Thursday, April 28, 2022

In Porthcawl even the bins are dapper

I spotted this in Porthcawl while on the hunt for Snoopy statues as part of the Dog's Trail created for the Dogs Trust. Someone had lost a hat and a helpful passer-by had put it somewhere noticeable. Mr Bin looks very dapper now!

There will be some photos of the Snoopy statues on a future blogpost. In the meantime, here's a picture of us with the Snoopy statue situated outside the surf shack in Rest Bay. It was a sunny Easter Sunday when we visited this one.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Relegation reflections

This season I watched 25 Barry Town games, including most of their home games in the Cymru Premier and several away matches as well. It hasn't been a great season, compared to a few years ago when I followed them on a European competition to Belfast. On Easter Monday I watched them lose a home game that was deemed a "must win" against Aberystwyth Town. The defeat meant that Barry were left stranded in the relegation zone, although not yet technically relegated. 

Optimism in Aberystwyth in August

The two teams eligible for promotion from the league below had been denied the right level of licence to play in the top league and were appealing against that decision. So, Barry had to wait until Thursday to find out if they had been relegated or had sneaked a reprieve. One of the teams was awarded their licence and relegation was confirmed for Barry.

Relegations are always strange. I've seen a few over the years following Shrewsbury. The signs are there, often quite early on in the season. A sudden heavy defeat against a fairly average team. A game where carbon copy goals are conceded. Struggling to dominate a team lower down in the table. Failing to kill off games and conceding late goals to drop points.

There are other things that add to the sense of inevitability. A regular first teamer leaves the club suddenly - with a rumour on the terraces that there was more to the story. The discipline appears to drift, with yellow cards for dissent becoming more frequent. Players become visibly annoyed with team-mates during games, and shout at each other.

One problem Barry struggled with all year was a general lack of pace, leaving them vulnerable to attacks on the break. As one of the people I sit near said, "We seem most vulnerable when we are attacking a corner." In the Cymru Premier, the second half of the season is ten games against teams that you played against twice already - everyone has a chance to see how everyone else plays, and work out their strengths and weaknesses. The speed deficit was a definite weakness and it got exploited regularly. 

"Beneath the famous arches of the west stand..."

Through it all, though, the support has generally been very positive for the club and the management team. At the final game of the season, which was a 1-0 defeat away at Cefn Druids - the other club relegated from the Cymru Premier - the fans were still singing the manager's name. A Cefn fan told me in the car park that the support was fantastic, considering. 

Although there was a controversial choice of song broadcast over the Jenner Park PA at half-time during the "must win" game against Aberystwyth. With Barry losing 1-0 at the end of the first half, "Down, Down" by Status Quo was played. I was heading into the clubhouse for a cup of tea thinking that it was a bit of an on the nose choice. It turned out other people felt the same and words were exchanged. There were no announcements during the second half.

The night the moon got stuck on the stand

However, it seems most Barry fans commenting on social media are sanguine about relegation. Most of the people I have got to know among the regulars are seasoned football watchers. They saw the possibility of relegation while it was still some way off. Quite a few claim to be looking forward to some different grounds and clubs next year in the 16-team Cymru South league, particularly a full season schedule where you only play each opponent twice! 

I am definitely in that camp. The Cymru Premier is moribund, with its two phases meaning everyone gets sick of the sight of each other. Throw in the possibility of cup meetings and there's a situation like Barry and Cardiff Metropolitan had this season where they played each other six times. 

The Premier is also difficult for away trips. It's a long way to some of the Northern clubs (and they probably feel the same way about the Southern clubs) with horrible roads and poor rail links. I did get to some games in North Wales this year, including Barry's defeat at Flint, but away games will generally be more manageable next season. 

The hope, bordering on expectation, is that Barry will bounce back quickly. They were convincing winners this season in cup competitions against teams from the Cymru South, including putting seven goals past Pontypridd Town, the team that have now taken Barry's place in the Cymru Premier. (Annoyingly, that is one of the few games I missed due to a prior commitment - my typical luck!) But there are a lot of things that need to align for success on the pitch and they will be facing some good teams next year. 

So while it's always disappointing to see the team you support relegated, at least with a different scheduling set-up in the league below it feels like there could be some silver linings. 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Snack of the Month - scary cereal

These are "snack packs" of cereal that Cathy bought for me. Last year, the Snack of the Month in July was American Cereal and there was so much I needed a second post to rate it all. This month there are only three flavors [sic] to talk about so we should be OK for space!

The "Monster Cereals" are Count Chocula, Fankenberry and Booberry. Of the three monsters, Frankenberry looks like he's been on the lash, Chocula has one fang, but Booberry is well dapper with a bright red bow tie. He also looks like Cookie Monster's long-lost cousin.

The Booberry cereal is a faintly blueberryish flavour, an almost purple colour, and in this packet came with just the one 'mallow' piece. In American cereals, the mallow pieces are basically crunchy sugary bits. No UK equivalent comes to mind in terms of sweets. 

The Count Chocula cereal is similarly stingy on the mallow pieces. I think the one piece in this packet is meant to be a bat. The cereal's flavour is vaguely reminiscent of chocolate. The cereal is the same shape as the Booberry cereal rather than particularly vampiric. 

Finally, Frankenberry, and the mother lode of multiple mallow shapes. Maybe Frankenberry was still a bit drunk when he was dishing the mallows out. This cereal is an undefinable "fruit" flavor that could be a berry, I suppose. The bright colour of the cereal wouldn't be allowed in European breakfast cereals aimed at children and reminded me of one of the ghosts out of PacMan.

