OF LATE, this Herald reporter has been suffering from assorted driving licence complaints, very nasty at my time of life. In the English of England, by the way, licence with a ‘c’ is a noun and license with an ‘s’ is a verb. So, before learning to drive, you apply for a provisional driving licence, but the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) must license you to drive. I would have made a great English teacher, I think. But what about in the US, you ask? Don’t go there. My geography is not great.
Now, I was very fond of my old pink driving licence, folded into its crumbling, brittle with age plastic wallet. Occasionally, I’d take it out and look at the signature of that young man, just a couple of weeks past his seventeenth birthday, who’d passed his test first time and signed on the dotted line with a shaking hand. In those days in Llandrindod there was only one roundabout and during the test we had to pretend we were approaching a set of traffic lights because there weren’t any. You did, though, have to watch out for horse drawn drays bearing loose hay. Passing my test was aided in that, for my rigorously scientific eye-test, the examiner asked me to read the registration number of my own Ford Anglia, one of only two cars parked in the street. The other, a Hillman Imp, belonged to a cousin of mine.
Anyway, move with the times, isn’t it. So at the designated moment, I relinquished Lily, the pink driving licence, and got my new modern plastic photo card. And a scrappy old piece of green paper that I had to carry around as well, the law stated.
Oh well, ours not to reason why. So I folded that scrap of green paper and carried it around in my wallet for years, though I never grew at all fond of it.
Then, a few months back, I was in the process of hiring a minibus for a trip to London to protest against Trident and I proudly produced my plastic driving licence card and unfolded the requisite piece of green paper, tattered and much the worse for wear having shared a wallet compartment with a toothpick, a self-tapping screw and a Murray Mint (‘too good to hurry’, it’d been there for years). “Oh, we don’t need that anymore,” the woman hiring out the minibus told me. Here I must avoid naming the hiring company in the interests of commercial fair play: No free advertising in the Herald! Suffice to say, it was Talybont’s largest minibus hiring venture.
“What do you mean you don’t need it?” I demanded, brandishing the tatty green shred of paper. Did this woman have any idea how difficult it had been over the years for a simple soul like me not only not to lose one thing, not only not to lose two, but to keep two things together in close proximity for times such as this?! What if the police stopped me, would I still need the green parchment then? “No,” the woman reassured me. “But your licence is almost out of date and you’ll have to get it renewed or they’ll fine you a £1000” Well, when you put it like that.
THE NEW NEW LICENSE
A couple of months after the minibus trip to London, where we had a lovely time and met some nice people but failed to stop the Westminster parliament eventually voting to renew Britain’s abominable nuclear weapons system, I remembered to check into renewing my driving licence. The main reason the DVLA stated for renewal was so that my license would bear a ‘recent and true likeness’ of me, ‘in sharp focus and clear’. When I came to fill in the form, though, I was pleased to find I could also renew my license online – without having a new photograph taken or posting anything off at all. As that saved me a trip into Aberystwyth to find one of those photo booths (do they still exist?) or someone who would snap my unsmiling visage in the back of a shop somewhere, a process that always seemed to involve an umbrella and an arc lamp, I was quite pleased.
Online, though, I was slightly mystified to find that the image on my new driving licence would be the same one as on my passport – apparently the DVLA has access to that data. All well and good, except that my passport photograph was much older, much less a true likeness and much less sharp and clear than the photo on the driving licence I already had! In fact, the photo in my passport bears a striking resemblance to a latter day Little Richard wearing a nylon stocking over his head and seen through what used to be called a peas-souper fog on a dark night. Still, if it saved me a trip into town and the price of a new photo and a postage stamp, and it kept the DVLA happy, so be it: press ‘Continue’. Pay £14 and Bob’s your uncle! (And Little Richard’s your twin brother).
INSULT TO INJURY
In time, my new licence arrived in the post, all pink and plastic and very little different except for the murky grey Little Richard photograph on the front. But hang on, what was this across the way from the image of the aged rock and roller? A Union Jack!
