Sunday, 24 August 2008

Reflecting on Nanna - Part 1

This year has been truly awful for me in many ways, but for every ten clouds, one or two have a silver lining. I'll be writing about this year shortly, but for now, I wanted to remind myself of my Nan, Betty Brown. Her and my Grandfather, George (Grampi!) are my modern-day hero's... JP is my wingless angel.

Anyway, here's a recap:

Fears Released: An August 2008 Recap

More later...

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Visiting Family in Wales with Dee - The Photos

Just thought I would post the links to my recent trip to see my family in Wales. I took Dee with me and we had a brilliant time visiting the Brecon Beacons National Park, Brecon, Tenby, Caldey Island and a real coal mine (Big Pit).

Here are the links to the Photos:

Brecon Beacons
Caldey Island
Pwl Mawr (Big Pit)
The Journey

I hope you enjoy the photos!


Sunday, 6 July 2008

Christian, the lion who lived in my London living room

The furniture shop was on the King's Road in London. It sold
tables, wardrobes, chairs and desks - but anybody peering through
its plate-glass window on a Sunday might have noticed something
rather more unusual.

Amid all the pine and oak, stretched out languidly on a bench,
there was a lion. And it wasn't stuffed.

Tiger feet: Christian enjoyed living in swinging London

Tiger feet: Christian enjoyed living in swinging London

"Christian used to lie beside me while I did the accounts at
weekends," remembers Jennifer Mary Taylor, who worked there.

"And every so often, if I'd ignored him for too long, he'd sock
me across the head with one of his great big paws.

"He was very loving and affectionate - he liked to stand and put
his paws on your shoulders. But he was...", she pauses. "I mean, he
was a lion. Does that sound silly?"

Christian the lion (named by someone with a Biblical sense of
humour) arrived in

Chelsea at a time when the King's Road - home to Mick Jagger -
was the very heart of the Swinging Sixties.

For a year, the Big Cat was part of it all, cruising the streets
in the back of a Bentley, popping in for lunch at Casserole, a
local restaurant, even posing for a Biba fashion advert.

He eventually grew too big to be kept as a pet and was taken to
Kenya, where he was rehabilitated into the wild by the 'Lion Man',
George Adamson.

Now, his story is to be told in a new book, written by the
Australian John Rendall who, along with his friend Ace Berg, bought
Christian from Harrods in 1969.

John Rendall's Chelsea flat

London pride: At home in John Rendall's Chelsea flat

So what possessed them to buy a lion cub in the first place?

"A friend had been to the 'exotic animals' department at Harrods
and announced, rather grandly, that she wanted a camel," says

"To which the manager very coolly replied: 'One hump or two,

"Ace and I thought this was the most sophisticated repartee we'd
ever heard, so we went along to check it out - and there, in a
small cage, was a gorgeous little lion cub. We were shocked. We
looked at each other and said something's got to be done about

Harrods, it turned out, was also quite keen to be rid of
Christian, who had escaped one night, sneaked into the neighbouring
carpet department - then in the throes of a sale of goatskin rugs -
and wreaked havoc.

The store, which had acquired the cub from Ilfracombe zoo,
happily agreed to part with him for 250 guineas. So began
Christian's year as an urban lion.

Today, it would be unthinkable for a shop to take such a
cavalier attitude towards selling exotic animals (though Harrods
did, at least, provide Ace and Rendall with diet sheets).

And it is hard to imagine either the animal rights lobby or any
local council condoning a shop as a suitable habitat for a lion.
But, back then, no one minded at all.

Christian was given his own living quarters (and a very large
kitty-litter tray, which he used unfailingly) in the basement of
the appropriately named Sophistocat furniture shop.

"He had a beautiful musky smell that was very distinct," says
Rendall. "But he was clean."

The vicar of the Moravian Chapel nearby was approached to allow
Christian the run of the graveyard, and every day he was taken
there to roar around and play football.

Once, when he was brought along to a seaside picnic, he dipped
his toes reluctantly in the water and intimated with a shudder that
it was disagreeably cold. But he was eventually persuaded to swim
in the English Channel.

