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MY SQUARE MILE
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400 Smiles A Day
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, something startling that nevertheless generates a spontaneous smile, 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 ...
Monday, December 31
Here’s lookin’ at you, 2012
what tickled my old funny bone along my stroll through
Twenty-Twelve? Or should that be Two Thousand and Twelve?
Whatever, who and what were blessed with the great cause of cheering me
Well, as ever, there was the Asterisk Bar down at the
Crazy Horsepower Saloon, along with all those characters lodged therein
who masquerade as the locals.
As mentioned in previous dispatches, I will never be able
to personally introduce you to Chief Wise Owl and his beloved Mrs What A
Hoot, or Ivor the Engine and his good lady Glad Eyes, or indeed Old
Shaggy and Young Shagwell ― but I know them all and they brighten up my
walk through time no end.
The Crazy Horsepower is just another Cheers, the
famous bar of American sitcom fame. As someone who worked behind the bar
at the Crazy Horse for a few years, I can say with hand on heart that I
have personally met each and every one of those beautifully drawn
characters you meet at Cheers.
Yes, even the mega-bolshie waitress Carla
Tortelli. Especially the mega-bolshie waitress Carla Tortelli.
Right behind the local pub in my affections comes the Towy Valley, which
I walk every early morning, extreme wet and windy conditions excepted,
of which there have been quite a few such mornings of late. With the rhythm of the
seasons to keep me endlessly entertained, Mother Nature is never more
than a smile away.
Great Britain and those who live thereon
The Daily Telegraph named their Great
Britons of the Year. Telegraph writers and editors chose 25 notable
Britons of 2012 ― and at the top of the pile:
The Queen, Our Greatest Briton
When historians look back on 2012, one Briton will define
the year’s momentous and joyous events more than any other. The Queen
not only celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, giving us all a reason to
remind ourselves what is best about Britain, but also played a starring
role in the opening ceremony of London 2012.
Who will ever forget the delicious moment when Her
Majesty greeted James Bond at Buckingham Palace, before appearing to
parachute out of a helicopter into the Olympic Park? Our Olympians and
Paralympians may have given us a month’s worth of unashamed patriotism,
but the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was the culmination of a lifetime of
service to the country.
I can’t disagree with any of that. And I suppose, to keep
a balance, Our Worst Briton was the BBC for its ― well, listen to
what one of the Corporation’s top names down the years has to say:
“The Dunkirk Little
Ships, the most evocative reminders of this country’s bravest hour, were
ignored so that a pneumatic bird-brain from Strictly Come Dancing could
talk to transvestites in Battersea Park.” Broadcaster Michael Buerk,
66, attacks the BBC coverage of the Jubilee regatta and the performance
of presenter Tess Daly.
Yep, and the mastermind behind that disastrous day in the history of the
BBC, George Entwistle, was, just a few months later, promoted to
Director-General of the Corporation ― and lasted a grand 54 days.
Doolallyness at its most spectacular.
But this is a scrapbook about those things wot make me smile, about those
characters blessed with that special gene ... so who topped my
smileometer in 2012?
Well, if I walked into the Crazy Horsepower tonight,
these are the fore figures, or rather the four figures, I would like to
bump into and have a chat and a laugh with to round off 2012, a grand
boys’ year On the Town:
The Daily Telegraph cartoonist. Following Boris Johnson
outshining David Cameron at the Olympics, there followed swiftly
thereafter the annual Tory conference ― and this is how
, King of the Chuckle Muscle, caught the moment to perfection...
"You'll have to move, Prime
Minister, we're expecting
Boris any minute now......"
Next comes choir master Gareth Malone who, in just two
years has taken the British Armed Forces from having not a single choir
in their ranks to now having over 50 up and down the land, busily bonding
everyone together; I admire so much Gareth’s ability to bring out the
best in those around him.
Then comes cyclist Bradley Wiggins, not just for his
sporting achievements, but every time he opens his mouth, so much basic,
uncomplicated wit and wisdom comes tumbling out...
...King of the
...King of the
...King of the
And of course, finally, the aforementioned Boris Johnson.
What was it David Cameron said about Boris when he got stranded on that
“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.”
Yes indeedy, for Boris it was just another glorious photo
Cameron’s quote made the short list for my favourite
quote of the year ― but the winner is this one:
“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
Chrissie from Norfolk shares a gem of an insight with Alex Lester on his
BBC Radio 2 Best Time of the Day Show on the last day of August
Whenever I happen to catch Top Gear on the box and I see
Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, the first thing that
comes to mind is that quote.
truth, Chrissie from Norfolk sums up most men rather perfectly,
Gareth, Bradley and Boris.
Here’s now lookin’ at you, 2013...
Sunday, December 30
You try telling that to kids today
headline to a newspaper article by a Philip Johnston beckoned me in...
Sick of all the rain? It’s not as bad as
the Big Freeze of 1963
Fifty years ago, an extraordinary winter almost ground
Britain to a halt. The
winter of 1962/63 broke many records for the coldest and longest-lasting
of the 20th century.
In his book Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson
recounts his amusement to read that “blizzards” had hit parts of
Britain. According to the newspaper report, the storm had dumped “more
than two inches of snow” and created “drifts up to six inches high”. As
Bryson wryly observed, where he came from, in the American Midwest, a
blizzard is when you can’t get your front door open and drifts make your
car disappear until spring.
As a maritime nation, we rarely have weather like that,
though that does not stop so-called weather experts predicting every
year the onset of a Big Freeze that never arrives. But very
occasionally, it does. Exactly 50 years ago this week, Britain
experienced the start of what was to become a truly extraordinary
winter, one familiar to a North American but for which this country was
It was an article that triggered all sorts of snowy
memories; indeed as a youngster on the farm I recall ice on the inside
of bedroom windows as being quite normal during really cold winters,
which seemed to happen on a regular basis.
However, what made me smile, as per usual, were a select
few of the online comments. Many ventured warily down Monty Python’s
famous slippery path, for example...
Geoffo: [Ice on the inside of windows] was a common
occurrence in our Victorian terrace, right up to the 1980’s, in fact I
can recall a glass of water also freezing on my bedside table during the
winter of 1981/2.
Kids don’t know they’re born......
Steady on now Geoffo, don’t encourage them ... but they
didn’t need encouragement, and here are my particular podium winners.
BRONZE goes to...
When I was a kid, 32 of us lived in a broken thermos
flask on an iceberg at the back of the Salvation Army hut in Staines. We
only ate sweet wrappers and had to make our own fun, but we were happy.
SILVER goes to...
Fjb1957: The two worst winters us Brits have
endured since the war have to be Mike and Bernie, IMO.
And the GOLD...
Well, it was so cold where we lived that the flame on the
candle froze and fell off. Then in the spring it thawed out and burned
the house down.
You try telling that to kids today :-)
I’m still grinning at the Gold Standard. Very clever...
What’s in a name?
During the week I’d heard on the radio about the curious
case of the Englishman who woke up from a coma and became a pure
Welshman ... anyway, I’ll let Rod Liddle take up the story...
Englishman Alun Morgan, from Somerset, suffered a severe
stroke, but fortunately recovered more or less completely. However,
instead of speaking English, he now speaks fluent Welsh.
Linguists are now wondering if the entire Welsh language
was perhaps the consequences of some terrible, traumatic event as
mysterious as that which killed off the dinosaurs.
One night everyone
west of Shrewsbury went to bed speaking English as usual but awoke with
brains able only to process the letters “w” and “y”.
Ho, ho, ho ― very good. As I mentioned the other day, Rod
Liddle is one of those slebs I am overwhelmed with a need to give a good
slapping to ― but his writing does make me smile, and I am happy to
However, he has mentioned something similar before,
particularly with reference to his obsession with an English inability
to process the Welsh letters “w” and “y”.
But the best examples, surely, are the letters “LL” ― as
in Llandampness, which Liddle and his compatriots tend to pronounce as “Clan-dampness”
― and the “CH” as in “chwech”, meaning “six” (the “ch” is not pronounced
as in “China”, but the English naturally tend to do so, and the result
is a delight ― just try it, sounds like a bird with a sore throat).
Actually, “ch” should sound as if you’re firmly
attempting to clear your throat after swallowing a fly ― but I don't
know why you should have swallowed a fly!
Anyway, back with Englishman Alun Morgan ― and that’s the
part wot made me smile. Alun (pronounced “Ah-Lynn!”)
Morgan has to be one of the most Welsh of names you are ever likely to
Do I detect a wind-up? I Googled the story ― here’s all
you need to know, a quote from the man himself; Alun Morgan, that is,
not Rod Liddle:
“I was born in 1931
and when the war came I was sent down to Wales as an evacuee. It gave my
wife the shock of her life when I woke from the coma and started
indeedy, why let the facts get in the way of a good story? Alun Morgan an
Englishman, indeed to goodness.
“After the stroke it was hard going. I’ve managed to
remember English but I’ve almost forgotten Welsh again. We were London
Welsh and I learned a bit of Welsh when I was in London.
“Then, when I was evacuated to Wales during the war, we
spoke it virtually all the time because my aunt didn’t speak much
English, so I had to pick it up very quickly.”
you, I guess we’re back with yesterday’s central smile: “If a cat had
kittens in the oven, they wouldn’t be loaves ... just toast.”
Saturday, December 29
You’re taking the rise, ain’t cha?
Daily Mirror went with the front page headline SIR WIGGO.
The Daily Star decided on ARISE, SIR WIGGO. The
Times, however, peeped over its glasses and declared ARISE, SIR
But as always,
The Sun, despite a small
Brilliant. Absolutely fantastic. You know me and my
admiration for clever word play ― but I am taken somewhat aback that no
other newspaper spotted that KNIGHT RIDER front page speeding towards them over the
brow of the headline hill.
Anyway, well done Bradley. I shall return to you, my son,
on the 31st, if spared.
Behind the headlines
In the meantime, I’ve been looking back through my diary
proper at things I smiled at (and made a note of, obviously), but
never got round to including in my online scrapbook.
For example, a letter from last August in The Sunday
Rising to the occasion
SIR – I grew up in
mid-Cheshire. When I was a teenager, a man asked me if I was Welsh, as
my surname was Evans. I told him that I was born in Birkenhead, but that
both my parents originated from north Wales. He replied: “If a cat had
kittens in the oven, they wouldn’t be loaves.”
Cynthia J Brett, Epping, Essex
I think it was the Duke of Wellington who is supposed to
have said: “Being born in a stable does not make one a horse.” And I
guess that someone, somewhere, sometime, must have pointed
out: “Being born in a stable did not make Jesus Christ a donkey.”
Be that as it may, I include the above letter because of
this very clever
Coljam: Cynthia – but if a cat did
have kittens in the oven, they would be toast.
Engage tractor beam
It was also back in August that social scientist
Catherine Hakim suggested in her latest book, “The New Rules: Internet
Dating, Playfairs and Erotic Power”, that having an affair might make
for a better relationship.
Ms Hakim advises married couples to look to the French
for inspiration for successful relationships.
She says our French neighbours ― who she brands “masters
of seduction” ― have a “philosophical approach to adultery” and allow
their partners off the marital leash.
going any further, I was baffled by the word “Playfairs”. Google first
came up with Playfair Cipher Tool ... hello, I thought, surely
not ― but that turned out to do with encryption. Whatever, this,
compliments of the Telegraph:
Want to be happy? Get
married and then indulge in an affair. Or at least the 21st century
version, a “playfair”, in which the parties involved know that there is
no danger of either one leaving their spouse. Of course, it helps if the
aforementioned spouses accept this arrangement for carefree,
no-strings-attached, adulterous sex.
Hm, interesting ― but the problems start, surely, when one of the partners in a playfair
relationship decides not to play fair and keep an affair secret. But
what do I understand...
Anyway, now that we’ve got that cleared up, just days
after the book launch, this headline was spotted:
French farmer “mows down love rival with
Which in turn drew the following letter:
One man went to mow
SIR – Perhaps
Catherine Hakim should talk to Claude Boutevillain, who “killed his
wife’s lover after chasing him across fields in his tractor and mowing
him down” (report, August 21).
Peter Dann, Haslemere, Surrey
There is something wildly doolally about a love rival being chased down
by a tractor. But what about the surname of the cuckolded husband?
Boutevillain? Talk about being cursed with a name that has ambush
written all over it. How much more civilised to be called, Butcher or Baker or
what of the tractor? Was it a John Deere? Perhaps even a Deere John
Deep down though, I hope it was a Cockshutt ― and yes,
dear reader, there really is a make of Canadian tractor called a Cockshutt.
Google if you doubt.
Anyway, whenever I hear a
tractor trundling past the bungalow these days, I shift somewhat
uneasily in my seat. Quite why, I’m
unsure because I sleep easily in my bed of a night.
Pause for thought
Apropos something or other, I spotted this comment
A wise soul once told
me that, for all their superior qualities, women often aren’t very good
at working out what happens next.
And on that bombshell, I think I hear a Cockshutt tractor being started up,
Friday, December 29
Believe nothing you hear and only half what you see
is a headline I often deploy. Mostly because it is one of life’s great
It means, of course, to be wary of any casual or
throwaway gossip you hear, whether it be on the street, in the pub,
church or supermarket ― or indeed, in the media. Especially so in the
Then today I stumbled upon this delightful little tale by
James Thurber (1894-1961), an American author, cartoonist and celebrated
The Very Proper Gander
Not so very long ago there was a very fine
gander. He was strong and smooth and beautiful, and he spent
most of his time singing to his wife and children.
One day somebody who saw him strutting up and
down in his farm-yard and singing, remarked: “Now there is a
very proper gander.”
An old hen overheard this and told her husband
about it that night in the roost. “They said something about
propaganda,” she said.
“I have always suspected that,” said the rooster,
and he went around the barnyard next day telling
everybody that the very fine gander was a dangerous bird, more
than likely a hawk in gander’s clothing.
A small brown hen remembered a time when at a
great distance she had seen the gander talking with some hawks
in the woods. “They
were up to no good,” she said.
A drake remembered that the gander had once told
him he did not believe in anything. “He said to hell with the
flag, too,” said the drake.
A guinea hen recalled that she had once seen
somebody who looked very much like the gander throw something
that looked a great deal like a bomb.
Finally, everybody snatched up sticks and stones
and descended on the gander’s house. He was strutting in his
front yard, singing to his children and his wife. “There he is!”
everybody cried. “Hawk-lover!
perfect prop to a gander
[Worth A Gander by Gil Elvgren, 1952]
So they set upon him and drove
him out of the farm.
A childhood memory
That cartoon up there wafts me straight back to my
childhood on the farm.
No, not the blonde from next door, I should be so lucky
... I vividly remember that the one creature I was scared stiff of ―
apart from the bull, obviously, which I was constantly warned to stay
clear of and never, ever provoke in any way shape or form ― was the
If ever I went near the gander, or his girls, the geese,
it would go straight for me and attack. As it did anyone, even adults.
Much as is shown in Gil Elvgren’s
Ganders are most aggressive
creatures. They don’t
risk human life or limb, clearly, but a vicious peck from the thing
would hurt. So some vivid memories revisited, compliments of the James
Thurber story and the cartoon.
Talking of a proper gander: following a newspaper report that humans
are not the only creatures that can benefit from the insecticidal
properties of nicotine, but that birds plagued with lice are also
this letter was spotted in The Daily Telegraph...
SIR – Birds have been found to use cigarette ends in
their nests because of the insecticidal effect of nicotine. My
understanding of European legislation on the recycling of nicotine-based
products by nesting birds is that it is permitted for those species
naturally attuned to it: puffin and shag.
David Brown, Lavenham, Suffolk
Thursday, December 27
The things they say about Xmas
waving a final farewell to Christmas 2012, and coming
under starter’s orders for
2013, a few festive quotes that grab the spirit of Christmas in all its
Where else to start but on my own doorstep with something
“It snowed last year
too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my
brother down and then we had tea.”
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), Welsh poet, writer and
“A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory,
like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.”
Garrison Keillor, 70, American author, storyteller,
humorist and radio personality famous for his tales of Lake Wobegon.
Keillor is a man in possession of a beguiling voice. If
it were possible to come up with a designer baby, I’m undecided whether
a boy should be blessed with the voice of Richard Burton or Garrison Keillor.
I have already decided that a girl would have the distinctively husky and sexy voice of
actress Fenella Fielding, “England’s
first lady of the double entendre”.
Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year.”
Victor Borge (1909-2000), born Børge Rosenbaum, a Danish/American
comedian, conductor and pianist, affectionately known
Clown Prince of Denmark”.
one thing women don’t want to find in their stockings on Christmas
morning is their husband.” Joan Rivers, 79,
American comedian, writer, actress and film director.
“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six.
Mother took me to see him in a department store ― and he asked for my
Shirley Temple, 84, who became famous as a child star
actress and for her trademark song On The Good Ship Lollipop.
“I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas
with a note on it saying, toys not included.”
Bernard Manning (1930-2007), English comedian who
specialised in irreverent jokes about people from all walks of life.
Manning was reviled by liberals and loved by countless people north of
the M25 (or so I read on a web site somewhere).
“The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows
where all the bad girls live.”
George Carlin (1937-2008), American stand-up comedian
and perhaps a joke that lost a little of its glitter following the Jimmy
Savile river of no return, not to mention its various tributaries.
“I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I
always do the day after Christmas.”
(1932-1963), American poet, novelist and short story writer.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a
nativity scene in Washington, DC. This wasn’t for any religious reasons.
They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.”
Jay Leno, 62, American stand-up comedian, writer and
“Christmas to a child is the first terrible proof that to
travel hopefully is better than to arrive.”
Stephen Fry, 55,
English actor, author and television presenter, who is scheduled to make
a staggering 189 separate television appearances over the two week
Old Frying Tonight is one of those people, whenever I
catch sight of him on the box, I am
overwhelmed with the need to give him a good slap, metaphorically
speaking of course, so I doubt I will see
many, if any, of those 189 appearances. Good quote, though.
“Does Santa Claus really exist? I have to say I have
become very sceptical in recent years.”
Rod Liddle, 52, British journalist.
Again, old Liddle and Irregular is
someone I quite enjoy reading, yet have this uncontrollable urge to give
him too a good old
slapping when I catch sight of him. I can never quite understand why
newspapers and magazines print mug shots of these people.
“Christmas at my house is always at least six or seven
times more pleasant than anywhere else. We start drinking early. And
while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, we’ll be seeing six
(1880-1946), American comedian, actor, juggler and writer, famous for
his hard-drinking persona.
Chico Marx’s memorable play on words in a quick-fire
exchange with Groucho: yes of course, ‘The
Contract Scene’ from the Marx Brothers film, A Night at the Opera, an
exchange between Driftwood (Groucho) and Fiorello (Chico: “the
party of the first part ...”):
Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here, this thing here?
Driftwood: Oh, that? Oh, that’s the usual clause that’s in every
contract. That just says, uh, it says, uh, if any of the parties
participating in this contract are shown not to be in their right mind,
the entire agreement is automatically nullified.
Fiorello: Well, I don’t know...
Driftwood: It’s all right.
that’s in every contract. That’s, that’s what they call a sanity clause.
You can’t fool me. There ain't no Sanity Clause!
Hey you ― yes you, EU
Do you suppose there’s a Sanity Clause in Britain’s contract to be a
member of the European Union?: “If any of the parties participating in
this contract are shown not to be in their right mind, the entire
agreement is automatically nullified.”
Well, just a thought, given that most of those involved
appear to be at least half a bubble off plumb.
Wednesday, December 26
Boxing Day exclusive
little nonsense now
and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” Roald Dahl (1916-1990), a
British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter and fighter
pilot; born in Wales to Norwegian parents, he served in the Royal Air
Force during World War II, a noted flying ace and intelligence officer,
rising to the rank of Wing Commander.
And talking of a little nonsense, these snaps of Kate,
William and Pippa round at Papa and Mama Middleton’s for yesterday’s
Christmas Day family get-together, brightened up a dull and damp Boxing
Day morning no end...
In a smiley series of images, Bafta-winning photographer
Alison Jackson ― renowned for her use of brilliantly realistic
lookalikes ― imagines the Middletons’ uproarious family Christmas.
I wonder: did Kate surface well before dawn to help her mother put
the turkey in the oven, her morning sickness permitting, of course?
Witnessing her about to take a huge bite out of that turkey leg is a
And what about Pippa’s present: it says “To Pippa, love
from Camp Bastion” on the card ― but whether the name in front of the
“xxx” says Harry ― well, it is rather cleverly hidden.
Most remarkable of all is the William likeness. That’s
In fact, Alison Jackson has a weekly ‘Fake Take’
spot in The Sunday Times Magazine, and her photos
are always worthy of a quick peep behind the mask.
Very funny. Oh, and Pippa inspecting that little bit of
red, undercover kit, reminded me of this, perhaps a quote from last
Friday, the 21st of December 2012, the day of the Mayan Apocalypse (?).
Sale starts today
“Did it not say that at the end of the world it would be
possible to choose between 126 different types of bra (not including
strapless)?” Lynne Truss, (born 1955), English writer and journalist,
best known for her popular book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The
Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, comments on today’s
overwhelming variety and enormous choice of everything, everywhere, and
all available at any time of day or night.
Christmas Day, 2012
to Self on the Welcome mat, I list just some of the sources that
generate a smile and which 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, something startling that nevertheless
generates a spontaneous smile, curiosities spotted along my walks
through the Towy Valley...
And of course smiles range from the hearty ho-ho-ho!
to the sly, often ironic variety which overtake us when we contemplate
the utter stupidity of the world about us. Or indeed something akin to
the gentle smile when sharing something amusing or perhaps rather touching
as recalled at
a funeral eulogy.
comes compliments of an article from last weekend and spotted
in The Sunday Times Culture Magazine; a weekly
column dedicated to the world of the wireless: Radio Waves by
It joins up all the
dots apropos the range of things which, not only make us smile and often
laugh out loud, but
reinforce our faith in humanity, and that despite the dreadful things we do to
each other ... it concludes with a smile of appreciation laced with huge
Magic in the air
Four weeks ago, I invited you to nominate “2012’s
funniest, most moving or most extraordinary radio moment”. The reader
who put forward what I regarded as the most striking entry would receive
a limited-edition Roberts radio, made for the firm’s 80th anniversary.
There were many entries, and their variety is indicative of British
radio’s remarkable range.
More than one person picked the item with the most
immediate impact ― John Humphrys’s “forensic” interview with George
Entwistle, the hapless BBC director-general, which led to his
resignation within hours. Danny Baker’s rant on BBC Radio London, after
learning that his show was to be axed, was also picked.
One reader, Ray Keane, says: “In a year when the BBC has
suffered from a tirade of criticism, I thought that not pulling the plug
on his programme during the broadcast said more about the BBC than it
did about Mr Baker’s plight. I can’t imagine any other broadcasting
organisation that would allow a live two-hour torrent of criticism to
remain on air.”
The World Service was commended for its output “in the
middle of a sleepless night”. Radio 5 Live’s Olympic boxing coverage and
Jeremy Vine were singled out, as was Charlotte Green, for apparently
saying on the lunchtime news: “A naked man was arrested by police in
Whitehall and charged with possessing an offensive weapon.”
The winner, however, was listening to another programme
Rosemary Anstey, of Worthing, was in her kitchen that same
Sunday when she heard an unusual announcement at the start of Gardeners’
Question Time, on Radio 4. The presenter, Peter Gibbs, said that, during
the programme, listeners would hear a question asked by a man on behalf
of his son, that the son had since died, but that his father had asked
“that his question remain in the programme as a tribute”.
Twenty-nine minutes later, the question was read out.
David Drummond-Baxter asked: “My son is an officer presently serving in
Afghanistan. He’s asked me to send out some packets of vegetable seeds
for the locals. Bearing in mind that where he is stationed is extremely
hot and dry in summer, and extremely cold in winter. I’d be grateful for
suitable suggestions.” The team suggested tomatoes, mint, thyme and
The day after this programme (which can still be heard on
the BBC website) was recorded, the officer, Lieutenant Edward
Drummond-Baxter, was killed in Helmand province. A platoon commander in
the 1st Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles, he was shot by a man wearing
Afghan police uniform. He was 29.
“He just wanted to find out what packets of seeds would
be most suitable to give to people in this land of poppy fields,”
Rosemary Anstey says. “I found myself weeping for the loss of a young
man whose concern for other lives had led his father to ask a question
of a panel of gardeners in rural England. His death touched a wider
world. Such is the power of the radio.”
Those words speak for
themselves, especially at Christmas. She now has the radio, for good
times and bad.
Lieutenant Edward Drummond-Baxter, left, was
killed in Afghanistan on 30 October 2012...
...alongside fellow Royal Gurkha Rifles member
Lance Corporal Siddhanta Kunwar.
Monday, December 24
the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads...
published anonymously in 1823
other day I touched on a piece spotted in
which featured a collection of adorable letters sent to Father
Christmas that reveal what children really, REALLY want to find in their
‘stockings’ tomorrow morning.
I then selected a couple of letters which could well have been
sent to Santa by our politicians, never mind the kids. In other letters,
requests included livestock and a Venus fly trap, while some children
were interested in how tall the elves are – and does Rudolph really have
a red nose?
Oh, and children are overwhelmingly keen to point out how
well-behaved they have been.
Here are just a couple more of the letters featured...
We shop, you drop
“Dear Santa, I’ve been a good girl, please bring me a
cat, a dog and a pig.” Wonderful, particularly the drawings ― she has to
be a farmer’s daughter, with grand plans for the future. Oh, and please,
Santa, don’t hang about on your delivery round.
A couple of online comments also grabbed my attention...
TSUI, UK: My daughter said she wants an ATM
cash machine for Christmas!!
Clearly a young lady who will end up running one of our
leading banks, even the Bank of England, perhaps.
KYM, Yorkshire: My five-year-old daughter wrote
her Christmas list at the beginning of December. All it said was: “Dear
Santa, Get rid of Phoebe!
Love, Darcy xxx” She’s going to be very disappointed to find her little
sister still here on Christmas morning, ho-ho-ho!
On TV I really enjoyed Morecambe & Wise – Song and
Dance ... Music routines from the comedy duo’s shows. In
between the smiles and the laughter you realised what a truly talented
duo they were.
Also tonight, The Snowman And The Snowdog, the
sequel to Raymond Brigg’s classic Christmas tale...
Very enjoyable it was too, especially the thinking
person’s ending. Mind you, I’m not sure the featured song will last as
long in the memory as Walking In The Air. Earlier in the evening,
Disney’s Lady And The Tramp was on the box, a film which of
course features perfect examples of what catchy and memorable songs
really should be all about.
Back with The Snowman And The Snowdog, pride of
place goes to this amusing online comment...
Austin Barry: Frankly, I’m appalled that these
snowmen are all hideously white and celebrating Christmas. They should
be multi-hued and enjoying the ‘Holiday Season’.
Finally, and speaking as someone whose mother was charmed
and seduced by a lark rather than an owl, I really did enjoy these few
“I’m a morning person only on December 25.” Julie
Harris of Barry in South Wales, in a letter to the Daily Mail.
Sunday, December 23
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
the dreadful floods currently swamping many parts of the
country ― I was going to add, ‘especially distressing at this time of
year’, but flooding at any time is a stressful business ― I was rather
seduced by a somewhat traditional Christmassy scene recently captured
the other side of the Channel...
Thomas the Train ploughs on regardless
Schlueter / AP
A train on a narrow-gauge railway line makes its way
through a winter landscape near Wernigerode in Northern Germany.
There is something definitely ― even definitively ― nostalgic about a picture
of a steam train chugging merrily along through a snowy landscape. It
flirts with the romantic in most men ― my guess is that the four figures
standing alongside the track are all men.
Anyway, it’s a wonderfully atmospheric photograph.
I’m still dreaming of a White Christmas
The above picture set me thinking. Just two years ago,
the UK was not one big lake, but rather a snow covered wonderland. Yes,
we had a White Christmas. But not, according to the bookmakers. For them
to pay out against a ‘White Xmas’ it has to actually snow on Christmas
Anyway, I was then living in a cottage on a farm on the
edge of Dinefwr Park and Castle, so I trawled through the many
eye-catching snaps I took during that cold and snowy December ― well,
most photographs involving snow are eye-catching, so I plumped for this
Walking in a winter wonderland
Tuppy ― or Pussycat as I call her ― next door’s and my landlords’
eccentric but lovable Collie
(If it wasn’t for that eye, perhaps I’d get away with labelling it a
Yesterday I noted that Plebgate politician
Andrew Mitchell had set out on his challenging mission to transform his
public persona from polecat to pussycat.
Interestingly I rechristened Tuppy Pussycat because of
her beautiful nature. And in human terms, people blessed with a
beautiful nature are always pussycats.
Indeed, if you think about those individuals you
personally know who you would describe as having a nice nature, then it
follows that everything else tends to fall into place: they are trusty,
dependable, charitable, loyal, kind, loving...
In other words, they are the most agreeable of human
beings i.e. pussycats.
Poor old Andrew Mitchell has his work cut out...
Saturday, December 22
Out with the old ─ in with the new
know, the Mayan Apocalypse is so, well, yesterday. But
did the world as we know it actually end?
As I suggested on Black Friday, for all we know we could
have effortlessly warp-drived into a parallel universe, where everything
is inside-out, back-to-front, upside-down...
There will be clues all around us. For example, has media
baron Rupert Murdoch morphed from a shark into a dolphin? Has politician
Andrew Mitchell morphed from a polecat into a pussycat? Has singer
Morrissey morphed from a sparrow hawk into a sparrow?
Oh, allow me to explain to any new visitors here what I
mean by that last paragraph.
Within moments of meeting someone, my brain figures out
whether I am confronted by a dolphin or a shark. For example, at first
glance the dolphin and the shark look vaguely similar in shape, size,
configuration, colour, etc, so one can be easily fooled into confusing
your sharks with your dolphins, but when you are in the water and not
able to quickly distinguish between the two, then it could seriously
damage your health.
Similarly, my brain decides whether the person in front
of me is a pussycat or a polecat, a sparrow or a sparrow hawk, a
roundabout or a lay-by i.e. intuitively I know whether it’s safe to
either step forward and embrace, hold my position — or perhaps even take
a gentle step backwards and be ultra careful.
Sharks, polecats and sparrow hawks are people whose feet
you do not step on, even accidentally, for they will make your life a
misery. Dolphins, pussycats and sparrows are those lovely people who
apologise even when it is you who has accidentally stepped on their
My instinct has never once let me down. However, 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
Andrew Mitchell falls into the pussycat or polecat
classification, for example...
...looking at him, my instinct says polecat, someone whose sense and
sensibilities I wouldn’t like to step on, a person you would be ultra
careful about negotiating, an individual who comes across as a rather
hazardous roundabout rather than a welcoming lay-by.
To remind you, roundabouts are those people you approach
with caution, senses on full alert ... you then navigate them, at arm’s
length, with your wits about you ... and then exit their personal space
with a huge sigh of relief as you put your foot down to escape.
Lay-bys on the other hand are those individuals you spot
approaching along the pavement and you instantly start to smile as you
pull in for a quick chat and a laugh; individuals who leave you cheered
up no end and convinced that the world is not such a bad place after
As for Andrew Mitchell, it seems that the transformation
from polecat to pussycat is under way. Let’s hope he tells us precisely
what he did say to those policemen, and allow us to take it from there.
Anyway, back with this parallel universe theory of mine.
If nothing appears to have changed, then we are still in the same old
troubled universe. Just keep a keen eye open for those magical lay-by
First glance suggests nothing has changed...
“She is 27-years-old with very solid values, beautiful on
the outside and even more beautiful on the inside.”
Silvio Berlusconi, 76, former Italian prime minister and currently
working his way through the courts, announces his engagement to his
girlfriend and now fiancée Francesca Pascale, who makes him feel “less
From what I’ve seen of the lovely Francesca, she does
indeed appear to have some very solid values, know what I mean, chief?
Sadly though, the Berlusconi quote suggests that we are
still stuck in the same old universe. Bugger.
Memorable Christmas songs
As I write this, the telly is on in the background, and
Top of the Pops 2: Christmas 2012 is warbling away. It is hosted
by Mark Radcliffe, who goes on to introduce Fairytale of New York, a
Christmas song sung by the Celtic punk group The Pogues, released in
1987 and featuring the late British singer Kirsty MacColl.
The Pogues is fronted by Shane MacGowan...
...and memorably introduced by Radcliffe as “the thinking man’s
Liberace”. Priceless. Watching Fairytale of New York and
Shane MacGowan will never be quite the same again. Even more
troublesome, following the song, Mark Radcliffe refers to Shane and
Kirsty as the Kylie and Jason of the snug bar.
Actually, the show is full of memorable little witticisms
by Radcliffe ― which, truth to tell, are more entertaining than the
PS: Returning briefly to the
Andrew Mitchell Plebgate story, back in September I wrote this:
Mind you, I am not aware that any members of the public
present who “looked visibly shocked” have come forward with their story.
That always struck me as odd, something which the newly
released CCTV footage also questions ― I mean, where are the visibly
shocked members of the public?
September 24, I also wrote this:
This pantomime is likely to run and run...
Ho-hum, many a true prediction spoken in jest, especially so with the
pantomime season now in full swing…
Friday, December 21
End of the world
the couple of
days directly leading up to Christmas Day, a personal festive calendar
custom of mine, now well established, is visiting the homes
of much-loved local characters that I have come to know well and appreciate
hugely along my walk through time.
Even though I see them regularly, I still call for a
chat, a coffee, a glass of mulled wine, a mince pie, a smile, a joke, a laugh
... as we
put the world to rights. Oh, and to wish them the compliments of the
This year I changed my routine. With Christmas Eve on
Monday, and being that I wouldn’t call on them over the weekend anyway, I
decided to start my circuit today, Friday.
Just before I left home, the discussion on the wireless
was the threatened Mayan Apocalypse, the expected doomsday scenario due
today at 11:11 GMT (how odd that it should be the eleventh minute of the
eleventh hour), where the four dreaded Horsemen would come charging out
of the side of some mountain located somewhere or other ― and then God help
As I approached my first Port-and-Stilton call in a storm, a gentle smile
established itself about my persona...
“Hello,” I said as Ivor the Engine
and his good lady Glad Eyes welcomed me into their home. “I thought I’d
come a day or so early this year because if it really is the end of
the world later, I’d hate to meet you on the other side and have you
give me a bollocking for not calling to see you before the final curtain
And the joke went down so well I repeated it at
every call, much to folk’s amusement. Actually, Chief Wise Owl wasn’t
at home, but the delightful Mrs Owl ― or Mrs What A Hoot, as I
affectionately call her ― said she would take great delight in passing
on my message when he did arrive home, presuming the world hadn’t ended
said Mrs What A Hoot,
could be the very last person I see in this crazy old world of ours.”
The story I also repeated along my festive journey was
this one, a tale I call...
Four horses and a conga
I hardly ever dream ― at least I have no recollections of my dream world
― but last night, I did. I was back at age 18, driving along a country
road in the glorious TR3 I then owned, the real love of my then life (now
that’s the age you’re supposed to own a sports car, not at middle age
Anyway, I slowly became aware of there being no traffic
about. I then came to a village, and a great big sign said:
WELCOME TO THE END OF THE WORLD … Please drive carefully
I sort of smiled, for that perfectly reflected my view of the
doolallyness of the world about me.
But there were no people, no pets, no vehicles ― the
place was deserted, it was all very eerie and creepy … as I departed the village I
was suddenly driving along a huge open field, picking up speed at an
alarming rate ― and clearly heading towards what was a cliff edge.
But I had no control of the car … as I shot over the
edge, I registered another huge sign:
LESSONS HAVE BEEN LEARNED
And the very last thing I remember seeing were those
dreaded Four Horses ― and Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick
Clegg, Margaret Thatcher, Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks, Fred ‘The
Shred’ Goodwin, Bob Diamond, Anne Robinson, AA Gill, Chris Patten,
Andrew Mitchell et al doing the conga as they disappeared over the edge…
Then I awoke with a start ― but I definitely remember smiling at the
irony of Rupert and Rebekah saving their last dance for each other...
Later, much later
In the cold light of reality, I really did smile at
take on the end of the world ― which rather disturbingly sits
uncomfortably alongside mine...
Well, you are reading this, which suggests
that the end of the world didn’t happen.
Unless, of course, you are actually reading this while
parked up in some parallel universe...
Thursday, December 20
A Downing Street Plebby-site, ho, ho, ho!
(♫♫♫: Jingle bells, jingle bells,
jingle all the way…)
at the carol singers,
but I didn’t call them plebs”
reminds us, Plebgate is back on the political agenda. Never mind the
rights and wrongs of the whole episode, let’s get our horrible politicos
off the hook.
the subject of Plebgate, this, compliments of Wikipedia...
Some three months ago, Andrew Mitchell, 56, a Tory MP and
then Chief Whip in the House of Commons, who, for eco-effect had been
bicycling to work, was allegedly threatened with arrest after swearing
at police officers who asked him to exit Downing Street through the
pedestrian side gate rather than by the main gate now reserved for
The official police log of the incident states that
Mitchell said: “Best you learn your f****** place ... You don’t run this
f****** government ... You’re f****** plebs.” It was also reputed he
informed police officers: “I’ll have your f****** job for this.”
The allegations became known in the media as “Plebgate”.
