Saturday 30 June 2012

Tight Lines

Wednesday was my birthday and I get two presents the next morning when I head off to Builth Wells for our Staff Learning Day and trustees' meeting. First, a ferocious burst of gout which takes most of the day to abate and, second and infinitely more welcome, an excellent portrait by our project in Blaenau Gwent which will now grace my otherwise Spartan and minimalist office (they previously did one of Sigmund Freud - see here - so this is an honour indeed. I think they have shown me as more self-assured than old Siggers but that may of course be a satire on my delusions rather than real confidence?).

Meanwhile the Movin' On Up road-show was actually in Blaenau Gwent yesterday and the importance of education and training for recovery from serious mental illness was one of the talking points...

Speaking about his recovery service user Rob Mckeown says: "I went on a confidence-building course shortly after coming to Hafal, this made me realise that despite my issues, namely anxiety and depression, I can still make a positive contribution to my community. I have recently attended a presentation skills seminar at Hafal’s Head Office; I also completed a 10-week counselling course and work as a volunteer for Hafal.

"I would love to return to work if possible. If you’re employed you’ve got a focus in life, structure in your day. If people want to get better they need the chance to get back to work. There should be more support for people with a disability, not cuts. It’s hard enough getting a job if you haven’t got a disability. My ultimate goal is to have employment in some form be it part or full-time work."

Good luck, Rob, the employment market is tough as you say but the training and experience you are getting could give you the edge!

The aim of the campaign is to maximise the opportunities for recovery from serious mental illness which are provided by the draft Welsh Government Mental Health Strategy "Together for Mental Health" and the historic Mental Health (Wales) Measure. The Measure is hugely significant because it affords service users key new rights and has finally given users of secondary mental health services in Wales the legal right to a comprehensive holistic Care and Treatment Plan covering all areas of life including education and training.

The campaign is run by service users and carers and supported by us and our friends in Bipolar UK and the Mental Health Foundation. 22 weekly county events are taking place and the campaign will culminate in a climb of Wales’ highest peak, Snowdon, in September. The campaign will also feature an interactive stand at the Royal Welsh Show and on World Mental Health Day at the National Assembly.

I've got a few days off now so I'm going fishing. Wish me warm weather and tight lines.

Monday 25 June 2012

2020 Vision

Excellent article in the Western Mail about the future of mental health services in Wales.

The trouble is that the Welsh Government has observed the dog's breakfast made of reform of the NHS in England by their Conservative and Lib-Dem opponents and, I suspect, this has reinforced a view that the top-down, monolithic NHS which Carwyn's last government created is the way forward. Now we can all agree that the abolition of the 22 old LHBs was right. Further, I would agree that the present system is more efficient and defensible than the pretence of a commissioner-provider split which the old system played at. But the return to a 1970s NHS just cannot be the answer for the long term and Wales must find a way forward which learns from the English mistakes but still moves towards flexible commissioning and patient choice.

And this is not, in spite of current appearances in England, a party-political matter. The Labour government in Westminster was unmistakably in favour of the same kind of reform for England (Gordon Brown when Prime Minister said "In the NHS of the next decade, real power must lie in the hands of patients, not the bureaucracy...No longer can we sustain the approach of patients as the passive recipients of services. Increasingly patients and their families and carers must be seen as active partners in their care with enforceable guarantees, real choice and control over services") - though of course they are entitled to point to the deficiencies in detail (rather than principle) of the new government's approach.

I'm not optimistic. There isn't really a debate going on about this (no doubt because of what's going on in England) and instead the Welsh Government is preoccupied with the challenge of bridging the huge chasm which divides citizens' loyalty to their local hospitals and the financial and clinical reality that we need to close several down and centralise or regionalise services.

Actually these matters are linked. It is because people are powerless to control their own health care that they attach their loyalty to buildings instead of to the quality of services. If they were used to making decisions about their health for themselves then they would think through the issues more clearly. Let me illustrate this point - would you prefer (i) to wait a year to have an essential life-saving operation at your local hospital or (ii) have it done next month at a facility which is 30 miles further away and which has a decisively superior survival rate? It's a no-brainer but nobody seems willing to raise such questions and trust to Welsh people's good sense to provide the right answers.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Tumbleweed Moment

Fish fingers and tomato sauce for breakfast at 5.30 am then off to the gym to watch Wales v Australia while struggling along on the running machine. I had a good feeling about this one but inevitably the Aussies go one point ahead and run down the clock in the closing seconds. The Sky Sports commentator evocatively calls this three nil defeat in the series a "tumbleweed moment" for Wales.

