Look you
Previously: Sep to Dec '07

 

MONDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2007
ALWAYS
LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE

SURREAL MOMENT OF THE YEAR: If I’m in the house early morning I’ll have Wogan on. He’s currently away over the holiday period and Richard Hammond is deputising. Now the Hamster’s okay, but he’s not my cup of early morning tea. Anyway, this very morning I switch on Radio 2 and I’m surprised to hear the voice of Richard Allinson – another who doesn’t quite touch my H-spot (the Hallelujah Trail spot, that is) - so I decide to have a quick trawl through the satellite radio stations. Now my Sky box is connected directly to the music centre, so I don’t need the TV on – except when I’m zap-a-dee-dooing through the stations. I switch on the TV, and you know the Sky information banner that goes across the bottom of the screen, well, it says this about Radio 2: Richard Allinson sits in for Richard Hammond (who sits in for Terry Wogan). I’ve added that bit in brackets - but how odd. What on earth has happened to the Hamster? Has he been given his cards? Or, God forbid, has he had another prang doing something he’s wholly unqualified to do? Or worst, fallen off his treadwheel?

Last time I told the tale of the home for stray pub glasses I founded, oh, many moons ago now. Well, a little postscript. Boxing Day is probably Llandeilo’s busiest day of the year. The annual hunt gathers from early morning for “Tally ho!” at circa 1100hrs. Despite the hunting ban it’s as popular an event as ever. Last year some 70-odd horses set off, this year not quite as many so I understand, but it still draws the crowds, the day becoming a social event, the pubs heaving for most of the day. Here are some images captured just before the off. The hunting crowd clearly start ‘em young.

Anyway, the morning after Boxing Day I fetch the papers – and of course the town is littered with rubbish and glasses, most of which are plastic, which the busier pubs use when hectic, especially those that attract the younger set. Along my extended circuit around town I still find 9 proper glasses: 5 pints, 3 G&Ts – and one of those dumpy, thick, heavy whisky glasses, the sort you don’t normally find in pubs, except where they’re kept for certain regular, favourite customers – yes, they definitely add a certain satisfaction feature when you sup. But the odd thing is, my eagle-eye spots this particular glass resting under the wheel of a vehicle. Now since I began collecting glasses, I can sniff ‘em out, often from under vehicle wheels. The first time I found one I took it that the pint glass had simply rolled in front of the tyre; the second was a half-pint, what I call the G&T glass, and it had been smashed and jammed under a wheel; this most recent, dumpy one was again propped up against the tyre, but not jammed tight. It generates a little frisson that I’ve both saved someone a nasty and deflating experience - and occasionally recycled a glass into the bargain.

MEMORABLE QUOTES: “The atmosphere is so tense, if Elvis walked in with a portion of chips, you could hear the vinegar sizzle on them.” Sky TV’s legendary and highly quotable darts commentator Sid Waddell. And of course there’s the ever reliable Duke of Edinburgh. At the Royal Variety Performance in Liverpool, Stephen K Amos joked that the BBC had a “one in, one out” policy for black comics, so Lenny Henry had to die. Later, he was overheard meeting Prince Philip: “You’re the fellow who wants to kill Lenny Henry,” said the Duke, deadpan. “It can be arranged.” Ouch! I’d love to know what a certain individual made of that. And I don’t mean Lenny Henry.

A SUPERIOR CHRISTMAS CRACKER: “The doctor asked how old I was and I said: 'I’m approaching 50.' He said: 'From which direction?'” Ken Dodd, entertainer. By chance over the holiday period, I caught part of a TV documentary about the man. Doddy told this very smiley story about meeting a lady who’d had 8 children over a period of just 10 years. “Stand up and take a bow,” he told her when they met. “On second thoughts, sit down and take a rest. Eight children, eh?” he pondered. “They should stitch up that hole in your pyjamas – you know what they say – a stitch in time......” I’m reminded of chatting to a friendly lady on a train who tells me she has 18 children – 9 sets of twins! “Wel-i-jiw-jiw,” said I, “you mean you’ve had twins every time?” “Oh no,” she responds, deadpan. “Thousands of time I had nothing at all.”

BEST AD EVER: The Cadbury’s chocolate ad featuring the gorilla. Now there’s been many memorable ads down the years, but what sets this one apart for me is that, just like the definitive events of history, I can remember precisely where I was and what I was watching when I first saw it. As soon as the ads appear I’m a zap-adee-doo-da person. Off I go, and of course I’m duly distracted, and by the time I get back to where I was I’ve missed some of the programme I was watching. D’oh! Anyway, the gorilla: the Rugby World Cup had begun, so I abandoned my zapping, and suddenly there was this gorilla. What is it, I remember thinking? Eyes shut, intense contemplation, deep breathing - is it for real? Then the music starts: "I can feel it coming in the air tonight......" The camera moves in close again - and there's that curl of the lip. As the ad unfolds it becomes obvious it’s someone inside a very clever gorilla suit – I love the detail, like the fine hair up its nose (I presume it’s a he), massaging the head and shoulders, the camera pans back to reveal - a drumkit! – and then off he goes, wham, bam, thank you mam. Oh yes, I love the crafty earpiece. A truly smiley ad. A glass and a half full of joy indeed.

I said ‘he’ because just recently I learnt that middle-aged men with unfulfilled dreams of rock stardom are driving record sales of drumkits. Some celebrity names were listed, one of which was Jeremy Clarkson, 47, Top Gear presenter, newspaper columnist and author. Thank God the BBC doesn’t do ads otherwise I might get really confused watching Top Gear as to whether I'm seeing an item on the show or an ad for Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate.

Talking of Top Gear, over the holidays I also caught one of those delightfully surreal moments that linger in the mind’s eye. The Top Gear team visit Spain to test-drive some new, rather flash motors. Waiting in the wings is the STIG who's about to put the cars through their paces. In the meantime he’s relaxing at the hotel’s pool. At last, we’ll see who he actually is. But there he is on a Lilo, in the middle of the pool - dressed head to toe in his racing kit, helmet and all. Now that’s funny, but the real ho, ho, ho sequence is something unfolding in the background. A racing helmet seems to be moving elegantly across the pool. Then out it climbs – but it’s attached to an Ursula Andress type vision in bikini, but with helmet firmly in place. Really smiley, very witty, one of my favourite clips of the year.

LUVVY OF THE YEAR: Now don’t get me wrong, I don't dislike Aled Jones. He comes across as a nice fellow – but he also comes across as such a luvvy, which is harmless but irritating. It’s not a surprise, really, because he was famous from a very young age what with his Walking in the Air thingy. Since then he’s established himself as a media star and celebrity. But of course he knows absolutely nothing whatsoever about real life, for he has never lived outside the world of celebrity. This was highlighted recently on his Sunday morning radio show when he had as a guest Ben Schott, author of Schott’s Almanac 2007, a record of things past “and the song of the future”. Anyway, Aled asked him about the words of the year, and Schott mentioned sub-prime. Now I’m not a news junkie, in fact I hardly ever read the ‘news’ pages of a newspaper, but I’m more than aware that sub-prime is to do with the current credit crunch and the huge problems of Northern Rock. But Aled, bless, had not the slightest idea what it was, indeed I got the impression that was the first time he’d ever heard the expression. Talk about a parallel universe.

SMILE OF THE DAY/WEEK/YEAR: This year I didn’t go out at all on New Year’s Eve. Now I haven’t been to a function or a ‘do’ for longer than I care to remember. Normally I go down the pub late afternoon, early to mid evening, and home well before the fireworks. Works a treat. But today I’ve been so busy I even missed that. So as the evening wore on I watch some telly, in particular Channel 4’s night with the Life of Brian story. It really is a funny film, one of those few instances where you can collect your 400 smiles a day in 90 minutes flat. When I watch Casablanca, so clever and witty is the script I’m always picking something new up every time I watch it. And so it is with the Life of Brian. We’re all familiar with “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy,” but this year I also registered Brian’s ‘Mum’ shouting to the baying crowd: “No Messiah – but there is a mess in here.” And I like the bit where Judith, Brian’s girlfriend, played by a Welsh actress with suitable accent, appears in the nude and his ‘Mum’ shouts: “Leave that Welsh tart alone.” I also loved Spike Milligan’s fleeting appearance (I’m reminded here of a framed cheque Milligan had hanging on the office wall, a cheque made out to him for a million quid, and underneath a notice: IN CASE OF EMERGENCY BREAK GLASS. My kind of humour). Anyway, back with Brian. My fondest laugh tonight surfaced in the documentary about the making of the film, which was of course banned in many places. It was banned totally in Norway, but allowed in Sweden, and without any cuts whatsoever. In fact the advertising legend in Sweden was this: This film is so funny they banned it in Norway. Goodnight 2007. Goodnight Hubie.

 
 

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 25, 2007
ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN THE MORNING

Coming up to every Christmas, without fail, I write Santa a letter, and boringly, every year, I ask for similar: something five-foot-twoish, eyes of blueish, turned up nose, turned down hose, oh, and she must love, and she must woo - etcetera, etcetera – and every Christmas morning when I awake my fingers tiptoe rather expectantly about the bed ...... nothing, nobody, nought, not a sausage, so to speak. Bugger! All I hope is that my letters haven’t somehow been lost or whatever, and then one year Santa has all my pleading letters of Christmases Past landing on his desk in one neatly tied up bundle – and I awake one Xmas morning to find a baglog (as opposed to a backlog) of women, all present, and all very correct – imagine something akin to Ina Ray Hutton and her all-girl band (below), who had Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue (Has Anybody Seen My Gal?) as their theme song - landing up in my bed.

 


God that really would be the death of me. But hey, what a way to go – and with a drum roll and all.

Normally, all things being equal, I’m awake at five, and around half-five I nip down the road to the paper shop. Today I awake an hour or so later (curious how the mind clock works), but of course there are no papers. However, I decide a breath of fresh air would be welcome: it’s a still, quiet, mild, overcast morning, and I take a stroll around town. It’s wonderfully pleasant, some lights are on in a few houses where the kids are obviously already ahead of the game. Brings back wonderful memories: I vividly recall as a youngster on the farm being put to bed on Christmas Eve, failing to sleep, getting out of bed, kneeling by the window and desperately searching the sky to see if I could spot Santa and his reindeer speeding across the sky towards Big Slopes. But I never got to see him, let alone catch Mummy kissing Santa Claus. I must have been about 17 then.

Here’s a curious thing. I’ve been into recycling for several years now. Visitors to Llandeilo will note that the town is remarkably clean, and that’s because every morning a council workman comes into work a couple of hours or so early and walks the main streets and parks of the town, picking up all the rubbish. Being that it’s done daily it’s a fairly easy and simple task. However, on my walk to fetch the papers I’m always slightly ahead of yer man, and some mornings, weekends usually, I’m aware that there are pub glasses lying about, a few broken, some in one piece – these are found on pavements, window sills, shop fronts, outside takeaways, the car park, on car roofs – the council man would obviously throw them into his rubbish bag as they’re a danger – so I began to pick ‘em up. The collection soon grew, but what to do with them? I gave a few to my local pub, but decided that perhaps the local rugby club would be more deserving. So that’s what I do, once my box is full someone from the club collects them – they undoubtedly get some of their own back because I often find glasses in the hedgerow along the walk from the rugby club into town. It’s quite satisfying, really – and I can now sniff out glasses in the most extraordinary places. Like a pig in search of truffles.

 


It’s most odd what I find on my early morning stroll to the newsagents – such as the above, for example, last Sunday. There’s a typical San Miguel pint glass found on the pavement, and on the window sill of one of the banks, a Christmas wreath with a small plant in tandem. Curiouser and curiouser. So I pick ‘em up and take 'em home, all the while wondering how the hell did they get there? My bet is that there’s been a party somewhere in town, and as happens when the wine and the music and the 'shwmae-heno' flows, someone has decided to help themselves for a laugh on their way out - and then simply dumped them.

Anyway, back to this morning’s walk. I find no stray glasses, nothing untoward, actually. As I say, half-six of a Christmas morning, absolute stillness, the only thing to disturb the air is a slowly passing car – someone on their way home from work, or on their way to, I guess – oh, and overhead, at a mile high or so, the sound of a couple of aircraft flying along the major Atlantic airway that passes right over Llandeilo. The world goes about its business as usual.
 

