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DON’T GET CAUGHT WITHOUT IT

WINTER 2018

DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT… WHEN BENNETT MET RHOD GILBERT? “FOUR GUYS PULLED GUNS ON ME” THE TIME NIALL NEARLY DIED WALES WORLD CUP WINNERS! WILL 2019 BE OUR YEAR?

PHOENIX RISING RITA’S BACK!


The new Touareg. With £3,000 towards your finance deposit. Available with Solutions PCP.* The new Touareg’s leap forward in styling is complemented by impressive specification, new technology and ground-breaking levels of digital dashboard design. You can customise the 15-inch Innovision glass display like a smartphone to project information such as speed, directions and driver assistance messages onto the windscreen. An SUV with real power and strength, Volkswagen’s latest Touareg also offers true off-road capabilities. Available to test drive in our showroom today.

Capitol Volkswagen Pentrebach Road, Merthyr Tydfil, CF48 1YA. Telephone: 01685 642145. www.capitol.volkswagen.co.uk

Sinclair Volkswagen (Cardiff) Wharf Road East, Tyndall Street, Atlantic Wharf, Cardiff, CF10 4BB. Telephone: 02920 601171. www.sinclair.volkswagen.co.uk

Representative

3.3% APR

We are brokers and not lenders and can introduce you to a limited number of lenders, who may pay us for introducing you to them. *At the end of the agreement there are three options: i) pay the optional final payment and own the vehicle; ii) return the vehicle: subject to excess mileage and fair wear and tear, charges may apply; or iii) replace: part exchange the vehicle. With Solutions Personal Contract Plan. 18s+. Subject to availability and status. T&Cs apply. Offer available until March 31st, 2019. Indemnities may be required. Offers are not available in conjunction with any other offer and may be varied or withdrawn at any time. Accurate at time of publication. Freepost Volkswagen Financial Services. This vehicle is a WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light-Duty Vehicles Test Procedure) type approved

vehicle. More information is available at www.volkswagen.co.uk/owners/wltp. However, in line with Government guidance, to facilitate comparison between different models from different manufacturers and to accommodate the full transition to this new testing regime, we have displayed NEDC figures. These NEDC figures are the values for this vehicle used in registration and taxation documentation until further notice from the UK authorities. These NEDC figures have been derived from WLTP testing, and may not be equivalent to NEDC figures from NEDC testing, so comparisons may be unreliable. Fuel consumption and efficiency figures are provided for comparative purposes only and may not reflect ‘real world’ driving results. Choice of wheels and other options may affect fuel consumption and emissions data. Official fuel consumption figures for the new Touareg model range in mpg (litres/100km): urban 36.7(7.7); extra urban 47.9(5.9); combined 42.8(6.6). Combined CO2 emissions 173g/km. Excludes battery, electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.


CONTENTS Features 16 Phoenix rising It’s taken six years to get here, but Rita Ora’s new album is hot stuff

21 When Bennett met Rhod Two Welsh comedians, two old friends. Here’s what happened when they met for a chat

24 Watch This Space The best timepieces from 2018

26 Big in Japan? Wales’ preparations for the Rugby World Cup are going really well. Could this be the year?

30 Cave In Is Tom Cave the next great Welsh rally maestro?

34 Gins Glorious Gins Six Welsh gins stirring it up

44 A Day In The life Of Michelin starred Restaurant James Sommerin

Regulars 5 Scene & Heard We’ve got the festive season all wrapped up 10 Right Stuff Shove a few of these in your stocking 12 Niall’s World Ever almost been eaten by a lion? Niall has 14 Write On Wales hooker Matthew Rees on beating cancer 32 Travel Getting lost in gorilla country 39 Fashion Looking cool in the depths of Winter 46 Lifestyle Relaxing, drinking, dining, dancing, romancing… 54 Health & Grooming Lotions and potions to banish winter blues 56 Reviews Every issue we do it all! Reading, listening, moshing and munching! 58 Sport Why it’s not OK to slag off other Wales football supporters 64 Cars Coming to a forecourt near you! 66 The Back Page Older is wiser. And for Bennett, it’s often funnier too

email: redhanded@conroymedia.co.uk www.facebook.com/red.handedmagazine twitter.com/#!/RedHandedMag

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REDHANDED 3


SCENE AND HEARD

Are you ‘avin a laugh? Sammy Maine’s cracking up at the comedy capers on offer in Cardiff

Cracking Comedy

Once you’ve finished crying into your post-Christmas bank account statements, you can wipe away your tears with some of the best comedy Cardiff has to offer. Great British Bake Off and QI star Sandi Toksvig (Cardiff, St David’s Hall, 24 Jan) will be dusting off your January blues with a brand new, one-woman comedy show that’ll feature a quick-fire Q&A where you can finally ask her if Paul Hollywood really is that smug in real life. Elsewhere, critically acclaimed funny guy Rob Auton (Cardiff, Chapter, 1 March) will be trying to convince you that he should’ve actually bagged the first – not second – best reviewed show at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, while comedian, choirboy and host of Soccer AM Lloyd Griffith (Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena, 2-3 March) will be tickling your funny bones with tales about toilets and err, A-roads.

Now That’s What We Call Music

Everyone’s favourite indie-pop lads The 1975 (Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena, 14 Jan) will be treating fans to questionable dance moves and tracks off their latest album ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’, plus old favourites ‘Somebody Else’ and ‘A Change of Heart’. If you’re after a band that definitely know how to turn it up to eleven, Brighton’s Architects (Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena, 18 Jan) will be proving why they bagged Kerrang’s Best British Live Band award in 2018. It’s also the first tour since the passing of guitarist Tom

Fancy a bit of filth with your funnies? Julian Clary (Cardiff, St David’s Hall, 27 March) will be bringing his soul-baring, brand new show Born to Mince to the masses – expect adult-only anecdotes and a sneak preview from his next memoir A Night At the Lubricant. German Comedy Ambassador Henning Wehn (Cardiff, St David’s Hall, 6 April) definitely won’t be mentioning the war in his new show, Just Get On With It; instead he wants the public to stop pondering and put their nose to the grindstone. Finally, our Mock the Week matey Ed Gamble (Cardiff, Chapter, 26-27 April) will be gracing us with Blizzard – a performance that’ll highlight his idiotic brand of brilliant comedy.

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REDHANDED 5


Arena, 13 March) continues his impressive ascent with his first ever headline arena tour, while one of Brit-pop’s best bad boys Richard Ashcroft (Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena, 20 April) will be performing in support of his fifth – yep, fifth! – solo studio album ‘Natural Rebel’.

Terrific Talks

Have your mind blown by Professor Brian Cox OBE (Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena, 1 March) as he brings his world tour to Wales. He’ll be chatting about all things out of this world, making the ever-complicated ideas about the universe more accessible than ever – let’s hope that Science GCSE comes in handy. Prefer cooking over the cosmos? The Hairy Bikers a.k.a. Si King and Dave Myers (Cardiff, St David’s Hall, 7 March) will be hosting an evening packed full of scrumptious grub, great chats and tales from their time travelling the world. Spreading their nerdery to the masses are the brains behind QI and their podcast No Such Thing as a Fish (Cardiff, St David’s Hall, 13 March). Meet your fellow fact-fans and experience the thinking process behind the BBC Two series in real time. Searle, so pack your tissues. Speaking of great musicians who are no longer with us, the King of Country Johnny Cash will be celebrated with the 50th anniversary of the Johnny Cash Roadshow (Cardiff, St David’s Hall, 26 Jan). Actually endorsed by the Cash family, Clive John will perform legendary tracks from Cash’s San Quentin State Prison show in 1969 as well as a plethora of fan favourites. Cult hero and modern-day troubadour Jay McAllister a.k.a. Beans on Toast (Cardiff, Clwb Ifor Bach, 30 Jan) is still at it, releasing a new album on the same date each year. 2018 saw the release of ‘A Bird in the Hand’, which was packed full of his trademark alt-folk that tells it like it is. Cut through the bullshit and catch McAllister doing what he does best. Sticking with alt-folk favourites, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls (Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena, 2 Feb) will be spreading love and banging tunes with their Be More Kind 2019 tour. Emo fans will be pleased to know that Jimmy Eat World will also be tagging along for the ride, providing a special support slot at the show. Looking to relive one of the greatest decades of music? Bath’s best duo of the 80s Tears for Fears (Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena, 3 Feb) will be showing off the best bits from their spectacular 35-year recording career. BRIT Award-winner and Grammy-nominee, Alison Moyet will be joining the lads as the support act for this special show. If you prefer glow sticks over guitars, Fatboy Slim (Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena, 23 Feb) is aiming to create the UK’s biggest dance floor by turning massive arenas into unique night club experiences. He’s promising big production, a revolving stage, rave ushers and a live smiley face experience, whatever that means. Bristol’s golden boy George Ezra (Cardiff, Motorpoint

Changing gear

Find out what it’s like to be the first ever Welshman to win the Tour De France with a special one-nightonly event with Geraint Thomas (Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena, 26 Jan). He’ll be chatting all about his journey from the Welsh valleys to the cobbles of the Champs Elysees, while also offering advice to fellow cyclists. It’s set to be a wheelie great evening. Don your best bow tie and witness snooker’s longest running world ranking event, The ManBetX Welsh Open (Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena 11-17 Feb), for a full week. With up to eight tables in play at once, it’s the stuff of dreams for snooker fans. However, if snooker is your idea of a snooze fest, you might want to opt for an evening with Anfield legends (Cardiff, Wales Millennium Centre, 3 April), where John Barnes, Jan Molby and Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock will kick back and tell all about their phenomenal footie careers.

Theatre, But Not As You Know It

If Quentin Tarantino created a circus, it might turn out like The Circus of Horrors (Cardiff, St David’s Hall, 11 Jan) - an adult-focused amalgamation of amazing, death-defying acts, backed by a rock n roll soundtrack, the Britain’s Got Talent contenders even played Download Festival last year. Sticking to rock n roll, Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ remains as relevant as ever, despite being released 15 years ago. So relevant in fact, that the band’s explosive rock musical of the same name (Cardiff, New Theatre, 29 Jan-2 Feb) is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a world tour - Devil-horned hands at the ready! Moving from a terrific trio to a fab four, Mark Morris’ Pepperland (Cardiff, Wales Millennium Centre, 12-13 April) takes its inspiration from The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and transforms it into a tribute like no other.

“Looking to relive one of the greatest decades of music?” 6 REDHANDED

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C a s t l e F i n e A r t is e x t r e m e l y p r o u d to a n n o u n ce t h e l a u n ch of a b r a n d n e w co l l e c t i o n of l i m i te d e d i t i o n g r a p h i c s by B i l l y C o n n o l l y. Vi ew t h e n ew c o ll e c t i o n i n g a ll e r i e s a n d o n li n e .

Gr and Arcade, St Dav i d's D ew i S a n t , C a r d i f f , C F10 2E R


In Brief Troy of the Rovers

Troy Meze Bar, in our humble opinion, and that of The Times, the best middle eastern and kebab restaurant in Wales, is on the move. Having carved its reputation on the ultra-competitive, multicultural drag of City Road, Ersin Yetisir, Troy’s owner and founder has decided it’s time to upsticks and move to a more salubrious location on nearby Wellfield Road in Roath. “New year, new restaurant, new start. It’ll be the same set-up just a bit smarter.” His logic is simple. The Turkish influenced menu will stay the same and will still be based around an Okabashi Grill (an open charcoal pit), prices will still be affordable but the new location will allow a wider drinks offering and a more upmarket feel. An exact date hasn’t been confirmed but Ersin is hoping it’ll be early 2019. www.troymezebar.com 029 2049 9339

DS Store

It’s all change at Citroen Cardiff on Sloper Road, Cardiff. Citroen’s premium brand, DS, has been making waves since launching in 2009. Inspired by the iconic DS, Citroen’s ground-breaking premium saloon of the 50’s and 60’s, the DS range, comprising models from the supermini DS3 to the luxury SUV DX7, has been winning awards consistently. So popular has the brand become that a dedicated DS Store has been opened at Citroen Cardiff ’s site on Sloper Road and will be officially launched at a lavish event attended by celebs, including members of the Welsh Rugby team. Evans Halshaw DS Salon, Nash House, Sloper Road, Cardiff

A Refining Moment

Having created something of a stir in Swansea over the last couple of years, Refining Dining are bringing their winning formula of themed bars and restaurants to the ‘diff in early 2019. Precise dates are yet to be confirmed but their Cuban themed Old Havana will open where The Hashery was and gin themed Juniper Place will be taking over the old Cranes Music site that was recently occupied by the short-lived Sea Shack in High Street. Expect lashings of rum, Cuba inspired cocktails and Cuban fusion food and tapas menu from Old Havana whilst Juniper Place will be a more relaxed gin lounge and fine-dining experience, complete with micro-distilleries where customers can create their own gins. www.refining-dining.co.uk

Celebrating great food and drink in Wales Winter 2018

BEEF IT UP

A one pot that hits the spot

NO STRESS CHRISTMAS

Cooking tips from top Welsh chefs

A taste of things to come

Not only has the Welsh food and drink scene been booming over the last few years, but it’s been clear to us at RedHanded towers that something rather special is going on. Wales’s restaurants, bars and producers have been earning a well-deserved reputation for great food and drink, gathering bucket loads of awards – Michelin, Great Taste and even, in the case of Aber Falls gin, gold in international gin awards. So, we’ve decided that this needs to be celebrated. And not only celebrated but shouted about as loud as we can. Which is why we’ve launched a new magazine called taste. blas dedicated to celebrating great food and drink in Wales. With plenty of fascinating content including product and restaurant reviews, in depth features, recipes, tips and much, much more, if you’re seriously into food and drink, and like it Welsh, it’s a must read. And it’s free – you can pick it up at quality food and drink venues across Wales. www.taste-blas.co.uk

AWARD WINNING

Welsh Food and Drink

6 OF THE BEST WELSH GINS PLUS VEGGIE TRENDS, COSY PUBS, REVIEWS, TOP CHEFS, RESTAURANTS AND RECIPES GALORE cover_final.indd 1

22/11/2018 12:53:59

A 64 thousand dollar question

Shocking, but before we know it the Six Nations will be upon us. And Wales, who play host to arguably their biggest rivals for the title in Ireland and England, on the back of some good performances in the Autumn internationals, have a great chance to do well. That being the case, what better way to enjoy the day than a 3 course meal at Pier 64 followed by a water taxi to the Principality Stadium in time for the match? With great views, perfectly prepared, locally sourced food, including steak, fish and veggie options, you really can’t go wrong. Let’s hope the boys in red don’t either. Available on 23rd Feb (England) and 16th March (Ireland) at £45 per head. Pier 64, Penarth Marina. 029 2000 0064 www.pier64.co.uk

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THE RIGHT STUFF LIGHTS, CAMERA…

Chances are that your smartphone’s camera is tragically underused – and capable of far more than just selfies and foodie pics. If you’re looking for a more sophisticated shot you could do worse than invest in a Manfrotto Pixi Pano 360. Its compact and lightweight 360-degree rotating head has Bluetooth wireless connection, remote control and a dedicated iOS App. Perfect for precision panoramas and moving time lapse videos. Price: £99.99 Retail: amazon.co.uk

THE WATCHMEN

The XPlora GPS Kids allows parents the peace of mind of giving their kids access to a phone should they need to get hold of you at any time, but takes away those worries about allowing them unsupervised access to that pit of depravity and corruption that is the internet. GPS means they’re super trackable should they be out of your sight for too long. You can set-up safety zones, send messages and hey, it even tells the time! Price: £99 upfront / £5month line rental Retail: myxplora.com

ON ‘Q’

Susie-Q from British brand VQ is not only one of the sexiest digital radios on the market, it is also the most connected radio in the world with a whole host of features all of which are housed in an exquisite real wood and enamel case. The radio you’ve been dreaming of lets you enjoy DAB / DAB+ Digital Radio and traditional FM Analogue, internet radio, wireless streaming and has Spotify Connect for Spotify Premium customers. And whilst its look is timeless, it will actually tell you the time as well. Price: £299.99 Retail: myvq.co.uk

10 REDHANDED

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BLUE HEADPHONES

For 20 years, the world’s greatest artists have used Blue in the studio. Now they’ve created a wireless over-ear headphone that lets you hear more of your favourite music, everywhere you go. The Blue Satellite combines legendary Blue sound quality with all-new, patent pending, active noise cancelling technology to ensure your music is never compromised. Once you’ve slipped these over your ears you’ll understand why so many happy listeners rate these as one of the best on the market. Price: £379.99 Retail: bluedesigns.com

ROAD CREW

There’s no part of modern life that tech can’t make better, more efficient or safer. Welsh company Road Safety Designs Ltd has made sure this is true of road safety also. Older passive warning triangles reflect the light from a motorist’s headlights, but BriteAngle uses active LED lights, increasing the effective distance and time to be seen, helping to avoid a potential accident. In tricky, dangerous situations like these – that extra bit of time, visibility and peace of mind can be the difference between life and death. Price: £37.95 Retail: briteangle.com

NATURE LOVES… (A SPACE ENTIRELY DEVOID OF MATTER)

If you’ve taken the plunge and bought a robot vacuum before, chances are that it may have found itself beached on a thick rug, or stuck in an area of the house where it really shouldn’t be going to if it knew what was good for it. Past solutions included magnetic strips or beacons – but now with its fully automated app the Neato Botvac D7 Connected can set-up ‘’nogo zones’’ in the house to help ensure that it doesn’t get into difficulties and gets the job done. This particular model also works with Alexa, so you can control the whole process with your voice. Who knew housework could be so easy!!?? Price: £799.99 Retail: www.amazon.co.uk

