Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Three Things I'd Like to Share...

My friends and family have always teased me about my music taste. Comparisons to the musical inclinations of the elderly generation have been noted.
Stealing Dad's CDs!


However, I think I have at least a few songs in my repertoire that would be appreciated by today's audiences. Music is very powerful. It has a profound significance in my life.

The music I grew up with has had a very significant impact on my musical taste. My parents brought me up listening to artists such as Simon & Garfunkel, Pink Floyd and The Eagles.
However, perhaps my Dad's most played artist of all is Billy Joel. Piano Man and New York State of Mind were consistently played on my Dad's car radio.

Yet, the song which I believe to be Joel's best I only discovered recently.
'Tomorrow is Today' is a song inspired by Billy Joel's own suicide note - depressing I know!
However, the song has a somewhat inspiring and uplifting quality to it. Go on! Have a listen...



The second song I'd like to share with you is an absolute corker! It is my Grandmother's favourite song. Yet, this song is a challenging one for me. Percy Sledge's 'When a Man Loves a Woman' has a very controversial sentiment. It revolves around a man prepared to do anything and everything for love - to the extent that he subjugates himself. Personally, this is not what love is about. Love is mutual, as well as unconditional. Love means acknowledging ones faults in correlation with your partner's most lovable qualities. After all, when a relationship ends (as many do) you find yourself missing your loved ones faults as well as their positive attributes.
However, this song should be taken at face value - When a Man Loves a Woman is not about what someone should do for love, but it is about why they feel this way.

Take it away Percy!




Finally, the last song I would like to share with you is a bit of a fun one actually. I found myself listening to this for the first time in years as I drove from Milton Keynes, home to Cambridge. I mentioned Simon & Garfunkel earlier, and although at times they can be slightly over-melancholy, 'Baby Driver' is a fun and humorous tune.




Thank you for reading and I hope enjoyed my choices :)

Ollie

Monday, 19 December 2011

Ollie's (Not so Royal!) Christmas Message...

Wow! Didn't that come around quickly?! It seems only weeks ago since last Christmas. I must say, I'm glad it has come around so fast!
I adore Christmas time (although I'm not a religious person). The cosy and warm evenings remind me of how lucky I am.

Every year we hear the stories of people who are experiencing true misery and despair at Christmas time. Unfortunately, I think we have all become a bit too accustomed and unaffected by this - I include myself in this analysis.

I recently spent an afternoon in Cardigan celebrating the life of Freddie Mercury with LD friends Mark Cole, Huw Dawson and Aubrey Williams. We sat down good spirited in hesitation and excitement for the famous Status Quo introduction to the Live Aid Concert of 1985. Instead, we were caught off guard by a video we were not expecting.

What we then saw was possibly the most emotionally, mentally and even physically strenuous footage I have ever seen. I witnessed what has become infamously known as 'Hell on Earth.'


This short introduction to the concert caught us all by surprise. None of us expected to see such shocking imagery. Michael Buerk's report of the small town of Korem in Northern Ethiopia has become a world renowned demonstration of the devastation of war, famine and global poverty.




There is no quick fix to these problems. There is a consistent truth of the famine and drought in the Third World - there will be no solution to this human manifestation of disaster and disgrace without a change in the attitudes of ourselves and our leaders.

I find it easy at times to be very selfish. This year, I bought my self an Ipad costing £400. This amount of money could provide 5 farmers with the capabilities and tools to prepare their farms for the upcoming seasons in the current Food Crisis in East Africa.

However, by no means am I saying that it is wrong to indulge oneself from time to time. However, when I considered how my money could be spent in improving someones very existence, I decided to grant greater consideration to the way I not only spend my money, but in my attitude towards those in need of my help.




Christmas 2011


Me Looking Like a Prat - Standard
So what to take from this Christmas? Well it is inevitable that people will be suffering at this time just as they do the rest of the year.

Enjoy yourself this Christmas - eat and drink well. After all, I'm sure you deserve it!
If you're alone this Christmas, keep smiling and look forward to the upcoming year.

But most important of all, think of others this Christmas. Do something to make someones day, whether it's a friend, loved one or even a stranger having a hard time.

Happy Christmas Everyone
Ollie















Saturday, 5 November 2011

A Poem for the Futility of War

Armistice Day is fast approaching - I just came across this clip of Johnny Cash singing Bob Dylan's famous tune 'Blowin' in the Wind' but with an emotive and moving poem in the middle.

I hope you enjoy
Ollie


Sunday, 30 October 2011

If I Can Dream: Rugby Union

Preface

First of all, I would like to apologise for my blog being so quiet recently. I've truly missed posting my weekly updates and I look forward to the upcoming days where I have quite a few recent experiences to share with you.

If I Can Dream: Rugby Union
As you can see, my blog has gone rather crazy about Rugby in the past few months. Once again, I've gone slightly OTT with my passion for the Sport. 
But what an amazing few weeks it has been for Rugby and the World - Wales reaching the semi-finals (for the first time since 1987), Tonga beating France and best of all, the Māori warriors ending the 24 years of lustful longing for the William Webb-Ellis Trophy, Ngā mihi boys!


