LOOK YOU ~ a rolling scrapbook of life, the universe and nearly everything...
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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Updated: 15/08/2011

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400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 03/04/2011

VIEWING NOTE: Prepared on screen resolution 1280 by 720 pixels
♫♫♫ Happy birthday to Look You... ♫♫♫
Yes, 365 entries later, and still smiling, whether at, or with, something old, something new, something borrowed - and just occasionally, something blue ... in fact, my Smile of the Day has taken on a life of its own.
s been great fun along the way, but over the coming months I shall be working on a little project, and time will be at a premium. So I will mostly be smiling at the sort of moments that have consistently amused me over the past year, namely the delightfully doolally quotes, whether celebrity or otherwise, which daily tumble out of the media machine.
     So here we go, Year Two...
Everyday a Smile of the Day

Friday, September 30, 2011
It’s not the men in your life that matters, but the life in your men

Mae West  (1893-1980)
CASUALLY listening to Radio Wales yesterday morning, Louise Elliott and Jamie Owen were discussing male-female relationships, especially the sexual aspect. I was sort of half-listening – my hunter-seducer days having been way-laid somewhere in my wake.
     However, Louise read out an e-mail from a listener – which made me half-smile because I wasn’t sure whether I’d heard right or not.
     This is where the BBC’s iPlayer comes into its own. This morning, I listened again to that particular segment of the programme. So this is what Louise said...
“This is from Jim in Llanelli: ‘The best description I’ve heard for a relationship is thinking of it as an old coal fire. You use paper and sticks to light it, then it ignites and crackles and fires – and sparks fly ... then after a while the flames die down – but don’t give up, just wait there because the fire will get warmer and warmer and give off a lovely warm glow...’.”

Yes, I smiled once more; but I’ll tell you what, even hearing
it a second time, I still waited for something rather double

entendre-ish to come out, and which I think the piece begs for.
     This is what I was expecting...

“You use paper and sticks to light it, then it ignites and crackles and fires - and sparks fly ... then after a while the flames die down – but don’t give up, just get your poker out and give it a good old poke and you’ll have a roaring fire going again in no time at all...”

I know, it’s my one-track mind, and yes, it’s a dirt track. But you have to admit, that’s what the message was longing for.
     But it’s not just me. Louise mentioned a well known bumper sticker which has now surfaced as a T-shirt - see alongside...

         The dogs bark and the caravan moves on...

Talking of snap, crackle and pop...
“I’ve decided I want three lovers. The first would be enormously rich with one foot in the grave, the other on a banana skin. The second would be someone who’s passionate about something – science, painting, anything. I don’t care. Passion is so sexy. And finally I want someone who comes to see me twice a week. I don’t even have to know his name.” Liza Minnelli, 65, American actress and singer.
Yup, that definitely deserves a smile of the day spot. Mind you, I’d be rather wary of number three, the gigolo – if I were Liza (with a Zee), I think I’d want to know where he’s previously been dabbling and poking his fingers, if you’ll pardon the expression.
     I’m reminded of Dave Lee Roth’s delightfully doolally Just A Gigolo:
♫♫♫ I’m just a gigolo, and everywhere I go, the people know the game I’m playing... ♫♫♫

Thursday, September 29
All colours will agree in the dark

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
TODAY, I was asked the following by a wickedly smiling 10-year-old ... I should have sensed the ambush:
There are three houses. One is red, one is blue and one is white. If the red house is to the right of the house in the middle and the blue house is to the left of the house in the middle, where is the white house?”
     I have to admit I was caught well out of my crease. Stick around...
Mention of colours took me to my diary proper, and a recent series of letters spotted in the Telegraph, which now deserve an airing here...

Motoring menagerie
SIR – A friend once had an old fawn-coloured VW which was showing its age, so he decided to paint it. The only paint available was grey.
     Being an honest citizen he was aware he had to notify the authorities. Checking his log book he noticed the declared colour was “antelope”, so he wrote informing them that the colour was now “elephant”.
Peter Milloy, Buckden, Cambridgeshire

SIR – In the 1990s, one of the colours Ford used for the Escort Cosworth was called “Mallard Green”. The project engineers referred to it as “British Racing Duck”.
Jonathan Robson, Milborne Port, Somerset

Right, every day a day at school spot: British racing green or BRG, a colour similar to Brunswick green, hunter green, forest green or moss green, takes its name from the green international motor racing colour of Britain (before racing cars became whiz-by billboards).

Mugful of colours
SIR – Yesterday, a brown office chair was delivered to my home. On inspecting the packaging, I found it was “magic cocoa”.
It sits well with my “cappuccino” Skoda.
Mike Jones, London E4

Right, back to the problem at the top – read carefully now: There are three houses. One is red, one is blue and one is white. If the red house is to the right of the house in the middle and the blue house is to the left of the house in the middle, where is the White House?
     Yes of course, now that it’s written in the Queen’s English, rather than text speak, the answer is rather obvious, which is - ta-rah
! - Washington DC.

So a colourful smile today: as William Wordsworth famously said...
                                                                                                                  My heart leaps up when I behold
                                                                                                                             A rainbow in the sky.
Whether it be literal or metaphorical.
Wednesday, September 28
Cleared for takeoff

TODAY, it’s a proper five-star smile. Along my morning walk through the Towy Valley I pass an oxbow lake, which is home to a pair of swans and their two offspring, teenagers now, I guess (I’m unsure whether they’re still cygnets, although they continue to sport their ugly duckling dress code).
     For the past couple of weeks the adults have been preparing, indeed urging, the youngsters to take wing. One of the adults – I’m unsure whether it’s the cob or the pen – will lead the youngsters to the far end of the lake, always facing into the wind, and off the adult goes, with the kids in hot pursuit.
     Parent will takeoff, the youngsters in tow, much like a brace of gliders. All three are airborne – but the two youngsters always chicken out (swan out?) and splash down as they reach the edge of the lake, the end of the runway if you like.
     This has been happening pretty much every morning. Occasionally I just hear them flapping across the water as they launch themselves, and I quietly cross my fingers that they don’t actually take off unless I can observe them (I have never seen a young swan on its maiden flight, and to date, curiously, these teenagers appear very reluctant to do so).
     It really has been a protracted effort to get them their wings. Often the adult will takeoff, minus the kids, and then do a quick circuit before returning to join the family, still firmly grounded.

But this morning it was all very different: I noticed that the adult took just one of the youngsters to the end of the runway – and I thought, this has to be it. So I switched on my little camera ready - it all happens very quickly.
     And off they went ... pictured alongside ... they became airborne – and both cleared the lake, the young swan launched successfully on its maiden flight.
     I then watched them do the perfect imitation of a circuit a trainee pilot does when practicing takeoffs and landings.
     It was a most exhilarating thing to watch. The whole performance was much more involved than described above, so over the next week or so I will do a proper feature over on

The young swan sets off on its great adventure ... more pics
and the full tale will follow shortly on
400 Smiles A Day

400 Smiles A Day.

Smiles really do not come much better than this. Honestly.
Tuesday, September 27
I say, I say, I say...

COMPLIMENTS of the BBC’s iPlayer, I listened to last Wednesday’s Vanessa Feltz early morning radio show, my last chance before it disappeared off line.
     Each weekday morning, Vanessa invites her listeners to get in touch with their responses to the morning’s topic. So, last Wednesday: “Due to our increased use of e-mails, texts and tweets, they say none of us know any jokes any more. Surely that’s not right? And don’t call me Shirley.” Ho, ho, ho

So Vanessa invited us to submit our favourite joke – by e-mail or text, obviously. Now I only heard the opening 30 minutes or so of the show, but what I heard made me smile, so I said to myself, as I do, must listen to the whole show, just in case there’s a really good one hiding away in there – and there was.
     But before I get there, just a random selection of the jokes on offer...

“Doctor, doctor, I think I’m a moth.” “Sorry, I’m a medical doctor – you need the practice psychiatrist, further along, third door on the left.” “I know, but I saw your light was on...”

“I went to buy a camouflage outfit today - but couldn’t find any.”

“I saw a chameleon this morning – what a rubbish chameleon.”

“I didn’t want to believe that my dad, who’s a council road worker, has turned into a thief – but when I got home, all the signs were there.”

“I can only remember 25 letters of the alphabet. I don’t know why.” That’s really a verbal joke, I guess.

Remembering yesterday’s Quantum Limerick, celebrating the news that Einstein could perhaps be wrong about nothing travelling faster than the speed of light otherwise we start travelling backwards through time – I think this one is exceptionally clever...
     “The barman says: ‘We don’t serve time travellers in here.’ Dr Who walks into a bar...”

Anyway, here’s the one that really made me smile...
You are on a horse, galloping away at speed; on your left is a sharp drop off; on your right is an elephant travelling at the same speed as you; directly in front of you is a kangaroo, and your horse is unable to overtake it; behind a lion is chasing you. What must you do to safely get out of this highly dangerous situation?
     Get off the merry-go-round and act your age.

Off to bed at ten, which is my usual time all things being equal, and I caught the tail-end of the news headlines on the radio – news of the death at age 89 of David Croft, the co-creator of many hit sitcoms, including Dad’s Army. And of course they played that famous clip where young Private Pike, atop the step ladder, sings:
     “Whistle while you work/Hitler is a twerp/He’s half balmy/So’s his army/Whistle while you work.”
     Captured U-boat captain to Pike: “Your name will also go on the list – what is it?”
     Captain Mainwaring: “Don’t tell him, Pike.”

No matter how many times I hear it, it is still funny. Now that’s what I call drifting off to sleep with a smile on my face.

Monday, September 26
Falling satellites at the speed of light

LAST Thursday I rounded off my bulletin with news that “a Nasa satellite the size of a bus ‘could land almost anywhere on the planet’ sometime over the next couple of days”. And I pondered whether that would be a satellite the size of a London double-decker bus or, whisper it, a charabanc?
     As it happens, I submitted a one-liner to the Telegraph’s  letters page on the subject – and today, there it was, nestling among this little lot...

Fretting about bombardment from outer space
SIR – You reported that the Nasa weather satellite that crashed to earth this weekend was “the size of a bus” (September 23). I sincerely hope that three more don’t come along all at once.
Paul Burlinson, Parwich, Derbyshire

SIR – When you say “the size of a bus”, would that be a London bus or a charabanc?
HB, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire

SIR – The depressing news about the economic crisis has recently got worse. I realised this weekend that my chances of being hit by a piece of falling satellite were 4,375 times greater than the odds on me winning the National Lottery.
Keith Rogers, Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan

SIR – Given that we are so adept at putting things up into space, is it not time we mastered their safe retrieval? I spent Friday night under the kitchen table with a saucepan on my head while clutching a bottle of single malt.
Arthur Ord-Hume, Guildford, Surrey

SIR – Should I be worried that no one seems to have been capable of predicting where large chunks of a redundant spacecraft were going to land on Earth? What if it had been an intercontinental missile?
Robert Hood-Wright, Nanstallon, Cornwall

SIR – The fear of the sky falling is not restricted to Chicken Licken and Co (Leading article, September 23). A visit to almost any park or open space will reveal council litter-pickers, mower-drivers and gardeners wearing hard hats.
     The only identifiable reason must be that the health-and-safety brigade has decreed the sky overhead to be a danger.
Marcus Croome, Truro, Cornwall

A smiley selection there, for sure. Also...

Speed of light
THE day after my bus letter I also submitted another following news that Einstein’s theory of special relativity, proposed in 1905, which states that nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light, has just been challenged by a bunch of scientists somewhere deep underground in a place called Cern.
     The following letters appeared in the Telegraph, also today...

Leading light
SIR – You report that physicists think they may have seen subatomic particles called neutrinos exceeding the universe’s speed of light (Speed of light ‘broken’ by scientists, September 23).
     I recently spotted the first commercial application of this effect on the M25, where a lorry ahead of me proudly displayed the message: “Tomorrow’s logistics today.”
R A Buckland, Culverstone, Kent

SIR – As Einstein suggested that travelling faster than the speed of light would reverse the passage of time, the team at Cern may yet have the opportunity to ask him if his theory of special relativity still stands.
Anthony Gordon, London E14

Having had my bus letter published, I wasn’t going to have another make the cut for a while, let alone the same day. Anyway, here’s mine about the speed of light, along with some warp thinking, which I thought rather good...

With a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi Ho Captain Kirk
SIR – Please God, make it so that Einstein’s theory that nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light is wrong, and that Star Trek got it right all along. Engage
HB, Llandampness

I thoroughly enjoyed this response in the ‘Comments’ section, from Stoobs [which I have marginally paraphrased]:
There once was a fine fellow named Bright,
Who could travel much faster than light;
So he set off one day,
In an Einsteinian way,
And he returned home the previous night.

I guess that’s what you would call a Quantum Limerick, boom-boom!

Sunday, September 25
Sex and the single man

“LIFE is a sexually transmitted disease.” Julian Huppert, 33, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.
A curious quote, a sort of “glass is half empty” metaphor. I’m a “glass half full” man myself, so I guess I’d say that “Life is a triple jump, as in: a hop, a step and a jump, fingers crossed.”

And talking of which: “Oh come on, it’ll only take a minute.” Virginia Ironside, 66, a British author, journalist and agony aunt, recalls a chat-up line used on her by a boyfriend, trying to lure her into bed. She said it worked.
All I can say is, I wish I’d thought of that one. It would have gone down quite well with my own little effort when I was an eager young buck about town: “You strike me as a lady who is an expert at reducing the size of a man’s problem.” A line paraphrased from the 1954 film Beau Brummell.
     It always made the girls smile, even if they didn’t always respond with the famous Mae West line: “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me? ... Come on up, I’ll tell your fortune.”

“The oats we grow for horses are far too good for humans. Racehorses are like Formula One cars, they need the best fuel.” James Phillips, farm estate manager at Highclere Castle in the English county of Hampshire, which is used for the hit British TV series Downton Abbey.
I beg to differ about those oats being far too good for humans. I should think Silvio Berlusconi, with his very personal and life-affirming After Eights (eight girls a night, at the last count), deserves nothing but the very best oats. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘over the jumps’.

Enough sex already. I’ve got a headache.

Saturday, September 24
Be afraid, be very afraid

THERE are three things in life I fear: rats, snakes and dentists. They do say that you must confront those things you dread if you want to exorcise the fear. Well, I’ve crossed rats off the list. Sort of.

A few years back, a rat came down through an exposed part of the ceiling of the kitchen/utility room (some emergency repair work was going on). Honestly, the thing was huge. You know how the song goes: there were rats, rats, as big as pussycats, in the quartermaster’s store...
     Well, my visitor was one mother pussy. At least it looked like it to me. Anyway, I managed to isolate it in the utility room. Now I wasn’t going to be a big girl’s blouse and call for help – it happened around ten in the evening anyway.
     So I got myself a big stick, but before entering the “cage” I tucked the bottom of my trouser legs into my socks. This I did intuitively.
     When I was but a lad on the farm, a contractor would annually visit with his big threshing machine to separate the grain from the wheat. Despite the machine, it was still quite a labour intensive job, so neighbours would come to help.
     The day after, the contactor and his machine would move on to the next farm, and all the neighbours would follow to help out. That’s the way things happen in a farming community.
     Watching all this going on, I’d noticed that all the workers would tie the bottom of their trouser legs tight with bits of string. Much to my surprise I discovered the reason for this being that it would prevent any disturbed rats that were nesting or hiding in the huge straw rick panicking and running up their trouser legs to escape.
     I am reliably told that rats really will run up a drainpipe to escape, so a loose hanging trouser leg is a perfect bolt hole. God forbid, can you imagine that happening?
     Anyway, that lesson had burnt itself onto my hard drive, so whatever else would unfold between me and the rat, that particular nasty wasn’t going to happen.
     The confrontation with the rat was quite fraught. It screamed and spat, but eventually I caught it with the stick – and then like James Bond with the tarantula in Dr. No, it was whack
!-whack!-whack! Sadly there was no accompanying music to add to the drama. So that was the end of the rat, although I have to say, I am still wary of the blasted things.

I have also crossed off my fear of dentists – the original trepidation the result of a few bad experiences when young, I guess. A few years ago a new dentist came to town, young Aimee Jones, and I have to say that she has a kindly, reassuring way about her, and I no longer fear going along for my six-monthly check.
     So last Wednesday I paid Aimee a visit: inspection, scale and polish – no problems. Anyway, I mentioned to Aimee that I never know where to put my tongue when she’s rooting about in there.

I then told her about a picture I’d briefly seen that morning as part of the launch of the 2012 edition of the Guinness World Records annual, a photograph of the girl who boasts the longest tongue.
     Today I remembered about it and had a look online … and it certainly is a worthy winner of today’s smile of the day...
     It’s a very funny image, compliments of Guinness World Records. The longest tongue (female) belongs to Chanel Tapper, left, (length confirmed on 29/09/10), and measures 3.8in (9.75cm) from tip to top lip - I wondered how they measured the beast. It gives a whole new meaning to the expression that Chanel gave someone “a good tongue lashing”.
     The outright longest tongue though belongs to the UK’s Stephen Taylor (as confirmed 11/02/2009) – his lengthy

American Chanel Tapper flashes her amazing tongue:
 "Put it away, Chanel, we don't know where it's been."

licker measures 3.86in (9.8cm).
     I was surprised that there wasn’t a bigger male-female divide.

Anyway, that’s the dentist off the list; also rats, sort of... snakes (often called politicians) remain a problem.

Friday, September 23
It’s a tie

BEARING in mind that I set off on a daily walk into Llandampness to collect the morning newspaper, I rather liked this recent missive in the Telegraph...

Yesterday’s news tomorrow
SIR – Some years ago, a stressed businessman was holidaying on Tresco, the most beautiful of the Isles of Scilly.
     He went to the quayside shop and asked for a newspaper. “Yesterday’s or today’s?” asked the shopkeeper. “Today’s, of course,” he replied. “Well, come back tomorrow,” she said.
Rosie Inge, Bleadney Wells, Somerset

Ten out of ten. Oh yes, talking of yesterday’s news, I’d cut a piece out from last weekend’s Sunday Times which had made me smile XL at the time – so here we are, better late than never.
     Debate is raging about the underlying social message of the tie, and whether it’s okay to go without, whatever your particular station in life, indeed something regularly spotted these days as both David Cameron and Nick Clegg adopt the open collar strategy.
     Anyway, the paper did a FINAL WORD piece on it...

Tying itself in knots
When George Thomas, the former Speaker
[famous for his “Order, order!” instructions when Mr Speaker], first entered the Commons chamber as a young Labour MP, he caused uproar on the Conservative benches. “Are you aware you’re wearing an Old Etonian tie?” demanded an indignant Tory whip.
     “No,” said Thomas, taken aback. “I bought it in the Co-op in Tonypandy.”

Now I know rather well a nephew of “Uncle George”, the one I call The Preacher Man (The PM for short), and honestly, the line above is absolutely typical of the things he too comes out with.
     Back with the tie: now I will only wear one when it would be bad form not to – funerals, christenings, weddings, official functions, etc – indeed I’d be quite happy to see them banned altogether, along with the burka, or whatever it is that is used to hide the face from public scrutiny.
     But I don’t lose any sleep over it and will happily slip on a tie as and when necessary. Anyway, the Sunday Times piece finishes thus...

Far from being the uniform of mediocre, however, neckwear is entirely practical. For a start, it’s a reliable economic indicator: narrow during lean years and wide in times of plenty. A tie can be a fashion statement or a badge of office. And it is very handy for holding up trousers in emergencies.
     So the message to opponents of the necktie must be this: get knotted.

                                                                                                                                                                                 The above cartoon compliments of the Telegraph’s Adams: the folder says “Conference 2011”, and of course today’s politicians don’t know which party they should belong to, hence the Eeny, meeny, miny, moe indecision as to which colour to wear.
     But I’ll tell you what about the Sunday Times  piece: you need to be reasonably slim to use a tie as a trouser belt. Oh yes, in the absence of a lady prepared to whip off her tights in a tight corner, a tie makes a perfect emergency fan belt for the car should that snap.
     By the way, what is the female equivalent of a jock strap? Yes of course, a fan belt.

One double-L of a time
Listening to Chris Evans on his morning show, he had the agreeable Welsh actor Michael Sheen as his guest. Along the way, the show’s ‘travel totty’, Lynn Bowles, delivered the travel news and mentioned “Llangollen” in despatches, as only a Welsh girl could.
     Michael asked her if she had ever had to say that incredibly long place name in North Wales, and she said yes. Chris chipped in and said he too could say it, so, at 3-2-1 – all three of them delivered it in perfect unison, with much style. It was definitely a tie.
     Which gives me an excuse to show this again...

Thursday, September 22
The sun, the moon and a satellite the size of a bus

“ANOTHER shocking morning,” said a familiar local face, also collecting his paper at the newsagent’s, as I was. “Just like yesterday,” he quickly added. I nodded and smiled in agreement, lying through my front teeth. What was he talking about?
     Now I don’t see any point in arguing over something totally pointless, but I presumed that his view of the morning, at around half-six, was clouded by the sun having not yet risen. Sunrise was still some 30 minutes or so away.
     In fact it was a fairly agreeable morning. Quiet, still, mild, somewhat cloudy, yes, but not threatening in any way; indeed, along my two mile walk across the fields to reach town, dawn looked reasonably promising.
     What baffled me most though was the fellow’s reference to yesterday being a bad morning. In fact Wednesday provided as perfect a dawn as you could ever wish for.
     Yesterday, as I approached Llandeilo across the fields, with the black mountain on the horizon, the sun was still some 45 minutes from making its appearance, but its approach was lighting up the cloudless eastern sky in glorious fashion.
     I stopped and took a picture of the dawn. It was quite stunning...

The brightness of the eastern sky in the above picture doesn’t capture how dark it still was – note the street lights still on, the automatic light sensors yet to be triggered. And of course that delightfully delicate mist over the meadow. Perfect.

Now I return home along a different route, through the Towy Valley itself. My total circuit is a triangular route: from home to town is a virtual straight line, but the return journey must be about three or four miles, depending which route I take.
     Anyway, on my way home, the rising sun was reflecting beautifully off the trees in Dinefwr Park, catching perfectly the changing colours of the leaves as autumn begins to kick in.

How could anyone not smile at nature’s ever changing wallpaper. But just in case I missed anyone out...

“Fact: the moon is visible from the Great Wall Of China.” Danny Baker, 54, English comedy writer, journalist, broadcaster and enthusiastic tweeter.

A parting thought: back on the 8th of September, my smile was to do with Collins the dictionary people removing so-called obsolete words from their smaller dictionaries, including aerodrome and charabanc, words presumed to have become extinct in the past year.
     Personally, as long as there are aeroplanes, there will always be aerodromes; and as long as we look at wonderful old black and white photographs from a previous age, then the word charabanc will never die.

Well now, I see that a Nasa satellite the size of a bus ‘could land almost anywhere on the planet’ sometime over the next couple of days. Now will that be a satellite the size of a London double-decker bus or, whisper it, a charabanc?

Wednesday, September 21
♫♫♫  Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, it’s off to toss a dwarf we go  ♫♫♫
THE following headline on the front page of the Daily Mail  caught my eye at the newsagent first thing this morning...

Look out, Mike, Zara’s coming
Trouble for Tindall? Zara Phillips is off to New Zealand after his nightclub antics

Last week I recall reading that there was a bit of a shemozzle

out in All Blacks territory following the England rugby team’s night on the town for a spot of rest and recuperation after their opening World Cup game against Argentina.
     They were photographed at a bar where a dwarf-throwing contest was occurring. Just occasionally, you don’t want to read any further than the headline in case it’s all a bit of a let down. So I made my excuses and moved on.
     However, there was also the business of Mike Tindall and the blonde in the bar – and I have to admit that I did look at the CCTV footage online.
     Just boys on a night out, really, and all at the wonderfully named Altitude Bar in Queenstown, of all places. Been there, a stunning location, the last place on earth where you’d think

High-flying England winger Chris Ashton looks about ready
to be launched to the wolves at the Queenstown Altitude Bar

they needed a dwarf-throwing contest to brighten things up.

Be all that as it may, and given the Daily Mail  headline at the top, I shall now return to the weekend’s Sunday Times, in particular Tabloid Week by Roland White. I quote an exceedingly smiley piece...

Before Mike Tindall became Mr Zara Phillips earlier this year, did he take advice about how his life might change on marrying into the royal family? I picture a senior courtier, dressed in a frock coat, taking the England rugby captain to one side, handing him a small sherry, and offering the following tips:
     1  Don’t let the papers get any pictures of you enjoying a boozy night out.
     2  If you must attend a boozy night out, try to avoid kissing any blonde.
     3  If you accidentally kiss a blonde, for goodness sake don’t bury your head in her breasts.
     4  Avoid dwarf-throwing contests.
     5  Never, ever step out of line in a place called Queenstown.
So the Sun’s front page headline on Thursday will come as something of a disappointment:
       “ZARA’S RUGBY HUBBY GROPES BLONDE ... his head in her boobs at dwarf-throwing contest”
“The girl was absolutely stunning and all over him,” a “source” told the paper. “They were flirting with each other and getting extremely touchy-feely [touch – pause – engage]. It’s not the behaviour you would expect of a man who is not only England captain but also now a member of the royal family.”
     You’ll no doubt be as shocked as I was upon reading this: surely the correct phrase is “a person of short stature throwing contest”.

Oh dear, what more can I add? (Well, I did add No. 5, above - Queenstown, you couldn’t make it up.) Truly a smile of the day. But you do wonder why these people appear to be totally void of wisdom and foresight, even if the blonde is, apparently, an old friend of the royal couple. Did they really not sense the huge sign shouting THIS WAY TO THE AMBUSH
     The most recent headline I’ve spotted in relation to the story is this one...

England centre speaks publicly for first time since being caught on camera in bar with blonde...
Mike Tindall has failed to address the storm of controversy which swirled around him after going out drinking with a group of England players. Tindall looked sheepish as he sat alongside England manager Martin Johnson and both men side-stepped questions on the issue.

     Then came this memorable quote:
“We have put it to bed. We are looking forward to a big game, we are playing Romania,” said Johnson.

Oh dear. What else did they put to bed? But musn’t complain, for it all adds hugely to the pleasures of the passing parade.

Tuesday, September 20
Romping and yomping the night away with Silvio

“YESTERDAY evening there was a queue outside my door ... there were 11 of them ... I had only eight of them because I couldn’t manage more. You just can’t get round to all of them. But this morning I feel good, I’m pleased with the way I manage to resist the challenge of life.”
The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, 74, boasting to a friend of his sexual resolutions after a New Year’s Eve party, according to telephone intercepts leaked over the weekend from an investigation into his erotic “bunga-bunga” parties.

Italian newspapers have published extracts from 3,500 pages of transcripts ordered by prosecutors investigating Giampaolo Tarantini, a businessman suspected of paying models, showgirls and prostitutes to attend the prime minister’s parties.
     The Corriere della Sera  newspaper said it had decided not to publish “the roughest or most vulgar passages, including detailed sexual descriptions, out of respect for readers”.

The mind boggles. Honestly, it puts Michael Winner and his 130 women over 50 years of romancing the stone rather in its place (see yesterday’s smile of the day). What is more, I can’t wait to have a chat with Old Shaggy down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon to have his thoughts.
     There’s a standing joke in the Crazy Horsepower – one I have previously quoted here – that both Old Shaggy and Young Shagwell can do that “shaggy” thing as fast as they can slide the girls under them. It’s a joke that always raises a smile down at the pub. Who’d have thought that, actually, it isn’t a joke.

Mind you, is all that true about Berlusconi? Is it perhaps just an old man boasting? Until we hear from the girls involved we won’t really know – and as I understand it a court case is coming up where these girls will be called to testify. Now that will be fascinating.
     The more I read and hear about Berlusconi, the more convinced I am that he really is half a bubble off plumb. No different to so many of our world leaders, including here in the UK over recent times.
     We truly are ruled over by mad men.

Anyway, back to Berlusconi and his “I’m pleased with the way I manage to resist the challenge of life”, which I take to mean resisting the inevitability of advancing old age. Here’s another quote, said in a slightly different context, which balances all the delightful nonsense above rather well...

“When you’re earning a very high salary, most things are possible.” Nicola “Superwoman” Horlick, 50, British investment fund manager and mother of six children, reveals the secret of her success.
     Horlick wrote a book at bedtime called Can you have it all?. I guess Silvio Berlusconi would say: “Eight out of eleven – that’s definitely a pass mark.” But was he cheating? Time will tell.

Monday, September 19
Every egg a bird, every bird a Winner

“IT’S TRUE that not many people get married in tartan pyjama bottoms, but then not many wait 50 years to get married.” Michael Winner, 75, a British film director and producer, also known as a food critic for The Sunday Times, on his wedding attire, confirming that at 75 you can wear whatever you feel most comfortable in without worrying about what the slebs next-door think.

Just after five this morning, Vanessa Feltz reminded us that Michael Winner was tying the knot today – for the first time – at the grand age of 75, marrying Geraldine Lynton-Edwards, 70. But what exactly was he having for his wedding breakfast?
     Apparently, he had described it thus: “I’ve bought the cake and we’ll be having that beef dish that comes in strips with rice – what do you call it?”. Vanessa was stumped, so she invited her listeners to come up with the answer, and in they flooded: chow mein?, chili beef?, beef stroganoff?, beef teriyaki?, goulash?
     And then Mike-the-Milk from Bury St Edmunds contacted the show and got it absolutely right: “Probably,” he said, “Winalot.”
     For those outside the United Kingdom, Winalot is a popular brand of dog food. So I couldn’t resist sending this letter to Michael’s missives, the letters section of Winner’s column in The Sunday Times – or perhaps it should now be known as Michael’s mrsives. Whatever...

Listening to the excellent Vanessa Feltz on her Wireless 2 early-morning show last Monday (she never talks over the music – bliss), she wondered aloud what your wedding feast of “that beef dish that comes in strips with rice” was.
     Mike-the-Milk from Bury St Edmunds suggested Winalot. I can see you now, stretched out on the rug in front of a roaring fire having cleared your bowl: “Who’s a good boy, then?” Suddenly you double up to freshen up your more private parts ... it’s an image that is already burnt onto my mind’s hard drive.
HB, Llandampness

Incidentally, I Googled “beef dish that comes in strips with rice” – ta-rah
!Kicky Steak Strips with Rice: top sirloin steak, cut into thin strips and served with long-grain white rice – plus lots of other little ingredients, obviously.
     Wonderful thing the internet. And I was surprised that no one had suggested Kicky Steak Strips with Rice - smashing name - to Vanessa. However, following this morning
s marriage, I rather liked this Mail Online headline – shades of Winalot...

