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MY SQUARE MILE
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400 Smiles A Day
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BEYOND THE BLUE HORIZON
“But I don’t want to go among doolally people,”
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat. “We’re all doolally
here. I’m doolally. You’re doolally.”
“How do you know I’m doolally?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
With apologies to the ghost of Lewis
EVERYDAY A DOOLALLY SMILE OF THE DAY
The shortest distance between two people is a smile ...
Saturday, December 31, 2011
Pick of the year
SO WHAT caught my eye during the year – as opposed to my ear, that is –
and made me smile? If it were possible for me to search out the phrase
most often used on this web site – it probably is, but I wouldn’t have a
clue how – what would undoubtedly pop up is this one: Believe nothing you
hear and only half what you see.
Kiss and make up
AS IF to order, the year threw up an image which perfectly highlights
the great truth of “believe nothing you hear and only half what you see” –
and memorably captioned thus:
made love, not war
My initial reaction was a smile disguised as a huge question mark. The
curious lovers caught in the middle of this extraordinary scene, who
happen to be boyfriend and girlfriend, are Aussie bartender Scott Jones
and Canadian college student Alex Thomas.
Clearly there has to be more going on than is obvious
to the eye. It seems that both had attended a major ice hockey cup
final, which the hometown Vancouver Canucks dramatically lost 4-0 to the
Boston Bruins, and following the game, major riots broke out – honestly,
there’s nothing new under the sun, or the moon and stars, come to that.
Anyway, later that evening in downtown Vancouver, the
couple somehow found themselves caught between the angry rioters and
charging riot police. As the police were actually charging forward, Alex
got knocked by a police shield and fell heavily to the ground, injured.
The now famous aftermath was captured by Getty Images
photographer Rich Lam. Many thought the photograph a fake, or that the
couple had intentionally staged the photo opportunity.
However, subsequent enquiries, together with
photographs taken from alternate angles, confirmed the image to be
genuine, showing bystanders attempting to help the couple.
In fact, Scott did what comes naturally and got down
next to her to comfort her. She was crying and he just kissed her to
calm her down – and that was the moment the camera went click.
Fortunately, she was not seriously injured, and I guess
shock would have had as significant an effect on her emotional state at
that moment as anything.
As I say, believe nothing you hear and only half what
you see – at least until you have made some discreet enquiries to
establish the truth.
SO THAT’S my favourite expression out of the way - but what would be the
most used word hereabouts over the year?
It would have to be “doolally”. And nothing
highlights its repeated use better than this sports story, headlined
Dozy council workers erect fence through goalposts
This, from an online report, I think it was
Dozy workers near York have become a laughing stock after putting up a
fence straight through the middle of a football goal.
The six-foot metal fence, in Heworth, was erected as part of a £37,000
initiative by the local parish council to improve the play areas.
But when the workers turned up to erect the £6,000
fence they managed to ruin the pitch completely by running the fence
straight through one of the goalmouths. “It’s the funniest thing I’ve
seen in a long time,” said local man Steve Barber, whose team use the
“Common sense would have gone a long way. But it’s one way
to defend the goals, I suppose!”
Council chiefs have already owned up to the blunder [that’s big of
them], with the goalposts set to be moved and the pitch repositioned.
“We recognise that failure to relocate the goalposts is
a real own goal,” said Dave Meigh, City of York Council’s head of parks
and open spaces. “We have asked the contractors to resolve the issue as
a matter of urgency. We can only apologise for the error.”
It really doesn’t get any better than that. Mind you, if we have clowns
at the very top of the Establishment – politicians, bankers, big
business, the law, the media, the civil service and God knows what else
– well, the court jester effect is going to trickle all the way down to
the lower orders of society.
His & Her Awards
AS FOR individuals that made me smile, well, it would have to be Gareth
Malone and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge.
I’ve mentioned Gareth Malone many times recently. It’s not just his
obvious musical talent that impresses me so, but his Winston Churchill
gene, the ability to bring out the best in all those around him. That is
a gift from the Gods, which he uses to great effect.
And who would have guessed just a year ago the effect Kate Middleton
would have, not just on the Royal Family itself, but the country as a
whole. It would seem that here is the girl born to be Queen.
With hindsight, it was obvious from that
wedding day: there she was, completely in charge of her day, showing
remarkable poise, elegance and good humour – and of course, add that
winning smile - hey, she can’t go wrong.
But the thing which alerted me to her natural-born
ability on that day was this: during the carriage drive following the
wedding ceremony, whenever the national anthem was struck up – which was quite a few
times – William would salute, and Kate would bow her head in such a
spontaneous and elegant way that she appeared to have spent her whole
life preparing for such a moment.
So many agreeable smiles generated along my walk through 2011.
Look You will be delighted for more of the same come 2012.
Wall to Wall smiles as 2011 slips through our fingers
10:00am: Spotted in the Western Mail’s THEY
“Just because we don’t flaunt our relationship doesn’t mean there is
something wrong with it. Privacy is our luxury.” Katy Perry, 27, on
why she and her husband Russell Brand, 36, spent Christmas 7,000 miles
10:00pm: Spotted on the Telegraph’s online home page...
Katy Perry and Russell Brand to divorce
Brand filed for divorce
from pop singer Perry after just a year of marriage.
I didn’t click – but you are welcome to if you so wish. Whenever I set
eyes on Russell Brand, he appears to be the very model of a man who is
half a bubble off plumb, so I tend to treat him as a roundabout – and I keep
my wits about me.
Neither did I click on that one – for the simple reason that it sounds
like one of the saddest headlines of the year. However, the juxtaposition
with the Perry-Brand-X story is irresistible.
Alongside the above, also on the Telegraph’s home page, was the
99-year-old divorces wife after he discovered 1940s
Meanwhile, back in the real world (sic)...
WITH much enthusiasm, Chief Wise Owl of Crazy Horsepower Saloon fame,
pointed me in the direction of yesterday’s Times newspaper...
Hm, there’s been much local talk of late about a
substantial development not a million Great Wall miles from Llandeilo, a
tourist park to specifically attract Chinese tourists. As you can
probably imagine, opinion hereabouts is divided.
First though, the opening shots of a
feature in The Times...
a welcome in the hillsides, to thousands of Chinese tourists
It is the land of the red dragon, of poets, singers and brave warriors
who shed their blood for freedom, but many Chinese have never even heard
of it. That could soon start to change, though, with the opening of a
£50 million Welsh holiday village catering for tourists from the
The village planned for a former country estate near Llandeilo,
Carmarthenshire will include 80 holiday homes and a 92-bed hotel
built around the ruins of a country house. Signs at the holiday
park will be in Mandarin and English, and the 70 locally
recruited staff will be expected to be familiar with Chinese
Well, we locals speak the two spokes anyway – Welsh and English
– so in future we will speak the three spokes. And I hope nobody
lets it out that Llandeilo is affectionately known in these ‘ere
parts as Llandampness (let alone Dodgy City).
impression of the tourist park intended for Chinese tourists
But let’s now return to a lead article in the
section of The Times – and this is rather good...
village in Carmarthenshire is marketing itself as a Chinese tourist
Dear Chinese Tourist
Have you ever thought about visiting Wales? It’s a small principality to
the west of England which, like a lot of other places, is the size of
Wales. The people here have a strong separatist tradition, but are
overwhelmingly content to be part of a greater whole. Sort of like
Here, it’s the Year of the Dragon every year. And ours
is even red, like yours used to be. In fact, Wales and China have a lot
in common. You know how you only rarely beat England at rugby? We also
have the remains of a vast structure called Offa’s Dyke, which is
basically the same thing as the Great Wall of China. Some people reckon
it might once have been as much as 150 miles long. In fact, we like to
think it can be seen from space. Although it can’t. Not even nearly.
Carmarthenshire, where you will be staying, is quite
rural but Cardiff is a city just down the road with almost as many
people in it as, well, your street, probably. Perhaps you’ve heard of
Cardiff? Doctor Who is filmed there. He’s a Time Lord from the
planet Gallifrey. Not to be confused with Mr Hu, who is in charge of your
[10 out of 10, with bells on, there.]
course, being from China, you might be worried about alien Welsh
cuisine. Relax. Welsh rarebit is nothing weird. It’s just bread, covered
in melted cheese. Which is a protein mousse, from the nipple of a cow.
Your home will be our new resort in Llanfynydd. Don’t
bother trying to pronounce that. It’s all in the intonation. Here,
you’ll find a complex with a hotel, 80 houses and a 200-space
multi-storey car park, from which you’ll enjoy the best views in the
area by virtue of having your back to them. We look forward to seeing
A Welsh Travel Agent
Hm, I thought, do we need the Editor of the English Times, and an
Englishman to boot, to teach we Welsh how to laugh at ourselves? So I
thought I’d put my own Look You spin on it...
Dear Chinese Tourist
Have you ever thought about visiting Wales? We are a country the size of
a whale. A bloody big whale, admittedly. And we spout a lot. The English
point, snigger and take lots of pictures when we surface and spout. We
We respect our women hugely, so much so some unkindly
so and so has suggested that the default Welsh woman is featured on our
national flag. But she never breaths fire over such cheap talk. Well,
The nearest town, Llandeilo, is affectionately known as
Llandampness, ideal for growing rice. We also have our very own Great
Wall, which sells an awful lot of the stuff...
...incidentally, these days a Welsh rarebit is local slang for a virgin.
Dr Who may be filmed in Cardiff, but here in
Llandampness we have our very own Time Lord, mine host at the Crazy
Horsepower Saloon, who simply never believed in calling
– even before all-day opening, thank the
I certainly wouldn’t worry unduly about pronouncing
Llanfynydd – back in 2004, in protest over plans to erect a wind farm
nearby, the village adopted the new name of:
(Llan hyfryd a well, le hynafol y barcud prin dan fygythiad truenus y
llafnau o le)
[In English: a
quiet, beautiful village, a historic place with rare kite under threat
from wretched blades. So: “En Garde!”
you rotten English incomers and natural-born wind bags. We are ready
with our very own blades.]
Down the years we have made the English
incomer rather welcome – well, some of them, some of the time – but I’m
sure we will welcome you, the Chinese, with open arms and lots of
hwyl (the Welsh version of the Irish craic, with added four-part
After all, didn’t mother tell me that someday soon
you will rule the world. Which is why I always acknowledge and smile
ever so sweetly at those very, very nice folk who run the
Croeso i Gymru. Welcome to Wales. Huan ying lai dao
Weiershi (but that is work in progress - bang zhu!
A laid-back native
(as opposed to the restless kind)
Thursday, December 29
It is never all quiet on the western smile front
WITH Prince Philip now safely back in the bosom of his family following
that heart scare, I enjoyed this online observation from the splendidly
“It must have been a novelty for the Queen to visit a hospital that does
not smell of fresh paint.”
In yesterday’s smile of the day, I laughed along with the humour of
World War II, compliments of Dad’s Army. So I particularly recall with
fondness this contribution from a little while back, from
Anonymous of Anytown, citing a glorious example of services humour
during the war...
“My dad, who’s 97, laughs at the message
chalked up by the bar steward at one RAF station during the Battle of
Britain: ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so
few for so many.’!”
YOU know me and my troublesome brain – the eye-part of my brain
registers things a split-second before the make-sense-part
For example, the other day I walked into my local Co-op
supermarket - and my eye was instantly drawn to a sales pitch
£5 Cashmere White Toilet Tissue
What on earth is the world coming to, I sniggered quietly to
myself. £5 a roll for cashmere toilet paper? Then my brain
Of course, it actually reads “Cushelle” – and £5 for 16
rolls. Honestly, I often wonder what my brain gets up to behind
And just to add essence, coming up a letter spotted in
The Times on Boxing Day - no Western Mail
or Telegraph even delivered to my local
Toilet humour with
the soft touch
Spar that day - I worry when newspapers tell us how to run our lives yet
their own show on the road. That’s life. Nevertheless, bad show, chaps...
Taking the waters
Sir, In my days in the Civil Service, you had really arrived if you were
issued with a desk bottle and glass for drinking water (letter, Dec 23).
When I subsequently went into the stockbrokerage
industry and found myself after the 1987 crash taking up a job offer in
Taiwan, Republic Of China, imagine my surprise when, after all the usual
introductions, I was handed my personal roll of toilet paper.
VINCENT SHANAHAN, Northwood, Middlesex
I do so hope it was Cashmere White toilet paper. Talk about getting
things not quite right, this from
column, as compiled by one Rose Wild...
MORE gems from the mouths of babes, if not sucklings, in church. Frank
Robinson, of Nottingham, heard the Lord’s Prayer rendered as “Forgive us
our Christmasses”, Pat Brooke’s brother recited “Our Father was shot in
Heaven”, and Shirley Blackford, who lived in Santiago, Chile, when her
children were small, heard her elder son praying “Deliver us from
Jane Gordon-Clark, of Guildford, recalls a young
relative singing “Away in a manger, no crisps for a bed”, which is a
Brian Johnson, of Battle, used to sing “Dick the horse
with boughs of holly” and Janet Baldock, of Over Wallop, shows why
including a word such as sufficient in your lyrics is fraught with
hazards: “The grace of the Lord like a fathomless sea, some fishes for
you and some fishes for me.”
ROBIN BIRCH writes: “You reminded me of my father’s favourite from 100
years ago in Coventry: ‘Sing choirs of angels/Sing in Exhall Station.’
When I was a boy in the 1940s he took me to the sad remains of this
station, on the Coventry-to-Nuneaton line of what in his boyhood was
still the London & North Western Railway. In his honour I sing it to
Richard Guise remembers: “Lead us not into Trent
Station.” Simon Cave conjures up a happy image with his recollection of
a friend at his Benedictine school reciting the Hail Mary: “Blessed art
thou, a monk swimming.”
That Hail Mary contribution stumped me, so I had to Google it ...
“Blessed art thou among women.”
off the rails
I DIDN’T think anyone could cap the lovely railway prayers from last
week, but full marks to Neil Bennett. Inspired by “Lead us not into
Trent Station”, he writes: “I wonder if the children of South Derbyshire
sing ‘all meanly wrapped in Swadlincote’?”
For rather obvious reasons – see Cashmere toilet rolls, above – I
laughed along with all those slips, as opposed to at them.
Whisper it, but for more moons than I care to admit
here, I really did think that when Mama Cass Elliot sang Dream A Little
Dream Of Me, she really did warble: “Say ninety-nine and kiss me/Just
hold me tight and tell me you’ll miss me.”
On reflection, I still prefer my brain’s personalised version.
Wednesday, December 28
Ride a cockhorse to BBC Television Centre
LAST evening I caught just a bit of a television documentary titled
You Have Been Watching... David Croft. Today I caught up with the
it on iPlayer.
David Croft, who died in September, was one of the most influential
behind-the-scenes figures in the history of British television comedy,
having co-written, produced and directed a raft of the nation’s most
popular and much loved sitcoms:
Dad’s Army ... Hi-di-Hi!
... It Ain’t Half Hot Mum ... Are You Being
The hour-long documentary celebrated his glorious work
– and included more than a few riotously funny clips from the above
shows. What a talented man he was.
From Dad’s Army comes the memorable “What is your name?”
sketch. Even now, seeing it written down in script form, makes me smile
[Discussing with his Sergeant, Arthur Wilson, what to do with
a captured U-boat crew ]
I tell you Wilson, they’re a nation of automatons, led by a
lunatic who looks like Charlie Chaplin.
German U-boat Captain:
How dare you compare our glorious leader to that non-Arian
clown. I am making notes, Captain, and your name will go on the
list; and when we win the war you will be brought to account.
You can write what you like, you’re not going to win this war.
Oh yes we are.
Oh no you’re not.
Oh yes we are!
[Singing atop a step-ladder while holding a gun and guarding
the German prisoners ]
Whistle while you work, Hitler is a twerp, he’s half-barmy, so’s
his army, whistle while you -
Your name will also go on the list!
What is it?
Don’t tell him Pike!
Will Dad's Army last for a thousand years?
Whenever I see, hear or read the above sketch, I am overwhelmed with a
need to start my own list, ready for the day when someone lights the
blue touch paper, stands well back and shouts: “Revolution!”.
seen my favourite pussy?
NEXT came the glorious double entendres dished up in Are You Being
Served?, undoubtedly the most memorable being a favourite of Mrs
Slocombe, head of the ladies’ department, famous for her ever-changing
hair colour and endless chit-chats about her cat, which she always refers to as
Mrs Slocombe: “I never have any trouble getting up in the
morning. My pussy’s just like an alarm clock.”
If you are pure of thought, the above makes purr-fect sense. However, if
like me you are forever finding yourself on life’s dirt-track – well,
you can’t stop giggling.
cockhorse to Maplins Holiday Camp,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
She shall have music wherever she goes
MY MOMENT of the whole programme though is probably one of the best
sight gags you are ever likely to see – and that includes memorable
stuff from the likes of Laurel and Hardy, Morecambe and Wise...
It comes from Hi-di-Hi!
– the scene where a real horse, a stunning white creature, meets up with the
pantomime horse (the rear taken up by the delightfully doolally chalet maid,
The initial meeting between the real horse and the
pantomime version is itself a thing of wonder – but the shortcut across
the sand dunes – well, click below for 4:15 of pure pantomime heaven
(and beneath, another link, a bonus smile, 1:48 of the “What is your
Tuesday, December 27
Hello children ... everywhere
TODAY I listened on iPlayer to the Christmas Day edition of Junior
Choice, presented by Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart. A sack full of nostalgic
goodies dropped down the chimney for us lucky, lucky, LUCKY
listeners. You probably detected the irony there.
I am puzzled as to how the BBC thinks, although nothing new
there. For example, Radio 2, unless I am very much mistaken, is aimed at
the middle-age-plus market – whilst Radio 1 is aimed at the 40 and
under. A perfectly civilised format.
Yet, from the day Radio 2 became the swinging parent of
Radio 1 – like watching your father dance at a family wedding, or worst,
tell jokes at the reception when he isn’t quite up to being a stand-up
comedian - things took a strange turn.
Ponder Junior Choice – or Children’s Favourites with
Uncle Mac, as it was before Stewpot and his “Hello darlin’” arrived on
the scene – for there has to be millions of people in the country who
have fond memories of those old favourites which so many of us grew up
I consider myself rather fortunate to have had one foot
in the camp of the Mills Brothers, Pete Seeger, Patti Page, The Kingston
Trio, Jo Stafford, Perry Como – curiously I was never a fan of Frank
Sinatra until I navigated middle-age – with the other foot firmly
planted in the trench marked Rock ‘n’ Roll: Bill Haley and his Comets,
Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis – and then here in the UK the arrival of The
Beatles, The Rolling Stones et al...
Nestling between both camps were of course those
wonderful Junior Choice songs: The Laughing Policeman, The Runaway
Train, I’m A Pink Toothbrush, Davy Crockett, Robin Hood – and on and
It’s not only a rather marvellous thing to have
experienced all those genres of music, but quite extraordinary to have
them all burnt onto my brain’s hard drive. Now That's What I Call
Listening to the Christmas morning edition of Junior
Choice, the song that made me smile the most was Mandy Miller and
her Nellie The Elephant: “off she rode with a trumpety-trump,
trump, trump, trump...”
Magic. But here’s my point. I was fascinated to read that Junior
Choice attracted 17 million listeners and more at its peak – and
most of those listeners are clearly still alive – yet Radio 2, the
station that should cater for those needs, only sees fit to deliver a
couple of hours on Christmas Day morning.
That’s what happens when you put people under 40 in
charge of a station aimed at those over 40. Funny old world.
What also made me smile near the very end of Junior Choice was a
request for Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris (nothing wrong with that),
but it came from a Steve McAdam of Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire – but
before I get there, a letter spotted in The Daily Telegraph...
The name game
SIR – I was aware that a few years ago there was a serving officer
called Major Cocup. While wishing him every success in his career, there
must be some concern should he reach the highest levels in the Service
when he would assume the rank of General Cocup.
Peter Gore, Tenterden, Kent
At my local doctor’s surgery, one of the partners is a Dr Gillian Tarr.
Now Tarr is her maiden name, and although married, she obviously retains
her maiden name, at least in a professional capacity. Imagine: if she
had met the aforementioned Steve McAdam, she would now be known as Dr
Now there’s a road less travelled, so perhaps best not
go down that track.
Yes indeed, just like Nellie The Elephant, it’s those silly little things in
life that delight me no end.
A bird or two in the hand – and a head for hats
YESTERDAY, I included a picture of the weather on Christmas Day morning
down in the valley, with one of the resident songbirds in attendance –
and I detailed how different the weather was to precisely a year ago.
Today I trawled through last year’s photographs to find one to reflect
the cold and snowy weather as it then was. Fortunately, there’s hardly a day that
passes when I don’t take a few pictures of the birds.
Over the past couple of years or so I’ve taken
thousands: 90 per cent are rubbish mind, and are instantly deleted; of the
remaining 10 per cent, 90 per cent of those are sort of okay but not worth
keeping, so in truth only one out of every 100 should really be on the
I say should be on the computer. These
I retain many more for the simple reason that
just occasionally a picture which isn’t particularly eye-catching in
isolation is just perfect to illustrate some point or other.
Whatever, the search goes on for that truly magic moment. I’ve come
quite close a few times.
In fact I went back to Christmas Day 2009, the first
Christmas I would have been taking pictures of the birds – and there, at
08:51 on 25/12/2009, was the one coming up below – and I particularly
remember a family of bluetits that had taken a shine to me as their
I then went to my diary to check the weather for that
day: “A clear-ish, slightly frosty start – black ice about – some valley
mist; then a sunny am into pm – very pleasant day. Rain by
So first up, the 2009 Christmas Day picture (with Welsh translation)
which perfectly reflects the weather just after sunrise, as noted in my diary. Also, I
repeat again the photo captured yesterday, which would have been taken
around sunrise, if it hadn’t been for the gloom, obviously.
Sandwiched between the 2009 and 2011 pictures, both
taken from roughly the same spot, is last year’s effort, which was taken
at sunset. When the weather gets really cold, as has been the case over the last two
winters, I tend to feed the birds both early in the morning and late
No wonder they’re such an obliging bevy of birds,
especially the tubby little bluetit coming up. Anyway, here are the three pictures to compare and
contrast the past three Christmas Days...
Warning: When I Am A Young Woman I Shall Wear Purple
ALSO, yesterday I included the picture of Gareth Malone and the Military
Wives in celebration mode on reaching number one in the charts – and I
referred to the rather photogenic lady in the group photo.
Well, today the media has been awash with pictures of
the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton joining the Royal Family for
their traditional Christmas morning service at Sandringham – and it
really is astonishing how photogenic she too is.
She does stand out in a crowd. Have a look at these…
Yes okay, the camera would have specifically focussed on her, and the
picture editors would have hunted down the best, but she does draw the
eye. Apart from being fairly tall, she obviously has an eye-catching
sense of style, which the camera loves.
She also has that winning smile, which reflects her
grace and reputed good manners to a T. (“To a T” comes from the
expression “to a tittle”, meaning “to the smallest detail”. The word
“tittle” itself comes from the Latin word for a diacritical mark (the
way a word is pronounced or stressed) and is related to the word
“title”, surprise, surprise.)
And what about that hat? God, I could imagine wearing
that – in a rather fetching but macho Sherwood Forest green, mind. Come
to think of it, I do possess a hat something vaguely similar!
Oh yes, I empathise with Charles and the lads sporting
hands-in-pockets. That’s definitely me to a T.
Anyway, nice one, Kate. You do make me smile, which is the whole point
of this scrapbook. And today, it was all about a bevy of
“IF THE three wise men had been three wise women they would have
asked directions, got there in time, helped deliver the Baby Jesus,
cleared up afterwards, made a casserole and given Mary some practical
A text message to BBC Radio 2.
Christmas Day is a perfect point of reference because it has a different
routine to any other day. Things that happen stick in the mind. Just the
other day I smiled at the different weather conditions that prevailed on
the shortest day of this year compared with last year.
Probably today was even more dramatic. As ever, I still
went down to the valley for a quick visit to feed the little songbirds
I’ve befriended there.
Last Christmas Day was like walking onto the set of a
Christmas card photo shoot: snow everywhere, perfectly still with clear
blue skies – and unbelievably cold at -20˚. A brilliantly picturesque
Today couldn’t have been more different. It was overcast,
drizzly, quite a stiff breeze, and unbelievably mild boasting a
temperature not a million degrees short of 15˚C - the record maximum of 15.6˚C for a
Christmas Day, set in 1896 and repeated in 1920, missed by
I must capture an image, I thought – and a great tit
handily obliged to add a little something extra to the passing parade.
Here it is ... it captures the gloom and mizzle of the morning rather
However, it was still a truly smiley morning - just great to be alive and kicking.
Be that as it may, the smile of the day goes to
Military Wives Choir
for gaining that coveted
spot with their single
Wherever You Are.
1 for the album: my eye was drawn to
the photogenic lady, top right
As I’ve mentioned before, I am a great fan of Gareth Malone, not so much
his obvious musical talent, but the way he brings out the best in
all those around him. That’s a gift from the Gods. So well done him and
the girls. Richly deserved.
Finally, a quote to balance the one at the top about the three wise
“The recession is the immaculate recession. It came as a complete
surprise, and no-one is claiming parentage.” Kay Brock, the
Archbishop of Canterbury’s new secretary for public affairs, ho, ho, ho.
Here’s lookin’ right through you
FOR MANY moons now, following the ever improving examination results from our
schools, endless discussions and arguments have bounced back and fore apropos why
this is so (there goes my suppressed poetic gene again).
The doubters claim there is much dumbing-down
going on, and that exams are simply getting easier and easier each and every
year. However, those who trust are convinced that our children are becoming ever
brighter and cleverer, and the future of our nation is dazzlingly bright
in the hands of this new generation of super-kids.
Employers suggest that the doubters are correct; young
people they take on do not possess the basic skills (reading, writing and
arithmetic) of the previous generation.
I tend to agree with the doubters, for the rather
obvious reason that our genetic fingerprint, our DNA, doesn’t change
over a few generations; thus it is impossible for us to become more
intelligent in the blink of an evolutionary eye.
So could it be then that teaching methods have improved
beyond recognition? Certainly possible, but unlikely to such a positive
Now we learn, following a Daily Telegraph
investigation, where undercover Telegraph reporters attended 13 seminars
run by exam boards, that teachers were given information about upcoming
questions and areas of the syllabus that teachers should focus on
(nudge-nudge, wink-wink, know what I mean, Sir/Miss?).
Wow, so teachers were pointed in the right direction,
thus enabling their students to concentrate on specific areas. You have
to smile. No wonder our kids are getting smarter.
As ever, it is the Telegraph’s own brilliant
who sums it all up to great effect...
What you see is what you get
BY THE magic of yet another coincidence, just surfaced on the
internet, a marvellous picture, above, compliments of a Nick Veasey from
Maidstone in Kent, who has used an X-Ray machine to show what’s really
behind all the fancy Christmas packaging.
It’s a rather fabulous image – I take it as black and
it really is a genuine picture – indeed, I would suggest that our education
system needs an X-Ray machine to show what’s really behind all the fancy
Merry Christmas – oh, and here’s lookin’ at you, but not with X-Ray
Hair today, gone tomorrow
COINCIDENCE and me are bosom pals. I think it was last Monday I smiled
at this headline, spotted on Mail Online...
One’s run out of room!
Queen invites a record 27 royals to stay
(...so who will end up in the servant’s quarters?)
Friday afternoon, more than two dozen royals will descend on the
picturesque Norfolk estate of Sandringham...
I was happy with just the above headline and starter for ten: it’s the
‘One’s run out of room’
that’s the funny-bone, feather-boa tickler.
Meanwhile, back with the Top Ten of this and that
All week the newspapers and the online web sites have been awash with
the top images of the year, and many of them, sad to say, I never actually
caught first time
The picture that made me smile the most was the one
featured alongside, spotted on Yahoo!
Michelle Obama grew an afro
How did I miss this back in the spring?
The USA’s First Lady unintentionally caused a lot of smiles from
this photo after she stood in front of a rather large plant.
At first glance, it appears that Michelle Obama grew an
afro as she watched Queen Elizabeth II sign a guest book during
their trip to the UK in May.
Smashing image. I’ve given it my own caption > > > >
> > > >
Prince Philip: "I say, old gel, how long has
one been signing one’s name like that?"
today, gone tomorrow
Now we come to the coincidence – or co-ink-e-denk-ee, as Dai Aphanous at
the Crazy Horsepower Saloon says ... Dai Aphanous because we all see
through him straight away ... great character though, and you can’t miss
Late breaking news this evening was all about the Duke of Edinburgh, now 90, bless,
having had heart surgery after being airlifted to hospital, where he was
treated for a blocked coronary artery, and a successful “invasive
procedure of coronary stenting” was performed.
I have no idea what that means in common or garden
lingo, but a handy Telegraph journalist enlightened me: it
seems that “the Duke was likely to have suffered a heart attack which
was halted by emergency surgery to unblock a blood vessel”.
Now why couldn’t they have said that in the first
Anyway, it seems that he’s okay – but I was astonished how much information
instantly flooded the online world about our Phil. There again, perhaps I
shouldn’t be because, given the ages of both the Queen and the Duke,
media outlets must be prepared for the inevitable, whenever that
One article which did catch my eye, again in the Telegraph, was
Duke of Edinburgh is an incredibly active man, who has enjoyed good
health for much of his life.
The piece went on to detail every little minor thing Philip has
suffered; however, most of his ailments and injuries have been
sports-related. I thoroughly enjoyed this particular episode in his
suffered arthritis in his right wrist from playing polo and tried to
dull the pain with Butazolodin, a drug more usually given to lame horses
and recommended by his head groom.
It was reported he later stopped taking it because of
the side effects.
A little bird down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, who has a direct link
to the horsey world of the royals, tells me that, following the equine
drug scare, the Duke then went to see his own doctor about those
alarming side effects.
doc duly filled out one of those per-, tsk, oh you know, one of those form
thingies the doctor gives you when you’re feeling unwell – per -
No, no, a permit to shit on the road.
Back with that news headline at the top:
One’s run out of room!
Queen invites a record 27 royals to stay
(...so who will end up in the servant’s quarters?)
Now who would have thought that it was Prince Philip who would end up in
the outside ward?
Thursday, December 22
In the bleak midwinter ~ or not, as the case may be
NORMALLY, the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, falls on
December the 21st, but this year it’s today, the 22nd. This is because
the year is marginally longer than 365 days, hence why we have a leap
year every four years, to balance the books, so to speak. So
occasionally the December solstice trips over to the 22nd, as this year.
It happened at 5:30 this morning, as I was listening to
the Vanessa Feltz show on the wireless – and the moment was captured for
posterity by Vanessa.
This leads me to the weather, in particular why it’s the main topic of
conversation here in the UK. It is so varied. We have no idea what to
expect, not just from one year to another, but from one day to the next.
For example, the most noticeable thing right now is how unbelievably
mild it is – especially so compared to the snows and bitter cold of
precisely a year ago.
Last year, these words rang so true:
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, [a year] ago.
However, this very morning, along my daily walk through the Towy Valley,
at around half-eight/nine o’clock, I actually took my coat off and
wrapped it around by waist ... I was strolling through the valley in
shirtsleeves, and even though it was overcast and dull, I was feeling
perfectly comfortable. It was like a spring morning.
Last year, the temperature down in the valley was about -20° (along
part of my walk I am pretty much at
the level of the River Towy, and it’s always
that much colder nearer the river when frosty winds make moan).
So I thought: must take a compare and contrast picture
against last year’s snowy images. And here’s the result...
The glorious doolallyness of the
British weather: from the frozen winter solstice of 2010 to the balmy
As you will see from last year, the fence was covered in snow and
hoarfrost; however, if you look closely at this year’s fence, you will also
spot, at low level, bits of white. Well, those are strands of wool: the
sheep are forever rubbing against the fence to relieve those annoying little
itches – shades of Baloo the Bear having a good old scratch in the Bare
Also, note how lush the grass looks. Astonishing for
A magic moment caught on the Jamie Owen & Louise Elliott show on Radio
Wales ... here is Louise, talking about her young daughter...
Took Elizabeth to see Santa Clause over the weekend – he was in very
good spirits indeed. He asked her what she wanted for Christmas and she
That’s all she ever wants. She’s obsessed with marbles – but quite
specific: all different coloured marbles and different sized marbles.
And then Father Christmas, unexpectedly, turned to me:
“And what would Mummy like for Christmas?” Ooh, I thought, what would I
like? Oh, nail varnish, I’d like some nail varnish, please –
And then he turned to Daddy: “And Daddy, what would you
like for Christmas?” And Tim pipes up: “Oh, Santa. I’d like a fresh
start in a new country.”
[Much laughter in the studio...]
Louise continues: There was a bit of a pause – and Father Christmas
said: “Oh, okay Daddy, I’ll see what I can do.”
Very funny little story that. But what I liked about it was that Santa
asked Mummy and Daddy what they would like. I mean, if either Mummy or
Daddy were still struggling what to get their other halves - well, Santa
had rather cleverly opened his sack of tricks.
Mind you, I’m not sure what Louise is going to do about
husband Tim’s request.
PS: Yesterday - just below, actually - I perused the newspaper
headlines as they all attempted to come up with something punchy to
express the Military Wives push for the Christmas top spot in the
charts. Today, I spotted this neat effort, compliments of Mail Online:
beginning to look a lot like a Christmas Number One
Wednesday, December 21
History is made by those who turn up
WITH the Military Wives now pretty much guaranteed to make the No 1 spot
on Christmas Day, I was grabbed by the headlines the papers
went with today, all struggling to incorporate military terms and expressions...
Daily Express: Military Wives march to Christmas No 1
The Times: Military Wives storm the charts
London Evening Standard: Wives march to
Daily Mail: VICTORY!
Taxman retreats in battle to charge VAT on Military Wives’ Christmas No
This Is Devon
[Where the wives and their partners are based]: Military
Wives conquer all in Christmas chart battle
Western Mail: Wives quick march towards
No 1 as single breaks record
I particularly liked my own local newspaper, the Western Mail,
for that clever play on the word record.
Back with This Is Devon : I borrowed today's headline from
the paper’s Comments section. As with every Comment message board, about 10 per cent of all missives posted are dedicated to
rubbishing everything and everybody. So I enjoyed this response directed
someone who was trashing the Military Wives...
Ominvore23: It has been said that history is made by those who turn up (thus not,
by implication, internet trolls).
I like that. I’d never heard the saying before ... I duly Googled it
... yes, it’s all over the web, but no clues as to its origins. I’ll
take another peep when I have a few more moments.
So what headline would I go with for the Military Wives’
appearance in London to promote their song and march to No 1? Well, see below...
Gareth Malone and Military Wives on manoeuvres to capture top target
Finally, this letter in the Telegraph rang a bell, as it did with
most men. Probably.
SIR – My wife is away visiting her mother. Does anyone know how to find
the end of a roll of cling film?
