Thursday, 2 July 2020

Britain, assailed by coronavirus, is still, thankfully, a country for its old and much-loved writer of poems and teller of stories for children, Michael Rosen

Michael, who is 74, contracted coronavirus in mid-March and subsequently, in hospital, was within a whisker of death. He returned home last week after spending 48 days in intensive care at the Whittington Hospital in North London and spent a further three weeks on a rehabilitation ward, learning to walk again.

As a children's author and poet, he has written 140 books and served as Children's Laureate from 2007 to June 2009 and is has also been a tv presenter and a political columnist. Fellow poet, Lemn Sissay said of him, that he was : “The reluctant king of poets, the kindest, most expressive, hardworking, articulate, laughter-inducing, tear-jerking poet in the business”.

Interviewed on the BBC Radio 'Today Programme this week Michael said : "In March I thought I was coping with the flu, in the way that we do, or that it was the coronavirus and I was going to be one of those people who experience it as a 'kind of flu' and it was only then when things started moving very quickly".
He recalled he had an oxygen saturation test and "suddenly there was a kind of, I won't say panic, but : "You've got to go into A & E. Now." In A & E, suddenly things started buzzing all around me, but I don't think that I sensed, at that moment, that I was probably 2 or 3 hours off departing this planet" 
In fact, he is only alive because his wife, and a GP friend recognised that his condition was deteriorating and took him to A & E in the nick of time.

"It was 'touch and go'  because my respiratory system was conking out, but also so was my liver and kidneys and I did't know that, but found out afterwards. 
I have a memory of somebody saying : "We can put you on a ventilator"
They handed me a piece of paper and said : "You've got a 50:50 chance"
I said : "Are you telling me that's better than the chance I've got now ?" and I said : "Are you saying I might not wake up ?" And they said : "Yes"
And then I signed something, but I think I was a bit light- headed, but remember thinking :'Oh  
well, a 50:50 chance'. I was sort of flippant about it really, to myself."

Michael spent the next 7 weeks in an induced coma and on a ventilator.

"Coming out, I've got little patches of memory. 
I can see some doctors standing around me arguing about what would be the best oxygen mask to have. 
I remember waking up, once in the night, and asking nurses where I was ? I didn't really know about the 7 weeks of being in this 'induced coma', till I came home and then they told me about it. I got quite upset about it actually. I had no idea I was in that induced coma for that long and I just have this picture of Emma and our family and wider family and so on, just on the edge, not knowing if I was going to survive or not. That's full of emotion for me : that the people were hanging in there."

Attention was drawn to the poem 'These were the hands', which Michael had written in 2008 to mark the 60th Birthday of the NHS. He told the BBC Radio listeners : "There's a wonderful symmetry to this. Yes, I wanted to say the NHS is this wonderful, incredible feat of the imagination that people who don't know each other care for each other for the social good. Whether it's the person who comes in to clean, the person who empties the bed pans and the bottles and so on, or whether its the top-flight consultants. The whole thing works together and I wanted to say that in the poem and that it happened to me. I was so near to going and that's on a knife edge it's a reminder of how life is very important, but it's what we have. But there's a vulnerability about it and that's part of life. It's not separate from life."

When it came to his present state he said : "The first word I would use to describe myself is 'feeble' My legs feel very feeble. I think of them as cardboard tubes full of porridge. When I ask them to do things they don't do it. So I've learnt how to walk with a stick and a bit, without a stick. I can hear that my voice is a bit feeble as well and then I get tired very quickly and I've also lost some sight in my left eye and from my left ear. So I feel a bit lop-sided, feeble and lop-sided".

"I get these not exactly, nightmares, but recurring images. You know when a dog gets something and shakes its head in order to try and get rid of it, but it doesn't work well. It's a bit like that. I get recurring images and I don't really want them there. but I can't get rid of them. So there's a strange psycho-block in my head that comes for that time."

Britain almost lost - the creator of  :


"I am an optimist, definitely. There’s no point in pessimism, because all that happens is you feel pessimistic – and then you die. You’ve wasted your life. So you might as well be optimistic."