My Personal Highlights of the Tournament

The return of Jonah Lomu, one of my top players of all time was a very emotional moment for me. His presence at the opening ceremony reiterates how he not only embodies but also shapes New Zealand and World Rugby.

But how I could I go on without mentioning the Tongan victory over (the eventual finalists) France. What an amazing show by the Islander team! I was also pleased to see the legendary Soane Tonga'uiha in action. He brings a phenomenal sense of character and passion to the Tongan squad and I look forward to seeing his continued career at the Saints.

Yet, Perhaps my favourite moment of the Rugby World Cup 2011, was the performance of the Welsh team.. All of you know that I am an English Rugby man. However, I must say I was appalled and disappointed by the performance of the England team on, and off the pitch. Not only was the team unity almost non-existent, they portrayed their nation and its people in an inappropriate and unacceptable manner. Thank God there was a Home Nations team representing the United Kingdom in a professional and passionate way. For a moment I believed that the 14 Welshman had beaten the 15 strong French team. Unfortunately, this was not the case. But a splendid try by Mike Phillips and a great performance throughout the tournament make the Welsh side my 'Team of the World Cup'.

If I Can Dream
My blog this evening was inspired by a video I found on Youtube. Its a fantastic compilation of great moments in Rugby History and set to the inspiring and beautiful vocals of Elvis. 

Rugby is more than a game. Its a belief in ones self, in ones companions. Inches become miles, pain becomes insignificant and the man standing next to you becomes the most important being you will will ever meet. 

Rugby is a belief.

I hope you enjoy the video much as I did
Ollie




Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Rugby World Cup: A Gallery Part 4) 1999

First of all, I would like to apologise for not posting a blog in a while. Thankfully I now have a computer up and running!

The Rugby Would Cup has now started and what a phenomenal show it has been so far - Fingers crossed for England! Although, I wouldn't bet my mortgage! For an interesting read on the opening ceremony of the RWC see here for Mark Cole's analysis http://johnmarkcole.blogspot.com/2011/09/world-in-union-welcometo-2011-rugby.html. Very well put Mark!

1999
The 1999 Rugby World Cup was principally held in Wales. However, England, France, Ireland and Scotland all held matches. If you want to see a true corker of a RWC opening ceremony, look no further. Here is Max Boyce opening the 1999 RWC in true Welsh style, with song.



Diolch yn fawr iawn Max.

The opening match was between Wales and Argentina. Fortunately, Wales achieved a decisive victory of 23-18 over the Pumas.


The Final
Almost 73,000 people attended the 1999 RWC final between Australia and France. Both teams had difficulty playing in the wet Cardiff conditions. France were the first to put points on the board. An Australian penalty meant that no. 10 Lamaison gave the French an early lead of three points. As usual, kicking was a big part of the game. Many points were scored by both teams choosing to go for the posts.

Penalties continued to rack up the points for both sides. The score after 40 minutes was enough to make a French-man sob, 12 - 6 to the 'Boys from da'an unda!'

The match was try-less until the 65th minute when the Aussies started to truly take the lead. Australia's Ben Tune crashed over the line to once again further the Aussie's lead. A final try by Australian substitute Owen Finegan finished the Europeans off and the Aussies accepted the Webb-Ellis Trophy for the second time.

For some of the best trys of the tournament, see below.



Thanks for reading!
Look out for the next post in this series - lets just say the boys in white made me very proud in the year of 2003 :)

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Rugby World Cup: A Gallery Part 3) 1995

Many would call it the World Cup that hammered the last nail in the coffin of Apartheid in South Africa.
This is obviously open to historical and political debate. However, it would be false to argue that the images of Afrikaans and Blacks joining together in support of their nation had no political significance.

1995

Lomu charges through the French defence
 The Stage was Set. England and France had left the tournament in the Quarter Finals. South Africa and New Zealand were to lock horns in this final battle for the trophy they both valued so highly.

South Africa were understandably nervous. The All Blacks were formidable opponents. However, there was one Kiwi who managed to capture the international attention of Rugby audiences and strike absolute fear into his opponents. The 6ft "5, 20 Stone Jonah Lomu was New Zealand's greatest asset in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. His phenominal pace and strength made him the archetypal Rugby player and his eyes were set on the Webb-Ellis Trophy.

24th June 1995 - Ellis Park, Johannesburg.

Sixty-Three Thousand people were in attendance for the Rugby World Cup Final. New Zealander's, Whites, Coloured and Black South Africans were all there. It truly was a union of diversity.

First Half

Mehrtens puts New Zealand 3 points ahead
The points started to grace the score board when Andrew Mehrtens of NZ put his country three points ahead after SA conceded a penalty in the sixth minute.

Following Mehrtens successful kick for goal, Joel Stransky levelled the score with a penalty kick in the eleventh minute. At half-time Stransky scored a drop goal to put his team three points ahead for the second half of this World Cup Final.