The packs are quite small as they are made for snacking rather than breakfasting. I haven't tried the cereal with milk yet. Overall, they are a good reminder of how processed American food is, and how divorced these foodstuffs are from anything natural. 

But they taste alright and are a fun alternative snack to have in. 

Monday, April 04, 2022

My mounting Blood Bowl "pile of shame"

My dad used to say that the problem with buying books is that you think you are buying the time to read the book as well! Despite knowing this, he still bought books. (Lots and lots of books!)

I am heading down a similar path with Blood Bowl teams. I recently heard of a website called Pile of Shame, which invites people to list their unbuilt kits and unpainted armies with the aim of 'encouraging' people to get on and build and paint stuff. It's sounds like self-inflicted nagging to me. But maybe I need it.

This is my current inventory...

A few years ago, as a reward for handing in my MSc dissertation, I bought the Blood Bowl starter set - this came with two teams and various equipment bits like measuring rulers. The teams were humans and orcs. I've built both teams aand they are partially painted.

I already had a team of skaven players (skaven are giant man-sized rats), which had been a Christmas present from my friend Bryan. I then bought an ogre player. All the skaven and the ogre are built and painted. 

The ogre was an essential addition because the skaven got heavily stomped on by their opponents in the few games I'd played.

Then in the middle of last year I bought the Blood Bowl Second Season set, which came with loads of stuff. There were two teams that were different to the ones in the other starter set, two 'star players', an ogre and a troll, and two referees. All of this is still unbuilt and unpainted. (The guilt starts!)

Through gifts and trips to the hobby shop, I've acquired a team of lizardmen (pictures here), a team of wood elves, a team of "necromantic horrors" like werewolves and ghouls, and a "treeman" player to bolster the ranks of the wood elves. I've built half of the lizardmen and necromantic horror teams. The rest of them are still sitting there pristine, waiting to be snapped off their sprues and stuck together.

Just after Christmas I impulse bought a Dungeon Bowl set. This is an evolution of the standard Blood Bowl game, set in a dungeon, where first your teams have to find the ball hidden in a treasure chest, and then carry it to the other end of the dungeon to score. The back of the box sort of explains it. 

Again, the starter set comes with two teams and various other bits, like the treasure chests, to build and paint. I haven't made any progress with that at all yet, let alone played the game. 

And the pile of shame keeps growing! For my birthday, just gone, I received a kroxigor figure - this is a super-strong reptilian player to add some bulk to the generally lightweight and pacey lizardmen Blood Bowl team. I was super excited when I opened the present, then felt the twinges of "unbuilt guilt" about the other teams I have that I need to get on and sort. 

I do enjoy building the figures, and painting them in various coloured uniforms. I also enjoy playing the game. Those things take time though, whereas purchasing new additions to the pile of shame is much less time-consuming. The trade off between fun and work is much less. 

And Games Workshop, the company that makes Blood Bowl, keeps on releasing new teams. The most recent team is a "Norse" themed team of players that look like Vikings. This team comes with "Beer Boars" that bring the player much needed revitalising refreshment during the game.


I really don't need any more Blood Bowl teams. But... beer boars! 

I already know I will be buying this team. I just wish I could buy the time to build and paint it.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

March 2022 - end of month review

March was a very busy month. The holiday we went on at the start of the month (blogged about here!) felt like a long time ago by time March ended!

Currently, in our little part of Grangetown, the state of the world is measured by crocheted post box covers. St David's Day was celebrated, as it should be.

Shortly after St David's Day, the dragon was replaced by an expression of solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

In the middle of the month, I went to a football match on the third anniversary of my Dad's death. He would have approved at the randomness - I went with my friend Paul to watch Treharris Athletic Western in the third tier of the Welsh football pyramid. It was a baking hot day. 

I wore my Dad's cap, which was just as well or I would have got sunstroke. In addition to being hot enough to melt football fans, it was the day when Wales lost to Italy in the Six Nations. The result was met with slight disbelief in the small stand we were sitting in. I only found out later that a work colleague, Scott, was also at the game, watching his son who plays for Treharris. We can't work out how we didn't see each other!

The big news of the month is that I told the people I work with that I have been offered a new job. I will be moving to another NHS organisation based just outside Cardiff. I have been up to the offices to meet some of the team I will be working with. 

That also meant that the first post-pandemic "hybrid" meeting arranged for the clinical network I currently manage was my last network meeting. It worked out nicely because I talked to several people from teams around Wales and said a few goodbyes. I am staying in my current role until the end of April and have got a lot of things to sort out!

The final Sunday of March was Mother's Day. I went up to Shrewsbury for the weekend and went to see Shrewsbury play Lincoln City with my mum, my brother, and his two eldest kids. My mum and the two kids are on the Shrewsbury "Wall of Thanks" for all the season ticket holders who let the club keep the credit on their season tickets in the abandoned 2020 season. We had to get a photo with their names.

We were sitting in the Family Stand, and one of the perks of sitting there is that the players will come over and sign autographs and pose for photos before the game. My nephew Zac was thrilled to get a photo with one of his favourite players, striker Daniel Udoh, before the game. 

Daniel went on and scored the winning goal as Shrewsbury notched up a 1-0 victory. It has consolidated their position in the lower mid-table and it looks very likely that they will be staying up this year after being close to the relegation zone earlier in the season. 

It was my third Shrewsbury game of the season, and I don't think I will be getting to another one. My record is pretty good as those three games have been a win and two draws. I can't remember the last season Shrewsbury were unbeaten in the games I attended. On that happy note, roll on April!