PONTYPOOL RETIRED MEN'S SOCIETY: As we arrive at the half-term mark, it is good to look back at another period of enjoyable meetings.

Over the years it has become a habit that we start and finish the term with one of Brian Jones' clever quizzes.

At these there is a large amount of banter between the various teams and the winners on this occasion were Allan Swales (captain), Cyril Daley, Mike Donoghue, Ron Kilby, Ron Arthur, Jim Price and David Lawler.

On the occasion of the previous quiz, the winning team was Keith Heare (captain), Roy Lewis, Brian Harris, Robert Lewis, Chris Antoine and Mike Donoghue.

Another of our members, Ray Westlake, was due to give us a talk on the following Tuesday, but unfortunately he had an unexpected hospital appointment and was unable to attend.

Luckily we had a more than adequate substitute in Don Calway, who stepped in at the last moment and gave a very interesting talk under the title of "1954 and All That."

Don lived in Bristol during the war, and therefore suffered more from the German bombing than we did in this part of the world.

He reminded us that 1954 was the time of the Comet disasters and National Service, which he suffered from.

He was posted to Korea, but was switched to Malaya, where he found himself fighting students who were protesting about having to do National Service.

Most of the British troops were National Servicemen themselves and wanted nothing of this fighting.

A local historian, John Evans, then gave a very interesting, and unique, talk about Nathaniel Wells, who had been the Sheriff of Monmouthshire way back.

His talk was so full of facts that it must have taken him ages to research.

It seems that Nathaniel was a slave, who was never really released, and yet he became the only coloured Sheriff of Monmouthshire.

John Applegate was the next speaker to regale us, and he talked about the history of mining, particularly in this area, and he brought along a large number of pieces of equipment to demonstrate how times had changed in underground work.

It seemed that there was little or no regard paid to the safety of the workers in the early days. It was just pot luck whether they survived or not. They were certainly expendable.

The Davey lamp, of which John had many examples, was the first concession to thoughts of counteracting the effects of methane gas.

By way of a complete change, Geoffrey Mien brought along a number of slides of photographs taken from the air, which clearly showed the remains of buildings in the Monmouthshire area, some of them going right back to Roman times.

It was odd to see so clearly the outlines of these ancient forts and villas, yet knowing that nothing could be observed from ground level.

The last speaker for the first part of the year was a local favourite, Frank Smith, who talked about his long life in the Gwent and Metropolitan Police Forces.

He rose to the exalted rank of Superintendent, and he still lives in New Inn and played rugby, and more memorably, was a referee in this locality.

He found a number of old friends among his audience. He approached his subject from a humorous point of view and pointed out that even in death, funny things do occur.

On each occasion a vote of thanks was proposed to the speaker by one of our two Speaker Secretaries', Tony Banner and Simon Jackson.

In the second half of the spring term, the first speaker will be Jane Lamper, who will talk about the Prudential.

Then Ray Westlake has arranged an unusual morning, in that he has invited a few members to give a short talk on any subject of their choice.

He tells me that he had more volunteers than he needed, and members are looking forward to the experiment with some anticipation.

Then comes the return of Alex Gibbon, with part two of his talk on the Night Sky, and then Steve Hodgetts will discuss Cardiff Airport, Its History and Its Future.

As usual, the term will finish with another enjoyable quiz, set and conducted by Brian Jones, after which members will meet at the Conserva-tive Club in Osborne Road for what is now their traditional buffet.

THE LOVELY SPRING FLOWERS: I suppose that it must have something to do with global warming or the carbon footprint, or whatever is the latest reason some scientist has thought up somewhere or other.

No matter what the cause, it is a fact that plants are flowering much earlier nowadays than they used to do.

It was always a wish of my brother, Eric, that he should be able to pick a bunch of daffodils to celebrate St David's Day, the first of March.

It never did occur, but this year the daffs have been in strong flower in January.

There really has been, and still is, a most wonderful show at Hafodyrynys. They must be an early flowering variety.

A dry stone wall was built on the main road, and the daffs were planted alongside it. They have been in full bloom for some three or four weeks now, and still look as strong as ever.

Further down the road, near where the pit used to be, there are hundreds more just waiting to burst into flower. These must be of the normal flowering date variety. They will really look wonderful on the roadside when they do come into bloom.

