LOOK YOU ~ a rolling scrapbook of life, the universe and nearly everything...
ARCHIVE 2013 - DECEMBER

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Updated: 11/08/2013

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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
 

New Year’s Eve, 2013

2013: rear-view mirror

AS it says up there on the WELCOME mat, Look You is a collection of Notes to Self, a daily record of the things that make me smile and which brighten up my day no end’.

However, I do occasionally inject a note of seriousness because, much as I revel in the delightful doolallyness of the world about me, it is sometimes right and proper to acknowledge the dreadful things that happen in the name of humanity.

News agency Reuters  recently selected from their global coverage of news, entertainment and sport some of the more astonishing and dramatic pictures of 2013.

From President Barack Obama’s second-term inauguration, US army war causalities and Kenya’s horrific Westgate Mall massacre, to cleaning up of the Italian cruise ship disaster and twerking, the year of 2013 has seen some remarkable images.

I perused the photographs compliments of a Mail Online  gallery ― and one image jumped out. Reading the online comments, it was obvious that the same picture had a similar effect on many others...
 

Lesleigh Coyer, 25, of Saginaw, Michigan, lies down in front of the grave of her
brother, Ryan, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on March 11;
Ryan had served with the U.S. Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Every world leader should have that photograph on their desk. Mind you, whether it would have any effect on the mindset of the planet’s movers and shakers, people like Gerry Adams, Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin and Bashar Hafez al-Assad, to name just a handful, is a moot point.

Book-ends

“Stardom is insidious. It creeps up through the toes. When it reaches your nut, it’s dangerous.”
Peter O’Toole, British-Irish actor, who died on December 14, aged 81, at his best playing eccentric characters, which he did off screen as well as on.

“The waiter hovered, trying to take our order. Peter, who was engrossed in a story, finally looked up. ‘Just bring us some of that smashing pie, will you? A bottle of something red and extremely expensive, and some of those silly little chips you serve.”
Sarah Standing, 54, daughter of Bryan Forbes (1926-2013), celebrated English film man, recalls dining at the Ivy with Peter, along with her young daughter Tilly (whom he always called Tilbury Docks).

Yesterday I wrote about Mary Poppins, and how the magical nanny is confronted by a couple of troublesome kids and a strict father ― but while the children are instantly won over by her bag of magic tricks, the father takes a wee bit longer to be seduced by her charms.

Probably most of us can remember from our childhood a magic person like Mary. No, they didn’t perform real magic like Poppins, but simply being in their company was magic enough.

In fact as a grown up, I still keep the company of one or two magic people.

Well, Mary Standing recently wrote a piece in The Sunday Times  about Peter O’Toole: “He had a louche, dangerous air when I first met him, but won me over with his charm, hilariously inept music nights and devotion to my children.”

The article was accompanied by this photograph...

 

O’Toole with Sarah Standing’s daughter India, in 1988. He was fabulous with
small children and loved seeing life through their eyes

How does that line go? If a picture paints a thousand words...


Monday, December 30th

Let’s go fly a kite

YEP, I feel that I have now officially entered my second childhood.

It began to dawn on me at around half-five this morning, the rain and the wind belting and whistling outside ― the forecast had indeed warned there’d be no early-morning walk today ― so there I was, breakfasting on some toast while perusing the Sunday Times’  radio and television guide...

Mary Poppins (BBC1, 4.15pm)
We are bound to hear a lot about this sugary Disney opus in 2014, its 50th-anniversary year, and it has already been promoted by its studio in the recent film about its making, Saving Mr Banks, so now is as good a time as any to discover (or reacquaint yourself with) its charms.
     These include not only Julie Andrews’s bright performance and lots of chirpy songs, but also ― notoriously ― Dick Van Dyke’s accent-mangling.
Dir: Robert Stevenson (1964)


Well, in my case ‘discover’ is the appropriate word, rather than ‘reacquaint’.

Believe it or don’t, but I have never seen the film. At least not in its entirety. Yes, I’ve seen bits and pieces of it on telly, indeed I once caught the last hour or so, which I enjoyed.

And of course I’m totally familiar with the songs ― why only last Saturday I had reason to quote a few lines from Chim Chim Cher-ee.

Oh yes, nobody need remind me of the ‘notorious’ Dick Van Dyke cockney accent.

So I planned my afternoon with forethought ― a necessary visit into town early-afternoon, quickly home, grab some tea ― then settle down at 4.15, with a drink, to watch this Disney ‘opus’.

Bloody marvellous. Yes, I have definitely entered my second childhood. Of course from a personal point of view the film can’t go wrong from the moment Mary Poppins first appears and sings to the children...

♫♫♫

          In every job that must be done,
          There is an element of fun;
          You find the fun and snap, the job’s a game

          And every task you undertake,
          Becomes a piece of cake;
          A lark,
          A spree,
          It’s very clear to see...

I mean, could there be eight lines that better sum up this web site and what it is all about?

In keeping this daily diary cum scrapbook of that stuff in life wot makes me smile and laugh, there is by definition an element of fun ― I find the fun and snap, the job’s a game, a lark, a spree ― and I never stop smiling and chuckling.

And of course in that opening song, A Spoonful of Sugar, she invites the little bird tweeting outside the bedroom window into the room and onto her hand ― and I thought, bloody ‘ell, I’ve been there, done that, got the pictures ― and here’s the proof...

 

Mary Poppins charms the birds off the tree

Yours truly seduces the birds off the trees and into the candy shop

A bird in the hand

Now if my picture had been a proper ‘Selfie’ rather than a ‘Handie’, the juxtaposition would be just perfect.

I photographed the above in the heart of the Towy Valley, during the really cold January of 2010. Normally the birds will land on my hand, grab what they fancy and instantly return to the safety of the hedge or the tree ― but that winter they were so hungry many of them lost all fear and would remain on/in my hand as they helped themselves.

I became their Candy Man. They would zoom across the field to greet me.

Back with the film, the songs are of course catchy and memorable. And Julie Andrews is a dream: that perfectly melodic voice, those gorgeous eye, and, although not particularly pretty in the traditional sense, she has that handsome girl-next-door look about her.

I smiled at the sequence where they save the fox from the chasing hunt and its hounds ― back in 1964 they had no idea what a hot topic fox hunting with followers in red coats would become 50 years on.

But here’s the thing: I couldn’t stop thinking of The Sound of Music. There, Maria is confronted by a group of troublesome kids and a strict father ― and she slowly but surely has to win all of them over with her inherent charm.

In Mary Poppins, Mary is confronted by a couple of troublesome kids and a strict father ― the children are instantly won over by her bag of magic tricks, but the father takes a wee bit longer to come round.

And there’s the rub. Probably most of us can remember from our childhood a magic person like Mary. No, they didn’t perform real magic like Mary Poppins, but simply being in their company was magic enough.

In fact as a grown up I still keep the occasional company of one or two magic people like Mary.

Oh yes, what of Dick ‘It’s a jolly holiday with you, Bert’ Van Dyke?

Do you know, here we are, 50 years on ― this year we have remembered the Great Train Robbery, the Profumo affair (I would  include that, wouldn’t I?), Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, the JFK assassination, the launch of Doctor Who, Beatlemania ― and whenever Mary Poppins is mentioned in dispatches Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent is also mentioned.

I’ve already quoted The Sunday Times ― here’s part of the Western Mail’s  review:

Any good?  Forget the usual carping about Dick Van Dyke’s woeful cockney accent ― there’s a reason this Disney movie has become a year-round staple. It’s a fantastic family adventure, full of terrific songs, live action and animation. Julie Andrews is practically perfect as Mary ― a role for which she deservedly won an Oscar.

As I say, Dick gets mentioned every time the film is mentioned. Proof that there really is no such thing as bad publicity. Indeed you could say that his accent is so bad it’s fantastic. It’s certainly unforgettable.

Well, after all of that, there is only one link I can put up...
 

Here’s Julie Andrews and her marvellous Feed the birds:
                                                                     
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHrRxQVUFN4
 


Sunday, December 29th

You for coffee?

“ANYONE who is famous is a moron if they are on Twitter.” George Clooney, 52, American actor, celebrity and, in the endless pursuit of ever more shinny shekels, a purveyor of coffee commercials.

“INCESSANT chirping by the attention-seeker, sharing their banalities with the world.” Sir Terry Wogan, 75, Irish broadcaster, celebrity and, in the endless pursuit of ever more luscious lolly, a purveyor of baloney as a columnist, offers up his definition of “Twitter”.

Ah yes, two well-established slebs put the boot in on those they consider a little less than properly famous i.e. those lower down the totem pole than they themselves.

What I particularly enjoyed about the Wogan quote is that, for years and years he had a two-hour regular early-morning radio show which was really Sir Tel sharing his banalities about life, the universe and everything ― albeit in an entertaining fashion. But banalities nevertheless.

Also, I was just reading that the veteran Irish broadcaster recently spoke of his hatred of Jimmy Savile and how his crimes were an open secret at the BBC. Wogan told how he despised Savile and how his horrific legacy of child abuse has “poisoned” the BBC.

He said: “He always struck me as creepy. I’ve talked to people and not one of them has said: 'I really liked him.'” The Children in Need host recalled a celebrity lunch with journalists revealing that it was common knowledge in the industry what Savile was up to.

So why did Wogan and all the others not speak up if they knew? Shocking, really. They put their celebrity status before their conscience.

Anyway, back with Twitter: personally I don’t tweet because I acknowledge that I do not possess the insight, the wit and the wisdom to satisfy such an insatiable beast; I do however enjoy perusing what is tweeted ― as long as others do the graft and seek out the most entertaining contributions.

As the Telegraph  has just done...

The best and worst of Twitter in 2013

The outrageously good and disastrously bad on Twitter over the last 12 months, featuring Richard Dawkins, David Cameron and One Direction

It’s a rather entertaining collection ― I’ll put a link to the page down below ― in the meantime, here’s a perfect example of what I particularly enjoy, an exchange between two 747 egos, Jeremy Clarkson and Piers Morgan:

“Roll up! Roll up! Come and see a brace of Twitter Twats!” shouted the circus man

  

Let us praise

Now c’mon George Clooney and Terry Wogan, what is there not to like about these two taking it out on each other ― and what a memorable picture of Jeremy, the big girl’s blouse, that is.

Morgan and Clarkson really are a couple of prize wankers ― but they add hugely to the glitter of the passing parade. And let’s be honest, life would be a trifle less cheery without their, er, juvenile banalities, to highlight the utter doolallyness of celebrity.

In the meantime, here’s another smiley from the Twitter Festive Jokes & Counting:

 @Enanem (Neil):
On the fifth day of Christmas my increasingly irritating, bird-obsessed partner, sent to me...

Funnily enough, Alex Lester on his early-morning wireless show has been inviting listeners to come up with suitable lines for a rewriting of The Twelve Days of Christmas, a version to reflect modern life. The only rule is that it must scan, the new words have to fit the rhythm of the song that we know and love.

Early days yet, some good lines coming in though ― but Val Pickering rewrote the whole song and has definitely touched the T-spot (Tee-hee) ― and be sure to sing along with it:
 
♫♫♫ Twelve roast potatoes, eleven screaming children, ten broken baubles, nine cans of lager, eight festive jumpers, seven drunken neighbours, six champagne cocktails ― fiiiiive pickled eggs ― four After Eights, three double gins, two games of cards and a large glass of Alka-Seltzer.

That really is rather good, especially the large glass of Alka-Seltzer.

Hm, I must have a think about coming up with an alternative version...

In the meantime, here’s the link to the Telegraph’s  best and worst of Twitter in 2013:

                       http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/the-filter/10525569/The-best-and-worst-of-Twitter-in-2013.html
 


Saturday, December 28th

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid

I rather enjoyed an article headed thus in the Telegraph:

The perfect thank you requires a special gift

A letter of gratitude should be easy to write, yet many of us struggle to find the right formula

It was penned by Stephen Bayley ... he went on to entertainingly explore the various ways of saying “thanks”, not always something that comes naturally ... he finished with a brace of wonderful examples, which really tickled my old smileometer:

Then there is the letter that Clyde Barrow, the gangster whose partner was called Bonnie, who wrote to Henry Ford. Later iterations of Mr Ford’s original gasoline buggy had greatly enhanced the scope of Barrow’s business so he wrote to Dearborn [a city in the State of Michigan, the home of Henry Ford] in 1934: “While I still have breath in my lungs I will tell you what a dandy car you make.”

If only such courtesy were imitated by Fiesta drivers on the M25. But fine words buttered no law enforcement parsnips and Barrow’s Cordoba grey 85hp Ford 730 deluxe sedan was ambushed by the police near Arcadia, Louisiana, and perforated with 160 bullets fired by the Feds. By which time, he no longer had the breath to which he earlier referred.

Many of us sucking our pens as we struggle for an appropriate response to an inappropriate gift may be either inspired or intimidated by the old truth that in a man’s letters, his soul is laid bare. A woman’s too.

Marilyn Monroe wrote to her Los Angeles lawyer, a Mr von Fuehlsdorff: “Thank you for your champagne. It arrived, I drank it, and I was gayer.” Her lapidary style here exceeds Hemingway. Clear, direct, honest. We should take note.

That glorious line from Marilyn Monroe ― “It arrived, I drank it, and I way gayer” ― suggests she was more than just a pretty face.

Oh yes, Marilyns lapidary style? Now lapidary is definitely a word you never hear in the Asterisk bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon. It means careful, elegant and dignified in style. I prefer the longer version.

I also enjoyed this online response from Freddythreepwood: “I rather like Robert Mitchum’s 'Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Thanks for The Grub.’”

But most of all, imagine Clyde Barrow writing to Henry Ford in praise of his car. I don’t suppose it was a gift from Henry ― more like Clyde stole it.

And that set me thinking: when did you last write to someone in praise of something which you hadn’t been given and had in fact actually paid for yourself?