 

 


The festive window displays again draw my eye. Above, a revisit to Fountain Fine Art. Remember in my last bulletin, I showed the image of the horse’s head in the window, with Shep the dog in the background. Well, I did say “Down, Shep!” – now I didn’t expect him to listen, but the horse and the dog have changed places. I do a double take, without flash, and with. As I say, it’s very eye-catching. I note that the dog is titled ‘Border Collie’, a ‘raku fired ceramic’ by a Sallie Wakley, a snip at £300, I’d say.
 

 

 


The other window display I enjoy is the one at In Stitches – obviously knitted penguins having a party – and I love how they all seem to be watching that penguin floating away above their heads. Shame the window frame breaks up the image.

IF THERE REALLY IS A PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Why is it that I’m not in the one where the Bing Crosby version of White Christmas, where he duets with that gorgeous blonde - to my ear far and away the best version of the song - is the one that’s always played. It’s very odd that whenever you catch the song White Christmas on telly, it’s always that very delightful duet they show, whereas I’ve never once heard it on the radio. That particular duet is from the 1942 film Holiday Inn, the blonde is Marjorie Reynolds, although it's actually the singing voice of one Martha Mears. The film marked the debut of the song, which went on to become one of the biggest selling songs of all time. Apparently there was damage to the original master tape due to its frequent use, but this year it sounds as if the 'crackling' has been digitally removed, which makes it even more odd that it's never heard on radio. It’s one of those irrelevant little facts that niggles away at the imagination.

Down the White Hart for a few drinks before moving on to the tribal reservation for Christmas with the family – and a very pleasant and relaxing meal and afternoon – oh, and endlessly entertained by Mr & Mrs Nephew’s young twins. Curiously, unlike those who write in the newspapers, the liberal availability of drink, while inducing a feeling of light-headedness, does not inflict emotional alcoholic wounds. I guess though you must be a bit of a human shipwreck, several ivory keys short of a full keyboard, and a not very nice human being, to be a 'proper' writer. Odd but true.

 


When I look at the above image I'm struck with the thought of how many young children, boys especially, miss out when there's no father about. If no father, then an empathic step-father, grandfather, or indeed any other close family member, is a good silver/bronze substitution. At this point I find myself wondering who it was that first conceived or 'invented' the idea of marriage, and what precisely was the thinking behind it? Indeed, why is the modern generation so keen to 'uninvent' - if that is the right word - marriage? When I have a spare moment it's probably worth a quick Google or an email to the Questions & Answers section of one of our newspapers.

SMILE OF THE DAY: On my way home I pass a very smiley festive display, below,  which sums up the day: belly full to capacity, and a happy, jolly feeling all over. A day of plumptiousness, as Ken Dodd might say. A hundred thousand thanks O Little Big One.

Before drifting off to sleep I'm reminded of the family group who have to turn up for Christmas lunch with one thing about their person which represents the spirit of Christmas. After they sit at the table they go round each one in turn. Jane merely points to some mistletoe neatly pinned to her dress. Cool. Carol, next along, reaches into her handbag and pulls out a sprig of holly. To the point. Dave alongside pulls out of his pocket a frilly little pair of black knickers straight out of Bellissimo's (see 400 Smiles A day). He's greeted with blank stares, and a voice enquires what on earth they have to do with Christmas. “Carols!” he explains with an eats, shoots and leaves sort of a smile.  Goodnight Santa – and keep a sharp eye out for next year's letter - please! Goodnight Hubie.

 
 

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2007
ON THE TENTH
DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS

 


When I toddle on down the newsagents of a morn to collect my paper, these days I take my camera with me, and anything Christmassy that catches my eye in the glow of a shop window draws a click. The very traditional image, below left, was captured in the corner of the window at IGAM-OGAM - a delightful Welsh word meaning zigzag. The wonderfully mysterious horse's head and neck is found at Fountain Fine Art. Oh look, there's Shep in the background. Down, Shep!

 

 

 

 
The photos below are of some of the town's street decorations, a reflected image caught in a first floor shop window. In fact both are obviously of the same reflection, but actually, the shot on the right was taken before I'd had a few shots of moderately. Yes, you remember W C Fields' memorable statement: "I drink only moderately. In fact if you come back to the house there's an unopened case of moderately waiting to be tackled." Occasionally the shakes work wonders. Here's lookin' at you, you little stars.
 

 

   
 

At the end of every day I kneel and pray – no I don’t, mustn’t blaspheme – seriously, at the end of the day I’m always overtaken by the SMILE OF THE DAY, recalling that which has made me smile the most that day – and then off I drift into dreamland with a hop and a skip and a smile à la Morecambe and Wise from forever and a day ago. However, along my walk through the day I’m also endlessly intrigued and entertained by the QUOTES OF THE DAY, which perhaps could be headlined WRY SMILE OF THE DAY. All newspapers now have a section devoted to these. The Western Mail does a daily column, and its sister paper the Wales on Sunday completes the circle. I love them, just about the highlight of my newspaper reading. So few words, so much information, so incredibly revealing, in fact most quotes paint a thousand words. The other day I wrote to a newspaper pointing out the joy of such quotes, and listed three from that day’s paper, together with my thoughts and observations.

“I hate Christmas, always have. It’s a miserable time” – Bill Oddie, the former Goodie – which confirms why many of us, while admiring his enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, nature, find his humour toe-curlingly irritating. But he’s a comic actor, not a comic person, in other words, an individual who is not inherently amusing, it’s all an act - and by his own admittance, he’s an old misery guts.

“Older men are usually more grateful” – Ulrika Jonsson, on why she prefers more mature boyfriends – which merely confirms that we older blokes are so grateful, we're content to look away when the object of our desire displays a little waywardness. This week on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue (I think) someone suggested she's building a special car park, especially for Father's Day.

Up to this point I was reasonably happy that my little missive would be well received, but I couldn’t resist this:
“They’re not trying to catch me doing something stupid; they’re trying to create me doing something stupid” –
George Clooney on the paparazzi whom he claims cause accidents in his neighbourhood – I’m reminded of photographer Jay Kaycappa found guilty last August of assaulting Heather Mills-McCartney while in pursuit of a saleable snap, and thinking, how many businesses in this country openly and freely do business with an individual (we learn from the court case) who has an astonishing 132 criminal convictions?

Ponder on that ... one-hundred-and-thirty-two criminal convictions. Not surprisingly, my letter didn’t make the cut, especially as the newspaper I submitted the letter to carried a full page story, with photographs, of a really messy, nasty incident involving Cerys Mathews, Marc Bannerman and a posse of paparazzi. It’s quite alarming that no matter how much of a crook you are, if you pick up a camera and chase people about the world, the media will gladly shove money into your back pocket. Quite frightening. Intriguingly, the newspaper commented thus on the episode: Cerys Mathews was more than happy to accept tens of thousands of pounds for stripping to her underwear for last week’s News of the World. So how on earth can she – or Marc – complain about photographers invading their privacy? So we are more than happy to pay tens of thousands of pounds to a bunch of shady characters that provide us with photographs, no questions asked. Actually, I made up that last sentence – but many a true word spoken in jest, do you suppose?

Anyway, a subtle change to my usual format: being that I update this blog pretty much on a weekly basis, henceforth I’ll substitute the several OF THE DAY headings with OF THE WEEK – starting with……

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I went out there to have a bit of an adventure and got more of an adventure than I bargained for.” Teacher Gillian Gibbons on her return home after her release from prison in Sudan over the teddy bear incident.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK BEFORE: “While we were away there was the scandal over the naming of the Blue Peter cat as Socks instead of what the children wanted – Muhammad.” Steven Punt’s opening joke on Radio 4’s The Now Show.

The above was not the only bear necessities story of the week. I enjoyed a cartoon of a bear holding a drink in its paw, talking to Batman, also holding a drink: “I went to a fancy dress party dressed like this and the next I knew I’d won the Turner Prize.”

Then while trawling the internet for a particular image, I serendipitously stumbled upon the above – it’s actually an urn, and I remember thinking, how odd. But of course it’s not if its sad duty is to bear the ashes of a child.

IF THERE REALLY IS A PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Why is it that I’m not in the one where Gordon Brown, when he first became Chancellor, said “Yes, I will give private pension schemes even more tax breaks - which will make them even more attractive to savers - which will thus help combat the pensions timebomb we are all sitting on – and no, I will not boost and ring fence my own pension just because I can.”?

Talking of Gordon Brown, here’s a BONUS QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I think I’m a missing person.” Canoeist John Darwin reappears at a London police station, five years after ‘disappearing at sea’. “My sons are never going to forgive me.” Anne Darwin admits that, far from dying, her husband was able to visit a Panama estate agent with her last year.

 

This curious story has been treated in the media (as well as down at the Crazy Horsepower) with a mixture of amusement and a degree of sympathy. People who decide to simply vanish off the face of the earth intrigue us – Lord Lucan is a name that remains as familiar as Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. But why oh why do you suppose they posed for the above photograph in Panama City, both looking as if they hadn’t a care in the world? Did they want to get caught?

Oh yes, Gordon Brown: given his troublesome period in office, the nation’s cartoonists have had a riotous time linking his fate with that of John Darwin the missing canoeist. After a glorious honeymoon period where Brown could do no wrong – suddenly there he was, just three wheels on his wagon – then two – now just one – and he’s just about rolling along. (God, how long ago is that? The New Christy Minstrels and Three Wheels on my Wagon, a spoof on the business of cowboys and Indians, complete with bows and arrows, a covered wagon, a chase and a sing-along. I still remember that line: "Get back in the wagon, woman!") Anyway, I’ve always maintained that in life the wheel always turns full circle, and we all get what’s due to us. So Gordon stuffed the ordinary man with his pension scam – while protecting his own – so now he has to suffer.

 No one does the Gordon Brown cartoon better than Peter Brookes of The Times - above - who also came up with the memorable Gordon of Cartoon strip. A truly inspirational title, even more so with hindsight. Here’s another slice of Brookes' delicious humour.

As this is Brown of the FO time – and we all know what the FO initials stand for – there were a delightful couple of letters in The Times. The first from a Simon Kingsley-Pallant of Petersfield, who wondered if the Government were experiencing a brownout. According to his “scintillating computer manual, a blackout is where the power just goes off, but with a brownout, power and performance are severely reduced, and rather than outright failure there will simply be total malfunction”. My reaction: how extraordinary that anyone actually reads such manuals. Anyway, the following day, a Dr Chris Aps of Abbots Langley responded: “Interesting to read that the Government could be experiencing a brownout. Amazing coincidence that the problem could also be the solution.” Wonderful. There are some really witty people out there.

WEL-I-JIW-JIW OF THE WEEK: I don't watch sports awards shows, but last Sunday at about five-to-nine I zapped onto BBC One to see who picked up their Sports Personality of the Year. The whole thing is such a lottery, but the result is invariably a good laugh. Last year boxer Joe Calzaghe (not a sport I follow) was eclipsed by a “bloody horse”, but this year a bit of horse sense came into play. Mind you, I don’t know who looked the more nonplussed, Calzaghe for finishing top or Lewis Hamilton for coming second. But isn’t it odd that we suddenly have a winner most people considered worthy, and all in the wake of the clean-up in the voting misdemeanours of the television industry. You could say that this time Calzaghe was genuinely in for the count.

HEADLINE OF THE WEEK: 'Warning amid fears that Christmas is season of unprotected sex' (Western Mail, December 14). Where is Kylie Minogue when I need her? I should be so lucky.

COCKUP OF THE WEEK: Natural-born rugby players have a talent often spotted when running with the ball in heavy traffic, and that's holding the ball in both hands in front of their body, for this makes it impossible for the defence to second-guess which way they're going to pass the ball. So last Saturday evening I was watching Llanelli Scarlets playing Munster on the box. The Scarlets scored a wonderful try, and during the replay, Scott Quinnell, who was the back-up commentary pundit, commented on centre Gavin Evans running with the ball in both hands before giving a perfect scoring pass - but Scott made a delightful Freudian slip: "Gavin makes the break and crucially he has two balls in his hand." Tell me about it, Scott. Which neatly brings me to my......

