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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 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...
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 ...
Thursday, October 31
An em-brace of images generated some topical smiles today, both cartoons.
first, from The Daily Telegraph’s inimitable
"Give us a treat
or we'll build a high-speed
rail line through your garden"
The second, from The Sunday Times’ Nick
is rather wonderful for it sums up the sustainable energy debate to
In fact, both cartoons sum up the confusion surrounding
modern life. Take the proposed high-speed rail link and the great wind
turbine debate ― throw in badgers and whether we should remain in the EU
for good measure...
On the pro-side of any of the above debates you have
experts who are highly intelligent, well-educated and eloquent, individuals who
have researched the subject inside out ― and are clearly wise beyond
their natural station in life.
On the anti-side of any of the above debates you have
experts who are highly intelligent, well-educated and eloquent, individuals who
have researched the subject inside out ― and are clearly wise beyond
their natural station in life.
So who on earth is a simple country boy from Welsh Wales
to believe? Which expert is a trick? And which is a treat?
on the subject of wind turbines, remember this witty contribution from
last Monday, following St Jude’s destructive path across southern
“Would anyone care to report how our
‘essential’ wind farms performed on Monday (apart from the one that fell
over)?” Ian Robertson of Hook in
Hampshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.
Well, no good question should go unanswered:
SIR – Ian Robertson
asks how well our wind turbines performed during the storm. From 6pm on
Sunday to 4am on Monday their output fell from 5 gigawatts (GW) to about
1.5 GW, presumably as they were turned off.
During the week, wind turbine output fluctuated between
0.5 GW and 5 GW. This large variation is the real problem with wind
G H Williams,
Did that nail it for you? (Thinks: Is there a place called Jobsworth?)
Oh yes, before leaving St Jude and Halloween’s tricks or
treats, I heard someone on the wireless this morning say they were off
to a Halloween party tonight dressed as an energy bill ― electricity on
the front, gas on the back ― and if that doesn’t frighten the life out
Wednesday, October 30
An eye-catching Mail Online picture of Kate and William’s
feet (okay, I made that last bit up), along with an intriguing headline,
me in under the duvet:
Top turn-ons? Clean sheets and weight loss: Survey finds what
really is most effective at getting your partner into bed
Losing weight is top turn-on for the female sex, a new study has found
money and fresh bed sheets also likely to get women 'in the mood'
• Men are most
likely to be in the mood for passion after a night out
• Blah, blah, blah...
Be all that blah as it may, of the Top Ten ‘Turn-ons’
listed, I did note that...
The Top Four ‘Turn-ons’ for women are:
1. Losing weight
2. Fresh bed sheets
3. Winning a sum of money
4. Night out with the girls
The Top Four ‘Turn-ons’ for men are:
1. Night out with the boys
2. Fresh bed sheets
3. Hot bath
4. Winning a sum of money
How intriguing then that the top four are so similar.
This story caught my eye because it took me back many,
many moons ... I remember a female friend telling me that if she won a
substantial amount of money on the football pools ― there’s that
‘Winning a sum of money’ turn-on; oh, and this was a good few years
before the lottery arrived ― anyway, if she won loads of cash the one
thing she would spoil herself with would be fresh, silk bed sheets every
That conversation all came back to me when I read the
above story ― and it made me smile. As it did all those many, many
moons ago. Indeed, and as I often repeat, it is always the little things
we note and remember.
The following also made me smile, compliments of
Atticus in The Sunday Times:
After Boris Johnson’s recent trade mission to China, it’s
timely to report that an artist has painted a portrait of the London
mayor ― as a panda.
Not just any old panda either, but a panda in a top
The work, currently on display at the Harveys Cellars bar
in Bristol, is one of a series of illustrations by the artist Julian
Quaye that will be collected into a book he describes as “the bastard
great-grandson of Beatrix Potter”.
Why Boris? “He does remind me a little bit of a panda,”
says the artist. “He’s quite cuddly in his way.”
suppose it would be unkind to point out that pandas are notoriously
reluctant to mate.
Great last line,
Truth, they say, is stranger than fiction ― also, a
picture can often be more surreal than a painting:
Boris Johnson ‘Mistaken for Giant Blonde Panda’ in China
Sightings of Giant Blonde Pandas are rare in China, hence the excitement
can I add? Well, that out in China Boris is now known simply as Bo-Bo.
Mind you, the girl just above Boris, slightly left as we look, with the
hat, has clearly seen and heard it all before.
And how did that fellow sneak in
― at least I hope it’s
a fellow ―
stage right? Ger’off!
Tuesday, October 29
AND THERE was light at the end of the St Jude tunnel.
Meanwhile, back on
the all quiet western front, a pre-storm headline of the week, compliments of the
South Wales Evening Post:
Llwchwr Town Council considers colour photocopier
Swansea town council is considering getting a colour photocopier
In a report to Llwchwr Town Council the clerk, Anthony
Davies, said that its current machine, which does not do colour, needed
He added: “It would make good sense to have a new machine
but members may wish to consider a colour copier.”
Ahhhhh, the magic of local news. We would not have it any
And to bring things bang up to date on the national front, the headline of the day:
Private Eye’s Rebekah Brooks Cover Deemed ‘Bad Taste’ By Phone-Hacking
Police officers warned a news vendor near the court
building where former News International boss Rebekah Brooks is on trial
on charges related to an alleged phone-hacking plot about the potential
implications of selling Private Eye on the grounds that a joke could
prejudice the case.
Phone-hacking jury sworn in
At the Old Bailey a jury of nine women and three men was
sworn in. The judge, Mr Justice Saunders, explained that British justice
was on trial.
Referring to this week’s edition of Private Eye, he said
its attempt to produce a satirical cover was exactly what the jury
should put out of their minds. “Private Eye has seen fit today to put
out their November edition ... it bears a picture of Rebekah Brooks on
the cover,” he said.
“It is meant to be satire. You ignore it; it has no
serious input and it is not relevant to your considerations. It is one
of those things that you will have to ignore, a joke that in the
circumstances of today is a joke in exceptionally bad taste.
“It is only the views of you 12
that we want at the end of this trial.”
And here is Exhibit A...
Tricky or a proper treat?
Anyway, to continue this
A news vendor said a policeman asked him to “consider”
taking down issues of the satirical magazine he had on display at his
kiosk near the Old Bailey, where Mrs Brooks is standing trial alongside
fellow former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.
The officer allegedly said the latest edition of Private
Eye could be in contempt of court over its Halloween-themed cover, which
features a picture of Mrs Brooks above the caption, “Horror witch
costume withdrawn from shops”.
The vendor refused to stop selling the magazine without
seeing a court order demanding its removal, and the Attorney General,
Dominic Grieve, later ruled that there was no need to launch contempt
What tickled me was the potential juxtaposition of “Horror witch
costume withdrawn from shops” and “Horror!
Satirical magazine withdrawn from shops”. Did nobody, including His
Honour, spot the
potential ambush before proceeding in a silly direction?
Crazy world. Crazy people.
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, compliments of The Daily Telegraph
Take up the gauntlet
SIR – Rosemary Basden (Letters, October 18) complains
about singeing her oven gloves. I have used leather welders’ gauntlets
when cooking for many years. They are cheap, long-lasting and far more
effective than any normal oven gloves. They also cover the wrist where
people often get burned, so are commended to Aga owners.
I particularly enjoyed this response from
One Last Try: “I
have used leather welders’ gauntlets when cooking for many years. They
are cheap, long-lasting and far more effective than any normal oven
When no longer fit for purpose, put them in a
casserole, add stock, vegetables and seasoning, simmer for two days and
you have a lovely meal.
Mmm, the magic of home cooking (and don’t
forget to wear a welder’s
helmet while cooking). Good eating.
The Welsh place name ‘Llwchwr’
came up as ‘Lecher’, which rather tickled my J-Spot, my juvenile spot.
Monday, October 28
SO WHERE was Moses when the lights went out?
Yesterday afternoon, apropos the pending big storm
tracking towards us, I duly cleared the garden of anything and
everything that the promised high winds might take more than a passing
Then I got out a candle and a box of matches and placed
them on the kitchen table, along with a flash lamp.
I was never in the Boy Scouts, but I did learn very early
in life to be prepared (except when it came to condoms ― but that’s
another story for another time).
The one thing the approaching overnight storm threatened
were power cuts, especially for those of us out here in the sticks, so at least I wouldn’t have to hunt around if I
suddenly found myself in the same situation as Moses, in the dark.
Actually, Sunday itself was quite windy, as if the storm
was beginning to wind itself up ― yet, when I toddled off to bed last
night it was all very quiet on the western front. The calm before the
So I took the flash lamp with me and placed it on the
bedside table. I didn’t set the alarm because if there was to be a power
cut, well, I might as well have a lie-in (gosh, I remember the nights when I used
to have a lay-in).
My head hit the pillow ... the next thing I know I’m
awake ― I have no recollection of anyone singing anything about somewhere over
the rainbow ...
it’s all dark ... I listen ... I can’t hear any sound let alone a storm
raging outside ... my hand reaches out for the bedside radio and the
switch ... I press ― it lights up and music comes forth. Phew!
Out of the radio wafts There She Goes
by the La’s ... how ironic, I think, given what is supposed to be
Anyway, I turn on the bedside lamp ... it’s half-five. My body
has grabbed an extra 30 minutes sleep. I get up, get dressed ― and check
outside. It’s raining, but very quiet, no wind at all, or at least
it’s inconsequential compared to what I was expecting.
Had the storm warnings all been a dream? It seems not.
The St Jude’s Day storm has indeed brought hurricane-strength winds and
is starting to wreck havoc through southern England ― but it seems that
much of south Wales has escaped.
After a bite to eat I switch on the computer and I visit
the Met Office web site, in particular the rainfall radar, which shows
rainfall over the past six hours.
There has indeed been much rain overnight, as forecast,
but intriguingly I can clearly track the wide centre of the depression
crossing south Wales, and being under the eye of the storm we had
escaped its ferocity.
However, St Jude has left four people dead as 100mph
winds batter the south of England; the once-in-a-decade gales cut off electricity
to 625,000 properties and caused chaos for commuters and travellers
throughout the day with railway lines particularly badly hit with fallen
However, there was a headline on Telegraph Online that
caught my eye:
A storm? Call that a storm?
Even our big weather
is kind of small ― a mercy for which we should be extremely grateful...
How true that is. For the families of the four people killed it is the
worst storm in the history of humanity, but when you ponder what happens
when hurricanes hit the other side of the Atlantic, or those massive
typhoons and cyclones in the Far East ― well, it’s no contest and we
really should be grateful.
Just as the English still talk about England winning the
football World Cup back in 1966 because they haven’t come anywhere near
winning it since, we still talk about Michael Fish and the Great Storm of 1987 because there hasn’t been anything quite like it since.
Oh yes, to lighten up the darkness, a couple of letters
from The Daily Telegraph:
Getting the wind up
SIR – With the arrival of another great
storm, should Britain also expect a stock market crash three days later?
Anyone for Black Thursday?
SIR – Would anyone care to report how our “essential”
wind farms performed on Monday (apart from the one that fell over)?
Sunday, October 27
Headline and pictures spotted in a Saturday newspaper:
Batten down hatches, says Michael Fish as 1987-scale
Michael Fish says storm forecasts can change last minute
as a repeat of 1987’s great storm is forecast for half of UK
Poor old Michael, that infamous weather forecast of ’87
really did turn him into a Fish in a goldfish bowl. And it is destined to
follow him to his grave. I have little doubt that his obituary will
feature it large.
A few hours before the storm broke, on 15 October 1987,
he said during a television forecast: “Earlier on today, apparently, a
woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way;
well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t!”
That evening, the worst storm to hit Southern England
since 1703 caused record damage and killed 18 people. Of course it
should be noted that after his “don’t worry, be happy” piece to camera,
he did add: “But having said that, actually, the weather will become
very windy, but most of the strong winds, incidentally, will be down
over Spain and across into France.”
