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MY SQUARE MILE
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400 Smiles A Day
Prepared on screen resolution 1280 by 720 pixels
It seems that
the artist Leonardo da Vinci kept a notebook, Notes to Self,
a list of “things to do today”: buy paper; charcoal; chalk ...
describe tongue of woodpecker and jaw of crocodile...
These are my Notes to Self, a daily record of
the things that make me smile and brighten up my day no
end, whether read in a newspaper, seen on TV, heard on the
radio, told in the pub, spotted in the supermarket, a good joke,
a great story, a funny cartoon, a film clip, an eye-catching
picture, curiosities spotted
along my walks through the Towy Valley...
This is a snapshot of life beyond the blue horizon...
everyday a doolally smile of the day
The shortest distance between two people is a smile ...
Saturday, June 30
not now, not since I was doing it since I was four years old. It is
definitely tough and impossible to do when you have played this sport
for over 20 years.” Former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, 25,
known as the Queen of Screams, and currently ranked World No. 1, says
she is now too old to stop grunting on court.
I was wondering what the hell she was rabbiting on about. Whatever, I happened to
catch an earful of Maria’s Wimbledon grunts the other day – my goodness me,
what an extraordinary noise she makes.
I was thinking: that has to put opponents off in some
way or other. I vividly remember John McEnroe and his infamous tantrums
– and even back then I became aware that it was all rather clever
behaviour of the dodgy kind.
In any sport you often have what commentators call “a
momentum shift”, when individuals, or indeed teams, that are clearly on top
charge, slowly but surely begin to lose their clear advantage and grip
Occasionally the momentum shift can be obvious: a
player is sent off, say, in a football or rugby game; often though it can be
quite subtle: perhaps a linesman in tennis or a referee in a team game
gets an obvious decision wrong which unsettles the victim – and suddenly
there really is a slow but sure momentum shift.
I always believed that when McEnroe threw a tantrum,
there had already been such a subtle momentum shift in the game, not
obviously evident to the casual watcher. He would be more than aware
that the game was ever so gently slipping away – and of course the
explosion of fury really did unsettle the opposition, and he knew it.
Well, it affected most of the opposition. Bjorn Borg,
the “Ice Man”, was the exception that challenged the rule.
And so it is with Maria Sharapova. She knows that her screaming really
does subliminally affect the opposition. Or at least most of those she
plays against. It’s all clever stuff and fascinating to watch in action.
On a lighter note, imagine sleeping next door to Maria back at the hotel,
especially when she’s returning serve...
and love-making demand the same energy. And since one cannot make love
all day, one must play tennis for some of it.” Maria Sharapova
shares some intimate secrets –
No she doesn’t. I can’t tell a lie. I paraphrased
the following quote:
“Literature and love-making demand the same energy. And since one cannot
make love all day, one must write for some of it.” A glimpse into
the everyday life of Bernard-Henri Lévy, 63, the French philosopher and
Yep, it’s a mad world out there. Whatever, here’s a little something to
smile away the day, spotted in a Telegraph Picture
Gallery. Now c’mon, have you ever seen anything quite so smile-inducing?
A basket case
Baby snowy owl chicks born at Hanover Adventure Zoo, Germany
Pic: Action Press/Rex Features
It’s those amazing eyes you first notice ... then it’s the
anthropomorphically ‘cheesed-off’ look – oh so delightful. It’s a quite
wonderful image. But do you know, I think it’s the basket that sets it
all off so magically.
Friday, June 29
BBC television is currently running a series about “the obesity
epidemic”, The Men Who Made Us Fat. I haven’t seen it, says he,
from a smug protective barrier labelled “Proper weight for your
Perhaps, though, the next BBC series should be called The Men Who
Made Us Piss-Poor. The first in the series could be about Bob
Diamond, the Barclays Bank Chief Sitting Bull at the centre of this
extraordinary row involving our crooked bankers, and sub-titled ‘Rough
in the Diamond’.
The last in the series could have the BBC inspecting
its own navel and revealing how the Corporation made the nation
piss-poor in intellect, wit and wisdom, and sub-titled ‘Dumb, Dumber and
I have said this before, but it is worth repeating at such dodgy
times in the nation’s credit rating history – oh, and another
memorable cartoon from the Telegraph’s one and only
The way any organisation conducts itself – neighbourhood pub,
local government, high street giant, the BBC, International
News, Barclays Bank, Parliament – is a precise reflection of the
ethics, morality and honesty of the person at the very top, its
Chief Sitting Bull (or, let’s not be sexist, its Chief Sitting
Let’s go straight to the top to see how it works:
Ponder how differently the Germans – a people genetically pretty
much identical to the indigenous British – conducted themselves
under Hitler, compared to how the Brits did under Churchill.
While “The love of money is the root of all evil” is without
doubt the single greatest truth ever uttered, the observation
above, pointing out that the way an organisation behaves
reflects from the top down, must surely feature somewhere in the
When Bob Diamond duly appears in front of Parliament’s
Treasury Committee – unless in the meantime he is found
strangled, by Royal Consent – I do so hope they ask him the
truth of my opening remark.
Fat chance though. He will blame underlings, as they
There were two old ladies sat in deckchairs, somewhere along the British
coast, sometime between the downpours, and one old lady says to the
other: “Do you know, Mary, when I’m down in the dumps I get myself
And the other old lady says: “Really!?
I often wondered where you got them.”
Just before five this morning, and Radio 2’s Alex Lester had been having
a discussion with his listeners regarding the difference between a
couch, a sofa and a settee.
I just caught the tail end of it.
Alan, Somewhere on the M4: It’s easy to tell the difference between a
sofa and a couch: when there’s an ad on telly the sofa will be the one
But it would seem that it really is a class thing. According to
Sir Kim Size
– what a brilliant name: you really have to look left, look right, and
look left again, before opening mouth – anyway, according to
Sir Kim Size:
I look up to him on his settee, and I look down
on him on his sofa. I am happy on my couch.
Thursday, June 28
In the dog house
THIS rather contemplative letter appeared in the Daily Telegraph
– which in turn led to some unexpected treats...
Don't brand all divorced women as a predatory danger
SIR – Katharine Lloyd (“The relentless rise of Smash ‘n’ Grab Woman”,
Weekend, June 23) should consider how difficult life is as a single
I myself was “swapped” for a 10-year-younger model in
2009, after my partner of 25 years had what I term a “mid-life crisis”.
After three years I am now happy with my life, which doesn’t include a
man. I have learnt much and grown in confidence.
I understand that happens to many single women. Perhaps
it was one of these single, confident achievers that Katharine Lloyd’s
husband was chatting to, rather than a single, desperate, lonely woman.
I advise any women who are single and feel lonely to
get a dog, or two. Much better company than a man.
S Crowther, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire
I’m unsure why, but the above reminded me of this quote from
(1907-1988), American science fiction writer:
and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get
used to the idea.”
Whatever, the letter brought some amusing responses on the Telegraph
Phrancofile: “I advise any women who are single and feel
lonely to get a dog, or two. Much better company than a man.” This
cuts both ways, I think.
• Dogs don’t want to be introduced to your parents
• Dogs don’t consider salad a meal
• Dogs don’t get phone calls at three in the morning
[Mind you, if you have a bitch on heat in the dog house
your friendly neighbourhood dog comes calling -
more howl than owl...]
• Dogs don’t tell boring stories about their friends
• Dogs won’t throw away your old stuff
• Dogs won’t lock you out of any room
• Dogs won’t slap you for a sarcastic remark
• Dogs won’t ask you if you will get another dog when they die, and
they did, you could answer truthfully
• You can have more than one dog at a time
• Many dogs actually get better looking as they age
• Dogs never look for faults
• Dogs won’t ask: “Does this collar make me look fat?”
• You never have to find a job for a dog’s brother
• You can’t embarrass a dog
• Dogs will help you meet other people
• Dogs don’t ask you to stop and pick up the dry cleaning
• Dogs like it when you act silly in public
• Dogs don’t “forget” to take the pill
• Dogs only act pathetic when you have food
• Dogs won’t run up your credit cards
• If you smell like another dog, they just think it is
Johnny Duke: Dogs are always happy to see you. If you
don’t believe me try locking your wife and dog in the garage for
a couple of hours while you go down the pub ... on your return
release the pair of them and see which one is the most pleased
to see you.
Picture: Ken Goff
Weefozziebear: But dogs will eat your sausages and poo on your
rug ... I actually love dogs. In many cases, I like dogs more than
people. Dogs are quite adorable and possibly the most loving creatures
on the planet. I’m just a bit of a clean freak.
average dog is a nicer person than the average person.” Andy Rooney
(1919-2011), American radio and television writer, who became famous for his weekly
spot on CBS News programme 60 Minutes.
“If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have
known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.” James Thurber
(1894-1961), American author, cartoonist and celebrated wit.
[I’d quite fancy being a wit – but a celebrated wit? I mean, folk would
expect you to be witty whenever your lips move. As it happens, I don’t
even possess the wit to risk signing-up with Twitter; after the first
few “witty” comments I’d start to look a bit stupid – and there are more
than enough stupid people Twittering on and on and on out there.]
Spikey: Treat life as a dog does: If you can’t eat it or hump it
... p*ss on it and walk away...
I’m not sure why, but Spikey’s observation really tickled my F-Bone. I
shall leave you with a repeat of my favourite dog quote, the one spotted
on the notice board outside a Baptist Church in New York:
Please Lord, make me the sort of person my dog thinks I
Wednesday, June 27
A good reason to be cheerful
THERE is only one subject in the running for today’s smile of the day,
and that is, of course, the much publicised meeting between the Queen and
Martin McGuinness, the one-time leader of the IRA – and yes, their proposed
handshake to forgive (but not necessarily forget) and move on.
Now whether we like it or not, McGuinness is one of life’s natural-born
killers. As a commander of the IRA he would, by definition, have ordered
the death and destruction of men, women and children – perhaps even
family, friends and colleagues, if indeed they had crossed him – and all without
a moment’s hesitation or contrition.
That killer-instinct is written into his DNA – and as
we know, our DNA, like a bottle blonde, can never escapes its roots, so he is a man that could
revert to that default position at anytime without loosing a second’s sleep. That’s how such
people are built. (His name is particularly apt: McGuinness – a rich,
creamy head, very dark beneath.)
However, life has to move on, and if the peace process means drawing
folk like Martin McGuinness into the fold, then that’s the way it has to
be. We simply have to find reasons to be cheerful.
There’s a wonderful Welsh proverb: “Gwell canmol ci
drwg na rhoi cic iddo” - best to praise a bad dog rather than give it a
So the momentous day began with – who else but
the Daily Telegraph cartoonist. I truly laughed out loud at
this – talk about breaking the ice...
And of course by this afternoon, the official picture had been released.
Now c’mon, you have to admit, the juxtaposition, just like the handshake
itself, is beyond price. (And
includes the Queen’s glove - attention to detail, eh?)
If one moment in time can sum up just how far Northern Ireland has come
on the road to peace, this was surely it.
It is reported that at the charity event in Belfast, McGuinness appeared genuinely
pleased to meet the Queen, even using the traditional Gaelic greeting of
“Céad Míle Fáilte” – a hundred thousand welcomes.
I pondered what that would be in Welsh: “Can mil o
groeso”. Sounds something similar to the Gaelic version.
Nor was their handshake a perfunctory one; the Queen held the hand of
Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister for several seconds as they
shook hands for the cameras at the end of the event, when Mr McGuinness
wished her goodbye with another Gaelic phrase, Slán Agus Beannacht,
which he translated for her as “Goodbye and Godspeed”.
In Welsh, I would say “Pob hwyl a bendith”, which
strictly translates as “Best of luck and God bless”. Or perhaps “Best of luck and may your God go with you”
– which brings to mind another famous Irishman, the late and popular
comedian, Dave Allen (1936-2005)...
...indeed, here’s looking at you, kid!
Tuesday, June 26
Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
OCCASIONALLY it’s important to revisit a smile, if only to balance the
books, so to speak. Ten days ago I quoted this:
“I do wish everyone would stop calling Tracey Emin an artist. She is
even beginning to believe it herself, now.”
Mrs M Bunney, of Bodmin,
Cornwall, in a letter to the Daily Mail.
Mrs Bunney of Bodmin’s letter still tickles my T-Spot (T = Tee-hee). But, there are
after all two
corners to every mouth.
rather good at little drawings. They often have some delicacy about
them. They more often have some excruciating indelicacy about them, too.
It is an astonishing achievement, to be both delicate and indelicate at
the same time.” Brian Sewell, 80, English toff, media celebrity and
Byzantine art expert, on Tracey Emin.
an astonishing achievement to talk both wisdom and bollocks at the same
time – and get paid huge amounts of dosh for doing so. Mind you, I note that
the Byzantine Empire was the medieval Roman empire (during Late
Antiquity and the Middle Ages), and centred on the capital of
Constantinople. (Istanbullshit, not Constantinople?)
Whatever, being that Brian himself is now into Late Antiquity, we
forgive him his doolallyness. Good luck to him. And that goes for Tracey
Splash it all
“Secretary of State, I think you will find it is my aftershave.”
David Blunkett, 65, British Labour politician and MP for Sheffield
Brightside and Hillsborough, recalls what the Prince of Wales said to
him after the blind politician commented: “Everywhere we have gone
there has been a wonderful smell of lavender,” during a tour of the
garden at Highgrove, the Prince of Wales’ family home.
Right, a few dots to join up before the next brace of quotes...
Hague a bit vague
with the actuality?
The boasts of politicians are often greeted with scepticism, but William
Hague, 51, current Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State (the
post held by David Blunkett during his lavender moment with the Prince
of Wales) stretched credulity to breaking point back in 2000 by claiming
that he used to drink up to 14 pints of beer a day as a teenager in
Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
For a leader plagued by an image as a political
“trainspotter”, his lengthy account of his non-political schoolboy
activities offered the chance to persuade voters that he really is as
down to earth as Tory spin doctors claim.
Mr Hague claimed that he managed up to 14 pints - seven
times the Government’s recommended daily limit, and a session that would
put most of the regulars down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon under the
table - when working as a delivery boy for his father’s firm, Hague’s Soft
Foreign Secretary William Hague wants to send troops into Syria, he must
be back on 14 pints a day.”
John McCluskeym, of Seaton, Cumbria, in a letter to the Daily Mail.
That definitely tickled my T-Spot. The next quote however, touched my A-Spot (my
Alfie-Spot, as in “What’s it all about, Alfie?” or “Answers on a
obsession of some folk with what they call real ale ... most of it is
tasteless and nearly all ought to be put back into the horse where it
belongs.” Nigel Hague, 83, father of aforementioned Foreign
Secretary William Hague.
So that’s why blokes who drink real ale are blessed like stallions.
Honestly, the things you casually spot while standing in the firing line
in the gents down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon. Very funny though,
Hague. Anyway, here we are, William and dad Nigel, and a 50
Incidentally, that mysterious little hand coming in to give baby William a slap?
sister’s. Obviously the clout wasn’t anywhere near hard enough. Only
joking, it seems Sis was about to give little Bro a gentle caress,
rather obvious in the full picture.
However, intrigued by Papa Hague, I Googled him – and
this Mail Online headline came up:
He drinks three pints and a glass of red wine every
night, hates the Welsh (apart from Ffion, William’s wife) and wants to
shoot the Lib Dems: Watch out, Mr Hague, your Dad’s flying off message!
There followed a picture of Hague Senior, at 83, doing a wing-walk for
The “hates the Welsh” bit though made me smile, so I read on...
“When he [William] was made Minister for Wales he said: ‘Father, I don’t
want you to refer to them as those Welsh bastards any more’,” said
And did he manage it? “Well, I had to because William’s
father-in-law and mother-in-law are Welsh. And his wife, too. But
they’re not like the others.”
Hm, so that suggests he has actually met all the other 3,006,397
people living in Wales (no, hang on: while some 20% of us are Welsh
speakers, nearly 90% of us claim Welsh ethnic identity, so Hague Senior
has met 2,700,000 of us).
Personally, I honestly can’t
remember bumping into him. Still, you meet so many visitors at the
A magically doolally interlude that. You can see where William gets his
political bullshitting gene from. Still, Papa Hague sounds like one of
life’s real characters, so he gets my vote.
Sofa so red
THIS headline and photograph drew my undivided attention...
BT Artbox: Red telephone boxes with a twist
Lounger' by Benjamin Shine
leather bound and studded sofa - find it and take a breather, pay homage
to great British styling
Picture: Steven Dray / BT Artbox
Artists and designers including Sir Peter Blake, Zaha Hadid and Giles
Deacon have re-designed the iconic red telephone box as part of
Artbox, a new exhibition celebrating the 25th anniversary of charity
ChildLine. The Boxes will be exhibited in separate locations across
London until July 16. See www.BTArtbox.com for further details.
Mind you, I think Benjamin Shine has missed a trick with the sofa. On
the right, as you look at it, on the arm that is the side of the roof, I
would have placed an old-fashioned telephone...
...which could have been pushed down out of sight when “not in use” or
not needed for added character. Still, it’s truly novel, and I’d enjoy
having a sit on it.
Here are two more that caught my eye...
'Stop The Pigeon' by Howoco
'Kiss' by Willie Christie
Picture: Steven Dray / BT Artbox
Picture: Steven Dray / BT Artbox
Actually, when I saw the jumbo pigeon, I immediately thought – no, not “Where’s
the poo?” – rather, I thought of a grouse, in particular the bird that
fronts the ads for The Famous Grouse Blended Whisky (or Low
Flyer as they wittily call the whisky down at the Crazy Horsepower
Yes, those wonderfully clever and entertaining Famous
Grouse television adverts featuring Gilbert the Grouse. You know how
they go, Gilbert carries out a specific action and an amusing
whisky-related punchline appears...
Gilbert falls from the sky: A splendid drop; he does
a repeat drop: Same again
Gilbert skates: On ice
Gilbert scores a goal: A quality finish
There’s a link below to 28 of these smiley adverts – each ad lasts just
20 seconds and the whole clip lasts some nine minutes. Highly
entertaining. Going back to the kiosk with the ‘grouse’ on top, I see
Gilbert coming in to land wearing an old-fashioned flying helmet and
goggles ... the strapline going something like this:
Press Button A for a Low Flyer
Press Button B for another
I’ve included the ‘Kiss’ kiosk because my favourite Gilbert ad is the
one where he is unexpectedly covered in a mass of kisses: Loved by everyone
Click on the link and, to paraphrase an online comment,
discover a simply great way to smile...
Turning over a new pageant
IT WOULD appear that public opinion is generally agreed that the BBC,
following its dire coverage of the Diamond Jubilee Thames pageant, was
back to its best when broadcasting last weekend’s Trooping the Colour.
Recently at the Hay Festival, AA Gill, the TV and restaurant critic,
lambasted the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, with some added sly
kicking of the BBC, not to mention his usual cowardly bullying of Claire
“There is a belief,” said Gill, “that we (as a nation)
do these things really well. We are rubbish at them, pageants and
celebrations. The real shame of the Royal Family is that we ‘keep them’.
We breed them like dogs. We have such low expectations of what they can
do. Can we have a republic, please?”
Hang about: a billion people are expected to watch live the opening
ceremony of the Olympic Games, yet we are reliably told that two billion
people watched live last year’s Royal Wedding. Hm. What’s a billion
What many don’t seem to grasp is that AA Gill is
employed by The Sunday Times, which in turn is owned by Rupert
Murdoch, a dedicated republican who, as it happens, also wants the BBC
to disappear up its own very private orifice in order to satisfy his own
personal ambitions and greed.
Gill, by definition, is Murdoch’s spokesman, his lap
dog, ipso facto, you ignore everything Gill says about both the Royal Family and
the BBC - and quickly make your excuses and move on.
Mind you, given how far the BBC has dumbed-down over
recent years, I do find myself wondering how many of the BBC’s top brass
are actually also on Murdoch’s payroll? And I mean the very top people.
Now there’s a thought.
Anyway, back with the BBC’s coverage of state events,
this letter appeared in today’s Sunday Telegraph...
the lady a medal
SIR – In the pictures of the Royal family attending Trooping the Colour
in the Sunday Telegraph (report, June 17), the Duke of Edinburgh is
wearing about 20 medals and insignia, whereas the Queen is only wearing
JDavidJ: It would be like a sea-lion applauding itself.
Is it not time the Queen was awarded at least one medal
for all that she has had to put up with over the last 60 years?
A G Gumbs, Glendale Heights, Illinois, United States of America
It’s what follows on the comment board that brought a smile to my
face. I am astonished that many who post messages, and who clearly have
something interesting to say, never appear to run a quick check of what
they’ve actually typed, to correct obvious spelling mistakes, indeed
to make the whole thing readable.
Now I’m no expert on English and its usage, but I often blink at what people put
their names to. Here’s a perfect example, and I reproduce it as
ConwayCaptain: HMQ has medals. She served in the ATS duwing WW2 and is
entilted to several medals.
Lokk at ohotos of her friding to the Trooping of the Colour when she
wore the unifor, of the Regt whose Colours were being Trooped.
I blinked at that, a sort of Online Pidgin English – but it brought the following response...
Toots: ConwayCaptain -
You’ve got me stumped there. I’ve just spent the past hour lokking
closely at ohotos of Her Majesty’s unifor, and do you know what? I can
neither see her Regt medals nor can I see her friding anything!
Mind you, I have a sneaky suspicion that the ConwayCaptain post is a bit
of a wind-up, the errors are too obvious, too silly. Still, the
Toots response was
worth it. Meanwhile, on with the show...
DrNickleBockle: A G Gumbs says the Queen was wearing a ‘broach’. I
watched the ceremony and she was definitely wearing a brooch, not a
church spire or a roasting-spit.
Mgcocasal: He [A G Gumbs] couldn’t help it- he’s American.
Chezz: Perhaps somebody could brooch the subject to Her Majesty.
Heinz: Perhaps somebody could broach the subject with Her Majesty.
Johnny Norfolk: A G Gumbs – HM The Queen is not in uniform so no, she
should not be wearing any. Anyway she awards them and you can hardly
award one to oneself can you, it’s just not well, British.
Mre: A seal of approval, I guess.
Remittance Man: Mr Gumbs – As noted above, HM was not wearing
medals as she no longer attends her Birthday Parade in uniform.
Here however is a photo from the same event in 1952, at
which she wore all the medals she was entitled to at that time
as Colonel in Chief of the Scots Guards.
And alongside is said picture, and looking rather dashing she is
too. Mind you, I’m not
convinced about all those medals. Does it not devalue
the worth of real medals awarded for acts of true heroism? Just a
Norfolk also posted this on a different board, in response to a
comment about the European Union:
Germany will achieve what it failed through war. Germany just
cannot stop itself bossing people about. We need to be out of
the EU as soon as possible as I do not like the German way of
life. (council flat and a big car)
It’s not the post itself that tickled my fancy, but rather the
rider about the
council flat and big car. Six words that paint a
pay the penalty
Old Johnny Norfolk must be mightily relieved that he doesn’t have to go
through the agony of watching England play Germany in the semi-final of
Euro 2012 next Thursday, England having lost tonight 4-2 on penalties
Possession, I am told, is nine-tenths of the law. Now I
am no football expert, but how come a Premiership team like Swansea,
with no real stars, is noted for retaining possession of the ball for
significant periods of time, even against the top teams – yet England
appear to have an honours degree in how to pass the ball on the end of a
silver boot to the opposition?
I smiled at this perfect Times headline:
beginning, a muddle and an end: an ordinary team bows out
And the Sun :
Poor old Andy Murray. He now has the expectations of a nation riding on
his shoulders. And not helped by this headline...
Wimbledon 2012: Centre Court 'meditation' gives Andy Murray mental edge
over his rivals
Oh dear: Love - 40!
Saturday, June 23
A joy to behold
TODAY has been one of those most satisfying of days. Excepting of course
that Wales lost narrowly yet again in the rugby out in Australia, 20-19
this time, would you believe - actually, I don’t believe!
What was it a John O’Hara said on hearing of the death
of popular American pianist and composer George Gershwin? I don’t have
to believe it if I don’t want to.
Anyway, I have smiled and smiled at a vast collection of
marvellous photographs, all compliments of Royal Ascot 2012. The
race meeting brings out the snappers in their droves, and my goodness
me, they do come up with the goods. Some quite memorable shots spotted
in various online galleries (and I’m not talking about the horses, just
This year the weather helped: the first two days were
picture perfect; the final three days were an obstacle course of wind
and rain, which of course present perfect conditions for eye-catching
Here I select the five photographs that have caught my
eye over the past five days – well, six pictures really, because I used
one a couple of days ago, the image of the Rolls Royce with the Union
flag proudly flying alongside the Spirit of Ecstasy (The Flying Lady) on
the motor’s bonnet, a truly atmospheric picture.
up on the rails
My first choice is a picture of Micky Sasse, 21, from Brighton (she is
the only identified individual in my gallery). I really enjoyed the
‘jockey’ outfit, and although I am not a racing fan, I note that she is
wearing the silks worn by the jockey who rode Frankel, popular winner of
the Queen Anne Stakes on the opening day...
Picture: Geoff Pugh
Picture: Alastair Grant
What I really like is how Micky’s silks blend with the flowers
(foxgloves?) in the foreground, not to mention the Union flags in the
background. Very eye-catching, as is the peacock feather hat worn by
this wonderfully handsome lady.
Mind you, the peacock hat set me thinking: here we have
a human hen wearing a pea cock hat. As a proper reflection of nature,
the man should be wearing the peacock feather hat, while the female
wears the dull top hat.
No wonder we’ve gone wrong and lost our way as a
species. We’re doing things back to front. Food for thought. Quality
Class will always out
Picture: David Davies
The above has class pixelated all over, even the Union flag bench. What an
elegant looking lady – but I am dying to know what she is communicating,
and to whom. I have a feeling though that a true class lady would not be
seen communicating thus in public – it is much like seeing someone
eating a pasty while walking down the street. Very common or garden.
Actually, I cheated with the above photograph, in as
much that in the top right corner of the published photo there was part
of another bench with just the leg of a person...
...it was very distracting and took the eye away from the lady, so I
Photoshopped it away. I think that is allowed because its absence adds
to the elegance of the image. Scroll back up and have another look. I
hope photographer David Davies would approve. He sounds Welsh, so
Mary Poppins just went thataway
Picture: Stefan Wermuth
This is a marvellous picture. It captures the inclement weather over
Ascot 2012 to a T.
And finally, perhaps my favourite...
I’m shy, Hubie Baby, I’m shy
Picture: Stefan Wermuth, again!
A racegoer battles to keep her hat on in strong winds on day four. I
really like this. I mean, we can only see a corner of her face and mouth
– yet the picture instantly made me smile. Smashing picture. Five stars.
So, all in all, one of the most pleasurable experiences since I began
this ‘smile of the day’ online diary – oh, nearly two years ago, now. My God,
where has the time flown? Gone with the wind, I guess.
Let’s jazz it up a bit
LAST Tuesday I told the tale of hearing on the wireless the traditional
jazz classic Midnight in Moscow by Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen –
and programme presenter Alex Lester went on to relate the tale of the
band appearing at a venue where the MC marched onto the stage and
announced: “Ladies and gentlemen – will you please put your hands
together and welcome to the stage Kenny Jazzmen and his – oh!”
Well, today on the Roy Noble show – actually, Mal Pope was sitting in
for Roy – he interviewed another traditional jazz legend, Acker Bilk,
now 83 and astonishingly, still doing the occasional gig (appearing on
June 28, with Kenny Ball, in a festival at Usk in central Monmouthshire).
Mal played the classic Stranger on the Shore,
what Acker calls his “Private Pension Plan”.
I learn that the single became a phenomenal UK success, topping the NME
singles chart and spending nearly a year on the Record Retailer
Top 50. It was the UK’s biggest-selling single of 1962, the
biggest-selling instrumental single of all time, and appears
fifty-eighth in the official UK list of best-selling singles dated
But here’s the surprising bit: On
May 26, 1962, Stranger on the Shore became
the first ever British recording to reach number one on the U.S. Billboard
Fancy that. And here’s a further bit of amazing trivia:
the crew of Apollo 10 took a cassette recording of the song on
their mission around the moon, the journey that paved the way
for the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Anyway, Mal asked Acker this: “When did you first begin
to play the clarinet?”
“Oh God,” replied Acker, “it was well before the old
King died.” Yep, 83 and still going strong.
Now Acker Bilk was known for his trademark goatee, bowler hat,
waistcoat (usually striped) and his breathy, vibrato-rich, lower
register clarinet style. Bear the dress style in mind as Mal Pope went
on to relate this tale:
“I meant to tell Acker about my friend John Gower, who, when he
was a little boy, had asked his jazz-loving parents for a
‘dressing up’ suit for Christmas – he’d hoped for a cowboy
outfit, or a soldier’s outfit, or some such like.
“So when he opened up the package on Christmas Day,
there was a clarinet, a bowler hat, a striped waistcoat – and I
think a goatee beard and a couple of trademark moles as well.
Not so much a Jack in the box, but a young Acker in the box –
but John never got round to playing the clarinet.”
Acker in traditional mode
Oh dear, what a let-down for a young child. Great story though.
a sexual memory
Again going back a few days, I smiled at the fact that the
story on Telegraph Online that day was this teasing link:
camera catches Austrian politician having sex in forest
As I said then, I really didn’t want to click and read further as I
preferred to allow my imagination to wallow.
Well blow me: I have now noticed this ‘MOST VIEWED’ story, again
on Telegraph Online – this time though only climbing to No. 4 in
Jogging in forest twice as good as trip to gym for mental health
I could see the logic in that without needing to click – but I did find
my mind wandering down a dodgy back alley and wondering if “jogging” is
the Austrian code for sex? You know, the way “dogging” in the UK has
become code for something unspeakable but not involving canines.
Wildlife camera catches Austrian politician jogging in forest – twice!
Sticking with Radio Wales, this morning Louise Elliott had wife and
broadcaster Myfanwy Alexander as a guest on her show, and they were
discussing the news item about 50 things that prove you’re a grown-up...
Getting a mortgage, having kids and paying into a pension are all signs
you’ve finally hit adulthood. But for many people, it’s the little things
in life that show you’re really a grown-up – like knowing how to bleed a
radiator, washing up straight after dinner, “pottering” at the weekend
and listening to Radio 2 (or Radio Wales).
Other strong signs in the top 10 include conducting a
weekly food shop (presumably rather than grabbing a bottle of wine and a
take-away), writing a Last Will and Testament, and having kids.
Also, budgeting every month, being able to cook an
evening meal from scratch, getting hitched and having life insurance all
make the top of the poll conducted by Skipton Building Society.
Here in Wales we’ve had to add “carrying spare shopping bags, plastic or
otherwise” to the list, now that shops charge 5p for every plastic bag.
It’s not the 5p but the guilt at the checkout:
“Tell me about it,”
“I leave the house in the morning and I do a quick KTLS check: Keys ...
teeth ... life-support ... shopping bags...”
Oh, and in my case, perusing the Letters pages in the newspapers. Like
this one from The Times newspaper:
Sir, As one outdoor event after the other gets washed out, we have
surely learnt two things over the past few weeks: firstly, that Britain
will never, ever, be truly short of water; and secondly, that the
imposition of a hosepipe ban is far more effective than a rain dance.
ALAN STARR, Huddersfield, W Yorks
Returning to Acker Bilk, I am not a particular jazz fan, but I enjoy
listening to any
melodic and/or catchy music, so I shall repeat a previous link to a Bilk
track – Maria Elena.
It’s not so much the music itself, beautiful as it is,
but the sumptuous video of stunning flowers that accompanies the track
(now there’s a sign of being boringly grown-up). Oh, and I can feel my blood
pressure drop as I watch and listen.
Below that, another link to an Acker Bilk track, simply
titled 1982. It’s a live performance of “Don’t roll those
bloodshot eyes at me” – a really bouncy, jolly and smiley
performance by Acker and his Paramount Jazz Band.
Thursday, June 21
God rest you merry, gentlemen
TODAY’S perfect gent is tieless, eats muesli and loves “Matt” the
beckoned a newspaper headline with a nod and a wink (one guess as to
which newspaper carried said headline). I quote...
The pursuits and attributes that summarise the “perfect” British
gentlemen have been disclosed in a new book. Such a creature once
sported a moustache, wore a white tie with pride, ate Kedgeree for
breakfast and was never seen without a cigarette in his mouth.
But times have changed and the gentleman of today has
given up cigarettes for Nicorette gum, eats muesli with blueberries, is
clean shaven and is happy to go out without a tie, according to a new
The book, titled Gentlemen’s Pursuits, examines the pages
of Country Life magazine (first published in 1897), over the
last century to see how the archetypal upper class man changed.
According to the list, a gentleman who lived in 1912
loved attending the Proms, rode in a Rolls Royce, went shooting
at Elveden, Suffolk, drank claret and went tobogganing in St
Moritz in Switzerland.
But today’s gentleman attends Glastonbury, has a Land
Rover Discovery, drinks Pinot Noir from New Zealand, embarks on
shooting at Alnwick, Northumberland and goes skiing in the
French resort of Val d’Isère.
Instead of playing whist, the card game, today’s
gentleman prefers to watch the BBC’s 10 O’Clock news, has a
house in Fulham, west London, and not a few miles east in
Belgravia, and has scrapped his “manservant”.
A Union flag flies on a Rolls Royce at Royal Ascot 2012
Picture: Eddie Mulholland
He also enjoys The Daily Telegraph’s award-winning cartoonist
view of the world, while those 100 years ago enjoyed HM Bateman’s work.
The magazine also named David Beckham, the former
England football captain, as one of its five gentlemen of the year, who
was chosen for his “good manners”. The fact that Beckham had decorated
his body with a mass of tattoos did not disqualify him from gentleman
status, Country Life said.
“Tattoos were all the rage among gentlemen, including
royalty, so Beckham’s passion is bang on trend,” stated the magazine.
Although the Royal Enclosure at Ascot may take a different view.
[Hm, my take on tattoos equals a lack of self-esteem. That doesn’t mean
if you’re a tattoo wearer you’re a bad person, on the contrary, it
simply confirms a gentle lack of confidence in your own merit as an
individual. Observe supremely confident people, and note how ‘plain’ they are
in appearance, dress, behaviour, possessions, etc.]
Also on the list were Colin Firth, the actor, for “self-deprecation”,
the Duke of Edinburgh for a “stiff upper lip”, Nelson Mandela, South
Africa’s first black president, for his “quiet dignity”, while rounding
out the list was Boris Johnson, the London mayor, for his “quiet
apologies” [whatever that means, probably the opposite of Jimmy
The book lists five things a “gentlemen would never do”
including holiday in Florida, own a yacht without sails, wear pink
socks, order Cristal champagne and plant a hanging basket.
Mark Hedges, the magazine’s editor, said the book
recorded the “full and bewildering variety of activities, enthusiasms
and sports at which a British gentleman might proudly excel, from
shooting to after-dinner speaking and from beekeeping to ferreting”.
He added: “Oscar Wilde once described ‘The English
country gentleman galloping after a fox – the unspeakable in full
pursuit of the uneatable’, but he failed to recognise the genius of the
idea in the first place.
“This book celebrates what he missed.”
Well, I fall down on every count – except, I am as happy as a
pig in shite to go
without a tie – oh, and as regular visitors to my little web
site will have noted, I am a fully paid-up member of the
And here we are, alongside, the wonderful
take on today’s strike by doctors. As I’ve said before, it’s the
gormless look that renders them perfect.
On the common or garden front, I have holidayed in
Florida (I won a 5-star Concorde holiday to America in a
slogan-writing competition), I do not own a yacht with sails
(but I did once own a sailboard – with sail, obviously – again
won in a competition), I actually own a pink pair of socks
(discovered in a job lot of socks going cheap in a sale), I
can’t even remember when I last ordered champagne, but I will
happily drink any old bubbly shoved into my hand.
However, I have never planted a hanging basket –
imagine, someone called Mark Hedges rubbishing a hanging basket
– but, and it’s a great but, I have planted many trees to
compensate for the carbon footprint trailing in my wake along my
modest flight through time.
Back with the gentlemen named above, especially so
David Beckham. I agree that he is always very polite and scores
on the “good manners” front.
However, I remember my mother’s advice: ignore the
grand, seemingly important and sweeping statements folk make –
it’s those spontaneous little throwaway and seemingly
unimportant things that a person does and says which is the
perfect measure of character.
Let me take you back to that infamous World Cup incident in 1998, in the
game against Argentina, where David Beckham kicked out at an opponent
and promptly got himself sent off.
Juxtapose that with the equally memorable John Prescott
incident, where he lashed out at a protestor who had thrown an egg at
him. Now you would have put money on the inevitability that the sky would have come crashing
down on Prescott – but the British public instantly forgave him.
Yet, when Beckham kicked out, not only did the sky come
crashing down, but the whole universe as well. It took many a moon for
him to recover his status. So why did the nation react the way it did
when a politician would have made a much more obvious target?