SMILE OF THE WEEK: I’ve always had a soft spot for the double entendre, and I love it even more when a female (and it’s always a female) admonishes me for having a dirty mind. Yes, you’re ahead of me already – my response: “Which means you also have a dirty mind to have instantly latched on to the dirty meaning.” Anyway, I enjoy hugely the perennial antidote to panel games, I’m sorry I Haven’t A Clue on Radio 4 – including the repeats on BBC 7 - but sadly, I heard a bleep last Monday. Boys, boys, obscenity is the last refuge of the scoundrel who is not quite as funny and witty as he thinks he is. Sad to say it was one of the newer boys, Andy Hamilton. They really should take lessons from the master of the double entendre, the host. This week Humphrey Lyttelton rounded off the show something like this: “Samantha (the seemingly sex-mad scorer) is off to see her gentleman friend at his high-class butcher's shop. When she ordered her Christmas turkey last year he offered her a range of sizes and a choice of male or female bird. Samantha said she was very well satisfied after settling on an 18lb cock.” It generated one of those sustained bouts of laughter. Yes indeed, it really is all in the mind – and as I said to the doctor: "Please Doc, can I have it lowered about three feet?" Goodnight Sam. Goodnight Hubie.

 
 

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2007
I'LL BE HOME WITH BELLS ON

 


Life, I discovered a long, long time ago, is all about being in the right place at the right time - or indeed being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yes, luck plays a massive part in every aspect of our lives: from choosing the right parents to hand down that lucky parcel of genes at conception - to be born 'lucky', which in its true meaning has nothing to do with money, is to win Life's Super Rollover Jackpot - to having a camera handy to capture a great shot. Returning from my usual early morning walk past
                eve’s toy shop
another Aladdin's cwtch under the stars - those who speak the two spokes will appreciate the mix 'n' match there - I notice the reflection of Llandeilo Church in the window, and  while that particular reflection is available all day long, the sight of the sun peeping through the trees and perfectly spotlighting Frosty the Snowman in the window, is not. Serendipity at work, tripping over the essence of Christmas Past with Xmas Mod, in one clean shot. Only later did I notice another coincidence: in the corner of the shop window, a Christmas tree - and it merges perfectly with the reflection of the real 'Christmas tree' alongside the church. The shop tree is not all that obvious in the photo alongside - but you can clearly see both Frosty and the tree in the wide shot below.


   
 

 

 
Imagine being a child and wandering past the above vision and wondering if this really is Santa's local depot. Whenever I pass this shop, especially now at Christmas, I'm transported back to my childhood - not a difficult task - and I find myself overwhelmed by a need to hang a jumbo sock at the end of my bed, big enough to accommodate something five-toot-two, eyes of blue......

It really is a delight to see folk putting so much effort into their businesses and projecting a town like Llandeilo (right next to a little place called Bethlehem) back on the map - and ipso facto sticking two fingers up at all our large corporations and supermarkets who actually want to take broad individual choice away from us, not to mention our councils which appear only to be interested only in helping the big boys, who clearly offer bigger personal favours and rewards. So well done eve’s toy shop. Oh yes, I notice quite a few wooden toys in there, and just this week I learnt that such toys are back in fashion big time because they are now regarded as environmentally friendly. There y'go, another day at school.

 


IF THERE REALLY IS A PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Why is it that I’m not in the one where the agreeable Terry Wogan does not feel that he must talk total meaningless gibberish over the beginning and end of all the music he plays on Wake Up to Wogan: “Ah, Nat King Cole, my very favourite, Stardust.” So why trample all over it then, Tel Boy? It brings to mind a child in a library with a crayon, determined to scribble all over the first and last pages of every book in there.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I never heard him mention God or make any religious reference during all my time working with him.” Lance Price, former Downing Street press officer, on Tony Blair’s admitted reluctance to “do God”.

CARTOON OF THE DAY: “I never admitted to believing in Tony Blair in case people thought I was a nutter.” Two clerics chatting to each other as captured in the latest issue of the Church Times.

SMILE OF THE WEAK: Below is the infamous snap of Peter Watt - Labour's now ex-general secretary - and David Abrahams, on the right - the property developer from Newcastle who secretly bankrolled the party. Abrahams had, so the word on the street has it, given more than £670,000 to Labour via intermediaries or poxy donors - sorry, proxy donors. Abraham's has been a very naughty boy, but is definitely not the Messiah. I learn on a BBC website that "Mr Abrahams is - let's put it this way - a 'controversial figure' who's used different names, different ages, been deselected as a parliamentary candidate and has been involved in rows about the planning system". But what a smile......

I don't know about you, but it's the smile of a fellow who detests all politicians, a fellow who's shafted everyone in sight. The Cons and the Libs because he hasn't given them any money - and Labour because he has. But more than that, it's the smile of a fellow who endorses the maxim that the love of money is the root of all evil.

 


I’ve mentioned before that I suffer this curious problem where the rationale part of my brain runs marginally behind what I see, smell, hear and feel. A sort of truck-and-trailer effect. For example, a while back I read the following headline in The Times: Girl almost died in crash as naval stud shot through her ‘like a bullet’. Bloody ‘ell, I instantly thought, I know old Shaggy and young Shagwell down at the Crazy Horsepower can shoot through the ladies as fast as you can slide 'em under ‘em, but what the hell were these two up to – then I read the headline again: Girl almost died in crash as navel stud shot through her ‘like a bullet’. D’oh! Naval, navel, bally button. It was the tale of a young student, Jessica Collins, 19, from Radyr, Cardiff, who gave warning of the potential dangers of body piercings after she was almost killed when her bellybutton stud tore through her stomach “like a bullet” during a car accident.

A couple of weeks later my eye was drawn to a beautiful autumn photo of a woodland with the headline: Long wet summer brings one bonus, a bigger, brighter display for autumn. I read the piece: ‘BUCKLAND MONOCHROME The especially vivid reds and dazzling yellows that have sprung up in woods and parks across the country can be put down to the unusual weather in the spring and summer...’ As I looked at the glorious photo again, how delightfully odd, I remember thinking, that something so colourful should have been captured in a place called Buckland Monochrome – then my eyes darted back – D’oh! BUCKLAND MONACHORUM. And that really is a perfect example of how my brain works, I truly did read it like that for a significant moment. Anyway, such a cock-up deserves a neat little autumn snap from my corner of the world: the stunningly beautiful Towy Valley at sunrise on a cold autumn morning. That's Dryslwyn Castle down in the mist, Paxton's Tower up there on the hill, Golden Grove College Farm in the foreground......

One final example of this truck 'n' trailer thingy. Just a few days ago I read a TV review of Sex in the Noughties: Dear Deidre. A programme about the great aunt of agony columns, Deidre Sanders of The Sun, where she shared some of the problems she’d had to reply to during the course of receiving some 5 million letters. The following revelation put me on red-light alert: ‘The Brummie who had turned himself into an aviator on the Red Light Centre website, bonking away in virtuality 21 hours a day, ended up in hospital with a nervous breakdown.’ Eh? My eyes darted back. What it actually said was that he had ‘turned himself into an avatar’. Now I’ve never heard of the word ‘avatar’ so it was quite natural for my brain to read ‘aviator’, especially as three words along was the word ‘Red’, so my thought processes reasoned Red Arrows – aviator. See, my brain’s quite clever in its own stupid way. Anyway, Avatar: a visible manifestation of an abstract concept. Hm, I've chatted up quite a few of those after a few drinks too many.
 

 

SMILE OF THE DAY: How do you spot a drunk? Police have it all spelt out for them: Police, I learn have been issued with a guide on how to spot a drunk. The tell-tale signs, according to the checklist drawn up by the Home Office, include looking a bit rough, deploying a Fred & Ginger [a song and dance routine] in response to the slightest thing, unable to handle loose change without dropping some or all of it – and really getting up everyone's noses with hardly any effort at all. Wel-i-jiw-jiw, you have to laugh that police have to be told what they look like when they’ve had a night on the pop. This all came to mind when Harry Redknapp, football manager of Portsmouth, was arrested over football corruption; indeed, the police had turned up at his house at 6am accompanied by tabloid photographers. It turns out that the query did not affect him directly, was of such insignificance that a phone call from the police inviting him in for a chat would have come up with the desired results.

Okay, what we need is a checklist for identifying policemen: look out for Hi-Viz motors travelling at speed with flashing lights and making strange noises – oh, and hanging in the back window will be an eye-catching little sign which says FUZZY-WUZZY ON BOARD; the word on the street is that they will be dressed as if on their way to a fancy dress party, theme ‘The Bill’; they will be followed everywhere by cameramen and photographers as they'll be part of a reality TV programme; some officers will live extravagant lives as their pay will be boosted by keeping the media informed of every high profile enquiry and arrest. Only joking, officer.

By one of those curious coincidences, Harry Redknapp had been the subject of The big interview in The Times just a few days before his arrest. What came across was one of those larger-than-life characters I meet all the time down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon. A man full of wit and mischief and a passion for the game of football that has held him in thrall since he first kicked a ball about with his pals. I quote: “There is nothing like the buzz of winning on a Saturday,” he says, his facial tick hinting at boundless reserves of nervous energy. “But there is nothing like the low of losing, either. I can’t explain the feeling that is going through me when we lose. It is a million times worse as a manager than as a player because you carry all the responsibility on your shoulders. I had so much trouble sleeping that for a while I was addicted to Night Nurse. When I told Sandra [his wife], she thought I was talking about some bird in suspenders."  Goodnight Babs (the only Night Nurse I ever knew - thus far!). Goodnight Hubie.

 
 

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2007
SNOWMAN, SWEETIES
AND SEX

 

Jingle Bells first up then, and another of the town’s cheery festive window displays. This belongs to Llandeilo based artisan ice cream maker Heavenly - I wasn’t sure what artisan meant: a skilled workwoman; craftswoman – so a perfect name for a naughty but nice Aladdin’s den of delicious ice creams, pastries, sweets and chocolates, the company being the brain child of Tracey and Paul Kindred, who also run the adjacent Angel Hotel and Bistro. The couple have made quite a name for themselves with Heavenly, having scooped Gold in the 2006/07 awards with Masala Wine Tiramisu ice cream. So well done you artisans you.

 


Having begun my last blog with the tale of Helôisa Pinheiro, the girl from Ipanema, and having showed an image of her as she looked when she had the song attributed, someone asked, bearing in mind that she was a Brazilian Playboy Playmate in 1987, and again in 2003, what does she look like these days then? Well, I’ve come across the image below, but I've no idea how old she is there. Born in 1945, I read, but to appear as a Playboy Playmate in 2003, she must still look pretty good, indeed a sexy sort of artisan I’d say.  I’d also picked up that The Girl from Ipanema is the second most recorded song after Yesterday – but I’ve since read that it’s actually the second most played song. Whichever, everything about the lady from Ipanema is pretty impressive, yes? Being that she’s in the autumn of her life, here's an eye-catching autumn scene from old Llandeilo Town.
 

 

 


IF THERE REALLY IS A PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Why is it that I’m not in the one where the witty Paul Merton does not feel obliged to spout an obscenity whenever another member of the Have I Got News For You team, usually the host, gets more laughs?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I would tell the dealers: ‘If you would be so kind as to stand up against that wall for a minute.’ Then I’d be shouting: ‘Load, aim, fire!’ Personally I’d shoot.” Dyfed-Powys Police Chief Constable Terry Grange, who took early retirement rather suddenly last week following allegations of misuse of the police computer system and financial irregularities, gives his unconventional answer back in February 2003 to the UK’s drugs problem. I sort of know what he means. With every passing day I sense that The Revolution is not all that far away – and an awful lot of people will find themselves up against that wall.  Anyway, because he’d taken early retirement and had now left the police force, the computer misuse thingy was no longer within the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s remit. When I heard that, the first thing that went thought my mind was pornography, and God forbid, child pornography. Obviously many other people felt the same because the police authority quickly confirmed that the computer misuse was simply exchanging e-mails with someone who was not a member of the force. So rather thankfully we’ll have to settle for a bit of nudge-nudge, wink-wink then. Still, a very odd business all round.

Talking of nudge-nudge, wink-wink, did you see that business about fake condoms having been removed from more than 30 shops in London. Following complaints from Jo & Joe Public, trading standards officers acted. Durex confirmed that the counterfeit products would be unlikely to protect users against pregnancy or nasty diseases, surprise, surprise. Durex added that the fakes had been sold by criminals acting as visiting salesmen: “Something cheap and nasty for the weekend, Sir?”