So, with another storm due tonight into Monday, I enjoyed this tail-gunner
comment piece in today’s Sunday Times:
We’ll weather the weather
All the signs are there. Big headlines are warning us
that the worst storm in 25 years is about to hit us. Announcements at
railway stations are telling us not to travel “unless your journey is
absolutely necessary”. Weather diagrams displayed on every screen are
showing a huge purple blob moving towards us at the speed of sound from
the Gulf of Mexico.
Warnings have been issued in all sorts of different
colours, some of which even suggest that it might rain ― in Britain, in
Of course, the storm has to have a name and this one is
St Jude, after the patron saint of depression and lost causes. We all
love a bit of extreme weather ― good or bad ― and if there is lots of
talk about isobars and areas of low pressure, then our happiness is
complete. But what does it all mean?
Well, it might be a bit windy. But let’s not get our
kites out until Michael Fish says we’re all getting worried over nothing
and there isn’t going to be a hurricane, and someone else from the Met
Office announces that the storm missing us, or hitting us, is proof of
global warming. Then we really are in trouble.
Very good. Actually, I’m going to post today’s smile on
the actual day of said smile ― normally I do it the following morning,
after gathering my thoughts. However, just in case God does throw the power
One drawback of living in a rural area is, and if there
are widespread power cuts, country folk have to wait their turn.
So if I go missing for a few days, you’ll know why...
Saturday, October 26
LAST Saturday morning I happened upon Rhod Gilbert’s
Radio Wales wireless programme.
The show has a reputation for “excessively mindless banter, forthright
ill-informed opinion and occasionally decent music”.
That’s a rather perfect summing up of proceedings because,
whenever I listen in, I am instantly transported back to my school
days ... the show has the very sort of ill-informed opinion schoolboys
exchange when aged about 14, 15, 16 ― and the girls always say: “Why don’t
you lot grow up?”
I have to say, after about 15 minutes of such
“excessively mindless banter” with school mates, I would get bored
and instantly grow up and go off after the girls.
Funnily enough, about 15 minutes is about as much as I
can handle of Rhod’s show too. However, my days of chasing after the girls
have long gone, a fond memory in my rear-view mirror, so I do tend to
stick longer with Rhod if I happen to be in the kitchen where there is
no television or internet access.
Anyway, Rhod’s guest last week was English stand-up
comedian Tom Wrigglesworth, who told the tale of having lost some weight
and then popping into a heel and key bar near Oxford Street tube station in
London to have an extra hole punched into his belt.
He was duly charged £1 for the job, something which took
just seconds to do.
Tom was taken somewhat aback at the charge ― he was
however offered a POGOF: Punch One Get One Free ― so he and Rhod
discussed what we should perhaps expect in life as a favour, without
charge. Unfortunately neither of the pair, nor the listener, could come
up with a good example.
Well now, I hardly ever wear a watch ― only when I go
walking, actually ― and the one I have must be 30 years old and more.
Whatever, recently the metal strap kept springing open. Really, truly
Spring forward, fall back on Mr Wall
I could see what needed doing, but it would take
more delicate tools than I had. So I called at Wall the
Jewellers in Llandeilo, alongside. Neil Wall took a few
minutes to sort it out ― a fiddly little job ― at the end of
which I asked “What do I owe?”, expecting to pay a little
something for his time and expertise. He shook his head:
Now it is said that for every one person we tell
about a good experience, such as a great meal or function, we
will tell 12 when it’s a really bad one. Well, I decided to turn
that on its head and share Mr Wall’s good turn at every
Lo and behold, the very subject crops up on the
wireless. So I write to the Western Mail about my
What Tom Wrigglesworth also pointed out was that,
when he paid, the shopkeeper pressed a button on the till and
out popped a receipt which read: “Punch hole £1”. Which suggests
that it’s a regular occurrence.
Now my guess is that if someone from the shop next door,
a regular customer say, asked for a hole in a belt, they wouldn’t be
Similarly with my experience. Although it’s a shop I
will hardly ever visit ― I have never bought any sort of jewellery for
myself or anyone else in my life ― neither do I personally know the
proprietor; however I guess that perhaps he recognised me as a local
person anyway, hence his kindness.
Also, whether to charge for something rather trivial
depends on those first 10 seconds when we meet someone and whether our
instincts tell us if the person in front of us is a dolphin or a shark,
a pussycat or a polecat, a sparrow or a sparrow hawk, a red squirrel or
a grey one…
Oh yes, my letter was published.
Rolling along on the crest of a wave
Prior to the Rhod Gilbert experience, Owen Money hosts
a show featuring music from the 1950s through to the early 1980s, with
some amusing tales thrown in for good measure. Last
Saturday Owen told a story from his early days on the south Wales
It was a tale about a mate of his, Bob Harries, a
successful businessman and a larger-than-life character to boot. Bob
owned a Rolls Royce, something really unusual for a Valley boy, even one
done good. Bob was very proud of his motor.
Owen was due to appear with legendary footballer George
Best at Ton Pentre football club,
a village in the Rhondda Valley in the county borough of Rhondda Cynon
Taf (a grand Welsh name that), north of Cardiff.
His mate Bob said he would slip down to Cardiff station to meet
George off the train, in his posh car of course.
So Bob collects George and they set off for the Rhondda.
And Bob says: “I guess you’ve been in many a Roller in your time, George?”
“Aye,” he said, “I’ve been in millions of them.”
And Bob said: “Bet you haven’t been in one like this
There’s a bit of a pause: “What’s so special about this
one then Bob?”
“There’s no tax or insurance on it.”
Smashing. Such a funny little story.
PS: I trust you appreciated the sub-heading above, “Spring
forward, fall back on Mr Wall”, given that the clocks are going back
tonight: “Spring forward, fall back, and you’re bang on track.”
Friday, October 25
IT RATHER took me by surprise that a perfectly
respectable portrait of the Royal Family after last
Wednesday’s christening of Georgeous Porgeous would hold its elegant
hand up and make the smile of the day cut.
It all began, all proper like:
Historic moment in the life of the British Monarch Butterfly
The first time in
over 100 years that four generations of present and future
monarchs have been caught on camera together
The picture makes me smile because, well, the more I see
Kate, the more regal she becomes.
Family Guy releases alternative royal christening
Souvenir of Prince’s christening royal family
won’t have been expecting
The US cartoon series Family Guy [a
programme I am unfamiliar with] has spoofed the official christening
picture, substituting the
“wickedly intelligent, wise-cracking Stewie” for
the third in the line to the throne.
The family’s long-suffering talking dog Brian also makes
an appearance in the picture.
In fact, looking at what Brian is sniffing up there,
perhaps the title of the picture should be...
The Wife of Brian
But, but, but ... what about this very personal picture of Kate, William
Forever blowing bubbles
Prince William, Kate Middleton and their baby boy can be seen enjoying
an intimate bath in an apparent portrait of the future British monarch
and his family. Except of course it’s not really them.
Alison Jackson, 43,
English artist known for her look-alike photographs of celebrities, has
won a BAFTA for BBC 2’s series Double Take. She has also had three
collections of her photographic work published.
Her photographs have entertained, amused and occasionally
shocked the public for more than a decade now.
Alison enjoys exploring “the cult of celebrity”, and is
the mastermind and photographer behind the above image, using
look-alikes to paint a convincing faux picture of the royals
According to her web site: “Alison Jackson raises
questions about whether we can believe what we see when we live in a
mediated world of screens, imagery and Internet. She comments on our
voyeurism, on the power and seductive nature of imagery, and on our need
I’m not sure what that web site blurb is all about ― I think it’s confirmation that the
world of celebrity is speeding up our journey into Absolute
Returning to Alison’s photograph ... Kate and William
really could be, well, Kate and William. Astonishing. And I thoroughly
enjoyed William’s dirty feet. Or are they calluses? Whatever, a
Queen to Commoner
While on the subject of lookalikes, I seem to remember
something similar about the Queen. She was on holiday at Balmoral in
Scotland and visited a local corner shop, where a customer, a visitor to
the area, looked at her
and said: “Gosh, you look just like the Queen.”
“How very reassuring,” replied HM.
Thursday, October 24
I HAVE previously smiled at the tale of the paperless toilet
roll ― on a couple of occasions, actually ― but it’s so good it can more
than hold its own for another curtain call.
I bring it to you again, in its entirety, because of
something amusing I heard today on Alex Lester’s early morning Best
Time Of The Day wireless show.
Back in April I featured a series of amusing
passive-aggressive notes left for flat mates, whether they be in
response to not replacing the loo roll or never washing the dishes. The
notes, believed to be from America, highlighted precisely the sort of
behaviour that won’t exactly endear you to your housemates.
One of my favourites was the individual annoyed to
distraction by the toilet roll never being replaced at the end of its
Roll on the chequered flag
My guess is that the pissed-off flatmate had cleverly
unrolled the paper when it was on its final few laps, and then written the
message before carefully rolling the paper back on and gluing a corner
to the cardboard
Whatever, on a slightly different tack, enjoy again this letter, spotted in
The Daily Telegraph:
SIR – My husband and I lived in Aden for several years.
Things became difficult and I came home, leaving him in our company
Before leaving I wrote notes such as: “Don’t just sit
there”, “Missing you already” and “Who loves you baby?” and inserted
them into the loo roll.
Two days later the company moved him out and someone
Pip Griffith, Hartford, Huntingdonshire
See, that letter still generates a generous smile. Anyway, here’s
the Alex Lester
tale, as shared with the nation on his ‘4:40 What the day has taught me’
“This morning has
taught me, while sitting on the throne, looking at an empty cardboard
roll,” says Carole, rather tastefully,
“that I’m the only member of the household with the relevant
qualifications to change and install the required paperwork. Because
nobody else ever does.”
Added Alex: “In select families it is known as bathroom
Actually Alex, if you’re stuck there with no paper, the whole episode
could well be called “bathroom stationary”. I appreciate though that
that is very much a joke appreciated only in print.
my use of stationery/stationary is something my spell-cheque corner will
not query. Which is why spell-checks regularly lead us merrily into an
Okay, on with the show, as spotted on MSN:
Man to marry VW Beetle
• American man to join his
VW Beetle 'girlfriend' in holy matrimony
• Man who has had sex with
999 cars will marry VW Beetle
When it comes to loving our four-wheeled friends, we’re
nowhere near as affectionate as one American car enthusiast called
You see, Smith is actually GETTING MARRIED to his
Volkswagen Beetle. He loves “Vanilla” so much that he calls the car his
“If I said you had a beautiful chassis...”
Speaking to Jalopnik.com, Smith, 57, said: “I appreciate
beauty and I go a little bit beyond appreciating the beauty of a car
only to the point of what I feel is an expression of love.
“Maybe I’m a little bit off the wall, but when I see
where cars become loveable, huggable characters, it’s just wonderful.
“I’m a romantic. I write poetry about cars, I sing to
them and talk to them, just like a girlfriend. I know what’s in my heart
and I have no desire to change. I’m not sick and I don’t want to hurt
anyone, cars are just my preference”
Smith has actually admitted to having, er, relations with
his car and will be wed to it in due course.
One thing we want to know is,
how’s Vanilla going to get down the aisle…?
I wonder if anyone attending that wedding will utter, in a huff: “I feel
like a spare wheel at a wedding.”
Anyway, if I were Edward Smith I’d be a bit worried about
Vanilla, at least if her number plate is anything to go by. It looks to
me as if she’s prepared to jump into the garage and ramp it up with
anyone and everyone...
Great story, though, which underlines Earth’s claim to be the Doolally
Capital of the Universe.
Wednesday, October 23
A man sits naked on top of the statue of Prince George, Duke of
outside the Ministry of Defence building in Whitehall in central London
With the perfectly behaved young Prince Georgeous in the
news today, it was rather apt that I just happened upon a picture
gallery featuring a selection of the various categories for the press
photography awards in the
UK Picture Editors’ Guild Award.
The one that tickled my imagination no end is featured
It represents everything this web site stands for. Apart
from the obvious, there is something really funny about those police
officers standing there, looking up, as if they are just visiting an art
gallery. And what about the officer on top of the blue van? Talk about
I know nothing about the naked man ― sometimes it really
is best to be kept in the dark. My only hope is that he is a member of a
traditionally itinerant group of people living perhaps in Ireland, a
traveller, perchance? That would then justify my heading of The
turning into Basil Brush.)