Bledlow Ridge, Buckinghamshire
Nice one. As I say, most of us men empathise. However, I enjoyed this
online response from
Surely it is not the ‘End’ that he needs, but the ‘Beginning’. The ‘End’
will manifest itself in due course – when he least expects, or requires,
I shall cling onto that thought.
Tuesday, December 20
“Welcome to life. First thing you learn, milk isn’t free”
Malcolm Pryce aka Louie Knight, private eye
EVERY morning this week, Radio Wales features a comedy drama
called O Little Town Of Aberystwyth; the central character is
Louie Knight, Aberystwyth’s famous private dick.
My radio is on in the background, but the drama
regularly catches the ear with some great lines. A couple of them coming up;
I haven’t stopped smiling since hearing them.
But first, this from Malcolm Pryce, the author of the
book on which the series is based, and spotted on his web site...
five part Louie Knight radio drama specially written for Christmas
A department store Father Christmas is brutally murdered in
Aberystwyth and the Queen of Denmark calls Louie. She gives him
five days to solve the murder or she will cancel the visit of
the real Father Christmas.
Meanwhile, Myfanwy Montez [Louie’s girlfriend, “a
beautiful nightclub singer from before the flood”] lies in a
nursing home with a mystery illness that has robbed her of her
This is potentially catastrophic since it is a
cherished tradition every Christmas in Aberystwyth that Myfanwy
sings at the carol concert in a live satellite link-up with a
choir of penguins in Patagonia.
The doctors are baffled and decide to try a daring new
medical intervention: they write to Father Christmas, asking him
to bring Myfanwy’s voice back. So Louie and Calamity Jane
[Louie’s partner] have two compelling reasons to find out who
Anyway, back on the radio, I hear a rather witty line which
claims my exclusive smile of the day. Indeed, the tales of Louie
are vaguely familiar – shades of Jim Rockford of The Rockford
Files, and Myfanwy reminds me of the lovely Beth Davenport,
Jim’s attorney and onetime girlfriend.
Later I do a bit of online research about Louie
Melissa Katsoulis of The Daily Telegraph reviews the
novel Don’t Cry For Me Aberystwyth by Malcolm Pryce (from
a good many moons ago), the book on which the radio drama is
based. Here are some choice cuts from Melissa’s piece...
last three novels in the Louie Knight detective series were called
Aberystwyth Mon Amour, Last Tango in Aberystwyth and The
Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth, so no prizes for
guessing where this latest one is set. For Louie, the down-at-heel
gumshoe who relies on his enthusiastic Calamity to get him through the
long, grey days, never needs to travel far to find unsolved cases of
murder, espionage, kidnap, and now, war crimes.
Like many a hometown, Aberystwyth is horrible to Louie
but full of people he loves. There’s Myfanwy, Calamity, Dad and Sosban
the philosophising ice-cream seller.
And in December 1989, when this book opens, the old
place is redolent with festive charm: “Aberystwyth at Christmas. The
smell of pine drifts along the Prom, mingling with the reek of bladder
wrack, toffee apple, vanilla and wet donkey fur ... From somewhere
beyond the spires of the old college children sing ‘O Little Town of
Bethlehem’ ... The ice man shivers behind his empty counter and in a
filthy alley in Chinatown a man in a red-and-white coat with a long
white beard lies dead in a pool of his own gore.”
(Shame the thousands of starlings that roost nightly
under Aberystwyth pier didn’t get a mention. I mean, the potential for a
great line is there, for example: All the birds come home to roost in Aberystwyth.)
Back with the radio story: Santa is murdered, and private eye Louie
Knight has just five days to solve the case or the town’s children won’t
be getting any presents. Louie takes up the story:
My girlfriend, nightclub singer Myfanwy Montez,
lies in a nursing home with a mystery illness, and on top of that she
caught me giving a Christmas kiss to a nurse. There will be no peace for
Louie Knight, Aberystwyth’s only private eye, this Christmas. “Oh for
Pete’s sake, it was nothing,” I tell her, “just a little Christmas kiss,
she asked me to ... it wasn’t what it seems.”
“That’s what they all say,” says Myfanwy, sounding rather
sorry for herself. [Of course, it’s not only women who say things
Remember this quote from a few days ago? “Give me a kiss Boris, I
promise I won’t tell anyone.” Journalist and author Lesley-Ann Jones
pleads with London’s Mayor Boris Johnson at a party. His response: “They
all say that...”]
“Myfanwy,” pleads Louie, “how could you doubt me?”
“What sort of man does that? Has a fling with a nurse
right by the bedside of his dying girlfriend?”
Of course she isn’t dying ... Louie and Myfanwy kiss and make up
– he’s a right old smoothie, shades of Old Shaggy down at the Crazy
“Have you bought my present yet?” whispers Myfanwy,
coming over all seductive.
“It’s on order.”
A pregnant pause: “What is it?”
“A white Christmas.”
Huge sigh from Myfanwy. “How wonderful.”
How wonderful indeed. My o my, what a line. How could any woman resist?
Now if he had said that in the run-up to last Christmas – well,
all of Wales had a deep and crisp and even snow-covered festive holiday.
However, this year looks like being of the palm-tree-fringed variety.
Yup, timing is everything.
Okay, here’s the second unforgettable line – but before I go there,
I’ve mentioned in previous bulletins about men who die unexpectedly
while having sex. Dying on the job, so to speak.
A doctor told me that we only hear of the high-profile
deaths – happening in a massage parlour (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) or in
the back of a car on top of Old Snowy, or the Black Mountain as it is
generally known – but he assured me that it happens much more often than
we would imagine, but for obvious reasons we don’t get to hear about it.
Right, in the course of his investigations, Louie visits a lady called
Tadpole, and then gets into a conversation with her mother, Mrs
Tonypandy, a woman who has Handle With Care writ large all over.
Rounding off some uncomfortable small talk, Louie asks Mrs Tonypandy:
“Was that a grave I saw outside under the washing line?”
“It was the lodger.”
“Er, what did he die of?”
It really is a Wonderful Welsh World out there. And just a click away...
Monday, December 19
As different as chalk and talk
“THE irony is the world has changed and the Germans want to run Europe.
They failed to do it by war, twice. What is it? Is this the Fourth
Reich?” David Jason, 71, English award-winning actor, best known for his
comic-actor role as the main character Derek “Del Boy” Trotter in the
BBC sit-com Only Fools and Horses.
This curious observation makes it as my doolally smile of the day because of a
little story that goes back many moons.
At that time
I was familiar with David Jason as a comic actor, best known for the
aforementioned Only Fools and Horses [as in ‘Why do only fools and
horses work?’], Open All Hours and of course The Darling Buds of May
(which propelled Catherine Zeta-Jones, 42, into the fast lane of fame
Now I’ve always had an interest in the life and times of dolphins, and there was a programme on the BBC about these delightful
creatures, filmed out in America, and David Jason was the
presenter/front man. Hm,
I thought, I’ll learn a bit more about these extraordinary creatures,
and he’ll keep me amused at the same time.
The programme itself was interesting – but David Jason was a bit
disappointment. He did his front man job perfectly adequately – but
there were few smiles, little laughter. He played it with a straight bat.
Which was fine - but I learnt a valuable lesson.
Never confuse the media personality with
the real person. David Jason is a fine comic actor, who works magic with
lines that other people write for him. And there’s the rub. In real life he is
quite a reserved, quiet and thoughtful man, who is clearly not the life and soul of the party.
Indeed, going back to his quote about the Fourth Reich, it suggests he
has some rather dark thoughts in his more private moments. Who’d have
thought, eh? Every day a day at school.
But can you guess who this is yet?
Meanwhile, back with an individual who is very much the same off-screen as on-screen, with a most agreeable self-deprecating humour – at least,
everyone who has ever met him says so, and quite a few people here in
“I will never shave off my beard and moustache. I did once, for charity,
but my wife said:
‘Good grief, how awful, you look like an American car with all the
Rolf Harris, 81, Australian musician, composer, painter, in fact a man
for all seasons.
Rolf was born in Perth, Western Australia, to Welsh parents who
had emigrated from Cardiff.
Here’s a story I like about a dog Rolf owned, called Buster
When 12, Rolf and his best pal Ross Latham decided that
his new puppy should have the longest name of any dog in the
history of the world. So they came up with this:
Poochie Acka Flipp Flop
Pie Cruncher Biscuit Basher
Bumble Puppy Pimple Head
Rolf, in 2010, aged 80
So Buster Fleabags for short, but just “Buster!
when called to his master.
My favourite memory though of Rolf is when he was guest host on Have I
Got News For You – it was during the MPs’ expenses scandal, a truly funny episode,
and listed in the Top Ten HIGNFY shows – but best of all, at the very
end of the show, he got the panellists
and the whole audience singing along to Two Little Boys.
mentioned at the time:
“It wasn’t even ironic – they were enjoying
themselves, damn it. Now, that’s the beauty of Rolf.”
Watch out for it on Dave TV.
Anyone reading this outside the UK need to Google ‘Rolf Harris singing
Two Little Boys on HIGNFY’ and they will be able to sing along!
Que Sera, Sera ~ from the film The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Global warming: Who or what is to blame? Who should we believe? Do we
really care? Whatever will be, will be ...
Me? I never fret about things that are beyond my control; however, over
recent years I have planted a good few trees to hopefully cover the
modest carbon footprint created in my wake.
Be that as it may, I enjoyed the following two
contributors from the Telegraph’s Comment section in
response to a letter about global warming...
(I enjoy how you have to read these anonymous user names v-e-r-y slowly
and deliberately to make out what they mean):
To those who say that man is causing global warming and those that claim
a conspiracy: I say a Plague on both your houses.
Here are the facts: Electricity is essential for our
way of life; oil is at its peak; our gas is coming from Russia [and
Qatar]; coal is being imported. Windmills are a waste of space, so
unless we build some PWRs [nuclear power reactors] we will all be
sitting in the dark by the end of the decade.
Agreed, rather like the Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages,
Luminaries and other Thinking Persons in the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the
Galaxy, who insist that the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything
should NOT be determined, otherwise they would all be out of work...
Douglas Adams RIP!
[The man who knew too much?]
Wonderful – miles ahead in the smiles handicap.
However, it all reminded me of the picture, alongside, of
a bear with its head stuck inside a plastic container - a jumbo
cookie jar? Which in turn brings me to another of The Sunday
Times’ The Joy of Epic Failure...
Least successful disguise
In September 1999, police arrested a woman in Los Angeles who
was stark naked with a bucket on her head. Asked to explain this
state of affairs, she said that while undressed she had stepped
briefly out onto the balcony and the door had locked behind her.
Thinking laterally, she put the bucket on her head to
The bear necessities and the bare niceties
her identity, went for help and got lost.
Chronicling these smiles brightens up my already sunny day no end.
Saturday, December 17
Little Jyoti and Big Ben grab the day
NOTHING grabs an instant smile like a great picture. A couple of images
made me smile XL today ... first, this headline in Mail Online...
Big day for a little
lady: 2ft tall Jyoti dreams of Bollywood
acting career after being crowned world’s shortest woman
Jyoti Amge, 18, of Nagpur in India, has just been crowned the world’s
shortest living woman at just over 2ft (62cm) tall.
She took the Guinness World Record from 2ft 3in
American Bridgette Jordan...
Images of Jyoti are all over the internet – but here’s the one that
grabbed my attention...
tall: Jyoti, 18-year-old,
and a natural-born smiler
It’s not so much her winning smile – which is evident in pretty much all
the pictures of her – but it’s the marvellous look on the face of the
man from Guinness, Rob Molloy. Delightful. He could be admiring his own
John Bercow orders
“decorum” as his wife Sally raises one finger to photographers
Jyoti weighs only 12lbs – in my mind’s eye I always
convert small parcels of weight to the traditional 2lb bag of sugar (1kg
these days, marginally over 2lb), so Jyoti is the equivalent of holding
six bags of sugar in your hands.
Astonishingly, she weighs just 9lbs more than she did
at birth. She measures 2¾ inches (7cm) less than the 22-year-old
American Bridgette Jordan, who had held the title since September – Jyoti had to be aged
18 to claim the record.
Mind you, I do find myself wondering what happens when
she meets and fancies a boy – presumably her emotions are normal size –
what then? Intriguing stuff.
from the sublime to the ridiculous...
Yesterday, I explored the extraordinary new coat of arms of John Bercow,
Speaker of the House of Commons. Now for something even more bizarre:
this again from Mail Online...
after her controversial appearance in the Celebrity Big Brother house
Welcome to the House of Commons Speaker’s Christmas Card. While most
senior politicians opt for traditional Christmas images or festive
pictures of their family on their Christmas cards, Speaker Bercow and
his wife have opted for a self-deprecating image in the style of an
old-style saucy seaside postcard.
The cartoon is the work of Sun newspaper cartoonist
Andy Davey, which the Bercows purchased at a cost of around £300 ...
shame the new coat of arms did not make an appearance.
Xmas Card: Hark! The Heraldic Angels Sing Something Simple
What can I say? Delightfully doolally, that’s
what I can say. Britain’s First Doolally Couple. What I also learned from the
Mail article was that, in a
recent magazine interview, Sally Bercow declared her favourite gadget to
be a ‘vibrator’.
You can tell how far off the pace of modern life I am:
my favourite gadget is the zap-a-dee-doo-da thingy I use to change TV
channels. Mind you, I guess Mrs B too (or not Mrs B too) could describe
her vibrator as a zap-a-dee-doo-da thingy, although there must be the
possibility that her choice of sex toy was very much tongue-in-cheek, ho,
Come to think of it – no pun intended – I remember
her extolling the aphrodisiac qualities of Big Ben’s chimes when in
the Palace of Westminster, humping in the shadow of love and the big
and all that business.
Perhaps she calls her vibrator Big Ben: “Here,
big boy: come to Mummy!”
a thought to go to sleep on.
Be careful who you upset as you climb the ladder......
LAST weekend’s Sunday Times did a smiley feature headlined:
Joy Of Epic Failure
these grim economic times, what better to cheer us all up than a
selection of those whose woes were truly wonderful...
There followed many examples of such heroic failures. The trouble with
perusing such a list in just one sitting is that the whole thing tends
to go over your head. Much like eating a box of chocolates in one
rather than spreading the joy of endorphins out a bit.
So for my smile of the day spot, I thought I would
just occasionally dip into this box of Black Magic, starting
today with just the one.
But before I go there, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John
Bercow, has just spent £37,000 of taxpayers’ money having his
portrait painted – oh, and having a coat of arms drawn up.
Along the corridors of power, Bercow is known as
‘ABH - Anyone But Happy’. Now Bercow is a titchy and tetchy
little feller – pictured here with his delightful, charming and
wife, Sally – wotcha mean, “Go wash your mouth out with carbolic
Anyway, a while back someone reversed into Bercow’s
car. He was not best pleased. “I’m not happy,” he spat at the
driver of the other vehicle, to which came the response: “Well
which one are you then?”
Every day a day at school spot: Before Walt Disney
settled on the final seven names to partner Snow White, the list
included Jumpy, Deafy, Dizzy, Hickey, Wheezy, Baldy, Gabby,
Nifty, Sniffy, Swifty, Lazy, Puffy, Stuffy, Tubby, Shorty and
My personal, very modern choice for Bercow would be Doolally –
yes, it’s one letter longer than the longest name – Bashful –
but I guess we’d get away with that because Doolally not only
trips off the tongue but is such a descriptive word, indeed it
paints a thousand “Order!
Doolally with Slush Brown - oops! - Snow
Whatever, there is something rather apt about a politician having a coat
of many arms: “All the better to accommodate my many hands as I rifle
through your pockets to finance my friends the rich, my dear.”
So what to make of John ‘Doolally’ Bercow’s coat of arms,
The first thing that came to mind was snakes and ladders.
Doesn’t that perfectly sum up what our dreadful politicians are
The ladder is obvious ... but when I saw those cutlasses
though, what I actually saw were snakes. And nestled
between the rungs of the ladder are the pots of gold at the end
of the rainbow – see the colours at the end of the scroll near the
And the motto? All Are Equal, surely, is the motto of every spin
doctor that has ever lived – in other words, the greatest lie of
Anyway, here’s what Bercow wants you to believe about his coat
It tells the story of his journey from humble beginnings as the
son of a taxi driver ... to become the most common or garden
person in the land – or the most senior commoner in the land, as
officialdom would have it.
The coat of arms features a ladder to represent his
journey upwards – but if we “read” a photograph from left to
right, as the experts insist, then he had better be a bit nicer
to those he meets on the way up because that ladder suggests
that he will shortly be on his way down.
It features four roundels to represent his interest in
tennis. The curved notched blades of seaxes (not cutlasses,
apparently, although he could have fooled me) represent Essex,
where Bercow went to university.
Doolally's Coat of Many Arms
He boasts as his motto one of the great untruths of life: All Are
Equal, the words punctuated by pink triangles to acknowledge his
support for gay rights. The bitingly satirical words of George Orwell’s
Animal Farm should be added: “And some are more equal than others.”
Rainbow colours at the end of the scroll represent the
flag of equality ... which is the perfect point at which to return to another
exquisite example of epic failure. This from The Sunday Times...
The least successful branding campaign
The latest branding idea from Saatchi & Saatchi in New Zealand was its
“Our Auckland Big A” campaign. The idea was to foster civic pride by
encouraging residents to greet each other with a signal in the form of
an “A” made by joining the thumbs and fingers of both hands.
The campaign was abandoned when complaints were received from the Deaf
Association of New Zealand and various women’s groups saying it was not
only the internationally recognised sign for “vagina” but also very like
the sign language for Aids.
And there, the circle is complete ... John Bercow, Speaker of the House
of Commons’ Coat of Many Arms, is the internationally recognised symbol for a Doolally.
Thursday, December 15
Welcome to the Half A Bubble Off-Plumb Club
“Everyone I meet is gay, married or crackers.” Victoria Wood, 58,
British comedienne, actress, singer-songwriter, screenwriter and
director, calls it as she sees it.
Precisely, Victoria. That is why this is a bonkers cum loco cum wacky
cum loopy cum
crackers cum doolally corner.
The married bit, though, passed me by while I was on the sunny side of
the street, so no comment there.
Mind you, a
dear friend, who is many a moon older than I, always used to introduce
me as a “gay bachelor” – this was around the time when it was just okay
to be a “gay cavalier”, backed up by tales of dashing derring-do (I
But the world was already moving on to gay as in “as gay as a
man-bag full of rainbows”. I always smiled at the thought of being a gay
cavalier. A gay man-bag full of rainbows though went straight over my
As to why there appears to have been an explosion in
the number of people who are now seemingly gay, especially as spotted flouncing about in the meeja, the world Victoria Wood moves
- well, I blame
I remain convinced that, at the height of the cold war
back in the Fifties and Sixties, they poured something really nasty into
our reservoirs. They hoped that the result would not be nuclear weapons
at dawn, but rather handbags and man-bags at elevenses. And they nearly
got away with it. Perhaps they still will.
“There’s a frivolous me, a serious me and an in-between me. Nobody is
uni-faceted.” Ann Widdecombe, 64, former British Conservative Party
politician and founder member of the Half A Bubble Off-Plumb Club.
Doolallyness of the very highest order, Ann. What on earth does all that
mean? It’s like holding a pint of bitter up to the light and declaring:
“This works on so many different levels.” Ann is a living, walking,
dancing proof of what happens to people once they become public
property. Especially public political property.
“The way Spitting Image lampooned the government mirrored perfectly her
advance into total megalomania.” Richard Grant, 54, British actor,
recalls his joy when Margaret Thatcher resigned.
Yep. I guess Thatcher did descend into doolallyness proper. But it
happens to all leaders, whether of the democratic or dictatorship
No one will convince me that Tony Blair was quite the
full shilling once he tasted power; Gordon Brown’s doolallyness is taken
as read. David Cameron and Nick Clegg are both heading for the funny
farm at a rate of knots.
calls in the putty man
Yes, what about Putin? There are already accusations aplenty apropos the
recent Russian elections being a fix – and now, the internet and
the meeja are awash with rumours of him being a slave to the old
Botox. Take a look at these two amazing photographs from The
Astonishing. Yes, you could question the effect of light - as in
the before and after type images we see - but there is more than
that going on.
It has to be worth repeating my little Botox story from
a few days ago, especially as context is everything.
Roy Noble, on his afternoon Radio Wales show,
was talking about Botox, but for some reason he kept referring
to it as Botex.
Botex-free zone ... 2000
Mirror, mirror ... 2011
Present with Roy in the studio was a lady news-
who had just finished reading the bulletin, and they were having a
little chat about the old Botex treatment. She gently corrected him: “I
think you mean Botox, Roy.”
Presumably Roy would have had Tipp-Ex in the back of
his mind, hence the slip. After all, we use Tipp-Ex to hide the mistakes we
ourselves make; we use Botox to hide the mistakes Mother Nature makes.
So Botex sums up perfectly what Putin has been doing to
himself. The other day I questioned why one of the most
powerful and dangerous men in the world wanders about shirtless while
hunting, shooting and fishing - now comes this “Mirror, mirror on the
wall, who is the most butch world leader of all?”.
Now what was it Twiggy said?
“I would never, ever use Botox. It’s poison. It’s basically botulism
– why would you inject your face with that? I can’t understand it.”
You have to laugh at the doolallyness of it all. Trouble is, these
megalomaniacs - Putin is a perfect example - hold the preciousness of our world in the palms of their
sticky little hands.
Wednesday, December 14
A kiss on the lips may be quite Continental - but Boris is playing hard
“Give me a kiss Boris, I promise I won’t tell anyone.” Journalist
and author Lesley-Ann Jones, 45, pleads with London’s Mayor Boris
Johnson, 47, at a party. His response: “They all say that...”
Ahhh, Boris, what would the passing parade be without the blond
bombshell strutting his stuff along the pussycat-walk.
And talking of blonde bombshells along the catwalk ...
this caught my eye on the MSN UK homepage - but keep your
eye on the blond bombshell, far right...
Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather ... it’s a fella.
And I’m talking about the one on the left, not Boris (more of that
16-year-old model he’s knocking around with in a moment).
A man modelling women’s underwear? Mind you, the more
you stare at the face, the more, I guess, you see a man. Still, there’s
little doubt that if we had met in a crowded, dimly-lit bar, I would
have propositioned “her” thus: “Hello pussycat: you strike me as a lady
who is an expert at reducing the size of a man’s problem.” D’oh!
It seems that Dutch fashion house HEMA is using
androgynous 20-year-old Bosnian model Andrej Pejic in their new push-up
For starters, I wasn’t totally sure what androgynous
meant ... hm, blending masculine and feminine: neither male nor female
in appearance but having both conventional masculine and feminine traits
and giving an impression of ambiguous sexual identity.
So does that make Andrej hermaphrodite? If so, he can
make love to him/herself. Imagine, Andrej could be an expert at reducing
the size of his own problem. Wow.
Right, back with Boris and his 16-year-old model.
“As pale and wispy as the breath of an elderly monk doing physical
jerks in the cloisters before Christmas lunch.” Boris describing the
“perfectly acceptable” exhaust on his 16-year-old car. Yup, the model
was of course his car.
Do you know, I remember reading the article where Boris spoke at loving
length about his 16-year-old vehicle, and how it still gives him perfect,
trouble-free motoring, at little cost. I empathised totally. I own a 21
going on 22-year-old Saab, which I can’t speak highly enough of. And as
a bonus, it’s exceedingly comforting to drive.
Mind you, I actually remember the above quote ...
mostly because I didn’t have a clue what the hell he meant:
“As pale and wispy as the breath of an elderly monk doing physical jerks
in the cloisters before Christmas lunch.”
But it sounded great. QBB: Quality British Bullshit. Of
the highest order.
Just to prove that dear Boris is not all jolly hockey-sticks, or
whatever the male equivalent of that would be, here he is giving his
verdict on the latest EU chaos, with Britain suggesting it is well into
the rhythm method – withdrawing at the crucial moment.
“The reason our brother and sister Europeans are so chronically enraged
with the British is that we have been proved completely right about the
Whatever you say, Boris.
Okay class, pay attention...
Jolly hockey-sticks: describes a woman or girl of high social
class who is enthusiastic in a way that annoys people who think they are
much more important than they really are. Coined by British actress
Beryl Reid back in the 1950s. God, that enthusiastic jolly
is Boris in a push-up bra.
So what would be the comparable male expression? Perhaps Tally-ho!?
Tally-ho: a British phrase used in foxhunting, shouted when a
rider spots a fox. It dates from 1772.
It was also used during the Second World War by
English-speaking fighter pilots to announce that an enemy aircraft had
And surprisingly, a term used by NASA astronauts in
audio transmissions to signify sightings of other spacecraft, space
stations, and unidentified objects.
Who would have believed it: from Androgynous Andrej to Barnstorming
Boris; from jolly hockey-sticks to tally-ho.
Every day a day at school.
Tuesday, December 13
Bin there – and p-p-picked up a penguin
OVER recent weeks I’ve smiled along with some letters spotted in The
Times apropos the shortest poems ever penned, so here’s another cheery
one along similar lines...
Sir, The last sentence of your obituary of Christopher Logue (Dec 5)
quotes him as saying: “I have published some pretty bad stuff, but I hope
I shall do no more of that.”
This reminded me of one of his most endearing poetic offerings, London
Last night in London Airport
I saw a wooden bin
labelled UNWANTED LITERATURE
IS TO BE PLACED HEREIN.
So I wrote a poem
and popped it in.
RICHARD DAVIES, Tangmere, W Sussex
P-P-Pick up a Penguin at the Emperor Dating Agency
Photographs are a sure-fire way of generating a smile. These
little songbirds which land in my hand to claim their titbits,
and are featured all over this web site, never fail to make me beam.
The media, too, is awash with glorious images. This
headline caught my eye in Mail Online...
Love in a cold climate: Romantic penguins
‘hold hands’ to melt the iciest of hearts
Featured are a series of images captured at Port Lockroy, a
natural harbour in the Antarctic Peninsula, by professional
photographer Silviu Ghetie, where a couple of penguins appear to
be holding hands.
A link to the amusing Mail feature coming up.
My favourite from a series of images is the one featured here ...
it really does look as if they are getting married, with the
vicar in attendance.
However, in the background, on the horizon, are the two
families, who are clearly not happy about the union and are not
coming anywhere near until the party and the opportunity for a good fight
to clear the air is upon them. Whatever...
I spy a little sweetie,
Penguin is its name;
Today it’s getting married -
awful glad I came.
“Do you promise to love, honour, cherish, in sickness and in
health, irrespective of Sir
David Attenborough sticking his nose in...?”
Oh dear, where’s the bin? Anyway, here’s the link to all the other
rather jolly photographs...
Baby it’s cold outside
JUST some of the wonderful things people say...
“Am I an Iron Lady? No, I’m an ironing lady.”
Meryl Streep, 62, jokes about her role as Margaret Thatcher in a new
I really enjoyed that quote, very witty. But I’ll tell you what: I
always check the ages of these celebrities I quote – it puts things into
context – but I was taken aback that Streep is 62...
...now I’m no film fan, so I’m not really familiar with her work, but I
am familiar with seeing her all over the meeja – but 62? Wow. She has
worn well. I don’t know what age she is in the picture up there – I
believe it’s fairly recent. Whatever, it’s a wonderful photograph of her.
And by one of those marvellous coincidences, the very next quote that
caught my eye was this one...
Not all its cracked up to be
“I would never, ever use Botox. It’s poison. It’s basically botulism
– why would you inject your face with that? I can’t understand it.”
Twiggy, 62, acknowledges that Mother Nature knows best...
...and this is a recent picture. But how astonishing is
that? Two quotes from two women, both aged 62, and both looking
exceedingly well on it.
Twiggy’s Botox quote reminds me of a tale I have told hereabouts at
least twice before, but it is worth repeating once more, especially in
view of what Twiggy says.
Roy Noble, on his afternoon Radio Wales show, has a
habit of getting the occasional word ever so slightly wrong, with great comic effect. He
was talking about Botox, but for some reason kept referring to it as
With him was a lady newsreader, who had just finished
reading the bulletin, and they were having a little chat about this and
that, including women having the Botex treatment. She gently corrected
him: “I think you mean Botox, Roy.”
It was such a wonderful slip of the tongue. Presumably
Roy would have had Tipp-Ex in the back of his mind, hence the slip. I
mean, we use Tipp-Ex to hide the mistakes we ourselves make; we use
Botox to hide the mistakes Mother Nature makes.
So Botex was a perfect halfway house to correct what we
think we see in the mirror.
While on the nature trail of those who age well...
“Any bloody fool can be uncomfortable. If I see a five-star hotel, I
am not going to go on living in a tent.” Broadcaster Sir David
Attenborough, 85, insisting he is a film-maker and not an explorer.
Mind you, Attenborough and the BBC are currently in a bit of
bother because one or two of the more magical moments from the
hit nature series Frozen Planet, in particular the polar
bear tending to its newly born cubs - pictured, alongside - were
filmed in a German wildlife park using fake snow, that curious fact only
emerging on an extra video tucked away on the BBC website about
the making of the show.
Here’s a favourite saying of mine, oft repeated hereabouts:
believe nothing you hear and only half what you see.
It’s just one of a raft of clever sayings, compliments
of a local farmer, sadly no longer with us. He was of course
Frozen Planet's cute
little baby polar bears
referring to the gossip we stumble upon in the pub, office,
corner shop, church, local rag...
And he coined it long before digital cameras,
computers, or indeed the BBC abandoning its Reithian principles of
ethics, morality and honesty.
Personally, I have no problems with the BBC’s Frozen
Planet adding ‘fake’ shots to enhance the points being made – but hang
about, at the end of each episode they had a 10 minute Freeze Frame
segment, where they explained the techniques used in the filming.
Surely, that would have been the perfect moment to show
that just some of those magic moments were in fact imagined moments –
and everybody, more or less, would have been happy. That’s rather
naughty of them.
If my farmer neighbour was around today, he would doubtless declare:
“Believe nothing you hear – or see!”
How very sad.
The Pied Piper, his Welsh roots and breaking into a sweat
WHENEVER I see, hear or read anything about Gareth Malone and his
Military Wives choir, I am overtaken by a smile of satisfaction at what
we humans are capable of if we put our minds to it.
It’s not so much how Malone unfailingly gets his
unlikely band of singers skipping enthusiastically in his wake in grand
Pied Piper fashion, but with the Military Wives pretty much the whole nation has
joined the train. Even more impressive is how he brings the best out of those
around him. A rare and precious talent is our Mr Malone.
The more I watch him on television, the more I sense
that there’s something rather Welsh about his way of doing things –
perhaps it’s simply the name Gareth.
Gareth is a Welsh name deriving from “gwaredd”, meaning
“gentleness” or “mercy”. It’s a name that has featured throughout Welsh
history and mythology, beginning with Sir Gareth – in Arthurian legend,
Gareth was a modest and brave nephew of King Arthur, and he was a Knight Of
The Round Table. The name Gareth continues to be in use throughout Great Britain
and Ireland, though mainly featured in Wales..
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself ... This modern
day Gareth is all over the media these days, especially so this
past weekend. The following Mail Online headline caught my eye...
A most unlikely
pin-up: No, he ISN’T gay. In fact, Gareth Malone
says being in a choir makes you catnip for ladies
For a start I had no idea what “catnip” meant ... wel-i-jiw-jiw, it’s a
flowering plant which contains an aromatic oil that acts as a mild
hallucinogen - and turns cats into playful, purring pussycats. So I clicked the
The Mail piece was about Gareth and the
choir visiting David Cameron at No 10. Here are just a few points of
interest that caught my eye...
Gareth discovered, much to his surprise, that No 10 Downing
Street does not have a piano, an astonishing revelation.
We learn that compared to X Factor, where no expense is spared in the
making of it, The Choir has a crew of just four. “We have an
embarrassingly small budget,” said Gareth.
He has another project in the pipeline, which will be
“very different”, but he won’t say more. He is also off to
America soon to film a pilot show for a US network.
Intriguingly, I learnt that his favourite singer is
Welshman Bryn Terfel, and it turns out – ta-rah!
– that his beloved grandmother, who was a huge influence, was
Welsh, and she was imbued with the tradition of male-voice choirs.
That one little throwaway line explained so much. I
The Military Wives choir
outside No 10 Downing Street
did sense that there was something very Welsh about him.
As for suddenly becoming a gay icon, a noticeable
quality is that, not only is he a woman’s man – witness how the wives
and girlfriends in
the choir react to him – but he is also a man’s man. Remember the huge,
rather menacing marine in Army fatigues, nearly twice the size of
Malone, pushing his way through the crowd, seizing his hand with a
vice-like grip and telling him warmly: “I just wanted to shake your hand
- my wife thinks you’re the dog’s bollocks.” Wonderful.
Back with that surprising bit of news about 10 Downing Street not
having a piano, we shouldn’t really be surprised. For as long as I can
remember, our political masters and the congregation they serve (that’s
us), have been singing from a different hymn sheet – the war in
Afghanistan and our membership of the EU just a couple of high profile
Do you know, I seem to recall a popular petition to
install the increasingly troubled Jeremy Clarkson as PM. Right, all
together now: Clarkson out, out, out – Malone in, in, in...
Finally, I am endlessly spellbound by the decline in our ability as a
nation to express ourselves properly and accurately, particularly so in writing. Here’s a
glorious example from the
section of the Malone article...
I think he is a sweaty pie, love this boy, so humble – Tammy,
Brighton, UK, 10/12/2011 @ 15:21
Ha, your comment made me chuckle. Not sure
whether Gareth Malone has a problem with sweat, but surely you meant
Sweaty pie, ha, ha, ha!
– Matilda, Hampshire, UK, 10/12/2011 @ 18:44
Is the spell broken yet?
Saturday, December 10
HERE’S a selection of headlines that made me smile without the need to
click on the link...
Vladimir Putin: the gremlin in the Kremlin
Russia’s ‘squeezed middle’ is disenchanted with Mr Putin, as his
election humiliation shows – even his allies are getting nervous about
The above is the least surprising headline of the year as fury at what the
electorate see as rigged elections spark the biggest protests in Russia
since the Soviet Union unravelled.
Radio and television reports confirm that protestors
have been angered by mobile phone footage of apparent fraud, including
marked ballots in boxes before voting began; officials falsifying voting
slips; use of easily erased ink; and officials filling in ballot papers.
Yup, nothing ever changes in this corrupt old world of ours.
Putin is a fully paid-up member of the Half A Bubble
Off-Plumb Club – I mean, why does one of the most powerful men in
the world need to strut about shirtless, carrying a gun? Perhaps it’s a penis substitute thingy.
Gareth Malone should start a choir for doolally world
leaders. Not so much “Doe, a deer, a female deer”, more “D’oh, a
doolally, a trigger-happy doolally”.
Thrill of the chaste:
the truth about Gandhi’s sex life
With religious chastity under scrutiny, a new book throws light on
Gandhi’s famed chastity, which embraced sleeping naked next to nubile,
nude women to test his restraint. In fact, he was sex-mad, writes
biographer Jad Adams...