Second Half

Mehrtens levelled the score in the 55th minute and the tension between the two sides increased with each inch gained towards the opposition's try line. Full time came to an end with the both sides level. It proved to be a tryless, yet riveting World Cup Final. The victors would be decided in extra time.
Chester Williams: Springbok's
only Black player.
Extra Time

The teams returned to the pitch in a state of apprehension and determination. The hearts of New Zealander's and South African's weighed on the shoulders of the players, and both sides acknowledged that it was all or nothing. True to form, both Stransky and Mehrtens remained the only points scorers and both accumulated three more points for their teams.

However the decisive moment came when Joel Stransky, 30 metres from goal dropped the ball at his foot and then struck it towards the Kiwi goal posts.

For a moment, it seemed as if time had slowed as the ball gradually drifted through the up-rights. It was sealed. South Africa were the 1995 World Cup Champions.


It was the first time South Africa won the Rugby World Cup and boy did they celebrate in style!
Stransky's Winning Drop-Goal

Arguably the most dramatic moment of all was the awards ceremony in which President Mandela shook hands with Sprinbok captain Francois Pienaar and awarded him the World Cup Trophy.

The Springboks were a team of Afrikaans and often failed to win the support of Black and Coloured South Africans. However, when Nelson Mandela entered the pitch dressed in a Springbok shirt and cap, he conveyed that South Africa was no longer a divided nation.
President Mandela and World Cup Winner Francois Pienaar
Match Report
South Africa - J. Stransky (3pens, 2DrpGs)
New Zealand - A. Mehrtens (3Pens, 1DrpG)

Final Score SA 15-12 NZ

Well Done Boys.



Sunday, 7 August 2011

You Guessed it! Another Rugby Post - The Beauty of Music in Rugby

Ok, I admit that this week I have gone somewhat overboard with my Rugby posts. The truth is, I cannot wait for the World Cup. 

Have you ever been to a Rugby match?

Rugby matches consist of many things; supporting your team, copious amounts of food (and alcohol) but perhaps most liberating of all, singing.
I am a man who loves to sing. My housemates have often been awaken by renditions of Frankie Vallie's "Can't Take My Eyes off You" and "God Save The Queen", poor souls!

The Rugby Anthems enhance the whole experience of a match and have the power to move one to tears. 

Here is a selection of three of my favourite Match-Time Anthems.

This one brings a big smile to my face. Note Tom Jones (Wales' Greatest Son - apparently) struggling through the words to this patriotic Welsh hymn. Bread of Heaven (or Cwm Rhondda to you Welsh speakers out there) is a fantastic song to belt at a Rugby match. It epitomizes the jolly and patriotic character of the Welsh people and I love it!

A friend once dubbed it the Most Inspirational Rugby Anthem in the World. It's solemn and reflective. Flower of Scotland is a profound anthem that the Scots never fail to sing well. It's direct lyrics and simple melody emphasize the importance of Scottish history over all aspects of their culture, including Rugby.


This classical piece of music never fails to move me. In all honesty, I believe it to be the most beautiful melody in the world. Holst's Jupiter has become directly associated with Rugby Union in recent years. This stunning piece of music is the father (or perhaps grandfather) of the official song for the Rugby World Cup, known as World in Union. It is a melody almost all will recognise. The middle-section of Jupiter has become synonymous with Pride, Strength and Courage, the core principles of our nations most beautiful sport.

So here it is, Gutav Holst's Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity.



I favoured the Osaka Orchestra's rendition over the BBC Proms' simply because of the passion and emotion on the conductor's face. Skip to 3:00 for 'Thaxted' (the main melody) However, I recommend listening to the whole piece! :)
Thank you for reading
Ollie

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Rugby World Cup: A Gallery Part 2) 1991

1991

Perhaps the most European of all the Rugby World Cups, 1991 saw the Five Nations hosting this great championship. The Tournament came down to a grand final between England and Australia. This would be the first of three occasions in which England reached the final of the RWC.

The match came down to a fairly close result of Australia 12 - 6 England.
75 thousand people attended Twickenham that day when the Wallabies became the second-ever holders of the Webb-Ellis trophy.


Match Report
Aus. - Tries 1 (Daly) Pens 2 (Lynagh)
Eng. - Tries 0 Pens 2 (Webb)

Friday, 5 August 2011

The Rugby World Cup: A Gallery - Part 1) 1987

It's possibly the Greatest Sporting Event in the World, The Rugby World cup is certainly Rugby at it's best. The history between the great nations that come together in this grand tournament truly depicts what an emotive and passionate event the RWC is. With England V Wales at Twickenham tomorrow, I can't help but feel the tournament is fast-approaching. The truth is, I can't wait!

