Monthly Archives: May 2011

Diary of a Glamorgan Fan (Aged 25 1/2) #7

Rain and Swan

Insert your own Graeme Swann joke

7 is, as you have probably noticed, the number of this instalment. It didn’t occur to me when I came to muse on the last… ELEVEN DAYS?! How tardy. Yet that isn’t why this reminisci-rant being brought to you by the figure 7. It is, rather, the number of overs before the end of play that I left the Test match.

This was Saturday, I should point out. Not Monday. I’m not so foolish as to leave when Sri Lanka were on the verge of an epic collapse and one that would grant a disbelieving home “crowd” the sight of an England win. However, I am certainly feeling foolish for rushing to buy my tickets six months ago.

Having forgone the opportunity to see Stevenage win promotion to League One at Old Trafford, a morning spent underneath the SWALEC’s grandstand wasn’t exactly an effective use of my time – there’s only so much you can do with a 4/6 card. And I couldn’t lay my hands on an npower hand. But I did get a flag. Hmm.

Better people than me (i.e. Michael Atherton) have since suggested that perhaps drizzle needn’t cause play to be postponed, so no point indulging in that further. But after the action commenced, the wicket of James Anderson was all that was offered before Alistair Cook and Jonathan Trott completed their centuries.

Leaving early was no real matter of debate. The Champions League final was on the horizon. And there was a space in Dempsey’s waiting. That choice then took me on a collision path with The Two Chucks. I’m not sure if my theory on where ‘lamb shank’ originated was requested, but I offered it anyway. They took it.

That all said (I am a frightful cynic on occasion), I hope that when Cardiff stages its next Test match, the ECB have the good grace to award a June/July fixture. I can vouch for the ‘Diff’s weather at that time of year. And getting to South Wales from London costs me less than a ticket from Stevenage to London. British Rail.

And what of the mighty Glamorgan Dragons. Well, it took them half a century to win at Lord’s. Now they have two in two seasons. It was a crushing one too. Nine wickets, with Gareth Rees failing to stick around in the game’s death throes. But the damage was done in the first innings as Middlesex wilted to 150 all out.

James Harris was a driving force, trapping the England captain in front and with a delivery that screamed “PICK ME, PICK ME, PICK ME (in future, at least)”. In response, Ben Wright’s ton anchored a mahoooooosive 522. The hosts rallied on their second outing, but left Glamorgan only needing 20-odd.

Moving across London to the Kia Picanto, another full haul of batting points saw the Dragons pile on 419 – Alviro Petersen bagging a double hundred and Michael Powell left agonisingly short on 99 after he chopped on to Jordan. The hosts saw off the threat of a follow-on, but were still eventually bundled out for 284.

Rain interrupted proceedings somewhat, but not enough to prevent Gareth Rees getting in on the century action in the 259-4 that the Dragons declared on to try and force a result. It wasn’t forthcoming though. Surrey’s openers put on 150 and made it through to the close of play with the loss of just one wicket. Momentum.

Momentum indeed. It appears to have turned on Glamorgan. Northamptonshire were unfazed in their first innings of the third LVCC2 match of the last couple of weeks. Injuries are piling up and the Dragons current three-man pace attack are all of ’88 vintage – one year before Robert Croft made his first class debut.

That’s no excuse for today’s implosion though. What’s 28 short of 100? A dismal failure. The steady hands of Jim Allenby were most definitely missing today as a Glamorgan batsman came, saw, got out. Ten times. Some things you can rely on – the Dragons are always capable of a collapse; Cardiff is always capable of rain…

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The Holloways – ‘Boys Crammed In The Back’

In June 2007, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to The Holloways in my capacity as music editor at the Swansea Uni student rag. As the band now prepares to say its final goodbyes on 23 May at the Relentless Garage, it’s time to publish a feature that has waited long enough to see the light of day.

“Who leaves a mint Aero in the glovebox on a summer tour?!” Alfie Jackson may have the intent, but the inquisition lacks the penetration to draw any confessions from his bandmates in the back of The Holloways’ tour bus. In fact, the lament falls on deaf ears, but he has got a point – it is a pretty warm June day.

North London’s finest arrive in Swansea as part of a 2007 seaside tour. Sin City is not exactly frantic with activity in preparation, but they are setting up inside. But ‘they’ do not include Bryn Fowler (bass) and Dave Danger (drums). They’re outside in the tour bus after agreeing to chat to Front. Did I say it was warm?

Swansea comes after Bournemouth, Morecambe and Whitehaven; it’ll precede Penzance, Southend and Cleethorpes. A whistle-stop, week-long tour of seaside resorts and one that Bryn says was a conscious decision:  “It was something we thought of from the very first week of being in a band!”