                                After 55 years, I’ve made her a Winner at last! Elder statesman
                                                   of British bachelors finally ties the knot


Only Michael Caine and his wife Shakira accompanied the happy pair at the ceremony itself – and there was much relief that the groom had not carried out his threat to turn up in those pyjama bottoms.
     A celebratory feast had actually taken place the day before at the Caines’ Surrey home.
     A handful of close friends including broadcaster Sir David Frost, the Lloyd Webbers, singer Chris Rea, and photographer Terry O’Neill had gathered there to toast the happy couple over a lunch of beef Wellington and crème caramel.
     Obviously Winner is rather partial to shouting “Where’s the beef?”. Which doesn’t come as a surprise because I read in the Independent that he has an eye for the main course – or the intercourse as some would say - as he has had more than 130 lovers and admits to being unfaithful to them all.
     But what I liked was the gathering the day before the

The happy couple - let's hope Michael is not
 keeping an eye open for number 131 already

wedding. Such a civilised way of doing things.
     After all, most speeches at weddings are somewhat yawn-yawn. I attended a wedding once where there were no speeches at all at the reception, both families having gathered at a local hotel a few nights before for a meal plus all the speeches that needed to be done. So 10 out of 10 there.
     Anyway, back with the Winners. I presume someone at that gathering would have said this story...

On the night Michael decided it was time to ditch his dedicated bachelor life and calm down, he asked Geraldine for her hand in marriage. She was delighted and responds: “Let’s celebrate. Would you like to go upstairs and make love?”
     Michael replies: “Yes of course – but I can’t do both.”

Finally, I rather liked this online comment from
Out of Town: How refreshing! A wealthy, mature gentleman marrying someone of his own generation.

Sunday, September 18
Epic encounter of the bearded kind

04:30 ~ WATCHED Wales play Samoa live in the Rugby World Cup out in New Zealand: having narrowly lost against South Africa last Sunday, today’s game was a true knock-out contest; a loss and Wales would be out of the competition.
     Worryingly, Samoa has a track record of trampling all over Welsh dreams. Wales just about sneaked a win – not a particularly inspiring game of rugby, but a hard, physical contest where the result was everything.
     As is increasingly the case in modern games, a hugely entertaining aspect of the experience is the crowd. Incidentally, why do television people insist on showing specific crowd scenes on the big screen?
     Those catching themselves on the screen react like children, even during the anthems – and worst, over the weekend during a minute’s silence in memory of a local tragedy. When will TV directors appreciate that observing those who don’t know they are being observed is infinitely more entertaining than watching those watching themselves.
     Anyway, back to the crowd: the face decoration and fancy dress now worn by supporters is a revelation and very smiley.

Also, the witty banners on display. I rather liked the Samoan group holding up this banner before the game got under way:
          Corned beef for breakfast ... Wales for lunch!
Always dangerous that because it tempts someone like me, when the result is known, to add: Humble pie for supper.

Later I watched France take on the Canadians. As usual in these games, where the so-called minnows tackle the giants, the first half is invariably competitive and close – but in the second half the big guns tend to run away with it, as France did.
     However, three of the Canadian players have becomes firm favourites with the crowds, as well as the media, and all down to those magnificent men and their flowing beards. The sort of beards normally spotted on older men rather than fit, young athletic blokes.
     But as I say, they have been all over the papers and social media. And you have to admit, when you look at the picture, alongside, it is a most eye-catching image.
     This photograph of flanker Adam Kleeberger, voted man-of-the-match in their opening game against Tonga, captured here passing the ball off the top of the lineout to his scrum-half.
     Given what a rough and tumble game rugby is, this image captures such a balletic pose, especially so featuring that epic beard of his.

Grizzly Adam: 27-year-old’s whiskers
a highlight of Rugby World Cup 2011

     Adam Kleeberger, according to those who understand these things, has
evolved from average-looking flanker to bearded back-row star, looking like
a lumberjack with an axe to grind – spot the difference...
                                                                                                                                                     ...amazing. Kleeberger lit up social media sites after inspiring Canada’s opening win over Tonga, one of the three men in the starting team with so-called “beardos”. Kleeberger has threatened to shave off his much-loved trademark beard: “I miss my face.” One less generous observer added: “Kleeberger is 27, but his beard looks a bit older.”
     But this I liked best ... Kleeberger admitted that opponents were sometimes tempted to grab his bushy beard: “It happens every now and again, but at the end of the day, only girls pull hair, right?”

And talking of girls, one of the more memorable screen images spotted during the Canada-France game was that of what seemed like an attractive girl – but wearing a full beard à la Kleeberger. It was such an amusing thing to see. I’ve had a good look online, thinking that a photographer at the ground must have captured her – but so far no luck.
Saturday, September 17
Pinocchio visits the doctor

FLICKING through last weekend’s Sunday Times  Magazine before putting it into the recycle pile, I stumbled upon a new feature: Caption challenge.

Each week the magazine presents us with a cartoon in need of a witty one-liner, and we readers are invited to submit our efforts. What caught my eye was last Sunday’s winner, the cartoon pictured, alongside.

The winning line, from Oliver Lloyd of Cardiff, has the doctor saying: “Well, technically, you require a tree surgeon.”

Which certainly made me smile – but I was instantly overwhelmed with the need for an extra line: “Well, technically, you require a tree surgeon – but whether he believes a word you tell him is another matter.”


Sign of the times
SPOTTED this witticism pinned to a pub notice board ... actually, it was in Welsh, but it translates perfectly...
     “I once read that drinking beer is bad for me, so I gave up reading.”
Out of curiosity, I Googled it ... and found it was coined by Henry “Henny” Youngman (1906-1998), a British-born American comedian and violinist, famous for his “one-liners” - see above
! His best known one-liner was “Take my wife - please”.

Mr Williams driven up the Walliams
“David Walliams is drinking sewage for charity because he’s fed up looking like just another typing error.” Reported remark by Billy Connolly on his fellow comedian’s epic 140-mile swim along the length of the non tidal section of the River Thames.
     Very smiley remark. Astonishingly, Walliams, 40, is close to raising £1million for Sport Relief as a result of his effort – so I suspect he will forgive his mother for calling him “the nation’s sweetheart”.
     Bless, what would we do without our mums as our spin doctors?

Friday, September 16
Arise, bright and early

ROY NOBLE, who presents a weekday afternoon show on Radio Wales, recently returned from holiday – northern Europe if memory serves – and he told a memorable little tale. I may well be paraphrasing the detail, but the crux of the story is correct.
     When he and his wife arrived at their first port of call he handed over his passport to a customs officer, as you do.
Everything was fine, but as the customs man handed him back his passport he said: “Thank you, Mr Obi; I trust you enjoy your stay in our country.”
     Roy was overtaken by a slight moment of panic. Mr Obi? All sorts of things raced through his mind. Had the customs man somehow or other picked up someone else’s passport and hadn’t noticed the error? Surely not.
     As Roy walked away he hurriedly inspected his passport ... and smiled...

Here in Wales, Roy is well known for the sterling work he does for charity and good causes, and he was duly awarded the OBE in recognition of his efforts, something of which he is rightly proud. When his passport came up for renewal, he entered his name as MR ROY NOBLE OBE...
     Yes, you’re ahead of the game. The customs officer, unfamiliar with the UK’s order of chivalry and decoration, had naturally presumed that OBE was his surname.
     So for the duration of his current passport, that is a ritual he will have to go through, with fingers quietly crossed behind his back.
     Now isn’t it astonishing how something so innocent can turn into a potential ambush.

The above story came to mind when I saw that Henry Winkler,
who played the Fonz in the classic US sitcom Happy Days, has

been appointed an honorary OBE for his educational work on dyslexia in the UK.
     Winkler, pictured alongside, received the honour at the British embassy in Washington DC.
     The actor-turned-children’s author, who was diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult, said he was “overwhelmed” to have his work recognised.
     In the past two years, he has toured schools in the UK, talking about the learning disability.
     In fact I have heard him speak about his work on the radio – and he is exceedingly good value for his award.
     This is what an honours system should be about, not those
dreadful people who have made such a mess of this country,
strutting about their little kingdoms bearing the titles of

Henry Winkler, clearly delighted with his OBE

barons, knights and dames. Yuk.

So well done Roy Noble and Harry Winkler, you thoroughly deserve your awards.

PS: Yesterday I mentioned the tale of rogue trader Kweku Adoboli, who has cost Swiss bank UBS an estimated $2 billion (£1.3 billion), and has now been charged with fraud and false accounting.
     It turns out that he is (was?) a senior trader with Global Synthetic Equity, part of UBS. Global Synthetic Equity? If ever a name was destined to ride into an ambush, it has to be Global Synthetic Equity.
Thursday, September 15
If you want to make God smile – tell him your plans

HEADLINE of the week thus far, spotted in the Telegraph...

Roald Dahl and the giant cheek – asking us to save his shed
If the Dahl family wants to preserve the hut where so many great stories were written, let them find the cash.

When the Today programme introduced an item yesterday with news that James and the Giant Peach was first published 50 years ago, I expected to hear some jolly probing of Roald Dahl’s strange and dark imagination.
     Instead, the author’s granddaughter popped up, the model and author Sophie Dahl. She was appealing for money to save his writing hut. She wants half a million quid, which is a staggering sum for fixing up a prefab shed that happened to belong to a writer.

Perhaps the prefab shed should be rechristened Prefab Sprouts. But what a wonderfully doolally story it is. I shouldn’t imagine the Dahl family are short of a bob or two, but what the hell, never give a sucker an even break.
     Personally, I think it’s the ghost of Dahl himself having a laugh. What was it Willy Wonka said? “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.”

No more bets, please
Just to add to the doolallyness of the day, news broke that Kweku Adoboli, 31, has been arrested on suspicion of fraud and abuse of position* in connection with rogue trading that has cost Swiss bank UBS an estimated $2 billion (£1.3 billion).
     He has since been charged with fraud and false accounting. It’s unbelievable that this sort of thing is possible after all the previous problems the banks have encountered, including dodgy dealers by the score, although I lost track of the score.
     How can any business have an employee dabbling with £1.3 billion of its money without any of the management having any idea what was going on? It really is Monopoly money.
     More intriguing, someone, somewhere, is £1.3 billion in pocket. Even more curious, when these traders make vast profits for the banks, which we hear nothing about, who the hell is loosing all that money? And why don’t we hear about that?
     To add to the irony of it all, the loss uncovered by UBS is almost exactly the same amount the bank was trying to save by cutting 3,500 jobs from its worldwide empire.
     Oh yes, before the rogue trader was arrested, it seems Adoboli had changed his status on his Facebook page to: “I need a miracle.”
     Which completes the circle apropos the headline at the very top ... If you want to make God smile – tell him your plans (a folk proverb famously revisited by Woody Allen).
     I guess if you want to make God die laughing - ask him what he thinks you should do next. 

* Arrested on suspicion of abuse of position, eh? Any chance of arresting Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Rupert Murdoch, Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin, Tony Hayward, the boss of BP who went sailing while the company was burning... 
Wednesday, September 14
“Look for me by moonlight; Watch for me by moonlight...”

                                                                                                                  Alfred Noyes
LAST Monday morning I set off on my walk in a howling gale. Yesterday morning was much quieter and rather pleasant. This morning, around six, it was as perfect a dawn as you could ever wish – the odd fluffy horizon cloud – and there, in all its glory, hung a full moon. Well, I say a full moon, that actually happened on Monday, hidden behind the storm clouds, but I wasn’t complaining. I stood and stared.
     I reckon I haven’t seen a proper moon for the past couple of months. It isn’t that we’ve had lots of rain, at least in these ‘ere parts, but it has been continuously overcast with light rain or drizzle and brief bursts of heavier rain. Just a miserable two months, really, very un-summerish.
     So it was rather wonderful to have a clear sky to view the moon. Also, the wind had died away following that brush with the tail of hurricane Katia at the beginning of the week. The view along the Towy Valley, just before sunrise, was magical.
     The sky a gentle tint of pink along the horizon, the moon hanging in a clear blue sky, and a gentle mist in the valley. I attempted to photograph it...
                                                                                                                 ...trouble was, if I wanted a reasonably sharp image of the moon, the valley appeared unnaturally dark. If I lightened the valley, the moon lost its sharpness, at least using my basic little camera. At that moment I envied the talents of a painter, who would have been able to capture the scene just as the eye saw it...

Sometime later I was browsing the Telegraph’s  Picture Galleries, as I do, and by one of those wonderful coincidences that regularly light up my life, I came across a Gallery headed ‘Painter of moonlight’ – and here’s the first of many on view...


Reflections on the Thames, Westminster, 1880

Now I am not a particular fan of painters and their work, but just like photographs, I am attracted to certain types of images – and I thought the above was truly striking. Totally wonderful, just like the other 13 paintings on view.
     The blurb on the Telegraph Gallery said this...

On 19 September a major new exhibition, Atkinson Grimshaw: Painter of Moonlight, opens at the Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Amphitheatre in London.
     Over the last 40 years, Atkinson Grimshaw’s beautiful and evocative paintings of moonlit suburban lanes, gas-lit city streets and docksides have emerged as some of the most popular works of the Victorian age.
     This exhibition is the first major show of the self-taught Leeds-born artist’s work for over 30 years.

If you fancy taking a look at these remarkable and imaginative paintings online, enter ‘Atkinson Grimshaw: Painter of Moonlight at the Guildhall Art Gallery in London’ into Google ... click on the Telegraph  link – and enjoy this man’s eye-catching talent.

I found it a truly smiley experience. And I found myself wondering what John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893) would have made of the fact that, 118 years after his death, a Nogood Boyo in West Wales would be praising his artistry on some new-fangled thingumabob called the internet.

Tuesday, September 13
Off on a pun run
A PUN, insists Anonymous, is a short quip followed by a long groan. So...

“In the words of John Lennon, all we are saying is give fleece a chance. Where there’s wool, there’s a way.” Publisher Conde Nast’s  Nicholas Coleridge, deputy chairman of Prince Charles’s Campaign for Wool, resorts to punning to promote the cause.
Oh what a tangled yarn we weave...
Stop pulling the wool over my eyes.

“Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns; he should be drawn and quoted.” Fred Allen (1894-1956), American comedian.

Sidestepping puns for a moment, I particularly enjoyed this Fred Allen quote, which I have slightly paraphrased... “During the Winston Churchill days they had big men enjoying small talk; today we have small men enjoying big talk.”
     Allen actually mentioned Samuel Johnson, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to juxtapose Churchill, Blair, Brown and Cameron.

Back on the pun run, I really like this one, again from Anonymous: “I’m an incorrigible punster. Do not incorrige me.”
That is very clever. And talking of clever...

“My crumpeteering days are long gone, unfortunately, although I will mention to you confidentially that I am good in bed. I don’t snore, I stay on my side of the bed and I don’t take the duvet.” Len Goodman, 67, a British professional ballroom dancer and a judge on television’s Strictly Come Dancing.
     That is so witty. It’s a short story: starts with a bit of reminiscing – then some boasting, and you fear the worst – and finally that hilarious twist in the tail.
     My quote of the year thus far – and a perfect smile to round off my brief but enjoyable pun run.

Monday, September 12
“Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.”

Oscar Wilde
DEPARTED the cottage this morning in a gale, but the lashing rain had passed through earlier, thankfully, otherwise I’d have been grounded.
     Over the weekend the headlines had warned...
                                                                                    Hurricane Katia heads for the UK

Whenever I hear of a storm heading for my square mile, I’m reminded of that “silly” woman back in 1987 who enquired of the BBC about some hurricane or other coming our way.
     Weatherman Michael Fish became infamous in the wake of the ‘Great Storm of 1987’; a few hours before the storm broke, on 15 October 1987, he said during a television forecast: “Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way; well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t
     That evening, the worst storm to hit Southern England since 1703 caused record damage and killed 18 people. Of course, that forecast then turned him into a Fish in a goldfish bowl, his “D’oh
!” moment destined to follow him around for ever more and a weather forecast, although truth to tell he doesn’t seem to have suffered unduly because of it.
     Of course it should be noted that after his “don’t worry, be happy” piece to camera, he did add: “But having said that, actually, the weather will become very windy, but most of the strong winds, incidentally, will be down over Spain and across into France.”

Double D’oh! Astonishingly, at the beginning of August just gone, the papers carried headlines such as this...
Bill Giles: blame me not Michael Fish for great storm blunder
For more than 20 years Michael Fish, the veteran BBC weather forecaster, has been ridiculed as the man who nonchalantly dismissed the Great Storm of 1987.

So Bill Giles, the senior weather forecaster on duty at that time, admitted it was he who was the author of the denial, but Fish was the messenger. And what do we know about messengers? Yup, they are the ones who get shot.
     Talk about a bit of bad luck. Imagine, if that one rogue message had never reached Bill Giles, how much more agreeable Michael Fish’s walk through time and changeable weather would have been. But as I say, he doesn’t appear to have allowed the incident to form a depression above his head.
     Mind you, these days all sorts of people e-mail, text and tweet the most doolally things; much to our entertainment, the famous (e.g. Stephen Fry) and the self-important (e.g. Lord Sugar), dive straight into the shark pool marked ‘Fish’ and respond with the doolalliest of things. Thank God.
     On reflection, Anita Hart, the lady who queried the hurricane in the first place, was not being silly at all.

Incidentally, the incident is well served on YouTube, still drawing hits, and on the most viewed site I couldn’t help but notice the most ‘liked’ comment. Now normally I detest obscene language, especially where it is used just for the sake of it. But just occasionally – look away now if you don’t want to know how many asterisks should be present and correct here...
     Kingofpunk1977: Fish you cunt. My fence fell down.
Oh dear, a spell on the naughty step for me because that made me laugh out loud: short and to the point and rather funny.

You say tasty, I say ugh!
ON HER early morning radio show, Vanessa Feltz mentioned that the famous HP Sauce would not in future taste the same because makers Heinz had secretly changed the recipe after 116 years (now less added salt), but fans of the sauce had noticed immediately and are furiously sticking their many varieties of tongues out at Heinz.
     So Vanessa invited listeners to contact her and list the things that no longer taste as good as they did in the past. The list was endless, overflowing with the usual suspects: apples, pears – you say tomatoes, I say potatoes – milk, grapes, bread and on and on ... over to Vanessa: “'Humble pie,' says Anonymous, 'doesn’t taste like it used to.' Oh yes it does. If you are forced to taste humble pie you will find that it tastes exactly as it used to and hasn’t changed at all.”
    “Oh yes it has,” I found myself shouting at the iPlayer. Well, I didn’t shout, I just thought it. Allow me to take you back to Rupert Murdoch’s memorable slice of pie: “This is the most humble day of my life
     Right, did he a) tuck into humble pie because he was truly sorry? Or b) did he utter it because one of his spin doctors said: “Look Rupert, wear your humble pie on your sleeve and many millions of gullible people out there will buy into it as free-range humble pie and forgive you instantly.”?
     So you pays your money and takes your choice. Just remember, Private Eye christened Rupert Murdoch ‘Dirty Digger’ back in 1969 – and as far as I am aware, the human genetic default position doesn’t change over time (a leopard never changes its spots, etc, etc).
     In conclusion, I reckon humble pie definitely doesn’t taste like it used to. Even when delivered following a hurricane.

Sunday, September 11
Reasons to be cheerful anyway

TWO things could have made my ‘Smile of the day’ today. Wales winning against South Africa in Rugby World Cup out in New Zealand – but the same old song, I’m afraid: so near, yet so fa la te do ...

     Secondly, having a picture in next year’s Countryfile calendar would certainly have generated a wide smile. Although I submitted some eye-catching pictures of the friendly little valley songbirds perched in my hand, they obviously didn’t impress the judges. And anyway, I appreciate that I am not what they call a technically proficient photographer – I just point and click.
     Whatever, I knew I hadn’t come anywhere near because I never heard a dicky-bird prior to tonight’s announcement. Never mind. I’ll have to exhibit them somewhere hereabouts. Indeed a pal suggests I should design my own calendar using the unusual pictures I’ve captured over recent years. I may well have a go at that one of these days. Should be a laugh.

So proper smile time. A couple of weeks back the following letter appeared in The Sunday Times  In Gear section, a sort of magazine which dabbles in “cars, gadgets and adventure”.

The only way is send-up
My family has been happily entertained by the endless possibilities of names for new editions or trim levels of the Volkswagen Up
! (“VW brings pootling to the people”, Car of the week, last week). The Smash Up!, followed by the Shut Up!, Bottoms Up!, Throw Up!, Fry Up!, and Time’s Up! There are many more, of course.
     Has VW really thought the designation through or have we fallen into the trap? It’s certainly a memorable name.
Jane Holmes, Wells, Somerset

I never read the original article, but I enjoyed the above letter. So much so I couldn’t resist submitting my own effort...

It’s behind you!
I was intrigued by the possibilities of names for new editions of the Volkswagen Up
! (Letters, “The only way is send-up”, last week). Presumably the world’s natural-born tailgaters will go for the Volkswagen Up Yours!
HB, Llandampness

It didn’t make the cut – in fact there haven’t been any letters published for a couple of weeks – but I wouldn’t complain anyway because I had a letter published the week before the above letter from Jane Holmes.
     Remember when a
BBC insider claimed that 80% of the daredevil driving scenes filmed by Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson are actually carried out by professional racers, with the footage then cleverly edited? A claim rejected by Clarkson, incidentally. I did a ‘Smiley’ feature on the episode back on August 15.
     Anyway, I submitted a tongue-in-cheek letter to The Sunday Times  because Clarkson pens a weekly motoring column for the paper – and fair play, they printed it as their lead letter...

Seeing is believing
It was good to see Jeremy standing next to the
BAC Mono (Clarkson, last week), because he is hardly ever pictured in, or alongside, the car he road-tests. For one horrible moment I thought that as middle age creeps towards old age, Jeremy does all his driving in a simulator these days. Phew.
HB, Llandampness

While on the subject of Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson, not forgetting his co-presenter on the show, wee Richard Hammond, the Crazy Horsepower’s Chief Wise Old handed me this Times  letter a good few weeks back. I knew it would eventually find a perfect home...

Top wedding gear
Sir, The church wedding season is well under way. As a locum organist, I have been asked to play, for a forthcoming bride’s entrance, “Trumpet Voluntary  by Jeremiah Clarkson”.
     This sounds a racy piece. Should I offer to play it on the Hammond?
ROBIN COULTHARD, Altrincham, Cheshire.

Very good. But do you suppose the author of the letter is related to David Coulthard, the former Formula One racing driver?

Saturday, September 10
Bits and pieces – oh, and Sparky’s Magic Piano

JUST revisited this in last weekend’s Sunday Times  Culture magazine, which was lurking in the paper’s weekly column dealing with wireless issues called RADIO WAVES, this week penned by Roland White. It starts thus...

From next year, the BBC will be sharing television coverage of Formula One with Sky (a cousin of The Sunday Times, of course, but so distant that we really only see them at weddings). On radio, however, the BBC still reigns supreme...

Oh how I smiled. The Sunday Times is of course part of News International,  and obviously Rupert Murdoch’s love child, for he admitted in front of the Parliamentary Committee into phone-hacking that he rang the paper’s editor every Saturday, presumably to agree the editorial agenda.
     Since the on-going enquiry into phone-hacking, which has apparently, but not unsurprisingly, had an affect on all of Murdoch’s titles to some degree or other, I was greatly amused at that clever line to distance themselves from mummy hen – or perhaps more correctly, the father cock-of-the-walk.

“If death by virus was a punishment for extra-marital affairs, there would only be three dudes left in this world right now.” American actress and singer Gwyneth Paltrow, 38.

Hang on a second ... who precisely would these extinct dudes have been having sex with anyway? Women, I presume, and at a reasonable guess, most of them married. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango.
     Mind you, I’ve been having my doubts about Gwyneth since I read this quote where she gushes about her husband, Coldplay’s  Chris Martin: “He’s a musical genius. It’s like living with Picasso.”
     Last time I looked, Pablo Picasso was a painter. Incidentally, it was he who said: “Art is a lie that makes us realise the truth.”
     That makes as much sense to me as Gwyneth’s twitterings.

“There is a sign in our lovely church at the back saying ‘Toilet’. Awful – I couldn’t believe it. God would be horrified by chains being pulled in the middle of prayer.” Best-selling author Jilly Cooper, 74.

Much as I admire the agreeable Jilly, I can’t agree that God would be anything but sympathetic to any of his children caught short during a visit to his house, whether during prayers or not.

Finally, I happened upon television’s Last Night of the Proms, and was mesmerised by the piano playing of Lang Lang, 29, a Chinese concert pianist, currently residing in New York.
     Later, on YouTube, I came across 1:17 of pure novelty, as captured at a concert in San Francisco ... he plays the Flight of the Bumblebee – on an iPad?


Friday, September 9
Slow down – hump ahead

STUMBLED upon the picture alongside, today – and I laughed out loud ... it reminded me of a cartoon from many moons ago.
     Here, it’s a photograph by Andrew Winning, taken at London Zoo. It features Dirk the giant Galapagos tortoise, coming over all necessary when he stumbles upon Dolly, one of his younger co-resident ladies, who has herself obviously come over all “Hello big boy
     And I quote beneath the picture the punchline from the original cartoon – although I have to admit that in the cartoon drawing they were more perfectly lined up for the job at hand.
     Still, it gives “Be gentle with me
!” a whole new meaning.

Forever in blue genes
I’m not sure why, but the image made me think of Richard

“Faster! Faster!

Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
     Perhaps it was a subliminal connection to the news that the late superstar’s jewellery collection is expected to fetch more than $30 million when it is auctioned in December.
     Imagine that, one woman’s jewellery box worth at least $30 million. It’s delightfully obscene. Jewellery – like tattoos, shoes and fashion in general – suggests classic lack of self-esteem.
     I personally know a lady who suffers terrible lack of self-esteem, and decorates herself with endless jewellery – yet she is one of the most pleasant and agreeable human beings I know.
     She has so little confidence in herself she spends much too much money on what I call meaningless decoration to project her pleasing presence. In fact we’ve spoken honestly about it and she agrees with me – but as she laments, it’s all in her “feeling blue genes” and there’s nothing she can do about it. Well, to a point...
     Anyway, Elizabeth and Richard’s addiction to jewellery makes me smile as much as Dirk and Dolly’s addiction to something which costs nothing – not at the point of entry, anyway.

PS: Just this week on the wireless I heard this delightful Burton-Taylor quote...
Elizabeth: “Yes, we argued all the time. But at least he was worth arguing with.”
Thursday, September 8
A word in your ear

COLLINS the dictionary people have removed so-called obsolete words from their smaller dictionaries, including aerodrome and charabanc, words presumed to have become extinct in the past year, according to lexicographers.
     Now I wouldn’t mind betting that over the past year aerodrome was used more often than lexicographer in polite conversation.
     There’s been quite a reaction to these missing words, especially aerodrome.
     I liked this comment best from Crazyjane: Strange about aerodrome. I’ve always taken it as a reference to small facilities for private and recreational planes. Airfield would be for military, and airport for commercial passenger planes.
     That makes sense to me. Personally, as long as there are aeroplanes, there will always be aerodromes.
     As for charabanc – I have to admit I always thought it was ‘charabang’ – as long as we are mesmerically drawn to wonderful old photographs such as the one here, alongside, then the word charabanc will never die.
     And what about those caps, hats and bow ties? Oh yes, apparently in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Hannah the housekeeper’s pronunciation of char-a-banc is cherry-bounce, which is rather smiley.

Charabanc works outing in early 1920s

However, the reason for my visiting this particular story is a letter I came across just the other day in the Telegraph...

Plane language
SIR – Winston Churchill once sat next to an air chief marshal’s wife, who wore an aeroplane brooch on her ample bosom.
Noticing him looking at it, she asked: “Are you admiring my aeroplane?” Churchill responded: “No, Madam, the aerodrome.”
Peter Fineman, London W1

Hm, old Winston sounds to me like a man on final approach...

Wednesday, September 7
Goosey, goosey gander

TODAY I happened upon a set of cooking instructions hiding away in my diary proper, which, for a self-proclaimed caveman, is a bit unsettling. My excuse being that a while back there was some correspondence in the papers suggesting that we should start substituting Christmas turkey with Canada goose.
     After all, our rivers and lakes are now infested with huge numbers of these invasive birds – my daily walk through the Towy Valley underlines that claim – indeed putting them on the menu could be an incentive to cull the excess population, remembering all the while that their breeding habits put even rabbits in the shade...

A breeding pair and family spotted on the oxbow lake I pass every morning

They are perfectly edible, but careful cooking is essential as their lack of fat makes them incline to toughness.
     However, someone then suggested that they can be extremely tasty and tender, provided they are shot before they approach middle-age, certainly before they attain old age – just as any old bird can be dentally challenging when long in the tooth, so to speak.
     But you don’t need to be a rocket surgeon to figure out that it’s somewhat difficult to tell an old Canada goose from a young one when it’s lined up in your gun sights.
     Anyway, all the above was solved by following the aforementioned cooking instructions, and as shared here by Sosraboc (which sounds suspiciously like ‘sosban’, the Welsh version of saucepan). Whatever...

                                                  First catch your Canada goose...
                                                  Pluck and draw ---
                                                  Boil for six hours......
                                                  Throw away goose and eat pan.
                                                  The pan will be much more tender.

Mmmmm – melt in the mouth humour.

Tuesday, September 6
The Moon’s A Laughing Gas Balloon

DOOLALLY is one of my favourite words, one I regularly deploy hereabouts. Well, we do live in a decidedly mad world.
Three stories, huddled together in today’s Telegraph, highlight quite spectacularly the doolallyness of the world about us.
     First up...

Comedy of errors
An NHS advert for an anaesthetist in Liverpool speaks volumes for those weary of politically correct platitudes.

