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Updated: 11/08/2013

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400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 08/06/2013

                                                                                        Design: Yosida

                                                                 ♫♫♫ TO SELF                            
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...

                                                                               ...and everyday a doolally smile of the day
PS: The shortest distance between two people is a smile ...
Contact Me
Saturday, November 30th

                                                      FLICKING through this past week’s Western Mail  Week End Magazine, what caught my eye was a column headed WORD OUT by Lleucu Siencyn [a grand Welsh name if ever I heard one: Lleucu is the Welsh form of Lucia or Lucy; Siencyn meaning Jenkin(s)].

Anyway, take it away, Lleucu:

A writer needs lots of training to get it right. It’s not all about the muse landing at midnight

THERE’S a tale, and I think it goes something like this. A groom has been given the task to find a band to play at his wedding. He’s left it late, and is desperately ringing around.

Luckily he gets through to somebody ― the lead musician in a six-piece swing band ― he asks for the price, and the musician says £800.

“What?” splutters the groom. “You must be joking ― £800? That’s outrageous!

“Tell you what,” replies the musician, “if you can find six plumbers willing to work on a Saturday night from 3pm to midnight for less that £15 an hour, then I’ll match their price.”

The groom knew he was done for, and booked them straight away.

The same story could be applied to writers. When invited to perform or write a poem for a special occasion, they’re expected to do it for free. Or some sandwiches...

It was a point well made. Lleucu then expands her argument...

The late great Elmore Leonard said that good writing is about not sounding like a writer at all. It takes a lot of technical skill to achieve this. It’s the stuff you won’t notice when you read or hear a great piece of literature.

It’s the literary equivalent of good plumbing.

Have you ever walked into a cosy, comfortable and welcoming house, and thought, “Nice plumbing you’ve got here”? No, thought not.

At that point I did smile, for I remember something Chief Wise Owl told me many moons ago. “When you enter ‘a cosy, comfortable and welcoming house’, and the décor catches your eye, especially the quality of the wallpapering, you will never ask ‘How much did that cost you?’. You will only ask ‘Who did that?’.”

I suppose the truth is that plumbing is the equivalent of being the choreographer or director/producer of a great show, whereas the wallpapering is the performance by the artist(s).”

When you enjoy Gene Kelly and his Singin in the Rain  routine, you never think about the background people that came up with the idea, or the planning behind it ― all you see is Gene Kelly tripping the wet fantastic.

Even more so if you watch the affectionate Morecombe and Wise parody of that routine ― see over there in my Desert Island Video Jukebox ― all you see is the pair of them performing the sketch to perfection.

Hm, yes, I wonder ... who did  actually dream up that memorable Morecambe & Wise sequence?

A quick trip on Ivor the Search Engine tells me that it was the legendary comedy scriptwriter Eddie Braben, who died earlier this year at the age of 82. Clever man.

I think Eddie would have approved a return visit to view a few more of the following...

Dumbest Tweets Ever

     Lexxi Cheree: George Zimmerman charged with 2nd degree murder. Who he kill the first time???

Rita Ora: How can I watch the Olympics if I’m in America???

LeaJaaa: Who painted the Mona Lisa?
     KeithsTrivia: Leonardo di Caprio.

J_Dubb_Squirrel: Ya know --- I never saw the pyramids as much of an accomplishment, it just seemed dumb 2 be stacking rocks.

Johnny Keller: Fact --- if you rearrange ‘Obama and Biden’ you spell ‘Osama bin Laden’. Same person. The mansion he was hiding in, The White House.

Christina Knowles: Is Stevie Wonder really still blind?

     Name crossed out: Don’t you wish you’re girlfriend was grammatically correct like me?

Mason: Derrick Rose trying to speak on National Television like he doesn’t have a speech peppermint.

DiamondJ: With history --- how do you know that all of these events actually occurred, if you weren’t there to witness it?

I know the feeling, DiamondJ. I sometimes wonder ... could I  be God? And everything that is happening is occurring only in my imagination?

And if you are reading this ... how do you know that this isn’t all unfolding inside your imagination. And that actually, you  are God?

Friday, November 29th

                                               “IF you haven’t got anything good to say about anybody, come sit next to me.”
Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth (1884 – 1980), was the oldest child of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. She was the only child of Roosevelt and his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee (who died two days after giving birth).

The irreverent Alice Roosevelt exasperated her father Teddy and enchanted Washington’s elite. She led an unconventional and controversial life. Her wit was legendary, and that humour could have a deadly political effect on friend and foe alike.

Throughout her life she maintained her stature in the community, both socially and politically, garnering nicknames from “an American Princess” to “the other Washington Monument”, pictured here c1902...

Wow! What an elegant portrait that is. Made even more fascinating because, of the pictures I’ve seen, she is not exactly an oil painting ― but always looking extremely characterful and rather distinguished.

Of her quotable comments, her most famous, featured at the top, found its way to a cushion on her settee.

On another occasion, asked by a Ku Klux Klansman in full regalia to take his word for something, she refused, saying: “I never trust a man under sheets.”

And when a well-known Washington senator was discovered to have been having an affair with a young woman less than half his age, Mrs Longworth quipped: “You can’t make a soufflé rise twice.”

Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth sounds the sort of person I would never need an invitation to go and sit next to.

I am rather fortunate in as much that along my stroll through time I have personally known a few Mrs Longworths, including several male versions, and I always go and sit next to them.

That famous cushion brings me neatly to an intriguing thread of letters in The Daily Telegraph:

Too many cushions do not attract paying guests  

SIR – I agree that cushions in a hotel bedroom serve no purpose, and get in the way. I look at a hotel website and if the beds are laden with cushions, I do not book there.
     I stayed in a hotel in Devon which had nine cushions on the bed, and nine on the sofa. Before long the floor was covered in cushions.
Diana Broun, Oxford

SIR – When I was stationed in Hong Kong, the commanding officer’s wife decided that my battalion’s officers’ mess would benefit from cushions decorating the sofas.
     The cushions ended up providing a new sport: after dinner they were thrown into the air so that one of the ceiling fan blades would catch them and propel them along the ante room. The winner was the person who achieved the longest range.
Jeremy Tozer, Sonning Common, Oxfordshire

Stuffed symbolism  

SIR – Cushions are theatrical shorthand for sex: scattered around a Royal Shakespeare Company set, enhanced with red-filtered lights (suggestively dimmed), they indicate that we are in either a bordello or Cleopatra’s Egypt, all sensuality and voluptuousness.
     When guests enter a hotel room they are, in effect, taking the stage, agreeing to take the leading parts in a fantasy, a fleeting illusion. Cushions create an ambience suited to discovering anew the passion of one’s courtship.
     Make the most of it.
Dr Lawrence Green, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

All of which generated some amusing online comments...

Mogulfield: Dr Lawrence gets my vote for most entertaining letter of the week. I will however carefully check for one-way mirrors and hidden cameras next time I find myself in a hotel room with cushions scattered about.

Naomi Onions: Too late. We got you last time.

Ardgrane: Dr Lawrence is correct. In the final scene of the Newman-Taylor version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Newman signals that the two principal characters have resolved their problem by throwing a cushion onto the middle of the bed. Taylor smiles.
     It should not be necessary to explain to those readers too young to recognise such signals exactly where the cushion would have been placed if the censor would have allowed the scene to continue.

JDavidJ: Against the door, to keep out the hallway light?

Thatlldo: Dr Lawrence Green (and Ardgrane), I have always been wary of other people’s cushions, using them only after wrapping them in a clean towel.
     It seems from your comments that I have been fully justified in my idiosyncrasy.

Ericthehalfabee: On first glance I read your name as Thatlldildo, which seemed apt regarding the topic.

! Very funny, Ericthehalfabee, a clever sting in the tail. Worthy of a smile of the day spot, 10/10. And I guess Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth would also have enjoyed it.


Thursday, November 28th
LAST Tuesday I featured just a few of the dumbest tweets ever, in particular some memorable spelling goofs. Mind you, I was never sure whether they were mistakes or deliberate errors to raise a smile and generate a laugh (which they did, with balls on).

So I thought ... hm ... why not have a look at some indisputable cock-ups on the spelling bee front.

For example, Sheffield High School is a £11,000-a-year independent girls’ school in South Yorkshire...

D’oh! See me after class

It may have been rated ‘excellent’ by the school inspectors, but when it comes to
spelling, it seems the Sheffield High School for Fillies ‘must do better’.

A sign outside the school proudly announced that the Independent Schools Inspectorate had given it the top rating in every category ― or rather, every ‘catergory’, as the glaring typo on the sign put it.

And does it not add rather wonderfully to the photo that the mistake has been red circled? Ah, the memories.

To be fair to the school, staff quickly spotted the signwriter’s mistake and Exhibit R was rapidly taken down ― but not before some rotten so-and-so passer-by had captured the moment for posterity.

And yes, it was duly splashed across social media. With much relish.

So here, a couple more memorable examples, compliments of
Sign Language ― but this time let’s not laugh along with (rather than at) our friends from those faraway places with strange sounding names and their curious ideas about the English language and how she should be deployed ― let’s look closer to home:

It just won’t fly

Spotted at Starcross Railway Station, Devon by Andrew McMillan

And then this...

Too late

Spotted in Mevagissey, Cornwall by Kim Andrews

Mevagissey, eh? What was it I said about those faraway places with strange sounding names?

Curiously, here’s a headline spotted this very day on the Telegraph  web site:

                      Dementia diagnosis: Britain’s national shame revealed

Health Secretary discloses ‘dementia’ map showing that in some areas fewer than four in 10 sufferers are diagnosed...

It’s at moments like this I am never sure whether to smile at the sign, or shed a tear at our nation’s incompetence.

Wednesday, November 27th
             YES, what do  you buy the older woman who has everything? Well, I suppose if it’s Nigella Lawson you do have a head start.

Be all those curious Lawson-Saatchi accusations as they may, it is said that at the height of his success, Rod Stewart told his mother she could have anything she wanted for Christmas, money no object.

After deep thought she said: “Well, I could do with a new bread bin.”

And you feel in your bones that just has  to be true.

Actually, that Stewart tale takes me back to 1979 and the song Toast,  as performed by Paul Young and Streetband: And then I looked, and over there in the corner theres a yellow and white bread bin with its mouth wide open, just staring at me, like ... I saw bread...

Have you come far?

It is said that when the Queen meets people ― and let’s face it, she meets an awful lot of folk along her wave through time ― she has many small-talk stock phrases to get the conversation going, for example: Have you come far? And what do you do?

Well, there was a marvellous picture from a week or so ago ― I’m forever running several smiles behind schedule, but it’s the better-late-than-never message that counts ― and many of the our newspapers came up with a similar caption for this smiley image...

[HM (thinks): Hm, and who do we have here...?]

“Yes, ma’am, I have come quite far”

Wouldn’t life be more colourful, asked The Sunday Times, if British politicians followed the example of Narkhuu Tulga, the Mongolian ambassador to London, who wore national dress to be presented to the Queen?

But let’s hope that, for his official duties, Her Majesty’s ambassador to Mongolia doesn’t wear British national costume ― jeans and a football shirt ― and say “Do you enjoy Top Gear? Honestly, that Jezza Clarkson is such a wag!”.

Just about a year ago, in honour of her Diamond Jubilee, Her Majesty visited Downing Street and sat in on a cabinet meeting. The story goes that she was greeted by Prime Minister David Cameron at the door of Number 10. Microphones didn’t pick up what they said, but it is believed it went something like this...

     Cameron to Queen: “Have you come far?”

     Queen to Cameron: “And what do you do?”

A different kind of handshake

I’d meant to tell you this tale last Friday, but memories of JFK trumped the usual routine. Anyway, I was listening to the tail-end of Alex Lester on his overnight wireless show.

I don’t know what the thread was, but this message received and read out by Alex tickled my T-Spot, my Tee-hee Spot, no end:

“Morning Alex ― With the arrival of the party season I would like policing of men who think a few drinks make them irresistible and give them the right to pat my bum ― but it doesn’t and they can’t. Love, Diane.”

Alex: Quite right, too. Did you hear the story about the woman on the London Underground, and someone had put a hand on her bottom? So she grabbed the hand and raised it in the carriage and shouted: “I’ve found this on my bottom. Does it belong to anybody?” I would guess the perpetrator never did that again...

Spell-cheque corner:
‘Narkhuu’, the Mongolian ambassador, came up as ‘Markus’; and ‘Tulga’ as ‘Tulsa’. Perhaps its my juvenile streak, but “Her Majesty will now take wine with Markus Tulsa, the Mongolian ambassador sounds so wonderfully Michael Bentine and exceedingly smiley.

Tuesday, November 26th
   Tweetie Pie Corner

                     “TWITTER is my alter eagle.” MahoghanyXO tweets a treat while surveying the comings and goings on the savannah below.

Twittering along on the crest of a wave

Yesterday I featured a sprinkle of funny people to follow on Twitter. Well, it set me thinking of the dumbest tweets ever, since Twitter was launched back in 2006.

Funnily enough, the notion took me back just a month, when southern England was hit by a robust storm, at least relatively powerful for this part of the world. Nothing to compare with what happened recently out in the Philippines ― but there were people killed here in the UK, and quite a bit of damage caused.

And this takes me to Twitter. Given the widely reported deaths and chaos of the UK storm, it was clearly not quite the right time for attempts at humour, at least by those who are not natural-born funny people.

That, however, did not stop some of the lucky celebs who escaped the storm from trying. Inevitably, their chosen method of sharing their tasteless thoughts was Twitter.

Football pundit Gary Lineker, 52, posted a picture of a leaf sitting on his car and wrote: “Part of a tree has hit the car roof. Not too much damage, I think.”

Sports journalist Jake Humphrey, 35, posted a picture of himself pointing in mock-horror at a branch on the pavement, and wrote: “Stormaggedon on streets of London. Stay safe out there peeps.”

Joey Barton, 31, footballer for Queens Park Rangers, was criticised by fans for saying the storm was an anti-climax. The midfielder tweeted: “Tad disappointing, this mega death to all before it storm.” His comments prompted anger from fans who asked whether he wished the death toll were higher.

Musician Lily Allen, 28, said on Twitter she was pleased with the effect of the high winds. She wrote: “Thank you Storm St Jude for finally getting rid of the neighbours tree that has been blocking out the light.”

I did look for a tweet from a 13-year-old, but couldn’t find any.

The above are all celebrities who have substantial Twitter followings. Do you suppose they all walked into the ambush of believing that whatever they tweet will be accepted as the very essence of wit and wisdom?