HOME IS WHERE THE SMART IS

With all the important components in one package, the devolo Home Control Starter Pack has all the bits to help you start making your home smart. It includes the ‘boss unit’ that discreetly ensures that all components of your smart home work with each other without a hitch, whilst another unit detects open doors, windows or drawers and sounds the alarm if something isn‘t right. While you are still sleeping, your Smart Meter Plug is already working brewing fresh coffee, turning off devices that you have forgotten or warning you if the refrigerator is still open - all operated via an app on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Price: £179.99 Retail: box.co.uk

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REDHANDED 11


DIED

THOSE TIMES I NEARLY Ever been so scared your life flashed in front of your eyes? Oddly, Niall hasn’t

“Four guys pull guns from inside their jackets and jab them in my face”

It’s often said - so often, in fact, that it’s become a kind of shared common knowledge - that, at the point of premature death (by misadventure, accident, violence etc., rather than the inevitable ending that comes to us all), one’s life flashes before the eyes. In the seconds before demise, the entirety of existence, from birth up to that perilous moment, runs like a movie and at terrific speed across the mind’s eye. One theory for why this happens is that the mind is searching for stored memories of a similar situation which was (obviously) survived so as to take pointers for how to survive again; how to once more avert the danger. It’s an interesting idea.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, maybe because in the last couple of years I’ve lost a few friends and because, well, the world seems to be lurching towards a situation which will, for most of its inhabitants, be very, very bad; terminalities seem to be approaching, endings, extinctions (I hope I’m wrong, it goes without saying). So I’ve been pondering, and remembering, and here are two instances from recent years in which, for me, the state of being alive might have become something quite else. In a dingy bar on the dockside of a Polish port city, the four big and nasty-looking guys who’d been watching me for an hour and grumbling, all stand as one and kettle me in a corner. They pull guns from inside their camouflage jackets and jab them in my face, so hard that, the next day, I’ll have little circular bruises on my cheeks like the patternings on a blue-ringed octopus. They’re all shouting in their language, screaming, and I can feel the warm spittle on my face. I’d done nothing wrong that I could see; I’d been speaking to the barman for a while, mainly about football, and a minute after his shift had ended and he’d left the pub these fellers had decided to act on their discomfort at me being in their bar. I can see down the barrels of their guns; see, with my heightened senses, the spiralling grooves that will drill the bullets, at the speed of a jet-plane, into my face. And what happened? Did my mind replay my life? No; the heart boomed and raced, my hands came up in a gesture of surrender, I asked them what I’d done wrong, tried to smile, insisted that I meant no offence, felt fires all over my skin, tried to swallow with a sandpaper tongue. As far as I can recall, my mind remained blank; a solid block of white...

12 REDHANDED • Issue 3

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And I’m hanging out of the window of a car stationary on a desert road in Namibia. There’s a storm, and the sky is clapping above. There are other cars in front, unmoving, and from between them weaves a lioness, suddenly, so big that her eyes are level with mine. Within seconds she’s there, mere inches in front of my face, nothing between us but a slice of thin and hot air. Her eyes glow a murderous green; she’s so close, I can smell the blood on her breath. Her eyes seethe and are completely without any sense of me being anything other than food; everything I’ve done – all my achievements, the personality I’ve built, the people I love and who love me, everything of which I am proud – vanishes completely and all I am is meat. The cat has teeth like bananas. In a second they will leap and pounce and crush my skull between them. My guide behind me is whispering at me to not move, to keep still, but my head is surely trembling and my hands twitching. And again my mind blanks; the entire world, except for this lioness, goes away. The only thing that exists is Cat. Huge cat. It seems, now, that my head and heart were filled with awe but I doubt they were; they were just empty. I survived both events, obviously (and others, too, but many of them were the result of my own indifference to the continuation of my own existence), and luck had a hand in both of them; the barman returned, having forgotten his phone, and guided me away from the gunmen; and thunder roared and lightning flashed and spooked the lioness. I’m still here, and, yes, I’m grateful for those opportunities to appreciate the fragility and preciousness of life. But that film-ofmemory thing didn’t happen, which is probably for the best; I mean, who’d want their last moments on earth to be filled with boredom and disappointment? ©Niall Griffiths 2018


RAYMOND GUBBAY presents

Stunning scenery brought to life by magical special effects

Snow Maiden The Nutcracker Swan Lake Cinderella Performed by

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia Accompanied by

The Orchestra of the Russian State Ballet

FOUR MAGICAL BALLETS ONE EXCITING SEASON

19 - 31 DECEMBER


BATTLING

An exclusive extract from the new autobiography by Wales and Cardiff Blues hooker Matthew Rees

"I knew I had a battle on my hands, but was determined to get through it"

14 REDHANDED • Issue 3

The story of my battle with this awful disease begins back in April 2013. I noticed a lump on one of my testicles, but wasn’t in any discomfort so didn’t think too much about it. Eventually, as the lump hadn’t changed, I went to see the Wales team doctor. I received a course of antibiotics, and all expectations were that the lump would go away. At the end of August I went to see the team doctor at Cardiff Blues as it hadn’t. His conclusion was the same: nothing to worry about, and another course of antibiotics. In October the lump was still there, though I was still in no discomfort. The team doctor referred me to a consultant, Richard Coulthard. After a thorough examination, I was referred for a CT scan. I was told that regardless of the scan’s findings, I needed an operation to remove the testicle. At that point, though it may seem hard to believe, I was still thinking more about rugby. I told Phil Davies – still Cardiff Blues Director of Rugby then – that I’d need an operation, but would delay it until November. I was sure I wouldn’t be needed by Wales for the Autumn Internationals, and Cardiff Blues had a big Heineken Cup game against Toulon in October which I wanted to be part of. This plan was about to be turned upside down, as were my and my family’s lives.

On Friday 18th October 2013, Richard called to break the news that it had spread into a lymph node in my stomach and that he was pretty sure it was cancer. I needed a biopsy as soon as possible. The first thought I had was, was I going to die? Then I thought about my family: how would they cope? I just couldn’t believe it – cancer? I was too young, surely? On 7th November I was told it was indeed testicular cancer, but that we’d caught it early. Richard was trying to be as positive as possible, but in reality the only word I heard was ‘cancer’. I knew I had a battle on my hands, but was determined to get through it. I’ll always remember telling my daughter Brooke the news later on. She hadn’t batted an eyelid to any of my previous operations for rugby injuries, but when I told her I’d be having treatment to make me feel better and that I might lose my hair, she went upstairs and brought down a pink wig from her bedroom. Love her. Just before the start of the chemo treatment, they wanted to check that the scarring following my operation had healed sufficiently. A young nurse was given the task of checking, and I removed my trousers so she could examine me. Next thing I know, she’d whipped out her phone! I reacted with shock – she apologised and explained that she was using the torch on her phone to have a better look. I thought my private parts were going to be all over social media! Velindre were superb. Once the staff had adapted the anti-sickness medication to fit my needs, the sickness initially wore off. I remember saying to one of my nurses, ‘This chemo isn’t so bad.’ She just gave me a look as if to say, ‘There’s worse to come’, and of course

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CANCER

she was right. I remember one of the nurses telling me about a man who came to them with cancer and after having the first lot of treatment, just never came back as he couldn’t cope with it. Even now, I still wonder what happened to him. Pretty sobering stuff. Apart from the really bad days, I trained throughout my treatment. Some people may find it crazy, but it almost felt like a few stolen hours of escape from my ongoing battle with cancer, and being able to train with Cardiff Blues certainly lifted my spirits. The banter with people such as Bradley Davies and Lou Reed, who were constantly taking the mick, made it feel like I was back to being a normal rugby player. The support I received from the nurses and doctors at Velindre during my time there was outstanding – I can’t thank them enough. The work they do for people in the horrible situation they find themselves in is nothing short of incredible. The Cardiff Blues, my friends and my family were all amazing: a huge thank you in particular to my wife Becky, Ray, Scott and Uncle Dave, who were there throughout my treatment to keep my spirits up. I received messages from people around the rugby world, as well as messages from people I’d never met, wishing me well. I’m so grateful to them all. Cardiff Blues players and Rhondda Schools U15s rugby team shaved their heads in support and to raise money for Velindre. My Uncle Dave and friends completed a sponsored walk from Llanelli to Tonyrefail, taking in the grounds of all the rugby teams that I’ve played for along the route. It just shows how great people can be and I’ll never forget all the support I had. Of course, there were some dark days when I had no energy and just felt terrible. The cocktail of drugs I had did come with side effects, including hearing loss, damaged taste buds and numbness in your fingers, as well as the hair loss and sickness. During the darkest days I remained positive in front of the family, but when alone, I’m not ashamed to say I felt very down. But I was determined to get through it. I couldn’t leave my wife and daughter on their own in this world. I was going to be a survivor of cancer. In January 2014 after those initial bad days, I started to feel a lot better, and shortly afterwards I was given the news I’d longed to hear: I was given the all-clear. On 29th March 2014, I did indeed return to playing, coming off the bench after 57 minutes in a victory over Ulster at Cardiff Arms Park. The reception I got from Cardiff Blues and Ulster fans when I came onto the pitch and the stadium announcer said my name will remain with me forever. Abridged version of the chapter ‘Battling Cancer’ from Matthew Rees’ Reasons 2 Smile (£9.99, Y Lolfa, www.ylolfa.com).


GENTLEMAN’S TEA

AT STRADEY PARK HOTEL & SPA A selection of manly treats both savoury and sweet all washed down with a cup of tea or coffee. Savoury heartiness ~ Chargrilled beef burger topped with Welsh cheese, rocket and apple chutney served in a crusty roll ~ Corned beef rissole served on sweet red onion marmalade ~ Coronation scotch egg with mango salsa ~ Cumberland sausage roll Sweet treats ~ Warm caramelised apple tart ~ Lemon sponge cake ADVANCE BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL (24 HOURS) LADIES ARE MORE THAN WELCOME TO ENJOY GENTLEMAN’S TEA

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Sunday 17 February at 3.00pm Antonanderinlive.co.uk

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REDHANDED 15


LOVELY

RITA A megastar like Rita Ora is not someone you’d expect to rush to the aid of people left homeless after the terrible Grenfell Tower fire in London last year. But she grew up in the same neighbourhood. “My best friend’s auntie and cousins lived there. They escaped with her kids, but they lost everything,” Rita explains. “The day it happened, I went there with a bunch of clothes. I just hope I did enough,” she says. Rita might have had 13 top ten singles and a number 1

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platinum-selling debut album, starred in the 50 Shades movies and been a judge on the X-Factor, but her story begins in Kosovo. In many ways hers is the classic rags-to-riches story - a kid triumphing against all the odds to grab her dream. She was born Rita Sahatciu, the middle child of Albanian refugees who fled to this country in 1991. They lived four to a room in a flat on the old Brompton Road before moving to more a spacious council accommodation block just two streets from Grenfell.


It’s been six long years of lawsuits and abandoned songs since her first album, but finally Rita’s back. It was well worth the wait. www.redhandedmagazine.co.uk

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“ This album is a true labour of love”

So she knows what life is like on the other side of the tracks. Her non-stop work ethic (which at one point meant she collapsed and had to be flown by helicopter to hospital) is the product of someone who has had to battle from the word go. At first the family found the refugee tag was hard to shift. “That word carries a lot of prejudice,” she says. “But it also made us determined to survive. When you put anyone into an alien environment, where other people aren’t completely comfortable with them being there, they are automatically going to be defensive. It’s the rule of the jungle, right?” Growing up, she loved to listen to her parents’ record collection - Blondie, Hendrix and Earth Wind and Fire… and even (wait for it….) Celine Dion. She wanted to sing and act and, perhaps remarkably, her parents encouraged her. Her father worked double shifts and her mother waitressed tables to scrimp and save enough for her to go to the Sylvia Young Theatre School. “I was the only student at school who wasn’t from a rich family: all these kids were Louis Vuitton’d out,” she says. “I was there with the same backpack for six years. But I didn’t care.” By the time she was a teenager, the family’s hard work had paid off. Her dad owned a pub in Kilburn and Rita was singing there regularly. At 16, she managed to convince legendary manager Sarah Stennett, who’d discovered the Sugababes, to meet her for a coffee. “I was desperate to get some studio time,” Rita remembers. She certainly made an impression. “She looked at me and said: ‘I’m going to help you. We’re going to put you in the studio today,’” Rita smiles. Within two years Stennett had helped her land a fivealbum deal with Jay-Z’s record label Roc Nation. Not bad for a 17-year-old raised in a council flat. Before she knew it, Rita found herself on a plane to New York, from where she was taken to a Manhattan nightclub to meet Jay-Z himself. “He said hello and shook my hand. I couldn’t speak for a few minutes, which is unusual,” she laughs. “’You have a firm handshake!’” said Jay-Z. “’I like that.’” She clearly made an impression on the rap mogul too. “You can see the potential,” Jay-Z said. “When she enters a room it changes… and that presence — you can’t duplicate it, especially at a young age. It was just infectious. She’s driven in that way.” The honeymoon didn’t last though. Her first album did phenomenally well, but she fell out with Roc Nation and sued them arguing that they’d failed to release a number of albums that she’d written. “It felt like the worst thing,” she says. “But it was the only decision I could make. My appreciation and respect for them hasn’t changed at all. It was an easy separation. It could have been bad, but it was very respectful. It was one of the easiest separations ever.” It feels like she might be glossing over things a little. The legal action took years to finalise and in the meantime there was no second album. For many artists a six year hiatus between first and second albums would have been disastrous. “The best thing Jay-Z ever taught me was patience,” she smiles enigmatically. “He’s like the best older brother a girl could ever have.”

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And she certainly had a bit of a girl crush on Jay-Z’s wife and superstar Beyoncé. “Beyoncé? Omigod. She’s the nicest person, bestest person I have ever met in the whole industry. I’m not just saying that. I’d die for her. Nobody can ever say anything wrong about that woman in front of me. I get emotional just talking about it.” So freed from the Roc Nation contract, finally the new album - with a new record label - is here. It’s called Phoenix and features a number of singles that Rita has already released including Your Song last May and radio playlist stalwart Anywhere from 2017. And then there’s also Lonely Together which was a collaboration with Avicii, the renowned Swedish producer, who sadly died in April. “We were very good friends and he changed my life,” she says. “In a way, the album is dedicated to him.” A number of songs which she wrote and recorded with Prince look likely never to see the light of day however, which is a great shame. It’s clearly been a great relief to get back into the studio and record again. “One of the most liberating feelings for me is performing and creating music,” she says. “This album is a true labour of love. I’m so appreciative of the support from those who worked with me and allowed me to create something I’m really proud of. They gave me the space and freedom to create something from my heart.” Part of the reason an artist like Rita can stay current even in the midst of a fallout with a record company is social media. “You can be forgotten very quickly,” she says. “So I am aware that I need to stay current, keep connecting and keep bringing things to the table… Otherwise you can just disappear.” Twitter in particular hasn’t always been kind to her though. But she’s developed a thick skin: “Sharing my life with people is just part of my daily routine,” she says. “But I don’t take any notice of the things people say — it’s just white noise. I know the truth. I don’t feel I need to explain anything. Silence is the most powerful response. I know it’s contradictory to put yourself out there and then not want to deal with the responses, but that’s just how it is.” And even if it looks like Rita Ora online, it might not be. “Are there fake Rita Ora profiles online? Definitely!” she laughs. “I see some things and I’m like, ‘That is totally not me.’ Don’t have any expectations because you don’t really know who you’re speaking to.” Let’s face it, if you’re doing what you love and enjoying every minute, who cares what the trolls and the fake profiles are saying? “People, everyday people, do jobs from nine to five that I don’t think they wished for when they were kids,” she agrees. “I love everything I’ve done as a woman and as a businesswoman, but my whole life and passion and fulfilment in my heart has always been about my music.” Rita Ora plays Motorpoint Arena Cardiff on 21 May 2019. Tickets available from Box Office on 029 2022 4488 and motorpointarenacardiff.co.uk.


“I don’t take any notice of the things people say”

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WHEN BENNETT MET RHOD, AGAIN I first met Rhod Gilbert several years ago when we worked together on the Television programmes Glee Time and Stand Up If You’re Welsh. Since then he has gone on to star in, amongst other things, Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience, Never Mind The Buzzcocks and The Apprentice: You’re Fired. He has a successful long-running series on Radio Wales and he is about to make another appearance on The Royal Variety Performance. I gave him a call, on his 50th birthday, to ask him where it all went wrong…..