Viewed from a newspaper office, typographical errors are calamitous ... yet some mistakes really aren’t so bad.
     The NHS ad for an anaesthetist that ended with the line “the usual rubbish about equal opportunities etc” seems to have left some Liverpool councillors requiring medical attention, but whether due to carelessness or sabotage, those words speak for a generation weary of politically correct platitudes and hectoring.
     The NHS employs a wider variety of nationalities and creeds than any organisation in Britain; and anaesthetists can take care of themselves. They are, after all, in charge of the laughing gas.

Well, I guess laughing gas is the last thing we need to make us smile at that line appearing in the ad ... “the usual rubbish about equal opportunities etc”. Priceless.

Number 2...

Tourist complains about sight of fish in harbour

When David Copp came across a fishing trawler moored in Ilfracombe Harbour he took great offence and complained about the “disgusting” smell.
     The 46-year-old was outraged that his children, aged seven and nine, had been forced to endure the sight of 12 crates of dead fish and crabs piled up on the quayside. He said the ordeal had left them “quite distressed” and demanded to know why the harbourmaster was not more considerate to tourists
– blah, blah, blah.

You just have to laugh. According to the harbourmaster, last year someone complained about all the seaweed on the beach.
     Anyway, this in the ‘Comments’ section, from Badmoonrising: Don’t get me going about the sheep. I mean, really, would it kill the farmers to give them a weekly shampoo and rinse? It would make the countryside so much more appealing to us holidaymakers.

And finally, this...

Frenchman ordered to pay wife damages for lack of sex
A Frenchman has been ordered to pay his ex-wife £8,500 in damages for failing to have enough sex with her during their marriage.

The 51-year-old man was fined under article 215 of France’s civil code, which states married couples must agree to a “shared communal life”.
     A judge has now ruled that this law implies that “sexual relations must form part of a marriage”. The rare legal decision came after the wife filed for divorce two years ago, blaming the break-up on her husband’s lack of activity in the bedroom.
     A judge in Nice, southern France, then granted the divorce and ruled the husband named only as Jean-Louis B. was solely responsible for the split. But the 47-year-old ex-wife then took him back to court demanding 10,000 euros in compensation for “lack of sex over 21 years of marriage”.
     The ex-husband claimed “tiredness and health problems” had prevented him from being more attentive between the sheets.
     But a judge in the south of France’s highest court in Aix-en-Provence ruled: “A sexual relationship between husband and wife in the expression of affection they have for each other, and in this case it was absent. By getting married, couples agree to sharing their life and this clearly implies they will have sex with each other.”

Intriguingly, there was no ‘Comments’ section following the above ‘labour of love’ piece. Perhaps the Telegraph were fearful of what comments would actually appear. Be that as it may...

It all reminded me of a tale from many moons ago when I met a couple in a pub while on a rugby weekend: when they married a friend presented them with a gallon bottle of whisky plus several smaller empty bottles, with the instructions to empty the big bottle, and then every time they made love to pop a pound coin into that bottle.
     After a year the bottle was full. But rather than empty the bottle in one go they decided thereafter to take out a pound coin every time they made love, and then, when they had a decent sum they would treat themselves to a slap-up celebratory meal, even invite their friend, whose idea it was, and his wife.
     It worked brilliantly ... but four years later they were still taking coins out of the bottle.

Smashing story, whether true or otherwise. This set me wondering: how many £1 coins does a gallon bottle hold? I’ve even enquired online, without success.
     I know people use gallon bottles to save pound coins – when I worked behind the bar at the Crazy Horse all those moons ago, customers would often ask for such an empty bottle for that very purpose.
     I must try the Telegraph : a reader will undoubtedly provide the answer.

Monday, September 5
He’s behind you

THE phone-hacking controversy really is turning into a glorious out-of-season pantomime.
     First there was Gordon Brown’s performance in Parliament, prior to the Murdochs appearing in front of the
Commons select committee, when he declared that the phone-hacking was everyone’s fault but his own: the Tory government, the civil service, his own colleagues in the Home Office ... he had fought against the might of the Murdoch Empire and was planning to act. If only fate, (and by implication, the electorate), had not conspired against him.
     Then Rupert Murdoch revealed that he had been a regular visitor at Downing Street to look up his old pals Tone, Gordo and David Cameron – or Dai Cameo as we call him here in Wales because we suspect as PM he only has a walk-on part.
     Crucially, all the No. 10 lads always insisted that good old Rupert came visiting via the back door, out of sight of the cameras and the public.
     After the committee hearing, Murdoch spoke of his family’s rapport with the Browns, saying his wife, Wendi, had “struck up a great friendship” with Sarah Brown and that their children “played together on many occasions”.
     Oh yes, musn’t forget that Dai Cameo took on one of Murdoch’s most trusted lieutenants, Andy Coulson, as his spin doctor (while still being paid by Murdoch, allegedly).
     And now - ta-rah
! - Tony Blair is godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch’s young children, it has emerged in an interview with the media tycoon’s wife, Wendi. The following grab from today’s Telegraph...

The baptism, last March, sounds par for the course for the rich and famous. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman were also godparents; Blair wore a white suit; and the ceremony took place on the banks of the River Jordan (what point were they trying to make, do you think?). An exercise in good taste it clearly wasn’t. What is really interesting is that it has taken 18 months for the story to come out...
                                                                                                  ...That suggests that Blair remains uncomfortable about his buddy-buddy relationship with Murdoch. It might also explain the former prime minister’s deafening silence during the phone-hacking furore. After all, we now know he was practically one of the family.

What a nest of perfidious vipers, eh? So off I go to the ‘Comments’ section ... first up...

Kingrufus: I wonder how Andy Coulson is doing these days.
     Very droll.
Shotgun: The Godfather.
     How appropriate.

Before coming to the comment that most exercised my imagination, Rupert Murdoch was given the name Dirty Digger back in 1969 by magazine Private Eye. And when Wendi married a man old enough to be her grandfather, she was labelled Gold Digger. Right, so this from...

Blueprint: The dirty digger marries the gold digger. How many baby diggers do they have?
     Rather clever – and it set me thinking...

Well, there’s little Bobcat - and over there, the more grown-up JCB...

Sunday, September 4
With rhyme and reason

Pride of Smiles today goes to this clever little poem...

Billy, in one of his nice new sashes,
Fell in the fire and was burned to ashes;
Now, although the room grows chilly,
I haven’t the heart to poke poor Billy.

That, compliments of Harry Graham (1874-1936), from his Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes (1899).
     Here’s another...

I had written to Aunt Maud,
Who was on a trip abroad,
When I heard she’d died of cramp
Just too late to save the stamp.

LAST Monday, I told the tale of ‘An affair to remember’, Owen Money’s memorable ‘Phone a bride’ spot on last Sunday’s show, and I remarked then that if the exchange was not on today’s The Best of Radio Wales, then I understood nothing. Well, there it was in all its glory. If you missed last Sunday’s iPlayer replay, then it is now available for another week.
     Simply search The Best of Radio Wales, September 4, and it will be appear at about 18 minutes into the programme – it’s three minutes of delight, some five minutes with the perfect Beatles song to accompany the piece.
     Mal Pope, presenter of ‘The Best’ show, called it “Broadcasting gold – the best of the week – the best of the year, probably”.
     I really do commend it to the house. (The exchange between Owen Money and the bride, Annette Williams, is transcribed into print back on the August 29 ‘Smile of the day’.)

Saturday, September 3
The finger buffet of suspicion...

I DECIDE to have a quick flick through a pile of newspapers before putting them aside for the recycling dump. I was irresistibly drawn to this brief little story, as originally reported in the Sevenoaks Chronicle...

The finger of suspicion
A diner who left a pub without paying for his meal was tracked down by fingerprints he left on his glass.
     Michael Tuson, 29, ate with a female companion at the Toby Carvery in Badgers Mount, Sevenoaks, but was dissatisfied with his meal because it was “fatty”. Tuson admitted a charge of making off without paying and was fined £80.

‘Tis an ill crook that cannot lick clean his own fingerprints. (With apologies to the ‘Servingman’ in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.)

Help yourself
Now here’s a man who one suspects would never walk off without paying...
     Warren Buffett, 81, widely known as the Sage of Omaha, is regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world. He was ranked as the world’s wealthiest person in 2008, and the third wealthiest in 2011. It seems he creates nothing except money - loads and loads of the stuff.
     He has pledged to give away 99% of his fortune to philanthropic causes. I toyed with the idea of changing my name by deed poll to Phil Anthropic Causes: “Ah, Mr Causes, a Mr Buffett left this for you.”
     But who’s the lucky bastard whose going to get that remaining 1%? (His net worth currently exceeds US$50 billion, and according to Google’s ‘Calculator’ - all those zeroes confuse me - 1% of 50 billion = 500,000,000. Gulp
! Five hundred million dollars! It’s another world out there, folks.)
     Anyway, I read that his $5bn (£3.1bn) lifeline for Bank of America just the other day has earned the Sage of Omaha a paper profit of $280m in just 24 hours.
     It seems the sheer momentum generated by investing such a significant sum of money in the bank pushed the share prices up automatically. Quite extraordinary. Proof, if proof were needed, that money begets money.
     What exercised my imagination along my morning walk though, was his surname, Buffett. Surely, with his sort of Midas touch, that final “t” is surplus to requirements.
     So he should be just a Buffet, which, as we all know, is a meal at which you simply help yourself.
Friday, September 2
It’s the way you tell ‘em

ELSIE, sharp as a button with a wicked sense of fun, is celebrating her 99th birthday; her seven daughters take her out to celebrate at the Sanderson Hotel in London, where they hope to enjoy a jolly Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, a speciality of the house.
     Shortly after arriving they are approached by Chloe, a cheery waitress. “This is a special occasion,” a daughter explains to Chloe, “Elsie is 99 today.”
     Chloe then makes seven instant enemies and one good friend, by asking: “And which one of you is Elsie?”

There again, depending on how Chloe delivers that line, she could have made them all smile.

Talk of the way you tell ‘em, I’ve just perused the ‘Top 40 most cringeworthy chat up lines’ we men use. It’s a roundup of the usual suspects, which would probably make most females throw up. Even I felt a bit queasy, truth to tell.
     However, at No. 7, this one stopped me in my tracks: “Nice legs, what time do they open?”

I tell you what, I’d give anything to be there when that line is deployed. There again, coming out of the right mouth, I can imagine someone like Young Shagwell, of Crazy Horsepower Saloon fame, getting away with it – but I shouldn’t think there are many men around capable of delivering that and drawing “Ooooooh, you are awful --- but I like you
!” from the lady being propositioned.

Ah yes, memories of the late, great Dick Emery (1915-1983) as the busty peroxide blonde Mandy responding to a seemingly innocent remark made by a male vox pop interviewer out on the street, but perceived by Mandy as a ribald double entendre drawing the response “Ooooooh, you are awful --- but I like you
!” – before giving the bemused fellow a hefty over-enthusiastic shove on the shoulder, and a prompt about-turn walk-off with a leg trip...
     Oh dear, every week it was the same routine, but every time I smiled.

Yes indeed, it ain’t what you say, but the way that you say it.
Thursday, September 1
Every picture paints a thousand words ~ less a starter for ten

A HANDFUL of dots to join up first. Last weekend, Tom Jones, 71, was rushed to Princess Grace Hospital in Monte Carlo.
     Tom had been due to play a £200-a-ticket show at a luxury Monte Carlo nightspot on the Saturday evening. Rumours about deteriorating health began circulating after David King, the commercial manager at the venue, tweeted: “Tonight’s concert at Sporting Club, Monte Carlo, cancelled as Tom Jones admitted to hospital with a heart scare.”
     However, it was duly pointed out that, actually, he had been suffering “severe dehydration”, indeed he is now fully recovered and has been released from hospital.

Two things. I remember hearing Tom interviewed on the wireless, oh, a few months ago, talking about dehydration and how it affected his voice; it was something he had to constantly monitor with lots of liquid always at hand. Hm.

Secondly, I’ve written previously regarding a social conversation from many moons back with a local doctor following the death of a prominent Welsh politician, who had suffered a fatal heart attack in a Cardiff massage parlour, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, know what I mean, chief?
     I also reminded the Doc about another fairly local dignitary who suffered a similar demise in the back seat of his car while parked atop a local mountain with a lady who wasn’t his wife. What a way to go – but as I said at the time, it was the woman involved I felt sorry for.
     The Doc smiled and told me I'd be surprised how many men die “on the job”, so to speak, except that we never hear about it, obviously. We, the great unwashed, only find out these things when the circumstances are exceptional, as above.
     So whenever I hear of a seemingly healthy middle-aged-plus man suffering sudden heart problems, whether fatal or otherwise, I always think of that conversation with the good “What’s up?” Doc. Especially so when the man at the sharp end is known to mount anything wearing a skirt and which moves.
Right, we are back on track...
     Perusing the morning papers on the newsagent’s stand, I was irresistibly drawn to the front page of The Times. There, a picture of George Clooney, looking rather dashing with shirt unbuttoned, but probably one button too far for a 50-year-old man, arriving by boat at the 68th Venice Film Festival – with the caption...
        Clooney cruises in for ‘overdose of handsome’

So I threw up on the spot. No I didn’t, I smiled broadly. Later, as I perused the internet, pics of George and the undone button were popping up all over the place.
     Here’s one, alongside – not the one in the Times, but perhaps this one is rather more relevant, posing with his co-stars in the film ‘The Ides of March’.
     So, with a smile in my heart, I submitted a letter to The Times, something along these lines...

Evan Rachel Wood, George Clooney and Marisa Tomei
pose at a photocall for the film 'The Ides of March'

A thousand words – less a starter for ten
I see the rutting season is upon us once more (George Clooney, front page, Sep 1). Yes, it’s definitely that extra undone shirt button, which shouts: “Now I’m the king of the swingers, the jungle VIP…” (Excluding 990 words, surplus to requirements.)
     It is always a joy to watch the older stag, convinced he can satisfy all the hinds as fast as they wiggle their bums under his nose … until he collapses in a heap and has to be rushed to the vet suffering from – oh, I dunno, severe dehydration?
HB, Llandampness

Didn’t make the cut, but what the heck. After leaving the newsagent, I passed Fountain Fine Art. Since starting this web site, Fountain’s window displays have always caught the eye and made the occasional appearance here.
     This morning, this was in the window...
now why couldn’t I find the artist’s name or the price...?! It sort of has Tracey Emin written all over it. At least more Emin than Banksy.

Wednesday, August 31
Mincing in the dark

TODAY’S smile is a very silly one – but no less memorable. And it kicked in, as often happens, as soon as I awoke. Yup, good old Vanessa Feltz again.
     She was astonished at the news that the price of mince had shot up 25% in just one month. So she wondered: “How creative, dear listener, can you be with mince?” She invited her audience to send in their inventive recipes, especially as in future anything with mince could become a rare treat rather than a daily staple.
     So I made my excuses and left that particular aspect of the show.

But my interest was maintained when Vanessa said that the only musical mention of mince they could find was Nat King Cole’s Let There Be Love – which made me blink. So they played the song – and below I’ve set out some of the lyrics, which makes the mention of mince (by proxy, really) both natural and surreal...
Let there be you,
Let there be me;
Let there be oysters
Under the sea.

Let there be love,
Let there be wind,
An occasional rain,
Chile con carne,
Sparkling champagne.

Let there be birds
To sing in the trees;
Someone to bless me
Whenever I sneeze.
Let there be cuckoos,
A lark and a dove;
But first of all, please - -
Let there be love.

How about that? Who would have thought of “chile con carne” captured in the catchy lyrics of Let There Be Love?
     Listeners then began cheating slightly. Someone suggested that singer Vince Hill should morph into Mince Hill, ho, ho, ho
! In discussing Mince Hill on the show, Vanessa expressed admiration that before Vince was ‘discovered’ as a singer he was a baker, a truck driver and a coal miner. Which I have to agree is an impressive range of jobs on any CV.
     But the best moment came during the 05:30 news bulletin. The lead-item announced that the governing coalition is at odds over the speed of banking reform, in particular: “Vince Cable demands immediate introduction of plans to ring-fence high street and investment arms.”
     After the bulletin Vanessa was giggling madly because her producer had whispered in her ear during the news bulletin: “Mince Cable
!I have to say that the name is so spot on that I had a fit of the giggles too – indeed it was a running gag through the show.
     Oh dear, whenever I next see him all I will think is Mince Cable...
                                                                                                                                                        ...he really does have that ‘mincing’ look about him. A political career lies in ruins. And all thanks to the Vanessa Feltz radio show
     Before departing the mince songbook, one alert listener suggested 10CC’s Life is a Minestrone...
Life is a minestrone / Served up with parmesan cheese / Death is a cold lasagne / Suspended in deep freeze.

And there it remained until Thursday, when I wrote it all up for this ‘Smile of the day’ spot – and it came in a flash...

They dined on mince and slices of quince,
                                Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
  And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand
                                   They danced by the light of the moon...

How could we all have forgotten The Owl and the Pussy-Cat? And if you have fond memories of Children’s Favourites, and you really want a smile, as enjoyed by children of all ages, everywhere, click this link – bloody marvellous, shame we all have to grow up ... well, nearly all of us have to grow up...

Tuesday, August 30
Mirror image

HAROLD MACMILLAN was the last UK prime minister who could truly be described as blessed with inherent wisdom and foresight. He was awash with wonderful insight and quotes...
“As usual the Liberals offer a mixture of sound and original ideas. Unfortunately none of the sound ideas is original and none of the original ideas is sound.”
     But perhaps best of all, this ... when asked what represented the greatest challenge for a statesman, Macmillan replied: “Events, my dear boy, events.”

Truth to tell, you don’t need to be a statesman to be overtaken by events. It applies to each and every one of us. We can be skipping along with a smile and a song when – BANG! Life can change in the blink of an eye. Still, it’s a memorable quote.

Anyway, this letter appeared in the Telegraph, oh, a couple of weeks ago; I cut it out for my diary proper because I knew it would come in useful sooner or later...

Springtime for Nasser
SIR – Sir Alistair Horne’s article on the Arab Spring (Comment, August 17) quotes Harold Macmillan saying: “Things never turn out as you expect, dear boy.”
     Macmillan was a specialist in quips on the Arab world. His best, I thought, was after the toppling of [Egypt’s] Naguib by Nasser: “No Middle Eastern ruler is so bad his successor cannot be worse.”
Denis Harvey-Kelly, Sherborne, Dorset

In fact, that quip can apply to any country in the world, especially here in the UK. Hindsight enlightens us that Tony Blair was bad news for the general wellbeing of the country, but his successor, Gordon Brown, was much worse.
     The jury is still out as to whether David Cameron will turn out to be worse still – and things don’t look good.

As it happens, the above letter about Macmillan came in useful much sooner than expected. I mean, who knows what Libya will turn into under its new regime?

But, what makes my smile of the day is the extraordinary scenes we have seen in the papers and on television as cameras toured the various residences of the Gadaffi family.
     Pride of place goes to the golden mermaid sofa in the image of Aisha, the daughter of Muammar Gaddafi, inside her house in Tripoli...

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each...
(T. S. Eliot)

That mermaid is one of the defining images of the fall of the Gadaffi regime. It also generates an instant smile – and I managed to find a picture of Aisha herself to contrast and compare. It is a quite remarkable likeness. But the fact that it’s in gold is what really tickles my funny bone.
     What fascinates about such people who gain ultimate power is that they never seem to grasp that eventually they will be found out and the world will collapse in a heap of laughter and derision and violence.
     Mind you, there is one thing which puzzle me greatly. What on earth is that hand sticking up in the background. Is it a lamp shade? A hat stand? The Thing that visits in the night? Confirmation of the number of notches on Aisha’s bedpost?
     Whatever it is, it gives me the creeps.

But best of all, what a photograph for that rebel fighter’s family album. Especially with his V-finger sign juxtaposing magnificently with that weird hand behind him. Memorable.

Monday, August 29
An affair to remember

THERE have been a series of letters in the Telegraph  regarding the present habit of people inappropriately saying “See you later”, when what they mean is simply “Goodbye”, or “See you”, or something along the lines of “Have a nice day”. This letter summed it up rather splendidly...

We’ll meet again
SIR – When paying for my groceries at our Marks & Spencer store recently, the pretty young cashier said: “See you later.”
     When I jokingly asked her where and when we should meet, she was speechless. I am 83.
Les Rosenburg, Hull, East Yorkshire

Then today, this appeared...

Wedding rehearsal
SIR – Following our registry office wedding 35 years ago, my husband couldn’t understand the laughter from our guests when he thanked the lady registrar and said: “See you again.”
     So far, he hasn’t.
Pamela Thomas, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Well now, talk about coincidence, as I often do hereabouts.
Radio Wales  has a couple of weekend programmes called Money For Nothing. Hosted by Owen Money, he plays music from the Fifties through to the early Eighties.
     A feature of his Saturday morning show is a surprise telephone call to a ‘bride of the day’. The brides are always good value, probably because Owen brings out the best in them.
     Today, I caught up with his Sunday afternoon programme on iPlayer. Recently, he has taken to calling the occasional bride who happens to be getting married on a Sunday.

And so it was this afternoon. Owen rang Ian Wilson and Annette Williams, both getting married a second time. They sounded middle-aged. They had been married just 15 minutes.
     He first speaks to Ian, and then to Annette, who, like all the brides, is taken by surprise when she suddenly realises she’s going to be on the radio.
     Owen asks the usual questions, which includes: “Where and when did you first meet Ian?”
     Annette: There’s a pause ... “Oh God
!” Another pause, but with suitable encouragement, she continues. “I met him when he knocked on my door and said: ‘Your husband is having an affair with my wife...’.”
     There is much laughter, from both Owen and Annette.
     Owen: “Honest to God?”
     Annette: “Yes ... then we struck up a relationship – and seven years later, here we are, getting married.”
     Owen: “I’ve got to ask you: Is your ex still with her?”
     Annette: “No
!” More laughter. “He actually rang Ian up and said he’d had the best deal ... so we’ve got a marriage made in heaven.”
     At the end of this hilarious exchange, Owen asked, as he always does: “What song can I play you? Shall I play one for your ex-husband?”
     Annette laughed and agreed – and Owen played The Beatles’  “I’m a Loser”.

It was a marvellously entertaining conversation – if it’s not on The Best of Radio Wales next Sunday, then I understand nothing – the exchange made more agreeable by the fact that Annette was totally up-front about the whole incident. Indeed, both her and her husband sounded a most likeable couple anyway.
     As Owen said afterwards: “I’ve never had a ‘phone the bride’ spot like that before...”

The above is a shortened version, obviously.
If you have access to iPlayer, then before next Sunday, search out Money For Nothing, August 28 – and if you are not a fan of period music, you will find it some 47 minutes into the programme.
     It is one of smiliest interludes you will have experienced for many a day.

And it makes my regular ‘Smile of the day’ worth the effort.

Sunday, August 28
Blow, blow, thou cruel wind

LISTENING to this morning’s The Best of Radio Wales, Mal Pope played a clip from 2010 of an interview with John Howard Davies, a man from a Welsh family but born in London, who has died aged 72.
     He was a producer, director and commissioner of television comedy – responsible for commissioning, among many others, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers. Quite a CV.

Anyway, he had worked a great deal with Spike Milligan – not an easy job, he freely admitted, news that did not come as a huge surprise – but he liked Spike a lot, in fact he adored working with him.
     One day Spike was late for rehearsals. He’d been to a magistrate’s court. He had driven his little black Mini Cooper S along a pavement to overtake a Morris Minor driven by an elderly lady, scattering pedestrians along the way.
     The police duly stopped him and he was requested to blow into a breathalyser, the original type, with those tell-tale crystals in the stem.
     “Well Mr Milligan,” the policeman said, “I’m sorry to say, but these crystals have turned green.”
     And Spike said: “Of course they have you twit. I’m Irish.”
     That got read out in court and he was banned from driving for a year...

PS: It seems it was Spike who wrote this famous exchange from The Goon Show...
       “Do you come here often?”
       “Only in the mating season.”

Saturday, August 27
Open wide and say Aaagh
“WITHOUT offence, there can be no jokes.” TV’s Jeremy Clarkson, who has been taken to task over a “racist” joke about black comedian Lenny Henry.

Yes, I know, what did  Clarkson say? Well ... in a newspaper column he complained that an energy-saving mode on his new TV made the screen so dark, “every programme looks like it is being presented by Lenny Henry in a cave”.
     And the sky duly fell on JC’s head. Oh dear. Much ado about nothing, methinks. And as far as I can tell, Lenny Henry, unsurprisingly, took no offence. Or at least kept his head while those around him lost theirs.
     When I found the Clarkson quote, as is my wont, I perused the ‘Comments’ ... this, from Paul of Radstock in Somerset, generated the most “thumbs up” hits: “The brightness on my TV turns up so high it looks like every show is being presented by Jeremy Clarkson in a snow storm. Is that racist too?”
     This though was my favourite, from the memorably named It’s for your own good, Swindon, UK: “Move along please, nothing to see here.”

So, is it possible to make a joke without causing some sort of offence? Having another look at the jokes listed yesterday – see downstairs – the answer has to be yes, but it is quite a challenge.
     Perhaps the fail-safe joke is the self-deprecating one. Obviously you are making fun of yourself, so how can you cause offence?
     Today, I read this, and I have to say, it really made me chuckle. It comes from English comedian Roy Hudd, 75 – best known for his funny and very long-running BBC Radio2 series The News Huddlines – and it was said by Hudd while on a visit to a village fate: “I did once find a copy of the Roy Hudd Joke Book for 5p. Outrageously overpriced, but I bought it, just to stop anyone looking at it – mostly in case they realised I’m still doing the same jokes.”

PS: Yesterday, my headline was: A funny thing happened on the way to the Fringe (or the Fridge, even) – but I never said what happened on the way to the fridge.
     Well, as I approached the fridge I couldn’t help but notice that it wasn’t looking too perky – but as soon as I opened wide I said: “Aaagh
! It’s just a degree under.”
     Now c’mon, it is all my own work - and I certainly ain’t causing any offence.
Friday, August 26
A funny thing happened on the way to the Fringe (or the Fridge, even)

IT’S that time of year again, when the votes for the best and worst jokes at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011 are totted up. This piece from the Telegraph sums it up rather well...

                                          You’ve got to laugh
The odd thing about the joke voted best at the Edinburgh Fringe is that it seems less funny than the joke voted worst. Nick Helm won with: “I needed a password eight characters long so I picked ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’.”
     Paul Daniels’s loser was: “I said to a fella, ‘Is there a B&Q in Henley?’ He said, ‘No, there’s an H, an E, an N an L and a Y’.’’

Of course it’s the way you tell them. “A man walked into a bar. Ouch! It was an iron bar,” looks dead on the page, but for Tommy Cooper the laughter began before he’d said a word. The now-fashionable cascades of one-liners are curiously old-fashioned.
     Tim Vine, once the world record holder with 499 jokes in an hour, stands in the tradition of Ken Dodd. “Exit signs – they’re on the way out, aren’t they?” Somehow the humour gets squeezed out even by the television screen, though the live audience was in stitches.

The much-missed Tommy Cooper (1921-1984)
What you saw was what you got

Having perused the Top Ten lists, here are my other favourites ... No. 2 in the Top 10 Best Jokes was last year’s winning joker, Tim Vine: “Crime in multi-storey car parks. That is wrong on so many different levels.”
     At No. 3, Hannibal Buress: “People say ‘I’m taking it one day at a time’. You know what? So is everybody. That’s how time works.” [I would have given top prize to this joke - imagine, at the presentation: “Will Hannibal please come up to the lectern - to accept the award along with a nice bottle of Chianti so he can celebrate with a friend.”]
     And at No. 7, Alan Sharp: “I was in a band which we called The Prevention, because we hoped people would say we were better than The Cure.” I really like that. Both funny and clever.

Runner-up in the Top 10 Worst Jokes was – ta-rah
!Tim Vine, again: “Uncle Ben has died. No more Mr Rice Guy.” [Do you suppose Condoleezza Rice called round to offer up words of condolence? Great taste, nothing else.]

Reading the Telegraph’s  ‘Comments’, Roverdc said this: “The joke about Snow White is early 1970s, when computer passwords first came into general use. How come it won?” Now I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but I heard the winner of the worst joke earlier this year, except it was: “Is there a B&Q in Cardiff?” “No, but there’s a C and an A...”

I liked this from Dickturnip: “In the London riots an Irishman broke into Ladbrokes Bookmakers and promptly lost £50.”
Actually, that sounds somewhat dated, from a time before it became bad form to make Irish jokes.

And then came this exchange...
Lightshaft: “A man went into a psychiatrists wearing just cling film as shorts. Psyc said, ‘I can see your nuts...’.”
Aelfrith: “Try this: A man went into a psychiatrist’s wearing just cling film as shorts. Psyc said, ‘I can see you’re nuts…’.”
Lightshaft again: “No, I think you will find he could actually see his ‘bollocks’.” [‘Bollocks’ was then deleted by a moderator – quite why, I’m unsure; if people are offended by the word bollocks - well, that sounds like a load of old balls to me.]

Anyway, I enjoyed that exchange – because it proves that the above joke is one that should only be told, never written, otherwise it leads to silly arguments like the above. Both are correct, depending whether you have a clean or a dirty mind.
     I, of course, went with: “I can see your nuts.” Good clean dirty fun.

Finally, Stonewood  reminded us of some Tommy Cooper classics...
Customer: “Waiter, this chicken has only got one leg.”
Waiter: “Do you want to eat it or dance with it?”

“Went scuba diving and saw a man wearing a sports jacket walking along the seabed. I asked him what he was doing down there: ‘Drowning,’ he replied.”

I shall finish with one of my favourite Tommy Cooper tales – note, this is not a joke, because it is, apparently, true. It seems he played the fool in everyday life.
     So Tommy goes 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.”

Just like that.


Thursday August 25
Taking the biscuit

A MAIL ONLINE  headline and opening paragraphs beckoned...