[Even “Gategate” in some fields.]
Members of the West Midlands branch of the Police Federation (where
Mitchell is an MP), Shadow
Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, and a leader column in the Daily Telegraph
called on him to resign or be sacked.
He eventually did resign. But now the whole business has resurfaced
because some curious CCTV footage has been released which throws the
whole episode into question. A high profile police investigation is
here’s the curious thing. He admitted swearing at the police, but not
using the word “pleb”. There was an interesting point of order raised by
of Warminster in Wiltshire in a letter to The Daily Telegraph:
Will the defendant please answer the question
How many of Andrew Mitchell’s troubles has he brought
upon himself by his inability or unwillingness to give simple answers to
the simple questions put to him? Instead of saying: “I did not call the
policemen plebs or morons” we get: “I did not use the words attributed
Which words, Mr
Mitchell: some, a few, any of them?
A wonderful point of order.
Those who stand and stare will have observed that those who use obscene
language in day-to-day communication ― excepting of course as a ‘yellow
alert’ between loosing one’s cool and potential violent behaviour ― tend
towards being human beings of the horrible kind, individuals you should
never, ever turn your back on.
So it always surprised me that Andrew Mitchell freely
admitted being a man in possession of a fowl tongue ― fowl as in
cock-of-the-walk ― but fought shy of being identified as someone who
uses the word “pleb”, which, after all, is merely a child-like admission
that users of said word rate themselves superior to the rest of humanity,
something which seemingly applies to
most of the nation’s movers and shakers, really.
Today, he did what horrible politicians do: the former
Chief Whipper-In visited a West Midlands police station to thank the
emergency services for their work ― and was pictured planting a kiss on
Chief Superintendent Lorraine Bottomley’s bottom, er, lip...
“The police do a great job and we work together extremely
well,” he said. God, what
is it with these dreadful politicians? Ugh.
What really made me smile today though was a piece in Mail
Online, a collection of adorable letters sent to Father Christmas
which reveal what children really, REALLY want to find under the tree
come Christmas morning.
I may well return to this before Christmas ― in the meantime,
I’ve selected a couple of letters which could well have been sent to
Santa by our troubled and troublesome politicians. See if you can guess
who would have written these...
[Images compliments of London Media...]
Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good, naughty or nice
been somewhat bad so I understand if you don’t get me anything” is the
Perhaps if you imagine that last year he got a new bicycle and a pink tie
then who else but Andrew Mitchell of aforementioned Plebgate infamy.
the clue: “I have been a good boy for about three years...”
Gordon Brown was ousted as arguably the nation’s worst ever Prime
nearly three years ago now ― and we’ve heard hardly a peep out of him since. A good
Wednesday, December 19
From the sublime to the ridiculous
above is a headline I’m pretty sure I’ve deployed a few
times in this online scrapbook of mine; mostly because it is as
perfect a headline as I can think of to describe the range of
doolallyness I encounter along my walk through time.
As I stand and stare at the passing parade, I mostly
empathise with a couple of things: something ― anything ― that will generate a smile; and
then there are those little things I label ‘Every day a day at school’.
For example, the English language is a wonderful thing to
behold. I think I have mentioned before that I was once told by a
rather sexy lady that English is the only language in the world that allows
me, for example, to spot an attractive Finnish lady across a crowded room, go right up to her
and say straight out that I want to make mad passionate love to her ― and not be instantly
slapped or thrown out of the premises i.e. “Hello, I’m your friendly
neighbourhood Nogood Boyo and I want to make love with you.”
Her reactions can vary from a surly “In your dreams, sunshine!”
to a smiley “You smooth-talking Nogood Boyo you.” But, all things being
equal, she would never take serious offence.
Apparently, in any other language, to propose having sex straight
out would come across as rude or crude, sound as if you are a doctor
discussing a complex medical condition ― or most likely, plain
Well, you can’t say “I want to make love to you” in Welsh
without it sounding crude or alarmingly gibberish. And astonishingly, I
am reliably told that even French doesn’t offer up the innocence of the
English language to ask such a leading and personal question without
Anyway, to business: today I encountered a couple of
things which cover all the bases when it comes to the English language.
First, a letter in The Daily Telegraph ― so, from the sublime...
SIR – Travelling into London yesterday, I was reading The
Daily Telegraph on my Kindle. One click enabled me to access the Oxford
English Dictionary to check the meaning of psephological and
dolichocephalic in Boris Johnson’s column.
But what about the other Telegraph readers in my
carriage? Should I have asked the guard to make a public announcement on
Dr Jennifer Longhurst, Surbiton, Surrey
Well, I clicked the spell check on my computer ― and yes, both words
are there in all their glory:
study of elections:
the statistical study of elections
[which sounds very Boris].
(Mid-20th century. Formed from Greek psephos - ‘pebble vote’;
from the Greek practice of using pebbles to vote.)
As for the next word, dolichocephalic, I was somewhat
distracted by the ‘phalic’ stuck on at the end of it, especially if I
having a disproportionately long head:
having a head disproportionately longer than it is wide, specifically
one with a cephalic index of less than 75.
(Mid-19th century. Coined from dolicho - ‘narrow’; from Greek dolikhos.)
I’m thinking horse right there: “Why the long face?”, as the
old joke goes. But hang on...
size ratio of human skull: the ratio of the width to the
length of a human skull, measured at the widest and longest points, and
multiplied by 100. Also called cranial index.
So there you have it ― and now ... from the sublime ― to the ridiculous...
Another in the Telegraph’s Sign Language series of
amusing signs and notices spotted around the world by the newspaper’s
Spotted in Japan by Nicola Horton
English the only language that allows you to say something so
utterly nonsensical ― yet know instantly what it means?
Tuesday, December 18
Waxing lyrical: the fly at night
THE SUNDAY TIMES News Review section
has a weekly Obituaries column. It is not the paper’s own view of
the dearly departed, but rather it selects a couple from the previous
week’s daily newspapers and edits them down to suit its own particular
I have just perused last Sunday’s Obituaries, and
the main man was Patrick Moore, culled from The Daily Telegraph.
The Sunday Times has gone down the smiley
route. Now I have already mentioned Patrick some days ago; on a couple
of occasions, actually, but this is worth a quick read. One part of it I
have already mentioned in dispatches, so I have taken that out. Here
goes them, ashes to ashes, stardust to stardust...
Sir Patrick Moore
TV astronomer who lit up the night sky for more than 50
A genuine eccentric
who never took himself too seriously, the astronomer Sir Patrick Moore,
who has died aged 89, played up to his image as a “mad professor”. His
monthly Sky at Night programme, launched in April 1957, attracted
millions of viewers...
...he was the world’s
longest-running presenter of a single television show, and the secret of
his success lay not only in his learnedness but also in his gusto and
humour. On one occasion, for example, he appeared dressed in a spacesuit
and a fishbowl helmet, pretending to be a Martian.
To make the point that we should not assume other planets
to be lifeless just because their conditions were different from
Earth’s, he declared, in an alien voice: “I am surprised to see you all.
I had thought your thick atmosphere and excessive water would have
prevented life from evolving here.”
He was equally famous for the bluntness of his remarks.
Commenting further on the probable ubiquity of alien life in space, he
said: “Somewhere in the universe there could be a carbon copy of Anthony
Wedgwood Benn — although I sincerely hope not.”
[I guess an updated version would have substituted
Anthony Wedgwood Benn with Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.]
Then there was the occasion that he visited Utah with a
television crew. “Welcome to the Mormon state,” said a humourless
citizen. “We are different from the rest of America. You will find no
swearing or drinking or wild women here.”
“It’s hardly worth coming, is it?” replied Moore
There were many other sides to Moore besides astronomy.
He was a connoisseur of music, and sometimes played a xylophone on
television. In 1982 he wrote a humorous but inflammatory book called
Bureaucrats: How to Annoy Them.
It advised that imposing a thin layer of candle grease on
those parts of a form marked “for official use only” would prevent the
recipient from writing anything. “Useful when dealing with the Inland
Revenue,” said Moore.
A keen pipe smoker, he was elected Pipeman of the Year in
1983. “I regard two classes of people as being beyond the pale,” he said
when accepting the award. “Weight-watchers and those who have just given
In 2002 Moore was appointed honorary vice-president of
the Society for the History of Astronomy. He also won a Bafta for his
services to television, a medium on which he became probably the first
man to swallow a fly live on air.
His producer recalled the look of glazed horror as the
insect vanished into Moore’s mouth in mid-flow, the presenter’s words
finally failing in a strangled gulp. “Yes, dear,” his mother sympathised
later, “it was nasty for you, but so much worse for the fly.”
He was appointed OBE in 1968, CBE in 1988 and knighted in
2001. In 1982 a minor planet was named after him by the International
Astronomical Union. He also held the posts of president of the British
Astronomical Association and director of the Armagh Planetarium in
Yet the Royal Society refused to elect him as a Fellow —
one of their number declared that he had committed the ultimate sin of
“making science popular”.
Sir Patrick Moore,
born March 4 1923, died December 9
Well worth a read, if only for the candle grease and the fly at night.
A peep behind the curtain
When I cut the above piece out of The Sunday Times
to paste into my actual scrapbook ― yes, I still keep a proper scrapbook
because it makes it easier to refer back if I’m looking for something
I’ve already done ― anyway, on the reverse page of Patrick’s obituary
And will sir’s deer be flying first
From a brace of live golden pheasants to three belly
dancers in a taxi, no request is too exotic for London’s luxury hotels
Ayumi Hamasaki, Japan’s answer to Britney Spears, does
not want a bath. She wants a Jacuzzi encased in marble. “Our penthouse
doesn’t have a Jacuzzi,” says Thomas Kochs, the accommodating general
manager of Claridge’s hotel in Mayfair, central London. “But it will ...
in about four days.”
And so it comes to pass: within a matter of hours a
£15,000 Jacuzzi encased in marble appears in the £6,000-a-night suite
that will be home to Hamasaki for a month.
Such scenes are a
regular recurrence on Inside Claridge’s, BBC2’s fly-on-the-wall
Never mind worrying about whether life has evolved out there in the
universe, we should be more worried about the extent to which it has
evolved back here on Earth.
Monday, December 17
Another banana, Vicar?
following programme contains flash sideburns.” Thus the memorably
smiley opening line to an ITV4 programme Tour De France 2012 –
Wiggo’s Tour ... A look back at the memorable race.
Well, it made a change from the BBC’s default
following programme contains strong language from the start.
Speaking of which: why do you suppose that a genuinely
entertaining programme such as BBC TV’s Have I Got News For You
has an unhealthy obsession with guest hosts such as Kirsty Young, Claire
Balding, Jo Brand and Charlotte Church, women whose parents clearly
never bothered to potty train their kids’ mouths?
Incidentally, yesterday I mentioned the SKY Atlantic documentary about
Bradley Wiggins’ wildly successful year, particularly the intriguing bit
where he was talking about his wife and the children: “Cath said to me:
you’re not going to leave us now for some supermodel...”
However, what I did notice in tonight’s ITV4
programme was the regularity with which, being the Tour leader at the
end of all the latter stages, he was presented with flowers and such
like by an endless cavalcade of extremely pretty girls. I can see what
wife Cath was getting at.
And how about this...
Wiggo: I’m a man of very few words – do you or don’t you?
Blonde: As a matter of fact, yes I do. My place or yours?
Wiggo: Look, if you’re going to argue – forget it.
Apologies to both Wiggo and the blonde lady, but it’s a
very old joke and I couldn’t resist it when I saw the above Bettini
Incidentally, I seem to remember that before big fights,
boxers had to refrain from sex for about a month or so prior to the big
night. Well, given how much effort cyclists put into their work, sex
must be on hold for months on end.
Or was that a rumour put about by the boxing fraternity
to throw wives and girlfriends off the scent?
Too much, too late
Finally, the one great joke I forgot to mention in yesterday’s dispatch,
and which grabbed everyone’s attention at the Sports Personality of the
Year awards: it was that said by the South African embodiment of
exuberant parental support ― this from The Guardian:
Bert Le Clos was the
clear breakout star of London 2012 when he was interviewed by Clare
Balding after his “beautiful boy”, Chad, beat Michael Phelps in the 200m
butterfly, and he became a favourite in the BBC’s coverage at the
Olympics. His appearance last night brought a massive cheer. “You
personified parental pride,” Balding told him.
He thanked her for making him famous “30 years ... and 40
kilos too late!”.
A beautiful line, impeccably delivered. It reminded me of my favourite
line from Casablanca, said by police chief Captain Louis Renault
Rick, who has just sent his beautiful but drunk and
somewhat troublesome girlfriend, Yvonne, home in a taxi ― and a line
that Bert Le Clos would obviously empathise with:
“How extravagant you are throwing away women like that.
Someday they may be scarce.”
A note to end on
Incidentally, the piano used for the song As Time Goes
By in the classic film Casablanca has now been
sold at auction for $602,500 (£373,500). It was offered for sale by a
Japanese collector who bought the film prop at auction in 1988 for
Now that’s what I call a pension plan.
Sunday, December 16
The banana with sideburns
“I ALWAYS enjoy Sports Personality of the Year, it’s very
much an institution in our household, second to Only Fools and Horses
and Minder.” Bradley Marc Wiggins, 32, capped his remarkable sporting
year by winning the 2012 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
As Wiggins received his latest trophy from the Duchess of
Cambridge, he did so not only as the Tour de France champion and Olympic
time trial gold medallist, but also as a symbol of Britain’s sporting
In Britain’s greatest sporting year, Wiggins won support
of the public with his self-effacing charisma as well as his phenomenal
“Thank you very much for all the people that picked up
the phone and voted. We’ve had all that jungle and singing stuff lately
[I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!
and X Factor], so it means a lot. So for people to pick up their phones
and pay £1.50 to vote [actually, 15 pence, but what’s a decimal point
between Wiggo and his fans], thank you very much.
“And my Nan [his grandmother] ― the cheque’s in the
post, you pressed redial God-knows how many times ... oh, and there’s a free bar
round the back tonight, paid for by the BBC, I hope you’ll all be there.”
Described at various stages throughout 2012 as “le
gentleman”, “the modfather” and “the banana with sideburns”, the
epithets he received were bestowed upon an idiosyncratic yet very
ordinary man who has achieved extraordinary things.
Yesterday, I featured “Wiggo, the dog’s bollocks”, the
amazing pooch made from recycled bicycle chains and stuff, which
instantly made me think of Bradley
Wiggins. Well, it’s worth a repeat showing, alongside “the banana with
The final countdown
Bradley received 30.25% of the votes, 492,064 in total,
while Jessica Ennis earned 22.92% and Andy Murray 14.17%. Athlete Mo
Farah was fourth with 8.07%, followed by Paralympians David Weir and
Ellie Simmonds. A total of 1,626,718 votes were cast.
Wiggo offered up generous thanks for team-mates and
coaches, including the whole back-up teams behind all the top sports
stars present. He then referred to one of the co-hosts, Garry Lineker:
“With all that make-up he’s got on tonight, he’s got one hell of a team
Talking of Lineker, the one problem with having hosts who
are not professional presenters is their inability to respond
intuitively and with superior footwork to things said. Garry was interviewing Mo Farah: “I’ve got
two gold medals,” said Mo, “but best of all I became the proud father of
beautiful twin girls. It’s been a fantastic year ― but I’m back in
And you were urging Lineker to respond with: “Hoping for
twins again, Mo?” But it never came.
Something else I noticed was the one person who, to my untrained eye,
looked most eye-catchingly fabulous, and that, curiously, was the person
in one of the most aggressive of sports, the boxer Nicola Adams, looking
...just behind Nicola, Jade Jones, the Taekwondo gold
medallist. You don’t mess around with these girls.
I actually voted for Bradley because, as I wrote in my
scrapbook back in July, I watch the Tour de France every year on the
telly because of the endlessly entertaining circus that surrounds the
whole event. And of course the
wonderful sights and sounds of France.
But this year, there, flashing past with gusto, was this
Brit ― the banana with sideburns ― hanging on to the Yellow Jersey and
refusing to give it up. Day after day. Right to the end.
And of course, that memorably amusing opening
line when he gave his victory speech after winning the title: “We’re
just going to draw the raffle numbers now.” From that moment on, I was a
He was one of us. But Wiggo himself was quite shocked and
overwhelmed by the praise and recognition he received following his
phenomenal summer of success. “I’m not a
celebrity, never will be one, and don’t consider myself one. I despise
the whole celebrity culture. I never expected this adulation. I
can’t even go to Tesco any more.”
But it’s always the little things that stick in the
memory. There was a documentary about his year and his Tour de France,
Sky Atlantic. There was a moment during the filming, I think he was on a
training run, having a break, he was on his own, grabbing something to
eat. The camera approached him to capture the moment ... and he began a
casual conversation with the cameraman, as if they were standing at the
bar, having a drink together.
It was a marvellous down-to-earth moment.
And then he was filmed in his grandmother’s home, and he
looked at some ornaments on a shelf. He drew his finger over one of
them. “This has been here 30 years, and it’s still dusty.” And his Nan
came up behind and gave him a clip. Very funny. He added: “When people
win something like the Tour, they start believing the hype ― my Nan
wouldn’t allow me to do that.” I believe him.
But most of all I remember this. He was talking about his
wife, Cath, and the children: “Cath said to me: you’re not going to leave us
now for some supermodel…”
It would be silly to say that he would never leave his
wife for a supermodel, or a super-anything ― but it really would be a
surprise to hear that he had...
Saturday, December 15
Everything goes in cycles
“GET A bicycle. You will not regret it ... if you live.
It was on the 10th day of May ― 1884 ― that I confessed to age by
mounting spectacles for the first time; and in the same hour I renewed
my youth, to outward appearance, by mounting a bicycle for the first
time. The spectacles stayed on.”
Mark Twain (1835—1910), American author and humorist, who would have
been aged 49 when he
confessed to age, following a bit of mounting.
Before you laugh at a man mounting a bicycle for the
first time at age 49, peruse this, compliments of Wikipedia:
The first means of
transport making use of two wheels, and thus the archetype of the
bicycle, was the German draisine dating back to 1817. The term
bicycle was coined in France in the 1860s.The first really popular and
commercially successful design was French. An example is at the Museum
of Science and Technology, Ottawa. Initially developed around 1863, it
sparked a fashionable craze briefly during 1868-70.
makes perfect sense that Twain, a man from Way Out West, would mount a
bicycle for the first time in the year 1884. Goodness, that is just 128 years ago. My, my:
talk about man getting on his bike and reaching for the moon.
Be that as it may, here is proof, if proof were needed,
that there really are some wonderfully talented and imaginative people
out there. A beckoning headline to a Telegraph picture
Dogs made of bike chains
Dog sculptures made of bicycle chains and parts by Nirit Levav Packer
An artist has created
a series of life-size dog sculptures made entirely from recycled bicycle
parts such as chains, gears, pedals and yes, even bike seats...
...now how wonderful
Israeli artist and
mother-of-four Nirit Levav, 49, began her career as a fashion designer
before exploring art. She now solders bike parts that she collects from
garages and bike shops all over Tel Aviv to create sculptures of man’s
best friend. She has already sculpted enough to stock a kennel, woof,
The kennel series, called HoW!WoW!,
began by chance when Nirit examined some bicycle parts being thrown away
at her son’s bike store, and instead of seeing them as rubbish she saw a
potential to do something creative with them. Within a few months, she
had left a successful career in wedding dress design for metal
Her bicycle-chain dogs sell for between £700 and £7,000,
depending on size and complexity. The pictures featured today come
compliments of Nirit Levav and, yes, Rex Features, ho, ho, ho!
(We really did have a smashing sheepdog called Rex on the
farm when I was a youngster.)
A proper bit of recycling
Only the other day, compliments of Posh Spice and the
Land Rover Evoque, I revisited the observation that
pet dogs and their owners 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 identify with ferocious dogs; farmers rather obviously empathise
with tireless dogs...
As I perused Nirit Levav’s extraordinary work ― a link to
the Telegraph picture gallery coming up ― I found it great
fun putting human forms to the bicycle dogs. First up, the lovable
Wiggo, the dog’s bollocks
Who else but famous cyclist Bradley Wiggins, hot
favourite for tomorrow’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2012, flying past
on a time trial, what with that straight back and those sideburns. Oh
yes, those sideburns.
And the ‘poop’ dog...
The Blair Shite Project
Who else but Tony Blair, doing what comes naturally.
Whatever your political beliefs and views, you can say with much
confidence that Tony really did leave his mark on the nation.
Best of all though, the pug...
Boris, the wag in the corner
Who else but Boris Johnson, especially so given his
popular and much loved fleet of rental bikes ― known affectionately as
the Boris Bikes ― which took London by storm.
But best of all the pug has that permanent tail-in-the-air bearing. After all, Boris is always wagging his tail, metaphorically
speaking, and it is one of the characteristics which makes him so
likeable. And yes, we all know that women love men who are fully-paid-up
members of The Tailwaggers Club.
Here’s the link to the picture gallery ― if you
experience problems seeing anything when you arrive there, click on the
numbers above where the picture should be...
Friday, December 14
Maisie, Maisie, gimme your wellies, do
EACH and every day I peruse my favourite online picture
galleries ― and there really isn’t a day when I am not rewarded with
miles of smiles.
With most people these days having a camera about their person,
in some form or other, nothing spotted along the passing parade now
escapes the pixel trap and is duly captured for posterity. Ask the Duchess
Today I stumbled upon this delightful image...
All is wellie that ends wellie
the Goat at Maria's Animal Shelter in Probus, Cornwall, suffers from
and has to wear wellington boots to help her condition
Recent downpours have left 12-year-old Maisie constantly
squelching around in puddles and mud. So her keepers have provided pink
wellies to protect her from foot rot ― the animal equivalent of trench
foot ― an infectious, contagious disease often found in sheep that
causes severe lameness, and by definition, economic loss.
While the picture is top drawer, I’m not sure that
joining up all the dots makes sense. Sheep foot rot is fairly easily
treatable, especially if spotted early on. As is the case with pretty
much every infection and disease, really. (The current ash dieback
disease in trees is disastrous because nobody did anything about it when
it was first spotted.)
Anyway, back with Maisie: I mean, can you spot the
squelching mud? Not to mention how, precisely, do the wellies stay on? It
would also be the goat’s natural reaction to lift her feet out of the
wellies. Or kick them off.
But best of all ― and between you and me and the green,
green grass of home ― Maisie has that pissed off look about her, despite
being tempted by something tasty thrown on the ground to keep her
mind off things wellie.
Still, the picture serves its purpose and made me smile.
And continues to do so. Great image, very funny. I think it’s the colour pink
that does the trick.
Not so fast, Mr Barry
Tonight I happened to catch for the first time a repeat
of the BBC Omnibus edition from 2000 dedicated to John Barry, the Oscar-winning
composer, who died last year.
He was the composer of 12 Bond film soundtracks ― not
least that incredibly distinctive Bond theme which has spectacularly
stood the test of time ― before signing off with 1987’s The Living
Daylights, the 15th Bond film.
Hm, so that’s why later Bond themes were
instantly forgettable. Even Adele’s agreeable Skyfall theme doesn’t
quite pass the ‘earworm’ test i.e.
piece of music that sticks in one’s mind so that one seems to hear it,
even when it is not being played.
Anyway, what made me smile was the revelation that John
Barry and his colleagues were having trouble coming up with suitable and
memorable lyrics for the song Diamonds Are Forever. “Think of a diamond as a
penis,” suggested Barry.
At first the producers of the film would have
none of it, but as Barry pointed out, if you are pure of thought, then
the words are perfectly innocent.
Do you know, until that moment, I had never once thought
of the words of Diamonds Are Forever as being remotely suggestive. And
I’m the one who’s always been accused of having a one-track mind.
Trouble is, henceforth the song Diamonds Are Forever will
never sound quite the same. Gosh, no wonder Shirley becomes ever so
animated whenever she sings the song. I mean...
Hold one up and then caress it ... touch it, stroke it
and undress it ... I can see every part...
I shall go and lie down in a darkened room for a while...
...however, never mind a diamond being for ever...
Sing like no one is listening
And now for something completely different. If you do
nothing else today, click on the YouTube link below for a nativity scene and a young girl singing like an
couldn’t stop laughing ― it gives a whole new meaning to the
expression tone deaf.
just as good,
the reaction of the other kids, cleverly
captured by the giggling lady filming the episode; it’s the double cream atop this
three minute extravaganza of hilarity. Priceless.
Thursday, December 13
From designer and expensive...
“I ONCE bought a
£35,000 watch to cheer myself up.” Harry Handelsman, 63, German-born
property developer who has lived in London since 1992.
Back at the beginning of November I shared the above quote with
my scrapbook. It came to mind as I read about
Russian billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman
Abramovich, who builds yachts to cheer himself up.
The Russian’s private fleet consists of five motor
yachts: Eclipse, Sussurro, Titan, Umbra, and
At 163.5 metres (536ft) long, Eclipse tops the
list of the world’s 100 Largest Yachts, according to Forbes
... it is
0.5 metres (1ft 8in) longer than the Dubai, which
belongs to Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of, ta-rah, Dubai.
The Eclipse’s cost was estimated at nearly $500m, but a
September 2009 report indicated that final costs could approach
...it has two helicopter pads, 24 guest
cabins, two swimming pools, several hot tubs and a disco hall. It is
also equipped with three launch boats and a mini-submarine that is
capable of submerging to 50 metres. Approximately 70 crew members are
needed to operate the yacht.
However, the mega-yacht wars have escalated, with a
Middle-Eastern billionaire building a 590-foot ship that’s expected to
reclaim the title of ‘largest yacht in the world’ when it launches next
year, 2013. (What’s 54 feet between friends? The end of the world, it
seems, because size is everything.)
Now these people
are among the wealthiest, most powerful and ruthless men in the world,
yet their self-esteem is so suspect and fragile that they have to buy a £35,000
watch, or be seen to own the largest yacht in the world, to reinforce
their self-belief and VIP status.
From designer and expensive
... to cheap and cheerful
The watch and the yacht crossed my mind this morning
while on my morning walk. Talk about simple pleasures which cheer me up
It was another still, frosty and sunny start. We’ve had nearly a
week now of proper winter weather. Along my walk I pass two oxbow lakes:
the larger one is shallow and quickly freezes over. The second, smaller
lake, is deeper, and it takes some really severe and prolonged frost for
it to freeze over. So the smaller lake becomes home to all the birds
during your common or garden frosty weather.
On normal mornings the smaller lake has a hundred or so
birds in obvious residence: swans, geese, ducks, coots and various
little water birds. They get used to me disturbing their peace and
quiet of an early morning; they no longer take flight the instant I come
too close, instead they will gently drift to the far end of the lake and
watch me walk on by, the swans excepted: they simply hold their water and
glare at me.
However, during this cold spell, many hundreds of ducks
have descended from higher ground to take up residence. As soon as I
approach, all the nervy ‘visitors’ take flight and circle the lakes. As
I am loath to disturb them, and with no other option available, I hurry
between the lakes and out into the field beyond ― stop, turn around and
The ducks will follow a set routine. They are clearly
reluctant to leave their temporary home, so they will circle and fly
endless circuits around the lake, much as an aircraft would above an
As I clear their space their circuits bring them closer
and closer to the ground. Then suddenly, just two or three will break
off and land on the lake.
On the next circuit, perhaps a dozen will land. On the
next, some 20-30; then 50 or so; then a hundred ... and a hundred on the
next; and then perhaps 50; then some 20-30; perhaps a dozen on the next
pass ― and suddenly there will be two or three left in the air. They
will circle and circle, as if really nervous about landing.
If the few that were first to land were the fearless ones, the
equivalent of humans who will do a parachute or bungee jump without
thinking twice, then the final few are the nervy ones who really would,
in human terms,
rather put their feet up and watch Casablanca on the box than
If you want to understand humans, study the animal
kingdom. It’s all there, in Stereophonic, Cinemascopic,
Yes indeedy, simple pleasures. Every morning during this
cold spell I’ve watched these ducks take flight ... and then followed their
landing routine. It really is rather uplifting.
I've caught a brace of passing geese coming in to land: throttle back
... flaps extended ... undercarriage down ... nose up ... if you can
swim away from it, it’s a landing...
One after the road
When I get home, the first thing I do is make myself a
jumbo mug of coffee, add a generous splurge of scotch ― and top it off
with an extravagant layer of double cream. A Welsh version of Gaelic
coffee, really. And I sit there and watch the birds on the garden
If Harry Handelsman’s cheery-up routine comes in at
£35,000 a shot, and
Roman Abramovich at a staggering billion dollars a splash
― well, mine comes dirt cheap.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
At twelve noon the meeja natives swoon
heard of a baker’s dozen ... well, meet a journo’s dozen:
“Happy birthday to our grandson, Evan, 12 today
(12/12/12), Granny and Granddad.” A short but sweet letter in today’s
Daily Mail from Norman Leslie of Bangor, Co Down.
Later, I caught sight of this online headline...
Boy to turn 12 on 12/12/12 at 12.12pm
An American boy will celebrate his 12th birthday on
December 12, 2012 at 12.12pm.
Kiam Moriya, from Birmingham Alabama, was born on
December 12, 2000, 12 minutes after midday, in Bronxville, New York.
Kiam was not due until late January/early February, but was seven weeks
premature, making the birthday all the more remarkable.
the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said about four million
babies were born in the US in 2000, with an average of about 11,000 per
day ― or about eight babies every minute.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, eh? Just reading that
makes me feel one degree under...
What a gay Mr & Mr Day
(be sure you read the above correctly!)
Prime Minister David Cameron’s modernist zeal for gay
marriage is creating uproar among his backbenchers and the grassroots.
Personally, it is a subject on which I have no thoughts, one way ― or the other. Mind you, given what is going in in the
country, I really do think that politicians have more important things
to get their knickers in a twist over.
Unlike the lads down in the Asteri*k Bar at the Crazy
Horsepower Saloon. Somewhat surprisingly, they are all for this gay
marriage business, especially the male version of events. On the grounds
that, the more gay men there are, the more birds there are out and about
looking for some action.
I can’t fault their logic. Indeed, whenever I see Old
Shaggy and Young Shagwell these days, they look like they are in
desperate need of the kiss of life. I have toyed with the idea of
quietly whispering that if they want to push the overflow in my
direction, that would be just fine.
But I decided against. At my age I really don’t think I’d be up to
As you will have registered along your stroll through
I am a huge fan of
the Daily Telegraph cartoonist ― well, today I spotted a cartoon
by another of the newspaper’s cartoonist, ADAMS ... and looking
at this witty and hugely smiley effort, I can see why he is
Cartoonist of the Year.
Feeling a little horny
Doing what comes naturally, I Googled unicorn ...
this, compliments of Wikipedia:
The unicorn is a legendary animal from European folklore ... first
mentioned by the
ancient Greeks, it became the most important imaginary animal of the
Middle Ages and Renaissance when it was commonly described as an
extremely wild woodland creature, a symbol of purity and grace, which
could only be captured and tamed by a virgin woman.
Which all adds a certain irony to the above cartoon ― perhaps ADAMS was
aware all along of that little throwaway fact at the end there.
back with the unicorn:
In the encyclopaedias
its horn was said to have the power to render poisoned water potable
[suitable for drinking] and to heal sickness. Until the 19th century,
belief in unicorns was widespread among historians, alchemists, writers,
poets, naturalists, physicians, and theologians.
What? You mean...?
Tuesday, December 11
And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart;
High up in the sky the little stars climb,
Always reminding me that we’re apart.
“I WILL make one final promise. When you
do join me, I’ll be on the other side with a stiff nectar and soda. I
won’t say farewell, just au revoir.” An undertaking given by
astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, shortly before his death.
Having mentioned the death of Sir Patrick
Moore yesterday, as often happens ― and interesting as newspaper
obituaries are ― the most touching tales arrive compliments of follow-up
letters in the newspapers, or these days, online comments.
For example, this letter in today’s Daily Telegraph:
Memories of the talented Sir Patrick Moore
SIR – Sir Patrick Moore was a teacher before his Sky at
Night programme began (Obituaries, December 10). I was taught by him for
almost four years at a school near Tunbridge Wells. He taught Maths,
English, History and really anything else that came into his mind. Once
he even tried to teach me to play the xylophone.
His classes were always interesting and relevant. He once
used some of his RAF navigator’s equipment to teach us about the
application of forces. A history class about the Crimean War was brought
into focus by the fact that his mother had met Florence Nightingale.
It was at this time that he started to write. We used to
get the drafts to read of his stories about travelling to the moon. He
told us how man would eventually reach the Moon. Some 16 years later he
was talking us through the Apollo 11 landing, almost exactly as he
When I wrote to
congratulate him on his knighthood his reply was typed on his 1908
Woodstock typewriter. The monocle and tie never changed.
Peter May, York
Wonderful. Much like losing a personal nearest and dearest ― and out of
the blue comes a letter reminiscing about fond experiences. Much more
powerful than an obituary, or even, just occasionally, a well-crafted
And so ... from the sublime to the delightfully ridiculous:
Tweetie Pie Corner
Boris tops 2012 Twitter trends
The London Olympics was the subject of 150 million
tweets, Twitter revealed today. Boris Johnson’s embarrassing dancing at
the Olympics was the UK’s most tweeted moment of 2012, according to
Twitter’s own review of the year.
The mop-haired Tory
shaking his hips to the Spice Girls created the biggest spike in Tweets
in the UK, closely followed by England crashing out of Euro 2012 on
Never mind Boris, or England crashing out of a penalty shoot-out, I only
have to experience any mention of the Spice Girls and what instantly
comes to mind is the picture of Posh alongside that Range Rover Evoque.
The other day on the wireless someone mentioned that a
great joke is much like a memorable song: it bears repetition.
I remember thinking, yes, that’s definitely true. Look
how we laugh at Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Morecambe and Wise, Dad’s Army
― even though we know exactly what’s coming next.
long back 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 tireless dogs...
Victoria Beckham, apart from her impressive roll call of talents and business
ventures, was/is a fashion/creative design executive for the Range
Rover Evoque. I know she wasn’t responsible for the exterior design of
the vehicle — but here’s a picture I never tire of looking at...
...totally wonderful. As owners tend to choose dogs in their own image ―
just as the BBC chooses its dreaded focus groups in its own image, hence
why it is slowly disappearing up its own very private orifice ― Victoria
has clearly chosen to work with a Range Rover that is the spitting image
of what she must see in the mirror.
or what? In a previous life, Posh was obviously a common or garden Land
Rover with ideas above its station.
still coming to terms with the cut of both jibs.
Monday, December 10
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Jane Taylor (1783-1827)
“THE average amateur knows the sky better than the average
professional.” Sir Patrick Moore, who has died aged 89, and who
did so much to educate the British public about astronomy and space
On television Moore became celebrated for the thunderous
fervour with which he would utter the words “We just don’t know!”
to emphasise that our comprehension of the universe is incomplete.
He was noted also for his piercing gaze, the machine-gun
pace of his speech, being a self-taught xylophone player and pianist,
his wildly untidy hair and his oversized suits, which, as one critic put
it, “fitted him as a hangar fits a VC10”.
The Daily Telegraph.
I did enjoy this online comment from
On the radio this morning I heard a recording of an
interview with the late, great Sir Patrick Moore, during which he was
asked by the interviewer ― not an Australian ― if he could complete the
nursery rhyme “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”. Entering into the spirit
of the ‘joke’ question, he professed not to know it.
Being a pretentious twit ― and avoiding dangling
participles ― I remember it thus:
Fain would I fathom thy nature specific,
Loftily poised in the ether capacious,
Strongly resembling a gem carbonaceous!
Not serious, just
thought I’d share a beauty of the English language.
I discover that the above parody dates back to at least
1852 ― hence the unusual spellings, especially as spotted below ― when
it was included in
Household Words: a
weekly journal, edited by, would you believe, Charles
As it happens, the second and third verses were also
given the treatment...
When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Then the trav’ller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
When torrid Phoebus removeth his presence,
Ceasing to lamp us with fierce incandescense,
Then you illumine the regions supernal,
Scintillate, scintillate semper nocturnal.
The traveller on lustreless perigrination,
Gratefully hails your minute coruscation,
He could not determine his journey’s direction,
But for your bright scintillitating protection.
On a slightly different tack, and remembering Patrick
Moore’s oversized suits, which “fitted him as a hangar fits a VC10”,
this letter, coincidentally, appeared in today’s Telegraph...
Trust your trousers
SIR – Robert Adam (Letters, December 8) wears braces and
a belt. To quote Henry Fonda’s character Frank in Once Upon a Time in
the West : “How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and
suspenders? The man can’t even trust his own pants.”
Alistair Makin, Petersfield, Hampshire
I am particularly reminded of George Bernard Shaw who
said that the United States and United Kingdom
countries divided by a common language”, endorsed by Oscar Wilde: “We
have really everything in common with America nowadays, except,
of course, the language.”
Happy for ever more and a day
There was also a second death reported today:
Obituary: a member of unit which inspired 007
Bill Day, personal bodyguard to Winston Churchill and one
of the first Allied officers to drink at the Ritz after liberating
Paris, dies at the age of 95.
Well, opening lines don’t come much better than that. You
already feel that it would have been a privilege to call this man a pal.
But it gets even better...