Which brings me neatly back to...

The Dumbest Tweets Ever

Here are just a few on a specific theme, all confirmed online by images of said tweets...

     Supreme Salad: So sad how Michael Jackson died from cadillac arrest man. RIP.

     Ray-Ray: Our generation has made a mochary of marriage.

     Debbie Montana: Everyone wants to be a business ontripanor init.

     Pat Mattiney: Every Kiss begins with “K”. Yeah, so does Klamidia.

     Foxy Brown: Can Sex be Good with out an Organism?

     Markie 2 Fresh: I wanna have sex in Paris on top of the Ifold Tower.

     Gia Bad Girls Club: People act like lightskin and dark skin are a different raise.

     Mark A Ellison Jr: Hates when people say ... I got Carpet Tunnel ... no idiot its Carpatunnel ... big difference.

That last one threw me: Carpatunnel? What instantly came to mind was carpe diem ― as in “seize the tweet”, perhaps? Anyway, I reverse Ivor the Search Engine out of the shed ― and off we chuff, chuff, chuff...
     Actually, it’s Carpal tunnel syndrome  (CTS),
a relatively common condition that can cause pain, numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand and fingers.
     So Mark A Ellison Jr still got hit by the l-for-light at the end of the tunnel, which was of course Ivor the Search Engine speeding towards him.

The above, funny as they are, set me wondering how many are genuine mistakes or someone just having a bit of fun with words.

I am reminded of the wonderfully tuneful Jo Stafford and her gloriously off-key “alter-eagle”, Darlene Edwards. As many have pointed out, to sing so perfectly out of tune takes great talent. Indeed, remember Les Dawson and his wonderfully off-key piano playing?

I sometimes feel the same about some of these tweets.

Mind you, they could all be genuine because people do tweet the most extraordinary things. And even more to the point, I am forever surprised that those who post tweets and comments don’t bother to read them even the once just to correct those glaringly obvious mistakes we all make when punching away on the keyboard.

I guess the only way to know for sure is to follow these people regularly because it would soon show if it’s a wind-up or not.

Anyway, how about a brace of slightly different tweets to round things off:

     Ms Tootie (Adrian): To my calculation, if I save $38 each week, I can have a million with in 3 years! Sounds like a plan to me.

     Josh Cloud: Lotto jackpot = $640 million. Population of the U.S. = 300 million. Lets just give everyone 2.13 million and call it a day!

Now there’s a man who should be Governor of the Bank of England. Wonderful.

Spell-cheque corner: I was really expecting a shoal of suggestions given the wonderfully misspelt words, but the computer gave up on most, including ‘ontripanor’ ... however, ‘mochary’, as in Our generation has made a mochary of marriage, came up as ‘moocher’; and ‘Klamidia’ did actually come up as ‘Chlamydia’, fair play.


Monday, November 25th
       “I’M on the train. It’s nice to see that some things never change...”  
twitter.com/OctoberJones ... talented animator, funny Tweeter and the owner of a bulldog ... who texts him...

Perusing Twitter and online comment boards calls for dedication and concentration. As a rule of thumb, 10 per cent are poison pens and instantly ignored; 10 per cent flirt with being insightful, witty and wise and make the cut for podium places; the remaining 80 per cent ― well, they all pretty much have something to say, but the presentation of said missives are so poor that it is much too much like hard work to try and make sense of them.

That is why I am a great fan of newspaper Letters pages, along with Quotes of the Day and Twitterings of the Week, because other people have done the donkey work and fished out those that are likely to raise a smile or a nod of approval.

For example, a Telegraph  piece has just listed some of the best Twitter names:

                       Top 30 funny people to follow on Twitter

In the latest in a series of Twitter recommendations, James Manning endorses 30 funny people who you may not have heard of but are definitely worthy of a follow...

Twitter without funny people, in their variously witty, caustic, punning, silly, gag-smithing ways, simply wouldn’t be the same. So here, in an entirely subjective list, and in no particular order, and with a focus only on ‘non-celebrities’, we bring you the 30 funniest people on the social network...

Well, I’ve gone and picked out my favourite baker’s dozen:

@cluedont: Accordion to a recent survey, replacing words with the names of musical instruments in a tweet often goes undetected.

I spent a bit of doodling time tonight trying to come up with a line as clever as the above ― musical instruments, birds, cars, etc ― without any luck, surprise, surprise. Meanwhile, back with the experts...

@kerihw: The Queen’s strongest subject at school was her PE teacher.

@thewritertype: I confess that for many years I’ve used a highly successful tax avoidance scheme based on not earning any money---


@hrtbps: An Icelandic cop knocks on a door: “Mrs Jónsdóttir? There’s no easy way to say this. Your husband fell into the volcano Eyjafjallajökull.”

I particularly enjoyed this because when the volcano first erupted, back in the day, there was a letter in The Times (I think) which suggested how to pronounce it ― and I’ve never forgotten, more or less: “Hey a fellow yokel!
     And you just know that it makes sense.

@rhysjamesy: You say potato, I say this isn’t going to work written down...

 Wife: Do you fancy coming home at lunchtime for a quickie?
                        Me: It’s pronounced Quiche.

I know, I know, that is an old one ― but it does sound like a parody of my sex life.

@Twitflup: The greediest man in Iran is Ayatollah Pies.

@GlennyRodge ― but first, his bio reads: ‘Screenwriter, comedian, actor, socialist and model. These are words. As are custard, trumpet, wardrobe, trousers and dandelion.’ (Should he perhaps have said, in order to balance his opening sentence: ‘These are words. As are idiot, bore, superficial, capitalist and normal.’ Anyway, here is his tweet...)

                            FOOD FACT: The original name for ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’, ‘Butter, My Arse’,
                                  was rejected due to problems with punctuation.

@alicewhite: How do you get in touch with the models in the pictures that come with the frame? I have an out of control, elaborate lie I need help with.

@sixthformpoet: The real tragedy of Goldilocks And The Three Bears is that Mr and Mrs Bear, a young married couple, already sleep in separate beds.

And I fondly remember this next one because I have quoted it before ― but as always, worth a replay...

@RogerQuimbly: Does ‘heinous’ rhyme with ‘penis’ or ‘anus’? To win a prize, send your one word answer to Piers Morgan. Good luck!

The above Twitter title, RogerQuimbly brought to mind Fred Quimby, the name that always stands out when watching the Tom & Jerry cartoons.

@AstonishingSod:  My Plan...
                               1. Go to the elephant house in the zoo.

                               2. Shout IS NOBODY GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM?

                               3. Elephant high-five.

And finally, the 13th...

Anonymous: He had a row with his boss recently. One of the perks of working near a boating lake.

Well, finally, finally ... something off the Comment  board:

barstudent_1112: I prefer following God @thetweetofgod for such gems as “Imagine walking in on 40 million people masturbating a minute and you’ll get a sense of what My job is like”.

I mention that because, whisper it, I prefer the one I thought up the other day:

          “And what do you do then, God?”

          “Well, I seem to spend most of My time sitting on a fence.”

Spell-cheque corner: I was half-expecting a load of suggestions given the host of unusual user names, above, but not so ― mostly the computer had nothing to suggest. Except for ‘smithing’, as in gag-smithing, which came up as ‘smiting’. Very good. Oh yes, ‘cluedont’ came up as ‘clouding’ and ‘Twitflup’ came up as ‘wistful’.

Sunday, November 24th

What do you want to make those eyes at me for?

And don’t forget to wash behind those ears!

     Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
     In the forests of the night,
     What immortal hand or eye
     Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
William Blake

When I first caught sight of the above picture, I remember thinking ... why is that lady there ― I presume the person is a female ― confronted by such a fierce creature, exuding such admirably cool body language?

But everything is not quite what it seems. As I always say hereabouts: believe nothing you hear and only half what you see.

Yes, a three-month-old  Sumatran tiger cub called “Bandar” looks less than pleased after being dunked in the tiger exhibit moat for a swimming test at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington.

All cubs born at the zoo must take a swim reliability test before being allowed to roam around the enclosure. Despite the “we are not amused” look, Bandar passed his test.

Two 13-week-old male and female cubs named Bandar and Sukacita, were able to keep their heads above water, navigate to the shallow end of the moat and climb onto dry land, passing this critical step. The cubs are ready to explore the yard with their mother, four-year-old Damai.

The eyes have it: pleasure and displeasure

Here, Sukacita is returned to mum by biologist Leigh Pitsko after the tiger cub
performed her “swim test” in a moat of the Great Cats exhibit at the Zoo.

And there’s the rub. The initial photo has clearly been taken on a long zoom, so Bandar looks much bigger than he really is, relative to the person watching that is. All to do with perspective. As the second image confirms.

I must say, I share the smile on the face of Leigh Pitsko. There is some sort of curious pleasure in observing the face of something doing its nut.

They are marvellous photographs. Mind you, I think in that top photograph, Bandar is saying: “Your card is marked, sunshine. And a tiger never forgets.”


Saturday, November 23rd
IN the wake of yesterday’s recollections of death and destruction ― the assassination of John F. Kennedy (mine) and 9/11 (Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand) ― Chief Wise Owl handed me the following, from precisely a week ago, and spotted in Daniel Finkelstein’s Notebook in The Times:

Where were you when JFK died?

Are you sure?

I have some questions I want to ask you. And the first one is about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Everyone can remember exactly where they were when they heard that the President had been shot. President Lincoln, that is. His death prompted the first study of what has become known as flashbulb memory. Apparently more than 30 years after the event, 70 per cent of people remembered where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about it.

With the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death we are in for a week of people saying the same thing. The question is ― do you think they are right?

A clever little study, described in The Invisible Gorilla, by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons suggests not. The day after 9/11 a group of Duke undergraduates were asked to recall their memories of the day and what they had been doing a few days earlier.

When the academics went back to them a year later, their memories of 9/11 weren’t very good. They were vivid, but inaccurate. They were similarly inaccurate about the events of a few days earlier. The difference was that they acknowledged they could be wrong about the less momentous days. They were totally confident about 9/11.

So it may not be that people really remember what they were doing when they heard that JFK had died, merely that the event made them more secure in their false memory.

Now that is  interesting, especially the bit about remembering things from a few days earlier. I have a shocking memory for that sort of thing, which is why I keep a simple diary record of everywhere I have been, and if anything of note happened, or indeed I met someone that was worth keeping a log of.

Paradoxically, I can remember precisely the few things in life that are truly important to me (and not necessarily anyone else, excepting the person I may well let down rather badly if I don’t remember). If that makes sense.

The interesting thing is, when I look back through old diaries I do seem to be able to recall somewhat casually other events I did not make a note of. A kind of association of happenings. Now how accurate they are is something completely different.

My recollections of what happened in the pub back in 1963 are spot on. At least, I think they are!(?)!

However, what I can’t really remember is this: when the JFK news broke on the television, was I the only one there from my particular gang? Or had one or two of my pals already arrived? I’m fairly sure I was alone ― but I wouldn’t be prepared to swear on oath to it.

As for Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand’s recollections of 9/11, we can be as sure as sure can be that her memories are precise, for the simple reason that she is now alive because of one decision she made that fateful morning.

Every day really is a day at school

Whilst on the subject of question marks, I was perusing a series of online comments in the Telegraph. There was a letter about the economy. A comment about that particular missive had mentioned in passing “percentage points” ― which triggered this thread...

Fairy Hanny: Serious question Daniel ― what is the difference between 5 percentage points and 5 per cent? I often hear both in news items and wondered if I was missing something.

Danielfg: Well, if the tax rate was 20% and it was increased by 5%, it would become 21%. If it was increased by 5 percentage points it would become 25%. Beware of what the politicians tell you.

Fairy Hanny: Ok, thank you for that ― I think I’ve twigged now.

Steve Casey: When VAT went up from 17.5% to 20%, that was an increase of two-and-a-half percentage points. However, it can also be seen as raising the amount paid by a seventh, which is an increase of more than 14%.

Fairy Hanny: Thank you too, Steve ― I now understand.

Yes, thanks Daniel and Steve, from me too. And to Fairy Hanny for raising the point (the percentage point, that is). I have actually learnt something today, something which I never really paid much attention to in the past.

However, I was  previously aware to beware smooth-talking politician...

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Hanny’, as in Fairy Hanny, came up as ‘Handy’. I adore my computer. It has a wonderfully wicked sense of fun.

Friday, November 22nd, 1963

I WAS a trainee young buck about town. Me and my TR3. Batman was yet to declare that chicks loved flashy cars. But he would be spot on.

Every Friday evening we country lads would gather at the Railway Public House in Llandeilo ― which was nowhere near the railway station. Oh, and it is now a butcher’s shop, a typical Tale of Two Generations separated by progress.

We would then set off on safari, a tour of our square mile’s watering holes ― no ‘bottle to throttle’ breathalyser law back then, as long as you could walk a white line without falling off, all systems were go.

We would round the evening off on a fishing expedition at the local hop. Well, I say round the evening off ... we all hoped that wasn’t quite the case.

Anyway, back at the pub: The Railway was a favourite haunt of those of a rustic bent ― Llandeilo was, and still is, a market town, and I was a son of the soil, like all my gang ― and I was the first there of the crowd, just before seven.

I sat in the farthest point from the flickering black and white telly on the wall, the corner of the room where we youngsters sat, away from the older regulars.

A news flash appeared. I had no idea what it said. Slowly, this popular, noisy, fun-filled pub went quiet, as if God was pointing his remote control. Or was it the Devil?

One by one, and two by two, my pals arrived. While we young bucks were all taken aback by the news, I can’t honestly say that we were unduly shocked, unlike the older regulars ― after all we had not long escaped the threat of a nuclear holocaust, allegedly, and that was enough for us to handle.

We duly departed on safari...

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Fifty years on, and I could take you round the back of the butcher’s shop and point out exactly where I was sitting that night. But most of all, I remember this raucous and jolly old watering hole falling deathly quiet as people strained to hear the latest. Indeed we ‘youngsters’ had to speak in barely understood hushed tones.

Hindsight enlightens me that it was the first time I began to learn the lesson of the overriding power held within that little box in the corner of the room. That it had both an inbuilt silencer and amplifier.

It possessed the power to hush a noisy crowd, something the then landlord (an ex-copper) had great trouble with after-hours, when he was desperate not to attract the attention of those few policemen who recognised that catching pubs was an easy way to gain sergeant’s stripes.

Mind you, we were aware that of a late evening (or early morning) one or two of the local cops would themselves sneak into the empty and dark lounge and enjoy a pint or two ― all on the house, of course.

