Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Mayor Making 2017

Me, Anthony and Marianna at Torfaen Mayor Making Ceremony

It was the Council AGM today (webcast HERE) - electing the Leader, Mayor, etc and confirming appointments - followed by the Mayor Making ceremony. I'm so pleased to say I'll be Mayor of Torfaen for the coming civic year! :)

My charities will be:

Torfaen Mind. Based in Pontypool, Torfaen Mind promotes better mental health and wellbeing throughout the borough. You can read more about the good work they do at their website www.torfaenmind.co.uk.

Cyfannol Women's Aid. Based in Pontypool and Abergavenny, Cyfannol provides support and services to women and children in Torfaen and Monmouthshire affected by domestic abuse. Find out more at cyfannol.org.uk.

Lincoln's Legs. This appeal is raising money for a life changing operation for Lincoln Hope of Garndiffaith. For more info, check out the Facebook page.

Fingers crossed for lots of successful fundraising!

I am looking forward to getting out and about and speaking to lots of people this year. You can follow Mayoral engagements at the @MayorofTorfaen Twitter account, and I'm sure I'll be writing about lots of them here too. If you have an event, etc, you want the Mayor to attend send an email through to chris.slade@torfaen.gov.uk in democratic services who keeps the civic diary in order.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Jeremy Corbyn Style A-Z

An A-Z of Jeremy Corbyn's Political Style

Volume 50 of This Week In Fandom introduced me to 'Maylennials', the name given to fans of Theresa May, the UK's Conservative Prime Minister. The fandom mostly consists of fangirling the PM's fashion choices on Tumblr, Instagram, and blogs like Political Style. The latter is currently running a series on an A-Z of May's sartorial decisions, from jaunty hats to oversized accessories.

It inspired me to redress the balance and celebrate the real political style icon of our times: Jeremy Corbyn.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Friday Frivolity - Museums

Friday Frivolity

History has always been my passion - it stems right back to being a little kid and being amazed at the very idea there was a world before I was a part of it! This week #FridayFrivolity is celebrating International Museum Day, so I figured I'd dig up some of my favourite history songs. :D

Horrible Histories is the best!

Epic rap battles of history are always, well, epic.

The history of the Vikings set to soft rock. xD

Friday, 12 May 2017

Friday Frivolity - Food

Friday Frivolity

First things first, I want to apologise to everyone for being so flaky over the last few weeks. It feels like I've just got through the longest job interview in history! Last Thursday was local election day here in Wales and we spent the night at the count. (Well, I spent most of it in the toilets literally sick with nerves.) It was a long hard slog of campaigning but it paid off and all three seats in Pontnewydd went to Labour. :)

Anyway, now life is settling down again and I'm back with Friday Frivolity. This week's theme is food because May 11th is 'Eat What You Want Day'! I'm celebrating with some of my favourite food jingles...

McDonalds first arrived in the UK in the 1970s but it wasn't until the late 80s that it really started to threaten homegrown franchises like Wimpy Bar. With jingles like this one, it was always inevitable!

This jingle is a classic - even if I don't actually like Milky Bars!

The Chewitsaurus likes to chew it. Apparently.

You'll never put a better bit of butter on your knife.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Friday Frivolity

Friday Frivolity


Thursday, 20 April 2017

Friday Frivolity - Rain

Friday Frivolity

I'm forever playing catch up with the linky the last few weeks - it's election season. I'm standing for re-election in the local council elections (two weeks to go!) and the Prime Minister has just announced a snap general election (six weeks to go!).

Rain is kind of summing up my mood every time I think of all the canvassing still to come...

Who wants to be foretold the weather? It is bad enough when it comes, without our having the misery of knowing about it beforehand

Friday, 14 April 2017

Friday Frivolity - Easter

Friday Frivolity

I'll edit - and catch up with comments - in the morning! x

Friday, 7 April 2017

Friday Frivolity - Spiders

Friday Frivolity

This week's theme is my greatest fear - spiders! Man, I hate those creepy crawlies. Just the thought of them makes me feel ill, and look around the room to check there isn't one lurking... The only spider I'll give the time of day is Anansi and, even then, I try not to look at the illustrations!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

This Week

A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water
Life This Week

It's been a long week. We've been out canvassing every day for the council elections in May which is always a slog - let's face it, nobody really wants politicians banging on their front door! We've pretty much finished the initial knocking now, so it will be leafleting next week and that's both quicker and easier.

On Wednesday a water pipe burst in the kitchen. We spent the night at my mum's and the landlord got it all sorted the next day so it was fine; the only real victim was my stress levels. I've done something to my leg too, so the end of the week had me hobbling about the place, and then I almost bust yet another laptop. I dropped my own in the middle of March and have had to share with Anthony which has been just as awful as you might imagine. Then that one wouldn't load... thankfully my dad fixed it.