So, I thought those of you who enjoy sport and culture might appreciate a gallery of images in tribute to the Rugby World Cup Tournament.
Many find it hard to believe that the RWC only began in 1987. However, this is true. As sporting tournaments go, the RWC is merely a young 'un against OAPs such as the FIFA Football and Rugby League WCs.
There was great debate within the IRFB whether there should be a Rugby Union WC. However, it was decided that in 1985 that an International Rugby competition would be put in place. In 1987 the inaugural tournament was held in New Zealand and Australia and thus the most stunning international tournament was established.

1987
The first ever world cup came down to a grand final between France and New Zealand. A very decisive victory for the All Blacks of 29-9 bestowed them as the inaugural holders of the Rugby World Cup. Forever since, the All Blacks have remained a formidable opponent in this tournament and arguably the most intimidating team to face in the final.

Monday, 25 July 2011

To Vegetarian, or not to Vegetarian..?

After four months of a meat-free lifestyle, this evening I decided after much deliberation to eat meat. Chicken in fact. I was somewhat nervous, as I had not tasted meat for a good while.

I must say that I was unable to finish my meal. The point is, I was overwhelmingly disappointed with myself. I became vegetarian to prove I could do it. However, over the past few months I have gained so much pride and experience from my newfound diet. For the past two years I have slowly come to realise that animals and humans are equal. Whether, you believe in a form of Divine creation or evolution, human beings and animals deserve the same rights and liberties. Just because the human race is the most powerful and influential species on earth, (in my eyes) does not mean we have the rights and ownership of other species - I know many of you will disagree and I can rightly understand this, but for the near future I have decided to live my life in a way that affects the existence of other species as little as possible. For this reason, and this reason alone I have decided to re-continue my diet of vegetarianism.

Ollie

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

Travelling

Today as I travelled back from Aberystwyth I truly absorbed the benefits of human kindness. Funnily enough, an Aber local and myself were both travelling to Milton Keynes.

This lady kept me well fed with biscuits and soft mints and after (frankly) a bad month, I finally realise that my upset due to recent events is nothing compared to the kindness That has been shown by friends, family and even strangers! What a brilliant thing life is!

Thanks :)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The World's Greatest National Anthems...

Music has always had a powerful effect on me. As a fan of classical music, I often find myself listening to the National Anthems of different countries. Without a doubt, when I hear the English national anthem resonating through Twickenham Stadium, I feel a shiver run up my spine.
I judge an Anthem not only on its musical composition, but it's power to move and inspire people.

Còig - Alba
Scotland
Scotland, like Northern Ireland, is one of the four Home Nations I have never visited. In my mind I picture it as a land of green flowing hills, caked in thistles on the site of glorious battle fields. In reality, I think this is a somewhat misguided perception of the U.K's most northern nation.
Strangely enough, Scotland has no official National Anthem. At Murrayfield, the Scots often sing 'Flower of Scotland'. Yet on other occasions 'Scotland the Brave' is played.
However, I have chosen what I believe to be the most inspiring and jolly Anthem to represent Scots culture.


 

Paul Robeson's rendition of 'Loch Lomond' has featured in my blog before. It was also one of my Desert Island Discs. I find it a very romantic and compassionate tune. Its also a great song to sing at sporting events.
Although 'Loch Lomond' is beautifully catchy tune, it's not necessarily an inspirational anthem. Which brings me on to number four.

Nummer Vier - Deutschland
Germany
My next choice is rather controversial. In fact, this anthem was actually banned for a certain period following the Second World War. Although the German National Anthem has created deep historical and social divisions, it is nonetheless a fantastic Anthem. 'Das Lied der Deutschen' (The Song of the Germans), commonly knows as 'Deutschland Über Alles' as sung by a German male voice choir has a very powerful melody and very inspirational lyrics.





'Das Lied der Deutschen' is without a doubt a very powerful anthem. However, in the past it has divided many people. Ultimately, the historical connotations of this anthem has not served to unite the German people in recent years.
One might ask how music can unite people, Number Three is perhaps the greatest example of this.


Nommer Drie - Suid-Afrika
South Africa
'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica' emerged from a very turbulent time in South African society. The end of Apartheid bought about a more liberal and tolerant South Africa.This anthem represents greater appreciation of diversity by using five of South Africa's many languages in the lyrics. Not only is 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica' the National Anthem of South Africa, but it has been adopted by Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia and Zimbabwe. See Below for a remarkable fact about the South African National Anthem I only discovered whilst researching for this blog post.


Here it is sung by Francois Pienaar's winning World Cup Squad in 1995...



I was amazed to find that the South African anthem is based on the tune of Parry's Gothic composition 'Aberystwyth', my new found home. This left me rather flabbergasted, yet mostly, impressed.

'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica' represents hope. The powerful melody brings to attention the dreams and aspirations of the South African people in founding a more peaceful and tolerant nation. The diverse ethnicity of the Springbok's squad in recent years represents this progression of more liberal values.

Number Two - Australia
Australia
I am going to be slightly cheeky now. However, an unofficial National Anthem has made the second place on my list. I could not dismiss this great patriotic song. It not only provides a beautiful image of Australian culture and heritage, it's an amusing and beautiful Aussie tune.
To be perfectly honest, I could not choose a greater Australian to sing it than the fantastic lady below...