It was no secret that Mohandas Gandhi had an unusual sex life. He spoke
constantly of sex and gave detailed, often provocative, instructions to
his followers as to how they might best observe chastity...
I tend to go with the sex-mad view – I mean, I’ve often wondered about
that bed sheet he was always seen in?
Little Nubile Young Lady was surprised to find the
bedroom door standing open: “Oh!
Mr Gandhi,” she said, “what a big bed sheet you have wrapped around you!”
“All the better to tuck you in for the night, my dear,”
was his reply. At least, I think he said tuck.
Don’t touch that
Islamic cleric bans women from touching ‘penis-shaped’ foods in case it
The unnamed sheikh [rattle and no roll in the hay] said that
women should not be close to bananas or cucumbers, in order to avoid any
Note: I have deliberately used a tiny image to avoid those naughty
thoughts. Mind you, it gives a whole new meaning to ensuring that you
have your ‘five a day’: cucumbers, carrots, parsnips, courgettes and of
course, bananas. Which all brings me neatly to the fruitiest quote of
“Everyone is really frisky on the show, everybody is horny. The year
I was a contestant, everyone was just really gagging for it.” Alesha
Dixon, 33, English singer-songwriter, dancer, model and a judge on
Strictly Come Dancing, reveals more than strictly necessary.
Clearly they were all on their ‘five a day’. Which reminds me: I must
get my old Victor Sylvester trousers out ... bags of ballroom. But I
must avert my eyes from melons and the like.
Friday, December 9
For “Robin Hood” read “Robbin’ Hood”
“Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does
anything about it.” A witty quote commonly misattributed to Mark
Twain (1835-1910), but is in fact the work of his good friend Charles
Dudley Warner (1829-1900), American essayist and novelist.
“We can’t change the weather, the international economic weather.”
A witless quote attributed to Francis Maude, 58, Conservative politician,
Cabinet Office Minister and Paymaster General.
The Warner quote above about the weather is rather splendid because, here we
are, a hundred years and more further on, and still we can’t do anything
about it – and doubtless never likely to – although we are now very good
at forecasting what ambush lies just around the nearest meteorological
The Maude quote though is typical political bull-shite.
The international economic weather is something we – or rather our
politicians – could and should do something about. We have been through
these boom and bust situations many times before, but our politicians
refuse to acknowledge the ambush nature of their decisions and as a
consequence do nothing about it.
People with huge power and financial clout are driven
by their greed gene – this we know from history and personal experience – yet rather than impose
stricter controls over what they get up to, politicians have
inexplicably relaxed their grip.
And here we are – if you’ll pardon my further slide into the
vernacular – in deep shite while our EU politicians, at yet another
crucial summit in Brussels, fiddle furiously while Europe and its Euro burn.
Never mind where’s Robin Hood, where’s The Lone Arranger and
Tonto when you need them? The problem is, shite-houses like Blair,
Brown, Cameron and Clegg are just a bunch of Robbin’ Hoods, taking from
the poor and handing it to the rich.
If you didn’t laugh at these clowns you’d have to cry.
Anyway, back with the weather proper ... here in the UK we are, as a
rule, rather fortunate with our climate, in as much that we rarely
suffer extreme stuff. Yesterday was that exception which tests the rule.
The country was hit by a ‘weather bomb’, an explosive
development where the air pressure drops dramatically in a very
short time. Exposed northern parts of Britain were hit by
hurricane force winds of 100mph going on 150mph (even 80mph
across populous areas); gales gusting at 165mph were recorded on
the summit of the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands.
The media has been awash with pictures of our storm-battered
nation. I particularly liked the one alongside, spotted on the
web site. So simple, yet so dramatic: the wind sock at full
stretch, the threatening sky, the shifting sands – but most of
all, the spots of rain on the lens. Very smiley and wonderfully atmospheric.
Here in west Wales we came off lightly.
A wind sock reflects
stormy weather on some unnamed beach
However, the most eye-catching picture though was the one below,
featured in Mail Online...
One lady and her dog in
Scargill, County Durham, northern England
A proper smile of the day image. If you want to see a larger image of the above, where
the lady and her pooch really stand out, along with some dramatic pictures of the
storm and the damage it left in its wake – in particular a couple of
images of that extraordinary exploding wind turbine – click on the link
However, before going there, this smiley letter just spotted
in The Daily Telegraph...
Burning wind turbine
SIR – The report of a wind turbine exploding in the severe weather was
most apposite during the EU summit. One is an almost useless human
invention, about which a lot of hot air is generated, and which explodes
under stress. The other is a wind turbine.
R. Scott-Watson, Stanford in the Vale, Oxfordshire
To peruse the eye-catching storm and snow pictures, along with a couple
of video clips, one very smiley, click here...
Thursday, December 8
adding to the gaiety of the passing parade, I guess my favourite radio
presenter of all time was the late Kenny Everett, or Cuddly Ken as he was
affectionately known. It was his extravagant style and inventive humour which appealed.
Hot Gossip show us their BALLS
IT’S well established hereabouts that I find the doolallyness of our
celebrity culture mesmerising in the extreme; all fuelled by slebs
themselves who mostly appear to be fully paid-up members of the Half A
Bubble Off Plumb Club.
But it’s not only me who thinks that.
This from BBC Radio 2 broadcaster
Chris Evans, 45:
“Celebrities are, by
and large, nutcases.”
I remember when Chris Evans took over from Terry Wogan on the breakfast
show, and I thought, ah well, I’ll have to find myself a new radio station for
company. In truth, all I knew about Evans back then was his high-profile media
image of public drinking bouts and curiously eccentric behaviour.
However, a few years ago he appears to have reached a
fork in the road – and taken the highway less travelled by the doolally.
These days I find him very down to earth and rather entertaining on
his morning show.
I’m not surprised he attracts UK radio’s largest
audience. He certainly adds to the gaiety of the passing parade, and he
compliments the style set by Vanessa Feltz who precedes him on the
I read somewhere that those who surround Chris Evans, even in
his riotous days, are exceptionally loyal – which I suspect is a
reflection of his own dominant character traits.
I particularly enjoyed his Saturday morning show on
Radio 2 – indeed I have loads of clips from his shows tucked away on
several cassette tapes, which I occasionally listen to. I never tire of
It wasn’t just his unique sense of fun and
presentation, but he played such an eclectic selection of music: from
disco fodder, via popular hits of today and yesterday, to bits and
pieces of memorable classical music. I never encountered another show or
presenter that did - or does - this.
Just recently, Everett’s larger-than-life presence
was all brought back to life on Radio 2’s Sounds of the 20th Century –
the year was 1983 – and there was Margaret Thatcher, handbagging everyone
in sight, with David Dimbleby addressing her as “Mrs Finchley – I’m
sorry, Mrs Thatcher, of Finchley!”
(Finchley in north London was, from 1959 to 1992, Mrs Thatcher’s
Then there was Kenny Everett at an official Young Conservative
party gathering, with Mrs T in attendance, and Cuddly Ken shouting:
“Let’s bomb Russia!”
and “Let’s kick Michael Foot’s stick away!”
So I went searching for it on YouTube – the link to the incident
and the controversy that followed, is below ... commenting on the
hullabaloo is one Michael Winner – and below that link, there’s a further
The moment I heard the “Let’s bomb Russia” chestnut
image shot into my head: Kenny as Brother Lee Love,
gospel singer, with those
enormously oversized foam rubber hands – alongside -
which he was sporting at that Conservative conference.
I remember so well the predictable fuss – shades of
Jeremy Clarkson and the shemozzle over shooting those pesky
strikers - but all these years later, Kenny’s image on that
Conservative stage, with those huge hands, is burnt onto my
Brother Lee Love gets a big hand - or two
brief Kenny sketch where he is Dick Thrust, occupation:
That little sketch explains the headline: Hot Gossip show us their
Very funny – the problem is though, the world is full of Dick Thrusts,
who really do act like the character Cuddly Ken portrays.
Marvellous entertainment - worth a click or 2:
Wednesday, December 7
Neither an e-mailer nor a texter be;
catch it like the flu.
Someone smiled at me today,
started smiling too.
I MENTIONED in a previous bulletin the tale of the older lady who had
just mastered the world of the computer, including the
sending of e-mails; one day she learnt that an old friend had died, so
she sent a brief e-mail of condolence to her daughter, and
signed off with ... lol!
... thinking it meant ‘lots of love’.
No matter how hard you bite on your lip, you just can’t stop
Now as someone who doesn’t text or tweet, I too am equally baffled by lots of
these modern expressions – but I do like lol, which obviously
morphed from the kiss (xx) we put at the end of a card, note or
I have now thought up my own xx; a little something that comes
before a lol: sol – smile out loud!
Sol is more than a smile. In Welsh we have the
word ‘cwtch’, which means a cuddle, but 50 per cent more. Well, a sol
is a smile, but 50 per cent more. I mean, we all know people who, as
soon as they smile, we also start to smile.
All this set me thinking about modern forms of communication, in
particular the ’SMS Revolution’ - Short Message Service.
And of course there’s the ever growing roll call of people
who find themselves in embarrassing trouble having sent a message
without sleeping on it first - something we tended to do as a matter of course
when sending traditional letters – but these days, rush into SMS
without thinking, and before you know it the whole thing has gone around the world.
So I found myself wondering: if Shakespeare were alive
today, what would he make of this thing called SMS, which I also
call AMBUSH (Alternate Message Bombshell U Silly Halfwit)...
For message oft loses both itself and friend,
And SMS dulls the edge of expression.
This above all – to thine own imagination be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be cruel to any recipient.
With apologies to the ghost of Will Shake, Rattle & Roll
YESTERDAY’S smile mentioned how Vanessa Feltz had been mesmerised by
the news that Cheryl Cole owns 2,000 pairs of shoes – and I observed
that, while the name Cheryl Cole was vaguely familiar, I was not at all
sure what she did for a living; a pop singer, I thought, perhaps a
modern day antidote to the barefoot pop princess of the 1960s, Sandie
now, this in today’s paper, compliments of
“I hoard them all over the house, in cupboards in the kitchen, in the
bathroom – every room. There is a big chance when you open the fridge in
my house there will be a pair of shoes in the bottom.”
Curiosity made me Google this shoe faddist ... Cheryl Cole, 28, English
pop and R&B recording artist, songwriter, dancer, actress, model -
oh, and now also a shoe designer. D’oh!
As a matter of interest, here’s a typical CCC (Cheryl Cole Clog) I
spotted along the way...
...suddenly, the curious case of the 2,000 pairs of shoes stacked
ceiling high at Cole Towers made absolute sense. The lady has just
kicked off a new career as a clog designer. Double D’oh!!
What do I always say? Believe nothing you hear and only half what they
Tuesday, December 6
Be still my slumbering heart
I’M NOT sure how it came to pass, but in a conversation at the Crazy
Horsepower Saloon a little while back, someone asked, if we had to fly
to the other side of the world, which celebrity would we be delighted to
find ourselves sitting alongside? An interesting conundrum for me because
I am not a celebrity worshiper.
So I nominated Vanessa Feltz. Every weekday morning I
wake up with Vanessa, and every morning she makes me smile. I have no
doubt that my journey would be a laugh a minute, sometimes two. And you
can’t wish for better than that.
Anyway, on this morning’s five o’clock radio news, Alan
Dedicoat read an item about a memorial to the late poet Ted Hughes,
which was being unveiled today in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner.
Vanessa mentioned that she had learnt some Ted Hughes poetry
when young, in particular, The Horses, and she remembered
the expression “Megalith-still” – as in “ten horses,
megalith-still … making no sound” - and she pondered aloud
what the difference was between megalith and monolith...
In no time, her show producer, Mark, had come up with
Megalith: a man-made monument of stone, carved by hand.
Monolith: a naturally occurring hunk of stone, a
Megalith-still apart, which I shall return to in a monument –
sorry, moment - in today’s show Vanessa was inspired by the news
that Cheryl Cole has 2,000 pairs of shoes – the name is vaguely
familiar, but I’m not at all sure what she does; a pop singer,
methinks? Perhaps she’s a
modern day antidote to the barefoot pop princess of the 1960s,
Anyway, Vanessa asked us listeners what we had acquired
or collected down the years. A glut of...? A surfeit of...? An
Vanessa herself has books filling every nook and cranny
of her castle; producer Mark has “every record ever made in the
history of the world”; Alan Dedicoat collects miniatures of post
boxes and phone boxes (the ones with the little windows) – oh,
and every Christmas issue of the Radio Times over the past 20
years or so, some of which are already worth 30, 40, even 50
Megalith-still: Andrew Lacey's Ted Hughes-
inspired sculpture at Dartington Hall, Devon
It slowly dawned on me ... I don’t have a collection of anything...
Later in the day I went “D’oh!”.
What is this little web site of mine? Fog? Yes of course, I collect a
smile a day, and I have done so for years and years ... so I decided to
drop Lady Vee a belated e-mail.
Hello Vanessa and team
Listening to your Tuesday show I felt a bit left out because I have
never acquired or collected anything in my life. However, later in the
day I realised that I collect smiles.
For years I’ve kept a diary (I have a shocking memory):
just a brief note of where I’ve been and who I’ve met, along with
anything of particular interest that happened along the way. I also make
a note of the weather – a habit that goes back to my flying days – and
most importantly I note the one thing that made me smile the most that
It could be something off the Vanessa Feltz show –
always a front-runner, as regular readers of my Look You Smileometer will testify
to – or a joke, something heard in the pub, seen off the telly,
witnessed along my morning walk ... it could be anything.
In July 2010 I decided to start an online ‘Everyday a
smile of the day’ scrapbook, and I haven’t missed a single day. Much
more work than a personal diary, obviously, where just a sentence, a few words,
even a single word is enough.
When I pick up an old diary ... wow, it all comes flooding
back. It offers up so much pleasure for so little effort. I recommend
your listeners buy themselves an A5 diary this Christmas and start the
habit. It will give immense pleasure looking back over the years.
Incidentally, I post my online smile a day in arrears,
so when I post the Tuesday one on the Wednesday evening, you will
feature, and it will show something quite remarkable to do with the Ted
Hughes megalith-still ‘Horses’ poem you mentioned at the beginning of
[Being that I do not write this until the Wednesday, I was gobsmacked
cum delighted to hear Vanessa read out my ‘message in an e-mail’ on the
Right, the megalith-still moment...
Back in May 2009, over on
400 Smiles A Day, I wrote about an experience
involving three horses I encountered along my morning walk through the Towy
Valley. Whenever I chanced upon them they would come to greet me. It was
all rather sweet. I would chat to them, but they never said anything
back; they would just look at me with those long faces of theirs.
On the particular morning in question – overcast, grey, still,
silent, dank – they just stood there, motionless, some distance away ... and ignored me
completely. Intrigued, I moved slowly towards them ... and realised they
Now I have read that horses can indeed sleep on their feet - when standing
their joints lock to stop them falling over, as would happen, say, when
a human falls asleep in an upright position - but it’s
a rule of the herd
that one horse
remains awake and alert.
(Their genetic inheritance warns them to be ever alert
of predators. Just as a sparrow never has to see a sparrow hawk to learn
the danger – the silhouette of a bird of prey is imprinted within its
DNA, as it is with every bird - and so it is with horses when it comes
to wolves and the like.)
As you will see in my photograph, alongside, the two at
the front are clearly fast asleep (note the closed eyes), but
the one behind - a perfect place to guard against a surprise
predator attack - is clearly dozing or taking a sly forty winks,
hence why it never registered my presence.
Truly sleeping on the job…
Here’s a snatch of Hughes’s poem, The
- - - - And I saw the horses:
Huge in the dense grey – ten together -
Megalith-still. They breathed, making no move,
With draped manes and tilted hind-hooves,
Making no sound.
I passed: not one snorted or jerked its head.
Grey silent fragments
Of a grey silent world.
(To read the complete poem simply Google ‘Ted Hughes: The Horses’.)
Spooky or what? However, the camera click seemed to bring the security
guard out of its slumber with a bang – huge alarm and all three horses exploded
into life and charged away – before coming to a halt several hundred
yards away, slowly gathering their senses as I called out to them ... and
then cautiously returning to greet me as per usual.
Yet another of those delightful experiences I serendipitously stumble
upon along my morning walk on the wild side. And you can take it from
me, those three horses really were megalith-still in that early-morning
gloom. It’s a perfect image to accompany the Ted Hughes poem.
I smile every time I think of those sleeping horses. But I also find
myself wondering how a solitary horse copes when it needs to sleep,
especially when out in the fields, all on its own.
Monday, December 5
Doolally Old Friends Revisited
“I DO not have time for love this Christmas. I am too busy with work.
Who needs a man when 12 million people love you?” Who else but
Strictly Come Dancing reject, the Darling Bud of Doolallyness, Nancy
Nancy’s quote sent me rushing to The Sunday Times
Magazine ... and - - -
You’re special, too
Let Nancy Dell’Olio put the sparkle back into your life...
My boyfriend has finally said he loves me, but it was during sex and I
haven’t heard it since. I’d like to tell him that I love him too. But
perhaps I should just pretend it never happened...
◊ Everyone wants to hear their man say “I love you”. But it has
to come naturally. I hate men saying “I love you” when they don’t mean
it. We can always tell if it’s genuine.
If he says it while you’re making love – and Daphna,
you’re not having sex, you are making love – this is a very special
moment. If you love him you should be able to say it back. Why try to
hold on to your emotions? Emotions cannot be held.
I don’t understand this mentality. Usually, of course,
men tell me they love me first. But if you feel it, you should say it.
Don’t worry about whether or not it’s the right time.
Apart from wondering if the name Daphna is a misprint, do you suppose
Nancy actually hears voices inside her head? Such as 12 million people
whispering “I love you”?
(I am reminded of the Borg Queen, who, as the Borg’s
collective consciousness, can hear the voices of all her drones inside
her head. I can hear Nancy now: “We are the Nancy Dool’Allio. Existence,
as you know it, is over. We will add your biological and technological
distinctiveness to our own. Resistance is futile.”)
As always, Nancy prompted me towards The Sunday Times
magazine and the very naughty
she who solves all your problems, and who is more my style...
As we approach winter and the evenings are darker, when out for my walks
I regularly meet oncoming cars with no headlights on. I wonder how to
make the driver aware of this. Is flashing the driver, as other drivers
might, a good idea, or could this confuse them? Your insight would be
TK, BY EMAIL
Flashing is a remarkably effective way to attract attention, but as
the cars have their headlights off, you will need to shine a light on
yourself, too. I doubt drivers would be dangerously disorientated, but
it’s probably best if you don’t look as if you are out there
Talking of flashing, dear old Nancy Dool’Allio herself is a bit of a
flasher – in the personality cum lack of self-esteem sense, that is. And
here’s another flasher...
“I did consider remaining at my post, but my new colleagues said that
if I did they would set me on fire.”
Jeremy ‘One strike and your dead’ Clarkson, recalling an industrial
dispute when he worked on the Rotherham Advertiser, and now desperately
covering his tracks in the wake of his One Show star turn.
In the meantime, Jeremy and his Top Gear co-host, James May, have
wisely disappeared to China. Or have they? Here’s a headline that’s been
all over the web today - this from Mail Online...
The £2.5 million
motorway smash involving 8 Ferraris, 3 Mercedes, a Lamborghini,
a Skyline and a humble Toyota Prius (which was in the wrong place at the
No personal injuries in Top Drawer carnage in Japan -
except pride, which goes before a crash
Thirteen high-end sports car owners – and one driver of a common or
garden Toyota Prius – were probably close to tears last night after a
£2.5million motorway pile-up.
A single miscalculation from a Ferrari driver leading a
convoy of sports car connoisseurs [thought to be having a race on their
way to a supercar gathering of superior motors in Hiroshima] left a trail of twisted
Italian and German metal trailing across this motorway in Japan.
Ten people were rushed to hospital after the smash on
the Chugoku Expressway in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, yesterday
afternoon, but none of their injuries were said to be serious.
All this quite naturally brings me back to Jeremy Clarkson...
We know that Jeremy ‘One strike and you’re dead’ Clarkson delighted half
a nation with his clever BBC-style balanced view of last week’s pensions
strike. The other half, who never got the joke, let loose their dogs of
Clarkson, along with fellow Top Gear presenter James
May, disappeared with tail-between-legs to that far away place with a
strange sounding name, somewhere in China, as we believed.
However, reading the above about that
motorway sandwich in Japan, it strikes me that it has Top Gear ‘stunt’
written all over it, so Clarkson was not in China but in Japan all the
time. The clue was the Toyota Prius, which would have had James ‘Captain
Slow’ May at the wheel.
Simples, as the stay-at-home third presenter of Top
Gear, Richard ‘Hamster’ Hammond, would say. No, hang on, that’s another
cuddly little television sleb. It’s all so very confusing.
Back with the Clarkson shemozzle, I see the number of
complaints received by the BBC is currently up to about 30,000. Hm, as
I’ve mentioned before, that’s less than half of one per cent of the
One Show’s audience figures. So I was wrong with my ‘half-a-nation’
It seems some 99 per cent of the audience smiled at
Clarkson’s comedic observations, while the remaining one per cent of the
nation’s Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, etc, had a field day
snarling and cocking their legs.
Funny old world.
“Will you walk into my honeytrap?” said a pussycat to a teddy bear
“MY darling Teddy Bear. I so want to see you, to feel you with all my
naked body. Let the moment of our next meeting come the soonest
possible. I love you, my King Louie!”
Russian researcher Ekaterina Zatuliveter, 26, who was cleared of spying
for Moscow, writing of her feelings for Liberal Democrat MP Mike
Now then, now then, I quietly thought to myself, how wonderful it would
have been to bump into Ekaterina at my local Crazy Horsepower Saloon:
“Hello honey bun, my name is Baloo; you strike me as a pussycat blessed
with the God-given gift of being able to reduce the size of a man’s
problem at a stroke.”
She would smile ever so sweetly and say: “Hi Baloo, you
great big sloth bear you – I am Ekaterina, and I am delighted to help reduce
the size of your problem. Let’s just get down and bare.” I’m telling
you, just hearing that name of hers would have reduced me to a wobbling
Anyway, meet the central characters of this doolally playlet...
Louie, King of the swingers
Ekaterina, the honeytrap?
Mike Hancock, the honey bee?
It seems that our Ekaterina – known as Katia, but I will have none of
that nonsense, what with a proper I-spy name like Ekaterina; I mean, you
can see her as a Russian seductress in a Bond film – anyway, it seems
that Ekaterina had an affair with the Liberal Democrat MP in 2006 while
working as his parliamentary aide, and was accused by MI5 of soliciting
confidential information for Moscow, hence the court case.
Intimate details of the affair between the pair was
exposed as she was cleared of spying for the Russians. Details from her
diary proved crucial in convincing the tribunal that she was not a
honeytrap sent to access defence secrets while working in the Portsmouth
MP’s Parliamentary office, as MI5 claimed.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission described
the diary as “compelling” evidence of her innocence and concluded the
pair’s four-year liaison was “enduring and genuine on both sides”.
The journal emerged at the start of the tribunal –
despite Ekaterina’s claim in her first witness statement that she had
never kept a diary.
Now come on. You are in charge of a Russian spy ring of beautiful women
who are trained honeytraps. So you teach them to keep a detailed but
declaring their underlying love for the man they have targeted: “Will
you climb into my bed?”, said a black widow spider to a hapless member
Reacting to the ruling, Hancock said: “I think it shows
the security services to be a pretty inept bunch. I’m amazed that the
judgment came out in the way it did. I couldn’t believe the
Establishment would allow her to win. But I’m delighted she has.”
But what about that surname of his? I was thinking: our surnames reflect
what our ancestors were up to. Mr Butcher would have been the hunter; Mr
Farmer would have been the gatherer; and Mr Hancock would have been that
useless tosser of a thing that rhymes with banker... no, surely not? Surely yes, is
Saturday, December 3
Well, a quick rhyme followed by some sex in a stairwell
WEEK ago yesterday, my smile of the day featured the shortest poem ever
written. Remember this letter from The Times?
Sir, Surely there was room in your list of classic poems (Weekend, Nov
19) for what Ogden Nash (its author) claimed to be the shortest poem
ever. Entitled Fleas, it reads: “Adam / Had ‘em.”
David Tatham, London SW6
Well, Chief Wise Owl has since passed me a follow-up letter...
Caring and sharing
Sir, David Tatham says that the shortest poem was Ogden Nash’s “Adam /
It is of course the case that the second shortest poem was also about
fleas: “Also Eve / I believe.”
Peter Thorner, London SW6
I presume the above was Peter Thorner’s own witty composition. As a
matter of interest, I Googled ‘second shortest poem’ - and up came...
I was surprised that there were no letters challenging what was claimed
to be the shortest poem, citing the example I found online a week or so
ago and so memorably delivered by
“Me / We.”
Mind you, I couldn’t help but notice that when I Googled the
second shortest poem, the following came up, claiming to be the
Again, author unknown, but I don’t think it challenges
“Me / We” as the best. But that’s just me. Or may I presume we?
Ride a clothes horse to the University of Derby
OVER the past week, pictures and video clips of 18-year-old student Danielle
Morgan were all over the shop. She’s the one who had to be cut free by
the fire brigade after accidentally falling over and getting herself
trapped in a clothes horse.
As someone observed:
Never look a
clothes horse in the mouth.
Being a natural-born cynic, I do find myself wondering how many of these
clips are cleverly manipulated stunts to get the whole thing to go viral?
Good luck to them, say I.
However, here’s one that definitely wasn’t planned, and spotted in The Sunday Times’
Weird but wonderful
Ride a cock horse to a Tenerife stairwell...
A naked woman had to be rescued by a fire crew after she was left
dangling from a staircase by her ankle. The 49-year-old British
holidaymaker, who has not been named, was having sex with her husband in
a stairwell at a Tenerife hotel when the couple got rather carried away.
She tumbled over the handrail, and could have dropped head first onto
the marble floor below had her ankle not become trapped between two bars
of the staircase. “While the couple do not face any charges,” said the
police, “they have been warned to think about safe sex in future.”
This one I do believe to be genuine because there are no pictures or
video clips. Mind you, I suspect that one of the fire crew must have
quietly captured a furtive image - which may well surface in due course.
Isn’t it extraordinary what we all get up to when we’ve had a few drinks too
many? And I speak from experience - not that I have ever had to be freed
by the emergency services..
Friday, December 2
Gwell cynorthwyo na rhwystro ~ best help rather than hinder
THE above is an old Welsh saying, a variation on the school motto at the
top of this page: If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living
shall not be in vain.
Chris Evans on his BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show has been promoting the
Military Wives Choir with huge enthusiasm in his efforts to get their
song Wherever You Are to the Christmas number one spot –
and quite right, too.
As everyone connected with the Military Wives choir keep insisting, it
is not so much getting the song to the top – which would be a most
agreeable achievement anyway – but rather raising money for the Royal
British Legion and SSAFA Forces Help, which work tirelessly to help and
support those who serve in our Armed Forces, as well as those who used to serve
– even if it is only for a single day. And their families too, of course.
It says so much about what our politicians are all about when
they leave it to charity to look after the soldiers and their families
they so ruthlessly exploit by sending them to fight rotten battles in
faraway places with strange sounding names.
What was it David Cameron said to the armed forces when he was cutting
back on financial support?
“You do the fighting [and the dying] and I’ll
do the talking.”
Dreadful people those politicians.
However, let’s not drag ourselves down to their level. On this morning’s
show, Chris Evans had 20 of the 100-strong Military Wives Choir in the studio,
together with their inspirational leader, Gareth Malone, as well as Paul Wealor,
who composed Wherever You Are. Wonderful they all were, too.
Paul Wealor (Navy), Gareth Malone (Army), Chris Evans
(Air Force) and the Military Wives
Towards the end of the show, the Pause For Thought spot was
delivered by Nick Baines, 54, the Bishop of Bradford, also known as The
Blogging Bishop. It turns out that he himself was in the military, a
Russian linguist at GHQ in Cheltenham.
He also worked with the Army, Air Force and Navy in the
research branch. When he decided to leave the forces and go to
theological college to train to be a vicar, the Air Force handed him a
giant card, and when he opened it, it just said...
Both clever and smiley.
whom the Church bell tolls
AS THE week wound down and the Leveson enquiry into media ethics, in
particular the phone-hacking scandal, trundled on, one witness made me
smile in a curious shock-horror way; the way I tend to smile at jokes
which come in the wake of a tragedy, what psychologists explain as a way
to combat being driven mad by the things that go on in this doolally
It was the extraordinary claim made by Charlotte
Church, the Welsh singer-songwriter, actress and television presenter.
Charlotte explained that she waived a £1000,000 fee to sing at Rupert
Murdoch’s wedding (to Wendi Deng) when she was 13 in exchange for a
promise of favourable publicity from Murdoch’s newspapers.
She said she remembered wondering “why on earth would
anybody take a favour over £100,000?” but was urged by her management to
take the favour from a “powerful man”.
The inquiry heard that News International denied this
had happened, something rather odd because they could so easily have
refuted the claim i.e. “We just don’t deny it, we can prove that it’s
not true – here’s the evidence that Mr Murdoch paid her £100,000 for
performing at his wedding.” But silence followed the denial. Say no
Anyway, Charlotte continued her unsettling evidence ... As she approached 16,
Murdoch’s papers began to target her in an adverse way. She told the
hearing of the paparazzi taking pictures up her skirt; there were
photographers outside her house on most days, and her manager had even
found evidence of a camera hidden in a shrub outside her home.
Charlotte said she had been “totally appalled” by a
clock on the Sun newspaper’s website which counted down to
her 16th birthday, an “innuendo” highlighting the fact she was
reaching the age of sexual consent, she said. “It was just horrible, I
was a 16 year-old-girl and was uncomfortable with it,” she said.
You do find yourself wondering why it is that media people who have
children of their own can do this to other people’s children? Especially
that clock on the Sun’s website. I can only think the
papers had somehow established that Charlotte was possibly sexually
active before she reached the age of 16, and they were determined to
What really makes me smile, in a reassuring sort of way, is that, for
every Rupert Murdoch prowling the planet, there is a Gareth Malone out
there doing wonderful things for the wellbeing of his fellow human
Here’s lookin’ at you, Mr Malone.
Thursday, December 1
“IF YOU have any thoughts or opinions on what you’ve seen in the last
10 weeks, do please keep them to yourselves.” Jeremy Clarkson offers
up some classic “do as I say not as I do” advice at the end of a Top
And of course, Jeremy does the very opposite of keeping
his thoughts and opinions to himself.
Yesterday I observed that the then newly hatched One Show
Clarkson shemozzle, where our Jeremy suggested on a live TV show that
all those who had gone on strike that day should be executed, was a bit
of a fracas that could run and run...
Wow, I underestimated the fuss big time. Tonight’s
Jeremy Clarkson shifts into reverse after TV outburst over strike
“I didn’t for a moment intend these remarks to be taken seriously – as I
believe is clear if they’re seen in context. If the BBC and I have
caused any offence, I’m quite happy to apologise alongside them.” Jeremy
Clarkson does indeed engage reverse gear as he flew off to China, probably
the safest place in the world to hide from the mob.
I believe the above is what you call a qualified apology, although I
appreciate fully what he is actually saying. As I
write, the BBC confirmed that they had received 4,769 complaints about
“I’m amazed 4,769 people actually watch The One Show,” was ‘Comment’
number 8,341, by someone called Ian, as spotted on the YAHOO! NEWS web site, and
tops the Smileometer reading at the moment.
Earlier, David Cameron, who is apparently a near-neighbour of Clarkson somewhere in
Middle England, and counts him as a personal friend, attempted to brush it
“It was obviously a silly thing to say and I am sure he didn’t mean
I certainly hope not.
I also enjoyed this reaction in response to the outburst:
trade union Unison called for Clarkson’s dismissal and said that they
are taking “urgent” legal advice.
“Clarkson’s comments on the One Show
were totally outrageous, and they cannot be tolerated,” said Unison
general secretary Dave Prentis. “Public sector workers and their
families are utterly shocked by Jeremy Clarkson’s revolting comments. An
apology is not enough – we are calling on the BBC to sack Jeremy
Clarkson immediately. Such disgusting comments have no place on our TV
In a rant worthy of Clarkson himself, Mr Prentis – or perhaps it should
be Mr Apprentis – then went on to suggest that children watching the
“could have been scared and upset by his aggressive
While stopping short of accusing Mr Prentis of a sense of humour
failure, Downing Street’s official take on Clarkson’s comment suggested
it was not taking the row entirely seriously.
“Execution is not
government policy and we have no plans to make it government policy,”
said a spokesman.
Shame David Cameron didn’t have the wit and wisdom to speak to the above
spokesman before making his “silly” remark.
Yesterday, I likened Clarkson to The Road Runner, and how he has to
continually outwit the pack of Wile E. Coyotes out there hunting him
down. My thinking has moved on a tad since then.
Dear old Jeremy is morphing from The Road Runner into the nation’s court
jester. However, he is treading a fine line. It is not so much that
there are more and more Wily E. Coyotes out there with handfuls of salt
at the ready to sprinkle over his tail, but more worrying is the moment the Queen decides to shake
her head and declare “Orf with his head!”.
China seems the safest place
on earth to be hiding away in at the moment. Incidentally, what has
thunder, lightning, wind and rain, but only happens in – well, where
Jeremy is hiding right now? A storm in a teacup. Boom-boom!
PS: Just before putting this piece to bed, I see that the number of
complaints received by the BBC about Clarkson now stand at 21,000. But hang
about, the show
attracts an audience of around 5 million, which means less than half of
one per cent of
the audience saw fit to complain.
And it would be fascinating to know how many of
those 21,000 actually saw the show, especially as the complaints have shot up
following all the media fuss. Just the cynic in me, wondering.
At least the doolallyness of a nation has generated a proper smile of
Wednesday, November 30
CAUTION: MEGA AMBUSH AHEAD
WELL, November departs with a bombshell. The cynical smile of the day
goes to Jeremy Clarkson, who quite predictably, upset the nation during
his appearance on BBC television’s One Show to promote his new
DVD, Clarkson: Powered Up.
I happened to catch the show – and the moment I saw him
sitting there on the sofa, it had AMBUSH writ large all over it.
I moved to the edge of my own sofa in a kind of nervous, smiley
And I wasn’t disappointed. In the wake of the show,
here’s a typical online headline...
Jeremy Clarkson: ‘execute’ public sector workers, says BBC Top Gear host
BBC has apologised after Jeremy Clarkson, the Top Gear presenter, called
for public sector workers to be “executed”, during a live television
Jeremy Clarkson provoked outrage last night after he said that those
striking [over pensions reform] should be shot. Speaking on the BBC’s
One Show, he said: “Frankly, I would have them all shot. I would take
them all outside and execute them in front of their families. I mean,
how dare they go on strike when they have these gilt edged pensions that
are being guaranteed while the rest have to work.”
