Prepared on screen resolution 1280 by 720 pixels
BEYOND THE BLUE HORIZON
change of direction coming up: a trial run featuring a daily Smile of
the Day. To recap: at the end of each day I note in my diary the one
thing which made me smile the most that day. It can be something read in
a newspaper, heard on the radio, seen on TV, shared down the pub,
observed in the supermarket, a good joke, something deliciously ironic
or odd beyond – or indeed one of those endlessly weird and wonderful
things I stumble upon along my walk through time.
I shall launch my smile trek along the predictably
unpredictable on the first day of July - and then hopefully update the
whole shebang on a regular basis. So here goes...
Everyday a Smile of the Day
Friday, December 31
Hello big boy
UNBELIEVABLY, it's six months since I launched this
Smile of the Day’ bulletin board (hopefully not a bulletin
bored). Truth to tell I’ve been spoilt for choice;
there are so many things out there going “Coo-ee!”. Today’s smile rather
proves the point.
I regularly report here, every morning when I wake, Dear Lord, a little
walk I take ... before sunrise, I set off on my country stroll. I proceed
in a straight line, more or less, across the fields to Llandeilo – about
a couple of miles I guess – where I collect a morning paper, along with
any essential provisions. I then return home along a different route –
some three miles I’d say – although this can be longer if I decide to go
igam ogam (zigzag). And of course I always carry a little camera
with me to record anything of interest, especially all the little
songbirds I’ve befriended along the way.
Well now, along this morning’s walk, and as always,
while mine eyes are darting all over the place in case something of note
unfolds, my mind is far, far away. Mostly I’m reviewing what happened
yesterday, in particular what made the smile shortlist, and what I
eventually decide to go with – then I’ll formulate in my mind what I’m
going to say.
Then somewhat unexpectedly, this morning, I am
momentarily transported to the world of Gulliver’s Travels. No, not
Lilliput with all the little folk – but Brobdingnag with its giants.
To recap: when the sailing ship Adventure is steered off course
by storms and forced to go in to land for want of fresh water,
Gulliver is abandoned by his companions and found by a farmer
who is 72 feet tall (the scale of Lilliput was approximately
1:12, whereas Brobdingnag is 12: 1 where a man’s step is 10
yards). The farmer brings little Gulliver home and his daughter
cares for him. The farmer treats him as a curiosity and exhibits
him for money...
So there I am, walking across this field somewhere in
Brobdingnag – and suddenly I think, my God, the farmer has hung
his condom out to dry on that fence. I mean, only a giant would
use a condom that size.
Goodness, imagine how much blood needs to be pumped
about his body to fill that thing. (It is a known fact that when
a man is confronted by a pretty young thing, who just happens to
flash her eyes in his direction, and he becomes aroused, all the
blood is instantly transferred from his brain to his penis,
which is why men behave as if they have no brains when
confronted with a promise of a banker bonk.)
Then I come back to the real world and blink – and
proceed to examine Exhibit A. I quickly realise that what I’ve
stumbled upon is
A Chinese letter (of love?)
probably a Chinese lantern, which has landed on the fence. But you
have to admit, it does look like a knackered condom that has lived
its life one jump ahead of the competition.
This is the first one I’ve come across one, although
there’s been much in the media of late because they are an acknowledged
danger, especially to rural folk. Mainly they can land on farm crops and
farm buildings, or indeed hay stacks, and if still alight set fire to
everything. Also there’s been concern that the metal frames break up,
the cattle eat the shards of wire and they either die or need expensive
surgery to remove the lethal bits of metal embedded in their stomachs.
not just farmers that have a problem. These incendiary bombs drop over
oil refineries and chemical plants, which go to great lengths to keep
sources of ignition away from flammable storage. Then there are
gasometers, petrol stations, thatched cottages and a few other places
which have no redress against these anonymous pyromaniacs.
However, I note from this particular one that the frame of the lantern
contains no wire but a chord-like material. In other words,
biodegradable. I’m not sure about the condom itself, but I presume this
too is ecofriendly. But there’s still the danger from a still lighted
lantern landing on something inflammable.
Anyway, stumbling upon this jumbo condom made my smile of the day,
without any serious challenge. The year goes out with a hop, a skip and
Thursday, December 30
Quotes ‘R’ Us
TIME to catch up with some exceedingly smiley quotes...
“It makes one want to take the turkey out of
the oven and put your head in it.” Joan Rivers on Susan Boyle’s
latest album of “heat-warming Christmas songs”.
What I couldn’t quite work out was, whether she wanted to stick Susan
Boyle’s head in the oven or up the turkey’s arse?
“I’d like to find someone to procreate with. If
you’re out and about and fit the description, come up and say ‘hi’. I
won’t bite. Well, maybe a little, if you’re lucky.” Actress Chloe
Sevigny, who is on the hunt for a man.
As Kylie Minogue once sang: I should be so lucky; lucky, lucky, lucky; I
should be so lucky in something or other.
There’s little doubt that Chloe should seek out the company of
Michael O’Dowdall, doorman at London’s Ritz Hotel:
“I’ve got a new aftershave, called Crumbs. The birds love it.”
I guess Michael O’Dowdall has been using his loaf. Definitely the best
line since sliced bread.
“Bruce Forsyth could present Newsnight and they
could bring back Basil Brush to present the Today programme. It wouldn’t
make the blindest bit of difference to my state of knowledge about the
world.” London mayor Boris Johnson sort of says he don’t listen to
the BBC news no more ... which probably explains the following quote of
his, apropos the ways of the solar system: “Our sun is a middle-aged
sort of star – a five-year-old Ford Focus of the heavens.”
Do you suppose the stresses of being London mayor is just starting to
get to lovable old Boris? Or has he been peering into the mirror for far
“I hope to visit each of tonight’s winners soon. I’m sure all of them
will be second to naan.” Joke by chunky Eric Pickles, Communities
Secretary of the coalition, at the British Curry Awards ceremony.
That’s how you curry favour, I guess. Neat joke though.
However, pride of place today goes to Piers Morgan,
not an individual I would ideally want within a million miles of my
fondly imagined South Sea Island paradise, on the
news that Elton John, warbler of some parish or other, has become a
“surrogate” father: “Feel such a fool. Sir Elton never even hinted he
was pregnant during our interview.”
To whom it may concern
WHEN I reach for the old Zap-a-dee-doo-da, I invariably land on Dave
TV – “The home of witty banter” – especially so with its rerun of
comedy gems. Tonight I watched an episode of Have I Got News For You,
the satirical current-affairs quiz, this one from 2002, I think.
The most astonishing thing is, no matter how much the political
landscape changes down the years, the doolallyness of
politicians remain constant, no matter what their party.
I have a theory: if you slice a politician in half, much as you
would snap a stick of rock in half, the DNA profile embedded
throughout the length of each and every politician, no matter
what their core beliefs, would match perfectly.
In layman’s terms, a politician’s hard rock DNA would
read: I am here for my benefit, not
Dishearteningly for the rest of us, it’s that layer of
skimmed milk at the bottom of the bottle which invariably
pursues a career in politics.
This is why we always hear this exasperated query: why
does politics not attract a better class of person, you know,
that precious layer of cream at the neck of the bottle?
A stick of rock used to
promote Alan 'Fluff' Freeman's
Friday Night Rock Show on Virgin Radio in the 1990s
Anyway, back with HIGNFY: the two resident captains are
exceptional value. Paul Merton with his sharp wit. Ian Hislop with his
waspish observations, indeed often quite witty too – well, you are not
editor of Private Eye for nothing.
Unusually tonight, Paul Merton cracks a joke. A man
visits the doctor for an examination. The nurse coughs politely to draw
the doctor’s attention: “Excuse me, doctor,” she whispers, “but there’s
a bit of lettuce leaf sticking out of his arse.”
“Oh dear,” says the doctor, peering over his glasses,
“I fear that’s only the tip of the iceberg.” Bum-bum!
pure chance, what followed HIGNFY was an episode of QI,
the comedy panel show, and along the way, chairman Stephen Fry tells this tale about Paul
Merton appearing on a programme with Nicholas Parsons (presumably it
would have been the BBC Radio 4 panel game Just A Minute, where
Parsons is the host, and has been for the show’s 43 year run; indeed the
programme’s longevity is arguably due in part to the chairman’s ability
to play straight man to the comedians who participate, Paul Merton
Anyway, Parsons notices Merton busily scribbling away
on a sheet of paper. “What are you doing, Paul?”
“I’m writing a suicide note.”
“A suicide note? Explain.”
“Hang on a sec,” responds Paul Merton, busily
scribbling – then he finishes with a flourish and hands the paper and
pen to Nicholas Parsons: “There you go,” says Merton, “sign that.”
Tuesday, December 28
To pontificate, to hit for six
I HAVE just seen that a Dr Simon Tull of Muscat in Oman was amused to
hear a discussion of Pope Benedict’s Christmas Thought for the Day
on the BBC’s Today programme, in which a spokesman for the National
Secular Society accused him of “pontificating”. As Dr Tull wittily
responds: “His prerogative, I’d have thought.”
it happens, Pope Benedict leads perfectly to Captain Ponting,
compliments of cricket’s Ashes 2010 series currently unfolding Down
Under. Australia captain Ricky Ponting, a rather feisty individual it
fined 40% of his match fee, around £3,500, for an alarmingly stroppy
confrontation with umpire Aleem Dar on a full-blooded second day of the
fourth Ashes test. (As I write, England have just beaten Australia in
that fourth test to retain the Ashes on Aussie soil for the first time
Anyway, back with Ricky Ponting’s shemozzle with the umpire. This drew
the following online response from
Arthurnowr: Yes, Dr Tull, the Pontiff should be permitted to
pontificate. But this privilege certainly does not extend to Mr Ponting
whose pontificating and remonstration with the umpires was ungentlemanly
at best. Rudeness - the last refuge of a desperate man.
Ah, nothing like a bit of clever “four” play - or indeed “six” play.
Monday, December 27
“An injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult”
Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, 1694-1773
“GEORGE Osborne has a capacity to get up one's nose, doesn't he? Some
of them just have no experience of how ordinary people live, and that's
what worries me.”
Liberal Democrat David Heath, deputy Leader of the Commons' verdict on
Conservative Chancellor George Osborne.
There’s been much in the media of late about the “nasty” things Liberal
Democrat ministers have been saying about their Conservative coalition
colleagues. Today I came upon this entertaining letter in the Daily
The personalities of Cameron and Clegg cannot cement a cracked
SIR – There is nothing remarkable about the willingness of Liberal
Democrat ministers to make disparaging comments about their Conservative
coalition colleagues. They are following the example of Lloyd George,
the last Liberal prime minister.
During his coalition government of 1916-22 he ridiculed
his foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, as “the scent on a pocket
handkerchief”. He castigated his closest Tory colleague, Bonar Law, as
“weak”, adding “B.L. ought to take to drink” to give himself courage.
Curzon was “insufferably pompous”. Salisbury, head of
the great Tory house of Cecil, “would make a very respectable booking
clerk”. Colleagues rushed to deliver the insults to their victims.
Lloyd George had the great merit of never minding what
other people said about him. He paid heed to some wise words of Anthony
Trollope. “It is a common practice for people to make disobliging
observations about one another. Why do we profess such shock and
surprise when we hear what is being said about us?”
Poor old Arthur Balfour, “the scent on a pocket handkerchief”. That’s an
insult not to be sniffed at. I often see fascinating letters from
Alistair Cooke in the more “serious” papers. Obviously he is not the
ghost of the ‘original’ Alistair Cooke, famous for his “Letter from
America”, who died in 2004.
No, this Alistair Cooke is the Conservative Party’s
official historian, hence the fine detail in the above letter.
Good smiley stuff though. The quote at the top speaks of Tory
politicians having “no
experience of how ordinary people live”.
Personally I think all our movers and shakers - politicians, bankers,
CEOs, civil servants, media chiefs, etc, etc - have as much empathy with
the real world as an amoeba has with a dolphin.
A lady bearing wisdom
WHEN it comes to birthdays and Christmas, I have to admit that I am not
into giving presents or sending cards. In return, I receive no cards or
presents. As far as I can tell, everyone is happy with this arrangement.
Point of order: I will send a Christmas card if there
is a specific reason, such as enclosing something of note or keeping in
touch with someone I haven’t seen for mega moons. Also, every year I do
receive one or two birthday and Christmas cards (plus occasionally a
little gift), which I am hugely impressed by because the senders never
get one in return. How can you not admire such individuals?
Before everyone concludes what a mean bastard I am, you
must allow me to join up all the dots.
was brought up at a time and place where presents and cards were simply
not exchanged within the family at birthdays and Christmas. That’s how
it was in rural Wales. So once Santa had decided to call it a night, and
say for example I wanted a bike, my parents would challenge me to do
well in some particular exam to earn that bike.
Only when I began to negotiate adulthood did I realise
how clever my parents were: they never said I should “pass” said exam,
but rather “do well”. This meant that it was their call. If they thought
I had done my best, without necessarily passing an exam, I got my bike,
or whatever it was that was on my wish list at that time. And of course
in their eyes I always did my best. Clever stuff.
Anyway, once I entered the big wide world out there and
realised that giving presents was now the done thing, I remember buying
my then widowed mother a Christmas present, and when I presented her
with it – I can’t remember what it was – she was horrified: “Don’t waste
your money buying presents for me. There’s nothing I need. All I ask is
that I am treated as an honourable human being, doing her best, for 365
days of the year – and sometimes getting it wrong – rather than being
treated like the Queen of Sheba for a couple of days in every year.”
Now that simple statement had a profound effect on my
thinking. True, there were instances where I didn’t treat my mother as
well as I should – nothing, I don't think, that would earn me forty
whacks or have me carted away to be put in the stocks – but little
things where you knew you had let the side down.
Going back to giving presents, the funny thing was that
on my birthday or at Christmas, my late mother would often press some
money into my hand: “Have a little drink on me.” Ah, mums, what would we
be without them? You have to smile.
yes, she taught me something else as well:
Whenever anyone does you a favour or a good turn, always show your
appreciation. If you feel you need to show that through a gift, that's
fine, but never be driven by cost. It’s the thought that counts. Always
remember that often a letter, card, even a phone call, will do the trick
– people appreciate being appreciated. Oh, and if ever you borrow
something, say a tool, implement or whatever, make sure that you return
it in the same condition you received it – where possible, return it in
a better condition – and you will then find that people will be happy,
indeed eager, to lend you things in future.
How clever that advice is. Quite a wise old owl
was my mother.
Which all neatly brings me to this quote from design guru Terence
Conran: “My favourite item of clothing is ...
my stripy socks. My socks actually make me smile.”
And do you know, I actually smiled on reading that. Note to self: I must
treat myself to a pair of stripy socks. A present to self. Now there's
PS. Not being a hostage to the present-buying regime has one huge
benefit: I never get stressed out in the lead up to Christmas. And of
course I am never, ever disappointed.
Given the bird
I ACTUALLY stumbled upon the following, together with the marvellous
picture, in the Letters column of the Daily
Telegraph back on November 15. It made me smile XL then – so I thought I
would file it in my diary under Christmas Day – and it still makes me
smile as much today as it did back then…
Festive fowl: serving a pet goose for Christmas lunch
Emotional difficulties of raising your own dinner
SIR – Tom Sykes’s article on rearing geese for Christmas
(Features, November 12) reminded me of the goose my mother
raised for our Christmas lunch when I was a child. We called it
Charlie and it became quite a feature of our farmyard, as it was
a real character.
When the festive season arrived, Charlie met his
anticipated end and was carried triumphantly to the table,
around which sat a number of relations waiting to savour the
However, my younger sister took one look at our pet and
burst into the most pitiful sobs, which were taken up first by
the other children and then by the women.
The deceased Charlie was quickly removed and we dined
instead on tins of corned beef. My father was furious but it did
make that a memorable Christmas.
me luck as you wave me
geese taken to Cheltenham market, December 1931
Diana Bird, Barrington, Cambridgeshire
Marvellous story, made even more memorable by the lady’s name. One of these days I must tell the tale of my
solitary beans on
toast with bottle of red wine Christmas lunch. Also most enjoyable - and memorable.
A very merry Christmas to all who venture
The blind leading the blind
YESTERDAY I spoke of Business Secretary Vince Cable doing his damnedest
to convince us that he really is ‘half a bubble off plump’, a condition
I feel he shares with Jeremy Clarkson (and indeed all other known
Now I enjoy watching and reading Clarkson: he makes me
smile and laugh out loud, probably because he works hard at perfecting
the image of doolallyness. At least, I’m fairly sure that it is all an
act. But now I'm beginning to have my doubts.
I’d read hardly any of last weekend’s Sunday Times,
so decided to have a quick flick through the various sections before
putting them in the recycling pile. This caught my eye on the cover of
the Ingear section (cars/gadgets/adventure):
“On an unlit country Lane I wondered if it would
be possible to drive with the lights off...” There’s a
picture of Clarkson holding on tight to a driving wheel as if about to
crash. Intrigued, I opened the section’s centre-page spread.
is reviewing the Mercedes CL 63 AMG, all £112,000 of it. It’s a car full
of astonishing gadgets. Over to Jeremy...
So then I tried another trick. On a dark, unlit country lane, I wondered
if it would be possible to drive with the lights off, using only the
night-vision camera that beams pictures of the road ahead to the dash.
DO NOT EVER DO THIS. Because what happens when you turn
the lights out is you get a little message on the dash saying that, with
no illumination, the cameras don’t work. So now you’re doing 40mph, in
the pitch dark, and you can’t find the light switch to turn the full
beam back on again...
then goes on to illuminate us regarding a close encounter with a tree. All very
smiley of course, but it’s a bit of Alice in Wonderland stuff. Even if
you are half a bubble off plumb, as I suspect Jeremy is, you would
never, ever turn all the lights off while travelling at 40mph. You would
of course start from a standstill ... slowly ... very slowly ... just to see what happens.
Believe nothing you read, and only half what you see.
Actually, all Jeremy’s columns should carry the following Health &
Safety warning: DO NOT EVER BELIEVE ANYTHING YOU READ HERE. ENJOY!
Hope Santa brings you everything on your wish list tonight. Even a
Mercedes CL 63 AMG:
Clarkson’s verdict... It’s
big, it’s mad, it’s expensive – and I want one...
Thursday, December 23
A media sting in the tail
“IT'S like fighting a war. They know I have
nuclear weapons, but I don’t have any conventional weapons. If they push
me too far then I can walk out of the Government and bring the
Government down – they know that.” Business Secretary Vince Cable, a
Liberal Democrat MP and part of the ruling coalition.
My immediate reaction on reading the above is that power has momentarily
knocked Vince Cable’s bubble off plump, and as a result he has been
“humiliatingly” stripped of his responsibilities for the media after he
also claimed to Daily Telegraph undercover reporters (a ‘sting’
operation where they pretended to be constituents of his) that he had
“declared war” on Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.
“Gracious goodness me!” said Vince Cable, “the BSkyB has fallen on my
head; I must go and tell the Queen.”
Trouble is, and as reported in yesterday’s Smile of the Day, something
nasty is perhaps about to fall on the Queen’s head too. I’m telling you,
things are happening fast and furious out there.
It now turns out that the Telegraph had undertaken
similar sting operations on other Liberal Democrat ministers; indeed
further revelations exposed the depth of animosity Lib Dem ministers
hold for their Conservative coalition colleagues.
For example: “He has the
capacity to get up one’s nose.” Liberal Democrat David Heath, deputy
Leader of the Commons on Chancellor George Osborne. Why on
earth would Heath say such a thing to complete strangers?
This strange little tale of our times makes
today’s Smile of the Day for no other reason than ... who the hell needs
WikiLeaks when our politicians will sing like canaries in front of anyone who
sweet talks them?
Are all the nation's movers and shakers - our leaders? - bankrupt of all wisdom?
Whether innate or garnered? No
wonder the nation is buried deep without trace under all this snow.
The second class revolution starts here
THERE'S been much agitation in the meeja over recent days regarding the
privatisation of Royal Mail, but more to the point, will the Queen’s
head disappear from our stamps? Indeed, how will stamps be identified if
the Queen’s head has to go?
In fact the following letter appeared in yesterday’s
Telegraph, which makes the point rather neatly.
SIR – The Coalition Government is about to
privatise Royal Mail, which could lead to the removal of the Queen’s
head from our stamps (report, December 20). The monarch’s head has
been on our stamps since they first appeared in May 1840. If the Queen’s
head is removed, how shall we identify our country on stamps?
Will it say Great Britain or United Kingdom? Will Scotland,
Wales and Northern Ireland want their own names on their stamps?
David Leathart, Watton, Norfolk
The letter was accompanied by the picture alongside, which I was
What I like is that the bat is perfect for inserting a face. So,
given that there’s a round ball bouncing along, whose face, in a
sporting context that is, should we put there? Steve Davis?
David Beckham? Ian Botham? John Prescott? (Well, he did become
infamous for playing a round of croquet between playing around
with his diary secretary!)
But what the above letter brought to mind was the other
evening when the car carrying the Duchess of Cornwall and the
Prince of Wales was attacked by rioting students, in particular
the enthusiastic chant of a student on spotting the royal car:
“Off with their heads.”
Michael Craig Martin's bold stamp
design to mark the 2012 Olympics
That in turn brought to mind this from Alice’s Adventures in
The Queen was in a furious passion, and went
stamping about, and shouting “Off with his head!” or “Off with her
head!” about once in a minute.
Well, you sense that revolution is in the air when students are in a
furious passion, and go stamping about, and shouting “Off with their
heads!”. But more worrying for the Royals is that the Queen’s head will
be surreptitiously removed from our mail without any fuss or bother or
bloodshed. Very worrying that.
Talk about life suddenly becoming upside down, back to front, inside
Tuesday, December 21
“Look at me while I’m flashing my lightsaber...”
BACK on December 4, I wrote this...
There has also been much in the media regarding
in particular his mode of communication to the world about him,
especially on a television series called The Apprentice. (*
I refuse on principle to address him as L**d Sugar. It will only
encourage him to morph from a tosspot into a cesspit; similarly Neil
Kinnock, John Prescott and all the other tossers. You will never catch
me tugging at my forelock to acknowledge any of those ‘titled’ twats. Oh
to have the proper ruling classes back in charge. There, got that off my
Well now, today I was catching up with The Sunday Times, and
stumbled upon this priceless little news item tucked away in the corner
of Rod Liddle’s column ... I quote:
A man has been arrested in Crawley for performing what we might call a
solitary sex act in a public library. The slightly odd thing about this
is that the chap’s choice of reading material was Sugar’s autobiography,
What You See Is What You Get.
Odd only in that also available on the shelves was the
Observer’s guru Will Hutton’s Them and Us: Changing Britain – Why We
Need a Fairer Society. Perhaps he was saving that for later.
What about Tony Blair’s A Journey?
Anyway, it’s somewhat alarmingly that my view of the nation’s movers and
shakers as a load of old tosspots is endorsed by the nation’s men in
Which reminds me of a good one I’ve just read in
Michael Winner’s column, also in The Sunday Times:
Sadie Cohen the seamstress is walking home. A
flasher opens his coat, revealing all. Sadie says: “You call that a
Incidentally, a quick Google (a solitary inquisitive act?), and the
cover of Sugar’s book has a picture of him looking straight at you. So
remembering that the autobiography is called What You See Is What You
Get – then all of a sudden you begin to appreciate precisely what
the fellow doing the solitary sex act was thinking.
He deserves an OBE, as in Obe Wank Enobi: “'Ere, what’s that
in yer ’and?” “A lightsaber ... honest!”
Monday, December 20
The Big Society's Big Itch
WE ALL know the short-term pleasure gained from relieving an annoying
itch, the satisfaction of a good old scratch. And it’s not just us.
We’ve all noticed the gratification a dog experiences when having a
Well, I spotted it from a distance ... what on earth
was it doing? As I neared I could see that a sheep was rubbing itself
like crazy against a handy signpost along a public footpath through an
exceedingly snowy Towy Valley field – and the sheep was working its way
round and round and round the post.
Now I regularly catch all sorts of animals having a
good old scratch against something handy like a gatepost, a feeder,
anything solid and permanent. A particular favourite is a fallen tree
because they can wriggle under a branch and relieve an
impossible-to-get-at itch on their back.
Anyway, there was something different about this sheep.
Not least that the weather was so cold, hovering around zero,
so it obviously wasn’t suffering from the sorts of skin problems
they suffer in hot and sticky weather.
It took me a good few minutes to haul myself through
the snow to get near it ... I established that it was a sheep
and not a ram ... and it was ever such a smiley thing to
Many minutes of frantic itching went by. But what was
so unusual was the sheer expression of pleasure it was
exhibiting. It was as if she was massaging herself.
The sheep in this particular field are quite used to my
walking past so this one was typically not bothered by my
presence. She kept going round and round the signpost, rubbing
herself like mad. I can only think that it had to be something
to do with the snow and the cold: warming herself, perhaps? Alongside, witness her extreme satisfaction ...
head in the air ... eyes closed ... oh, the sheer bliss.
I just stood there and smiled. It was as if I was
sharing her pleasure of an itch well discharged.
There’s no itch like a snow itch
Sunday, December 19
moment in time
SO WHAT, precisely, are you up to at eight o’clock on a typically average evening?
Presuming of course that you are a UK visitor to my little website.
Now I have never watched Coronation Street, EastEnders, Strictly Come
Dancing or The X Factor (nor Pobol y Cwm, the highly rated Welsh soap
opera on S4C, come to that). That is not a statement of protest: to each
his own, say I.
However, I am up to speed on all these shows because of
the media’s obsession with the fluff in its own navel, which I suggest
is wholly out of proportion to the percentage of the population who
Excepting spectacular seasonal spikes (19.5 million
watched the final of The X Factor, and 14.5 million the final of
Strictly Come Dancing), and given that normally anything up to 10
million people regularly watch the above programmes – probably the same
10 million – I am intrigued if a poll or survey has ever been carried
out to establish precisely what the other 50 million of us are doing at
such a moment.
I have attempted to Google the query, without success –
but that could be down to my not posing the correct question.
Last night at eight, for example, I had just finished watching some live
European Cup rugby – Irish province Leinster defeated French club
Clermont Auvergne 24-8 – and I had then started a combination of things,
all on my computer: updating this web site, transferring pictures from
the camera, trawling the internet while listening to some Christmas
music tapes I put together a good many years ago – I’m still happy with
my old fashioned cassettes! – or indeed writing the occasional letter,
perhaps to a newspaper.
Given that Mother Nature has only a thousand basic human blueprints,
which she churns out endlessly, this means that around 60,000 people are
doing pretty much the same as me, at pretty much the same time – so that
accounts for 10,060,000 of the population – but what are the other
49,940,000 of you up to?
Yep, it’s a pretty impressive number of people who are not watching a
soap or reality programme.
Do you know, I would find it
totally fascinating to peruse a general breakdown of who’s doing what at
eight o'clock any given evening. For example, how many people are at
work, watching TV, listening to the radio, working on the computer, out
socialising, at a sporting event, gone to see a film or visit a theatre,
out for a meal, etc., etc…?
I smile just thinking about it.
Indeed, I have a sneaky suspicion that the
media is leading us all by the nose. They are forcing us to watch,
listen and read precisely what turns them on. I wonder?
Saturday, December 18
Snow and the child within
WELL, it’s the second day of the “big society” snow: yesterday morning
there was seven-eight inches of level snow, which is truly unusual for
this corner of the world. Dragging information off my brain’s memory
hard drive, when we’ve had this amount of snow there has invariably been
some wind, which blows the snow into drifts – but as the snow began to
fall late Thursday afternoon and overnight into Friday, it was all quiet
on the western front.
Then last night we had a further inch or two. Only
today have I had a chance to look at the photographs I took yesterday.
First light Friday was extraordinary because I have never seen so much
snow built up on the trees; it lasted a couple of hours or so before a
bit of a breeze came along and much of the snow on the trees fell.
I did my usual early-morning walk – what hard work it
is to haul yourself through not far off a foot of snow. Back in January,
when the country had its first taste of a proper winter for many a year,
over those first few weeks, with about three, four inches of snow
underfoot, I lost over half-a-stone, and all down to the effort of
walking through the snow.
I mentioned this to someone, who smiled: “That’s why
you never see an obese Inuit, obviously.”
If the current weather continues, I hate to think what
I’ll lose this time.
Anyway, I was rather captivated by a photograph I took yesterday
morning, just as I approached the outskirts of Llandeilo, across the
fields. Everything was so virginal, not a footstep in sight – normally
people walk their dogs on this field (National Trust land), and I often
bump into them at this time of year. But not a soul yesterday morning.
There’s something delightfully Christmassy about it. The snow hasn’t
long stopped, the sky is still overcast, dawn is struggling to break
through. It’s very atmospheric. It’s strange: because the light was so
poor I wasn’t expecting the pictures to be particularly good, yet with
all this snow my little camera appears to capture better images when
there is no sun and the light is “poor”. I guess it has something to do
with the reflective quality of the snow.
I were into Photoshop or some such like, I guess I could add a little
robin, perched on my hand, to the above image to give it that
extra-special Christmas feel. And some smoke coming out of one of those
chimneys. Ah well, what you see is what my camera sees.
long as snow does not impact on your health or work, then it is a
magical and smiley phenomenon, especially in these ‘ere parts where this
level of snow is so unusual. And I’m a child of the snow, anyway...
I’ve also included a picture of some exceedingly photogenic snow-covered
trees, over on postcard corner...
Friday, December 17
With silken lines, and silver hooks
IN the wee small hours, nature’s internal clock gives me a wake-up call:
I go for a pee. There was an episode in my early adult life when perhaps
I’d a had a few too many drinks the night before, and nature’s
early-warning system failed to wake me and I peed in bed – but that’s an
embarrassing story for another time.
Pee that as it may, when I get up to answer the call of
nature I automatically switch the radio on – quite why I’m unsure
because I tend to go back to sleep straight away. I say ‘tend to go back
to sleep’ ... occasionally something does indeed grab my attention and
sleep is pushed to one side. And so it was this morning.
The death had just been announced of Blake Edwards,
Hollywood writer, director and producer, perhaps best known for his Pink
Panther films and his creation, the unforgettably bumbling Inspector
Clouseau, as portrayed by Peter Sellers.
So Five Live’s Up All Night listeners have been
invited to contact the show with what they rate their favourite funny
moments in films – not just Blake Edwards’ work, but any memorable
Predictably many plump for Inspector Clouseau lines,
probably the most popular choice being the one where Clouseau, posing as
a medieval castle expert, checks into a hotel and then asks the clerk,
played so brilliantly by Graham Stark, “Does your dog bite?”, pointing
to a dog squatting on the floor.
Hotel clerk: “No.”
Clouseau bends down to pet the dog: “Nice doggie.” Of
course the dog growls aggressively and bites his hand. “I thought you
said your dog did not bite?”
The clerk shrugs: “That is not my dog!”
I’ve seen it so many times, yet even writing it now and I catch myself
with a huge grin on my face. Silken lines indeed.
But the one that really seduced my chuckle muscles was not a Clouseau
special, but one I’d never seen or heard of.
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy enter a room, and I think
the listener who suggested this said that it was Stan who then goes to a
closet door, opens it and removes his hat in order to hang it up – but
there is no hook or peg. So he goes into his pocket, pulls out a piece
of chalk and draws a hook – and then proceeds to hang his hat on it,
much to Oliver’s bewilderment.
I tried to find it online, without success. But no
matter, it’s one of those moments when you don’t really have to see it
to generate a laugh.
Incidentally, I enjoy my little game of coming up with a decent hook on
which to hang my daily headlines – yes okay, I’m nowhere near as good as
the professional sub-editors who dream up the daily newspaper headlines
which make us smile so – but, every day a day at school and all that.
I’m really chuffed with today’s effort:
With silken lines, and silver hooks.
Now there’s even a smile attached to this. The word
‘hook’ somewhere in the headline came easily – but what else? So I pull
down my Dictionary of Famous Quotations – and there it was. But that’s
not all. I looked at the rest of the quotation: it’s actually a poem
called The Bait, by John
So I shall leave you with these lines – and if this
doesn’t put a smile of delight on your face ... well, abandon hope, all
ye who peruse here.
Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks.
Thursday, December 16
99 not out
“I DON'T want to live beyond the age of 75.
That would be a good point to bow out. I don’t want to go on forever.”
Singer/presenter/celebrity Cilla Black, 67.
Now you know my thoughts on slebs: a bit of fame and fortune, and they
appear to morph into acute doolallyness, as Cilla’s surreal quote above
But hang on ... there’s a bit more to the quote, as
this headline and summary in the Western Mail suggests...
Turning 75 is nothing to fear, Cilla. It’s just the beginning of the
TV presenter Cilla Black has said she wants to “bow out” of life in
eight years’ time when she gets to the age of 75. She is apparently at
“a really good point” in her life but she did not want to go on forever
... the singer and television presenter said she was influenced by the
experience of her mother, who survived for several years despite having
to be fed through a tube. She said: “Unfortunately – and I do mean that
– her heart was strong. The result was that she lived much longer than
she wanted to. I remember asking her doctor if she could do something to
relieve my mother’s suffering. I’m not talking about euthanasia. I just
wanted the pain to stop for her. But the short answer was no.” Here,
Western Mail columnist Elaine Morgan, 90, responds to Cilla’s comments –
and says she has got it wrong...
So there was more to Cilla’s quote than the opening gambit at the
top. I’m reminded of Margaret Thatcher’s famous quote about there being
“no such thing as society”, which of course was taken out of context –
although even in its shortened version it does seem that Maggie was onto
something, witness David Cameron announcing “The Big Society” as his
flagship policy idea of the 2010 Conservative Party general election
manifesto. Ho hum.
But I digress. Back with Elaine Morgan: before I
deliver my tuppence-worth, here are her opening remarks...
Don’t be silly, Cilla! Have you never heard the
saying that all the sugar is in the bottom of the cup?
I was surprised to see how much passion you stirred up
by saying: “I don’t want to live beyond the age of 75.” Some of the
online reactions to your statement were just plain abusive. “Crazy,”
they said, and “What a stupid thing to say,” and “I imagine her family
would be a bit gutted to know that she would rather bail out,” and “Just
fishing for some sympathy, having a ‘Woe is me’ moment.” One smart alec
chipped in with: “She can stay alive as long as she likes, as long as
she doesn’t sing.”
I found myself empathising with Smart Alec regarding Cilla’s alarmingly
unmelodic voice. Be that as it may, I was initially shaken by Elaine
Morgan’s opening shot: “Don’t be silly, Cilla!
Have you never heard the saying that all the sugar is in the bottom of
Not if you have stirred your cup of life properly,
Elaine, and lived every phase as nature intended, without doing things
out of order.
Whatever, Cilla’s proclamation about calling it a life
at 75 reminds me of a tale from many moons ago. I’ve actually forgotten
the precise context of the story, but that does not distract from the
wonderful lesson of the anecdote.
A college professor is debating philosophy with his
students; they are delving into the process of ageing and how it affects
the way we perceive the world about us. They discuss the possibility of
reaching a grand old age, indeed hitting the magic 100 – something quite
unusual when this tale unfolded.
One of the girl students responded with something we
have all probably said at sometime in one form or other: “But who wants
to live to be a 100 anyway?”
The professor smiled: “Someone who is 99.”
Faster than a speeding bullet
CAME upon this letter in The Times...
Fastest bike: Sir, In a London park I
overheard three children aged between 4 and 6 arguing over who had the
fastest bike. Finally, the eldest, unwittingly quoting Lance Armstrong,
closed the argument by saying: “It’s not about the bike. It’s the power
in your legs.” And with that they rode off.
DR ANDREA SELLA, London N4
goes without saying that I had to look up you-know-what. Every day a day
at school hereabouts: living a life just outside of the grasp of the
legal profession means being very ignorant about certain posh
Caveat emptor equals “Let the buyer beware”. Hm,
shouldn’t that be writ large across every election slip when we are
invited to plant a kiss against our favoured candidate?
Whatever, the above letter took me back, oh, just over a couple of
years, to the Beijing Olympics, in particular Usain Bolt’s astonishing
record-breaking runs in both the 100 and 200 metre finals.
Shortly after the 200m run I called at the Crazy
Horsepower, and there, sat at the bar, was Gatling Gordon. Old GG
is nicknamed after the famous Gatling gun, of ‘Cowboys and
Indians’ fame, and it's all down to his rapid-fire wise-cracks.
(The Gatling gun is one of the best known early
rapid-fire weapons and a forerunner of the modern
it is well known for its use by the
American Civil War
in the 1860s, which was the first time it was employed in combat).
Gatling Gordon is much like Hawkeye from the television
series M*A*S*H: GG has a “funny” response to every situation, and
just like Hawkeye (played brilliantly by Alan Alda in the TV series, who
interestingly was the only character to appear in every episode of the
television series), he occasionally wears you down and you are overtaken
by the need to take
him aside and whisper: “Sometimes, GG, less is more - and funnier.”
However, just like Hawkeye and the famous stork*,
we put up with Gatling Gordon because now and again he delivers little
gems. So much so, I decided to respond to The Times letter...
Hi Ho Bolt, away!:
Sir, Lance Armstrong’s quote that “It’s not about the bike but the power
in your legs” takes me back a couple of years, and a marvellous
one-liner overheard in my local Crazy Horsepower Saloon: “That Usain
Bolt is so fast he finished last in the previous race.”
HB, Dodgy City
Worth a click:
Tuesday, December 14,
Handel with care and love
AN ONLINE “Coo-ee!” beckons: I click on “Yahoo!
Funniest Christmas viral videos”: Christmas is a time for sharing, and
luckily for us some of the craziest video-makers have taken that to
heart. Here’s our selection of the maddest, wildest and sweetest
Christmas videos flying around the internet.
There are six of them, but pride of place rightly goes to
Flash mobs: There you are minding your own
business when suddenly... Hallelujah Chorus – in a café.
I was gobsmacked – I cannot think of a more suitable word – and I didn’t
stop smiling. At the time of writing, it has 20,787,194 hits – and
increasing like crazy … You will find it on...
Christmas Food Court
Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus - Must See! (by
What a wonderful performance it is, helped by the fact that it is filmed
and recorded in high quality. I am no expert on this kind of music and
singing, but in its context I sense this is as good as it gets.
Handel certainly knew how to Hallelujah. Very
inspirational. I’ve watched it quite a few times.
It’s evident that the diners in the café quickly latch
on to what is happening, that a flash mob has descended on them – but
those opening few moments, when the attractive lady stands up, mobile in
hand, starts to sing, and the folk around her become momentarily
startled, are perfectly memorable. Hugely enjoyable.
I have to say I was particularly captivated by one
exceedingly sweet-looking young lady in the chorus. Hallelujah indeed.
It is also astonishing that 28,726 have posted comments, 46,501 have
pressed the “like” button, while 1,031 have pressed the “dislike” –
although I enjoyed the comment somewhere recently where it was pointed
out that those who press the “dislike” button clearly think it says
Also, I’m flabbergasted at the bile pumped out by some
of the comments, those who insist on dragging religion kicking and
screaming into the arena. I enjoyed this in the comment section, which
rather sums up my feelings, from
redroadster48: As an atheist, I am enthralled by the sense of humanity
exhibited by the singers and the sense of pleasure by the rest of the
people there. Since my first viewing I have come back to view a few
times a day as my antidote to the current state of affairs in
this country. It is very moving.Hear,
Going back to the original “Coo-ee!”, and the
“Yahoo! Funniest Christmas viral videos”, I particularly
Amazing Grace Christmas Lights House – Official Version”. It
flirts with tackiness, but is probably rescued by the house and the
surrounds being covered in deep snow.
I think the two videos sit alongside each other rather
One parting thought: there’s a statement we regularly hear here in
Wales, “I was there!”, always to do with a significant event,
often something sporty.
Well, I wish I had been in that shopping mall in Canada
when all that marvellous singing exploded all around. Watching it though
is a good second best.
Monday, December 13
Let us smile
MONDAY morning on Radio Cymru (the Welsh language radio station),
between 5.30 and 6.30, is turning into something of a smiler’s treasure
trove. Host Dei Tomos explores things very Welsh.
Part of today’s show looked at humour from a preacher’s
viewpoint, especially the characters in their community. He had a couple of Reverend gentlemen as guests. I
enjoyed the tale coming up – but first a bit of farming cum rural
In the process of selecting lambs to take to market a farmer
will run a firm hand along the spine of the lamb, and feel to see how fat it
is. Unlike cattle, where one can see at a glance how fat or otherwise a
beast is, the wool on a lamb hides its true condition.
So this tale unfolds in Lampeter, a market town to the
north of Llandeilo. One of the regulars in a pub sees his neighbour, Wat
the postman (probably short for Watkin), sat down with a pint and
reading the Sun newspaper. So he joins him, but notices that he is
reading page four. “Page 4?” he says. “It’s Page 3 you should be
“No, no,” protests Wat, “I like to see what they’re
like from the back first.”
The next guest was the Reverend Harry Parry (memorable name), a well
known writer of exceedingly funny short stories here in Wales. He told
the tale of a local tax inspector he knew, a Mr Willington, now dead
many a year. Mr Willington would often tell him amusing tales from the
tax office, without revealing who the people involved were, obviously.
However, he would always paint a little picture, to put
meat on the bone of the story, so to speak. One day he related the tale
of a farmer who kept a large number of chickens, and as the inspector
joined up some dots, Harry Parry slowly realised that Mr Willington was
probably talking about his uncle.
Anyway, the farmer’s tax return was okay, apart from
one aspect of the chicken side of the business. So the inspector fired
off a general enquiry: “I am most concerned to note that you keep a
great many chickens which produce very few eggs. Your prompt response
will be much appreciated. Please reply in the space provided...”
Shortly after, the tax inspector received a one-line
reply from the farmer: “Dear sir, And which chicken feed would you
Isn’t that memorable? I do hope Mr Willington closed
Harry Parry rounded off his contribution by talking of an individual he regarded
as one of the wittiest and funniest men he had ever met, a monk out in
Ireland (sadly I didn’t catch the name of the Irish gent).
One day he and Harry Parry got into conversation about
an order of Cistercian monks in Ireland, back in the Sixties, where the
monks only spoke freely to each other once a year, at Christmas.
Harry Parry was intrigued by this. I mean, what would
you chat about to your fellow monks after a year of silence? But perhaps
even more intriguingly, how would you broach a subject? Indeed, how
would you start your
To which his friend, the witty monk, responded: “As I
was saying last Christmas…”
Sunday, December 12
Putin’s a babushka
HAVING established yesterday that there is nothing more English than bad
sex and even badder football (whether playing or hosting), today, whilst
perusing the quotes of the week, I stumbled upon the following, a
Letter in the Daily Mail,
from reader Doug Shopland of
humiliation of our failed World Cup bid, I’m finding myself hating those
little Russian dolls – they are always so full of themselves.”
Now that's witty and clever. The next time I see Vladimir Putin, what I
will see is one of those little Russian dolls, a babushka: no matter how
hard you try to get under the skin, there is always another layer
This set me Googling:
A matryoshka doll, or babushka doll – great name that – is a Russian
nesting doll which is a set of dolls of decreasing sizes placed one
inside the other. The word “matryoshka” is derived from “mother”;
literally it means “dear (or little) mother.”
Mention of Putin, I found online a crotch of
depicted in glorious babushka form...
Catherine the Great
As it happens, just the other day I read the following about Vladimir Putin,
compliments of Wicked Wiki’s World. It’s a leaked memo from Chris Patten,
former European commissioner, dated
He had serious doubts about
Putin’s character. Cautioning that “I’m not saying that genes are
determinant”, Patten reviewed Putin’s family history: grandfather
part of Lenin’s special protection team, father a Communist party
apparatchik, and Putin himself decided at a young age to pursue a career
in the KGB. “He seems a completely reasonable man when discussing the
Middle East or energy policy, but when the
conversation shifts to
or Islamic extremism, Putin’s eyes turn to those of a killer.”
What grabbed my attention is
reading between the lines: “I’m not saying that
genes are determinant...” Oh yes you are, Chris Patten. And I
agree absolutely with you. Study anyone’s genetic family tree and you
can read them like a ‘This Is Your Life’
big red book.
There was much talk that Putin had
FIFA executive committee lots of glad tidings, some
suggested in the shape of gold tidings, to secure hosting of the World Cup, but I
guess he only needed to
express concern for their safety and that they should be very careful
not to go out alone at night.
Whatever, least said the better!
Saturday, December 11
Naughtie but nasty (over-enthusiastic use of the c-word, c-last Tuesday)
Naughty, but not nice (Today)
DECIDED to have a quick flick through last Sunday’s newspaper before
discarding it to the recycling pile, just in case ... and as always,
something catches my eye. And how could I have missed it first time
have mentioned in previous dispatches the annual Literary Review Bad
Sex award, in particular this year the cracking
nominated excerpt from Tony Blair’s
autobiography, A Journey: “On
that night of 12th May 1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me,
selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following
Well, the winner has been declared. Apparently Blair’s effort didn’t
make the shortlist, although the judges did consider making The
Journey the first non-fiction book ever nominated, but finally
concluded that the passage was too brief to merit it. Boo ... hiss!
Oh yes, Blair’s shotgun sidekick, Alastair Campbell, nominated for his
novel Maya, also didn’t make the frame. The judges felt his naked
enthusiasm for winning disqualified him. That’s what comes of being a
cheating bastard, or spin doctor, as is known in the trade.
Well, the winner was a Rowan Somerville, with lurid insect imagery in a
sentence comparing a lover to a butterfly collector:
“Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt
pin he screwed himself into her.”
Blimey, Rowan has spent too much time playing around with his tool kit.
presented with the award by Michael Winner at a ceremony in St James's
Square. “There is nothing more English than bad sex,” said Somerville,
“so on behalf of the nation, I thank you.” Well, after the 2010 World
Cup debacle, whether hosting it or winning it, I hesitate to suggest
that there is nothing more English than bad football.
Whatever, the bad sex award, established in 1993 by Auberon Waugh, celebrates “crude,
tasteless, and often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual
description in contemporary novels”.
I think that translates as “rubbish
The judges were also impressed by Somerville’s nature notes, such as the
pubic hair “like desert vegetation following an
underground stream”, and this passage:
“He unbuttoned the front of her shirt and pulled
it to the side so that her breast was uncovered, her nipple poking out,
upturned like the nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing the
night. He took it between his lips and sucked the salt from her.”
Before drawing a discreet veil over the whole shebang, I shall leave you
with a couple of quotes from the Guardian’s online comment
This from TG101, first quoting a few
lines from the Guardian article being responded to.
Many readers felt Blair should have walked
it for the excruciatingly unforgettable description in his
autobiography, of himself with his wife Cherie on the night of 12 May
1994: “I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my
What (I almost hesitate to ask) is the “it” he’s referring to? Is
the “it” Cherie herself? Or a great big oyster stuffed with Spanish fly?
Then this magical reply from ClareLondon:
Oh c’mon. It’s obvious, isn’t it? He was devouring the sexed-up dossier.
I’m glad I had a final look through last Sunday’s paper – otherwise I
would have missed those miles of smiles...
Friday, December 10
Talking turkey, multitasking, monsters, friendly fire and heavy duty bras
TIME to catch up with some smiley quotes...
“Surely as a mark of respect to the passing of
the great Bernard Mathews, we might have a moratorium on the turkey.”
Celebrity Terry Wogan.
Bernard Mathews was of course famous for being Britain’s leading turkey
producer and an expert in all aspects of the turkey trot. Terry Wogan
is famous for talking gobble-gobble-gobbledegook…! I jest. I think.
Whatever, I wasn’t sure what to make of Wogan’s quote. Or rather, I
wasn’t sure what moratorium meant. The first thing that came to mind was
crematorium, probably thinking about all those turkeys on Christmas Day morning.
Anyway, Dictionary Lookup time ... moratorium -
agreed period of delay: a formally agreed period during which a specific
activity is halted or a planned activity is postponed. Ah, got it:
turkeys not voting for Christmas, sort of thing.
“I’m a male. And I lack the ability to do two
things at the same time.” Singer Justin Timberlake, who says he
cannot juggle singing and acting together.
Americans clearly have a problem with multitasking, at least according
to President Lyndon B Johnson: “Jerry Ford is
so dumb he can't fart and chew gum at the same time.”
“I didn’t feel like I met a monster. She was a
woman, almost like any other woman.” Choreographer Brahim Rachild,
on meeting pop star Madonna, who is now dating him.
Ah, bless. The quote was going so well until the word
“almost”. Bugger, back to the drawing board then, Brahim? Mind you, it
doesn’t help that mention of the name Brahim brings Bram Stoker, the
author of Dracula, to mind. Monsters Inc?
“We’ve got to stand with our North Korean
allies.” Sarah Palin, a would-be US presidential candidate,
“mis-speaks” in a radio interview.
That gives a whole new meaning to the dreadful expression “friendly
Finally, and having just dabbled with a lady dabbling in American
politics, a couple of quite wonderful quotes from one of our very own
Ann Widdecombe, ex Tory MP and now ex Strictly Come Dancing contestant.
“I may be remembered as a dancing banana and
not as a politician of 20 years. So be it.”
And, when asked on radio who manufactured her bras:
“Isambard Kingdom Brunel.”
Now I’ve never watched her on Strictly, although I am aware of her
exploits compliments of blanket media coverage, but you’ve just got to
smile when she hoves into view.
Thursday, December 9
I SEE that the pop singer Mick Hucknall, 50, and front man of Simply
Red, has apologised to the 3,000
women he claims to have had sex with during a three-year stretch of the
imagination back in the mid-1980s:
“I regret the philandering. In fact, can I
issue a public apology? They know who they are and I’m truly sorry.
Between 1985 and 1987, I would sleep with about three women a day, every
day. I never said no. This was what I wanted from being a pop star. I
was living the dream and my only regret is I hurt some really good
Goodness, I feel knackered just reading about it.
Mind you, Hucknall has many leg-overs to go before he gets one
over Georges Simenon, pictured alongside, author of the Maigret
He claims to have had it away with more than 10,000
women, made especially remarkable because he was always
photographed wearing hat, glasses and bow tie – nothing wrong
with that, but imagine the palaver of getting the stuff off and
back on all the time - oh, and always smoking a pipe.
On top of all that, if you’ll pardon the pun, he was
Belgium (as we tend to say here in Wales when the Belgians come
to play football).
Now here’s a conundrum: should one make love to 10,000 women
once, or one woman 10,000 times?
I am reminded of the couple getting married and they
agree that every time they make love they will put a pound coin
into one of those huge, gallon bottles of whisky – then once
full, they will take a pound out every time and go for a
romantic meal once they have built up a suitable amount.
They filled the bottle after just a year of marriage –
but it took them years and years and years to empty the bottle.
Is that a Black Virginia shag in your
hand - or are you just glad to see me?
Anyway, back with the “more than 10,000 women” Simenon is
supposed to have slept(?) with: it’s the keeping count that
would get me down. I mean, I have trouble remembering whether
I am still a virgin or not.
I also need to have a chat with Old Shaggy and Young
Shagwell down at The Crazy Horsepower Saloon, just to see where
they’re up to.
Old Shaggy is doubtless up there in the Premiership,
converting every try, while Young Shagwell must be
coming up on the blindside at speed.
Incidentally, I stumbled upon the portrait,
alongside, of Georges Simenon, pipe and all. I think that's
rather wonderful, the old rascal.
