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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 ...
Sunday, September 30
brief essay on the delights of escaping a computer screen for 100 hours)
WHEN the journalist and jazz supremo George Melly
realised, at the age of 60, that his rampant and legendary sex drive ─
AC, DC, Three Phase, it really didn’t matter to Georgie Porgie: if it
moves, make mad, passionate love to it, job done, thank you
Madam/Sir/Thingy ─ anyway, when he realised that his libido was finally
in retreat, he was strangely euphoric.
“I woke up one morning and felt as though I’d been
unchained from a lunatic,” he sighed, sporting a Cheshire Cat of a grin...
...he is also supposed to have said that losing the urge to
get his leg over was much like being thrown off a bucking horse ─ at least I
believe “bucking” was the word used.
Whatever, his days of wayward sexual shenanigans were
over, his addiction deleted from its default
When I first heard the George Melly tale, I was reminded
of a particular conversation with Old Shaggy down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon,
something I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned in a previous dispatch.
I would have been navigating middle-age, somewhere in the
age bracket, as I recall, and I casually mentioned to Old Shaggy that,
the older I got, the more I exercised quality control when climbing
aboard my favourite stallion with a “Hi-yo Silver, up, up and away!”.
Old Shaggy laughed: “Hubie, I’m not sure how to say this
... you are slowly but surely losing your sex drive ─ but I have to
admit, I rather like the expression ‘quality control’.”
We had a good laugh about it ─ but Old Shaggy was
absolutely correct, as he usually is about anything to do with sex. As
indeed was George Melly.
These days it’s a curious relief when the first thing
that goes through my mind on meeting a handsome woman is not how
to separate her from her knickers.
Middle age, it was declared last week with a grand fanfare, apparently begins at 55. Most
previous studies had pinpointed c35 as the age we can no longer
definitely, positively call ourselves young, which makes sense given
that most of us can only reasonably expect to live to 80, give or take.
After all, how many people do you know age 110?
had it about right:
“Age is an issue of
mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Long distance information...
Talking of loss of libido ─ at least I am not losing my
memory, which tends to go hand in gland with growing older ─ I am also
led to believe that these days there are untold numbers of people around
the globe who think the same of their mobile phone; or at least they are
looking forward to a time when they are finally unchained from the
lunatic that is the world of technological communication.
Millions upon millions ― perhaps even billions ― will be relieved when they no
longer have to suffer the 24-hour tyranny of the BlackBerry or iPhone.
I say I am led to believe: I have never entered the world
of the mobile and its associated technological wonders.
Obviously the smartphone exaggerates the importance of
communication, as any telephone call has always done. Curiously I have
never harboured much affection for the telephone, in any guise. I much
prefer to see who I am talking to. I guess I’ll have to wait until face
to face phone communication is the norm.
Anyway, there’s a delightful story about a woman whose
mobile rang as she chatted to the Queen. “You never know,” said HM, “it
could be somebody important.”
Yes, nowadays the importance of the mobile call is taken
as a given.
Getting away from it all
And now we come to something which has taken me by
surprise. For four days I have been separated from my computer ─ and
what a delightful release it has been.
I never realised quite how umbilically connected to the
computer I have become, how many hours I spend sitting in front of the screen ─
although, unlike technological prison camps of paid slaves, I do so of
my own free will.
Firstly, I use it as a tool of work. True, I only work
part-time, so I suppose I spend anything between two and four hours a
day at the computer-face earning a modest crust to keep the wolf from
I then spend a couple of hours or so a day on this web
site. True, the actual putting it together does not take much time, but the
internet leads me astray.
For example, the George Melly quote at the top I was
already familiar with,
but I thought, hm, I’ll check it out anyway, so I Googled it ... I am then
instantly drawn into web sites that have used the quote and written
about it, many in an amusing fashion ─ and an hour or so disappears,
just like that.
Then there are newspaper websites like the Telegraph and
the Mail ─ and another hour or so has gone and left me, never to return.
Next perhaps, I visit YouTube and engage what I call my
Desert Island Jukebox, music that I enjoy but hardly ever hear nowadays on the
wireless or television.
The astonishing thing about YouTube is that it is rapidly
reaching the point where, no matter how dated or obscure the piece of
music you want to hear, someone will have put it up there.
And it’s not just the music; there are wonderfully
eye-catching videos to accompany these music clips. It is obvious that
much TLC has gone into the making of them.
The trouble is, when the radio is on I can actually get
on with doing some work ─ multitasking? ─ but listening to music on YouTube
means I am drawn in to watch as well. And there goes another couple of hours in
front of the screen.
And don’t talk to me about iPlayer...
Thankfully I have avoided personal contributions on Facebook and Twitter, otherwise
I would never leave home.
The only thing I
truly missed over the four days was the Met Office rainfall radar, the moving images that
show where the rain has been falling over the previous six hours ― but
crucially it means I can then plot its likely path and intensity over the coming few hours, which
is essential when I go walking.
It really helps
to know what to wear, whether to delay my walk for an hour or so ― or
indeed to abandon the walk. I don’t
mind rain, but I avoid heavy downpours, particularly when accompanied by
So there we go. Fascinating then that this four-day break from the
computer has alerted me to what an addiction the internet really is.
It’s a time shredder. But I’m not sure where it all takes me.
I’m rather attracted to the notion of writing a book
about my somewhat off-beat and hugely enjoyable but inconsequential stroll through time ─
I mean, are you not fed up with the fact that every time you turn on the
telly or wireless you are confronted by celebrities and VIPs who have
done amazingly wonderful things with their lives and which put the rest of
us to shame?
I've done nothing of note and enjoyed every smiley
second of it. However, to tackle this project it’s obvious I have to
clear my timetable to make room for it.
As for this
web site ... well, I really enjoy
putting it together, but from tomorrow I may well revise how I approach it.
Perhaps I’ll do much shorter bulletins which may hopefully avoid my being so
distracted by things online.
Whatever, it is good to be back keeping a note of the
things wot make me smile; for example, I have just stumbled over this (online)
He ate too much jelly;
He got a fat belly
And couldn’t watch telly ─
So he had to go and listen to the radio...
Anonymous (but sounds suspiciously like Spike Milligan to me)
Tuesday, September 25
Please, Miss, may I leave the table?
OVER the coming few days, me and my computer are to be torn asunder, so
no online daily smile of the day.
Obviously life will still be awash with things which make me smile,
and I will record my favourites in my traditional diary, so perhaps when
me and my computer are reunited towards the end of the week, I’ll pick
out some good moments.
In the meantime, Pleb Gate-gate continues unabated. I have been struck
by an unusual thought...
Cry me an insult
It strikes me that the f-word is suddenly so very yesterday. Indeed only
those with an overload of trash in their DNA now have a need to
regularly deploy it to make themselves heard.
Then suddenly, out of the undergrowth explodes a curiously forgotten
four-letter word that turns out to be delightfully insulting in its
ferocity. And as a bonus it is asterisk free. Step forward “plebs”.
I still find it intriguing that Andrew Mitchell acknowledges effin’ and
blindin’, but vigorously denies using the p-word.
It’s a word that applies to 90 per cent of the population, yes even
politicians, celebrities and director generals of the BBC — especially
politicians, celebrities and director generals of the BBC.
Nine out of ten of us are frightfully plebeian, very common or garden —
yes, me included. Intriguingly though, at least half of us 90 per
will furiously deny it; but our genetic family trees do not lie, and we
detest being reminded of it.
Mind you, I am dreading hearing the word “pleb” deployed as the mother
of all insults down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon — back to diving
under the table yet again.
Whatever, I shall leave you with this intriguing piece from today’s
In full: Police log detailing Andrew Mitchell’s ‘pleb’ rant
Here The Daily Telegraph publishes in full the 442-word police log of
the incident in which the Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell abused
Whilst on duty at *** tonight (Wed 19th Sept) on a 1400-2200 hrs between
the hours of 1800-2000 I had to deal with a man claiming to be the chief
whip and who I later confirmed to be such and a Mr Andrew MITCHELL.
Mr Mitchell was speaking to PC ******** demanding exit through the main
vehicle gate into Whitehall. PC ******** explained to Mr MITCHELL that
the policy was for pedal cycles to use the side pedestrian exit. Mr
MITCHELL refused, stating he was the chief whip and he always used the
I explained to Mr MITCHELL that the policy was to use the side
pedestrian gates and that I was happy to open those for him, but that no
officer present would be opening the main gates as this was the policy
we were directed to follow.
Mr MITCHELL refused. Repeatedly reiterating he was the chief whip. My
exact explanation to Mr MITCHELL was “I am more than happy to open the
side pedestrian gate for you Sir, but it is policy that we are not to
allow cycles through the main vehicle entrance”.
After several refusals Mr MITCHELL got off his bike and walked to the
pedestrian gate with me after I again offered to open that for him.
There were several members of public present as is the norm opposite the
pedestrian gate and as we neared it,
Mr MITCHELL said: “Best you learn
your f------ place ... You don’t run this f------ government ... You’re
The members of public looked visibly shocked and I was somewhat taken
aback by the language used and the view expressed by a senior government
official. I can not say if this statement was aimed at me individually,
or the officers present or the police service as a whole.
I warned Mr MITCHELL that he should not swear, and if he continued to do
so I would have no option but to arrest him under the Public Order Act,
saying “Please don’t swear at me Sir. If you continue to I will have no
option but to arrest you under the public order act”.
Mr MITCHELL was then silent and left saying “you haven’t heard the last
of this” as he cycled off.
I forward this to you as all officers were extremely polite to Mr
MITCHELL, but such behaviour and verbal expressions could lead to the
unfortunate situation of officers being left no option but to exercise
I write this for your information as Mr Mitchell’s last comments would
appear to indicate that he is unhappy with my actions.
have recorded this fully in my pocket book.
So there you go. Mind you, I am not aware that any members of the
public present who “looked visibly shocked” have come forward with their
There again, it is reasonable to presume that they would be tourists who
really were only there to witness the passing parade — and they have now
moved on, unaware of the Gate-gate unfolding in their wake.
I wonder where we’ll be with this story when I return.
To be continued...
Monday, September 24
It’s pantomime time already
(“Oh no it isn’t!”
insist the Tories. “Oh yes it is!”
shout the rest of us.)
is a magical phrase in the story of Ali Cameron and the Forty Sieves
in One Thousand and One Useless Knights of the Realm. The story
It opens at the mouth of a street in which forty clowns have allowed a
nation’s treasures to slip through their fingers.
Andrew Mitchell, 56, the Tory chief whip and occasionally referred to as
“Posh Boy”, shouts “Open Sesame!”
as he approaches the main gates at the entrance to Downing Street.
But the nice policeman points out that, as he is only riding a common or
garden bicycle, he will not open the big gates because that is
essentially for vehicular access and it looks a little bit silly pushing
a bike through them, so he must use the smaller gate at the side, which
he will personally open for him.
And then the sky falls in on the nation’s Whipper-In...
This morning, Mr Mitchell said sorry for shouting at police officers in
his first televised appearance since he was accused of calling them
“plebs” and “morons”, not to mention lots of words featuring lots of
He admitted losing his temper after a “long and extremely frustrating
day” and said he did not use such abusive language. However, he declined
to explain exactly what happened during the row about whether he could
cycle his bike through the main gates of Downing Street.
Strange business. However, today I caught up with an amusing piece by
Rod Liddle in yesterday’s Sunday Times. Here’s just a starter for
Bravo, Mr Nasty: pushy PCs deserve a crack of the whip
It is vitally important, I have always found, that when shouting
obscenities at the police one should not disclose one’s real identity.
You should try to keep that a secret from them for as long as possible,
and preferably for ever.
Even when challenged, it is advisable to mislead them about who you are
— and you certainly shouldn’t volunteer your name and rank when they
haven’t even asked for it. That’s just letting yourself in for a load of
This was, I think, Andrew Mitchell’s main mistake. It is fine to call
the officers “F***ing plebs” and even to insist that they “learn your
f***ing place ... you don’t run this government”. But to then shout out
“I am the chief whip!
The chief whip, I tell you!
Let me through!”
— well, that’s the sort of strategic error one doesn’t expect from a
If Mitchell had had his wits about him, he would have shouted: “Let
I am the chief secretary to the Treasury,” and enjoyed, from a
distance, Danny Alexander’s intense discomfort a day later.
But he didn’t. Mitchell was so wonderfully full of himself, as he tried
to get through the barriers at Downing Street, so fabulously puffed up
with his own importance and righteous rage, that these evasions did not
remotely occur to him...
Very amusing, I enjoyed that.
Mind you, there are a couple of things that seem quite odd about the
whole incident. Firstly, why did the police keep such an accurate record
of the exchanges?
Well, it seems that the officer who wrote his report for his superiors
only hours after the incident, said he did so because Mitchell told him:
“You haven’t heard the last of this.”
The policeman said: “I write this for your information as Mr Mitchell’s
last comments would appear to indicate he is unhappy with my actions.”
Secondly, Mitchell admits behaving badly — that’s sort of okay, I mean,
we all let ourselves down badly at times — but while it seems he admits
using the f-word, he denies calling the cops ‘plebs’.
Now why would that be, do you suppose?
There is extensive CCTV coverage throughout Downing Street, but no
sound, I hear. I’m not sure I believe that, so could there be an audio
recording lying in ambush, and Mitchell is reluctant to quote anything
he said in case he is caught out?
I find it strange that if he didn’t use the word “plebs”, why would the
police pull out of the hat a word which, until this incident, is simply
never used in modern day conversation — except by somewhat pushy and
rather pompous people.
This pantomime is likely to run and run...
Red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry...
MICHAEL GOVE, the Education Secretary, has just declared the end of more
than two decades of “dumbing down” with the biggest overhaul of the UK
examinations system in a generation.
In the Coalition’s most ambitious education reforms to date, Gove
announced that exams sat at the age of 16 would be redrawn to drive up
standards and prevent schools “teaching to the test”.
GCSEs will be scrapped in favour of new English Baccalaureate
Certificates (EBaccs) focusing on traditional academic disciplines such
as English, maths and science, Gove insisted.
What an old cove Gove is. Anyway, today I caught up with this news item
apropos the above:
between the lines
Anybody relying on BBC television subtitles would have been very
surprised at Michael Gove’s reforms to the school exam system.
Apparently the education secretary is planning to replace GCSEs with
something called the “back a lorry out”.
How wonderful ... do you suppose it goes “beep ... beep ... beep...” — a
kind of fair-minded Road Runner that decides to reverse in order to give
Wile E. Coyote a fighting chance?
Red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry...
was a race horse.
Two-two was one too.
One day One-one won one race.
And Two-two won one too.
“God and Jesus couldn’t have beaten Seve and Ollie in a foursomes.”
Billy Foster, who has caddied for every European team in golf’s Ryder
Cup since 1987, offers up his opinion on star golfers Seve Ballesteros
and Jose Maria Olazabal (Ollie).
A smiley quote for sure — but I know who my money would be on.
as the hills
“Stephen Jones says the Springboks have played the same way for 130
years. Just how old is he?” A letter in The Sunday Times
sport section, from a Faan Martin, queries the newspaper’s ultra
long-serving rugby union correspondent, Stephen Jones.
abreast of the Times
“[Columnist] India Knight calculates that half of the human race has
breasts. Sadly an underestimation.” Another letter in The Sunday
Times, from a Martin Rose of London W1, this time in the wake of the
royal topless expose.
to the occasion
“The judges are looking for a tart with a golden colour and a glazed
finish.” Presenter Mel Giedroyc, who hosts the TV series The
Great British Bake-Off.
Saturday, September, 22
Now that’s what I call a pussycat
THURSDAY I featured a stunning picture from the 2012 Astronomy
Photographer of the Year competition, the perfect buttonhole on the
lapel of the Universe; it was in fact the winner.
Well, today I caught up with another picture gallery, this time entries
for the 2012 National Geographic Photography Contest.
This wonderfully eye-catching picture of a mega-moggy
jumped into my lap — and made me purr...
Michaela May spotted this male lion, the pick of the pride I
would guess, while on safari in Kruger National Park.
The Peter Principle, Plebeian and Power, all revisited
“OPEN this gate, I’m the Chief Whip. I’m telling you — I’m the Chief
Whip and I’m coming through these gates.” Andrew Mitchell, 56, the
Tory chief whip, is facing questions over his future as a cabinet
minister after he launched a foul-mouthed tirade at armed police
officers guarding the gates at the entrance to Downing Street.
My first reaction on hearing the above — after I had stopped smiling at
the utter doolallyness of power — was that Andrew Mitchell would have
saved his family, friends and colleagues a lot of trouble and
embarrassment if he had run away to join the circus when a child because
clearly all he wanted to be when he grew up was a whipper-in and a lion
tamer (“I’m the Chief Whip and I’m coming through these gates into the
The policeman specifically targeted by the tirade reported to his
superiors that Mitchell also told him: “Best you learn your f***ing
place. You don’t run this f***ing government. You’re f***ing plebs.”
I found his rant so extraordinary that I couldn’t find it in myself to
properly write the f-word in this context. Anyway, according to an eye
witness, the Conservative big-cat tamer was threatened with arrest after
branding the officers “morons”.
My second reaction was a reminder of the Peter Principle, a
belief that in an organization where promotion is based on achievement,
success, and merit, people
eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability.
The principle is commonly phrased, “employees tend to
rise to their level of incompetence”.
In more formal parlance, and particularly applicable in
the Mitchell shemozzle, the effect could be stated as: political cabinet
ministers tend to be given more and more authority until they become
drunk with power and cannot continue to work competently.
Step forward Andrew Mitchell, Conservative Chief Whip. Mitchell duly
apologised for not giving police “the respect they deserve” and denied
using such abusive language, but his outburst sparked a torrent of
His comments were seen as particularly ill-judged coming as Dale Cregan,
accused of murdering two on-duty female police officers, appeared in
court in Manchester.
The juxtaposition of a cabinet minister raging at police officers as
Manchester gets ready to bury two brave young women is a truly shocking
Pressure on Mitchell grew after it emerged Boris Johnson, the
Conservative Mayor of London, had previously called for anyone who
swears at police to be arrested, adding: “If people feel there are no
comebacks, no boundaries, and no retribution for the small stuff, I’m
afraid they will go on to commit worse crimes.” Wise words, Boris.
“Seem to recall from my school days (good comprehensive) that Roman
Empire collapsed without plebeians when patricians were left in charge.”
Assistant Chief Constable Gareth Morgan of West Mercia Police,
commenting on his Twitter account, suggests any use of the word “pleb”
Of course Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell denies calling the police “plebs” —
he would, wouldn’t he, for he himself is one.
It pushes coincidence to the limit that precisely a week ago I pondered
on the line “Told
me love was too plebeian”, from the song
Cry Me A River.
As I said back then: “Plebeian”, now there’s a word you
never hear in the Bible (I think), certainly never in the Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy
I Googled the word and discovered that the
plebs were the non-aristocratic class of Ancient Rome. The
patricians, as referred to in the above
were the original aristocratic families of Ancient Rome.
Members of the plebs were distinct from the higher
orders (in Team GB terms, anyone outside the historical ruling class and
the landed gentry, the double cream at the top of society, the people
who shaped Britain into the powerhouse it once was, would be a pleb).
A member of the plebs was known as a plebeian.
This term is used today to
refer to one who is, or appears to be, of the middle or lower order — in
common or garden folk.
Those who stand and stare at today’s movers and shakers — we all know
them, the usual suspects: politicians, bankers, business leaders, civil
servants, the law, the media, trade unionism — will note that they are
pretty much exclusively plebs, the sour cream now at the top of society,
which rather explains the rise and fall of the nation as a power base of
Sadly, we plebeians simply do not possess the genetic
inheritance leadership demands. As a matter of interest, note how Boris
Johnson is coming up fast on the leadership rails. Whatever Boris is, a
pleb he is not.
Finally, you know me and my instinct for survival: within moments of
meeting someone, I know whether I am confronted by a dolphin or a shark,
a pussycat or a polecat, a sparrow or a sparrow hawk i.e. instinctively I
know whether it’s safe to step forward and embrace, hold my position —
or perhaps even take a gentle step backwards and be ultra careful.
So here’s another peep at the dolt of the moment...
Now I can’t tell you whether the person in front of me is likely to
turn into a Hitler or a Mother Teresa — but I do know
whether they are going to make my journey through life a delight or a
disaster, so I adjust accordingly.
At this distance it looks as if Andrew Mitchell is a person you would be ultra
careful about negotiating, an individual who comes across as a rather dangerous roundabout: approach with
caution ... negotiate with your wits about you ... exit with a sigh of
relief that you haven’t been called a
pleb” and told that it’s
you learn your f***ing place”.
Yes, the above qualifies as a smile of the day. The God of Irony strikes
Thursday, September 20
A perfect buttonhole on the lapel of the Universe
at the top, I list some of my favourite things; or at least some of the
things that make me smile and help brighten up my day no end: perhaps something 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 — okay, hold it right there—
spotted this Picture Gallery headline in Telegraph Online...
The 2012 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition winners
I duly clicked — and blinked at the quality of the photographs on show.
We’ve got used to a deep space mine of stunning pictures compliments of
Hubble — but the images featured are captured by photographers standing right here on Planet Earth
(while waiting for Kate to walk onto the balcony, perhaps?).
They are astonishing images. The quality of modern equipment
available to photograph
these things is nothing short of phenomenal.
Australian based photographer Martin Pugh has claimed the top prize in
the Royal Observatory’s
Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition
the second time, after originally winning the accolade back in 2009.
As well as securing the £1,500 top prize, his image
takes pride of place in the exhibition of winning photographs opening at
the Royal Observatory Greenwich on 20 September...
Deep Space category winner, and overall winner: M51 - The
Whirlpool Galaxy by Martin Pugh (Australia)
Martin Pugh impressed the judges in this year’s competition with the
depth and clarity of his winning shot depicting the famous Whirlpool
The image — which I label ‘A perfect buttonhole on
the lapel of the Universe’ — combines incredible detail in the galaxy’s
spiral arms with the faint tails of light that show M51’s small
companion galaxy being gradually torn apart by the gravity of its giant
neighbour; a closer look also reveals more distant galaxies beyond.
It really is worth having a look at these pictures. It’s not just images
of extraordinary things lurking out there in space; there are also
pictures combining earth and space – beautiful photographs. I commend it
to the house.
Here’s a link to the
Royal Observatory’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year
own website; also, below, a link to the Telegraph gallery...
Wednesday, September 19
Is that a ferret in your pocket [or are you etc. etc...]?
IT’S ALWAYS a treat when a smiley news item leads to an ‘Every day a day
at school’ moment...
fresh out of ferrets
Ever checked into a hotel and realised you’ve forgotten to bring a
ferret? No problem: “Hello, is that room service? Would you send up a
That’s among a list of bizarre requests by guests at
Best Western —
Britain’s biggest group of independent hotels — in fact it has so many
unusual requests that it has now compiled a report detailing the
weirdest and most wonderful received this year across its 280 hotels.
Incidentally, the ferretless visitor was attending a small-animals show and didn’t
want to go empty-handed. Obviously an individual who has never attended
a dinner party without a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates or a bunch
On another occasion , an extra bed was requested for a
couple’s doll, though that was topped by the guest who specifically
wanted staff to send a ghost up to his room in the night (do you suppose
‘ghost’ is some sort of code for a woman of easy virtue, a lady of the
Other strange requests included fake tan remover,
hair-combing assistance and the nun who requested a place at breakfast
for her religious statue (she also asked bewildered hotel staff to carry
the statue to bed).
One couple asked for a fight to be recreated at their
wedding breakfast. Now that appealed to my sense of the ridiculous.
Imagine the surprise and bewilderment among the guests as the shemozzle
exploded into life. Unforgettable.
Another guest requested a meeting room for four people and
insisted it must have a bed. Now why didn’t I ever hold such meetings?
“Okay girls, time to pull into the lay-by for a break.” My meetings
would always have just me and three girls.
Fantasy apart, I can’t help wondering if that “room for
four and a bed” is linked to the fellow who wanted to share his night
with a ghost — he perhaps wanted to give someone the willies.
So what was the oddest request that Best Western received this year?
Well, a slew of single rooms with staff chaperones to watch over them
for a convention of sex addicts. The organizers wanted to ensure each
addict made it to bed alone at the end of the night. And strictly no
ghostly visitors in the middle of the night?
Tim Wade, Best Western’s head of marketing, says they take all requests
in their stride, and always try to accommodate them “no matter how off
the wall they may be.”
The one that grabbed my curiosity though was the guest who demanded a
sea view in Birmingham — which is about 80 miles from the coast.
And that set me thinking: I’m sure that’s wrong — the 80 miles from the
coast observation by Best Western, that is.
room with a view to a farm with an ordnance viewpoint
Yes, what is the farthest point from the sea in the UK? I’m sure it’s
less than 80 miles, so I Googled the query ... and I landed on a BBC
The farm furthest
from the sea
the quaint village of Coton in the Elms is a small farm. It is like most
other farms in Derbyshire, beautifully nestled among verdant fields and
grand trees and terribly unassuming...
...however, Church Flatts Farm is special. The Ordnance Survey has
calculated that it is the furthest point from the sea in all the UK. To
be precise, the identified point is one mile south-east of the farm
house, above, occupied by Henry and Joyce Blackwell.
Mrs Blackwell said she had been informed of the farm’s
special status by the Ordnance Survey, but the only people who showed
any interest in the site were occasional ramblers.
The Blackwells farm 300 sheep and 250 cattle on their
For the record, the nearest section of coast to Church
Flatts Farm is the mean low water line at Fosdyke Wash, on the edge of
The Wash, south of Boston, in Lincolnshire...
is some 70 miles (113 km) away.
So query satisfied: Best Western’s
hotel at Birmingham is less that 70 miles from the sea. Not that that
makes the original request less funny.
Talking of which, only Telegraph cartoonist
so brilliantly combine farms,
cattle, badgers, TB, Closer magazine and a topless Kate, Duchess of
The answer lies
in the soil
On the subject of farms and things rustic, here are a couple of smiley
letters, again from the Telegraph...
Outfoxing a mole
SIR – Six years ago, I tried a scheme to prevent moles from spoiling a
large lawn (report, September 10). Removing the turf, I laid out 3/4”
chicken wire over the whole area, and then put down new turf.
Where once we had what looked like a First World War
battlefield, we now have a completely smooth lawn, and no mole has been
harmed. We have not suffered any mole activity whatsoever on the lawn
for the past six years.
Richard Lucy, Aylton, Herefordshire
SIR – My father, a farmer, once installed an egg vending machine at a
local roundabout. It dispensed boxes of six eggs and bore the slogan:
“The eggs you buy here tomorrow are not yet laid.”
Anthony Stoker, Alnwick, Northumberland
Tuesday, September 18
A right royal boob (not to mention the left)
I THINK we are agreed then: there simply has to be a God Of Irony. A
quick Google confirms so — but I can’t find his name.
I say ‘his name’: a
“Irony is like gravity, it does bring us back to earth ... and irony is,
after all, a consistent son of a bitch...”.
So life is one hell of an irony and we had better get on with it,
whatever the passing parade decides to throw at us. Take this headline and image
spotted in Telegraph Online :
Royal Flush: Duchess grins and bears it on tour
Kate offers up a wry smile as she is surrounded by topless tribeswomen
during the tour of the Solomon Islands — and is presented with something hilariously
I mean, you have to smile along with her — it’s a smashing image, anyway
— but this whole topless business has taken on a life all of its own.
And isn’t it rather wonderful that on the other side of the world, it’s
regarded as the most natural thing in the world for VIPs to be greeted
by topless ladies of the lovely kind...
Pic: James Whatling
Yes, very nice — but what the hell is the fellow in the background, extreme right,
shouting into his megaphone?
“Girls, girls, girls!
If I told you once I told you a hundred times: put your kit back on.”
Meanwhile, meet the girls...
Pic: Michael Dunlea
On second thoughts, the megaphone man is probably directing instructions
at the second girl from the left, front row: “You’re a very naughty girl – see
me behind the woodshed after.”
Anyway, the whole episode is surreal beyond, really. Okay, Kate was
photographed topless, which is unfortunate for her — but
if someone had said before that the whole thing would flash around the
world during a
tour of the Pacific Islands where Kate and William would be greeted by —
— topless women ... well, you simply wouldn’t believe such a thing.
And of course, the above girls look so natural we don’t
even blink. Strange business.
And so I chanced upon a happenstance
As it happens,
I’m a great believer in coincidences. Unexpectedly, a few weeks ago
there was a letter in The Times headed
“Odd coincidences are not so very odd”.
The letter, from
of Bangor, Co Down, concluded thus:
Carl Jung was very interested in coincidences, believing them to be
evidence of a universal law yet to be understood, and contemporary
physicists are intrigued by what appears to be the convergence of like
and like across conventional notions of time, space and material world.
Whatever that actually means, it gives me a little shiver and rather
confirms my suspicions that there is much more to this world than anyone
is letting on.
Back with Kate, and given all the current court action over this
invasion of her privacy thingy, I really smiled at this online
Damon Hill, 52 [a retired British Formula 1
racing driver who won the world drivers’ championship in 1962 and 1968],
took out copyright protection on his “image”.
It seems to have worked — since then I never saw a picture of him!
And do you know, I think
Pass the witticism
I watched a bit of the Real Madrid v Manchester City game in the Uefa
Champions League tonight, and it registered that a particular Real
Madrid player, one Angel Di Maria, was giving Manchester City a hard
time with his penetrating runs and passing.
I was greatly amused when one of the English studio
pundits turned to another and asked: “So how do you solve a problem
like Di Maria?”
Very ho, ho, ho!
People on Parade
JUST caught up with a People of the week feature in yesterday’s
It was a piece about actress Gwyneth Paltrow, 39,
who has just been named the world’s best-dressed woman by the
American gossip magazine People — and the Sunday Times
wickedly linked it to the infamous
Stephen Gough, 53, who has just been jailed yet again for five months following a
naked breach of the peace after telling a court he would not co-operate
with social workers asked to assess his mental health.
Just Gwyn and wear it: see above for
of a best-dressed award well deserved – well,
I take People magazine’s word for it.
Meanwhile, the Naked Rambler reveals that
he’s been wearing a fine new suit supplied by
People magazine – but only very clever people can see it.
Thanks to The Sunday Times for many of the smiley words.
Incidentally, I enjoyed the sight of the Freedom flag flying
above the Naked Rambler’s head, juxtaposed with the mobile phone
strapped to his chest.
Whatever the benefits of the mobile phone, and there
are one or two, freedom is not one of them.
Tips of the day:
Dying to share
Medical records show that the very worst place to have a heart attack is
playing charades: your fellow participants will think you are merely
acting out a word or phrase relating to a film, book or song — and they
will go on and on trying very hard to identify what it is you are trying
to tell them...
Spotted a sign Breakfast served at any time — so I thought, hm, shall
I have a continental breakfast during the French Renaissance, 1494-1610? Or what
about a venison toastie called Norman Wisdom during 1066 and all that?
I plumped for the 1066 toastie. Sadly, I had to wait
until six-minutes-past-eleven for it to arrive. Mind you, the French
Renaissance breakfast would only have been available between
half-past-three-ish and ten-past-four.
Great little tits
A COUPLE of hundred clicks of a camera shutter in the Provence
countryside — and nothing will ever be quite the same again for Kate and
Last time I looked at France through a camera lens,
Wiggo was wearing a yellow jersey. Oh that Kate had been wearing
something similar. Actually, I have resisted the urge to Google ‘Topless
Kate’. Quite easily, it has surprised me.
Today’s Sunday newspapers have been giving the Kate expose
a good old going over, and all rather sympathetic, it has to be noted.
Mind you, I do detect the Mandy Rice-Davies Syndrome: the Brit Press
would behave like that, wouldn’t they? After all, they have Leveson
weighing heavily on their minds.
When I first heard the tale of Kate and her delightful tits in the
countryside of Provence, I thought she had started feeding songbirds
around Chateau d’Autet, Viscount Linley’s French holiday home, where the
royal couple were staying.
Much as I am doing here, a couple of great little
tits in my hand out in the wilds of the Towy Valley — oops — a couple of
little great tits...
What puzzles me though is this: why would Kate think that sunbathing
topless with all the chateau staff and the protection cum security
officers that would have been around anyway and able to see her, was a
good idea? Of course it turns out that she was sunbathing her bits on a
balcony, away from the prying eyes of a Peeping Tom world.
However, we know that Prince Harry’s protection squad failed miserably
to protect his crown jewels from public scrutiny, so you would have
thought that the security forces would have warned both William and Kate
of the dangers.
Even more disappointing that William and Kate
themselves hadn’t spotted the threat a paparazzo with a long lens would
pose; or worst, an assassin with a gun instead of a camera.
But there we go, Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be; and now,
Kate’s little genies are out of their lamps without anyone having to rub
anything. Anyway, I rather enjoyed the different styles of the two main
Sunday newspapers as they saw the event — from the light-hearted
angle, that is, which is the one that appeals to me.
First up, good old reliable MATT
in The Sunday Telegraph...
Priceless — that gormless look works a treat. And The Sunday Times
effort, above, coming from a completely different angle, I like that
Saturday, September 15
The oldest pussycat in the village
AT FIRST LIGHT, the in-house wireless was tuned to Radio Cymru, the BBC’s Welsh
language station, in particular a programme called Ar Eich Cais,
a music request programme of mostly traditional Welsh music.
One particular request grabbed my attention. It was
from a number of the people of Llanllwni, a small village some eight miles or so
south-west of Lampeter (see the Reception map on the Welcome mat at the
asked for a song to celebrate the birthday of one of the their highly
respected residents, a Mr Tom Jones, who apparently does a lot of volunteer work in the community
and is always ready to help anyone whenever he can.
That in itself is not unusual enough to warrant my
undivided attention, but the request was actually for a gentleman known to
everyone in the area as Tom ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ Jones.
Yes, that is very smiley, but again nothing unusual,
in as much that here in
Wales nicknames are a feature of daily life.
But, he was celebrating his 80th birthday.
Now I don’t know about you, but I find news of a clearly sprightly
80-year-old about town, and still known to everyone as Tom ‘What’s New
Pussycat?’ Jones, wonderfully chuckly.
Mind you, if we work back to 1965, when the film was
released and the song performed by that other Tom Jones was a hit, then that would
have put Llanllwni’s Tom Jones at just 33, and obviously in his prime.
Now why do you suppose he became known as Tom ‘What’s
New Pussycat?’ Jones? Intriguing.
PS: In the film What’s New Pussycat?, Richard Burton has a
cameo appearance as a man at the bar in a strip club. I’m not sure why,
but that amuses me.
Yesterday I featured a Telegraph letter about the great
rhymester Hal David, the American lyricist who died recently. As it
happens, he wrote the lyrics to What’s
One of the latest Sign Language photographs in the Telegraph’s
picture gallery caught my eye. It’s a sign spotted by reader Nigel Epps
while on a visit to Koh Samui, an island in the Gulf of Thailand. The
Telegraph called the image...
Very convenient [Even more convenient]
“YOU DON’T WANT TO GO TO THE PICTURES, YOU
DON’T WANT TO GO TO THE WHIST DRIVE —
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?”
Above: Handy cap, subliminally suggesting Handicap
Alongside: Andy Capp, subliminally suggesting Handicap
appealed because it reminded me of Andy Capp, a British comic
strip character from yesteryear, above, created by cartoonist Reg Smythe
(1917-1998), and featured in the Mirror group of newspapers.
Andy is a working class figure who never actually works and is forever
found in the pub, hence my enjoyment of the clever cartoon featured here. He
‘lives’ in Hartlepool, a harbour town in northeast England.
The title of the strip is a pun, a perfect phonetic
rendition of that region’s pronunciation of the word “handicap”.
Anyone who lives in a community will know an Andy Capp or two ... or
three ... maybe four. A couple of Andy Capps of my acquaintance are
often spotted propping up the bar at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.
Friday, September 14
The potency of
MATT Monro’s On Days Like These played on the radio — and
it stopped me dead in my tracks.
Just a week ago I turned on the telly, and about to start was The
Italian Job: I awaited one of the best ever opening sequences to a
film, a red Lamborghini roaring through the Alps, with Matt Monro
warbling perfectly in the background, a combination that must make even
Jeremy Clarkson wet his pants.
