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"Write something worth reading or do something worth writing" A blog by Amy Willis, a multimedia journalist based in London

In the fast lane – Hyundai i800 review

There is no denying the eight-seat Hyundai i800 people-carrier adds a touch of class to the traditional idea of an affordable family car.

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Filed under: blog posts, Portfolio, Reviews,

Ringers know their ropes

By Amy Willis, Hwyl Magazine

Mars has relaunched the “work, rest, play” slogan with a new advert featuring four monks bell ringing. But what is bell ringing really about and can people really end up being dragged up the ropes if they pull to hard? Amy Willis went to a session at Llandaff Cathedral in search of the facts.

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Filed under: Features, Portfolio

256 fewer police officers on Cardiff streets

(exclusive report) by Amy Willis, Cardiff Evening News

A SENIOR member of the South Wales Police Federation has said a lack of funding means there will be 256 fewer police officers on Cardiff streets this year.

The comments were made ahead of a tonight’s Police budget meeting.

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Filed under: Cardiff News, Portfolio

Fab Mash

A SMASHING new mashed potato takeaway restaurant will be opening on Cardiff’s Chippie Lane in the City Centre.

Fab Mash will open in the Old Brewery Quarter, on Caroline Street, on March 1.

The menu will include a range of five types of mashed potato including Cheesy, Lamb and Mint Faggots, Beef Casserole and Spinach, Coconut and Lentil Dhal.

The takeaway is hoping to attract students, families and hungry night owls with a message of “real dependable food”.

Filed under: Cardiff News

Find everlasting love at Cardiff Millennium centre

This classic and humorous operatic love tryst is a vibrant stimulation for the eyes as well as the ears.

Robert Innes Hopkins’s set design is a vivid array of bright yellows and sky blues and the orchestra, conducted by Rory MacDonald, play a faultless ensemble.

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Filed under: blog posts,

Game on

IT LOOKS like all our credit crunch fears are over as Oxfam Wales strive to solve our money troubles by creating a monopoly-style board game to help us mere mortals understand the recession.

One roll of the dice could see us sailing our ship-shaped playing piece across the board, bobbing past familiar Cardiff landmarks like Riverside Farmers’ Market and Splott’s Magic Roundabout.

Staying financially afloat and fighting off debt can now be fun as well as a geographical learning experience, we just need to make sure we stay out of jail and continue passing go as we race around the game board of life which is Cardiff.

Filed under: blog posts, ,

Why did David Cameron ignore the devolution question?

WHEN David Cameron decided to host his Welsh question and answer session just down the road in the seaside town of Barry, the topic of Welsh devolution was always going to be hot on the agenda.

So it baffled us when he waffled his way through devolution questions and concluded the issue should be pushed to one side, yet again.
The first referendum about Welsh devolution took place in 1997, leaving Wales with a partly devolved Wales government.

Earlier that day Mr Cameron had said people care more about job losses and home losses at the moment rather than matters like devolution.
These are certainly issues on peoples’ minds but this does not mean other the devolution issue should disappear under the carpet.

He argued that the people of Wales did not care whether Wales had more or less power but only if the legislative power would make a difference. Let us leave the processology of devolution to other people, he said. This leaves us wondering,  leave it to who?

It is surprising that the leader of this government’s main opposition, who seems destined to occupy 10 Downing Street, has failed to understand what is in Welsh people’s minds when it comes to politics.

Given the amount of homework he did on other topics – he managed a few Tony Blair jokes and even managed to drop local colloquialism “lush” in to the answer of one of his answers- it was surprising he failed to do his homework on this particular topic. And you could see the frustration in the audiences’ eyes as he refused to give further clarity on the issue – one man, a frustrated former Tory, walked out.

The issue has been pushed aside too many times. There may be a recession under foot but this does not mean everything else should be stuck in limbo? The recession could go on for another 10 years as far as we know – does this mean the question of devolution will be put off until then?

And once the recession is over, the question everyone is wondering is whether there will be yet another excuse after the recession has ended.
This can be deemed somewhat symbolic. Does Mr Cameron’s dismissive attitude demonstrate his overall disregard for Wales as a nation?
Let us hope not. This country cannot afford to be pushed down the agenda.