"He was a lot of work," says Rendall. "It took all four of us -
me, my then girlfriend Jennifer Mary, Ace Berg and an actress
called Unity Jones - to look after him.

Cat's pyjamas: Christian, rummaging through the drawers

Cat's pyjamas: Christian, rummaging through the drawers

"He also ate a lot, four meals (two liquid, two solid) plus
supplements every day, which cost about £30 a week - a lot of
money back then."

He pauses, then adds, "And he had a very good sense of


"Oh yes. Sometimes, he'd see people staring at him through the
back window of the car, keep very still on purpose - and then, just
when they were convinced he was a stuffed toy, he would very slowly
turn his head and freak them out."

Everyone loved Christian and he became a popular local figure.
In 1970, when Chelsea beat Leeds in the FA Cup Final, Sophistocat
received a call from a policeman, 'The football fans are going to
be boisterous, so you'd better get your bloody lion out of the
window or they'll smash it in,' he warned.

Christian himself was beautifully behaved, and though he never
hurt anyone, you underestimated his strength at your peril.

Jennifer Mary remembers taking a friend to see him, "after I'd
had one or two glasses of wine -and when he put his paws on my
shoulders, one of them slipped, his claw caught my dress and he
pulled the whole front of it off."

He grew and grew - from 35lb when he first arrived to a rather
more serious and imposing 185lb a year later - and he was beginning
to acquire a mane that made him look more fearsome.

He clearly could not stay with his two young owners for

His future was decided by a chance encounter - when the actors
Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna walked into the shop to buy a
pine desk.

They had recently starred in the film Born Free, which tells the
true story of the wildlife conservationist George Adamson and his
wife Joy, who raised a lion cub called Elsa in Kenya then
rehabilitated it into the wild.

And they immediately suggested that Adamson might be able to

Certainly, the conservationist was intrigued by the challenge of
introducing a King's Road lion to the wilds of Africa.

"But," he warned, '"ou must be prepared for this not to work.
Elsa was born in Africa and she knew its smells. Taking a
British-born lion, whose parents were also raised in captivity, is
going to be a very different thing."

Christian was flown to Kenya in a specially-made crate
emblazoned with the words, 'East African Airways. London-Nairobi.
Christian - male lion, 12 months'. John and Ace went with him.

"I think George Adamson got quite a shock when he met us," says
Rendall. "Straight from the King's Road, in all our gear - flares
from Granny Takes A Trip, and with hair everywhere.

"We looked rather different from everyone else in Nairobi. But
then so did Christian. He'd come from winter in England, so had a
very thick coat - he was almost as hairy as we were."

Adamson wanted to drive straight to the Kora Reserve, close to
the Tana river, where there was no human habitation. This, he felt,
would be the ideal spot to build a camp.

Because lions live and hunt in prides, and it is hard to impose
a new male on an existing one, the plan was to introduce Christian
into the wild in tandem with Boy, one of the tame beasts who had
starred in Born Free.

Together, they would form the nucleus of a new pride - and the
whole project would be funded by a TV programme.

Christian was marshalled into the back of a Land Rover, with
straw on the floor and chicken-wire separating him from his friends
on the front seat. It was all rather confusing for a lion
accustomed to the butter-soft leather of a Bentley. And he was hot.
And dusty. And confused.

Not long into the journey, Rendall ventured, "Mr Adamson, he
needs to go to the loo."

Adamson was impatient.

"We're miles from anywhere. If we stop here and he runs away, we
will never, ever catch him."

"Mr Adamson," promised Rendall, "that is not going to

The great Lion Man turned his head, sucked on his pipe and
pulled over on the dirt road.

Rendall opened the back of the car, and Christian jumped out to
take his first real steps on African soil.

To his evident disgust, it was prickly and hot. He clearly
didn't like it one bit.

Rendall picks up the story, "So he went tip-toeing along and
went to the loo.

Considerably. Then he looked around and I said, 'OK, come on,
back in,' pointed back at the car - and in he jumped.