I cheer myself up by buying "Honey I Washed the Kids" soap from Lush and then my spirits are wholly restored at lunch with delicious onion and potato pakoras freshly prepared and cooked at Punjabi Tiffin on Swansea market. This is a real gem with friendly staff and a fantastic range of snacks cooked to order - a couple of pounds for food clearly superior to the snobbishly-described but actually boil-in-the-bag sludge served up in most restaurants charging £30 a head. And they have tables too if you've got the time...

Friday 22 June 2012

Carers Week

It's Carers Week so very apt that the need for more specialist services for carers of people with a serious mental illness was one of the talking points at today’s Movin' On Up event in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire.

Christine Williams, whose 31-year-old son was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, tells us: "I welcome the Carers Strategies (Wales) Measure but when you get down to it, all that law does is make the NHS and local authorities come up with a strategy for providing carers with information.

"This is OK but what’s far more important is the quality of support we get. We want comprehensive assessments backed up by service delivery. It’s no good giving us generic services, what we need are specialist services. A lot of carers services are designed for people who care for those who care for the physically disabled or children."

Wise words. The Carers Measure places very limited duties on the NHS and Councils - the strategies they are required to produce don't need to spell out the services they are going to provide, just how they are going to provide information and involve carers in decisions. All very well but it is, as Christine says, the services which matter most. Nevertheless we must ensure that the needs of mental health carers are explicitly covered in the strategies.

Our campaign is run by service users and carers and supported by mental health charities Hafal, Bipolar UK and the Mental Health Foundation. 22 weekly county events are taking place and the campaign will culminate in a climb of Wales’ highest peak, Snowdon, in September. The campaign will also feature an interactive stand at the Royal Welsh Show and, on World Mental Health Day, at the National Assembly.

A reminder of the campaign's key activities...

Service users and their families will:

• Engage in the development and implementation of the new Mental Health Strategy ensuring that it is recovery-focused, empowers service users and their families, and supports the Mental Health Measure by prescribing the services which individual Care and Treatment Plans demand.

• Take full advantage of the Mental Health Measure which promotes holistic care and treatment planning. The campaign will see service users taking the lead in negotiating robust Care and Treatment Plans which address all areas of life. Service users and their carers will challenge mental health and other services to deliver on the new law by acting on the Care and Treatment Plans in collaboration with their clients. They will also challenge the Welsh Government, NHS and local authorities to ensure that resources for mental health and other services are focused on meeting needs identified in the Care and Treatment Plans.

• Ensure that the families and carers of people with a serious mental illness are able to exercise their rights under the new Carers’ Measure and Mental Health Measure so that they can support the people they care for on their path to recovery – and achieve a better life themselves.

• Promote the take-up of other opportunities provided by the new Mental Health Measure for improved primary care services (including mental health assessments, short-term interventions and onward referral to secondary services), for an expanded scheme of independent mental health advocacy for all in-patients, and for improved and faster re-access rights for those who have been discharged from secondary services.

Μεγάλη Ιδέα - Big Idea

Difficult to recommend the book I have just finished - The Thread by Victoria Hislop - because it is ill-written and its characters are strong, intelligent but put-upon women on the one hand and attractive but thoroughly gormless men on the other who screw everything up but are eventually taken in hand - by the women.

Yes, readers, I accidentally picked up a chick-lit novel and, having spent the money, as a good Cardi I was too mean not to read it. For the record this example at least is a lot better than "lad-lit" - trashy thrillers with smart-arse men and attractive but gormless women.

And yet I recommend you read it because its background is the transformation of what is now Greece's second city Thessaloniki from a cosmopolitan mish-mash of roughly equal parts Christian Greeks (speaking Greek), Sephardic (ie of Spanish origin) Jews (speaking Ladino - a kind of Spanish with some Hebrew added) and Muslim Turks (speaking Turkish) in the early 20th century to an almost entirely Greek community by the end of WW2, a consequence of the swirling forces of Greek imperialism, Turkish nationalism, Nazi antisemitism and Soviet barbarism.