The car zooms into a tunnel — crash, bang, wallop...!
driver is no more, assassinated by a bulldozer standing in his way. I
sat up with a jolt: just the day before, the world had learnt of those
horrific assassinations just the other side of the Alps, also involving
a car being driven through a tunnel of agreeable surroundings.
Much as I would have enjoyed watching the film yet
— I turned it off.
How unsettling then that, for ever more and a day, a piece of innocent
music will link in my mind a slice of thoroughly enjoyable hocus-pocus to a
real-life series of brutal killings.
Coincidentally, and somewhat unsettlingly, wasn’t it Noel Coward, one of
the stars of The Italian Job, who warned us of the ambush labelled
cheap and popular music?
sad incident in The History of a Doolally World is rescued, not
so much by the words of On Days Like These — how
differently they are perceived by the eye rather than the ear — but
rather by what follows on from these lyrics...
Questi giorni quando vieni il belle sole,
La la la la la-la-la-la la la la la...
On days like these, when skies are blue and fields are green,
I look around and think about what might have been;
And then I hear sweet music float around my head
As I recall the many things we left unsaid.
It’s on days like these that I remember,
Singing songs and drinking wine
While your eyes played games with mine...
On days like these I wonder what became of you;
Maybe today you are singing songs with someone new.
I’d like to think you’re walking by those willow trees,
Remembering the love we knew on days like these.
It’s on days like these that I remember,
Singing songs and drinking wine
While your eyes played games with mine...
On days like these I wonder what became of you;
Maybe today you are singing songs with someone new...
Questi giorni quando vieni il belle sole
They really are such smashing words, despite the sadness behind them
(the music belongs to Quincy Jones, lyrics from the pen of Don Black).
Anyway, a few days ago, this letter appeared in The Daily Telegraph...
SIR – Has there ever been a greater rhymester than Hal David, the
American lyricist who has died aged 91 (Obituaries, September 3)? My
favourite comes from his hit I’ll never fall in love again: “What do you
get if you kiss a guy? / You get enough germs to catch pneumonia, /
After you do, he’ll never phone ya.”
Michael Stanford, London SE23
Which in turn prompted these smiley responses...
SIR – The real genius among lyric writers was Lorenz Hart, who died, far
too young, in 1943. For example: “When love congeals / It soon reveals /
The faint aroma of performing seals / The double crossing of a pair of
heels / I wish I were in love again!”
SIR – Hal David may have been the greatest American lyricist, but cannot
compete with our own Ian Dury.
Who else could pen the lines from Billericay Dickie: “I
had a love affair with Nina / In the back of my Cortina /
A seasoned up
hyena / Could not have been more obscener.”
Whenever amusing lyrics are mentioned in dispatches, I’m always reminded
of Julie London’s Cry Me A River, in particular this slice
of mood music:
me, nearly drove me out of my head,
While you never shed a tear.
Remember, I remember all that you said,
Told me love was too plebeian,
Told me you were through with me and -
...hang about: plebeian? Now there’s a word you never hear in the Bible
(I think), certainly never down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, Asterisk Bar. It’s a wonderful
word, and it never fails to raise a smile.
Every day a day at school:
The plebs were the non-aristocratic class of Ancient Rome, and
consisted of freed people, shopkeepers, crafts people, skilled or
unskilled workers and farmers. Members of the plebs were also distinct
from the higher orders (or what would be in Team GB the Upper Class and the Landed
A member of the plebs was known as a plebeian.
This term is used today to
refer to one who is, or appears to be, of the middle or lower order...
Told me love was too plebeian would
translate as Told me love was too common or
Talking of song lyrics, I’m also reminded of Frank Zappa’s Catholic
girls — which I tend to substitute with Llandeilo girls,
for example, the chorus:
In a little white dress,
They never confess,
I got one for a cousin,
I love how they go,
So send me a dozen,
Llandeilo girls ... Ooooooh!
Llandeilo girls ... Ooooooh!
(etc, etc — or
as Llandeilo girls are wont to say.)
Thursday, September 13
Once the genie is out of the bottle
it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Super-Listener!”
Vanessa Feltz on her Early Breakfast show, asks us, her listeners, the
sort of superpower we would most desire.
During a William and Kate walkabout in Singapore, a little girl in the
crowd at the Bay architectural display asked Prince William what
superpower he would ask for if he rubbed the lamp and a genie popped
It was a cracking question, which momentarily threw William, as it would
anyone who hadn’t given it some thought. A quick bit of footwork, and
William said he would wish for the power to be invisible, as and when
required. A good answer, fair play.
When asked the same question, the Duchess of Cambridge said: “I’d like
to be invisible too, so William can’t sneak up on me.” Yes, a perfect
A popular response on the radio was the superpower to read minds —
Vanessa firmly cautioned against that, as indeed I would. Another fellow
wanted the power just to read the female mind...
That set me thinking ... first though, I remember from many moons ago at
the Crazy Horse, the late but lovely barmaid Pearl of Joy, telling me a
tale of being on holiday in a faraway place with a strange sounding
name, and she was walking along the beach — when something glistening in the
sand caught her eye.
Yes, a lamp, in a recognisable shape, so she gently and
rubbed it ... Whoosh...!
...out popped a genie.
Collecting her thoughts in a hurry, much like
Prince William I guess, she asked if she was able to make three wishes.
“I am sorry,” said the genie. “Three-wish genies are a storybook myth.
I’m a one-wish genie. So ... what will it be, My Lady?”
Pearl did not hesitate: “Love and peace is my
thing — I’m a child of flower power, San Francisco and all that — so I
want peace in the most dangerous place on Earth, the Middle East.”
She fished around in her bag. “See this map? I want these
countries to stop endlessly fighting with each other; and I want all the
Arabs to love the Jews and Americans and vice-versa. It will bring about
world peace and harmony.”
The genie looked at the map, took a deep breath and
whistled in an exaggerated fashion, you know, the way builders do when
they look at a job you want them to price: “Lady, please be reasonable,”
said the genie. “These countries have been at war for thousands of
years. Also, I’m out of shape after being in a lamp for 500 years.
“I’m good, but not THAT good!
I don’t think it can be done. Make another wish — and please, this time,
Pearl of Joy thought for a minute: “Well, I’ve never
been able to find the right man. You know — one that’s considerate and
fun, likes to cook and help with the house cleaning, is great in bed and
gets along with my family, doesn’t watch sports all the time, and is
faithful. That, is what I wish for ... a good and honest and true man.”
The genie let out another builder-like sigh: “Let me
see that map again.”
Anyway, what of my superpower wish...
Right at the start of the Olympics Opening Ceremony, there was a
wonderful speeded-up film sequence which starts with the camera zooming
in on a written-in-stone message, out in the wilds of somewhere or
other. It reads:
“Isles of Wonder ... This stone was placed here to mark the source of
the River Thames”
And then the camera speeds its way down the Thames to arrive in the
heart of Old London Town. A very clever and eye-catching sequence.
My wish is something similar, but in reverse.
I would ask the genie to take me to the moment just after conception
— and then I would want to trace my family tree, on the male side, right
back through time...
...remember, this is a superpower I’ve just been granted. So at each stage I would first meet my father,
obviously ... then my grandfather ... next my great-grandfather – and so
back and back and back...
Imagine what such a journey would reveal — to pinpoint
and see every male link in my family tree — back to Africa — back into
the trees — back into the sea — back into the swamp — all the way back
to the big bang — and beyond, if there is such a place.
By definition, and being a wish granted by a genie, I
would be able to trace each and every step of the way back to the
beginning of the Universe,
where the very first seed of life would have exploded out from. I mean, can
Now that’s what I call superpower. What a journey it
would be, to understand and appreciate my proper roots.
genie on the loose
Chief Wise Owl (CWO) and Betty
have been married for 35 years, and were also celebrating their 60th
birthdays. They go for a walk along the banks of the River Towy. Betty
spots a shinny bottle just washed up by the side of the river.
She jokes with her husband: “Shall I give it a rub?”
Which she does anyway, without waiting for a response from CWO ... rub,
rub, rub — Whoosh...!
Out pops a genie: “Because you have been such a loving
couple all these years, I will give you one wish each.” Betty fancied one
luxurious and magnificent holiday, to travel around the world, a twelve
month open ticket on one of the grand ocean liners would do nicely,
thank you very much, Mr Genie.
The genie clicked his fingers and whoosh!
She had the tickets in her hand.
Next, it was CWO himself. He paused for a moment ...
before slowly walking along the riverbank, the genie just on his
shoulder. With a tinkle in his voice he whispered to the genie:
“Well, I’d like to have a woman 30 years younger than me.”
The genie snapped his fingers and whoosh!
He was 90...
can’t resist this...
Hold the front
is feeling a bit down and goes for a walk along the expanse of the wondrous Pendine
Sands. Yes, he too finds an unusual looking bottle washed up amongst the
flotsam and jetsam. And yes, yes, he picks it up and gives it ever such
a gentle rub, more a caress, really.
Out of the bottle wafts a curious looking spirit
figure, perhaps a genie: “You look tense,” it says to a startled Dai.
Obviously the ‘genie’, like the rest of us, could see straight through
Dai Aphanous. The spirit continued: “Would you like a good back rub?”
“Well, actually, I’m depressed because I’m so broke. I
wish you would give me a million quid instead.”
“I can’t do that, but I can give you a back rub.”
“Aren’t you genies supposed to grant wishes?”
“I’m not a genie. Does that look like an oil lamp? And
do you call what you just did to the bottle a good rub? I’ll show you
what a real rub is!”
“If you’re not a genie, what are you then?”
There’s a big sigh: “Haven’t you ever heard of a
massage in a bottle?”
Dateline early Friday morning: Given the news that has just broken about
the topless pictures of Kate, it rather puts into focus — no pun
intended — why William rather fancied the power of invisibility.
Wednesday, September 12
With rhyme and reason
I WAS looking at pictures of Kate and William out in Singapore — and I
was struck by how photogenic she is, helped of course by the fact that
she forever has an air of elegance about her. Kate was definitely born
to do the job at hand.
Also, whilst I have no fashion sense whatsoever,
whether it’s looking at a reflection of self, or indeed if I simply
stand and stare at the passing parade, but I do know when someone looks
at home and at ease in what they are wearing, whether formal, casual or
somewhere in between — and Kate always looks at home and at ease to my backwoods eye.
Today though I’m not going to stick a picture of Kate in this ‘ere
scrapbook of the wee things wot make me smile.
Looking at a gallery of pictures, one of them really caught my eye,
one which instantly wafted me back to the Paralympics, in particular to
David Weir, the wheelchair racer, the Weirwolf, as he is known.
I enjoyed seeing a banner in the stadium bearing this
are the Weir army
Given how we Welsh love our internal rhymes, now that is a five-star
effort; it trips off the tongue – which of course brings me to this
wonderful rhyme and reason image from Singapore...
Picture: Mark Stewart
And just to keep things Royal, the next picture is this week’s
Telegraph Big Picture winner, a photo submitted by Mathew Elliott
from Devon, of two young tourists enjoying their first trip to London.
Now how delightful is this? It’s the arms that give the picture its
Queen: “One is totally peed off with those in the
Houses behind us, Philip.”
Duke: “Yes, dear. Shall I instruct 'em to go forth and multiply?”
One final thought apropos the concert at the end of Monday’s
Thanksgiving Parade for the 2012 athletes, held in the shadow of the
Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace: it did cross my mind
when the Pet Shop Boys performed, that they should now be called Pet
Shop Old Boys, surely? Or even Pet Shop Men.
And, while we’re at it: should not another monumental
British group now be renamed The Rolling Boulders? Or even better, The
Stonehenge? If the Stones keep on performing into their dotage,
questions will eventually be asked as to how they got there in the first
dead end moment
Anyway, I shall leave you with a couple of delightful images, both of
which sum up the end of a journey. One comes from Monday’s Thanksgiving
Parade – but by coincidence and chance, the last thing I saw tonight was
the first of a BBC2 series about undertakers, Dead Good Jobs,
following what goes on behind the scenes.
It was insightful, moving and amusing — the undertaking
business is full of characters, which I guess you have to be to some
degree to be in the job.
I quote this neat extract of a review by Sam Wollaston in
the Guardian :
Boss Simon Lilleywhite [of Lilleywhite Funeral Services, a traditional
family run undertakers in Manchester], all in black, is just as you would expect — and
want — him to be. Pale, polished, polite, bordering on obsequious. More
than bordering on Dickensian. With a nice line in euphemisms. The
deceased may need to be embalmed “to make sure nature doesn’t take its
course sooner rather than later”, he says. Rot, I believe he means...
I do like the way Muslims do it — quickly and with the minimum of fuss…
Paul Sinclair, a biking vicar (the “faster pastor”), also specialises in
speed, though with quite a lot of fuss. He has a fleet of sidecar
hearses and powerful motorcycles to carry his clients — mainly bikers —
on their way. And he likes to give them a “last blast”, a final twist of
the right hand, that thrilling surge forward, blistering acceleration
towards wherever it is bikers go next. Here, Sinclair is sitting on one of
There’s something lovely about that particular last journey.
There’ll be no “last blast” for Malcolm Frost though. Because along with dozens of his
biking pals, there are a couple of police motorcyclists at his funeral
as well, presumably there to lay to rest any plans for a last blast.
There’s a good mix here, then, of the different ways people say goodbye.
The film is a lovely one (three actually, with two more parts to come) —
sensitive, but surprisingly upbeat, jolly even. Celebratory, just as the
best funerals are.
So here’s a perfect farewell, compliments of Monday’s Parade...
Tuesday, September 11
Swimming with dolphins and mermaids
“AS FAR as the Paralympics goes, I’m most looking forward to the
equestrian events. I’ve never seen a horse in a wheelchair.” A
Frankie Boyle tweet.
Frankie Boyle, 40, a Scottish writer and comedian well known for his
pessimistic and often controversial sense of humour, did his best to upset folk with his Paralympic jokes — but
not disabled people themselves, apparently. Mind you, the above, as
Frank Carson was wont to say, is a cracker.
It highlights perfectly that often the best jokes are
those which conjure up a ludicrous image. The idea of a horse in a
wheelchair does it for me.
It’s now the day after the Thanksgiving Parade, and
I’ve been reflecting on the Paralympics in particular. When I watched the Opening
Ceremony, I saw a man who had no legs — dance?
He was professional hand dancer David Toole, 48, who
just 3ft 2in tall in his you-know-what. I was overtaken with a look-away-now moment; I
found it somewhat unsettling ... so much so I suddenly realised that I’d
done that thing we men do when left alone to fiddle with our thoughts, the telly
and the Zapadeedooda...
The following evening, the first day of competition, I
saw a girl who had no arms — swim? And I was mesmerised. Or perhaps that
should read ‘mermerised’.
I’d noticed a Chinese girl, Lu Dong, prepare to take part in the 100m
backstroke final — and I couldn’t help but notice that she had just wee
stumps for arms. I blinked.
Even more astonishing, she took up her position in one
of the centre lanes, which meant she was a favourite. Far from reaching
for the Zapadeedooda, as had happened with David Toole, I found myself
quietly sliding forward onto the edge of the sofa*.
— and off she shot, pictured below, with Welsh swimmer Nyree Kindred
— a cerebral palsy sufferer —
in wet pursuit...
Lu Dong swam a blistering race and collected the gold — pictured above —
just ahead of silver medallist Nyree.
Watching Lu Dong swim made me realise why it is that some of those who
have studied humanity’s definitive family tree believe that our
came out of the sea; indeed, that we are closely related to the dolphin.
Lu Dong made me smile because she was the nearest thing
I have seen apropos a human move through the water like a dolphin. With no arms, she swam purely
from the waist down. Unbelievable.
In the days that followed there were many swimmers
missing one or both arms — and so many of them were Chinese, who had the
art of swimming like a dolphin off to a fine art. I was truly gobsmacked at what they could do.
Many of the females who were similarly disabled, from all nations, moved through the water
as one would imagine a being something between a dolphin and a
mermaid, hence ‘mermerised’, as mentioned earlier on.
I have since wondered why I found the dancer unsettling but the swimmers
nearest I can come to an answer is this: David Toole was using his disability
purely as a means to entertain me, but the athletes were using their
disabilities to compete against each other. Yes, I was being
entertained, but I was watching their personal ambitions being realised,
and that despite everything life had thrown at them.
Sofa: Back at the end of June I pondered the use of the words
settee, couch and sofa, and which one trips off my tongue easiest. As
you will have probably noted, I often hide behind the sofa when
there’s something awful on TV, which is rather reassuring given what the
Mayor of Old London Town said yesterday while addressing the nation’s athletes:
“Speaking as a spectator, you produced such paroxysms of tears and joy
on the sofas of Britain that you probably not only inspired a generation
but helped to create one as well.”
Now that Boris is back in the frame, on Sunday I featured the flaming
bicycle rider from the Paralympics closing ceremony — and suggested
that the vision reminded me of Mayor Johnson. Well, I’ve found a
smashing picture to sit in tandem...
Boris finally meets his match - pardon pun - coming the other way
Britain’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
“Leadership,” observed John Naisbitt, “involves finding a
parade and getting in front of it.”
Step forward Boris Johnson, who claimed the very last Olympic Gold
(metaphorically speaking) handed out in celebration of our smiley summer
“Thousands of people hit the streets, the Red
Arrows hit the skies and Boris Johnson hit all the right notes at the
London 2012 parade.” Online headline.
Whatever you think of London Mayor Boris Johnson, he definitely knows
how to find a parade, get himself in front of it, and deliver a flow of
words that plays to, and certainly delights, the gallery. Boris, by general
consent, was in fine form today. So many smiley moments from which to
He described the Olympic Parade as the “final tear sodden, juddering
climax” to a summer of sport as he praised the athletes for bringing the
Just look at the faces of those around Boris, not just the athletes, but
in particular his fellow speakers...
The Mayor, promising to keep his words of appreciation
brief as the athletes
aboard the floats had not been allowed to “touch a drop of beer” all
day, received rapturous applause as he gave his speech at the very end
of the parade.
Boris Johnson confirmed his status as the big political
winner of the Olympics and Paralympics as he shamelessly upstaged David
Cameron at the victory parade. As the Prime Minister looked on somewhat
uncomfortably, the London Mayor left the huge crowd cheering “Bo-ris!
David Cameron grins warmly through gritted
...the Princess Royal offers up a spontaneous
He’s not the Prime Minister, he’s a very naughty boy
Boris — I’ve noted that female broadcasters and journalists
address him as Boris when in conversation, rather than
Mr Johnson, which
is rather telling — anyway, Boris thanked everyone who had helped at the
He rounded up the usual and worthy suspects; he even managed to raise a cheer
for security company G4S, which failed to provide sufficient staff for
the Games, leaving the armed forces to be drafted in to fill the huge
“We say thank you to the Armed Services and the police
and, and G4S and all the people who work for them, yes,” he added.
It’s an interesting thought: did you hear anyone mention the thousands
of G4S employees that actually were on duty during the Games? They
may well have felt like pariahs, through no fault of their own, let’s be
So ten out of ten, Boris. And I’ll tell you what: not
many G4S employees will be natural-born Tories, but I guess quite a few
of them will now vote Boris for having the courage to acknowledge
Boris then turned to the athletes: “You routed the doubters and you
scattered the gloomsters and for the first time in living memory you
caused Tube train passengers to break into spontaneous conversation with
The Mayor joked that Britain had brought more medals home than France, Australia and Germany
— much cheering — and had “made everybody very
proud”. He added: “And speaking as a spectator, you produced such
paroxysms of tears and joy on the sofas of Britain that you probably not
only inspired a generation but helped to create one as well.”
Paroxysm is another word you never hear in the Bible or down at the
Crazy Horsepower Saloon Bar, so, ‘Every day a day at school’ spot: a
sudden and uncontrollable expression of emotion.
Ah, hence “not only inspired a generation but helped to
create one as well”. As a bonus, “paroxysm” found itself as the “word of
the day” on Vanessa Feltz’ early-morning-after-the-night-before wireless
also got in a political point. In an apparent swipe at Scottish first
minister Alex Salmond’s plans for independence, he added: “You showed us
the best face of Britain, who we really are, one United Kingdom, one
flag, one celebration. And you showed us all that we can be:
all-welcoming, tolerant, vibrant, with a future every bit as exciting
and thrilling as our past.”
Later in the afternoon, away from the podium, he said that he expected
to be “called on to gyrate in the traditional way”.
He has a wonderful way with words, does Boris. And he does make
one of my favourite images of the summer, namely the famous Boris
we mustn't forget how David Cameron perfectly summed up the incident:
“Look, if any other politician anywhere in the world was stuck on a zip-wire
it would be a disaster. For Boris, it’s an absolute triumph ... he
defies all form of gravity.”
I shall finish with another intriguing quotation about leadership...
observed Warren Bennis,
“is like beauty: it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.”
A riot of lights, fire, lasers, music and delightful doolallyness
YES, a Starter for Ten: ten words that sum up the Paralympic Closing
As I have mentioned in previous dispatches, I
approached all four opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and
Paralympics as if I had sat down in front of the TV
to watch Sunday Night at the London Palladium of fond memory.
Whatever critical facilities I have, I parked them up
for the night. Then I parked myself in front of the television and
allowed the Paralympic Closing Ceremony to wash all over me like a surfer’s dream wave.
The quirkiness that had marked out the previous
ceremonies endured. It was all very mesmerising, the ad breaks
excepted, of course.
On this final day of the Paralympics, a few images are burnt onto
my brain’s hard drive.
Dances with Weirwolves
The athlete that grabbed my undivided attention during the Paralympics was
wheelchair racer David Weir.
I remember that first night I saw him on the track in the
5,000m race. Now I had never really watched this kind of racing before,
excepting snatched highlights on news and sports programmes.
Incredible. As they went round and round you could have
thrown a blanket over the lot of them. They brought to mind a pack of
wolves out hunting for a bite to eat — which was itself amusing because I was later
to learn that David Weir has become known as The Weirwolf.
And then came that extraordinary final lap and the
burst of speed down the home straight to win the race. Oh that Formula 1
could be this exciting.
There followed Gold for David Weir in the 1,500m, the
800m — and today, the Marathon (how astonishing though that there was no
television coverage out along the course: too expensive for Locog, the Games’ organisers, apparently, but was it
really beyond the wit of Channel 4 to send out their own motorcycle and camera
to cover the event?).
However, the frustration was defused somewhat by Sonja McLaughlan’s
post-marathon interview with David Weir, an individual who comes across
as always polite, insightful, humble and considerate — indeed he is the
first person ever to thank me for buying a lottery ticket, a percentage
of which goes to support his sport.
What I particularly enjoyed was seeing Sonja’s left
hand regularly creeping into shot and desperately wanting to make
physical and reassuring contact with Weir’s upper arm and shoulder, the
empathic and intuitive way that only a female can.
I was reminded of Aled Davies following his discus Gold having his
mother wet her hanky and wipe his face. Magic moments indeed.
Incidentally, should we not insist that all broadcasters send anyone and
everyone who asks questions — whether they be ex-sports stars or
journalists — on a course called ‘You too can ask intelligent, empathic,
witty and wise questions’. The world of the post-event interview really
is an embarrassing place to be.
Whatever, the most memorable image of David Weir came after the medal
Goldfinger: Superstar David Weir reaches for the door of
an appropriately coloured BMW
I do so hope that Weir was given the keys to the above extraordinary
looking machine, for he certainly deserves it.
flame comes calling
It was perfectly ironic that the Marathon Gold medal was
presented to David Weir by Boris Johnson, Mayor of Old London
My everlasting memory of the closing ceremony itself,
so full of fire, brimstone, Mad Max and all that jazz, was
catching sight of a cyclist riding past, on fire, as if it was
the most natural thing in the world.
The moment I saw this extraordinary sight, featured
alongside, the first
thing that came to mind was, ah, it’s
good old Boris Wiggins — or is it Bradley Johnson?
Boris is forever riding around his parish on his bicycle, and I always
sort of imagine that one day he too is going to burst into flames, that mane
of blond hair streaming out in his wake.
I also thought of Bradley Wiggins, although obviously
not part of the Paralympics, it was he, after all, who ignited this
summer of sport with his Tour de France victory, the first time a Briton
had won the world’s top bike race in 99 years of trying.
Finally, another image that generated a smile, probably because it
reminds me of my driving licence photo:
flames to the fuel
Saturday, September 8
The Madness of our Movers and Shakers
“Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.” It’s one of
life’s great truths. Indeed there’s no doubt that wealth, power and
madness go together like love, marriage and divorce.
You only have to look at those who shape our planet —
world leaders, politicians, council leaders, bankers, business people, trade union leaders,
the law, media hot shots, celebrities — it is difficult to spot anyone
that does not appear to be at least half-a-bubble off plumb.
Here are just a few random and hilariously mad current news headlines...
“It takes a huge amount of courage as far as I can see for someone to
burgle somebody’s home. I wouldn’t have the nerve.” Judge Peter
Bowers who decided not to imprison a burglar and drug addict, and as a
consequence will be investigated after complaints from the public.
“Take him down!”
would appear to be an apt response to this Dreadful Judge.
Believe nothing you hear and only half what you see
“Nokia apologises for ‘faked’ smartphone advert footage.” A Nokia
commercial that gave the impression of having been shot using a Lumia
920, was actually filmed using professional equipment, and spotted by
eagle-eyed online bloggers who caught the briefest reflection in a
window of a camera crew and their sophisticated kit in the new advert.
I’ve watched the ad online, and it really is the briefest of glimpses —
but the camera crew is there filming away with high-tech equipment, to
confirm the view that, you should really and truly only believe half what you see.
Bunga Bunga Berlusconi
“Berlusconi’s love lair is really an island cave fit for a Caesar.”
Twelve wonderful words that sum up the summer retreat in
Sardinia of Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime
minister, notorious for parties with topless models and
currently facing serious charges of paying an underage
prostitute for sex.
Carved from the rock beneath, with a discreetly lit pool above a
Poseidon mosaic, with its own escape route to the open sea, pictures
suggest the cave
could grace any James Bond film.
Stairs and a passageway are illuminated by floor lights
which lead from the villa where Tony and Cherie Blair and Vladimir Putin
have been among the guests.
You can be sure that the place would have a sophisticated CCTV system,
so the mind boggles at what sort of footage of his guests Berlusconi
will have stashed away somewhere safe.
Silvio Berlusconi: As JFK once famously told
Harold Macmillan ...
“If I don’t have a woman for three days I get a terrible
talking of Putin...
“Putin muses on the benefits of group sex.” President Vladimir
Putin of Russia has mused in a television interview that a gang-bang is
better than one-on-one intercourse because participants can take a
break, take a Kit Kat, sort of thing.
Perhaps he should henceforth be called Vlad the Put-In.
Mind you, he’s had a busy few days. First he used commemorations of the
1812 defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte to call for Russian unity, then in the
space of 24 hours we saw the Russian President caress an octopus, give
his rather startling views on hanky-panky — and then he dressed up as a
giant white bird and went flying in a motorised hang glider alongside
two Siberian cranes:
The fellow is as doolally as a dandelion turned to fluff.
And talking of Blair...
“Blair’s $1m for three hours’ work.” Tony Blair is to be paid
nearly $1m (£620,000) when last week he helped broker the world’s
biggest corporate takeover.
The former prime minister was drafted in to a late-night meeting at
Claridge’s hotel in Mayfair, central London, between Ivan Glasenberg,
the £5 billion tycoon who runs Glencore, the commodities giant, and
Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani, Qatar’s prime minister.
Well, if you believe that Tony Blair got his $1m for brokering the above
deal, then I would respectfully suspect that you have spent a little bit
too much time in the company of the Wicked Witch of the West – and we
all know who she is.
A redundant wedding dress and some hokey-pokey on the side
was a time when Tony Blair rang up and she was banging the pots and pans
in the kitchen, and I said: ‘Listen, love, can you shut up, I am talking
to Tony?’ She said: ‘This is my kitchen, not your office. And who is
Former deputy prime minister John Prescott, 74 on his wife Pauline, 73,
who wishes he had two offices and not use her kitchen as an office.
Prescott also admitted that his wife’s wedding dress ended up on a
rubbish tip after he grew tired of humping it around during house
Never mind the wedding dress, when Tony Blair flirted with heart
problems — following a hectic visit to Sardinia, perhaps? — the nation
came within a stroke of having then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott
— a man noted for shooting first and asking questions after — with his
itchy finger on the N-Spot, the nuclear red button. Phew.
As for Pauline Prescott wishing John had his own office — oh dear, some
people never learn. (For those in the dark,
John Prescott admitted some six years ago to having a two-year liaison
with his diary secretary, Tracey Temple, which he claimed had made him
feel “ashamed”. (Oh how easily meaningless words trip off the tongues of
Mind you, if you’re going to have an affair with one of your paid
slaves, make it your diary secretary. Prescott opens his diary: Hm,
shaggy-poos with TT tonight!
Friday, September 7
are lumberjacks and we’re okay
We sleep all night and we work all day
IF YOU are anything like me, just occasionally, you will see a
photograph, especially an old black and white one — and you blink ...
and then you smile.
I was knocked out by a magical photo from a hundred years and more
ago, of the extraordinary men who felled the giant California redwoods —
The giant redwood is an evergreen, living 1200-1800 years, even
more. The species includes the tallest trees on Earth, reaching up to
nearly 400 feet in height and 30 feet in diameter at breast height (the
standard method of expressing the diameter of a standing tree).
Since commercial logging began in America around the mid-1800s, an estimated
95% of the original old-growth redwood forests have been cut down due to
its excellent properties for use as lumber in construction.
A series of dramatic photos from the Humboldt State University Library
capture lumberjacks working among the redwoods in Humboldt County,
California. They highlight the measure of man in contrast to the
enormity of nature — here’s one I liked...
They cut down trees, they skip and jump / They like to press wild
They put on women’s clothing / And hang around in bars ... not!
Isn’t that astonishing? Look at the size of that thing. But I have to
say, the first thing that came to mind was Monty Python’s Lumberjack
Song — I think it has something to do with the two men looking as if
they’re reclining on a sofa at The Chicken Ranch Whore House, you know,
that place where all
the best cocks hang out and crow at the crack of dawn (sic: definitely
What tickled me though was the fellow standing, extreme left, sporting
a tie. In fact the three of them sport ties, and all three dressed to kill —
I guess they must be the owners of the logging company.
You can easily pick out the two workers, the paid slaves, poor
I sawed, I collapsed in a heap
The above picture takes me back to my youth on the farm, a time before
chainsaws had reached the backwoods of Welsh Wales. I kept well away
from the dangerous task of tree felling; also, the larger tree trunks
(oaks, mostly) would be split by drilling holes and stuffing small
amounts of gunpowder into them. However, the branches would be cut up
using a two-man crosscut saw, as here...
you’re about 14 or 15, and your brother’s seven years older, it’s bloody
hard work keeping your end up.
Anyway, the photo above of the loggers is part of the Ericson
Collection, a series of pictures from northwest California from the
1880s through the 1920s, by Swedish photographer A W
Pictures from the 1915-era display the work of loggers in the densely
forested northern California area, which accounts for twenty per cent of
the state's total forest production.
Humboldt County has nearly 1,500,000 acres in public and private
the Redwood National and State Parks.
Amazing photographs though. As they say, these days we don’t
Thursday, September 6
Annoyed in the Air of Anglesey
LAST Monday I fashioned a feature headlined ‘Men v women, women v women...’. This morning I was reminded of a brief exchange on a Radio
Wales Sunday series where Welsh boyo Aled Jones, 41, (of
Walking in the Air fame) has a 60-minute musical conversation
with his guests (not so much Desert Island Discs, more Mountain &
The guest in question this time around was Sir Ranulph
Fiennes, 68, a British adventurer and holder of several endurance
records of the extreme kind.
“In the past,” says Aled, “some journalists, women mainly, have
criticised you for being foolhardy. What do you say to that?”
“I say, women!”
Much spontaneous and hearty laughter from Aled: “Shall we have some
It was indeed a very smiley response and delivery by Fiennes.
Oh yes, I mentioned Aled’s 1985 hit, Walking in the Air
(also, that he’s a Welsh boyo). I did that because everyone he meets,
apparently, mentions the song and it winds him up no end.
Indeed, just recently he appeared on BBC’s The One
Show, and as Matt Baker introduced Aled, he mentioned Walking in the
Air: “Ten seconds into the show,” says Aled, “and you’ve mentioned
Walking in the Air already.”
C’mon now, Aled: if it wasn’t for Walking in the Air you
would now be an accountant in Bangor. Probably. Nothing wrong with being
an accountant in Bangor, but I don’t think it pays quite as well as
being an A-list sleb.
But I do appreciate what he means. This week he began
co-host of ITV’s revamped breakfast show, Daybreak. I never watch
daytime television — this glorious summer of sport excepted — but by all
accounts, Aled had a mixed reception.
However, this morning’s Western Mail had
an article on Aled’s role in the new show. This is how it kicked off:
In a move that saw viewers describing him as “stiff” and “boring”,
former Welsh choir boy Aled Jones this week took to the sofa to relaunch
ITV’s Daybreak alongside Lorraine Kelly.
Poor Aled: 10 seconds into The One Show and 14 words into
the Western Mail article. And fair play, it isn’t as if he
isn’t known for doing other sleb-drenched things...
Aled and Wales for ever
love the idea of Wales being full of smooth, slightly creosoted men
wearing tight trousers that stop them sitting down.” Broadcaster Sandi
Toksvig, 54, Danish/British author, comedienne and broadcaster, comments on
reports that Welshmen, more than any other group, opt for hair removal
And that’s just the start of it...
“The Welsh are loquacious, dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly,
pugnacious little trolls.” Adrian Anthony Gill, 58, writer and critic
for The Sunday Times,
who uses the by-line AA Gill (because, apparently, he always looks as if
he’s heading for a breakdown — a very British in-joke, that).
always been ultra nasty towards The Welsh — the above statement was made
in 1998. Let’s face it, only someone heading for a breakdown would make
such a blanket statement of a nation’s people and psyche.
But it did make me
smile because somewhere in his impressionable youth, my guess is that a Welsh
his manhood into question — and he’s been getting his own
back on the Welsh nation ever since.
There’s a great tale of
Heading-for-a-Breakdown Gill appearing at the Hay Festival of
Literature & Arts, which happens just up the road in Hay-on-Wye, near
Brecon (spot it on the Reception map, next to the Welcome
mat at the top).
Gill is speaking: “I hate the Welsh
— hate the Welsh. They’re all either
rugby players or women of easy virtue.”
And a man nearby, and a big fellow too, said: “Hey, I take exception to
that, my wife’s Welsh.”
“Oh, how interesting,” said Gill. “What position does she play?”
Well, if we can’t laugh at ourselves...
Nothing to do with
or Heading-for-a-Breakdown Gill, but I liked this:
with Laurel and Hardy on money: ‘You give the money to me, and I’ll give
the money to the fish.’.”
Comedian Harry Hill.
Finally, and having just mentioned our glorious summer of sport, it would be
amiss not to honour tonight’s magical moments on the track at the London
Paralympic Games: from wheelchair racers Hannah Cockroft and David Weir
on their tricycles built for one — to blade runner Jonnie Peacock
beep-beeping to gold in the blue ribbon 100m race.
Jonnie Peacock, this is your life: You are five years old. You contract meningococcal
septicaemia. In a hospital bed you come round one day to find a space
where your lower right leg used to be. Childhood turns dark...
years later, you are a Paralympic 100 metre champion, acclaimed by
80,000 spectators and feted as one of the global stars of the 2012 Games
your home country.
And has there ever been a more appropriate surname?
Peacock by name
Peacock by Danielle Dunkley (@humanidee)
Wednesday, September 5
The Lion sleeps tonight
WHEN it was reported recently that a lion was on the loose in
Essex, experts from the Colchester Zoo were called in to inspect the
grainy image captured, and to help — so below, the picture taken of the
Beast of St Osyth, together with a guideline picture of a lion proper...
