Monday, March 29, 2021

Snack of the Month - Choco Boy

We are almost at the end of March, so here is a late 'Snack of the Month' post. It's a sweet snack for a change this month. I bought these in the foreign food aisle in Sainsbury's. I think they are from Korea. I must admit I picked this partly because of the cartoon character on the front.

Inside the box is a small plastic packet with several of these tiny mushrooms in, which I presume are the Choco Boys. The biscuit stalks taste a lot like the biscuit sticks found in old school KP Chocolate Dips. The chocolate is sweet and milky.

There aren't many Choco Boys in the packet so they got polished off quite quickly. I liked them, but they weren't so amazing I would look them out again. I also felt it could have come with a sticker of the Choco Boy character, or something, because the actual biscuits were a bit dull compared to the happy little chap dancing on the front of the box. (Even though, thinking about it, he look like a Choco Boy and he looks like he's about to eat a tiny version of himself.)

Saturday, March 27, 2021


I'm on annual leave until after Easter now. My first day of annual leave was Thursday, and included a trip to the brand new mass vaccination facility in Cardiff Bay. It used to be Toys'R'Us, so it was a little bit odd going back into an environment I used to know quite well.

It was the first day the centre was open, which I didn't realise when I took the appointment. I walked in and immediately met my colleague Nick, who works for the Service Improvement Team in the health board and is an expert in systems design in healthcare. He was tracking how long it took people to go through the process. It took me 7 minutes, and that included a comprehensive discussion with the nurse about the relative risks.

The streamlined efficiency illustrates something I have long believed about healthcare - if people who know how to organise healthcare processes are given the opportunity to design them from scratch then they will work really well. Most healthcare processes have accreted organically over time and reflect the needs of healthcare providers rather than focusing on the overall strategic aim. In this case, the aim is to get as many needles into as many arms as possible in a safe environment, and it worked really well.

I had the Oxford Astra-Zeneca jab and had heard from a number of people that the side effects could be rough. I was fine until the early evening when a headache started to develop. Within a couple of hours I had a temperature and was shivering. I felt very poorly - so rough that Cathy had to help me get changed for bed - and had a bad night's sleep as a result. 

Yesterday I felt fragile first thing and stayed in bed late, but started feeling stronger by lunchtime. A good shower helped. Today I have felt even better again, in fact, I've felt better than I have done for a while, and was able to take advantage of the release in Lockdown rules to go and sit in the back garden of my friends' new house. 

The side effects to the vaccine are apparently a sign that the body is producing antibodies to the nasty Covid-19 virus. Hopefully my rough few hours mean that I am now chock-full of antibodies and immune to the bug that has stopped the world. I'm looking forward to things starting to open up again, especially now I'm fully vaccinated. 

Monday, March 08, 2021

#Cymrutopia - welcome to the future Wales

Last year I joined Yes Cymru, the independent movement for Welsh Independence. I outlined some of my reasons in my first blog post of 2020.

Since then, the support for independence keeps rising. Last week, a record 39% of people polled said they would vote for independence (qualifier - if you exclude the people who said 'Don't know'). When I joined Yes Cymru my membership number was 2,920. Their current membership has rocketed to over 17,000.

My Yes Cymru membership pack

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about what an independent Wales could look like if an independent Welsh Government could make decisions on things that matter to Wales. And the possibilities for progressive changes in culture, infrastructure and society. For example, on St David's Day I mentioned what a national holiday could look like.

Today I jokingly referred to this as Cymrutopia. And the moment I said that, I liked the sound of it. Cymrutopia - the ideal Wales that could yet be. The hiraeth home we both mourn and search for. 

My plan is to blog a few ideas here in among the usual posts about science fiction shows, football and my Snack of the Month. This post is both a warning and chance to lay claim to the word Cymrutopia. Although I don't mind if other people start posting their own ideas of what an independent Wales could look like. We need to build an array of hopeful options for the future republic.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Grangetown's Lost Footballs

A few years back I discovered the Twitter account @LostFootballs, which was an ideal harmony of poignancy and humour. The account is still going although less active than it used to be in its heyday, back when Twitter was fun and not full of angry people abusing each other. 

Over the years I'd tweeted a few photos to them and had them retweeted. However, recently I've been saving photos of lost footballs for my blog. These are a few I've spotted on my walks around Grangetown and Cardiff Bay.

Let's start with a ball behind the railings of a locked schoolyard during lockdown.

Grangetown's alleys have been gated off.  The gates are easy to lose footballs behind!

A close-up of the ball shows the Euro 2020 logo. It feels kind of apt that a lost tournament adorns the side of a lost football.