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After saying he’d never do solo stand-up again, Rhod Gilbert has a new show. It felt like the perfect excuse for Bennett to meet up with him for a chat…

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BA: That’s 50 for you! Nice evening though? RG: Yeah, really nice. Sian and I went to the theatre, which was great, and then to Ronnie Scott’s. We stayed later than I expected and drank a bit too much. I’m still suffering a bit. That’s why I’ve come to the gym for my annual swim! BA: Lovely. So, what are you up to at the moment? RG: Well we recorded another episode of The Apprentice You’re Fired last night which was great fun. I’m doing those over the next few weeks. And I’m also doing the radio show every Saturday and I’m trying out material for my new tour. BA: Ah yes! Now the last time I saw you, which was when we went for lunch after I was a guest on the radio show, you said that you wouldn’t do a solo stand-up show again. So why the change of mind? RG: (Long pause) I don’t know. I suppose it’s a serendipity thing really. Every year I do a show for Velindre (the Cancer Centre in Wales). It’s called Rhod Gilbert and Friends and it’s me and a few of my mates doing stand up, or a panel show or something… Photo: Steve Best (www.stevebest.com)

Bennett Arron: Happy Birthday Rhod Gilbert: Thanks a lot. BA: So. 50. Does age bother you? RG: Yes!!! A lot! BA: Ah. Then I won’t talk about it. So, when you were younger, what did you think you’d be doing when you were 50?? RG: Haha! To be honest I imagined myself with white hair, or bald, wearing slippers, smoking a pipe and watching cricket on TV. BA: You can still do that. RG: I suppose so. Thing is, I love life and everything but getting older really bothers me and makes me angry. BA: I was going to say that at least you’ll get lots of “Happy Birthdays” on Facebook but you don’t use social media do you? RG: No, I don’t. I can’t bear the thought of 24 hour conversations! If I want to speak to someone at 4am I’ll just shout out of the window! I know that Sian (Harries, Rhod’s wife - one of the loveliest people I have ever met) uses it a lot. She loves it.

“ I ditched the rubbish and then started working on the good half...” 22 REDHANDED

BA: I know. We’re friends on Facebook. And she constantly says bad things about you knowing that you won’t see them! (Rhod laughs.) As I mentioned earlier, this conversation so far has taken place on the phone as I wanted to speak to Rhod on his birthday, but we didn’t have the chance to meet face-to-face. We did however meet up a week later at a local gym. When I say gym, I should point out that it was at the café in the gym and we weren’t running on treadmills or lifting weights as we talked. I mean we could have been, obviously, we just chose not to…. BA: How was the birthday? RG: Let’s just say, for the first time in my life, I had a two day hangover.

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BA: No offence taken (Rhod laughs) RG: Usually it’s in small but lovely venues but I decided to do one at the Millennium Centre. Again I just called it Rhod Gilbert and Friends and it sold out on that, just on my name. But what they didn’t know until the night was that I also had Greg Davies, Michael McIntyre, Nick Helm….. it was a great line up. Afterwards, so many people said to me that I should do another show. So I thought, I’ll just try some stuff. So I did one gig, a new hour, and half of it was rubbish and half was good. So I ditched the rubbish and then started working on the good half and now I have a brand new show. BA: And what’s it called? RG: The Book of John. But this will DEFINITELY be the last one! I give him a knowing look. RG: (Smiling) No, I mean it this time. BA: Sure. So, why The Book of John? Although you have probably answered this question a million times already. RG: Actually, no. This is the first time I’ve talked about it so I’ve not answered the question before. (I take a moment to sip my coffee whilst quietly smiling to myself that I have an exclusive!) RG: The reason for the title is, well, it’s about a guy called John, who was my driver when I was going through some very personal stuff like my Mum’s death. The show is my conversations with John around these dark times. He drove me everywhere; to TV studios, to the filming when I was making the shyness documentary, to see my dad when he had a heart attack, even to my mum’s funeral. And his conversations were mad and he drove me insane, but in the same way he kept me sane.


BA: How interesting. How’s your Dad now? RG: He’s doing okay now thanks. BA: Good. You mentioned the ‘Shyness’ documentary. That was a fascinating subject for me as I am incredibly shy. Family and school friends of mine were amazed when I became a comedian as I have always been quiet and introvert. So to know that other comedians also suffer was very reassuring. RG: Yeah, the feedback from that programme was incredible. I had letters and emails from people all over the world telling me how comforting it was to know that there were other people who felt the same way. I had an 80 year old woman in Canada telling me that she had suffered with this her whole life. I had people telling me that their partners didn’t know about their shyness. I’d never had a response like it. It really struck a chord with people. BA: That’s fantastic. One thing I can’t bear is going to parties. I’m happy to stand on stage in front of thousands of people, but walking into a party fills me with dread. RG: Me too! Especially fancy dress parties! BA: Ah, now I’m okay with those for some reason, which is weird. RG: Actually, that’s not so weird. You probably enjoy acting don’t you? BA: Yeah, I love acting. I trained as an actor before I was a comedian. RG: See, a lot of shy people like to escape their shyness through acting. I can’t do that. I’m so self conscious that I can never escape myself. I don’t even like being close to actors! I once told Michael Sheen on the Graham Norton Show not to sit too close to me! BA: When you make the Work Experience programmes you have to meet new people all the time. I’d struggle with that more than acting. RG: Yeah, those programmes are a real challenge for me. But everything is a challenge for me like that. For example, if you weren’t here now I wouldn’t have got these coffees. (Just to clarify at this point, I DID offer to buy the coffee but Rhod insisted!) BA: Really? You wouldn’t have been able to buy a coffee on your own? RG: No. I’ve come in here a few times on my own and wanted a coffee or something to eat, but then I’ve just turned around and left. But because you’re here it’s fine. If I turned around and you’d gone – I’d really be in trouble! BA: I didn’t know it was that bad. RG: Oh yeah. If I’m out on my own, I would go the whole day without eating or drinking just so that I don’t have to order anything, BA: Is that because people know who you are? RG: No, in fact that’s made it easier because it actually gives me something to talk about. It gives structure to a conversation. It’s an ice-breaker.

BA: Speaking of fame though, how difficult do you find it being in front of the camera? Say presenting “You’re Fired” or “Never Mind The Buzzcocks”? RG: It’s a struggle. It’s very difficult. As is being on stage. Which is why I haven’t done a gig in six years! BA: What about going out with friends? RG: That’s…..okay. Also a struggle at times but generally okay. It’s being out on my own is the worst. It’s self-awareness around other people. BA: That’s certainly worse than my own shyness. RG: And my mother’s shyness was worse than mine. Funnily enough she wanted to be an actress – but never stepped one foot on the stage. Too shy. She never once came to see me live because she was so shy. She actually wanted to stop me from doing this because she was so anxious on my behalf. BA: How were you on your birthday? Were you anxious about going to the theatre? RG: A little bit. But with Sian there it wasn’t so bad. But she knows what not to do. She wouldn’t take me to The Rocky Horror Show or something like that. What’s funny is that since the programme, I now see people with shyness turning up at my gigs. You can see them shuffling around and just sitting there staring at their feet!

“ I would go the whole day without eating or drinking just so that I don’t have to order anything...”

BA: So, apart from the new show, what else do you have coming up? RG: Well once I’ve finished “You’re Fired” I’ll be doing some more Work Experience and I have the Royal Variety again. BA: You must be nervous about that? RG: Yeah. I wasn’t going to do it but my agent persuaded me as I have the tour coming up. And Greg (Davies) is hosting which makes it easier. BA: Very busy then, as always. RG: Yeah. There is also another documentary being planned which I can’t talk about yet, but it will again take me out of my comfort zone. Rhod then tells me, off the record, about the new documentary. I can’t say anything about it, but it’s not about him sitting too close to Michael Sheen or smoking a pipe and watching cricket on TV. (It does genuinely sound fascinating and I can’t wait to see it.) We finished our chat then as Rhod needed his swim and I needed the toilet. To be honest I’d wanted to go for a while but I didn’t think it was fair to leave Rhod in the café on his own after what he’d said. It’s funny to think that someone who seems so confident on stage and TV is actually so shy and insecure. And the fact that he has overcome so much to achieve his success just shows what type of person he is. Here’s to the next 50 years. Rhod brings his new show The Book of John to the Millennium Centre on several dates in May and June. For more info see www.rhodgilbertcomedian.com

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TIME KINGS Fancy these on your wrist?

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150m The classy, instantly recognisable dial of the Aqua Terra collection pays tribute to Omega’s rich maritime heritage. This beautiful blue, sailinginspired watch features a sun-brushed and lacquered blue dial decorated with the Teak Concept pattern and a date window at 3 o’clock. This certified chronometer is powered by the OMEGA Master Co-Axial calibre 8500 and is visible through the transparent caseback. £3,920 from Laing’s Cardiff Rolex GMT Master II in “Oystersteel” Launched earlier this year, GMT Master II in ‘Oystersteel’ (previously known as 904L steel) is a hero piece from Rolex and comes with a Cerachrom “Pepsi” two colour bezel and, for the first time in the Professional range of Rolexes, on a Jubilee bracelet. The 3285 movement is new to the Master II, fitted now with a GMT function and a power reserve of 70 hours (up from 48 on the previous model). The ‘Oystersteel’ references the added lustre of the “re-profiled” case. Watches of Switzerland or Crouch the Goldsmiths IWC Portofino Tribeca Film Festival This beautiful limited edition watch celebrates the world-renowned Tribeca Film Festival. The 45mm case is crafted in stainless steel and features a crisp, slate-coloured dial that embodies the New York City streets, whilst the small seconds subdial is Bordeaux-coloured, symbolising the glamorous red carpet event. The manual wind movement is masterfully crafted in Switzerland and boasts an incredible 8 days of power reserve. Presented on a black leather strap, this luxurious watch would be a wonderful addition to any collection. £8,450 from Laings, Cardiff Cartier de Drive With the new, highly anticipated Drive collection, Cartier redefine elegance in the form of a sleek, cushion-shaped case. This model features a 40mm 18ct pink gold case and silvered flinqué dial on a brown semi-matt alligator strap. Technical excellence is provided by the Cartier manufacture 1904MC automatic movement, visible through the sapphire crystal caseback. £16,600 from Laings, Cardiff Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 47 mm Carbotech The Luminor 1950 case was developed by Panerai in the late 1940s to be worn by commandos of the Italian Navy. In 2015, Panerai introduced Carbotech, a material designed to enhance both the aesthetics and performance of the case. It is both lighter and stronger than ceramic or titanium, as well as being hypoallergenic. No two cases are the same due to each layer being compressed in a non-uniform pattern, so in addition to performance benefits, each piece is visually unique to its respective owner. POA from Watches of Switzerland, Cardiff Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph 43 Limited Edition This Limited Edition of the Navitimer 8 B01 Chronograph 43 offers an exclusive dial, with black contrasting sub-registers. Its bezel with engraved numerals is a nod to the vintage 765 AVI, and gives the option to track a second time zone. The transparent sapphire caseback allows you to view the in-house Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01 that powers this chronograph. COSC-certified, this movement boasts an impressive power reserve of more than 70 hours. £6,150 from Crouch the Goldsmiths

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KILIMANJARO BY ARRANGEMENT WITH X-RAY PRESENT

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Morfa Stadium & Performance and Cocktails

Saturday 13 July 2019

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WILL WE BE BIG IN It’s the end of an era. As Warren Gatland ends 12 years at the helm, Will Burton assesses our chances in the 2019 Rugby World Cup

This time next year it will all be over. We don’t know how it will end, but end it will. For the first time since the dark days following the humiliating exit from the 2007 World Cup, there will be big changes afoot at the helm of the Wales rugby team. Why is that important? Because for Warren Gatland and his coaching team the countdown to the end of their 12-year tenures is well and truly under way.

A dozen years is a long time in anyone’s book. It’s the longest any head coach has spent in charge of Wales. To put it into some sort of context 2007 was the year Tony Blair ceded the position of Prime Minister to Gordon Brown, the new Wembley Stadium opened, the final instalment in the Harry Potter book series was released, while Andrew Flintoff was involved in the infamous ‘Fredalo’ incident during England’s nightmare Cricket World Cup campaign. Welsh rugby has known nothing other than Gatland, Shaun Edwards, Rob Howley and Robin McBryde in the intervening period. There are a generation of young Welsh fans who will not be able to remember watching the national team under the guidance of anyone other than Gatland. Some players have seen their Test careers start and end under the regime, none more notable than former skipper Sam Warburton who has sadly been forced into early retirement by injury. There are those who will rejoice at the chance for a fresh start under Pivac, who has enjoyed considerable success developing an exciting all-court game with the Scarlets, and the change from an increasingly taciturn Gatland. Many felt the Kiwi’s time should have been up after the last World Cup. But there are others who will rue the departure of a man who led Wales to a period of success not experienced since the halcyon days of the 1970s. There is little grey area, you like Gatland or you do not.

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JAPAN? Ultimately, when it comes down to it, there is respect rather than outright admiration for what he has achieved - including a Lions success in Australia and a drawn series against the mighty All Blacks. Gatland is liked not loved. He might not like to admit it but the former Ireland coach is mindful of that fact, and knows the 12 months ahead could define his legacy in this land.

“There is a certain amount of pressure. The last thing I want is for Wales to have a poor Six Nations and a poor World Cup because we have put in a huge amount of work over the last 12 years,” he said. “I’m bricking myself about the next year because I want it to be a good one. “I am focused on doing the best job I can having loved my period in Wales. “It is time to move on and I want to leave these shores with my head held high. That makes the next 12 months pretty important, not so much this autumn and the World Cup warm-ups, but the Six Nations and the World Cup, the competitions we are judged on.”

Claiming the scalp of Australia - pool opponents at the World Cup - after a run of 13-straight defeats was huge psychologically and they won with masses to spare against Tonga, and with relative comfort against Scotland and South Africa. “We’ve got a good group of players that the Welsh public should be really proud of,” Gatland said in reflecting on a satisfying November.

“This is an increasingly settled group of players”

“The way they conduct themselves, prepare and train. They’ve been outstanding. “I’ve been very proud of them but we‘re not getting too carried away. “There will be the keyboard warriors out there criticising me, Rob Howley or Robin McBryde - they take a lot of crap from people. “We just keep our head down, work hard and start thinking about the Six Nations.

History has shown Gatland’s ability to get Wales to peak when the global showpiece comes around every four years. They were heartbreakingly close to a place in the final in 2011, and were a defensive lapse away from the semi-finals despite being decimated by injuries in 2015. They also came into the new season on the back of a highly encouraging summer which included victories over South Africa and Argentina, there is a sense of momentum behind Wales with a more expansive game plan on the table. Pleasingly, that progress has continued into the current campaign and a first autumn clean sweep just adds to the sense that Wales are bubbling along nicely as the global jamboree in Japan looms ever larger on the horizon.

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“The goal will always be to win every game we play”

“It’s my last 12 months and I’d like to finish on a high and for these guys to do as well as they possibly can and leave Welsh rugby in a good place.”

“I think this autumn is about some rotation of the squad and giving players an opportunity,” added Gatland.

While Wales suffered injuries to the likes of Taulaupe Faletau, James Davies and Scott Williams, the autumn underlined a pleasing depth and solidity to the 36-man party picked by Gatland.

“We’ve taken the chance to look at a few new faces in the camp. We have had a pretty settled group but it does not mean players cannot force their way into things and the guys who have been given an opportunity will be all the better for the experience.

In the past the loss of players of that ilk would have caused a crisis, instead Wales were able to deal with the absentees with men of the calibre of Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric and Jonathan Davies filling the void. A number of nations would relish options of that nature. There is considerable strength in the front row, the back-row and the back three and this is an increasingly settled group of players. There is an embarrassment of riches. Gatland’s task in selecting his 31-man World Cup squad is not going to be how he fills out the positions with sufficient quality, it is more who on earth does he leave out? But there has still been room for the introduction of new faces, with Leicester’s Jonah Holmes and Ospreys man Luke Morgan the surprise names in the autumn squad. Morgan has international experience from the World Sevens circuit, where he is Wales’ top scorer. He had been brought back in the 15-man game this season, and he already has four tries in just six appearances at the time of writing. At the age of 26 his full international call has come later than is usual, and he earned his first cap in the victory over Scotland.

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“Luke and Jonah have impressed us, they have things to work on as we do as a team but we are in a good place right now.” Morgan and Holmes are men at the start of their Wales careers, selected by a man nearing the end of his. But the common goal is the same, to make sure Wales make their mark when the William Webb Ellis Trophy is up for grabs this time next year and a legacy is on the line.