William Bernard Day
(known as Bill to his family and as “Happy” to his fellow Marines) was
born in Sculcoates in the East Riding of Yorkshire on February 20
“Happy” to his fellow marines ... what was it my mother said? “Ignore
the grand, sweeping, self-important things people say and do ― it’s
those spontaneous, throwaway, seemingly unimportant little things that
tell you all you ever need to know.”
Someone online wondered aloud why there are no people
like Bill “Happy” Day anymore. Oh but there are. Just look at those
brave souls serving out in Afghanistan.
But I get the point. There was much more to the
observation than bravery and unselfish behaviour, rather it was a condemnation
of the sort of ‘senior’ people who now hold sway over every aspect of
The production line marked ‘People’ does not change.
Human DNA and our genetic code does not alter over the generations, at
least not in the short-to-medium term.
Good people are still there, in the background, watching
the passing parade, undoubtedly shaking their heads in disbelief.
It’s just that, sadly, somewhere along the line, from
about the Sixties on, our movers and shakers became the omnipresent
clowns, cowboys and crooks of society; people who, at the moment of
conception, were right at the tail-end of the queues marked ‘Ethics’,
‘Morality’ and ‘Honesty’.
And that explains precisely why an undisciplined Britain
marched straight into the current ambush headed ‘Financial chaos’.
Sunday, December 9
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky
father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of
churchgoing.” Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), English writer of both
fiction and non-fiction.
Huxley was a humanist, pacifist and satirist; he
subsequently became interested in spiritual subjects such as
parapsychology and philosophical mysticism.
Now there’s a couple of subjects I can’t ever remember
discussing over a few pints down at the old Crazy HP.
Huxley was also well known for advocating and taking
psychedelics. By the end of his life he was widely acknowledged as one
of the pre-eminent intellectuals of his time and respected as an
important researcher into visual communication and sight-related
Suddenly, I was on-side with an open goal stretching as
wide as the Grand Canyon: visual communication and sight-related
theories, eh? Yep, I know precisely what Huxley was looking at there.
Anyway, when I read his quote about a walk being the
equivalent of churchgoing, I instantly thought of Richard Dawkins, the
most famous atheist in the world. Probably.
I remember Dawkins saying that he thoroughly enjoys
listening to, and joining in, Christmas carols. For no other reason than
they are beautiful pieces of music that invite you to join in.
Yes, I know precisely what he means. Much as a walk in
the mountains is the equivalent of churchgoing.
As it happens I don’t walk the mountains, but I do walk
the Towy Valley every morning, and that, now that I think about it, is
probably more the equivalent of chapelgoing: not quite so dramatic on
the senses, but the message is similar.
I suppose I have a head start with my country walks, what
with all the little songbirds that come out to greet me and claim their
morning fix of goodies. After all, they must see me as their Candy Man.
And every morning nature throws up something wonderful to
behold. For example, just recently, with the weather fluctuating wildly
between sunshine and showers, there have been rainbows in excelsis Deo.
Indeed it seems the Towy Valley is very much a nursery for rainbows.
So much so I’ve just posted up there at reception, in the flower
gallery, a recently admired and vibrant example. After all, I guess a
rainbow is as near as you can get to a flower of the imagination. Isn’t
A perception of percentages
Mention of the weird and wonderful things I spot along my
walks, just the other day I included a picture of a beer deliver lorry
parked in front of Yr Hen Vic ― The Old Vic ― one of our local
pubs and restaurants.
This morning, what caught my eye was a new notice board
on the outside wall ... and I smiled, for I had never seen anything like
wonderfully novel, I thought, to show that they were 82.25% full at that
moment for their Xmas Day Lunch. Off the top of my head, I reckoned that
if they have, say, 124 covers, then 102 ― give or take a child’s
high-chair ― are already booked.
But as I got nearer ... I registered
that the notice board actually said 822596 ― The Old Vic’s actual telephone number. D’oh!
And Double D’oh!!
I had a good laugh, as you would ― but be honest, from a
distance that 96 really does look like %. That’s my story ― and I’m
sticking to it.
Oh yes, I didn’t work out those percentage cover numbers
off the top of my head ― I am reasonably good at mental arithmetic, but
not that good ― in fact I worked it out with a calculator when I got
Incidentally, the other notices you see declare:
CUSTOMER VACANCIES: OVER 18s ONLY, NO EXPERIENCE
NEEDED, APPLY WITHIN
COME IN, EAT, DRINK AND BE MARY
(very seasonal, perhaps they should add HO, HO, HO!)
And just out of shot:
QUITE NICE SUNDAY LUNCHES FROM £--- 01558-822596
Yep, not only is a walk through the Towy Valley on a Sunday morning the equivalent of chapelgoing, but it’s also a smile a minute ―
sometimes two smiles a minute.
Saturday, December 8
Santa Claus is coming to town
mind whether I'm naughty
or nice, I've set up a process of
in the wake of the Leveson Report into press and media standards.
With just three boozy weekends to go before the Big Day ―
the final weekend a boozy bonus weekend, obviously, what with Christmas
Day on the Tuesday ― the lads down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon have
pinned on the notice board a sort of huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ league table to show how many party
antlers each and every one of us will spot between now and Christmas
No prizes, just a bit of good clean fun. Oh, and there’s
a bonus point for each lighted or flashing antler spotted.
And to add joy to the moment, Chief Wise Owl (CWO) later
e-mailed me a letter that appeared in The Times just a few
Elf and safety
organisation do we inform about the lighted candle on the antlers of the
reindeer on the second-class stamp?
VAL GEORGE, Belvedere, Kent
Ho, ho, ho!
indeed. Also, knowing my appreciation of the classic 1942 film
Casablanca, and the fact that the piano used for the song As Times
Goes By is up for sale in New York on December 14 ― the auction house
estimates it will fetch up to $1.2 million ― CWO also included a second
Play it Sam, play As Time Goes By
Sir, I would love to
get my hands on the Casablanca piano. I was always amazed at how it
turned Dooley Wilson’s (Sam) random fingering into a beautiful mournful
tune. Just what I need.
CHARLIE FLINDT, Hinton Ampner, Hants
Hm, getting it In Like Flindt, eh Charlie? And just to keep me on my
toes, CWO included a third Times letter...
Missed a bit
Sir, Longevity will be a challenge for Steve Wozniak’s
device [a “low-cost” robot] which cleans your car while you sleep
(report, Dec 3). We have one which worked well for a couple of years,
but since reaching its late teens it sleeps longer than we do.
MARTIN ROSE, London W1
Believe it or don’t spot
“You should have seen his face when he saw me.”
Mike Tyson, former undisputed heavyweight champion of the WORLD,
claiming he once found Brad Pitt in bed with his now ex-wife Robin
Hm, talk of random fingering of a beautiful tune off the
Job sheet: Naked went I into Robin’s bed, and naked did I return
thither. Indeed, what the Pitt giveth the Givens, the Tyson taketh away.
Ah yes, The Tyson: it beats ... as it sweeps ... as it
cleans ... it is called positive agitation. No, hang on, that’s a
Whatever, I am forever pointing out how modern man has
lost its inherent instinct, the ability to spot the ambush before
entering the pass.
I mean, never mind the antlers, you do have to wear some
special kind of blinkers to play around with Tyson’s woman.
it Chief Wise Owl always says about a man on a mission? When a pretty
woman across a crowded room flashes her eyes at him, the body
automatically drains all the blood from his brain and transfers it to
the business end.
Commandment 7, sub-clause 1, of my Revised Ten Commandments Ancient
and Modern: A standing prick hath no conscience; nor
the capability to spot the ambush, even after entering the pass and the
Friday, December 7
When things never quite make sense
YESTERDAY, I was captivated by a couple of images from
the new edition of Landscape Photographer of the Year.
Today, I happened to spot that the World Photography Organisation has
announced the countdown to the close of the 2013 Sony World
Photography Awards, one of the planet’s leading photographic awards.
There is just one month remaining for both professional and
amateur photographers from around the world to select and enter their
best images of the year in the various categories.
All entries are free via
and the shortlist will be revealed on the 5th of February 2013. In the meantime,
I perused a gallery featuring some of the images entered thus far
into the 2013 Open categories.
As with yesterday’s pictures, there are magical images
aplenty, but I was captivated by one particular photograph...
A bicycle built for four, maybe more
untitled picture by Simone Tramonte: two children in colourful clothing
part of a wall painting where real life merges with art
It’s a real tease to work out precisely what is happening
up there. It doesn’t quite make sense. There’s a real bike, obviously,
on which the real children are sitting. But the painted children are
also sitting on a bike.
If I zoom in on the image, then the bicycle in the
painting appears to be a perfect shadow of the real bike. So my guess is
that either the photographer, Simone Tramonte, is also the painter ― or
she found a bike that matched perfectly the painted version.
So I did a quick Google ... and found this, a web site
headed: “malaysian media matters – uppercaise”... ― a blog
“This is the hobby site of an old newspaper man. Much of the stuff here
is facetious and irreverent. It may bear no resemblance to your
reality. Take a deep breath. Don’t panic...”
Now that intro made me smile. Have I serendipitously tripped over a soul
Anyway, apropos the picture above, I quote the following from the “old newspaper man”:
Penang street art scene in world photo contest
Do you also have a photo something like this one? This is
a scene that’s been photographed countless number of times, both of the
street art as well as of children posing next to the art.
person, Simone Tramonte, took the initiative to submit her photograph
for the Sony World Photography Awards. I wouldn’t be surprised if there
are hundreds of people in Malaysia slapping their foreheads and
thinking, “Why didn’t I do that?”.
The street art scene above is of the Little Children on a
Bicycle mural in Armenian Street, George Town, one of many murals by
Ernest Zacharevic in little corners of the
It goes without saying that both picture and uppercaise
appeal greatly to my wonder at the passing parade.
Wipe away the smile
Talking of the passing parade, yesterday I mentioned the
hoax phone call surrounding the Duchess of Cambridge, where I couldn’t
believe the royals’ protection squad hadn’t guarded against such a
Well, who would have thought apropos today’s tragic news
involving the nurse who first answered the call, that something so
seemingly inconsequential and exceedingly childish could lead to such
The news of the nurse’s death really did upset me, as I
guess it did pretty much everybody else. But it was revealing that the
Samaritans came out almost immediately with a caution, a ‘look before you leap’ few
words of advice ― and something I had never thought of ― that
it is highly unusual for a single event, however traumatic, to cause
someone to take their own life.
And you intuitively grasp that the Samaritans' caution
does indeed make you stop and think.
It is all very, very sad, especially so with children
involved. I feel sorry for everyone involved, including the two radio
presenters, and that despite their child-like behaviour. What must they be feeling?
Thursday, December 6
Healthy and picture perfect
the Duchess of Cambridge discharged from hospital today, it’s worth
reflecting on the curious case of the hoax phone call from Down Under.
The hospital, where the Duchess of Cambridge was being
treated for severe pregnancy sickness, admitted that one of its nurses
gave out confidential details of her treatment after falling victim to a
hoax call from an Australian radio station.
You do wonder about the competency of the police
protection squad which purportedly ‘protects’ the royal couple.
We all remember the topless episode, where the protection
squad failed to warn Kate of the distinct possibility of the paparazzi lining up
her Earth Kitts in their Box Brownies.
Well, you would have thought that when she went into
hospital, instructions should have been given to the hospital that all
visitors, e-mails and telephone calls to do with the Princess should
have been routed through the most senior officer on duty first to weed
out the inevitable ambush.
It’s not hindsight, it’s pretty basic wisdom.
Anyway, I was diverted by this headline in Telegraph Online’s
eye-catching Picture Gallery section...
Beautiful British Landscapes
Landscape Photographer of the Year: Collection 6
A new book features
the best photographs of beautiful British landscapes. The book showcases
the best pictures from amateur and professional photographers alike from
the sixth annual
Landscape Photographer of the Year
Well, if you do nothing else today, click on the link
below to see the most exquisitely stunning pictures of our British
As I have said before, I am not a photographer, merely
someone who always carries a little camera to capture the passing
parade, but I admire hugely those who take their photography seriously.
I have selected a couple of pictures. Anyone who points a
camera is always drawn to reflections, simply because they are
eye-catching in the extreme. But how about this...
Watch the birdie!
A misty morning beside Loch Awe with views to Kilchurn Castle, Argyll &
Adam Burton / Rex Features
What gave me that additional mile of a smile was the bird
speeding across the water. A magic moment.
In contrast, I found this picture quite captivating in
its elegant stillness...
Yes, they’ll all come to see me in the shade of that old oak tree,
As they lay me neath the green, green grass of home.
South Downs National Park, Hampshire, England
Pic: Roger Voller / Rex Features
So simple ... a tree in the middle of a field in the middle
of somewhere. I think it’s the fact that the picture features just the one
colour that captivates me. And where is Tom Jones warbling away in the
branches when you need him?
the whole gallery of pictures, I
enjoyed this Online Comment from
I give up, anybody want to buy £2,500 worth of photographic equipment?
Hang on in there,
Nine points of the law of photography is making sure you are in the
right place at the right time. And that is within your power to fix, at
least some of the time.
Here’s the link...
Wednesday, December 5
Feeling better already
THE SUN followed up yesterday’s memorable
front page headline with this morning’s effort...
Very good. By contrast, The Independent
front page cautioned...
Scientists warn of sperm count crisis
The reproductive health of the average male is in sharp
decline, the world’s largest study of the quality and concentration of
sperm has found.
Between 1989 and 2005, average sperm counts fell by a
third in the study of 26,000 men, increasing their risk of infertility.
The amount of healthy sperm was also reduced, by a similar proportion.
The findings confirm
research over the past 20 years that has shown sperm counts declining in
many countries across the world. Reasons ranging from tight underwear
toxins in the environment [yuk!] have been advanced to explain the fall, but
still no definitive cause has been found...
After lying down in a darkened room for a while, I found this marvellous
image of a sperm cell, a spermatozoon ― shame a single sperm is not
called a spermatozoom ― attempting to charm, seduce and penetrate an
ovum coat to fertilize it...
Come in, come in---
I made up that little joke, right here, right now. I’m
quite proud of that; I think it’s only the second ever joke I’ve
made up wholly on my ownsome.
I know, I know, I’m not supposed to laugh at my own
jokes, but come on: “Come in, come in---”? As those pretentious meeja
twits would say: hm, yes, it works on many levels.
Incidentally, I bet the above spermatozoon is that of a person conceived
to be a politician, a banker, a media owner, a corporate chief, a
director-general of the BBC ... did you notice the kink in its tail?
Anyway, being serious about the falling sperm count
problem, perusing the full Independent article, I never saw any
mention of the mobile phone. I can’t help noticing how many men keep
their mobile, switched on, in their trouser pocket, on their belts, or
somewhere not a million miles from their crown jewels.
As I understand it, cell
phones communicate using signals in the microwave spectrum. So who’s to
say that exposure to such radiated signals does not pose a health
But what do I understand?
Say nighty-night ― but don’t kiss me
Daily Telegraph cartoonist
went after the news that almost 700,000 people across the UK have been
struck down with the vomiting bug Norovirus. The cartoon had no caption,
but, given the Xmas theme, and that the dear old lady featured is
probably called Carol, I was overwhelmed with the need to add my own
caption ― my second ‘joke’ of the day...
Tuesday, December 4
THERE really was only one story vying for today’s smile
of the day spot, and that’s the meeja diving overboard, from a great
height, over the news of that troublesome morning after the many nights
in shining amour before.
award goes to The Sun’s front page. Wonderful. I
thoroughly enjoy clever word play, and I greatly admire those blessed
with the gift. Mind you, The Sun’s sub-editors have
probably been sitting on Kate’s Expectations for a while now, but power
to their elbow anyway. Ten out of ten.
The news broke late yesterday afternoon, just after four,
I believe ― but the Telegraph’s Letters page also
deserve a smaller
for they had a little cracker delivered to the nation, poste haste, this
very morning ― and yes, you can’t keep the one and only Boris out of the
news, even when someone else is having sex:
SIR – With the news that the Duchess of Cambridge is
pregnant, how prescient of Boris Johnson who, in a speech as long ago as
early September, praised Great Britain’s Olympic athletes with the
words: “You probably not only inspired a generation, but helped to
create one as well.”
Paul Harrison, Terling, Essex
I read that Kate is supposed to be 12-weeks pregnant.
Curiosity made me look back to when Boris made that speech in front of
the Olympic athletes and Buckingham Palace ― here’s the quote in full: “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.”
Believe it or not, Boris said that, late afternoon, on
Monday, September 10 ― and if you count the weeks to, late afternoon, on
Monday, December 3, yesterday – ta-rah!
– yes, precisely 12 weeks.
You couldn’t make it up. And worst of all, Boris has
missed the best story of all in his just released book,
The Spirit of London,
his tales of derring-do and goings-on at the London Games.
Incidentally, when I picked up my morning paper, I
couldn’t help but notice how many extra copies of all newspapers,
plastered with news of Kate, obviously, had been delivered to the shop.
Oh yes, it was Paul McMullan, the former News of the
World reporter, who argued during the Leveson Inquiry that “newspaper
sales define the public interest”.
Finally, there was a Picture Gallery in
Telegraph Online, headed:
Duchess of Cambridge pregnant: royal baby mania as the media wait for
Bugger, there was that White Rabbit again. The “media
wait for news” bit drew me in ... and yes, I wasn’t disappointed, for
sprinkled in the gallery were images of the meeja waiting for news. For
example, this picture from Sang Tan (who reminds me of Sam Tân ―
pronounced Taaaaan ― the Welsh version of Fireman Sam)...
‘Old it, flash, bang, wallop ... stick it in your fam’ly album
Members of the media wait for developments across the
road from the King Edward VII hospital
A little further on in the gallery, another picture of
the meeja hordes, with the caption “...and wait...”; then further on
still, yet another picture, with the caption “...still waiting...”.
It was all very smiley ― indeed I was instantly reminded of that
wonderfully atmospheric narrative opening to my favourite film, Casablanca,
and the very first words we hear, in that dramatic American accent...
Narrator: With the coming of the Second World War,
many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully, or desperately, toward
the freedom of the Americas. Lisbon became the great embarkation point.
But, not everybody could get to Lisbon directly, and so a
tortuous, roundabout refugee trail sprang up: Paris to Marseilles ...
across the Mediterranean to Oran ... then by train, or auto, or foot
across the rim of Africa, to Casablanca in French Morocco.
Here, the fortunate ones through money, or influence, or luck, might
obtain exit visas and scurry to Lisbon; and from Lisbon, to the New
But the others
wait in Casablanca ... and wait ...... and wait ......... and
Monday, December 3
Keep your money or open the box?
LAST Saturday, my little old funny-bone was tickled by
’Provocative’ Playboy lorry advert banned
Today, it was this:
Zurich to open drive-in sex boxes
The Swiss city of Zurich is to open drive-in sex boxes in
an attempt to rid the town of street prostitution...
It instantly brought to mind
Pete Seeger’s Little Poxes,
ho, ho, ho!
On a high
I was casually listening to Roy Noble’s Radio Wales show
yesterday morning and, as is par for the course, something really smiley
unfolded. I’ve mentioned before that one of Roy’s attractive foibles is
that he gets words slightly wrong. Much as I often do (thank heaven for
I mean, how could I ever forget Roy earnestly describing
a certain lady of a certain age who had been on a course of “Botex”,
before being gently corrected by a friendly female news presenter who
had hung around the studio for a chat.
As I have mentioned before, presumably “Botex” should be something between Tipp-Ex,
which corrects human error, and Botox, which corrects Mother Nature’s
slip-ups. It was a most memorable cock-up.
Anyway, to check out what I thought I’d heard yesterday, I clicked
onto the iPlayer.
Now that didn’t help because this is what it said on
Roy’s iPlayer home page apropos yesterday, the 2nd of December:
Music and chat with Roy, and the chance to guess the
‘mystery voice’. Includes two minutes’ silence and The Last Post, live
from the Cenotaph in London.
No wonder the BBC has lost its way. Has it no pride in
what it does anymore?
Whatever, Roy had as his guest Alan Wightman ― a name I
familiar with ― a screenwriter, playwright, author and comedy writer.
After a break in conversation, Roy returned to his guest
and reintroduced him to the listener: “Now with me is Alan Wightman,
pantomime is his scenario right now, but let me tell you, there’s a
depth here which is, well, somewhere beyond the ― is it the Marijuana
Trench? No, not the Marijuana ― it’s that trench in the Pacific I’m talking about.”
There is much studio chortling. “I think you mean the
Mariana Trench, Roy,” says Alan Wightman.
something delightfully hilarious about the deepest part of the world’s
oceans being juxtaposed with something designed by Mother Nature to give
us a high. Gives a whole new meaning to taking a deep drag.
“City of London police are investigating the alleged
serious embezzlement of funds at a Gordon Brown-backed think tank set up
to improve bankers’ behaviour.” Thus the opening paragraph of a
Sunday Times Business article.
Do you know, all the nation’s movers and shakers must
also be looking for the Marijuana Trench.
And finally, Boris
Yesterday I smiled at an extract from Boris Johnson’s new
book, The Spirit of London, a tale of his Olympics experiences
over the summer. What I forgot to include was this little gem,
definitely a starter for ten:
It wasn’t easy at school, not being able to speak
English. He heard some kids shouting, “Come on, then!”
and took it to be a greeting rather than the standard invitation to a
“Come on, then,” shouted young Mo Farah. He promptly got
The mayor meets an immigrant hero who is “as British as a
bad pun in a Carry On film”.
“As British as a bad pun in a Carry On film”. That even
beats Roy Noble’s “Marijuana Trench” in the smile of the day league.
Sunday, December 2
I shall be too late!”
know me: I never read books, except in a research or reference context ―
I simply do not have the time to do anything else ― but this very
morning I flirted with the idea of buying myself one as a Xmas present.
And that, dear visitor to this well of smiley things, is something quite
unheard of along my stroll through time.
I was sorting out The Sunday Times into my
usual preference pile, the section of zero interest at the bottom
(APPOINTMENTS), the one of most immediate interest at the top (CULTURE
Magazine), and I got to the NEWS REVIEW section ― and there, staring up
at me, was a variation on this picture, along with the comment thereon and
the caption blurb beneath...
and a flimsy seat nearly caused mayhem at the Olympic opening ceremony
Boris Johnson reveals in his new book, it was not the only comic
mishap at the London Games
Why is it that whenever I see a picture of Boris ... I
start to smile? Anyway, I was drawn in, much like Alice following the
White Rabbit down the hole.
If you are a reader of The Sunday Times, in
particular the NEWS REVIEW section ― and you have read the Boris piece ―
then bear with me for I must record in my scrapbook these opening few
shots, for they really did make me laugh out loud...
Boris under starter's orders
all have moments when we think we have really blown it, when we realise
we have committed – or are in the process of committing – a goof from
which there can be no realistic hope of return. Such were my feelings at
about 9.30pm on Friday July 27, 2012.
was the night of the Olympic opening ceremony. I was sitting in the
politburo seats in the stadium at Stratford, with Marina, my wife, on my
left, and the Duchess of Cornwall (aka Camilla) on my right.
far down the line were Her Majesty the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the
Prince of Wales, the PM, Sam Cam, the International Olympic Committee
president, Jacques Rogge, and the Countess Rogge, Lord Coe, Lady Coe,
Michelle Obama, Mr and Mrs Mitt Romney and about 134 heads of state and
government from democracies and tyrannies around the world.
[No Macbeth and his good Lady, Boris?]
were all acutely conscious that there were about a billion people
watching, and that we should not be seen scratching or picking our
noses. I was so overwrought that I will not deny I had refreshed myself
freely at the excellent VIP bar. But I can assure you that this was
nothing to do with the problem that overwhelmed me.
was engaged in animated conversation with Camilla, who is every bit as
wonderful as her most passionate advocates will tell you. She was
enjoying the spectacle, and I kept leaning forward, toady-like, to make
some point or other – to identify the flag of some nation or to explain
why the proceedings seemed to be partly in French.
[And what about that German gent in front of you, Boris?
I saw you and Camilla smiling as he appeared to give a very naughty
salute when the German team entered the arena and paraded in front of
shifted my weight (more than 16½ stone) I felt a little give in the seat
beneath. As I leant a bit further forward, the underpinnings seemed to
wheeze and bend with strain, and then ... CRACK ... something serious
snapped beneath my right buttock.
After seven years of preparation for the Games, after all the speeches I
had given about how ready we were, after all the trouble we had taken,
as a country, to look competent and efficient, I discovered in a
millisecond of horror that I was being pitched forward like a greased
piglet on a tiny tray. And my head was going straight for Camilla’s lap.
dived unstoppably for the concrete floor, I reflected on the disgrace. I
would have to say that I was drunk. It was the only excuse. I couldn’t
possibly blame the workmanship of the Olympic Delivery Authority, not
after we had spent the thick end of half a billion pounds on building
this stadium. I thought about the headlines, the savagery of the
Olymposceptic press, the TV footage.
[Tut, tut, Boris, jerry-building is jerry-building ― and
no, not a reference to the gent making the funny salute. The origin of
the phrase jerry-building is unknown; sometimes said to be from the name
of a firm of builders in Liverpool, or to allude to the walls of
Jericho, which fell down at the sound of Boris’s ― oops ― Joshua’s
trumpets (Josh. 6:20).]
effort I avoided collision with the knees of the duchess and grovelled
on all fours in front of her, like some wheezing retriever; and I
thought, as I prepared to haul myself back up, before global derision,
that it wasn’t the first disaster of the evening.
[How come I never heard about this episode? And what would Mr
and Mrs Mitt Romney have made of it, especially after Mr Romney doubted whether
Boris and Old London Town were really up to the job?]
can now be revealed that a large chunk of the VIP party almost missed
the ceremony altogether. For some reason it was decided that we should
all take a bus from St James’s Palace through the rush-hour traffic to
east London, and we set off in plenty of time.
[A bus? I can hear Mrs Thatcher saying that in perfect “A
handbag?” voice ― for did not the Iron Lady say that “Any
man who finds himself on a bus over the age of 30 can consider himself a
failure in life” …
It seems Mrs T thought the bus a mode of travel for
infants, children and students, nothing more. Hm.]
There was the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of Her Majesty’s
opposition and Mrs Miliband, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police
and various bemedalled heads of the army, navy and air force, as well as
other important ministers and spokespersons. You could have founded a
perfectly viable country with that cast list.
had all sorts of Olympics honchos who had offered up the best part of a
decade to prepare for this moment, and we had an excellent driver. But
no one had explained to him with sufficient clarity where to exit from
[But hadn’t the exact same problem surfaced when the
American Olympics team arrived in London? Honestly, our movers and
shakers never, ever learn.]
Anyway, all very entertaining, Boris Johnson. And the wonderful thing about Boris’s writing is that you can
hear his voice as you read, which is why, I guess, his words trip off the page.
I like Boris. He is the sort of bloke, if I walked into
the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, and saw him standing at the bar, I would
head towards him for a chat because you know that you will be
enlightened and entertained.
PS: You may well have twigged from the above another
reason as to why I never read books. I am continually overwhelmed by the
need to butt in and challenge with my own questions and observations,
which rather takes the edge off the exercise.
above extracted from
The Spirit of London, to be
published by Harper Press on Thursday at £8.99.
Saturday, December 1
A little something on the side
JUST occasionally, a headline beckons, much like a
previously unseen creature of desire smiling at you across a crowded
Playboy lorry advert banned
An advert for Playboy featuring scantily clad women was
banned after it appeared on the side of a lorry parked outside a hotel
popular with the elderly in a seaside town...
Hello big boy – wanna come out and play?
lorry, which appeared in the picturesque seaside town of Ilfracombe in
Devon, featured pictures of semi-naked women in seductive poses to
advertise Playboy TV Chat.
Just very smiley. Nothing more, nothing less.
However, if it’s Brains you want
The above, curiously, reminded me of a picture I captured
back in 2009 as I walked through Llandampness.
Parked outside a pub called Yr Hen Vic
― The Old Vic; historically The Victoria Hotel, the pub where I not only
enjoyed my first pub drink, but it was also my first under-age drink ― was a
beer delivery lorry.
What drew my attention was how neatly parked it was in front
of the pub. And then the clever, eye-catching advert with its Welsh
Letter play on the side of the lorry. (Anything you can do with French
Letters the Welsh can do better ― damn, hang about!
One of our national symbols is the leek ― Latin name: Allium porrum
― but we’ll let that pass.)
One for the road
Every day a day at school spot: Brains (S.
A. Brain & Company Ltd) is a regional brewery founded in 1882 in Cardiff
by Samuel Arthur Brain ― what a perfectly wonderful surname that is to
promote your product.
Over the last 100 years, SA Brain has grown from being
Cardiff’s own brewer ― bringing together a combined heritage of over 600
years of South Wales brewing tradition, hic!
― into “The National Brewer of Wales”.
With Brains SA and SA Gold beers being a
couple of their leading brands, it is so easy to appreciate the clever
word (letter?) play in the advert on the side of the lorry.
The Crazy Horsepower Saloon’s Wildebeest Theory of Beer Drinking and
A herd of wildebeest can only move as fast as the slowest
wildebeest, much like the brain can only operate as fast as the slowest
brain cell, the weakest link.
The slowest wildebeest are the elderly, the sick and the
weak, so they die or are picked off first by predators ― think those
naughty crocs waiting in ambush at the river crossing ― thus making it
possible for the herd to move at a faster pace.
It is Nature’s Prime Directive: The Survival of the
Like the wildebeest, the weak, slow brain cells are the
ones that are killed off by excessive beer drinking and socializing,
thus making the brain operate faster.
And the moral of the tale? Drink more Brains SA beer: it
will make you smarter and help avoid those nasty predators lying in wait
around every corner.
And who knows, one day you may well play Brains, one of the leading
characters in Thunderbirds.
Friday, November 30
A quiet moment to think about it
WITH the meeja understandably going overboard today
the publication of the Leveson report on the public inquiry into
the culture, practices and ethics of the British press ― all in the wake
of Rupert Murdoch’s News International phone hacking scandal ― I must
confess that I have only followed the circus on a very superficial level,
so I shall leave the serious stuff to those who think they understand
cartoon in The Daily Telegraph, as usual, really summed it all up
(Caption to be supplied by
cross-party committee of MPs)
witty caption as an invite to come up with my own effort. I duly gave it
some thought, and my humble effort comes up down below.
As to the Leveson Inquiry itself, it’s the throwaway
Little things say so much
I learnt that one of Hugh Grant’s middle names is Mungo ―
that is so Hugh Grant, so Mungo Jerry (the computer’s spell-check had
suggested Mango/Mongo/Mingo); I also learnt that David Cameron signed his
texts to Rebekah Brooks “lol” ― until she told him that it meant “laugh
out loud” not “lots of love”.
Given the way our politicians operate, perhaps he really
did mean “laugh out loud” all along. I mean, c’mon, do they really
discharge their duties to the nation with any degree of TLC?
“In 21 years of invading people’s privacy I’ve never
found anybody doing any good.” That was the declaration of Paul
McMullan, the former News of the World reporter, who also added that
“privacy is for paedos”.
Mind you, I have often wondered about the ferocity with
which people guard the absolute privacy of life behind their front doors.
Excepting the obvious business of reporters and photographers camped on
doorsteps, what on earth do folks get up to that would render them so
ashamed if the rest of the world knew about it? I mean, everyone who
demands privacy can’t all be “paedos”.
Yes, I’ve done a few things behind closed that would make
me blush if I knew you lot were watching ― but never anything that would
bring shame and scandal upon the family.
Also, in Paul McMullan’s testimony, he argued that
newspaper sales defined the public interest. Intriguingly, I discovered
that the ex-editor’s thoughts on this subject made for one of the most read articles in
the Guardian newspaper’s entire Leveson coverage.
That part about newspaper sales defining the public
interest is interesting. Given how public executions were historically a
significant social event in the calendar, and drew huge crowds, I have
always maintained that if Saddam Hussein’s hanging had been carried live
on television ― it was actually filmed on a mobile as I recall ― it
would have attracted the largest TV audience ever. By a mile.
Which suggests that whatever the media throws at us, we,
the great unwashed, the common or garden, the plebs, will devour it with
huge enthusiasm. Therefore the media carries a huge responsibility to
limit what it shows us in order to keep our dodgy emotions in check.
We also know that the majority of British people still
favour bringing back execution for certain crimes, such as the murder of
a police officer, yet does the media support what the Great British
Public demand? Of course it doesn’t. It only feeds us what the meeja
itself thinks is good for us.
I wouldn’t bring back execution on the basis that innocent people
have been executed in the past. But that’s just my humble opinion; and
nobody close to me has been murdered.)
Anyway, back with Leveson: and then there was barrister
Robert Jay, apparently famous for injecting long, historical words such
as “propinquity” into his questioning, earned more than £500,000 from
his regular ‘song and dance’ routines. Nice work if you can get it.
Hm, “propinquity”? Yet another of those words you
definitely never hear in the Asteri*k Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower
Saloon. It can mean physical proximity, a kinship between people, or a
similarity in nature between things i.e. like-attracts-like.
In a wholly different context ― about art, actually ― I
stumbled upon this quote:
“Life is short, and Art long; the crisis fleeting;
experience perilous, and decision difficult.”
(c.460BC-377), Greek physician who is referred to as the “father of
My instant reaction was that perhaps it should read:
“Dec is short, and Ant long...”
Whatever, there was an explanation
of the quote for the benefit of
plebs like me: the physician must not only be prepared to do what is right
himself, but also to make the patient, the attendants, and externals
In his own way, Lord Leveson is very much the physician
in this situation, and his medicine is that, because self-regulation
clearly doesn’t work, legislation is required to control the press.
taking the tablets, Rupert, you Dirty Digger you.
Apropos that Hippocrates quote, online someone calling herself
put me back on the straight and narrow:
“I’m pink therefore
I’m spam ... that’s my philosophy.”
Anyway, enough already. Here’s my caption to the MATT
“I only said Leveson wants to turn the
nation’s guard dogs into lapdogs –
and he threw a strop”
Strop: just in case someone in some faraway place with a strange
sounding name is wondering about this even stranger looking and sounding
little word, it is an informal word meaning “in a bad temper or sulk’.
As a bonus, there’s something wonderfully onomatopoeic about it (now
that is a word you will occasionally hear in the Asteri*k Bar,
even if only uttered by me).
Whatever, rarely along my walk through time have I found it necessary to throw a
strop ― but it is, curiously, hugely satisfying when it happens.
Thursday, November 29
Road hog ahead
REMEMBER the Frank Muir story about him driving along a
narrow country road in his Kentish heartland?
Round the corner ahead came a woman driver, in a
clapped-out, dented Morris Minor. She missed the wing of my beautiful
Lagonda by a centimetre, wound down her window furiously and yelled at
I snorted, drove on round the corner and hit a pig.
Well, today, in the Telegraph’s Sign
Language Picture Gallery, the newspaper’s regular collection of
amusing and confusing signs spotted and snapped by readers on their
travels, this little gem...
A million miles from Lemmings Leap
and Jury: Spotted in Norfolk by Ruth Judge
Marvellous, it sits just perfectly alongside the Frank
And from the sublime to the ridiculous ― this letter sort
of took my breath away:
Citizenship too testing
SIR – Immigrants wishing to become citizens [of the UK]
have to pass an exam. This consists of 24 questions with a pass mark of
75 per cent. After downloading a specimen list of typical questions from
the government website, I completed the test and failed. A number of my
relations and friends also failed. We are all natural-born,
university-educated British subjects.
Here are four questions as examples:
1. Which year did married women get the right to divorce
their husbands? a. 1837; b. 1857; c. 1875; d. 1882.
2. How many parliamentary constituencies are there? a.
464; b. 564; c. 646; d. 664.
3. How many million children are there up to the age of
19? a. 13; b. 14; c. 15; d. 16.
4. How many days per year must schools legally remain
open? a. 150; b. 170; c. 190; d. 200.
I fail to see how any of these questions indicate
suitability for citizenship. (The answers are 1. b; 2. c; 3. c; 4. c.)
I failed all the above; well, three were just plain guesses, but I did
know that our parliamentary constituencies numbered somewhere in the
600s ... sadly though I plumped for the wrong one.
It set me thinking: how many of the brave souls who are
fighting out in Afghanistan right now, for and on behalf of our dreadful
politicians (not to mention those who fought in the Falklands, the
Second and First World Wars, and all other conflicts), would have been
able to answer these sorts of questions?
I agree absolutely with the final thoughts of the above
The test is the very epitome of doolallyness.
Wednesday, November 28
How old would you be...
...if you didn’t know how old you are?
“THE 60s are the new 40s and the 70s the new 50s. You
just have to be a little more careful walking downstairs.”
Sir Terry Wogan, 74, an Irish radio and television broadcaster, who
holds dual Irish and British citizenship, and who clearly tends to stick
to the escalator these days.
I am greatly amused by this business that we are all now
somehow physically younger. It has a touch of the Emperor’s Magic Suit
of Clothes about it. Somebody “important”, a celebrity probably, said it
― and it has subliminally ingrained itself in the human psyche.
enjoyed an article by a
Lloyd De Vries
on the CBS News web site ― here are just his opening few
The other day, I read
another one of those articles called, “Is 60 the new 40?”. We hear about
this supposed phenomenon all the time. 60 is the new 40, 70 is the new
50, 110 is the new 108, etc.
