Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part LI: Alun Williams

(Alun Williams)

Alun Williams: www.bronglais.blogspot.com/

I’m a Plaid Cymru County Councillor in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, halfway down the Welsh coast.

Ceredigion is on a knife edge politically with the ruling Independent / Lib Dem / Labour Coalition on the Council having a majority of just two over the Plaid Cymru opposition group. Likewise, at Westminster the Lib Dem MP’s majority is just 219 over Plaid. The Welsh Assembly seat, though, is safely in Plaid’s hands and our Assembly Member, Elin Jones, who lives in my ward, is Minister for Agriculture in the ruling Labour / Plaid Coalition in Cardiff. . Having lived in England for a large part of my life, I enjoy the added dimension that Plaid give to politics, being slightly greener and definitely more left wing than any of the mainstream UK parties.

What made you decide to start blogging?

As a County Councillor I’m always thinking about how to keep in touch with my residents. I deliver a regular newsletter but obviously there are logistical limits to how often this can be done and, by the time they’re printed and delivered, the news in them has often moved on. A blog focussing on local issues was the obvious next step.

As it’s carried on I’ve learnt that people don’t want anything that sounds like propaganda but there is a thirst for solid information about local developments. Our local paper, like many others, isn’t the most politically progressive and I think blogs can increasingly offer an alternative to the doom-mongery and scandal agenda of the media monopolies.

What is your best blogging experience?

I don’t get a tremendous number of comments on the blog itself but, because it’s a local blog, people often tell me in the street that they appreciate the information it provides and that makes it worthwhile.

And your worst?

Sometimes not having time to put up a blog for weeks. And of course I’m sure all bloggers get the occasional e-mail from disaffected individuals not blessed with love for their fellow man.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

My blog doesn’t contain any great literature or wit – it’s more like a series of news articles about Aberystwyth. But I like being the first to break news or provide information that isn’t easily accessible elsewhere.

Favourite blogs?

Blog Dogfael (http://blogdogfael.org/) is a Welsh-language blog written by a friend of mine in Aberystwyth embracing politics, culture and religion..

Monbiot.com (www.monbiot.com/ ) is always stimulating on environmental issues and the hard choices we face..

What inspired you to go into politics?

For, no doubt, deep and maladaptive psychological reasons, I’ve always wanted to change the world and in my twenties was active in CND and the green movement. I could see that trying to influence the system from outside was always going to have its limitations so decided to stand as a councillor. Having said that, we actually need both – people lobbying and campaigning from a ‘pure’ outside perspective and people on the inside helping to steer a way through the labyrinthine political system with its uncomfortable realities.

If a tourist were to visit Ceredigion, what places would you recommend?

Aberystwyth is a human-sized town set between the sea and the Cambrian mountains. It’s distinctively Welsh but also quite cosmopolitan due to the high proportion of foreign students at the University. It makes a nice mix.

New Quay and Llangrannog to the south are nice little coastal villages. Arguably though, it’s the coastal path linking them all that’s the best bit.

In what way has devolution been beneficial for Wales economically?

The Welsh Assembly is much better equipped to target money to the communities that need it. Because it cares about Wales as an entity it spreads money around the country far more equitably. Mind you, it wouldn’t half help if we could set our own taxes, like the Scottish Parliament.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

I’d like to spend some time in
Japan and India. Radically different cultures are really stimulating.

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?

Iceland is an awesome place. Stunning landscape. Very IT literate society and yet a high proportion of people still believe in elves. I like that.

Also the old city in Jerusalem, with major sites from three world religions all within a quarter of a mile of each other, is a fantastic melting pot.

Who do you regard as the best Plaid Cymru leader, and, if possible, the best British Prime Minister?

Dafydd Wigley (Leader 1991-2000) would have been the best equipped to be Welsh Prime Minister. Not sure he’d have wanted the
Westminster job though.

Which political figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Environmentalist Jonathon Porritt and Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price are terrific advocates for their causes, both with a nice combination of intelligence, humour and integrity. I’m also a big fan of Desmond Tutu’s cheerful, practical compassion..

Favourite Bond movie?

I have to say I’m not big on Bond movies.

Favorite Doctor Who?

You’ve got to hand it to David Tennant – he’s really knocked spots off all the rest in terms of acting ability, aided of course by a spot of 21st century production. Tom Baker is the other that really set a new, slightly more mysterious tone.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Vanilla-flavoured Diet Coke taught me that vanilla is a much underrated flavour. Unfortunately no-one else seemed to agree and they stopped producing it quite quickly.

Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?

I’ve seen most of my top bands over the years. The Undertones at the Marquee in
London and Velvet Undergound at Glastonbury spring to mind as highlights. Of those I haven’t seen, George Thorogood and the Destroyers in a small, packed dive would be good. The venue is everything.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?

Given that I’ve been to the first two and only been averagely impressed, I reckon Barsby must be worth a shot.

Favourite national newspaper?

I revolve between the Western Mail, the Independent and the Guardian.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Dunno about hobbies as such but travel and nature are great for broadening perspective, I’m still powerless to prevent myself following the football and rugby results and post-bop jazz helps to momentarily flip me into a different headspace.

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books
(Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?


Sweet Jane - Velvet Underground

Come to Me - Bjork

Lush Life - John Coltrane


Anything by Jack Kerouac

Any of the Seth books by Jane Roberts

The All Music Definitive Guide to Jazz (all 1472 pages)

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