I can’t say that I ever have ― but it’s something I shall give some serious thought to from this moment on.

I shall keep you posted.

Finally, a few more Twitter festive jokes that raised a smile in their cleverness and ho, ho, ho-ness...


         
@unknownshoulder (Jim Jeroo): “I like Tesco turkey, but not as much as Lidl donkey.”

          Very good ― but the name Jim Jeroo made me think of these lines from you-know-where:

                                                                            ♫♫♫
                                                                           
A sweep is as lucky, as lucky can be,
                                                                            Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey,
                                                                            Chim-chim cher-oo
!
                                                                            Good luck will rub off when I shakes ‘ands with you...

          @LittleLostLad (Jake Lambert): “I put all my Christmas decorations up myself. Now I’m at the
                                             hospital trying to get them all taken out.”

          @QuintinForbes: “You can only claim for a Christmas cake off your insurance if it’s stollen.”

          @RobinFlavell: “I’m aroused by Father Christmas. I’m a hohosexual.”

          @TonyCowards: “These Jacob’s crackers are rubbish ― no bang, no joke, no party hat...”

          @freethestones (Tom Freethestones): “Christmas is the worst time to be on a diet because
                                                    it’s full of carolies.”

          @TiernanDouieb: “Bored of Xmas cheer? Throw salt and pepper in someone’s face and
                            shout ‘seasonal greetings
!’.

Hm, or perhaps try “condiments of the season!”.

Spell-cheque postscript is today handed over to this exceedingly skilful festive effort:

          @utterben: “All I want from Satan this Christmas is an improved autocorrect and a
                      better understanding of historical religious figures.”
 


Friday, December 27th

It’s a wrap

A letter spotted in The Daily Telegraph:

Paper trail

SIR – Having wrapped my presents, I am left with endless bits of paper that might just fit a present next year. Is there, perhaps, a better use for them?
Lintie Gibson, Melrose, Scottish Borders


Well, I happened upon the image at the top @ blog.llidesign.co.uk (‘Wrapping paper as artwork’), which I thought an eye-catchingly simple idea (as most of the best ideas are).

Also, Ivor the Search Engine pointed out fascinating sites @ instructables.com (‘Ten uses for used wrapping paper’) and @ polishandsugar.com (‘Home décor ― wrapping paper art’).

But then, last Wednesday, the royal family attended the traditional Christmas Day church service at St Mary Magdalene Church on the royal estate in Sandringham, Norfolk.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, told the waiting crowds that her five-month old son was “having a lovely day but was more interested in the wrapping paper than the presents”.

Perhaps Lintie Gibson could send the endless bits of paper to Georgie Porgie, who would clearly appreciate them hugely. Or indeed to her own if she has children/grandchildren of that sort of age.

Funnily enough, I couldn’t help thinking that, being more interested in the wrapping paper than the present, is a perfect metaphor for the modern world and this dreadful cult of celebrity which dominates the media. All we seem to be interested in these days is the packaging, rather than what the celebs are really like.

Just think of Jimmy Savile et al, and the dreadful crimes committed against innocence ― yet now we hear of all those who either knew or suspected what was going on.

How can people be so blinded by the packaging of celebrity without a single thought for what lies inside?

Stitch and snitch

Did you read about the curious case of the doctor who thought he was a tattooist, and has now been suspended over allegations he “branded” his initials on to a patient’s liver?

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust confirmed it is investigating the claims made against a surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

The initials were reportedly found by a colleague during a routine operation.

The trust said the surgeon had been suspended until an internal investigation is completed.

Details are slim on this one, but it seems the surgeon used an argon plasma coagulation tool to sear his brand in a patients liver. The tool is used to stop bleeding by burning tiny blood vessels shut with a beam of electrically-charged argon gas.

Imagine, there are people walking around with tattoos they don’t even realize they have.

The extraordinary incident reminds me of a scene from Blackadder Goes Forth, the BBC One period British sitcom set in the trenches of the First World War...

Dodge the bullet

     Captain Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson, front left): “Baldrick, what are you doing out there?”

     Private Baldrick (Tony Robinson, front right): “I’m carving something on a bullet, sir.”

     Blackadder: “What are you carving?”

     Baldrick: “I’m carving ‘Baldrick’, sir.”

     Blackadder: “Why?”

     Baldrick: “It’s part of a cunning plan, sir.”

     Blackadder: “Of course it is.”

     Baldrick: “You know how they say that somewhere there’s a bullet with your name on it?”

     Blackadder: “Yes?”

     Baldrick: “Well, I thought that if I owned the bullet with my name on it, I’ll never get hit by it. 'Cause I’ll
                         never shoot myself...”

     Blackadder: “Oh, shame!

     Baldrick: “And the chances of there being *two* bullets with my name on it are very small indeed.”

     Blackadder: “Yes, it’s not the only thing that is *very small indeed*. Your brain for example ― a brain so
                             minute, Baldrick, that if a hungry cannibal cracked your head open, there wouldn’t be
                             enough to cover a small water biscuit.”

Well, it seems that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Imagine though carving your name on to someone else’s organ ― I mean, you really don’t need a degree in anything to understand that that is likely to be the bullet which has your name on it.

It really is a doolally world out there.
 

Boxing Day 2013

PULL!

A FEW reflections on some Christmas Day snap, crackle and pop ― or should that be snap, pop and cackle?

“What did Santa do when he went speed dating? He pulled a cracker.”
                                                Winner of a Twitter competition to find the funniest Christmas cracker joke.

I’m not sure running a competition on Twitter to find properly funny cracker jokes is playing the game. Traditional cracker jokes and riddles are meant to make us groan out loud rather than laugh uproariously.

“Christmas is about tradition, and people like the customary quirks that make up a British Christmas,” says Sally Vergette, who runs Go Crackers, a company that makes and supplies hand-made Christmas and wedding crackers. “The traditional looking Christmas cracker with a bad joke, a curious gift and a paper hat is part of all that.”

Shame she wasn’t called Sally Vignette, which would really be a good groan of a name for someone who has a bit of a tale to tell. Still, here are some smiley (and surprisingly clever) cracker jokes that caught my eye:

     What happened to the man who stole an Advent Calendar?

          He got 25 days.

     What is the best Christmas present in the world?

          A broken drum, you just can’t beat it.

     How did Scrooge win the football game?

          The ghost of Christmas passed.

     How do snowmen get around?

          They ride an icicle.

Hm. So:

     How do two snowmen get around?

          On an icicle built for two.

Okay, back to the professional stuff:

     What song do you sing at a snowman’s birthday party?

          Freeze a jolly good fellow.

     Who hides in the bakery at Christmas?

          A mince spy.

     What's the most popular Christmas wine?

          “I don’t like Brussels sprouts!

     What do you call a bunch of chess players bragging about their games in a hotel lobby?

          Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer.

     What did the fish say when it swam into the wall?

          Dam!

Very good. I particularly liked the mince spy joke, exceedingly groany.

Anyway, just before Christmas, there appeared this curious letter in The Daily Telegraph ― a tale that you could have found lurking inside a cracker:

Crackers
SIR – This week on a visit to buy a few items from our recently improved Waitrose, we found on going through the “Quick Pay” check-out that an assistant had to be called to verify my age in order to purchase two rum baba puddings, for the alcohol content, and Christmas crackers, which supposedly contain gunpowder. I am 81.
Priscilla Lobley, Sonning, Berkshire


We must presume that Priscilla was using the automatic checkout. If she wasn’t and the cashier was under 18, then the standard supermarket ‘rule’, as I understand it, insist that an older supervisor is summoned to check that the junior cashier has not made a mistake (or is trying to ‘assist’ some young friends to purchase alcohol illegally).

This is a blanket rule, because to allow a junior cashier to use his/her discretion in some matters and not others would lead to a horrendous legal minefield for the supermarket.

I’m not sure what to make of the gunpowder plot though. The idea of the nation’s grandmas planning to blow up Parliament rather blows my mind.

Spell-cheque corner: Remember Sally Vergette, who runs Go Crackers? And I said shame she wasn’t called Sally Vignette, which would really be a good groan of a name for someone who has a bit of a tale to tell ― well, ‘Vergette’ came up as ‘Vegetate’ ― which suggests my idea was rather sound.

But best of all, ‘Lobley’ as in ‘Priscilla Lobley’, the lady who wrote the letter about Christmas crackers containing gunpowder, came up as ‘Loxley’. What a clever computer: Priscilla of Loxley, and clearly a descendant of Robin of Loxley, would be someone highly likely to blow up Parliament ― given half a chance.

 

Christmas Day 2013

Memories are made of this...

“Christmas Day lunch is just like the Sunday lunch of yesteryear, when all the family sat down together ― except there’s more food and as much to drink as you want. [And you get to pull a cracker, perhaps win a toy or other gift ― oh, and share an exceedingly silly joke or riddle.]”
Comment heard on Alex Lester’s very early-morning wireless show on Radio 2.

As always, the best funny lines are loaded with great truths.

Talking of lunch, one of the joys of this time of year is visiting my local Co-op supermarket and checking out the Reduced to clear  shelves. Often there are some rather exotic things ― at least exotic to a simple country caveman like me ― things that would normally not catch my eye for I am a strictly in-and-out-in-a-flash shopper.

A couple of days back I spotted a Brandy & Cream King Prawn Cocktail (450g), reduced from £6 to £3. When I got home I added some extra brandy to give it a stirred-not-shaken twist.

It was delicious. Put me in the mood for Christmas lunch with the family.

In the meantime, a couple of festive letters spotted in The Daily Telegraph:

Christmas greetings

SIR – We have, so far, received 26 cards. Of those, only five depict the nativity scene. The rest, although some are very pretty, bear no reference to the birth of Jesus. Are we trying to take Christ out of Christmas?
Joan Parrott, Seaford, East Sussex

Us at the stable

SIR – I cannot understand the vanity and arrogance of educated people (such as Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour Party leader Ed Miliband) who seem to think that photographs of themselves and their families are appropriate illustrations of Christmas.
Raymond Whittle, Marlborough, Wiltshire


Well now, I smiled XL when I learned that John Collcott Horsley (1817-1903), English academic painter and illustrator of note, designed the world’s first Christmas card, in 1843 ― and here it is:

By hook or by crook...

...you're the first ever in my little Xmas Card book

The card was commissioned by Henry Cole (1808-1882), English civil servant and inventor, and of course the man now credited with devising the concept of sending greetings cards at Christmas time.

The card depicts a typical English family enjoying the holiday, and people performing acts of charity, an important part of the Victorian Christmas spirit.

It also caused some controversy because it shows a small child drinking wine ― and of course there is no obvious reference to the traditional meaning of Christmas, as indeed pointed out in Joan Parrott’s letter.

Oh yes, John Collcott Horsley also designed the Horsley envelope, a pre-paid envelope that was the precursor to the postage stamp.

Every Christmas Day a day at school.

But I’m dying to find out who the first person ever to receive a Christmas card from Henry Cole was. Unfortunately, Ivor the Search Engine couldn’t come up with a definitive answer. Now being No. 1 on that list would really be a claim to fame.

Prime selfie

Apropos the cards sent by our political leaders, here is the one Nick Clegg and his family sent out this Christmas. The image, of Nick and his wife Miriam Gonzalez-Durantez, was taken by photographer James Gourley and then doodled on by their sons Alberto, Antonio and Miguel...

The card is a marked departure from the carefully stage-managed portraits chosen by the other political leaders. The picture was taken at the family home in south-west London. The Clegg boys then used an iPad to add the Christmas tree and transform their parents into Santa and Rudolf.

Mr and Mrs Clegg are forgiven these foolish things because they are prepared to laugh at themselves. Presuming of course it is not all a carefully calculated decision. (Poor buggers, they can’t win, really.)

Memories and friendships are made of this

Finally, and to all those people whose Christmas has been ruined by the weather, my guess is that they will have established some new and perhaps surprising friendships through it all.

We have many faults as a species, but we do tend to shine when we have to ride to the rescue of those in trouble.

 

Christmas Eve 2013

Angel At Twelve O'Clock High

SANTA was busy checking his extensive naughty or nice lists when Bob’s Your Uncle, the works manager, rushed in and said that three of the more senior elves ― Alabaster Snowball, Bushy Evergreen and Pepper Minstrix ― had come down with a nasty bug and unsurprisingly, the trainee elves ― Jingle, Jangle and Wunhorse Openslea, to name but three ― could not keep the toy production line going as fast as the experienced ones.

Everything was slowing down at an alarming rate and the demanding Christmas Eve target was looming large ― yet putting pressure on them to work faster could break the strict elf and safety rules.

Santa too now began to feel the pre-Christmas pressure. Then her indoors, Mrs Claus, told Santa that mum-in-law, The Dragon, was coming to visit ― which stressed out poor old Santa even more.

When he went to harness the reindeer for a quick test run he found that Vixen and Cupid had been hanky-pankying during the off-season and both were about to give birth; also Prancer and Blitzen were living up to their names, had jumped the fence and were out on the town.

Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the floorboards cracked and gave way, a large bag of toys fell to the ground and all the toys were scattered everywhere. To make things worst he couldn’t find the sleigh’s MOT and insurance certificates.

Frustrated, he headed for the drinks cabinet. There he discovered the elves had drunk all the whiskey, the brandy, the rum ― for medicinal purposes you understand ― all that was left were a few cans of Near Beer and a jug with some mulled wine left over. So he grabbed that ― but in his frustration he accidentally dropped the jug, and it broke into hundreds of little glass pieces all over the kitchen floor.

He then went to get the broom and found the mice had eaten all the straw off the end of the broom.

Just then the doorbell rang. An irritated Santa marched to the door, yanked it open ― and there stood a little angel with a great big Christmas tree.