It means that people are living longer today, they’re
healthier, and they’re enjoying life more. All that is great.
However, at the same time that people are feeling much
younger than people their age felt in previous generations, an
all-powerful culture of youth is dominating our society. People in their
20s are getting cosmetic surgery to look younger. Men and women in their
40s are considered too old to work in some fields. More and more people
are forced to take early retirement at an earlier and earlier age.
So while older people
are feeling younger these days, our society may be seeing them as older,
not younger. Maybe in terms of perceptions, 40 is the new 60.
Very perceptive bit of writing. The way I see it ... if it says 40 on your birth certificate, you
are 40 years of age; if it says 70 you are 70; 100 you are 100.
However, I have always believed that we are born either
young, middle-aged, old ― or in crisis. We all know kids who behave like
grown ups, adults who behave like children, and inbetweeners who behave
like ― well, middle-aged folk.
Hindsight suggests that I was born middle-aged, and the
older I get the more convinced I am of that.
Be that as it may, there are four categories of age:
chronological (what it says on your birth certificate), biological (how
easily you get through your MOT), psychological (your frame of mind –
see above apropos being born young, middle-age, old or in crisis) and
archaeological (how old the world at large thinks you are).
The biological one is the most critical of all. Those
blessed with a Royal Flush of Health Genes at the moment of conception are the
individuals who appear much younger than they really are: a spring in
the step, a smile on the face ― and very much young at heart.
I have the perfect quote to balance the Terry Wogan one
at the top, especially that business about being a little more careful
grooming may take twenty years off a woman’s age, but you can’t fool a
flight of stairs.” Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992), a German-American
actress and singer, who is famed for saying “I want to be alone”, but
what she actually said was, “I want to be left alone”, which is significantly
Where was Lord Justice Leveson when Marlene needed him?
Tuesday, November 27
Never mind a great opening line...
...think great closing lines
TODAY I perused a list of 25 of the greatest closing
lines in films. As it happens, first on the list was from my very
favourite film, Casablanca, which had its world premiere 70 years
ago yesterday, on 26 November 1942, at the Hollywood Theatre in New
The final line of this brilliant film was spoken by
nightclub owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) to police chief Captain
Louis Renault (Claude Rains), as they leave vanquished Morocco to join
the Free French Army in West Africa.
“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” said
The film, which also starred Ingrid Bergman and Paul
Henreid (as Victor Laszlo, a renowned fugitive Czech resistance leader
and the least complex of all the characters), won three
Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay i.e. a
script to die for.
If you want to get ahead get a hat
A beautiful friendship
Given that Casablanca’s closing line was the opening line
on the list, and that Captain Louis Renault was the character drawn by
the eye in the marvellously atmospheric picture above ― enjoyed his
at that slightly rakish angle, a perfect reflection of the man’s
character ― I am reminded that back at the beginning of this year, I
acknowledged that Louise is the only fictional character I would have
enjoyed being in real life.
”Oh, he’s just like any other man, only more so,” was Rick’s verdict
Yes, Louis Renault was a Nogood Boyo: forever
on the make and always chasing the girls, running with the hare and the
hounds, not a man of strong conviction, but a friend to whoever was in
power at the time ― but when push came to shove, he landed firmly on the
side of the white hat.
Also, he would have been the script writers’ favourite
character, for the most consistently witty and wise lines in all of
filmdom belong to Louis. Next time you watch the film, just concentrate
on Claude Rains’ performance as Captain Renault. Gems 'R' Us, Wisdom Unlimited.
Indeed, he delivers my all-time favourite film line: near
the beginning of the film, Rick has just sent his beautiful but drunk
and somewhat troublesome girlfriend, Yvonne, home in a taxi; he then
joins Louie sitting at a table outside the café, and Louie utters a
magical line that every red-blooded man 40-plus will empathise with:
extravagant you are throwing away women like that. Someday they may be
It’s intriguing to learn that the
was originally “Someday they might be rationed”, but government
censors objected and the line was changed ― for the better,
Coming up on the rails
Other closing lines I enjoyed were these:
Groucho Marx, who plays veterinarian Hugo Z. Hackenbush
in the madcap 1937 film A Day At The Races, tells Emily Upjohn
“Emily, I have a little confession to make. I really am a horse doctor.
But marry me, and I'll never look at any other horse.”
In Back to the Future, a 1985 film, Dr. Emmet
Brown (Christopher Lloyd) says to Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox):
“Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.”
Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), the flesh-eating serial killer in
Silence Of The Lambs, a 1991 film, is on the phone to FBI agent
Clarice Starling (Jody Foster) after his escape. He says:
“I do wish we could chat longer, but ... I'm having an old friend for
I’ve never seen the film, but I am aware that he is
talking about Dr Chilton, the psychiatrist he has pursued to Bimini.
Michael Cain, who plays Charlie Croker in the 1969 caper,
The Italian Job, as the golden bus balances on the edge:
“Hang on a minute lads; I’ve got a great idea...”
Having a different sort of friend for dinner
To balance the books, I’ll finish with a great opening
line, but not from a film. At least I don’t think it is. A few days
back, the radio was on in the background, and a lady was talking about
the first time she had met the man who was to become her husband.
Normally when I catch the tail end of a good tale, I make
a note of the day, programme and time ― later I will visit the iPlayer
to get the story right ― but for some reason I was distracted and I
forgot to make a note, and the moment was gone. However, I do remember
the line, which was totally wonderful. He said to her:
“I’d like to send you
flowers and take you out to dinner ― sadly I can’t afford both right
Which would you prefer?”
Magic, for it works from both sides. It is very doubtful
that he couldn’t afford both, but if he was unsure, the flowers are a
perfect escape lane. If the lady herself is not
sure, she would say “flowers”, obviously, and the man would know he has
a bit more work to do.
However, if she says “I quite like the sound of that
dinner” ― as the unnamed lady, above, did ― well, all systems go...
“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.”
Monday, November 26
A way with words, a way with the world
RARELY does a straight news story have me laughing out
loud ― but I was drawn by this Western Mail headline...
Boris mistaken for ‘King of England’ in India
FORGET Downing Street, London Mayor Boris Johnson could
well set his sights on Buckingham Palace as Indian locals mistook him
for the King of England on the first day of his tour of the country.
Others thought he was Wimbledon legend Boris Becker as he
toured the Akshardhan temple in Delhi, while one American businessman
who had his photo taken with the mayor at his hotel simply referred to
him as “that guy on the zip line” ― a reference to when Boris got stuck
as he traversed Victoria Park during the Olympics
[how could we ever
Yesterday, Mr Johnson
began his six-day tour in typical whirlwind fashion as he was greeted by
monks with a garland of rose petals and the traditional kanku ― the red
dot which was daubed on his forehead ― and chased by enthusiastic street
A remarkable character is our Boris. He has this magical ability to make
us smile even when doing the most mundane of things. I’ve mentioned
before how endlessly intrigued I am by the fact that in the media,
high-profile individuals like David Cameron or Tony Blair are always
respectfully referred to as Mr Cameron or Mr Blair, yet Boris is pretty much always
referred to as Boris, even in face to face serious interviews ― note
Western Mail uses Boris in their headline, as
shown at the top.
A way with speed, away with the world
Yesterday’s smile of the day featured the John Humphrys
quote, “Quiet, please!”
where he complained that the
getting progressively louder, and the noise is damaging our health. It’s
time we all turned down the volume, insisted John.
But, as I remarked, what I’ve noticed is not so much that
the world is getting louder, but that everyone and everything is speeding
up at an alarming rate. Everything is getting faster and faster,
everyone in a rush and likely to disappear up their own very private
orifice anytime poste-anus.
Well blow me, this online headline today...
310mph ‘floating’ trains unveiled in
The first of a new generation of high-speed, magnetic
levitation trains has been unveiled in Japan, designed to operate at
speeds of more than 300mph.
Designed by Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai), the
state-of-the-art trains are scheduled to go into use in 2027 and link
Shinagawa Station, in central Tokyo, with Nagoya.
At present, it takes 90 minutes for a conventional
“shinkansen” bullet train to complete the journey between the two
stations, but the new technology will cut the trip to 40 minutes.
Honestly, people will shortly be getting up before they
go to bed. Crazy world, crazy people.
But hang about. Remember Concorde? And how it changed the
way of the world for business people ― allegedly?
As someone fortunate enough to have flown to
America in Concorde ― I won the trip in a competition ― did the business
world fall apart the moment Concorde finished flying back in 2003?
Hang about? 2003? Apart from the fact that Concorde’s
final commercial flight really was that long ago ― isn’t that just about
the time when the business world as we now know it began to slowly
unravel? When the clowns, cowboys and crooks of the world, those without
ethics, morality and honesty, began to take over everything?
Bloody ‘ell. Where are Britain’s high-speed trains when
we need them?
Sunday, November 25
I’ve got a little file
IT GOES without saying that there are endless things wot
make me smile, giggle and laugh along my journey through the day ― but
overwhelmingly they never make it anywhere near the final cut.
But, just like the ‘I’ve got a little list’ song from
Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, I have a little file full of
such cuttings and jottings, which I often visit when looking for
something to juxtapose.
today was a perfect example because I came across a couple of recent Rod
Liddle bits and pieces from The Sunday Times...
Foreign accents can
be very difficult to decipher. So have sympathy for the poor
stenographer charged with transcribing onto a giant screen the Dalai
Lama’s address to 5,000 people in the US.
This is what His Holiness said: “If you feel these points are not much
relevant, not much interest ... then forget.” He certainly didn’t say
what the stenographer typed up: “If you feel these points are not much
relevant, not much interest ... then f*** it.”
transcription came from an interview with the former Lib Dem leader,
Charles Kennedy. Asked what he would do when no longer party leader, he
said: “Oh, it’ll probably be the rubber chicken circuit.” He did not
say, as written: “Oh, I’ll probably rub a chicken and suck it.”
Mind you, what Charles Kennedy said could so easily have come out
similar to the Dalai Lama misquote. Now that would have been a hoot. How
the above story missed the cut first time around is a mystery. Very funny.
However, talking of the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, as I was yesterday, I
just read again what happened in a North Wales pub, the Royal Oak at
Penrhyndeudraeth, not that long ago, and it somehow sits perfectly
alongside the above.
How does one best
deter people from speaking Welsh in a pub? This problem has vexed me for
years, and now we are being given guidance by the courts.
It was decided that Gareth Sale, a landlord, probably
went too far when he got his air rifle out. He runs a pub in Gwynedd and
had objected to the locals ordering their drinks in Welsh. When they
refused to stop, out came the gun.
It’s all very well saying this was an overreaction, but
obviously they had to be stopped somehow. If not a gun, then what? A
ferocious dog, trained to respond to a vocabulary comprised largely of
multiples of the letters “L” “y” and “th”?
The regulars made the
predictable complaint that they had a right to order their drinks in
Welsh as they were in, er, Wales. Any excuse.
Actually, Liddle had only quoted the letter “y” in his piece – but a
quick peruse of the reception map on my welcome mat above will register that the
letters “double-L” and “th” also have a point to prove.
Incidentally, back in September the landlord was handed a
32-week suspended jail sentence.
Mind you, that should have been doubled for being so
stupid as to take on a pub in a place called Penrhyndeudraeth ―
gosh, even I
look left, right, and left again, before writing and saying it
― when he and his partner, Sheridan Graham, clearly hated the sight and
sound of the Welsh language.
Thank God they
keep a gun behind the bar down at the Crazy Horsepower, otherwise we
would permanently be under the table, and that’s
just having a chat.
do the strangest things ― whatever, just keep the noise down, please.
Humphrys, 69, Welsh author, journalist and presenter of radio and
television news programmes. “The world is getting louder, and the noise
is damaging our health. It’s time we all turned down the volume.”
I don’t have so much problem with noise, probably because
I live on my own, and much of the time when out and about is spent
in the splendid isolation and silence of the Towy Valley, the sounds of nature and
farmers going about their business excepted, of course.
But what I’ve noticed is not so much that the world is
getting louder, but that everyone and everything is picking up speed at
an alarming rate. Everything is getting faster and faster. Everyone is
in a rush ― and likely to disappear up their own very private orifice
anytime soon if they don’t slow down rather sharpish.
Saturday, November 24
Journey from Crazy Horse to Crazy Horsepower
YESTERDAY I featured the warm but wet, windy and
unfriendly fronts assaulting the country from the south-west. They were
at it again today as they hauled much misery in their wake.
Today though, I stumbled upon two images which,
perchance, summed up perfectly the history cum family-tree of my
spit-and-sawdust-style saloon bar experiences.
I regularly mention in dispatches my favourite watering
hole ― no sort of pun intended, given the opening paragraph ― namely The
Crazy Horsepower Saloon, in particular, The Asteri*k Bar.
As you have doubtless appreciated by now, you
will not find a pub called The Crazy HP at the end of your TomTom; just
as, of course, you will never find a pot of gold at the end of the
rainbow, or indeed a tavern called The Crazy Horse at the base of those
smoke signals on the horizon.
Both pubs are a conglomeration, a potpourri, a
hotchpotch, a miscellany of all the pubs I have known and loved along my
stagger through time, gentlemen, please!
Originally, my own particular version of Cheers, that famous
Boston bar of sitcom fame, was simply the Crazy Horse.
Back then, in those days of smoke signals and
uncomplicated lifestyles, when I began to visit public houses, most of
the regulars ― farmers and country folk, along with those loosely
connected with a rural lifestyle ― were ‘old boys’ who would have been
intimately familiar with the world of the horse, whether as warhorse,
carthorse, workhorse (in the shape of the majestic shire), hunter, the
elegant Welsh cob (that mostly for show purposes of course), or indeed
simply a pony and trap that at one time would have delivered them to the
pub and home again.
Slowly but surely though, life in a rural community
morphed from the world of the horse to the world of the horse power, a
world of tractors, 4 x 4s (in the shape of the Land Rover workhorse), or
the Chelsea Tractor (show horse).
And of course, mustn’t forget the ubiquitous Quad Bike,
which not only replaced the pony and trap, but shanks’s pony as well.
Crazy Horse of fond memory became The Crazy Horsepower Saloon.
And so to the brace of images I stumbled upon...
From the laid-back world of The Crazy Horse Pub...
Moving elegantly along:
a pony and trap pass through flooded fields and roads
close to the village of North Curry, near Taunton in Somerset
Pic: Matt Cardy
...to the furious world of The Crazy Horsepower Saloon
a 4x4 makes its way through floodwater in Essex
What an amazing image of the 4x4 that is ― but it captures
perfectly the pace of modern life: no time to say hello, goodbye!
I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!
Incidentally, the pony and trap photograph was taken by
Matt Cardy, the same gent who captured yesterday’s picture of the
cottage surrounded by floods. Clearly Matt has a nose for an
Friday, November 23
Endless raindrops keep falling on the nation’s head
“WIDESPREAD flooding as month’s worth of rain falls in 48 hours” was
yet another of those now familiar and alarming newspaper headlines.
know, ever since the UK’s waters broke rather dramatically a few months
BO (Before Olympics), when water companies in the south and south-east
of England had just introduced a hosepipe ban following prolonged
drought conditions, hardly a week now passes without a month’s worth of rain
falling in 48/24/12* hours,
somewhere in the UK.
* Delete to deluge
that perpetual precipitation could well become a feature of 21st century
Britain ― well flagged climate change, and all that ― should not the Met
Office revise its phraseology? Otherwise, such endless warnings will
carry as much impact as that infamous “barbecue summer” which went AWOL,
back in 2009.
apart, what exactly is there to smile about given all the misery that
comes with flooding?
On the ‘WELCOME’ mat at the top, I say this:
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, something startling that
nevertheless generates a spontaneous smile, curiosities spotted along my
walks through the Towy Valley...
What I’ve just added to those notes is the “something
startling that nevertheless generates a spontaneous smile”. And here’s
I see no ships, only hardships
Matt Cardy/Getty Images Europe
Arthur Dziewicki ponders the flood water lapping
at the front door of his cottage close to the village of North Curry
near Taunton in the south-west of England. Recent heavy rain brought
widespread disruption to many parts of the UK, particularly the
south-west, and weather forecasters have warned of more wet and windy
weather to come...
Obviously I didn’t smile at the dastardly predicament
Arthur found himself in ― rather, it’s the cottage itself. My immediate
reaction was that poor old Arthur has more to worry about than the
floods, given how the cottage is listing alarmingly to stern ― well, the
place does look a bit like a ship sitting there in the water.
And another thing: I’m unsure whether a light is shining
through the downstairs, right-hand side window. I guess if you have a
property subject to flooding, then you make sure there are no electrical
wiring or power points anywhere below a good few feet off the ground;
indeed you also ensure that you either move, or unplug anything that
cannot be moved such as a fridge or freezer.
Apart from the obvious distress the episode would have
caused Arthur, it is a startlingly eye-catching image, and perfectly
fits the criteria mentioned above.
Thursday, November 22
Whistle a happy tune
Silent electric cars must make a racket
THUS insisted a newspaper headline.
electric and hybrid vehicles on the increase, there is genuine concern
that these virtually silent vehicles will jeopardise the safety of blind
and partially sighted people, along with children, older folk, cyclists
and those with their heads permanently bowed while transfixed by their
Such ‘creepy’ vehicles must be audible to pedestrians and
road users, at all times ― but how?
of Whitwell, Isle of Wight, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph,
“hopes that plans to
install artificial engine noises for electric cars preclude the
free-for-all that exists for mobile phones, where standard ring tones
vie with Bohemian Rhapsody, increasingly heavy breathing, and so on, for
their owners’ attention”.
While I own a pay-as-you-go mobile for emergency use only
― I take it with me on my morning walks; also when using the car ― a ring
tone to me is a wholly meaningless thing (I don’t even know what my
mobile number is).
However, if I did have a special ring tone, I think I
would go for the call of the cuckoo, which is so distinctive. One of the
regulars down at the Crazy Horsepower has a crowing cockerel, which I
have to admit always makes me smile as it stretches its neck
and becomes the cock of the walk.
Anyway, back with audible electric vehicles, I enjoyed
this letter from
of Nettleham in Lincolnshire:
“I would like to suggest that a suitable noise would be
that of horses’ hooves. It would not only reflect the green credentials
of the car, but could also indicate the speed of approach. For example,
the noise up to 5mph could be the walk, up to 20mph, the trot, up to
30mph, the canter and thereafter, the gallop. It would also have the
advantage of being cheap to simulate, only requiring a couple of
There followed on the comment board these suggestions...
“How about a man with a red flag, walking in front?”
And a whistle, of course, to which came the response:
“For Gawd’s sake,
don’t encourage them.”
Lazydays: “No, a man walking in front equipped
with suitable coconut shells.”
JDavidJ: “Maybe they should sound like a herd
of cattle ― after all, the green credentials are, specifically, bullshit.”
Me? I’ve told before the tale of walking along the
pavement in Llandampness, and some 50-60 paces ahead is a handsome
blonde lady walking towards me ― and I am overtaken from behind by a
As the vehicle approaches the pretty girl, it lets out
the father of all wolf-whistles. The van was in possession of a
‘warming’ horn with a difference. Everyone on the scene initially looks
towards the van ― and then the blonde.
And everyone is smiling ― including, tellingly, the
attractive blonde. As me and the blonde close, I smile. She smiles. I
stop. She stops. “Gosh,” I say, “why couldn’t I have come up with an
opening line as good as that?” Or something like that.
She laughs, and responds in a surprisingly sophisticated
voice: “That really made my day...”
So perhaps every electric vehicle should have the ability to emit a
gentle, seductive and elongated wolf-whistle as it mooches along the
high street. (I am fairly sure that such vehicles mooch rather than
Wednesday, November 21
I said Mr Purple People Eater, what’s your line?
He said it’s eatin’ purple people and it sure is fine.
But that’s not the reason that I came to land,
I wanna get a job in a rock 'n' roll band...
[Well, actually, after eatin’ English rugby’s purple people...]
Colour me purple
“What on earth did the England rugby team think they
were doing at Twickenham by forsaking their traditional white for that
ghastly purple kit?” fumed Colonel Guy Wathen (retd), in a letter to
The Daily Telegraph.
“Unless forced by a similarity of colour,”
continued an alarmingly red-faced Colonel (retd), “do the Kiwis ever
abandon black? It is hardly surprising that such lack of pride was
reflected in their performance.”
For those not of a rugby bent, and indeed for the record,
the unfancied Australians defeated Purple England 20-14.
However, the fallout from the rugger kit was even greater
than the rugby loss.
Given the shocking Welsh rugby performances of the past
couple of weeks, I have absolutely nothing whatsoever to add apropos the
England performance on the field ― but the fuss over the kit was just
impossible to resist.
Every day a day at school spot: Back
in 1995, in the run up to the Rugby World Cup, the then captain of
England, and good friend to Princess Diana, Will Carling, was briefly relieved of his post for criticising
the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the people who run the game in England:
“If the game is run properly as a professional game,” said Will, “you do
not need 57 old farts running rugby.”
He was of course referring to the dreaded committee
members up and down the land, and for that very reason it’s a quote
that has remained fresh in the memory. Rugby, like most other sports in
Britain, continues to be run by ― well, by “old farts”,
administrators with little empathy with those currently playing and
supporting the game.
Okay, that’s all you need to know. Well, apart from this,
a famous poem by Jenny Joseph, called
am an old woman I shall wear purple,
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves;
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings;
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain,
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens –
And learn to spit...
Wonderful. However, with apologies to Jenny, I
thought I’d paraphrase the opening few lines, as if out of the
mouth of a kit committee man at Rugby HQ:
am an old fart I shall make ‘em wear purple,
With a red rose which doesn’t go, and doesn’t look like it
And I shall spend my pension on G&Ts and summer shorts;
And proper sandals, and definitely purple socks to match...
in England now that Purple’s here
A parting shot
Finally, and to
round off proceedings with a song and a smile ― and be sure to listen
out for Alvin the troublesome Chipmunk making a guest appearance...
Sheb Wooley and his Purple People Eater, c1958
Tuesday, November 20
Ask no questions, hear no doolallyness
INCREDULOUS smile of the day goes to this letter
in The Daily Telegraph...
Ask a foolish question...
SIR – Today my bank sent me a list of answers to
frequently asked questions. These included “How often will I receive my
Should I be more disheartened that such a question is
asked, or that the bank bothers to answer it?
Thomas Cooper, Llandudoch, Cardiganshire
Just more proof that nothing out there in the corporate
world adds up anymore. Truly, the nation’s movers and shakers are permanently
half-a-bubble off plumb. At least.
And then this:
Christmas comes early
SIR – I received my first Christmas card on Thursday
November 8, which was posted in Britain. Is this a record?
Margaret Messervy, Montacute, Somerset
But it’s the silly online responses that generated a
No Margaret, it’s a Xmas card.
I think that should read “an Xmas card”!
Smoke and fire
Yesterday, I told this Frank Muir story ― it’s worth
corner ahead came a woman driver, in a clapped-out, dented Morris Minor.
She missed the wing of my beautiful Lagonda by a centimetre, wound down
her window furiously and yelled at me, “Pig!”.
I snorted, drove on round the corner and hit a pig.
And of course, Frank’s postscript:
NB: Anybody using my pig story without saying where they
got it from will be hounded through the law courts of Europe.
That last bit set me thinking: it brought to mind this current and curious
business about Lord McAlpine and the thousands of Twitter users who
could be sued after mentioning false child abuse allegations about the
Tory peer on the social networking site.
cartoon from The Daily Telegraph sums it all up rather
“The budgie repeated Lord
McAlpine’s name and now it’s
being sued for £100,000”
As someone who stands and stares, I accept McAlpine’s denial absolutely
― but I was endlessly intrigued as to how his good name got dragged into this
dreadful business in the first place; after all, we all know the old
adage: there’s no smoke without fire.
So I Googled my intrigue ... this from
McAlpine has vehemently denied the allegations pointing
out that he lived in the south of England at the time and had only been
to Wrexham once in his life. On Thursday Keith Gregory, the Wrexham
councillor who has been an eloquent spokesperson for the victims of
abuse this week, said he believed a different member of the McAlpine
family who lived locally may have been mistaken for Lord McAlpine.
He said a man who children at the home believed to be a
member of the McAlpine family would
arrive at Bryn Estyn in an expensive car. “He was a right flashy thing,”
Lord McAlpine was exonerated by the 1997 Waterhouse
inquiry of any involvement in the abuse of children in the north Wales
homes but not named because of an order by the retired judge preventing
the identification of either victims or alleged abusers.
As a result he has
been the subject of persistent smears, which resurfaced following the
BBC Newsnight allegations about a senior Tory.
Now how fascinating is that? Talk about an ironic smile of the day. And
the moral of the tale?
Secrecy, along with the love of money, is indeed at the root of pretty
much all evil.
Monday, November 19
Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn,
The sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn;
Where is that boy who looks after the sheep?
ALONG my regular
morning walks I go through some eight separate parcels of farm land,
much of it owned by the National Trust but rented out to local farmers,
most of whom I know personally.
Apart from all the wildlife I encounter ― one of the
advantages of being out and about as the run rises is that creatures of
the night such as politicians, bankers, media chiefs, foxes and badgers
are still about and haven’t been frightened to ground by people like
myself, and indeed farmers themselves as they go about their business.
Apart from said wildlife, I encounter all sorts of
domestic stock: sheep, cattle and horses, and the joy is that they get
used to me and hardly take any notice as I walk past or through the
various herds and flocks.
What I occasionally encounter though are sheep that have
got themselves stuck in some undergrowth or trash, or have pushed their heads through a
wire fence and can’t pull themselves free without human help.
Worst of all sheep, due to their cross-breeding
physiognomy (a word you never hear in the Asterisk bar down at the Crazy
Horsepower Saloon, ’tis true, but I believe I am talking sense), have
somehow managed to roll themselves onto their backs and are unable to
twist themselves back onto their feet, again without a helping hand.
Here are a couple of pictures captured along my walks:
first up, a sheep that thought the grass really was etc, etc ― and got
itself stuck in a kind of animal version of the stocks...
That they get their heads through such small spaces in the first place
is a mystery anyway ― but when they try to get out they automatically
lift their heads and the nape gets trapped by the wire. When you come
across such a sheep you have to force its head down to clear the wire.
Next along, the black sheep of the family has been
stranded in that unfortunate upside-down situation I spoke of. In fact I
have written about this curious phenomenon in some detail over on
400 Smiles A Day ― once there, scroll down
to 31st May 2010 and read all about it.
Essentially, a sheep that is simply stuck in trash or
some such like will survive for quite some time, but for the sheep
on its back it is pretty much a death warrant ― unless it is rescued
Farmers inspect their flocks regularly ― after
all, it’s not just the expensive loss of the sheep itself, but rather
all the future lambs as well ― however, if a sheep rolls onto its
back just after the farmer has been round the flock, say ... well,
without someone coming along to the rescue it’s not a story with a happy
There was a young lady from Kent...
Anyway, I received the following email from a lady of
Kent; in fact I christened her Carol, A Kentish Lady ― more of that
later. So here’s the delightful communication that fluttered into my
I write to thank you ― on behalf of a Kent sheep!
On Sunday afternoon my partner and I were on our way home
from a very enjoyable walk and lunch with friends locally when suddenly
I spotted ― as we were driving along ― an upside-down sheep in a field!
Having had a very good look and read of your website back
in July, I knew straight away what the problem was (or could be), so we
pulled over, and having been unable to find the farmer, I climbed over
the fence and walked slowly up to the sheep; I kept thinking it was so
still it couldn’t possibly be alive ― even when I got right up to it, it
looked pretty dead ― so was quite surprised when its head suddenly moved!
But it was clearly unable to get up ― so I did what you
suggested and gently but firmly grasped its fur and rolled it away from
me, and hey presto ― it managed to stand up, then it wobbled a bit and
ran off, with a definite little spring in its step!
I can’t tell you how empowering it was to be able to save
an animal’s life like that (especially after a couple of glasses of red
I felt lucky that we must have seen it not that long
after it had rolled over, but it was just beginning to get a little dark
so the animal would have got pretty cold during the night, exposed like
that, not to mention any predators appearing on the scene.
So ― once again, thank you!
Carol (and Paul)
Now how smiley is that? And that’s one pretty lucky sheep for it is
certain that it would not have survived the night.
Above, I refer to Carol as “A Kentish Lady!”
Being from Kent, obviously, I was reminded of Frank Muir
(1920-1998) an English comedy writer, raconteur and media personality.
Sadly, Muir died soon after the release of his
autobiography, A Kentish Lad.
Although I haven’t read it ― as is my wont when it comes
to books; I plead ignorance because there aren’t enough hours in the day
― I am reliably told that it is a good read.
However, I remember hearing this tale from his book, and
curiously I heard it repeated on a Welsh language radio show.
Now the one thing we are intimately familiar with here in
rural Wales is driving along narrow country lanes, where you can only
pass another vehicle by either going onto the verge, with all its
attendant risks, or reversing to purpose-built mini lay-bys
strategically placed along the lanes.
Anyway, let Frank tell the story of approaching a blind
corner on such a typical country lane:
Round the corner ahead came a woman driver, in a
clapped-out, dented Morris Minor. She missed the wing of my beautiful
Lagonda by a centimetre, wound down her window furiously and yelled at
I snorted, drove on round the corner and hit a pig.
Frank added this amusing postscript:
NB: Anybody using my
pig story without saying where they got it from will be hounded through
the law courts of Europe.
At this stage, I can safely add that the BBC recently sped round a blind
corner and hit a pig by the name of Savile.
PS: I see that Carol, the Kentish Lady, is a photographer ― and I
mean a proper photographer, so here’s a link...
PPS: Given that a sheep
has provided today’s smile, I thought it a good time to update
400 Smiles A Day
with the tale of Sir Tom, the Randy Ram...
Sunday, November 18
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...
WELL, I guess it was the first proper morning of
winter: cold, frosty, perfectly still ― with the Towy Valley shrouded in
fog. Along my morning walk though, it was surprisingly picturesque with
the trees looming like XXL ghosts out of the mist.
Ah yes, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.
Talking of trees, I become extremely nervous every time I
spot an ash in case the dreaded Chalara fraxinea dieback disease has
arrived in this corner of the world ― when I first encountered the name of
the disease I misheard it as the Clarissa Dickson Wright Dieback, and I
thought: poor buggers, those trees have their goose well and truly
Anyway, back with the ash disease: it’s really only a
matter of time, indeed, it is probably here in west Wales already.
This set me thinking: It began all those years ago with Dutch elm disease
... then came acute oak decline, bleeding conker canker (actually,
affecting both horse and sweet chestnut trees), the aforementioned
Chalara dieback of ash ― with various degrees of diseases affecting
spruce, pine, larch, cypress, juniper and God knows what else.
Do you suppose
the disasters overtaking so many of our trees are a ‘red alert’ warning
Trees, like all living things, have an immune system. Now
ponder the endless pollution and poisons we have pumped into the
atmosphere since the dawn of the industrial revolution, and our poor old
trees occupy the front line of life as we know it on this planet,
breathing and drinking everything that’s
How can their immune systems not be compromised by all
this human plunder, pillage, burning and rape?
And what affects the trees today will affect we humans
tomorrow. Indeed, I regularly read of a marked increase in the incidents
of cancers, and worryingly affecting people at an ever younger age.
Thank goodness then that a degree of humour remains
through it all. A recent letter in the Daily Mail, from a Michael
Tarrant of Welling in Kent, wondered if there could possibly be
something out there called Leylandii Lynch disease?
And at the Crazy Horsepower, this very lunchtime, Dai
Aphanous mentioned in passing that there’s a fellow working for the
local Forestry Commission called Ashley David Backhouse ― he is now
known to one and all as Ash Dai Back.
I do so hope that’s true. Sadly though, I’m fairly sure
it’s just a rather good joke.
Thinking outside the chocolate box...
Later, I was surfing the Telegraph web site,
and I came across something to lift the spirits, this picture gallery:
10 best chocolate-box cottages
Now have you ever seen anything so chocolate-box-looking
as this in your life?
If you’ve got £450,000 handy, and you rather fancy living
in a chocolate box, then Pimpernel Cottage at Old Hills, Worcestershire,
could be just the homestead on the hill to satisfy your taste buds.
I quote: As well as four bedrooms, an immaculate
thatched roof and a well-maintained, mature garden, the property comes
with views of the Worcestershire hills. It is only four miles from
Malvern, perfect for shops and trains. Even the most recalcitrant city-bound
grandchildren have no excuse not to visit.
Knight Frank (01905 723438;
I was somewhat taken aback that it boasts four bedrooms
... bags I the
Blueberry Truffle Nogood Boyo bedroom.
Saturday, November 17
Add laughing-stock to taste...
PRECISELY a week ago, I remarked on the resignation of
George Entwistle, the BBC’s Director-General.
I said this:
Tonight, Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, strode out of New
Broadcasting House in London (alongside George Entwistle), his hands
firmly stuck in his pockets the whole time, looking for all the world as
if he would rather have been listening to the Last Post on BBC One’s
The Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance. Little things say
Many a true word spoken in jest: over the past week,
pressure has been mounting on the “Good Lord!”
to resign as he increasingly comes under fire for “taking his eyes off
the ball” ― while holding ten other jobs. Yes, TEN.
You couldn’t make it up.
Patten, apart from being the proud possessor of two public-sector pensions (MP’s
pension as well as a European Commissioner’s pension) is paid £110,000 to work for the BBC, often just
three days a week.
Additionally, he allegedly has ten other jobs, including working
for an oil company, an energy company and a transport, property &
telecommunications conglomerate, all earning him up to £200,000 a year.
Given how pathetic we men are at multitasking, no wonder
he’s totally useless at overseeing what is going on at the BBC. After
all, he was the man who appointed George ‘Winnie the Pooh’ Entwistle in
the first place.
There was a smiley editorial piece about the BBC in today’s
Bring back the Test Card
Given all its recent problems, the BBC should consider
reintroducing a bit of peace and quiet into its schedules.
On Coronation Day, from which so many memories of
television date, at 6.30pm, the end of the children’s hour, came the
announcement: “For the older ones who may be watching this evening ― we
start our transmission at eight o’clock. That’s all for now, so goodbye
This was nothing out of the ordinary. Until 1957, the
“toddlers’ truce” gave parents a nightly hour to put the children to bed
without the distraction of noisy television.
This week we have heard quite a bit about BBC television.
In all the chatter, one concept has been missing: peace and quiet, down
time, a pause.
From the black and white snowstorm of 50 years ago, some
pieces of footage stand out. One was the Potter’s Wheel, an intermission
film, up to four minutes long. Alternatives were waves breaking on the
shore, and, less soothingly, a frisky white kitten (called Snowy, from
Barnet, though few knew it at the time).
When no programmes were broadcast, the Test Card gave
help to TV repair-men, who used to play such a large part in national
...from 1967 to 1998, Carole Hersee spent 70,000 hours with her clown,
Bubbles, on Test Card F, above. It may have lacked the Potter’s Wheel’s
tranquillity, but at least, unlike 24-hour broadcasting, it didn’t burst
into the room like a violent burglar.
A radical step now would be to close down BBC Three and
Four. For the rest, a sound economic and cultural step would be at times
to bring back the Test Card.
The above is an interesting perspective on the troubles at the Beeb. The
online comments overwhelmingly reacted with “Switch the bloody thing off
instead then” ― or words to that effect, thus missing the point
However, reading between the lines of the Telegraph View
piece ― pun intended ― what the paper seemed to be saying is that the
BBC is simply churning out too much stuff, particularly programmes of
sub-standard, child-like quality i.e. less is actually more, BBC.
Like the modern day EU, or the USSR of yesteryear, the
BBC is now so big it is ungovernable and out of control. Witness the
absolute uselessness of Good Lord Patten.
However, I did thoroughly enjoy this comment from
Kleggsemptyscrote: When I turn off my TV set, I Blu-Tack a picture of
the test card over the screen, and it gives me an enormous sense of
Perfectly judged and very smiley, Kleggo-something.
Personally, I think the BBC should bring back a different
Test Card. How about this marvellous US road sign, spotted by one Mike
...both amusing and ironic. Very modern BBC.
Staying with the Telegraph, I enjoyed this letter
Eliot’s favourite story
SIR – Valerie Eliot (Obituaries, November 12) did share
memories of her husband sometimes. When Bertrand Russell died, she wrote
of her husband’s favourite story.
Late one evening, Eliot stopped a taxi. As he got in, the
driver said: “You’re T S Eliot.” When asked how he knew, he replied:
“Ah, I’ve got an eye for a celebrity. Only the other evening I picked up
Bertrand Russell, and I said to him: ‘Well, Lord Russell, what’s it all
about?’ and, do you know, he couldn’t tell me.”
John Bromley-Davenport, Malpas, Cheshire
Intrigued, I looked up some dates: Russell died in 1970; Cilla Black had
a hit with Alfie (What’s
it all about, Alfie?) in 1966. It’s
quite wonderful when all the dots join up.
this actually be
it all about?
The tranquillity of the BBC’s Potter’s Wheel
A week is a long time in politics
Harold Wilson (1916-1995)
years is an eternity in politics
Chief Wise Owl (1932 - still going strong)
is true that 400 smiles a day keep the doctor at bay ― and I believe it
is ― then prepare to generate one instant smile that will repeat over
and over every time you think of the subject matter.