Now I know that middle-aged men who suddenly appear in
expensive sports cars, or riding high-powered motor cycles, are
suffering a mid-life crisis (“It is like your dad dancing at
your birthday party” is one comment I liked). Have I not read that it's a phoney phallus
Something to do with not having lived life in the
that Mother intended (Mother Nature, that is)?
Mother programmed us men to drive a sports car between
the ages of 18 and 30 (tick, phew!).
Mind you, this boasting
and cataloguing of conquests is an odd business in itself. For
some reason Hucknall wants it to be known that was a bit of a
lad in his day. There's a boy he is.
that as it may, Mick is over it now (medical advances meant he was able
to kick his three-a-day addiction using Knickerette patches*),
and along the way, surprise, surprise, becoming quite the prude, it seems:
“I feel like we’re living in the late Roman era.
Pierced navels and lips. Head-to-toe tattoos. Tits out everywhere.”
Hm, when I next visit The Crazy Horsepower – previously
just The Crazy Horse, in the days before Dodgy City was overtaken by
petrol heads – I shall commend to the house that the name be changed yet
again in order to move with the times, this time to The Crazy
Oh, and given that Mother Nature appears to be getting
her own back for the way we have pillaged, raped, burned and poisoned
her world, and is now intent on making us all androgynous, the saloon
bar should also be renamed the Ben Her Bar.
* The exceedingly good “Knickerette
patch” joke compliments of The Sunday Times. Fair is fair, credit where
Wednesday, December 8
A heavy cross to bear
TODAY, millions marked the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. Now
here’s an odd thing: I have no idea where I was or what I was doing when
news of his death first broke. Not that I didn’t like the Beatles, or
indeed John Lennon. Yes okay, none of their music will find its way onto
my Desert Island Discs list; however, they wrote and sang some wonderful
songs which I thoroughly enjoy. Importantly, Lennon was quite the wit,
which I appreciated.
Here’s one of his best efforts, at the Royal Variety
Performance in London, 1963, attended by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen
Mother, and Princess Margaret: “For our last
number, I’d like to ask your help. Would the people in the cheaper seats
clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’ll ... just rattle your
It’s reported that John intended to say “f***ing
jewellery”, but was persuaded against doing so by Paul McCartney and the
group’s manager, Brian Epstein. Can you imagine if he had said that?
Forget the conspiracy theory about the Duke of
Edinburgh ordering the death of Princess Diana, old Philip would have
been the prime suspect in ordering the murder of John Lennon.
So curiously, I can’t recall the day Lennon died, but I
remember precisely where I was, and who told me, when I heard that Elvis
Presley had died. As with the Beatles, I really like some of
Presley’s work, especially the early songs.
Talking of coincidence, as I have several times of
late, the following headline and blurb happened to catch my eye online…
Cowell praised as a 21st century Jesus by Christian group
The X Factor boss Simon Cowell has been praised as a 21st century Jesus
by a group of Christians. The 51-year-old music mogul has been featured
in the evangelical magazine Re, which praised his straight
An article, which had the headline The Cowell Factor,
featuring Cowell, was published in the official journal for the
Assemblies of God church. It said:
the one we think of as being meek and mild, gentle and loving and full
of compassion, had the ability to talk tough. For some, his words were
upsetting and difficult to swallow - just like Cowell’s - but he spoke
truth, and doesn’t the truth hurt sometimes?
Cowell takes, learns from them and grows in the process, and there are
numerous stories in the Bible of people who do the same.”
This morning, as I collected my
paper, I had a quick look across the stand at all the headlines, as is
my wont – and blow me, the Daily Mirror front page, pictured below,
caught my eye...
mentioned here before, my only real talent in life is a 20/20
instinct for survival. By that I mean, the instant I meet a
stranger I know whether I’m faced by a dolphin or a shark, a
pussycat or a polecat.
Now I can’t tell you definitively whether the
individual in front of me is a saint or a sinner, honest or
dishonest, blackguard or honourable – but I know whether to step
forward and embrace, or step back and be wary.
My instinct has never once let me down. After all, it
is people who make our journey through life a delight or a
disaster. And it is people who have made my walk through time
such a pleasure.
Along my journey I have concluded that 60% of what we
are is written into the face, 30% into the voice and 10% into
body language. And my brain puts all that together in an
Instinct is the most underrated talent we have. Sadly
it has been educated out of most of us.
When I look at the face on the front page of the Daily Mirror, I
ask myself: would I hand this man a blank, signed cheque? Would
I trust him that the voting on The X Factor is not fixed?
I reserve my judgment. Which I think means no.
Anyway, what made me smile about this particular story was Cowell being
praised as the new Jesus ... well, we know what happened to the original
Jesus; we know what happened to Lennon, who once announced – well,
here’s the quote: “We’re more popular than
Jesus now ... Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and
So watch it, Simon ... I’d proceed
with great caution. And don’t forget your Green Cross Code when crossing
Tuesday, December 7
The Naughtie step
YESTERDAY’S ‘Spoonerisms’ uttered by BBC Radio 4 presenters James
Naughtie and Andrew Marr as they attempted to pronounce the name Jeremy
Hunt, while unfortunate, are by no means unique in broadcasting history.
Jeremy Hunt, Culture Secretary of this Cameron-Clegg
Parish, was interviewed by James Naughtie, who swapped the initial
letter of Hunt’s surname with that of the Culture of which he is
Indeed, the word ‘hunt’ has a particularly problematic
history, as Nicky Campbell will testify. The BBC's Radio 5 Live
presenter outraged folk while introducing Georgie Worsley, the master of
the Old Surrey, Burstow and West Kent Hunt (he introduced her as “the
master of the Old Surrey, Burstow and West C*** - ” which he hurriedly
corrected to “Kent Hunt” – and
repeated the same cock-up an hour or so later). Then on April Fool’s Day
this year he introduced a Country Alliance guest on his Radio 5 Live
breakfast show and called him “pro-c**ting”. What he had meant to say of
course was that Tim Bonner, the pressure group’s Head of Media, was
There’s a growing belief that all the above were not
‘Spoonerisms’ at all, especially the Naughtie one. (Here’s an example of
a Spoonerism: the Rev. William Archibald Spooner allegedly promised a
prim female undergraduate that after a few terms at Oxford “you'll be
had as a matter of course” - as opposed to “you’ll be mad as a hatter of
Having listened to Naughtie’s effort on YouTube, I tend
to agree that it was not a slip at all, but rather a cunning stunt. Naughtie but nasty!
have a theory: it is well established that presenters enjoy slipping in
song titles when they are live on air – apparently Chris Packham (of
TV’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch fame) uses Smiths song titles in his
chats. All very childish, so I guess these so-called up-market
presenters like Naughtie, Marr and Campbell do the same with swear
words, just to see what they can get away with. Hit shappens, sort of
And given that their boss, the Director-General of the
BBC, Mark Thompson, finds it difficult to express himself in private
without obscenity, allegedly, then it all makes sense. The lads are
desperate to please their boss. Imitation is the sincerest form of
Anyway, the incident would have passed me by but for a
couple of linked reactions. Firstly, I again feature the clever
cartoonist Peter Brookes – this spotted in today’s Times...
Brilliant: James Naughtie, hoist with his own C-word. This set me
thinking. Hoist with one’s own patard: what does ‘patard’ mean? A
patard, or petard, is, or rather was, as they have long since fallen out
of use, a small engine of war used to blow breaches in gates or walls.
They were originally metallic and bell-shaped but later cubical wooden
boxes. Whatever the shape, the significant feature was that they were
full of gunpowder – basically what we would now call a bomb.
So there you have it. Messrs Naughtie, Marr and
Campbell are suicide bombers of a very different kind, out to destroy
the reputation of the BBC. Quite why, I cannot begin to wonder. Perhaps
they're also on Rupert Murdoch's payroll.
Secondly, spotted on a comment board, submitted by
Always remember working with a guy called “Michael Hunt”, who was most
often just called “Mike”. However, when his name was announced over the
speaker system, as it frequently was, “Mike Hunt” invariably sounded
like something entirely different.
That’s wonderful. I do so hope it’s true and not just a clever joke.
Monday, December 6
COINCIDENCE is a curious creature. Yesterday I wrote about Aled Jones’s
Sunday show on Radio Wales, where he and his guests share gossip along
with their favourite music. Quite spontaneously I labelled Aled’s
programme ‘Dessert’ Island Discs.
Sunday’s guest was wildlife expert and broadcaster
Simon King, so after putting my take on Simon’s strange comment about
the platonic love affair with a horse to bed, I decided to catch up with
The Sunday Times – and landed on the Letters page, where I stumbled upon
Cooking up a story:
He refused to choose a book on Desert Island Discs because he found them
“boring”, but is now one of our biggest-selling authors (“Jamie’s £100m
hotpot”, News, last week). Does Jamie Oliver still think books are
Barry Denton-MacLennan, Stevenage, Hertfordshire
I hadn’t written about ‘Dessert’ Island Discs (as opposed to just
thinking about it) then I would have read the above letter without even
thinking about coincidence being a strange business, probably because my
fleeting play on words would have been just that, a passing whimsy.
Anyway, back with Jamie Oliver. As I’ve mentioned somewhere in here
before, I too never read books, except in a reference context. However,
I would never, ever think of a book as boring.
Personally, up to about a couple of thousand words in
one sitting is the most I can read without my imagination running riot –
Why? Where? When? Who? WHAT? – and then I lose complete track of what
Now if I found myself on Desert Island Discs, my “book”
would be a generous bundle of lined A4 writing pads, with a stock of
pencils, sharpener and rubber. Then I really would get down to writing
my favourite book!
Oh, and I would exchange the Bible and the Complete
Works of Shakespeare for a set of reference books: dictionary, rhyming
dictionary, dictionary of synonyms and antonyms, thesaurus, a good word
guide, Fowler’s Modern English Usage – and a jumbo book of quotations (I
love the wit and wisdom of memorable sayings).
here’s lookin’ at you, Kirsty...
Sunday, December 5
...or are you just glad to see me?
THE slip-sliding-away state of the country roads in these ‘ere parts
meant no flying visit to the Crazy Horsepower for a lunchtime jar. It’s
just after midday, I'm in the kitchen, Radio Wales is on in the
background, Aled Jones’s guest on his show is wildlife expert and
broadcaster Simon King.
It’s a sort of Dessert Island Discs: a cosy chat, the
guests choose a few pieces of music they think Aled will like, and Aled
chooses music he thinks appropriate for his guests. It’s a bit of a
curate’s love-in really, seductive in parts; a bit of celebrity worship
at the altar of a fellow celebrity.
The show occasionally drives me into the arms of Forty
Winks, that rascally lady of the night. Hence why ‘Dessert’ rather than
‘Desert’ Island Discs.
Simon chooses his first piece of music: Sibelius’s Fifth
Symphony, music introduced to him when he was but a youngster,
by his mother, who was researching music needed to accompany a
film his father had made called The Stallion.
It was a one-off drama for the BBC: “A film,” says
Simon, “really about a love affair between a man and a wild
horse – in a platonic way.”
I awoke from my slumber. Did I hear right?
Later, I checked on iPlayer ... yes, the words above
For the rest of the day I wore a puzzled smile
wondering what sort of love affair a man could have with a horse
which wasn’t platonic. Just to make sure I even double-checked
‘platonic love’: yep, as I thought, ‘free from physical desire’.
Now I know we live in strange times, especially
involving the world of celebrity, but the mind boggles at the
Mr Bed, or Black Beauty, the
stallion I encounter along my morning
we're just good friends, honest
qualify that particular love affair.
There’s nowt as queer as slebs.
Saturday, December 4
Double cream, no Sugar
OVER recent weeks much has been made of the government’s plans to
penalise poor spelling and grammar (which often makes unedited online
comments so difficult to read and understand). Then I spotted this
letter in the Telegraph...
I name this ship:
SIR – I well remember writing an essay in junior school and asking my
teacher how to spell yacht.
There was a pause and then she replied: “Don’t you mean
C M Sturdy, Westward Ho!, Devon
There has also been much in the media regarding Alan Sugar*,
in particular his mode of communication to the world about him,
especially on a television series called The Apprentice.
I refuse on principle to address him as L**d Sugar. It will only
encourage him to morph from a tosspot into a cesspit; similarly Neil
Kinnock, John Prescott and all the other tossers. You will never catch
me tugging at my forelock to acknowledge any of those ‘titled’ twats. Oh
to have the proper ruling classes back in charge. There, got that off my
Here’s another letter from the Telegraph.
Is you is or is
SIR – L**d Sugar says “you was” and “they was”. It doesn’t appear to
have done him any harm.
Olwen Broadbent, Fladbury, Worcestershire
And then these two quotes surfaced over recent days, the second just
“You actually done more business. This is your own words. It don’t
make no difference.” L**d Sugar’s grammar could do with some
polishing, in his remarks to a contestant on The Apprentice.
“I think what he does with his beard is very clever.” Comedian
Alexander Armstrong, who is launching a Be Nice To L**d Sugar
campaign, on the best compliment he can think of for the star of The
Apprentice TV show.
That beard quote really made me smile. I have never watched The
Apprentice, precisely because of Sugar. Now I don’t hate the man – he’s
never personally stepped on my toes; I don’t even dislike him – I mean,
I have one of his telephone/fax machines on my desk, which I’ve had for
years now without giving me any problems, touch wood; indeed my
introduction to the world of computers was compliments of his cheap and
cheerful Amstrad personal computer.
But, and much to my regret, I find it impossible to
feel any affection whatsoever for the fellow. I think it has something
to do with the way he speaks to and treats people.
He strikes me as one of those human beings that only a
mother could possibly love.
However, next time I catch sight of his mug shot on the telly or in the
papers, I shall look out for that exceedingly clever beard of his...
Friday, December 3
I say, I say, I say...
WHAT tickled the imagination yesterday, and duly bulletined below, was England’s failed attempt to
host football's 2018 World Cup tournament as FIFA’s Sepp Blatter guided
his troops towards awarding the prize to Russia. What I
overlooked was that FIFA also awarded the 2022 tournament – to Qatar.
I didn’t even realise Qatar had a national football
team, although on second thoughts I guess pretty much every country in
the world has a national football team of sorts.
However, it seems the Qatari national team are ranked 113th in the world
by FIFA (out of a total of 203 countries; as a matter of interest, Spain
are ranked 1st, England 6th and Russia, lucky for some, 13th). Qatar has
never, since the rankings were devised 17 years ago, been in the top 50.
Every day a day at school.
As a point of
interest, Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore top the list of least
corrupt countries in a survey of 178 countries. Britain is 20th; Qatar
is 28th; Russia is 154th.
Anyway, back with football, at the press conference following the ceremony, Sepp Blatter,
who allegedly heads the most corrupt regime in sport, was asked: “Who is
your favourite Qatar player?”
He pondered a while: “Jimi Hendrix.”
Oh, and this was also reported from Zurich: “It was so cold today I saw a FIFA
executive committee member with his hand in his own pocket.” Boom! Boom!
Thursday, December 2
From Russia with love and lots of brown envelopes (allegedly)
I DIDN’T watch England’s final World Cup address to host football's 2018
tournament, but I had the radio on in
the background and heard bits of it. Much was made of the pre-vote
presentation given by Messrs Cameron, Beckham and Wales – exceedingly
good, apparently – but I kept waiting for England’s trump card, the
bunny out of the hat that would seduce all before it and brush aside all
thoughts of the nation's riff-raff (those football hooligans England
appears to specialise in) ... I waited ... and waited ... and waited ...
where on earth was Boris?
No wonder England lost. And in the process discovered
that it had only one friend in the whole wide world: Japan, the land of
the rising sun, is the rumour.
The memory of London Mayor Boris Johnson’s vintage performance receiving
the Olympic flag in Beijing a couple of years ago remains fresh in the
mind. “Virtually every single one of our international sports were
either invented or codified by the British, and I say this respectfully
to our Chinese hosts who have excelled so magnificently at ping-pong,”
he said in a traditional Boris tongue-in-cheek speech. “Ping-pong was
invented on the dining tables of England in the 19th century and it was
“There I think you have the essential difference
between us and the rest of the world. Other nations, the French, looked at a
dining table and saw an opportunity to have dinner. We looked at a
dining table and saw an opportunity to play whiff-whaff. That is why
London is the sporting capital of the world.
“And I say to the Chinese, and I say to the world:
ping-pong is coming home. Athletics is coming home, sport is coming
home, and we are going to give those sports an Olympic Games to do
Britain proud, to do London proud, and to do the world proud.”
was charming, entertaining and funny. Now if Boris had been there in
Zurich today he would have reminded the world about the nation’s
football hooligans: “And I say to FIFA President Joseph Blatter, and I
say to the world: the riff-raff are coming home. Football is coming
home, sport is coming home, and we are going to give football a World
Cup to do England proud, to do FIFA proud, and to do the world proud.”
Honestly, England would have walked it. However, as a
parting thought, I came across this on Yahoo! Sport...
Here's to FIFA and all you Wayne Kerrs that are slagging off the
Snakehips916 – Chelsea supporter
Amazing what you can do with a keyboard. Mind you,
why he dragged the rest of us Brits into the presentation I'm not sure.
Still, it made me smile.
Wednesday, December 1
Piddling little leaks
WIKILEAKS, eh? So far so very storm in a toilet bowl, as in “I’m dying
for a quick Wiki leak”. I tend to think it should be WikedLeaks, as in
naughtily or annoyingly playful. That’s all they are thus far, just the
sort of gossip that gets bounced back and fore down at the Crazy
Horsepower, except here it’s rather more self-important people doing the
Then I saw this Peter Brookes cartoon in The Times...
Perfect (love the face in the tree). Do bears still shit in the woods?
Last I heard, yes they do; and wipe
their arses with Andrex labrador puppies too - disguised as toilet
rolls, of course. Of course.
Because I actually pen this bulletin tomorrow, so to speak - in this case
Thursday - I am now going to cheat a wee bit and quote Mathew Parris
his Thursday column, again in The Times – for the simple reason
that he explains the whole delightful WikiLeaks nonsense much better than I ever
Spare your ink:
Yesterday’s Times offered conflicting interpretations of the
so-called WikiLeaks revelations: one in a column by Daniel Finkelstein,
one in a cartoon by Peter Brookes (above). Danny’s view is that we are
witnessing an “information revolution” as power shifts from elites to
the people. Peter’s (if I may verbalise a picture) is that we are being
solemnly informed of what bears do in the woods.
I take the Brookesian view. Most of this WikiLeaks
material is plonkingly low-grade stuff, prompting little more than red
faces – as its very wide distribution within US official circles always
Leak merchants, and the news media, naturally have an
interest in hyping everything up. To the extent, though, that a few
seriously secret truths have slipped out, the resulting embarrassment
will cause political establishments to tighten up a bit, write less down
and keep fewer formal records. More a nudge back towards the 18th
century than a revolution.
“Do right: don’t write,” my grandfather used to say. I thought Grandad’s phrase lame and pat then, but have
since learnt its profundity.
Well said. Right, I'm off for a WikiPoo: now where’s my labrador puppy?
Andrex ... here boy...
Tuesday, November 30
A shed load of smiles
LAST Saturday I mused on David Cameron’s latest wheeze, his Happiness
Mission, a “wellbeing” research project to establish how best to
make we Brits happy bunnies beyond.
I suggested that true happiness is a genetic thing;
indeed whilst it is possible to experience fleeting joyfulness i.e.
doing someone a good turn, getting a new job, home, car, lover – or
indeed winning the lottery – however such things are transient and our
default state of mind will kick in sooner rather than later. Sad but
Then on Sunday I related the David Cameron joke about junior
health minister Simon Burn’s driver reversing into diminutive
Speaker John Bercow’s car in a Parliament courtyard.
Bercow, as is his wont, apparently, did his nut and
stomped about all over the shop shouting: “I’m not happy!” To
which Burns replied: “Well, which one are you then?” Chuckle,
chuckle … well worth a repeat that one.
Today I caught up with The Sunday Times’ News Review, and
this cartoon, alongside, part of cartoonist Nick Newman's
Week. Very smiley.
Already in that smiley mood, I happened to be listening to Jamie
Owen and Louise Elliott on Radio Wales, and stumbled upon this
happy little interlude. Their guests in the studio were the
group Punks Not Dad.
Last year they sang the official theme to the Shed of
the Year Award, all part of National Shed Week. The group were
introduced performing that very theme song, In Me Shed
... at the very beginning there’s the quiet of a garden with
birds singing merrily in the background.
Then you hear a young girl’s voice calling out, clearly looking for her
father: “Da-ad! ... Da-ad! ... Da-ad!” Next comes the knock-knock sound
of the girl banging on a door: “Are you hiding in the shed again?”
I’d never heard it before. That intro is really funny
and witty, probably because it's the very opposite of what you would
normally expect i.e. the parent looking for the child. I duly found it
Punks Not Dad – In Me Shed – featuring Lisa Rogers
Yet another exceedingly smiley experience, with the little girl’s cameo coming just after
the initial introductions - but you have to listen carefully because
it’s not as clear on the video soundtrack as it was on the radio.
Very entertaining though.
Monday, November 29
Getting my teeth into a Flowerpot Snowman
HALF-FIVE, the click of the alarm clock awakens me – so I reach out
to switch it off, and switch on Radio Cymru, the BBC’s Welsh language
station. A few weeks back, the station changed its early-morning
schedules: daily between 5.30 and 6.30 it now repeats some of the
weekend’s mainstream programmes.
It means I catch things I wouldn’t normally listen to.
Today it was Dei Thomas, with a mixture of Welsh music and tales of the
unexpected with a decidedly Welsh flavour.
Dei’s first guest is Bobby Owen, a gent who collects
historical letters, postcards and books, both in Welsh and English, many
dating back over several hundred years.
These records paint a wonderful personal picture of the
time in Wales, something perhaps future historians will not be able to
do because pretty much everything is now electronic, and apart from the
fact that these are often deleted after having served their purpose,
more importantly no one yet knows how long electronic content will
remain accessible due to deterioration.
Anyway, Dei and his guest feature a letter dated 1908,
from a Welsh lady living in Llanegrin, Towyn, North Wales, sent to her
dentist, a Mr Armour, an Englishman living in Barmouth. The letter is
written in English, obviously, which the lady is clearly not wholly at
ease with, as you will see. (I checked the letter on iPlayer to ensure
that I got it precisely as it was written and read out on the
Dear Sir, I got a sister been dead and she left top set of teeth. She
only just got them before she dead. As I am in want of teeth I wish to
wear my dear sister teeth if you could do them to fit me. There was only
two years between us in age.
Isn’t that wonderful. Bless the dear lady, for she didn’t want to waste
a sparkling new set of teeth. Her identity is unknown, the letter having
been kept by the dentist.
If that wasn’t enough to put the smile on my face from first light,
after collecting the morning paper, I’m walking down Bridge Street in
Llandeilo, when I’m confronted by a snowman. Not the increasingly
extravagant snowmen that is now the norm – and perfectly entertaining it
has to be said – but something so simple it just made me smile.
The safety railings along Bridge Street is a trail of
flowerpots; from the spring through to autumn they are a mass of colour
– but they are now empty, in hibernation, so to speak, over the winter
months. So someone went and built a little snowman in one of them –
doubtless you have already spotted it at the top – it’s a cracker.
As is often the case, less is sometimes more. And after
all, if anything deserves a spot in the Flower
Power Gallery, then it’s Dan, Dan, the Flowerpot Snowman.
Sunday, November 28
Snow White and Grumpy now an item
DWARFGATE! Who’d have believed it?
It followed a joke made by the prime minister, David Cameron, at
the expense of the House of Commons’ favourite small person, the
Speaker, John Bercow.
The diminutive Speaker, despite being a Conservative
MP, was elected in June last year after Labour MPs supported him
in droves because they knew most Tory MPs dislike him intensely,
probably because his lanky wife is an active Labour supporter
and is hoping to be parachuted into a donkey seat i.e. a safe
seat, where a donkey would be voted in, and no questions asked.
Cameron’s joke was in reference to a “stop giggling at
the back there” type comment made by Conservative MP and junior
health minister, Simon Burns: he referred to Bercow as a
Speaker John Bercow and wife Sally
sanctimonious dwarf”. He was later forced to apologise.
Cameron, meanwhile, made the joke in an anecdote in
which Simon Burn’s driver reversed into the Speaker’s car in a Parliament
courtyard. Bercow did his nut and stomped about all over the shop
shouting: “I’m not happy!”
To which Burns replied: “Well, which one are you then?”
laughed out loud at that, probably because it’s that rare thing, a joke
made by a politician which is genuinely funny and witty. Sally Bercow,
the Speaker’s missus, responded to Cameron’s joke thus: “If Mr B’s a
dwarf, then I’m Snow White. And David Cameron is definitely Dopey.”
Um, a joke made by a politician’s wife which is
genuinely unfunny. And why did she refer to him as Mr B? A shortened
version of the real thing, obviously. Now that is funny.
So, in celebration of Cameron’s joke and Sally Bercow’s
Eeny, meeny, miny moe,
Catch a Speaker by the toe;
If he hollers don’t let go,
Eeny, Meeny, miny moe...
You are it – Grumpy!
Of such innocent things are ‘Smiles of the day’ born.
Saturday, November 27
Happiness is a tight pair of genes
ALL WEEK long the papers have been awash with David Cameron and his
much-hyped Happiness Mission – I quote Janet Daly in the
Telegraph: It’s a full-blown, Government-funded
research project designed to establish the truth of what your
grandmother always said: “There’s more to life than money.” The general
well-being initiative required considerable political courage, if only
because of its incipient ludicrousness ... People do not want to be
asked what would make them happy. They want national leaders who are
able to anticipate and fearlessly articulate the answers without asking.
Those who can do it may, for a while at least, actually be loved.
When I first heard of this delightfully doolally mission impossible to
establish precisely what makes us smile, my instant reaction was – and I
set much store by my instinct – what a load of old bollocks.
As someone who writes a daily ‘Smile of the day’
bulletin – and believe me I am spoilt for choice as to what I choose to
write about each and every day – then I guess I have a worthwhile
contribution to offer the discussion. But I wasn’t sure how to articulate
Well now, in today’s Letters page in the Telegraph
(again), I came upon this little gem...
SIR – My wife and I are happy beyond our wildest dreams. Yes, we read
about revolting students, rubbish-bin snoopers, speed cameras, benefit
cheats, dodgy politicians and flurries of snow bringing a once-great
nation to its knees.
The main reason for our happiness: we’re expats.
Derek Gibson, Sotogrande, Cadiz, Spain
soon as I read that, I smiled; the answer was at my fingertips – and the
following missive was dispatched posthaste...
Don’t gloat, be happy: SIR – I doubt very much whether Derek
Gibson and his good lady are quite as happy as they assure us they are
out there in Spain. Happy souls never, ever gloat. They may occasionally
peer over their glasses and smile quietly to themselves, but no more.
Be that as it may, happiness – or contentment – like
everything else to do with the human condition, is programmed into our
genes. If you are driven by the need to acquire possessions, money,
position and power, then you are not destined to be happy. Just look at
our high earners. They never, ever have quite enough; they always want
just that little bit more, which will then make them happy. Oh, and they
are driven to absolute misery if someone else grabs what they consider
should rightfully be theirs i.e. taxes.
HB of Llandampness
doubt about it, a joyous existence
truly is a tight pair of genes: happiness and contentment being that
And if those two DNA strands in your genetic profile have suffered
stress fractures, there’s nothing David Cameron, or anyone else for that
matter, can do about it.
Friday, November 26
S’no business like snow business
WHEN I returned from my morning walk, just before ten, the sky looked
ominously dark to the north-west; and it wasn’t as bitterly cold as it
was first thing. A sure sign of snow. About 30 minutes later, the flakes
And I mean proper, powdery stuff, not that wet, slushy,
messy business. I smiled. Snow, curiously, lifts my spirits. I enjoy being out in it. Best of
all, it brings out the child in me, not that it’s much of a struggle to
drag out, mind.
Over there on
FIRST TIME HERE?, I state that I'm pretty sure a
female ancestor of mine was frightened* by a
Red Indian Sioux Chief, possibly Chief Sitting Bull himself, and that a
check may well confirm that I'm related to Dances With Wolves; indeed,
as a child I was always happiest being a pesky injun when playing
Cowboys and Indians.
* I should point out that
‘frightened’ is code for ‘seduced’, especially when such tales are told
in front of the children.
Anyway, the snow: I’m unsure where this affinity with snow comes from -
being tallish and fairish, perhaps a female ancestor, on the other side
of the family tree, was ‘frightened’ by a Viking. Sort of makes sense
because the Vikings in their prime would have been all over the shop,
doing what comes naturally.
Today’s snowfall lasted a few hours, dropping just a couple of inches or
so – but as usual, everything looked glorious. When I return from my
morning walk I always throw a handful of
seed on the lawn, just outside the kitchen door.
There are proper feeders here, but the
songbirds appear to
love the concoction I prepare for their cousins down in the valley;
they are always there, hoovering up the stuff.
Unfortunately for the birds, the chickens also adore the
stuff – well, they love some of the feed, probably the proper
wild bird seed and the sunflower hearts, but they leave more
than enough for the little birds.
So after the snow had stopped, I threw out a few
handfuls. The chickens were there like a shot, scratching away
at the snow, the way chickens do, to get at the feed. In fact
that helped the songbirds anyway.
I watched through the kitchen window ... It's very
Henrietta scratches away at the snow as a
patient crew of chaffinches await their crumbs
observing them, especially when they squabble amongst themselves.
Still, this cold weather, especially arriving before
the end of November, doesn’t bode well for the months ahead. It truly
will be the survival of the fittest and the cheekiest...
Thursday, November 25
The blinkered zebra
LAST Tuesday I told the tale of the pheasant plucker’s lunch that
crossed in front of my moving car, as if it owned the road. Well now,
today I had to travel to Ammanford again – no, no pheasant this time,
but a bit of a moral conundrum which did indeed involve crossing a road.
Once you’ve parked in Ammanford, to then enter the town centre you have
to cross a road. It’s not a main road, but there’s a regular drip, drip
of vehicles. However, there is a ‘Zebra Crossing’ – or more correctly a
‘Pelican – Pedestrian Light Controlled Crossing’*:
a signal-controlled crossing operated by pedestrians which defines
whether pedestrians or road vehicles have priority! I say that because
it is central to the moral dilemma coming up.
* Pelican: The name derives
from a cunning pseudo-acronym for ‘Pedestrian Light Controlled’, with the
‘o’ changed to an ‘a’ in deference to the bird. The use of improbable
animal symbols began in 1951 with the introduction of ‘Zebra Crossings’.
Anyway, I approach the crossing, where a mother and child (of about
three years-of-age) are waiting because the light is on red. My
peripheral vision indicates no traffic approaching, so I prepare to
cross the road without stopping, as most people would in that situation.
Out of the corner of my eye I do see a car exiting a side-road and
heading towards the crossing. It is going so slowly that even if I
tripped and fell while on the crossing, the car would have stopped quite
However, as I near the crossing I notice the mum point
to the red figure, and then to the button on the post. As I pass I hear
her say to the child: “So I press this and wait for the red man up there
to turn to green, then we check the traffic has stopped – and we cross.”
I had now stepped onto the crossing and across I go –
and I have never felt so guilty. I can imagine the child saying: “But
why has that man crossed while the red man says no, mum?”
And the mother says: “That’s why it’s called a zebra
crossing, darling – because those who cross when the red figure says
‘no’ are just daft carthorses that forgot to take their pyjamas off before
leaving home for work.”
Bugger, bugger! In those few brief seconds, as I
approached the crossing, I knew what the mother was doing – and I should
have played the game, all made worst by the simple fact that I was in no
say “zebra crossing” because I came across this wonderful cartoon on a
site called Mt. Scopus Radio Archive at the
Hebrew University Jerusalem.
The above puts me firmly in my place. I was confronted by a simple moral
conundrum – and I failed miserably, turning into a zilly zebra in the
process: now you see me ... now you don't ... now you see me ...
Next time, I shall definitely play the game according
to “mum’s” rules.
Wednesday, November 24
One is definitely amused
AS SO often happens, my first proper smile of the day surfaces early,
before sunrise, at the newsagents, just as I scan the red top front
pages on display. Today was a classic.
I remember mega moons back, at the Crazy Horse, Blue
Boy had asked to have a peep at the Sun newspaper (and we all knew why).
Present in the bar was Longfellow – no, he wasn’t a poet ... well, not
that I would know it – he was just a tall chap. “What do you want to
read that rubbish for,” he barked at Blue Boy, delivered in a tone of
voice which meant you weren’t sure whether it was wholly contemptuous or
Longfellow continued: “It’s not a newspaper – it’s just
a bloody comic.”
That has stayed with me, for I think it describes the
paper perfectly: a comic for grown ups. And why not? Apart from my
regular Western Mail, I tend to read The Times, or these days, The
Telegraph – but if I see a Sun lying about in the pub or the
hairdresser, I will happily flick through it. There will always be
something in there to generate a smile.
Just like this morning’s front page, alongside. I think it is so
clever - and funny. Nothing like a play on words, or indeed a
Unsurprisingly, the papers are full of quotes about the
forthcoming wedding. Here’s a few spotted in today’s Western
“Prince William and Catherine have made
it very clear that they wish everybody to be able to enjoy the
day with them. Consequently the day will be a proper celebration
for the nation and the realms.” Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton,
private secretary to Prince William on the Royal Wedding.
The nation and the realms? My immediate thought was this:
what part of the United Kingdom does the Queen not rule over?
But of course, the realms would be the overseas territories.
I must have been thrown by the ‘Jamie’ bit: surely he
should be a James Lowther-Pinkerton – unless of course ‘he’ is a
A quick Google: Anthony James Moxon “Jamie”
Lowther-Pinkerton MVO, MBE (born 28 September 1960), is
part-time Private Secretary to Their Royal Highnesses Princes
William and Harry of Wales, in the Office of the Prince of
Wales. (No mention if he's related to the famous Pinkerton
It’s another universe out there - in
“They are an attractive couple, quite
attractive, anyway. He’s wearing fast.” TV historian Dr David
Starkey on the royal pair.
Starkey always makes me smile because he comes across as the sort of
person that only a mother could possibly love. Bless.
“Yes, dirty old man. I don’t mind that. No.
Quite happy with that.” The Duke of Edinburgh – no, I’m only
jesting, off with my head. It’s playwright Alan Bennett, saying he does
not object to being called a dirty old man.
What a strange old cove he is. Amusing beyond, yes. But still strange.
“It is absurd that the whole country gets a day
off for something most people are not interested in.” Graham Smith,
spokesman for the organisation Republic, on the royal wedding.
Well, if the media reflects the way the country is thinking, then Graham
Smith is spectacularly wrong. But there again, perhaps the country
reflects what the media is thinking?
Hm. A pause for thought!
Tuesday, November 23
The pheasant plucker’s lunch
GOOD old Google: as long as you phrase your question precisely it will
point you in the right direction, and all in the blink of an eye. Phrase
your question imprecisely and you end up in some weird - and
occasionally wonderful - places.
A few moons back, there I was following an unfamiliar
scent ... I land on YouTube and a performance of ‘The Pheasant Plucking
Song’ – yes, of course you know it...
I’m not the pheasant plucker, I’m the pheasant
And I’ll sit here plucking pheasants till the pheasant plucker comes...
Today it all came flooding back. I needed to visit Ammanford,
so decided to take the scenic route; along the way I pass
through a small village called Milo - pronounced Mill-o.
As I approached Milo, sauntering across the road in
front of me - a pheasant. It gazed at me with absolute contempt
for daring to disrupt its morning stroll.
I stopped, grabbed the camera from the passenger seat
and hurriedly captured an image of the bird through the
windscreen, pictured alongside.
As I prepared to take a more measured shot a car came
up behind – curses! The road is usually so quiet – so I pull
over and the car squeezes past. It slows down to pass the
pheasant, the bird going on to the verge – and then yet
The Very Cross Pheasant Code
another vehicle. Double curses.
The pheasant had moved further on by now so I decided
to get out of the car for a better shot – but as soon as it saw me, off
it shot. If I’d remained in the car it wouldn’t have seen me because of
the reflections off the windscreen.
Still, I got the one shot – not as clear as I would
have liked – but what I enjoyed was the fact that it just stood there in
the road as if it owned the place. It was an exceedingly smiley moment.
Anyway, back with the YouTube version of ‘The Pheasant Plucking Song’.
It’s a live performance by a group of five at a village hall or some
such like. Best of all they sing all the verses, which I must say I’d
never heard before. The final verse is particularly wonderful...
I’m not the pheasant plucker, I’m the pheasant plucker’s wife,
And when we pluck together, it’s a pheasant plucking life.
Wonderful or what? And do you know, as I typed it out I tripped over
that final phrase. Back with the performers – I know not who they are –
but halfway through the performance comes the inevitable slip up.
The reaction of the group suggests spontaneity. It’s
very funny; indeed the whole performance is particularly smiley. The
sound track is a bit dodgy and you have to listen carefully – but it
comes highly recommended and well worth a few minutes. Look for...
The pheasant plucking song ... goes wrong!
Monday, November 22
Now it all adds up
HANDY Andy Abacus is a bean counter by trade. A one time regular at the
Crazy Horsepower Saloon, he is currently home on the range in Dodgy City, on a
He tells the tale of attending a job interview for a
well-remunerated accountancy position within a high-profile government
department (the name Gordon Brown was briefly mentioned in passing). The
interview goes well, then at the very end, one of the interviewing panel
says: “Finally, we bring every interview to a conclusion with a basic
mental challenge, just to check that the old grey matter is in perfect
working order: what is seven multiplied by nine?”
Oh God, thought Handy Andy Abacus, I’m going to cock
this up right at the very end of an agreeable interview.
know the feeling. In one of my early job interviews I was asked 15% of
£90.00 or some such like. I went blank ... made worst by the fact that I
am reasonably good at this sort of thing: when I worked behind a bar I
could add up a large round of drinks in my head as I served.
A fellow once ordered around 20 various drinks, which I
totted up the cost of as I went along. A little later he was back with another order.
“I’m very impressed,” he said, “the same price as last time for the same
round of drinks.”
Anyway, I can’t remember if I gave the correct 15% of
£90.00 – but I didn’t get the job. Pressure, see.
Whatever, back with Handy Andy Abacus: “Seven times nine ... um ... 64.”
After the interview he checked the answer on his calculator. “Bugger!”
he cursed. “Bugger, bugger, bugger – I’ve blown it.” But, surprise,
surprise, he got the job.
Several months later he was having a drink with one of
the bosses who had interviewed him for the job, and whom he had since
befriended. “Remember at my interview,” said Handy Andy Abacus, “and you
asked me what seven times nine was?” His colleague smiled. “And I said
64 – but still got the job?”
“I remember,” said his boss. “You were the closest.”
Sunday, November 21
POLONIUS: What do you read, my Lord?
HAMLET: Words, words, words.
TODAY I encountered two words that left me treading water down the deep
end of the Google pool: kerching and vajazzle. Truth to
tell I have heard “kerching” deployed before, and presumed it was
somehow connected with the sound an old-fashioned till makes when “the
bells are ringing for me and my pal i.e. the boss”. Anyway...
Kerching: a sitcom aimed at teenagers on
CBBC that details the lives of Taj, Danny and Semour. The programme
revolves around the Chill – a local restaurant – and Taj’s ‘Rudeboy’
money-making schemes. The title of the show comes from their catchphrase
“Kerching!”, used when they make money through their business schemes.
Fancy that, I was on the button all along. Whatever, the point of my
encounter of the absurd kind came complements of the following in
today’s Tabloid Week column in The Sunday Times...
And finally, congratulations to the Sun sub-editor who wrote the
headline over the paper’s report that the royal wedding would boost the
economy by £1 billion: “For kerching and country.”
Very clever – trust the Sun to sum the whole shebang up in just four
Next, “vajazzle”, spotted again in The Sunday Times, this time
the Style magazine, and yes, in Mrs Mills’ column, she who solves
all your personal problems, sort of thingy. My first Google dive off the
spring-board threw up three explanations...
Vajazzle: to decorate your private parts /
it means some people have way too much idle time on their hands / going
down south stimulating your woman in ways that would make Snoop Dog
(American entertainer, rapper, record producer and actor) want to write
a song about it.
Probably just coincidence that I found the above on a site called
Answerbag – every question deserves a great
answer. But it still didn’t quite fit with what I had just read. I
also discovered (in basic Crazy Horsepower Saloon lingo) that it means
“she puts glitter on her pussy”. Hm, I think I’m getting warmer.
Then this from the Washington City Paper, penned by Amanda
I’m afraid that responding to the new trend of
women applying heat-activated crystals to their pubic mounds by simply
concluding, “A woman’s choice! A woman’s choice!” only functions to
pre-empt discussion about just what women are choosing. In this
instance, defending “choice” without question discourages women from
making informed choices for their pubic mounds. So let’s talk
Listen: Vajazzling is no stranger to the feminist
talking point. In last week’s post, I floated the following equation:
Sexual Repression + Capitalism + Sexism = Vajazzling
Wel-i-jiw-jiw, talk about putting down the Xmas decorations ...
honestly, I live in a little world of my own, just me and the birds – of
the feathered variety, sadly (see above, right).
After all that, this then from the Mrs Mills’ column which so tickled my
KEEP POLISHING IT: Given that I like all
things sparkly, my best friend asked me if I had a “vajazzle”. Should I
be totally offended or secretly chuffed, as I am 44 and should be way
past that sort of thing?
You can be properly chuffed, providing it is working properly and
giving complete satisfaction: as you probably know by now, vajazzles can
become tricky to get going as they get older. A good rub and a bit of
judicious lubrication often works wonders, but be careful not to swamp
dunno, sex was relatively straightforward when I was a young buck on the
loose. No wonder I now find that a great joke offers much longer-lasting
satisfaction than good sex.
Ah well, as it says on the tin: every day a day at
Saturday, November 20
Larger than life
smile led me to wonder why The Railway Inn at Llandeilo – now a
butcher’s shop – was so called when it was nowhere near the railway
station. My initial enquiries led me to discover that up until the
Forties, perhaps early Fifties, it was a milk bar.
What surprised me was that a new pub had opened in the
Fifties, especially on finding out that between 1858 and 1970 the town
had 33 public houses listed. In 1861 the population of the town was
1430: one pub for every 43 people, say 35 if you take out the children.
Wow. Okay, it’s a market town drawing people from the rural areas - but
that's an awful lot of drinking.
Anyway, the search starts regarding The Railway Inn.
But here’s the thing: I did a Google search of the town and
Llandeilo through the Ages: The Good Old Days
– and stumbled upon this memorable paragraph...
“John Morgan, better known as ‘Jac y Post’, carried the letter bags from
the town to Carmarthen for 60 years; he is now in his 87th year. He has
danced more hornpipes, drank more beer, and fought more Irishmen than
any man living (1858).”
I am as sure as sure can be that I personally know one
or two of his descendants.
Anyway, it doesn’t say how he carried the mail, but I presume on
horseback because Carmarthen is 15 miles away. But here’s the thing:
it’s what that quote doesn’t say which tickles me. This was during the
Victorian era when sex was only mentioned in hushed tones, under the
blankets, if indeed at all. So it’s that “danced more hornpipes” which
I have a feeling that “Jac y Post” was also a bit of a
“Jack the Lad”, and perhaps, just perhaps, the quote should read...
“John Morgan, better known as ‘Jac y Post’, carried the letter bags from
the town to Carmarthen for 60 years; he is now in his 87th year. He has
danced more hornpipes, squired more women, drank more beer, and fought
more Irishmen than any man living (1858).”
In that case, I definitely know one or two of his
Whatever, the search goes on for the tale behind The Railway Inn.
Friday, November 19
If the cap fits
THE MEDIA has been awash of late with news and images of the return of
the flat cap as a fashion item, especially as spotted atop the male of
the celebrity tribe.
Traditionally it has been standard wear for those
involved in manual, dusty and dirty work - in other words, Britain’s
urban working class: miners, iron and dock workers, labourers...
However, it was also very much a fashion item of the early part of last
century, as those wonderful old black and white photos testify – witness
the magical picture featured below.
A few days ago the Western Mail did a feature on this
the traditional flat caps of Welsh workers, are in high fashion
The article argued that flat caps were worn, perhaps most
famously, by coal miners of the South Wales Valleys. Now the Dai
cap is making a reappearance as the must-have fashion accessory
for men this winter.
Indeed I responded to the article by pointing out that they had
missed the one profession which continues to wear the flat cap
with pride, namely farming.
Probably Wales’ most famous flat cap man is indeed a
real Dai Cap: Dai Jones, Llanilar – a high-profile rural and farming
presenter on the Welsh language television station S4C – and Dai
is never seen without cap and stick.
As someone from farming stock I have always found it a
useful bit of head-wear, whether going outdoors in dodgy
defeat Aston Villa 2-0
in the FA Cup fifth-round replay, 1926
weather or keeping my head warm as I began to go a bit thin
on top when I hit middle-age at 35.
When farming was less mechanised and it truly was a
physical, dirty and dusty job, a cap was essential, especially so before
the arrival of the milking machine when the head would be rested against
the side of the cow when milking by hand.
Farmers tend to have several caps: work (soiled),
market (work-ish), pub (respectable), and chapel (posh, but discreetly
removed before leaving car). In fact the working cap was always well
soiled around the brim – a farmer’s hands would invariably be covered in
dirt and muck, and as he continually lifted the cap to wipe his brow, or
simply to push it back or remove it, that tell-tale mark would become
ingrained no matter how often it was cleaned.
I remember one memorable incident from years ago at The
Refresh, the pub on the railway station at Llandeilo, the watering hole sadly no
longer there. A characterful local farmer had called in for a few pints
to wash down the day’s dust, in his working clothes, including ‘dirty’
cap. He then went home for a clean up, food and returned a couple of
He walked into the pub as if he had stepped straight
out of a fashion shoot for the Farmers Weekly. We all looked at each
other and smiled but didn’t say a word. While his wife, like all good
farmers’ wives, had sent him out socialising i.e. going to the pub,
looking all smart and respectable, crucially she hadn’t noticed that on
his way out of the house he had inadvertently put on his dirty working
cap as opposed to his pub cap.
It is one of those magical images that instantly burnt
itself on to my brain’s hard drive.
The above response was duly published in today's Western Mail. Later in
the morning I checked a message on my answerphone: “Eddie Glanrwyth
here. You’ve got the wrong pub!” End of message.
I recognised the voice as that of Sundance, a regular
at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon. And of course Eddie Glanrwyth was the
character in the above story, dead now many a year – although he has
been mentioned here in previous despatches.
When I recalled the tale as related above, I wasn’t sure whether the
incident had happened at The Refresh (what we affectionately called The
Crazy Horse back then) or another pub we frequented, called simply ‘The
While I can effortlessly remember amusing events, I am hopeless at
recalling where and when they happened – which is primarily why I
eventually decided to keep a diary, listing simply where I had been that day, who I
had met, including any incident of note i.e. the above de-cap-itated
Of course Sundance was also present at the cap incident
– those days he was called The Sundance Kid (time moves on), but he remembered that it
was at The Railway Inn. I was fairly sure that The Railway had then closed
(it is now a butcher’s shop), but the incident was obviously further
back than I had thought.
At least I was happy that I had remembered the actual
incident correctly, indeed both Sundance and I had a good laugh
revisiting the wonderfully mad-cap episode.
‘The Railway’ pub was found bang in the centre of Llandeilo, about a
mile or so from the railway station itself, where ‘The Refresh’ was
really the true railway pub. Why it was called ‘The Railway Inn’ I have no
idea – but I have made some enquiries to set the ball bouncing.
My initial guess is that the building itself would have
been owned by a railway company. To be advised...
Thursday, November 18
Season to be cheerful
IF MEMORY serves, it sort of kicked off around the beginning of October
with some rather insistent ads on the telly. Through October the stores
and supermarkets began to bulge with goodies to back up those
advertising promotions. Come November and the stores play mood music as
a back-track to a hoped-for shopping spree.
From around the middle of November, town centres start
to wear the season on their sleeves – and shop windows begin to reflect
the mood. Oh, and Chris Evans on his breakfast radio show teases his
listeners with a short, sharp burst of Andy Williams’ ‘It’s the most
wonderful time of the year’. Yes, Christmas is here.
Going back to the shop-window
aspect of the festive season, I am always impressed by the effort local
shopkeepers put into brightening up their premises; indeed I tend to
photograph those that catch my eye and generate a smile.
This year my smile has kicked in early. Most mornings
along my walk I pass the shop Igam Ogam – the memorably grand
Welsh name for zigzag – and my day was brightened up no end when I
encountered the shop's 2010 effort...
The above is just one section of it:
exceedingly eye-catching, generous in size, with more to it than meets
the eye as it follows the window around through 90 degrees.
The person whose work of art it is has duly signed it –
after all if Banksy can do it! – so I guess Shivam (no idea who
he or she, or indeed it, is) should get the credit for a job well done.
Definitely my Thursday smile of the day.
Wednesday, November 17
A chuckle of Dear Sirs
“WHEN you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you
Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very
Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open
and has other people looking at it.”
A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Letters that stick out of the
backsides of Letters pages make me smile. This is what they are supposed
to do, for the final letter is a much sought-after spot. It is meant to
make the reader smile. Rather than share them individually, I thought
I'd collect a few together. All the following have recently appeared in
Preparatory note: I was told very
early in my working life that if you need to look busy while swinging
the lead, you should always carry around a file of papers; indeed even a
single sheet of paper will suffice. People will think that you are doing
Something Really Important. However, this letter takes things to a whole
Best way to shirk: SIR – In this depressing
economic climate, isn’t it time we workers rose up from our office
chairs and did a bit of shirking?
Might I suggest the Spare Jacket Departure? A spare
jacket kept in the office is spread over the back of the chair and a
half-drunk cup of black coffee is placed next to the phone. Then, the
worker disappears. Avoid white coffee because, if you are away for a
couple of days, it will show signs of curdling.
James Logan, Portstewart, Londenderry
Next, the dodgy economic climate
in which we currently live – at least, do we live in a ‘Dodgy Economic
Climate’ as opposed to ‘Dodgy Economic Weather’?
Anytime, and the living is easy: SIR –
Where did the term quantitative easing come from? In my youth,
devaluation was the word they used when our currency was devalued. I can
only think that someone in government has decided that a change of name
will make it less understandable to the general population.
By a curious coincidence, someone
down the Crazy Horsepower Saloon said this: “If I have a machine at home
printing money it is called forgery. If the government has a machine at
the Bank of England printing money it is called quantitative easing.”
Now we’ve all received those junk letters addressed to some very odd
people. This one takes some beating...
SIR – We have received a letter from a financial services company
seeking our business, addressed to
Mr & Mrs R&. Should we have our passports amended?
Mark and Pat Rand, Settle, North Yorkshire
Finally, a topical online
Practice makes perfect: I really couldn’t
care less if Prince William and Miss Middleton get married or not. It
will not affect me in any way, but good luck to them. The comment
attributed to the Duke of Edinburgh made me smile though. I read
somewhere that he was supposed to have said: “About time too – they have
been practicing for long enough.”
If he didn’t say it then he should have, for it sounds just like him.
You don’t suppose will9 is
Will of Wales on Cloud Nine, having a laugh? No, surely not...