The angel ― Santa knew her as Gobby Gabby Angel ― said, in an exceedingly cheerful but annoying tone of voice: “Merry Christmas, Santa. Isn’t this a lovely time of year? I have a beautiful Christmas tree here for you. Where would you like me to put it?”

And so began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree.

Angelic postscript:

“It’s not easy to become an angel! First, you die. Then you go to heaven and there’s still the flight training to go through. And then you’ve got to agree to wear those angel clothes.” Matthew, age 9.

“In Heaven an angel is nobody in particular.” George Bernard
Shaw.

Meanwhile, in the Asterisk bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon...

               Dai Version: “My wife’s an angel.”
              
Jac the Joiner: “Your lucky, Dai. Mine is still alive.”

Oh yes, despite all the aforementioned trials and tribulations, Jolly Old St Nick did get his act together on time...


Merry Christmas ― and what else to listen to but this:
Jolly Old St. Nicholas – Ray Conniff Singers
 

Monday, December 23rd

A letter in The Times:

Posh pronouns

Sir, Fifty years ago I shared an office with a very well-brought up girl called Helen (The Pedant, Dec 15). Once, during our coffee break, she answered the telephone with the words: “Yes Mummy, it is I.” I spilt my coffee.
SARA PATON, London, W4


More moons ago than I care to remember, I spent a couple of years working out of Chester ― a stunningly characterful Cathedral city which even made a not-quite-so-young-buck-about-town stop and stare and appreciate ― and I dated a girl just like the aforementioned well-brought up Helen.

She was lovely. She oozed class from every pore. Class in every sense of the word. Looking back, I am sure that when as a child she played hide-and-seek, she would dutifully count to ten before announcing in clear and precise English: "Ready or not, here come I.”

Sadly, I was transferred from my base in Chester and the romance fizzled out.

“Never in any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.” Michael Ashcroft (Lord, as is), 67, businessman, politician and philanthropist (a collector of stamps – on his passport?).

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know the story behind that tweet. Or rather what inspired the quote. In fact, it seems that Lord Ashcroft simply re-tweeted it, for those memorable 15 words are listed in Brainy Quote under Dave Barry, 66, American author and columnist.

Ashcroft also tweeted this: “My day backwards ... I wake up tired and I go to bed wide awake.”

Hang about, I remember that joke from my school days.

Hm, perhaps the Good Lord is someone who tweets great lines as if they are his own. No, surely not. Any common or garden fellow prefixed with the title Lord  must be as straight as a thumb-stick, ho, ho, ho.

Whatever, on Saturday I shared with you my confusion over the differing definitions of ‘quotation marks’ ― and I said I’d probably be better off trying Yellow Pages. Well now...

Memories are made of this


Did you smile along with this delightful old boy?

Faraway places

On a couple of recent occasions I’ve mentioned in passing that I regularly find myself wandering along the highways and byways of this strange and foreign country we call Internet ― they do things differently there, you know...

And I got to wondering --- where does that famous line come from? Well, I reverse Ivor the Search Engine out of the shed and off I go...

The Go-Between  is a novel by LP Hartley, published in 1953. The novel begins with the line: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

Well, well, every day really is a day at school. Actually, the next thing that came to mind was another Hartley, namely JR Hartley, in particular his search for a book called Fly Fishing.

Do you remember the famous television advert? (Link coming up.)

In the meantime, I read this on a web site called ‘80s Actual, a comment posted by Andrew:

A touch of class

There used to be a pub near where I live [Cambridge] called The Old English Gentleman, and that glorious name fitted JR Hartley, star of a 1983 Yellow Pages  telly ad, to perfection.

We discover Mr Hartley, played by actor Norman Lumsden, making his way around various second-hand bookshops, seeking a copy of an out of print book called Fly Fishing. To no avail. When he returns home his concerned daughter (“No luck, Dad? Never mind.”) hands him a cup of tea and the Yellow Pages  --- and in no time he’s found a copy of the book.

It is then we discover that he  is the author.

It was a thoroughly delightful ad and JR Hartley became very popular indeed. In 1991, a book called Fly Fishing  was actually published, bearing his name, and this was followed by a couple of sequels ― one on golf, which Mr H took up in 1994.

Norman Lumsden had a varied and successful career ― he was also an opera singer of note. But, from 1983 onwards, it was as JR Hartley that many fans thought of him, and lovers of good telly ads were greatly saddened by his death in 2001.

But the legend of JR Hartley lives on, and he remains one of the fondest remembered TV ad characters not only of the 1980s, but of all time!

Hear, hear, it is indeed a smashingly old-fashioned sort of ad ― and as a bonus, loaded with subliminal poshness ― it is well worth 53 seconds of anyone’s time. Here’s the YouTube link:
                                                                                                          
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeicexenTmU
 


Sunday, December 22nd

Thief given six of the best

A wedding guest who stole a picture from a hotel lavatory was ordered to write lines as a punishment.

The culprit was tracked down by the manager of the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento, California, after he studied the hotel surveillance tape. “He sounded legitimately upset about what he had done,” said the manager, Barent Larkin. “It was a drunken mistake.”

As a punishment, the unnamed thief was ordered to write the following line six times: “I will not get drunk at a wedding and go steal the naked picture of a woman on a cigar over the urinal at the Citizen Hotel.”

The lines now hang next to the picture.

I wonder if the culprit was called Bart? And the naked woman riding the cigar was called Monica? (Incidentally, the line says
the naked picture ― so it could actually be a picture without a frame, and the poor put-upon Monica is fully clothed all along. But I guess not.)

Whatever, the above smiley tale compliments of Weird but wonderful in The Sunday Times.

Oh yes, the line the thief had to write brings to mind this from November 11, when Steve the Norfolk Trucker enlightened us via the Vanessa Feltz early-morning wireless show, that his 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.”

I have a sneaky suspicion that Mr Tilley and Barent Larkin, manager of the Citizen Hotel ― great name for a hostelry ― would get on just fine.

Oh yes, a couple of days back I featured some pictures from the 2013 Loo of the Year Award.

While the above tale seemed apt to the Loo feature ― so does this next one, again from the same Sunday Times  column.

Oh, and the Sign Language special, alongside, would seem to be even more appropriate for the job at hand.

       I fought the loo and the loo won

A burglar asked his victim to call police after getting stuck in a bathroom window. Daniel Severn, 27, was trapped for 1½ hours,
hanging upside down with his foot caught in the window and his head resting on the loo. He tried to call for help, but dropped his phone in the bath.

Severn, who was discovered at 5.30am when the owner of the house in Howden, East Yorkshire, came into the bathroom, was jailed for two years and four months.

Richard Seldon, defending, told Hull crown court: “While at first glance it would look like a sophisticated burglary, that really was not the case. If his head had been 1ft to the right, his head would have been down the toilet.”

Incidentally, whatever can that toilet sign alongside really mean? My guess is that the toilet, with no separate ventilation, leads directly off an office or some such like. A potentially nasty nasal ambush.

A warning not to be poo-poohed

Spotted somewhere or other by Bill Simpson
(Is Bill a relative of Bart?)

 

Saturday, December 21st

Quote, unquote

APROPOS the feature I did the other day on the extravagant use of quotation marks, I came across a further brace of smiley images ― the one above ― and this...

Pay attention at the back

Out of curiosity I ran a computer spell-check on the “quotation mark” ... it said see inverted comma. So:

inverted comma
(plural  inverted commas)
n
punctuation mark: any of the punctuation marks ‘and’ or “and”. Used around quotations, direct speech, and titles and to give special emphasis to particular words. Also called 
quotation mark.

Hang about, I thought, what is it with that ‘give special emphasis to particular words’ bit? But that’s precisely what we find so amusing, the seemingly superfluous use of quotation marks. Could that be the American influence lying in ambush inside my computer?

So I reached behind for a couple of old-fashioned dictionaries off the shelf:

First, the Collins Concise

inverted comma: another term for quotation mark

quotation mark: an expression used to indicate that the words that follow it form a quotation.

Hm, getting nowhere fast. Let’s try the
Concise Oxford

Inverted comma = quotation mark

Quotation mark: each of a set of punctuation marks, single (‘ ’) or double (“ ”) , used to mark the beginning and end of a quoted passage, a book title, etc., or words regarded as slang or jargon.

Well, truth to tell, I am now really confused.

Perhaps I’d be better off trying Yellow Pages!
 

A slap in the Strictly: Abbey days are here again

Tweetie Pie Corner

   “Does anyone else just want to slap Susanna Reid?” Deborah Dunleavy, 49, Tory politician and once labelled a ‘Cameron cutie’, finds herself in trouble after tweeting the above about Strictly Come Dancing celebrity Susanna Reid – and all because a tsunami of online surfers though she was advocating violence against the newsreader.

She quickly deleted the tweet.

I don’t watch Strictly ― but I do know precisely what Deborah Duntweeting was on about. Now I am fully aware of the comings and goings on Strictly because the meeja is awash with every twist and quick-step along the way, even though only one-fifth of the nation’s population is addicted to Strictly.

Be all that as it may, I was pleased to hear on the news that Abbey Clancy, 27, model, television presenter and WAG, won the series title tonight because the need to slap Susanna Reid can now be shelved, at least temporarily ― and yes, I do know that it’s a metaphorical expression for someone who gets up one’s nose even when there’s no flu epidemic about.

(What would  we do without expressions like ‘back-stabbing’ ― see Geoffrey Howe.)

Mind you, it doesn’t help that I am overwhelmed with the need to slap 99 per cent of all known celebrities.

Calling Ivor the Search Engine

Given Google’s eagerness to avoid social responsibility and properly enter into the spirit of paying taxes in each and every country where it actually makes its money (rather than siphoning it all to a place where they need to pay little or no tax), you will have perhaps noticed that whenever I now need to use a search engine, I have substituted the G-word with ‘Ivor the Search Engine’. (I think my use of quotation marks is correct, there, yes?)

Whatever, I nearly forgive the outfit because of its clever Google Doodles. Today’s was a particularly fine example of the genre, the First day of winter doodle:

What made the thing so mesmerising were the fingers furiously knitting away.

However, I think G-word missed a trick. Every few hours, they should have extended the length of the glove cum scarf being knitted and have it snaking around the screen, if only to show how productive those furious fingers were.

If you didn’t see it, here’s a YouTube link. Incidentally, searching for a link online I was intrigued to note that the doodle had been used six months ago ― in the southern hemisphere:
                                                                                                     
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rpkc3LudTuw

Also, watch this, a really clever combination of the ‘First day of summer’ and ‘First day of winter’ doodles ― and a reminder that summer is now officially on its way (let’s hope for a repeat of the 2013 summer say I, at least here in the UK):
                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IA45D9lJCCY

 

Friday, December 20th

Take a seat...

Cleanliness is next to, er---

The above, from the Telegraph’s  Sign Language gallery, was spotted somewhere in the UK by Keith Hughes.

I’d have been overwhelmed with the urge to insert ‘clean enough to’ between ‘Toilets’ and ‘EAT IN’.

And now, as someone sat behind an office desk on a windy beach nearly said, for something somewhat tangential.

        Black Friday: on the last Friday before Christmas, my true love...

In the UK, Black Friday is traditionally the most popular night for office and works Christmas parties. As a result it has gained a reputation as one of the busiest nights of the year for restaurants, public houses, and, as a result, the emergency services.

In the North East of England, Cumbria and North Yorkshire, Black Friday is known as Black Eye Friday, due to extremely high number of shemozzles and fights that break out in bars, pubs and clubs in the area. In South Yorkshire Black Friday is also called Mad Friday.

So today seems a good time to think of the poor, overworked toilets ― which brings me conveniently to the Loo of the Year Awards – 2013:

Better than bog standard

The 26th annual Loo of the Year Awards  ― dubbed the Toilet Oscars ― have just taken place in Solihull, recognising and rewarding the very best washrooms in the UK.

Here’s just an example of one of the more eye-catching short-listed finalists:

The Smarties Loo of the Year Award (??)


J D Wetherspoon’s The Cribbar pub in Newquay, Cornwall
(Unsurprisingly, this pub has a food hygiene rating of 5-stars)

Since its inception in 1987 and promoted by the British Toilet Association, the competition aims to endorse the highest standards in public lavatories.

This year’s contest featured 60 different categories, including an award for the best eco-friendly loo, school toilet and shopping centre washroom.

It’s not all about the lavatories though ― the awards also honoured the UK’s toilet attendant of the year.

Here’s another eye-catching short-listed finalist:

Beep-beep! The Road Runner Loo of the Year Award (??)


Asda Supermarket at Waterlooville, Hampshire

Waterlooville, eh? Ho, ho, ho!

Tell you what, if I were the landlord of The Jolly Sailor or Ye Olde Fisherman’s Arms ― or indeed any of the other half-a-dozen or so pubs in a place called Looe (pronounced Loo) in Cornwall ― I would give the contest serious thought.

The media would go overboard with the tale of the Loo of the Year being awarded to a pub in Looe.

Incidentally, the overall winner was Brighton & Hove City Council.

Awards managing director, Mike Bone, said: “For the third year running a council has deservedly won the top award. Brighton & Hove City Council places significant importance on provision of a range of public toilets that meet the needs of all types of users including Changing Places Toilets.
     “Although not all new, the toilets are cleaned and maintained to a high standard and provide much needed facilities throughout the city, vital to residents and visitors”.

Well done Brighton & Hove. I learnt very early in life that if you enter an unfamiliar pub, hotel or restaurant, and your instincts go on red alert, the very first place you visit is the toilet.

Its condition will tell you not only the condition of the kitchens, the bedrooms and everything else, but also the state of mind of the those who own or run the place.

It is no coincidence that when I searched out The Cribbar pub with the Smarties toilet, above, I noted its high food hygiene rating. All these things go hand in hand, if you’ll pardon the expression.

Incidentally, who’d have thought that a tale and pictures about toilets would more than earn its place on the daily smileometer roll call.
 