This argument has been going on long enough. Wales needs another referendum so decisions can be made. We need clarification so we can make plans for the future.

Perhaps there are worries that decentralisation of the Welsh government is a nostalgic step back into the past. However, it is essential for Wales’ social, economic and political future.

Either way, we need to make decisions now.

Filed under: blog posts

Tesco distress

THE NEWS Cardiff is getting its 18th Tesco store does not fall on welcome ears.

Wellfield Road, in Roath, has become home to yet another Tesco Express no less than 400 yards from its identical sister store down the road- the fourth store in an 800 yard radius. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Portfolio

TV review

Snog Marry Avoid, 8.30pm, BBC three

FASHION programmes usually involve make-overs but Snog Marry Avoid, an extreme fashion programme that verges on the obscene, is about make-unders.

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Filed under: Portfolio, Reviews

The men behind the voices

As Cardiff youngsters prepare for this year’s Texaco Young Musician of Wales final in two weeks, Côr Meibion De Cymru (COR) – the South Wales Male Voice Choir – are practicing for their role in the event. Amy Willis joined them at a practice session to meet some of the men behind the voices.

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Filed under: Features, Portfolio

Former Cardiff rugby player gets go ahead for eco-flats

By Amy Willis, Cardiff Evening News

A FORMER Welsh rugby star’s controversial plan to demolish his home and build an apartment block has been approved by Cardiff Council through a planning gain agreement.

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Filed under: Cardiff News, Portfolio

Cardiff student first in Wales to get judo black belt through school system

A CARDIFF student is the first person in Wales to achieve a black belt in Judo through the school system.

Joe Troughton, 17, beat five black-belt opponents through ipon strikes (knock-outs) in the Welsh National Judo Championships in December last year and was awarded a black belt for his achievement.

Mr Troughton started training at the Cathedral school in Llandaff in September 2000 with independent coach Steve Withers.

Mr Withers said: “Joe has managed to achieve this before he has even started shaving and five months before his 18th birthday.

“It was a fantastic achievement especially as the men he beat were all heavier, older and a higher grade than Joe.”

Mr Withers said there are a number of other promising young pupils including 14-year-old Edward Pearce who has just achieved his brown belt with the school.

Since gaining his black belt Mr Troughton has started training with adults at the Cardiff Central Youth Club as there is no longer anyone good enough to match his talent at the school.

The judo club at the Cardiff Youth Centre train on Wednesday and Friday evenings. For more details contact Kirsty Macentee on

Filed under: Cardiff News, Cardiff sport, Martial Arts, Portfolio

Killer fungus in Cardiff garden centre

A GARDEN centre in Cardiff is infected with the killer fungus, Sudden Oak Death, the Plant Health and Seed Inspectorate and Forestry Commission confirmed today.

Both organisations refused to reveal the name of the infected garden centre and could not confirm if dog-walkers who failed to follow preventative measures in Cefn Onn Park had any part in the spread of the disease.

Sudden Oak Death, is a fungal plant disease from America that affects ornamental plants especially rhododendrons. It first hit the UK in April 2002 with the first case in Wales being recorded in Autumn 2004. Since then the amount of cases has increased. There are now 30 infected garden centres in Wales and 12 infected parks.

blue pegs are infected garden centres, red pegs are infected wild parks and gardens

Infected: blue pegs are infected garden centres, red pegs are infected wild parks and gardens

Dr Joan Webber, principal pathologist at the Forestry Commission, said: “Sudden Oak Death attacks the bark of trees. Infected tree bark oozes a black gummy liquid known as a bleeding canker as it dies. Infected trees are not contagious though, it is rhododendrons that spread the problem.

“We should have foot and mouth type foot baths in these areas to prevent the disease spreading but these are not in place.”

Cefn Onn Park in Thornhill, Cardiff, is infected with Sudden Oak Death and despite signs warning dog walkers to keeps their animals on leads, these warnings have been ignored.
A spokesperson from Cardiff County Council’s Parks department who did not want to be named said: “People are ignoring the signs to keep to the paths and to keep dogs on leads.