Tuesday, November 16
Hot Freudian Slip in Alex
AS mentioned before, I always watch the early evening weather forecast
BBC’s Wales Today news programme because I need an idea of what
the weather will be like the following morning for my early-morning
Afterwards I tend to watch the beginning of The One
Show ... then I’ll flick over to catch the start of S4C’s Heno,
something similar to The One Show, but in Welsh. I tend to go
zap-a-dee-doo-da between the two shows – typical male – until something
grabs my attention.
purely by chance, I was working on the computer and left the telly on
The One Show. Up came the interview with Prince William and Kate
Middleton. I can only repeat what her parents said following official
of their marriage: “They make a lovely couple, and we wish them every
Yes okay, they would say that, wouldn’t they? But it
does appear to be true.
A guest on The One Show was the truly
larger-than-life Clarissa Dickson Wright – or more correctly, this from
Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby
Louise Esmeralda Dickson Wright
(born 28 June 1947) is an
and formerly a
who is best known as one half, along with
Two Fat Ladies.
Having trained as a lawyer, Dickson Wright is the youngest woman ever to
be called to
Already she sounds wonderful – and yes, she was given 11 forenames by her
father, Arthur Dickson Wright, a surgeon to the Royal Family,
and her mother Molly, an Australian heiress ... where though did
come from? – but here’s a couple of relevant quotes to join up all the
dots before I come to the point of the headline at the top.
from TV reviewer Nancy Banks-Smith in The Guardian back in May of
Clarissa Dickson Wright is the antidote to Nigella Lawson. She is bulky
and bloodthirsty, amusing and cultivated. “Patience,” she said, sitting
by an open fire waiting for a watched pot to boil, “is a great virtue
for cooks. Not necessarily for chefs.”
Secondly, this from
Cassandra Jardine in The Telegraph from September 2007, reviewing
Being outspoken is as central to her persona as cream and lard are to
her cooking. “I do like to bait people,” she admits, kicking off this
interview as she means to go on. “No lemon for me,” she announces to the
man dispensing mineral water. “I used to run a bar in St James's where
the barman was responsible for supplying his own lemons. He used to pee
on them to refresh them.”
He looks horrified; she looks gleeful. The room feels
cramped, more from the size of her personality than her physical bulk. I
can picture her heaving with the same mischievous delight while writing
in her new book that Diana, Princess of Wales had “the perfect skin of a
bulimic”, that she once had sex behind the Speaker's Chair with an
unnamed MP, and - stirring things up for BBC bosses - that the filming
of Two Fat Ladies was often fudged for the camera.
“We had to do everything three times. Sometimes the
shot was cut off at breast height. We didn't actually cook anything, but
mimicked the actions while describing our techniques.”
read more great stuff similar to the above, click the link at the end of
give you all the above because she was on The One Show to promote
her book Potty: Clarissa’s One Pot Cookbook. All went well until,
at the end of the show, Alex Jones was signing off – remember now that I
am only half-listening – but I’m as sure as sure can be that Alex
inadvertently referred to Clarissa’s “Cock-book”.
I stopped and laughed and wondered: had I heard right?
Now you can see why I’ve included the above. Perhaps Alex was thinking
about that “Leg-over! Leg-over!” - as opposed to “Order! Order!” -
behind the Speaker’s Chair – and out slipped “Cock-book”. Now that
really would make her trip a proper Freudian slip.
However, I thought I’d better check it out on iPlayer. After all,
perhaps I was the one suffering from a kind of Freudian lisp. As I write
this it is well into Wednesday afternoon and I keep checking the
iPlayer, but all it says is: “Coming soon”. Quite apt for a cock-book.
Eventually, early-evening, up it comes. Yes, she does
trip over her words, as well as the title of the book – but no, and I
did check several times, she doesn’t actually say cock-book. Nearly
caught in the Freudian slips though.
I think I was thrown when just before the cock-book
incident she mentions a couple who have sent in a picture of themselves,
and they hail from Norfolk – and if you’re not listening carefully, her
delivery of Norfolk could easily be misconstrued. That’s my excuse
well, apologies to Alex, but it didn’t ‘alf make me smile XL for nigh on
24 hours. And anyway, if I hadn’t misheard I wouldn’t have discovered
all that wonderful stuff about Clarissa. Here’s the link...
"Clarissa Dickson Wright: 'I do like to bait people'"
Monday, November 15
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
LAST Wednesday my smile featured that curious little circular rainbow
I’d encountered along my morning walk. I discovered, compliments of
Google and Wikipedia, that it is called a “glory”, and even though I was
a “glory virgin” until that moment, it is a recognised and well
documented phenomenon. Story of my life: someone else has been claiming
Anyway, I sent the picture to Derek Brockway, our celebrated weatherman
here in the Principality, at BBC Wales Today, for his expert opinion. He
used the image on tonight’s television news forecast: it is officially
called a Brocken Spectre – from now on I shall refer to it as a Brockway
Special – and he directed viewers to his web site for a full
explanation. He also sent me an acknowledgement e-mail, together with a
link to his site (coming up).
It is well worth paying a visit for a proper
explanation, especially the extensive Google picture link. Astonishing
images of this extraordinary phenomenon. Curiously, mine appeared to be
the only one taken in a common or garden field, probably because the
image is difficult to observe and capture without a white-ish background
to highlight it.
However, as you will see on Derek’s web site, he has
now received another similar image from a Phil Edwards, taken recently
in Pontcanna Fields, Cardiff. Again, you will see the mist which
generates the phenomenon.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/walesnature/ (click on The Broken
Spectre link at the bottom of Derek's home page)
Well, that’s my smile for today. I know, I know – a repeat! But what
with my “glory” appearing among the Google images, it has to be a
quietly satisfying smile. Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
A moment to reflect
TODAY, being Remembrance Sunday, seems a suitable time to quote a letter
spotted in last Friday’s Times newspaper...
Our closest ally:
Sir, Your statement that “America has been Britain’s closest ally for a
century” (leading article, Nov 10) shows an ignorance of history worthy
of Tony Blair, who mistakenly believed the US stood “shoulder to
shoulder” with Britain throughout two world wars.
While the US dithered until nearly the end of the First
World War, the real sacrifices were being made – as they were again in
the Second World War – by the Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and
Indians. More recently, whatever one thinks of the Suez enterprise in
1956, it was undermined by our so-called closest ally.
David Woodhead, Leatherhead, Surrey
It strikes me that when it comes to America being Britain’s closest
ally, it's not only Tony Blair who shows an ignorance of history. On a
recent visit to America, David Cameron described Britain as merely a
junior partner in the allied World War II fight against Germany in
He later apologised, not so much for calling his
country a “junior partner”, but for being unaware that America had not
even entered the war in 1940. You have to smile. Where on earth do we
unearth these tossers?
By one of those strange coincidences, shortly after
reading David Woodhead’s letter, I listened to the final Book of the
Week episode of Mark Twain’s autobiography. He offers his outspoken
views on the Moro Crater massacre of 1906, and the conduct of the
American forces involved in that incident in the Philippines.
I had never heard of this tragedy, but it involves the
elimination of more than 600 mostly unarmed Muslim Moro villagers
(including many women and children), killed by a naval detachment of 540
soldiers under the command of Major General Leonard Wood (who had called
for the extermination of all Filipino Muslims since, according to him,
they were irretrievably fanatical).
If you did not hear Mark Twain’s account, I
recommend that you hurry to the BBC’s iPlayer to listen and
learn (the fifth and final episode). It makes it all the more
disheartening that the incident is unravelled by an American. If it is no
longer available on iPlayer, simply Google “Moro Crater massacre” for
the full story.
We must not forget what the first American settlers did
to the native population – bearing in mind of course that America,
Britain and Europe share the same family trees and therefore the same
Given that the human condition does not change over
just a handful or so of generations, it would take an extremely naïve
individual to suggest that we should stand “shoulder to shoulder” with
an American president and his forces – and no questions asked. Indeed,
just as America should not stand “shoulder to shoulder” with a British
prime minister and his forces – and no questions asked.
If ever you stand and stare at George Bush and Tony
Blair when together, you sort of get the picture – with bells on.
Today's headlines read:
“I've no regrets over torture,” says Dubya,
Bush having approved the use of waterboarding on terrorist suspects.
It's a sad note on which to
depart Remembrance Sunday. Normal service resumed tomorrow...
Saturday, November 13
Mackintosh wears donkey jacket
“Someone once said that people who have a
profound impact on the world disturb the sleep of humanity. Michael Foot
was one such man.” Harriet Harman, a British Labour Party politician
and Member of Parliament.
Harman speaks of one Michael Mackintosh Foot (1913-2010) who was a
British Labour Party politician and writer, a Member of Parliament
(1945-1992), and also Leader of the Opposition (1980-1983).
When I first read Harman’s quote I wasn’t sure whether
Michael Foot was the someone who once said that people who have a
profound impact on the world disturb the sleep of humanity – or indeed
Michael Foot was one who had disturbed the sleep of humanity. I guess
she meant the latter.
Now I am no political animal, but whenever I hear the
name Michael Foot I think “donkey jacket”. I quote this from a Jeremy
Jacobs, “award-winning speaker, presenter and host”:
So Michael Foot, one of the best orators in the House Of
Commons, has passed away at the age of 96. Many of you will
remember him for the “donkey jacket” episode at the Cenotaph in
1981. For me, he was a brilliant public speaker and debater, and
aspiring public speakers would be wise to seek out videos of him
Foot certainly disturbed the sleep of humanity over
that “donkey jacket” episode, pictured alongside.
There was huge public comment and debate over it,
indeed the media typically got itself really worked up over the incident,
hence why it lingers long in the memory.
Personally, I saw nothing whatsoever wrong with his
mode of dress, indeed it appeared to disturb only those totally
lacking in wit and worldly-wise wisdom.
Vilified: Foot wearing his
notorious “donkey jacket”
at the Cenotaph with Margaret Thatcher
At that time I was reminded of something my mother told
me just before I first left home to go and work in a faraway
place with a strange sounding name: Southampton.
As she readied my bed linen and clothes, she said this:
“Make sure that everything you wear and fit on your bed is clean, fresh,
aired – and has no holes surplus to manufacturer’s specification.”
It was a wonderful slice of advice, and as someone who
has never taken any notice of fashion, whenever I look at the sartorial
statement made by Michael Mackintosh Foot that day, a man who clearly was also no
slave to fashion, I have no doubt whatever that my mother would have
After all, it isn't what you wear next to your heart
that counts, but what you wear inside your heart.
Friday, November 12
Hide and seek
“PEOPLE seem to have erased 9/11 from their
minds – but can you remember those people jumping out of
windows?” New Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David
Richards, says Britain will stay the course in Afghanistan.
Yesterday’s Remembrance Day ‘smile’ confirmed that, however fortunate I
am to journey through time with a hop, a skip and a jump, life is not
wall-to-wall smiles, and hopefully my “eleven minutes at the eleventh
hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month” offered an interlude to
This brings me back to the quote at the top. Where do these people come
from? Of course we haven’t erased 9/11 from our minds – but how does all
this fighting in Afghanistan protect us from terrorism? The Taliban saw
off the mighty Russian army, so nothing is more certain than the day
after the forces of “the West” pull out of Afghanistan, the Taliban will
move back in.
Even if we ignore that simple statement of the bleedin’
obvious, we are regularly reminded that there are at least a handful of
countries that make the modern terrorist very welcome.
Crucially, did our presence in Afghanistan stop the
latest ‘printer cartridge bombs’ that came so alarmingly close to
exploding? Authorities in Yemen believe the scale of the plot could be
far larger than the two devices already found, both of which were
powerful enough to down a plane and devastate a city.
But worst: the plan was not uncovered by our various
security services, but rather the dastardly plot was foiled because a
former Guantanamo Bay detainee and Al Qaeda fighter turned supergrass,
provided spymasters with the crucial tip-off that led to the discovery
of the ‘ink bombs’.
Al Qaeda just need one such bomb to get through and
they’ll be celebrating, while the security services have to stop every
is a sobering thought that these few days between Remembrance Day (also
known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day or Veteran’s Day) and Remembrance
Sunday (the second Sunday in November) will concentrate the nation’s
thoughts for ever more and a day.
Thursday, November 11
Eleven minutes at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh
“There is a rather unpleasant breed of poppy fascism out there – ‘He
damned well must wear a poppy!’.” Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow
sparks controversy by refusing to wear a Remembrance Day poppy on air.
Unsurprisingly, a fierce debate followed. Snow made it clear that he respected the
armed forces and wore a poppy off-air, but did not believe in wearing
symbols on air. I agree absolutely with him. His problem, I guess, was
using the word ‘fascism’. It’s a word that has ‘ambush’ written all over
it, indeed many of us connect the word with Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.
However, I rather like this from George Orwell’s
What is Fascism?, published in 1944:
The word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless.
In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I
have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal
punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941
Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s
broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I don’t know what
else ... almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for
Imagine then if Jon Snow had said this: “There is a
rather unpleasant breed of poppy bully out there – ‘He damned well must
wear a poppy!’.” He would have experienced much less abuse. Probably.
As I said previously, I agree with his thoughts, for I
tend not to wear a poppy – but here’s my typical story apropos
Yesterday morning I – whoops, nearly said ‘bought’ a poppy: you don’t
buy a poppy, you take one and pop into the collection box whatever you
feel comfortable with – so yesterday morning, I picked up my poppy. This
morning, after breakfast but before setting off on my morning walk, I
placed the poppy at the centre of the kitchen table.
Not that I would forget to pay my respects, God forbid
– but as it happens my lifestyle rather fits in perfectly with the “Eleventh
Hour”. At this time of year, my default dining habits work something
like this: breakfast at six, lunch at eleven, tea – or more correctly,
high tea – at four-ish. About ten-past-eight I’ll have some After Eights
– or rather, a bar of chocolate or two or three...
So today, just before eleven, I turned the radio on and sat down
at the kitchen table.
The eleventh hour arrived ... first the chimes ... then
as always, I simply can’t stop myself counting the 11 strikes of
Big Ben ... and I forever marvel after the final strike for how
long the chime of the bell reverberates in the absolute silence
that follows, and yes, even apparent today after allowing for
the gale that was blowing a hooley outside.
Following the official two minutes silence, I switch
the radio off and I sit there in silence for a few more minutes
... just me and the poppy...
During that silence I think of those in the forces who
are alive right now, but before the next Remembrance Day will
have taken that heart-wrenching chauffeured journey home via
I do this because my father was awarded the Military Medal for bravery
in battle. He survived, otherwise I wouldn’t be here, so those extra few
minutes respect is my little way of saying thanks to all those who have
made my exceedingly agreeable, and fingers-crossed thus far uneventful,
walk through time possible. Thank you.
Wednesday, November 10
Glory, glory, Cwmanncheria
THOUGHT I had seen it all along my morning walk. However ... I was
crossing a Towy Valley field this morning when a circular
rainbow suddenly appeared a few feet in front of me – around the
shadow of my body with my head as the centre point. I stopped
and stared. I couldn’t believe it. I whipped my camera off my
shoulder and clicked.
Now I use a very basic and simple camera – for ease of
carriage and use – and for the kind of shots I want it’s mostly fine,
but if I need to pick out fine detail, it struggles.
Here’s a picture of the phenomenon, which shows the
rainbow – actually it was quite a bit clearer in reality. It
helps to try and look at it from different angles. There is a
way of enhancing the colours of the rainbow on the computer, but
sadly that’s way beyond my understanding.
Now the rainbow lasted for only a couple of minutes or
so. It was a clear, still start to the day, blue sky, a light
frost in the air, a gentle mist
Glory be to the image maker
carpeting the field – and the sun had been up for about 15 minutes.
I Googled the phenomenon ... and saw some astonishing
images – many taken from aircraft. I discover that the phenomena is
known as a ‘glory’ or ‘pilot’s halo’.
This from Wikipedia: The glory
can only be seen when the observer is directly between the sun and cloud
of refracting water droplets. Hence, it is commonly observed while
airborne, with the glory surrounding the airplane’s shadow on clouds
(this is often called The Glory of the Pilot). Glories can also be seen
from mountains and tall buildings, when there are clouds or fog below
the level of the observer. The phenomenon is related to the optical
I came across one picture something similar to
mine, but considerably clearer because the rising steam from a hot
spring is much more intense. Interestingly the centre of the rainbow is
the viewer’s eyes in the shadow. I didn’t quite follow the complex
explanations, but this is the way I saw it...
It only lasted a few minutes because, I presume, the
sun had to be directly behind me and at a certain angle. The sunlight
would be bent around my body, and then come back on course just ahead of
me – and at that point the glory would be generated by the minute water
droplets in the mist. As the sun continued to rise, the effect was lost.
I shall send this off to Derek Brockway, the weatherman
at BBC Wales, just to see if my reading of the phenomena is correct.
Ordinarily, this ‘glory, glory, hallelujah’ would be my smile of the day. However, I
heard something hilarious on the Roy Noble radio show this afternoon,
which I feel obliged to share with you.
I mentioned Roy and his First Click computer campaign
yesterday. Well, he was at it today again, this time he spoke to Jen
Mathias, the BBC’s community reporter in Lampeter (see the reception map
above if you are unfamiliar with its location). She was using the
computer to do some historical research, which they then went on to
At the end of the feature, Roy said something along
these lines: “You live in Lampeter, Jen – now you know as you leave
Lampeter and head south for Llanwrda, you go through a little village.
What's it called?”
“Cwmann?” suggests Jen.
“Cwmann!” confirms Roy. “The other day I heard
something rather wonderful regarding what they call those who live in
Cwmann, but I’ve forgotten. Remind me.” But Jen was at a loss. “There’s
your homework, then,” says Roy.
I Googled it – without luck.
About an hour later, Jen had obviously been back in
touch. She didn’t know the answer – but clearly she knew a man who did.
Isn’t that just too magnificent for words. I spent the next hour
thinking if there were any other Welsh place names that could be
connected in a similar way to a Native American Red Indian tribe:
Cheyenne, Crow, Apache, Sioux, Blackfoot, Cree, Nee-me-poo (yes, honest)
– there are about 500 tribes, but nobody is sure quite how many there
were before the white man arrived to pillage, rape, murder, burn and
Anyway, I couldn’t come up with anything as good as
Cwmannches. As is my wont, I Googled Comanche – and landed on
Comancheria: This is the name commonly given to
the land occupied by the Comanche before further Anglo-American
encroachment ... Before the Comanche expanded out of present day Wyoming
in the early eighteenth century, the lands now known as Comacheria was
home to a multitude of tribes – most notably the Apaches. Much of the
region had previously been known as Apacheria.
Back with Cwmann, I though this would be apt: the
Cwmanncheria is the name commonly given to the land occupied by the
Cwmannche before further Anglo-Saxon encroachment...
Hey-ho, nothing changes.
Tuesday, November 9
YESTERDAY, it was a gentle, elongated smile that lingered long in the
memory. Today, it was a short, sharp smile.
The BBC recently launched a TV and radio campaign aimed
at helping more people to get online. Here in Wales, research shows that
nearly a third of people do not use the internet at all – and BBC Wales'
First Click campaign is all about encouraging those missing one million
people to hop aboard the world wide web, look you.
On Roy Noble’s show on Radio Wales this afternoon,
there was a feature on Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, where people with
mental health problems have been taking computer lessons – with great
success. Two individuals suffering from mental depression were
interviewed: Brian Mitchell, who was reasonably experienced on the
computer, and a lady called Moe Humphreys, a relative newcomer to the
Moe introduced herself thus: “I am a very depressed
person, but I am not depressing.” Which instantly made me smile. “I love
to laugh and it makes me feel so good.” There was some funny banter
between the two, with Brian experiencing a little problem getting his
computer up and running: “Perhaps there’s something wrong with your
hard-drive, Bri!” observes Moe, to much background laughter.
She continued: “I want to learn how to use a computer
because it makes me feel more confident ... but this is what happened to
me in B&Q, Bri,” she explains. “I went to buy a mouse deterrent for the
house ‘cause I had mice in my attic – and what do you think? When I was
in the queue I looked to see what they’d got me … and it was a mouse for
a computer. Now that’s how much I know about computers...”
It was an exceedingly smiley little interlude, which
rather confirmed that while Moe may well be a very depressed person, she
certainly wasn’t depressing.
Monday, November 8
“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”
“NO-ONE would speak to me after I wrote it. I don’t want to go to my
dying day with friends not speaking to me.” Actress Dame Eileen
Atkins, who says she will “never, never” write her memoirs.
was back on the 15th of October that I read Dame Eileen’s quote; the
first thing I did was telephone a local character of my acquaintance,
Dai R&B, to make sure he perused that day’s
They said what? column of quotations in the Western Mail.
I call him Dai R&B, not because he’s a rhythm and blues
man, but rather until fairly recently he ran a tree nursery business,
hence Dai Root & Branch – which is doubly apt because he has always
taken more than a passing interest in politics, but always challenging
the loopy ideas politicians and local councillors dream up. He can be
quite bolshie towards the political classes, and I admire him greatly
Anyway, back with the quote ... Dai recently told me
that he had entertained the thought of writing his memoirs – which I
have no doubt would be riveting – but his wife and children strictly
forbade him on the grounds that he would upset too many with his
forthright views, and that was the last thing they wanted, thank you
very much, David: Sit!
Hence the connection to the Dame Eileen quote. Well
blow me, this morning, I was perusing the TV and Radio listings, and saw
this in the radio section...
Pick of the
Book Of The Week (R4 FM, 9.45am)
A book for which “long-awaited” is an understatement. On
instruction of the author, The Autobiography of Mark Twain,
pictured alongside, has lain unread in a California vault for
100 years. Now, on weekday mornings, it can be told.
Well now, I was hooked, for I am agreeably familiar with
some of Twain’s memorable quotes ...
He was christened Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), but used the
pseudonym Mark Twain. He was raised in
Hannibal, Missouri, and was lauded as the
American humorist of his age”.
I made sure I was back from my morning walk in good time for
this 15 minute slot. I sat, closed my eyes and listened...
In the future, opined Andy Warhol, everybody will be
world famous for 15 minutes; meaning, in the future everyone
will have their 15 minutes of fame.
Well, this morning I had my 15 minutes of perma-smile.
Mark Twain’s words were that good. No belly laughs, just one
long, lazy smile. It was so good I listened again on iPlayer.
This is what it says on the BBC web site...
of the Week - Autobiography of Mark Twain
Read by Kerry Shale.
After dozens of false starts Mark Twain embarked on his “Final
(and Right) Plan” for telling the story of his life. His
innovative notion to “Talk only about the thing which interests
you for the
characterful portrait of Mark Twain
moment” meant that his thoughts could range freely.
The strict instruction that these texts remain
unpublished for 100 years meant that when they came out, he would be
“dead, and unaware, and indifferent” and therefore free to speak his
“whole frank mind”.
In celebration of the centenary of his death, the
University of California Press have released his uncensored
autobiography for the first time, exactly as he left it. The author’s
authentic and unsuppressed voice speaks clearly from the grave as he
intended, brimming with humour, ideas and opinions.
I commend to the house that you visit iPlayer and be transported back to
the southern America of 175 years ago.
There is one story I took a particular shine to...
“In my schoolboy days I had no aversion to
slavery. I wasn’t aware that there was anything wrong about it ...
nobody ever said that it was wrong ... We had a little slave boy whom we
had hired from someone there in Hannibal. He had been brought away from
his family and friends, half way across the American continent, and
sold.” His name was Sandy.
“He was a cheery spirit,
innocent and gentle, and the noisiest creature that ever was, perhaps.
All day long he was singing, whistling, whooping, laughing – it was
maddening, unendurable. At last, one day I lost all my temper and went
raging to my mother and said: ‘Sandy had been singing for an hour
without a single break and I couldn’t stand it and wouldn’t she please
shut him up.’
“The tears came into her eyes and her lip trembled and
she said something like this: ‘Poor thing. When he sings it shows that
he is not remembering, and that comforts me. But when he is still I am
afraid he is thinking and I can not bear it. He will never see his
mother again. If he can sing, I must not hinder it, but be
thankful for it. If you were older you would understand me. Then that
friendless child’s noise would make you glad.’
“It was a simple speech and made up of small words but
it went home – and Sandy’s noise wasn’t a trouble to me anymore.”
Now isn’t that wonderful? And doesn't it make you look at slavery from a
slightly different angle. If you happen to read this within the next
week or so, and are able to access the BBC’s iPlayer, I do recommend a
visit. And as a bonus, at the end of this, the first episode (obviously
the late evening repeat), you will hear the gently soothing strains of
Sailing By as it drifts along towards the shipping bulletins. What an appropriate piece of music to round
off Twain’s magical words.
Mark Twain was undoubtedly one of the wittiest and
wisest of men ever to have sailed through time. His extraordinary
quotations are endless – his is the one at the top:
reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
It is worth Googling ‘Mark Twain Quotes’: you
will land on a web site called Brainy Quote – be sure to peruse the one
where the quotes are listed in full rather than just the opening few
words (which means you have to click every time to read one in full - a
bit of a hassle).
For example, I am sure you will be astonished at this
observation from long before we became obsessed with the weather and
is what we expect, weather is what we get.”
about the thing which interests you for the moment”
... Well, I guess that is precisely what my smile of the day is:
the thing which interests me for the moment.
it happens, my smile today could have been about the weather, as
experienced this very morning in the Towy Valley – but Mark Twain
trumped Mother Nature. However, I’ve posted a marvellously atmospheric
photograph over on Postcards From My Square Mile – click
Sunday, November 7
Beware the snake in the steamy bedroom undergrowth
“I WANTED to be an actor but it would have
killed my father.” Gardener, writer, broadcaster and all-round
free-range celebrity good egg Alan Titchmarsh.
“Hi-diddle-dee, no actor’s life for me!” for Pinocchio Titchmarsh then.
Instead he decided to murder Lady Chatterley’s lover. That curious
thought was the first thing that came to mind when I read the above
You see, somewhere at the back of my beyond, inside the
burgeoning file tagged ‘Useless info’, there is something about him
winning a Bad Sex award for a hot and sticky scene in one of his novels.
Sadly, that’s all I am able to recall, so while I go and
“Hi-Google-dee-dee!” the tag, I shall leave you in the dodgy imagination
of Tony Blair.
I actually wrote about this Blair episode back on
October 19, when I quoted his effort to win this year’s Bad Sex award,
which is sponsored by the Literary Review – so here’s just a few lines
of what I wrote back then, just to get you in the mood for whatever
Google throws up against Mr Alan Titchmarsh ... honestly, anything for
just one more peep at this Blair sextravaganza.
Right, the nominated excerpt, from Tony Blair’s autobiography, A
Journey, unfolds as follows – belt yourself in tight now:
“On that night of 12th May 1994, I needed
that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength.
I was an animal following my instinct...”
Hope you didn't have to go for a quiet lie down in a darkened room.
Right, I have what I was looking for – way back in 2002, surprise,
This is what The Independent’s Sonia Purnell had to say
on the subject of Alan Titchmarsh...
As the pin-up of television gardening, he is not
safe from the green-fingered women of Britain. And now the Delia Smith
of plants is set to blossom into the Simon Schama of the natural
world... (let's not go there, let's just concentrate on the
steamy stuff, so a quick jump ahead).
His fervent imagination has served him well in his
alternative career as the author of slushy, romantic novels packed with
sexual escapades of the wholesome bronzed bodies and clean, white fluffy
bathrobe sort. He won the Bad Sex award for this passage in Mr
planted moist, hot kisses all over his body. Beads of sweat began to
appear on Guy's forehead as he became more entangled in the lissom limbs
of this human boa constrictor.”
Oh go on, be honest now, you can't stop yourself smiling - I mean, it's
all rather wonderful. However, I'm struck by what precisely goes through
the minds of these people when, having committed their thinking to
record, they read it back to themselves. Do they not sense the ambush?
Could it be that they lack some sort of self-awareness? This would
explain why they set themselves up for a lifetime in the stocks,
metaphorically speaking of course. I mean, here I am, chucking rotting
fruit of the chuckling electronic variety at them...
Oh yes, murdering Lady Chatterley's lover was nearer
the truth than I would have dared imagine. Isn't that what boa
constrictor's do for a living?
Saturday, November 6
Dining out in a goldfish bowl
LISTENING to Money for Nothing on Radio Wales this morning –
music from the Fifties through to the early Eighties, indeed now the
station’s most listened to programme – I heard this little gem submitted
by listener Alun from Newport: Bought a
couple of goldfish today and I’ve named them One and Two – so if One
dies I’ve still got Two.
As regular visitors here will know, I enjoy word play,
so that went down rather well. Both funny and clever. Worthy of a mega
While on the subject of pets, there’s been a thread of correspondence in
the Telegraph newspaper’s Letters page as to whether dogs should be
allowed into pubs and various eating places. These two letters caught my
Dining out with dogs
SIR – Sausage Williams, a chocolate Labrador with impeccable manners,
dines regularly with his well-behaved family at the Trout Inn, a
completely dog-friendly pub.
In fact if he is not with us, one of the waitresses is reluctant to
let us in. She spoils him with treats, after receiving the mandatory
ecstatic licky kiss. The only thing he does not do is pick up the bill.
Ann Flute, Bampton, Oxfordshire
SIR – All animals that lick their bottoms should be kept out of
restaurants – and houses for that matter.
In my teaching days as a biologist, I used to say that dogs which
enthusiastically lick the faces of their owners are merely using the
human face as a convenient handkerchief.
Geoff Milburn, Glossop, Derbyshire
Now that’s what I call a balanced argument. Personally, I always feel
every argument should be taken to a logical illogical conclusion. So if
we humans could actually lick both our exhaust and ignition systems, as
dogs can, would you be happy to be kissed my someone who has just licked
his or her arse?
Food for thought indeed.
Friday, November 5
An explosive shower of colour
On the BT/Yahoo web site I was mesmerically drawn to the
10 hideous special edition cars
The above line was accompanied by the picture featured here ...
first thing I did was smile; quite hugely as it happens.
So I clicked and went on a tour of hideousness ... but
I never really smiled again until I returned to the starter for
10, alongside. The VW was indeed number one on the list, and
here’s the blurb that accompanied the picture.
Nope, not a life-sized Volkswagen Polo colour swab, but a real
life multi-coloured car that you could actually buy and drive
home - hopefully wearing a hat and fake moustache. VW initially
planned to make 1,000 Polo Harlequins, but demand was so high
the company made almost four times that amount. Yes, really.
Well, it’s not a car I would buy, for sure – but I’d be quite
happy to drive it about. There’s something magically laudable
about anything which makes people smile. It’s also especially
grand that it appears on Guy Fawkes Day – it sort of reminds one
of an exploding artillery shell firework. Wonderful.
Also, I like the blur of the coloured balloons – oh, and I'm
intrigued at the barbed wire fence atop the wall behind it.
Should the car have been released from its prison camp?
The last time I smiled at a car was the one made from furniture ... back
on Tuesday, September 7:
Table for six, garçon – and make it fast - click
here to revisit that particular smile of the
Heard this on the radio today: Guido Fawkes is the only person ever to
enter Parliament with honest intentions.
Thursday, November 4
LAST weekend’s papers all featured the astonishing sight of a hungry
crocodile deciding to make a light snack of a baby elephant. The amazing
‘snap’ was captured by amateur photographer Johan Opperman at Kruger
National Park, South Africa. The young elephant had gone to the water’s
edge for a quick sip when the croc lunged out from beneath the lush
vegetation, as these naughty crocs tend to do. The crocodile was chased away
when the elders of the elephant herd responded to the little one’s distress cries
with aggressive trumpeting and stamping of the ground. Suitably
handbagged, sort of thing.
But, as the saying goes, there is nothing new under the African sun.
Many pointed out Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories for Little
Children, first published in 1902, in particular The Elephant’s Child: the story of how
the elephant’s trunk became long.
Above is Kipling’s illustration for his short story.
Very smiley. But what tickles me is how accurately the sketch captures
the drama – but not quite. The similarity at the trunk end of the story
is wonderful, as is the resemblance at the tail end.
But what the illustration does not capture is the
dramatic flapping of the elephant’s ears. Rather wonderful though.
What I’m most pleased about is that nowhere have I seen
the two images placed trunk-to-trunk - or tail-to-tail if you're the
croc - as above, even though I have reproduced
photograph in grey scale to best set alongside the monochrome
That’s what comes of having an active imagination and
too much time on my hands to do silly things.
Wednesday, November 3
On the superhighway to an extended massive orgasm
AS YOU will have noted from previous smiles, I am endlessly entertained
by the wonderfully pithy letters submitted to newspapers. They reflect
the tsunami of humour lurking out there beneath the waves of humanity
going about its daily grind.
There’s also some great stuff appearing online in the
comments columns – two perfect examples graced yesterday’s smile – but
the trouble online is the hard work ploughing through all the comments,
made worse by the fact that so much of it is, not so much badly written,
but difficult to scan and absorb. I am always envious of those whose
writing just flows off the page – indeed I have just read this letter in
SIR – For perfectly written English, as well as The Daily Telegraph,
try The Times of India. Lovely prose, a pleasure to read.
Michael Wingert, Penn, Buckinghamshire
Well now, mother never bread a jibber, so off I surf – the magic of the
world wide web, what? – and for some reason I don’t quite understand, I
land on this...
tricks to a bigger orgasm
While the majority of couples wish to have an extended massive orgasm
(EMO), not everybody comes down to experiencing these repeated orgasmic
Lovers experiencing one of these massive
have reported enjoying more of life's joys in general, becoming nicer
and more generous in their relationship.
An EMO can last minutes or hours, offering up blissful
sensations at increasing intensities, reports Fox News.
And here are the tricks of this tantalizing trade: ...
My first reaction was: bugger me, trust Rupert Murdoch to stick his
big oar in yet again (Fox News); whatever, to read the 10 tricks of
the trade – well, you’ll have to visit The Times of India.
But I will leave you with a taster for 10...
8. Develop your pelvic floor muscles
Exercising your pubbococcygeus (PC) muscle will put you more in tune
with your sexual response. It's also what makes for more powerful
What a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious word: pubbococcygeus!
Very PC. It sounds like a posh word for brewer’s droop i.e. spending too
much time down the pub and Willy Wonka goes Willy Walkies.
Be that as it may, I’ll tell you what, Michael Wingert
was spot on about the “lovely prose” in The Times of India.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch: some good old fashioned British
humour, again as spotted in the Telegraph. This letter appeared
Open season on broccoli:
SIR – On several occasions recently, I have found small-bore lead shot
on the work surface after preparing broccoli for dinner. Attractive as
the thought of freshly shot broccoli is, could readers tell me when the
broccoli shooting season starts and ends? And is the pastime really
Mike Williamson, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire
Today, this response appeared …
Brace of broccoli
: SIR – Mike Williamson (Letters, November 2) has every reason to be
concerned about broccoli being shot out of season. I dined on salmon and
broccoli last night and suspect both had been poached.
How wonderful is that? No wonder I go to bed with a smile on my face.
Who needs 10 tricks to a bigger orgasm?
Ken Grimrod-Smythe, Ingbirchworth, South Yorkshire
Tuesday, November 2
Low maintenance or high maintenance?
TODAY'S smile came after the bell - but before crossing the finishing
line into the land of nod.
Mid-evening, and I’m fiddling around on the computer –
uploading some pictures from camera to computer – and on the telly a
football game between Tottenham and Inter Milan in the European
Champions League is unfolding.
I am not a natural-born footie fan, but I enjoy watching
the best, whatever sport it is. And of course Tottenham has a young
Welshman, Gareth Bale, currently showing the world how football should
be played. When Inter hosted Spurs a couple of weeks ago, Bale scored a
spectacular hat trick; no goals this time, but he was head-and-shoulders
After the game, Spurs manager
Harry Redknapp complimented Bale on his outstanding performance and
described the young man as “low maintenance”: turns up for work on time,
never complains and gets on with the job, a pleasure to work with, etc,
etc. It’s a wonderfully revealing expression. And it really made me
smile. I guess Alex Ferguson
would describe Ryan Giggs as “low maintenance” but Wayne Rooney as “high
It set me wondering how we would describe all those around us using such
terms; indeed how would others see us. And of course it applies not
only to people but inanimate objects as well: computers, cars, JCBs –
everything. Even pets and domestic animals can be described as low or
An engineer once told me that any piece of equipment operated solely by
just one individual will last at least twice as long before problems
arise compared to something operated by multiple users. It is not so
much that a sole operator dishes out lots of TLC, but rather the machine
itself becomes familiar with the way an individual handles it. It makes
Indeed you can say the same about human beings. A
person with several personal relationships on the go is going to be
exceedingly high maintenance compared to say an individual in a single,
stable relationship. It goes without saying, really.
Before leaving the Gareth Bale performance, I noted the following on the
Yahoo Sport comment section in response to an article by a
journalist boasting the by-line Early Doors (great trading name).
The comment was from
(‘she’ sounds as if she should be my grandmother from Hawaii)...
Faster than a gale;
He makes you want to exhale,
And drink lots of ale to tell tall tales.
Well it made me smile. I really do like the graduated rhythm of the poem
– oh, and the somewhat Welsh style of internal rhyming.
Before leaving this intriguing business of low and high maintenance,
here’s a letter in today’s Daily Telegraph...
SIR – Tony and Cherie Blair are trying to return the garden of their
Buckinghamshire home to its original glory, not destroying the
ornamental scheme undertaken by Sir John Gielgud (report, November 1).
Work on recreating the formal paths and planting has already begun.
Matthew Doyle, Political Director, The Office of Tony Blair,
all know that Tony Blair is the ultimate high maintenance individual –
look at the cost of his legacy, both in monetary and human terms – but
even I was taken aback at what it says at the foot of that letter.
However, the following response on the Telegraph web
site says it much better than I ever could.
It’s from someone called Saffy:
Hello all. Regarding Tony Blair.
Am I unusual in that having lived (so far) to the age of 88, I have
never in all that time had to get the Political Director of my Private
Office to write to the Telegraph informing the public of what I am doing
with my garden?
Apart from the message itself, I'm impressed how Saffy introduces
himself/herself. A real bit of class and good manners on show. But there
is 88. I bet Saffy is a ‘she’.
Monday, November 1
Truth is funnier than fiction
STRANGE how one day’s smile can morph into the next day's laugh.
Yesterday I enjoyed the Irishification of William Shakespeare, and
conjured up what would have been my favourite play of his: The Comedy of
Well now, my car is currently in outpatients in search of some TLC to
help it through its MOT. This morning I needed to move it. Now I
regularly walk across the fields into town anyway, and today was a fine
day – but landlady and neighbour Heather, who lives in the house on the
hill, was going into town.
Heather was on a regular Monday morning shopping run;
along the way she collects a local lady who also does her shopping and
collects her pension. So it was just a perfect lift without putting anyone out.
As Heather waited for me to climb aboard her Discovery,
I jumped into the back. “You can come into the front,” said Heather, “I
“No that’s okay, I’ll stay here in the back, out of the
“Are you that afraid of female drivers that you won’t
sit in the front?” she asks in a somewhat hurt and offended tone.
“Well no, but as you’re picking up this lady along the
way she can climb into the front as usual and you can drop me off at the
garage and I won’t get in anyone’s way.”
Heather smiled. “No I don’t pick her up – just her
shopping list and whatever she needs doing.”
We have a laugh about my refusing to sit alongside a
woman driver – and I move into the front.
As we drive along Heather tells me that in the past she
would have picked the lady herself up, but over recent times her husband
has been very poorly and he can’t be left alone – so she is housebound
unless one of the children is there to cover.
We arrive at the lady’s house and Heather goes to collect the
necessary – but she returns with the lady in tow, who promptly
climbs into the back, where I was sitting.
It turns out that her son is home so she can take a few
hours' welcome break to go into town with Heather.
“Do you possess extrasensory perception?” Heather asks
me as she pulls away.
Now isn’t that little episode as perfect an example of
‘A Comedy of Errors’ as you could ever wish. Truth is indeed
much funnier than fiction.
Alongside, the five famous symbols developed by a Dr
Karl Zener for use in tests of extrasensory perception...
In the past, Heather has been know to call me “a star”
in appreciation of a favour I may have done.
In future she may well call me “a wavy line”. As long
as she doesn't call me “a zero”.
Sunday, October 31
To be sure, or not to be sure: that is the question
THE MEDIA is awash with slebs who are very entertaining, at least at
arm's length – but every
instinct insists I would never want them living next door.
Such a one is Rod Liddle, a journalist who writes for The Sunday Times.
Today I read this smashing little piece of his, headlined...
bard? You’re taking the mick
brilliant American academic called Professor Paul Meier has decided that
William Shakespeare spoke with an Irish accent. This supports earlier
claims that Shakespeare was actually an Irishman and had initially
entitled his plays As You Like It, To Be Sure, To Be sure; A Midsummer
Night’s Craic; O’Thello; and The Merry Wives of Windsor Park. Not to
mention the famous Merchant of Ennis.
Now that really tickled my funny bone, especially O’Thello (made me
think of William O'Thello, of Lone Ranger theme tune fame). Anyway, this
Irishification of the bard was very smiley, so I
thought I'd join in. Funnily enough I quite like the idea that
Measure for Measure was originally called To Be Sure, To Be Sure (based
on the maxim that you measure twice, cut once). Anyway, here are some
other original works of the old Irish rascal...
The Taming of the Seamus
Much Ado About Molly Malone
The Two Gentlemen of Ventry
Antony and Coleen (later updated to Wayne and Coleen)
Paddy’s Labour’s Lost
Padraig, Prince of Tyrone
The Comedy of Éire (my best shot: craic's me up every time - I know, I
know, shouldn't laugh at my own joke)
Anyway, back with Rod Liddle...
I am not so sure (regarding the Irish
connection); I still cling to Colonel Gadaffi’s
insistence that Shakespeare was Libyan, the giveaway being the name,
Saturday, October 30
Hitchhiker’s guide to the celebrity world
HYWEL RHODRI MORGAN (born 29 September 1939) is a Welsh politician who
was the First Minister for Wales (a sort of prime minister) serving from
2000 to 2009. He is now retired, indeed he exited the political scene
with his stock as high as it was when he entered – something
for a politician. A good bloke is Rhodri, and for me to admit that about
a politician is quite something.
Since retiring he has been offered a regular Saturday
column in the Western Mail, which goes under the somewhat curious banner
– Mr Wales
writes exclusively for the Western Mail
Today, one section of his column was headed...
TALENT ARE NOT THE SAME THING
Rhodri wrote about the all-dancing, all-sidestepping rugby star Gavin
Henson, and how getting voted off Strictly Come Dancing would be a good
thing for Welsh rugby, even though he has just signed for Saracens, an
He also wrote of Anne Widdecombe (retired politician)
and her appearance on Strictly. Rhodri said this...
Celebrity and talent are not the same thing at all. If you would have
asked me: “Who out of all the MPs you’ve ever known would never consent
to go on a reality game show?”, I would have put Ann Widdecombe top of
my list. It just wasn’t her and isn’t her but she’s gone and done it.
Rhodri abandoned us there. Well, the above “Why?” is fairly easy to
answer. Whenever anyone who has attained celebrity status steps back
from the limelight, it’s much like a drug addict doing cold turkey. They
can’t live without it and they will do anything to get back in the
limelight in order to grab the huge monetary rewards that accompany it.
However, I was much more intrigued with his statement
about celebrity and talent, so I have just submitted a response to the
newspaper, something along these lines...
Rhodri Morgan tells us that celebrity and talent is not the same thing.
Perhaps, Rhodri, when you were knee-high to a tall story that was true,
but today the media is obsessed with celebrity, even the sleb fluff in
its own navel. And celebrity equals talent because celebrity sells.
Does Rhodri have a column in the Western Mail because
he is a celebrated columnist of note, or because he’s a celebrity? I
dunno, but he is Mr Wales.
If I were the captain of a Vogon Starship sent to
destroy Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass, my shoulders would be
weighed down with the thought that I was about to eliminate significant
However, if I had arrived in Earth orbit this very day,
around noon, and flicked through some radio stations, I would have
landed on Radio 2 where Graham Norton and Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle
were in the crèche discussing life, the universe and everything. Then I
would have landed on Radio Wales where comedians Rhod Gilbert and Lloyd
Langford were stuck on the naughty step, also discussing life, the
universe and everything.
My burden would have been instantly lifted because
intelligent life was still in its nappies, and in truth Earth didn’t
amount to a hill o’ beans in this crazy old galaxy. So I would
unhesitatingly instruct my tactical officer to load the torpedoes and
fire on my mark (known in the trade as the “Basil Brush”).
Incidentally, Rhod Gilbert and Lloyd Langford were
discussing at length a Chinese restaurant they had visited every evening
for the past several weeks – they'd been working together scripting a
television series or some such like – but were upset that on their
umpteenth visit the staff still didn’t recognise them as regulars.
I caught myself shouting at the radio: “Of course they
didn’t recognise you ... you ... you self-important clowns: to the
Chinese we all look the same.” Boom! Boom!
By the way, that’s why “firing torpedoes, on my mark” is known as a
“Basil Brush”: Boom! Boom!
One point of order: If Rhodri
Morgan is Mr Wales, who is Mrs Wales? Let’s see now: Catherine
Zeta-Jones? Shirley Bassey? Charlotte Church? Edwina Hart – well, we
already have a dragon on our flag – only joking, Edwina)?
Friday, October 29
The Importance of Being David Cameron: A Serious Comedy about Trivial
(with apologies to the ghost of Oscar Wilde)
SIMON Heffer writes in the Telegraph: Since
Lady Thatcher left office it has been easy to predict the outcome of EU
summit meetings. A prime minister talks tough beforehand – especially in
election campaigns – about defending British interests. Yet when he
arrives it is a matter of moments before he is on his knees, doing
exactly as he is bidden by our masters in Brussels ... There is
absolutely no need for a 2.9 per cent rise in our contributions to the
EU. Europe is tottering financially. The EU should be saving money, as
most countries are, not finding ways to spend more of it.
Then there’s the EU Treaty. While in opposition, Mr Cameron pledged, if
elected, to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. He went back on that
assurance while saying there would be no new EU Treaty if the Tories
formed a government. That promise has now also been broken – but I guess
forming half a government renders all previous promises redundant. All
this provides the basis for mega ructions within the Conservative Party.
Regular readers will know that I am not a political animal, although I
do take more than a passing interest in the absolute doolallyness of
politicians. So I bring you all the above because it was with the mother
of all smiles that I read the following short-but-sweet letter in today’s Daily
Telegraph newspaper, from a Peter Hindes of Chelmsford...
SIR – Somebody needs to buy David Cameron a
Thursday, October 28
Thanks for the mammaries
Of things I can’t forget...
Spotted this sporting headline online:
Greatest ever pitch
Surprisingly, the Magnificent Seven listed feature just one streaker;
five are of people in various guises, or perhaps that should read
disguises. Oh, and there’s one dog. But the one that made me smile was
the one involving Karl Power when he lined up for the Manchester United
team photograph in the Champions League back in 2001. I actually do
remember it from back then, but it’s a joy to see it again...
Karl Power is the Tommy Cooper of pitch invaders: now
you don't see him ... now you see him - just like that! His most
original and probably gold-medal gag came when, dressed in the proper
kit, he unbelievably managed to sneak past security and get into Man
United’s team photo ahead of a Champions League quarter-final against
Bayern Munich in April 2001.
You look at the photograph and you catch yourself counting: one, two,
three ... ten, eleven, twelve – twelve? Hang about, there’s only
supposed to be eleven.
There’s Karl Power, at the back, extreme left. What
makes me smile though is Roy Keane, extreme right, looking across,
slightly confused and thinking: “What’s Eric Cantona doing back at Man
U?” Power does look remarkably like Cantona. But none of the other
players spot anything untoward.
Karl Power has an astonishing track record. He has
‘played’ on Centre Court at Wimbledon (with a mate of his as partner)
prior to a Henman match, walked out to bat for England at Headingley
during an Ashes Test – oh, and did the Haka during the warm-up for an
England rugby match against Italy (truly remarkable because neither New
Zealand nor any of the Pacific Island teams were anywhere in sight).
Mention of the Haka and rugby, the comment section of the web
site was awash with contributors questioning the whereabouts of
probably the most famous and memorable pitch invasion ever i.e.
Erica Rowe's majestic appearance at Twickenham during halftime
in the international between England and Australia. Why wasn’t
she included? Hear, hear!
Erica featured in a ‘Smile’ bulletin back on August 12-13 – it’s
only now I realise that, for the first and only time thus far,
one smile covered two days – so that alone makes it worth
showing Erica once more making a clean break at a packed
Twickenham back in 1982.
The performance is worth a replay, if only to confirm
why my smile covered two days – indeed look at the face of the
fellow in the picture and you can take it as read that that is
what my smile looks like when I do these ‘Smile’ bulletins.
But most of all, I didn’t know this story until today:
It was halftime - in those days the players didn't leave the
field - and suddenly a huge roar man-ifested itself as Erica
announced her presence. Even the players swivelled round to have
a look. Steve Smith, the England scrum-half, turned to forward
and England captain Bill Beaumont (a very large and jovial man)
and said: “Hey Bill. Some bird has just run onto the pitch with
your arse on her chest.”
Erica Roe at Twickers
Ella es el Matador (She is the Matador)
Talking of rugby tackles, there's a spectacular one on a football field,
where a club mascot tackles a streaker. Go to YouTube and look for
Bertie Bee tackles a streaker – and bear in mind that if a rugby
player had executed such a tackle in a game he would be instantly
dismissed for a dangerous tackle – it is called a spear tackle and can
easily break a player’s neck. But it is worth watching because the
streaker ends up okay.
PS: I know, I know, you thought the headline at the top was a
Wednesday, October 27
Doolally ‘R’ Us
HAD some smiley moments catching up with a few sleb quotes...
“Revenge is fantastic. It’s better than drink, more potent than
drugs. It keeps you going for years, plotting, scheming and waiting for
the perfect moment to put your secret plans into operation.”
Broadcaster Janet Street-Porter.
Intriguing. I’m not sure what that says about Janet Street-Porter’s walk
through time if she is treated so badly by those around her that she
becomes obsessed with the need for revenge. I think I can understand
that need if someone does something truly horrible to you, but she uses
the word “plans”, which suggests she is spoilt for choice as to who to
ambush. Perhaps a quick peep behind the mirror is called for.
“Just because I’m provocative doesn’t mean that people have to go
around raping me.” Artist Tracey Emin.
do hope she is talking metaphorically. It seems Street-Porter and Emin
are unmade bedfellows, both treated badly by the world around them. How
we are treated by society is a reflection of the way we treat society.
We spend our lives looking into a mirror. Sometimes though we should
take a quick peep behind the mirror. That is certainly true of Janet and
“Never put bananas in the fridge.” Musician Bryan Ferry, on the
most important lesson life had taught him.
presume that he had his banana firmly in his cheek.
But it did set me thinking about life’s most important lesson ...
something I learnt very early in life, when you are convinced that you
are untouchable – but you quickly discover that there is always someone
who is one step ahead ... so the most important lesson that life has
taught me is this: Be sure to treat everyone as if you are doing
business with yourself, otherwise, as you journey through life, you will
encounter some individuals who are incredibly observant and aware of
everything that is happening around them – and you will never know who
they are until it is too late.
PS: Yesterday, and just a quick scroll down, I pointed you in the
direction of the tale of the little robin that was bullied by its
team-mates (shades of Janet and Tracey). However, today I discovered
that I had cocked-up when providing the link – apologies. It has now
been corrected, fingers crossed...
