Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Labour Branch Report - June 2018

June 2018 Labour Branch Report

My June 2018 councillor report for Pontnewydd Labour Branch - you can also read the PDF HERE.

For more like this, please click the image below:
Politics and Opinion

Sunday, 10 June 2018

This Week - 10th June 2018

Wer rastet, der rostet - he who rests, rusts.
Life This Week

It's been a pretty busy week, all told. I've finally managed to get all the junk cleared from the house, and I've been working throughout the week on the back garden. There is about two meters at the bottom still thick with nettles, but the rest has been done. Hopefully by the end of next week I'll be moving on to the front garden.

I had a doctor's appointment on Monday about my back to confirm I hadn't done anything serious. It's been a lot better this week anyway, and only really hurts when I'm getting up. On Wednesday I had Resources & Business overview and scrutiny committee then, when Anthony was out at Community Council (and the pub...) in the evening, I moved a bunch of bookcases about downstairs. I was very pleased I managed to do it singlehandedly!

On Tuesday I went to Barry Island with Marianna and my family. It was really good fun - we even went on the fair!

We had a meeting of the Northville Underpass steering group on Thursday. It was the one thing I most wanted done way back when I first campaigned for election in 2012, and now movement is finally within sight... After that I went up to the Civic Centre for the first regular meeting of the local Labour Campaign Forum.

Friday saw Dave and I talking with the groundskeeper at Pontnewydd Park. Since the council gave up up on park upkeep beyond the bare minimum parts of it have fallen into disrepair, especially the tennis courts. Terry had some photos of the park in the 1980s when it was beautifully maintained and in constant use. We're going to try and get some volunteers together to start recapturing some of that former glory.

Yesterday was Cwmbran Big Event, so we went to help out on the Labour and Cwmbran Community Council stalls. It was a gorgeous day and we had a good time, even if my feet were killing by the time we got home. We decided to follow the healthy living theme and walk there and back, but obviously it's too far for Marianna so we dug out her pushchair. She has not grown any lighter since last time I had to push her...

Today we're just spending the day at my parents', with Marianna rewatching her favourite Disney films for the 5000th time.

Photo of the Week

On the Blog

I reviewed the spring fever Japan Candy Box, Jason Starr's new novel 'Gotham: City of Monsters', and wrote about the first letter I ever had printed in a magazine.

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

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Cwmbran Big Event

Cwmbran Big Event Labour Stall

We had a great time out at the Cwmbran Big Event today! We were helping out on the Torfaen Labour Party stall, encouraging the cause of healthy eating by distributing sweets and biscuits... :)

Cwmbran Congress Theatre

There were lots of different stalls, a dog show, entertainment, and more going on. After we had a look around, and bought a very cool Pixie Princess crown, we went back to the Labour tent - and then had a go at the colouring competition at the Cwmbran Community Council stall next door.

Cwmbran Big Event - Cwmbran Community Council

The proximity worked out really well as I needed to be at the one and Anthony, as CCC vice-chair, needed to be at the other. We stayed until about 3:15pm then walked back... Marianna sat in her pushchair and complained about the comfort of her ride the whole way. The cheek!

Cwmbran Big Event

For more like this, please click the image below:
Out and About in Torfaen

Friday, 8 June 2018

Gotham: City of Monsters

Gotham: City of Monsters

* This review contains spoilers *

Gotham: City of Monsters - Jason Starr
Titan Books - May 2018 - 320 Pages - Kindle & Paperback
☆ Amazon Link.

Following on from Starr's prequel to the show, Dawn of Darkness, this new novel fills in the gaps between season two and season three of Gotham. It follows Jim during his time as a bounty hunter, tracking a monster couple who go by the names of 'Nip' and 'Tuck'. Meanwhile we get to see how Harvey deals with the promotion to Captain, as well as snippets of what Fish, Selina, Bruce and Alfred are up to.

I haven't seen much interest in this release from the transformative side of Gotham fandom, but as the focus is on Jim - one of the least popular characters - and contains nary a mention of either Oswald or Nygma, it's not that surprising. Still, I enjoyed Dawn of Darkness and was really looking forward to this instalment.