Can you imagine lover boy above having to first hold up his condom to the light and look for the watermark? When I was but an innocent young lad, when condoms were very hush-hush and they really were something for Friday and Saturday nights only, there was a little corner shop in town selling a bit of this, a bit of that, and certainly a lot of the other, in a manner of speaking. It was run by a fellow called Les, and if you went in and quietly asked for “Losin Les, os gwelwch I fod yn dda!” – “losin” pronounced lo-shin, meaning “Les’s sweeties, please!” – well now, you got a little something naughty for the weekend. The word on the street insisted that if you were a regular, every time you bought a packet, Les threw in an extra condom for good measure. He quickly built up a reputation as a man of (French) letters who was always one jump ahead of the competition.

So, Wales lost to South Africa in the rugby – and that despite Gavin Henson and his beard. However, he was most impressive and only just missed out on the Wales Man Of The Match award. There really must be something in this beard business. Anyway, South Africa showed why they won the World Cup, very impressive, in fact it was a good game, despite the loss. Oh yes, just before starting the game, referee Chris White of England fastidiously counted all the players on the field, as he always does before a game. Which set me thinking: has there ever been an instance in a meaningful game, in any sport, where a team has started the game a player short – or even better, beginning the game with an extra player on board. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I must write to The Sunday Times.

Talking of losing, here’s another QUOTE OF THE DAY from last Thursday: “There seems to be a man on the track ... let’s hope it’s Steve McClaren.” A London Tube train driver explains a delay on the line. So what on earth was the England team playing at against Croatia? Total lack of spirit and urgency. As a Welshman I am disappointed that England are out of Euro 2008 – honest! Not so much that these increasingly useless and rip-off little islands of ours can’t even produce a football team worthy of competing on the European stage, but mostly I couldn’t wait to see if the English lads had done anything to confront their penalty shoot out shortcomings. The truth is, especially given the news on the political front, what with those missing computer discs and things, these days the UK, excepting small businesses like the aforementioned Heavenly, couldn’t organise a leg over in a bordello on a lads’ night out. Everything starts at the top and filters down to the trenches. Think Churchill. Now think B&B (Brown and Blair).
 

 

SMILE OF THE DAY: So what did you make of that extraordinary tale about the Scotsman convicted of simulating sex with a bike? The 51-year-old was done for a “sexually aggravated breach of the peace by conducting himself in a disorderly manner and simulating sex”. Police were called to an Ayr hostel after a couple of cleaners discovered him, wearing only a T-shirt, holding his bike and moving his hips back and forth. The Sheriff’s Court gave him three years’ probation – and added his name to the sex offenders’ register. And told in no uncertain terms that if there's to be a next time to pick on a bicycle built for two. No, I made that last bit up! Anyway, it was the first such case in the courts, we were told, since 1994 when a Redditch man was fined for having sex with a pavement. Talk about cracking up. Isn’t there a song called ‘Anything goes’? Indeed, I've heard of a tree that swallowed a bike and proceeded to make mad passionate love to it. At Brig O'Turk in Scotland - there must be something in the water up there - legend has it that when a local boy who had left his bicycle against the tree failed to return from World War 1, the tree claimed it and grew around it. Today, all that remains sticking out of the trunk are the handlebars.

See, there's nothing new under the sun. But I have a theory. In every little community there’s at least one female who loves the boys so much that sex is a given. The boys love her very, very much in return, but rather unkindly call her The Bike – everyone rides her. The more sophisticated boyos refer to her simply as Daisy Bell. So the Scotsman simulating sex with the bike obviously thought he was having it away with the willing Ms Bell. As for the fellow having sex with a pavement, he was clearly so carried away that the officer who first arrived on the scene should merely have coughed politely and said: “Excuse me, sir, but I think someone has nicked your bike!” Goodnight Daisy. Goodnight Hubie.

 
 

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2007
WELSH
RARE BITS AND CHEEKY BITS
 

 

 


The Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir brought traffic to a halt in London last week when the above was unveiled on a jumbo billboard to advertise their calendar for 2008 – which was delightfully apt because I read that BBC One’s new series Choir Wars will attempt to do for harmony singing what Strictly Come Dancing did for sequins and the famous Fred Astaire trousers (bags of ballroom). Contestants of Choir Wars will be able to choose any style, from gospel and barbershop to classical, folk and rock. As it happens I recently caught on Classic FM TV the Froncysyllte boyos make a jolly good fist of Yesterday.  This brings me to another classic pop song, The Girl from Ipanema.  Now the young lady of the title actually existed – still does. She lived in Ipanema, an upmarket suburb of Rio, and on her daily walk to and from work and the beech passed a pavement café table where the lyricist Vinicius de Moraes regularly partook of a coffee and things. She captivated his imagination, and although the words were already sort of in being, he later attributed the words to her presence. Antonio Carlos Jobin set it to music, Norman Gimbel later wrote the English lyrics – and history was made. On the back of her fame, the girl from Ipanema changed her job and became a television presenter. Today she is known as Helô Pinheiro and apparently looks as tall and tan and glamorous and lovely as ever and, as recently as 2003, featured in Brazilian Playboy magazine. But what surprised me more than anything about The Girl from Ipanema is that it’s apparently the second most recorded song after Yesterday. That's her below (I think!).
 

 

Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The girl from Ipanema goes walking,
And when she passes each one she passes goes “aaaah!”.
When she walks she’s like a samba,
That swings so cool and sways so gentle,
That when she passes each one she passes goes “aaaah!”.
Oh, but I watch her so sadly,
How can I tell her I love her?
Yes, I would give my heart gladly;
But each day when she walks to the sea,
She looks straight ahead not at me.
Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The girl from Ipanema goes walking,
And when she passes I smile, but she doesn’t see,
She just doesn’t see, no she doesn’t see.
 


Tell you what, I’d love to stand and stare and listen to the Froncysyllte Choir, average age 66 and nicknamed ‘the world’s oldest boyband’, give that Brazilian beauty a going over – especially with her in attendance. Perhaps the BBC should feature both on their opening Choir Wars show: the girl from Ipanema meets the boyos from Froncysyllte. Now there's lovely, look you. So just to keep things nicely on the boil, a couple more images from that cheeky calendar. Incidentally, the fireman baring his soul – I bet they had some fun coming up with that shot – was hauled over the coals for bringing shame and scandal upon the service. No, you couldn’t make it up. As for the undertaker, I think he looks a bit too stiff. All wonderfully smiley though.
 

 

 


QUOTE OF THE DAY: “What I have learned about men is that they are wrong.”
Twice-married and twice-divorced actress Honour Blackman, 79 – as quoted in the Wales On Sunday, November 18.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, TAKE TWO: “What I have learned about men is that they are wrong. I have always, always liked men but, well, they are wrong.” Twice-married and twice-divorced actress Honour Blackman, 79 – as quoted in the Western Mail, sister paper of the Wales On Sunday, November 19.

Now do you suppose that the sub-editor responsible for the Wales On Sunday quote is a woman, and the sub-editor responsible for the Western Mail quote is a man? Just a thought, like.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, REVISITED (from my bulletin of Sunday, October 14): “Hairiness. I don’t understand why a woman would want to be with a hairless man. If I was going to go for someone smooth, I may as well be a lesbian.” Celebrity cook Nigella Lawson on her taste in men. Nigella may well be onto something with this hairiness business. Think Gavin Henson, superstar (been) of Welsh rugby. When he first exploded onto the rugby scene he boasted that weird and wonderful hair style, as if a bloody great big seagull had shat on his head – a style that’s fine by me if it helps his self-esteem – and he was firing on all cylinders. And then he met Charlotte Church. There were all sorts of rumours about him shaving his body – or whatever it is men do to rid themselves of body hair – presumably to allow Charlotte to slide all over him unhindered. Now I wouldn’t mind betting that if we were to plot the demise of his rugby promise (or let’s just say that it’s temporarily gone AWOL), then it could well be traced back to when he started to shave all over. It’s the old Samson and Delilah trick, henceforth known here in Wales as the Gav and Charl curse. Let that body hair run loose, Gav, for all our sakes.

Following that bulletin, I began to ponder, many a true word spoken in jest and all that. One of the most gifted, imposing, influential, charismatic and cavalier rugby players of modern times was Derek Quinnell – if he hadn’t taken and effortlessly unloaded a really dodgy pass from Tommy David we wouldn’t today still be enjoying that Barbarians try – and I seem to recall a beard. If we skip right up to date, today’s equivalent is Chabal of France – who has a beard. And let’s not forget dear old Grav – beard and all – so the very first thing Warren Gatland, new Wales coach, should do is instruct all his players to stop shaving – period! – then watch us go. (PS:  I must declare a bearded interest. I was hopeless at rugby, but I do possess a rather cavalier imagination.)

Well blow dry me, over the weekend Gavin Henson’s old rugby magic has returned, so much so he’s been selected for the international against South Africa this coming weekend – and over the weekend playing for the Ospreys against Gloucester, he was sporting a beard! I rest my case.

 

To go back to that memorable Nigella quote, she’s been at it again: “I think I am obviously very camp. My first husband always described me as a gay man trapped in a woman’s body.” I don’t really know what to make of that, except that it left me gobblesmacked. Actually, it reminds me of that tale from the Asterisks Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, where the back kitchen had been thrown into total chaos following a walk out by the chef after the owner had apparently called “the cook a c***” – but what the boss had actually said was “Who called that c*** a cook?”.

Back in the land of reality, last Thursday, Wales gave one of its favourite sons, Raymond Gravell, a perfect goodbye at Stradey Park, Llanelli. The UK does State funerals like no other (been there, done it, we’ll do it even better next time), but as far as I’m aware no-one has ever done a ‘state’ funeral for the common man before, certainly not on these islands. So Ray Gravell’s funeral service was a step into the unknown – indeed, here we had a small nation’s leading lights in so many aspects of our lives thrust into a searching spotlight. The shadow of a slowly setting sun on a perfect late autumn afternoon, creeping irrevocably towards the coffin, was poignant in the extreme. Rhodri Morgan, Wales' First Minister, set a high standard, and his ticking off of the opening lines of our national anthem against Grav’s character was most memorable, so much so I shall look upon our anthem in a different light in future – and each time I hear it I shall think of Grav.

I’m not a political animal, but I remember vividly the first time I stood and stared at Tony Blair, when he delivered the reading at Diana, Princess of Wales’ funeral, and thinking, why is he taking off Peter Sellers doing It’s been a hard day’s night? Ten years later, after he had spun the country dry, I realised that he simply found it impossible to be himself. As for Rhodri, and indeed each and everyone who took part in the service, I can but quote one of the great lines: Myfi fel yr wyf – myself as I am. A perfect tribute to Grav, and they did his memory, his family, and Wales, proud. RIP, Grav boy.

Last night I happened to catch on BBC One The Mystery of Madeleine McCann: A Panorama Special. As I remarked just a few days into her disappearance, something felt odd about the whole episode. Not that I ever felt that her parents had somehow accidentally killed her, just that so many things didn’t – still don’t – quite make sense. One of the things that struck me about the Panorama programme was their use of music, especially that memorably creepy music from Twin Peaks. You remember Twin Peaks? I know, I know, from 1990 already: a teenage girl is murdered in a strange town and a strange FBI agent is sent to investigate. Great series – until it went OTT strange towards the end. Damn fine cup of coffee, though.

SMILE OF THE DAY: Christmas is coming and the town’s shop windows are getting fat and taking on a ho-ho-ho festive hue – always a smile generator. The first that caught my eye – no pun intended - was at Evans & Hughes the opticians. I rather like its thoughtful look, combining the traditional and the festive – you sort of have to peep over your glasses to fully appreciate it.

With dear Grav now departed, and young Gav returning to centre stage – beard and all – a letter in The Times from a J Jacques of London NW8, tickled my funny bone: “When I inquired recently at my local branch of Tesco for mince pies I was met with total incomprehension by two employees. Eventually a third one came along and after a ‘eureka’ moment I was shown bottles of mint spice.” Now when I was about 18 years of age, my cheeks always felt delicately raw after shaving, so I decided to grow a beard to give them a rest. It worked, so much so I haven't been near a razor since (I quickly got used to having dandruff on both my collar and my tie!). Many years later a lady sniffed and remarked: “Oh, you’re wearing Old Spice!” “Goodness,” I responded, “it really must be old because I haven’t shaved for 15 years.” Ladies also sometimes ask: “How long have you had it?” “Oh,” I muse, “about five inches or so.” “No, no, I meant how long – tsk! You know what I mean.” Goodnight cheeky. Goodnight Hubie.