But first, who would have thought that in the People’s
Republic of China, in just 40 years flat, the country can go from this
poster ― Madame Mao (Jiang Qing), wife of Chairman Mao Tse-tung (Mao
Zedong), promoting the joys of
‘The Little Red Book’...
thoughts of Mao Zedong illuminate the stages of revolutionary art!”
― to this...
very own Sally Bercow?
Actually, no, it’s China’s next first lady, Peng Liyuan, wife of new
leader Xi Jinping, driving the lads doolally
Picture: Sipa Press / Rex Features
A quick Chinese take-away
With a revolutionary hero for a father and a pop star for
a wife, China’s new leader Xi Jinping, 59, has impeccable political
pedigree but has given few clues about how he will govern the country.
Perhaps we should look to his good lady, Peng Liyuan, 49, for clues.
She certainly appears to have the knack of making the lads scream and
While it is tempting to think of her as China’s answer to
Sally Bercow, the country’s next first lady is, it seems, a dazzling
singer in her own right, whose profile has long eclipsed that of her
husband. It is generally thought that she will bring a touch of glamour
to a role hidden in the shadows for decades.
A soprano known for singing the praises of the party,
Peng holds the rank of army general and starred for 24 years in an
annual Lunar New Year gala broadcast on state television and watched by
hundreds of millions of viewers.
But what a picture, what a photograph. I smile every time
I think about it.
It’s fascinating to note that Jiang Qing, who became
Chairman Mao’s third wife, much against the wishes of the Party
leadership it seems ― and featured in the poster, at the top ― was herself a
moderately successful actress in her 20s, when a close friend introduced
her to Mao Zedong.
Eventually, the Party was appeased on the condition that
Jiang Qing limited herself to the role of a housewife and refrained from
playing any role in politics (including making public appearances with
him) for the duration of 20 years. Strange but apparently true.
PS: I have just read this piece in the Western Mail
by Rhodri Morgan, a Welsh Labour politician and who was leader of the
Welsh Assembly Government from 2000 to 2009, now retired, but writing a
weekly “Mr Wales” ― eek!
― column in the paper...
Silence lies at the heart of history’s magic moments
AT its 18th Party Congress just finished, the Chinese
Communist Party has squeezed out a new name, Xi Jinping, for us to get
used to, as the leader of the world’s “other” superpower.
No-one knows how the selection was made. All we know is
that this handover happens every 10 years. At the end of his decade in
power, it is entirely possible that Xi Jinping will be the boss of the
world’s leading superpower. What a responsibility!
The Congress in Beijing was all very smooth compared to
the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR in 1956. That
was when the new Party supremo Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin for
crimes against humanity to the thousands of delegates. This was just
three years after Stalin’s death and only 11 years after the highest
achievement of the USSR, the defeat of Hitler in 1945.
After a couple of hours of listening to an account of all
the show trials and all the terror and starvation, the stunned delegates
were then asked if they would like to put any questions to Comrade
Khrushchev. One was brave enough to write his question down on a piece
of paper. Khrushchev read it out:
“Comrade ― if you knew about these atrocities all along,
why did you not speak out about it at the time?”
His reply was: “This question is unsigned. Which delegate
is asking it?”
Nobody put their hand up. Total silence.
Then Khrushchev said: “Now you know why I did not speak
out at the time!”
One of history’s magic moments.
Thursday, November 15
More tea, Your Grace?
IS a very strange feeling when you find yourself having odds quoted on
you at a bookies. Generally speaking, I am not a horse.” Dr Justin
Welby, 56, the 105th successor to the Church of England’s most senior
post, the Archbishop of Canterbury; Dr Welby turned his back on a
six-figure salary and executive lifestyle in the oil exploration
business to pursue a life in the church.
Dr Welby’s quote generated quite a chuckle. And hey, as a
bonus, a senior man of the church sporting a self-deprecating sense of
humour. Unsurprisingly, it would appear that he’s not the only one in
the family to enjoy a little horseplay when it comes to dressing up.
Dr Welby’s daughter Katharine, 26, posted a picture of
herself posing with a Mitre-shaped Tea Cosy in an IKEA store on Twitter
following the announcement of her father’s new position...
Smashing. She certainly looks a chip off the old block. And I’ll tell you what, from that picture, Dr Welby
firmly into the dolphin/pussycat/sparrow category. Definitely a lay-by
as opposed to a roundabout, a fellow you’d be more than happy to pull
in, stop and have a quick chat and a laugh with.
There followed a letter in The Times:
Sir, Am I right in thinking that the new Archbishop of
Canterbury has more business experience than the Prime Minister, the
Deputy Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer combined?
MATHEW EATOUGH, London SW1
Sadly, and much more worryingly, Mathew could also have
included the current Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, 64,
who will shortly put his feet up, supported by a gold-plated,
index-linked pouffe of a pension, while we poor buggers have to struggle
by with our feet firmly on the ground.
Quiet please, game on
As is my wont, I Googled Mervyn King ― and I was
confronted by two people:
Mervyn King (economist)
Mervyn King (darts player)
wonder the country is in a financial mess: both occupations are wholly
At the third stroke, it will be precisely o’clock
asks if ‘o’clock’ is one word or two? It is three words – ‘of the
clock’.” Andy Cole of Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, in a letter to The
Giving us the pips: 55 Days At Hundred Acre Wood
“He showed the leadership qualities of Winnie the Pooh.”
Former Tory Cabinet minister David Mellor, 63, on George Entwistle,
50, the former BBC director-general who lasted just 55 days in the job.
That reminded me of this most wonderful of Winnie the
Pooh quotes ― and I too plead guilty as charged:
“Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”
I have just been enjoying some glorious AA Milne/Winnie
the Pooh quotes, for example, this from Pooh’s Little Instruction
Book (and slightly paraphrased), which reminded me why I enjoy
calling at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon:
“It is more fun to talk with
someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy
‘What about another drink?’.”
“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”
Wednesday, November 14
Happy Birthday, dear BBC,
Happy Birthday to you!
ALONG most of my walk through time, the BBC has been the
eye-catching buttonhole on the nation’s lapel, a Corporation the country
was justifiably proud of, if only because the rest of the world (mostly)
admired its output and what it stood for.
If folk in a faraway place with a strange sounding name
wanted to know what was really happening on its own doorstep, it tuned
in to the BBC’s World Service.
I have a soft spot for the BBC. It is my default
broadcaster, especially so its radio stations. At £2.80 a week, it is by
far my best value for money purchase (I cough up £10.90 a week to Sky just to
watch a bit of rugby and some American Football ― and I have the cheek to
label other people doolally).
Be that as it may, at a point some 70-odd years along its
90-year journey through time, the BBC began to morph into just another
common or garden, foul-mouthed broadcaster. Suddenly it became an
organisation you shouldn’t really turn your back on; as you never should
when dealing with anyone who communicates in obscenity.
I have to admit, the “Happy birthday, dear BBC” above
came through slightly gritted teeth. “Gritted” being the operative word
because the BBC now finds itself on black ice, an untreated stretch of
road, and the Corporation has been slipping and sliding towards the
My goodness, watching the BBC unravel is like having a
variation on the theme of an Advent Calendar on the wall: an Adversity
Calendar. Each time a new window opens, something quite dreadful,
carrying a large shovel, clambers through to dig an even bigger hole.
So how did the BBC crumble in such a spectacular fashion?
Well, I believe you can trace it back to a sort of
mid-life crisis. On the eve of its 43rd birthday, on November 13, 1965,
Kenneth Tynan became the first person to use the f-word on a live BBC TV
debate. The Corporation’s irreversible decline become inevitable.
Those in charge at the BBC decided that, if they chose to
communicate obscenely in front of their own grandchildren, children,
parents, grandparents, friends and colleagues, then they should jolly
well be allowed to speak in front of the rest of the nation in like
The rose that was the nation’s buttonhole would slowly
but surely be replaced by stinging nettles and thistles called Ramsay,
Ross, Brand, Naughtie, Marr et al.
When I watch Have I got News For You, I am
always taken aback when transient hosts such as Kirsty Young, Clare
Balding (who is shortly to host a Sunday morning religious spot on BBC
radio), Jo Brand and Jeremy Clarkson have their foul utterances bleeped
out ― I am not shocked or upset, I simply wonder what they are trying to
Is it that they want to join Kenneth Tynan, Jonathan Ross
and Russell Brand as the thistles on the nation’s lapel?
Now I have nothing against the use of obscene language
per se. I happily drink at a watering hole I fondly refer to as the
Asterisk Bar ― but I go there out of choice. Also, inside my head
there’s a snow globe, except the snow is actually the letters of the
alphabet: when someone really stamps on my foot, or rattles my cage, all
those letters float around inside the clear liquid, creating words you
never hear in the Bible...
Crucially though, writ large on the globe is this: “Shake
in emergency only!”
Whatever, the moment the BBC decided it had every right
to enter my home and spew forth obscenities, even if disguised as
bleeps, that was the moment fate decreed that it was riding into the
mother of all ambushes.
Perhaps this should be the BBC’s current motto...
Anyway, the BBC celebrated its 90th birthday today. At precisely 5.33pm,
Radio Reunited, a three-minute filler went out on all of the BBC’s
national, local and regional radio stations, as well as the World
Service ― there’s
a link to the piece at the bottom.
It was an assemblage of listeners’ recorded messages,
focusing on the future, the next 90 years, messages in a bottle, sort of
which explains why children’s voices feature large. On its first listen
I found it pretty much impossible to empathise with ― but a few repeats
brought it into focus. I enjoyed these lines...
A child’s voice:
“Hello future. I hope
music still matters because music is everything. Without it there’s
nothing, just silence.”
Not strictly true, but I know what she means. Let’s hope the DJs stop
talking over the music then.
a rather sophisticated adult female voice:
“Keep talking to one another. Keep listening to
one another. These are the ways to keep living with one another.”
As Winston Churchill famously said: “To jaw-jaw is
always better than to war-war.” Yep, there’s
nothing new under the sun.
to another very young female voice:
“I think there will
be more people. And because there will be more people I would tell them
to be careful, not to get lost, ‘cause it might be, like, really, really
That last one is fascinating: the more people there are,
the less likely we are to interact with one another. Which neatly
explains why small-ish communities get on rather well.
I dreamed a curious dream
After listening to Radio Reunited, I had a dream: I was
about 18, driving the second car I owned, a TR3, a proper sports car ―
boy, did I enjoy that car, and at an age a young Nogood Boyo About Town
should own a sports car ― anyway, the dream ... I was driving along, on
my own, and I approached a road sign which read:
Welcome to The End Of The World ... Please drive carefully
I drove, very carefully, through a pretty little village ...
but there were no people about, no pets, nothing, totally deserted ... I
exited the village and I kept driving straight ahead, towards a cliff
and what was the open sea beyond ― but I couldn’t stop the car ... as I
shot off the edge into oblivion, the very last sign I saw declared:
Lessons have been learnt
I awoke with a start ― and my first thought? God, lying
to our very last breath...
Radio Reunited – compliments of BBC listeners
Tuesday, November 13
Compare and contrast
one of life’s little joys. Flicking casually through a newspaper or
magazine ... and coming across a photograph that momentarily stops your
progress. Such images come in all shapes and sizes, whether in colour,
black-and-white or yesteryear’s sepia toning.
It comes as no surprise then that the photographs that
have me performing a handbrake turn are those which invariable generate
a smile, whether in the name of delight, admiration, curiosity or
revelation (what I term in Welsh a “wel-i-jiw-jiw” moment, in English, a
“well I’ll go to the foot of our stairs” experience).
And I’m not necessarily talking about obviously amusing
pictures. Just occasionally though, a couple of photographs which, in
isolation, will draw an extended glance of curiosity ― but place them
together ― well now...
First up, some images of David Beckham, Mr Posh Spice,
which I have to say did make me smile. As I have mentioned in previous
dispatches, tattoos, much like fashion, jewellery, make-up, expensive
motors, extravagant homes, obscene language in normal day-to-day
conversations and having a twitter account, are all classic
signs of lack of self-esteem.
Lack of self-esteem does not make you a bad person, just
that you have a need to continually project your very existence onto an
imaginary large screen, with endless firework displays going off in the
One of the kindest and nicest women I know
suffers a lack of self-esteem: she spends a fortune on fashion and accessories. I
continually attempt to wean her off her addiction by never mentioning
how fashionable she looks ― but she knows my little game and ignores the
fact that I ignore her appearance.
Anyway, here’s the nice Mr Beckham...
So what precisely is David trying to tell us? It’s a
puzzle. There again, maybe not.
And then this picture of American prisoners, looking for
all the world as if they’re about to break into the Haka, the version
that ends with the slitting-of-throat routine as performed by the New
Zealand All Blacks (quite why they are allowed to do that on prime-time
TV escapes me).
Anyway, the American prisoners...
The photograph was used to highlight a piece about large
numbers of inmates living in such proximity that it regularly leads to
clashes and violence between the men. But I was transfixed.
You have to admit though, whatever your point of view,
the tattoos project a picture that paint a million words ― onto a very
large screen with fireworks going off in the background...
Believe nothing you hear and only half what you see
WOULD only lose weight if it affected my health or my sex life, which it
doesn’t.” Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, 24, better known simply as
Adele, English singer-songwriter and musician, and songbird of the new
James Bond theme, Skyfall.
How tickled I am that one of her middle names is Blue,
for I seem to recall someone saying that she is exceedingly colourful of
Anyway, Adele’s thoughts on her chubbiness leads me to
this letter in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph ― stick with it, for
there is something wonderfully smiley trailing in the letter’s wake...
stretches belief with its train-top tussle
The train-top fight in the new Bond film Skyfall is less
SIR – Following your excellent review my wife and I
recently went to see Skyfall, the latest James Bond film. Yes, it is
possibly the best Bond yet. But why, when Bond is fighting with an
assassin on top of a train in Turkey during the pre-credits sequence, do
the filmmakers ignore one of the most basic safety features of rail
When the assassin Bond is chasing shoots through the
train coupling, the train begins to leave Bond’s carriage behind.
However, if the baddie has been lucky enough to uncouple the part of the
train containing our hero ― couplings being somewhat resistant to light
calibre bullets ― then the brake hoses part, and the brakes are applied
automatically. This simple fact applies throughout the world.
So, thanks to Victorian design, Bond would have got his
man, and the world would have been saved, before Adele even started
Neat, but perhaps by suspending our belief for just one
moment, Sam Mendes, the film’s director, does it better.
Ralph Ingham, Tingley, West Yorkshire
followed this witty online comment from
“So, thanks to Victorian design, Bond would have got
his man, and the world would have been saved, before Adele even started
singing. Please forgive my ignorance ― is Adele a fat lady?”
How wonderfully clever is that? Yup, the film would have
been over even before the fat lady sings.
But here’s the astonishing part. Today, Monday, I paid a
return visit to the comment section where I spotted the above, just to
see if any other observations worthy of note had been added.
my surprise then that one dash, five words and a question mark,
“― is Adele a fat
had been removed, and
“Edited by a
had added this:
“Correction, please don’t forgive the moderator’s
How extraordinary then that a Telegraph
moderator had removed the “fat lady” reference, when Adele herself
acknowledges that she is a somewhat plump bird of fancy ― witness the
quote at the very top.
It’s a doolally world out there for sure.
“Bond. James Bond.”
Whatever, with the release of Skyfall, the meeja has been
awash with some of the best lines from the 007 films. Perhaps the most
memorable is the one above, which surfaces in the very first film, Dr
Closely followed by this from Goldfinger
James Bond: “Do you expect me to talk?”
Goldfinger: “No, Mr Bond. I expect you to die.”
Others of note ... this from Diamonds are Forever
Mr Bond: “Weren’t you a blonde when I came in?”
Tiffany Case: “Could be.”
Mr Bond: “I tend to notice little things like that, whether a
girl is a blonde or a brunette.”
Tiffany: “And which do you prefer?”
Mr Bond: “Oh, providing the collars and cuffs match...”
Someone called Furry Badger added: “Had to wait until
adulthood to get it...”
This, from GoldenEye
M: “If I want sarcasm, Mr Tanner, I’ll talk to my
children, thank you very much.”
From Russia with Love
Tatiana Romanova: “I think my mouth is too big.”
Mr Bond: “It’s just the right size ... for me, that is.”
Ah yes, like all the best lines, it’s all in the mind.
For Your Eyes Only
Mr Bond (walks into a Greek Confessional Booth):
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”
Q (removes disguise): “That’s putting it mildly, 007!”
Live and Let Die
Mr Big (to his men):
this the stupid mother who tailed you uptown?”
seems to be some mistake. My name is ―”
is for tombstones, baby. Y’all take this honkey out and waste him. Now!”
The World Is Not Enough ... and the
lovely Denise Richards plays Dr Jones...
Mr Bond: “Miss...?”
Dr Jones: “Doctor ... Jones. Christmas Jones. And don’t make any
jokes. I’ve heard them all.”
Mr Bond: “I don’t know any doctor jokes.”
Later, Mr Bond puns shamelessly in bed with the good
Doctor Jones: “I thought Christmas only came once a year.”
I found myself wondering what I would say if, with my little eye, I
espied Christmas Jones across a crowded room, and I then approached her
... “Gosh, I haven’t felt this excited since ― oh, since I was but
knee-high to a tall story, peering out of the bedroom window on the
evening of the 24th of December, before reluctantly going to bed and
thinking ... Christmas can’t come soon enough...”
The Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month...
BRITAIN remembers its fallen heroes, how fitting to be presented with
this spectacular display of home-grown poppies...
The beautiful image above was taken by
43, at Blackstone Farm nature reserve in Bewdley, Worcestershire, during
a one-week window when the poppies appear in full bloom.
Alan released photographs of the poppies ― whose seeds
can lie dormant in soil for more than 80 years before germinating ― as a
moving tribute in time for Remembrance Sunday, today, November 11.
He explained: “There’s only a small window to take
the pictures because they are only in bloom for one week during the
year, and they never last very long. There was a lot of planning and
research involved in getting the perfect shots.
“I went to the field at 3.30am in the morning and spent
four hours taking pictures around sunrise and then returned in the
evening to take pictures before sunset, when the light is much softer.
It brings out the colour and contrast in a more harmonious way.”
What particularly caught my eye was the horse on the
embankment ― I’m not wholly convinced it was actually there ...
something to do with scale ― whatever, it coincided perfectly with a
photograph that caught my eye in the weeks leading up to Remembrance
The Heavy Horse beside the M8 motorway at Baillieston,
Glasgow wears a poppy designed by the statue’s creator, Andy Scott, to
raise awareness of this year’s Poppy Appeal.
The eye-catching image was taken by photographer Mark
Owens. My only critique is that there is no sense of scale. I mean, just
how big is the horse? And the poppy?
Beautiful statue though, captured to perfection by a beautiful shot.
Saturday, November 10
Here’s another fine mesh you’ve gotten us into
DOUBLE-BARREL surnames are on the way out, I see. The new trend is for
newlyweds to fuse their surnames together in a show of unity and
equality: John Smith and Sarah Jones become Mr & Mrs Smones.
The practice, known as meshing, originally became popular
in the States a few years back and has now, surprise, surprise, caught
on with couples here in the UK.
This amusing short piece from the Telegraph:
Spliced as wan and mife
The trend for couples to blend their names when they
marry carries hidden dangers
The latest trend is for couples to blend their names when
they marry. The example always given is of Michael Pugh and Rebecca
Griffin, who changed their name by deed poll to become Mr and Mrs
Puffin. A perfectly good name too.
But what would have happened if Mr Pugh had fallen in
love with Miss Tomkin? Would they have been happy as the Pumkins? Or if
Mr Murdoch had met Miss Griffin, and they became the Muffins?
Perhaps Samantha Cameron might not have minded trading in
her maiden name of Sheffield for Camfield, but it wouldn’t have been
much good to be Shameron. Miriam González drew the short straw anyway,
name-wise, by becoming Mrs Clegg, and she’d hardly be consoled by having
hidden dangers at every level, all the way from Bosh and Pecks to the
The piece drew this response in the Letters page:
SIR – Regarding Mr Pugh and Miss Griffin’s decision to
“mesh their names as Puffin” (report, November 9) ― my wife’s maiden
name is Brownrigg. I don’t think we’ll bother.
N J Laycock,
Hm, Layrigg ... sounds perfectly fine to me.
though if Adam Fudge married Eve Tucker. Um, Adam and Eve Tudge?
Born to be poor
“How will Warren Buffett’s son
spend his fortune?”
was a headline in the newspaper.
Now isn’t Buffett one of the wealthiest individuals on
the planet? If not the richest?
Whatever, in response to the headline question, there’s a wonderful Welsh proverb, which
loosely translates thus: “The first generation generates the cash; the
next generation worship it, even build upon it; the third generation
piss it up against a wall.”
Well, I’ll tell you, as someone who has lived his life in
and around a community, together with the tales handed down through the
generations, I assure you that the proverb is ruthlessly true to the
The only exception to the rule were the landed gentry,
who married within the same class system, thus ensuring that the next
generation was born to handle possessions, position and power.
However, back in 1894, the modern form of death duties were introduced
and politicians then became the third generation ― and crucially, from the Second
World War on, people like Atlee, Wilson, Heath, Thatcher, Blair, Brown,
Cameron and Clegg proceeded to piss it up against the wall. With gusto.
And that, folks,
is why we are now such a piss-poor nation.
The very last thing I saw on television tonight was a news item on the
resignation of George Entwistle, the director-general of the BBC.
Ignore the grand, sweeping and self-important things
people say and do, my mother always insisted, it’s those little
throwaway, spontaneous and seemingly unimportant things which really
tell you everything you ever need to know…
Tonight, Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, strode
out of New Broadcasting House in London, alongside George Entwistle, and
the Good Lord Patten
had his hands firmly stuck in his pockets the whole time, looking for
all the world as if he would rather have been listening to the Last Post
on BBC One’s The Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance.
Little things say so much.
And what of George Entwistle? Well, the moment we knew that it was he
who was responsible for the BBC’s extraordinary child-like coverage of
the Queen’s Jubilee River Pageant, here was a man hopelessly out of his
depth, and reports of his drowning were never, ever going to be greatly
Close Encounters of the White Van Kind
Tweetie Pie Corner
“Cycling past a bus stop and an
obese man points at me and yells ‘Bradley Wiggins’. Everybody laughed. I
couldn’t think up a retort fast enough.” Jeremy Vine, 47, British
broadcaster, author, journalist and brother of Tim ‘One-liner’ Vine, on
the legacy of the Olympic Games.
Why is there
never a White Van Woman around when you really need her?
Talking of which...
Gosh, never mind being The Man Who Shot Liberty
Valance, imagine being The Woman Who Knocked Bradley Wiggins Off
believe the newspaper headline says “Wiggins is on track”, but sadly old
Wiggo went seriously off-piste the other evening.
The lady van driver who knocked Bradley off his bike on
Wednesday night was in shock: “What have I done? Oh my God, I’ve just
knocked over Bradley Wiggins!”
The driver, named as 38-year-old Cath Burrows, a Porsche
repair specialist ― that somehow adds insult to injury, thank God she
wasn’t actually driving a White Porsche Van ― was said to be “mortified” after
realising she had hit Wiggins, one of the gold medal-winning heroes of
London 2012. She told a friend that she did not see the cyclist.
Her friend said: “It’s bad enough to knock anyone off a
bike but imagine you’ve just floored the most famous cyclist on the
Poor thing, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, even a
Porsche dealer. Thank goodness Bradley seems okay.
Even though Cath Burrows is to be summoned over driving
without due care and attention, it all brought to mind a recent
conversation with a local businessman who owns a retail outlet situated along the
main road through Llandeilo.
The other weekend morning, he was telling me, just before
eight, the weather dry but heavily overcast and murky, he prepares to
pull out from in front of his premises into the traffic flow ― in his
white van, as it happens. He checks the mirror ... all clear ... begins
to pull out ― and a cyclist zooms past, shouting at him to watch what
It gives him quite a start. He duly pulls out and follows
the biker, who he knew as a local man anyway. As he follows, he notices how
difficult the rider is to spot dressed in his black cycling outfit. He
overtakes him, stops, gets out of his van and flags down the cyclist.
They exchange a few words, without it becoming nasty, threatening or
“I’m sorry I didn’t see you coming up behind me,” says
our White Van Man, “but have you any idea what you look like? It’s
impossible to spot you in a mirror on a gloomy morning like this,
especially coming down that hill so fast. Touch-wood, I’ve pulled out
from in front of the shop thousands of times without incident ― but I
assure you, in the mirror you were invisible. Why don’t you wear
something bright or have some flashing lights or something? The last
thing I want to do is cause an accident due to you being the invisible
And of course, White Van Man is absolutely right on this
one. Just the other day I made the comment that when everybody is
high-visibility, then nobody is.
But if there is one group of people who should be XL
HI-VIS, then it is the cyclists on our roads.
Dishing the dirt
My only white van experience is a dirty one ... a
battered and bruised old van I spotted a few years back, parked up
not a million miles from my previous abode, as it happens.
I have mentioned this particular van in
dispatches before ― its mucky condition drew the local graffiti artists
like flies to you-know-what. Mind you, the main message scribbled into
the dirt is so good it deserves a replay...
The above also reminds me of something Dai Version of
Crazy Horsepower Saloon infamy recently told me:
“I once saw a very mucky white van, on which someone had
written in the dirt: 'I wish my wife was as dirty as this!'
Underneath, in different handwriting, was scrawled: 'She is.'”
Thursday, November 8
Wake me up before I go-go ga-ga
“BEING rather aged, I dropped off for a moment, and on being woken by my
wife, I was briefly disorientated.”
Sir Peter Hall, 82, theatre director, apologising for heckling during
the closing scene of Uncle Vanya at London’s Vaudeville Theatre.
I actually chuckled in some detail at this incident,
last Sunday’s smile of the day. However, I repeat Hall’s apology because
of an amusing letter in today’s Daily Telegraph:
A good nap interrupted
SIR – Sir Peter Hall is not the first to have snoozed at
the theatre. The music critic Evan Senior was noted for this. Once
during Carmen, at Covent Garden, there was a sustained ringing on the
triangle, which sounded much like the telephone bell of the time. Evan
awoke and was clearly heard to utter his number, as if taking a call.
Rodney Bennett, Richmond, Surrey
How wonderful. And totally believable, for we do indeed
do all sorts of strange things when we awake with a start. This online
also tickled my funny bone:
Rodney Bennett’s letter about critics asleep in the
theatre reminds me of the story of Neville Cardus, the Guardian’s music
critic, who reviewed a piano recital he was unable to attend,
enthusiastically damning a performance of Chopin’s First Ballade.
When a reader pointed out that the artist had changed his
programme, and had actually played Schumann’s Kinderszenen instead,
Cardus loftily replied that, from where he was sitting, it sounded like
Chopin’s First Ballade.
Cherry blossom time
whatsoever to do with snoozing at the theatre, or anywhere else come to
that, I rather enjoyed this
online comment from
In a Len Deighton
book he describes a chap who was in line for a top Whitehall job, but
they invited him to lunch at a “posh” club to test his etiquette ―
serving him cherry tart and eagerly observing how he disposed of the
cherry stones. He fooled them by swallowing the stones and all.
...to laugh with you, to cry with you...
Lovely Glad Eyes (Gwladys, or Glad, to her family and
friends), is with hubby
Ivor the Engine in the lounge watching TV: “What are you doing?” she
Ivor replies: “Nothing.”
Glad Eyes retorts: “Nothing!
You’ve been studying our marriage certificate for longer than is
Ivor explains: “I was looking for the ‘use by’
date.” He deflects the cushions coming his way. “But here’s a strange
thing, Glad: a marriage certificate must be the only place where a ‘use
by date’ comes before the ‘sell by date’.”
Her last cushion
hurtles towards him. But she wouldn’t
trade him in for
A quick PS before I go go
Returning to the headline at the very top, whenever I hear the George Michael song Wake Me Up
Before You Go Go, I can never stop picturing that unforgettable
Sun front page headline following the incident in Los Angeles
when Georgie Porgie did something you should never, ever do in front of
the horses, and certainly not in a public place ― anyway, this from the
For a gay Greek-Cypriot from north London, George Michael
has come a long way ... while he dated women in the Eighties, rumours
about his sexuality existed long before he was involuntarily outed in
1998 when he was arrested for lewd contact in a Los Angeles public
incident inspired a classic Sun headline, Zip Me Up Before You Go Go,
and Michael told Q magazine that “running naked up and down Oxford
Street singing ‘I Am What I Am’ would have been a more dignified way to
Georgie Porgie puddin’
and pie, kissed the boys and made them cry...
Wednesday, November 7
I think, therefore I am
UNSURE why, but while stationary for rather a long time at some
temporary road works traffic lights today ... I found myself thinking
about golf, of all things, and wondering if that ultra-dramatic final-day
Ryder Cup win out in America a month or so back was ever celebrated by
an open-top bus tour around Europe?
I would have heard about it, surely? And they’d still be trundling
along. I mean, today’s Europe is a bloody big place.
Then I noticed all the workers milling about the road works sporting
those high-visibility outfits that are now everywhere. Indeed, I’m sure
I read that even the police are about to go hi-vis as well.
I really don’t understand it. When everyone is
high-visibility, then no one is.
Doolally world, doolally people.
All the above came to mind when I read this letter in The Daily
SIR – I had to pay an extra £15 for a heater in my first
new car in 1967, when a radio was not even an option. To this day, I do
not use the now ubiquitous car radio (report, November 6); I prefer to
pay attention to the road ahead and travel in alert silence.
West Woodhay, Berkshire
It prompted me to submit this response...
I do not think, therefore I am not
Sir ― I am intrigued as to how Robert Warner manages to
drive in such alert silence in order to concentrate on the road ahead.
How on earth does he stop himself thinking about that row he had with
the wife over breakfast … the fellow he has to fire when he arrives in
the office … the gorgeously attentive blonde he met at yesterday’s
business meeting … that infuriating letter in this morning’s Daily
Telegraph which demands a response...?
God, I have often found myself driving along, in silence,
on my own ― and suddenly thinking: what the hell am I doing here? I had
meant to turn left about a mile or so back ― but I was in a world of my
own, oblivious to everything, and obviously thinking about that
gorgeously attentive blonde I met at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon
In the meantime, here’s a fairly recent letter from The Times:
Sir, “Double-dip set Britons back £1,800 every year” and
“Free inside, 28-page luxury watch supplement”. Two-tier Britain?
LORD DUNLEATH, Newtownards, Northern Ireland
I quote the above letter because of this timeless quote:
“I once bought a £35,000 watch to cheer myself up.” Harry
Handelsman, 63, German-born property developer who has lived in London
It was a Q&A piece in The Sunday Times
Money section. Here’s the full answer apropos the watch quote:
What’s the most extravagant thing you have ever bought?
“When things weren’t going particularly well in my St
Pancras development, and I was rather in despair, I decided to buy
myself a £35,000 limited edition of a Jaeger-Le Coultre watch. I simply
bought it because I wasn’t happy with how things were going, so I
figured, let me have some extravagance that will put a smile on my face
in this rather miserable time.”
It really is a different world out there. Not so much
“two-tier Britain”, Your Lordship, more “two-tear Britain”.
As it happens I never wear a watch. Well, except when I go on my morning
walks and I need to get back by a certain time. Apart from that, time is
everywhere. And if it isn’t I just ask and people are always delighted
(Truth to tell, I don’t even need to wear a watch while
on my walk because the camera I always carry has the time ― it is just
easier though to look at my watch.)
But more than the watch, I am dazzled by the notion that
Harry Handelsman’s smiles come in at £35,000 a pop. And here I am,
surrounded by things wot make me smile, and all compliments of the
Tuesday, November 6
CLUTCH of locals are gathered around the Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy
Horsepower Saloon. The small talk is about last night’s Guy Fawkes, what
with all the fireworks going off and banging away all over the place and
frightening the horses.
Harry Hankey: “Give me Guy Fawkes any night over
bloody Halloween. All those kids ringing the door bell with their tricks
or treats ― drives me nuts.”
Will Both Ends: “You mentioned all the hassle of
Halloween the other night. I was chatting to the Misses about it. I
don’t understand: we live just up the road from you and we’ve never
had a Halloween caller. Not once.”
Harry Hankey: “Bloody ‘ell, Will, how do you
manage that? Hang about, you live in a flat above a business premises,
so no wonder.”
Will Both Ends: “True, but the stairs lead down to
the front door which opens out onto the pavement, much like all the
other properties either side ― they have Halloween callers, but we
There’s a bit of a pause, broken by Chief Wise Owl:
“Yes, but what is that business downstairs, Will?”
Will Both Ends: “A dentist’s.”
Chief Wise Owl: “Precisely. Now the door to the
flat could easily be mistaken as part of the dentist’s property, yes?”
Will Both Ends: “That’s true ― it has on occasions
Chief Wise Owl: “Mystery solved. How many kids are
going to knock on the door of a dentist’s and demand trick or treat?”
A wave of laughter rushes round the bar. And the moral of
the story? If you want to avoid cold callers and kids ringing your door
bell, live above a dentist’s surgery.
On the sunny side of the street
The cover of the current New York Magazine
features a photograph taken by Iwan Baan on Wednesday, October 31, 2012,
showing New York City’s Manhattan borough, half aglow and half in dark,
after Superstorm Sandy slammed into the east coast.
Now it looks as if the picture was taken around twilight,
late afternoon/early evening, so in a tiny moment of inspiration, I thought I would call
5 o’clock shadow
Memorable image compliments of Iwan Baan and New York Magazine/AP
On the shady side of the street
A sports-themed letter in The Times...
Sir, Hugh Schollick is right that it would benefit all if
footballers followed the example of rugby players and show respect
towards referees. However, I fear the reverse is happening, that rugby
players are aping their footballing counterparts.
Winning in a
professional league appears to be the crude priority for some, with
cynical “professionalism” to achieve an end. Lineouts and scrums become
a time-out designed to disrupt the flow of the game and allow further
instruction from the bench. This is an abuse of the referee. It would be
sad if professional rugby came to mirror professional football.
PETER REYNOLDS, Woodford Green
How true that is. However, I think that ‘the love of money is the root
of all evil’ has entered the equation. Of course rugby players do not
earn anything remotely similar to footballers ― but everything is
relative when it comes to greed.
I have observed that the moment individuals start earning
over double the average national wage ― say £60-75,000 ― they become
entrepreneurs rather than professionals, and from that moment on ethics,
morality and honesty fly out the window. Think what has happened to
doctors and high earners in the health sector of society.
Anyway, The Daily Telegraph then took up the rugby baton
and Brian Moore, an English former rugby union footballer who is now a
rugby presenter and pundit for BBC Sport, had his say...
Rugby must cut out the backchat before it is too
late or criticisms of referees could lead to insubordination
I was particularly amused by these opening paragraphs:
The first came when one irascible referee said to me:
“Moore, stop trying to referee this game.” To which I replied: “Well
sir, one of us has to do it.” He saw the funny side, chortling with each
of the 10 steps he marched me back.
My comeuppance came when another referee nailed me by
saying: “Don’t blame me because you’re playing badly.” A very perceptive
comment and often the real reason for the bad behaviour of many players.
There has always been humour and interaction between
players and officials and nobody wants to lose that. Sometimes some laws
and their interpretations are so opaque that it is justifiable to seek
Essentially, Moore took a thousand words and more,
humorous asides excepted, to say essentially what Peter Reynolds said in
Be that as it may, I was perusing the online comments ... and
someone put a link to this perfectly memorable exchange between Welsh
referee Nigel Owens and Treviso player Tobias Botes.
Can you ever imagine football referees saying something
like this to a player? Sixty-four seconds of magic...
Word of the day: intrinsically
SAUSAGE and mash
feel a few sausages short of a barbie.” The Prince of Wales admitted
jet-lag was catching up with him today as he arrived in Australia.
I’m not sure why, but there’s something intrinsically
comic about that line.
rockets, surgeons and scientists
“There are more
people in employment than ever before because there are more people than
ever before. It is not an economic miracle.” Andrew Hurrell, of
Ammanford [just down the track from Dodgy City], in a letter to the
I’m tempted to add: It’s not rocket surgery. Or brain
science, come to that.
Do you know, there really is nothing intrinsically
superior about Jeremy Paxman ― yes dear reader who hails from that
faraway place with a strange sounding name, you know Jeremy Paxman, the
fellow who looks like a Proboscis monkey and featured in my smile
scrapbook last Tuesday, October 30.
Anyway, there’s nothing particularly special about Jeremy
because there’s a Paxman hiding under every bush and bushel, witness
Andrew Hurrell’s perfectly judged letter, above.
“People always disapprove of me ― when I marry, when I
divorce, when I lose weight, when I put it back on. They disapprove of
everything.” Dawn French, 55, British actress, writer, comedian, and
perceived by most to be a
No Dawn, people do not always disapprove of you. It is
just a tiny group of intrinsically nasty people working in the media who
disapprove of everything you do (aided and abetted of course by an equally small
group of intrinsically poisonous internet trolls).
I can put my hand on my heart and say that I have never
once heard a single person outside of the meeja disapprove of you or anything
A period joke
“If you drain the moisture in your mouth you experience
richness, creaminess and sweetness more intensely and there is really
nothing more absorbing than a tampon.” Heston Blumenthal, 46, British
mad scientist and magician, famed for his
culinary wizardry ― and playing with, err ...
boundaries of physics and flavour to create truly unique eating
According to the Guardian newspaper, this is the
latest slice of wisdom from the old Blumin’-‘Eck Think Tank: “I
use tampons to soak up juices in my mouth so I can enjoy food more. If
you drain the moisture you experience richness and sweetness.”