Oh, and The
Tinker is clearly not actually thinking because it looks as if he is
talking on a mobile. Yes, where did he keep it when he was climbing?
It’s your party and I’ll take a rain check if I have to
I enjoy it when totally unconnected newspaper letters
come together in unintended but perfect harmony.
There’s a recent story of a
head teacher who has banned pupils from handing out birthday party
invitations, unless their entire class is included on the guest list.
Mark Brearey claims leaving classmates out of
celebrations could have a “serious impact” on their well-being and went
against his £20,000-a-year school’s “inclusive”, Christian ethos.
He sent out a letter to parents explaining his decision,
writing: “Please could you avoid bringing any party invitations into
school that do not include all children in a particular class or year
“This goes completely against our policy of inclusion for
every single child and is divisive and unkind.”
Okay, this letter in The Times:
The head teacher of
Kingswood Prep has banned his pupils from being selective in their party
invitations because its Christian ethos is inclusive.
Jesus invited only 12 of his closest friends to his
last party. The Upper Room might have had the same space limitations as
the average pupil’s home.
GRAHAM CORY, Daventry, Northants
Clever or what? That gets my wry smile of the day vote.
Anyway, about a month or so back, celebrated atheist
Richard Dawkins declared the war was being won against those silly
religious folk. Well now, another letter from The Times:
Off the menu
Sir, In “Atheists are
winning war with faith”, your report states: “Increasingly, it was
possible to go to a dinner party and assume no one was religious.”
Could it be that Professor Dawkins is simply less and
less likely to be invited to dinner parties where anyone religious might
CHARLIE PRICE, Pell Green, E Sussex
Another brilliant train of thought, Charlie Price.
who should we not invite to the party...?
Tuesday, October 22
From the Milky Way proper......
......to a proper way with milk
You could say udderly stunning: a photographer creates a series of
calendar girls in
dresses made of MILK ... and they all seem to be of very low fat
to Mail Online for the high fat puns)
Drinka Pinta Milka Day
Yes, from R Bertero’s glorious view of the Milky Way
above the Italian Alps ― to J Wieczorkiewicz’s way with milk...
The Gold Top girls are the work of London-based
photographer Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz, who specialises in working with
liquid. Each photograph takes about 200 frames and the milk is poured
onto different areas of the models body for each one, captured mid-flow
by the camera.
These individual shots are then amalgamated using
Photoshop into a single image, creating the illusion that the girl is
wearing a single milk dress.
Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Isn’t it amazing what a bit of
imagination can come up with?
The above reminds me of Neil Sedaka’s 1961 hit Calendar
Girls. So what else could I do but put a link to the marvellous
promotional video of Neil’s song ― a forerunner of today’s music video.
It’s a magically dated clip ― watch out for August ...
I adore the way she wiggles her tail feathers. The extraordinary
thing though is, while the video itself looks dated, Sedaka himself has hardly
changed at all down the years.
Even back in 1961, at age 22, he looks every inch a
natural-born entertainer. Amazing.
Great song, Calendar Girls. It is one of
those rare songs that you can’t stop yourself singing along with.
Definitely deserves a place on the Jukebox Video as well...
Spell-cheque corner: ‘Sedaka’s’
came up, curiously, as ‘Seedcake’s’, while ‘Sedaka’, without trimmings,
came up as ‘Seduce’, which is more like it.
Monday, October 21
Taking The Piss (TTP) ― in the best possible taste, of course
“WE SURVIVE by finding amusement in life, because
either it is amusing or it’s crushing. If we stopped to think about what
is going on in Syria right now while we sit here quaffing, we’d go
Gyles Brandreth, 65,
English writer, broadcaster, former Conservative Member of Parliament
and now the
new editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous
And of course Gyles is spot on. Indeed, I could place
that quotation up there on my welcome mat. It fits the bill rather
TTP ― RIP
By counting up the most-quoted witticisms, Gyles
Brandreth and the Oxford dictionaries team have crowned Oscar Wilde
(1854-1900) the most memorable humorist of all, with 92 entries. (My
particular favourite, Mark Twain, shared fourth place with Dorothy
Parker, behind Bernard Shaw, second, and Noel Coward, third.)
most famous line from the Irish playwright and poet is from his 1895
play The Importance of Being Earnest:
lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose
both looks like carelessness.”
That quote is a perfect example of the cleverly witty and
literal use of words to defuse a rather serious situation i.e. losing
both mum and dad.
TTP ― 2: The body beautiful
am never going to be thin. The word ‘waif’ will never be used next to my
Now who do you
suppose said that? Dawn French, famous for being XL cuddly?
“From the start I
wasn’t much of a looker. My complexion is ruddy, my face round and
Janet Street-Porter, perhaps?
Well, surprise, surprise, the first belongs to James
English stage, television and film actor, comedian, television comedy
writer, producer and presenter, currently starring as singer Paul Potts
in the film One Chance.
You somehow never think of a man using the word “waif” to
describe himself, or indeed to describe a fellow male. I mean, when I hear the word
the first thing that springs to mind are images of those alarmingly thin
girls used to promote fashion.
As for the second quote, the one about not being much of
a looker, I mean that’s another female-ish sounding quote ― no? But, that belongs
to Derek Jacobi, 74, English actor and stage director.
I tell you, that business of having
three types of toilet marked AC, DC and Three-phase is becoming more
real by the day.
Evidence of the burgeoning doolallyness of our world really does grow by the day. A
couple of letters in The Times, the first apropos police officers
taking time off when feeling a degree under the weather ― or indeed not
feeling under the weather, as the case may be.
TTP ― 3:
Off sick, off duty
Sir, Officers taking
the mickey with sickness procedures is a very odd problem. As a sergeant
at Hackney in the mid-1970s, I remember a PC reporting sick with “taloia”.
I had never heard of this strange illness and asked him for an
explanation. He replied: “There’s A Lot Of It About.”
Such flagrant abuse was, and no doubt still is, by a
tiny minority; the vast majority pull their weight, even when they are
Inevitably, when supervisors do get tough and challenge
officers mocking the sickness procedures, they are accused of
ALAN BOYD, Bromley, Kent
“Taloia”, eh? Never mind going to the surgery for a flu jab, a taloia
jab on the nose is the future.
TTP ― 4:
[re problems with the current badger cull
to combat TB in cattle and wildlife]
Sir, While driving home this week I thought I heard on
the car radio a government minister state that the badgers were at fault
for moving the goalposts. Believing I had mistaken this for a satirical
Radio 4 play, I thought nothing of it.
A day later I read in our regional newspaper that a
sheep had been tasered by police from the Devon & Cornwall constabulary.
The lunatics really have taken over the asylum.
IAN LEARY, Yeovil, Somerset.
Indeed, Ian Leary, something this web site has been aware
of for a while now.
TTP ― 5: Spending a penny
Sticking with animal farm, I rounded off yesterday’s
smile with this line:
And with that, I shall make my excuses and disappear for
a bog-standard 21-second pee...
For those who did not quite understand, it’s to do
with the following news story:
It takes 21 seconds to go: Scientists discover that all
mammals urinate for roughly the same length of time
• A team from the
Georgia Institute of Technology came up with 'law of urination'
• They studied videos of various
animals of different sizes going to the toilet
A study carried out
by the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta found that animals of
various sizes ― from an elephant to a rat ― take around 21 seconds to
Now how fascinating is that? It appears to bear out the notion that there
really is a Grand Designer ― some would call such an entity God ― with
everything in the Universe built to a central blueprint.
Oh yes, I have thus far resisted taking a stopwatch with
Spell-cheque corner: ‘taloia’
“There’s A Lot Of It
About”, came up as ‘tabloid’.
Yes, I know, there really is an awful lot of it about.
Sunday, October 20
One for the road
“IF I was told I had 24 hours to live, I would have a
dry martini made with Tanqueray gin and three olives on the side.”
The prospect of death leaves the former James Bond, Sir Roger Moore,
86, unshaken and unstirred.
I have to say, at 86, and seemingly still going strong, I
am somewhat surprised that he doesn’t have one of those dry martini
thingummies every day.
Indeed, if I were a 007 (retired), and was told I had 24
hours to live, I would have a few of them (“British Secret Service agent
found drowned in oasis of dry martinis”).
Oh yes, apropos a
“Tanqueray gin and three olives on the
side”, do you suppose that is 007 speak for a little something else on
the side, and if so, Popeye might not be best pleased because one of
those Olives could be his.
talking of a haven of heavenly cocktails, this from the ST’s
I’m a hostage at a party, dear
A henpecked husband was too scared to ask his wife if he
could go drinking with pals ― so he arranged a fake kidnapping.
Two friends, wearing masks, forced their way into Rogelio
Andaverde’s home in Edinburg, Texas, and seized him at gunpoint as his
wife, Maria, looked on.
Police hunted for the “victim” for two days until he
returned, saying his captors had decided to show mercy. But he later
admitted to police that he wanted to “spend time with his friends and
sheriff of Hidalgo county, said: “I don’t think his wife appreciated
being kept up until four or five in the morning, being interviewed by
the cops. He’s going to have a lot of answering to do.”
That tale went down well at the Crazy HP Saloon, I can tell you. What
tickled me though, and what added hugely to the tale, were the colourful
and rather loud names involved: Rogelio Andaverde, Guadalupe Trevino,
and all unfolding at Edinburg in Hidalgo county.
Are we sure that fact and
fiction have not become confused?
Gland in hand
Being that drinking and going to the toilet go hand in
hand, for the male of the species anyway, yesterday I featured the tale
of the University of Sussex which could become the first in the country
to install three types of toilet: men, women and transgenders.
Which brings me neatly to some marvellous
(spotted in Kathmandu by Nigel Lindsell)
Surely, Dogmandu? Even Dog and Man Shouldn’t Do?
Say it with clip art
(spotted in Cortona, Italy by Guy Riddell)
aim to please; you aim too, please”
And with that, I shall make my excuses and disappear for a bog-standard 21-second pee...
Saturday, October 19
THIS headline and story spotted in Mail Online
grabbed my wotcha-call-it ― with bells on:
University plans to build THREE types of toilet for men, women
and transgender so that “all students feel welcome”
• University of
Sussex student’s union want to “break down barriers”
• Say that asking people to
choose which identity fits can be “painful”
• Some students have branded the
idea as “stupid” and a “waste of time”
One of Britain’s top universities could become the first
in the country to install three types of toilet for men, women and
transgenders. The ‘gender neutral’ loos have been requested by the
student union at the University of Sussex in Brighton, in a bid to make
all students feel more welcome.
But some students
have labelled the idea as “stupid”, saying the committee should be
spending more time discussing other issues.
Mail Online came up with this visual guide:
In for a penny, in for a pound
Potential layout? The students union wants to open three toilets
be arranged like this with the transgender toilet on the right
a large one
Regulars in the Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower were instantly
taken with the above notion ― and a motion was put to management, who were
also suitably impressed.
However, it was decided that you need written clues as
well as symbols because some of the more dyed-in-the-wool rustics would
find them confusing.
AC, DC and AC/DC were suggested, but it was thought that
AC/DC does not comprehensively cover the alternatives to straight AC
or DC, especially given the following recent news item (I wish at this
juncture ― or should it be junction? ― that I could
include the sound of an emergency vehicle siren...):
It’s stuck where?!
London Fire Brigade reveals its most unusual call outs ―
including a penis stuck in a toaster and a husband locked in a chastity
(no pictures available, sadly)
They are trained to be able to handle any emergency. But
the London Fire Brigade could be forgiven for being somewhat unprepared
when a man called to report that he had got his penis stuck in a toaster
and needed help.
Or when one woman rang to get assistance for her husband,
who was locked in a titanium chastity belt...
So the current Crazy Horsepower Saloon front-runner
is this one...
Knobs and fannies and thingamabobs
It is felt that all the regulars at the Crazy Horsepower are familiar with these terms:
AC ― alternating current (very male, forever
attracted to the next pretty face wot smiles and flicks her hair).
DC ― direct current (very female, tends to remain
loyal to the current).
Three-phase ― a triple whammy
of different phases of current
used simultaneously (very, erm, well, you know: “Crumbs, if I said you
had a hot, toasty body, would you hold it against me?”...).