Anyway, at the other end of the emotional scale, the pub telly can create extraordinary noise, as when Wales beat England at rugby, whether to achieve the Grand Slam or not.

Memories are indeed juxtaposed: the serious and the trivial.

Then last Wednesday morning, listening to Vanessa Feltz, as is my wont, the regular Pause for Thought  came on.

It was Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand, a Director of JHub, an operating programme of the London-based Pears Foundation, which promotes social action, innovation and social entrepreneurship in the British Jewish community by providing physical office space, mentoring, networking, seed grants, and professional development opportunities...


Pause for Thought: Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand on “Where were you when...”

                                                                   WHEN I was young, every adult in my life could tell me exactly where they were when they heard that President Kennedy had been shot. November 22nd 1963 was the date that shaped my parents’ generation. And growing up I wondered whether there would be such an event for my generation ― and of course there was, September 11th.

Where was I that day? In New York City, on my way to the airport for my monthly trip to San Francisco. But instead of my usual flight from Newark, I had decided to sleep in a bit and take a later flight from LaGuardia.

That one capricious decision saved my life as that United flight from Newark was one of the four hijacked by Al-Qaeda that day.

But because I had slept late, I was just getting into my taxi to the airport when my driver told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Centre.

As we crossed the bridge to Queens, I looked downtown, saw the smoke rising from Lower Manhattan and realised this was no minor plane accident, as I had first thought.

The seriousness of the situation became clear as we reached the end of the bridge and found the police closing it to all further traffic. There was no way back home to Manhattan.

And so that is why I ended up spending the night of September 11th in Queens, with my Brazilian taxi driver, Marconi. I had nowhere else to go. The airport was closed and I couldn’t get back home over the bridge, so Marconi invited me back to his tiny flat, fed me a pizza for dinner, allowed me to sleep on his sofa, and even drove me home the next day.

What saved my life the morning of 9/11 was a serendipitous decision to take a later flight. But what saved my faith in human beings was Marconi’s simple act of hospitality.

Where was I on 9/11? Losing my faith in human kind as I watched planes crash into skyscrapers ... but then finding it once again in a Brazilian taxi driver’s humble home in Queens...

“Wow, what a story,” said Vanessa. “Thank you so much...”

What can I add? Except, the above set me thinking: would it not be rather wonderful to also experience the tale through the eyes of Marconi, the Brazilian taxi driver?

Thursday, November 21st

                                                               AS a rule of thumb, for my recent picture-headline obsession I deploy images wot ‘ave caught my eye online ― my own photos are featured mostly in 400 Smiles A Day (pictures captured on the wild side of my morning walks), and Smile (personal postcards from my square miles) ― but today it’s one of my own.

Yes, it’s the full moon preparing to set over Newton House, a place I pass most mornings along my regular Towy Valley walks. It seemed the perfect intro to a few more smiley XL Sign Language pictures...

By the light of the silvery moon...

...but first I must go and pilfer some eggs
(Sign Language: spotted in Barcelona by Bess Good)

And now, a whole new dining-out experience:

Merry widows, fruity specials, a bird in the nest...

Perfect spot for breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea, high-tea, supper and
After Eights ― hold the ‘wiht’ cream, pile on the Anamika Rice(?)
(Sign Language: spotted in India by Herman Rodrigues)

As it happens, I know a delightful local lady called Nest, a name which is the Welsh form of Agnes, which in turn comes from a Greek name meaning “holy”.

Let’s hope the visit to “My Nest” doesn’t turn out to be...

...the usual BS!

SL: Spotted in Vancouver by Ian Pitch

Here be dragons

“The world’s most amazing breakfast cereal” could well be “the world’s most amazing breakfast killer”.

Wednesday, November 20th

                                                                        VANESSA FELTZ, crack of dawn, yesterday morn ― God, I’ve caught the Pam Ayres paradigm, I’m starting to talk in silly rhyme. Note to himself, be true to thyself.

Anyway, Vanessa, yesterday morning: “You know you’re becoming an antique when you do as I did yesterday and you go to the doctor with a list ― I kid you not ― I made the flipping appointment weeks ago and I was absolutely determined to squeeze every ounce of value from my allotted 7½ minutes.
     “I’m sure the GP turned pale when I flourished what looked like a small scroll of ills, ‘ache-ues’, twinges, pestilences, aches and pains...”

Yes, I smiled XL ― but hang about, what on earth is, er, “ache-ues”? It sounded like something Hercule Poirot or Inspector Clouseau would suffer from. At least I think that’s what Lady V said. So I listened again on iPlayer ... yep, it certainly sounds like ache-ues ― but I have no idea what that word is. I’ve never, ever heard of it before.

I hunt through the dictionary and thesaurus on the shelf behind me ... no luck, so I try online ... I attempt various forms of spelling ... nothing, zilch, not even a hint.

So last night I decided to drop an e-mail to the Vanessa show:

Hello Vanessa ... Yesterday (Tuesday) you entertained us with your visit to the doctor and you said “I flourished what looked like a small scroll of ills, ache-ues…” ― at least that’s what it sounded like.
     I’d never heard that word before. But I liked the sound of it. Yet I couldn’t find it in the dictionary or online; I also looked under synonyms ― no luck whatsoever. Obviously I have no idea how to spell it ― I did try various combinations of letters ... perhaps I simply misheard the word.
     Please put me out of my misery.
     A hundred thousand thanks in anticipation.

Are you sitting comfortably?

So I listen to the show this morning, perhaps thinking she might mention it, especially during the Word of the Day  slot because I guessed there would be quite a few like me who had never before used the word.


After the show I switch on the computer ― and a couple of e-mails await: one, an automated acknowledgment of my message to Vanessa; and the second from Phil McGarvey, the producer of the show.

To my delight, he has gone to the trouble of explaining that the word is actually ‘ague’ ― no wonder I couldn’t find it ― and he gave a link to the definition:

Ague (ā’gyōō)
1. A febrile condition in which there are alternating periods of chills, fever, and sweating. Used chiefly in reference to the fevers associated with malaria.

2. A chill or fit of shivering.

[Middle English, from Old French (fievre) ague, sharp (fever), etc, etc...]

What do I always say? Here in Llandampness, every day is a day at school.

So Vanessa had a “small scroll of ills, agues, twinges, pestilences, aches and pains...”

From ache-ues to agues, in one simple sneeze.

Now you don’t see it, now you do...

Last Saturday I smiled at the teenager who had spotted a camouflaged £80,000 Jaguar F-Type Coupé in a supermarket car park ― a week before the car’s official public debut and six months before it goes on sale.

I was somewhat surprised that the camouflaged car would actually invite attention rather than the opposite. But one online comment enlightened me:

Jaguar test drive their new models ― as do all other manufacturers ― out on public roads, often years before release. Some you would never spot as they are mules under an old shell. The reason for the camouflage is not to blend in with the environment but rather it’s hard for a camera to capture all the finer details...

Well, the car has now been officially unveiled ... proof of the Roasted Pear Crème Brûlée Tart is in the undressing.

So, compare and contrast. Did the camouflage do the trick?




Very impressive. As handsome a pussycat as ever I did see. The E-Type Jag excepted, of course. And the camouflage did indeed confuse the eye. Mind you, angles play an important part in projecting an image. (But as to why the driver appears to be camouflaged ― well, that is  a mystery!)

Oh yes, an F-Type? Curious choice of letter. Perhaps the F-Type stands for ****-Type, because, as Batman famously declared, chicks love flashy cars.

Mind you, it doesn’t hold a candle to the TR3 I owned when I was 18. And 18 is the key, the age at which the male of the species should be bombing up and down our highways and byways in a sports car, a pretty girl in the passenger seat, with the wind in her hair...

Tuesday, November 19th
THIS Sign Language Warning: Wrath’  special, spotted in Old London Town by Zena Nattriss.

Yesterday I smiled at the conversation between Vanessa Feltz and Lynn Bowles apropos Lynn’s visit home to Wales for the weekend, and that the Mistress of The Word & The Daffodil mentioned in passing that last Saturday she’d “enjoyed a lovely lunch with some lovely friends...”.

Shwmae butty
(Shwmae is Welsh for "Hi
! How the devil are you? Terribly nice to see you!"; butty is Welsh slang for friend, pal, mate, buddy...)

While Lynn Bowles was preparing for her lovely Saturday lunch with friends, in my little cave the wireless was on in the background, and I was half-listening to Money For Nothing on Radio Wales, where Owen Money plays music from the Fifties through to the early Eighties.

Owen’s show also includes a feature where listeners are invited to phone in and identify a particular song following just a note or two of the intro ... made more difficult because for all of our lives the Jocks have been busily talking over the intro and outro of the songs they play.

Anyway, folk certainly do get in touch, and the occasional listener gets to deliver his or her answer live on air, but first Owen and the caller exchange a little small-talk.

Now Owen is a typical Valley boy, from a working class Merthyr Tydfil background ― then he found fame and fortune as a musician, comedian and broadcaster, but the Valley Boy roots are well worn on his vocal chord sleeve.

Owen chats in a chummy, light-hearted, some would say overly-familiar, way with his guests. If a David comes on, he’s Dave; a Brenda is Bren, a Tony is Tone ... you get the picture. “Shwmae butty!” is second nature to our Owen.

So there’s a caller on the line: “It’s Godfrey Knight,” says Owen. “How are you today then, Godfrey?”

“Well this is a wonderful thing,” said Godfrey, a somewhat refined and educated-sounding older voice. “I’m very well thank you. How are you, Owen?”

“I’m not bad, feeling okay, Are you busy?”

“I’m always busy ― that’s my middle name.” The conversation rapidly becomes butty-XL.

“What do you do then, God...?” There’s a split-second pause and Owen laughs ― he realises what he’s just done with Godfrey’s name. “I bet a lot of people call you God, Godfrey?”

God laughs. “Mostly people call me Belfry because my head is always ringing...”

Oh bless, it was such an amusing exchange. If you are going to trip over a name, then Godfrey is as good as it gets: “The name’s Godfrey ― but you can call me God.”

“What do you do then, God?”

“Well, I seem to spend most of my life sitting on a fence...”

It all fits

Oh yes, remember the Sven-Göran Eriksson, Ulrika Jonsson and Nancy Dell’Olio, love triangle thingy? I must return to the original quote from Ulrika.

“Sex with Sven was as ordered and functional as an Ikea instruction manual. It was devoid of passion. It was as boring as putting together an Ikea Billy bookcase.”

Then I see this in The Sunday Times  Weird but wonderful column:

Quick, assemble this alibi

Police called to a house in Strömstad, Sweden, when neighbours heard “banging and screaming” in the early hours, discovered a couple trying to assemble flat-pack furniture.

Isn’t it reassuring to know that Sweden, the home of Ikea, has just as much trouble as the rest of us?

Nope, I’m having none of it. It was Sven and Ulrika having it away and making it sound like putting together an Ikea Willy Wonka bookcase.

Monday, November 18th
LISTENING to Vanessa Feltz on the wireless this morning, and just before the ‘Word of the Day’ spot on her show, she got into a gossipy conversation with Lynn Bowles the traffic reporter and star of the ‘Word’ spot (Lynn is known as the Mistress of the Word).

Lynn had been home in Wales for the weekend and she mentioned in passing that on Saturday she’d “enjoyed a lovely lunch with some lovely friends ― what could be better? What’s not to like?”.

Now Vanessa has a well-documented battle with her weight, which she is never too afraid or shy to talk about. Or indeed to laugh at herself and her on-going problems. So Lynn’s mention of a “lovely lunch” set Vanessa off on a most amusing multi-course dining experience.

“Yes,” said Vanessa, “a lovely lunch is a lovely thing. But if you can have a lovely breakfast first, even better. My father would always say: ‘Let’s quickly have lunch so we can have time for tea before dinner’. That’s why I ended up with a weight problem.”

“Your dad sounds alright to me,” said Lynn.

“Honestly,” said Vanessa, “we’d arrive in town: ‘Right, that’s where we’re going to have lunch,’ he’d say ― ‘where will we have tea?’ ― so for the rest of my life I’ve always been a bit upset or disappointed if people don’t want to have every meal of the day. What about tea?”

“Were you the sort of family,” wondered Lynn, “while having one meal you would discuss another one?”

“Yes, yes, yes, we certainly were ― and we sometimes fondly reminisce about the meal before that. Breakfast was lovely while eating lunch while planning tea and considering dinner. I’m not joking. This is not funny. This is serious.”

And they both laughed. “I like it, that’s lovely,” said Lynn. “You’re a family of bons viveurs. You are what my father would have called a good eater. Always a clean plate.”

Vanessa was now really making a tasty meal of the conversation: “If I had to go out with a boy and the family were not good eaters I’d feel terribly short-changed. And also, if it was nice weather my father would say, ‘Right, let’s have a choc ice’ ― and we’d all have a choc ice. I mean, the moment the sun came out, even if it wasn’t really hot, we’d have a choc ice.”

“You know what I want,” said Lynn, “I want a radio programme where I just interview you, about your life...”

And I knew what Lynn meant. That little exchange between the two is so typical of the wonderfully amusing gossip Vanessa comes out with. And she does seem to have had an exceptionally interesting life, especially her early years.

She has a natural-born talent for telling stories and I thoroughly enjoy listening to Lady V, as the listener calls her.

Actually, when Lynn mentioned her father saying “You’re a good eater” ― I’ve been told that. Indeed, it is pretty much impossible to find anything left on my plate. I can’t even remember throwing away any sort of food. Not off the plate. Not even out of the fridge. Ever.

Oh yes, the week’s first ‘Word to the Day’...

Vanessa and Lynn, pictured above at their early-morning station, settled on ‘Blatteroon’ ― a senseless babbler or boaster, a right what-not. Hm, perm any one politician from a thousand...

Later in the show, Vanessa played a clip of Pam Ayres from another programme, where the 66-year-old poet talked about her publisher having ‘forced’ her, in a gently agreeable way, to start using Twitter for her fun-type poetry.

She originally thought she would never be able to fit in what she had to say within the 140 characters allowed.

But eventually she found that she could, and Pam read out a couple of her own tweets:

Oh Lord I pray on bended knee,
                                  Don’t let a lightning-strike strike me;
                                  Oh let me sleep safe in my bed,
                                  And strike my neighbour’s house instead.

And the other was something inspired after watching the female boxers at last year’s Olympics:

                                  See those ladies in the ring,
                                  Gracefully they duck and swing;
                                  Through gritted teeth they gamely gulped,
                                  And beat each other to a pulp.