Pay day has finally arrived though so today I'm ordering a new laptop, and doing nothing but sitting on the sofa entering competitions. I mean, I might have to move at some point, but I won't be happy about it!

Photo of the Week
Marianna and Anthony
Marianna and Anthony. :)
I Have Been Mostly...

☆ READING: I've reviewed what I've been reading this month HERE. Mostly kids books, and a critical study of existing LGBTQ themed children's and YA books by B. J. Epstein.

☆ WRITING: I haven't had much time to write this week to be honest!

☆ WATCHING: Check out my monthly film review post.

 LISTENING: You Can Call Me Al - Paul Simon.

☆ WEARING: Labour rosettes. :)

☆ EATING: Sandwiches.


On the Blog

I've got a couple of new competitions running - one for a paperback copy of Five Go Adventuring Again and another for Desierto on DVD.

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Friday, 31 March 2017

Friday Frivolity - National Cleaning Week

Friday Frivolity

The fourth week of March is National Cleaning Week, a time for me to be reminded why I keep putting off all those cleaning jobs in the first place... In celebration, enjoy some retro advertisements for the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy.

Keep Britain Tidy with Ronnie Corbett

Keep Britain Tidy with the Bee Gees

Keep Britain Tidy with ABBA
And the mascots of litter picking, The Wombles:

Thursday, 30 March 2017

What I Read In March 2017

What I've Read This Month

Here's what we've been reading this month!

The GruffaloThe Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fiction, 1999. This is a modern classic for a reason! Very easy to read, fun to listen to, and a lightly done message about brains beating brawn.

The Gruffalo's ChildThe Gruffalo's Child by Julia Donaldson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fiction, 2004. A worthy sequel and another really fun read. I like that it paints the Gruffalo as a more sympathetic character too, showing children that we all have many aspects to our lives and personalities.

Tyrannosaurus DripTyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fiction, 2007. I didn't like this one - the writing and art is fine, it's just that the central message didn't sit well with me. Not everything has to be cutesy and heartwarming, true, but I wouldn't read it to my toddler again all the same.

mor hyfryd yw'r byd (what a wonderful world)mor hyfryd yw'r byd by Bob Theile
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fiction, 2014. Lovely illustrations and bilingual lyrics to the song.

Are the Kids All Right? Representations of LGBTQ Characters in Children's and Young Adult LiteratureAre the Kids All Right? Representations of LGBTQ Characters in Children's and Young Adult Literature by B.J. Epstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2013. Interesting study of 60 LGBTQ children's books and the kinds of messages being disseminated to young people. I don't necessarily agree with all of Epstein's assertions - I felt the case against 'issue books' was somewhat overstated, given that a lot of the sample texts were explicitly written for the purpose - but the work as a whole certainly highlights the continuing scarcity of LGBTQ themed children's books in general, and the lack of intersectionality within them.

To help you get started with your reading for April, I have a copy of Enid Blyton's Five Go Adventuring Again to give away. Just fill out the Gleam widget below to get up to five entries.

Win Five Go Adventuring Again

Win Five Go Adventuring Again

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Film Reviews for March 2017


The Ring (2002) was the scariest film I ever saw. That's not to say it's the best horror film ever made by any stretch of the imagination, but it's the one that shook me up most. It's the one that gave me nightmares, and the one that made me sleep with the light on and want to cover up mirrors and the television set. That image of Sadako / Samara (I watched the Japanese version straight after because, like any horror junkie, I want to be scared) climbing out of the well still has the power to creep me out.

Rings gif

So, I was really looking forward to Rings this year. It had a few interesting ideas, and some cool imagery - the rain falling upwards, for example - but ultimately it falls flatter than a pancake. The backstory of Samara's conception had the potential to lead to some truly creepy cinematography and story telling, but it ended up feeling more like a 70s road trip horror. None of the storylines felt particularly well developed, and they didn't even make the most of the spider walk depicted on the posters!

My verdict? 2 / 5.


Film Review

Other films I've seen this month, in the order I watched them:

 Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016). 3 / 5.
Brave (2012). 4 / 5


To kickstart your April viewing, fill out the Gleam widget below for up to five chances to win Mexican thriller Desierto on DVD.

Win Desierto on DVD

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

Sunday, 26 March 2017

This Week

Who wants to be foretold the weather? It is bad enough when it comes, without our having the misery of knowing about it beforehand
Life This Week

There's been lots on this week - looking back I don't know what, but I feel exhausted so there must have been! I had school governors at Croesy on Monday, and I officially joined the board of Bron Afon Housing Association on Thursday. The new CEO, Alan Brunt, has just started too so it's a really exciting time to get involved.