Michael's 'These are the hands updated in April 2020 for 'NHS Charities Together' : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTgMr7eDjgk

"These are the hands
That touch us first
Feel your head
Find the pulse
And make your bed.

These are the hands
That tap your back
Test the skin
Hold your arm
Wheel the bin
Change the bulb
Fix the drip
Pour the jug
Replace your hip.

These are the hands
That fill the bath
Mop the floor
Flick the switch
Soothe the sore
Burn the swabs
Give us a jab
Throw out sharps
Design the lab.

And these are the hands
That stop the leaks
Empty the pan
Wipe the pipes
Carry the can
Clamp the veins
Make the cast
Log the dose


And touch us last."

Friday, 26 June 2020

Britain, assailed by coronavirus, is no country for old men : Confirmed on Bournemouth Beach


Total number of 'recorded' coronavirus cases (real figure unknown) :

307,980

Total number of 'recorded' deaths, mostly old men and women and the third highest in the world after USA and Brazil (real figure 60,000 +) :

43,230


Number of deaths per million and the worst figure in the world : 

640 

Number of 'recorded' deaths per day running at :

100 - 200

Daily number of 'recorded' infections (real figure, unknown) :

1,100

Estimated number of people on Bournemouth Beach yesterday :

..,000 ?


Sunday, 21 June 2020

Britain is a country and Wales a nation which say "Ffarwel" to their scarce old playwright called Siôn Eirian

Siôn, who has died at the age of 66, was born in 1954, the son of Jennie and Rev James Eirian Davies in Hirwaun, Carmarthenshire and then raised Brynaman where he arrived, fast asleep in his carrycot on the back seat of his parents’ Morris Minor. It was here, as an  inquisitive three-year-old, he decided to try to put his hand through the safety bars of an electric fire and it was suggested that this was the genesis of a sense of curiosity, of pushing the boundaries, that was something which stayed with him throughout his life and was reflected in his work as poet, author and playwright.

When he was eight years old the family moved to Mold in Flintshire, when his father, became Minister of Bethesda Chapel. A contribution towards his decision to become a Methodist Minister was partly made many years before, after the tragedy of losing his brother, Emrys, who drowned when, as boys, they were swimming in the River Towy near their farm, 'Llain'. It affected him deeply and in the crisis he had derived considerable comfort from his chapel community, which eventually influenced his choice of a career in the ministry.

It was after the Second World War and a few years before Siôn was born, when his father, while studying for a degree at the University College of Wales, Swansea, began to make a name for himself as a promising Welsh-language poet, winning the 'Crown and the Chair' twice in the 'Intercollegiate Eisteddfod'. It was also at this time that he met the Cambridge Professor of Philosophy, Ludwig Wittgenstein who, in the 1940s came in summer to stay in Wales at the invitation of his friend Rush Rhees. In fact, James Eirian and Ludwig became close friends to the extent that, on occasion, he stayed with the Davies family at 'Llain'.

Siôn's father first spotted the clever, beautiful Jennie Howells at an Eisteddfod and theirs was a student romance which became more serious when James Eirian won the 'Chair and Crown' at the Intercollegiate Eisteddfod and .Jennie said : "I'm going to marry him!"  Siôn recalled : "Dad was quite bohemian in college, whereas Mam had a sheltered upbringing. Mam found Dad to be an exotic creature and he broadened Mam's horizons. When they started dating and eventually married he opened up her entire world." While undertaking theological training at the United Theological College in Aberystwyth, James Eirian became well known in the rural areas of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire as a popular student-preacher who was unconventional both in his style and his dress.

During Siôn's boyhood his father supported his mother in the campaigns she undertook on behalf of the Welsh language and religious heritage and she stood as a Parliamentary Candidate for Plaid Cymru, when Sion was a baby, in the 1955 General Election and again in a by-election in 1957. Bethesda Chapel become a centre for Welsh speakers in the town and the congregation. His father was able to communicate effectively with the younger generation and encouraged many who recited and wrote poetry, by his adjudications at national and local eisteddfodau throughout Wales.