However, rather than dismiss the blurry shape in the photo for what it
was — a domestic pussycat — the zoo’s staff armed themselves with
tranquilisers, and joined the £880-an-hour police hunt for the beast.
So it comes as no surprise then that they have now had their
animal-spotting abilities roundly mocked with an amusing online spoof
Puppies for wolves, an earth worm for a snake and a black and white
guinea pig for a panda are featured on the spoof ad, pictured above,
mocking Colchester Zoo. The internet humour comes in the wake of the 20-hour
manhunt sparked by that blurry photo of a ‘big’ cat-like animal taken by
holidaymakers in St Osyth, Essex.
I have written before about how dog owners grow to look like their pets —
or more to the point, people choose dogs in their own image; also, I’ve
previously featured Posh Spice — Victoria Beckham as is — who
spectacularly chose to associate her interior design work with a vehicle
that is the spitting image of the cut of her jib.
The Posh mirror image is well worth another look
— but first, who would have thought that a cat owner would look like her pussy,
so here’s a picture of the lion cat featured above, a pussycat called
Teddy Bear, and its owner, Ginny Murphy...
Ginny Murphy had apparently watched the drama of the lion hunt unfold on
television from Liverpool, where she was away — and immediately had her
suspicions that everything wasn’t quite what it seemed. Yep, you really couldn’t make it up.
what about Posh and the Range Rover Evoque? That, is spooky. In a
previous life, Posh was clearly a common or garden Land Rover with ideas
above its station.
Tuesday, September 4
Harry gets his kit back on
“I WAS never one to be shy in coming forward.” Prince Harry in a
speech at the WellChild Awards in London, marking his first public
engagement since those naked pictures were published of him in Las
Vegas, and unsurprisingly provoking a somewhat hesitant but eventually hearty burst of laughter from the audience.
“I’m glad you’ve got your clothes on.” What Alex Logan, six, had
told ITV News he would say to the Prince at the WellChild Awards, but
Alex, who was diagnosed with acute leukaemia when he was three, decided
instead to wipe his favourite toy penguin, Hookie, all over the Prince’s
Perhaps Mum had cautioned against the clothes line, even though Harry was prepared for
the put-down that never came. Mind you, toy penguin Hookie was a name
with ambush written all over it, especially given some of the Las Vegas tales out
Also, coincidentally, the recent death of entertainer Max
Bygraves brought to mind one of his famous songs: You Need Hands (“You
need hands to show the world you’re
happy / And you need hands when you have to stop the bus...”).
Coincidentally, the above Prince Harry tale was reported in the
newspapers on the day that a quite memorable letter appeared in the
Daily Mail — but first I need to revisit an image from last
It comes from the piece about the nation’s military
personnel showing their support for Captain Harry of Wales by posting
pictures of themselves performing nude salutes on the Facebook site
‘Support Prince Harry with a naked salute!’
Now study this picture very carefully, as I shall
repeat it only this once...
Soldiers strip on Facebook to support Prince Harry
Soldiers from D Squadron The King’s Royal Hussars pose in front of their
And here’s the letter that appeared in today’s Daily Mail, from a
of Cirencester, Glos:
“The King’s Royal Hussars can cover their modesty with only one hand?
It must be global warming; it was always two in the Paras.”
I was prompted to draft a response to the Daily Mail...
blazes a trail
Apropos Bill Mortimore’s assertion that, while The King’s Royal Hussars
needed just one hand to cover their modesty, the Paras always needed
two, it takes me back many moons to my local Crazy Horsepower Saloon, or
Crazy Horse as it then was.
There was much discussion in the bar regarding the
measure of male modesty, when barmaid Pearl of Joy, sadly no longer with us,
put us all straight: “Boys, boys, it’s not the length of the barrel but
the power of the shot.”
It lifted my spirits no end.
Monday, September 3
Men v Women, Women v Women, Tom v Jerry, Tom & Jerry v Spike
“WOMEN look in the mirror and think they look worse than they are. We
men think we look better. We reckon we’re only three or four sit-ups
away from being in a hot tub with Elle Macpherson or Scarlett
Dylan Jones, 52, editor of the UK version of men’s fashion and
lifestyle magazine, GQ.
What does he mean, only three or four sit-ups away? Speak
for yourself, Dylan.
“My dad used to say that ‘the best ten years of a woman’s life are
between 39 and 40’.”
Don Clarke of Billericay, Essex, in a letter to The Times.
“All of my governments would be entirely female for at least a
generation, or until men learnt to adapt to the modern world.”
Grayson Perry, 52, English artist, known mainly for his ceramic vases
and cross-dressing — but not necessarily in that order.
“If a woman was running the Bank of England, we wouldn’t be in this
mess.” Janet Street-Porter, 65, British media celebrity, journalist
and broadcaster, speaking on Radio Wales.
The idea that a government full of women would all get on like a Houses
of Parliament on fire pushes incredulity to its limit. Imagine if Sally
Bercow was Speaker of the House rather than husband,
John ... but let’s not pick on an obvious and easy target.
So who would Janet Street-Porter put in charge? This
from yesterday’s Sunday Times:
The bickering Louise Mensch and Nadine Dorries
should calm down. The Commons
needs women with steely control of their emotions writes
Infuriatingly, it is not possible to pick a side in the Dorries v Mensch
debacle. I want to, believe me I do. And I’ve tried, my goodness, I’ve
tried. But every time I settle on who is the heroine and who is the
villain of the piece, my theory falls apart in the torrent of
histrionics emanating from both corners.
To summarise the story so far for those who may have missed it: Louise
Mensch, standing down as Tory MP for Corby to spend more time with her
family, comes out in support of The Sun’s decision to publish the naked
pictures of Prince Harry.
Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, says this is an
outrage because there was no public interest. Harry, she argues, is
entitled to do whatever he likes without censure because The Evil Media
killed his mother, Diana.
Also, Dorries would like us to know that Mensch has no principles and
spent her entire time in parliament being a toadying Cameroon. She only
worked a three-day week and admitted taking illegal drugs in her youth.
Mensch hits back by tweeting that she doesn’t spend any time worrying
about her colleague’s opinion. “Waking up to find self on the Nadine
Dorries naughty step” is her way of implying that her rival is a boring
old prude and clearly past it.
Ladies, ladies. Please, calm down...
Ladies, ladies, please, calm down, indeed. Are these the women that
Grayson Perry and Janet Street-Porter had in mind to bring about the
return of ethics, morality and honesty to a world where the nation’s
movers and shakers are clowns, cowboys and crooks? And as we know, 90%
of them are indeed male.
And how many women are there who can say they have
never, ever been charmed, seduced and taken for a ride by a man,
especially the sort of rich and powerful man who has made such a mess of the nation’s
And who’s to say that a woman running the Bank of
England would be immune to such things?
Talking of people shorn of ethics, morality and honesty, and Louise
Mensch being labelled a “toadying Cameroon”...
of the dog
“The prime minister [David Cameron] must ask himself whether he is
man or mouse.” Tim Yeo, 67, climate change committee chairman and
Conservative MP, having his own spot of localised climate change
the cabinet reshuffle now in the news, the
question as to whether the current Tory Prime Minister is man or mouse
should surely read: is David Cameron cat or mouse?
This conveys us straight into the world of Tom and
Jerry. As we know, both Tom and Jerry reduce the house they call home to
rack and ruin at every twist and turn. Now doesn’t that remind you of
the world of politics?
At the moment, David Cameron is Jerry and Ed Miliband,
42, Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition, is Tom.
Jerry is always the one in power because he always has the last word (or
At the next election the roles will probably be
reversed and the whole madness will start all over again.
However, both Tom and Jerry need to be wary of Spike,
the lovable Bulldog in the corner of the garden, holed up in his own
house, who occasionally jumps and barks into life — and everyone sits up and takes
More importantly, he appears to have the measure of
both the cat and the mouse...
Yes of course, Spike is Boris Johnson, Tory Mayor of Old London Town.
Sunday, September 2
He who laughs last
THERE’S only one image that qualifies as today’s smiliest smile of the
day, perfectly summed up by this online Telegraph
Gold medal and a date with the Duchess for Davies
When Aled met Kate: Golden lads and girls
Now that’s what I call a picture for the family album. Mind you, not many of us
will have as one of our most prized photographs an image where we have
our backs to the camera.
One thing is for sure though, the picture will probably stop gold
medal discus winner Aled Davies, 21, having all his pals and everyone else
who knows him forever pulling his leg about the moment shortly after
winning his medal when his mum, doing what only mum’s can do, wetted her
hankie and wiped his face clean, ready to face the world’s media.
It was a truly golden moment.
However, having the Duchess of Cambridge present Aled, a Welsh speaker, with his medal
changed the rules of the game. Henceforth he will probably be known in
the Valleys as Davies the Discuss (sic), for the one question he
will now be asked for ever more and a day is this: “What was she like?”
He who laughs last laughs longest.
Rewinding to the discus competition itself, Aled knew he was guaranteed
a gold medal, so when he launched his final throw, he could barely wait
for it to land before taking off on a smiley victory jig and a lap of
honour that brought the Olympic Stadium to its feet.
Davies, already a bronze medal winner in the shot put,
wheeled away in delight after breaking the European record with his last
throw, then draped himself in both Union and Welsh flags, and promptly
declared himself “the happiest man on the planet”.
This, from a Telegraph report:
The Bridgend athlete, who represented Wales at swimming before turning
his attention to athletics in 2006, was born with talipese (club foot)
and hemi-hemilia in his right leg, which means the limb is missing
bones, muscle and ligaments and is supported with a brace.
He could barely control his emotion as he turned to the crowd and held
his hands aloft in delight. He had the added bonus of becoming the first
athlete to receive a London 2012 gold medal from the Duchess of
Cambridge. The Duchess had been invited to present two medals and her
spokesman said it was a “happy coincidence” that the first recipient was
“This crowd is incredible,” said Davies. “Everything here is phenomenal.
It’s sad to know that was my last event. This place is addictive. I’ve
got a lot of love for this crowd. Everyone was in tears at the end — it
made me cry. They’ve had to put up with all my mood swings so it’s great
to give something back.
“Sometimes I’m calm, sometimes I get aggressive. I was going
head-to-head with the Iranian guy [Mehrdad Karam Zadeh] who I’ve been in
competition with for some time. He threw well in the first round and I
thought ‘I can do better than that’. And then I threw better.”
The Welshman’s road to glory began when he was 13. As he watched the
Paralympics on television, he realised that some of the athletes had the
same disability as him. The sports management student from Bridgend had
started as a swimmer, competing in able-bodied events for his local
club. He had not even considered competing in events for the disabled.
“Disabled was seen as different back then and I really didn’t want to be
associated with that,” he said before the Games. “I always saw myself as
able-bodied. I saw a bit of the Paralympic coverage in 2004 and I
thought, ‘Oh yeah, that guy’s got the same as I’ve got.’ I thought then
I would love to be in the Games. I remember telling people ‘I’ll be on
the podium one day’. And here we are.”
Here we are, indeed.
rattle and roll
Incidentally, during the medal ceremony, when the Duchess presented the
silver medal to the Iranian, the pair did not shake hands as tradition
dictates. Zadeh simply put his hands together in front of him, as if in
prayer, and bowed to the Duchess. Kate appeared to have been prepared
for this interaction.
I presume that male Iranians do not shake hands with
women. Intriguing. (This point was later confirmed, as indeed was the
fact that the Duchess had been forewarned, and that she was perfectly
happy with the situation.)
Also, following the medal ceremony, when the Iranian threw his flowers
into the crowd — something Olympic gold medallist Jade Jones also did
after winning her taekwondo gold — do you suppose the person who caught
the posy is now destined for Rio?
Saturday, September 1
Signs of the times
YESTERDAY I mentioned in passing that you should be careful not to drop
your guard when meeting a charming person, especially so one who gives
the impression of being here solely for your benefit; invariably it will
be a snake oil salesman, a very slippery person.
It came to mind again today when I spotted a brace of
delightful Chinglish signs...
PS: I haven’t mentioned the Paralympics thus far — excepting my brief
remarks following the opening ceremony — but the number of extravagantly
smiley moments have been building up with a hop, a skip
and a jump.
I’ve been thinking how best to encapsulate my thoughts
... in the meantime, I have to mention...
Many huge steps for a man
I came, I saw, I conquered.” A tweet from Richard Whitehead — the
Paralympics equivalent of Usain Bolt and Mo Farah rolled into one — who
won gold in front of an ecstatic 80,000 capacity crowd today.
Whitehead’s achievement was simply one of those amazing sporting sights
that will linger on the brain’s hard drive.
His achievement was all the more remarkable because he
entered the bend for the home straight trailing at the back and way
behind his rivals — but the way he catapulted himself down that home
straight was the nearest thing I have seen to a human Road Runner
(Accelleratii Incredibus, or more commonly, Beepus-Beepus)...
Whitehead, who was born with both legs missing from above the knee, is
also world record holder for the marathon, but he was denied entry to
his best event by Paralympics rules — and so switched to sprint
It seems that his slow start is down to not having
knees, because it’s through the knees that we generate acceleration. But
once he builds up speed, well ... beep-beep!
“I knew you were coming,” said one of his fellow
runners after the race. “I could hear you – but there was nothing I
could do about it.”
girl Simmonds smashes world record to win 400m freestyle gold
Ellie Simmonds was already a star before these Games began, and tonight
she showed why. I have already likened Richard Whitehead to the Road
Runner; Ellie, along with her America rival, Victoria Arlen, reminded me
of Tom and Jerry.
Ellie is so tiny and Victoria is tallish and rangy. Tom
and Jerry the cartoon works because we are always on the side of Jerry, yet we have
a soft spot for Tom and want him to survive to fight another day.
And so it was tonight. I had a soft spot for the
American, particularly so given the background to her qualification: she
was in, then she was out, finally she was in again and allowed to race
at the eleventh hour.
As soon as they began to race you could see how easily
Victoria was gliding through the water, even though her legs were not
providing any propulsion because of her spinal cord injuries, yet for
Ellie it was hard work dragging her chunky body through the water.
The whole race was girls’ own stuff, the 17-year-old
American leading for most of the race before being caught by the Briton
at the final turn and was then unable to quite keep up as Ellie powered
down the final length. Astonishing race.
It did briefly cross my mind whether Victoria Arlen had deliberately
held back along that final leg to avoid the brouhaha that would
inevitably follow had she won — but then I saw that Ellie had to beat
the world record by more than five seconds to win, with Victoria just a
No, it was Tom and Jerry at its very best. And I really did want to
slide an arm around Victoria Allen’s shoulders at the end.
final step for Neil
“When asked if Neil had explained the origin of that ‘One small step’
line, Constantine ‘Kotcho’ Solacoff, a boyhood friend who had remained
close to Neil Armstrong, told me yes: the Apollo 11 commander insisted that
it derived from a children’s game called ‘Mother May I’, in which the
players ask, ‘Mother may I ... take one step ... two steps’, and so on.”
Journalist Andrew Smith on the day Neil Armstrong was buried.
How ironic too that Neil Armstrong’s family had asked us to honour his
memory by looking up at the Moon on a clear night: think of the Moon’s
first son of Earth, and give him a wink ... and who would have thought?
The first full moon following his death was a Blue Moon
i.e. when two full moons fall within a calendar month: August 2 and
Friday, August 31
The only thing you ever need to know in life is...
“Always remember that men are just small boys in long trousers. That
way you won’t expect too much of them and you won’t be disappointed.”
Chrissie from Norfolk shares a gem of an insight with Alex Lester on his
BBC Radio 2 Best Time of the Day Show this early morning.
A slice of advice that also makes me smile is this: Never drop your
gun to hug a Blair — oops — to hug a bear. In other words, never
drop your guard when you meet a charming person who gives the impression
of being there solely for your benefit; invariably it will be a snake oil
salesman, hence my little slip of the tongue, above.
I also like this, for much the same reason as above: Never ask a
hairdresser if you need a haircut.
of all daftness
Following Alex on the wireless was Vanessa Feltz. Every weekday morning
she throws out a challenge to her listeners, invariably something to do
with an item spotted in the morning’s papers. Today it was from the
Guardian, in particular its
Notes & Queries
column. This had been submitted by a reader:
Recently I did a full-load wash absentmindedly using a firelighter
instead of a soap capsule. Has anyone done anything dafter than this?
Steve Bird, Brandon, Warks
Vanessa’s most startling response came from the producer of her own
show, Phil, who admitted attempting to iron a shirt while wearing
it, leaving a large burn mark on his own neck.
That is more than even my vivid imagination can handle.
What would make someone think they could do that? I’d have placed it in
the wind-up category, except that I have a vague recollection of hearing
someone else doing something similar.
A Mr Nick admitted to Vanessa of once rolling home drunk from the
pub and then entering his cash point pin number into the microwave to
cook a ready-meal — it did not work out too well.
I then did a quick check on the Guardian web site and
perused the responses submitted by readers. This was my favourite:
In Salford in the 70s I once watched my mother
open the fridge door and throw a shovel of coal in. It is the only time
in my life I have heard her swear.
Peter Thornton, Ramsbottom, Lancs
Personally, my most daft thing also came after a particularly hectic
drinking session, and ever so quietly breaking wind — and doing a
whoopsie instead. Now that, is embarrassing.
I remember telling Dai Aphanous, deacon at the Crazy
Horsepower, of the happening, and this was his classic response: “Look,
if you haven’t shat yourself after a mother of all sessions — then
you’ve never had a mother of all sessions.”
The above response is something that Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s
senior spin honcho, would have been proud of. Later, I spotted this
Benedict Cumberbatch takes a swipe at ‘flatulent’ David
Sherlock actor says the Tories have given up their duty of care
I never did click the link to read the article — nothing against
Benedict — but I am endlessly amused how actors, who spend their lives
pretending to be someone else, are somehow blessed with thoughts of such
insight, astuteness and absolute wisdom that they must be presented to
an expectant nation as if they are the words of your friendly
neighbourhood oracle. Hilarious.
Just above, I wrote
Never drop your gun to hug a Blair – oops – to hug a bear. Well
blow me, I then read this headline:
Blair to be honoured with Parliament bust
The House of Commons Works of Art Committee has discussed plans for a
portrait bust of Tony Blair to feature in the Members’ Lobby...
Again I didn’t click the link — but I thought of the words Blair, bust,
member, work of art — goodness, the idea of “bust” works on so many
Finally, I have just caught up with this missive submitted to Michael
Winner and his Sunday Times column...
When it’s your time to go
You say a medical specialist gave you until 2015 to live and you
weren’t sure if he meant the beginning or the end of the year. I think
he meant quarter past eight.
John Fletcher, Kent
Thursday, August 30
Night of the Gotcha
“RESPECTED London Standard reports that plans to make Prince Harry a
Knight of the Garter have been put on hold over naked Vegas romp.”
Or so a Royal Editor tweets.
Yesterday I featured a few images of Team GB’s military personnel
support for Captain Harry of Wales via ‘Support Prince Harry with a
Well, I would have drawn a line under it there — until I saw the brace of pics
First though, 118 118 is a UK telephone
directory enquiry provider, with a series of amusing television ads
of a sporting nature featuring these two distinctive characters...
...well now, when I saw the following images, especially the first with
its 11B identification numbers in evidence — which effortlessly morphed into 118 in
front of my eyes — now c’mon, how could this not claim a top spot in my
I tell you what, the pair would make a wonderful ad for 118 118.
And how about the two fellas above? Prince Harry’s detractors wouldn’t
want to meet these two on a dark and stormy night...
Cry ‘Good for Harry, Britain, and Saint David!’
(well, he is Captain Harry of Wales, lol)
Some final thoughts on the Harry flash flood, assuming of course that no
more revelations surface in the great cause of cheering us all up ...
anyway, I’ve just caught up with some marginally dated online comments about
poor Harry and his flash in the pan handle of Loss Vegas — but they
still made me smile, so they take pride of place in the scrapbook.
Kvet: Fantasise in your teens. Live them in your 20s. Grow up at
Top advice. But I would have said: Grow up at 30 going on 40 (let’s
allow for a bit of index linking given that most of us are now living
“The poor boy hasn’t a lot of moral fibre. Nor very many brains.” Vicki
Woods, Telegraph journalist.
Nomadscot: Disgusting comment from a desk jockey journo who knows
little about either, about a qualified Apache pilot who has served his
country in Afghanistan.
I enjoyed the term “desk jockey journo”, which rather sums up the notion
that modern journalism tramples all over everything and everybody,
rather as a disc jockey tramples all over the music he or she plays
(excepting the older jocks; oh, and Vanessa Feltz, bless her lovely
Wajima: His security detail should be replaced with female
operatives who can go under cover(s).
Hm, that would make him the new Gadfly, as opposed to the old Gaddafi,
I have seen no evidence that young Harry packs anything significant in
his pants. Am I looking at the wrong photographs?
Wajima: Flaccid, size-challenged members tend to enlarge more
than those which look impressive until standing to attention. It’s
something to do with the coefficient of expansion, according to James
Every day a day at school spot: coefficient of expansion —
the ratio of the increase of length, area or volume of a body per degree
rise in temperature to its length, area, volume ... also called
Ah, so that’s why I get all hot under “the collar” when tall and tan and
young and lovely from Ipanema goes gliding past: “Is that a gun in your
pocket — or just expansivity?”
Wednesday, August 29
There’s the Sun, the Moon and Harry
more correctly: There’s the Sun (naughty front page), the Moon (as
regularly featured following the death of Neil Armstrong) and Harry
(Captain Harry of Wales, Apache scout - oops!
- pilot) — with apologies to singer Catherine Howe.
You know that it’s a wonderful world when you hear on the wireless a
news item about military personnel showing their
support for Captain Harry of Wales by posting pictures of themselves
performing nude salutes on the Facebook site ‘Support Prince Harry
with a naked salute!’
You also know that it’s both a weird and a wonderful
world when you Google said story ... and you land on — ta-rah —
The Hindustan Times. Yes indeedy, the magical world
of the internet. I quote from said newspaper:
Soldiers strip on Facebook to support Prince Harry
Thousands of soldiers and fans of the British armed forces joined a
Facebook group and posted nude pictures of themselves in support of
Prince Harry after his naked Las Vegas photo furore.
“The Daily Mail reported” bit really did amuse me. I’ve noticed recently
how many online news outlets around the globe quote the Daily Mail.
That in itself is not a surprise; indeed I see that Mail Online is now the most
read English language newspaper in the world, having recently overtaken
the New York Times, no less. Impressive.
Soldiers and fans took to the internet to strip off in
support of Harry, who has been in hot water after pictures emerged of
him in the nude during his infamous Las Vegas holiday, the Daily Mail
There again, perhaps not: I regularly visit the site
and there’s always something there that grabs my attention and makes me
Meanwhile, back at the front...
Whisper it, but I think the fella on the left, as you look, is flirting
with a bit of show and go. I also enjoyed this from the Huffington Post
as it busily signposted a picture gallery of saluting fans...
Take a look at our pick of the ... erm, crop, below. (Note: although the
group is open to women, too, we have, of course, only included photos of
naked men in our gallery. Because this is a Comedy page, and as everyone
knows, naked women aren’t usually funny. Naked men, however, are
Now isn’t that the truth. Whenever I spot a Sun newspaper lying about,
minding its own business, I never mind my own business. I will pick
it up and flick through — and yes, I will always have a quick peep at
Page 3 — but the Huff is correct: while P3 is always a sight for sore
eyes, I never, ever remember thinking ... now that, is funny.
Right, pay attention: Soldier — best foot forward...
Now c’mon, which of those two made you laugh? That our Page 3 lovely
doesn’t know how to salute doesn’t count.
Yes, as the above photos endorse with their built-in
endorphins, we men are ridiculously funny in the all together.
Paralympics up and running
I wasn’t sure what to make of the opening ceremony, curate’s egg and all
that ... my immediate reaction to the Channel 4 television coverage was:
adverts, come back BBC, all is forgiven; well, all except the mass
dumbing-down and the obscene language so beloved of the Corporation’s
******* top brass.
As for the ceremony, I guess you had to be there – but
I’ll reserve my thoughts until I’ve slept on them.
However, what did grab my undivided attention, on a superficial level at
least, were the standard bearers
carrying each country’s name plate, the girls who led the athletes into
They were all wonderfully handsome creatures; and the
see-through umbrellas a really witty touch — but what did mesmerise
was each standard bearer dressed to reflect that nation’s national
Totally brilliant, couldn’t take my eyes off of them,
as Andy Williams sang, many moons ago.
I mean, look at this...
Picture compliments of Mail Online
PS: Following my ‘There’s the sun,
the moon and Harry’ at the top, I feel obliged to put a
link to Catherine Howe and her marvellous ‘Harry’ — just think
Prince Harry as she sings — ultra smiley:
Tuesday, August 28
*** WARNING ***
Those who know the score should shortly look away sharpish
FOLLOWING the death of Neil Armstrong, some smashing quotes have
surfaced compliments of the archives...
Edmund Hillary (1919-2008), New Zealand mountaineer [who, along
with Sherpa Tenzing, became the first climbers confirmed as having
reached the summit of Mount Everest], commenting on Armstrong’s first
words when he stepped onto the Moon: “Better if he had said something
natural like, Jesus, here we are.”
Brilliant. I’d never heard that before. Full marks, move to the top of
Charles Lindberg (1902-1974), American aviator [noted for his
solo non-stop flight on May 20-21, 1927, from Long Island in New York to
Le Bourget just outside Paris], writing to Armstrong after the Moon
landing: “I wonder if you felt on the Moon’s surface as I did after
landing at Paris in 1927: that I would like to have had more chance to
I really do like that, both witty and wise.
Goodness, the girl from Ipanema
On my own little world, mega moons ago, I spent a couple of days
in Rio, December 23 and 24, departing Rio on the Canberra late
Christmas Eve — Christmas Day was spent at sea.
Those were two wonderful days ashore: I mean, Christmas Eve
with music and dancing everywhere, especially along Copacabana
But I remember thinking as we departed Rio: I would
like to have had more chance to look around.
Mind you, a short visit often leaves memories of the
more vivid kind.
Indeed, I have often thought to myself, following an
agreeable encounter of the hanky-panky kind: hm, I should have
looked around a bit more.
Women, I guess, will know what I mean.
Stat U, Harry?
Lindberg’s quote, somehow or other, brings me to Prince Harry ... I guess
you’ve been wondering about the statue, alongside.
Well, there it was, last Sunday, bold as brass and
twice as brazen, staring out at me from the pages of The Sunday Times
— yes, The Sunday Times — and it instantly generated a laugh. But
here’s the really odd part.
In fact I photographed the ‘cartoon’ off the page to
reproduce it here, but what I had hoped for was to find a picture of said
statue online, and then add my own comment.
So, from behind the sofa, I Googled ‘Images of nude
male sculptures’ — and, if you’ll pardon the expression, up came
‘A Gallery of Intact Penises in Art: 3. The
So, after a quiet lie down in a darkened room...
Prince Harry framed
Well, would you Adam and Eve it? To those of a like mind who believe
that Prince Harry has landed on this world to provide what
Arnold Bennett called “the great cause of cheering us all up”, may I
commend to the house that you share with me Tommaso Masaccio’s startling
‘Adam and Eve Banished from Eden’...
My goodness, my Guinness ... it is, it really is Prince Harry ...
and is that Grandma hovering above with the sword, chop-chop?
you have picked yourself up, dusted yourself off and started staring all
over again, I think you will conclude, like me, that there really is much more
to this life than anyone is letting on.
Catching the eye
CURRENTLY there’s a somewhat startling but agreeable picture of a
pussycat making people purr big time online. This, from The
There’s no denying she’s a beautiful animal, but trying to hold this
cat’s gaze is a somewhat disconcerting experience.
Meet Venus, the chimera cat that has taken the internet by storm.
Venus’s face is half black and half calico, and heterochromia has given
her one blue eye and one green.
[Heterochromia, eh? Sounds to me like Adam and Eve having rather naughty
but colourful sex — eye, eye.]
“This little split face cat looked like a combo of the two cats I
currently had (and still have),” says Venus’s owner on the cat’s
Truth to tell, though, a funny thing happened to me on my way to this
forum I call my smiley scrapbook...
Venus the pussycat
Eclipse the sheep
Some believe the cat’s face has been Photoshopped, but all the pictures
and videos do not bear that out. Simply Google ‘Venus the chimera’ and
keep a sharp eye open.
Eclipse, on the other hand, is a cute sheep I regularly encounter — at arm’s length, of course,
ho, ho, ho — along my early morning walks through the Towy Valley.
I’ve never seen one quite like this before. She is a
white sheep — the type are generally referred to as ‘white-faced’, but
technically I guess Eclipse could be a ‘Border Cheviot’ — anyway, she is
white all over except, as you can see, for that head and rather jolly
Eclipse never fails to make me stand and stare and
smile and wonder...
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows...
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
Leisure by W H Davies
I see the Moon
“FOR those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, we have a simple
request: honour his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and
the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the Moon smiling
down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”
Neil Armstrong’s family.
Who would have thought that someone’s death could feature as my
definitive smile of the day. After all, how do you juxtapose the
“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”?
Well, Neil Armstrong’s family have done it perfectly.
And here’s the thing: I vividly remember during those moon landings
going outside and staring up at the Moon and thinking ... there are people
actually hopping about up there, right now — and they’ve got to bring them back
safely to Earth.
When I next see the moon, I shall definitely smile and
wink — and I am pretty sure that the ghost of Neil Armstrong will smile
and wink back.
Anyone aged 50 or over — perhaps though it’s mainly a man thing — will
remember where they were on that Sunday evening of July 20 1969, when
they heard these words uttered just after 20:17 GMT (Greenwich Mean
Time, or Coordinated Universal Time — UT — the official time used):
“Houston: Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.” “Roger,
Houston radioed back.
“We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn
blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”
Only later were we to learn why those guys were about to turn blue: the
landing had flirted with catastrophe, and only Armstrong’s clear head
and nerve had
got them around the problems.
And then, some six hours or so later, at 02:56 (UT/GMT)
on the Monday morning, this happened: “That’s one small step for [a]
man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Neil Armstrong photographs the Apollo 11
lunar module — perhaps the
only picture in history where the photographer's shadow is all
There has been much discussion in the years since whether Armstrong does
actually say “one small step for [a] man”, which is what he intended to
say, and what actually makes sense.
Armstrong didn’t believe he’d fluffed his line, and
that he did squeeze in a contracted “a”, not obvious in the recording,
but technical investigation of the tape is inconclusive. Perhaps it got
lost in the static somewhere on its 238,857-mile journey back to Earth.
He certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt.
The third astronaut on the mission, Michael Collins, circled the moon in
the mother ship Columbia while Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin spent
nearly three hours walking on the moon.
Following the walk both men returned to the module and then slept for seven hours
— now how cool is that? — before lift-off at 17:54 UT on that same Monday. I
vividly remember watching that as well. I mean, to me that take-off
seemed decidedly more dodgy to get right than the landing.
During the launch Aldrin looked back at the moon surface in time to see
the exhaust from the ascent module’s engine knock over the American flag
they had planted...
Lunar module Eagle approaches Columbia after departing the
Earth watches nervously, as if from behind the sofa
Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930, on a farm in Ohio. He took his
first airplane ride at age six and developed a fascination with aviation
that prompted him to build model airplanes and conduct experiments in a
homemade wind tunnel. As a boy, he worked at a pharmacy and took flying
lessons. He was licensed to fly at 16, before he even got his driver’s
Aldrin said he and Armstrong were not prone to free exchanges of
sentiment: “But there was that moment on the moon, a brief moment,”
Aldrin said, “in which we sort of looked at each other and slapped each
other on the shoulder ... and said, ‘We made it. Good show,’ or
something like that.”
An estimated 600 million people — a fifth of the world’s population —
watched and listened to the landing, at that time the largest audience
for any single event in history.
“He didn’t give interviews, but he wasn’t a strange person or hard to
talk to,” said Ron Huston, a colleague at the University of Cincinnati.
“He just didn’t like being a novelty.”
In February 2000, when he agreed to announce the top 20 engineering
achievements of the 20th century as voted by the National Academy of
Engineering, Armstrong said there was one disappointment relating to his
moonwalk. “I can honestly say — and it’s a big surprise to me — that I
have never had a dream about being on the moon,” he said.
Armstrong underwent a heart-bypass surgery earlier this month to relieve
blocked coronary arteries.
But here’s something I didn’t know until today.
One of the more surprising facts to emerge in the wake of Armstrong’s
final lift-off was the revelation on Radio 5 Live by Pat
Duggins, NASA correspondent for America’s National Public Radio, that
not a single picture of Armstrong physically standing on the surface of
the moon exists, excepting in reflection or shadow (see also first picture,
Neil Armstrong’s reflection in Buzz Aldrin’s visor
It seems the camera used was attached to Armstrong’s
space suit. Now you would have thought that before boarding the lunar
module, Armstrong would have detached the camera and handed it to
Aldrin: “Best have one for the album, eh Buzz?”
Tour de Force
Neil Armstrong, the reluctant hero, brings to mind Bradley Wiggins. Just
as Armstrong insisted that he just happened to be the very sharp end of
a massive army of people who made it all possible, so Wiggins, also the
reluctant hero, insists that his Tour de France win and subsequent gold
medal, came to pass as the result of a dedicated team effort.
My mother always said: don’t be fooled by the grand, sweeping and
self-important things people say; it’s those spontaneous, throwaway
little things they say and do — or don’t say and do — that tell you
everything you will ever need to know.
nothing you see
death brought the conspiracy theorists out in force. The online comment
boards were alive with the sound of scepticism i.e.
the moon landings never happened, only in a studio somewhere or other.
As I have said before: the Americans and the Russians
were deep into the cold war, and there was a race to the Moon. More
importantly, both the Americans and the Russians would have known
precisely what the others were up to.
Can you imagine, the Americans landing on the moon —
and the Russians doing their nuts: “Just look at those Yanks, honestly, fooling
the world that they’re on the Moon — and making us look like chumps.
They really are a laugh a minute. Crack open another bottle of vodka, Comrade.”
Now come on: the Russians would have tripped over
themselves to expose the cheating Americans.
But there again, the ultimate conspiracy theorist will say that there
was no such thing as a cold war, no such thing as a proper Berlin Wall, no
such thing as a race to the Moon.
You see, both the Americans and the Russians would have had a
secret meeting and perhaps tossed for it: Russian first man in space,
American first man on the moon — when it’s time to fool the world about
Mars, we’ll toss for it again...
Yep, I’d buy into that.
Finally, I really enjoyed this wonderfully conspiratorial comment spotted
Dalekdave: When Louis Armstrong and Buzz
Lightyear went to the Moon in Fireball XL5, many were not convinced they
had done it.
Some say it was faked, but in fact doping allegations saw Armstrong
stripped of his seven years in space, and many were convinced that it
was a CIA/Mafia plot to discredit Sarah Kennedy’s legacy of putting a
man in her bed by 1970.
That’s nearly as good as looking up at the moon and throwing a wink in
memory of Neil Armstrong.
Saturday, August 25
Master Mistress of my passion
I’M AT the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, Asterisk Bar, Bank Holiday Saturday, the place is crowded, quite a buzz. I’m chatting to Old Shaggy ... he
answers a mobile phone off the table in front of him. “Hello.”
A rather sexy female voice speaks: “Darling, I’ve been
your mistress for 20 years now. I’ve always loved you — you know that
we discussed a few things recently? Well, I’ve had a fabulously
There’s a pause. “Go on,” says Old Shaggy.
“Remember you said that if I found a little car to replace
old Gertrude, you’d buy it for me? Believe it or not, Julie is selling her
gorgeous little Mini — I know you said no more than £5,000 — she’s
asking £6,500 — it’s such a dream, just what I need — please, darling.”
“Er,” hesitates Old Shaggy. “Okay, you got it, I can
spare that little bit extra.”
The mistress goes on: “And you always said if I found a
nice place to live you would help. I’ve found a gorgeous flat in
Llandeilo, it has a secluded entrance round the back, out of sight of
nosy parkers — £480 a month.”
“You want a nice flat,” says Old Shaggy, “you go ahead
and rent it, it sounds just perfect. It’s fine by me.”