"I got back in the car, too, shut the door and George Adamson
turned round and said to me, 'That is quite remarkable. You may
call me George.'"

Kora, an area that now has National Park status, lies about 220
miles to the north-east of Nairobi. The scenery is rugged - densely
packed with knotty thorn bushes, with just a narrow corridor of
greenery that follows the course of the Tana river.

And so Christian arrived at the camp, which Adamson's brother
had built from macuti - palm fronds - chicken-wire and mud.

The conservationist went off again and returned a couple of days
later with Boy, the lion from Born Free.

At that time, Boy was very fragile, as his shoulder had been
shattered in a nasty encounter with a buffalo. But he was the first
fully-grown lion that Christian had seen since leaving Ilfracombe
zoo as a cub.

The first meeting was explosive. Normal lion protocol dictates
that the younger male should be subservient to the dominant

But Christian, more schooled in Sloane than feline etiquette,
sashayed fearlessly towards Boy.

Fortunately, Christian and Boy, though in adjacent compounds,
were separated by a wire fence. In fury at the perceived slight,
Boy flung himself against it - until Christian, suddenly realising
his faux pas, slunk away with his belly close to the ground.

This process was repeated over and over again until Adamson felt
confident enough to allow the pair to meet without the safety
barrier of the fence.

"First, Boy left his compound," recalls Rendall. "Then Christian
went out to meet him.

"Boy took one look - and he clobbered him. Christian didn't
fight back. He rolled over on his back. That went on for day after
day, until Boy was obviously satisfied that Christian knew who was
boss - and they became totally inseparable."

Adamson had also acquired a female lion cub, Katania, to add to
the pride, and she seemed to act as an intermediary between the two

Each day, the three lions would go out for a walk in the bush,
Boy first, Katania in the middle, then Christian - with Adamson,
carrying a rifle in case he needed to scare anything off, at the

For Christian, there were some tricky moments, such as the time
he spied a rhino and tried to stalk it, only for the beast to hurl
him through the air in a cloud of dust.

"I saw Boy turn and look at Christian," says Rendall. "There was
a look on his face, as if to say: 'You absolute fool. What a howler
of a blunder.'"

Slowly, progress was made. The biggest threat to Christian and
Boy were the wild lions that stalked the reserve, which Boy was
fighting to establish as his territory.

Then, one day, there was a tragedy that caused the whole project
to be called into question. A chef called Stanley had left the
safety of the compound to look for wild honey. He hadn't realised
Boy was nearby, and when he saw him, he tried to flee.

Running away was the worst action he could have taken. Adamson,
hearing Stanley's screams, came running and shot Boy through the
heart - but it was too late. Stanley had been bitten through the
jugular and died an hour later.

The outcry that followed almost brought the lion project to a
halt, but Adamson found some support for his work among other
conservationists, dug in his heels and carried on.

John Rendall and Ace Berg continued to make sporadic visits to
Kenya, but mostly they followed Christian's adventures from

Finally, in 1974, George Adamson wrote to say that the pride was
self-sufficient. Christian was defending it. There was a litter of
cubs. They were feeding themselves and rarely returned to camp.

The King's Road lion had finally adapted to the wild.

This was a bittersweet moment for all concerned. Rendall and Ace
decided to travel to Kora one last time, in the hope of being able
to say goodbye, though Adamson warned them that it would almost
certainly be a wasted mission.

"Christian hasn't been here for nine months. We have no reason
to think he's dead - there have been no reports of lions poached or
killed. But he may never come back," he said.

Rendall recalls, "We said: 'OK. We appreciate that, but we'll
come anyway and see you.'"

They flew to Nairobi then took a small plane to the camp in
Kora, where Adamson came out to meet them.

"Christian arrived last night, " he said simply. "He's here with
his lionesses and his cubs. He's outside the camp on his favourite
rock. He's waiting for you."

Adamson and his wife Joy often talked about the mysterious,
apparently telepathic communication skills of lions - particularly
between lions and men.

Both believed that lions were possessed of a sixth sense and
George was convinced that a scientific explanation would one day be

And here, it seemed, was the proof.