As a boy, Niclas Parry, who was later to become a judge, was a close childhood friend of Siôn's brother, Guto, “From an extremely early age I spent many many hours at the family home, the Chapel Manse, Bron Afon Mold. It was obvious then, even to a primary school boy, that Siôn was exciting, innovative, original and prepared to challenge the recognised norm. It was no surprise to see him develop into the genius that appeared to be within him from his school days."

No doubt Jennie read Siôn and his brother, the three children's books she had published, 'Bili Bawd' and 'Guto', when he was seven and 'Fflwffen' in 1963, when he was nine as well as copies of 'Trysorfa'r Plant' ,(The Children's Treasury), the magazine she edited and renamed 'Antur',(Adventure) in 1966, when Siôn was ten. This gave her a chance to emphasise the meaning and importance of a Christian life : ‘adventure, initiative, danger, romance'. The cover image by Hywel Harries portrayed two youngsters ready for an ADVENTURE. 'Their eyes are looking upwards. The aim is always upwards. They have the Bible in hand, this will be their map for the journey.’ The Christian idealism and conviction that we must always aim high, was essential to Jennie's  life and work and doubtless exercised a powerful influence on young Siôn and Guto.

Sion, who was a pupil at Ysgol Glanrafon Primary School and then, from 1965, at his secondary school, Ysgol Maes Garmon in Mold, a 11–18 mixed, community secondary school which had opened in 1961 and was the only Welsh-medium school in Flintshire. He had only been there a year, when at the age of 12, at the BBC in Llandaf, he was reading his poetry on the radio. 
Betsan Llwyd, Artistic Director at Theatr Bara Caws recalled : "This first time I saw Siôn was on stage in a school pantomime which he himself had written, me in my first year, he a 6th former, and as a frisson of tension rippled through the hall. I became aware, even then, that this charismatic personality liked to push boundaries." 
Equal to his love of words, was young Siôn's love of sport, largely influenced by his father’s passion for combat and boxing and wrestling in particular. This manifested itself with brother Guto, on Saturday afternoons when, energised from watching Les Kellett and Mick McManus on their TV screen and stripped down to their underwear, they indulged in wrestling on the living room floor. With Eirian taking over Kent Walton’s commentary role and it more often than not ended in blood and tears.
Many years later Siôn was asked to write a piece about the boxer, Joe Erskine whom he knew as a friend and said : ‘He was gentle mannered, sometimes overly polite and always effusively talkative… In reality Joe couldn’t have lifted a finger to harm a fly. He was like some affable old bear, so keen was he to befriend and humour all those in his company.’

Siôn's love of rugby began at the same time. Alun Wyn Bevan, writer and broadcaster recalled : "I like to think that it was my own father and I who introduced Siôn to rugby. Shortly before the move to Mold, the three of us piled into our MG Magnette and set off one Saturday afternoon – destination Stradey Park. Llanelli were playing Aberavon, the place packed to the rafters and Siôn was mesmerised. The location, the noise, the crowd and the game itself had an effect which lasted throughout his life."

Sion was in the sixth form at school when, at the age of 17, he was the winner of the Crown at the 1971 Urdd National Eisteddfod. The following year he started his undergraduate degree in Welsh and Philosophy at the University of Wales Aberystwyth and after graduation, studied at the National College of Music and Drama in Cardiff and whilst studying had his volume of poems, 'Plant Gadara' , ('Gadara's Children'), published in 1975. His subject matter involved young people of North-East Wales, including skinheads, a rare thing in written Welsh at the time.

Three years later, at the age of 24 in 1978 in the National Eisteddfod Crown at Cardiff, he became the youngest ever poet to be crowned and took the bardic name 'Aman Bach'. His winning series of poems primarily engaged in the experiences of a Welsh adolescent in the late 1960s. With his 'fierce  swallows' and 'tender Luftwaffe', his poems were autobiographical in content, direct in style and addressed the problems of Welsh identity, sexual relationships and world peace in a nuclear age. In his winning entry he personified himself as a :

'hwrdd ifanc 
yn topi celfi ei amgylchedd 
gan gicio gwreichion o’r prid
wrth chwilio am fwlch yn y clawdd'.