Tuesday, October 26
101 easy ways to offend
HERE'S a really serious story that ends with a questioning smile. This
headline caught my eye in the Telegraph...
truth: it's natural to pick on the weak
Rosa Monckton's powerful
television programme showed that society still has a way to go in its
attitude towards the disabled and the mentally handicapped, writes
I never saw
said television programme, but Charles Moore is a highly respected journalist,
indeed he has edited The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and The
What drew me was the headline
natural to pick on the weak”.
If I have said it once ... study how the animal world behaves and you
will begin to understand precisely what makes us humans tick. Last
winter I wrote about a robin I'd befriended in the valley, and I'd
noticed how relentlessly it was being picked on and bullied by all the
other robins - see the tale
Anyway, Moore's article examines the disabled, who do have choices, and
the mentally handicapped, who do not. Should you wish to read the
complete article, go to the Telegraph web site and search out Charles
However, before I come to the point I wish to make, I
quote one extraordinary paragraph from the article...
Christopher Burke, who lives by himself in Hastings, is an intelligent,
amusing, eccentric man, skilful with computers and very interested in
music. His head is oddly shaped because he is hydrocephalous. “I look
like an Orc,” he says sadly. He carries extra change whenever he goes
out so that he can use it to buy off the people in the street who
threaten him. He has scars where a girl poured boiling water on his
legs. There is a wound on his head because, recently, a man came up to
him and said: “What's it like being a retard?” Christopher's quick
response was: “That's funny. I was going to ask you the same question.”
For this he was hit on the head by the man's ring-encrusted fist before
being knocked to the ground and having his teeth kicked out.
See what I mean when I say we behave just like nature in the raw.
from the article come the usual comments from readers (83 when I last
looked). One caught my eye, from an individual called Jabjabhook (who
lives on the Isle of Wight
and has a mentally handicapped daughter). I quote - and be warned, I
quote as the comment appears on the Telegraph web site. It is
interesting that online newspapers do not use sub-editors to “tidy up”
contributions, as with the printed version - which is a shame, if only
because so many make excellent points but are so difficult to read - but they do have “moderators” who
obviously delete or amend anything which might give extreme offence or
give rise to a legal ambush. At least I presume that is what a
Now read this
extraordinary little contribution from Jabjabhook.
I take offence to that argument (referring to a
previous comment, which is not relevant to the point I wish to make).
The mentally-handicapped, (let us not disguise this on PC crap), do not
have choices. They often do not have the capacity for free thought. Do
not have the capacity to make decisions you demand.
Many of the groups you talk about have free choices. The asians can fuck
off home, (make my daughter less scared of strange things), people who
look at her like sh==.
(Edited by a moderator)
Right, set aside the actual content – difficult, I know – but do you not
find it extraordinary that the contributor and/or moderator should find
nothing wrong with using the f-word in that context – but are obviously
offended by use of the word shit? I presume the word is “shit”. I hate
to think what came after the “sh==”.
There isn’t a day that passes when I do not generate a curious smile at
the absolute doolallyness of the world we live in.
Monday, October 25
The nature of beauty
TODAY was that picture-perfect sort of day when people tend to say
things like: “It’s good to be alive.” To be honest, when I get up of a
out the window and see a raging thunderstorm, I tend to say: “It’s good
to be alive.” (What has thunder, lightning and torrential rain – but
happens only in China? A storm in a teacup – or perhaps more correctly a
Churchill China teacup. It's really a verbal joke because I sort of
cheat by putting china with a capital C in the question.)
It’s amazing how two mornings can be so different under
the influence of the same lump of high pressure. Yesterday was still and
frosty, but from dawn there was a thick mist about, especially in the
valley, which didn’t clear until about mid-morning when it revealed a
beautifully sunny and fresh day.
This early morning though, the moon was pretty much in
its glory – just beginning to wane into that familiar egg-shape it does
a couple of days following the full moon – and the air was crystal clear
and frosty. Official sunrise was 7.56, but I set off for town at 6.40.
The landscape was all lit up by the moonlight ... and rather glorious to
Ahead of me, over the Black Mountain, dawn was
breaking. What astonished me was how clear the major stars were, even in
the bright moonlight. It was a most invigorating walk.
little later, and deep in the Towy Valley, the sun appeared over the
nearby hill just after 8.15. There was a light, patchy mist in the
valley, which made the whole thing extraordinarily picturesque. In one
of the larger fields I walk across, a couple of young horses hang out –
a filly and a colt (perhaps a gelding, but I don’t like to check in case
I get a kick where it hurts) – and they invariably come to meet
me. Here’s a photograph of the pair...
rather like this picture as the horses are in the shadows, with the
rising sun lighting up the background mist and trees. I have another
image over on Postcards From My Square Mile (smile)
– taken as one of them decides to “charge” me. The pair occasionally make
me slightly uneasy because I think they are never going to stop. But
they always do – so far, anyway.
The birds were extra eager for their handouts in the cold, frosty air. A
taste of things to come if we have a repeat winter – and weather
patterns do tend to be like buses: we wait ages for a traditionally cold
and snowy winter – and then several arrive one after the other. It will
be interesting what happens this winter – I believe we have already
experienced the coldest October night since records began.
But what I remember most today were the falling leaves of autumn. I
experience something similar most years. Come the first real frost of
the season, and it tends to speed up the fall of leaves. About an hour after
sunrise, the heat of the sun melts the frost’s grip on the leaves of the
south-facing trees – at least the ones that are ready to fall.
It’s much like being outside when it’s about to start
snowing – I mean proper snow, the powdery ‘dry’ stuff as opposed to the
yucky ‘wet’ stuff we tend to get out here in the west. When proper snow
approaches, especially when there is little wind, you suddenly get
fluffy bits of snow drifting down. As the thick black clouds roll ever
nearer the intensity of the snow gets more pronounced and the flakes get
bigger and bigger...
The falling leaves this morning resembled snow in those
early stages, gently drifting down. A most eye-catching phenomenon – but
it lasts only for about an hour or two. Suddenly the fall stops because all
the other leaves are not yet quite ready for their curtain call, and
still hang on tight.
Yes, it was one of those delightful mornings which puts a proper smile
on the face.
Sunday, October 24
Hooked on classics
BOBBY WINDSOR (born 31 January 1948 in Newport, Monmouthshire), and
nicknamed “The Duke”, is a former rugby union player who gained 28 caps
for Wales as a hooker between 1973 and 1979. Windsor has just published
The Iron Duke – The Life and Times of a Working-class Rugby Hero.
Today's Sunday Times Sport section has a Q &
A session with Windsor, viz Best & Worst Moments. Before I
get there, a few dots to join up.
A steelworker by trade, Windsor actually began his
rugby union career as a back, playing at fullback and fly-half, but
became famous as a hooker. He played for local sides Brynglas and Cross
Keys before joining Pontypool where, with Graham Price and Charlie
Faulkner, he became part of the legendary Pontypool Front Row, also
known as the Viet Gwent (the Vietnam war was going strong back then) and
immortalised in song by Max Boyce.
Coming from a working-class background with a nickname
like “The Duke” suggests what we affectionately term a “character”. This
tale will help explain the nickname better. Back in 1974 Windsor toured
with the British Lions in South Africa – known as the famous “unbeaten
Anyway, on that tour, the manager, Alun Thomas, angrily
asked which Lion had charged £87 of telephone calls to his room. No
reply. Thomas flourished what he thought was his trump card: “I have
checked with the International Operator and the calls were made to
Bobby Windsor, the only Gwent man on the trip, leapt to
his feet and cried: “Okay, which one of you bastards has been phoning my
Back to The Sunday Times: What was the funniest
In one match, I said to Charlie Faulkner, my Pontypool and Wales
team-mate, “Smack that bastard in the chops.” The referee came round the
scrum and said, “Hey, I heard that. There is only one bastard on the
pitch, and that is me.” Charlie said, “I think you were the bastard he
meant.” The referee laughed and said, “C’mon, get on with it.” Nowadays
you would get a red card from a referee for saying that.
Mention of referees, I’m reminded of another famous Welsh international
rugby union player, Clive Rowlands (born 14 May 1938 in Upper Cwmtwrch,
Swansea Valley) who also went on to coach Wales. He was a scrum-half,
and he tells a wonderful story against himself from his early playing
Memorable characters, classic stories, mega smiles.
It was a game somewhere up the Valleys (code for
back-of-beyond), and back then very few people actually spoke Welsh in
those parts. During the game Rowlands was penalised repeatedly for
crooked feed of the ball into the scrum. After yet another penalty,
Rowlands turned to the ref, a fellow Welsh speaker, and said to him, in
Welsh: “Oh c’mon, ref, there’s only two of us on the pitch who speak
Welsh,” as if expecting some fellow-feeling from a fellow-tribesman.
“Look,” responded the ref, in Welsh, “if you feed the
ball in crooked just once more, there’ll be only one on the pitch
Saturday, October 23
The day the Sky fell on my head
“MOST of the English-speaking world has spent
more on education with worse and worse results.” Rupert Murdoch.
Here in the UK, satellite broadcaster BSkyB (Rupert Murdoch’s News
Corporation owns 38% of BSkyB and is currently involved in a takeover
bid for the remaining shares) is moving ever closer to its target of 10
million customers. BSkyB also posted a 25% rise in operating profits in
the last quarter to £255m, and a 15% increase in revenues to £1.5bn.
How revealing that the rise and rise of BSkyB is inversely proportional
to the fall and fall of the nation’s wit and wisdom.
I’m not sure where all of that puts me because – ta-rah! – I’m a
customer. True, I pay to view the sports channels (rugby and American
Football mostly), but as it happens I’ve recently become somewhat
disenchanted with the way of the sporting world (the Wayne Rooney fiasco
and all the rigged cricket contests – allegedly! - are just a couple of
examples) and I’m seriously pondering whether to cancel my subscription.
The love of money is the root of all evil, etc, etc...
Funnily enough, just the other day I was thinking, what if a
commercial broadcaster like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation got its
hands on the BBC’s marvellous iPlayer? Make no mistake that alone
would cost us as much a year as the annual TV licence fee does now.
Hey-ho! Well, you’ve got to smile.
Oh yes, a bit of a rider to yesterday’s smile. I’ve paid another visit
YouTube to enjoy ‘The Dualers – Kiss on the
lips’ video. What surprises me is that this song has been around
since 2004. Where has it been hiding?
Also, if you happen to have a look at it, when the
video cuts to the open-air part of the performance, watch out for the
little girl in the background dancing along to the music: now you see her
... now you don’t ... now you see her again... She really does make me smile.
And I really am impressed with the natural rhythm of
the shorter of the duo as he dances the song away. In fact he made me
click on Ray Conniff - Dancing in the Dark, and to appreciate
again that amazing dance sequence with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse
from the film The Band Wagon.
Friday, October 22
Turned out nice again
THERE are some surprisingly unexpected smiles in life.
I’ve mentioned in previous dispatches, the
brilliant little tool, the iPlayer, has enabled me to shape what
is essentially my own radio station.
I enjoy middle-of-the-road music: popular, classical,
jazz, religious, whatever ... as long as it has a melody which invites
me to whistle, hum or sing along with – or indeed close my eyes and
allow the music to wash all over me – then I’m hooked, and more often
than not, seduced.
not just safe, traditional stuff either. I’ve just returned from
YouTube where I enjoyed ‘The Dualers – Kiss on the lips’. A
wonderfully catchy little song; oh, and a smiley video to enhance the
One of my favourite shows is Sunday Club on Radio Ulster, hosted
by John Bennett. He selects a genuinely eclectic choice of music, with
the occasional comedy record from yesteryear thrown in to amuse.
This week the laughs were compliments of Robb Wilton
(1881-1957), a name vaguely familiar because, as I recall when a
youngster listening to the wireless at home, he was rather brilliant
with the monologue, in which he played incompetent authority figures.
Interesting then that satire on bureaucracy is nothing new – even back
in the 30s and 40s when Wilton would have been in his prime.
Robb Wilton managed to portray the baffled Everyman dealing
ineffectually with the rules, restrictions and regulations thrust upon
him, especially as a result of the nation being at war. Nothing has
changed in 70 years. We are still as incompetent and doolally as ever –
and still, shock-horror, at war.
Wilton's most popular catchphrase was “The day war
broke out...”. The phrase was taken from his opening routine for radio,
which went: “The day War broke out, my missus said to me, ‘It's up to
you ... you've got to stop it’. I said, ‘Stop what?’. She said, ‘The
If Dad’s Army makes you smile, then I commend to the house a visit to
YouTube to check this out:
‘The Home Guard – The Day War Broke Out – Robb Wilton’. Perfectly
brilliant, his timing is something to behold.
Another frequently reconstructed Wilton monologue was the ‘fire station
sketch’, in which a bumbling fire officer takes a call reporting the
location of a fire, but is sidetracked into trying to remember where it
is instead of taking the details of the conflagration: “Grimshaw Street?
... No, don't tell me ... Oh, I could walk straight to it...”, finishing
with the classic line to the long-suffering householder: “Can you keep
it going 'til we get there?”
Anyway, what John Bennett plays on his show is the sketch
in which Wilton plays a policeman interrogating a woman who confesses to
having poisoned her husband. It really is funny, if perhaps a trifle
long at six minutes. Worth a YouTube visit though: ‘Robb
Wilton – The Police Station (1931).’ Another catchphrase of his was
“It’s turned out nice again...”. Listen out for it in the Police Station
sketch. The timing is again perfect. And as we all know, timing is
Turned out nice again...
Thursday, October 21
Sing something simple
EXACTLY a week ago my smile of the day revolved around a tail-end piece
in Michael Winner’s column in The Sunday Times (takes me all week to get
through the paper). Well, here we are again.
Enjoyed this very much...
Joke from a big-league restaurateur. Two Jewish women are sitting
quietly together, minding their own business...
Wonderful – but I guess you’d get away with deleting ‘Jewish’ and adding
to taste. In fact, I was instantly reminded of this:
“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about
anybody, come sit next to me.” Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth
(1884-1980), the oldest child of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President
of the United States.
Intrigued, I Googled the impressively named Alice Lee Roosevelt
Longworth: Alice led an unconventional and
controversial life. Despite her love for her legendary father, she
proved to be almost nothing like him. Her marriage to Representative
Nicholas Longworth (Republican-Ohio), a party leader and 43rd Speaker of
the U.S. House of Representatives, was shaky, and the couple’s only
child was the acknowledged result of her affair with Senator William
Borah of Idaho. She temporarily became a Democrat during the Kennedy and
Johnson administrations, and proudly boasted in a 60 Minutes
interview with Eric Sevareid, broadcast February 17, 1974, that she was
relate the above, compliments of Wikipedia, because I have stumbled upon
another of her quotes – indeed, this rates as one of my favourites,
simply because I identify absolutely with her view of life, the universe
and nearly everything...
“I have a simple philosophy: Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full.
Scratch where it itches.”
Wednesday, October 20
On yer bike you devil
“I THINK I had extraordinary luck. I was with
God and with the devil – and God took me.” Mario Sepulveda Espina,
the second of the Chilean miners to be rescued.
This quote put a smile on my face because Mario acknowledges the
presence of the Devil at a crucial moment in his life.
Whenever there’s a major disaster, whether it be
man-made (9/11) or natural (2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Boxing Day
tsunami), the question always asked is: “Where was God? If God is such a
loving concept, why does he allow such shocking tragedy and suffering?”
Totally fair questions, and those who believe put forward reasons, as
far as I can tell, based around the premise that God has given man free
will, and 9/11 was of course man’s own work. Makes sense.
But I have yet to hear a convincing case for natural
disasters. I can only presume that such events are part of the natural
order of things in the universe (there again, you have to ask why people
are continuing to live on the San Andreas Fault when we now know that
somewhere along its 810 mile length a major ambush is coming soon to a
place near you ... God helps those who help themselves?).
Anyway, never do I hear any mention what part the Devil
– or Satan – plays in all of this (note that I have used a capital
letter for the Devil, but the above quote uses a lower case one).
When young I was told that, as I journeyed through life,
both God and the Devil would battle for possession of my soul. In other
words, there is a continuing battle raging for control of my actions.
It sort of made sense. So why is it that you will never hear believers
say: “Yes, okay, that round belonged to the Devil – but we must continue
to fight the good fight...”
Of course, to carry the argument to its natural
conclusion, experts tell us that the universe will eventually collapse
back in on itself and everything will disappear in a puff of gib gnab –
that’s the big bang, in reverse.
So it's bad news, folks. The Devil will win the
definitive battle. Keep your heads down.
where do I stand in this battle of a Creator versus Evolution (or God v
Dawkins)? Well, I’m sitting on the fence – but I tend to lean towards
Dawkins – wash my mouth out with a selfish gene! Except for one thing, which niggles away: why
did evolution design a perfect machine to carry man – “A horse! a horse!
my kingdom for a horse!” – long before man arrived on the scene.
It’s a bugger of a smiley tease that one.
While you ponder on that one, I have a kind of companion quote to go with the one at the
“After our 11th anniversary she gave me a
motorcycle and said: ‘I don’t want to be your mother any more!’.”
Actor David Arquette on his actress wife Courtenay Cox, from whom he has
See, we’re back with the horse again, albeit horse power – a quick one
at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, anyone?
Whatever, you’ll doubtless be familiar with the
expression “On yer bike, sunshine!”? Well, Courtenay Cox takes it to a
whole new level. Very va-va-voom.
Perhaps that’s what Christians – and the rest of us –
should tell the Devil when he comes knocking: On yer bike...
Incidentally, you do know that the Devil is a perfect gentleman – yes?
Well, he will never, ever enter your world unless you
invite him in.
Tuesday, October 19
The Journeyman writes; and having writ, moves on...
YOU ARE not going to believe this – dunno though, you probably will –
but I’m back with sex again. Catching up with the Sunday newspaper, I
see that this year’s Bad Sex Award, sponsored by the Literary Review, is
coming shortly (oops! – no pun intended). And who’s on the shortlist?
None other than old TB. Yes, Tony Blair himself. Eh!?
But before I go there, last Friday I attempted to
explain columnist Lowri Turner’s puzzlement as to why it is that so many
men spend every spare moment endeavouring to get inside laydeez’
knickers – and I suggested this: If you need to
understand people, study nature in all its glory, red in tooth and claw.
Despite what anyone tells you, we humans are animals, nothing more,
nothing less. In nearby Dinefwr Park the rut is well under way...
Right, the nominated excerpt, from Tony Blair’s autobiography, A
Journey, reads as follows – hold on tight now:
“On that night of 12th May 1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me,
selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following
Wow! Not just a regular kinda guy - but a regular lurve machine. Now what sort of animal he
morphed into he doesn’t say. Was it the Wham! Bam! Thank you
Ma’am! the stag deploys when he nips in sharpish from be-hind? I
mean, you’ve seen them on the telly: all those horny hours ... days ...
weeks ... fighting off Gordon Brown – oops! – the other stags, then,
when the actual sex arrives – well, it’s all over in a flash, bang,
Or perhaps it was the way dogs do it, a quick jump, but
then locked together until someone throws a bucket of cold water over
them? We should be told.
Right, every day a day at school spot: Ever wondered how and why
mating dogs become fused together? Upon penetrating the female, the male
will be ‘locked in’. What happens is that the bulbous end of the male’s
penis becomes greatly enlarged. At the opening to the female’s vagina
there is a sphincter muscle. As the male’s penis pushes past this
sphincter and enlarges inside, the sphincter muscle traps the penis
(which probably explains the expression “The Sphinx”).
The male will ejaculate. But he cannot withdraw his
penis until its swelling has subsided. This takes some time (definitely
time for a cigarette or two or three). Consequently, the male and female
are locked together. It is a trick of nature that prevents other dirty
dogs having sex with his bitch; for a while anyway, which then offers a
fair chance that it is his sperm that will fertilise the egg. Clever
Many ladies reading this will be wondering why this trick of evolution
hasn’t happened with humans. It would certainly put a stop to us men
always being in a hurry. On the debit side the courts would be
overwhelmed with loads of murder cases. I mean, Old Shaggy and Young
Shagwell down the Crazy Horsepower Saloon would have been seen off by a
cuckolded husband a long time ago.
Oh yes, a little PS: Don’t feed the bitch on the day
she is going to be mated. Also, ask the owner of the male to withhold food
from his dog. A full stomach is not conducive to sexual activity. This
is true of other animals besides the dog. And that includes us, folks.
Anyway, back with Blair and his literary gem ... oh, Tony, Tony,
whichever animal you were aping, your effort is so good I’ve got to read
it again: “On that night of 12th May 1994, I
needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. I devoured it to give me
strength. I was an animal following my instinct...”
It merely reinforces my belief that Blair is
half a bubble off plumb. I mean, there was that dodgy reading at
Princess Diana’s funeral when he sounded like Peter Sellers taking off
Laurence Olivier doing Shakespeare’s Richard III. What came over the
Then in the run-up to the Iraq war the grape vine has
him strutting about 10 Downing Street claiming that he was following in
the footsteps of Churchill. Please Lord, deliver us from these loons.
And now this – in his autobiography? A Journey? Perhaps
it should be called I Came, I Saw, I Waged War. Just one more
time before putting it to bed: “On that night of
12th May 1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. I devoured
it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct...”
Now doesn’t it make you feel as if you've swallowed a bad mushroom? And
if that don’t win hands down then there really is no justice left in
Monday, October 18
It isn’t the length of the barrel...
LAST Wednesday it was Rod Stewart and strictly no ‘Do ya think I’m
sexy?’ as a backing track while dancing - oops! - while making love;
last Friday it was Western Mail columnist Lowri Turner driven to
distraction by the sexual shenanigans of the trapped Chilean miners;
last Saturday it was the curious epitaph apropos the two young lovers
killed by a bolt of lightning while doing what comes naturally in a
harvest field; and bugger me, here we are again today...
Carolyn Hitt in the Western Mail is writing about, in the right corner,
bachelor boy Cliff Richard’s 70th birthday celebrations and, in the
wrong corner, drug-raddled old rogue Keith Richards’ heavily-publicised
Real sugar and salt stuff. We’re slowly cutting down on
the sugar, but still piling on the salt. I’ll quote a slice from
Carolyn’s column as the old Rolling Stone gathers no moss...
Keith, of course, could fill the British Library with tales of rock star
debauchery, although he does stress that the idea Marianne Faithfull was
doing anything with a Mars bar other than eating it is a “myth”. But
just as he dispenses with one of the most notorious “eeuww” stories of
the Swinging Sixties he leaves us with another mental image we’d rather
Richards ungallantly reveals that Mick Jagger has a
“tiny todger”. Predictably, this dig at the lothario’s manhood is the
one snippet from the autobiography that has been reported in the press
over the weekend more than any other.
Isn’t this the ultimate insult between male mates?
Shouldn’t this be the one anecdote that goes on worldwide tour and stays
on worldwide tour? And for a man whose entire public persona rests on
being a love god in loon pants could there be a worse suggestion that
his laydeez can’t get no satisfaction?
First things first: wasn’t it comedian Robin Williams who said that, if
you can remember the Sixties then you weren’t there? So that puts
Marianne and her works, rest and playmate back on the front burner. And
what about everything else good old Keith is on about? Had a wonderful
night, can't remember a thing. Hey ho!
Anyway, back to business: it seems that the Western Mail’s female
columnists are becoming obsessed with sex from a man’s perspective, so I
thought the paper deserves a proper male point of view. I've submitted
this response to the newspaper’s Letters page…
An old codger’s todger:
SIR – Carolyn Hitt wrote at length about Mick Jagger’s “tiny todger”,
showing admirable feminine concern that Keith Richards' memoir is
telling unforgivable tales out of school.
She need not worry that this is the “ultimate insult
between male mates”.
a man you are aware of where you stand in the pecking order. From
changing rooms at school, rugby and football clubs, to the gents’ toilet
down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, you can’t hide your sabre under a
bushel. And there’s a lot of, um, sabre-rattling going on.
Many moons ago at the Crazy Horse, I recall an exchange
when one of the gang – let’s call him Tail-end Charlie, for he was
reckoned to have been near the back end of the queue when Mother Nature
was handing out her todger favours – yet he was the Casanova of the
time. “How do you manage it?” asked one of the lads.
“I have to work twice as hard as you buggers,” he
smiled. Although “buggers” wasn’t the word he used, but it does sound
The serving wench was a barmaid who was all woman yet
managed to be one of the boys, a neat little trick when done properly:
“Leave Tail-end alone – and it’s not the length of the barrel but the
power of the shot.” So Jagger's laydeez were doubtless getting their
Personally, a somewhat tiddly lady once
compartmentalised me as Mr Average, which I found reassuring: nothing is
expected, so it’s a chance to slip under the radar.
But here’s the thing: down the years the pub consensus
is that the man at the head of the queue marked ‘manhoods’
will be at the back of the queue marked ‘social, emotional and spiritual
virtues’, Mother Nature being rather clever at balancing her books.
Now, whether those most qualified to comment agree ...
well, ladies? Discuss…
Sunday, October 17
Have I Got Shithouses For You
HUMOUR is a strange thing. Michael McIntyre, current darling of the
media and the masses (4.36 million viewers), leaves me cold. I think it
has something to do with all that shouting he does. Having said that, I
have nothing against the man personally - unlike say, Jonathan Ross who,
whenever I see him, I am overwhelmed with a need to punch him on the
nose, metaphorically speaking of course, so therefore it is no surprise
that he doesn’t tickle my funny bone.
Anyway, watched Have I Got News For You on
iPlayer, and stumbled upon a couple of people I didn’t recognise, indeed
I had never even heard of. First, guest host Benedict Cumberbatch: what
immediately came to mind was that his name sounded like a batch of
cocktail drink bullets you would wear around your waist like a gun belt.
Actually he was very good.
Paul Merton’s guest panellist was comedian Jon
Richardson; again a stranger in paradise, but I was hugely impressed
with his repartee. He even threatened to put Merton in the
shade. He really was funny, but as with all the best comedians it was
his ability to punch in some telling stuff between the laughs.
As the government prepares the biggest spending cuts to
hit Britain since the second world war, the panellists got stuck in. Ian
Hislop brought up the row over tuition fees. He reminded us how, before
the election and subsequent coalition, the Lib-Dems had pledged
absolutely not to raise tuition fees, but of course now that they
are in power not only have they abandoned that pledge, but actually plan
to increase the fees – which means, now that they are in power, they
have become proper, common or garden politicians.
Jon Richardson joined in. “The
man they (the Tories) got to review
university fees has been given 18 honorary doctorates; he has no idea
what it is like to get a degree ‘cause he keeps having them given to him*.
The man they got to investigate public finance waste, Philip Green,
avoided £285 million worth of tax by putting all his assets in his
wife’s name ... how can you trust a man whose tax bill is £285 million?
‘It’s ridiculous, I’m not going to pay that.’ You pay that because you
earned £1.2billion you fat, greedy shit...”
The audience burst into laughter and applause – and I
unashamedly joined in.
* The fellow who did the university
review is Lord Browne, former Group Chief Executive Officer of BP, and
the man many believe to be the person who set BP up for its great fall,
having cut back hugely on safety overheads to increase profits. Perhaps
henceforth he should be known as Baron Humpty Dumpty of Wonderland:
“When I do a review,” Baron Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful
tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
Richardson said, how can you trust these two-faced politicians and their
advisors and spin doctors, whose only interest is to further their own
political ends and feather their own particular nests – and sod everyone
else (see Tony Blair et al).
You see, the thing about people earning huge amounts of
money is this: no matter how many billions they have, they never, ever
have quite enough, they always want a little more - correction - they
always want a lot more; oh, and they are driven to distraction if
someone else takes what they insist belongs to them i.e. tax on
their earned income.
However, for ever more and a day, whenever I see old
Phil Green, what I will see is a “fat, greedy shit” – and I will smile.
It won’t be the ‘greedy’ or the ‘shit’ – Green knows he
is all of those things anyway, he’s no fool – it’s the ‘fat’ bit. He’ll
hate that with his open shirt and puffed up chest ... Roll on the
yes, I found myself wondering: how would Michael McIntyre fare as a
panellist on Have I Got News For You? It would make exceedingly
Saturday, October 16
STUMBLED upon this piece of Alexander Pope doggerel from 1718, apropos
the death of two young people...
Here lye two poor Lovers
Who had the mishap,
Tho very chaste people,
To die of the Clap.
Having first checked ‘doggerel’ (a nonsense verse, and usually loose or
irregular in measure), what then threw me was, that two very chaste
people (the ‘very chaste’ suggesting that they were definitely
not the sort to engage in extramarital sexual relations), should die of the clap (slang
But it seems that what Pope wrote was a somewhat dodgy
epitaph on the death by lightning of two young lovers of his
acquaintance, in a local harvest field.
Wel-i-jiw-jiw, as we say down the Crazy Horsepower
Saloon, it’s all in the mind. Very clever use of words though.
Whatever, it reminds me of a joke from my schooldays: What did the VD
germ say as it rushed across the road, straight into the path of a
“Oh no, I’m a goner ‘ere!”
Back with epitaphs, here are a couple which always generate a smile...
Lester Moore was a Wells Fargo station agent in the Wild West days of
the 1880s. He is buried in the Boot Hill Cemetery of Tombstone, Arizona:
Here lies Lester Moore,
Four slugs from a .44;
No Les, No More.
And this, in memory of a road accident, spotted in a Uniontown, Pennsylvania
Here lies the body
Of Jonathan Blake;
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake.
Nothing more left to be said, really...
Friday, October 15
Stuck in a rut
THE NEWS has been dominated by the rescue of the Chilean miners. Mind
you, I think the coverage was a trifle over the top. It’s exceedingly
wonderful that all of them survived down under without any sudden,
serious illness such as appendicitis to put a deadly damper on things.
In truth the much-hyped miracle came the day the miners
were actually discovered alive and well. From there on up, with world
experts in drilling on hand, the best equipment available, not to
mention all the money that was needed, their rescue was assured. I mean,
if we could land men on the moon back in 1969 – and return them home
safely – then it was a sure-fire bet that they were going to bring those
miners up alive and kicking. Indeed the rescue was completed in half the
time originally forecast.
Quite whether all this will change things in Chile as
many claim is a moot point. They will still suffer the world-wide
economic crises like the rest of us; the divide between rich and poor
will continue to grow, etc, etc...
I was also tickled that the leader of every nation on
earth appears to have sent Sebastian Pinera, the Chilean President, a
message of congratulations and goodwill. It must be like receiving 208*
Christmas cards ... the only one that will mean anything is the one from
the family member you’ve quarrelled with and haven’t spoken to for 20
The United Nations has 192 member countries, but FIFA, the football
world governing body, has 208 countries on its books. Curiously, no one
can say for sure how many nations there really are. And we are the
Anyway, Western Mail columnist Lowri Turner was mesmerised with news of
the miners’ sexual shenanigans. One of the trapped men, Johnny Barrios
Rojas, 50, is already famous for having both a wife and mistress
fighting over him at ground hero – the mistress turned up to greet him.
Two other miners have been revealed to be in romantic tangles. Carlos
Barrios has a wife, a child, and a pregnant girlfriend, while another
un-named miner is said to be juggling no less than five women.
I quote Lowri Turner...
How on earth do these men find the time? Aren’t
they knackered from shovelling rock? (Dangerous word there,
Lowri: think of the rhyming possibilities. However, to continue...) But then, a new book about racing
driver James Hunt says he slept with 33 air stewardesses before a big
race. It is amazing the energy some blokes can summon up when they want
to, compared with the crushing exhaustion they claim to feel if you want
them to go shopping for shoes with you, isn’t it?
I note your puzzlement as to how some of those rescued
miners in Chile found the energy after a hard day’s slog to snog
and engage in so many sexual liaisons.
You also mention racing driver James Hunt, who
allegedly slept with all those fly-me-to-the-moon birdies before
a big race, although ‘slept’ isn’t quite the word I would have
Whatever, back in 1976 I guess that that was precisely
what motor racing’s warm-up lap amounted to.
Be that as it may, if you need to understand people,
study nature in all its glory, red in tooth and claw. Despite
what anyone tells you, we humans are animals, nothing more,
nothing less. In nearby Dinefwr Park the rut is well under way.
A stag can fight off all-comers for days on end, yet
when the moment comes he can service as many hinds as wiggle
their bums in front of his nose.
Ditto certain men, which is especially impressive when
you consider that the human rut lasts all year round.
I've observed how the Lotharios amongst us appear to
have an endless line of women attracted by their magnetism – for
no other reason it seems to me than they never stop chatting
them up, so even if you discard outrageous charm and wit, the
law of average applies.
As a betting pal insists: the more you put down the
more you pick up.
A majestic Nogood Boyo spotted at Dinefwr Park:
"If I said you had a beautiful be-hind..."
I remember some years ago asking a well known local Seducer
of the Hillsides how he managed so many notches on his bedpost:
“I just spin ‘em a line, and the longer the line the more they love it.”
I believe it is called Mother Nature’s prime directive.
Thursday, October 14
Every one a Winner
AS I HAVE mentioned before, it takes me the rest of the week to get
through The Sunday Times, and even then I only peruse a tiny
percentage of the avalanche of print and pictures. Today, I landed on
the back page of the News Review.
There resides Winner’s dinners, Michael Winner’s
weekly restaurant review column. I hardly ever read the main body of the
article – like most columnists he pretty much repeats himself on a
regular basis, but dressed up in a different suit.
Unlike the Emperor and his invisible suit of clothes,
columnists have about 100 suits, and whenever they write the same old
stuff they dress it up in a different suit, thus managing to fool most
of the readers most of the time.
However, I always read Michael’s missives – the
letters submitted, which are invariably entertaining, for example:
I saw this notice in a hospital car park: “Beware,
thieves operate here!”
“Who’d want to be operated on by a thief?” roared my
Hilda Garfield, Hertfordshire
If I’d read that at the beginning of the week, I’d have responded
If what I hear surgeons charge for their private work is right
- while using NHS facilities - then I would suggest
that the notice in the hospital car park is spot on.
well, back with Michael Winner: at the end of his weekly column there
are often one or two brief little tales, or perhaps a joke, which has
nothing to do with the main article, but are always worth a read. The
tail gunner in Sunday’s column was this laugh-out-loud tale...
Los Angeles story: Clark Gable, when king of the movies, asked to see
the small-time agent Abe “Abby” Greschler. He’s real – I knew him. At
breakfast in the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills hotel, Gable said:
“I’m thinking of changing my representation. I’m considering your
agency, Mr Greschler.”
Abby couldn’t believe his luck. The biggest star in
Hollywood might be his. “We can achieve things for you, sir. I have
ideas,” he responded.
Gable looked at him piercingly. “There’s just one
thing, Mr Greschler,” he continued. “Are you Jewish?”
“Not necessarily,” Abby replied.
Every egg a bird, every bird a Greschler.
Wednesday, October 13
Rod Stewart, musical sex, and the ostrich
WITH the shortest day, December 21, approaching with undue haste,
official sunrise today was 7.35, but as I am already just about heading
for home along the Towy Valley at that particular time, the sun doesn’t
actually creep over the surrounding hills until 8.00.
However, back at square one, I still climb out of bed
just after five – it’s programmed into my genes – so the additional
breakfast time gives me a chance to catch up with yesterday’s newspaper.
I peruse a column headed Way Out West – hm, that
rings a bell – written by a Robin Turner in Swansea...
know it’s only October but the first shots have already been fired in
the Christmas shopping war. And in Mumbles on late shopping night this
month the opening skirmish became a pretty hazy affair. That’s because
virtually every shop in the village was offering free sparkling wine, or
just wine, or something else to drink, to everyone (adult) who wandered
in. With my wife being a borderline shopaholic, that is like giving Rod
Stewart Viagra and giving him directions to a nightclub...
That Rod Stewart bit stopped me in full flow, so I hurried to my actual
diary scrapbook, which I still keep because I make notes of the things
that amuse me during the day (usually just a few words to trigger my
memory process); I also cut out and keep quotes or articles from
newspapers and magazines, items which I think are worth a revisit. I
recall a recent quote compliments of the aforementioned rock singer, Rod
Stewart ... Bingo!
“I tend not to put music on when making love because I need to
concentrate. You’d think I’d have gotten it right by now, with seven
children and another on the way, wouldn’t you?”
Apart from way too much bagpipes there, Rod, I
was struck by two things: first, who would have thought that Rod Stewart
has only made love eight times in his life? No wonder he needs to
concentrate - with the ‘Do ya think I'm sexy?’ off.
Secondly – well, first this from The Scotsman newspaper:
Stewart's father, Robert, was a
master builder in Leith, who instilled in his youngest son a love of
Scotland. He is Celtic's best-known supporter, and although he might be
one of the world's best-selling recording artists, he's also rumoured to
be prone to just a touch of parsimony (“I don't mind buying one round of
drinks, but I'm bloody well not going to buy another”, is a famous
Stewart line). Add that to the fact that the man has worn enough tartan
in his five-decade career to rival Moira Anderson, and I think we can
say, Roderick David Stewart, born in Highgate, North London, is as
Scottish as stovies (nothing to do with shipbuilding or ships, as
I first thought – I must have been thinking stevedore – but a
traditional Scottish dish; food, that is!).
Anyway, I was tickled pink that
such a potato-and-meat-stew of a Scotsman should use the word “gotten”.
That’s worse than finding out that the man who has a reputation for
servicing the ladies as fast as you can slide ‘em under has only had sex eight
times in his life.
This reminds me of a pregnant
young lady entering a crowded train carriage; she is eventually offered
a seat where a middle-age mum has her hands full with four children, two
sets of twins aged around two and four years. The pregnant lady thanks
the mum: “I don’t suppose you and your husband have much spare time with
two lots of twins to look after?”
“This is nothing,” replies the cheery mum, “there are
12 more like this at home.”
“You have 16 children?” responds the startled young
“Actually, eight sets of twins, would you believe?”
“Goodness,” says a flabbergasted lady. “You’ve had
twins every time?”
“Oh no,” responds the mum, “hundreds of times we had
nothing at all...”
I mentioned that the Telegraph had not posted Monday’s Letters
column online – well, this morning, it was there – so I checked to see
if my letter about “Ostrich” had made it. To recap: correspondent Giles
Allison wondered if Telegraph readers were able to think of a suitable
acronym for those people who think the economic cuts should not apply to
them (similar to “Nimby” – Not In My Back Yard).
Sadly, my “Ostrich”:
Others Should Tackle Reparation – I Claim Handout, didn’t make the
cut, but here are the individuals, and their efforts, which did:
Brian Huxley – Sobb: Some Other Blighter’s Benefit.
Craig Webster – Mimity: Mine Is More Important Than Yours.
Paul Holland – Cynics: Cuts Yes – Not In Certain Services.
Angela Master – Noops: Not Out Of My Pocket.
I still think my Ostrich deserved better, if only for the
burying-of-head-in-sand routine, a refusal to confront or
acknowledge a problem – although it should be pointed out here
and now that there is no evidence whatsoever of any ostrich
having ever done such a thing.
As we now know, only people do this.
Tuesday, October 12
Rock of Ages
A HEADLINE spotted online...
An asteroid larger than a double-decker
bus is to pass within 28,000 miles of earth
on Tuesday (today), but has no chance of hitting the planet, NASA has
Now let me think ... how does that old saying go? You wait ages for a
double-decker – then three come along all at once.
Let’s just hope that the next couple of double-decker
asteroids due along anytime soon will also be using the planet’s bypass
I have no idea why, but I Googled ‘bypass’ – and up
came Wikipedia with the following...
Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur
Dent’s home is destroyed to make way for a bypass. A few minutes later,
the entire Earth is destroyed by the Vogons*
to make way for a hyperspace bypass. In chapter one, Adams explained
what a bypass was:
Bypasses are devices that allow some people to dash from point A to
point B very fast while other people dash from point B to point A very
fast. People living at point C, being a point directly in between, are
often given to wonder what’s so great about point A that so many people
from point B are so keen to get there, and what’s so great about point B
that so many people from point A are so keen to get there. They often
wish that people would just once and for all work out where the hell
they wanted to be.
the meantime, nasty things leaving point A (Asteroid Belt) and making a
dash for point T (Target) should use the double-decker hyperspace lane
already in place when bypassing point E (Earth). Simples!
Vogons: my spellchecker suggested Vegans!
apple a day keeps the Vogons at bay. Goodnight, sleep tight.
Monday, October 11
Luck be a lady
MY SUNDAY into Monday thought-for-the-day was Bob Bean’s letter in The
Daily Telegraph, when he amusingly labelled yesterday, October 10, 2010
(10/10/10), losers’ day – won nothing, won nothing, won nothing. As
promised, along my morning walk I kept thinking that there simply has to
be an antonym, antidote, antithesis, whatever – to loser’s day...
Bingo! November 11, 2011 (11/11/11), winners’ day – won-won,
won-won, won-won. I have already made a note in my diary for next year:
‘If spared, must buy lottery ticket and some Premium Bonds.’
I also e-mailed a letter to the Telegraph advising
same. Fingers crossed!
Mention of letters to the Telegraph, last Saturday there was another
missive in the Letters page that caught my eye...
SIR – In the Eighties, the word “Nimby”
(Not in my back yard) was coined to describe
people who had no objection to the building of giant windmills, waste
disposal facilities, etc, provided that they were not built in their own
Since the Coalition Government announced the need for
cuts to deal with Britain’s debt, there has been a procession of people
arguing that, while they appreciate the need for cuts, their own
favourite benefit/quango/public service should be spared the axe. Are
your readers able to think of a suitable acronym for such people?
Giles Allison, London E1
actually responded to the above – but talk about Sod’s Law. I do not buy
the Telegraph newspaper on a regular basis; on those days when I don’t,
I follow the newspaper online – much as I did with The Times newspaper
before it restricted access to its web site.
Bugger me, today, having not bought the paper, for some
reason or other the Telegraph never published their Letters page
online. Now I shall never know whether my effort was considered worthy.
Anyway, here it is...
Head in sand: SIR – “Ostrich”: Others
Should Tackle Reparation – I Claim Handout.
Well I quite liked it, even if I say so myself.
A day to be treated as a roundabout
IN THE Telegraph’s Letters column a Judith Cundell of Leighton Buzzard
had responded to Evelyn Crabbe, who had written about the 10th birthday
of her twin granddaughters on 10/10/10. Now Judith Cundell’s late
father, Daniel Marsden, was born on October 10, 1910 (10/10/10), today
being the 100th anniversary of his birth, so she has worked a church
kneeler in his memory displaying the numbers 10/10/10.
Rather neat that. This means that Daniel Marsden’s
church kneeler will never run out of date (2110/2210/2310 ... for ever
more and a century).
But I liked this from a Mr Bean of Wimoweh (of ‘The
lion sleeps tonight’ fame?) – I jest, actually a Bob Bean of Wymondham in
Norfolk: Today should simply be known as
losers’ day – won nothing, won nothing, won nothing – or alternatively,
I owe, I owe, I owe...
This set my mind on a wander: do you suppose that there has to be a day
simply known as winners’ day? Hm. I’ll not so much sleep on it – ‘cause
I won’t remember the answer when I awake - but rather I’ll go for a walk
on it in the morning...
follow up to yesterday’s smile about the division between cat people and
I keep no pets; however, I decided that I am probably more a cat person
than a dog person.
Now here’s the thing: when I wrote about it yesterday
it escaped my mind totally that I have befriended the smashing collie
bitch belonging to Heather and David, my landlords and neighbours.
Tuppy, for that is her name, has already
featured in a few bulletins – but the thing is, I call her Pussycat.
Not in the traditional domestic cat sense, obviously, but rather the
informal meaning of one who is regarded as easygoing, agreeable,
nice-natured and amiable.
Strange but true.
Saturday, October 9
A cat’s motto: “No matter what you’ve done wrong, always make it look
like the dog did it”
OVER recent days the Telegraph Letters page has featured
correspondence about – well, this headline says it all...
The great divide of humanity: feline fanatics vs dog devotees
The world is divided between cat people and dog people
I’m not sure where I fit in. I have an empathy with all animals, but if
I had to plump, I guess it would be the cat. I love their independence,
but most of all, I admire the fact that they can’t be bought. So it was
with particular interest that this fascinating letter appeared in
today’s Telegraph – and generated a smile in the process…
SIR – In his autobiography, Christopher Robin Milne (son of
author A. A. Milne, who wrote Winnie the Pooh)
described his mother and father as, respectively, a cat person and a dog
“My mother was like a cat. She responded to the beauty,
the peace and the solitude that is offered [in the country]. Once, when
she was going for a walk, I asked if I could come with her. ‘No’, she
said ‘but come and meet me on my way back.’
“My father was surely a dog ... like a dog he couldn’t
just be in the country, sitting or strolling aimlessly. It had to be a
proper walk, a walk with a purpose, planned beforehand, worked out on a
map even. And you couldn’t go alone; you had to be with somebody ...
like a dog, too, he was happiest when chasing a ball.”
Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire
Well now, I go on my regular morning walks alone. As I am out and about
so early, I rarely meet anyone. When I do spot someone in the distance,
I will try to avoid them. And I say that as someone who can be quite a
social animal when duty calls; indeed occasionally I can’t avoid bumping
into people, and more often than not we end up having a good old
chinwag, in fact I invariably hand them my card because they’re
intrigued to see what I’ve captured on my
Smiles A Day
So, clearly I am in Mrs Milne’s camp. What is more, Mrs
Milne responded to the beauty that is offered in the country – and hey
presto, this very morning, I captured my first real colours of autumn.
The above caught my eye because the sun was just rising; the trees in
the foreground were in total shadow – yet the sun was shining brightly on the
trees in the background. It really was a magical sight, very vibrant,
something the camera does not really do justice to.
However clever the modern camera lens is, it just
cannot compete with the Technicolor, Cinemascopic ability of the human
eye, especially its capability to put everything into perfect focus,
whether at 12 inches or 12 miles. The eye is
indeed an astonishing trick of nature.
Friday, October 8
Hanging out with the wrong crowd
A COUPLE of days back I related part of the smiley Radio Wales exchange
between broadcaster Roy Noble and celebrated writer Jilly Cooper, a
guest on Roy’s show. She was promoting her latest book, Jump! – a
racy novel about all the hanky-panky and rumpy-pumpy that goes on in the
world of horse racing. Allegedly.
Along this morning’s walk I kept thinking about the stable lass with the
incredibly strong thigh muscles and hands like brillo pads – when I
suddenly remembered this tale of a chattering of school children given a
day out at Ascot, a sort of field exercise to learn about horses and
The day proceeds at a gallop, but before boarding the
buses for home one of the older female teachers notices that a few of
the boys from her class – in the 15-16 age bracket – are missing in
action, presumed up to no good. “They’re in the toilets, over there,
Miss,” volunteers one of the other boys, the sort that achieves top
marks for telling tales out of school.
“Bet they’re having a fag, Miss,” insists one of the
gossipy young schoolgirls, a specialist in the fine art of stirring.
“Shoosh!” responds the teacher. “Go and fetch them,”
she instructs the boy who has just told her where they are.
“They won’t take any notice of me, Miss,” he protests.
“Leave it to me,” says a young female trainee teacher,
also on the trip, “I’ll sort them out.” And fearlessly she approaches
the gents’ toilets, marches in – and sees four of the boys indeed
furtively smoking away. To say they were startled would be an
understatement. They quickly hide their cigarettes behind their backs.
“Out from here,” she instructs the boys. “Now! And this
time – and this time only – I haven’t noticed you doing anything you
shouldn’t.” The boys throw away their fags and troop disconsolately past
her. “Sorry, Miss.”
However, she notices one of the boys still in the
corner, with his back to her, looking as if he’s having a pee, but she
presumes hiding a cigarette. “That means you, too,” she insists. “And
what have you got in your hand?” The
remaining one turns to look at her, and he is indeed having a pee – and
young ‘Miss’ is taken aback, not so much with what he's got in his hand,
but that he was clearly at the front of the queue when Mother Nature was
handing out manhoods.
“Oh!” she says in a stunned and somewhat confused response. “Um ... I didn’t
notice you on the bus when we came here – what’s your name?”
Goodness, that joke really takes me back. When I first heard it, the
jockey in question was Lester Piggott. Still makes me smile, though.
Thursday, October 7
When the Queen found herself most definitely amused
WHEN I kept a traditional scrapbook of those ‘Things that make me smile’
– before I began this online version – I often found myself cutting and
pasting a cartoon or two or three or four - maybe more. I still keep up
the tradition, for no other reason than they are exceedingly funny – and
spot on, as Dai Version down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon is wont to
I happened to catch the evening news last night – or was it the
night before? – and there was an item about the death of the
brilliant slapstick comedian, Sir Norman Wisdom.
What I remember of him was that, like Ken Dodd, he had
a smashing singing voice; and he always made me smile when he
did his ‘falling over’ routine.
On the news they showed the clip when he is knighted by
the Queen, and as he walks away from the royal presence he
feigns one of his celebrated trips – and what makes it extra
memorable is the tsunami of a smile that washes over the Queen’s
Ponder how often you see a spontaneous mega-smile on
the face of the monarch ... quite ... but this time she forgot
the solemnity of a Buckingham Palace investiture - and she was
most definitely amused.
Anyway, today I happened to check out the wonderful
Matt cartoons in the
Telegraph, one of the wittiest and funniest cartoonists around –
and stumbled upon this memorable example of his work, alongside.
I laughed out loud – and every time the cartoon comes to mind I
catch myself smiling out loud.
If Norman Wisdom really is looking down, then you can
be as sure as sure can be that he will be wearing as wide a
smile as the Queen’s when she dubbed him a Knight of the Realm.
Wednesday, October 6
A jump start
WHEN I’m at home I always have the radio or iPlayer switched on, much as
a soothing waterfall in the background; come the afternoon it’s Radio
Wales and the Roy Noble show. Probably the best description of Roy’s style
came from Nicky Campbell of Radio 5 Live fame, who is also a songwriter
having written and co-produced a jazz swing album for the singer and
actor Mark Moraghan (Moraghan was born in Liverpool, but with a surname
like that he was obviously conceived within the sound of Morgan the
Organ of Under Milk Wood fame).
Anyway, interviewed once on Roy Noble’s show, Campbell
said this: “I love coming on your show, Roy – it’s just like going down
the pub for a chat.” A perfect summing up. And today was a case in
Roy’s first guest was the hugely characterful author Jilly Cooper,
famous for writing racy novels about horse racing and the like – in
other words, lots of rumpy-pumpy i.e. a jock-ular term for copulation.
She was on the show to promote her latest novel,
Jump! Wonderfully smiley title: ‘Jilly Cooper returns to horses in a
fabulously entertaining romp through the world of jump racing’ – I see
that it’s published by Bantam Press, just right for a
novel featuring lots of wee jocks.
Anyway, her chat with Roy was bouncing along nicely,
exactly as if all of us really were down at the Crazy Horse
Eventually Roy got round to the novel: “Not
surprisingly then, Jump! features plenty of ... how shall
I put this delicately?”
“Hanky-panky?” volunteers Jilly.
“Yes, without the deacons getting upset – sex with
intrigue – there you are, I’ve said it.”
“Yes, there is a bit – quite a lot – it falls in the
middle, really – there seems to be a succession of lots of sex
in the middle, then it calms down a bit...”