"Christian stared at us in a very intense way," says Rendall. "I
knew his expressions and I could see he was interested. We called
him and he stood up and started to walk towards us very slowly.

"Then, as if he had become convinced it was us, he ran towards
us, threw himself on to us, knocked us over, knocked George over
and hugged us, like he used to, with his paws on our shoulders.

"Everyone was crying. We were crying, George was crying, even
the lion was nearly crying."

"The lionesses were far from pleased. There was a lot of
growling and spitting," continues Rendall.

"'George said: 'This isn't safe - we'd better go.' So we each
put a hand on Christian's back and he walked with us back to

The reunion party went on all night and into the morning.
Leaving his exhausted companions to go to their beds, Christian
returned to his pride.

"We watched him go back to the two lionesses, who were not at
all happy with this man, smelling of nicotine, whisky and humans,"
says Rendall.

"He just walloped the two of them with his paw, then

And that was the last anyone ever saw of him.

For the next 14 years, George Adamson remained at Kora,
rehabilitating several other lions and ignoring warnings from the
authorities, who did not consider it safe for him to stay.

Then, in 1989, he was ambushed and murdered by bandits.

He died with a gun in his hand and, in accordance with his
wishes, was buried at Kora.

Following his death, his supporters formed the George Adamson
Wildlife Preservation Trust, which now does work in Kora as well as
in Tanzania, where it is reintroducing the endangered black rhino
and hunting dog.

The trust's chief aim is keep alive Adamson's dream of a place
where animals can roam free - a fitting epitaph not just for the
great conservationist but also for the lion who once lived in

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Installing Firefox Themes Manually

Firefox uses jar files, which always end in .jar.

jar file can be saved anywhere on your PC, just like any other type of
file (e.g. mp3, Word document, mpeg video etc.) Once you have
downloaded your jar file, simply drag it onto the Firefox 'Theme
Manager' window. The theme manager can be found in the Firefox
Tools menu.
Firefox will ask you whether you want to install the theme - click
'Yes' and you're done (well nearly; you'll need to restart Firefox
first). Firefox will deal with unpacking all the necessary files into
the correct places on your computer - you won't have to give it a
moment's thought.

Now visit for some brilliant Firefox stuff (or perhaps you've just been there?)

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Visit my new deviantART Collection

Holga Print 12 - Skyward by ~uselessdesires on deviantART

I've got a new collection and gallery with deviantART - take a look! At the moment it's mainly Holga-esk stuff, which is quite cool!

Click here for my full collection on deviantART

Friday, 13 June 2008

My first Holga Photo Recreation

I've been having some fun with Photoshop, and decided to upload my work to I recreated the Holga toy camera effect entirely in photoshop using a very modern digital photo - you can see the result bu going here:

I'm quite pleased with it!

Ry x

Find Out What I'm Listening To Right Now...

I use last-fm - without knowing it. My top favourite is Katy Perry, who's pretty cool! Find out what else I'm listening to, and click the link below:

Ryans 'UselessDesires' LastFM Page

That's all!

Ryan x

Friday, 2 May 2008



Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Willow Pattern Narration

NARRATOR: The plate in front of you has a famous design - the Willow Pattern. The legend of the Willow Pattern was invented by English about 200 years ago to promote pottery sales. The story,which takes place in China, begins in the palace on the right.

STORYTELLER: Once there was a wealthy mandarin, who had a beautiful daughter, Koong-Se. She had fallen in love with Chang, a humble accountant, and this made her father cruel with anger. He dismissed the young man and built a high fence around his house to keep the lovers apart.

NARRATOR: You can see the fence at the bottom of the plate.

STORYTELLER: The Mandarin was planning for his daughter to marry a powerful duke. Arrangements went ahead and the duke arrived by boat to claim his bride, bearing a box of jewels as a gift. The wedding was to take place on the day the blossom fell from the willow tree.

NARRATOR: You can see his boat to the left of the willow tree.