The chef is famed for his bizarre dishes like curry
ice-cream and snail porridge. But tampons won’t be served up as an
absorbent starter to patrons of his restaurants.
However his latest culinary experiment may leave a sour
taste with some of his foodie fans...
Incidentally, since opening in 1995, Heston’s
restaurant, The Fat Duck, has come to be regarded by many as the UK’s
best restaurant ― one of only four in the country to hold three Michelin
It’s at moments like this that I am overwhelmed with an
intrinsic need to give those
Michelin stars a bit of a kick to see if they are in desperate need of
Indeed I find myself wondering if the Fat Duck should not now
be renamed The Revered Spooner’s Dat Fu- --- yes, well, I shall let you finish off what I guess you could
call a that-time-of-the-month joke...
Sunday, November 4
Would you Adam and Eve it
IT SEEMS a brother and sister managed to capture on
camera a squirrel recreating Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel
The composite image here, compliments of Mail Online,
shows the red squirrel in a Czech Republic park reaching for a walnut in
a pose similar to the Creation of Adam painting in the Vatican City...
Photographer Stanislav Duben, 33, took the photo of his
16 year-old-sister, Aneta, as she fed the squirrel.
He said: “We went to the park with a bag of nuts and
within seconds we were surrounded by squirrels.” Stanislav, from Prague,
took the photo in a park in Mlada Boleslav, in the Czech Republic.
He added: “I was really lucky to get the shot, I didn’t
have time to worry about the settings on my camera and just pressed the
comments section, the appropriately named
took an unexpected take on proceedings:
“I didn’t realise
that in Michelangelo’s painting God was trying to reach that man’s
yes, that would have stopped Adam’s
hanky-panky in its tracks and perhaps avoided him and Eve being banished
smiley image though. But talking of being lucky to get the shot in,
here’s someone who perhaps should have been shot, and not with a camera.
I was attracted by this headline, even though I’ve never watched Downton
Downton Abbey star
heckled at West End opening night by grand old man of theatre
was one of the West End’s most eagerly awaited debuts. Laura Carmichael
had left behind her familiar role as Lady Edith in Downton Abbey to
appear in a new production of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the
But as the 25-year-old delivered the play’s final words
on its opening night it became clear that one member of the audience was
less than impressed.
“Stop, stop, stop,” a mystery voice boomed from the
stalls. “It doesn’t work and you don’t work. It is not good enough. I
could be at home watching television.”
They were stunned to discover that the culprit was none
other than Sir Peter Hall, former director of the National Theatre and a
colossus of the theatre world.
The 82-year-old made a swift exit at the end of Lindsay
Posner’s production, on Friday night, before other members of the
audience had left their seats and his coup de théâtre
appeared to have escaped the attention of even some of the critics.
One wrote that an
individual was responsible for “some disturbance in the auditorium” in
his review, and added that it “all but ruined the final moments”.
As usual, a selection of online comments generated a smile...
basingstoke67: It seems
“Sir Peter’s spokesman would not comment on what
he loudly exclaimed during the production”.
Now, where have I heard something very similar to this
I think it had something to do with a man on a bicycle, a
pair of big gates and a policeman ... s’funny, I seem to recall that the
man involved in that hoo-hah had an overwheening sense of his own
self-importance as well.
ColonelScheissKopf: It’s bizarre. One would
expect a GOD of the theatre to have the courtesy to at least keep his
opinions close to his chest until getting in a taxi afterwards. This is,
sad to say, just plain rudeness, one of the two things in the world
which cause more strife between man and man than anything else. (The
other is bullying ― and there’s a bit of that here too).
Jazz6o6: He was either pissed or he’s becoming
Jeffgoebbels: At least he didn’t do what an
American heckler did in an apparently bad play about Anne Frank. In the
scene where the Germans are searching the house he shouted: “She’s in
PS: Monday morning headline...
Sir Peter Hall apologises for disrupting Laura
Carmichael’s speech in Uncle Vanya, claiming he was “briefly
disorientated” after falling asleep
“I am mortified that I unintentionally disrupted the
final scene of Uncle Vanya and I have sent a personal note to Laura
Carmichael offering my apologies,” Sir Peter told the Evening
The most common word on the comment board was “bollocks!”,
with many urging him to climb down off his high JCB i.e. when you find
yourself in a hole, stop digging.
anyway, the number of times I have been “briefly disorientated” down at
the old Crazy Horsepower Saloon and wished I had been at home watching
television, is nobody’s business.
Saturday, November 3
The tender mouse trap
“I ALWAYS remember
when I was at Claridge’s, we had a mouse that ran across the foyer. And
the very grand man in charge said to a lady who had jumped on a chair:
‘Not one of ours, madam. It’s not wearing a tie.’”
John Thurso, 59, Scottish businessman and Liberal Democrat MP.
Surely, the lady should have responded: “But it
is wearing tails.”
There’s a continuing debate as to whether smoking in cars
should now also be banned in order to protect drivers and passengers
from their own stupidity.
Indubitably yes, according to the British Medical
Association, whose head of science and ethics, Dr Vivienne Nathanson,
said this: “The evidence for extending the smoke-free legislation is
compelling. Sadly, smokers’ groups claim any such law would be an
invasion of privacy.”
I briefly followed an online discussion on the subject
... unsurprisingly, it mostly focussed on the damage smoking in cars must be
Then I stumbled upon this memorable quote:
“Probably all laws are useless; for good men do not want
laws at all, and bad men are made no better by them.”
Demonax, Roman philosopher, circa 150 A.D. (Also known as Demonax the
How wise is that? I forgot about the smoking issue, for I
instantly recalled a letter from last May in The Sunday Times
Slow, quick, slow
On an eight-mile drive last week I went in and out of
five speed limits, each requiring signs at both ends. Britain is a small
country and to facilitate easy movement, speed limits should be uniform
We should not let every tinpot local council invent its
own system. Only one speed limit is required: 30mph in built-up areas
and none elsewhere.
Hazel Prowse, Camberley, Surrey
The contents intrigued me, so much so I responded, and
my reply was duly published...
Hazel Prowse, in taking issue with our country’s range of
speed limits, makes the critical mistake of presuming that everyone
using our roads shares her obvious road sense.
If, as we enter a built-up area (look out: children, old
people, pets, people rushing out from behind parked vehicles, etc, etc),
we have to be instructed by speed limits to slow down ― indeed the
police can pretty much catch us at will exceeding those speed limits ―
it merely proves what an alarmingly stupid species we are. Hazel
excepted, of course.
The point both Hazel and I are making in our own way is spectacularly endorsed by
“Probably all laws are useless; for good men [and women] do not want
laws at all, and bad men [and women] are made no better by them.”
A bit of a drag
Returning to smoking, I am reminded of a line I saw quoted in a
newspaper, a quip which apparently originated in a sitcom called 2
Broke Girls showing on something called E4:
“I smoked for seven
years, then I quit when I was 12.”
Never mind that parents smoke in the presence of their
children, whether in the car or in the home, I am truly astonished that
women continue to smoke when pregnant; you do not need to be an expert
in anything to suggest that, while the child may well escape damage in
the womb depending on the strength of the immune system it has been
blessed with, but by definition, the mother must be putting the child at a
Anyway, I concluded that just marginally paraphrasing the
above sitcom one-liner would make a marvellous anti-smoking promo aimed
at parents in general and pregnant mums in particular:
“I smoked for nine years and nine months, then I quit
when I was nine.”
Friday, November 2
on a poppy
AS I may well have hinted at before: kick off the day
with a smile ... and you are already perfectly primed to face the next 17 hours or so.
Vanessa Felts on her early-morning wireless show was perusing
the newspaper front pages on my behalf. Well, and on behalf of a few million others
She was mightily impressed with a front page picture and
headline in The Daily Telegraph. I laughed just picturing it in
my mind. When I later saw it in the flesh at the newsagents, I did
indeed have a quiet giggle to myself.
The story involved the Prince of Wales, who was yesterday
pictured sitting astride a celebrated Harley-Davidson motorcycle at Clarence House
as the Royal British Legion Riders Branch helped to publicise the annual
And here’s the picture and headline...
Very witty, especially so as it’s the sort of clever word
play you expect to see on The Sun front page.
While on the subject of the Poppy Appeal, I see that the
first commemorative £5 coin ever produced by the Royal Mint has been
made especially to mark Remembrance Day.
Every colour-printed coin sold
will lead to a donation to the Royal British Legion...
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s truly
eye-catching and beautiful. Designed by Emma Noble, the Royal Mint's engraver, it is, as
you can see, emblazoned with a red poppy, along with the words ‘the
eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’.
Just as most adults in the country will generously give over the next
week or so, I too will pop a few quid into the collection box when I pick up
a poppy from the local corner shop or pub; but this year, as I am not a
conscious collector of things ― you should, however, see the spare room
full of things that need to be taken to the tip ― I shall give
an extra £5 or so rather than buy the commemorative coin.
the very least I can do for the cause.
I also thought it a perfect reason to pop the poppy up
there on my web site’s lapel, which is something I tend to do at this
time of year anyway...
Thursday, November 1
Every egg a dinosaur, every dinosaur a Winner
“GEORGE BERNARD SHAW was the most boring, pontificating
playwright ever. Tedious, hectoring, dismal. We never met, Mr Shaw and
I, but he figured strongly in my youth at St Christopher Quaker, a
vegetarian, co-educational school run very much on Shavian*
Thus Michael Winner, 76, film-maker and restaurant critic of this
parish ― or rather, The Sunday Times Parish ― kicked-off one of his
entertainingly irritating weekly sermons in the paper’s News Review.
It invited a response, as does pretty much everything he
says, really. But first, the ‘every day a day at school’ spot.
Now there’s a word you never hear in the Bible or in the Asterisk bar
down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon. Right, according to www’s The
Free Dictionary :
relating to, or characteristic of George Bernard Shaw or his works:
An admirer or disciple of George Bernard Shaw.
Anyway, before returning to the quote, allow me take you
back to August 31, when I shared with you this brief missive from
a selection of the letters Winner receives in response to his ‘wit,
wisdom and wilfulness’. And fair play, he may dish it out, but he
appears more than happy to take anything and everything the reader wants
to throw at him. For example, this is the letter of which I speak...
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
Now I thought that was just a Winner joke ― the
got until 2015 to sort out your affairs”
bit, that is. An exceedingly good joke, mind. Then I spotted this Michael Winner
quote in the paper:
“People should have the right to terminate their own
life. I am very happy to snuff it. I’ve had enough time on this earth.
I’d be happy if someone gave me the plug to pull.”
It seems the 2015 deadline is true. He told a newspaper
that he has considered taking his own life after being told by liver
specialists that he has 18 months to live. He has been diagnosed with
the illness vibrio vulnificus, triggered when he ate a bad oyster
back in 2007.
But the thing is, he seems quite happy for readers to
carry on taking pot shots. And why shouldn’t he? So, armed with that
information, I submitted a response to the George Bernard Shaw intro...
I do so hope, Michael, you were not looking in the mirror
― or worst, taking a quick peep behind the mirror ― when you wrote that.
Whatever, may you live forever and die suddenly.
Didn’t make the
cut though; this was the letter that made it into
George Bernard Shaw may be dead but I see that his alter
ego is still eating slices of hard peach and appalling ice cream.
Peter Grundy, Newcastle upon Tyne
Anyway, the reason I am writing all this is because I
have just read
from last Sunday. Memorably smiley stuff. But first, a reference
point: below is the picture from the previous Sunday’s column, the one that
everyone is referring to, where Michael and his chauffeur are standing
in front of the Winner Bentley.
Incidentally, I have noticed in recent photographs that
Michael is always wearing slippers, so I presume that is somehow linked to his
Right, here we go...
Charity begins at the Hilton
local supermarket car park has an elderly chap with a bucket and
sponge who will clean your car while you shop. From the photo
last week, it looks as if the Hilton Kensington offers the same
service. Hope the smart gentleman next to you was pleased with
Dave Landed, Lancashire
car is No 87 of a limited edition of 100 by Bentley, the fleece
is one of 2m by Primark and the slippers came from a charity
shop. But you, Mr Winner, are unique.
Howard Bentley, Lancashire
fantastic photo last week ― best ever ― featuring such a
beautiful old girl. Not you, you old tart; your wonderful
Bentley. If you feel yourself starting to slip away, could you
let me know, so I can prepare to bid for her?
Stef Dutchyn, Lincolnshire
not sure that British Airways intended its first-class pyjamas
to be used as casual lunch attire, although they do match the
Bentley rather well.
Steven MacGeachy, Chicago
the old man on the back of News Review, sporting what appeared
to be an old tracksuit, ill-fitting T-shirt and old carpet
slippers, really be the same person who accused the Kensington
Hilton of being “devoid of style”?
Anthony Hale, Cardiff
charity-shop-closing-down-sale look you managed to achieve recently ...
was quite amazing to behold. With the exception of the slippers, how do
any of these ill-fitting garments relate to each other or their wearer?
Graham Richards, Devon
Yes, all wonderfully entertaining. Only yesterday I recycled the quote
regarding the art of being exceedingly good at Twittering:
“The first step is to ‘Always be nice’. And if you can’t
be nice then at least be nasty in a way that is supremely funny.”
All the above missives pass that test.
I’d be happy to put my name to any of them.
This all brings to
mind one of my favourite letters spotted in
He is forever mentioning in dispatches that he is around £10m in
debt at the bank ― but because he owns expensive property in London, his
net worth is estimated to be some £25-£35m ― so here’s the missive:
A very black hole
into it”, the phrase used by the Cipriani Restaurant manager, is one you
shouldn’t knock. I bet you use it every time the bank manager calls to
say there’s a gaping hole where your balance used to be.
Nick Jones, La Drôme, France
Wednesday, October 31
Love is all
“IT CAN get a bit depressing when I’ve just finished
what I think was a really great programme and the tweets start coming in
saying ‘Great shoes’.”
Emily Maitlis, 42,
British journalist and newsreader, currently employed by the BBC. She
presents news programming across the network, including Newsnight and
bulletins on BBC One and the BBC News Channel.
Last Sunday evening, poor old Emily Maitlis made
the news herself, all down to a particular outfit she wore while reading the news.
But what, you may well ask, could the elegant Emily possibly have in
common with the stern-faced Sontarans, the fearsome aliens from Doctor
Well, as someone who knows little of all the aliens giving
Doctor Who a hard time ― Daleks excepted, of course ― today I learn that
Emily and the Sontarans seemingly share something of a similar taste in
fashion. Here’s Emily doing her thing last Sunday...
Indeed, the distinctive neckline of her dress certainly
wouldn’t be out of place in a Sontaran wardrobe. The alien race are
particularly fond of stand-up collars, which thankfully obscure a large
part of their faces.
Emily’s outfit, which she wore to read the Ten O’clock
News on BBC1 on Sunday, showed off a little more of her
complexion, for sure. But it was not a hit with viewers, who flooded Twitter with
jokes and comments on the similarity.
Twittarians pondered if the 42-year-old had chosen her
outfit in light of All Hallows Eve, which of course falls today:
Maitlis is dressing as a Sontaran for Halloween.”
Others compared the frock to something that might be seen in Star Trek:
“I love Emily
Maitlis, but I think someone’s
pinched her goldfish bowl spaceship helmet this evening.”
someone joked, with a nod and a wink towards the Grim Reaper:
“The lovely Emily
Maitlis looking like the Grim Reader minus the hood tonight”.
Yet another suggested she borrow an outfit from a colleague next time:
“It’s not Strictly or
X Factor, pet: rob a suit off Fiona Bruce.”
number of others Tweeted that she looked like she was dressed as a deep
sea diver, while the one that made me chuckle most was this from a lady
“Emily Maitlis looks
like a head sticking out of a chimney pot.”
old Emily. What was it writer James Rhodes said about those who Twitter?
“The first step is to
‘Always be nice’. And if you can’t be nice then at least be nasty in a
way that is supremely funny.”
Well, I guess the above do just about pass that test. And
Emily herself does seem to be more concerned with people taking her seriously
than insulting her dress sense. Which is fair enough.
have thought that looking glamorous while reading the news is not good
news, a bit of an ambush, really ― see tweets, above...!
A dedicated ignoramus of fashion
All the above made me smile because, as it happens, I did
actually see Emily read the news last Sunday. Now as someone who has
never been a follower of fashion, her curious outfit did register,
probably because it really did seem out of place while reading the news. Oh, I
thought, she must be off, after reading the news, to the Butterfly Ball.
Indeed Emily instantly took me back to the first music
video I remember seeing, the animated version of Roger Glover and the
Butterfly Ball – Love Is All, which was often shown on our local ITV
station, HTV, as a filler ― and I thought it was great, so wonderfully
jolly and colourful.
A year or so after The Butterfly Ball, Queen gave us
the first promo music video proper, Bohemian Rhapsody, and
thereafter music videos
would never be the same again.
For that reason I have a ton of affection for Love Is
All, so off I went to YouTube to revisit ‘The Butterfly Ball’...
goodness, memories are made of this … and yes indeed, there was Emily dancing
away in her
See if you can
Roger Glover and the Butterfly Ball – Love is all
Tuesday, October 30
DAILY TELEGRAPH has just unveiled the fourth book in its
series of unpublished letters to the editor, titled Imagine My Surprise.
I’m supposed to have had a few letters included in the
previous two editions, but I never did find out because a) I’m not a
reader of books unless it’s for research and ‘every day a day at school’
purposes ― I forever have my nose in a dictionary, thesaurus, Wikipedia,
that sort of thing ― and anyway, if my letters were published, well I’ve
read them before; and b) I slightly baulk at the thought of paying for
something which belongs to me anyway.
Whatever, there was just a taster of the contents of the new book in
today’s edition of the paper. Here are a couple that caught my eye...
A nose for the news
SIR – Am I alone in
thinking that Jeremy Paxman looks like a Proboscis monkey?
Michael Powell, Tealby, Lincolnshire
Now that did make me smile; for those reading this in faraway places
with strange ― hell, you know who you are ― Jeremy
Dickson Paxman is an English journalist, author and broadcaster. He has
worked for the BBC since 1977. He is noted for a forthright and abrasive
interviewing style, particularly when interrogating politicians. So much
so I am often overwhelmed with the need to bop him on the nose ― and
he’s on my side.
In a nutshell, he’s not really the sort you would
honestly and truly want to find moving in next door. Anyway, looking
like a Proboscis monkey, eh?
Yep, I’ll buy into that. Perhaps he has been
bopped on the nose more times than we are aware of. Be that as it may,
whenever I catch sight of him on the telly in future I will smile. Dear
old Jeremy will never seem quite the same again.
I’ve got some bad news ― and I’ve got some really bad
SIR ― It is bad enough reading that Colin Firth’s wife
has dispensed with her underwear, but to publish the fact that 67 per
cent of women over 80 are sexually active and that most achieve orgasm
is devastating news.
Are you mad, sir? I am a mere male (not a rampant young
stud) of 68 years, still trying to live up to some vague sexual
expectations. Not being certain whether or not I have succeeded is bad
enough, but the thought of perhaps another two decades of strenuous and
possibly gymnastic marital duties is just too much.
My only resort is to
prevent my wife from reading The Daily Telegraph.
Geoff Milburn, Glossop, Derbyshire
I really do empathise with Geoff Milburn and all that sex
thing expectancy at age 68 (even worse, perhaps he’s 69 by now!).
Well, as I’m
mentioned hereabouts before, and speaking
as a life-long bachelor, I have now reached that stage in life where I
prefer a good joke to good sex.
With a joke I can laugh at it over and over within the
privacy of my own mind, but with sex the only way I can relive it is by
doing the damn thing, and that often becomes a joke anyway (mind
you, there is one other way, but my mother told me I’d go blind, so when
I started wearing glasses I gave up).
As a bonus, even Viagra has given up on me. I honestly
can’t remember when an urgent Blue Bayou missive drooped ― oops ―
dropped, into my inbox.
Monday, October 29
Bond. Basildon Bond
I’M GONNA sit right down and write myself a letter ...
Ah, Russ Abbot as Basildon Bond in ‘The Man With The Golden Labrador’.
Fetch those memories from the far end of the field, there’s a good dog.
Perusing the online home page of the Telegraph, I see this
headline apropos a programme on telly tonight...
50 Years of Bond Cars: A Top Gear Special
Richard Hammond celebrates the vehicles in the Bond
I am instantly reminded of this memorable quote from
August 31, compliments of
Chrissie from Norfolk:
“The only thing you ever need to know in life is to
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.”
Hm, I thought, I may well take a peep at 50 Years of
Bond Cars; the Telegraph picture gallery of the motors
first, then the BBC2 documentary, tonight...
However, my eyes drift down the home page and another
headline catches my eye:
Clegg warns Hammond is ‘jumping the gun’ over
Trident nuclear missile plan
thought, don’t tell me that Richard Hammond is now driving a submarine
about this planet ― I read on:
Nick Clegg has clashed with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond over
replacing Britain’s nuclear weapons.
Wrong Hammond. This fame and celebrity business is getting very
Anyway, back with the Bond cars ... like many other folk, my favourite
has to be the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger. It’s not just the car,
but that ejector seat, which has to be one of the best and most
believably whacky gadgets ever, in any film.
Mr Bond and his Astons
From the DB5 in Goldfinger, 1964...
the DBS in Casino Royale, 2005
Order out of disorder
know, what this country needs is not so much a trouble shooter but a
trouble ejector. Perhaps someone called The Stig:
“Some say that in his
wallet he keeps a photograph of his wallet, and that his genitals are
upside down. All we know is, he’s called The Stig.”
Imagine, the Stig should list all those who, over recent
years have given Britain such a bad name around the world, and then
invite them for a quiet ride in the nation’s very special DB5, to
discuss ‘things’: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Alastair Campbell, David
Cameron, Andrew Mitchell, Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin, Bob Diamond, Rupert
Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks, George Entwistle, Mark Thompson ― God, the list
It would be a modern version of the stocks. You can
imagine the conversation in the car:
“Do you expect me to repent?”
Stig: “No, Mister Blair, I expect you to disappear
up you own backside!”
While perusing the online gallery of Bond cars, I enjoyed this exchange
regarding the Lotus Esprit S1 – the ‘submarine car’ from The Spy Who
Loved Me, 1977:
Costamonkey: The Mk1 Esprit leaked like a sieve
without going underwater. The huge front and rear glass areas were
poorly sealed and one got a wet bum and floating engine-bay carpet if
the car was left out in the rain.
Simon Carter: Buying a Lotus and then complaining
about the build quality is like going out with Scarlett Johansson and
complaining about her cooking. You’re completely missing the point.
Costamonkey: Scarlett makes a mean pie...
LOTUS = Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious.
I enjoyed the television programme. It was like being back in short
trousers again. Great.
Sunday, October 28
began with a rather serious letter in today’s Sunday Telegraph, a
missive that took me into territory I am unfamiliar with:
SIR – Ibrahim Hewitt states that Golda Meir, Israel’s
prime minister in 1973, was ready to use nuclear weapons when the
Egyptian army retook the Sinai peninsula. This was the launch of the Yom
Kippur war, when Israel was attacked on its holiest day of the year.
Many Israeli soldiers near the Suez canal were murdered, not killed in
Rev Robert Weissman, Woodford, Essex
Then came a couple of online comments, and as usual, they
led me up all sorts of intriguing alleys. First up...
Lord Muck: Interesting thought from Rev
Weissman, that it was immoral to declare war on a ‘holy’ day. I had always assumed that in the cold war period, the
Soviet invasion would be planned to coincide with the coincidence of
Christmas Day falling on a Sunday.
I had also assumed that our Generals would have ensured
that this was the time when our armed forces were on highest alert; in a
double-bluff, rather than invade at another time, the Soviets would have
attacked when they were most expected. In turn, our Generals would have
anticipated this and ... it’s just too much...
The answer of course is to be on high alert at all times ... a
lesson the Israelis have probably taken to heart.
And then my grin turns into a chuckle...
Percyvere: The Rev Robert Weissman's mention of
Israeli soldiers near the Suez Canal reminds me of a subtle Israeli
tale. An Israeli soldier, Louis, waits by the canal every
morning for Ahmed, an Egyptian soldier on the other side of the
waterway, to come out of his tent. Louis shouts: “Oi, Ahmed!”
Ahmed responds: “Yes?”
Louis says “F*** you!”
This went on for several days until Ahmed got fed up and
went to his commanding officer. He explained the problem and the officer
said that the obvious answer was for Ahmed to come out of his tent early
and do the same to Louis. In other words, he should get his retaliation
The next morning Ahmed got up nice and early and was
waiting for Louis. Ahmed shouts: “Oh, Louis!”
Louis responds: “Who is it?”
By the way, I recently saw a car sticker in Cairo that
said: “If you give me tit for tat, I will give you 100 tat!”
Obviously the Muslim Brotherhood still have some clamping down to do!
Talk of clamping down...
Shoot the messenger
SIR – On reading “Scientists jailed for failing to
predict Italian quake” (report, October 23), I realised how lucky our
television and radio weather forecasters are. If Italian law applied
here, they would rarely not be behind bars.
Neville Goldrein, Liverpool
Poor old Michael Fish would have been given life. Anyway, talk
of shooting the messenger...
Led by the nose and endlessly recycled
If you are the governing body of a sport rocked by a
scandal in which your most famous star has been stripped of his titles
amid allegations of drugs, deception and cheating, it’s probably not a
good idea to unveil a new logo that looks suspiciously like one of the
world’s most renowned liars.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the International
Cycling Union (UCI) has done with their logo for next year’s world
championships, which will take place in Florence, Italy. Just days after
Lance Armstrong was banned from cycling for life for doping offences,
the UCI unveiled its mascot for the 2013 championships...
...yes, none other than Disney character Pinocchio, adorned with the
rainbow jersey of a cycling world champion. Why, he even has a packet of
goodies in his hand, ready. Unbelievable.
What was it
The Blue Fairy
A lie keeps growing and growing
until it’s as plain as the nose on your face.
Saturday, October 27
More of the wireless
great fan of the wireless. The pictures, as someone once observed, are
One of my favourite radio programmes is BBC Radio 4’s
perennial antidote to panel games, the anarchic I’m Sorry I Haven’t A
Mind you, good as Jack Dee is as the new host, the show
definitely lost something following the death of chairman Humphrey
Lyttelton, who died rather suddenly back in 2008, aged 86 (sadly, he
didn’t quite live forever to die suddenly).
The moment Humph was suddenly called upon to perform in that last great stomp
in the sky, the show lost a certain innocent charm. As indeed it did
when it lost the wonderfully witty Willie Rushton, the comedian,
satirist, cartoonist, author, actor and a man who listed his recreations
as “losing weight” and “gaining weight”, who died after a heart
operation at the age of 59 (way back in 1996, would you believe).
here’s a typical Starter for Ten from the show:
What’s the definition of catastrophe? A puss who’s just won a prize!
Yes, a new book celebrates gloriously groan-worthy gags
from the I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue gang. To the delight of
millions of fans, its blend of risqué humour, dreadful puns and chaotic
improvisation have helped make the panel show an enduring hit.
Here are just a few examples from the book:
What would some famous people from the past write on the
cards they sent family and friends?
Kipling, from India: “Weather exceedingly good; beaches
exceedingly good; nightlife exceedingly good; cake crap.”
Samuel Morse [from somewhere near Dodge City,
exceedingly Way Out West]: “Dear Dot, must dash.”
René Descartes, from Antwerp: “Having a wonderful
time I think ― therefore I am.”
Texting For Pensioners
Millions of text messages are sent every day, but text
acronyms have so far been devised only for the young. Here the teams
attempt to redress the balance:
OMG (Oh My God) becomes Oh me gout.
TBC (To be continued) becomes To be cremated.
MYOB (Mind your own business) becomes Make your own
IMHO (In my humble opinion) becomes It’s my hip
ETA (Estimated time of arrival) becomes Eighth time
WTF (What the f***) becomes Wig tilted forward.
POW (Prisoner of war)
becomes Peed on wellingtons.
Very funny. Mind you, I’m not sure where POW came
from. I can’t imagine many young people busily texting POW. Whatever, I was thinking: you know how LOL morphed from Lots of
love into Laugh out loud? Well, I think that WTF
(What the f***) would be much better served if it became What’s that
Very Slightly Shorter Film Titles
different the titles of classic films might have been if just one letter
had gone missing from their titles. Teams?
One With The Wind
Only Angels Have Wigs
The Way We Wee
Danes With Wolves
Zorba The Geek
The Da Vinci Cod
O Hello (by William Shakespeare)
The Greatest Sow On Earth
Who Framed Roger Rabbi
Lice In Wonderland
It’s A Wonderful Lie
The Way We Wee
has a certain ring of truth about it too. Hm, I thought, this sounds like a good game. So I picked up the
Western Mail’s Weekend with its television and radio
Here are some of the films on television today, Saturday
27 October 2012...
BBC 2: The Importance of Bing Earnest (hope he sings
Autumn Leaves rather than White Christmas).
ITV 1: Tar Wars (made me think of Boys from the
Channel 5: Man Without a Tar (ditto).
Ma Without a Star (unthinkable, really, but it does carry the benefit of
an internal rhyme).
BBC 2: Ill Bill (yes, I did hear that they were sick as parrots up
there at New Scotland Yard).
ITV 1: Dante’s Eak!
And that was just one day’s films.
Oh okay, one
from tomorrow, Sunday, a title which would work perfectly on the
wireless: Carr On Jack...
They seek him here, they seek him there
the past year or so there have been many pictures in the media of
Chinese artist Liu Bolin, who has made an art of becoming the invisible
Incidentally, whenever I’ve needed to become ‘the
invisible man’, I’ve merely carried around a clipboard, as if I’m
conducting a survey ― and everyone instantly looks away, as if I’m not
But this fellow Liu Bolin takes the whole thing to a new
Look carefully ... a little closer, especially at the
picture on the right ... yes, this is a portrait of a man doing his best
to magically blend into the background...
“I can still see him!”
A memorable five-word online comment by a lady who, fingers crossed, was
being deliciously ironic.
Mind you, Liu in front of the JCB wheel took some close
scrutiny ― oops, did I say JCB? ― I meant the ZL50 (doesn’t sound quite
as practical and romantic as a JCB, now does it?).
Every day a day at school spot: JCB is named after
the founder of the company, Joseph Cyril Bamford. In Welsh, a JCB has
become known as a Jac Codi Baw, which comes from a child’s name
for the digger, and translates literally as Jack Digs [the] Dirt. The
Welsh version really is a clever name for the genus ‘digger’.
Anyway, when Liu Bolin’s astonishing pictures first
appeared, many thought they were digitally enhanced images. A reasonable
conclusion. But they are not.
People occasionally watch his art take shape. Liu often
poses for up to 10 hours while his collaborators paint his disguise to
blend in with the surroundings. It works so well that often passers-by
aren’t even aware of his presence until he moves.
Bolin says his work is a protest in defiance of the
Chinese government who shut down an artist village in 2006.
I show these astonishing pictures of Liu’s work because
I’m sure these images have subliminally lodged themselves in my psyche,
for I now regularly spot things in photographs that aren’t readily
obvious, or indeed aren’t there in the first place.
For example, I came across an online picture gallery of
beautiful autumn scenes submitted by readers of The Daily Telegraph.
In particular this wonderfully evocative picture of autumn colours. But
what do you see...?
Florence Baner took this at Ashby Hall, in the wonderfully named Ashby
de la Launde in Lincolnshire.
Well, this is what I see...
At the base of the tree, right-hand side, the roots take
on a human form, female, reclining against the tree, her hand resting on
her thigh ... and just above her breasts the head disappears and morphs
into the trunk.
Moving towards the centre, I see a naked body, as if
twisting to rest against the trunk, again the head disappearing into the
trunk. Just above where the head should be, peeping out of the trunk,
what looks like the head of a prehistoric bird or lizard or some such
Moving to the left, and stacked up from the bottom ―
well, not fungus but some sort of frogs, and the one at the bottom is
giving us all a very evil eye ... oh, and is that Kermit the Frog
alongside them, stretching his neck and peering up into the tree?
Isn’t it amazing what you spot when you give your
imagination a licence to roam. There again, perhaps I’ve got a bit too
much time on my hands.
Whatever, the wonderful picture made me smile beyond.
Thursday, October 25
“I saw the headline
‘Shorter sentences do not deter criminals from breaking the law’
and thought, in that case, why not have longer sentences with lots of
commas, maybe the odd subordinate clause, and above all make sure the
words fill at least half an A4 page, or if that’s not possible,
three-quarters of an A3, and then we can be sure those pesky criminals
will cringe from further law-breaking.”
An online comment by Jp1000 in response to the Telegraph
headline as quoted.
Very witty, Jp1000. And yes, ‘Shorter sentences do not
deter criminals from breaking the law’ really was a headline in the
newspaper. Staying with the Telegraph, another headline to
Dear Sir, We’ve all got a lot to be sorry
Following Michael Gove’s decision to apologise publicly
to his former French teacher for “clever dick” remarks, five writers
reveal what they would like to say to their old teachers.
Incidentally, for those reading this in faraway places
with strange sounding names
Gove is the current Secretary of State for
Education. Indeed there are some who may well suggest that he is not so
“clever dick” but
“prick too clever by half” ― but I
we could do was compete to think of clever-dick questions to embarrass
you and indulge in pathetic showing-off at your expense.”
Many have pointed out that it sounds as though Gove had perfect training
for asking questions in Parliament.
Whatever, the handful of Telegraph writers/apologists that followed were ...
well, sort of interesting ... but here’s the one that grabbed my
attention, yet again an online comment ― the Telegraph appears to be
blessed with more than its fair share of amusing and entertaining
readers ― this time someone who flies under the name
“There were three kids named Harris in our class. The
roll call went: Harris D, Harris GC, Harris GM (me). Then it changed to
Harris D, Harris Fat, Harris Thin. Then changed again to Harris D,
Harris Fat, Harris L (L stood for lazy).
“Often the maths master would take hold of my ear and
grind my nose into the desk accompanied by, ‘Boy, you can do it,
but you’re idle, bone idle.’ He was wrong. I was lazy, but I've never
“Laziness is the art
of getting from A to B with the minimum expenditure of effort. Idleness
is doing nothing. You have to make an effort to be properly lazy. I
spent hours honing it to perfection.”
Boy, did I identify with that comment. I too was lazy in school. Truth
to tell I ― no, hang about, I nearly said “I hated school”, but that’s
just not true.
Initially I surprised everyone by passing my 11-Plus into
the local grammar school. Now I have never in my life hated anyone or
anything, for the simple reason that no person or ‘thing’ has ever
visited upon me something that would have made me hate them (or it).
What is more, I have never actively disliked anyone or anything ― for
the very same reason.
However, and much to my chagrin, there are plenty of
people and ‘things’ that I feel no affection whatsoever for. But I don’t
make a big deal of it, I simply cross over to the sunny side of the street
and quickly move on.
That’s precisely how I felt about school. There was no
affection for the institution at all. I did as little work as I could
get away with, resulting in always either just passing or just failing
all my examinations ― well, all except Latin and French, both of which I
was totally useless at and dropped them as subjects as soon as
This rather surprised folk because I am truly bilingual ―
I never remember having to learn either Welsh (my first language) or
English (the language I feel most comfortable in), and that fact
supposedly should have given me a head start in languages. Clearly that
is a rumour put about by those blessed with a language gene.
Given that all my other marks hovered around 50 per cent,
I became known as Average Boy, confirmed when I sat nine O-levels ― and
passed five. I then progressed to first-year sixth, but I was hopelessly
out of my depth so decided to leave and find work.
But I identify absolutely with Albatross, especially his
definition of laziness i.e. the art of getting from A to B with minimum
expenditure of effort. That’s me to a T, from A to Zee / Float like a
butterfly, sting like a bee. (With apologies to one Cassius Clay;
actually, in my case it should read: “Float like a bee, sting like a
A Low Flyer
And finally, this brief online exchange, which tickled me
no end. It doesn’t really matter what the contributors are actually
discussing ― but it reminded me of schooldays, particularly so the use of
the word “sinecure” in the exchange.
I had no idea that “sinecure” meant “a
paid job requiring little work”
job or position that provides a regular income but requires little or no
work. Rather amusing given what has gone before. Anyway, pay attention,
Wuffothewonderdog: It was a good deal (for
Scotchmen) because it was a Scotchman [ex prime minister Gordon Brown]
fixing sinecures and jobs for Scotchmen in Scotland. There’s none so
close as Scotchmen on the make.
Coljam: What is a Scotchman?
Spikey: Presumably one who drinks Scotch, as
opposed to a Scotsman - one who is Scottish (and drinks Scotch!).
I was gently amused that Wuffo the Wonder Dog used the word “sinecure”
but still labelled Scotsmen “Scotchmen”, which suggests that Wuffo knew
precisely what he was barking at.
My guess is that Wuffo is a wind-up pooch, and no less
entertaining for that (the very antithesis of a troll: a LOL?).
Have a drink,
have a drink, have a drink on me / Ev’rybody have a drink on me ― and
that includes all you Scotchmen...
