Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wales - We're In It Together

What with the recession, the Millennium and that, I've been thinking of branching out into other careers, preferably those of other people.

Two fields that attract me are politics and Evil, so it makes sense that I should consider spin-doctoring.

Being a Welsh, the sole choice for me is to offer my services to Plaid Cymru, which nowadays helpfully subtitles itself The Party of Wales.

There's a Westminster election only a matter of months away, and Plaid needs to raise its media game if it's to consign Labour to the working men's club of history.

And so here's my shooting script for a short party political broadcast on behalf of Plaid. If anyone from Tŷ Gwynfor is reading, feel free to use it. In return I ask only to be made head of ADEC (Adran Diogelwch Cenedlaethol - Department of National Security) come the glorious day.

SCENE: A drizzly valley town, dragons foraging on the slag heaps and facing down feral sheep over moody, male-voice hymnal music. Camera pans along a black and white terraced street to a doorway where a TANGNEFEDDWR ["peacemaker" - cruel but fair Welsh policeman of the Nationalist Future] is clubbing a Labour canvasser who looks vaguely Kinnockian.

[under truncheon crunches] Urgh, arghl, bloody kebabbed mun, totally and utterly...

TANGNEFEDDWR: 'ckin' Sachsengruss, innit!

SCENE: Camera fades into sepia and pans in through window of house opposite as hymn music lightens a little. A pious Welsh family of Father, Mam, teenage son and eight-year-old daughter are settling down to an evening meal of oven-ready chips at an oilcloth dinner table.

Portraits of Saunders Lewis, Cayo Evans and Shaky adorn the dingy walls.

FATHER: Before we eats, let us never forget or forgive the Battle of Morfa Rhuddlan, the Treason of the Blue Books, Hedd Wyn, Wales not qualifying for the World Cup in 1974, and Windsor Davies.


Family tucks into chips, content in their Cambritude.

Then the little girl looks through the window to the scene of the Tangnefeddwr wearily clubbing the yappy Labour lackey.

Slowly, she gets up from the table and heads for the front door.

Family stops eating aghast, and music halts abruptly. Father moves to intercept the girl, but Mam holds him back. They watch petrified as their daughter steps out onto the slick pavement, and crosses the street towards the scene of the walloping.

She extends the slate of chips towards the two men.

The Tangnefeddwr turns, his truncheon raised ready to rain down bludgeoning blows, his face a scree of stubble under a Pinochet ski-slope peaked cap.

The little girl looks him in the eye, and offers him a chip.

The Tangnefeddwr, tears mingling with the sleet in his slate-grey eyes, takes the tiny chip in his great, gauntleted hand, and nibbles it with the delicacy of a Hawarden vicar's wife.

He strokes the little girl's damp hair in thanks, then notices the muttering colonial heap bolshily bleeding on his boots below.

A gradual grin cracks the craggy terrain of his endlessly Welsh face, and he hands the little girl his truncheon.

With a coy smile, she sets about the Kinnockite's sweetbreads under the sheltering gaze of the chip-munching Tangnefeddwr.

VOICEOVER: [Philip Madoc, ideally] Gymry, dewch i rhannu (Welshies, come and share)!

Calon by Injaroc (or Diffiniad, if you must), plays out over fade to Plaid Cymru logo.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ex Oriente Lux

The War Office has decided to boost the popularity of the Army with our pasty-chomping fellow-countrymen by having squaddies march around the streets in uniform, rather than in jeans, crew-cut and Lynx like the rest of us.

Smart move. It worked in Chile, after all.

The generals are worried that our burger-flecked youth does not respect the armed forces, based on the fact that no one turns up for coming-home parades in the web-footed Fens and what have you.

I wouldn't worry. Those people still think we're fighting Boney. Fact is, British youth respects no one unless they've been on Big Brother or some botox-sponsored talent show.

So unless they want to hear something along the lines of:

"Hi, we're the The Royal Dragoon Guards Battlegroup and this is 16 Flight Army Air Corps, but tonight, Matthew, we're going to be Steps!"

The brasshats ought to relax.

The real problem the Army has is that it used to be a handy way of travelling the world, scoring some primo weed in Belize, learning why we fought the Germans twice while trying to get served in a bar in Bielefeld, and picking up a trade, with the only downside being having to sit in a bath of penicillin for a week after a night out in Larnaca. Ulster had calmed down, everything was going nicely.