The motion is carried. As is the emotion. So too the e-motion.
Friday, October 18
Spike and span
Wednesday I featured a round-up of some of the best product reviews on
Amazon. One included this helpful tip found at the bottom of a 20-inch
canvas print of Paul Ross,
English television and radio presenter...
Spike: “If you only buy one 20 inch canvas print of Paul Ross this
year, this is the one to get”
I mentioned in passing that as said review had been
posted by someone called Spike, I instantly thought Spike Milligan ― but
the review is dated 2008, and Mr Milligan died in 2002.
Well now, today, this Starter for 10 from
Waterstones the book people:
Spike Milligan: Man of Letters is a
collection of the funniest, rudest and most revealing letters from one
of the greatest comics of the twentieth century to some of its most
Spike Milligan’s letters reveal the private man behind
the public mask. Unlike his scripts, poetry, fiction or even his unique
war memoirs, these letters show Milligan’s talent raw and unvarnished ―
irreverent, often brazen, sometimes cutting, frequently outrageous ― a
reflection of his complex personality.
Spike Milligan: Man of Letters
presents a rich selection of the funniest and most revealing of his
missives ― most of which have never been seen before. It includes
correspondence with the most famous politicians, actors, celebrities and
rock stars of his day, and takes the reader behind the scenes in his
wrangles with producers, publishers, editors and his impervious
It also includes letters to a host of unlikely
individuals on some surprising subjects: rounded teabags (“what did you
do with the corners?”), backless hospital gowns (“beyond my
comprehension”), heartfelt apologies (“pardon me for being alive”) and
the pressing issue of the imbalance of male and female ducks in London’s
Here, then, is the real Spike:
obsessive, rude, generous and relentlessly witty. Spike Milligan
(1918-2002) was one of the greatest and most influential comedians of
the twentieth century. Over the course of his astonishing career, he
wrote over 80 books of fiction, poetry, plays, cartoons, children’s
stories and his unique war memoirs.
This then, from The Guardian newspaper:
letter to a fan, 1977
The writer and actor provides an amusing response to
criticism of his book Monty: His Part in My Victory
In February 1977, a well-meaning teacher named Stephen
Gard managed to elicit this wonderfully frosty letter from Spike
Milligan after writing to the legendary comedian with a number of
questions, many of which concerned Monty, the third instalment in a
seven-part series of memoirs by Spike which focused on his life as a
soldier in World War II.
explains his reasoning:
“My letter was
written as a fan, but it did ask a lot of questions; questions that a
lifetime of Goon Show listening had raised in my mind.
“The one that obviously annoyed Spike was, ‘Why do so
many Goon Shows, e.g. Tales of Men’s Shirts, harp on the theme of
military cowardice? After the line ‘The prison camp was filled with
British Officers who’d sworn to DIE rather than be captured,’ [audience
laughter] why did you come to the mike and say “Thank you, fellow
Is it because you yourself were accused of this?”
Here is Spike’s
“Of course, Spike’s
next book explained just this incident: his being blown up, his nerves
being shattered, and his commanding officer’s cruel and foolish response
to Spike’s distress and illness.
“I did complain that a little too much of ‘Monty’ was
taken up with Goonish dialogue. I had hoped to learn more about Spike
himself. His later memoirs were more straightforward accounts, and much
more helpful in understanding so interesting and complex a man.
“For the record, too, after receiving this wonderful
missive from Spike, I wrote at once to say how much I admired him and
his work, and in a weak attempt at Goon humour, included a snapshot of
my wife and our cats, to prove that I was being sincere.
“Spike didn’t reply,
and I didn’t expect him to.”
Entertaining beyond. And both letters ― Spike’s and Stephen Gard’s ― are
so revealing. Two lines jump out. I’m not sure why but “Oh Christ, the
cook is dead” made me smile XL.
probably reminded me of the legendary fuss at the Crazy Horse when
Gatling Gordon allegedly called the cook a c*** ― but it quickly
transpired that what he’d actually said was: “You call that c*** a
I know, I know, an old joke ― but very funny though.)
The second line was Stephen’s
included a snapshot of my wife and our cats, to prove
that I was being sincere.”.
What a wonderful measure of sincerity.
Note to self: “If I only buy one book this year, this is the one
Thursday, October 17
A LETTER in need of immediate assistance, spotted in The
SIR – I saw a television report on Tuesday that featured
Boris Johnson and George Osborne [heavyweights on the British political
scene] at a function in China.
The Union flag behind them was upside down. Do they
know that this is a signal of distress?
Alan Kibblewhite, Blandford Forum, Dorset
There is always correspondence in the English papers about the Union
Jack being flown upside down, and how distressing it is. Just as there’s always correspondence here
in Wales about our country not being represented on the Union flag, boo,
The answer to both problems is up there, atop this web
site’s flagpole. (Incidentally, I trust you noticed that I flew today’s headline,
‘Flying the flag’, upside down. Help!)
As it happens, I have written about this before, but it’s
well worth another visit.
Welsh presence does not appear on the flag because when the first Union
Flag was created in 1606, Wales was already united with England, a
relationship dating from the 13th century. In other words, Wales and
England were an item.
This meant that Wales was then a Principality rather than
a Kingdom, and as such could not be included. In 1536, under Henry VIII,
the Act of Union joined England and Wales officially. (“We are gathered
here today to witness the joining of two countries, etc, etc...)
Every day a day at school spot:
The Act of Union ensured the whole of Wales came under
the authority of the Tudor Monarch. New courts were set up, new counties
were created and for the first time, each county could return a Member
The caveat to the latter ‘privilege’ was that English
also became the language of the new institutions. Those who spoke Welsh
would be prohibited from holding public office.
Unsurprisingly, argument still rages about the effect of
the Act of Union. Some interpret it as a new beginning and opportunity
for Wales; others continue to see it and the subjugation of the Welsh
language as a symbol of English repression.
Including not having Wales as part of the Union Flag.
And that is precisely why the Welsh (along with all the
other Celtic nations), support any team in sport that is playing
These things run rowdy, run deep.
But what would the Union flag, with a Welsh presence,
Well, back in 2007 the Telegraph invited readers
to submit appropriate designs ― and a broad range of fascinating ideas
were duly submitted.
Intriguingly, the invitation was picked up by a major web
site in Japan ― and the Japanese took up the challenge with much
gusto (or at least a gusting tail wind) and enthusiasm.
There’s a Telegraph Picture Gallery of 30
designs — a few are clearly done with tongue-firmly-in-cheek, but none
the worse for that as they add hugely to the gaiety of the passing
parade of flags (link below).
My particular favourite is the one flying high up there
on my Welcome flagpole ― a rather clever Japanese design.
From a distance it is a Union Jack ― but anyone looking
at it would wonder ... “What is that at the centre of the flag?” ... a
closer look would bring the dragon into focus and that in turn would, of
course, lead people to enquire as to what the meaning of said dragon is.
But best of all, with the
dragon at its centre, it would take a fool to still hang it upside down.
Mind you, much as I like my Union flag of choice, I have
to mention in passing one particular effort, compliments of
a Luke Harrington
from somewhere in south Wales, who seems to have deliberately misheard
the challenge and submitted
‘The Flag of Whales’:
Now that is funny. Mind you, this one, with its musically
themed background ― spotted in a Llandeilo shop window ― also generates
More cushions, please
Spotted in The Sunday Times Culture
review of tonight’s Up All Night: The Nightclub Toilet
“Trying to make a lot of drunk, shouty people in a lavatory into a
comment on Britain today is a bit of a stretch, and while there are
fluorescent-bulb flickers of insight and gender, employment and race,
this is largely full of scenes that will make you want to hide behind a
Hm, would that be an AA Gill cushion? Or a Kirstie Allsopp one? (See
tail-end of last Tuesday’s smile...)
Finally, here’s the link to the Telegraph’s
Wednesday, October 16
Amo, amas, amat;
Amamus, amatis, amant ... Amazon?
NOW how did Amazon sneak in just there? After all,
Google, Starbucks and Amazon are not the sort of crowd that George
Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury of
the United Kingdom, would invite to the nation’s Christmas knees-up, now
I enjoy visiting Mail Online because I regularly and
serendipitously trip over those amusingly off-beat stories
wot tickle my H-Spot, my Hallelujah spot.
Oh, and I always but always have a quick peruse of the comments
that accompany said article.
Regularly I see readers complain that the particular story featured has
already been spotted somewhere on the internet, either last week, last
month, last year, or indeed last whenever. So what?
An educated guess suggests that at least 90 per cent of us who visit
Mail Online will not have seen them before, indeed we rely on
publications such as Mail Online to trawl this vast thing
called The Internet to bring us these tales which brighten
up our days no end.
For example, here is a perfectly extravagant smile of the day, compliments of Mail
Round-up of the best product reviews on Amazon
• Some products and their
reviews have become stuff of legend
• A number of products have
already inspired their own internet memes
• Amazon has rounded-up most
reviews to mark web giant’s 15th anniversary in UK
One of the wittiest reviews on Amazon includes the
following helpful tip found at the bottom of this canvas print of one Paul
an English television and radio presenter, journalist, media
(sic) and elder brother of Jonathan Ross
Best in class
Spike: “If you only buy one 20 inch canvas print of Paul Ross
this year, this is the one to get”
When I saw the name Spike I instantly thought Spike
Milligan ― it sounds just like the sort of thing he would say ― but it’s dated 2008, and
the late S. Milligan died in 2002.
Oh yes, I liked this ―
852 of 875 people found this review helpful
― which rather proves that humour is alive and
well out there and lurking behind every bush.
There’s just something missing
Harvey Mason Jnr: “Don’t get me wrong, this T-shirt is ace. I just
help thinking an additional Wolf wouldn't go a miss. Regards, HMJ
(PS: I’ve rated this 4 stars, 1 for each Wolf and 1 for the moon. If the
seller wants another star, then I want another Wolf ... or another moon.)”
Wilbur: This foil is absolutely ideal for lining the surface of my
shuttle for re-entry
into Earth’s atmosphere. I’ve used it time and time again and it always
to scrutiny. Also, I wrap my sandwiches in it. It’s fine for that too.
is another product that has gained notoriety through its advert on
Amazon. Its design and function inspired one customer to write this
“Thanks to this revolutionary idea I can now purchase bananas free of
“I used to stare longingly at bananas in my local
supermarket, but I was afraid to add them to my shopping basket knowing
I wouldn’t know what to do with them when I got them home.
“Clearly too big to put into one’s mouth in one go, I
couldn’t for the life of me work out how to eat it. Now it is as clear
as day, and I have joined the happy banana eating ranks. Thank you so
“I would have given this great product 5 stars if there
had been banana peeling instructions included.”
Two of the most memorable reviews in the history of the site however,
have to be wonderfully detailed analysis of a
Bic Crystal Ballpoint Pen, Medium Point,
Matt Williams: “Since taking delivery of my pen I
have been very happy with the quality of ink deposition on the various
types of paper that I have used. On the first day, when I excitedly
unwrapped my pen (thanks for the high quality packaging, Amazon!), I
just couldn’t contain my excitement and went around finding things to
write on, like the shopping list on the notice board in our kitchen, the
Post-it notes next to the phone, and on my favourite lined A4 pad at the
side of my desk.”
bought this in all good faith as someone told me that this pen would be
mightier than a sword. Well, after spending half an hour toying with it
I have realized that they obviously have never encountered automatic
Excellent, all of them. I cannot help thinking that so many of these are
probably posted by professional writers in their spare time. Note how few
exclamation marks are used, and if authors know one thing, then it is
how sub-editors ration their use!!!
Oh yes, if you have
a little spare time, pop the
following into a search engine:
Amazon: Veet for men
EBay: Handmade lampwork glass
‘Amo, amas, amat; amamus, amatis, amant’, came up as:
‘Ammo, amass, am at; ammos, amities, am ant’.
But best of all, the avatar ‘loubylou’ came up as ‘lookyou’.
That deserves a 10/10.
Tuesday, October 15
“SHWMAE?” (pronounced shoo-mai) is Welsh for “Hello, top
of the morning/afternoon/evening ― and how the devil are you?”. It’s
ever such a handy little word.