Wednesday, October 24
That’s life, that’s what people say.
You’re riding high in April,
Shot down in May......
been catching up with some ‘normal’ news. By the way, if, whenever Jimmy Savile is
next mentioned in the meeja and the story is accompanied by yet another
picture or film clip of the fellow, I may well throw something significant in
the direction of said image.
While it is right and proper to report developments, do
we really need to see his smirking mug at every twist and nasty turn?
Talk about adding insult to injury.
Anyway, back with other news: I see that Lance Armstrong
has been formally stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned
for life by the International Cycling Union for his drug taking. What a
strange business that all is, particularly so given his high-profile and
successful battle against cancer.
Do you suppose all this additional stress will perhaps
even strip him of that win?
It’s also interesting to note that Bradley Wiggins, the
current Tour de France champion, says the Lance Armstrong scandal is
having the same effect on cycling as Savile is having on the BBC. It’s
those bastards at the top, Bradley.
Yes, as always, it all comes back to the clowns, cowboys
and crooks whose dirty little hands are seemingly on the tiller of every
significant ship sailing under the UK flag, or indeed any other flag of
And of course there’s the infamous “pleb” man and keen
cyclists about London Town, Andrew Mitchell, who is no longer the
government chief whip, having duly resigned his post.
Armstrong and Mitchell make unlikely tandem pals.
However, I thought this cartoon by Blower captured the moment
Folk everywhere getting on their bikes
Actually, the moment I saw Blower’s clever cartoon, the
first thing that came to mind was ET, especially when Your Friendly
Neighbourhood Extra Terrestrial takes flight. Should he not have been
tested for performance enhancing drugs? The juxtaposition is
rather wonderful, even if I say so myself.
Apropos Andrew Mitchell, I enjoyed these letters in
The Daily Telegraph:
Toad of Plebgate Hall
SIR – Has Mr Mitchell paid too high a price? Not if we
recall that Mr Toad got a year for car theft, three for furious driving,
and 15 for “cheeking the police”, “which was a bad sort of cheek ...
even if you only believe one-tenth ... of what you heard”.
Robert Stephenson, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
gloriously amusing letter that is: furious driving ... cheeking the
police ... a bad sort of cheek...!
Shut that gate
SIR – Is Plebgate the
first political scandal to involve an actual gate?
Annie Pierce, Birkenhead, Cheshire
I was intrigued to learn this about Mitchell: the Pleb man, 56, is the son of
a Tory MP and went to Rugby public school, where as a prefect he earned
the nickname “Thrasher”. (Do you suppose he carries a whip about his
person which he uses on his bicycle when the going gets tough and the
old velocipede struggles?)
He was also criticised during the notorious Parliamentary
expenses scandal for claiming 13p for correction fluid (not so much
Tipp-Ex as ChiefWhip-Ex, ho, ho, ho!),
and 45p for glue (oh that he had washed his mouth out with a tube of
Unibond: My word is my Unibond, boom-boom!).
Obviously the fellow is in need of a good clip around the
ear, rather than around the trouser leg, that is.
Over and out.
Tuesday, October 23
The London Derriere (You just can’t keep a good bum note down)
“THERE’S more to Pippa Middleton,” writes Bryony
Gordon in the Telegraph, “than a fine derriere. It’s easy to mock her
book, ‘Celebrate’, but Pippa’s almost as sweet as her recipes.
“Never before has so much been said about someone who
says so little. Until now, that is. Pippa Middleton ― sister-in-law of
the second in line to the throne, owner of the first ever bottom to be
described as a national treasure ― has written a book, and my what a
book she has written...”
Having duly celebrated Pippa’s new book just a couple of days ago, I decided
to revisit the fragrant Ms Middleton when I saw said derriere described
as a national treasure (and in the process leave my fingerprints all
over her bum, metaphorically speaking, that is).
Do you know, I have grown weary of mere people being described as
national treasures. I’m sure I once heard Jimmy Savile labelled as such.
(It’s at moments like this that you really hope there is a God and an
Afterlife, sod what Richard Dawkins thinks ― if you’ll pardon the expression.)
As a rule of thumb, it is only ‘things’ that should be
labelled national treasures: Big Ben, Stonehenge, the Spitfire, the
E-Type Jag, the glorious red of our phone and post boxes and London
Yes of course someone like Shakespeare is a national
treasure. And I presume Churchill will become one ― the test is this:
when there is nobody left alive who can actually remember Churchill when
he too was alive, and he is still fondly recalled and discussed, then he
will be a national treasure.
Also, when there is nobody left alive who can actually
remember Stephen Fry when he was alive, then he will cease to be
regarded as a national treasure (one would guess).
Whatever, the idea of Pippa’s bum up there with
Stonehenge and the E-Type Jag
is a rather jolly thought.
Incidentally, after finishing Bryony Gordon’s piece, the
very first contribution on the Comment Board was this amusing input from
In years to come, when Pippa has married into the landed
nobility and the fruits of the union reach the age of enquiry, one can
imagine one of her cherubic offspring saying: “Mummy, why was the whole
world obsessed with your bum back in 2012?”
Pippa will no doubt give a dimpled, demur smile and say:
“I’ve really no idea, darling, it was just one of those silly things
that happen when someone makes a comment and then the word gets around,
it was nothing really.”
“Oh, come on, Mummy,
there must have been more to it than that. Penelope Wattern-Eiffel’s
mother says the tight dress you wore to Aunt Kate’s wedding clearly
showed the cheeks of your arse, and you kept bending over on purpose,
and by the way, who was Max Clifford...?”
Things that make the news
Watching the BBC’s Six O’clock News tonight, the lead
story was the dreadful Jimmy Savile saga, in particular the appearance
of the BBC’s seemingly inept Director-General George Entwistle who spoke of his “horror”
over the deluge of allegations against the late TV presenter as he was
grilled by MPs at a Commons Select Committee.
The item took up nearly half the news. However...
The Few get fewer still
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by
so many to so few,” was Churchill’s famous tribute to those Battle of
Britain pilots, made at the height of their battle in the late summer of
1940. Now they are one fewer.
The final item on tonight’s news was a piece about the
death aged 99 of the oldest surviving pilot to fight in the Battle of
Britain. Which is rather ironic given that above I speak of national
treasures such as the Spitfire and Churchill.
William Walker was a celebrated member of the glorious
Few and one of many who risked their lives so bravely and without
question in battles with Germany in our skies.
At 99 William Walker held the title of the oldest
remaining Battle of Britain pilot, but sadly the Second World War hero
suffered a stroke last
Thursday and died at a London hospital some days later.
The Flight Lieutenant had an incredible life, escaping
death after plunging into the Channel as well as becoming a celebrated
poet and dedicating his time to the memory of his friends and comrades
who died in the war.
Born in Hampstead, north London, and after just five hours
pilot training, William Walker went into action in June 1940 with the 616
Squadron at Leconfield, East Yorkshire.
In later life, Flt Lt Walker, pictured
alongside, attended many events on behalf of “The Few”,
including the 2012 Memorial Day at Capel-le-Ferne in Kent. On
the side of a monument there, opened by the Queen Mother in
1993, is the poem
Our Wall, which
William Walker wrote.
Here inscribed the names of friends we knew
men with whom we often flew.
Scrambled to many angels high,
knew that they or friends might die.
were very scarcely trained,
many badly burnt or maimed.
each name a story lies
bravery in summer skies;
many brave unwritten tales
simply told in vapour trails.
now lie in sacred graves
many rest beneath the waves.
Outnumbered every day they flew,
Remembered here as just ‘The Few’.
Such a simple yet touching little poem. And a
wonderful photograph of the old boy up there.
Monday, October 22
“DOES heinous rhyme with penis or anus? Tweet your
one-word answer to @piersmorgan.”
A tweet by @sixthformpoet to his
legionnaires, his finger soldiers, his battalions of followers.
The above tweet was shared by columnist James Rhodes in
the Telegraph, where he wrote about ‘Seven steps to Twitter
Nirvana’. I guess the point of the article was to avoid the ever present
threat of a Twitter Ambush and turn it into a First Aid Post.
Speaking as someone who does not tweet but nevertheless
delights in the doolallyness of the medium, I read on:
The first step is to ‘Always be nice’. And if you can’t
be nice then at least be nasty in a way that is supremely funny i.e. see
Now c’mon: the idea of Piers Morgan suddenly receiving
out of the blue endless tweets with just “penis” or “anus” thereon is
rather startling. Particularly so as penis and Piers go together
like cock and Cockerel.
In fact I though the tweet so comic I took a quick peep
Here are just a handful that tickled my old funny bone:
Tweetie Pie Corner
“I’m a man trapped outside a woman’s body.”
“I feel sorry for David Cameron. He’s basically David
Cameron, trapped in David Cameron’s body.”
“A Freudian Slip is when you say one thing, but mean
“Weird. I just killed a mouse. It was a copycat murder.”
“My friend said he’d give me £100 if I did a bungee jump.
I’m not falling for that.”
Essentially, and excepting the Piers Morgan tweet, they
are simply one-liners, but nevertheless, amusing ... then I stumbled
upon this tweet...
Tomato@edsbrother: “This is the best photo I’ve ever seen...”
The first thing that came to mind was ‘Believe nothing
you hear and only half what you see’. I mean, is it really genuine? It
certainly looks real, especially with that camera flash reflection on
Whatever: fake or fortuitous, funny beyond.
The blind swordsman
“I was shaking and I thought ‘I’m going to have
another stroke any second and this one is going to kill me. I’m being
killed. I’m being killed.’.”
The unbelievable tale of blind stroke victim Colin Farmer, 61, a retired
company director, who was shot with a 50,000-volt Taser by police who
mistook his white stick for a Samurai sword as he walked to meet friends
in Chorley, Lancashire.
For the record, the police were on the lookout following
reports of a man wandering about the town wielding a Samurai sword. But still.
Then this letter appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Times:
So a policeman Tasered an elderly blind man with a white stick because
he thought the man was carrying a Samurai sword. Surely they were
filming the next “should have gone to Specsavers” advertisement.
Robert Houghton, Jugon-les-Lacs, France
Finally, this letter in the Daily Mail :
Did you ever see such a thing in your life?
The police want to update to two-shot Tasers. When they
get treble-shot Tasers, the three blind mice had better look out.
M J Stayton, Banbury, Oxon
Sunday, October 21
It’s a bum wrap
“IT IS a bit startling to achieve global recognition
(if that’s the right word) before the age of 30, on account of your
sister, your brother-in-law and your bottom. One day, I might be able to
make sense of this...”
...Pippa Middleton, 29, admits she struggles to comprehend her celebrity
status and attention on her figure. She continues: “In the meantime I think it’s fair
to say that it has its upside and its downside. I certainly have
opportunities many can only dream of ─ but in most ways I’m a typical
girl in her 20s trying to forge a career and represent herself in what
can sometimes seem rather strange circumstances.”
Pippa rightly takes advantage of the upside and makes her
comments in Celebrate: A Year of British Festivities for Families and
Friends, a party-planning guide based on her experience with her
family’s business, Party Pieces.
It was reported that the deal for the book, with
publisher Michael Joseph, was worth £400,000. It includes seasonal
recipes, as well as recollections of her childhood, including Bonfire
Night and playing conkers.
“We all used to get really competitive,” she writes. “The
trick was to paint clear nail varnish on the conkers to make them very
tough and less likely to break ─ outrageous cheating of course!”
Nail varnish, eh? That’s a new one on me. That girl will
But I do sympathise with Pippa and her attempts to make
sense of her fame. As a species we truly are in thrall to this
I think I’ve said it before, but those who stand and
stare can’t help but notice what happens when we, the great unwashed,
the common or garden plebs, come face to face with celebrity: we nod or
shake our heads at everything a famous person does or says (fingers
crossed in the right place), and a sleb only has to say something
vaguely amusing and we slap our thighs in eee-hah!
fashion and fall about in a heap of helpless mirth.
Worst of all, celebrities buy into this and begin to believe that
they really have been blessed with a wit and a wisdom that we lesser mortals
can only dream of.
It’s desperately doolally and wonderfully funny. Pippa
though does seem to have recognised the ambush, and is quite
naturally cashing in on her fame.
Tat looks for a home ― and finds it in tattoo
“I know where the wrinkly bits are. You wouldn’t at my
age have a tattoo on your tummy because it might get hidden. Bits like
shoulders stay flat. They don’t wrinkle and they don’t get larger.”
Felicity Kendall, 66, English actress and self-confessed “rock chick”, having
now abandoned Botox, is having
a turtle tattooed on her shoulder.
A turtle, that is, to add to the moon and two feathers
(symbolising her elder son and grandchildren) tattooed on her calf; and
a dainty star on her foot symbolising her younger son. I also note that
Samantha Cameron has a dolphin on her ankle, and Helen Mirren, pictured
a symbol on her thumb...
...trouble is it draws attention to her hand, which is a
dead giveaway of a woman’s age, whatever a Botoxed face is
saying. Oh dear, it’s a laugh a minute out there.
I read about
Felicity’s new tattoo in the Telegraph, so it was fascinating to read
the comments from typical middle-Britain. On the recommended scale, and
at the time of reading, the top comment had attracted 104 ticks.
But first, here are some recommended ticks along the way...
Zenuano (33 ticks): “I love tattoos on women. They save
me a lot of time in my constant quest for a quick shag.”
[My spell-check for Zenuano suggested Genuine. Quite how I am unsure.
But how delightfully ironic.]
Malcolmbrhc (35): Tattooed women equals never have sex
with one, you don’t know where they’ve been.
Mrmchenry (50): I have yet to see a tattoo that enhanced
the wearer. Looks more like self-abuse ─ a cry for help. And then there
are these young girls with a ring in the middle of their nose which
looks like they have a permanent snot drip.
Rastusctastey (66): A tattoo ─ or as I prefer to call it,
body graffiti ─ on a beautiful woman is desecration or philistine
vandalism ─ rather like wind turbines in a formerly undefiled landscape.
Crafford (104 ticks): Tattoos are a sign of boredom ─ which, in
turn, is a sign of inferior intellect ─ confirmed by the fact that the
person would display the tattoo for all and sundry to see. What idiots.
The comment that I would have ticked a ‘recommend’ box, if
I had been so inclined, would have been the one about “wind turbines in
a formerly undefiled landscape”. Neat turn of phrase ― and to the point.
Look, the human body is a living, breathing, walking
tachograph, a precise record of where we have been, where we are right
now, and critically where we are heading.
My take on the tattoo is that it’s a classic sign of a lack
of self-esteem, whether on a man or a woman. Now a lack of self-esteem does
not make an individual a bad person; indeed one of the kindest and most
generous people I know is sadly lacking in self-esteem.
Put it like this: think of the most self-assured and
agreeable woman you
know ... I bet you she’ll be rather plain in the way she presents
herself to the world. She will wear no obvious makeup; no jewellery,
apart from perhaps wedding and engagement rings, which aren’t really
decorative anyway; she will be dressed quite plainly, certainly not a follower
of fashion; she will not be sporting a tattoo; and she definitely,
positively won’t be heard to utter an obscenity.
Oh, and she will ooze
self-confidence and possess an abundance of self-esteem.
So who would have thought that Felicity Kendal, Helen
Mirren and Samantha Cameron ─ all talented and very clever women ─ would
be so lacking in self-esteem that they need body decoration to face the
I tell you, it’s a fascinating world out there.
Saturday, October 20
Big boys’ toys
ACCORDING to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, va-va-voom
is “the quality of being exciting, vigorous, or attractive”. Today, a
brace of items
to delight humanity, especially the male of the species, and both very
Fly me to the Moon and let me play among the boobs ― oops!
― the stars
But first, a few dots need joining up...
The Haynes Owners’ Workshop Manuals (commonly known as simply
Haynes Manuals) is as delightful a British phenomenon as you will
find. They are a series of practical manuals from the Haynes Publishing
Group, aimed at both DIY enthusiasts and professional garage mechanics.
The series primarily focuses upon the maintenance and
repair of cars and motorcycles, covering a wide range of makes and
models (300 models of car and 130 models of motorcycle), but it also
includes manuals in the same style for domestic appliances, personal
computers, digital photography, model railways, men and women, sex and
babies. The last four are of the tongue-in-cheek variety, but have
proved very popular.
Additionally, they have released manuals based on popular
fictional series including Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends...
...and Star Trek (The Klingon Bird of Prey Owners’ Workshop
Manual is due out next month – how agreeably silly is that –
but sadly no sign of The Definitive Bird of Pray Manual
i.e. Seven of Nine).
The Haynes Manuals are named after John Haynes,
...in 1956, when just 16 and still at school, he
wrote and published a book on building a ‘special’ based on the Austin
7. He wrote two further books while performing national service in the
Royal Air Force. Haynes Publishing was founded in 1960 and the first
manual was for the legendary Austin Healey ‘Frogeye’ Sprite.
So I was duly tickled beyond when I saw this image...
(Fly me to the workshop and let me play among the bits and
Apollo 15 astronaut Jim Irwin pilots the lunar rover
The above practical guide, in traditional Haynes Manual
style, is being published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the
final Lunar Rover drive on the Moon on December 14, 1972. The Lunar
Rover Manual will be available from all good bookshops and direct from
Haynes priced £21.99.
I was tickled even further than beyond when I saw this
to the bedroom and let me play among the bits and pieces)
Pic: Wonderbra/Rex Features
A new Wonderbra advert allows you to undress model
Sadly no Haynes Manual, but by using an app called The
Wonderbra Decoder (apparently), users can scan Adriana to reveal the
Wonderbra behind her look and view a gallery of recommended Wonderbras
for every occasion and different outfits, from daywear to special
In the interests of balance, the Wonderbra Decoder App is
available now free from the App Store and Google Play.
Mind you, to my caveman eye, the wonderfully handsome
Adriana looks much sexier in the left hand image ... confirming the old
adage that the best pleasures are invariably found lurking in the mind.
Anyway, a whole bunch of images that really did make me
smile and smile... All very va-va-voom.
PS: I’ve just done a spell-check on today’s bulletin: when it came to
‘Klingon’ it suggested ‘Clinton’. Clever spell-check.
Friday, October 19
What’s in a name?
JUST recently I spotted the following couple of letters
in The Daily Telegraph...
It’s the Twort that counts in spelling a name
SIR – I used to collect variations on my name received by
way of business letters: Tarte, Trout, Tworf, Twoet, Twork, Towart,
Twart, Tworwt, Towort, Tuort, Thort, Taught, Tyort, Toort, Twant,
Tarort, Torte, Towrt, Torge, Tworet, Tout, Toft, Twoort, Twot, Tworl,
Twoer, Tnort, Tworte, Trautman, Tort, Pwart, Twarp, Pwort, Tought and my
favourite, Mr Twunt...
Twort, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
Word games that help when spelling a name
SIR – When asked my
name, I add “as in water”. Still, I am sometimes met with a blank look.
I could say “pen” but, these days, would that be any clearer?
Andrew Fountain, Corby, Northamptonshire
Perusing Richard Twort’s letter, it is obvious that he
hasn’t yet received a letter from Prime Minister David Cameron i.e. Dear
Richard Twat ... a couple of years ago Cameron, in a live radio
interview, was asked his views on Twitter:
“The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it ─ too
many twits might make a twat.” And yes, there was a bit of a fuss.
There again, it could it be that The Daily Telegraph has
acknowledged the sensitivity of its readers and removed from the list
the rather obvious Twat.
As for Andrew Fountain’s efforts to clarify his name by
adding “as in water” or “pen”, perhaps he should try: “As in ‘Three
coins in a -’ ― and yes, you may make a wish if you so wish.” I can
guarantee him that his relationship with the person on the other end of
the conversation will get off to a smiley start.
Anyway, there then
followed over the next week or so a whole raft of amusing letters on the subject
of names. Here are my favourites, with the name of the author shown
When I was doing national service, an officious corporal
asked me my name. I told him, and he asked
“-en or -on?” When I said –in, I was put on a charge for
Robert Book: Try reserving a table at a restaurant
with my surname. It leads to many a complex dialogue.
Linda Fisher: I once rang a newspaper with a view
to gaining a mention about an event that was to be held at a venue
called The Quay. The conversation went like this:
Reporter: Is that key as in door?
Me: Quay as in harbour.
Reporter: Could you spell that?
I thought you said key.
When I was but a pup, I remember going on a Sunday school
seaside outing to New Quay ─ spot it up there on the reception map. I had never
been there before, indeed had never seen the place name. As the bus
approached New Quay, I spotted a sign with the place name. I turned to
one of the adults: “Is New Kway near New Key?”
Sylvia Waite (née Sherwood): As a single lass, I
used to give my name adding: “Like the forest”, and things progressed
smoothly. Now, when I give my married name, there is often an abrupt
halt in the conversation.
Rosemary Webb: While revisiting childhood haunts
on the Devon-Cornwall border, my brother booked his family into a Bed &
Breakfast. On registration, he gave his name as: “Forrest, like trees
but with two Rs,” whereupon his hostess wrote TRR before inquiring
whether there were two Es as well.
David Guess: When ordering some goods, I was asked
my name. I told the shopkeeper, and he replied: “Rumplestiltskin?”
John Greenwood: A colleague of mine, Charlotte
Boucher, once ordered some tickets over the phone. She said: “It’s
Boucher, as in Luncheon Voucher, but with a B.” The tickets duly arrived
addressed to “Mrs Buncheon Voucher”.
Nicolas Broadhead: It has obviously never occurred
to The Daily Telegraph correspondents that when someone asks them to
spell their name, that is actually what the person is requesting. I’m
dyslexic and have difficulty spelling, so to be told that a name is
spelt like something else is of little help.
Yes, a pause for
thought, there ― meanwhile, here’s
Christine Pilcher: The midwife present at
the birth of my first child must have considered the event to be
a biological first. The identity bands were printed: “Baby
John Gibson: My fairly common surname is
always met with: “Is that with one B or two?” I have never seen
the name spelt Gibbson.
Taylor: My address is Yew Tree Cottage. When requesting job
application forms by telephone, if I didn’t spell it out, the
form would often be addressed to Ewe Tree Cottage. If I spelt it
out, it risked an unspoken response from the person at the other
end: “She thinks I can’t spell. She’s no chance of getting even
The above reminds me of the very first picture and comment I
posted on Look You’s sister web site,
400 Smiles A Day,
way back in
2007. It’s still there – but here it is repeated, alongside...
I did, I saw you, U, yew and ewe,
No matter what your point of view.
(Poetic licence applied for.)
Albert Edward Short: When I was courting my wife,
someone saw us together in the town. Seeing her later, he said: “Last
night, I saw you with someone I know. I can’t quite remember his name. I
know it’s short.”
R G Godwin: When in the RAF and booking out of
camp as Rob Godwin, I was surprised when returning to be told there was
no record of that name. “We have a Hobgoblin, though,” was the reply.
Peregrine Banbury, Little Hadham, Hertfordshire:
My Christian name has been used as my entire name, with my surname as
the address, as in Perry Green, Banbury. My village has sometimes been
turned into Little Adam.
Anne McBride: When my mother-in law collected her
dry cleaning, she was surprised to see that the name on her garment was
John Field: In the Seventies, a friend whose name
was Steve Pratt got so fed up with being called Pratty that he changed
his name by deed poll to Steve Smith. Since then he has been known as
above generated an XL smile. You just know that it makes absolute sense.
Max Bowker: My mother, Beryl, once received a
letter addressed to Mr Burly Bonker.
Nick Pickford: On seeing my name written as “N.
Pickford”, I was once asked whether the “N” stood for Neil or Nigel.
“Neither” I replied. “That’s an unusual name” came the response.
Grantley Berkeley: “Berkeley as in Square” does
not always work in clarifying my surname. For my Christian name, I say
“Grant with L-E-Y on the end.”
My brothers Wulstan (aka Willesden or Walthamstow) and
Thurstan fare no better. When working with Thurstan in a factory in
Nottinghamshire many years ago, in order to avoid the usual
embarrassment, we introduced ourselves as Grant and Stan.
“Grant and Stan?” replied the foreman. “What did your
parents give you posh names like that for?”
Margaret Hancock: My husband had a colleague
called George Clark, who was irate when people spelled his surname with
an E on the end.
On being assigned his personal parking space, he was
enraged to find it adorned with the name “George Clarke”. He had a rant
at the site management, saying that his name didn’t have an E on the
end. He arrived the next morning to see his parking place bearing the
name “Georg Clarke”.
Rex Last: I am at a loss when a call centre
operative asks me: “And what is your last name?”
Sharron Enticknap: When asked, “Can you spell
that?”, my answer, after 43 years, is: “Yes, I can.”
Frances Luczye Wyhowska: No comment.
Sue Smith: I
cannot see what the problem is.
Bowling a maiden over
I’m not sure why, but latched onto the tail end of those
wonderful little name tags, above, I’d saved this online comment ― having
read it again, it is certainly worthy of its place in the gallery...
Grizzly: Rachel Heyhoe-Flint, the great England
women’s cricket captain had no time for all this so-called “sexist”
nonsense. She was more than happy to be described as a batsman.
She also had a good sense of humour, shown when she
told of the time when she had been mistakenly credited with answering a
reporter who had asked if women cricketers wore any protective equipment
similar to a man’s “box”.
The reply given was: “Yes, it’s called a manhole cover!”
Thursday, October 18
Yesterday, a free range Dick ~ Today, a free ranging Dick
I’M AWAKE just before five. I stretch out and switch on
the bedside radio: Radio 2’s Alex Lester is just starting his listeners’
‘What today has taught me’ spot...
The usual comic suspects are there: Jane in Mansfield,
Sting in Tring, Belinda in Carlisle, Eric in Clapton ... then a
‘boringly named’ Terry Parker tells us this: “I’ve learnt over the past
24 hours that, apparently, I don’t listen to the wife ― at least
I think that’s what she said.”
A quiet chuckle to ease my smile muscles into gear ...
then Alex delights us with Joe Brown’s ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’...
I’m lying there, enjoying Joe’s marvellous performance ... I should
really have been listening to this last night, I’m thinking, just after
Trouble is though, I never remember my dreams. Later, a
quick YouTube search comes up with Joe and his ukulele performing the
song at the end of a concert celebrating the life and music of Beatle
George Harrison (back in 2002, at the Albert Hall).
And what a warming and joyous four-and-a-half-minute spot
it is, especially so when the rose petals start raining down. Well worth
a look. A link coming up at the bottom...
Every day a day at school
Later in the morning, I kick start the computer ... I
look left, look right ― then straight ahead into Google ... I am confronted with this image, which baffles me
on earth does it mean? Particularly so with that leek sticking up there?
What possible Welsh connection can there be, I’m thinking? And what is
it with that mysterious eye?
Later, I visit Telegraph Online ― and I eye this
The easy way to read Moby Dick
Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick is celebrated in a Google doodle
today to mark its 161st anniversary. The epic 212,758-word masterpiece
is now also available in a 12-word version
Of course, the eye belongs to the great white whale,
invisible against the background ― clev-er. And the mysterious leek? The
famous Gregory Peck film was shot down here in south-west Wales...
was published 161 years ago today in Britain ― it came
out in America a month later on 18 October 1851 ― and is a book that is
still considered one of the treasures of world literature.
The famous opening of Herman Melville’s masterpiece,
“Call me Ishmael,” are the first three of those two-hundred-thousand-odd
words in 38 chapters in a giant humpback of a book, which was on
President Barack Obama’s recent reading list.
which tells the story of sailor Ishmael’s part in Captain Ahab’s
self-destructive and obsessive voyage on the whaleship Pequod, to
hunt the great white whale, has been chosen four times on Desert
Island Discs ― by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, J G Ballard, Penelope
Lively and Patricia Highsmith.
In its own day, it was received by many critics as a
deranged rant. Henry F. Chorley, chief critic of London’s The
Athenaeum, called it “trash belonging to the worst school of Bedlam
New York-born Melville (1819-1891) used his travels in
the Pacific in the 1840s as the basis for Moby Dick, published
when he was 31. Here’s an example of the memorable prose:
“There are certain
queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when
a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the
wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke
is at nobody's expense but his own.”
Right now though, the child within has to bow to the remarkable
children’s board book from Cozy Classics, where brothers Jack and Holman
Wang use needle felted figures to tell Moby Dick in just 12 words:
Sailor ... Boat ... Captain ... Leg
... Mad ... Sail ... Find ...
Whale ... Chase ... Smash ... Sink
that way, it’s
hard to see what all the fuss is about.
Free range cock comes home to roost
Talking of sperm whales and “this strange mixed affair we
call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical
joke”, yesterday, I hinted that the tale of a “sperm donor service aimed
at matching women with anonymous celebrity dads” was an April Fool’s
joke. Well, today, Mail Online:
ITV forced to apologise after featuring celebrity sperm bank hoaxer on
This Morning featured an interview earlier
this week with self-styled businessman called Dan Richards who said his
firm, Fame Daddy, would match up women with donors including
professional sportsmen and millionaire musicians.
However, it has since been revealed that the entire
scheme was actually an elaborate hoax. This Morning host
Phillip Schofield told viewers that an investigation has now been
launched into the story.
“It now appears that the man claiming to run a website
for celebrity sperm donation was an actor working for a TV production
company who clearly went to great lengths to pull the wool over the eyes
of the programme and our audience.
“They also managed to convince other media, appearing on
radio and in newspapers. We are very sorry that This Morning
and our viewers were deliberately misled by this stunt.”
As well as Fame Daddy
being featured on This Morning, several newspapers were taken in
by the stunt, including The Telegraph and The Sun.
Hm, although I latched onto the story in The Telegraph, I’m not
sure they’d been taken in by it; I had noticed that they
did not allow any comments on the story, which was unusual.
This only happens when it’s a delicate story where they
don’t want trolls and the like spouting off ― or perhaps when they feel
the story doesn’t quite ring true.
It’s a shame because, although I treated it with
tongue-firmly-in-cheek ― actually my take on it stands up quite well,
being that it is a hoax ― but it would have underlined my conviction of
the doolallyness of our modern world.
In the meantime, here’s the link to Joe Brown’s
marvellous ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’:
Wednesday, October 17
“It may be the cock that crows, but it is the hen
that lays the eggs.”
87, ex-prime minister of this Parish
Celebrity sperm donor service gears up
I quickly checked the date ― no, not April Fool’s Day.
This extraordinary piece, spotted in the Telegraph:
A sperm donor service aimed at matching women with anonymous celebrity
dads ― such as rock stars, famous athletes and disc jockeys who fix
things and raise a lot of money for charities along the way ― will
launch next year, its owners have claimed
Okay, I added the bit about the DJ who Fixes Things, just
to register at the outset the utter doolallyness of this delightful up cock
of our times.
Whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad. Quite.
Anyway, back at Tossers’ Corner ― but first, two images that came to
mind, along with a timely warning for hens, everywhere...
Free range cock meets battery hen
WARNING: Like the curate’s sperm, this sample is likely to
good in parts only, and its cryptic genetic
coding could seriously
ambush your child’s walk through time
Come to Daddy
Fame Daddy will offer would-be-mothers “top quality
celebrity surrogate fathers” when it launches next February, according
to Dan Richards, its chief executive.
Prices will start at £15,000 for a premium sperm service
from the clinic.
The company’s website, which launched last week, claims
that women can pick from a range of celebrated high-achievers when
picking a prospective father for their offspring.
The identities of each high-flying father will be kept
secret as the donors have been guaranteed anonymity. The men will also
be required to sign a legal waiver of their rights to access the child.
However, would-be mothers using the Fame Daddy clinic
will be able to identify their area of achievement and other personal
attributes: the website lists a range of “sample profiles” of typical
sperm donors, including an Oscar-winning actor, a member of the House of
Lords and an ex-Premiership footballer...
[I wonder how many ladies reading this have, at this
point, involuntary but gently crossed their legs? Whatever...]
Last night Mr Richards admitted that the clinic has no
real sperm samples “as of yet”. He said that the online descriptions are
examples of the type of clientele that Fame Daddy “intends to attract”.
However he said that the site’s register of possible
donors already includes a retired ATP tennis pro, a retired English
cricketer and a multi-platinum recording artist.
Mr Richards said: “We currently have about 40 people on
our register of interested donors. Of course, until we have premises we
cannot store sperm and therefore we as of yet have no actual samples. I
am confident most of these will donate once we are operational.
"Our vision is to help women give their children the very
best chance in life. To be able to harvest potential from the global
gene pool, rather than from the more limited selection of the men she
comes into direct contact with, is a major evolutionary leap for women.
"Whether it is talent
on the stage or pitch, having a world beating voice, or just being very
beautiful, Fame Daddy will have the perfect celebrity surrogate daddy."
Oh dear. Imagine, if this service had been available 10 years or more ago,
we could now have little blonde children, sucking on toy cigars,
running around uttering things like “Now then, now then. How’s about
go and lie down in a darkened room for a while ― but before I go, and
to balance Maggie’s memorable quote at the top:
“I was eating in a Chinese restaurant downtown. There was a dish called
Mother and Child Reunion. It's chicken and eggs.”
Paul Simon, 71, singer of Newark Parish in New
Tuesday, October 16
Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
Felix jumped over the moon...
“READING about the space skydiver, I thought of my
long dead Yorkshire mother-in-law whose comment would have been: ‘Some
folk will do owt rather than work.’.”
A letter in the Daily Mail from Norman Lees, Corbridge,
“Many a true word spoken in jest” is the comment that
came to mind when I read that amusing letter.
Whatever, the Felix Baumgartner tales keep
coming. It seems that as a boy he could hardly go past a tree
without wanting to climb it. His childhood photos are littered
with him perched at the top of one.
“I wanted to climb everything,” he says. “I loved
to get to the top of a building, a house, a tree, whatever. I
loved watching the world from above. The air is my element. I
like to be up there as much as I can.”
And then, of course, once up there, he had to get
Baumgartner has jumped from a plane and flown
across the Channel with wings strapped to his back. He’s jumped
off the 101-storey Taipei Tower in Taiwan, and of course the
Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, pictured alongside
― and what a shot that is. It gives an idea of the size of the
Nothing in Baumgartner’s family background
suggests he would become the world’s most adventurous daredevil.
He was born in the beautiful Alpine city of
Salzburg. Baumgartner’s father, a carpenter also called Felix
(that’s where the love of trees comes from I guess) and mother,
Eva, a farmer, didn’t do any sport at all — not even skiing in
the surrounding mountains.
for a few more
eye-catching online comments...
Thomas Chisholm: “The effects of gravity
can be grave.”
Didn’t that used to be part of a safety advert?
Indeed it did, Thomas: it was to do with wearing
protective head gear and shoes at work. Here’s just a taste...
Felix Baumgartner, who goes by
the code name Base 502, prepares to
jump from the arm of the Christ the Redeemer statue on the Corcovado
mountain, overlooking Rio, for the world’s lowest
Sir Isaac Newton told us why
An apple falls down
from the sky,
And from this fact,
it’s very plain,
All other objects
do the same.
A brick, a bolt, a
bar, a cup
down, not up,
And every common
Is governed by the
It’s better to be sure than dead,
So get a hat and
keep your head.
Don’t think to go
without is brave;
The effects of gravity can be grave….
You can’t rely on
gravity ― it will always let you down. (But well done Felix!)
“I’m retired from the daredevil business,” said Felix afterwards. So his
passport won’t say
Given his name of Felix, along with the string of
beautiful women trailing in his wake, perhaps his passport should say
Philmill: If, when he bunny-hopped off the
capsule, he had simply floated off into space, it would simultaneously
have been the funniest thing I’d ever seen and the most heartbreakingly
sad thing as well.
Now isn’t that the truth.
Given Felix’s attraction to trees, it is 25 years since
the Great Storm of 1987. On the night of October 15 it is estimated that
15 million trees were brought down across southern Britain, the south
east of England particularly badly hit. We escaped relatively lightly
here in west Wales.
The media has been looking back at that storm, with loads
of images of flattened trees, obviously. I have to say, I liked this...
...do you suppose that the telephone was actually
working, and the fellow really is making a call? A trunk call, perhaps?
(No proper mobiles back then, remember.) Or did a snapper invite a
passing chap to go in and pretend to make a call?
Whatever, it’s a memorable shot, and gets my vote.
Monday, October 15
Falling from a great height
night I nervously watched that magnificent man without a flying machine, Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian daredevil,
achieve one of the most remarkable feats of modern human endeavour as he
became the first man to break the sound barrier after a 24-mile skydive from the edge of space.
Today, the trials and tribulations of the jump have
emerged, along with the images ... these from Mail Online...
ZOOOOOOOM ...... BOOM BOOM!
For more than four nerve-racking minutes, Felix Baumgartner was a tiny
speck against a dark sky, hurtling towards the Earth at 834mph. Then his
parachute opened and, five minutes later, 'Fearless Felix' had completed
the highest and fastest skydive in history (right).
In doing so, the 43-year-old Austrian became the first freefall diver to
break the sound barrier, as well as breaking the record
for the highest manned balloon ascent.
Enter, stage overhead
The former military parachutist rose in a purpose-built
capsule beneath a giant helium balloon to a height of more than
128,000ft – almost four times the height of a cruising passenger
It was a remarkable thing to watch live. I really felt
quite nervous and apprehensive for the fellow, especially when he began
to spin and tumble out of control.