” You go to Manchester, Birmingham… these places over and over again, and it  gets boring,” adds Dave “We get to go to towns we don’t usually go to. We went to Whitehaven yesterday (3 June), which is basically nearly Scotland. It was a fucking amazing gig.” Swansea has met an unlikely challenger from up north.

Swansea is yet to make much of an impression on The Holloways. Lateness and the need to do some shopping have prevented them from taking in the sights of the city. ” We weren’t actually sure if you had a beach,” Dave admits in the most diplomatic way possible. Even I’m not sure if it’s a beach, or a flooded mud flat.

It’s not yet been a year since the band released the debut album So This Is Great Britain? – a title that Dave points out is not a statement, but a question. ” If you listen to the album I don’t think we say it’s that bad. The whole album is a question.” The question being ‘Is the UK a ‘stinking ship that’s full of shit…?’

Bryn continues: “Is this Great Britain? Because it shouldn’t be, and if you think it is, you need to change it. If you listen to it, these are the things that people think Great Britain is. Is it these, or is it the Generator, Two Left Feet side of things – everyone’s out to have a good time. Why do we sit there and moan?”

There are certainly points in which the lyrical observations cut quite close to the bone of the British psyche, but Bryn says there is no political motivation here. In a similar vein to that of the Arctic Monkeys, it is the observations and quirks of UK life that provide inspiration for lyricists Alfie and Rob [Skipper].

“Alfie and Rob write the songs and I think that Alfie observes what’s going on around him,” reveals Dave. “Not in that he knows any better than anyone else; he’s just saying what’s happening. He questions your views on everything.”

“We all know what’s happening, but the album’s much more about everything as a whole, looking at it as an overview, and not saying it’d be better if ‘this’ was like ‘this’,” continues Bryn.

No-one is immune from a melodic lampooning. Osama Bin Laden may well still be the world’s Most Wanted Man, but that hasn’t stopped Alfie using his name as a convenient rhyme for an erection. The War on Terror has taken a humorous turn six years on. Well, it’s enough to keep this budding hack amused anyway.

” If we don’t like a line, we’ll say that one’s a bit corny,” says Dave. “We chuck in our lyrics here and there, but they write 95 per cent and we help make it into a Holloways song. And that Bin Laden/hard on rhyming – that was a joke. Alf was just singing and we were ‘let’s make it into a song.’

“That’s a pretty good one. Maybe we should play the album around Afghanistan and see if he comes out. ‘Don’t rhyme my name with hard-on!’ Grab him now!”

Even if their contribution to the battle fails to produce, the band are happy with how their debut album went down with the buying public. And it’s now about to be pushed back into the consciousness: “We’re gearing up for a re-launch of it because Generator’s getting a lot of Radio One play,” says Bryn.

” Now the radio are actually supporting the song, it means that the music’s getting out there to more people. We’ve been around for two and a half years now, and there are still kids who haven’t heard of us – you think that’s a bit weird; how can you never have heard of us? It’s finally getting through.”

Generator is to hit the shelves for a second time on 11 June, and Dave hopes there will be a bounce in support: “We’re hoping the song is a hit because that means the next release will be instantly supported. Radio One like to think if they put it on the playlist and it’s a big hit, then it’s next to our name.”

Both Generator and Two Left Feet are going to have had two releases as singles, but there are plans for another, different release from the album after the latter. And there is plenty of variety that will capture The Holloways’ style. Dave admits that Re-invent Myself is a label favourite, but Bryn reveals other ideas.

” We’re thinking of a different one, something like Malcontented One or Most Lonely Face [no mention of Diamonds and Pearls makes for a sad hack] – a slower one, break it down on a ballad. But we’ve got to go to Japan over the summer. The album was out there in March and going really well.”

Meanwhile, any thoughts of a second album are on the back burner at present. The US is beckoning, in more ways than one. Dave says: ” After September, the album’s coming out in the States so we have to give that some time.

“We signed a six-album deal. Per album, it has to be renegotiated. It’s the most boring shit and it goes to their lawyers. Because we signed to an American label [TVT], they deal in US law and we deal in UK law, so it takes a long time. We’ll probably do a second album – we’re thinking start of 2008, coming out March.”

With that to look forward to, we hope, The Holloways look as if they will spend some time before that becoming more acquainted with their fanbase. “I joined Facebook today, because I’m getting some emails from India,” exclaims Dave. The social media revolution has touched base with these guys…

Bryn is less upbeat about it all: “I got made to be a member in January by a girl because she didn’t like MySpace. I went through a time of doing all the things for the band. I did Facebook because people needed a contact for the band on that. Bebo’s another one as well.”