Later in the programme, Clarkson went on to complain about train delays
caused by people committing suicide on the railways. “You just think,
why have we stopped because we’ve hit somebody? What’s the point of
stopping? It won’t make them better.”
I sort of fidgeted a bit on the sofa at that point.
Clarkson has a track record with this sort of wind-up thingy.
He previously caused outrage when, back in 2009, he described
the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who lost his sight in one
eye in an accident suffered while playing rugby as a teenager,
thus: “We have this one-eyed Scottish idiot, he keeps telling us
everything is fine and he’s saved the world and we know he’s
lying.” But we just smiled, knowingly.
One Show presenters Matt Baker and Alex Jones
looked uneasy during their exchanges with Clarkson. Matt
stressed to viewers that the comments were just “Jeremy’s
He later added: “Although we enjoy Jeremy’s views,
which he sometimes exaggerates for comical effect, we are
seriously sorry if his comments about deaths on the railway has
A BBC spokesman later said: “The One Show apologised at
the end of the show to viewers who may have been offended by
Jeremy Clarkson’s comments.”
Presenters Matt Baker and Alex Jones look
less than composed
as Clarkson drops his bombshells ... Alex's bosom-pal dog
appears to have the measure of the Top Gear presenter though
The most predictable reaction came from two of Clarkson’s sworn enemies,
Piers Morgan, the former Daily Mirror editor (who was sacked for
publishing fake pictures of British soldiers abusing an Iraqi), and is
now a CNN chat show host – and Baron Prescott of
Kingston-upon-Hull, the former deputy Prime Minister (aka Two Jags, Two
Jabs, Two Shags, Two Shacks and very nearly Two Big Bangs).
Piers Morgan tweeted:
“Public sector workers should be executed in front of their families” –
Jeremy Clarkson, paid millions by public sector/taxpayer #OneShow.”
John Prescott added:
“I know Jeremy Clarkson likes winding people up but it’s worth pointing
out he gets £1m a year from the license fee/public sector.”
So, from the safety of my sofa, here’s my take on the shemozzle, a bit of a fracas
that could run
Inviting Clarkson onto the show to promote his latest nice little earner
was much like inviting The Road Runner (Accellerati Incredibus) to
present prizes at the ACME Corporation Annual Innovative Awards
ceremony. And here he is, below, our very own Road Runner, Clarkson himself ...
and alongside, Wile E. Coyote (Carnivorous Vulgaris), who never
Even more entertaining than Clarkson’s rant was Barron ‘Two Jags’
Prescott and Captain Piers ‘Titanic’ Morgan tweeting and sitting in
judgment on a fellow human being; just a couple of frustrated Wile E.
Coyotes who have never quite got their hands on The Road Runner and are
fed up with hearing him continually going “Beep-beep!”
On a more serious note, family and colleagues of
Clarkson should be concerned that he is beginning to look decidedly
half-a-bubble off plumb in his old age. Indeed, as Matt Baker issued yet
another apology on behalf of the BBC, Jeremy, with wings suitably
clipped, looked as if someone had at last managed to throw a handful of
salt over his tail.
Indeed, he reminded me of Quentin Crisp closing down an
“I am so sorry. We have to stop here. I have just come to the end of
Tuesday, November 29
Egrets doing it their way
CLEVER newspaper and online headlines always guarantee a smile
Yesterday, a few Nancy Dool’Allio quotes in the wake of her departure
from Strictly Come Dancing raised the spirits no end. Even
though I have never watched the programme, I do occasionally catch
glimpses of the show as I zap through the channels if there’s no
Saturday night rugby on the box.
And of course there’s no escaping hearing about the
show and its slebs, compliments of the media, as per yesterday’s
delightful Nancy quotes.
In the wake of Nancy being hoofed off the show, the
next to go was Russell Grant, another of those larger-than-life slebs
the meeja delight in writing about – so I was instantly taken with this
forest was felled to mark the departure of Russell Grant from Strictly
Clever stuff. It tells you everything you need to know without having to
click ‘more’ or read any further. I suppose sub-editors can sometimes be
too clever for their own good.
But here’s an even better example of the craft of headline writing. This
one, however, wasn’t splashed across the front page – or indeed splashed
anywhere else, either. It was quietly nestling above a letter in The
First though, here’s the letter, minus its headline –
it will come up as a ‘bottomline’. Feel free to have a guess what they
came up with...
- - -
- - -
SIR – John Lister-Kaye (News Review, November 6) says egrets in Devon
are “here to stay”. Fifty years ago, my father pointed out egrets to me
in Devon. So they are here to stay, and have been for half a century.
Andrew Rennie, Plymouth, Devon
Before I come to the clever headline – there’s a clue in my own headline
at the top of today’s smile bulletin – I am myself vaguely familiar with
egrets, at least little egrets, even in my part of the world, but only
over recent years.
Herons, of any variety, are a nightmare to photograph,
especially for an amateur like me who has no patience to hide
away and wait. They are terribly edgy and will takeoff as soon
as they sense a human presence.
(I have often wondered why a little bluetit, as featured at the
top of this home page, is so fearless, yet a big bird like the
heron is a right wimp.)
I remember well the moment I caught the pair featured
here, alongside. The bluebells were in full bloom, and as
always, I regularly walk through the woods to take in the sights
and the fragrance.
One of my routes exited near a backwater. The two birds
had not seen or sensed me as I reached the edge of the wood –
and I was most surprised to see a heron and an egret in close
proximity, which I believe is quite unusual anyway.
I managed a few shots before they either sensed me or
heard the click of the camera – and off they shot...
Anyway, all that gives the above letter a special
flavour – oh, and the brilliant headline that captured my
A little egret and
a grey heron in the Towy Valley
Egrets, I’ve seen a few
Monday, November 28
Lights ... Soundbites ... Action!
“NOW the show is like a Christmas tree without the lights. They lost
a bit of sparkle when they lost me. Everybody says so.” Nancy
Dell’Olio’s overview of Strictly Come Dancing since she was voted off
Ah, poor Nancy – and please note, I resisted the call
of nature to call her Nancy Dool’Allio as she comes to terms with the
curse of modern slebdom, the Upside Down Christmas Tree Syndrome...
Nancy herself reminds me of a Christmas tree, what with all those
baubles, bangles and bright, shiny beads - compare and contrast, above. However, one thing we
can be sure of: she may still be feeling a bit upside down in the wake
of the nation voting her off the dance floor, but her lights certainly
haven’t gone out ... I spotted this online headline in
Dell’Olio ‘to write sex guide’ complete with pictures in lingerie
NANCY DELL’OLIO is planning to write a lovers’ guide, including tips on
lingerie, sex and amorous evenings, it has been reported ... She is
planning to send the first copy of the guide to former Prime Minister
Tony Blair – after she claimed at the weekend that ex-lover and former
England football manager Sven-Göran Eriksson was jealous of her
friendship with the politician.
I do so hope it’s the sexed-up version, Nancy.
However, the above story was quickly followed by this denial from Nancy:
“I am not writing an instruction book on how to have sex. I don’t like
talking about it. I like having it.”
So Nancy goes nah, nah, nah-nah, nah!
Her quote sent me scurrying to yesterday’s Sunday Times
Magazine, in particular her column
– Let Nancy Dell’Olio put the sparkle back into your life.
It’s not essential reading hereabouts, but I like to
keep my finger on the nation’s D-spot (Dool’Allio-spot?). Here’s the
first letter in her column...
Every time I go to a dinner party, I get the same question: “Is there
anyone new in your life?” The answer is always the same – no. I don’t
need a man to validate my life. How do I get people to understand this
and back off?
Mel B, Brixton
[Hang on, Mel B? Isn’t she one of the Spice Girls? Anyway, back to nosy
The best way to deal with this is to answer without an answer. You
should tell them you’re not short of requests, but you are keeping your
options open. That, in fact, you have so many lovers you can’t make up
your mind. Keep them all wondering.
Hm, ‘to answer without an answer’: not so much a slow, slow, quick-quick
slow, but more a slow, slow, slow, slow, slow – a smooch to the relaxing
rhythm of time on our hands.
Mind you, my funny bone is suitably tickled with the
Nancy reckons she is not writing an instruction book on sex,
especially so given her weekly column. I smell a polecat.
But Nancy has her sights on better things:
“I love politics. I might even get involved one day. I quite
fancy being Italy’s foreign minister. But I love living in
London right now. If they need me, they will have to call me.”
Damn, just as old After Eight steps down from the plate
(After Eight is what I call Silvio Berlusconi following the
revelation that he boasted about having sex with eight women following
one particular New Year’s Eve party.).
However, I’m sure After Eight can still pull a few
g-strings in his retirement.
All this talk of After Eight and his sexual
shenanigans gives me the opportunity to show the picture,
alongside, captured at the recent G20 summit, where the euro
crisis dominated proceedings.
But more importantly, it gives me the chance to share
with you the memorable caption provided by The Sunday Times in the
paper’s People of the week spot at that time. It’s the
juxtaposition of those expressions. Priceless.
Yup, Argentina is still keeping her Exocets dry and primed. Prince
“Hello, young lady. What’s a pretty little thing like
you doing here?”
“I’m President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of
Argentina, that’s what I’m doing here.”
William had better keep his wits about him and his eyes peeled when
shortly does a tour of duty down there in the Falklands.
From vulgarity to elegance
“MY CARD is an example of extreme vulgarity. This year it is so crass
it plumbs depths not even I have descended to before.” Food critic
and Sunday Times columnist Michael Winner, 76, whose latest
Christmas card depicts the cover of his new book.
Michael Winner makes no pretence that, at the moment of conception, he
was nowhere near the front of the queue marked ‘Natural-born class’ – in
other words, he doesn’t pretend to be anything but common or garden.
Winner’s quote brought to mind a thread of letters in The Sunday
Telegraph concerning class, manners and what makes a
gentleman - which kicked off back on October 30, with this rather classy
tradition of gentle manners
Aspiring to be
SIR – William Leith describes the rising level of uneasiness in
Britain’s middle class (Seven, October 23). I have an interesting
vantage point from which to observe this problem, as headmaster of a
boarding school whose intake is composed essentially of middle-class
English boys and aristocratic Frenchmen.
My diagnosis is that we should be preoccupied not so
much by the demise of the middle class as by the demise of the
gentleman. It is an English ideal to which the French remain strongly
attracted but which the English themselves have all but abandoned.
The revival of the ideal of the gentleman – something
to which anyone may aspire, regardless of financial status – would be a
real tonic for the malaise of our bourgeoisie.
It might also help repair the damaged moral fabric of a
nation internationally humiliated in the recent riots.
Ferdi McDermott, Headmaster, Chavagnes International College,
Chavagnes-en-Paillers, Vendée, France
Letters published weekly since the above have thrown up some
interesting signposts. For example, the following week, a letter from
points us in the direction of Samuel Smiles, a Victorian writer:
“The True Gentleman is one whose nature has been fashioned after the
highest models. His qualities depend not on fashion or manners but upon
moral worth – not on personal possessions, but on personal qualities.
The Psalmists describe him as one ‘that walketh uprightly and worketh
righteousness and speaketh the truth in his heart’.”
informs us that his mother taught him
“that a lady was a lady if she gave a
man the opportunity to be a gentleman – thus adding the necessary
civilising influence to an otherwise uncivilised world”. I
directs us to an Edwardian volume on etiquette which, though
acknowledging that a gentleman is expected to offer his seat to a lady
when necessary, adds that he should not do so
“while it is still warm from his person”.
recalls Fred Trueman, the Yorkshire and England fast bowler, telling
Michael Parkinson that
gentleman is someone who gets out of the bath to use the lavatory”.
Very common or garden, even vulgar, Fred.
believes simply that
gentleman is someone who is treated as such”.
gentleman never gives offence unintentionally”.
gentleman is someone who uses the butter knife even when he is dining
believes that Mark Twain said it best:
gentleman is a man who knows how to play the banjo, but chooses not to.”
And then today, this...
Accident of birth
SIR – To be born a gentleman is an accident. To die a gentleman is an
Jonathan Baldwin, Church Minshull, Cheshire
Which set me thinking ... Perusing the above has been an interesting
walk through times of “dear hearts and gentle people”, as Jim Reeves
sang. Yet it is very difficult to pinpoint your friendly neighbourhood
gentleman from the above.
Perhaps the letter from the headmaster is correct. We
are witnessing the demise of the gentleman. However, our DNA doesn’t change over a few generations, so the
genetic code that throws up a gentleman – or indeed a lady – remains
constant. There is no demise of the gentleman.
But the context has certainly changed. The ethics,
morality and honesty of modern power, wealth and celebrity do not
attract those of the gentlemanly persuasion.
Out here in the real world, what I have observed is
this: we all know individuals of whom we never hear anybody speak ill.
Not just when they are present, but behind their backs, which is the
real measure of who we regard as gentlemen.
And I’m not talking here about anodyne characters who
say and do nothing of any consequence, and as a result don’t upset anyone. I am
figures in the community, including the occasional larger-than-life
character who lights up a room when he or she enters.
If I had to name a current celebrity figure who fits
the bill of a very modern gentleman, it would have to be Gareth Malone
of The Choir fame...
...and a national treasure as well, if we must have such a person.
It is not so much that Gareth Malone is exceptionally good at what he does, but more his natural ability to bring out the best in those around him, a
prominent feature of those we regard as a gentleman (or indeed a lady).
A ‘Military Wife’ from the choir speaking on the radio
the other day said this of him: “He is an inspiration and so good to be
around.” A perfect definition of a gentleman, I would say.
Saturday, November 26
Treasure Island GB
WHENEVER I see or hear the expression “national treasure”, I am
overwhelmed with a need to go and lie down in a darkened room. There’s
something gloriously cringeworthy about a living person – and a
celebrity to boot – being nominated a national treasure.
National treasures used to be exclusively inanimate
objects of great historical worth: Big Ben, Westminster Abbey,
Stonehenge, Magna Carta – dead-but-worthy historical figures like
Shakespeare and Winston Churchill at a push, for sure, perhaps even
So imagine my surprise when I saw that more than 4,000
people were asked to select Britain’s Greatest Living National
Treasure in a survey to celebrate Camelot’s EuroMillions’
Millionaires Month lottery. But from a shortlist, though, which rather
spoils the spontaneous feel of the quest.
Still, my D-Spot – my doolally spot – was coming over
all anticipatory. Brits were asked to vote for the person they believed
would best represent the nation on a make-believe Christmas £1 million
David Attenborough, unsurprisingly, made top spot,
while Tom Jones has been named as Wales’ Greatest Living National
Treasure, and Sean Connery took the honours for Scotland.
Many wondered why the Queen wasn’t included on
Camelot’s list. Well, the Queen is the nation’s default treasure anyway,
so she disqualifies herself. But what about Prince Philip? This from the
Telegraph’s Mathew Norman...
Her husband, on the other hand, is an absurd omission. Any
Graeco-Danish-Germanic princeling who can spend more than six decades
travelling the globe to cause offence in Britain’s name strikes me as
the living paradigm of national treasuredom.
Hear, hear. A link to Mathew Norman’s enjoyable piece coming up...
In the meantime, while the nationwide poll was, to be fair, a bit of
innocent fun, what greatly amused me was the £1million notes issued to
celebrate all those who should, in truth, have been locked in a box and
buried on some godforsaken island somewhere, the spot marked with an x
(with love?). Take a look at this...
Do you suppose Mark Thompson, Chief Sitting Bull at the BBC, has
succeeded with his crusade to dumb down the entire nation to his common
Look, the note carries the word
I mean, could it be mistaken for a real note? There again, perhaps we
are now so dim as a nation that we believe that Mervyn King, of Bank of
England infamy, has actually issued £1million notes for use by his
bankers, his small band of rotten men who are feared by the good and
loved by the bad.
Robbin’ Hoods, Robbin’ Hoods, riding through the glen...
As mentioned above, there’s a really entertaining Telegraph
article about our Greatest Living National Treasures by Mathew
Norman, well worth a click here...
Scratching the surface
I ROUNDED off yesterday’s smile with a letter from the Telegraph,
so, in the interests of balance, here’s a delightful one from The
Sir, Surely there was room in your list of classic poems (Weekend, Nov
19) for what Ogden Nash (its author) claimed to be the shortest poem
ever. Entitled Fleas, it reads: “Adam / Had ‘em.”
David Tatham, London SW6
As is my wont, I Googled “shortest poem” ... and up came Anon,
Ogden Nash, Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes – and
I have no information on Anonymous, age currently unknown.
Ogden Nash (1902-1971) was an American poet, well known for his
light verse and silly rhymes. One verse, entitled
Why did the Lord give us agility,
If not to evade responsibility?
Meanwhile, on the silly front,
called by a panther / Don’t anther.
However, Google throws up the shortest couplet that forms a poem as
“Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes”
(1869-1954), yet another American poet...
Adam / Had ‘em.
So which came first? Anon, Gillilan or Nash? I would prefer it to be
Gillilan, simply because of his clever title.
This online, from a gent called
Eric Shackle: But we’d still like to learn the name of the genius
who amended the title from Gillilan’s rather ponderous Lines on the
Antiquity of Microbes to what, to my mind, is Nash’s much funnier Fleas.
My esteemed friend and colleague, webmaster Barry
Downs, says: “I prefer the original verbose title, which contrasts
nicely with the terse verse.”
I think I would have gone with something like:
I much prefer the original verbose otiose,
Which contrasts exquisitely with the terse verse.
Now we come to
Giving a talk to the Harvard senior class commencement, in front of a couple
of thousand graduates, he is reported as giving a wonderful speech about
how he never had the opportunity they had, and that they should use it
to make the world a better place.
It was, apparently, both moving and funny, and a great roar of
appreciation went up at the end. Then someone shouted: “Give us a poem!”
The place went quiet ... and Ali said simply:
“Me / We.”
As a gent called George observes: “It stands for something more
than the poem itself.”
Well, from where I stand, nature’s prime directive is
the survival of the fittest. And to survive you first have to ensure
your own survival: Me!
And pretty much in tandem comes the survival of the tribe: We!
One without the other is much like a marriage without
love, a carriage without a horse. You can’t have one without the other,
you certainly can’t have Me without We.
Two clever words, when uttered in tandem. As the
aforementioned George says: “It stands for something more than the poem
itself. What a fighter he was. And what a man he is.”
Me / We.
Click onto the following link to watch 1:22 of George relate the Me/We
story much better than I can – well, George was there...
Thursday, November 24
Bright periods and showers
“Anyone who calls his children Lara Lettice, Milo Arthur, Cassia Peaches
and Theodore Apollo, must be a bit odd!”
Spamshredder offers up an intriguing online ‘Comment’ about Boris
Johnson, 47, Mayor of London.
Could that be right? A quick visit to Wikipedia ... Yes indeed,
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is papa of aforementioned offspring.
Something else about the man also made me smile...
Appearing in 2003 in BBC television’s Room 101 – a place where slebs
consign their pet hates to a fate worse than having politicians, bankers
and media owners as your best friends – Boris nominated boiled eggs, Lynda
Lee Potter (a columnist for the Daily Mail, who died in 2004),
smoking bans, Richard Clayderman and people who shout things like “you
Tory tosser” at him whilst he’s cycling, as his selections to dump into
Room 101, with only the last of the five being rejected.
He claimed that his refusal to eat eggs from the age of
6-months was his “first major policy decision”.
As I have doubtless mentioned hereabouts before, old Boris de Pfeffel
adds hugely to the gaiety of the passing parade, and is guaranteed to
make me smile. He falls firmly in the dolphin, pussycat and sparrow
camp. So anything Boris does and says is okay by me.
Oh, and this letter in the Telegraph also earned top marks...
SIR – Your report (November 22), “Stick to a bath: having a power shower
is twice as expensive”, mentions that the length of time an average
12-year-old boy spends in the shower is 9.41 minutes.
Is that an annual figure?
Edward Donne, Ebbesbourne Wake, Wiltshire
Wednesday, November 23
When I use a word...
TODAY I caught up with the Vanessa Feltz early morning Radio 2
show from Thursday of last week. I’d listened to the programme live before
setting off on my morning walk, but I’d been particularly intrigued by
her “word of the day” feature.
Each morning, Monday to Thursday, Vanessa offers up a
word of the day, a generally unfamiliar word, and then on the Friday,
the duty newsreader, usually Alan Dedicoat, has to come up with a
sentence which must include all the words.
He is rather good at the task. Vanessa also invites
listeners to submit their efforts, and she will read out one or two. I
used to exercise my grey matter, indeed sent in the occasional attempt –
and yes, I had an effort read out one Friday.
However, Friday of last week was Children In Need Day, so Vanessa did
her word of the day sentence on the Thursday. This time around the words
were familiar, but none of them meant what we generally take them to
mean. I was fascinated, which is why I wanted to listen again on
iPlayer, before the show disappeared off the record.
Anyway, here are the words...
surprisingly, it does not mean to totally destroy, to completely
obliterate something, but rather, to inflict some
damage. Literally it means to reduce by a tenth. In the ancient
Roman army, it meant to kill every tenth man of a mutinous
section. Well, well. How grand it would be to decimate our
politicians, bankers et al for what they have done to our fair
it just doesn’t mean big, huge, an extreme greatness of size –
it actually means an act of great wickedness, an atrocity, a
dreadful and terribly heinous crime. For the
of the crime, see just above.
as in a fulsome apology. It doesn’t mean a full and contrite
apology, but rather an excessive, insincere and over-the-top
regret, especially so when delivered in an offensive or
distasteful way. We should all be suitably embarrassed by
someone’s fulsome praise.
It is not merely to deny something, but it means to prove that
it’s wrong. Politicians refute things all the time. Okay,
prove it then, sunshine, let’s see the evidence: “I don’t just deny it, I
can prove that it’s not true.”
Probably like most, I took all the above words to mean the
first meanings listed, rather than the actual meaning.
Probably decimate is the one that
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty
a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I
choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
took me most by surprise. To reduce by a tenth. Well, well.
Alan Dedicoat then delivered his delightfully crafted
On Monday, a consignment of 10 gingerbread
Pudsey bears destined for some local children in need, was decimated and
Mr D. was blamed for eating the missing item, something he refuted but
offered an embarrassingly fulsome apology anyway, something pretty young
Vee, shocked at the enormity of the crime, refused to accept – until an
uneaten bear was produced...
And he apparently produced said bear in the studio, much to ‘young
Vee’s’ delight – so he had properly refuted the allegation.
As always, every day a day at school.
Tuesday, November 22
Daisy, Daisy ... spotted on a motorbike built for two
BEFORE leaving the cottage on my early-morning walk, I paid a quick
visit to Mail Online, the Daily Mail’s much-visited
web site ... and I stumbled upon the following headline and picture...
... honest! Twitchers searching for
rare warbler stumble upon outdoor glamour modelling shoot
The bird-watchers had settled on a bleak headland near Redcar in
Cleveland after reports that an exotic Hume’s Leaf Warbler had been in
the area. But the excited hobbyists had not expected it to be a
semi-naked blonde on a motorbike who would get their hearts fluttering
when they headed to the seaside town.
What a smashing bike, I said to myself. I can imagine every red-blooded
man wanting a quick ride on that. I mean, that’s worth a smile all on
its own, in anyone’s language.
What really made me smile XL though was the thought
that the sub-editors would have had their knickers in a twist simply
dying to flash the following headline...
... honest! Twitchers searching
for rare warbles stumble upon a couple of great tits
And I enjoyed the sight of the photographer. He is a photo-kit vision of
what I would expect a person who takes pictures of
eye-catching tits to look like, whether they be of the blue, marsh, great, long-tailed
or long-legged variety.
But why didn’t he clean those tyres? Still, I suppose
he can Photoshop them back to pristine condition. As for the online
Peter Gunn, Little Paxton: I’ve searched the Observer Book of
Birds, but couldn’t find a picture of a Double Red-Breasted Mattress
Ho, ho, ho!
Iaci of Essex
put the kibosh on things:
This is news because...????
Well, because ... because ... it makes me smile.
This, spotted in the Telegraph...
Swearing at police is not a crime, judge rules ... officers
foul language “too frequently” to be offended
The decision by the High Court to overturn the public order conviction
of a young suspect who repeatedly said the “F” word while being searched
for drugs was last night condemned as “unacceptable”.
Policing unions said the ruling would undermine respect
for officers. Overturning Denzel Cassius Harvey’s conviction, Mr Justice
Bean said officers were so regularly on the receiving end of the “rather
commonplace” expletive that it was unlikely to cause them “harassment,
alarm or distress”.
The following examples were among those cited...
When the search revealed no drugs, he [Denzel Cassius Harvey] continued: “Told you, you
wouldn’t find f*** all.”
Asked whether he had a middle name, he replied: “No,
I’ve already f****** told you so.”
Now I’m not surprised he disowned his middle name: Cassius. This
must invite lines like “I bet you float like a bee and sting
like a butterfly”. And let’s be honest, you couldn’t make the judge’s name up,
now could you? Mr Justice Bean.
Oh, and you know how I enjoy trawling the online
‘Comments’ section at the bottom of articles – well, you
won’t be surprised that there was no ‘Comments’ section. Such a
course of action is known as acknowledging the ambush before you
enter the pass.
But as always, what really made me laugh out loud was
the Telegraph’s cartoonist,
and his take on the incident – alongside...
My oh my, I’d give nearly anything to hear that in real life...
Why do we say “Amen” and not “Awomen”?
Saturday’s smile flirted with Houses of God, in the shape of the
anti-capitalist protestors camping outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Today, I
noted the quote coming up, below, which perfectly complements this
quote from last Saturday:
“So far they have managed to get three quite
well-meaning priests removed, and no bankers at all.”
“Look around the green here ... where are the financial institutions?
This is pure copycat. They have been outside one cathedral and now they
are outside another.” The Bishop of Exeter, Dr Michael Langrish, on
the anti-capitalist encampment outside his cathedral.
How true. We really are a copycat species. As it happens, the Bishop magically
transports me to the subject of churches, and a perfect link to another
Times letter saved for my daily smile bulletin by the Crazy
Chief Wise Owl...
Sir, Hugo Rifkind (Opinion, Oct 29) asks “What are churches for?” My
first law of country walking states: “Where there’s a church, there’s a
It’s one of the few laws which has never let me down.
BOB GARTSIDE, Llanberis, Gwynedd, North Wales
As we always say here in Wales: Every day a day at school.
Actually, we could add: Where there’s a way, and you find a handy place
to pray, right next door you may well spot a dray.
Whatever, the trouble is that pubs are calling last
orders, literally – and whilst I
don’t know about the closure rates of churches, I believe chapels are
calling last prayers faster than the patrons can kneel. Intriguing correlation, though.
I’M A great fan of throwing a nod and a wink at memorable news
headlines, especially so the online variety – and then leaving the rest
to my imagination. So today, I caught up with my favourites from the
past few days...
When sport stars’
A cricket chief [Hugh Morris] has claimed that giving sports stars
access to Twitter is like ‘giving a machine gun to Liam Gallagher’...
Now that really made me smile ... what? Hugh Morris didn’t say that?
Hang on, let me double check ... you’re right, it should read
‘like giving a machine gun to a monkey’.
A hundred thousand apologies, Liam.
That’s what comes of tracing my ancestry through the
Gallagher family tree – which I’ve been doing over recent days – and now
I’m starting to see things which aren’t there.
Saudi women with
attractive eyes may be forced to cover them up, if resolution is passed
The ultra-conservative Islamic state has said it has the right to stop
women revealing ‘tempting’ eyes in public, and is set to enshrine it in
...the above headline truly made me blink, whereas those eyes up there made me
want to wink. Does it mean that Saudi women will have to wear sunglasses all the
The whole world is doolally, except for thee and me – and
I’m not too sure about thee. Or me, come to that.
Finally, this online news headline...
‘overjoyed’ she is to have a baby girl through surrogate
Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International [and
former editor of the torpedoed News of the World], is expecting a baby
girl through a surrogate mother...
In an idle moment - as rare as hen’s teeth around here, those idle moments - I found
myself speculating what headline a typical red top should go with. Given
the endlessly differing possibilities the story throws up, what about
However, given how Brooks claimed to “know nothing” about
the phone-hacking business that is still rumbling on and on – I decided
to go with:
Mum’s the word
Why do we say “Amen” and not “Awomen”? Well, we call them “Hymns”, not
Upside down autumn
IT HAS been an astonishing autumn. Back on September 22, I included the
picture, below, captured along my morning walk through the
Towy Valley, the rising sun reflecting beautifully off the trees in
Dinefwr Park, catching perfectly the early changing colours as autumn began to
How could anyone not smile at nature’s ever changing wallpaper, I
remarked. Well, here I am, on November 20 ... below, a close-up
picture of that very same area in Dinefwr Park, taken this very morning.
Traditionally, the changing colours of autumn tend to last just a few
brief weeks in these ‘ere parts, mostly down, not so much to the passing
frosts, but rather the regular winds cum storms that sweep in off the
Atlantic and dislodge the leaves after the frosts.
But this year has been nothing short of astonishing –
autumn leaves for two whole months, and counting – undoubtedly down to
the fact that
we haven’t experienced any significant frosts which duly loosen the leaves and make
them vulnerable to those winds; they’ve simply hung around, ready to
But here we are, nearing the end of November, and many
trees still retain lots of their leaves. It is quite unnatural.
And just to add to the confusion of the season, just a few
minutes from the autumn scene, above, I came across some young
lambs. Talk about a surprise.
I can’t say that I have ever noticed lambs in the
autumn before. Present and correct were a handful of sheep,
together with their lambs. Truly remarkable. I’m unsure whether
it’s a deliberate breeding policy.
There again, perhaps a randy Rambo had paid a visit to the sheep
when the back gate was open and no one was looking.
After all, given the last couple of hard winters, I’d
have thought no farmer would have been particularly keen to have
young lambs leading into winter – unless, of course, the farmer
who owns said sheep has some inside information regarding the
winter we’re about to experience.
First lambs of the season arrive before even Father
Watch this space.
Saturday, November 19
Not to be trusted further than you can throw ‘em with a pitchfork
“I THINK the job of the church is not just to comfort the afflicted
but to afflict the comfortable.” Douglas Alexander, 44, Shadow
Foreign Secretary, on the anti-capitalist protestors camping outside St
A clever quote; or at least, a clever play on words. But here’s probably
the wisest quote I’ve spotted on the protestors...
“So far they have managed to get three quite well-meaning priests
removed, and no bankers at all.” Ian Hislop, 51, satirist,
broadcaster and editor of Private Eye, on the “achievements” of those
camping outside St Paul’s.
Ten out of ten, Mr Hislop, and summed up perfectly in 20 words or less.
FOLLOWING some European rugby on the television, I happened to zap upon
Dad’s Army: The Miser’s Hoard (1977), and as always, I put down
my zap-a-dee-doo-da thingy. Dad’s Army is perfect pantomime for
grown ups. But also enjoyed by children, so parents tell me.
Some years ago someone on the radio said this: “It is
one of the few programmes on the box where the whole family sit down to
enjoy it together. My parents love it because they can just about
identify with those wonderful characters of yesteryear; me and the wife
enjoy it for the clever writing and perfectly drawn characters; my
children think it’s ever so cool because ‘It is so silly, Daddy.’.”
And of course Dad’s Army is that: very silly.
But magically, the series is
loaded with great truths about we humans and the human condition.
Anyway, back with The Miser’s Hoard: Capt. Mainwaring,
the platoon leader and the local bank manager, plots to get Pte.
Frazer, Walmington-on-Sea’s purveyor of doom and gloom, and the
town’s miserly undertaker, to transfer his savings, his
substantial hoard of gold sovereigns, into a bank.
Mainwaring’s bank, preferably. For safe keeping,
obviously. But Frazer isn’t having any of it.
He enters Mainwaring’s office, and in front of other
members of the platoon, who are in on the plot, says, in a very
calm and measured voice, to the bank manager: “I’ve only got
one thing to say to you. If you think you’re getting your hands
on my gold you can think again. I don’t trust banks, I don’t
trust bankers and I don’t trust you. That’s all I wanted to say.
It was such a potent delivery, underlined by the
normally excitable Frazer’s cool, calm delivery.
Nothing has changed since Karabo, the recently discovered
missing link between man and ape, wandered the planet (see
yesterday’s smile); we have an inherent distrust of bankers and
their pound of flesh demands. As the saying goes: they offer us
an umbrella when it’s fine - but want it back when it rains.
Indeed, those few heart-felt words of Frazer’s said so
much more than all
Frazer ponders whether to tell
Mainwaring to "Pitchfork off!"
the anti-capitalist protestors campaigning around the globe put
And Frazer’s words certainly left me with a smile on my face.
Capturing my genetic inheritance
IF I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thous- ... my walk through time is
a series of delightful coincidences – one smiley thing leads to another,
often with tintinnabulation (with jingle bells on).
As I mentioned at the beginning of yesterday’s smile,
Baroness Trumpington of Sandwich really started something with her
V-sign directed at Lord King of Bridgwater (see last Tuesday).
It opened up all sorts of worm holes inside my brain:
Wednesday, it was Liam Gallagher of Oasis (and Son) with their
aggressive V-signs; yesterday, it was John Prescott and Victoria Beckham
with their child-like V-signs.
At this point I need to revisit Wednesday’s Oasis feature
to refresh the parts other web sites don’t reach. To recap...
Whenever I catch sight of the Gallagher Brothers, I smile, for they are
a constant reminder of my celebrated mega-great-ancestor, the one who
first jumped down from that African tree and decided it would be a jolly
interesting to-do to go for a walk through the savannah.
The Gallaghers effortlessly bridge that gap between me
and my ancestor. Whenever I see them, they always remind me
where my default setting lies. And I reach for another banana.
Yes, okay, it was said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, obviously. And yet, and
yet, and yet...
Now I buy the Western Mail newspaper ever day, except on the Lord’s
Day, when it’s The Sunday Times; I occasionally buy The Daily
Telegraph, or visit its online edition when I don’t; now and again I
visit the Daily Mail’s online version.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, Mail Online is
the second most visited English-language newspaper web site in the world, second only
to The New York Times. Astonishing that.
But I’m not surprised. Whenever I visit Mail Online
I always find something which tickles my funny bone. For example, today,
the following headline caught my eye...
from 2m years ago: Revealed, the face of the ‘missing link’ between ape
Paleo-artist bases painting on the well-preserved
skeleton of a boy
Karabo is probably our earliest ancestor
CURIOUS smile playing on his face, the eyes and mouth are unmistakably
human while the cheekbones and jutting brow say wild animal.
Meet Karabo, probably our earliest ancestor and the
‘missing link’ between man and ape – ‘seen’ for the first time thanks to
this incredible portrait, below.
Created by paleo-artist John Gurche, it is based on the
remarkably well-preserved skeleton of a boy aged around 13, found in a
cave in South Africa.
Karabo - my most
Noel Gallagher - as
enigmatic as Karabo
The portrait was released as the skeleton – and the incomplete skeleton
of a woman in her 30s found with him, probably his mother – went on
display at the National History Museum in London.
