The Stig talks F1, Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson

“I had a pretty unusual career,” says Perry McCarthy, best known for his short stint in Formula One and as the original Stig on BBC’s Top Gear.

Once dubbed “the world’s unluckiest F1 driver,” McCarthy once said in an interview that “Dick Dastardly had more luck than me” after a motorsport career involving thrills and more than a few spills.

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A 21st birthday to remember for Hallam Amos

12.11.13 - Wales Rugby Training - Hallam Amos during training. © Huw Evans Picture Agency

Hallam Amos during training
© Huw Evans Picture Agency

Hallam Amos has plenty of cause for celebration at the moment.

Not only has he been called up for the Wales starting lineup for Wales’ World Cup game against England, but today he celebrates his 21st birthday.

The former Monmouth school student was called up instead of struggling Alex Cuthbert for the Group A clash, and will be looking to build on previous good performances in the red shirt after scoring his first World Cup try last Saturday against Uruguay.

Headmaster of Monmouth School, Dr Andrew Daniel, said: “As Monmouth School’s new headmaster – and a dedicated rugby fan – I was immensely proud and excited to see three former pupils so heavily involved in the opening weekend of the Rugby World Cup in Cardiff.

“Not only is Hallam Amos a diligent medical student, he’s now also scoring tries for his country.

“Watching Wayne Barnes at work during the Argentina vs New Zealand match, it’s no surprise I’ve heard him described as one of the game’s finest referees.

“And who can fail to recognise the authoritative voice of former Wales rugby captain Eddie Butler commentating on the matches, keeping us all on the edge of our seats?

“Their brilliant contributions helped to make the event’s dramatic opening particularly thrilling for us in Monmouth.

“I can’t wait to see what they do next.”

Meanwhile, there are also starts for Exeter tighthead prop Tomas Francis and Wasps lock Bradley Davies, and Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams are Wales’ centre pair.

And Wales head coach Warren Gatland is relishing the weekend’s battle, as his side look to progress from the ‘group of death.’

“Saturday is a huge occasion for both teams and for the tournament and we are really looking forward to it,” he said.

“Both sides kicked their tournament off with a bonus-point win but we know we will need to step up at Twickenham on Saturday.”

Wales: Liam Williams, George North, Scott Williams, Jamie Roberts, Hallam Amos, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies, Gethin Jenkins, Scott Baldwin, Tomas Francis, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (Capt), Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Ken Owens, Aaron Jarvis, Samson Lee, Luke Charteris, Justin Tipuric, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Priestland, Alex Cuthbert.

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Castell Roc kicks off in ground of Chepstow Castle

This Thursday sees the start of the two week long “Castell Roc Festival” that is held within the stunning historic arena at Chepstow Castle. After the fabulous show held in 2014 this long awaited Event is a major attraction for the Town and County as thousands flock to see the big names hitting the big stage.

Former Casualty and Hollyoaks star James Redmond will be performing stand-up comedy on Thursday

Former Casualty and Hollyoaks star James Redmond will be performing stand-up comedy on Thursday

The Festival has been nationally recognised and “relaxed and chilled” and provides some excellent entertainment that is usually not seen outside of National Theatres or Concert venues. From major touring Artiste’s to Chart hitting stars to West End shows, the Festival has something for everyone all very neatly wrapped up in what must be one of the most beautiful open air venues in the UK.

We are highlighting the shows on offer this week as Castell Roc kicks off with some style.
Thursday sees a totally free Event. “The Big-C Charity Bash” has free entry with donations taken throughout the evening for Marie Curie Cancer Care. This Cider & hog roast themed night will include performances from two bands, a female vocal diva, a collection of four community choirs, comedy from James Redmond (from BBC’s hit drama Casualty) and finishing the night with a party will be Big Mac’s Wholly Soul Band. The Event is un-ticketed so it is simply a case of arrive and enjoy, but with entry limited to the fits 1500 we advise readers to be early to avoid disappointment.

Friday sees a switch of pace as three of the Uk’s finest rock tributes storming the Castle. “Monsters Of Roc” reminds us of the heady days of the massive rock concerts held in the late 80’s. The show will include high octane performances from ‘Hells Bells’, ‘The ZZTops’ and ‘Letz Zep’. These bands have a fabulous reputation for their dynamic shows and with a plethora of rock tunes blasting out in will be a classic trip down memory lane, just have your air guitars at the ready.

Saturday is a chance to see the hitmakers of the Mod and Ska era. Bruce Foxton’s ‘From The Jam’ and Buster Bloodvessel’s ‘Bad Manners’ will be taking to the stage in this double headed one off spectacular. Expect hit after hit as these two heavyweights come together for a night of pure “Mod:Ska Gold”. Bruce Foxton who with Paul Weller knocked up some of the finest tunes of the 70’s & 80’s with ‘The Jam’ such as Eton Rifles, Going Underground & Town Calles Malice joined with the 80’s stars ‘Bad Manners’ with their Special Brew, Lip Up Fatty & Can Can, the night is sure to be a corker.