On Friday we started canvassing for the council elections on May 4th - I had Marianna with me for the afternoon session and she was really good for the first 45 minutes or so. Then we went to Brooklands Park for a bit and Marianna actually climbed to the steps to the slide on her own for the first time! But then she didn't want to leave the slide and threw a massive tantrum when we went to canvass Lowlands. We got back just after 7pm and I was in bed by 8:30pm. She broke me!

We did another two sessions on Saturday, then I spent the evening in front of the TV like the cultured person I am...

Photo of the Week
Marianna with Rhys and Hannah
Marianna with Uncle Rhys and Auntie Hannah.
I Have Been Mostly...

☆ READING: Meeting agendas, mostly.

☆ WRITING: I wrote a post explaining the work of the licensing committee.

☆ WATCHING: Check out what I was watching at the cinema back in my teens - I found one of my old scrapbooks with a whole bunch of ticket stubs.

 LISTENING: The sounds of the 80s. That was our theme for this week's Friday Frivolity.

☆ WEARING: Plasters.

☆ EATING: Porridge. :)


On the Blog

Nothing new to report!

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Friday, 24 March 2017

Friday Frivolity - 80s Music

Friday Frivolity

The 80s is my musical home - at least in spirit! The bulk of my favourite music comes from the decade, and I'm generally obsessed with 80s fashion and movies. Still, I figured for this post I'd feature a few songs about the 80s. I was feeling meta, I guess!

#4. In Love With The 80s (Pink Tux To The Prom) - Relient K (2003).

And I'm only gonna pierce my left ear,
And I've been working on this mustache all summer long,
And my favorite band will always be tears for fears,
And I'm gonna wear a pink tux to the prom.

#3. Acceptable In The 80s - Calvin Harris (2007).

#2. 1985 - Bowling For Soup (2004).

She's seen all the classics / She knows every line.
Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink; even Saint Elmo's Fire.
She rocked out to Wham! Not a big Limp Bizkit fan. 
Thought she'd get a hand, on a member of Duran Duran.

#1. PoP! Goes My Heart - Music & Lyrics Soundtrack (2007).

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Movie Night

Cinema Tickets

Sorting through some of the endless junk in the house lead me to an old scrapbook from my teens. Just check out this page of carefully collected cinema ticket stubs. I can't believe I actually paid good money to see most of these films! Most of them are from the Cineworlds in Newport and Cardiff, and the little paper stubs are from the old Scene 123 cinema in Cwmbran. It opened in 1972 and basically remained exactly the same until it closed in 2013. Apparently it was the last remaining cinema in the UK using an original mirror periscope system.

You can see some photos of the interior - looking much, er, fresher than I remember it - over at the Cwmbran Life blog. As kids we used to go to cinema club there every Saturday morning (£1 admission!) where I saw the 1998 remake of Godzilla about eight times. I went most weeks when I was in sixth form too, usually after my Saturday morning shift as a kitchen help at St. Joe's Hospital in Malpas.

There were three screens, allegedly seating 80, 100, and 130 a piece, but in one screen whole bunches of seats were missing, and in the other people would sit on the floor at the front if it was a popular film. (I remember watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that way!) I think the last time I went was before VUE Cwmbran even opened, maybe 2008 or 2009. I've only ever been to the VUE about six times though. These days I'm too skint for the cinema!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Licensing Committee Explained

Licensing Committee Explained

Welsh local government elections are coming up - May 4th - so it seems as good as time as any to write about the work local government councillors do. I served on Torfaen's licensing committee for two years (iirc!) after being elected in 2012.

Local authorities must have a licensing committee consisting of between 10 and 15 members, as laid out in the Licensing Act 2003. Most decisions are taken at sub-committee level, which is made up of three members and relevant officer support, while full committee receives monitoring reports and updates, in addition to briefings on legislation changes, and makes decisions on policy changes.

The licensing committee is a quasi-judicial body - basically meaning it has judicial qualities but is not as strictly bound by procedure, etc, as a court would be. It has four key objectives:

Prevention of crime and disorder.
☆ Public safety.
☆ Prevention of public nuisance.
☆ Protection of children from harm.

These must be kept in mind at all times as the committee undertakes 'licensable activities' - the retail sale of alcohol, the supply of alcohol in clubs, the provision of late night refreshment, and the provision of regulated entertainment.

[From Wiki: "Late night refreshment" is defined as the supply of hot food or drink (that is, food or drink that is either served at, or has been heated on the premises to, a point above ambient temperature) to the public for consumption, both on or off the premises, between 23:00 and 05:00.]