“Shwmae? Shwmae?” is “Greetings!
― with bells and whistles on.” (With bells and wolf-whistles on if the
recipient happens to be a morning seller of a female.)
October 15, 2013, is the first time here in Wales that we celebrate
‘Shwmae? Day’. It is to ensure that we start every conversation in Welsh
― and then take it from there.
‘Shwmae? Day’ is an opportunity to celebrate the Welsh
language through the ways we greet each other in our own language in our
own communities. It is also an opportunity to support and encourage the
efforts of all who are currently learning Welsh.
Welsh for ‘damn!’,
although here in Dodgy City we tend only to say “damo!”
only learn about all this ‘Shwmae? Day’ just after seven tonight, when I
am highly unlikely to see anyone else today.
Mind you, now that I think about it, I was in Dodgy this
afternoon and folk were saying “Shwmae? Shwmae?” all over the shop ― as
they often do though ― and I probably said it back.
Anyway, that is now all ‘dŵr o dan y bont’ ―
under the bridge ― so back to the business of smiling.
Cometh the moment, cometh the wash
Yesterday morning I caught a slice of Pause For
Thought on the Chris Evans wireless show, and I was amused at the
bit I actually heard, so today I visited the iPlayer to listen to it
The story was told by Father Brian D’Arcy, 68, a
Passionist priest based in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern
Ireland, a noted broadcaster, author and newspaper columnist.
His Pause For Thought was all about how we
see things and how we tend to judge others too quickly and much too harshly.
So here’s his story, a smashing little parable, really.
Fairy at the bottom of the garden
A young couple had moved into a settled community shortly
after their marriage. Each morning the couple sat in their kitchen over
breakfast, looking out the window onto their neighbours’ gardens.
One Monday morning, as the lady next door hung her
washing on the line, the young wife was extremely critical of the
dreadful state of the poor woman’s washing: the whites were ― well,
off-white, sort of driven slush, really ― the greys were 50 shades of
unspeakable colourwash, the blacks were dirty charcoal, in fact the clothes
looked as if they all needed a good wash.
“Wouldn’t you think she’d be ashamed to hang her dirty
washing in public?” the young wife said to her husband, who
wholeheartedly agreed with her.
And the couple had the same conversation every washday
morning for the next few weeks.
Then one morning, the young wife looked out her window
... and much to her surprise and astonishment, she noticed that her
neighbour had at last found a washing powder that worked. It was as if a
Fairy really had landed at the bottom of her garden...
Hung out to dry in the Towy
The whites were like virgin snow, the blacks were ― well, sloeblack,
slow, black, crowblack ― the greys looked like mercury, and the reds
were as bright as the autumn apples beginning to drop off the tree in
“Well thank goodness she’s discovered how to wash
clothes,” the young wife said somewhat sarcastically to her husband. “Perhaps they bought a new
“Well, truth to tell, I don’t
think so, darling,” he said rather bashfully. “Actually, I got up
early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
Cushion the curse
Precisely a week
ago I wrote about a particular TV review by AA Gill, where he defended
his extravagant and hurtful criticism of young actors. Remember this from his column?
By chance, I’ve been sent a review copy of Philip
Ziegler’s heavenly, heavenly, luvvielicious biography of Laurence
Olivier. Dear, dear Larry. It contains a fantastic quote of Olivier
talking to, or rather at, Laurence Harvey over dinner.
“Call yourself an actor? You’re not even a bad actor.
You can’t act at all, you f******* stupid, hopeless, snivelling little
You see? Now that’s a bad review. And I’m going to
have it embroidered on a scatter cushion. I leave that quote hanging
over the rest of this column...
Well now, today I read this in a ‘quote of the day’ column:
“I am very particular about where I have cushions
in my home and how plumped they are. With the cushions, my partner and
the kids are allowed to touch them, but I like to encourage otherwise.”
Kirstie Allsopp, 42, TV
presenter of property programmes, is ultra-fussy about her soft
hope Kirstie never has to pay a visit on old RAC Gill and his scatter
cushions. Mind you, a visit to
Michael of Kent, 65,
would be rather grand:
“I have a cushion that says
'How many frogs do I have to kiss before I get a prince?'.”
Monday, October 14
One small step for a van...
One giant leap for ice cream sales
I really did smile at this letter spotted in The Daily
Stealth tactics used by ice cream van rivals
Using a jingle to alert people to your ice cream van’s
SIR – Your report (October 3) about rival ice
cream jingles reminded me of my time as an ice cream seller.
In the Sixties, when I was at Salisbury
Theological College, I had a holiday job selling ice creams all
round Salisbury Plain. I was told that if I entered a housing
estate and another van was selling ice creams, I should keep one
road ahead of him and not sound my jingle.
That way people would know that a van had
arrived, but they would see me first.
Canon Rodney Matthews,
As someone famously once said: “I have a cunning plan.”
However, I note that the good Canon doesn’t
confirm whether he actually deployed the instruction.
Sunday, October 13
TODAY I was captivated by some pictures compliments of
the London Zoo annual photo competition. One eye-catching little
buttonhole in particular:
You don’t bring me flowers anymore
A tiny leaf-cutter ant demonstrates its Samsonian strength and ability
to balance a heavy load
while scurrying home after a visit to its friendly neighbourhood flower
seller (Pic: B Mate)
How extraordinary is that? And beautiful.
I note that
in floriography ― the language of flowers ― variations on
the theme of pink symbolise grace, happiness and admiration. A perfect
summing up of the picture.
Oh yes, the other day I mentioned the metaphorical man
with the red flag who appears to walk just ahead of some folks’ along
their walk through time, clearing an agreeable path for them. The little
ant reminds me of that man.
Saturday, October 12
I was drawn by the following headline and image:
Who were the Aero women? Chocolate manufacturer searches
for mysterious stars of its vintage adverts
The brand has launched a nationwide search to find the
models who posed for the paintings back in the Fifties. The original oil
paintings were hung in a corridor leading to the cake department of the
original Rowntree’s factory in York.
archive curator at Nestle explained: “We are very interested in finding
out who the women are in the pictures, to put names to faces that have
had a large presence in the company over the years.”
Hm, there is something quite captivating about these women. But that’s
the advantage a painting has over a photograph, I guess.
Mind you, it is strange that the people at Aero have
waited this long to find out who these girls are. They will now be in
their 80s or 90s, if indeed they haven’t already joined Willy
Wonka in his chocolate factory in the sky. Talking of which:
From Aero spaces to Aerospace...
One giant leap for a rock star: Bob Geldof reveals he is to blast into
space next year
He once said he joined a rock band “to get rich, to get
famous and to get laid”. Now Bob Geldof can add “to fly into space and
touch the hand of God” to the list.
God reaches out to Sir Bob...
...there again, perhaps not
other day the Boomtown Rats frontman said he will become the first
Irishman and the first rock star to fly out of the earth’s atmosphere.
Mind you, hasn’t the International Space Station already
hosted the first rock star when Canada’s Chris Hadfield rather memorably
performed David Bowie’s Space Oddity ?
Geldof will be propelled at 2,200mph in a space shuttle
to 64 miles above earth. Wearing an astronaut’s suit and helmet, the
61-year-old will only have the pilot for company during the one-hour
commercial space flight.
He will sit inside a Lynx Mark II shuttle powered by four
rocket engines which will take off from a normal runway.
The singer and campaigner was given the £64,000 ticket as
a birthday present after he performed a gig at a corporate event in the
Natural History Museum.
His will be one of 100 people who the Space Expedition
Corporation is hoping to launch into space next year.
Geldof said: “Being
the first Irishman in space is not only a fantastic honour, but pretty
mind-blowing. The first rock astronaut space rat. Elvis may have left
the building, but Bob Geldof will have left the planet. Wild. Who would
have thought it possible in my lifetime?”
I enjoyed this comment:
heard he had his name down for Ireland’s first trip into space, but they
had to abandon it ... they couldn’t find a big enough bottle for the
also added this:
don’t like Moondays.”
From Aerospace to Aerohead
Now the one thing about a rocket or shuttle launch is the
damage it does to the environment. So given that he is about to blast
off into space on a joy ride, what made Bob the Gob say this?
“The world can
decide in a fit of madness to kill itself. We are in a very fraught
time. There will be a mass extinction event. That could happen on your
watch. The sign are that it will happen ― and soon.”
Geldof fears humans could be extinct in 15 years because of climate
He may well be right, but what on earth makes him think he should strap
himself to a rocket and add to the atmosphere’s pollution?
Do as I say not as I do, eh Bob?
Crazy world, crazy people. But you just gotta smile.
Friday, October 11
Say nothing is best
I HAVE never watched the television series Downton
Abbey, and it’s a safe bet that I never will. Nothing personal. I
just never watch telly drama. True, a bit of situation comedy goes down
well now and again ― the rerun of Cheers at the moment ―
and that’s about it, really.
Be all that as it may:
“Downtown Abbey (ITV) is a symphony of sublime
splendour and serendipity.” A
comment in last weekend’s You say
column in The Sunday Times Culture magazine, from a Patrick
“Rape at the Abbey: has Downton gone too far?”
A headline in Monday’s Telegraph following Downton’s decision to go
Downmarket for a bit of slap and grope and shock-horror tactics, with
Kiri te Kanawa as background music.
So much for a symphony of sublime splendour and
serendipity. Honestly, it’s dangerous to open your mouth these days.
Hold the Front Page
I am reminded of a character from some years ago, a regular at the Crazy
Horse ― we knew him as Front Page, sadly now remembered as Hold the
Front Page as he is no longer of this world.
He always had his finger on all the juicy local gossip.
Whenever I went into the pub he’d invariably enjoyed just a drink or two too
many, and he would come up and say: “Hey, have you heard about Old
Shaggy?” I would act dumb, even if I had already heard a rumour. Then
he’d share, in detail, the latest tale doing the rounds.
After he’d dished all the dirt he’d pull back with a
stern face. “Anyway, say f*** all is best.” And he said it with feeling.
It was all highly amusing.
Oh dear, I really do miss him, especially his ‘Stop
Anyway, back with the rape of that fair country called Downton Abbey, the
series really has captured lots of media attention over recent days,
pretty much all as a consequence of the rape scene, which I guess is
precisely what the makers of the series wanted.
Here, a brace of missives
from The Daily Telegraph Letters column:
There is nothing like a Dame
SIR – Having learnt
that the cast of Downton Abbey were moved to tears by the beautiful
singing of Dame Kiri te Kanawa, I eagerly anticipated her performance.
Alas, it was interrupted by snippets of conversation
and poor Anna’s screams.
Might Dame Kiri be persuaded to sing again?
Dr Janna de Vere Green, Beccles, Suffolk
SIR – Since the producers of Downton Abbey clearly feel that a dame
enhances the genteel tone of the programme, might they consider Dame
Edna in the future?
Catherine Holliday, Ashford, Kent
letter in today’s Daily Mail:
“If Sunday’s Downton was shocking, wait for the
Christmas Special when Amy Johnson’s biplane crashes onto the kitchen,
ruining Mrs P’s turkey.” Philip
Lewis of Bognor Regis in West Sussex.
knows, Amy Johnson could have husband Boris in the plane with her.
in today’s Telegraph, with his trusty safe pair of hands,
to bring some proper humour back into the art of seduction...
warned ... in tonight’s
episode the Earl of Grantham
fails to get any Royal Mail shares”
Talking of Royal Mail shares, again from the Telegraph:
Let’s be frank
SIR – The vast majority of postmen are enjoying their
new-found wealth after being given free shares in Royal Mail. Their
planned strike will only ruin it. Funny old world.
And where would
be without this funny old world?
Anyway, departing Downton and the Royal Mail, and on a slightly different tack, another
Daily Mail letter tickled the old smileometer:
“Pam Ayres says: ‘My first kiss was revolting.’
For whom?” Alan Moffitt of
Campbeltown in Argyll & Bute.
Returning to the
column quoted at the top, back on September 12, I wrote this:
In The Sunday Times
Critics’ Choice of the day’s telly programmes, there was a review of
Pat and Cabbage, a sitcom about a couple of misbehaving
sixty-somethings. Here’s a grab:
One of them, Pat, needs to get a job, but is distracted
by a recently acquired addiction to computer games, and her children are
unsupportive in her quest for employment. “I have a dream,” Pat moans on
her way to an interview, “where one day, this age group will be valued
by everyone, not just the car-insurance industry.”