'Waltzing Matilda' is such a jolly tune. It tells the tale of a lone Swag-man (a hobo/traveller) on an exciting adventure thorough the Australian Outback. For me, it provides a beautiful image of the land of OZ, a nation which I one day hope to visit.

Personally, there is one National Anthem for me that is completely flawless. The power of this anthem's language and melody inspires the greatest sense of pride and aspiration. Unfortunately, it is not the English National Anthem. In fact 'God Save the Queen' never made it on to my list. Yet, this Home-Nation's Anthem did...

Rhif Un - Cymru
Wales
'Mae Hen Wlad fy Nhadau' or 'Land of My Fathers' is arguably one of the greatest National Anthems in the world. It has the power to inspire whether it's in a simple music hall, or in the grandiose setting of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. It is truly a great anthem (unless sung by John Redwood). It is the only anthem (not in English) that i know fluently (with the help of Hannah Thompson and Mark Cole). Observe the passion that goes in to the words 'Gwlad, Gwald' (Nation, Nation) and you will begin to understand why it is such a marvelous National Anthem.



                    Thank you for reading
                   Ollie
Thanks to Joshua McClean for assisting in German translation

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Who Really Wants to Die...

The debate over Euthanasia has once again reemerged after author Terry Pratchett's recent BBC2 Documentary entitled 'Choosing to Die'. The program examines the depressing and debilitating nature of the diseases and illnesses that affect British people and people all over the World today.


Perhaps more importantly, Pratchett considers the morality of assisted suicide and whether it should become a legislated practice in the United Kingdom.

Those of you who saw my Facebook status yesterday evening will know that I have a rather forthright position on the matter of assisted suicide and euthanasia. I support this treatment. I strongly believe that showing someone the compassion and love of relieving them from pain, fear and suffering is the one of the kindest human acts. A person interviewed on the program quite rightly said "You would not let you dog, or your cat suffer in pain, so why do we do it to each other?"
However, there is a reason for why these matters are so controversial. Life after all, is a beautiful and wonderful thing. Life is truly sacred. So why do these people want to die?

I personally have never considered the act of suicide. Yet, I can understand why many people who suffer from these terrible afflictions wish to alleviate themselves from the undignified suffering and upset that comes with their diseases.

It honestly quite upsets me to think that my life, and the lives of my friends and family might end in an ashamed and painful manner, when we have the power to show love and kindness by allowing the people close to us to die in a dignified way.

However, there are those who are not afflicted with any terminal or debilitating illnesses who desire assisted suicide. Depression afflicts 1/3 people in the UK at some point in their lives, yet I strongly believe that it is curable. This is why cases of people desiring assisted suicide should be dealt with individually. Although I am not religious,  I, like many people of faith believe that life is a sacred thing.

However, so is death. Death does not have to be drab and depressing. Death can be an occasion just as joyous as experiences in life. After all, when the curtain falls we all want to go out singing.

Pratchett's documentary provided a formidable insight into the processes and practice of assisted suicide. Pratchett followed the stories of two men, Peter Smedley aged 71 and Andrew Colgan, 42. Both men had travelled to Switzerland to die. Andrew and Peter were afflicted with diseases that affected the nervous systems and that would eventually lead to the shut down of their bodies in a painful and undignified way.

I must say here that I have never been more moved by a television program. Both Andrew and Peter showed the greatest courage and bravery in their personal decisions to terminate their lives.
Some argued that both Peter and Andrew chose to die prematurely. It is true that these gentlemen were still able to communicate well and even enact certain tasks for themselves. However, who is to say that these people did not have the right to die? It is their lives, and in your life you make your own decisions, good and bad. Whether you wish to fight to the bitter end, or to leave this Earth slightly early, it is your right and should be the right of citizens all over the world to make a choice of life, or death.

Perhaps the most moving part of the whole documentary was the moment in which Peter allowed us to witness him consuming the drugs that would save him from fear and suffering. By doing this, Peter showed people that he had made peace with he decision to die. What a brave man.

I was quite literally moved to tears. To see a person liberated from fear is a truly beautiful thing. Peter sat peacefully with his hand in his wife's as he gradually drifted to sleep.
If one considers the manner in which Peter and Andrew would have died had they not gone to 'Dignitas', it draws an emotive contrast into how death does not have to be undignified.


I do wish that someday in the near future we will see legislation in Britain that provides the care and facilities for those calling for assisted suicide. However, any such legislation must means test individual cases. The concerns of many people for elderly relatives choosing assisted suicide to prevent them from 'burdening' family are legitimate.

Pratchett's documentary showed that this is well enforced in Switzerland and it is ensured that the decision of these people to die is their own.

We have the power to alleviate suffering so why do we allow people to continue to live in a shameful and agonizing way? The love and care shown by the people at 'Dignitas' displayed that the alleviation of suffering is a truly beautiful thing.

