31st March – 1st April 2011

Returning from a three day mega extravaganza with my sister & her husband  from Budapest on 1st April, I picked up a message that with deep regret AM Brynle Williams had died. Knowing he had suffered a heart problem during his first term as an AM in 2003, I assumed that fate had struck again as coincidentally, two of my Conservative colleagues had had recent problems but both had made a full recovery.  I learnt that whilst in hospital for chemotherapy for cancer he had contracted the MSR bug which had prevented him from starting this treatment and his sad death on 31st March was not attributed to his heart.  This is the third AM I have known that had died in office. Val Feld also died of cancer early in the first term of the life of the new Assembly and was followed by Professor Phil Williams, Plaid Cymru’s scientist who worked so hard for devolution.  I had first met Brynle when canvassing to become an AM myself and a photograph of a much younger and slimmer farmer standing in a group in his farm yard is in my book, “Leeks from the Back Benches”.  The mutton trade had folded thanks to BSE and without the income gleaned from selling older sheep abroad a welfare problem had been created as the animals were ageing and no one had invented false teeth to enable them to continuing the grazing needed to keep them going.  It was Brynle’s part in the fuel protest that brought him instant fame and Labour MP  David Hanson confided that the protest almost succeeded in bringing the entire country to a stand still.  Brynle was the Conservative Group’s agriculture spokesman and was a highly regarded man of the country.  Being an AM from North Wales adds that extra burden as I know from my own experience.  I anticipate to large turn out to bid fare well to a thoroughly decent and adaptable man.  Turning from caring for sheep to caring for people was something he took in his stride.  Sleep well Brynle”. As mentioned, I had just returned from Budapest.  I needed to go on business and had booked flights on Jet2.com for myself and two friends as I needed support to help me do battle.  Within hours of making the on-line reservations, a text told me that a NHS appointment suddenly clashed and could the dates be changed.  I winced as I know that the smallest alteration to a flight starts the cash register ringing. As so it came to pass.  Rather than cancel as hotel and dog sitter had been booked, I invited sister and hubby who were pleased to accept he trip.  Cost of promptly changing two names on the e ticket amounted to a mouth watering £188 and so the cost went on.  Hotel, meals, taxis and the rest, I’m the poorer by about £2K.  They did buy lunch and the airport shuttle so why am I moaning?  On the return flight, I asked sister if she would change her aisle seat for mine as I was squeezed in between two other passengers and my ailing knees were burning after a hard slog round the city.   “No”, was her answer, “It was her seat and she would not shift.  I was appalled but should have known better than to ask. I got the better deal in the end as the person who should have had the aisle seat next to my left missed the flight and so I nabbed the aisle one & almost got a the free meal that had been ordered by the missing passenger.  My dear sister sat in front of a fractious child that probably kicked the back of her seat her all the way back.  She took herself to bed as soon as we got home and barely stopping for a slice of toast, they were gone by 7.20am the following day.  At least the weather in Budapest was superb and the trip achieved all I wanted.  The sun was hot and the break was good and what’s a mere £2K in any event in the company of someone as charming as my dear sister? CHERRY BLOSSOM IN JAPAN. Moving on from the three day extravaganza, I had much better luck last April as on 7th April 2010, I was in Tokyo admiring the cherry blossom.  It was a memorable holiday for not only the blossom but also for the traditional Japanese hotel we stayed in overnight.  Shoes off at the door, kimonos handed out and under the stern gaze of the head geisha we had to to sit on the floor and follow exactly the right way of eating Japanese food.  We were even instructed to wear special slippers to visit the loo, which fortunately was designed on the western model.  Everything else was typically old Japan from the paper walls to the bed on the floor and a futon for a pillow.  Our balcony was guarded by an immense cherry tree in full flower which rained blossom gently when shaken by the breeze. Bathing was rather daunting as the girls washed together in a large room kitted out with small stools where one soaped and showered with a bucket before entering the deep communal water tub.  The water is heavily mineralised and very hot as it comes from nearby volcanic springs.  My best memory of the Hakoni was getting up at 5am and enjoying the bath tub to myself.  That hot water after a night on the floor was very welcome indeed.  With regular news updates still reporting thousands as still missing, and the misery continues weeks after the earthquake, it seems a world away from the pleasure I experienced at every place visited just one year ago.  The cherry blossom season is a time for joy and expectation of the new Spring and huge green and blue tarpaulins are laid below the trees and families take their turn to picnic under the trees. The most stunning memory however was of Hiroshima where from the 6th floor of a magnificent hotel the whole of a rebuild city stood before us.  The exhibition recalling that day in August 1945 captured every gristly detail from people in flames rushing to the river to jump in and extinguish them.  Hardly anything survived and the shattered remnants of those buildings that did remain stand as a quiet reminder of what happened to this previously thriving city.  The memorial bell is just another monument and it can be rung by who ever as a testimony of how dreadful war can be.  Every year the Japanese government sends a letter to every country who possess nuclear weapons asking them to reconsider destroying them so that the absolute destruction that occurred in Hiroshima may never ever happen again. If Hiroshima can be totally rebuilt, albeit in the span of many years, then this stoic nation can and will do build again for sure.  Buried somewhere in a laptop I have the pictures to remind me of a wonderful travel experience.  I better get them up on screen and let me stop moaning over the cost of sharing three days in the company of my amazing sister.

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