Because, and I should probably mention it now as it will only become more relevant as we continue, Jim and Harvey is where my heart is at when it comes to Gotham. (I mean, you can argue that Harvey's behaviour is not meant to be telling us that the guy fell head over heels in love with Jim at some point in season one, and has wanted nothing but to worship the ground he walks on ever since, but I'll have to respectfully disagree with you.) Anything looking at these two and their bromance is very relevant to my interests.


Unfortunately, not even that was enough to salvage this book for me.

The problems, as far as I'm concerned, were threefold:

First up, the balance of showing and telling was too skewed towards the latter. Obviously there needs to be recapping and explanation but, let's face it, at least 99% of people reading this book are fans of the TV show. They know what happened in it and who the main characters are. There just doesn't need to be quite so much exposition.

Secondly, Jim's characterization was off. On the one hand I feel like a hypocrite saying that because, well, as a fanfic writer I've put the poor guy in any number of OOC (out of character) situations. But, on the other, talking it over with other fans on Tumblr reassures me that my criticism is valid. I had some issues with the idea that Jim has 'no qualms about killing these creatures' [Strange's monsters] - especially given his reaction, while under the influence of the Tetch virus, to killing Fish at the end of S3 - but the show zigzags back and fore a lot on Jim's moral compass and attitude towards violence. You could argue either way.

The real kicker for me was the scene in chapter six where Jim meets Clarissa Morgan, manager of a bank which has been robbed with her (coerced) help, at Donny's, one of his favourite diners.

It was unusual for a woman, especially an attractive woman, to be alone in a place like this, in this part of Gotham. While Gordon wasn’t looking for anything romantic - the loss of Lee was too fresh in his mind to even consider it - he’d been spending a lot of time alone lately, and was in the mood for some company. So he went over to where the woman was sitting and showed his warm, dimpled smile that women always seemed to like.

The thing about Jim is that he is forever the chased, not the chaser. All his relationships / hook-ups rely on the other party to put in the leg work and the emotional labour. Lee, Vale, probably Barbara, even Sofia - they all instigated the romance. Harvey, as I pointed out earlier, spends most of his time worrying about Jim, making life easier for Jim, bending over backwards for Jim... Jim can't even say sorry for stabbing him in the back over the Captaincy until Harvey gives in and apologizes for him. He's not the type of guy to go out of his way to make six pages worth of small talk with anyone.

Gotham: Dawn of DarknessDawn of Darkness

Thirdly, and this was the one that really rankled, Starr gets the name of his own protagonist wrong. In Dawn of Darkness Harvey is coming to terms with being assigned a new partner, Amanda Wong. She's a rookie detective, by the book and full of idealism. A female version of Jim, basically. Over the course of the story Harvey goes from scarcely able to stand the sight of her to falling in love.

Sound familiar?

Anyway, Amanda didn't have Jim's inexhaustible luck. She and Harvey were making out in the car, confessing feelings all over the place, when a perp Harvey had turned a blind eye to poured petrol through the window and tried to set them both on fire. Harvey managed to escape and kill the guy in cold blood, but poor Amanda was burned to death.

That's the kind of thing that's going to weigh on a guy's mind. Starr tells us in City of Monsters she's the reason he can't go in for a serious relationship.

'Driving to a crime scene without Jim still felt weird to Bullock. It just felt unnatural to not have his buddy next to him. Yeah, he had worked solo during Gordon's stretch at Blackgate, but Jim had been Bullock's only real partner since Angela, God rest her. She'd had a mouth on her, knew how to dish it out but, yeah, okay, Harvey had loved her.

It took a lot for Harvey to love somebody, and the violent way she'd checked out hadn't made it any easier. Whenever he thought about her it reminded him of why he didn't play the love game to begin with. He had enough pain in his life and didn’t need to bring a woman into the mix. It wasn’t that he was sexist - in fact, it was the total opposite. He loved women, but avoided getting involved with them for their own good, as a freakin’ public service. No woman deserved Harvey Bullock as a partner, for damn sure.'