Okay, the following repeated from yesterday
s smile of the day...

Spell-cheque corner:
‘Omdurman’, as in ‘the cavalry charge at Omdurman’, came up as ‘Motorman’. Where is Jeremy Clarkson when you need him? No, hang on, thats ‘Motormouth’.


Would you believe it, this story surfaced today...

       Top Gear presenters banned from driving for three months in France

Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond get on-the-spot fines and have driving licences revoked for speeding

While filming for the show’s Top Gear Christmas DVD ― called ‘The Perfect Road Trip’ ― Clarkson and Hammond were allegedly caught travelling at over 87mph in a 56mph limit.

That means the duo were more than 50kph over the legal speed, which attracts an instant driving ban in France.

In fact, Les Gendarmes were waiting for the pair as they approached a tollbooth ― Clarkson in an Aston Martin Vanquish and Hammond in a Porsche 911 GT3 ― to issue them with the on-the-spot fine and a ban, effective immediately.

Clarkson and Hammond ― who were thought to be travelling at around 141kph and 143kph respectively ― had their collars felt by the French police’s anti-speeding division.

Swooping to their rescue, the Top Gear camera crew had to drive the BBC2 stars, and both the Aston and the Porsche, back home.

In his column in The Sun newspaper, Clarkson announced, “If you are going to break the speed limit, make sure you are not in France.”

The often outspoken Top Gear lead carried on:

“You would be advised to pay attention to what happened next. Because the on-the-spot fine was everything we had in our wallets. We were left penniless. And they took away our driving licences. No court case. No arguing. Nothing.”

It might just be coincidence, but the scenes Hammond (nicknamed Hamster) and Clarkson (Jezza) were filming were for the new Top Gear DVD, which goes on sale today, Monday 18 November, just in time for Christmas.

So there really is no such thing as bad publicity, it seems, ho, ho, ho!

So I thought ho, ho, ho, I’d have a go at a Pam Ayres-style poem ― and remember, I’ve never done this sort of thing before, at least not in the blink of a Welsh smile...

                       Big Jezza’s collar, felt by a Frog,
                       And Hamster’s too, the little wee sprog;
                       The answer’s GRIMM, it’ll make ‘em wince,
                       Just snog the Frog – hey presto a Prince.

As I say, it was  my first attempt at this sort of thing ― and it looks as if I’m over the 140 characters anyway. Also, I’m not sure whether we Brits are allowed to call our lovely French neighbours Frogs these PC days.

Just pretend I never said that.

Truth to tell, I’m quite proud of the above effort; doubly so given I managed a traditional Welsh internal rhyme in that last line.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘viveurs’, as in ‘bons viveurs’, came up as ‘voyeurs’. Oh dear, mums the word. Jezza’s’, as in ‘Big Jezza’s collar, felt by a Frog’, came up as Jessie’s’ ― now how good is that?  Big Jessie’s collar, felt by a Frog’. And finally, ‘sprog’ came up as ‘sprig’. Same difference, really.

Sunday, November 17th
A sting in the
MATT tail

 “Coincidentally, I’ve always
   wanted a tattoo of David
   Dimbleby on my back”

                                             “I’VE had a tattoo of David Dimbleby for years. Who hasn’t?” Jane Garvey, 49, British radio presenter and currently of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, reveals her dark secret.

And could it be that Jane Garvey is taking the piss? Yes, the Royal Dimbleby Militant Tattoo (bagpipes excluded), which started off as just something of a laugh ― remember the stone age tattooist from last Tuesday? ― rumbles on and on and on... indeed, it has taken on a life of its own.

The story, astonishingly, became the most-read article on the BBC News website; articles about age and tattoos garnered hundreds of comments; Jeremy Paxman on BBC2’s Newsnight admitted (allegedly) that he had never voted for the Tattoo Party; and Radio 2 played “songs for David Dimbleby’s tattoo”.

BBC TV’s Question Time presenter says discussions about his shoulder doodle ― described by those who understand these things as an inept and smudgy scorpion with the wrong number of legs ― is “boring” (I think that actually means he now feels as if he has replaced Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, as the Corporation’s resident court jester).

Will he indulge in any more inky-poo silliness? “Tattoo time is over,” Dimbleby insists.

I am somewhat taken aback that such a supposedly clever man did not sense the ambush waiting just round the next corner. There again, perhaps he is not quite as intuitively clever as he likes to make out.

I also enjoyed these choice cuts from Western Mail  columnist Carolyn Hitt:

DEAR David ... But you
re the Voice of State Funerals not a teenage valley commando. And do you know this is where it starts dont you? No-one ever stops at one tattoo these days. Theyre addictive. Once the preserve of sailors, navvies and crims, doodled skin is spreading like dermatological Japanese knotweed...

And you’ll be able to strip off on any European beach and every foreigner will instantly know youre a celeb-obsessed Brit ... So David ― contemplate the question every etch-a-sketch human should ask: What will my tattoos look like when Im 75?

Whats that? You already are 75? Ok. Fair enough ... So you might as well get back under the needle now and give that scorpion two more legs.

Very good, Carolyn.

Oh yes, last Tuesday I quoted Dear David thus apropos the creating of said tattoo, Exhibit A: “It took about an hour in all ― and I thought of Winston Churchill having his done while mine was being done…”

Well, Wikianswers had this to say: “No, Winston Churchill did not have any tattoos ... on some websites there were rumours that Churchill had an anchor tattooed on his right arm, but in a photo of Winston Churchill at the beach he didn’t have any tattoo.”

Now I wasn’t absolutely convinced ― anything with ‘Wiki’ in front of it should be approached with caution and a packet of salt. Well blow me, this letter appeared in The Times:

Churchill’s tattoo

Sir, I very much doubt that Mr Dimbleby would “have laid back and thought of Winston Churchill” as he was being tattooed.
     Churchill did not have any tattoo but rather a scar on the inside of his forearm. This was as a result of his providing a skin graft to a fellow soldier who was injured after the calvary
(sic) charge at Omdurman.

Well, well, every day really is a day at school.

And talking of school: never mind the Dimbleby scorpion being two legs short of a full set, even The Times  newspaper gets confused between cavalry and Calvary. Now I can understand someone in the heat of battle getting the two words mixed up ― or indeed me when I’m writing ― but not the editing desk at The Times. Very funny, though.

Dimbleby passport photo

You know how it is, we all hate our passport pictures. Well, something else delightfully funny, triggered by an amusing picture in today’s Sunday Times.

The paper used a picture of a Polynesian to illustrate their heading and caption ― but following a quick search online I found something I think is much more apt...


“You’ve gone too far this time, Mr Dimbleby”

I say, I say, I say

As I say, the headline and punch line compliments of The Sunday Times, but I tripped over the picture online ― and it really is David Dimbleby from a parallel universe.

The above portrait also brought to mind another recent letter in The Times:

Mocking smile

Sir, The naming of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa  as Britain’s favourite portrait reminds me of seeing a version of it in the window of a bric-a-brac shop in East London in the Seventies.
     There was a notice attached to it saying: “This is not an original”.
TONY PHILLIPS, Chalfont St Giles, Bucks

Despite the dreadful things going on in this old world of ours, there are still plenty of smiles also waiting to ambush us just around the next corner.

Final thought on that  tattoo ... every time David Dimbleby now looks at his tattoo in the mirror, he will, for ever more than a day, be reminded of two things: the scorpion has two legs missing; and Winston Churchill never sported a tattoo.

Spell-cheque corner:
‘Omdurman’, as in ‘the cavalry charge at Omdurman’, came up as ‘Motorman’. Where is Jeremy Clarkson when you need him? No, hang on, thats ‘Motormouth’.

Saturday, November 16th
Watch out, big cats about...

New Jaguar F-Type Coupé spy shots

Check out the new wheels: Teenager spots camouflaged £80,000 Jaguar F-Type Coupé in a supermarket car park ― a week before the car’s official public debut and six months before it goes on sale...

I spy with my little iPhone

It is not even on the market for another six months, but one eagle-eyed teenager spotted the hotly-anticipated Jaguar F-Type, interestingly disguised and camouflaged, in a supermarket car park in Leamington Spa.

The £80,000 model is the coupé version of the much sought-after sports car, regarded as one of the world’s best looking cars. Jaguar announced last week the car would make its global debut at next week’s LA Motor Show with deliveries beginning in Spring 2014.

“As soon as I saw it,” said Rob Barker, “I knew it was a prototype from either Aston Martin or Jaguar/Land Rover because they have factories at Gaydon, and sometimes bring their cars around the local area for testing purposes.

“They are always wrapped in this strange camouflage to hide the body so that people can’t see what’s underneath, but I think it’s very eye-catching and it seemed to attract a lot of unwanted attention.

“The car sounded incredible and looked amazing too. I’ve never really liked Jaguars, but the company’s latest models are certainly changing my view.”

I was intrigued as to why they would test drive a car in something that would so dramatically draw the eye. Hints of David Dimbleby and his
“Coo-eee! Look at me! scorpion tattoo?

Well, this online comment from tyronesmate, slightly paraphrased to taste, sort of makes perfect sense:

Jaguar test drive their new models ― as do all other manufacturers ― out on public roads, often years before release. Some you would never spot as they are mules under an old shell. The reason for the camouflage is not to blend in with the environment ― see above picture! ― but rather it’s hard for a camera to capture all the finer details.

Also, some new cars will be on the street in showroom mode. For example, the latest Focus was deliberately left on a street in London six months before launch, just to study how bold the new design was and, crucially, if anybody would actually notice. If you live near a test track like me and the Nürburgring circuit you will see this stuff daily.

Now that is interesting. Certainly the bit about the Focus makes sense, although they would have been in dead trouble if nobody actually did stop to take a look.

As for the new Jag ― and me being such a natural-born cynic ― if the car is due to be launched next week, could they not have been eager for someone to spot it and post pictures online to generate some precious advance publicity? If so, it worked with a flourish for the story has been all over the shop. Hm.

Anyway, mention of things in disguise took me back yet again to the Sign Language gallery ― now this  is what I call camouflage...

New stealth whirlybird makes its debut

Spotted in Spitalfields, London by Ian Clements

Could this be Old London Town Mayor Boris Johnson’s secret weapon against Labour, UKIP and everything?

Mind you, there is also a stealth apostrophe in there somewhere. Double fail? Say nothing is best.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Gaydon’, a village near Leamington Spa, came up as ‘Gay don’, which is well worth a smile as we pass along; and ‘Nürburgring’, the lethal racing circuit out in Germany, came up as a rather clever ‘Unbarring’.

 Friday, November 15th
“SEX with Sven was as ordered and functional as an Ikea instruction manual. It was devoid of passion.” Ulrika Jonsson, 46, Swedish television presenter, dishes the dirt on her affair with the ex-England football manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, 65, following some ungentlemanly revelations in his autobiography.

Ah yes, Ulrika’s memorable quote featured a week or so ago. Well Ulrika, join the queue.

But before we go there, it is apt to also remind you that when the above quote first surfaced, I mentioned that the spell-check on my computer had suggested that “Göran” should, perhaps, be “Groan”. These little details are important in the context of this ever expanding tale.

Yes, an ever expanding tale of blood being pumped to the wrong business end. But that is how it is with us men.

“I find it shocking how he talks about using women. Does he think that is something to be proud of? No real man would talk about women like that.” Nancy Dell’Olio, 52,
Italian-American lawyer who first came to public notice as the girlfriend of Sven, then manager of the England national football team.

Nancy Dool’Allio, as she is affectionately known hereabouts, is apparently taking legal action for alleged “breach of confidentiality” over disclosures by her former lover.

Anyway, some entertaining background info, compliments of India Knight in The Sunday Times:

               Sven can’t stop scoring and it’s not because of his size 6 boots

Sven-Göran Eriksson has written an autobiography. It’s called Sven: My Story. There’s a great deal in it about football. There is also a great deal in it about sex.

The man’s a sex machine. He is constantly pulling. He writes things such as: “I called Faria to ask her out for lunch. I was sure she was going to say yes. So I booked a room at the Leonard Hotel.”

Faria Alam is, at this point, merely a work colleague he has exchanged two sentences with. A room, upstairs, for what Eriksson, if he weren’t Swedish ― the tone of the book is completely deadpan ― would no doubt call “afternoon delights”.

Alam says yes, of course, and they have an affair.

Nancy Dell’Olio, being Nancy Dell’Olio, keeps asking him to dinner (with her husband).

Eventually, she asks herself to lunch. “Whenever you like,” says Eriksson.

“Tomorrow,” Dell’Olio says. “How about your place?”

The inevitable ensues. “In the end, I don’t know if we ate much lunch ― maybe some toast. But Nancy had not come over for the food,” Eriksson writes (just as well, what with him just offering her a bit of old toast). They have an affair.

In an especially brilliant passage of the book, he then tries to give her back to her husband, but Dell’Olio twigs and refuses to go...

The only possible conclusion to draw is that his conquests became his conquests because he was famous and rich and England’s football manager. Fame and money confer attractiveness, of course, to a particular kind of woman.

But reading about Eriksson has made me feel sad for the men to whom this happens. Not too sad ― Eriksson is bouncing from one bed to the next, and I expect his eyes are dry. But sad all the same, because he must know why ― why women’s clothes fall off when he enters the room, why women leave their husbands, why they risk everything (Alam lost her job) for a tumble.

It must be an odd way to live your life, and an odd piece of knowledge to have in your head. Still, I raise a glass to imperturbable, deadpan Eriksson. Skol! Or, as we say in England, bottoms up.

A nice cup of tea, vicar?

All that talk of “afternoon delights” reminds me of a tale from way back, a true story I’ve mentioned in previous dispatches.

As part of a Lions supporters’ rugby tour to New Zealand, we had a few days along the way in Hong Kong...

  Me and a pal hired a taxi for the afternoon to properly show us around Hong Kong. We were duly blessed with an informative and amusing driver.

Just as we were returning to the hotel, two attractive Chinese girls were walking along the pavement towards us.

“Ah, Lunch Girls,” says the taxi driver with a twinkle in his voice. “Here in Hong Kong many men don’t have lunch in the traditional sense; they instead go to places to meet girls and have a sex session. That’s why they are known as Lunch Girls. Oh là là!

“Sounds rather civilised,” say I.

The taxi driver laughs and looks at his watch: “It’s nearly tea time...!

Obviously Sven likes his girls for breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea, high-tea and supper. Oh, and  as After Eights.