But wasn’t I from Wales and living in Wales? Hadn’t we had devolution for longer even than I’d held on to the green half of my old driving licence? Wasn’t the DVLA in Swansea? This didn’t seem right at all. But what was to be done?
ENTER THE DRAGON!
Unbeknownst to me, the UK Government had decided back in 2014 that the Union Jack would appear on all new drivers licences in England, Wales and Scotland (good luck with that up there, by the way!). So, this wasn’t some post-Brexit triumphalism on behalf of the DVLA then, as I’d initially suspected. In January this year, a well-known publishing company in Wales decided to physically challenge the Government’s decision by producing Red Dragon stickers to cover up the Union Jack. This news had completely passed me by until my mate Ben tuned me. He’s very good with IT and confused senior citizens. Coincidentally, the publishing company in question is to be found just a few yard down the road from Talybont’s largest minibus hiring venture. This little town is clearly a big player. Fflur Arwel, Y Lolfa’s head of marketing, told me: “We decided to produce these stickers with the aim of giving people the choice. We believe it is completely unfair that Britishness is being imposed upon us in this way. People are not given the choice to declare their nationality nor show that they are proud to be Welsh.”
One of Y Lolfa’s customers, Meurig Parri, wrote to the DVLA after he received his licence, complaining that: “My new licence arrived with the Union Jack on it. I am Welsh, and the flag of my nation is the Red Dragon, not the Union Jack. This is a purely political move, by using a document that should be completely apolitical.” The DVLA responded, explaining that the decision taken by the Westminster government to include the Union Jack on driving licences was ‘to strengthen national unity’.
Meurig Parri was not happy with the explanation, however: “My nation is Wales. If I have any feeling of ‘national unity’, it will be towards Wales – not Great Britain!”
Well, I’m with Meurig on this one; if I have any feelings of national unity… But what happens if I cover the Union Jack with Y Ddraig Goch and the police stop me?
Speaking about the legality of using the stickers, Y Lolfa told me: “The stickers do not change, damage or impact any information presented on the licence – they only cover the Union Jack. The licence remains valid even with the stickers.” However, the DVLA does warn drivers not to change their licences as this could lead to difficulties with ‘the authorities’. Back in January, though, a spokesman for the DVLA declined to comment on whether sticking Y Ddraig Goch over the Union Jack would invalidate the licence.
FLYING OFF THE SHELVES
Now, I’m widely known as an obedient citizen who is respectful of authority, so what was I to do? I’m no hero, no Gwynfor Evans, I don’t want any trouble. But the matter was taken out my hands – literally – when some unknown entity spirited my licence away from me and just did the dreaded deed. I expect MI5, MI6 or the Household Cavalry to break down my door at any moment. It’s the tower for me, sure as eggs, and throw away the key! Luckily, I probably won’t be alone. A photograph on this page shows Haverfordwest-born actor and Super Furry Animal Rhys Ifans obviously celebrating that he now only needs to carry one driving licence. And look, the phantom dragon sticker has got to his licence too!
Since their release, Y Lolfa publishers and printers have sold more than 5,000 packs of stickers. So, are they flying off the shelves? Fflur Arwel again: “We received a very positive response to our campaign since its launch and the stickers have been in great demand. People clearly feel very strongly about this and do not feel represented by the Union Flag – nor that their Welsh nationality is being respected. The people of Wales have chosen their own flag over the Union flag.” Sticeri Draig Goch can be purchased direct from Y Lolfa (www.ylolfa.com) or ‘from all good bookshops’, although actually in Aberystwyth I could only find them in Siop y Pethe.
A pack of six red dragon stickers costs just £2.
Anyone who buys a pack of red dragon stickers only for one to ghost its way onto their driving licence will be left with five stickers (I would have made a great Maths teacher too). Can Herald readers perhaps suggest creative ways of using these spare stickers? Finally, as I look at my newly beautified driving licence, which I am already very fond of, I feel a chill pass over me as I spot trouble ahead. No, not the Household Cavalry this time. Hovering above Little Richard’s fuzzy head is another flag. It is the flag of Europe, ‘a circle of 12 golden stars on an azure background’.