“People should be aware of just how serious the disease is. If it gets into the wild it may well be unstoppable.

“We are very concerned. If we find it we have to burn everything within five yards.”

Mike Pearce, 49, shrub manager at Pugh’s Garden Centre, Cardiff, said: ” We are vigilant and check our stock regularly. It is a nasty disease which spreads like wild fire. We want to make sure we do not play a part in provoking the spread of it.”

Filed under: Cardiff News, Portfolio

Genetic Link to anti-social behaviour

ANTI-SOCIAL behaviour could be genetic, researchers at Cardiff University have found.

The study, initially intended to see if there was a link between prenatal smoking and anti-social behaviour, looked at 779 children born by IVF treatment. The scientists only found a link when the IVF treatment used the mother’s own eggs- suggesting the factor could be genetic.

Professor Anita Thapar, a clinical child psychiatrist and principal investigator in the study, said: “Cigarette smoke in pregnancy does lower birth weight regardless of whether the mother and child are genetically related or not, but the link with child behaviour is different.

“It is now clear that offspring anti-social behaviour is more dependent on inherited factors passed from mother to child, as our group of children with mothers who smoked during pregnancy with no genetic link showed no increased signs of anti-social behaviour.

“This suggests other influencing factor such as the mother’s personality traits and other inherited characteristics are at play during the development of a baby.”

Filed under: Cardiff News, Portfolio

Costing the Earth: Totally Uncool, Radio Four

By Amy Willis, Cardiff Evening News

Costing the Earth: Totally Uncool, Radio Four, 1.30pm- 2pm, Feb 5
THE RHYTHMIC hum of an air conditioning unit is a typical background noise in most office environments, but as Tom Heap investigates, this gentle drone is becoming a stealth weapon of mass destruction for the climate.

He reveals one canister of hydrofluorocarbon gases (HFCs), used to cool the water in air conditioning systems, generates the same amount of carbon as 10 years driving a car. The alternative is natural gases as found in domestic fridges but due to American industry these are proving difficult to implement.

Supermarket chiller cabinets also pose a depressing thought as an Asda spokesman explains how supermarkets could add chiller cabinet doors but choose not to as it becomes a purchase hurdle for consumers.

The programme highlights a chilling point. That gentle drone could be a ticking clock in terms of global warming and it is only now being brought to our attention.

Material World, Radio Four, 4.30pm- 4.45pm, Feb 5
The quest to launch a hotair balloon with a telescope strapped to it by two brothers, one a scientist and the other a filmmaker, made the potential of this programme rather promising if not slightly amusing.

But although the brothers, Mark and Paul Devlin, tried hard to promote both the research, funded partly by Cardiff University, and the documentary, they could not reveal too much on the programme making the listening a little dull.

Research from the project will be released soon. At this point we might be able to get a little more excited as an insight into how the galaxy is comprised and how stars are born is anticipated. The documentary Blast! will be released on dvd in the next few weeks.

Filed under: blog posts, Reviews,

New female Archdeacon appointed in Cardiff

CARDIFF will become home to one of the most senior female clerics in Wales when she starts her new role in June this year.

Reverend Canon Frances Jackson

Appointed: Reverend Canon Frances Jackson

Reverend Canon Frances Jackson, 57, from the Diocese of Southwark in South London, was named as the new Archdeacon of Llandaff on Tuesday by the Archbishop of Wales and Bishop of Llandaff, Barry Morgan.

Reverend Canon Jackson, who was ordained a deacon in 1987, will also become the Priest in charge of the deanery of Penarth and Barry.

“Wales seems to be an exciting place to be right now. I hope to serve the church as well as I can. That is all I can hope to do – the rest is up to God,” she said.

Filed under: Cardiff News, Portfolio

A long awaited reunion

A SOUTH Wales woman who moved away from Wales after her mother’s death more than 10 years ago, has been reunited with friends from her childhood.