 
 


SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2007

SEX IN THE DARK
 

 
 


Following the more thoughtful bulletin from last time in memory of Ray Gravell, time to turn the dimmer switch back up a tad, but not too much - as the following newspaper headline from this morning will testify.
 

 

How many energy saving bulbs would it take to save the world?

 


Speaking at a climate change conference at Cardiff University, Environmental Secretary Hilary Benn says Government targets for a 30% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 can be met if people change their habits i.e. if 17 million home owners replace 5 lightbulbs with energy saving bulbs, that will be 1% of the target already met. Well, take a good look at this astonishing NASA/CORBIS photograph – and weep, for if we seriously believe that changing a poxy lightbulb will usher away those four horsemen riding the horizon at a place near you, then we fully deserve the ambush we are heading for just around the next bend or two.
 

 

 


The answer to this impending catastrophe has to be green sex! In future, everyone should only have sex in the dark. And I mean all the lights off: bedroom, house, street, town ...... hopefully then our obsession with sex will ride to the rescue of climate change. Incidentally, how many divorced men does it take to change an energy saving lightbulb? None, because the wife has got the home.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You got it, you sell it, you still got it.” The win-win benefits of a career in prostitution, as pointed out by Barry Hyman of Bushey Heath, Herts, in a letter to The Times. Mind you, we’re up to our bollocks in the land of Freudian slips here, given that the letter writer lives in a place called Bushey Heath, Herts, and is called Hymen – sorry Hyman. Best though, the job description confirms why prostitution is the oldest profession.

This brings me neatly to a headline from yesterday’s newspapers: One in ten men thinks chlamydia is a flower. And a cartoon today, of two women looking at the headline, has one of them saying: “And the rest think it’s a country in the Middle East.” Chlamydia, eh? Now wasn’t that a Groucho Marx song, Chlamydia the tattooed lady?

Chlamydia, oh Chlamydia, say, have you met Chlamydia?
Chlamydia the tattooed lady;

She has eyes that men adore so,
And a torso even more so;
Chlamydia, oh Chlamydia, that encyclopaedia;
Chlamydia, the Queen of tattoo,
On her back is the Battle of Waterloo,
Beside it the Wreck of the Herpes, too,
And proudly above waves the red, white and blue.
You can catch a lot from Chlamydia!

So there you have it, a flower of womanhood after all. “You got it, you give it away, you still got it.”

I’ve just read a review of a bizarre TV programme, The Killer in Me, in which a quartet of celebrities agree to have their DNA screened to determine their predisposition for certain diseases. Andrew Neil’s results tickle my imagination big time: his high level of testosterone means that he has a propensity for prostate cancer, but also ‘increased virility, potency and sperm function’. “Not all bad news then,” Neil responds. But nobody seems to have asked him how all this reflects in his sex life. Is he affectionately known as ‘the old goat’ to his pals? I mean, does he, like old Shaggy and young Shagwell down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, satisfy the ladies as fast as they can slide ‘em under him? We should be told, especially that business about “sperm function”. All this somehow makes me think of conkers - and a seasonal photo I recently had published in the Western Mail - so this instead of the usual sunrise.

Talk of ‘the old goat’ brings to mind Lloyd George, real name David Lloyd George, nod-and-a-wink name The Welsh Goat (1863-1945). He was a politician of some note with the Liberal party (1890-1945), who went on to become a highly regarded Prime Minister (1916-1922). He was also known for his enthusiastic 'it isn't what you know but who you know' approach to power - today of course it's called ‘cash for honours’. He was a charismatic, handsome fellow, great orator, all of which ensured his success with the ladies. Although married with five children, he was a notorious philanderer and had several illegitimate children. One of the first rugby songs I learnt was ‘Lloyd George knew my father’, sung to the tune Onward, Christian Soldiers. This is a wonderfully simple melody to sing along to, and the lyrics are idiot proof: ‘Lloyd George knew my father, father knew Lloyd George’, repeated over and over. Truly a rugby song for beginners and aficionados alike. Of course the whole point of the song being, if LG knew your father, he would also know your mother – therefore there was a really good chance that Lloyd George is your father. Anyway, below we see The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at a recent unveiling of a statue of Lloyd George, Britain’s last Liberal PM, in Parliament Square.

 



“Darling, there’s something in your hair, possibly a tortoise,” was the caption suggested by The Times.

I’d have thought: “Darling, there’s something in your hair, possibly a monarch butterfly.”

In fact, I’ll let you into a little secret. What Charlie is actually saying to Camillapoos is this:

“Really darling, Lloyd George knew your grandfather?”

 
 

SMILE OF THE DAY: Maintaining the sex-in-the-dark theme until the lights go out, The PM down at the Crazy Horsepower insists, whenever the topic of homosexuality crops up in conversation, that you should never knock it unless you’ve tried it. There’s no answer to that, really. I’ve just heard the tale of actor Michael Gambon, who has a delightfully wicked sense of fun, and apparently loves winding up journalists sent to interview him. He was once interviewed by a youngish and somewhat naïve lady, and having played Oscar Wilde on stage, admitted that, actually, he was himself a homosexual for a number of years – but had to give it up in the end as “it made his eyes water!”. Goodnight, you Gambolling Gambon. Goodnight Hubie.

 
 

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 03, 2007
RAY GRAVELL
Family man, Welshman, rugby player, Scarlet, broadcaster, actor, ambassador, Patron Saint of Welsh characters everywhere - and a credit to humanity

‘Little more than ten weeks ago Ray Gravell was invited by the Welsh Rugby Union to announce the names of the players who would represent Wales at the 2007 World Cup in France. It was at once a tribute to his status as a broadcaster and, much more, to his standing as a passionate Welshman whose affection for his country informed everything he did.’ Thus reads the opening paragraph of Ray Gravell’s obituary in The Times newspaper of Friday, 2nd November, 2007.

A true guide to a person’s standing outside of his or her own square mile is not only if, but how soon an obituary appears in The Times newspaper: yesterday Ray Gravell's name appeared with Brigadier General Paul Tibbets, captain of Enola Gay, the B29 bomber that dropped the first nuclear weapon to be used in warfare, over Hiroshima in 1945 (who died on November 1, 2007, aged 92).

The juxtaposition is curiously apt because Ray – or Grav as we all knew him – always trailed a bomb-like effect in his wake, but a sort of neutron bomb, where nothing physical changed, yet nothing remained quite the same. I had known him since his playing days at Llanelli Rugby Club, indeed I once followed Llanelli on a tour across Canada. At one particular stop the host club arranged for the Llanelli players and wives to be looked after by their opposite numbers, and at the bash following the game I was approached by a Canadian girl. I couldn’t believe my luck, given her extreme friendliness and familiarity – until it dawned on me that she was the wife of the Canadian centre hosting Ray, and she had mistaken me for the great man. Being about Ray’s height, not quite as broad, a beard, same colouring, similar accent and timbre – in the dim light of a faraway place where he wouldn’t have been a familiar face, the mistake was forgivable (in the Viking longboat that transported our ancestors here, Grav’s would have been the one at the very front of the boat, standing tall with sword in hand, mine would have been nearer the back, probably with hand on tiller). When I jokingly told the Canadian girl that I was actually his brother, she was horrified and urged me not to let on. In fact she told Ray herself, and he loved the story: for a good while after he’d always greet me with “Shwmae brawd!” (hello brother). When many moons later I penned the Will Scarlet column for the Llanelli match programme, outside of the enthusiasm of Les Williams, editor of the programme, Grav was the one who always had words of appreciation and encouragement; it transpires it was an inherent trait, but that didn’t lessen its impact one jot.

I label Llandeilo, my home town, a one-horse town – but a Welsh Cob Stallion of a town, rearing up out of the morning mist. In Welsh Cob terms – the Welsh Cob being probably the most definitive Welsh entity there is – Ray will always be the Champion of Champions on the Wednesday afternoon at the Royal Welsh Show. As passionate a Welshman as ever lived.

To quote The Times again: ‘He had the ability to impart his enthusiasm, for his sport and his nationality, in a manner that swept any listener along. In return he generated an enormous regard from friends outside Wales and from the Welsh public, never better reflected than earlier this year when a diabetes-related illness forced the amputation of his lower right leg ... he insisted that his artificial limb be decorated in Llanelli colours ... he was fortified by the overwhelming amount of support he received.’

Yet despite all his talents and abilities he was full of self-doubt, always in constant need of reassurance. Throughout life he retained a very endearing child-like quality. Nowhere was this best witnessed than on the rugby field. Apart from his Viking style of play, he had an entertaining habit of going down clutching various parts of his anatomy - but nothing that a quick visit from the physio couldn’t put to rights. Ray told a wonderful story against himself: he collapses in a heap in front of the Tanner Bank at Stradey Park, clutching his knee; on runs physio Bert Peel - grandfather of current Welsh scrum-half Dwayne – and another grand character from yesteryear, who immediately applies a cold wet sponge to Ray’s head. “No Bert, it’s the knee,” protests Ray. “No, no,” insists Bert, “the problem’s up here.”

At this point I do what I often do at moments like this and reach for my Dictionary of Famous Quotations, and this time I look up ‘death’ in the index: the first on a long list is ‘a rendezvous with Death’; I turn to the quote, a poem by Alan Seeger, 1888-1916, written during World War One, its underlying message that ‘being a patriot is far more than just a privilege’.

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air--
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

More @
http://www.charleswelty.com/authors/seeger.htm

Ray had been due to present the match jerseys on November 24 to the Wales team that will play World Cup winners South Africa in Cardiff. Born on September 12, 1951, he died on October 31, 2007, aged 56, 35 years to the day after Llanelli’s famous 9-3 win over New Zealand, from a heart attack while on holiday in Majorca with Mari, his wife, and his two daughters, Manon and Gwenan. How typical that the nation’s first significant game of rugby following his death involved the Scarlets playing at his adored Stradey Park ground. Only Grav.

SMILE OF THE DAY: Grav would be disappointed, I’m sure, if he thought I would abandon my smile of the day routine. When Raymond William Robert Gravell first burst onto the rugby scene as a powerful centre and renowned crash-ball merchant, the fans adored his aggressive style of play, which was of course totally at odds with his gentlemanly, off-field persona. In fact his handling ability, the ability to deliver a ‘soft’ ball to the player alongside, was far better than the average centre, perfectly reflecting his inner nature. Although Ray himself adored the songs of Welsh folk singer Dafydd Iwan, I shall always link the name Gravell with Ravel's Boléro, that stirring piece of music brought to the attention of we common people by Torvill and Dean's virtuoso performance in Sarajevo on St Valentine's Day back in 1984 to lift ice skating's greatest prize. And if there is one thing we can say about Grav's walk through time - well, it was a virtuoso performance.

Roy Noble, another true Welsh Cob, did a wonderful tribute radio show the day after Ray’s death, a perfect balance between affection and humour. I loved his tale of an Englishman remarking, just out of Ray’s hearing, “Gravell, eh? Yes that’s a Norman name you know”. Two Welshmen present looked at each other: “You gonna tell him?” “No I’m not, you tell him.” Wonderful. But perhaps nothing characterised Grav better than this: just before his first Welsh cap he received a good luck telegram from his Mam and Toodles the cat, while in the crowd someone with a grand eye for a great line held up a banner that read RAY GRAVELL EATS SOFT CENTRES.  Nos da Raymond ...

Grav (1951-2007)
Ffrind I bawb a gŵr ei filltir sgwâr
(Friend to everyone and a man of his roots)

 
 
 
 

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2007
STAY A LITTLE MORE BETWEEN ME
AND THE SUN

Given the extraordinary morning sky of last Monday, captured at its most intense over on 400 Smiles A day, coming up a couple more of the serendipitous shots I managed to take into custody. It all happened about 30 minutes before the sunrise. At its most glorious the sight lasted but a couple of minutes – before it quickly began to fade, as below – but still a hugely smiley image.


 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “One should always listen to country and western music backwards, that way your wife don’t leave you, your dog don’t die, and you end up sober” Times newspaper columnist Ben Macintyre on the often inspired and frequently hilarious lyrics of country music. On the Friday before England met South Africa in the Rugby World Cup Final, I read a delightfully humorous article about how country music should uplift England for the cup, especially as the old Kenny Rogers hit, The Gambler, had become the unofficial anthem of their journey. Macintyre’s piece finished thus:

'But there is really only one country song we should all be singing, when Jonny Wilkinson takes aim, and that is the unforgettable 1976 anthem by Bobby Bare;
Drop-kick me, Jesus, through the goalposts of life,
End over end, neither left nor to right.
Straight through the heart of them righteous uprights
Drop-kick me, Jesus, through the goalposts of life
.'

