“THE trouble with kids* today, eh?”
How often do we hear people tut-tutting and complaining about the younger generation?
Quite often, I guess, when you see random ‘feral’ gangs hanging around street corners.
But it is worth reminding ourselves that the vapers and alcopop-swiggers are a minority.
Most children today are polite, respectful and a credit to their parents and schoolteachers.
There was ample evidence of this fact at a public speaking competition held in Llanelli this week.
Children, as young as 12 and no older than 16, took part in the annual Rotary Youth Speaks competition.
The competition starts with club-level heats, building up to area, district and then national finals.
The competitors in the Llanelli Rotary Club competition were bidding to take the first steps in following the example set by three pupils from Carmarthen’s QE High School, who won the national final last year.
Violet Lloyd, Anna Duffy and Holly Whittal-Williams were the Senior team winners in the final of the Rotary Great Britain and Ireland Youth Speaks Competition, which took place in Rugby, Warwickshire.
In the main hall of Llanelli’s St John Lloyd Catholic Comprehensive School on Tuesday night, the opening debates in the club-level competition tackled some thought-provoking subjects.
Is Net Zero a curse?
Is space exploration a worthy investment?
Is homework an unnecessary burden on today’s youth?
Should we try and actively limit the population of the planet?
They were topics which would leave some seasoned politicians struggling, but the youngsters debated the pros and cons of the subjects in timed 15-minute sessions.
In some cases, the pupils gave their arguments For and Against without any notes – and with little sign of public speaking nerves.
And, if that wasn’t enough of a test, they had to field a random ‘audience question’, thinking on their feet to deliver a response.
At the age of 12, I could barely deliver a coherent thought at the family dinner table, let alone to a large audience.
So, like many others in the audience at St John Lloyd School, I was filled with admiration for the way the youngsters conducted themselves.
In an age when some people are quick to condemn youngsters for being products of the Playstation and iPhone Age, it was a tonic to see how the pupils had researched their arguments, carefully tip-toeing around the traps of ‘Fake News’ to produce sensible opinions around their chosen subjects.
The ambition of the Rotary competition is to help pupils build self-confidence and develop public speaking skills.
On the evidence of Tuesday evening, that’s two ticks in the success column.
There’s also a third tick as the youngsters taught this old hack a few tricks about public speaking!
* I had to wrestle long and hard about the use of the word kids in the opening sentence of this column. As a young ‘indentured’ trainee/cub reporter, I was always instructed to avoid the word.
“Kids,” my first editor always shouted at me, “are young goats, boy, not children! On this newspaper, we use the word children, not kids!”
THE departure of the great JPR Williams from the field of play came as a shock to all who loved and admired the ‘hard as nails’ Welsh rugby full-back.
There are those of us who grew up as teenagers in the 1970s, looking up to JPR and the great Welsh Grand Slam players as sporting idols.
For many years, JPR kept a holiday caravan at Hillend next to Llangennith Beach, Gower.
The sight of JPR chilling out with a relaxing jog along the beach was one which stirred the memory banks, conjuring up flashback images of the No15 in his pomp – flowing hair, sideburns and rolled down socks, bursting through defences and then chasing back in time to deliver bone-crunching tackles.
In your head, of course, all those JPR memories are accompanied by the soundtrack of a commentary by the great Bill McLaren.
Those were the days, eh? Rugby’s golden age.
In the JPR hit parade, who could forget that steam train shoulder charge of French wing Jean-François Gourdon in 1976?
Who could say they weren’t left furious by the incident which left JPR looking like ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ after being stamped on by a New Zealand prop while playing for Bridgend against the All Blacks in 1978?
And who is ever likely to forget the two brilliant tries he scored against England in 1976?
In 1972, in the epic 35-12 defeat of Scotland in Cardiff, JPR was forced to leave the field with a fractured jaw.
A friend, who shared a birthday with JPR, swears that after the match a ‘repaired’ full-back turned up for post-match drinks at The Angel Hotel in Cardiff. I, for one, will happily believe that story.
As a full-back, JPR was . . . well . . .simply colossal.
That he should be taken from us by something as random as bacterial meningitis (annual incidence in the UK being 1 in 100,000) is particularly cruel.
It is, however, a sharp reminder that the Grim Reaper stalks us all.