Then along came Tony Blair and his radical conscience, and ever since our soldiers have been stuck in pebbly countries with atonal folk music, poor bar facilities and a female population most often kitted out in hessian sacks, kalashnikovs and a brace of suspicious brothers. A hard gig to sell even in Newport.

If it's any consolation to the Chiefs of Staff, when in doubt I always turn for inspiration to Ukraine. The Ministry of Defence in Kiev has had to deal with similar problems, with the added disincentive of malnutrition, buggery and being blown up by drunks' using your armoury as a fumoir.

Their response was the following recruitment video:

The message here is simple:

"That fat kid from your village learned to read and got a job with computers and stuff in Cherkasy. Now he's got a car. Big deal! You just join the army, son, and the cast of the Fastiv Amateur Dramatics Society production of Flashdance will do the sort of things to your crank that Yanko's gran got up to with the Germans during the war. And you get to keep the tank every third weekend."

I don't know whether being molested by the female population of Wantage is as attractive a proposition, but it might be worth a try. Alternatively, our aspirant warriors could always join the Ukrainian Army. It beats working in Morrisons.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Won't Get Fooled Again

As a truculent teeny I cast around the world of popular music for a bard to express my angst.

If I'd had access to the John Peel Show everything would have been fine and I'd have worshipped at the shrine of Ian Curtis like the rest of the country, but early bedtimes and the local cult of heavy metal formed a Separation Barrier of snores and drum solos between me and the flat-vowelled introspection that I craved.

Cruellest of all was the mocking spectre of Baron Paul von und zu Bloody McCartney. Like most of Britain's bilious youth I considered him a waste of ears, but then came the Winter of 1977.

I'd had my weekly bath and was sitting in the kitchen while my mother administered the sort of haircut that ensured my only friends were the Play-Doh Twins and a kid with a pen-top wedged up his sinuses. Then the Radio 1 Top Forty presenter announced to a bell-bottomed nation that Sir Paul had gone straight in at Number One.

I slumped at the strummed acoustic guitar opening, thereby losing another half-inch off the temples, and thought "He's not putting out 'Yesterday' again, is he?" Then came the fragile opening line:

"Bollocking Time..."

At last! Macca had shown he was still able to tackle the Zeitgeist and drag it half way down the field with this subtly striking adaptation of the Punk sensibility.

I headed for school the next day with a raffish undone collar, confident that under the leadership of Sir Paul of the Bleedin' McCartneys the kids could never be defeated, Dennis Healey would have to stop putting up sweet prices twice a year, Wales would be independent with Geraint Jarman as president, and everything would be alright.

Disillusion came before the mid-morning break in the form of a tart précis of the actual lyrics of Mull of Kintyre by Huw Fat, followed by an appointment with the ear, nose and throat specialist Dr Barraclough.

Still, it stopped me from ever buying a Wings record, something that I ought to have pointed out in my defence during the Genesis trial by ordeal.

Some years later, when I woke up to the news that John Lennon had been shot, I couldn't help but wonder whether he too had misheard the song coming through the short-wave World Service whine in his New York apartment.

"Arh fokh," he said to Yoko as she paused from stencilling the Baader Meinhof logo on his arse, "Paul's gone an nikhed me werkin' class cred again! I'll have to so summut really radikhal, or else the kids'll think I juss write falsetto crap about you all the time, love."

Now I'm not saying anything ghoulish like Lennon arranged his own death to preserve his reputation as the Huey Long of millionaire socialist songwriters or something, as it seems that was the Jews again. But what if it were true?

As they say in Liverpool, think on.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Anti-Danube: Chapter VIII

In which I learn not to rely on geography

"Frda's dense breasts rang out the carillon of the desecrated church of St Hydrofoilj above my burnished helmet. I had another hour before my lone raid on the nest of intentionalist vipers, where I would use only stealth, nakedness and a small armoury to smite the enemies of objective progress. Could the very fibres of Frda's basted body hold out that long, or would I have to return to her two sisters?..."

I set down the pen, my mind harrowed from producing ideologically-attuned erotica for NAKRO agents on night watch. This was my evening of voluntary labour after days spent on the basic induction course "Getting To Know And Kill The Imperialists", run by Agents Tschtjetz and Kafka.

I was warming to Kafka, an altogether more predictable and marginally less malodorous character than his mercurial, mullet-musky colleague.

Kafka's parents had realized from an early age that the security services were a reliable channel of advancement for slovenly yet meaty plebeians in a Socialist society, and did everything they could to ease their son into the ranks of NAKRO - which amounted to naming him "Agent" and writing denunciations of their neighbours in his childish hand.