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Cave Man

Fresh from an impressive showing at the 2018 Wales Rally GB, RedHanded catches up with Wales’ very own speed king, Tom Cave. RedHanded: Sounds like you had an exciting World Rally Championship – what was the highlight for you? Tom Cave: Without doubt it was setting fastest WRC2 times on four of the stages. To do that against crews in the factory supported Skodas, Fords and Citroens really boosted our confidence and proved to us that we can compete against the world’s best. RH: How did it feel to do so well in your ‘home’ rally? TC: It’s always great to do well on your home rally, as you’re competing in front of people you know and therefore the support is fantastic. There is another side to it though, as some will say we did well because we were familiar with the stages. This may help in some sections, but definitely not everywhere. RH: How and when did you get bitten by the rallying bug? TC: My introduction to rallying came from my Dad when I was a kid. He was a very competent driver in his own right and I used to love going to watch. He saw how keen I was and gave me the chance to get behind the wheel of a rally car when I was 13 at a local rally school. I then started competing when I was 15 in Latvia, where it’s legally possible to drive at that age. I did a second season over there when I was 16 and, with my birthday in November, I entered the 2008 Rally GB five days after passing my UK driving test. It means that I am the youngest driver ever to compete in a WRC event. For the record, I won Class N3 by 15 minutes! RH: How helpful was it to come from a family that’s always been involved in rally driving? TC: It’s everything to be brought up in a family that’s involved with rallying and in many cases it’s clear that the genes are passed down through the generations. But to get to the top you have to have the natural ability too. RH: F1 is spectacularly glamourous and flush with money. How does rallying compare? TC: Both can be generically covered by the term motorsport but they are two very different driving disciplines. F1 and circuit racing will always be able to generate more money, as the events take place at purpose built venues catering for spectators and hosting huge levels of corporate hospitality. Whilst racing is far better commercially, rallying is a purer form of motorsport, far less clinical and more about raw natural ability and car control than consistent high speeds over the same stretch of perfectly laid asphalt. But I would say that…

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RH: Is it a financially difficult sport to compete in? TC: It’s hugely difficult to compete in motorsport at the top level. For those that don’t know what it costs, the figures can sound crazy, but when you break it down you can see where the money goes so it makes more sense. I do have a number of regular sponsors and supporters who have really helped out over the years and I couldn’t have done it without them, but it’s also meant putting in some personal funds too on occasions. RH: How did you hook up with Trailhead as a sponsor? TC: I’ve known the owner of Trailhead Foods, Arwyn Watkins OBE, for some time, as he’s a highly respected catering consultant and has worked with us at the hotel in the past. Having just taken on the ‘Get Jerky’ brand, he was looking for a way of launching the products and us doing the Rally GB worked well in terms of timing. We hope that the association will continue into next year. RH: What would your advice be to anyone trying to get into the sport? TC: Start small and work up. That way you learn as you go and don’t invest more than you need to at the beginning. You’ll quickly know if you have the ability to progress and then have an idea where you want to get to in the sport. It’s then important to come up with a plan of how you intend to get there. Alternatively, you can just do it to enjoy it. Rallying is like that. If you can’t commit to a full championship, you can just enter the events you want to do and still get a huge amount of satisfaction and enjoyment from the experience. RH: Best and worst things about rally driving? TC: The best: Because rallying demands so much from you: speed, skill, bravery, commitment, teamwork, determination and stamina, to do well takes a supreme amount of effort. Winning means so much, as to be better than anyone else because of the demands gives you a high like no other. The level of satisfaction is off the scale! However, having said that, just driving quickly through a stage is one of the best feelings in the world. The worst: Because the highs are so high, the lows are very low. Mistakes and accidents are by far the worst aspect of a sport that involves speed and risk. Cost is also a big factor, as in all types of motorsport, money usually means you go quicker and can do it more often. However, it’s great to win when you’re regarded as the underdog!

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Going Ape! Jeremy Head tracks down rare mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in Rwanda

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What do you do when you come face to face with a mountain gorilla? I opted to crouch. I’d dropped back along the path with my back to the rest of our trekking group, when suddenly I was confronted by a young male coming the other way. It was a moment I’ll long remember. Dark, unblinking eyes fixed me in an instant. And then, all huge knuckles and hairy shoulders, he approached. Fascinated, I remained stuck to the spot. He sauntered past, no more than a foot away. Rwanda is world famous for its gorillas and they didn’t disappoint. In the far north-west of the country in the Volcanoes National Park, seven groups of eight lucky tourists get to spend an hour each day in very close proximity to some of the planet’s last remaining mountain gorillas. We’d set off an hour previously after Fidel, our guide, had given us a briefing. “We’re visiting the Sabyinyo group,” he’d explained. “It comprises 12 gorillas, including the largest silverback, Gukonda. His name means ‘chest beater’. All of the gorillas have names; we tell them apart by the shape of their noses.” Our trek through bamboo forest and fat-leaved foliage was relatively sedate, but at nearly 9000 feet above sea level, it still occasionally had me panting for breath. During our hour with the group, which passed

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incredibly quickly, we were lucky enough to also get very close to Gukonda. He too eyed us up, almost posing for us. Further turns around clumps of bamboo brought us to a huge blackback, a smaller male and a tiny baby. We watched enthralled as the baby clambered and tumbled around in the bamboo. He was charming. Dad looked on unperturbed, as tourists feet away snapped madly with their cameras. It was so close, so intimate, I felt almost embarrassed. Most people only associate Rwanda with gorillas, but there are many more enthralling wildlife encounters to be had. I drove a couple of hours south east to the capital Kigali and took a Rwandair internal flight to Kamembe, in the far south east, and near another of Rwanda’s National Park highlights – Nyungwe Forest. It’s the largest slice of protected medium altitude rainforest in Africa and it’s stuffed with species – orchids, birds, primates and reptiles – and, in particular, chimpanzees. It’s the kind of place tourists ought to make a detour to see. The problem used to be the accommodation: just a cheap hostel or campsite. But that has changed. I was booked into the new Nyungwe Forest Lodge. Nestled among slopes covered with tea plants, it features designer bungalows with balconies overlooking the rainforest.


TRAVEL FACTS

The 4.30am start next morning meant I didn’t have long to enjoy its comforts, but the early start was worthwhile. Above me the night sky was cloudless with a sprinkling of stars; the hush of wind through the rainforest was the only sound. We picked up Kambogo, our excellent guide and bumped along in our 4x4 for an hour. Dawn revealed pools of cloud in the deep valleys below, the rising sun turned them from white to golden in moments. We set off following a signpost marked ‘Rukizi Trail’. Kambogo led at a cracking pace. “The trackers radioed to say the chimps may move soon!” he explained. We forked onto a smaller trail. The slope became much steeper. Rainforest mulch under my boots was slippery, every branch seemed to move beneath my grasping touch. We burst onto a wider trail to meet up with our trackers. They guided us at a gentler pace to a clearing that dropped away offering views of enormous fig trees. It took a while to spot them, but there they were: a family of chimps, swinging and rustling high in the trees, cramming their mouths with figs. As with the gorillas, our watching time was limited to one hour, but we were unable to get

anywhere near as close. I spotted a tiny baby. Clambering over his mother, he looked precarious 100 feet above the ground. Nyungwe isn’t just for hardcore trekkers, though you do need to be pretty fit. There are guided walking trails, waterfalls, remarkable bird life and monkeys. The latest attraction is a 220-foot high aerial walkway offering immense rainforest views. But just as we arrived, it started to rain. “We can’t do the walkway if it’s raining. It’s a safety precaution,” said Kambogo. Secretly, I was relieved. I get vertigo. That drop was already making my head spin. As we walked back, the rain increased. The final stretch of path revealed a huge gap in the canopy. I stepped forth and looked out at precipitous hills unrolling towards Lake Kivu in the distance. Cooling rain cascaded down my face. A brief halo of sunlight lit up the rainforest with its magical, centuries-old trees. Amidst the excitement of progress, Rwanda’s bright future is inextricably linked to the wonders of its primeval past. And thankfully, they see this.

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The flight: Brussels Airlines (0905 60 95 609; www. brusselsairlines.com) flies from Bristol to Rwanda via Brussels. Prices from £585 return including taxes. The trip: Bridge & Wickers (020 7483 6555; www. bridgeandwickers. co.uk) offers a 7-night Rwanda Primates luxury package from £2,825 per person, including flights and luxury lodge accommodation. More info: Rwanda Development Board Tourism website: www. rwandatourism.com; The excellent Bradt Guide to Rwanda (Bradt Travel Guides, £15.99).

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A Hymn to Welsh Gin

Fancy a cheeky G&T? Kerry Christiani sure does and there are plenty of Welsh ones to choose from Wales has gone mad for craft gin recently, with gin-devoted bars and distilleries popping up at a rate of knots, many of them putting a unique and innovative spin on flavours or foraging for their own botanicals. From the moor-clad hills of the Brecons to the valleys of the south and the mountains of Snowdonia, we’ve toured the country to handpick six small-batch gins worth singing about, including one that has the royal seal of approval.

Mountain spirit Brecon Gin, Penderyn Distillery

G & Royal T Dà Mhìle, Llandysul

In the back of beyond in Ceredigion stands a farm distillery like no other: Dà Mhìle (pronounced ‘da-veelay’). Their background is in whisky, but they’ve also carved out a reputation for one-of-a-kind organic craft gins. Indeed, Prince Charles himself stopped by for a tasting earlier this year. Entry level is the Botanical Gin, a blend of 18 botanicals, some grown on the farm, including gorse, red clover and elder. Infused with handpicked seaweed, the Seaweed Gin goes brilliantly with all kinds of seafood. They also make interesting oak-aged and sloe gins. Tours run at 3pm from Wednesday to Friday; book ahead. Tasting notes: My favourite was the Botanical Gin. It has a subtle aroma of rose petals, spice and juniper, but there are also hints of dandelion and peppery cloves. Mix it with: Neat with ice or with lime and cucumber Buy it from: Online (www.damhile.co.uk/shop), £34.

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As you’re cruising through the southern foothills of the Brecons, you might well feel a thirst coming on. If so, head over to Penderyn Distillery. They made their name in whisky, but their Brecon Gin is equally worthy of note, made with the purest water that flows down from the Brecon Beacons National Park. The premium Brecon Botanicals Gin is more complex and has a really unusual finish. Hour-long, behind-the-scenes distillery tours are also available. Tasting notes: Brecon Gin reveals a hit of fresh juniper, followed by coriander and hints of citrus fruits, cinnamon, nutmeg, liquorice and angelica. Brecon Botanicals Gin has a similar juniper aroma, laced with coriander and citrus, but you get all kinds of stuff as it opens up: cinnamon, cloves and even saffron. Mix it with: sip neat or with tonic and lemon or fresh mint and cucumber. Buy it from: Online (www.penderynstore.com). Brecon Gin, £22, Brecon Botanicals Gin, £28


Cocktail crush Aber Falls, Abergwyngregyn, Gwynedd

Just north of Snowdonia National Park, this is one of just four whisky distilleries in Wales, but again swerves into gin country with its range of novel gins that scream for a cocktail glass, like Orange Marmalade and Rhubarb & Ginger. These are made with the crystal-clear water that trickles down from mountains around Aber Falls. You can also go classic with their Welsh Dry. The emphasis here is on sustainability, with the distillery sourcing botanicals from North Wales, and working together with the local botanical gardens in Gwynedd to develop recipes. Tasting notes: Welsh Dry Gin has a big juniper thing going on, with lots of citrus and subtle sweetness and spiciness. Rhubarb & Ginger is more piney, with warming ginger to finish - I really liked it. Mix it with: Try it in cocktails like Menai Martini (with vermouth, lemon and lime rind) and Rhubarb Pie (with vanilla liqueur, gomme, apple and lemon juice). Buy it from: Amazon, Master of Malt, Harlech, Joseph Keegan, £22-28

Cure for Cholera Cygnet, Swansea

Harking back to a recipe that attempted to cure cholera in the 1800s, cygnet is aiming to wing Swansea into a brighter future with its hand-crafted Welsh dry gin, overseen by master distiller Dai Wakely. Swansea’s heritage as a port city is revived in the botanicals, which come from all over the globe and feature almonds, cardamom, chamomile, angelica root, coriander, juniper, licorice and orris root. The result is a clean, bright gin with a pinch of history. At the show distillery, part of Juniper Place (a gin-themed fine dining restaurant and bars), you can see gin in the making while nursing a G&T or cocktail. For more insight, hook onto one of the free tours or more indepth gin master classes. Tasting notes: Crisp and subtly floral, with hints of chamomile, citrus, coriander and a juniper bite. Mix it with: go for a classic G&T with a slice of lemon, lime or grapefruit, or add to any gin-based cocktail. Buy it from: Online (www.cygnet-distillery.co.uk), £34.99, or from Master of Malt (www.masterofmalt.com).

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Botanical brews Eccentric, Caerphilly

Forager’s favourite Dyfi Distillery, Corris, Machynlleth

When Pete Cameron moved to the Dyfi 35 years ago, he felt he had stumbled across his very own Welsh Eden: a lush valley of rare wildlife, pure air and gently sloping hills. As a hill farmer, forager, beekeeper and experimental scientist, Pete created a small-batch gin using precision distilling, capturing a profound sense of place using foraged wild botanicals. These range from bog-myrtle leaf, pine tips and gorse flower in the Original Gin to rowan berries, rosehips, sloe, hawthorn, heather and bramble in the Pollination Gin, and autumnal flavours of crab apple, bilberry and blackberry in Hibernation Gin. Original gin was shortlisted for Best British Gin 2018 at the Great British Food Awards. Visitors are welcome to stop by. Tasting notes: Original is rich and with lots of juniper; Pollination really tastes of wild flowers, fruits and conifer tips - it’s amazing stuff. Hibernation is fruity and herbal. Mix it with: Neat or in a martini or negroni, with optional garnish of bruised juniper and twisted lime peel. Buy it from: Online (www.dyfidistillery.com), £31.95£42.95

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The distillery’s precise location in the valleys of South Wales is something of a secret, but Eccentric gins are swiftly becoming all the rage. They hail originally from Llantrisant, famous former home of Welsh physician and druid William Price. Distilled by brewers, mixlogists and a freeman in a wide range of different casks, their wholly unique gins play up seldom heardof botanicals, such as wild sunflower or ‘elfwort’, which gives it a subtle sweetness and an underlying floral bitterness. There’s a huge range to try too with utterly bonkers ones like Pembrokeshire Pinky, with cherry and lemongrass flavours. Tasting notes: Very hard to choose favourites here. Madame Geneva has lovely hints of citrus and liquorice; you can really taste the rosemary, fennel and sorrel in more herbal Cardiff Dry. Limbeck bursts with blue ginger, citrus, tarragon and Seville orange spectacular. Mix it with: Serve Madame Geneva with ice, a slice of orange and a dash of tonic, and Limbeck with the same (plus optional sage). Cardiff Dry pairs well with rosemary and cucumber. Buy it from: Online (www.eccentricgin.co.uk), from £30 a bottle, or from Master of Malt (www. masterofmalt.com).

Natural Selection: A good gin deserves a great mixer Llanllyr SOURCE mixers, Talsarn

It’s all in the water. That’s the secret to Llanllyr SOURCES’s range of mixers. Their low mineral, wonderfully soft, water is sourced from springs in the heart of Ceredigion located on their organic, Green Dragon Level 5 Environmental Certified, farm. This helps explain why Llanllyr SOURCE is the water of choice for many of the world’s best Michelin starred restaurants, who know a thing or too about taste. Utilising the pure SOURCE water as the base ingredient and working closely with mixologists they have now redefined mixers with a range that includes two tonic waters. Tasting notes: The natural softness of the water is particularly effective in the lightly bittered tonic water which really lets the subtleties of the gin shine. With less quinine, and purely natural ingredients, it’s a gentler mixer than many other brands. It’s ideally suited to enhancing the botanical and floral flavours of modern craft gins, whilst also allowing you to see more traditional favourites in a new light. We really loved it in Cygnet and Dyfi’s Pollination, noticing that it adds a very pleasant citrus finish. The light version is slightly more bitter and works brilliantly with juniper biased gins such as Aber Falls’ Welsh Dry. Buy it from: discoverdelicious.wales £13.50 for four


Hotel Restaurant Spa

Just fifteen minutes from Cardiff, nestled amongst the tree-lined streets of Penarth sits a lovingly restored 1920’s manor house. Behind it’s handsome façade lies a 4 star boutique hotel of residential elegance, boasting 12 individually styled bedrooms and suites with breath taking views across the Bristol Channel and to the islands of Flatholm and Steepholm. Enhanced by an award winning Spa and 1 AA Rosette Restaurant, coastal luxury doesn’t get better than Holm House.

www.holmhousehotel.co.uk | +44 (0) 2920 706029 reservations@holmhousehotel.co.uk Marine Parade, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, CF64 2BG


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REDHANDED 43


A Day in the Life of a Michelin Star Restaurant

Restaurant James Sommerin, Penarth Have you ever stopped to think what it takes to become a Michelin-star rated Chef, and exactly what that kind of commitment entails? Surely, once you’ve hit the top, the really hard work stops, and you get to coast for the rest of your career? In fact, the really hard graft kicks into top gear the minute you are awarded a star; the pressure to maintain standards – let alone aim for a second Michelin star - is truly off the charts.

01.00am − Home time for James, Georgia, Joe and Steve. Wednesday was Joe’s first day as Junior SousChef, whilst this is Steve’s second week as Commis Chef. Georgia - James’ 19 year old daughter – who started work experience at The Crown at Whitebrook when she was 13 years old, has recently been promoted to the role of Sous-Chef, and is now second in command to her famous father.

Caerleon-born Chef James Sommerin hit the headlines in 2007, when he won a Michelin Star for Wales at The Crown at Whitebrook, near Monmouth. ‘The Crown’ inherited the accolade when James moved on in 2013 to set up a restaurant in his own name. Following the opening, in 2014, of Restaurant James Sommerin in Penarth, he won a Michelin Star in 2016, that he has twice retained. taste.blas was delighted to accept an invitation to join the team in November 2018, to record a timeline of a typical day...

02.00am – Around this time on a Saturday night, the whole team make a weekly pilgrimage to McDonalds, in Barry or Cardiff Bay. Georgia unwinds at her new home in Barry watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on Netflix, whilst James was up with a glass of red wine watching an American documentary on Japanese kitchen knives.

