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.
Ysgol Gynradd Ciliau Parc to close temporarily due to a further COVID-19 case
YSGOL GYNRADD CILIAU PARC, Ciliau Aeron will be closed temporarily as a further COVID-19 case is confirmed. Two Contact Groups out of three have now been affected by positive cases and therefore, due to lack of staffing, the whole school will close for a period of time.
Pupils in the affected Contact Groups has been asked to self-isolate for 14 days due to being close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case at the school. These pupils and staff must remain at home for 14 days to reduce the possible spread of the virus to family, friends and the wider community. All parents have been contacted by the School.
The Council urges all parents to refer their children for a test if they develop any of the symptoms, which are:
- a high temperature
- a new continuous cough
- a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.
Parents should also be aware of other symptoms early on, such as headaches, tiredness and general aches and pains usually associated with the flu.
You can apply for a test online https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test or by phoning 119.
No further details will be provided regarding this matter.
Hundreds sign petition against Ceredigion parking charges
HUNDREDS of local residents have signed a petition against plans to reintroduce charges at some Ceredigion Council car parks.
Ceredigion Liberal Democrats started the campaign on Friday, which attracted over 400 signatures in less than 24 hours, in response to an outcry from businesses and residents across the county.
Ceredigion County Council announced plans this week to move immediately to a cashless charge system from 1st December at 13 car parks in Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Cardigan and Lampeter. Cashless charging will follow in March for another 3 car parks, including at New Quay.
The petition can be signed at www.ceredigionlibdems.org.uk/parking.
Cllr Elaine Evans, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Cardigan Rhyd-y-fuwch, said:
“I am absolutely gutted that the charges are being reinstated in Cardigan, especially so close to Christmas.
“This year more than any other, times have been extremely difficult for traders and residents in Cardigan. So many of us are worried about the detrimental effect parking charges will have on a town that already has a safe zone implemented.
“We need to keep parking free throughout the pandemic. If we don’t, I worry how much of our town will survive.”
Cadan ap Tomos, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd candidate for Ceredigion, added:
“So many local businesses are struggling to keep afloat during this pandemic, and need all the help they can get. That’s what makes this decision by the Plaid Cymru/Independent Council so baffling.
“I’m particularly worried that by going cashless, a great many people who have no bank card to pay with will be shut out of visiting our town centres.
“The fact that hundreds of people have backed our campaign in less than a day should show just what a bad decision this is for our communities.”
Vaccine roll-out ‘within days’
THE FIRST COVID-19 vaccine has been given the go-ahead and the roll-out across Wales will start within a matter of days, the Chief Medical Officer announced on Tuesday, December 2.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has now authorised the first vaccine as safe and effective on the basis of detailed independent expert review of evidence from large scale clinical trials.
The Pfizer Biontech vaccine has become the first to receive MHRA clearance in the UK and 40 million doses of the vaccine will shortly be available for delivery across the UK, with Wales getting its allocation based on population.
The effects of the vaccine may not be seen nationally for many months and the advice on keeping Wales safe remains the same for everyone; keep contacts with other people to a minimum, keep a 2 metre distance from others, wash hands regularly, wear a face covering where required and avoid touching surfaces others have touched, wherever possible.
Approval from the MHRA is the first step of Wales’ roll-out plan, which has seen preparations on-going since May. There are still a number of stages which need to happen before the vaccine reaches those in highest need and is ready for use, but this process is expected to happen over the next week.
These stages include:
- The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) finalising and publishing their guidance for the whole of the UK
- Finalising training materials for staff and patient information leaflets
- Training of experienced immunisers for this particular vaccine
- Final legal frameworks to allow registered health professionals to administer the vaccine to patients need to be authorised by each Health Board in Wales.
- The vaccine – which needs to be administered in 2 doses – will initially be prioritised and available for those aged 80 and over, care home staff and residents and those working within health and social care.
Pfizer Biontech vaccine needs to be stored at ultra-low temperatures. These centres have already been decided by Health Boards and are in the process of being stood-up.
As further supplies become available and additional vaccines receive MHRA approval, a staged approach will see other groups be offered the vaccine, based on risk of serious complications and deaths.
Individuals in the priority groups for a COVID-19 vaccine will receive an invitation from their employer or health board providing information about the COVID-19 vaccines, telling them where to go and what to do on the day of their appointment.
People are urged to wait to be invited, which will happen through NHS systems. Please do not ask your pharmacist or GP.
There are plans in place for people who are housebound and for care homes to be vaccinated as soon as safely possible, with the approved vaccine being safely taken to them using a mobile service, once cleared for this purpose.
The development process for coronavirus vaccines has been as stringent as any other but the process in the face of the pandemic has been sped up by prompt, world-wide funding and a reduction in paperwork. The length of the trials have not been shortened, and the usual safety measures remain in place.
The vaccine will not be mandatory and people will be able to choose whether they take up the vaccine or not. Information will be provided to people before vaccination to reassure them about patient safety and robust consent processes will be in place.
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, said: “It is fantastic to finally say that the first COVID-19 vaccine has been given the green light. We know now that we have a safe and effective vaccine for use across the UK – this is the positive news I and so many across the country have been waiting for.
“All our NHS organisations across Wales have embraced the challenge presented to them and are at the advanced stages of planning for the arrival of a vaccine. We have tested distribution and storage arrangements to ensure we can get vaccine safely to every part of Wales.
“There’s still a few stages we need to work through but once all these safeguards are in place, vaccination can begin. There will only be relatively small amounts of the vaccine at first, those who have been advised as most needing the vaccine first, through approved delivery mechanisms. A full announcement around the timetable for roll-out in Wales will follow in the next few days.”
The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “Today’s news is a small glimmer of light at the end of what has been a long and dark tunnel.
“We know some people within our communities are much more at risk than others from the serious complications of COVID-19, which is why the new vaccine is being prioritised to protect them first.
“Whilst these first doses are given at fixed sites and occupational settings, and to protect our NHS and social care services, we must all continue to do our bit to prevent the spread of coronavirus: regular hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a face covering where required to protect yourself and others.”
Andrew RT Davies MS – the Shadow Minister for Health said: “This is positive news in the battle against Covid but, as ever, the devil is in the detail of delivery.
“And so, today the Health Minister must today address a number of vital issues including:
- The ability of NHS Wales to start the vaccination process and when this will happen
- How many doses will be available to Wales in the first tranche and how they will be distributed
- Who the first recipients will be
- How, when other vaccines become available, NHS Wales will cope with the different procedures
“It will also require a strong public health campaign around take up of the vaccine.
“The people of Wales need this information to give them some confidence in how the programme will be handled here.”
Mr Davies’ remarks allude to one substantial issue regarding the vaccine’s distribution.
Both Wales and Scotland have a higher proportion of their respective populations in vulnerable groups. However, thus far, the UK Government has targeted Covid support on a per-head basis and not by need.
Vice-chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Programme Board, Richard Roberts from Public Health Wales, said: “It is a significant achievement that only 9 months after WHO announced the global pandemic that we now have the first safe and effective vaccine available for use in Wales, and other vaccines to follow.
“Everyone has been preparing for months to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine programme, and it is very exciting that we will be able to begin, once the final steps have been put in place so that the programme can be delivered safely.”
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