Without wanting to name check the Arctic Monkeys again, social media sites are becoming a useful tool in helping bands spread the word. The Holloways are no different: “It’s such a useful tool for bands though, MySpace, to let the kids know about last-minute gigs and new songs,” says Dave.

Bryn goes on to explain how reaching out with Myspace (and keeping the design simple) has enabled the band to reel in fans from all over the world. “Bolivia!” is apparently one of the outposts of Holloways fandom. I can’t vouch for that, I’ve never been. So for now, we’ll take their word for it.

As the band wins the battle for hearts and minds across the world, the roots of The Holloways are – as the name suggests – entrenched on the Holloway Road in North London. Mecca for The Holloways is Nambucca, a pub and the location where it all began in October 2004.

Dave takes up the story: ” Me and our manager Jay ran a promotions company. We found a pub in North London – the Nambucca, a big empty pub. We built it into the indie mecca that it is today. Bryn did a couple of shifts there.”

The tale doesn’t come without some correction from Bryn, at pains to point out: ” I did the donkey work for them for six months whilst they flounced about. I stage managed every night.”

Not exactly a can of worms, but this appears to be a contentious recollection on both sides. Dave replies: ” I don’t know where he’s getting all this! Bryn did the sound. But basically we run this pub.”

And with that, Bryn seems to be in agreement. There are no more objections, as Dave continues with the tale: ” We used to do a night called Sensible Sundays which was an open-mic thing. This girl who worked at the bar was going out with Alfie. Alfie met Bryn, Bryn came along to the pub.

“Rob would come down with a friend because he’d heard about the night. It came from us all drinking in the same pub, watching each other play on the stage. We realised we could form a band together. It was a very easy thing.”

The development of the band from that point has been an organic one, by Dave’s own admission. There were no specific influences, as Bryn says: ” We didn’t even know if we liked the same music. We assumed we did because we all drank in the pub that played the same sort of music.”

From there, it has snowballed into the success that The Holloways are currently enjoying. ” It wasn’t until record labels were coming to the stage that we thought this could be quite serious. We got an agent, got a press company, and this was real,” recalls Dave. Now, this summer, they’re playing Glastonbury.

Using Swansea to warm-up for one of the world’s most iconic festivals is not an entirely tried-and-tested approach, but the guys are here and enthusiastic. That bodes well for tonight’s gig… and the preparations appear to be complete inside. They must be, because Rob is striding towards us playing the guitar.

“Shut up,” is the welcome from Dave. “We’re doing an interview.” Bryn is just as grateful for the musical interlude. There is a cheeky innocence about Rob – “Oh right.” Hmm, perhaps not. But he does get the honour of the last question, one that brings Front’s time with The Holloways to a close. For now.

“How you doing, Rob?”

“Alright,” he smiles. Bemused. But he’s alright. And we can all leave the tour bus.

Diary of a Glamorgan Fan (Aged 25 1/2) #6

Open Top Bus Cardff

Three wins on the trot is reason enoughfor a Glamorgan open top bus ride

40 overs. It’s a format of the game that Glammy have become strangely good at in the past two weeks. And when I say good, I mean alright. After all, it’s foolish to get carried away by wins over Gloucestershire and Lancashire. And let’s throw in the abandoned game with Essex for good measure.

Now third in the Group C table, it’s a position that only Blue can empathise with after shooting to the top of the Eurovision pile after Bulgaria awarded DOOOZE POINTS in the second round of voting. More importantly, the Unicorns have to do some to show up the Dragons this season. Don’t rule it out yet. Counting chickens and all that.

In between the gladiatorial triumphs against Essex and Gloucestershire, matters in the County Championship took precedence. And the Dragons are… third. This is consistency on a level that no-one anticipated. It follows the crushing defeat of a Kent team who haven’t managed a win since 1968. Tough times for Rob Key.

In downing the Spitfires (geddit?), Glamorgan racked up the first maximum haul of batting points since the halcyon days about this time last year when there were two back-to-back innings successes. Nothing breeds satisfaction quite like a huge innings victory. Even if Kent got within eight runs of forcing a 4th innings.

So, who were the stand out players alongside Jim Allenby in the past few games? Well, Gareth Rees anchored the win against Gloucestershire with an unbeaten 50 and Dean Cosker was the main protagonist in bundling them out for after James Harris bowled nice and tightly at the top of the innings.

For Gloucestershire, there is consolation in that they wouldn’t have had to pay to get over the bridge on their way home. It will have saved them from having to get their tails out from between their legs. I heard that Kent are still scarred from the bashing that Harris and Mark Wallace gave ’em mind.

