Great Welsh Golf Courses – West Monmouthshire Golf Club


Off The Beaten Track 


It was windy. Standing on the 9th tee I could feel the wind through my Primark backswing performance jacket, red, and I’m sure my brother in his Galvin Green Malone limited edition polo shirt (short sleeved) could feel it too. It was windy.

“How come the wind blows into your face on every hole?” John wondered. “Because it does” I replied enigmatically. I had played the course before and had gained this insight.

Pensioner Dave nodded and hit his tee shot. Short and straight. I hit my shot short and straight also. John was long and straight. We waited in anticipation. So far we had never all been on the fairway at the same time (well not the same fairway).

Andy hit his drive. It started straight then went left and left and left bounding over sheep, fairways, rough.

“I’m not looking for that,” came the sympathetic response from Pensioner Dave. John commiserated with Andy, “See you on the green”

I shrugged and went to help him look for it. We battled on.

I had driven from Newport where it was a glorious spring day – 22 miles, 22 years and 11 degrees ahead of Nantyglo. To be fair it was quite pleasant when we arrived at the car park and there was some debate about what to wear. I had played the course before. I opted to wear everything I had in the car.

The first two holes had been deceptive. They were fairly flat along the floor of the valley. The third was a long, long par five up the mountain. It was marked on the card as, ‘Long Pull’. This hole could be described as ‘challenging’. It was an almost vertical tee shot up the steep, steep slope of Mynydd Carn-y-Cefn, the mountain separating the Ebbw Fach valley from the Ebbw valley. Apparently the intense steepness is a result of the action of glacial ice in the Pleistocene era which started around two and a half million years ago.

“When Pensioner Dave was just a boy”, John remarked.

Monmouthshire County Champion 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925 V.H. Smith wrote an understated article describing each hole in the ‘Ebbw Vale Works Magazine’ a few years after the course was founded. He described the 3rd (Long Pull);

“Hole 3. Longest hole on the course. Requires a good tee shot which must clear ravine. Good second shot of 150 yards carry required to carry a hazard forty yards wide; all difficulties now being overcome a good iron shot will reach the green.”

Thirty minutes later we met on the green feeling like we had conquered Everest. We had each taken a variety of routes to the flag and no-one was likely to complete the hole in single figures without holing a twenty foot putt.

It was windy. We moved on.

West Mon is a course where the wind blows hard – always. It is rough, ragged and the fairways are sheep-lined. It’s a traditional valley’s course. It’s harsh, unforgiving and proud of it. There are a few still left in the South East ex-mining valleys. To the untrained eye the course looks like someone just went out one day with 18 brightly coloured flags and placed them around the mountain at random intervals. This isn’t entirely true.

The course was designed over a century ago by a remarkable Scottish professional golfer, Ben Sayers. Born in Leith, Scotland Ben had been an acrobat in his earlier life and took up golf aged 16. He was only 5 feet 3 inches and his life was taken up with his sport. He had every job you could imagine concerned with the sport. He was a golf ball maker, golf club maker, caddy, course architect, professional, and coach to royalty. He was second in the Open twice and unlucky not to win.

In 1906 he designed the West Mon course. The terrain must have been familiar to him brought up on the links courses of Scotland. West Mon has the feel of a traditional Scottish links course, without references to the sea. It’s windswept, sparse on vegetation and generally left to nature to manage. The only thing missing from a links course is the sea. The sea is a long way from the top of Mynydd Carn-y-Cefn.

Once we reached the 3rd green there were a few holes of relative flatness across the mountain top toward Ebbw Vale in the next valley. There a few excellent holes that can feel 600 yards long or 300 yards long depending on the wind direction. The greens are in amazing condition, true and green. For all the natural hazards of the course you can use as an excuse – you can never blame he greens.

The course is littered with sheep. Tough sheep. Sheep that own the course. On the par 5 eleventh hole John hooked a drive straight at the rear end of a grazing sheep. I thought the force of the stroke would have stunned a fairly bulky human being and killed many small cows. The sheep stopped grazing. He turned around and stared at John with a patronising look, “Is that the best you’ve got “, turned back around continued ruminating.

Walking across the mountain top with the greens and fairways subtly fashioned across and around the few features it is easy to imagine it a hundred years ago. It is an incredibly natural golf course. There aren’t too many modern day ‘features’ to ‘spice up’ the course – no ‘risk or reward’ holes, ‘signature holes’.