‘young ram
butting the furniture of his environment 
by kicking sparks from the ground 
when seeking a gap in the hedge’ 

In 1977, at the age of 25, Siôn, together with a small group of actors and fellow writers, formed the Theatr Bara Caws, where he was 'Writer in Residence'. It was a deliberate attempt to broaden the appeal of Welsh drama away from the Welsh-speaking elite and take the language into different communities. Jon Gower, author and dramatist described the young Siôn as : 'Hard-working, iconoclastic and constantly explorative.' 

Poet and dramatist, Jim Parc Nest commented that Siôn 'inherited, and was influenced by the radicalism of his parents. It developed into a rebelliousness which characterised his work, both as poet and playwright'. He also said that 'his anti-establishment stance eventually became one of the main hallmarks of his dramatic tragi-comic legacy in both English and Welsh.'  Dr Manon Williams in the School of  Welsh and Celtic Studies at the University of Bangor saw Siôn as 'The Conformist Rebel'.



In 1978 he produced a dramatised version of 'Rhys Lewis' by Daniel Owen for the Theatr Clwyd, Mold and the following year made his debut as a novelist with the appearance of the stories of 'Bob yn y Ddinas' (Bob in the City) and broke fresh ground by extending the range of Welsh language prose to encompass and discuss urban life and experiences. Between 1979 and 1985, he was the author of BBC Wales scripts on programs that included the Welsh soap opera 'Pobol y Cwm' (People of the Valley), featuring the fictional residents of the village of Cwmderi and in 2014 he appeared at the screening of 'Pobol y Cwm at 40'.

When 'Pobol y Cwm's' co-creator, Meic Povey, stood down from the Script Editing Department at BBC Wales, Siôn followed as his successor under the direction of Gwenlyn Parry. It was during this period that same period he wrote 'Crash Course' for the Made in Wales Company. Directed by Hugh Thomas and set on Welsh Language Learning Course in West Wales with its cast of six, it was a pointed satire on Welsh language culture.

Personal tragedy intervened in his life in 1982 when his mother, Jennie, took her own life with a combination of alcohol and barbiturates. Three years before, her appointment as Editor of the periodical 'Y Faner', (The Flag), was, in many ways, the high point of her life because it gave a platform to a wide range of political and social ideas and encouraged debate, but her stance on the issue of the Welsh-language television channel and her belief that putting all Welsh programmes on a single channel, S4C, would have a damaging effect on the language. The single channel had the support of the great majority of Welsh nationalists at the time and Jennie's agonising concern and sense of duty towards Wales and the Welsh language and her unwillingness to compromise put her on a collision course with fellow nationalists and ultimately the strain was too much for her.

It was Eirian who had broken down the bathroom door at the home she shared with his father and found his mother. He recalled : "It was also very strange that I was home for two days that May. I was filming in Wrexham and stayed with Dad and Mam for two nights and Mam had known about this for many weeks. It's odd that she did it when I was home. Did she do it at that time because I would be home with Dad?"

In 1984 he wrote the film script for 'Marwolaeth yr Asyn o'r fflint', (Death of the Donkey from Flint) and in the same year created S4C's first tv detective series 'Bowen a'r Bartner', (Bowen and his Partner), with Jeff Thomas as Bowen, which ran for 3 series over the next 4 years.

Given his passion for his nation of Wales, his politics and writers and writing, it was not surprising that he was instrumental in establishing the Welsh branch of the 'Writers’ Guild of Great Britain' in the late 1980s. He was convinced that every nation should nurture, support and encourage its artists and was committed to establishing and cementing professional standards and practices for writers in Wales.

When he was working in his capacity as a script editor, Geraint Lewis, dramatist and short story editor, met Siôn when he submitted his script, to the new independent TV company, Lluniau Lliw, for a series based on the dreams and disappointments of a young man, Ceri Morgan, who was on the dole in Thatcher’s Britain. He recalled : 'Having achieved so much already, still in his early thirties, I was in awe of Siôn, so it was with great trepidation that I met him. I needn’t have worried. Grabbing my hand firmly, with a mischievous glint in his eye, he said "Ah, the young man who wonders where the fluff in one’s navel comes from". This was a reference to one of Ceri’s wry voice-overs. Many years later, story-lining Pobol y Cwm together, he would often chuckle and tease me about the fluff in the navel. It became a running gag between us.'