While talking about the loveliness of flowers, can I suggest that when you are next going through town, you really should take your eyes off the pavement and have a good look up at the hanging baskets that are now throughout the town centre.

Whether this is another effect of global warming, or rather good tending by the council's gardening section, I do not pretend to know, but the condition of the flowers, particularly the pansies, in the baskets really is superb.

Congratulations to the persons responsible, as just a couple of years ago the flowers, even when first planted, looked scrawny and I had my doubts as to whether they were being watered regularly. The transformation really is astounding.

Incidentally, when you walk through town, do not look too closely at the bus shelters that take you down the valley, as most of the glass sheets in the front of one have been smashed.

It really does leave them looking awful, but then I suppose that is the object of those people who carry out the vandalism.

AN ENJOYABLE EVENING AND ALL FOR A GOOD CAUSE: On a recent Saturday evening, six of us went to the Millennium Hall in Garndiffaith for what was described as a Social Evening'.

All proceeds were in aid of BLAST, the Blaenavon Leisure and Swimming Troubleshooters, an organisation that was set up to fight against the closure of the Blaenavon swimming baths, after the roof had been damaged during a storm.

That was when Torfaen County Borough Council decided it was a good opportunity to knock the whole building down and build a school there.

According to the newspaper reports that I read, BLAST put up a spirited resistance to the closure, but, as with most matters nowadays, money talked and no way did they have the cash to go to court to face down the council.

Although the building has been demolished, they are still fundraising to try to get a new swimming pool, because, at the moment, Blaenavon people have to travel to Pontypool for a swim.

The group have decided to continue the fight to get new swimming facilities with the £20,000 balance that they now hold, and are in consultation with their solicitor to decide the next stage of their activities.

A representative of the charity, Brian Whitcombe, gave a short speech thanking everyone for helping to make it such a success, and setting out the objectives of BLAST.

The hall was quite full and at just £3.00 a ticket, for entertainment and a ploughman's lunch, it was a real bargain.

The evening started with sequence dancing, introduced and led by the MCs for the event, Chris and Warren Hindmarsh.

A number of us were very pleased that the dances that they put on were of the older variety, that everyone knew and could join in.

After a couple of dances, Chris and Warren introduced a game where a bottle of whisky was placed in the middle of the floor and guests were encouraged to roll up their ten and twenty pence pieces, with the winner being the one whose coin was nearest to the bottle.

I stood up to have the first go. My one ten pence sailed past the bottle and did not stop until it hit the stage about five yards past.

My second nestled quite close to the whisky, and despite the efforts of everyone else in the room, it proved to be the nearest, so I went home with a posh bottle of whisky.

The game was enjoyed by everyone, and with a raffle with plenty of prizes, proved a nice source of income for the charity.

Then a few more dances and the ploughman's lunch was served up. It really was worth waiting for. There was a choice of ham or cheese as the main constituent, with every sort of side dishes laid on, including a roll and butter.

After the helpers had cleared everything away, the MCs put a few more familiar dances on and then another game of fun.

A bottle of champagne was the prize on this occasion, and was placed in the centre of the room.

When the music stopped the dancers split up into four teams, one in each of the corners. They were then given lemons to roll up to the bottle.

It may sound easy to you, but there is no telling where the knobs on the ends of the lemon might take it.

There was a lot of good-natured banter between the teams before finally a winner was declared.

Some more dancing, and all this added to a well stocked bar at reasonable prices, meant everyone had a thoroughly enjoyable evening at little cost.

Best of all, was the fact that £200 was raised from that event for the BLAST charity.

COFFEE MORNING: The Committee of the Aneurin Bevan Court Residents Association have arranged a coffee morning, to be held at the Red Cross building in Bridge Street. This is to take place on Wednesday, March 12, starting at 10.30am. There will be a bric-a-brac stall.

This is one of a number of such events that they have held over the years to raise funds for the Association.

They have agreed to use Fairtrade products. This is intended in a small way to support Fairtrade, which exists to ensure that their tea and coffee is not cultivated and processed by children working under bad conditions.

Their products are being stocked more and more in the large supermarkets.

Everyone has heard of Fairtrade, as far as tea and coffee are concerned, and know that they have been produced in a civilised way, and on occasions, I have also heard someone talk about Fairtrade Holidays, but I have been unable to find out anything further.

In fact, everyone I mention it to looks at me blankly.