    Fred the Shred’s rage over wrong brand of biscuit: RBS staff were terrified of boss, book claims

His disastrous time in charge of the Royal Bank of Scotland left the taxpayer with a multi-billion-pound bail-out bill.
     But disgraced banker Sir Fred Goodwin [pictured alongside] was also a dreadful boss, a new book chronicling his downfall will claim.
     It alleges that the man dubbed ‘Fred the Shred’ because of his ruthless obsession with making savings, could not control his anger if the wrong type of biscuit was put in the boardroom.
     Catering staff were threatened with disciplinary action in an e-mail titled ‘Rogue Biscuits’ after someone had the audacity to offer executives pink wafers, it says.
     RBS staff also ‘went into panic mode’ after a window cleaner fell off a ladder in Sir Fred’s office and broke a toy aeroplane, the book claims.

Your call: dolphin or shark? ... pussycat or polecat? ...
sparrow or sparrow hawk? ... marvel or monster?

This strange story was also the featured item on the Vanessa Feltz early morning radio show. She invited her “lovely listener” - I guess that has to be moi - to tell her about the little things that drive me bananas. I drew a blank.
     Obviously there are things that must annoy me – but I couldn’t for the life of me think what they were off the top of my head. It goes without saying there are things which leave me gobsmacked and/or frustrated, but that is different to flying into a rage over something silly.
     Anyway, back with Fred the Shred. This exceedingly silly tale brings to mind French actor and bon viveur Gerard Depardieu, who tossed away his last drop of goodwill when he urinated in an aircraft aisle.
     Not, I suspect, that Goodwin has any goodwill left now anyway. Still, as a man who took out a super-injunction to hide the fact that he had been having an affair with a colleague, it’s surprising that he didn’t take out a super-injunction against that pink wafer and thus rob us of those precious few crumbs of joy off the plonker’s table.

So I got to thinking about some suitable headlines...
Jammie Dodger hates those pinkos
Fred cream crackered at the office
Fred the Shred HobNob at heart
 Rich Tea more Fred the Shred than pink wafer

The more I think about it, my guess is that  he didn’t like those pink biscuits because it would suggest that he’s – well, he’s not quite the man’s man he likes to make out. Perhaps he would have preferred some dog biscuits?

Incidentally, Dear Vanessa: After the way Fred the Shred shafted his bank and the country, why is he still referred to as Sir  Fred Goodwin? Now that does  rattle my cage.
     As a follow-up to that thought, I submitted a newspaper letter, utilizing one of the headlines as above...

Rich Tea more Fred the Shred than pink wafer
SIR – Is there some unwritten media rule which states that Fred Goodwin must always be referred to as “Sir”?
     Given how much the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Jammie Dodger hated those pinkos, wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear from the people who thought Fred Goodwin so far and away the best thing since short-term, mega-million, roll-over contracts were introduced that they duly appointed him head of RBS.
     Even more intriguing, who are the people who nominated him for a knighthood in the Queen’s 2004 Birthday Honours list, “for services to banking”? Presumably, he represented everything that was relevant to Tony Blair’s Britain. Commenting on the knighthood at the time, George Mathewson, chairman of RBS Group said: “The honour is richly deserved.”
     Yes indeed, George, Fred and Tony’s Adventures in Wonderland.
HB, Llandampness

Crazy world, crazy people.

Wednesday, August 24
Foreign invasion

JUST caught up with a picture from earlier this week, which has being popping up all over the place. It’s an image captured by photographer Vickie Flores, on Monday evening I believe, of London lit up by a spectacular sunset, which saw Tower Bridge and much of the city bathed in a red and orange glow.
     The instant I saw it, what came to mind was Prince Philip. Can you step inside my mind and spot the connection?

London Town: Tower Bridge and 'Dodgy Friend' bathed in a glow of satisfaction

Well, can you see what it is yet? Let me take you back to the beginning of June, and a BBC1 programme, The Duke at 90.
     The interview was conducted by Fiona Bruce – the clever lady (sic) whose brain is now bigger than her bum (she is alarmingly thin) – and who managed to turn Prince Philip into a ... well, this from The Guardian’s John Crace...

Bruce began the interview by saying: “You’re 90 this year.” To which the Duke replied: “Well done.” She followed this up by asking if there was anything of which he was particularly proud. That got a one word answer: “No.”
     In desperation, Bruce then said she wanted to know what he thought about his life. The Duke sighed: “Who cares what I think?” The interview went downhill from there.

Later in the interview Prince Philip was clearly heard to say: “Exterminate
! Exterminate!
     Yes okay, what he actually implied was that she didn’t have “a proper job”. Same thing, really.

And “Exterminate
! is what came to mind when I first set eyes on the above picture, agreeable as it is. Then I said to myself: “Look at the size of that bloody Dalek!
     Can you see it? Astonishing. That new building really does look like a giant Dalek on the rampage.
     Dr Who meets Star Trek ... Dalek meets the Borg.

Every day a day at school spot: The Dalek London Bridge is actually called Shard London Bridge, and will be the tallest building in the EU when it is completed in 2012: “Exterminate
! Exterminate!

Tuesday, August 23
Is that all there is?

LAST Wednesday, the 17th, this letter appeared in the Daily Telegraph...

Gone away
SIR – Recently widowed, I am hoping to claim my late husband’s air miles but I am unsure as to how to complete the form, which requires the deceased’s address.
     Do I follow my beliefs and write “paradise” or would the address of the local graveyard be more appropriate?
Bee Kenchington, Chichester, West Sussex

I awaited the usual succinct and witty responses – but nothing. There was an online response from ‘Dalekdave’, who refused to enter into the spirit of the query and likened “paradise” to the sort of place where Father Christmas spends his summer hols: “Bee Kenchington needs to realise that only one of those places actually exists. Paradise is the result of brainwashing children, she needs to grow up and smell the coffee.”
     Boo , hiss
! However, ‘Gordonchop’ told him off on my behalf for “disparaging others because they believe in something you don’t – and ponder this: Eternity is far too long to have got it wrong”.
     ‘Cool Trousers’ suggested something else to ponder: “There are few atheists aboard a plane in trouble.” Indeed, just as I am told there are no atheists in foxholes in times of war.

The only suggestion I could come up with in response to the Bee Kenchington query was “No. 7, Heaven”, as in Seventh Heaven, obviously, but I was reluctant to suggest this just in case any correspondence was returned “Gone away”.
     For some reason I never submitted my response for consideration. I think I forgot.

Bee Kenchington came to mind today when I heard of the death of American lyricist Jerry Leiber, 78, responsible for an astonishingly wide spectrum of songs, from Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog to Peggy Lee’s Is That All There Is?. And of course those words, as delivered by Peggy Lee: If that’s all there is my friend, then let’s keep dancing; let’s break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is...

Writing this up on Wednesday morning, I am listening to Vanessa Feltz on iPlayer. The opening online invitation says this: “Been to paradise but never been to you? If you’ve lived the song, Vanessa needs to know! Contact the show...”

How about that? Paradise revisited. I shall drop the show a belated e-mail...

In the meantime, back with Jerry Leiber (not forgetting his musical partner Mike Stoller), take your pick: Hound Dog – listen out for that backing harmony from the Jordanaires; oh, and be sure to read the fascinating information about the song, by Shabannie, the  ‘uploader’ of said video...

The original version of Hound Dog by Big Mama Thornton is quite a revelation...

Or: Is That All There Is? – a mesmerising black and white video...
Also, take five to take a look at this – some stand-and-stare pics on the accompanying video...

Enjoy, as someone once said...

Monday, August 22
Weather lore and behold


TODAY’S smile has its genesis buried deep in the weekend just gone. In particular, the weather forecast. We had some rain on Saturday morning, then a nose of high pressure moved in – occasionally called a ridge – resulting in most of Saturday, along with Sunday and today, being pleasantly sunny and warm. Perfect late summer weather.
     It was on Saturday that I watched a BBC weather forecast presented by Nina Ridge, someone I have a high pressure spot for – see picture, alongside ... she definitely tickles my H-Spot (my hallelujah spot).
     Anyway, Nina was doing
the forecast; behind her on the weather map an unfamiliar ridge moved in over the country. And I found myself wondering, just how often does Nina Ridge stand there and say: “Here’s a welcome Ridge of high pressure moving over the country.” Very silly, I know – but I often catch myself thinking silly things when no one is watching.
     For what it’s worth, I thought she handled a potential high pressure situation rather well, ho, ho, ho

A Ridge of sunshine

Incidentally, there’s a Nina Ridge Lane in Spring, Harris County, Texas – just one of the curious results Google threw up while seeking a smiley image of our Nina Ridge.

Oh yes, when I see Nina (not to mention the cheery Laura Tobin), I am reminded of the definition of a meteorologist: a fellow who can look into a girl’s eyes and tell whether.

PS: Last Thursday’s ‘Smile of the day’ was hijacked by a tide of pee-wee puns, when the French actor and bon viveur Gerard Depardieu seemingly squandered his last drop of goodwill when he urinated in an aircraft aisle.
     The Sunday papers continued to have fun with the incident, so I thought I would draw a discreet curtain around the whole incident – but not before a quick nod and a wink in the direction of The Sunday Times for the following headline...
Splash landing for Monsieur Pipi
Mind you, that headline, above, brings to mind John Wayne as Texas Ranger Jake Cutter in the film The Comancheros. Big Jake reluctantly befriends a New Orleans dandy, Monsieur Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman), a fellow he has captured for killing a judge
s son in a duel just after that gentlemanly practice was outlawed: “Mon-sewer, you may not live long enough to hang.”
     Perhaps The Sunday Times headline should have read...
Splash landing for Mon-sewer Pipi

Sunday, August 21
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned

! Now thats a good word. It has a hint of the onomatopoeic about it. It is also a variation on the theme of smiling. At least, whenever my gob is smacked, a smile will inevitably crease my face. And so it was this morning when I visited Telegraph online.
     The phone hacking scandal refuses to lie down. The whole business gets murkier and muckier by the day.

This headline caught my eye:
“The phone hacking scandal has hacked at the pillars of society. Like a probing finger in a rickety house, the scandal finds rot wherever it pushes.”

What really ignited my “gobsmacked” condition was the picture, alongside, of Rupert Murdoch attending church, with Les Hinton beside him (the head of News Corp’s flagship American newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, who resigned last month), Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks behind.
     Oh dear, I am lost for words. True, it was taken when they attended a church service back in 2005 – but again, if a picture paints a 1,000 sins. Talk about Mr. Shifty..

"Les, I'm gonna be sick - I was sure he said 10 Bloody Marys!"

Looking back at last month’s committee hearings, when the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks appeared in the dock – and remembering that there were supposedly some really sharp operators asking the questions – I am still astonished that when Rebekah Brooks took to the stage, the opening question did not go something like this...
     “I see from your CV, Mrs Brooks, that you entered the Murdoch Empire in 1989, as a humble secretary, and you then rose through the ranks to become chief executive of News International in 2009.
That, is impressive by any standards; indeed, it is reasonable to presume that in the modern media there is no other individual in the newspaper business with your intimate knowledge of what goes on at every level within the industry. Two questions then.
One: what age were you, and what position did you hold, when you first became aware how easy it was to hack into a phone message?
Two: what age were you, and what position did you hold, when you first became aware that information gained in such a way was being used to sell newspapers?”

Now there is no way she could have answered those questions truthfully – I mean, it is laughable that someone as clever as her did not know precisely what was going on - so her only reply could have been: “I was never aware that such things were going on when I worked at the sharp end. Indeed I am nowhere near as clever as you seem to think; I am just a lucky old cow who happened to be in the right place at the right time…” Or something like that.

At this point the whole nation would have collapsed in a heap of laughter, and we would have reasonably concluded that none of these people should be trusted further than we could throw them.
     Particularly so seeing all of them pictured together in church, presumably thanking God for his considerations: “The cheque’s in the post.”

You truly couldn’t make it all up.

PS: Given recent news, do you suppose that while Andy Coulson was David Camerons spin doctor, he was still in the pay of, and still working for, Rupert Murdoch? Now theres food for thought.

Saturday, August 20
A cool spot on a hotlist

THIS headline caught my eye as I flicked through today’s Western Mail newspaper...

Welsh county makes ‘hotlist’ for must visit destinations
                                                 SECOND ONLY TO CHILE IN ‘COOL’ GUIDE FOR TOURISTS
IT may not boast sun-drenched beaches or palm trees but a Welsh county has been named one of the “coolest” places in the world to visit by a fashion magazine.
     Red put Carmarthenshire second in its list of must visit places in 2011 – behind Chile but ahead of Paris, Mozambique, Laos and Miami...

So I picked myself up, dusted myself off – and stood there wondering why my home county had remained such a closely guarded secret for so long.
     The magazine Red, unsurprisingly, meant nothing to me, so a quick nose online put me in the pink.

Carmarthenshire has indeed been overlooked for far too long as an international destination. “Overlooked, until now, as a drive-through county between the Gower peninsula and Pembrokeshire, beautiful Carmarthenshire is putting itself on the map,” Red said. (Nearly said Red said Fred.)
     It then goes on to list places in the county, including good old Llandampness – yes, Llandeilo itself.
     So I dug out a favourite Carmarthenshire picture, alongside, which I captured not far from my front door.
     Significantly, Carmarthenshire is the fourth location in Wales to have recently been blessed with a high-profile mention in the media. There is always much made here in Wales of our tourism industry i.e. how important it is to our economy, and how the powers that be are not always

'Cool' Carmarthenshire deserves those precious
moments to simply stand and stare and enjoy...

promoting the country as they should.
    So, with tongue-firmly-in-cheek, I thought I’d send a letter to the Western Mail...

Destination paradise
SIR – National Geographic recently placed Cardiff in a list of “must-see” world travel destinations.
     A couple of weeks back, online travel advisors Cheapflights listed the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path as the third-best walk in the world.
And now, fashion magazine Red has put Carmarthenshire second in its list of must-visit places in the world.
     Oh, and we must not forget that in the lead up to the royal wedding, Anglesey in North Wales generated more than its fair share of world-wide interest for the simple reason that this is where William and Kate have set up home.
     It would take several marketing geniuses, not to mention that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, to buy such a level of exposure. Whoever the politicians and advisers who handle tourism and its promotion in Wales are, they have serendipitously tripped over the goose that lays the golden eggs.
     They need to give her an extra special home – but should they accidentally drop her precious eggs, they should all be dragged kicking and screaming to Strumble Head, shoved down a giant cannon and fired out to sea, never to be seen again.
     And I will light the fuse. Gladly.
HB, Llandampness

PS: I am actually writing this up on the Sunday, and by one of those unbelievable coincidences, a man on the wireless is talking about how best to promote Wales: he suggests that place names should be changed to make them more consumer friendly. Perhaps the way I refer to Llandeilo as Llandampness, ho, ho, ho!
     Anyway, he has thus far only come up with one example. Just up the road are the beautifully rugged Brecon Beacons ... he suggests they be rechristened Brecon Beckons.
     I have to say, that is really witty. Ten out of ten.


Friday, August 19
A posh butterfly prays and preys

“POSH TOO SICK TO HOLD HER BABY” was the Daily Mirror front page headline which greeted me at the newsagent this morning. Ah, poor David Beckham, the little darling, was my immediate reaction – but then I read what was beneath...
                                                      “Victoria’s bad back agony after birth”
I’d forgotten about the recent birth of her daughter. So for David, read Harper Seven. How could I forget? Get well soon, love.

HERE’S another recent Times letter Chief Wise Owl thought would tickle my chuckle muscles – and he was right.
     There had obviously been a thread in the paper about having to live with the dreadful levels of noise near airports, both private and military, as well as railway lines – and I sense incredulity that golfers insist on having absolute hush as they go about their business of hitting a little ball towards a hole...

Greens peace
Sir, Sadly, it does not need the noise of jet engines or steam trains to disturb the concentration of many of us golfers.
     P G Wodehouse describes the player who “missed short putts because of the uproar of the butterflies in the adjoining meadows”.
JIM PAGE, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne

Shades of monarch butterflies flapping their wings in Canada as they set off south on their 1,800 mile migration to Mexico - and sometime later a shout of “Fore
!” is heard at Cape Canaveral as a rocket launch is delayed because a vigorous weather front is passing over.

MEANWHILE, an ironic smile front passes over me... “Man, biologically considered, and whatever else he may be into the bargain, is simply the most formidable of all the beasts of prey, and, indeed, the only one that preys systematically on its own species.” William James (1842-1910), a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher, who trained as a physician.

As soon as I read that, thoughts of the recent riots, looting, arson and murders sprang effortlessly to mind. We really are a shocking species.
     The only one that prays and preys in the same breath.
Thursday, August 18
Tinkle, tinkle, big French star ~ oh dear, wee pee puns unlimited
Eccentric man-child Pee-Wee Depardieu embarks on his big adventure to spend a penny

THE most curious story of the day comes compliments of French actor Gerard Depardieu, 62, who yesterday was famously caught short on a plane and peed on the carpet.
     The media has been awash with puns, which I shall attempt to summarise in my own fashion.

Depardieu was on the ground in Paris, waiting for his plane to
take off for Dublin, but a delay on the ground proved too

much for the actor, known for his enthusiastic love of red wine, sometimes five, six bottles a day when he’s very tired and emotional, apparently.
     Depardieu told the flight attendant, “Je veux pisser,” – which I am told is “I have to pee” – but she was unmoved by such a piddling request ... telling the famous Frenchie he would have to wait 15 minutes because the flight was about to take off. According to witnesses, Depardieu unzipped his pants and pissed on the aisle carpet.

The headline “Snake spotted on plane” was top drawer as I seem to remember a couple of years back some snakes escaped on a Qantas plane and caused chaos.
     “It’s the snake pits” was another good one; as were

"Here's leaking at you, kid ~ but we'll always have Paris."
Gerard Depardieu confuses art with life?

“Depardieu let it all hang out”, “A thespian thes-peeing”
and “Slash and Splash”.
     It was reported that he “created his own jet stream” or, as the French would say, “Oui, oui”, which all leads to this neat headline: “Non, non, you can’t wee, wee here, monsieur.”
     The airline was CityJet – surely he should have been flying “Incontinental”. I really enjoyed that one, very clever (compliments of Anderson Cooper, CNN). There was a rumour that he tried to pee in a bottle – but that simply doesn’t hold water, ho, ho, ho
     Also, Anderson Cooper thought the incident was his “No. 1 role”, indeed, the cleaning crew sent in to tidy up should thank their lucky stars it wasn’t a “Depar-doo” – or was it a “Depard-two”, even a “De Part Deu”? You pays your money...
     Perhaps CityJet should coin a new slogan: “We aim to please – you aim too, please.”

So, after all the middle-leg pulling, Gerard will have his work cut out to “Put the P back in PR”. By the way, there’s a Splashdown in Poole, a place which houses an “impressive range of water activities and slides”.

Enough, already. My favourite headline though was spotted first thing this morning on the front page of The Times...
Mon Dieu, Depardieu! When you’ve got to go just go

I like the opening gambit – the Welsh language lends itself to internal rhymes, and it occasionally happens in English: “Clunk click, every trip” is one of the more famous ones. So Mon Dieu, Depardieu is a cracker. Mind you, I would have gone with...
Mon Dieu, Depardieu! When a man’s gotta go a man’s gotta go

Mush dash. Dying for a quick flash and a splash. Will that wash?

Wednesday, August 17
A life on the ocean waves

ALONG my morning walk through Llandeilo I pass an empty shop. It’s been thus since earlier this year. It was the town’s pet shop, but the lady who ran the business has now retired.
     We were nodding acquaintances; I regularly passed her out exercising her dogs. We always exchanged a few words – the weather, the political situation in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – the usual small talk on a misty early morning in the Towy Valley
     And no, her husband’s name wasn’t Stan ... come to think of it, I’m not sure she had a partner. Indeed, I have no idea what her name was - is – but we always shared a smile.

Anyway, as her days in the shop drew to a close she placed a brief note of thanks to her customers in the window; on the day she left she whitewashed part of the window and painted a little boat, a sun and some seagulls ... well, see alongside, a picture which paints a thousand words.
     It always makes me smile when I walk past. I hope she’s enjoying her retirement, under sail, I presume.
     Curiously, every time I do pass the window I think of Englishman
Richard Brunstrom, 56, the controversial Chief Constable of North Wales Police (2001-2009), who became known as the “Mad Mullah of the Traffic Taliban” because of his determination to eliminate deaths and destruction caused by speeding drivers.
     He even learnt Welsh to a high standard and regularly

♫♥♫  I am sailing, I am sailing ... to be free ♫♥♫

gave interviews in the Welsh language. Today I was struck by
this thought: with UK police coming under increased criticism for their handling of the early stages of the recent riots, I found myself wondering what had become of the “Mad Mullah”...
                                                                                                                                                       ...truth to tell, and those caught speeding excepted – oh, and Jeremy Clarkson – here in
Wales we had plenty of time for him. You sense that he would have nipped the riots, the looting and the arson in the bud.
When he retired we all half-expected him to go into the media, given how he thrived on publicity – he even co-hosted a Jeremy Vine Radio2 show once; oh yes, and his officers famously “zapped” him with a Taser electronic stun gun before he allowed it to be used on anyone by his force.
     But he did say when he retired: “I
’ve done my bit in public life - Im going sailing with the wife.” Well, two years on and not a peep. So I decided to Google: nothing, except someone else wondering the same thing – and I came across this delightful thread…

BIGDAI: I am reliably informed that he is sailing his boat around the high seas.
         Trickywoo: If you see him tell him the Gulf of Aden is lovely this time of year.
                    Streaky: Apparently, he’s happy in the Doldrums – no speeding down there.

Ah, the humour of it all – I particularly enjoyed the name of that last post. And I’m sure the “Mad Mullah” himself would have enjoyed it too for he didn’t lack a sense of humour. (On a Welsh language variation on the theme of Desert Island Discs, one of his musical selections was Jessica, the Top Gear theme song, the programme that made fun of his attempts to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads.)

What is he up to these days? And what does he think of our latest troubles? It would be fascinating to hear his thoughts.

Tuesday, August 16
Caught short

YESTERDAY, Jeremy Clarkson unwittingly provided the
smiles: not only does he have a man in to do his high-speed driving but – shock, horror – he also has a man in to hanky-panky on his behalf (allegedly, thrice: that he has a man in to drive (nay); that he does a bit of hanky-panky on the side (nay); that he also has a man in to hanky-panky per pro, if you’ll pardon the pun (nay, nay, thrice nay).

As mentioned recently, I do not twitter because I simply do not possess the wit and wisdom to service and slay such a demanding, many-headed Hydra. Hercules I am not.
     As a point of order, all twitterers should have a sub-editor. For example, let’s revisit Mr Jeremy Clarkson.
     He delivered the following typically brash joke, in a news-paper review, methinks:
“The Jaguar XKR-S is very fast, and in the corners it will get its tail out more readily

Hercules slaying the Many-Headed
Hydra of Lerna [and Loewe, at Camelot?] D'oh!

than George Michael.”
     Typical Clarkson speak and, truth to tell, all rather smiley.
     The gay pop star then tweeted some responses, including this:
“Good grief Mr Clarkson, I wasn’t implying your towering heterosexuality was in question. I had no desire to insult you!
     To my mind he should have stopped there because Clarkson is increasingly looking like an ageing stag that’s developed a bit of a limp as he tries too hard to revisit his days as the young buck about town.
     But disastrously, George Michael adds this:
“But I do now, you pig-ugly homophobic twat!!!! Oh dear, straight into the bin. A sub-editor would have drawn a line through that last bit because it spoils what went before.

It is fascinating to note that even the more entertaining tweeters become addicted, probably against their better judgment. They have so many followers – who are really just bunnies caught in the headlights of celebrity, and because they all nod, shake their heads and slap their thighs in the right places, slebs buy into the notion that they really are the next Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker, Mark Twain...
     Again, a sub-editor would ration their thoughts. Less is often more.
Nobody can be that clever at the drop of the famous hat. Indeed, memorable lines come in trickles rather than in torrents.
     Talking of good lines...

Today, for some reason I did not quite understand, there has been much in the media marking the 34th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. Nothing wrong with that – but why 34 in particular? Why not 33 last year? Or 35 next?
     Anyway, heard lots of Elvis songs, which can
t be bad, irrespective of any anniversary. But I did hear a marvellous quote that was new to me.
     Tom Jones said this the very first time he saw Elvis in cabaret: “I don’t know about my wife, but when Elvis walked on stage I wanted to kiss him.”
     It’s a magical quote, all the better because you can hear Mr Jones delivering it, punctuated with that trademark cough of his. Like most people I have only ever seen film of Elvis performing live when in his prime, but I do see what Tom meant.
     The King did have something quite magical about him.

Monday, August 15
Pulling a fast one
PURE schadenfreude! A BBC insider has claimed that 80% of the daredevil driving scenes filmed by Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson are actually carried out by professional racers, with the footage then cleverly edited.
     How wonderful is that?
Clarkson employs racing drivers to perform those high-speed runs while he sits in a simulator pretending to drive like a bat out of a cliché and pointing excitedly at the speedometer...
     And what about all those alleged hanky-panky liaisons we read about in the papers? Do you suppose old randy Jeremy has a stand in for those as well? Now there’s posh.
     Honestly, if you can’t trust your heroes and role models, especially the BC Brigade, the ‘Before Christ Brigade’ – Blair, Brown, Campbell, Cameron, Clegg, Clarkson – who the hell can

“Look! I’ve just gone through the
sound barrier – boom, boom

you trust?
     True, Clarkson has hit back at the claims, saying: “It is complete rubbish. If I say I drove a Lamborghini and got to 207mph, then that’s what I did. I was in the car.”

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? After all, his style of writing and television presentation revolves around exaggeration on an epic scale. So how are we supposed to know when he is telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? We don’t, of course.

I enjoyed this online description of Clarkson by a Jil Wrinkle: How the man ultimately comes across is as the school bully who grew up to be very rich and popular, and believes that he should carry on thinking about things and people just the way he did when he was 12 because of that fact. He says the things he says not because he really believes that people should eat pandas, but because it gets him the attention he desires.

That made me smile, which suggests I agree. I bet Clarkson was the school bully – or if he was actually the one being bullied, then he is now clearly getting his own back.
     As for the original claim, I have no idea how much high-speed driving Clarkson does, and it
s of no real concern, except that it all adds to the gaiety of the passing parade.
Seriously though, when will we grasp that, after politics, television is our most dishonest profession, from phone-in fiddles to dumbing down in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator and thus pull in larger audiences. Thats the way it works.
     You know my motto: Believe nothing you hear and only half what you see. And these days even that’s pushing it a bit.

PS: Check todays Postcard corner for a differently smiley picture and matching tale ... smile

Sunday, August 14
In like Flynn – or how to defuse Westminster sex bombs

“FOR reasons that are inexplicable, MPs – even the most superficial, unattractive, misshapen ones – are attractive to the opposite sex.” Paul Flynn, 76, British Labour Party politician and MP for Newport West (Wales) since 1987, who suggests regular cold baths and contemplation of the “immediacy of death” to help fight temptation.

So I picked myself up, dusted myself off – and started laughing all over again. According to Flynn – and presumably he talks from personal experience – MPs have extraordinary and mystifying powers of attraction over the opposite sex.
     Paul Flynn is one of life’s odd bods. A while back he declared that people who use mega-firm handshakes to underscore the strength of their personalities should be charged with assault. (Yes, these are the sort of people who rule over us.) Flynn would like to see the practice of handshakes ended because they are unnecessary, unhygienic, germ-spreading intrusions.
     Funnily enough I agree with him on overuse of handshakes; indeed I believe you only need to shake hands to commiserate, congratulate or agree on a deal. Furthermore, I firmly believe you should only kiss those you wish to go to bed with – but that’s another story.
     But hey, that people with bone-crunching handshakes should be charged with assault hints at doolallyness of a very high order.
     This brings me back to Paul Flynn and his advice on things sexual – so just to put you in the picture, here’s a snap of the man who has his finger on Westminster’s G-spot...
                                                                                                                              ...I mean, who would ever have imagined Paul Flynn as the Warren Beatty of politics?
     Now what was it
Woody Allen said of Beatty after he claimed to have stayed wide-awake (as opposed to slept) with 13,000 women? “If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I want to come back as Warren Beatty’s fingertips.”
     Hands up all those who want to come back as Paul Flynn’s fingertips? I guess the default position here is Mr Speaker, John Bercow, and wife Sally...
                                                                                                             ...he, the politician with romantic chemistry pulsating at his very fingertips; and she, the political groupie, a walking timebomb of throbbing sexual energy desperately looking for a handy Westminster lay-by to pull into. I even remember her extolling the aphrodisiac qualities of Big Ben’s chimes.
     I was never sure whether she was referring to the clock or her husband’s timepiece (I nearly said clock without the ‘l’). Whatever: thanks, but no thanks.

Whenever I read such delightfully loopy stories, I go online and seek out various news web sites carrying the story – and then scroll straight to the ‘Comments’ section. It’s an education how the masses respond. Pretty much without exception, everyone seemed to be picking themselves up, dusting themselves off…
     The comments ranged from
“Dude, hookers don’t count (John)” to “If a 76-year-old man thinks he’s a sex magnate then he has penile dementia, lol (Mark Royle)”.

Now I don’t tweet (I possess neither the wit nor the wisdom to satisfy such a ravenous beast); neither do I submit comments online (contributors appear to be addicted to the form), but I thought I’d come up with a “tweet” for my own web site in response to the doolallyness of Flynn’s ‘How to Defuse Sexual Magnetism’.
”Ah, now I understand why Paul Flynn regards himself to be such a fine, upstanding member of Parliament.”

Incidentally, a neat quote to juxtapose alongside Flynns observations comes from Mathew Parris, 62, South African born, but now a UK-based journalist and former Conservative MP: “Hundreds of Commons secretaries cheerfully regard their male bosses as spoilt brats.”

I guess Parris is nearer the truth than Flynn. Still, it was certainly a worthy smile of the day.
Saturday, August 13
Cut it out!

THE Crazy Horsepower’s resident Chief Wise Owl handed me a few letters from The Times  newspaper, as he occasionally does, trusting they will find a welcoming and smiley home.
     There was obviously a thread of letters running in the paper regarding the out-of-date magazines we all occasionally come across at the doctor’s or the dentist’s. Here’s one...