Well, Prescott’s was a totally instinctive, instant
thing – he was cowardly attacked when he least expected it – and we all know deep
down that we would have reacted in the same way. But the Beckham incident is
different, in as much there’s a significant gap between the offence
against him and his retaliation – watch it on YouTube and count the
seconds – so that makes it premeditated. And that’s a whole different ball
game, so to speak.
You are left with the impression that, in a previous
era, in a pistols-at-dawn confrontation, you have a sneaky feeling that
Beckham would turn to shoot a split second before the rules allow.
Finally, I smiled at this online comment about the aforementioned
gentlemen by a
Jeff Goebbels: Balderdash I tell you!
Beckham’s a chav; Phil’s a Greek; you can’t have a barnet like Boris and
be a gentleman; Firth’s an actor, he imitates gentlemen, don’t you see?
– memorable name – ignores Mandela; and quite right, too.
After all, how can he be a British “gentleman”? Incidentally, do we
believe that Mandela wasn’t aware that his then-wife Winnie was busily
endorsing (and presumably actively encouraging) necklacing while he was
Feed that into your thinking, and your take on Mandela
will probably begin to change, ever so slightly...
Wednesday, June 20
PAY what I have to and not a penny more.” Jimmy Carr, 39, English
comedian and humorist (sic ), defending his high-profile offshore tax
avoidance scheme, and which brought the sky crashing down on his head.
I am not overly familiar with this fellow Carr, but I was intrigued when
I saw that today’s
allegations of tax avoidance isn’t the first time he has courted
controversy, in particular a list of his five most notorious jokes,
both on-stage and off. It’s a round up of the usual suspects: Down’s
syndrome, amputee veterans, gypsies, a family feud – and this
“A couple married for 66 years died within 3 days of each other.
That’s nothing. My grandparents died on exactly the same day – car
crash.” It was tweeted less that 48 hours after seven people lost
their lives in last November’s horrendous M5 fireball crash.
apologised for his poor form, removing the joke and tweeting: “Very
bad timing by me … apologies.”
Correction: Jimmy Carr, 39, English comedian and humorist (sick).
he should also hide his jokes offshore.”
However, it is never too late, Jimmy, to be very cross
with oneself: “Forgive me Father of HM Customs and Excise, for I have
What really intrigued me though was the reaction of politicians...
who you are and where you live
“People who dodge the tax system are the moral equivalent of benefit
cheats and we are coming to get them.” Danny Alexander, Chief
Secretary to the Treasury.
Oh how quickly these politicians forget the expenses scandal when an
awful lot of them were milking the system for all it’s
worth. Most of it legal, yes. But morally? C’mon.
Meanwhile, back at the sharp end...
And now a
word from our Dear Leader, our Head Con Man
“Jimmy Carr’s tax avoidance is quite frankly morally wrong.” Prime
Minister David Cameron lambasts Carr’s involvement in the tax avoidance
scheme, saying such arrangements were ethically suspect.
Where has Cameron been until now? I happened to catch this Carr tax
avoidance item on the TV news – and the funniest thing for ages was
watching clips from a comedy sketch show where Jimmy Carr has a central
role in lambasting bankers for doing precisely the same thing.
Talk about a Carr Crash waiting in ambush – and yes, I did
slow down to take a look once it had happened.
wishing to labour the point
“We need fairness not morality lectures from politicians.” Ed
Miliband, the Labour leader acknowledges tax avoidance is wrong but says
politicians should be changing the law to prevent it rather than judging
the morality of people who do it.
Hear, hear, at least the bit regarding changing the law. However, if morality, ethics and
honesty do not come from our leaders, where does it come from (excepting
our parents, obviously)?
Whatever, I was intrigued by the fine detail of what all the fuss is
about. Here’s a brief summary of how the tax avoidance scam works...
cash cow with lots of double cream
An investigation by the Times alleges that comedian Jimmy Carr has been
using the “K2” tax scheme. [Sounds like something out of Star
Wars – very apt - or indeed a mountain that’s
just too irresistible not to climb.]
Under the system, the
beneficiary transfers income to a trust based in Jersey, which then
loans him or her the money back. Since the loan could theoretically be
recalled, it is not liable for income tax.
It is alleged he saves £3.3 million a year through the
K2 scheme. The paper reported that the total lost to the taxman from the
1,100 individuals employing this arrangement could be as much as £168
Mr Miliband said: “I think we need responsibility right
across our society from the richest in our society to the poorest in our
society. I don’t think it is for politicians to lecture people about
“What the government needs to do is change the law if
people are avoiding tax. That’s the best answer. What the government is
doing is not changing the law on tax avoidance but cutting tax for
You’ve got to smile, otherwise we’d all go as doolally as the rest of them.
But, for a proper smile – and nothing to do with politicians or
celebrities – this letter in today’s Telegraph:
SIR – Having bought some cards in WH Smith, where the transaction
was carried out without the shop assistant interrupting her conversation
with a colleague, I prefer self-service checkouts (Letters, June 19). At
least the computer attempts to interact with you, even if it is just to
declare that you have an “unexpected item in the bagging area”.
Jo King, Forest Row, East Sussex
But now comes a slice of proper humour and wit, compliments of the
Telegraph Comment board:
Ignore the lady writing about buying cards in WH Smith.
She’s only JoKing.
“Forgive me Father of HM Customs and Excise, for I have
I am actually tidying up this bulletin on the Thursday morning ...
news has just broken that Jimmy Carr has tweeted this about his K2-B4
moment of doolallyness:
Tweetie Pie Corner
Tuesday, June 19
New balls, please
JUST before five, I switch on the radio: Alex Lester is playing
Midnight in Moscow by Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen:
“Fabulous stuff,” says Alex after the music stops.
“Just shows that a good tune doesn’t age, no matter how old it is.
That’s 50 years old now, and it sold a million.
“There’s a wonderfully apocryphal story about Kenny
Ball and his Jazzmen, that the MC at some place where they were
appearing marched onto the stage: 'Ladies and gentlemen – will you please put your
hands together and welcome to the stage Kenny Jazzmen and his – oh!'”
Last Sunday I caught up with a Vanessa Feltz smile from the previous
Friday (the soup of the day tale), compliments of iPlayer. Well, today I caught up with a Roy
Noble story from yesterday.
On his show as a guest was Penarth-based author
Catherine Jones, there to talk about her new novel, Wonder Girls.
It’s an exploration of ambitions and dreams inspired by the achievements
of some of the most extraordinary women of the 20th century.
Anyway, Catherine told of being inspired while out walking the
dog, when she saw an old woman clearing up after a hedge had been cut
and trimmed – a job she would have expected the husband to do – but
obviously she was on her own and she was toiling away and just getting on
She watched her for a little while ... it was a poignant image. That
little vignette spoke of another era, when people just got on with it and put up
with any inconvenience or whatever.
“Imagine the sort of life she might have had,” said Catherine, “living
through the war, perhaps, finding the house next door shot to pieces...”
Yes indeed. Another time, another world. And then Roy told this tale:
Sunday I was out to lunch – it was Father’s Day – the place was packed.
Then somebody said to me: “See that lady in the corner, over there?
She’s 92. She was in a Tiger Moth day before yesterday – goggles on, the
works – and when she went to church this morning, they showed a video of
her adventure, in goggles and helmet – the old fashioned headgear to go with the
Tiger Moth – and they started playing the theme to the Dam Busters on
A memorable tale, to which Catherine responded: “These extraordinary
people are all around us, and they don’t have a voice. It’s so important
that they have a voice. It’s important that we know what went before...”
At that point I found myself thinking about the BBC’s disastrous and
much-criticised coverage of the Jubilee weekend, what with its
dumbing-down and its obsession with everything young, or at least
The BBC really does stand accused of no longer properly
recording the life of the nation.
In this wild, wet and very un-summery weather we’re experiencing, not
just here in Llandampness but all over the shop it seems, it’s important to take
advantage of every opportunity. Spotted in the ‘For Sale’ columns of the
Pair of farm wellies, worn only once, from 2nd February 2009 to
18th June 2012.
Wonderful. Never removed, separated from owner by local anaesthetic.
“To the woods, to the woods –”
“No, no, I’ll tell the vicar.”
“But I am the vicar.”
story on Telegraph Online today was this teasing link:
Wildlife camera catches Austrian politician having sex in forest
I’ve mentioned before that, just occasionally, I really do not want to
read further than the headline. I’d rather allow my imagination to run
riot and wallow – although I guess with this story, the politician was
probably caught out by one of these modern cameras that wildlife film
people set up in the woods and which are triggered by any
movement in the view line.
What would David Attenborough make of it all?
Perhaps we’d eventually discover that the whole episode was filmed in a
bordello made out to look like a forest (now, now Hubie, sarcasm is the
lowest form of wit).
Even better, why couldn’t it have been a British
politician called Blair – I shall resist the temptation to repeat his
‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ contribution – oh bollocks, why should I resist
repeating something so delightfully doolally:
she cradled me in her arms and soothed me; told me what I needed to be
told; strengthened me,”
he wrote in his autobiography, A Journey. “On that night of 12 May
1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. I devoured it to
give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct...”
Anyway, to the woods, to the woods – all that business takes me back to
school days and delightful childish humour. And as I recall, the full
exchange of today’s headline went something like this...
To the woods, to the woods, with the rubber goods...!
But I’m only thirteen!
This is no time for superstition.
I’ll tell the Vicar-
I am the Vicar!
My mother’s not going to like this-
Your mother’s not going to get it.
Besides, Mummy said I mustn’t, the grass is wet and
a two bob bit isn’t enough.
And I remember this variation on the theme:
To the woods, to the woods-
No, no, not the woods, anything but the woods.
To the woods, to the woods...
I always thought that rather clever – as is this one:
To the woods, to the woods.
Oh no ... not the woods!
To the woods.
No, I’ll scream!
Go ahead, scream.
TO THE WOODS!
Ah, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.
every tree, beneath every bush
“The bigger the rock on your finger, the better the marriage? I don’t
think so.” Mark, a London birder, on observing the “rubbish”
vegetation used by a pair of grebes in the middle of their awesomely
exotic courtship dance.
Talk of all that “to the woods” business, tonight I just
happened upon a BBC2 documentary Natural World: Unnatural history of
Here’s a media preview:
Two grebes perform the most
on Hackney Marshes, a courtship dance that, like the
grebes themselves, is both colourful and exotic.
Back in the city’s centre, a woman wriggles along
grubby pavements, clutching her camera, as she takes photos of her
beloved feral pigeons. One of the pigeons she has called Brian, and he
even has his own online diary.
However, ‘look away now’ as a pelican gulps down an
unsuspecting pigeon. [Oh, and let’s not forget the pigeons that have
learnt to ride the Tube.]
This lovely, lyrical film scavenges through the undergrowth of London to
root out some extraordinary sights like these to paint a brash, vivid
picture of the capital’s wildlife. Not just urban foxes – we see a lady
in a tower block feeding sausages to a fox family that politely begs for
goodies beneath her window – but also the stray seal thrown fish scraps
by Billingsgate fish market workers.
Then there are the bird-watchers who have a monthly
“meeting” atop a skyscraper to observe glorious peregrines as they swoop
and plummet. It’s a delightful portrait of London’s wild spaces, and the
film morphs into a touching account of how and why one species needs to
connect with another.
* Cotillion: a type of patterned social dance that
originated in France in the 18th century.
This could have been a straightforward natural-history programme about
London’s fauna, the world’s greenest capital city, but instead of just
filming the surprising number of animals who make their home among the
greenery and the concrete and glass, it seeks out the people who watch
and empathise with them.
My favourite moments included the pigeons that seek titbits of
food underground on the Tube, and have learnt to hop onboard
the next train along to speed them on their way to the next
station to seek out more food. An extraordinary sequence.
Oh, and having watched Brian the pigeon having his way
with his lady friend, I was disappointed that his blog is not
called The Wife of Brian (as opposed to Pigeon Blog).
The courtship dance of the grebes was wonderful to
behold, helped by marvellous photography and some perfect
background music. A 300-second magical moment.
But what left me gawping was the lady living just a few
floors up a tower block, and in the green space she overlooked,
a family of foxes had learnt to wait beneath her balcony for
Most amazing of all was hearing and watching her shout
at the foxes, and just like a pet dog, they did just that. Having
trained birds to come to hand to feed, I found myself intrigued
as to how she had set about it, and how long it had taken her.
Anyway, it was a marvellous film. If you’ve seen my piece about
slow, slow, quick-quick slow courtship dance
of the grebes
Pic: Monte Stinnett
great tits over on
400 Smiles A Day,
then you can probably appreciate
why I believe that connecting with another species is an amazing thing
which brings extraordinary joy.
If you did not see last night’s film, and you are able to access iPlayer (before
June 25), simply search for Natural World. Highly commended to
the house. The wonderful sequence with the grebes comes at about the 19 minute
I’ve also provided a link...
Sunday, June 17
Soup of the Day morphs into Thought for the Day
LISTENING to Vanessa Feltz on the wireless early last Friday morning, I
heard in passing just a slice of a tale she related regarding something
that had happened the evening before while out for a meal with her
cousin Beverley. Must listen to it again on iPlayer to get he story
right, I thought – and
today, I got around to it.
Before I go there, Vanessa’s tale juxtaposed neatly
with a letter spotted in the Telegraph just a few days
SIR – I too have been struck by the diverse alternatives to plates at
various restaurants (Letters, June 12). Slate, brick, wooden planks,
banana leaves and bamboo are among them, obviously associated with the
ethnic origins of the cuisine.
My advice is to enjoy the experience, but don’t order
Alex Smith, Orford, Suffolk
Right, this is a digest of what Vanessa said...
Last night I went out for dinner with cousin Beverley. You know how it
is, you ask the waiter or waitress: “What is the soup of the
day?” So the very nice waitress on our table said: “It’s parsnip and
Guess what my cousin Beverley said? “I don’t know if
I’ll like it – could you bring me a small taste, please?”
I’m not kidding. I’ve never heard anyone do that. And
the charming waitress arrived with a very small ramekin and a teaspoon.
Beverley had a taste, and she really liked it – and we both had it. It
was really nice. But, I would never dare to do that.
Then I thought, imagine asking: “Could I try a small
lamb chop first, please, then I’ll decide whether I’ll have the lamb
chops or the chicken...”
That’s a really smiley little story, especially given the letter about
not ordering the soup. I’m with Vanessa though, it would never cross my
mind to ask for a taste of the soup – but it does make sense, and as
Vanessa said, the waitress did it without fuss or bother, as if it was
par for the soup course.
A most worthy smile of the day, that.
Saturday, June 16
Blood, toil, tears and sweat
THE fact that ink flows and typewritten stuff doesn’t. It feels like the
extension of your own blood when you write in ink.” Martin Amis, 62,
a British novelist, on writing.
What a load of old bollocks. Still, it’s a great quote though.
“The hype is unbelievably interesting. It’s complete balls.” The
Right Honourable Professor The Lord Winston – Baron Winston of
Hammersmith to the world at large, Robert to his friends – 71, surgeon,
scientist, television presenter and politician, on the benefits of the
sequencing of the human genome.
I give Rob his full title because he only used the word “balls”, whereas
common or garden dudes like me get to say “bollocks”. Oh, and I think
he’s saying that Mother Nature is still very much in charge.
Meanwhile, back with
Martin Amis: “It
wouldn’t have occurred to anyone 30 years ago that sex wasn’t connected
with reproduction. But now, the chasm between the two is huge.”
Now that’s an interesting pause for a cigarette, to be sure. Once upon a
time it all started with a kiss; now it starts with the pill.
“If I say
to her: ‘I am going to Mexico next week to do a speech.’ She will say:
‘Why? Who the hell in Mexico wants to know what you think?’.”
Alastair Campbell, 55, British journalist, broadcaster, political aide
and author, best known for his spin doctoring for and on behalf of Tony
Blair, commenting on his 86-year-old mother.
He doesn’t say though what his response to mum was. Shame.
wish everyone would stop calling Tracey Emin an artist. She is even
beginning to believe it herself, now.”
Mrs M Bunney, of Bodmin, Cornwall, in a letter to the Daily Mail.
Very funny Mrs Bunney of Bodmin. However, my quote of the day – nay, my
quote of the year thus far – goes to this...
is in the control of four families.” The response of a Naples
policewoman, when asked by broadcaster Jeremy Vine, whether crime in
that city was completely out of control.
Delightful five-star stuff. And presumably true.
Friday, June 15
A bird in the hand
FOLLOWING a short but fascinating piece about great tits in the
Telegraph (the feathered variety that is), I’ve done a special, a
personal view of the charismatic little songbirds, over on my related
web site, together with some smashing pictures (even if I say so myself) in support of
my observations. Here’s the link..
400 Smiles A Day
Thursday, June 14
Keeping a foot in
“IT IS an ill wind that blows nobody good” is one of life’s great
Springwatch (BBC2) is both informative and agreeable to look at.
Over the last weekend however its production unit and wildlife were
caught up in the vicious storm and flooding that hit the mid-Wales coast
– so after struggling to get the programme back on air on the Monday
evening, it made the subsequent insight perhaps the most interesting so
As with humans, there were losers and there were
winners. Surprisingly few losers, it seems. Ah, Mother Nature, the great
However, my one problem with Springwatch in particular
(and the BBC in general) is that the presenters talk strictly in metric,
so most middle-age-plus folk, like me, who do not use metric
measurement as a tool of everyday life, simply do not know what the hell
they are talking about.
When I watch rugby on telly they now only give the
height and weight of players in metric – and again I have no idea what
they are on about.
Curiously enough, sometime last year, I recall Vanessa
Feltz (who recently celebrated her 50th birthday) on her early morning
wireless show relating the tale of going to buy a bed: she went armed
with imperial measurement, but the “youngish people” in the shop spoke
only in metric – and there followed a seemingly unbridgeable gap in the
Vanessa felt like screaming. I know the feeling.
I am an imperial man: mention inch, foot, mile, pound,
hundredweight, ton, pint, gallon – and a picture of said measurement
comes instantly to mind. They are burnt onto my hard drive. Now mention
any metric measurement – I haven’t a clue. Well, apart from a metre,
which is roughly a yard, give or take.
I have nothing against the switch to metric – I mean,
it makes sense because of its simplicity – but it should have been
written in law that for one generation every public utterance should be
in metric (with imperial added thus).
It says so much about modern Britain that both the
government and the BBC think it perfectly okay to write off a whole
generation as an irrelevance.
Anyway, with Springwatch ending it’s current run tonight – I was struck
by a most curious thought. You know how dog owners are supposed to grow
to look like their dogs (or is it that people subconsciously select dogs
in their own image?); well, I was going to do a wee feature on it – but
at the end of this piece you will find a link to a web site that does it
much better than I ever could – and as a bonus, it is one of the
smiliest sites I’ve stumbled upon for a while.
In the meantime, what struck me was that Springwatch
presenter Chris Packham’s favourite bird is the sparrow hawk – and I
thought, my goodness me, he actually has the facial characteristics of a
Now Packham is a first class wildlife presenter – I
mean, he is enthusiastic, he knows his stuff and he is good at putting
it across. And in the current series he dropped his worryingly
child-like attempt at humour.
But I wouldn’t like to step on his toes. He strikes me
as a bit of a roundabout, someone you navigate with great care, with
your wits about you – at least that’s the impression I have.
Stick him alongside a sparrow hawk – well, what do
There’s something about that nose and surround that shouts “Raptor!”.
Anyway, dogs that look like their owners – or owners that look like
their dogs. At the bottom of this amazing sequence, you will find a link
to a web site: Do dogs look like their owners? Amazing PowerPoint
Be sure to watch the slide show – and there are some
wonderful quotes about dogs. I commend the site to the house.
Wednesday, June 13
Lost and found
WITH the tale of David Cameron’s mislaid daughter Nancy still being
mentioned in dispatches – or more correctly, people telling tales of
having lost their own children – I’m going to repeat a tale I told hereabouts
back on the 3rd of May.
A good story can always stand retelling anyway, but
this has a special significance to what’s coming up in a moment...
I needed to telephone Fly By Night, one of the regulars down at
the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, and who is, incidentally, a fisherman of
note, hence the name, ho, ho, ho: “Hello,” says a gentle, rather quiet
young voice at the other end of the phone.
“Hello,” says I. “Who’s that?”
“Hello David.” Wee Dai, Dai, Diddle-i-Dai-Dai is Fly By Night’s
very young and somewhat mischievous son (his mum is Scottish, hence the
Wee Dai): “Is your dad there?”
“Can I speak to him?”
“He’s very busy right now - he can’t come to the phone.”
“Oh, is mum there?”
“Yes – but she’s busy too – she can’t come to the phone either.”
Hm, that all sounds rather strange, I remember thinking. Now I know
Dai-Dai has older siblings: “Can I speak to either your brother or
David’s voice goes even quieter and reaches whispering proportions.
“They’re busy too - can’t come to the phone.”
“Is there anyone else I could speak to?”
“There’s a policeman.”
I become somewhat startled. “There’s a policeman in the house?”
My startled state morphs into concern. A long shot: “Is it possible
for me to speak to the policeman then?”
There’s a pause... “No,” says David really, really quietly. “Nobody
can come to the phone – they’re all busy looking for me.”
Now that’s a delightful little joke, all the better because you can tell
it either as a stand-up comic at the Edinburgh Festival, or while enjoying a
cucumber sandwich at the local vicar’s tea party – but as we all know,
truth can be stranger than fiction.
Mum Says is a weekly column in the Western Mail, tales of
the trials and tribulations of family life. It is not the sort of column
I would normally be attracted to, but the author, Abbie Wightwick,
delivers a most agreeably smiley read.
Today, she tells her own tale of losing a child
Losing your child in the pub is easy
David Cameron paints himself as a family man, but here is proof that he
does parenting by halves. Losing
your child in a pub is easy, the stuff of rank amateurs.
Only the battle hardened parent can lose a child in
their own home. And we’re not talking mansions here. In a family sadly
lacking in wealthy baronets and stock brokers, we’re talking Victorian
Like the Camerons we think of ourselves as responsible
parents. So when at 8pm on a dark winter’s night we couldn’t find our
two-year-old daughter anywhere, the blood ran cold.
Busy cooking we suddenly realised we hadn’t seen her
for 10 minutes. We called her name, hunted every room ... but the house was
Nervously, I opened the back and front doors to see if
she’d slipped out. All was dark and quiet.
Just as I was panicking, a spooky giggle came from
above. Two tiny feet were just visible beneath the folds of the floor to
ceiling curtains in her room.
It was her idea of hide and seek, and hilarious to hear
the increasingly desperate shouts of her parents.
A pause here … so the joke, above, about
Wee Dai, Dai, Diddle-i-Dai-Dai,
is not so much a joke after all. Perhaps that story really is based on
fact. Anyway, Abbie continues…
10 years and she got lost again, this time in her grandparents’ house, a
Like the Camerons, every adult present thought she was
with someone else before they locked the house, got into separate cars
and drove to a restaurant half an hour away.
The daughter, still doing her hair, suddenly realised
she was alone. Racing to the door she tried to open it only to set off
the burglar alarm. Locked in the house with the deafening ringing of
bells she ran to the phone and dialled 999.
We never found out exactly what she told police, but it
ran along the lines of: “My dad and my grandparents have gone out and
left me locked in the house, hungry and scared.”
Even worse, the house was in Scotland and she explained
she was from Wales, where her mother was at work while she was on
Few things can be as heart-stopping as receiving a
phone call to say police have picked up your child far away. “I thought that with three adults looking after her she
would be fine,” I yelled at my husband down the phone once all was
Years later we can all laugh and my daughter still
dines out on the story.
Sitting between two police officers at the next door
neighbour’s house, she was sipping squash when her dad finally arrived to
“Is this man your father?” asked the police officer.
“Are you happy to go home with him?”
At least if you’re Prime Minister they know who you are
when you collect your lost child.
Very good. Here’s a picture of Abbie...
...at arm’s length, a dolphin/pussycat/sparrow, I would say.
Anyway, following Abbie’s final sentence -
if you’re Prime Minister they know who you are
- I was reminded of this quote...
“It’s not as difficult as it might seem. I don’t have to introduce
myself, they all seem to know who I am.”
The Queen, when asked how she coped with meeting so many people.
And then this letter in today’s Telegraph...
SIR – Like the Camerons, our family also suffered a heart-stopping
moment (report, June 10). We were half-way down the M3, bound for
Gatwick Airport, when one of our three children uttered in a tremulous
voice: “Where’s Alice?”
We rushed home to retrieve Alice – my six-year-old daughter’s rag doll.
Anne Saunders, Alresford, Hampshire
I note that the Telegraph resisted the headline: Where
the F*** is Alice? Gosh, I haven’t
heard Smokie and their Living Next Door To Alice since I
remember when - great link coming up at the bottom.
A few days back I featured an amusing piece from someone called
Peckham Street Girl – and a SeptimusBrobe had responded with
“England for the English. Peckham for the peckish.”
Well, today I spotted this wee online gem – the context is not really
Anneallan: Essex coast. God’s waiting room for the rich.Have you not heard the quote? Harwich for the Continent, Frinton for the
Anyway, back with Smokie and Living Next Door To Alice:
the link here is to a live session of the song, with the audience doing
the naughty bits – and I have to say, it’s a wonderfully smiley version.
Anyway, caution, you are entering the musical equivalent of the Asterisk
Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon...
Tuesday, June 12
Lost and found
OUR politicians – correction, our political leaders – have been in the
news for all sorts of strange reasons. First,
Prime Minister David Cameron left his daughter behind in a country pub
called The Plough (and Harrowing?) after a Sunday lunch with friends
following a mix-up over which car she was meant to be going home in.
Cameron was swiftly reunited with 8-year-old Nancy, one
of his three young children, but the incident will add fuel to critics
who accuse him of being overly fond of relaxing, or “chillaxing” as he
has called it, when not dealing with affairs of state.
(I fondly recall someone called
leaving this online message:
“Chillaxing? I think he needs pole-axing.”)
As it happens, most people were pretty laid-back and
forgiving about the whole daughter episode, given that Nancy was
being looked after by the pub’s staff – and anyway, pretty much
every parent had a story to tell, to some degree or other, about
the panic that envelops them when they briefly or
absent-mindedly “lose” one or more of their children.
Down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, Ivor the Engine
remarked that he had often sneaked out of the pub in the hope of
loosing the kids – but they forever ran after him and always
turned up like bad pennies. Very ho, ho, ho, Ivor.
Far worse, confided a Doug Humphreys in the papers, was
“my experience of having my kids leave me in the pub”.
And a John Barrie pointed out that
David and Samantha Cameron leaving their daughter behind would
not have been the first couple to make such an omission: “Our
Lord Jesus was left behind in the temple at Jerusalem for three
days, when Joseph and Mary returned home after the feast of
Passover (Luke 2:5).” Bless.
But as usual, Telegraph cartoonist
gave the whole episode a perfect and unexpected twist.
can’t imagine anything worse than doing politics all day, then reading
about it all night.” Nick Clegg, 45, Deputy Prime Minister, who says
he “chillaxes” by “religiously” reading a few pages of fiction every
night before he goes to sleep.
In fact, Clegg also revealed that
as a young man he embarked on a novel under the influence of Gabriel
Garcia Marquez, 85, a Colombian novelist, short-story writer,
screenwriter and journalist.
Clegg wrote 120 pages before abandoning it because it was,
he says, “shockingly bad”. However, he would still “love” to write a
novel – and why not? Perhaps he will do so once the Coalition is
And today I caught up with this short piece in the Telegraph...
Disgrace Came to Tea
Nick Clegg is hoping to write a novel. Two of his favourites are
Disgrace by J M Coetzee and The Tiger Who Came to Tea by
Judith Kerr. A ‘draft’ of his novel has come into our possession. It
For a man of his age, 45, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of
politics rather well. Punctually, at 2pm, he presses the buzzer at the
entrance to the Cabinet Office and speaks his name. “Who?” asks Soraya,
“Mick. Mick Legg,” he replies, clutching more tightly
his folder with “Communications Skils” typed on a sticky label. The
other “l” is added in ballpoint.
“Who could that possibly be?” thinks Soraya, who is
tall and slim with long black hair and dark, liquid eyes. “It can’t be
the milkman as he came this morning.” She opens the door.
At last, he thinks. Unusually, a big, furry, stripy
tiger is sitting outside Dave’s office and swallows Mick in one big
Now that did make me smile. And just right for me at some 120 words - as
opposed to 120 pages that is. I particularly enjoyed the “Communications Skils”
bit obviously, and I really liked Soraya: “Tall and slim with long black
hair and dark, liquid eyes”. She reminded me of Mrs Ivor the Engine,
Gwladys - or Glad Eyes, as we fondly know her.
And: “It can’t be the milkman as he came this morning.”
No, hang on, my Nogood Boyo mind is getting ahead of itself; there is no
such person these days as a
“milkman”, doing naughty things in return for unpaid weekly
The only shame is that the Telegraph hadn’t included a bit
of rumpy-pumpy; I mean, a bodice ripper would have enabled the author to
slip in a sentence or two to qualify for the annual Bad Sex in
However, all this offers up another opportunity to
share the famous Blair Bitch effort. If you recall,
Tony Blair had been short-listed for the award for writing the following
in his autobiography (the first non-fiction nomination, apparently):
“That night she cradled me in her arms and soothed me; told me what I
needed to be told; strengthened me,”
he wrote in
“On that night of 12 May 1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me,
selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following
[Just there I found myself thinking: perhaps the autobiography should
have been titled A Journey Into Space? No wonder Blair took the
nation to war on the back of a sexed-up dossier. Talk about
half-a-bubble off plumb.]
Anyway, back with the Clegg novel: Nick is, of course, a ladies’ man –
been. Back in 2008, the Lib Dem leader, as he then was before climbing
the greasy pole, over-revealed his pre-marriage tally as “no more than
30” to interviewer Piers Morgan.
I remember that, for it’s a typical politician’s
answer: “No more than 30”? That could mean just one.
A little bit of
sugar helps to keep it up
Mind you, Cleggy and the rest of us men have a long way to go to catch
up with Fidel Castro, the most hornily active Nogood Boyo since Genghis
Khan (personal motto: Yes, Khan do).
Fidel Castro – the illegitimate son of a successful Creole sugar
plantation owner – is alleged to have slept with 35,000 women. It’s
claimed the Cuban dictator, now 85, “slept with at least two women a day
for more than four decades - one for lunch and one for supper,” or sex
twice a day for almost 48 years.
Now that gives a whole new meaning to a relaxing cigar after lunch and a
tasty After Eight after supper.
A soft top
I HEARD this line on the wireless today, broadcast off a good
old-fashioned vinyl gramophone record, and delivered by the late Victor
Borge (1909-2000), a Danish and American comedian, conductor and
pianist, affectionately known as the Clown Prince of Denmark:
“I don’t know if you are aware that there are
three sexes in Denmark - Male, Female and Convertible!"
Many a true word spoken in jest. He also said this: “Today, we celebrate
my uncle’s 103rd birthday.” A ripple of applause from the audience. “How
amazing is that?” The crowd up the response. “Unfortunately...” He
pauses, as all great comedians do, and the audience senses that all is
not what it seems. “Unfortunately, he can’t be here ... he died when he
Well, it made me smile.
hits the headlines
My smile of the day though goes to this astonishing picture of Rupert,
probably the world’s mightiest moggy. The mammoth cat being held aloft,
much like a boxing champ holds a much-prized Lonsdale Belt above his
head, weighs in at 20lb – and he’s still growing...
than life and twice as cuddly (and the cat)
Natalie Chettle holds her mother’s giant cat Rupert over her head
Pic: Chris Scott
Now that’s what I call a pussycat. What a
wonderfully eye-catching picture it is. Mind you, Natalie is holding
Rupert – a Main Coon – dangerously close to his crown jewels; I
mean, I wouldn’t like to accidentally squash Rupert’s balls.
Anyway, this amazing tom-tom lives with his owner Kyra
Foster in Australia, is only half its possible size at nearly three
years old, and is three times the size of the average cat.
But the super-sized feline, who at 20lbs (9kg) could
claim to be one of the world’s biggest cats, is only half grown and set
to gain more weight.
My goodness, you’d need a big cat flap to accommodate
As is my won’t, and intrigued by this breed of cat I’d never heard of, I
went walkies online ... I discover, unsurprisingly, that a Maine Coon is
a breed of domestic cat with a distinctive physical appearance and
valuable hunting skills.
It is one of the oldest natural breeds in North
America, specifically native to the state of Maine – hence the name,
obviously – where it is the official State Cat.
Although the Maine Coon’s exact origins and date of
introduction to the United States are unknown, theories abound.
The breed was popular in cat shows in the late 19th
century, but its existence became threatened when long-haired breeds
from overseas were introduced in the early 20th century. Here is
Cosey, a Maine Coon and the winner of the very first cat show in the
United States, May 8, 1895...
...however, the Maine Coon has made a comeback and is now one of the
most popular cat breeds in the world. The breed is noted for its large
bone structure, rectangular body shape, and long, flowing coat. The
breed can be seen in a variety of colours and is known for its
intelligence and gentle personality.
Well, Rupert and Natalie captured my undivided attention for sure.
Move over darling
OVER the weekend I enjoyed my first couple of early-morning walks on the
wild side for some 10 days. As mentioned in a previous dispatch, I have
just moved home.
The past three years have been enjoyed in a cottage on
a farm a couple of miles or so to the west of Llandeilo. Actually, it was a
smallholding of some 10 acres, the rest of the land having been sold off
many years ago by a previous owner.
In fact, when I first moved in, owners Heather and
David told me that they would probably sell the place in about a year’s
time – downsizing – but as it happens I had the benefit of three
wonderful years there before they eventually sold (subject to the usual
survey, contracts and all that ambush stuff).
Moving home is the one big drawback
of renting, which I do out of choice: this time I’ve moved to a neat little
bungalow on the outskirts of a village just outside the other end of
Llandeilo. (Since moving I have so far once caught myself leaving
Llandeilo and driving towards the cottage ... before a voice inside my
head went “D’oh!”.)
As it happens, I was born and bred on a farm, and even
though I had no interest in farming as a job of work, I lived there and
helped out until I was 23; I discovered a natural affinity with
handling all sorts of agricultural machinery, as most farm lads do.
Then I changed jobs – nothing to do with tractors and
the like, sadly – and moved away to spend a couple of years in
Southampton, another two in Chester and a further year in North Wales,
based in Colwyn Bay, all working for the same organisation. I enjoyed
myself thoroughly in each place.
Then another change of job brought me back to West
Wales. Anyway, from the age of 23 I became a townie – that is until three years
ago when I returned to my roots, so to speak. I would walk out of the
cottage straight onto the fields of the surrounding farms. It was just
like being back on the family farm.
This time though I’ve landed somewhere between my roots and
being a townie.
Now I look out the front window and the other side of a minor country
road there’s a field full of sheep and lambs – they always stop and
stare when I leave the bungalow – and out
the back, at the bottom of the garden, there’s a high-rise bank of
trees. There are lots of birds about though, which instantly makes me
feel at home.
sheep may safely poo
Talking of sheep, they always bring a smile to my face – the photograph
below is a perfect example, captured along one of my morning walks.
However, my smile of the day goes to this online exchange...
Welshwitch: The biggest row my parents ever had was when
we were at the end of a holiday and my father saw some
particularly attractive sheep droppings which he insisted on
collecting to take home for use on his roses.
He used as a scoop a plate from the picnic set, which
was ever after incomplete because of my mother’s
insistence that nothing could ever disinfect the said plate
sufficiently to make it usable again for food.
Then this amusing response from
Peddytheviking: Two questions arise from your comment:-
1. Did your mother ever put the roses on the dining table?
2. Having deployed the plate from the picnic set as a scoop,
what did your father use as a receptacle? The picnic basket?
As I write,
hadn’t enlightened us...
Highway Code: Indicating a right turn in the Towy Valley
Now the funny thing about the above tale is, when I was a very young
child on the farm, I remember some visitors had called and I asked my
mother if I could take a bowl to the farm’s impressive garden and
orchard to collect some fruit: it was awash with gooseberries,
raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, the usual suspects...
I was missing for a while and eventually returned with
a full bowl of what seemed to be blackcurrants. The happy-to-see-me smiles of parents and
visitors quickly turned to laughter when they realised my bowl was full
of sheep droppings – which look remarkably like blackcurrants,
especially to a
Of course I hadn’t been to the orchard at all; I’d just
gone to the field to collect sheep droppings. Yes, I was up to no good
After my parents and visitors had picked themselves up
off the floor, a look of horror spread across my mother’s face: “Have
you eaten any of these?”
A quick inspection of my mouth gave no clues. Mind you,
in the years that followed, whenever my mother insisted it was time for
another haircut, she would instruct me to “Go and get sheared!”.
Medical opinion suggests that farm kids, curiously, remain free of allergies,
something which has been noted all around the world; experts seem to believe it has
something to do with close contact with animals, and that some sort of
natural antibiotics are picked up by our immune systems, compliments of nature itself.