It worked, and Agent Agent Kafka was recruited into the NAKRO "Young Vultures" (Mladi Gaijyi) division at the age of 15. He excelled at once, his first act being to denounce his parents' act of naming him as "Anticipating the Path of the Party and People" under Section 567/Y(xiv) of Paragraph 678 of the Criminal Code ("On Unsanctioned Enthusiasm").

He was commended by none other than Minister of State Security Jajcabiy himself in a marginal note on his annual report, which praised the lad's concern for his parents' ideological well-being - a note that Kafka thoughtfully passed on to his mother and, posthumously, his father at Corrective Uranium-Packing Plant No.4 in the Name of Fisk.

Kafka's company was edgy but, unlike that of Tschtjetz, did not present any immediate physical danger. An empurpled, hairless head erupted from the chapped collar of his uniform, and was barely restrained from entering a resentment-fuelled low orbit by his mottled peaked cap. Conversation was something Kafka kept to a minimum. In between draughts of slyvovytz he would grunt accounts of retribution against individuals real and imaginary who had slighted him, all concluding with a triumphant snort of "Kafka focked him!".

Sometimes, I gathered, this was literally true.

Agent Kafka's contribution to the induction was a module on "Active Witnessing of Interrogations", which consisted of his playing a gramophone recording of The Internationale while crushing a pair of ripe tomatoes between his thumbs.

As a citizen of Socialist, Democratic and Popular Ruthenia I was more interested in where he had found the tomatoes, but rated his classes as overall more agreeable that Tschtjetz's practical course on sewer surveillance and "The Coat Hangar: Tool of the Trade and Occasional Comfort".

In a quiet moment after he'd sent the rest of the class to the infirmary to practice their techniques, Kafka took me aside and explained the story of the missing mountain.

"Naxajlo is like fox, but fox with mind of dog," he explained. "Source says after much bucket treatment that Naxajlo will announce loss of Mount Dohrudj at cultural event here in Zhakhiv this week via his agents, on whom we spit from afar. Aim - destroy proletarian faith in government ability to control geography. Is lie. Lower than Naxajlo is only crawling slee-worm."

I could tell Agent Kafka took the sensational disappearance of our iconic mountain personally, as his accent and disdain for verbs and articles marked him out as either an Alpine Ruthenian or a simpleton.

I too was pained. How could any patriot not be? I recalled the words of our national poet, Nikolas Blinko, in our national poem "We Are Ruthenians, Please Leave Us Alone":

"Dohrudj! Twin-breasted Amazon,
Rearing twice above our shadowed plains.
Dohrudj! Goddess, huntress and defender
Of our lesser, but also divine, mountains..."

I blinked back tears. "How can a subjective comprador emigrant hijack an entire mountain?"

"Where was our People's Popular Defensive Attack Force? Where were our brave Internal Retentive Border Coordination Guards? Where is our mountain? These are the near-treasonable thoughts passing through your still-attached head, Comrade Zhatko. Please let them, and it, remain there."

Colonel Nadroth had entered the classroom through a panel concealed behind a poster of the So-Called Hungarian Menace. He lit a cheroot from the blowtorch Kafka was still dangling from his belt, and continued:

"Naxajlo may be able to ease favours from the yielding flesh of nomenklatura beldames, but he played no part in the disappearance of Mount Dohrudj. That, I'm almost proud to say, was an unintended by-product of the Soviet-Ruthenian Defensive Manoeuvre Pact of 1978.

"Comrade First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Democratic and (United) Socialist Party of Ruthenia, Kostyatyn Novak, had decided to grant our eastern Slav brothers a weapons-testing facility on the slopes of Mount Dohrudj. Some infelicities of translation led the Soviet Army to read this as 'weapons-testing facility Mount Dohrudj', which they rapidly reduced to rubble through dry-runs of the planned peaceful saturation bombing of the Ruhr Valley."

"From Dohrudj to No-hrudj," grunted Kafka, who had clearly waited a decade to make that crack.

"Thank you, Agent Kafka, you may continue the narrative," Nadroth gracefully acknowledged Kafka's bon mot.

"No all bad. First, rubble used to build NAKRO children camp, large crater make good ducking pool. Second, uncover much uranium, so open new Corrective Uranium-Packing Plant No.5 in Name of Dejevsky. Clear mountain air benefit Kafka's mother. Third, much improved views across plain to assess Hungarian Menace," Kafka continued, adding "We fock them!" in case I doubted the efficacy of Ruthenian military planning.