Toni Saint, 34, who now lives in London, grew up on Dobbins Road, Barry, and used to play in the adjoining garden of her neighbours’ Phil and Charlette  Middletame as a child.

Ms Saint’s mother was diagnosed with cancer in the mid 1990s. Mr and Mrs Middletame were supportive of Ms Saint and her family throughout the illness, but when her mother in died in 1995 Ms Saint moved away from Wales and lost contact.

Following an advert in a Cardiff newspaper, Ms Saint received an email from the couple, now in their 50s, which said they were still living in the area and were keen to arrange a reunion.

Ms Saint, who now works in sales, plans to come back to Barry at Easter to see Mr and Mrs Middletame and catch up on the time they have missed.

Filed under: Portfolio

Bob Dylan coming to Cardiff

Bob Dylan will be coming to Cardiff as part of his European tour starting in Sweden next month.

Dylan will be performing songs from his recently released album Tell Tale Signs, at the Cardiff International Arena on April 28. The album features previously unreleased Dylan tracks and alternative versions of tracks from albums Time Out Of Mind, Love and Theft, Modern Times and Oh Mercy.

A spokesperson for Cardiff International Arena said: “We are thrilled to be hosting the concert in Cardiff as part of the tour.

“Bob Dylan remains one of the world’s top touring artists, performing more than 100 concerts yearly around the globe and having sold more than 110 million albums worldwide.”

Tickets are available now from £40 – to book telephone the Arena on 029 2022 4488 or book online at

Filed under: Portfolio

Cardiff churches get the green light

CARDIFF churches are being encouraged to go green by installing solar panels, creating natural burial sites and adding green themed prayers to their Sunday worship.

A “think global, act local” green guide, endorsed by Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, will be sent to all Welsh parishes advising them how to reduce their carbon footprint.

Reverend Robin Morrison, the Bishop’s advisor, said: “Our belief that God has created this world gives us a special case of responsibility for it.
“Many parishes are already setting an example, encouraging people to think about energy use and recycling.”

Filed under: Cardiff News, Portfolio

Snow leaves businesses out in the cold

CARDIFF children were delighted to hear schools were closed today, but as they played in the snow local businesses and transport links suffered a big freeze.

Cardiff children throwing snowballs

Cardiff children throwing snowballs

More than three inches of snow meant Cardiff City Centre was left empty as shoppers chose to stay indoors rather than brave the cold weather outside.

Those most affected were local traders in the covered market. Alan Griffiths, 56, of A.W.Griffiths Butchers, said: “If the pavements stay bad like this we will be down 50 per cent today. The elderly people are our biggest customers and in these times as they panic buy. If it carries on all week we will lose thousands of pounds.”

Footlocker in Queens Arcade was closed all day and other chain stores, such as WH Smiths and Boots reported a quieter day than usual.

Stores were short staffed due to transport problems with rural roads. Katie Baldwin, 21, a sales assistant at Starbucks, said: “One of the staff couldn’t get in for two hours because they lived near Newport, but I had a lift to work so I was okay.”

One woman, Anna Constantino, 43, a salsa teacher and owner of Constantino hair salon, abandoned her car to walk up the hill on her way home yesterday and today people had cancelled appointments in the salon due to bad weather.

Elsewhere, Cardiff International Airport closed for nearly an hour between 10am and 11.30am meaning flights had minor delays throughout the day and train services to London Paddington had a limited service.

Train services within Wales were unaffected much to the relief of one commuter, Hayley Paultyn, 17, from Swansea who had a job interview in Cardiff City Centre.

Kumar Loganathan, 34, a senior web analyst commuting to Cardiff from Newport, said: “It is really slippery and it is definitely taking longer than usual.”

A spokeswoman for First Great Western said: “Travellers must be aware and check travel arrangements in advance.”

On the roads, South Wales Police said there had been a lot of minor accidents. One commuter, Duncan Bloy, 60, of Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, had a minor incident when a BMW came sliding towards him on a slip road. Mr Bloy praised the emergency services as he said they had responded very quickly.

by Amy Willis and Hannah Waldram

Filed under: Cardiff News, Portfolio

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