She continues: “And remember how I told you about that
beautiful outfit in Rig Out? The one that was much too expensive for me,
even with your generous help, sweetheart? Well, this afternoon I
couldn’t believe my luck. They’ve got a sale on and it’s down to £300.”
“You have it,” says Old Shaggy. “Buy it as a special
present from me. You sort out all those deals straight away before you
“You’re so wonderful, kiss, kiss, kiss, see you later
tonight.” And she’s gone.
Old Shaggy switches off the phone and holds it up: “Who’s mobile is
Move over, darling
“I would be dead if I had been to bed with all the men that have sex
scenes in my books.” Jilly Cooper, 75, English journalist and author
of bawdy and lustful novels.
What a fascinating quote that is. It suggests that Jilly’s characters
are based on real people, which is no surprise, obviously. The key word
though is “all” – so what are we talking about, Jilly? You’ve been to
bed with, er, half the men? Two-thirds?
I’m reminded of the tale of Old Shaggy (again), offering a girl in the
Asterisk Bar, as only Old Shaggy can, £20 to go to bed with him. She
smiles and says: “I’m not that kind of girl, Shaggy.” Yes, even the girls
know him as Old Shaggy.
So Shaggy says: “What if I offered you a million?”
She laughs: “Hm, now you’re talking.”
“Okay,” says Old Shaggy, “now that we’ve established
what kind of girl you are — let’s negotiate an affordable price.”
The most meaningless headline in the world, probably
Prince Harry naked: The Sun was right to publish “cute”
pictures, says Murdoch’s daughter
Elisabeth Murdoch, the daughter of newspaper tycoon Rupert
Murdoch, has endorsed the Sun’s decision to publish naked
pictures of Prince Harry, saying the prince was “cute”, as St James’s
Palace indicated it would not take action against the tabloid.
Surely, the headline should have read...
Elisabeth Murdoch says Prince
Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she?
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday morning, the Sun
rather than use a Prince Harry lookalike, which might have got them into
trouble, restaged one of the Harry photographs (in his magic suit of
clothes) on its front page, using reporter Harry Miller as a stand-in
for the prince, with the headline “Harry Grabs the Crown Jewels”.
Here it is again — both clever and witty...
...a day later, and the Sun decides to print the real
photograph. The first thing you notice is the extraordinary faithfulness
of the restaged version.
But oh dear: big, BIG, BIG mistake, surely? Talk
about closing the stable door, etc, etc… everyone who wanted to see the
pictures will have already seen them, so why force those who didn’t
particularly see a need to view them, see them? After all, if the
picture is on the front page there is no way to avoid seeing it.
Mostly though, running the actual picture one day late
is much like the fellow down the pub who tells a cracking good joke —
then spoils it all by explaining why it’s funny.
I’m not sure what the Leveson inquiry will make of it
all though, but it looks as if the Sun has been caught in
the slips. Or perhaps that should read MLBW: middle-leg before wicket.
Incidentally, I see that the Americans call Las Vegas Loss Vegas.
Anyway, some great letters on the subject in the Telegraph...
Prince Harry’s bad luck to be born in the age of the mobile phone
SIR – Prince Harry is red-haired, red-blooded and has fought for his
country. He has much to commend him. I would be very proud if he was one
of my five sons.
Anna Hartley, Ilkley, West Yorkshire
But Anna, what if you had five daughters, and one of them was naked with
Harry, indeed, what if she was the one who sold the photographs?
SIR – Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. Or have the rules
Seaview, Isle of Wight
SIR – I seem to recall an Army regulation which stated that “an officer
taking part in any sport or pastime shall at all times be dressed in a
manner appropriate”. It would seem Prince Harry has a perfect defence.
West Chiltington, West Sussex
SIR – One would have thought that Prince Harry, with his privileged
upbringing, would have been a better billiards player.
Apropos that last letter, and Harry being a poor billiards player, ho,
ho, ho — I remember when I was about Harry’s age, long before the age of
the mobile phone, a great party in Southampton, the drink had been
flowing all night and spirits were high, when someone produced a pack of
cards and suggested a game of Strip Snap Strip.
Being a simple country lad, I had never heard of the
game, let alone played it. But mother never bred a jibber.
I quickly realised that it was a very positive strategy to purposely
lose a few quick games; the girls opposite would then nominate an
article of clothing I should remove — oh, nominating my underpants
straight off was not allowed, the girls (and the boys) had to arrive
there according to the strict rules of reverse dressing: shoes first,
kind of thing.
Anyway, instinct told me that if I took several
articles of clothing off first, and showed that I was, as we say here in
Wales, prepared to “Go the whole hog, Mog”, the girls would be much less
inhibited when they had to disrobe.
And that was precisely the case. I believe it is called
tactics. A grand time was had by all...
I also enjoyed this letter:
SIR – My wife has been suggesting I need new spectacles. She may be
right, because, reading your report, I thought it said: “The Prince is
expected to receive a dressing-gown from the military when he returns.”
Viv Payne, Edwalton, Nottinghamshire
You are awful – but I like you
The Duke of Edinburgh’s joking “instruction” to staff as he left
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary the other day.
Do you suppose Prince Philip had already been forewarned about the Harry
incident and was passing a sort of coded message to his grandson?
I’m reminded of the recent letter I featured here,
compliments of The Times, where a Meg Wilkes, in her
mid-eighties, had learnt in her old age to always ask for help when she
needed it. She rounded off her letter thus:
One lad in a bus offered me his seat and assured me that he didn’t mind
me chatting with him because he was “doing a project on old people”. Two
wellie-laden girls on their way to Glastonbury left me rejuvenated by
their response to my parting “Be good” with “You too”.
Buses and trains
[and hotel suits in Loss Vegas?]
are full of helpful people. They just need to be asked.
and elliptical billiard balls
There has been much fuss about who was paying for Harry’s stay in Loss
Vegas i.e. we, the taxpayers, obviously; after all, how could he afford
it on his army salary?
Well, this from Mail Online...
As Prince Harry faces the music at home for his Las Vegas antics, it
seems stripping off in a game of ‘naked billiards’ could be the least of
his worries, after it was revealed he was not charged for his stay at
the luxurious Encore Wynn resort.
The young royal allegedly racked up a bill of £30,000 as he partied in a
palatial eight-room suite with his two friends, but didn’t have to pay a
penny according to a hotel source.
Billionaire Steve Wynn, who owns the resort and dined with Prince Harry
at the hotel’s SW Steakhouse back in November 2011, reportedly ordered
that the royal party would not have to pay for anything during their
hotel source said: “There is no way Harry was presented with a bill on
his way out. That’s not Steve’s style. When Prince Harry is in Vegas, he
stays at the Wynn.”
You just have to smile. That really is the sort of publicity that money
can’t buy. Encore!
Thursday, August 23
More, Mo, More — One Mo Time
“MO FARAH has a twin brother, his wife is expecting twins. Does this
mean twins run in the family?”
Martin Blocksidge of Preston, in a letter to the Daily Mail...
Fly Mo, Fly BoJo
In this lull between Olympics and Paralympics, I am stumbling across all
sorts of amusing little titbits. For example, a couple of days or so
back, there was that witty call for the 100m Zipwire to be
included as an Olympic event at Rio in 2016 — fly BoJo, fly...
And here comes that Mo Farah 5,000 metre moment. The
disbelieving expression on the face of Mo as he crossed the line to
claim his second Olympic gold has become one of the iconic images
of the 2012 Games.
Now one fan has used the picture to create a hilarious
online tribute to his Olympic hero, showing the track star on the run
from an array of pursuers — including Mo himself, as above, very funny —
and here’s a snap compilation of others, compliments of Mail Online...
Olympic star Mo Farah is pictured on the run from Batman and Robin, a
flush of sizzling hot
brides, the rampaging bulls of Pamplona, and a horde of zombies, bottom right, in images
taken from a Staffordshire fan’s hilarious tribute to the double gold
medal winner that is creating a buzz on the web since creator Luke Harvey,
21, published it online following Mo’s win.
The graduate described it as his tribute to a ‘true
It has, of course, resulted in others joining in the fun. Here are a few
of my favourites...
Mo, a name I call myself
Mo Runner is to the taste buds of a coyote what caviar, champagne,
filet mignon and chocolate fudge are to the taste buds of man.”
The Gio Compario effort, above, is delightfully memorable. Incidentally, I know
the Gio ads are designed to get on your wick anyway — that is how we remember the
link to the Go Compare insurance site, apparently — but I’m sure they overplayed the
one with Sue Barker and the bazooka...
...after the first few times I’d seen the ad — which I originally did find amusing
rapidly found myself zapping channels
as soon as it appeared. Incidentally, do you suppose that is Sergei the
meerkat, above, disguised as Sue Barker, disguised as a prairie dog?
Whatever, back with Mo ... there’s an impressive display of Mo running away from
all sorts of weird and wonderful things on Luke Harvey’s website, so here’s a link to the site and its
many amusing tributes...
Wednesday, August 22
The Prince and the reluctant crown jewels
WELL, there’s only one smiley story today ... poor old Harry. Talk about
walking into an ambush, hope he’ll do better as an Apache pilot —
anyway, this is the Telegraph headline that
caught my eye...
Harry: security is a “nightmare”
Prince Harry is one of the royals afforded high level security,
costing £120 million a year, but keeping him in check is an impossible
job, according to a former royal protection officer.
As third in line to the throne and part of the “inner”
group of royals, he will be one of the best-protected members of the
establishment. However, photographs released by US-based celebrity
website TMZ appearing to show the Prince naked but for some jewellery
during a holiday in Las Vegas will raise questions over how closely he
Dai Davies, the former head of royal protection at the
Metropolitan Police Service —
[do you suppose he was known as Dai the Dick, even Dai the Royal Dick?]
— said it was a job that required balancing the demands of his
high-profile status with his youthful pursuits.
Curiosity made me Google the TMZ website ... what of the rather grainy
photographs? Yawn. Mind you, I’m still smiling at the brief article
which accompanied the pictures. Here it is, verbatim...
put the crown jewels on display in Vegas this weekend ... getting BARE
ASS NAKED during a game of strip billiards with a room full of friends
in his VIP suite.
It all went down Friday night during a raging party in
a high rollers hotel suite. We’re told Harry, along with a large
entourage, went down to the hotel bar and met a bunch of hot chicks ...
and invited them up to his VIP suite.
Once in the room, things got WILD ... with the group
playing a game of strip pool that quickly escalated into full-on royal
nudity. Some of the partiers snapped photos of the madness. In one
photo, a fully nude Harry cups his genitals while a seemingly topless
woman stands behind him.
In another photo, a naked Harry is bear-hugging a woman
who appears to be completely naked as well. No word on who the women are
... or if they got Harry’s phone number.
A rep for the Royal Family tells us: “We have no
comment to make on the photos at this time.”
what I mean? Why is it that I never got to meet any of those ‘hot
chicks’? Anyway, the photos are there, and as I said, not particularly
great quality — but there were definitely no crown jewels on display.
Now I would guess that there may well be pics of
Harry’s jewels out there somewhere, perhaps even a video — could
be that TMZ are holding them back, or the person who took them is asking
a hot price to reflect the hot topic.
Anyway, what tickled me was a poll on the website. We
were asked to tick the relevant box:
Prince Harry: Disgraceful
I was intrigued to know the result, which meant I had to vote — so I
went with ‘Awesome’: I was somewhat surprised that, on a celebrity
website, 35% actually voted ‘Disgraceful’, 65% ‘Awesome’.
There were 211,472 votes cast when I clicked.
Keep newspapers away from your naked flames
The great debate though has been about whether the British newspapers
chickened out of showing the pictures because of the Leveson inquiry
into the behaviour of the UK press — after all, an Irish newspaper has
already carried a picture of a naked Prince Harry on its front page.
Smile of the day though goes to Thursday’s Sun
front page, which has just surfaced on TV’s ‘Tomorrow’s newspaper
...rather than using a Prince Harry lookalike, which could have got them
into trouble, the Sun has restaged one of the photographs
on its front page using reporter Harry Miller as a stand-in for the
prince, with the headline “Harry Grabs the Crown Jewels”.
Imagine the newspaper office this afternoon, the editor
shouts out across the crowded floor: “Anyone here called Harry?” The staff look
sheepishly towards poor old Harry Miller, sat at his desk minding his own business.
“Right,” says the editor, “get your kit off, you’re on the front page.”
You couldn’t, as they say, make it up. Oh yes, what about this business
that both online and print newspapers in the UK were not allowed to show pictures of
Look away now
Well, there is all the difference in the world between print and online
publications. When I go online and I see the link ‘Naked photos of
Prince Harry’ — I then make a conscious decision whether to click or
However, when I pick up a newspaper which has a picture
of a naked Prince Harry, I have been subliminally ambushed to embrace
the ethics, morality and honesty of that newspaper’s proprietor, whether
it be Rupert Murdoch or whoever.
Now I would not wish that on anyone, even if I did
click on the TMZ Prince Harry link — but as I said above, I am still
smiling at the article which accompanied the photos.
Hot chickadees indeed.
Tuesday, August 21
Toys ‘r’ cheap
VANESSA Feltz on her early-morning wireless show mentioned a report in
the papers which concludes that young children are better off with odds
and ends to play with rather than expensive gadgets. The report
highlighted how to keep your child happy with just £6 worth of toys.
The report’s ‘pocket playground’ contains eight
low-cost items: coloured embroidery threads, coloured paper, drawing
pencils, wooden shapes or building blocks, Plasticine, beads, cardboard
pieces and toy figures.
Vanessa invited her audience to share with other listeners what low cost toys they played
with as children. The response overwhelmingly confirmed the report’s
What was interesting though was that, while her older
audience, me included, would not have been exposed to today’s expensive
gadgets, what parents and grandparents were reporting in droves was how
their own children and grandchildren continue to be mesmerised by simple
It seems that these days, screen-based activities now
‘dominate’, with television, DVDs and electronic gadgets emerging as the
most popular forms of entertainment.
It means children may be less likely to develop
problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, dexterity and creativity.
Only one in 20 older girls, for example, ever make anything with a kit,
such as a model plane.
The overwhelming favourite among Vanessa’s listeners was the ubiquitous cardboard
box and its packaging, which of course offers all sorts of
possibilities, from a car or boat or plane to a room or house or even a
Vanessa told the tale of her producer, Phil, who built
a car out of an orange box — that in itself was nothing unusual, but
picture this: he then took one of those cardboard loo paper inserts,
the ones they always use on Blue Peter, and he stuck it into the back of
the ‘car’ — with orange paper cascading out of said tube giving the
impression of it being an exhaust.
How sweet and clever is that? The report is clearly
right. Simple things really do exercise the imagination of the
After returning from my morning walk, I caught the tail-end of the Chris
Evans wireless show. Lynn Bowles, his usual travel reporter, is away,
and standing in for her is another lady, Lou Pepper. Now there’s a name
to conjure with, and which has ambush written all over it. Is it her
‘proper’ name, do you suppose?
Anyway, it was time for a traffic report...
Lou: Gaz the Trucker assures me he is not lying. M25,
anti-clockwise, Junction 13, stationary, a swan is sitting in the middle
of the carriageway.”
Chris: “Nice swan!”
Lou: “Nice swan? Nice one!”
Well, it made me laugh.
Scouting for pleasure
Anyway, back with the simple toys report, above. My favourite ‘toy’ was
a piece of string, which my mother confusingly always referred to as Hou
However, as I grew up, I had the whole farm and the nearby woods to play
in. My brother is seven years older so he was no play mate, and of
course living in the wilds of Welsh Wales, I had to get on with it on my
Anyway, the pleasures still linger: just me, Hou Long
and the farm’s resident pest controllers, the cats. How astonishing that
something so repetitive as teasing the enthusiastic cats with a piece of
string should provide such unconditional joy. Great
Much like Dad’s Army, really. Whenever I see Captain
Mainwaring and his Home Guard unit on the
screen, yet again, I sigh — and sit there for the next 30 minutes or so
sporting a permanent smile.
Truth to tell, even today I only have to see a cat and
I casually enquire the whereabouts of Hou Long.
What I do remember playing out though was being a Red
Indian scout, which of course by definition was a solitary
profession. At school I was very popular: when everyone played Cowboys
and Indians I was delighted to be an Indian. It meant I was regularly
shot – but crucially, I survived every shoot-out.
As I grew older and entered the adult world, I always
identified with Chief Sitting Bull — while everyone
identified as a shark, polecat, sparrow hawk or roundabout, became
General George Custer — and we all know what Chief Sitting Bull and his
tribes did to Custer at Little Big Horn.
Even to this day I intuitively identify the roundabouts
of life as Custers.
Talking of sneaking down the woods, which I always did when playing at
being a Sioux scout — take a look at this gorgeous picture...
If you go down to the woods today...
Picture: Julian Cox
Three bear cubs appear to be auditioning for a musical about a girl group
such as The Pointer Sisters, as they play together in a forest in
Finland. Ears pricked, these three little bear cubs stand on the lookout
Wildlife photographer Jules Cox stayed overnight in a
wooden hide to capture the brown bears. Wonderful.
REMEMBER back at the beginning of the month, the
images from the BBH London Barn Crew? When Boris Johnson got
stuck on that zip-wire, dangling 20ft in the air? Yes of course. How
could we forget.
Well, the marvellously Photoshopped images of
DangleBoris keep surfacing. Mind you, riding in tandem with all that
rich humour is a growing call for the 100m Zipwire to be included
as an Olympic event at Rio in 2016 — go BoJo, go.
Oh, and let’s not forget that there was much talk as to
whether Boris was gearing up for an assault on 10 Downing Street while
David Cameron was away on hols with the meeja looking the other way and getting its knickers all
in a twist over what sort of footwear Dave was spotted in.
Anyway, first up, here’s a glorious dip into the Boris
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah archive, a DangleBoris tea bag:
"Nothing Beats A Good Cuppa with BoJo Tips – Put the kettle on, Ma..."
I bet Dave would like to pour some boiling water over the BoJo tea bag.
And then the marvellously smiley Adams cartoon from The Daily
The DangleBoris tea bag, incidentally,
compliments of manolofood.com
Hey, Hey Bo
When I heard on the radio today that China’s Gu Kailai, the wife of
fallen Politburo member Bo Xilai, had received a suspended death
sentence following the curious case of the murder of British businessman
Neil Heywood, I presumed that, at worst, this was Chinese-speak for
death by hanging, or, at best, a sort of BoJo zip-wire punishment, the
equivalent of the medieval stocks.
The world of translation is indeed a world of suspended
Meanwhile, more news from the battlefront...
A masked robber who held up a newsagent’s shop was so casual that he
clutched a cup of tea throughout the raid. A neighbour of the shop in
Wythenshawe, Manchester, complained: “It’s just typical of the way
robbers behave these days.”
Do you suppose he was using a BoJo Tips tea bag? Hang about, I think it
was reported that the robber clutched a cup of coffee, but you know what
lying bastards these reporters are!
Unicyclist flashes past
Just caught up with a tale from Texas, where, as we know, everything
is bigger, of a naked man riding a unicycle over a bridge and who was
duly arrested by the police.
A spokesman for the police in Kemah, near Houston,
said: “Obviously the suspect wasn’t armed. That we could tell.”
Yes, but was he cocked and ready for action? (The identity of the above
pee-artist is unknown. Please do not try this down at the Crazy
Horsepower Saloon. Thank you.)
that don’t quite ring true
“I’m not somebody who would ever watch sport but I was consumed. I wept
like a baby.” Jon Snow, 64, British journalist and television presenter,
best known for presenting Channel 4 News, admits to suffering from
At this point I found myself pondering on all the weeping and wailing
and gnashing of teeth surrounding the Olympics ... do you know, perhaps
Who’s Who, that bible of biographies of over 30,000 of the
world’s movers and shakers, both dodgy and otherwise, should be replaced
forthwith by a Boohoo’s Who.
Be that as it may, today I spotted it is Channel 4 that is televising
the forthcoming Paralympics, and Jon Snow is central to the channel’s
presentation; indeed, tonight he was starting the first of a new C4
series, Jon Snow’s Paralympic Show, and the media reports that
the broadcaster is pulling out all the stops to make sure nobody thinks
they have had enough sport already this summer.
Suddenly, the weeping like a baby scenario makes sense. Honestly, it’s
impossible to know what to believe of the things reported in the meeja
Bonny and blithe, and good and gay
(the child that is born on the Sabbath day)
is a brilliant actress, she is beautiful beyond the dreams of
pornography, she can be arrogant and wilful, she is clement and loving.
She is Sunday’s child, she can tolerate my impossibilities and my
drunkenness, she is an ache in the stomach when I am away from her and
she loves me.”
Richard Burton lays bare the
passion and the turbulence between himself and Elizabeth Taylor in his
are to be published in the autumn. He wrote more than 400,000 words in
pocketbooks, desk diaries and loose paper until just before his death at
the age of 58 in 1984.
That line about Elizabeth Taylor being “beautiful beyond the dreams of
pornography” is both puzzling and revealing.
Along my stroll through time I have seen bits and
pieces of pornography — as I write, I have just realised that it has
always happened in the company of other blokes i.e. someone down the pub
says: “Hubie, take a look at this...”.
I have never looked at pornography in the company of a
female, and never, ever on my own, curiously — and while I have often
blinked, shaken my head, smiled and just occasionally thought that a certain
organ transplant would be handy, it has never once crossed my mind that
anything to do with pornography is beautiful.
Dating by design
been writing down all the things girls don’t like and then I go on a
date and the girl says ‘Oh my God, you just did everything right.’.”
Peter Andre, 39, British/Australian musician, singer, reality TV star,
famous for being the ex-husband of model Katie Price, with whom he has
two children, Princess Tiaami Crystal Esther Andre and Junior Sawa
Abdreas Andre. (Did I catch you smiling, there?)
Mind you, I was thinking: I bet whenever Richard Burton went on a date,
and he did all the things that girls don’t like, the girl would say “Oh
my God, you just did everything right — and I love you madly.”
Refusal at the
hope this win improves my pulling power with women, if I am honest.
That’s about it.”
Scott Brash, 26, Scottish show-jumper, had high hopes after winning an
Olympic gold medal, adding ruefully that it hasn’t worked out like that.
Ahhh, bless, I wanted to slide my arm around his shoulders...
the right mother and father. I didn’t quite get it right because they
Lord Tebbit, 81, the former Tory cabinet minister, offers his recipe for
a long life.
No wonder the country is in a mess when our politicians, those who shape
our destiny, openly flaunt the line that the love of money is everything
(and forgetting to point out that it is, of course, the root of all evil).
In the aftermath of the 1981 Handsworth and Brixton riots, Norman
Tebbit, as he then was, and as the Employment Secretary, famously responded
to a suggestion by a Young Conservative (Iain Picton) that rioting was
the natural reaction to unemployment:
“I grew up in the ’30s with an unemployed father. He didn’t riot. He got
on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking ’til he found it.”
And 31 years after Tebbit pointed out the advantages of
getting on yer bike, look at all the Olympic medals we Brits picked up in the
Mind you, that business about selecting the right mother and father gets
nearer by the day. Now that we are reaching the stage in human evolution
where babies can be created out of a gene bank, it’s fascinating to
fantasize. I have just read this:
engineering ‘ethical’ babies is a moral obligation, says Oxford
Genetically screening our offspring to make them better people is just
‘responsible parenting’, claims an eminent Oxford academic. Professor
Julian Savulescu said that creating so-called designer babies could be
considered a “moral obligation” as it makes them grow up into “ethically
The expert in practical ethics said that we should actively give parents
the choice to screen out personality flaws in their children as it meant
they were then less likely to “harm themselves and others”. The
academic, who is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Ethics,
made his comments in an article in the latest edition of Reader’s
He explained that we are now in the middle of a genetic revolution and
that although screening, for all but a few conditions, remained illegal
it should be welcomed.
Back to the
So, let’s think about that designer baby... the banker gene would quite
obviously not be the money-making one, but rather the ‘May you live for
ever and die suddenly’ one. Good health has to be the first gene you
would want to pass on to your child.
The Queen seems to have come up trumps on that one, so
I’ll nab her health gene.
So where do we go next? Well, what about the Richard Burton voice — if
female, then it has to be Fenella Fielding, probably the sexiest female
voice this side of Heaven...
I wouldn’t want any other Burton gene (a deadly love of
alcohol points to a lack of self-esteem — odd, I know, but true — and
that spells trouble). Similarly with Elizabeth Taylor’s love of bright,
shinny, expensive stones, another pointer to lack of self-esteem.
And there I shall leave my designer baby for now.
Talking of a willy transplant, as I hinted at above, in the pornography
Dai the Dead is a local mortician, and one day he is preparing the body
of a local character, mostly known by his nickname, Dick Diamond ... Dai
can’t help but notice that the rumour was true: Dick has the largest
penis he has ever seen.
“I have to show this to the wife,” he says to a fellow
worker. So he cuts it off and takes it home in a box.
“Darling,” he says. “I know I shouldn’t bring my work
home — but take a look at this.”
She opens the box — and lets out a scream. “Oh my God!
Richard Stone is dead!”
Somewhere up there I said a female designer baby should have Fenella
Fielding’s voice — listen very carefully...
Saturday, August 18
flies on Little Boy Blue
I’VE BEEN captivated by a series of letters in The Daily Telegraph
about flies and blue paint...
Flies are deterred by an ingredient in
SIR – I remember, during my boyhood in Cairo, being told that the
interior of government offices were always painted pale blue as a
deterrent to flies.
Is there any scientific basis for this colour scheme?
Christopher Pelly, Parkstone, Dorset
paint drives flies from studies and sties
SIR – My study is painted pale blue, and in 10 years I have not had a
visit from a fly. However, it does not deter spiders. Is there a colour
I might use to stop them climbing in from the garden?
SIR – Historically, the kitchens in country houses were coloured blue
because something in the paint acted as a deterrent to flies.
When visiting Albania before the fall of Communism, I
found that on farms, animal houses, notably piggeries, were painted blue
for the same reason.
What a wonderful name: Primrose Peacock. Anyway, this online response...
Prettyboyguy: “We have a problem, Houston. Those high-voltage
fly-fryers which they have in restaurants and cafes have a blue light
(usually a strip-light) beyond the grille, to entice the flies in to be
“Why do they bother, if flies dislike blue so intensely
that they seek to avoid the colour? Does this explain why there are
usually so few post-immolation insects in the receptacle provided for
I guess those “fly-fryers” use ultraviolet A-rays (the strongest rays
from the sun) which are rather different to blue paint. Anyway, so far
there has been no explanation for this curious phenomenon.
But I did find this online, from Australia’s Kilmore
Free Press, dated 26 July 1917...
Flies Hate Blue
The only colour that flies can see well is white.
They see yellow fairly well, they hate blue and green; red makes
everything appear dark to them, and they don’t see violet at all.
The Eastern nations, which are far more pestered with
flies than we are, have discovered how much flies dislike blue. The
Arabs treat their houses with a kind of light blue wash, and the
Japanese hang curtains of blue glaze beads and bamboo at the entrance to
their baker and butcher shops.
These curtains — they are often used in Australia — let
the air in and the files,
should there be any in the room, pass out between the blue beads towards
the light, but they do not re-enter.
Blue is a good summer colour. It keeps out the heat,
and thus makes the room cool, and keeps flies away. These insects will
be found to settle, quite inactive, on a dark blue blind. Directly the
window is opened they will rush out towards the light.
As I never tire of saying hereabouts: Every day is a day at school. But
still no explanation. What do I think? Arthur Conan Doyle said this:
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however
improbable, must be the truth.”
Well, I reckon flies avoid a blue wall because they know they cannot
land on the sky.
Oh yes, I also enjoyed this online comment...
Southernsun: “I’m more interested in knowing why Primrose Peacock
was visiting Albania before the fall of communism and why she was
Yes indeedy, Southernsun, intriguing stuff.
And along the same lines, ponder this letter, again from the
SIR – Some years ago in Somerset, I had just parked when a Morris 1000
clipped the front of my car. From the Morris emerged an elderly
clergyman. After inspecting his own car for damage, he remarked to me:
“Very odd, that is the second time today that has happened.”
He then walked off to attend to whatever business he
Rev D F Huie,
What is fascinating about that letter is what we are not told. I mean, I
presume there must have been some damage to the Good Rev D F Huie’s car,
so what did he do next?
Did he really turn the other cheek, so to speak, and
put it down to God having a bad day at the office?
Also, there was some correspondence recently about why householders
these days tend not to park their vehicles in their garages but outside
the property, thus adding to the general clutter of the world about us.
There was a fair point made that garages these days
cannot accommodate modern cars. A reader pointed out that even his
humble Focus wouldn’t fit into his 1965 garage.
And on that note, have a look at this delightful short film of a man
parking his car in his tiny garage. Quite memorable. Mind you, I’d like
to know who is moving the car as he gets out.
Anyway, highly commended to the house — or at least,
garage, small car, brilliant Belgian driver:
Guess who’s running the asylum?
“Is it me or is cardboard just getting heavier? I’ve just helped
carry an empty cardboard box out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London and
it weighed a ton.” Daniel May, a writer on TV Burp, tweets a message
to Richard Allison on his early morning wireless show.
What a strange business this Julian Assange circus is. I remember when
he first appeared on the scene — in fact I wrote about him at that time
and instantly labelled him a roundabout i.e. approach with great care,
navigate with your wits about you, and sigh with relief as you exit and
disappear into the sunset.
Yep, it really is a pantomime season all year round
Who ate all the pies?
“To me Desperate Dan will live on as long as Wayne Rooney plays
football.” Letty Sykes of Rainham, Essex in a letter to The Daily
Telegraph apropos the demise of the print version of
children’s comic The Dandy.
Now that mental image of Desperate Rooney as Wayne Dan made me smile
even before visiting my picture desk — and here’s
proof positive of what Letty Sykes was alluding to...
Priceless. Finally — and talking of comic cuts...
Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
This, spotted in a Telegraph Picture Gallery. No,
it’s neither a bird nor a plane — it’s Supersquirrel.
A female red squirrel flies through the air with the
greatest of ease ... the picture captured by wildlife photographer
Edwin Kats in his garden in Nunspeet, Holland...
Cool for Kats
Ah yes, that’s where we’ve seen the pose before ... a wonderfully smiley
juxtaposition by the Telegraph’s picture desk.
Thursday, August 16
I need somebody
CHIEF Wise Owl down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon has cut out and saved
a few more marvellous letters from The Times newspaper for my
scrapbook. First up...
Sir, I have found a foolproof way of getting help when I or anyone near
me needs it. Ask for it. I’m in my mid-eighties and I used to wonder why
my fellow travellers seemed not to notice my struggles. I decided that
if I changed my behaviour they might change theirs. I started to ask for
The effect was magical. Muscular young men leapt to my
assistance, apparently enjoying lifting my heavy case with a flourish;
other passengers were quick to assist. Asking doesn’t always come
naturally, even at my post-embarrassment age, but it gets much easier
One lad in a bus offered me his seat and assured me
that he didn’t mind me chatting with him because he was “doing a project
on old people”. Two wellie-laden girls on their way to Glastonbury left
me rejuvenated by their response to my parting “Be good” with “You too”.
Buses and trains are full of helpful people. They just
need to be asked.
MEG WILKES, Ellesmere, Shropshire
What a smashing letter. But do you know, I am slightly ahead of Meg
Wilkes. It is not just buses and trains that are full of helpful people.
One of the joys of living in a community, especially one where you have
spent most of your life, is that asking for help is something that really does come
Not only that, asking to borrow something comes
naturally — say your lawnmower has broken down, you just ask your
neighbour and he or she will, as a rule of thumb, fall over themselves to help.
But here’s the thing: I remember my mother telling me
that if ever I have to borrow something, I should make sure that it is
returned in as good a condition as when I first took possession,
preferably in a better condition i.e. give the borrowed lawnmower a
really good clean before returning it.
Not only will your neighbour be impressed, but you will
be offered assistance, or indeed the loan of something, even before you
ask for it.
Even more than that, if people see you fiddling under
the bonnet of the car, or attempting to carry something awkward into the
house, all sorts of people will stop and ask if they can help. It really
Anyway, back with the Meg Wilkes letter, there was a delightful follow
Sir, I am delighted that Meg Wilkes has found muscular young men ready
to lift her heavy suitcase with a flourish.
But I offer a word of caution to those young men. I
travelled down to Didcot on a very crowded train and as we stopped, an
elderly lady, perhaps Meg Wilkes herself, standing next to a heavy case
by the door, said to me: “Would you help me with this case?”
I lifted it with a flourish and followed the lady along
the platform, down the stairs and to the taxi rank. As I handed her back
the case she said: “It’s not mine dear, it was in the way.”
I then noticed the label on the case with a Cardiff
address. I now offer my apologies belatedly through The Times to
the owner, who was still on the train.
I wasn’t sure whether I believed that story — then I noticed the author:
DR DAVID A. HARRIS, Harwell, Oxon
And I did believe it. However ... does having a DR in front of your name
deserve such absolute trust? Whatever, I really do believe the tale —
and a cracking one it is.
And with that, Chief Wise Owl handed me another letter, compliments of
One width only
Sir, “Who doesn’t love their 25m swimming badge?” asks Mathew Pinsent.
Some do more than others. A line of medical qualifications on my
husband’s surgery wall ends with a tiny certificate that says he “swam
one width of the Tiverton Road baths in a reasonable style”.
He remains triumphantly reasonable.
DIANE RYLEY, Cheltenham, Glos
What a wonderful epitaph that would make:
Here lies Chief Wise Owl: A life lived triumphantly reasonable
And here’s yet another smile, again compliments of The Times...
Landing Curiosity on Mars was magnificent, but if Nasa really wants to
understand Outer Space, it should try getting a plumber to come out to a
remote highland glen.
MICHAEL BEGG, Strathconon, Ross-shire
Finally, proof positive that life, no matter how agreeable, often does not quite add up: this
from The Daily Telegraph...
SIR – In a recent interview, George Osborne, the Chancellor, said that
he was concentrating 110 per cent on the economy. One wonders whether he
possesses the basic mathematical skills for the job.
Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire
Mind you, would you buy a used car from George Osborne? Think
shark/dolphin, polecat/pussycat, sparrow hawk/sparrow,
...pass? Talk about Mr Shifty.
Wednesday, August 15
PHOTOGRAPHS are a wonderful source of pleasure. The Olympics, quite
naturally, drew the world’s top sports snappers, so today I doff my
cap to the images that caught my eye.
Pride of place goes to this image — mostly because it
took me a moment to make sense of it, which adds to its magic...
Me and my shadow
Thailand’s Nina Lamsan Ligon competes in the cross country
at Greenwich Park
Picture: Adrian Dennis
Next, Emmanuel Lucenti of Argentina lies on the mat after losing to
Antoine Valois-Fortier of Canada in the Men’s 81kg Judo. An image that
Aesthetically pleasing on the eye
Picture: Chris McGrath
And then there are the tricks of the trade — not cheating, as in
Photoshopping, but rather as in the next picture, where multiple
exposures have been combined to create a fantastic illusion, as if the
cycling track is seemingly full of racers...
Rush hour in the Velodrome
Finally, a picture that you or I could have taken — given a decent
camera, obviously. It is all about being in the right place...
And the horse jumped over the Moon
Ireland’s Michael Ryan, riding Ballylynch Adventure, jumps The Moon
fence in the cross country course at the equestrian eventing.
That’s a smashing picture, so atmospheric, so smiley,
especially with The City looming large in the background.
Tuesday, August 14
SOME eye-catching quotes and pictures still surfacing in the wake of
“’We’re doing so well,’ beamed the Chinese lady when I went to
collect my takeaway. Yes, we were. She meant us. The doomsters will be
back soon enough. There will be squabbles about the cost and the legacy.
And none of it will matter. Because, for a fortnight in the best summer
we could remember, Great Britain did her Personal Best. It was beautiful
and we were happy. And that is enough.” Allison Pearson writing in
I really did like that ‘Personal Best’ tag. Also, the summer reference:
the nation really did forget how awful our late spring/early summer
weather had been — and unbelievably the weather did play ball over those
Yes, there was some rain, but no more than you would
reasonably expect in a reasonable British summer.
“He told me to run fast.” Team GB’s 200m runner Margaret Adeoye,
when asked if her coach, Linford Christie, had given her any last-minute
advice before her race.