In 1986 he wrote 'Wastad Ar Y Tu Fas', (Always On The Outside), a play about gay relationships for Hwyl A Fflag,(Fun and Flag Company) and the following year 'The Rising' with Gwyn Alff Williams and Alan Osborne for the Moving Being Theater Company and then 'Elvis, y Blew a Fi',(Elvis the Hair and Me) for Hwyl A Fflag.

Then in 1990 he co-scripted the screenplay with Lyn Ebenezer for the tv thriller with a serial killer on the loose in a small Welsh seaside town, 'Yr Heliwr' (The Hunter) for S4C. Directed by Peter Edwards it starred Philip Madoc, Hywel Bennett and Sue Jones-Davies with Madoc as protagonist DCI Noel Bain. It went on to become 'A Mind to Kill' over four series broadcast in both English and Welsh between 1994 and 2002.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeDsbRuLolc&t=1m29s

His 'Woman of Flowers', an interpretation of the Blodeuwedd legend, was first presented in 1991 as a co-production between the Sherman Theatre Company and the Actors Touring Company. Based on the 1948 Welsh language verse drama, 'Blodeuwedd' by Saunders Lewis, it told the story of Blodeuwedd, a human female being, created from flower petals by the embittered goddess Arianrhod and the malevolent wizard Gwydion. Blodeuwedd’s sole purpose to be a wife to the young warrior prince, Llew, was put in jeopardy when she sought attention from the huntsman, Lord Gronw. As their lustful yearnings spark to a flame, treachery is born, while another battle rages between the forces of Arianrhod and Gwydion. In 2018, Sion had the pleasure of seeing its reprise at the Theatr Pena.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXPKHJFA5vY


His 'Gadael Lenin', (Leaving Lenin), based in the film script he co-wrote with Endaf Emlyn was released to great acclaim in 1993 and became winner of the 'BAFTA Awards, Wales' in 1995. Endaf Emlyn, film director said : "I had the great pleasure of sharing the adventure of creating Gadael Lenin with Siôn Eirian in 1992, clothing the skeleton of an idea with the structure of a film, as the two of us ventured on a trip around a changed Russia. As the Soviet Empire had only just been dismantled, resulting in a complete lack of order and organisation, we were under a good deal of pressure, on a trip chock full of trials and discoveries.  When the time came to start filming, in the middle of what was wild mayhem Siôn was always Stakhanovite in his work rate and clear in his vision, feeding us pages of script each and every day.  It was a privilege to work with a dramatist such as Siôn, with his sure craft and swift mind and it was an equal pleasure to also get to know the man – warm-hearted, affable and to become his friend."  

Siôn's group of sixth-form pupils on an art school trip to Russia are accidentally separated from their three teachers, who end up in a railway siding, while their students make it to St. Petersburg by themselves. Talented rebel Spike meets freewheeling artist Sasha and discovers a sexual as well as an artistic identity, while school flirt, Sharon, learns that her yobbish boyfriend Charlie has only one thing on his mind - and it's not her feelings. In addition to Sion's wryly comic observations about teenagers and sex the film focuses on the poignantly funny performances of the hitchhiking teachers.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOThBJfDlc0&t=1h05m09s

In 1994 he scripted one of the nine episodes of Lynda la Plante's 'The Lifeboat' starring Brendan Gleeson a 13-part BBC1 television adventure series set in a Welsh lifeboat community in which the men regularly risk their lives on the stormy and malevolent seas.
In the same year he wrote 'Epa yn y Parlwr Cefn', (Epa in the Back Room), for Cwmni Theatr Dalier Sylw. His story is of three very different prostitutes : Bethan a student from a privileged background, who prostitutes to pay for her college place; Linda, a young prostitute and experienced, hardened prostitute, Mary.

