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Archive 2013: February

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Updated: 01/03/2012

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400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 19/11/2012

                                                                                        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 ...
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Thursday, February 28, 2013
A parable for our times

I PICK up the morning paper ... the first thing I notice is the front page of the Sun  newspaper ― I am overtaken by a fast-lane smile...
                                                                  ...I have no interest whatsoever in reading what some dodgy comedian gets up to in his spare time, what these days I think of as Savile Downtime ― but what does spring effortlessly to mind are the opening lines of the famous poem by Mary Howitt (1799-1888):

                                                                                             “Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
                                                                                             'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
                                                                                             The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
                                                                                             And I’ve a many curious things to shew when you are there.”

                                                                                             “Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,
                                                                                             For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”

Incidentally, are you familiar with more that the opening lines of Mary’s poem? I wasn’t ― but something made me Google it ... Wow! Mary, Mary!

As I read the poem I really couldn’t get the name Savile out of my mind. It truly is a parable for our times. It is well worth a read; there’s a link at the foot of today’s winding stair...


Whilst on the subject of front page news, this was last Tuesday’s Daily Mail, which featured a picture of Adele, celebrating her Oscar win...
                                                                                   ...so well done her, and a great singer she is, too. But I did smile at the headline: The night that Adele kissed her ‘grim past’ goodbye.

The one thing we know about Adele, apart from her marvellous voice, is that she has a pretty foul tongue. Her quotes are forever asterisked in the meeja.

Indeed I read that she is regularly warned to watch her language during awards ceremonies, which is why these days live transmissions carry a slight delay, which allows broadcasters to bleep out any comments that might cause offence. Or in modern parlance, Adele’s utterances are regularly redacted.

Now the Daily Mail  has on its Letters page a feature headed Straight to the POINT, a newspaper version of a tweet, if you like. Here’s an example from today’s paper:

“If the Duracell bunny was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, would Britain recover its AAA credit rating?”
That contribution from Nigel Swann of Milford on Sea, Hampshire.

Anyway, I couldn’t resist submitting a response to the Adele front page ― and it was published today:

“If Adele wants to kiss her ‘grim past’ goodbye, she’ll have to kiss her ‘grim vocabulary’ goodbye first.

The point I was making, of course, is that, no matter what lucrative gift nature has seen fit to bless you with, no matter what education you gain along the way, no matter how much fame and fortune is showered upon you compliments of nature’s gift, your genetic family tree will never, ever let go.

We wear our DNA on our sleeves. Or indeed on the tips of our tongues.

Anyway, The Spider And The Fly ― highly commended to the House; after all, the House of Commons is arguably the most dangerous parlour in the country. Probably. Just ahead of the BBC:


Wednesday, February 27
Gobbledygook? Probably

FOLLOWING yesterday’s picture of Captain America taking a comfort break ― or pointing Percy at the porcelain, as they say just off-piste down in the snug at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon ― along with my caption ‘But why is  George W. Bush looking as if he’s facing a firing squad?’, Chief Wise Owl reminded me of a definitive Bush image from some 10 years or so ago.

So I did a bit of Googling ... and here it is:  

George W. caught short at Gobbler’s Knob, Punxsutawney?

Actually, it’s President George W. Bush at the annual turkey pardoning event ―
just don't ask, right ― at the White House in 2001
Pic: Reuters

Curiosity killed the tomcat. Probably.

National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation  is a ceremony that takes place at the White House every year, shortly before Thanksgiving. The President is presented with a live domestic turkey, usually of the Broad Breasted White variety. (Would that be anything like a Page 3 turkey, do you suppose?)

Since 1989, during the first Thanksgiving of President George W, Bush, the president has granted the turkey a “presidential pardon”, and thus spared the bird from being slaughtered.

When I saw the above picture, for some reason or other, the first thing that came to mind was President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky ... Whatever, one of these mornings, I’m gonna wake up and find that all the doolallyness catalogued on Look You (there’s lovely) has been a terrible dream.

Meanwhile, back in dreamland...

The most meaningless quote in the world. Probably.

“If I had more money, I’d probably give it away.” Richard Gere, 63, reclusive American actor.