Alcohol and Entertainment

[Note: Regulated Entertainment covers plays, films, indoor sporting events, boxing and wrestling (indoors or out), dance performances, live music, and any playing of recorded music.]

This is kind of the bread and butter of licensing work, and covers everything from club premises certificates to personal alcohol licences. Any premises looking to undertake licensable activities needs a premises licence. If alcohol will be sold on site there needs to be a named DPS (designated premises supervisor), i.e. an individual with a personal alcohol licence which can be granted to anyone who has a criminal record clean of relevant offences. Police may advise to refuse a premises application on the basis of the suitability of the DPS however.

Variations to licence conditions will also be considered by the licensing committee, in addition to applications for renewal. Again the advice of the police, along with representations from the public, will be taken into consideration.

TENs - temporary event notices - are short term licences to hold entertainment events. In truth they are basically a notification to the licensing authority; applications must be received at least ten days before the event is due to take place and, providing everything is in order and the police have no objections, there is little the LA can do to impose further limits on the event.



Animal Licensing

This covers a variety of activities: animal (i.e. livestock) movement, dog breeding establishments, horse riding establishments, animal boarding establishments and kennels, zoos, pet shops, keeping of dangerous wild animals, and performing animals registration (for the training or use of animals for performance, including circus, advertising, film making, etc). [Torfaen Page]


Charitable Collection

If you're raising money for charity, you need a licence. These come in two types - house-to-house collections and street collections permit to collect money or sell items in the street. [Torfaen Page]


Food Businesses

Food premises - including market stalls, delivery vehicles, etc - need a food premises registration or a more formal approval which serves as a licence. Street cafes, i.e. refreshment facilities on the highway, also need to be licensed.



All premises that offer facilities for gambling - from bingo halls to arcades to pubs with more than two gaming machines - need to be licenced under the Gambling Act 2005. Small Society Lotteries - i.e. charity lotteries where the maximum single prize is £25,000 - also need to be registered with the licensing authority. (Private lotteries, free prize draws, and small scale raffles are exempt.) [Torfaen Page]


Leisure and Personal Treatment

This covers a really wide range of licences. For example, you need a licence to perform hypnotism in public for entertainment (seriously!), to operate a caravan and / or campsite, and to run a skin piercing (inc. tattooing) business. You could also include sex establishment licences under this header, for sex shops, sex cinemas and venues which offer live displays of nudity - strip shows, lap dancing, etc.

Brothels are still technically illegal in the UK, but sometimes operate under massage and special treatment licences. Torfaen is one of the few licensing authorities in the UK which does not require therapeutic treatment premises to be specifically licensed, so this was never an issue I encountered!


Private Hire Vehicles and Hackney Carriages

I never knew what the difference between these was before I went on planning committee! A private hire vehicle must be booked in advance and cannot be hailed from the roadside. Hackney carriages, on the other hand, can be hailed at the roadside - they carry the TAXI / TACSI roof sign. To drive either you need to have a licence from the local authority you're operating in. Successful applications depend on following national legislation and the specific authority's policy; for example in Torfaen all drivers must complete child sexual exploitation awareness training. Read more at the TCBC page.

At panel level the licensing committee will grant licences, and also decide whether or not licences should be revoked for infractions ranging from inappropriately sexual banter with customers to smoking in their vehicle. Decisions can be, and often are, appealed at magistrates' court.



Roads and Highways

Licences are required for various road and highway related activities, from the construction or extending of a building on or over a public highway, to street works undertaken by individuals or businesses that involve digging up or altering a pavement or road. Other activities covered under this heading include petroleum licensing for the selling or storing thereof, skip permits (for skips to be placed on the highway, roads, pavements or verges), skip operator registration, and public weighbridge operator certificates. [Torfaen Page]


Scrap Metal Dealers

Under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 dealers - including mobile salvage operators - must hold a licence. In each local authority area a dealer can have either a site licence OR a collector's licence. Licences last three years and are designed to prevent metal theft as all sales now need to be conducted via cheque or verified electronic transfer for compliance. [Torfaen Page]


Street Trading

This covers market stalls, car boot sales, and other public sales. For more information check out the Torfaen page.


More widely, the licensing department works closely with the police, planning, Trading Standards, etc, to ensure that licence conditions are adhered to and that the law is upheld. This might be spot checks of taxis to ensure vehicles are up to standard, or following up reports of sales of underage sales of alcohol. Cuts to this area will tend to result in this kind of proactive licensing being the first victim - staff will draw up conditions, but getting them imposed can require manpower which simply isn't available.

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