1) TINTERN, BEST KEPT VILLAGE
There was good reason for the whole village to celebrate recently when we won our category (351-1000 population) in the Best Kept Village in Gwent competition.
This was undoubtedly helped by the flowers to be seen throughout the village. Every hotel and public house from the Anchor at one end to the Wye Valley Hotel at the other had magnificent floral displays and they had been joined by many of the shops anmd local houses to show off the village at its best.
Many of these had the hand of Gerry Mark discernable in their content. For quite a few years Gerry, who runs Holmleigh Guest House, has put on a superb display of flowers outside his own premises and has recently become more and more involved in lending his expertise to other places in the village.
2) THE MUTT IS MASTER
Life does have some sudden changes. My mate 'Stan the Shop' has always been good for a yarn over a couple of pints and a pleasant hour or so. Then he bought a dog. Now, no longer a member of the 'stand round the bar gang', he sits in the corner regarding said pooch with the tender misty eyed gaze he used to reserve for a pint of Boddingtons.
Commendably obtained from the Rescue Centre, the canine addition to the Smith family has certainly landed on its feet. Protected all ways, even the odd witticism is frowned on.
Stan has called him Ruff due to the not inconsiderable mane around his neck but the old standby 'How's the dog - rough?' receives a stony reception. No longer does the question 'One for the road?' get a cheerful affirmative, just a cool 'He wants a walk' proceeded by a swift exit.
The man's gone to the dogs.
3) THE CHIEF IS BACK
Tintern's Indian Chief has returned home, resplendent in his new war paint. The life-size model of a Red Indian has been synonomous with the village for years and stands watch on his reservation outside the antique shop.
An authentic 'Tobacco Store Indian' of the sort used by Americans to advertise their goods, he stands there clutching his pipe and fist full of cigars, whilst fixing passers-by with an inscutable stare.
He was bought five years ago and there have been many offers for him in that time, but he has become so much part of the scenery that it would be difficult for Dawn and Ian from the shop to part with him.
The Chief suffered some indignity lately when, during a resurfacing of the pavement, the council simply went round him, leaving him in a bit of a hole, with a severe case of footrot - hence the decision to refurbish him.
In his absence, things simply weren't the same and the village is delighted to see him back resplendent in new regalia.
4) FESTIVAL VISITORS
One of the many pleasures that came from the fantastic three weeks we had, while the son-et-lumiere was showing, was meeting some of the many foreign visitors passing through.
America's Michael and Joanne Ferris were staying in the village with their friends Greg Cella and his wife.
Michael and Joanne from California run a franchise store and gave me a card advertising their Jamoca almond fudge. A friend of mine who has been there assures me it is delicious.
Greg's card is different He is a police officer with the San Rafael PD and his card is given out to youngsters to encourage familiarity with the police and seemed a great idea to me. The card shows a quick resume of Greg's career in the PD.
All four having been intrigued by the dress rehearsal stayed an extra evening to see the show and said it really made theit visit.
On another evening I met Zohara Run from Israel, who edits a magazine there called 'A Different Voyage' and was travelling around Wales collecting material. Her visit was a sheer coincidence and she said it was a real bonus for them.
5) DREAM PERFORMANCE
Right in the middle of the son-et-lumiere season came a visit from The Welsh Actors' Company performing A Midsummers Night's Dream and providing a complete contrast to the big production.
This is almost theatre in the round, with a small cast playing to about 150 people in the Abbey Cloisters and milking everything out of the intimacy of their closeness to the audience.
Founded in 1983, they are a non-profit making company, specialising in open air productions and committed to exploring new venues and introducing new audiences to a form of theatre many of them will not have experienced.
For the cast, a production like this has nothing nowhere to hide! You have to be good - and they are all very good!
Spurning the use of elaborate props or technical paraphenalia, the emphasis is very much on the creativity of this young company, who enjoy both the wit and romance of the 'play within a play' and use this demanding form of acting to reach out to their audience.
It was an excellent production - if it comes your way, go and see it!