All this is fascinating and worth the read but the novel's unrealistic heroines, drawn from the three ethno-religious backgrounds, are pure 21st century and have seemingly been transported back in time having just passed an intensive equal opportunities course with flying colours. So naturally they are bewildered and appalled by the Mediaeval attitudes of their fellow citizens and stand out as reasonable and modern. Big deal. It would have been more interesting to portray otherwise reasonable people caught up in perpetrating the cruel behaviour of that time.


"Greek imperialism"? Well, yes. We think of Greece in terms of the doughty little nation throwing off the mighty Ottoman Empire with the help of Lord Byron but by the end of WW1 the tables were turned and the Greek army very nearly succeeded in reconquering Constantinople (now Istanbul) for the first time since they lost it in 1453 and reestablishing the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire - no, seriously, that's what they had in mind (they called it their Μεγάλη Ιδέα - Big Idea) and to this day most Greeks see their spiritual capital not as "provincial" Athens but as that timeless and holy city straddling Europe and Asia. Not unreasonably the Turks resisted and, following the predictable pattern of such conflicts, the resentful Greeks committed unspeakable atrocities as they retreated.

Monday 18 June 2012


More from my Tenby trip: I admired this enchanting painting by local Hafal Member Kevin Edwards who gives me permission to post it here.

Kevin tells us: "The overhanging trees speak to me of security from the downpour of my everyday troubles. The path appears as a guide of how to find shelter while both trees and path are coloured red compelling me to believe in the possibility of strength and passion".

And what about the bridge?

"I put the bridge in because I like bridges".

Quite so: as Freud said "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar".

Patience and Hard Work

Dodging heavy showers I had a great time at Tenby's Movin' On Up event last Friday where ensuring there are quality standards for the Care and Treatment Plans which were introduced earlier this month was one of the talking points.

The new Plans, part of the historic Mental Health (Wales) Measure, give service users the opportunity to take a comprehensive approach to their recovery from serious mental illness by recording all their recovery objectives and support needs.

Mental health service user Matthew Whiting tells us: "Achieving the long-term goals in my Care Plan has been crucial to my recovery from mental illness and very fulfilling indeed. For people beginning their recovery with the new holistic Care and Treatment Plans introduced earlier this month I’d say it’s important to remember that patience and hard work is necessary so they can reach their long-term goals and dreams. For those consulting on the Government’s new Mental Health Strategy, I just hope they ensure that the new Strategy sets out a quality standard for Care and Treatment Plans that is to a higher standard than the legal minimum requirements in the Measure’s Code of Practice. It’s great we’ve got the new Plans at long last, let’s make the most of them!"

Earlier last week Hafal launched our new publication developed in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation and Bipolar UK which is designed to help service users get the most from the new Care and Treatment Plans which were introduced on June 6th. The guide, Care and Treatment Planning: a step-by-step guide for secondary mental health service users was launched along with the Code of Practice for the Mental Health (Wales) Measure by Health and Social Services Minister Lesley Griffiths AM at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff. Speaking at the event the Minister said: "I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate service users on the success of the 'Movin' On Up' campaign which culminates in a climb of Mount Snowdon in September. It shows what can be achieved by service users and the vital supporting role played by carers, service providers and third sector organisations."

The campaign is run by service users and carers and supported by Hafal, Bipolar UK and the Mental Health Foundation. 22 weekly county events are taking place and the campaign will culminate, as the Minister stated, in a climb of Wales’ highest peak, Snowdon, in September. The campaign will also feature an interactive stand at the Royal Welsh Show and, on World Mental Health Day, at the National Assembly.

On an even more serious note I haven't seen such a fancy range of cakes at an event as those on sale in Tenby - all made by clients and staff...

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Formidable Line-Up

The Movin' On Up partners - Hafal, Bipolar UK and the Mental Health Foundation - have supported a Panel of service users and carers to produce a briefing ahead of yesterday's debate in the Senedd on the Welsh Government’s draft Mental Health Strategy, "Together for Mental Health", which is currently out for public consultation.

It was good to see the Panel's views extensively referenced by Assembly Members in the debate and we must now work hard to get their views incorporated in the final version of the Strategy and, crucially, in the "Delivery Plan" which will follow it.

The Panel includes...

• Nigel Griffiths, service user and Chair of the Wales Advisory Panel for Bipolar UK which supports over 1100 service users in Wales.

• Lee McCabe, a Recovery Practitioner with experience of mental illness working for Hafal which supports over 1250 Members and many more users and carers attending Hafal services.