That quote reminded me of the old gem: “If my aunty had balls she’d probably be my uncle.”

The most stupid quote in the world. Probably.

“To put the Pope’s resignation into perspective, our own Queen is a year older than him, but she would rather streak naked in front of the grandstand at Royal Ascot than quit. It’s called duty.”
Piers Morgan, 47, former Fleet Street editor currently working as a television host in the United States.

And this fellow was a Fleet Street editor? I think, Piers, it has something to do with health. The Pope, at 85, is calling it a day due to his inability to perform duties because of failing “body and mind.” And if his appearance today at his final official audience was anything to go by, I don’t think he is telling porkies.

On the other hand, the Queen, the last time I looked anyway, at 86, appears not just in rude health, but likely to see an awful lot of us out.

As I have mentioned before, the real mega-rollover jackpot in life is good health. Period. (Definitely not “Probably”.)

Taking the high road

Remember this marvellous MATT  cartoon I featured last Saturday?

And I said this, with tongue ever so slightly in cheek: “That third cartoon ― the one for the road, so to speak ― makes me think of my annual health MOT, when the nurse asks how many units of alcohol a week I drink, and I look blank and pull a figure out of the air. I often wonder if she automatically adds 10 – 20 – 30 per cent, or whatever, to the figure.”

Well, the results have just been released of a study conducted by researchers at University College London, which show that sales of alcohol regularly exceed the amount we claim to consume ― by as much as 100 per cent.

In other words, we drink twice as much as we admit. Do you suppose the nurse down at the clinic really does double the number of units I declare. Probably.

Did you notice how “probably” crept in as my word of the day? Definitely.


Tuesday, February 26
Comic cuts and riding tandem

The Super Comic Convention 2013 is currently taking place at the Excel Centre in Old London Town.

No, not a chuckle of comedians, not even a gathering of the very best comics on the planet, as I genuinely thought when I first read the headline, but rather it’s the best Super Comic Character  Convention 2013.

Whatever, the laughs come just as fast: this is the picture that had me properly foxed ― I nearly said the picture that had me wetting myself, but you know what I mean...

Boris Johnson? No, Captain America takes a comfort break

But why is  George W. Bush looking as if he's facing a firing squad?  Pic: Rick Findler

Meanwhile, back on the Desert Island Jukebox front...

On a bicycle built for two

With Christmas music done and dusted, the next musical stage in my young life was primary school, or elementary school as it is known in North America. Yes, all those simple, sing-along songs we were taught as kids and which have remained ingrained inside our musical memory boxes ― including of course The Lord’s Prayer, as touched on the other day when I added it to my Jukebox.

I think I have mentioned this before in my dispatches, but when BBC Radio 2 did its Top 100 popular songs of the last century, Paul Gambaccini explained the surprise Number 14, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (surprise, surprise, a sudden reappearance of Xmas).

It is, I learnt, one of just a handful of songs that no matter what your background, or age, you will instantly be able to sing-along and join in. Hence its appearance at Number 14.

So I awaited arguably the second greatest sing-along song ever penned, Happy Birthday being the most sing-along song ever, obviously ...... but it never came ― for the simple reason that it was composed the century before, by Englishman Harry Dacre.

A few years ago I caught a TV news item from a junior school in London, most of the youngsters were coloured, and they were all singing Daisy, Daisy – or Daisy Bell as it is officially called. The joy on their faces was a delight.

So when I next visited the Crazy Horsepower Saloon ― a definitive cross-section of the community I might add, aged 18 to 80 ― I asked if they could sing Daisy Bell. Accompanied by much hilarity they all individually proved that they could.

My long-shots were a couple of student girls behind the bar. “Of course,” said one, while the other responded “I can sing you the naughty version!” ― which meant she knew the original.

A while later I mentioned the sing-along nature of the song to a local primary school teacher, and she confirmed that Daisy Bell is a perfect song to get children singing: the melody is just about as simple as it gets, and the words are delightfully silly ― and children love that.

Daisy, Daisy is also the first song ever sung by a computer ― again down to the simplicity of the melody, I presume; indeed, they are the last words sung by computer Hal as it is slowly disabled in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I doubt if anyone who listens to the Nat King Cole version coming up could possibly stop themselves singing along with it. It also helps that it is accompanied by a delightfully charming video.