"But what about the Questing Marmot youth hikes in the Dohrudj foothills, the Central Committee mountain-top resort where foreign dignitaries are entertained, the mountain itself, looming majestically over the slack rooftops of Yützhrad?" I asked.

"To take your points in order," responded Nadroth, "Our inquisitive Socialist youthlings are transported at night to sororial Romania, where they wander the Carpathians in the company of horincă-dispensing Gypsy girls and are happy to keep their doubts to themselves.

"The mountain-top resort is in southern Poland, where our leaders forewarn themselves of the latest compromises our quadrant-hatted near-neighbours are making with the despised world of commerce. It also ensures foreign dignitaries have a positive impression of our Socialist society, as we have disaggregated hospitality to the Poles under a Comecon agreement. In return we repair their wristwatches."

"Lech potatoheads!"
snorted Kafka "We fock them!"

"Thank you, Kafka. And finally, the outcrop glowering over scenic Yützhrad is Mount Dohlav, the identity of which was kept secret for decades by being hidden behind Mount Dohrudj. It was the prewar alpine playground of King Oleg the Invert, and widely shunned by the local peasantry for that reason. The People's Defensive Artillery carried out some basic reshaping of the summit, and a strategic adjustment to spectacle prescriptions by the local Health Board ensured that none of the berry-chewing moujiks is any the wiser,"
concluded the Colonel with a friendly tap of his cigar in my gaping mouth.

"Any of them go walk and talk about it, we leave them overnight in Szekler village and send pictures to family," added Kafka blandly.

"I am of course impressed and humbled by the ingenuity and compassion of the people's representatives in this, and all other, endeavours to protect the workers, peasants and progressive toilers by brain and hand from the consequences of their actions, but what role am I, a simple philosopher, to play in this?" I asked, sensing that I was not being admitted to the sanctum of state secrecy out of some brandy-based communal candour.

"Comrade Zhatko!" Nadroth rapped out his response with a crisp tattoo with his crop on my crotch. "First, you will infiltrate the event at which Naxajlo's creatures are to make their treacherous announcement, and second you will identify the translator whose error led to the destruction of our only peasant-free mountain.

he added, "if that translator turns out to be yourself!"

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Deny the Venizelote Revanchistes!

A Cymru Rouge press release:

The BBC recently started calling Macedonia Macedonia. It had hitherto dubbed it the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which sounds like the sort of thing Prince changes his name to. So the United Nations liked it: big deal, they like all sorts of junk. The BBC done right.

The Cymru Rouge keeps a close eye on BBC activities - the eye in question being that of Iago Anffawd (fab Sieffre Siomedig fab Gwil Goll), which has had a protrudent, stalk-like adaptability ever since he test-dived with the Welsh Socialist Navy's first experimental submarine coracle.

He regularly reports back to the Sedd Fawr of the Rouge on metropolitan outrages against Cambritude, such as Glenys Bloody Kinnock appearances and weathergirls standing in front of Aberystwyth on the map and mispronouncing it.

He has recently noted soul-searching among BBC staff over this Macedonian policy. Not the sort of soul-searching carried out by Mrs Boyo's father in his Vinnytsya oubliette, which involved attaching electric cables to deacons at prayer, but a bout of self-criticism about the wisdom of this choice.

This uncertainty was prompted by the quantity of complaints they've received from Greek opponents of the name change - patriots with a burning commitment to their ancestral land, even though circumstances seem to prevent them from actually living in it at the moment.

We web bloggers do not fear complaints about our work - we call them "comments", and post them on our sites. The Cymru Rouge urges the BBC to stand firm, like the Oak of Nannau, in the face of Attic barracking.

For our narrow nationalist readers and admirers of the work of Lily Allen, who may both be unaware of the Macedonian Question, the Cymru Rouge Grudge Assessment Unit has prepared the following background briefing:

The warrior and statesman Sir Winston Churchill always drew a distinction between "Greeks" - the Ancients who brought us philosophy, wine and recreational sport, and saved us from Persian savagery - and "Grecians" - the current inhabitants of that area who have brought us, their neighbours and indeed themselves little but grief, resinous wine and overcooked food in the last 200 years.

One cannot help but think that Aristotle and Demosthenes would have seen fit, as have we and Sir Winston, to draw a similar distinction between whoever might have lived in Macedonia several thousands of years ago, and the people who live there now. Demosthenes, certainly, would have left it up to our contemporaries to decide what they want to call themselves and their country.

Let us take it step by step.