• Jackie James, carer and Coordinator of the All Wales Mental Health Carers Forum supporting 35 carers’ services and many individual carers across Wales.

• David Crepaz-Keay, service user and Head of Empowerment and Social Inclusion at the Mental Health Foundation.

So you can see that this formidable line-up represents and has regular contact with large numbers of service users and carers across Wales.

Their briefing states that while service users and carers in Wales welcome the new draft Strategy they believe there are four areas of the Strategy that should be strengthened:

1. The Strategy needs to make clear that secondary mental health services will be reformed, that resources for secondary mental health services will be protected, and that there will be greater transparency on ring-fencing.

2. We need to broaden the engagement of service users and carers – both in the delivery of their own Care and Treatment Plans and in the wider planning and delivery of services.

3. The Strategy needs to have greater emphasis on the needs of carers and the vital role they play.

4. The Strategy should include a series of clear, meaningful and measurable outcomes for people using secondary mental health services.

See the Panel's full briefing here and see how you can support their campaign here.

Innocent Activity

On Monday we are all down early to the Pierhead Building in Cardiff for the joint launch by Health and Social Services Minister Lesley Griffiths AM of the Government's Code of Practice to Parts 2 and 3 of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure along with Hafal’s new guide, Care and Treatment Planning: a step-by-step guide for secondary mental health service users.

The purpose of the Code is to give clear guidance to mental health service providers in Wales so that they meet their obligations under Part 2 of the Measure (Coordination of and Care Planning for Secondary Mental Health Service Users) and Part 3 (Assessments of Former Users of Secondary Mental Health Services).

Hafal’s new guide is designed to help service users get the most from the new Care and Treatment Plans which were introduced on June 6th. The 16-page guide is based on the experiences of over 1,500 people with serious mental illness and their families and carers.

Minister for Health and Social Services Lesley Griffiths said: "Both the Code of Practice and Hafal’s Guide aim to ensure service users receive the right care, when they need it, and are actively involved in planning their care. Both documents will continue the development of mental health services in Wales truly responsive to the needs of service users, their families and carers, and which are fit for the 21st century."

The experience of Hafal Members is that everyone can make significant steps to regain or improve mental health and achieve a better way of living. We have found that people have the best chance of achieving recovery from a mental illness if they take control of their own recovery, take all areas of life into consideration in planning recovery and act on a step-by-step plan towards recovery. The new Care and Treatment Plans give service users the opportunity to do this.

Hafal Recovery Practitioner Lee McCabe (pictured below with Lesley) also spoke at the event. Lee has been involved in the development of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure from the beginning. He gave evidence at the Assembly and at Parliament; when he proposed the new mental health legislation, Jonathan Morgan – then an Assembly Member – said the most convincing evidence for reform came from listening to Lee’s story.

Lee said: "For me today's event symbolises a new approach to mental health services, one in which there is a real co-operation between those responsible for delivering services and those people like me on the receiving end. All credit to the Welsh Government for respecting the views of patients. We won't always agree, and we at Hafal won't always get our way, but that's OK so long as there is a real dialogue of equals." Amen to that.


We are told last minute - in spite of our explicit booking having been accepted - that we can't park our campaign campervan and mobile mountain right outside the Pierhead "because of the Olympics". I would be interested to hear if anybody has heard of any more baffling use of the Olympics by bureaucracies to thwart innocent activity, in this case in a different country from the Olympics and several weeks before they even start. Fortunately the Minister and the rest of the large audience sportingly (excuse the pun) walk around to the exhibition repositioned a hundred yards away next to the Senedd (evidently not a target).

Friday 8 June 2012

Cake World

(left to right) Hafal Cardiff Practice Leader Junaid Iqbal, Hafal Chair Elin Jones, Hafal Head of Public Affairs Peter Martin, Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan, Cardiff West AM Mark Drakeford, me, Sue Wigmore Bipolar UK

The very week in which I embark on a healthy diet I am invited to judge a cake competition! This is sprung on me along with Hafal Chair Elin Jones and our Bipolar UK colleague Sue Wigmore when we attend Cardiff's Movin' On Up event yesterday. Although we only sample a little piece of each this is a welcome respite from the regime. Chocolate and lemon seem to be the current rage in the cake world and we enjoy all of them - plus a robust bara brith which comes a respectable third.