If I had partaken of any of those sheep
droppings, no wonder I’ve remained free of allergies and illnesses –
touch wood and all that.
And probably explains why I always smile when I walk
through a field full of sheep and lambs.
Saturday, June 9
John Smith’s No Nonsense Burial
THIS, spotted in the Telegraph’s Picture Gallery of
weird and wonderful signs spotted by readers on their travels...
No laughing matter ... captured in New Zealand by Eve
Cohen ... Ho Ho!
Trouble is, there’s nothing left worth nicking in my pockets.
SIR – I am surprised that correspondents (Letters, June 7) complain
about politicians having their hands in their pockets during the Jubilee
service at St Paul’s. It is better than them having their hands in ours.
John Llewellyn, Eastbourne, East Sussex
Short arms, deep pockets
Scottish National Party leader and current First Minister of Scotland
Alex Salmond and his wife Moira walked past a new Edinburgh restaurant.
“Did you smell that food?” she asked. “Incredible.”
With the campaign for Scottish independence having just been launched, and being in a
particularly good mood, he thought: “I know, I’ll treat Moira.”
So they walked past it again.
Anonymous, RU1 2AS
A little prick won’t hurt
No, I’m not still on about Alex Salmond ... rather, surprised midwife
Keiley Tuck and her husband Lee found three abandoned baby hedgehogs in
their garage in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset...
Picture: Archant Syndication
The couple were moving their old washing machine when they discovered
the tiny animals curled up in dead leaves trying to keep warm. When
their mother didn’t return, the couple delivered the babies to Secret
World Wildlife Rescue centre in Highbridge, Somerset.
Actually, they look like little Red Indian braves in fancy headdresses.
So a good quote to kick off with. As you will have gathered, I enjoy my
quotes – witness yesterday’s parade of quotation marks – probably because they pretty much,
without exception, invite a smile and a comment.
A totem pole to the doolallyness of celebrity
“If you ever hear me say, ‘The atmosphere here is wonderful’ -
shoot me. Because I don’t think you need me to tell you that.”
Claire Balding, BBC racing expert, jockey, sports presenter and one of
the BBC’s much-criticised Jubilee River Pageant presenters, explaining
that viewers look to broadcasters to tell them things they don’t already
My first thought was that Claire has been watching too much horse
racing, where they shoot horses - don’t they? - if they fail to clear the jumps properly.
Anyway, she was speaking at the Hay Festival and drew loud
applause from the audience.
became the first presenter involved in the coverage to admit its
failings, which, as I write, has drawn nearly 5,000 complaints from viewers –
the tide of criticisms on Twitter and newspaper message
Claire, who presented from the royal rowbarge,
Gloriana, was one of the few BBC names to emerge from the event with any
I spot most of these quotes in the Western Mail
newspaper, which has a column called
“They said what?”: it really is a totem pole to the doolallyness
of modern celebrity; which is why I put on my make-love-not-war paint,
grab a mouse (as opposed to a tomahawk) and whoop a bit while dancing around
the Doolally Totem Pole.
Mind you, there are always a few gems. With Tony Blair
threatening to rain/reign on the nation’s parade once more, this from
John Lydon, formerly Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, and these days a
“England is in trouble. What do I make of Labour now? That’s nothing I
recognise. Tony Blair turned it into a shoddy lawyer’s office above a
bookies on the high street.”
The one fault with “They said what?” is that it’s London-centric.
There are hardly ever any Welsh quotes.
Be that as it may, I tend not to listen to radio
phone-ins because they give voice to the extremists of life: just
recently, Cardiff City Football Club investors were frightened off by
the platform and strident voice a minority of objectors were freely
given to the proposed changes, compliments of Radio Wales.
Mind you, those investors took five to contemplate ...
and now they are back on board. Phone-ins, like online comment boards
and Twitter, give voice to the trolls of life.
The other day though, the phone-in discussed how best to promote Wales
and its attractions. A caller, a Jim from Torquay, was travelling from
Tenby to West London and passing Port Talbot:
“It’s an eyesore,”
he said of
“But it’s a fabulous eyesore. Architecturally, there’s nothing like it
in the world.”
To those who travel the M4 corridor across South Wales, Port Talbot is
intimately familiar because the motorway is elevated and you look down on the
massive steel works and the extensive petrochemical works alongside. At
night it is a particularly astonishing sight. It is just like gazing up
at the stars on a clear night.
I mean, just have a look at these two extremely
Port Talbot’s steel works
Next door’s sprawling petrochemical complex
Everyone in the studio agreed: “Fabulous eyesore” was a fabulous
description (shades of Dylan Thomas’s ugly, lovely town).
And it’s true. Whenever I drive “over” Port Talbot, my
eye is forever drawn to that extraordinary sprawl of ugly beauty, as
highlighted in those stunningly beautiful photographs, above (sadly, I
know not whose pictures they are – I tripped over them online – otherwise I
would gladly credit the photographers).
A fabulous eyesore. Remember those words. I’m sure you’ll hear them
Wales? That’s in
Then the other day, Roy Noble interviewed Tom Jones on his afternoon
radio show, and asked him about the difficulty he had establishing his
Welsh identity when he first arrived in the States:
“Anthony Hopkins had the same problem,”
“He told the Americans: ‘I’m from the same place as Tom Jones.’ And I
said I was from the same country as Richard Burton.”
In fact, you can imagine Catherine Zeta-Jones having to say “I’m from
the same country as Anthony Hopkins”; and current American favourite
Katherine Jenkins saying “I’m from the same place as Catherine
Yes, Wales is awash with memorable quotes. I shall do my best to keep
Thursday, June 7
You can quote me on that
I’VE BEEN suffering what seems like withdrawal symptoms. Yes, the
“Quotes of the Day”: where have they all been hiding with their
I’ve really missed them over recent days. Well:
Here we go, here we go, here we go...
Heads I Winner, tails you Loser
thing you could say about this restaurant is that you could hear
yourself talk.” Michael Winner, 76, former film-maker, best known
these days as a food critic for The Sunday Times, after a less than
Good line, Mr Winner. And I have to say, I enjoyed this quote of his,
bearing in mind that he acknowledges he is £9m in debt, which he blames
on a lavish lifestyle. Mind you, you have to be rich to be nine million
in debt: he owns a 47-room mansion called Woodland House in Holland
Park, West London, valued at £60m last time I looked.
“I’ve just got rid of my Rolls-Royce Phantom and replaced it with a
Bentley. The Phantom was a glaring indication of wealth. The Bentley
much less so.”
You have to admire his complete lack of empathy with the world about
him. On the other hand, it could be a joke.
bed. Chicken in the oven. Was careful not to muddle the two up.”
Michael Dugher, 37, British Labour Party politician, MP for Barnsley
East since 2010, and currently Ed Miliband’s parliamentary aide.
Well now, could it be that all this multitasking the female of the
species is so famous for – has been a bit of a joyride all along? After
all, even I can keep an eye on the dinner cooking away, do a bit of
ironing, a quick bit of hoovering around my feet, listen to the wireless
– and all at the same time, sort of.
Crucially, the dinner isn’t burnt and I can remember
what was said or sung on the radio. Hm.
A few Diamond Jubilee quotes to round things off...
Coca-Cola, the Queen is authentic and consistent.” Stephen Bayley,
once described as “the second most intelligent man in Britain”, which is
controversial and very possibly untrue, but he is indisputably one of
the world’s best known commentators on modern culture. He is founding
director of the Design Museum.
[Yes, but who is the most intelligent (living) person in Britain?
Compliments of Google, I see that the
world’s most intelligent person is not the world’s richest person such
as Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helú with a net worth of $69
Neither is it Microsoft founder Bill Gates with a $61
billion fortune, Berkshire Hathaway boss Warren Buffett with a net worth
of $44 billion, France’s Bernard Arnault with a wealth of $41 billion or
India’s Mukesh Ambani with a net worth of $23 billion.
No, the world’s most intelligent person has been
speculated to be Kim Ung Yonga of Korea.
At the age of only four years, Kim Ung Yonga could
solve integral calculus problems. Yonga’s mental scale had an IQ of 210
which he scored at the Stanford-Binet test. At age three, Kim Ung could
speak Japanese, Korean, German, and English fluently.
Britain’s front-runner would appear to be the
theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.
Yes, but who is Britain’s wisest person? Now that’s
much more important – for another time, perhaps?]
the Queen - well, it’s not like meeting a normal person. She is
surrounded by this powerful aura, but it’s an aura that feels warm, good
and nice. I have met some powerful people in my life and there is often
a darkness that you get with power. Not with the Queen.”
And finally, perhaps the most baffling tweet in the history of
Gary Barlow, 41, British songwriter, frontman and lead vocalist of
the pop group Take That – and the mastermind behind the Jubilee concert
and the Jubilee anthem Sing, which is set to top the charts.
Arise, Sir Gary.
I think I know what Gary means: every time I see Vladimir Putin on the
television, a corner of my heart sinks in despair at the ambush that
lies in wait once we enter the pass.
Morgan as big a prat in real life as he seems on TV?” Piers Morgan,
47, British journalist, television presenter and former Fleet Street
editor, recalls the question Prince Harry asked of Amanda Holden, 41,
British actress and television presenter.
What I enjoyed about the above quote is that Piers Morgan appears to
have no sense of what Prince Harry is talking about. Perhaps like so
many celebrities he is completely lacking in self-awareness.
So the quote below, again from Piers Morgan, on the
curious incident when compere Lenny Henry, 53, British actor, writer,
comedian and occasional television presenter, stopped Rolf Harris – an
amazing 82 – in mid-song during Monday’s Diamond Jubilee concert is, um,
seething about Lenny Henry wrecking Rolf Harris’s big moment like that.
Who the hell does he think he is?”
Yes indeedy, who the hell does he think he is? Piers and Lenny, two
little boys, fighting to get on the horse. Lol.
black people in the house say ‘yeah’!”
Lenny Henry’s invitation to the audience at the concert. It was greeted
by what has been described as “a baffled silence”.
Yes, it baffled me, for sure. I thought he was perhaps referring to the
lack of black people in the audience. However, I am reminded of this
line from Prince Charles’ well-received brief speech following the
“Thanks to the performers, the musicians, the comedians - who made such
jolly good jokes....!”
hates pop music anyway, so it is probably a ruse on his part - anything
to get out of a pop concert – but I hope he’s OK.” Sir Elton John,
65, on the Duke of Edinburgh’s illness which prevented him from
attending the concert.
I empathise with the Duke: I will do anything to get out of attending a
party – any party – but annoyingly, I will enjoy myself if I do end up
at said party.
Tweetie Pie Corner
“Underwhelmed by flotilla, detested bunting, despaired at mindless
flag-waving loons. But otherwise all good.” Sally Bercow, 42, the
delightfully doolally wife of Commons Speaker John Bercow, tweets before
going to the Diamond Jubilee service on Tuesday, but spectacularly fails
to get into the mood.
Good old Sally, loopy as a hangman’s noose.
Wednesday, June 6
Gateway to heaven
WELL, I never saw the Transit of Venus – cloud and all that stuff.
Bugger. It would have been just perfect for me, visible for about an
hour or so following sunrise – I’m always out and about when the sun is
rising, whether it’s half-eight on a mid-winter morning or five on a
mid-summer morning. Now whether I actually see the sun rising is
something else entirely.
Anyway, with all this dodgy weather currently doing the
rounds, here’s a sunrise I captured earlier – oh, a couple of years
earlier, as it happens...
I’m not sure why, but the moment I approached this gateway in the middle
of nowhere – I stopped and ‘clicked!’.
At least it gives an idea of what might have been this morning if the
sky had been as clear as it was back then. Oh well...
to be cheerful
However, I may have missed the Transit of Venus – but I watched instead
a rerun of the Transit of Grace Jones across my screen, just to make
sure it wasn’t all a dream from Monday night, you understand. And no, it
I duly found Grace on YouTube, hula-hooping the night away and
keeping it up with awesome effortlessness.
If you haven’t seen our Amazing Grace, 64, doing her
thing, here’s a link – oh, and bear in mind Vanessa Feltz’ memorable
quote: “Grace Jones looked like an intergalactic visitor carved out
of burnished marble.”
Enjoy, as they say the other side of the pond...
Tuesday, June 5
Diamond Jubilee: Loose ends
TODAY, the extravagance and fun of the previous three days gave way to
more formal celebrations. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan
Williams, proving once again that if you have something worth saying, it
helps to be blessed with a voice to match. Think Churchill, Richard
Burton – and of course Boris Johnson, who certainly has a voice and
accent that demands you at least listen.
So time to reflect on a few of those little things wot made me smile
over the past four days. Actually, today, on the way to St Paul’s, the
Queen’s very posh Bentley was closely followed by a Range Rover (shades
of Top Gear) and, whisper it, a van!Yes,
it was a very, very nice van. But it was still a van.
Oh, and along the way, the Queen passed a huge, flashing
road sign which shouted:
PLEASE PLAN YOUR JOURNEY HOME
On Monday, these letters appeared in The Daily Telegraph...
By the left, quick march
SIR – For The Andrew Marr Show yesterday morning the BBC typically
invited the Left-wing journalist Polly Toynbee to review the papers and
cast her sourly republican views upon the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
For me the occasion was brilliantly saved by Rory Bremner remarking
that she must feel a bit like Richard Dawkins on Christmas Day.
Ted Shorter, Hildenborough, Kent
Work in progress
SIR – I assume all republicans will be back at work on Tuesday.
Mary Jones, Cashmoor, Dorset
SIR – The best part was that there was not a single EU flag to be seen.
John Frankel, Kingsclere, Berkshire
birthday to One
SIR – 6T YRS. OMG. LLTQ.
W J Dowding, Cambridge
SIR – My young son, who hasn’t yet learned the term “congratulatory
message”, would like to know who will send the Queen a telegram on her
Lizzy Costain, Matfield, Kent
Tellingly, that was delivered as a joke by one of the comedians during
the Monday concert.
I name this Queen...
There have also been suggestions that “the time has now come when we can
dispense with referring to our present monarch as Elizabeth II in favour
of Elizabeth the Great”.
Someone suggested Elizabeth the Faithful. But I liked
this online suggestion best, from a
Nickr: With regard a memorable name for the Queen, I suggest
with today’s argot she might be termed Liz The Biz.
Every day a day at school spot: the word “argot” is one
you never hear in the Bible or the Crazy Horsepower Saloon –
meaning, I’m not all that sure what it means: jargon used by a
particular group. Tick.
And what about this
cartoon, alongside, from the Telegraph? Very funny – and
the character really does remind me of Private Joe Walker, the black market
spiv (or Wholesale Supplier, as he politely puts it) from Dad’s
And I really smiled at this brief online exchange...
peckham_street_girl: My granny says this Duchess of Anne
the horse lady dawter of Her Madgesty the queen invented this
wurd ‘naff’. She told a photo man to naff orf or somfink and it
got into tha dick shonary. Is this a true state ment plese?
peckham_street_girl has been around on other threads with similar tosh.
Ignore it. It’s obviously a ruse.
SeptimusBrobe: England for the English. Peckham for the peckish!
Angels at two o'clock
And then, the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
and the Red Arrows provided a grand final salute to the Queen on
her 60th anniversary as a monarch.
The Flypast included a Dakota flanked by two King Air aircraft
flown by 45 (Reserve) Squadron which is part of Number 3 Flying
Training School based at RAF Cranwell; a Lancaster, Spitfires
and a Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight,
ahead of the Red Arrows that made their entrance seconds later.
Over and out
Picture: Sang Tan
A wonderful image – but here’s a strange thing: as a one-time flying
man, I’ve noticed during recent fly pasts
that the Red Arrows do not appear to fly directly overhead the Mall to
approach the palace at 12 o’clock precisely – head-on, that is –
always at a slight angle, something the smoke trails highlight.
Given the precision of their flying, there has to be
some curious explanation for this. Google doesn’t help. Anyone?
Finally, this little gem from
in the Telegraph, following Monday night’s pop party...
Prince Philip had ever been in any doubt about his eldest son’s ability
to take charge of the situation, to gauge public feeling, to look after
his mother and to carry the warmth of the Jubilee spirit into every damp
street and home, this was a defining moment of reassurance.
The Prince of Wales’s tribute to the Queen at the end
of a tumultuous night was a perfectly judged homage – witty, spontaneous
and crowd-pleasing in the best possible way – but it was also an
inspiring, rallying message to his absent father.
“The only sad thing about this evening,” he said, “is
that my father could not be here with us because unfortunately he was
[and here there was an interesting pause]... taken unwell.”
His famously rugged and stoical parent, almost 91 years
old, does not fall ill. He is “taken unwell”. It was a nice choice of
phrase in a speech that was full of unexpected felicities and filial
“But, ladies and gentlemen,” continued the Prince like
a Forsythian master of ceremonies, “if we shout loud enough, he might
just hear us in hospital and get better.” Then the crowd seemed to crack
the sky with cheers for the belatedly loved, plain-speaking Duke.
I think my abiding memory of the weekend - excepting the memorable Grace
Jones and her hula hoop - is the thought that Prince Philip does not
fall ill. He is simply “taken unwell”. It really does sound just right.
The Diamond Jubilee Concert
WITH my fondness for all things eccentric and doolally, instinct hinted
that tonight’s concert had “Bonanza!”
written all over it. And so it turned out. Memorable beyond.
Prior to the concert getting under way, with the TV in
the corner of the room switched on ready, I fiddled about online – as is
my wont – and suddenly on the computer screen, up came this picture,
remembering all the while that the live television images were showing a
beautiful day in London Town, with clear blue skies holding court...
A rainbow forms over crowds gathering for the Diamond Jubilee
concert in front of Buckingham Palace
Pic: David Bebber
Smashing picture. But hang about, I thought ... rainbows mean rain, indeed
the dark clouds indicated rain. Curiosity took me to the Met Office
rainfall radar web site, which shows rainfall over the previous six
hours. Blow me, trundling from north to south were substantial clumps of
heavy showers, passing just either side of London, as the picture,
I guess that’s what you call a close call. Anyway, the
party gets going...
Hula-hooping the Knight away with Delilah
about keeping up with the Joneses: Grace and Tom set the bar
Well, the talk of the concert has to be - and is - the
wonderfully eccentric performance by Jamaican style queen Grace
Jones, 64, who performed her entire hit Slave To the Rhythm
with a hula hoop in perpetual emotion about her waist – no
obvious rhyme or reason or explanation for the hoop, but that is
by the by – and performed to perfection for four minutes before
letting it fall to the floor at the end of the song and
bellowing: “We love you - happy birthday, our Queen.” Now that’s
what I call multitasking.
The best description came from
“Grace Jones looked like an intergalactic visitor carved out
of burnished marble.”
Spot on, Vanessa. I can’t better that.
Poor old Russell Harty, who was smacked by Grace Jones
on a live chat show back in 1980, when he turned away from her
to talk to another guest, must be smiling, somewhere up there.
And Tom Jones, just a few days away from 72, showing that he’s
still got it - with bells and balls on. Whenever I now hear
Delilah, I’m reminded of that letter from a Andrea Ritchie
in The Times...
My, my, my:
“We recently took part in a ‘sail away singsong’ on a British
cruise ship. When the Welsh national anthem was announced we
were treated to Delilah by Tom Jones.”
She wears red feathers
and a huly-huly skirt...
“It is a fantastic feeling being up here tonight for the Queen’s
Diamond Jubilee,” said Sir Tom. As he performed Delilah, Prince Harry
the Countess of Wessex were spotted singing along while waving their
After all, it is a jolly singalong song, as long as we
ignore the lyrics.
Then there was Madness performing Our House atop Buckingham Palace,
finishing with the line “in the middle of one’s street”, ho, ho, ho!
Mind you, those light show projections of “all our
streets” onto Buck House were really rather clever and amusing,
especially with those buses and taxis whizzing past, not to mention the
houses opening up like a doll’s house.
According to the Telegraph,
from Everything But The Girl tweeted this:
“I remember going to early Madness gigs and they’d be broken up by
skinheads fighting, and from that to the roof of Buckingham Palace.”
As for the rest ... well,
bearing in mind
that the Duke of Edinburgh was watching from his hospital bed,
did Annie Lennox and her backing group have to wear those
feathered angel wings?
And did Paul McCartney have to belt out Live And Let
Die? The Duke must have spotted A Complete Dictionary of
Prince Philip Quotations flash by in front of his eyes.
Oh, and I enjoyed the Prince Charles tribute to “Mummy”, plus
his list of appreciations: “Thanks to the performers, the
musicians, the comedians - who made such jolly good jokes....!”
And all rounded off with a jolly good fireworks
Finally, the BBC coverage went some way to retrieving its
reputation following the Sunday debacle on the Thames – had I
accidentally pressed the red button to block out the vacuous
celebrity observations? – and then they throw all the good work
away by having the credits obscuring the splendid fireworks and
Huw Edwards talking over the music … and they immediately go on
to show promo film?
Now Sunday’s disastrous television coverage of the
pageant would have been a committee decision, so responsibility
lies at the door of Director-General Mark Thompson – but the
fireworks cock-up would have been an individual’s call.
It would be wonderful to meet this person. He or she
will surely provide a clue as to where the BBC has lost its way
over recent years.
PS: Yesterday, following the wet and windy Thames Pageant, I said
And fair play to the Duke, 90, who [like the Queen] also stood
throughout; I mean, only last Christmas he had that heart scare.
Talk about tempting fate...
Pageant-ing in the Rain
THE Thames Pageant was all going so well – and then the traditional British weather
struck. But, it was all good fun, excepting the BBC coverage, which is
coming in for much stick. I must admit, I watched much of the pageant on
Sky, which concentrated on the river and the boats rather than those
Whatever, the whole point of this web site is to seek out the
things that make me smile. So here we go...
Like a red, red rose
When Kate arrived in her scarlet outfit, my first thought was: Lady in
Red – so whose Big Day Out is this anyway? But it was all very clever
stuff as she blended in discreetly with the eye-catching upholstery on
the Spirit of Chartwell royal barge.
And the other point of this web site is the bit about
“every day is a day at school”. How intriguing then to learn that the
Thames Flood Barrier was closed for the entire day at 9.30 in the
morning to slow the river from its usual 5mph to just a tenth of that
speed and calm the tidal surge that normally makes the Thames rise by
21ft every six hours.
How about that? The great river tamed and “locked”.
How far away are we, do you suppose, from having a
Britain Weather Barrier, when some sort of invisible force around our
coast will shoot up to several thousand feet to divert bad weather
around our coast – and dump it all on France?
Mind you, I guess the Irish will have first refusal on
what’s streaming in off the Atlantic.
The River Queen
I learnt very early in adult life that you reserve judgment on people
and organisations when things go like clockwork – albeit a good starter
for ten, obviously – but rather, you judge when things start to go
amiss, or Mother Nature decides it is the wrong time of the month (think
News International and how it allowed the phone hacking scandal to drag
it down into the gutter).
So full marks to the Queen for a bit of superior
footwork when, despite the worsening conditions, she refused to sit.
“The Queen stood throughout the whole of it which was extraordinary and
we did not expect that.” Adrian Evans, the Pageant Master, remarking on
the Queen’s refusal, at age 86, to lounge on a purpose-built “throne”
under the glass canopy of the royal barge.
And fair play to the Duke, 90, who also stood
throughout; I mean, only last Christmas he had that heart scare.
My favourite picture of the day though, bearing in mind the weather, was
Dressed to impress
As the rain fell, this oversized hat on one of the boats in the thousand
flotilla, came in rather handy to shelter from the weather
With a nod and a wink to all the hats on display on the day, obviously.
I also enjoyed this, from Gordon Rayner, the Daily Telegraph’s Chief
After two and a half years of planning, the only thing the pageant
organisers could not control was the weather, which only worsened as the
day wore on and forced the cancellation of a planned fly-past of nine
Nothing summed up the day better than the sight of the London
Philharmonic’s choir, pausing opposite the Queen, belting out Land of
Hope and Glory as rain plastered their hair to their faces.
Not since the band kept playing on the Titanic has there been a more
indomitable musical rendition in the face of so much water.
If you could have bottled the droplets dripping from the choir’s chins,
it could have been distilled and sold as Essence of Britishness.
Yes indeedy, the London Philharmonic’s
choir seemingly singing “Rain, rain, go
to Spain and fall on that blasted plain…”.
In fact I was reminded of “Singin’ in the Rain”, the hugely smiley
Morecambe and Wise version that is – with the shocking BBC coverage
represented by that woman who throws a bucket of water out of the window
over poor Eric.
I was also hugely impressed by a very man thing: how the
Spirit of Chartwell royal barge manoeuvred with such economy of space
and time. It really did appear to be able to
on a sixpence”
- as did every other barge.
My favourite moment though was the wholly unexpected sight of the
full-sized horse puppet, Joey, from the hit West End play War Horse,
racing across the roof of the National Theatre and rearing up in salute.
The National Theatre arranged its own special event to honour the
Magic. Or “Random awesomeness”, as Lordnanunanu2 observed online. The
National Theatre has put out a brief video on YouTube. Well worth a quick
visit and a smile...
Saturday, June 2
On your marks, get set – go!
YESTERDAY the nation was ‘under starter’s orders’ apropos the Queen’s
Diamond Jubilee celebrations – today, to the cheers of 150,000 race
fans, the show got off to a galloping start at the Epsom Downs course.
The Queen devoted the first of four days of Jubilee
celebrations to one of her favourite pursuits: flat racing. In
particular, the Investec Derby.
There is something both delightfully doolally and
wonderfully wise in the news that the Derby and all the other Epsom
races, an industry which revolves around gambling, should be sponsored
by Investec, an international banking group – boo, hiss, spit!
– specialising in asset, wealth and investment management!!
It’s a rather glorious notion that the 150,000 punters
at Epsom today were concerned with asset, wealth and investment
management. Whenever I’ve been to a race meeting I go prepared to lose
£x amount of cash without it upsetting my day; if I come out of it all
in profit – well, that really is a bonus.
The owners and trainers are wealthy for sure, but to
them it’s all a hobby. Hang about though: the bookies!
Obviously Investec is there to look after their interests.
As yesterday, it’s a brace of images wot captured my imagination today.
And talking of racing...
Every Union Jack has his Emily
Racegoers Emily Stables (left) and Tara McMeikan show off
during the Ladies’ Day of the Investec Derby Festival at Epsom
Very eye-catching: it’s the horse that sets the whole thing off, really.
And is she really called “Stables”?
Epsom apart, the four days of
celebrations began in earnest with street parties and festivals
staged in hundreds of villages, towns and cities across Britain. But I
have to say, I was really captivated by this image...
Oh you don’t get me I’m part of the Union Jack
worker stands on a platform amongst hundreds of Union flags
in the rafters of Covent Garden in London
Pic: Adrian Dennis
Now that’s what I call eye-catching. Wonderful picture.
Under starter’s orders
THE QUEEN’S Diamond Jubilee extended bank holiday weekend comes under
starter’s orders today – so: on your marks...
The media is already awash with words and pictures
(both still and
moving), but pride of place today goes to an image spotted in the
Telegraph’s online Picture Gallery – and it stopped me in
my tracks ... before a huge smile creased my face...
Pupils from Falkner House Girls School in South Kensington, London,
enjoy a Jubilee street party,
sitting next to one of their teachers dressed as the Queen
Picture: Wareen Allott
That is quite delightful. There are a couple of things that make it
stand out from the run-of-the-mill stuff: the Queen’s face transplanted
atop that outfit the teacher is wearing – plus the headscarf of course;
but most of all, I am taken by the irreverent behaviour of the two
Intrigued by the image, and as is my wont, I Googled the school ... this
from the school’s home page:
Falkner House, a school for girls between the ages of 4 and 11, is well
known for its high academic standards and broad curriculum. Founded by
Mrs Flavia Nunes in 1954 and run as a partnership, there is total
commitment to retaining family ownership and direction. The Head teacher
is Mrs Anita Griggs.
Falkner House is large enough to provide a full range of facilities and
attract a loyal and highly capable staff but small enough to retain the
intimacy and personal touch essential to a child’s development.
Curiosity, self-confidence and independence of mind are fostered and
each girl is encouraged to develop her own character and personality.
Kindness, good manners and consideration of others are Falkner House
essentials. Above all, in the midst of academic rigour, the girls have
Girls quickly gain a love of learning and the acquisition of knowledge
for its own sake. The latest technology is taken for granted but
sophisticated systems and software will never replace inspired teachers.
Falkner House blends the best of the old with the best of the new.
No wonder then, given that “the girls have fun”, I was so captivated by
the smiley nature of the above image.
Thursday, May 31
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on old wives’ tales
HERE in Wales, our weather is a source of much amusement to those living
the other side of Offa’s Dyke; our allegedly never-ending rain is a
constant mine of gentle fun.
After all, my home town has, somewhere along the line,
acquired the affectionate sobriquet Llandampness. And anyway, if we want
a green and pleasant land, with lashings of water to go round, we don’t
want too much of that boring old sunshine.
How delightful then that from the moment the Olympic
Torch entered Wales – to the day it departed – the sun shone and shone,
showing the country and its attractions off a real treat. So how doubly
ironic then that the day after it crossed back into England (today), the
At least God/Richard Dawkins’ selfish gene (delete to taste) has
a sense of fun.
This (and the picture alongside), from the Huffington Post...
Sir Chris Bonington holds the Olympic torch on the summit of
Mount Snowdon on May 29, 2012 in Llanberis, United Kingdom.
Legendary mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington, aged 77, was
given the honour of carrying the torch to the summit of Wales’s
highest mountain, the place his climbing career began 61 years
The Olympic Flame is now on day 11 [May 29] of a 70-day
relay involving 8,000 torchbearers covering 8,000 miles.
(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
PS: Just a thought ... there’s the dragon on the Welsh flag,
obviously - but is that a dragon masquerading as a flame? Magic.
Wednesday, May 30
Do I presume that perhaps Clare never did wear perfume when she was a
young doe about town and as a consequence never excited those
testosterone-fuelled young bucks about town?
You smell so nice I could eat you
JUST a quickie today; I am in the middle of moving home – from the west
end of Dinefwr Park to the east end (perhaps I will now have to learn,
and converse in, Llandampness rhyme).
Anyway, moving is a bit time consuming, to say the
least. So here’s something that tickled my funny bone no end in today’s
“The Queen never wears perfume when she visits the yard to see her
horses as it can excite testosterone-fuelled young colts.” Clare
Balding (born 1971), BBC racing expert, sports presenter, journalist and
Clare is openly gay; indeed, in September 2006, she formalised her
relationship with the BBC Radio 4 continuity announcer and newsreader
Alice Arnold by entering into a civil partnership.
It’s an intriguing thought.
Tuesday, May 29
Keep taking the tabloids
JUST read this in The Sunday Times’
by Roland White, and it tickled me no end...
There is an unspoken agreement between newspapers and people such as
Kelly Brook, who might have films – or whatever – to promote. They pose
for fruity pictures, and editors print these pictures to lighten all the
stuff about economic gloom.
In The Sun, Rod Liddle said he was “sick to death” of
seeing pictures of Kelly. “There’s never much of a news story – just
rubbish like she’s been shopping, or has eaten a spot of lunch, or gone
for a swim.”
His comment was illustrated, of course, by a picture of
Wonderful story that. Why does Liddle bother to write about her if he is
“sick to death” of Kelly – and then go and show her picture — again.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Mind you, to be
honest, if she was standing next to me at the bar at the Crazy
Horsepower Saloon, I wouldn’t have a clue who she was. Anyway, here she
is, obviously getting ready for a quick forty winks after having eaten
that “spot of lunch” Liddle was going on about.
Kelly Brook, in the non-news again...
But what’s with all that hair on her breasty breast breast?
of Old Vic gossip
vays of making you nice
Thursday’s Sun devoted half a page to the news that the vicar of St
Helen’s church in Ipswich has run off with a parishioner. I can’t help
wondering whether this story would have been so prominent if the Rev
Michael Tillett hadn’t fallen in love with somebody called Mrs Alcock.
Shame he wasn’t called the Rev Michael Brown. Imagine the headline:
Alcock and Brown fly their
Every day a day at school spot:
British aviators Alcock and Brown made the first non-stop
transatlantic flight in June 1919. They flew a modified World War I
Vickers Vimy bomber from St John’s, Newfoundland to Clifden, Connemara,
County Galway, Ireland.
Winston Churchill presented them with the Daily Mail
prize for the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in “less than 72
consecutive hours” and they were knighted at Windsor Castle by King
Ah, those were the days, when Britain left its mark on history. And
talking of leaving your mark on history...
“When Jonny Wilkinson kicked that last-minute drop goal to clinch the
2003 Rugby World Cup for England, I spent an hour ringing random numbers
in the Sydney phone book and laughing fanatically. This means I’m not a
good winner, either. I fear this may be a British disease.”
Jeremy Clarkson, 52, English journalist and broadcaster, explains that
while he accepts that he is the world’s worst looser, he is also a poor
winner, and craves the German sportsmanship which makes them probably
the best losers in the world.
don’t crave their shorts or their jackets or their moustaches. But I do
crave their sportsmanship. I crave their decency. I crave their
niceness. I want to be a German.”
I know what he means. There is something astonishing about them. If they
had not had a fellow sporting a silly moustache as their leader, they
would probably have ruled over the largest empire the world has ever
A free lunch
“Stick my name in Google and you will get 250 million hits. That
level of fame is too crazy to comprehend.”
Selena Gomez, 19, American actress and singer.
I’d never heard of Selena, so that Google curiosity got the better of
me: yep, 209,000,000 hits (0.16 seconds). I like that 0.16 seconds bit,
whether it’s true or not, who knows.
All of which leads me to an amazing picture, one that gives an insight
into why so many celebrities end up flirting with doolallyness, as
indeed Selena hints at above.
Last week saw the 65th Cannes Film Festival, with an
endless parade of stars strutting their stuff along the red carpet.
Now what we normally see are said stars doing their thing in front of
the cameras. This time around there were quite a few pictures of what
the stars themselves were actually facing.
For example, this mind-blowing image...
Nicole Kidman poses during a photocall for the film The Paperboy by
director Lee Daniels
Pic: Eric Gaillard
My goodness, what a rabble. What on earth goes through the mind of an
individual when confronted by something like that? Do they begin to
believe that they really must be the most important person in the whole
wide world? The Second Coming? That they only have to open their mouths
and the world hangs on their every word, every syllable? Extraordinary.
Or perhaps they think: Hang about, I’m going a bit mad
here. I can’t get over that image. But do you know, the first thing that
came to mind were ... vultures...
Vultures gather when they know there’s a bit of feasting to do. And the
more vulnerable or unstable or doolally the subject matter, the greater
the chance of a memorable meal, a photo to make the front page.
And then the vultures gather in ever greater numbers...
Necessity is the mother of invention
THE weather right now is as good as it gets in this part of the world.
Picture perfect stuff. A clear blue sky with a brisk, cooling easterly
keeping the temperature just about comfortable. So, being a Natural-Born
Brit, now seems as good a time as any to think of rain.
But before I look for shelter there, a few dots to join up.
I have just caught up with something from last month, when around
a thousand inventions debuted at the 40th International
Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva.
The power of human creation encapsulates the weird, the
wonderful and the entertainingly silly. Coming up are two of my
The first is perfectly practical. A woman shows a South Korean
invention to tie shoes with a single touch – see alongside
– with a hook and a stop loop to control the tightness.
Honestly, I think that is so wonderfully hand-on.
As for the second ... Weather does not normally stop my daily
early morning walks on the wild side. Well, really heavy rain
will; also, a combination of strong winds and driving rain will
definitely halt my daily gallivant dead in its tracks.
This year, believe it or don’t, only on three mornings
have I been grounded. Mind you, if it’s really wet first thing,
and the Met Office rainfall radar indicates that the rain will
pass within an hour or two, I will delay my walk – but never
more than that.
Sometimes though I will get caught out: the radar indicates that the
rain is about to pass, so I set off before it actually stops raining ...
and an aggressive new depression will form along the passing front – and
it rains and rains – and I get soaked.
When the weather is a wee bit dampish I always take a
compact, telescopic umbrella – a ladies’ umbrella I guess you call it.
Now it isn’t that I mind getting wet, but because these days I wear
glasses, it drives me nuts when they get all wet – and a small umbrella
does the job of just covering my head and face. Works a treat.
And now – ta-rah!
- Italy’s Marco Pagmini presents his invention, a hands-free umbrella -
the perfect thing for the man who is a born multitasker. I know,
I know, a rare beast indeed...
Now isn’t that as delightfully doolally as it gets? It helps, mind, that he
looks a bit like a young Alan Whicker. Of course, the invention has to be very
much a man thing – check out the fitting.
Mind you, I’m just as
mesmerised by that fellow on the right. He has a most distinctive look
about him – you know how it is, some people have a look which makes you
stand and stare.
I’m not talking about a negative sort of appearance,
say a disfigurement or simply someone you would never describe as an oil
painting – nothing like that, but rather an idiosyncratic look. And that
fellow up there on the right has that. I have no idea how best to describe
it ... he just makes me smile.