Thursday, December 19th

“LISTEN – wanna see something smiley?”

Now who’d have thought that something as simple as the deployment of “quotation marks”, as regularly spotted along our stroll through time, could be quite so entertaining.

For example, take this gloriously witty example:


Yep, along another of those regular visits to that foreign country we call Internet ― remember, they do things differently there ― I happened upon an avalanche of extravagant quotation marks...

 


Marvellous. Why I should be smiling quite so much I’m unsure. I mean, given how much nonsense I scribble away here on Look You, there are bound to be some examples of inverted commas that have climbed in over the fence.

Be all that as it may, here’s a particularly tasty brace of high-flying examples that fell victim to my pot-shot 12-bore shotgun...

   


But what does it say between those eye-catching quotation marks on the shoulders of the girl?
                                                                                                                    “Can you see what it is yet?”?
Say nuthin’ is best. It could be Rolf hiding in there.
 

Wednesday, December 18th

A LETTER in The Daily Telegraph:

Let’s talk turkey

SIR – As a young housewife in Oldham in the Sixties, I once bought a one-legged Christmas turkey. This was great value, as it was half price, the ratio of breast to leg meat was much better than on a fully-limbed turkey and, best of all, it caused much merriment at the Christmas dinner table.
Sheila Taylor, Cardigan, West Wales


Personally, I’m a leg man. I have a preference for the darker meat.

Anyway, I share with you the above missive because it prompted this online response:

Geniusloci: Sheila Taylor’s one-legged turkey reminds me of the story about the King’s cook, who, having lovingly roasted a succulent stork for His Majesty’s supper, couldn’t resist tearing off a leg and gobbling it down. The King of course noticed this when the stork was served and angrily called for the cook to explain.

“Why, storks only have one leg, Your Majesty,” he protested. “Come to the lake in the morning, and I will show you!

Next day at the lake, a number of storks stood in their characteristic pose in the water. “As I told you,” said the cook. “Just one leg each.”

“Nonsense!” cried the King. “Watch when I clap my hands.” He did so and the startled storks flew up, their legs dangling. “You see? Two legs!

“Ah, yes,” replied the cook. “But last night Your Majesty did not clap his hands.”

Incidentally, if you’re wondering what a stork tastes like ― well, it tastes much like swan.

Staying with the Telegraph:

Swallowing needles

SIR – I doubt that even the most committed vegan or adventurous cook needs the warning attached to my Tesco Nordman Fir Christmas tree: “Not fit for human consumption.”
     What kind of human does Tesco think needs this curious advice?
A G Whitehead, St Leonard’s on Sea, East Sussex


Indeed.

However, not so fast, A G Whitehead...

SIR – Tesco’s advice against consumption of its Christmas tree is less curious than it seems. Many parts of a natural fir tree are edible. The needles are full of vitamins A and C and make a flavoursome tea or, with honey and lemon, a nutritious syrup.
     I expect it is the use of pesticide on commercial trees that makes them unfit for culinary use.
Peter Saunders, Salisbury, Wiltshire


Every day a day at school.

Sticking with Christmas and it’s significance in the great scheme of things:

Cometh the hour...

If Jesus was born in Britain 2013 it would not be in a stable but in a shed in the Yorkshire Dales ― and the Magi, the Three Wise Men, would bring him not gold, frankincense and myrrh but socks from Marks & Sparks, a cuddly bear from John Lewis and a chocolate orange from Terry’s of York.

These were the findings of a Christmas survey of 1,000 people conducted by the Bible Society.

When asked ‘Where would Jesus be born today?’, nearly one-third thought it would be in the Yorkshire Dales.

Meanwhile, the most popular choice for a Wise Man was Professor Brian Cox, 45.

The poll, carried out for Bible Society by One Poll, found London to be the second most popular location for Jesus’ birth (23%). Swindon came last with only two per cent of people believing he would be born there.

People were then questioned about what kind of place Jesus would be born in today. One-third (31%) chose a garden shed and 17% chose a Premier Inn/Travelodge. The least popular venue was a bus stop ― which came just below the Hilton.

As for the choice of the three kings, physicist Professor Cox ― a noted atheist ― topped the poll with one-third of people saying they would choose him as a Wise Man; followed by Sir Trevor Macdonald (16%). The Chancellor, George Osborne, came last, with just 2.5%. Joey Essex (3%) and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (8%) were also near the bottom of the list.

From manger to Magi

The survey was mentioned on Vanessa Feltz’ wireless show ― I liked the suggestion, compliments of Lyn, that he would be born in a stable at Buckingham Palace and the Magi would be Princes Charles, William and George and the gifts would be a computer, a mobile and an iPad.

Very good.

But the bit that tickled me with the above survey was Brian Cox as the wisest of the wise. Do you suppose that people confuse intelligence with wisdom?

I mentioned my definition of inherent wisdom the other day following that infamous Obama/Cameron/Thingy selfie i.e. the ability to spot or sense the ambush before entering the pass; indeed, after good health, wisdom has to be the most treasured gift of all.

Now Brian Cox is a very clever boy ― that is beyond dispute ― but is he a wise owl? I have no idea.

I did think of David Attenborough as a Wise Man, but quickly realized that the Jesus birth in a shed in the Yorkshire Dales would have happened under controlled conditions in a television studio in Bristol. Boo, hiss!

So who would my Magi be? Or more correctly, Magiannes (the Three Wise Women)?

Well, Mary Berry (with a wooded butter pat as an essential gift to the other Mary ― she recently said she punished her misbehaving young children with a quick sharp slap across the legs with such a kitchen utensil).

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is next (bearing not a present but a presence, essential for a person destined to be never out of the public eye).

And finally Vanessa Feltz (if her early-morning wireless show is anything to go by, she would make a glorious godmother, and that’s as good a gift as you could ever wish for).

So, here’s to a Very Wise Christmas.
 

Tuesday, December 17th

MORE absolute proof that, yes, it is possible to laugh out loud when you’re alone. At least, in my case it’s 100% true.

It’s that time of year when burglars up their game, so, early this morning, flicking through the Daily Mail:

“If a burglar came into my home in the middle of the night looking for money, I’d get up and look with him.” Julie Harris of Barry, near Cardiff, in a letter to the Mail.

Oh dear, for Ho, Ho, Ho! ― read LOL, LOL, LOL!

And I know the feeling, Julie Harris. With Xmas bells on.

Earlier, and inn keeping with things festive (no, that is not the ‘spell-cheque’ not paying attention), Vanessa Feltz, in reviewing the morning papers, alerted us to a glorious Christmassy picture of US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, posing for photographs with children dressed as elves, who are, or were, patients at the Children’s National Medical Centre in Washington.

All the children are doing what they’re supposed to be doing ― well, all except one...

If the wind changes...

...you’ll stay like that

Yes, even America boasts its own little Tommy Tuckers.

Now how entertaining is that? Even the stuffed toy adds to the photo. Exceedingly LOL ― and definitely one for the family scrapbook.

If there’s any justice in the world he’ll grow up to be President ― of something or other.

Oh, and it’s nice to see Michelle Obama back on form after that ‘we are not amused’ selfie moment out in South Africa.

House warming

Then, to round the evening off, I happened upon The Great British Bake Off  ― a television programme I would not single out as something to watch, much as I adore Mary Berry.

Well, I say “happened upon” ― I had  read this in The Sunday Times  Choice review:

Merry Berry
The Great British Bake Off
(BBC2, 8pm)

There is no Mel and Sue as this inevitable Christmas edition shows us simply Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood preparing festive bakes as snow falls outside their kitchen and a lone and rather anxious-looking turkey waddles past the window.

Otherwise it is down to business, with the preparation and assessment of Tunis cake, Scottish black bun, German favourites mincemeat streusel and stollen, a turkey-and-cranberry Boxing day pie and, finally, Mary’s gingerbread house ― so delightful you don’t so much want to eat it as live in it...

I know exactly what that reviewer means. Just look at it.

It was totally mesmerising in its design, construction and decoration.

Yes, okay, the Merry Berry house was not so much a LOL as a SOL (Smile Out Loud!).
 


Monday, December 16th

Horsing around

WANDERING and wondering along the highways and byways of this strange and foreign country we call Internet ― they do things differently there, you know ― I stopped, stared and smiled at a weird and wacky series of pictures entitled Arne Olaf’s Photoshop Hybrid Animals (crazy species bred in a genetically modified imagination).

The Norwegian student first started to create the pictures as a distraction from a hectic exam period, the result of two animal photos being morphed together.

Up there on today’s Welcome mat is a Huck ― but to be honest I would say it is more of a Sworse (it’s the big foot that sort of gives it away).

Be that as it may, he began experimenting with the pictures in 2012 and has since gained a cult online following with his pictures, which apparently take him little more than 30 minutes to create.

Suddenly, I could see why he called the above a Huck rather than a Sworse because ― well, there was this spectacular Shorse in full flight...

Don’t go in the field

That is rather wonderful.

As soon as I saw the shorse, it instantly reminded me of a recent picture I took of something in the window of Eve’s Toy Shop in Llandeilo...

Let’s make waves

I find that so eye-catchingly smiley. It was only in the window for a day or so, which came as no surprise.

Creative minds obviously adore playing around with white horses.

But what would you call it? Mermorse? Hormaid?

Incidentally, if you want to see more of Arne’s amusing creations, just pop ‘Morphed hybrid animals’ into Ivor the Search Engine, give a little whistle ― and off you go...
 


Sunday, December 15th

What is this life, if full of care...?

THIS morning, as per usual, I surface just before five, enjoy some tea, toast and honey, before toddling off to the lounge and switching on the computer. I then write up the things wot made me smile on Saturday...

I hear on the wireless that the funeral of Nelson Mandela is about to start, so I switch on the telly. Having neatly side-stepped all dedicated news and comment programmes since his death, on both radio and television ― and in the newspapers ― I decide to watch the service.

Well, I did watch Margaret Thatcher’s funeral service after mostly avoiding all the meaningless and prejudiced chatter ― both for and against the Iron Lady ― following her death. So...

It’s six o’clock ― eight in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, I think ― and the service gets under way ... 90 minutes later, and the ritual is still going strong.

A couple of things already generate a wry smile though. Throughout the service there’s a roll call of every world leader, Virgin King in a curious shirt (and other VIPs) present and correct in the big, big tent. And it’s a long, long list. How curious is that?

And then there’s BBC link David Dimbleby ― recently crowned Patron Saint of Tattoos following his old-enough-to-know-better bit of inky-poo.

This is the first time I’ve seen him since that two-legs-missing scorpion tattoo fuss ― and the moment I catch sight of him on screen, all I can see is a modern-day, silver-haired Long John Silver with Cap’n Nip, a peg-legged scorpion on his shoulder saying things like “Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!”.

And how apt that phrase was because, as the service progressed, Dimbleby points out that in the front rows of the gathering is the Mandela clan, again, all present and correct.

Dimbleby reminds us that it is widely reported that the family are furiously squabbling over the great man’s fortune. So what’s new? But for now they have declared peace and harmony and have come together to pay their respects.

Being a natural-born cynic, I guess that, come tomorrow, they’ll all be visiting their lawyers again.

I’m reminded of a recent online comment...

Antoncheckout: Socialist freedom fighters must find it so embarrassing to end up with massive personal fortunes. They refuse every bribe, inducement, gift, patronage and emolument, and avoid all capitalistic profit.
     And yet somehow by the end of their life, vast financial assets are accrued in their name, and large amounts of money in their account. Unaccountably.
     I’m sure Mandela would have gravely disapproved of that, if only he’d known. They must have kept it from him.


A little part of me wonders if Tony Blair’s family will be squabbling over his vast fortune when he shuffles off this mortal coil. Mind you, I’m sure Tone would ideally like to take all his cash with him, if only to help oil the wheels of the hereafter.

Anyway, half-seven, it’s a pleasant dawn outside, so I make my excuses and off I go on my morning walk...

Along my stroll I start thinking about the high-profile, public-figure funerals I have witnessed on television.

Reflections

The first was way back in 1965, Winston Churchill’s funeral. As a young buck about town, I was not particularly interested in watching a funeral on telly. It was a Saturday, and I’d been working that morning anyway. So I arrive home around lunchtime and the television is on.

Churchill’s funeral, wrote The Observer’s  Patrick O’Donovan, was “beautiful in the way that great works of art are beautiful. It obeyed secret and strict rules.” And as the coffin trundled past the thousands of onlookers on a gun-carriage, the reaction was not applause, but “extraordinary silence that could not be broken even by the bands and the rhythmic feet. It was a silence, not of grief but of respect.”

The Last Post was sounded, then Reveille, and the funeral service was over. The bearer party returned the coffin to the gun carriage, and to the slow march of muffled drums the procession made its way to Tower Pier for the final part of the public funeral.

And this is where I caught up with the broadcast.

“And then they come,” wrote Nigel Buxton who watched from Tower Bridge for The Weekend Telegraph, “Down the slope, over the cobbles, under the trees come the pipers, playing their lament. If the pictures are true they will show purple-grey and green and brown, and the black of the bearskins: and if the memory is kind it will let us keep this hour for the rest of our lives.”

The River Thames was at high water, the floating pontoons almost level with the banks. A 19 gun salute boomed from the Tower of London as the coffin was transferred to the Port of London Authority launch Havengore. A Royal Navy bosun piped the coffin aboard, the mooring ropes were cast off, rule Britannia was played and the cranes of Hay’s Wharf dipped in salute.

The moment was caught on camera by David Hurn who had cycled to the funeral route from his Bayswater flat and had been wandering among the crowds since 4:00am...

Hurn recalls, “I saw the cranes begin to bow without realising the significance, I’m not sure if many photographers caught it. It was a wonderful gesture.”