So here is the link, before I add it to my Jukebox...


Monday, February 25
Horse meat found in Ikea mothballs

NOW I have never been to an Ikea store ― I have problems opening packages of goods bought at my local supermarket, never mind flat-packs of furniture à la Ikea ― but I did blink when I read the above headline.

Then the make-sense part of my brain caught up with the seeing-is-nearly-believing part ― it always runs a split-second in arrears ― and the headline suddenly made sense. Well, sort of:

                                                       Horse meat found in Ikea meatballs

Horse meat has been found in meatballs produced for Ikea, the world’s biggest furniture retailer. (Yes, but how come they’re selling fast-food, I found myself wondering?)

The Czech state veterinary administration found the contamination in 1kg (2.2lb) packs of frozen meatballs, which are sold in Ikea stores around the world. (Then it clicked: Ikea stores obviously have restaurants to feed the masses going flat out about their business.)

A spokesman for the institute said he did not know whether the meatballs were distributed in Britain. Ikea said they were made by a single Swedish supplier.

The inspectors took samples for DNA tests in the city of Brno from a product labelled as “beef and pork meatballs”, the statement said. A total of 760kg (1,672lb) of the meatballs were stopped from going on sale after the contamination was discovered.

The afterlife

Talk about a story taking on a life all of its own. Again, it’s not so much that horsemeat has, unbeknown to the world at large, entered the food chain, but rather that it could well be horse meat containing the veterinary anti-inflammatory drug Bute (sometimes called “you Beaut” by certain meat processors, but officially known as Phenylbutazone).

Do you suppose the famous tale about a certain horse will now have to be rewritten? Black Beaut begins life in a loving home; but his owners are forced to sell, and Black Beaut’s fortunes change. He begins a life of travel: UK, Ireland, Romania, France, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Ikea...

..it doesn’t bear thinking about.

The French agriculture ministry has also confirmed that British authorities had alerted it to six carcasses tainted with Bute, a potential carcinogen, which had been exported to France last month, and the meat had been processed.

What’s cookin’?

“How times change. We used to say ‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison’. Now it’s ‘One man’s poison is another man’s meat’.” Valerie Phillips of Neath, South Wales, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Anyway, back with the Ikea meatballs and a few online tweets and comments, which are anything but flat...

  Graham Stacey: Horsemeat found in #Ikea meatballs. There’s got to be a flat-pack gag in this, but I’ve no idea how to put it together...

Stevie Bowerman: I’m so hungry I could eat a self-assembly clothes horse.

Tom Darnell: Ikea announce the name of their new product range for Summer 2013: Nägg.

quickmeme.com: Oh Lawdy! I just had 15 Swedish meatballs. No, really, Ikea not.

Hetty Getty: Are Ikea meatballs similar to mothballs and can you hang them in the wardrobe? (Much as you hang game, I guess.)

However, my comment of the day goes to...

Frank Woodbine: Now there’s a gap in the market, perhaps DFS could step in with a range of quality beef products, all heavily discounted and pay nothing for two years

(For those in faraway places, etc, etc: DFS, formerly Direct Furnishing Supplies, is a national furniture retailer in the United Kingdom and Ireland which specialises in sofas and soft furnishings, offering “heavily discounted goods with nothing to pay for two years!”.)

Forty winks time

Meanwhile, back with my Desert Island Jukebox: okay, with a theme song and an anthem done and dusted, and the basic foundation notes inherited from my mother established, it’s time to explore the music that directly influenced what my ear is drawn to.

Well, the first independent influence on my kind of music would have to be Santa Claus, or more correctly, the glorious Christmas songs that have such a significant bearing on all of us as youngsters ― and remain with us forever more and a hemidemisemiquaver.

With Christmas itself having not long disappeared in our rear-view mirrors, it seems a bit silly to dive into Christmas music right now.

Mind you, there is something refreshing about hearing White Christmas on the hottest day of the year. There again, south of the equator, down Kangaroo way, they regularly listen to Christmas music during the warmest part of the year.