This got me really interested; it sounded much like my
sex life along my walk through time, my delightful journey along
the M25 Human Orbital: a slow start, a bit of sex in the middle,
then it calms down a bit; actually, it calms down a lot – truth
to tell, becalmed would be nearer the spot. (It did cross my
mind to declare that I now find myself on the hard shoulder -
but that would be an oxymoron.)
Back with Jilly: “It’s just racing, really ... horses get people going
... the stable girls are terribly fit and sexy.”
“Really!” says Roy, somewhat too enthusiastically.
“Yes, my husband had an affair with a stable lass
once.” (I think that’s what she says.) “She had incredibly strong thigh
muscles – which was wonderful – but she also had hands like brillo pads
– wasn’t that interesting?”
“Hands like brillo pads?” says a rather startled Roy.
And for the first time ever, Roy was lost for words.
But I know what Jilly meant. As someone brought up on a
farm I appreciate full well that when you are out in the elements and
doing manual work, your hands become weathered, hard and quite rough.
Obviously this applies to women who do work in the outdoors as well,
especially handling horses and everything that goes with that.
Mind you I thought ‘brillo pads’ was a wee bit of
poetic licence. There again, if said stable lass was sliding her hands
where Jilly’s husband would have wished, I guess they really would have
felt like brillo pads.
Roy and Jilly hit it off like a horse and carriage;
indeed Jilly invited Roy to a day at the races (shades of the famous
Marx Brothers film). Now I am fortunate in as much that I have never
been envious of anyone, especially the rich, the powerful, the famous –
but I did think, you lucky bugger, Roy, simply because Jilly sounds
great fun to spend the day with.
Yes indeed, Jilly could be Emily Upjohn (as played by
the wonderful Margaret Dumont); Roy could be Dr Hugo Z. Hackenbush
(Groucho); Jilly’s husband could be Tony (Chico); I’ll be Stuffy (Harpo
– if only I could play the harp as Harpo does); oh yes, the stable lass
could be Judy ‘Brillo’ Standish (Maureen O’Sullivan). What a day at the
races that would be.
Anyway, the exchange about the brillo pads really was one of those
treasured little moments. Easily my smile of the day. The above is just
a taste of the interview. Should you happen to read this within the next
seven days, and you have access to the BBC’s iPlayer, search out Roy
Noble, click on the 06/10/2010 show – and the Jilly interview comes
up in the first segment, at about the 12 minute mark. Listen, and you
won’t be disappointed.
yes, as I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a big fan of Roy, not least
because he often gets his words mixed up – the speaking part of his
brain works fractionally ahead of the “What was that I just said?” part
of his brain – just like me, but I’m not broadcasting live.
The aforementioned Nicky Campbell also suffers the same
problem. He once introduced, live on air, the master of the West Kent
Hunt – and it all went disastrously wrong. You can work it out, but if
you want to hear it – and it really is funny – go into YouTube: Nicky
Campbell West Kent Hunt Mishap. And as a bonus he does it twice.
Twice as fanny, sort of thing.
Anyway, back with Roy and a much gentler slip. Later in the same show he
interviews a lady who is involved with a choir: “When was the fire first
quormed?” But he instantly corrects himself: “When was the choir first
Very smiley to listen to is our Roy, or Dr Hugo Z. Hackenbush, as I
shall now think of him.
Tuesday, October 5
”If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all”
WHAT I first noticed this morning was the Daily Telegraph’s
front page picture of team captain Colin Montgomerie and wife
Gaynor celebrating Europe winning the Ryder Cup – in particular
For one day
only, we’re all pro-European
What a coincidence that in yesterday’s ‘Smile’ picture of the
European team and WAGs at Monday’s closing ceremony, I'd noted
that none of the players had embraced the European flag - but a
few had wrapped themselves up in their own national flags. I
guess the Telegraph headline is spot on.
Yesterday, I also wrote about luck having played such a crucial
part in how the whole Ryder Cup shebang unfolded.
First there was good luck in securing the competition
preparing the Celtic Manor Resort to perfection; then came the bad luck
with the deluge; followed by good luck in the form of the
picture-perfect Monday, which contributed in no small part to how the
Along this morning's morning walk I suddenly remembered
a wonderful tale about luck...
I must have been knee-high to a tall story when my father lifted
me onto his lap – okay, okay, I was probably about 18 – and told me
the following Confucius-style tale of a Chinese farmer, Wei Wong – hang
on, perhaps it was Wong Wei?
Whatever, Wei Wong farmed on the northern frontier of
China, and he was something of a Chinese horse whisperer. He had
corralled, befriended and domesticated a magnificently wild white
stallion from the nearby mountain range. Friends and neighbours were
However, one day the stallion answered the call of the
wild and returned to the mountains. Or perhaps it had been stolen. Friends and neighbours called to
sympathise with Wei Wong's bad luck. “But how do you know this is bad luck?” he
asked his somewhat confused visitors.
A few weeks later Wei Wong awoke to find the stallion
had returned – with a bevy of beautiful mares in tow. Friends and
neighbours hurried by to congratulate him on his good luck. “But how do
you know this is good luck?”
Over the coming weeks Wei Wong’s only son set about
training the mares, much as he himself had done previously with the
stallion – but all his son succeeded in breaking was his leg, and badly
at that. Friends and family called to sympathise with his bad
luck. “But how do you know this is bad luck?”
Around that time China got involved in yet another
desperate border conflict; fit and health men were hurriedly
conscripted, history suggesting that few would return – but the farmer’s
son was unfit because of his serious leg injury, and of course the
father, being a widower, was allowed to continue farming and to care for
Friends and neighbours called round ... anyway, you get
the picture. As with triumph and disaster, treat those two rascals we
call good luck and bad luck with a certain degree of scepticism.
“Truly, blessing turns to disaster, and disaster to blessing: the
changes have no end, nor can the mystery be fathomed.”
Wei Wong was a Chinese horse whisperer, how different do you suppose the
story I relate above is from the story as told the very first time out?
I mean, Chinese whispers and all that ... I recall this from my youth:
reinforcements, we're going to advance,”
magically morphed into
three-and-fourpence, we're going to a dance.”
Perhaps he really was called Wong Wei.
Monday, October 4
Straight down the puddle – onto sunlit greens
WHAT had threatened to become the worst ever Ryder Cup in the 83-year
history of the team golf competition between Europe and the United
States, suddenly and magically morphed into the best ever, the outcome
decided on the penultimate green in the very last match between Graeme
McDowell and Hunter Mahan.
I am but a casual viewer of golf on TV – I enjoy
watching any sport when played by the best – but patriotic duty drew me
this morning to watch the historic fourth day of the 2010 Ryder Cup.
Sir Terry Mathews (owner of the Celtic Manor Resort), Newport Council
and the Welsh Assembly had all played their part to formulate a
noteworthy Ryder Cup venue and occasion – excepting the dilapidated old
farmhouse next to the clubhouse they all failed to fully resolve in time
for the competition, which reassuringly underlines that none of these
movers and shakers is perfect.
For three days the Celtic Manor Resort looked as if it had hijacked the
Bog Snorkelling World Championships from Llanwrtyd Wells in mid Wales,
which duly led to the additional fourth day, the first time in Ryder Cup
history (I smiled at the word ‘Resort’ tagged on to the end of Celtic
Manor - cheeky!).
Now the bad weather is what we term ‘bad luck’,
something entirely beyond the power of mere human beings to control and
resolve. Yet, yet, yet ... the event’s most indelible memories will be
picture-perfect conditions, short-sleeve shirts, caddies wearing shorts
(I know, hard to believe given the previous three days), cheering crowds
and fantastic golf shots that marked the final day of the competition
(suddenly the word ‘Resort’ seemed okay).
Now the sudden appearance of perfect weather is what we
term ‘good luck’, something entirely beyond the power of mere human
beings to magically conjure up.
In the years ahead, Ryder Cup Wales 2010 will be
regularly recalled and referred to because it’s the only Ryder
tournament to go into a fourth day, and the images that will
accompany such references will not be the bog snorkelling or the wet
huddled masses in overcrowded hospitality tents, but the brilliant
sunshine and the unbelievably tense finish.
Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez acknowledges the crowd during the closing
Intriguingly many golfers abandon the European flag for their own
However, my own indelible memory came at the very end of the tournament,
when the flags were being lowered to the musical accompaniment of the
Probably like many others watching the competition, I was captivated by
the outgoing personality of Spain’s cigar-chomping, Rioja-loving,
pony-tailed Miguel Angel Jimenez, 46 (pictured above).
All sports need such genuine larger-than-life
characters. Yet beneath the skin of this joker-in-the-pack clearly lies
a ruthlessly competitive spirit which has generated much success.
Yep, he’s the kind of individual who puts a smile on
However, during the closing ceremony, while the
Americans, as is their wont, stood to attention with hands on heart and
sang along with the anthem, the Europeans
merely stood to respectful attention while the European anthem played
and the various national flags were lowered.
Well, all except good old Jimenez, who appeared to be
chatting away – shock, horror! – but I quickly realised that in fact he
was singing along to the anthem. Indeed he appeared to be the only one
in the European party doing so.
How impressive is that? But here’s the thing. I Googled
the European anthem, Ode to Joy, and discovered that, due to the number
of languages used in the European Union, the anthem is purely
instrumental, the original German words having been dropped.
However, there are translations of the original words,
so I guess Jimenez was actually singing along in Spanish. I tell you,
the man has class.
Here’s lookin’ at you, amigo.
Sunday, October 3
English as she is spoken
LAST Friday I mentioned how the early-morning wet weather had not only
led to suspension of play in the Ryder Cup, but also halted my usual
walk – and remarkably for only the fifth time this year. Bugger me,
today a repeat performance: Ryder Cup suspended until midday and no Towy
Valley walk for me. This gave me some time to catch up with the
”I went to give a talk at my old school and the
girls were all doing their ‘likes’ and ‘innits?’ and ‘it ain’ts’, which
drives me insane. I told them, ‘Just don’t do it. Because it makes you
sound stupid and you’re not stupid’.”
Actress Emma Thompson.
There’s been much discussion in the media regarding this quote.
Personally, I think language evolves anyway, and given today’s texting
and e-mailing this change now happens rather quickly. But it’s not so
much the words but the way they are strung together which often baffles
It is fascinating to read difficult-to-comprehend
online comments in response to articles and ‘Letters’ columns in
newspapers, including the more up-market papers it has to be said, so
the problem applies to all ages and backgrounds. Those responses are not
sub-edited by the newspapers, so they appear online as they are
I am forever taken aback at how difficult many of these
submissions are to read. Often I have to peruse them at least a couple
of times to make sense of what they’re saying, indeed I get the
impression that many of those who write never actually bother to read
their missives back before submitting them, so basic are the errors.
As an absolute amateur who writes by sight and sound,
putting this scrapbook together is a constant reminder of how difficult
it is to make words, sentences and paragraphs reasonably easy to read
off the screen or page. Whatever, here are the smiliest responses I came
across regarding the use of words; a few of the letters spotted in the
I want to be alone: SIR – Would Greta Garbo be as famous if she had
said, “Give me some space!”?
A glass of cow’s water while wearing a claw hammer: SIR – Some of
the most creative vernacular I have come across was offered by an
80-year-old neighbour in the north west of Ireland.
At my sister-in-law’s wedding, he was amused to see
that the male guests were wearing “claw hammer jackets” (morning coats)
although he declined to drink any of the proffered “cow’s water”
(referring to a glass of champagne).
Lady Samantha Hurley,
All is well that ends well: SIR – I met a junior doctor in the
corridor of my hospital and asked after the health of a seriously ill
he is dead well,” he replied.
Richard George, Halesowen,
Thinking aloud: SIR – In my youth, I used to visit some family
friends in the East End of London. Mary was an out-and-out cockney,
married to an Irishman called Paddy.
Paddy was fond of saying things like, “I tink it’s
this,” and “I tink it’s that”, whereupon Mary would say to him: “Paddy,
‘ow many times must I tell ya, it’s not ‘tink’, it’s ‘fink’.”
Stephen Woodbridge-Smith, Tavistock,
Also, there’s been plenty in the media of late about mother-in-law
jokes, and here’s a letter which cleverly combines both a mother-in-law
joke and use of words.
No flowers, please: SIR – The first
mother-in-law joke I ever saw was outside a florist in
It translated as: “If your mother-in-law is at death’s door, our flowers
will help to pull her through.”
Robin Lane, Devizes, Wiltshire
All the above
contributed hugely to my 400 smiles a day fare...
Saturday, October 2
What’s up, Doc?
AS PREVIOUSLY mentioned, I only have to see a pillow and I’m sliding
down a rainbow, somewhere. The next thing I know ... I hear that gentle
little click the alarm makes just a couple of seconds or so before it
goes off big time.
Curiously, the morning after the rainbow before, I can
never remember whether I’ve been socialising with Dorothy and her
friends – or indeed fraternising with the Wicked Witch of the West of
Be that as it may, as I grow older I find I now
occasionally wake up in the middle of the night wanting to go for a pee.
This reminds me of an incident as a young lad growing up on the
farm. Although I always remember us having a bathroom and toilet
upstairs - now there's posh - there was still a much used, traditional outside bog
- now there's common or garden.
I vividly remember as a youngster – I guess I would
have been about nine, ten years of age - dying for a pee, and running up
the path that led to the outside loo, round a bend, which meant the
toilet was out of sight of the house, reaching there, hurriedly
extracting Mr Willy and proceeding to pee ... oh, the blessed relief ...
then I woke up.
It had all been a dream. I had pissed in my bed.
Believe me, I really do remember it all so vividly.
Anyway, about three o’clock this morning, I did
properly wake up, had a pee, and as I tend to do, switched the radio on.
Usually I go straight back to sleep ... the radio is still going strong
when I hear that aforementioned alarm click.
However, this morning, Radio 5 Live was on, and as I've
discovered when previously spending a night-time penny, in the wee small
hours of Saturday morning, the Up All Night show has a World
Football Phone-in. As it happens I only have a passing interest in the
game (pardon pun), but the panel is so knowledgeable and entertaining
that I tend to listen. This morning was no exception.
Jane had e-mailed the panel with this wonderful
question: If a footballer takes his shirt off to celebrate a goal, he
gets booked, yes? Yes! Well, would he still be booked if he had an
identical shirt on underneath?
This is one of the joys of football. Every player knows
that if he or she peels off their jersey in celebration, they get
booked. The more bookings, the more the punishment builds up, and
eventually a suspension follows; I’m also fairly sure it involves a
hefty fine. I find it endlessly entertaining that our footballers are
such a stupid lot. It’s like repeatedly speeding past a speed camera
while sticking two fingers up at the camera and the police.
Anyway, back with the question: the instant answer was
yes, the double jeopardy jersey trick has been pulled before. Back in
2005, a lad playing for León did just that, to reveal exactly the same
shirt, with his name and number on it. And he still got booked, much to
the disappointment of everyone.
Then someone asked if anyone had scored and then rushed
to the sideline and put on an identical shirt?
No one was sure, but after a brief pause, one of the
panel members said: “I don’t know if you can be booked – but I believe
it’s frowned upon!” Much laughter.
Another of the panellists tells the tale of once watching a game
in Brazil when one of the players, nicknamed ‘The Rabbit’,
scored a goal in a high-profile match – and he whipped out a
carrot from his shorts and began to nibble away at it.
Now how funny is that? And no, the panellist couldn’t
recall that he was booked. Anyway, the tale of ‘The Rabbit’ was
definitely true, not a dream – made even funnier about 10-15
minutes later when host Dotun Adebayo read out a question from
Phil: “How can you be sure that it was a carrot he whipped out?”
I kept wondering whether he should not be renamed Bugs
Whatever, that delightful little story kept me smiling
all day long. And all because I was dying to spend a penny.
Friday, October 1
The Adventures of Asterisk*
THE torrential rain which led to the suspension of play in the Ryder Cup
at Celtic Manor, Newport, also put a sprag in my early-morning wheel. No
morning walk today. I don’t mind setting off in the rain. But heavy or
torrential rain defeats me; also, any sort of rain accompanied by a
really strong wind.
There are a couple of reasons: firstly, I now wear glasses and there’s nothing more
frustrating than rain on my specs; secondly, while I protect my little
camera from the elements, dampness will find its way into anything and
everything – and as anyone who follows my Towy Valley adventures will
know, I can’t imagine going for a walk without my camera (for sod's law
insists that that will be
the day I spot a big cat on the loose).
But here’s a surprising statistic: only on four
mornings thus far this year have I been totally grounded. On another
couple of mornings I’ve done a much shortened walk. Mind you, if
there’s a wet start, and the Met Office rainfall radar suggests the
rain is about to clear, I’ll delay my walk up to about a couple of hours, but no
While we’ve had plenty of rainy days this year – this is
Llandampness after all – I’ve only experienced four truly downpour-ish
early mornings. That’s quite a surprise; mind you, the first half of the
year gave us the driest six months for years and years anyway.
So, I drive into town to pick up a newspaper and do a
bit of shopping. When I get home I have more time to peruse the paper.
As I mentioned the other day, I can never find time to pick up a book, but
the Western Mail does a ‘Morning Serial’, and currently it’s the splendidly
titled The Songbird is Singing by Alun Trevor (given my affair
with the Towy Valley songbirds, perhaps I should pay more attention to
Anyway, this morning’s extract is about a couple of
schoolboys, one of whom has lost some money after placing it on a
railway track for a passing train to reshape. But the hunt makes them
late for school. My eyes hurry along the text...
”It’s late,” I said, moving away. “Come on.”
”I can’t find it.” He was heartbroken.
on. We’ve got to run.”
”I can’t find it...” he said again through his tears as I sped
away. “I can’t find it ... F*** **!”
Right, I’ve mentioned before how the part of my brain which
sorts out what my eye is registering works fractionally ahead of
the part of my brain which attempts to make sense of what I’ve
seen, and more often than not, that part of my brain corrects what the eye
thinks it has seen.
It all happens in the blink of an eye. So
what I should have seen is – well, I’ve photographed it, and
it’s reproduced alongside, dead opposite.
As you can see, the asterisks are nothing to do with
swearing, but merely indicate the dividing line between two
scenes. Double d’oh!
What is fascinating though is why the ‘seeing’ part of my
brain saw an obscenity where none existed. Well, the power of
the subliminal message is all-consuming, and down the years we
have been so conditioned by the media that the moment we see
asterisks or hear a ‘bleep’ we know that obscene words are being
deployed for our delight and entertainment.
even though the lad in the tale, above, was a youngster, that he would swear having lost
some money made total sense. But of course, as the reasoning part of my
brain scanned the asterisks, it saw five – five? What obscenity boasts five
letters? What is more, there are no letter(s) included to prompt the
So the reasoning department of my brain dishes out a hundred lines to the
seeing part of my brain: “I must really look before I leap where angels fear to
tread and fools rush in.”
*Ah well, methinks a visit to the Asterisk Bar at the
Crazy Horsepower Saloon is urgently called for.
Thursday, September 30
A feather on my cap
JUST occasionally, my ‘smile of the day’ can be something incredibly
simple. Dawn is breaking as I set off across the fields for town. It’s a
still, mild, overcast, slightly misty-ish start. I pick up a newspaper
and buy a lottery ticket (if I stumble upon an old lamp, rub it and out
pops a genie, my third wish will be second prize on the lottery: imagine
the hassle and aggravation that would come with winning that £82 million
jackpot – no thanks; however, the terribly modest second prize would be
just enough to banish any thoughts that I haven’t pumped quite enough
money into my pension pot, boring, boring!).
I depart town and set off for home through the
Valley; along the way, as per usual, I will chat up the birds – the
feathered variety, sadly – and remind them that The Candy Man has
arrived. Well, they will know that anyway.
As I cross one of the fields, some 15 yards ahead of
me, something floating gently to earth in the perfectly still
early-morning air catches my eye.
I stop and follow its journey to ground: it’s just like
a giant snowflake ... but I instantly realise that it’s a feather.
It is a quite magical experience, something I’ve never
I glance skyward – but the owner has long flown the scene.
I watch the feather land - so gracefully - and I can’t
think what else to do but take a picture of it (alongside) ...
The feather is just about four inches long, and given
its colour, I guess it must be off a passing pigeon. The curious
experience really did make me smile; in fact I picked it up –
and I’m looking at it right now in front of me on the desk.
Now whether it will bring me luck and with it that
third wish, I’m not sure. After all, as I watched it glide ever
so elegantly to ground, I forgot to make a wish. Bugger.
Ah well, back to the drawing board then. But with a
Wednesday, September 29
A good read, a bad reader
I CAN'T remember when I last picked up a book, except in a reference
context when I’m forever flicking pages. Mind you, the internet has
changed even that these days. Now I have nothing against books, but I
have three problems. I never seem to have any spare time to sit down
with a good book. When I do, after just a few pages my mind wanders –
and indeed wonders at things that don’t quite make sense. Finally, and
as I’ve said before, a bedtime read is out of the question because I
only have to see a pillow or cushion and I drop off to sleep, which is
why I lead such a disastrous sex life.
Having said all that, when I flick through The Sunday
Times Culture Magazine I always peruse the ‘books’ review
section, and if something catches my eye I’ll read it, which is exactly
what happened today. This headline caught my eye.
Hail the master of mischief
From Amis to
Jonathan ‘Woss’, no celebrity turn is left unstoned in these
by our greatest living satirist
The book is The Lost Diaries by Craig Brown, a name vaguely
familiar, but I’m not sure why. Here is part of the magazine’s review by
a Christopher Hart.
is a measure of Craig Brown’s brilliant reputation as a satirist and
parodist that his latest book boasts an introduction by the “Dalai
Lama”. “There is so much wisdom in this collection – and much of it
arises from the depths of human suffering.”
The Lost Diaries reprints some of the finest of Brown’s
pitch-perfect, laugh-out-loud diaries (and a few letters) of the rich
and famous from Private Eye, with some new ones and entries from other
publications thrown in for good measure.
Fully clued up on the world of gaudy modern celebrity,
he’s as adept at mimicking
as Unity Mitford, Lady Heather Mills McCartney as Lady Antonia Fraser.
Brown isn’t an outright misanthropist like Gillray or Jonathan Swift.
It’s more that he simply finds a lot of well-known people very, very
funny – “ridiculous” in the literal sense. His laughter deflates them
and their pretensions far more effectively than any solemn attack of
quote the above, not so much because I agree wholeheartedly with Brown’s
view of celebrity, but as a background to the next piece from Hart's
review - but before I quote, as I am probably the most average person in
the whole universe, I take it as read that at least half those who visit
my little scrapbook will be confused by a couple of words deployed here;
at the very least they are words you never hear in the Crazy Horsepower
The first, from above, misanthropist: a
person who dislikes or distrusts other people or mankind in general
(at first I thought it meant a lady who collects stamps and then gives
them all away to the underprivileged - D'oh!); and coming up,
the spelling of a word in one language with the alphabet of another
language i.e. celebrity speak.
Okay, normal service resumed...
transliteration of Jonathan Woss in full gush to Madonna goes:
“Fand-asdic! You look fablus! You look gwate! Darn she look fablus, laze
and gennulmun? Unbleevbul!” And once you have read his diary here,
it seems utterly right that Tony Benn should refer to a banana as a
“banana fruit” and only eat it “after throwing away the mushy white bit
smiled for the rest of the day at that delightful paragraph. If I were in the market for a
good read, I would buy Craig Brown’s The Lost Diaries (Fourth Estate
Tuesday, September 28
A serious dose of the clap
THERE I was yesterday, pondering on the curious case of the Miliband
brother that did not bark in the night-time – yet he silently rounded up
the Labour flock while no one was looking to become the leader of the
Party. Today, the story moves on at a pace. The headline, below, briefly caught
my eye simply because Ed Miliband was never heard to bark, etc...
Ed Miliband was elected only because he was less disliked than his
Labour has a voting system which only lets voters avoid what they most
Truth to tell, that voting business is too complicated for me to follow,
so I’ll pass. However, today Ed Miliband addressed the Labour faithful
for the first time as leader – and surprisingly declared that Labour had
been “wrong” to invade Iraq. (A point of order: David Miliband, who lost
out on the leadership battle, was part of the government that voted for
war, while his younger brother, Ed, had not yet entered parliament, so
he was entitled to cry “foul”.)
Anyway, as party delegates and supporters cheered and
clapped the “wrong” declaration, brother David looked on stony-faced.
Alongside him, Harriet Harman, the deputy leader, clapped
David Miliband was then clearly caught by television
cameras looking at her disdainfully before admonishing her – and then
comes her response ... have a look at these two images, compliments of
the Telegraph newspaper – oh, and the captions are not mine but the
actual words the camera identifies (shades of Gordon Brown caught by that
infamous radio mike)...
Back on September 18, I posted a couple of photographs of Tony Blair and
Gordon Brown thrown mischievously together during the Pope’s visit – and
just behind them a fellow observes their exchanges with fascination.
Well blow me, there’s another intriguing face in the above photographs.
what really makes this story my smile of the day is the look on David
Miliband’s face. Now I have written before that the one 20/20 talent I
have is the ability to ‘read’ a stranger the instant I meet him or her.
Now I can’t tell whether the person in front of me is a liar, a cheat, a
thief, or even the devil in disguise, but I instantly sense whether I’m
confronted by a dolphin or a shark, a pussycat or a polecat. My instinct
tells me whether the person in front of me is someone I should step
forward and embrace – or step back and proceed with caution.
Along my walk through time I have discovered that a
person’s character is underwritten thus: 60% of what we are is written
into the face; 30% is the voice; and just 10% is body language. And my
instinct has never once let me down.
Looking at David Miliband as he admonishes Harriet
Harman, what my instinct tells me is that here is a person I wouldn’t
want to see living next door; certainly I wouldn’t him within a million
miles of my fondly imagined South Sea Island paradise.
Well, given the look on that face, would you want to
accidentally step on his toes?
I acknowledge that my 20/20 instinct for survival is a
very smiley talent, a gift from the Gods. After all, it's people who
make our walk through time either a delight or a disaster. Forewarned is
Incidentally, if I appear to be always having a go at Labour, let me
balance the books.
”I think it’s important in life to speak as it
is, and the fact is that we are a very effective partner of the US, but
we are the junior partner. We were the junior partner in 1940 when we
were fighting the Nazis.” Prime Minister David Cameron’s gaffe. The
United States of America entered the Second World War in December 1941.
Forget the gaffe; anyone can get their dates wrong. But it’s the
extraordinary statement about Britain being a “junior partner” – that
“the few” famously celebrated in words by Winston Churchill were merely
junior partners waiting for the United States Cavalry to ride over the
brow to the
Now there may well be a sliver of truth in that, but
that our Prime Minister can make such a statement merely to kiss the
feet of Obama and the American people, and rate his own people as second
class – well, you just have to laugh at
the doolallyness of the man.
We recently got rid of a couple of tossers who did
their best to ruin the country – and now we’ve got a new prime minister
who is as much of a wanker as the other two (sorry, but that’s how I see
these useless politicians).
What is it about politics that attracts those who are too clever by half
and cursed by zero wisdom? Inherent wisdom is that priceless gift which
senses the ambush around the next corner, well before you even think about
applying the brakes.
If you didn’t smile at our politicians’ naivety and
idiocy, you’d burst into tears.
Monday, September 27
‘Ere, what ‘ave you got in your ‘and?
CAROLYN Hitt is a columnist for the Western Mail newspaper; she is also
a broadcaster, not just in front of the camera and microphone, but also
behind. In this morning’s column a couple of things made me smile as I
wondered why, what, where, when... Here's a taste...
Just add water
roof fell in on my own Commonwealth Games project last week. After
spending several months preparing Commonwealth Dragons, a series on the
history of the games from a Welsh perspective, my radio engineer rang to
say a water leak had wiped out the final mixes of the programmes. But
our shows will go on after a last-minute re-edit. It has not been quite
as dramatic as the race to make the athletes’ village in Delhi
Apropos the total chaos surrounding the build-up to the Commonwealth
Games, I did find myself wondering why the Indian Government called
emergency meetings only towards the tail-end of the eleventh hour.
Whatever, I was far more intrigued as to how a professional radio
engineer allowed a water leak to wipe a critical tape. I mean, I can
imagine me leaving a tape lying about the house to be dripped upon, but
This giggled me so much I Googled “how come water leak
wipes carolyn hitt radio tape” – and I was truly flabbergasted that,
from 8,820 results, my own website was second on the list (I have
written previously about Carolyn, but not about her water works,
or rather her radio engineer’s
problems). I am none the wiser what happened. We should be told.
It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother
knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea ~
Carolyn also wrote about that curious battle for the leadership
of the Labour Party involving the two Miliband brothers running
against each other (David,
45, favourite, and Ed, 40).
I never quite understood why two brothers should do
this. It was like watching two bananas running a three-legged,
egg-and-spoon race – which is why the finish was so close, I
guess. (I was overwhelmed when I stumbled upon the image
alongside, artist unknown, especially given David's celebrated
affair with a banana.)
Oh, the race was won - surprise, surprise - by Miliband Junior. Meanwhile,
back with Carolyn...
Other secrets from Ed Miliband’s 80s youth have emerged in a
glowing tribute from socialist academic Robin Blackburn: “I must
admit Ed amazed me by being able to do the Rubik’s Cube in one
minute 20 seconds and, as I recall, just with one hand too.” Now
I could do the Rubik’s Cube in one minute 20 but nobody could do
hand. That’s just impossible. Only
someone of our generation can appreciate this incredible feat. So to
those of you older or younger, be assured – this man has special
I am overwhelmed with one thought: what was he doing with his free hand?
Please Lord; assure us that the nation does not have yet another tosser
lurking in the wings waiting to make an even bigger mess of this fair
Anyway, the Miliband brothers remind me of a song from my youth: My Brother, sung
by Terry Scott, where he sings amusingly about his horrid little
brother, and in particular the last few lines...
Come on, come on mate let’s get you out of ‘ere before you fall down the
‘ole in the middle;
Come on, give us yer ‘and, we’re gonna walk...
... ‘ere what ‘ave you ‘ad in yer ‘and?
yer? ... Phorr!!
I commend to the house a quick visit to YouTube: enter ‘Terry
Scott – My Brother’ – and give it a listen, especially the delivery
of those last few lines, quoted above. If that doesn’t put a smile on
Oh yes, while you're there just have a look down those
wonderfully silly old songs also available ... for example, the marvellous Joyce
Grenfell and her Nursery School:
don’t do that!” - oops! - “George - don't do that!”
Sunday, September 26
The One next door
A perfectly beautiful weekend. Early yesterday was as picture perfect as
nature can deliver: blue skies, the air crystal clear, gentle wisps of
mist along the valley - but surprisingly cold, as the forecast had
promised. Today began really misty, before it all slowly cleared to give
another perfect morning – again cold, in fact I experienced my first
frost of the autumn.
As I went to open a metal gate I grabbed one of the
horizontal bars to push it open, and to my surprise the droplets of mist
that had condensed on its underside had frozen. Not particularly hard,
but frozen – and all on September 26.
The burst of colder weather has put the little
songbirds on yellow alert; suddenly they are queuing up to grab some
grub, and a few of the usual suspects, the tits, are already landing on
my outstretched hand needing little encouragement.
This was going to be my smile of the day – if you click
you’ll see a smashing autumnal picture starring a couple of the little
tits that provide me with so much pleasure.
However, the smile of the day goes to a couple of quotes heard on the
Shân Cothi show on Radio Wales. One of her guests was local girl Alex
Jones, now co-host of BBC TV’s One Show. I’ve seen bits and pieces of
her show; she seems to be settling in reasonably well.
Shân asked how she felt about being compared to
previous presenter Christine Bleakley, especially when she took over the
show, and did she mind. “No, I didn’t mind,” said Alex, “she’s a nice
person to be compared to, very glamorous, Christine – I don’t think I’m
that glamorous, mind ... she’s groomed to within an inch of her life:
her teeth are whiter, her skin is browner, her hair is shinier – but
anyway, I’m getting there.”
I happened to catch the show when
Dame Edna Everage was a guest. I enjoyed the Dame’s entrance towards the
sofa; Dame Edna approached Alex to exchange the usual show biz kisses:
“How lovely to see you, Christine. I caught you this morning on Daybreak
– and here you are again tonight on The One Show. My, you are the busy
little bee.” Very Dame Edna, very funny.
Anyway, back on this morning’s radio show, Shân asked
Alex about her two co-presenters, Jason Manford and Chris Evans (who
co-presents the Friday show), both of course having completely different
personalities. Oh, and both married.
Alex confirmed that she gets on well with both,
although she did let it slip that she has to make sure she doesn’t give
one more attention than the other: “At the moment it’s like having two
boyfriends without the benefits.” Nice One, Alex.
Now who would have thought that those two grown men
could be quite such sensitive little souls? There goes that curse called
Mind you, Alex sounds as down to earth as it’s possible
for a celebrity to be. Power to her girl-next-door persona.
Saturday, September 25
On the hard shoulder of life’s M25
YESTERDAY’S ‘Smile’, compliments of Tesco now becoming purveyors of
Viagra, kept me up all night, ho, ho, ho! Seriously though, I couldn’t
get the tale out of my mind, in particular, this quote...
”It’s just wrong, I am laying my soul down
here, and people start laughing.” Sir Tom Jones, 70, legendary
stallion of this Principality, objects to women throwing their knickers
at him while he is singing ballads.
I perceive my walk through time as one complete circuit of the London
Orbital (the M25 motorway). Its length, c.118 miles, pretty much
corresponds in years with the age of the oldest living human beings (the
oldest person currently alive is Walter Breuning from the United States,
age 114). So in theory we all set off to complete that one circuit.
Currently the average age at death in the
is 79, so most of us can expect to complete two-thirds of the Human
When I hit the one-third marker (at 40 miles), which is
now statistically middle-age, I remember mentioning down at the Crazy
Horse that suddenly, after spending the previous 20 miles dedicated to
pulling onto the hard shoulder, figuratively speaking, to worm my way
inside a pretty woman’s knickers (I should be so lucky!), I was suddenly
surprised to find myself exercising what I termed ‘quality control’.
I was becoming quite choosey as to who I fancied having
sex with (I should be so lucky – lucky, lucky, lucky!). To which the
response from Chief Wise Owl (the old boy who declared that age
eventually castrates us all), was: “For quality
control, read Mother Nature tightening her grasp on your bollocks.”
I thought that not only funny, but on reflection, alarmingly observant.
In fact, as the miles whizzed on by I slowly realised
that, truth to tell, a memorable joke was becoming more satisfying than
a bit of hanky panky – which isn’t as daft as it seems. A really
cracking joke is something you can laugh at over and over, no matter how
many times you hear it, even if only within the privacy of your own head
(I am often asked: “What are you smiling at?”).
On the other hand, sex cannot be revisited in your
mind, you have to go out and do it – unless, of course, you become a bit
of a tosser, but that’s much like watching a rugby game on the box: it’s
a good second best, but it’s nowhere near as great as being at the
stadium experiencing the whole shebang unfolding all around you.
That’s the way nature works. The hugely characterful,
but sadly late George Melly, was into sex in a big way – AC, DC, Three
Phase, any which way, and loose. However, as he grew older he made this
memorable observation: “Losing my libido was
like being unshackled from a lunatic.” And how many ‘older’
men nod knowingly at that?
So back with the Tom Jones quote – and remember, Tom is
another one reputed to have loved ‘em as fast as they could slide ‘em
under him. Do you suppose that Tom now acknowledges that he has been
unshackled from his lunatic? Now there’s a thought. No wonder his latest
album was more Hymns and Arias than Sex Bomb and Delilah.
Boyoboyo, we are indeed all slowly morphing into that
majestic old stag that has experienced his last shag.
Be that as it may, it is interesting to note that dear
old Sir Tom, realising that the above quote about discarded knickers was
not doing his reputation much good, has followed up with this:
“I did feel like that. Sex Bomb, you can't get away from that title.
When you do things, sometimes you create a monster without realising.
Sometimes it's over-indulgent; sometimes I should rein myself in a
little bit. I've always tried to, but sometimes things get the better of
you, and I'm a little weak-minded in certain areas. It's not an area of
my life I'm proud of.”
I'm not sure what to make of that. With words like rein and bit, I think
it's a case of opening the stable door after the stallion has bedded
down for the night.
shall leave you with evidence that a memorable joke really is more
smiley than a frantic shag to prove that a man can still stag it. This
is in fact a quote, compliments of the late, great
Marx, who was, apparently, as witty in everyday life as he was on screen
– and whenever I think of this quote ... it makes me smile...
"I'm going to Iowa for an award; then I'm
appearing at Carnegie Hall. It's sold out. Then I'm sailing to France to
be honoured by the French government," and, pausing so the audience
might show an elderly gentleman due reverence, he added, "I'd give it
all up for one erection."
Friday, September 24
You shop, we droop – oops!
You shop, we drop, you perk up
I STUMBLE upon the following Mail Online headline...
Tesco to sell half-price Viagra
over the counter
Tesco is the first supermarket to start selling the anti-impotence drug
... the pills were only available on prescription – or from dubious
internet sources – until Boots began selling direct to customers last
year, at £55 for four. But Tesco will offer fierce competition by
selling Viagra at £52 for eight of the blue tablets.
times like this I wish I lived in
to enable me to submit some smart-arse response along these lines: “God,
Tesco have their finger in every pie...” – perhaps even “hairy pie”, at a
Be that as it may, I was irresistibly drawn to some quotes from my
burgeoning Doolally file...
“Television is a huge detector of sincerity,
but also insincerity.” TV presenter Judy Finnigan of Richard and
I know, I know, where’s the hard copy apropos of Viagra, I hear you ask
– stick with me – but I thought you can detect sincerity (or
insincerity) simply by looking a person in the face, just as you do
TV. Is it me?
Okay, back with the Viagra...
“I had a half and she had a half, and I will
tell you, it’s not an aphrodisiac.” TV presenter Richard Madeley on
his experience of Viagra, with wife Judy Finnigan.
That has to be what they call wearing your erection promises on your sleeve. On
the positive side, he and Judy will now be able to gulp down a whole
tablet each –for the same price.
Mind you, the store is Tesco, so Richard will have to
remember not to walk out without paying.
”It’s just wrong, I am laying my soul down
here, and people start laughing.” Sir Tom Jones, 70, legendary
stallion of this Principality, objects to women throwing their knickers
at him while he is singing ballads. Eh?!
I am reminded of a quote from my local Crazy Horse Saloon, back when I was but
a young buck about town. There was much talk back then in the media
as to whether convicted rapists should be castrated, and the discussion
was continued at the Crazy Horse. An old boy in the corner (Chief Wise
Owl to the local braves) shook his
head: “There’s no need to castrate anyone. Age does that anyway.”
Are you listening, Sir Tom? Anyway, back with the
Mail’s Viagra tale: as usual I had a quick scroll down the online responses
here are a few of my favourites...
“I had a stiff neck the other evening, then found I hadn’t
completely swallowed the tablet, so do be careful.”
“Can I get it over the counter? (You can if you take two.)”
yes, I enjoyed the cartoon, alongside, that accompanied the
Mail's article. I just love those gormless-looking faces. Back
with the quotes...
“I think £52 for eight tablets is still a bit stiff.”
But here’s my favourite – remember, the store is Tesco...
”Well ... every little helps, I
Goodnight, sleep tight, sweet dreams...
Thursday, September 23
From Crazy Horse to Crazy Horsepower to - ?
LAST Tuesday it was old ‘Uncle Tom Cobley and all’ aboard his old grey
mare ... which neatly transported us yesterday to the dance floor and
Ann Widdecombe ... well blow me, I pop into the Crazy Horsepower Saloon
this very day and Ann Widdecombe waltzes to the fore yet again – as well
as a cartoon from yesterday’s newspaper.
As you may well have guessed, you will not find the
Crazy Horsepower Saloon in my home town – it is just an amalgam of the
pubs and characters I have loved and enjoyed down the years. But I still
visit the Crazy Horsepower.
Coming from farming stock I tend to mix and socialise
with those who are, not so much directly involved in farming, but those
who have a connection, or do business with, the agricultural community.
Being that Llandeilo is historically a traditional Welsh market town,
this involves a significant percentage of the population.
So in the days when we were young bucks about town we
would usually congregate in the pub that attracted those of a rustic
bent, before then setting off on our regular safaris.
We would refer to our local as the Crazy Horse. And
Llandeilo itself became Dodgy City. As the years drifted by, just
occasionally a pub would close or go out of fashion, so another pub
would become our base, our new Crazy Horse.
Also, farming quickly became highly
mechanised, with younger people especially becoming variations
on a theme of petrol heads, so the Crazy Horse Saloon morphed
into the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.
Well, my eye caught this smiley Bill Whitehead cartoon,
featured alongside, in the Western Mail, so I captured an image
to show the regulars down at the Crazy Horsepower.
Perhaps you’re ahead of me already: as we regulars grow
older, what will the Crazy Horsepower morph into next? We all
enjoyed the walking frames tied up outside the Saloon – and of
Old West’ caption. Very witty.
But what would the Crazy Horsepower morph into?
A few options were voiced...
Last Chance Saloon?
Last of the Mohicans?
Old Nags Head?
But here’s my favourite thus far, remembering of course that
what with oil and gas running out, not to mention global warming
looming over the horizon, who is to say that horses will not
come back into fashion in a big way ...
The Pony &
Originally it was The Trap & Pony Saloon because most of us at
the Crazy Horsepower tend to put the cart in front of the horse.
not sure I'm looking forward to this:
“Right, I'm off down
The Pony &
Trap for half a shandy.”
Anyway, while at the Crazy Horsepower I mention my
cartoon-joke from yesterday, the one about Ann Widdecombe, the Pope, the
Old English Sheepdog, Dulux and Durex – I know, I know, self-praise is
no recommendation – but it went down well.
Oh yes, being typically Welsh, pretty much everyone at
the Crazy Horsepower has a nickname, of sorts. You probably recall the
film Dances with Wolves. John Dunbar, the central character,
befriends a wolf, the local Sioux Indians observe him playing around
with the creature, much the way someone might observe us play with our pet
dog in the park – and they christen him Dances with Wolves.
Well, one of the Crazy Horsepower’s characters is a
keen and proficient fisherman. To watch him fly fishing, like any great
fisherman really, is to watch the equivalent of Fred Astaire and Cyd
Charisse dancing in the dark. He performs a graceful sort of waltz with
his fishing line and rod.
And given that his preferred time on the river is
before sunrise, I call him Fly by Night.
Meanwhile, back with Ann Widdecombe, I jokingly mention
the ‘honorary virgin’ bit from yesterday’s ‘Smile’...
“By the way,” says Fly by Night, “you know what it will
say on her tombstone?” I shake my head. “’Born a virgin, lived a virgin,
died a virgin’ – unless they go for the more basic option: ‘Returned
Poor old Ann. I've never watched Strictly Come Dancing;
well, apart from when I'm zapping through the channels or I catch
something about the series on the news or in the papers, but I feel I
should give the old dancing world a couple of twirls, if only for Ann's
Wednesday, September 22
A quick paso doble around Widdecombe fair
YESTERDAY I featured that delightfully smiley ‘Uncle Tom Cobley and all’
I should explain to those unfamiliar with the phrase, that
it comes from a Devon folk song, ‘Widecombe Fair’. Its famous chorus
ends with a long list of people:
“For I want for to go to Widecombe Fair, with Bill
Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry
Hawke, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.”
As I added the cartoon to yesterdays
I instantly thought of Ann Widdecombe, 62, former Tory MP, a practising
Roman Catholic, and currently in training for
BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. She is regarded by many as an honorary
She has never married nor had any children. In November 2007, on
BBC Radio 4, she described how a journalist once produced a
profile on her, presuming that she had had at least “one sexual
relationship”, to which Widdecombe replied: “Be careful, that’s
the way you get sued.”
When interviewer Jenni Murray asked if she had ever had
a sexual relationship, Widdecombe laughed: “It’s nobody else’s
business.” I like her. She is that rare thing, a genuine
I have to say, I enjoyed this cartoon in the Guardian
newspaper, alongside, of Ann and Anton Du Beke, her partner,
rehearsing for Strictly Come Dancing.
Anyway, after posting yesterday’s ‘Smile’, I stumbled upon this quote of
hers in today’s newspaper...
”I don’t know why they call the Pope God’s Rottweiler. When I met him he
seemed more like an Old English Sheepdog.”
Now if I were a cartoonist, I would draw the Pope in the form of an Old
English Sheepdog, sitting in front of Widdecombe, with a large packet of
‘Durex’ in his mouth, and Ann is seen to admonish him: “Naughty
doggie: I said ‘Fetch the Dulux’.”
Note: For those reading this outside of the UK (or Australia), the Old
English Sheepdog is the brand mascot for Dulux paint, and is
featured regularly in their advertising. Durex is the trademark
name for a range of condoms made by the London Rubber Company (now SSL
being a portmanteau word of “Durability,
Excellence”, though some mistake it as
being “Durable Latex” or “During Sex”.
As I keep reminding everyone: Every day is a day at school.
Tuesday, September 21
Stuck in a rut
NO MATTER whether you’re a cigar-wielding president of the most powerful
nation on earth, a potato-head footballer, or a simple country boy much
like Yours etc, we males who fire on six cylinders (or thereabouts) have
one thing in common: the moment we clap eyes on a pretty girl and she
flashes a smile, flicks her hair and whispers “Hello big boy!”, nature
instantly drains the blood from our brain and rushes it to our manhood,
thus rendering us incapable of rational thought.
I guess it is Mother Nature’s way of giving us all
q level playing field when the rut comes knocking.
This came to mind as I reflected on those delightfully doolally
and smiley quotes from yesterday, in particular the Wayne Rooney
Irrespective of the opening paragraph above, you would
have thought that somewhere along the line, either Rooney’s
parents, agent, football manager,
Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke or Old Uncle Tom Cobley
and all, would have specifically warned young Hey Wayne about
the ambush lying in wait around every corner.
“Wayne,” someone should have insisted, “keep your
rocket in your pocket. There are loads of birds out there
queuing up to make you look like a potato prick! They’ll have
you peeled, chipped, deep fried and thrown away – all wrapped up
in yesterday’s headlines – faster than you can have a quick
Then there was that curious business with
William Hague, when he shared a room with a male political
advisor. Now I have been on many a rugby tour and always shared
a room with some fellow or other, as have hundreds of thousands
of others, without
This just made me smile
And all off to dance with Ann Widdecombe fair
ever a nudge-nudge, wink-wink questioning remark.
But when you’re a government minister, and there are
rumours circulating about your marriage, photographs published of you
and your political advisor strolling along like two young lovers – well,
you really and truly don’t need to be terribly bright to question the
poor judgment of sharing that room. And he’s our Foreign Secretary for
I can only think that my somewhat throwaway remark
about all the blood rushing from brain to prick is absolutely right.
Also yesterday, I listed that curious Stephen Fry quote regarding his
The quote somehow rang a bell, so I went back through some previous
newspapers ... bingo!
might wonder how a gay man managed to father a daughter, but I was a
highly promiscuous teenager. If it wasn’t nailed down, I’d have it.”
Comedian Paul O’Grady aka Lily Savage (the common-or-garden version of
Dame Edna Everage).
Do you know,
I have a feeling that somewhere out there there’s a wishing well loaded
made-to-measure quotations, and these doolally celebrities merely reach down and pull
one out to share with us when they need to generate a bit of
Crazy world, crazy people.
Monday, September 20
A quote too far
AS I’VE said before, the world is now a place called Doolally, and nothing
highlights this better than the wit and wisdom (sic) uttered by our darling
celebrities, bless. Perhaps that should read ‘the sick wit and
wisdom...’. Whatever, coming up, the five top ‘Quotes of the Day’, as
spotted in the morning newspaper.
First, some background info apropos No. 1 on the list: Wayne Rooney,
bless - occasionally known as Roo*, indeed recently rechristened ‘Potato
Dr Johnson’s Dictionary of Modern Life
(see August 28) - is an infamous England footballer who plies his
day-to-day trade at Manchester United. He has been a naughty boy. A very
naughty boy indeed.
(*I always think of him as Hey Wayne, for no other
reason than he forever looks as if he could do with a stern word in his
shell-like by an unfriendly neighbourhood Constable.)
Anyway, while Hey Wayne was unable to score on
the pitch for England during the recent World Cup, he was allegedly
scoring regularly off it. Even worse, with wife Coleen heavy with child, he was playing away
from home every game, and the away-strip is now a bit of a tabloid collector’s
As for the having-it-away team, first out of the blocks was Jenny Thompson, 21 – better known as Juicy
Jeni – an escort girl who charged our Roo £1,200 every time he stepped
into the off-side trap.
makes Juicy Jeni so different is that, far from being a downtrodden,
drug-addled member of the underclass with no prospects, she is a
middle-class lass who went to private school and whose father is an oil
engineer. In what must be a first, her parents publicly apologised
to Rooney’s wife for their daughter’s behaviour. What must they have
felt like? I hope her dad doesn’t
work for BP; that really would make it a bad year at the office.
As a matter of interest, the Latin motto of Lord's
independent school, which Jenny attended, is ‘finis coronat opus’,
which I translated as ‘ending with a huge climax’, but apparently means
‘the end crowns the work’. Same difference, I guess.
Anyway, the ladies of the night are now cashing in big time on their
associations with Hey Wayne. Here are just a few of the red-top front-page
headlines shouting at me from the newsagent’s stand over the past few
Two new England love rats named
Roo’s girl No. 2
Rooney hooker: I’ve bedded 13 more premiership footie stars
I netted four footie aces in six hours
Rooney’s tarts are gangsters’ molls
Rooney tart: I charged Wayne ugly tax!
Roo’s tears after our 3-in-bed sex
I’ve seen Wayne’s sex tape
I’m a fool, take me back
Wayne & Coleen: We’re back together
You really don’t need to have picked up any of the newspapers. It’s all there,
in the headlines. I smiled at the
one - made me think of the Ugly Bug Ball. Do you know, all my working life I’ve had to
deal with the occasional twat who, all in all, I’d rather not have dealt with. But business,
whether as an employee or being self-employed, is business. Indeed one of
the more difficult individuals I ever had to deal with was also one of
the more profitable.
Just imagine if I had added either of the following
graduated taxes to my bill: a tosser tax, a bastard tax, and as a last
resort, a c*** tax. How satisfying would that have been?
Anyway, back to business ... here's the first quote, featuring the aforementioned
”When I look at Wayne Rooney and Coleen, I want to take them out to
lunch and say: ‘Darling children, marriage is like a cathedral.’”
Best-selling novelist Jilly Cooper.
No, I haven’t a clue either. I even looked up cathedral, just in case
I'd missed something: a large,
important church. Now if Hey Wayne was married to Charlotte Church, I’d
“I am only 90% gay, which is, of course, pretty damned gay, but every
now and again on my path through life, I have met a woman in the 10%
bracket.” Stephen Fry.
No, I still haven’t a clue. Does that 10% mean it could be someone like
self-confessed lesbian Claire Balding, who recently took writer AA Gill,
bless, including The Sunday Times, to the Press Complaints Commission after she
was described as a ‘dyke on a bike’ in a newspaper article. The
complaint, incidentally, was upheld.
Anyway, is Stephen Fry talking about someone
like Claire? A double negative, sort of thing? We should be told.
“Russell Brand is Shakespearean himself. He uses language in a
Shakespearean way. It flows out of him. He is utterly sweet-natured and
I can’t get enough of him.” Dame Helen Mirren.