“I like it” announced Pensioner Dave, ever the traditionalist “hit it – find it – hit it again”. He’s a man of simple pleasures. It’s easy to imagine him and Ben Sayers having a ten second conversation on the design of the course.

The course is tough. The weather is tough. The ground is tough. The people were tough. What Ben Sayers achieved in 1905 was to carve eighteen unique golf holes out of a hostile environment. They have hardly changed since the course opened. He did a pretty decent job of it.

The course has a significant claim to fame in that it is the highest golf course in Great Britain. The tee to the fourteenth is the highest tee in Great Britain with a spectacular view of South Wales.

Before you reach this peak though you have to navigate the highest green in Great Britain – the 13th. This hole is truly amazing. It’s a vertical 484 yard par 4 up and across the mountain against the wind – “It’s always against the wind”, the locals informed me.

We staggering toward the green like 2 pair of Hilary and Tenzings. Low on food, oxygen and humour. We reached the green that had the temerity to have a series of subtle slopes and undulating borrows on it. It’s not enough to hit a perfect drive, two perfect woods and an immaculate wedge. You then have to relax, catch your breath and think.

Watching Pensioner Dave attempt to calm down after tacking his way up the mountain put me in mind of the biathlon where the competitors ski furiously for miles then have to stop and relax enough to fire five shots at a target.

We managed it somehow and remarkably everyone scored a point.

Then we had a walk up to the highest tee in Britain. The tee is 1500 feet above sea level. It feels higher. There are spectacular views of the Brecon Beacons to the north with the Sugarloaf mountain to the east. On the card it is called, ‘High Tee’. Really?

From this point it’s, literally, all downhill. The 16th hole is called ‘Round House’. This is a theme for the club. Nantyglo is famous, in Nantyglo at least, for its round towers. On the badge of the golf club there’s a yellow tower. The story of the towers illustrates the attitude of the people in the area better than anything else;

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Ironmasters brothers Crawshaw and Joseph Bailey constructed two round towers to protect themselves against the locals due to the unrest concerning high wheat prices. There was serious rioting in the village and the industrialists defended their property by building the last castle fortifications to be built in Britain.

“Ah, the struggles between rich and poor, haves and have nots”, I started to philosophise.

“We get it. Your shot.”

Reaching the end of the round it’s back to reality. Relatively flat final holes. Relatively less oxygen needed as we approach the short, squat, functional clubhouse. It’s been tough. It’s been fun.

The club is full of has function rooms, people and some history. There are framed minutes of the first meeting where a group of doctors and teachers established a golf course with a membership of 183 members. The entrance fees were half a guinea per member with subscriptions of one guinea for gentleman and half a guinea for ladies. There were 120 men, 54 women and 9 juniors intially.

“The prices haven’t gone up that much”, Pensioner Dave remarked to the secretary. The secretary pointed out that the current fees are probably the cheapest anywhere in Wales.

“Less than the cost of an 18 hole two ball at Royal Porthcawl”, he proudly announced.

We concurred.

“I asked once how much green fees were at Royal Porthcawl” he continued.

We waited eagerly.

“I was told that if you had to ask then you couldn’t afford it.”

In the past few decades the financial crisis has hit clubs like West Mon hard. The closure of the steel works and high unemployment in the area have put a strain on the economy of the locals and a subsequent drop in membership, Fortunately the members at West Mon are a hardy resourceful bunch and the club survives on initiative, hard work and a good social scene. There have been cutbacks and the club manages. There are few visitors and the number of golf societies visiting has declined across the whole of Wales.

“We don’t get much passing trade” one of the members wryly informed me.

The club carries on. There is a community there. The social events held in the clubhouse and function room help a great deal these days. It’s still about the golf though. The members are a tough breed out in most weathers braving the elements.

I’m sure we’ll be back there – When we’ve thawed out.


West Mon Golf Club

established 1906,

Golf Road,


Ebbw Vale,


NP23 4QT


From the comments book:

“It’s bleak.” – S. Morrissey

 “I creamed a driver, mullered 2 three woods and still ended up 20 yards short of the green.” – John Daly describing the 3rd hole.

 “It’s cold.” – Captain R. F. Scott

– first published Cymru Culture ( 1 / 9 / 15)

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Filed under Golf Writing - disparate, Off The Beaten Track, Welsh Golf

A cogitation on the question – ‘Which Golf Ball Do You Use?’

golfballsheepWhich golf ball do you use?