There is honestly no filter on this next photo. It was a very blue sky reflected in the water as I walked alongside the mouth of the Taff. The ball's remaining patches are green.

On a walk around Cardiff Bay, I saw this ball behind a fence near the BBC complex.

A close-up shows off the Nike Swoosh. 

And very close to home, I saw this torn and battered 'casey' in the gutter at the closed-off end of my street.

It had seen better days.

With going to football matches something I have lost during the pandemic, all these reminders have taken on a new level of meaning. The most likely way to lose a football is by playing with it. With all the restrictions we have endured, these reminders that kids still play football are bittersweet.

(And thanks to Cathy, Tom and Bryan who have patiently waited while I have taken photos of forlorn footballs.)

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Delightful branding

I look at marketing materials that get pushed through my door, as I carry them to the recycling bin. This gem of a product name from a takeaway pizza leaflet made me chuckle.

"Sausage Delight" sounds a bit saucy to me. (Dirty minds and all that.) 

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

February 2021 End of Month Review

February seemed to go by quickly. We are now one sixth the way through 2021. Even in lockdown stuff happens, so I thought I would do another monthly round up.

I joined up with some friends via Zoom to watch the Superbowl. It was especially important this year because the team my friend Bryan supports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, were in the Superbowl. He was a lot more nervous about the game than the rest of us. But the Bucs won comfortably. 

We had some extremely cold weather and even a bit of snow. That made staying indoors to observe the lockdown rules a bit easier - nobody wanted to be out in the bitter cold. 

At the beginning of the month, I had a surprise. A cuddly bat arrived in the post. 

Cathy had arranged an animal sponsorship with the Cuan Wildlife Rescue Centre in Shropshire. Several years ago we took a poorly hedgehog that we found in my brother's back garden to their centre and I have followed them on social media ever since. They do fantastic work caring for injured wild animals and successfully release most of them after nursing them back to health. 

This year for Valentines Day we decided to buy ourselves a big Lego set and build it together. We both wanted to build the Medieval Blacksmith set, so spent most of the day doing that. It was great fun. The finished article now has pride of place in our dining room. 

The build is full of quirky little details. One of my favourite bits was the brick-built bearskin rug.

I had a week off work, which was every inch the staycation. I had a steroid injection in my frozen shoulder so I had to stay indoors for three days. I used the time productively and caught up on several movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I watched the three Thor movies in quick succession. One thing I like about the MCU are the little cameos between the films. There is a funny Captain America cameo in the second Thor film, and a great scene with Doctor Strange in the third one. 

Now that the Mandalorian has finished, Disney Plus have been releasing a replacement marquee television series in WandaVision, which is set in the MCU. We have been tuning in every week. Having the time to watch all the films again has been really useful for me to understand the TV series a bit better. I blogged about how it offered a surprisngly mature viewpoint on grief in one of the later episodes.

In terms of other achievements, I read a book for the first time in months.

It was more like a pamphlet really, but it made me think, so that was good. I blogged about it here.

On my baseball card blog, I reached the milestone of my 600th card featuring Tony Gwynn and also received my first Tony Gwynn card released in 2021. My collection was also featured in a guest post on the blog Baseball Fans Only. In another milestone, Twitter reminded me that it was my tenth Twitterversary this month.

And in exciting consumer news, we finally found the newly-launched McVities cherry Jaffa Cakes on sale. They have been sampled!

Monday, March 01, 2021

St Davids Day 2021

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus i chi! Happy St David's Day to you. Here are some cheery daffs that I found in Bute Park at the weekend. I liked how they were backlit by sunshine.

I have been thinking recently about some of the things that would be possible in an independent Wales, and one of them would be to have a national holiday on St David's Day. (I recently found out this was agreed on in the first sitting of the Welsh Assembly after it was convened, and was subsequently rejected by the UK Government.)

However, just having a day off work is fairly meaningless. There are no doubt lots of old traditions that could be revived. But what if we took this opportunity to start new traditions?

I've always liked the story of St David's final words to his followers. As he lay dying he apparently told them to "Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about." This is sometimes summarised as a call to "Be faithful in the little things." 

Because little things matter, whether for good or ill. A smile can lift a person's spirits. A random act of kindness can save a life. A little lie can poison a relationship. A broken promise can break a person.

I would really love to see a day given over to the 'little things'. That could be joining in a community event like a litter-pick, or it could be doing something little that you've been meaning to do for a while. Visiting an elderly relative. Helping your neighbour tidy their garden. Sorting through the wardrobe and taking clothes to a charity shop. Making time for family, friends, and people in your community who often go unthanked for the work they do.

I feel it would be a wonderful statement about the kind of society we want in Wales, if we chose to make the national holiday an opportunity to live out the instruction of our patron saint.