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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This Week - Weekly Overviews

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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Council Business Explained

Sunday, 19 March 2017

This Week

The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on - It is never of any use to oneself
Life This Week

It's been ages since I've done one of these updates! This week has been pretty standard, nothing particularly exciting to report. I had healthier scrutiny committee, and planning committee, and a meeting of the Gwent Police and Crime Panel. Possibly other things I've already forgotten about...

Photo of the Week
Marianna looking dapper
I Have Been Mostly...

☆ READING: I scanned in a news clipping about the launch of the poppy appeal last year.

☆ WRITING: About my favourite flowers.

☆ WATCHING: Southland. It's equal parts compelling and frustrating. One episode they're shooting people at the drop of a hat, and the next they're all 'omg, I am totally overwhelmed by this criminal, if only I had some kind of weapon at my disposal...'

 LISTENING: All Time Low. I'm feeling nostalgic for my youth. (RIP)

☆ WEARING: My engagement ring. I thought I had lost it last week, but I found it under a pile of paperwork upstairs.

☆ EATING: Pizza. :)


On the Blog

I scanned in a couple of drawings I did for Marianna's baby book, and shared some Wales memes for Friday Frivolity.

For more like this, please click the image below:
This Week - Weekly Overviews

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