Whatever, I think I shall order one of those umbrellas,
ready for when our weather breaks. Wearing that umbrella while
walking though Llandampness as the commuters whiz by really would cause
PS: Alternatively, perhaps I should sit down and invent a pair of
glasses with wipers – just as we have on our vehicles. Now that really
would cause a stir.
Saturday, May 26
Spot the ♫–spot
(as opposed to the G-spot)
I HAD a pile of ironing to catch up with tonight – it’s a job I don’t
mind doing, mostly because it gives me a chance to catch up with some
radio listening, especially so programmes I’ve missed or want to listen
to again, compliments of the iPlayer.
However, I saw that the Eurovision Song Contest
was on the telly. Doolallyness at its most delightful. In for a quaver, in for a
And Engelbert Humperdink was on first. However,
from the first note it didn’t look or sound good for Britain. Curiously,
he seemed beset by nerves and his voice was all a quaver – or should
that be ‘all a quiver’? And crucially, the song simply wasn’t strong
enough to countermand that nervousness so obvious in his performance.
Mind you, I’m still smiling at those elderly Russian ladies,
Buranovskiye Babushki, alias the Russian Grannies, the bread bakers,
with their song “Party for everybody”. Perhaps they should have been
called the Russian Granaries, boom-boom!
Or indeed The Baker’s Half-Dozen? There were seven of them initially,
allegedly, but rules
allowed only six on stage.
Be that as it may, as someone mentioned, those
wonderful six old hot cross buns – combined age 484 – bore an eerie
resemblance to a set of wrinkled Russian dolls, each one having popped
out of the one before.
With their song they exhorted us all to, “Come on and
dance, come on and boom-boom-boom!”,
while baking biscuits in an oven revolving on the stage. Crumbs, talk
about rising to the occasion. They came second, I see.
While Swedish singer Loreen sort of touched my
the moment it was mentioned in dispatches that her song had already stormed to No. 1
throughout the Nordic countries – well, there was really only one
winner, something the bookmakers had known all along, and they
understand these things.
Poor old Englebert is still singing. The song simply
wasn’t catchy enough. But, as Britain recovers from another night of
catastrophe, at least pretty much all the other countries, while they
may not like English songs, they still sing theirs in English – or at
least some of the lyrics in English.
The Russian Granaries, for example – and whisper it,
even the French singer sang a little bit in English.
My thoughts on Britain’s recent non-runners? Well, those
who choose a Song for Europe at the BBC seem to have as much empathy
with the public ear as an amoeba has with a dolphin. Above all, the song
has to be catchy and melodic – and perhaps slightly outrageous: I am
still smiling at the Russian ladies.
By coincidence I have just been listening to The
Proclaimers’ new release, Spinning Around in the Air. Now
that has Eurovision winner oozing from every note.
Is it truly beyond the BBC to come up with something
similar next year? Give it a listen: not only is it incredibly catchy,
but rather witty: ♫♫♫
I could sing I would sing you a song in Sam Cooke’s voice...
The tears of a clown
THAT fine line between laughter and tears is indeed a rather tenuous
one. Yesterday’s smile included the ‘road sign’ I’d fashioned as a nod and
a wink to the supposed obesity that is overwhelming our children.
Well, today I came across a couple of examples of the
genre that lie at either end of the scale. First, this memorably
A clown wearing a sumo suit sits at a bus stop during a clown parade in
(Photo: Luis Romero)
That is so funny. The clown himself, obviously, wearing the traditional
sad look of a clown. But more than that, it’s the reactions of the two
women, especially the older, toothless lady. Truly memorable.
It seems she was featured on ITV’s This Morning, back in February
2011, when she was 40st 6lb and had spiralled into a world of emotional
quite so funny
Then today, the media has been awash with news of a Welsh teenager who
had to be rescued from her home in a multi-agency operation involving at
least 40 people. This from an online report...
19-year-old girl dubbed “Britain’s fattest teen” is in hospital today
after builders, fire fighters, ambulance crews and police were called-in
to cut her free from her own home.
It is understood Georgina Davies was suffering with
breathing problems but was unable to leave her Aberdare bedroom because
of her weight — thought to be around 60 stone
over a third of a ton]. An emergency scaffolding
bridge had to be constructed from the road to the first floor of the
house, and part of the front of the building demolished and internal
walls removed in order to get her to an ambulance.
Miss Davis was dubbed “Britain’s fattest teen” in 2008
when, as a 33-stone pupil at Aberdare Girls School, she was sent to an
America health farm to undergo a strict diet. Her weight dropped to 18
stone during her time at the North Carolina camp, but after returning
home to Wales she began to put on the pounds again.
A joint statement from Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, South
Wales Police, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Welsh Ambulance
Service and Cwm Taf Local Health Board, said an operation was launched
to “ensure the safe transportation” of a 19-year old girl to hospital
for medical treatment.
...when I look at her, I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I
smile because, I think ... clown, see the sumo image above, for that’s
what she must look like - and some ... then I feel I should cry when I
think: how come such a vulnerable individual, whose personal
circumstances are so obviously well documented, was allowed to reach such a desperate
little bit blue
I happened to catch The One Show tonight on BBC West – BBC
Wales had an extended news bulletin to cover the arrival of the Olympic Flame in
Wales. Anyway, one of The One Show guests was actor Michael Sheen, who hails from
The show did a feature on Richard Burton, who spent
some of his earlier years living in Port Talbot. The question was posed:
The House Where Burton Lived In Port Talbot have a
It seems that even Burton’s proper place of birth, at Pontrhydyfen, near Port Talbot, does not have one – although curiously,
the first house he lived in when he arrived in London, does...
Whatever, back with The One Show:
Alex Jones to Michael Sheen: “Do you have a blue plaque in Port
Michael Sheen: “No, I don’t have a blue plaque.”
Alex: “Not yet!”
Chris Evans: “He’s not dead yet. That’s the main
Collapse of poor Alex, with a hearty
“D’oh!”, it has be said.
Anyway, you’re not alone, Miss Jones: I never knew you needed to be
dead to have a blue plaque in your honour. A plaque on your house!
So there you go: every day a day at school.
Thursday, May 24
I can still see you
JUST a few days ago, a rare annular eclipse swept around the world –
the word annular makes me slightly nervous for some reason or other – but
I note that it means a partial eclipse, where the moon is at its farthest point
from the earth and appears smaller than the sun, thus leaving that
famous ring of fire at maximum eclipse. Ah, now I appreciate my initial
There were loads of marvellous pictures from all
corners of the globe, but the one that caught my eye is this one here...
The annular eclipse is captured through binoculars in Sacramento,
The above is compliments of Mail Online, but unusually, there was no
credit for the photographer. One is tempted to think that it’s a fake
job, but actually, it feels right, the image makes sense.
In fact, you can see the dirt and stains on the filter
glass in front of the camera, which would have been needed to protect
the camera and the photographer from the sun. Be that as it may, it is such a wonderfully
Actually, the image makes me think of a strange looking
owl with its head feathers sticking up - or something like that.
Stained crass politicians
“Politics is not always dirty but it can become unclean.” The Dalai
What a neat and tidy quote that is. Politicians are well established as the most
disrespected, untrustworthy group of people on the planet. Strangely
though, I really do believe that most of them go into politics to change
the world for the better and thus make it a more equitable place.
though, they are instantly seduced into this dreadful club they sign up
to. It gives extra meaning to this famous but slightly paraphrased
Groucho Marx quote:
“I don’t want to belong to any House that will accept people like me as
Ah, the wonderfully witty Groucho – and talking of which, there has been
much over the past few days about David Cameron, who it seems is a
master of the art of chillaxing. An ally is quoted as saying: “If there was an
Olympic gold medal for ‘chillaxing’, he would win it.”
I quote this opening paragraph from a Telegraph article...
We may mock the Prime Minister’s devotion to tennis and karaoke, but he
is hardly the first politician to make full use of his free time.
And finally, a little something that would have appealed to Groucho
Marx, I'm sure ... this witty and laugh-out-loud letter in the Daily Mail , from a
If the premiership of Gordon Brown taught us nothing else, it’s that
prime ministers ought to relax once in a while. The duties of high
office – managing the budget, handling the nuclear codes, sending
affectionate text messages to tabloid editors – mean that anyone
without a pressure valve is liable to go a bit barmy.
Even Ed Balls
would agree that Gordon, who passed the time when he wasn’t worrying
about the economy by reading books about economics, could have profited
from the odd game of five-a-side.
I had to include that piece, just for the line “sending affectionate text
messages to tabloid editors, LOL!” – ouch, one below the belt, methinks.
“Why shouldn’t David Cameron chillax? It’s not as if he is running
the country or anything.”
Wednesday, May 23
Right said Fred – let’s have a fag and a cuppa
ANYTHING that can loosely be described as off-beat tends to grab my
undivided attention and ring my bell. Whether it’s a joke, an event – or
indeed Pussycat the dog, my landlord’s wonderfully eccentric but lovable
The same goes for photographs. Today’s smile is a case
A cheeky local, fed up with never-ending road works in Melksham,
Wiltshire, decided to exact revenge, and has defaced a ‘men at
work’ road sign to show a worker sat down, watching the world
pass by while enjoying a fag and a mug of tea.
Ah, you feel relaxed just looking at it. Unless of
course you happen to travel that road regularly.
Actually, I wouldn’t have used the word “defaced”; it
looks a bit of a work of art to me – and never mind something of
the night, it has something of
the ET about it.
The picture was captured by Clare Green, probably
sitting at the permanently temporary traffic lights.
And here’s one I made earlier...
A few years back, the-powers-that-be laid a giant gas pipeline right across
southern Wales, from Milford Haven in the west to Gloucester,
just over the border. The whole – the hole? – caboodle passes
right under the Llandampness doorstep.
In fact, the huge civil engineering project featured
400 Smiles A Day
– follow the ‘Follow the pipeline’ link.
What I remember mostly was an invasion of the huge
machinery needed to carry out the task. The verges were
littered with warning signs such as “Peiriannau trwm yn croesi”
which, as you will see below, is Welsh for “Heavy plant
Now here’s the hopefully smiley part: “plant” in Welsh
translates as “children”, so I had this childish idea about
“Heavy children crossing”. Indeed, given how we are currently
led to believe that our
children are doomed to a life of unhealthy obesity, I thought I would
design a road sign to stick outside our schools.
All you need to bear in mind is that “Plantos” is Welsh
Perhaps I should patent it.
Tuesday, May 22
Time and a half
THE WESTERN MAIL’S Saturday Welsh Homes supplement
has a weekly feature where a VIP is interviewed about his or her
favourite room at home. Last Saturday’s guest was a Naomi Thomas,
principal second violinist with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
Naomi’s favourite room is the kitchen; she also has to choose her
favourite object, and this is the bit that caught my eye. I quote...
Naomi’s favourite object is a clock she bought from Cox & Cox.
The clock has no face but is a set of black and white cardboard
numerals stuck straight on to the wall.
“You put up the numbers yourself and it’s quite tricky.
It took me a few goes,” Naomi laughs. “It’s always a talking
point. People come in and say ‘I love your clock’.”
As a busy working musician Naomi constantly needs to
know the time. “I’m always trying to fit this and that into the
day so I need to know the time.”
Don’t we all, Naomi, don’t we all.
Anyway, I was intrigued by Naomi’s clock: there was a photo of it
stuck there on her kitchen wall. So I visited the Cox and Cox
Naomi’s clock was a basic, numbers only model, but the
featured online clock was this one here, alongside, stuck to the window.
It really is a very smiley affair and I can well
believe that visitors to Naomi’s home would endlessly comment on
Let’s hear it for the clock. It deserves a big hand.
A letter in today’s Telegraph...
Some civil service
SIR – David Cameron is impatient with the Civil Service. The late Dr
Piet Koornhof, a South African nationalist cabinet minister, had similar
“The civil service,” he said, was “like a tortoise. It
goes slowly about its business, but pick it up or touch it and it stops
Michael Brown, Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
And a Times letter from a couple of weeks back, compliments of
Chief Wise Owl...
Sir, I misread the first word of your headline “Patent expiry is best
medicine for cash-starved NHS” (May 5) and wondered if there had been
another minor change in strategy.
DR PETER HARRIS, St Keverne, Cornwall
Men are from Mars, women are from Venus
BACK on April 25, I’d spotted this headline: G-spot “does exist”
It seemed that a US gynaecologist, Dr Adam Ostrzenski,
had climbed his very own Matterhorny and planted his personal flag on
the elusive female G-spot, probably because – well, it just happened to
be there, waiting to be conquered. Whisper it, but he’d found it while
studying the cadaver of an 83-year-old woman. Which rather took the
gloss off his discovery.
Well blow me, today I was flicking through some old Sunday Times
magazines before a day trip to the recycling dump, and I found this in the
Ask Dr Ozzy column
(Caution: Ozzy Osbourne is not a qualified medical professional).
Well, I never.
And I never tire of reminding myself how stupid I am as
a reader of The Sunday Times not to appreciate that the
“Prince of Darkness” is not a proper doctor.
Whatever, here’s the question for Dr Ozzy...
Spot the spot
A gynaecologist in Florida claims to have found the female G-spot
while dissecting the cadaver of a Polish woman, aged 83. Do you believe
Even if he has found the female screaming-ecstasy button
[what I call the
having” thingy], if you need a fresh corpse, a
sprocket set and a Black & Decker drill to get to it, what does it
matter? We all know where Mars is, but nobody ever goes there on
Very good, Dr Ozzy. Personally though, I would say: “I know where Venus
is, but it’s probably just that little bit too far from Mars to go there
Oh yes, and the “sprocket set”? Is that some sort of
rhyming slang for the old rocket in said pocket?
Also, this curious question was submitted to test the “Prince of
The right side of my face has gone numb. Is it stress or something more
Karen, New Malden
Your face is very important, Karen. If half of it stops working, you
should do something more drastic than writing to Dr Ozzy. Please, for
God’s sake: go to a doctor.
You have to believe that these letters are made up. Are we seriously
expected to buy into the notion that a Sunday Times Magazine
reader would write such a letter? Oh, hang on –
Ozzy Osbourne is not a qualified medical professional.
Obviously, we are that stupid.
“I didn’t just grow up with horses. I wanted to be one.” Claire
Balding, 40, journalist, jockey and a BBC sports presenter.
Oh dear, Claire, that has ambush written all over it, especially if
poison-pen TV critic AA Gill spots you going over the jumps.
Old AA Gill (other breakdown services are available:
RAC Fin?) wrote about Claire in a TV review and labelled her the “dyke on
a bike” – and yes, the paper had to apologise and grovel, although Gill
merely proffered his usual two-fingered salute from the safety of his
column, hiding behind Rupert Murdoch’s
Horses sweat, gentlemen perspire and ladies gently glow
UNLESS you are the Queen, it seems...
“The Queen’s clothes are always impeccable. But it is also that she
doesn’t glow. If you are a cold person, your clothes don’t crease.”
Stewart Parvin, the Queen’s dress designer, explains the secret of why,
for almost 60 years, she has managed to avoid looking flustered or
creased: Her Majesty does not perspire.
Yes indeedy, hereabouts every day is a day at school. Now I never knew
that non-sweaty people retain crease-free clothes – but as soon
as I read it, it made
sense. Parvin also reveals that the Queen has an assistant to wear in
her new shoes and prevent chafing during public duties.
“[The shoes] have to be immediately comfortable ... she
does get someone to wear them. The Queen can never say, ‘I’m
uncomfortable, I can’t walk any more.’ She has the right to have someone
to wear them in.”
Yep, that makes total sense as well. [Mind you, I found
myself momentarily diverted by the thought that perhaps I should ask Old
Shaggy down at the Crazy Horsepower if he needs a lackey to wear in all
those women he attracts like bees to a honey pot. But I digress already.]
Stewart Parvin revealed other tricks too. The Queen
wears an extra shoulder pad on one shoulder, for instance, and chooses
bright colours to make her stand out in a crowd.
“She does drop on the shoulder slightly, as people do,
so we put an extra pad in one shoulder,” he said. “That’s the kind of
thing we do for most people. People have one arm longer than the other,
one leg longer, so that’s what the fittings are for, to make sure
everything’s as perfect as it can be.”
I smiled XL right there. You see, I have one leg slightly shorter than
the other two – no, hang on: I have one leg slightly shorter than the
other. I occasionally need to have one trouser leg shortened if I’ve
bought a close-fitting trousers.
I believe though that it isn’t that one leg is actually
shorter than the other, but rather, for whatever reason, one hip is marginally larger than the other, and
therefore one trouser leg is slightly tighter and pulled up. At least,
that’s what I put it down to.
“It’s not as difficult as it might seem. I don’t have to introduce
myself, they all seem to know who I am.”
The Queen, when asked how she coped with meeting so many people.
Wonderful. There’s no answer to that, as they say.
Yesterday, I featured the Armed Forces Tribute to The Queen at Windsor
Castle, in particular, the flypast. Well, today I came across a picture
taken during the parade, which featured nearly 3,000 troops marching
past the monarch.
You know how professional photographers, when taking a
picture of a line of people, usually troops, police or some such like,
and the picture is taken from side-on rather than full-frontal, the
photographer will use the trick of the line- up looking straight ahead,
but one individual leaning slightly forward and often looking towards the
It is always an effective shot because it draws the
eye in. Well, here’s a spontaneous version of such a shot...
And again, it really does draw the eye into the picture. Marvellous. But
I do worry if he had a bollocking after.
Saturday, May 19
The World turned upside down
LAST Tuesday, not only did it rain on
François Hollande’s presidential parade, but on his way to Berlin his
plane was struck by lightning. On Thursday and Friday, the British
delegation in Athens to collect the Olympic Flame was rained upon from a
great height – yet on Friday evening the Flame lands in a gloriously dry
Culdrose in the south west of England.
Then today, the Armed Forces Tribute to the Queen
encounters weather that can only be described as perfect for marching,
flying and watching: not wet, not windy, not too warm...
And this evening, a German team playing a European Cup
Final, in its home stadium, not only fails to score from a proper
penalty in extra-time to probably win the game – but looses a penalty
shoot-out, shock, horror!
(Incidentally, why do teams celebrate a goal as if they
have just won – the Bayern Munich OTT celebrations after their only goal
comes to mind – when a potential ambush lies around every corner and
cross? And of course it did: Chelsea equalise a few minutes later.)
Yes indeedy, omens, omens, how Europe must now be really, really
declaring a curse on these omens. All we need next weekend, just to
prove that the world really has been turned upside down, is for Engelbert Humperdink to bring home the Eurovision bacon. Oink-oink, as
opposed to beep-beep.
high, high, high, flying low, low, low
My favourite smile today though came somewhat unexpectedly, while
watching The Diamond Jubilee – Armed Forces Tribute, a parade and muster
at Windsor Castle, attended by the Queen, obviously.
I made a point of watching it this morning because I’d
seen on the local news earlier in the week loads of aircraft practising
some impressive fly-past formations up in Valley on Anglesey, so I
thought, must have a look at this.
Just like last year’s Royal Wedding, the whole thing
was terribly British in its pomp and ceremony, especially so the fly-past.
Twenty Tucanos, the RAF’s basic trainer, went past in the shape of a
“60” to celebrate the Commander-in-Chief’s 60 years on the throne, a
formation that was indeed rather impressive, first picture here...
And then 27 Hawk jet trainers flew over in an “E II R” formation.
Perfection in motion, directly above.
A total of 78 aircraft from past and present took part in the flypast;
on the ground, all three armed services were gathered, while six massed
bands played Land of Hope and Glory, Rule Britannia, et al.
The whole thing was a sight for increasingly sore eyes
from watching the nation’s politicians and wheeler-dealers do their best
to rain on our parade.
Anyway, the impressive flypast was trumped for me by
something which took me completely by surprise. My
vote goes to the mesmeric precision and voluminosity of the
to the Queen by the assembled 3,000 servicemen and women, who
choreographically thrust their head-dresses in the air as they shouted
It was a truly magical moment.
If you haven’t seen it, and you have access to iPlayer (before May 26,
obviously), search The Diamond Jubilee: Armed Forces Tribute, and then
at 1:46, Garrison Sergeant Major Billy Mott of the Welsh Guards begins
his routine with “Parade will remove headdress...”
Great stuff, a couple of minutes not to be missed.
PS: It can also be seen on YouTube ... it follows the Queen’s
brief address to the Armed Forces:
Raindrops keep falling on European heads
YESTERDAY, the Olympic Flame was handed to a British delegation out in
Athens – and yes, it rained and rained and rained.
The party included the Princess Royal – Princess Anne
to you and me – Seb Coe, Boris Johnson and Games Ambassador ‘Sir’ David
Beckham. Yes, the official announcer insisted that he was already Once A
Knight Beckham (and he took it all in his stride and in good part, fair play to him).
And it was still raining today in Greece when the Olympic flame
took off for the UK – but, hold the front page, it was dry this evening
when it duly touched down at Culdrose in the south west of England.
Now we expect it to rain in the UK, but the other day
it not only rained on François Hollande’s presidential parade in Paris,
but his plane was struck by lightning shortly after taking off for
Berlin to discuss the Euro crisis.
And now it doesn’t stop raining in Athens. Omens,
omens, a curse on all these omens!
Anyway, you know how it is when someone plants a thought in your mind,
and no matter how hard you try to weed it out, there’s no way it can be
done. It is burnt onto our hard drive for ever and ever, Amen!
My burnt-on image has to do with the curious London
Olympics logo. Young Shagwell, of Crazy Horsepower fame, told me
something about it which swings vicariously between hilarious,
unspeakable and faintly disgusting, depending along which track your
imagination decided to travel at the time.
So if you want to avoid having something unutterable
imprinted on your mind for ever more and a day, jump to the end of the
picture, below, NOW...
Right, here we go. Have a look at the logo ... Young Shagwell casually mentioned what
reminded him of: young Lisa from The Simpsons, on her knees, doing
something very naughty to the boy she is with, certainly something a
girl of her age should never be doing, however grown-up she is.
blonde hair that does it. Fortunately, Lisa is a fictional character.
Now Young Shagwell never said what he actually saw, but
I have to admit I laughed out loud – and there’s the rub: no matter how
hard I now try to blot it out, I simply can’t get the thought out of my
Tomorrow, the Olympic Flame begins its 70-day relay route around the UK:
torch will come within 10 miles of 95% of people in the UK, Isle of Man,
Guernsey and Jersey. It will enable local communities to shine a light
on the best their area has to offer – including celebrations of local
culture, breathtaking landscapes and dynamic urban areas.”
Now I have nothing whatsoever against the London Olympics; I certainly have
nothing at all against the flame and the relay route – I wish it Godspeed – but
I find it curiously reassuring that I am one of the 5%.
Anyway, let’s finish with my favourite Olympic quote thus far:
“In an effort to let everyone feel included in the event, it has been
suggested that smokers standing outside the pubs will be allowed to get
a light from the Olympic Flame as it passes. We’re still waiting to hear
John Delaney, a resident of Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, on the news
that the Olympic Torch Relay will pass by the town’s three pubs.
Not least in response to that splendid place name, Lochwinnoch.
Thursday, May 17
Can you see what it is yet?
ALL SORTS of things make me smile. And truth to tell, the more eccentric
and doolally, the better. For example...
“Darling: did you remember to close and lock the garage door?”
Still, I suppose if you live next door to your friendly, neighbourhood
Be that as it may, this Mail Online headline drew me
Don’t worry if you can’t afford that £15m Ferrari of
your dreams — just paint it on the garage door instead
Most car owners would keep their dream motor safely tucked away inside a
garage. But one enthusiast need not even go to the effort of opening his
garage up - his pride and joy is painted on the front.
After Chris Smart, from Bishopstoke, Hants, realised he
could not afford the £15million car of his dreams, he did what any art
student would do and got out his brushes
Mr Smart, who studied art at college, said: “I hated
the garage door before because it was really dull. I saw garage covers
on the internet but wanted one unique to me. I have always loved this
particular car and wanted to make it a bit of fun. Although it would
certainly be nicer to have a real one in there.”
The realistic three-dimensional scene does not only
feature Chris’s dream car however. It also includes a depiction of Harry
Potter’s broom, a KFC bargain bucket and even a naughty calendar tucked
away behind a step ladder...
God’s little runabout No 2: nice touch, the pot of red paint, bottom right
Photos: M & Y Media
Chris’s wife, Kerry, who he admits sometimes does not see him because he
is so busy with his paintings, said the picture was a good consolation
to owning a real Ferrari.
This tale comes down on the eccentric side of a smile rather than the
doolally. Mind you, I was rather concerned where he says “I hated the
garage door before...”. I’m not sure you can “hate” a garage door. But
I’ll put that down to overtly extravagant meeja reporting.
She said: “Chris has always wanted one but there is no
way we could afford it. Painting the Ferrari on the garage door is as
close as he’s ever likely to get to it – unless we win the lottery.”
There were the usual negative comments online i.e. that
it was nothing new and that the whole thing had been done a few years
back out in Germany, and anyway, you could now buy prints to paste on
your garage door.
Unbelievable, really, because Chris mentions precisely
that in the article, but being an artist he wanted one unique to him.
Where do these internet trolls come from?
Still, there was the usual slice of wit among the
dross. This one tickled my funny bone...
Charlie, Chocolate Factory:
Spooky that, I have just painted a picture of a garage door on my
Wednesday, May 16
It never reigns but it paws
POOR old François Hollande, the new President of France. First he got
soaked in a downpour as he rode up the Champs Elysées to the Arc de
Triomphe, standing, as tradition demands, in an open-roofed car. Then
his presidential plane was struck by lightning shortly after taking off
for Berlin, forcing him to return to Paris and board another.
François Hollande, who was sworn in as France’s new
president yesterday at a low-key ceremony at the Elysée Palace, had
promised a “normal” presidency, but his first few hours turned out to be
anything but. Still, with a
may come to mark his term, Mr Hollande seemed unperturbed, and focused
on setting the tone for what he billed as a presidency of “dignity but
simplicity” (or so I learnt online).
Then this morning, this letter appeared in the
Frangela’s first date
SIR – François Hollande, the newly inaugurated President of France,
should be able to spend his first day in office in his own country
instead of having to rush off to meet Angela Merkel, the German
Chancellor. Mrs Merkel could have travelled to France, even as a pretend
gesture of unity.
Brian Earle, Elgin, Scotland
Fair comment. But I guess he has to paw the ground to impress the good
Chancellor. However, I did enjoy this online comment from
Angela Merkel arrives at Passport Control, Athens airport.
“Nationality?” asks the immigration officer.
“No, just here for a few days.”
Ho, ho, ho!
Very funny. Mind you, it looks as if the next German invasion proper of Europe
will be very different from the last. Everything is building up nicely.
And they won’t have to worry about Spitfires and Hurricanes and
Then this comment, but I wasn’t sure in response to what...
A former female work colleague routinely called a female co-worker whom
she didn’t like a “dickhead”. When I objected to her using a portion of
male anatomy to insult a fellow female, she quickly came up with a
female alternative which made her chuckle all day long.
I have to admit, I’ve been chuckling all day long too, for the beauty of
that tale is that you insert your own word according to personal taste
please turn the lights up
72 I am beginning to give up hope. The only girl who ever sort of threw
herself at me was when I was performing in Cardiff in 1973. She could
have played in the second-row for the Welsh rugby team without anyone
noticing there was anything up.”
John Cleese, English actor, comedian, writer, film producer and
Cleese may be a failed birdwatcher, but I see that he is now a
Anyway, I reckon that the bird he saw in Cardiff was
indeed a second-row rugby player. It could well have been Geoff
Wheel, who earned his first Welsh cap in 1974.
Wheel was (is) one of the great characters of the game. He
was a huge, uncompromising figure, a Viking incarnate. Geoff Wheel had
a noticeable and exaggerated twitch which only served to make him more
In 1977 Wheel, along with Willie Duggan of Ireland,
became the first players to be sent off in a Five Nations
So I reckon Geoff Wheel was in the audience, he gave a
significant twitch – remember, back in those days men
sporting long hair was very much in vogue – and given his fair
hair, Cleese mistakenly thought it was a girl making a pass at
him, or “sort of throwing herself” at him – and so a leg-end was
A parting thought: One of the more delightful facts about Geoff
Wheel, given what a fearsome figure he was on the field of play
– and yes, quiet off, as often happens – is that he is the
organist for All Saint’s Church, Kilvey in Swansea. Also, in
2011 he agreed to become the president of a Welsh male voice
choir, the Swansea-based Gwalia Singers.
Geoff Wheel playing for Wales
I am of a mind to say that they don’t make ‘em like that
anymore. But they probably do.
Tuesday, May 15
Incidentally, singer and fashion designer
has added another twist to the LOL lexicon:
Lots Of Lawyers!
Love (LOL) – and the world laughs at you (LOL)
I have related this story before, of a middle-aged daughter telling the
tale of her mother deciding to take on the challenge of the computer
world and venturing online to become a silver surfer – with marked
Mum duly learned how to send e-mails; in fact she sent
a brief message of condolence to the daughter of an old friend of hers
who had died rather suddenly.
Unfortunately, she signed off her message LOL, thinking
it meant “Lots Of Love” rather than text-talk for “Laugh Out Loud”.
It sounds a bit of a jokey story, but the elderly
lady’s daughter was quite sincere in the telling of the tale. And it
is very funny, in an affectionate sort of way.
Well blow me, who would have thought that David Cameron
would be overtaken by exactly the same delightful gaff. The Prime
Minister, until he was put right by Rebekah Brooks*, was
apparently still using LOL, in it’s old-fashioned sense, to sign off his
now infamous texts and e-mails to her.
Imagine then my surprise today when Chief Wise Owl
showed me a letter to The Times, from a
of Nutley in East Sussex:
“In Welsh the word Lol means nonsense. QED?”
QED indeed. And of course lol does mean nonsense. How did I not
realise that when I first stumbled upon the curious LOL? And in
Welsh-speak it’s quite a commonly heard word. I use it myself i.e. “Ydi,
mae Dai Cam yn siarad llawer o lol.” Yes, David “can’t sleep straight
in his bed” Cameron does indeed talk a great deal of nonsense.
(“Cam” in Welsh means “crooked” or “bent”). LOL!
Talk about not seeing the nonsense for the laughter.
“The French are wiser than they seem,” observed Francis Bacon
(1561-1626), adding, “and the Spaniards seem wiser than they are.”
In another time and place...
“The electorate are wiser than they seem, and politicians seem wiser
than they are.” QED?
Talking of politicians, another Bacon slice:
“He that talketh what he knoweth, will also talk what he knoweth
* Rebekah Brooks:
Ever since the phone hacking scandal broke, I’ve been mesmerised by Brooks. In another time and place, I sense that
she would have been tied to a stake, etc, etc – but my mother taught me
never to make such thoughts public.
Well blow me, now that she’s been charged with
perverting the course of justice, husband Charlie Brooks publicly
describes the current to-do as a witch-hunt.
Now c’mon, if old Charlie himself sees Rebekah in such
light, then I guess it really is open season.
Now I wasn’t sure what to make of this headline...
The weather is sexist, says MEP
Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, 62, a French Green party MEP, has claimed that
women are at greater risk than men from the effects of climate change...
...she is especially concerned by suggestions that the weather
discriminates against unattractive Spanish women after reading a report
that said: “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.”
I read the above in a respectable journal – and I do so hope it’s true.
Even if it isn’t, it’s very LOL – whether in English, Welsh or legalese.
Free sex and pie squared
LISTENING to Roy Noble on the wireless this afternoon, he mentioned in
passing, what with fuel prices climbing ever upwards and the economic
situation making things hard for so many people, that one in eight
motorists now drive on a near-empty fuel tank. Filling up these days is
hugely expensive for those on a tight budget.
Roy then had a brief conversation with Mark the
friendly neighbourhood traffic dude, who mentioned that he did the
opposite and kept his tank full, exactly as I do as it happens – despite
the fact that in the dark corner, with a gallon of fuel weighing in at
eight pounds, hauling around a half-going-on-full tank marginally
increases fuel consumption.
Best to avoid the potential ambush of spluttering to a
halt while travelling through the pass, say I. Anyway, the two then
discussed a particular fuel station in Cardiff, where diesel is always
20 pence more expensive than other places in the immediate area.
Roy wondered aloud what precisely they were offering
that other stations weren’t.
As it happens, Mark knew the station, had actually been
there and asked the lady why their fuel was more expensive: “Our fuel
she responded. And Mark slunk away with his slipstream between his legs.
But the thing is, I recall reading that you really do
get better fuel consumption from some brands – something to do with the
way certain companies treat their fuel, and that supermarket brands were
the least efficient. There are some fascinating articles online.
Anyway, what with Roy wondering if the station offered
anything special for that extra 20 pence, it reminded me of this tale...
Going back a good few moons, Llandampness had a local fuel station owner
who was known to one and all as 2B, short for Pencil (tall, thin and
bald, the top of his head looked as if it had a rubber stuck there;
great character though and occasionally referred to at my local Crazy
Horsepower Saloon as Superleaded because he had much too much lead in
his pencil, or so the word at the corner of the bar suggested).
Anyway, just like the station in Cardiff, his fuel
prices were always more expensive than anywhere else. One day I noticed
a sign outside his garage: “Free sex with fill-up!”
So I pulled in, filled the tank and popped in to pay.
On the till was 2B himself, but in the back office I spotted the ever
sexy Nina, looking as always like a goddess – so I asked for my free sex. 2B told
me to pick a number between one and 10. “If you guess right, you’ll get
I said with much enthusiasm, smiling at the responsive Nina.
2B shook his head. “Close, but it was eight.” Bugger!
A week later I pulled in again, this time I had Ivor
the Engine in the car with me (for new visitors, Ivor is one of the
Crazy Horsepower regulars: he too is very tall, lanky, walks rather
fast, hardly ever looks left or right, always staring straight ahead, hence Ivor the Engine – and is
married to the lovely Gwladys, or Glad Eyes as we all know her).
I filled up and, again spotting Nina floating about
like an angel, asked 2B for the free sex. This time I guessed five.
“Sorry, Hubie,” responded 2B. “It was six.” Bugger,
bugger - and I thought I had been born lucky.
As I drove off, I said to Ivor: “I think that game is
rigged you know. He doesn’t really give away free sex at all.”
Ivor replied: “No, it’s definitely genuine. The wife
won twice last week.”
rather hairy pie
Later in the programme, Roy was discussing recipes with a lady guest,
and he told a tale of he and his wife visiting Scotland and the Kyle of
Lochalsh on the northwest coast of Scotland.
Feeling a bit peckish, they visited a café cum
restaurant. It was half-two in the afternoon, and the place was empty –
except for the waitress sitting at a corner table quietly having her own
Roy studies the menu on a blackboard ... and being an
ex-headmaster, he noticed an
item and wondered what it was. “Excuse me,” he said to the waitress,
“what exactly is Homity Pie?”
“It’s all gone,” she says, “so it doesn’t matter.”
Memorable response. Incidentally, I see online, compliments of the Hairy
Bikers, that Homity Pie is “a traditional British open vegetable pie:
wholemeal pastry packed with a potato, onion and cheese filling, with a
little added spinach and a hint of nutmeg for a Biker twist”.
Hm, sounds a rather homely if hairy Homity Pie, except
in the Kyle of Lochalsh on a mid-afternoon on a quiet day, obviously,
where it is so popular it is all sold out. And if you don’t mind, the
waitress certainly don’t matter
3D or not 3D — that is the question
I WAS captivated by the eye-catching complexity of this work of art...
A young lady studies a 3D painting depicting monkeys playing with a pool
of fish in Beijing, China.
(Photo: Quirky China News)
Ah, but is she real or part of the optical illusion? 3D or not 3D — that
is the question.
They are suddenly very popular – or at least I seem to have
spotted quite a few of them in the meeja of late: yes, 3D
‘open-air’ paintings; or more correctly,
3D Street Art,
often known as 3D Chalk Art.
As perfectly illustrated in the above picture of the
monkeys and the fish, it is 2-dimensional artwork drawn on the
street surface itself, which gives the viewer a 3-dimensional optical
illusion, if properly viewed from a certain perspective, that
It can be breathtaking, realistic and at the same time
captivating once you get the angle just right. And creating one
is certainly a challenge as the artist is designing a realistic
3D view out of a 2D painting.
Google 3D Street Art, and you will come across
many spectacular images. Here are two somewhat off-beat examples
I particularly enjoyed...
Having called it 3D Street Art, the first image,
alongside, is 3D Inside Art. Whatever, it’s all
What I particularly like about this one is not so much
the illusion, but the two girls performing the balancing act...
And how about the one below, of a basketball, just lying there
in the middle of the road?
Underground escalator in 3D time
Now that’s what I call an optical illusion. But hang on: 3D or not 3D —
that is the question. I believe that Exhibit A, sitting there in the
middle of the road, is an actual ball. Why? Well,
look at the shadow of the leaves at the top of the ball ... the shadow
appears to disappear behind the ball!