STORYTELLER: Chang, however, was not deterred. On the eve of Koong-Se's wedding to the duke, a mysterious figure disguised as a servant slipped into the palace unnoticed. It was Chang. As the lovers escaped, the alarm was raised.

NARRATOR: They ran over the bridge you can see at the bottom of the design. First is Koong-Se, then comes Chang carrying the box of jewels. Then comes the Mandarin giving chase, whip in hand. They eventually escaped to the safety of the secluded island at the top left of the plate, where they lived happily for years.

STORYTELLER: But one day the Duke learnt of their refuge. Still hungry for revenge he sent soldiers, who captured Chang and Koong-Se and put them to death. The Gods, moved by their plight, transformed the lovers into a pair of doves…

NARRATOR: … doves which you can see flying through the sky at the top of this Willow Pattern plate.

Click here to read the real story

The Story of The Willow Pattern

Click here
link to download the story & narration of the Willow Pattern (.mp3)

Arthur - DW's Bleep Episode - Higher Quality

Adult Rainbow Episode

Freddy Fucking Furious!

funny fat kid

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Stormy Weather

It's Sunday, and after a relaxing day of doing very little except popping to the shops, I'm sitting here in gloomy weather. There's a full storm raging outside! Thunder, lightening, rain, wind, the works! Michael is in the kitchen cooking a paella and I'm here, drinking wine.

So, as you may have read in a previous post, I've left my job after a few conflicts of interest with my manager. So, for the past few weeks I've been unemployed and underpaid, which makes for a depressing time. I have a few things in the pipeline, but won't 'jinx' it by mentioning yet.

Life since then has pretty uneventful - still coming to terms with the death of my grandmother, and actually missing work a bit! I seem to spend much of my time either on here, with my friend Dee, with Michael or asleep!

Michael has been off work this week, but we haven't really done much - I went over to his family home last weekend to celebrate his birthday, and the Friday before saw us entertaining a few friends at our house. Michael is 25 now!

I hope to go home next week - must get some train tickets now while they're cheaper.

My friend Dee, who's been a great support lately... no doubt we'll being doing a bit more charity and second-hand shop trawling in the coming weeks for the odd antique or collectable! Like this one:

Bye for now... x

Saturday, 26 April 2008

My New Naughty Homemade Card Collection

In the vast expanse of my unemployment (oh, you didn't know?) I've been creating naughty cards. Here's the gallery on my Facebook page to entertain you!

All images © Ryan Price 20

Anyway, here's the gallery:

Ryan's Home-made Humour


I'm Using ScribeFire!

I just thought I would let you know about a very cool feature I found almost by accident. It's for FireFox users, and is called ScribeFire. Instead of clicking through the links at or whichever blog site you use, ScribeFire is integrated into your browser, making this post, for example, a snap! Try it!

Download ScribeFire

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

She Is Gone

I think I forgot to post a poem used at the funeral of my grandmother... three months later, here it is!

She is Gone

You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left

Your heart can be empty because you can't see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Some old photos dug out, and fresh hells.

These are a few photos I found while looking through some of my Nan's photos: Scanned and sent to print. You can view the album by clicking here.

It's been a difficult day today, which involved a 999 call to the police, but that's another long story. They say that things can't get any worse, but invariably, they do. I just hope to preserve the memory of my wonderful grandparents despite the events of this evening.

Yesterday. The Day of the Funeral

Thursday, 24 January 2008, 1530hrs

The Day of the Funeral- Ryan’s Memories of the Day
For Betty Brown – “Nanna”

After quite a sleepless night, I woke up at about 6am – bearing in mind that we didn’t all go to bed until about 3am, getting things ready for the post-ceremony refreshments. The day of Nana’s funeral was upon us already.

I heard Jane, my mum getting up at about 9ish, so got up shortly afterwards. To cut a long story short, we all got suited and booted for Nana’s final send-off. The coincidences and oddities (blessings?) started appearing quite quickly. For a start, we all met at my Nan’s house at 12.20pm. My Nan died at 12.20, and I stopped her watch at her bedside when she passed away. The weather forecast was concrete; heavy rain with strong winds. What we actually got was glorious sunny weather, clear blue skies and a crisp cold bite in the air. Almost as if a greater power, or indeed my Nan, had a hand in overseeing the day. Oh, and Nan lived at Number 24; the funeral was on the 24th.