Hang about ... Brand is the fellow who left a message on a grandfather’s
answerphone boasting that he had shagged his granddaughter. And Helen
Mirren can’t get enough of him?
There is nothing like a dame, nothing in the world;
There is nothing you can name that is anything like a
dopey dame! ♫♥♫♥♫♥♫
“If it wasn’t for acting I’d probably be a serial killer.”
I nearly am lost for words this time. Perhaps he meant ‘cereal’, and that he could
really murder a Weetabix or three.
“Every tree has a meaning for me. Terrible thing really, musn’t get too
attached. I shall have to try and detach myself soon, psychologically.”
The Prince of Wales at Highgrove.
Now I’m a great fan of trees myself – planted quite a few over recent
years – but I’ve yet to form a meaningful relationship with one. There
again, I’ve yet to meet the Juicy Jenny of the woods.
So I rest my case regarding the madness of the world we live in; proof
that our blessed celebrities are featuring heavily in The Charge of the Doolally
Brigade, led by Lord “Two Jags” Prescott, with Lady Gaga as his
Zero to hero to lotto in seven years
TODAY’S ‘Smile’ is one of quiet satisfaction. I arrive home after my
early-morning walk on the wild side; I pour myself a coffee - now that
autumn is knocking on the door I add a stiff whisky, and top it off with
some double cream. Yum-yum!
I then remove The Sunday Times from my rucksack and
sort out the 13 various sections and magazines into a pile ... the one
of least interest at the bottom, the one of most interest at the top. As
it happens, what goes on top is the Culture Magazine. I open the
penultimate page and read Radio Waves by Paul Donovan. I’m a
radio man, so I like to keep in touch.
As it happens, on the opposite page are lists of the Top
Ten TV programmes for week ending August 29. It shows the Top 10
most viewed shows on BBC1, BBC2, ITV, C4, Five and Satellite. I always
peruse the lists because I take some peculiar pleasure in knowing how
few ‘popular’ programmes I actually watch.
On BBC1 I watched Secret
Britain and Countryfile; on BBC2, I think I watched Dad’s Army –
its humour never dates - and
that was it. Mind you, I watched more than that, but they would be
minority viewing. I then abandon the magazine.
Next in my pile is the ingear pullout section:
cars/gadgets/adventure. While I enjoy flicking through it, I’m not
really into any of these things, except on a superficial level – but
it’s at the top of the pile because it’s in tabloid form and it sits
easily on the kitchen table alongside my coffee and biscuit tin.
Last Sunday, the front page had a picture of the racing
driver Ben Collins removing his Stig helmet, with the following banner
headline: EXCLUSIVE: The Stig lifts the lid on the Top Gear Years.
The next 10 pages were exclusively devoted to tales of the exposed Stig.
Stig is/was the tame racing driver employed by TV’s Top Gear.)
All I did while flicking through those 10 pages was peruse the big
print, the headlines and sub-headlines; I never read any of the smaller
variety, the text.
When I was knee-high to a tall story – oops, a Tolstoy
– my heroes were The Lone Ranger, Batman and Superman. It was the
penultimate line of every Lone Ranger episode that got to me: “Who
was that masked man?” Oh how I longed to be the anonymous hero.
I still occasionally watch the grown-ups version of
Superman and Batman: “You want violence?” says the Caped Crusader to a
give you violence!” However, I quickly came to realise that once they
removed their masks, these eponymous heroes were the most ordinary
people in the whole wide world. Just like 99% of all known celebrities,
So I thought, hm, that's probably a novel point of
view, so I’ll drop a line to the Letters
section of ingear. Over recent years I’ve had a few printed, but
also quite a few rejected, so fingers crossed.
This very morning, I flick through ingear in my
usual fashion – and there it is. They have edited it, as is their wont,
which is fine by me. They’re the experts. So here it is, a brief summary
of the above...
Behind the mask:
When I was a youngster, my heroes were the Lone Ranger, Batman and
Superman. It was the famous line of every Lone Ranger episode that got
to me: “Who was that masked man?” Oh, how I longed to be the anonymous
However, I quickly came to realise that once they removed their masks,
these heroes were very ordinary.
Yours truly of
Way out West.
I wonder if, after all the fuss has died down, and Ben Collins has sold
a shed-load of his book (The Man in the White Suit: The Stig,
Mans, the Fast Lane and Me by Ben Collins),
and earned a lotto-style payout, whether we will hear any more of him. Having not read any of the
extracts from his book, I can’t tell you whether he serves it all up with
a smile and a wink, not to mention a dish of self-deprecation on the side, which I
would guess is all fairly essential with this sort of
kiss-the-blarney-stone-and-tell book, especially if you want to move on and
write a sequel: Life after the White Suit.
The Stig idea worked really well on the TV show, but as with my
childhood heroes, the attraction was the anonymity.
regard my smiliest Stig episode on Top Gear was when they
all went to Spain (I think) to test some
high-performance cars, and they showed Stig relaxing in the
hotel pool – see photograph, alongside. Apparently he never figured out why he came home
without a tan.
But what really made me smile was Stig
relaxing on the swimming pool lilo, while behind him a Stig
helmet glided gracefully through the water ... then a young lady exits the
pool sporting just a bikini and the Stiggy helmet.
Mrs Stig, I presumed. It was a really funny little
But what I find most worrying about Mrs Stig, as seen
alongside, is her skeletal state. I guess she has to be a model
by the look of her. I think they call it size zero. She should
speak to Mr Stig:
Zero to hero to lotto, in just seven years.
The Tom & Jerry show
I PERUSE the morning paper ... there are loads of words and pictures
about Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Scotland and England. In particular,
there they are, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, that well known
cat-and-mouse team who left quite a mess while chasing each other round
and round inside No. 10 and No. 11 Downing Street.
The former Labour Prime Ministers, who hate each other
to little pieces, sat side-by-side in Westminster Hall, central London,
waiting to hear the Pope’s speech. The long-standing feud between the
two men during Labour’s 13 years in power was recently sparked off again
after the publication of Blair’s outspoken memoirs, A Journey.
Whoever it was that set out the seating arrangement in Westminster Hall,
just has to be called Blackadder. Inspired.
Those in the know assure us that the two Bs dislike each other with a
savage intensity. Indeed, in his book, Blair confirmed that his
then-Chancellor was ‘strange, maddening and impossible’, a pain in the
arse to work with; what is more, he always knew Brown would be a
disaster as PM and claimed his long-time rival had ‘zero’ emotional
So what do you suppose the two are saying to each other in the
Blair: “We are both men of God, Gordo, and we both speak
Brown: “Also known as glossolalia, I believe, Tone.”
Blair: “Or, as Cherie insists, ‘glossing over the truth,
la, la, la!’.”
Brown: “Yes, who would have thought. For a while it really was
possible to fool most of the people most of the time.”
Either that or they really are the most two-faced politicians in
the history of two-facedness.
What fascinates me in the photograph though is the fellow just
behind and to the left of Brown’s head. I have no idea who he
is, but he seems understandably intrigued by the unfolding
conversation between Tom & Jerry.
Blair really does look like Jerry the mouse – and Brown
like Tom the cat. In the cartoon it is Tom who has the upper
hand early on – but Jerry soon gets himself organised and wreaks
horrible revenge upon Tom.
This time though, it is Jerry Blair who has got his
retaliation in first – but I have a feeling that when Tom Brown
brings out his book, revenge will be swift and severe.
Finally, a couple more photographs that tickled my funny bone - with
suitable dialogue added. Oh, there's that fellow again, just behind
Brown. Wouldn't you just love to share a pint with him down at the Crazy
Cherie: Is that a hardback copy of ‘A Journey’ in
your pocket, Gordo - or are you just glad to see me?
Brown: Perhaps ‘Was My Journey Really Necessary?’
would have been a much better title.
Friday, September 17
Tea for two and two for tea-he!
TODAY'S smile actually unfolded yesterday, but for reason’s that will
become clear further on, it’s today that I gathered the evidence for the defence.
I’ve written before about this thing with my brain, where the part that
sorts out what the eye sees works fractionally ahead of the part of my
brain that makes sense of what my eyes have just seen. Meaning, as my eyes scan the
written or printed word, I often misread it – but the make-sense-of-it-all
part of my brain quickly corrects it. Well, most of the time.
Broadcaster Roy Noble, who hosts a daily weekday afternoon show on
Radio Wales, suffers the same handicap. I say handicap because as a
broadcaster he says out loud what I say in the privacy of my own brain.
For example, back on August 9, I told the tale of the time Roy was
talking about Botox, but he kept calling it Botex – until a passing
newsreader pointed out his error. Now I reckon he was thinking of
Tipp-Ex, the correction fluid – which does the same sort of job as
Botox: Tipp-Ex hides the cock-ups we make; Botex hides the cock-ups
Mother Nature dishes out. Hence Botex. Good word.
So here are some typical errors my brain makes. For example, perusing the TV listings...
7.00 – Wallace & Gromit’s Cracking Contraceptions – my brain quickly
corrects it to read ‘Cracking Contraptions’. It doesn’t help that the next
7.10 – Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave
- the result of a ‘cracking contraception’?
Talking of contraception, the Pope’s current visit to the UK reminds me
of recent slip-up when I read of the ‘Beautification of Cardinal
Newman...’ “Eh?” I remember thinking, “is the Vatican so obsessed
with superficial image that they're now into beauty treatment for their
Cardinals?” – but my brain quickly corrected it
to read ‘Beatification...’. Again it didn’t help that I had no idea what this
strange-looking (and sounding) word, ‘beatification’, meant. So a quick
Beatify: 1) To make blessedly happy.
2) Roman Catholic Church: To proclaim (a deceased
person) to be one of the blessed and thus worthy of public religious
veneration in a particular region or religious congregation. (Is this
why Tony Blair converted to Catholicism?)
3) To exalt above all others.
Bugger, now I’m unsure of ‘veneration’ – honestly, it’s a vicious circle
because these are words you hear in the bible but never hear in the Crazy Horsepower Saloon,
therefore I never use them.
Anyway, veneration: profound respect or reverence.
Oh yes, exalt: to glorify, praise or honour.
Every day a day at school, look you...
So the point of this whole
blessed introspection will now become clear. Yesterday, I visited my local
Coop supermarket. A ‘special offer’ notice beneath the tea shelves grabs
my attention: Tetley 240 Resaleable Tea Bags. I blink. What the hell
does ‘resaleable’ mean? After I’ve used the bags the once, do I take them
back and they’ll sell them on again as 'turning over a second-hand leaf? Or does it mean a
load of tea meant to be sold loose has somehow had to be offered for
sale as bagged? I give up. I am truly baffled as to what it means.
At the checkout there’s a young man I believe to be a section
manager or some such like. If there are any problems at the checkouts, he’s the one who
invariably arrives on the scene to sort it all out. Now he’s a very serious-minded looking gent; I
can't say I have ever seen him slap his thigh and burst out laughing – but he’s efficient and polite, which is
all I ask of a supermarket employee. I don't expect a song and dance
routine while I'm paying for a pint of milk and a lottery ticket.
Anyway, he checks through
my stuff – and I ask him: “I’m baffled. On the Tetley Tea Bags special
offer, what on earth does ‘resaleable’ mean?”
His face breaks into a smile as wide and as deep as the Grand Canyon (deep
inside my very being I
hear a voice go
”Uh-oh! Red alert!”): “It’s
re-seal-able,” he says. ”D’oh!” I hear my brain groan
really loudly and embarrassingly.
He laughs: “You can re-seal the main bag to keep the tea
We share the joke, compliments of my spectacular stupidity. My
now probably round the store – but that's okay. If you smile at
someone else’s cock-up, then you must be prepared to laugh at
your own. This is fair enough.
So today I called again at the store, with my camera, and I take
a photograph of ‘Exhibit 1’ – pictured alongside - just to prove that my brain lets
me down spectacularly at times.
My only defence is that the sign was
at floor level, which did sort of make it easier to misread the
Be that as it may, and as I have said afore, I’m nowhere near as
clever as I sound. So don't be fooled.
A very imperial tongue
being left for dead because of his odd appearance, a Pekingese dog – or
rather his enormous tongue – has made it into the record books.
Ten-year-old Puggy’s tongue is officially longer than
that of any other dog, at 11.43cm, and almost as long as his entire
body, a fact which has secured him a place in the Guinness World Records
I reads the
above in my regular morning paper, the Western Mail. What stumped me was
the 11.43cm measurement. And it was mentioned twice in the article. I
had no idea what it meant in old money. So I Google ‘Puggy the
Pekingese’ – and up shoots 8,290 results in 0.30 seconds (I’m always
impressed with that 0.30 seconds). Anyway, the first site on the list
was American broadcaster CNN:
tongue on a dog measures 11.43cm (4.5in) and belongs to Puggy, a male
Problem solved. And quite obviously
the tongue is relative to the size of the dog’s body.
Anyway, as you’ve probably noticed, I rate politicians as just a load of
old tossers. And Puggy’s record-breaking tongue highlights perfectly why
I believe I am right.
In 1965 it was decided to replace Roman-style
measures with metric, and since then Britain has adopted metric in many
walks of life. The vast majority of manufacturing is metric, letters and
parcels are weighed in grams, health records are metric, children learn
film sizes are metric and our maps are created using metric. Ultimately
a complete conversion is inevitable, despite the many objections.
Now I am an Imperial man, in as much that that is what I was brought up
on. I have nothing at all against metrication; it makes total sense
because it makes measurement simple. My problem is this: mention inch,
foot, mile, ounce, pound, hundredweight, ton, pint, quart, gallon – and
I instantly see those measurements in my mind’s eye. They are burnt onto
my hard drive. However, mention any metric measurement and I am totally
lost – well, apart from the metre, which I know to be a yard, more or
It’s a problem most middle-age-plus folk have, unless
of course they are actively engaged in a trade which uses metric
measurement as a matter of course i.e. construction or civil
engineering. That leaves millions upon millions of us with a problem
making sense of metric measurement.
For example, when I watch rugby on TV, they now give
height and weight statistics in metric, and I have no idea what they’re
on about. I am abandoned on the blind side. Just as happened with the
Western Mail and Puggy – but thankfully the internet and CNN were just a
click away. But I can’t do that while watching a game of rugby.
Now politicians when instigating the change to metric
should have had it enshrined in law that in all public utterances and
publications, for one whole generation, the metric should be used first
(with the imperial in brackets immediately after).
Just imagine how much easier the change over would have
been. But no, our bastard politicians boast as much empathy with the
public they serve as an amoeba has with a dolphin. This is why they are
a bunch of tossers (with suitable hand gestures in brackets immediately
But at least Puggy the Pekingese and his marvellous tongue made me
smile. Oh yes, do you suppose that when he eyes a little Pekingese babe
with a glint in her eye, the first thing she woofs is: “No tongues!”?
I won’t dance, don’t ask me, merci beaucoup
A SURVEY concludes that women are attracted to men who dance in a
particularly athletic fashion. This explains perfectly why I have never
found a woman to settle down with, boohoo!
Yet another survey points out that women are invariably
attracted to men other females are attracted to. It is something similar
to going on You Tube: you see two similar sites, but one has
attracted 1,000,000 hits, the other just 10,000 – so you click on the
1,000,000. In other words, women are ‘attracted’ to the men other women
have clicked onto.
My own observations suggest that it has nothing to do
with an individual’s unique magnetism or particular dance routine, but
rather women are drawn to the men who never stop chatting them up. All
other things being fairly equal, obviously.
I asked Young Shagwell down at the Crazy Horsepower
Saloon how come he had so many notches on his bedpost. “I go up to a
woman, and I say: ‘I’m a man of very few words – do you or don’t you?’”
”Bloody ‘ell,” I say, “you must get a lot of cheek?”
”Oh yes,” he said, “I get a bit of cheek – but I get
lots of shags, too.”
Okay, that’s a joke – but the kernel of the tale is
spot on. Young Shagwell is always chatting up the female of the species;
he never stops, and given that he’s a rather personable and, to my eye
anyway, reasonably good-looking fellow, the women take a great shine to
him, no matter whether they're available, already courting, engaged,
married, divorced or widowed.
And his ‘conquests’ are never-ending; indeed sometimes he appears
to have quite a few on the go at the same time. So women are attracted
to him because he never gives them a break, in the most agreeable sense,
of course – therefore the law of average applies. A little cheek ... lots of
This brings me back to the significance of ‘the sexy
dance’. There are many ways to dance. I’m fairly sure that Young
Shagwell is not the Fred Astaire of his generation, but when he chats up
a bird at the bar, in his own little way he performs a dance that Gene
Kelly would be proud of.
And of course, on another dance level completely, there’s
that memorable exchange from the comic yet darkly sinister 1989
Joker: “Tell me something, my friend: ever dance with the devil
in the pale moon-light?”
Bruce Wayne: “What?”
Joker: “I always ask that of all my prey. I just like the sound
of it.” (Joker shoots Wayne – but he survives to fight another day, as
Batman, obviously. Obviously!)
Apropos of everything and nothing in particular, I love
this Joker follow-up quip to the ‘shot’ Bruce Wayne stretched out on the
floor (for he had ‘stolen’ Joker’s girl): “Never rub another man’s rhubarb.”
And definitely never, ever put her in the
So yes, I do dance, but I dance with Mother Nature – in all kinds of
light – which brings me to my smile of the day. I turn the TV on around
1.15pm to take a peep at the weather forecast – but the TV is on Channel
4, and the film The Band Wagon is showing. Fred Astaire and Cyd
Charisse climb into a horse-drawn carriage: “Where to?” asks the driver.
”Leave it to the horse!” says Astaire – I smile and I’m
hooked ... a little later they walk through Central Park, and of course
they dance to the music of Dancing in the Dark. I sit,
I have never in my life seen anything so graceful and
so effortlessly handsome. Well, not outside of nature anyway. And there’s the rub. They
remind me of two birds performing the most delicate of mating dances,
say two swans doing their seduction routine where they form that
heart-shaped image with their necks. And of course, both Astaire and
Charisse are dressed in white; okay, Astaire is sort of off-white.
So taken was I, later, I watch it again on You Tube.
I am still gobsmacked at the elegance and precision of the routine (I
apologise that I am unable to think of a suitably elegant word to describe my
As it happens I love the sound of Ray Conniff, and I
see his track of Dancing in the Dark on the menu, but the image is of
Astaire and Charisse dancing in the dark. So I click.
Someone called ‘luiz1948’ has substituted the
original soundtrack with the up-beat Conniff version – and done a
Watch the original on You Tube – then type
‘Ray Conniff – Dancing in the Dark’ – I find it most watchable.
Definitely my smile of the day.
”Will you walk into my milking parlour?” said a Clarkson to a Cash Cow
“GORDON Gekko said ‘greed is good’ and ‘greed works’. It doesn’t. If
you are watching this, children, greed is bad.” Jeremy Clarkson
throws a wobbly and warns youngsters against following the Stig’s
example after the ‘masked man’ of Top Gear fame threw away his helmet
and declared: “That’s Entertainment, petrol-heads!”
This morning I caught a slice of the Jamie Owen & Louise Elliott
show on Radio Wales; a guest was Dave Chapman from Caravan Club Wales –
Wales having just been named as the top UK destination for touring
caravans, beating high-profile places like Scotland and the Lake
Mr Chapman was quite naturally extolling the virtues of
modern-day caravanning, especially here in Wales. “There are plenty of
people who don’t like caravans,” interjected Jamie. “Dear Jeremy
Clarkson has blown up a caravan or two in his time. Is he good for
business? Or is he bad for business?” Jamie obviously working on the
theory that all publicity is good publicity.
To which Dave Chapman gave this priceless response:
“I don’t think Jeremy Clarkson is very good for any business other than
What a wonderful line, and isn’t it just the truth?
Clarkson’s wobbly over Stig exposing himself is all down to his losing a
mighty cash cow – and the Stig, a racing and stunt driver by the name of
Ben Collins, is now set to milk said cow to death. And why not?
You just gotta smile.
Men! Beware the lady who whips out a tape measure from her handbag
BROWSING the internet before turning in for the night, I stumble upon
this beckoning sales pitch...
American football team investigated for 'inappropriate behaviour'
towards sports reporter
As someone who quite enjoys watching a game of gridiron on TV when
opportunity presents, I clicked...
The New York Jets American Football team is being investigated over
claims its players behaved inappropriately to a female television
Ines Sainz, a former Miss Spain who has been
styled “the hottest sports reporter in Mexico,” visited one of the
team’s practice sessions to interview quarterback Mark Sanchez for the
Mexican station TV Azteca.
Players and coaches were said to have started
overthrowing the ball to where she was standing so that they could run
up to her and shout out some horny comments; catcalls and whistles
followed later in the dressing room. While there, Ms Sainz posted this
on Twitter: “I feel very uncomfortable!
I’m at the lockers of the Jets waiting for Mark Sanchez while trying not
to look anywhere!!”
I’m always puzzled what precisely these reporters expect when they stand
around in the players’ changing rooms looking like a spare fanny on a
boys’ night out. Anyway, it transpires that it was not Ms Sainz who made
the complaint: “In my opinion, I never
felt attacked, nor that they reacted grossly towards me. I arrived in
the locker room and there were comments and games. One of the other
reporters came up to me and apologised for what was happening, but I
thought the players were joking around.”
Apparently it was the Association for Women in
Sports Media Group which registered the complaint, so in solidarity
Ms Sainz has denounced what happened.
I’m reminded of that curious business when Carol
Thatcher used the word “golliwog” off screen, apparently in jest, to
describe a tennis player – and the sky duly fell on her head when
everyone ran to the media to complain rather than tell her off to her
Anyway, Ines Sainz is apparently noted for her habit of
dressing provocatively when out on the job – and that info is
compliments of a fellow female scribe (if that makes sense), a
Pam Lobley of the New Jersey Newsroom.
Here is a picture of the delectable Ms Sainz...
Probably like me, the first thing you noticed is the
tape measure ... and then perhaps that phallus-like thingumabob
in her hand.
Does she only say “Hello there big boy!” after
deploying her tape measure? Or perhaps it’s a defence tactic.
When she feels put upon she whips out the tape measure and
declares: “You think you measure up, sweetheart?”
Now let’s see, what does it show? Twelve inches? Oh
dear, that would send me scurrying off with my tail between my
legs. I am strictly medium rare – and that’s pushing it a bit.
So I Googled Ines and her tape measure ... Quite a girl
is our Ms Sainz. To quote again the aforementioned Pam Lobley:
She has been known to take a tape measure and measure the biceps
of football players. She does these things so that she can be
taken seriously as the deeply professional and methodical
sports-minded bastion of reportage that she is. Ms Sainz
maintains that she was dressed appropriately for her interview
Do you measure up?
But this is the bit that made me smile:
The Jets team has said that they will work with the National Football
League to maintain a respectful environment for the media. The team is
taking the situation seriously enough and is scheduling an “education
and awareness session” with the team. I can’t wait to see what Ines
wears to that.
We could do with Ines Sainz brightening up our pitch-side interviews in
rugby union. Now there's an XL smiley thought.
BY THIS morning I'd regained my equipoise following yesterday’s little
bugs-me bunny episode. Strange how something so relatively trivial,
given how much death, destruction and suffering goes on in this crazy
old world of ours, could so derail my sense and sensibility.
Be that as it may, there is one incident from yesterday
that made me smile the morning after the night before ... Saturday
evening and I’d been invited as a guest to a family dinner at a local
Inn to celebrate the 80th birthday of Gwyneth, matriarch of said family
and one of life’s great characters.
There were a couple of waitresses tending us, but when
it came to serving the main course the girls seemed rather pushed. I’d
noticed a young lad bringing things to the table – he was dressed in a
red T-shirt and jeans ... not quite the way you expect food to be
delivered – he was clean, smiley and pleasant, but it looked totally out of
place compared to the waitresses’ proper outfits. My guess was that he
was the washer-upper who had been drafted in to ease the pressure on the
Anyway, one of Gwyneth’s granddaughters further down
the table had ordered something like Steak Diane, but when delivered by
the young lad she was somewhat surprised that it wasn’t served with a
sauce: “Is there a sauce to go with this?” she enquired of the lad.
He momentarily contemplated the question: “Brown or
Agreeable as the evening was, it’s little things like that which make an
As for today’s Smile, yet another ‘Letter to the Editor’ – there really
are some great wits lurking out there – this time spotted in the
‘ingear’ section of The Sunday Times. To join up some dots first...
Ferrari recently announced a full investigation into a
spate of fires that have broken out mysteriously in some of its
customers’ cars; in particular there have been at least four cases of
458s catching alight. A couple of weeks back, The Sunday Times concluded
thus, quoting a Ferrari source:
“Such is the
popularity of the Ferrari brand and the futuristic, elegant look of the
458 that our customers’ enthusiasm to buy them is undiminished.” What is
still unknown, though, is how many owners have ticked the option box for
the £472 fire extinguisher.
I believe they have since concluded that the glue which
holds the car together was dripping onto the exhaust system and catching
fire in particularly hot conditions. At nearly £200,000 a bonfire? Wow!
Ferrari, please: well done, but not burnt to a cinder - and don't forget
Anyway, the letter...
balls of fire: I just read that Jeremy Clarkson said the
“smouldering” Ferrari 458 was “one of the all-time greats” (“Ferrari’s
reputation smoulders as 458s blaze at the roadside”, August 29). Surely
he meant “grates”. I think we should be told.
Graham Brighty, via email
Throw another Il Commendatore on the fire.
An absent smile
I REGULARLY count my blessings that, along my journey through time, thus
far anyway, the lights have mostly been green. Hence this ‘Smile of the
Day’ feature. Occasionally though I encounter amber, which
unsurprisingly does tend to throw me off track. I encountered amber
today. And all caused by a rabbit, or rather, a leveret.
The torrential rains of Friday into the early hours of
Saturday meant that by daybreak, the River Towy was full to overflowing;
fields which had not been underwater since last November were starting
In documentaries from the baked deserts of Africa, the
rains arrive – and we always see that trickle of water running through
the dust bowl and gathering pace at a fair old lick. Well, this morning,
for the first time ever, I witnessed the same effect, but on the lush,
green, green grass of the Towy Valley. The water was streaming at a rate
of knots into the gullies and backwaters carved out of the landscape
down the centuries. It was the speed of the water that had me
Anyway, the rapidly flooding fields meant a bit of a
diversion via higher ground. I eventually exited a public road, which is
really just a one-track, crescent-shaped road which services the
half-dozen or so properties along the way.
As soon as I exited the field, I spotted a rabbit on
the road. But it didn’t hurriedly escape as rabbits do. As I approached,
it struggled to get away. Uh-oh, I thought, myxomatosis is back – which
was strange because it decimated the local rabbit population just a
couple of years ago, and it normally takes a few years for a further
population explosion before it returns.
No, it wasn’t myxomatosis: its face and eyes were clear. But
I noticed that it did not have full body control. It would jump
up in an attempt to escape – but would immediately crash back
onto the road.
It was as if a person in a wheelchair, paralysed from
the waist down, had accidentally fallen out of the chair and was
desperately trying to climb back up.
I could see what had happened: a vehicle had obviously
clouted it and a wheel had run over its hind quarters and
clearly done dreadful damage to its back and legs.
In the photo alongside, you can see the mark of the
wheel over the back end of its body.
Oh God, what to do? I hate to see anything suffer. It
was finished anyway, so I moved it just off the road and hoped a
passing predator would quickly put it out of its misery.
I continued along my way ... but couldn’t get the little thing and its
suffering out of my mind. I had probably gone about half-a-mile before
the poor leveret got the better of me. I turned around and decided that
the only thing to do was put the creature out of its misery.
Despite being brought up on a farm, I have never been
into hunting, shooting and fishing, yet when I was a lad I used to go
ferreting rabbits, so I know how to kill a rabbit instantly. You grab it
by its hind legs, lift it up, grasp the rabbit’s neck with the other
hand – and give it a quick, forceful pull – the result being obviously
the same as happens when a person is hanged. Death is instantaneous.
When I got to the rabbit, it was still there, in the
same place, and that big, sad eye was staring helplessly up at me. Now
the one thing I appreciated was this: I was going to have to grab it by
the part of the body that had been damaged, so I was going to hurt it
even more. Sure enough, the moment I picked it up it screamed like a
baby. My heart beat faster.
Disastrously, my first attempt was hopeless. Because of
the rain everything was wet, and I hadn’t got a proper grip. So I wiped
my hands and grabbed it more firmly – and the screaming continued. It
was horrible. Should I instead find a stick and whack it across the
head? This time, a quick pull, I heard and felt the telltale click – and
its body went instantly limp. It was dead. I sighed. I looked at the
poor thing ... and threw it over the hedge into the field where it would
provide breakfast for a hungry predator.
Isn't it strange though what thoughts overtake one at
distressing moments like this. I cursed myself for not carrying it to
the nearest gateway and placing it gently and respectfully down in the
All in all, a non-smiley little episode, and one I
found impossible to retell in conversation. An amber light indeed.
Conkers and bonkers
IN JUST a few brief minutes this morning I claimed a significant share
of my target 400 smiles a day. It began with the final letter
contribution spotted on the Western Mail’s Letters page, that
much treasured spot on The Times’ Letters page – and this one would have
been worthy of that spot.
But first a little background information regarding the
horse chestnut tree and a national shortage of its seed for the
traditional playground game of conkers.
The availability of the conker has been coming under
attack from two directions. Firstly, the trees themselves are victims of
the leaf miner moth, which means they struggle to produce enough
nutrients to grow good-sized conkers. Secondly, the coldest winter for
30 years, followed by a late spring and a wet and cool mid-summer, has
had a knock-on effect on autumn timings and conker size. So here's the
galore: SIR – Your report on conkers was of great interest. Having
recently returned from the Continent, I was struck by the
abundantly-laden horse chestnut trees in Germany and particularly
Perhaps the time is ripe for another invasion by
William the Conkerer!
LYNDON HARRIS, Llandeilo
Next, I land on the newspaper’s
which daily confirms the nation’s – indeed the world’s – fragile mental
state. From conkers to bonkers.
“Personally, I liked
but that was felt by my colleagues to be a bit too risqué.”
Tory blogger and publisher Iain Dale, musing on the title for a new book
on the history of homosexuality in the Conservative Party.
Personally, I liked that clever title, but it rather confirms the total
lack of a sense of fun by our politicians.
“I would rather kill myself than dress like Victoria Beckham.”
Actress Britt Ekland.
makes the number two quote of the day?
“When you punch people in the face for a living, nothing makes you
Boxing champion David ‘The Hayemaker’ Haye.
Now this did generate a knock-out smile. However, I prefer the following
quote from history as a perfect example of why the pen is mightier than
not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great
force.” Dorothy Parker (1893-1967, American poet and satirist, best
known for her wit, wisecracks, and sharp eye for 20th century urban
foibles) on either Benito Mussolini’s The Cardinal’s Mistress or
Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
Eamonn Holmes's derogatory description of rival TV presenter Christine
Now wasn’t it Eamonn who infamously called his GMTV co-star Anthea
Turner ‘Princess Tippy Toes’, and who called in lawyers to ban a BBC
comedy show’s jibes about his ample size after admitting he endured a
constant battle with his weight? So it’s okay for him to belittle other
celebs, but no one must make large over his inability to stop himself
stuffing food into his mouth.
This last quote sums up perfectly why I am endlessly entertained by the
absolute doolallyness of the world of the celebrity.
Streets of London
”I’M NOT sure they love me at all. If they do, it’s a brief moment –
like a vast fungus, it will soon wither and die.” London Mayor Boris
Johnson questions his popular appeal.
Boris is my default setting hereabouts. If I’m unsure what to go with,
Boris rides to the rescue. And of course he has just confirmed that he
will be seeking re-election for a second term as Mayor of London Town.
Boris anticipates facing Ken Livingstone – the man he defeated in the
2008 contest: “I expect they will go for Ken. The union block vote will
go behind the old war horse I suppose.”
Talking of old war horse, I’d made a note of a line from a recent Boris
article in the Telegraph, headed...
The bonus season is
coming – and Ed Balls is right to foresee a train crash
Banks need to
do more this Christmas than hand out bumper cheques to their staff, says
There’s a great Welsh proverb: Cic i’r post i’r fuwch gael clywed.
Literally, kick the post so that the cow will hear – in other words, an
The Boris article was a kick to the out-of-control
bonus culture within our banking system, for if nothing is done to rein
in the bankers there will be serious consequences just round the next
corner or two.
But Boris rounded off with this smiler:
As John Prescott might put it, we need to nip this
train crash in the bud.
Finally, another smile on my list, again in the Telegraph, this
SIR – I embraced the elasticated waistband with gratitude, but have now
seen a new development in the trouser for gentlemen of a certain age.
They are promoted as “stain resistant”. I find the implication
offensive. What next? A shirt that can be wiped down with a damp cloth?
Jeremy Chataway, Diss, Norfolk
Now I can’t decide whether Mr Chataway is truly offended, or does he
have his tongue firmly in his cheek? It doesn’t help that whenever I see
the place name Diss (where Mr Chataway hails from), I always
think it’s a government department: The Department of Inveiglers, Sharks
and Shysters – or perhaps in this particular case: The Department of
Incontinentals, Shites and Shunamitisms*.
* I’ve cheated a little here: ‘shunamitism’ means ‘rejuvenation
of an old man by a young woman’. Good word, though. I think I'll book my
young woman now. Mind you, another expression for ‘shunamitism’ is
‘myocardial infarction’ - heart attack!
I’m gonna wash that tree right into my hair
I VISIT Ammanford in connection with my ‘paid slave’ roll; also, in my
guise as The Candy Man (who feeds the birds down in the Towy Valley) I
visit Wilkinson, the hardware store people, to pick up some bird seed.
While there I need some shampoo to wash my ever vanishing thatch.
Something cheep and cheerful will do; I notice a Wilko own-brand at a
There are two choices: one is a coconut shampoo – I
hesitate because, many moons ago, when I visited Fiji I was told never
to wait, sit or lie under a coconut tree. A falling coconut clouting you
on the head can kill you – so the last thing I need is for a coconut
shampoo bottle to fall on my head.
The other choice is a consumer-friendly looking green
shampoo called Tea Tree Shampoo ... ‘formulated with a special blend of
tea tree extract to help promote healthy hair and scalp ... shine
enhancing’. That did the trick. I definitely need a shampoo that will
make a cute lady take a shine to me.
As I wait in the checkout queue I remember the ‘Smile’
piece I did back on September 2, when I mentioned the champion of the
one-liners, Tim Vine, who had just won this year’s Edinburgh Festival
Gag of the Year; indeed at one time Vine held the record for telling the
most jokes in an hour.
In an article in The Sunday Times Vine explained how he sets about
writing his gags: “Some jokes come from other comedians: lines that may
not work in one person’s act are exchanged, in a sort of comedy swap
shop. Often when I’m supposed to write for a tour I take a dictionary to
a room somewhere and just go through that. I might just flick through
it, or a newspaper or something.” He looks for a familiar phrase to be
the punchline and then invents the joke to go with it.
So I’m standing there in the queue, and the tea tree
shampoo in my basket catches my eye. I glance at the lady on the
checkout ... she seems a cheery, friendly, chatty sort – and, like the
shampoo, a gag formulates in my head. As she scans the bird seed through
we chat away ... the last item she picks up is the shampoo. “I used tree
shampoo last year,” say I, “but it was a bit of a disaster; when autumn
arrived my hair turned red and it all fell out.”
“Oh dear,” she says all serious and concerned.
“Actually, it's a joke,” say I. “Tree shampoo – leaves
– autumn – leaves fall from tree –“ And she bursts out laughing.
“Honestly, I’m so slow,” she apologises, “but that’s
really funny.” I reassure myself that if she'd been sitting in an
audience, and not concentrating on doing her job as I’m telling the gag,
she would have got it right away.
If she repeated the joke to a colleague or to the
family at home, it would be a winner – but I’ll never know.
Anyway, I’m quite pleased with my first effort based on
the Tim Vine school of gag writing. Could do better, obviously.
But I make no apologies for it making my smile of the
Table for six, garçon – and make it fast
JUST occasionally, I turn a newspaper page – or click onto a web page –
and I blink in disbelief, which is precisely what I did when I found
myself caught in the headlights of this à la motor-carte meals on
Is it Breakfast at Tiff Needell’s? The Stig’s farewell party with
the Top Gear team? No, it’s Perry Watkins – hidden under that roast
turkey – driving his car Fast Food, in which he hopes to break
the record for the world’s fastest furniture.
The sales director from Wingrave, Buckinghamshire, has
built his dining-table roadster using the chassis of a Reliant Scimitar
and a fuel-injected Land Rover Discovery engine. Yes, unbelievably, it
is a roadworthy vehicle – note the proper number plate, and the road-tax
disc is stuck on the champagne bucket – oh, it can reach speeds in
excess of 100mph. Gives a whole new meaning to having the runs.
All this is wonderfully ironic, given the Stig dummy
sat at the table, what with all the bother over Stig no longer being the
Lone Ranger of the Top Gear stable (“Who was that masked man?”).
Jeremy Clarkson has spoken for the first time about the autobiography
that has unmasked Ben Collins as The Stig.
an interview, Clarkson said that he was “hurt” after he discovered that
Collins, a racing driver, had been writing a book detailing his seven
years as Top Gear's mythical character. The Top Gear presenter said: “It
was a shock. It was horrible, actually, because I liked him. He came
round to my house and had drinks, and all the time he was writing a
book, so I feel a bit hurt really.”
Ah diddums! Jeremy Clarkson hurt, after all the
rubbishing and hurt he has dished out down the years? Indeed Clarkson
has turned hurt into a fine art. I mean, you’ve got to laugh. Indeed
if that were Clarkson sat at the controls, beneath the roast turkey, you
could say that all that’s missing is a bloody good stuffing.
Anyway, back with the eye-catching Fast Food, above. What really
makes me smile is the lady pedestrian in the background, peering in
disbelief. I would respond precisely the same if I suddenly saw a table
for six passing me on the road, especially with the Stig sat at that
Table for six,
garçon – bring it round to my place and don't hang about!
Way to go
“A LOT of people would say: ‘I would rather have a heart attack at
the height of sexual passion.’ On the whole I would prefer to be killed
by a bookcase.” Playwright Sir Tom Stoppard considers various ways
Do you suppose that’s a Freudian slip? That what he’s actually saying
is: “On the hole, I would prefer to be killed by a bookcase crashing
down on top of me.” There again, perhaps not.
But it did set me off wondering about the best way to
go when you've got to go. Most men, I guess, would go for that dying on
the job bit. Funnily enough, I have already dabbled with this previously
somewhere in this scrapbook.
It all came about when recalling an incident many moons
ago when a local councillor suffered a fatal heart attack in the back of
his car parked on top of a mountain when his coitus with his fancy lady
was most rudely interrupted. Also, not all that many moons back, a
politician came to a sudden end in a Cardiff brothel – oops! – massage
A local doctor enlightened me that I’d be surprised how
many men actually die on the job, but that we the public only get to
hear about the high profile deaths. So I decided there and then that I
would not want to go that way.
Imagine what the poor woman involved has to go through?
I wouldn’t wish that on any lady, whatever the circumstances. Which is
why, I guess, I’ll have Sinatra’s It Was a Very Good Year played
at my funeral rather than My Way.
So how would I like to go? I am reminded of the film North by
Northwest, in particular that magical scene in the train dining car
when Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint chat each other up like mad, and
Grant utters this immortal line: “The moment I meet an attractive woman
I have to start pretending I have no desire to make love to her...”
Followed by some magical dialogue; and of course that
seductive scene where Grant lights her cigarette and she then grabs his
hand to blow out the flame... Whew! (View all the best bits on You
All that is followed by the really sexy seduction scene
in her sleeper cabin where this exchange takes place...
Eve Marie Saint: “You’re an advertising man, that’s all I know
... You’re very clever with words. You can probably make them do
anything for you. Sell people things they don’t need; make women who
don’t know you fall in love with you.”
Cary Grant: “I’m beginning to think I’m underpaid.”
And then at the very end of the film, unlike say the
modern Bond films where 007 is seen having steamy sex with his leading
lady in celebration of a job well done, back then strict censorship
meant that sex could only be hinted at, and as Saint and Grant settle
into the bunk – the film cuts to the train entering a tunnel... Magic.
So that’s how I’d ideally want to go. My head hits the pillow in the
privacy of my own bedroom ... and I begin to dream that, as Grant did
with Eva Marie Saint, I pull Grace Kelly up into the bunk alongside me –
see her gorgeous picture alongside the E-Type Jag back on Sunday, August
22 - and as I am about to have my wicked way with her the train thunders
into the tunnel – but never comes out the other side...
Way to go,
as they tend to say down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.
IT’S coming up to six in the morning, I’ve had a bite to eat, I’m
getting ready to set off on my walk, Radio Wales is on with Mal Pope
entertaining the listener with some classic middle-of-the-road popular
music – and Frank Sinatra comes on with September Song. I sit
down, listen ... and smile.
Now I’ve mentioned before that I’m totally privileged
when it comes to an appreciation of music. My taste is eclectic in the
extreme. There is no genre of music I dislike – if it boasts a seductive
melody, my heart and soul belongs to it.
I grew up with the music of Uncle Mac and Children’s
Favourites on a Saturday morning: Puffin’ Billy introduced us to
songs as diverse as The Laughing Policeman (Charles Penrose) and
The Runaway Train (Michael Holliday) via Gilly Gilly
Ossenfeffer Katsenellenbogen-by-the-Sea (Max Bygraves) and I Tawt
I Taw a Puddytat (Mel Blanc) to The Ugly Bug Ball (Burl Ives)
and Messing About on the River (Josh McCrae). Then along came
rock ‘n’ roll with Bill Haley and his Comets, The Beatles, The Rolling
I really, truly appreciate how fortunate I am that my
formative years straddle both camps. I get as much pleasure listening to
The Teddy Bear’s Picnic (Henry Hall) as I do Teddy Bear
However, even as the Swingin’ Sixties unfolded all
around me, I was most comfortable listening to Perry Como, Jim Reeves,
The Carpenters – oh, and I loved Shirley Bassey and her Banana Boat
When I was a young man courting the girls,
I played me a waiting game;
If a maid refused me with tossing curls,
I'd let the old Earth take a couple of whirls;
And as time came around she came my way,
As time came around, she came...
Oh it's a long, long time from May to December,
But the days grow short when you reach September;
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame,
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game...
Oh the days dwindle down, to a precious few...
September ... November...
And these few precious days I'll spend with you,
These precious days I’ll spend with you...
September ... November...
And these few precious days I’ll spend with you,
These precious days I’ll spend with you...
Curiously, I never embraced the Sinatra style of singing – but, as the days grew short
and I reach September, I have slowly grown to appreciate his
singing, his phrasing – and boyoboyo, those lush orchestral
By one of those curious coincidences, Sunday
evening, just before ten, and again Radio Wales is on, this time
Showtime with Beverley Humphreys – and what does she play? Yes,
Frank Sinatra and September Song.
It’s those words, reproduced alongside: lyrics Maxwell
Anderson, music Kurt Weill, 1938. There are many variations to
the lyrics, depending on who is singing. The words shown here
belong to Sinatra's 1965 recording.
From a personal point of view, and given my regular
early morning walk on the wild side, I can hear myself
addressing these words directly to Mother Nature.
What fascinates me is how certain genres of music
belong to a specific moment in time. Ponder why so many
classical composers belong to a certain age. Yes, Bach was born
1685, Mozart 1756 – but have a look at this little lot: Elgar
1857, Puccini 1858, Strauss 1864, Sibelius 1865, Holst 1874 –
and on and on.
Similarly, isn’t it odd that many of the truly great
songs were written in the first half of the last century?
To not catch a thief
come in all shapes and sizes. Today I experienced what I guess should be
called a ‘gobsmacker’ smile.
I returned from my morning walk around nine and tuned
in to Owen Money on his Radio Wales show; I enjoy his music from the
Fifties through to the Eighties. Settled down in the kitchen with a mug
of coffee and perused the morning paper...
Late morning I returned to the kitchen to prepare some
food, and the radio was still on. After eleven o’clock the music comes
bang-biff-bang up to date; there are always two presenters rabbiting on about
everything in general and nothing in particular (à la the BBC's late
Jonathan Ross and sidekick). I normally change
stations, but this morning there are two unfamiliar, young-ish voices,
clearing covering for the regular presenters who are probably on holiday
– and something grabbed my attention.
They were discussing a story in the morning papers
about a boy aged 15 who has never been to school – but has just become
the youngest student for more than a couple of centuries to gain a place
at Cambridge University. He has been taught at home by his parents.
The brace of studio presenters started discussing what their parents had
taught them, when one volunteered the following: “My father taught me
how to be a burglar – although I should add that my dad is not a thief,
in fact he holds down a respectable job.” His partner in crime in the
studio asked him what he meant, “taught you to be a burglar”.
It transpires that when younger he and his parents had
gone on holiday and they were staying in a chalet. His father set about
putting clothes in a drawer when he said this to his son: “Should you
ever need to break in somewhere always use a cigarette lighter rather
than a torch because there’s little chance of the light from a lighter
being seen from the outside.”
At this point my mouth sort of dropped open. It's not
the sort of thing you expect to hear on a morning radio show.
But worst was to come. Apparently, you only have about
five-ten minutes to do the dirty in case some sort of alarm is set-off
or raised. So if you come across a chest of drawers or a filing cabinet,
you always open the bottom drawer – check – open the next drawer up –
check – and so on. You see, if you start with the top drawer you then
have to close the drawer before opening the next – which all eats up
Yes, all heard live on Radio Wales, folks, the station that looks after
all your needs. This burglary-inspired discussion went on between the
music for about 15 minutes and more. What astonished me was that the
producer of the show didn’t think to tell them to
after their initial foray into “Everyone can be a burglar – you should
try it sometime”.
Now how does one of my favourite sayings go? They way
any organisation conducts itself is a precise reflection of the person
at the very top, its Chief Sitting Bull, or, let's not be sexist, its
Chief Sitting Cow.
I immediately thought of my project to convince everyone that we’re all
now living out a real-life pantomime. The above is perfect fodder.
Intrigued as to who these idiots were I went to the telly and checked
the Radio Wales channel on Sky 0117: Rhys and Eggsy from Goldie
Lookin’ Chain sit in for Rhod and Korkey with entertaining chat and
banter – with priceless inside tips on how not to get caught thieving…!
Okay, I made up those final 11 words – but I think ‘gobsmacked’ is just
about right, don’t you? Oh yes, I did debate whether I should repeat
above inside info ... but concluded that no one who visits my scrapbook
is likely to be inspired to take up burglary ... fingers crossed!
Sleepy, sex and canned laughter
JUST a few smiles back I mentioned that I post my ‘Smile of the Day’ the day after (August 31: Jingle Bells), and I added this: Obviously I can’t do it on the same day because something smiley
might register between my putting head on pillow and drifting off
somewhere over the rainbow. Indeed, I could well dream of something
hilarious. Now there’s a thought. That would be a first.
Well now, tonight, just after nine, I’d watched the International Space
Station (ISS) and its accompanying wheelie-bin, Progress 38, pass over*
- as I do – on a crystal clear evening, which gave the spectacle a
Pass over: I’ve always equated the ISS’s passage across the sky
as something touchingly biblical. Heaven's above, now the expression ‘Passover’ has
crept into my ISS lexicon...
Whatever, I then put yesterday’s ‘Smile’ to bed, the cat in the
wheelie-bin (only joking), and finally put myself to bed. Now I always have
the radio on as I go through the beddy-byes routine: tonight it’s Radio
Wales and Chris “I’ve-got-a-camp-bed” Needs (a wonderfully eclectic
range of music plus a hilariously eccentric range of phone-in chats).
As soon as my head hits the pillow I tend to turn the radio off because
I will slide down that rainbow into dreamland pretty much straight away.
In a parallel universe I am probably called Sleepy...
...It’s one of the
reasons why I’m totally useless at sex: I’ve only got to catch sight of
a pillow or a cushion – and I drift off to sleep ... if I happen to be
on a promise I hide every pillow and cushion in advance.
Anyway, if I don’t switch
off the radio, the next thing I know ... it’s five in the morning and
it’s still on.
So tonight, it’s just after eleven, I’m about to switch off, when Chris
launches into one of his regular off-beat chats with a listener. A lady
has phoned in; she is clearly known to Chris. She enquires after his
troublesome leg and knee which is giving him extreme gyp: “I’ve had
X-rays; now I’ve got to go for an MFI scan – what am I talking about?
There’s much laughter. “I get it from my mother, you know,”
explains Chris. “I remember when she had some new wardrobes fitted –
very posh they were: ‘Where did you get these?’ I asked. ‘At MI5,’ she
said – she meant MFI of course.”
Now at this point I get the impression that Chris’s mum was a typical
character, indeed at one time it seems she kept a corner shop or some
such like. “I also remember back in the Sixties calling to see her,”
continues Chris, “and I
said ‘I’m starving’. ‘Have a look what’s there,’ she said. Back then no
foods had any dates on them like today. Mum would just smell things and
declare ‘That’s okay!’ – just as everybody did back then.”
Chris elaborates: “At that time I
remember there was a serious corned beef-associated typhoid outbreak in
Scotland – and certain tins of corned beef were recalled. Anyway, I came
across about 20 tins of corned beef. ‘What are these doing here?’ I
asked mum, ‘shouldn’t you be sending them back?’.”
“‘Oh,’ she said, ‘put
them to the back of the cupboard ‘til the scare is over.’.”
Isn’t that wonderful? And totally believable. And we’re all still here,
alive and kicking and having a laugh. I was still wearing a smile when I
awoke some six
Tommy Cooper went to the doctor one day and said he’d broken his arm in
several places. “Well,” said the doctor, “don’t go to those places.”
After that he went to buy some camouflage trousers, but he couldn’t find
Thus began a
piece in last weekend’s Sunday Times – it takes me a week to trawl
through The Sunday Times, and even then I probably read only about 5% of
what’s published. Anyway, the aforementioned article was headed...
Let me tell you
a joke. Don’t worry – it won’t take long
Tim Vine, the champion of
one-liners, tells Roland White why quick-fire gags are tickling our
funny bones again
Tim Vine has already made a guest appearance on ‘Smile of the Day’ (August
25: I say, I say, I say...); he’s the author of this year’s Dave
award for the funniest one-liner from the Edinburgh Festival: “I have
just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what - never
again.” Back then I did a brief celebration of a few Edinburgh
one-liners, as well as some of the gags that flowed following the death
of Two Tone the carp (August 26: A good pun is its own reword).
Anyway, I enjoyed the article and will return to it
again over the next few days, if only because Tim Vine explains how he
sets about writing his one-liners. I feel a bit of a challenge coming
As a matter of fact I was tickled by the opening line
in the Sunday Times article; I shall put my spin on it: The comedian
Tommy Cooper went to the doctor one day and said he’d broken his arm in
several places. “Well,” said Doctor One Day, “don’t go to those places.”
It’s that superfluous use of ‘one day’, which is why I turned it into
the Doctor’s name; to my ear the original sounds so clumsy. All you
need, surely, is: The comedian Tommy Cooper visited the doctor and said
he’d broken his arm in several places...
On the subject of one-liners, here’s a
‘Quote of the Day’
noted in one of the newspapers. Does it ring a bell?
leading moralists of the age, I have spent the past few days brooding
incessantly on the lady who threw the cat into the wheelie-bin.” Yes
of course, it’s value-for-money Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.