There is a province of Greece called Macedonia, inhabited by Grecians who like to call themselves Greeks, Slavs who like to call themselves Macedonians, and Vlachs who like to call themselves Romanians.

There is also an independent state called Macedonia, inhabited by Slavs who like to call themselves Macedonians and Albanians who, alone in the region, are happy to be called just that. This makes the Albanians the only clear-headed people around. Food for thought.

On the subject of which, there is a fruit salad called Macedonia, made up of a similarly colourful if rather more welcome diversity of elements. Not a coincidence, we imagine.

Now, if the Grecians want to call their province Macedonia, or their country Greece for that matter, it's no one else's business. Our African cousins get by with two separate Congoes, and the same goes for the qat-fuelled decision to enjoy the benefits of two Yemens for a while, and no one really minds.

The same goes for Grecian Macedonia and the Republic of Macedonia. Take our word for it, no one really minds.

A phrase we recall from our hemp-clad, slogan-chanting childhood is "The Greeks have a word for it". In the case of the Epirote revanchistes, we suspect that word might be "hubris".

To employ a good Greek word, Adio.

Fear not, BBC, the Cymru Rouge is behind you!

Brawd Rhif Un - Huw Samphan
Brawd Rhif Dau - Paul Pot
Braws Rhif Tri - Moc Tudor

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cyfres Y Ceirw III: Shakin' Stevens

Shaky is, of course, the greatest living Welsh after Tom Jones, Howards Marks and Charlotte Church. So why does he need extra exposure by here? Surely his body of work speaks for itself?

Indeed, but I come to praise not Shaky the Rock Colossus, for he belongs to the world, but Shaky the socialist politician and Welsh patriot.

As is often the case with great Welsh radicals, today's Shaky grew from unexpected roots.

Born Étienne Tremblant in the fabled Dynevor Tower of Oystermouth Castle in 1948, Shaky was the scion of one of Wales's oldest and most rapacious Norman families. His father, Sir Rollo Tremblant Bt, handed him over to a cabal of reves, makars and soused nursemaids, who instructed him in the ways of robber-barony in the back lanes and bedchambers of Gower.

A lifetime of sybaritic cruelty, ruffled shirts and bastardy awaited young Étienne until a fateful trip to the bordellos of Hamburg in 1967 organised by his private tutor - the unlicensed apothecary, Katangan consul and author of "Achmed, un fils du Rif", Conrad Latto.

As the two rode down the midnight Reeperbahn in a carriage drawn by a pair of Moroccan pony-boys, Étienne leafed through a copy of Adorno's "Minima Moralia" that he'd picked up in an alternative bookshop in the reasonable expectation that it was a Renaissance guide to mauve depravity.

As he told Michael Heatley, "[Adorno's] fragmentary aphorisms seemed to fuse together as I read them, forming a golden bar of philosophical bullion. The way forward was now clear to me. I told Conrad to rein in Mohand and Abdenour, dismounted, shook his hand for the last time, and strode into the dialectic as confidently as my silken hosiery permitted." ("Shaky: The Biography of Shakin' Stevens", Michael O'Mara Books, 2005, p38)

Étienne used his inheritance and shallow reading in the crepuscular classics of European and Near Eastern literatures to surf the spume of the German radical left, which began battering the bollards of bourgeois West Germany the following year.

But he soon grew disillusioned with the Marcusean posturings of the 68er-Bewegung, clearly foreseeing the rise of its violent, anarchic undercurrent to the surface in the form of the Baader-Meinhof Group (see his pamphlet "The One-Dimensional Movement: The Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund and a Superstructure of Gewalt", Spartakusverlag, Hamburg, 1968).

Many were unable to forgive him this incisive criticism, especially after the attempt on the life of SDS leader Rudi Dutschke, and Tremblant decided to return to Wales.

It was while toying with the radio in the family Bentley as he crossed the Heads of the Valleys that Étienne found himself switching rapidly between a recording of Aneurin Bevan and a track by a young rockabilly outfit called The Sunsets from Penarth. A second epiphany followed. "How to bring the tropes of Critical Theory to the working classes in Wales? For 'we are a musical nation' are we not? I had the car turn left - where else? - and we raced down the Rhondda towards the The Sunsets, towards the sea." (Heatley, p97).

It took a little time and a lot of money for Étienne to persuade The Sunsets to let him take lead vocals and songwriting duties, but it soon paid off in a string of consciousness-raising gigs.

