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400 Smiles A Day
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BEYOND THE BLUE HORIZON
♫♫♫ 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
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
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
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,
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
“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
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
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...
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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!
thoroughly enjoyed this response in the ‘Comments’ section, from
Stoobs [which I have marginally
There once was a
fine fellow named Bright,
travel much faster than light;
So he set off
And he returned
home the previous night.
guess that’s what you would call a Quantum Limerick, boom-boom!
Sunday, September 25
Enough sex already. I’ve got a headache.
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.
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’.
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
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
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
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
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
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
One double-L of a time
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
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
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
By the way, what is the female equivalent of a jock
strap? Yes of course, a fan belt.
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
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
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.
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
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?
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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 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...
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Incidentally, I Googled “beef dish that comes in strips with rice” –
– Kicky Steak Strips with Rice: top sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
and served with long-grain white rice – plus lots of other little
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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,
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.”
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”.
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
Bless, what would we do without our mums as our spin
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
Thursday, September 15
If you want to make God smile – tell him your plans
HEADLINE of the week thus far, spotted in the Telegraph...
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
Oh yes, before the rogue trader was arrested, it seems
Adoboli had changed his status on his Facebook page to: “I need a
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...”
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
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
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
“Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns;
he should be drawn and quoted.” Fred Allen (1894-1956), American
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
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.”
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
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
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
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.
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
followed by the Shut 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...
I was intrigued by the possibilities of names for new editions of the
(Letters, “The only way is send-up”, last week). Presumably the world’s
natural-born tailgaters will go for the Volkswagen Up Yours!
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
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.
While on the subject of Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson, not
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?
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
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
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
“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
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.
I’m not sure why, but the image made me think of Richard
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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”
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
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
I must try the Telegraph : a reader will
undoubtedly provide the
Monday, September 5
He’s behind you
THE phone-hacking controversy really is turning into a glorious
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
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...
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.
really interesting is that it has taken 18 months for the story to come
...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.
Shotgun: The Godfather.
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;
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).
I had written
to Aunt Maud,
Who was on a
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,
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
‘Tis an ill crook that cannot lick clean his own fingerprints. (With
apologies to the ‘Servingman’ in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.)
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
The finger of
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.
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
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
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
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...
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?
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...
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
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
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
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,
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,
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
After the bulletin Vanessa was giggling madly because
her producer had whispered in her ear during the news bulletin:
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
...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
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
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
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
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)
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.
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.
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
We’ll meet again
SIR – When paying for my groceries at our Marks & Spencer store
recently, the pretty young cashier said: “See you later.”
jokingly asked her where and when we should meet, she was speechless. I
Les Rosenburg, Hull, East Yorkshire
Then today, this appeared...
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.
has a couple of weekend programmes called Money For Nothing. Hosted by
Owen Money, he plays music from the Fifties through to the early
A feature of his Saturday morning show is a surprise
telephone call to a ‘bride of the day’. The brides are always good value,
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
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
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
PS: It seems it was Spike who wrote this famous exchange from
The Goon Show...
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
That got read out in court and he was banned from
driving for a year...
“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.
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.
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.”
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...
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.
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
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
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
I shall finish with one of my favourite Tommy Cooper tales – note,
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.”
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
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
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
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.
I got to thinking about some suitable headlines...
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
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
Yes indeed, George, Fred and Tony’s Adventures in
Crazy world, crazy people.
Wednesday, August 24
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:
Yes okay, what he actually implied was that she didn’t
have “a proper job”. Same thing, really.
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
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!
Tuesday, August 23
Is that all there is?
LAST Wednesday, the 17th, this letter appeared in the Daily Telegraph...
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
Do I follow my beliefs and write “paradise” or would
the address of the local graveyard be more appropriate?
Bee Kenchington, Chichester, West Sussex
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
“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
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
Also, take five to take a look at this – some stand-and-stare pics on the
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
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
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
Splash landing for Mon-sewer Pipi
Sunday, August 21
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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
couldn’t make it all up.
Given recent news, do
you suppose that while Andy Coulson was David Cameron’s
spin doctor, he was still in the pay of, and still working for, Rupert
Murdoch? Now there’s
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
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
Red put Carmarthenshire second in its list of must
visit places in 2011 – behind Chile but ahead of Paris, Mozambique, Laos
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...
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
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.
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
“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
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.
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...
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
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
is heard at Cape Canaveral as a rocket launch is delayed because a
vigorous weather front is passing over.
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
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
"Here's leaking at you, kid ~ but we'll always
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,
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.”
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
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
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
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
sailing, I am sailing
to be free
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
we had plenty of time for him. You sense that he would have nipped the
riots, the looting and the arson in the bud.
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 - I’m
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…
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
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
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
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
The gay pop star then tweeted some responses, including
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
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
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
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
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
I’ve just gone through the
sound barrier – boom, boom!”
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
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
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
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. That’s 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.
Postcard corner for a differently smiley picture and matching
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
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,
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
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
...I mean, who would ever have imagined Paul Flynn as the Warren Beatty
Now what was it
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)”
“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 Flynn’s
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...
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]
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
Now the interesting thing here, which I didn’t mention last
March, was my conclusion that no one would miss the cartoon
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.