Just like that
Sir, The oldest magazine in a waiting room? Surely no one can beat the late Tommy Cooper, who said: “I went to the dentist this morning. Isn’t it terrible about the Titanic?”
DAVID HARDING, Barnt Green, W Midlands

Very ho, ho, ho
! Then came this intriguing follow up...

Open wide
Sir, When I started my own dental practice I was going to be progressive and put up-to-date magazines in the waiting room. Result? They all disappeared. Marking them with our stamp helped but in the end we compromised on date, but not by quite as much as [David Harding] indicated.
     There are only three ways a patient can punish a dentist: don’t turn up, don’t pay the bill, or pinch his magazines.
DAVID BRIMS, Fareham, Hants

How about that? Who would have thought? Well, me, actually. I sort of hang my head in shame. No, I have never pinched a magazine from a waiting room. But ... I will take you back to my ‘Smile of the day’ from March 29 this year. I quote...

VISITED the local doctor’s practice to complete my health MOT. After checking in and finding a seat I perused the magazines on offer. The first I picked up was The Garden.
     Although I enjoy planting trees, I am not a gardening enthusiast, but I flicked through anyway ... some eye-catching photographs. I then noticed that it was dated January 2003.

     How very droll, I remember thinking, for I believed these things only happened in television sketches and comedy routines - but being a garden magazine, I guess the date isn’t really relevant.
     I next picked up a SAGA magazine: October 2010 ... getting warmer. I flicked through and landed on a cartoon, which made me chuckle out loud.
     I engaged in a quick philosophical discussion with self as to whether it was okay to gently and carefully tear it out for my diary – and the man from Del Conscience said “Yes
!” – nobody seemed to notice me quietly do the dirty, and here it is, alongside...

Now the interesting thing here, which I didn’t mention last March, was my conclusion that no one would miss the cartoon anyway – and I had checked what was on the reverse of the cartoon, on the next page ... it was the corner of a clothes ad. So I was quite happy with that.
     However, the letter from the dentist does make me look at it from a slightly different angle. Whether I will cut anything out in future is a moot point.

the defining image of the riots, the picture by Amy Weston of a pyjama-clad lady jumping from her flat window into the arms of riot police to escape the flames...
                                                                                                                                                                   ...it turns out that she is Monika Konczyk, 32, a Polish lady, who moved to the
UK last March to join her sister. And looking extremely relaxed in the photo, above, taken before the riots, obviously. Understandably, she is no longer impressed with her welcome, and has been left traumatised.

With the inquest into the troubles getting under way - it really is an education to hear politicians, experts and the media pontificating on the reasons - I was intrigued that David
Cameron has invited American expert and police chief Bill Bratton to advise on how best to tackle gang culture.
     I would suggest that Parliament itself will be an excellent place to start, for there we have two of the most destructive gang cultures in the country.

Friday, August 12
You really can’t see the join

MUCH like the bunny caught in the approaching headlights, I was momentarily dazzled by this headline...

                                                        Sesame Street duo Bert and Ernie ‘not gay’
                            Sesame Street says puppets have no sexual orientation and will not marry

Well, you’ve gotta laugh. It’s proof positive of the absolute doolallyness of the world about us.
     Dear old Bert and Ernie mean nothing to me; it’s been that long since I’ve seen Sesame Street, although Big Bird is a regular at my local Crazy Horsepower Saloon.
     So I read on about these two characters...

No marriage for Bert and Ernie, says Sesame Street. There have long been whispers, but Sesame Street has finally addressed those rumours: Bert and Ernie are best friends, but that does not mean they are gay.
     Bert, who is fascinated by pigeons and gets easily upset, and oval-headed, free spirit Ernie, have lived together at
123 Sesame Street since 1969. They share a bedroom, but sleep in single beds.

So there. Mind you, I’m not sure what Ernie is doing to Little Bird, sat in his lap, up there..

Once I’d gathered my thoughts, the first thing that came to mind was Morecambe and Wise, for Eric and Ernie also shared a bedroom, but they - shock, horror - shared a double bed ... bloomin’ ‘eck, surely not?
     Whenever I think of Eric and Ern in their bedroom, I instantly see Eric looking out the window as he hears an emergency service vehicle racing by with sirens blaring: “He’s not going to sell much ice cream going at that speed is he?”
     I cannot now hear a police car, ambulance or fire brigade hurtling by with blaring sirens without being overtaken with the urge to gobble an ice cream.
     Be that as it may, back with Eric and Ern sharing the same bed: I never, ever remember anyone down the pub going “Nudge-nudge, wink-wink, know what I mean, chief?” at the thought of the two of them sharing a bed.
     We were so innocent back then. And anyway, the duo were so funny we never had time to think such strange thoughts. These days even Sesame Street comes under fire for God’s sake.
     All I need to hear now is that Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men were doing strange things while sharing the same bed, especially so when that naughty Weed was invited in to join them...
                                                                                                                                                             It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Incidentally, I see from the above blurb that Bert was fascinated by pigeons – well, the news on the street was that Eric Morecambe was also fascinated by the birds. And Sesame Street’s Ernie was a free spirit – now if I remember correctly, the Morecambe and Wise Ernie was noted for his meanness, and never bought anyone any spirits. In their sketches, anyway.
     There’s a marvellous skit with Morecambe and Wise in bed: it features the aforementioned ice cream gag; also, listen out for the Flash Gordon joke, which I particularly enjoyed – but what made me laugh ... well, watch out for Ernie wearing a wedding ring. Very funny, considering the Bert and Ernie issue above...

It’s well worth a view, if only to underscore the innocence of the time...

Thursday, August 11
Humour in the face of adversity

“Reports from Hampton Court Palace suggest a small quartet of men in heraldic costume have just begun luting.” Unnamed tweeter @Punbelievable finds a harmonious note of humour amongst the cacophony of rioting.

Now that is one very punny quote, and what twitter is meant to be about, really. Funny that: no matter what the disaster, it is a reassuring fact of life that humanity will find something to smile about. I guess it’s some sort of survival strategy, otherwise we would all go mad.
Along the same lines, I was captivated by this image, alongside, as seen in today’s Telegraph ... It prompted a Letter to the Editor...

A citizen of the world
SIR - Apropos Daniel Deme’s wonderfully witty picture of the two policemen keeping watch outside The World’s End pub at Camden Town in North London on Tuesday night, with one looking left (towards Labour?), the other looking right (towards the 

Tories?), but no one looking straight ahead (the Lib Dems, in coalition, are now also looking right!), I will probably have a dream tonight.
     I will be driving along a quiet country lane, some-where in England, and I approach a village, where a large sign will say...
Welcome to
The End Of The World
   Please drive carefully

HB, Llandampness

Could The World's End be right behind us all?

Sadly, my effort never made the cut. Must try harder.

Finally, at the 11th hour,
I have just caught up on iPlayer with last week’s episode of BBC Radio 2’s marvellously entertaining Sounds of the 20th Century series. I quote the opening lines from the latest year under review…

1968 is a turbulent year: Martin Luther King and Bobbie Kennedy both fall to assassin’s bullets. Russian tanks snuff out the Prague Spring,
Paris is in flames as students go on the rampage, and three American athletes give the black power salute at the Mexico Olympics. And the music reflects the mood: Arthur Brown’s Fire, Jose Feliciano’s Light My Fire and Julie Driscoll’s This Wheel’s on Fire.

Talk about history revisited. We tend to forget that rioting and arson are a permanent fixture of the young
s armoury. And what about those remarkable musical choices from 1968? Spooky or what?
     It’s important to remember that the above words were actually broadcast on the Thursday night prior to the riots in London Town kicking off on the Friday.
     And you can be sure that none of those out on the street would have been listeners of Radio 2 anyway, so the subliminal message can be discounted.
     What is it about young people that they are fatalistically drawn to vandalism and arson?

One of the pieces of music played on last week’s Sounds of the 20th Century was ... well, I’d forgotten about this marvellous protest song, the words of which are probably more relevant today than they were back in 1968 even.
     Over on YouTube there’s some updated video as background to the song – it really is essential viewing - link below ... you will be left wondering how America ever got round to voting George Bush as their president; also, watch out for the remarkable dolphin footage near the end, something I’ve never seen before - so click below for some four minutes of insight into why the world is so delicately balanced on the cusp of revolution...

Wednesday, August 10
   Who’s there?
           Robin who?
♫♫♫ Robbin’ Hood, Robbin’ Hood [the banker], ridding roughshod through your bank account...
I KNOW, I know, it doesn’t precisely scan to that old Robin Hood theme song. But it’s the thought that counts.
     Be that as it may, it was back in the Seventies, I think, when we were amused by a television ad known as “The bank manager in the wardrobe”. If someone had a financial problem, say an empty piggy bank, suddenly the bank manager would stride out of the wardrobe to offer constructive help.
     I smile just thinking about it. But I couldn’t for the life of me remember the bank. So I attempted to trace the ad on both Google and YouTube, without success.
     However, there were a few threads online. Some thought it was Barclays, others National Westminster. However, I think this particular response from ‘oldrec’ nailed it...

The advert was not for a specific bank. I believe it was issued by the Association of British Banks, encouraging the public to open bank accounts. It was at a time when many people did not have accounts.

Anyway, I mention this smiley memory because of the following story I have just noticed in last weekend’s Sunday Times, tucked away in the paper’s Little Britain column, and it’s a tale which apparently appeared in the Wakefield Express

A teenager who denied using his mobile phone to film a friend having sex has been cleared of voyeurism charges. Prosecutors claimed Nathan Jones filmed Jake Clancy Winfield and a woman through a window at a city centre flat.
     Leeds crown court heard the couple’s romp came to a halt when another man fell out of a wardrobe in the same room.

Ten out of ten for use of the word “romp”: so when did you last have one of those then?
     Whatever, it’s a tale where you want to know more, lots more. Was it the forgotten bank manager from the 70s, or perhaps a modern day loan shark? Same difference, I guess.
     Bankers are all Robbin’ Hoods these days, committed to taking money from the poor to line their own pockets. Anyway, I even visited the Wakefield Express online to find out more about this intriguing story, but couldn’t find anything.

Shame. I shall spend the rest of the day wondering about that fellow who fell out of the wardrobe...

Tuesday, August 9
Fingers burnt, both literally and metaphorically

JUST occasionally, I am so distracted by the day’s events that the intuitive urge to smile is pushed onto the back burner. The news today was of course dominated by events in London.
     Probably the defining image of the riots, what with all the looting and the arson, was this picture by Amy Weston of a pyjama-clad lady jumping from a burning building into the arms of riot police...
Some originally called into question the authenticity of the picture, such was its shock value, but with the police also featured in the image, that had to be a bit of a nonsense.
     In fact, a quick search online shows other rather grainy pictures of the fair-haired lady safely on the ground, with the police. She is believed to be of Eastern European origin, and in her 40s. A witness is reported as saying: “The woman was so scared she jumped some 14ft to safety, picked herself up and fled from her rescuers. She was hysterical.” I’m not surprised.

The other event that grabbed everyone’s attention was watching, in gobsmacked disbelief, a 144-year family business torched and destroyed in a blink of its distinguished history, by the rioters and their Molotov cocktails. And that was a furniture business, not something the rioters would loot and cart away.

What is astonishing about this whole rioting episode is that our movers and shakers (David Cameron and Boris Johnson in particular) were on holiday – nothing wrong with that – but that they took three days of chaos before they decided to rush back to take charge. Crazy or what?
     I have to admit ... I did generate a generous cynical smile at this Adams cartoon in the Telegraph of Cameron on his Tuscan holiday. Very clever.
     What is most astonishing is that our leaders did not sense the ambush that was lying in wait for them. You really don’t need hindsight – or indeed to have gone to Eton or studied classics at Oxbridge – to conclude that when the division between those who have and those who have not grows so  alarmingly wider by the day, then dissent and riots are hugely predictable.

     The least fortunate 50% of the population are being directly affected by pretty much every funding cut the government is making – made even worse by the recent huge hike in energy prices.
     The more fortunate 40%, the middle classes, are surviving, but having to cut back on luxuries such as holidays, cars, new kitchens and the like, but that is no big deal in the short term.
     Then we have the 10% at the very top: at one time in our history that 10% was the real double cream, but today it’s the sour cream – politicians, bankers, business bosses, indeed those responsible for the mess the nation is currently in – they are all still there earning their millions in bonuses, and all the while sticking two fingers up at the rest of us – well, if that isn’t a recipe for revolution, what is?
     What were our leaders expecting, a Christmas card? Where is the wisdom? The truth is, our politicians, bankers et al have as much empathy with the real world as an amoeba has with a dolphin.

Back with the rioters, some claimed that this is how the underclass react when they have to steal to enjoy the modern goodies flaunted by the wealthy, but many had observed rioters turning up in cars - some in exceedingly posh ones - to carry the looted goods away.
     One online contributor asked: “Since when did the ‘underclass’ own 4 x 4s?”
     To which came the reply: “Since they stole yours.”

The one thing that registered in my imagination was this...
watched a 144-year family business torched and destroyed in the blink of an eye by a gang of ignorant, ruthless and mindless thugs.
     By coincidence, just a month ago, we watched a 168-year national newspaper, the nation’s top selling paper, also destroyed in a blink of an eye by a gang of – well, you get the picture, except you can add “educated(?)” to the ignorant, the ruthless, and the mindless thugs.

Monday, August 8
Dalai Lama v Confucius

JUST stumbled upon the following ... a question that was posed to the Dalai Lama (Every day a day at school spot:  His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is both the head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on the 6th July 1935, to a farming family, in a small hamlet in Takster, Amdo, north-eastern Tibet).
     Hm, I was born to a farming family, in a small hamlet ... no, surely not.

Anyway, the question: “What aspect of humanity surprises you the most?”
His answer was as follows...
Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money;
Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present,
And as a result he doesn’t live in the present or the future.
And he lives as if he’s never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.

A delightful slice of wisdom, especially that last line, and it sits comfortably alongside Welshman William Henry Davies’s poem Leisure, which starts like this...
                                                               What is this life if, full of care,
                                                               We have no time to stand and stare.
                                                                No time to stand beneath the boughs
                                                                And stare as long as sheep or cows.
                                                                No time to see, when woods we pass,
                                                                Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass...

It all set me thinking as to what aspect of humanity surprises me the most? Well, nothing, really, because I accept that we are merely animals, and that we behave as a pack as we go about our day-to-day lives.
     Nothing highlights this better than the rioting currently exploding all over London and quickly spreading to other parts of the country.
     Having said all that, I am endlessly taken aback as to how effortlessly we morph into little bunnies dazzled in the headlights of celebrities as they drift across our flight paths.

Also by chance, I came upon this quote today... “Wake up, America – China is eating our lunch.” Donald Trump, 65, American business magnate, television personality, author and dabbler in politics with presidential ambitions, issues a warning to the American people.
     If I were a tweeter, I would post the following...
                                          “Confucius he say, there is always a free lunch in the land of the free.”

Sunday, August 7
Weigh over the top

TODAY, Mathew, I’m going to be Milly the Mandrill ... so I shall place my hand over my eyes and say to myself: “I vant to be alone
!” But I had to bloody well go and peep through slightly parted fingers didn’t I – d’oh!

So there was no escaping this Liz Hurley and Shane Warne weird makeover business, where Liz has managed to transform the “No sweat, mate”, pot-bellied persona of Australian international cricket legend Shane Warne, 41, and all-round good sport, into some sort of potential “budgie smuggler” ponce.
     Who would have thought that the famous beer-swilling fat bloke and scourge of English batsmen everywhere would end up looking so limp-wristed without having a ball in his hand. What the Mail Online memorably labelled ‘a surrendered male’.
     Wonderfully entertaining stuff though, and well worth my sly peep through parted fingers.

Pride of place goes to writer Kathy Lette, who never fails to make me smile: “We Aussies love Shane Warne but would it be fair to say he now has love bites on his mirror?”

Marvellous. Although I’ve never got into this tweeting business, I am sometimes overwhelmed with a need to do a quick 140 characters or thereabouts, even if it’s only a tweet to myself.
     In the photographs I have seen of Liz and Shane together - a typical example, alongside - I’m not sure what to make of Liz, accepting of course that the camera can be rather cruel.
     So my catty tweet would be:
“Talk about a twist in the tale: can’t help but notice that while Shane is looking curiously Warne, Liz is looking

The amazing Hurley diet - Warne with pride:
"Shoulders back lovely boy, show 'em off, show 'em off..." 

alarmingly worn.”

PS: In the introduction I referred to Milly the Mandrill – she had featured in yesterday’s smile, and I reckoned then it really was a shame that Milly was not called Greta “I vant to be alone” Garbo.
     I thought of a little joke on this morning’s walk ... what Greta Garbo actually said was this...
“I vant to be a lawn – but first I must get laid.”

Saturday, August 6
I want to be alone

THERE were reports in yesterday’s papers and news outlets, which I somehow missed, about how monkeys have learnt to cover their eyes when they want to be left alone.
     At Colchester Zoo, mandrills – the largest members of the monkey family – have invented a unique ‘do not disturb’ sign that has amazed experts. They believe that some years ago one of the mandrill’s evolved the gesture, which has subsequently been copied by all her group.
     This behaviour has never been observed before, either in the wild or in captivity. The 15-year-old female, Milly, developed the gesture when she was just a three-year-old, to warn other monkeys to give her some space.
     Crucially, the sign language is unlikely to have been influenced by human activity because, unlike apes, dolphins and dogs, mandrills do not mimic humans.
     So that was the unusual story - except it’s a pity that Milly was not called Greta “I vant to be alone” Garbo.

What has also been all over the news over recent days are pictures of people, invariably men, covering their eyes or holding their heads in their hands: politicians, bankers, city traders, hedge fund managers – the usual suspects directly affected by the run on the financial markets.

So today, in the Telegraph, this picture, with the accompanying letter...

See no evil

SIR – The mandrill in your report, signalling that it wants to be left alone (August 5), must have learnt this from your front-page photograph of Silvio Berlusconi.
     Or was it the other way round?
John Christoffersen, Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire.

This is the sort of thing that this Smile of the day web site was made for, really.
     Totally brilliant.


Friday, August 5
Spell cheque

I AM not all that hot on spelling. Don’t be fooled if you don’t find many spelling mistakes hereabouts: I always run a spell check anyway, but of course that doesn’t help to differentiate between censor and sensor, desert and dessert, precedence and precedent, cereal and serial, sew and sow, straight and strait, heard and herd – and of course check and cheque.
     However, I have a little trick. Most of the time my eye will pick out a word I have spelt incorrectly and is therefore unfit for purpose. I will still have to look the word up in the dictionary, mind, but I will have sensed that it doesn’t look right and as a consequence needs to be investigated further.
     So whenever I spot an online picture gallery of misspelt words outside shops, cafes and the like, I always click on the link – and I laugh along with the mistakes rather than at them.
     Below, just a couple of a quite worthy selection I perused online a wee bit earlier...

Outside a fruit & veg shop in Ipswich

Charity book shop in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent

I am greatly amused by the “cuecumber” because it has been spelt the way it sounds: cue-cumber. And how could you not adore the “Dictionries”, again written as you would say it: diction-ries.

I have a confession to unload. There’s a café in Llandeilo, and just the other side of the road the owner has a neatly written and presented pavement chalkboard, which would certainly invite a thirsty or hungry passer-by to pop in for a sup and a nibble.
     The board is perfect in every way, except for “afternoon tea’s”.

Now I pass the café around six o’clock every morning on my way into town to collect a newspaper, so one deathly quiet Sunday morning I stopped, furtively looked about, quickly wet the tip of my forefinger ... and hastily rubbed out the offending apostrophe – why spoil the chalkboard for an ’ x’ess of apostrophes? – and off I went in a cloud of dust, with the offending apostrophe firmly hidden away in my pocket, on the end of my forefinger.

Each and every morning now, as I pass that board, I note that the “teas” is still in tact and is no longer a tease – and I share a private little smile of satisfaction with the world at large. Happy days.
Thursday, August 4
Green, green, it’s green they say, on the far side of the hill...

IT ALL began when someone expressed surprise that I do not own a mobile, especially, apparently, as I am self-employed: “How on earth do you manage to get through the day without a mobile?”
     I paused a while to ponder, for I’d never really stopped to think how impossible my life was without a mobile: “Well, I manage without one exactly the way I managed before the mobile was invented.” A blank response. “I’m reasonably well organised and I know in the morning what the day is likely to bring. I also make a point of closely watching my answerphone, and responding to every message as soon as possible.”
     Folk seem genuinely surprised that it’s possible to be that well organised without a mobile.

Anyway, this afternoon on the wireless, Roy Noble read out something called ‘We didn’t have the green thing back in my day’. I’d never heard it before, and it was all rather smiley. So I Googled it – and my goodness, there’s an awful lot of that missing green thing out there online.
     So I thought I’d take the body of the message itself – the author is seemingly unknown, which is somewhat surprising, but it’s obviously penned by an American, given the turn of phrase – so I decided to amend and adjust the original and look at it through Welsh eyes. So here goes...

We didn’t have that green thing back in my day
In the queue at the supermarket, the checkout girl advised
the elderly lady in front of me that in future she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t very green, indeed they were very bad for the environment; and anyway, here in Wales, from October 2011, supermarkets would be charging a special tax of 5p for each one issued.
     The old lady apologized and politely explained: “Oh dear, we didn’t have that green thing back in my day.”
     The checkout girl smiled and shrugged: “That’s really our problem today. Previous generations simply did not care enough to save our environment.”
     I smiled, for the elderly lady really didn’t have that green thingy in her day. Back then, she would have returned her milk, pop and ginger beer bottles to the corner shop, which in turn sent them back to the supplier to be washed, sterilized

2008: Blowing in the wind and captured on a fence near
where I live ~ written on the bag? Green Clubcard Points!

and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. Yup, she
certainly didn’t have that green thing in her day.
     Back then, she would have walked up stairs because they didn’t have escalators and lifts in every store and office block. She walked to the shops, or got on a bus or a train. In her day they didn’t have Chelsea tractors to take the kids to school and back, not to mention everywhere else besides. Nope, she didn’t have that green thing back in her day – or indeed when I was growing up either, now that I think about it.
     Back then she would have washed the baby’s nappies because they didn’t have the disposable kind. She would have done all the wash by hand and then put it out on the line to be dried by wind and sun – no energy sapping machines generating intense heat back then. As I recall, Monday was wash day. As long as it didn’t rain

     The elderly lady
s children would have had hand-me-down clothes from brothers, sisters, relatives – even neighbours. No kids’ fashions then. New clothes would have been a Father Christmas kind of treat. But they didn’t have that green thing back in her day.
     She would have had just one TV and one radio in the house, not a TV and a computer in every room. The TV had a small screen, no bigger than the size of a placemat, certainly not one the size of a cinema screen.
     In the kitchen, that dear old lady would have blended and stirred by hand because she wouldn’t have had electric machines to do everything. She would have baked her own bread from local ingredients, without the need for trains, boats and planes to bring the stuff to her. And the smell and the taste of the bread would have been something to die for. I certainly remember that from my childhood on the farm.

     When she packaged a fragile item to send in the post, she would have used wadded-up newspaper to cushion it, not polystyrene or plastic bubble wrap. And as a bonus she remembers the postman delivering on Christmas Day morning.
     Back then, her father or husband would never start up a motorised lawn mower or strimmer, they would have pushed a mower or used a pair of shears. Back then people exercised by working and walking, so there were no health clubs and treadmills burning up electricity.
     Back in her day children played ball rather than computer games. People only drank water when they were thirsty, and then only from a tap or a handy spring, rather than gulping down that ludicrously expensive bottled water.
     Back then everyone used ink to refill their fountain pens rather than use disposable pens. Things that were broken – smoothing irons, toasters, vacuum cleaners – were repaired, rather than having to buy a new one because that option was cheaper than having it repaired.
     But she didn’t have that green thing back then.
     Back then there was only one electric power point to a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And she didn’t need a special digibox to receive a signal beamed from satellites thousands of miles out in space in order to order fish and chips from the nearest take-away joint.
     But she didn’t have that green thing back in her day.
     How sad then that the young girl at the checkout lamented how wasteful the old folks were just because they had never heard of that green thingy back then.

Well, that certainly made me smile, especially where I added my own observations, as I remember them. But life really isn’t as black and white as all that.
     The above only highlights the positive things. Back in her day, and as someone brought up on a farm, the widespread use of DDT to help food production had disastrous consequences for the environment in general and wildlife in particular.
     Small fields were bulldozed to make larger fields, and of course the loss of hedges and trees turned out disastrously for, again, wildlife, as well as crucial loss of shade and shelter for all the farm animals.
     I could go on – but, as someone once said, there were no good old days, just days.  And it really isn’t as green as they say on the far side of the hill, whether we’re looking backwards or forwards.
     Mind you, I think the point being made is, that times were just simpler and less complicated and less stressful back then.
And that was certainly not a bad thing.

Wednesday, August 3
SAS and Sassy

A CURIOUS headline caught my eye in the Telegraph: Duchess of Cambridge ‘given SAS training’ amid kidnap fears.

Reports suggested the 29-year-old took the intensive personal protection programme recently amid fears she has become a kidnap target.
     The course, described as “very tough” both physically and mentally, teaches a range of key survival skills. These include becoming more aware of anything “unusual” in routine surroundings, how to react when attacked and how to build a relationship with any hostage-takers.
     Participants are also taught how to drive under pressure and how to create and pass on coded messages to rescuers.

This is really a bit of a non-story, which brings out the best, and the worst, in the online comments. For example, here’s a smiley thread...

Chiefcynic: Bet she looks great even in army fatigues. Oops – stop fantasising
Sealordlawrence: I bet she looks especially great when holding a really big gun.
Mummyknowsbest: My good friend Sunday LaHa was in the West African Rifles – he had an unusually large gun – he let me hold it once or twice. I was much younger then, of course.
Skew_wif: I bet mummy doesn’t know about that.
Snowman: Mummy was also Sunday LaHa’s good friend.
Grahammilne: Treble entendres all round

And that was the end of that thread. Meanwhile, back with the Telegraph article...
A source said: “She has been well trained in what to do should the unthinkable happen.

Any excuse ~ hope her brain is not
set to become bigger than her bum

VIP kidnap protection training teaches how to cope both mentally and physically. The
mental element involves reacting to unusual situations, such as when there was a
stranger in the Queen’s bedroom – and she just started talking to him.”

The above of course referred back to 1982 when Michael Fagan, who had broken into Buckingham Palace, then spent 10 minutes chatting with the Queen in her bedroom before someone reacted to her attempts to raise the alarm.
     It was an astonishing story by any measure. Anyway, there was this one particular online response...


Now was this a wind-up post, especially given the capital letters? Whatever, several responded to confirm the Michel Fagan story and provide links to the spooky incident.
     Now I never submit or respond to any of these comment sections (down to time, mostly, although I enjoy browsing, obviously) but if I did respond, I would probably have said this:

HB: When staff arrived, the Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting “Orf with his head
!” about once in a minute. “But Ma’am,” pointed out Alice, the Queen’s Lady-in-Waiting, “this is Prince Philip.” The Queen peered over her glasses. “So it is – orf with his head anyway!

Well, it tickled my simple imagination. Oh, and Fiona Bruce would never then have been told by Prince Philip to get herself “a proper job”. Anyway, a little later, I spotted this post, much along similar lines...
Snowman: Later, the guy wondered why the Queen kept calling him Philip.

In summary, I can only repeat to the Duchess of Cambridge the memorable words of Sergeant Phil Esterhaus (Michael Conrad, Hill Street Blues, magical series, great theme music): “Hey, let’s be careful out there...”
PS: If you fancy a three minute flight of nostalgia, then grab a beat and cop a load of this...                  

Tuesday, August 2
Better to be hot than smart

“I GENUINELY believed that if I had a smaller, neater derriere, accompanied by bosoms that stood up on their own, my life would be vastly improved in every possible way.” Arabella Weir, 53, British comedian, actress and writer, who coined the expression “Does my bum look big in this?”.

“My wife is too slim. When I married her she was a guitar and now she is a flute.” Dr Pierre Dukan, 69, French diet guru, who believes high protein is the key to weight loss. His “breakthrough” diet regime – the Dukan Diet book - has taken France by storm...
                                                        With my acknowledged problem of ‘the eye part’ of my brain reading things a split-second before ‘the make sense’ part of my brain catches up, I read the Dukan Diet as the Toucan Diet – and I thought, God, I really could murder a pint of Guinness right now.
Anyway, I enjoyed Dr Dukan’s description of his wife as a flute. The first person that came to mind was television’s Fiona Bruce.
     I’ve mentioned before about seeing some recent studio shots of Fiona in a magazine, where she looked unbelievably thin. Not so much a flute, more a penny whistle.
     As I observed at the time, her brain is now bigger than her bum, bless.

It’s just not Fiona though. So many of the women fronting television programmes these days are alarmingly scrawny when you see them in photographs rather than on screen.
     Apparently, appearing on television makes someone look much plumper than they are in real life, so they starve themselves to appear slim on screen – but of course in real life they then look so emaciated.
     Surely, that’s better than looking thin on telly but being a roly-poly in real life?
     I heard a slice of a fascinating radio conversation the other day. Lisa Bloom, 49, American lawyer and national television legal analyst, has just written what is described as “a gutsy book”, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, in which she encourages women to steer well clear of celebrity culture with its focus on appearance, and instead to read and think more. [Wishful thinking?]
     In the interview she painted a dire picture of womanhood, with 25% of women admitting they would rather be hot than smart: “Many of us spend

Natasha Kaplinsky and Fiona Bruce
All brains, allegedly, and no bums

more time looking in the mirror than looking at our planet, and the thing is,
doing so is rational because there can be a bigger payoff for being sexy rather than brainy.”
Just as it’s extremely rare to find a person, either male or female, who is both witty and wise, Lisa Bloom insists that a woman is extremely lucky if she is considered to be both cute and smart.
     I found myself thinking about poor old Fiona again. What is it with these clever, modern women who refuse to look behind the mirror? It can’t be that they are all genetically programmed to be penny whistle-thin, surely?
     If Fiona had concentrated more on being smart rather than cute during her hide-behind-the-sofa interview with the Duke of Edinburgh, then it’s doubtful she would have drawn out the Dalek in the old blighter when he turned on her and snapped: “Exterminate! Exterminate!”
     Oh okay, what he told her was to go and get herself “a proper job”. Same difference, really.
Monday, August 1
With a little help from my friends

HERE we go, Vanessa Feltz, yet again. The Feltz effect first thing in the morning is much like spraying ether into the intake of the car engine on a really cold and frosty morning. Just as the ether helps vaporise the fuel and so fire up the engine, so Vanessa fires up my chuckle muscles.
     She really is a very amusing lady; more to the point, she tells a tale with such style. For example, this very morning...