And that’s what I remember to this very day. Those cranes, in a line, gently lowering their jibs. We later learned that it was unplanned. A spontaneous action by the dockworkers...

Now what was it Nigel Buxton said: “...and if the memory is kind it will let us keep this hour for the rest of our lives.”

For silence read applause

My next memory is Princess Diana’s funeral. Diana’s funeral service may not have pioneered the use of applause when once silence reigned ― previously a tradition only in Italy ― but it made the practice acceptable and respectable, in front of a massive television audience.

You can identify the precise moment this was managed for the first time here in Britain, just before midday on 6 September 1997. It was six days after Princess Diana’s death, and Earl Spencer had just finished his bitter eulogy for his sister, featuring a heartfelt promise to fight so that her sons not be “immersed by duty and tradition”, but allowed to “sing openly as you planned”.

The normal response to such a speech would be a ponderous silence, but the crowds outside Westminster Abbey weren’t having it. They started to clap.

Even the abbey’s 1,000-year old oak doors were not sturdy enough to resist the noise.

“A sound like a distant shower of rain ... rolled towards us,” wrote Brian Appleyard in The Sunday Times. “Then it was inside the church. It rolled up the nave, like a great wave.”

It was, Appleyard said, “the moment at which the meaning of what was happening on this incredible day was made plain”.

After a second, those inside the church joined in. “Spontaneous applause breaks out in Westminster Abbey,” marvelled the BBC’s  commentator, Tom Fleming. “I’ve never heard that before.”

Since then, we have, perhaps, learnt to grieve more, and respect less, and to do it all at the top of our voices. The kind of grief that does its work in silence is a strictly private ritual these days: public mourning is a noisy business.

Even the funeral of as divisive a political figure as Margaret Thatcher drew a response that aimed to resonate mostly on a personal, sentimental level. “They had come, they said, not to bury a political figure or an ‘ism’, but a woman of flesh and blood,” wrote Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian.

That newspaper and The Independent both made use of the same headline: “Lying here, she is one of us”.

Then there was the Queen Mother’s funeral. What I recall of that day is the coffin being escorted by the kilted massed pipes and drums from 13 regiments. I remember thinking: now that’s how to be escorted off this mortal coil. It was astonishingly moving.

Myfi fel yr wyf – myself as I am

And then in November 2007 I witnessed perhaps the most memorable funeral service of all.

Raymond William Robert “Ray” Gravell was a Welsh rugby union centre who played club rugby for Llanelli RFC. At international level, Grav, as he became known, earned 23 caps for Wales and was selected for the 1980 British Lions tour to South Africa

In his later career he would become an occasional actor and a respected broadcaster (in both English and Welsh). Grav was also a member of the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards, an honour bestowed on him for his contribution to the Welsh language.

He was a man of the people in so many ways.

In 2000 he was diagnosed with diabetes. Ill-health plagued his later years. On 18 April 2007, it was announced that he had been readmitted to hospital following an operation to amputate two toes as a result of a diabetes-related infection, and his right leg was amputated below the knee

Just six months after the operation and 35 years to the day after Llanelli's famous win over the All Blacks, of which he was a key part, Grav died of a heart attack, aged just 56

A public funeral was held at Stradey Park rugby ground on 15 November 2007, attended by up to ten thousand mourners from all over Wales, and televised live. Grav’s flag-draped coffin was carried on to the field by six Llanelli players, past and present, and placed on a red carpet as the ceremony was conducted.

It was a perfectly still, late-autumnal afternoon, a cloudless sky...

Mr Blue Sky takes flight

Grav: a man never once caught off-side

What I vividly remember watching ― and perfectly captured in the above photo ― was the shadow of the slowly setting sun creeping irrevocably towards and slowly engulfing the coffin during the service. A light had gone out. It was poignant in the extreme.

It seemed perfectly appropriate. Ray Gravell was a Welsh hero in the proper sense. He was a great rugby centre, a tough, no nonsense style of player. He then became a popular media figure, competent in both Welsh and English.

Ray was one of these rare people who never had a bad word for anyone ― and the feeling was reciprocated by all who knew him. He was a dolphin, a pussycat, a sparrow, a red squirrel ― all rolled into one ― a lay-by of a man you always wanted to pull in and stop for a chat.

And I’m delighted to say that I shared many a lay-by moment with him.

It is true to say that Britain does State funerals like no other, but as far as I’m aware no one has ever done a ‘state’ funeral for the common man before, certainly not on these islands, so Ray Gravell’s funeral service was an unforgettable step into the unknown.

Finally

I return from my walk around half-nine. Out of curiosity I turn on the telly ― and the funeral service is still in full flow.

An hour later again ― and Mandela is finally laid to rest...


I am left with a rather unsettling thought. Whilst Nelson Mandela served his people and his country with distinction, and deserved his rousing send off, something deep inside me suggests that in the medium to long term, South Africa may well end up ruled by a military regime.

I really do hope that I am wrong.
 


Saturday, December 14th

Liver and Let Die

“THE name’s Bond, James Bond. And I’m an alcoholic.” Researchers insist 007’s drinking would make him a let-down in bed. He consumed 92 units a week ― more than four times the recommended limit ― while serving both his country and a never-ending parade of pretty girls, putting him at risk of liver disease and impotence.

I notice they mention nothing about all that drinking and driving and obviously being endlessly breathalysed ― never mind killing himself in a drink-related road accident!

Be all that as it may...

Bond: “How does one get into those pants, Pussy?”


Pussy Galore:  “You can start, James, by getting me
a large G&T ― oh, and a mineral water for yourself.”

Nah, it’d never work.

And anyway, drink makes women look much more attractive to us men. What was it Old Shaggy once told me? “Last night I went to bed with a dead ringer for Marilyn Monroe ― when I awoke this morning, with a reasonably clear head, she had morphed into Dame Edna Everage.”

Whatever, the most negative aspect of this story about 007 and his drinking is that there are those who say that Bond only exists in fiction, so it doesn’t matter anyway. God, that’s all I need, more conspiracy theorists.

Mind you, that clever joke up there ― I know, an old one, but dead funny though ― would work better if he said it to Honor Blackman as Emma Peel of Avengers fame...

Yes indeed.

Talking of overdoing things, this spotted in the Letters page of The Daily Telegraph:

Mark Twain treatment

SIR – On Monday I received a letter from an insurance company, addressed to the executors of my estate, which said I had died in late November.
     How should I react?
Peter Hallam, Cold Christmas, Hertfordshire

That’s the spirit

SIR – Mr Peter Hallam asked how he should react.
     I think he should haunt them.
Philip E Robinson, Ashby, Lincolnshire


To go back to the original letter: Cold Christmas? Is that place for real? So out of the shed comes Ivor the Search Engine...

Cold Christmas is indeed a hamlet in the county of Hertfordshire. It is about three miles from the town of Ware and the larger town of Hertford. (Just north of Old London Town, to enlighten those in faraway places with strange sounding names.)

Nearby villages include Wareside, Thundridge and Barwick.

Shame that the villages close to Cold Christmas are not called Chilcote, Frosterley and Snowshill. And yes, those are English villages.

Oh, a couple of online comments apropos what Peter Hallam should do next:

Oldgit: Peter Hallam, take the money and run.

Grizzly: I’d snatch their hands off and move somewhere warmer.

Personally, I think Peter should write a (hopefully) humorous letter, headed c/o Reception @ The Pearly Gates Hotel, and confirm that he is awaiting a decision as to whether he will be relocated upstairs (he should briefly detail what he has been most proud of in his life), or downstairs (light-heartedly list what made him blush along his walk through time).

He should then address it for the private and personal attention of the CEO of said insurance company.

Then sit back and wait ... my experience of writing such letters to senior people in organisations that are messing me about is that those individuals will personally get in touch, apologise ― and always add that they’re pleased I’ve approached the problem with some humour.

But more importantly, I’ve never known problems not to be sorted out there and then.

Headline spotted online:

                               Dirty Doctors’ GP practice had maggots---

Do you suppose there were also pees and shits?

No, hang about, I was thinking faggots, peas and chips. (Sorry, my juvenile streak will out.)

Incidentally, there was a neat MATT  cartoon, of a couple walking past a notice board outside a paper shop, displaying the headline ‘Maggots in GP surgery’, and the man says to his lady companion:
                                                          
“I don’t know how they got past the receptionist.”

Sticking with things medical, another letter from a little while back:

Italian lesson for NHS

SIR – While on holiday in Italy, my partner fell ill. He was taken to hospital in Penne, where he was given first-class medical treatment.
     We noticed that Italian families looked after their ill relations, which freed the nursing staff to do other jobs. Of the three men sharing my partner’s room, one man’s housekeeper looked after all his needs all day; another’s wife and son took turns sleeping on a truckle bed by his side; and the third man’s family brought in all his food, staying to feed and care for him.
     After five days, my partner was discharged with a six-page report (in Italian, on the results of the tests, etc) and we flew home. On receiving the report, our GP’s manager said she had no funds to cover the translation (though if I had needed an interpreter, funds were available).
     We had the translation done ourselves, presented it to the manager, and heard not another word from the doctor. We changed doctor.
Letitia Sykes, Rainham, Essex

As always, the Comments section took off at a tangent:

Peddytheviking: I am curious to know whether, if Letitia had cared for and fed her partner according to the motto “When in Rome”, the report would have been only one page long.

Percyvere: I don’t want to distract from the point of Letitia Sykes’ letter but I am curious to know whether her partner is her boyfriend or husband or whether they are in business together.

Grizzly: In the address book on my computer, I have removed all references to: husband / wife / partner / spouse / significant other etc., and replaced them all with ‘sidekick’. It covers all contingencies and does not grate in the way that ‘partner’ does.

Zaharadelasierra: “Howdy pardner!” Doesn't seem that bad to me, Grizz. And someone I know would introduce his partner as his concubine! And why do they refer to the bastards as “kids”? I thought that was only the prerogative of Billy Goats.

Grizzly: Surely the Audi Pardner  is a large 4-wheel drive vehicle.

Mogulfield: Does not “sidekick” imply a junior status? I would certainly get my side kicked if I referred to my good lady wife that way!

Thatlldo: Try ‘cohort’.

Ladyofthelake: That smacks of something rather shady.

Thatlldo: Yes, smacking and spanking, bondage ― like all of that...

Hello, we’re back with Mr Bond the Boozer and his birds, again. (But did Thatlldo in that final post mean “[and things] like all of that”, or “[I really] like all of that”?)

Spell-cheque corner:
‘Everage’, as in Dame Edna, came up as ‘Average’ ― which the good Dame certainly aint; ‘pardner’ as in ‘Howdy pardner’, came up as ‘pardoner’, which is rather good.
 


Friday, December 13th
Sign Language

Aussie rules: spotted Down Under by George Topfner

Finger or fudge

THE Telegraph  newspaper’s Sign Language gallery ― endless helpings of amusing and confusing signs spotted by its readers on their travels both at home and abroad ― is one of my favourite ports of call.

And as is my wont, I am always looking to juxtapose silly signs, which hopefully then adds to their smileometer ho, ho, ho-ness.

However, I have always felt that I needed a signature sign to introduce this extra-smiley corner of my diary cum scrapbook.

Lo and behold, just the other day the one at the top, spotted in Castlemaine, Australia ― where else? ― turned up. Now how delightfully doolally is that? Mind you, I would like to know the story behind it.

And talking of a story behind something ― well, something happened this week which threw the whole world of sign language into confusion. Let’s allow Tim Stanley of The Daily Telegraph  to take up the reins with an amusing piece:

The delight of a good hoax is in getting away with it

The impostor who faked sign language at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service deserves an award

[WARMING! PLEDGE TO KNOT REED THUS SINGER]

The fake interpreter, with his security pass, stood next to world leaders as they
addressed the crowd in the 95,000-seat Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg
,
gesticulate
d pure gibberish, which was televised across the globe

Time  magazine has chosen Pope Francis as its Person of the Year, but I’d like to nominate someone else, writes Tim Stanley. That guy who stood next to Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service and spoke gibberish in sign language. Bravo, sir!

Surely there has never been a bigger, better, gutsier display of chutzpah in history? At least not since Gordon Brown said he’d saved the world.

[Yes Tim, but unlike Flash Gordon, Gordon Brown had more than 14 hours to save the world ― and he never told Tony Blair that he loved him. But I digress ― let’s jump to the tail-end of Tim’s piece...]

And the other joy of a good prank is that it undermines the superciliousness of the rich and powerful. Of course, there are some occasions and professions where snobbery is permitted and you don’t want a random member of the public “having a go” for a laugh (flying a plane or performing heart surgery).

But when a group of politicians are standing around doing their best to look incredibly serious, it’s light relief to see their pretensions undermined by a good spoofing. I like to imagine that the sign language for Obama’s big speech read something like: “To release the parachute, pull the red cord.”

There is one final possible explanation for what happened. He was a sign language professional, just a really cheap and bad one. Is it possible to be a dyslexic signer? In which case, the curse of equal opportunities has struck yet again.

A dyslexic signer! That made my day.

Anyway, I had a look through the Sign Language  gallery for something that best sits alongside our dyslexic signer ― and as always, China obliges, with a smile on its face.

What I like about this ― well, it starts off reasonably okay, at least as well as you’d expect a Briton to translate English into Chinese ― but then the translator clearly seems to say: “Bollocks to all this for a bowl of rice...”

Sit and stare and smile and enjoy:

“Come into being the great 'scenery' with the special feature”

Spotted in China by Thomas McCleave

What I want to know is this: how did Dai get in there? Dai Version, of Crazy Horsepower Saloon fame, that is. Honestly, Dai gets everywhere. If he’s confronted by a ‘NO ENTRY’ sign, Dai takes it as a personal invitation to ‘Come in, come in’. And what is all that business with the ‘amorous feeling or Dai’?

Anyway, isn’t that translation truly wonderful? It is quite poetic in its own little way.