The Western Mail wrote : ' Siôn Eirian is a consummate theatre craftsman and a dramatist of uncompromising honesty and boldness. In this play he unhesitatingly enters a strictly no-go area as far as Welsh language theatre is concerned, The play's plot concerns three young prostitutes who have rented a dingy room in a city apartment to ply their trade. They are constantly humiliated and exploited by a depraved and avaricious landlord. The narrative, as such, is slight, but the dramatist is more concerned with exploring the emotional and psychological interactions between the four characters. The four speak with an inevitable relentless coarseness with an astronomical count of four-letter words and offensive allusions. This will undoubtedly alienate and cause offense to some people. However, if they look beyond the rawness of the vocabulary, they will realise that the drama is more concerned with exposing the plight of a marginalised minority than he is with merely shocking audiences '.

In 1998 the Music Theater Wales worked for the first time in Welsh, commissioning Sion to create a new performing version of Stravinsky's opera 'Stori’r Milwr', (The Soldier's Tale). Two years later his 'Paradwys Waed', (Blood Paradise) for the Theatr Bara Caws was a play about ideals and propaganda, with personal love and sexual elements complicating the story. In it his two North Wales journalists are working out in Spain in 1936 - Gronw Ellis on behalf of the Daily Telegraph and Richard Stevens the Daily Worker who believed they had found their personal paradise until the Civil War transformed their lives.

In 2001 the The Welsh College of Music and Drama commissioned Siôn to write 'Cegin y Diafol',(The Devil's Kitchen), a surreal drama about communication and specifically the internet, set in( a restaurant in rural Wales. Here in 'The Seagull' the play focuses on the relationship between Nimrod, the innocent cook and its female owner. Siôn said the play was asking : "Do we control and benefit from the new communications technology, or does that technology benefit us, and not only colonize our culture, but also colonize our language and our identity? "

In 2003 the Neath based Theatr na n'Og commissioned Siôn to produce a new script for their production of the rock opera 'Nia Ben Aur' performed previously only once at the 1974 National Eisteddfod in Carmarthen and a musical telling the love story of Osian, a young prince who falls for Nia from Tir na n'Og, the land of eternal youth.

In 2004 Siôn wrote the comedy series 'Mostyn Flint n'aye!' starring Trefor Selway, for the Mold character created and performed by his contemporary from school days, Cadfan Roberts, who played a washed-up cabaret singer who'd been thrown out of by his wife and dreamt of returning to his Eighties heyday. Set in Flintshire, the eight-part series saw Mostyn trying to resurrect his career by buying a dilapidated working men's club to stage his own cabaret and comedy shows and was the first Welsh language drama to be set in the region and made by a Cardiff Company for S4C. It was Sion's deliberate attempt to rework established notions about the marginalised and Anglicised region of North East Wale

In 2006 he scripted 'Hedfan Drwy’r Machlud', (Flight Through the Sun), for the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. The critic in the review for BBC Cymru wrote : 'I felt at times that the little script was too 'stiff'. Not very natural - though the pieces of the two Welsh women flowed much more easily than those of the Portuguese characters making me wonder if that was intentional. I enjoyed the performance and if an opportunity comes I would recommend taking advantage of it to see it, but be careful not to take too young children as the final scene is very graphic.'

Siôn adapted 'Cysgod y Cryman', (Shadow of the Sickle), from Islwyn Ffowc Elis' novel, for Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru in 2007. It was based on generational and ideological conflict and set in rural Powys during the 1950s and a time when jazz music was loosening the shackles of the chapel and eisteddfod and political upheaval challenging traditional, respectable values. The new generation of the Aeron Valley turns its back on its roots and civil war breaks out between Harri, the communist atheist and his father, Edward Vaughan, the estate owner and old style Liberal.

In 2010 Siôn, together with BAFTA award winning writer Ed Thomas, scripted the nine part S4C drama series 'Pen Talar', the story of from West Wales over a period of half a century, from the 1950s. Sion's 'tour de force' was an epic odyssey, which visited his characters at different turning points in their political and emotional development, from the student riots of the late 60s, the social upheaval and Thatcherism of the 70s and 80s, through the swinging nineties to the present day.