If the ball was artwork, the shadow would fall over the ball, no?
Cunning stuff – but, believe nothing you hear and only
half what you see. At least, that’s my take on the image.
spot of dog-ing
I never watch shows like The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent
– nothing whatsoever against those shows, it’s just that they simply
never appear on my radar. However, there was no escaping the news today
that Pudsey, the capering canine mongrel and his teenage owner, Ashleigh
Butler, had missioned impossible to victory in the final of Britain’s
So there was no way I’d miss a quick peep at the
performance, compliments of YouTube ... remarkable is the only word to
describe it. It seems that Ashleigh had come up with three distinct
routines for her three appearances on the show, which is itself a mark of
I am not surprised that the dog has some dominant
Border Collie genes, given its remarkable energy and need to “work”. I
see that the dog also has a bit of Bichon Frise in its family-tree – and
something called a Chinese Crested ‘Powderpuff’.
Puff, the magic doggie, won on the TV... Anyway, it was
all very magical. And proper smiley stuff.
from the jaws of defeat
I have to mention the extraordinary finish to the football season —
which I watched this afternoon — with Manchester City winning the
Championship title in the last minute of injury time, after Manchester
United thought they were the champs.
Watching the faces and the wayward emotions of the two
sets of players, management and supporters, as the two featured games
drew to a close and swung from misery and elation to elation and misery,
was mesmerising in the extreme.
As I have said before, why do we put ourselves through
the emotional mangle of following sport so intensely?
Saturday, May 12
Returning to our roots
“ONE DAY, maybe I’ll be a national treasure, like Tony Benn, but not
yet, I hope.”
There is something quite ironic in George Galloway being a Respect MP; outside of
his ephemeral square mile, where he appears to be much loved, he could,
just as well, be the Member of Parliament for the Despise party.
George Galloway, 57, British politician, author, journalist and
broadcaster, and the recently elected Respect Member of Parliament (MP)
for Bradford West.
[“People are fed-up with sound-bites, spin, sensation and scandal
The aforementioned Tony Benn, 87, British Labour Party politician,
As for his wish, I firmly believe all national
treasures should be securely locked away deep in an underground
However, George should be careful what he wishes for ... he could end up
like this: hung, drawn and eventually quartered...
Photo: Quirky China News
A man shows off a knotweed root in the shape of a person on the streets
of Xuchang in central China’s Henan Province. Kong Lingfa says he bought
the root from a peasant while passing through the Shengnongjia
Mountains. The root looks like a male body, complete with
head, face, arms, legs, penis and bottom.
Passing through the Shengnongjia Mountains? Should it
perhaps be the Shenanigan Mountains? Whenever I see pictures like this
– and after I have stopped smiling, obviously – I always tend to think,
believe nothing you read and only half what you see. Well, the picture
itself is obviously genuine. But is the root? Probably. After all, roots
do grow into extraordinary shapes, I seem to remember from the BBC TV show
But what I like most are the expressions, even on the
faces of the children. My favourite though is the woman just over the
shoulder of the man holding the root. Her face seems to be saying: “I’ve
seen enough of those to last me a lifetime.”
Very funny. For some reason though, the above led me to this
Whip crack away
scamper through time
“The question of whether it is truly sexually
gratifying to have a Wartenberg pinwheel roll over your nipples while
handcuffed to a stretcher bar with a ball gag in your mouth is something
I hadn’t really thought about in the sheltered life I lead. I haven’t
even been beaten with a Perspex ruler.”
Barbara Amiel, 71, wife of Lord (Conrad) Black, 67 (one-time media mogul
and convicted felon), after reading a novel about sadomasochism.
Black has just been released from a Miami prison after being convicted
on multiple counts of fraud. It is rather telling that she has suddenly
discovered sadomasochism following his release, know what I mean, chief?
“The ordained dress code for Twickenham – Seventies-style gear – has
caused anxiety among those of us who fear being awarded a fancy dress
prize in a competition we never realised we had entered.”
Stephen Jones, of a certain age, a Welsh journalist and the rugby union
correspondent of The Times and The Sunday Times, writing about the ninth
and final tournament in the 2011-2012 HSBC World Sevens series, which
kicks off today at Twickers.
Talk about identifying with a quote...
PS: If you have already perused yesterday’s piece about the
Olympic Park orbit steel structure - just a quick scroll down - a
has subsequently been added...
Ticket to ride
TURNED on the wireless first thing this morning, and this item was on
The orbit structure at the heart of the Olympic Park in east London is
being officially unveiled today. The 375 foot tall structure, made of
lupin-red steel, was designed by the artist Anish Kapoor.
“It’s an awkward, kind of edgy, form,” says Kapoor.
“It’s a form in a way that’s always in progress, that is to say,
becoming in some way or the other. I’ve watched this model and I’ve
watched the whole thing going up over the last many, many months – and I
still have the sense that it’s evolving...”
Now what on earth was all that about? So I went walkies online...
London 2012 Orbit sculpture: Is this our Eiffel Tower?
Anish Kapoor has dismissed criticism of his Olympic sculpture,
the ArcelorMittal Orbit, claiming that nobody liked the Eiffel
Tower either when it was first built.
The £22.7 million tower, which is twice the height of
Nelson’s Column, has been likened to an “overgrown maypole”, a
“turd on the plaza”, a “catastrophic collision between two
cranes”, a “mangled trombone” and “a contorted mass of entrails”.
Even Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London and the man who
commissioned the work, refers to it as “the hubble bubble”.
Boris went on to describe the tower as “a piece of truly
spectacular modern British art”. He added: “It would have
boggled the minds of the Romans. It would have dwarfed the
aspirations of Gustave Eiffel, and it will certainly be worthy
of the best show on earth in the greatest city on earth.”
Unveiling the tower to the world’s press, Kapoor said: “You know, the
Eiffel Tower was hated by everybody for a good many years - 50 years or
something like that - and now it’s a mainstay of how we understand
Paris. It’s controversial and that’s a place to start. Discomfort is
I guess you have to be there to feel uncomfortable about it.
As always, the best comment was spotted online, compliments of
Entering the tower will cost £15 for adults and £7 for children and
senior citizens. The prices were set by London 2012 organisers and
Kapoor has criticised the pricing as “a hell of a lot of money”. He
called for a “more democratic” pricing structure in 2014 when the tower
is open to the wider public.
Kapoor’s done some good stuff in the past, so I shall reserve judgment
until seeing it in the metal; I am however disappointed that you
don’t descend on a mat.
Ho, ho, ho!
Very witty. Mind you, it does look like a mutant helter skelter.
However, the last word goes to cartoonist
The other day I told the tale of Crazy Horsepower regular Chief Wise Owl
going for a haircut – and forgetting to take his cap off when taking his
seat; also, the tale of the priest, the vicar and the rabbi visiting
A Clip Around The Year (put like that, it sounds like the opening
line of a very dirty joke).
Anyway, Old Shaggy, regular at the Crazy HP, has since told me of a time when
Llandampness really did have a barber. He recalled visiting Les the
Barber for a haircut and shave.
While the barber is foaming him up, Old Shaggy mentions the problems he
has getting a close shave around the cheeks.
“I have just the thing,” says Les, taking a small
wooden ball from a nearby drawer. “Just place this between your cheek
and gum – and let’s see what happens.”
Old Shaggy places the ball in his mouth and the barber
proceeds with the closest shave he has ever experienced. After a few
strokes, Old Shaggy asks in garbled speech, much like when at the
dentist: “And what if I swallow it?”
“No problem,” says the barber. “Just bring it back
tomorrow like everyone else does.”
Thursday, May 10
On the sunny side of the street
“I feel like some overweight Alpinist carried on the shoulders of others
to the summit of a great mountain.”
Boris Johnson, 47, reflects on his victory in the London mayoral
Yes indeedy, only Boris would use the expression “overweight Alpinist
carried on the shoulders of others”
to help brighten up the passing moment. Whatever you think of his
politics, he has a wonderfully amusing command of the English language.
on the shady side of the street
“If the Prime Minister starts to pander to the right wing, he is
finished, and Britain is left with the globally embarrassing prospect
that one of our great political parties ends up led by Boris Johnson
who, as someone brilliantly tweeted yesterday, is one pint of cider away
from being the village idiot.”
Alastair Campbell, 54, who was Tony Blair’s spin doctor, or rather,
Director of Communications, as he preferred to call himself.
Alastair shouldn’t mock the village idiot because - well, he has been
there. He is a self-confessed, well-documented depressive, who has been
to the edge and peered over. And full marks for sharing his experiences
of life on the shady side of the street with the world and its mistress.
As I understand it, depression is much like alcoholism. Once you’ve
been there and pulled back, you are still a depressive or an alcoholic,
likely to be tipped back at any time by the pressures of the real world.
Both conditions have to be managed every minute of every day.
So it ill behoves Alastair Campbell to make fun of someone who is
seemingly “one pint of cider away from being the village idiot”. Mind
you, the truth, probably, is that the Labour party is much concerned
with the notion of Boris Johnson leading the Tories. They are, to quote
the legendary Welsh rugby coach Carwyn James, getting their retaliation
Be that as it may, Alastair Campbell would have been the author of
that sexed-up dossier on Iraq, which Tony Blair used to propel the
nation to war and which has cost the lives of untold numbers of men,
women and children – that’s on both sides of the divide.
No wonder the country is plagued by dodgy people making even
dodgier decisions. But that’s politics for you, people who have as much
empathy with the world about them as an amoeba has with a dolphin.
Swing low sweet
“You only have to look at her curtseying to the Queen to see how
much respect she had. She went so low sometimes that I wondered
whether she would get up again.” Sir Bernard Ingham, 79, who
was Margaret Thatcher’s spin doctor, or rather, press secretary,
as he preferred to call himself, rejecting the view that the
monarch and the former prime minister did not get on.
Now that made me smile. Not so much that a Tory says “press
secretary”, and a Labourite says “director of communication”,
but that we say spin doctor or liar, liar, pants on fire, let’s call the whole thing off – no,
what made me smile was the image, alongside...
I can see why Bernard Ingham wondered whether she would get up
again. One comment I saw noted that the Iron Lady was so in awe
of the Queen that “her curtsey almost reached Australia”.
For some reason, that Australia reference brought to
mind the current and amusing Foster’s Lager TV ads, where a
couple of Aussie Agony Uncles run a problem bar: “Is my girlfriend
definitely going to end up looking like her mum?”
By the way, what is Carol Thatcher up to these days? No
PS: I enjoyed this online comment:
“Why waste money on Foster’s Lager. You might as well drink the
15-day-old piss of an elderly toad.”
Perhaps David Cameron meant “thrifty with virtue”. Good call. Finally, a notice
crafted with politicians in mind...
a penny, in for an iPad
“The Prime Minister says ‘We are all in this together’. So where do I
pick up my free iPad?” Tony Schoonderwoerd, of Littleover,
Derbyshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail following news that
MPs will be given free iPads at a cost of at least £200,000 to the
taxpayer, despite David Cameron’s
promise to make a “virtue of thrift” during the spending cuts.
closed from Monday April 2 till Thursday April 12. We will reopen on
Friday April 13. Sorry for your incontinence” Sign spotted outside a
Chinese restaurant in Hipperholme, West Yorkshire.
Wednesday, May 9
Short back and sides
JUST heard this tale during a visit to the Crazy Horsepower: it’s a
story about one of the pub regulars, the legendary Chief Wise Owl (CWO),
indeed one of the deacons.
Now CWO is noted for his neat and tidy appearance,
always looking as if he’s just stepped straight out of Austin Reed’s
flagship store in Regent Street W1; yes, even if only popping out for a pint of milk, let
alone down the pub for a quickie or several.
We regulars always comment on his well-groomed
appearance, both behind his back and to his face. Quite naturally he
prides himself on being something of a perfectionist, taking as much
care in removing items of clothing (at least in the pub) as he obviously
does putting them on.
However, here was a neat tale about age, and how
growing older affects all of us in some way or other. So CWO walks into
A Clip Around The Year, the male section of a local unisex hairdresser’s...
...sadly, as with so many rural areas of the UK, we no longer have a traditional
barber in Llandampness.
There is a vacant seat and one of the girls beckons CWO
forward. He carefully takes off his coat and scarf and hangs them up;
next he removes his sports jacket and carefully arranges it on a handy
coat hanger. He then loosens his tie – CWO belongs to the generation
that still wears a tie, even when going for a haircut – and undoes the
top two buttons on his shirt.
Finally he sits down in the chair. The girl, waiting by
the chair, smiles sweetly – she knows that CWO is a handsome tipper –
and asks nicely: “Are you here for a haircut?”
“But of course.”
“Perhaps you’d better take your cap off then.”
Oh dear, there’s always a little something that sticks a sprag in our wheel
and stops our gallop through time dead in its tracks. It all reminded me
deed for the day
The local priest calls at A Clip Around The Year. He duly gets
his trim, offers up thanks to Helen, the lady who gave him the
haircut and who also happens to be the owner, and asks how much he owes. “Father, you’re a holy man, a man of the cloth, so there is no
charge for you.”
The priest blesses her and says: “Thank you very much,”
and goes about his business. The next day, 10 extra-large free-range eggs
appear on the shop’s doorstep. Ah, how nice, Helen thinks, for
she knows the Father keeps chickens.
A few days later, the local vicar calls for his clip
round the ear, and when the time comes to pay, Helen says: “No money,
please, vicar, you’re a spiritual leader, a man of the people, it’s on
The next day, magically appearing on the doorstep,
10 Easter eggs, with a note from the vicar to share them among the
staff. Helen’s faith in humanity is underlined.
The following week an unfamiliar face, a rabbi, comes
in, has his haircut, goes to pay and Helen says: “No, Rabbi, you are a
learned man, a wise man, I can’t take any money from you, go in peace.”
Yes, the next day, Helen opens her shop - to find 10 rabbis waiting for a haircut.
Tuesday, May 8
A foggy day in somewhere or other
CAPTAIN Mark Phillips, 63, is currently in the news as he prepares to
decamp to Florida with his new love, 35-year-old Olympic riding star
Lauren Hough. This letter duly tickled my funny bone…
SIR – Mark Phillips (report, May 5) has no more right to use his
previous army rank as a title than does Lance Corporal Jones [Dad’s
Only officers of field rank (major and above) may use
their previous rank when retired.
Gerard Needham, Ferndown, Dorset
And what followed was this little online exchange which amused me no
lordrayne: I understand that Mark Phillips’ nickname was “Fog”
because he was both thick and wet. [The name unfairly dubbed by the
Royals, it seems.]
politicallyincorrect: Get it right - Captain Fog!
And there’s Captain Slow on Top Gear.
olafbloodaxe: Is that the same Captain Slow who drove a Bugatti
Veyron around the Nürburgring at 275mph?
[Believe nothing you hear and only half what you see, olafbloodaxe.]
orangputeh: An officer friend of mine
having served in the Royal Horse Artillery was once described in a
report by his Colonel, thus: “Looks good in the paddock, but I wouldn’t
breed from him...”
Ouch. Do you suppose the officer friend’s response was “Bollocks!”.
At ease, Captain
Anyway, Captain Fog or not, since giving up competitive riding
in the late 1980s, and divorcing Princess Anne in 1992, Mark
Phillips has become a one-man commercial conglomerate, earning
mouth-watering fees for services that range from advising
wealthy private clients to course-designing.
He serves as chef d’equipe (“coach”, to non-horsey
types) of the US eventing team, writes books and columns, farms
1,000 acres near Stroud and oversees the annual Gatcombe Horse
Trials, one of the biggest events in the equestrian calendar.
Quite how much he makes from all this is a subject of
much horse world speculation. His son, Peter Phillips, once told
The Daily Telegraph that: “The most ridiculous
thing I have ever heard about my parents is that dad has £4
million buried in the garden.”
Sadly, Phillips Jr didn’t specify whether the
ridiculousness related to the sum or the location.
Mark Phillips is to decamp to
Florida with his new love, Olympic
riding star Lauren Hough, who at 35 is just five years older than
his daughter, Zara (left)
Every day is a day at school
Yes, it’s one of my tried and tested sayings. Today though I was put in
my place when I heard this Homer Simpson clip...
Homer is feeling a bit down and Marge is trying to cheer him up: “There
are many things you can do to feel better.”
“Take another bath in malt liquor?” chirps Homer.
“There’s that – or you can take an adult education
“Look Marge: every
time I learn something new it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.
Remember when I took that home wine-making course – and I forgot how to
why my memory has been playing up of late? D’oh!
Much hot air
Then I saw this headline...
may have caused climate change
Eh? Would this have been the Wayward Wind? Or a Trade Wind? Le Mistral,
perhaps? No, it seems that huge plant-eating dinosaurs may have produced
enough greenhouse gas by breaking wind to alter the earth’s climate,
This is delightful doolallyness at its most exquisite.
Are we supposed to believe that Mother Nature, in putting evolution
together, overlooked the fact that dinosaurs farting in extremis could
kill pretty much everything off, including themselves?
And talking of evolution: if you want to watch 90 seconds of delight,
Simpsons – Homer Evolution.
Oh, and watch out for the guy going the other way –
devolution? Come to think of it, we humans are already devoluting at a
rate of knots. Enjoy...
YESTERDAY, it was a selection of Letters to the Editor, along
the amusement they generate. Today it’s photographs, and the power a
perfectly captured image has to delight. This Mail Online
headline drew my attention...
Bird’s eye Britain: Amazing collection of aerial photographs
showing nation from above released to mark the Jubilee year
I wasn’t initially overwhelmed by the headline – after all, there are loads of wonderful
aerial photographs of Britain floating about up there, not least as captured from
the International Space Station. But I clicked anyway ... my goodness me
... I repeat the Mail’s opening paragraphs...
This brilliant new collection of aerial photographs giving a spectacular
bird’s-eye view of Britain from above has been released to mark the
Queen’s Jubilee year.
Bustling cities contrast with serene stretches of
glorious countryside as sites that might seem ubiquitous from the ground
are transformed into unique and wonderful images when viewed from above.
The heart-stopping shots are the work of dedicated
Jason Hawkes who developed a real
love of Britain’s varied landscape since taking his first flying lesson
20 years ago.
I show just one of the photographs...
I can’t say that I have ever seen such a dramatic photograph of London and Buckingham
Palace – it’s that astonishing splash of green among the grey.
The shape of the greenery reminds me of something, but I can’t think
what. Beautiful though.
Jason Hawkes clearly has the eye. A master at work. I commend
a visit via the link, below.
Incidentally, the one advantage that Mail Online has
over most other web sites is that it shows the photographs in a jumbo
format, which means the detail is astonishing - note the difference with
the above picture.
Click and enjoy...
Dear Sir or Madam
A CHANCE to catch up with some more newspaper letters. First, the Telegraph...
Now we know about the drought conditions in certain
parts of the UK – and that despite all the recent rain and flash floods;
also, there appears to be growing concern about the possible demise of
the good old fashioned face flannel, would you believe. Here’s a letter
that brings both problems perfectly into focus...
things are possible
SIR – Flannels are the answer to the water shortage. As a child I was
given a bowl of water, a piece of soap and a flannel, and told to “wash
down as far as possible, up as far as possible, and then wash possible”.
Ann Bartle, Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Fast approaching, at a rate of knots, are the Queen’s Jubilee and the
Putting the bounce back in your life
SIR – Jeremy Deller, the Turner Prize winning artist, has built a bouncy
Stonehenge to mark the Olympics. To celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee, could
we create a bouncy Edinburgh Castle for Scotland and a bouncy Giant’s
Causeway for Northern Ireland as well?
Gill Evatt, Chandlers Ford, Hampshire
What about us here in Wales? You know, that spot on the map
where it says
Here be dragons?
So watch it.
Anyway, perhaps Gill is an American who thinks that
Wales, just like Texas, is merely a State of Mind. Perhaps she’s
Whatever, we deserve something bouncy in our lives. I
resisted a bouncy Snowdon, for rather obvious reasons, but which
AA Gill would undoubtedly commend to the House.
Recently, I told the tale of an Andrea Ritchie (April
26), taking part in a “sail away singsong” on a British cruise
ship, and when the Welsh national anthem was announced, Delilah
by Tom Jones was played.
To properly celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee here in
Wales, I think we should have a bouncy Sir Tom. Now there’s a
Arise – or rather, Bounce, Sir Tom Jones, and put the
spring back in all our lives and loves.
Sir Tom the
Jones in his Sir Dai the Dye days
Oh, and escorted by a couple of bouncers!
And then – well, I really couldn’t make it up, this in the Daily Mail...
JOAN COLLINS says she bounces out of bed in the mornings. I tried that
once when I was 79. I tripped over the cat, knocked over the commode and
ended up in traction.
Mo Southcott, Ryde, Isle of Wight
Incidentally: What sort of ball doesn’t bounce? A snowball. (I remember
that from a Christmas cracker, years ago – well, okay, last Christmas.)
And here’s another missive spotted in the Daily Mail...
SEEN IN A Spanish surgery: ‘English-speaking doctor available; please
request’. What a good idea, I thought, maybe we should adopt it in
Mrs J Brooker, Hutton, Essex
is Britain’s leading toilet humour magazine. Here, from the Viz archive,
are three funny and amusing letters to the editor. Sadly, I do not have
the names of the authors...
Mum’s the word
What’s all this nonsense about that 66-year-old Romanian woman being the
world’s oldest mum? My mum’s 77. Beat that.
Glass half full
They say football is a game of two halves. Not for me it isn’t. I
regularly down eight or nine pints whilst watching a live game on Sky TV
in my local.
It’s in the post
I heard recently that, on average, Alex Ferguson receives two turds in
the post each week. What I want to know is, who’s sending the other one?
Saturday, May 5
THIS tickled my funny bone no end:
A small boy swallowed some coins and was rushed into hospital. When his
grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said: “No change yet.”
I thought of something along the same lines, based on a Tommy Cooper
joke: A small boy dreams that he is eating a giant marshmallow; the
following morning the feather pillow is missing and he is rushed into
hospital. When his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse
Of mice and men
invited here is like being a mouse invited to a dinner party by a cat.”
Simon Cowell, 52, English A&R Executive, television producer,
entrepreneur and celebrity, at the launch of an unauthorised biography
of him by Tom Bower (65, a British writer, noted for his investigative
journalism and for his unofficial biographies).
Hang about? What precisely was Cowell doing at the launch of an
unauthorised biography? Honestly, believe nothing you hear and only half
what you see.
Intriguingly, I have never watched a single one of Simon
Cowell’s shows, yet I feel I know him personally simply from the
endless coverage he attracts in the media.
(Let’s see now: his television shows attract an
audience of around 10 million, the UK population is some 60
million, so by definition 50 million of us have no interest in
him whatsoever. So why are the interests of one-fifth of the
population shoved down the throats of the other four-fifths? An
interesting philosophical conundrum that.)
Anyway, I was fascinated that Simon Cowell identifies
himself with Jerry, rather than Tom. I guess a watching world
would say that Simon is Tom incarnate. He comes across as a bit
of a bully, with his acts having to carry the heavy loads that
are his personal expectations, as is perfectly captured in the
Like Tom, his comeuppance lies in ambush.
And as if by magic...
Yep, that’s Tom all over. Meanwhile...
FRONT OF YOU!!
“Obviously Simon Cowell has love bites on his mirror.” Kathy Lette,
53, Australian gossip columnist and writer.
Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee, William and Kate’s anniversary, and first
birthday of sister Pippa’s famous behind.” Cindy Adams, 82, American
gossip columnist and writer.
With Pippa now established as the butt of all jokes, I simply have to include
included in the lists of the best butt or breasts with the likes of
Megan Fox and Mila Kunis, who are 20 years younger than me. That’s a
great satisfaction. My career is because of my look and I am not ashamed
of it. My look has opened so many doors.”
Sofia Margarita Vergara-Vergara, 39, Colombian actress, comedienne,
television hostess and model (known to the world at large as simply Sofia
I liked the honesty of the quote – except I’d never heard of her...
...Ahhh, now I see why she has that double-barrelled surname. Phew!
On Wikipedia I rather liked where it says Years active: 1995 –
Mostly though, Ms Vergara reminds me of the young lady
teacher, Justine Franny, arriving at her new school. She introduces
herself to the headmaster and they have a little chat. The head
eventually takes her along to meet her class.
As he is walking along the corridor, and being somewhat
absent-minded and eccentric, he keeps saying to himself: “Miss Franny
... Miss Franny ... I must not get it wrong ... Miss Franny ... Miss
He enters the classroom and he introduces the new
teacher. “Children, say hello to Miss Crunt...”
I tell that story about Miss Franny because, if ever I have to introduce
the delightful Ms Vergara, I’m pretty sure I’d say: “Childen, say hello
to Ms Viagra...”
Ah well, must keep taking the tablets.
4th be with you
A banana republic
TODAY is one of those days of the year which tickle the ears of those
of us who like to stop, stand, stare and smile at the pleasures of a passing
Earlier this week, the UK’s postal rates shot up by a
quite startling rate, first-class from 46 pence to 60. When the
increases were first announced a few weeks ago, this letter appeared in
SIR – For the price of a first-class stamp, I can have two pounds of
bananas grown, harvested, packed, shipped, marketed and retailed. Who
says that a first-class stamp represents good value?
N S Daniels,
Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire
I knew precisely how I should respond to the above. But I had to keep it
until today. True, my little story has made a previous appearance on
– but like any off-beat or agreeable tale, it stands being retold.
Indeed, it rates as one of my more inspired moments...
by God, delivered by Royal Mail
N S Daniels equates the price of a first-class stamp with two pounds of
bananas. Back in 2006 I was captivated by an ad campaign which used a
banana as a Post-it note; so much so I wondered if a banana would work
as a postcard.
On the 3rd of May 2006, I decided to post a banana to
my local pub, first class, with precise postage. I wrote on the banana
just the pub name and postcode, and on the ‘reverse’: “May the 4th be
with you. From: The pick of the bunch”.
Posting it without being spotted was an adventure in
itself. Weighing the banana in the post office was not a problem – I
pushed it inside an envelope and placed it on the scale. I then went
home to address it and stick the necessary stamps on, with extra
Sellotape to make sure the stamps and the ‘First Class Mail’ sticker
didn’t come off.
Mind you, sliding it into the post box was a potential
ambush – someone was bound to notice – but I hid it under a larger
envelope I needed to post anyway. Problem solv-ed, as Inspector Clouseau
Visiting the pub the following evening, May 4, there was much talk of a
banana delivered that morning by the postman, but in a plastic bag
because it had been squashed while navigating the postal system. All we
regulars came under suspicion, but I never let on.
Normally, London’s mayoral elections would draw just a passing interest
from me. This time around though I was intrigued to know what face the
people of Old London Town would want to present to the World and its
mistress come high summer and the Olympics.
A year later I sent an actual postcard with a
photograph of said banana, see above, bearing a similar message, signed Obi-Wan
Kenobi (Ben). A week or so later I wrote about it on this web site, with
photographs, look you!
When I next visited the pub, Thérèse, the manageress,
come at me with a stern face: “I knew it was you all along.” She then
smiled. “Nobody else would think of doing such a crazy thing.”
Needless to say, everyone was most impressed with our
local posties (warm and VAT free, as opposed to our local pasties which
in future will be cold and VAT free in order to keep the cost down), not
least that, despite their Royal Mail bosses, they had retained their
sense of fun.
It was a silly little stunt which gave me lots of
pleasure. I did go online to try and find some information about the
original ad which had used the banana as a post-it note, without success. I’m sure it was
used by an electronics company – Sharp, or some such like.
Anyway, while searching online, I came across this,
made entirely of Post-it notes...
Clever or what? Is it Elvis? I guess so. Sadly, I do not have the
Count me in
As I write, it has just been announced that Boris
Johnson has won. Given that we are a nation known for our somewhat
eccentric sense of humour, albeit waning at a rate of nots – that’s
not funny, that’s not funny, and that’s not funny either – I did offer up a little smile when I heard the
And all rounded off perfectly when Boris finished his
speech – I kid you not – thus:
“May the 4th be with you!”
Thursday, May 3
THE INSTANT I spotted this picture, I smiled and smiled and...
Picture: Ben Bichll
School children wait with inflatable corgi dogs prior to the arrival of
the Queen in Exeter. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were visiting the
South West of England as part of their Diamond Jubilee Tour of the
There is something so deliciously amusing about that picture. I think
it’s how the dogs are looking up, the way dogs do. And the leads. And of
course, they are smiling, despite the corgi on the right having its paw
I wanted to find out
more about the story behind the picture. Where did the idea
come from? Whose was it? What sort of discussions did they have at school
before deciding to parade the dogs in front of the Queen? I did
try, without success.
Shame, for there’s another picture of the Queen looking
down at the dogs, and clearly, she is amused. Also, when I Googled
the story, I noticed that the picture has travelled all around the
world. Unsurprising, really.
As I perused the Telegraph, this headline on the Letters page
caught my eye
Importance of healthy meals shared with family
Teaching children to cook
SIR – Richard Harman, chairman of the Boarding Schools’ Association, is
spot on when he suggests that children from families who eat together
have a healthier diet (report, April 30). However, education has to be
provided for the children and the parents so that an unhealthy cycle can
Home Economics in schools needs to take on a more
varied and sensible format. My son’s first experience of Home Economics
ended with him making a sandwich. He went on to make a pizza and scones.
I brought home casseroles, shepherd’s pie and crumble from my domestic
science classes, and I was always excited about sharing them with my
Let’s teach good, simple recipes that will give
children an excellent understanding of nutrition, and a basis for them
to explore more adventurous cuisine in the future. This will stop the
ping of the microwave.
Marilyn Wathes, Witney, Oxfordshire
All that made sense to me, I have to say. Indeed, these two online responses
grabbed my attention…
Danielfg: My grandchildren are taught to cook from about 4 years old,
starting with peeling potatoes, which at that age is exciting. The
result was that my 21 year granddaughter cooked a Christmas dinner for
fifteen of her friends.
Cooking should start in the home, but how many parents
can be bothered?
That attracted far and away the largest number of
‘Recommends’. However, I
particularly liked this one...
Lordmuck: The marking in schools is too lenient ... 20 yrs ago daughter
number 2 was in cookery class with other 9-year-olds to make Scotch
Eggs. All the class had 9 out of 10 (one mark deducted for mass outbreak
of talking), except daughter’s BF who scored only 5. Apparently
‘forgetting’ to insert the egg into Scotch Eggs is still halfway
I needed to telephone Fly By Night, one of the regulars down at the
Crazy Horsepower Saloon, and who is, incidentally, a fisherman of note,
hence the name, ho, ho, ho: “Hello,” says a
gentle, rather quiet young voice at the other end of the phone.
“Hello,” says I. “Who’s that?”
“Hello David.” He is Fly By Night’s very young and
somewhat mischievous son: “Is your dad there?”
“Can I speak to him?”
“He’s very busy right now - he can’t come to the phone.”
“Oh, is your mum there?”
“Yes – but she’s busy too – she can’t come to the phone
Hm, that all sounds rather strange, I remember thinking. Now I know David
has older siblings: “Can I speak to either your brother or sister then?”
David’s voice goes even quieter and reaches whispering
proportions. “They’re busy too - can’t come to the phone.”
“Is there anyone else I could speak to?”
“There is a policeman.”
I become somewhat startled. “There’s a policeman in the
My startled state morphs into concern. A long shot: “Is it possible
for me to speak to the policeman then?”
There’s a pause... “No,” says David really, really
quietly. “Nobody can come to the phone – they’re all busy looking for
Wednesday, May 2
Murder, she twinkled
YESTERDAY, I smiled at the brouhaha over AA Gill’s bully-boy comments
about Mary Beard. I have the perfect answer for Mary, not withstanding
the rather obvious fact that she is fully capable of looking after
herself, of course.
Today I listened on iPlayer to last Sunday’s The
Best of Radio Wales. I heard a clip of an interview with PD James
the crime writer, now 91, still going strong and sharp as a tack – I
mean, who will forget her interview from a couple of years back with
Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, when she took him to task in
memorable fashion over the Corporation’s failings and made him sound
like an overgrown schoolboy and anything but the DG of the BBC.
[There’s a Telegraph link at the bottom to a
transcript of part of the exchanges - it is somehow more telling than
actually listening to the interview itself on YouTube.]
Anyway, Baroness James left school at 16, and wrote her
first crime novel at age 39, when she was already a widow. When asked if she
had a favourite murder weapon, she said no, but the weapon should always
be appropriate to the murderer.
For example, elderly ladies, however murderous, are
unlikely, in the UK anyway, to have access to guns. An elderly lady
would probably murder by poison; she certainly wouldn’t have the
strength to strangle anybody.
In real life though, she added with an ominous tinkle in
her voice, you would keep it simple. In real life, if you wanted to
murder your husband (or Mary Beard wanted to murder AA Gill), you invite
him for a walk along Beachy Head. “Come and see this, darling, a most
interesting flower, here at the edge...” – and then you give him a push.
As long as you don’t have a terrible conscience and
confess, nobody can possibly prove beyond reasonable doubt that you
killed him. He was close to the edge – I was about to call out a warning
– and suddenly he wasn’t there...
And there you have it, the perfect murder. The only flaw I can spot is
that someone would be bound to see you. If Jeremy Clarkson wasn’t
filming the 50th anniversary celebration of the E-Type Jag, then someone
would surely be out walking on Beachy Head...
Mind you, I still think Mary Beard should try it out on
Then I read this memorable quote – and thought, I hope this is AA Gill
think I shall ever write anything again. I’m going to go out to a
clockmaker’s, buy a clock and present myself with it.” Sadly, they
are the words of Michael Frayn, 78, English playwright and novelist.
Great quote though, one of those
wish I’d thought of that”
Finally, and still thinking “I wish I’d thought of that”, only today did
I hear this about George Best, the most entertaining footballer the
world has ever seen – probably – and spotted on a banner at his funeral
back in 2005.
It seems wonderfully apt that a footballer would have a
banner held high at his funeral. Anyway...
Pelé better; George Best
Here’s the link to the PD James interview:
Tuesday, May 1
Hair today, Beard tomorrow
“THE hair is a disaster, the outfit an embarrassment. If you are
going to invite yourself into the front rooms of the living, then you
need to make an effort.” TV critic AA Gill, 57, on historian Mary
Beard, 57, who has been presenting a TV series on the Romans.
Well now, Gill’s poison-pen column, where he put the boot into a lady
called Mary Beard, really did generate a terrible to-do in the meeja and
online. My instant response
would have been: “Gill, old boy, if, in the shadow of The Sunday Times
banner, you are going to invite yourself into the front rooms of the
living, then should you not first wash your mouth out with soap and
Anyway, I was intrigued by Gilly, Gilly, Ossenfeffer’s abuse of Mary Beard, so this evening I decided to
join the good lady on BBC2’s Meet the Romans, an everyday tale of
typical family life in ancient Rome, revealing stories of drunken
housewives, teenage brides, bullied children, runaway slaves and - never
mind the hair - a very dodgy looking Willy Wonka. She had me hooked from the
I say the word go, truth to tell, the first thing I
caught myself staring at was Mary’s hair – something I would never have
noticed but for old AA the Breakdown Man doing a Fred and Ginger (a song
and dance routine) all over it. And?
Well, what an old bitch Gill is. How could someone be
hijacked by Mary Beard’s hair when she proved such diverting company
with her enthusiastic knowledge of the Romans, especially her romancing
of the texts on the stones. How superficial can the man be?
Be all that as it may, today’s top news story was undoubtedly the
realisation that Gill’s boss, Rupert Murdoch, is a businessman “unfit
for purpose”. Undoubtedly the least surprising headline since
yesterday’s “Porsche drivers three times more likely to crash than
By coincidence, yesterday I had a letter printed in the
Western Mail about Mary Beard, AA Gill and the old Dirty
SIR – The way any organisation conducts itself – neighbourhood pub,
local government, high street giant, the BBC, and yes, even Parliament
itself – is a precise reflection of the person at the very top.
Given the furore over AA Gill’s attack on TV presenter
Mary Beard’s appearance (“He thinks he’s clever but AA Gill’s just
lazy”, April 25), note that Gill comes under the Rupert Murdoch
It is also instructive that the Times umbrella shields
a spit of fine writers who have an incredibly cruel streak to their
nature, as is regularly on show through their writings: Clarkson, Mathew
Parris, Giles Coren, Simon Barnes et al.
To the observant, every article, letter, paragraph and
sentence we write leaves a DNA trace.
Now Murdoch hasn’t achieved his wealth and power
through being a regular nice guy, a pussycat. Like all powerful and rich
people he is a polecat, successful because he will trample on or destroy
anyone who stands in his way.
Think of his comment to the Leveson Inquiry about
Gordon Brown that he was not “in a very balanced state of mind”. He may
well be right, but he said it simply to protect his own back.
Incidentally, do you believe a single word Murdoch has
uttered over the past year? Just asking.
So it is no surprise then that those who work for him
share his natural-born need to bully – Private Eye nicknamed him The
Dirty Digger when he first emerged from the outback.