Right in the middle of the circle of golden stars, starkly printed in middle- England Brexit white, is ‘UK’. When the UK follows through on its vote to leave the EU, I’m guessing our driving licences will have to change again. Best to hold onto one or two of those red dragon stickers, then, fellow rock and rollers.
Education Minister announces ‘back to school’ plans for September
DECISION backed with £29 million to recruit, recover and raise standards
The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, has today confirmed that all pupils will be able to return to school in September.
“plan to open in September with 100% of pupils physically present on school sites, subject to a continuing, steady decline in the presence of COVID-19 in the community.”
The Minister announced that:
- Schools will return to full capacity, with only limited social distancing within contact groups.
- At full operations, a contact group should consist of around 30 children. Some direct or indirect mixing between children in different contact groups will also be unavoidable, such as on transport, receiving specialist teaching or due to staffing constraints.
- Social distancing for adults should remain in line with regulations and guidance.
- Schools will be required to minimise the risk of transmission by taking other mitigating measures using the hierarchy of risk controls.
- Every school should continue to be “Covid Protected” – having carried out risk assessments and mitigated them with a combination of controls such as hand and surface hygiene, one-way systems and so forth.
- If early warning information shows a local incident or outbreak then nearby schools should implement appropriate restriction measures.
- Each school will be provided with a supply of home testing kits.
The Minister confirmed that the autumn term will start on 1 st September and schools that can accommodate all pupils from the start of the term should do so.
The Minister outlined plans just hours after confirming the Welsh Government would make £29m available to ‘recruit, recover and raise standards’ in Welsh schools in response to the impact still felt from the pandemic.
Commenting on the additional funding announced, the Minister added: “We will recruit, recover and continue to raise standards.”
It is thought that there will be around 800 newly qualified teachers in September and around 800 supply staff currently working within Wales.
“With this funding, we will recruit the equivalent of 600 extra teachers and 300 teaching assistants throughout the next school year.
“We will target extra support at Years 11, 12 and 13, as well as disadvantaged and vulnerable learners of all ages.
“The support package, provided at a school level, could include extra coaching support, personalised learning programmes and additional time and resources for exam year pupils.
“We must never lower our expectations for any of our young people, no matter their background.
“Together, we will continue to raise standards for all, reduce the attainment gap and ensure we have a system that is a source of pride and public confidence.”
Councillor Ian Roberts, WLGA Spokesperson for Education, said: “Since schools closed at the start of the crisis, many children and young people have felt anxious about loss of learning and not being able to see their friends.
The Minister’s plan today will enable schools to safely reopen classrooms from September. Local authorities will work closely with their schools to make sure that necessary arrangements are in place to abide by Welsh Government guidance.
“Our schools have been hit by severe disruption during this pandemic, and we welcome the £29m pledged by the Minister for targeted support to minimise the effects of the past few months on pupils. We will continue to work together in partnership the safest and best possible learning experiences for our children and young people, especially in such challenging circumstances.”
Police urge visitors to stay safe and respect Wales as travel ban is lifted
POLICE are urging visitors to say safe and respect Wales as they get set to welcome visitors this weekend.
Dyfed-Powys Police has issued a message to people preparing to travel to mid and west Wales after the requirement to stay local was lifted on Monday (Jul 6), asking them to be safe, sensible and respectful.
With people now able to travel around Wales and to cross the border into the country, coupled with a fine weather forecast, police are expecting visitors to arrive in droves to enjoy the Dyfed-Powys area.
Temporary Chief Inspector Andy Reed said: “We are very lucky to police beautiful areas across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys, which attract thousands of visitors every week over the summer months.
“With restrictions having been in place since March, we understand that people are now keen to venture further afield and enjoy the beaches, mountains and countryside they’ve missed, and are anticipating a busy weekend ahead.
“Our officers look forward to welcoming you, and will be here if you need any help, but we ask that you help us by being respectful of the areas you visit, and by planning your journey before you set off.”