I am highly unlikely ever to watch the programme, but I thought
Pat’s line a little gem of wit and wisdom.
Right, so the
following comment appeared in last Sunday’s
& Cabbage (ITV) is wonderfully written, beautifully acted and a good
half-hour’s viewing. The best sitcom in a long time and a jewel in the
I have no comment to make about the programme because I haven’t seen it
― but I thought a comment signed by someone called Shakespeare would
have grabbed me by the lapels and looked me straight in the eye.
Perhaps the magazine has got the names mixed up and it’s
Bruce Shakespeare who actually wrote the letter at the top, with its
alluring alliteration ― then I could have said: “Hm, shows promise, but must
spend more time putting quill to parchment.”
Thursday, October 10
Are you a dunker?
A HEADLINE in today’s online Telegraph:
Mumsnet creaks under the strain of ‘penis beaker’
A conversation thread on Mumsnet has almost crashed the
site after a woman admitted that her lover uses a “penis beaker” to
clean up after sex
Well, you know me, I rarely click on these stories, I
just let my imagination run riot. This time though I was really hijacked by my
imagination. It was the above image, used by the Telegraph
(Exhibit B), as a teaser for 10, that did it.
I was instantly wafted back to the family farm and my youth ―
the dominant colour must have subliminally taken me to the green, green
grass of home, to the days just before I realised that farming felt much
too much like hard work for me to dedicate my life to.
Whatever, it was a mixed farm: dairy and sheep with a bit
of beef as a side dish. As I recall, one of the occasional problems with
the milking cows were wart-like infections on their teats, so after
milking there was some sort of liquid treatment used to bathe each teat.
This was done by pouring said liquid into a beaker-like
container, just like the above ― and I would then have to gently dunk
the teats in the liquid.
So with that image running wild inside my head, I resisted
the temptation to click on the tale of the penis beaker.
Down at the Crazy Horsepower the ‘penis beaker’ was a
topic of discussion. Much mirth was generated, but it was generally agreed that of the
watering hole’s brace of resident Casanovas, Old Shaggy has a python pot by his
bed, and Young Shagwell a rattlesnake receptacle.
When I got home ... well, I couldn’t resist it. For the
first time ever, Mumsnet, here I come ― if you’ll pardon the expression.
the starter for ten then, the dipper post that started it all...
I considered name
changing for this, but, f*** it.
Hang about, in light of what is to follow, perhaps she should have
changed her name:
CaraScrewe: We have a dedicated post-sex cleanup area on the
bedside table. A box of tissues, a small bin, and a beaker of clean
water for temporary cleaning/dunking while the bathroom is occupied by
our penis beaker is strange and not the done thing.
Does everyone else just lay there in a sticky post
coital glow until morning? Really?
What curious things they discuss on Mumsnet. And who had she discussed
it with previously to come up with the word
apparently. Anyway, this response
And you’re not a troll??
No. We have a normal bedside table. With books and a
Not a sex clean up bit!
I get up for a wee and wipe, and then dh does, and
RevelsRoulette: I don’t
mean to be rude, but are you both so dirty that you require immediate
That must be sexy. You do it ― then spring apart, you
rush to the bathroom and he plunges his knob into a bucket.
You’ve just had sex so I assume you are on fairly
intimate terms. Even if you have an acid fanjo and his sperm is nine-tenths itching powder, surely you can use the bathroom at the same time?
You can wash your fanjo in the bath and he can scrub his cock in the
Fairylea: Crying at “plunges his knob in a bucket”.
NoMoreMadCattLady: Do you hold up scores like in diving events?
And on that note I made my excuses and left ― but not
before scoring the episode 5.5. Well, it was an obvious wind up, but it
generated lots of smiles. Ah, the doolallyness of it all.
Spell-cheque corner: ‘fanjo’
came up as
dear, the first thing that came to mind was Joe Brown, his banjo and
his marvellous I’ll
See You In My
Dreams. [Thinks: I must put that on my Jukebox ― trouble is though,
every time I see or here a banjo, what I’ll
experience in my mind’s
eye is Fanjo coming up quickly on the blindside...]
PS: I'll See You In My Dreams ― Joe
Wednesday, October 9
The letter killeth, but the spirit generateth a smile
(with apologies to Corinthians 3,6)
MANY moons ago there was a wireless programme called
Sing Something Simple, 30 minutes of sing-along music, as I recall.
Today, while perusing a giggly gaggle of Telegraph Sign Language photographs,
harvested over recent weeks, I found myself Smiling at Something Simple.
Who would have thought that just a missing letter (or
two, or three, or four, or maybe more) on a public notice could be so
On the spot, fine
Spotted in South Africa by Robin Meakings
Kipper it in the family
Spotted in Turkey by Kevin Crawford
Here B4 Be Dragons
Spotted on the B4224 to Hereford by Carol Smith
I know curiosity killed the tomcat, but I did have a look
at my RAC Road Atlas ... and yes, it is indeed the Mitcheldean to
Yes, I know, someone has obviously been there with a pot
of white paint ― or the picture has been Photoshopped ― which isn’t
quite playing the game, but occasionally it is worth the effort because
it gives someone like me the chance to dream up a suitable headline.
hadn’t been spotted
Spotted in Devon by Geoff Scott
Actually, there is no letter missing in the above ―
definitely not playing the game ... it’s just straightforwardly smiley ― but
don’t you secretly wish that the first ‘r’ in that last line would
decide to come out one dark and stormy night down there in the
Tuesday, October 8
Every thousand words paint a picture
I MAY well have said this before, but AA GILL is one
mesmeric SOB journalist. He is fascinating to read, but you know damn
well from the stuff he writes that if he moved in next door the first
thing you’d do is put your own property on the market because every
instinct in your body tells you that as a neighbour he’d be Trouble.
Yes, that’s Trouble with a capital T.
Some years ago he described we Welsh as “loquacious,
dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious
Well now, as you can imagine, there was a fuss.
Personally I belong in the sticks-and-stones camp, so the observation
just washed over me with a shrug and a smile.
However, I am endlessly intrigued as to what had made the
breakdown recovery journalist (as in AA) write off a whole nation, all
three million of us.
Anyway, I’m a “fair, average-looking, pugnacious tall-ish
troll”. And how does he know I’m not a moral liar as opposed to an
immoral one i.e. a purveyor of white lies as opposed to the black or
My theory is that somewhere in his formative years a
Welsh girl either called AA’s manhood into question, or worst, made fun
of it ― and he has been taking it out on the Welsh nation ever since.
That his manhood might possibly have misfired should not
come as a shock because he freely acknowledges that he once was a heroin
addict; he is also an alcoholic, albeit a reformed one (hang on, perhaps
AA doesn’t stand for Automobile Association, as I imagined, but
Alcoholics Anonymous, d’oh).
Curiously, whenever I see Gill I am instantly reminded of
that other mesmeric SOB spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, who is also an
alcoholic, again reformed.
You know me and my instinct for survival, the moment I
meet or see a stranger, something rooted deep inside my brain asks:
dolphin or shark, pussycat or polecat, sparrow or sparrow hawk, lay-by
or roundabout? And my instinct has never been found wanting along my
walk through time.
Both AA Gill and Alastair Campbell fit my brain’s
profiles of sharks, polecats and sparrow hawks...
A brace of roundabouts along the road to Downtown Britain
To be negotiated at arm’s length with wits about you and
senses on full alert
Yes, instinct is nature’s most powerful gift to all
living things. Whatever, reading Gill is always another day at survival
Here’s something he recently wrote in his Sunday Times
Culture magazine television review:
Just another cockalorum
A young actor tugged my sleeve the other day (you’d
recognise him ― he does a lot for romantic-interest topless
smouldering), and said that he always read Culture, and liked the
column, but ― there’s inevitably a “but” ― did I know how wounding, how
really destructive, the personal criticism of young thespians could be?
He said that for the
sake of a funny line, I could ruin a delicate talent’s confidence, and
perhaps blight an entire career, and I should think twice before being
quite so cruel. I thanked him for the observation, and mentioned that
he was shorter in real life.
[Do you suppose he actually did say that to his face, or is he just
spinning a line ― as we know, the longer the line the more we love it?
Indeed, did a young actor actually tug at his sleeve?]
I then pointed out
that he was suffering from a common misconception: my job isn’t to
nurture the fragile egos of bad actors. I’m not their finishing school,
or Mr Chips for Bambis. My responsibility is to the audience and the
Wow, he’s doing it for me? Now I really feel bad about it
... it’s all my fault. No it isn’t. All dear old AA is doing is shifting
the blame for his character flaws onto the rest of us.
Anyway, I’m going to leave AA there for a few moments ―
but do stick around because there’s a startling end to his tale. In the
meantime, I’m going to repeat something I heard on Don Black’s
Radio 2 music programme, Sunday night.
multi award-winning lyricist took over from David Jacobs, and he
presents a selection of iconic songs from The Great American Songbook as
well as rich offerings from The Best of British. Great music it is too.
He is also a
wonderful gossip and tells smashing tales from the music business. For
Mario Lanza (1921-1959), American tenor, actor, and Hollywood movie star
of the late 1940s and the 1950s, had a reputation for having a short
temper; he got so heated, sometimes he would throw the odd punch as
A great friend of mine is Donald Zec, who was a very
influential reporter with the Daily Mirror. Donald told me that he once
wrote a critical piece about him. Mario sent him a box of toilet rolls
with a note that said: “These foolish things remind me of you!”
Smashing tale ― but now back to AA Gill...
chance, I’ve been sent a review copy of Philip Ziegler’s heavenly,
heavenly, luvvielicious biography of Laurence Olivier. Dear, dear Larry.
It contains a fantastic quote of Olivier talking to, or rather at,
Laurence Harvey over dinner.
“Call yourself an actor? You’re not even a bad
actor. You can’t act at all, you f******* stupid, hopeless, snivelling
little c***-faced a*******!”
You see? Now that’s a bad
review. And I’m going to have it embroidered on a scatter cushion. I
leave that quote hanging over the rest of this column...
Goodness me, they do say that Olivier was a bad egg. Imagine saying
something like that ― I mean, I can imagine a critic like Gill saying
it, but one actor to a fellow actor? Olivier was indeed a little shit.
Presuming of course that the tale is actually true...!
But what makes the story complete, whether it be true or
false, is AA Gill having it embroidered on a cushion (whether indeed
that claim too be true or false).
See, you really wouldn’t want AA Gill living next door,
now would you?
Spell-cheque corner: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the computer failed
to come up with a suggestion for ‘cockalorum’;
I heard it on Vanessa Feltz’
Word of the day, yesterday ― she in turn had heard it on Downton
Abbey. It means
‘a self-important little man ... intended to suggest: the cock of all
dear, step forward AA.
Also, the computer failed to
come up with anything for
A smiley word though.
Monday, October 7
Things that go bump in the early evening
Tweetie Pie Corner
A little weasel. He was being really haughty, being a completely
arrogant toff.” Nathalie Pulford, 42, who accused House of
Commons Speaker John Bercow of “walloping” her Range Rover Sport 4x4
with his own Volvo 4x4 in a London street (outside the Gaucho
restaurant). Mr Bercow denied it.
Now John Bercow definitely has the fellow waving a red
flag trailing in his wake, warning all those coming up behind of a nasty
Sally Traffic incident up ahead (see yesterday’s smile). Which probably explains why
he is such a figure of fun at Westminster and in the meeja.
Some three years ago, following another minor motoring
incident, David Cameron (who is not a member of the Bercow fan club)
told an anecdote in which junior health minister Simon Burns’s driver
reversed into the Speaker’s car in a Parliament courtyard.
The Prime Minister described how the diminutive Mr Bercow
appeared and told Mr Burns: “I’m not happy!”
To which Mr Burns replied: “Well, which one [of the seven dwarves] are
Well, I guess we now know that Bercow is Bashful. Anyway,
on with the show...
