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September 2006 - Dim DoggioI know I must have rambled on on numerous previous occasions about the various contrasts between the English and the Welsh, both the countries and the people, but I'm afraid, dear viewer, that you're in for yet another dose of differences in this month's enthralling offering.
At least, it appears to be a dose of differences between one specific area of the south of the principality of Wales and practically everywhere else in Great Britain.
So welcome along to you all, be you regular devotees or timorous newcomers, to the delights that are the September edition of Nick Harvey's Comment.
You see, I had occasion, the other week, to visit, what is now gloriously described as, the city and county of Swansea. Rather foolishly, as it later turned out, I decided to take the brown chap, leg at each corner, tail at the back, with me for a nice day out.
My initial thought was that, after a brief visit to a shed in the Gowerton area of said city, we could then head a little way south and take a gentle stroll in the fresh air on one of the many beautiful beaches of the Gower.
Now, at this point, for the sake of clarity and a more detailed understanding of what follows, perhaps I should explain to those of you unfamiliar with the intimate detail of Welsh local government boundary theory, that the entire Gower peninsula now appears to come under the dubious jurisdiction of the council of the aforementioned city and county.
I should have realised we were in for trouble at the point when we initially entered Swansea city.
I thought it was just graffiti when I saw it on the first little sign attached to a lamppost. Then it started to dawn on me, as I realised that each of the subsequent signs was identical to the first, that either Swansea hosts some of the most prolific and repetitive graffiti artists in the country or the city fathers really do have a bit of a thing about our dear, four legged friends.
Now, as the owner of old brown chap for an awful lot of years, I'm quite used to seeing the little signs around the place, politely requesting me to clear up after him when he's done what comes naturally.
However, in the case of pretty well all the other signs I've ever seen, it's the politeness which is the key; the whole text on the sign is about encouragement, and carrots rather than sticks; and if there happens to be a picture at all, it's one of a nice little doggy trotting along on a lead.
Not so in Swansea, look you! Their picture is actually of a dog squatting down, with an item of the unmentionable in the process of dropping to the ground. It was this particular item which I initially thought had been added by the humorous graffiti artist, but no, it's printed there properly in the original manufacture of the signs.
The picture really put me off, to be honest. I have to say that I actually found it objectionable, and, after all, I'm quite used to the natural habits of the brown chap.
Goodness knows what the sight of it does for people who don't own a dog and aren't used to the sorts of processes dogs have to go through. Ladies of sensible sensibilities must hide their eyes behind their beige twin-sets.
So what is it about the councillors of this, previously, fine city and county, I am forced to wonder, which makes them so fixed in their need to turn absolutely everybody against our canine chums? Was the mayor once bitten on the bum by a bloodthirsty boxer? Was the council chamber once invaded by a crowd of cantankerous corgis? Was the opposition leader's moggy once mauled by a malicious mongrel?
I think we should be told.
And it's not just the little signs on the lampposts in the city which bare witness to the fiercely intolerant views of those in power in the area. Upon heading south, towards the countryside and the sea, we were greeted by much larger notices pushing home the council's anti-canine views.
Once again, dear old brown chap and I are fairly used to notices as you approach a beach, usually saying something reasonably polite, along the lines of "Dog owners are requested to keep their pets off the beach during the summer months" or "In the interests of health and hygiene, we regret that dogs are not permitted on the beach between 1st April and 30th September".
No such politeness, I'm afraid, from the city and county of Swansea. A bloody great notice reading "Dogs are banned from this beach from 1st April and 30th September".
I can't help thinking that there was no possible need for them to be quite that brutal in their wording.
I was always taught that you're far more likely to get co-operation from people when you ask for things nicely. I'm sure there must be a word for "nicely" in Welsh, but it doesn't seem to have reached the members and officials of Swansea council as yet.
Indeed, if my observations of the other week are the norm for all their activities, I'd be surprised if they get any co-operation from the public for anything at all that they undertake, given what comes across to the casual visitor, very strongly, as a deliberately unpleasant and antagonistic way of going about things.
And all that's before we even start to discuss how seriously tight the blighters are when it comes to the cost of clamps to hold their litter bins onto their lampposts.
You know how your standard, metal lamppost is a bit wider at the bottom to house all the electrical paraphernalia which it seems to need to keep it functioning? Then, about four feet off the ground it becomes narrower and forms a, sort-of, pipe to go all the way up to the lamp?
Well, most councils invest in slightly larger clamps, so litter bins can be attached to lampposts at a sensible height, and so the aperture in the bin, into which you wish to propel your discarded debris is about three feet off the ground, an excellent and convenient height for your average human being, whether or not in a wheelchair.
Not in parts of the Swansea council area, however!
And, would you please note that I wouldn't even be bothering to report this, comparatively, minor misdemeanour to the world, had you not already seriously upset me and my dog with your general attitude.
No, dear old Swansea city and county have got loads of their litter bins attached with the, obviously cheaper, smaller size of clamp, up above the point where the lamppost has become narrower.
This places the bottom of the bin at about five feet off the ground and the aperture therein at about seven feet off the ground. Ideal, no doubt, for professional basketball players with a little, light litter, but of naff all use to the rest of the general public with an empty dog food tin to dispose of.
When I noticed the first of these high level bins, I assumed that some vandal, probably an unhappy dog owner who didn't like the council very much, had moved the thing up the lamppost from its original location as a bit of a jape.
Then, however, as I passed more and more of these elevated receptacles, I realised that their positioning must have been deliberate at the time of installation and, just as it hadn't actually been graffiti artists earlier on, it couldn't be vandals on this occasion, either.
They're a funny lot round Swansea, don't you know? I don't think brown chap and I will rush back there any time soon. We didn't feel very welcome, for some strange reason.
Now, before I go this month, I suppose I'd better placate all the Welsh language purists over the title of this month's missive. Those of you who don't do the Cymraeg won't have noticed anything particularly wrong, but I suspect there's been the odd bit of complaining in Caergybi and the occasional eyebrow raised in Rhaeadr.
Okay, so the title probably ought to have been Dim Cŵn and not Dim Doggio, but, let's face it, it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun, would it? When the language gives you such gems as Dim Parcio and Dim Smocio on notices throughout the country, and not just in the infamous city and county, then who is Nick Harvey not to gently indulge in a little humour?
And for the English purists, I really ought to explain what the Dim bit means, but I don't think I will! I'm sure you can all work it out yourselves from the examples!
A nastier man than I, might end by quoting that politically incorrect old joke, but I wouldn't dream of it. What do you call a thick Welshman? Dim brainio.
Well, having now made an awful lot of enemies with this month's wondrous witterings, I think it might be a good time to get my head down. I'll raise an eyebrow above the parapet once again on October the first, with another astonishing edition, so make sure you're all ready to join me then.
In the meantime, I suppose I'd better take the brown chap out for a stroll. He's still got his legs crossed, ever since Swansea. Give me a shout if you see a Welshman heading in my direction; make that a loud shout if it's two. Right, I'm off, where's me leek?
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