An extract from an article I recently read described a particular golf ball as  ‘a three-piece, multi-component technology with a very soft compression ZG process core, ionomeric casing layer, softer thermoset urethane elastomer cover, and spherically-tiled 352 tetrahedral dimple design’

Describing it, with obvious passion and relish one of the team of 75 engineers and scientists said, “It’s important to remember that no single element of design can determine the performance of the golf ball. There needs to be a symbiotic relationship between all of the elements.”

I feel bad now about how badly and how frequently I kept hitting this particular brand.

However, my question – ‘Which golf ball do you use?’ does not mean, ‘Which golf ball is right for you?’  . This is another country altogether. This answer consists of you answering a series of questions on your attributes such as – handicap, swing, gender age, height, star sign and so on and so on and so on. A computer then analyses all these variables and produces your perfect match. Sounds like a personal ads column entry – ‘easygoing M seeks GB with similar interests. Likes sports, looking for a yang to my yin, a Hardy to my Laurel, an Ernie to my Bert, a Wise to my Morecambe, a Ball to my Cannon. I don’t expect the relationship to me a long one – they rarely are with me. Just some fun and a few laughs.  No strings attached.

I don’t mean this type of ‘Which golf ball do you use?’ question. I mean – ‘Which golf ball do you use on a day to day, ‘fancy a knock’ type basis?’. Or, ‘It’s the Ystrad Mynach Cup on Sunday (one of the key days in the Barged Golf Club calendar) which ball will you be losing in the trees on the third?’

Let’s go through the process – I suspect your golf bag is a little like mine. There are a number of pockets for golf balls. They all have a certain place and purpose. You cannot mix the balls up, although through wear and tear one ball may be relegated to another pocket.

The ultimate. The top level – it’s not even a pocket. It’s the brand new golf ball level. The pinnacle, but not the ‘Pinnacle’ levels are pristine balls in a box. These were perhaps prizes, or more likely, presents for Christmas or fathers’ day.  These are the balls I never use. The balls I’m keeping for some special occasion or ‘keeping them for best’ as my mother used to say. I’m not sure what ‘best’ would be. If I do ever have the luck, and develop the talent, to play at the Open at St Andrews, I suspect I may well be given a few free packs of Callaways.

Starting at the nadir. Somewhere in a forgotten part of my bag there is a pocket containing golf balls that I would be reluctant to open the zip of and put my hand into. Inside this golfing room 101 are balls that have been found, given to me by well-meaning people or somehow just apparated into my bag. These balls are weird and maybe not so wonderful. There are a few Donnay Pro Ones, some Penfold Commandoes (I could probably take them to the Antiques Roadshow next year), Dunlop Locos, a Pinnacle Gold distance and a Precept Laddie. Also in this tardis-like pocket I encounter the occasional ‘decent’ (Nike, Callaway, Mazuno) ball, but they all have a cut in them and I vaguely remember I’m keeping them for an occasion where I will use them. Maybe to give away to adoring fans when I win my first Major, or  perhaps if I’ve already put two balls in the lake and don’t want to lose another decent ball I’ll choose one of these?

In another pocket – the ‘halfway house, ‘Morrisons’ pocket (not Aldi or Lidl, not Waitrose or Ocado), are some proper balls with minor defect – some TaylorMades or Bridgestones I’ve used once, or found. Or some high-end Nikes with marker pen or horrid logos, or some mid-range Titleist with tiny nicks. These are probably the ones I’d use after work on a Friday to play nine holes before a quick drink.

Now I come to the toppish end. This is not quite the Dom Perignon equivalent, but it’s definitely not the ‘Tesco Finest Vintage Cru’. It’s more a fine Moet…… Stop it. Who am I kidding? It’s a Strongbow cider rather than a Diamond White.  These are my good balls – not quite new – not quite top of the range – they are Nike, Bridgestone, Srixon. They are called ‘Tour’ or ‘Preferred’ rather than ‘Distance’ or ‘Ultimate Distance’. These are good, decent, hard-working, working class golf balls. They are balls you wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen playing with. Maybe they’ve been used once or perhaps they are Pond balls that look new. There are a few Titleist here as well. These are not the Titleist balls you see on websites you have to click to see the price (What is that all about!). But they are Titleists with random names instead of letters – ‘Titeleist Solos’ or ‘Titelist Velocities’. These are the serious Sunday medal competition type balls……… usually.