Except Harvey's forgotten her name - she's now called 'Angela'. While he was at it he also excised Scottie Mullen from his memory, the woman who accepted his marriage proposal and tried to convince him not to go back to the precinct (and Jim) at the beginning of season two.

Scottie Mullen
Okay, so the boy scout has that effect on him, but Jim is elsewhere at this point.

That was the deal breaker for me.

I can forgive a lot for some new canon adjacent material for my OTP. But I can't forgive that.

For more fandom stuff, please click the image below:
What I'm ReadingFandom - my life as a fan

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Japan Candy Box - Spring Fever

Japan Candy Box

I reviewed one of these back in November 2015, not long after the service started, and it was loads of fun! I recently won another box so Marianna and I had a go at reviewing it together. I was glad to see it's less of a 'mystery tour' today: a leaflet is included with some basic info about the candy, which means people can google the brand name if they need more detail.

Japan Candy Box Spring Fever

I gave Marianna free reign and let her pick which order she wanted to try things in. So we started with Kyoshin Green Apple Mochi, a chewy rice cake. Marianna loved these, even if they did get a bit stuck in her teeth, and after all the sweets were tested she went back and ate them all! After that we tried Kasugai Konpeito - these are super sugary hard candy. They reminded me of sugar mice, if they came in little tiny portions, and were definitely my favourite of the sweets.

Japan Candy Box May 2018

Next up was the Yaokin Umaibo Chicken Curry; i.e. a chicken curry flavoured corn stick. Marianna claimed this for her own and ate the whole thing. She turned her nose up at the Koikeya Spicy Fries after trying one though, so I ate them myself. They were very similar to Rib N Saucy Nik Naks in taste and texture. Masuya Onigiri Senbei - soy sauce flavoured rice crackers - got another thumb down from Marianna, but I quite liked them.

Japan Candy Box Spring Fever 2018

It was back to sweets then. The Nobel Plum Sour Candy was too hard for Marianna to bite into, but she did try the Pine Ichigo Milk Candy. It tasted like strawberry milkshake. The Fujiya Anpanman Egg Boro Biscuits were another hit, but couldn't hold a candle to the Sanrio Strawberry Filled Marshmallows. They lasted all of about 30 seconds!

Lastly, we the Tomato Glico Pretz. They're like the savoury version of Pocky and were really tasty. Marianna was less convinced by them though...

Japan Candy Box Glico Pretz

Have you tried any of these? What did you think of them?

For more like this, please click the image below:
Reviews from Babi a Fi - food, fashion, beauty, baby, toys, books, tech, days out, and more!

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Barry Island

Barry Island

Yesterday we all went on a day trip to Barry Island! Naturally the day before and the day after were basking hot summer days, but Tuesday was a little more bracing... We arrived about 10:45am and needed a cup of tea and a bacon butty just to warm up.

After that we went on the beach for a while, and I took Marianna to paddle in the sea. It was freezing! On the plus side, when we got out it seemed a whole lot warmer by comparison. We went in the arcades for a bit, and then onto the pleasure park. Mum, Hannah and I went on the Waltzers and, as the ride was empty except for us, the guy just kept spinning and spinning us. My balance was completely shot by the time we finally got off.

Marianna went on a few of the kiddies' rides and accumulated yet another doll for her collection. After that we all piled into Finnegans for lunch, then had a look around the gift shops before catching the train home. It was a really lovely day. So lovely I went to bed about 7:30pm and slept through until morning!

Barry Island Beach

Barry Island Pleasure Park
Barry Island Carousel

Monday, 4 June 2018

Sneak Magazine - 2004

Letter to Sneak magazine 2004

I've been having a massive clear out this week and came across an old issue of Sneak magazine from November 2004. I'd kept it because it represented the one and only time I wrote a letter in to a teen magazine.

That summer Dragostea Din Tei (Ma Ya Hi / Numa Numa) had been a smash hit across Europe and I was desperate for anything I could get on the Moldavian band behind the song, O-Zone. I downloaded all their songs on LimeWire - remember that? - and did postal swaps with girls in Russia and Romania for pictures and posters. I even read all the badly translated fanfic I found on their fan forum.

