The Judge RANTS!
Yes, it has been a bit quiet here of late, hasn't it?
Nothing sinister going on, though; it's just that there a few things I have to give priority to just now, most of them involving having to put up with being blown hither and yon by other people's schedules and punctuality (or lack of it). I walked out of a cardiology appointment last week, having been left sitting there an hour past my designated time; I've had to deal with a necessary upgrade to my electricity supply (and the failure of the company which was supposed to examine a fault to actually turn up - at all); and I'm having to make preparations for the replacement of my central heating next week (something I didn't know was going to happen until a bloke from the contractors turned up to do the measurements a couple of weeks ago). So it's all go.
Some things in the wider world just have to be commented upon, however. This is a case in point.
Now at first sight, this would seem to be just another example of those projects much beloved by the 'heritage industry' which, in the words of Arthur Dent, "sublimate this, transcend that and come to terms with the fundamental dichotomies of the other". In other words, it's a load of pretentious bollocks. Sure enough, the architects engaged at considerable expense to carry out this aesthetic atrocity duly engaged in the atrocities against communication inherent in such plans. The word 'iconic' appears, for one thing, along with assurances that "the piece is more than just a sculpture".
So far, so risible. But...
Leaving aside the inevitable impracticality of the thing - can you imagine something which will enable the local disaffected youth to throw things off the top of it (this is Flintshire we're talking about, after all; or 'Knowsley-on-Dee' as it's more accurately known)? Or how it would have to be fenced off to prevent its edges ending up with more inscriptions on them than a pound coin? - and also leaving aside the sheer ugliness of the edifice, there are other considerations.
The architects who are the latest beneficiaries of the official government policy of throwing large sums of our money at a tourist biz which is almost totally owned by outsiders, go so far as to call this eyesore-in-potentia 'The Ring Of Steel'. This, we are intended to believe, is because parts of it will be made from said substance (or, at least, iron) supposedly in commemoration of the steel industry which we used to have hereabouts.
Just one problem with this: 'The Ring Of Steel' is a term most commonly used by historians to describe the chain of castles and fortresses built by Edward Longshanks and his equally vicious son (who was born in one of them as an early example of imperial PR) throughout the north and west of our conquered land in order to cement their invasion and occupation. These castles - and the towns whose skyline they dominated - represented the first serious implanting of the virus of Englishry in our body politic (and body social, body economic and - crucially - body cultural), and remain symbols of our subservient state.
They have been used by the natural heirs of the usurpers and their hangers-on right up to the current age in order to bolster Britnattery. I well remember the Festival Of Castles that 'our' tourist board promoted in 1983, where the great banquet to launch the offensive (in more than one sense of that word) which took place at Caerffili Castle was actually televised by the BritNat Broadcorping Castration, so that the servile natives could catch a glimpse of all their heroes (Gareth, Tosh, Maxie Bach and, of course, Noddy and Big-Ears) gathered in one place to celebrate our disposession (I wrote a poem about it which was published in our student newspaper). The principality and its powers are obsessed with these wretched structures to the almost total exclusion of anything which might give a less imbalanced view of our history, and very much of a piece with the way that our land's story as taught in our schools is still dominated by someone else's kings, queens, admirals and generals, and where our history is either sanitised so as not to excite the emotions of the plebs; or confined to those events and individuals which co-incide with the propaganda view of England's empire; or simply ignored altogether.
So, to précis up to this point: our alleged government - at a time when our health services are lurching from crisis to catastrophe, with wards being closed every week due to virulent infections caused by the inadequacies of private cleaning contractors, and when GPs' practices are bailing out by the month; where our transport infrastructure is a sick joke (you try getting from the north-west to the south-west without either going through large chunks of England, or ending up on roads which are little more than country lanes); and where young people have to leave their home towns and villages because our economy is perma-fucked and the property market is dominated by white-flight immigrants (oh, the irony!) and predatory absentee landlords - at such a time, can throw £600k at a firm of architects from way beyond our border (engaged after a totally opaque process involving nepotistic appointees and some of our land's most useless quangos) to provide plans for a monstrosity of metal which celebrates the destruction of the very nation's land into which it will be embedded.And all this under the overarching rubric of (I wish I was joshing at this point) "Legends of Wales"!
So far, so 'Welsh' 'government', then.
Thankfully, even in this deracinated and Latvianised country, there are still a few of us who can smell a condign insult at a hundred yards against the wind. The response has been swift and strong, from people of public prominence via bloggers through to the Twittersphere. Satirical ideas have been rife, from the suggestion that 'CADW' (the 'heritage' quango here, and a word which means 'keeping') stands for "Celebrate All Defeats of the Welsh", to ideas for a more appropriate name for the project ("Anus Of The North" seems to be a winner, I feel), to this proposal for a similar project in England (particularly appealing to Yer Judge, as his paternal grandfather and his line came from Hastings and thereabouts). A petition to oppose this hideous idea has reached nearly 10 000 signatures in less than three days.
None of this initially blunted the (half)wits of those backing the idea. The architects doubled down on their piddle, CADW released a statement saying inter alia, "We recognise that art divides opinions..." (and - even allowing for the pretense that this blot could be called 'art' - it sure will if you have Van Gogh's ear for the music of historical and contemporary reality), and wiffling on about how it "...would also provide a unique opportunity to promote Welsh steel" (in as much as we actually have a steel industry anymore. A suggestion: why not make it out of crack and mamba, because they seem to be the primary source of economic growth on Deeside today?).
The minister skulking behind the plans on the part of 'our' 'government' is Ken Skates who - alas! - is my own Assembly Member, and he used CADW as a mouthpiece for his own views on the matter. Similarly his colleague, the Labour Stepford Wife for Flint, the otherwise anonymous Hannah Blythin, expressed the expected strong support for the 'feature'.
Today, Skates (who was elected last year by fewer people than have now signed the petition) has announced a 'pause' on the project. The word 'pause' in this context usually means, "Let's keep quiet for a few weeks and then try to sneak it out again when the serfs are distracted by a royal funeral or some other Union Jack-waving event", so we will have to be watchful.
But what does it tell us about the way our land is misgoverned? An awful lot, but nothing that many of us didn't already know, or couldn't already have guessed. We endure a political and administrative régime which regards our national identity (or even existence) as mere optional extras, where what is for the benefit of England and the English (major transport infrastructure which runs east-west rather than north-south, allowing housing developments which are aimed at turning the whole of the north into a dormitory suburb of greater Lancashire and Cheshire, encouraging a form of tourism designed to lure the pot-bellied yobs of Birmingham not only to visit but to buy up our property and further colonise us, enabling those centres of excellence in gobbling up our money called 'housing associations' to bring in 'problem families', criminals and perverts from all over dear old Anglia to continue their social wrecking in nicer landscapes) is deemed to be good for us, too. If the natives get a bit surly, then it's easy to break out the red-white-and-blue bunting, to use an overwhelmingly anti-Welsh and un-Welsh print and broadcasting establishment to slant and smear. And, in a nation where the inferiority complex which has been bred into us by nearly eight hundred years of occupation is possibly stronger than it ever was, you can't go far wrong by calling those of us who believe that we are capable of so much more for our own benefit, 'dreamers', 'fascists' or 'extremists', with a side-order of moaning about how we're, "...too small, too poor, too weak, too stupid".
Now (as Spike Milligan used to say) you know what's wrong with the bloody country...