Lee Berger, professor of evolutionary biology at Witwatersrand
University in Johannesburg, said the picture was a ‘forensic
reconstruction’ of how the boy would have looked, made possible because
his skull was found intact.
Mail journalist Tamara Cohen informs us that Karabo – which means
the answer’ and is somewhat more catching than his official
name of Australopithecus sediba – stood 4ft 4in and lived nearly
two million years ago.
When he was discovered in 2008, the greatest shock for
researchers was his human-like hand.
Karabo and his species walked upright on two legs.
Their small teeth may indicate they had found ways to process
food using implements or even by cooking
[do you suppose they
found a guitar nearby?].
Studies in September hailed him as the best candidate
for being a direct ancestor of homo erectus, the earliest modern
So that was funny, given the link between me, the Gallaghers and
“And I reach for another banana,”
I innocently remarked
last Wednesday when I revealed the link. Well blow me, included
in the Mail article about Karabo was the cartoon,
I really did write that line about reaching for the banana –
and posted it online – before the cartoon appeared. Honestly, I
couldn’t stop smiling.
That’s me swinging up there, for sure, nibbling that
banana. After all, I have always underlined that I am very much a caveman at
heart, what with
PUGH captures that banana moment
my lifestyle and survival instincts...
You really can’t legislate for these coincidences.
Thursday, November 17
‘V for Victory’ parade continues
BARONESS Trumpington of Sandwich really started something with her
V-sign to Lord King of Bridgwater (see last Tuesday). It opened up all sorts of worm
holes inside my brain: yesterday, it was the Gallagher brothers of Oasis
fame; today – well, walk awhile with me...
“He’s a miserable bastard, but he’s my miserable bastard.”
Pauline Prescott, 72, wife of John Prescott, 73 [a former Deputy Prime
Minister to Tony Blair], offers an insight compliments of Hello
Along my daily early-morning walk, my imagination often joins me on a
parallel stroll. I occasionally find myself playing the “What if?”
game. You know the sort of thing...
What if Winston Churchill had never been born? Well, Britain
would probably have been invaded and occupied during World War II; but,
America delivered ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’ first, the only two atomic
bombs ever dropped in anger, so they would have blitzed Germany as well
as Japan. Back to square one.
What if Hitler had never been born? Would there have been a
Second World War? Well, the German system would undoubtedly have thrown
up another leader, perhaps someone much cleverer and even more ruthless
What if Germany had got to the atomic bomb first, ahead of
America? It was a close run thing anyway. And remember, Germany had given the
world all those brilliant rocket scientists. That last “What if?”
doesn’t bear thinking about.
Let’s bring it up to date, and return to the
quote at the top...
What if Tony Blair, when Prime Minister, had suffered a fatal
heart attack – I
seem to recall that he did flirt with a curious heart problem –
and John Prescott had ended up with his finger on the nuclear
Now that does make me sweat. A very aggressive
character is our John. A rather ‘punch drunk’ persona. Thumps first, asks
In the picture, alongside, Prescott rather underlined
his common or garden genetic inheritance in his relationship
with Britain’s press, giving journalists the V-sign as he
arrived at Downing Street in 2003. And he was the Deputy PM.
Anyway, along his political walk through time, John
Prescott has attracted media sobriquets like flies to something
nasty on the pavement. Originally, Prescott’s nickname was
simply “Prezza”, but as various misfortunes befell him
the nicknames became more colourful, leading to “Two Jags”
(Prescott owned one Jaguar, and had the use of another as his
official ministerial car).
Later versions of this term are “Two Jabs”
(following his punchy retaliation against a protester farmer in
2001); “Two Shags” (in reference to his affair with his
diary secretary, Tracey Temple); and “Two Shacks”
(referring to his former country house).
If he had got his finger on that nuclear button,
perhaps he would now be known as “Two Big Bangs”.
John “Two Fingers” Prescott
Enough already. This is a lay-by where you pull in to share
a smile. So...
What if Kate Middleton had actually married David
Beckham? What if Prince William had married Spice Girl
There, I bet you’re smiling already. My guess is that
Kate and David would probably make a good pair. She would have kept him
on a much tighter rein and stopped him doing the more doolally
things in his life.
And I bet you anything that David would be a
But here’s the real “What if?” test: can you picture Posh Spice walking down the
aisle at Westminster Abbey, sporting that memorable pout as she
acknowledges the rows of slebs either side of her?
And on that thought, I shall leave you and your
imagination to explore that “What if?” teaser. And in
particular, the photograph, alongside.
Using a similar technique to
“Two Fingers” Prescott, this
behind-the-back “eff off” flash from Victoria was directed at
paparazzi while attending a Los Angeles Lakers basketball match
Queen “Two Strikes” Posh
Wednesday, November 16
A rose between two thorns
BACK on the 4th of November, I shared with you the surprise of receiving
a series of letters from Iain Hollingshead, the Letters editor at
The Daily Telegraph, and all to do with missives I’d submitted to
the newspaper but hadn’t made the original cut.
Here’s just a couple of paragraphs from Iain’s
2009 I had the idea of collating and editing these unused letters into a
book: Am I Alone in Thinking...? Unpublished letters to The Daily
Telegraph. It proved to be a very popular Christmas gift. Last year
we published a completely new, follow-up edition, I Could Go On.
This year’s compilation, I Rest My Case, will be
published at the end of October by Aurum...
When launching this year’s book, the Telegraph did a feature
about it in the paper and shared with us a few of the letters as a
starter for 500 (the number of letters in the book). Sadly, none of mine
made that particular hit parade, but I did quote three of them back on
the 4th of the month; however, I held one back for future use, and that
moment has arrived...
SIR – What is Liam Gallagher doing in the Telegraph culture section?
Michael Rolfe, Rondebosch, Cape Town, South Africa
Oasis - and by implication the Gallagher brothers - would never find
themselves on my Desert Island Discs list; but hey, millions of rock
music fans love their stuff, so sing and let sing is my motto.
Musical tastes aside, I actually have all the time in
the world for their much publicised common or garden behaviour - typical
tabloid fodder with sibling disputes, wild lifestyles and asterisk-laden
language - because, whenever I catch sight in the media their curious
behaviour, I smile, for they are a constant reminder of my celebrated
Yes, you know, the one who first jumped down from the
tree in Africa and decided it would be exceedingly interesting to go for
a walk through the savannah.
The Gallagher brothers are a continuing reminder of
where we all come from. They effortlessly bridge that gap between me and
my ancestor, the ape, the one who went for that spontaneous stroll on
the sunny side of the savannah. Whenever I see them, they always remind
me where my default setting lies. And I reach for another banana.
Now who would have thought that the wonderful Baroness
Trumpington of Sandwich and her “up-yours” gesture to a fellow peer, as
featured in yesterday’s smile, would provide the link to bring us all
Star Sign: Liam, 1997
Oh Lord: Trumpers trumps, 2011
Like father, like son: Gene, 2008
Yes indeed, the rose between two thorns. Liam Gallagher, the angry young
man of rock, parades his customary aggressive trademark, and you
intuitively find yourself stepping back – and the other side of Baroness
Trumpington and her smiley version, is Gene Gallagher, son of Liam,
getting his retaliation in while still a pup, and proving that it’s all
in the genes.
As I ponder what sort of walk through time awaits young Gene, I am
transported back to the savannah and my distant relative – and your
too, of course...
Tuesday, November 15
Lord King well and truly Trumped
THE following online headline in the Mail caught my eye...
Churchill would have
Moment battling Bletchley Park baroness, 89, gave
two-finger salute to fellow peer who said WW2 veterans like her looked
Here are some choice cuts from the Mail piece...
SHE proved a match for Nazi Germany when she broke Hitler’s codes at
Bletchley Park, so Lord King of Bridgwater should have known better than
to comment on the advancing years of Baroness Trumpington of Sandwich.
The formidable 89-year-old Conservative life peer was
unimpressed when her relatively junior colleague gestured towards her to
illustrate his point about the extreme age of World war II veterans.
Lady Trumpington hit back against his patronising
reference with a distinctly unparliamentary gesture of her own –
commonly known as the two-fingered salute and reminiscent of Winston
Churchill’s famed ‘V for Victory’ sign.
The extraordinary scene unfolded while Lord King was
making a speech about the passing of the wartime generation during the
Remembrance Day debate in the Lords on Thursday.
Lady Trumpington appeared to be minding her own
business, peering down over her spectacles at some papers, as the former
Defence Secretary paid tribute to veterans of the first World War who
had “gradually faded away”.
Then turning towards Lady Trumpington, Lord King, 78,
raised his arm towards her and continued: “And then the survivors of
World War II started to look pretty old as well. As my noble friend, the
Baroness, reminds me.”
At this point, Lady Trumpington glared at him with
disdain, raised two fingers at him to signal ‘up yours’, and then went
back to studying her notes.
Winston Churchill's famed 'V for Victory'
Blair had his Babes - - - Churchill had his Chicks?
Codebreaker: Baroness Trumpington, one of the clever
behind-the-scenes women so crucial to the war effort
The exchange instantly became an internet hit with viewers, describing
the former chain-smoking Lady Trumpington – known by colleagues as
‘Trumpers’ – as a “heroine”.
Lady Trumpington, formerly Jean Alys Barker, yesterday
claimed that the gesture was not intentional and insisted her hand must
have “flown up” accidentally. [A cunning bit of codebreaking
there, I’d say.]
She told the Daily Mail: “I didn’t mean to make the
gesture. My hand must have flown up. I have never been offended by Lord
King. I don’t remember doing it.”
A former 70-a-day smoker, Lady Trumpington is
well-liked by colleagues for her wicked sense of humour and
straight-talking. When she was a guest on Desert Island Discs, she chose
the Crown jewels as her luxury item, in order to maximise her chances of
Lord King last night insisted that the pair were “old
friends” and that Lady Trumpington had been joking with him when she
made the gesture.
He said: “We had been joking together before we went
into the chamber. She is a wonderful person and was the only person in
the chamber who had been in the Second World War and was taking part in
Ah yes, Baroness Trumpington of Sandwich ... how could you not have a
soft spot for someone bearing that splendid title? And known to her
colleagues as Trumpers. Even better. (Remember Nellie the Elephant, who
packed her trunk? Off she went with a trumpety-trump, trump, trump,
So how could we not enjoy Trumpers’ memorably rude
two-finger salute to Lord King: trump, trump, trump!
And forget the “up yours” bit.
Imagine: you are a stenographer and you have to
translate the gesture into precise words: “Lady Trumpington appears to
eye Lord King with contempt before casually making a rude gesture
meaning - - - and turning back to study her notes.”
And be honest now, because it’s only between you and
the page ... I mean, you’re not going to write “up yours” are you? You
would of course intuitively note what the expression actually means –
and that is what makes the exchange so memorable.
of Northampton gave her this online benefit of the doubt:
No, you got it all wrong. Lord King asked if she was the only survivor
from the Second World War still in the Lords, and she indicated that
there was one more besides her, totalling two.
But I’ll tell you what, the former 70-a-day smoker proves something I
have long observed and suspected: smoking per se does not kill you. Look
at her, 89 and still going trump, trump, trump!
However, if there is a weak link in your immune system, smoking will
ruthlessly seek it out. But the bad news is, even if you don’t smoke, or
indeed given it up, there are endless other nasties out there queuing up
to breach our immune systems, stress and lack of self-esteem being the
As a special treat, below is a link to an equally memorable Jeremy
Paxman link to the King-Trumpington incident ... smiley beyond...
Time and motion waits for nobody
NOW that my brief flirtation with Britain in a Day is done and dusted
and filed under “Er, interesting”, it’s now back to the day job where
those smiles are hiding around every corner, handfuls of metaphorical
confetti ready to toss all over me.
For example, pride of place today goes to this
who videoed himself having sex is cleared
I found the eye part of my brain reading “Man who videoed himself having
sex is cleared for takeoff” – before the make sense part of my brain
caught up and edited it as printed. To continue...
Time-and-motion expert not a voyeur
This from Carolyn Hitt in today’s Western Mail...
one of the more, ahem, surreal Welsh court cases of the year, time and
motion expert Graham Gibbons has been cleared of voyeurism.
Gibbons, of Maesteg, admitted making a 35-minute secret
tape of himself and a woman making love but said it was to assess the
“efficiency” of his bedroom prowess and not for a sexual thrill.
Jurors heard that Gibbons had set up his mobile phone’s
camera to record his activity between the sheets to see “what was going
on during love-making”. He added “I was only doing my job as a time and
motion expert”, giving a whole new meaning to bringing your work home
and mixing business with pleasure.
Gibbons may have been cleared – the judge reminded the
jury he was “charged with voyeurism, not with being an oddball” – but he
is guilty of the least romantic gesture in the history of human
The next time the 44-year-old applies such rigorous
academic research methods in the bedroom he’d be better off remembering
ladies tend to prefer time and emotion.
Carolyn earns top marks for those final words: time and emotion. Nice
one. However, I found myself wondering how the discovery of the tape
came about. Well, it seems that Gibbons, a video expert, had uploaded
the film onto his laptop to give his professional judgment.
The woman, his then girlfriend, found the video and,
“worried that the tape would be passed around” – a natural reaction to
be sure – dumped him and called the police.
When interviewed by police he was instantly able to
give police officers an accurate breakdown of time spent on different
activities: “After studying the tape I gave her 20 minutes of sexual
satisfaction, five minutes of intercourse and another nine minutes of
His ready-answer appears to have swayed the jury away
from the charge of voyeurism. After the verdict, Gibbons said: “I was
only doing my job as a time and motion expert. I am currently unemployed
but I would love to get back into it. It is a job I enjoy but there
aren’t many manufacturing jobs out there.”
Hm, so a kind of method in his time and motion
madness. Mind you, the above on his CV will make a few human resources
Yup, it’s a doolally world alright.
PS: That the Gibbons performance lasted just over 30 minutes took
me back to Oban and the 30 minute firework display, which exploded in a
60 second premature tintinnabulation – a technical hitch as I recall –
and I observed at the time that it all reminded me of my sex life. To
Down the years, many is the time I have planned a 30
minute extravaganza – Sydney Harbour on New Year’s Eve in my bedroom,
sort of thing – but it is pretty much always over in 60 seconds flat,
and it’s always a technical hitch (my excuse and I’m sticking to it).
If anyone deserves a time and motion study, it is yours
Every day a day at school spot: tintinnabulation ... the new
Tintin film must have been on my mind – actually, it means “the jingling
of bells”, as in “a 60 second premature jingling of bells” . Quite.
Where is Big Ben metronomically striking twelve when
you need him as a rhythm pendulum? After all, wasn’t it Sally Bercow,
wife of Parliament speaker John Bercow, who said that “I never realised
how sexy I would find living under Big Ben with the bells chiming!”.
Britain in a Day revisited
YESTERDAY, I mentioned filming my “bird in the hand is worth two in the
bush” sequence for the BBC’s Britain in a Day feature...
Well, I spent today sorting out my clips, opening a
YouTube account, uploading said clips and transferring them to the
Britain in a Day channel. Phew!
I flirted with headache territory. Not that any of it was particularly
difficult, but it’s the frustration of doing something new for the first
time. It’s the unfamiliar words and expressions that create such a
Anyway, I actually completed the process in the early
hours of Monday ... I also submitted a letter to the Telegraph
because what I had just done followed on perfectly from a couple of
letters I spotted last Saturday. Here they are...
Red kites mobbed by parakeets in the Chilterns
SIR – Jeremy Quinn notes that parakeets have colonised Bushy and
Richmond parks (Letters, November 11). Now they have migrated from
Surrey to the Chilterns.
Last week, a beautiful red kite was innocently circling
over our back field when it was mobbed and driven away by more than 12
green parakeets who now seem to believe it is their territory. In the
past, the kite only had to contend with the crows guarding their domain
but now they have allied with the green invaders.
Over the past three years, parakeet numbers have grown
from three to 15; when will they learn that they are unwelcome?
Andrew Scott-Priestley, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Lt Col Paul French (Letters, November 8) could only hear parakeets
in Richmond Park. But there is no birdsong at this time of year, except
for the robin practising for Christmas. Blackbirds, thrushes and so on
stopped singing in July, as they do every year.
Thank goodness I was a Brownie and learnt this
important piece of natural history.
Jenny Hill, Haslemere, Surrey
My letter in response went something along these lines...
Birds in the hand
SIR – Unlike Andrew Scott-Priestley (Letters, November 12), I have never
observed raptors “innocently circling”; they are, after all, not called
of prey for nothing. Also, I assure Jenny Hill that birds still sing,
muted – unless there’s a sparrow hawk about, when they all burst
into high octave song to warn all the other songbirds.
Some three years ago I wondered how easy – or difficult
– it would be to train/seduce common or garden songbirds to feed
from hand, but out in the wilds of the Towy Valley.
It has been a journey of wonder and delight, so when I
saw that the BBC was asking people to record their November 12
experiences for Britain in a Day, I thought “my” birds were
unusual enough to make a smiley contribution.
While I have taken hundreds of photographs of these
birds (nay, thousands including those I have deleted) – one has
even featured in the Telegraph’s online Gallery [the
leapfrogging great tit at the top of this page, as it happens] –
I had never before filmed them. A couple of days’ practice, and
I was in business.
I wolf-whistle to attract them, and to date not a
single bird has slapped me across the face. I managed to capture
one smashing sequence where a bird furiously answers my
wolf-whistle, and when I pause, it responds with an impatient
triple-wolfie. Very smiley, but it is of some
One of the stars of
my little show
concern that I am, in turn, being seduced by a male chaffinch (I think).
I have now uploaded these brief films onto YouTube:
Britaininaday: Birds No 1 - Intro. So here’s to the birds.
I list below the YouTube links that will take you to each of my
four clips – they were not supposed to be edited in any way, so I had to
upload them separately; also, once you land on the first link, the
others should be on view – but just in case, I show all four links...
Saturday, November 12
Britain in a Day
OVER the past week or so there’s been a promotional video on the BBC
regarding an ambitious project to capture, not so much a moment in time,
but a day in time. Anyway, here’s the blurb from the BBC’s web site...
definitive self-portrait of Britain today
Britain in a Day is an extraordinary project to create the
definitive self-portrait of Britain today, filmed by you, inspired by
Life In A Day [a people-sourced documentary film comprising a series
of video clips selected from 80,000 clips submitted to the YouTube video
sharing website, the clips showing occurrences from around the world on
a single day, July the 24th, 2010].
On Saturday the 12th of November, Ridley Scott and
director Morgan Mathews invite you to capture the reality of your day
and to upload it to YouTube.
The resulting film and online archive will be a
powerful and moving snapshot of the UK today, premiered in cinemas and
broadcast on BBC Two for a general audience, ahead of the London
This is your chance to express yourself. From the
ordinary to the extraordinary, your footage will feature in our online
archive, and the more memorable your recording, the greater the chance
of your material being included in the final film.
Get involved – film your UK on one day – and be part of
our nation’s story.
I got to thinking about it. The one thing I do which appears to
be somewhat out of the ordinary, is this relationship I have
built up with the songbirds down in the Towy Valley.
In a nutshell, nearly three years ago, now, I wondered
how easy, or how difficult, it would be to train/seduce our
common or garden songbirds to feed from hand (I’ve always wanted
to use common or garden in its proper context).
It worked, with quite spectacular results – a typical
image tends to sit at the very top of this page, but pictures
are everywhere on this site. Here’s one I captured earlier...
Now I have only ever taken pictures of the birds, never
a film. So I thought, why not? I had a bit of practice over the
past couple of days – and this morning caught some of the birds
on film, all performing as if to the manor born.
It was a very smiley experience, and deserving of a feature on here, if
not on Britain in a Day ... however, I have yet to upload the clips onto
YouTube – remember, this is something totally new to me, so it’ll take
me a couple of days, at least, to get myself sorted...
In the meantime, here’s lookin’ at my birds.
Friday, November 11
The Day Of The Doolally: Elevenses at my place?
IF YOU suffer arithmophobia – a fear of numbers – look away now ... So
how best to mark today’s palindromic moment in time? Well, the 11th hour
of the 11th day of the 11th month in the 11th year was not a problem.
I’m in the kitchen, enjoying a whisky-laced coffee
topped with double cream while flicking through the morning paper, the
wireless on in the background – and Big Ben begins to strike eleven.
I share the two minutes’ Armistice Day tribute with the
silent wireless, made just that little bit more poignant this year
having watched last Monday evening the new BBC series The Choir – Military
Wives; it brings it home, not so much what the soldiers are going
through out in Afghanistan and other far away places with strange
sounding names, but also what the children, wives and girlfriends are
going through back home...
Some nine minutes later, the 11th second of the 11th minute of the 11th
hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in the 11th year arrives. Nothing
particularly happens in my life - bit I
smile. Numerologists were anxiously awaiting this precise moment, when
the digital alignment of ones occurred at 11:11:11:11:11:11am, which
some believe would lead to unusual events.
Thousands of people were gathered around the world to
perform ceremonial dances, indeed several pages have been devoted to the
date on social networking website Facebook, apparently.
Some attribute the number 11 to paranormal powers that
provide a channel of communication with the subconscious; others see a
mystical connection between number and disasters, like the 9/11 attacks
on the United States.
Egypt closed the Great Pyramid of Giza today to avoid
any rituals by a group rumoured to have plans to mark the date of
11/11/11 at the site. The decision came “after much pressure” from
Egyptian Internet users that strange rituals were going to be held
“within the walls of the pyramid on November 11, 2011.” Strange but
Others celebrate The Day Of The Doolally in
weird and wonderful ways, such as The Date That Most Resembles
Corduroy (11:11:11:11:11:11). As I say, The Day Of The Doolally.
You are a one, honestly.
Mind you, I rather enjoyed a comment spotted online
from someone called Tipatina: “I can’t wait for
... 8/8/88: Bubble Jacket Day.”
Ten past ten
revisited - and all’s well
EARLIER in the day, when I arrived home with the morning
paper, a Reader’s Digest junk mail catalogue fell out of the paper onto the
floor. Normally these things go straight into the recycle pile, but this
time something made me flick through...
Talk about coincidence. Having dedicated this bulletin
to more serious matters to do with a particular moment in time, my eye
landed on a wall clock which boasted this seductive sales pitch:
birdsong every hour of the day
I smiled – a picture of said clock is featured, alongside. I
quote the blurb...
Twelve of the most popular British birds
sing to you on the hour throughout the day, to brighten your
home with the sweet sounds of nature. In a smart green frame,
the clock may be displayed freestanding or on your wall.
A must for bird-watchers, all 12 delightful species are
beautifully illustrated to add to the charm. At night, the birds
sleep so you can too!
While I am not a bird-watcher, given my relationship with the
songbirds down in the valley – see the images dotted all over
this web site of mine – in a moment of weakness I was nearly
seduced into doing the unthinkable.
Even though I have more than enough clocks about the
cottage, I might still buy one – it’s the thought of all those
for your supper and you'll get breakfast - - -
Dine with friends of choice.
going to sleep at night that tickles my imagination no end.
Thursday, November 10
There’s more than one way to enjoy an After Eight
TODAY I caught up with last weekend’s Sunday Times
News Review supplement. Its front page –
alongside – has a picture of a young Martin Amis with his
Above the headline, OKAY, DAD, SO WHAT IS A
PHILANDERER?, the blurb reads:
Martin Amis grew up in a
dissolute home – amid the parties and parental fights his father
barely hid his womanising – but the boy took it in his stride,
thinking every family lived this way, writes his biographer
And there’s that little teaser in the top right corner
of the photograph: Martin, aged 15, with his father Kingsley,
who at one dinner party went into the garden three times to have
sex with each of the women guests...
I immediately thought of old After Eight himself,
Remember when he boasted to a friend that he had bedded eight
women overnight after one of his erotic “bunga-bunga” New
Year’s Eve parties? God, I feel
ejaculated - I mean exhausted -
just thinking about it.
Anyway, I was intrigued by the Kingsley Amis sex bit - I’ve dined out on
legendary tales of Old Shaggy and Young Shagwell down at the Crazy
Horsepower Saloon, remember - so I perused the
article. Here are some choice cuts...
In the 1950s, The Amises were living in Swansea, where Kingsley was an
assistant lecturer at University College. He caused a minor earthquake
in the otherwise torpid zone of English domestic fiction with his first
novel, Lucky Jim, in 1954...
Kingsley and Hilly, his wife, held parties in which they seemed intent
on reclaiming the opportunities for youthful irresponsibility which her
teenage pregnancy had denied them at Oxford almost a decade earlier...
Hilly had become aware that her husband lived in a manner that any
good-looking lecherous bachelor would envy. Despite an extramarital
affair of her own she never countenanced an open marriage, however.
dinner party at their Swansea house when Kingsley went into the garden
three times to have sex with each of the women guests is a fact, yet the
implication that the non-participating observers were indulgent
debauchees-by-association is inaccurate...
I’m intrigued by the “fact” bit: by whose say so? Amis himself?
Boastful liar? Or the women themselves? Scarcely believable in the Swansea
of the 1950s. But it isn’t the After Eight factor that elevates this
into the smile of the day, oh no.
While Kingsley wrote – “He was in his study. He was always in
his study” – Hilly would take the children to the beach or the
cinema during summer evenings and weekends.
Martin recalls her
driving them back from the beach on the roof rack of her Morris
1000 Traveller – Martin and Philip, his elder brother, on either
side of Sally, their little sister, who was “about four or
“The only light came from the full moon and the head-lamps. It
felt as though we were flying. None of us felt nervous because
at that age you don’t recognise danger – I suppose we had much
in common with our mother despite the age difference.”
That is astonishing. Now I was brought up on a farm and I got up to all
sorts of things, what with all those tractors and machinery to play with
– health and safety would have had a fit – but can you imagine walking
along Mumbles Road in the
Amis family outside their Swansea home: just
picture those three children on that roof rack. Priceless.
Swansea of the 1950s, and this Morris 1000 Traveller toddles
three children sat on the roof rack?
Obviously there would have been hardly any traffic back
then, but still.
I smile and smile just thinking about it ... I even forgot about
Kingsley, Berlusconi and all those After Eights not going to waste.
The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the – um -
Today, James Murdoch had a bruising second appearance before the
House of Commons Culture Committee’s inquiry into the
phone-hacking scandal. I didn’t see the pantomime myself, but
this report caught my eye...
In a two-and-a-half-hour grilling, Mr
Murdoch was accused by Labour MP and phone-hacking campaigner
Tom Watson of acting like a “mafia boss” whose company operated
an “omerta-style” code of silence to cover up criminal
After Mr Murdoch repeatedly denied being aware of
wrongdoing within the company he has led since 2007, Mr Watson
told him: “You must be the first mafia boss in history who
didn’t know he was running a criminal enterprise.”
Wow. But as always, it takes this wonderful “Summarise the
Murdoch pantomime in 14 words or less” cartoon by The Daily
Telegraph’s brilliant Matt,
alongside, to make the point, with jingle bells on...
Much more effective than the Mafia jibe. Indeed, is
there any person on the planet who does not believe that Rupert
Murdoch, clever and cunning individual that he is, was not fully
aware of everything that was going on at the recently departed
News of the World? And that includes
all his lieutenants.
Crazy world, crazy people.
Wednesday, November 9
Well, fancy that
JUST a few Q&As caught in the slips on Alex Lester’s overnight BBC
Radio 2 The Best Time Of The Day Show...
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it
make a sound?” is one of those delightfully doolally thought experiments
that raises questions regarding observation and knowledge of reality;
something dreamt up by someone who had much too much time on his hands
(I mean, it has to be a man).
Anyway, let’s put the whole thing in perspective.
Someone called Sir Not A Lot posed the following question of
Alex’s listeners: “If a tree fell on my foot and nobody else was there,
would I make a noise?”
Sir Stan Milkman A Lot replied: “You certainly
Yes okay, you saw that coming and shouted “Timber!”.
Doug the Co-op Driver asks: “If mountains are nearer the sun why
are they always covered in snow? Is it really snow or sun screen to stop
them burning?” “That’s a very good point,” says Alex, “I’m sure a
scientist could answer that.”
I’m unsure whether a scientist actually did;
personally, I think it should be left hanging up there. And anyway, the
seed is now well and truly planted. Whenever I see a snow-covered
mountain top in future, I will wonder what number sun screen it’s
Finally, someone whose name I missed, asked this: “How can I be sure the
fridge light is out when I close the door?” Bugger, every time I now
close the fridge door I find myself wondering if the light – yes, you’re
ahead of the game.
Listening on iPlayer to John Bennett’s Sunday Club on BBC
Radio Ulster, he played Three Times A Lady by The
John told us that The Commodores originally called
themselves The Mystics, but weren’t particularly happy with that so
decided to change.
To choose a new name, William King, one of the founder
members of the group, opened a dictionary and randomly picked a word:
“We lucked out,” he remarked with a laugh when telling this story to
People Magazine. “It was just luck. We almost became The Commodes!”
Like John Bennett, I too hope it’s a true story.
As is my wont, I got out my Collins Concise Dictionary. The next word
down after commodore was Commodus: Lucius Aelius Aurelius AD
161-192; Roman emperor from 180. He was a tyrant, spending lavishly on
gladiatorial combats, confiscating the property of the wealthy,
persecuting the Senate, and renaming Rome ‘Colonia Commodia’.
He was strangled at the instigation of his mistress and
advisors, who had discovered themselves on the emperor’s death list.
What a charming fella.
Commodus was famous for being the first emperor “born
in the purple” i.e. born during his father’s reign. Also, his name
changed throughout his reign – now how ironic is that? Carry On Emperor.
Nice new suit of clothes, by the way.
However, the word that comes before commodore is “commodo”,
which means, surprisingly, “in a convenient tempo”. How about that? The
Various dictionaries include different words either side of commodore,
depending on size and how modern they are. For example, my computer’s
spellchecker shows “commodity-product spread” before commodore – a very
modern expression, and certainly not suitable as a name for a singing
group: “Let’s hear it, folks, for The Commodity-Product Spread!”
They would doubtless be popular with bankers . The
word that comes after commodore is ‘common’ – well, I guess you could have a group called
‘The Commons’, but they would be mistaken for a bunch of MPs. Disaster.
Tuesday, November 8
YESTERDAY, I told the tale of choirmaster Gareth Malone being approached
by a rather menacing individual in green Army fatigues: “I just wanted
to shake your hand,” the marine says, thrusting out his own massive mitt
towards Malone. “My wife thinks you’re the dog’s bollocks.”
It’s a very smiley exchange, and I fully appreciate that being labelled “the dog’s
bollocks” is a high compliment – but along this morning’s walk I found
myself wondering what precisely does it mean, and where does the
expression come from? I presumed that it must have something to do with
a dog’s delight in regularly grooming his crown jewels.
Anyway, this from The Phrase Finder (www.phrases.org.uk)
The meaning and origin of the expression: dog’s
Excellent – the absolute apex. In other contexts the word bollocks
(meaning testicles) has a negative connotation; for example:
- ‘that’s bollocks’ -> ‘that’s rubbish’
- ‘give him a bollocking’ -> ‘chastise him’
- ‘he dropped a bollock’ -> ‘he made a mistake’
The reasons why the ‘dog’s bollocks’ are considered to be the top of the
tree aren’t clear. It may be linked to an associated phrase – ‘stand out
like a dog’s balls’, i.e. ‘outstanding’, although I can find no evidence
to indicate that phrase as being earlier than the ‘dog’s bollocks’.
Dogs do enjoy licking their genitals of course but
again, there’s no evidence that links the coining of this phrase to
that. It is most likely that this is just a nonsense phrase, coined
because it sounds good. In that respect, it would join a long list of earlier
nonsense phrases, e.g. ‘the cat’s pyjamas’, ‘the bee’s knees’, etc...
As it says on the tin: every day a day at school. Then there was the
story under the following headline...
Asteroid ‘close encounter’
Tonight, in a rare occurrence, a huge asteroid
will pass closer to Earth than the moon...
What really tickled me was this online comment from the wonderfully
named John O’Sandy Bay
– in Welsh that would translate as John From Sandy Bay – and this will
make a British audience smile: Don’t
worry – Michael Fish says it’s not going anywhere near us...
Finally, having done a Guy Fawkes feature on November the 5th – and
indeed revisited it yesterday with my dolphin, pussycat and sparrow
feature – I have just caught up with the video clip of – well, here’s a
proper build up...
Fireworks display costing £6,000
goes off all at once in 60 seconds after tech blunder
A town’s £6,000 firework display went up in smoke in just 60 seconds
after a technical hitch. Locals had flocked to Mossfield Park in Oban
for the west highland town’s annual spectacular which should have lasted
around 30 minutes.
However, a technical hitch saw all the fireworks, which
were paid for by donations from spectators and Scottish Sea Farms,
ignite and illuminate the night sky in just 60 seconds...
The crowd that had gathered only knew
something was wrong
Councillor Roddy McCuish told them over the PA system: “I have
some terrible news – the fireworks have all gone off at once.”
Watching this video reminded me of my sex life. Regularly I have
planned a 30 minute extravaganza – Sydney Harbour on New Year’s
Eve in my bedroom, sort of thing – but it is pretty much always
over in 60 seconds flat, and it’s always a
After watching the video of said disaster, I rather liked the
comment that reminded us of a great quote by Australian actress
Catherine “Cate” Blanchett, 42:
“If you know you are going to fail, then fail gloriously.”
Typical fireworks in my bedroom. Not.
technical bitch – sorry, hitch.
Mind you, everyone present at the Oban display will
remember it for the rest of their lives – which is more than
can be said of my sex life.
The link to this wonderful ‘one moment in time’ experience comes up
below. Oh, and watch out for the lone exploding firework at the end,
which hovers there like a huge exclamation mark over the whole
Marvellous and memorable...
Monday, November 7
I’d like to teach the world to sing (in perfect harmony)
PERUSING The Sunday Times’ TV & Radio Guide, I read
War Song: The Choir –
Military Wives (BBC2, 9pm)
“This is the most intimidating place I’ve ever been in my entire life,”
says the mild-mannered Gareth Malone as he enters the Chivenor military
base in north Devon, where he hopes to spend the next few months
distracting the wives and girlfriends from thinking too hard about what
their husbands and boyfriends might be experiencing in Afghanistan, by
making them sing in a choir.
Malone is a lovely television presence: enthusiastic,
kind, apparently short on ego and genuinely tickled by the impact that
music can make on troubled hearts.
I was sold. Having watched Gareth Malone on his previous series, he is, as the saying
goes, worth the TV licence fee all on his own. This also tickled me from
a preview of the programme in the Telegraph...
Keeping the home fires burning with The Choir
In the gloomy Officers’ Mess of a rain-swept Royal
base on a miserable October morning, choirmaster Gareth
Malone is chatting animatedly about the importance of
encouraging people to sing, when he is interrupted by a very
large, rather menacing individual in green Army fatigues.
“I just wanted to shake your hand,” the marine says,
thrusting out his own massive mitt towards Malone. “My wife
thinks you’re the dog’s bollocks.”