Peter Smedley 1939 - 2010
Andrew Colgan 1968 - 2010

I'd like to dedicate this great song to Andrew and Peter





You can see the BBC Documentary here: Terry Pratchett - Choosing to Die

Monday, 6 June 2011

The Best Moments of English & Welsh Rugby: The Top 5

Rugby
"The only trophy we won this day, was the blood and sweat we left on the pitch.... and it was enough" 

From the age of about 11 I have been absolutely infatuated with Rugby Union. As a young Full-back (15) on my middle school side, I built up my loyalty to the game.. 
However, I've never hidden that I was a player with somewhat limited skills and capabilities. Nonetheless, I loved playing Rugby. From middle school through to University, I've played in the Backs and Forwards for various sides.


Although I never was able to fully grasp playing the sport myself, I have always relished in spectating it. It's the key moments of Rugby that make it for me, the moments that make you gasp, the ones that make you laugh, and the ones you simply can't believe.


Number Five
I make no bones about being a staunch England Rugby fan (as my Welsh friends very well know.)
However, I would be totally ignorant to deny the Welsh of some of the greatest Rugby moments in history.
If there was ever one Welshman to put his country on my list it was Gareth Edwards.


But this is not 'That Try' - This is a try that epitomizes that long conflict between Scotland and Wales


The tap of the ball was the most crucial part of this point scorer. I don't think my fellow English fans would let me get away without noting that luck was most possibly on Edwards' side that day. Edwards walks looking a proud, yet modest man. Quite rightly so.


Number Four
A familiar face from England Rugby now. The youthful, pacey and damn right phenomenal Chris Ashton!
A lad criticized for his bolshy and confident attitude on the pitch. I personally think Ashton's a fantastic team player and a true asset to English Rugby Union, and this just proves it...



As Australia were forcing England into the depths of their line, some amazing play from the Backs in White to deliver a truly beautiful try. As the commentator says, "Now it's England making a statement!"


Number Three
Possibly the most inspirational moment I've ever experienced in Rugby. As a Hooker, seeing a man of my position play with such anticipation and class is truly inspiring. One of the true English Bulldogs, Steve Thompson snaps it off Ireland. Watch the effort of Thompson as he paces for the line.



I remember watching this match and just knowing that Ireland had denied England of the Grand Slam they so desired. However, Thompson came on to the pitch and told the Irish "you may have won the day, but we're not going down without a fight." This show of strength and contest by one of the fathers of the England Rugby side conveyed the ever lasting importance of determination and experience on the Rugby pitch.

Number Two
Perhaps the most dramatic and tense moment of Rugby I have ever witnessed. Without a doubt, this match sparked my interest in Rugby. The moment I am referring to is the final moments of Extra Time in the Final of the 2003 World Cup. A young man stood up to the mark and produced arguably one of the most remembered kicks in the history of Rugby. Show 'em Jonno!


The Cup was truly in the balance. Australia 17 - 17 England. The match had to go one way. I remember that glorious moment when Wilkinson drew himself into the pocket and gracefully passed that bruised and battered ball through the tall and ominous uprights. It truly was a moment to remember.

All four of the above moments have had their own unique impact on my perspective of Rug Union. I believe with all sports; Football, Snooker, Cricket - the moments that you truly remember are the ones that made you feel the most moved and empowered. If there ever was a moment that did this best, it was number one on my list.



Number One
I'd like to think that some of Rugby's most powerful moments also occur before and after games. The tension and excitement I feel before an England International tends to be heightened by the singing of the National Anthem. I have always been a strong supporter of our National Anthem. However, I can't help but admit that Wales' 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau' simply blows 'God Save the Queen' out of the water. This moment epitomizes that great rivalry between England and Wales on the Rugby pitch. Note the passion as the last note of 'Land of My Father's' resonates through the Millennium Stadium.


Wales V. England will always remain my favorite contest in the game of Rugby. This match is an opportunity for both nations to show their superiority on the Rugby pitch. However, when the game is over, and the stands are cleared, I am always reminded of the strength of the relationship between the Welsh and the English.

These two nations remain arch-rivals on the Rugby field, but they will forever remain good friends.
England and Wales maintain and unbreakable bond of friendship...it's just a shame for Wales that England are better at Rugby.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

What I Hope to do as the AULD Campaigns Officer...

My first year at University is almost over and what a great year it has been. If any part of student life has occupied my time the most, it has been my membership of the Aberystwyth University Liberal Democrats. 

I feel very honoured to take up a greater role in the society. Unfortunately, the position of Campaigns Officer was uncontested. It would have been great to have more competition for the role, but nonetheless I so look forward to the next year in my new found role.

The Aberystwyth University Liberal Democrats are a phenomenal group of people. Their devotion to the society and the local campaigns is truly admirable. 

I am very exited for the next year! Not only because I will be working with a great group of people, but because I look forward to bringing new and exiting campaigns to the societies attention. 

Those who know me, know that three issues I feel very passionately about are Homelessness, Homophobia and Mental Health.