This brings us back to AA Gill. His is just one
individual’s doolally view of the world, a person you would not ideally
want to spot moving in next door. You simply smile benevolently.
Alternatively, you respond with wit and wisdom.
Dr Madeleine Gray, in rightly defending Mary Beard,
missed the good lady’s priceless response to Gill’s attack: “On balance, I think
he is better at reviewing soup and shiitake mushrooms than television
Curiously, someone called
Samantha Brick, the journalist who was recently ridiculed for claiming
“women hate me for being beautiful”, has risked further condemnation
after saying that Mary Beard “is too ugly for TV”.
I well remember the original shemozzle over Samantha Brick,
I thought at the time it was all a wind-up, that Sam was having a bit of a laugh at
the media’s expense – but it seems not. It appears she does indeed
regard herself as the most beautiful girl in the world.
She bemoaned her lack of female friends, constant amorous
attention and jealousy at the hands of strangers in her bizarre
confessional, all done in a bid to explain away why her “lovely looks”
cause her such misery. (Yes, but what is she like in bed? We should be
Anyway, meet the ladies...
Mary Beard on what the Romans wrote on the
All in all, just another Brick in the wall
I note from the above that Samantha is an “award-winning” producer –
but presumably a non-descript writer and journalist. Oh dear. Anyway, I
enjoyed these two online responses following all the attacks on
Back with our “award-winning” producer, it seems that the term “Samantha
Brick” was used so many times it became a trending topic, even becoming
rhyming slang. “Erm, am I missing something??” someone asked. “Is this
some new cockney rhyming slang? As in ‘she sounds like a complete
Samantha Brick if you ask me’?”
This from a
Charlie Wild: Mary Beard is a babe.
laughed enthusiastically at that one.
And I certainly appreciated this next one, especially so on reading the
name of the poster:
I really enjoyed “meet the Romans” and find Mary Beard a superb
presenter, knowledgeable and enthusiastic about her subject. I don’t
really care much about her appearance, but she is kind of cute in a sort
of nerdy way. Far more an interesting human being than the dark, vain,
superficial souls of AA Gill or Ms Brick.
Right, here’s a test question – time starts now...
You have to fly to the other side of the world, and the delightful young
lady at the check-in smiles and asks: “Would you prefer to sit next
to a Mary Beard ... or a Samantha Brick?”
I guess your two-word answer will say more about you than a
thousand-word CV ever could.
Bits and pieces
ONE intriguing headline spotted over the weekend...
if we ARE alone?
Scientists say Earth may be a “one-off fluke” and the Milky Way’s
billions of other planets may all be lifeless.
That particular notion has always appealed. That there is no other life
out there. Nothing at all. If I actually think about it ... it is
slightly more unsettling that knowing that ET is on his way and wants to
meet two people: the one Earthling that perfectly represents the worst
of humanity; and the one person that perfectly represents the best of
But then today, this headline...
boost for alien search
has said “BILLIONS of habitable planets may be lurking in the Milky
After all that, I’m not sure where to go next. I know: a quiet lie down
in a darkened room to ponder who precisely are the two people I would
nominate to meet ET. The worst of humanity is relatively easy; so many
perfect examples to choose from. But who on earth is the one individual
who best represents humanity? I’ll have to sleep on that one...
Meanwhile, the least surprising headline I have ever read. Probably.
Porsche drivers three times more likely to crash than Daewoo users
Now who would have believed such a thing? And how about this one...
Five-a-day confusion sees milk put on list
Around one in six youngsters believe a blueberry muffin counts as part
of their “five a day”, a poll has found. Jam, milk, cereal and water
were also listed by children as counting as fruit and vegetables.
I say, I say
“I have a
sharp tongue, so a lot of what I say can be construed as bitchiness. But
it isn’t. I think I am more witty than bitchy.” Joan Collins, 78,
English actress, author and columnist.
Hang on now Joan, my lovely. You would be fully justified in claiming to
have a sense of fun, which I guess is true – but only others can decide
whether you have a sense of humour, or more crucially, you are a witty
person. That is probably what comes of being a celebrity and continually
meeting fans who believe that everything you say is the height of humour
It’s the famous celebrity ambush.
love to have been around in the 18th century. You could have been a
playwright, a rake, a Member of Parliament - all at the same time.”
Tony Robinson, 65, English actor, archaeologist, writer, TV personality
and political activist.
Hang on now, Tony, love. Why do you want to go back to the 18th century?
Think Boris Johnson. Okay, he’s not a playwright, but we learnt the
other day that he earns £250,000 a year writing a weekly column for
The Sunday Telegraph.
Money for old rope, I think everyone is agreed,
especially bearing in mind what Rod Liddle of The Sunday Times
suggested the other day, that actually, Boris writes the same little
playlet every week, ever so slightly rehashed. So in another age, Boris
could well have been a playwright.
True, Boris is not a Member of Parliament, but he is
currently the Mayor of Old London Town, and regarded by many to be the
UK’s most influential Tory. As for being a rake ... well, I have no idea
whether he’s into vices such as drinking and gambling, but if one
believes only a smidgen of what one learns in the meeja, he does indeed
indulge without restraint in physical pleasures. The old rocket rarely
stays in the Boris pocket, allegedly.
So Boris appears to tick all the boxes: a columnist, a
rake, the Mayor of Old London Town. All very 21st century.
Born to be Queen Bee
OVER the weekend, and today especially, there was no escaping the
anniversary of the wedding of you-know-who.
Yesterday I spoke about the autumnal-type weather currently engulfing
us. Imagine if today’s weather had been around a year ago. The point
being, any outdoor event in this country depends so much on luck, as it
does in most places in the world, really – yesterday I mentioned the
rotten weather out in France as I watched a televised game of rugby – but the odds in this
country are much shorter, obviously.
Every outdoor event in the UK must have a Weather Plan
B; mind you, the only Windsor Weather Plan B the royal wedding could
have put into operation was no open tops, whether horse-drawn carriages
or dad’s Aston.
Anyway, a year on, and how have they done, Kate
especially? Well, in June 2011, Top Gear did its magnificently memorable
celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Jaguar E-Type – who can
possibly forget that quaint English village populated exclusively by
E-Type Jags? Priceless.
Following that E-ByGum tribute, Jeremy Clarkson, back in
the studio, looked down at the E-Type in front of him and said: “Do you
know, this is the very last thing this country produced which made the
world stop, stand and stare.” Or words to that effect. I
remember thinking something similar.
One of Clarkson’s fellow presenters suggested the
Dyson. Jeremy half-heartedly agreed: “But the Dyson won’t have Spitfires
flying over Beachy Head to celebrate its 50th birthday.”
[It was noteworthy that on the wedding day itself, the
lower-order guests were ferried to the church on time in Volkswagen-made
mini-buses – quality British vehicles were also available, I’m led to
believe by those who know about these things. D’oh!]
Anyway, it was only sometime later I thought: well,
Kate and William made the world stop, stand and stare – at least two
billion people are supposed to have watched the wedding live. And
everywhere they go, crowds gather, stand, stare and cheer.
My favourite Kate and William images of the past year are these two
coming up. First, Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge
Barbie Dolls, launched to mark the wedding anniversary. The plastic
figures were actually launched back at the beginning of the year and
available to pre-order at £99.99 (by Mattel, dispatched from and sold by
Amazon, gift-wrap available). Amazing.
Said the blurb: “Each model measuring 11.5 inches tall,
dressed in full wedding costume reflecting the originals worn at
Westminster Abbey for the 29th April nuptials.” Now if this
pic-of-the-bunch doesn’t make you smile, I’d go and see about it...
The perfect juxtaposition,
came about through pure luck rather than judgment
I particularly enjoyed this online comment from a
dolls are much better looking versions of the real thing. William’s doll
has no receding hairline whilst Kate’s doll looks nothing like her
because it does not include her elongated chin, turkey neck, high
forehead or mannish looking cheekbones.”
LOL, as they SAL (say a lot) online. I wonder how I
could find out how many Barbies they’ve sold?
The other picture is from the couple’s tour of Canada. It makes my choice
because many so-called media aficionados hated it: what were they
thinking putting themselves about in cowboy hats and looking as common
as muck? Delightful nonsense.
When in Calgary do as the Calgarians do. And the
Calgarians clearly loved it.
One of the more remarkable aspects of the past year has been how Kate
has effortlessly morphed into the job. She seems more royal than most of
the royals. Clearly there’s something of the landed gentry/ruling
classes genes firmly lodged in the Middleton DNA.
I enjoyed this just discovered piece by Will Hutton,
written the day after the wedding...
slip on the soap
course that is part of the royal family’s point: to be the
longest-running and glitziest soap on the planet – and this wedding was
another classic episode: the gallery of medieval-style trumpeters made
me laugh out loud, but at other times the effect was touching and
Commentary is thus made infinitely harder: apart from
the queen, no royal warrants any real reverence, so attempts to be
serious collapse into unctuous banality. Simon Schama’s comment to the
BBC’s Huw Edwards that there were three marriages going on – between
Kate and William, past and future, and monarchy and nation – for my
money won the prize.
There was only one marriage; given the soap the
Windsors have become, to suggest that the event represented more was
Well, unhinged or not, William and Kate appear to have advanced on all
three fronts; indeed, republicans have temporarily retreated behind the
Yes indeedy, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
You’re nearly dead
The only slip in The Middleton Armoury came just recently when
Pippa ended up at a French aristocrat’s wild party, complete
with stripper, dwarves and a nobleman on a chain - oh, and was photographed in the company of the
direct descendant of Inspector Clouseau, who was photographed
wielding a gun, albeit a toy one [apparently].
I suppose one error of judgment by the Middletons over
a 12-month period is acceptable, especially given the ambush
that awaits around every corner.
Oh, and it offers up an opportunity to enjoy a Nick
Saturday, April 28
WITH this month looking like being the UK’s wettest April on record – made
doubly ironic by the drought orders and hosepipe bans issued
earlier in the month covering much of southern and eastern England, especially
this weekend promising the mother of all downpours – I thought I would
time-travel back just one brief month.
Before going there, I heard on the radio that currently, Europe is split
down the middle, weather wise: to the east they are enjoying
beautiful sunshine and high temperatures; to the west it is all horribly
wet and stormy.
This afternoon on the box I caught a bit of a rugby game in France, where Biarritz
defeated Brive in the European Amlin Challenge Cup semi – and it poured
down. Very un-French was the weather. Very
Anyway, towards the end of March we enjoyed some truly beautiful, summer-like weather in
western Europe, something I have previously covered, using some glorious
NASA photographs which had captured a cloudless Britain and Ireland, both by
day and night.
I thought I would juxtapose a couple of them. Let’s remind
ourselves of the two images, both taken, as far as I can tell, over the same 24-hour period – the first, taken from a geostationary
weather satellite, which
remains over a fixed point above the Earth...
The second, of course, was captured by the International Space Station
(ISS), at some 200 miles high, approaching the UK and Ireland at a speed
just short of 18,000 mph.
All this leads me to an astonishing piece of film just released by NASA.
It is a video which
series of time lapse sequences photographed by the current Expedition 30 crew
aboard the ISS.
Set to the song “Walking in the Air”, by Howard Blake
(sung by Peter Auty, not Aled Jones as some believe), the video takes viewers around the world, through
auroras, over dazzling lightning displays, past a glorious full moon -
and a comet...
Truly amazing – I was particularly
intrigued at how those huge solar panels on the ISS keep adjusting their
position to capture maximum power from the sun.
I include a couple of links. The first is a Mail Online link, an
article, with photographs – the video is at the foot of the page –
and the second is NASA’s own page.
It really is worth a few minutes of your time. In fact I’ve watched the
video several times, so mesmerising are the images – and the song adds a
certain something to the experience.
Oh, and it takes us away from all this dampness down here on terra firma
– or perhaps that should read terra squidgy...
Friday, April 27
The above, [OnoH2O],
is my newly discovered formula for “unholy water”, liquid rain from
heaven that has not, curiously, been blessed.
It could now also be applied to the drought orders
issued across a large swathe of the UK [OnoH2O],
or even better, now that it hasn’t stopped raining since the hosepipe
ban, with flash floods all over the shop, it could be [Ono
I must briefly return to the Letters page of
The Daily Telegraph...
SIR – During the past 24 hours Britain has had over half an inch of
rain. This equates to more than three billion tons. How much more of the
stuff do we need?
Willy Pledger, North Selsey, West Sussex
Yes, it’s the name that grabbed readers’ attention. Here’s a brace of
the Comment board...
Willy Pledger ... Never mind the rain. A lot of women must be asking:
“Can you also deliver?”
jp1000: Or willy (sorry, will he), get a waiver
from delivering his pledge?
Oh yes, in another letter, a
of North Harrow in Middlesex wondered if
“all the unseasonably high rainfall since the hosepipe ban was
introduced is an example of nature’s quantitative easing”?
Right, back to
I have never seen The Apprentice – merely watching the programme
promos satisfies my curiosity. But I cannot stop myself smiling at the
thought that there are millions of people hanging on Karren’s every
thought and utterance.
worked out that if I drank less water I could use the toilet less, which
meant I could fit more into my day.” Karren Brady, 43, business
woman, author, columnist, motivational and public speaker and TV
personality, from her book Strong Women: Ambition, grit and a great
pair of heels. She is currently Lord Sugar’s aide on the BBC TV show
Polly Hudson, reviewing Karren’s book in the Mirror, said this:
I’m supposed to find Karren’s story inspirational ... mainly because
there’s a vaguely threatening quote on the cover from Lord Sugar saying:
“Karren’s story will be an inspiration to women everywhere.” Maybe he
actually said irritation, but was misheard.
A classic case of throwing out the
with the baby?
“I was beaten by a camel, a rice pudding and a teapot!”
A rueful Sarah Moncrieff, an accountancy consultant, on coming 35,815th
in the London Marathon.
I truly hope that Sarah hadn’t taken Karren Brady’s advice apropos the
– but what a delightfully amusing quote though. It marginally helps
balance the tragedy of 30-year-old Claire Squires who collapsed and died
along the final stretch of the 26.2-mile course.
We really don’t know what ambush awaits us round the
Tweetie Pie Corner
“Eating a salad, dreaming of a cheeseburger.”
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, 26,
better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, American singer and
That certainly made me smile. So much so I had a look at her Twitter
account, which I hear is the most followed on the planet, with
23,593,754 followers (will she end up with more followers than Jesus?).
In fact, this was the full tweet...
“Just killed back to back spin classes. Eating a salad, dreaming of a
cheeseburger #PopSingersDontEat #IWasBornThisWay”
I have no idea what that “Just killed back to back spin classes” means.
Perhaps something to do with a personal fitness regime? Or could she
have been meeting Tony Blair who would have advised her how to really spin?
After all, the more you spin, the more millions you rake in from a
What’s interesting is that a sub-editor somewhere had
taken out those seven opening words for the Quotes of the Day
column I spotted. Very clever, for it makes the “Eating a salad,
dreaming of a cheeseburger” that much more eye-catching and memorable.
Everybody who twitters should have their own
sub-editor, if only to stop at source the 90% rubbish that is tweeted.
Mind you, the pop diva hits the spot with this tweet in the lead up to
the opening show of her global tour, which has just kicked off in South
for Korea in the morning. Bandana: Check. Leather Jacket: Check. Machine
gun: Check. Pushup bra: Check. Yep. All packed!”
Thursday, April 26
The wit and wisdom of letter writers to our national newspapers
CHIEF Wise Owl has passed me a few Times letters for my
smile spot. Taken together with some spotted in the Telegraph,
they confirm what a rich source of entertainment these Letters pages
really are. First, this from The Times...
shocked, shocked to discover...
Sir, George Osborne says he is shocked at discovering how little tax is
paid by the rich. What shocks me is that we have a Chancellor who is
shocked to learn a fiscal fact which everyone else has been aware of for
DR MARGARET GULLAN-WHUR, Heacham, Norfolk
On a Comment board,
summed it up rather well:
Some of the wealthy try to screw the taxman and some of the poor do the same
to the welfare system. Those in the middle pay for it.
Along similar lines
of incompetence, a missive in The Daily Telegraph,
spotted in the wake of this year’s Boat Race disaster, when a swimmer decided to
disrupt and stop the race. Oh, and then the Oxford cox goes and forgets her TomTom...
butterfly stroke in the Thames
SIR – The Boat Race resulted in a fiasco because the stewards and river
police were totally unprepared, rather like the starter and organisers
of the Grand National in 1993 [the race was declared void after 30 of
the 39 runners began and carried on racing despite there having been a
false start]. Sheer British incompetence on show to the rest of the
If a man swimming at two miles per hour cannot be
stopped by the authorities then I dread to think what will happen at the
London 2012 Olympics, which will be the next target for every looney
demonstrator, exhibitionist or would-be terrorist, imported or
Roger Brown, Lincoln
Back with The Times
Falklands Conflict remembered, bearing in mind the controversial sinking of the
Belgrano after being struck by two torpedoes fired by the British
submarine HMS Conqueror...
Sir, While senior backpacking in Argentina in 2010 we were met with
friendliness and indifference in pretty much equal measure. But at a
tango show bar, on our last night in Buenos Aires, each table was asked
to declare its nationalities.
The band played the intro to the Marseillaise
for the French; the Italians got a few bars of O Sole Mio and so
on. For the UK audience? Yellow Submarine.
Somehow it didn’t seem appropriate to stay.
PETER SAUNDERS, Blakeney, Norfolk
Then this one, which really does have the ring of truth about it...
Sir, We recently took part in a “sail away singsong” on a British cruise
ship. When the Welsh national anthem was announced we were treated to
Delilah by Tom Jones.
ANDREA RITCHIE, Chislehurst, Kent
Truth to tell, it wouldn’t surprise me if more Welsh people know the words
to Delilah than the Welsh words of the national anthem.
Next, this marvellous Telegraph effort...
SIR – Sarah Rainey (Features, April 18) warns that the warm spring has
led to increased moth activity in our wardrobes.
My piano restorer reports an increase in the number of
pianos needing the felts replaced due to moth infestation. The solution
is to put lavender bags, mothballs or a strip of moth paper inside the
Linda Ebrey, Friston, East Sussex
Well, it is not so much the letter, but this smiley online comment,
which drew an avalanche of ‘Recommends’...
piano restorer reports...” Now that’s what I call a letter to the
Also, I musn’t forget the Daily Mail, whose readers specialise in
one-liner letters, the Time Vines of the “Dear Sir” world – for example,
following the huge increases the Post Office recently announced in the
cost of postage stamps...
Frankly, my dear
Royal Mail to tell them their stamps are too dear.
G Valentine, Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Finally, this from The Times...
Sir, Why do pick-up trucks have such bellicose names? I’ve recently seen
a warrior, an avenger, a thunder, a ram, a barbarian and a raging bull.
TONY PHILLIPS, Chalfont St Giles, Bucks
The above leads me neatly to this extraordinary photo in today’s Telegraph
“Hello, is that the very, very nice man from the AA?”
Srinagar-Leh highway road link opens for vehicular traffic after five
months winter closure due to snow. Above, vehicles drive with great
care near Zojila Pass, 67 miles east of Srinagar, the summer capital of
April 2012 / Picture: AFP
I feel dizzy just looking at that. I was struck by three things:
1) This is not a place for road rage, whether
driving a warrior, an avenger, a ram or a raging bull.
2) It is certainly not a place to suddenly
breakdown, AA cover or no (other breakdown services are available).
3) And what about traffic coming the other way?
There obviously has to be some sort of control system, hence the convoy –
but I guess patience is a virtue when entering the pass.
the final sizzle
And so to my top smile of the day. Roy Noble, on his afternoon
Radio Wales show, was discussing the finer points of the
humble sausage – and fascinating it was, too. Then Roy asked the expert
in the studio if he had ever ordered and eaten sausages in the States.
“What a palaver,” said Roy. “The waitress arrives and I
order some sausages. ‘Pork or beef?’, she asks: pork. ‘Organic or free
range?’: organic. ‘Fried or grilled?’: grilled. ‘Linked or
Oh dear, I shall laugh whenever I spot a sausage in future...
Wednesday, April 25
G-spot spotted at Ding Dong
YESTERDAY’S smile came compliments of the wireless in the corner. Ditto
today’s. This morning, at the crack of Vanessa Feltz, she was on top
form and had me grinning from the word go.
Perusing the morning papers, she highlighted a breathless headline: G-spot “does exist”.
It seems that a US gynaecologist, Dr Adam Ostrzenski,
has climbed his very own Matterhorny and planted his personal flag on
the elusive female G-spot, probably because – well, it just
happened to be there, waiting to be conquered.
(I learn that the G-spot was
named after German gynaecologist Ernst Graefenberg, who first
mooted its existence in 1950, and is claimed to be a highly
sensitive area in the vagina that, when stimulated, gives a
woman a powerful Meg Ryan “I’ll
have what she’s having!”
“I hasten to tell you,” adds Vanessa, “that other spots
are available.” Ho, ho, ho!
Yes indeedy, Lady Vee, my favourite is the H-spot: no,
not named after me, sadly (the Hubie-spot?), rather, the
Hallelujah-spot. Amen and Awomen!
Meg Ryan famously sings a song of orgasm,
unaccompanied, in the film When Harry Met Sally
(plus memorable look from the fellow in the background)
Oh yes, ‘G-spot spotted at Ding Dong’ at the top? Well, there’s a town
in Bell County, Texas, called Ding Dong – which brings me neatly to the
next bit of news Vanessa brought us, a story headlined...
is to twin with ‘Boring’
It seems the Scottish village of Dull is to forge links with a
US town called Boring. While Boring was named after William H. Boring, an
early resident of the area, Dull’s name
may have come from the Gaelic word for meadow, although others
have speculated that the origins could be connected to the
Gaelic word ‘dul’, meaning snare. And to think yesterday’s
headline concerning Dylan Thomas read: Dylan but never Dull.
Vanessa then invited listeners to nominate their
favourite place names – and in they came, thick and fast and
never heard of many of them – and they are quite
Here’s just a pick ‘n’ mix selection (incidentally, did
you know that the last ever bag of Woolworths’ Pick ‘n’ Mix
sweets was sold on eBay for £14,500, the money going to a
Right, here we go...
A place by any
First, the familiar Middle Wallop: a village in the civil
parish of Nether Wallop in Hampshire. Do you suppose the locals, when
they need to visit Nether Wallop, actually say “Right, I’m off to
They Don’t Like It Up ‘Em, Sir”?
Horse and Jockey: a village in North Tipperary,
Ireland. That name should win, hands down, but I’m not so sure.
Land of Nod and Wetwang: both are
villages in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
Dog Town: spotted in California.
Homer and Wigwig: both in Shropshire. If
you were heading for Wigwig but landed in Homer, would you go “D’oh!”?
Indian Queens: a village near Newquay in
Cornwall. Do you suppose the locals call it Bollywood? Anyway, Vanessa
actually played a song called Indian Queens, by a Nick Lowe. Every day a
day at school.
Upper Upham: a hamlet and deserted medieval
village, set high on the downs, near Marlborough in Wiltshire – perhaps
known locally as “Don’t Panic”, in honour of Lance-Corporal Jones of
Dad’s Army fame (see also Nether Wallop, above).
No Place: a small village in County Durham. It
has to be pretty small, really. And there are no faint-hearted folk
Nowhere: found somewhere in Norfolk, England;
also in Oklahoma, America.
Nameless: the town with no name, spotted in
Tennessee. Quite how, I’m not sure.
Santa Claus: found all year round in Indiana,
a hamlet, near Guildford in Surrey. The curious name owes its name to
property owned by a prominent local family named Christmas. The “Pie”
part of the name comes from the Saxon term “pightel” or “pightle”,
meaning a small piece of arable land.
Idle: resting in West Yorkshire ... on the High Street
is The Idle Working Men’s Club, which attracts membership from
all over the world.
Ugley: hiding in Essex – and yes, there is The Ugley
Women’s Institute – but they pronounce the place “You-glee”:
Ugly, we say You-glee – let’s call the whole thing off.
Let’s not call the whole thing off, but go slightly off message, which
is well worth the detour: in Shirley, on
the outskirts of Birmingham, you will find an Indian restaurant called The
Shirley Temple. Ah yes:
On the Good Ship Lollipop ... Magic.
My own favourite name is a farm, just across the valley from where I
live, and called, in Welsh, Golwg Y Byd – meaning, “In sight of
the world” – and it is a perfect name because there is a glorious view
from the farm. It really is a beautiful Welsh name, which just rolls
off the tongue. Trust me. (Note to self: must pop up there to take a
Finally, how could I not include Knockin, a village near Oswestry?
And yes, there really is a shop in the village called – ta-rah!
– The Knockin Shop – see a link to a great Flickr photo in the
nether regions of this post... In fact, the shop reminds me of an old joke, which
highlights the upstanding delightfulness of the English language...
The House of Hillary.
The House of Hillary who?
The House of Hillary Pute.
Yes, “the knocking shop” is another
slang expression for a house of ill repute, brothel,
bordello, cathouse, whorehouse, strumpet house, sporting house and bawdy
All that means I must now include Hooker, Oklahoma: the city
of Hooker is located in the centre of the Oklahoma Panhandle With Care -
okay, I added the With Care bit.
So there you have it, all the above smiles, delivered
to my door before half-six of a morning. Not bad, eh? Anyway, here’s the
promised link to Flickr’s Knockin Shop...
Tuesday, April 24
Dylan but never Dull
BBC Radio Wales, in the run up to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee
Celebrations, has just begun twice daily packages of around five minutes
or so highlighting the main events of each year of the Queen’s reign;
sound bites apropos Radio 2’s recently finished Sounds of the 20th
Century, which was an audio journey from 1951 to 2000.
Radio Wales puts an emphasis on events Welsh,
obviously. The series began, yesterday, with 1952 and 1953. The
afternoon Roy Noble show broadcasts the second year of the day,
so his show featured 1953.
I enjoyed it so much I decided to listen in again today
on iPlayer. The year featured Dylan Thomas, who was then well into his
bardic stride and working on Under Milk Wood, a new ‘Play for Voices’;
the famous Stanley Mathews Cup Final which Blackpool won 4-3; Hillary
and Tenzing conquer Everest; the Queen’s Coronation, and her visit to
Swansea; and finally, the sudden and unexpected death of Dylan Thomas.
The clips began with Dylan Thomas, reading his own
his very own square mile.
Now some people live in Laugharne because they were born in Laugharne,
and saw no good reason to move; others migrated here for a number of
curious reasons, from places as distant and improbable as Tonypandy – or
even England – and have now been absorbed by the natives.
Some enter the town in the dark and immediately
disappeared, and can sometimes be heard on hushed black nights making
noises in ruined houses...
Magic. What a way with words the man had. Mind you, he did seem
curiously over-fond of the word ‘black’. Hm?
During the Everest clip, a reporter asked this: “Hillary-” Although his
name was Edmund Hillary, everyone appears to address him as Hillary,
even to his face. Anyway: “Hillary, what were your feelings on reaching
A fair question, which he responds to with a smile in his
voice: “Well, naturally, very pleased to get there – mainly because we
had some difficulty in finding the top.” Much laughter in the
background. “And secondly, I was distinctly interested in getting down
More laughter, for it was a most amusing delivery.
Then it finished with the death of Dylan Thomas, at the age of 39 (it
seems he had predicted his own death “before the age of 40” - hm, think
‘black’). I really do believe that people can subconsciously sign their
own death warrants - but that’s a discussion for another time. Anyway, this
tribute from Huw Griffith, the equally famous and characterful Welsh
once asked Dylan how would he like to act the part of the fool in King
Lear. He laughed and his drooping cigarette wobbled as he answered:
‘You’d be casting too near to type, mun.’ Had he chosen he would have
been a great actor. But no, he was a great bard, a great fool, and he
has gone to bed at noon.”
What a wonderful line: and he has gone to bed at noon ... halfway
through his day, his personal Three Score Years and Ten - plus Godly
One of the more astonishing things about Dylan Thomas
is that, even though he was well known and established when he died, and
he had indeed done lots of radio work – a sonorous, Burtonesque voice
helped, for sure – there is not a single moving frame of him.
Perhaps it is waiting to be discovered, in an attic
somewhere. Perhaps even in Laugharne.
The music played during the 1953 feature included Glow Worm by
the Mills Brothers. Some great harmony, and some even greater lines...
Glow, little glow worm, fly of fire,
Glow like an incandescent wire;
Glow for the female of the species,
Turn on the AC and the DC;
This night could use a little brightenin’,
Light up, you little ol’ bug of lightnin’;
When you gotta glow, you gotta glow,
Glow, little glow worm, glow!
...and what about the line “When you gotta glow, you gotta glow”? How
smiley. I’m sure Dylan Thomas would have approved. There’s a great live
performance of the Mills Brothers urging that glow worm to do his thing,
right here ... glow man, glow...
A cockeyed optimist
THERE is something oddly satisfying when yesterday’s smiles effortlessly
morph into today’s. On Sunday I thoroughly enjoyed a thread of Daily
Telegraph letters about those fleeting bits of overheard
conversations that often leave us amused – well, here are a couple
The eyes have it
SIR – Overheard at a table next to us in a restaurant, a man said to the
woman next to him: “There’s nothing wrong with my eyes, it’s the glasses
that are no good.”
SIR – Two elderly locals sat chatting in deckchairs behind us at a
county cricket ground. One said to the other: “You played any cricket
Very apropos that – see my response to the next letter...
“No,” said Bert. “My eyesight was never good enough.
Done a bit of umpiring, though.”
Wyn and Doug Cole,
Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex
Well, that last one really made me smile. But, a word of caution that
everything in this world is not quite as clear-cut as it might appear at
At school I was sort of average at all sorts of sports – never quite
good enough though to make the first team. Well, okay at all sorts of
sports – all except cricket, that is, which I was hopeless at. The
flight of a fast ball always got the better of me.
When I hit middle age at 35, I decided to have my eyes
checked, having grown weary of seeing double after a few too many
doubles (we know the joke: I go to the gents for a pee, see two willy
wonkas, put one back in the stable – and pee in my pants).
Anyway, the optician explains that I suffer what is,
apparently, a surprisingly common problem (to some degree or other): my
eyes register on two slightly different levels, thus creating two
distinctly separate images. However, most of the time my clever little
brain corrects this by pulling both images together, merging them into
one perfect picture. Result: I couldn’t spot the join and my eyesight
seemed perfectly okay.
However, when I have too much to drink, become tired,
or indeed as I grow older, the brain gives up. It can’t cope and the two
images drift slightly apart, reverting to the default position, hence
seeing double after too much to drink (before the breathalyser became
established drivers often joked about seeing two white lines down the
middle of the road as they drove home from the pub).
In short, I am cockeyed. I now wear glasses.
Intriguingly, this condition was not picked up in my twenties when I
passed a medical for a pilot’s licence. However, it explained perfectly
why I could never quite pick up the flight of a cricket ball bowled at
speed – the brain obviously couldn’t correct the two separate images of
a ball travelling at speed towards me, so my judgment was – well, all to
Yet the condition still enabled me to accurately judge,
say, an lbw decision. And indeed fly a plane. So the old boy sat in the
deckchair wasn’t so daft after all.
Those two old boys sat in deckchairs remind me of that
Morecambe and Wise long-running gag, where Eric begins a
story – which we never actually get to hear the end of i.e. the
punchline. Imagine: a letter to The Daily Telegraph...
Not now, Eric
SIR – There were two elderly locals sat chatting in deckchairs behind us
at a county cricket ground. One said to the other: “It’s nice out today,
“Yes,” said Bert. “I think I’ll take mine out as well.”
Eric and Ern,
BBC Television Centre, London W12
Before leaving the business of seeing double, it takes me back to the
musical South Pacific, in particular the song Cockeyed
Optimist, which first saw the light of day in the 1949 Broadway
musical – and boasts this line...
I’m just a cockeyed optimist
Immature and incurably green...
How about that? Incurably green, even back in 1949.
A Pussycat PS: Yesterday of course there was the tale of Patrick
Moore and his book about cats, not to mention that cat which lurks deep
within my genes and my psyche – and what did I spot in the
Telegraph’s online Picture Gallery today? Yep, this
Get this monkey off my back
Mattei photographed what looks like a monkey massaging a stray cat on a
pavement in Kuala Lumpur. However, the cheeky monkey was doing the moggy
a favour by searching for fleas.
OVER the past week or so The Daily Telegraph newspaper has
published a thread of letters about those fleeting bits of overheard
conversations that often leave us smiling – and occasionally wondering
what the hell all that was about. Here are just a few of my favourite
If I hadn’t heard it with my own ears ...
SIR – I overheard an elderly man say to his companion while travelling
on a London bus: “You must be philosophical dear. Don’t think about it.”
Michael Stanford, London SE23
SIR – As a Durham undergraduate in the early Sixties living opposite the
east end of the Cathedral, I overheard one American tourist say to
What a cute little God box”.
Prebendary Philip Luff, Totnes, Devon
What an unusual name, I thought to myself. So I Googled it: a
prebendary, I learn in my ignorance, is a post connected to an Anglican
or Catholic cathedral or collegiate church and is a type of canon.
Prebendaries have a role in the administration of a cathedral.
I’m never sure how truthful these letters are – meaning,
these overheard “conversations” could be the work of a vivid imagination
in order to get a letter published – but I guess I have to believe the good Prebendary.
evil, see no evil
SIR – It was in the Fifties when, as I stood at some traffic lights, a
Hillman California, a British car with the wrap-around rear window which
later became commonplace, pulled up. A lady close to me said to another
beside her: “I don’t like that; you can be overlooked!”
Stanley Eckersley, Pudsey, West Yorkshire
SIR – I overheard a couple coming out of a shop. She said: “What’s
Jill’s name?” And he said: “Jill who?”
Tony Wheatley, Chichester, West Sussex
Now I like the above. I can hear me saying something silly like that.
SIR – Overheard in a crowded doctor’s waiting room: “I’ve never seen it
as busy as this. It was exactly the same last week.”
Geoff Price, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire
This is where I began to seriously question how many of the published
letters were genuinely overheard conversations, although I’m reasonably happy
with the ones I’ve reproduced here. That last one, however, has whiskers on
it, so I doubt whether it is genuine. But I’ll give Michael Stoneham the
benefit of the doubt because – well, it is a good joke, after all.
SIR – Overheard at a recent funeral, man to woman relative: “What did he
die of?” Reply: “Oh, nothing very serious.”
Michael Stoneham, East Preston, West Sussex
JUST a few days ago, I was rather taken with this quote:
“One of my ancestors was a squirrel.”
Sir Patrick Moore, 89, legendary British astronomer and television star,
when asked if he ever threw anything away.
This set me pondering which one of my ancestors had left its mark
on my DNA? I decided that it has to have been a cat – a pussycat as
opposed to a big cat. I mean, I’m an independent sod, forever chasing my
tail, mostly for fun – oh, and I enjoy stretching out in front of the
fire and purring the night away while watching the world about me go
round and round in ever decreasing circles before disappearing up its own
very private orifice.
Well blow me, in today’s Sunday Times I
came across an article headed...
Cats are meant to be dumber than dogs, but the reverse is true,
says Sir Patrick Moore. Take his test to find out whether your
moggy is Mensa material...
It seems Patrick Moore has just brought out a book:
Cats Really Are Nicer Than People!
I am somewhat dumbfounded that I had chosen a cat as my
alter ego, especially so after reading that Sir Patrick Moore is
descended from a squirrel. Anyway, this is what Patrick has to
It is generally said that the cleverest of all animals are seals
and their close relatives. They are followed by elephants, with
dogs some way down the scale and cats even lower. I am quite
sure that this is not correct, however, and I absolutely refuse
to rank cats below dogs. Cats are far, far cleverer.
There are two immediate points here that I regard as
important. First, it is wrong to confuse cleverness with
cunning, although they may often seem the same. One has only to
look at the front bench and cabinet members of our present House
of Commons. They are certainly cunning, because they have the
ability to make others believe what they say, but can you really
think that they are actually clever?
The answer must be a resounding “No!”.
Away from their cunning politics, it would be hard to find a
bigger collection of dunces.
The Sunday Times
cat: that it happens
to be wearing my glasses is a coincidence
Patrick has devised a series of fun tests to try out on our cats. Here
is a sample question:
Your cat is sitting in front of the fireplace, near the fire, which is
getting hotter. Does he...
a) move out of the danger zone?
b) stay where he is, purring, even though it’s clearly too hot?
c) wait to be picked up and moved?
d) go to sleep, oblivious to the heat?
It is fairly apparent that the sensible answer in this case is “a”, but
not all cats will be sensible, so they may take one of the other
Apply this test question to your own cat and make your decision. Does he
merit an “a”? He may not. Tick the letter that you think applies to him
– and be honest about it...