“I reckon the Olympics will change Britain and the world for ever and
ever and ever. Saw my neighbour’s cat with its arm round a pigeon when
George Michael was on. Really.” Online comment by Wittgensteinsfoot.
Did Tony do this?
YESTERDAY I wrote of
Lorna Dunkley of Sky News, in the hours leading up to the Olympic
opening ceremony, interviewing
Emily Williams, a graduate of Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, who,
using a formula created by a professor at Tuck, would go on to predict
with 97% accuracy how each nation would fare in the medals table.
interviewed Tony Blair (who
was prime minister when the idea of inviting the Games to
London was first mooted), and asked him his thoughts now that the whole shebang
Do you know, I seem to remember that when The Simpsons
television series began, at the end of every episode, after the credits
had rolled, a child’s voice would announce: “I did this!”
It always made me smile.
When Dunkley asked Blair about his feelings, he reminded me of that
child. It was as much as he could do to stop himself saying “I did this!” apropos the Olympics coming to
London Town. That too was rather smiley.
Dunkley’s final remark to Blair was this little gem: “I bet you
wish you were still in charge.” It momentarily threw him — but he
quickly grinned and the spin spun forth with aplomb: “I’m just happy to
have been part of it, blah, blah, blah...”
His body language though shouted “Yes, YES, YES!
Oh how I wish I was still in bloody charge.”
As revealing an interview as you could ever wish to catch in the
I mention the above because there has
been a letter in the Telegraph which was responding to a
missive about cities around the world that have changed their names:
Salisbury is now Harare, Bombay is now Mumbai — indeed someone recalled
with much joy John
Prescott who, a few years ago, spoke of his enjoyment of Peking duck,
while on a visit to Beijing.
SIR – Your readers debate the pronunciation and changing of city names.
A few years ago my wife and I flew to Ho Chi Minh City. After a few
days, we asked our guide why local people tended to use the previous
name, Saigon. Well, he replied, how would you like to be told to call
London “Tony Blair City”?
Frank Sanders, Allestree, Derbyshire
guy’s driving me nuts
King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden sported turquoise-and-yellow
outfits as they showed their animated support for their country’s
handball team at the Basketball Arena.
Anyone who has sat in front of a mouthy supporter at a sporting
event will empathise absolutely with the lady in front. Memorable shot.
The royals went through the full range of emotions as
Sweden took on Denmark in the quarter-finals at the Basketball Arena in
the Olympic Park, eventually upsetting the European champions 24-22.
I swear to tell the truth...
SO WHAT did you really think of the
showpiece Olympic ceremonies, in 16
words or less, please?
“Two weeks ago the world thought we Brits were rubbish at sport and
great at music...” Online comment by Anbolin.
Magic. And 10 out of 10 for
delivery and execution, Anbolin.
in more than 16 words ... I recall a show called Sunday Night at the London Palladium: I would sit in front of the telly and allow the whole thing to wash
all over me.
Back then such entertainment was a novelty and it never
entered your thinking to look at it with a critical eye. You just
embraced (subliminally?) the bits that touched your H-Spot, your
And that’s how I felt about the opening and closing
ceremonies. There was Friday Night at the Olympic Stadium — and
then there was Sunday Night at the Olympic Stadium. On both
occasions I left my critical faculties on the welcome mat, and allowed
both shows to just wash over me — but subliminally embraced the bits
that seduced my H-Spot.
And that’s why I thoroughly enjoyed both shows.
Mind you, it was a damn close run thing when Russell Brand appeared as the
Walrus: for a split-second there I definitely did hear Alice say
very rude of him to come and spoil the fun!”
— but, like watching the football results of yesteryear, I did the “look
away now” bit.
What the Tuck?
Back on July 27, just a couple of hours or so before the Olympic opening
ceremony, I happened to catch Lorna Dunkley of Sky News interview Emily
Williams, a recent graduate of Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth,
New Hampshire, who, using a formula created by a professor at Tuck, predicted
how each nation would fare in the medals table.
Britain, Emily said, would win 25 Golds, 62 medals in
total (against 19 Gold, 47 in total in Beijing). I sort of
smiled at the agreeable fantasy of it all, but made a note in my
diary, just to check it out — in the interest of curiosity, you
However, as was pointed out in the interview, the
accuracy of the formula is impressive (95% in the Beijing
Olympics), given that it only considers four main factors;
population, gross domestic product, medals previously won and
Quite how it works she didn’t say, which is fair
As it turns out, Emily’s predictions for the London Games were
remarkable. Here are some other figures: the United States would
top the table with 103 medals (they finished with 104), followed
by China with 94 (finished with 87), Russia third with 67
(finished with 82), Great Britain fourth with 62 (finished with
65) — but Britain would claim third place in the gold medal
chart with those 25 (GB actually finished with 29 Gold).
Compliments of the Economist
I have just checked out Tuck’s overall predictions this time around:
astonishingly, London 2012 gave the clever little Tuckers a 97% success
rate overall. Impressive or what?
As a postscript to the predictions, this interesting tail-end of a piece
Economist, comparing sources other than Tuck, and published before
By contrast, PricewaterhouseCoopers thinks Britain will win 54 medals,
and Daniel Johnson of Colorado College, another veteran forecaster,
actually thinks Britain will win fewer medals at home than it did four
years ago in Beijing (down by two to 45).
The newcomer to the field is Kevin Daly, an economist
at Goldman Sachs, who calculates that on average the host nation of an
Olympics wins 54% more medals than usual. Taking Britain’s 47 last time
as “usual”, that would translate into a whopping 72 medals in London.
We shall soon find out which, if any, of these
scientists is on the right track.
Take a bow, Kevin Daly.
Bringing up the rear
Here’s something spotted in Mail Online:
Leading from the front AND bringing up the rear: Team GB may be enjoying
great London 2012 success ... but we’ve also come last in most events
It has, by any account, been a wildly successful Olympic Games for Great
Britain. Their stunning haul of 29 gold medals has exceeded all
expectations and when 17 silvers and 19 bronzes are factored into the
equation, Team GB is riding high in the medal table.
But a cheeky piece of research by the Wall Street Journal has attempted
to pour cold water on the massive sense of pride felt in British
Because if medals were awarded for coming last, our sportsmen and women
would be doing rather well in that too. The American paper went through
every event in the Olympics so far, awarding a ‘Lead’ medal for a last
place finish, ‘Tin’ for second last and ‘Zinc’ for third last.
And unfortunately, GB would top the spectacular losers table with a
less-than-glorious total of eight ‘Leads’, 11 ‘Tins’ and 12 ‘Zincs’ - a
grand total of 31 not-so-precious medals.
It seems the simple fact the Games are being held in London is behind
this dubious accolade - in all the team sports, the hosts can enter a
team and not have to pre-qualify.
So home crowds have been able to watch a British side in competitions
like water polo, handball and volleyball - events we wouldn’t normally
qualify for. And sadly, the gap in skill and experience has been too
wide to make up, with both the men’s and women’s water polo teams, the
men’s and women’s handball teams and the men’s volleyball team picking
up ‘lead’ medals for last place.
There is some comfort to be had, however, in seeing Australia in third
place with 20 bottom-three finishes, especially considering they trail
GB by a huge 22 Golds in the real medal table.
MEDAL TABLE THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO SEE
This table shows the top ten nations in the Wall Street Journal’s
alternative medal table, with the number of ‘Lead’, ‘Tin’ and ‘Zinc’
medals won [as at August 10]:
August 12 (Olympics Closing Ceremony)
A shot in the dark?
WITH memories of the Queen’s “Good evening, Mr Bond” still fresh in the
mind from the Olympics Opening Ceremony — mind you, someone
did point out afterwards that she should properly have said “Good
evening, Commander Bond” (it’s always the little things that annoyingly
distract and make you realise that they’re only play-acting, much like
noticing a car trailing white exhaust clouds arriving at a destination
following a long car chase, d’oh!)
— I really did intend to use today’s Telegraph
Her Majesty will be
fired from this cannon...'
that is laugh-out-loud stuff. Anyway, during the Closing Ceremony, Eric
Idle gets everybody going with his Always Look on the Bright Side of
Life — it’s one of those songs you can’t stop yourself singing along
with — well blow me, what is trundled out into the arena but a cannon.
I blinked. Especially so as, thus far in proceedings,
the Royal Family were represented by just Harry and Kate, with not a
sign of Her Maj ... no, surely not?
Then a rather brave individual is unceremoniously shot
out of the cannon...
Good sketch, though... mind you, unless
had some insider information apropos the Olympic closing ceremony, then
he should certainly choose his own lottery numbers this week.
As to the other images wot captured my imagination ... well, the photo
below — or at least variations on the theme — is the picture every
newspaper front page, excepting The Times, curiously, carried on
its front page the morning after the night before, the Union flag motif
covering the stadium floor...
No surprise though; it is wonderfully clever and eye-catching. And
designed by Damien Hirst. However,
my image of the night goes to the sequence of events that arrived at
this stunning moment...
A sculpture in the shape of John Lennon magically morphed onstage, in
front of our very eyes.
A truly magic moment. However, as to the performers, the individual act
that I would go out of my way to see again — well, it has to be
...that anyone can be so riotously entertaining while wielding nothing
more that a few dustbins and their lids gets my vote every time.
Saturday, August 11
When a picture paints a thousand smiles
With these rings I thee persecute
TODAY I stumbled upon this amusing story and picture gallery...
London 2012 Olympics: revenge of the rings
Anger at the strict rules governing the use of the Olympic rings have
led to the creation of
a blog called Revenge of the
which invites readers to send in their own interpretation of the rings.
The site, the brainchild of a group of people who wish
to remain anonymous, was created after a Camberwell café owner was told
to remove Olympic rings made of bagels from his window.
Below, just a few of my favourite images, compliments of:
A spokesman for the site said: “As community wardens raid local bakeries
for unauthorised bagel displays, Revenge of the Rings is a
call to arms for people to rally against the totalitarian clamp-down on
normal people and businesses using the Olympic rings.
“No longer should people bow down to restraints put on
our Olympic rings by multi-million pound sponsorship deals,” the
spokesman continued. “Revenge of the Rings brings ownership
back to the people!”
The Olympic rings image was designed in 1912 and made its debut at the
1920 Antwerp Olympics. The Olympic Movement owns the trademark to the
symbol and has exclusive rights to any interlocking arrangement of five
rings, as well as the usage of the word “Olympic”.
Strict rules mean that only official sponsors are allowed to display
images of the Olympic rings or use the words
“London 2012” and
So there. So what better and cheekier image to finish with than this...
Thursday, August 9
Born to smile
“I’ve got my medal for Great Britain, another one for the medal
board.” The first smiley words uttered on television by flyweight
boxing champion Nicola Adams, 29, after winning her Gold.
On the welcome mat at the very top I say this:
These are my Notes to Self, a daily record of the simple
things that make me smile and brighten my day no end, whether read in a
newspaper, seen on TV...
One of the surprising joys over recent days has been the sight and sound
of the delightful Nicola Adams. As with so many of the Olympians who
have hit our screens and front pages over the past couple of weeks, I
had never heard of her.
As it happens, boxing is not a sport I engage with much
enthusiasm: I have trouble
coming to terms with a sport where the whole point is to hurt your
Yes, I vaguely remember making a point of watching
Cassius Clay — or was it Muhammad Ali? Not only was he a supreme athlete
and boxer, but a proper entertainer.
When I first saw Nicola interviewed on television,
probably like most of those watching, I was captivated by not just her
wonderful smile and irrepressible enthusiasm, but that glorious
Yorkshire accent of hers.
So I have followed her, as well as the Irish
lightweight champion, Katie Taylor, with much enthusiasm. They are
watchable. So pride of place today goes to Nicola and her smile — oh,
and her medal:
In the quote at the top Nicola says: “I’ve got my medal for Great
Britain...” — note, not for herself, but rather, her country.
As I always say, never be
fooled by the grand, sweeping and self-important things people say; it’s
those spontaneous, throwaway little things that people say and do which
say so much and tell you everything you ever need to know.
Mind you, Nicola quickly followed up by thanking “my
mother, my brother, my family, everyone who has come here today and
everyone who has supported me along the way”.
I must also acknowledge Welsh fighter Jade Jones, who made history by
becoming Britain’s first Olympic taekwondo champion, the youngest GB
2012 Olympic champion thus far — and Wales’ youngest ever Olympic
There were three GB Golds today, all won by females,
and all making Olympic history for Britain in their hugely contrasting
...from left to right, Charlotte Dujardin (individual freestyle
dressage), Nicola Adams (first ever Olympic women’s boxing champion) and
of course Jade Jones (taekwondo).
Proper smiley stuff.
Wednesday, August 8
Heil the conquering heroes
am unable to watch the Olympics due to the blustering jingoism that
drenches the event. Has England ever been quite so foul with
patriotism?” Morrissey, 53, English singer and lyricist, compares
the 2012 Olympic atmosphere to Hitler’s Germany in 1939.
Have you noticed anyone being rounded up at gunpoint, heads shaved and herded
into ominous looking huts?
It is not so much that Morrissey comes across as being as doolally as a
Dumbo, but rather the Olympic Games highlight the extraordinary reality
gap between our celebrity culture and our Olympian athletes.
Not so much blustering jingoism today but rather withdrawal symptoms
instead. No medals of any colour to boast about, so time to reflect on some special Olympian smiles.
Well, if we had known what agony Scotsman Sir Chris Hoy puts his poor
mother Carol through every time he climbs onto a bicycle made for one, the nation would have insisted
that he gave up after winning his first Gold.
Carol Hoy highlights perfectly what I mean if I happen
to say that something I’m watching on telly is so awful or stressful
that it makes me want to go and watch it from behind the sofa.
I’d contemplated having to watch the Olympic Opening
Ceremony from such a position, but the reaction from those who had seen
the rehearsals eased my Carol Hoys so I watched in the full-frontal
Here are a couple of memorable images from that race, where Chris Hoy
sixth and record-breaking Gold...
Carol Hoy: Look away now if you
don’t want to
know the result
Carol and David Hoy: Proud parents
boasting a neat
turn of phrase
Whilst I am still coming to terms with another Scottish woman, Kirsty
Young, 44, television and radio presenter, effin’ and blindin’ as host
on a recent Have I Got News For You, the nearest we have come to
obscenity during these Games is lip-reading Carol Hoy shouting “Has he
won? Oh my God!”
after her son had won his final Gold.
What joy, also, when Hoy’s parents held up the banner
“Chris Hoy ... The real McHoy” ― without a “Sir” in sight. Little
Having a wheelie
“Everything in the Velodrome looks great too. It’s Battle of the Planets
on wheels, and could only be improved with laser turrets or full
compulsory nudity, or both.” Guardian newspaper columnist Charlie
Brooker says he is loving the Olympics, especially those riding a
bicycle built for one.
Oh yes, who would have thought that Britain’s gloriously high-stepping
horses and their riders winning Gold in the dressage would put Fred
Astaire and Ginger Rogers to shame.
MATT sums up the day of the horse rather
show-jumping when he
fell at the final fence '
Magic moments, indeed. And here’s a link to Carol Hoy battling her
demons while watching her son...
Tuesday, August 7
Queen Victoria polishes the Silver while Princess Laura pockets the Gold
MY FAVOURITE face of the Olympics is young Laura Trott, the 20-year-old
track cyclist who, before today, had already won a gold, along with team
mates Joanna Roswell and Danielle King, in the team pursuit.
Today she was coming to the business end of the
multi-disciplined Omnium, the cycling equivalent of the
heptathlon, I guess. As Victoria Pendleton bows out with silver, well beaten
in her final appearance by her great Australian rival Anna Meares, Laura
bursts onto the scene with a whoosh and a beep-beep...!
Queen Victoria is dead, long live young Princess Laura.
Laura Trott is such an infectious character, always smiling — except for
one memorable moment late afternoon, yesterday. She had just won the third and final
Omnium — or as I call it, the Omnium-ium-ium — stage of the day, the Elimination.
As she was being interviewed on television, as always all smiles,
suddenly the crowd started booing. The smile was instantly wiped off her
face. She looked round: “Why are they booing? Why are they booing? Have
I been eliminated?”
It was a moment of sheer panic. Over recent days
several of the cyclists have been eliminated because they have broken
some track rule or other
— indeed Victoria Pendleton was eliminated again today for a
minor misdemeanour in her first best-of-three runs
But Laura hadn’t done anything wrong. In fact we never did
find out why the crowd were booing. Phew.
You have to love the girl. Described by British Cycling performance
director Dave Brailsford as “a bundle of energy with a contagious
enthusiasm”, Trott began cycling aged eight when her mother took up the
sport to lose weight.
Her parents had also been told their daughter would
need to take part in sport to help regulate her breathing after being
born with a collapsed lung and diagnosed with asthma.
She has never looked back, with regular bike rides down
the Lea Valley on a Saturday morning and visits to Welwyn track
eventually leading to her progression through British Cycling programmes
alongside her road cyclist sister Emma, another star in the making if
her TV interview on Sky News is anything to go by.
And what about these photographs of her as a young
hopeful, wearing the Gold medal Bradley Wiggins won in Athens in 2004 -
and eight years later wearing the real thing...
Deary gets on his bike
Apart from Laura, what has also made me smile is watching the curiously
named Keirin, the event where the cyclists are led off by a fellow
dressed in black riding a motorised white stallion, a derny, a sort of
cross between a bike and a motor cycle.
It always makes me smile because he looks so
inscrutable. I can’t make up my mind whether he looks like The Lone
Ranger about to shout “Hi-yo, Silver!
– or a stereotypical baddy from a Bond film, stroking his white bike,
rather than his white cat, and warning in a threatening voice: “Not so
fast, Mr Hoy!”
Incidentally, the Man in Black is Peter Deary, a
Deary on his derny leads the riders a
faster - let's get the hell out of here”
I stumbled upon the following rather entertaining online piece by a
Victor Mather of The New York Times...
The capacity crowd at the Olympic Velodrome on Tuesday roars in
anticipation. Six highly trained and fit cyclists set off on a race for
gold. And leading the way is a 65-year-old man on a motorbike.
One of the more incongruous sights at the Olympics has been Peter Deary,
who drives the derny, a two-stroke motorized bicycle that leads the
riders in the keirin race.
The keirin originated in Japan, where fans bet on the races, and was
added to the Olympics in 2000. It is a dynamic event run at blazing
speed with many crashes. But its early stages are much more pedestrian.
The derny driver leads the riders for the first five and a half laps of
the race; they may not pass him. Then he pulls off the track and the
riders sprint to the finish for the final two and a half laps, about 600
Deary’s appearance is somewhat discordant in an Olympics celebrating fit
bodies and high technology. His cycle looks more like the one ridden by
the Wicked Witch of the West than a track racer’s sleek model. His
pedalling speed is glacial. His attire is all black, with a decidedly
non-aerodynamic helmet. But most remarked upon is his demeanour:
Deary has been motor-pacing keirin races for 16 years. He started as a
cycling coach in his native Manchester, England, and took up derny
driving as an extension of that.
Deary manually controls the bike’s speed, following a strict regimen,
increasing it by a few more miles an hour each lap, beginning about 15
miles an hour, and eventually hitting 30mph. “You’ve got to be
consistent,” he said of his art. “Every heat must be consistent with
Deary has paced other important events, including the track cycling
world championships this year in Melbourne, Australia. But pacing at the
Olympics has been “once in a lifetime,” he said.
Seconds before the race starts, Deary begins a slow half circle from the
opposite side of the track. The crowd noise swells as he passes the
riders and they briefly jockey for position behind him. Once they have
settled in a line, Deary leads them on a hypnotic five-lap parade around
the track, his motor buzzing. Then at the appointed moment, he pulls off
and the real race begins.
As the riders take off at speeds of up to 45mph, 600 meters away from
Olympic glory, every eye in the Velodrome is on them. Chris Hoy of
Britain is the winner of Tuesday’s men’s final, claiming his sixth
career gold medal to the delight of the crowd.
Meanwhile, unnoticed, Deary silently coasts his derny down a ramp in the
infield and vanishes, his job done.
Smashing piece, as you would expect from The New York Times. And
here’s a picture of Peter Deary when not dressed for the day job and
keep the world and its bicycle in check...
In an interview earlier this year, Deary admitted that people find
his role and outfit slightly comical, revealing that friends “take the
Mickey out of me”.
His wife, two daughters and three grandchildren were excited to see
their pensioner granddad zip round the track. “The kids were going crazy
watching,” he admits. “So yes, it is special.”
Such wonderful stories lie behind the medals.
Bolting the stable door and skipping a few rules
“There are a lot of rules, oh my God. You can’t do anything. I wanted
to bring my tablets in and they said I couldn’t. I asked why. It is just
a rule. I had my skipping rope in my bag and they said I can’t bring it
in. Why? It is just a rule. What if I need to take a rubber band inside
to stretch? I can’t take it inside because it is a rule.”
Usain Bolt followed his impressive victory on Sunday night by
criticising the pettiness of London 2012 officials.
Bolt went on to stress his admiration for Great Britain and said he had
been enjoying life in the Olympic village. It was just those Olympics
One can only hope that Usain hasn’t entered the “Don’t
you know who I am?” phase of celebrity and is blowing his own rubber
trumpet as lead member of his own rubber band.
Front page splash
With the swimming having come to an end in the Olympic pool, and
the agreeably freaky Michael Phelps having finally signed off
his career with a haul of 22 medals, 18 of them Gold — the
cartoon alongside generated a chuckle...
However, it seemed the perfect time to bring a couple of Mrs
Mills’ missives up for a bit of air. Yes, you remember Mrs
Mills: she from The Sunday Times
she who solves all your problems of a personal nature...
It happens regularly at the swimming pool: I am happily enjoying
some gentle up-and-down breast-stroking, when a man enters and
shows off with a lot of vigorous movements and splashing about.
After he’s satisfied (never takes too long, which is something),
he leaves me to continue alone, having caused a great deal of
disruption. Are all men as selfish as this?
I know: you’re looking forward to a decent length, and you
only end up frustrated. Men should put a bit of effort into
learning to improve their technique — otherwise we’ll all be
heading to the women-only sessions.
This fascinating response duly appeared:
Nick Newman’s Week in The Sunday Times
STROKE FOR STROKE
I feel compelled to respond to WH from Woking and defend men over pool
etiquette. As an ardent but considerate swimmer, I never enter the water
without first identifying the most accommodating slot, then always enter
gently and slowly, hoping to slide in between the flailing legs without
I think it is vital to proceed with a steadily
increasing rhythm, while avoiding reaching a premature peak. I am good
at only coming up for the occasional gasp for air, otherwise I go at it
with my face down for a long time. I have never had any complaints, but
those ladies who just hold onto the side while making token leg
movements are missing out.
Thank you for your contribution to this endlessly fascinating debate.
I think I’ll go and lie down for a while in a darkened room...
for personal Gold
While in my relaxevous state, the above Nick Newman cartoon reminded me
of a line I once used when someone asked why I was always smiling. Well,
I said, a girlfriend once pointed out that, from a production batch
of a couple of hundred million sperm of Olympic-qualified swimmers, I
was the one that won the race.
And, as I added at the time, if that doesn’t put a smile on your face,
Next time I repeat that story I’ll be able to say that I was the Michael
Phelps of that particular freestyle of blighters.
That goodness there are no cats on Mars — well, as far as we know.
Imagine the devastating headline:
Curiosity killed the cat
Jumping the gun
“The British have rolled out a red carpet for French athletes to win
medals. I thank them very much.” President François Hollande taunts
Team GB for their early lack of Olympic medals as they entered the fifth
day without a Gold.
Oh dear, he joins Mitt Romney as a leading world figure moulded in the
image of General George Armstrong Custer of Custer’s Last Stand infamy.
What is it about politicians? No matter what corner of the world you
look, they are cursed with an inability to sense the inevitable ambush
that lies in wait round the next corner or two?
If it wasn’t so hilarious it would be pathetic. Mind
you, Mayor Boris Johnson has hit back (writing in the Telegraph):
Since my last dispatch, Team GB has amassed an El Dorado of
bullion, enough to make up for Gordon Brown’s disastrous
decision to flog our reserves, enough to bail out the Greeks,
and enough to put us — yes, folks, little old Britain — in third
place on the medal table.
It isn’t so long ago that French leader François
Hollande was over here, gloating about how France was beating us
hollow. Well, M le Président, mettez-ça dans votre pipe et
Bien je jamais, eh!
The above deserves another magical Boris Zip-a-dee-doo-dah image,
compliments of BBH London Barn Crew — and alongside, my
Anyway, there was much chat on the comment board apropos the missing
translation of Boris’s turn of French — yep, I have no idea what it
means either. Apparently, more or less: “Stick that in your pipe and
Anyone fancy a Polo?
“Erm, I would like to point out as a French speaker, Mettez ça dans
votre pipe et fumez-le means ‘put that in your penis and smoke
“No it doesn’t. ‘Une pipe’ is slang for fellatio, not a penis.
Its basic meaning is, however, ‘a pipe’.”
And on that word of mouth, I shall move on...
“Have you seen the size of those medals? The Royal Mint must
have used a 1970s Wagon Wheel as their template.” Columnist
Carolyn Hitt, writing in the Western Mail about the
village of Llantrisant in South Wales, which is affectionately
known to the natives as “the hole with a
is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the
elephant and the cat. He has no real style, he just goes on
trying other things.”
Carolyn Hitt again:
“Beach Volleyball is actually a decent sport ... seriously athletic and
a compelling event. Still don’t understand why they play the theme from
Benny Hill though.”
go down to the woods today
I also enjoyed this extract from a piece in Mail Online by
Jan Moir, where she has a go at the BBC’s obsession with talking heads
when there is non-stop action unfolding all around...
Isn’t it a shame the BBC doesn’t have any sports events to show, instead
of filling up primetime with this waffle? PS. Helpful note to foreign
visitors: ‘TV anchor’ is not Cockney rhyming slang, although sometimes
we all think it should be.
[Ho, ho, ho!]
Dear athletes. What can we say to you, except sorry. Forgive us for the
BBC’s main anchor Gary Lineker, he knows not what he does. On Tuesday
evening, Lineker won the coveted Pervy Old Goat gold medal for his
colossal effort in the Individual Flirt.
When Team GB sports kit creator Stella McCartney came into the BBC
studio to explain that diver Tom Daley’s small trunks had been the
hardest item to design, Greasy Gary could barely contain himself. “As
long as you don’t touch Tom Daley’s little thing?” he gurgled to Stella,
in a manner he fondly imagines is impish.
Of course, Stella was only there to distance herself from the hideous
gold collar Elvis tracksuits worn by the British athletes at the Opening
Ceremony — nothing to do with her, darling!
— but she flirted right back anyway.
Halfway through the Games, and Australian champion swimmer Ian Thorpe
has been the revelation so far. He may have failed to qualify as a
competitor this time, but his soulful commentary wins him a Deep Thinker
gold in the Pundits’ Slalom.
The man who once said ‘If you understand yourself, you might as well be
dead’, has shown terrific form with his relaxed and amusing apercus.
‘There is water in every lane, so it’s okay,’ he explained, during a
discussion on what were the best pool positions.
And down at the Aquatics Centre, the Thorpedo has now joined Clare
Balding and Mark Foster at the community picnic table. The three of them
crowd around it like grown-ups crashing a teddy bears’ picnic, but their
tri-way discussions are great entertainment.
Of course, Balding takes the gold in the Tonsil Time Trial for all-round
commentating genius and presenting skills, even though swimming is not
her area of expertise. At her side, Mark gets a Make Mine a Decaf silver
in the Most Relaxed Expert category, while the Thorpedo wins a Dry Clean
Only bronze for actually dressing like a torpedo in strange grey fabrics
hitherto unknown to man.
Wonderfully amusing. That image of Clare Balding, Mark Foster and the
Thorpedo at the community picnic table ... “like grown-ups crashing a
teddy bears’ picnic” is wickedly spot on. And you can apply it to any
gathering of celebrities during these games, really – think Paul
McCartney and his entourage at the Velodrome and the cycling on
Incidentally, going back to that Garry Lineker
“As long as you don’t touch Tom Daley’s little thing?” he
gurgled to Stella, in a manner he fondly imagines is impish...
Gary suffers from the classic celebrity bunny effect.
When famous people get to meet their fans, irrespective of whether those fans themselves
are slebs or just the great unwashed, they are confronted by people who
nod and shake their heads in (hopefully) the right place.
But worst, they only have to say anything vaguely
amusing or “impish” and everybody slaps their thighs and fall about in a
heap of hilarity — and disastrously, celebrities buy into this and
convince themselves that whatever they say is the height of wit and
It its way, it’s quite sweet and amusing — although you do grow weary of
it after a while. But you have to keep on seeing the funny side of it
all if you want to maintain your position on the sunny side of the street.
Saturday, August 4
Smile? I never thought I’d stop
Montage and narrative compliments of Mail Online
Great Britain last night enjoyed its best medal-winning day at the
Olympics in over a century. Women's double sculls pair Kat Copeland and
Sophie Hosking (bottom left) kicked off the gold rush, followed by
coxless fours Andrew Triggs Hodge, Pete Reed, Tom James and Alex Gregory
(bottom right). Women's team pursuit cyclists Joanna Rowsell, Dani King
and Laura Trott (top left) joined the party in the afternoon, before
Jessica Ennis (centre right) triumphed in the heptathlon, long jumper
Greg Rutherford (top right) came through to take the gold, and 10,000m
star Mo Farah (centre left) completed the spectacular haul on day eight,
taking Britain back up to third in the medal table.
“We’ve just won the Olympics!
We’re going to be on a stamp!”
The first thing Sophie Hosking, 26, said to her shocked partner
Katherine Copeland, at 21 the youngest woman on Great Britain’s rowing
team, after winning the gold medal in the lightweight women’s rowing
Katherine Copeland’s startled look, when she suddenly
realised what she has just achieved, will doubtless be one of the
images of the 2012 Olympics...
“I know this is not the Oscars but can I just say thank you to my Mum
and Dad. We have been through some bumps. I’m not sure if they wanted me
to just row all the time, but thanks.” Katherine Copeland pays an
emotional tribute to her parents. “And thanks to James Harris
[coach], because when I went to Tees [Rowing Club] I was
“Dad conquered the Atlantic – but I’m appearing on a stamp.”
Sophie Hosking, whose father, David, was in the Royal Navy, serving in
the Falklands in 1982 where his ship was hit by an Exocet missile.
Retired from the navy, he rowed across the Atlantic in 2010 and now
works as a rowing coach...
Yes, these things clearly are all in the genes. What is fascinating
though is that Katherine Copeland, who has over recent months come from
nowhere to win Gold at the first attempt, is the very antithesis of
Katherine Grainger who won Gold at the fourth attempt (see yesterday).
Breaking the sound barrier
“If they go any faster they’re going to need parachutes to slow
down.” A commentator on BBC TV, with the roar of the crowd in his
ear, as Joanna Rowsell, 23, Laura Trott, 20 and Danielle King, 21,
finished their world record-breaking run in the cycling team pursuit.
Talking of an Exocet missile, as I was above, the three girls really did
look like a rocket when riding in tight formation. After the race, what
drew the eye was Joanna Rowsell’s bald head...
The first thing you think is chemotherapy — but that is instantly
dismissed, obviously. Then I thought ... hm, alopecia: I personally know
someone who suffers that; he lost every hair on his body as a young man
when, he nearly flew a combat jet into a mountain, and the resultant
shock triggered alopecia.
It did not affect his navy career as a pilot; indeed he
went to fly 747s for Cathay Pacific.
Rowsell, the lead rider, discovered she had alopecia when her hair
started falling out at the age of nine. When she removed her helmet
after crossing the finishing line today, she received huge applause. What guts
it must take for a young girl to cope with such a thing.
What pushes the bounds of coincidence to extremes is
that Joanna Roswell’s triumph came on international alopecia day.
Just to add one final extraordinary fact: Laura Trott (middle, above),
at 5ft 4in is not only the smallest but also the most gregarious member
of the trio — their post-race interview was a hoot.
But Trott’s life could have been very different,
however. She was born with a collapsed lung and stayed in an incubator
in a special care unit for 6½ weeks with only a teddy bear (which she
still possesses) for company.
These background stories make their achievements even more remarkable.
Here in the UK we have Bradley Wiggins currently topping our medal
charts, an athlete with a surprisingly low profile until his Tour de
France tour de force. And of course, rower Steve Redgrave with his remarkable
five gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games from 1984-2000, and
all achieved in what is an endurance sport, the most challenging of all.
A perfect golden sunrise
MICHAEL Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, especially so
his haul of 18 gold medals. He is an astonishing athlete; but, as is regularly
pointed out, only swimming offers the opportunity for the same athlete
to gather a shed load of medals over a very short period of time.
And now we come to Katherine Grainger, three silvers in three
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride – almost
“I would have traded in all our other British medals in this Olympic
regatta just to make sure Katherine Grainger won her gold.”
Steve Redgrave, with hindsight-tongue-firmly-in-cheek, I guess, writing in the
Telegraph of his joy at Katherine Grainger’s long overdue and
universally popular gold medal in the double sculls.
Katherine, always performing as part of a team or crew, where previously
her colleagues in the boat were, perhaps, not quite up to her standard —
I know, that’s a huge presumption on my part — but now here she was,
having finally found her rowing soul mate, Anna Watkins, and winning that
It’s my favourite Olympic moment thus far — that’s Katherine Grainger
on the left, with Anna Watkins — a moment that deserves a stand-alone
smile of the day spot.
“Here she is, the Gold medal winner,” said BBC anchor John
Inverdale to Katherine as she approached him after the race.
“Where, where, where?” she said, looking around. A smiley, self-deprecating moment.
Thursday, August 2
Hold the front
BRITISH MAN TAUGHT TO SHOOT STRAIGHT BY ARAB GENTLEMAN.
I was overwhelmed with the need to run the above headline when I saw on
telly that men’s double trap shooting star and Gold medal winner Peter Wilson, the 25-year-old
farmer’s son from Dorset, is coached by a former Olympic champion,
Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Hasher Al Maktoum, 48, who won gold in
Athens 2004, and agreed to coach Wilson for free upon his retirement.
The ghost of Lawrence of Arabia must be doing
high-fives all round.
As my mother regularly reminded me when I was a young pup: “Be careful what
you say to people and how you treat them, for you will find that the
wheel always turns full circle. Always.” And boyoboyo, was she right.
I regularly think of the dreadful poison-pen tweets that people
send others. These individuals have no idea of the ambush that
lies in wait just a few corners down the road.
They never win.
Anyway, back with the wheel turning full circle. I find something
delightful in the notion that someone from the United Arab Emirates has
been coaching a stereotypical Englishman how to shoot. Magic.
Even more astonishing, who would have thought that the rough and tough
and tumble world of the two-he-man canoe slalom demands the precision
and timing of synchronised diving and swimming.
Etienne Stott and Tim Baillie won gold in a time of
106.41 seconds, followed by Richard Hounslow and David Florence who
registered a time of 106.77 seconds to claim silver.
I had never before seen the sport. I was taken aback at
the sheer physical demands of the course, and for the margin between
first and second to be so close is astounding.
Oh, and the
cartoon is so priceless.
Bloody marvellous. Bring on the dancing girls. And talking of which...
The Boris bounce continues ... lots and lots written about that zip-wire
incident, and how David Cameron had better watch out. This online comment
tickled my ‘use of language funny bone’ no end...
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, along with their respective PR, image &
communications consultants, are grouped together at a bar. All are
sipping white wine spritzers and asking how come the buffoon Mayor of
London is more popular than any of them.
Boris ambles in and orders a horn of mead.
And here’s another magical Boris Zip-a-dee-doo-dah image from the BBH London
What can one add? Perhaps that Boris is the human equivalent of a car
Wednesday, August 1
Hang about, Boris
“Look, if any other politician anywhere in the world was stuck on a zip-wire
it would be a disaster. For Boris, it’s an absolute triumph ... he
defies all form of gravity.”
Prime Minister David Cameron jokes as London Mayor Boris Johnson
continues to make his presence felt at the 2012 Olympic Games, dangling
20ft in the air after getting stuck while taking part in a zip-wire act
while celebrating Team GB’s first Olympic gold.