But is it a spoof?
 


 

Thursday, December 12th
Spring chicken


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Why Joan loved to turn over in bed

Fifty Shades of Grey not do it for you? Why not try Passion for Life, the latest autobiography by Joan Collins. The actress, who turned 80 back in the spring, reveals that she used to watch TV while she and her first husband made love. Remember that everything was very slow in those days, and you had to wait for the valves to warm up. Television sets were even worse.

 

Behind the Times

Today I got round to finishing last weekend’s Sunday Times ― and I spotted the above under People of the week.

As I was leafing through the paper, in the background there was a discussion on Radio Wales  about comedy in general and pantomime in particular. The comment was made that we don’t laugh out loud when we’re alone ― that’s why we enjoy the company of others to let it all out.

Well, when I got to the end of the above piece about Joan ― I did  laugh out loud. I really did. You can’t beat a surprising twist in the tail, especially a witty one. Oh yes, I was definitely alone. (Mind you, with my rampant imagination, I never am really alone.)

And my goodness me Joan Collins, you really have worn well. Still a spring chicken at 80, I’d say. At least in mind.

For some reason, the tale of Joan reading Humpty Dumpty while partaking in rumpy-pumpy reminded me of an online discussion I was following earlier about the pure pleasure of listening to music (especially during hanky-panky, I’d have thought). I enjoyed this post...

Toots: During a rehearsal, conductor Sir Thomas Beecham thought that his female soloist was playing less than adequately on her fine Italian cello. He stopped the orchestra and declared: “Madam, you have between your legs an instrument capable of giving pleasure to thousands, and all you can do is scratch it!

A game keeper

Talking of Fifty Shades of Grey, as we were up there, it brings to mind a recent visit to Tesco at nearby Ammanford. Arriving at the checkout, there sat a middle-aged lady. As she scanned the items we exchanged some pleasantries and small-talk.

I duly paid my dues ― and out churned a whole raft of paper: the itemised receipt ... £5 off when I next spend £40 or more ... £20 off if I spend £100 or more on electricals ... today you saved £10.53 ... there was no end to it. “Goodness,” I said to the Tesco lady, while gathering up said print-outs, “I feel as if I’m about to tackle War and Peace.”

“Don’t talk to me,” she smiled, “I have no idea what all that stuff is about.”

Waiting next in the queue was a well-dressed, elegant-looking, middle-age-plus lady, who was clearly listening to the exchanges. “If it’s anything like War and Peace,” she said, “you’ll find it hard going.”

“I don’t know why I’m talking about War and Peace,” I said to her, “I haven’t even got round to reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover yet.”

And the classy lady, without any hint of a smile, said: “If I were you I’d put Lady Chatterley at the very top of your must-read list.” And she then sort of half-smiled.

Then I was away. Isn’t it wonderful how a brief exchange with a complete stranger can stick long in the memory. Hm, perhaps I really should get around to reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Be all that as it may, this is the story I liked though, something that actually happened yesterday:
 

At least they won’t forget their anniversary!
Couple wed on 11/12/13 @ 14:15hrs

Philip Broughton and Fiona Wiltshire from Newton Moss were convinced by their best man, Ian Hulme, to pick the date and time to set up a unique numerical progression on their special day. And the occasion went without a hitch, despite some initial reservations from the registrar.

Groom Philip, 60, said: “When we tried to book for quarter past we were told we had to choose 2pm or 2.30pm. So we went for 2.30 and planned to turn up early.”

And happy to report that the lady registrar went along with their cunning plan.

Someone suggested they could have married at 09:10 on 11/12/13 ― but I doubt if the registrar would have been available that early in the morning anyway.

A smiley little story though. And as a bonus the happy couple’s photo has been all over the shop, she looking very much like Mummy Christmas. And why not?

PS: Oh yes, this online comment made me smile, compliments of Cooking with Pooh, UK: If they go to the USA, given how they do their dates, they can divorce on 12/13/14 @ 15:16.
 


11/12/13
(a perfect date for a public hanging)

Three vacancies - send ‘selfie’ now!


LAST night there was a proper doolally-style story trending on Twitter. This morning’s newspapers ― print and online ― reflected the same tale, which revolved around one extraordinary headline and picture:

Twitter fury over Dave’s selfie with Obama and a flirty Dane: Backlash over leaders’
picture at Mandela memorial service that left Michelle VERY unamused

A Thorning between two political rosettes

Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama have faced a global outpouring of criticism after they posed for a ‘selfie’ photograph with Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg yesterday.

Ms Thorning-Schmidt, whose father-in-law is former Labour leader Neil Kinnock [D’oh!], could be seen pulling Mr Cameron into the frame and then examining the picture afterwards.

The image of the US president, British Prime Minister and Danish leader ― who is married to Neil Kinnock’s son, Stephen [Double D’oh!!], who did not appear to be at the event [nudge-nudge, wink-wink, what a gay day?] ― taking the photo which quickly went viral on the internet.

It seems that Mrs Obama was so unimpressed with her husband’s behaviour that she swapped seats with her husband to separate him from Thorning-Schmidt.

Glory be, hallelujah, you’ve just gotta smile.

Court jesters abound

Last Saturday, I smiled at the performance of FA chairman Greg Dyke out in Brazil during the World Cup draw ― remember these images?

Yep, Dyke made his feelings dramatically clear about the ‘group of death’ England found itself in ― with a throat-cutting gesture, as if to say ‘we’re already dead’, and all on the world stage. Inset, above, is of course the England team manager, who was sitting next to Dyke.

To be honest, I felt a bit sorry for Hodgson ― until I read Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times:

Think it’s all over? If only

With a World Cup, it is always crucial to get the local population on your side. So the statement from the England manager, Roy Hodgson [prior to the draw] that Manaus was definitely the one place “to be avoided” left him a hostage to fortune.

England were subsequently drawn to kick off their campaign in, er, Manaus, with its clamorous mosquitoes and damp, searing heat. The mayor of Manaus has already told Roy and The Lads that England will not be welcome. Well done, Roy.

But we shouldn’t worry unduly; England have been drawn in the same group as Uruguay and Italy, so qualification to the horrible final stages is, mercifully, about as likely as Wayne Rooney winning the Nobel prize in physics, or even scoring against the supposed group underdogs, Costa Rica.

Listen ― I’d get the hell out of England next June. Go somewhere they hate football, or are just no good at it. Tahiti, say, or Scotland.

Very amusing, Rod. But here’s my take on what I’ve smiled at today:

Look at selfie in mirror

So first we have Roy Hodgson with his declaration that Manaus was a place “to be avoided” ― talk about being a hostage to Sod’s Law; oh my, how the Gods just love that sort of trash talk ― and then the mayor of Manaus apparently hides the “Welcome” mat.

Next, Greg Dyke, reportedly paid £150,000 for a two-day week, does the throat-slitting thingy ― as I previously said, fine down the pub, but not on national television; in future, whenever England play Germany or Brazil or get involved in a penalty shoot-out with anyone, that picture will be dragged kicking and screaming out of the archive.

Finally, we have the Obama/Cameron/Thorning-Schmidt selfie. The world is in a mess because our movers and shakers (and passers of ball) possess no inherent wisdom i.e. the ability to spot or sense the ambush before entering the pass.

The smoke signals rising above the pass are usually a dead giveaway, even to the stupid.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘selfie’, came up as ‘shellfire’ ― no, I cant tell a lie, ‘shellfire’ was the computers second alternative suggestion, the first being ‘sheltie’, which itself was rather sweet ― but nowhere near as good as ‘shellfire’. Just ask the Obama/Cameron/Thorning-Schmidt triumvirate.

Oh yes, ‘Thorning’, came up as ‘Horning’ ― which obviously rhymes with ‘flirting’. But I’m sayin’ nuthin’.
 


Tuesday, December 10th

Believe nothing you hear ...
... and only half what you see


YES, it’s a favourite line of mine. It would seem to have been penned especially for this deliciously doolally world of ours.

And here, today, is the literal truth. Believe it or don’t, but the above two blocks are actually the SAME shade of grey. (Just slip your finger over the join.)

It’s hard to comprehend but, even though our eyes tell us that one block is darker than the other, we shouldn’t believe them. The two blocks are, in fact, the same shade and only appear different due to the effect of the darker and lighter shading across the middle.

As you place one finger along the centre, blocking the darker and lighter parts, your eyes and brain will adjust to tell the truth. 

This illusion was documented by experimental psychologist Tom Cornsweet back in the 1960s, hence its name: the Cornsweet illusion.

Hm, so it’s nothing new then ― but today is the first time I have come across it.

So how does the Cornsweet illusion work?

Tom Cornsweet, who is best known for his work in visual perception, noted that humans perceive colour and shade of 3D images in a certain way depending on the way the item is lit and the way shadows fall.

If the light is falling from the upper left and the two blocks appear tilted away from us, then we see the upper block as lit and the lower block in shadow, due to the light source coming from the upper left of the image. 

Combined with the contrasting shading in between the two blocks, our brain interprets the top block as dark and the bottom one as light. We perceive this because that’s  what our brains expect due to the other elements surrounding the grey.


As always, the Comment section of the article was rather good...

Wastintime of Cincinnati: My mama taught me not to see color, and all blocks are created equal.

Andy M of Middlesbrough: Not the first time I’ve held a finger up to a Daily Mail article.

Predictably, Andy M drew some complimentary comments following his witty response.

Ivan435: I can distinguish up to 50 shades of grey.

Ah yes, every day a day at school.

PS: Santa Claus is coming...

...hopefully, the reindeer and the elf are not getting fat

Pinch point

Will there be a Christmas at all this year, what with Santa Claus scheduled to appear in court on Christmas Eve? How will those presents get delivered?

Herbert Jones, a Santa Claus at a shopping centre in America, is up before the law, accused of interfering with an elf. Apparently the elf walked past and Santa pinched its bum and made an approving remark about the elf’s appearance. This is according to the elf, you understand ― we haven’t heard Santa’s side of it yet.

Herbert is 62 year old and the elf in question is 18 and female. Elves are notoriously fractious and especially bad-tempered about this kind of thing.

Santa now has a restraining order banning him from frequenting places where elves congregate, such as grottos, until his case is heard.

(Story compliments of Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times)

I don’t spy with my little eye ... something beginning with I...

Never mind pinching a bum, I feel like kicking ass, in particular the backsides of those astronomers who told us to prepare ourselves for a glorious coming, or rather a glorious comet, zooming across the sky this December. We would even be able to see it in the daytime.

Indeed, could we be seeing a repeat of something that happened c2,000 years ago?

Now if the experts had been astrologists rather than astronomers ― well, nobody would have taken a blind bit of notice. Wed have just pinched the bum of a passing elf-and-safety worker and got on with it.

Anyway, Comet Ison then took a trip around the sun ― and that’s the last we saw of it.

Whatever, I enjoyed this letter in The Times:

Plunging comets

Sir, May I suggest that Comet Ison be renamed Comet Icarus, as a warning and reminder to astronomers not to raise our expectations too highly for future events in the night sky?
ANTHONY WARREN, Cambridge


Indeed, Anthony Warren ― believe nothing you hear and only half what you see. Especially around Christmas time.
 


Monday, December 9th
NFL (American Football): The snow must go on
(♫♫♫: Everywhere you go always take the weather with you)

 

Whiteout, man: Philadelphia Eagles’ Riley Cooper, left, grabs a different kind of
snowball as he pulls in a two-point conversion against the Detroit Lions

I HAVE never lost my childhood love of snow. Also, I am a fan of American Football, the gridiron game. Given the late starts, if watching here in the UK that is, I mostly catch up with the extended highlights the day after on either Sky or Eurosport.

However, on a Sunday evening there’s a live game that kicks off at 6:00pm, our time. Last night it was the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Detroit Lions.

Excepting electrical storms, hurricanes and total whiteouts, the weather does not stand in the way of the NFL: rain, mud, wind, snow, freezing conditions ― the show must go on. Which is quite a feat when you realise the sort of weather they experience across the mid and north-eastern states at this time of year.

In fact, the only recent game I recall being postponed was back in 2011: with Hurricane Irene churning toward Gotham City, the New York Giants’ game against the Jets was rescheduled a day later.

Historically there have been other postponed games, but they are rare.

So last night, the Eagles-Lions game starts ― I have never seen such snow at a sporting event. They’ll never play in this, I thought, for it was as near a whiteout as you can get. But play they did ― see that astonishing picture at the top.

The touch/grid lines were continually kept clean by an army of workers and their snowblowers, so at least everyone knew where they were. More or less.

There was 6-8 inches of snow across the stadium. The intensity of snow did ease in the second half. But most astonishing of all, it was an unbelievably exciting game, helped by weather-relater errors one has to say. Top quality entertainment though, bearing in mind those conditions. The Eagles won 34-20.

Can you imagine that sort of thing happening in this country? Never mind the players, just look at the state of the stadium...


Fans patiently await the match between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Detroit Lions

Health and safety would have stopped it ― and that’s just to protect the spectators.

NFL games across the USA continued, despite heavy snow in some areas of the east coast. This is sport as it should be played. A battle against both the opposition and Mother Nature.

Next, how two events at different ends of the emotional scale are linked by three little words:

Nelson Mandela: the long goodbye

When I heard the news of Nelson Mandela’s death, I decided there and then that I would avoid all radio and television news content programmes. Similarly news and comment pages in the press, whether in print or online.

No disrespect to Mr Mandela, but I knew from experience that I wouldn’t hear anything that I didn’t already know. It would be absolute overkill by the media. Indeed it appears to have been precisely that. With bells on.

Just watching and listening from the sidelines, I felt like throwing the media a lifebelt to stop itself drowning.

I did exactly the same when Margaret Thatcher died. But I did watch her funeral service. As I probably will Mandela’s.