(The wonderfully intriguing ‘SEX’ picture, above, is from a Telegraph  Sign Language gallery: spotted in Hong Kong ― yes, honestly, I kid you not, cross my legs, etc, etc ― and submitted by a Keith Hughes.)

And so to seal this particular smile of the day ― with kisses and sex, of course ― this from The Times:

                         My week: Sven-Göran Eriksson

(A regular column in the form of a diary, a week in the life of a famous person in the news, and delivered in the exaggerated style of that individual ... at least, according to a clever and witty journalist called Hugo Rifkind)

         “It was love. Not the kind of love you are having in a broom cupboard...”


Mainly, I am having the sex. Football and sex, these are my interests. But mainly sex. If I am liking a woman, I am saying to her: “Hey! Come and meet me for lunch! At a hotel. In a room. With a bed. Which I will be in. Wearing nothing. Except for my spectacles.”

And if she is saying “yes” then I am sensing she is interested.

But I do not understand this so-called interest in my private life. I mean, yes, I am writing a book about it, which I hope many people will buy, in which I am revealing everything about everybody. But I do not see why any of this is anybody’s business.

The fact is, I have always been single. Even when I was in a relationship with Nancy Dell’Olio, I was single.

Perhaps this is making more sense in Swedish.


So yes, this week I am publishing the highly revealing autobiography, in which I am detailing my affairs with Ulrika Jonsson and almost everybody else. In fact, last week, she is telephoning me.

“Sven?” she has said. “I have heard that you have a salacious autobiography coming out. Am I in it?”

“Of course not!” I have said. By which I did not mean that she was not. This was only her assumption. In fact, I had effectively said neither “Yes” or “No” to her question. Because what does it have to do with her?


From the moment Nancy and I first made eye contact in a spa in Italy, when she was with her husband, and I was with some random Swedish woman or something, it was love.

And not the kind of love you are having moments later, in a broom cupboard, keeping your tie on. No. This was something different and new. It did not take her long to invite me for lunch. Although I am not sure we did much eating! Maybe some toast...

And the diary goes on through Onsdag, Torsdag and Fredag ... I am presuming that those words they do say Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Anyway, great read and really amusing.

What would we do without people like Sven, Ulrika and the delightful Nancy Dool’Allio to brighten up our stroll through time. Oh, and entertaining writers like Hugo Rifkind to bring it all together.

Spell-cheque corner: I was looking forward to my trip along Spell-cheque Avenue  today, given all the Swedish words. Well, ‘Tisdag’, as in ‘Tuesday’ came up as ‘Tidal’; ‘Onsdag’, as in ‘Wednesday’ came up as ‘Onstage’, and ‘Fredag’ came up as ‘Freda’ ― which made me think of one of those stunning Swedish headlights that shine all day long, Frida Lyngstad, of Abba fame.

Curiosity made me back Ivor the Search Engine out of the shed ... beep ... beep ... beep ... astonishingly, Frida is now 68 and known as Princess Reuss, Countess of Plauen ― and all because the lady loves Milk Tray. Well, no, I tell a lie: she actually married a German Prince back in 1992.

Wel-i-jiw-jiw, every day a day at school.

Spell-cheque bonus: For the first time ever I had to run a spell-check over Spell-cheque corner ― there was one squiggly red line present and incorrect. So on its final run, the computer suggested that ‘Frida’, as in Princess Reuss, Countess of Plauen, came up as ‘Friday’ or ‘Fredag’.

Talk about the wheel turning full circle.

Thursday, November 14th

                                                                  YES, it is that time of the month again, when I need to exercise and/or exorcise my J-Spot, my Juvenile-Spot.

I guess the above notice is actually saying: “Pier pressure is the game of the name around here. Now piss off!” Yes, a delightful notice directing people to the public toilets opposite Clacton Pier in Essex.

And yes, it’s a bugger when you’re caught short and missing an apostrophe and a ‘p’.

Spending a pee

Yesterday, I recalled the tale of me having enjoyed much too much to drink and wobbling my way to the gents for a pee ... so I pull out Wee Willy ... and see two of the blighters ― so I return one to the stable and pee in my trousers.

Well, I always dress on the right side ― so who would have believed that today I smiled and smiled at a convenient collection of Sign Language pictures, compliments of the Telegraph.

It’s a roundup of the usual suspects, with delightful examples from the Far East, a corner of the world where they use English as she should be used.

I mean, is there any other way?

Do you come here often?

Spotted in Kyoto, Japan, by Carol Rieley

A flash of genius spotted in China by Liz Ollier

Well, there’s Posh

That second picture brings to mind Posh Spice, as she once was, and her tale of the first time she met and spoke to David Beckham, which was in the bathroom of a house where they were attending a party ― and she says (allegedly), that during their “Do you come here often?” small talk routine, she excused herself and a had a pee in his presence because she was desperate to go. And when you’ve got to go...

I just hope the tale is true because every time I see her pouting her way across our newspapers and screens, I think of her having that pee in the presence of the future Mr Posh.


Not a pot to piss in

All piddly squat

Spotted in Phuket, Thailand, by Paul Lattimore

Spotted at Baker Street Underground by Andy Davison


Yes, it just doesn’t happen in far away places with strange sounding names you know.

Spell-cheque corner: Rather surprisingly, the computer did not recognise ‘Phuket’, but rather disappointingly it only suggested ‘Puget’. Such a well brought up computer, don’t you know.


Wednesday, November 13

                                                       HERE is my headline of the day ― and proof positive that if you are blessed with just a tiny bit of imagination, you have no need to click to discover more...

Mike Tyson: “marijuana, cocaine and a fake penis”

Heavyweight boxer’s new memoir reveals his addiction to marijuana and cocaine, and his novel way of fooling the drug testers...

And you’d better believe it, for it’s straight out of the stable door which Mike Tyson forgot to slam shut.

Amazing how just 28 words can tell you everything you really need to know. In fact, with a bit of judicious editing, you could fit it into a tweet.

Whatever, and for some reason (he lies through front teeth), I am taken back to the days when I was an apprentice buck-about-town, me and my TR3. God, those were the days, when a young man out on the loose really should be roaring along the highways and byways in a sports car, with a beautiful girl sat alongside.

Now I may have told this tale before ― still, it’s well worth a repeat.

Another Babycham, my dear?

Mega moons ago, down the Crazy Horse, a Friday evening: I got into a meaningful conversation with a certain young lady ― I’d fancied her across a crowded room for a while ― so a few drinks and back to her place for a coffee (her widowed mum safely in bed and out of sight, out of mind, fingers crossed).

Somewhere along the line I’d sort of convinced her in my “life really is a laugh a minute but you’ve gotta be prepared to meet it halfway” way, that yes, I really had been blessed me with an extra penis. Mother Nature’s very own version of BOGOF i.e. GOGOF: Grab One, Get One Free.

I was indeed the proud owner of a brace of Wee Willy Wonkas, and what I was missing in my Just A Minute performance of hesitation and deviation, I more than made up in repetition.

Not unnaturally, one thing led to another ... we ended up on the lounge floor and, well, you know ... “C’mon,” she said in the after glow of Mach One ― that’s my story and I’m sticking to it ― “make love to me with the one I get for free!” And her hand slid down and discovered that ‘number two’ was ― well, as limp as a dead wet fish on a dark and stormy night off the Welsh Wales coast.

“You rotten sod.” I think young ladies did say “sod” back in the day. “You were having me on all the time!

“No I wasn’t,” I said, “it’s always the same. No matter which one goes first, the other sulks straight away.”

I know, I know, it is an old one, but I adore the punch line. As do the girls, actually.

That tale also reminds me of the time I’d had a bit too much to drink down at the Crazy Horse (again), popped to the gents for a pee ... so I pull out Wee Willy, stare down as if about to face a firing squad ― and I really do see two of them. So I return one to the stable ― and pee in my trousers.

Yes, even older.

Anyway, talking of gossip.

Back on October 15, I related a Pause For Thought heard on the Chris Evans wireless show; a tale 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  back then was all about how we see things and how we tend to judge others too quickly and much too harshly. It was a great story ― remember the dirty washing on the line? ― a smashing little parable, really.

Well, last week he told another listenable Pause ― and the above silly tales of gossip brought it all to mind:

Listen, do you want to know a juicy little secret?

Good writing doesn’t sell newspapers, gossip sells papers. The ancient philosopher Socrates described gossip perfectly: “Strong minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; weak minds discuss people.”

And, like many of us, I enjoy gossip, as long as it isn’t about me. Though there is some truth in what Oscar Wilde believed: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

The celebrity industry is built on gossip, yet that doesn’t make it right, as any victim of gossip will tell you.

Much gossip is harmless, a good old moan about colleagues or those in authority, and it can be a good release valve.

However, malicious gossip is a different thing altogether. That’s a form of bullying. It destroys trust, it creates a horrible atmosphere and is capable of driving the victim to despair. It’s impossible to undo the damage. A victim recently told me that trying to squash a malicious rumour is like trying to un-ring a bell.

Life has taught me never to trust a gossiper; those that gossip to you will just as easily gossip about you. So crucially, it’s important to have a strategy to deal with malicious gossip. Ignore it if you can.

I’ve learnt that whilst I may not be able to control what people say about me, I can control how I react to it. Just remember, no one gossips about other people’s virtues, so don’t be dragged down by their talk.

Live your life by the principle that there is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us, that it doesn’t suit any of us to gossip about the rest of us.

And finally, keep things in perspective. For as the actor Will Rogers beautifully put it: “A real Christian is someone who lives in such a way that he or she would not be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.”

How true ― but so much easier said than done, Father Brian, especially the advice to ignore gossip and not to be dragged down by it.

Oh yes, I also liked the Socrates quote: “Strong minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; weak minds discuss people.” What a cracker that is. It made me think of the current, high-profile phone-hacking court case unfolding in Old London Town, which is all about people obsessed with discussing other people.

Also, the Will Rogers quote: “A real Christian is someone who lives in such a way that he or she would not be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.”

It brings to mind a home-grown piece of advice: Treat everyone as if you are doing business with yourself, for along life’s highway you will occasionally encounter individuals who are incredibly observant and aware of everything that is going on around them ― but you will never know who they are until it is too late.

Remember the Warren Buffett quote from the other day?
“A great reputation is like virginity ― it can be preserved, but it can’t be restored.”

Spell-cheque corner: ‘GOGOF’, as in ‘Grab One, Get One Free’ came up as ‘GOOF’. The drink ‘Babycham’ came up as ‘Baby ham’, which rather tickled me no end. Perhaps the result of grabbing one and then getting one free.

Tuesday, November 12

                                                         Time for a quick inkuest, methinks, compliments of a kinky wee link spotted in the Telegraph:

                   David Dimbleby gets his first tattoo, aged 75

The veteran broadcaster says it is a “dream come true” for him to have a scorpion tattooed on his right shoulder

This report, compliments of the Telegraph:

The Question Time presenter told the Radio Times that he had a “modest” image of a scorpion tattooed on his right shoulder. “You are only old once. I have always wanted a tattoo. I thought I might as well have it done now. It’s a dream come true for me,” he said.

Dimbleby, who has been presenting the BBC’s general election coverage since 1979, got the tattoo while making the maritime series Britain And The Sea, set for broadcast later this month.

The commentator and presenter was offered the chance to have his own piece of body art while looking at how tattoos were introduced to the UK as a result of Captain Cook’s South Seas adventures.

“It took about an hour in all ― and I thought of Winston Churchill having his done while mine was being done. It wasn’t painful at all, it just zings a bit. It’s modest ... I’m rather fond of it actually, this little scorpion ― Scorpio is my star sign ― sitting on my shoulder ready to attack my enemies.”

“And then there’s Cheryl Cole’s bottom,” he said of the singer, whose derriere and lower back are now entirely covered with an image of roses.

"I wasn’t tempted to have any private parts decorated, I have to tell you. I thought the shoulder was the most discreet place.”

Captain Cook’s Cock-up

Yes, a tattoo on a private part. It is said that Old Shaggy down at the Crazy Horsepower has a tattoo, a word, inked on his penis. Indeed, he tells the tale of showing it to a new girlfriend. “It’s my home town,” he told her.

“LOVE?” she said. “I’ve heard of a town called ALICE ― but I've never heard of a place called ... LOVE?”

“Well,” he said, “when we navigate the more intimate part of our relationship, you will see that it magically morphs into LLANDOVERY”.

Reading the above Telegraph  piece, there were a couple of things that troubled my W-Spot ― my Worry Spot. When Dimbleby says “it’s a dream come true”, I do worry about the advanced state of his doolallyness.

And I was troubled when he mentioned the scorpion “sitting on my shoulder ready to attack my enemies”. Well, he had better hope that 007 does not enter his bedroom in the dead of night, clutching a shoe while looking for something to whack with great force...

“Relax, Bond, it’s only a tattoo”

Yes, I know, that’s a tarantula ― but scorpion, tarantula, black widow, house spider (XL) ― who’s counting?

It’s one of my favourite scenes, where Bond is freaked out by a spider (XXL, true) ― one, incidentally, that is reluctant to bite and not lethal to humans anyway (apparently). But how could I not enjoy Bond smashing the tarantula, with each thwack accompanied by an orchestra sting on the soundtrack, as in a Tom & Jerry cartoon.

Bloody marvellous. Grown Ups Comic Cuts stuff.

Anyway, back with tattoos. They are fascinating little things. Early along my stroll through time, when only sailors, navvies and criminals sported tattoos, I quickly observed that such decoration did not necessarily reflect the wearer’s ethics, morality, honesty or talent ― criminals excepted of course ― but without exception they all suffered a lack of self-esteem. Individuals who felt obliged to continually put themselves in life’s shop window.

It is interesting that Dimbleby mentioned Churchill’s tattoo. Well, according to Wikianswers: No, Winston Churchill did not have any tattoos ... on some websites there were rumours that Churchill had an anchor tattooed on his right arm, but in a photo of Winston Churchill at the beach he didn’t have any tattoo.

His mother, curiously and confirmed, did have a small tattoo of a snake.

Fast-forward to today’s media dominated world ― and you can’t see the celebrities for the inky-poos, a precise reflection of the uncertainty of modern fame and fortune.

Apparently one-fifth of British adults are now ‘inked’ ― even the prime minister’s wife has one for goodness sakes ― I am surprised though that David Dimbleby has waited until he is 75 before shouting “Coo-eee! Look at me!”.

Perhaps he is becoming as insecure as his female counterparts in the media. Mary Berry excepted, of course.