The Simon and Garfunkel story will be appearing on Sunday night

The Simon and Garfunkel story will be appearing on Sunday night- straight off the back of their West End show

Sunday sees a calmer night with the chance to experience the story of the American duo that became one of the most revered recording Artiste’s off all time. “The Simon & Garfunkel Story” arrives at Chepstow direct from London’s West End and a sold-out UK Tour and consists of a collaboration of projection photos and film footage blended with a full live band. It’s a fabulous trip down memory lane, told in a wonderful way. Described as “Fantastic” by BBC Radio 2 & “Authentic & exciting” by The Stage magazine and including all the hits such as Mrs Robinson, Cecelia, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Homeward Bound, we can’t think of a nicer way to spend a Sunday summers evening.

All shows commence open at approximately 6:30 and for those that haven’t already bought tickets a limited number will be on-sale at the gate.

Next week, we’ll have a review of this week’s shows and details of the Festivals second week.

Full details of all the shows are available at

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Top tips for picnicking in Monmouthshire

FE bbq picnic

Not only does June mark the beginning of the British summertime, but its warmer weather and longer evenings also create the perfect conditions for a leisurely picnic with friends and loved ones.

Monmouthshire is blessed with an abundance of breathtaking views, unspoilt countryside and historical landmarks. Wherever you are in the county, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to local picnic spots. As the saying goes, it’s all about location, location, location! Oh, and a hamper full of great food and good company helps too, of course.

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Spice up your BBQ: Chicken Tikka Kebabs

SpICED by RayeesaBarbeque season is here and there is nothing better than inviting a few friends around for an outdoor feast.

This weekend, do something different (but ridiculously easy) by spicing up your chicken with a tasty Indian marinade sauce. Either make the sauce yourself or use one by SpICED

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Jersey Boys at Bristol Hipprodrome

Jersey Boys

When the house lights are on, the cast has gone, and the stage curtain’s down, it’s usually a sign that the show’s over.

But those who crowded into Bristol’s Hippodrome last night weren’t happy about that.

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Perfect Pesto Gnocchi

This filler upper of a dish will leave you fuller longer and looks as good as it tastes. The best thing is it takes less than 10 minutes to prepare so it’s ideal for a quick after work fix.

You will need (based on 2 servings):
500g of Gnocchi
1 Garlic clove
4 tbsp Olive oil
2 tbsp Roughly chopped nuts (either the pine or cashew variety)
Half a handful of parsley (chopped)
Half a handful of chives (snipped)
Juice of a lemon
Salt & Pepper to season

1. First things first, put the kettle on.
2. As the kettle boils roughly chop your nuts and parsley add to a mixing bowl and snip in your chives while you’re at it.
3. Add some finely chopped garlic (I used 1 whole clove but I could probably have made vampires eyes smart from ten feet afterwards, if you don’t mind a bit of waste then half a clove is quite enough).
4. If the kettle is boiled add the boiling water to a pan, wait to reach boiling point again and add the Gnocchi.
5. Add the oil and as much grated Parmesan to your pesto mix as you like and do the same with the lemon juice.
6. Season with a dash of salt and pepper and mix well, if the pesto is a little thick then add a few drops of water.
7. After the Gnocchi has been on the go for 2 minutes take it off the hob and drain. Add the cooked Gnocchi to the pesto and serve. Yum!!

I would have added a photo with this article but it looked so good I had to eat it straight away.

PS – if you’re not a dab hand with a knife then consider using a mini whizzy chopper contraption. You can pick them up pretty cheaply and it will change your life!

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Only Men Aloud: On the Road


What a treat was in store for visitors of Monmouth’s Savoy theatre last Friday night (15th May) as Only Men Aloud visited town as part of their latest On the Road tour.

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Newport tattooing and piercing update

Around 400 clients who used a piercing and tattoo studio in Newport have attended appointments for precautionary health checks.

Concerns were raised after five people with serious skin infections were identified as having had a piercing carried out at the premises. The individuals were all treated as hospital in-patients.

The confirmed cases of skin infection could also indicate a low risk of transmission of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C and an extremely low risk of HIV transmission for all clients of these premises.

A simple blood test to check for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV has been offered to clients that were pierced or had a tattoo at either premise.

Letters were sent to 550 clients identified from records offering a precautionary blood test.

Molly Ormond is 17, and has received a letter “I went in and had a piercing last year then last week I had a letter asking me to come in for a blood test.

I was worried when I received the letter, obviously that’s natural when you think you may have one of these diseases. It is easy to panic but I just thought I needed to be sensible about it. It’s obviously for precaution so I rang and made my appointment and went in for my test. The test was really good, very quick and very easy, I felt very comfortable.