Yesterday I smiled at this Boris Johnson quote:
“There are semi-naked
women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade
immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters.”
But you can’t keep a good man, um, down. The above “wet
otters” quote has been widely quoted all over the shop today, not
least because there’s much talk, what with things not going too well
within the coalition and the economy really struggling, that Boris
might be challenging for the leadership of the Conservative party
in the not too distant future.
So this Telegraph cartoon – no, not
this time, but ADAMS – hit the spot with Cameron being unseated
rather spectacularly at Boris Brook...
...yes, blonds really do
seem to have more fun.
But here’s the thing, minutes after Boris got stuck on that zip-wire in
east London, a blog had appeared with Photoshopped images of the London
mayor dangling from unlikely objects. Here’s a selection, with defeated
London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone pointing the way...
The site is the creation of BBH London Barn Crew:
Brilliant. People are so inventive. I shall keep my eye open for more
Going for Gold
But look, no smile of the day would be complete without a gallery of
those blessed with the great cause of cheering us all up. So, from...
...the King of the
high-wire act ... to
...the King of the
road ... to
...the Queens of
the Gloriana rowboat
“I now know how the Beatles felt.” Bradley Wiggins’ response to
the cheering crowds at Olympic Park when asked by TV host Garry Lineker
to show his medal to the massed crowd outside the studio.
I also enjoyed the placard held up by someone in the crowd just after
Wiggo had won the gold, declaring:
– with the ‘o’ represented by a Gold medal. Clever.
Oh, and someone asked if the organisers had borrowed
those thrones from the Beckhams. Lol!
“I’m probably talking rubbish now as well.” Heather Stanning, a
captain in the Royal Artillery, self-deprecating her verbal enthusiasm
after winning the Gold.
Equally fascinating was the different reactions of the two girls. Helen
Glover, above left, a PE teacher, was understandably touched with
emotion. However, Heather Stanning held her emotions in check, which was
When our ancestors decided that the “stiff upper lip”
was all-important in the development of character, it is truly important
that the one section of society where not being seduced by those two
impostors Triumph and Disaster is crucial, it is reassuring that the
Armed Forces still appreciate what an ambush our rampant emotions are,
whatever the context.
Yep, today was a perfect day at the races. Groucho Marx would have loved
Tuesday, July 31
Hotter than an otter
SINCE starting this online scrapbook of those
little things that make me smile
along my stroll through time, I now find that I often and serendipitously trip
over two seemingly unconnected items — but the juxtaposition is so
delightfully doolally that I momentarily think that I have imagined the
Today it’s a quote of the day and a classic
cartoon, a brace of grins spotted in different online news outlets.
First, a quote of the day from a regular contributor to the genus:
“There are semi-naked women playing beach
volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by
Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters.” Who else but Mayor
Boris Johnson. A genius of the genus.
And now the cartoon by The Daily Telegraph’s
'Are you sure that
...actually, that fellow does look like Boris.
A final wave from Maeve
“I don’t have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories; I have
ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks.”
The popular and much-liked Irish writer Maeve Binchy has died aged 72
(her quote, above]. I
am not a reader of books, except in a reference or research context (and
that does not include novels), but the name Maeve Binchy is a
I first came across the name mega moons ago, when I happened upon a
newspaper article written by her. I so enjoyed it, I cut it out. It
is tucked away somewhere in one of the boxes I haul around whenever I
move home. One day I will search it out. I have, in the meantime, tried to
Google the article from what I remember — but to no avail.
Essentially it was a piece about her childhood upbringing in Ireland,
the eldest of four children. As a child she recalled a lady who
regularly visited their home. I cannot remember whether she was a
relative, a neighbour or merely a long-standing friend of her parents.
Anyway, this lady was rather enigmatic and eccentric, but delightful
company, and Maeve and her three siblings would always enjoy her
visits. It was something to do with the way she spoke to Maeve, as if
she were an adult rather than a child. And of course there were the
delightful stories she told.
The other thing I remember from the article was that this lady visitor,
a close friend of the family, remember, never gave the children any presents,
not on their birthdays, not even at Christmas — yet Maeve said she
didn’t care and she looked forward with huge enthusiasm to her every
And the moral of the story? That a person’s presence is infinitely more
important than their presents.
must dig out that wonderful article to refresh my memory properly.
Anyway, there has been much written today about
I particularly liked these extracts spotted in the Telegraph and
written by those who knew and admired her.
This from Mary Kenny:
When she presented her first book, Light a Penny Candle, to her
publishers, they liked it, she told me, but were unhappy that it
contained no explicit sex scenes.
It was an established formula that there should be a
bedroom scene every 19 pages in a modern novel. Maeve said, rather
bashfully, that as she hadn’t had a very colourful sex life herself, she
didn’t really know how to write sex scenes, and if she made them up,
they might strike a false note.
[Think Casablanca and its powerful love story – and not a sex scene in
Maeve’s parents were observant Catholics, but she herself lost her faith
when she was living on a kibbutz in Israel as a young woman. Typically,
she had a funny story to tell about this episode: one very hot Sunday
she set off to find the location where it was said that the Last Supper
She heaved herself up a mountain-side and finally got
to a desolate-looking cavern, guarded by a Brooklyn-born Israeli
soldier. Maeve burst into tears when she saw the unprepossessing cave:
the guard wisecracked, “What’ya expect, ma’am – a Renaissance table set
she cried. “That’s just what I did expect.”
particularly liked this final
It was apt that she chose Édith Piaf’s Non, Je ne regrette
rien as one of her favourite songs
[on Desert Island Discs]
and she once answered the question “Have you been lucky in
life?” with this splendid reply:
“I have been luckier than anyone I know or even heard
of. I had a very happy childhood, a good education, I enjoyed
working as a teacher, journalist and author. I have loved a
wonderful man for over 33 years and I believe he loves me too. I
have a great family and good friends, the stories I told became
popular and people all over the world bought them. If anyone
heard me complaining I should be taken outside and shot!”
I mentioned the other day that I have a sign on my dishwasher
which says: If you catch me loading this I should be taken
Maeve Binchy: Dolphin, pussycat, sparrow, lay-by...
outside and shot. (Remembering of course that I live on my own!)
This online comment about Maeve Binchy also registered a smile...
Mutafe: When you’re eulogised in such glowing terms in the Daily
Telegraph [right wing], the Guardian
[left wing] and the Daily Mail [very
middle class], you know you’ve done something
right in life.
sit-up comedienne of note
As I have said afore, the whole point of this scrapbook is to record the
things that make me smile – and hopefully take you along for the ride.
And on that note: well, have you seen the video of the
“Happiest Olympic Worker Ever”?
On the evening of the Opening Ceremony, Olympic worker Rachel Onasanwo,
on point duty inside Olympic Park, just couldn’t contain her enthusiasm.
Definitely one of the more memorable moments so far from the London
games. As delightful a four minute interlude as you could ever wish to
I have also seen a video of her being interviewed by an
American newspaper about her sudden fame — and she talks like this in
real life. Magical. Maeve Binchy and her adult friend from childhood would
have loved her:
Monday, July 30
Taking my eye off the Olympic ball
FLICKING through yesterday’s Ingear section of The Sunday
Times, I reach the Letters corner ... a brief tail-gunner
missive caught my eye.
But it referred to a letter from the previous week ...
fortunately, I hang on to the newspapers for a few weeks before disposing of
them — occasionally this strategy comes in rather handy.
The letter in question was yet another short
tail-gunner effort — but it referred back to an article from the
previous week. Bugger. But, saved by the bell ... I actually hadn’t
thrown it — so below is the picture that kicked off this smiley brace of
You’ll have to excuse the slightly less than perfect
quality of the picture because I’ve had to photograph it off the page,
a policy which doesn’t always help with clarity and sharpness...
A reader had written to the Car Clinic section
of Ingear (“Your motoring
problems solved”) regarding a water-loss problem without signs of leaks
(“actually coolant loss would be more accurate, as it should be a mix of
antifreeze and water” the paper points out).
Anyway, the experts conclude that the problem is almost
certainly due to a worn seal in the coolant system filler cap which
allows the water to boil and escape as steam.
This is what the caption in the bottom corner of the
photograph, alongside, says: Modern cars should not
loose coolant. If you find yourself having to top yours up, get
to the bottom of the problem or risk a breakdown.
So this letter appeared the following week:
You ran a photo of a young lady topping up her coolant (Car
Clinic, last week). If she were my wife she would not have had
to do that.
Eddie Ryan, via email
And then this response appeared this week:
Re the letter about the young lady topping up the coolant
(“Chill out, darling”, last week).
She wasn’t – she was topping up the washer bottle!
M Curtis, Nettleham, Lincoln
Picture: Sunday Times Ingear – Car Clinic Section
Of course she is. The coolant is the container holding the red liquid,
not the one she is filling (with the cap open).
Wonderfully observed and a worthy smile of the day contender. Oh, and
what about that second letter headline? Clev-er.
Meanwhile, eye back on the Olympic ball: a couple of letters in today’s
SIR – After an hour and a half of the opening ceremony, I lost the
Capt John Maioha Stewart (retd), Breisach, Baden-Württemberg,
I was thinking: If John Maioha Stewart didn’t insert “Capt”, then he
wouldn’t have to pop “(retd)” at the end. Whatever...
SIR – What is wrong with a tape, a pair of scissors and the Queen
saying: “I declare these Games open”?
Simon Snape, Chester
My top smile of the day though surfaced not long after turning on the
wireless first thing this morning...
Hey there, Georgy
Millions of words have been said and written about the Olympic
Opening Ceremony — I’ve contributed a few — but my favourite smile
since the Queen ‘jumped’ from that helicopter, came near the start of
Vanessa Feltz’ highly entertaining early-morning Radio 2 show.
Vanessa played, without comment, either before or
after, The Seekers’ Georgy Girl (think father of the
Queen). I mean, ponder these lines: “The world would see a new Georgy
Girl”; or perhaps best of all, “It’s time for jumping down from the shelf”.
Incidentally, going back to the Bond sketch, I am still convinced that
they missed a trick by not having the Queen recycle one of the most
famous lines associated with the Bond films: “Not so fast, Mr Bond!”
Finally, here’s a link to The Seekers performing Georgy Girl
at their farewell concert in 1968. Apart from it being such a catchy
song, you realise what a handsome creature Judith Durham (born 1943)
was/is(?); also, I
enjoyed this ‘Comment’ from
“More artists should consider capping their live shows by doing a dance
routine with an enormous flower arrangement.”
A magical thought.
As you watch and listen, be sure to think King Georgy
A good sport
“IT showed that, if being good at sport matters, then being a good
sport matters even more. Among her many other attributes, the Queen is a
very good sport indeed.” Mathew d’Ancona, 44, British journalist,
writing in the Telegraph about her “Good evening, Mr Bond” moment.
I like that quote — despite the fact that when I see the d'Ancona
surname, what I actually see is Anaconda, a dangerous snake in the
shallows. Very unfair of me, I’m sure. Anyway, now for some good sport.
cloud has a silver lining
After the disappointment of Saturday, with Britain’s Mark Cavendish in
the men’s cycling road race being an also-rode — to an untrained eye it
seemed that the British riders had brought their winning Tour de France
tactics with them, whereas riders from other countries appeared to use
specific tactics aimed at winning gold. And it showed.
However, today the British women cyclists, battling
away against some rather
traditional wet weather, and unhindered by any “yellow jersey”
strategies, brought the correct tactics along — with Lizzie Armitstead
coming within a whisker of gold at the end.
Watching Lizzie Armitstead’s post-race interview — what a curious
tongue-twister of a surname that is — I was overwhelmed with the need to
give her a “cwtch”, a delightful Welsh word for a special kind of hug
you give someone you admire or who has just given of their best...
...I later learned that she has been a dedicated vegetarian since the
age of ten — it seems she grew sick of eating “corpses” — and I found
myself wickedly wondering, what if she had, in the middle of the night,
regularly crept downstairs and helped herself to a few bacon sandwiches,
would that have given her the crucial bit of extra leg power she was
missing along that final straight?
A rich pageant of TV, pop and lefties
“We are very lucky to live in a country whose
civilians are not frightened or resentful of the military.”
AA Gill, 58, writing in The Sunday Times about his visit to watch one of
the rehearsals for the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, and acknowledging
in his article what most of the country believes i.e. “Drafting in the military was
a serendipitous act of genius for they are held in immensely high and
“Nurses and Mary Poppins inhabit the same
pigeon-hole in the nation’s consciousness.” AA Gill, again,
commenting on Danny Boyle’s brilliance in combining the National Health
Service with our children’s stories, fears and fantasies and happy
endings. And Gill, again:
“We are the go-to nation for a live narrative
show. If you want storytelling and emotional spectacle, you come to
Britain. If we couldn’t do it, nobody could.”
That sums it up perfectly: think Jubilee celebrations and last year’s
Returning to Friday evening and the opening ceremony, I have just read
this online comment:
What about the Red Arrows? Stunning as always, and they perhaps got one
of - if not the - loudest cheer of the evening. It was poignant
to see two of their aircraft in black, and with no lights in the nose.
No commentator appeared to have picked that up.
Picture: Clive Brunskill
Now here’s a funny thing: I’d noticed the two missing lights, but never
linked that with an “in-house” tribute to the death of two of the Red
pilots in accidents last year. But that the two aircraft were also painted
black took me by surprise.
So I searched out a video of the fly-past — link below
— it shows confirmation of the missing lights, and amazingly, those two
planes do look as if they are painted black as they approach.
it is some sort of optical illusion ... as they fly past you quickly
notice that all the planes are indeed painted red. Here’s the link, and
look out for the two “Black Arrows” — intriguing...
Saturday, July 28
Romney's Last Stand
“Seriously, some Americans just shouldn’t leave
the country.” American Olympic legend Carl Lewis, 51, winner of nine
gold medals from 1984 to 1986, gives his verdict on presidential
candidate Mitt Romney’s disparaging remarks about London’s preparations
and readiness for the Games.
“Mitt Romney is perhaps the only politician who could start a trip
that was supposed to be a charm offensive by being utterly devoid of
charm and mildly offensive.”
A Daily Telegraph headline reflects on what has been
labelled Romneyshambles — a play on the word omnishambles (cock-ups
to the left, to the right and to the centre; or perhaps more correctly:
cock-ups to the Labour, to the Tories and to the Lib Dems).
Prime Minister David Cameron, 45, promised London would deliver, but
acknowledged it had been challenging to host an Olympics in one of the
world’s busiest cities rather than the “middle of nowhere”, where it
would be easier.
This was widely taken in the US to be a reference to
Utah, the sparsely populated western state where Mr Romney was chief
executive of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002.
“The backside of Downing Street.” Romney’s unfortunate
description of the garden at the PM’s official residence.
Boris Johnson, 47, the Mayor of London, heaped more misery on Romney’s
campaign by dismissing his remarks while onstage at a concert in Hyde
Park to mark the end of the Olympic torch relay before the Opening
“The excitement is growing so much I think the Geiger
counter of Olympo-mania is going to go zoink off the scale,” Boris said
to cheers from the crowd, and coining a couple of new words along the
He added: “I hear there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who
wants to know whether we’re ready. He wants to know whether we’re ready.
Are we ready?” Boris cried, prompting jeers of support from many of the
“Are we ready?” repeated Boris, taking a
sideways swipe at Barack Obama’s rallying call to his followers during
his presidential campaign. “Yes we are!”
Huge roar from the crowd.
Battle of the Little Bigmouth
Ann Romney, 63, Mitt Romney’s wife, is of Welsh stock, descended from
Welsh coal-miners, her grandfather, David Davies, having travelled to
Michigan from Wales in 1929.
I believe she is due to visit her roots during her
visit, indeed she is proud of her Welsh background — but did she have
to let the side down and marry a cowboy?
Anyway, back with husband Mitt: when you are invited
into someone’s home you do not immediately complain to the world at
large about your host’s décor, unless of course the ceiling happens to
fall on your big head while there.
What is it about American politics that makes them choose their leaders in the image of General George Armstrong Custer
of Custer’s Last Stand infamy?
Honestly, they wouldn’t recognise an ambush if it biffed them on the
Thankfully we Brits have Custer’s nemesis, yes our very own Chief Sitting
Bull, one Boris Johnson, who at least knows when to claim a scalp — with
that man a flag
Returning to the opening ceremony ... you know how it is, you notice
something at the time, you share a quiet smile with yourself — and move
on. Well, the papers have been awash with this particular incident.
When the German athletes entered the parade ring, the camera picked out
a dignitary in the crowd, part of the German delegation, repeatedly
extending his left arm in what was really a cross between a wave and a
Nazi salute. It was most amusing in its apparent innocence.
Awkward: The German dignitary performs what could be considered a
Nazi-style salute while
Boris Johnson and Camilla Parker-Bowles look on with a mixture of
astonishment and giggles
I did register at the time that it was his left hand rather than his
right — the latter was typically the case with the Nazi salute proper.
I have since learnt that, unsurprisingly, using this form of greeting is
a criminal offence in Germany, where the punishment for using Nazi
symbols can be up to three years in prison.
Poor fellow, how something so seemingly innocent can
take on a life all of its own. Especially so when it enters the world of
YouTube. And anyway, perhaps the fellow is a huge fan of Madge:
is there to track what’s going on in the world, to make social
commentary. I’m calling attention to that intolerance and asking people
to pay attention, to wake up to see how we are just creating more chaos
in the world.”
Madonna, 53, explaining the use of the swastika in her show.
July 27 (Olympics Opening Ceremony)
Better late than never
WHILST I certainly wouldn’t want to trade places with the Queen, there
is something rather splendid in the fact that if you are Monarch then
you are licensed to turn up late (tonight’s Olympic opening ceremony
being a case in point, not to mention June’s Jubilee concert where she
arrived some halfway through proceedings).
Even more to the point, the expectant crowd, where
everybody knows your name, will be really glad you came ... Cheers!
Truth to tell I had already booked my place behind the sofa to watch the
Olympic opening ceremony – the whole caboodle thingy had made me
However, following rehearsals, with the public at large
invited, and pretty much everybody saying how fantastic it all was, I
sighed and rearranged the cushions back onto the sofa to watch the
extravaganza unfold in relaxevous mode.
I was instantly hooked, from the moment the 60-second countdown began,
where rather than a straightforward clock counting down, they used
numbers specific to certain things: 39 was accompanied by a picture of
some steps; £22 – the price tag on a mini orchid; 10 – Downing Street,
obviously ... those are just the ones that come instantly to mind.
All rather clever.
Majesty’s Not So Secret Service
I really enjoyed the opening ceremony. The whole thing was a hugely
smiley affair – and rather moving too in parts. The smile of the day
though has to go to the Queen as a Bond girl. It was the total surprise
of what unfolded that did the trick.
When the scene began to play out at Buckingham Palace,
with James Bond actor Daniel Craig nervously glancing at the clock as it
moved past half-eight, I really thought that the lady sitting at the desk, with her back to the
camera, was probably Jeanette Charles, the lady who regularly
impersonates the Queen in television comedy sketches.
“Good evening, Mr Bond.” Blow me, it was the
After a quick zoom down the Thames in a helicopter in the company of her foremost secret
agent — I enjoyed the statue of Churchill smiling in her direction — she then went on to make a seemingly spectacular descent from the
helicopter into the Olympic Stadium, accompanied by Mr Bond of course, before taking her place in the Royal Box ... with
slightly ruffled hair (or was that her hat?).
Wonderful images. And what a marvellous take on the James Bond parachute
scene from The Spy Who Loved Me...
What stuck in my mind though was the appearance of the corgis – at times
they looked as if they had been electronically added; whatever, I got
the distinct feeling that Mr Bond was dying to give one or both of them
a quick and crafty boot up the arse.
Oh yes: I think they missed a glorious opportunity for
the Queen to deliver one of the most famous expressions from the 007
films: “Not so fast, Mr Bond.”
Final word though goes to these amusing tweets...
Ewan Pearson: “Queenie should have twirled round in her chair, stroking a
Jasmine Birtles: “The Queen should light the flame — she’s the only one
Thursday, July 26
ON WHAT felt like the warmest day of the year, at least here in my
square mile, it seemed like a perfect time to think of snow...
It is something of a surprise that newspapers are already running with
silly-season stories, especially given what is currently happening in
the world about us. Whatever, I was rather taken by this
Not such silly walks
Perhaps a genetic imprint persists beneath the way people choose to walk
Interest peaks every few years. In 1986 it was the Bangles’ hit Walk
Like an Egyptian. In 1970 it was Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.
In 1963, everybody was talking ’bout a new way of walking.
This year, as we report today, it is the gait analysis
laboratory at the Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford. The way they
walk in Essex, the scientists say, differs essentially from the normal
gait of New Yorkers.
Dr Rajshree Mootanah, director of the research group,
believes there may be a racial element in the so-called Essex swagger.
Perhaps a genetic imprint persists beneath the way people choose to
walk, which undoubtedly goes by fashion.
It has been a shortcut to humour from Max Wall to
Jacques Tati, but if everyone has a unique gait, it might provide easier
airport security checks than failed iris recognition.
Hm. It gives a whole new meaning to ‘departure gait’. There were a
couple of follow-up letters in the Telegraph...
SIR – The likely existence of the Essex Gait comes as no surprise. I
have observed a “British Standard Bloke-Swagger”, in which the
practitioner (generally young) must affect nonchalant forward motion,
while trying to minimise the gap between knuckles and ground.
A wonderful example was displayed by Prince Harry at
his brother’s wedding.
Simon Millar, Lilliput, Dorset
SIR – Simon Miller identifies the “British Standard Bloke Swagger”. As a
short-sighted child, before wearing glasses, I always recognised people
by the way they walked, even though everything else was a blur.
Jill Silversides, Worthing, West Sussex
I observed a good few moons ago that
one of the joys of walking in near-virgin snow is marvelling at not just
the distinctive way we humans walk, but how untidily we do so.
It is rare to observe footprints where the feet point
directly ahead in an orderly fashion; most footprints are so alarmingly
splayed that you feel the owners need to visit their local motor garage
as a matter of some urgency for a spot of re-tracking.
Take a look at these two pictures captured over the recent cold and
The human footprints, above, highlight perfectly the exaggerated
splayed style of walking, ironically crossing the path of a passing
rabbit — note the dead-straight trajectory of the bunny as it hops along.
Alongside the human footprints, above, the
imprints of a couple of swans — and their footprints are as alarmingly
splayed as the human variety. Whisper it, but perhaps we are descended from birds
rather than fish.
Whatever, I feel much cooler just looking at the above pics...
Wednesday, July 25
A Slick and raunchy bed hopper
Jefferson Airplane singer Grace Slick, 72, pictured here in her
...tells Classic Rock magazine she was a regular bed hopper in the
“I pretty much nailed anybody that was handy. My only regret
is that I didn’t get Jimi Hendrix or Peter O’Toole.” She obviously
drew the line at some things
i.e. too many cooks (sic) spoil the broth.
Grace sounds much like the female equivalent of Tom Jones in his prime. But
clearly not the equivalent of the seriously doolally comedian
like threesomes with two women, not because I am a cynical sexual
predator. I'm a romantic. I am looking for The One. And I will find her
more quickly if I audition two at a time.”
Mind you, that is funny.
just used my feminine wiles, took John away for a dirty weekend in
Devon. I gave him a weekend he wouldn’t forget, which left him happy, if
breathless. He eventually gave in.”
Sally Bercow, 42, on how she persuaded her husband, Speaker of the
House of Commons John Bercow, to agree to her taking part in the TV show
Celebrity Big Brother.
Celebrity Big Twats, more like. Yep, there really is one hiding under every
pavement slab when you get within a stone’s throw of Parliament.
“Paying tradesmen in cash is morally wrong.” David Geek – sorry,
David Gauke, 40, Conservative Party politician and Treasury minister,
proving that there really is a parallel universe where the nation’s
movers and shakers reside.
I liked this online response from
Gressy1970: “I pay cash at Sainsbury’s: is that morally wrong?”
Talking of our loopy politicians:
honour is too little.” Jeremy Hunt, 45, Conservative Party
politician and Culture Secretary, gets things slightly askew when in a
radio interview he praised Bradley Wiggins, the Tour de France winner.
Hunt said this not once but twice.
Hang ‘em high
“We are not against wealth but we are in favour of social
responsibility. We must not start thinking that society will be better
off if we hang 20 bankers at the end of the street.” Tony Blair,
Prime Minister 1997-2007.
This online comment from Bassetedge summed it up rather well:
“If we’d hung something different at the end of the street in 1997, we’d
all have been better off.”
Attractive as it sounds, we don’t need to hang anybody – but I really do
believe that they should bring back the stocks.
Wouldn’t it be rather
wonderful if these dreadful politicians, bankers, corporate bullies,
meeja types, celebrities et al, could be put in the stocks, with tons of
rotten fruit supplied, for each and every one of us to throw to
our heart’s content.
It lifts the spirits just thinking about it.
Co-op leaflet revisited
On Monday I told the tale of the local postman wickedly handing the
proprietor of our Spar shop, Mr P, a Co-operative store leaflet
advertising “big deals” on food – and the XL smile surrounding the
incident. It was as good as any television situation comedy classic.
Well blow me, what pops through the letterbox with the
morning mail – yes, the Co-operative “good with food” leaflet that was
ceremoniously torn into many parts in front of our eyes at Spar.
Byron the postie was bang on: ‘buy one get one free’,
‘half price’, ‘deals that go the distance’, ‘deals to sprint for’,
‘winning deals’, etc, etc...
I’ll have to take this with me in the morning and leave
it on the counter at Mr P’s.
Yep, little things please little minds...
Tuesday, July 24
...and the living is supposed to be easy
this long, hot summer never end?” Garry South, a listener to Alex
Lester’s early-morning Radio 2 show, offers up his thoughts on the
“4:40 What Today Has Taught Me” spot.
Genius. That little gem had me smiling all day. I mean, after the
wettest late-spring, early-summer ever in this corner of the world — at
least since Noah took to the Ark ... no, hang on, since official records
began — anyway, we’ve now had a few days of picture-perfect summer
weather, and it’s only a matter of time before someone starts
complaining that it’s too hot or that the gardens are desperate for a
drop of rain...
As I left home to set off on my walk at half-five this morning, the sun was
just rising into a clear, cloudless blue sky.
Some 10 minutes later I couldn’t resist capturing for
posterity a photo of this most unusual event...
The above was taken from Penlan Park, looking out over the rooftops of
Llandeilo towards the Cambrian Mountains. A perfect sunrise — I enjoyed
the unusual way the camera has captured the sun itself — the whole glorious view
endorsed by that magical summer mist along the valley floor.
I am writing this up on the Wednesday morning, but curiously the rising
sun was this morning blocked out by a quite thick mist — but it quickly
burnt away; indeed that process provides as beautiful a sight as you
could wish to see.
In the meantime, here’s another brief gem from The Sunday Times’ Rod
Can I have my balls back, please?
Shocking news emerges that the anti-hair-loss drug taken by the
footballer Wayne Rooney may cause his genitals to shrink to a point
where they are virtually invisible.
A report in the Journal of Sexual Medicine links
Finasteride to side effects that include shrinkage of the testicles, as
well as impotence — which may explain the poor chap’s inept performance
in Euro 2012.
When he had no hair, he was brilliant.
Many a true word spoken in jest?
I want to ride my bicycle
FIVE o’clock this morning, and Vanessa Feltz kicks-off her wireless show
by commenting on Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France; she also
tells us that all the London papers have Wiggo plastered across their front
and back pages — and she plays Queen’s Bicycle Race.
That made me smile anyway — but listening to the lyrics
in a Tour de France context is rather funny, especially that spot where
they ring all those bicycle bells.
By coincidence, of the many images flooding the media
today in celebration of the historic win, including a look back over the
past three weeks, this is the one photograph that really caught my eye
and earns its place in my scrapbook...
It is such a sun-shinny picture ... I would be more than happy to have a
blown-up version of that on my wall...
Shop at the
Nearly three hours later, after completing my morning walk, I call at
the local Spar shop to pick up a paper. Mr P — he’s a Patel, who has
been in Llandeilo for years and years and is now firmly part of the
community — is holding the fort, as usual.
Some five of us happen to congregate near the till at
the same time, when local postman Byron Walters enters — a notorious
wind-up merchant is Byron — and places some letters on the counter.
He also shoves into Mr P’s hand one of those ‘junk
mail’ circulars the postman regularly delivers: this one is from the
local Co-op store just down the road. “Some great shopping deals there,
Mr P,” says Byron. “Big deals, big deals, everything half-price or buy-one-get-one-free
Mr P snatches the leaflet from Byron. “F*** off!”
he says to Byron.
Normally such a response would bring an awkward
silence, indeed I can’t bring myself to write the word — but it wasn’t
delivered with malice and everyone
present laughs or smiles, including two lady customers.
“I’m not joking, Mr P,” continues an unperturbed Byron.
“You should do your shopping down there...”
Mr P proceeds to tear the leaflet, in an exaggerated
fashion, into many pieces. “Go on, bugger off,” he says to Byron — and
Byron leaves the shop.
“I think I preferred your original instruction,” I say
to Mr P – and he laughs.
When I leave the shop, Byron is returning to his van.
“That made my morning,” I say to him.
“I enjoy winding him up,” says Byron. One of the ladies
who was in the shop is also leaving. “That was very funny,” she says to
I am struck by a couple of things. Using obscene language in a proper
context can be highly effective and amusing, as happened in the shop —
it’s just indiscriminate use of swear words, as often heard on radio and
television, is what grates.
It also proves the advantages of a community where
everyone knows, more or less, what they can and can not say, including
what they can just about get away with.
Secondly, if someone from the PC or racism brigade had
been in the shop, they would probably have charged Byron with baiting Mr
P to swear at him.
Still, it was a memorable little episode in the life
and times of Llandampness.
Talking of shopkeepers, this piece coming up from Ron Liddle in The
Sunday Times. Now I never know whether columnists are telling
the truth or just blowing a minor drama into a major crisis. Whatever,
this is a tale well told.
Shutters fall on common sense
Is this the most ludicrous law ever enacted? My wife agreed to pick up a
multipack of cigarettes for me at the supermarket. She stood in front of
the now-by-law closed-up non-display and said: “I’d like a five pack of
The man behind the counter said he didn’t think they
sold them. Can you have a look, she asked. No, said the man — it’s
against the law. I can only retrieve what you tell me you want.
“But how can I do that if you don’t know if you sell
them or not?” my wife inquired. “Good question,” said the man.
“Well, okay, what multipacks do you know for sure you
sell?” she inquired as the queue behind grew longer.
“I am not allowed to tell you that either. But you can
browse through this folder.”
She was given a folder of the multipacks they stocked.
It says you do sell Superkings.”
“Yes, but the folder is often inaccurate,” said the
man. “So I still can’t just look for them, willy-nilly. And I certainly
can’t open the shutter for you to look.”
Since this law was brought in I have increased the
number of cigarettes I smoke by 25%, out of pure, blind rage. And my
wife has started smoking, too.
Three weeks and 2,173 miles later...
“We’re just going to draw the raffle numbers now...” Bradley
Wiggins, 32, winner of the Tour de France, begins his victory speech as
he addresses the Champs-Élysées crowd from the winner’s podium.
What a memorably British way to start the first ever victory speech in
99 years of trying. Genius.
Bradley Wiggins reminds me of the fellow down the pub, who’s not
actually a mate but you always have a chat and a drink with because he
talks a lot of sense and is blessed with a generous dollop of wit and
wisdom (see above quote).
Indeed Wiggins appears to belong to a previous
generation, when people had somewhat different and better-admired
values, a fact subliminally endorsed by those trademark sideburns of
...L’Equipe, the French sports newspaper, was particularly admiring of
his marvellous rouflaquettes — “The most famous sideburns since
Elvis Presley”. I noticed that many of his supporters are already
wearing stick-on sideburns; they have to be a marketing manager’s dream.
After his memorable opening line, he continued thus:
“Thanks for the
amazing support over the last three weeks. I really appreciate it. It’s been
a magical couple of weeks. Some dreams do come true ... My old mother over there, her son’s just won the Tour de France
you everyone. Cheers. Have a safe journey home and don’t get too drunk.”
Not content with his personal success, Wiggins played an integral role
as world champion in helping the “Manx Bullet”, Mark Cavendish, win the
20th stage from Rambouillet, sealing victory on the Champs-Élysées for a
fourth consecutive year.
Incidentally, those final circuits of the tour along the Champs-Élysées
reminded me of the chariot race from Ben Hur, without the dastardly
bits, obviously, although I did spot a nasty crash.
Oh, and both races were run anti-clockwise (a reference
there to a recent debate in the Telegraph about why runners and bikes
anti-clockwise on a circuit, but cars and motor bikes race clockwise ...
sadly there does not appear to be a definitive answer).
This, again from the Telegraph...
Whatever, the Parisians may have been more than a little fed up about
losing the 2012 Games to their London neighbours but, sacre bleu, now it
was also their greatest sporting treasure, too. Whisper it
— and this
really came as a surprise — but no French cyclist has won Le Tour for 27
“If I’m held up as an example to kids, then that’s fantastic,” Bradley
said afterwards. “Because I was inspired by people like that. It’s nice
to be recognised and respected and have people look up to you for those
reasons. Hopefully someone will see this and go, ‘I want to be like Brad
Wiggins, I want to go and ride my local time trial.’ It’s nice because
you are actually doing something through your life that is
Absolutely. Allez, Wiggo le Froggy!
I enjoyed this online quote from a
Barryvanhire: “Bradley Wiggins, that’s the sort of name that inspires
British sporting heroes. A bit like Alf Tupper, a bag of fish and chips,
a drag on a woodbine, then off to set another world record. Good on yer
Yep, Bradley Wiggins. It really is a very English-sounding name.
something for the scrapbook
To endorse today’s opening smile, there are a few images involving
young people, pictures capturing experiences they will never, ever forget...
Seven-year-old Ben, son of Bradley, rides with his father along
on matching bikes, after the win. Wow, what a memory for young Ben
Top of the world
Continuing the sporting theme - the Olympic Flame on its travels...
Skier Amelia Hempleman-Adams, at 17, the youngest person
to ski to the South Pole,
enjoys a bird’s eye view of London from aboard the London Eye, early this morning.
A big hand as Amelia carries the Olympic Flame atop the
London Eye in a specially-built cage
Now there’s something that no one else on the planet will ever experience. A truly
one-off magic moment.
Saturday, July 21
Another fine collection of smiles
INTELLIGENCE, wit, wisdom and a little bit of tongue-in-cheek, four
things to help make the world go round with a smile — and all four
ingredients captured in today’s contributions to the cause.
The first two examples were spotted in the Telegraph...
A cigar for Churchill?
SIR – You report that there was a wartime plot to blow up Winston
Churchill with a bar of exploding chocolate smuggled into the War
Cabinet dining room (July 18). In a Nazi plot to blow up Churchill,
wouldn’t an exploding cigar have been more appropriate?
Andrew M Courtney, Hampton Wick, Middlesex
SIR – I asked my eldest son whether he had felt embarrassed when he grew
old enough to realise that I was his father (“Mum’s the word for modern
dads – we’re so embarrassing”, Features, July 19).
“No,” he replied, “not until I realised that other
people knew you were my father.”
Ken Stevens, Sonning Common, Oxfordshire
Very witty. However, an online comment from a
reminded us of the proverb:
“It is a wise child that knows its own father!”
Indeed, Your Lordship. And as
“It is a wise father that knows his own child.” (The Merchant
of Venice, Launcelot Gobbo)
Gobbo? Now there’s a grand name for many an online contributor. However,
for a proper slice of olde-worlde wisdom, Chief Wise Owl handed me this
recent letter from The Times.
SIR, Odd that such a distinguished political commentator as
David Lipsey should be guilty of a category error. He claims
that his widely quoted epithets — “the party’s over”, “winter of
discontent”, and “new Labour” — changed the world.
Not so. It was a changing world that gave rise to their
Professor Sir Alan Peacock, Edinburgh
I doff my hat, Professor Sir Alan Peacock.
Top of the topiary charts
Finally, a tongue-in-cheek peep over the neighbour’s fence.