Whatever, if I am going to trace my musical influences, then I have to add at least one Christmas record right here, right now. So what better than 1:23 of Jolly Old St Nicholas by the Ray Conniff Singers.

Do you know, the Ray Conniff sound is as fresh today as it was back in the late Fifties/early Sixties, or whenever it was that this particular recording was made.

It’s a song that captures perfectly what every young child feels on Christmas Eve, peering out of the bedroom window and scanning the sky for you-know-who...


Sunday, February 24
The green, green grass of everybody’s home

CHINESE officials insist they are winning the war against the ungrammatical, misspelt and quirky ‘Chinglish’ signs scattered across the country ― which is a great shame because they are so delightfully smiley.

Officials from Shanghai’s ‘quality watchdog’ office revealed that the accuracy of English language signs in public spaces had improved 85 per cent since it took action some three years ago.

The news will dismay many English-speaking residents and visitors, who have developed a fondness for the country’s unusual signs.

As I have mentioned before, what makes them so wonderful is the child-like honesty of the translations. For example, here are three recent signs spotted in China and featured in the Telegraph’s  Sign Language picture gallery...

The grass is always greener the other side of the interpretation

Spotted by Anonymous

Spotted by Colin Goldsack


Spotted, again, by Colin Goldsack

Now c’mon, to lose such delightfully honest and heart-felt truths, awash with Confucius-style wisdom, would be something of a crime against the planet, never mind the art of sincere translation.

After all, we know precisely what each of those signs is spelling out. And it’s loud and clear. 

Saturday, February 23
Just a perfect
MATT  finish


AS Im sure you have registered, I am (along with a good few million others), a big fan of MATT, The Daily Telegraph cartoonist, so I was drawn by this Telegraph  headline...

                                                    Matt cartoons: 25 years of a gentle genius

“Wellie-juju!” was my initial reaction ― in plain English: “Well I’ll go to the foot of the Telegraph front page” ― for I really was surprised that Matt has been cartooning on the sunny side of the street for a quarter of a century.

So I read on ... in particular, I have always been fascinated by how a cartoonist goes about the day job:

There’s no cartoonist like Matt. With his sharp humour and kind touch, he expertly captures the absurdities of everyday life. No wonder our readers start the day with a smile

In the 25 years since Matt drew his first cartoon for The Daily Telegraph, Britain has been governed by five prime ministers. Nations, and hemlines, have risen and fallen. Popes, princes and politicians have come and gone. One thing alone has remained constant. Every day, there in his allotted slot on the front page, Matt has been funny...

When he started out as a cartoonist, he thought of the people who inhabited his drawings as amiable fools. He now feels he is turning into them, “like an owner turns into his dog”.

He arrives at his desk between 8am and 9am, having listened to the news, read that morning’s paper, and made a mental note of which major issues of the day might still be topical tomorrow.

He pays special attention to the paper’s letters page, and the matters that preoccupy readers: house prices; tax affairs; planning issues; food and sex. The things that men boast and complain about among themselves; that wives berate their husbands over...

By 4pm he will have finished six cartoons for consideration by the night editor. These will be whittled down to two or three, from which the editor will choose his favourite...

Wow, how about that? Six cartoons a day. Proof, if proof were needed, that wit and wisdom is not just a throwaway line.

Imagine though the joy of being able to look at all six of his cartoons, every day. The Telegraph  should show a daily gallery of near-misses: after all, one editor’s questionable sense of funny is another person’s idea of absolute hilarity.

Anyway, I had a quick look online ...  and chose three MATT  cartoons which effortlessly tickled my old funny bone...

                   Never forget a face                     Never taken for granted             Never have one for the road

That third cartoon ― the one for the road, so to speak ― makes me think of my annual health MOT, when the nurse asks how many units of alcohol a week I drink, and I look blank and pull a figure out of the air. I often wonder if they automatically add 10 – 20 – 30 per cent, or whatever, to the figure.

Dolphins and sharks, pussycat and polecats...

You know my pet theory: 60 per cent of what we are is written into our faces. Well, meet Mathew Pritchett, 48, pocket cartoonist…
                                                                        …and to underline my theory, another piece from the Telegraph  article:

What makes Matt so distinctive? His cartoons are gentle, wry, alive to the absurdities of daily life; the things we love, and the things we don’t. They are unerring in their dissection of the follies and vanities of human nature, but they are utterly devoid of venom or malice.