Assuming my description matches your collection to some degree, the next step in choosing which ball to use would be to consider the occasion. Is it a Saturday morning ball school? Is it a Sunday afternoon monthly medal? A social game? Another vital, perhaps the most vital, consideration to take into account is – ‘Who is playing with you?’  If it’s someone you’ve played with since Noah was a boy then they are unlikely to be impressed, or bothered much whichever ball you choose. On the other hand, if it’s a client, a prospective father in law or a person you really don’t like but still need to be better than, this may elicit a quick trip to the pro shop to have the following embarrassing conversation,

“Good afternoon young golf professional. How old are you? Twelve. Sorry. I digress. Which golf ball would you consider to be a match for me?”

“I would heartily recommend Titelist Pro V1 X High Number, sir.”

“Certainly, young man. And how much would these cost?”


How much? Really. You’re having a ****** laugh. I wanted 3 balls not 3 ****** dozen!

“That’s the price… sir.”

“If I don’t get at least one hole in one I’m coming back here and I’m going to *******”

I once took part in a competition at Mountain Ash. Mountain Ash is a nice enough course tucked neatly into the Welsh valleys.  We had all qualified from our local club competitions and the top six of so from this competition would go forward to Royal Porthcawl. There were players from Tredegar and Rhymney, Blackwood, Aberdare, Maesteg, Pontypool – a range of exotic venues. These top six would be joined at Royal Porthcawl by players from the length and breadth of Wales – Pwhelli,  Cwmrhydneuadd, Rhosgoch and other unpronounceable locations. Then on to the Belfry. Then … ultimately Spain – (before you write in – I got no further than Mountain Ash). However, Mountain Ash was a big deal for me and the hundred odd other competitors from local courses.  The point of this story? Ah yes, on the first I hooked my tee shot over a row of trees. So did two others in my group. The group coming toward us on an adjoining fairway were playing a parallel hole and their drives ended up in similar spots. From the group playing the 18th another ball appeared. When I walked through the trees to find my ball I saw about seven or eight golf balls within twenty yards of each other. I also saw a perturbed chap picking each one up carefully, studying it, putting it back down again and saying,  ‘They’re all Titleist pro V1s’. It was a nightmare assigning the seven balls to us seven owners.

For non- golfers this all seems a bit ridiculous. To these strange people, a golf ball is a golf ball – white and hard, with dimples. For us double digit handicap golfers it’s probably not going to make a yard of difference if we lose a £5 brand new Titleist or a 50p used Srixon. In our heads we know this as surely as we know that range finders are useless. (I’ve rarely hit 2 shots the same distance with the same club in all the years I’ve been playing golf. Yet I hear 28 handicappers staring through a range finder, announcing that it’s 183.5 yards to the front of the green and then consulting a chart to see which club they are going to use to dribble it 20 yards down the fairway). But in our hearts we still believe it can be the final piece of the jigsaw. Using an expensive ball is all we need to turn a dodgy swing into a swing Rory McIlroy would watch and try to emulate.

In truth there is  surely no greater feeling than playing your first shot on the first tee with a brand new father’s day Titleist Pro V1x . The feeling only lasts a whole 2.8 seconds though. It is closely followed by a totally different feeling as you see your unsullied, unmuddied, uncaring ball take a left turn in mid-air and slowly fade over the trees toward the pond, never to be seen again. That hurts.


Filed under Golf Writing - disparate, Welsh Golf

Is Anyone on Twitter Actually Reading a Book?


Is Anyone on Twitter Actually Reading a Book?

I ask this because, obviously, I’m not but I‘m also wondering who is going to have the time to read any books , and more importantly,  my book as everyone seems to be writing one.

Perhaps twitter isn’t the place for readers – only writers. It’s an active not a passive medium.

I will explore this later.

In the meantime would somebody actually stop writing about their writing and how hard their writing is and how much time theu spend on their writing. How they lack inspiration for their writing,  blah, blah. They could then get out there and recommend my book as a compulsory component of the English Language curriculum for all English, or potential English language students in the world. If someone would do please hurry up and do that  I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks. Not too much to ask is it?

The aforementioned book ‘It’s About A Murder, Cariad’ is available here.


Filed under On writing

It’s About a Murder, Cariad – 1. Funeral


Aunty Mary

1 Funeral

 The heavens had opened. It was a black day. Cold. Wet. Thundery. Black. Harsh. Welsh November rain. Clichéd dark black sky.