Meanwhile we are visited by Kevin Brennan MP and Mark Drakeford AM and we have a good chat about the Measure and about the undevolved mental health issues of criminal justice and benefits. Kevin offers to support a lobby exercise in Parliament which we should take up in the autumn. Kevin makes the point that we need to advise MPs, AMs and Councillors about the new Care and Treatment Plans prescribed in Part 2 of the Measure - because they are the obvious reference point when they are trying to help constituents with a serious mental illness get their needs met across the range of housing, employment, benefits and so on.

Commenting on the new Plans and the forthcoming launch of Hafal’s guide, Cardiff service user Luke Rowlands says: "I currently have an old care plan which doesn’t look at all eight life areas. I look forward to receiving a new Care and Treatment Plan and to someone sitting down with me to chat about things other than medication. The introduction of Hafal’s new guide is a positive step forward, too. The guide, along with support from Hafal’s project in Cardiff, will support people like me to make the most of the exciting changes that are taking place in mental health in Wales."

Well said, Luke. The key to getting the most out of the new legal rights is to get active, read the guide, and spell out to your Care Coordinator what you want - and if that's difficult for you then get your carer involved or ask for help from Hafal or another advocate.

See our guide here - it not only explains how to complete the Care and Treatment Plan but gives lots of practical ideas on what to put into your Plan including long-term goals, short-term actions, and where to get help and support - all based on advice from hundreds of Hafal clients.


Along with a lot of shop talk I discuss with Hafal Chair Elin Jones the use of languages as secret codes (don't ask me how we got onto this!). Navajo Indian is the most famous example, used extensively by American marines in WW2 - story here. Comanche was also used and their code word for Hitler was "crazy white man" - not, I would have thought, all that cryptic? Welsh was also used in WW2 and more recently in the Balkans but it just isn't obscure enough: you would indeed have found professors of Celtic Studies in Berlin, Tokyo or Belgrade who could have "broken the code". Mind you the BBC accidentally broadcast a Welsh language programme on pig breeding on its Middle East service during the war - it got muddled with an Arabic language propaganda programme made with the minority community in Bute Town, Cardiff and the mistake went unnoticed until a sarcastic letter was received from an academic in Cairo querying the number of people in that part of the world who both spoke Welsh and ate pork.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

D Day - 6 June

So it's D Day after all these years of campaigning. Today the legal right to an holistic Care and Treatment Plan is accorded to every user of secondary mental health services in Wales. There is nothing comparable anywhere else in the world and patients, who were the driving force behind the Measure from the start supported by Hafal, are entitled to celebrate.

It was back in 2007 that Jonathan Morgan AM won the ballot to bring forward an LCO under the incredibly cumbersome legislative process then in place (now swept away following the recent referendum). But in fact the campaign goes much further back when Hafal worked hard for reciprocal rights - designed to compensate for the compulsion at the heart of the longstanding Mental Health Act - to be included in the new (UK) Mental Health Bill (remember that? We didn't get the reciprocal rights but Hafal Members were the major influence in bringing down the first Bill). The UK Government was signally unimpressed and our attention therefore had to move onto the new powers given to the National Assembly.

Note of course that there are transitional arrangements. Patients who already have a CPA Plan will have these gradually replaced so that the last new Plan will be in place in a year's time. For full details of the new Plans see our brilliant new guide here.

A reminder of the eight "life areas" to be covered in Care and Treatment Plans...

a) accommodation

b) education and training

c) finance and money

d) medical and other forms of treatment, including psychological interventions

e) parenting or caring relationships

f) personal care and physical well-being

g) social, cultural or spiritual

h) work and occupation.

Hafal’s Members pioneered this methodical, holistic approach to recovery from serious mental illness which was based on the experiences of hundreds of people. We published our methodology six years ago and this holistic approach was then rolled out through Hafal’s projects across Wales. The legislation is a genuine example of government listening carefully to patients and then acting on their expert advice.

More on this shortly including details of the joint launch of our guide and the Code of Practice by the Minister of Health on Monday.


The Mental Health Measure cannot quite compete for importance and drama with the original D Day on 6 June 1944. Among the 160,000 who landed on the beaches that day were the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers (the only Welsh unit involved) who came ashore at Arromanches-les-Bains. They didn't have time to stop and appreciate this scenic resort - indeed they didn't stop until the Axis gave up and the Battalion occupied Germany until 1948.