A different kind of spell-cheque corner

As with everything else in life, the world of tattooing can go horribly wrong ... here are some rather wonderful inky-poo errors...

PS: I am still smiling at the headline cartoon, of the stone age tattooist with tongue in concentration mode. Honestly, the things you just trip over while riding along on the crest of an internet wave...

Monday, November 11

                                                       LISTENING to Vanessa Feltz on the wireless this morning, she read out parts of some recently unearthed school reports and detention rosters for a certain mop-topped Bart Simpson from Liverpool.

                 Lennon’s List Of School Misdemeanours For Sale

“Sabotage”, “chewing in class”, “talking in class”, “repeated misconduct”, “sillyness” and “impudent answer to question” are just some of the reasons why John Lennon received detention as a schoolboy.

Two school detention sheets which reveal the antics of a 15-year-old John Lennon are expected to fetch between £2,000 and £3,000 when they are auctioned online.

During his time at Quarry Bank High School for Boys in Liverpool, Lennon was renowned as a “class clown” and frequently got into trouble.

Reasons for punishment given by his teachers include the aforementioned “sabotage” ― intriguing or what? ― as well as “fighting in class”, “nuisance”, “shoving” and “just no interest whatsoever”.

On two occasions the Beatle even managed to receive three detentions in one day.

Peter Beech, Lennon’s general science teacher at the time, said: “The sheet is typical of John Lennon, he was an extremely cheeky boy. He did, however, know his limits. In the classroom, if you settled John down, you generally settled the class down.

“His chemistry teacher, Eric Oldman, said that John could actually go far.”

So Vanessa invited listeners to tell her what they had been given lines and/or detention for.

Do you know, I often had lines ― I have no memory of detention though ― but I was definitely given the cane on a few occasions. I can’t remember what for ― I think it would have been along the lines of some of Lennon’s misdeeds: talking and passing notes in class, sillyness, impudent answers to questions ― oh, and I do remember being sent to the headmaster’s study for arguing with a teacher. Thwack! To the power of Six.

However, I do recall some of the instant physical punishment, the wallops, handed out by a couple of bully-boy teachers ― nasty bits of work they were too.

Vanessa told us of her best and worst school reports. Her best was for needlework: “She handles her needle well.” And her worst, Latin: “Her manner is immature and subversive”.

That “subversive” bit sounds about right. Vanessa’s teacher was Mr Rid, and overnight on every desk, written in ink, was “Rid us of Rid”. She didn’t share with us whether it had been done in Latin.

Neither did she admit her part in the deed, but Vanessa did add: “If he is still alive and well, I hope he is very happy...” And she sounded as if she meant it.

Anyway, the prize for the most memorable response goes to Steve the Norfolk Trucker, whose maths teacher, Mr Tilley, demanded 100 lines of:

“The mastication of sweetmeats during periods of education is as detrimental to the dentine as it is to the mathematics.”

“I don’t know Mr Tilley,” added Vanessa, “but love in abundance to him. What a fabulous teacher.” Yes indeed, Vanessa, it is always the little things.

By another of those marvellous coincidences, this headline, spotted in today’s Mail Online:

Q: How do you identify athlete’s foot?..

          • Hilarious (and genuine) exam howlers that come top of the class for laughter

For five years, humorist RICHARD BENSON has been collecting amusing exam answers from school classrooms. Here we present the latest collection from his new book, F in School ― and the most extraordinary thing is, they are all genuine (allegedly)...

Here are just a few of those on view:

     Q: When Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne, what was the first thing she did?
     A: Sat down.

     Q: How did the Romans transport water?
     A: Via ducks

     Q: What does Antonym mean?
     A: I don’t know what he means but you’ve spelt his name wrong, Miss.

     Q: How does your humerus differ from your fibula?
     A; One’s funny and the other lies a lot.
          (That does sound like an old joke from medical college. Very humerus though.)

Mind you, I guess the Antonym one is the funniest.

Finally though, I recently said that one of my favourite Look You  features is ‘Spell-cheque corner’. Given that spelling is not my strongest suit, I always run a spell-check before posting my smile of the day.

I pointed out that the computer has trouble with words like ‘Beatles’ and ‘Beetles’, ‘whose’ and ‘who’s’, ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ ― and ‘it’s’ never sure whether I’m dying for a drink in the middle of the Sahara or desperately disappointed that there’s no sherry trifle left in the fridge (‘desert’ v ‘dessert’), but it gets me there. Just.

Well then:

You couldn’t make it up.

Some think the examples are  just made up ― but when you consider that the country is dotted with wicked and witty kids like John Lennon, then the answers do make perfect sense. Even to a cynic like me.

Here’s a link to the article, with lots of other funny examples:

Spell-cheque corner: Somewhat amusingly, the computer did not accept ‘humerus’, and suggested ‘humours’ instead; however, the second choice was even better, ‘homers’ ... well, given that I kicked off today with Bart Simpson doing his lines, it is apt that Homer has the last word.


Remembrance Sunday

                                                    A BUTTONHOLE of topical letters recently spotted  in The Daily Telegraph:

Theories on the correct way to wear a poppy

SIR – People must be encouraged to wear their poppies correctly. Presenters on the BBC are the worst. The leaf should always point to 11 o’clock to remind us of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
Janet M Fleming, Birmingham

There’s something rather captivating in the way folk get very fussed and focussed about where precisely the leaf should point. All that really matters, surely, is that the wearer appreciates what the poppy itself represents.

Indeed, it strikes me that the leaf is a fairly modern decoration ― or is my memory playing tricks? Probably.

Janet mentions presenters on the BBC. What is distracting though is that, on all stations, every presenter, along with guests/pundits/etc, are wearing a poppy, as if some kind of poppy fascism is at work.

Watching Autumnwatch presenters with poppies on their anoraks is surely a poppy too far, comments Alan Boylan in today’s You say in The Sunday Times. And Louis Hogan observes: Even the Strictly dancers wear them, often with little else.

Obviously a command from the BBCP: the British Broadcasting Central Politburo.

I am not convinced that it’s a healthy instruction.

Tight knit community

SIR – My poppy this year came from a “knittings” stall at our local Cats Protection League Christmas Fayre. It’s a beautiful little thing, crocheted in bright red, with a shiny button in the centre and a green leaf, all for £2 ― one pound of which will go to the Poppy Appeal.
     After all the compliments I’ve had on it, I shall be happy to buy one again next year.
Sonya Porter, Woking, Surrey

SIR – I bought poppies for my family from an old soldier in my town centre, who said he could not pass the pins to me because of “health and safety”.
     It was difficult to explain to my children that we live in a society that permits young people to be killed in warfare, but is wary of the dangers of minuscule metallic implements.
Bethan Mair Williams, Caernarfon

I may have mentioned this before, but it is beyond argument that the introduction of health and safety legislation has saved an untold number of lives.

However, we now have an army of civil servants who have ticked all the obvious boxes ― but if they don’t go on finding new and ludicrous health and safety issues, well, they are all out of a job. QED.

Doolallyness reigns on our parade.

Good, better, best

Last night ― having just recovered from watching Wales fail once again to beat South Africa at rugby union ― I watched France host the best in the world, New Zealand.

What caught my attention though were the All Blacks with an eye-catching poppy embroidered on the sleeves of their white  jerseys...

France play in dark blue so for one night only, and to avoid colour confusion from a distance, the All Blacks become the All Whites ― so the red poppy really stood out. Yes, why do they do everything  better than the rest?

I am tempted to hint that the All Blacks wore it in memory of those who fell at the front ― on the battle field and on the rugby field ― but I shall avoid that impulse.

Red button and the poppy

Watching the emotional build-up to this morning’s two-minute silence at the Cenotaph on BBC1, host David Dimbleby kept talking over the music, and the programme continually cut away for inserts (worthy as they were).

With such poignant music as a background, is it really beyond the wit of today’s BBC to provide a red button option for those who would rather stay at the Cenotaph, with no commentary?

Superfluous words are a curse of modern television commentary and music radio.

A moment in time

It really is not hard to grasp why celebrities and famous people hate the media so.

Today, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was present and correct during the commemorations. The television camera occasionally focused on her ― and she looked her usual elegant self, perfectly reflected in the first photograph, here...


However, the picture on the Telegraph  online home page ― the “Will you click into my parlour?” one used to entice readers in ― was the second picture featured above. She is caught “adjusting” her hair as she stands with Sophie, Countess of Wessex, on a balcony overlooking Whitehall’s Cenotaph.

With a camera trained on Kate full time, she is bound to be caught fidgeting, pulling a face, twirling her brand new ringlets ― or whatever ― but what must annoy is that they decide to lead with the most negative picture, making her look as if she’s bored with the whole proceedings. (Ed: At least her poppy is precisely on time.)

The above explains rather perfectly why you wouldn’t want any meeja person within a million miles of your fondly imagined South Sea Island paradise. Strictly no shady-side-of-the-street folk welcome.

Having said that, I am intrigued to know what had caught the eye of both Kate and Sophie. Now that would  be fascinating.


Saturday, November 9

                                               AS mentioned previously along this leisurely highway, I enjoy hugely reading the Letters pages in the newspapers. These days I rarely read a columnist ― essentially the same old people saying the same old things over and over ― but readers come up with some wonderfully imaginative thoughts and ideas.

And that’s not counting the humour.

For example, my mother always endorsed Baptist minister John Clarke’s proverb from 1639, ‘Better be born lucky than rich’ ― or in the idiom of the time, ‘Better be lucky born than a rich man’s son’.

And I know that my mother did not  mean luck as in winning the lottery. She suggested that when God slams shut one door, inherently lucky people will always stumble upon another door left off the latch. All they have to do is lean gently against it.

Along similar lines, the following letter recently surfaced in The Sunday Times:

Rules of engagement

Whenever I have employed people, it has been on the basis that we can get along ― their academic qualifications are irrelevant. There is no substitute for learning on the job. When I started life as an accountant, that is how we did it. Later there was a move to a university education, and the results were definitely worse.
     I have met many wonderful academics who make very bad practitioners. A lawyer friend once told me he received 300 applications for two training places every year and he picked the winners at random on the grounds that he wanted lucky people to work with, not academically clever ones.
Peter Kralj, Hampton Hill, London TW12

Now how wonderful is that?

Critics said that Napoleon Bonaparte won many battles simply because of luck; Napoleon responded, “Give me lucky generals,” aware that “luck” comes to leaders who recognize opportunity, and seize it.

My mother suggested it went further ― much like the two lucky trainee lawyers in the above letter ― that genuinely lucky people have an inherent knack of leaning against that “open” door without ever doing any obvious work to that particular end.

It’s an interesting thought. And one I agree with.

Now a slightly different tack, from being born lucky to being born clever. This letter from The Times:

Monkey business

Sir, I, too, have a copy of Silvanus P. Thompson’s Calculus Made Easy [that drew a blank hereabouts, I can tell you], given to me by my father many years ago, and given to him by his father. There is an inscription on the flyleaf of an ancient simian proverb which runs “What one fool can do, another can”.
     Grandfather added his own admonition, “Remember this when you feel clever”.
H. RIGG, Porlock, Somerset

Very good. I am reminded of another Times  letter I shared with you back in September:

A little kindness

Sir, Kevin Maher (times2, Sept 9) says that being clever is a myth. Whether or not this is true, people who think themselves clever would do well to heed Dr F. J. Johnson’s advice to a newly elected young don at Jesus College:
“It’s no use trying to be clever ― we are all clever here; just try to be kind ― a little kind.”

A tasty starter for 10

There is nothing like a good breakfast to kick off the day, especially at this time of year with winter looming. Here’s a snatch of an article spotted in The Daily Telegraph:
Porridge back on menu

Porridge for breakfast is no longer viewed as grey and boring as new figures reveal nearly half of Brits tuck into a bowl of oats to kick-start their morning.

One in two of us (49 per cent) are porridge eaters, with a quarter (23 per cent) saying they enjoy a bowl of the traditional jailbirds’ brekkie every day without fail, according to research by market analysts Mintel...

Then came the letters:
Who’s been putting things in my porridge?

                                 The various ways of making tasty porridge

SIR – As a child, my mother and I prepared what we called “Swissed apple” ― oats soaked overnight and mixed on the day with grated apple and top of the milk. [Top of the milk, eh? Now there’s something from yesteryear, when the little blue tits helped themselves to the doorstep bottle.]
Only on recent visits to Switzerland have I become acquainted with Bircher Muesli, and on returning home learnt to make my own: oats soaked in milk, or even better in apple juice, and then with added grated apple and yoghurt or crème fraîche, to which can be added berries or currants.
     A batch will last for several days and cooking is not required.
Tony Parkinson, Christchurch, Dorset

SIR – The addition of a small handful of blueberries and a spoonful of manuka honey to oats cannot be beaten. With winter ills looming, it will help to boost the immune system, and it tastes good, too.
Sue Gaynor, Slough, Berkshire

SIR – One of my earliest childhood memories is of making the family’s porridge on Sundays. My father instructed me to put in salt, and when I ate my portion I was never allowed to put anything sweet on it.
Sarah Gall, Rochdale, Lancashire

Irish porridge

SIR – Always make your porridge with salt, but the only way to eat it is with dark brown sugar, double cream and a tot of whiskey.
Diana Hall, Newmarket, Suffolk

A virtuous bowlful

SIR – Isn’t Diana Hall, with her whiskey, cream and sugar, missing the point? Porridge, like a cold shower and under-cooked vegetables, is supposed to be good for you, and therefore not something to be enjoyed.
Andrew M Courtney, Hampton Wick, Middlesex

Very witty, Andrew Courtney. I have mentioned before that one of the simple joys of my daily early-morning walks is the Gaelic coffee I make myself on my return: a jumbo cuppa, dark brown sugar, a generous wallop of whiskey ― and topped off with double cream. Delicious.

So when I read the Irish porridge letter, above ― well, how could I resist...

Double delish.

And all compliments of keeping an eagle eye on the Letters  pages.

PS: As is my wont, I wasn’t too sure how to spell ‘delish’, a word I have never written before, so I checked it out online ― and I landed on Urban Dictionary, an ambush if ever there was one...

Delish: A shorter, bastardized version of “delicious” used by both women and homosexuals. Straight men, even those with staunch records of heterosexuality, immediately relinquish their right to call themselves straight upon use of this word.

! To correct myself ― hope it is not too late:

So when I read the Irish porridge letter, above ― well, how could I resist...

Double delicious.

Friday, November 8

                                                    BACK on October 8, I quoted a piece from one of AA Gill’s television review columns. He was responding to a young actor who had pointed out to him how wounding, how really destructive, the personal criticism of young thespians in print could be.