The contrast between the fresh-faced, bespectacled,
slightly fogey-ish choirmaster and this gruff giant of British
military manhood borders on the comical.
Yet the encounter illustrates the degree to which
Malone, while making his latest TV project The Choir: Military
Wives, has charmed his way into the trust of the soldiers – and,
more crucially, the soldiers’ wives – of RMB Chivenor in remote
Malone at RMB Chivenor to
teach military wives and girlfriends to sing
As a result, there’s a sense of immense emotional uplift and
generosity about this series, in which Malone assembles a choir
from the women left behind when a detachment from Chivenor
heads out to Afghanistan for a six-month tour of duty.
The programme didn’t disappoint. I can only reiterate a
Den Bray comment online:
Bloomin’ bloody brilliant. So much so,
I decided to submit a letter to The Daily Telegraph along a
slightly different tack, which went something like this...
you what: last Saturday, Guy Fawkes Day, I reproduced a Fawkers gallery
of sharks, polecats and sparrow hawks from the
Edenbridge Bonfire Society’s Annual Celebrity Burn.
Born to lead
SIR – Not long ago someone started a popular petition ‘Jeremy Clarkson
for PM’. We can take it as read that it was not so much tongue-in-cheek
as utter despair at the sort of people who have featured as our
political masters over the past quarter century or so.
May I propose ‘Gareth Malone for PM’? Watching the first episode of his
insightful, inspirational and emotional new series The Choir –
Military Wives, it was intriguing how this gentle, nice-natured
character managed to have all those around him – from the stars of the
show, the wives and girlfriends, to the top brass – standing to
attention and eager to please.
He is clearly a chip off the old Winston Churchill
block, in as much that he is blessed with the gift of getting the best
out of all those around him.
While it is unlikely that we will ever see Gareth
Malone as PM, why do you suppose that politics, banking and big business
no longer attracts this kind of inspirational character, those
individuals who put people first, second and third? (Who can forget the
colourful and genial Sir John Harvey-Jones of ICI fame and popular
Troubleshooter television series?).
Indeed, can you imagine Gareth Malone ever saying
something as soul-destroying as David Cameron did to his troops back in
June: “You do the fighting [and the dying], I’ll do the talking.”
Perhaps we could start with someone who looks perfectly at ease while
wearing a combo of beat-up jeans and bow tie, something even Jeremy
Clarkson would struggle to get away with. (Again, remember the Sir John
Harvey-Jones rather wild and wind-swept look? Oh, and don’t
forget the pipe.)
Well, here’s the antidote...
Sunday, November 6
By the light of the silvery moon,
I want to spoon, to my honey I’ll croon love’s tune...
“HE DREW himself close to me and whispered:
‘Would you like to have dinner? I said: ‘Yes, sir, where?’ Nothing came
of it, but I didn’t mind because his hands were like big sausages. He
then dated Susan George. I think he must have got frustrated.”
Francoise Pascal, 62, the actress and model
reminisces about being propositioned by Prince Charles at a Polo match.
Do you suppose it was his hand she was holding? Anyway,
whenever I turn on the telly these days I can never escape Stephen Fry -
so, a variation on an old joke: Whenever I turn on the telly these days
I feel like Prince Charles’ fingers:
It’s Fry, Fry and Fry again.”
“DON’T worry Rory, you won’t see anything that
somebody much more famous than you hasn’t already seen.”
What Edwina Currie said to Rory Bremner, who accidentally walked in
on her changing costumes in the run-up to Strictly Come Dancing.
presume Mrs Currie was not referring to Prince Charles, but rather a
four-year affair she had with former Prime Minister John Major back in
Mrs Hot Currie became notorious when as a health
minister in 1988 – we were still in the dark about the Major affair back
then – she remarked that most of Britain’s egg production was infected
A huge storm followed as egg sales plummeted and she
was eventually forced to resign. Yes, it simply wasn’t true.
What I remember about the disclosure in 2002 of the Major-Hot Currie
affair was the comment from Lady Archer,
the wife of disgraced Tory peer Lord Archer: “I
am a little surprised, not at Mrs Currie’s indiscretion but at a
temporary lapse in John Major’s taste.”
Very good, Lady Archer, which in turn reminded me of this little gem
from Charles Buxton (1823-1871), an English
brewer, philanthropist, writer and Member of Parliament:
“The rule in carving holds good as to criticism;
never cut with a knife what you can cut with a spoon.”
By the light of the silvery moon,
I want to spoon, to my honey I’ll croon love’s tune...
Remember, remember, the 5th of November...
What a greedy load of Fawkers
OFTEN I spot a headline online, and I really don’t want to click
for “more” because that would spoil the picture already
magically conjured up in my mind – and I quickly move on.
Occasionally though I simply have to click: this link spotted on
home page this morning...
Scrubs Away £690,000 Work Of Art
A German museum is counting the cost after a cleaning woman
mistook a valuable sculpture for an unsightly mess – and damaged
it beyond repair.
The Martin Kippenberger installation entitled When
It Starts Dripping From The Ceiling, pictured alongside, was
on display at the Ostwall Museum in Dortmund. The late modern
master had created a tower of wooden slats under which a rubber
trough was placed with a thin beige layer of paint representing
dried rain water.
Taking it for a stain, the cleaner scrubbed the surface
until it gleamed. “It is now impossible to return it to its
original state,” a city spokesman said.
She added that the work, valued by insurers at 800,000 euros
(£690,000), had been loaned to the museum by a private
As you can imagine, the online responses were pretty much
exclusively drop-down-dead hilarity, with most voicing the
opinion that the whole “work of art” thing was doolally beyond.
However, I smiled XL at this response to the
online comments from someone identified simply as
Mmmmm philistines, get back to yer dogs playing
cards. I kinda like it, think they should just include the cleaner’s
actions as part of a ongoing generative process evolving the works to
new challenging levels, engaging the observer in a dialogue that
encompasses dirty past and its shiny new modern future, juxtaposed
within Marxist symbolism, the humble worker makes the rich man’s mud
When I read the above, some contributors were already discussing
it – much too seriously – which elevated the whole thing to an XXL
smile. (I also enjoyed a subsequent comment from
geniusloci: “I wish she’d make Tracey Emin’s bed.”
Now I have a couple of thoughts on this. Being a natural-born cynic,
there’s something not quite right about it all. I mean, why did the
cleaner go into the trough to clean it? If the stain had been on the
floor - well, that would be different. And hang about: dried rain water
I reckon the aforementioned private collector has
bought a pig in a poke and he or she can’t shift it, and is perhaps
desperate for the cash. Right, so what would I do in that situation? I
would make the cleaner an offer impossible to refuse, to “accidentally”
scrub it clean, and – bingo!
– £690,000 insurance money.
Brilliant. Nice work if you can get it. But you have to
tip your hat to the ingenuity of the scam. But, that's just me trying to
make sense of the whole unbelievable incident.
My second thought: if the sculpture really was
recognised as a “work of art” prior to the “Whoops!”
incident, and if it is now worthless, it would look just perfect at this
year’s Edenbridge Bonfire Society’s Annual Celebrity Burn.
Burn, baby, burn
EACH year the Edenbridge Bonfire picks a celebrity who has been
in the news for all the wrong reasons – and whose identity is kept a
closely-guarded secret until a few days before November the 5th. Here’s
a roll call of recent effigies...
In 2008, BBC presenter Jonathan Ross and his sidekick,
comedian Russell Brand, caused outrage after they left lewd messages on
the voice mail of Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs, including horrid
comments about Sachs’ granddaughter and bragging that one of them had
slept with her (and I seem to remember something about Ross on his
television show asking David Cameron whether he masturbated over
pictures of Lady Thatcher - class, eh?).
Brand resigned from the BBC and Ross was suspended from
his reported £18 million three-year golden egg contract. When Ross
originally signed the mega-deal in 2006, it was described in the media
as “obscene” – and would you believe it, the Catherine Wheel turned full
circle as he behaved in a suitably “obscene” manner on both the wireless and
Yup, Ross and Brand are a couple of perfectly stupid
and greedy Fawkers (first effigy, below):
Sadly, Balotelli trumps my sculpture nomination as a worthy “burnt at
the stake” contender.
In 2007, Cherie Blair signed a lucrative book deal exposing secrets from
her time as the PM’s wife at Number 10. It was a clever nod to her
natural-born greed, something which she curiously acknowledges – there
she is, with book and loads of money - but she blames it on her
underprivileged and impoverished upbringing. A proper little greedy
Fawker, if you ask me.
And last year it was footballer Wayne Rooney after he
made front-page news following his poor performance in the World Cup,
his loyalty to Manchester United (while all the while demanding even
more money), and allegations about his private life. The effigy is
clutching a five-year contract in one hand, with a holdall of cash in
the other. He completes the line up of greedy little Fawkers (that word
has a perfect ring about it, just like those German World War II planes).
Anyway, this year the celebrity guy is Manchester City
striker Mario Balotelli after the City forward, rather appropriately,
saw his house set on fire when his friends let off fireworks in the
bathroom of his Cheshire mansion. So just a silly Fawker then.
Ah well, I wonder who next year’s Fawker will be?
Friday, November 4
TO THE EDITOR OF THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
BACK at the beginning of August, I received the following letter from
Iain Hollingshead, the Letters editor at The Daily Telegraph...
I hope you don’t mind my writing to tell you about a new Telegraph
book called I Rest My Case, a follow-up to Am I Alone in
Thinking...? and I Could Go On, which is coming out in time
As you might be aware, we receive a huge volume of
Letters to the Editor at The Daily Telegraph. Most days our post
bag – which includes emails, letters and faxes – averages 800. Given
that we can publish only around 20 of these letters each day, a large
amount of interesting material goes to waste.
Often, some of the best letters never make the page as
they arrive too late and the news agenda has moved on, or they address
an interesting topic which doesn’t fit with the rest of the day’s
selection. We could easily make two or three interesting Letters pages
In 2009 I had the idea of collating and editing these
unused letters into a book: Am I Alone in Thinking...? Unpublished
letters to The Daily Telegraph. It proved to be a very popular
Christmas gift. Last year we published a completely new, follow-up
edition, I Could Go On.
This year’s compilation, I Rest My Case, will be
published at the end of October by Aurum, its cover illustration
provided by our cartoonist Matt. It will be available via the
Telegraph’s bookshop, as well as in all good bookshops and on
I Rest My Case consists of approximately 500
letters in 12 chapters, including ones on politics, sport, the royals,
anti-social media, travel, language, television and radio.
I’m delighted to say that we are intending to include
one of your letters – in the same format and abbreviated method of
identification (Name, town, county) as it would have appeared on the
Letters page. The book is currently undergoing its final edit so there
is a small chance that one or two letters may have to be removed, but
this is unlikely.
If, for any reason, you would prefer that your letter
did not appear, or for it to be used anonymously, please do contact me
by post or by email by 22nd August. Otherwise, there is no need to reply
to this letter and I do hope you enjoy the book.
Hm, the thing is, I received three of these letters from Mr
Hollingshead, which suggests that I may have three letters included.
What intrigues me is this: which letters have made it?
I’ve submitted regular missives over the past year,
with a few published anyway. I’ll have to pay a visit to a ‘good
bookshop’ – I don’t buy anything online (it’s my dominant
caveman gene, don’t you know).
Funnily enough, I received similar letters from The
Times a few years back, and the number of my letters that
appeared in The
Times’ book reflected the number of letters I received from the
The difference though was that The Times book
letters that had appeared in the paper. I think I prefer
The Daily Telegraph approach.
Whatever, an article has just appeared in The Daily
Readers’ letters: pearls from our postbag
Iain Hollingshead writes about the book; I
particularly liked this paragraph...
This has been the year of riots, Nick Clegg’s tears, bunga-bunga
and super-injunctions. England turned out to be surprisingly
good at cricket and unsurprisingly bad at rugby. The eurozone
has threatened to collapse, as did half the Middle East. We
waved goodbye to bin Laden and Gaddafi, and an enthusiastic
hello to Pippa Middleton’s bottom.
few letters from the book are included as a starter for ten. Sadly, I’m
included in that little lot. However, here are just a few examples I
SIR – While agreeing that hacking into other people’s telephones is
totally despicable and should be severely punished, my wife and I – a
couple who can barely manage to text – have a certain admiration for
those who have the ability to achieve such things.
John Ewington, Bletchingley, Surrey
The above caught my eye because of the news that a former fling of Hugh Grant’s,
Tinglan Hong (great name), had given birth five weeks ago to the actor’s
first child, a little girl.
Grant’s publicist said: “I can confirm that Hugh Grant
is the delighted father of a baby girl. He and the mother had a fleeting
affair and while this was not planned, Hugh could not be happier or more
supportive. He and the mother have discussed everything and are on very
A couple of things struck me. What exactly was that “fleeting affair”? A
one-night stand? A quick jump in a broom cupboard à la Boris Becker? We
should be told.
The other weird thing was that the announcement of the
happy event came compliments of Grant’s publicist – five weeks after the
birth. Well, that’s proof, I guess, that the media are no longer
phone-hacking, otherwise we would have known about this a while back.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
SIR – All these years I have lived under the impression that
Middleton Bottom was a rural west-country village.
Keith White, Conford, Hampshire
SIR – While I enjoyed the Royal wedding, I did miss the BBC
failing to interview William and Kate on their way back down the
aisle asking, “How does it feel?”.
Bruce Ridge, Cleveden, Somerset
I enjoyed this online response to the above...
thatlldo: I have to admit, after a recent wedding, I
asked the bride “How does it feel?”. She said “Same as before”.
thatlldo also added this, which rather amused me:
What an asset. And how elegant.
asked what the lyrics to his chart-topping song actually meant,
Don McLean said: “They mean I never have to work again in my
life.” And indeed, true to his word, he only released two chart-
topping songs (to date).
Back with that Middleton Bottom “west-country village” thingy. I Googled
Middleton Bottom – and was overwhelmed with pages and pages about
Pippa’s derrière. (If she currently lives in the capital, perhaps she is
now The London Derrière?
Oh Danny Boy, that’s a terrible suggestion.)
So I got out my RAC Road Atlas Britain 1998 ... sadly,
no Middleton Bottom – but, amazingly ... 26 Middletons, one of them just
down the road, on the Gower, near Worms Head ... there are also 18 Middletons
with addendums, such as Middleton Hall and Middleton-on-Sea. My
Middleton on the Hill, Herefordshire – well, Kate and
Pippa are certainly now up there on the Hill.
Middleton Bank Top, Northumberland – well, Kate and
Pippa have certainly had their bank accounts topped up.
Middleton One Row, Darlington – apropos Pippa, shame it
wasn’t Middleton Two Rows.
And my favourite...
Middleton-on-the-Wolds, East Riding of Yorkshire -
“Wold” as in “An upland area of open country or a hilly or rolling
region. It is no longer in common use but remains as part of the names
of some geographic areas in England, “the Yorkshire Wolds” for
I don’t know about you, but I think there should be a
place called The Middleton Wolds, in celebration of Pippa’s rolling
regions. I mean, she clearly rolls her rssss...
I remain, Sir, your very obedient servant,
Hubie Baby, Llandampness
Thursday, November 3
A shilling for your thoughts
YESTERDAY I featured that exceedingly smiley “children’s portions”
letter from The Times. Truth to tell, the Crazy Horsepower’s Chief Wise
Owl had also given me another letter, which I’ve just remembered
about, and it, too, is certainly
SS material (Smile Spot, that is).
First, some dots that perhaps need to be joined up for the benefit of
those who live outside the .co.uk borders...
The ‘bob-a-job week’, where boy scouts lend a helping hand to friends
and neighbours in exchange for a small payment, was first introduced as
a ‘good turn day’ way back in 1914 by scout movement founder Lord
Baden-Powell, and officially started as a ‘bob-a-job week’ during
Easter week in 1949.
However, it ended in 1992 after concerns were raised
over health and safety and child protection issues. The scheme had
previously seen youngsters across the UK carry out jobs including car
washing, gardening and helping elderly people with their shopping.
After nearly two decades, ‘bob-a-job week’ – or Scout
Job Week as it is now officially known – is back, but this time modern
scouts won’t expect to receive a penny for their voluntary work. The new
community week will see scouts offering help to hospitals, care homes or
The original scheme got its nickname from the five
pence piece – roughly the old shilling before decimal coinage was
introduced in 1971, and colloquially known as a ‘bob’, hence ‘bob-a-job
week’ – that the youngsters were paid for completing their good turn...
...as a matter of interest, the one shilling of 1914 was worth, in
2009, £3.72, according to the retail price index. Intriguingly,
according to something called the GDP deflator – a measure of the level
of prices of all new, domestically produced, final goods in
an economy – a shilling from 1914 was £4.88 in 2009.
However, if that one shilling is increased in line with
how much earnings have gone up since 1914, then in 2009 it was worth,
roughly, depending which particular index is used, an astonishing
So, as you recover from that – amazing how wages have outstripped
the value of goods and services, and why we are so much wealthier a hundred years on
– here’s that letter I mentioned, above...
Sir, My late sister-in-law, a Girl Guide commissioner, was just in time
to persuade a group of the unwisdom of their proposed effort to compete
with the local Scouts. The title they had in mind was “willing for a
GEORGE REID, Edinburgh.
Finally, I see that Nancy Dool’Allio, as I affectionately think of her,
has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing, with these words from judge
Len Goodman ringing in her ears:
“There were moments of Mills and Boon, but also
moments of meals-on-wheels.”
Oh dear, that’s very funny, if cruel – so we’ll leave
the final word to dear Nancy
was responding when reminded that she had been described as sexy:
“Well, everyone knows that, it’s quite
Wednesday, November 2
Higgity, haggity, hoggety, high
THE Jeremy Clarkson wagon keeps rolling along: “Them Cherokees are after
me, flaming spears, burn my ears – but I’m still singin’ a happy
“She says I was a slob and that I reeked of an
old ashtray. Still am and still do.” Mr Clarkson gets his
retaliation in first as his former wife, Alexandra Hall, prepares to
launch her book where she will share with us the news Clarkson attempted
to suppress with an injunction, that he had an affair with her after he
married his current wife.
Today I actually got round to reading his latest road test in The
Sunday Times In Gear motoring section...
brains and brawn: Clarkson drives the car that’s got it all
It’s the Range Rover Evoque Prestige SD4 auto, a snip at £39,000. He
Douglas Adams said the answer was 42. He was
wrong, though. It doesn’t matter what the question you are posing; the
answer is always a diesel-powered Range Rover Vogue SE.
What’s the best car for taking the children to school?
What’s the best car for a day’s shooting? What’s the best car for a
drive to Scotland? What’s the best car for a quiet drive home after
work? What’s the best car for crossing Africa?
What looks best in a field? Or in Knightsbridge? Or
outside your ex-wife’s pad while you’re having a quick shag for old
time’s sake? Range Rover. Range Rover. Range Rover.
Yes, okay, I made up that line “What looks best in a field?” No I
didn’t. I made up the one about being parked outside his ex-wife’s pad
while having etc, etc...
I couldn’t resist it. That’s what happens when you’re
not the Messiah, just a very naughty boy – and those damn Cherokees are
catching up with you, irrespective of whether you’re driving a Range
Rover Vogue SE.
And talking of naughty boys, Chief Wise Owl of Crazy Horsepower Saloon
fame has cut out another letter from The Times for my
delectation. And this has a special resonance to things Crazy
The Sundance Kid is a regular. I say ‘Kid’; he is now
into his 70s, and over recent years has suffered some ill health,
although he’s okay these days. Also, his wife suffers rheumatism and a
back problem, and she, bless, does have to put up with a great deal of
Now Mr and Mrs Sundance are traditionalists, in as much that they
enjoy a good old-fashioned Sunday lunch; however, cooking a fine meal
for just the two of them has now become something of a bind.
Riding to the rescue is the Crazy Horsepower, which
boasts a couple of popular restaurants. They specialise in function
meals – weddings, parties, Mother’s Day, etc – and they have a top
reputation. So Sunday lunch at the Crazy Horsepower is just like wot mum
used to make.
For the regulars in the bar they will do a main course
only, at a reasonable cost, which is popular. They will also do a
takeaway for Sundance and his wife, who live near the pub.
What makes it amusing is that Sundance orders a couple
of children’s portions. Not because that’s cheaper again, but neither he
nor his wife are big eaters. In fact Sundance never has been; he’s a
Right, with all those dots joined up, here’s the
Times letter handed me by a smiling Chief Wise Owl...
Sir, My parents were out to eat with friends and decided to downsize
portions as suggested by Anne Rowley (Times2, Oct 24). They asked if
they could order two standard portions and two children’s portions.
“No problem,” said the waitress. When she returned with
the meals she said of the two standard portions: “Be very careful, the
plates are very hot”; and to the others: “Your plates are burny-burny”.
ANDREW M. CUBIE, Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire
Tuesday, November 1
Late evening, Jimmy Savile is back in the news, and I really did smile when I read this...
God’ll Fix It
FOND memories of Jimmy Savile keep popping up all over the place. This
from Richard Littlejohn in the
Now then, now then
My favourite Jim’ll Fix It story was the time Jimmy Savile turned up at
a Status Quo concert with a 14-year-old wannabe rock star in toe. “This
is David,” Jim said to the band. “He wants to play rhythm guitar with
Francis Rossi took one look at him and said: “Anyone
can play rhythm guitar with Status Quo.”
Wonderful, especially as Status Quo remain one of the nation’s more
characterful bands. Which reminds me. It’s Nearly Christmas Time. And
time to dig out those lovingly cobbled together cassette tapes of
Christmas music from yesteryear, and dust ‘em off ready to welcome
Rudolph and his Red Nose.
Yes, I still play cassette tapes. Not that I am
anti-technology – I do this daily smile thingy for goodness’ sake – but
the trouble with electronic stuff is, once the gate crashes you lose
everything locked away behind that gate.
Frustrating beyond. However, with a cassette tape, if
it becomes mangled or broken you just cut and mend – and off you go.
Don’t talk to me about progress.
Last Sunday, I told the tale about changing all the clocks in the home
and beyond, and how our
politicians are thinking of keeping to British Summer Time. Well, this
fascinating letter in today’s Telegraph...
What to do about
Greenwich Mean Time and British Summer Time
SIR – In 1884, 25 nations met to regularise the muddle of dates and
times that had existed until then. They voted 22-1 (with San Domingo
voting against, and Brazil and France abstaining) that a leafy area of
London would have a line drawn through it which would become zero
This would be the central point from which the whole
world (and now space stations, too) would measure dates and time. Thus
was born the Greenwich Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time.
I am immensely proud of this remnant of our influential
past and I think it would be tragic never actually to be on GMT, but
always to be GMT+1 or + 2.
So let’s keep GMT. It gets dark, it gets light. For
goodness’ sake, just drive carefully, put children in reflective
waistcoats and teach them not to walk into the road without looking, and
crush all bicycles which do not have working front and rear lights.
Fran Godfrey, London W1
Would this be Fran Godfrey the BBC Radio 2 newsreader? Famous for her
appearances on Wake Up To Wogan, where she became known as the thinking
man’s alarm clock? How ironic.
Anyway, the above, interesting as it is, does not in
itself qualify to claim a smile spot – but, as often happens, it’s the
follow-up contributions which make one smile XL. For example...
This appeared on line, from
Sosraboc: The French abstained in 1884 because their preferred
alternative was the Paris meridian. That would have given us all PMT,
and who wants that?
Nice one. But this was the letter that made me chuckle...
SIR – Time for a true compromise that will annoy
everyone. Let’s put the clocks back half an hour and forget the whole
Rod Andrews, Southampton
about that, then!
to ‘lie in state’ – at the Queen’s Hotel Leeds
It seems the marking of Sir Jimmy Savile’s death will be as
extraordinary as his colourful life. The coffin, containing the DJ’s
body, will be put on public display in the manner of a dead monarch
lying in state...
Delightful British eccentricity at its most doolally. Clearly, God Fixed
It For Jim.
Monday, October 31
To believe, or not to believe: that is the question
THIS letter in today’s Telegraph, along with a follow-up online comment,
tickled my fancy no end...
Signs of early snow
SIR – Last autumn, we watched the squirrels frenetically storing acorns
and were therefore not surprised by snow in November. This year, the
activity is even more desperate.
When it comes to predicting bad weather, a squirrel is better than a
Peter le Feuvre, Chichester, West Sussex
This online response from Nickr:
I imagine that Peter le Feuvre in Chichester is
watching grey squirrels. I wonder if they are busy predicting the
severity of a North American winter?
That’s rather good, bearing in mind that greys were introduced to this
country from North America. And what did we see on the news today?
“Snow hits New York before Halloween for only the
fourth time since the Civil War [1861-1865] as East Coast hunkers down for a VERY
chilly and snowy weekend.”
My own guess would be that the squirrels in Chichester
learnt a hard lesson over the last two severe winters and are not going to be caught
again this year. There again...
Time and Jack Frost will tell. In the meantime, Nickr is ahead.
Last Saturday it was Time Magazine’s Top 10 Unfortunate
One-liners. Curiously, today I tripped over lists
of famous quotes that were never said – or that were never quite
said as quoted.
Given the bunch of liars that featured in the political
one-liners, this is a great place to start...
“Power corrupts; absolute power
corrupts absolutely.” This misquote hearkens back to
Lord Acton, a 19th century English historian who was commenting
about tyrannical monarchs (Caesar, Henry VIII, Napoleon, various
Russian Tsars, etc).
Lord Acton actually wrote:
“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Great men are almost always bad men.”
Yes, what is it about power that morphs gentlemen into sharks,
polecats and sparrow hawks? The past 20 years are littered with
politicians, bankers, business leaders, media chiefs, lawyers –
and on and on...
Here’s another famous epitaph misquote.
“On the whole, I would rather be in Philadelphia.”
Attributed to the witty W. C. Fields, alongside. The actual quote
goes: “Here lies W. C. Fields: I would
rather be living in Philadelphia.” Presented as one
of “A group of artists [writing] their own epitaphs in a 1925
issue of Vanity Fair” – which may or may not have been
written by the figures whose names appear with the epitaphs.
W C Fields: "Always
carry a flagon of
whiskey in case of snakebite, and
furthermore, always carry a small snake."
But I rather like the famous quotes that were never actually said. The
one that made me smile most was this from the great Groucho Marx...
The “Cigar” quote
One of the most frequently quoted Groucho-isms is one he never spoke.
Legend has it that one night on his popular radio quiz programme, You
Bet Your Life, Groucho had an exchange with a woman contestant – the
mother of nine kids – that showed just how clever he could be on the
When asked why she had so many children, the woman
(allegedly) said, “I love my husband,” to which Marx is supposed to have
responded: “I love my cigar, too, but I take it out of my mouth once in
a while.” He never said it.
Life Magazine has a Photo Gallery listing 32 such quotes,
from the serious to the light-hearted. Fascinating stuff. The link is
Sunday, October 30
THE alarm goes off ... I reach to switch off ... then I turn on the
Good morning. Yes, it’s Gareth Gwynn here on BBC
Radio Wales, the time is 5am – that’s right, 5am, the clocks went back
this morning – so tell you what, why not spend a few moments dashing
about your house right now sorting out all the clocks ... go on, off you
go... [some relaxing background music wafts out of the speakers]...
There’s the bedside clock; the kitchen clock; the one
in the hall; the one in the spare bedroom, the one in the other spare
bedroom – you can keep doing spare rooms depending on your
The carriage clock that you normally forget; the one on
the oven; the one on the microwave; the one on the frid – hang on, I
don’t think fridges have a clock, do they?
Your radio-controlled atomic clock that you have to
switch back when you remember that it’s radio controlled and it should
have changed itself automatically; the one in your phone – if it didn’t
change automatically – and your laptop.
Your VHS video recorder; your Betamax player, your
valve-driven TV set, your gramophone; your watch; your spare watch; the
town hall clock; all the clocks and watches in the shop if you are a
clock or watch shop owner ... is that all of them?
So that’s that job out of the way – on with the show...
That was a smiley way to be greeted first thing of a Sunday morning.
Mind you, he did miss the clock on the central heating, the children’s
bedrooms (if applicable), the car clock, the church clock - oh, and all the
clocks on the vehicles if you sell cars for a living – it’s the only day of the year
when a motor trader is allowed by law to turn all the clocks back,
Anyway, now that I have personally got to grips with all this changing
of the clocks routine, the government is now thinking of having British
Summer Time all year round. Bugger. And after all this careful planning. For
Before going to bed last night I changed the time on
the central heating clock. Even though we are currently in the middle of
an exceptionally mild spell, I have the central heating on some 30
minutes before I get up, just to dissipate the early morning chill – and
then I switch the heating off, dependant of course on the ambient
These days, what with it being so unnaturally warm, the
is only on first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Then, as I got into bed last night, I turned the
bedside clock back – so this morning the alarm and central
heating were in sync. During the day I changed all the other clocks as and
when I noticed or remembered.
One point of issue with Gareth Gwynn’s excellent piece:
the person who sells clocks and watches wouldn’t have to change
a single one because every timepiece for sale should be set at
either 10.10am or 1.50pm.
A while back I did a piece about the clock in the tower
at Llandeilo Church, which had been on stop for about a year or
so, stuck at 02:13, which is a rather ugly-looking time to be
I’d suggested that the hands should be reset at 10 past
10 or 10 to 2, which is what you see in adverts for watches and
clocks because both times are pleasing on the eye – it
generates a subliminal smile in the eye of the beholder,
apparently. Very cunning.
Anyway, the church clock is now in working order. However, there’s
a current eye-catching Barclays Bank ad which shows a whole
multitude of clocks, all set at different times, the tag line
being: Speak to us anytime, day or night – see picture,
But the advertisement set me wondering: where on earth is the ad man’s time? Then
I looked closely – and there it is, hidden away right down at the
bottom, on the floor...
...10 past 10 (tick) - and it’s an alarm clock (tock). Clever.
By a curious coincidence, a few Sundays ago, Mrs Mills of Sunday
Times Style magazine fame,
she who solves all your problems, had the following question
Why do photographers always photograph watches at 10 past 10 or 10 to 2?
What are they doing the rest of the day?
SH, BY EMAIL
These times mark the beginning and end of the working day for most
photographers. In between they are trying to seduce the models.
By one of those delightful coincidences, which forever mark my walk
through time, there was a follow-up letter, today. But before we
get there, I reckon there’s a new Mrs Mills on the block, and it’s
probably a fella because the letters of late are awash with innuendo and
double entendres. Anyway, take a little time to peruse...
TRICKY CAMERA WORK
As an avid reader and photographer, I was disappointed that you
suggested that photographers only work from 10.10am till 1.50pm (Style,
October 9). In fact, we are busy exposing, flashing, shooting and
touching up all day long.
PD, PARSONS GREEN
Really? I thought that now everything was digital, you had even less
to do and that exposing was a thing of the past. (I am not entirely
clear on photographer’s terms, but would I be right in thinking that
digital manipulation counts as touching up?)
Many 10 past 10s and 10 to 2s today...
Saturday, October 29
To believe, or not to believe: that is the question
YESTERDAY I quoted Jimmy Carter’s contribution to Time Magazine’s
Top 10 Unfortunate Political One-liners, a list which proves that
90 per cent of politicians are as bent as boomerangs, always returning
to their default position of natural-born liars.
If you are unfamiliar with Time Magazine’s
memorable list, it really is worth a quick peruse...
1 “I am not a crook.” President Richard Nixon’s
defence when the Watergate scandal broke. As we subsequently
discovered, he was.
2 “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
President Bill Clinton regarding his “alleged” affair with
Monica Lewinsky, conveniently forgetting that his trousers was
still down around his ankles.
3 “Read my lips: no new taxes.” George H. W. Bush
at the 1988 Republican National Convention. Yep, as president,
he introduced new taxes.
4 “The fundamentals of the economy are strong.”
Senator John McCain, just prior to the collapse of investment
bank Lehman Brothers, which in turn lead to the banking crisis
world wide. His opponent, Barack Obama, cashed in on the
statement – and the rest, as they say...
5 “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my
heart many times.” Jimmy Carter, as featured in yesterday’s
smile of the day. This is the 10 per cent honesty input,
although subsequently labelled “too much information” by the
6 “It’s vile. It’s more sad than anything else, to see
someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because
of a sexual addiction.”
Richard Nixon: dolphin
pussycat or polecat?
sparrow or sparrow hawk?
Republican Mark Foley at the height of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal,
too was brought down by an addiction to sexually explicit text messages
congressional pages. It’s like rain on your wedding day, observed
7 “We still seek no wider war.” President Lyndon B
Johnson, in the lead up
to the destructive Vietnam war.
8 “That depends on what the meaning of 'is', is.”
President Bill Clinton gives a parsable impression of someone who is not
keen to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,
during his testimony in front of a grand jury.
9 “The fundamental business of the country, that is,
production and distribution of commodities, is on a sound and prosperous
basis.” President Herbert Hoover, four days before the stock market
crash leading to the great depression of the Thirties. John McCain, up
there at No. 4, hadn’t been paying attention to the lessons of history,
10 “You know, I always wondered about that taping equipment, but I’m damn
glad we have it, aren’t you?” President Richard Nixon actually said
this to Watergate co-conspirator H R Haldeman weeks before the US Senate
began its televised hearings.
Honestly, what a dreadful bunch these politicians are. I did look for
the equivalent British list, but surprisingly, no luck yet.
At the end of the day
FINALLY, Jimmy Savile said his last “Goodbye, guys and gals” at the age
of 84. A proper English eccentric who added hugely to the gaiety of the
passing parade, and who raised millions for charity.
He once commented that the secret of his success was
that he “made everyone feel a bit superior”. Underneath it all, Savile
seemed modest. “I’m not actually a social person in the glitterati
sense,” said the man who raised more than £40m for charity.
“I’m not that type because I was never actually in
showbiz. I’m a service industry. When I play records, I’m playing other
people’s talent. My talent is maybe picking the right records to play.
So red carpets and stuff like that don’t apply to service industry
Jimmy Savile was a man you never heard anyone speak ill
Friday, October 28
Mum’s the word
YESTERDAY’S smile ended with the tale of the harassed mum on the bus,
with child in tow who is endlessly pleading with her: “Mum!
To which the exasperated mother eventually responds: “I can’t believe
how happy I was when I first heard you say that.” It gets
“When I told my mother I was running
for president, she said ‘President of what?’.” James Earl
“Jimmy” Carter Jr, 87, American politician who served as the
39th President of the United States (1977-1981).
Smashing quote, and deserving of a grown man who was christened
“Junior”. However, perhaps Carter’s most memorable quote ...
well, this spotted online, compliments of Time Magazine's
Top Ten Unfortunate Political
The decision to do an interview with
Playboy magazine was possibly not the best call of President
Carter’s tenure. Yet, it was all going pretty well until he
started talking about the Bible and adultery.
“I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve
committed adultery in my heart many times.” Now, Carter’s
not actually admitting anything shocking. Most men would
probably say, “Yep, been there”.