A FOLLOW-UP to 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
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’
Well, you’ve gotta laugh. It’s proof positive of the absolute
doolallyness of the world about us.
Sesame Street says puppets have no sexual orientation and will not marry
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
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
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
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
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
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
The End Of The World
Please drive carefully
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
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
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
♫♫♫ 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’
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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...
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
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
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...
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
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
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
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
amazing Hurley diet -
Warne with pride:
"Shoulders back lovely boy, show 'em off, show 'em off..."
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...
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
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
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
today, in the Telegraph, this picture, with the accompanying letter...
See no evil
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.
Friday, August 5
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
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...
a fruit & veg shop in Ipswich
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
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
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
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
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
have that green thing back in my day
In the queue at the supermarket, the checkout girl
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Reports suggested the 29-year-old took the intensive personal
protection programme recently amid fears she has become a kidnap
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
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
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
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...
Doody_head: WHEN WAS THERE A STRANGER IN
THE QUEEN’S BEDROOM??!!?
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
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
“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
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?”.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
Vanessa Feltz & Vanessa Feltz & Vanessa Feltz...
Of course I did. Never let the side down. It was
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
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
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
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
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
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
Elaine had written about the tale of Rebecca Watson,
30, American blogger and independent podcast host – pictured
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.
Your call: pussycat or polecat?
sparrow or sparrow hawk?
Rebecca’s subsequent advice to all us men was, that such incidents would
better avoided by totally ignoring women on their own in vulnerable
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
...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
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
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.
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!
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
“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...
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
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
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
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
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. He had
been planning to act. If only fate, (and by implication, the
electorate), had not conspired against him.
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
*rapport: an emotional bond or
friendly relationship between people based on mutual liking, trust, and
a sense that they understand each other’s concerns.
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
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
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
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,
“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
think I shall quit while I’m still a potato ahead...
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
John Cameron of St Andrews, Fife, in a letter to The Daily
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.
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
In one of those stand and stare moments, I couldn’t
help but notice how immaculately dressed every person in the centre was.
men were jacketless, but every one wore a shirt and tie, with the occasional cuff
immaculately turned-out Mission Control Centre - and on the big screen,
a real-time simulation of the shuttle doing a headstand 200 miles above
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
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
Note the brilliantly cheeky line at the top, beneath
Private Eye – Incorporating News Of
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
GO HOME DIRTY DIGGER
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
There was only one show in town today:
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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?
They were all desperate for his support, but were
clearly too ashamed to share that fact with the British people.
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
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,
In a whisper, Old Shaggy says: “I have to make a
Dot responds: “Don’t talk sweetheart - you need to
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
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
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
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.
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.
I thoroughly enjoyed what I was watching, and all
unfolding in front of a packed and enthusiastic stadium.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
how best to combine Shakespeare and eggs? Be warned though, I’m not a
poet – and I know it...
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
Sadly, Jamie and Louise never asked him about that Essex story. Shame.
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
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
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
And in the process, morphs into a typical Nogood Bond
Watch out for the film, coming soon to a cinema near you. Tell you what,
let’s round off on a Bond theme...
a boy, I am tickled blue.” Former Bond girl Jenny Hanley, 63, on her
Well, if Bond girls are morphing into grandmothers, then it’s definitely
time to marry off 007 and put him out to grass.
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.
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
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
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
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...
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
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:
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’
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
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
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
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:
pal seemed to give away the name by congratulating them on “gorgeous
baby Beverly” – suggesting that, like Brooklyn, the name was linked to a
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
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
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-Beckham –
Beckham 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
THE NEWS OF THE WORLD
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.
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
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
However, if memory serves, my parents bought a couple
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.
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.
Alongside, the postcard cartoon that smiles from the front page of the
News of the World’s souvenir pullout...
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 -
- 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
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
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:
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)
“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
At 11:29 local time, 16:29
(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
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.
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
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
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
Atlantis on its final journey, clocks
100mph, just 3.5 seconds after lift-off
Last writes and
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
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 Independent: Newspaper ‘sacrificed to save
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
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
am left with the thought that Kate Moss awoke one morning, following a
brainstorm, and was convinced that she was now Kate Middleton.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
So, my ‘Starter for ten’ smile of the day done and dusted - by 05:30.
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
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
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.
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
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):
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
...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
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
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.
also mentioned in passing a mate of his, who is a long-distance lorry
driver on the Isle of Wight.
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
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
Friday, July 1
The uncharitable in full pursuit of the uncivilized
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.
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,
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.
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
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
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
What a shame Alan Withers didn’t adopt the Les Dawson route.
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.”
There’s only one way to finish, with the one and only
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 .
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
Smile of the Day 2010
You are here, way out west,
aka Dodgy City
FIRST TIME HERE?
c.99 seconds walking in my
I was born on the sunny side of a Welsh hillside, at a place I
Big Slopes, on the 26th and the 28th
November, in the Year of the Horse......
Previously on LOOK
Smile of the day 2011
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
ST DAVID'S DAY, 2007
Here's lookin' at you
400 Smiles A Day
What A Gas
400 Smiles A Day