It is the humour of gentle mockery, cut with the delicious pang of recognition. They are often a beat ahead of you ― the joke you wish you had thought of, but know you never could.

Now be honest, doesn’t the above face fit the bill to perfection? Now for some online comments of note...

Dave Beamon: Over the years, I’ve saved a couple of dozen Matt cartoons to my PC that I thought were pure genius. Of them all, I think my favourite is the one with two Britons seeing a Viking ship arriving; the caption is: “I just hope they make an effort to fit in with our culture.”

I particularly enjoyed that because I’m sure my DNA shows a dominant Viking presence.

Nerdle: The ultra clever are often the most affable, modest and charming. They have nothing to prove.

Here’s a comment that drew a load of ‘Recommends’...

Badbella: I have my own Matt story. In early 1993, I was living in the South of France, mourning the sudden, traumatic death, two months previously, of my husband of only three years. Every day I bought the British newspapers. One Matt cartoon particularly gave me a much needed smile, involving animals and the French.
     On impulse, I wrote to Matt at the Daily Telegraph, saying how much I’d always enjoyed his cartoons and how this particular French-themed one had caused me to laugh, even in my sadness.
     A little later, I received a reply from Matt ― and at the end of the letter, he’d drawn me my very own Matt cartoon, involving a French poodle and a beret-sporting artist.
     I have never, ever forgotten this huge kindness. Matt is a wonderful person along with a brilliant cartoonist. And I still treasure the letter he sent me.

But here’s the comment that drew far and away the most ‘Recommends’, and just like Matt’s pocket cartoons, short, sweet and to the point...

Tiddly Pom: Quite possibly the best thing about The Daily Telegraph.

Definitely a perfect MATT  finish

Friday, February 22

Online comment of the day

PerfidiousAlbion: “In the TV version of RoboCop, the world was run by brute, corporate interests. One group of elderly subversives operated from a disused power station.
The motto of this group was ‘Never forget what you already know’. Words to live by.”

What a wise motto that is. Meanwhile, back on the Telegraph  Letters page...

Unforgettable name of the day

It was a letter regarding the BBC radio soap opera The Archers, in particular the Corporation’s decision to send in the bulldozers to its online message board, to presumably silence its critics (see a relevant addendum, below).

Whatever, the letter was signed by:

Liz Bangs-Jones of Brighton, East Sussex ― which drew this apposite online comment about the name:

Jamspongecustard: “Either it’s gloriously made-up or just glorious.”

Ah, the irony. Words like kettle, black, calling and pot spring effortlessly to mind. Anyway, the first thing that came to my mind was that Liz Bangs-Jones must be related to Lance-Corporal Jack Jones of Dad’s Army  fame: “They don’t like it up ‘em.” The BBC, that is.

And talking of which...

They really, really don’t like it up ‘em

The BBC has been in the news all day with the release of the evidence gathered during the inquiry into the Corporation’s decision to drop its Jimmy Savile sex abuse investigation. It was published this morning by the BBC in a bid to be ‘open and transparent’ ― but the news has been dominated by the word “redacted”, meaning that huge chunks of the report were blacked out, for example...

                                                                                                                              “Redacted”? Now do you suppose that’s a corporate word for censorship and/or secrecy? And as we know, the love of secrecy, along with the love of money, is the root of all evil.

Finally, well worth a look, when a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do:

Thursday, February 21
A journey ends ~ a journey begins

ON MY ’Things to do today’ list was this: ‘Add another disc to my Desert Island Jukebox’.  In fact, having already set the scene with a theme song and a personal anthem, today I was going to start tracing my genetic musical waltz through time.

In other words, what were the influences which defined the sort of music that touches my H-Spot, that old Hallelujah-Spot of mine?

And, surprise, surprise, here we enter the world of coincidence.

Today I attended the funeral service of Beryl, a respected member of the family clan. She died at age 83, having lived a fulfilled life, so it was a celebration of her walk through time.

Beryl was the retired Headmistress of a Llanelli School; also the previous Treasurer of her local chapel in Ponthenri, near Llanelli.