At moments such as this I tend to ask myself: how old am I? Whatever, as I am not owned by a cat i.e. I do not own a cat, but given my DNA
affinity with cats, I am now that cat, so my answer is “d”, go to sleep, oblivious to the heat.
why: on those rare occasions here in the UK when we have a sustained burst of
very hot and/or humid weather, most people complain about the trouble
sleeping at night. Well, as soon as my head hits the pillow, I’m off,
somewhere over the rainbow – and I will sleep through any heat.
My joke about having a cat lodged deep within my DNA may not indeed be a joke.
Saturday, April 21
I’m not sure I’d go as far as to label Salmond a Hitler – but I know
what Starkey means. Salmond falls firmly into the polecat category.
There is something very unsettling about his persona. I find myself
wondering how safe the future of Scotland is in his hands...
Spot the difference
SPOTTED this teaser on the BT/Yahoo!
CAN YOU GUESS
WHO’S PLAYING HITCHCOCK?
One of Hollywood’s greatest actors is barely recognisable in his role as
the legendary Alfred Hitchcock: get ready to do a double take...
...as the first image of Welshman Anthony Hopkins as iconic director
Alfred Hitchcock is revealed ... and it is truly an uncanny likeness.
Best known for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in the
1991 thriller The Silence of the Lambs, Hopkins is almost
unrecognisable in the recently released image.
That really is quite remarkable. When I first saw the headline, the name
Anthony Hopkins did indeed flash through my mind from somewhere – but
when I looked at the picture ... I thought ... no, can’t be.
It is not so much the likeness – you can pinpoint
you so desire – but it’s the projection of the Hitchcock persona within
that one shot. It is pretty amazing. However, my laugh of the day –
which will probably only register with, and be fully appreciated by,
British visitors to this ‘ere square mile of mine – goes to this
memorable online comment from
I thought Anthony Hopkins was Neil bloody KINNOCK ... I’m off to Specsavers!
the famous Welsh Windbag. A wonderfully funny-beyond observation, which
unsurprisingly attracted loads and loads of “Recommends” on the Comment
ON last night’s Have I Got News For You, hosted by comedienne Jo Brand - Jo
can be rather funny when she decides not to swear merely to amuse all 15
year-old boys watching in their bedrooms - anyway, she quoted an anonymous source
who had made the observation that
“Andrew Marr looks like Martin Clunes
with some of the air let out!”.
A quote that made me, the audience and the teams laugh
rather heartily. So today, I Googled away...
Andrew Marr, 50, a British journalist and political commentator.
A bit of a serious cove, I suppose: a sparrow hawk and a roundabout,
someone to navigate with care.
Martin Clunes, 50, an English actor and comedian. A bit of a
jolly old soul, a pussycat and a lay-by, someone to stop for a quick
chat and a laugh.
Anyway, here we are...
You know how it is when you meet someone who has lost a lot of weight,
their facial features morph ever so slightly. Magic. That both Clunes
and Marr are exactly the same age adds a little whoosh to the puncture
Shame the source of the quote remains a mystery.
“If David Cameron wants a great leap to popularity, he should agree to
Scottish independence as soon as possible - then we can invade them.”
Peter Sargeant of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, in a letter to the
“A Caledonian Hitler.” David Starkey, 67, a British constitutional
historian and a radio and television presenter, offers a rat-tat-tat
opinion of Alex Salmond, 57, Scotland’s First Minister (who is obviously
preparing for war).
...without doubt, there hides a polecat:
best to have him inside the Union pissing out than outside the Union
I say fook it and you say f--- it,
I say Fooking and you say F---ing;
Fook it, f--- it, Fooking, F---ing,
Let’s call the whole thing off!
FRACKING has been in the news all week. It’s what I would call an ambush
word. It invites the obvious playfulness without actually causing
offence. Already people are heard saying “Oh frack it!”
and “I’m a man of very few words: do you or don’t you frack?”
But what a strange
and clumsy word it is though.
Fracking means “hydraulic
fracturing”, the process of drilling and injecting water and
chemicals into the ground at high pressure in order to
fracture shale rocks to release natural gas.
Shale gas is seen as a way of ensuring relatively cheap
energy supplies. But critics have warned of the possible side
effects of fracking - including the contamination of ground
triggering of earth tremors and, horror upon horror, the word becoming a
common or garden curse.
When I saw this picture, alongside, the first thing that came to
innocent mind was: oh, I didn’t know there was an
actual place called Fracking – and why would they be ashamed of it?
Then I read this accompanying Telegraph
Austrian village F---ing to vote on name change
The Austrian village of F---ing is to
vote on a name change in an attempt to escape the constant ridicule and
attention the name attracts the picturesque hamlet.
[Actually, the name rhymes with “booking”, which adds a
bit of homeliness to the pronunciation. Back to the Telegraph...]
The 104 residents of the village are about to cast
their votes on whether to alter the name. “People are now willing to
discuss changes to the spelling of the name,” Franz Meindl, the
village’s mayor, said in a television interview. “The only problem is,
we need all of the F---ing residents to agree on whether they want to change it or not.”
For centuries the tiny village in northern Austria
lived life in happy obscurity, but everything changed when US troops,
stationed in the area at the end of the Second World War, discovered it,
and since then the village’s name has been a constant source of
amusement for tourists and irritation for locals.
At least 13 of the £250 road signs bearing the
village’s name have been stolen, and the sight of semi-naked women
posing for photographs beside signs has become a common sight. One local
business woman, exasperated with people stealing her sign, has taken to
adding another “g” in the hope it will deter thieves.
A brisk market in postcards and Christmas cards making
liberal use of the name have also managed to spread its fame.
In an attempt to curtail the fun generated at the village’s expense,
some locals want to readopt its 16th-Century spelling and replace the
“ck” with a single or double “g”.
Experts say the town’s name is derived from Focko, a
6th Century Bavarian nobleman, and the modern spelling was adopted in
the 18th Century.
So there you have it, a delightfully childish tale. I enjoyed all the
asterisking bashfulness – fully understood though – but I decided to go down a
Wikipedia says this of the place name:
rhymes with "booking".
I found this letter,
with those perfect quotation marks on top (Latin Extended-A subset,
apparently), which I have decreed, in my humble opinion, should be
pronounced “oo” – as in “booking”!
So keep that in mind as you read on – it’s
pronounced “Fooking”, okay? - and suddenly, the place name sounds delightfully
amusing. Well, that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it.
The above Telegraph story drew some smiley Comment board
responses, the first then from the aptly named
which really did hit the mark:
Surely the headline should read: “Austrian village to vote on Fűcking
Given the global village nature of our world,
suggested that, in reality,
“We all come from Fűcking”.
And a popular suggestion, apart from the idea that they should be
building lots of condominiums, was that the village should cash in with
a sure-fire T-shirt winner:
Fűcking Footnote: The villagers have
voted to change the name to Fugging. But then came the news that there
used to be a second village with the name Fűcking in Austria – and
residents there had already bagged the name Fugging more than 100 years
Now you would have thought that they would have been
aware of that crucial bit of information before voting took place. Whatever, back to the cursing
board for the folk of Fűcking ...
Intriguingly, the broadcasting media has gone with the in-yer-face,
aggressive pronunciation, rather than the gentler and much more
amusingly proper one.
On tonight’s Have I Got News For You there were
a few bleeps as they discussed the story, yet if they’d gone with the
proper way of saying it – well, it would have been even funnier, and not
a bleep in sight.
Which all goes to prove what a nasty little place to be
stranded in is today’s broadcasting world. Ah well, c’est la vie...
PS: If you have already read yesterday’s smile - I’ve added a
little something special (to my eye, anyway) at the very end...
Thursday, April 19
A brainy polecat or a playful pussycat?
are always attractive, especially in a context where almost nobody has
any.” Clive James, 73, Australian author, critic, broadcaster, poet
and memoirist, best known for his autobiographical series Unreliable
I like that, very witty, as indeed you would expect from Clive James.
However, James, like so many great writers, has always struck me as one
of those individuals whose toes I really wouldn’t like to step on,
whether accidentally or otherwise, on a dark and stormy night in the
middle of nowhere in the back of beyond.
In other words, he falls into the polecat/roundabout
class i.e. best to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside
the tent pissing in (as President Lyndon B. Johnson so memorable said of
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover).
Incidentally ... memoirist? Well, a person who pens a memoir, I would
guess, but officially: As a literary genre, a memoir (from the French:
mémoire from the Latin memoria, meaning “memory”, or a reminiscence),
forms a subclass of autobiography – although the terms “memoir” and
“autobiography” are almost interchangeable in modern parlance.
Indeed, and as Eric Morecombe often told Ernie Wise while inspecting his
supposed wig: “You can’t see the join you know.”
Oh yes, and while on the subject of “pissing”,
Lyndon B. Johnson
also said this:
a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg. It seems hot
to you, but it never does to anyone else.”
No wonder Gordon Brown always looked so bloody
Meet the familial
my ancestors was a squirrel.” Sir Patrick Moore, 89, legendary
British astronomer and television star (and delightful eccentric to
boot), when asked if he ever threw anything away.
This set me thinking: which one of my ancestors left its mark on
my DNA? A cat, I
think. That’s a pussycat, mind, not a big cat: pouncing on a vole for
lunch sounds more appealing than having to bring down a zebra with all
the attendant risk to life and limb that would entail.
And yes, stretched out in front of a roaring fire and
purring away contentedly while watching the world shoot by as if strapped to a bullet train –
and often chasing my own tail for no obvious reason rather than it being a
fun thing to do – yep, all that stuff sounds very me, very Hubie.
Oh yes, I’m also an independent old sod, so I’ll settle for this:
“One of my ancestors was a cat.” Mind
you, I don’t
think all those little songbirds I’ve
befriended over the past three years or so, and which you will find dotted
about all over
this web site, will be best amused by the twist in my tail.
“When I went to the White House, all I wanted to meet was the
President’s cat.” Elisha Cuthbert, 29, Canadian film and television
...you can probably hear me purring from the other side of the planet.
Wednesday, April 18
Coming or going?
SIMON COWELL: WHY I’M A LOVE MACHINE
shouted the Daily Express front page headline much like a
frustrated University Boat Race cox.
Above the headline was a picture of Cowell and a lady
called Dannii Minogue. I shared a hearty laugh with the newsagent at the
doolallyness of modern celebrity – oh, and we definitely chuckled at
where we both rated ourselves in the LOVE MACHINE LEAGUE.
Personally, I have always finished out of the frame, often unseated at
one of the early jumps.
Anyway, I arrive home from my walk, sit down to enjoy a mug of coffee
(laced with a generous dollop of scotch and topped with some double
cream – makes up for my hopeless and hapless sex life) and peruse the Western
I arrive at my favourite THEY SAID WHAT? column
– and by hook or by crook, this was the first in the schnook:
“There were a few bonks and then it petered out when I was in
Simon Cowell, 52, describes his brief fling with Dannii Minogue, 40.
Wikipedia informs me that Ms Minogue is an Australian singer-songwriter,
actress, television and radio personality, fashion designer and model.
Where on earth does she find time to fit in a “few bonks” along her
hurried rush through time? Indeed, does she know whether she’s coming or going?
Anyway, good luck to her. Mind you, I did find myself
wondering what precisely Simon Cowell gets out of making such silly
things public. Purely an ego trip, I guess.
and emotion study
“All women should be able to drill, paint, wallpaper, sew and cook. I
am a passionate believer in doing things yourself across the whole
Kirstie Allsopp, 40, wife, mother, businesswoman, journalist and British
TV presenter known for the Channel 4 property programmes: Location,
Location, Location; Relocation, Relocation; Location Revisited; The
Property Chain; Kirstie’s Homemade Home and Kirstie’s Handmade Britain.
Gosh, I’m out of breath just reading Kirstie’s CV. And I bet you
anything that, like Simon Cowell, she’s a love machine. Mind you, all
that business of being “a passionate believer in doing things yourself
across the whole sphere” did set me wondering. I hope she did actually say
Ah well, back to the drawing board.
Tuesday, April 17
How strange the change from Major to Minor
“There is no better chat-up line than ‘Come up and see my statutory
Edwina Jones, 65, born Edwina Cohen and commonly
known by her first married name, Edwina Currie, former Tory MP, reveals
her bedroom secrets while subliminally planting in our minds the Major
notch spotted on her bedpost overnight.
Shame Edwina missed out the “sometime” - as in: “Come up sometime and
see my statutory instruments.”
In 1988, the then health
minister Edwina Currie, provoked outrage by saying most of Britain’s egg
production was infected with the deadly salmonella bacteria. Egg sales
went sunny-side-under. The claim was simply not true and she was forced to resign.
No more going to work on an egg for Edwina.
She effortlessly became a Spitting Image free-range
...something she accepted with good humour, as the picture here
suggests. Incidentally, is she taking the oath on that Bible?
Major Minor had it in for me
Currie’s Diarrhoeas – oops!
– Currie’s Diaries (1987–92), published in 2002, caused a sensation, as
they revealed a four-year affair with former Prime Minister John Major
between 1984 and 1988, while both were married to other people. The
affair started while she was a backbencher (nudge-nudge) and Major was
the government whip (wink-wink) in Margaret Thatcher’s government.
(Everything about the story invited us to make childish
jokes – I plead guilty as charged; I mean, she is “commonly known by her
first married name”, ho, ho, ho!)
After Major’s swift promotion to Chief Secretary to the
Treasury, the relationship ended, but the two remained friends. Currie
apparently ceased the affair when it became dangerous and impractical
owing to the presence of bodyguards who had to be avoided.
John Major duly admitted his four-year affair with Currie, and described
it as the most shameful event of his life, but said his wife Norma had
long known of the relationship and had forgiven him.
He has since kept his rocket in his pocket. We presume.
But he did go on to become known as the “grey man” of British politics,
witness this famous Spitting Image puppet...
What I vividly remember when the news broke of the Major-Currie affair,
was the difficulty in picturing the two of them bonking the night away.
After all, how can we forget the cartoon of Major with
his underpants worn over
his trousers following a seriously doolally Edwina
informing a cringing public about John Major’s large blue
Oh, and their shared baths. How delightfully embarrassing
it all was...
If I said you had
a beautiful body...
Back with Edwina’s favoured chat-up line,
I can only reintroduce my own favourite, paraphrased from
the 1954 film, Beau Brummell...
“You strike me as a lady blessed with a wonderful talent for reducing
the size of a man’s troubles.”
Down the years, before quality control caught up with me (a polite
expression for growing older, or womenopause coming up fast on the
rails), the line never failed to raise a smile – but I really never
cashed in on the sales pitch because I have always been totally useless
at closing the deal, whether it be personal or business.
Still, I have grown to appreciate Dorothy L. Sayers’
maxim that a trouble shared is a trouble halved.
PS: I have some homework, having just spotted this quote in the
“If you can define what God is, I can tell you whether I believe in
Michael Sheen, 43, Welsh stage and screen actor.
God, I enjoy a challenge – definition coming up on the rails, sometime
The unspeakable in full pursuit of the unbelievable
WITH apologies to the ghost of Oscar Wilde: “One knows so well the
popular idea of modern entertainment and sport. The British media
galloping after a politician – the unspeakable in full pursuit of the
“He looks like he got dressed in a hurry, possibly escaping over a
garden fence.” AA Gill, columnist for The Sunday Times, accompanies
the sartorially challenged
Boris Johnson, Conservative and current Mayor of London Town, on the stump as the Mayoral
election hears the bell to indicate the final lap.
“This is our very own Silvio Berlusconi,” Gill tells a very pretty, very
Boris, dark-haired Latin girl that Boris has darted across the pavement
to accost. “Oh, no, no, no!”
Boris protests, “I’m not; really I’m not. You’re not to write that.”
The very pretty, very Boris, dark-haired Latin girl doesn’t seem to be
put off in the least. Boris trundles on.
Meanwhile, on the next page...
Berlusconi trial hears of women dressed as nuns stripping
Former Italian PM’s parties shocked me, says Imane Fadil, adding that
she was later warned to keep quiet by a “mysterious” man
A model testifying at Silvio Berlusconi’s trial for paying an underage
prostitute has given dramatic evidence of young women dressed as nuns
and footballers at the former prime minister’s parties, and has claimed
she was warned not to speak about what she had seen.
Meanwhile, back on the stump, AA Gill tells us of meeting Boris that
Boris sees me and does a great, mimed double-take, as if he’s
been Tasered by fate. “Oh my God,” he shouts. “They told me it would be
someone from The Sunday Times. They didn’t say it was you.”
Imane Fadil alleged in court that one of the women
dressed as a nun was Nicole Minetti, a former TV showgirl now regional
councillor for Silvio Berlusconi’s party.
Moroccan Imane Fadil, 27...
...told the court she watched as two young women donned black habits and
crucifixes to perform a pole dance before stripping to their underwear.
At another party, a Brazilian model wearing a mask of the footballer
Ronaldinho and an AC Milan shirt, stripped to her G-string.
[Yes, yes – but did she score?]
Fadil is one of at least three women who have come forward to deny
Berlusconi’s claims that the “bunga-bunga” parties at his mansion
outside Milan in 2010 were more than just “elegant dinners”.
[Honestly, it gives intercourse chit-chat - small talk
between each course - a whole new meaning]
Shocked at what she saw at her first party, Fadil said Berlusconi took
her into his office and handed her a watch, earrings and €2,000 (£1,650)
in an envelope, stating: “Don’t be offended, but I know you women are
always in need.”
of course: a friend in need is an accommodating
can you do? You expect the RAC – and the AA turns up.]
“When was the last time you cried?” AA Gill asks Boris, given the news
that Labour opponent Ken Livingstone has just been photographed weeping
pathetically over his own party political broadcast. “Oh, I can’t remember,” says
Boris, irritably, as if tears came in the same envelope as tax returns.
“I really can’t remember.”
That line from AA Gill, “as if tears came in the same envelope as tax
returns”, made me smile because rather obviously Gill has just received his tax
return. At least I received mine a few days ago, and I guess everybody
else did as well.
On another page, a Sonia Purnell says this of Boris...
When (or if) he wins again, he will be a Conservative electoral titan.
His godlike status and celestial glow will cast George Osborne and David
Cameron into a political half-light.
These so-called master strategists managed to secure
power only with the help of the Liberal Democrats, a party that Johnson
has repeatedly and casually insulted along with its leader Nick Clegg, whom
he once described as a “cut-price edition of David Cameron hastily
knocked off by a Shanghai sweatshop to satisfy unexpected market
Only Johnson, people will say, can do it all alone!
[Only Johnson can deliver lines like that.]
On yet another page, columnist and Rottweiler Rod Liddle says this...
“Which is the most outrageous fact do you think?
That Ken Livingstone, having railed against very
wealthy people using loopholes to avoid paying tax, is revealed to be
himself a very wealthy person using a loophole to avoid paying tax?
Or that Boris Johnson earns a quarter of a million quid a year for
writing the same column every week for The Sunday Telegraph?”
That last line made me smile. Yes, Liddle would say that, wouldn’t he?
After all, both he and Johnson are in competition for the same readership. Still, I
enjoy reading Johnson – the Shanghai sweatshop line above is very
seductive – yet I am aware that I only occasionally read him.
Terry Wogan, who also has a weekly column in The Sunday
Telegraph, and probably earns the same sort of figure, falls into the
same sort of category. Wogan, without his daily listeners feeding him
ammunition, is not quite as witty and wise without them.
In other words, both Boris Johnson and Terry Wogan, like AA Gill and Rod
Liddle, are professional bullshitters, and I make a point of enjoying
all their ramblings as precisely that.
Bullshit always baffles brains, especially if delivered
with a cheeky smile.
Given that money is such a driving force in modern life, particularly so
with our movers and shakers, our columnists and politicians, here’s a
great quote to finish on...
“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress.”
Schiff, a bank worker who’s had a smaller bonus than usual, says life’s
so tough on a salary of $350,000.
PS: Ever wondered about this intriguing “bunga-bunga”
expression? Well, here’s a link to a BBC article about its origins and
how it has caught on around the world - oh, and the correct
pronunciation (only the good old BBC, eh?)...
Sunday, April 15
The picture here, which as I said, perfectly captures my own particular
square mile, truly stopped me in my orbit...
Lights, camera, action
THIS Mail Online headline drew my eye...
Earth as you’ve never
seen it before:
The best pictures of our planet taken from the orbiting Space Station
[Thinks: Over recent years I’ve seen plenty of wonderful pictures of our
planet captured from the International Space Station (ISS) – so what’s
I click – and I see one mesmeric photograph of my part of the
world. Firstly, I quote:
astronaut on the ISS has designed a ‘tripod’ for taking spectacular
night-time pictures of Earth - quite a technical feat when you’re on
board an orbiting craft that moves at more than four miles a second.
Andre Kuipers installed ‘Nightpod’ - a motorised camera
that compensates for the hurtling speeds of the ISS, by tracking points
on Earth’s surface. The results are some of the most spectacular
pictures ever taken from space.
UK and Ireland by night, with the Aurora Borealis on the horizon, taken
on the 28th March 2012
Not only is it a stunningly beautiful and clear image, but I am taken aback at...
1) How alarmingly lit up the UK is at a time when
energy waste and light pollution is such a burning issue.
2) How dark so much of Wales is.
3) How lit up Ireland is – now that really is a total
4) How bright, perhaps unsurprisingly, London is –
links to more pictures coming up down below, particularly a jaw-dropping
overhead shot of London surrounded by the M25.
Best of all though, I can pick out where I live merely by following the
lit up, built up areas along the A40, what was, before the arrival of the
motorway, the main road from west Wales to London.
It is easy to pick out the Milford Haven port and
industrial complex at the south-west tip, and just round the corner to
the east is Tenby. Slightly to the north-west is Narberth - then we are
on the A40 moving east: Whitland ... St Clears ...
Carmarthen ... my home town, Llandeilo ... north to Llandovery ... east
to Sennybridge ... Brecon - and onwards.
To the north of Brecon, Three Cocks, Hay-on-Wye ... and
the other side of Offa’s Dyke, Hereford is all lit up ... amazing. Truly
I can more or less spot myself watching the ISS
approaching from the south-west – which is not quite the throwaway line
it seems for we know that the above was taken on the 28th of March, dawn
is breaking on the far horizon, and
by one of those extraordinary coincidences I thrive on, I actually wrote
about the ISS on that day. I repeat:
AT 06:09 this morning, as dawn
prepared to break over the Towy Valley, I
popped outside to watch the ISS pass pretty much directly overhead,
clear as a bell in the cloudless sky.
Just behind, at 06:11, came the ATV3 ‘Edouardo Amaldi’
(Automated Transfer Vehicle), Europe’s unmanned cargo re-supply
spacecraft, gradually catching up with the ISS to dock and unload its
payload of just over seven tonnes.
Later in that day’s smile, I wrote this:
Talking of living in a rural area, this afternoon was such a stunningly
beautiful affair under a cloudless blue sky, with a gentle breeze and
the temperature tickling 70, I decided to go for a walk through the
fields surrounding the cottage.
It was surreal beyond. If I had taken a picture and posted it here
you would have observed, oh, what a beautiful winter’s day down there in
the Towy Valley.
Summertime, I thought to myself, and the living is easy – yet all
the trees were totally bare of leaves. As I said: it was bizarre beyond.
And of course, the conditions I described that day applied all over the
UK and Ireland – which is clearly why Andre Kuipers up there in his
ISS couldn’t resist the shot. I am convinced that I watched him taking
Tonight, at 21.51, under a crystal-clear sky, I
again watched the ISS pass overhead - the view lasted some five minutes
- and I couldn’t stop myself thinking about
Andre Kuipers and his ‘Nightpod’ camera clicking away.
Here’s a link to the Daily Mail article, which explains
the camera ‘trick’ used to avoid blurred night-time shots. Oh, plus some
more incredible photographs, including a stunning moonset, as well as that one
of London I mentioned above.
Below that, a link to a Daily Telegraph
Picture Gallery (some photographs duplicated). Enjoy, as they say...
Saturday, April 14
One for the road
THE other day I mentioned that, in my humble opinion, The Daily
Telegraph had overtaken The Times in the
entertainment value of the tail-gunner letters, those smiley missives
that prop up the Letters pages.
Well, The Times has struck back. Here’s a
run of agreeably entertaining letters...
Sir, Wherever I have been recently, in town or country, one of the
commonest sights was yet another boarded-up pub. Sadly, we are not only
losing the pubs themselves but also a wealth of interesting and amusing
Somehow, The Folded Arms just isn’t quite the same.
CLIVE WHICHELOW, London SW19
Sir, Clive Whichelow makes a good point that not only are we losing pubs
but also “a wealth of amusing pub names”.
I know it’s not really funny but I could not help but
be struck by the irony of a boarded-up ale house I passed recently
outside Guildford named The Hope Inn.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much.
DR JOHN WALTERS, Wye, Kent
Sir, Clive Whichelow’s letter about the demise of British pubs has made
me wonder about a pub I used to pass on the Heads of the Valleys road in
South Wales in the 1960s.
It was called The Highwayman and boasted an appropriate
roadside sign, but hanging below this was another sign which read “No
How could it have survived?
COLIN MUNRO, Kingston St Mary, Somerset
Reading that last letter, I was overtaken by a stand-and-deliver
moment: the “No coaches” sign does make sense; after all, you don’t want
any old Tom, Dick Turpin or Harriett waiting in ambush outside the pub
for some easy pickings.
Otherwise it would be much like putting bird feeders in
our gardens, which is an open invitation to our friendly neighbourhood
sparrow hawks: Please, do call and enjoy our daily buffet of delectable
tweets provided specially for your delectation.
Meanwhile, back with the Letters...
Sign of the
Sir, Clive Whichelow bemoaned the boarded-up public houses he has seen
and the loss of interesting and amusing pub names.
In Bury we have also lost several pubs, but they are
not all boarded up. There are two about a couple of miles apart on the
same stretch of road that have been tastefully renovated with new signs
prominently displayed. They are both undertakers.
A new slant on “last orders”?
GRAHAM HOWARTH, Bury, Lancs
Sir, We were losing excellent pub titles long before the current
depression in the pub industry, I recall some decades ago that the
pleasing pub name The Sea Around Us, near Loughborough, and just off the
M1, was changed to The Junction 23
DR P. W. L. CLOUGH, Rough Common, Kent
Sir, I still have a notebook of pub names collected by me in the 1930s
on travels around the South of England in a motorbike and sidecar. It
consists of 641 different names beginning with “The Ace of Spades” and
finishing with “The Zulu”.
ERIC BETTS, Colwyn Bay, Conwy
That last one set me thinking. My own local, The Crazy Horsepower
Saloon, should feature in any A to Z of pub names. Now you will not find
it at the end of any TomTom, or indeed nestling beneath some distant
smoke signals, for it is an amalgamation of the pubs and characters I
have known along my walk through “Time, Gentlemen, Please!”.
It used to be simply The Crazy Horse, but we regulars
worryingly morphed from mules and stallions into petrolheads. Oh, and
I’ve had to add an Asterisk Bar. A **** of the times!
My current favourite characters, as you may well have
observed, are Ivor the Engine and his beloved Glad Eyes (Gwladys to her
As I say, you are always welcome to call: knock
three times – four times for a Welshman (or woman) – and ask for either
The Preacher Man or Sergeant Sheriff.
True, nobody will know your name, but all the same
we’ll all be glad you came.
Incidentally, did you notice that two of the above letters were signed
by Doctors? Hm.
Finally, and talking of the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, Asterisk Bar:
today, Dai Aphanous whispered a hot tip for the Grand National, running
later: Lunch – a cert at 12 to 1.
A night to remember
~ or forget
IVOR THE ENGINE, a regular at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, is one of
life’s genuine characters. What is more, if Ivor can do anything to help, he will.
Today I needed to borrow a saw, and Ivor was the man.
So I called on him and rang the door bell ... Ivor
appeared – and the first thing I noticed was the hat on his head. “Oh,
have I called at a bad time?” I said apologetically.
“No, no, come in – whenever I answer the door I always
grab the hat off the peg by there and pop it on my head; if there’s
someone selling something at the door – or someone I don’t particularly
want to invite in – I tell ‘em that I’m just
on the way out – but because it’s you, well, I’ve just arrived home and
I haven’t had a chance to hang up my hat yet – come in, come in!”
Only Ivor the Engine would think of
that. He did add that he’d thought of buying a stock of special T-shirts
(all bearing the same slogan), which he would slip on as soon as he got
up or returned home: JESUS SAVES - please ask me how!
Anyway, about three weeks back, I told the tale of Ivor visiting Louise
at her shop,
The Bewitched and the Wardrobe,
a ladies’ fashion shop in Llandeilo specialising in sexy
lingerie, for he wanted to buy a
for his wife, Gwladys, or Glad
Eyes, as we all know her.
Like all great stories it’s worth a repeat. Ivor had
just won a pile of money compliments of an accumulator on the horses, so
he decides to treat his lovely Glad All Over to something special. Louise shows Ivor various
negligées; the more sheer they are, the higher the price. Ivor decides
to go the whole hog and opts for the sheerest and forks out a whopping
Back home he presents it to Gwladys and asks her to go upstairs
and model it for him. Once there, Glad ponders her cat-walk moment and
thinks: “This is so sheer I won’t even bother to put it on. I’ll model
in the all-together and then take it back tomorrow and pocket the £400.
Ivor will be none the wiser.”
She appears naked and strikes a modelling pose. “Bloody ‘ell!”
splutters Ivor. “For
£400, you’d think they’d at least have ironed it.”
A good story is always worth a revisit. We have another character at the Crazy
HP who is known as I Say, I Say, I Say!
– mostly though it’s just I Say!
He’s a wonderful joke and story teller. Even when I’ve heard him tell a
joke before I still hang on his every word, and even though I know the
punchline I still laugh all over again. Story telling is a
I recall with fondness some of the guests Michael Parkinson had on
his television chat show: Peter Ustinov, David Niven (who was so nervous
before going on that he was physically sick in the dressing room,
apparently), Billy Connolly (who made a record 15 appearances on his
show), and on and on...
Billy Connolly is particularly interesting: never an
obscene word on the Parkinson show, yet the moment he walks on stage he
can’t make an audience laugh without effin’ and blindin’ every other
word. It is a most curious affliction.
I reckon Connolly isn’t anywhere near as agreeable a
fellow as his celebrity chums make out. The following is a rather
telling story from perhaps the most famous Michael Parkinson show of
Much to Parkinson’s chagrin, the most repeated clip is
of his interview with entertainer Rod Hull in 1976. While the pair were
chatting, Hull’s ‘evil’ glove puppet, Emu, continually and (apparently)
uncontrollably attacked the interviewer, eventually causing him to fall
off his chair....
...Parkinson was not amused; indeed fellow guest Billy Connolly
threatened Hull: “If that bird comes anywhere near me, I’ll break its
neck and your bloody arm!”
It’s the aggressive “and your bloody arm” which labels
Connolly a character not to accidentally bump into on a country road on
a dark and stormy night.
Before leaving Parkinson, I enjoyed this story of
another of his guests, Richard Burton: his chat had to be recorded during
the afternoon, for fear that the notorious drinker would be inebriated
by the evening if allowed sufficient access to alcohol (shades of George
Best on Wogan’s chat show?).
Accordingly, the audience was hastily convened and as a
result, mainly comprised staff of the BBC canteen - still in their
kitchen whites. Burton confessed afterwards that the view from the
studio floor as he walked on made him think that the “men in white
coats” had caught up with him at last.
Anyway, where was I? God, I’m getting more like Ronnie Corbett every
day. I know: Ivor the Engine and his win on the gee-gees and buying that
Ivor’s win on the horses was so generous he also
decided to treat Glad Eyes to a taste of Paris in the springtime. They
arrive at Charles de Gaulle and take a taxi to their hotel. Ivor, being
a sociable sort, strikes up a conversation with the driver. “You are
the Frenchman knowingly declares, in a broad French accent.
A somewhat surprised Ivor confirms the fact. “Until a
year ago,” continues the taxi driver, “I worked for a civil engineering
company specialising in pipe laying – I was a welder – the money was
good, thousand euros a week plus, but I got tired of being away from home so
much. Some years ago I spent a couple of years in Wales working on a
major gas pipeline, so I recognise your accent.”
Glad Eyes, however, has trouble understanding the
driver’s thick accent. “What did he say?” she asks Ivor.
Ivor says: “He recognised us as Welsh and said he
worked on that huge gas pipeline - you know, the one that by-passed
Llandeilo a few years back.”
“Llandeilo?” questions the driver, rather
excitedly. “I stayed in a cottage just outside Llandeilo – I am familiar
with The White Hart, The White Horse, The Salutation – and The Cawdor,
very posh, as the English say.”
Glad Eyes asks: “What did he say now?”
Ivor says: “He’s familiar with Llandeilo – he stayed
there when he was working on the pipeline.”
The taxi driver continued with an excited trill
invading his deep accent. “You have some very lovely ladies in
Llandeilo.” He half-turns to glance at Ivor and Glad Eyes. “Very sexy
too.” His eyes return to the road ahead. “But,” he says lifting his
right hand off the steering wheel and pointing skywards with his index
finger, “I also met one particular woman in Llandeilo – and I had the worst sex of
“What’d he say, what’d he say?” asks a frustrated Glad
Ivor replies: “He thinks he knows you.”
PS: Ivor did lend me a saw, which I needed to trim back a few of
the smaller, lower branches on a horse chestnut tree. So you could say
that: I came, I sawed, I conkered.
Thursday, April 12
I JUST knew my formula for “unholy water” would come in useful one day.
With last Monday, the Easter Bank Holiday Monday, having been rained off
pretty much all over the UK – and also given the news that significant
regions of southern and eastern England are already subject to drought
conditions and hosepipe bans – this letter appeared in The Daily
Telegraph following last Monday’s annoying wetness...
High value of water
SIR – If the Government were to introduce a few more bank holidays that
would surely help the drought situation. It always rains on a Bank
Moira Brodie, Swindon, Wiltshire
A letter with its damp tongue clearly in its wet cheek? However, many
people really do believe that our Bank Holidays are always wet and
miserable. The truth is of course a million miles removed from beneath
that wind-swept umbrella. So I did a little homework...
damned lies – and a few home truths
HANG on, Moira, the Good Friday before was a most agreeably sunny day,
if a wee bit on the cool side – but it is only the beginning of April,
true, the previous Bank Holiday, January 1, was windy and showery, but
January 2, which was also a Bank Holiday because New Year’s Day was on a
Sunday, was bright and coldish.
As I have mentioned here before, I keep a daily diary,
a purely functional one: I merely list everywhere I’ve been, who of note
I’ve met, along with anything unusual that happened that day; I also
note the one thing that made me smile the most; oh, and a throwback to
my flying experiences, I record the weather as it unfolds within my
Just remember, many people believe (especially those
who gloat from the other side of Offa’s Dyke) that it always rains here in Wales. So I went through my 2011 diary
– and of the nine Bank Holidays (there was an extra one last year
Kate and William), three were dry, bright and/or sunny, two
were picture perfect days, the Spring Holiday (May 30) had some rain
early, then cleared up beautifully – oh, Christmas Day was dampish,
while New Year’s Day and Boxing Day were drizzly-ish.
So that takes care of the set Bank Holidays, but there
were two additional holidays because January 1 fell on a Saturday (Monday January 3
was cloudy but dry) and Christmas day fell on a Sunday (Tuesday December 27
again was cloudy but dry).
So how about that? Not a single Bank Holiday in 2011
was a washout, (well, to compare and contrast with the Easter Monday
just gone), and only three could be mildly described as damp – and two
of those were in the deep mid-winter.
How quickly we forget.
Mention above of last year’s royal wedding, I seem to remember that bad weather had been a threat, so I went back a year, and I quote this from
my ramblings for the day after the wedding...
the careful planning that goes into delivering a
memorable day, luck plays a crucial part in all things. What I forgot to
mention yesterday was the weather. The forecast had promised a high
chance of heavy showers, even thunder, which would certainly have taken
the gloss off the day.
Shortly after the now married couple arrived at the Palace,
curiosity made me check the Met Office rainfall radar, which shows
images at half-hourly intervals for the previous six hours. Well, the
French did their best to spoil the party, hurling ominously threatening
showers towards London.
But they all missed. Only just though, for during the ceremony a
substantial bundle of wetness trundled slowly westwards, just north of
London, and that would certainly have dampened things. Now that is
what I call luck.
And it made me want to reach for the family longbow.
Oh yes, I also posed this question: shouldn’t the Middletons now be
called the Uppertons? Even more relevant a year on.
Returning to the troubling drought conditions slowly wringing parts of the country
is right and proper that we all have a duty not to waste water. I am
always aware how much water I use when brushing my teeth – multiply
that by 60 million people – so I try hard not to waste.
Then just the other day there was a letter in one of
the newspapers where someone from southern England, I think, drew
attention to the water we waste while waiting for the hot water to,
hot – now there’s something I hadn’t registered previously – and this
drained all that into a container which he then transferred to a water
butt for watering the garden and other stuff. Brilliant.