Going back a step… before we left the house as I was getting ready, my middle-brother Paul tore into me with such anger, aggression and venom. All I asked him was if he wanted a linen handkerchief for his breast-pocket. His reply was “before you even start today, I don’t want to hear any of your shit today…” Naturally, I was shocked – physically shocked. I asked Paul what he meant, and he said “you don’t even remember what you said to me at Grampi’s [my grandfather] funeral do you??” I had no idea what he was talking about, but after much finger-pointing, shouting and swearing from Paul, he said “you [that’s me] said at Grampi’s funeral ‘I don’t know what you are crying for.’ I’ve never forgotten that, I will never forgive you.” Naturally, I was horrified. I would never EVER say such a thing, particularly at a funeral, and more over at the funeral of a man I considered to be a second father. Suffice to say, it upset my mother, and left me in a crying heap. I really am at a loss to explain how that happened, or where his paranoia came from. Perhaps it’s the marijuana he’s misused for years... I’ve always tried to be patient with Paul – we all have, but basically, unless he changes his ways and at least tries to amend his past, I wash my hands of him.

Anyway, I’ve had enough of talking about that. Back to Nan!

Tim (my uncle), Matthew (my little 21 year old brother!), Paul and myself, plus two of the funeral directors acted as Bearers. We left my Nan’s house promptly at 1230, where my Nan was waiting for us in the hearse with a beautiful spray of pink carnations over her casket, with cards from her three children (Tim, Jane – my mum, and Maggie), a card from us three brothers, and a card from Zoë and David, my cousins. The service was to be held at St. Anne’s Church, Nantyglo, which was literally a 2 minute walk from my Nan’s house, but protocol took priority, so we drove up to the church behind the hearse. In the car immediately behind the hearse were Tim (my uncle, affectionately eccentric!), Jane and Glyn (my parents), Maggie and Wayne (my Auntie & Uncle) and their children, Zoë and David. In the second car were Paul and Cerys (his girlfriend) and just me and Matthew. Michael and I decided that it would be that fitting for Michael to attend, even though he was most welcome, as he had never met Nan. When we arrived at the Church, the congregation, although slight, were gathered in waiting. We as bearers carried Nan down the steep and twisting path (that’s mountainous Wales for you!) into the church, and to the alter. It’s surprising how cumbersome and heavy the coffin was, particularly when you consider how much weight Nan has lost during her short fight with lung cancer.

The church service, led by the Rev. Clive Morgan went well, and he seemed a lovely man; the perfect image of the perfect vicar, but with a gentle sense of compassion and humanity. Of course, he also had a sprinkle of dither and soft white hair! We sang a rousing hymn – “Sing Hosanna” with the verse “give me oil in my lamp keep me burning” omitted!!! Some felt that with my Nan’s pending cremation that the verse might not be that appropriate, but it made me smile, and I’d like to think that Nana would chuckle too! Much of the service I do not remember, but I do remember one of my Nan’s favourite prayers being read out:

St Ignatius Prayer for Generosity
Teach us, Good LORD
To serve You as You deserve
To give and not to count the cost
To fight and not heed the wounds
To toil and not seek for the rest
To labour and not to ask for any reward
Save that of knowing that we do Your will.

I remember a few years ago that my Nan had a few lines of this prayer written on her notepad (she kept records of everything) and she telephoned me one day and asked of I would be able to find the full verse. I did find it, and she said that that was exactly as she remembered, so I’m pleased that it was chosen for her service.