The picture, alongside, has been all over the
online meeja ... a bush trimmed into the shape of a
raised-middle-finger gesture has landed a dedicated gardener in
trouble after somebody failed to share his naughty humour.
The council received a complaint about the unusual
shaped bush a surprising eight years after it was first carved
by Richard Jackson, 53, in his front garden in Tamworth,
Despite having only just received that one complaint,
the council has told Richard to alter the bush as it is
considered a public order offence. [A public order offence? How
But Richard said his neighbours are backing his pledge
to keep the bush and they have even began a Save the Bush
campaign to support him.
That his neighbours haven’t complained suggest he is a
good neighbour — and I have to say, the first thing I did when I
saw it ... was smile ... indeed, some dedicated trimming has
gone into it.
The finger of suspicion
Pic: Tom Gaffney
But who does the finger of suspicion point at? Surely not.
Would God have complained?
Yes indeedy, life comes in all shapes and sizes.
Old flame in Town
TONIGHT, the Olympic Torch relay arrived in London after two
months travelling across the UK and Ireland.
It arrived in the capital in dramatic fashion — carried by Royal Marine
Commando Martyn Williams, who abseiled 180ft from a Sea King helicopter
onto the Tower of London, where it will be kept overnight, locked in the
vaults along with the Olympic medals. London Mayor
said it was a suitable place to keep it:
“As Henry VIII discovered, in the case of at least two of his wives,
it is the ideal place to bring an old flame. But, unlike Anne Boleyn
[wifee No. 2] and Catherine Howard [No. 5], I know that
this flame will emerge intact tomorrow, such is the vigilance of the
Yeomen Warders, the guards here tonight, that no one will even be
allowed to use it to light his or her cigar...”
Well said, Boris. I can’t somehow imagine Ken Livingstone, if he had won
the recent Mayoral election, delivering as good a line as that.
Meanwhile, back with that old flame:
Over the next seven days, the relay
will take in some of the capital’s best-known landmarks, including the
London Eye, Downing Street and the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet
Club, home of the Wimbledon Championships.
It will then be carried down the Thames on Gloriana,
The Queen’s Rowbarge
[I shall definitely not be watching that bit on the
BBC, given the disaster surrounding the last time the Rowbarge was
spotted on the Thames].
Its journey will culminate at the Olympic Stadium on
Friday evening where it will be passed from athlete to athlete before
being used to light the cauldron, signalling the official start of the
London 2012 Games.
Yes, but who will be the final individual given the honour of carrying
from the Isle of Man
today, a sensational sprint finish saw Manx-Man Mark Cavendish claim the 22nd
Tour de France stage success of his career in Brive-la-Gaillarde.
spectacular and swift was the final dash from some 500m out that someone
labelled him “The Exocet” — before a wag pointed out that Exocet is
French, so the description was duly amended to Bullet/Arrow/Cannonball —
you pays your money and takes your choice.
Imagine what Formula 1 motor racing would look like with dramatic
finishes like that.
Bradley Wiggins, who retained a lead of two minutes five seconds at the
top of the overall rankings and seems ever more certain of becoming the
first British winner of the Tour, played his part in leading Cavendish
out at the end of the 222.5-kilometre route from Blagnac.
However, the Tour de France smiles of the day went to — in second place,
the sight of what looked like either the Oxford or Cambridge Boat Race
team out on a training run and towing — ta-rah!
— a man on water skis waving enthusiastically to the helicopter.
Such a surreal and comic sight; I’ve been searching
online for a photo of said 8-man scull with cheekybones in tow — but so
far no luck.
The best moment though happened when the helicopter happened upon three donkeys
minding their own business in a paddock; well, I say minding their own
business ... each one was dressed in a different blanket sporting the
key colours of the race: yellow, green and polka dot.
At first, the donkeys were a little spooked, what with
the cyclists racing past just behind them, and the helicopter hovering
in front of them. But they quickly settled, and as we humans do when a
helicopter hovers near us, we look straight at it — and as if by magic,
the three donkeys turned together in a line and stared straight up at
the helicopter — and gave us this memorable shot...
...such a smiley image — so no surprise then that it featured in all the
TV highlights of the day.
Thursday, July 19
“I am fairly certain the Conservative party only follows David
Cameron out of sheer curiosity.” Online comment by a Johnny Duke,
who acknowledged it as a witty “put-down” picked up while serving with
“Her Majesty’s Finest”.
Both smiley and arresting, Johnny Duke. Mind you, could it be that the
Conservative party follows Cameron out of sheer desperation? After all,
who else is there? Well, Boris, I guess.
would need the brain of a Yorkshire terrier to believe it.” Michael
“Choo-Choo” Portillo, 59, former Tory cabinet minister, describing Prime
Minister David Cameron’s ‘headline-grabbing’ recent reference to a
referendum on Europe.
I only recently discovered Portillo’s BBC television series Great
British Railway Journeys, in which he explores,
with the aid of George Bradshaw’s 1840 railway guidebook, how the
railways had a profound influence on the social, economic and political
history of Britain.
Wonderfully enlightening and very much an “every day a
day at school” journey. He is a most agreeable travelling companion: he
has great enthusiasm for the task at hand, but more importantly he has
clearly done his homework, which unsurprisingly brings out the best in
those he interviews.
(A point of order that George Entwistle, new
director-general of the BBC, and the man reputedly responsible for the
dumbed-down and disastrous coverage of the Thames Jubilee Pageant,
should note and acknowledge.)
50 Ways To Leave
have some money, which will be nice. I can get a nice kitchen.” EL
James, 49, British authoress of the erotic best-seller, Fifty Shades Of
Confession time: I am not a reader of books, unless in a research or
reference context, and until the other day I believed that Fifty Shades
Of Grey was all about the steamy affair between John Major and Edwina
Currie, with a few rotten eggs thrown in for good measure. D’oh!
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.
John Major was already known as the “grey man” of British politics, witness
this famous Spitting Image puppet...
As is my won’t, I Googled EL James ... hm, I see that the
novelist has been viewing properties in London and already has her eye on a
7-bedroom mansion on the market at £3 million, according to the
The house, which is a Grade II listed building,
features an indoor swimming pool and 4 bathrooms - which is a
considerable step up from her current family home. The author is said to
have earned £3 million from a recent film deal which will see the racy
novel made into a Hollywood film by Universal Studios.
Good luck to her. Mind you, she never told us the “nice
kitchen” would be tucked away inside a nice £3 million mansion.
Anyway, I was rather assured by this quote from EL James apropos what women
look for in a man:
the end of the day, we want someone who is going to do the bloody
I will excuse her that “at the end of the day” bit, but
I was delighted with her insight because there’s hope for me yet. I am
totally useless at sex — but ladies, you should see me do the bloody
There is even a dishwasher in my delightful new abode,
but I have pinned a notice to it: Please shoot me if you catch me
putting anything in this thing
A quick stroll down memory lane
I recall the tale of a local farmer who, when automatic cars first
came on the market, reportedly said: “What is the world coming to when a
man is too lazy to change gear on his car?”
“Sardines are stupid fish. They climb into tins, close the lid then
leave the key outside.”
Sign spotted in a New York fishmonger’s.
“With the ever-changing fads of gastronomy, which becomes more like
the fashion industry every day, who would be bold enough to deny the
sardine its comeback?” Sir Terry Wogan, 73, obviously a man about to
release a few sardines from captivity.
Another quick stroll down memory lane
I’m reminded of something from my schooldays: What’s the fastest fish in
the sea? Dunno. The flat fish. The flat fish? Yes, it is always going
All you can eat
“In 1945, Stalin
began to build a buffet zone in Eastern Europe.” A university
student’s poor spelling suggests Stalin used sausage rolls as a secret
“We live on a solid little rock in the north Atlantic. It’s cold.
It’s wet. We admire the bulldog spirit. We keep calm and carry on. We
get a grip. Crying? It is like eating a horse. Something foreigners do.”
TV's Jeremy Clarkson, 52, on the tears shed by Andy Murray after his
Wimbledon defeat in the final.
Wonderful, 10 out of 10, Mr Clarkson, I couldn’t have put it better
myself. It brings to mind the nation’s default British Bulldog:
using the Winston Churchill response: Commenting on invitations that
haven’t been made, accepting or rejecting them, is bad manners.”
Liberal Democrat MP David Laws, 46, former chief secretary to the
Treasury, when asked about his political future.
What a treasure trove of wise quotations Winston Churchill left behind.
Hey good lookin’,
wotcha got cookin’?
“I am 35 years and from Russia. You are the most beautiful!
I would be crazy-happy if you send me your photo with your autograph.”
A cyber message received by the portly Eric Pickles...
... Tory Party
politician and Secretary of State for Communities, Local Government and
Beautiful People everywhere.
Do you suppose I should send the little minx a cyber message telling her that I,
too, am most beautiful, and always crazy-happy when doing the bloody dishes?
Wednesday, July 18
Here comes the sun
AS IT says on my See Fi (‘Fi’ is a Welsh word, pronounced as the
letter ‘V’, and means ‘me’: so See Fi is Hubie’s version of a CV);
anyway, as it says on my See Fi, just over by there, in the far
column, I was born on the sunny side of a Welsh mountain; and to
paraphrase the late Eric Sykes, the sun has been shining inside my head
ever since, even on the gloomiest of days.
As a consequence, my default setting has a tendency
towards noticing the things that make me smile rather than frown.
However, since I began compiling this daily scrapbook, I now tend to
deliberately scan for things that perhaps would have previously passed
me by. Today was a perfect case in point.
So I click on the Daily Telegraph web site. As I scroll
down my eyes scan the home page ... I note that the top story on the
Most viewed board is this:
Traffic signs in New Zealand destroyed by prostitutes performing stunts
I smile, naturally, but I resist the click — for the moment, anyway.
Just above the Most viewed is the Editor’s choice,
Christchurch perfect place to retire?
Well, if I were ready to retire I would seriously consider moving to
Christchurch in New Zealand, if only to watch those prostitutes
performing their stunts, the cute little — no, NO, NO!
I must resist my overwhelming urge to rhyme everything
with a touch of rime riche (a rhyme with identical pronunciations: the
use of rhyme in which stressed syllables or words are identical in
pronunciation, as in ‘weigh’ and ‘away’, and sometimes in spelling, as
in ‘back’ and ‘track’, ‘stunts’ and — yes, well, you get the picture.
So I click on the prostitute story...
A sign of the times
Dozens of traffic signs have been destroyed by prostitutes performing
pole-dances in the street to attract clients, officials in New Zealand’s
biggest city have revealed. More than 40 poles have been bent, buckled
or broken in the past 18 months in one area of south Auckland, New
Zealand, it is claimed.
Hang about: Auckland? What happened to Christchurch? Bugger. Wrong
country. Anyway, onwards and downwards ... oh, the article was
accompanied by this eye-catching image...
...yes, I get the flightless New Zealand bird – but the flighty
pole-dancer? Do New Zealand ‘All White’ hookers really look like this?
And is she known as A Streetbabe Named Desire? If so, there must
be a road sign there that looks something like this...
Anyway, to continue...
The signs, bearing legally required notices such as parking
restrictions, are thought to have cost ratepayers thousands of dollars
to replace. “Prostitutes use these street sign poles as dancing poles,”
said Donna Lee, an elected member of the city council’s Otara-Papatoetoe
“The poles are part of their soliciting equipment and
they often snap them. Some of the prostitutes are big, strong people.”
[The mind boggles. And there was me thinking A Streetbabe Named
The revelation emerged as the community board published a tell-all
booklet detailing frustrations of residents and businesses struggling to
cope with the rampant sex trade on their doorstep. [Why is
everyone else’s sex life rampant while mine remains stubbornly couchant? Whatever,
that is my problem...]
Part of the area Ms Lee represents is Hunter’s Corner,
which has become notorious as a meeting place for prostitutes and their
customers. Bernie Taylor, a local resident, said: “We had a parcel
delivered to us recently and the address was ‘Hooker’s Corner’, and it
found its way to us with no problems whatsoever.”
John McCracken, the board’s chairman, said: “We are
beyond moral outrage. We just ask for some reasonable control of this
industry.” But the Prostitutes Collective [how often do you
suppose they all come
together?] warned that outlawing popular streets would encourage sex
workers to stop carrying condoms in case they are questioned by police.
New Zealand has some of the most liberal prostitution
laws in the world after the sex trade was decriminalised by the previous
Labour government in 2003.
An entertaining read — but
I was thinking: imagine what the New Zealand girls would make of these British
Anyway, somewhat deflated, I returned to the other Telegraph link:
Christchurch the perfect place to retire?
Rainey visits Christchurch in Dorset to discover why it’s the country’s
The lone nightclub in the centre of Christchurch, Dorset, is a curious
sight. Sandwiched between a chiropodist’s and a family restaurant,
across the road from the local Conservative Club, it’s as though Club
Epic popped up here by accident.
Oh, and Bradley Wiggins is still in possession of the
with just a few days left before they all arrive in Paris and the
Drinks offers are chalked on a slate board outside (“4
sour shotz for £5”), and a neon sign promises cocktails and a live DJ on
Friday nights. On either side of the venue, hanging baskets sway from
ornate iron castings, and a poster stuck in a downstairs window
advertises a “good old days” comedy singalong at the Regent Centre music
It’s hard to see what prompted a nightclub to open
here. For Christchurch, a cheery seaside town on the banks of the rivers
Stour and Avon, was yesterday revealed to be the over-65s’ capital of
England and Wales.
According to the 2011 census, 30 per cent of the 50,000
residents are pensioners – proportionately more than any other British
town or city – and nearly one in six is over the age of 75.
For the uninformed newcomer, Christchurch’s tidy High
Street - nightclub aside – hints at the town’s ageing population. There
are countless tea shops, charity shops and pharmacies. I walk past three
knitting shops, a library and a travel agent’s whose window is obscured
by a huge advertisement for foreign cruises.
There are two traditional barbers, a hearing aid centre
and Mr Simms’ Olde Sweet Shoppe, selling quarters of pear drops and
strawberry bonbons in paper bags. There are also two funeral parlours...
So there you go, a multitude of reasons to be cheerful while waiting in
anticipation for the promised sunny weather to reach us from down there
in the Pyrenees and the Tour de France. Thanks to the Telegraph
then for a
Suddenly I am quite a fan, probably because Bradley
comes across as someone wearing a big white hat.
Tuesday, July 17
STOP PRESS: Pantomime season kicks off early
“I DON’T know what fluent English is.” Nick Buckles (age unknown
but looks as if he should still be in short trousers), chief executive
of G4S, responds to a committee of MPs when asked if his security staff
at the Olympic Games spoke “fluent English”.
Although appearing hesitant or uncertain about details of the security
operation, and struggling to explain how the company had failed to
fulfil its contractual obligations to provide more than 10,000 security
guards, Buckles insisted that his company will still claim its £57
million management fee for security at the Games, even though the
company has presided over a “humiliating shambles”.
A pantomime moment for sure. I found myself shouting at
“HE’S IN FRONT OF YOU!”
Idiots, all of them.
the blue touch-paper — and stand well back
The aforementioned “shambles” became public knowledge just a week ago.
Yet if we go back some three weeks, to the end of June, this
extraordinary quote and story appeared in the media:
“I am the Olympics Minister. You should damn well know who I am.”
Hugh Robertson, 49, when security men at first barred him from entering
the London 2012 media centre after he forgot his security pass.
The multi-millionaire former investment banker —
red alert, red alert
— continued to rant at the guards, but when they stuck with procedure
and refused to let him in, he then pleaded: “I’m on television all
He was stuck outside for ten minutes before someone was
able to vouch for him.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and we all have an honours degree in the
subject, but when you have people like Nick Buckles and Hugh Robertson
running the show — well, it has ambush written all over it. And G4S were
the masked men in black hats hiding in wait inside the pass.
your sticks up — this is a hands up
Talking of masked men in black hats hiding in wait inside the pass:
“I’m old enough to remember when bank robbers wore masks.” Comedian Billy Connolly on the ever-unfolding banking scandal.
It was Lord Acton (1834-1902) who once remarked:
“The issue that has swept down the centuries and which will have to
be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks”.
Sooner rather than later, methinks. I
enjoyed this comment about Lord Acton: “He
knew personally most of the distinguished historians and philosophers of
Europe and America ... At table with his family he chatted in English
with his children, in German with his wife, in French with his
sister-in-law, and in Italian with his mother-in-law.”
So here’s another of his marvellous quotes, one which
definitely rings a rather huge bell:
“It is easier to find people fit to govern themselves than people to
govern others. Every man is the best, the most responsible, judge of his
different kind of
Finally, spotted in The Sunday Times, and, whisper it, ever so
Not just a squeezed middle...
More evidence emerges that the middle is being squeezed to death in this
recession. Marks & Spencer, which is the very essence of Middle Britain
(think Ronnie Barker), has seen its profits
dive. Meanwhile Primark, which is the very essence of Downstairs Britain
(Ronnie Corbett), is posting record
...at the top though, Penthouse Britain
(John Cleese), the filthy rich,
are still displaying all the good taste and modesty we have come to
One fellow requested that his £135,000 Ferrari be
fitted out in leather. On the outside. The customisers had previously
met an order to equip a bullet-proof SUV with seats manufactured from
whale foreskins – Russkies, I would guess.
Well, at least we’ll all be able to see them coming, ho, ho, ho!
Incidentally: how do you circumcise a
blue whale? First, you take four
At this time of year I tend to switch on the telly in the afternoons to
watch what is, I am reliably informed, the world’s greatest bike race,
the Tour de France.
A Tour de Force
French are a smallish, monkey-looking bunch and not dressed any better,
on average, than the citizens of Baltimore. True, you can sit outside in
Paris and drink little cups of coffee, but why this is more stylish than
sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whiskey, I don’t know.”
P J O’Rourke, American political satirist, journalist, writer and
Truth to tell, I am no dedicated cycling fan, although
this year, what with Bradley Wiggins and his Team Sky squad doing so
well, it has certainly added much interest to the race itself. Here,
Wiggins, the current leader in the yellow jersey, is flanked by his Team
you hear about the Welshman who won the Tour de France? He did a lap of
No, I actually enjoy watching television coverage of the event because I
am mesmerised, not so much by the sheer athleticism of the riders or the numbers of French people who
turn out to support the race as it whizzes on by, but rather the crowd’s astonishing
enthusiasm together with the carnival atmosphere along the route.
And of course the exhibitionists and eccentrics who
pepper the route. Here, The Devil, a regular sight along the various
stages, offers his unequivocal support...
...and then there’s the cavalcade of accompanying motorcycles, cars and
sponsor vehicles. I’m amazed that there aren’t more accidents given the
proximity of the riders to the chasing motorised pack and the enthusiastic crowds.
Most of all though I tune in to enjoy the wonderful
French countryside — all those picturesque villages with their little
churches, not to mention the castles and beautiful chateaus spotted here,
there and everywhere.
Oh, and those inventive ‘sculptures’ that litter the
fields and are constructed of straw bales, tractors, machinery, cars,
aeroplanes, people — anything that’s handy, really. Memorably smiley as
the accompanying helicopters and their cameras lovingly give them their
...here, the wheels of the bike were actually turning as the tractors
were being driven round and round. Clever stuff and all rather
And let’s not forget the beauty of the mountain stages.
Last week they raced over the Alps; the Pyrenees beckon come Wednesday
Today’s stage was rather flat, both literally and metaphorically.
Typical chess on wheels, with all the significant players keeping their
powder dry until they face the challenges of the demanding and demonic
However, it was still great to watch because today was
also a picture-perfect day in south-west France as they headed through
musketeer country towards the Pyrenees.
‘All for one and one for all’ seemed to be an apt motto
for the bikers themselves as race leader Bradley Wiggins suffered an
unfortunate delay through no fault of his own i.e. a puncture — and the
whole group slowed down to allow him to catch up and reclaim his
previous place (Wiggins himself had done precisely the same the day
before — talk about the wheel turning full circle).
Sunday of course had seen a tack attack by race
saboteurs with punctures galore. Quite why they indiscriminately threw
tin-tacks on the road to thwart the competitors remains uncertain.
Note to the authorities: those who cast tin-tacks
should be liable to sin-tax.
www. there was ... www
Something really interesting came out of today’s Eurosport commentary by
David Harmon and Sean Kelly, which is itself never less than
entertaining. They were discussing how much information they should
provide the casual viewer without boring the dedicated fan.
Harmon referred to a previous Eurosport commentary
legend, David Duffield. “Duffers always said: remember it’s not just
about the diehards, it’s about commentating for the ‘widow woman in
Now that gives a whole new meaning to www: widow woman
in Wigan. The best commentators explain everything of note to the casual
viewer while at the same time hopefully entertaining the diehards with
their words of wit and wisdom.
And then this: “Fifty per cent of those who watch the
Tour de France on television do so simply to enjoy the countryside and
My hand metaphorically shot up as I muttered “Me, me!”.
That is precisely why I watch it, especially so given the compact and
informative stuff they dish out apropos all the sights and sites of interest.
The Tour de France, with its riders racing through
delightful French countryside, scaling imposing mountains and zooming
through major cities along the way, is without doubt an astonishing
piece of promotion for and on behalf of France as a place to visit.
Talking of dishing out stuff, here’s another fascinating insight from
the commentators: the signals from the multitude of cameras that follow the
race go straight up to a plane circling high above; the signals then go back down
to a dish where they are passed on to a studio.
The master picture is then directed to a satellite way
out in space, which is then deflected down to the dish outside my house
— and onto my television screen.
There used to be a delay of some eight seconds between
the live image and what I watch on TV, but modern technology has brought
that down to some five seconds. Every day a day at school.
And here’s something else I learnt today. The
commentators said that normally in this part of France, near the border
with Spain, the ground would be bone dry, all brown and burnt; indeed
cars had to be careful when turning off the road onto the verges to make
sure their hot exhausts didn’t start a fire beneath.
But this year the countryside was verdant, much like
driving along a country road here in Wales. It seems that much of France
has been experiencing the sort of weather we are having here in the UK.
However, a few weeks ago proper summer weather returned to the south,
although northern France is still wet and miserable.
Let’s hope the fine, settled weather i.e. the jet
stream, is slowly but
surely heading north.
Incidentally, if you’ve never watched the Tour de France — it’s on both
Eurosport and ITV4 — I commend it to the house. Tuesday is a rest day.
On Wednesday the riders take to the mountains, which should be quite
Dai Aphanous and Ivor the Engine are sitting at the bar down at the Crazy
Horsepower, watching the Tour de France on the telly. After a while Dai
asks: “Why on earth do they do that?”
“Do what?” says Ivor
“Go on them bikes for miles and miles, up hills and
down dales, round the bends, day after day, week after week. No matter
if it’s raining, hailing, thundering, sunny, hot, steamy ... I mean, why
would they torture themselves like that?”
“It’s all for the money, Dai,” says Ivor. “To the
winner it’s like winning the lottery, big money.”
“I see,” says Dai, somewhat puzzled. “But why do the
others do it?”
Bandits at one o’clock
WITH the Olympic Games less than a fortnight away, the papers are awash
— pun intended — with Tales of the Expected surrounding said
Last week there was much ado about the strategic siting
of surface-to-air missiles around Olympic Park. Indeed, local residents
lost a High Court battle to prevent the missiles being deployed on the
roof of a 17-storey residential tower block.
captures the mood to perfection...
for something totally predictable
Yes, problems of a jumbo nature have arisen within an organisation
calling itself G4S — that title should have rung alarm bells for a
start — the firm not being able to deliver the promised security
officials to guard the Olympics, with the government having to call up
the army to
do the work.
This headline in the Telegraph caught my
Olympics security: G4S failure “completely normal”
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt says it is “completely normal” for
contractor to fail to deliver on major project, as questions continue
about the inability of G4S to provide security officials for the
So I picked myself up, dusted myself off ... and eventually stopped
laughing. It is doolallyness with honours that one of the nation’s top
politicians think it “completely normal” for an organisation to fail
to deliver what it is contracted to do.
Oh dear, Mr Hunt. This online comment said it all...
Beejeebers: They called racing driver James Hunt “Hunt the
One guess as to what this fellow should be called.
way to the circus > > > > >
What on earth has the nation done to deserve the following roll call of
incompetence and greed?
Tony Blair said he knew nothing of the sexed-up dossier that took
Britain to war, and — surprise, surprise — bestowed upon him a certain
infamy as a “war leader”, which in turn has filled his coffers to
overflow with blood money.
Rupert Murdoch of News International said he knew nothing of the
phone hacking, which at the time contributed hugely to his media empire
and personal wealth.
Bob Diamond of Barclays Bank said he knew nothing of the
Liebor (sic) fixing that helped bring the country to its
financial knees, but curiously put a vast fortune into his own
Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England and guardian
of the nation’s financial wellbeing,
admits he never spotted the origins of the financial ambush, not
to mention the Liebor business, which were the very things he
was/is paid huge dollops of dosh to look out for.
And now, the
boss of embattled security firm G4S, Nick Buckles, is
facing mounting pressure to explain why he only learned “eight
or nine days ago” that his company was struggling to find the
10,000 staff it was contracted to provide for the Olympic Games.
(Look out for this headline: G4S chief Buckles under
How on earth did this once great Britain end up in the grasp of
a bunch of such clowns, cowboys and crooks who, between you, me
and the bedpost, couldn’t organise a cock-up in a brothel on a
lads’ night out?
However, I did laugh out loud at the photograph, alongside,
spotted in The Sunday Times — but best of all, the
Well, the origins of the decline can be traced back to
1964, when the decidedly shifty Harold Wilson became prime
minister. From that point on, the nation’s movers and shakers
have irretrievably morphed from double cream into sour cream.
NEW G4S HEAD OF SECURITY APPOINTED
a clown festival in San Salvador)
Saturday, July 14
FIRST thing this morning I was listening to “Ar Eich Cais”, a music
request programme on Radio Cymru, the Welsh language
wireless station. The show is hosted by one of Welsh broadcasting’s true
characters, farmer Dai Jones of Llanilar, near Aberystwyth.
Anyway, up came a request, and I shall paraphrase Dai’s
“Happy birthday — 80 years of age!
to Dai Hops, or David Hopkins, proprietor of Dai’s Diner, one of
Lampeter’s favourite cafés — and Dai Hops is still going strong ... the
same engine but not the same tyres — he has to change his boots quite
often because he still walks a fair bit to keep himself sharp in mind
“On behalf of your friends and all your customers, happy birthday,
Dai, and have a grand party...”
I am still smiling at that expression: “The same engine but not the same
tyres.” I’ve never heard it before. Quite wonderful. And terribly
‘em a big hand
I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy hugely the Letters pages in
the newspapers. Every day really is a day at school. With many a smile
thrown in for good measure.
For example, these days there is much ado in the media
about passport control delays at Heathrow, particularly so as the
Olympics get ever nearer. Indeed irate passengers have started slow
hand-clapping the delays — and the authorities have, unbelievably,
threatened to take action against them.
Right, this letter from The Times:
Sir, The docility of those irate passengers negotiating passport at
Heathrow is surely a British trait (report, July 10).
Venting their justifiable anger by slow hand-clapping is so civilised,
and threats by the authorities to take punitive action against such
protestors should be given short shrift.
Passengers issued with a penalty notice should opt for
a court appearance. Any self-respecting magistrate at any subsequent
court hearing would dismiss the case immediately.
FRANK GREANEY, Formby, Liverpool
Then came these two most wonderful follow-up letters:
Sir, Slow hand-clapping is an expression of free speech. At the recent
Police Federation annual conference, officers slow hand-clapped the Home
What did the police do about their colleagues? Nothing.
Why? Because England’s finest were expressing their displeasure, like
those entering this fair land where protecting the guilty is paramount
and free speech is to be punished.
ERIC EVANS, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
Sir, Slow hand-clapping may be civilised, but a truly British response
to delay is a hearty rendition of “Why are we waiting?” Easy to learn
and, as I discovered as a student, with the advantage that it is
difficult for authority (delayed lectures in my case) to decide who is
singing and who is not.
PROFESSOR EMERITUS BOB SPENCE, Whyteleafe, Surrey.
How about that? Slow hand-clapping can be easily identified, especially
so on film. But not so if you are singing. The fact that your lips are
moving does not prove that you are actually singing i.e. making a sound.
We all talk to ourselves. That is what thinking is.
However, as we grow older, or when we become drunk, I have observed that
folk will lip-read their thoughts. As age and the drink flows, people
will begin to utter their thoughts out loud, together with suitable hand
gestures (which is quite a funny thing to observe).
Someone once unkindly pointed out that you can always
pick out readers of the Sun newspaper because their lips
are always moving when they read. Ouch.
Anyway, the fact that authorities would find it
difficult to prove that you were actually singing “Why are we waiting?”
when in a crowd is a quite wonderful thing to learn, even at my age.
A parting thought: wouldn’t it be better if those responsible for
passport control delays at Heathrow began slow hand-clapping themselves?
It is called looking behind the mirror.
A sudden Spike in the smileometer
YESTERDAY’S smile of the day kicked-off thus:
Just occasionally I will stumble upon an image that not only catches
my eye — but it sets a whole train of thought in progress.
Well blow me: “Snap!”
I blinked and smiled at this...
Prince Philip meets Ian ‘Spike’ Betterton, Chair of The Friends of St
Kidderminster, at the Guildhall in Worcester
It was the all-round smiley and enthusiastic expressions that first
grabbed my attention ... marginally ahead of the Mohican hairstyle, the
raggedy beard and the jingle-jangles by ear.
But most of all: what did the Duke of Edinburgh say to
Ian Betterton — and more importantly, what did Ian Betterton say that clearly amused everyone so?
Especially the lady far left.
“Are you the Last of the Mohicans?” was a favourite
Prince Philip line with the meeja.
“This is a hair-raising experience, Sir!” was another line
the sub-editors deployed with much enthusiasm. I quote...
The encounter between Prince Philip and Ian Betterton might have
received a prickly reception from some gentlemen of his generation — but
the Duke of Edinburgh appeared delighted to meet a man with a startling,
bright red Mohican.
Community campaigner Ian Betterton warmly welcomed
Prince Philip sporting a giant Red Indian hairstyle as he lined up
alongside other guests in Worcester.
And the Duke did a double-take as he met Mr Betterton,
known as Spike, at a reception at the Guildhall in Worcester yesterday
lunchtime. Spike is chairman of the Friends of St Georges Park community
group which aims to develop and improve the Kidderminster parkland.
Ian Betterton was invited to a lunch with the Queen and
her husband because of his contribution to community work and chatted
with the 91-year-old Duke about his eye-catching style.
Comment boards drew the usual suspects, the nasty trolls — or the poison
keyboard operators as I call them — but those who live in the
Kidderminster area and who know and/or work with Spike had nothing but
praise for him as a person, as well as the work he does for the community.
Yes, yes, but what did the Duke say to him?
Let’s face it, you don’t get to meet the Duke of
Edinburgh sporting a Mohican unless you have something special going for
you. Indeed, the affection on the faces of those lined up with him in
really is worth a thousand words.
If we are lucky, we personally know a Spike or two, whether male
Well, according to Spike, 42: “He asked me if I
support local hairdressers. I told him I do it myself and that’s why
it’s a bit wonky.”
I have a feeling he said something else as well, but
perhaps Spike is keeping that to himself. And why not?
How do I imagine the exchange unfolding? Well, I’ll go with the Mohican
Duke: “And what do you say to your hairdresser: short back and sides,
long down the middle?”
Spike: “I do it myself and that’s why it’s a bit wonky.
Truth to tell, there is a family whisper that a female ancestor once
broke bread and drank from the cup in the company of the last of the
Mohicans — but great-grand-mum’s the word.”
Thursday, July 12
for something completely different
The animals went in two by two, the elephant and the kangaroo
JUST occasionally I will stumble upon an image that not only catches my
eye — but it sets a whole train of thought in progress. First though,
clicking on the Telegraph website this morning, the headline that caught
my eye was this:
Every home to pay
price of floods
Meaning, the extraordinary cost to insurers of making good the on-going
flood damage right across the country will have to be shared by all
Speaking as someone who thus far along my walk through
time has escaped the curse of flood damage, I find that idea perfectly
acceptable, especially so when you hear of disasters in places where the
oldest person living in the area has never seen such flooding before.
Now how did that message sent by Rebekah Brooks (of
phone-hacking infamy) to Prime Minister David Cameron go?
so rooting for you. Professionally we definitely are in this together.”
as David would say, confusing his love lines with his laughter lines.
David: we definitely are in this together.
However, I digress already. So how do you conjure up a smile from such
the Telegraph cartoonist does his usual walking-on-water
trick with this effort...
'Look, the Shard'
...the Shard is of course not just the tallest building in London but in
cartoon is so clever because he doesn’t laugh at the misery of
flooding itself, but at the thought that if it doesn’t stop raining soon
we will all be looking up Noah’s Ark Flotation Company in Yellow
Talk about an image catching the eye: the main picture, below, is of a
pedestrian walking towards a giant art sculpture in an underground car
park in Oslo.
Quite what the sculpture means ... I have no idea. But
it did remind me of something:
Picture: Cathal McNaughton
Yes of course, the famous foot that comes crashing down to stop in its
opening credits of Monty Python’s Flying Circus (as
The juxtaposition is wonderful, particularly so the rainbow and the
As to what the Norwegian sculpture actually means ...
well, I can only think that it is a sort of revenge for the memorable
Monty Python dead parrot sketch which
featured a Norwegian Blue parrot having unforgivably kicked the bucket, and
a scene that Python aficionados can
still recite word perfect.
Foot in the door
Talking of a foot crashing down to stop us all in our tracks, another
headline that caught the eye:
Radioactive Tony Blair still glowing with power — and still Toxic
Sad, creepy, slightly insane – but then ex-PMs all seem to be. Tony
Blair is to become the new Labour policy review adviser...
The news was best summed up by this tweet from a
Simon N Ricketts:
“Now we know why the rain’s been incessant, the
BBC’s web site’s gone down and the O2 network has crashed. Tony Blair
walks among us again.”
What with all this
problems, Mr Blair is obviously going to try his walking-on-water trick
know Tony Blair is a man of religious faith but his relationship to
media power was like that of an agnostic to God. He wasn’t sure it
existed but he decided to behave as if it did, just in case.” Lance
Price, 53, British writer, journalist and political commentator, who was
Blair’s media adviser in Downing Street.
“He is brilliant and ambitious but he’s also bonkers and I just can’t
be bothered with it.” Tony Blair’s opinion of Gordon Brown as quoted
by Alastair Campbell in his diaries
Blair, Brown, Campbell ... God, the words pot, calling, kettle and black
flow effortlessly over the waterfalls of my mind.
“Tony Blair was a Conservative politician who seemed to be in the
wrong party. You wait 18 years, and then you get Blair.” Veteran
Labour MP Michael Meacher, 72.
“This notion that I want to be a billionaire with a yacht — I don’t.”
Former PM Tony Blair, 59, who, whisper it, has plans. Whether they
involve personal tax avoidance schemes, only time will tell.
just have to laugh, otherwise the funny farm beckons for all of us...
Wednesday, July 11
Posh and Spice and all that’s nice...
CREATED this persona and I’m very different from that. I don’t feel I
have to scream and shout about it — I know I am a happy person. So I
don’t get upset when people comment on the fact that I look quite
miserable all the time. But people think I am. And you know, sometimes,
I think the same thing when I look at the pictures.”
Victoria Beckham, 38, English fashion designer, businesswoman,
former singer (revisited) and celebrity extraordinaire.
Following the Wimbledon Men’s final last Sunday, which was attended by
Victoria and husband David, I read somewhere that photographers, hoping
to catch Posh Spice smile, failed miserably. Apparently, she did not smile the
once, which is quite remarkable, really. After all, Murray did win the
But as she herself admits, she appears to have been
consumed by her misery boots media persona. However, observing her from
afar, she appears to be a good wife and mother, has an eye for a
business opportunity, and seems to be well-liked by those closest to her
(see Mel C, below).
what female groups are made of...