With the royal wedding having been mentioned already in dispatches, this
has just caught my eye:
One year on,
the world remembers – but spot the inscrutable cock-up
A mug celebrating the first anniversary of last year’s royal wedding
features the wrong brother. The memento depicts portraits of Prince
Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge on fine bone china. On the reverse of
the mug, produced by online company Guandong Enterprises, is the
hopeful message: “The body of a man, the beauty of a woman, may they
But despite the Chinese-sounding company name and the
fractured English used in the description of their product, the souvenir
may not be all it seems. A small printed disclaimer at the foot of the
website reads: “This is a novelty item featuring the images of Prince
Harry and Kate Middleton” – and the registered office is in North
The firm also “accidentally” made the same mistake
prior to the wedding last year.
How smiley is that? Ten out of ten, especially so given that clever
“Guandong Enterprises” which makes it sound like a typical Chinese
take-away special. Clever stuff. I bet they will sell a shedload.
PS: One final thought on Bank Holidays, especially wet ones, and
which is at odds with the thinking of Moira Brodie, above:
“If the Government was really committed to marriage it would do away
with bank holidays: nothing good ever comes of spending too much time
with one’s spouse.” Writer Sarah Vine, wife of Education Secretary
Wednesday, April 11
The Beatles and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the Meditation Centre,
Beatling about in the archives
HERE’S a little something I spotted in a Telegraph Picture
Gallery, a celebration of the work of photographer Philip Townsend (born
Let’s join up a few dots...
First finding success photographing young debutantes for Tatler
magazine, Philip Townsend spent the 1960s taking pictures of the
decade’s most popular stars and notorious personalities.
Some of the most striking images from those years are
now featured in the exhibition Sorry You Missed the Sixties at
the Playboy Club in Mayfair in London, on until April 30. Here Townsend
recalls the stories behind some of his most memorable encounters.
And here indeed is the lead image, the one that really made me smile...
Abbotsbury Road, Kensington in 1967
Philip Townsend enlightens us thus:
“After this meeting they went to the Hilton Hotel, Park Lane, where the
Maharishi gave a lecture. These shots were taken before the Beatles went
to Wales or India. The picture of all the fabs, partners and road crew
is interesting as it is one of the few with the whole lot in one snap.
Images from this meeting are exclusive to me as I was the only
photographer there. I had been asked by the holy man’s PRs to take them
but they failed to pay me so I own the copyright.”
What I particularly enjoy about the picture is confirmation of how
seriously the Beatles took themselves. Something pretty much all
celebrities do these days, what with their Jesus Christ-like followings
on Twitter (or perhaps that should read Maharishi-like followings in
this case - didn’t John Lennon say that the Beatles were more popular
Look at that picture again and note how grim and
unsmiling the Fab Four appear ... Then look at everybody else in the
room: they’re all dying to burst out laughing – well, all except the
blonde sitting between George and Ringo, who is clearly suspicious of
the whole shooting match and would, all in all, rather be down the pub. (I’m fairly sure she is Maureen Starkey, then
partner of Ringo.)
It is such a telling photograph. The delightful
doolallyness of celebrity. There, for all of us to see, in black and
Pass the Pepper
STAYING with the Fab Four, also back in 1967, British pop artist Peter
Blake came up with the Beatles’
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club
Band album cover. It was a mighty fine testament to
those considered famous back then, featuring writers, musicians, film
stars and a number of Indian gurus (that last one was a George Harrison
request – see picture above).
Blake has decided to mark his 80th birthday by updating
the iconic artwork, and has thrust a plethora of newer British talent
into the limelight: “I’ve chosen people I admire, great people and some
who are dear friends,” Blake told the
The late Amy Winehouse is featured, as are the likes of
JK Rowling, Kate Moss, Damien Hirst and even the Monty Python foot
(“there are better parts of his body available at very little cost,”
said original Python Terry Jones).
Images of both the original and the updated version are
there to study online.
However, the image I’ve decided to go with is a marvellous Adams
cartoon from the Telegraph...
Mr Cameron’s Lonely Hearts Club Land...
It’s a wonderful roundup of the usual suspects: clowns, cowboys and
crooks. Those who have managed to screw the UK to death while busy
feathering their own nests, individuals you would never, ever want to
spot moving in next door.
Having said that, there are a few present and
incorrect, who are presumably there to challenge the rule of thump
(‘thumb’ I’d meant to type, but thump is so much better).
Lenny Henry, obviously – I don’t think he has done
anything to damage the reputation of the country, but I guess it’s the
Lonely Hearts Club thingy. And there, top left, third in, Gio Compario
from Gocompare, the insurance comparison website.
Yes, Gio’s very annoying, but I don’t think he’s harmed
anyone. And I have no idea what that poor horse has done to be seen in
such dreadful company.
Anyway, a great collection of the goons, the bad and
Tuesday, April 10
TODAY has been a bit of a spring-clean day hereabouts. I’ve relocated
the January > March smiles to the archive – the link found both
on the margin (bear sharp right), and at the very bottom of this page
(straight ahead until you come to a dead end - watch out for the hot
airbags). I’m quite flabbergasted how all this stuff has built up over
just a few brief years.
Anyway, the revised intro at the top -
TO SELF – is a nod and a wink to the newly discovered notebook,
Notes to Self, by artist Leonardo da Vinci (and how
astonishingly complex his notes appear - have a quick Google).
Of course, the subtle differences between my notes and
Leonardo’s are, that mine can be revisited at any time, and hopefully,
they will make me smile time and time again. Smashing title, though,
Notes to Self, which I have morphed into musical notes because
music, in any form – as long as it’s melodic and catchy – works for me.
Interestingly, there was a discussion on the radio this
morning about “earworm music”.
An earworm is a piece of music that sticks in the mind, so much
so we seem to hear it even when it is not being played. [Currently
there’s an O2 ad on telly featuring the theme song Little
Boxes, which rather proves the point for me.]
The phenomenon is common, and is also called a
‘haunting melody’ or ‘hard-to-shake melody’.
In Germany, where the
phenomenon was first recognised, an earworm is known as “ohrwurm”, a
type of song that typically has a high, upbeat melody and repetitive
lyrics that verge between catchy and annoying [Little Boxes,
One reason why this occurs, apparently, is that melodic
music tends to have a rhythm which repeats and therefore burns itself
onto our brain’s hard drive. This cyclical nature may cause endless
repetition unless some way to achieve a climax is found, which then
breaks the cycle.
I was intrigued to learn that Mark Twain’s 1876 story
“A Literary Nightmare” (also known as “Punch, Brothers, Punch”) is about
a jingle which you can get rid of only by transferring it to another
person. (Not a “jingle” as we would think of today – remember it is 1876
– but a catchy little poem: think Spike Milligan.)
Honestly, there is nothing new under the sun. Oh, and a
great earworm link coming up down below.
Relocation, relocation, relocation
Talking of nothing new under the sun, I’ve brought my previous “Welcome
to my world” photo from up there to down here, to replace it up there
with a little lamb that had temporarily lost its way.
There’s a spot along my morning walk where a host of
golden daffodils grow in a traditional farmer’s field, which is most
unusual. This particular lamb had clearly become momentarily separated
from its mother, and then it spotted me: I froze – and it began to move
slowly towards me.
This was not normal behaviour, for it was obviously not
a pet lamb. I gently adjusted my camera position to take a shot ... the
lamb stopped ... stared at me ... I pressed the button – the flash and
the click frightened it and it shot off up the bank, to join its mother
just over the brow.
It certainly earned my smile of the day, even if the
daffodils had seen better days and were starting to wilt.
inside the box
Back with Little Boxes:
it is a song written by Malvina Reynolds in 1962, which became a hit
for her good friend Pete Seeger, in 1963. It is well worth watching the
YouTube link, below, of Malvina Reynolds singing the song, but
the accompanying video is a Claymation homework assignment by the
If this doesn’t make you smile – and watch out for the
campfire flame (lol, as someone comments)...
Monday, April 9
YESTERDAY I reflected on how, in the film Lawrence of Arabia, the
dramatic emergence of
Omar Sharif, through a desert mirage, and
onto the international stage, stands as one of the grandest and most
spellbinding debut appearances in all of filmdom. Both literally and
Error on page
The scene also made me ponder about the Second
Coming - when it comes to pass, that is - and The Sharif entrance could well be how it all happens. Out of the
wilderness, and all that...
This in turn took me back a few days to a Western Mail
cartoon - pictured below - which really did tickle my sense of the
We are reliably told that the universe began with a Big Bang, so
it sort of makes sense that the whole shebang will end with
Abrupt Closure. Just like that. Or just like that, over by
May you live for ever and die suddenly. Click.
This in turn brings me to the following curious tale from the U.
S. of A:
A group of atheists has “unblessed” a road in Florida ... Highway
98 had been blessed by a Christian group last year, but an
Atheist group called Humanists of Florida – armed
with mops, Magic Foam, and a carton of
“Unholy Water” – were
determined to prove a point about the presence of religion in
the Central Florida county, and symbolically scrubbed away the
sacred oil and sprinkled “unholy” water instead.
“We come in peace,” said Mark Palmer, director of the
group. He said last year’s blessing “sends a very bad signal to
anyone who travels through the county and doesn’t happen to be a
A local pastor, Glen Copple, said: “I find it
absolutely ludicrous that the atheists, who say they don’t
believe in God, have to erase something that they don’t believe
in. Only two of them showed up.”
A Bill Whitehead creation
Definitely smile of the day material. But what precisely is “unholy
Well, “holy water” is defined thus:
(Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) water that has been blessed by a
priest for use in symbolic rituals of purification.
So by definition, common or garden water is “unholy
water”. What we might term as:
PS: Talking of water, if I see, hear or read any more about the
Titanic, I shall definitely click the box in the upper right-hand
corner. Yes, a worthy subject to cover, for sure – but talk about
PPS: The end of March saw summer-like temperatures and
conditions. The first week of April saw winter-like frosts and snows.
Bank Holiday Monday, today – and it rained and blew and blew and rained
– all day long.
At the risk of exercising my own bit of overkill: No,
Sir, when a man is tired of the British weather, he is tired of life.
Sunday, April 8
Beware your unfriendly, neighbourhood Sharif
BEFORE settling down in front of the box to watch an afternoon of
European rugby, I first caught the opening 40 minutes or so of that
great biopic from Sixties cinema, Lawrence of Arabia.
It is not so much David Lean’s tale of TE Lawrence
brought so memorably to life by a particularly charismatic Peter O'Toole
– the real Lawrence here, in tandem with O'Toole’s astonishing screen
No, neither is it the film’s dramatic and all-embracing score, nor the majestic
shots of desert scenery, which look good even on my ‘big bum’ TV set that
still sits comfortably in the corner of the room – incidentally, have
you noticed how the improvement in technical quality of the modern
television picture is inversely proportional to the dumbing down of what
we actually watch on the screen?
Be all that as it may, what made me watch before switching to the rugby is the scene some
30 minutes into the film: Lawrence and Tafas, his Bedouin guide, are
taking water at their very own Crazy Camel Saloon Bar, a well in the desert –
when suddenly, on the distant horizon, something grabs their
Just a speck of dust initially... Is it a bird?
Is it a dust storm? Is it a mirage?
Slowly, ever so slowly – and quite dramatically – a traveller riding a
camel becomes discernable through the wavy heat thermals.
O'Toole’s body language throughout this scene is
spellbinding. The approaching rider, dressed all in black, as if heading
to a funeral, grows ever more imposing as he approaches the well across
the vast sand plain – when suddenly a shot rings out and Tafas falls
dead before he can fire his own gun at the stranger.
Omar Sharif’s entrance (as Sherif Ali) onto the
international stage stands as one of the
grandest and most spellbinding in all of filmdom. He arrives at the
well, elegantly dismounts the camel and immediately inspects the prone Tafas.
responds an angry and emotional Lawrence.
is my well ... He was nothing. The well is everything.”
The scene is so dramatic it conjures up a wry smile every time I think
I have always imagined that when the Second Coming materialises, this is
how the new Jesus Christ will appear to save us all. But I don’t think
he will shoot anyone. Mind you, if Tony Blair should happen to be taking
a drink at the well - well, who knows.
Here is a curious fact about that unforgettable scene:
To film Omar Sharif’s entrance through a mirage,
Freddie Young used a special 482mm lens from Panavision.
Panavision still has this lens, and it is known among cinematographers
as the “David Lean lens”. It was created specifically for this shot and
has not been used since.
Here is a TCM link to that scene, which is aptly headed:
My name is for my friends
Saturday, April 7
Drip ... drip ... drip ...
A WEEK or so back I shared with you some smiley newspaper letters
apropos the drought-hit areas of England. Let’s recall the one from Anna
Anderson of Westcliff on Sea, who told the tale of staying at a Scottish
guest house in the Seventies, and looking forward to a nice hot soak.
She had already disrobed when she noticed this sign: “Bath 25p – ask for
This water shortage story will run and run, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Especially so given these confused weather patterns we are increasingly
experiencing. Anyway, today this surfaced, again in The Daily
Water, water, everywhere
SIR – Advertising to attract visitors to the Isle of Man focuses on
scenery, beaches, etc. Maybe this year our slogan should be: “Come to
the Isle of Man and have a bath.”
Bob Shacklock, Onchan, Isle of Man
The above sales pitch took me back to my schooldays, and I recall our
geography master, Mr Spiller, asking the form’s Tommy Tucker (only the
name has been changed to protect the guilty): “Where is
the Isle of Man?”
A bit of a pause: “Um, nowhere near the Virgin Islands,
Off at a tangent then ... I also liked this:
SIR – Our bank has just introduced a “summary execution policy” for its
customers. It seems rather a harsh punishment for displeasing one’s
James Service, Noss Mayo, Devon
What an extraordinary expression for an organisation to use. Not so much
blue sky thinking as foggy day in London Town confusion. Musing on the
expression, I wasn’t sure I knew precisely what “summary execution”
This, compliments of Wikipedia:
summary execution is a variety of execution in which a person is
accused of a crime and then immediately killed without benefit of a full
and fair trial. This includes show trials, but is usually understood
to mean capture, accusation
and execution all conducted at the same time.
Summary executions have been practiced by police,
military and paramilitary organizations, and are frequently associated
with guerrilla warfare, counter-insurgency and any other situation which
involves a breakdown of the normal procedures for handling accused
prisoners (either civilian or military).
That makes it an even more bizarre thing for a bank to write. No wonder
it was our banking and financial systems that brought the world to its
knees. Time to turn the guns on our summary executioners, methinks.
Oh yes, back with that last letter writer: what a splendid name for a
place, Noss Mayo. It is well worth a quick Wikipedia visit – a
short entry, but very intriguing.
with the weather
Over recent days I’ve written about the doolallyness of the British
weather – again mentioned in passing, just above – so here’s the best
description thus far of this phenomenon, as penned by a Nigel Farndale
(is he the head of UKIP, the UK Independence Party?) – anyway...
The past few years have seen unseasonable heat in April followed by
flooding in August. Our weather has become like “Grieg’s Piano Concerto,
by Grieg” – as played by Eric Morecambe for André Previn. It has all
the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.
Perfectly brilliant. (Come to think of it, the boss of UKIP is Nigel
Farage. Glad I cleared that one up before going to bed.)
Simple pleasures of life
I HAVE probably mentioned in a previous dispatch that my mother was
charmed and seduced by a lark – as opposed to an owl. Meaning, my
default setting is to be in bed before ten of an evening – then later I get up and go home, ho, ho, ho!
No, I tend to be in bed before ten, and then I surface just before five of a morning (I always
awaken in time to hear that little click the alarm clock makes just before it
goes off - strange but true).
Anyway, that’s how my sleep habits operate when at
home, even on the two days of the year I officially put my feet up, St
David’s Day (March the 1st) and Christmas Day (December the – well, you
know the rest).
Yesterday I spoke with affection apropos the
doolallyness of the British climate, how every day is a bit of an
adventure because we have no idea what lies in ambush (70 degrees and
clear blue sky yesterday, 7 inches of snow and grey skies tomorrow, sort
“No, Sir, when a man is tired of the British weather, he is tired of
Well now, this morning, at five, I enter the kitchen,
and through the window, in the south-western sky, I see a glorious full
moon, boasting an eye-catching pinky-orangey tint, hanging there in a clear
sky. I put a coat on and go outside – it is cold and frosty – and I take in the
glorious sight ... I guess it will set behind the nearby rolling
hillsides, oh, in about 30 minutes, and it will be a sight always well worth a few stand
and stare moments.
I have some breakfast – just a few slices of toast and
honey – and at half-five I dress warmly to go outside. The moon is now
startlingly orange, and as it nears the horizon, an optical illusion
makes it balloon in size. At 05: 36 it begins to set...
At 05:37 something quite magical happens. Out of the
south-western sky comes the International Space Station ... although low
in the sky – at an elevation of just 16 degrees I discover later – it is
perfectly clear and bright in the cloudless sky, and I am able to follow
its path eastwards.
And then, some four minutes later, as if by magic, at
the precise same moment, the moon disappears and the space station fades
You really couldn’t make it up.
At half-six I set off on my morning walk. After climbing the couple of
fields directly behind the cottage, I reach the highest local point, and
I am now facing east, the Black Mountain and the Carmarthenshire Vans
stretching out in front of me – and there, precisely an hour after the
moon set, a blood-red sun was rising.
All sorts of things make me smile, so who would have thought that
watching moonset and sunrise – throw in a space station as a bonus –
could generate such a glow of satisfaction in the viewer...
Just to add to the glory of the morning, about an hour later, I am deep
in the heart of the Towy Valley; it is perfectly still and very cold –
to go from 70 degrees to minus-four in just a few days takes the body a bit
of adjusting to – and then I hear it, one of my favourite country
sounds. Whoosh ... whoosh ... whoosh ...
I scan the sky ... and there they are: a flight of
swans heading up the valley ... the formidable sound their wings
generate as they power their significant body weight through the air is
quite awesome. Especially so on such a quiet, still morning.
I capture a couple of pictures of the group as they approach
... and then I just watch them pass overhead and continue their journey
up the valley...
Whenever I catch a science programme which depicts ‘flying dinosaurs’,
especially so the size of some of them – and acknowledging the sound a swan
makes in flight – then those creatures must have sounded like
helicopters when approaching.
A smile direct from the imagination.
smile began with a quote compliments of the Clown Prince of Doolally,
Russell Brand. Today, featured in the quotes of the day, was this gem:
“Fame is, I think, just a disgusting by-product of what I do. It’s
quite a delicate creature – it’s a wild animal of sorts. It can love
you, and then it can attack you.”
Katy Perry, singer and ex-wife of the Clown Prince of Doolally, Russell
Now I would have thought, taking this and the quote just below, in
tandem, that they were a perfect match. What is more, proof, if proof
were needed, that celebrity does indeed drive our celebrities bonkers.
Thursday, April 5
Under the weather
have to let anything go. I don’t hold on to anything negative. It’s the
same as zero-ness. It’s not about letting it go. You can’t let go of
something you don’t hold, you know. It’s meaningless.”
An enigmatic Russell Brand discusses the weather – no he doesn’t: he is
actually discussing his failed marriage to Katy Perry.
But Russell could have been talking about the weather. Well, he could
have been talking about anything under the sun.
I have frequently indulged Russell Brand’s
doolallyness – a potential Patron Saint of Doolallyness? – but of late
he appears to be trying to convince us that he is well into his descent
into madness, which is all rather sad, not least for the man himself.
From bikini to bobsleigh
Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather.” Samuel Johnson
Johnson could well have said
for we are as a nation obsessed with the weather, probably because the
whole shooting match is so unreliable and unpredictable.
Johnson could also have said:
“No, Sir, when a man is tired of the British weather, he is tired of
As opposed to:
when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”
Just a week ago I wrote about the unseasonably warm, summer-like weather
we were enjoying. I headed my piece:
Talking of living in a rural area, this afternoon was such a stunningly
beautiful affair under a cloudless blue sky, with a gentle breeze and
the temperature tickling 70, I decided to go for a walk through the
fields surrounding the cottage.
It was surreal beyond. If I had taken a picture and posted it here
you would have observed, oh, what a beautiful winter’s day down there in
the Towy Valley.
Summertime, I thought to myself, and the living is easy – yet all
the trees were totally bare of leaves. As I said: it was bizarre beyond.
Yes of course, up close the hedges are just starting to burst into
leaf, as indeed are some of the trees – but, from a distance, you just
couldn’t tell. They appeared bare, as in winter.
It was a most extraordinary day. And likely to be repeated
tomorrow ... before temperatures return to normal – indeed, with the
threat of snow in some parts as we head towards Easter.
I never grow bored of the British weather. Which is why I probably
never get bored of life.
Clearly, Samuel Johnson’s words were subliminally planted in my
thoughts. And of course, over the past day or so, the cold and the snow
returned with a bit of a spring in its step, although my particular square mile
escaped with just a few spits and spots of rain. But it has been all very cold.
Then today, NASA released an amazing brace of
photographs, the two images separated by just a week...
Left: A virtually cloudless (and rare) photo of the United
Kingdom and Ireland viewed from space, taken during
the last week of March when the UK enjoyed summer-like weather, with parts of
Scotland experiencing record high temperatures for the time of year (if
you look closely, you can just about see me walking the fields
surrounding the cottage).
Right: The same view one week later, when around seven inches of
snow fell in parts of Scotland, before moving south into areas of
England and Wales.
Here are two of my favourite pics from the past
couple of days - both made me smile...
during school holidays get snowed-in near
Pickering in North Yorkshire
Photo: Owen Humphreys
Snow covers a road sign
in the Brecon Beacons, just up
the trail from my square mile
Photo: Tim Ireland
“No, Sir, when a man is tired of the British weather, he is tired of
Wednesday, April 4
Whistle while you work
“I CAN’T stand people whistling, it makes me want to kill them.”
Britton, 54, English television presenter, whistles down the wind.
Fern does not elaborate on whether it’s wolf whistling that upsets her
so, or indeed anyone who happens to be passing and is whistling a happy
tune. The smart money says she won’t go within a million miles of One
Man and his Dog.
Curiosity made me Google the quote ... well now, it comes from a Q&A session
the Daily Mail newspaper. The question: The pet hate that makes your hackles
There is no further explanation to her response – but it brings to mind
one of Hollywood’s most memorable love scenes. It comes from To
Have and Have Not:
Slim (Lauren Bacall to Humphrey Bogart):
You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve. You don’t have to say
anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just
whistle ... You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your
lips together and ... blow.
It has to be one of sexiest scenes in all of filmdom – a link to 56
seconds of heaven coming up down below...
Anyway, back with Fern Britton’s Q&A session.
The next question but one was this: The person who has influenced you most...
My mother, who’s 88. She taught me that “everything passes”.
Everything except people whistling, obviously.
All the above took me back a few weeks, when David Cameron committed
Britain to passing legislation which will criminalise “unwanted verbal,
non-verbal or physical conduct”, which involves wolf whistling,
Some time ago, I was walking along the pavement in
Llandampness. A white van passed me from behind. Almost immediately I
heard a loud, emphatic and very horny wolf whistle. The van, rather than
its occupant, had whistled at a blonde female walking along the pavement
(I see that you can buy a Wolf Whistle Horn: every day a day at school,
I did not know this attractive lady, but as we closed our eyes met
- and I
smiled ... she smiled. I stopped ... she stopped. “The moment I
saw you I was overwhelmed with the need to wolf whistle,” I
said, “but that damn van beat me to it.”
She laughed: “That’s never happened to me before – it
quite made my day.”
I suppose that being whistled at by an inanimate object, rather
that a person, does throw all the balls into the air.
Intriguingly, she had no idea what the driver or his mate
looked like – just that it was a white van.
Back with David Cameron and his need to criminalise
wolf whistling, how do you prosecute something which many
(most?) people are simply not offended by? Indeed, whether
something is welcome or unwelcome could well depend on which side
of the bed you got out of that morning – or indeed who the
delivery boy or girl, man or woman, is.
Anyway, let’s finish with some absolute class, the whistling scene from
To Have and Have Not. Marvel at the fact that Lauren Bacall is
just 19 years of age. Also, look and listen out for the last few
seconds of the clip, which is so relevant to the above. Oh, and enjoy the
Top Comment on the site – magic.
Tuesday, April 3
Nice set of wheels you got there
“I CALL my sports car my Male Menopausal
Machine.” Dr David Bainbridge, 43, science writer, reproductive
biologist and veterinary anatomist at the University of Cambridge,
currently studying human middle age, in particular if the
mid-life crisis in the male actually exists i.e. men running after
inappropriately young girls while driving inappropriately powerful
sports cars – heard on the wireless quoting his own mid-life
“I heard the other day of someone who’d bought
a flashy new Audi sports machine and he called it his Concubine
Harvester.” Ho, ho, ho!
Perfect cornering, no understeer, no oversteer.
Mind you, I am always amused when I hear of men suffering the Male
Menopause. Look, if women suffer the menopause, then men, surely, suffer
Just today, with the heatwave having disappeared and
snow promised overnight, I suddenly realised that I too had hit the
womenopause when I passed a pretty girl in a very short skirt and
thought: Gosh, she must be cold in that.
(With apologies to Dewi the Butcher of KO Corral
territory, Dodgy City – who had it mentioned in dispatches on a local
All this reminds me of a letter I spotted in The Sunday Times
I love my new BMW 520d, especially its professional multimedia system.
It is so clever, but maybe too clever – or possibly even a Latin
It was reading out loud an email to me and it said:
“Attached is my one hundred and five.” Intrigued, I looked at the screen
to see: “Attached is my CV.” Brilliant!
Colin Allen, Barnet, London
That’s very smiley, but I did find my natural-born cynical self
thinking: Believe nothing you hear and only half what you read.
Finally, and continuing in the motoring mood...
Last Wednesday, when the fuel crisis panic kicked in, I wrote of my own
experience that day. Here’s
just a taste:
Whenever the car’s fuel gauge hits the halfway spot, I fill up. It is
not so much because I live in a rural area and prefer to keep the fuel
tank topped up (just in case), but rather I find it less painful to fork
out £30-50 a time to top up rather than £60-100 to fill up ...
Today, the petrol tank was not quite half empty –
normally I would say
over half full”,
but these are not normal times - so I topped up anyway ...
Yes, I’m as doolally as the rest of ‘em, a doomed
conformist, straight over the cliff in hot pursuit of the lead lemming.
Well blow me, in today’s Daily Telegraph, this appeared:
SIR – Last week I thought that the petrol tank in my car was half full.
Now, I realise to my horror that it is actually half empty.
Bob Bruford, Horsham, West Sussex
Great minds think alike, obviously!
And finally, finally...
As is my wont, I Googled today’s lead headline – and up popped this:
Nice set of wheels you got there-
Is the use of meronym and synecdoche the same thing? If not, please
illustrate. I am confused.
by whimsicalnymph to Writing & Language
Now meronym and synecdoche are words you are unlikely to hear in the
Bible or in the Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.
Intrigued, I perused the dozen replies. I’ve picked out a couple:
title [“nice set of wheels you got there”] could be either a
synecdoche (you bought a new car), or a meronym (you bought a new set of
wheels for your car). Synecdoche is figurative; meronym is literal.
by weapons-grade pandemonium
A meronym is simply a part of a whole. A finger is part of a
hand, a sailor is part of a group of men and women on a ship, the White
House is part of the architectural layout of Washington, D.C.
Synecdoche is where the part stands in for
the whole. If I say “All hands on deck”, it refers to hands, yes, but
the “hands” mean the crew. If you hear a reporter on television
saying: “The White House said today that they are not convening 'Death
Panels'”, it doesn't mean that the building itself said anything, being
an inanimate object; rather, the Executive Branch / The President is
being referred to.
Yes, where do those posters get their extraordinary names? I rather
liked the user name KlingonOffTheStarboardBow spotted on a recent
Telegraph comment board, who wrote at length about the shortcomings of
the EU – it was rather good and well recommended by visitors to the site, but it needed a
sub-editor to ruthlessly trim it back.
Klingons, especially when spotted off the starboard
bow, would use very few words to make their forceful points of view.
A see-through moment
BACK on March 24 I told the tale of Louise, owner of The Bewitched
and the Wardrobe in Llandampness, a ladies’ fashion shop
specialising in sexy
lingerie, who’d had a surprising visit from a young man looking for a
Anyway, I have just caught up with this tale of Ivor
the Engine, one of the regulars down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, who
visits Louise’s shop to buy a negligee for his wife, Gwladys, or Glad Eyes
as we all know her.
Ivor has come up smiling with a handsome accumulator
win on the horses, so decides to treat his lovely Glad Eyes. Louise shows Ivor
various negligees; the more sheer they are, the higher the price. Ivor
decides to go the whole hog and opts for the sheerest and forks out a
Back home he presents it to Gwladys and asks her to go
upstairs and model it for him. Once there, Glad Eyes ponders her
cat-walk moment: “Wel-i-jiw-jiw!”
she thinks. “This is so sheer I won’t even bother to put it on. I’ll
model in the all-together and then take it back tomorrow and pocket the
£400. Ivor will be none the wiser.”
She appears naked and strikes a modelling pose at the
top of the stairs. “Bloody ‘ell!”
Ivor splutters. “For
£400, you’d think they’d at least have ironed it.”
(Paraphrased, compliments of Michael Winner in The Sunday Times, who
in turn borrowed it from a Dennis Pallis of Kent – but the tale had Ivor and his
beloved Gwladys written all over it.)
The Billy Goat
Gruff Internet and the troll under the bridge
A MORE serious moment ... just occasionally, a sober observation creeps
up on me when I’m not looking. I had a letter published in The Daily
Telegraph today, a missive which is a few asterisks removed from my
default position. The Telegraph even showcased the letter with a
photograph of the subject matter.
Internet trolling is just a new form of obscenity
SIR – Walter Ellis asks: “When did the world become so abusive
and so rude?” (“On being loathed and despised by commentators
underneath my blog post”, Telegraph.co.uk, March 28).
I can tell him precisely: on the evening of November
13, 1965, when Kenneth Tynan, the theatre critic, first used the
F-word on the BBC. That moment legitimised obscenity.
Of course, obscenity and bullying are natural
bedfellows. You do not need to be particularly observant to note
that those who use obscenity as a tool for daily communication
are horrible human beings of the sort you certainly don’t want
to find moving in next door.
Today’s internet “trolls” are Tynan’s legacy.
Master of the trolls?
Kenneth Tynan famously uttered
an obscenity on BBC live television
HB, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire
I had no idea what Tynan looked like until I saw this photograph.
If I apply my dolphin or shark? / pussycat or polecat? / sparrow or
sparrow hawk? / lay-by or roundabout? ... my instinct suggests a
roundabout, a person you approach with caution, navigate at arm’s length and hastily exit with a sigh of relief - as opposed to a
lay-by, a person you pull in to have a chat with before continuing your
journey, spirits having been suitably lifted by the exchange.
Whatever, most online comments on my letter tended towards my point of view, although it was
fascinating how the word “troll” took contributors into the world of
anti-Semitism, the German Reich, the death camps – and unexpectedly,
what part, if any, the Polish people played in the construction of those
death camps. Intriguing stuff.
Anyway, back with the casual use of obscenity,
Percyvere said this:
I can swear like a trooper if I want to, but I would never do so in
public, in writing or in front of my family, for example.
I empathised with that. While I don’t swear “like a trooper”,
I certainly do keep a couple of obscenities in a glass box inside my
head which is marked “In case of emergency break glass”, but
like Percyvere, I do not swear in public; I do so just occasionally in
writing, and then only inside quotation marks – which leads to this from...
human beings of the sort you certainly don’t want to find moving in next
door.” How terribly British. Just like the silliness of
blaming Tynan, who was only making public the sort of language the
luvvies of the day used every day. You seem to have forgotten the
Chatterley trial, not to mention Ulysses.
Also, in some ways the internet is more tightly
controlled than the BBC in 1965: try saying “ni**er” on twitter and see
what happens to you.
An interesting observation – although being called “terribly British”
made me smile; anyway, with Chatterley and Ulysses you make a conscious
decision to enter the imaginary worlds of both D H Lawrence and James Joyce.
Just like the Asterisk Bar at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, really: I go
there out of choice.
The BBC, however, is invited into our homes on the
understanding that it behaves properly unless it gives due warning.
Sadly though, it seems the BBC is now run by the luvvies who use
obscenity as a tool for daily communication – which is precisely why it
has become such a foul-mouthed broadcaster.
All part of its dumbing down strategy. Probably.
The Paradise of Fools
SOME rather suspicious looking news items in today’s paper: a “hot”
pasty, as opposed to a “cold” one, will in future attract VAT (a 20%
rise in cost); jerrycan-builders are having a field day due to the panic
buying and hoarding of fuel (perhaps that should read jerrycan-makers,
but it then loses a certain foundation).
A first-class stamp will rise in price from 46p to 60p
(a 30% rise) and a second-class stamp from 36p to 50p (a 39% rise), an
eye-watering jump in price, to be frank; Gorgeous George Galloway looks
like the cat that got the cream as he sweeps Bradford West’s electorate
off their feet and into bed; Tory cover-up over ‘cash for Cameron’ – no,
hang on, that last one definitely can’t be an April Fool joke.
Anyway, the following letters have recently appeared in
The Daily Telegraph:
A warm embrace
How indeed, David A Greenwood? Well, the story that fits the
profile of a
SIR – Man with pasty would like to meet lady with jerrycan and
stamps for travel and fun.
W K Wood, Bolton, Lancashire
Cost of a postage stamp goes bananas
SIR – For the price of a first-class stamp, I can have two
pounds of bananas grown, harvested, packed, shipped, marketed
and retailed. Who says that a first-class stamp represents good
Daniels, Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire
You’re winding me up, right?
SIR – Given the granny tax, VAT on hot pies, advice on jerrycans
and George Galloway winning in Bradford, how will we recognise
an April Fool story tomorrow?
David A Greenwood, East Barnet, Hertfordshire
Nick Newman's week,
perfect April Fool joke is the tax on hot pies and similar stuff.
This easy guide from The Sunday Times...
Under the government’s new rules all pies, pasties, rotisserie chickens
and toasted sandwiches will be subject to Vat at the standard rate of
20% - if they are above the “ambient air temperature” when sold to a
Freshly baked bread that is cooling down will be
excluded from the new rules. But how will the government define bread –
will a croissant count? And what about a hot cross bun?
Crumbs. A cold hot cross bun. Or more like, a cold hot bloody furious
bun. To continue...
Revenue & Customs is holding a consultation into what
I wouldn’t hold a consultation too long in case it exceeds the
ambient air temperature and then they will have to pay Vat to
themselves. Back to business...
further complication, retailers are not clear how they would
define “ambient temperature”. A lukewarm pasty sold on a hot day
could be exempt from Vat, but on a cold day it would be subject
It does not end there. Vat experts said last week that
doughnuts could be affected by the new rules, but only if they
were sold hot.
And on and on it all goes. Total madness by people you wouldn’t
trust to organise a leg over in a bordello on a lads’ night out.
I tell you, the country is run by clowns, cowboys and crooks.
“What if you buy a cold sausage roll and then heat it up at
one unidentified tweeter asked.
“Does that make you a tax dodger?”
More a jammy dodger I would suggest.
letter in The Times went along similar lines:
“Allowing a hot sausage roll or pasty to cool before it is sold
sounds like aggressive tax
Nick Newman gets a
Oh yes: you know how on a really hot day, we always
wonder if you could actually
fry an egg on the pavement – well, are we going to see an outbreak of
sausage rolls being heated on hot pavements?
Of course the trouble with all this is that nothing
heated up tastes quite the same.
A bun in the oven
As you can imagine, the Greggs bakery chain are at the centre of this
nonsense. I enjoyed
by Kennedy McMeikan, the company boss, detailing events as they
unfolded. He finished thus:
As the chief
executive of Greggs, every year I put on the staff uniform and work
several shifts in shops and bakeries alongside other employees. I do
anything from serving customers to sweeping floors.
Once when I was fairly new as chief executive I was
tasked with making sandwiches. There’s a skill to making them at speed
and I was very slow. A member of staff raised an eyebrow as I worked and
asked me what my job was. I didn’t want to say I was the boss so I told
her I was based in the head office.
She continued to quiz me and I eventually told her my
job title. “Oh hell, I hope you’re better at running the company than
you are at making sandwiches,” she said.
At the bottom of the piece it said: As told to Audrey Ward. Oh hell,
does that mean he can’t write, either?
Previous 2012 smiles:
Smile of the day 2012 (Jan-Mar)
Previous 2011 smiles:
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jan-Jun)
.. Smile of the Day 2011 (Jul-Sep)
.. Smile of the day 2011
Smile of the Day 2010
(Jan to Jun) 2009
March to May '07
June to Aug '07
Sep to Dec '07
You are here, way out west,
aka Dodgy City
FIRST TIME HERE?
c.99 seconds walking in my
I was born on the sunny side of a Welsh hillside, at a place I
Big Slopes, on the 26th and the 28th
November, in the Year of the Horse......
Previously on LOOK
Smile of the day 2012 (Jan-Mar)
Smile of the day 2011
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