The vicar spoke a little about Betty (my Nan), her life, her work and how she met my grandfather, George. He mentioned the time she worked for the Civil Service in London, and when she later worked for local government for the labour party as the mayor’s secretary (the late Peter Law, made famous for his landslide victory as an independent party leader in Blaenau Gwent) which rocked the labour party! My Nan and Peter Law were very disenchanted with ‘New Labour’ so when Peter Law won such a victory, she was thrilled! At the time (1900303), it was such a significant event that it made the national, and international BBC News. Blaenau Gwent was always such a strong Labour Party strong-hold, so when Peter Law took his followers through to such a landslide independent victory, I remember how thrilled Nan was, even after she was less active in local politics. She was always respected for her intelligent work for local government, some of which entailed contacting high-profile figures for charitable donations. This continued during and after her passing. While she was still with us, she made charitable donations to both The NSPCC and Cancer Research. After her passing, we all decided that is would be an appropriate idea for donations to be made to ‘Ty Hafan – The Children’s Hospice of Wales’ therefore combining her love for children, and her desire to help those suffering with cancer, as she did. Anyway, the vicar also mentioned that Nan would often leave things until the last minute; he mentioned how she would always try and find time to fit in that last cup of coffee before leaving the house for the council offices. If the bus wasn’t there (or she missed it!) she was said to often hitch a lift with a “guller-sucker (a truck which came through the village to clean the gutter and drains along the road)” which involved lifting her skirt to climb in, which although was highly embarrassing at the time, it was better that being late for work. Maybe I do take after my Nan a bit! As a child, I remember her asking me to sit in the front room, and wait to see if the bus was coming. When I raised the alarm that the bus was coming, we would hurry down John Hough’s lane (or just the lane, as I knew it then) and flag down the bus for a few hours shopping in Abertillery!

Anyway, I’m waffling on a bit…

The service continued with a few prayers, and a final hymn – the classic “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” This is sometimes known as BREAD OF HEAVEN (shouted!). The vicar also read a poem called “It’s Dark Outside.” We had an ‘order of service’ to help us (I did the covers front and back!) but the poem wasn’t included. This is it anyway:

”It’s Dark Outside”
poem to follow - I can't find it!

We left the church of St.Anne’s after the final prayers, and we as bearers led Nan out first to the hearse and cortège while the family followed on to greet and thank those who came. A pleasant surprise for all of us was the presence of Trish Law, (MEP, MWA) wife of the late Peter Law (MEP). A very humble thing for her to do, I’m sure, especially when you consider her busy schedule as a high-profile Welsh political figure! For me, there were a few familiar figures, none that I really know by name, but faces I remember from walking with Nan to, for example, the Post Office or Kath’s shop on the many weekends I stayed over.

We left quite quickly with the cortège to the Gwent Crematorium, near Cwmbran. We took a slow procession through New Road (Nantyglo) towards Brynmawr, and took Nan past Rock Villa for the last time. It was great seeing that Nan could hold up traffic for miles behind us on the road to Cwmbran via Abertillery, Crumlin, Hafodyrynys and Pontypool!

It was quite a peaceful and short service at the Crematorium, with only immediate family in attendance, which included Keith Powell (Nan’s Nephew) and his Auntie. The best moment came when one of Nana’s favourite choirs sang. A recording of “I’ll Walk Beside You” by the Morriston Orpheus Choir was played, while we quietly listened and reflected on the wonderful long life Nan had, and the great influence she had on those around her, personally and through her work. It was a shame that the recording skipped a little, but that made me smile too! I did all the crying at the church; I thought that the crematorium service was a little more of an uplifting celebration, even as the curtains closed for the last time; on her life and on her physical body leaving this earth. Our duties as bearers were over, and my only regret of the day was that I could not sit with Jane. I had the next best thing and sat with Matthew, both at the church and at the Crematorium.

At the end of that service, we left the chapel and reflected at the flowers laid out in the sunshine for Nan, reading cards left by the family and by well-wishers. At a slightly higher speed, we left the Crematorium in the same Limousines we arrived in, and returned to Rock Villa. From there, we came back to Glan-yr-afon (my family home) and ate, drank and chatted. I asked Matthew to drive me over to Rock Villa (my Nan’s house) for me to clean up some beer cans from the lane, and for me to take some outside-photos of the house for Michael. There’s a reason for that…

Lastly, we returned home, chatted some more with my Auntie Maggie et al and I came upstairs with Matthew and David (my cousin, who I haven’t for probably a decade!) where I wrote this. Matthew and David played darts and computer games while I steadily typed away. And this is where I am now.