Homelessness 
I feel our society has the capability to challenge and reconcile some of the issues concerning Homelessness in Aberystwyth and Ceredigion. I find it unimaginable to be living on the street in a hopeless cycle of depression and loneliness. Our society is a group of compassionate and determined people. I am sure if we channel our talents to combating such an issue as Homelessness, we can demonstrate what a caring group of people Welsh Liberal Democrats are. 

Homophobia
Michael Chappell, my good friend and the society's new Social Secretary is admirably passionate about the issue of Homophobia. Like Michael, I feel our society has a duty to challenge Homophobic bullying. To me it does not make sense to determine someones character simply on the basis of their sexual orientation. One of my siblings is gay and he was consistently strong in the face of Homophobic bullying. However, many people are not as strong as my brother Tom and I look forward to our society establishing how they will do their part to prevent Homophobic bullying in the future.

Mental Health


There is a lot of division concerning the issue of Mental Health. Many people are less sympathetic on such issues. However, the stigma that surrounds mental health is something that needs addressing. Liberal Democrats have a long history of defending those with Mental Health issues and I hope that our society will help to continue this tradition.

The Aberystwyth University Lib Dems are a welcoming, caring and amazing society to be a part of. I hope in the next year our brilliant executive will work hard for Liberal Democrat causes and to improve life in Ceredigion.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Count - 2011 Campaign to Elect Elizabeth Evans to the Welsh Assembly

As I woke up this morning I was overcome with a feeling of pointlessness. The past two/three months I have spent with an incredible group of people. These friends of mine have consistently shown their abilities and determination to Liberal Democrats in Wales. Some moments of the campaign will stick with me for a long time, but all the work and effort came down to one evening, the evening of the count.






Throughout Polling Day I had been calling and encouraging Lib Dem members to go out and vote. Although there was a great feeling of tension in the Liberal Democrat Office, it never quite hit me that today was the day that could potentially determine the future of Ceredigion politics for the next five years. 




We were loading into Jon Aylwin's car and driven to the count (which is a scary experience in itself). As we arrived the infamous county councillor Paul James was making his presence known in the car park. We entered the hall and I made my naivety evident by running through the middle of the room (something that you're apparently not meant to do).


The boxes came in and it was clear we had done very well. Elizabeth Evans sweeped such polling station as Aberaeron, Penparacau, Park Avenue and perhaps most controversial of all, Llanbadarn Fawr. Throughout the election Llanbadarn was thought to be a homeland for Plaid but Evans retained it and the picture on Plaid Cymru's face made the efforts of Liz and her team all the worth while.


Some disappointment as Plaid took places like Penrhyncoch, Llandysul and Lampeter. However, perhaps the most profound words of the evening came from Mark Williams MP; "We've held our own." Mark couldn't have been more right. In the places we lost, our efforts evidently paid off as Lib Dems were never far off the mark - much to their irritation as the Plaid candidate's agent sharply whispered to one of their county councillors, "Stop looking angry! It makes things look bad!"


As the night went on, it was clear that Elin Jones would retain her seat. However, what became most clear is that the team of Liberal Democrat activists in Ceredigion had smashed the curve of Lib Dems losing their seats in Wales and throughout the UK.






Hannah (one of our most loyal activists) at about 2am informed me that we'd lost by a margin of about 2000 votes. However, to me and our activists this did not feel like a loss. Cutting Plaid Cymru's majority at a time of disaster for many Liberal Democrats felt like a phenomenal achievement. 


The final boxes came in and we kept on tallying.


At roughly 4am the candidates were assembled on the stage. The number 1800 was whispered in my ear. 


The returning officer announced the results for the Labour candidate, his ambitious grin was lost and he suddenly appeared rather disappointed. 2,522, ultimately fourth place.


Then the most important result of all, "Elizabeth Evans, Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru, Welsh Liberal Democrats, 10,243. A phenomenal gasp and cheer consumed the room and our brilliant Liz smiled. The result in Ceredigion showed that the county's Liberal Democrat  traditions were strong in the face of national discontent towards the party. 






Liberal Democrats in Ceredigion have told Plaid Cymru and other parties that we are still a great force in Wales. Perhaps most importantly, in the face of some of the most malicious campaigning I have ever witnessed, Elizabeth Evans and her team kept their dignity, did not hit back and proved to Plaid Cymru and their team that lowering the tone of politics only reduces the reputability of their party.


The campaign is now over. The amazing efforts of the Evans team have shown that Liberal Democrats work extremely hard and will continue to do so for Ceredigion. I am so proud that our team made so much headway in the Assembly elections and I am almost sure that 2016 could be the year that Ceredigion elects it's first ever Liberal Democrat Assembly Member.


Da Iawn Liz!



Thursday, 28 April 2011

My Five Greatest Men and Women - Part Five

It's taken me a while to complete the final addition to this Blog Post. A lot of time was spent making my mind up about who the last member of this exclusive would be. Now, so far all the people I've blogged about are men. This must make you wonder why the blog is entitled "My Five Greatest Men and Women".