I had a family weekend – nephews, aunties, uncles – at one point I was whisked off by the elder daughter for tea at a London Hotel (unnamed). It was a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – and I must admit the other people eating tea did look slightly deranged, they certainly did.
     But the tea included little bottles with labels round their necks saying ‘Drink me’; and strange confections that could really only be identified when they were eaten – saying ‘Eat me’ on them; and mismatched china of all different shapes – and how about this – a chocolate cup. You know people say it’s about as much use as a chocolate teapot – well, there was the proverbial chocolate cup full of something delightful and enticing inside.
     So a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – thoroughly enjoyed by moi. Did I do full justice to every sandwich, every confection, mousses and every other potion, liquid, and enticing and intoxicating liquor? Do you think so?

Calling Vanessa Feltz & Vanessa Feltz & Vanessa Feltz...

     Of course I did. Never let the side down. It was delicious.

Now I thought that was marvellously entertaining, appreciating all the while that Vanessa has a well-documented running battle with keeping her weight under control. And the whole shooting match delivered with such enthusiasm and brio.
     I have to say, I was much taken with the idea of that Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. She never mentioned the hotel, so I Googled it. Turns out it’s a 5-Star luxury hotel, the Sanderson, in the heart of London. A bit far to go on my daily walk.

A few hours later, after returning from my walk, I caught Father Brian D’Arcy delivering Pause For Thought on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show. He told us that he was lucky to have made a good many friends along his walk through time, and that friends come in three kinds.
     Those who become friends for a reason; those who become friends for a season; and the few who become friends for a lifetime.
     I thoroughly enjoyed his explanation, for it rang a bell with moi, as Vanessa would say. So coming up, a potpourri of the thoughts and observations of both Brian D’Arcy and myself...

Those who become friends for a reason: those who have a passing need – perhaps a relationship breaks down and a need for a shoulder to cry on; or they are starting a new business, and even though they appreciate you are a busy person they really would appreciate your help on a short-term, part-time basis (properly remunerated of course), until they become established and can take on full-time staff.
    As soon as they are healed, or the business is booming, they move on – but the friendship of a friend in need was real.

Those who become friends for a season: they enter our lives at a significant time – in my case, and early in my working life, I worked in three different locations where I knew no-one, and made great friends. When I moved on, I briefly kept in touch, but I haven’t seen them for years, indeed I guess I never will see them again, but the friendships were real.

And then the precious few who become friends for a lifetime: these are invariably those we grew up with and have remained friends through thick and thin. To quote Father Brian: “A lifetime friend knows you’re a good egg, even when you’re cracked.”

Wonderful sentiment. And life is all the better for having made such friends.

Sunday, July 31
Humidity, Herons, Harrods, Knickers and a Tall Story

HERE’S the opening exchange from last Friday’s Vanessa Feltz early-morning Radio 2 show, which I have just caught up with on iPlayer...

Charles Nove was coming to the end of the 05:00 news bulletin, and rounded off the weather forecast thus: “It will feel quite humid across southern parts.”
     To which Vanessa responds: “Thank you, Charles, though I am unsure what to make of the idea of feeling quite humid across southern parts.”
     A smiley little exchange.

“A heron landed on my house and did a lengthy poo that would have been the envy of Jeremy Clarkson; but normally they do not stick around as the crows tear into them.” Nickr responds to a Telegraph letter about the problems with much increased numbers of birds of prey attacking other birds, both large and small, including crows, but Nickr points out that crows will defend and/or attack much larger birds, hence the tale about the heron.

Now that I can confirm, for I regularly observe crows set upon buzzards – usually during the breeding season – but they normally do so as a posse, although I have seen individual crows set about a buzzard. Amazing birds, crows.
     But what made me smile about this quote is the “lengthy poo that would have been the envy of Jeremy Clarkson”. That’s rather witty because anyone who reads or watches Clarkson will be aware that he does a lengthy poo job on everyone and everything in sight, whether it moves or not.
     That is why he is known as “That Big Shite House Clarkson”. Well, he is quite tall.

This, from American comedian Steven Wright (and paraphrased to taste), which perfectly sums up the world we live in: “There was a power cut at Harrods department store yesterday. Twenty people were trapped on the escalator.”

Listening to radio’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, I was reminded of the late, great Willie Rushton, when he was asked to complete a well known phrase or saying: “Don’t get you knickers ... ?”
                                                                                                                      “Don’t get you knickers ... in a car boot sale.”

Willie Rushton (1937-1996) was an English cartoonist, satirist, comedian, actor and performer who co-founded the Private Eye satirical magazine.
     He once drew a memorable cartoon of a giraffe in a bar saying: “The high balls are on me.”

Every day a smile a minute; sometimes two smiles a minute.

Saturday, July 30
If I said you had a beautiful body ~ would you hold it against me?

HAD a letter published in the Western Mail in response to a piece by columnist
Elaine Morgan which had tickled my A-spot - my ‘We are Amused-spot’.
     Elaine had written about the tale of Rebecca Watson, 30, American blogger and independent podcast host – pictured here.
     In June, Watson made statements in a video, about being “politely” chatted up in a Dublin hotel lift at 4am after some partying, by a man she did not know, but who had earlier attended a lecture delivered by her (as I understand it).
     The experience had made her feel uncomfortable, particularly when he invited her back to his room for coffee and a conversation, which she felt was an example of how she had been sexualized (?) by the incident.
     It sparked controversy, both for and against her reaction. Many thought she was making a big deal out of a trivial, and unimportant, incident, especially so as Watson herself had emphasised that it had been a courteous exchange.
     One of her fiercest critics was Richard Dawkins, he of the selfish gene, and someone who is not the easiest person in the world to feel any fondness or regard for (I think it has something to do with the way he talks down to those who don’t see his point of view).
     Following the spat, Watson announced that she would not buy or endorse Dawkins’ books and lectures in the future.
     Children, children.

Your call: pussycat or polecat?
sparrow or sparrow hawk?

     Rebecca’s subsequent advice to all us men was, that such incidents would be
better avoided by totally ignoring women on their own in vulnerable situations.
     Well, that does make absolute sense, and I guess it’s something most of us men intuitively appreciate – except that one thing is not made clear.
     If George Clooney had been in that lift – or whatever man she finds irresistible, presuming of course that she is not a lesbian – would her advice have been the same? More to the point, probably most of us have experienced that instant attraction to a member of the opposite sex, so what would she have done then?
     I presume she would still have refused the invitation back to his room, but would probably have presented him with her card, inviting him to get in touch, thus avoiding the ambush of his being just out for a one-night stand.
     It strikes me that Rebecca’s response to the above is crucial as to how I read the whole episode, and where my sympathies lie.
     Wickedly, I find myself wondering how the other Rebekah currently in the news – that notorious phone hack – would have reacted to being chatted up in that lift?

I rounded off the letter by telling the tale of a sex-fixated regular at my local Crazy Horsepower Saloon (Young Shagwell, as it happens), who once found himself in such a situation, in a hotel - but in a bar rather than a lift:
     “I’m a man of very few words,” he said after the pleasantries and some small talk. “Do you or don’t you?”
     “As a matter of fact,” she replied, “yes I do – my room or yours?”
     “Look,” he said, “if you’re going to make a song and dance about it, forget it.”

Since having that published, a couple of things have tickled my imagination. One was an exchange in Star Trek: Voyager. The Doctor is teaching Seven of Nine social skills, particularly the art of dating and things that naturally follow on, but not necessarily in a lift.
     The Doctor attempts to build up her courtship self-esteem: “You are a woman, Seven.”
     Seven of Nine: “Is that an observation or a diagnosis?”

Smashing line. And this limerick really made me smile...
                                                                                             A pansy in a lift in Khartoum,
                                                                                             Took a lesbian up to his room;
                                                                                             And they argued all night,
                                                                                             Over who had the right,
                                                                                             To do what, and to which, and to whom.

Friday, July 29
Pantomimes are not what they were. Oh yes they are
“PANTOMIME seems at present to hold its own; I do not see how it can continue to do so.”
This quote might be mistaken for a recent press cutting, just as the one above, “Pantomimes are not what they were” – but in fact the first dates from 1831, the second from 1882.

“As a child I was taken to the pantomime or the theatre and I would always, always fall in love with somebody on the stage. And want to have sex with them.” Ewan McGregor, 40, Scottish actor, and recently tipped for a major starring role in a new production titled ‘Super-injunction
!’. Allegedly.

Yes indeed, pantomime is still going strong, still a show aimed at children of all ages, and still based on a popular fairy tale or folk legend.
     Well, recently I watched a very popular folk legend (or even a folk up) unfold on television called, ‘The phone hacking committee hearing at Old Mother Hubbard’s, otherwise known as the Mother of Parliaments’.
     The problem with that particular pantomime was that it was chock-a-block with villains, and not once did I catch myself shouting “He’s behind you
!, even when the express delivery of shaving foam entered, stage right.
     But first things first, let’s go back to Ewan McGregor’s quote: so
who in the above production would I want to have sex with?
     Oh dear ... Well, if push came to shove, then it would have to be Wendi ‘Float like a butterfly sting like a bee’ Murdoch, with the strict proviso that I am allowed to keep my socks and crash helmet on.
     Let’s remind ourselves of an all-embracing image from that day – alongside ... now how mesmerising is that?
     Incidentally, a point of order. We all remember Rupert Murdoch’s contrition: “I would just like to say this has been the most humble day of my life.”
     The following morning, Vanessa Feltz was reviewing the newspaper front pages on her radio show (as you know, I am a great admirer of her grasp and command of the English language), and she pointed out that Rupert Murdoch should have said “the most humbling day of my life” – and even though I’m no expert in English, I think Vanessa is spot on, made more ironic as he is the most powerful man in world newspaper publishing.

If a picture paints a thousand words – well, here’s
War and Peace captured in a gander of pixels

     Curiously though, I haven’t heard anyone else point this out.
More evidence of dumbing down?

Whatever, back to business. Wendi Murdoch gained all the brownie points available for riding to the rescue of her husband – something, I reckon, any wife would have done to defend a husband coming under unexpected attack – but the person that first jumped to Murdoch’s defence was the dark haired lady sitting alongside Wendi (above).
     Who she? Well, she is Janet Nova, 40, the News Corporation’s interim group general counsel, which explains her concerned look as James Murdoch begins to dig a hole in the ground.
     Rupert Murdoch wrote in a company e-mail announcing Nova’s promotion back on June 20, and that she “had handled a number of major acquisitions for the company over the past several years, in addition to managing our corporate reporting and governance matters”. Whatever all that means.
     But I tell you what, I wouldn’t like to step on Janet Nova’s toes. However, if I must have sex with Wendi, Janet can be the understudy, ho, ho, ho

What brought this story back to mind was that, today, Jonathan May-Bowles, also known as Jonnie Marbles, appeared in court to answer charges about the foam pie-throwing incident. He admitted the charges and was found guilty.
     Rav Chodha, prosecuting, pointed out that Rupert Murdoch did not support the charge of assault, and clearly wanted the whole thing dropped. Now how interesting is that?
     Murdoch himself came out brilliantly from the foam

incident itself. Setting aside that Marbles didn’t do the job properly, Murdoch simply picked himself up, removed his jacket, dusted himself off – and got on with the job as if nothing had happened. Bonus points there.
     And quite obviously he didn’t want any charges brought because he knew what further interest this would generate – just look, alongside, at the astonishing scrum surrounding Marbles’ arrival in court. Unbelievable.
     So a real pantomime. I mean, ponder all the characters involved in the committee hearing itself. And of course in today’s court hearing: there’s Jonnie Marbles himself, his solicitor, Ray Chada, the prosecutor, Rav Chodha – and just listen to this as reported in the Daily Mail...

Proceeding should have begun today at 10am in Court One, Westminster Magistrates’ Court, but were delayed by 45 minutes as staff held a goodbye party for a senior clerk. You really could not make all this stuff up.

But, as should happen in such cases, the last laugh goes to Jonnie Marbles, here perfectly captured in villain mode by flash bulbs as he leaves court...
                                                                                   ...After emerging from court, he mimicked Rupert Murdoch with this brilliantly inspired quote, which merely underlines why Murdoch would rather Marbles had never appeared in court...

“I would just like to say this has been the most humble day of my life.”
Thursday, July 28
Ed Nose Day

TODAY, compliments of the Guardian web site, I note that yesterday was Ed Nose Day at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital, Gray’s Inn Road, London...
                                                                                                    …Labour leader Ed Miliband has supposedly had an operation to correct a deviated septum* in his nose, so making it easier for him to sleep, and possibly for his wife Justine to be spared the odd snore.
     But everyone knew that all this medical detail was spin doctor obfuscation
(that’s bullshit, in common or garden parlance).
Research has shown that the sound of a voice is worth more votes to politicians than the content of their speeches
(in other words, Ed’s voice tends to send us to sleep). “It did not change his voice, and nor was it intended to,” said his office.
     With his poll ratings well out of the emergency ward he will be able to sleep easier before the haul towards his autumn party conference speech, an event that makes even the most equable personality wake in the small hours in a cold sweat.

Interesting that bit about research showing how important the sound of the voice is. As I have mentioned before, my only inherent talent is a 20/20 instinct for survival; meaning, within seconds of meeting someone, I can tell whether I’m confronted by a dolphin or a shark, a pussycat or a polecat, a sparrow or a sparrow hawk – which intuitively tells me whether to step forward and embrace, or step back and be ultra wary as I proceed in a friendly direction.
     Down the years I’ve worked out how my brain does this. It seems that my instincts conclude that what we are and what makes us tick is revealed thus: 60% through the face, 30% compliments of the voice, and 10% by body language.
     And my instincts have never let me down. So interesting then that political commentators believe Miliband had the operation to soften his nasal tone, to be a little less adenoidal.

* deviated septum: could it be that what he actually had was an operation to correct a devious septuple, meaning, we have to divide everything he says by seven?

Anyway, I reckoned that Ed Nose Day called for a tongue-in-cheek letter to the editor.

Nose job: The Pinocchio snip
SIR – Over recent years I have observed that when politicians in general, but prime ministers in particular, leave office, their noses are ever so slightly longer compared with when they entered politics.
It is an interesting chicken and egg conundrum: does a politician’s nose grow longer because he is telling lies? Or is it a genetic thing, in as much that they are unable to stop telling lies as they peer out over that ever lengthening schnozzle?
     Clearly Ed Miliband, in opting for the Pinocchio snip, hopes to nip the problem in the bud.
HB, Llandampness

ACCORDING to Alex Lester on his Radio 2 Best Time of the Day Show, it’s National ‘Never Again’ Week: you’ve been there, done that, tried on the T-shirt, and have come to the conclusion: Never again!
     I just caught the tail end of one mother of all ‘Never Agains’ – I think it was on the Vanessa Feltz show which follows Alex, but sadly I didn’t catch the name of the fellow who submitted it...
“I’ve said ‘Never again’ twice in my life – I am now on my third marriage.”

Wednesday, July 27
Steak out at Rosie’s

THE LONE RANGER and Tonto have been out all day on a job, bringing law and order to the lawlessness of the wild west.
     They duly ride off in a cloud of dust, leaving confused cowpokes in their wake, all asking each other: “Who was that masked man anyway?”
     The two have now changed into their day-job gear and are heading for Dodgy City. Just an ordinary cowpoke and his trusted friend, a Red Indian scout. Well, the ‘ordinary cowpoke’ is in fact a Texas Ranger, but an undercover one, obviously.
     They are known in Dodgy City as White Feller and Silver Scout. White Feller because that’s what Silver Scout calls him – and Silver Scout because he always rides a handsome white horse. Hi-yo, Silver
! Cunning or what? When they change out of their fancy dress they also swap horses to throw exceedingly stupid people off the track.
     “I dunno about you, Silver Scout,” says White Feller, “but I could murder a bullock right now – that’s how hungry I am.”
     Silver Cloud says nothing. “I’m so hungry,” continues White Feller, “when we get to Dodgy City I’m gonna have myself the biggest steak ever – with all the extras and then some.”
     Silver Cloud remains silent, which puzzles White Feller: “Aren’t you hungry, partner?”
     “Nope, Silver Scout not hungry.”
     When they arrive at Dodgy City they head straight for Rosie’s Cantina. White Feller orders a steak: “Just chop his horns off, wipe his ass and fry him, Rosie.”
     Silver Cloud orders a similar jumbo meal – and White Feller is taken aback at the enthusiasm with which Silver Scout tucks into his steak. “But you said you weren’t hungry?”
     Silver Scout ponders a while: “It is not wise to be hungry when there is no food about...”

Now you don’t get much wiser than that.

The above is a variation on a tale heard on Roy Noble’s radio show – which also brought to mind a slice of wisdom Roy himself once shared with his listeners...

Truth is stranger than fiction – because you simply don’t meet it so often.

Tuesday, July 26
! Extras! Read All About Them!
ON today’s Roy Noble radio show, he recalled a memorable car ad, for what he thinks was a Fiat: “This car does not have this, this car does not have that, this car does not have the other...”

                                                                                                                                             ...Before coming to the rather delightful sales pitch, I began to scan the hard disc inside my brain ... nothing ... I really can’t remember the ad, which does surprise me because off-beat things like that remain at the forefront of my recall.
     So Googling I did go ... no joy. Perhaps it was a spoof advert, which I missed at the time ... still no luck. So I thought I’d make up my own ad...

ABS, parking sensors, traction control, satellite navigation, CD player, xenon headlights, air-conditioning, power steering, central-locking, electric windows and mirrors ... just some of the things this car does not have – so none of these things can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong...”

It’s a brilliant sales pitch – which is how Roy had rounded off his ad: “This car does not have this, does not have that, does not have the other – so none of these things can go wrong.”
     It certainly rang a bell with me: I run a 21-year-old Saab – I owned a series of sports cars between 18 and 30, when a young man is supposed to own sports cars – so my ultra respectable Saab doesn’t have any of these modern gadgetry and gimmicks - just an old-fashioned wireless/cassette player - and I have to say, it is remarkably reliable (touch wood
     Also, down the pub I am forever hearing regulars complain about computers in their cars packing up, at horrendous cost because the complete unit has to be replaced.

Perhaps Roy was making a funny about an imaginary Fiat ad. But it made a perfect smile of the day. Oh yes, the following tale, also compliments of Mr Noble...

Teacher Miss Jones is well into her lesson; she notices at the back of the class young ‘Trouble with Two Capital Ts’ whispering to the girl just the other side of the isle: “Tommy Tucker
!” fires Miss Jones, much like an ack-ack gun on overtime. “What have I told you? I want no talking in class.”
     “But I was only asking Sue a question, Miss.”
     “If you have a question – then you ask me. Is that understood?”
     “Yes, Miss.”
     “Well, what is it you want to know?” There’s a bit of a pregnant pause while many in the class giggle. “Well?”
     “Um,” says a slightly hesitant Tommy Tucker. “What are you doing Friday night, Miss?”

Monday, July 25
The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling...

                                                                            Mr Shakespeare
AROUND 10:30 this morning, a voice on the radio said that Monday mornings are so depressing that we find it impossible to crack a smile before 11:16, period.
     According to experts (sic), the hatred of Monday mornings is governed by deep-rooted tribal instincts. Such an expert is clinical psychologist Professor Alex Gardner – God, I need one of those like I need a hole in the head – who reckons this: “Work could be the best place for you on a Monday because we are essentially cavemen in city suits...”

Well, yes, he’s got me there, albeit a caveman in a country and West-Walian outfit.
     Apparently, on Monday mornings we are still adjusting after the weekend, and things don’t improve until we have done the tribal bonding at the water cooler and picked up on all the essential news and gossip – and then we settle down to work, with hopefully a smile, at precisely 11:16.

Well, this morning, just after five, Vanessa Feltz made me smile, as she always does. Continuity announcer Tom Sandars was reading the news and then handed over to Vanessa: “Thanks very much, Tom: did you get a chance to be furnish’d and burnish’d by the sun over the weekend, wherever you were?”
     That made me smile because one of the things I enjoy about Vanessa is her command and use of the English language. And of course here she was quoting a line from John Betjeman’s famous poem, The Subaltern’s Love Song, which is a smile inducer in itself...
     I have previously written about Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn, furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun – back in April 2008, following the death of said lady, and a fascinating story it is, so here’s the link - love song - which I highly commended to the house...

Welcome back ... Later in the morning, around nine, a letter in The Daily Telegraph also raised a wry smile.

Driving the train
SIR – John McTernan (Comment, July 21) quotes Sir John Junor as asking: “Who is in charge of the clattering train?” Sir John must have read Sir Winston Churchill’s The Gathering Storm, in which Churchill quotes several lines of this poem, ending: “For death is in charge of the clattering train.”
Richard L. Williams, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

So Googling I did go...
                                     Who is in charge of the clattering train?
                                     The axles creak and the couplings strain;
                                     And the pace is hot, and the points are near,
                                     And sleep hath deadened the driver’s ear;
                                     And the signals flash through the night in vain,
                                     For death is in charge of the clattering train.

What a forceful little poem. I discover that it’s a verse from a volume of cartoons in a late 19th century edition of the British magazine Punch, author unknown, as far as I can tell.
     Churchill of course was referring to the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany through the 1930s, and his frustration that nobody appeared to have registered the huge danger. Indeed, before The Gathering Storm even begins, he sets out the “Theme of the Volume”, which in itself is most riveting: “How the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness, and good nature allowed the wicked to rearm.”

Now I am always prattling on about the absolute lack of wisdom in today’s movers and shakers, whether they be politicians, media barons, bankers, judges et al, but I have never come across the word “unwisdom” before. And I rather like it.
     Sold to the fellow smiling in the back row...

Sunday, July 24
Friends provident plc

What are friends for? Rupert and Wendi with Gordon and Sarah in 2007,
at Mr Murdoch's annual summer soiree in London. Pass the sick bag...

GO ON, admit it: given Gordon Brown’s rant in Parliament against the evil Murdoch empire, you blinked at the above.

One of the most notable aspects of the phone-hacking row, particularly in the lead up to the appearance of the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks in front of the Commons Committee, was Brown’s “heartfelt” performance in Parliament. Much was said and written about it. This extract from the New Statesman...

Phone-hacking was everyone’s fault but his own [Gordon Brown]: the Tory government, the civil service, his own colleagues in the Home Office ... He had fought against the might of the Murdoch Empire. He had been planning to act. If only fate, (and by implication, the electorate), had not conspired against him.

Of course, on the day Ruthless Rupert met a pieman, going to the fair, Murdoch duly went on to tell us that he had visited not only Cameron at Downing Street, but also Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and always by the back door. This from the Independent...

Asked why he [Rupert Murdoch] had used the rear entrance to Downing Street, he responded: “I was asked to,” adding, “to avoid photographers at the front I imagine.” He then offered that he had been asked to Downing Street by Mr Brown “many times” and also “through the back door”.
     It was put to the News Corp chairman that the arrangement was unusual. “That’s the judgment of the prime minister or chief of staff,” said Mr Murdoch.
     Later, Murdoch spoke of his family’s rapport* with the Browns, saying his wife, Wendi, had “struck up a great friendship” with Sarah Brown and that their children “played together on many occasions”.

*rapport: an emotional bond or friendly relationship between people based on mutual liking, trust, and a sense that they understand each other’s concerns.

It really is no surprise then that politicians are the people we have least “mutual liking, trust, and a sense that they understand our concerns” for in life.
     Also, it really is no surprise that politicians kowtow to Murdoch; after all, they made him as powerful as he is – but why were they so desperate to keep that relationship marked “For our eyes only”?

Back with Brown, just ponder his two-facedness in telling Parliament what he was doing to break up Murdoch’s power – and then Murdoch goes and tells it as it is.
     But we shouldn’t be surprised. We were warned during that infamous exchange between Brown and Labour supporter Gillian Duffy, when he was so pleasant to her face out on the street, and then once her back was turned described her as “that bigoted woman”. It was arguably what lost him the election.
     Why does anyone believe anything Gordon Brown says?

It makes my smile of the day because the alternative is to acknowledge our utter gullibility as human beings, and burst into tears – but tears are strictly reserved for the families of those poor innocents slaughtered out in Norway.

Saturday, July 23
A bashful young potato called MacGregor...

“DAVID Cameron is a ridiculous politician, a sort of pale imitation and a parody of Thatcher. He doesn’t even have her grandiose integrity. As Marx said, history is repeated as farce.” Hanif Kureishi, 56, English playwright, novelist and filmmaker.

I tend to agree. In fact, the moment I saw the hilarious chip-off-the-old-block featured alongside, for some reason I thought of David Cameron – which all leads me neatly to this...

“It was to be expected: the garden potato has a larger number of genes than the couch potato.” Rick Kaplan of Farnborough, Oxfordshire in a letter to The Sunday Times, a witty response to the news that the potato has 48 chromosomes, whereas David Cameron (not to mention the rest of us) has only 46.

Listening to Owen Money this morning – live, for a change – he mentioned in passing a gent called George King, a very funny comedian, apparently, and famous for a couple of noteworthy characteristics: he never swears in his act; and he never, ever

A really sweet potato called Mr MacGregor
(spotted on www.funnyjunk.com)

mentions s-e-x, but he talks instead about gardening:
“Anyone being doing any gardening today?”
     I laughed out loud. There’s something inherently funny about gardening being the new sex, particularly so when you realise that Alan Titchmarsh, 62, English gardener, broadcaster and novelist, hit the headlines when he won the Bad Sex award for this passage in his novel, 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.”

Which brings me back to that picture, above, Mr MacGregor. I am rather taken by the dainty nature of the hand delicately holding the potato. All my life I’ve always gone for the girl with small hands because she makes Mr MacGregor look bigger.
     Also, I was intrigued by that ring on her thumb: One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock, rock – and I nearly got that last word wrong...
     I also looked up – careful now – The Cook’s Thesaurus, and read about the Yukon Gold potato, a proper Mr MacGregor if ever there was one: store in a cool, dark, dry, well-ventilated place; don’t expose to direct sunlight, which will turn it green and make it bitter (and twisted?). Good, all-purpose potato, great for boiling, but tends to fall apart if over-cooked.

I think I shall quit while I’m still a potato ahead...

PS: That headline above, A bashful young potato called MacGregor demands a limerick. I’ll have to put my thinking hat on.

Friday, July 22
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go

“THE continuing farrago of the euro reminds me of a large notice my old physics professor posted at the entrance to the laboratories: 'Once an experiment starts to foul up, all efforts to improve it only make it worse'.”
John Cameron of St Andrews, Fife, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

This is a variation on the memorable Will Rogers quote: “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” A perfectly brilliant piece of advice, which most of us ignore at our peril.
     I say “most of us”: imagine if Rupert Murdoch had decided to stop digging a deeper hole to bury all those missing emails and stuff when he found himself peering into a hole labelled ‘phone-hacking’, just those few brief years back.
     Disastrously, the Metropolitan Police did stop digging when they found themselves standing over that hole. Just imagine if the cops had got up in the morning and sang...
                                                                             Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go...
                                                                             We dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig from early morn till night;
                                                                             We dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig up everything in sight...

How differently July 2011 would have looked in my Look You diary.

An afterthought on yesterday’s final shuttle landing feature, in particular, watching a live feed from NASA’s Mission Control Centre in the lead up to the landing, and observing a whole host of people going about their duties.
     In one of those stand and stare moments, I couldn’t help but notice how immaculately dressed every person in the centre was. True, the men were jacketless, but every one wore a shirt and tie, with the occasional cuff turned back.

NASA's immaculately turned-out Mission Control Centre - and on the big screen,
a real-time simulation of the shuttle doing a headstand 200 miles above their heads

Most of the time the feed was a camera actually facing the staff, which underlined their neat appearance. There was a fascinating few minutes where a technician entered the control centre, stage left. He was casually dressed, shirt hanging loose over trousers, no tie – but he was perfectly smart.
     He approached a console where an obvious problem with a monitor or some such like was explained to the technician. There followed a brief exchange between him and the controllers ... eventually the technician exited, stage left.
     I was mightily impressed that the shop window, the mission control centre itself, what with being continuously exposed to a world-wide audience, was so smartly turned out.
     There was a wonderfully subliminal message hidden away in there somewhere.
Thursday, July 21
Atlantis disappears beneath the waves

THIS morning, the shuttle Atlantis landed for the very last time, bringing an end to Nasa’s 30-year shuttle adventure with one of the more spectacular touchdowns in its colourful and dramatic history – leaving a quite memorable impression and well worthy of a note in my smile diary.
     One of the benefits of the internet is that I am not reliant upon what television people decide I should watch, so I followed the lead up to the landing on NASA’s own live online feed.
     Compliments of yet another of those coincidences, I happened to tune in at the very moment Atlantis was overhead my little corner of the world, and on its final orbit. I was then able to follow, via the Mission Control Centre, the various manoeuvres Atlantis went through – as on-screen simulations, obviously – as it flipped over through 180˚ to fire its rockets to slow itself down and thus start its descent towards NASA's Kennedy Space Centre Shuttle Landing Facility in Cape Canaveral .
     I registered NASA’s host commentator announcing that, unusually, the International Space Station (ISS) was passing directly overhead as the shuttle approached Cape Canaveral – and there followed, shortly after, great excitement because those on the ISS had captured images of the plasma trail as Atlantis descended through the atmosphere in a fiery ball – and I thought, hm, I shall look forward to seeing that. And here it is...

         A truly eye-catching view of Atlantis captured by astronauts on the space station.
         The shuttle's plasma trail appears as a bean sprout against clouds and city lights.

What an astonishing image it is. And captured on the very last descent. What must it have been like to watch live?
     I wasn’t sure what a plasma trail actually meant, so I came across this hopefully simple explanation: The bright light we see comes from the superheated gases along the plasma path, just the way other very hot objects glow; the Aurora Borealis is a plasma light show in our upper atmosphere caused by the bombardment from space of the solar wind – another kind of plasma.