It was the funeral of Cai Tywysog, twenty three year old golf professional of Mynydd Eimon Golf Club. He had been accidentally shot by Aunty Mary in a freak, premeditated accident involving an army revolver. She had admitted this and everyone believed her. Aunty Mary would never lie.

‘Nice crowd’, my uncle Daniel muttered to me as we stood cold and sodden at the graveside. I looked at him in bewilderment. ‘No!’ it wasn’t a nice crowd in any sense. There were barely a dozen people present even if you included my dead best friend, the gravediggers and the priest. I checked my watch again. We had been here twenty minutes already waiting for the priest to show up. He had disappeared somewhere between the church and the graveyard.

I looked around, again. It wasn’t a particularly nice, or happy, crowd. We were lined up along the side of the grave in the cold, wet rain with not one umbrella between us. For some reason no-one like kids at a school dance – males to the right, females to the left. On the right hand side the four male mourners were staring at the ground looking like a bad marketing idea of reuniting the original film cast of Reservoir Dogs forty years later. Our black suits were, well, disparate. Mine was new and fitted the occasion with style and a certain elegance, if I say so myself. The others looked like they had been dragged out from the back of three ancient wardrobes the previous evening and shoved under the mattress to press last night. The new identical black ties were just… well too new. They were as obvious as something new on an old thing.

The men were arranged in weight order in front of me. First and weighing in at around 10 stone was the headmaster, Dr Pedwar Penn. Pedwar remarked, quite cheerfully, ‘Mae hi’n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn.’ I looked sharply at him as I had a decent understand of the Welsh language but had never been that wonderful at it in school, ironically taught by him. ‘It’s raining old ladies and sticks, so it is.’ I forced a painful pretend smile then looked around. The other sodden faces hadn’t even made that much effort. Next to Pedwar, stood the doctor – Dr Amos Caddoc. Then came Uncle Daniel and finally yours truly. Not that I was the heaviest. I meant the men’s weight leading up to me. I would probably fit somewhere between Pedwar and Amos. I like things to be correct.

I looked up at the bizarre reflective image standing across from us, across the coffin. It was like two teams waiting in a tunnel to run out at Cardiff Arms Park to do mortalish rugby combat. Or, if I looked more kindly it seemed nothing more than the school hall at the first school dance. However, on reflection, I felt the best version would be that if we were on the dexter side of the coffin, the sinister side looked, well, even more ‘from the pen of Charles Addams’. This femina side contained, from the head of the deceased to his shoes; my sister, Seren; my receptionist, Lily, although she preferred the title secretary; Dr Amos’ receptionist, Rose; and the murderer herself, Auntie Mary.

It seemed that from the head end to the toe end of the crate the women had been arranged in age and height order. My sister, Seren was the tallest, and youngest. She looked like the young actress Carolyn Jones in her early days, playing the original Morticia Adams. Next came Lily, who managed to look under dressed and overdressed at the same time in a short black number. Rose looked exactly what she was – an aggressive doctor’s receptionist. Although I gathered, she preferred to be known as a secretary also. Which left the smallest and oldest – Aunty Mary. Aunty Mary was as old as the grave, which was appropriate at this time and withered like an old apple-john. She had always looked this old though. I had known her ever since I was a baby, and she looked ready to pop her clogs then.

Lily was the odd one out of these four sirens, or harpies depending on your perspective. She showed flashes of real emotion. She was sad and sniffing and actually holding back a few tears. This struck me as unusual. In the ten days she had been my unpaid, unasked for receptionist she had been solid and dependable and as emotion-free as the other mourners. Rose held her hand tightly and whispered ‘shh’ a good many times. Seren looked totally pissed off and glared at the sky and the rain. She also glared at the coffin and at Lily every time she breathed. Aunty Mary, well she was just Aunty Mary. She was emotionless, unfathomable, soaking wet and as empty as Satan’s heart.