However, on the Telegraph  home page I did spot this headline link:

Telegraph View: Mandela was a man who ‘made the weather’, to use Churchill’s phrase---

I didn’t click, but I was intrigued by that quote. So I reverse Ivor the Search Engine  out of the shed...

Curiously, I couldn’t find any Churchill quote including those ‘made the weather’ words. But I did find this:

“It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal.
    “In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German writer and politician.

Beautiful quote. Never heard it before. And so true. We do indeed make our own weather.

And how could I not include this song on my Jukebox:

     Weather With You  (“Everywhere you go always take the weather with you”)  – Crowded House.

Who would have thought that the lyrics of this song can be traced back 200 years or so.):
                                                                                                            
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ag8XcMG1EX4
 


Sunday, December 8th

Undercover work: but would 007 and Pussy Galore
really forget to take their socks off?


A headline and intro just spotted in Mail Online---

December 2013:

Would you cheat on your husband because he wears socks during sex?
The top five reasons for women seeking affairs revealed

Wearing socks during sex and dirty talk in the bedroom are just some of the reasons that women cheat on their husbands...

As I smiled, I realised that the above claim sort of rang a bell, so I backed Ivor the Search Engine  out of the shed and whispered “Sex, socks and sandals?”

Blow me, another headline, just a hop, step and jump ago, again in Mail Online---

October 2013:

Why wearing socks in bed can cure a low libido: It’s a problem that afflicts millions.
But from poor circulation to a blocked nose, the causes of a bad
sex life can be as surprising as the cures

Surprisingly, one simple way for women to boost their libido is to pop on a pair of socks.

In a study at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, researchers found that 80 per cent of women involved were able to achieve orgasm when they were given socks to wear, compared with 50 per cent when barefooted...

Hang about, hang about ― Netherlands? Don’t they wear clogs there as well? So if you don’t get it right, lads, they do a clog dance on your dreams. And should that not be the University of Groan-ingen?

Honestly, no wonder we men don’t know whether we’re coming or going.

Best to put a sock in it.

Just to add to the confusion, today I spotted the following headline ― not just any old headline, but, coming up on the rails, a Mail Online  contender for ‘Headline of the Year’:

Is it thin yet? Japanese scientists create range of condoms
which are just one-sixth the width of human hair
!

     • Lightweight 'Sagami Originals' are 0.01mm thick

     • The thinnest western condom is 0.06mm thick

     • They cost around £7.30 and have sold out in Japan
 


A nearly Invisible Manhood for the weekend, Sir/Madam?

Japanese scientists have created what they claim to be the world’s thinnest condoms, which are one-sixth the width of a human hair.

The thickness of the rubber in the ultra-light polyurethane contraceptive tool has been measured at 0.01 millimetres, with the average width of a human hair measuring 0.06 millimetres.

The Sagami Original 0.01mm ultra-thin Polyurethane condom is Planet Earth’s thinnest, according to manufacturers...

A contraceptive tool, eh? And Sag-ami Originals? What an ironic name for a condom.

Anyway, I smiled at this online comment...

bobinky: State of the women I see on a Friday night Id rather have one the thickness of a Formula one tyre. And still put a carrier bag on top.

Would that be a wet, slick or dry tyre, ‘bobinky’?

The tale of an Oops
! Baby

I’m sure I’ve told this before ― but I post this diary cum scrapbook because I was born on the sunny side of the street. In fact, the midwife said I was smiling when I was born. And thereby hangs a tale.

There is what is now called a Golden Hour, that first hour after birth, which is one of the most important times for mammalian bonding ― a time for mother and baby to connect.

Well, shortly after my arrival, within that golden hour, the midwife noticed the clenched fist of my left hand ― which didn’t quite go with the smile on my face.

Her first reaction was that I might have some form of deformity, so she gently attempted to open my hand.

I started to giggle. And the more she tried to prise open my clenched fist, the more I giggled and chuckled and snorted.

Eventually she succeeded ― and there, in my now open hand ... a condom---

I’m not sure why, but I thought, hm, I must add one of my favourite songs to my Desert Island Video Jukebox:

     Sing for you supper – The Mamas and the Papas:
                                                                                         
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4bTCdPLDdo

Spell-cheque corner: ‘-ingen’, as in Groan-ingen (University of Groningen in the Netherlands) came up as ‘ingénue’ ― predictably I had no idea what that meant. So, ‘Every day a day at school’ spot: ‘ingénue’ ― generally a girl or young woman who is endearingly innocent and very trusting.

How sweet. Tall and tanned and young and lovely from Ipanema? Hm, perhaps not.
 


Saturday, December 7th

World Cup draw: Fernanda Lima certainly brought a bit of
glamour to the event alongside Fifa President Sepp Blatter


She makes me laugh, she makes me cry,
With a twinkle of her eye---
She flies like a bird, oh me, oh my,
I see, I sigh, now I know,
I can’t let Fernanda go…
                                                                        With apologies to Honeybus, Maggie and the 1960s

YEP, I simply have to smile again at tall and tanned and young and lovely from Ipanema. Truth to tell, I felt quite sorry for old Seep Bladder, 115 (if he’s a day), having to keep his end up alongside her.

But that wasn’t even the half of it.

It was hardly the World Cup draw that England footie fans had been hoping for. But they might have at least expected an optimistic appraisal of the team’s chances from football bosses.

Cut! Once more, from the top ― to the bottom

FA chairman Greg Dyke made his feelings dramatically clear – with a throat-cutting
gesture, as if to say ‘we’re dead’ (Ms Lima included for balance, ho, ho, ho
!)

Cut the old Dyke

To make matters worse Mr Dyke, who is believed to be paid £150,000 for a two-day week, was sitting next to the team’s manager Roy Hodgson (inset, above, photomontage compliments of Mail Online) as the draw was made.

Well, all I can say is, thank God a Greg Dyke wasn’t leading the nation during Word War II ― we wouldn’t have made it out of the pool stage. Given up without a fight.

Whilst his jokey throat-cutting gesture would be fine in private company or down the pub, it was certainly not okay on national television. Whenever in future England play Germany, or involved in a penalty shoot-out with any country ― a phase of the game England is notoriously useless at ― that photo will be dragged out and gloated over.

And these doolally people are the nation’s movers and shakers. Are they completely devoid of wisdom?

Talking of wisdom:

Words and their strange new meanings

A few days back I mentioned the radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue ― so I listened to the latest episode today on iPlayer.

One of the games played was ‘New additions to the Uxbridge English Dictionary’. Given how meanings of words are constantly changing i.e. cool is now hot ― the team were invited to give revised definitions recently spotted:

    
Apéritif – a set of dentures (that’s an old one, but still funny)

     Cherish – rather like a chair

     Pensive – something you can write with while draining the potatoes

     Dogmatic – a dog without a clutch

     Menacing – a male voice choir

     Gear – alcoholic drink for ventriloquists

     Gandhi – a bow-legged ventriloquist

     Dreadlocks – fear of canals

     Erection – Japanese method of electing a Parliament

     Gladiator – unrepentant cannibal

     Lackadaisical – a bicycle made for one...

That last one ― offered up by comedienne Victoria Wood ― really is the height of cleverness. I shall pop over to my Jukebox for a play of Daisy, Daisy.

But before I go, I thought I’d have a try at the above game, so I reached for a dictionary and opened it at random and picked out a word...

     Psychopath – the route for the 2014 Tour de France

And I opened another page...

     Schedule – much too much to drink at Christmas

     Shoemaker – the new German motor racing prodigy

     Silicate – the Duchess of Cambridge has a schedule  and lets her hair down

     Taphophile – information held by the police on a certain Welshman

Actually, I’d never heard of the word ‘taphophile’ before tonight ― it was mentioned on a comedy TV show ― it means a passion and enjoyment for cemeteries. Also known as a TT, a tombstone tourist.

Well, between you, me and the e-post, I was quite chuffed with my little effort, considering the game is something new to me.

Anyway, now for something completely different, a joke off the same comedy show, particularly apt given that the Germans nearly always beat us at football and motor racing (but not so good down and dirty in the trenches)...

     The Germans really don’t have a sense of humour, you know. For example:

     Knock-knock!
     Who’s there?
     The Gestapo---

 


Friday, December 6th

LAST Wednesday I did a feature on the London Underground and how every station has its own particular taste, apparently. Well blow me:

The day Moses came down from the mountain and went straight underground... 

‘Do not stare at beautiful women’: Paris releases 12 Commandments
 on how to behave on its Métro system

     •No more rude tube as French introduce Métro conduct code

The “manual on etiquette for the modern traveller” has been published online by the French capital’s public transport body. The manual, complete with drawings and a neat touch in humour, was compiled from a long list of suggestions from the public.

While it is important to greet the train driver and sneeze into a handkerchief, under no circumstances must you ogle the pretty girls.

Talking of which, someone should have told Fifa President Sepp Blatter about those pretty girls prior to today’s Football World Cup draw in Brazil ― we males (Tom Daley excepted) were less interested in the draw and remained glued to our televisions in awe of stunning Brazilian presenter and actress Fernanda Lima...

Wow! Talk about a presence. Tall and tanned and young and lovely…

Do you suppose Brazil has suddenly found its very own Pippa Middleton? Anyway, let’s quickly move on down below...

The 12 Métro Commandments are:

(Hm, 12, eh? Trust the French to add 20 per cent to God’s bottom line. Whatever...)

     1)  The huge sign showing a crossed out cigarette on the platform is not a work of art but there to tell you
           there is a ban on smoking.

     2)  Do offer help to tourists.

     3)  Do not have loud conversations down the phone.

     4)  Do hold the door open for the person behind you.

     5)  Do not only use your handkerchief to wave someone off on the platform ― but also to keep one’s
           germs to oneself.

     6)  Do carry an old lady’s bag up the stairs and return it to her with a smile at the top.

     7)  Do not share your music with others on the Métro, they do not want to hear it.

     8)  Do greet the driver.

     9)  Do not stare for too long at beautiful women on your carriage......

If I said you had a beautiful, er...


Yeah, right! See Fernanda Lima, above ... but what is that drawing within a drawing?

Meanwhile, back on track:

     10)  Do not start a fight with the person who just stepped on your toes by mistake.

     11)  Do keep your arms by your sides like a king penguin and hold on to the bottom of the post, not the
            very top, to avoid spreading body odour.

     12) Do not mistake the Métro for your bathroom, even if there are just as many tiles on the walls.

Very good, Métro de Paris, especially that last one. Top marks, 12/12.

However, despite Commandment No. 9, I fear I will keep on ogling that vision called Fernanda Lima.

After all that, how could I not add this live performance to my Desert Island Video Jukebox:

♫♥♫♥♫♥♫♥♫ ... Tall and tanned and young and lovely...

     The Girl from Ipanema ― Astrid Gilberto and Stan Getz:
                                                                                                     
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJkxFhFRFDA
 


Thursday, December 5th

Wedgwood blue and white 'Santa in Flight' Bauble
Christmas Decoration, £25, John Lewis

 

This, spotted in today’s Mail Online:

‘I'm sorry I broke a bauble and here is the money to pay for it’: Girl, five, sends cute
letter to John Lewis store as she confesses to breaking Christmas decoration

Oops!

The child, known only as Faith, accidentally knocked the decoration to the ground in Cambridge on Saturday ― and wrote a letter to say sorry, attaching two pound coins with some Sellotape.

Dominic Joyce, head of the John Lewis store in Cambridge, posted a picture of the letter on Twitter yesterday in a bid to thank Faith, because she did not include a return address...

One woman last night claimed on Twitter to have seen the little girl drop the bauble, @LizzieHannaford said: “I saw her drop the bauble when i was in JL for bare and hare!

The jury is out

To make sense of the episode, the Comments section of the article is an excellent place to start. When I visited the Mail’s  page, the ‘Best rated’, with 4255 clicks, was this:

Bevy78, London: Very good manners. Her parents should be proud.

The ‘worst rated’ comment, with
1954 clicks, was this:

Tim Gaynor, Burnley: What dreadful writing.

Obviously a comment delivered with tongue-firmly-in-cheek, but it drew this response:

Coffeeholic: Don’t worry, there will soon be a ‘follow-up’ article where Faith is traced (thanks to the Twitter hashtag campaign), and her parents will get their 15 mins to tell the world just how proud they are.

And here we come to yet another fork in the road of life. Is it a genuine letter? Or someone having a bit of fun? Indeed, we all appreciate how clever the people at the marketing division of John Lewis are. Hm.

And the person who saw Faith drop the bauble could be in on the joke. (I smiled at her ‘bare’ for ‘bear and hare’ ― apropos the wildly successful ‘The Bear & the Hare’ Christmas ad by John Lewis ― or was it a deliberate slip?)

It is clearly a letter written by a five-year-old ― but supervised by a parent? It’s the apostrophe in the “I’m” that’s a bit of a giveaway. But that’s okay. If the parents agreed that she write the letter and refund the store, then they sound the sort of people who would make sure the letter was properly written. I think.

There again, young Faith could be the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of the written word.

Oh yes, Faith? Faith, Hope and Charity?

Mind you, I am truly intrigued as to why Faith’s ‘Selfie’ appears to be holding a snail in the right hand, and a beetle in the left (?!).

Most of all though, I am surprised that the letter does not seem to have been folded in any way. Hm XL.

Anyway, it is coming up to Christmas and the season of goodwill ― and the whole thing made me smile, even allowing for Mail Online using the word ‘cute’ in their headline.

So you pays your money and ticks either the green or the red box.

PS: There was no indication that it was the Wedgwood bauble I feature at the top that Faith broke ― it was just an eye-catching example I spotted on the Wedgwood web site while looking for a suitable headline photo.

 

Wednesday, December 4th

♫♫♫ Overground, underground...
 