The actual landing itself was made particularly memorable as Atlantis glided home through a moonlit sky, into twilight, just as dawn was announcing its arrival on the horizon...

Smashing images, very atmospheric, if that’s a suitable expression.

Wednesday, July 20
Dandelion and Murdoch

COMING up, the words of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron (with Rupert Murdoch on their minds) as they blow on the seed head of a dandelion...
                                                                                                 ...“He loves me ... he loves me not ... he loves me ... he loves me not ... ”

A roundup of the past couple of days.
“Since Thatcher, most prime ministers have conducted their dialogue with Rupert Murdoch from their knees.”
David Mellor, 62, British Conservative politician, non-practising barrister, broadcaster, journalist and football pundit, who resigned as Heritage minister over a sex scandal involving a football shirt.

“It’s all a bit of a laugh, isn’t it? I loathe and detest Murdoch, so to see his demise makes me very happy.”
Frank Dobson, 71, British Labour MP and former health secretary.

I have to say, the revelation that Murdoch was regularly visiting Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron at Downing Street, and always via the tradesman’s entrance so as not to show the British public that they all welcomed him from a kneeling position while kissing his ring, is the one piece of news that will probably linger longest in my memory.

Now I realise what Cameron was up to when he took on former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as Downing Street communications chief – spin doctor to you and me – against the advice of so many.
     Back then, they all worshipped at the feet of Rupert Murdoch, so what

better way to maintain permanent contact with God without having to actually meet up with him and thus arouse suspicion.
     I’m sure Cameron said that Murdoch visited Downing Street just the once during his first year as prime minister. All so blindingly obvious, really.

Today, I purchased Private Eye, edited of course by Ian Hislop, one of the resident panellists on BBC’s popular Have I Got News For You. I was attracted by its eye-catching cover, alongside.
     Note the brilliantly cheeky line at the top, beneath Private EyeIncorporating News Of The World.
     And of course the main headline is from the Sun newspaper – a Murdoch title – probably its most infamous headline, following the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands war, with much loss of life.

What caught my eye inside Private Eye was a headline from September 1969, alongside a picture of Rupert Murdoch, then age 38, and the birth of a famous nickname...

Fancy that. Private Eye had seen through him, even back then. Just adds to the gross stupidity of all our prime ministers since 1969.

No.1293: 22 July - 4 August 2011

Finally, a contribution that does not require any additional comment:
“If the London police cannot protect an 80-year-old man in a secure room, it doesn’t bode well for next year’s Olympics, does it?” John Lindsey, of St Andrews, Fife, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Tuesday, July 19
The Wizard of Oz meets Homer Simpson

“I WAS trying to think who Rupert Murdoch and his son reminded me of, then it came to me: Montgomery Burns and his sidekick Smithers in The Simpsons.” Peter Sanders, in a letter to The Telegraph.
     There was only one show in town today:
the unprincipled in full pursuit of the unscrupulous. Unprincipled politicians, those we have least respect for in life (sexed-up war dossiers, expenses scandals, raids on pension funds, etc), and unscrupulous media people (Rupert Murdoch declared at today’s Commons select committee hearing that The Recently Deceased News of the World was pretty much an irrelevance because it represented just one per cent of his media empire).

Peter Sanders in his letter, above, set the scene perfectly when he likened Rupert and son James to Burns and Smithers.
     I really couldn’t get that image out of my mind as the Murdochs struggled to establish themselves in that opening 30 minutes, especially so Rupert who really looked his age and appeared doddery, vague and, dare one say it, somewhat ignorant. His first three answers were “Nope”, “Nope” and “Nope”.
     My reaction was: Look, guys, let the old boy go; he’s spent all his life in the fast lane and the human body simply isn’t designed to cope with all that stress – not to mention a glamorous wife half his age. Now that he’s realised he can’t take all his money with him to the grave, let him make peace with all those he has trampled or destroyed to satisfy his greed.
     Shades of Old Shaggy begging forgiveness, as related in yesterday’s poison pen story.
     Being that Rupert Murdoch is an Australian, it was quite apt that the Wizard of Oz also came to mind. Remember near the end of the film, when Dorothy pulled back the curtain to expose the Wizard? He was an old man simply using sound and visual effects to appear to be an all-powerful Wizard – and really he was just as vulnerable as everyone else.

'Rupert Burns and James Smithers' by BUBBLE89

Anyway, what I first noticed when the show got under way was Rupert’s wife Wendi Deng, 42, who settled Rupert, 80, into his chair, and poured him some water – after first carefully examining the blurb and ingredients on the bottle.
     I found myself wondering if those who read and watch Murdoch’s media outlets actually read all the Es first, just to make sure what nasties are being subliminally pumped into their brains.
     It was very instructive that Rupert calls the editor of The Sunday Times every Saturday, presumably to tell him what the leader column should say – which is why, whenever I read or watch a Murdoch outlet, I always make my excuses and leave before they sit in judgment on stories to do with either the BBC or the royal family.

James Murdoch was awash with meaningless management speak, projected in a curious voice that sounded like a cross between John Major and Donald Duck. His favourite corporate expressions were: “That’s a very good question.” “Sir, I welcome the chance to answer that.” “I have no knowledge of that”.
     We were witnessing a very big fish struggling to escape the hook at the end of the line.

I was also intrigued to learn that Rupert Murdoch had regularly turned up at Downing Street during the period when the Three Mucketeers were prime ministers - Blair, Brown and Cameron - but always told to enter via the back door, the tradesman’s entrance. How revealing is that?
     They were all desperate for his support, but were clearly too ashamed to share that fact with the British people.

So what was my final take on this afternoon’s Commons select committee? Well, if Rupert and James are Mr Burns and his sidekick Withers, then what about the Simpsons themselves?

Wendi Ding is Marge, attempting to ingratiate herself with Burns, growling ominously in the background, the way Marge does when she is not a happy bunny – and then launching an attack on Homer as he attempts to smash a pie into Burns’ face. D’oh! (The pie man even looks like a young Homer.)
     The select committee members were the regulars at Moe’s Tavern (and did you notice that none of them moved an inch to jump to the aid of an old man in trouble, very telling).
     Rebekah Brooks is Lisa, the too-clever-by-half youngster who you just know is one day going to walk into the mother of all ambushes.
     But where was Bart, who is traditionally always up to no good while lurking in the background? Well, he was on a plane flying home from somewhere in Africa.
     And we, the Great British Public, was little Maggie, sucking on our thumbs, unable to differentiate between a Shakespearean tragedy and a “he’s behind you” pantomime.
     Oh yes, Santa’s Little Helper – the family dog – has to be Andy Coulson. The appointment of him as Cameron’s spin doctor proved that our PM is totally void of inherent wisdom, unable to spot the ambush ahead.
     As for Snowball II (the family cat), it has to be the lucky black cat Rupert Murdoch has on his lap and is forever stroking rather menacingly.

The Simpsons and pets

In conclusion, the pigs had come to huff and puff and blow the old wolf’s castle in – and they nearly succeeded.
Monday, July 18
The sleep of the just after

OLD Shaggy, the Crazy Horsepower Saloon’s resident senior Casanova,
has been rushed into hospital and is in intensive care; his wife, Dot, is at

his bedside.
     In a whisper, Old Shaggy says: “I have to make a confession, Dot.”
     Dot responds: “Don’t talk sweetheart - you need to rest.”
     Old Shaggy persists: “I must die in peace, Dot. I have to tell you that I slept with both your sisters ...  and your best friend, Sue ... and Jane next door ... there, I’ve got it off my chest, I’m thoroughly ashamed of my behaviour, and I've let you down badly.”
     “I know, darling,” says Dot. “Now be quiet and let the poison work.”

That joke compliments of Michael Winner’s column in The Sunday Times, and paraphrased to Dodgy City taste. A delightful twist in the tail.

Alongside the above tale in the paper was a picture of Prince Albert of Monaco and his new bride, Princess Charlene - see alongside...
Honeymoon suite for one, please
Prince Albert and Princess Charlene spent their South African honeymoon apart, sources have revealed.
It’s not unknown for upper-class couples to have separate bedrooms.

The happy couple - or maybe not

But separate hotels? Now that’s just showing off.

Now I have to admit that I did think twice about buying yesterday’s Sunday Times – the Murdoch shemozzle and all that jazz. I’ve already switched from The Times to The Daily Telegraph, but for now I’m still with The Sunday Times. It’s an interesting dilemma.
     Also, above, in the Prince Albert and Princess Charlene blurb, you note the “sources have revealed” – and I find myself wondering what, precisely, does that mean?

Sunday, July 17
Playing like a bunch of girls

SERENDIPITY: the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.

Tonight, over in Frankfurt, the Women’s World Cup Final was being played out between Japan and the United States. Over the past few weeks, I’d caught bits and pieces of a rather entertaining tournament, but I’d forgotten about the final – but, as is my wont, going zap-a-dee-doo-da through the channels, there it was, having not long kicked off.
     I thoroughly enjoyed what I was watching, and all unfolding in front of a packed and enthusiastic stadium.

Football purists pooh-pooh the girls for their lack of technical ability and power. All nonsense to my mind. When you flick through a newspaper or a magazine and your eye is drawn to a picture, you don’t suddenly stop and peer closely at the technical aspects of the picture – well, not unless you’re a photographic geek or an anorak.
     As long as the image is in focus, well framed and reasonably sharp – which it must be to appear in front of you anyway – then that’s all that matters. Football is precisely the same. If what you see pleases your eye and makes you smile – gooooal

And so it was with tonight’s game, a wonderful advert for women’s football, indeed all football. Japan had come into the final as sentimental favourites, helping rally a nation that had been devastated by the March earthquake and tsunami, followed of course by that nuclear disaster.
     Japan’s progress through the competition had also drawn huge television audiences back home.
     The final was competitive, exciting, honest and played in great spirit – with many deft touches and some superb goals. There was no diving, no cheating, and none of those dreadful histrionics that characterise men’s football.
     As a bonus, I never noticed any spitting or clearing of noses onto the turf, or what the common or garden call “blowing a snot rocket”. Yuk
! Where does that disgusting habit come from?
     Most instructively, there were no protests and attendant cheap theatrics at any of the ref’s decisions. Even when defender Azusa Iwashimizu was sent off in the dying moments for a foul tackle on the edge of the penalty area as one of

the American girls broke through and threatened to snatch the cup from Japan, the decision accepted without tantrums and hysterics (Azusa’s team mates scrambled the resulting free-kick clear).
     Mind you, if that red card had been shown in the first minute rather than the last – well, who knows? But I’m happy to give them the benefit of the doubt.
     In a game not so much dominated but controlled by the Americans, at full-time it was 1-1, and 2-2 after extra-time.
     Japan then went on to win 3-1 in the penalty shoot-out, displaying an inscrutability*, in both converting the penalties and saving them, that would have made even the Chinese

World Cup victory lifts a nation

envious, to become the first Asian nation to win the
Fifa Women's World Cup.
     * Inscrutable: a colonial moniker used to describe the Chinese as “exotic” and unknowable. Perhaps England’s men should take a course in inscrutability, having become world-infamous for coming second in penalty shoot-outs.

Well done Japan. It really was a very pleasing affair and a jolly end to a Sunday evening. Unless you’re American, of course. Oh, and if in future I hear some fellow describe any team as playing “like a bunch of girl guides”, my mind will revisit this game – and I will smile. 

Saturday, July 16
The star-spangled banner

TODAY’S smile is certainly different. It revolves around a letter in the Western Mail, from a DT Davies of Dryslwyn, a village just down the road from my square mile.
     DT, as we all know him, is a much-loved local character, now into his 90s, but still sharp as a knife and bright as a button.
Anyway, his letter starts thus...

US flag design
SIR – Some may ask who the Betsy is who is featured in a cartoon that appeared in the Western Mail on America’s Independence Day (July 4)...

Now the problem here is that 12 days have passed since July 4, so recalling a cartoon that far back is a problem. Fortunately, I retain the papers for a month or so, just to cover this sort of eventuality, so I dug out the relevant edition – and the cartoon is pictured below.

     I remember that the cartoon sort of made me smile at the time, but as this letter will show, there’s so much more to it than meets the eye.
     To continue the letter...

Betsy Ross was a skilful needle and embroidery lady whose mother was of Welsh descent.
     George Washington, the first President of the USA (whose wife also had Welsh forebears) made a rough design of a proposed banner for the country, which he took to Betsy’s shop in Arch Street in Philadelphia for consultation.
     The design was of 13 lines with 13 six-pointed stars. But Betsy changed it to 13 five-pointed stars. Her design was accepted by Congress on June 14, 1777 and Betsy received the contract to produce all the government’s banners.
     She lived to see the banner changed from 13 stripes and 13 stars to 26 stars.
     Betsy was married to John Ross, who was a nephew of George Ross, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776.

The American dream? Heavens to Betsy!

     What about a small Welsh Dragon in one corner of the Stars and Stripes?
     All this information is in Arvon Roberts’ wonderful book: 150 Famous Welsh Americans.
DT Davies, Dryslwyn, Carmarthen

Marvellous stuff, and gives a whole new meaning to putting some shine and glitter on the Stars and Stripes.

Seeing the flag now means much more, and in future it will doubtless alter my perception of it – and yes, the first thing I did was count the stripes: yup, 13. And of course there are now 50 stars – all present and correct.

Of course many say that the American flag should, in 2011, have 51 stars i.e. the UK being the additional one because we have surrendered the British bulldog spirit and morphed into lapdogs at the beck and call of the American President. Probably true – but I’d settle for a Welsh dragon in the corner, as suggested by DT, above, and especially as featured here, ho, ho, ho!

A final parting thought. There’s a rather dated but mild American exclamation of surprise, “Heavens to Betsy”, and its origin, as with so many such sayings, has been declared “completely unsolvable”.
     The very first written example is from the US journal Ballou’s Dollar Monthly (“the cheapest magazine in the world”, 1855-1893), Volume 5, January 1857. Some have tried to link the saying back to Betsy Ross, but failed.
     Could it possibly be true though? Probably.

Friday, July 15
A perfect boiled egg is hard to beat

TODAY, rather belatedly, I caught up with last Sunday’s The Best of Radio Wales, compliments of the blessed iPlayer. The bit I particularly enjoyed was from the Jamie Owen and Louise Elliott weekday morning show, an interview with Antony Worrall Thompson, 60, a British celebrity chef, television presenter and radio broadcaster.

Before coming to the interview, there are two delightful facts I’ve learnt about the chef.
     For the first, it is best to explain that “Essex girl” is a pejorative term used in the UK to imply that a female is promiscuous and unintelligent, characteristics jocularly attributed to women from Essex.
     “Essex man” is a political term describing aspirational working-class voters in the south and east of England who not only went on to vote Conservative but adored Margaret Thatcher. Those at the top look down their noses at those from Essex.
     Also, bear in mind that Antony Worrall Thompson is descended from what could best be described as a “posh” family, “snobby” even. Right, off we go...

Taking his first catering job in Essex, it is rumoured that his grandmother refused to write to him because she couldn’t bring herself to write Essex on the envelope. Totally wonderful. I do so hope it’s true.

And secondly, he opened his first restaurant – Ménage à Trois – in Knightsbridge in 1981, notable for only serving starters and puddings. Now that sounds like my sort of place.

Right, back to the interview: Louise asked him if it was true that his godfather was Richard Burton, the Welsh actor. Indeed it was. Both Antony’s parents were Shakespearean actors, who knew Burton well – they acted together, in fact Burton was understudy to his father when he was born.
     His parents and Burton socialised and drank a lot together, ‘lot’ being the operative word. He continued thus: “It was a ‘luvvie’ appointment, and I only saw him about, oh, probably six or eight times – but it’s great to put on your CV.
     “He was a very nice, amiable guy - yes, he liked a drink, but so did my dad and so did my mum. I met Elizabeth Taylor once. Richard was a very larger than life character. He went on to greater things, and carried on drinking, as did my dad. Unfortunately my father also carried on gambling and lost everything. Richard went on to make millions.”
     Wel-i-jiw-jiw, as they say in Richard Burton country.

How did Antony get into cooking? As his parents were both actors – and his father left home when he was quite young – he was a latch-key kid, and the neighbours were meant to feed him, but more often than not they didn’t. So he learnt to cook at a very young age out of necessity.
     Was there any interest in cooking in the family? None, his mother wasn’t a great cook, in fact the aforementioned grandmother – his grandparents lived in India for 38 years, his grandfather being in the army, so they were waited on hand and foot and had never touched a cooker in their lives. His grandmother could burn a boiled egg.
     “I have to say,” interjected Louise, “it’s not hard to burn a boiled egg; it’s really not, all you have to do is forget about them boiling away.”
     And that reminded Antony of a friend who got some chickens because he knew that he had some and his pal was rather taken with the idea of fresh eggs. So when the first eggs arrived he asked Antony how best to cook a boiled egg?
     “Just pop it on the stove: depends how you like it – I give mine four-and-a-half-minutes. Unfortunately it was an absolute disaster for my friend – and do you know what? I hadn’t done it the Delia way, and I forgot to tell him to put water in the saucepan first. The egg exploded.”

How priceless. The effect of course would be the same as ‘boiling’ an egg in a microwave – bang
! Antony added that at one time, 40% of Girl Guides didn’t know how to boil an egg. He hoped that the statistic had improved from a few years ago.
     Sadly, Jamie and Louise never asked him about that Essex story. Shame.

So how best to combine Shakespeare and eggs? Be warned though, I’m not a poet – and I know it...

They do say Hamlet loved the taste of an omelette;
So much so his palate demanded a couplet.

Thursday, July 14
Not so fast, Mrs Bond

“I WOULD rather not be a villain. I would rather be Octopussy.” Dame Stella Rimington, 76, former head of MI5, Britain’s Security Service, who says she would like to have been a Bond girl.
     Unless I am much mistaken, Octopussy was originally a villain until, yawn, yawn, she was seduced back to sanity by 007. Hm, so Dame Stella would rather have been a poacher turned gamekeeper. Interesting.
     Whatever, and talking of influential women, probably like most people, whether male or female, I am mesmerised by Rebekah Brooks’ glorious mane...
                                                                                                     ...I don’t know where she finds the time to be such a high-profile media woman; I mean, that hair must take up all her spare time just to keep in an orderly fashion. If, or perhaps when, things go belly up in the news business, she would make a quite splendid Bond villain.
     Rebekah conjures up images of
the marvellous Rosa Klebb flashing those deadly knives sticking out of her shoes (From Russia With Love), except Rebekah would, of course, have little poison-tipped knifes built into her fingernails.
     But what to call her? I know: “The name’s Penny. Copper Penny.”
     Yup, Copper would make a definitive baddie:
“No one gets any change out of Copper Penny.”
     However, in my make-believe world, those who know her up close call her Poppy. In fact, at the end of the story I have in mind, James fondly – no pun intended – refers to her as Poppet.
     Mind you, I am undecided whether 007 pulls off the usual trick and seduces her back onside, or – and here I feel that the Bond franchise is no longer fit for purpose, in fact not since the theme songs began to sound like Eurovision Song entries – so perhaps like all rich, famous and powerful men, he eventually succumbs to the lure of cheap sex and dirty money (or perhaps the other way round: dirty sex and cheap money), and crosses the floor to join the opposition and his darling, flame-haired temptress, Mrs Copper Bottom Bond.
     And in the process, morphs into a typical Nogood Bond Boyo.

Watch out for the film, coming soon to a cinema near you. Tell you what, let’s round off on a Bond theme...

“As he
s a boy, I am tickled blue.” Former Bond girl Jenny Hanley, 63, on her new grandchild.
Well, if Bond girls are morphing into grandmothers, then it’s definitely time to marry off 007 and put him out to grass.

“They are wonderful people in the secret service. They are still recruiting the brightest and the best, but we are going to end up with too many spies and too few people to spy on.” Spy writer John le Carré, 79.
See comment under previous quote.

PS: Given the furore surrounding Rebekah Brooks and all things News Corporation, I enjoyed this newspaper letter from Andrew Holgate of Woodley in Cheshire: “As a banker, is it safe to come out now?”

Wednesday, July 13
Run over by the Clapham omnibus

“I AM not throwing innocent people under the bus.” Rupert Murdoch, 80, expressing support for beleaguered Rebekah Brooks, 43, over the hacking scandal.
     Unless I am very much mistaken, I definitely saw some 200 News of the World employees disappear under that News Corporation bendy bus. But you know what they say – sorry, I say: believe nothing you hear and only half what you see.

Harold Macmillan (1894-1986), was a Conservative prime minister from 1957 to 1963. He was nicknamed ‘Supermac’ and was known for his pragmatism, wit and unflappability. When asked what represented the greatest challenge for a statesman – or rather, what kept him awake at night – he famously replied: “Events, my dear boy, events.”
     Or being run over by the Clapham omnibus when you forget to look left, look right, look left again...

We can safely claim that the main players in the News Corporation fiasco have been overtaken by events, except of course, they were driving the bus themselves.
     They are shortly to be asked (instructed?) to appear before Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee to explain themselves. I have just seen on TV this Select Committee question the Metropolitan Police over their part in the phone hacking chaos, and to be honest, the lot of ‘em - politicians and police - make my heart sink.
     You know my test on meeting people: dolphin or shark? ... pussycat or polecat? ... sparrow or sparrow hawk?
     Well, all I could see were sharks, polecats and sparrow hawks, especially Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Home  Affairs Select Committee, a fellow with a dodgy track

To paraphrase Captain Louis Renault, Casablanca:
“Round up the obvious suspects”

record anyway, and if memory serves, “Can the Ethiopian
change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” (Jeremiah 13, 23).
     The only person I had a bit of confidence in was Sue Akers, the Metropolitan Police’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner. It prompted me to submit a brief letter to The Telegraph...

Tally ho!
SIR – I look forward to seeing News Corporation’s senior management appearing before Parliament.
     For the first time, I will experience a variation on the theme of Oscar Wilde’s maxim “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable”: the unprincipled in full pursuit of the unscrupulous.

[And it was published tomorrow, Thursday

Tuesday, July 12
A spiritual experience

IT REALLY was a safe bet that David and Victoria Beckham would bring out the worst in all of us. The best I’ve come across is Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail  - with a little help from his readers...

Roll out the Party Seven
Posh and Becks have decided to call their new baby girl Harper Seven. It makes her sound like a cause célèbre.
     I’ve heard of the Weatherfield One, the Shrewsbury Two, the Three Little Pigs, the Guildford Four, the Dave Clark Five and the Birmingham Six, but this is a new one on me.
     Free the Harper Seven

That’s very smiley, Richard. But I have cheated a little. “The Weatherfield One” wasn’t actually included in Littlejohn’s piece, but a June of Chonburi (Thailand?) suggested it on the Mail’s comment board.
     I learn, compliments of Google, that the Weatherfield One was a much-discussed storyline from Coronation Street, a UK soap opera, and involved a gross miscarriage of justice that was known to the audience – and even Prime Minister Tony Blair got involved in the fuss, announcing that he would “order the Home Secretary to investigate the case”.
     When I read that last bit, it sort of rang a bell, in as much that critics were surprised that no one had told Blair that they were only pretending on Coronation Street. And that it was all a sexed up storyline. Honestly. No wonder the man took the country to war on the back of a sexed up dossier of ill repute.
     Incarcerate the B. Liar

Anyway the Weatherfield One was well worth including. Oh, the Three Little Pigs was not in the original article either – that was my little contribution, to give the piece some balance, a straight flush plus some, if you like ... well, if memory serves, the pigs were terribly persecuted by Rupert Murdoch – oops
! – the big bad wolf.
     I also thought Littlejohn’s inclusion of the Dave Clark Five was definitely very smiley.

Talking of Rupert Murdoch, I’m back with the News of the World. Plenty of people have said good riddance to bad rubbish, and wished that all tabloids would go the same way.
     Imagine though what a dull place the nation would be without the red tops, when they are not targeting innocent victims, that is.
     I mean, just look at today’s marvellous Daily Star front page headline, alongside ... the blurb says this: All that sex has had a dramatic effect on love rat Ryan Giggs, turning his hair and beard white. He looked to have aged 10 years in Manchester as ex-lover Imogen Thomas, left, glowed in London.

I’m sayin’ nuthin’. When I hit 35 and the middle-lane of life’s journey, I had to start wearing glasses – and I’m not sayin’ why.
     Well, maybe when the book comes out.

Incidentally, also on the front page it says: Why Posh named her girl Harper.
     Well, the baby, apparently, was named by her proud brothers after Harper Finkle, a character in their favourite TV show, The Wizards of Waverly Place.

     But it was mum and dad who gave her the unusual middle name of
Seven because it is “a powerful spiritual number”.

Yes, all human life is here, in all its doolallyness.

Monday, July 11
A rose by any other name

I ROUNDED off yesterday’s News of the World ‘obituary’ thus: And given the pace at which the story is moving, who knows what I will be writing about in another seven days. Something tells me though that the figure seven will feature sooner rather than later...
! Yes, okay, I was cheating – I had already hacked into today’s news before putting yesterday’s to bed.
     Anyway, first light this morning...

05:00 – Alan Dedicoat is rounding off the BBC Radio 2 news bulletin before handing over to Vanessa Feltz...

Mr D: And Victoria Beckham has given birth to a girl, a first daughter for the former singer and her husband David. The baby was delivered at a hospital in Los Angeles and has been named Harper Seven ... that's the BBC news at three-minutes-past-five, the next at five-thirty.
V: I thank you most cordially, Mr D, and I invite you to take part in a debate currently raging in this studio. Yes, Harper Seven, dot, dot, dot. Why? Question Mark

Mr D: It’s the first number we’ve had, certainly.
V: Do you think it’s the number he wore on his shirt? Is it the house at which they were indulging when the baby was conceived? No. 7 Cherry Tree Lane?
Mr D: Could be.
V: The time of day?
Mr D: Harper Seven? Harper? Harper Seven? Harpa Seven? Hapas Seven? Half-past-seven
V: Half-past-seven
! There you are, you’ve done it. By George, he’s cracked it, you genius.

And a very funny exchange it was, too. Mind you, I don’t think No. 7 Cherry Tree Lane was very convincing. I somehow can’t imagine that the Beckhams have lived in a house with a number on the door for many a blue moon.
     Be that as it may, a little later, Vanessa again:
I’m looking through the papers on your behalf – and the first own goal of the day from the Daily Star. We know that the Beckham baby is called Harper Seven, but at the time of going to press they didn’t know that. The front page headline reads...
Posh’s Baby Princess: Beckhams over moon with 7lb 10oz girl ‘Beverly’
Oh dear, that’ll be consigned to the wheelie bin forthwith...

I experienced a guarded smile, so when I collected my morning paper at the newsagent I had a look at the Daily Star front page. Beneath the headline, as quoted above, it said this:
A pal seemed to give away the name by congratulating them on “gorgeous baby Beverly” – suggesting that, like Brooklyn, the name was linked to a favourite location.

It could be one of two things. The “pal” was winding them up. Or, as the Daily Star didn’t know the name when they went to press, they sat down and figured what would be the least likely name for the Beckham daughter – remembering that the boys are called Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz – and came up with Beverly.
     Brilliant. Mind you, the Beckhams do live in Beverly Hills. Still, the above surged ahead in the smile of the day spotlight.

Mind you, Harper Seven? I’m going to resist the challenge, because over the coming days the media will be awash with jokes and speculation.
     Oh okay, I can’t resist: I instantly thought of Star Trek Voyager, in particular the fragrant and tasty
Seven of Nine. Which set me thinking...
     Here’s a roll call of names spotted in the passing parade: Apple Martin, Bluebell Madonna Halliwell, Moon Unit Zappa, Suri Cruise, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, Hero Harper Quinn-Klass, Seven Sirius Badu (note both Harper and Seven already making guest appearances), Fifi Trixibelle Geldof, Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof, Little Pixie Geldof, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchinson Geldof...
     And who can forget the New Zealand judge who allowed a nine-year-old girl to change her name from Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii; however, Number 16 Bus Shelter, Midnight Chardonnay and twins Benson and Hedges were allowed to stand, but presumably the twins not in a public place.
     Interestingly, Zowie Bowie, poor bugger, is now known as plain old Duncan Jones – and there’s the rub.
     There are many who don’t like their given names – even among we, the common or garden, see Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii, above – so going back to Seven of Nine, perhaps the Beckham’s daughter should be known 

Any excuse to show Jeri Ryan
 aka Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct etc

as Four of Six, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One-BeckhamBeckham Four for short.
     And then, at the age of 18, Beckham Four would by law be given the option to adopt whatever name she then felt best suited her character and personality.

Now that would certainly add to the gaiety of the passing parade.

Sunday, July 10
The Murdoch Machete made its excuses and left

was the very first newspaper I ever read. So this morning, for the first time since I can’t remember when, I bought the paper, the very last issue, number 8,674.
     And what a stroll down memory lane the 48-page souvenir pullout is, with an eye-catching selection of front pages: from its very first edition on October 1, 1843 – up to June 5, 2011; also, a brief summary of the main story from every year featured along the bottom of each page. Fascinating stuff.
     The first thing that struck me was this: what fantastic eyesight they had 168 years ago. That first edition front page is reproduced to actual size, but I needed a magnifying glass to read much of it – and I already wear glasses.
     There were no images, no cartoons, just a mass of small print: a mixture of ads, political comment – and, surprise, surprise, one full-length column headed JOKES (From Punch of Yesterday).
     That idea certainly made me smile. After all, you are reading Everyday a Smile of the Day, which suggests that I am thinking along the same lines as the first editor of the paper.
     Oh yes, the price was ‘Threepence’ – that seemed a lot to me, but I discover that it is equal to £1.04 in today’s values. And how much was today’s News of the World? £1. How about that?
     As a youngster, probably like most youngsters, I never had my nose in a newspaper – well, not until I developed an interest in sport, which had me turning instantly to the back page; indeed, that is why we men have a habit of reading newspapers backwards, apparently. Guilty as charged, M’lud.
     However, if memory serves, my parents bought a couple of
Sunday papers, the Express and the News of the World.