Next up it is an extended stay in London. Someone better tell the lads that Buck House is orf the schedule as Queenie has gone overseas. But what is important is coming away from Lord’s and the Oval with wins in the LVCC and the CB40. And if Jim Allenby could put Gareth ‘Henning’ Berg in his place, t’would be good…

Diary of a Glamorgan Fan (Aged 25 1/2) #5

David Harrison v Middlesex

John Simpson,
BBC News,
Back in the hutch.

30.62 – It has been a pretty good weekend for the Dragons, on the pitch at least. But the first-class bowling average of David Harrison will remain recorded as the figures appear now. Regretfully, the right arm quick from Newport said that a hip injury had forced the curtain down on his professional career.

Still on the right side of 30 years old, Harrison – or Desmond as Cricinfo informs me he is sometimes known – has notched more than 250 scalps in 102 first class games, with a best of 7-45 against Worcestershire last year. He falls two short of 100 List A wickets (98 at 30.26). To complete the set of statistics, Twenty20 – 21 at 33.66.

I’m sure there are plenty of batsmen in Division Two that will be breathing easier knowing that a 6ft 4 South Walian won’t be powering in from the River Taff End. And it is equally disappointing that Glamorgan no longer have such a weapon in their attack. But perhaps this weekend saw a glimpse of the Dragons’ pace future.

Harrison will remain at the SWALEC in a coaching capacity, which will see his 13 seasons of county – and England A – experience passed on to the new generation of Welsh quicks. And one man at the front of the queue right now is Will Owen, a great performance at Old Trafford versus Lancashire most recently behind him.

A week ago, Owen was subjected to a slight hammering down at Taunton. Slight, in the sense that his two overs went for 40 runs. But he came back in Manchester with 3-24 in six overs to stifle Lancashire’s rain-affected chase. He’s only 22 and so becomes the latest in a LONG LINE of those younger and better than me…

The win at Old Trafford was cemented with a dominant ton from Gareth Rees, a man coming into form nicely right about now across both four-day and one-day formats. Alviro Petersen looks as if he’s also coming to the boil too, with 88 in an abandoned game against Essex before a 44 at Old Trafford.

All of this is, naturally, underpinned by the return of Jim Allenby. Let’s ignore an understated contribution with the bat (although a brisk 30 off 39 at Lancashire is hardly poor), but Allenby certainly helped Owen to keep the hosts in check with a return of 2-26 off 6.1. In Jim We Trust.

Both Allenby and Owen are in the squad for the County Championship match-up with Kent at the SWALEC, which is followed by a Clydesdale 40 game against the Gloucestershire Gladiators in Cardiff on 15 May. Such convenient scheduling – it surely resulted in instant dismissal for someone at ECB Towers.

Diary of a Glamorgan Fan (Aged 25 1/2) #4

Royal Wedding

And there's the declaration...

10 – I think you’ll agree that welcoming a defeat with relief and a sordid sense of joy is somewhat unusual, but if you consider that a 10-run defeat to Somerset in the Clydesdale Bank 40 is 25 times better than the outcome of last year’s match, you might just see where I’m coming from. Yes. Literally 25 times better.

Had the rain not arrived, however, I dread to think what the damage could have been inflicted on the Dragons. Somerset were trundling along nicely at 200-odd for the loss of just two men. With 10 overs left. A score of more than 300 looked ominously likely. It doesn’t do me well to think about how much more than…

But you can only chase what Vera Duckworth and our Lewis put before you, and it was nearly a successful chase; Wright, Allenby and Rees the main protagonists in getting the Dragons to within 10 runs of the 196 needed in 19 overs. But it still leaves Glamorgan win-less in the CB40 so far this year.

And it came after Ravi Bopara and Matt Walker defied the prospects to guide the hosts Essex to a six-wicket win in the latest County Championship game. Having assumed that the win was a likely outcome for the Dragons, I watched the bloody wedding and went on holiday. If you want something doing…

It’s not the worst start to the season, certainly. Yet it probably will not do a lot to ease the tensions displayed by skipper Alviro Petersen on Twitter last week. The South African batsmen described his current form as the worst of his career – if he has any concerns about his contribution to the Dragons, he needn’t have.

Sure, he wants a big score with the bat to get his confidence flowing. All batsmen go through such phases though, no? However, he can be quite satisfied with how he has managed the other players – especially the bowlers. With the exception of Surrey (and perhaps Essex away), he has brought the best out of the attack.

Ben Wright and Will Bragg have chipped in with useful runs, while Gareth Rees and Michael Powell are starting to find their feet. There is no concern – at least there shouldn’t be – about Petersen’s form with the bat. Current season form is a temporary matter, the underlying class will shine through.

As you can see, a career in motivational speaking is not awaiting me. But Alviro should keep the faith… he’s doing just grand. And it’s only May.