Two other shapes dressed in Reservoir Dogs attire appeared pathetically holding their collars against the rain. These were two characters I had been forced to attend Balaclava Road School (mixed) with for just over a decade. They were brothers. They were twins. They were twin brothers. They were Dai Proper, the eldest and Dai Copy, the next eldest. I went to Balaclava Road School (mixed) with them for the best part of sixteen years. They looked nothing like each other. They were of similar disposition though – both filled with that traditional Welsh miserablist outlook on life. The outlook where poets write of, ‘Dead man naked being one with the man in the wind and the west moon’. They were both, as my sister, Seren described them, in less poetic terms, ‘as thicker than pig shit and twice as loathsome.’ They worked for my Uncle, Daniel, and ‘helped out’. I dreaded to think what that entailed. But, they seemed to like it. Well, as much as they appeared to enjoy anything in their strange, curious entwined, little lives. They moved together toward the coffin in that oddly affected Liam Gallagher walk they have been practising since they were twelve. Then they separated and locomoted to either side of the coffin. Dai Copy plonked himself between Amos and Uncle Daniel whilst Dai Proper shrugged and elbow a gap between the set of secretaries. They took up the ropes that lay under the coffin and gently, gently, breathtakingly gently they astonishingly, almost scarily, lowered the box skilfully into the hole. The only sound, apart from Lily’s intermittent sobbing, and the quietest of squeaks from the ropes, was the fitful grumbling and cursing of Dai Proper as he worked. With the tiniest bump it was over, the eagle had landed, and they moved away.

We all exhaled as one. I looked up and Father Barry had appeared and was speaking. Father Barry was tall and skinny. He looked like a very tall, angry praying mantis with rain dripping off his nose. He was dressed all in off-white priest garb and had the three day stubble of a tramp, or a reunion tour rock star. He mumbled and looked down, always down. I was mesmerised – not in a good way. He was another Mynydd Eimon person who looked any age between seventy and three hundred and seventy. I was close enough to smell him. He smelt of whiskey, incense and the bible.

He slurred and stuttered and spoke, not loudly nor quietly. He spoke in an apologetic conversational voice that people could hear, but needed to strain themselves to separate one word from the next. If anyone not from the village were listened, which would never, ever happen, they would just hear a drone, a hum of soporific white noise.

The first sentence I picked out was, ‘Man is full of misery.’ With that bombshell he stopped. He looked down at a battered, bach, black indeterminate book. He paused. He looked up expeditiously then back down. He continued, ‘He cometh up and is cut down like a flower.’ He paused again. He put his hand into his pocket and blindly sprinkled dirt onto the coffin. ‘In the midst of life they are in death.’ Another pause. ‘Deliver them not into the bitter pains of eternal death.’ A longer pause as he looked at his book for inspiration. ‘Oh man, thou wert dust and hast returned to dust today.’ He stopped. He looked exhausted.

I recognised that I was irritated and getting more and more and more annoyed. I was wet, not that much of a surprise for someone born in a South Wales valley village, and annoyed, irritated and pissed off. I was annoyed at the fact that I had had to wear a new suit and shiny black tie. I was irritated that Father Barry had taken a long, long time to turn up for the ceremony – thirty three minutes.  I was pissed off with my best friend Cai for dying. Still, I couldn’t blame him really. He was dead. And well it wasn’t entirely his fault. He didn’t ask to be shot.

Father Barry continued, ‘Happy from now on.’ Another pause. ‘Sweat of thy shiny face. Bread.’ He stopped. He looked at the eight miserable, wet faces around the coffin and shrugged apologetically to us. He charged on, ‘We commit the body of Cai Twswygog to the ground.’ He stopped one more time, took a deep breath and charged at the finishing line, ‘earth to earth, dust to dust, eternal to life. Mercy. Bless him. Amen.’

There was a general mumbling, grumbling, rumbling chorus of ‘Amens’ from the mourners. Then a rather too loud ‘A fucking men.’ from Seren.

I needed a cigarette.


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Filed under Golff Noir, It's About a Murder, Cariad

‘Farewell, My Lovely’ or ‘Laters, Love’

Interviewer – The title of your new, best-selling, critically-acclaimed, life-affirming, randomly-hyphenated novel is called ‘It’s About a Murder, Cariad?’ How did you arrive at that title?

Me – I’m glad you asked me that. The idea for the title came principally from a saying my nanna (grandmother, granny, grandma) used to say. Well, not exactly that sentence – more along the lines of –

‘ take your coat off when you come in or you won’t feel the benefit, cariad.’ or

‘…tamping I was, cariad.’ (very angry) or

‘I’ll see you now after, cariad.’ (sometime in the future).

The idea also came from another quarter. It is a mix of a favourite Raymond Chandler book -‘Farewell, My Lovely’ and a book from the top taff noir writer Malcolm Pryce – “Abertstwyth Mon Amour”.

Pretend interviewer – Thank you for that.  The title is a rare thing indeed. It is one of the few book to have two languages in the title. Or is it?