If you want to add to your smile bank, I recommend the whole article at ......
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/ben_macintyre/article2689730.ece

Well, the game came and went, but not without its controversy, namely the England ‘try’ that wasn’t. Accepting that South Africa deserved to lift the Cup, it’s a shame that where the TMO (television match official) is confronted with a marginal call, advantage does not go with the attacking side (yes I know, sport is much like every other aspect of life: the rule of advantage is always overruled by the rule of prejudice). Even though still photographs show Mark Cueto’s foot touching the line, the video footage clearly shows his foot above the line at that particular point. We all know that the camera can lie – either way - so time for a rethink methinks. Where there is doubt, the advantage should always go with the attacking team. And if the TMO has to watch more than say, four replays, creating uncertainty and doubt - try! That should speed things up a bit and make life much more interesting.

In the meantime I shall grab another shot from last Monday morning ......
 

 
 


SMILE OF THE DAY: Welsh language broadcasts on Radio Cymru start up at five in the morning. Overnight though the station carries Five Live, in particular – and remember this for it unconsciously adds to the tale – a show called Up All Night, and this very morning hosted by Rhod Sharp. Just before he signs off he relates the tale of an English class told to write a very short story involving religion, sex and mystery – and the winner will be the person using the least number of words to tell a complete and coherent story. And here’s the winner: “Good God, I’m pregnant, who did it?” Goodnight Up All Night. Goodnight Hubie.

 
 

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2007
THE WORD ON THE STREET

This extended bulletin is going to be rugby related, so if you have no interest in sport, look away now (400 Smiles A day is an excellent place to look); having said that, sport is just a mirror held up to the motorway called Life – and anyway, every day a day at school and all that. Right, given that the sky is falling in on Welsh rugby – again – but that our junior players continue to show great promise, here’s a suitable sunrise with a narrow tease of red confirming better times just on the horizon......
 

 

 


QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Hairiness. I don’t understand why a woman would want to be with a hairless man. If I was going to go for someone smooth, I may as well be a lesbian.”
Celebrity cook Nigella Lawson on her taste in men. I’d heard a lot about Nigella, but had no idea who or what she was, or indeed what she looked like, then the other evening I needed to watch something on TV and caught the tail end of her cookery show. Yes, very nice, Nigella, but I sense you’re trying too hard to seduce me into your pudding club, and you know what Groucho Marx said about joining clubs. Be that as it may, she may well be onto something with this hairiness business. Think Gavin Henson, superstar (been) of Welsh rugby. When he first exploded onto the rugby scene he boasted that weird and wonderful hair style, as if a bloody great big seagull had shat on his head – a style that’s fine by me if it helps his self-esteem – and he was firing on all cylinders. And then he met Charlotte Church. There were all sorts of rumours about him shaving his body – or whatever it is men do to rid themselves of body hair – presumably to impress our Charlotte. Now I wouldn’t mind betting that if we were to plot the demise of his rugby promise (or let’s just say that it’s temporarily gone AWOL), then it could well be traced back to when he started to shave all over. It’s the old Samson and Delilah trick, henceforth known as the Gavin and Charlotte curse. Let that body hair run loose, Gav, for all our sakes.

During Rugby World Cup, Wales could have done with Gav. Poor old Wales were KO’d by Fiji 38-34, probably the biggest upset in the history of Rugby World Cup since – well, since Western Samoa defeated Wales in the 1999 World Cup, played at Cardiff, to the tune of 38-31. Now isn’t that spooky, both Fiji and Western Samoa posting exactly the same points, and Wales nearly doing the same. And you think there ain’t a Grand Designer, eh? The joke doing the rounds at the time was that Wales were lucky they were only playing Western Samoa, as opposed to the whole of Samoa, boom-bloody-boom! In fact the Wales loss to Fiji was undoubtedly trumped a week later when France knocked out New Zealand, the All Blacks being probably the hottest favourites to lift the Cup since the inception of the competition, a coronation in waiting. Well, today I had a letter in the Sport section of The Sunday Times about that New Zealand loss, a letter based on the following ......

“Treat the world and everything on it with absolute respect,” insisted my mam, “for the wheel always turns full circle.” And boyoboyo, was she right. No matter what we do in life – good, bad, indifferent – that wheel does indeed always turn full circle. Trouble is ninety per cent of the population don’t get it because payback is not always obvious. For example, I steal a hundred quid from you. Now it doesn’t mean that you, or someone else, steals a hundred pounds from me. Oh no, one day I return to my parked car and some bastard has banged into it and driven off. No problem, I have comprehensive insurance with No Claims Discount protection – but hang on, I have a £200 excess. Bingo! The wheel has turned full circle, with bells on. Occasionally though, payback is direct. Eight years ago, about an hour after Samoa had defeated Wales 38-31, New Zealander Sean Fitzpatrick (ex All Black, a good ‘un, and now a TV pundit) was chauffeured past a downcast crowd and his smirk made us all want to reach in and slap him. Eight years on, a few minutes after the final whistle of the France-New Zealand game, the look of hopelessness on Sean’s face was déjà vu, with bells on. If he could have reached out through the TV he would have slapped us. Moral of the tale? Always listen to your mam.

Back with Wales: setting aside the technical and managerial shortcomings of the Wales set up – after a lifetime of following first, Llanelli Rugby Club, and then the Scarlets regional side, I cancelled my membership during Gareth Jenkins’s tour of duty, not because they couldn’t win anything in the professional age (following Wales means you learn to wink at both Triumph and Disaster), but because Jenkins abandoned a style of play which I believe is written into the club’s constitution (also, see Wales), and no one at the club had the courage to do anything about it – but all that apart, three things stick in my mind. First, the gloating that followed Stephen Larkham’s late withdrawal from the Australia side that played Wales at Cardiff, and for this the media – broadcasters particularly – stand accused because only they could have orchestrated such a rotten chorus over such a short time. What a pre-game gift that was for the Aussies: a one-man team, indeed. Second, please let’s wean the players off this ludicrous business of celebrating the scoring of tries. When Shane Williams ‘dolphined’ over the line for his try we were trailing badly; also he could have lost the ball, and worst, injured himself. And why did Martin Williams, crucially, not go nearer the posts for his try to make the conversion easier (which was missed)? Presumably because he was consumed with a curious form of modern triumphalism. Finally, a rainy day in Georgia (who played really well in their pool games and should have beaten Ireland) must be followed by endless days of sunshine, but not necessarily all over the world. Did the TV commentator really say that there are only 8 proper rugby pitches in Georgia, and just 300 registered players? If so, our players, coaches, administrators, supporters and media (see point one above) should hang their heads in shame. To paraphrase the Monty Python crowd: We don’t know we’re born.

However, the most memorable image following the defeat to Fiji was Roger Lewis (WRU Group Chief Executive, a position also known as the General Custer of Welsh rugby) and Gareth Jenkins (Wales coach) shaking hands following the inevitable sacking of Jenkins. Talk about an image dripping with body language. Yet BBC Wales TV insisted on showing an endless loop of Gareth Jenkins kissing the French girls goodbye at the team hotel. Perhaps someone at the BBC would care to explain the subliminal message behind this repeated image. If the rumour mill is anything to go by, kissing the girls and making them cry should be the last thing on our minds; rather we should be pondering about the boys coming out to play (see Nigella, above).

Then there’s that black cloud hanging over the WRU, indeed all of Welsh rugby, namely Mike Ruddock, the coach who brought Wales an incredible Grand Slam, but mysteriously handed in his notice halfway through the following season. Until the WRU comes clean on the Mike Ruddock affair, nothing will get sorted. Just days after Ruddockgate surfaced, a local-ish lady with her ear to the action reported that, while Ruddock was a Messiah to Welsh rugby, he had nevertheless been “a very naughty boy”. Since then the rumours have done the rounds, probably of the Chinese variety, but the “naughty boy” thread runs though many. True or otherwise, that’s the word on the street. Period. In a parallel universe, Gareth Thomas (the Wales World Cup captain) is seen as a devil incarnate: great rugby player, agreeable fellow, but comes across as something of a shit stirrer. Anyone who has worked with a crowd of people will know, no matter how good that crowd, just one person, who may well be a brilliant talent, but who moans and complains and stirs, can do untold damage to morale, especially where management is weak and not willing to stand up to that individual. Right, Mr Roger ‘Custer’ Lewis, you tend to talk like a “pwll tro” – Welsh for whirlpool – so put your talents to the test and clear up this mess once and for all before you too disappear down the plughole. And let’s be brutal, Ruddock himself has an overriding duty here, too. I mean, the train jumped the rails under his command!

If October 5 was World Smile Day, then October 6 must be World Choker Day. Has there ever been a day when so many high profile favourites – yellow (Australia capitulating to England), black (New Zealand choking against France) and Brown (chickening out of an election having done the foreplay bit, the old fanny tease, and becoming the “first prime minister in history to flunk an election because he thought he was going to win it”) – lost it in such spectacular fashion? The England win against the Aussies though gave me extra satisfaction, despite the misgivings of many of my fellow countrymen and women. Why should this be? Well, I’m probably the definitive tribalist: family and friends make up the most powerful inner tribe, then comes community, Welsh speaking, Welsh, British, Caucasian, ‘The West’ – and when push comes to shove, the northern hemisphere has it over the southern every time. As does the Brits over the French. Show me anyone who claims that tribalism, with its baggage and prejudices, is not hard-wired into their very being, and I’ll show you someone with little or no self-awareness – but that’s a tale for another time.

And all the while, England, Public Enemy Number One, makes it to the final at the expense of Les Bleus. Sacré bleu indeed. C’mon you sweet chariot, swing low!

ADDENDUM QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Trouble is, when you are somewhere like this, the team gets a bit of a holiday mentality – and I am the worst of the lot.” John Toshack, the Wales football manager, on his side playing their European Championship qualifier in Cyprus yesterday – a game they subsequently lost 3-1! This all goes to prove the power of the subliminal message. As Carwyn James, legendary rugby coach observed, all things being fairly equal between two opponents, the game is won and lost before a ball is kicked.

SMILE OF THE DAY: I have the answer to help sort out Welsh rugby: it’s time to call on Batman and Robin. Observing the WRU at work, rest and play is akin to watching Gotham City coming apart at the seams. President elect Dennis Gethin reminds me of Commissioner James ‘Jim’ Gordon, kindly and honest but ineffectual; he knows that the only way forward is to point the Batman searchlight into the sky. Whenever I hear David Pickering speak (chairman of the WRU), I intuitively sense that he doesn’t himself believe what he is saying, so he is arch-enemy Two-Face. At first I thought Roger Lewis would be a breath of fresh air, but I sense he’s the verbal equivalent of ‘all fur coat and no knickers’: Lewis is the Joker. As for Gareth Jenkins, most of the time I had no idea what he was talking about: goodbye Mr Riddler. Oh, the Penguin? Who else but the blazer boys from the clubs who wield power out of all proportion to their abilities to rescue the game at national level. So what of the players? Well, they never quite deliver what it says on the tin. Are they really as talented as we believe? And the more the team they next play confirm how dangerous Wales are, the more our boys fall for it – so the Wales XV is Mister Freeze. Then there’s the media: Poison Ivy, of course. Even Catwoman, as she squats on our laps and purrs and makes us smile, pushes her claws into our thighs and we wince. Sorry, Carolyn Hitt, columnist at the Western Mail. Yes, it’s time to send for Batman, and I commend to the House of Cards this wonderful line: “Unlike most superheroes, he does not posses any superpowers; he makes use of intellect, detective skills, science and technology, wealth, physical prowess, intimidation…” Go shine that light, Mr Commissioner. Goodnight Alfred. Goodnight Hubie.

 
   
 

WORLD SMILE DAY
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2007
WHAT ARE YOU SMILING AT?

 

 

I was going to write about the rugby this time out, but yesterday, by chance, I discovered that today is World Smile Day, something I’d never heard of, a day when Smiley slides into bed with us at one second past midnight on the first Friday in October. Today is the 9th World Smile Day, and the symbol for the day is Smiley, that most recognizable image of cheeriness. The first smiley face was created by Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Worcester, Massachusetts, back in 1963. That image went on to become the most recognizable symbol of goodwill and good cheer on the planet. Down the years Smiley has gone through many incarnations and there are now thousands upon thousands of variations on the theme, but perhaps it’s the most basic version that works best.