Main Players: Chef Patron – James Sommerin Sous-Chef – Georgia Sommerin (James’ 19 year old daughter) Junior Sous-Chef − Joe Claridge Commis Chef − Steve Gill Office Manager – Beth Jones (James’ Sister in Law) Front of House – Nick Lawrence and Catherine Longree (James’ Sister in Law & Louise Sommerin’s twin sister) Louise Sommerin (Director, James’ Wife) Angharad Sommerin (James’ 15 year old daughter) Elin Sommerin (James’ 8 year old daughter) Melton – the Sommerin family’s 9 week old Miniature Daschund Thursday, November 15th , 2018 00.00am – The last restaurant guests left just before midnight, including a member of the Llanelli Scarlets squad. He had proposed to his girlfirend earlier in the day, and they celebrated with a ‘Chef ’s Table’ experience in the restaurant kitchen. Following a thorough ‘clean-down’, and food orders placed for the days ahead, Georgia sets up next morning’s breakfast for the restaurant-with-rooms ‘hotel’ guests.

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03.00am – Bedtime for James. 06.00am – Georgia wakes up, eats porridge for breakfast, before making her way to the restaurant for the breakfast shift at 8am. 08.00am – Georgia starts baking the bread for the day, Beth arrives for her day shift as Office Manager. 09.00am − James arrives to prep the meat, as do Joe and Steve as well. Louise pops her head round the door to say hello. 10.00am – Anne-Marie, the restaurant housekeeper is hoovering in the restarant, as James welcomes the rep from Fine Trails Wine Suppliers to explore a brand new house Champagne. Steve is prepping the veg, peeling a small mountain of shallots. Joe is deep-frying the tapioca and laverbread crisp; a Sommerin signature ‘snippet’ that is served on pebbles from Penarth beach, outside. 11.00am – Nick arrives, to start preparing the restaurant lay-out for lunch. Beth and James fold napkins at the pass. Dave, from Ashton’s Fishmongers arrives with the fish and seafood delivery. Steve is chopping heritage carrots. The lamb stock has been on the boil since 9am. Georgia is spreading caremelized onion on her rolled-out dough for the lunch rolls.


12.00pm – Lunch service usually begins at this time, but today’s first guests are not in until 1pm, so there’s a welcome extra hour to prepare. They are expecting a table for two, a table for four, and a table for one – whilst another couple walk-in and request the Tasting Menu. Is the lone diner a critic, or perhaps an awards judge? Time will tell... 01.00pm – Having, unusually, been in meetings for much of the morning, James enters the kitchen, reaches for his apron, and away he goes. In his presence, there is a shift in the kitchen’s energy, and a palpable ‘charge’ is felt. James commissioned his stainless steel open-kitchen to his exact specification, to ensure a ‘flow’ between all members of the kitchen team. The atmosphere is calm, very ordered and peaceful; all four team-members almost appear to glide, and dance past each other, with a constant, mindful, refrain, ‘watch your back’. 02.00pm – Nick calls in to the kitchen with a question; one of the guests would like to know how spicy the curried Monkfish main is. She says she does not have an intolerance, per se, it’s just that she’s a self-described ‘wimp’ when it comes to chillis. James assures him that the dish should be perfectly fine, as the only heat in the dish derives from the ginger. 03.00pm – Steve empties the sous-vide water basin under the sink; he hands James the vaccum-packed loins and shoulders of lambs, for boning – a favourite past-time of the award-winning Chef-Patron.

08.00pm − The two guests at the kitchen’s Chef Table are quiet tonight, and remark how incredibly organized everything in the kitchen is; the newly engaged couple that were in last night were full of questions for the team – a welcome element, that adds to the lively banter and kitchen atmosphere. 09.00pm − Steve and Joe experience ‘service’ for the first time in their careers, as they present dishes to the tasting menu guests – a personal touch at Restaurant James Sommerin. 10.00pm − The 4th course of the Vegetarian Tasting menu is ready to go at the pass; Heritage Carrot, Basil, Seeds and Burrata Cheese. 11.00pm – the last guests are yet to place their order for dessert, but Steve starts the kitchen ‘clean-down’, and is soon joined by Georgia and Joe. James and Joe later attend to the dishwasher, whilst Catherine starts to polish the cutlery. 12.00am – Two ‘tables’ still remain, with the guests basking in the afterglow of a fine meal. The thorough kitchen clean-down continues. For Nick this is quality

04.00pm – The lone diner has just left, he was a businessman from Japan. The group of 4 are still at their table, devouring the Sommerin signature plum souffle, with parma violet ice cream. The evening ‘prep’ in the kitchen is in full swing. 05.00 pm – The final lunch guests have left, having enjoyed a memorable meal, and there are two hours to go before the evening guests arrive. Each member of the team is responsible for preparing the evening staff dinner to a specific budget; tonight it is Georgia’s turn, as she is also on ‘breakfast prep’. For the staff, it’s pizza time! 06.00pm − Catherine arrives to take over from Beth – she is a seasoned ‘FOH’. Like James (who sneaks a peek at the customers through the open kitchen window), she can usually sense when guest are genuinely enjoying themselves; ‘You can tell by their body-language, the conversation flows and they are totally relaxed, and they are more curious about asking questions.’ 07.00pm − Show-time! It’s almost a full-house tonight; 16 are in for the 6 course menu, 2 for the 9 course Chef ’s Table (in the restaurant kitchen) tasting menu, 2 for the vegetarian tasting menu, and 2 for the 14 course tasting menu. All in all that’s 154 plates, and on top of that they offer ‘snippets’, which brings the total up to 200 perfectly presented plates. Not bad at all for a Thursday night!

preparation time for the day ahead. The bane of his life, he says, is ‘that there are never enough hours in the day’. 01.00am – The final guests have now left; at this time, James occassionally sits at the restaurant’s centre table, creating the music playlist with a glass of wine. Georgia, Steve and Joe have a meeting at the pass to discuss the weekend orders. Slight panic sets in as the fruit and veg delivery was short today, and indeed was missing vital ingredients for a busy weekend ahead. Georgia starts phoning wholesalers, hoping to ensure a morning delivery of raspberries, girrolles and fresh figs – to name but a few. 02.00am − A call is received; the wholesaler’s delivery date has changed from Thurday to Friday. It would have been nice to have been informed! That’s an extra day’s prep, prior to a busy weekend. Not ideal. As the team prepare to leave, a final question to the team. Following a 15-16-hour day, what on earth will possess them to return to this kitchen in a matter of hours? ‘It’s like a drug’, says James, ‘I can’t think of anything worse than sitting in an office all day’. Joe’s response? ‘I totally agree’.

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REDHANDED 45


LIFESTYLE

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The Stereophonics celebrate the 20 year anniversary of their groundbreaking gig at Swansea’s Morfa Stadium and release of Performance and Cocktails with a special performance at Swansea’s Singleton Park Cwmaman’s finest and one of Britain’s best live bands the Stereophonics have announced a special performance at Singleton Park, Swansea on Saturday 13th July 2019. The stadium rockers will perform in their South Wales heartland to celebrate 20 years since their career milestone show in Swansea at Morfa Stadium to 55,000 people and the release of ‘Performance and Cocktails’. Believe it or not it will be the band’s first time back in South-West Wales since their Morfa Stadium show in 1999. The now iconic album, which was the band’s second studio release, gave the ‘phonics three straight

top five singles in the British charts with The Bartender and the Thief reaching No.3, and both Just Looking and Pick a Part That’s New reaching No.4. Over the past two decades the Stereophonics have played at some of the world’s biggest venues to fans of all nationalities, amassing over 10 million album sales in that time. More recently in 2018 the band performed to sell-out crowds across the globe, including a huge 15-date arena tour, summer homecoming gigs in Wrexham and Cardiff plus headline shows at Kendal Calling, Y Not Festival and Victorious Festival. Speaking about the latest announcement, Kelly Jones said: “Performance and Cocktails put us on the world map, and also on the TV and the Radio, which meant a lot of people went back to discover Word Gets Around and made our first album platinum! Morfa Stadium was where we set Performance and Cocktails alight, and it was a one off day that can never be beaten. It was perfect. I’m not a man that likes to go backwards, this event is merely a birthday party, so come along and help us blow out the candles.” Saturday 13th July 2019, Singleton Park, Swansea Tickets on sale from Friday 14th December 2018 via www.myticket.co.uk.

BALLET HO!

What better way to get in the Christmas spirit than to enjoy a world class ballet with your loved ones at St David’s Hall? They’ve got the festive season all wrapped up with four enchanting productions from the prestigious Russian State Ballet & Orchestra of Siberia. As one of Russia’s leading ballet companies the Russian State Ballet of Siberia has built an international reputation for delivering performances of outstanding quality and depth. The soloists and corps de ballet never fail to delight with their breathtaking physical ability. The captivating series starts in style with the exquisite, Snow Maiden (Weds 19 – Thurs 20 Dec) where a beautiful girl dances too far outside the Land of Frost and into the human world. Away from her familiar surroundings, will she find happiness in this tale of love, temptation and betrayal?

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Then it’s time for the festive favourite, The Nutcracker (Fri 21 – Mon 24 Dec). Get ready to be swept off to a mysterious place where nothing is quite as it seems – watch with astonishment as toys spring to life, and the treacherous Mouse King battles the handsome Nutcracker Prince. After Christmas it’s the greatest romantic ballet of all time, Swan Lake (Thurs 27 – Sat 29 Dec), which features Tchaikovsky’s haunting score. From the majesty of the palace ballroom to moonlit lakes, this compelling tale of tragic romance has it all. The season climaxes with the world’s favourite rags to riches fairy tale, Cinderella (Sun 30 – Mon 31 Dec). This perfect production is a mesmerising mix of Prokofiev’s energetic score, lively choreography and colourful costumes. Will Cinderella’s dreams come true? This year’s ballet season at St David’s Hall also features a sprinkling of special effects with an atmospheric and ever-changing digital backdrop to make everything even more magical! Tickets are priced £17.50 - £46.50 for 2pm performances, and £19.50 - £48.50 for 5.30pm & 7pm performances. Concessions available. To book, visit www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk or call the Box Office on 029 2087 8444.


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LIFESTYLE

BILLY CONNOLLY ART LANDS AT ST DAVID’S CENTRE

With the recent announcement of his retirement from live performance, fans of the great Sir Billy Connolly can still connect with the ‘Big Yin’ through the medium of art. The award-winning comedian-turned-artist’s latest collection has recently arrived at Castle Fine Art in St David’s Centre. The collection, which comprises a selection of original ink drawings and signed limited edition prints, can be purchased from the gallery and www.castlefineart.com.

Born On A Rainy Day was given its title after Billy was in Montreal on a very cold, rainy day. He bought some pens and a sketchbook and began to draw. Initially drawing desert islands, he soon began to repeat and experiment, eventually refining his ideas.

Billy’s initial ink drawings received critical acclaim and were highly sought after by his fans and collectors. He released a second instalment a year later, demonstrating a developed style and experimentation with composition and colour. Allowing each of his images the freedom to become ‘whatever it is destined to become’, Billy evolves his illustrations as he creates them. His creative process mirrors that of the Surrealist automatism movement, whereby the artist allows the hand to move randomly across the paper or canvas, without intent to create anything specifically. There is nothing contrived or intended about Billy’s work, it is creativity in its purest form. It has come from a place inside the artist that is not concerned with an audience or showmanship, it is not driven by a reaction or approval; it is simply being. Each drawing has taken its own path and begins to come alive as the viewer creates their own unique narrative. Speaking about his artwork, Billy Connolly said: “My art bears no relation to comedy or music. It is pure and unjudged and I am creating for myself. It is personal and private, whereas with a film, comedy show or music you expect people to be critiquing, watching, assessing. Art is different - it liberates you.” For more information about Born On A Rainy Day contact the gallery: cardiff@castlefineart.com / 02922 130 100

ALL TALK AT CHAPTER

Chapter Arts in Canton, Cardiff will be bringing us The Talk Show, a comedy/theatre/spoken word show about talking by award-winning writer and performer Rob Auton, on 1st March 2019.

Following on from his shows about hair, sleep, water, faces, the sky and the colour yellow, Rob now turns his attention to talking because he is ready to talk about talking. Since 2012 Rob has chosen a specific theme for his shows and challenged himself to create an hour of material about each subject. These shows have given rise to sell-out shows at the Edinburgh Fringe as Rob continues to build his audience through his unique use of words and humour. It’s so good, The Talk Show was the second best reviewed comedy show at the Edinburgh Festival 2018. Makes you wonder who was first…

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After his appearances on the Russell Howard Hour, BBC at the Edinburgh Festival and Channel 4’s Random Acts, Rob now looks to talk to as many people as possible with The Talk Show. This one should sell out so get in quickly. Tickets £12/£11/£10 from 029 2030 4400 or chapter.org Also on at Chapter is Ed Gamble with Blizzard on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 April at 8.00pm. After a sell-out national tour in 2017, Ed’s back with another bracing flurry of idiocy, on the back of Mock the Week (BBC2), The Russell Howard Hour (Sky), Comedy Central at the Comedy Store (Comedy Central), Drunk History (Comedy Central), The Apprentice You’re Fired (BBC2), Man Down (Channel 4), Conan (TBS) and a short film he can’t remember the name of where he killed a man from The Bill (ITV) with a spade. Tickets £15 from 029 2030 4400 or chapter.org


OMEGA – MASTER OF THE SEA Based in Biel, Switzerland watchmaking giants, Omega, are known for their precision timekeeping with a remarkable selection of watches, including the iconic Seamaster. Available at Laings in Cardiff, the collection was introduced in 1948, creating the brand’s first official ‘family’ of watches. Since then their impressive accuracy and reliability have meant that they have become renowned timepieces in the world of watches. The first Seamasters were loosely based on the waterproof wristwatches made by the British military. Taking inspiration from the submarines that were used in World War II they used a rubber gasket to ensure water-resistance and achieved their first diving record in 1955 when a diver reached 62.5 metres. Whilst being incredibly technologically advanced, these were also wristwatches for everyday adventurers and they became a popular choice amongst watch lovers. In 1993 Omega introduced the Seamaster 300m Diver watch – a timepiece that was set to become a favourite amongst explorers, divers and watch fans alike. The popular watch found fame when it featured on the wrist of the world’s most famous spy – James Bond. The handsome model was worn by Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye and since then it has gained a loyal following. A tradition had begun and the world’s most famous spy has continued to wear a Seamaster in

LIFESTYLE

subsequent films. Over the years the collection has continued to innovate, reaching new depths of the ocean. It has become the watch of choice for explorers and also military divers. Each new model that has been introduced has gone through strict testing and has continued to push the boundaries. To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the legendary timepiece the Seamaster Diver 300m has received a full makeover and has been updated inside and out. The ocean spirit remains, including details from its heritage, but every design aspect has been looked at and re-thought with technological improvements and handsome aesthetics. Now sized at 42mm the sleek dials, made from ceramic, re-introduced the wave pattern to pay homage to its diving roots. Inside the watch is the magnificent Master Chronometer Calibre 8800, giving the watch impressive precision, performance and magnetic resistance. The Seamaster is a legendary collection and throughout the years it has been part of diving and cinematic history. It’s a watch that continues to explore, testing limits as it goes. View the collection at Laings, St David’s, 27 The Hayes, Cardiff, CF10 1GA, 029 2066 0890. www.laingsuk.com

THE PERFECT TREATS AT STRADEY PARK HOTEL & SPA

Gentleman’s Tea: Due to the incredible popularity of their afternoon tea, which offers dainty finger sandwiches and a selection of cakes all served on fine china, Stradey Park Hotel have a more male focussed option, with heartier menu options. Their chefs were sent on a mission to forage the wilds of Carmarthenshire in search of the finest ingredients to be used in preparing the smorgasbord of deliciousness that is the Stradey’s gentleman’s tea. For an extra £19 you can opt for ‘The Business’ which also includes a hot towel shave, haircut and nasal wax. Despite being called Gentleman’s tea, ladies are more than welcome to savour it (though you may want to hold off on the shave and nasal wax). In fact, they’ve had as many women ordering the Gentleman’s Tea as men. Only £15.95 per person Award winning Parc Spa: They also have the perfect day spa package for all men who wish to ‘take time out’ called Gentleman’s Time. Soothe away those aches and pains with a deep tissue massage, then to cap a great experience refuel with a gentleman’s tea. This package includes, a 25 minute deep tissue massage, use of the Hydrotherapy Suite & Relaxation Rooms and a delicious Gentleman’s tea. Only £55 per person To book any of these great mens’ packages, contact 01554 758171 or email reservations@stradeyparkhotel.com

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LIFESTYLE

SPACE FITTING FURNITURE IS CHANGING

Over the last four decades independently owned, Space Fitting Furniture have carved a reputation for creating amazing spaces around the home. This has been built on exceptional standards of customer service, a fundamental understanding of great kitchen and interior design and an ability to get to the heart of what their customers need. Allied to this is great

workmanship, smooth project management and the use of the highest quality fixtures and fittings such as Rational, Siemens and Miele. Not ones to stand still, Space Fitting Furniture know that as the world changes, so must they. Whilst all their core values and skills are as important as ever, the need for a large showroom, that can only scratch the surface of everything they do, is an increasingly outdated concept. For this reason, Space Fitting Furniture has evolved into Spaces by Space Fitting Furniture. A new design studio is almost ready, which, from January 2019, will be their fantastic new hub. In addition to showcasing their design skills, this new studio will allow them to dedicate more time to their valued clients. It also means Spaces’ portfolio will be expanding to take on more select brands, including Miton and Binova, exclusive Italian kitchens, which will enable them to offer new, extensive design options. The new studio will be the perfect environment to sit and discuss design ideas. Clients, new and old, are always welcome to pop in for a coffee and chat, just give them a quick call first to make sure they’re available. www.spaces-design.co.uk Tel: 02920 756840

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

When you think of visiting a cocktail bar what do you expect? If it’s outstanding service, excellent entertainment and fantastic cocktails then you’re exactly right. As one of Cardiff ’s longest running cocktail bars, Mocka Lounge has worked extremely hard to gain their reputation for excellence. So much more than your basic cocktail bar, Mocka Lounge offers a unique experience, with some of the top resident DJ’s, hosting some of the best events in the city. Electric shisha is available in a variety of flavours, as well as specialty cocktails, Masterclasses every Monday and exclusive VIP packages if you want to treat yourself. This Christmas, Mocka is hosting some fantastic festive parties so if you’re looking for somewhere to celebrate, Mocka is the place. They are also running Cardiff ’s hottest NYE event, their annual Mocka Rouge, with great music, great atmosphere and great entertainment. Get in touch with a member of the team to book. Mocka Lounge, Mill Lane, Cardiff. info@mockalounge.com 02920 221292

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PUTTIN’ ON THE GLITZ BRITAIN’S King and Queen of the ballroom Anton and Erin return to St David’s Hall on Sunday 17 February – the perfect present this Christmas for all Strictly fans! Starting at 3pm, the nation’s favourite dancing duo are back with their dazzling new production Dance Those Magical Musicals. The couple encapsulate the glitz, glamour and elegance of a bygone era and truly are modern day stars of stage and screen, adding showbiz sparkle wherever they appear. From making regular television appearances, headlining high profile events, to taking their class act on tour – much to the delight of their loyal and devoted fans – there is no doubt that Anton & Erin really are the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of modern times.