Chelsea tractor wishes to bump into similar, SOH not a
How witty Telegraph cartoonist
and a passing mobile captured for posterity the recent entertaining spat
Hm, perhaps wee John is not actually Bashful at all, but
Bumper, an addition to Snow White’s little family. Anyway, this is how
Rod Liddle of Sunday Times infamy saw it:
Chin up, John, Sally
still loves you
John Bercow, the Speaker, cannot win. Having gone out in
an attempt to get away from one troublesome woman, his wife Sally, he
ran smack into another ― almost literally. Trying to park his car in
Sloane Avenue, Bercow allegedly bumped into the car in front ― and was
confronted by a woman called Nathalie Pulford who called him “a little
Bercow made the mistake of denying the collision; Pulford
called him an arrogant toff.
The Speaker has admitted that he is not the greatest of
drivers. This is possibly because in a normal-size car he requires some
sort of prosthetic device to reach the pedals. Perhaps he would be
better off in one of those little plastic cars that children use, which
would be safer, eco-friendly and also add to the gaiety of the nation.
Poor Bercow. When
posh women in Chelsea think you’re an arrogant toff, you’re really in trouble.
Nathalie Pulford, pictured below, added to the gaiety of the passing parade with this:
“The Right Honourable John Bercow ... may have had a
slight run-in with him today ... or, should I say, he into me ... he was
not ‘right’ and he certainly was not ‘honourable’!!”
from all the brouhaha in the papers apropos what is really a minor
incident, we are dealing here with people for whom it is very difficult
to feel any affection whatsoever. Mind you, I did smile at this
Comment exchange in The Steeple Times, the first from
Sloany Pony Regular:
Divorced mother of
Sons in private school
Lives in Parsons Green
Dines in Gaucho
Drives a huge 4x4
You must’ve had an excellent lawyer or a cracking pre-nup.
Why so? Maybe her
family are rich, her car is quite old ― and Gaucho is horrible and not
And the bit about the pre-nup is a non sequitur. Having
said all that she did make a fuss over nothing.
I am always hitting other cars in my Armstrong
You sound a bit of a commie to me.
Wonderful, prejudices worn rather elegantly on sleeves.
Oh and there were some entertaining follow-up letters in
The Daily Telegraph:
Neither toff nor weasel
SIR – The woman who alleges
that the Speaker of the House of Commons bumped her car (report, October
4) reckons he’s a “little weasel and an arrogant toff”. John Bercow is
not and never will be a toff.
Alasdair Ogilvy, Stedham, West Sussex
SIR – It is wrong to liken the Speaker to a weasel. Weasels are
beautiful, brave, noble creatures that play an important role in keeping
rabbit numbers down.
Michael Berry, London SW3
Oh dear, you just have to giggle.
Spell-cheque corner: ‘SOH’,
came up as ‘SOHO’,
which really tickled my
now, now, no sniggering at the back ―
fun’. Also, ‘Siddeley’, as in
am always hitting other cars in my Armstrong Siddeley’,
came up as
An Armstrong Snidely, eh? How good is that?
Sunday, October 6
I would say this, wouldn’t I?
THOSE who stand and stare will have observed that there
are a few fortunate souls in life who appear to be blessed with a man
waving a red flag walking in front of them, and whose sole job is to ensure
they have a clear road ahead.
Others though have a man waving a red flag walking behind
them, warning everyone approaching from the rear that there’s been an
incident up ahead ― so be careful ... and no rubber-necking, please...
Politicians are particularly vulnerable to the man with
the red flag following them along their blunderbuss walk through time.
Boris excepted, of course.
So if anyone can advise today’s politicians how to
avoid a career-shattering scandal, then it is Mandy Rice-Davies. “As soon as
a rumour starts going, just stand up and say ‘Mea Culpa’,” cautions the
former good-time girl, who played a starring role in the Profumo affair,
which left the Establishment teetering on the brink.
Fifty years on from the most notorious political sex
scandal of the 20th century, Mandy, 68, is acting as historical counsel
to Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose new West End musical, Stephen Ward,
tells the story of the high-society fixer cast as the tragic scapegoat
of the affair.
Time and tide and notoriety clearly winked and smiled at Mandy Rice-Davies
Mandy, above, in the 60s ... and still looking remarkably foxy in her
Charlotte Blackledge, who plays her in the musical
Wonderful compare and contrast pictures.
Mandy Rice-Davies is assured of her place in any
Dictionary of Famous Quotations. It was she
who perkily declared to a packed court, on being told Lord Astor denied
having an affair with her: “Well he would, wouldn’t he?” The Welsh-born
glamour puss looked for all the world like she was playing a leading
role in “Carry On Profumo”, and enjoying every second of it.
This is a woman who once said of an affair with an older
man: “I was an enthusiastic participant in what struck me as a perfectly
pleasant way to spend an afternoon.”
While Christine Keeler, the other leading lady involved
in the scandal, was trapped by her notoriety, failing to profit from the
media’s attention and ending up in a council flat, Rice-Davies happily
compared herself to Nelson’s lover Emma Hamilton. She married an Israeli
businessman (one of three husbands), enabling her to open two nightclubs
in Tel Aviv called “Mandy”.
She is said to have described her life as “one slow
descent into respectability”.
Great quotes, Mandy. I’m a fan. (Thanks to The
Independent newspaper, incidentally, for much of the above peep into the life and times
and quotes of “the Welsh-born glamour puss”.)
Oh yes, Mandy is obviously the one where the fellow
waving the red flag is walking in front, clearing the path, while Christine
has the bloke with the red flag bringing up the rear.
Whilst on the subject of flags, in particular keeping the
red flag flying high at the back there, this letter in today’s Sunday
SIR – Your report on Tony
Blair’s new jet (“Tony gets a £30m Blair Force One”, September 29)
mentions that he is, inter alia, a “Middle East peace envoy”.
Further comment would seem superfluous.
Don Minterne, Bradford Peverell, Dorset
intriguing ‘every day a day at school’ moment, again from The
Stamp of Britishness
SIR – As the instigator of the
oldest postal service, Britain is not required to show the name of the
country, just the monarch’s head. It is one of the many things that
defines the nation. Selling off the Royal Mail would be inappropriate if
the Queen’s head cannot be guaranteed to appear on our stamps.
Dr A P J Lake, St Asaph, Denbighshire
Spell-cheque corner: ‘Asaph’,
as in the place name St Asaph, just above,
came up as ‘ASAP’:
Hm, St As Soon As Possible rather sums up the life and times we live in.
a show stopper: now you would have thought the computer would
recognise ‘Britishness’ ― but no, it suggested
― honestly, cross my heart, and all that. I quickly made my excuses and
Saturday, October 5
Evolution keeps abreast of the times
Jul 2013 (Daily Mail headline):
cleavage? Not for breakfast. But you can get away with it later on if
you’re not too OTT
October 2013 (Daily Telegraph headline):
Viewers shocked by topless woman on breakfast TV
Start your day with a shock, say I. Honestly, as if
nobody had ever looked at Page 3 over breakfast. And anyway, it appears the topless lady was there to
help women identify the first signs of breast cancer. Which seems
eminently sensible to a simple caveman like me.
Asleep at the wheel
With the political conference season having at last
fallen off the end of the pier, I had a quick look at some of the jokes.
Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, Lib Dem conference:
“The Tories wanted to introduce an annual Margaret
Thatcher day. I would like to see that on the streets of Glasgow ― the
first bank holiday where people would rather go to work.”
Harriet Harman, Labour deputy leader, Labour conference:
“When John Prescott got egged, he was massively angry and
threw a punch. When Ed Miliband got egged, his immediate thought was ‘Oh
God ― I really hope this is free range’.”
UKIP though was the problem, especially with it being the party most
likely to cause embarrassment to the Tories leading up to the next
Sadly, I couldn’t find anything of rib-tickling note, so
I’m afraid leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, will have to play Wise to the Mayor of London’s
But first, remember this from a week or so back?
An Instagram picture shows David Cameron asleep in a
photo posted by Emily Sheffield, showing her half-sister, Alice
Sheffield, preparing for her wedding...
A four-poster post-it
It’s one of those wonderfully awkward family photos that
would be best gathering dust in an album, seen only by the eyes of one’s
nearest and dearest.
Unfortunately David Cameron’s sister-in-law pushed the
wrong button and published it to Instagram, where it could be viewed by
we, the great unwashed.
The blushing bride-to-be, Alice Sheffield, half-sister of
Samantha Cameron, is eclipsed by the snoozing man behind her: the Prime
Okay, joke time:
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, Conservative conference:
“UKIP if you want to ― David Cameron’s not for kipping.
Not unless, obviously, he’s at his sister-in-law’s wedding.”
Now that is typical Boris, a rather good joke, actually ― and it
went down well, clearly. What a great picture that is, four genuine
smiles, with the lady’s just that extra bit special. Only Boris can do
Once you’ve smiled at the clever play on UKIP, you wonder
why nobody has used it before in some context or other. Sadly, much of
life is like that, not seeing that old wood for the trees until someone
else shouts “Timber!”.
Oh yes, Boris also defined a ‘Milipede’ as being some sort of left wing insect
― which apparently left them all
guffawing. Especially at the Daily Mail, I guess.
PS (compliments of ATTICUS):
Was David Cameron inspired by Stephen Fry when he told
the Tory conference that profit was not a dirty word?
We should probably be grateful that the prime minister
wasn’t sleeping on the job and didn’t complete the line from A Bit of
Fry and Laurie: “When I grew up, profit wasn’t a dirty word,” says a
prospective Tory candidate in the 1990s comedy series. “Arse was a dirty
“That naughty David Cameron,” says Fry. “Shall we sue?”
Friday, October 4
Ploughman’s good fortune
“BRANSTON PICKLE LORRY HITS LOW BRANCH AND SHEDS
SOME OF LOAD NEAR CHEDDAR”
Headline of the day ― by a country mile.
Remember a week ago ― this story?
People living in the
small Welsh Valleys village of Varteg are kicking up a bit of a
stinky-poo about plans to re-christen it Y Farteg (‘Y’ meaning
‘The village of...’).
Language campaigners support the change saying the
current name is incorrect, but locals say renaming their village Y
Farteg would make them the butt of jokes, saying it sounds like a
“schoolboy’s playground insult”.
“Can you imagine,”
said villager Ray Leyshon, 62, “the bus going past and some schoolboy
shouting: ‘You are going to Fart Egg?’ It is just a bad yoke.”
It was one of those smiley little stories that made it around the world ―
I even spotted it in The Washington Post (hence the
‘Windgate’ heading, above ― it was The Washington Post that
broke the Nixon scandal, Watergate: yesterday breaking water, today
breaking wind, that's life ... sorry, this juvenile streak in me will out).
But the point was, even with the help of Ivor the Search
Engine, I could not establish what the hell Varteg ― or Y Farteg ―
actually meant, or more correctly, its derivation.
Well blow me, a couple of letters duly appeared in The
Sir, After reading your article “Village kicks up
a stink over plan for new name”, it seems to me some of the
residents of Y Farteg and your reporter have got the wrong end
of the stick.
The village was renamed incorrectly when it was
anglicised ― as happened with so many other Welsh towns and
villages. There is no “V” letter in the Welsh alphabet,
therefore Varteg is incorrect.
The name Y Farteg originally comes from y + march + teg
― when translated it means “the most beautiful place”, and I am
sure the residents are very proud of this name.
Hopefully common sense will prevail in Torfaen Council
when they decide to use the correct name for this village.
GWAWR DAFYDD, Stryd Berry, Conwy
Sir, The people who live in Varteg who do not relish the
prospect of being called Fartegers might be well advised to seek
comment from the residents of Usk. The Welsh name for their town
is Brynbuga. I hesitate to speculate what they are called.
ROGER GLASBEY, Norwich
What I don’t understand with the Welsh
meaning “y + march + teg” is the following: “y” means “the”, “teg” means
“beautiful” ― but “march” means “stallion”. Therefore: “the most
A nasty wind in the
I reckon “march” is perhaps “marchnadfa”,
which means “market-place” or “street fair”, or more correctly, if we are
going back through history, “rural fair”, which would have been
the thing before modern farmers’ markets came into being.