Hopefully, one day very soon, Rock Villa will be my home too… My ultimate dream.


2115hrs. I thought I had finished writing my diary for today but it would seem that something else surprised us tonight! At about 2110hrs, we had a power-cut – not just our house, but the whole area. What are you up to Nan?!? SO! Jane, Glyn, Paul, Matthew, Maggie, Wayne, Zoë, David and Cerys are all sitting around in the dark, except for a huge array of candles! That certainly made us laugh a lot, just thinking that Nana might still be playing her mischief and having a little joke again. I think it’s been at least 20 years since we had a real power-cut! So we sat until around 10pm, and after much persuasion, Matthew finally and reluctantly decided to play his guitar for us. Talk about hiding his light under a bushel; he’s good! He even got a cheer, a whistle and a standing ovation!

Nan always had a cheeky grin for me and that unforgettable twinkle in her eye… even during her last 48 hours on this mortal coil. Was she responsible for tonight? I think so! Cheers Nan! We’ve had a few whiskey-macs for you tonight… and for you Grampi! See you soon….

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Homeward Bound

Well, it's again been a while since I last wrote here. I'm sitting in my Mum's front room at the moment in Wales, using the new-fangled internet thingy that us (well, those) welsh folk seem so slow to adopt!!!

The purpose of my visit this time is unfortunately due to the passing of my grandmother (Nana Brown) on Monday. She died very peacefully (after a short, but perhaps undiagnosed illness) at about 12:20pm surrounded by her family, including Jane, Maggie, Tim (her children - Jane is my ma!) Matthew, Paul (my brothers) and myself. Generally, the nursing staff were quite good and caring, and when I called in on the Sunday, I asked one of the nurses to consider an diamorphine pump, which would ease her passing and reduce her pain. Despite being an emotional day, much of which was quite surreal, I believe that her passing was a happy day. She died with dignity and peacefully, with those she loved around her, and with minimal interference from the clinical world outside the sideroom door.

Things those few days were, as I said, surreal, and I can only compare it to walking around with my head in a cotton-wool cloud. I telephoned work that same afternoon, to gently ask about extended leave, which was refused and left a bitter feeling behind. So, reluctantly, I returned to work on the Wednesday, cried a little, and emailed the union about how badly I had been treated by a certain person throughout the whole affair. The union guy came down to see me a the following day to say how appalled he felt I was treated, and instructed me that I should complete my shift, and TELL the woman who is supposed to be my manager that I WOULD be returning to wales and WOULD NOT be returning to work until after the funeral and internment!!! Anyway, news got back to the top-dog at the establishment at which I work, who was apparently disgusted, and wishes to conduct an investigation. Anyway, that's for me to worry about later.

I went into Leicester after work (Friday), and with my friend Dee, we chose a nice suit and cuff-links for the funeral. We had some noodles, then went home for a few cuppa's and listened to some funky music, before I put Dee on the bus back home! The following few days were very difficult, and on the Saturday I couldn't get out of bed. I guess it was grief? Anyway, Sunday was out of the question, due to rail cancellations so I came back to Wales yesterday (Monday?). I keep mentioning and questioning days, as everything has amalgamated into a total blur. I slept on the settee, which was a waking nightmare (!) and finally awoke at about 1pm when I heard that the washing machine was on full-throttle!

My Nan's funeral is at 1230 at St. Anne's Church, in the village of Nantyglo, followed by a cremation at the Gwent Crematorium, Cwmbran. After the weekend, there'll be a further service for the internment of her ashes, along with my grandfathers ashes, which have been held at the Funeral Directors establishment for a a staggering 9 years! So, at last, they'll be together again.

I had the privilege of formatting the front and back covers of the "order of service" booklet, which I hope everyone will be happy with. I'm sure I'll have more to tell you in a few days when all this is over... feel free to message me in the meantime.

Ryan x
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