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Snap up your tickets now to see Strictly Come Dancing stars Anton and Erin strutting their stuff at St David’s Hall! To book your seats, please visit www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk or call the Box Office on 029 2087 8444.

Watch with amazement as the classy couple take on the best of ballroom and musical theatre including The Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins, Hairspray, Cabaret, Wicked and many more! Joining Anton and Erin onstage will be sensational guest vocalist Lance Ellington, the magnificent London Concert Orchestra conducted by the acclaimed Richard Balcombe and a wonderful West End dance ensemble.

AN EXPERIENCE TO DINE FOR

After years of experience in the industry, Konsa Micallef took over Etc late 2017 and has brought it on in leaps and bounds. With the help of creative and often eccentric ideas from her partner Matt Zain, already a successful hospitality business owner, she’s had a huge impact on the growth and development of the business. Their flare for creativity and quality has seen Etc nominated for multiple awards for exceptional food and won the hearts of all who dine there. Their top class chefs create outstanding, uniquely different menus, from frogs’ legs to smoking dishes, camel burgers to rainbow sushi. Whatever your dish of choice, Etc is renowned for adding the ‘Etc twist’ to make it one of a kind. If you’ve visited Etc over a previous Christmas, you will know that the restaurant is transformed into a bright and vibrant wonderland. They host some of the best decorations you’re likely to see in a restaurant and this year it’s even more spectacular. December 17th, Etc will close to the general public and become its very own Santa’s grotto. Children are invited to meet Santa himself and get to feed Rudolf and his friends who will be joining him for a one-off appearance. A lovely way to get involved with the local community and the perfect lead up to Christmas. Recently launched menus have seen the buzz around Etc only grow, with a unique Afternoon Tea including free flowing Prosecco and soon to be a Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea (watch this space), hugely popular Sunday Lunches, with succulent, perfectly cooked meat, crispy roasties, homemade Yorkshire puddings and freshly made, home-cooked gravy (what’s not to

love). Sunday evenings are now dedicated to cocktail lovers, with 2-for-1 on ALL Etc cocktails and half price spirits all evening and Thursdays – Motown, are hosted by a live singer each week which gives a lovely alternative to a meal out. Whatever the reason for your first visit, we can guarantee it won’t be your last so expect to dine like you’ve never dined before and prepare to fall in love with the exquisite restaurant that is, Etc. Etc, 1 Stanwell Rod, Penarth. www.etc-penarth.com Tel: 02920 090060 Email: enquiries@etc-penarth.com

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WELSH SPIRIT(S) Cardiff is changing for the better, and fast. According to investincardiff.com, it is “projected to be the UK’s fastest growing city over the next 20 years”, and you can see it when you walk around the city. This growth has meant new buildings, bars and businesses appearing all over the city, and it is only going to continue. It is important, then, to remember we aren’t just any city – we are the Welsh capital.

Supporting Welsh business and produce has always been something the team at Lab 22 value highly, and with the continued development in the city it is now more important than ever to do so. As a cocktail bar, they obviously get through a lot of booze, so they include as many Welsh products as they can. There are so many lovely liquids being produced over the country, and tasting as good as they do, they’re really easy to get behind. The likes of Tiny Rebel of Newport and Pipes from Cardiff make a wonderful variety of fantastic beers. Aber Falls, a distillery in Abergwyngregyn on the north coast, creates a delicious selection of gins and liqueurs. Lab 22 like them so much they teamed up with Aber Falls at the top of Snowdonia to distill the world’s first gin at the summit! The team at Lab 22 do their best to locally source as much of their non-alcoholic produce as possible too. All their fruit and many of their cocktail garnishes come from Cardiff Market. They also use a lot of coffee (whether more goes into espresso martinis or staff on a Saturday night, we don’t know), so they get their coffee from their favourite local roastery Uncommon Ground, who have created a unique blend just for Lab 22. Local businesses supporting one another is incredibly important for the community, so here’s to looking after the neighbours so we can all grow alongside our beautiful city. Cheers! Lab 22, 22 Caroline St, Cardiff CF10 1FG. Tel. 029 2039 9997 www.lab22cardiff.com

NICE WORK WITH TRAILHEAD JERKY

Butchers Arwyn Morris and Ramos Vernys loved premium beef jerky snack products made by a Mid Wales company so much that they bought the business. The former work colleagues have big plans to take Trailhead Fine Foods (www.trailheadfinefoods. co.uk) to the next level and are basing production at the WMO centre in Welshpool, initially creating two new jobs. The company already has a growing list of online customers and they hope to continue to expand. The company is also negotiating a series of exciting partnership deals like supplying complementary packs of beef jerky to more than 2,000 marshals at the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB. Aberdyfi rally driver Tom Cave and co-driver James Morgan, from Hirwaun, also promoted the ‘Get Jerky’ brand on their Hyundai i20 R5 during the rally. Arwyn explains: “We will continue to make the same premium beef jerky products in exactly the same way, but we are also keen to develop an exciting range of new and different jerky products and flavours. Our aim is to increase exposure of the brand and to develop partnership relationships with wholesalers and distributors. Ramos and I believe in the product so much that we left good jobs with our previous employer to take Trailhead Fine Foods forward.”

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WHO KNOWS WHAT THE FUTURE WILL BRING?

If you’re about to move in with your significant other or have lived with your partner for a number of years, you could be forgiven for thinking that you would have some legal protection in the event of your relationship breaking down. But you would be wrong. There is no such thing as a common law marriage. If you’re not married and are thinking of living together or buying a property jointly, take the sensible approach to co-habitation. Get legal advice first. With over 100 years’ experience serving the local and business communities of Cardiff and Barry in South Wales and with solicitors that are experts in the laws surrounding cohabitation, Robertsons Solicitors are perfectly placed to help allay concerns and offer legal advice. Talk to Robertsons Solicitors today (quoting RH918 to receive a 10% discount) about a co-habitation agreement on 029 2023 7777 or email via law@robsols.co.uk. After all, none of us has a crystal ball.


OUT NOW Ye Olde Bull’s Head

Tafarn y Plu

The White Horse

Y Talbot

Celebrating great food and drink in Wales Winter 2018

The Sloop Inn

The White Horse, Hendrerwydd near Denbigh

The Plough and Harrow

If you really need to get lost, you’ll probably find yourself at some point at The White Horse in Hendrerwydd. It’s a dreamy gastro-pub that was the old village shop, located halfway between Denbigh and Ruthin. At the bar, take a pew on a customer-designed ‘Baa-Stool’, and savour a pint of the local ale from the Buzzard Brewery. Or follow chef-owner Jason Stock’s advice, and reach for the Barti Ddu rum and cigar for a hedonistic treat at the heart of the Vale of Clwyd. Dwygyfylchi-born and raised, the Clwydian chef originally raised eyebrows by banning cliched ‘pub grub’ like gammon, egg and pineapple from the menu. What you’ll get, however, instead, is ham hock with pickled pineapple and poached egg – and the local neighbours’ new favourite die-hard dish; the salt and pepper confit pork belly with an Asian dressing. A hidden gem well worth discovering; this is a favourite pub of local celeb newlyweds Bryn Williams and Sharleen Spiteri. Hendrerwydd, Denbigh LL16 4LL; 01824 790218

Ye Olde Bull’s Head, Beaumaris

The Nag’s Head Inn

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Prepared to be amazed with a taste of historical Wales on the Isle of Anglesey. Go for a bracing winter walk on Beaumaris pier and take in the grandeur of Snowdonia across the Menai straits. Then turn back towards the high street and make a beeline for The Bull, that dates from 1472. Face the fabulous gin bar, all jewel colours and stained glass, reminiscent of a Welsh apothecary. Take your pick from an array of botanicals, from sloe and juniper berries to coriander seeds; then mix with glee with Fever Tree, and enjoy the perfect G&T. One of the local Welsh gins is Snowdonia Forager’s Yellow Label with its floral notes of botanicals picked along the North Wales coast. Or try a ‘beer paddle’ of 3 guest ales and let your nearest and dearest know that, with

regret, you may be some time. If you’re after some food, you’ve come to the right place; we’re talking more than a packet of crisps and pork scratchings. There is a contemporary brasserie in the coach-house at the back, and a three AA rosette awarded fine dining menu by Chef Andrew Tabberner up in The Loft. Castle St, Beaumaris LL58 8AP; 01248 810329

Tafarn y Plu, Llanystumdwy

For a pint of beer with a literary twist, make your way to Llanystumdwy in Eifionydd. A stone’s throw from Tŷ Newydd, National Writing Centre of Wales, you’ll find a pub at the heart of the village; a draw for artists and poets and local farmers and families too, thanks to a bar stocked full of interesting picks and a menu full of hearty home-cooked meals. Ex-journalist landlord Ian Parri is a font of local knowledge, and will happily direct you to the nearby ‘Lôn Goed’; a 5 mile tree-lined rural lane, immortalized by a poem by R. Williams Parry as a paean to the solace of the Dwyfor countryside and the leaf-strewn carpet underfoot. Retire later to the bar for a pint of Brenin Enlli, a local bitter from the Llŷn Peninsula-based craft brewery Cwrw Llŷn. Enjoy with lasagne, cawl or curry ‘half and half ’ - or ‘cyrri hanner a hanner’ to use the local parlance. Iechyd da! Llanystumdwy, Criccieth LL52 0SH; 01766 523276

Y Talbot, Tregaron

There aren’t many things in life to beat a perfectly cooked steak, a glass of red wine, and sparkling company. How about adding to that list a table for two in front of a fire, and a stay in a fabulous en-suite bedroom upstairs? I’m sure that many babies were created at Y Talbot in Tregaron, the wild west town near Pumlumon in the Cambrian Mountains. I cannot praise this Welsh pub highly enough, for its warmth and sense of place, and there’s an added ingredient to

be found at the kitchen ‘coal-face’. The master hard at work there is Cardiff-born Chef Dafydd Watkin. Before he arrived as the new ‘sheriff ’ in town, he was a protegee of Marco Pierre White, with 15 years of ‘White Heat’ under his belt at the maestro’s restaurants in London. Yes, you’ll find fish and chips on the popular bar menu, but it’s plaice in place of cod. The locals adore the locally-sourced pork-belly, and the banana cheesecake is what dreams are made of. The Square, Tregaron SY25 6JL; 01974 298208

The Plough and Harrow, Monk Nash

When you’re suddenly hit by the January blues, walk along Glamorgan’s Heritage Coast Path. Though you may not be up for the 14-mile journey from Penarth to Aberthaw, your interest may be piqued by the 14th Century pub, that’s very much a drink and dining draw. If you’ve yet to experience The Plough and Harrow at Monk Nash, then you’re in for a ravishing treat. A breath of fresh air will do you the world of good, as well as a pint and some seasonal fare. Although located slightly off the beaten track, it is consistently voted one of Wales’ best pubs. Amongst the ales on offer is the Wye Valley HPA, and Celt Brewery’s Native Storm. The hearty Welsh cawl is truly a treat, after a jaunt around nearby Blaen y Cwm Nature Reserve. Or – when in Rome, after all – go for the hearty Glamorgan Sausage. This native vegetarian delicacy is enriched with leeks and Y Fenni cheese. The mustard seeds from the ‘caws’ will warm the cockles of your heart, whilst the crackle of the fire may be a timely reminder that there are worst things than winter in Wales. Monknash, Cowbridge CF71 7QQ; 01656 890209

The Nag’s Head Inn, Garthmyl

Now there are pubs and there are ‘pubs’ – those places that rise above, and win prizes for exceptional

www.taste-blas.co.uk

The Sloop Inn, Porthgain

There are some Welsh pubs you’d prefer to keep to yourself, and then there are others that you just want to shout about until the whole world knows. A trip to the Pembrokeshire harbour village of Porthgain is like stepping back in time, and the Sloop is as cosy as a Pembrokeshire woollen-jumpered hug. There are signs of the old local industry to be found all over the 18th century inn, including vintage red Porthgain bricks. Take a walk from Abereiddi along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path before claiming a pint with your beerbattered cod and chips. Edging closer to spring, choose the Porthgain Crab Salad, including local new potatoes – or ‘tato newi’ from Croesgoch. And if you can’t bear to leave, The Sloop’s cottage sleeps four, and is only a 150 metre walk away. Porthgain, Haverfordwest SA62 5BN; 01348 831449

The Sloop Inn

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www.taste-blas.co.uk

Plant power! Vegetarianism and Veganism are booming in Wales. You only need to take a look at any number of insta-feeds to see it. Veg fan Meryl Cubley does some meat-free munching. No mushed-up vegetable patties here

standards. The Nag’s Head Inn is a case in point, between Newtown and Welshpool. It’s one of a number of highly regarded Welsh contemporary hybrids of a restaurant with rooms and a historical village inn. The venue, in Garthmyl, next to Aberiw, won the AA award for Pub of the Year for Wales. And indeed, the bar, with its cosy armchairs and log burning stove, is the perfect winter spot with its well stocked array of handpicked ales. For a taste of something local, definitely go for Monty’s of Montgomery, or perhaps Three Tuns from just a mile over the Welsh border in Bishop’s Castle. Also represented are gins from all over Wales, including Dà Mhìle and Aber Falls. But to pay your respects to Montgomeryshire go for the Dyfi Distillery Original, from Corris. You’d be mad not to book a table at the restaurant – the rhubarb cheesecake is divine – but for a final treat, book a room upstairs. The timeless Laura Ashley designs are another local nod, to the world-famous icon from Carno. Garthmyl, Montgomery SY15 6RS; 01686 640600

Who’d have thought it? Latest figures show over 35,000 of us have gone Vegan in Wales and Cardiff has the highest proportion of veggies of any city in the UK. So here’s our round-up of what’s cooking on the veg and vegan scene right now.

Save our pubs - with plant power! Dylan Jones, the landlord of the White Swan Inn, (Stryd Yr Ysgol, Llanon, Ceredigion; 01974 202721 www.whiteswaninn.co.uk) thinks plant power may be the way forward for pubs. Takings really picked up after they added more vegan and veggie dishes to their menu. The dishes are going down a storm - including a vegan option on the hot and spicy Thursday Curry Nights. There’s even a vegan option on the Christmas menu. It’s a philosophy The Golden Lion, in Magor (Village Square, Magor, Monmouthshire 01633 880312 www.thegoldenlionmagor.co.uk) shares. Their vegan menu is imaginative and inventive - try the pan fried ‘sea tofu’ scallops, served with pea mash and topped off with crispy seaweed. You can quaff vegan booze alongside, which is a cause for celebration alone: no sulphates = less hangovers! And if you’re in Lisvane, south Wales, head for the Old Cottage pub (Cherry Orchard Rd, Nr. Coed y Felin Wood, Lisvane; www.oldcottagecardiff.co.uk). The menu features no less than three vegan starters, five mains and a bunch of sides and desserts. Perfect for a treat after a walk around Coed y Felin Wood.

BEEF IT UP

White Swan Inn

A one pot that hits the spot

NO STRESS CHRISTMAS

Cooking tips from top Welsh chefs

AWARD WINNING

The Golden Lion “Sea Tofu“

Beat the hangover - Vegan Style

Grazing Shed

The Lazy Leek

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Anyone for a social?

When you’ve had a big night out, a quinoa salad with pea shoots and chia seeds just isn’t going to cut it. But never fear, there’s a gaggle of places serving up seriously filthy vegan food, perfect for getting you over the night before - or filling your belly on the way home! Greazy Vegan (Castle Arcade, Cardiff; 07432 726091; www.greazyvegan.com) finally opened its doors in September, and boy, was it worth the wait. The Vacon Double Cheese Burger is loaded up with two meat-style burgers (no mushed-up vegetable patties here) as well as stacks of ‘bacon’ and ‘cheese’. It’s the absolute best, but the Chickun Royale and the Vegan Doner Kebab come close second and third. Then the team at Grazing Shed (07599 882363; www.thegrazingshed.com) have expanded to four locations across Cardiff. Vegan highlights are Matt Pritchard’s (of Dirty Sanchez fame) Dirty Burger and the Vegan Wah Wah, with cashew nut cream. ‘Cheesy’ chips, made with Grazing Shed’s own secret vegan cheese recipe are not to be missed either. Feeling not quite ‘that’ dirty? Try The Lazy Leek (183A Kings Rd, Cardiff; 029 2022 5270 www.lazyleek.co.uk) They specialise in vegan street food, but everything’s prepared from scratch using fresh, mainly organic ingredients.