Boris's line a few days ago (August 29: Puss in Wheelie-Bin),
along with some other great lines of writing from old Boris. Anyway, I
shall leave you with a few more gems from The Sunday Times article.
”My wife and
I had words,” comedian Les Dawson once said, “but I didn’t get to use
mine.” Perhaps they were arguing about another of his observations: “My
wife is a sex object. Every time I want sex, she objects.”
And this from Tim Vine himself, explaining how he
works: “My thing is just to do silly, childish stuff: bang, bang, bang.
I don’t really touch on any kind of adult theme. If ever I think to
myself, ‘Hmm, should I put that in or not?’, then I don’t put it in. And
what’s wrong with that?” And this is the
line that made me smile XL: “I mean, nobody
says to Basil Brush: how come you don’t do any lesbian jokes?”
I spy, with my little eye
As regular visitors to my scrapbook will know, I have a fascination with
the International Space Station (ISS) as it zooms across the evening sky
(or early morning, depending on whether it’s playing at being a lark or
an owl), and it never fails to make me smile.
Quite why, I’m not sure. After all, if you've seen it once,
what’s there to see again? It’s a great question, and I don’t
have an answer, except that there’s something faintly biblical
about it all. I guess it has something to do with the fact that
it is probably the greatest wonder of the modern world.
I mean, just getting the whole caboodle up there is an
astonishing feat. It is about the size of an American football
field (say 350 feet x 160 feet, compared with 400 x 250 for a
soccer field), so it’s quite a size. It is of course the solar
panels which reflect so much of the setting sun.
So with clear skies continuing, I clicked the ‘Human
Space Flight – Sightings’ website to see what time ... 09:59PM,
passing pretty much directly overhead. But I noticed that
another satellite, ‘ISS Progress 38’, was passing just ahead of
the ISS, at 09:56PM, on pretty much the same track. So curiosity
got the better of me ... and I landed on a NASA
The ISS as perceived in 'flat-pack' form: the
panels are deployed differently in orbit; also, the
Shuttle can be seen docked - bottom, middle
web site – and read the following...
for Wednesday’s Earth observation and photography were Hurricane Earl in
the western Atlantic Ocean (a powerful hurricane currently threatening
devastation along America's Eastern Seaboard, from
North Carolina to New England),
and volcanoes in Indonesia.
The ISS Progress 38 cargo craft, loaded with trash and
other items for disposal, undocked from the aft end of the
station’s Zvezda service module at 7:22 a.m. EDT (Eastern
Daylight Time) Tuesday (yesterday). Russian flight controllers
will conduct thruster tests with the Progress to gather
engineering data before sending it to a fiery descent Monday
over the Pacific Ocean.
Progress 38’s departure clears the aft port of Zvezda
for the arrival of the next Russian re-supply vehicle, ISS
Progress 39, which will launch Sept. 8 at 7:11 a.m. and dock
Sept. 10 at 8:40 a.m., delivering 2.5 tons of food, fuel and
supplies for the Expedition 24 crew.
The picture alongside simply makes me smile with wonder. And
what about that image of Hurricane Earl? Astonishing.
NASA Image: Photographed from the ISS, this is an
that shows the eye (just left of centre) of Hurricane Earl.
A Russian Soyuz vehicle is docked to the station (foreground).
Tuesday, August 31
“TAKE the book in your left hand … raise your right hand … read out loud
what it says on the card: ‘I, insert name, swear – oops! – I, Mydrim
Tonk, swear that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole
naked truth and nothing but the stark-naked truth, so help me God.’”
I’m not sure whether that’s the way it’s done; perhaps
I’ve watched a film or two too many in my time (no pun intended).
Anyway, in a nutshell, what follows is the dog’s bollocks.
Last Sunday, my smile bulletin was all about how life
has turned into a real-life pantomime, where most of us now have bit
parts where we boo, hiss, cheer or applause, according to our
prejudices. I pointed out how Puss in Boots has suddenly become
Puss in Wheelie-Bin, and Dick Whittington and His Cat is
now Boris Johnson and His Pussycats.
And Tony "He’s-behind-you!" Blair has morphed
from prime minister into prime villain.
Well blow me with a job lot, I peruse The Times Letters
page this very morning – and what catches my eye?
Puss in Boots: Sir, Short skirts, tights
and boots... I keep thinking it must be Christmas. The streets are full
of pantomime principal boys.
What is interesting here is that I post my ‘Smile of the Day’ the day
after. Obviously I can’t do it on the same day because something smiley
might register between my putting head on pillow and drifting off
somewhere over the rainbow. Indeed, I could well dream of something
hilarious. Now there’s a thought. That would be a first.
Anyway, along my regular walk the morning after the day
before, I formulate in my mind what I’m going to write about; I then put
it on the computer when I get home – but leave it until the evening when
I then give it the once over before pressing the ‘send’ button.
Well, yesterday evening, I would have posted my
pantomime piece at probably the same time The Times was going to print.
This of course links not only Sunday’s pantomime piece, but yesterday’s
‘Great mind’s think alike’ contribution.
How delightful then that two of us separated by 200
miles - the distance between me and the International Space Station I
watched passing over as clear as a bell tonight at 9.32pm - came up with
a similar thought process, at pretty much the same time. As a bonus,
Iris Hughes, The Times letter writer, boasts a very Welsh sounding name.
Well, her letter made me smile. And it reminded me that
I’ll have to give some thought to the principal boys as well as the
villains. Oh, and the dame... What have I started?
Monday, August 30
Great minds think alike
I MAY have mentioned it in previous dispatches – if I haven’t, shame on me
– but there is no such thing as original thinking. There is great
thinking; but more importantly, there is lateral thinking. Every single
great idea is born out of a borrowed simpler idea. By the time the
clever clogs have done with their lateral thinking, they may well have
finished up somewhere wholly unexpected and rather exciting. Oh, and
there are always a few individuals thinking along the same lines.
For example, if Darwin had never been born, we would
still have had the Theory of Evolution; indeed, it is thought that
Darwin rushed into print to beat a Welsh scientist, Alfred Russel
Wallace, who had the same theory – some are now convinced that Darwin
stole much of his work from Wallace, who they believe is the architect
of the Theory of Evolution.
Next, take the Atomic Bomb. If J Robert Oppenheimer had
never been born we would still have had the bomb. But perhaps Germany
would have got there first; or
or Japan even. It’s interesting to speculate “what if” one of those countries
had actually won the race.
There's currently a heated debate as to whether we
should replace Trident, indeed whether we need a nuclear deterrent at
all - and would we ever use it anyway? Most of the stuff goes over my
head, but I do occasionally follow it in the papers or online.
So how, you may well ask, does the atomic bomb and
Trident get to be a ‘Smile of the Day’? Well, on one of the message
boards – I think it was the Telegraph – I stumbled upon this gem,
submitted by someone called Yohei...
Japan had had the atomic bomb first, they would probably have dropped it
on San Francisco; if Stalin had had the bomb, he would doubtless have
dropped it on Berlin; Hitler would have dropped it on London; but if the
British had had the bomb, well ... we would undoubtedly have dropped it on
Puss in Wheelie-Bin
THE Sundays duly reflected on the most bizarre story of the
week, smilingly caught by The Sunday Times’ Nick Newman in
his cartoon, pictured alongside – love the cat’s look of horror.
And there’s the rub; called at the Crazy Horsepower
lunchtime and someone mentioned the curious case of the cat that
used up one of its nine lives – and everyone laughed, myself
As anyone who has visited
Smiles A Day,
and clicked onto the Jerry the cat link at the top, will know, I
love the little blighters, despite the slaughter they and the
grey squirrels are visiting upon our wildlife.
And anyway, everyone knows that even if the nice cat had not
been found as quickly as it had, it was in a wheelie-bin,
so it would have been found within a reasonable period of time;
and pussycats do possess remarkable powers of survival.
But what on earth made 45-year-old bank worker Mary
Bale of Coventry first stroke the cat in such a friendly manner
before furtively looking about her and then chucking the
trusting little thing into the bin?
Well, we increasingly live in a world where we are
participants in what can best be described as a real life
pantomime. Most of us have only bit parts, and all that is
of us is that we merely hiss and boo – or clap and cheer – at
the passing parade.
The first requirement of a memorable panto is a proper villain: an
individual who, superficially, is friendly, smiling, smooth-talking,
generous and gives the impression that he or she is here for your
benefit – but slowly but surely you come to realise that the person you
thought was your friend is the dead opposite of everything you
Step forward Tony Blair. Whenever I catch sight of Two
Tone the Politico I am minded to shout to those standing all around him: “He’s
But back with Puss in Wheelie-Bin. There is a
subtle difference to the original Puss in Boots, obviously.
Briefly, the modern tale is about a cat that uses trickery and deceit to
gain power, wealth, and the hand of the American people who will shower
it with the glory it craves. But in the meantime, the Taliban, disguised
as a respectable middle-age lady who works in a British bank, comes
along and dumps the Blair Cat in the wheelie-bin.
Oh that life were that simple.
Boris Johnson has also got in on the act: “What
I’d do to the wheelie-bin woman”, insisted the headline. I
Like all leading moralists of the age, I have spent the past few days
brooding incessantly on the lady who threw the cat into the wheelie‑bin.
Unlike my rivals, I have come up with the perfect punishment. In the
grand tradition of the British criminal justice system, I propose we pay
to send this miscreant to some holiday destination – say, Tanzania, the
very place, in fact, from which I have just returned.
Boris then goes on to suggest that she should be let loose among the big
cats of Africa, before concluding thus...
Then she will look with new respect at the big bushy-maned male sitting
only feet away; and as she twitches like a grub in the roofless,
sideless machine (a Land Rover), the king of all cats will suddenly turn
and notice her; and his eyes will glow in the gloaming like golden
marbles of fire.
He will suddenly yawn, and show his teeth, and she will
smell a carrion gust like a rubbish van, and she will stare down a mouth
as wide as a – as wide as what, my friends? – as wide as a wheelie-bin!
And in that instant of terror, it is probably too much
to hope that she will be cured of her odd propensity to small acts of
unkindness. But at least she will understand that not every cat can be
pushed around; and at least she will see that there are still parts of
the world where a human being can feel like a poor defenceless animal.
It is vital we keep it that way.
Wonderful stuff - and good old Boris provides us with another pantomime link: Dick
Whittington and His Cat. The original is a traditional folk tale
that tells of a poor boy in the 14th century who becomes a wealthy
merchant and eventually the Lord Mayor of London, and all down to the ratting
abilities of his cat.
Ring any bells? Of course it does: today's panto is
all about Boris Johnson and His Pussycats. Except of course here, the
villain is Ken Livingstone, dressed as the aforementioned Mary Bale, who
goes around pretending to feed the birds but instead keeps chucking
Boris's cats in wheelie-bins. And
that was the end of Mayor Johnson. Without his pussycats he becomes just
another castrated politician who loses all powers
what I mean when I claim that we are all now fully paid-up members of the
cast of this on-going Pantomime unfolding all around us. This week on
television, the Blair Cat of Puss in Wheelie-Bin infamy –
corporate adviser, international peace emissary, lecturer,
boutique-investment consultant, first officer of the Celebship Enterprise
("It's A Journey, George, but not as we know it." –
will give his side of the story to that other media pussycat, Andrew
your boos, hisses, applause and cheers at the ready. And don't forget:
"He's behind you!"
Saturday, August 28
Sex and a chip off the old block
I ENJOY words. Well, not so much words per se, but rather the way people
use words. A couple of wel-i-jiw-jiw quotes caught my eye today.
“All I need now is a much younger boyfriend. Everybody
needs a bit of re-potting from time to time.” Katie
Derham, 40, a British newscaster and a presenter on television
Loved the expression – but careful now, Katie, for it’s
but a quick jump from being re-potted to having to be re-booted.
“Bruising Lancastrian sports oaf, whose face was carved by
almighty God from a potato.” A description of Wayne Rooney,
24, pictured alongside, in a new Dr Johnson’s Dictionary of
Master Rooney is an English footballer who plays as a
striker for Premier English League club Manchester United and
the England national team (sic). When I actually read the above
exceedingly tuberous description, I fell into the chip pan and
had to be smothered with a wet blanket.
I am, therefore I yam.
Friday, August 27
Daft as a mop
IT IS OFTEN the devil’s own job to decide which ‘Smile of the Day’ to go
with, but occasionally several smiles fall under the same umbrella, for
example: Doolallyness. Here's three examples in the space of just four
As always, when I collect the morning paper I check the red
tops’ front pages to activate lubrication of said chuckle
muscles. Ah yes, the good old Daily Sport...
ROBBIE SAVAGE: I HAD SEX WITH A MOP
My initial reaction? Was she Mrs/Miss/Ms? Having sex with Miss
Mop would be okay, I guess, but with Mrs Mop – now that’s bang
out of order. The less said about sex with Ms Mop the better. So
I scan the blurb...
FOOTY star Robbie Savage has revealed that Bryan Robson once
forced him to have sex with a mop. The bizarre initiation came
when the Welsh international joined Manchester United at the age
of 16 where Robson was a big star. SEE PAGE 19.
The game was given away with a picture of something with a
wooden handle and a head made of twists of cotton or pieces of
synthetic sponge ... come to think of it, that sounded
remarkably like Robbie and his wayward hairstyle.
I resist the temptation to turn to Page 19 – I would
prefer to go through life wondering how precisely one has sex with a
mop. One good thing, the mop wouldn’t leave a mess.
09:00 When I get home I switch on the radio and Chris Evans
is nearing the end of a live broadcast from a clifftop pasture somewhere
in Cornwall. Guests of honour are Richard and Judy Madeley, Richard
having invited Chris down to his home after the DJ mused that he would
like to broadcast from a field somewhere. Whatever.
Whenever I see or hear Richard Madeley, what I see in
my mind's eye is a cartoon of Judy rushing out of a Tesco store, pushing
a supermarket trolley with Richard hanging on for dear life inside, and
a Tesco employee rushing after them holding up several bottles of
spirits and shouting: “You forgot these!”
(Ten years ago, Richard Madeley was arrested and
charged with failing to pay for £100 worth of alcohol minding its own
business at the bottom of his Tesco trolley; he was duly cleared in
court because of his apparent scattiness and absentmindedness. Sounds
like a perfect excuse to me.
Then I peruse the morning paper over a coffee. I stumble upon this
Boots apologises for sending card for ‘Dr A Suicide Bomber’
Andrew Davies from Bonymaen in Swansea, received in the post an
‘advantage card’ and letter from Boots the Chemists:
“Dear Dr Suicide Bomber. It’s time to treat yourself. Your shiny new
advantage card is here. Isn’t it great when you get something new?”
Yes, like a brand new name.
“Well, here's your new Boots advantage card, so
welcome to the best excuse you could have to go shopping and blow all
those cobwebs away.” Yes, okay, I added
“and blow all those cobwebs away” - I know,
I know, all in the worst possible taste.
The company apologised, with bells on, and kicked themselves in a very
private place with their own Boots. What makes the story so
extraordinary is that someone could so effortlessly access the Boots
computer to input such dodgy information, and crucially, bypass the
technology in place to prevent offensive terminology and potential
fraudulent names being used.
Which all makes me wonder what precisely is going on
inside the nation’s VIP computers that we never get to hear about?
Thursday, August 26
”A good pun is its own reword”
THUMBING through the Western Mail, the cartoon alongside caught
my eye. Not riotously ho-ho-ho-ish! ... but it brought to mind
the demise of Two Tone, as covered back on August 18 (that’s Two
Tone the carp, not Two Tone the crap aka Tone the Blair); so I
found myself wondering if Two Tone had been buried with full
tributary honours – with guards of honour flicking fishing lines
in salute as he was laid to rest, honouring the fish that was
never served and never battered.
The carp was thought to be up to 45-years-old, weighing
in at an astonishing 4st 12lb. But the legendary fish was only
caught once or twice a year – about 50 times in total, many
anglers having spent up to 15 years trying to land the creature
without success. (Well, if you’d had a hook stuck in your mouth
and dragged out of the water kicking and screaming about 50
times in your lifetime before being dumped back in the water, you’d
be quite smart and wily too.)
But there was no escape from the great angler in the
sky. Despite being pursued all his life, there were no signs of
blemishes or ulcers, and it appears death was down to old age.
Apparently a service was held in memory of Kent’s giant carp,
and a plaque laid at Conningbrook Lake, where he was
regularly hung out to dry. But Two Tone will be stuffed and donated to
the Natural History Museum.
Please Sir, can we do the same to Tone the Crap? Before
old age catches up with him, or he does something else stupid?
Anyway, what makes this my ‘Smile of the Day’ is all the wonderful puns
fishermen and the like left on various web sites in memory of old Two
Tone, pictured above. To paraphrase the writer Arthur Koestler: “In the
pun, two fishy lines of thought are tangled into one acoustic knot.”
Tributes started off very respectfully: “He’s sleeping
with the fishes now,” and, “Go swim peacefully in the pond in the sky,
big fella”, but it was pun, pun and more puns thereafter...
couldn’t believe the news but now I’ve seen it in whiting.
Carp diem, not.
I bet fishermen everywhere are reeling.
Very sad news ... Cod moves in mysterious ways.
Cod rest his sole.
He’s gone to a better plaice.
Eel be sorely missed.
I hope they give him a good send orfe.
(I had to look up ‘orfe’ to appreciate this one: a small slender
European cyprinoid fish, occurring in two colour varieties, namely the
silver orfe and the golden orfe ... can you believe it, a two tone
Sympathy to his family and loved ones. A Perch.
Rest in peas.
(I liked this one very much: fish and chips and mushy peas – yum, yum.
But my favourite...)
If anyone comes up with a fish pun which hasn’t been posted, please let
Now how can such delightful silliness not put a smile on your face?
Wednesday, August 25
I say, I say, I say...
”I HAVE just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I’ll tell you what
– never again.” Comedian Tim Vine, winner of the funniest one-liner
at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2010.
I caught the above on a Radio Wales programme yesterday morning – it’s a
clever and really witty one-liner; after winning the title, Vine said:
“I’m going to celebrate by going to Sooty’s barbecue and having a
‘sweepsteak’!” – anyway, the radio show presenters invited listeners to
submit their own one-liner efforts.
Now I have a policy of resisting all temptations when
overtaken by the urge to get in touch with any radio programme, but,
having come up with something really rare, my own joke, the one about
TomTom – it had a trial run back on Sunday, August 15 – I thought,
yes, why not. Off shot an e-mail: I don’t own a TomTom, but I do have
a GodGod, but all He ever says is: “Keep on the straight and narrow
until you come to a dead end.” Boom-boom!
Nothing. Not a sniff of the big-time. The half-dozen or
so they did read out were hoary old recycled jokes. Oh for a bit of
originality. You see, the problem with e-mailing a radio show is that
90% of the messages get dumped without ever being looked at. So a lesson
Be that as it may, today, with my brain taking forty
winks in a handy lay-by, I Googled the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to
sample some of the one-liner contenders. I liked this one, at No. 2 –
David Gibson: “I’m currently dating a couple of anorexics. Two birds,
And this, at No. 8 – Gary Delaney: “Dave drowned. So
at the funeral we got him a wreath in the shape of a lifebelt. Well,
it’s what he would have wanted.”
But I didn’t get this at No. 10 – Gareth Richards:
“Wooden spoons are great. You can either use them to prepare food, or,
if you can’t be bothered with that, just write a number on one and walk
into a pub...”(?) You see, I’m nowhere near as clever as I sound!
What I also liked was, that last year’s winner, Dan
Antopolski (“Hedgehogs! Why can’t they just share the hedge?”),
was this year nominated for worst joke: “How many Spaniards does it
take to change a lightbulb? Juan.” Truth to tell I rather like that,
as I did this one by Sara Pascoe, which was also nominated for worst
joke: “Why did the chicken commit suicide? To get to the other side.”
Talking of chickens, last year’s second best joke was a real cracker,
and as it happens, I have the perfect picture to go with it. Pay a quick
visit to my
corner – click
Tuesday, August 24
"First they got nukes. Next level: Twitter account!"
KIM Jong-il, the Chief Sitting Bull of North Korea (he of "Axis of evil"
infamy), has just joined Twitter – if you can’t beat the running-dog
lackeys of capitalist imperialism, then join ‘em.
Now I would have thought that Kim’s opening shot would
have been something really positive along the lines of "Kim Jong-il now
Kim Jong- better!" – but he kicked off by calling the whole of South
Korea "a prostitute".
So now you know why every man in South Korea walks
around with a silly smile on his face, while every man in North Korea
walks around with a miserable frown on his. Simples.
Mind you, some Twitterers were unnerved to see that Kim
Jong-il was quick to "follow" anyone who subscribed to his Twitter feed,
particularly South Koreans. That'll wipe the smiles off their faces.
Monday, August 23
EDUCATION, like youth, is wasted on the young. Personally I’m not sure
about youth – I had a ball, mostly down to innocence and naivety, which
I wouldn’t want to change if this really is a dress rehearsal – but
education was certainly wasted on me. I hated school; if it wasn’t for
the girls I’d have gone mad – and they nearly drove me doolally anyway,
but that’s another story.
It might come as a surprise, but I’m a hopeless
speller. However, I have a somewhat curious talent: I write by sight and
sound. I will spot that a misspelt word has something wrong with it,
which means I spend much too much time with my head in a dictionary. It
seems to work most of the time, excepting silly little mistakes as the
eye hurtles over an innocent looking word. Oh, and I write by sound. If
it sounds right as I read it back in my mind – you know, the words flow
fairly easily off the screen – then I press the ‘save’ button.
Anyway, I have just read a piece about the Top 20
Misspelt Words in the English Language. The writer pondered why
‘misspelt’ was not one of them, which is a fair point, especially as it
looks all wrong in print – see above. Personally, whenever I think
‘misspelt’, what I see is her brother, Full Pelt ... Miss Pelt – works
Funnily enough, I’ve been tempted to issue a challenge: e-mail me any
English word, and within 24 hours or so I’ll deliver a few hundred words
on the subject. I’ve chickened out – not because I’m not up for it, but
rather the fear that no word would ever come because no one is walking
into my parlour.
You see, I have no visitor counter; I run the whole
shebang to entertain myself, so if no one wants to share my ‘smiles of
the day’, that’s fine by me. Truth to tell, a few visitors do come
a-calling, and occasionally leave ever such nice messages, which is most
agreeable. The most recent, a Jim Carpenter from the U. S. of A. Thanks,
Jim, and welcome aboard.
Be that as it may, I was intrigued by those 20 misspelt
words. So much so, and inspired by a very silly moment, I decided, with
the help of lots of smaller, easy to spell words, to rearrange those 20
words (shown below in italics) into a very personal ‘60 smiley words of
the day’. So here goes…
The consensus, with a clear conscience, found the
broccoli particularly acceptable. Bureaucracy though, with
its separate questionnaire and always ready to embarrass,
referred it to a connoisseur from a parallel
universe – definitely an unnecessary manoeuvre.
“What’s the occurrence?” asked a dim entrepreneur
“Not a lot,” raged a passing spell checker, sounding much
like a Dalek. “Liquefy and supersede.”
Two points of order: “What’s the occurrence?” is something they say in
Barry Island, South Wales - or rather, “What’s occurrin’?”, which explains the
“dim” bit. Incidentally, there are three sorts of people in the world:
Those who make things occur; those who watch things occur; and those who
turn up and say “What’s occurrin’?”.
The second point: The surprising misspelt word in there
is “a lot”, apparently because people have huge problems with this: We
decided to allot ten hours to the case – which is a lot.
Funny old word. Thank God.
Sunday, August 22
The most beautiful girl in the world – in the most beautiful car in the
THIS IS the Smile bulletin that has, thus far anyway, given me
the most pleasure to put together and share with you. It all began when
I saw this headline...
It might be the sexiest car in the world – but can you imagine driving
The car, once owned by Diana Dors, is the 20ft-long, 1949 Delahaye Type
175 S Roadster – a gift, incidentally, from an admirer when she didn’t
even hold a driving licence – and has just been sold at auction for $3
million. It has been described as “an outlandishly, outrageously sexy
car” as well as “the most beautiful and sexiest car in the world”. It
does grab the eye, for sure.
Beauty, whether involving cars or women, lies in the
eye of the beholder. For example, the other “most beautiful and sexiest
car in the world”, is the classic E-Type Jaguar. So it was all rather
wonderful, compliments of this astonishing thing called “the internet”,
to be able to put together four of the most beautiful girls in the
history of the universe, and pair them against the most suitable car.
Hopefully, and for added effect, you should be able to
view the tableau coming up in one complete block.
In the blue corner, the Delahaye with Diana, of course,
and Marilyn Monroe, both looking the part. In the green corner, the
E-Type Jag with Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly adding class beyond. At
least to my eye – see if you agree.
Without wishing to sound too disrespectful, going for a run in the
Delahaye would be much like going for a one-off fun day out in a
stretch-limo – while the E-Type is a cat you would be exceedingly happy
to see stretched out and purring on the welcome mat outside your home.
On a more personal level, Diana and Marilyn would be
the sort of girls I would dream of going to bed with following a jolly
night at the pub – while Ingrid and Grace would have been the sort of
girls I would dream of waking up alongside the morning after the night
Interesting too, the following: Diana Dors aka
Diana Mary Fluck – no wonder she changed her name, especially as she was
reputed to be one ‘ell of a girl, having one L of a time.
Marilyn Monroe aka Norma Jeane Mortensen
Grace Kelly aka Grace Patricia Kelly
Ingrid Bergman aka Ingrid Bergman!
I’m not sure what, but the above 'akas' shout something rather
Anyway, I’ll lay my cards on the bonnet – or hood if
you’re perusing this in the U S of A: for me it’s the E-Type by a
country square mile. Oh, and Grace Kelly (nearest the E-Type, above) sitting
alongside – I mean, just look at those classic curves. And those of the
car, too. But more than that, from what I read, she was blessed with
oodles of inherent class. So no surprise then that she became a
Ah well, the impossible dream is over – but I will keep
on smiling for ever more and a day...
I am putting the final dot-dot-dot to this bulletin, Nat King Cole is
singing Smile on the wireless - the very last record on Radio
Ulster's Sunday Club. Honest, as God is my witness.
Saturday, August 21
Very Important Person
/ Really Important Person
THE National Newspaper of Wales is the Western Mail. Its Saturday
edition carries a column by retired Welsh politician, Rhodri Morgan,
who was the second First Secretary for Wales (that’s worth a smile for a
start), and the first person to use the title First Minister for Wales,
serving from 2000 to 2009.
Rhodri has to live up to the by-line “Mr Wales
writes exclusively for the Western Mail”. Great bloke, Rhodri, and
an amusing fellow to boot, as you will shortly find out.
However, I found myself wondering about the “Mr
Wales” tag. So I Googled Miss Wales: Courtnay Hamilton,
20, a classical singer from St Donats in the Vale of Glamorgan; a fluent
Welsh speaker, and hang on tight, she is also a crew captain with the
RNLI, and describes herself as an "adrenaline junkie who loves
adventure". I would copy and paste a picture of the delightful and clever
Miss Courtnay Hamilton, but I have a picture of my own coming up.
I also Googled Mrs Wales: what I got was MRS
Wales Automatic Doors (God, I thought, I've met a few of those in my
time, but on further investigation ... M. R. S. Wales Ltd – Metal
[Window & Door] Repair Services). As I never tire of reminding you,
every day is a day at school hereabouts.
I finally Googled Ms Wales: what I got were
sites to do with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, which isn’t quite what
I was looking for. I can only presume that Ms Wales is the Dragon on the
nation’s wonderfully distinctive flag.
Anyway, back with Mr Wales. Rhodri related tales
of a family holiday at Mwnt, Ceredigion (located south of New Quay, as
seen on the Reception map, above), where he and wife Julie swam
with dolphins; and they also witnessed the Welsh Air Ambulance land on
the beach to transfer an injured lady to hospital. I shall let Rhodri
Down came the chopper, and as the lady was carried across the beach for
the journey to, presumably, Morriston Hospital, everyone on the beach
stood up and applauded.
The Big Society or what?
It put me in mind of the similar occasion 10 years ago
when the late Councillor Vita Jones from Llanedeyrn in Cardiff broke her
leg while on holiday near New Quay, just up the coast. Her family had
dialled 999 and emphasised that she was
indeed Councillor Vita Jones and the Welsh Air Ambulance was
summoned, just like Monday.
She was airlifted to Morriston. When she emerged from
the helicopter, the chairman of the Swansea NHS Trust and all
the hospital top brass were lined up to meet her, as if for a
Royal visitation. As the line-up looked rather crestfallen, she
asked if there was a problem.
The chairman coughed and said: “Who are you, exactly?”
She said: “I’m Councillor Vita Jones.”
The chairman said: “Ah, that explains it. We were told
to expect Catherine Zeta-Jones!”
How wonderful is that. And it really is totally believable. It’s
tales like that which make keeping this “Smiles of the Day”
scrapbook so worth while.
As a bonus, the story brought to mind a picture I took
a couple of years or so ago, and I’ve been waiting for an
opportunity to use it to effect...
Anyone seen my Chains of Office?
Having rounded off with a delightful picture of a swan doing its
thing, be sure to check out
Smiles A Day
for some dramatic swan tales and pictures, updated this very day...
Friday, August 20
Battered and bruised
SOME 10 days ago, the Chris Evans early morning radio show was on in the
background, when I heard Chris’s sidekick, Jonny Saunders, refer to a
football game between Wales and Luxembourg being played that evening at
Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli – or Laneli, as Jonny pronounced it. Chris
light-heartedly corrected him by pronouncing Llanelli properly, as a
Welsh person would – it’s those double-Ls that get a non-Welsh person. I
was most impressed, as was Lynn Bowles, the Welsh “travel totty”, also
part of the team.
”That’s nothing,” said Chris:
just for the record, it's pronounced
– simple when you know how ... a small village and community on the
island of Anglesey in North Wales).
Incidentally, it means: “The church of St Mary in the
hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St Tysilio’s of
the red cave, cha-cha-cha!” So there. Oh okay, the cha-cha-cha is a
joke. And there’s a full-length place name sign on
the railway station at Llanfair PG, as the locals call it, which is
probably the most photographed station name in the country.
Anyway, I was so taken with Chris’s near perfect pronunciation of the
place, I concluded that, with a surname like Evans, he must have some
Welsh connections. I Googled, but couldn’t find any obvious dots to join
up and thus make sense of his talent with the Welsh language.
But there has to be some sort of connection there
somewhere, especially so as on this morning’s show, with Chris due to
make his first regular Friday night appearance later as host on TV's
One Show, he wanted to learn some Welsh to impress Welsh-speaker
Alex, his co-presenter. Again, he picked up Welsh words and phrases with
So I tuned in to the One Show – but was diverted
during a segment on fish and chips when presenters Alex and Chris teased
us with the theory that it’s possible to run across a bath full of
batter without sinking – and they would demonstrate it at the end of the
The fun run was designed to show that the cornflour
batter would act as a liquid if pressure was applied slowly, but would
act as a solid if hit suddenly, with force. They first demonstrated this
by sinking a hand slowly into the bath, and it duly emerged dripping in
gooey batter – and next striking the batter forcefully with a baseball
bat – and not a splatter. Amazing. But the best was yet to come.
Chris, wearing a round, green costume and calling
himself Pea Man – don’t ask – was the first to sprint across – without
sinking – followed by Alex, followed by a couple of guests. No one
splashed or sank. It was a most astonishing thing to behold. But hang
Chris and Alex then closed their first show while
jogging on the surface of the batter – without sinking – before
gradually slowing down to a halt – and then, ever so gently, as if in
slow motion, they both sank into the batter.
I would never have believed such a thing possible. And
all down to viscosity, or even bulk viscosity of liquid – or something.
Anyway, I was out of my depth already. But it was all very smiley.
Anyway, as it says on the tin: Every day a day at school.
Thursday, August 19
RIP: Remote In Peace
WHEN I first saw this Bill Whitehead cartoon in the Western Mail
my first thought was, wel-i-jiw-jiw, the newspaper’s editor has kicked the
bucket and the staff are having a wake, a party – but just as quickly I registered the little grave
alongside marked ‘ED’S REMOTE’.
Now this cartoon tickled my funny bone. People really
are wedded to their remote. Or more correctly, we men are. And I
speak as a typical zap-a-dee-doo-da kinda guy myself.
Mind you, I found myself wondering if ‘ED’S MOBILE’
would have been more relevant. After all, in today’s world
folk truly are welded to their mobiles – and that’s both male
and female. (Thinks: perhaps this is a cartoon from some moons
ago which has picked itself up, dusted itself of...)
One of the more startling aspects of modern life is how
addicted to mobile phones we’ve become. I’m astonished how many
drivers still use their mobiles while driving.
It is such a
dangerous thing to do, especially as we humans have not evolved
to think imaginatively along two separate lines of thought at the same time,
unless we’ve been trained to do so, that is (a pilot is trained
to fly and land an aircraft in an emergency situation – say total loss of
engine power –
while at the same time giving explicit details of what is
happening, along with precise location and
position, to air traffic control ... it’s one of the more difficult
tasks I’ve ever had to master).
If you doubt whether constant use of the mobile is
somehow or other scrambling our brains, a risk assessment and insurance liability study
in America a few years back concluded that, if you own a mobile, you are
500 times more likely to be involved in a motoring accident.
Yes, FIVE HUNDRED! I blinked when I first read that.
Astonishingly it has nothing to do with using a mobile while driving,
whether hand-held or otherwise – the mobile could be switched off and in
the boot of your car.
Isn’t that frightening? Simply owning a mobile puts you
at huge risk to the ambush lurking around the next corner.
The cartoon is still funny though.
Wednesday, August 18
Blair’s A-Journey: a pretty crooked kinda B-Road
JUST occasionally, ‘smiles of the day’ come loaded with irony,
especially when the rich and the powerful leave their curse.
Following official briefing notes obtained under the
Freedom of Information Act, it emerged that, back in 1997, Tony Blair
intervened to secure Formula One’s exemption from a ban on tobacco
advertising just a few hours after meeting the sport’s boss, and major
Labour donor, little Bernie Ecclescake – oops! – Ecclestone (how could
I ... after all, an Eccles cake is a small, round fruit cake filled with currants
and made from flaky pastry…).
The then Labour Government had always maintained that the meeting
had no influence on the decision, and Mr Blair appeared on the BBC’s
On The Record programme insisting he was “a pretty straight kind of
The Labour Party later gave back a £1m donation from Mr
Ecclestone, received before the decision on tobacco advertising had been
The above background info is just to join up the dots apropos the
“pretty straight kinda guy” quote from Mr Blair. (What was it my mother
insisted? Self-praise is no recommendation.)
Be that as it may, given the fuss now raging as to
whether Blair is paying “blood money” to the Royal British Legion,
compliments of his memoirs, A Journey, in order to clear his
conscience over sending Britain to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the
following quote grabbed my attention.
”I was gutted.” Mid-Kent Fisheries boss Chris
Logsdon speaking about the death of Two Tone, thought to be Britain’s
biggest carp, in Kent’s Conningbrook Lake.
It’s the name that made me smile. Indeed we have another Two Tone*
ready replacement – a really slippery fish, and about to release his
memoirs, thought to be Britain’s biggest load of old you-know-what.
Where does the name Two Tone come from?
Two Tone the carp: two colour tones on its body
Two Tone the crap: superficially a pussycat,
profoundly a polecat
Anyway, you’ve just got to laugh at all the goings on involving those
sat at life’s top table. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts
absolutely. So I was thinking: perhaps Two Timing Tone’s Tome should carry
A Journey: Never give a sucker an even break
Tuesday, August 17
May you live forever and die suddenly
“OBVIOUSLY I’m hoping for Queen Elizabeth that she lives a long and
happy life, and having watched her mother, I think there’s every chance
that she will.” Welsh-born Australian prime minister Julia Gillard,
after suggesting her country should drop its ties to the monarchy when
the Queen’s reign ends.
Isn’t it funny how a perfectly reasonably and sensible thing to propose
brings back a most amusing incident from some four years back,
previously locked away safely on my brain’s hard drive – but suddenly
activated by Julia Gillard. England were playing Australia at cricket,
for the famous Ashes, out in Australia.
Prior to the first test match, with the legendary Barmy
Army all present, correct, in good voice and intent on winding up the
Aussie public to maximum effect, they began to sing the British National
Anthem. But they kicked off thus...
“God save your gracious Queen
Long live your noble Queen...”
Four years on, and it
still makes me smile.
Monday, August 16
Sense of humour v sense of fun
THE BBC’s One Show is one of those rare TV programmes I tend to
catch on a regular basis – at least the opening exchanges. It follows
Wales Today, our regional news programme, which I always watch if
I’m in the cottage, especially the weather forecast 'cause I need to
know what I need to wear for the following morning’s walk.
Tonight of course there was extra special interest in
the One Show due to new presenters, Jason Manford (never heard of
him) and local girl Alex Jones, who hails from Ammanford, just down the
track, and is regularly seen on S4C, our Welsh language channel.
I found the previous pairing of Adrian Chiles and Christine
Bleakley, alongside, fascinating, in as much that the pair
epitomise the difference between a sense of humour and a sense
A sense of humour is something very subjective; for
example, ever been told, oh you must meet so-and-so, he/she has
a great sense of humour? Yet when you meet so-and-so, while you
have no problems with the individual, you don’t quite get the
‘great sense of humour’ bit.
A sense of fun, on the other hand, is something
universal: a Chinaman with a sense of fun meeting an Eskimo with
a sense of fun, will instantly recognise that quality in each
other and smile without having to say a word, pull a strange
face or perform a funny walk.
Back with Chiles and Bleakley: now I quite like Chiles’
droll and somewhat dry sense of humour – but he has to open his
mouth to generate that humour i.e. he actually has to say
something to make me smile. Bleakley, on the other hand, has a
very cheery, fun sort of face – whenever I look at her she makes
Funnily enough, I abandoned the show some 18 months
ago, when Chiles had that brouhaha with Carol Thatcher. Thatcher
word “golliwog”, apparently in jest to describe some tennis player,
while in the green room following the show, and in the company of
comedienne Jo Brand and Chiles.
What got to me was that, rather than take Thatcher one
side and tell her he didn’t like what she’d said, he morphed into a
chicken and ran to the media – and Thatcher was duly sacked from the
show. The little shit. So I banished Chiles from my living room. However, he duly served
his sentence and I returned to watch the show.
Incidentally, many labelled Bleakley a bit of an
airhead, that without her cheery and touchy-feely personality, she was
nothing but an empty vessel. But I tell you what, I remember an instance
at the beginning of one show where they had a somewhat “mature” bookmaker who was
due to offer odds on what was coming up in the show. However, either the
telly prompter stuck, or he couldn’t read it, but there were a few
embarrassing seconds of struggle – until off-screen you could hear
Bleakley calling out to him what he had to say – and the situation was
While it was obvious that Christine had saved the day,
she avoided making him look stupid. Clever girl, I remember thinking,
you’re not just a pretty face. Funnily enough, I do recall a guest on
the show saying that he remembered Christine from her days in Irish TV,
where she was a floor manager, I think – which would explain her nifty
footwork to rescue that poor bookie. Poor bookie? That filthy rich
Oh yes, what did I make of Alex and Jason? Okay, but it
will obviously take a while for them to bed in. And no, that wasn’t a
nudge-nudge, wink-wink throwaway remark. Mind you, what did make me
smile was when, being new to the job, they dished out name badges to
everyone, including themselves, and when they handed one to their first
guest, Whoopi Goldberg, she quipped: “As this is your launch show, I
just want to make sure you know it’s me and not Oprah.”
Now that did make me smile.
Sunday, August 15
Is this the way to Arm A Dildo?
SO THE inimitable tones of actor Brian Blessed is to be the new voice of
TomTom Sat Nav (or TwmTwm as we say here in Wales – Twm
being Welsh for Tom – sometimes we even call it TwmTwice). I do
not possess a TomTom, but I do have a GodGod buried
somewhere deep inside my head (or DuwDuw as we say here in Wales
– Duw being Welsh for God).
Now that I think about it, He does sound an
awful lot like Brian Blessed. Anyway, whenever my GodGod kicks
in, the basic advice is always the same: “Keep on the straight and narrow until
you come to a dead end.”
Oh, He also often chimes in with: “When you get
in trouble, and you don’t know right from left, give a little whistle
... When you meet temptation, and the urge is very strong, give a little
whistle ... Take the straight and narrow path, and if you start to
slide, give a little whistle ... Do your best then take a rest, put on
that grin and start right in, come on get smart, tune up and start ...
to give a little whistle...”
I’m surprised that no one has seen fit to nickname me
Saturday, August 14
Crouch on the couch – ouch!
I WAS tempted to go with the tale of footballer Peter Crouch who has,
apparently, been banished to the sofa by his girlfriend, Abbey Clancy,
after reports he’d had sex with a prostitute during a stag weekend in
See, it’s ripe for word play, especially when you note
that the lady of the night is called Monica Mint. I shall diligently
avoid something along the lines that she should be re-christened
Polo: the Mint with the hole!
But I do rather like:
Crouch dealt a Clancy-ing blow.
Indeed The Sun newspaper posed the question that must
have been niggling some of its readers. Crouch is 6ft 7in: how long is
I can see the next DFS sale promo now:
SAVE DOUBLE ON A CROUCH COUCH.
Mind you, I was thinking: if he was on a stag weekend
thank goodness it’s not quite the rutting season yet, otherwise there’d
have been reports he’d had sex with a doe, a deer, a female deer,
tra-lah. A male of course is called a buck – no, let’s not go there...
Instead, my smile of the day is...
Left a bit – STOP!
I WAS transfixed by a tale in this morning’s
newspaper, about a collision between two huge ore-carrying ships off the
Welsh coast. It is understood that both ships were waiting in a queue,
in perfect conditions, to deliver more than 100,000 tonnes of iron ore
to Port Talbot Docks, the material destined for the nearby Corus steel
The collision, at low speed, happened just after the
Royal Oasis started its engines and was leaving its anchorage spot to
pick up a local pilot, when, without so much as a by-your-leave, it
“bumped” into the Berge Atlantic. The glancing blow caused superficial
damage only, above the water line. “This type of collision is extremely
rare,” said an Associated British Ports manager, “I can’t remember
anything like this happening here before.”
Talk about the elephant on your doorstep. The ships are
huge, over 1,000ft long, with a deadweight of 161,000 and 171,000
tonnes. Compare that to the QE2’s gross tonnage of some 70,000.
It’s the equivalent of me driving into my local town
centre car park, on a bright, sunny morning, where just the one vehicle,
an eye-catching Rolls
Royce, is parked neatly in the middle - and I still manage to collide
It makes the smile spot because the collision actually
happened yesterday, Friday the 13th.
Thursday through Friday, August 12-13
Catch a falling star
A COUPLE of days meld into one, compliments of something bright in the
sky. Somewhere along my Thursday stroll through time, I somehow
crash-land on this piece in The Telegraph, penned by the endlessly
amusing Bryony Gordon...
farewell then, Robbie Williams. At the weekend he got married, and not
to me. When I was 13, I loved him so much that for a brief period, I
made my friends call me Mrs Robbie Williams. I met him five years ago at
a party in LA. "Hello, I'm Robbie," he said, shaking my hand. "I know,"
I squeaked. He asked me my name. In the excitement, I couldn't remember
it. Then he asked if I wanted to join him for a fag on the balcony. My
heart soared. Of course I did.
Outside, he lit my cigarette and I swooned. Was this
it? Was I going to get to kiss my teenage crush? Alas, he started
talking about Chelsea's chances of winning the Premiership, and those
dreams disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Smashing. Very Bryony, very smiley. But the thing is, every time I see
or hear the name Robbie Williams, I am instantly reminded of something
from a good few moons back, when he admitted that he dreams of being
hailed a “national treasure”, and is aiming to become the UK’s “number
At that time he had apparently posted a bizarre video
of himself online, in which he appeared dishevelled and confused,
sparking fears for his mental health. But the singer refuted such claims
and went on to say: “I want to be known as ‘El Presidente’ or ‘Nash’, as
in National Treasure. I’m the Number One Male.”
Now I quite enjoy El Presidente’s singing, most of the
time, anyway. However, whenever I catch sight of our Robbie I'm
overwhelmed with a need to establish an antonym for “Nash” – a word that
more accurately describes 99% of all known celebrities. What instantly
comes to mind is that glorious word which rhymes with banker.
Anyway, the search starts here, although I somehow
think I’m not going to find a better one than my original thought.
That evening, and still wearing Bryony’s smile, I go in search
of a different shooting star, the one and only, the elusive
Percy – or to be more precise, the Perseids Meteor Shower,
fragments and dust trails created by the Comet Swift-Tuttle.
I’ve been thinking that I should take
someone or other to court under the Trades Descriptions Act 1968, simply
because the Perseids are unfit for purpose.
Annually, at this time of year, I am reassured that
this will be the best year ever to watch Percy and his pals, The
Bright Sparks – and tonight’s the night. But I am forever left
Still, mother never bread a jibber. So just after
eleven, out into the garden I go, more in hope than
anticipation. But with the benefit of nil light pollution and no moonlight, all
I see are the stars shining brightly - oh, and the occasional
satellite whizzing over. But more amazingly, it’s
the millions of background stars seen as a diffuse band of light
stretching across the sky.
I can see where the name Milky Way comes from; the
night sky really does look like a large puddle of spilled milk.
And then suddenly – whoosh! A prominent shooting star
skids across the sky. I really do smile.
A little later, a
really spectacular streak across the sky – and for some
reason I think of Erica Roe and her famous streak at a packed
and emotional Twickenham in 1982, where England were playing
Australia. I was watching it on TV.
It was halftime - in those days the players didn't
leave the field - and suddenly there was a huge roar as Erica
announced her presence. Even the players turned to watch.
The streak was christened the
Swift-Tittle, as I recall - or perhaps it wasn't.
Whatever, most impressive. Both Tittle and
Tuttle, that is.
iconic image of Erica Roe (Swift-Tittle) at Twickers
Love the smile-of-the-day beneath the flat cap
Oh yes, I did actually remember to make a wish on Thursday night - can't
remember if I did back in 1982 - nothing too demanding, something quite
attainable, but I will need just a little bit of luck along the
way. (To be continued...)
Very early Friday morning, I observe a very different sort of shooting
star; I catch the International Space Station (ISS), the first time for
a few months. I get great pleasure watching it pass over; I'm not sure
why, except that there's something faintly biblical about it all.
It’s a perfectly clear morning, dawn is fast breaking
(4.48am), and the ISS is bright as a Swift-Tittle as it streaks across
the sky (but unlike Robbie, Percy and Erica, it doesn’t leave a fiery
trail). I get the impression that it’s much brighter and bigger than
when I last saw it, which suggests that its orbit has decayed and the
whole shebang is due to be given a push back up (out?) into space by a
friendly neighbourhood visitor, be it Russian or the last-but-one
Shuttle due to launch before long.
Come to think of it, perhaps I should also make a wish
when the ISS goes over...
Later on Friday I catch up with Owen Money’s Radio Wales Saturday
morning show on the iPlayer (popular period music from the Fifties
through to the Eighties). I missed it last Saturday – watched the All
Blacks play Australia on the box. But here’s the thing: every Saturday
he ‘phones a bride’ - a surprise phone call to a lady that's tying the
knot later that day. It’s an entertaining spot.
Last Saturday it was Natalie, who was marrying Ross.
“Where are you going on honeymoon?” asks Owen.
“It’s a present from Ross’s brother.”
“ Really? Is he a millionaire?”
“No, I don’t think so – he’s just very generous.”
Now how smiley is that? If he were a millionaire, I doubt that he
would have paid for the honeymoon. It’s a curious thing about really
wealthy people, as well as those who earn huge amounts of money. They
never, ever have quite enough dosh, and they always want just that
little bit more. Oh, and they can’t stand someone else getting what they
think should be theirs.
So let’s hear it for Ross’s brother, who paid for the
honeymoon, not because he could, but because he's just a very generous
human being. It restores one’s faith in humanity. And if anything
deserves a smile of the day spot, that does.
Wednesday, August 11
The postman always rings twice
JUST caught up with this “I don’t believe it” piece by a Judith Woods on
the Telegraph newspaper web site...
As my husband headed off to work the other
morning, he found our new postie standing motionless at the garden gate.
When he quizzed her, she primly revealed that because
we had a dog she wasn’t allowed to deliver mail for “health and safety
reasons”. Instead, she would ring the doorbell and retreat behind the
gate so we could collect it.
Although sorely tempted to suggest that perhaps she
might be in the wrong profession, he inquired as to what would happen if
we were for some reason unable to keep a daily vigil at the front door
waiting for her arrival.
If we weren’t in, she would deign to slip a “while you
were out” card through the letter box – but not the actual post, which
would be returned to the depot. Now there’s logic for you.
Whom the Gods wish to destroy they first
I did originally headline this particular Smile
experience 'The postie always shits herself twice', but decided that
that was too Crazy Horsepower Saloon-ish and much too vulgar for the
gentle company I keep here - so changed my mind at the thirteenth hour.
Tuesday, August 10
Hold the front page
WHEN I collect my morning newspaper I always cast a quick eye over all
the papers on display. The front page headlines, especially the red
tops, invariably get the day off to a smiley start. This morning though
it was “Wel-i-jiw-jiw!” – with bells on. Or perhaps that should be “with
balls on”. This time it was the Daily Sport...
all sounded a bit fishy to me ... perhaps he was a tree sturgeon –
boom-boom! On the other hand, perhaps having sex with the tree had
drained all the sap out of him. Enough already.
As a matter of interest, this is what it says on the
front page: A COMPUTER engineer died after tying
himself naked to a tree with cord wrapped around his penis. Kevin
Kirkland, 44, used a makeshift pair of rope handcuffs to attach himself
to the trunk but got trapped when a knot jammed around his wrists...
I dunno, the mind truly boggles. I can’t even get my
mind around it, let alone my willy-wonka.
All that business about handcuffs takes me back to
Sunday’s Smile and the one and only Sheriff J W Pepper struggling
to open his handcuffs to arrest James Bond.
Anyway, you just have to smile at the doolallyness of
Oh, the other picture. This is one I captured locally –
yes, of a sex mad tree. In fact I have a few intriguing images of this
tree, and I’ll have to do a separate feature on it one of these days.
Honestly, there’s never a dull moment on my square
Monday, August 9
Cock-ups ‘R’ Us
“I WANT to have some idea of what I’ll look like before I start
cleaning the slates – I want my kids to know when I’m annoyed, when I’m
happy, and when I’m confounded.” Actress Julia Roberts rules out
This quote reminded me of an exchange on the Roy Noble show on
Radio Wales back in April of this year, something so funny it made my
smile of the day spot. ”A little while back,” says Roy, “I was talking
about Botex – be careful with your Botex now because it stiffens things
”Shouldn’t it be Botox?” interrupts newsreader Siân
Evans present with him in the studio, and who is a bit strict and
schoolmarm-ish in her ways.
”Botox!” confirms Roy, “You’re right – there’s a little
biro mark where the ‘e’ is. Anyway, a survey says people are now slow to
react to what you say – or more correctly, their faces are slow to react
– they’re on Botox and it stiffens the face up. And men: lads are now
buying more facial creams, more than deodorant – see David Beckham,
footballer – but leave it there, lads, because you have no
That tale deserves a curtain call if only because it reflects perfectly
the Julia Roberts quote above. But what made me smile the most was Roy’s
Freudian-type slip. When he called it “Botex”, the first thing that came
to mind was Tipp-Ex, the famous correction fluid. Indeed, Botex is a
much better name than Botox. You see, Tipp-Ex hides the cock-ups we
make; Botex hides the cock-ups Mother Nature makes.
Which is probably why Roy made the slip-up in the first
A Botex Addendum
"Your face tells a story - and it shouldn't be a story about your drive
to the doctor's office." Julia Roberts makes a welcome, if belated,
return to the "To Botox, or not to Botox, that is the question"
argument: "Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and
arrows of the outrageous fortunes of Mother Time..." - which all adds a
perfect balance to this 'smile of the day' entry.
Sunday, August 8
The name’s Bond
LATE afternoon, I switch on the telly and go zap-a-dee-doo-da – and land
on ITV, where the Bond film Live and Let Die is in full swing.
I’ve seen it a few times, mostly because it has one of the most
entertaining and smiley 15 minutes or so I’ve seen in a film: a sort of
Carry On 007 meets Dai Hard.
As I land on the film the crocodile scene is reaching a
climax – and I know what’s coming next. Yes, we get to meet one of the
most colourful and comic characters ever to entertain us on film, the
baccy-chewing and mega-spitting Sheriff J W Pepper, who has a habit of
yelling out loudly anything he has on his mind – and addressing all and
sundry as “Boy!”.
We first meet him hiding in his patrol car behind a
huge billboard which reads: Louisiana .. The Sportsman’s Paradise
Welcomes You – and a baddie shoots past at speed: “I got me a
regular Ben Hur down here, doin' 95 minimum...” It’s as great an opening line
as you could wish, the
equivalent of a British bobby’s: “And who do you think you are, Sir?
By a strange coincidence I had just read a Sunday Times
obituary on a Tom Mankiewicz, a name I wasn’t familiar with. It turns
out that Mankiewicz was a “script doctor”, a gifted individual who
invigorated the Bond films through the last days of Connery and the
early films of Roger Moore – a person you hire when the idea or story is
good, but there's something not quite right with the screenplay. The
work can involve simply tweaking the dialogue or a complete rewrite. It
is highly paid but often done without an on-screen acknowledgment –
which explain why his name was unfamiliar.
Live and Let Die has one of the best chase
scenes on film – the speedboat chase. It is not so much that the
chase itself is outstanding, what it has is amusing situations and
dialogue right through the chase. The Mankiewicz touch, obviously.
For example, when Sheriff JW catches up with the bad
boyo, a black guy, in the speeding car: “Spin around, boy – ten fingers on the fender
– legs apart ... you picked the wrong parish to haul ass through, boy.
Nobody cuts and runs on Sheriff J W Pepper. And it’s him speakin’, by
As he watches the boat chase get under way he utters this
immortal line to a fellow officer: "No! You listen to me, trooper boy.
We got us a swamp full of black Russians drivin' boats to beat the dams
out here." And then there's a boat that shoots straight out of the
water and over his head: "What the f---!" And the word is drowned out in
the roar of the boat.
One of the boats crashes into his car, just as two
policemen turn up in their car. The following dialogue unfolds...
Young Policeman: "That look like a boat stuck in the Sheriff's
car there, Eddie?"
Older Policeman: "Boy, where have you been all your life? That
there's one of them new car boats."
Sheriff J W Pepper (approaches the policemen's car and addresses
the older one): "By the powers invested in me by this badge, I hear by
do commandeer this here vehicle and all those persons within. And that
means you, smart ass!"
Wonderful. Then, at the end of the fast and furious and violent boat
chase, when Bond gracefully comes to a halt in his speedboat, passing a
notice that says Make boating a fun sport ... 3mph please –
Sheriff JW catches up with Bond...
Sheriff J W Pepper: “There’s the son of a bitch. I got ‘im
... What are you? Some kinda doomsday machine, boy? Well we got a cage
strong enough to hold animal like you – hear?” And all the while he
struggles to open a pair of handcuffs he's desperate to clip on Bond.
Felix Leiter (CIA): "Captain, would you enlighten the Sheriff,
Captain: "Yes Sir ... JW, let me have a word with you ... Listen,
JW, now this fellow is from London, England. He’s an Englishman workin’
in co-operation with our boys – sort of secret agent –“
Sheriff J W Pepper: ”Secret agent?!!! On who’s side??!”
smile at that line every time I think about it; it could apply to any of
the politicians who took us to war in faraway places with strange
sounding names. Definitely an honorary
smile of the day.
Saturday, August 7
In the heavyweight corner
THE following letter appeared in The Times a few days back...
Specific gravity: Sir, A GP referred a seriously obese 18-month
old girl to my paediatric outpatient clinic. I suggested to her mother
that she might be overweight for her age and height. Her mother replied:
“She’s not overweight, she’s just heavy.”
PATRICIA KENNY, London W8
There’s a glorious Welsh proverb: Gwyn y gwêl y frân ei chyw –
the crow sees her young one white. Meaning, a mother never sees any
faults in her child.
Popped into the Crazy Horsepower Saloon for a quick pint, and under
discussion was the frustration of trying to lose weight. I told the tale
of the lady paediatrician, as spotted in The Times letter.
Perched on his favourite bar stool in the corner is old www
himself, Chief Sitting Bull. He doesn’t say much, but when he peers at
you over his glasses, you begin to smile already: “She ain’t heavy,
she’s my baby.”
Gwyn y gwêl y frân ei chyw!
Friday, August 6
”THEY were very small, dirty-looking stones. When I’m used to seeing
diamonds, I’m used to seeing them shiny and in a box.” Supermodel
Naomi Campbell, who is alleged to have been given a “blood diamond” by
former Liberian leader Charles Taylor.
When I first caught the above on the radio, I remember thinking, why is
she dragging that small, dirty-looking Stone, Mick Jagger, into the
In subsequent reports she describes the stones as “kind
of dirty-looking pebbles” – which I guess is how the blessed Naomi sees
the rest of us: small, dirty-looking pebbles littering and loitering the
beach of humanity.
In her evidence at the war crimes trial of former
Liberian ruler Charles Taylor, Campbell kicks off with the following as
a startling starter for ten: “I didn’t really want to be here. I was
made to be here so obviously I’m just wanting to get this over with and
get on with my life. This is a big inconvenience for me.”
What had me smiling though was that a woman noted for
guarding her privacy like Fort Knox, declares in evidence that she was
sleeping after a party when she heard a knock on the door. Two
mysterious men handed her a small pouch, saying “a gift for you”, before
leaving without further explanation.
See, it sounds more Tommy Cooper than a war crimes
Unbelievably, she did not open the pouch until the next
morning and even then was not sure what was inside. When she realised
they were diamonds she gave the stones to a Jeremy Ratcliffe, who was
then head of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. The court heard the
charity has no record of any such gift but Campbell said she understood
Mr Ratcliffe was still in possession of the stones; indeed it now
appears that Ratcliffe had held on to the stones for the 13 years since,
and they have now been handed over to South African police, who are
Everything about this story is a mixture of Dad’s Army
and Blackadder; in fact it stinks so much that you just have to laugh at
the goings-on of the powerful and the rich and their celebrity hangers
Thursday, August 5
”A JUICY bit of gossip without a leg to stand on will reach the other
side of Dodgy City in the time it takes to press a few buttons on a
mobile.” The wonderfully wise and witty Chief Sitting Bull, resident
www at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.
Old Sitting Bull freely admitted that he had both
plagiarised and paraphrased the above. Originally: “A rumour without
a leg to stand on will get around some other way.” John Tudor.
The name John Tudor was unknown to me, so I Googled it, but sadly, given
the limited time I could spare to search, I couldn’t isolate who this
John Tudor is. I say “this” John Tudor ... there were quite a few of
them, with no obvious clues as to which one coined the original quote.
In the meantime I shall stick with Chief Sitting Bull’s version.
Wednesday, August 4
THIS early morning, as I passed the empty car park of CK’s
Supermarket in the centre of Llandeilo, I noticed a large banner
celebrating "Huw's" birthday. I smiled; I knew it wasn’t my birthday,
especially not my twenty-first!
turned the corner and arrived at Nice Price News to pick up the
morning paper – and there in the window, another birthday banner, also a
twenty-first. I took a photo, and then returned to capture the above
image of the first.
All very smiley. The last time I looked, Llandeilo had
a population of some 2,000 – in England the town would be classified a
village - so for two people to be celebrating the same high profile
birth-day was quite a thing.
It is one of life’s curious probabilities that in a
room of randomly chosen people there is a 99% probability that all you
need for a pair to share the same birthday is 57 people; and there’s a
50% probability with just 23 people. It would be fascinating to know the
probability of finding two people born on the very same day. (For a
detailed explanation, Google “Birthday problem - Wikipedia”:
ignore the reams of complex calculations, simply scroll down to the
“Notes” at the end, which are quite enlightening as to why you need
so few people to find someone going “Snap!”.
Now my childhood pal was Brian, who lived on the
neighbouring farm. But here’s the thing: we were born on the very same
day. That is, my "private" birthday, as opposed to my "official" one -
see "FIRST TIME HERE?"
alongside - more or less!
Be that as it may, Brian was actually born in Pembrokeshire, but his
family bought the farm next door when he was very young. Imagine that, a
child moves in next door, who was born on the very same day as you.
If that doesn’t generate a smile, nothing will.
Tuesday, August 3
Sausage and mash
GIVEN my somewhat offbeat lifestyle, together with my continuing search
for period music (1950s through to the 1980s) plus classic
middle-of-the-road songs from any old time, I spend most of my radio
listening hours on the internet, especially clicking on the BBC’s
Last week I caught a live slice of the
Jamie Owen and Louise Elliott morning show on Radio Wales.
They recently started The Secret Save The Welsh Sausage Society –
not so much the Last Rites Welsh Sausage Society, more the
Haleliwia Revival Welsh Sausage Society, a splendid wheeze to
promote the 5* excellence of the humble selsig (the Welsh
for sausage, also known as a sosej, look you). In fact last
Friday they held The Jamie & Louise Sausage Brunch at Cardiff,
where invited guests duly tucked in.
But here’s the thing: I heard them mention something
about a password for entry to the brunch, so I’ve just listened to the
Thursday edition of the show, where they invited listeners to suggest a
suitable password. Someone came up with the excellent Sue Saga – an
anagram of sausage.
This set the windmills of my mind whirling. As you’ve
doubtless noticed, Boris Johnson is already a regular guest on my smile
extravaganza, so I thought ... now what password would Bo-Jo come up
with ... thinks! ... I know, a combination of the classics with a bit of
"Cor blimey guvnah!" thrown in for good measure. But of course:
But here’s the really funny thing. Just before I got down to putting
this smile on record, I switched on the telly and, as is my wont, went
zap-a-dee-doo-da – and landed on one of the Comedy channels. What
eventually came on was M*A*S*H – can you believe that? Sausage
and M*A*S*H. You couldn’t make it up.
Hawkeye would be quite
chuffed, which is doubly smiley because whenever I listen to Jamie Owen
on his radio show he's forever delivering quips à la Captain Benjamin
Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce.
Monday, August 2
Die and let live
Just caught up with this delightful letter from last month’s Times
Never say die: Sir, You report that “Wales
will become the first part of Britain to take dying people’s organs
without their consent”. I hope you meant to say dead people. An aunt of
mine, who lived to 102, spent her last ten years dying, and loved every
minute of it.
ROBERT CHEGWIN, Cardiff
Another thought on the theme of death is Margaret Mitchell’s line from
her 1936 book, Gone With the Wind: “Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s
never any convenient time for any of them.”
And what was it Spike Milligan said? “I’m not afraid of
dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
In truth I guess from the moment we are born we spend every moment of
our lives dying, simply because nature has programmed us to do so. Amen.
Sunday, August 1
I have a cunning plan...
”LONDON is so far ahead of schedule for the 2012 Games that the
cunning thing to do would be to hold a snap Olympic Games a year early
and catch the world napping.” Boris Johnson, mayor of London,
outlines his plan to increase Britain’s medal haul.
Boris Baldrick Johnson was the star of my July smiles, so I guess he
fully deserves to kick off August with a converted smile under the
A word in your shell-like
THE ENGLISH language is an extraordinary bit of kit. Along its sighs and
grunts through time it has clocked up around a million words, mostly
because it has unhesitatingly jumped into bed with any old language that
has thrown a wink and a smile in its direction. In other words, she’s a
bit of a tart is our Miss English Language.
Currently, English has some 250,000 distinct words; the
typically educated native speaker of English knows around 20,000 word
families. Intriguingly though there is something called Special English,
a simplified version of English used by
Voice of America (akin to the BBC World Service),
and it uses a vocabulary of only 1500 words – and that does the
Some believe that The Sun newspaper here in the UK uses
only 1500 words; actually it uses some 7,000 words.
This all brings me to Sarah Palin, Republican Party pin-up and
former Alaska Governor. Now Sarah has a bit of a reputation
apropos her tangential deployment of the English language.
She set the Twittersphere alight recently when she
tweeted that “peaceful Muslims” should “refudiate” the mosque
being built in New York City near where the Twin Towers once
It would seem the word she was looking for was
“repudiate” – refuse to accept or ratify – although evidence has
since surfaced that she used the word in a previous televised
interview, but it passed back then without the sky falling in on
To quell the vicious Twitter ribbing, Palin unleashed
another tweet where she compares herself to the Bard of
Stratford-upon-Avon: ”Refudiate, misunderestimate … English
is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too.
Got to celebrate it.”
Hear, hear. I’m on Sarah’s side here. I guess what she
meant to say was this: that “peaceful Muslims” should “refuse to
put up with this mosque...“ – but the wonderful “refudiate”
Sarah Palin shoots from the lip
here’s a funny thing. We have 250,000 English words to call upon, and
still we get confused and led up the wrong path. For example, on
Radio Wales today the following traffic report advised a hold up
somewhere near Cardiff:
“Police are dealing with a shed load of building materials...”
What an inelegant way of putting it, my brain whispered in my
shell-like: I translated the "shed load" as “God, I had a shed load to
drink last night.” But of course it rapidly dawned on me that it was a
"shed load" as in “a lorry has dropped its load on the road by
accident”. Ho hum.
then in the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, a discussion about farming, and
someone mentioned the rural radio soap opera, The Archers, in
particular something heard during the week. Dai Version was part of the
chat. Now Dai has a habit of getting his words confused: “I’ll listen
out for that tomorrow – it’s the matinee edition I listen to.”
A couple of us glanced at each other and shared a sly
smile. Of course he meant the "omnibus" edition. But there again:
matinee ... a daytime performance of a play, concert, etc...
What a wonderfully sexy lady Miss English Language is. And she never
fails to make me smile.
Friday, July 30
Spot the Ball
PUSSYCAT the dog keeps a sharp eye on Quack the hen ... the
neighbourhood’s creature comforts never fail to make me smile and smile.
Pussycat is a delightfully eccentric dog – she has already made a star
appearance over on 'Postcards from my square mile' -
a safe pair of molars - as well
as featuring as one of my favourite things over on
Smiles A Day.
Like most dogs she has a thing about balls. When I return from
my morning walk I spend a little bit of time playing ball with
her – but today she was distracted when Quack wandered across in
front of her. She is mesmerised by the hens, and they often take
precedence over playing ball – but she retains possession of the
Pussycat will often round up the chicks, much as a
collie does a flock of sheep. A few years back, David and
Heather, who own Tuppy (as she is properly called), discovered
that she had brought one of the chickens into the utility room –
she hadn’t killed or physically harmed the hen, but she had
plucked the poor thing of most of its feathers.
These days she just heads ‘em off at the pass.
Thursday, July 29
There is nothin’ like a dame...
”IT was a bit of a lead brick around my neck.” Broadcaster Dame
Joan Bakewell, 77, English journalist and television presenter, on her
nickname as “the thinking man’s crumpet”.
When the mind plays tricks it's alarmingly ironic to
discover that you’ve subconsciously substituted a “p” for a “b”. Also,
it doesn’t help that Bakewell is associated with a traditional English
Wednesday, July 28
It’s my party (and I’ll go to prison if I have to)
Body Armour boss looted
$185m to pay for prostitutes and parties, court hears
irresistibly drawn to the above headline on The Telegraph's web site;
anyway, to continue the tale...
The former boss of the world’s biggest body armour
maker is accused of looting $185 million (£119 million) from the company
to finance a lifestyle that included a $10 million bat mitzvah party for
Prosecutors say David H Brooks used his company, DHB
Industries, as his own private bank account, paying for his stable of
race horses, pornography videos for his son, a $100,000 gem-encrusted US
flag belt buckle, plastic surgery for his wife and prostitutes for his
Why have I never worked for someone like this? Still, back to
He hired the rock band
Aerosmith and rapper 50 Cent to perform at his daughter’s bat mitzvah
and allowed her to use the company jet to fly to a Halloween party in
Wisconsin, his trial in Long Island, New York, has heard. Tom Petty and
the Eagles played at other parties for his children...
They really do live in a different world, these people. Actually, this
makes today’s XL Smile spot because of the reference to his
paying for prostitutes for his staff – and my wondering why I never had
a boss like that? As it happens, I have never paid for sex in my life,
and I have never had any interest in doing so. And thereby hangs a
A good many moons back I won a rather expensive Concorde holiday to the
States. One evening I was sat at the bar of a posh Miami hotel when I
struck up a conversation with a charming, attractive, all-American young
lady next to me. When we began to chat she immediately identified me as
Welsh, which left me rather gobsmacked. It turned out that she had spent
a year in Cardiff as an exchange student.
As we effortlessly chatted, she eventually said: “You
don’t know why I’m here, do you?” Well, I’m an innocent country boy, so
I never picked up the clues along the way – but it turns out I was being
chatted-up by a high class hooker; a clever girl who’d suddenly found
herself a single mum and had fallen upon hard times, pardon the
Anyway, I declined her services – her “fee” for the
night would have been way out of my league anyway ... remember, I was at
this expensive hotel because someone else was paying – I even made my
excuses regarding a “date” she suggested on her night off. Honest. I’ll
have to tell the whole story when I get down to writing the book!
Tuesday, July 27
”THERE is no more heart-warming sight than an attractive lady riding
a bicycle.” London Mayor Boris Johnson, making his third appearance
this month alone, underlines his love of a bird on a bike.
I dunno quite why, but in future every time I stand and
stare at a handsome lady riding a bicycle, I won’t be able to stop
myself smiling. Go Bo-Jo. Incidentally, the above image is a poster from
1896 for the Victor bicycle, which introduced hollow frames to America,
as seen in The Telegraph.
Monday, July 26
Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde
SMILES of the Day come in all sorts of guises; occasionally it’s
a rather baffled smile, which lingers long on the lips:
”Normal people, who can be good people but do bad things, are very
interesting to me, and people that never get a parking ticket or never
do a bad thing in their lives can be really dangerous.” Actress
Oh dear, I have never had a parking ticket, or any
other sort of motoring ticket come to that (touch wood, etc, etc) ...
but I was once booked for drinking out of hours at the Crazy Horse pub
(before it became the Crazy Horsepower Saloon), on a Sunday, when
opening times were very restrictive and cops had nothing better to do
than hide in the undergrowth outside pubs hoping to catch the landlord
or landlady serving drinks out of hours.
Phew! So I’m not such a really dangerous person after
all. Saved by the bell, so to speak.
THE RIVER TOWY is significant enough to act as a natural barrier to stop
farm animals crossing from one side to the other, an event which would
cause all sorts of problems should stock from farms either side of the
river mix. During really dry summers when the river runs low farmers put
electrified fences either side at vulnerable spots to avoid stock
Well, this year has been so dry the river is running low pretty much
everywhere and cattle find it very inviting; while the
torrential downpours of last week made a fleeting difference to
the level and flow of the river, as soon as the rain stopped it
rapidly returned to its previous low level.
Along this morning's walk I happen to catch a bunch of
Friesian heifers finding the lure of the green, green grass the
other side simply too much to bear – and off they go.
I sense a good photo opportunity – when suddenly one of
the heifers unexpectedly hits some deep water. That in itself
was no problem because cattle are strong swimmers – but the
heifer had such a shock as she sunk into the water that her tail
shot into the air. It was something I’d never seen before.
The tail stood bolt upright until she was safely
across, pictured alongside. A very smiley moment.
Saturday, July 24
Down memory lane
YESTERDAY'S smile was an exchange on the radio; today it’s the radio
again, but this time, some agreeably unexpected “music”. I returned from
my early-morning walk around 8.15 and turned on the radio. Brian
Mathews’ Sounds of the 60s is in full swing, and he includes two
tracks that make me smile.
One is Esther & Abi Ofarim performing One More Dance
– I haven’t heard it for so long I’d forgotten all about it. It’s very
amusing, about the lady who is urged by her lover to go home because her
husband is ill ... is worse ... is dead – but she responds each time
with “Oh, come my dear Franz, just one more dance” – until it’s
“Darling, go home, the will’s to be read” – to which she responds: “Oh,
no, no, my dear Franz, this is no time to dance / I must go weep for my
dear old man…” Great stuff, and well worth a listen on You Tube
if it rings a bell.
The other sound of the 60s that made me smile was Peter
Sellers & Sophia Loren and their parody of The Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me
Love. I had never heard this before – I’m more than familiar with
Sellers’ cover version of A Hard Day’s Night, delivered in the
style of Lawrence Olivier’s interpretation of Richard III. A pleasant
surprise, and again worth a visit to You Tube if like me you're
not familiar with it.
What the Sellers version of A
Hard Day’s Night reminds me of is Tony Blair at the funeral service
of Princess Diana when he gives a reading from the Bible (1 Corinthians
13: But when I became a man I put away childish things...).
That was the moment when I realised that here was a man
who wasn’t quite what he appeared to be, a man you shouldn’t trust
further than you could throw him. His delivery was so false, so
theatrical. He was trying to be something he was not.
I wondered if my memory was playing tricks, remembering
the events of the intervening years. So off to You Tube again:
Princess Diana’s Funeral Part 16 – Tony Blair & Elton John. No, my
mind was not playing tricks. His delivery sounds even more excruciating
at this distance. It really is Tony Blair in the style of Peter Sellers
in the style of Lawrence Olivier. Exceedingly smiley.
But how on
earth did such a man come to wield such power?
Friday, July 23
Bonnie and Clyde on the rampage
AWOKE just before 4.30, which is par for the course at this time of year
– I aim to be out of the cottage and off on my walk before the sun
rises. I switch on the bedside radio and Five Live’s Up All Night
is on, Dotun Adebayo is the host.
At this time every morning they have a
weather forecast, but first the show’s presenter and the forecaster
discuss extreme weather conditions in various parts of the world. This morning the weather
person is the cheery and effervescent Laura
Tobin. “What news of tropical storm Bonnie?” asks Dotun.
”Yes, it’s the second storm of the season,” confirms
Laura, “hence called Bonnie – but it’s not set to become a hurricane as
it heads for the Gulf of Mexico and the oil slick.”
”After Bonnie will the next one be
Laura laughs long and heartily, the joke having clearly
not entered her thoughts (nor mine) prior to this exchange.
”Well it goes A – B – C, and the names alternate
between male and female,” explains Dotun, “doesn’t it?”
”Yes,” agrees a still giggling Laura, “but I don’t
I still smile at the thought of hurricanes Bonnie and Clyde. I shall
watch out for the next hurricane off the production line with special
August): The third tropical storm of the season was duly christened
Colin. Eh? Bonnie & Colin?
Oh dear, I’d have thought that weather forecasters needed a little light
relief more than most of us.
Just as well then that Colin, which had threatened Bermuda, fell apart
as it passed the island, and has now been downgraded to just a Tropical
Wave that has no chance of developing into anything serious.
The day the teddy bear has his buffet
IT OFTEN happens that a treasured smile from a previous day morphs into
a brand new smile on a brand new day.
Last Monday I smiled at the latest Boris Johnson ‘state
of affairs’ report – to recap:
the media has been awash with rumours that the London Mayor has been
indulging in extracurricular activities not detailed in his manifesto,
or perhaps that should read 'extramarital activities not detailed in his
i.e. he has been a very naughty boy – a very, very naughty boy,
allegedly – indeed it could well be that our Boris is destined to become
the Genghis Khan of his generation, with a jumbo genetic fingerprint
extending way into the future, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I
mean, Mr Mayor?
Anyway, the morning gossip on the radio airwaves kicked
that celebrity something-or-other Keith Chegwin is under fire for
nicking – or plagiarising as posh people put it - other folk’s gags, for
example: Auntie Marge has been ill for so long we changed her name to ‘I
can’t believe she’s not better’. Ho, ho, ho!
Then there’s lots of excitement over Eamonn Holmes’ pioneering
legal battle to put a stop to the
BBC broadcasting jokes about his obesity.
Well now, after collecting my morning paper I was
Angel Pub & Hotel in Llandampness, and the regularly changing
notice on the advertising board outside the pub caught my eye,
Eamonn Holmes sprang immediately to mind, followed for
some reason by Boris Johnson. The Eamonn connection is
straightforward, but Boris?
Well now, he’s been variously described as a bumbling
toff, a Hooray Henry, a bouffanty blond buffoon (I enjoyed
that), a teddy bear – but of course while he may well be a toff
he’s not as daft as he looks, being proficient in five
languages, including Greek – and for an instant what I saw in
the Angel Hotel promotion was a table laden with Turkish belly
dancers and Greek ladies of letters, waiting for Boris to arrive
and to help himself to the meal on offer.
I know, I know, it’s lateral thinking gone doolally –
and very childish as well – but that’s what momentarily occupied
my thinking process before a passing bus nearly ran me over as I
focussed my little camera on the ad board.
Wednesday, July 21
Just like that
FLICKING through The Sunday Times
Culture magazine’s TV & radio guide – other listings are
available – something in the radio section catches my eye...
Tommy Cooper – Just Like This! (R2, 10pm)
”I heard that Skegness was very good for
rheumatism. So I went there and got it.” There are plenty of
magical clips in this polished, entertaining profile of the
fez-wearing comedy genius, pictured, who died on stage
(literally, for he collapsed from a heart attack on a live TV
show) in 1984.
I didn’t actually get to listen to the
programme as it was broadcast – hopefully the iPlayer will allow
me to catch up – but just seeing his picture, together with the
joke quoted above, made me smile and smile. He is one of those
rare characters – Les Dawson was another – who make us smile
simply by doing nothing.
It’s intriguing to learn from his biography (at least
as read on Wikipedia) that away from the limelight he was
acknowledged as being dreadfully mean (deep pockets, short
arms); worst, he was known for meanness of spirit. He also drank
to excess which led to occasional bad treatment of wife Gwen.
And I guess being in show business, infidelity does not come as
a huge surprise.
view of the above, rather dark side of his character, it’s somewhat
unexpected that Cooper’s comedy carried over into his private life. He
once went to buy a suit. Trying it on he asked if he could take it for a
walk round the block. Somewhat thrown, the shop assistant agreed, so
Cooper took a block of wood from the pocket of his own suit, placed it
on the floor and walked around it ... before saying: “Fine, I’ll take
He continued this at home, with wife Gwen reporting
frequent instances of rubber spiders, snakes that sprang out of tins and
books that burst into flames. A visitor recalled screams from the maid;
she had discovered a ‘severed hand’ in the laundry basket. Cooper was a
caring father and used his comedy to effect. There was the time his son
was caught having stolen a ball of string and pen-knife from a local
store. His wife was distraught but Cooper maintained silence until the
evening when he took his son aside and said, in fierce tones: “If you
ever, ever steal again ... get me a packet of my favourite cigars.” The
boy, apparently, never re-offended.
Tuesday, July 20
Right from wrong
JUST last Sunday, July 18, I told the smiley tale of Russian spy Anna
Chapman, in tandem with MI5’s Welsh mole at the University College of
Wales Aberystwyth, Dai I-Spy, during the Investiture of the Price of
Wales – and along the way I quoted the advice my agriculturalist father
gave me when I was just knee-high to appreciating the observational
power of a community where everybody knows everybody else, and take
great delight in spreading hot gossip:
“Never do anything in a field that you wouldn’t want your mother to know
Let’s face it, it is par for the course that we never
listen to our parents’ advice, rather we find out the hard way
compliments of our own disastrous experiences that they were – ho-hum –
right all along. This is why each generation repeat the mistakes of the
previous one. Acquired wisdom, sadly, is like a red-hot baton in a relay
race that gets dropped at every transfer, which rather explains why the
world is in such a mess. Imagine my delight then when I came upon this
“When I was old enough to realise my
father was right, I had a son who thought I was wrong.” American
actor, director, producer and author Henry Winkler, best known for his
role as “The Fonz” in the 1970s American sitcom Happy Days, but in
recent years for his work in helping those handicapped by dyslexia.
Monday, July 19
One plus one equals more than two
THEY seem the unlikeliest of soulmates*.
One was a fearsome warlord whose name became a byword for savagery and
seduction. The other is the most popular politician in Britain (outside
Liverpool and perhaps Bethnal Green), the most kissable waxwork in
London’s Madame Tussauds, and whose name is a byword for seduction
whether in English, Greek or Latin.
One is Genghis Khan, of whom a 2003 study suggested
that up to 16 million people worldwide – and 8% of Asian men – were
descended from the old smooth-talking rascal. The other is Alexander
Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, the Mayor of London, and rumoured to be having
his Genghis away whenever opportunity presents itself.
“Is Boris the father of this child? It’s
quite likely he hasn’t the faintest idea.”
So said a source close to Boris Johnson last week as
speculation deepened that the London mayor has been playing away
from home with Helen Macintyre, a wealthy socialite.
To quote Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times: “There is a
very simple way of telling. If it has white hair, little pink
eyes and is already flirting with the kid next door, it’s
probably Boris’s child. It’s entirely possible that one day
London will be overrun with such children, like thousands upon
thousands of right-wing albino mice."
Wel-i-jiw-jiw, Boris and Genghis, both more than the
sum of their parts.
I only need think of Boris – and I smile.
The art of modern seduction: Boing!
"Time for bed," said Zebedee Johnson
* 'Every day a day at school' spot: Classic
meaning of 'soulmates'
The concepts of soulmates arose from Greek mythology. According to the
story, our ancestors once had two heads and four arms. They did
something to offend a God so that God punished them by splitting them
down the middle, resulting in the creation of humans. As a punishment,
we are condemned to spend our lives searching for the other half, our
Sunday, July 18
I spy ... not just a pretty face
CAUGHT up with the following smiley letter from a few days back
in The Times...
house: Sir, I am disappointed that the spy scandal story is
over so quickly; I shall miss Anna Chapman smiling at me from
The Times at the breakfast table. Incidentally, who were the
George Medd, Twyford, Hants
Personally, the picture that always caught my eye in the papers
and on TV is the one alongside ... I’m not sure whether I’d call
that smiling, I think it’s more: “Is that a periscope in your
pocket or are you just glad to see me?”
Ah yes, the
days of wine and Rose’s: “Never do anything in a field that you wouldn’t
want your mother to know about,” my farmer father once warned me. How
true that advice turned out to be. No matter how secretively you go
about things in a Welsh community - any community come to that - someone
will see you, gossip about it, and it will get back to your mum.
Anyway, the above advice, together with the
aforementioned Pythonesque Spy Swap Shop Saga, takes me back to the
investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969, and the emergence of the
equally Pythonesque and hilarious Free Wales Army.
MI5 had a mole in that hotbed of Welsh nationalism, the University
College of Wales Aberystwyth, a lecturer by the name of David Ca – no,
let’s not go there, let’s just call him Dai, for folk have long memories
in these ‘ere parts. As it happens MI5 had a new chief overseeing the
investiture, so he decided to visit Aberystwyth to meet his mole. The
initial contact was arranged at the corner of the street where Dai
lived, and a suitable opening exchange agreed.
The boss arrives, and a face he recognises from his file comes to
meet him. “Good evening,” said the boss, “will you kindly point me in
the direction of the Coopers Arms – I believe you call it ‘Y Cwps’
A brief pause before a smile creases the mole’s face.
“People often mistake us – you need Dai I-Spy, No. 37.”
that a pistol in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?" was a
famous Mae West quip. She made this remark in February 1936, at the
railway station in Los Angeles upon her return from Chicago, when a Los
Angeles police officer was assigned to escort her home. She delivered
the line on film to
in her last movie,
I also like: “When
I'm good, I'm very good. When I'm bad, I'm better."
But best of all, this: "A hard man is good to find."
I wonder what quips Anna Chapman will share with the world when her
diaries are published.
A quickstep into a pair of Victor Silvester trousers
GAVIN HENSON: Welsh rugby player, ex-partner of Charlotte Church, zoo
celebrity, and now the talk on the street is of a new Fred Astaire on
the block (mind you, there’s also talk that Ann Widdecombe will be the
new Ginger Rogers, so we have to take these things with a pinch of
Henson was one of the most talented rugby players of
his generation (International Rugby Board Young Player of the Year,
2001), a wonderful artist at work, whether gliding above the park like a
majestic Red Kite, or simply hoofing the ball
up-field as if it had been shot from a cannon.
Sadly though, he was diverted by uncertainty and
celebrity. In fact all the signs were there from an early age.
When I first saw him what I remember was not his
natural-born footballing talent, but his astonishing hairstyle
... well, not so much the hairstyle (as spotted, alongside)
but rather the remarkable colours on display. Much of the time
he looked as if a seagull had shat on his head. Rather
unfortunate but extremely funny.
It was obvious that, despite his rugby talent, he was
desperate to draw even more attention to himself.
An outrageous hairstyle is like tattoos, excessive
make-up, an overload of jewellery, or indeed being a dedicated
follower of fashion. They are all classic signs of a lack of
Over the past few weeks
there was much talk of his return to
rugby, but that now looks more unrealistic than ever after reports that
he has agreed to be a contestant in the
BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing show, along with actresses Felicity Kendal
and Patsy Kensit, and of course the aforementioned former MP Anne
Widdecombe, the new Ginger out on the town.
Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in
high heels” - Faith Whittlesey)
Anyway, funny as the sight of Ann Widdecombe doing the
samba will doubtless be, my smile of the day goes to the Carolyn Hitt
column in the Western Mail, and in particular this headline:
parable of our times – Gav’s journey from side-step to two-step
A parting thought, remembering of course that Victor Silvester was a
famous dance band leader, popular from the 1930s through to the 1980s:
perhaps I should send Gav a pair of trousers from my youth, essential
clobber when visiting the local Saturday night dance, my Victor
Silvester trousers – bags of ballroom.
Friday, July 16
Never give a sucker an even break
THE TALE of psychic football expert Paul the Octopus rumbles on. A
Spanish zoo is gearing up to do whatever it takes to make Paul a
permanent fixture in one of their Madrid tanks. Why don’t they leave the
poor thing alone, to retire on the crest of a wave, and to meet the girl
of his dream – and hopefully get his legs over.
The shame is that his British counterpart and
lookalike, John Prescott, hasn’t done the same – retire, I mean, not get
his leg over, something which he has already done. Is it me, or did
anyone else notice that we never once saw Paul the Octopus and Baron
Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hull together, in the same shot? You think I
Now isn’t that remarkable? They could be twins. Not only that, but I bet
you never heard Baron Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hull admit that he ever
made a political error of judgment while in office, that all his
predictions came to pass - the buck...
Thursday, July 15
Come in No. 2, you gorgeous thing
I VISIT a Tesco store and decide to top-up with fuel. I go to pay: there
are two females on duty, one middle-age, the other a young girl,
probably about17. The youngster is free so I approach. “Which pump?”
I glance out the window: “Number 2 – God! The story of
The young girl laughs as I hand her the ready money.
“Do you have a club card?” she asks. I shake my head but stop myself
saying what I often say when asked this: 'As Grouch Marx once said, I
wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would accept me as a member.' The
girl hands me the receipt and I say “Thank you”, with a smile.
As I enter the car I look up and see the young girl
watching me – but as our eyes meet she instantly looks away. In the car
I again see her glance towards me; I also register her eyes following me
as I drive off the forecourt. I was intrigued.
Now I am not stupid enough to think that she fancied me
– apart from the obvious, technically I am old enough to be her
grandfather. But something had tickled her fancy, and I think it is
this: when we pass in front of those who sit at these checkouts all day
long we hardly ever say anything to brighten up their day, so when we do
it registers with them.
As someone who tends to say offbeat things to these
paid slaves, I’ve noticed that they do remember me and will occasionally
pass some sort of comment as soon as they recognise me.
The psychology of human interaction is indeed a
Wednesday, July 14
Bitten by the bug
LISTENING to Jamie Owen and Louise Elliott on their Radio Wales show
this morning, they had a Dr Peter Saul as a guest answering listeners’
questions on health problems. The good doctor kicked off proceedings
discussing the risks posed when holidaying abroad, in particular the
curious case of celebrity Cheryl Cole struck down with malaria following
a visit to Tanzania. Also Samantha Fox, singer, model and former Page 3
girl, suffering from rabies of all things, after being bitten by an
infected cat during a holiday in Thailand.
The doctor then gave this advice: “It’s a bad idea to
go petting dogs and cats when on holiday.”
Personally, I would have put it like this: When
visiting faraway places with strange sounding names it is a bad idea to
go petting not only dogs and cats but also pretty young things which
remind you of Sam Fox in her prime.
Tuesday, July 13
A Welshman’s home is his…
GEAR makes a speedy return to the Smile spot, compliments of the
repeat of last Sunday’s episode, the first run missed while watching
that dreadful World Cup Final. Normally I’d have been warned off by the promotional blurb announcing “a double dose
of celebrity” – God, I really, truly thought I'd finally weaned myself
off visiting the
celebrity zoo to watch the inmates at work, rest and play – but I went
with it anyway. It made my top smile because of six words uttered by
Jeremy Clarkson - more of that coming up shortly...
The first guest was Rubens Barrichello, 38, a Brazilian
Formula One racing driver of note who has competed in a record 297 Grand
Prix, currently driving for the Williams
stable. While the name was obviously familiar, I wouldn’t have recognised him if
he was standing next to me at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon bar – but he turned out
to be a most agreeable guest, a smashing sense of fun, and happy to
laugh at himself as Clarkson endlessly took the piss – and he put in the
fastest Formula One Star time in the old 'Reasonably Priced Car' (fastest of
eight), beating the Stig by just .1 of a second. I enjoyed
his child-like enthusiasm in wanting to know what his time was.
But the second guest, the star in the new 'Reasonably Priced
was a Rupert Grint, one of the younger stars of the Harry Potter series
- he played a 'wizard', apparently.
Never heard of him – but he was also a watchable guest – and he again
claimed the quickest time in this spot (fastest of 10). Amazing, two records in one
Anyway, Top Gear makes the Smile spot because of
something Clarkson said to Rupert Grint. He kept winding up the young
star regarding one of his fellow actors, or rather an actress called
Emily Watson, who he apparently shared a kiss
one of the Harry Potter films.
Grint played the thing rather bashfully
- "It was more a brother/sister relationship really" - but Clarkson
kept banging on and on about how he felt having to kiss the sexy actress:
“So you weren't nursing a semi?“
brought the hanger down – but I had no idea what the joke was -
remember, I'm but a simple country boy at heart.
So off to
Google I toddle, firstly to look up Emily Watson ... no, can't be her,
surely - very nice, but too old for our Rupert ... the actress in question was,
of course, Emma Watson (I double checked Top Gear on
iPlayer, and Clarkson really does say Emily Watson - yes, even
clever-dicks have their cock-ups!).
Alongside, Rupert and Emma doing what brothers and
sisters do all the time, obviously!
Then I went in search of that "nursing a semi" thingy -
and landed on Urban Dictionary ... Nursing a
semi: when a man gets half-excited, not a full boner, but he is nearly
there i.e. “Man, I was nursing a semi when that chic got out of the
Wel-i-jiw-jiw, every day a day at school, look you.
Yes, I have to admit, I’ve nursed a semi – as well as a little terrace –
oh, and a dirty great big castle, come to that.
Sadly, I’ve also found
myself nursing a ruin. That's life.
Monday, July 12
World Cup vuvuzela echo: A kind of hush
LISTENING to Sarah Kennedy’s Dawn Patrol on Radio 2, just after the 5.30
news bulletin, I was hugely amused to hear the Carpenters and their
soothing rendition of “There’s a kind of hush all over the world…”. No
witty or wise comment from our Sarah apropos the irony of the song in
the wake of the football, especially that truly dreadful World Cup Final
last night - I actually toddled off to bed after 90 minutes. Thanks but
Whatever, shortly after "There's a kind of hush", I set off on my regular
morning walk; as I leave the grounds of the cottage I pass a glorious
lime tree that is currently in full bloom and which exudes a most
powerful and seductive scent. But I stop, for what I can hear were those
rampant vuvuzelas again. But actually, the tree is alive with the sound
of music because all the local bees appear to be out on the early shift
stripping the tree of its abundant pollen.
Well, I assure you that those who described a stadium
awash with vuvuzelas in full blast as being akin to a swarm of bees
going berserk inside your head, were spot on. The juxtaposition is
uncanny, except that nature’s effort is that much softer and infinitely
final thought on the World Cup ... it has to be Paul the Octopus, the
only faultless superstar of the World Cup with his
remarkable run of predictions. Yes, the whole world is mad, except for
thee and me – and I’m not too sure about thee! Still, you’ve got to
smile. But what I like is the conspiracy theorists. On the radio today I
heard someone suggest that somehow or other, Paul was being manipulated
towards the correct flag.
But hang on. That means a human being was actually
making those astonishing predictions - on Paul's behalf. That’s even more
impressive than a bloody octopus making the call.
Sunday, July 11
Here’s lookin’ at you
ENJOYING a lunchtime pint at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, a few of us
reminisce about the larger than life characters and their endlessly
colourful tales that parade in front of us along the catwalk of life.
More often than not you need to know the characters to appreciate the
stories which surround them, but occasionally the image painted is so
wonderful that it doesn’t matter if you don’t personally know them.
So we recall Brian, approaching 60, comfortably well
off - still a child at heart, and nothing wrong with that - deciding to celebrate pal Jeff’s 60th birthday with
something a little special. Jeff is a successful farmer, contractor,
entrepreneur and all-round good egg. So Brian turns up on Jeff’s
doorstep with a little plastic bag and a goldfish in it – you know, the
sort of thing you could win at the funfair.
When you recall such stories – their ages is what makes
it so memorable – I appreciate how important it is to keep a record of
these wonderfully characterful people who populate our lives.
Saturday, July 10
A sure thing
PRIEST blesses four horses running in the first four races
nearby Ffos Las racecourse – and they all win. A local
heathen, hugely impressed by all of this, observes the priest doing
the business on a horse running in the fifth – so he plonks
his shirt on it.
Sadly, the horse “does a Devon Loch” and drops dead
along the home straight (remember jockey Dick Francis riding the
Queen Mother’s horse, Devon Loch, when it fell just short of the
winning line in the 1956 Grand National, alongside).
Furious, our punter challenges the priest: “Clearly you
are not a catholic,” responds a sympathetic but firm priest,
“otherwise you would have known the difference between a
blessing and the last rites.”
Friday, July 9
What a mouth, what a mouth, what a north and south
“IT’S LIKE you knock over a glass of water at your neighbour’s house and
the wife comes down and shoots the dog.”
Russell Brand describes the reaction to the incident when he and
Jonathan Ross made a questionable telephone call to actor Andrew Sachs,
and the sky duly fell in on both their heads.
Proof, if proof were needed, that the second greatest truth ever uttered
is this: Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make doolally.
And just to prove the point, here’s another quote
from Brand, on the challenges of married life now facing him: “You just can’t maraud
through life having sex with whoever you’d like – which is a shame.”
I smile and smile whenever he opens his mouth.
Thursday, July 8
Hold on tight
STUMBLED upon this Banksy image. He is so clever. And so very
smiley. It’s called Brace Yourself, and sums up
everything about the state of the world c2010. Enter the
Reaper, the black-cloaked, scythe-wielding
personification of death.
We all know exactly who he is and what he wants. He
comes for every person, hourglass in hand, waiting for the last
grain of sand to fall. When it does, he collects the soul with a
well-practiced cut of his razor-sharp blade.
Two things make me smile. We’re all familiar with the ceiling
grid at the dodgem ride, which sparks angrily just behind us as
we zoom about – and here Banksy has the scythe doing the job.
But most of all, I am hugely amused by the Grim Reaper wearing a
Brilliant is Banksy.
Wednesday, July 7
THERE'S a delightful connection between yesterday’s Smile
involving Lewis Hamilton’s flight to tax exiledom, when, in an interview
at that time, he was asked if he thought of himself as a sex symbol.
Hamilton replied: “What is a sex symbol? The guy with the curly hair and
the sex bomb song...?”
Interviewer: “Tom Jones?”
Hamilton: “Yes, exactly. Well, if he is a sex symbol,
then I don’t want to be one!”
Which brings me to today’s smile.
“When you open a couple of buttons and girls scream, you tend to open
another one.” Singer Tom Jones.
Sir Tom, Sir Tom, tell me about it. My experience articulated
precisely. The trouble is, when I go on to open the third button the
girls do indeed scream – but they also tend to slap me and shout “Keep
your hands to yourself you sex maniac!”.
In the next world I shall put my name down to return as a
celebrity. Then I’ll be able to open buttons all over the shop, without
any comeuppance. What is more, women will remove their knickers
and throw them at me as a starter for ten.
Oh happy days.
Tuesday, July 6
From non-dom to con-dom
“YOU don’t go into racing for the money. It’s a frightening burden at
times, though I’m getting used to it.” Lewis Hamilton, Formula One
Hm, which is why, I presume, when he hit the big time
back in 2007, he quit Britain to go into tax exile in Switzerland, and
at a stroke became a non-dom (non-domiciled, meaning, British citizens
with interest abroad do not pay tax on earnings made outside the United
Kingdom). He will avoid a tax bill which will run into tens of millions
over his career.
Having in early life taken everything this country has to offer -
healthcare, education, security, etc, etc – I love it when these people
dedicate their lives to giving back as little as they can get away with.
For non-dom, read con-dom, something handy to cover a little prick that
doesn’t want to share. The love of money does indeed do terrible things
to normally agreeable people.
Oh yes, he
claimed back in 2007 that living in the public eye forced him to move
abroad, where he would be able to safeguard his privacy.
Privacy? With his lifestyle? These celebs really
must think that the rest of us came up the Irish sea on pogo sticks.
Honestly! It really does make me laugh out loud.
Monday, July 5
Great opening line
I CATCH up with Mrs Mills from The Sunday Times’ Style magazine,
she who solves all your problems at the gentle stroke of a keyboard.
Here’s a Q & A that grabbed my undivided attention.
HER NAME IS TALLULAH
During a visit to my long-standing,
teetotal friend Barbara in the Scottish Highlands, she revealed
some disturbing facts while playing Three Things You Didn’t Know
About Me. Full of the local malt, she made several alarming
confessions. She’s always wanted to be called Tallulah. She
hasn’t paid her paper bill for 11 years. She left a stag’s head
with a taxidermist about five years ago, and hasn’t been back to
collect it. How do I remain friends with a middle-aged woman who
would prefer to be called Tallulah?
Yes, I can quite understand your worries.
The only Tallulah anyone has heard of is Ms Bankhead - pictured
- and she had a famously voracious sexual appetite. Directly
propositioned by Chico Marx with “I really want to f*** you,” she replied,
“And so you shall, you old-fashioned boy” (Chico was noted for
his crude, yet generally effective chat-up lines). In 2000 a set of
documents was finally declassified and revealed that she was
investigated by MI5 in the 1920s for engaging in “indecent and
unnatural acts” with several
schoolboys. So Barbara sounds like she has a fun side, but you
might want to keep your husband out of the way when she heads
I must say, Tallulah and Barbara sound
like the sort of girls who would go down a bomb with Old Shaggy
and Young Shagwell at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.
Sunday, July 4
“STUPID, sanctimonious dwarf.” What the health minister Simon Burns
muttered under his breath at Commons Speaker, John Bercow. He later
There’s something about Speaker Bercow that makes me
feel rather uncomfortable. He has never stepped on my toes, but for some
reason – call it an instinct for survival – he really rattles my cage
and gets right up my nose.
Anyway, I liked this follow-up quote to the “stupid,
sanctimonious dwarf” bit...
“What a cruel remark it was. We live in the same world, Bercow and me:
not big enough to play James Bond, not small enough to be adopted by
Madonna.” Diminutive comedian, Ronnie Corbett, sympathises with
Saturday, July 3
To do: write note, get arrested
WE BLOKES, apparently, have a fixation with making lists about this,
that and the other. So men, let this be a warning, writ large... A drug
dealer was arrested after police found 21g of cannabis plus a note he’d
written listing his aims: “Sell push bike, go on the rob, sell weed, get
a job.” Magistrates in Crawley, West Sussex, heard that Thomas Franks,
aged 19, was desperate for money to fix his PlayStation.
Friday, July 2
Heads I win, tails you loose
Stumbled upon this exceedingly smiley, Obama-inspired, American ad for
what I thought, at first glance, was a paper shredder. Brilliant.
Actually, it turns out that it’s the opposite: a tissue box. Or, if you
are so minded, a toilet paper dispenser.
Three wheels on my wagon
COMPLIMENTS of the iPlayer, caught up with the new series of Top
Gear on TV, a shop window for British culture and the nation’s
sense of the ridiculous. Jeremy Clarkson goes for a leisurely
and hilarious run in a three-wheeler, the wonderfully eccentric
Robin Reliant, which of course you only need a motor cycle
licence to drive.
But with Clarkson at the wheel, surprise, surprise,
things go spectacularly wrong: he duly toppled it while taking a
corner too fast, just outside Rotherham – and several other
places besides, including a cricket ground in front of an
outraged Dickie Bird (as pictured, alongside).
Mind you, I'd be very surprised that it really was
Clarkson at the wheel as the Reliants kept toppling
spectacularly across our screens. I mean, think of the insurance
Be that as it may, Top Gear’s ultra-smiley feature took me back
to the Seventies and a couple of local characters, both having
now sadly left the planet.
Big Jack, a 6ft-something, 20-stone-plus carpenter, owned a Reliant, and
every time he clambered aboard you really did fear that the whole kit
and caboodle would topple over without him ever moving from the spot.
So Big Jack calls at a petrol station where car
salesman and funny man Brian Rees was covering for his wife, who
normally looked after the shop. As the fuel flowed (no self-fuelling
back then), Brian decided to invoke a popular song of the time. “Do you
feel totally safe with just three wheels on your wagon?” he casually
enquired, knowing he was treading on quicksand. “Wotcha mean?” responded
a surly Big Jack. “Well, if the Cherokees were after me I’d be dead
worried that if I took a corner a bit too fast I’d tip over – and I’d be
scalped while still singing a happy song.”
Big Jack pulled himself up to his full height: “Look,
if three wheels are good enough for Concorde then that's good enough for
You are here, way out west,
aka Dodgy City
FIRST TIME HERE?
c.99 seconds walking in my moccasins:
was born on the sunny side of a Welsh hillside, at a place I
affectionately call Big Slopes, on the 26th and the 28th
of November, in the Year of the Horse......
on LOOK YOU......
2010 (Jan to Jun)
Sep to Dec '07
June to Aug '07
March to May '07
As it was in the beginning:
ST DAVID'S DAY, 2007
Here's lookin' at you
Smiles A Day
What A Gas
Smiles A Day