I would re-think about having piercings again because there is always a risk you could get an infection. For me personally it’s not worth everything that myself and everyone else are going through at the moment. It is so worrying.”

Director of Public Health at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, Dr Gill Richardson said “As people have been calling in to make appointments or calling our advice line, some of them have told us that they were admitted to hospital and we are now connecting these cases.

We now know that there are 9 people that had a skin infection, all of whom were admitted to in-patients, one of those was in fact hospitalised for three weeks.”

We have written to everyone whose records we have and anticipate there will be many more people who used these premises.

So far we’ve received around 345 general telephone enquiries. Of the 400 tested so far we know that about 60% of those received letters and 40% from those who we hadn’t yet identified. We’re really asking if people think they have been affected by this please come forward and call the helpline.

If people have missed their appointment or not made it to the clinic for any reason please recall the helpline no questions asked we will re-book you a new appointment” she said.

Heather Lewis, Consultant in Health Protection for Public Health Wales, said: “We are delighted with the response so far to our call for people to come forward for testing. This response is a credit to the hard work of professional NHS staff at clinics and on helplines. They are ready to help and to listen, and the blood test they are offering is quick and easy. It could really help to put minds at rest if people are worried.

“If you think you had a tattoo or a piercing at the shop in question, or if you have missed an appointment at one of our helpful clinics, please call 02920 402528 to speak to a member of our staff who can help you.”


Councillor Bob Poole, Newport City Council’s cabinet member for licensing and statutory functions, said: “As a council, we support the call for tighter regulation of the tattooing and piercing industry.

“The powers local authorities have under the current legislation are extremely limited. For example, while applications to register both premises and practitioners have to be made to councils, they can only refuse a registration if they are aware a previous registration has been cancelled by order of the court.

“They are unable to carry out background checks, there is no statutory inspection regime and they do not have to power to close premises or stop someone trading completely – only a court can do that following a successful prosecution.

“While there can never be guarantees that such invasive procedures would be completely risk free; more stringent control measures along with age limits for piercing and compulsory training and qualification standards would give greater protection to the public.”

Dr Gill Richardson added “In the UK as a whole the laws around tattooing and piercing are inadequate. Ethical tattooists and piercers are actually calling for better regulations themselves, because they realise there is no protection for themselves or for their clients.

At the moment if you go to buy a sandwich you get a ‘score on the door’ for hygiene but there is nothing for tattooing and piercing premises. Someone could be working in a factory today, buy a kit online tonight and start tattooing and piercing by tomorrow morning, as there is no compulsory training or testing of ability or hygiene knowledge. There is simply not enough safeguards for the public surrounding these invasive procedures.”

Heather Lewis, Consultant in Health Protection for Public Health Wales, said: “This incident is a stark warning that there needs to be significant change to the law around tattooing and piercing in Wales, and across the UK. Many tattoo and piercing establishments currently observe good infection control procedures, but some do not. At present it is impossible for consumers to know with certainty which establishments are safe.

“Because current regulation is insufficient, we cannot assure the public that they are going into a secure environment if they decide to get a piercing or a tattoo. Until there are proper standards in place supported by training and accreditation, and underpinned by a proper system of inspection and enforcement, there will be no way of protecting the public from harm.”

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General Election 2015: a reflection – by Laura Watkins

Another election campaign over, and as the dust settles on what has probably been one of the most turbulent General Elections in my lifetime, my mind focuses on our country.

Regardless of the result later tonight, it has been a proud few months for democracy.

Britain has seen fairly big changes in political opinion, from the rise of UKIP to the Scottish Referendum and the challenge of the traditional Labour/Conservative dichotomy.

The recent mass engagement in politics, particularly among young people, has filled me with a growing confidence that we still value our democratic society.

My Facebook and Twitter feed has been awash with people talking about the election stating who they will vote for and, equally, who they wouldn’t dream of voting for.

As with every election, I’m incredibly grateful for the huge price women paid for me to be granted the vote. The rise of the Suffragette and Suffragist movements showed the eagerness and the desire women had to receive a voice. Their voice and need to be heard was so crucially important that they put their bodies, families and even lives on the line for what they believed.

I’m so grateful to these women, they not only gave me the right to have a say in who I want to run our country, but their spark was instrumental in igniting the Britain we live in today. I’m incredibly happy that I can work and don’t have to leave my job when I get married, I’m pleased that I have the same opportunities as men and I’m grateful I’ve never felt held back or discriminated because of my gender.

Undoubtedly we still have a long way to go for total equality but we have surely progressed a long way.

If you haven’t voted yet, then please do. Research what the parties stand for and who you would like to run the country. Don’t be swayed by public opinion. Get out there and make your mark, a mark for democracy.

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