As ever the theme for World Smile Day - a day dedicated to good cheer and good works - is: “Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile.” The act of kindness itself is up to the doer. It's limited only by the imagination. It can be the smallest thing. And the person helped doesn't even have to know who provided the help. It doesn’t have to cost anything to celebrate the day - or any day come to that - for a smile is one of the few things left on the planet that comes free of charge. It’s not by chance that this web’s main tributary is called 400 Smiles A day. I learnt early in life that a smile is very disarming. No matter how annoyed, upset or stressed that person in font of you is, a carefully selected version of a human smiley defuses the situation posthaste.

So today I had a quick flick through my images for a smiley ...... Each and every time I see the photo below I think of that wonderful song Skylark - music Hoagy Carmichael, lyrics Johnny Mercer, a solid standard, loved equally by singers and musicians and first published in 1942 - and I never fail to smile.
 

 

Is there a meadow in the mist,
Where someone's waiting to be kissed ......?
 

 

Skylark
Have you anything to say to me?
Won’t you tell me where my love can be?
Is there a meadow in the mist,
Where someone’s waiting to be kissed?
Skylark,
Have you seen a valley green with Spring
Where my heart can go a-journeying,
Over the shadows in the rain
To a blossom covered lane?
And in your lonely flight,
Haven’t you heard the music in the night,
Wonderful music,
Faint as a “will-o-the-wisp”,
Crazy as a loon,
Sad as a gypsy serenading the moon (Oh)
Skylark,
I don’t know if you can find these things,
But my heart is riding on your wings,
So if you see them anywhere,
Won’t you lead me there?
Oh skylark,
Won’t you lead me there?

 


SMILE OF THE DAY: You know you're getting old when you tell a confidante "Actually, I'm having an affair!" - and that person responds with "Really! Who's doing the catering?" Goodnight friend. Goodnight Hubie.

 
  SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2007
GOD MOVES IN A MYSTERIOUS WAY, HIS WONDERS TO PERFORM
 
 
 


Above, this sunrise perfectly reflects my feelings this am. Are those Fijian con trails up there? Well, Wales went and lost yesterday and got itself knocked out of the Rugby World Cup – at the pool stage. Yes, Wales drowned at the shallow end of the pool. Still, if Wales had to be beaten, then Fiji would be my choice, especially having spent just a little time there – oh, and met some delightful Polynesian babes while there. I shall return to the rugby next time. Polynesia will have to wait for the book!

A quick morning walk and home before nine – I’ve decided a bit of nostalgia will go down nicely today. I used to be a big Radio 2 fan, loving the middle-of-the-road sort of music it specialised in before it became the swinging parent of Radio 1. I don’t care whether it’s music from the thirties, forties, fifties – or just released – if it’s classic middle of the road, that’s me sorted. In fact I love any middle-of-the-road stuff, no matter whether it’s popular, jazz, classical – anything that’s easy on the ear – so with Radio 2 today reliving its 40 years of existence, it should be good. Mind you I think they missed a trick in not having Wogan on from 7 till 9 (instead of Aled Jones doing his regular Sunday morning spot) especially being that Wake Up to Wogan is the current flagship of Radio 2. They could have played again the wonderful show he did as a tribute to Paul Walters his late producer and the guy who clearly did so much to shape Wake Up to Wogan. The only thing I’d like is for Wogan to stop talking over the beginning and end of the songs. I wonder if he ever listens to a recording of his show because he says the most inane things over the music. For example, on that Pauley Walters tribute show his first record was Eva Cassidy – the lady Walters brought to our attention – and as the song came to an end, Terry says “That’s Eva Cassidy’s Over the Rainbow…” Now then Tel, do you think there was anyone listening that morning who didn’t know who she was?

Actually, I’ve only just read, compliments of Caitlin Moran, that the intro to West End Girls by the Pet Shop Boys is “the sound of cars on wet city streets, and it’s one of the most atmospheric beginnings of a pop song … you can see the broken neon on the wet asphalt – the girls clacking towards the clubs – before Neil Tennant has sung a single note”. Now I didn’t know that because Terry and his fellow jocks insist that they are more important than the music. It’s the same with Michael Nesmith’s Rio and that wonderfully witty remark at the end, invariably faded or drowned out by yackety-yak. It’s so annoying. It’s akin to a little kid going to the library with a crayon and scribbling over the first and last pages of as many books as possible. Anyway, let’s do …

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Chinese lady, yellow top, must not be called. Bonkers speech about gun ownership.” Discarded note found on the platform of the Labour party conference after the final session had finished. This brings me to Tony Blair. "Who?" I hear you ask. I know, isn’t it astonishing how our Tone has vanished totally off the radar, as though he had never been born, and Iraq is just a bad dream that we'll all shortly escape from when the alarm goes off. This in turn brings me to Gordon Brown. From the very first time I watched Brown I’ve been hypnotised by the curious way he breaths when speaking, so much so that much of what he says goes straight over my head. Have you noticed how his jaw drops and he takes in an exaggerated gulp of air. It’s as if he exudes so much hot air through every orifice that he has to compensate by taking in huge draughts of FA – fresh air, that is. But the really curious thing is this: I’ve never heard or read anything about this trait from anyone. Perhaps I’m still in that dream. If not, I promise you, once you register old Gordon Gulpy Brown doing his thing, you’ll be distracted to extreme.

Back to Radio 2: although I’m not a Radio 1 listener, probably like most other folk I’ve been made endlessly aware that the first track Tony Blackburn played on Radio 1 was The Move’s Flowers in the Rain. But do you know what the first track on Radio 2 was? No, me neither - until Paul Hollingdale’s Breakfast Special this morning: Julie Andrews’ The Sound of Music. Now isn’t that amazing, especially given how Connie Fisher and The Sound of Music hit the headlines over recent times. Surely the BBC should have made a bit more of that.

Next came Junior Choice with Ed Stewpot and his “’Ello darlin’!”. Nostalgia with a capital N. At eleven came what I was really looking forward to: The Kenny Everett Radio Show. I always loved Kenny’s show, not so much his zany humour but his wonderfully eclectic choice of music. At one spot in today’s show, a rerun of his first for the Beeb in October 1981, he played Doris Day’s Move Over Darling, followed by Laurie Anderson’s weird and whacky and wonderful O Superman, followed by Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. Pure heaven. Why are there no shows like this today? Why must music be so ruthlessly compartmentalised? The other brilliant aspect was that today’s show played out in real time, with all the time checks spot on. And of course the weather and traffic reports from 26 years ago merely added to the magic of the show. There must surely be a case for the Kenny Everett Radio Show to be repeated on BBC7, the digital station. The rest of the day didn’t matter after all that.

Incidentally, Marcel Marceau, the celebrated French mime artist, died the other day. But do you know, just as whenever I hear the William Tell Overture (or is it Tchaikovsky’s 1812?) all I see is old Kemo Sabe and Hi Ho Silver – whenever I saw or heard mention of Marcel Marceau all I saw was Kenny’s Marcel Wave, with Cupid Stunt in the background. 

DEAR SIR OR MADAM: Take your mind back six months, remember the story all over the media when a £45,000 Bösendorf grand piano being delivered for the Two Moors music festival crashed down a flight of granite steps. Well, last Friday Bösendorf made an unprecedented offer and donated an £85,000 Imperial Concert Grand – and delivered without a scratch direct from the company in Vienna. “It is huge, but it plays like a dream,” said John and Penny Adie, organisers of said festival. So I submitted this letter: “Sir, A grand tale: Your business is desperate for some quality publicity, so you quietly tell your delivery boys to ‘drop’ a very expensive bit of kit (which is probably way past its tune-by date anyway), it will hit the headlines with a vengeance, you will immediately step forward, apologise and promise to put it right. Following anticipated insurance wrangles, you personally arrange a new replacement, worth double the original kit, what is more, you actually donate it. The media love the story and the honourable deed is all over the shop - again. Job well done. The sort of publicity money can’t buy. Do you know, it must be thirty years since a local old boy told me to believe nothing I hear, just half what I see. If you think I am being overly cynical and unfair to grand pianos everywhere, I refer you to Saturday’s Times, Page 5 (‘Faked photo prompts call to resign’).” That faked photo bit is best represented by the following quote: “In both politics and television you devalue the only currency you have if you forfeit the trust of the public. Lessons need to be learnt.” Labour Culture Secretary James Purnell lectures the BBC before it was revealed his picture was added digitally to a photo-opportunity he missed. It should of course have read “In politics, television and real life…” Honestly, you really couldn’t make it up.

SMILE OF THE DAY: I'm back with Kenny. Despite leaving commercial radio for the BBC, he continued to play ads on his show, albeit spoof ones, which he introduced with a musical "Let's have a little breakee-poo, we'll be back in just a sec!" So here’s one from this morning. Imagine that smooth, seductive and extravagant American voice so beloved of advertisers, and as the ad unfolds the commentary becomes more insistent. Oh yes, just remember that the commercial video recorder had only been going a few years when this ad saw the light of day: “There’s very little a modern video recorder can’t do. The model we chose for our video rental service, for instance, can be preset up to 8 days in advance to record your favourite show. It will record whatever you happen to be watching, or, at a touch of a switch, it will record one channel while you watch another. It will remove those irritating little stains which always seem to spoil your new hush puppies on their first day out; it can cook the lightest imaginable lemon sponges, propel a small moped at twice the speed of sound, read Sanskrit, cure cancer, exterminate entire races, arbitrate in union disputes and make love like a wild cat. Not for nothing is this magnificent machine called - The  Ferguson God! Call us, and we’ll deliver a God, to your home, for an obligation-free trial. But, make sure you judge it, before it judges you.” Now how smiley is that. As I look under my telly I see a Ferguson Videoplus HQ. Perhaps I should have traded up. Hello God. Hello Hubie.

 
 

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2007
A RAINBOW NOTION
 

 

 


RAINBOW
OF THE DAY: Virgins In Bed Give You Odd Reactions...... Violet/Indigo/Blue/Green/Yellow/Orange/Red. Both the above were taken from roughly the same spot, at roughly the same time, one looking east into the rising sun, the other looking west into – well, most days are agreeably colourful, but today though, all colours of the spectrum are experienced – and isn’t it handy that ‘rainbow’ is made up of seven letters, the number of colours of the spectrum. I have never seen so many rainbows - not all together, but spread over a couple of hours - appearing one after another after another after another, freakish weather conditions generating a quite extraordinary phenomenon. A curious sort of a morning from the word go: clear sky very early, cloudy around dawn, clear again by sunrise, but cloud on the horizon hides the actual sunrise itself. Over the next hour a beautiful morning unfolds, clear blue sky, mist in the valley. Cloud then appears from the west, some of it rather dark and ominous, a little rain falls, but the cloud does not continue its usual westward progress; instead it moves north to south. From about half-eight on it’s all somewhat surreal. Directly overhead is a clear dividing line running north to south. To the east, a beautiful sunny day, to the west dark rolling cloud moving south, periods of rain, and with each rain bearing cloud a beautiful rainbow - occasionally two in tandem. And the whole process goes on repeating itself. Quite wonderful.

Talking of rainbows, two is the most I’ve seen together (as today, above), but if you want to witness the strange case of the multiplying rainbows, a photo of six rainbows, check out http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap070912.html. Well worth a quick click.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Doctors said the lightning went through my body and because I was wearing rubber boots it earthed itself through my penis.” Ante Djindjic, 29, from Zagreb. Listening to Roy Noble on Radio Wales this afternoon (he’s moved from his morning slot) he states that men are six times more likely to be hit by lightning than women, and wonders why. A listener calls and says that when he worked on the buses he found that men were much better conductors! Someone in a more serious vein suggests that it’s men who work mostly outdoors. Interesting. I would have rang in myself and suggested they need look no further that Ante from Zagreb, with the addendum what on earth would have happened if he’d been having outdoor sex at the time, and wearing a condom – but I didn’t quite have the balls.