In the days following the invasion Arromanches was made into an artificial "Mulberry" harbour, an invention of Welsh engineer Hugh Iorys Hughes who was treated as a fantasist until the War Office finally realised he was onto something. The huge concrete remains of the harbour litter the coast to this day as a reminder of his genius.

I have only good memories of Arromanches in the late 20th century, in particular the Hotel Normandie which then had the rudest staff but the best seafood in the whole north coast of France (I revisited a couple of years ago and it had changed hands - the staff were charming and the food indifferent). Incidentally if you can't take rudeness then don't go to Normandy - the rest of France finds them rude and that's saying something (it's what some people say about doubt unfairly).

Tuesday 5 June 2012


Overlooking Carmarthen Bay with the Gower and Worm's Head in the distance

I took last Friday off in order to create a decent break of five days and devoted it to a fitness regime of exercise and sound diet. This was in response to the realisation that my health has slipped almost imperceptibly into decline, not in a major way but sufficient to warrant action. Specifically my weight had crept up to 18 stone 4 lbs, I am puffing when walking uphill, and the dreaded gout attacks are increasing in frequency.

At this rate I will need to buy size 40 inch waist trousers and XXL shirts and start taking the daily gout pills for the rest of my life - and no doubt statins and lord knows what else too. The trouble is I have been easing off the gym, putting too much sugar in my tea, and eating cheese and chocolate in the mid evening, having up until then eaten three good square meals supervised by Mrs B.

I have now completed the five days keeping to a healthy diet of not over 2,000 calories a day and doing at least 10,000 steps every day plus some swimming. The rewards are great - I am a jubilant 17 stone 12 lbs and feeling much better.

The next trick is to keep heading in the right direction. Fancy or cranky diets are rubbish and it just comes down to eating less, exercising more (and keeping off the fags) for the rest of your life - temporary diets being the utmost folly.

It's all about psychology of course, not biology. Long ago I worked out that I have always been exactly the weight and fitness level I have chosen. This sounds harsh but you don't stand a chance of moving forward until you recognise that nobody ever pointed a gun at you and told you to eat more or exercise less. It's all in your power to do it if you really want to.

Top tip for lunch in Cardiff - try Wally's Kaffeehaus in the Royal Arcade with goodies from the city's famous delicatessen...

Meanwhile between the walks and frugal meals (not much left of the 2,000 calories after Wally's, mind) I see the news of the Jubilee. Now I feel no loyalty to the monarchy nor any special respect for the present incumbent though equally I see no political importance in the matter either. Listening to Polly Toynbee on the box talking republicanism this weekend is a bit like witnessing a child poking a wrinkly old elephant in a zoo with a stick - not a significant matter, maybe a bit rude, but not worth commenting on as the beast feels nothing.

(It's also similar to little Richard Dawkins gleefully jumping up and down to tell us he's found rational arguments for rejecting religion. And the Pope's a Catholic, Richard. The rest of know that religion was found out during the Enlightenment 200 years ago. The strangely boyish professor is wasting time when science should instead be concentrating on finding the keys to the likes of cold fusion and genetically modified super-wheat which could solve our global energy and food needs respectively.)

My own analysis of the weekend's Royal celebration is that the old girl enjoyed the Derby as usual but after that it was all downhill. The river thing found her shivering under a B&Q gazebo erected on an old coal barge (ill-disguised with swags of velvet) escorted by a flotilla of hurray henries and gawped and screamed at by the usual suspects lining the bank. As for the concert...enough said. Less would have been more and a quick, dignified appearance on the balcony would have been sufficient surely.

She must now be settling down to a nice drink to celebrate the end of the whole ghastly ordeal and savouring the peace and quiet while the D of E is in hospital. Apparently she likes one part gin to two of Dubonnet with two blocks of ice - and sometimes she will have a second glass. This is the only interesting thing we know about her and goes to her credit (although using Italian vermouth - a proper "gin and It" - would mark her as a true cocktail connoisseur). Go on, Ma'am, order up a third this time and have a giggle at the expense of all the miserable flunkies and sycophants who got soaked hanging about for you this weekend.

Walking from Carmarthen Tesco's into the town on Saturday (and so saving the Council's exorbitant car park charges) I snap this picture of the Royalist defences built during the Civil War to defend their West Wales redoubt. History relates that as soon as they saw the Parliamentary forces moving up the valley they legged it without a fight. How deep is the current support for the monarchy?