Gill then wrote this (Warning: you are about to enter The Asterisk Belt which surrounds all celebrities):

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 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...

By coincidence ― there goes that word yet again ― this week I happened upon Radio 4’s Book of the Week, which featured the aforementioned biography of Laurence Olivier.

We learn that Olivier was the third child, unplanned and unwanted, especially so by his father ― which does hint at why he grew up to be such a disagreeable fellow. From a young age he was nicknamed Paddy, and that due to his explosive temper [I’m sure that would be frowned upon today, racism and all that].

The temper that earned Olivier his nickname stayed with him all his life. His explosions were all the more terrifying for being unpredictable.

And here we return to that  quote, confirmed in the radio reading, with some additional material:

“Once, dining with Laurence Harvey, Harvey ridiculed in turn, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud and Paul Scofield. Olivier erupted: ‘How dare you. Call yourself an actor? You’re not even a bad, bad  actor. You can’t act at all, you f******* stupid, hopeless, snivelling little c***-faced a*******!’ And he stormed out.”

Incidentally, the asterisked words were not included in the radio reading. Well, it was just before ten in the morning.

Anyway, here’s another bit that AA Gill didn’t share with us.

“True to character, the next day Olivier repented and sent Harvey a bouquet of 24 red roses...”

You see? Now that’s a rounded telling of the incident. It sort of changes marginally our view of Olivier as a human being.

Roses are still red...

Back at the beginning of last month, I also quoted Gill from a good few years ago, when he described all the Welsh people as “loquacious, dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls”.

Quite how he avoided The Asterisk Belt in his hatred of the Welsh, I don’t know.

Anyway, isn’t it about time Mr AA Gill dispatched 3,000,000 red roses westward across Offa’s Dyke? If only to prove that, against all better judgment, he does have some redemptional features as a basic human being.

Tweetie Pie Corner

                                         Just Jeremy & Piers

“I know that animals are like people. Some are for looking at. Some are for loving. Some are for riding. And some need to be shot because they are a bloody nuisance.” Columnist Jeremy Clarkson, 53, English broadcaster, journalist and writer who specialises in things motoring and shooting.

“Pipe down, you gnarled old fool.” Piers Morgan, 48, English broadcaster, journalist and writer specialising in life, the universe and everything, who always “thcreams and thcreams ‘till he’s thick”, and confirms that the feud between him and Jeremy Clarkson is still very much alive and kicking.

With Clarkson regularly urging us to shoot people ― with tongue-in-cheek, I presume, but I can never be sure ― Morgan has been leading a controversial campaign for gun control in America.

His arguments with those who support the freedom to carry guns, all aired on his CNN show, inspired 100,000 opponents to sign a petition calling for his deportation from the US.

“I expected a petition of some sort, but I was a bit perturbed there was a rival petition in Britain to have me kept in America. That was a bit churlish!” he joked, giving his only acknowledgement that his self-confidence and name-dropping can irritate as often as they entertain.

One is tempted to say that Gill, Clarkson and Morgan should be taken outside and shot because they are such a bloody nuisance.

Actually, no, just think of the fun we’d all miss if such thlebs were forced to kith and make up, even on Death Row.

No, I think Piers Morgan should be banished to a Desert Island, with his eight discs, of course ― but rather than have the Bible and the works of Shakespeare there waiting for him, it would be Jeremy Clarkson and AA Gill.

Can you imagine the sheer pleasure of observing those three on CCTV, trapped together on a Desert Island. Now that is one reality TV programme I would watch.

Heaven and Hell are just around one imagined corner...

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Gielgud’, as in John Gielgud, the famous thespian, came up as ‘Googled’ ― which is a first. ‘Scofield’, the other actor, came up as ‘Scoffed’, which is particularly apt given the above context. And finally, ‘thcreams’, as in “thcreams and thcreams ‘till he’s thick”  came up as ‘threats’, which is rather clever.


Thursday, November 7
         GOSH, now that  does take me back: Noughts and Kisses. And I can tell you, I learnt very early in life that getting a row of kisses together can be both hard work and occasionally heartbreaking.

And just to prove it, take a look at this, a piece in today’s Mail Online:

“I’m sorry I already have a boyfriend but you’re my next choice when we break up”:
Hilarious love letter found at elementary school sweeps the web

A young schoolboy’s love letter has become an online sensation after he received a side-splittingly pragmatic response from his heart’s desire...

The boy’s letter, which was posted to Reddit on Tuesday, begins: “Dear Ashley ― would you please be my girlfriend, I like you a lot.”

He then, rather bravely, gives her three options ―  “Yes / No / Maybe” ― with an instruction to pick one...

There is no indication where the letter was found, and as far as I can tell, it hasn’t been carbon dated. To be honest, I’m a real cynic when it comes to things like this: believe nothing you hear and only half what you see...!

Is it real? Or a little something dreamt up by adults for a bit of harmless fun? Some, even more cynical than moi, wondered the same in the Comments  section of the article. Is the writing just a wee bit too neat? And are those spelling and punctuation errors there to throw us off the scent?

Actually, I do see one thing which looks all wrong. Also, in the Comments  there was one observation which I think is a cracker apropos the note’s authenticity.

Have another look and see if you can spot something that is ... well, perhaps not quite right.

I’ll share both suspicions at Smile’s End.

Anyway, and as the above note confirms, young love starts off so sweetly and innocently ― but by journey’s end...

I am a man of very few words: do you or don’t you?
(‘Rule of three’ applied)

1. “The endless bonking was exhausting me.” Joan Collins, 80 ― still looking amazing, fair play ― five-times married, and who shares with the world why she needed a break from dating Hollywood star Warren Beatty back in the 1960s.

Joan also added the following about Warren, the man she was briefly engaged to:
“He was the only man to get to the mirror faster than me.”

It is reported that Beatty, now 76, enjoyed 12,775 lovers, give or take. Now what was it Woody Allen said?
If there is reincarnation, I'd like to come back as Warren Beatty’s fingertips.”

On the other hand...

2. “I have dated all the women. I’ve done all the drugs. I’ve drunk every drink.” Jack Nicholson, 76, who once boasted that he has slept with more than 2000 women. He added:  “Every age. Their mothers ... some of them with their mothers.”

Ah yes, the familiar O De Pussy Complex. But only 2,000 women, give or take? Mind you, he does boast about more than  2,000 ― so who knows.

Incidentally, a personal observation: I haven’t  dated all the women. I haven’t  done any drugs. And I certainly haven’t  drunk every drink. Yet life has been a laugh a minute. Sometimes two.

But, much as I’ve enjoyed the company of women, I was never addicted. Talking of which: The New York Post  reported in 2008 that Cuban leader Fidel Castro has slept with more than 35,000 women.

3. “He slept with at least two women a day for more than four decades ― one for lunch and one for supper.” Former Castro official ‘Ramon’ in an interview with filmmaker Ian Halperin.

What? Nothing for breakfast? Oh yes, two women a day: but was it a different one every time? I guess it must have been.

Stop press

“A great reputation is like virginity ― it can be preserved, but it can’t be restored.” Warren Buffett, 83, American billionaire and the world’s fourth richest person, offers up sound business advice.

Smashing quote, with clever use of words. Actually, the advice applies to every aspect of life, not just business. Especially so our personal lives. Once you have lost your reputation, you can kiss your arse goodbye. Think all those BBC bosses apropos Savile, Hall and God knows who else; News International and Rupert Murdoch; Barclays Bank and Bob Diamond; and on and on...

Love revisited

Back with the love letter from our apprentice Casanova, and his attempts to woo Ashley. Here’s that comment I mentioned, from Visitor, Philadelphia PA, United States: Staged? Looks like an adult trying to be a kid ― the circle is way too clean. Little kids work hard to make their circles very neat and this is way too neat.

Hm. Look at it again. The circle does appear all wrong. It is a circle drawn at speed. A very grown up circle. Similarly the “o” in “No”. And Visitor  is dead right about kids and their circles.

Also, the “Yes / No/ Maybe” appears to have been written by Ashley (?) using the young lad’s pen or pencil.

Yes, I am tempted to come down on the side of Visitor.

Still, it hasn’t distracted from the smileyness and enjoyment of the letter, especially so Ashley’s response. And even if it is not a proper work of art, weeeeell, I can pretend that it is.

And who knows, perhaps Ashley grew up to be Joan Collins. And the author of Exhibit XXX to be Warren Beatty. 

Wednesday, November 6

“I WAS once part of a ‘cult’ which believed humans can exist without food or water.”
Michelle Pfeiffer, 55, American actress.

Well, that must have been the shortest-lived cult in the history of humanity. (What a load of cults.)

There’s a ‘rule of three’: you can survive three minutes without air; in a harsh environment ― cold and a blizzard, say ― you can survive three hours without shelter; you will live for three days without water; and three weeks without food.

Excepting the breathing, the rest are essentially ‘rules of thumb’. Some people have survived up to 10 days without water, and longer than three weeks without food ― but such shenanigans should be left to the truly desperate.

Mind you, going back to Michelle’s “humans can exist without food and water”, I suppose you could get by on smoothies or some such like ― but that would be cheating.

“The loss of youth, the loss of beauty ― it plays havoc with your psyche.” Michelle Pfeiffer, again.

In light of the original quote from Michelle, the second sort of makes perfect sense.

Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once

One of the more curious news stories currently doing the rounds is the secrecy surrounding the hoard of art found in Germany ― originally stolen by the Nazis and newly discovered by customs officials in a squalid residence in Munich.

But, looking on the bright side, this letter in the Daily Mail:

Allo, allo, allo!

I believe one of the paintings stolen by the Nazis which have been found in a dingy apartment in Germany will turn out to be Van Klomps’ infamous Fallen Madonna With The Big Boobies, misappropriated by Herr Flick of the Gestapo.
G. GILBERT, Preston, Lancs

All at sea

Seeing the word “dingy” up there ― I’m reminded of a public information film from the Sixties, about the dangers of going to sea in small boats without proper preparation and how we, the general public, should react if ever we see someone in trouble.

In the amusing little cartoon film, we see a person in a small boat in trouble, and watched from the shore by Joe and Petunia, a very working-class couple, out on a picnic. Joe does the voice-over and keeps referring to the small craft as “a dingy - thats what they call them you know, sailing dingies” ― and I still remember it because of that.

Which rather proves that humour works well when used imaginatively. Heres a link to that short cartoon, compliments of the National Archives:

Dogs, cats and a babbling Brook

Yesterday, I smiled at “dog shaming”, the internet craze. And of course I giggled at the other new meme, “cats in knickers and tights”.

Well, this very morning I saw a picture of Victoria Beckham with son Brooklyn at the Harper’s Bazaar Women of the Year  awards last night...

Poor bugger.

I am still undecided whether the cats and dogs featured yesterday are aping Posh & Son, or whether Victoria and Brooklyn are copying the internet memes.

A moment to reflect

This web site is dedicated to the things that make me smile. Sometimes though, it is right and proper to acknowledge something awful that happens in this crazy old world of ours.

Yesterday, probably around the time I was smiling and laughing at the “dog shaming” pictures, a little four-year-old girl called Lexi Branson was being mauled to death by the family’s pet bulldog.

Lexi was believed to have been in bed while off school because she was poorly when the dog suddenly pounced in Mountsorrel, Leicestershire.

Here is a picture of her hugging the pet that would go on to kill her, her mum having been told the bulldog was “safe with children”...

The four-year-old is the third person killed by a legal dog in a year. I really do not understand why people have these powerful, dangerous and worst, unpredictable dogs, when there are children around.

So, so sad. RIP you innocent little thing.

Tuesday, November 5
IT really has been raining cats and dogs along the internet highway today. So slow down, headlights on...

First up, spotted on the Telegraph  website:

The new internet craze: dog shaming

Poor old Rosie, caught short on the poop deck

It seems that pet owners have taken to chastising their dogs by posting photos of them “owning up” to their crimes online ... I have to say, when I spotted the above ― well, it did make me smile.

And then this lot...

Bad, BAD dogs on ID parade

It has to be those downtrodden looks that make them so funny. And I do like that last one: “I was asked to not return to doggy day care.” It’s the clumsiness of the statement that pushes it right up the smileometer.

Whatever, forget dogs in the dog house, what about pussycats in the pussy house? Mail Online  gave us yet another internet craze:

The new Robin Hood: Cats In Tights (and knickers)

“We are never going to sort out next door’s Prince John with you mooching
around all day long. And will you stop that silly dressing up business

“What ARE you wearing?” Robin seems to be saying to Little John ... one pussycat looks confused by his mate’s intriguing new outfit ― complete with slippers.

There was a whole gallery of such pictures. Honestly, it’s not so much the indignation, but that cats, of all things, put up with it. I mean, look at the above and what they’ve done to that poor moggy.

Yet the pussycat is so ― I was going to say laid-back ― the cat looks so laid-out with it all.

Tweetie Pie Corner

     “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.” One Twitter user commenting after visiting the web site Meowtfit Of The Day to view the images...

Me? I just wag my tail and purr.

Monday, November 4
  THIS intriguing Sign Language spotted in Blackheath, London, by Vanessa Clarke.

And as if by magic, the most memorable headline of recent days:

Granny thought she was on a flight to Spain ... then landed in the Caribbean:
Booking mix-up sent her to Grenada instead of Granada

Lamenda Kingdon, 62, who suffers from breast cancer and a brain tumour, discovered the mix-up only in mid-flight, when she was explaining to a fellow passenger that she wanted to see the Alhambra palace as part of a “bucket list”. The passenger replied: “Not on this flight, you won’t.”

Kingdon, from Plymouth, said: “I just froze. I did think I was going to Spain, and thought we’d be landing soon.”

Instead of booking her on a two-hour flight to southern Spain, the air miles travel firm Avios had put her on a long-haul BA journey across the Atlantic.

At a scheduled stop in St Lucia, she was put on a first-class flight back to Gatwick.

There, she was met by apologetic airline staff who put her in a hotel for the night and arranged for Avios, which has links to BA, to reimburse her points and fly her to Malaga, the nearest major airport to Granada, the following day.

Avios also apologised for the mistake and gave Mrs Kingdon enough points for her next dream destination ― New Zealand. “Looking back on the Granada mix up, I genuinely don’t blame anyone,” she said. “The person on the other end of the phone probably just misheard me. And I didn’t notice the one-letter spelling difference.

“But I’m certainly not complaining. They treated me wonderfully once they found out what had happened...”

