brought some of their petting animals down, and we were given a tour of the home and met some of the residents. Everyone was super friendly!

Saturday was the annual Painting in Pontypool Park competition. Marianna and I went along and chatted to some of the artists - or, in Marianna's case, complained ceaselessly that we weren't going to see the slide... Afterwards we went back to Pontypool Museum for a cup of tea and a scone.

On Sunday we went to the first of the local civic services, in Newport. It was a combined service with Armed Forces Day so there was a nice mix of readings and a good turnout. My own civic service will be Holy Trinity Church, Pontnewydd, on Jul 16th - all welcome. :)

Photo of the Week
I Have Been Mostly...

☆ READING: Magazines.

☆ WRITING: About 14,000 words.

☆ WATCHING: Snow White. Over and over again...

 LISTENING: Let Me Go - Three Doors Down.


On the Blog

Nothing new to report!

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This Week - Weekly Overviews

Friday, 16 June 2017

Friday Frivolity - Monkeys!

Friday Frivolity

This week's theme is monkeys! :D

When I was a kid my favourite monkey was the little red monkey - the cast of BBC radio comedy Take It From Here released it as a novelty record in 1953. I've tried to convince Marianna it is better than her modern favourites but to no avail.

And then once I was a little older everyone was mad for that Bloodhound Gang track where they dressed as monkeys. Apparently they're still around and even released a new album in 2015 - 16 years after The Bad Touch hit airplay. Man, I feel old...

Did you know that chimpanzees are not technically monkeys? They're still pretty amazing though - and even better in their natural habitats. Back in the day of course we had no such scruples, and here are some of the famous PG Tips chimps spoofing dating show Blind Date. It's so 90s it actually hurts.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Vitalize Radio

Vitalize Radio Torfaen Banner

It was the official opening of Vitalize Radio - The Voice of Torfaen - today so we went up to cut the ribbon!

Vitalize Radio is a really awesome project spearheaded by Dan Williams from Cwmbran. Dan became involved with community radio back in 2011 when he began volunteering with Newport City Radio, and was keen to establish something similar in Torfaen. With support from lottery funding and the Communities First programme, Vitalize Radio has set up base at Fairwater shops and is hoping to grow from strength to strength.

Vitalize Radio Official Launch

In addition to playing great music, this non-profit venture aims to give back to the community. Volunteer presenters are trained up and put on air, delivering local and topical news to listeners, and hosting shows. (If you're interested in becoming a volunteer presenter, sales executive, etc, check out their current opportunities HERE.) The station also provides exposure for the wealth of unsigned talent in and around Torfaen.

Their goal right now is to attract interest from local businesses looking for new ways to reach potential customers. If you're reading this and are interested in advertising with community radio, drop the Vitalize team an email at

Find out more - and listen in! - at, or connect with them on social media via:

Link to Vitalize Radio Facebook page. link to my instagram profile Link to my Twitter account.

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Out and About in Torfaen

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