A while back Charlie Berry, of the Brontosaurus Vegan Lifestyle Store in Swansea (07707 320442; www.facebook.com/brontosaurusvegan) started arranging a bi-monthly Vegan Mini Market in the centre of Swansea Indoor Market. From there grew a partnership with Unit Nineteen (Little Wind Street; 01792 655264; www.unitnineteen.co.uk) and a bi-monthly Vegan Social Night there soon followed. You’ll find both sweet and savoury vegan treats to try, 100% vegan bar and live music. Both are free and everyone is welcome. The Warren in Carmarthen (11 Mansel St; 01267236079; www.warrenmanselst.co.uk) was also born when two personalities collided. This time a chef and an organic farmer. Chef Deri Reed and his business partners decided to run events on Thursday evenings, alongside their very tasty vegan menu options. They’ve proved a humongous success and include pub quizzes, open mic nights, street food events and supper clubs. And then if you fancy a knees-up in west Wales, you can tap your toes to tunes from local bards as you chew on sophisticated veggie and vegan dishes at The Mulberry Bush in Lampeter (2 Bridge St; 01570 423317; www.mulberrywholefoods.co.uk/gb).

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Welsh Food and Drink

6 OF THE BEST WELSH GINS

Try the pan fried ‘sea tofu’ scallops, pea mash and crispy seaweed

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PLUS VEGGIE TRENDS, COSY PUBS, REVIEWS, TOP CHEFS, RESTAURANTS AND RECIPES GALORE

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HEALTH & GROOMING Jason Jones has everything you need to banish those winter blues

6 of the best… Energy Essentials

In our ever-speeding, non-stop, literally woke world, energy has become the most covetable commodity of our times. Not the kind that is driving and dividing geopolitics and causes moneyman Martin Lewis to chastise us for not switching fuel companies. The energy we’re talking about here comes care of the lotion’n’potion pots of grooming products that promise to perk us up and espresso energy reserves. Admittedly, they won’t up the energy ante as much as an actual coffee, but they do make you feel a bit more refreshed and rejuvenated, just minus the caffeine shakes and racing heart. 1. This Works Energy Bank Shower Gel (250ml, £16) Unless you’re a born lark, most of us need a swift energy hit first-thing. Rosemary- and sandalwoodscented, this is a great wake-up call to start the day. Plus, it’s sulphate-free so doesn’t strip skin moisture. 2. Kiehl’s Facial Fuel (75ml, £33) No a.m. grooming routine is complete without a quick mug onceover with moisturiser and this vitamin-laced energiser fires up even the most frazzled fizzog. Easily-absorbed and non-greasy, it also contains an SPF – shockingly these days not moisturiser standardissue – so curbs sun and pollution damage. 3. Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energising Mask (200ml, £42) If your face needs more of an industrious

MOT, then here’s the grooming mechanic for the job. Whereas most facemasks tend to be time-sapping palavers this does energy wonders in five minutes flat leaving your mug looking raring-to-go revitalised. 4. Dermot O’Leary Eye Roller (15ml, £10) Eyes are a dead giveaway the energy tank is running on empty. Cooling and tightening, this de-bags, de-puffs and generally zhuzhes up even the most dogtired peepers, making it a ‘sleb’ collaboration (exclusively with M&S) that is more stylish substance than cynical sideline cashcow. 5. Molton Brown Re-Charge Black Pepper Body Lotion (300ml, £26) Although we’re largely onboard with moisturising our faces we still mostly neglect the rest of our bodies. It’s worth the bother, though, especially if you train. Rich and restorative, this is perfect for those postworkout aching, sweat-drained muscles. 6. Jo by Jo Loves (50ml, £70) Smell plays a big part in our perception of energy levels, which is old news to scent supremo Jo Malone. Now trading under the Jo Loves banner since selling her eponymous company, this is her first eponymous fragrance. Mixing basenotes of grapefruit, lime, bitter orange and spearmint, this unisexer sparks the senses and makes you feel like a member of the wideawake club.

HEALTH HACKS TO BOOST ENERGY Feed your good bugs: Eating more prebiotic foods encourages the growth of good gut bacteria, which aids the absorption of nutrients having a huge effect on the body’s release and regulation of energy. Good sources include onions, asparagus, leeks, artichokes, apples and bananas. Catch some rays: Get some natural light. Even during the winter months, the UV in sunlight should be strong enough to make energy-generating vitamin D so avoid central heating hibernation this season and spend at least 20 minutes a day outdoors to put more pep in your step. Up the roughage: A lack of fibre can leave us feeling sluggish. Aim for 18g per day; there are 4g in a bowl of bran flakes, 3g in a baked potato and 2g in an apple. Reach the daily target by eating wholegrain carbs, plus, as always, plenty of fruit and veg.

Spa Gazing

Declutter: According to ancient Chinese wisdom, clutter equals energy that’s trapped, thus draining energy from the people around it. A clear-out not only helps us physically by getting us moving, but gives a psychological spring-clean that also energises us.

Prices: For such an impressive operation, it’s remarkably reasonable. Best value is a 55-minute Hot Pebble Massage that comes in at a competitive 60 quid.

Take a supplement: Produced naturally by the body, coenzyme Q10 is a compound that helps regulate our energy supply. However, as we age the production decreases and the only way to return to higher levels is by taking a supplement. Researchers recommend 100mg a day.

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The Spa at Holm House, Penarth Signature treatment: Using a potent blend of ginger, almonds, patchouli and apricots, The Spice Body Scrub (25 minutes, £37) is a deeply cleansing and intensely invigorating treatment that makes skin feel buffed and Insta post-prepped.

Service: Highly honed without being harassingly haute, staff are welcoming and friendly and effortlessly accommodating. The X Factor: The sweeping grandeur of the seaside setting. The choreographed attention to detail. The top-notch nosh in the restaurant. The easy charm. The cleanly contemporary design. Take your pick because this place is an all-round class act. Score: A knock-it-out-of-the-park 9 out of 10. www.holmhousehotel.com/spa/

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Restaurant Reviews The Heathcock

Hot on the heels of Tommy Heaney’s October launch, there was another exciting opening in Cardiff. Tom Watts-Jones and wife Sarah of Aberthin’s Hare and Hounds brought a taste of the Vale of Glamorgan to Llandaf village. Bringing with them an award-winning reputation, including a Michelin ‘Bib Gourmand’, they have transformed a previously unloved pub into a haven for refined Welsh grub. As a former employee at the BBC, I was familiar with the Heathcock; over recent years, it experienced several incarnations, never quite hitting the ‘right’ spot with customers. But the Vale incomers have hit the ground running, welcoming villagers to reclaim their ‘local’, with the added incentive to taste the fruits of contemporary Welsh cooking at its best. So out goes the lasagne, burgers and chips, for a seasonal feast from the Vale of Glamorgan. The decor too, has enjoyed an overhaul, giving the inn a taste of minimalist Welsh style, reminiscent of Kennixton farmhouse at St Fagans. A drink at the bar is a joy in itself, thanks to the array of ‘home-made’ gins and guest ales. I personally plumped for the Aberthin Damson Gin Fizz, but enjoyed a taste of my father’s IPA – a refreshing Thunderbolt from Llantrisant. The Hare and Hounds for me is a dream gastro-pub, and so I was delighted to see some familiar favourites on The Heathcock’s mid-week lunch menu. We kicked off with a snack that’s inspired by a H&H ‘classic’; the Crispy Pigs Head morsels were satisfyingly salty, and nicely balanced with capers, mustard and celeriac. And even if you’ve just popped in for a pint, you really must try the home-baked bread; a seriously fine sourdough, and sourdough focaccia, served with cultured butter. The braised rabbit leg pappardelle, that I devoured as a starter, would be my pick as a main forever, and was paired with a rich Domaine La Rouviole Syrah Grenache from France. Dad’s King Scallops were sublime, with a smoky bacon sauce cut with the tartness of a Granny Smith. The dense-flavoured venison main, for me, though good wasn’t quite at the same level of brilliance, but it still would give most Cardiff restaurants a run for its money. I really should have gone for the H&H classic Roast Torgelly Farm Lamb, mint sauce and confit potatoes; as my father cleared his plate, he declared it a triumph. The final flourish was the plum souffle; light and fluffy, it was a thing of beauty. I’m already enamoured with this city-outpost of the Hare and Hounds and I have no doubt it will become a new family favourite. But I’ll be keen to see how The Heathcock brings local tastes onto the plate and into the bar, and develops its own identity. The major draw to Aberthin is a respect for locality; with all the produce that we now have in Cardiff, from microbreweries to forraged salads, I am certain the same can be done in the capital city of Wales. The Heathcock, 58-60 Bridge Street, Llandaf, Cardiff CF5 2EN; Tel: 029 2115 2290

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Holm House Hotel It’s fitting that we’ve been invited to Penarth’s Holm House Hotel just as the latest winter snap begins to dig its teeth in. With views over the Bristol Channel the complex is clearly a hit in summer, but even without the view there’s a lot to be admired about the boutique hotel’s century-old surroundings, with a warm appeal in no small part to the designer fireplace that emits its glow and balminess over the spacious eating area. Boasting a new a la carte menu that champions locally sourced ingredients as well as the refined skills of the chefs looking to impress both visually and gastronomically, the ever impressive Welsh culinary industry has another triumph on its hands. A cursory glance of the menu reveals a thorough understanding of timeless cuisine with a fervent desire to excite and evolve British staples to new heights. The starter of expertly hewn duck and pheasant roulade is a forthright example, with three sublimely presented slices of game wrapped in ham and topped with a dainty quail’s egg. The addition of fresh blackberries – whether or not they’re taken from bushes just yards from Holm House wasn’t confirmed – with a luscious fig jam makes for an array of distinct colour, texture and taste, while across the table braised artichoke, lightly seared goats cheese and a smidge of truffle are enveloped by an opulent watercress veloute. The main courses of duck and salmon are more familiar in nature but don’t skimp on clever touches, with the fish’s beautifully seasoned pistachio crust in particular making for prolonged satisfaction. The delightful orange flavoured duck breast and bundle of joy that is the cabbage-wrapped duck confit are both executed flawlessly. Attention to detail, be it simply seasoned and buttered vegetables, moreish roast potatoes and intensely rich jus, underline that getting the foundations perfected are the keys to success. Holm House still has a few kinks to work out, for example you’ll struggle if you’re a vegetarian with only one option per course, while the pistachio cream that forms part of an intricate dessert alongside concentrated blueberry sorbet, light dacquoise and mini meringues may be a touch overpowering for some. Yet when the chef is capable of a faultless honeycomb soufflé with the most sublimely fragrant lavender ice cream it’s clear that plaudits and satisfied diners will be leaving Holm House in their droves. Holm House Hotel, Marine Parade, Penarth CF64 3BG. Tel: 029 2070 6029 www.holmhousehotel.com

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REDHANDED 57


SPORT Will Burton doesn’t just talk about marathons. He runs them

“a great character, a great man and a great trainer and will be sorely missed by the boxing community... ”

Farewell Enzo

It would be remiss not to open this issue’s column with a tribute to the late Enzo Calzaghe, one of sport’s great characters. To say Enzo, who died in September at the age of 69, defied the odds would be an understatement. Born and raised in Italy, Calzaghe Sr made the decision to come to Cardiff on a whim after being abandoned by a travelling companion during a tour across Europe. He was a talented musician, and also worked as a window salesman and a bus conductor among other professions. It was while in the capital that he first became involved in a boxing gym and many years later he would be recognised by Ring Magazine and the BBC for his coaching and training of son Joe to an unblemished 46-0 record. Before setting foot in that gym he had not a moment of training experience. Along the way there were plenty who doubted him, many who felt he should step aside and let others take over, that he wasn’t up to the task. Of course, they were all wrong and other notable fighters to benefit from his influence include Gavin Rees, Enzo Maccarinelli and Nathan Cleverly. He was a great character, a great man and a great trainer and will be sorely missed by the boxing community and far beyond.

Clash of the kits

When Cardiff Blues and Glasgow Warriors strode out onto the Arms Park pitch for their Heineken Champions Cup clash the question was immediate: which team is which? While the Blues can certainly not offer the colour clash as any sort of excuse for their 29-12 defeat, those who paid their hard-earned money to watch the spectacle must have been incredibly frustrated. It was bad enough for TV viewers as low autumn sunshine just added to the visual confusion. Tournament organisers European Professional Club Rugby have apologised to the two clubs involved, although it should be noted that a Challenge Cup game on the same weekend had to be delayed by 15 minutes after Perpignan and Bordeaux-Begles revealed their kit would clash. How can this happen in the modern day? The gist of the explanation seems to be that EPCR did not realise the similarity between the Blues and Glasgow’s allocated jerseys for the fixture because the designs are submitted as graphics before the tournament begins. But that is simply not good enough and it is farcical moments such as this which undo the professional image rugby has done so much to paint for itself since the end of the amateur era some 23 years ago. It’s hard to recall any Champions League fixtures being similarly affected in football, while in US sports like basketball and American Football one team is designated to play in white and the other in their alternate colours. EPCR have clearly made a mistake but the Blues should also be asked questions as to why they did not have an alternative kit to hand, why was their designated second kit at their base in Hensol? Tradition in rugby dictates that the home side change if there is a clash. In terms of contingency planning surely it would have made sense to have had the option for a potential worse case

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scenario? Whatever the outcome, this was a needless shambles that could easily have been avoided by greater care and attention from all parties. It must not be allowed to happen again.

Cardiff keeps on running

From humble beginnings the Cardiff Half Marathon has become one of the biggest events in the Welsh sporting calendar and this year’s edition was no different as nearly 20,000 runners took part. Cheered on by crowds lining a route taking in Cardiff Castle, Penarth, Cardiff Bay Barrage and Roath Park Lake, the 15th anniversary of the maiden staging showed why the race around the capital is considered among the very best of its kind. I was among the number putting themselves through 13.1 miles of hurt, but it was worth every step for the sense of accomplishment. Cardiff has held some fantastic and iconic sporting events in recent years, but no-one should forget this little jewel of a day made possible by a dedicated team and a vast volunteer staff. It’s a credit to Wales and a credit to Cardiff.

Loyal supporters?

The return of the Wales football side to the Principality Stadium should have been an occasion to savour, so it was disappointing to see it end in rancour and recriminations. The notion that Wales would draw a big enough crowd to justify taking a game back to the 72,500 capacity venue would have been laughable not so long ago. That they could was a legacy of that unforgettable run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 which we all took so much pride in, and the subsequent growing interest in the team and the sport. So, to hear Wales fans chanting their disapproval at other supporters as the stadium lit up with phone lights during the second half was sad. Holding up a mobile phone in such a fashion is not something many of us would do at a game, it’s not something I have really seen in person before but should it really bother people that much? Does it merit chants of ‘Where were you when we were s**t?’ Is it such an issue that some now view the growth of the audience to see the likes of Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Ethan Ampadu as a negative? Those who loyally spent their money time and again during the dark days to watch Wales home and away are supporters any team would be grateful to have behind them. But that does not mean those same people have the right to tell others how to back their team, or how they should behave at a game. It’s a needlessly insular attitude. The national side belongs to all of us, not just a few.


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MUSIC REVIEWS

Live Reviews

Coheed And Cambria, Y Plas, Cardiff

Usually more at home in the mosh pit, Kylie has Adam Rees doing the Locomotion Kylie Minogue, Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff

It’s not often that you get the chance to see the diminutive Aussie pop princess in such close proximity on these shores, so it’s not surprising that tickets for the show went quicker than a rest break in a billabong. And the delighted throng aren’t disappointed from the opening adulation that greets her appearance to new song Golden. With costume changes breaking up the mammoth 27-song set that spans her entire career, there’s plenty to keep our attention: from Kylie dancing on a pool table on Shelby ‘69, donning a striking leather ensemble for Slow and Kids, and trading her iconic hot pants for a more reserved gold dress for Spinning Around. Though unlike the London date that saw an appearance from Jason Donovan, the crowd are more than happy to take on his part for Especially For You and naturally jostle for position during the routine for The LocoMotion. Nights like this with an iconic pop superstar on such flawless form don’t come around this often and need to be treasured.

The fact that one half of the band’s title is the Roman name for this country can’t have escaped many tonight, given Coheed And Cambria and their diehard fans’ attention to detail. Something that’s bestowed in the innovative sci-fi storyline that links all but one of their nine albums to date. With such a catalogue of material, it’s a bit disappointing the New Yorkers’ all too brief set means they only have a chance to dip into it, with the bulk dedicated to latest effort The Unheavenly Creatures. However, after Chon’s fiddly instrumental support slot is politely received, the rapturous responses to new tunes The Dark Sentencer and title track already cements them as firm favourites, only out-sung by a four-song run from In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3. Frontman Claudio Sanchez is never less than humble, with his delicate, high-pitched voice a cornerstone of the band’s unique charm, while still going full-on guitar hero for the likes of epic closer Welcome Home.