Me – Interesting question. I have investigated this fully for a year and a half and I did find a few. I warn you now – some are very tenuous –

‘Déjà vu, again?’ – Deborah Jones.

‘Ciao Bella: Sex, Dante and how to find your father in Italy’ – Helena Frith Powell.

‘Belle Du Jour’s Guide to Men’ – Belle Du Jour.

‘Spaghetti with the Yeti’- Charlotte Gullain and Adam Gullain.

‘Fahrenheit 451’ – Ray Bradbury.

‘The Last Samurai’ – Helen Dewitt.

‘This House is Haunted – The True Story of the Enfield Poltergeist’ – Guy Lyon Playfair.

‘Sputnik Sweetheart’ – Haruki Murakami.

‘When giants walked the earth – A History of Led Zeppelin’ – Mick Wall.

 ‘The Last Tycoon’ – F Scott Fitzgerald.

 Sorry. But I did warn you.

Incidentally if ‘Farewell, My Lovely’ were to be translated into Welsh it could become ‘Hwyl, Cariad’.  It could then be retranslated as ‘Laters Love’.

The aforementioned book ‘It’s About A Murder, Cariad’ is available here.

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Filed under It's About a Murder, Cariad, On writing

“So, tell me. Your new book. What’s it about?”



Perhaps the most ridiculous question anyone can ever ask a writer who has just finished writing a book is – “What’s it about?”

“Let me see. I’ve just spent three years of my life trying to getting all my thoughts, inner hopes, fears and aspirations onto the page and you would like me to describe it in a sentence? ….’

There have been some interesting responses from writers to the laziest of lazy questions, ‘What’s it about?’

(These are all true responses)

“I’m writing a novel. It’s 27 volumes long. It’s about this little girl who finds a little kitten.”

“I’m not going to tell you what it’s about.”

“I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer this question.”

‘That’s a big question. I don’t think I have a simple answer’.

I don’t think you should ask Mark Haddon what ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ is about

nor the writer of the film  -‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’

nor Dava Sobel – ‘Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time’

and definitely not the author of the book  entitled  – “A Handbook on Hanging, Being a short introduction to the fine art of Execution, and containing much useful information on Neck-breaking, Throttling, Strangling, Asphyxiation, Decapitation and Electrocution; as well as Data and Wrinkles for Hangmen, an account of the late Mr. Berry’s method of Killing and his working list of Drops; to which is added a Hangman’s Ready Reckoner and certain other items of interest, by Charles Duff, New edition enlarged diligently compared and revised in accordance with the most recent Developments. All Very Proper to be read and Kept in Every Family.”

I have just published my book. Please don’t ask me what it’s about.

‘It’s about A Murder, Cariad  is finally available now from Amazon.

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Learn Welsh With Byron – Lesson 2


Lesson 2 – Understanding swearing in Welsh

It’s not as straightforward as it seems. Some of the phrases are odd. Some are perplexing. A few are just downright weird.

Some, you can have a stab at  – so to speak. For example a vagina is known in Welsh  as a ‘llawes goch’  literally a ‘red sleeve’. I can see some sort of logic behind that one. Some are a little stranger. For instance if you were terrified of something, perhaps a red sleeve, then, in Welsh you could be said to be ‘cachu planciau’ – literally  translated as ‘shitting planks’. Why planks? Who knows.

If something was deigned to be worthless it would be designated  ‘dim gwerth rhech dafad’  – translated into English as something  ‘not  worth a sheep’s fart’.

The Welsh equivalent of ‘go forth and multiply ‘ or ‘F… off’ is ‘dos I chwarae efo dy nain ‘ – ‘go play with your granny’.

If you wanted to express to someone that they should, hurry up or do something quickly then there are number of options;

Option 1 ‘mewn dau gachiad’ –  translation – ‘in 2 shits’;

Option2 – ‘mewn cachiad chwanan’ – translation – ‘in a fleas’s shit’;

Or my favourite – Option 3 – ‘mewn cachiad nico’ – ‘in a goldfinches’ shit’ ! ? Don’t ask. I have no idea either.

A weak cup of tea can taste like, ‘piso dryw’ –  ‘wren’s piss’, and finally the female genitalia, or red sleeve, can alternatively be called a ‘pwdin blew’ – ‘a hairy pudding’.

Next time – Mutations ( You’ll enjoy that ).