For anyone travelling to areas they are not familiar with, police are recommending that they plan their route in advance, check traffic updates regularly online and by listening to local radio stations, and be prepared to turn around or reroute if necessary.
T/CI Reed said: “Many of the areas that are popular with tourists aren’t served by main roads, but by B roads that can become backlogged very quickly.
“Nobody wants to spend hours stuck in traffic when they could be enjoying a day out, and there are ways to avoid this.
“If you’re heading to the beach in Pembrokeshire, for example, don’t set your sights on one place. Make a list of beaches you could visit, and be prepared to change your plans if you hit traffic off the main road.
“If you’re planning a hike in the Brecon Beacons, take a look at a few different walking routes – there are plenty of options besides Pen y Fan, which frequently gets overrun on sunny weekends and can cause problems on the roads with high volumes of traffic and parked cars.”
Over the past three months, Dyfed-Powys Police has implemented Operation Dovecote – an engagement, encouragement, education and enforcement approach to ensuring people adhered to the restrictions. With the ease in regulations, officers across the force will take a different approach this weekend – engaging with visitors, clamping down on antisocial behaviour and working with partner agencies to ensure places are left as they were found.
T/CI said: “Our officers will be out and about across the force, making sure everyone is staying safe and respectful. With that in mind, we ask that you be mindful of people who live in the areas you are visiting by acting responsibly – we will not tolerate antisocial or illegal behaviour that will impact on them or other tourists.
“Please park considerately, leave gates and property as you find them, be careful with barbecues and don’t light fires, keep dogs under control, and check what facilities will be open before you start your journey.
“We will be working closely with partners to protect beaches, countryside and waterways – you can help us by making sure you take all your rubbish and belongings with you, and leaving no trace of your visit.”
If you need to report an incident while visiting the Dyfed-Powys area, you can use one of the following options: Online: bit.ly/DPPReportOnline, Email: email@example.com or Call 101.
If you are Deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.
Always call 999 in an emergency
Ceredigion hometown heroes & lockdown legends sought for 2020 National Lottery Awards
THE National Lottery is searching for your ‘hometown hero’ or ‘lockdown legend’ as part of the 2020 National Lottery Awards.
This year the annual search for the UK’s most popular National Lottery funded projects will, for the first time, honour individuals who have made an extraordinary impact in their community, especially those who have adapted during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
New figures reveal more than £2.8 million of National Lottery funding has been invested in good causes in Ceredigion in 2018/19 alone.
A total of 108 National Lottery grants were awarded in the region during the previous financial year, providing vital support to arts, sports, heritage and community projects.
From today, The National Lottery are calling for nominations of people who have done amazing things with the help of National Lottery funding and are an inspiration to us all.
Winners in each category will receive a £3,000 cash prize for their organisation and a coveted National Lottery Awards trophy.
Jonathan Tuchner from The National Lottery is encouraging the people of Ceredigion to make their nominations.
He said: “The National Lottery continues to have a positive impact on life across the UK. Thanks to National Lottery players thousands of projects are making an incredible difference to their local communities.
Now, more than ever, people have rallied together, and individuals are performing inspirational acts and extraordinary endeavours to help in cities, towns and villages up and down the country.
Thanks to National Lottery players, up to £600 million has been made available to support communities throughout the UK amid the coronavirus crisis. People have used National Lottery funding in amazing ways during these challenging times. We want to honour them as part of this year’s National Lottery Awards and recognise their selfless dedication and thank them for their fantastic work.”
Encompassing all aspects of National Lottery good causes funding, the 2020 National Lottery Awards are seeking to recognise outstanding individuals in the following sectors:
Community / Charity
And there will be a special Young Hero Award for someone under the age of 18 who has gone that extra mile in their organisation. All nominees must work or act for a National Lottery funded organisation or have received National Lottery funding.
To make your nomination for this year’s National Lottery Awards, tweet @LottoGoodCauses with your suggestions or complete an entry form through our website www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards . Entries must be received by midnight on 19th August 2020.
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