The main character, played by Richard Harrington, appeared from the third episode onwards, with previous episodes dealing with the life of his character as a child. At the point, in the early 1970s when Defi Lewis is an angry young student at Aberystwyth University and a well-educated middle-class boy brought up in a manor farmhouse, 'Pen Talar', in Carmarthenshire, he becomes embroiled in all kinds of passions and politics. At the same time, friend Doug and sister Siân take different paths which inevitably cross over the next five decades. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvUT_N27tn8

It was hailed as the 'Welsh Heimat', a truly 'European drama' with a resonance way beyond its borders and in the same year 'Pen Talar' had the distinction of being named in an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons as a device to draw attention to the future funding of S4C.
In November, in the Welsh Affairs Committee MP Gareth Williams said : "It would be a huge pity to lose drama, which denotes ambition for a chanel. Any channel that cant do ambitious dram like the recent PenTalar would be significantly the poorer."

His 'Garw', (Giant), performed in 2014 at Theatr Bara Caws, a play about Llew, a former miner and boxer, went on to win four awards at the Wales Theatre Awards in 2015. About people facing personal battles during a time of great change in ‘80s Wales, it picked up four major awards at the Wales Theatre Awards in 2015 and was named 'Best Production in Welsh' and Siôn, the' Best Playwright in Welsh'. Siôn said : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7-CPt6y2C4

Siôn's 'The Royal Bed' was performed at the Theater Pena in 2015 and was an English language adaptation of Saunders Lewis’ Siwan, originally commissioned by BBC Radio 4 in 1993 and was recognised as a testimony to his power as a playwright. Set in Easter 1230 it told the story of Siwan, the illegitimate daughter of King John and passionate, outspoken, and politically astute wife of the charismatic Prince of North Wales, Llywelyn the Great. Siwan’s affair with the young Marcher Lord, Gwilyn Brewys and the terrible revenge exacted by her enraged husband when he discovers the lovers in the royal bed, becomes a tale steeped in passion, tension and unbound love.

Siôn began work on a political drama in 2014, 'Yfory', (Tomorrow), which was staged by Bara Caws in 2017. The play was inspired by the Assembly and political events of the time. He described it as a "study of the political direction of Wales" and he wrote the last act after Donald Trump won the race for the US presidency and after he had chosen his American cabinet, to make the play perfectly timely.

Adam Price, Leader of Plaid Cymru said after Sion's passing :

"With roots that stretched from Brynaman to Flintshire Siôn was that rarest of phenomena:  someone who could write with a voice and vision that was convincingly pan-Welsh. A pioneer in so many ways – of urban Welsh writing in Bob yn y Ddinas he was the first to bring LGBT concerns to the Welsh language stage in Wastad ar y Tu Fas.  His last play, Yfory, crystallised the sense of bitter stasis and broken dreams that so many of us felt in 2016 and since, and yet the radical hope of  a reimagined Wales still shone through.  

In small nations especially poets must double-up as prophets or political commentators. Siôn was the complete trinity, holding up a mirror to us all of who we are and what we might yet be."

What better epitaph might a playwright have ?

Friday, 19 June 2020

Britain, assailed by coronavirus, is no country for tomorrow's lost generation of old men

Research commissioned by the 'Centre for Ageing Better' has revealed that the coronavirus crisis in Britain could leave the next generation of old man and women significantly poorer and sicker than the existing one. Carried out by Ipsos Mori, it found that the pandemic risks creating a 'lost generation' of old people entering retirement in poor health and without enough money to support themselves in retirement.

Almost half of the up and coming generation of old people in their 50s and 60s believe their financial circumstances will worsen over the next year and only 39% of those who are currently furloughed, or of working age but not in employment, are confident that they will be employed in the future. In addition, 20% report that their physical health has deteriorated during lockdown and over 30% say their mental health has worsened.

Anna Dixon, Chief Executive of  the 'Centre for Ageing Better' said : “These figures are deeply worrying. If this generation continues to be an afterthought in the coronavirus recovery, we will see a lost generation entering retirement in poorer health and worse financial circumstances than those before them.” 

On top of this, more than half have had a medical or dental appointment delayed or cancelled, prompting fears that untreated conditions could set back the health of this generation irreparably and almost 40% of this age group admit to drinking more alcohol and smoking more during lockdown.