CDs Those Damn Crows – Murder And The Motive (Earache Records)

(Seradom)

With a sound more accustomed to US arenas and tropes of whisky and, naturally, a love of rock n’ roll, you’d be surprised to learn that these muscular rock upstarts hail from Bridgend. Afforded a pristine production, Those Dam Crows are more than capable of holding their own amongst the likes of Alter Bridge, Shinedown, Black Country Communion and even chart-conquerors Nickelback, especially given the soulful pipes of Shane Greenhall. But what’s most impressive about Murder And The Motive is the sheer quality of the songs, bristling with excitement from the opening notes of each and holding attention with an inescapable blend of massive hooks and infectious enthusiasm. Whether it’s the swagger and groove of The Fighter and country-tinged Behind These Walls to the strident balladry of Someone Someday and Blink Of An Eye, the riffs and picked melodies hit every sweet spot while backed up by a pounding rhythm section. The Brits have played second fiddle to their cousins across the Pond when it comes to this sort of thing, yet now Those Damn Crows have all the armaments needed to best them at their own game.

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The Joy Formidable - AAARTH

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No longer with a major label and seemingly no longer required to stifle their creativity either, the Mold trio’s fourth album is a gloriously inventive mash up of styles and concepts, adopting the kitchen sink approach but with enough song-writing nous and an ear for an irresistible hook to fit everything together seamlessly. Every track takes on its own deranged yet delightful character: from the computerized blips and spoken word of the claustrophobic opener Y Bluen Eira, which accelerates into an avalanche of drums, to Go Loving’s macabre post-punk influences that give way to refreshing ivory tinkling. Guitarist and vocalist Rhiannon Bryan uses all manner of jaunty effects on her instrument to pepper the dulcet The Better Me, while lead single The Wrong Side tantalises with its effortless chorus and pounding bass line. The undoubted highlight is Dance Of The Lotus’ shamanic guitars and enchanting vocals that once again proves that there are few bands around that can be this artistic and daring while seemingly equipped to conquer the mainstream.


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BOOKS & FILMS

THE VANITY FAIR DIARIES

ABSOLUTELY HUGE

I’m wary of diaries. The practical ones logging ‘Dentist Thursday’ and ‘Remember anniversary!’ I get it, obviously, otherwise the wheels would come off life. The emotional, event-logging diarising, though, is less clear-cut. To me, there’s never an objective detachment. There’s always a knowing self-consciousness, an eye on sharing it with other people, even if it’s just someone reading it on the sly. Before you write in, I understand the socio-historical significance of diary-keeping, but I guess I subscribe to the Oscar Wilde saying: “Memory is the diary that we all carry with us.”

“No identification with actual persons, places, teams or products is intended or should be inferred.” You don’t expect a biography of all things to carry such a strong disclaimer, after all reality is supposed to be the aim of the game (although some are more ego-stroking hagiography than true portrait). This is no ordinary biography, though. This is a spoof that is a LOLZ mickey-take of the rugby world.

Tina Brown £9.99, Wiedenfeld & Nicholson

As the former editor of magazine institution Vanity Fair, it was always inevitable Tina Brown’s diaries were going to be published. Predictably from the boss of a glossie, the book is crammed with gossipy snippets about the great, the glamorous and the grotesque of the glitterati. For someone who’s now a firm fixture of that rarefied world, Brown is surprisingly – self-sabotagingly? – snarky. Donald Trump is labelled “a sneaky, petulant infant” long before the toys-out-the-pram Twitter tantrums, Clint Eastwood “hard work”, a young Boris Johnson “an epic sh*t” and Mick Jagger is allegedly given, erm, satisfaction by then-partner Jerry Hall before he goes out without her so he doesn’t stray (spoiler alert: it didn’t work). All good diaries perfectly time-capsule a particular period in time and this captures the 80s and early 90s in all their ‘greed-is-good’ excess, vulgar punintended vanity and rampant celebrity absurdity.

Luke Upton £9.99, Y Lolfa

Based around a player nicknamed Huge, the premise is as familiar as rugby itself. Young sportsman is talent-spotted, gets fast-tracked to the big time, fame goes to his head and before he knows it he’s digging himself out of career-derailing PR holes involving a sponsorship deal with a sports drink that turns to alcohol in the stomach causing drunken chaos on the streets (!) and a penguin kidnapping that sparks an international diplomatic incident (!!). Spoofs are tricky to pull off, especially when you’re dealing with the national sport/religion, because they need to be affectionate leg-pulls rather than ruthless take-downs. Here, the balance is just the right side of send-up. So you chuckle at the crazy antics of Huge and his teammates, but it also gets you thinking about people in the public eye making mistakes in the age of social media and the general pitfalls of celebrity culture. Just don’t give it to Gavin Henson or Danny Cipriani for Christmas.

STATE LIKE SLEEP

VICE So there’s this new movie where Dick Cheney is ‘Batman’. Well, kind of. Christian Bale depicting George W Bush’s right-hand man might sound insane, but if anybody can turn his hand to almost any role in the universe, it’s Haverfordwest’s most famous son. He is nearly unrecognisable as the lead in this mirth-inducing biopic of the rise of the American vice-president, grappling with his most unflattering (yet equally genius) casting since American Hustle. His supporting players in this satire from the team behind top dollar financial crisis flick The Big Short is flat-out fabulous, not least Sam Rockwell’s mush-brained Dubya. The cutting humour turns what at the time was an incredibly divisive administration into a loveable laughing stock, with none of the po-faced dullardry of Oliver Stone’s W – and the time is ripe, too, given Donald Trump’s reign of bigotry is making all that went before it comparatively harmless japes. For fans of: Veep; The Big Short Verdict: You’d be a Dick to miss it 4/5

Jason Jones somehow gets mixed up in a penguinkidnapping incident

A seedy drama with indie-cinema kudos aplenty – not least that it centres on Belgium – State Like Sleep follows the aftermath of a famous actor’s suicide, as his widow tries to figure out her husband’s demise. All leads seem to point to a high-end gentleman’s club, where she encounters the two true stars of the film: Edward and Emile. The former is played by one of the actors of our generation, Michael Shannon, who reliably delivers his idiosyncratic brand of intense menace; Luke Evans, the best thing to come out of Pontypool aside from a bunch of rugby players, almost steals the show with a dollop of Gallic grease as peroxide man of mystery Emile. There is tension aplenty, although a good proportion of the movie appears to involve the widow (Katherine Waterston) attempting to sleep her way round half of Brussels. Gladly, the twisty plot is a little more nuanced than a string of bedroom encounters. For fans of: Enter the Void; Eyes Wide Shut Verdict: You will be wide awake until the very end 3/5

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Adam Kennedy wants Batman for Vice President and frankly he’d be no worse, would he?

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CARS

AUDI RS5

Class, confidence and comfort hides the beast within

Top Speed: 155mph 0-62mph: 3.9secs CO2: 197g/km MPG: 32.5 Price: £62,900

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You may be reading this expecting the new RS5 to be Audi’s latest attempt to go head-to-head and toe-to-toe with on-paper competitors from BMW and Mercedes. If so, you’d be doing Audi a dis-service. Wisely, they’ve adopted a different approach for a car in this category. The RS5 acknowledges that most of the time what drivers want of a car, that may well be their everyday ride, is one that’s easy to live with and relatively comfortable - even a performance monster like this. It still needs to thrill though and trying to combine extreme performance with comfort and live-ability is a risk – so, has it paid off? Let’s start with the straight-forward bit. It looks great, both inside and out. Looks and finish have always been an Audi strong point, having an uncanny knack of creating something that’s imposing and dramatic yet stylish and not at all flashy or overly muscular, all whilst still being instantly recognisable as an Audi. And the RS5 ticks all these boxes. Inside fit, slick finish and ergonomics are exemplary. The leather seats and

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driving position are supremely comfortable which all makes the cabin a great place to be. The RS5 has all the tech you’d expect and more besides. Audi’s ‘Virtual Cockpit’ comes as standard with a 12.3-inch configurable TFT screen and features a host of useful functions, plus a barrage of performance data, such as turbo boost pressure and a G-meter. Also impressive amongst the swathe of kit are the standard acoustic windows and a wealth of Audi’s latest safety technology. The single biggest change though is under the bonnet. Out goes the lovely, but long in the tooth, naturally aspirated 4.2 V8 to be replaced by a state of the art, twin-turbo 2.9 V6 developed in conjunction with Porsche. It’s lighter, by 31kg, much more economical, has as much power and way more torque. Performance is huge. With 444bhp, 442lb ft of torque and launch control it races to 62mph in less than 4 seconds and powers on to a limited 155mph, which can be raised to 174mph for those who want to take it to an autobahn or track as an extra. But, it’s the in-gear acceleration that’s most remarkable. Overtaking, or powering out of a corner, it’s slingshot fast. Its exhaust note is deliberately quieter than the old V8 (though switching to dynamic adds bass and volume). The sense of highrev drama’s not quite the same either but there’s no doubting it’s a much more accomplished and better all-round performer with immense power on tap. You get the same sense from the handling. The intention is not just to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as you dice with on the edge grip. It is a much more engaging drive than its predecessor, being 60kg lighter, with a new, stiffer chassis, five-link suspension and new ‘dynamic’ steering. But, more than anything, rather than ‘in yer face’ excitement, what you have here is a supremely capable, confidence inspiring car that can calmly negotiate corners of all shapes and sizes at immense speed in complete control. Pretty much what you would expect from a limited slip diff and Audi’s mastery of four wheel drive, though knowing that doesn’t prepare you for just how well it does it. The other big plus to this is that it’s an easy car to live with and extremely rewarding for old-school GT journeys, touring mid Wales, the Highlands of Scotland or the south of France. It’s comfortable and soaks up our increasingly pot-holed roads with aplomb and it’s very refined, with minimal wind-noise. If you dig deep and tweak the settings (where you can pick ‘n’ mix your favourite engine, steering, suspension and transmission configurations) the excitement can be had, but this only serves to make you appreciate the breadth of the RS5’s talents even more. It’s refined and comfortable and perfect for continental trips or short hops, yet within lurks a thrilling performance beast if that’s what takes your fancy on a given day.


JAW-DROPPING POWER AND COMFORT

CARS

New Bentley Continental GT I’ve got a soft spot for the original Continental for a number of reasons. Firstly, there’s the guided tour of Bentley’s crew factory I attended shortly after its original launch back in 2003 – a fascinating glimpse into the parallel universe of luxury car manufacturing. Secondly, I associate it, and everything it represents, with a more decadent, carefree world – pre Brexit, austerity and global warming. And lastly, it does make you feel rather special when you’re at the wheel. But, having said all that, and for all its mind-boggling pace, its sporting prowess was not great – the underpinnings (from a VW Phaeton) were always going to limit its potential in this respect. Comfortable, refined and spectacularly fast, yes. Thrilling, no. So much so, I actually met an owner who had his 600bhp Continental chipped to try to inject more excitement. He won’t need to do that with the new Continental. This time, Bentley’s engineers have looked to Porsche, not VW, and have been working hand-in-hand with Porsche engineers to create a platform (shared with the new Panamera) from ground zero that gives them exactly what they want. They’ve also been able to roll their sleeves up with W12 powerplant and half-inch Porsche’s eight speed auto box. The result is transformative. First things first. It still bears a resemblance to the old Continental – which is no bad thing. It’s prettier though with plenty of presence, and is easily identifiable, even at a glance and from a distance. The other big plus that hasn’t changed is the sense of occasion in the cabin. It’s simply sumptuous – all leather, walnut and beautifully crafted controls – it’s as close as you’ll get to a gentleman’s club in a high performance sporting GT. It’s uber comfortable and amazingly refined in Comfort mode, stunningly so, if you stop to think about it. Flick it in to ‘Bentley’ mode and things start to get interesting. This is the mode that probably gives the best all round driving experience on public roads – just the right combination of comfort and driver satisfaction. It’s then that you start to appreciate the benefits of the chassis and suspension development. The main headlines are the chassis is stiffer, yet lighter (76kg overall – an average sized person), as are the suspension components. The engine is set 150mm further back, there are double wishbones at the front, a multi-link arrangement at the rear, and a three chamber air suspension system with an electronically “active” anti-roll bar. All massaged and tuned for a dynamic driving experience which is precisely what you get. It belies its 2 ¼ tons feeling nimble and crisp with tremendous grip. Pop it into ‘Sport’ mode though and you realise just how transformed the Continental is. It is simply staggering. Everything is set up to max out driver enjoyment and precise handling, which it does

brilliantly. To be frank, we have no right to expect such performance in a plush and heavy GT. And all of this is on top of simply jaw-dropping power delivery. 626bhp and 664lbft of torque catapults the Conti to 62mph in 3.6 secs, and remember this is a 2 ¼ ton car. As important is the delivery - the W12 has been re-engineered throughout – even the firing order’s different – to produce a far more flexible and sporting experience. The result is an engine that’s more powerful, smoother, economical and sports orientated fun. Which sums up the new Continental GT perfectly - it’s still a great car for touring but now has a real sporting edge to it.

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0-62mph: 3.6secs Top speed: 207mph MPG: 23.2 CO2: 278g/km Price: £159,100

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ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? - Aren’t you too old for this? - What’s the point? - Have you put on weight?

Bennett is. And that’s what really matters, right?

These are questions I was asked by comedian friends – and normal friends – when I said that I would be performing at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. To be fair only two people asked the last question, but it still hurt. Funnily enough, the last time I heard the question: ‘Aren’t you too old for this?’ in relation to comedy, was in 1997. I was in the final of the BBC New Comedy Awards alongside Justin Lee Collins and Peter Kay and we were all being interviewed by the Press. We were sat in a circle and the journalist went around asking everyone their age. I was the last one to be questioned. The journalist asked the person before me how old they were and when they said their age, the journalist said: ‘Oh. Aren’t you too old for this?’ That person was a year younger than I was. So when it came to me, I made myself eight years younger. And that age has stayed with me throughout my career. Of course some people know my real age - like school friends and one of my parents. But this was really my first insight into the potential ageism in my newly chosen profession. In most jobs, the more experience you have and the better you become, the more chance there is of advancement. Someone who starts off as a paralegal in a law firm, would hope to one day be an established lawyer and possibly a partner in a firm. A runner in a production company would hope to one day be a producer and possibly have their own company. These are seen as marks of success in one’s chosen field. This doesn’t always ring true for comedy. In comedy, success tends to relate to ‘being on the telly’. The number of promoters who now only book comedians with TV credits – even for low paid gigs – has increased considerably. It seems that being good at your job is not as important as having performed, however well or badly, on television. The problem is, TV producers are constantly looking for the next new thing. ‘New’ clearly equates to ‘young’ of course. The problem is that ‘young’ does not necessarily mean experienced. Or good. In fact you generally can’t be good without being experienced. (I don’t think I need to give other examples, do I?) When I was growing up my favourite comedians on TV tended be the ones that people would have considered, ‘older’: Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper, Dave Allen. There was something comforting and safe about them. And of course, funny. They had worked for years around the tough working men’s circuit and had earned their place. Hence their longevity. But today, like your most comfortable underwear, they’d be considered a little too old and in need of some additional support.

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Of course there are exceptions; Micky Flanagan, John Bishop and our own Rhod Gilbert. But these really are in the minority. I was easily in the top five percent of older comedians in Edinburgh this year. One of the reasons I became aware of this was that, after my second show at 10pm, I would meet with some of these other older comedians for a drink. We would have a chat and a laugh and then leave by around 11:30pm – passing all the younger comedians who were now arriving! This brings me to the second question: “What’s the point?” In all honesty, I’m not sure. Maybe it was just to remind people I was still around. After all Edinburgh is a Trade Show. You set out your stall and show what you have for sale here. The problem is, the people who DO know you think: ‘Oh they’ve been going a while, let’s see someone new instead’ and the people who DON’T know you think ‘Well they’ve been going for a long time but haven’t progressed to TV so they can’t be very good.’ I suppose one of the reasons I did the Festival is because I had a show I really liked. The performances went well. I was delighted to receive lovely comments from audience members which included people like Philip Schofield, Ian Rankin and Rory Bremner. There is nothing better than being told you’re good at what you do. So now what? Even though I’ve been a professional comedian for 20 years, had over 30 sitcom scripts on TV, written books, starred in my own radio series, presented documentaries and am currently starring in a Radio 4 sitcom alongside Angus Deayton, it’s sad to think some might see me as past my prime. My Radio Wales series was not renewed even though it had huge listening figures and was nominated for a Celtic Media Award. But I’m not ready to hang up my hat just yet… I still enjoy gigging around the country and I’m fortunate to perform at corporate events around the world, but making a living as a stand-up comedian is tough. I write material for famous comedians, which I love, but I have to say, sometimes, whilst hearing my lines being spoken on Have I Got News For You and Mock the Week is still exciting, there is always that little voice saying ‘It would be nice if you were saying them yourself.’ Anyway, I have to finish now. Apparently I need to go to the gym….. © Bennett Arron 2018 See what Bennett’s up to at www.bennettarron.com Follow Bennett on Twitter @bennettarron


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RedHanded - Winter 19  

Winter 19 edition of RedHanded - the lifestyle magazine for professionals living in Wales. Including Rita Ora, Rhod Gilbert, Rugby World Cup...

RedHanded - Winter 19  

Winter 19 edition of RedHanded - the lifestyle magazine for professionals living in Wales. Including Rita Ora, Rhod Gilbert, Rugby World Cup...

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