One of the few perils of living in North Wales is the distance you sometimes have to travel to get to hospital. I have a malfunctioning aorta valve and was recently sent to the Heart Hospital in Liverpool, the so-called capital of North Wales. Somehow or other we got lost in Toxteth. I spotted a group of people sitting around a bus shelter so I went over to them to ask the way and immediately realised I had made a huge mistake. They were all barking mad winos out on some kind of Scouser Whitsun Treat and, as one directed me to Knotty Ash where, believe it or not, we had to get to, another tried to pick my back pocket.
This started a fight with a woman who, I think, was trying to protect me while yet another, who only had one eye, began trying to tell me the way to Knotty Ash in a sort of drunken Scouse, of which I didn’t understand one word. Then another joined in and it was a little like being surrounded by a tribe of Red Indians who, instead of tomahawks, were all waving plastic flagons of rough cider in the air. I had to run for my life in the end.
When we got to the hospital I was keen to get the answer to one big troubling question. My mate Colin in Bala had to have a new aorta valve and they gave him a metal one which ticks so loudly it keeps him awake at night. Colin told me about his friend, also with a metal aorta valve, who used to like to play poker but, every time he had a good hand his little valve went off like an alarm clock and all those he was playing with folded their hands.
This was terrible. I have never played poker in my life but I certainly didn’t want my heart to betray me if I did happen to encounter any new excitements. What if Cardiff ever got into the FA Cup Final? The whole of Wembley would be in uproar and I’d be standing there with my heart sounding like an air raid siren.
But the consultant assured me I was too old for metal so they would fix me up with a bit of pig, which doesn’t last as long as metal, but at least won’t click, tick or roar if I ever do get excited again. If …
In the first election for the Assembly in 1999 I decided to start my own political party, the Celtic Alliance, with the specific aim of re-invigorating Welsh arts and sport.
My campaign didn’t start too well since as soon as I announced My Big Idea in my weekly column in the Western Mail, they fired me. But I pressed on with my new plan which, amongst other key policies, was going to take all our football clubs to the top of the Premiership (we were going to stop wasting money on roads), set up a national publishing house (which would publish big, ambitious books), found a sort of federal national theatre for Wales (much like the one that later emerged) and build a fully equipped film studio. I leafleted the homes of Cardiff South and there was a fiery debate with Rhodri Morgan in the Sherman.
My vague plan of action was that I would make a scorching speech to the Assembly once a week about our arts and sport. I would have been expelled regularly no doubt but at least everyone would have been fully aware of the rubbish we have and the quality we need. Of course I lost by a landslide.
I often think of the speeches I would have made and just about now I would have been thundering about the current disaster which is issuing out of BBC Wales in Llandaff by which I mean the meaningless rubbish which is Torchwood and Dr Who.
We have just had the Eisteddfod up here in Wrexham which, as usual, was a brilliant celebration of the heart and spirit of Wales. We need a lot more of this in English and yet BBC Wales, at enormous expense, is producing this horror comic nonsense which says precisely nothing to anyone about anything.
Emperor Russell T. Davies has no clothes and unless we get away from his baleful influence we are all going to end up as daft as John Barrowman.
None of the writers of these programmes even seem to understand the basics of story-telling. Why have we got mixed up with these munchkins and, what is far worse than that, why does BBC Wales seem so pleased with itself about it all?
I am tormented that our children are being “entertained” by the psychological terror and slavering monsters that these people keep churning out.
My wife and I have recently been greatly enjoying re-runs of ER, the medical drama on Sky Atlantic which, in my book, is the greatest series television has ever produced. It is well-written with attractive characters, thoughtful and challenging storylines. It brings me close to tears at least twice an episode. We are total fans.
If actor Noah Wyle ever turned up here in Bala and displayed an interest in my wife I doubt my marriage, which seems to have gone on for ever, would last two minutes. But I have to admit that, if Noah happened to dance on the other side of the ballroom and hit on me, I’m not at all sure my marriage would last one minute. It’s really as bad as that.
My favourite scene ever on television was when, at the end of one episode, there had been a huge disaster and ambulances were screaming through the streets of Chicago hurrying the dead and dying to the ER. The doctors and nurses came filing out into the forecourt in ones and twos, all in their gowns with stethoscopes dangling around their necks. They all just stood there silently for a minute or so, watching and waiting for their new patients to arrive and you just knew that, as soon as those ambulance doors opened, they would step forward and fight furiously for their health and lives.
The one thing about ER is the characters always seem to take their work very seriously. They care.
When I think of this scene I also, perhaps bizarrely, think of the writers of Wales and wish they would step up to the plate like this and put up some sort of fight for the lives of us ailing Welsh. Why aren’t they all urging us to stop guzzling the national swill? Why don’t they start telling us what wonders we could achieve as a nation if we started saying “No”.
Irish writers saved Ireland by setting up a dynamic inter-reaction between their slumbering country and the overweening power of the English. They turned Ireland free. Just one James Joyce would be a good start for us in Wales - if only we could find him, if only he wasn’t actually strangled at birth by the arts council or, even more likely, the Welsh Books Council. Just what is the point of the Welsh Books Council?
I could go on about this for pages but, perhaps fortunately for everyone concerned, I’ve run out of space.