Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

As a child, every Good Friday, my two sisters and I were packed into the family Austin 7, and driven early (about 7 a.m.) to a village called Llandderfel, near Bala in Merionethshire. This is where my Mother grew up. The day was pretty well planned (!). There was the village Eisteddfod, which is still a national treasure in those them parts... There are singing competitions for all ages, ditto poetry recitation. In the evenings, there are similar competitions for the adults, followed by choirs, both men, women and mixed voices. The morning was taken up with "Prelims". This was where the contestants were taken to the Vestry of the local chapel, and made to perform. The best five or six were allowed into the main Eisteddfod in the afternoon. As my sisters Ann, Menai and I had to perform individually, sitting on hard benches for hours was the norm, so there was little time to spend time with my wonderful Grandmother. There was also the duet competition (Ann and Menai) and the Trio (all three of us) I did the soprano bit. I was always in a light blue double-breasted suit (short pants), and gray knee-high socks (not white). I sang my little heart out, and one year, about 1951, I won first prize for singing, and got 4/6d. This to me was the equivalent of a gazillion dollars today, but was actually 23 pence in new money (45 cents). But imagine what you could buy with that kind of money in 1951! I was allowed to go to one of the three village shops, and buy a Crunchie Bar, and a bag of Crisps with blue paper-wrapped salt inside. Of course, I had to present my Ration Book. But I still had four shillings left. Saved some of it all summer. I nearly always came away with money after the Eisteddfod, so I’m glad I learnt to sing. People don’t appreciate me doing that today, but their loss.

I'd love to have been there again today. Menai was the music adjudicator there a few years back, but never bothered to tell me. My parents would have been so proud! All my cousins, Aunts and Uncles, were there at these events, and Auntie Nell (my Mother's sister) kept us well fed. Nain (Grandmother) lived with her in the village. Today the amount of cooking would have been a major feat - there was no electrickery in the village. There were about nine of us plus her family of five! The hall where the Eisteddfod was held was lit by gas lamps. Shades of Wild West? Probably! We'd all have to stay until the last competition, which would be about 1 a.m. A good Eisteddfod always lasts until at least 1 a.m. If it's before midnight, it was not a success! Then the long drive home. 30 miles. In an Austin7. It took an hour, and we were not allowed to sleep. Mind you, it was always so cold, it was impossible to sleep! We had a traveling rug, but one of my sisters always hogged most of it. Those that know my sisters will be able to guess which one did that. There was no heater. In fact there was only one windshield wiper! The drive was also over the mountains, and fog was always a major problem. Dad had to stick his head out of the window to see where he was going, then his glasses would steam up. We’d eventually get home, and hurry off to bed.

The hope of a lie-in was dashed as my Dad always got up at 7 a.m. Rain or snow. If he was up, everybody was up. And no chance of an afternoon nap either. There were always “manly” things to do. Weeding, chopping firewood and carrying coal to the living rooms. I was always sent to the village to collect the groceries, which my Mam had listed for each store. In those days, we paid our bill at the end of the month when Dad got paid. I don’t remember what my sisters did on those days, but at least they were indoors.

Happy days…. Sometimes.

Here endeth today’s lesson.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Internet Advertising

Apparently global spending on internet advertising increased from $18.7 billion in 2005 to $24.9 billion (£12.6 billion) last year. The UK had nearly double the world average, and radio stations are rightly worried about it. I say rightly, because commercials on radio (and TV for that matter) are devised by idiots and aimed at idiots. That’s why we have mute buttons for TVs, and the channel hopper in the car. (There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.)

I like to read the UK and other European newspapers, and although I don’t mind the advertising, video-streaming is becoming a regal PITA. You just start to read, and up comes this banal movie. Of course, you can close the thing, if you can find the close button, and more recently the sound button! I know the newspapers need the revenue, but they don’t have to make it so offensive and it does distract from the article. The UK’s Telegraph is – in my mind – the worst offender. I even quit sending them £30 ($60) a year for a subscription for the on line Telegraph Crossword. You can check out their website at I’m sure you’ll get the gist.

Now, I know a few brainy people in this world. I almost heard some ears prick up then! It seems that software has been written to (almost) get rid of Pop-Ups. How difficult would it be to write an application to do the same thing with video-streaming? I bet customers would pay a decent price for that. So get your thinking caps on Bright Ones. I will gladly do the sales-work!

Sadly, on reflection, I think that the internet will eventually be the death of the printed newspaper, except perhaps on Sunday. I swear that here in Florida where for $1 you get to buy a newspaper that has involved the destruction of several trees as it is so heavy, and full of advertising and little else. Riding my bicycle each Sunday morning to pick it up is very hazardous on the return journey. The best way is to take a grocery-store plastic bag with you, and insert said ‘forest’ into the bag. Then cycle home. Unfortunately, the chances of grazed knees are increased as the bag will try to stop the front wheel from doing its nominated task. I like to do my bit for the environment. But that’s another story, perhaps for another day.

Here endeth today’s lesson.