     Michael Heseltine, the former Conservative cabinet minister, tells an entertaining story. He and his wife would buy the News of the World with the rest of the papers, then hide it under the sofa. Once the children were in bed they would surreptitiously take it out “and have a good laugh”. I presume he was talking about the paper.

Alongside, the postcard cartoon that smiles from the front page of the News of the World’s souvenir pullout...

Anyway, my parents never attempted to hide the paper – I guess I would have been about 13-14-15, I really can’t remember – but intriguingly, I do remember that I never, ever read the paper in the presence of my parents.
     I’d been alerted to the notoriety of the paper by school pals and local lads, especially the older boys; in particular that it was known as the
‘News of the Screws’. I mean, there were all those salacious stories about wife swapping and the like.
     A tale I fondly recall involved a couple of reporters visiting a massage parlour, a place they believed to be an undercover brothel, so the reporters’ investigations built up to a fine climax, so to speak, and suddenly, one of the girls offers sex, at a price, obviously – at which point the reporters would utter the paper’s most famous line:
“We declined, made our excuses and left.”
     So impressed was I with that line, even as a youngster, that I have, along my own walk through time, occasionally “made my excuses and left”. Hindsight though suggests that I should have deployed the line much more often.

The undated, postcard-style cartoon

Probably the watershed in the paper’s history was its coverage of the Profumo scandal in 1963. This was the case where fine Welsh lady Mandy Rice-Davies, on being told that Lord Astor claimed that her allegations concerning himself and his house parties at ‘Cliveden’ were untrue, memorably responded: “He would say that, wouldn’t he?”
     As a result of that high-profile case, the paper paid the model, showgirl and occasional good-time-girl Christine Keeler, £23,000* – a fortune at the time – to tell all about her affair with John Profumo. The nation was agog; Profumo resigned.
     So you could say that that was the moment when the paper’s ultimate demise was sealed. The love of money is indeed the root of all evil.
     * £23,000 is today worth £358,800, using the retail price index, but £795,800 using average earnings. Quite astonishing, that (there’s a website -
http://www.measuringworth.com/ppoweruk/ - that works these things out).
     Incidentally, the ‘Threepence’ of 1843, which is £1.04 using the retail price index, is £9.78 using average earnings. So purchasing power has increased nine times during the lifespan of the News of the World.

One of the more startling statistics about the paper is this: for the first 48 years its editor was Henry Drake Breun; for the next 50 years the editor was Emsley Carr; for the remaining 70 years, the paper had 21 editors. How revealing is that?
     From 1995-2000, the editor was Phil Hall, and I enjoyed this story, compliments of The Sunday Times...

One of the last stories Hall ran when he was editor was about Reggie Kray being allowed to visit his brother Charlie, who had been taken to a prison hospital suffering chest pains.
     The Krays were the most notorious criminals of the 1960s: twins Ronnie and Reggie had terrorised the East End of London and been jailed for life for murdering a petty gangster called Jack “The Hat” McVitie*.
     But by this time – March 2000 – Ronnie was dead and Reggie and Charlie were decrepit old men; the reporter’s account of their meeting was as feeble as they were. The best the reporter could come up with was that they had chatted over tea and biscuits.
     “I was sitting on the back bench [part of the newsroom] thinking ‘What the hell are we going to do with this?’,” recalls Hall. “Then one of the team shouted, ‘I’ve got it
! I could murder another McVitie: tea and biscuits behind bars’.
     “Everyone started laughing. So that was our headline.”

A typical News of the World story. Incidentally: * The nickname Jack The Hat is said to be due to a trilby hat that he wore to conceal hair loss.
     Shame that the paper with such a rich and colourful history should die such a death. Incidentally, looking through the  last edition of the paper proper, this made me smile the most...
                                                                                                                                                       ...finally, who would have guessed just seven days ago that today I would be discussing, against a suitably respectful dark background, the obituary of the UK’s most read newspaper, the
News of the World?
     And given the pace at which the story is moving, who knows what I will be writing about in another seven days. Something tells me though that the figure seven will feature sooner rather than later...

Saturday, July 9
Whom Fortune wishes to destroy she first makes mad

Publilius Syrus, a Latin writer of maxims, 1st century BC
THERE’S nothing new under the sun, clearly:
“The price you pay for celebrity is like sticking pins in your eyes. I’ve been working in this business for years and there’s no way you can do that and not be as nutty as a fruitcake.” Actress Jodie Foster, 48.
     It’s somewhat reassuring that there are at least a few slebs out there who actually look behind the mirror now and again. Meanwhile, back in front of the mirror...

“She’s an interesting woman and an intelligent journalist – but that whole sex thing, why does she do it?” Skye Gyngell, 46, food writer and award-winning chef at Petersham café (“a heavenly café-restaurant in the middle of Petersham Nurseries”), gives her verdict on domestic goddess Nigella Lawson, 51.
     I’ve often wondered that myself whenever I catch sight of Nigella on the box, oozing pretend sexual chemistry as she adds dollops of what is obviously her “sex thing”, x-thing ingredient.
     Not so much mutton dressed as lamb, more sheep gambolling as hogget (a yearling ewe).

“If I don’t have that every day, I feel like I’m getting pretentious.” Gordon Ramsay, 44, chef, restaurateur and foul-mouthed television presenter, who eats porridge every day “because it makes me feel Scottish”.
     Rarely am I lost for words, so thank you Miquel de Cervantes (1547-1616) ~ I never thrust my nose into other men’s porridge. It is no bread and butter of mine; every man for himself and God for us all.
     Oh, and this one:
                                  There’s sand in the porridge and sand in the bed,
                                  And if this is pleasure we’d rather be dead.
Noel Coward (1899-1973)

Finally, I shall finish with a quote released just tonight, and which will be relevant tomorrow because, if spared, I already know what I will be smiling at come the morning:
“I would love to think that Rupert Murdoch lies in bed at night quaking in fear of the Church of England, but I fear that may not be the case.” Richard Burridge, deputy chairman of the church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group, who admitted possible removal of the church’s relatively small investment in News Corporation would amount to no more than a gesture.
Friday, July 8
Hi Ho Atlantis, away!

A FIERY bird with the speed of light, a cloud of steam and a hearty Hi Ho...

At 11:29 local time, 16:29 LST (Llandampness Summer Time), the shuttle

Atlantis launched for the very last time, and as the big bird disappeared into the cloud cover, with it went one of mankind’s more startling statistics.
     I’ve mentioned it in previous dispatches, but it’s worth a repeat...

The whole caboodle weighs some 2,250 tons as it sits there awaiting the regulation kick up its arse – and remember, Atlantis has to be thrown 200 miles into space.
     At lift-off, the rockets generate a mind-blowing thrust of some 3,500 tons to lift the massive load that first inch – but that’s not the extraordinary statistic.
As this megaloomph clears the launch pad, excluding the 80ft tall fibreglass lighting mast, obviously - captured precisely in the picture, alongside - at this point Atlantis is already accelerating through 100mph.
     Ponder on that a little while … that something weighing 2,250 tons, with a few people sat at the pointy end, does 0-100, within its own length, in just 3.5 seconds.
     Methinks it’s time to put the Top Gear lads back in their crèche. 

When Atlantis returns to earth in 12 days time, I will feature a gallery of some of my favourite images from the shuttle era.
     Next though, I take you back to first light, this morning...

Atlantis on its final journey, clocks
100mph, just 3.5 seconds after lift-off

Last writes and passages
05:00 and I switch on the radio: “Police are preparing to arrest Andy Coulson later this morning...” Eh? Since when do they announce that they are going to arrest someone? Did they mention a dress code as well?
     Coulson is the fellow who was editor at the News of the World when the phone tapping was going on, and in the subsequent brouhaha, he insisted that it was “Nuthin’ to do with me, guv”, then resigned from the paper – and was next taken on by David Cameron as a spin doctor (or Head of Communications, as bullshitting politicians call it).
     He then resigned once more. This now throws Cameron’s judgment and lack of wisdom in hiring him in the first place into serious question – and the vultures are circling as they sense a wounded victim.

Anyway, what came to mind as I listened to the above news item, was a high-profile, early-morning police raid back in June, when London Mayor Boris Johnson joined cops in a crack den raid – and Boris was asked by a startled suspect who recognised him: “What the f*** are you doing here?”
     Surely then, what I should have heard on the radio this morning was this: “In the early hours of this morning, many van loads of police turned up at the London home of Andy Coulson, smashed down the front door, rushed upstairs and found him naked in bed, with an unnamed person known simply as Whiplash. After regaining his thoughts, Coulson turned to a dishevelled, blond-haired fellow accompanying the police, and said: ‘What the f*** are you doing here?’”

Well, the thought of that imagined scenario made me smile. The other thing that intrigued me this morning was how the newspapers would cover the sudden closure of the News of the World. Here are the front page headlines...
     Daily Mail: Paper that died of shame
     The Sun: World’s End
     The Daily Telegraph: Goodbye, cruel World
     The Scotsman: End of the World
     The Belfast Telegraph: End of the World
     The Times: Hacked to death
     The Daily Mirror: Hacked to death
     The Daily Express: Shut in shame
     The Guardian: The scandal that closed the News of the World
     The Independent: Newspaper ‘sacrificed to save woman’
     The Daily Star: News of the World says goodbye
     The Financial Times: Murdoch shuts News of the World
And finally, a view from abroad...
     The Wall Street Journal (owned by Murdoch): News Corp closes tabloid in phone-hacking scandal

Interesting that The Times and The Daily Mirror came up with the same clever word-play, ‘Hacked to death’, while The Scotsman and The Belfast Telegraph shared ‘End of the World’. The Telegraph
s  ‘Goodbye, cruel World’ stands out.
     Whatever, I am quite chuffed with my own headline from yesterday:
Hold the front page – for ever and ever, Amen!

‘Hold the front page’ will be literally true after Sunday’s final edition; the ‘Amen’ can mean whatever you want it to mean – positive or negative – but much more seriously, we could be seeing the beginning of the end of proper investigative journalism, much to the delight of the usual roundup of suspects: politicians, bankers, CEOs, judges, celebrities - together with all Nogood Boyos and Girlies everywhere…

Thursday, July 7
Hold the front page – for ever and ever, Amen

THE unbelievable story today was of course the demise of the News Of The World: going strong at 168 not out – it then takes its eye off the ball, a casual hook at a bouncer, and caught in the outfield.
     What a startling tale it is. And all so sad, from whichever angle you approach it: whether it involves those who had their phones hacked – especially so the murdered children and their families, and indeed the families of the dead servicemen – or the 200 staff at the newspaper who are innocent victims of the behaviour of a previous regime, and have been sacrificed at the altar of a modern-day Sheriff of Nottingham aka Rupert Murdoch.
     There are those much better qualified than I to make sense of the nonsense that has unfolded over the past week, but in a curious way the phone hacking of the armed forces’ families links me to a cynical smile of the day.

The tale which also surfaced today was that surrounding the recent marriage of English model Kate Moss, 37. I trust you are sitting comfortably.

In the lead-up to her marriage she had asked RAF Brize Norton if they could stop the drone of jets overhead because she didn’t want her nuptials and celebrations disturbed – so she asked RAF chiefs to postpone or divert flights.
     She was politely refused. A military source said: “Brize Norton is a fully operational war-time air base. Flights from the base carry troops and vital equipment directly to Afghanistan.”
     An insider added Kate should consider herself lucky that she just got a polite refusal.

I am left with the thought that Kate Moss awoke one morning, following a brainstorm, and was convinced that she was now Kate Middleton.
     Just another day in the doolallyness of celebrities. Oh, and I’ve just picked up this delicious quote...

“It tasted quite well, really. I felt like an animal. I didn’t plan to do it.” Serbian Novak Djokovic, 24, who started chewing the Centre Court grass after his Wimbledon triumph.
     Just as long as he didn’t leave a cowpat on Centre Court. Or perhaps that should read ‘bullshit’? Which seems a perfect word on which to round off this extraordinary day in the colourful tapestry of a much confused nation.

Wednesday, July 6
writ small

FIVE o’clock somewhere, everywhere - and all is well. I’m enjoying a bite to eat before setting off on my sunrise walk. Vanessa Feltz is on the wireless, talking nineteen to the dozen ... I’m also perusing the television and radio listings, as I tend to do first thing of a morning, just to see if there’s anything of interest to tempt me to look in or listen out.
     It’s asking for trouble, really; I mean, attempting to do three things at the same time: eating, listening, reading...

I see that something called Proms in Paradise is on ITV tonight. Hm, must be some sort of Desert Island Discs,  where you are allowed to take your own orchestra with you. At that very moment, Vanessa regales me with this tale...

A tête-à-tête with Gwyneth Paltrow last night, billed as Feltz meets Paltrow – or was it Paltrow meets Feltz? I sat on a podium with Gwyneth and bonded ferociously for an hour for a deserving cause.
     Mr Producer asks me what she really looks like close up. Maddingly, infuriatingly pretty. I am exactly 10 years older than her – I was born in ’62, she ’72 – and I could comfortably have been her mother, probably even her grandmother. That’s how youthful she looked.
     Never work with animals, children, and never, ever sit under a bright light next to Gwyneth Paltrow, that’s my advice. But we got on really well.
     By the time we’d finished I could thoroughly envisage Gwyneth, Chris
[Martin of Coldplay, her husband], JC [?], Beyonce and Vanessa whooping it up at Glasto – or even over a bun at Feltz Towers.
     I wonder how it was though that she left without my phone number?

I thoroughly enjoy listening to Vanessa, what with her command of English, self-deprecating humour – and as a huge bonus, she doesn’t talk over the beginning and end of the music. Bliss.
     So what better than to repeat a newly spotted quote from the fragrant Gwyneth: “Ah, the British summer
! Freezing! Boiling! Freezing! At least I am prepared for menopause.”

I know what you mean, Gwyneth. I am likewise prepared for womenopause.

Meanwhile, back with Proms in Paradise ... Oh bugger. I’ve mentioned before how the making-sense-of-the-words part of my brain operates a split-second behind what my eyes appear to register. Back with the Proms - my brain duly catches up – and what it said, of course, was Poms in Paradise – a series about the lives of British expats now living in Australia.
     Oh yes, the blurb says this: “Want to know why the Brits are called Poms?” The truth – surprise, surprise – is nobody really knows. It may have something to do with the fact that we Brits turn the colour of pomegranates when exposed to too much sun – guilty as charged, M’lud – or because our gentlemanly cricketers liked a drop of pommery champagne on tour – I should be so lucky...

So, my ‘Starter for ten’ smile of the day done and dusted - by 05:30. 

Tuesday, July 5
Bus stop request

OCCASIONALLY, I stumble upon a “Quote of the day” which not only invites the tag “Doolally ‘R’ We”, but it sends me scurrying back through my diary proper for a recent cutting that had caught my eye enough to save – but hadn’t made the “Smile of the day” online spot for that day. For example, from last April, and I quote...

When Clare Bryant, 22, the pregnant former girlfriend of Keith MacDonald, 25, the jobless father of eight children by eight women (with a ninth child on the way), texted him, she got a message back, saying: “Keith is dead.” She was very worried. She phoned the local hospitals and the police.
     Sadly, Keith was not dead. He was just trying to dodge paying any more money for his ninth child. Genius.

It was also claimed that he may have fathered up to 15 children, by 14 mothers. MacDonald, who met the majority of his conquests at bus stops – honestly, you wait ages and then eight come along all at once – he first became a father at the age of 15. Unsurprisingly, he allegedly spends most of his benefits on lager and fruit machines.
     Clearly Keith MacDonald refreshes the parts other men cannot reach – and a man of jackpots, too.  

So, from the ridiculous to the sublime; and proof, if proof were needed, that life on the celebrity side of the street is just as doolally as ever it was, no matter which level of society you happen to stop in front of and decide to stand and stare...

“Jemima is sculpted out of caramel. I find one of her long auburn hairs is sticking to the cover of my iPhone. I almost keep it as a holy relic.” Rachel Johnson, 46, editor of The Lady magazine and sister of Boris Johnson, Mayor of London Town, after meeting Jemima Khan, 37, socialite and associate editor at the Independent newspaper.

Now what makes a supposedly clever person twitter so? It is indeed one of the tweet mysteries of life. And as I’ve said before, if you didn’t collapse in a heap of laughter at its delightful doolallyness, you’d have to go and lie down in a darkened room and have a little sob.

Incidentally, isn't Jemima Khan the lady who Jeremy Clarkson is alleged to have gone from 0-100 with in four hours flat?

Monday, July 4
Speaking in tongues

THE aftershocks following the Richter-style mother-in-law email rumble on and on. Spotted today in the Letters page of The Daily Telegraph...

Bourne’s ultimatum
SIR – I note that Carolyn Bourne, who criticised her future daughter-in-law for bad manners, is a horticulturist. I wonder if her speciality is Sansevieria (mother-in-law’s tongue).
Helen Sharpe, Gillingham, Kent

Yup, I smiled – and then I Googled, as I do ... and was intrigued to discover a Sansevieria Trifasciata. It was the ‘trif’ connotation – as in ‘triffid’, the tall, mobile, carnivorous, prolific and highly venomous fictional plant species – that made me click further (www.about-garden.com):
Sansevieria Trifasciata – Snake Plant, Devil’s Plant or Mother-in-law’s Tongue
The plant, reputedly, possesses feng shui qualities i.e. some believe that having sansevieria near children [and daughters-in-law?], such as in the study room, helps reduce coarseness. Now is the time to hide behind the sofa in grand Dr Who fashion, for here’s a picture of said mother-in-law’s tongue...
                                                                                                                                           ...a plant of many tongues, indeed. The sansevieria is also referred to as a dragon for its many unique qualities.  As with numerous Asian martial arts techniques, the strength comes from within. The sansevieria has been known to split large earthen pots upon reaching larger sizes. The Chinese have usually kept this plant potted in a pot within a ceramic pot, often ornated with dragons and phoenixes.
     The attraction of this plant towards dragons is said to be magnetic ... Growing the Snake Plant is easy. It will thrive in very bright light to almost dark corners of the house. Just water when the soil is dry.

Honestly, you couldn’t make it up. There was also another delightful letter in The Telegraph...

Friend or foe?
SIR – I vividly recall my wedding day in 1943. Two RAF pilots were directing guests to their seats in the church. My mother-in-law-to-be was greeted with: “Good morning. Friend of the bridegroom?”
     “Certainly not,” was the reply. “I’m the bride’s mother

Jim Palmer, Woodgreen, Hampshire

Perhaps Carolyn Richter-Bourne should present her prospective daughter-in-law with a bunch of tulips, as opposed to a bouquet of barbed wire. Tulips are symbolic of elegance, forgiveness, optimism and, just as importantly, perfect love.
     Or so they say.

Sunday, July 3
White man speak with forked tongue

“WHETHER you call us Indians, Native Americans or whatever – we exist. There are so many people out there who think we’re extinct. I have to tell them we’re very much still here, but we don’t go around bemoaning our fate – that would be a waste of time.” Buffy Sainte-Marie, 70, a Cree singer-songwriter and actress, who describes herself as a “Red Indian”.

That made me smile. By coincidence, on The Best of Radio Wales this very morning, Mal Pope revisited an interview with singer-songwriter Simon Lynge (c31), surname pronounced ‘Ling’, and a name that was new to me.
     Turns out that he is an acclaimed performer, and an Eskimo raised in the tundra and steppes of Greenland, although now living near Seattle. What grabbed my attention during the exchange with Roy Noble was a discussion about whether he preferred to be called an Eskimo or an Inuit.
     It seems that in both Canada and Greenland, the term Eskimo has fallen out of favour, as it is considered pejorative by the natives, and has been replaced by the term Inuit – although as with most of these things, nobody is quite sure why.
     As with Buffy Sainte-Marie having no problem being labelled as a Red Indian, Simon Lynge had no problems at all with Eskimo, indeed referred to himself as such, although he acknowledged that some of his country folk do take umbrage.
     Apparently, Inuit means ‘human being’ or ‘the people’, while he believed eskimo, in the native languages of the North America Red Indians, meant ‘eater of raw meat’.
     I go with both Red Indian and Eskimo, in as much that, way too much baggage is tied up with the words we use rather than the emotion deployed.
     I guess I would say that, having previously admitted that
I’m pretty sure a female ancestor was frightened – or more likely seduced – by a Red Indian Sioux Chief, possibly Chief Sitting Bull himself, and a DNA check may well confirm that I’m related to Dances With Wolves, and probably should be named Plays With Tits – see the picture gallery down the right, over by there; indeed, as a child I was always happiest being a pesky injun when playing Cowboys and Indians.

Anyway, here’s lookin’ at you, Buffy and Simon.

Saturday, July 2
I say, I say, I say

“THE girl singer who did the turn before me was so bad, the audience was still booing her when I was on.” Owen Money, 64, Welsh musician, actor, comedian and radio presenter, recounts the tale of doing a testing turn at a nightclub in Newcastle, North East England.

He also mentioned in passing a mate of his, who is a long-distance lorry driver on the Isle of Wight.

I have a shocking memory when it comes to the minutiae of life, yet these silly little throwaway lines linger long in my memory. Talking of which...
     At the Crazy Horsepower today, old Roy Rogers (best not to ask why) recollected that, once upon a time while on a holiday break, he met a couple of fellows who had remained the very best of mates all through their lives, the notable aspect of their friendship being that one was very tall, while the other was really short.
     Nothing particularly odd or unusual in that – but Roy Rogers reckoned that the tall one had been born on December 21 (the shortest day of the year, in the northern hemisphere, that is) and the short one was born on June 21 (the longest day).

Now that is exceedingly smiley – and I have to believe it’s true because I can’t imagine anyone would sit down and make that up. Truth, after all, is stranger than fiction, simply because you don’t meet it that often.

Friday, July 1
The uncharitable in full pursuit of the uncivilized

to paraphrase Oscar Wilde
“YOUR behaviour on your visit to Devon was staggering in its uncouthness and lack of grace.” Part of the infamous email sent by Carolyn Bourne, 60, to her future daughter-in-law, Heidi Withers, 29, complaining of her behaviour.

What endless smiles and food-for-thought the Bourne Supremacy has provided us with. Without being witness to both parties involved, it is impossible to form any sound judgment.
     Superficially, you can see precisely where Carolyn Bourne is coming from; yet, you also have to appreciate that a whole generation divides them, and the world in which Heidi Withers moves – “from this email forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until this email goes viral...” – Heidi’s world, compared to Carolyn’s, is a different place in a different time zone.

The one part of the email that truly registered with me, from the very moment I first heard Vanessa Feltz read it out on her Radio 2 show, was this: “No-one gets married in a castle unless they own it. It is brash, celebrity-style behaviour.”
     I was instantly on Carolyn Bourne’s side with that one. But even if only part of what she accuses Heidi Withers of is true – and one must presume an element of fact – then I can think of no better summary than my headline at the top: the uncharitable in full pursuit of the uncivilized.
     They sort of deserve each other. Mind you, the wheel has now gone full circle...

“My humble opinion of this Carolyn is that she is so far up her own backside she really doesn’t know whether to speak or fart.” Alan Withers, 64, father of Heidi, on his daughter’s future (sic) mother-in-law.
What the exchanges highlight is the total lack of a sense of humour, or even worse, a sense of fun. For example, just take a peep at the cartoon, alongside, captured to perfection by the Telegraph’s brilliant Matt.
     I really did laugh out loud. How many best men, I wonder, will deliver similar lines over the weekend? It should bring plenty of laughs, especially from mothers-in-law.
     The legendary Les Dawson had it just about right. If you can’t beat ‘em, have a laugh. Here’s a sample of his timeless humour…
I can always tell when the mother-in-law’s coming to stay – the mice throw themselves on the traps.

                                                                                                            My mother-in-law fell down a wishing well. I was amazed, I never knew they worked.

My mother-in-law said: “One day I will dance on your grave.” I said: “I hope you do, I’ll be buried at sea.”

What a shame Alan Withers didn’t adopt the Les Dawson route.
     There’s only one way to finish, with the one and only Anonymous, and something which I cannot bear witness to because I have never ‘settled down’, let alone married:
                                                                            An anagram of mother-in-law is Woman Hitler.
As borne out by the Bourne Supremacy

Thursday, June 30
365 Not Out

I DON’T believe it. A whole year has passed since I began this ‘Smile of the day’ feature – and no one is more surprised than me that I never missed a single day, not even Christmas Day and St David’s Day (March 1), the two days of the year when I officially put my feet up – or rather my over-active imagination switches to stand-by.
     From tomorrow, there will be a subtle change in the ‘Smile’ routine, so today, I pondered how best to round off this first year, hopefully with a bit of a flourish. And it has taken me an extra day to put it all together.

Now who would have thought that Jeremy Clarkson would ride to my rescue on a white charger – or rather, in a racing green and truly iconic sports car, arguably the most beautiful thing in the world.
     I have just finished watching Top Gear on iPlayer. I caught snatches of it live last Sunday, and was duly seduced into watching the whole programme online.
     It was the first in a new series, the highlight being
Clarkson’s exceedingly smiley 50th anniversary tribute to the Jaguar E-Type. The sight of the village of Chilham in Kent, exclusively festooned with E-Type Jags, was, as they say, worth the admission price alone.
     Now I have always associated cars that capture my imagination with women who have invaded my dreams and fantasies, at that particular moment in time; in fact, back on August 22 last year, I did a ‘Smile of the day’ feature on the E-Type, alongside a brace of beautiful women who had flirted with my own personal E-spot (Ecstasy-spot?).
     But if anything deserves a curtain-call, then it’s the E-Type, plus of course the gorgeous ladies – but this time I will have to plump for one – although plump is probably not an appropriate word.
     As a bonus, I shall unveil a couple more examples of what I mean by association of automobiles and womanhood.
     On the very same Top Gear show, James May did a feature on the new,

high-performance rally version of the old Mini Cooper S, pitting it against Amy Williams, alongside, the British bob skeleton Olympic gold medallist.
     It was Mini Cooper versus courageous lycra-clad beauty on the Winter Olympics site in Lillehammer, Norway: a champion rally driver, by the smiley name of Kris Meeke, tore about in the Cooper, with May as co-driver, while Amy careered flat out down an adjacent bobsleigh track at 70mph flat-out on a high-tech tea tray with her chin skimming the ice.
     The car won, but that wasn’t enough to stop Jeremy Clarkson dribbling with adulation over Williams.
     So what better way to start than with the uber-fragrant Amy Williams, who burst onto the scene last year, and in the process stole many a man’s heart. I plead guilty as charged.
     Back in the studio, Clarkson did a marvellously drooling interview with Amy: “You always bring a touch of joy to my heart.”... “Is your hair naturally curly? It’s very lovely. ” ... “What’s your favourite song?”
     All the while, in the background, James May was throwing-up at Clarkson’s dribbling. It was all very silly but exceedingly funny.
     Anyway, having recently been seduced by the famous exploits of a female aviator from the Thirties, Amy Johnson, how curious that now, like Clarkson, I am seduced by the exploits of another Amy.

Olympic gold medallist Amy Williams,
with her MBE medal

Oh yes, there was a third vehicle featured on Top Gear, involving Richard Hammond test-driving a different kind of charging rhino on the block, the South African Paramount Marauder, a military spec vehicle designed and built to operate in war zones - it makes the heavy-duty American Hummer look like a pet gerbil - but astonishingly, the Marauder is also available for purchase by civilians, at a cost of £300,000.

Right, so here we go with this association of ideas thingy ... incidentally, Clarkson kept referring to the E-Type as a pretty car. No it ain’t. It’s a beautiful car, handsome even. Pretty fades, which the E-Type hasn’t - and never will.

When I see the E-Type, what instantly springs to mind is Grace Kelly... 

From the most beautiful car in the world...

...to the most beautiful girl in the world

When I see the exuberant Tina Tuner, what I see is the extraordinary 60s rally version of the Mini Cooper S...

Lights ... camera ... action!

Swinging Sixties: Monte Carlo Rally victories in 1964, 1965, 1967

And the very next time I see the Paramount Marauder what I will see is Ann Widdecombe, or indeed vice-versa.

The indestructible Paramount Marauder

The indefatigable Miss Widdecombe Fair

Mind you, I did say above that I have always associated cars that capture my imagination with women who have invaded my dreams and fantasies, at that particular moment in time. Well, the Marauder is a vehicle, as opposed to a car. That’s my excuse - and I’m sticking with it. Mind you, I do admire Ann Widdecombe’s sock-it-to-‘em style of sorting out the clowns.

Oh yes, to get back to business: when I next see the deluxe and uber-fragrant Amy Williams, I will see heaven. (I can drool and dribble with the best of  ‘em, look you.)

Incidentally, here’s an interesting observation regarding the Marauder feature on Top Gear. Footage of Hammond warily driving the 10-ton Marauder, somewhere in Johannesburg, also included clips of the vehicle smashing through brick walls, climbing over parked cars, mauled by lions – oh, and being blown up by explosives, except that the vehicle survived, bar one burst tyre.
     All the while, clever editing made out that Hammond himself was actually driving during the stunts themselves, but careful study shows that it was archive footage from the manufacturer cleverly edited in. Which is fine, but why pretend that Hammond was driving? Do they really take us to be total idiots?

Be that as it may, given that Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC, sole mission at the helm of the Corporation has been to turn it from one of the world’s most recognisable and respected quality brands to just another common or garden foul-mouthed broadcaster, it would be fascinating to know how many of those who watched Hammond’s entertaining piece on the Marauder believed that it was he driving during the actual stunts, as the item attempted to convey.
     When it comes to a dumbed-down BBC, believe nothing you hear and only half what you see. (That slice of wisdom will never go out of fashion, really.)

However, it has been a total joy putting together today’s smile. Hopefully, it sums up what I've tried to achieve over the past 12 months. A hundred thousand thanks for popping in.

And remember ... tomorrow is another day.

                     For previous 2011 smiles, click: Smile of the Day 2011 (Jan-Jun) .. Smile of the day 2011 (Oct-Dec)

 Previously: Smile of the Day 2010


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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Previously on LOOK YOU......

Smile of the day 2011 (Oct-Dec)
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jan-Jun)

Smile of the Day 2010
2010 (Jan to Jun)

Sep to Dec '07

June to Aug '07
March to May '07

As it was in the beginning:


Here's lookin' at you @
400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 03/04/2011

What A Gas @
400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 17/05/2009

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