Anna said : “We know that the over-50s already face serious disadvantages in the workforce, are more likely to be made redundant and struggle more than any other group to get back into work once they have fallen out. And yet this group are being ignored when it comes to proposed actions to support the recovery.” 

Is it likely that Britain, a country with an 'official' coronavirus death rate of 42,288 and an ineffectual Government grappling with
* problems with the logistics of tracing and testing for coronavirus.
* dealing with continuing deficiencies in the health service.
* providing assistance to a care home sector in crisis.
* getting children back to school in September.
* continuing to support business and employees.
* dealing with an avalanche of debt and the consequences of a massive drop in GDP.
* preparing for Britain's exit from the European Union in six months.

will spend any time and money on the problems of tomorrow's old men and women ?



Thursday, 11 June 2020

Britain, assailed by coronavirus, is no country for old men living alone with no family, no friends and no support bubble


Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that from Saturday, people in England who live alone or single parents who live with children under 18, will now be allowed to form a 'support bubble'. This means they will be allowed to go and visit one other household, indoors and even stay the night if they would like to.

This is obviously good news for those old people with sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and grandsons and granddaughters and friends to visit. Good news for those of the 640,000 old men between the age of 65-74 and 780,000 old men at 75+ who live alone in Britain and have family and friends. But what about those who have no support bubble ? Not a single family member ? Not a single friend ? They will remain unseen and forgotten. Too many have already died from the effects of coronavirus unseen and alone after they avoided hospitals and GP surgeries through fear of contracting coronavirus.

Old people in Britain and living alone, measured in thousands, in 2019 :



Dr Mike Osborn, a Senior Pathologist in London and the Chair of the 'Death Investigation Committee' at the Royal College of Pathologists has said : “People have lain undiscovered during the pandemic for seven to 14 days. I’ve seen plenty of such cases like this, where bodies are decomposed, in the Covid outbreak and also done postmortems in ‘query Covid’ cases where the disease was suspected.”

He stressed that decomposition made identifying the exact cause of death difficult. However, despite this, he was able to establish that some such deaths were as a result of Covid-19 and doctors believe that several dozen such cases occurred in London during March, April and May.

Caroline Abrahams, the Charity Director of Age UK said : “We always feared that a number of older people would be found dead alone at home, either victims of the virus or of something else, and it is extremely sad to find that this is indeed the case.” 

One of the doctors who certified the deaths of mostly old men and women who died at home in London while working for the capital’s 'Pandemic Multi Agency Response Teams' [PMART] explained the sad, challenging and mentally demanding nature of the work and said :

"I was one of 30 doctors who at NHS England’s request volunteered to certify deaths of people who had died 'in the community' – at home – rather than in a care home or hospital. We were sent the deceased’s name, location of death and brief details of their medical history, which the ambulance service person or police officer had gathered. We then spoke to their GP, or hospital doctor, or relatives, to glean more information about them and what might have led to their death.

For about 10 days at the peak of the pandemic in April, PMART doctors issued about 60 to 80 death certificates a day for people who had died at home, and in the end we had issued one for about 700 people in all. We each certified about 20, 30 or 40 deaths. Of the ones I did, everyone who died was over 40, and most were over 70. Many had other diseases like diabetes, obesity, breathing problems or high blood pressure and a few had a history of drug or alcohol misuse. It was profoundly sad work, and challenging, but at the same time not grim work.

Most of us did a few cases in which people had died at home alone and lain undiscovered for some days. The longest time someone had gone before being discovered that I had was a week. Those cases were sad, especially given someone’s body had started to decompose. That made it impossible to say definitively if someone had died of Covid or something else, like a heart attack. However, we assumed that many were due to Covid, often exacerbated by underlying health problems.

So that I could do this work I struck a balance between caring and enabling myself to function. I approached it as a duty to carry out as a medical professional, rather than as a friend or relative, to minimise me getting distressed as a result of feeling empathy for the deceased and their family, as that would inhibit your ability to do your job. And it helped that we did this work remotely, often from our own homes. We then passed on our findings to either the local coroner or local registrar of deaths. I suspect we will hear more about these tragic deaths of people alone at home when coroners’ inquests begin."