Cadno and the nightmare on Emlyn's Street
Mark James CeeBeeBies ™ is a man on a mission. Having blown public money at the Princess Royal Stadium and Parc Y Scarlets, he has now decided that his next wheeze will involve mugs from the private sector soaking up the pain of failure at Delta Lakes.
Although, and let's face it, given Marky-Mark's way with investing gargantuan sums of public dosh in pale pachyderms it would take a small miracle for the public not to end up paying out if the great swamp proves a money pit.
But let's all try to be positive.
Maryl Gravell has returned like a boomerang kebab on a Friday night in Llanelli town centre to lend the imprimatur of her own spotless reputation on doling out public money to the Llanelli Wellness Thingummy.
With Meryl the Peril back on board we cannot help but wait for the excitement to start. There will be exciting announcements of exciting news and exciting sums of money being spent on exciting things, some of which could turn out to be excitingly real, for a change.
You can imagine, readers, there was Emlyn, fast asleep one morning at Capel Ifan's own Rancho Grande when the phone rings. A half-awake council leader stumbles out of bed and wanders to the kitchen - stops to pour himself a cup of ambition - and answers the ringing phone.
It's Mark James.
Quickly Emlyn stands to attention and salutes, dinging himself with the receiver in the process.
"It's good news Leader"
For the sake of clarity, Cadno points out Mark James is the speaker of the last sentence.
A visibly relieved Emlyn genuflects.
"It's Meryl Gravell."
Emlyn puts on his sombre face and begins the touching eulogy he has prepared for such an occasssion.
"No Emlyn, Meryl's back. And this time it's Wellness."
An ashen Cllr Dole stares unbelievingly at the handset mouthing like a stranded trout. He feels one of his headaches starting; one of the ones that end with him sitting in the corner of the kitchen with a cup of cocoa, armed with a sand wedge to repel boarders and keep the voices at bay.
"Meryl!?" He eventually croaks into the handset. Through the earpiece, he can hear Mark James whistling 'Happy Talk' from South Pacific.
"Yes, Emlyn. Meryl. Please try to keep up. She's a director of the company we're entering into a partnership with to build the Wellness Centre, Life Sciences Centre, Wellness Village, Wellness Resort Hotel, Wellness Golf Course, and Wellness Sheltered Housing complex for discrete and well-off gentlefolk who don't want to end up living in a cardboard box on Station Road in their declining years."
Attempting vainly to recover his equilibrium, the Council Leader murmurs the words 'Leisure Centre'.
The narked voice at the other end of the line snaps back, "Well if we must, Emlyn. But we're talking about big money here. Hundreds of millions pumped into Delta Lakes. I'm sure we can manage to squeeze in a ping pong table and paddling pool to keep the locals on side. After all, they'll need something to do in their lunchbreaks after a hard morning on minimum wage with a dustpan and brush or serving coffees in the Wellness Coffee Shop attached to the Wellness Conference Centre."
"But Meryl?!" A faint plaintive note enters Cllr Dole's voice.
"Look she was at a loose end having had the Shitty Deal gig go south when Cardiff Bay decided that she and the other mugs who fronted the deal were disposable. But look on the bright side, with Meryl on board everyone will be excited. I'm excited, Meryl's excited, it'll stop you having to bear the burden of the blame if it all goes tits up, too"
Emlyn cannot help himself; "Blame? Tits?"
"Listen Emlyn, this is my last big chance to enter the annals of public finance and local government as the man who delivered three whopping disasters without getting sacked.
I've been dreaming of completing the hat-trick in order to cement my position as the man to whom the Welsh Government will be able to turn to head the Assembly Commission when the time is right. I can't risk a success. It'll go against the best traditions of local government in Wales and could ruin my legacy. It's notoriety that counts, not competence. A word in the right ear was all it took and Fanny's your aunt, Meryl is back."
"I don't understand. Are we planning to fail?" A desperate Emlyn clutches to the prospect of disaster like it was a life preserver.
"This is Carmarthenshire, Emlyn!"
The exasperated tone with which the Council Leader is familiar is in CeeBeeBies' voice; "For goodness' sake, if we succeed every other county council will think it can succeed. We can't let down Cardiff Bay by allowing that. Remember what the City Deal is for; it's to ensure that when ill-costed, poorly thought out projects fail, the Welsh Government can pass the buck. They pass the buck to us, we pass the buck to Meryl. It's a win for us no matter what happens."
"Winning?" A faint note of hope enters Emlyn dole's voice and he sits down on a kitchen stool by the breakfast bar to steady himself.
"Yes, winning Emlyn. Everyone's a winner. Well, apart from Llanelli of course. They'll be left with a rotting building site around a leisure centre slowly sinking into the water."
Emlyn brightens up; "You mean Llanelli loses?"
A hollow chuckle comes down the other end of the line; "Oh yes Emlyn. That'll teach the ungrateful bastards."
There's a click and a whirr, the audience is over. Emlyn's world begins to spin with the possibilities. He begins to feel dizzy. Everything goes black.
He wakes up to the sound of ringing. I's the phone in the kitchen.
A half-awake council leader stumbles out of bed and answers it.
It's Mark James.
"It's Meryl Gravell, Leader."
Emlyn puts on his sombre face and begins the touching eulogy he has prepared for such an occasion.
"No, Emlyn. Meryl's back. Back again."
Emlyn swallows and feels rising dread.
It all seems so familiar...is there no end to this nightmare?
He looks around for his sand wedge. The voices are coming again....
(From The Carmarthenshire Herald, 21st July 2018, reproduced with permission as currently in print ony)
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