Without a doubt, the country is experiencing a whirlwind of royal celebration and extravagance. 
Allow me to stipulate that this has not influenced my final choice in any way. However, my timing is convenient.


Nonetheless, in my opinion Queen Elizabeth II has been one of the greatest women in British history.

A young Elizabeth inherited a job many have disputed she ever wanted and performed it's duties with great compassion and devotion. It's not only Elizabeth's achievements as diplomat and a representative I find admirable, it's her sheer commitment to the job.

Now, one must acknowledge the amazing life she has led. The Queen has met and conversed with some of the worlds greatest and most influential people. The life her Majesty has led has been one of great adventure and excitement.


However, much of her life has been very tragic. The loss of her father, her mother and her sister (in the same year) along with the death of her daughter-in-law must have made her question the importance of the role she maintains.

However, I find her strength and humor truly endearing. Yet, she has maintained a sense of dignity and valor for her nation, and she has always been there when the nation needed her most. 



 As she reached the milestone age of 85 last week, I would just like to say a personal thank you to our Queen, well done ma'am.





Tuesday, 15 February 2011

My Five Greatest Men and Women - Part Four

"For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."


To some, a very recognisable group of words. To other's, perhaps not.

Nonetheless, I feel whether one knows who spoke them or not, the potency and meaning of this quotation is just as profound.

Those who know me acknowledge that I'm a sucker for a great quote or a good orator. Well, the fourth member on my list was these two things and many more.


 

Senator Edward Kennedy - a man I was unaware of until shortly before his death in 2009. Of course, The Kennedy name is a recognisable one. Everyone has been taught the great stature and promise of Ted's Brother Jack. President Kennedy's life and premature death is arguably a motif for the deterioration of peace and rise of power politics in the post-war/cold war era.

However, although Jack was the only Kennedy to be President, he was not the only son of the Massachusetts diplomat Joe Kennedy to seek Presidential office. Robert, (or Bobby) Kennedy ran for the Democratic party's nomination in 1968, as did Ted in 1980.


Bobby was killed short of gaining the party's nomination and Ted was unsuccessful. However, their legacy did not die along with their almighty political aspirations. One could argue that Bobby's dream of peace still remains in the hearts of Americans and citizens of Earth today. After all, the words spoken by Bobby on his report of Dr. King's death in 1968 are testament to the eloquence and power that he had with words.



"What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black."

 


 It has often been said that the greatest institution of British Culture is our National Health Service. This is a statement I'd agree with. Regardless of party affiliations, I feel the majority of British people appreciate the beneficial attributes to free health care in the United Kingdom.

 



Unfortunately, American health care is not as easily available to people in the United States. I find it personally quite hard to comprehend a system where people are not given health care because of their personal finances.

Surely the role of state is to protect and care for one's citizens?


 

Senator Edward Kennedy, although a man from a very affluent background still believed that health care in the United States needed dramatic reform.



Recently in the United Kingdom we've seen protests by Students who have vigorously campaigned for free Higher Education and quite rightly so. I believe that like Health Care, education should be a right and not a privilege.


"A Right and Not a Privilege." Perhaps the phrase most associated with Senator Edward M. Kennedy and his career long campaign for free Health Care. Senator Kennedy devoted his Congressional premiership to this pledge.

 

Although Kennedy was not successful in providing a totally nationalised system of free Health Care for all Americans, his efforts were not futile. He worked relentlessly from the early days of his Senatorial career up until and even during the beginning of the incumbent Obama Administration. Senator Kennedy's stubborn and determined agenda for making America a fairer and more harmonious society represent the power a single man can have. Perhaps the words "Faith can move mountains." are relevant to Edward Kennedy's cause and unwavering fortitude in his beliefs.






Ted was well known for his enthusiasm for working with his Republican Senatorial colleagues. The will of one man to put aside political differences and work in unity with those who would oppose him highlights the bond of common faith that he praised in mankind.  He once said to his son, Edward Kennedy Jr. "Republicans love this country just as much as I do".After all, he dreamed in an America and a world where brothers and countrymen come together in the effort of peace and progress.


Many would argue that mankind is inherently flawed. There is certainly evidence to suggest that an inclination to violence and a tendency to cause pain is evident in human society. However, does harmony and understanding overcome discrimination and suffering?

I believe Ted Kennedy thought so. He acknowledged that man had in his mortal hands, the power to oppress and prejudge his own friends and companions.


 However, he dreamed that mans greatest attribute was potential. Potential to change ourselves and not to judge others but to do all in our power to provide a better life for all of mankind.


Peace is a precarious thing. It not only balances on the will of men and women who lead, but on the actions and intentions of all members of society. After all, perhaps the greatest ill of all is idleness as every man and woman has the power to change and install a more peaceful society.


In the eulogy of his brother Robert, Senator Edward Kennedy proclaimed the words..
"My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.

As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: 'Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not."

 

Well done Ted. 








 For a truly great eulogy watch this clip - Ted Kennedy Jr. - Eulogy