But presidents rarely (and for good reason) venture
into the land of “too much information”. Ideally, they should
exist on a higher plane than the rest of us. It was
1976: Jimmy Carter...
a nice man, a very, very nice man
an uncomfortable moment for America.
Uncomfortable, indeed. As for presidents existing on a higher plane, well, Bill Clinton crashed
to earth, with a bang, on that front - but that’s another quote, another
story. However, back with Jimmy Carter Jr,
something better lurks in ambush...
“Sometimes, when I look at my children, I say
to myself, ‘Lilian, you should have remained a virgin’.” Lillian
Carter (1898-1983), mother of wee Jimmy Junior, gloriously crossing that
“too much information” line.
It’s in the genes, clearly.
Just to keep things presidential, and a reminder that there are some
bits of information which are worth sharing, for example, this from
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), First Lady
of the United States from 1933 to 1945: “I had a rose named after me
and I was flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in
the catalogue: ‘No good in a bed, but fine against a wall.’.”
A very wise lady was Eleanor Roosevelt:
“Friendship with oneself is all-important, because
without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.”
Amen to that.
Thursday, October 27
“I AM going to be on a nuclear submarine and I
will be on it for a very long time, so you won’t find me. It is a good
way of getting away from the paparazzi.” Jeremy Clarkson.
A reminder of yesterday’s smile, apropos the latest in
the Carry On Clarkson series of situation comedies: Jeremy Clarkson is
in hiding after allegations, which he denies, that he had an affair with
his former wife, Alexandra Hall, after he
In the letter I submitted to the Telegraph -
which didn’t make the cut (boo, hiss),
I said this:
The latest Carry On Clarkson revelations bring to
mind that infamous film of the polar bear parading round and round
inside its cage, shaking its head from side to side, driven mad by its
So, just another day at the office then for
his seemingly troublesome love life. And revisited today because, last
night, I watched BBC One’s The Frozen Planet, an endless
kaleidoscope of stunning scenes from the polar regions.
By a huge coincidence, the online world has since been awash with
images from The Frozen World, in particular the courtship
sequence of a pair of polar bears.
In the picture, alongside, the male follows the female,
showing his battle scars. The size difference is clearly
illustrated – the male weighs twice as much as she does.
The moment I saw this image, I thought to myself,
that's poor old Jeremy, there. Down in his nuclear submarine,
Clarkson must feel as battered and bruised as Mr Polar Bear. If
not physically, then probably emotionally as he starts to shake his head
from side to side.
Back with the polar bears: the courtship and mating
routine lasted over a fortnight – so no wham, bam, thank you
ma’am, here, then. Indeed, the male had to defend his
Jeremy, sporting bloody battle scars, follows
nose in the air:
"Leave her, Jezza - she ain't worth it!"
interests by fighting off at least ten rival males. But, a bit
hanky-panky was the reward following each battle.
The female polar bear is clearly high maintenance. She clearly retains the ability to supersede (no pun intended)
her previous mating if a more likely lad comes along. The fights between
the competing males were fierce; in fact much like the stags a couple of fields
away in nearby Dinefwr Park at this time of year, which I can hear
continually calling out their mating calls.
By the end of the mating period, the pair parted
company, she with a little hop, skip and a smug look with nose in the
air - and he, splattered in
blood as he limped away into the distance.
His fierce protection of his conjugal rights would
guarantee that the cubs that she would give birth to in nine months
would be his. After a quick visit to Polar A&E, he returns to his solitary ways out on the sea ice, and
will perhaps never see his mate again, or indeed his offspring.
Talking of mating and offspring, I heard this marvellous story today, compliments of
Irish funny man Ed Byrne. He was expanding on the frustrations of
overhearing young children endlessly repeating “Mum!
... Mum!”, without
getting a response.
Ed observed that such kids sound like an annoying alarm
clock going off. Then the mother will respond with “What?!”
– and it’s like pressing the snooze button for a brief break from the
Then he told the following overheard exchange between mother and
child on a bus, which he assured us was true – and I believe him
because only a harassed mum would come out with this line. So,
mum and child are on the bus:
To which the exasperated mum responds: “I can’t believe how happy I was
when I first heard you say that...”
Wednesday, October 26
Pause for thought
LAST Monday, I observed that celebrity is now a zoocus – a cross between
a zoo and a circus. Anyway, I have since spotted the following quote...
“Dressing up and prattling around. We are all
monkeys in a zoo.” Martin Clunes, 49, English actor, on his craft
and its attendant celebrity.
Great minds think alike, obviously!!
Two exclamation marks there, just in case!
And then this quote...
“Most people writing witless spite on the net
never imagine that the subjects of their bile, protected by the
glittering winding sheet of fame, might even read it; surprisingly,
often they do, and it can be very hurtful.” Derren Brown, 40, British
illusionist, mentalist, painter, writer and sceptic, best known for his
The ‘mentalist’ bit threw me ... it’s the belief that all objects of knowledge,
including the physical universe, ultimately have no existence except as
creations of the mind.
How about that? In moments of speculation I have toyed with the notion
that everything that goes on around me happens only inside my head. And
if you are reading this, then everything is happening only inside your head.
In other words, I am a figment of your imagination.
It’s an idea very hard to disprove. But if true, you
know what that means, don’t you? You are God. Now there’s a thought.
Whatever, back with celebrities feeling the pain. Well, they do not help themselves. Today, the curious
affairs of Jeremy Clarkson have hit the headlines yet again. This, from
Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson abandons gag order on ex-wife who
says they had an affair
Clarkson, the Top Gear presenter, took out a far-reaching injunction to
prevent the publication of allegations that he had an affair with his
first wife while married to his second, it has emerged.
THE television presenter and newspaper columnist has built a career
around expressing his forthright and uncompromising opinions and
refusing to be silenced.
He has now decided to drop the injunction against his
former wife, who claims he carried on sleeping with her after he married
his current wife, Frances. Clarkson was granted the privacy injunction
last September, when he was referred to in court only as AMM, while his
ex-wife, Alexandra Hall, was referred to as HXW.
His case was also weakened by the claim earlier this
year that he had a long-term affair with Philippa Sage, a producer on
The alleged affair with Miss Sage led to accusations of
hypocrisy, as Clarkson has used his newspaper columns to condemn other
high-profile figures who have had affairs, including Max Mosley, the
former motor sport chief, and David Mellor, the former Tory minister
[who famously hanky-pankied while wearing a Chelsea football shirt,
before being caught in the offside trap].
Clarkson has added that the gagging order became
“pointless” when his name was linked with the allegations on websites
including Twitter. He said he was moved to lift the order after his
mother and three children were affected by the online rumour.
Clarkson is said to be spending the rest of the week 300 metres under
the ocean on a nuclear submarine. He told The Sun:
“My wife and I decided to let it go. My ex-wife is
now free to tell her story and people can either believe it or not, it’s
up to them. I will be on a nuclear submarine...”
Funny that: a nuclear
explosion looks much like something vaguely familiar...
So on that ironic fireball, I thought I would drop a letter to the
SIR – Celebrity is a zoocus,
a cross between a zoo and a circus: we, the great
unwashed, stop, stand and stare; we hoop, holler and applaud – or boo,
hurl insults and/or rotten fruit; we poke through the bars with a long
stick, hoping to provoke; despite notices telling us “Please do not feed
the slebs”, we still throw food – note the obsession with grubby things
on both telly and radio; and finally, we encourage them to walk the
tight rope, without a safety net – and then laugh and cheer when they
The latest Carry On Clarkson revelations bring to mind
that infamous film of the polar bear parading round and round inside its
cage, shaking its head from side to side, driven mad by its human
I fear that if Jeremy is not quickly returned to the
wild, he too will start that head shaking business, driven doolally by
the demands of the ringmasters and the webmistresses (“Will you walk
into my parlour…?”).
This all brings me back to Derren Brown’s quote, above, which in turn
reminds me of a Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
witticism from Thoughts on Various Subjects
“Few are qualified to shine in
company; but it is in most men’s power to be agreeable.”
Sadly, both Brown and Clarkson are correct, in that Twitter and the like do
seem to attract those at the margins. Two of the most telling features
of online ‘Comment’ sections are these... “The comments below have
been moderated in advance”, and, as spotted alongside every post:
“Report abuse”, or variations on the theme.
It is a terrible breeding ground for those of a
doolally nature. Yet, despite all the “witless spite”, you do find
little gems, such as a reminder of this wonderful
Mark Twain quote:
“Never argue with a fool;
onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”
Now there’s yet another intriguing thought. Carry on, Jeremy.
Tuesday, October 25
The urge to get laid
THIS, spotted in The Sunday Times’
Weird but wonderful column...
Road leads straight to bed
Women have ended a three-and-a-half month sex strike after officials
agreed to pave a road into their town. It began on June 22 when the
women of Barbacoas, Colombia, complained their menfolk weren’t doing
enough to get the road laid.
After the strike was lifted, Luz Marina Castillo, the
leader of the protest, said: “That night we devoted to our husbands. The
desire was great and we took advantage of it.”
Sounds like a good deal: you get the road laid and you get laid.
Mind you, I do find myself wondering if the sex strike applied to
lay-byes; you know, those women who were, perhaps, getting just a little
bit laid on the side.
The startling thing is that William Shakespeare nearly
wrote about these 100-plus no-sex days and nights in a play called: A Hundred And Twelfth Night...
Come away, come away,
And in happy cypress let me be laid...
Talking of which, the tale immediately following the above in the
newspaper was this
brawl at bedside
Three women, two of them pregnant, were involved in a bedside brawl
while visiting the same man in hospital, said police in Upland,
Police said that one of the women slashed the other two
with a blade. The man was recovering in hospital from gunshot wounds.
Guns and roses, indeed. And what a perfect place name for such infamy:
Upland. Although it does sound like the sort of place where the women
should be complaining about the state of the local roads.
Monday, October 24
The things they say
“BECOMING famous has taken the place of going
to heaven.” Jarvis Cocker, 48, English musician and lead singer of
Pulp, muses on the nature of celebrity. Hm, I like that.
I’ve always thought of celebrity as a cross between a zoo and a circus:
we stop, stand and stare; we hoop, holler and applaud – or boo, throw
insults and/or rotten fruit; we poke through the bars with a long stick
hoping to provoke; despite notices telling us “Please do not feed the
slebs”, we still throw food – note the obsession with food on both telly
and radio; and finally, we encourage them to walk the tight rope,
without a safety net – and then laugh and cheer when they fall off.
No wonder so many slebs go doolally.
“At my college reunion, the women were dancing
with urns.” Joan Rivers, 78, American comedian, complains that all
her contemporaries are dying. What would Eric Morecambe say? “If
they’re dancing with Ern’s, did they notice the join?”
It also brings to mind Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow’s A Psalm of Life:
Life is real!
Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Perhaps that first line should read:
Life is unreal!
Life is urn-est!
“Sometimes I think I am a gay man trapped in a
woman’s body.” Kathy Lette, 52, Australian author (“deranged”,
according to herself), but one witty lady.
I know the feeling, Kathy. I sometimes think I am one sexy lady trapped
in a man’s body. God, I’d give the lads a good time.
“I don’t see why gay people shouldn’t be
married. We recognise marriage as a man and woman and having babies.
That is neither here nor there for me.” Sir Cliff Richard, OBE, 71,
Do you suppose Cliff is preparing the groundwork for some sort of ‘hold
the inside page’ announcement? Shock, horror!
“Streakers at the 2012 Olympics could face a £20,000 fine. I’m not
surprised; imagine the confusion they could cause during the 4 x 100
relay.” Jimmy Carr, 39, English-Irish comedian and humorist, tweets
from the inside lane.
Hm, grabbing the baton with both hands there, Jimmy. Show off. But the
image does grow on me.
And finally, good old
Nancy Dell’Olio –
as I now fondly call her – keeps churning out the gems, even though a
whole day’s smiles was dedicated to her delightful doolallyness last
Monday: “Dancing, it puts you in touch
with your unconscious. I mean, some people say that I look like 15, but
I say no, not 15 but much younger. Like seven.”
Now you understand what
Pamela Stephenson meant when she said:
“Please, please vote for Nancy
Dell’Olio. I know she is on her own special planet but she is funnier
than a Chihuahua on speed.”
Sunday, October 23
The best years of their lives
LAST night, as often happens when I’m zap-a-dee-dooing through the
television channels, I caught just a snatch of a programme on BBC Two
called Spitfire Women. I was hooked: it was the story of the 168
female pilots who served in Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary
during the Second World War, risking their lives to transport aircraft
from factory to aerodrome and the front line.
So today I watched the whole programme, which was
itself a repeat, on iPlayer. First, a few of the dots joined up...
During World War II, a remarkable band of female pilots fought against
all the odds for the right to aid the war effort. Without these
Spitfire Women, the war may never have been won. These 168
trailblazers were part of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), a
thousand-strong organisation that delivered 300,000 aircraft to the
front line RAF during Britain’s darkest hour.
Every day, responsibility fell on their shoulders to get the
planes to the front line fighters, which often pushed them into dangerous
and even deadly situations.
Using interviews with the last few surviving veterans,
an elite group of elegant women now well into their 80s, as well
as archive footage and dramatic reconstruction, this documentary
brought to life the forgotten story of the ATA.
The resilience of these women in the face of open
discrimination is one of the most inspiring and overlooked
milestones in women’s rights. Their story is one of courage,
sexism and patriotism, but above all a story about women who
want to break the confines of the world they live in and reach
Just a few of the ATA's female
for the skies.
It seems that these women are the first examples of
equal pay for equal work. Initially they were paid 20 per cent less than
the men, but their influential leader, Pauline Gower, an establishment
figure with connections in Parliament, brought it all about in what
is believed to be the first example of equal pay for equal work in
Astonishingly inspirational women, sounding wonderful even in
old age. I was particularly taken with one of the ladies, Mary
There were 143 different types of aircraft, and the
girls, as they then would have been, never knew what they would
fly until given their delivery chits in the morning. Even more
remarkable, they were given no specific training on any of the
planes; all they had were 30 minutes to familiarise themselves
with their personal bible, the handbook Ferry Pilots Notes.
“You’d get out of a Tiger Moth,” said Mary
Wilkins-Ellis, “and into a Wellington bomber and then into a
As someone who has held a pilot’s licence, I appreciate
that once you’ve mastered the art of flying, then every aircraft
is pretty much the same to fly. Think of the 9/11 hijackers
who had actually trained on small, single engine aircraft;
crucially they had not shown any interest in learning how to takeoff and land, which should,
with hindsight, have given the game away.
However, it was the complexity of the controls,
especially with the larger aircraft, that must have been a
challenge in that initial 30 minute flick through the handbook –
as the picture, alongside, suggests.
As with all pilots, male and female, the Spitfire was
the favourite. “It was a plane that you wore,” said an
enthusiastic lady. “It really did fit as well as your favourite
dress ... you could go up and play with the clouds ... it was
like riding a good horse.”
Mary Wilkins-Ellis then flicked through her log sheets
... she had personally flown 76 types of aeroplanes, as she
But this is the story I liked, again from Mary Wilkins-Ellis...
“I had just delivered a heavy Wellington bomber. As I stepped down from
aeroplane I was greeted by the RAF, with a car, and they were looking
‘Are you taking me to the Control?’ I asked. ‘No, we’re waiting for the
they replied. ‘I am
the pilot,’ I said. And do you know, they didn’t believe me.
They went inside the aeroplane and searched it to find the
pilot. I was eventually driven to Control, where quite a crowd
gathered. They were all flabbergasted that a little girl like me
would fly these big aeroplanes, all by oneself.”
How delightful is that. However, flying in the ATA,
whether you were a man or a woman, was one of the most high-risk
activities in the whole war – its death rate was higher even than in
RAF Fighter Command. Most casualties were down to bad weather.
Flying into cloud had serious consequences, pilots regularly
crashing into mountains, hillsides, even church spires.
Yet, as one of the ladies admitted, with a hint of
sadness: “It was the best part of my life, I’m sure.”
Amazing stuff. And very smiley in a very moving way.
There is one image from the documentary that is imprinted on my
mind, and after much searching online, I found it, and it is
shown here, alongside...
The caption printed on the photograph says:
Flight Capt. Miss Joan Hughes
[good old Welsh name, that!].
At the age of 22 had 600 hours flying time, ferried four engined
bombers, and was the only woman instructor on all types of
At 17, Joan Hughes had been the youngest female flyer
in Great Britain, having started at 15, before age restrictions
were introduced. She was described as ‘petite’ but a highly
accomplished flyer. I mean, just look at her
“They were all flabbergasted that
a little girl
like me would fly these big aeroplanes, all
by oneself...” Mary Wilkins-Ellis
next to that wheel.
Flight Capt. Miss Joan Hughes made me think of
John Betjeman’s A Subaltern’s Love Song:
Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,
Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun...
There’s this one verse...
The Hillman is waiting, the light’s in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing’s the light on your hair.
So, if the ghost of John Betjeman will forgive me...
The Spitfire is waiting, the light’s in the hall,
The pictures of aeroplanes bright on the wall,
My sweet, you will shortly takeoff in the air
And there on the runway’s the light on your hair.
Saturday, October 22
Yet he is oft led by the nose with gold
Clown in The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
YET another intriguing headline draws my undivided attention...
who tried to turn poo into gold failed
Hm, this, I thought to myself, has to be another story from good old China
Town, so I clicked on the link...
Arson charge man
jailed after trying to turn faeces into gold
A man has been jailed after a bizarre experiment
went wrong and started a fire in a block of flats. It is thought that as
part of a wacky experiment, Paul Moran, 30, of Northern Ireland
[a hundred thousand apologies, China] left his
faeces, along with other waste products such as fertiliser, on an
electric heater – then whoosh!
The experiment caused around £3,000 worth of damage to
his Housing Executive home in a block of flats in Derrin Park,
Enniskillen, in July.
Upon his release he will spend a further 12 months on
licence. Moran admitted arson and endangering the lives of others. His
Honour Judge McFarland [shame it wasn’t Judge McFartland]
told him: “Rather bizarrely you were attempting to make gold from human
faeces and waste products. It was an interesting experiment to fulfil
the alchemist’s dream, but wasn’t going to succeed.”
An interesting experiment? Honestly, you couldn’t make these things up;
and anyway, you simply wouldn’t be believed.
Personally, I think Moran would have been much better
off going out on the town and seeking a man to sell him some magic
beans. The following morning he could then have climbed up the gigantic
beanstalk ... and stolen the giant’s pet hen – you know, the one which
lays those golden eggs...
...Life is so simple when you do it right. As the following online
comment from Claire confirms:
I find it’s safer and easier to poo in an
envelope and post it to Cash4Gold.
Friday, October 21
a bitch (or so I read on TV)
A COUPLE of days back I mentioned that I had watched Ian Hislop guest on
the One Show. Today I caught up with last weekend’s return of the
new series of Have I Got News For You on iPlayer. Actually I
watched the extended Have I Got A Bit More News For You.
The main point of discussion was the then defence
secretary, Liam Fox (who resigned the day after the show was recorded,
something Hislop correctly predicted), in particular Fox’s curious
relationship with his wedding day best man and self-styled adviser, Adam Werritty.
Talk about senior people and their lack of inherent
wisdom. What on earth was the man thinking? It seems though that Fox has
a habit of acting and saying dumb things. On the show we heard that some
years ago Fox had to apologise for describing The Spice Girls as “three
dogs and a blackbird”.
Now that would go down well at The Old Bull and Bush
pub, even The Old Bullshit and Basil Brush Saloon – but from the mouth
of a politician?
Anyway, what tickled me on the show was a feature on the mangled
subtitling for the hard of hearing as occasionally spotted on live BBC
television programmes. For example, the ultra serious Jeremy Paxman
saying “Hello and welcome to Newsnight”, coming up on screen as “Hello
and welcome to Nosenight”.
Because the subtitling happens on the hoof it is quite naturally
a breeding ground for slips of the fingertips. The show quoted
further glorious examples...
Former politician Ann Widecombe was talking about something
being “an analogy”, and it came up as “anal glory” – to which
the ever witty Paul Merton observed: “Yes, it flowers once a
year, doesn’t it?”
Then a report on BBC Breakfast mentioned pigs on a farm
nibbling on “wellies”, and it became something exceedingly
school playground-ish – see alongside...
Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, appeared on
screen as “Ed Miller Band”.
A pig in a poke: this became an
internet hit when an
eagle-eyed viewer posted the shot, describing pigs
And the hard of hearing became alarmed that the sale of millions
of puppies in Britain might have been about the trade in live dogs to
take-away outlets, but it was actually a story about people wearing
poppies for Remembrance Day.
And how about this during the Queen Mother’s funeral, a
solemn call for silence became: “We will now have a moment’s violence.”
But perhaps the most memorable example was Rowan
Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, subtitled as “the arch bitch of
Intriguingly, the BBC is the only broadcaster in the world that
subtitles all of its programmes. So we forgive them their slips in what
must be a most demanding job which requires absolute concentration.
The blunders are caused during live events when either
a stenographer types words phonetically, or by speech recognition. The
latter has an observer repeating into a microphone as he or she listens
to the broadcast, and a computer then changes what is being said to
Ah, now that explains how the Archbishop became “the
arch bitch”, a mistake a stenographer would clearly not make.
Very smiley though.
Thursday, October 20
Putting one’s best foot forward
THIS was the online headline that caught my eye today...
Man orders size 14.5
slipper and gets size 1,450 after ‘mistranslation in China’
As I’ve mentioned before, I often resist the temptation to click to find
out more because the full story leaves me disappointed. But this time,
curiosity got the better of me – and up came this unforgettable
Laugh out loud
moment: "And when Thyself with shining Foot shall pass..."
dear, has there ever been anything so funny? Tom Boddingham – and
doesn’t he have the sort of cheeky face that fits the story just
perfectly – has a size 13 right foot while his left is slightly bigger
measuring a size 14½. So he has to place special orders for his
footwear. When he found himself in need of a pair of slippers he turned
to Monster Slippers.
Somewhere between the order being placed in the UK and
the manufacturer receiving the specifications out in China, a decimal
point went missing. The factory didn’t think too much about it because
they thought it was “a sample for a shop window display”. That makes
Yet we smell a rat because things don’t
quite add up. Or rather, we suspect a clever publicity stunt.
Unsurprisingly, Monster Slippers’ monster slip up has been all over the media today. And
that’s the sort of publicity you just can’t buy.
Surely, folk point out, the factory wouldn’t expect to make that size
slipper for £15.50. True, but all the factory would have received would
be the actual specification order, with no idea about the “front office” price to the
But what about the shipping costs? And wouldn’t there
have been some sort of hefty import surcharge for Tom Boddingham to pay when
the package arrived in this
country? That certainly sounds like a good point, to which I don’t know
The size quoted in the article also doesn’t make sense.
Surely, if a decimal point went missing it would be size 145. Size 1,450
would make the slipper about 30 feet long.
Oh yes, someone noticed the door in the picture. It’s an office
door, rather than one you’d find in a home. Hm, that’s well spotted. So I
think we can take it as read that it’s a publicity stunt – albeit a
brilliant one. And definitely XL smile of the day material. Big Foot
PS: Late in the day it has now been revealed that Boddingham
bares a striking resemblance to Monster Slippers website manager Joe
Jennings, leading to further speculation that the story must be a PR
Monster Slippers were unavailable for comment. Of
course not, they were all tucked up in their comfy 145 beds. Big Foot
PPS: I am reminded of a story from mega moons ago. Living in my
square mile was
character from yesteryear, Hardy
McHardy, a World War II pilot of note. Typical of that breed of person he had a
language and a way with words that were unique.
As a young lad I recall him once describe a local lady
of note, who had clearly been placed on this earth to put life into all
the men in her life: “They tell me,” whispered Hardy, “that she has more
fingerprints on her derrière than they have at New Scotland Yard.”
Also, he was sometimes short of ready cash, but when he
called at the Crazy Horse he would never take advantage of the locals. I
fondly remember a pal of his saying that if Hardy was asked what his
poison was, and he replied “Just a foot-bath” – which translated as
half-a-bitter – he knew that he was short of cash.
Funny how one story triggers another...
Wednesday, October 19
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses
IAN HISLOP, team captain on Have I Got News For You and editor of
Private Eye, was on last night’s One Show on BBC One. For
50 years The Eye has mocked pseuds, lampooned the powerful and
exposed crooks. Three cheers for Private Eye...
Have a read of this, The Eye’s withering
assessment of Gordon Brown when he was first elected as an MP in 1983...
THE new Labour Member for Dunfermline East, Dr
Gordon Brown, is typical of the new brand of mediocre, middle-class
careerists who make up an increasing proportion of the undistinguished
lobby-fodder which Labour habitually returns from Scotland, though he
has greater academic pretensions than most...
Wow, written nearly 30 years ago. How come that the handful of staff who
make up Private Eye can be so wise, yet the Labour MPs who
elected Gordon Brown as prime minister – unopposed – could be so
singularly lacking in similar wisdom?
However, all that is by the by. As Hislop was on the
One Show, I stuck with it. Thank goodness. Towards the end of the
show, Ian and the two presenters, Alex Jones and Matt Baker, were
outside the studio, and they were confronted by a horse.
You know how it is: you see a photograph of something
and, unless it’s an eye-catching or startling image, your eye moves on.
Well, I have seen pictures of the “puppet” horse that is the star of The
National Theatre production of War Horse, a hit West End play
about World War One, a war in which eight million horses died, but the
image never held my attention.
Well, there it was, the puppet horse. I was mesmerised.
Not only is it the size of a real horse, but with its incredibly subtle
movements it was like watching a real horse. Unbelievable puppetry.
Yet all the while you were aware of the men inside the
horse operating it. Indeed, you could understand why those present were
overtaken by a need to stroke and pat it.
It was an image I couldn’t get out of my mind, so
today I hunted down some information online. Here’s a photograph of a
couple of the horses from the stage show...
horses from War Horse
Surreal Towy Valley
image from last winter's snow
The above image brought to mind the horses I meet each morning along my
walk through the Towy Valley – and the photograph that came to mind was
a slightly dreamlike one from last winter’s snows, when the two horses
came up behind me. It looks as if I’m holding them. In fact I am holding
my camera to take the picture, and the horses are just standing there,
watching me. Smiley image though.
Anyway, here is an outline of the tale of
At the outbreak of World War One, Joey, young
Albert’s beloved horse, is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France.
He’s soon caught up in enemy fire and fate takes him on an extraordinary
odyssey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man’s
land. But Albert cannot forget Joey and, still not old enough to enlist,
he embarks on a treacherous mission to find him and bring him home.
Soon it will become a film by Steven Spielberg. And a huge success I
would guess. In the meantime, the Broadway production of War Horse won
five Tony awards. Now on at the New London Theatre, it has already been
seen by more than one million people.
PS: If you have iPlayer access, and can do so before October 25,
click onto the One Show, October 18, the War Horse feature comes
up at about the 20 minute mark. Have a look. I commend it to the house.
Extraordinary. One in 60 people in the UK have already
seen it. That is worthy of a stand-alone smile.
Tuesday, October 18
My father had a profound influence on me ~ he was a lunatic
YESTERDAY, I caught the tail-end of a radio conversation between Roy
Noble and a Norma Farnes on Wireless Wales; today I had a proper listen,
compliments of iPlayer.
Roy’s guest was indeed Norma Farnes, who was Spike
Milligan’s agent, manager, confidante and whipping post for 36 years, up
until his death in 2002 at the age of 83.
Norma was there to discuss Milligan’s Meaning Of
Life by Spike Milligan, edited by Norma – an autobiographical
assemblage culled from his many memoirs, television scripts, sketches,
novels and letters. Part showbiz memoir, part personal exorcism...
Spike Milligan was born and raised in India. Once back in the
UK, he worked as a clerk in an engineering firm, as a
confectionery shop delivery boy, as a stockroom assistant, and
as a drudge in the Chislehurst laundry (every day a day at
school spot: drudge = somebody who does menial work; work that
is both boring and strenuous).
He was propelled out of this low-level existence by
military call-up; or rather, by an invitation to join what he
called “The Adolf Hitler Show, starting at seven shillings and
sixpence a week”.
These army wages Spike gave to his mother, who in turn
gave the money to the Poor of the Parish. “I couldn’t
understand it,” he said. “We were the poor of the parish.”
In later life he was to suffer many a
nervous collapse and was a manic depressive. As Norma explained,
working for him could be a nightmare; he was up one day, down
the next – but very focussed in everything he did, which
explains the memorable quotes: “All I ask is the chance to prove
that money can’t make me happy.”
And many wonderfully silly but clever poems...
Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
I’ll draw a sketch of thee.
What kind of pencil shall I use?
2B or not 2B?
His saving grace, according to Norma, was that he was the most
compassionate and generous man she knew, and she once told him
“Don’t lose it”, which he didn’t (see Poor of the Parish
reference, above ... it’s all in them thar genes).
told you I was ill
Spike Milligan's headstone with the
famous inscription in Gaelic
really was the case that everyone in Milligan’s military family was
However, this was the tail-end story that had captured my attention
yesterday, and which made me listen to the conversation in full. Norma
tells us that he sent her flowers all the time, the one part of his
eccentric behaviour she missed terribly after his death. A bunch of
flowers arrived one day with the message: “My love is like a red, red
rose – but my underwear is off-white.”
One of his uncles, for instance, tried to see “how far
he could walk without opening his eyes”. He kept going across an Indian
plain and got sunstroke. He tried again in London and “was knocked down
by a tram in Catford”.
He also had an aunt who filled her socks with sulphur
“to ward off arthritis”. You could always find her by following the
Again, it’s all in the genes.
They regularly had arguments and rows; then one day
they had a terrible to-do and she walked out. This time she really meant
it, determined not to return. She kept away for three days. Then came a
call from the receptionist who pleaded with her to come back because
everything was complete chaos. But she held her ground.
Then suddenly she was overwhelmed with flowers, enough
blooms to fill her flat, with just a little note saying:
“And that,” Norma added, “is why I miss him.”
Monday, October 17
Dancing on the ceiling
ANNUNZIATA DELL’OLIO, better known as Nancy Dell’Olio, 50, is an
Italian-American property lawyer who fist came to our notice as the
girlfriend of Sven-Göran Eriksson, former manager of the England
national football team.
A good few months ago, folk sat and stared (with mouths slightly
agape) when she wrote ‘A life in the day’ in The
Sunday Times Magazine. It is generally agreed that it
was probably the most precious and grandiose lifestyle yet
published. It was a joy.
She told us that she was a person in absolute charge of
her life and her emotions. Truth to tell she reminded me of
Janet Webb, the lady who appeared at the end of the Morecambe
and Wise show and would gush in hilarious fashion:
“I’d like to thank all of you for watching
me and my little show here tonight. If you’ve enjoyed it, then
it’s all been worthwhile. So, until we meet again, good night,
and I love you all!”
Except that Nancy seemed to say something along these
lines: “I’d like to thank all of you for reading all about me
and my wonderful life here today. If you’ve enjoyed it, then
it’s all been worthwhile. So, until we meet again, goodbye, and
I love you all. Oh, and always remember ... I am a very special
And that was the expression that stuck: “I am a very
special person.” So much so, The Sunday Times then
proceeded to give her a weekly column in the magazine:
You’re special too
… Let Nancy Dell’Olio put the sparkle back into your life...
I’m really not sure who’s taking the piss out of whom – but I’ll
come back to Nancy’s hilarious column in a little while. In the
meantime, she is one of the slebs on Strictly Come Dancing
(SCD). It’s a show I never watch, but there’s no escaping
Nancy, the special
hype, in particular the quotes about our Nancy, especially as everyone
appears to be
having some fun at her supercali special-ness.
“You say men are the most important thing in my
life. They are not because the most important thing in my life is me.”
Nancy lays down the ground rules and confirms that she is no shrinking
violet in the “I am special” stakes.
“Champagne, champagne. You looked like you had
two gallons.” SCD judge Bruno Tonioli asses Nancy’s performance.
I’m still trying to figure out whether she sparkled in extravagance – or
danced as if she was half-cut.
“She is like a bottle of champagne waiting to
pop, and it ain’t cheap champagne, either, believe me.” Fellow
contestant and singer Jason Donavon on Nancy’s performance.
Well, I think it’s safe to say that Nancy certainly gets up people’s
noses in all sorts of different ways.
“Please, please vote for Nancy Dell’Olio. I
know she is on her own special planet but she is funnier than a
Chihuahua on speed.” Pamela Stephenson, a finalist in last year’s
SCD, comments on this year’s contest.
“A plodding mule being dragged through the
mud.” STC judge Craig Revel Horwood on Nancy’s latest performance on
Why do these slebs expose themselves to such bullying? I’m thinking it
should be Craig Revel Horrible-Wood.
Anyway, I’m with Pamela Stephenson. So, back with Nancy
and her You’re special too column. Here’s an example of her
advice – and pay close attention for she says something rather
“unspecial” to my mind.
My fiancé has given me an engagement ring I’m supposed to love
because it belonged to his mother. I hate it and now I have to wear it
for the rest of my life. What can I do?
It’s a very difficult situation, and I’m with you. I wouldn’t like to
receive a ring that came from my boyfriend’s mother. If I were Kate
Middleton, I’d be furious. That ring was never lucky, but this ring
obviously means a lot to your boyfriend, though I do understand your
feelings, because I’ve been in this situation myself.
It’s difficult to seem crazy about something when
you’re not. Try to understand the reason he gave it to you. Maybe he
loved his mother very much; maybe he can’t afford to buy you a new ring.
So wear it for now and pretend to be appreciative, and then when the
right moment comes let him know that you’re expecting another one.
Well, did you notice it? For a lady who insists that she is in complete
charge of both her life and emotions, it comes as a surprise when she
says this about Diana’s ring: “That ring was never
Now who would ever have thought that such a confident
lady as Nancy Dell’Olio is overruled by superstition, for that is what
luck is. Nothing more, nothing less.
As I never tire of saying, every day is a day at school. But keep on
dancing, Nancy, and I may well tune in to have a peep...
Sunday, October 16
A good opening line
WITH Wales now out of rugby’s World Cup – true, they do play Australia
next Friday for the Bronze medal spot, but that’s not quite the same –
I’ve been flicking through the papers to see what I’ve missed while
distracted by the rugby.
Now I enjoy clever word-play. Every Friday the Western Mail carries
a Box Office supplement (arts and entertainment), which doesn’t
normally grab my attention. However, last Friday’s front page headline
First, some dots need joining up. In Welsh language
poetry we have something called 'cynghanedd' (literally
‘harmony’), which is the basic concept of sound-arrangement within one
line, using stress, alliteration and rhyme, and which is peculiar to
However, there are also great examples of something
similar in English, as in: ‘Around the rock the ragged rascal ran’;
or perhaps most famously a series of public information films when seat
belt wearing became compulsory: ‘Clunk click, every trip.’
Infamously, not long back, one of the media’s major
league bullies, AA Gill, wrote in his weekly Sunday Times
television review about Britain by Bike, where Claire Balding
explores various parts of the UK on her bike – and he referred to her as
the “Dyke on a Bike”.