Last month the Spice Girls reunited for the first time in four
years as they launched a stage musical inspired by their pop
careers. The Spice Girls formed in 1994, and in 1996 their debut
single, Wannabe, hit number-one in more than 30
countries. It helped establish the group as a “global
Their debut album, Spice, sold more than 28
million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling album by a
female group in music history. They have sold over 75 million
records worldwide, making them the best-selling female group of
I quote the above because it is a most remarkable
record, if you will pardon the pun.
I well remember those hits of theirs because they were
both instantly catchy and promptly disposable. It puzzled me no
end why the BBC never invited their successful songwriters to
pen the nation’s annual Eurovision entries: they would have
provided perfect material for the contest.
Mirror, mirror on the wall
But here’s something even more remarkable. Recently I did a
feature on how pet dogs and their owners often grow to look
alike. Or more correctly, owners subconsciously look behind the
mirror when choosing a pet: gobby people own yappy dogs;
sociable and kindly folk have friendly dogs; aggressive types
own ferocious dogs; the hunting, shooting and fishing brigade
opt for sporty dogs that flirt with aggressiveness; farmers own
Right, back with Victoria: apart from her list of
business ventures, she is currently a fashion designer and
creative design executive at Range Rover; indeed, it seems she
has been responsible for the interior of the Range Rover Evoque.
I know she wasn’t responsible for the exterior design of the
vehicle itself — but have a look, alongside....
Isn’t that astonishing? Just as owners tend to choose dogs which
are a reflection of their own image, so Victoria has clearly
chosen to work with a Range Rover that is a spitting image of
what she must see in the mirror.
I am still coming to terms with the cut of that jib.
Victoria with her pet Rover, her Range Rover Evoque
Incidentally, husband David was recently left out of the British
Olympic football team — and that despite many thinking he would be a
Oh dear: yesterday David was “Golden Balls”, today it’s all “New Balls,
please” — tomorrow, not even an opportunity to be “Bronzy Balls” along
the exit slipway.
It’s tough at the top.
Tuesday, July 10
Shorn the Sheep
TODAY I need to borrow Alex Lester’s 4.40:
spot on his early-morning Radio 2 Best Time of the Day Show i.e.
Mark: “Today has taught me that somebody else must be getting the
benefit of the wife’s copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, ‘cause I’m not.”
Today has taught me that New Zealand sheep are much more bashful and shy
than their Welsh cousins. For example, a Welsh white-faced sheep will
get her kit off as soon as she hears the farmer whistle a few bars of
The Stripper, whereas an Antipodean model will pull her woolly jumper
ever tighter and run for the hills at the first suggestion of “Get ‘em off!”.
Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself. Today I happened
upon an extraordinary picture of a sheep from down-under. I quote:
A renegade New Zealand sheep managed to evade shearers for half-a-dozen
years or so.
Dubbed ‘Shrek’, the Merino sheep was shorn live on television by top
shearers David Fagan and Peter Casserly.
The 10-year-old sheep managed to roam freely on New
Zealand’s South Island for more than six years before being rounded up.
Shrek’s 60-pound fleece, enough to make 20 large men’s suits, was
auctioned off over the internet for the benefit of children’s medical
“Suit you, Shrek – Ooh, 20 double-breasted suits
Salomé: “Someone's pulled the wool over her eyes.”
Before going there, I enjoyed this online comment:
Shrek — unfortunate name for what I presume must be a female, as opposed to a
ram, that is — brought
to mind a sheep I photographed in the Towy Valley a couple of years back, sporting a rather
fashionable off the shoulder number, and probably modelling it for one
of the local Llandampness boutiques.
In fact, in this corner of the world it is quite a
common sight to catch sheep in various modes of undress, particularly so as
the shearing season approaches and the weather’s been fine and warm in
to early summer when the sheep get properly fleeced (this year excepted, of course).
Meanwhile, back with Alex Lester: he played Gregory Abbott’s Shake You Down
— which really took me back. So off I went to YouTube, for I remember
from the video that accompanied the song that there’s a gorgeous female who gives
one of the most seductively flirty and come-hither looks to camera that I have ever
seen — video link coming up.
Webberrocks: Every time I’m on a date with a girl, I always want to say:
“Girl, I wanna shake you down ... well o well … we’ll go all the way to
Then I want to say: “Come whisper in my ear, well o
Then I want to say: “Eeny meeny miny moe, come on girl
let’s start the show.”
Lyrical Genius, Gregory Abbott!
Now that tickled me no end. Mind you, if I’d ever used lines like that,
she’d have run in the opposite direction at a rate of knots. Whatever, have a
at this: the aforementioned “look” comes just a few seconds into the song, the clip
immediately after Gregory Abbott starts to sing. Phew...
Monday, July 9
The daily run
morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the
fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes
up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will
starve. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle, when the
sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
Sir Roger Bannister, 83, the first to break the four-minute mile barrier
(3:59.4 on May 6, 1954, aged 25). He was later to add:
found longer races boring. I found the mile just perfect.”
Memorable quote about the lion and the gazelle, Sir Roger; indeed my quote of the year thus far -
probably because I empathise absolutely with that gazelle: every morning
when I wake up, I know that I must outrun the Higgs bosun, Libor, Tony
Blair, David Cameron, Rupert Murdoch, Mervyn King, Bob Diamond et al –
or I will be gobbled up and shat out in the blink of an eye.
Be that as it may, I have no desire whatsoever to change places with the
predators because when the revolution comes – and come it will, as
history and current events insist – all the money in the world, the most
powerful electric fence, the best armed guards, will not protect them or
their families from the mob.
Fly the flag
two weeks, today I have learnt that Andy Murray is Scottish despite
previous news reports calling him British.” Mark the Mucky
Fellrunner, overheard sharing his thoughts over the airwaves.
Very smiley — and true. Oh, and Mark the Mucky Fellrunner has
today also learnt that every day is
a day at school.
I did not settle down on the couch to watch Andy Murray and Roger
Instead, I went gallivanting (code for a quick visit to the Crazy HP). As
mentioned a couple of days back, I didn’t fancy having to cope with the
emotional roller-coaster of watching Andy Murray reach out for something
which infuriatingly appears to be just beyond his reach.
Shame really, because he puts so much into it – yet he
lacks that certain killer-something-or-other in his genes and sporting psyche.
Best illustrated, perhaps, by his weepy state at the end. He really does walk an
I truly empathise with his mother. Judy Murray has
described the experience of watching her son play as a “mixture of
nausea and heart attack”. It made me think of the Welsh proverb I
Gwyn y gwêl y frân ei chyw — the crow sees her young one
white. Meaning, your mum will always stick up for you, no matter
what. And Judy Murray believes absolutely that, one of these days, her
son will make it to the top.
Oh, by the way, the tennis was on in the pub anyway. D’oh!
the flag - again
A recent letter in the Western Mail complained that Wales
remains unrepresented on the Union Flag i.e. neither the Welsh dragon
nor the St David’s cross is incorporated in its design.
It’s an argument that has been doing the rounds for
years and ears (a sight and sound gag there). Indeed, in
November 2007, a Welsh Labour Party politician, Ian Lucas, 51, who has
been MP for Wrexham since 2001, asked Parliament why Wales is not
represented in the Union Jack.
Every day a day at school spot: A
Welsh presence does not appear on the flag because when the first Union
Flag was created in 1606, Wales was already united with England, dating
from the 13th century. In other words, Wales and England were an item.
This meant that Wales was then a Principality rather
than a Kingdom, and as such could not be included. In 1536, under Henry
VIII, the Act of Union joined England and Wales officially.
Crucially, no one appears to have enquired if this was
said at the time: “If anyone here has any objections to this union, let
them speak now or forever hold your peace.” Hm, obviously nobody asked, which
would explain all the ongoing fuss.
But what would the flag with a Welsh presence look
like? Here is the Ian Lucas version of the Union flag, with Wales
That’s a truly eye-catching effort from Ian Lucas. Also, at that time
the Telegraph newspaper invited readers to submit
appropriate designs, and a broad range of fascinating ideas were duly
Over the coming weeks I will rotate the flags featuring on my ‘welcome mat’,
some of the other suggestions. In the meantime, here’s the link to the
flag gallery – well worth a visit to help generate a certain smile...
Intriguingly, the invitation was picked up by a major
web site in Japan – and the Japanese took up the challenge with much
There’s a Telegraph Picture Gallery of 30
designs — a few are clearly done with tongue-firmly-in-cheek, but none
the worse for that for they add hugely to the gaiety of the passing
parade of flags. A link will duly manifest itself...
As it happens, I did a feature on this very thing in 2010, and my
favourite back then remains my favourite still – and I’ve put it on my
Welcome mat (as opposed to the welcome Matt), at the very top. I
have since discovered that my chosen one is from a “Yosida”, which I
guess has to make it one of the efforts from Japan.
Now I think it is important that the flag retains its
Union Jack format, something which makes it one of the most distinctive
flags in the world, along with the USA, Canada, China, Japan and
probably Brazil (not forgetting the Welsh flag itself, obviously).
But with Yosida’s design, and unlike the Ian Lucas
effort perhaps, the dragon doesn’t dominate or distract, at least from a
distance. It does just enough for anyone looking at the flag to wonder
what it is that lurks at the centre – and then hopefully proceed to
investigate and enquire precisely what the significance of said dragon
That way an awful lot of people who know nothing about
Wales would, fingers crossed, be intrigued by the answer.
Saturday, July 7
A very British
“AS I looked out of the window this morning my wife cheered me up by
commenting: ‘Well, look on the bright side; it’s July now so the rain
must be getting warmer.’.” Dr Bob Turvey of Bristol, in a letter to
the Daily Telegraph.
Are you sitting
I drive a 22-year-old Saab 900, and clever car that it is, it recognises
the onset of autumn because it suddenly starts to keep my bum cosy and warm as
soon as I sit in its wonderfully comfortable seat (designed by an
orthopaedist I was once told, and that claim certainly feels right).
Tellingly though, this year the seat’s automatic heating
mechanism is still looking forward to its annual summer R&R.
Incidentally, mega moons ago, when I decided it would be a jolly idea to
learn to fly a plane, I called at a doctor’s surgery (after hours, but
on time) for a pilot’s medical. I was surprised to find the rather
cheery doctor on the steps waiting to greet me.
Sometime later he was to tell me that whenever anyone
called for a medical, he always tried to catch them climbing out of
their vehicles because it instantly told him much about their physical
condition (and to a lesser extent, their mental frame of mind).
From that moment on, I can’t stop myself doing the same
– and of course he was right. It is a most telling physical act.
Yes, the weather across the country has been awful. Mind you, nothing
like what’s happened in southern Russia. Parts of the UK have apparently
suffered a month’s rain in a day, but over in Russia they suffered two
months’ worth or rain in about six hours or so – and boy did it show,
with significant loss of life.
The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella:
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella
Charles Bowen (1835-1894)
in my Ark: I’ve got 2 nurses, 2 doctors, 2 teachers, 2 Remploy workers,
2 firemen, 2 cooks,
2 builders – just told 2 bankers to sod off.” Peter Smith
Earlier today I was perusing a Telegraph
Picture Gallery of current UK weather, images submitted by both
readers and professional snappers.
My favourite was the one coming up, captured by a pro,
as it happens. It was taken at yesterday’s Wimbledon tennis
championships, the men’s semi-final match between Novak Djokovic and
Roger Federer, which was played under a closed roof because of the rain.
Curiously, the Murray semi that followed took place
under sunshine and an open roof. I say curiously: it isn’t really, for
that’s how the British climate works.
Anyway, here’s the picture...
Picture: Toby Melville
It is such a perfect image. When we look out of the window at home, say,
and we see that sort of view, we know that it’s proper pissin’ down
outside. But I think the umbrellas on Murray Mound say so much about the
British and our attitude to our weather.
As long as we avoid
devastation, as happened in some parts, then we grin and bear and
get on with things, and the fact that the spectators were watching the
Federer semi on the big screen, in the rain, says so much.
England and I am from there. But when it involves organisation, it is
going to be a right balls-up. Things will catch fire and people will be
tripping over things. Then it will start raining.” Russell Brand,
37, English, Clown Prince of Doolallyness, and his gloomy prediction for
the London Olympics.
he’s probably right. Especially about the rain.
A jigsaw of jiggery-pokery (Tales of the Unexpected Libido)
“DUDE, I owe
you big time ... Come over one day after work and I’m opening a bottle
Email sent by an external trader to a Barclay’s trader over the
interest-rate rigging allegations.
The above quote is revisited because I’ve just read it in its proper
context. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Libor rate fixing scandal involves
conspiracy, theft and fraud. But most intriguingly, those bank bosses
raking in vast fortunes of money compliments of the jiggery-pokery going
on in the back room — seemingly knew nothing about it, ho, ho, ho.
So why does it make my smile of the day? Well, it
really is like a sketch from a comedy show – but more importantly it
lead to yet another jolly and witty cartoon from
But first, ponder the following, as spotted in the meeja — except that
in future I will refer to Libor as “Libido” (I think the whole banking thing has
sexual undertones, as you will spot):
The Financial Services Authority’s report into the Barclays dodgy
dealings provides a Pythonesque insight into the exchanges made between
external traders and the Barclays rate submitters.
In one request for a change to the Libido, a trader
said: “Please feel free to say ‘no’. Coffees will be coming your way
either way, just to say thank you for your help in the past few weeks”,
to which the Barclays submitter replied: “Done, for you big boy.”
[Do you suppose that “coffee” is code for sex? Whatever, I laughed at the “big boy” reference; a couple of days
reported the entertaining sexual encounter between two chaffinches, and I
had the female referring to the male as “Big Boy”. Of course it doesn’t
say in the above Libido exchange whether that particular Barclays
submitter was female, whereas we know that the next one is male.]
In a phone call, a trader complained to a manager that the
Barclays employee was submitting “the highest Libido of anybody”.
“He’s like, ‘I think this is where it should be’. I’m
like, ‘Dude, you’re killing us’,”. The trader said he had
“begged” the submitter to put in a low rate and he had said he
would “see what I can do”.
A trader whose request to lower the Libido was accepted,
came back: “When I retire and write a book about this business
your name will be written in golden letters.”
Another e-mailed to state: “If it [Libido rate] comes in
unchanged, I’m a dead man.” The Barclays man said he would “have
a chat” and the submission was lowered.
The trader came back: “Dude, I owe you big time!
Come over one day after work and I’m opening a bottle of
You really couldn’t make it up. Oh yes, see how dealing in
“Libido” changes the whole feel of the fiddle? Fifty Shades of
Dodgy Sex. And just today, London Mayor Boris
Johnson suggested that there are more banking scandals waiting
to emerge from the woodwork. Goodness, we really are crossing
some very libidinal ground.
Whatever, relating the above was an ideal excuse to
cartoon ... So, in conclusion:
Game, set, match and bottle of Bollinger to...
Sorry—Love, I can’t handle the tension
Goodness, it really is hard work following Andy Murray. Nearly as
bad as watching Wales play rugby against a southern hemisphere side. I
shall give Andy a miss on Sunday, but I wish him all the best.
I may have
told this tale before, but it stands a revisit in light of the above
Tales of the Libido. It
all takes me back to the first five years of my adult life, working for
Lloyds Bank, as it then was. The final year was spent in the
back-of-beyond, in Tregaron, a village in the heart of mid-Wales.
As a supposed “prime young buck about town”, I dreaded
the thought of being posted there, but it turned out to be
one of the most memorable and enjoyable 12 months of my life. In such a
rural place you really did have to make your own entertainment. And the
place was awash with proper larger-than-life characters. Oh, and a few
rather lovely females.
There was a tale from a previous year, of inspectors turning up at the
A recent newspaper letter from someone who had worked
in the banking industry from 1965 to 1996, reminded readers that back
then, bank inspectors could turn up at any time, always unannounced,
usually arriving either just before opening hours or just after the
doors had closed; often they
would stay for several weeks and go through everything with the
regulation fine-toothed comb.
Anyway, back in Tregaron: five minutes after three – in
those days the doors closed at three – the inspectors arrived, but found
the doors wide open. They entered ... cautiously ... in the background they
could hear much laughing and joking.
They peered in and saw the manager and the two male clerks
sat round a table, playing cards, the room filled with cigarette smoke...
Right, the inspectors thought, we’ll give them a fright
and teach them a lesson they’ll never forget. They crept behind the
counter and pressed the alarm – and within a few shakes, the landlord
of the pub next door rushed in carrying a tray with three pints of best
bitter on it.
Actually, you have no idea how close to the truth that joke really is.
Ah, those were the days, my friends, when Libido and Quantitative Easing
were horses running in the four o’clock. Perhaps they still are.
Thursday, July 5
First class delivery
THERE is always much in the media about the deteriorating delivery
service of the Royal Mail, particularly given today’s
cost of postage stamps, but just occasionally our posties get some praise,
especially so in respect of baffling and/or cryptic addresses that still
get delivered correctly.
Here are a series of letters on the subject, spotted in
the Daily Telegraph...
A not so private dick
SIR – A friend of mine, a policeman in the north of Scotland, used to
receive letters from his mother addressed to:
“Pc Dick, The Nick, Wick”.
It never failed.
George Jamieson, Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire
Delivery from down
SIR – It is reputed that the postal system correctly delivered an
envelope that had written upon it:
It came safely to John Underwood, Andover, Hampshire.
Fr Michael Peters, Southampton
I had to think about that one ... very clever: John under Wood and over
Hants. I do so hope that it is actually true.
Elvis Presley lives
SIR – I was anxious not to receive junk mail after I obtained an online
insurance quotation, but there was no opt-out. To thwart them I put
“Return To Sender” where it might head my address.
I have since received about 75 letters addressed to Mr
Martin Burgess, Beckenham, Kent
I’m not sure whether I believe that. Still, the name Tosender is a
classic, especially if you pronounce it Toss-ender.
Message in a bottle
SIR – P G Wodehouse claimed that he threw his letters from his window
into the street below and relied on a public-spirited passer-by to put
them in a postbox.
When the pavement dries I shall do likewise with a copy
of this email.
John H Stephen, London NW8
I rather liked the P G Wodehouse idea. But I don’t understand the humour
(presumably) of that final sentence. I’ll put it down to my stupidity.
At the end of last month, I posted a most pleasurable bulletin about the
ladies attending Ascot, especially so their hats. Well, I have just seen
this, which really amused me...
Where did you get that hat?
the ladies at Royal Ascot, I noted that hats don’t seem to care who
wears them.” Rosie Davis, of Bearsden, Glasgow, in a letter to the
And then, just a few days ago, I did a piece on why dogs make such
perfect companions. And now I see this:
Love my dog, love me
very much a creature of habit. I am similar to a dog in almost every
Bell, 31, American actress.
Finally, advice of the day, of the week, of the month, of the year – compliments
Spell it out
you have to look up a word in a dictionary – don’t use it.”
My own rule of thumb? Avoid words you never hear in the Bible or in
the Saloon Bar of the Crazy Horsepower.
Wednesday, July 4
Fifty Shades of Sex
ARE you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin...
country there are a lot of hormones flying about. You have all these
animals doing it around you. And you can almost smell sex in the air.”
Tara Newley, 48, singer and writer, daughter of actress Joan Collins and
the late singer/composer/actor Anthony Newley.
Tell me about it, Tara. As someone who wanders through the heart of the
Towy Valley every morning, I regularly have to avert my eyes. Just
The birdie song
It was back in May, and the wee songbirds I’ve befriended were going
through their singing ... seducing … shagging routines.
I was feeding the few birds that were still interested
in a free breakfast – a promise of sex, and the need to eat becomes a distraction –
and through the branches I could hear much excitement.
It was the sound of a bird, but a sound I hadn’t heard
before. Think of the traditional ring of a landline phone:
ring-ring, ring-ring... – except the bird was making an extended and
repeated “Rrrrrrrrrrrrrring” sound, just like an unbroken telephone
I peered through the branches – and there, a couple of
chaffinches performing their seduction routine. The advantage with the
chaffinch is that the male and female are easily distinguishable. The
male is colourful, the female a plain brown.
And it was the female that was doing the frantic
tweeting. Obviously the male had already done his routine to attract her
in the first place – and this little beauty was up for it. There she was, trilling
away – with her tail in the air, the ultimate come-on sign.
Now it was a rather overcast morning, and I only carry
a smallish camera – I am not a photographer, merely someone who
always carries a camera to capture the passing parade – so the pictures
aren’t particularly sharp ... anyway, here they are. Oh, and look
away now, Tara Newley...
Hello Big Boy – did you tweet that I have a
Oh Big Boy – I'll hold it against you for as long
as you like
I particularly enjoyed the little head looking up at him – now that’s
what I call enjoying the moment ... anyway, on with the show...
Even the humans
are up for it
“British wildlife in all its glory is the star of Spring and
Autumnwatch. You soon forget about the presenters when you see a blue
tit doing something extraordinary in an ordinary garden.” Kate
Humble, 43, television presenter specialising in wildlife and science
programmes, denies having an affair with her former co-presenter Chris
harder, go madder, go faster.” TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham,
51, naturalist, nature photographer, author and
lover of blue tits, great tits and all sorts of tits, on his philosophy
I would say that you’re pushing your luck just a wee bit there, Chris.
Nancy with the
I’ve been suffering withdrawal symptoms of late – if you’ll
pardon the expression, given what’s just gone before. Now where has the
delightful Nancy Dool’Allio disappeared to of late? Never fear, Nancy
get hold of me it is difficult to let me go. Your life changes
completely. It is difficult to live without me.” Nancy Dell’Olio,
51, when asked whether men were scared of her.
I think Nancy and Chris Packham should get together.
A banker draw
I caught a slice of Bob Diamond, the ex-boss of Barclays Bank, being
quizzed on TV about the fiddling of the key Libor rate the bank
has been caught out on, in particular his response that he had only learnt
about it “only last month”.
There’s only one question: Would you trust this fellow
further that you could throw him? Yes or No? Simple.
The rough in the Diamond
bank we can count on these days is the sperm bank.” Writer Kathy
Hm. And with one bound the bounder was free. And with one jump the
Diamond morphed from banker to wanker. “Well, here’s another nice
cock-up you’ve gotten us into, Bob.”
Farewell and God
Today brought news that comedian and TV star Eric Sykes had died, aged
89. Eric was one of those individuals, much like Tommy Cooper, really:
the moment you caught sight of him you caught yourself smiling.
Well respected was Eric Sykes. Here are a few of his
“I had lunch with a chess champion the other day. I knew he was a chess
champion because it took him 20 minutes to pass the salt.”
“I asked my publisher what would happen if he sold all the copies of
my book he’d printed. He said ‘I’ll just print another ten’.”
“There is a price to pay for everything. But I find that the price is
very, very reasonable.”
Really witty, that.
“Some people walk on stage and the audience warms to them. You can’t
explain it, and you shouldn’t try. It’s an arrogant assumption to say
you ‘decide’ to become a comedian. The audience decides for you.”
I felt the same watching Bob Diamond. You either warm to him or you
don’t. Yes or No? The audience decides.
“One never consciously observes. The only people who consciously observe
are policemen and undercover agents.”
There I have to disagree with Eric. I’m not a policeman or an undercover
agent – well, I would say that, wouldn’t I? – but I always catch myself
observing: dolphin or shark, pussycat or polecat, sparrow or sparrow
hawk, lay-by or roundabout? Once you start, you can’t stop. But it keeps
me endlessly amused.
“I tend to live in the wonderful world of my head, where every day the
sun shines. Because of my age I like to live in an armchair and do just
I agree with him there. I live in the world of my head, and just like
Eric, I find that the sun always shines.
The last word though has to go to Eric:
“When I feel that I’ve gone over the finishing line, I hope that I’ll be
the first to know.”
Tuesday, July 3
Libor Lies Limited
CORRECTION: Libor Lies Unlimited
that was rigging the wheels and loading the dice.” Liberal Democrat
peer Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, 65, on the Barclays bank affair.
Libor? What a curious name for the latest scandal engulfing our banks.
Where does the word come from? Whatever does it mean? This, compliments of
The London InterBank Offered Rate is the average interest rate
estimated by leading banks in London that they would be charged if
borrowing from other banks. It is usually abbreviated to Libor,
or more officially to
(for British Bankers’ Association Libor) or the trademark bbalibor.
It is a benchmark, along with the Euribor, for interest
rates all around the world. Libor rates are calculated for different lending
periods: overnight, one week, one month, two months, six months, etc.,
and published daily at 11:00 by the British Bankers Association.
financial institutions, mortgage lenders and credit card agencies set
their own rates relative to (and typically higher than) Libor.
I was thinking: shame someone hadn’t thought of it as the
Rate – then we could all call it
get on with our lives. Even better: should we not change the British
Bankers’ Association to the British Wankers’ Association – hence the
perfect trademark bwaliebor? If the rate cap fits...
From the horse’s
owe you big time ... Come over one day after work and I’m opening a
bottle of Bollinger.” Email sent by an external trader to a
Barclay’s trader over the interest-rate rigging allegations.
Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, eh? He peers out to see and lifts the
telescope to his eye: “I see no ships, only hardships.”
Never do anything
behind a desk that would embarrass your mother
Perusing the Daily Telegraph first thing this morning ...
hits that famous nail square on its head – yet again. However, I
was quite captivated with the message within the message.
Now you don’t need me to tell you that the nation’s
movers and shakers – politicians, bankers, business leaders,
media chiefs, the usual suspects – are mighty ruthless people.
That’s why they are at the very top of their particular greasy
pole: they don’t care who they trample all over or even destroy in
their enthusiasm to ring that bell and claim the pot of fool’s
They really are the sort of people you wouldn’t trust
further than you could throw them. The sort of human beings that
are impossible to feel any affection for. The sort of people
that can only a mother can truly love.
punchline with the mother thinking her son should be behind bars,
is a classic. There’s a Welsh proverb:
Gwyn y gwêl y frân ei chyw — the crow sees
her young one white. Meaning, your mum will always stick up
for you, no matter what. So, when she thinks you should be in
jail, then you really have become a pariah. All is lost.
And then, pretty much as I was chuckling at
cartoon, Barclays’ Chief Executive, Bob Diamond, resigns.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus had nothing on this lot. What a mess.
And now for
something completely different - in a smiley sort of way, obviously...
back and sides
On the wireless some people were discussing how town centre shops and
all the services they provide are disappearing at a rate of knots. “Ah,
but more and more people are either visiting out of town centres or
simply buying online.”
“I know, I know. One of these days they will realise
that you can’t buy a haircut on the internet.”
Hm, a short-sighted back and sides then.
Seduction or bust
I am watching M*A*S*H on one of those satellite stations. The
incredibly irritating Hawkeye is, as always, attempting to chat-up one
of the nurses: “After the war I’m going to have a bust made of your
head. Or maybe the other way round.”
Now that was very ho, ho, ho and rather “I wish I’d thought of that”.
Finally, I shall return to the nation’s financial mess. Last week, you
recall, there was that awful stink about comedian Jimmy Carr and his
special K2 tax avoidance scheme.
I find shocking about the Jimmy Carr debacle is not the tax avoidance,
but how much he earns for not being very funny.” Susan Harley, of
Plymstock, Devon, in a letter to The Sunday Times.
Monday, July 2
Live and let live
down to reading the wrong books, eating the wrong food and sleeping with
the wrong women.” Tom Conti, Scottish actor, theatre director and
novelist, explaining why he looks younger than his 70 years.
Today I read that emotions,
at least according to a study in America, may well determine why some people are
more likely to suffer chronic pain than others. I quote...
The emotional state of the brain can explain why different individuals
do not respond the same way to similar injuries, say scientists. Some
recover fully while others remain in constant pain.
Brain scan studies showed for the first time how
chronic pain emerges as a result of an emotional response to an injury.
The process involves interaction between two brain regions, the frontal
cortex and nucleus accumbens.
Lead scientist Professor Vania Apakarian, from
Northwestern University in Chicago, US, said: “The injury itself is not
enough to explain the ongoing pain. It has to do with the injury
combined with the state of the brain.”
Yep, that makes absolute sense to me. Having lived most of my life within the
same community, you do begin to notice that a person’s frame of mind actually
frames the confidence and jauntiness (or otherwise) of their walk through time.
I’ll go even further and state with much confidence
that Tom Conti looks much younger than his years simply because his
genes have determined that he will, forever and a day, be a person that is
young at heart – and it shows. As I say, life is very much a state of
Scientists are still some way off understanding the
extraordinary power and potential of the brain to determine, not so much
the path we take through life, but rather how we respond when the sky
threatens to fall in on our heads.
for breakfast, a gin and tonic in the evening – and never go near the
gym.” Frank Field, a British Labour Party politician and who has
been MP for Birkenhead since 1979, on how he looks so youthful despite
his approaching 70th birthday.
See Tom Conti...
“How do I keep young? Haven’t you heard? I sleep every night in the
deep freezer.” Donatella Versace, 57, Italian fashion designer and
current Vice-President of the Versace Group, reveals her beauty secrets.
I wonder though if she has this stamped on her backside?
freezing * Defrost thoroughly before nibbling ear, and make a meal of
within 24 hours
Meanwhile, a variation on the theme: a series of Letters spotted
in the Daily Telegraph...
SIR – I was delighted to read that a couple of glasses of wine every
day improves health and happiness (report, June 25).
Two thousand years ago, Paul advised Timothy to “use a
little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent illnesses”
(1 Timothy 5:23). I am glad that science is catching up.
Kyriacos Kaye, Telford, Shropshire
SIR – Saint Paul’s advice to Timothy to use a little wine for the good
of his stomach (Letters, June 27) was always glossed by our strictly
teetotal rector: “I take it as the Apostle intended – externally.”
Rather than drink the wine, he would rub it on his stomach.
However he accepted a glass of Benedictine on the
grounds that, having been made by monks, it couldn’t be classed as
Bryan White, Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire
SIR – Bryan White’s letter (June 29) reminds me of a parish priest who
had a liking for cherry brandy. One of his parishioners, on hearing of
the good man’s love of this liqueur, offered to give him a whole case of
it, on condition that he would acknowledge the gift, from the pulpit,
the following Sunday.
The priest readily agreed, and when the day arrived, he
stood in front of the congregation and thanked the donor for his gift of
fruit, and the spirit in which it had been given.
Peter E Richardson, Dorking, Surrey
set and scream
Just a couple of days ago I pontificated how the
Maria Sharapova scream
must subliminally unsettle her opponents.
But, just as John McEnroe came up against Bjorn Borg,
who was unaffected by his outrageous behaviour, today, Maria
stepped on to Wimbledon’s Court No 1 as the tournament favourite and world No 1; she
left it as neither, beaten soundly by the world
No 15 Sabine Lisicki.
Clearly Sabine is another of those exceptions which
challenge the rule. Yep, and she would have to be German.
I can see
One of the visitors to this web site is Miranda Bowen, who farms, with
her husband, near Carmarthen. Like so many who crash-land on this site,
she originally visited compliments of Google while out looking for a
picture of a particular breed of sheep, something along these lines...
...a brace of handsome Balwen sheep. Anyway, Miranda is a talented artist who specialises in portrait
paintings of the creatures that surround her on her farm, and tonight
she was featured on Ffermio, a Welsh language farming programme
on S4C, the Welsh language television channel.
Very artistic is Miranda. I’ll have to do a brief
‘Smile: you’re on Look You’ piece apropos her flair. In the meantime, here’s
a link to Miranda’s web site...
Sunday, July 1,
Happy birthday to Look You... ♫♫♫
YES, 365 entries later, and still
smiling, whether at, or with, something old,
something new, something borrowed - and just occasionally,
something blue ... in fact, my Smile of the Day has taken on a
life of its own.
That’s what I wrote exactly one year ago. Mind you, this time I should
731 entries later...”
(musn’t forget that 2012 is a leap year). I find it difficult to believe that
I’ve actually posted 731 smile bulletins since I began a couple of years
These days it’s all part of my daily routine:
early-morning walk; a quick peruse of the morning papers; write up the
things wot made me smile yesterday; earn a crust in the afternoon to
keep the wolf from the door - mind you, I can hear it howling down the
bottom of the garden some nights...
Then a couple of hours or so in the late pm/early
evening slot down at the old Crazy Horsepower to catch up with the news,
gossip and latest jokes - recently though this particular routine has
slipped off my radar because I now live a car’s journey away and it’s
just too much hassle to ensure I stick to just a drink, perhaps two...
And in the evening I tend to surf the internet or
occasionally watch something on the box. The radio or iPlayer is on all
day in the background, music mostly.
Anyway, what better way to celebrate Look You’s second birthday
than with a smile – and I mean a proper smile.
When the Queen’s Jubilee Concert took place a wee while back – I note
in today’s Sunday Times Culture Magazine TV Top Ten
lists that the Jubilee Concert was the most watched programme this year
thus far, with an audience of 15.32 million (I have a sneaky feeling
though that a recent England football match has overtaken that figure).
Whatever, during the Jubilee Concert there was a proper
magic moment; it came during the performance of Sing, the Jubilee
anthem, masterminded by Gary Barlow and performed on
stage by many of the artists who recorded the track, including the
Military Wives Choir and the African Children’s Choir and their soloist,
And that’s where Sing morphs into a mega smile.
Smiling is infectious;
You catch it like the flu.
Someone smiled at me today,
And I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner,
And someone saw my grin;
When he smiled I realized
I’d passed it on to him.
You know how it is, there are some individuals in life, as soon
as you catch sight of them you break into a smile. And it’s not
because they pull a funny face, do a silly walk, tell a
hilarious joke – in fact they don’t do anything specific to make
you smile – they are life’s natural-born smilers.
So I noticed during the performance of Sing, especially
at the start when the soloist, Lydia, begins to sing – there’s a
girl just behind her, to her left as we look, pictured
alongside – and she instantly caught my eye.
She has the most wonderful smile. The others around
her are also smiling, but they smile as if to order – it looks
ever so slightly forced.
But this particular girl has a natural and most
At the bottom, there’s a YouTube link to the
live performance, and it’s a joy just to watch this
young girl and share her infectious smile...
Gareth Malone leads the Diamond Jubilee
Choir, including the African
Children's Choir - and there’s our smiler, dead centre
Pic: Dan Kitwood
mother-in-law remembers not that she was a daughter-in-law
Precisely a year ago, what I included in that day’s smile bulletin was
news of an infamous email sent by a not best pleased woman to her future
daughter-in-law – and it went around the world. Remember this?
“Your behaviour on your visit to Devon was staggering in its uncouthness
and lack of grace.”
Part of that email sent by Carolyn Bourne, 60, to her future
daughter-in-law, Heidi Withers, 29, complaining of her behaviour.
She also added this apropos the daughter-in-law wanting to get married
in a castle.
“No-one gets married in a castle unless they own it. It is brash,
All that took me in one bound to the late Les Dawson and his smiley
mother-in-law jokes. He had it about right: if you can’t beat ‘em, have
a laugh. Here’s a sample of his timeless humour…
I can always tell when the
mother-in-law’s coming to stay – the mice throw themselves on the traps
My mother-in-law fell down a wishing well. I was amazed, I never knew
My mother-in-law said: “One day I will
dance on your grave.” I said: “I hope you do, I’ll be buried at sea.”
An anagram of mother-in-law is Woman Hitler.
repeat the above because of something that was said today down at the Crazy
Horsepower. Dai Aphanous (he who we all see straight through straight
away) was chatting to Ivor the Engine (he who walks very fast and in
very straight lines), and somehow or other, the subject of
mothers-in-law came up.
“Is your mother-in-law still alive?” asked Dai Aphanous
rather innocently of Ivor.
“No, she died a good few years ago now,” said Ivor.
“She died fairly young, really. Truth to tell I feel a bit guilty about
her premature departure.”
“Oh?” was the curiosity-killed-the-cat response from
“You see Dai, I had this terrible habit of saying:
‘Honest. On my mother-in-law’s life!’.”
Anyway, I was overwhelmed with a desire to know whether Carolyn Bourne
had really become the mother-in-law-from-hell. So I Googled the tale –
and yes, Heidi and Freddie Bourne got married last November. I can do no
better than provide a link to a Daily Mail article about
the wedding – epic...
And here’s the link to Sing and that certain Smile...
Previous 2012 smiles:
Smile of the day 2012 (Jan-Mar)
.. Smile of the day 2012
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
Previously on LOOK
Smile of the day 2012
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