The Last Stand At Nanhysglain

A couple of things to note before I get to the article- Firstly, I’m publishing these latest travel pieces a bit out of order. I didn’t intend to publish this till the end of November at the earliest, but the more I thought about it the more I wanted to get it out quickly. As such, there’s a little bit of a spoiler for a story that isn’t out yet, just so you’re aware.

Secondly… I had an idea after a seminar on letters earlier this week. I thought of what it might be if I re-imagined these travel pieces as letters. I thought it was worth a shot. In the end, for a recipient, I chose someone from my old Storm FM SideTracked days- Connor ‘Sweeper Dude.’ He was just my own voice, Americanised, but I thought ‘writing letters to him’ would be a bit of a cool reference to the last time I was here and a kind of nod to the fact that I’ve not gone back down the same roads I once came along, a nod to the idea that he didn’t come back with me. I think it works.
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1996: Dark Days | A History Of My Lifetime

During the course of their twenty eleven single, 1996, the Wombats make the claim that nineteen ninety six was a better time and that we ought to, somehow, bring it back. ‘We were cloning sheep in the nineteen nineties,’ they say. ‘We were building telescopes.’ In some ways they have a point. Technologically, culturally, in ninety six we felt that we had never had it so good. Ninety six was, arguably, the cultural high point of the nineties. It saw the release of now classic films such as Trainspotting, The English Patient, Tom Cruise’s first impossible mission as well as the Muppet’s take on Treasure Island. Musically, it was an altogether weaker year but it brought us Deep Blue Something’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s, R Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly and Babylon Zoo’s Spaceman. In ninety six the Simpsons was at its peak, it would never be funnier or more socially relevant. Meanwhile, a boy called Dexter began a never ending battle to keep his irritating sister out of his secret laboratory and people in the UK became glued to the adventures of Carol Smillie, Handy Andy and Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen in Changing Rooms.

In the world of technology, the internet, a supposed boon to all human kind, was growing in strength and power whilst in Scotland the Rosslyn Institute made a fantastic leap forwards by creating Dolly The Sheep (named for Dolly Parton), the world’s first successful clone. We had cloning! Finally, the release of the Nintendo 64 brought joy and super advanced video game graphics to the world. We were speeding towards the long promised future of advanced AI, flying cars and social utopias, or so it seemed. Continue reading “1996: Dark Days | A History Of My Lifetime”

Looking For Nanhysglain

In June of 1283 Dafydd ap Gruffydd was captured by the invading army of Edward I. Thanks to a betrayal by Einion. Bishop of Bangor, he and his family had been discovered at a place called Nanhysglain, allegedly somewhere close to the rocky mountain of Bera Mawr, in the Carneddau region of Snowdonia.

This scant patch of detail is pretty much all that the internet can tell us about the capture of Dafydd, the last true Prince of Wales. One or two places mention that Dafydd was injured in the capture or that the area he was hiding in was boggy, but little else. For myself, what irritates the most is that there is no mention of where precisely Nanhysglain was, or even what it was. There are almost no details about Nanhysglain whatsoever. Continue reading “Looking For Nanhysglain”

1995: The Enemy Within | A History Of My Lifetime

Things were going from bad to worse for John Major. Though Labour’s lead in the polls had been slashed, it was still well in advance of the Conservative’s position. There was little hope that they could retain power at the next general election. The government majority, which had been at ten, was being eroded by a series of defections and by-election defeats. They lost all but eight councils in that year’s local elections and the party was rocked by numerous divisions, especially over Europe, and by a continuing series of scandals. Future prospects were bleak. In an attempt to reunite his party Major resigned as leader of the party, igniting a leadership election between himself and the recently resigned Secretary of State for Wales, John Redwood, the only other candidate to put themselves forward. Continue reading “1995: The Enemy Within | A History Of My Lifetime”

A Walk With The Dead

Sometimes you don’t want the sun to shine, but shine it seems to insist on doing anyway. When you want it to rain until September, the one year you’d rather have no summer at all, just like every other year, it doesn’t happen. There isn’t a cloud in the sky. It’s blue up there and the birds of early June are singing away somewhere under the hot, mid-morning sun that is blazing down through it. Continue reading “A Walk With The Dead”

Climate Change and The Historic Environment of North Wales

Climate change has, sadly, become an irrefutable fact. This world, our world, the only world we have, is threatened with a situation that we must do all in our power, both individually and as a society, to prevent. Climate change shall bring about calamity on a scale never before witnessed in human history. Life as we know it will not continue if present patterns persist.

It is not only our current, modern human civilisation that is threatened by global warming, however, but our past as well. Climate change will have a dramatic impact upon the archaeological, cultural and historical record, the historic environment. Many important and significant sites will either be destroyed outright or placed in serious jeopardy by the consequences of global warming. This may sound extreme, even laughable, but this is something we shall have to face should we fail to stop the rise in temperatures. Continue reading “Climate Change and The Historic Environment of North Wales”

A History of My Lifetime | 1994: Smokescreen

Britain had been an island for eight thousand years, cut off from its continental neighbours by the English Channel. Suddenly it was no longer a barrier. An idea that had been floating around since eighteen hundred and two finally came to fruition and by the end of nineteen ninety four a person could finally travel between England and France without ever once having to see water. The Channel Tunnel was open for business and Britain was now well and truly connected to the continent, a part of Europe, seemingly forever. The actual breakthrough during construction, way back in December 1990, had been one of those significant moments in history, a moment where it looked as though the world was entering a new era of peace and brotherhood. It was a moment to celebrate.

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The Real Blackadders

Blackadder Back and Forth begins with a claim that the Blackadder dynasty have ‘forever been at the centre of British history and society.’ Then, over the opening credits, we see a montage of various images depicting the Blackadder we all know being involved with events such as the Battle of Hastings, Thatcherism and the desert campaign of the Second World War. The montage is meant to reinforce the idea that they have always been there, always been a powerful influence on the course of history. It is nonsense, of course. It is only a comedy. But what if I were to tell you that there is a dynasty who have been a powerful influence on the course of British history, who have helped to shape its course and even change its direction? They have helped to crown and depose kings and statesmen, influenced our language and they have, at times, been just as opportunistic, treacherous, slimy and power hungry as their fictional counterparts. There is in fact a real Blackadder dynasty: The House of Stanley.

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How The Devil Won Popular Culture

The devil, or whichever of his many names and aliases you want to refer to him by, has taken many forms over the years. He has slithered his way into our everyday lives and we, helpless mortals that we are, have been complicit in that. We do, perhaps alas, know him better than we know God, or the God of the Abrahamic religions at any rate. I’m sure, if you did a survey, you’d find that more people today believe in the devil than they do in God and no doubt the reason for that is popular culture, because of that which entertains us. The devil, in popular culture, is much more of a mainstay than God can ever dream of being.  For centuries the devil has given us succour as the ultimate foe and has provided a ready made villain for almost every writer from Dante Alighieri to George Bernard Shaw. He’s been used as everything from a terrifying warning to the wicked, a caution to the good and from the greatest evil to an excuse for satire. Chaucer, for instance, used him a commentary on priestly corruption by having monastic friars flying out of his backside. But how is this? How can the devil, the embodiment of ultimate evil, have become so prevalent in our imaginations and in popular culture whilst his opponent, God, has not?

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