What does YOUR train station taste like? Man who ‘tastes’ words comes up with a flavour
for each of the 274 London Underground stations, from jelly and ‘wet sand’
to Spam fritters

     James Wannerton spent 49 years creating the map to raise awareness for his condition, synaesthesia

     Synaesthesia is a cross-sensory neurological disorder which causes the 54-year-old to literally taste words

     A journey on the Central Line will start off tasting of burnt bacon and slowly change to taste of cabbage
        water

À la carte essence of Old London Town, à la the Underground

Breakfast, brunch, elevenses, lunch, tea, nibbles, high tea, dinner, supper (by candlelight), After Eights...

A journey on the Bakerloo Line (ho, ho, ho) will take in Oxtail Soup (Oxford Circus), a Picnic Bar (Piccadilly), Apple Pie (Charing Cross) and a Mint Cracknel (Embankment).

“The tastes are all involuntary and cannot be ‘turned off’ or ‘toned down’,” said Mr Wannerton...

And it set me wondering ... what does Mornington Crescent taste like?

Mornington Crescent is an improvisational game featured in the long-running and hugely popular BBC Radio 4 comedy panel show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, a series which satirises complicated panel games, and currently in its 60th series. Astonishing.

The Mornington Crescent game consists of each panellist in turn announcing a landmark or street, most often a tube station on the London Underground system. The apparent aim is to be the first to arrive at, and announce, “Mornington Crescent!”, a station on the Northern Line.

Interspersed with the twists and turns is humorous and nonsensical discussion amongst the panellists and host regarding the rules and legality of each move, as well as the strategy the panellists are using.

Despite appearances, however, there are no rules to the game, and both the naming of stations and the specification of “rules” are based on stream-of-consciousness association and improvisation. Thus the game is intentionally incomprehensible.

It is all very silly ― but rather amusing.

I was intrigued to see that James Wannerton has declared Mornington Crescent ― unfortunately just off the above map, but north of Roast Lamb (Euston) ― to be Fruit Flan.

And would that be Fruit Flan with just  a whiff of bullshit in the air?

As I have mentioned previously, whenever I come across delightfully silly little stories like this, I always reverse Ivor the Search Engine out of the shed ― and off I chuff-chuff-chuff...

                                                                                                                   ...along today’s journey I came upon a couple of memorable images to do with the London Underground. Here is the first, a magically decluttered map of London’s overground menu...

Simple Simon met a pie man...

...looking for Hugh Grant?

Sadly, I do not know whose work of art it is.

And then this magical image...

For some reason it reminds me of Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s unruly hair. Marvellous. And exceedingly smiley.
 


Tuesday, December 3rd

metro.co.uk – man marries big pillow ... don’t talk!

So when the sun in bed,
Curtained with cloudy red,
Pillows his chin upon an orient wave.
                                
John Milton (1608-1674)

TRUE love can take many forms. In this case, it has taken the form of a Korean man falling in love with, and eventually marrying, a pillow with a picture of a woman on it.

Lee Jin-gyu fell for his ‘dakimakura’ ― a kind of large, huggable pillow from Japan, often with a picture of a popular anime character printed on the side.

Now the 28-year-old otaku (a Japanese term that roughly translates to somewhere between ‘obsessive’ and ‘nerd’) has wed the pillow in a special ceremony, after fitting it out with a wedding dress for the service in front of a local priest.

Their nuptials were eagerly chronicled by the local media. “He is completely obsessed with this pillow and takes it everywhere,” said one friend. “They go out to the park or the funfair where it will go on all the rides with him. Then when he goes out to eat he takes it with him and it gets its own seat and its own meal,” they added...

Back seat lover

Back on October 24, I told the tale of an American, Edward White, who was to join his Volkswagen Beetle “girlfriend” in holy matrimony.

He had previously confessed to having had “sex” with 999 cars, but was now ready to settle down with “Vanilla”, the love of his life.

It’s the wheel thing, darling

An unusual couple have just renewed their wedding vows. She’s a former pilot, and he’s Bruce the Skydiver, a fairground ride similar to a Ferris wheel.

Linda Ducharme first met “Bruce” at a carnival in 1982. “I got this weird feeling I can’t explain,” she said. “My heart was pounding as we went up the platform and got on the ride.”

Although the state of Florida doesn’t even allow same-sex marriages between humans, Linda married the steel ride last year after she rescued him from a repair yard in Kansas, where he’d been taken after storm damage.

At the beginning of this year, the two renewed their vows during a ceremony conducted by a non-denominational preacher, who tied them “flesh to steel”. As expected, Bruce had nothing to object.

Father warned me there'd be days like this

“Bruce is my world. I think about him constantly,” said Linda, who claims to have enjoyed previous relationships with a plane and a locomotive. (Complete the following sentence in one word: ‘Trains and ----- and planes’. Let’s hope Bruce is not the possessive type.)

My goal is to spend the rest of my life with him,” added Linda, “and eventually get us a piece of land where we can be by ourselves.”

The woman has a condition called “objectum sexuality”, meaning that she considers certain objects as potential lovers, or “animism”, meaning she feels reciprocation based on the belief that objects have souls, intelligence, and feelings, and are able to communicate.

In fact, before Bruce, Linda was romantically involved with a train and a helicopter, which determined her to choose jobs that allowed her to be closer to her beloved objects.

The bizarre ceremony was filmed by US channel Logo TV, following hot on the heels of a man who married a tree ― and of course the aforementioned fellow who married a pillow.

All fair enough ― as long as Linda appreciates that married life with Bruce will not be a bed of roses but will involve an awful lot of ups and downs ... ups and downs ... ups and downs...

Finally ― and in celebration of yesterday’s picture of the Labradildo carrying that “Hello big boy” phallic-a-doodle-doo thingy ― spotted this very day in the Telegraph’s 
Sign Language gallery of curious and entertaining notices spotted around the world...

A smile that fits like a glove ... Woof!


Spotted in Taipei, Taiwan by Catalina Magnusson
 

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Ducharme’, as in Linda Ducharme, the lady who is now Mrs Ferris-Wheel, came up as ‘Discharge’ ... honest, cross my heart etc, etc...
 

Monday, December 2nd

dailymail.co.uk - you lookin' at me?

The eyes have it

NOW how could you not smile at such an eye-opener of a sight? And no, there is no computer wizardry at work here. These angry looking birds are the real deal.

With distinctive white rings encircling its eyes, the silvereye looks just like one of the feathered stars of hit video game Angry Birds [I’m reliably informed].

Also known as wax-eye, or white-eye, the diminutive birds can be found in New Zealand, as well as Australia and some of the southwest Pacific Islands, including Fiji.

Silvereyes stay in pairs all year but in the winter they form big flocks, often flying at night in search of food [hence the curious eyes?].

As the breeding season approaches the pairs break away to form individual territories and the first year birds pair up. Prolific breeders ― what do you want to make those eyes at me for? ― they raise two to three broods per season, with between two to five eggs per brood.

Both adults incubate for about 11 days and the chicks fledge at about 10 days. The young are independent at three weeks and will breed at about nine months old...


There. Every day a day at school. What a perfectly smiley little lesson. Marvellous.

Meanwhile, from the cool face to the coal face, I shall now pay a
return visit to human domesticity ― and how useless we men really are. Yesterday I mentioned the nudge-nudge, wink-wink rechristened internet-user name Thatlldildo.

Well blow me...

Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Bangor

Living up to its name! Bangor named ‘randiest’ town in Britain after figures from online adult shop Lovehoney reveals it spends the most on sex toys...

From the Labradoodle to the Labradildo
(in one effortless jump)


Now available from Lovehoney – Fetch!
(the dildo that is, not the dog)

Any cockadoodle’doo

Bangor seems to be truly living up to its name after being named the ‘randiest’ place in Britain. The seaside town in Northern Ireland spends the most on spicing up the bedroom.

For most of us it is just that: a sedate little seaside town. But many of its 60,000 residents are hiding a naughty little secret behind their closed doors. 

According to figures from Lovehoney, the people of Bangor spend 6.7 times the national average on their sex lives including 10.7 times more on gifts and ten times the national average on fetish clothing for women

The research found that on average, a person spends £6.57 a year on sex-related products. But people living in Bangor are splashing out £44 each a year...

From £6.57 to £44.00? Wow. Now that is one hell of a hop, step and a jump.

In the meantime, watch out for what the dog brings in from next doors garden.

It all made me think of a song I’ve been intending to add to my Desert Island Video Jukebox: Day Trip to Bangor, one of the great sing-along songs ― I adore songs that seduce me into joining in.

Sadly, the song is about Bangor in north Wales, also a seaside town ― actually a city, one of the smallest in Britain ― but we won’t let that stand in the way of a good craic.

So here’s a link to the song ― made even better by the glorious name of, not so much the band but the lead singer, Cathy Lesurf (personal ad to Cwtch, the Western Mail’s  personal dating service: Ivor the Search Engine wishes to meet Cathy Lesurf, up some quiet siding, away from prying eyes...).

Fiddler’s Dram Day Trip to Bangor:
                                                                 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8WiPy1xSkw

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Lesurf’, as in Cathy Lesurf, came up as ‘Leisure’, which I rather liked.
 


Sunday, December 1st 2013


cybersalt.org - metrosexual man multitasks ... mamma mia!
[shame they couldn’t get Dai Beckham]

NOW that has to be one of the funniest photos I’ve seen in a while. Anyway, a couple of days back I smiled at the extravagant use of cushions, especially so in hotel bedrooms, which is, I would suggest, an exceedingly female thing.

A bit like shoes, really.

Today it’s the world of washing up, yet another ― oops, best not go there. Anyway, this from the Telegraph’s Letters/Comments page:

Dishwasher blues

SIR – A temporary change in family circumstances has caused me to take on an unfamiliar domestic role, which has thrown up hitherto unimagined situations and experiences.
     So far the most baffling is the dishwasher; a misnomer if ever there was one. Only a limited range of dishes are eligible for loading, before which they have to be rinsed by hand. The machine then churns away half the night using copious amounts of water and electricity. The end results are questionable.
     What other household surprises lie in store, I wonder?
Gerald Fisher, Kettering, Northamptonshire

Hugh Janus: My dishwasher has performed the task pretty well faultlessly for 36 years. Just occasionally it has proved to be just a little temperamental, but nothing requiring more than a minor rebuke. Baffling? Certainly, but I've got used to that because I know which side my bread is buttered.
     Yes, she’s an absolute treasure

Never mind the amusing comment, a smiley internet-user name there, Hugh Janus ... which appears to have sneaked in under the radar when no one was looking ― probably because there was no illustrated avatar included to highlight the name. There again, it could be down to my one-track mind. Allegedly.

As for this next user name, every time I spot it these days I keep thinking Thatlldildo! Whatever...)

Thatlldo: I’ve always maintained that two dishwashers are a must. Take items from the ‘clean machine’, use them, and deposit them in the ‘standby machine’, which you switch on when full. Then repeat the process in reverse ad infinitum.
You can then use your kitchen cupboards as bookshelves.

Peddytheviking: Good idea but bear in mind that your second machine is taking up what would otherwise probably be cupboard space. Better to replace the cupboards with bookshelves anyway; then you have more room to dance around the kitchen e.g. when something goes right or you scald yourself.

Ladyofthelake: I have two dishwashers ― the electric one and the bearded Welshman. The electric one is more efficient.


Hang about, hang about ... the Lady of the Lake? A bearded Welshman?

This, compliments of Wikipedia:

Llyn y Fan Fach  (Welsh meaning ‘Lake of the small beacon-hill’) is a dammed lake in the western border of the Black Mountain (Brecon Beacons National Park) in Carmarthenshire, South Wales. Near to it is found Llyn y Fan Fawr.

[All of which is just up the road from my own little square mile. If I throw a stone...]

Legend of Llyn y Fan Fach

                                                                                             A folklore legend is connected with the lake. In the tale, a local young man, son of a widow from Blaen Sawdde (near Llanddeusant) agreed to marry a beautiful girl who arose from the lake, on the condition that he would not hit her three times.

He complied easily because the girl was so beautiful, and they were happy for years, building a house in Esgair Llaethdy near Myddfai, and bringing up a family there.

The girl had very special cattle, traditionally still kept at Dinefwr, Llandeilo.

[Dinefwr is of course my  square mile, and the special cattle, White Park cattle, feature regularly hereabouts ― see 400 Smiles A Day  ― and, given the nature of this tale, here is a rather atmospheric photo I recently captured.]

A promise of magic and mystery in the mist

A White Park cow in front of Newton House at Dinefwr Park & Castle

Anyway, back with the tale of the Lady of the Lake:

Over time the man did hit his wife three times, often as gentle admonishments. Reasons for why he hits her vary, from the wife laughing at a funeral or crying at a wedding. Regardless, she returned to the lake, as per the promise, taking the handsome white cattle with her.

But the mother returned to help and instruct her children, and in particular one called Rhiwallon (in some versions Rhiwallon is the name of the young man who marries the fairy girl).

In due course Rhiwallon and the other sons went to the court of Rhys Gryg from Deheubarth  where they became famous doctors that are known today as the Physicians of Myddfai. A number of their medical formulas remain in the Welsh manuscripts.

It is probable that the ‘Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach’ was originally a Celtic goddess. Some elements in the story also relate to Welsh traditions of the fairies (or Tylwyth Teg,  in Welsh).

And all that because Ladyofthelake owns two dishwashers ― the electric one and the bearded Welshman.

Speaking as a bearded Welshman, but no Lady of the Lake to look after me, there is an electric dishwasher in situ (an artefact that has not been moved from its original place of deposition) ― and is never used.

Anyway, here’s a link to the Wikipedia  page ― with all the relevant links to the points of interest mentioned above:

                                                                                                               http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llyn_y_Fan_Fach

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Reception

You are here, way out west,
at Llandeilo

aka Llandampness
aka Dodgy City

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ST DAVID'S DAY, 2007

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