It reminded me of the Apollo moon landings ― well, not
the actual landings because we were only ever able to listen as there
were no live pictures ― but when the lunar modules took off there was always
camera on the moon surface to capture live the lift-off and ascent.
One always felt hugely nervous: were the engines going to
fire? And when they did would the modules climb as they were supposed to
or career off to one side and crash?
Watching Baumgartner was much like that feeling.
The things I remember are these...
Unsurprisingly, he came across as quite nervous in the
capsule as he ran through the final checks leading to the jump; indeed
we learnt today that he considered aborting the mission at that point
when his visor began to fog up because of the coldness of his breath ―
then after a quick salute to a watching world, our hero jumped from
the capsule and plummeted toward earth...
His remarkable feat came exactly 65 years to the day ―
spooky or what? ― after Chuck Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier, but
in a jet aircraft.
In a press conference after the jump, he said “When I was
standing there on top of the world, so humble, you are not thinking
about breaking records. I was thinking about coming back alive. You do
not want to die in front of your parents, my girlfriend, and all these
people ... I thought: ‘Please God, don’t let me down.’.”
[Perhaps quietly he thought: “Please God, let me down ―
and don’t let me down.”]
He said that he considered aborting the mission twice.
When in the capsule, and then at the beginning of the descent when he
went into an uncontrollable spin. Baumgartner had a button which would
activate a parachute which would arrest his spin but would mean that he
could break no speed records.
The other thing I remember was Baumgartner’s incredibly
gentle landing ― and looking so casual about it. Then, just the one person
initially approached him ― clearly a photographer ― and I marvelled at
how the snapper resisted the temptation to shake his hands or give him a
quick hug, but kept his discipline to concentrate on the importance
of capturing the moment for posterity.
But did the Austrian generate a boom-boom ― a sonic boom
― as he went through the sound barrier? A quick Google leaves that
question very much up in the air. For now, anyway.
There’s a link below to a Guardian Q&A about
the Austrian adventurer and his jump, including some quite dramatic
footage taken from a camera mounted on his spacesuit and which shows the
terrifying moments he spun out of control.
Finally, I have to quote this brief online exchange, very
Terry101: Get the spelling right you hopeless
idiots, it’s “Australian”, not “Austrian”.
An Aussie would have done it in shorts.
How true. Oh, and he would have been swigging from a can of
lager as he came in to land. No worries, mate. Fosters. Good call.
When I thought of the headline for this particular smile of the day,
from a great height”,
I had not seen the ironic
cartoon in The Daily Telegraph
― but how about this, then, guys and gals?
Sometimes, there is just nothing to add. Except this link...!
Link to Guardian Q&A + a quick spin into the unknown with Felix
from today’s Sunday Times' ‘View of Life, the Universe and
Everything’ Comment column, a tail-gunner piece which is there to raise
a smile as well as make us think, to a degree...
The third degree
There was a time when Oxford and Cambridge universities
asked only two questions of aspiring students: did you go to a leading
public school and, if so, can you bowl a decent leg break, as we’re a
bit short on the college team this year? How times have changed.
Oxford has just released some examples of the questions
today’s applicants might face. Why are strawberries and ladybirds red?
Why do human beings have two eyes? What would history be like if seen
only through the prism of sport? Does poetry have to be difficult?
(Extra marks are awarded, presumably, for answering that one in rhyming
Why does Oxbridge do this sort of thing? Because the
interview has now become the most important part of a university
application. Here is a maths question that will explain it all:
“If 50% of applicants
to Oxford University have four A*s at A-level, and the remaining 50%
also have 4 A*s at A-level, how can you tell the difference between
them?” It’s a trick of course. This question has no obvious answer.
This is as good a ‘smile of the day’ contribution as I am ever likely to
paste in my scrapbook. Not only does it make me smile, obviously, but it
activates my ‘every day a day at school’ Q-Spot.
I couldn’t resist Googling said questions ― and they are,
unsurprisingly, well served online. But as always, it’s
the comic observations that make it in here. In response to the
are strawberries and ladybirds red?,
I enjoyed these...
Wow. I don’t know. But so are cherries and the Turkish
flag. Have you noticed? Coincidence? Synchronicity? It proves Darwin was
wrong, though, doesn’t it? This was intelligent design.
That’s a tough one ... and I have always wondered why blueberries are
I dunno, but would you like to buy some lemonade??
And, What would history be like if seen through the
prism of sport?
Now that is a philosophical teaser. But here’s what I did
notice during the Olympics and Paralympics: normally, the only people
who get to hear their national anthems are those who win gold; yet when
team sports are played ─ say football, hockey, that sort of thing ─ then
every competing team gets to hear its own national anthem before getting
stuck into each other.
Just as happens with traditional football or rugby
internationals outside of the Olympics arena.
Imagine how much
better it would be if only the winners got to sing their anthem at the
end of the game. And the All Blacks can only do their increasingly
theatrical and annoying haka after they have won ― which would, sadly, be at the end
of pretty much every game, obviously. Now wouldn’t that add something extra to the
Does poetry have to be
Excellent question ― indeed, ponder the
This, compliments of Wikipedia:
A limerick is a kind of a witty, humorous, or
nonsense poem, especially one in five-line anapaestic or amphibrachic
meter with a strict rhyme scheme (AABBA), which is sometimes obscene
with humorous intent. The form can be found in England as of the early
years of the 18th century. It was popularized by Edward Lear in the 19th
century, although he did not use the term.
The following limerick is of unknown origin:
The limerick packs laughs anatomical,
In space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I’ve seen,
So seldom are clean,
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.
True, but what about this ― mind you, I don’t think it’s
either anapaestic or antiseptic, but it gave me an unexpected smile:
There was a young lady
Who went for a swim in a
A man in a punt,
Stuck an oar in her ear,
And said you can’t swim
‘ere it’s dangerous.
PS: The limerick has the strict rhyme scheme AABBA ― which suggests it
is marginally more entertaining than ABBA.
Saturday, October 13
PICTURES have been my thing this week. And today is no
It’s the Mail Online yet again: the headline
link coming up beckoned me in ... to peruse some marvellous sepia-toned
photographs from a 100 years ago and more...
Sweeping landscapes and sepia stares: Inside the rare book depicting the
customs and ceremonies of Native Americans that fetched a FORTUNE at
The Edward S. Curtis masterpiece, North American
Indian, is widely considered to be the most lavish and elegantly
produced series of photography books ever made ─ and now it has become
one of the highest selling works at auction.
The Swan Auction Galleries in New York sold the 40 volume
series for an impressive $1,440,000, making it the most expensive item
ever sold at the 70-year-old house ─ and a glimpse at the stunning
photographs show just why it was so desirable.
In an astounding unrivalled feat, Curtis travelled for
more than 30 years across the United States, Alaska and Canada to
capture tribes including the Apache, the Teton Sioux, the Kato and the
Tewa, producing more than 40,000 photographs.
With intimate detail, the photographs chronicled the
customs, manners, rituals, songs, languages, and ceremonies of more than
80 tribes, setting them against the stunning landscapes of North
Here’s my favourite from the Mail gallery...
Pictured in 1905, Geronimo, 76, four years before his death, was a
prominent leader of the Bedonkohe Apache tribe in New Mexico. He fought
against Mexico and the U.S. as they expanded into Apache lands before he
surrendered to the US in 1886 and became a prisoner of war.
What the above proves is this: you can visit the most
exciting and glamorous locations in the world, have the best equipment
that money can buy, which will of course help capture images of exquisite
sharpness and detail ― but only one thing matters: content, content,
When you turn the page of a newspaper, magazine, or
indeed click on an online picture gallery, what draws you in is not the
technical brilliance of the photograph, but the eye-catching nature of
Going back to Geronimo: what a characterful image it is.
If ever a picture paints a thousand words, here it is. Quite wonderful,
a portrait of a life clearly lived to its fullest.
Every day a day at school spot
At the top I use the expression “Geronimooooo...!”
Where does this come from? This Q&A session from The Phrase Finder:
Can anyone tell me why paratroopers shout
I’ve been looking and looking for the origin, and I’m about to die of
GERONIMO - From the “Morris
Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins”
(Second Edition, HarperCollins, 1977) by William and Mary Morris:
From the earliest wars in recorded history, men have
plunged into battle shouting battle cries. Indeed, our common word
‘slogan’ was originally the Gaelic ‘sluggh-ghairm’, meaning the call to
battle used by Scottish Highlanders and Irish clan.
One of the most interesting of these cries is that used
by the U.S. airborne paratroopers: “Geronimo!”
When we speculated in print on why our soldiers use the
name of a dead Apache chieftain for their slogan, several alumni of
airborne regiments reported stories of its origin.
A plausible one came from Arthur A. Manion: “At Fort
Sill, Oklahoma,” he wrote, “a series of rather steep hills, called, I
believe, Medicine Bluffs, was pointed out to all new arrivals. It was
said that one day Geronimo, with the army in hot pursuit, made a leap on
horseback down an almost vertical cliff ― a feat that the posse could
“The legend continues that in the midst of this jump to
freedom he gave out the bloodcurdling cry of ‘Geronimooooo!’
Hence the practice adopted by our paratroopers. I hope this helps. It’s
at least colourful, if not authentic.”
Another correspondent, who once lived at Fort Sill, added
the information that the bluff from which Geronimo made his daring leap
“is a cliff overlooking a small river”. So we know that Geronimo and his
steed had water, rather than desert floor, to break their fall.
Now, this is indeed an interesting tale and one that may
very well be the real inspiration, for the paratroopers were trained at
Forts Bragg and Campbell. Why, then, did they reach to Fort Sill for
inspiration for their battle cry?
R. Collier of Milwaukee offered a less glamorous but
probably more accurate account of the origin of the call. “In the early
days of the 82nd Airborne,” he wrote, “the men used to go to the nearby
movie in Lafayetteville. During the week scheduled for the division’s
initial jumps, they saw a movie named ‘Geronimo’. (If that wasn’t the
title, at least the Indian chief played a leading part.)
“Anyway, one guy hollered the name and one of those
things no one can explain happened. The whole division took it up and
from them it spread to the later-activated airborne forces.”
the link to Mail Online’s North American Indian
Friday, October 12
The Sex Olympics
“YOU can lie to your relatives at Christmas dinner and tell them
everything on the home front is just peachy. But you cannot lie to your
vagina.” Olivia Wilde, 28, American actress, suggests that she lives
in interesting times.
“Sure you won’t have a bit more stuffing, dear?” Sorry,
should have resisted something quite so spicy and sage after reading
about the Wilde child in Mail Online. To move quickly onto the
Olivia performed her own take on the Vagina Monologues in
New York the other night, and revealed that her body had told her that
her marriage was over.
And the actress wishes she’d listened to it as her
long-term relationship with Italian prince Tao Ruspoli, 36, filmmaker
and musician, became sexless.
After her 2011 divorce, Wilde was single but, for the
past nine months, she’s been dating Jason Sudeikis, 37, American actor
actress then went on to say that she and the comedian
“have sex like Kenyan marathon runners”.
Sex like Kenyan marathon runners, eh? Goodness, the
sex Olympics are here. “Goodness,” as Mae West would
undoubtedly remind me, “has nothing to do with it.”
Speaking as someone who’s strictly a hop, step and jump
man, what I want to know is this: who the hell is standing next to the
bed and handing out refreshments as they move round the course? Even
more importantly, who rings the bell to signify the final lap?
Oh, and after it’s all over, do they do the Mobot or the
Perhaps they do the Mobolt Marathon.
Incidentally, I’m not surprised Sudeikis is a marathon
man when it comes to happenings between the sheets; after all, his name
suggests that he takes as long to perform his duties as it takes me to
complete a Sudoku puzzle.
I also read that Olivia Wilde has mixed-race parents: Her
father’s a sprint man ― but her mother prefers the marathon. Boom-boom!
A pee for your thoughts
“Rod is so mean, he even hates to take a pee because
it means he is giving something away.” Actress Britt Ekland, now 70
would you believe, on former partner, Rod Stewart.
Stewart is well known for his liaisons with women,
particularly those of the blonde variety, indeed he has eight children
with five of them.
In reference to his many and expensive divorces – no
wonder he’s reputedly mean – Rod was once quoted as saying:
“Instead of getting
married again, I’m going to find a woman I don’t like and just give her
Ho, ho, ho!
Meanwhile, back with the main course and the stuffing...
“If you stick your wife in an oven, she will probably
be tasty, but is that any reason to eat your wife?”
What singer Morrissey, 53, English singer and vegetarian, nearly said
when he attacked meat-eaters.
Rod would probably say, yes. However, what Morrissey
actually used as an example was his grandmother. Doolallyness at its
Incidentally, until the other day I thought he was known
as Morrissey because he was once a Morris dancer. D’oh!
But I’m just a simple country boy, remember.
Thursday, October 11
Picture me this
the past couple of days my 42 smile muscles (42 being The Ultimate
Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything) were activated by a series
of pictures. Well blow me, here I am, again.
Mail Online is noted for the quality of its
picture galleries, and today was no exception. So I came upon a gallery
featuring some delightful pictures that will be on display later this
month when 20 of the world’s greatest wildlife photographers gather in
London and reveal the secrets of their art.
Hosted by zoologist and conservationist Mark Carwardine
and wildlife expert and TV presenter Chris Packham, WildPhotos ―
the UK’s largest wildlife photography show ― takes place at the Royal
Geographical Society on October 19 and 20.
The two-day event is packed with inspirational talks and
sessions, I read in the Mail, giving visitors a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most
spectacular wildlife images ― including winners of the prestigious
Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
Anyway, here’s my favourite picture from the Mail
Sing something soulful
Take my breath away: A wren male fills the spring air with early
It’s the bird’s breath on the cold morning air that
undoubtedly gives it that something Xtra. You can see the notes in its
breath. You can hear it sing. Fabulous picture.
There are undoubtedly more spectacular and eye-catching
pictures on show, but I liked the little wren because, let’s be honest,
given the simplicity of the image, I could have taken this (with a
gentle tailwind and oodles and oodles of luck taken as a given,
obviously), especially so as I am surrounded by friendly wee songbirds
along my morning walk.
The point being, with most of the other photographs on
show I would have had to travel to exotic places, go underwater, the
need for quality equipment ― and more than anything, patience, patience
and more patience.
It goes without saying that I was nowhere near the front
of the queue marked ‘Patience’ at the moment of conception. But, as I
say, any of us could have taken the picture of the wren just by being in
the right place at the right time ― and being alert to the world
about us, obviously.
And that’s to take nothing at all away from the
photographer, Mark Hamblin
Here’s a link to the Mail’s picture
Wednesday, October 10
A multi-story parked car
YESTERDAY, what caught my eye was the image of the horse
as created by the Ohio State University marching band.
Today, it was this extraordinary image of a parked car...
A vehicle is parked on a balcony of an apartment block in
Kiev, Ukraine. How or why it got there is a mystery, but it would take
some nifty handling to get into such a tight spot. And you wouldn’t want
to be taking part in a modern version of The Kiev Job and
needing to make a quick getaway.
My initial reaction was that you would have
needed a crane in the middle of the night to get it up there
without hordes of people with cameras filming your every move
and posting it on YouTube ... and obviously it would
have to be some sort of publicity stunt.
But then when you look closer at the car,
something just doesn’t look right ― in particular that ‘ridge’
which runs along the bottom of the body, between the wheels,
which appears somewhat bent...
My guess is that it’s an inflatable car. Good
bloody joke though.
While on the subject of cars, this letter from
The Sunday Times motoring section, to do with
personalised registration number plates, made me smile:
Name and shame
Like Geoff Kirkham (“Letter of the law”), I was
pulled over by a traffic officer and given a fixed penalty for
illegal spacing of the characters of my number plate. Okay, fair
cop ― I had squeezed up the gap between the letters and the
number to make HAY 7N look a bit more like my first name ― HAYDN
― so I paid the fine and put it down to experience.
I was later surprised to receive a letter from the
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), which had become
aware of my brush with the law and wished to advise me that,
contrary to my previously held belief that I had bought the
plate, I had, in fact, purchased only a right to display it. The
ownership remained with the agency, and it said it would not
hesitate to evoke my right to display it if I didn’t keep my
nose clean. Ouch.
Haydn Roberts, Wrexham
Now I’ve never purchased the right to display a
personalised plate, but I bet that many of those who have were taken
rather by surprise when they read the above tale.
This in turn takes me to another letter from the same
The DVLA may not have issued the number plate SEX, but it
has issued X92, which looks pretty innocuous until you read it in your
rear-view mirror (“Lust revenue”, Letters, last week).
Vic Brown, Morpeth, Northumberland
If you write X92 on a piece of paper ― be sure to write
it as printed ― it is indeed surprisingly smiley. The things people
catch sight of in the mirror, eh?
Tuesday, October 9
Galloping into the memory
is famous for its university marching bands. And very entertaining they
Today though I’ve watched a spectacle which is a step up
from your run of the mill “By the left, quick march: left right left
The Ohio State University marching band, all 225 members,
shows off its moves recreating images from video games such as Space
Invaders, Pokémon, Tetris, Zelda, Halo, among others.
Now all those games mean absolutely nothing to me, but I
was attracted by this still image of the band doing its stuff...
...I couldn’t resist clicking on the image ... now the
Chinese and Koreans are brilliant at this sort of stuff, but I’m not
sure whether they also make swinging music while performing.
The show took place during the half-time break in a
university American football game between Ohio and Nebraska in June of
this year. However, it has only just been posted on YouTube, and the
ever growing numbers viewing it are marching in step with the band it
It is worth watching just to witness the horse taking
shape ― but even more extraordinary is to see the horse suddenly do a
quick gallop. Exquisite and quite wonderful to watch.
The show lasts some 10 minutes, but there are several
edited versions on YouTube. There’s a link, below, to a three minute
effort ― skip the ad, which, the last time I looked, is nearly as long
as the video clip itself ― and the clip finishes with the horse routine.
It really is worth a quick view...
BORIS IS IN THE
ELVIS may have famously “just left the building” ─ but
the above instantly grabbed my attention.
The Mail Online headline continued...
Extraordinary scenes as media scrum and hoards of fans greet the Mayor
of London’s arrival at the Tory party conference
Boris Johnson today brought the Tory party conference to
a standstill as he arrived in Birmingham to the sort of reception
usually reserved for pop stars.
The Mayor of London’s celebrity status eclipses even that
of Prime Minister David Cameron, and TV crews and photographers are out
in force to capture his every move.
To chants of “Boris!
he battled into the conference centre ahead of a rally tonight whose
sole purpose is to celebrate the cult of the Conservative’s biggest
And in the blue corner
At this point it is fascinating to compare and contrast
the style of two politicians in the news today: one, it seems, is driven
by the need to make love not war; the other, it seems, driven by the
need to make war not love.
On the one hand we have an image of Boris as he parts the
madding crowd on his arrival at the Tory party conference, a man who
famously uses humour to seduce the masses...
On the other hand we have Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner ― President
of Argentina, who is facing revolt over an ailing economy as her
approval rating hits a record low and aides admit she is using the
Falkland Islands as a smokescreen to mask domestic failings ― a lady who
famously uses aggression to seduce the masses.
And let’s be honest, despite being an essentially
handsome woman, nature has also seen fit to curse her with an alarmingly
‘nasty’ look when cornered.
Anyway, this is a web site to celebrate the things wot
make me want to make love and smile, rather than make war and weep - now
c’mon, who would you rather have rule the world: Johnson or Kirchner?
A bit of a
no-brainer, really; so,
returning to the smiley world of our Great Leader, Boris, the above whisked
me back a week to a
piece by Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times...
Up the Orinoco without a paddle
You have to feel sorry for the prime minister. He could
be on a canoe up the Orinoco to meet a lost tribe of savages who eat
monkeys and make poison for their spears out of frog urine ― and you can
bet they would advance on him, whooping and hollering: “Boris!
Cameron is preceded by the ghost of the floppy-haired
pretender everywhere he goes. When Cameron was in Brazil, that’s all the
locals wanted to talk about: Where is Boris? We thought he was
Still, Cameron fares a hell of a lot better abroad than
Gordon Brown (yes, you remember, it wasn’t just a bad dream:
short-tempered Scottish bloke with the personality of a coffin lid).
Gordon was at the
United Nations to give a press conference and only one journalist turned
up – despite the fact that its approach had been announced repeatedly on
the Tannoy: “Gordon Brown’s press conference is about to begin in Room
101” etc. Cue hordes of people fleeing the building with their hands
clapped to their ears as in that Munch painting that got nicked.
Every day a day at school
did you spot the cock-up in the Mail’s headline, at the
very top? By a delightful coincidence, Rod Liddle mentioned “Cue hordes
of people fleeing the building” ― and at the top, the Mail
reports “hoards of fans greet the Mayor of London’s arrival at the Tory
Yes, the Mail really did say “hoards”, as
to collect and store, often secretly, a large quantity of something
such as food or money for use in the future ― as opposed to
“hordes”, as in: a large group of people.
amateur I am allowed to make such mistakes ― but a national
the Daily Telegraph cartoonist, captures today’s happenings at
the Tory conference perfectly...
"You'll have to move, Prime
Minister, we're expecting
Boris any minute now..."
All the above Boris brouhaha was perfectly rounded off
for me tonight while
watching the BBC’s local television news on Wales Today.
Parliamentary correspondent David Cornock was reporting
live from the Tory conference at Birmingham. In the background we could
clearly hear music...
David signed off
with this memorable line:
“I can confirm that is actually
a brass band and not Boris Johnson blowing his own trumpet.”
And finally, finally
Continuing the Tory theme...
“For too long, this place has been run like a
sergeants’ mess. I want it to be run more like an officers’ mess.”
What Government Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell ― yes, you remember, the
fellow who infamously swore at police manning the gates at Downing
Street and then called them “plebs” ― what Mitchell reportedly told
fellow whips at a private meeting.
You are probably ahead of me already: yes, the place is
now being run more like a politicians’ mess.
Sunday, October 7
The Queen of Hearts and the Cat
A BRACE of images caught my eye today. One was the new
portrait of the Queen. Actually, what drew my attention was the
accompanying blurb, starting with this headline:
Ralph Heimans’ portrait of the Queen reveals her soul
Ralph Heimans poses in front of his portrait of the
Queen, this year’s only official portrait
Heart and soul
I quote part of a letter from a
of Ingleton, North Yorkshire:
We catch the Queen in a moment of contemplation, in which
she appears to be reflecting on her reign and role as a lone figure,
bearing the burden of her heritage and yet showing warmth and a human
vulnerability, something not usually represented in past royal
One’s eye goes
straight to the figure, which is so accurately portrayed in intimate
detail. Her averted gaze makes the portrait the more refreshing. I am
sure I am not alone in admiring this exquisite piece of work…
Meanwhile, on the comment board,
The artist has
painted one of the best portraits ever of Her Majesty. Despite the
splendour of the background, the eye is immediately drawn to the Queen,
who is in deep contemplation about her coronation and the subsequent
I am clearly an ignoramus in these things. I do not spot any soul on
parade, let alone a tachograph of her 60 years on the throne.
What I actually see is a rather splendid painting, not
just of Her Majesty, but especially
so the detail of the floor and the magnificence of the background, the Coronation
Theatre in Westminster Abbey, with the Queen standing on the very spot
where she was crowned. Nice touch.
As for the representation of the Queen herself, well, I would need to see the
painting in the flesh, so to speak, to make a judgment call.
(Incidentally, I call it a painting rather than a portrait ― I thought a
portrait was the subject or sitter up close, an image that is taller than it is
Be that as it may, the Queen’s portrait makes my smile of
the day, compliments of this glorious addendum by the aforementioned
Is it not a bit of a paradox that the artist can paint
something so beautiful but look rather a scruff himself!?
The first thing I did was scroll back up ... what a
perfect observation, Percyvere. Very funny.
So that’s the Queen of Hearts done and dusted, now for the cat...
Artist: Tambra Wilcox
I stumbled upon this headline and image, compliments of
This is Colonel Meow, nicknamed the “World’s angriest cat”
Despite a rather fluffy coat, the black smoke Persian
cat, Colonel Meow, appears anything but cuddly, thanks to a face that
seems to be fixed in a permanent frown.
It is a hilariously amusing look. In fact, Colonel Meow
looks the sort of cat that you may well spot in a future Bond film ― but
be at all surprised that it’s
the cat stroking the baddie as the Colonel purrs and plots world domination.
Owner Anne Marie Avey from Seattle says the Colonel was
found abandoned by the side of the road. The thing is though, I
bet Colonel Meow is actually a bit of a pussycat, the very opposite of
his angry expression.
Bearing in mind today’s
brace of smiles, I am reminded of this brief
Alice in Wonderland...
“How do you like the Queen?” said the Cat in a low voice.
“Not at all,” said Alice: “She’s so extremely---” Just
then she noticed that the Queen was close behind her, listening, so she
went on: “---likely to win, that it’s hardly worthwhile finishing the
The Queen smiled and passed on.
(Now that has to be Elizabeth
II of the United Queendom, reflecting her soul.)
Saturday, October 6
Ashes to ashes
BRITAIN’S trees and woodlands are facing a growing threat from at least
15 pests and diseases that forestry experts fear could decimate the
The situation has become so critical that the government
has announced it was preparing to ban imports of ash trees as the spread
of Chalara fraxinea fungus, also known as “chalara dieback”, has
already led to the destruction of tens of thousands of trees.
It seems that the glorious ash is the latest of our
woodland trees to be attacked by a deadly fungus spreading from Europe,
which makes you wonder why the government are “working towards a ban on
imports and looking to impose movement restrictions on trees from
infected areas” rather than getting on with it.
In the Daily Telegraph I learn that the
indiscriminate importing from Holland of potted plants, which in turn
are often sourced from China, is spreading disease throughout the
world’s trees. In Britain alone the growing list of species afflicted by
new pests and diseases includes oak, ash, horse chestnut, larch and
Of course it started back in the 1960s with the elm ― and
by an alarming coincidence, the deadly Dutch Elm disease. Why do you
suppose the Netherlands has it in for the world’s trees?
The scale of the threat is frightening, particularly so
if we believe what is happening to the ash, one of our more distinctive
Personally, I believe we are now paying the price for the
pollution and poisons we have been pumping into the air since the
industrial revolution, not to mention all this genetic engineering that
is going on behind our backs.
My considered opinion is that all the above have weakened
the trees’ immune systems and they are unable to fight off these
diseases as they once did.
The same is true with us humans. Yes, we are living ever
longer, thanks to improved lifestyles, diets, central heating, improved
health and safety regulations, no wars to decimate a nation’s
population, etc, etc...
However, it seems that cancers are appearing at ever
increasing rates, in all age groups. Are we again looking at compromised
immune systems due to our poisoned environment, much in the same way as
our trees are suffering?
Compare and contrast
What brought the fate of the poor ash onto my smile of
the day menu was not the tale itself, but rather the photograph that
accompanied the story in the newspaper.
As I have said before, I am not a photographer, merely
someone who always carries a little camera to capture the passing
parade. But I do enjoy a good photograph, just as much as I enjoy a good
The first photograph here is of a rural idyll: ash trees
surrounded by autumn mist near Wharram-le-Street, North Yorkshire. The
picture compliments of Alamy...
How beautiful is that? It would make a wonderful October
calendar picture. Personally I’d be more than happy to have it hanging
on my wall.
In stark contrast, alongside is one of my own pictures,
captured a year or so ago on one of my early morning walks through the
I was captivated by its stark autumnal beauty, its
monochromic qualities, especially so when juxtaposed with the North
Yorkshire image. Compare and contrast, indeed.
What also grabbed my attention are those electricity
poles. All from trees, obviously. But more than that: imagine where we
would suddenly find ourselves if we had no electricity. Indeed, green
rules coming from Europe threaten to plunge Britain into 1970s-style
blackouts in just three years (allegedly).
Every aspect of our lives depends on the power carried
along those lines. After food and water, it’s the one thing that would
bring civilisation crashing down overnight if it was no longer there, on
If another Hitler suddenly arrived on the scene, then the
first thing he would target would be our power stations.
The Battle of Britain would be over in a flash.
a ― ?
Finally, on the subject of trees, this online comment
from the curiously named
tickled my funny bone...
A birch and a beech have been side by side for years. A
sapling appears next to them and they don’t know what it is. They ask a
passing woodpecker to establish whether it’s a “son of a birch” or a “son of a
The woodpecker investigates and flies back to report:
“That’s the best piece of ash I’ve ever had my pecker in!”
Friday, October 5
Ooh la la!
Bare skins on parade
YOUNG ROYALS ANNOUNCE COMPLETE OVERHAUL OF PROTECTION SQUAD
Gay Paree cabaret act Crazy Horse promote their show at London’s South
FOR most of my adult life, my friendly neighbourhood pub
was the Crazy Horse Saloon ─ before the regulars became variations on
the theme of petrolheads, that is.
Conversations slowly switched from ponies and traps and harness
racing to Chelsea Tractors and all-terrain quad bikes, and the pub
morphed into the Crazy Horsepower Saloon ─ but we never had barmaids
that looked quite like the above. Or at least they never appeared on
parade undressed quite like this ... in private, perhaps they did.
The other legendary Crazy Horse, which opened its doors
in the French capital in 1951, calls
itself ‘the most avant-garde’ cabaret in Paris, and claims to
have been seducing Parisian audiences for 60 years. (Or
‘the most avocado-garden carpet in Dodgy
City’, as Dai Aphanous down at the Crazy Horsepower would put it.)
And now we in the UK can experience the same joys and
titillation as our Gay Paree cousins.
This UK presentation of the cabaret that has been
seducing Parisian audiences for over 60 years claims to preserve the
cabaret’s artistic heritage while adding 'a touch of modernity, humour
and sophistication'. Hm, that sounds like the Crazy Horsepower Saloon
all over to me.
Mention of the Crazy Horse girls as an ideal protection
squad for the young royals ― well now, it set me thinking: how quickly Kate
and her topless pictures disappeared off the news. From the moment the
royal tour came to an end, really. Astonishing how rapidly the news
Mind you, the images will obviously lie in ambush for the
rest of Kate’s life. If she reaches the grand age the Queen has, you can
imagine pictures then appearing with cruel captions such as: “Remember what
she looked like at 30?”
Anyway, what came back to me was this: it is pretty
obvious that Kate and Harry have a close, good-humoured and good-natured
relationship, so I wonder what text message Kate sent Harry when he was
caught with his pants down?
But more to the point, what did Harry text Kate
when the topless pictures appeared?
Remember the Sun front page?
Kate to Harry: OMG!
And stop boasting. Both hands to hide it? LOL!
Harry to Kate: OMG!
You should have used both hands to hide ‘em. LOL!
When imagining the first text, I did ponder this message:
Kate to Harry: OMG!
And stop boasting. Both hands to hide it? How little they know. LOL!
(You will have to indulge in some lateral thinking to work that
one out. My lips, intuitively speaking, are sealed.)
Thursday, October 4
Naughty but nifty
he was asked back to the BBC and the producer said ‘Now Kenny, you’re
live on Saturday, for goodness sake behave yourself.’ As soon as he got
on air, Kenny’s first words were: ‘I’ve just been told I mustn’t say
comedian Barry Cryer, who worked with Kenny Everett on his successful TV
shows, recalls Cuddly Kenny’s first day on his Radio 2 Saturday morning
As it happens, I
actually remember that first Saturday
morning and Kenny saying “penis”. There was something delightfully
innocent in its delivery and smiley-ness, the very antithesis of what
Jonathan Ross said to David Cameron on his chat show back in 2006 (see
I was a dedicated follower of Kenny’s show: not just his infinity of
voices, his conjured flights of technical fancy (with really basic
equipment back then), his inventive surrealism, his linguistic
whimsy ― but also the magically eclectic range of music he played: from
disco fodder via pop songs (both ancient and modern), to classical music.
Cuddly Ken appreciated that all kinds of music, if
melodic and catchy, will delight (think March of the Swiss Soldiers
from Rossini’s William Tell Overture, AKA the theme music from
The Lone Ranger).
Thankfully I still treasure cassette
tapes I put together of favourite bits of his radio shows, which I
regularly play. Magic.
quote his first words on that BBC Saturday show ... he began his zany
style of presenting on the pirate ship Radio London, where his first
brutal but perfect words of advice on Christmas Eve 1964 ― and remember
this was a good few moons before the breathalyser blew in on the wind ― were:
“If you’re a motorist
at a party, I suggest you drink, drink, drink until you can’t even find
to admit that that has happened to me, but on the day after the night
before, when I’ve
gone to collect
the car ― and it is not
left it. Panic stations. And very embarrassing.
A plate, please
SIR ― Recently, I visited two restaurants, and on both
occasions the main course was served on a piece of wood, rather than a
plate. One piece could have been mistaken for driftwood, the other was
manufactured for the purpose.
Earlier this year, when having a meal in the South Lakes,
all the courses were served on a piece of Cumbrian slate. Am I now
expected to request a plate?
Fr Peter Gooden,
The above letter recently appeared in The Daily
Telegraph. This online response amused me no end...
I refuse to accept meals served on anything but a plate. I make a point
of asking for a plate when I sit down, and before I order, but of course
they never listen. So I have no hesitation in sending it back.
Oh and they must be round plates not square. Even though
I do eat three square meals a day.
Then this funny follow-up letter appeared in the paper,
SIR – A
friend and I were at a barbecue where we were served a steak on a paper
plate and sat at a wooden garden table. I complained that my steak was
inedible, but my friend declared that hers was delicious.
We then discovered that she had eaten most of the plate
and some of the table.
It prompted this immediate online comment...
William Garrett: “We then discovered that she had eaten
most of the
plate and some of the table.”
I doubt this is true, I think it’s a fable.
Ten out of ten, William Garrett ... both witty and
clever ... mind you, William could also have picked up on the fact that
the teller of said tall tale (tall table?) is called Church, and she
nearly comes from a place called Heavenly ... otherwise, definitely smile of the day stuff.
Wednesday, October 3
Make ‘em smile; make ‘em laugh; make ‘em Waitrose
MORE moons ago than I care to remember, when video
recorders first appeared on the scene, I entered a competition where you
had to complete the sentence “I have chosen the Philips Video Recorder
because...” ― or something like that.
Anyway, and much to my surprise, I won a really expensive
five-star Concorde holiday for two to America. My successful line went
something like this: “I have chosen the Philips video recorder
because I can now put off until tomorrow what I can’t watch today.”
Imagine, back then the thought of watching something
called iPlayer at the end of a telephone line would have been akin to
flying to Mars. Let’s face it, the arrival of the video recorder was like flying to the
With that memory of crossing the Atlantic in Concorde
burnt onto my soul’s hard-drive, I’ve been catching up with the “Oops!”
social media stunt by the Waitrose supermarket chain inviting, nay
challenging, people to finish the sentence “I shop at Waitrose
Clearly bosses had hoped to see Twitterphones around the
globe burst into life with positive tweets, but instead the supermarket
chain prompted a range of humorous put-downs reflecting its upmarket
image and largely middle-class patronage ― Waitrose is the proud
a Royal Warrant ― rather than messages praising the shop’s core values.
Completed sentences are still surfacing in the meeja, so
I thought I’d pick out my favourites. What I did register with great
appreciation is that, although people have applied the Great British
Humour with gusto, very few I would class as nasty. They are mostly very
funny, even the ones that appear superficially cruel, and Waitrose
So here we go...
Some more shredded tweet, sweetheart?
I shop at Waitrose because, darling, Harrods is just too
much of a trek midweek.
I shop at Waitrose because it makes me feel important and
I absolutely detest being surrounded by poor people.
I shop at Waitrose because I was once in the Holloway
Road branch and heard a dad say “Put the papaya down, Orlando!”
I shop at Waitrose because I get shoved aside by a better
class of elbow.
I shop at Waitrose
because I WILL NOT stand next to the scumbags at Marks and Spencer.
(As someone who occasionally shops at M&S, that generated a generous
smile from this scumbag.)
I shop at Waitrose
because in Tesco the aisles are narrow and the people wide, but in
Waitrose the aisles are wide and the people narrow.
(A glorious slice of lateral thinking, there.)
I shop at Waitrose because there are XL parking spaces to
accommodate my Chelsea Tractor.
I shop at Waitrose because Clarissa’s pony just WILL NOT
eat ASDA Value Hay.
I shop at Waitrose because ladies dressed up like Jane
Austin seem normal.
I shop at Waitrose because I never encounter people with
tattoos and BO.
I shop at Waitrose
because you say ‘Ten items or fewer’ not ‘Ten items or less’, which is
(This is my favourite, very witty.)
So there we go. Incidentally, when I ran a spell check,
‘Tesco’ stopped my computer in its tracks ― and suggested ‘Tosco’ ―
which, given today’s news of the supermarket’s first drop in UK profits
for more than 25 years, is all rather spooky.
as it may, and following on from
my opening remarks at the top, I thought it right and proper that I
should have a go at the Waitrose challenge, firstly entering into the
spirit of the responses...
I shop at Waitrose because I don’t have to walk down the
aisle with SecondhandRose.
Secondly, a more considered attempt...
I shop at Waitrose
because everything comes to those who Waitrose.
Finally, and all done in the best possible taste
I rounded off my Wednesday evening smiling and smiling and smiling at
The Best of Kenny Everett’s Television Shows on BBC4.
His take on Rod Stewart’s