As you can imagine, there was an awful stink and The
Sunday Times was forced to offer a public apology, although Gill, as
far as I know, kept shtoom.
Anyway, back to the Western Mail’s Box Office supplement.
For the past five years, Cardiff has played host to Wales’ biggest music
celebration, the Sŵn Festival (Sŵn
meaning sound and pronounced
Next weekend, this year’s event will be the largest and
most ambitious yet – 180 bands and hundreds of music fans will converge
on Cardiff for a four day festival featuring emerging new music from
Wales, the UK and abroad.
Right, back to the Western Mail headline...
See you Sŵn
So simple, yet a brilliant play on words.
Joke of the day, heard at the Crazy Horsepower:
How many bureaucrats does it take to change a light bulb? Two. One to
reassure us that lessons have been learnt, and that everything possible
has been done to lessen the consequences. And a second to screw it into
a water tap.
Listening to Owen Money on Radio Wales this
afternoon, he was playing music to lift our spirits in the wake of Wales loosing
to France, and of course captain Sam Warburton shown the red card...
The Drifters’ You’re more than
a number in my little red book definitely made me smile; as
did Guy Mitchell’s Singing the blues
(“Well, I never felt more like singin’ the
blues / ‘Cause I never thought that I’d ever lose...”). On
second thoughts, perhaps it should be Singing
You have to laugh – after all, it’s only a game. And as
a PS smile, I needed to check the spelling of
Les Bleus, just to make sure I had it
right, and what do you think came up on my spellchecker? Lesbian.
Talk about joining up all the dots. I’m not sure where I go from here......!
Saturday, October 15
Cock of the walk
THE omens were bad yesterday – which is why I never
mentioned a thing. The folk who live on the hill, just next door, keep a
few chickens, your basic brown variety. I’ve mentioned them before, The
Chickadee Quartet: there’s Chickadee, obviously, Henrietta (who clucks
posh), Chiquita (meaning small and cute) and Chickaboo – or Cwennen, as
I also call her, which is Welsh for a young chick (or a sexy young chick
if we’re talking humans).
Anyway, everything was going well with The Chickadee
Quartet until old Basil Brush took a fancy to Chiquita; at least we
presume that’s what happened because she suddenly disappeared without
trace, although it did seem odd at the time that foxy-woxy did not
return for second, third and fourth helpings.
So Heather and David decided to increase the flock by a
couple of white feathered chickens. One I’ve christened Gwen, which is a
Welsh, female Christian name meaning white, fair or blessed.
The other I call Hillary, or Hillary Tenzing to be
precise: she is always climbing onto things. As you will see in the first
picture, below, she really fancies climbing up those steps...
Is this the
stairway to heaven?
No, heaven is
dreaming of a French rooster
Hillary chickened out at the last moment. However, yesterday morning, I
looked out the kitchen window – and there she was, strutting her stuff
all over my car. I’ve never seen any of them clamber onto my mean
And I’m fairly sure Hillary was saying to the other
girls: “This car belongs to the fellow who objected to Nia of
having a cockerel in her shop window [see October 11], what with Wales
playing France tomorrow morning. So come on girls, join me up here and
let’s trample all over his pride and joy and show him that French cocks
rule, ok? Not to mention their sexy cock-a-doodle-doo accents.”
Talk about bad omens. At that moment I feared for this morning’s game. Well, I smiled – but bugger me, Wales have
their inspirational captain, Sam Warburton, sent off after just 18
minutes for a ‘tip tackle’, a less serious variation on the dangerous
spear tackle where a tackled player is driven into the ground, head
first – so it was uphill all the way after that.
Most pundits appeared to agree that young Sam should
have drawn a penalty, perhaps a yellow card, but never a sending off.
Even though they lost 8-9, Wales did have a chance to win with some
kicks at the end. Sadly they didn’t quite measure up to the task. Ah
At least I did have Hillary Tenzing’s antics to look back on and help
smile in the wake of the Welsh defeat out in Auckland.
Friday, October 14
Anything France can do, Wales can do better...
WELL, historically, it’s the eve of Wales’s most important rugby game,
the World Cup semi-final against France. The Western Mail
has entered into the spirit of the event with this front page splash, a
parody of the famous “Uncle Sam” recruitment poster, featuring the
popular Welsh captain, Sam Warburton...
Very smiley ... and of course, around 60,000 are expected at
Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to watch the game on giant screens.
On pages two and three, the paper has put together a
marvellous set of images by its graphic designer, Marc White. I
couldn’t find the images online, so I photographed the feature –
It says Anything France can do, Wales can do
better... There’s the Eiffel Tower, marked ‘tall’,
alongside the 6’ 9” Luke Charteris (a local boy, incidentally),
marked ‘very tall’.
The French bullet train marked ‘fast’, alongside
winger George North, marked ‘very fast’.
And finally, Roquefort cheese marked ‘strong’,
alongside centre Jamie Roberts, marked ‘very strong’.
What more can I add? Well, here's a funny thing: as mentioned above, I
attempted to find those graphic images online, so I Googled anything
france can do wales can do better – and up came this quite memorable
Did you mean: anything france can do
whales can do better
For a split-second there I thought of New Zealand, Auckland harbour,
Greenpeace, the blowing up of the Rainbow Warrior and the death of
photographer Fernando Pereira – but I quickly moved on, thanking the
Gods that we have pleasures such as sport to take our minds off these
ruthlessly horrible people we call politicians and leaders.
So, nine o’clock tomorrow morning, here we come, here
we come, here we come...
I shall leave you with one of the most joyous images I’ve noticed during
the World Cup thus far: a young Welsh fan wears her national colours and
emblems with style and a smile...
Thursday, October 13
Memories are made of this
THE following ‘hold the front page’ headline grabbed my undivided
attention, compliments of Mail Online...
A mind-blowing sex
warning: Over-exertion between the sheets can wipe your memory
cite case of woman who had sex then lost recollection of past 24 hours
Sex can be mind-blowing – but not always in a good way, as scientists
have found it can wipe your memory.
They cite the case of a 54-year-old woman who arrived
at a hospital in Washington DC in a state of panic because she’d just
been intimate with her husband and immediately lost all recollection of
the previous 24 hours.
This rare condition is called ‘transient global
amnesia’ and is always temporary, but because it’s so severe, it can be
very distressing, say researchers.
After lying low in a darkened room for a while, I began to reflect...
We must be getting more like computers every day. I
mean, it’s that “wipe your memory” bit. But I’m unsure: are we talking
hardware or software here?
Also, it explains my smile headline from September 20:
‘Romping and yomping the night away with
Silvio’. The headline from the previous weekend’s Sunday
Times provided the clue...
11 women queued for
romp with Silvio
The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, boasted to a friend that
he had bedded eight women in one night after a New Year’s Eve party:
“Yesterday evening there was a queue outside my room ... there were 11
of them ... I had only eight of them because I couldn’t manage more. But
this morning I feel good, I’m pleased with the way I manage to resist
the challenges of life...”
I christened those lady friends his After Eights – but now all is clear. Berlusconi
obviously suffers ‘transient global amnesia’ (TGA) – what a memorable
expression that is. I read that the onset of TGA is generally fairly
rapid, and its duration varies but generally lasts between two and eight
Clearly Berlusconi instantly forgot that he had just
bedded a lovely, so helped himself to another After Eight – and then another
... and another...
Suddenly, everything makes sense. And I bet Boris
Johnson suffers TGA too – not to mention Old Shaggy and Young Shagwell
down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.
And to slide from the ridiculous to the sublime, Chief Wise Owl at the
Crazy Horsepower has handed me another letter from The Times...
Sir, Jacob Williamson concludes his letter (Sept 30) with the sentence
“What is the point of gaining power if the price is losing your soul?”.
Quite so, but this must seem quaint and unacceptable to
many politicians who seem to live by a different code: what is the point
of retaining your soul if the price is losing power?
A J COLBERT, Walsall, West Midlands
The above juxtaposes perfectly with a recently heard definition of an
honest politician: One who, once bought, stays
That earns a special kind of smile.
Wednesday, October 12
Too big for one’s boots?
“I SAID you can have the poem if you send me a
pair of your boots. We made a deal. He’s had the bloody poem and I
haven’t had the boots. It’s been six months. Can I have the boots by
Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, 55, who made a deal with David Beckham,
asking for a pair of his football boots in return for his request for a
handwritten copy of a poem she wrote about him.
Another of life’s curious quotes. But what’s the poem all about,
Carol? So Googling I went ...
It turns out Beckham was injured in a game against Chievo Verona; he
tore his left Achilles tendon while playing for AC Milan, and
subsequently missed the 2010 World Cup.
Duffy wrote the poem “Achilles”, referencing the Greek
hero Achilles and David Beckham’s
She described Beckham as “a mythical figure himself, in
popular culture”, and was moved by the image of David Beckham in
tears after his injury.
Duffy, a football (soccer) fan herself, called it a
moving moment because no money or private planes could fix it.
So here it is, alongside...
A bit too deep for me. Perhaps Beckham was turned on by the
reference - I’m sure he used to wear them.
Anyway, what surprised me was that, being the Poet
Laureate, Duffy didn’t do her nut in verse, which would be
a kind of poetic justice because Beckham certainly deserves
another red card for his oversight in not sending her the boots
Now I’m no poet, and yes I know it, but I would have
Myth’s river –
where his mother
dipped him, fished
slippery golden boy
his name on its
Without him, it was
they would not take
Women hid him,
in girls’ sarongs;
silver songs …
But when Odysseus
came, with an
athlete’s build, a
sword and a shield,
he followed him to
the crowd’s roar.
And it was sport,
his charmed foot on
the ball …
But then his heel,
his heel, his heel …
with something simple along these lines...
Pardon me Becks, but we made a deal,
So why are you being such a bloody heel?
Six months now since I sent you Achilles,
And if you don’t play ball I’ll chop off your willies...
So fill my Christmas sock – or I’ll squeal and I’ll squeal and I’ll
As I said, I’m no poet - and I got a bit confused along the way ... I
think I began in limerick form, but quickly lost my way. And it was a
problem finding something to rhyme with Achilles, so I went with
willies. Well, a supersleb like Becks must carry a spare willy around
Anyway, Carol Ann Duffy is a poet, so she would have
come up with something quite striking, I guess. You could say she missed
an open goal. Back to square one, Carol.
As for David Beckham ... well, my mother always
insisted: ignore the grand, sweeping, majestic and seemingly important
things people say and do – it’s those spontaneous, ostensibly
insignificant throwaway things, which join up all the dots and paint the
Tuesday, October 11
NOTE TO SELF: Must have a word with Nia, who owns
at Llandeilo, the town’s friendly neighbourhood emporium specialising in
flowers and outdoor living.
With Wales taking on France this coming Saturday in
Rugby World Cup’s first semi-final, I had to shield my eyes as I passed
the shop window this morning – well, after I’d taken a photo of Exhibit
A – a blue cockerel in the window.
The Gallic rooster is an unofficial national symbol of
France as a nation, especially so in sport, particularly rugby – and of
course blue is the French colour: Les Bleus
and their famous crowing cockerel mascots.
French fans have a reputation for smuggling live
cockerels past security into games – and then releasing them, leading
stewards a merry dance as they attempt to catch the birds, much to the
amusement of the crowd...
with lots of
rooster on parade down under
Above, just part of Nia’s window display; and alongside, a rooster, in
national colours, let loose on the field before the start of the New
Zealand v France test at Wellington in June 2009. Wonderful shot.
I’ll simply have to avoid walking past Nia’s window
before Saturday to spare my sense and sensibilities. Eye-catching window
Being that Nia is a talented flower arranger, it gives me an excuse to
revisit the YouTube jukebox, in particular the marvellous ‘Maria Elena –
Acker Bilk’, and the stunning images of flower arrangements, both
photographs and paintings, that feature in the video.
The clever use of ‘accessories’ add something magical
to so many of the images. Every time I watch this video I drift off into
a parallel universe. Wonderful. I commend it to the house ... C’mon
Monday, October 10
Caution: England rugby woe, woe and thrice woe
MORE tales of the expected from Rugby World Cup. This headline caught my
eye, compliments of Mail Online...
New rugby shame as England star is held by police
for diving off a ferry and swimming to port
England’s disastrous rugby World Cup ended in more shame last night when
star player Manu Tuilagi was detained by New Zealand police for diving
off a ferry into the harbour and then swimming to a nearby pier, where
he was met by the law.
The 20-year-old, who came close to being deported from
Britain last year for overstaying his visa, was held in Auckland after
he jumped from a ferry as it was about to berth, apparently egged on by
His antics came after England were knocked out of the
World Cup by France at the quarter-final stage and at the end of a team
visit to Waiheke Island, which lies 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland,
during which the players and management toured vineyards.
Just another – hic!
– hiccup along the way. He has been fined £3,000 by the Rugby Football
Union, but let off with just a life jacket and a warning by Auckland
police. Okay, I made up the life jacket bit.
And this from the Western Mail letters page - clever
SIR – Who can blame Manu Tuilagi for jumping from the New Zealand ferry?
One assumes that it was brought about by pier pressure.
TIM JOHNS, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire
The above led me to a letter spotted in
Ask Dr Ozzy
(Ozzy Osbourne), in The Sunday Times
What’s the best way
to recover after a big night out?
England rugby squad, Auckland
Find a good lawyer, pay your bail, and release a
statement to the press apologising to all concerned. Always worked for
Okay, the letter was actually from a
Edinburgh. But it seemed like a good
Oh yes, it always states the following at the bottom of
Osbourne’s entertaining column...
Caution: Ozzy Osbourne is not a qualified
And this in The Sunday Times, remember. Perhaps it should say
this somewhere on England rugby shirts...
Caution: The person wearing this is not a
qualified rugby professional
Sunday, October 9
Mutton dressed as ram
IN THE wake of Rugby World Cup’s quarter-finals, it’s been a perfect day
to reflect on the success of New Zealand’s psychic sheep, Sonny Wool, or
Shaun the Sheep, as the Irish christened him before the quarter-final
Leading up to this weekend Sonny Wool had grabbed himself a 100 per cent
success rate – but suddenly it’s all downhill. He got his choices of Ireland,
England and South Africa horribly wrong. Henceforth he is Shorn the
Sheep. Mutton dressed up as ram (as in: “Mutton make no more predictions.”).
However, he correctly plumped for New Zealand. Phew,
off the hook!
As for the bookies, they too got Wales and France
wrong, but were spot on with their choices of Australia and New Zealand,
especially with their handicap betting.
So with Ireland and England preparing to head for home,
the jokes are flowing...
was an Englishman, an Irishman and a Welshman on a plane – no, hang on
... There was an Irishman and an Englishman on a plane ... ho, ho, ho!
goes “Beep ... beep ... beep ... beep...”? The England team’s open-top
bus being reversed back into the garage for another four years.
Well, it makes a change to have a smile at the expense of other
countries because we Welsh have for years been the butt of jokes when
eliminated early from World Cup tournaments. Yes, if you wait long
enough, the wheel always turns full circle...
Before I leave the rugby, I need to go back to the
England players and their off-field activities, in particular the
dwarf-throwing contest and the curious case of the now royal Mike
Tindall caught on camera burying his head in the welcoming bosom of a
mysterious blonde. Okay, a quote...
“Excuse the language in the song. Don’t
tell the Queen.” What actress Gwyneth Paltrow said to the
Duke of Edinburgh after singing a racy song in his presence.
I also came across this curious picture, alongside, of
the Duke in the seemingly towering company of Paltrow - must be those astonishing high heels of
hers - at the aforementioned gig.
It really is a most odd image. Anyway, here’s just a
snatch of a piece about the occasion by Rod Liddle in The
The actress Gwyneth Paltrow treated the
Duke of Edinburgh to a spirited rendition of the song F*** You
at some ghastly drinks reception in London last week. [In polite
society the song
is called Forget You.] To judge
from Phil’s body language, he may have interpreted her version as the
ghost of an invitation, rather than, as its writer Cee Lo Green
intended, an imprecation.
[Every day a day at school spot: imprecation – the calling down
of harm on somebody.]
Royal dwarf in new blonde scandal
There really is something truly doolally in the notion that Gwyneth
to Prince Philip a song featuring the lyrics “eff off” – and people
and accept that this is the way of modern Britain.
If you didn’t laugh out loud you would end up having a
Saturday, October 8
Mind you, watching these games live is something else. I really don’t know why
I follow sport at all. The whole experience is so stressful.
Even though Wales eventually won with a bit to spare, for most of the
game it was desperately close.
you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it
Andy Rooney, 92, American writer and
So much for the bookies and Shorn the Sheep: Wales play France in the
semi-final, both the Welsh and the French winning somewhat easier than
And I caught myself smiling - when no one else was around.
Yup, I have just repeated how I rounded off yesterday’s bulletin, which
of course was actually written up this Saturday afternoon. And all because the
Welsh win against the Irish out in New Zealand was worth it. One XL
Anyway, the whole game was repeated Saturday evening on
S4C, the Welsh language channel, so I put my feet up and enjoyed a
bottle of wine in the process. Normally, and excepting a generous dollop
of whisky in my coffee after returning from my morning walk, I
hardly ever drink at home.
Here’s looking at you, Wales.
So no walk this morning because of the early-morning rugby:
Wales-Ireland at six; France-England at half-eight. In fact I
drove into town around noon to pick up the morning paper –
taking the car to fetch the paper is something truly rare, for the
weather has to be really wet and stormy for me to abandon my
walk and take to the road.
Flicking through today’s Western Mail, I came
across the photograph I feature here – which really made me
smile, again with no one else around, obviously.
It’s a wonderful snap of an unnamed Welsh fan at the
Wales-Namibia game during the pool stage. Incidentally, the
bottom line says:
I couldn’t find the
image online, so I captured a picture off the page – and it
came out surprisingly well.
"I mislaid my heart in New Zealand - but it
belongs to Wales." A fan down under
So it’s the semi-final against France next Saturday
Here we go, here we go, here we go...
Friday, October 7
Game, set and munch
AT SIX tomorrow morning, UK time, Wales take on Ireland in Rugby World
Cup’s first quarter-final. Much like any game in any sport between two
reasonably matched teams, the result is a guessing game.
However, out in New Zealand they have a Mystic Meg
of a sheep, except he’s a ram called Sonny Wool. Here’s a piece from the
Telegraph, which explains it all rather well. But first, in order to
make sense of the article, I should join up some dots and explain why the England players
have been in all sorts of trouble with their off-field activities.
First there was the dwarf-throwing contest; next came
Mike Tindall, who recently married into the royal family, caught on
camera burying his head in the welcoming bosom of a mysterious blonde;
the team then went bungee jumping, which most thought not quite the way
to prepare for a World Cup game; England’s ace kicker, Jonny Wilkinson,
has been having trouble kicking the ball with his usual accuracy, and in
one of their games the team was caught substituting the game ball for
another Jonny had been practicing with; and finally, a few of the England
players upset a female hotel worker with some lewd comments.
Right, over to the intriguingly named journalist, Giles
Mole (yes, honestly):
Sonny Wool the
With the likes of dwarfgate, blondegate, bungeegate, ballgate, hotelgate
and any other gate you can think of having dominated the headlines,
would be justified in thinking that the world is against them as they
prepare to face Marc Lievremont’s men [France].
However, hope is at hand from the most unlikely of sources. For
those of you who don’t already know, Sonny Wool is Paul the
Octopus reincarnated - a mystic beast who can foresee the
results of sporting fixtures through the power of his belly.
Two identical bowls of food are placed in front of
Sonny, with a different country’s flag on either bowl. Whichever
bowl Sonny eats out of, that’ll be the team who wins, and,
remarkably, he’s been correct every single time … so far.
Sonny Wool backs Ireland, England, South Africa (against
Australia) and New Zealand (against Argentina), much like the
bookies, except they fancy Australia over South Africa.
The bets I enjoy though are the handicap ones, where,
Sonny Wool on his way to bleating the odds?
even money bet, the underdog is given a points start.
For this weekend’s quarter-finals, the bookies go like
this: Wales given 2 points start (Ireland favourites); France 5 (England
favs); South Africa 1 (Australia favs); Argentina
28 (New Zealand overwhelming favs).
These bets have to be carefully crafted by the bookies because they
don’t want to make any one side particularly attractive because all the
cash will go on that team and perhaps lose them a great deal of money.
So, with the exception of New Zealand-Argentina, they
see the other games as incredibly close, especially Wales-Ireland and
By the time I post this online tomorrow, Saturday, I
will know the first two results. So will Sonny Wool really be Shaun the
Sheep? Or hopefully, Shorn the Sheep?
If you smile when no
one else is around, you really mean it
Andy Rooney, 92, American writer and humorist
SAT AM: So much for the bookies and Shorn the Sheep: Wales play France
in the semi-final, both the Welsh and the French winning somewhat easier
And I caught myself smiling - when no one else was
Thursday, October 6
Prayers and Pussies Galore
AWOKE just before five, as per usual, and turned on the wireless: Alan Dedicoat
began reading the five o’clock news bulletin, which included this item...
“The former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, has
ended months of speculation by ruling herself out of the race to become
the next President of the United States. She said that after much prayer
she wouldn’t be seeking the Republican Party nomination in next year’s
At the end of the bulletin, Vanessa Feltz chirps in:
“Thank you very much, Mr D. When you say Sarah Palin says after much
prayer she has decided not to run for president, you wonder whether they
were her prayers or other people’s prayers – I can’t help wondering
Much chuckling in the background. “You left that quite
enigmatic,” teased Vanessa. “A lot was left unspoken there.”
Some laughter. “You are very naughty,” says Mr D.
Yes, and very witty, too. That’s why Vanessa always wakes me up before I
go-go on my morning walk - with a smile.
Puss, puss, puss...
THE morning story that caught my eye in the Telegraph also made
me smile. Do you remember last Sunday, and my favourite headline from
the previous week?
MP’s wife convicted
of stealing husband’s lover’s cat
Emily Cox had Beauty, her little pussy, snatched by Christine Hemming in
revenge for having her husband, John Hemming, snatched by – ta-rah!
– Emily Cox. It really was a curious tale. So, here’s the Telegraph
Discovered, the real cat that made Tory fur fly
A cat did play
a key role in the case of an illegal immigrant using human rights law to
stay, after a judge suggested that separating him from the pet could
cause “mental distress”, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.
Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, ridiculed a claim by Theresa May,
the Home Secretary, earlier this week, that a Bolivian had been allowed
to remain in Britain because of his cat. But in his 2008 ruling, seen by
this newspaper, Judge James Devittie concluded that separating them
could cause the man emotional trauma.
The man, now 36, was arguing his rights to a family
life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights because
he had been with his boyfriend for four years. The immigration judge
said that their joint ownership of a pet named Maya reinforced the
quality of that family life.
He went on to discuss other countries’
“Increasing recognition of the significance” of pets.
Clearly the original judge had concluded that a little pussy
should not be allowed to break up a relationship between a man
and his boyfriend. Honestly, these pussycats have a lot to
Following an appeal by the Home Office, a second judge
ruled that the main reason that the Bolivian could stay was
because of a technical error by officials.
The smiliest cartoon I saw was this one, alongside, by Mac,
compliments of Mail Online. The paper’s caption reads:
“It’s your landlady – another reporter is
here to ask you about being saved from deportation by your cat.
Shall I send him up?”
I’ve added my own interpretation, alongside...
Big cats can be dangerous - but
a little pussy won’t hurt anyone
Wednesday, October 5
AWOKE with a start this early morning, around one o’clock, something really
unusual because I wasn’t having a nightmare, neither was I dying for a
pee – but I spent a penny anyway. Out of habit I switched on the
wireless, which is always a mistake because I immediately drop off to
sleep and the thing is then on all night.
Anyway, Radio 2’s Janice Long show was on, and she was
telling jokes sent in by her listeners – and quite funny they were too,
which kept me awake for 30 minutes or so. Here’s just a selection that
managed to burn themselves onto my hard drive...
Name a fish that starts with a K and ends with
a k? I shall let you ponder on that for a moment.
So, how do you turn a duck into a soul singer?
Put it in a microwave and tell it ... Bill Withers.
I went to see the doctor and I told him, oh, I
feel as lifeless as a Welsh seaside resort in Winter – and he said:
“Sounds like you’re Rhyl.”
A cheeseburger walks into a bar and the
landlord says: “Sorry, we don’t serve food here.”
I was on the computer and the wife asked what I
was doing and I said I was looking for cheap flights. She got all
excited, which is strange, because she has never shown any interest in
Got the wife a new bag and belt for her
birthday. Yup, the vacuum cleaner works a treat now.
How do you spot a modern-day Somali pirate?
He’s the one with an iPatch. Very clever.
I met the fellow who invented crosswords today.
The trouble is I can’t for the life of me remember his name – but it’s P
something T something R...
Went to the zoo today and noticed some loaves
in a pen, above which was a sign: Bread in captivity.
Oh yes: Name a fish that starts with a K and
ends with a k? Kilmarnock. It’s a plaice in Scotland. Boom-boom!
Yes, all very smiley, but I enjoy real life quips too,
especially those of the self-deprecating kind...
“I’ve got the foxtrot. Looks like I’ve
got the trots when I dance it. I’m hopeless.” Strictly Come
Dancing contestant Robbie Savage, 36, a radio presenter and
former Welsh professional footballer, admits that his next routine
makes him look like he is desperate for the loo.
Robbie is now a popular football pundit, but he once held the
UK’s Premier League record as the player who had received the
most yellow cards for foul play, which explains why he was such
a hate figure for opposition fans throughout his footballing
Do you suppose he had a habit of treading on fellow
footballers’ toes? Accidental, like.
“I don’t dance,” he
recently said. “I don’t dance sober. I don’t dance drunk. I
don’t dance at weddings – well, I danced at my own, but that’s
Savage and his glamorous dance partner,
Ola Jordan, 29. Ole, Ola!
Wear your clogs, Ola.
Tuesday, October 4
Drawing to a satisfactory conclusion
FLICKING through a few weekends’ worth of Sunday Times newspapers
before placing them on the recycling pile, I came across a couple of
features, both on the same page as it happens, and both juxtapose quite
First, a quote... “If people
learnt to draw properly then we’d get some art. They’re all useless.”
Dame Vivienne Westwood, 70, British fashion designer and businesswoman,
dismisses modern British artists.
Normally, the above would not have drawn a second glance, let alone
found itself on my smile bulletin – but just before I’d read it, I’d
been suitably seduced and amused by the following brief article, which,
shame on me, I hadn’t spotted first time around back in the middle of
The extra smile
disgruntled Marks & Spencer customer who was overcharged £1.10
for a salmon sandwich was appeased by being sent a “hand-drawn
picture of a smiley dinosaur” (pictured, alongside).
Bill Bennett demanded a refund after he was overcharged
for the sandwich at a branch in Taunton, Somerset, and was
promised a £5 voucher in compensation. But when the voucher
failed to arrive he asked for a picture of a smiley dinosaur to
compensate “for the inconvenience”. As you do.
Steve Jones, an M&S customer adviser, sent the voucher
along with the drawing in the post, and included a note that
read: “Unfortunately art was never my strong point, but I hope
you will appreciate it.”
Bennett said: “I’m a bit of a prankster and write to
companies asking weird, random questions. I can’t believe M&S
came up with the goods. It’s awesome – the best customer service
I’ve ever seen.”
I also think it’s awesome. Indeed, I went online and had a quick
look at some news pages which had carried the feature at the
time – and pretty much without exception it drew comments of
not only for the smiley dinosaur drawing, but for the response
Marks & Spencer @
Taunton: a Dino-store?
(i.e. boasting good old-fashioned service values!)
the complaint. Ten out of ten, Steve Jones.
Finally, I stumbled upon an online clip headlined...
First aiders’ comedy
show: stretcher bearers add to player’s pain
Click below for 52 seconds that will rival anything you’ll see in a
Charlie Chaplin movie, simply because the two stretcher bearers are
attempting to do something really serious ... magic!
Monday, October 3
It ain’t half hot, Mum
WE’VE enjoyed some glorious hot weather over recent days, indeed the
warmest September temperatures recorded for 116 years, followed by a
weekend of record-breaking October temperatures.
It is called an Indian summer, although, officially, an Indian
summer is “a warm, calm spell in autumn, especially in October
and November”, so officially the heat had arrived a touch too
early to be properly described as an Indian summer. But it did
survive into October. So there!
But why Indian summer? The traditional reasoning was
that the North American Red Indians harvested their crops later
than the settlers, and thus cashed in on bigger yields if and
when the weather stayed warm.
Others believe that it has something to do with the
kind of “mad dogs and Englishmen” summers on the Indian
Whatever, with our
glorious but brief Indian summer now in retreat, and given the
nation’s unhealthy obsession with political correctness, perhaps
it should be rechristened a Native American Summer.
Indeed, if the origin of the expression is in dispute,
perhaps a Colonial Summer? On second thoughts, perhaps not.
Perusing the front pages at the newsagent this morning, I was
irresistibly drawn to The Times, in particular the
So a quick front page snap ... and it’s a picture of Sky, a French
mastiff, soaking up the autumn sunshine on Bournemouth beach on
And particularly apt given that the Saturday before I
featured those marvellous sleeping puppies.
I also enjoyed this letter in today’s Telegraph...
What can all
this unseasonable weather mean?
SIR – Am I the only one who thinks it is not a coincidence that
the current heat wave coincides with the [political] party
Blue Sky thinking: enjoying the dog
summer, in October
All that hot air must be a contributory factor.
Douglas Linington, Ramsey, Cambridgeshire
Yesterday, Wales beat Fiji 66-0 in their final pool stage game of Rugby World Cup out in New Zealand. Next Saturday, Wales
play Ireland in the quarter-final. However, in this morning’s
Western Mail, I enjoyed this clever headline...
George [young George North] & Co race into quarter-final showdown via
It seems the credit for that goes to journalist Carolyn Hitt, who began
her piece on the game thus: What a scoreline!
just get their kicks on Route 66, they got nine
tries as well, rendering Fiji pointless, as their road trip to the World
Cup quarter-finals hits top gear...
Six out of six for that little gem.
Sunday, October 2
The Devil’s in the detail
HEADLINE of the week...
MP’s wife convicted
of stealing husband’s lover’s cat
AN MP’s wife was convicted of burglary yesterday after she was captured
on CCTV snatching a kitten from the home of her husband’s long-term
lover. Christine Hemming, 53, stole four-month-old Beauty a few days
after separating from Liberal Democrat John Hemming last September.
Cameras at the home of Mr Hemming’s mistress Emily Cox,
filmed Mrs Hemming crawling on her hands and knees beneath a window
before entering the property and emerging with the cat under her arm.
Talk about Beauty and the Beast: you somehow just knew that a story about a lady called Cox and her beautiful pussy would
have AMBUSH writ large all over it.
“I am feeling fitter and healthier. It is certainly pleasing my husband.
He is a very happy bunny.” Former Tory MP Edwina Currie, 64, on her
preparations for Strictly Come Dancing.
Now this quote rang a bell, so I hunted back through my smile file – and
landed on January 25 ... I quote:
you care to dance?
HOLD on tight, for you are about to dance with the devil in the pale
“I feel sexier, of course I do, and Billy is thrilled with the new me.
He loves it. He definitely fancies me more, and says it’s like being
with a new woman.” Pamela Stephenson, 61, talks about her comedian
husband Billy Connolly after her experience on Strictly Come Dancing.
Talk about the hokey-pokey.
Do you suppose both Pamela and Edwina use the same twist and spin doctor?
And here’s another Edwina quote, this time on Nancy Dell’Olio, a fellow contestant on Strictly Come Dancing:
“The only thing Nancy and I have in common is that we are both
from sea ports. We are used to coping with whoever comes in and we know
how to send the sailors home happy.”
dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight,
here’s the quote of the past week. It comes compliments of Manchester
United manager Alex Ferguson, who calls on football clubs to be given
greater influence over TV companies to curb the influence wielded by
broadcasters over fixture lists:
Whatever does she mean? Could it be that Edwina’s favourite film is The
Fleet’s In [Port Again] ?
no watcher of Strictly Come Dancing, but I was taken with this quote
from judge Craig Revel on Nancy Dell’Olio’s performance over the
“It was like a curtain in a washing machine stuck
on spin cycle.”
I have to
draw a veil over that because, while it sounds good, I haven’t
the faintest what it means.
“You get some ridiculous situations when you’re playing on Wednesday
night in Europe and then again at lunchtime the following Saturday. You
ask any manager if they would pick that themselves and there’d be no
chance. You need those 72 hours to prepare, to get into a reasonable
condition after a European game. When you shake hands with the devil,
you have to pay the price.”
So that’s what our movers and shakers – politicians, bankers, business
chiefs, media owners, et al – were doing over recent years: shaking
hands with the devil, but unfortunately all the rest of us have had to
pay the price.
As I said, the Devil’s in the detail.
Saturday, October 1
A COUPLE of weekends ago I spotted in The Sunday Times’
“Picture Story of the Week” a set of images under the heading
“Let sleeping dogs lie”.
Pictures of puppies in various dormant positions have been
uploaded en masse to American website Uphaa, which collects
Today I got round to having a look online for the
site and its images ...
here’s a glorious example, alongside. A puppy uses its
paws to shield its eyes from the light. Extraordinarily
eye-catching, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Below, a corgi puppy enjoying a snooze, flat out on its
Marvellous. But here’s a funny thing. Look closely at the above corgi,
and you can see its little willy sticking up, obviously enjoying a
rather erotic dream. Weirdly, in The Sunday Times picture, the
willy and its shadow had been photoshopped out.
Now ponder on this curiosity...
The Sunday Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International,
also owners of the News of the World, which is no longer with us
due to that nasty business involving phone-hacking, which of course
is still ongoing.
Now every organisation, whether it be neighbourhood
pub, local council, high street giant, the BBC – or indeed Murdoch’s
media empire – is a precise reflection of the person at the very
top, that individual’s ethics, morality and honesty, no matter how small or big the organisation.
There isn’t a single person on the planet who
doesn’t believe that Rupert Murdoch knew that phone-hacking was part and
parcel of modern journalism. Probably. So here’s my point: how odd that an organisation that practised
phone-hacking will surgically remove a puppy’s little willy, just in case
it upsets the sense and sensibilities of its readership. Extraordinary.
It could be that they were afraid someone like me would
come along and use the headline at the top – Forty winks – but somehow
manage to substitute the ‘i’ with an ‘a’.
you fancy a peep at some marvellously smiley pictures of
sleeping dogs and cats, such as the above examples, simply go to
uphaa.com – and click on 10 Cute Animal Sleeping Positions
(also, look out for 11 Cute Animal Sleeping Positions II) - or simply
click on the following link...
For previous 2011 smiles, click:
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jan-Jun)
... Smile of the Day 2011 (Jul-Sep)
Smile of the Day 2010
You are here, way out west,
aka Dodgy City
Previously on LOOK
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jul-Sep)
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