What I really wanted was some coverage in a homegrown magazine that I could just pick up on the newstand. I wanted every teen girl's favourite weekly Sneak to print me a poster. So, I decided I was going to write in and, in hope of my letter attracting their attention, doodled over a brightly coloured envelope for maximum impact.

This ended up also being my first experience with a tough editor. The letter they printed bore little to no resemblance to anything I had actually written and, worst of all, they didn't even mention O-Zone!

(Or Dan Balan. I'd have settled for a picture of Dan Balan.)

Dan Balan

It did win star letter though. But did I get the promised Sneak goody bag? Did I ****

A total washout all around, I think you'll agree!

Still, enjoy a few scanned pages to help you relive 2004... Across town Anthony would have loved this issue; not only was there a poster of Ben McKenzie to pull out and keep, there was also an O.C. wordsearch. (One day I will tire of mocking Anthony's unironic love for and annual rewatching of The O.C. That day is not today.)

Sneak CoverBen McKenzie
Sneak Magazine 2004
Sneak Magazine 2004

For more like this, please click the image below:
In the Press

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Sunday, 3 June 2018

This Week - 3rd June 2018

Aller Anfang ist schwer - All beginnings are difficult.
Life This Week

So, on the downside, my back hasn't improved much. On the positive side, I've managed to get a doctor's appointment for Monday afternoon, and my mum gave me a hand to do some of the sorting I had originally planned to do this week. We took six black bags full of stuff to Cash 4 Clothes, and then another load of toys, etc, to the St David's Foundation distribution centre on the Forgehammer Industrial Estate. We rearranged all Marianna's furniture to try and make a bit more space, and started sorting through all the junk in the spare room too.

Anthony wasn't much use as Wednesday morning we ended up having to call emergency because he threw his back out and couldn't move. They just gave him some painkillers and told him to try not to stay in bed...

Yesterday we had our monthy councillor advice surgery in the morning. It was so hot and sunny we sat outside and enjoyed it! I spent the afternoon comping and watching trashy true crime shows. A very productive afternoon, I feel. :)

Photo of the Week
Pontnewydd Advice Surgery
Pontnewydd councillors, Marianna, and Zai our PCSO at advice surgery yesterday morning.

On the Blog

I reviewed MiniatureVictoriya dollhouse miniatures on Monday and posted an overview of May in Fandom.

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

Friday, 1 June 2018

Torfaen Post 16 Learning Centre

Torfaen Post 16 Learning Centre

If you don't have kids of secondary school age you might not be as in the loop with this as those who do, but construction will soon be underway for the new Post 16 Learning Center. The new campus will be the home of all A-Level education across Torfaen, replacing all the existing secondary school sixth forms - excepting, of course, those at Rougement private school and Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw, which will continue to offer Welsh medium A-Level teaching.

It will be located next to Morrisons in Cwmbran, meaning it will have excellent transport links. (Unlike the existing Coleg Gwent campus in Pontypool...) It's right on the route of the X24 and the train station is just across the road.

Torfaen Sixth Form Centre

One of the major disincentives of attending college instead of sixth form to sit my own A-Levels was the travelling involved, particularly the lack of direct route. I know some parents are especially concerned that there will be less pastoral care in a college setting but, based on my own experience and those who have attended sixth forms more recently, the levels being offered in schools have not been anything to write home about.

I personally think students will see a big improvement in that arena once the new centre opens. There will be better ALN facilities, more career advice, and generally better support services.

The centre will be managed and run by Coleg Gwent in partnership with Torfaen Council, allowing for a curriculum offer of over 20 A-Level subjects, GCSE English and Maths, vocational courses, and a few foundation degrees. For more detail check out the TCBC page on the centre.

Name Torfaen Sixth Form and Post 16 Centre

The other thing you can do is suggest a name for the campus! It has to be bilingual so clever acronyms probably won't work, but other than that there's free scope for suggestions. (No public vote though, sadly, so we probably won't be seeing a play on Boaty McBoatface...) Send in your suggestions HERE.

For more like this, please click the image below:
Out and About in Torfaen

newerPageTitle olderPageTitle Home