A flight, a flight, Mrs Kingdon for a flight

That she was treated well is unsurprising because she looks a really sweet lady. And that does count.

Since her return from Granada, Mrs Kingdon has also been given the all clear by her cancer doctors and hopes to make the trip Down Under next year.

And the moral of the tale? When life slams shut a door in your face, don’t panic and shout and blame all around you ... God will always leave a nearby door off the latch ― all you have to do is push gently against it, with a smile.

Lamenda Kingdon certainly appears to have done that.

Something’s cookin’ in the kitchen

Paul Hollywood, 47, the co-presenter of the BBC TV hit show The Great British Bake Off,  also had his own telly series, Paul Hollywood’s Bread, in which he revealed the secrets of breads from all over the world and showed how, etc, etc...

Then he went off to America to launch a US version of Bake Off, The American Baking Competition, and promptly had an affair with his American co-host, 35-year-old Marcela Valladolid.

When the story broke I recall a rather witty letter in the Daily Mail  pondering aloud if his own show should now be called Paul Hollywood’s Toast.

Well, time has moved on, and Hollywood admits that the affair was the “biggest mistake of my life” and he now hopes to repair his marriage.

Well, there was a letter in today’s Daily Mail, indeed it may well be from the author of the Paul Hollywood’s Toast missive:

Let them eat cake

Apparently, TV bakery star Paul Hollywood is wooing back his wife. Obviously he wants to have his cake and eat it.
C. GOODALL, Portsmouth

Sticking with life in the kitchen, this tasty little titbit compliments of The Sunday Times:

Rantzen reheats feud over food

The broadcaster Esther Rantzen, 73, has reheated a feud from the 1970s with Delia Smith, 72, about chilli con carne. The former That’s Life presenter revealed that she was told by the BBC to apologise for a suggestion that Delia’s chilli recipe didn’t warn readers that kidney beans should be boiled thoroughly.

So remember, readers: if you’re planning to reheat an old feud, make sure you first let it simmer for 30 years.

Oh dear, where would we be without these gloriously silly slebs to brighten up these increasingly gloomy days of November.

Spell-cheque corner:
‘Avios’, the travel firm that sent Lamenda Kingdon to the Caribbean instead of Spain, came up as ‘Adios’. You really couldn’t make it up. And ‘Rantzen’, as in Esther Rantzen, came up as ‘Rant Zen’, first choice, with ‘Ranted’ as the second offering. Smashing.

Sunday, November 3
   THIS smiley Sign Language intro spotted in Shanghai by David Clifford.

Another of my favourite Look You  features is ‘Spell-cheque corner’. Given that spelling is not my strongest suit ― I laugh along with, not at, misspelt signs such as the glorious example above ― I always run a spell-check before posting my smile of the day.

True, the computer is never sure whether I’m dying for a drink in the middle of the Sahara or desperately disappointed that there’s no sherry trifle left in the fridge (desert v dessert), but it gets me there. Just.

And how do I know that there is no such thing as “Chinese handicarfs”? Indeed, down the years I’ve enjoyed more than a few “handicarafes”. But that’s another story.

Anyway, what I like about ‘Spell-cheque corner’ is the weird and wonderful suggestions regularly thrown up by the computer when it doesn’t recognise something, alternative words I would never dream up within the privacy of my own imagination.

For example, just a few random favourites thus far:

Tesco = Tosco; Godiva, as in Lady Godiva = Go diva; Libor, as in the Great Bank Interest Rate Fiddle = Labour; Britishness = Brutishness; Göran, as in former England football manager Sven-Göran Eriksson = Groan ― and there lies a just surfaced and wonderfully memorable quote:

“Sex with Sven was as ordered and functional as an Ikea instruction manual. It was devoid of passion.” Ulrika Jonsson, 46,  Swedish television presenter now living and working in the UK, dishes the dirt on her affair with the ex-England manager. She added: “It was as boring as putting together an Ikea Billy bookcase.”

God, tell me about it, Ulrika. Not sex with Sven, I hasten to add, but I always find myself with a few screws left over, which suggests a job not very well done. (Thinks: in my case it would be called an “Ikea Willy Wanka bookcase”.)

Anyway, the mother-of-four said she and Sven spoke Swedish to each other, except when in the bedroom when he would always talk dirty in the singy-songy broken English style of the Muppets Swedish Chef. “I had to try to ignore it,” she says.

Way too much information, Ulrika. But most intriguing of all, how did my computer know to call Göran “Groan”?

It seems that Ulrika and Groan were introduced back in 2001 by Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell ― yep, that intro-outro had ambush written all over it ― yet against all the omens the Swedish pair hit it off right away.

Soon after, they began an affair behind the back of Groan’s then partner Nancy Dell'Olio ― or Nancy Dool’Allio as she is affectionately known hereabouts.

Ulrika also says that she believes that his spurned lover Nancy Dool’Allio was aggressive towards him when the affair was revealed. She added: “I asked him on the phone if he was OK when Nancy found out and he replied, ‘Well, I'm still alive’. She was aggressive with him and he told me that many times.”

Ah yes, the doolallyness of celebrity. Wonderful. Keep it up, so to speak. Whatever, and talking of cock-ups...

The following tale of the unexpected is a joint effort from The Sunday Times  and The Independent:

Lesus saved

The Vatican has been forced to withdraw thousands of bronze, silver and gold commemorative medals commissioned to celebrate the first year of Pope Francis’ tenure because of a spelling mistake.

“I can see that some poor underling in the Vatican might have had trouble spelling transubstantiation,” wrote Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times. “But you’d have thought they’d have known that ‘Lesus’ is not the orthodox name by which we refer to Our Saviour.”

The coins, created by the Italian State Mint, had the Pope’s official motto printed around the side, but referred to Jesus as Lesus.

Around four were sold before the mistake on the 6000 medallions was pointed out.

“It was spotted later and the coins were recalled,” confirmed Rod Liddle. “Thank cod.”

However, the last word goes to Felicity Morse of The Independent:

“It seems the devil is indeed in the detail.”

Great line, that. And a great story. Mind you, think of the value of the four coins that did escape into the unknown.

And I was somewhat surprised that the Vatican had commissioned bronze, silver and gold commemorative medals ― should religion be that  competitive?

Oh yes, why dont the Italian State Mint, the Vatican, the Chinese and virtually all online publications not use a spell-check to get rid of the obvious mistakes like the ones highlighted here today?

Be all that as it may, whether it be handicarfs or handicrafts, Groan or Göran, Lesus or Jesus, we should always walk on the sunny side of the street, and never forget the tale of The Wife Of O’Brian:
Always look on the bright side of wife

PS: I am just wondering what ‘Spell-cheque corner’ will throw up today ... I was not disappointed.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘handicarfs’ came up as ‘handicrafts’, which suggests that the computer spell-check is actually doing what it says on the tin.

However, ‘Lesus’ came up as ‘Less’ ... how wonderfully ironic that is. Mind you, shame it did not come up as ‘Les’ ― I mean, The Life Of Les  would have been very interesting.

Saturday, November 2

                                                   SO which did  come first, the cocky politician or the addled egg?

Yesterday I smiled at an eye-catching cock and bull feature. The one image I didn’t use was the delightful chicken and egg cartoon from 1910 ― which I have now deployed as today’s ‘headline’.  

It jumped to mind as I recalled a tale which surfaced last Thursday ― this intro, compliments of The Independent:

We start the day with our morals in check ― but it's a dishonest finish

      • New research shows feeling tired out after a long day could send our moral compass askew 

Tiredness can make us more likely to cheat or be dishonest, researchers examining the factors behind morals and ethical behaviour have said. 

In a study conducted by two academics from Harvard University and the University of Utah, researchers found people were more likely to have higher levels of self control and be more morally aware in the morning.

In the afternoon, however, even people with a seemingly strong moral compass were more likely to exhibit dishonest behaviour...

Now that is a highly intriguing notion. We know that our base honesty, morals and ethics are built into our DNA. Ponder being in the presence of someone becoming progressively more drunk: with every drink a layer of software ― learned behaviour ― is peeled away to reveal the real person hiding underneath.

It is much like peeling an onion, and more often than not the end result is the same. It brings a tear to the eye.

That is why a drunk person always but always displays his or her core qualities, what they are really like under all the gloss. So I guess work is the same: as the day progresses the levels of stress relentlessly build up and our software starts to abort its function and our hard-driver kicks in.

Anyway, last Thursday morning, with the above news all over the shop, I e-mailed the following to The Daily Telegraph  Letters page:

Lie-in detector test

Given the study which has found that people find it easier to tell lies as the day unfolds, please could we switch Prime Minister’s Questions from midday to eight in the morning.

Mind you, even that will not help if what Chief Wise Owl down at my local Crazy Horsepower Saloon insists, that politicians have such low levels of self-control and dodgy moral compasses, they find it impossible even to sleep straight in their beds at night.

It didn’t make the cut. Surprisingly though, there were no letters at all on what I thought was a rather inviting subject. Yesterday I mentioned this to Chief Wise Owl ― who smiled and said that there was indeed a “snap
!” letter in The Times  on the very topic. He duly e-mailed me that missive ― and here it is:

Asking for trouble

Sir, I noted with interest the claim by Harvard researchers that people are more likely to be dishonest in the afternoon than in the morning (report, Oct 31).
     As a chartered psychologist, I am moved to suggest that we bring Prime Minister’s Questions forward by an hour from its traditional noon start. I’m sure all sides of the House would benefit.

Well, well, great minds think alike. Yes, even those of a chartered psychologist and a simply country boy. True, my reading of the situation is a bit more down to earth and less sophisticated that the good Professor
s, but our conclusions are identical.

Chief Wise Owl also sent me another little cracker from The Times:

Hot tip

Sir, My new hairdryer has lengthy instructions in several languages, whereas my hot-air paint stripper came with little more than the warning “Do not use as a hair dryer”.
JANE CULLINAN, Padstow, Cornwall

Crossed lines

Following last Monday’s big storm, Tuesday’s National Rail Enquiries  website, part of the Association of Train Operating Companies, proclaimed:

“First Capital Connect are expecting to run a near normal service. Passengers are advised not to travel.”

Where is Ivor the Engine ― the real Ivor the Engine that is, as opposed to my good pal, the Crazy Horsepower regular ― when you need him?

All at sea

Atlantis is a British fantasy-adventure television programme, inspired by Greek mythology, which first aired in the UK on 28 September 2013, on the BBC.

I have never watched it, but according to the TV Guide, this is what tonight’s episode is all about...

Atlantis: Hercules visits a witch in an attempt to win Medusa’s heart, but when he releases a toxic enchantment, Jason has to undo history ― unaware he is walking into a deadly trap.

I quote all the above because I spotted this amusing letter in The Sunday Times  You say column.

Don't forget the stuffing

Christmas is on its way. How lovely of the BBC to give us a turkey almost three months early. Atlantis, though, is a very strange name for a turkey.
Barry and Sue Smith

Well, it made me smile. However, to balance the books, I checked the television audience figures in the same edition of The Sunday Times  Culture magazine as the Smiths’ comment appeared ... here are the number of viewers for week ending October 6.

Atlantis was the fifth most watched programme on BBC1 with an audience of 6.37m ― the most watched was Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1 with 10.33m viewers, the second was Downton Abbey on ITV1 with 9.89m ― Atlantis being the 11th most watched programme on all channels.

I’m not sure what all that says about Atlantis, or the British viewing public, or indeed Barry and Sue Smith’s critical faculties.

Say nothing is best. And just smile along on the crest of a wave.

Friday, November 1

                                        YES, I know, it’s the morning after your friendly neighbourhood ‘Trick or Treat’ experience, but this seemed to fit the bill quite nicely.

It probably has something to do with my farming roots, but anything with a rustic flavour captures my attention.

So I just happened upon some images which really did make me smile. First up:

My, that is a big one

Don’t talk to me about feeling horny

“Say hello to Rooster Cogburn, Cock of this Walk”

“Off to a fancy dress? Or are you just glad to see me?”

Radiating good will

Old Rooster Cogburn is so funny. I have no information about the image, just spotted it online ... Photoshopping at its best ― and of course what sets it off to perfection is the radiation symbol on the shed in the background.

Definitely, positively not a load of old bull

The bull though, is genuine. Except that it’s a steer, a castrated ox. Lurch, a Watusi longhorn breed, is featured in the Guinness World Records, and he is ― or was, for he died in 2010 ― the steer with the largest horn circumference in the world, measuring 37½ inches. Amazing.

Ye Olde Photoshoppe

We tend to think that manipulation of photographs came in with the computer and the digital age ― but messing about in the dark room has been going on since the birth of photography.

For example, also spotted online...

♫♫♫  Chick, chick, chick, chick, chicken...

...lay a little egg for me

Great picture, really smiley. I’m no expert on photography, but I would guess that an awful lot of time and patience went into manipulating that.

Today of course, anyone with a computer can do it. Which rather takes the fun away. And how do we know that any picture we now see is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Scary.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Watusi’ as in the longhorn breed of cattle, came up as ‘Wetsuit’, which is rather silly but smiley, just perfect to tickle my J-Spot, my juvenile spot.


Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2013: Oct
Smile of the day 2013: Sep
Smile of the day 2013: Aug
Smile of the day 2013: Jul
Smile of the day 2013: Jun
Smile of the day 2013: May
Smile of the day 2013: Apr
Smile of the day 2013: Mar
Smile of the day 2013: Feb

Smile of the day 2013: Jan
Smile of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)

Previous 2012 smiles: 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 (Oct-Dec)

 Previously: Smile of the Day 2010
Home   2010 (Jan to Jun)   2009   2008   March to May '07   June to Aug '07   Sep to Dec '07


You are here, way out west,
at Llandeilo

aka Llandampness
aka Dodgy City

Previously on LOOK YOU......

Smile of the day 2013: Oct
Smile of the day 2013: Sep
Smile of the day 2013: Aug
Smile of the day 2013: Jul
Smile of the day 2013: Jun
Smile of the day 2013: May

Smile of the day 2013: Apr
Smile of the day 2013: Mar
Smile of the day 2013: Feb

Smile of the day 2013: Jan
Smile of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
Smile of the day 2012c (Jul-Sep)
Smile of the day 2012 (Apr-Jun)
Smile of the day 2012 (Jan-Mar)

Smile of the day 2011 (Oct-Dec)
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 the beginning:


Postcards from my Square Mile @
Updated: 11/08/2013

Here's lookin' at you @
400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 08/06/2013

What A Gas @
400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 17/05/2009

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