6) TIED UP AT THE BAR
David Stafford of the Rose and Crown has cleared the old stone steps in front of the pub which lead from the road to the river, allowing much easier access off the water.
His labours were rewarded when a small flotilla from Chepstow Boat Club arrived for a lunchtime pint. However, the river being extremely tidal, you do have to watch the tide, a point illustrated by the crew of the Toura D who slightly over-stayed and returned to their vessel to find themselves aground. Undaunted, the intrepid crew made the selfless decision to stay with the boat (and the pub) to spend a happy afternoon waiting for deeper water.
On a serious note, it was great to see the boat club able to avail themselves of this now much easier access ashore, and we look forward to many more nautical visits in the future.
7) SOUL SENSATION
The latest visitors to Tintern's music night at the Rose and Crown were Bristol band Souled Out, playing classics from the likes of Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and James Brown. The band has been together for more than five years and enjoy a big following on the Bristol scene, playing many weddings and corporate functions.
'These' said guitarist Paul Hobday 'are bread and butter jobs, but playing in pubs, where we feel we can really reach the audience is what the band really enjoy'.
Paul and sax player Richard Craig both live in Chepstow and with the majority of their gigs in Bristol, jumped at the chance to play a local venue.
'We were prepared for a quiet night' said Paul, 'In Bristol we are well-known but we don't have a following over here'. He'd reckoned without the enthusiastic regulars at the Crown who danced and sang along, showing their appreciation with rapturous applause and demanding several encores.
The band were lavish in their praise of the audience, and we pointed out that it is a two-way thing - the performers generate the atmosphere and this was a great band deserving all the plaudits they received.
8) DONNA HOWARD
Melvyn and Elaine at The Moon and Sixpence are very conscious that the pub is very much one of the first you come to in Wales as you cross the English border. They serve Welsh beer, sell Welsh teddy bear mascots and give a real 'Welcome to Wales', which includes entertainment.
Recently vocalist Donna Howard provided a touch of Gaelic charm when she performed. This young lady of twenty regards Welsh as her first language and has a lovely voice with a refreshingly down to earth view of the entertainment world.
She told me that she has cut down on her engagements to concentrate on her final year in college and regards singing as a hobby.
She will undoubtedly do well because this was no amateur performance but one presented with maturity and confidence. A beautifully controlled version of Myfanwy tested my emotions to the full.
Donna is due back again on St David's Day.
9) MAGICAL MILL WEEKEND
The Chepstow Rotary Club organised this year's 'Jazz By The Wye' and it was a packed Saturday evening event. The jazz was very much in the smooth style of swing that 'Just Jazz' play so well. It was a delight to watch dinner-jacketed gentlemen with their ladies quick-stepping and fox-trotting their way around the floor.
A great evening, great venue and a delightful way to see in the Autumn.
On Sunday the marquee had been transformed into a venue for a craft fair. Entertainment was provided by the 'Forest Stompers' who belied their name by performing some very intricate steps during their line dancing demonstration. Music also came from 'Jerry the Flute' who played toe tapping melodies on a huge range of instruments. The major entertainment was 'Eric and Elsie Black's Magic Show'. I'm never sure which I enjoy most, watching their fine act or the expressions of wonder on the children's faces.
10) FLOODS MISERY
The aftermath of the storms has caused a lot of misery and not a little frustration in the village. While the rest of the country suffered with us, some people here went through severe flooding for the third time in two years.
The cottages at the bottom of Trellech Road were swamped yet again and the Anchor Inn at the other end of the village suffered dreadful damage for the eighth time in ten years.
The culverts, of course, were blocked again. We were promised all sorts of help, including a JCB standing by.
Alan Butt, the Anchor's landlord, and neighbouring shopkeeper, Paul Heyward, found themselves without any assistance from the authorities. They struggled to clear the culverts by hand until they were forced to abandon the work for their own safety.
Huw Edwards MP has visited the scene and has promised to do all he can, but the plain fact is that a flood prevention scheme costing hundreds of thousands of pounds simply hasn't worked.
edited somewhat from Grantley James Diary. Thank you Grantley