The hits - "Sweet Little Rock & Roller" (1972 - dedicated to Leila Khaled), "Honey Honey" (1973 - a critical anthem mocking the statist posturings of the new East German Communist leader Erich Honecker), and "Jungle Rock" (1976 - in memory of Patrice Lumumba) - kept the band going while not compromising its revolutionary integrity.

After an uncertain start, Tremblant heeded the band's advice and agreed to change his name to something both more rock and yet more roll. In an early intimation of his interest in Welsh culture, Étienne opted for the name Steffan Y Crynwr, but the possible translation as "Stephen the Quaker" brought in too many earnestly silent men in cardigans and plain, plain women to make the joints jump. And so he bowed to cultural hegemony, and adopted another English version of his stage name. Thus was born Shakin' Stevens.

Shaky went solo in 1977, but the bond of solidarity he'd already forged with the workers, peasants and progressive studentry of Wales kept him in touch politically during the good times - and supported him in the locust years of the 1980s.

For Shaky's work was subject to a near-total and utter broadcasting boycott throughout the grim decade of Thatcherism following his alleged assault on Richard Madeley during an episode of "Calendar Goes Pop" in 1980. It was simply a Happening that Shaky had staged to illustrate a point he'd been trying to make about Debord's "Society of the Spectacle" to Francis Rossi out of Status Quo, but the coarsened social sensibility of the time was unable to grasp that.

Richard and Judy are the closest thing the English have to royalty, even though it was years before they'd met, and Shaky stood no chance. The only records of his that Radio One would play were either covers or songs with lyrics of such Æsopian subtlety that the BBC censors could not catch their thread of subversion. "I felt like I could look Vysotsky, Victor Jara and Wolf Biermann in the eye at last," Shaky recalled ruefully of those tense times (Heatley p178).

Highlights of the "Decade of Resistance", as Shaky called it, were "Shooting Gallery" (1980 - a chill warning of the advent of President Reagan), "This Ole House" (1981 - which pilloried the impotence of the House of Commons in the face of Thatcherism), "Oh Julie" (1982 - a bold doo-wop treatment of the semiotics of Julia Kristeva), and "A Rockin' Good Way" (1984, with miners' activist Bonnie Tyler, and dedicated to Woody Guthrie), culminating in the coruscating slab of anti-Eurocommunism that was 1990s "Pink Champagne".

Indeed, Shaky had been increasingly unhappy with the reformism taking root in the leadership of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and 1981's "Green Door" was a clear overture to Plaid Cymru's socialist wing under Dafydd Elis Thomas to form a broad Welsh left alliance.

An explicit invitation to Plaid would have cost Shaky his candidate Politburo membership, of course, and it is only to be regretted that Elis Thomas was unable (or unwilling?) to break free of Plaid's Gwynforite ascendancy. Shaky has written wistfully of what might have been in "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Dafydd Wigley", a pamphlet that the Arts Council of Wales repeatedly refuses to print.

The bureaucratic establishment of the Welsh Assembly has long since cast the pall of osmosis over Elis Thomas and other erstwhile radicals, and the irony is that Shaky's political legacy is more widely recognised at home than abroad.

His record sales in Denmark are an indictment of us all, and it has been left to the Northern chronicler of proletarian culture, Peter Kay, to pay Shaky tribute by making him the only star to make two separate appearances in his homage to the Mexican Revolution, "(Is This The Way to) Amarillo":

As Tom Jones gradually reduces his public commitments and Owain Glyndwr persistently declines to heed the call, the stage may yet still be set for Shaky to take his rightful place as First President of the Welsh Republic. The question is, are we Welsh enough to deserve him?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Back in the Jug

The vodka and pickles are beginning to clear, and I see Mrs Boyo's careful and, I must say, slightly over-tight packing has brought me safely home from Ukraine to a Britain apparently zombified by the sort of flu once administered to Comrade Zhatko.

I'm therefore lying low on night shifts until the plague has passed, and shall share my dank thoughts shortly.

Ukraine's chief exports are steel, missiles, radiation and preedy gorls, so it's fitting that its premiership ought once more to be occupied by Madame Yuliya Tymoshenko - a lady who combines all the best qualities of those commodities.

Our own lady politicians have not been faring so well - Harriet Harman's facing questions over her deputy leadership campaign, Lady Thatcher is slowly turning into a giant moth, Glenys Bloody Kinnock still hasn't emigrated to Cuba, and Theresa May's secretary must be useless as she never replies to my illustrated letters.

They all need a lesson in campaigning from Madame Tymoshenko, and this Ukrainian folk group shows them how it's done with their song "Yuliya". Take it away, ladies: