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THOUGHT FOR LIFE: every day is a day at school [School motto: Gwell helpu na hindro ~ "If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain."]

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A subtle 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 ‘Everyday a 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.

As 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.
     But i
t's 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 a jump.

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 too long?

“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.”

Quotes ‘R’ Them indeed.

Wednesday, December 29
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 yours.
     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!

By 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 especially).
     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.”

As 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 seems, was 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 since 1986.)

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 Telegraph...

The personalities of Cameron and Clegg cannot cement a cracked coalition
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?”
Alistair Cooke, London SW1

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.

Boxing Day
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.

I 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.

Oh 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 posh.

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.

Christmas Day
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 magnificent bird.
     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.

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye...
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 hereabouts.

Christmas Eve
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 slebs).
     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.

He 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...

He 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.

Wednesday, December 22
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 intrigued by...

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 Wonderland...
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 out...

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 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 chest.)

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 dirty macs.
     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 lining?”

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 scratch.
     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 observe.
     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
A 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 watch.
     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.

If 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.

As 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... smile ...

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 situation.
     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 Donne (1573-1631).
     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 testifies.
     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 last act
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 the cup?”
     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.”

Wednesday, December 15
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.
     Caveat emptor.

It 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 expressions.
     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 machine gun; it is well known for its use by the Union forces during 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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbNc7GzRSqM&feature=related

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
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...


or search...
Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus - Must See! (by Alphabet Photography)

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 “dis-I-like”.
     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, hear!

Going back to the original “Coo-ee!”, and the “Yahoo! Funniest Christmas viral videos”, I particularly enjoyed The 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 neatly.

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 background.
     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 studying.”
     “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 recommend?”
     Isn’t that memorable? I do hope Mr Willington closed the file.

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 annual conversation?
     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 Cheltenham:
Since the 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 beneath.

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 Russian politicians, depicted in glorious babushka form...

                 Ten Red Russians...: Vladimir Putin, Boris Yeltsin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Leonid Brezhnev, Nikita Khrushchev,
 Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, Nicholas II, Catherine the Great and Peter 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
28 April 2004...
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 Chechnya 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 bunged the 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 round?

I 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 my instinct...”

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.

He was 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 in print
     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 board...
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 instinct.”
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? Or what?

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.
     Bootiful, Terry.

“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 fire”.

Finally, and having just dabbled with a lady dabbling in American politics, a couple of quite wonderful quotes from one of our very own dabblers, namely 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
Who’s counting?

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 girls.”
     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 books.
     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 phantasmagoria thingy?
     Something to do with not having lived life in the proper order 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.

Be 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 Charioteer.
     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 credit’s due.

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 jewellery.”
     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…

                                      Simon 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 talking.
     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:
Jesus, 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?
Simon 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...

     As I’ve 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 instant.
     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 ordinary.

So watch it, Simon ... I’d proceed with great caution. And don’t forget your Green Cross Code when crossing the road.

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 Secretary.
     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 pro-hunting.
     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 course”.)
     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!

I 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 thing.
     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 flattery.
     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 cheddargeorge:
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
Book end

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 this...

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 boring now?
Barry Denton-MacLennan, Stevenage, Hertfordshire

If 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 I’m reading.
     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).

So 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 are spot-on.
     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 need to

Mr Bed, or Black Beauty, the stallion I encounter along my morning walk - 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 boat?”
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 chest.)

Here’s another letter from the Telegraph.
Is you is or is you ain’t?: 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 today...

“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 called whiff-whaff.
     “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.”

He 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 Brits...

 ('(...(...(..(.( ¯~/'..')¬­
   '\................ _./´¬­

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 gossiping.

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 from his Thursday column, again in The Times – for the simple reason that he explains the whole delightful WikiLeaks nonsense much better than I ever could.

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 did suggest.
     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 true.

     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 on YouTube...

                                                            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 programme).

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 "stupid,

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?”

I 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 response...

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 those observations.
     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

As 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

No doubt about it, a joyous existence truly is a tight pair of genes: happiness and contentment being that pair. 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 appeared.
     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 DNA 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
bird 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 smiley

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 easily.
     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 particular hurry.

I 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 slightly tongue-in-cheek.
     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 good pun.

Unsurprisingly, the papers are full of quotes about the forthcoming wedding. Here’s a few spotted in today’s Western Mail...

“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 ‘she’?
     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 Detective Agency.)

     It’s another universe out there - in the realms.

“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 plucker’s son,
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 flying visit.
     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.

I 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 words.

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 Hess...
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 vajazzling.
     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 Q-spot...
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 it.

I 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 school.

Saturday, November 20
Larger than life

flat cap 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
landed on 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 intrigues.
     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 descendants.

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 new trend:
‘Dai’ hats, 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

Arsenal 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 hours later.
     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 Railway’*.
     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 story.
     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 the Telegraph.

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 new level.
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.
Jack Belfitt,
Solihull, Warwickshire

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...
Yours etc: 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 effort...
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 on the
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 walk.
     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.
     Tonight, 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 confirmation of their marriage: “They make a lovely couple, and we wish them every happiness.”
     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 Wikipedia:
Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmeralda Dickson Wright (born 28 June 1947) is an English celebrity chef, television personality, businesswoman and formerly a barrister, who is best known as one half, along with Jennifer Paterson, of the Two Fat Ladies. Having trained as a lawyer, Dickson Wright is the youngest woman ever to be called to the Bar.

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 the Trilby 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.

Firstly, from TV reviewer Nancy Banks-Smith in The Guardian back in May of 2008...
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 Wright’s autobiography...
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.”

To read more great stuff similar to the above, click the link at the end of today's smile.

I 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 anyway.

Ah 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 my share.

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!

Remembrance Sunday, November 14
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 “1940”.
     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 gene pools.
     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.

Harriet 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 in action...
     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 approved.
     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 reflect.

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 single one.

It 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 month

“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 ‘Fascist’.
     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 Remembrance Day.

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 Wootton Bassett.

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
I 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 phenomenon anthelion.
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 discuss.
     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. “Cwmannches!”

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 poison.
     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
The Mousetrap
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 internet world.
     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.

It 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 for that.
     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 day: 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 greatest 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...

Book 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

A 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:
“The 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 climate change:
Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get. Brilliant.
     Oh yes,
“Talk only 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.

As 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 smile ...

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 quote.
     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, 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 MacGregor:
She 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 smile.

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 eye...

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 following headline...

Top 10 hideous special edition cars

The above line was accompanied by the picture featured here ...

and the 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.

VW Polo Harlequin: 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 day...

PS: Heard this on the radio today: Guido Fawkes is the only person ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions.
      Boom! Boom!

Thursday, November 4
Trunk call

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 Johan Opperman's photograph in grey scale to best set alongside the monochrome illustration.
     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 the Telegraph...

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...

10 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 waves.
     Lovers experiencing one of these massive orgasms 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 orgasms.

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 yesterday...

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 sporting?
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.
Ken Grimrod-Smythe, Ingbirchworth, South Yorkshire

How wonderful is that? No wonder I go to bed with a smile on my face. Who needs 10 tricks to a bigger orgasm?

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 the man-of-the-match.
     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 maintenance”.

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 high maintenance.

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 total sense.
     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
nanaloa2001 (‘she’ sounds as if she should be my grandmother from Hawaii)...

All hail Bale,
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...

Blairs preserving gardens: 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, London, W1

We 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 again, he/she 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 Éire.

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 won’t bite.”
     “No that’s okay, I’ll stay here in the back, out of the way.”
     “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...

Irish bard? You’re taking the mick
A 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, Sheikh Spear.

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 exceptionally rare 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 headline:
RHODRI MORGAN – Mr Wales writes exclusively for the Western Mail

Today, one section of his column was headed...

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 English Club.
     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. Why?

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 intelligent life.
     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 People

                                                                                                                                   (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 handbag.

Thursday, October 28
Thanks for the mammaries
Of things I can’t forget...

Spotted this sporting headline online:
Greatest ever pitch invaders

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 Freudian slip...

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.
I 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 Tracey.

“Never put bananas in the fridge.” Musician Bryan Ferry, on the most important lesson life had taught him.
I 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...

A terrible 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 Charles Moore

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 Spectator.
     What drew me was the headline
it's 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 here...

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 Moore.
     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.

Following on 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 moderator does.

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 morning, look 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 walk through.
     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.

A 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...

I 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 his autobiography:
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 tour”.
     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 Newport 684210.”
     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 wife?”

Back to The Sunday Times: What was the funniest moment?
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 days.
     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 speaking Welsh.”

Memorable characters, classic stories, mega smiles.

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 to 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.
As I’ve mentioned in previous dispatches, the BBC’s 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.
     And it’s 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 musical experience.
     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 War.’”
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 everything.

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 a “hedonist”.

I 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.

So 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 top...

“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 now split.

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 my instinct...”

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, wallop.
     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 dog.

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 bloke?
     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 this world.

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 memoirs.
     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 not have.
     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”.
As 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 vaguely/vulgarly similar.
     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 satisfaction.
     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.”

As 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 revolution.

Oh yes, I found myself wondering: how would Michael McIntyre fare as a panellist on Have I Got News For You? It would make exceedingly interesting viewing.

Saturday, October 16
Last word

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 for gonorrhoea).
     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 speeding bus? “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 cemetery:
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 years.

* 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 superior species?

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?

Dear Lowri

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 used.
     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.
     Yours affectionately,

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 husband.
Hilda Garfield, Hertfordshire

If I’d read that at the beginning of the week, I’d have responded thus...

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.

Ah 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...

A 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...

I 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 lady.
     “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...”

Point of order...
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 said...

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 lane.
     I have no idea why, but I Googled ‘bypass’ – and up came Wikipedia with the following...

In 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.

In 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!

An 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 back yard.
     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

I 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.

Sunday, 10/10/10
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...

A follow up to yesterday’s smile about the division between cat people and dog people.

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 person.
     “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.”
Elisabeth Everitt, 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 400 Smiles A Day site.
     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 horse racing.
     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?”
     “Frankie Dettori...”

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 say.

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 face.
     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 point.

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

 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 Saloon.
     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.

Oh 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 formed?”

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 the headline...
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 and

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 contest concluded.
     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 rather envious.
     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 his son.
     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.”

PS. If 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: Send reinforcements, we're going to advance, magically morphed into Send 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 ceremony
Intriguingly many golfers abandon the European flag for their own national flags

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 two anthems.
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 yer face.
     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 newspapers.

”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 me.
     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 submitted.
     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 Telegraph.

I want to be alone: SIR – Would Greta Garbo be as famous if she had said, “Give me some space!”?
Alan Bird,
Enfield, Middlesex

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,
London SW17

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 child. Oh, he is dead well,” he replied.
Richard George, Halesowen,
West Midlands

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
Italy. 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 Wales.
     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 Bunny.
     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 more.
     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 this serialisation).
     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.
me 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.

Now 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 reader along.
     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
Towy 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 encountered before. 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 smile.


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 pitch-perfect parodies
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.

It 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
Jordan 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 moral indignation.

I 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 Saloon.
     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, transliteration:
the spelling of a word in one language with the alphabet of another language i.e. celebrity speak.
     Okay, normal service resumed...

A 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 inside.”

I 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 £18.99 pp404).

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 brother
Labour has a voting system which only lets voters avoid what they most dislike

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 enthusiastically.
     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.

But 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 forearmed.

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 rescue.
     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
The 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 habitable.

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 a professional?
     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
H2O 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 ~ Dylan Thomas

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 it

with one 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 powers...

Hm. 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 country.

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 ... ‘ere what ‘ave you ‘ad in yer ‘and?
Ave 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 yer face...
     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:
“Ed – 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 on
smile 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 celebrity again.
     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
UK is 79, so most of us can expect to complete two-thirds of the Human Orbital.
     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.

I 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 Groucho 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.

At times like this I wish I lived in Bangkok 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 push.
     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 Judy fame.
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 watching 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 ... so 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.”
Arthur Shandy,

“Can I get it over the counter? (You can if you take two.)”
Norbert Snotbucket,

Oh 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.”
Stephen Smith,
Jalon, Spain

But here’s my favourite – remember, the store is Tesco...
”Well ... every little helps, I suppose...”
Rachel, Lancs

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 course, ‘The 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 & Trap Saloon?

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. Whatever, I'm 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 unopened.’”
     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 sake, bless.

Wednesday, September 22
A quick paso doble around Widdecombe fair

YESTERDAY I featured that delightfully smiley ‘Uncle Tom Cobley and all’ cartoon ...
     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
Smile 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 virgin.

     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 character.
     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 International),
Durex being a portmanteau word of “Durability, Reliability, and 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 episode.
     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 wank.”

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 Christ’s sakes.
     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 90/10 sexuality. The quote somehow rang a bell, so I went back through some previous newspapers ... bingo!

”People 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 with 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 attention.
     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 Head’ by 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 item.
     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.
     What makes Juicy Jeni so different is that, far from being a downtrodden, drug-addled member of the underclass with no prospects, she is a delightful 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 weeks...

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
Roo United

You really don’t need to have picked up any of the newspapers. It’s all there, in the headlines. I smiled at the
“ugly tax” 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 Hey Wayne...

”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 have understood.

“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.” Actor Bob Hoskins.
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 positive 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 outrider...

Sunday, September 19
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. (
The 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 baddie, “I’ll 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, really. Bo-ring!
     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 hero.
However, I quickly came to realise that once they removed their masks, these heroes were very ordinary.
Yours truly of
Dodgy City, Way out West.

Now 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, Le 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. What I 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 moment.
     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.    

Saturday, September 18
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 intelligence.

     So what do you suppose the two are saying to each other in the picture alongside?
Blair: “We are both men of God, Gordo, and we both speak in tongues.”
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 Horsepower Saloon?

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 entry reads...
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 click...

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 fresh...”

     We share the joke, compliments of my spectacular stupidity. My gaff is 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 thing.
     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.

Thursday, September 16
A very imperial tongue

DESPITE 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 2011...



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: The longest tongue on a dog measures 11.43cm (4.5in) and belongs to Puggy, a male Pekingese.
    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 metric at school, 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 less.
     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 after)!

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!”?

Wednesday, September 15
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 shags.
     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 Batman film...
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 pudding club.

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, mesmerised...
     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 reaction).
     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 remarkable job.
     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.

Tuesday, September 14
”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 District.
     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 Jeremy Clarkson.”
     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.

Monday, September 13
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 reporter

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 face.
     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.

Sunday, September 12

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 waitresses.
     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 red?”

Agreeable as the evening was, it’s little things like that which make an occasion memorable.

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. Meow!
     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!

Steak Ferrari, please: well done, but not burnt to a cinder - and don't forget the sauce

Anyway, the letter...
Grate 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.

Saturday, September 11
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 to flood.
     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 mesmerised.
     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 field.
     All in all, a non-smiley little episode, and one I found impossible to retell in conversation. An amber light indeed.

Friday, September 10
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 letter...

Conkers 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 France.
     Perhaps the time is ripe for another invasion by William the Conkerer!

Next, I land on the newspaper’s ‘They said what?’ column, which daily confirms the nation’s – indeed the world’s – fragile mental state. From conkers to bonkers.

“Personally, I liked Queer Blue Water, 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.
And this makes the number two quote of the day?

“When you punch people in the face for a living, nothing makes you nervous.” 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 the punch.

“This is 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.

“Miss Stratosphere.” Eamonn Holmes's derogatory description of rival TV presenter Christine Bleakley.
    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.

Thursday, September 9
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 Boris Johnson

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 indirect hint.
     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 letter...

Stainless character
: 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!

Wednesday, September 8
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 reasonable 65p.
     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 day.

Tuesday, September 7
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 wheels...

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.
In 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...
Table for six, garçon – bring it round to my place and don't hang about!

Monday, September 6
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 of dying.

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 parlour.
     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 Tube.)
     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.

Sunday, September 5
September Song

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 Stones...
     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 (Elvis).
     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 Song.
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 backings.
     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 pop
ular songs were written in the first half of the last century?

Saturday, September 4
To not catch a thief
SMILES’ 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 precious seconds...

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 “Zip it, guys!” 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 out 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 here the above inside info ... but concluded that no one who visits my scrapbook is likely to be inspired to take up burglary ... fingers crossed!

Friday, September 3
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 certain edge.

* 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? – an
MRI scan...!”
     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 Valleys 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 hours later.

Thursday, September 2

THE COMEDIAN 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 any...

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 on.
     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?

“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.” Yes of course, it’s value-for-money Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.

I used 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?”

Wednesday, September 1
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 huge solar
panels are deployed differently in orbit; also, the
Shuttle can be seen docked - bottom, middle

web site – and read the following...

                                                   The targets 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 oblique view
that shows the eye (just left of centre) of Hurricane Earl.
A Russian Soyuz vehicle is docked to the station (foreground).


Tuesday, August 31
Jingle Bells

“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.
Iris Hughes,
London, SW15

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
Russia; 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...

If 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 the French.

Sunday, August 29
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 included.
     As anyone who has visited
400 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 expected 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 originally supposed.
     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 behind you!”
     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 read on...
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 of seduction.

See 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 Marr.

Get 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 and radio.
     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 Modern Life.
     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 hours.


06:00  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...

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.

10:00  Then I peruse the morning paper over a coffee. I stumble upon this eye-catching headline:
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...

I 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 orfe?)
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 minnow.

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 well learnt.
     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, one stone.”
     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
“Postcards” corner – click smile ...

Tuesday, August 24
"First they got nukes. Next level: Twitter account!"
Tweeter Mikaël Hardy
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
A misspelt youth
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 for me.
     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 from Barry.
     “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 world

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 thing?

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 before.
     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 revealing.
     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 Princess.
     Ah well, the impossible dream is over – but I will keep on smiling for ever more and a day...

PS: As 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 continue...

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
400 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: “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch!” (– just for the record, it's pronounced Llan-vire-pooll-guin-gill-go-ger-ich-chwurn-drob-ooll-llantus-ilio-gogo-goch – 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 remarkable ease.
     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 show.
     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 about...
     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 guy”.
     The Labour Party later gave back a £1m donation from Mr Ecclestone, received before the decision on tobacco advertising had been made.
     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* as a 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 this subtitle...

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 of fun.
     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 me smile.
     Funnily enough, I abandoned the show some 18 months ago, when Chiles had that brouhaha with Carol Thatcher. Thatcher used the

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 rescued.
     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 bookie.
     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 The Whistler.

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 Madrid.
     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 the sofa?
     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 plant.
     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 with it.
     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...

So 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 one male”.
     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 disappointed.
     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.

The 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.
     “Puerto Rico.”
     “Very nice.”
     “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 make mad.

PS: 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. Phew!

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...

It 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 man.
     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 mile.

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 Botox.

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 up –“
     ”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 expressions...”

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 place.

20/08/2010: 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? Stirling Moss?”
     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 the 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, please."
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??!”

I 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.”

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
Stone me

”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 case?
     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 trial.
     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 investigating.
     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 on.

Thursday, August 5
Quote, unquote

”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!

I 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 iPlayer.
     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: et2bangers.

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 newspaper...
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.

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 posts.

Saturday, July 31
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

the Voice of America (akin to the BBC World Service), and it uses a vocabulary of only 1500 words – and that does the trick.
     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 stood.
     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 her.
     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” effortlessly slipped

Sarah Palin shoots from the lip

out instead. Great word.

But 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 BBC 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.

And 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
400 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 ball anyway.
     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 tart.

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

I WAS 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 his daughter.
     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 staff...

Why have I never worked for someone like this? Still, back to business...

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 tale...

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 expression.
     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
Daisy, Daisy...

”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 Emily Mortimer.
     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.

Sunday, July 25

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 mixing.
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
Clyde?” enquires Dotun.
     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 know...”

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 interest.

ADDENDUM (9 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.

Thursday, July 22
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 wedding vows' 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 off
with news 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 passing the
Angel Pub & Hotel in Llandampness, and the regularly changing notice on the advertising board outside the pub caught my eye, pictured alongside.
     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.

In 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 it.”
     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 about.”
     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 smiley quote:
“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 soulmates.

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...
Russia 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 other nine?
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’ around here?”.
     A brief pause before a smile creases the mole’s face. “People often mistake us – you need Dai I-Spy, No. 37.”

*  "Is 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 George Hamilton in her last movie, Sextette (1978).

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.

Saturday, July 17
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 spin).
     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 self-esteem.

     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.
“Remember, 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:
A 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 jest?

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 my life.”
     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 fascinating subject.

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…

TOP 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 Car', 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 episode.
     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

with in 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?“
     This 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 pool”.
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 no thanks.
     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 more agreeable.

One 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

A PRIEST blesses four horses running in the first four races
at the 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.”
Celebrity 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 Grim 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 seat-belt.
Brilliant is Banksy.

Wednesday, July 7
Sex bomb

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 driver.
     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.


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 Eton 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 south.

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
Short shrift

“STUPID, sanctimonious dwarf.” What the health minister Simon Burns muttered under his breath at Commons Speaker, John Bercow. He later apologised.
     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 Bercow.

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.

Thursday July 1
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 liability...

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 me.”


You are here, way out west,
at Llandeilo

aka Llandampness
aka Dodgy City


c.99 seconds walking in my moccasins:
  I 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......


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400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 02/10/2010

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400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 17/05/2009

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