(kindly provided by clwb malu cachu ( ) )

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Blog for my new book – discussion with Agent


My agent asked me to describe my writing-

  • I said it consisted of a number of themes and genres.
  • Go on he said.
  • Its about crime, humour and mystery I said.
  • Good he said.
  • Golf, and elements of the supernatural – angels.
  • OK.
  • Massive themes encompassing God, fallen angels and mortality.
  • Very good.
  • The action is set in Wales.
  • Ah.
  • In the 1930s ish.
  • I see.
  • Other real characters that appear are Bobby Jones…
  • The golfer?
  • Walter Hagen…
  • The golfer?
  • And Amy Johnson.
  • ?
  • The airline pilot woman, (pause) and golfer.
  • I see.
  • (pause)
  • Other writers have a mix of genres I said.
  • They do.
  • Shakespeare wrote plays, sonnets, historical dramas, comedies, tragedies, regicide.
  • He did.
  • With books set in Italy, England, Turkey, the Czech Republic.
  • Correct.
  • With themes of madness, love, feminism, murder, the supernatural.
  • All true. He said. He didn’t put all of them in one book though did he?
  • Maybe not.
  • Are you deliberately trying to hurt me?
  • ?
  • How would I pitch this book? – a Welsh, crime, fantasy, sporting, mystery thriller, set in the era of hard boiled private eyes, concerning religion and humour.
  • Above all humour.
  • Above all humour. Can you see my problems?
  • ? I said.
  • Where would customers find it on the shelf of a bookshop For instance? Welsh writing? Humour? Crime? Fantasy? Sport?
  • Good point. They would find it next to Malcolm Pryce. I said. Ask his agent.
  • It’s hard. So hard.
  • Why are you crying?
  • Byron Kalies – ‘It’s About a Murder, Cariad.’ out soon (Fiction – general)

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Literary Agent – Worst Job in the World?


Worst Job than a Literary Agent?

I wouldn’t be a literary agent if my life depended on it. Could you image a more unpleasant job? Well, maybe a few (like the illustration above), but really. It must be like being a parent to a needy, whinny child who needs constant reassurance, love and patting on the head – without any of the good bits. Even before that stage you would have to wade through a torrent of needy, whinny or arrogant, presumptuous pitches. It’s this that must make it so, so, so bad. If you ever had any modicum of compassion to begin with you couldn’t possibly have any left at the end. Could you?  How can you retain any sense of humour? Any degree of patience? Any respect for humanity? You can’t. The evidence is below in a list of the ‘best’ elements of pitches kept by my friend and Welsh literary agent, Chrissy Bach  – enjoy.

(with massive acknowledgements to ‘Slushpile hell’).

‘This sublime submission will leave you in an uncontrolled and irreversible state of ‘wow’’.

‘My attached 2000 word novel will make you laugh, make you cry, make you stand up and cheer. It will help raise the bar in human literary prose.’

‘I happen to have pen-ed a witty, hilarious book.’

‘Attached is, quite possibly, the funniest book known to humanity. After reading it I am convinced you will call me up and offer me a contract. I await your call.’

‘I want you as my agent. The book is ready. The writing is final. I do not want a word changed. It is a very good, well-written book.’

‘I guess my love of writing started in the second grade when Miss Harris gave me a large red tick on my composition on ‘What I did in the holidays’. I can still remember that composition. I wrote about the two weeks I spent in Porthcawl…’

‘You’re my last hope. I have sent this to many, many other agents without a positive reply. I’m counting on you.’

‘A quick question before I send my pitch. How many words are there in a novel?’  

‘My 432,000 word novel may seem to start a little slowly, but after the first nine of so chapters the pace changes dramatically.’

‘My dream agent Andrew Wylie, is not taking on ‘new’ writers, so I’m querying you.’

‘Attached is my synopsis and first four chapters. If I don’t hear from you by the end of the day I will give you a call. I have your home number.’

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Steepest Golf Holes


We were playing the 8th hole at Cradoc golf club. It’s a tough old climb.

Pensioner Dave, one of our party. then recounted an avalanche of steep golf holes – the 3rd at West Mon, Tidy Pull, the 11th at Monmouth, several at Mountain ash, practically all of them at Pontypool. He mentioned more, but we weren’t listening (by the way if you have any suggestions for steepest golf hole in Wales, please let me know). He then mentioned a course he had only heard about. This is the 19th hole at Entabeni which as I understand, is in mid Wales. I dug out a clip from ‘You Tube’. Enjoy.

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