So could it be that Y Farteg means something along the
lines of “the place of a
popular country fair”?
I wonder. I’ll have to submit a letter to the Western
Mail to see if some expert somewhere can enlighten me.
At the end of the day
“I was going to buy another one but decided that I
couldn’t risk having an animal that might live longer than me.” Sheila
Hancock, 80, English actress and author, whose pet cat has just died.
What a smashing quote that is. As I always say, it is those little
things we do and say, those spontaneous throwaway lines, that say so
much about us. You made me smile, Sheila.
Spell-cheque corner: ‘Gwawr’,
the first name of the Welsh author of The Times letter,
which means Dawn, came up as ‘War’.
Hm, Gwawr does sound like a Welsh language warrior. ‘Stryd’,
the Welsh word for street, came up as ‘Stride’, which is what you do
when walking along a street, I guess;
the Welsh name for Usk, and pronounced
‘Bryn-boo-ga’, came up as
― well, the computer took a rain check on this one.
Thursday, October 3
Is that a gun around your ankles...?
NEVER mind dancing in the dark with the pinkest flamingo
― see yesterday’s smiles ― this headline definitely caught my eye:
on duty officer not sacked because ‘it was like a tea break’
An armed policeman was not sacked for having sex on duty
with his trousers around his ankles and his gun in its holster ― because
an appeals panel said it was similar to “a tea break”.
PC Shaun Jenkins, 36, was on patrol when he met with a
The award-winning officer (twice commended for bravery)
was dismissed by a Welsh police force for gross misconduct but was later
An appeals tribunal report into the incident concluded
that: “It was the sort of delay that will occur if an officer goes to
the toilet or into a café to buy a cup of tea.”
The tribunal ruled that PC Jenkins could still reach his
gun because it was in its holder attached to the belt of his trousers
which were around his ankles.
A report into his conduct found the act did not pose a
risk to public safety because he could have been back on duty “within a
minute or two”...
Tea for two and two for, erm…
Hm, so it’s okay for PC Dunk to visit the house of Hilary
Pute for a quickie, even when on duty and carrying his own personal WMD.
Mind you, the possibilities are endless:
“Is that a gun in
your pocket?” “Nope, but I could just murder a cuppa.”
Oh yes, the observation that he could have been back on
duty “within a minute or two” probably says more about the undercover
work of those sitting on the tribunal than anything else.
Thinks: I wonder if there really is a PC Dunk (or a
variation on the theme) pounding the streets of this increasingly
doolally old country of ours? And is PC Shaun Jenkins now known as Shaun
the Shagger (he is currently a neighbourhood beat officer after being
stripped of his firearms licence)? Probably.
Every day a day at school
“Is that a gun [or pistol] in your pocket, or are you
just glad to see me?” ― was not spoken by Mae West in She Done Him
Wrong (1933) ― but she did restate the line in her final film
Sextette (1978) to co-star George Hamilton.
Never forget your Mae West
Front cover of a novel by Cerise DeLand
A novel throwaway line by Mae West
Reportedly, Mae West spoke the famous line to an
escorting police officer who met her at the LA railway station in
[Note: The line was parodied in Mel Brooks’
(1974) by Madeline Kahn as Lili Von Schtupp:
that a ten gallon hat, or are you just enjoying the show?”
Incidentally, go back to Cerise DeLand’s book cover ... I
take it you noticed that most oddly positioned zip?
Do you suppose that is where the fellow’s stopcock is
Desert Island Video Jukebox revisited
From George Hamilton, Mae West and Sextette ― to
George Hamilton IV, “women who don’t treat you mean” and
... I enjoy sing-along songs ― or rather songs that you simply can’t
stop yourself singing along with, which is slightly different.
So Abilene is added to my Jukebox, not least because it
has this great line:
“Women there don’t treat you mean, in Abilene, my Abilene.”
Mind you, I enjoyed this Top Comment on YouTube:
RUANDTED: “Women there don’t treat you mean”
...... yeah, right.
Talking of sing-alongs ― well, Anne Murray’s You Are My
Sunshine deserves to be there. I already have the short-but-smiley fun
version on the Jukebox (as performed by Seven of Nice and the Doctor,
Star Trek fame).
Oh yes, talking of things smiley, I recently added the
beautifully sung I Dreamt I Dwelt In Marble Halls, the exquisite version
featuring Laurel and Hardy ― I really can’t stop smiling when I watch
Finally, there’s a wonderful flash mob performance of the
Hallelujah Chorus captured in a café in a Canadian shopping mall. Apart
from the marvellous singing, the reaction from those surprised by it all
is worth the visit alone.
Incidentally, you will note that the lead lady singer is
on a mobile ... I’ve read somewhere that her sister was on the other
end, listening in London.
It is no surprise that this video alone has over 40
million hits. Magical.
But before we go to the Jukebox links:
Spell-cheque corner: ‘Schtupp’,
as in Lili Von Schtupp of Blazing Saddles fame, came up as ‘Cutup’
― how perfectly weird and wonderful ― and
women there don’t treat you mean ― yeah, right”
quote, came up as
Right, clear your throats for a sing-along:
Abilene ― George Hamilton IV:
You Are My Sunshine ― Anne Murray:
Hallelujah Chorus ― Flash Mob in Canada
Wednesday, October 2
Slow, slow, quick-quick slow
I MAY have mentioned it before, but I have never watched
Strictly Come Dancing ― cavemen don’t need no excuse-me Fred and
Ginger nonsense to entice a woman into the cave ― and I see that it’s
back all over the meeja, so it must be that time of year again, with
jingle bells just over the horizon.
Curiously though, and across a crowded web page, I was
attracted to this excuse-me tail-gunner leader piece in The Daily
Who’s been tangoed?
How does one account for the
enduring popularity of Strictly Come Dancing? The format is almost as
ancient as Sir Bruce Forsyth’s jokes, the judges often plain nasty and ―
this year ― even the term “celebrity” is liberally applied to a line-up
that includes some names so unfamiliar that they could have been plucked
at random from the phone book...
And there I sort of lost interest ― then I thought, hm, I’ll have a
quick peep (through parted fingers) at the Comment section ... and as
always, I did spot two contributors doing the quickstep, gliding across
the screen like a stately galleon (to paraphrase the entertaining Joyce
It is an awful programme but horribly addictive. Also, when you watch
it, you are enjoying everything that both fundamentalist Muslims and
metropolitan humourless left-wingers hate. As both are the enemy of this
country, keep dancing.
Dave, you are a legend . You managed to sneak in your hatred of Muslims
and lefties in a comment on “Strictly”. Brilliant!
Brilliant indeed. And as the Legend says, keep on
Mind you, listening to Vanessa Feltz’ whimsical and self-deprecating
account of her preparations for Strictly on her early-morning wireless
show, I may indeed be tempted to watch ― as long as there’s no rugby or
American football on elsewhere.
Last weekend though there was indeed rugby on, so I’m
still dancing in the dark. (Mind you, and despite being a caveman, one
of my Desert Island Video Jukebox choices is Fred and Cyd, erm,
Dancing In The Dark.)
Strictly Pink Flamingos
Talking of Bruce Forsyth ― did you see that research into
the social interaction of flamingo flocks, which suggests that the
oldest and pinkest birds are the “key individuals”, the ones that
organise the rest of the flock and are therefore by definition the most
PhD student Paul Rose from the University of Exeter is
studying the birds at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge,
C’mon now folks, wake up at the back there. Why do you
suppose that millions upon millions of people worship at the feet of Sir
Brucie? Because he is the oldest and the pinkest in the ever burgeoning
flock of slebs strutting their stuff across the floor and desperate to
attract our attention.
And of course we all want to be like Sir Brucie when we
grow up, especially when standing on one leg ... don’t we?
I mean, why do you think I did the above bit
in the pink?
On the subject of life on the wild side, someone on the
radio asked what the latest news on the ‘pregnant’ panda in Edinburgh
Well, there’s a growing suspicion that she’s merely
taking full advantage of the benefits system before the Tories introduce
tough new measures to end benefits for under-25s.
I’m sayin’ nuthin’. One must have faith.
Tuesday, October 1
Oh doctor I’m in trouble
OCCASIONALLY, the most surprising items come together to
generate a smile.
Back in 2004 your friendly neighbourhood general practice
doctor was signed up to a spanking new contract, with loads of extra
dosh thrown in for good measure. This was fair enough: after all, if
anyone in society deserves to be suitably rewarded then it is those we
turn to when we’re feeling poorly.
Since then, it appears those doctors have become
increasingly invisible overnight and at weekends, resulting in hospital
Accident & Emergency departments seeing four million more people using
It would seem that the more money doctors are earning the
more reluctant they are to put in unsocial hours. They have become
entrepreneurs rather than medical practitioners.
Now I am unable to speak from personal experience
because, fingers crossed, I rarely have to visit my local surgery, and
when I do I find the receptionists, nurses and doctors helpful and
agreeable beyond. But there does appear to be a major problem
Now David Cameron wants doctors’ surgeries to be open for
longer to ease the pressure on dangerously overstretched A&E
departments. The Prime Minister confirmed plans for a £50m trial to have
surgeries open from 8am until 8pm, seven days a week.
Cameron insisted the pilot scheme in areas across
England, which is expected to cover up to half a million patients, would
be properly funded.
Almost one in five patients in a recent NHS survey said
inconvenient appointments were a concern, with more than 70% backing
weekend and after-office opening hours.
The scheme, which was unveiled at the Conservative Party
conference in Manchester, will offer extra cash to groups of GPs
proposing the most effective ways to improve patient access (nice to see
that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and looking chirpy).
As well as extended surgery hours, ministers hope they
will pioneer more effective use of technology, such as consultations
with patients via video calls, email and by telephone.
All grand in theory. Especially so if it’s 20 grand ― or
30 or 50 or 100 grand ― in the back pocket of said GPs.
Then I spotted this
Perhaps you should go private?
Uckfield, Sussex by T H Merchant
Sadly, there is no indication as to where precisely the
above was seen. Probably outside some government office. Anyway, here’s
another wonderful juxtaposition:
A former international hockey player has been
found guilty of stealing £405 from a supermarket by scanning
everything he bought as loose onions.
Nicholas Long, 25, admitted carrying out the con
over 20 times during a three-month period, and was caught by a
Sainsbury’s security guard after it emerged that the store
didn’t in fact sell loose onions.
Long said money worries drove him to the crime ―
for which he was sentenced to 180 hours community service and
ordered to pay £250.
Angus Mathieson, Long’s
solicitor, told the Old Bailey: “It was a stupid thing he has
done. He was not getting a stupid amount, not substituting
champagne or anything like that, but just getting an avocado and
claiming it was an onion.”
Perusing the above, I am astonished that it took Sainsbury’s
three months and 20 cons to realise they didn’t sell loose
onions. So how exactly was he able to scan them then? How curious.
I expect to hear of many similar copycat fiddles
in future. And next time it will be bottles of water for
champagne, presuming water is not more expensive than bubbly
Desert Island Nibbles
Coco Nuts spotted in the UK by Justin Murphy
Spell-cheque corner: ‘dosh’,
as in slang for cash, came up as ‘dash’. Hm, as in a dash for cash.
Say no more.
Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013: Jan
Smile of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
Smile of the day 2012 (Jan-Mar)
.. Smile of the day 2012
(Apr-Jun) .. Smile of the
day 2012c (Jul-Sep) .. Smile
of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
Previous 2011 smiles:
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jan-Jun)
.. Smile of the Day 2011 (Jul-Sep)
.. Smile of the day 2011
Smile of the Day 2010
(Jan to Jun) 2009
March to May '07
June to Aug '07
Sep to Dec '07
You are here, way out west,
aka Dodgy City
Previously on LOOK
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013: Jan
of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
of the day 2012c (Jul-Sep)
Smile of the day 2012
Smile of the day 2012 (Jan-Mar)
Smile of the day 2011
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jul-Sep)
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jan-Jun)
Smile of the Day 2010
2010 (Jan to Jun)
Sep to Dec '07
June to Aug '07
March to May '07
As it was in
ST DAVID'S DAY, 2007
Postcards from my Square
Here's lookin' at you
400 Smiles A Day
What A Gas
400 Smiles A Day