DEAR SIR OR MADAM: Down the years I’ve had reasonable success in having letters published in newspapers, but I’ve had a problem when it comes to serious-with-a-twist-of-humour, especially letters to The Times. The paper has a very middle-class sense of humour, which is a curious thing to behold. Both the working and the upper classes are eager to be amused – but the middle class play hard to get ... The Times ran a series of articles on the explosion of new words. Previously it was the media which regulated the flow of such words, but since the internet, with no pesky editor pulling the plug, new words are mushrooming everywhere. The Times got very excited about a new word, Elbonics – the actions of two people fighting for a shared armrest on a plane, in a cinema... The trouble with Elbonics is, that its meaning is not obvious, so in the wake of the Northern Rock banking fiasco (the first run on a British bank in 140 years) I submitted the following to The Times: “Sir, A word in your ear: my own favourite, freshly minted word, is trickydickiephobia (‘Don’t we need a few more useful words in conversation?’, Sept 18). It does not require explanation, but best of all we have just witnessed its usefulness. The more Gordon Brown shouted ‘Don’t panic, don’t panic!’ in grand Corporal Jones fashion, the louder the stampede towards your friendly, neighbourhood Northern Rock of Ages.” Trickydickiephobia writ large. And I’m 99.9 per cent sure I didn’t subliminally hoover up the word from somewhere else. I mean, it’s so perfect I’d have instantly registered its extreme, abnormal presence!

And here’s another: a J Oldcorn of High Wycombe is getting hot under the collar about something or other and is wondering, with tongue-in-cheek, whether he’s developing the male menopause. So off goes another missive: Sir, Hot flush: whenever I see or hear the expression ‘male menopause’ (letter, Sept 21), I keep thinking double negative or oxymoron or something odd like that. Surely the appropriate word is womenopause.” Again, the meaning is obvious. Women suffer men-o-pause, we men suffer women-o-pause. Sadly, The Times doesn’t share my sense of the ridiculous.

Talking of words and things, when Fleet Street zoomed onto the new Blue Peter cat (above on the right), whose viewer-chosen name The Times so coyly informed its readers was very nearly “a variant of Puss”, I sort of understood why Blue Peter didn’t want to call it Pussy. Imagine my surprise then when I read that the winning name was Socks – whereas, in fact, Cookie had topped the poll. What on earth was wrong with the name Cookie? Now as for Socks, what immediately came to mind was the last bulletin’s QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Golf is the social equivalent of having sex with your socks on.” Cookie, much to most folks’ surprise, including mine, is sometimes used as slang for some class A drug. But I liked best the reason offered up by a Glyn E Jones of Ashburton: "Cookie is considered to be a risqué name for a cat because it’s short for 'cooking fat', which is, of course, a spoonerism." Incidentally, just the other day I heard of an old lady who'd named her cat Murder. Neighbours found it very unsettling at night when the old lady went to her back door and started shouting “Murder! Murder!”.

Whilst I might complain that The Times doesn’t quite appreciate my jokes, I do quite well in other directions. They run a Monday-to-Friday column, Modern Morals, where Joe Joseph offers his advice on, yes, modern morals. On Fridays, readers are invited to answer some of the week’s problems. This conundrum caught my attention: My wife firmly believes that if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. I, on the other hand, hold that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. I believe mine is the more logical approach, but my wife thinks it is a “typical male cop-out”.

My response, borrowed from my opening comments on this very blog: I never had to complete a CV until I started a blog, where I declare that I can turn my hand to most things. But I freely admit that should you need something done expertly then you should invite an expert on board.

SMILE OF THE DAY: As I return from my walk, a rainbow over my shoulder, I pass eve’s toy shop – which should really have a place called Adam’s Tool Works next door, yes? As I wait for the traffic to clear, a lorry drives past – and as I have eve’s toy shop still in front of me, I instantly think of young Shagwell down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon – you know, he who can satisfy the ladies as fast as you can slide ‘em under him – for the lorry belongs to a South and West Wales tool hire firm, HSS Hire, and on its side is its marketing logo: A tool for every job. Goodnight Adam & Eve. Goodnight Hubie.

   
 
 

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2007
GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS

SUNRISE OF THE DAY!: Talk about omens, portents, horroroscopy – this morning’s sunrise has Skippy written all over it (Wales play the gold-shirted Aussies this afternoon in a Rugby World Cup pool stage game at Cardiff). To capture a glorious sunrise you need a fairly still dawn with a high pressure system hanging around close by (present and correct this am), along with some broken high cloud to reflect the colours (absent, apart from insignificant high wisps on the horizon) – but the x-factor is there with bells on, namely mist forming in the valley on a really chilly morning. A crystal clear, cloudless sunrise paints a glorious gold canvas, often difficult to capture, but mist reflects and highlights its radiance – and this morning is one of the most beautiful golden sunrises I’ve witnessed – above – though the camera struggles to capture the real gloriousness of it all. Below, the sun and mist bewitch – as talented rugby players often do. If I were a betting man I’d plonk on the Aussies.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Golf is the social equivalent of having sex with your socks on.” AA Gill, writer and bosom friend of the Welsh. I’ve never played golf, and have no thoughts on it one way or t’other, although I did read once that the average golfer’s handicap reflects his or her IQ – and of course, the longer he or she keeps on golfing, the further their handicap drops! As for sex with socks on – I plead guilty as charged. One of my most memorable encounters happened with socks on – and with bells on as well! Obviously Gill never had it away in a car when young and horny when the last thing on your mind is getting your bloody socks off. Wonderful memories.

The omens prove correct: the gold of Australia claim the spoils, Wales also-rans once more. On reflection it was a case of three wheels on the Welsh wagon in the opening game against Canada, when the dragon went AWOL in the first half before recovering in the second to fire a victory. The shock of the Canada game was the great hope of Welsh rugby, young James Hook, having a shocker. So what went wrong? Well, it became increasingly obvious after Hook’s first wayward kick, which handed the crucial opening initiative to Canada, that his mind was not focused – and that in a player noted for his laid-backness under pressure. Such waywardness from a key playmaker quickly spreads through the team. However, I wasn’t surprised at Hook’s mindset because a few hours before the game I’d read his column in The Sunday Times, where he seriously questioned the selection policy of his coach. Here we go again, I mused as I perused his jottings, the curse of the celebrity journalist. Although written in the first person, I can only think that it was the work of a ghost writer, the worst possible spin having been put on his thoughts. Why does the Welsh Rugby Union allow such nonsense? And I feel uncomfortable when I see Ryan Jones, a young Welsh player currently on the injured list – and a grand lad to boot – as a TV pundit passing judgment on those he will play with when he returns to fitness. Are we really such a stupid nation? God forbid, perhaps the put-a-sock-in-it AA Gill was right all along about us.

SMILE OF THE DAY: The ability of a hot air balloon in flight to generate a smile is well established. This morning I have a double smile. Along my morning walk I pass a place called Birdshill Farm, just the westward side of the gas pipeline as it happens. They fly balloon trips from Birdshill, and I often catch sight of an early morning lift-off, occasionally a couple of them. Above is one I took a moon or so ago. This morning there’s quite a thick mist around Birdshill, but I can hear the burner. From a field just above Birdshill there’s blue sky, so once the balloon clears the ground mist the view will be glorious up there. Even though I hold a pilot’s licence (now lapsed), I’ve never flown in a balloon, or a helicopter come to that. Anyway, as I come within touching distance of Birdshill, through the mist I can see the balloon climb away. And then I see something new, taking off a smaller balloon which doesn’t have a basket, just a seat slung beneath for the sole flyer - at least I think it's a single-seater.

Because of the mist I simply cannot grab a crystal clear view of it. But I do register that it bears the Fairy soap logo. Now how did the ad go? Hands that do dishes are as soft as a baby’s bum! Or as The Cisco Kid down at the Crazy HP would say: Hands that are judicious eventually end up around your neck!  Despite the restricted view, I’m close enough to hear the conversation between its pilot and those on the ground. As he climbs through about 100 feet or so he shouts to those below: “How does this thing work again?” Goodnight terra firma. Goodnight Hubie.

   
 
 

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2007
MEMBERS ONLY

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Everyone needs a Willie.” Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of her trusted deputy, Willie Whitelaw. I’ve just paraphrased this memorable quote over on 400 Smiles A Day – but it set me thinking: did Maggie fully realise what she was saying? Or did it just slip out? And being the clever politician that she was – imagine, Gordon Brown has just said this: “I think Lady Thatcher saw the need for a change ... I also admire the fact she is a conviction politician ... I am a conviction politician like her ...” – so did she turn a sow’s ear of a remark into a silk purse of a quote? My guess is that she knew what she was saying; in fact what I think she said was “Every prime minister should have a Willie”, which makes it even better. Given the Blair years – and how relentless spin turns to inevitable lies leads to unspeakable tragedy i.e. Iraq – do you suppose that Tony Blair will ever say “Every prime minister needs an Alastair”? Scarcely believe. Incidentally, given Gordon Brown’s admiration of Thatcher, it rather confirms the suspicion that New Labour is actually an Old Con in disguise.

I watch very little TV because very little seduces me to slide into bed with it. Perhaps my 20/20 instinct warned me all along about the faked phone-ins, dodgy competitions, a monarch coming instead of going, misleading footage of a man’s death, staged editing techniques – it’s the F-word writ large - F as in fakery, that is. Another reason I don’t watch TV is that I tend to flick through the TV guide about a week or so after the event. For example, I’ve just read this about a programme shown on September 3 on BBC3: My Penis And Everyone Else’s. The blurb goes thus: “The film-maker Lawrence Barraclough wants to get men talking about their members, but does not meet many volunteers when he walks up and down Oxford Street wearing a sandwich board with a message to that effect.” Well, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn’t want to join a club where I have to wear my membership on my sleeve.

Talking of members, it is said that when you see a man driving a flash car it is merely a penis extension. So what does that say about the Top Gear team of Clarkson, Hammond and May? I nearly said just a load of little pricks at heart – but I stopped myself in time. However, I read that the Hamster, having once escaped an accident that nearly cost him his life, rides again in a new high-speed Top Gear stunt, racing a 252mph Bugatti Veron against a Typhoon jet. You really couldn’t make it up. We humans have been around for 40,000 generations. For 39,996 of those, the fastest we could travel outside of our own two-legpower was 20mph or thereabouts, either on a horse or under sail. Then along came the steam engine, followed rapidly by the combustion engine, jet engine and finally, rocket power. Over just four generations or so we have gone from 20mph to 18,000mph. Richard Hammond really should wise up because there’s something delightfully doolally about watching a man propel himself through the air at 252mph, while his brain toddles along behind at a stately 20mph.

The above is sunrise on a misty morn over the gas pipeline I feature on 400 Smiles A Day. Three weeks of dry and pleasant weather since it decided to stop raining, although glorious sunrises have been in short supply due to high cloud around dawn, which then tends to clear by midday to give beautiful afternoons and evenings. A feature of this summer has been the extraordinary sight of wild flowers along our riverbanks – all to do with the mild and wet summer weather, apparently – but what a gloriously uplifting sight. However, the joker in the pack is the nice but naughty Himalayan balsam which has truly invaded the place. It’s very beautiful, but so invasive it smothers everything in sight. If this particular HB continues its expansion plans then we won’t see many more wild flowers because it overwhelms them. What doesn’t help of course is that the bee loves it. I’ve never seen so many bees as this year. And this morning they were all over the HB. I wonder if the bees know if there’s some change in the prevailing conditions and that they’re building up their nectar stocks while the sales last. I’ll shortly feature a range of the summer’s flowers and bees over on 400 Smiles A Day – and if such things don’t make you smile, nothing will. As a starter for ten, and apart from the new Reception shot at the top, below just a taste of the Himalayan balsam along the River Towy, on the horizon the famous beech trees of Penlan Park, Llandeilo; the other I recently had published in the Western Mail – I call it Beauty and the Beast, the Beast of course being that nice but naughty Himalayan balsam…
 

 

   
 

SMILE OF THE DAY: Back with speed, there’s the devil’s own fuss regarding a proposal that further consideration be given to restricting the rights of older people to drive, in particular a driving test at 70. Someone pointed out that about 9 per cent of accidents are caused by those over 70, while 32 per cent are caused by those under 26, so why are the oldies being targeted? Those who complain about restricting the rights of older people to drive appear to have missed the point. After the age of 25 driving skills can only improve, while after 70 they can only deteriorate – a fact which insurance rates reflect; indeed some insurers close their books to new business at 70, pretty much all do at 75. Be that as it may, I was rather taken by the latest US road safety slogan: “Drive carefully – it’s not only cars that can be recalled by their maker.” Goodnight officer. Goodnight Hubie.

Reception


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