As the minister delivered the eulogy, I found myself having a quiet smile at a totally unrelated tale fondly recalled from many moons ago, told to me by a local Llandampness businessman regarding his first year in business.

The trigger was the minister in his tribute to Beryl stating that the books for the chapel were always immaculately recorded and presented, unsurprising really, given that she was a retired headmistress of the Old School, so to speak.

But what it reminded me of was this. Even though my tale goes back many years, to my Crazy Horse days, the proper names have been changed, as they say, in order to protect the guilty, ho, ho, ho!

I’ll call the businessman Butch Cassidy (his pal, after all, is known to us all as The Sundance Kid).

Anyway, when Butch Cassidy (BC) started his business, and because, just like Beryl, he had a tidy, organised mind, he kept meticulous records of his dealings in a detailed accounts book. At the end of his successful first trading year he took all his books to his accountant, a fellow known locally as Ben the Bean Keeper.

Eventually, BC was told what his tax bill was for the year ― and he was flabbergasted. He protested, but Ben the Bean Keeper (BB) pointed to BC’s immaculate accounts book and the figures meticulously recorded therein, and said there was nothing he could do to reduce the tax bill.

A few weeks later, just before Christmas, BC returned to see BB to pay his dues. “Oh,” said Ben the Bean Keeper, reaching into a desk drawer, “I have a little Christmas present for you.” He handed BC a small, narrow box, about 8 inches long.

Butch Cassidy opened it up ... it was a pencil, with a rubber at one end. “Perhaps it would be best,” said Ben the Bean, “if in future you use this to complete your accounts book ― then you can ink it in after I have checked it out to make sure you haven’t made any silly mistakes!

It is a tale that always makes me smile whenever I have cause to think of it, so it was apt that Beryl’s bookkeeping competency reminded me of Butch Cassidy and his Christmas present.


I now come to another of life’s coincidences. The minister said that Beryl wanted her funeral service to be a kind of Cymanfa Ganu, a traditional Welsh festival of much-loved hymns, sung with four part harmony by a congregation.

The gymanfa ganu  is one of the unique features of Welsh culture and its preservation is being supported by a number of Welsh cultural associations around the world.

Anyway, I read somewhere that the music we are exposed to when in the womb influences our subsequent musical tastes. I have no idea whether that is so ― instinct tells me it is ― but my mother was a chapel goer and enjoyed the old gymanfa ganu. Mother was a good singer. Not a powerful singer in the soloist sense, but she was a typical choir singer, a voice which blended in beautifully, which I guess reflected her character.

I could imagine my mother being perfectly at home singing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ― which brings me neatly to a 5-Star performance which reflects perfectly my initial musical influence: The Lord’s Prayer, with Andrea Bocelli and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Anyone 35 and over will be familiar with The Lord's Prayer, if only from school days. The sounds that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir generate is totally magical, indeed to my ear the final minute of this particular recording/video is as perfect as the human sound gets. Exquisite.

The link is coming up ― but before I get there, I am also going to include what is Wales’s favourite hymn tune, Pantyfedwen (literally, the valley of the birch).

If you are attracted to harmony, then Pantyfedwen  is a perfect example of earworm music. This recording is as definitive a performance of the hymn, sung in 1989 at a Hymn Singing Festival at the Tabernacle Chapel in Morriston near Swansea, as you will ever hear.

It was recorded by the BBC, but there does not appear to be a TV recording, just audio.

So I include Pantyfedwen  as a tribute to a very Welsh cultural DNA thread. First though, The Lord’s Prayer:

And here, the Pantyfedwen  link:

Wednesday, February 20
The dog’s bollocks

YESTERDAY it was a couple of delightful human faces topping the smileometer. Today, two more faces ― but this time, some friendly bow-wows.

This Mail Online  headline drew me in:

  Don’t worry, they won’t bite! Crazy 3D T-shirt craze starring dogs, cats and even raccoons look scarily real

Eye-catching T-shirts feature realistic 3D animal faces

3D: The T-shirts feature close-up headshots of animals ― including these two of a chocolate labrador and a border collie


The eye-catching 3D prints certainly do jump out. The labrador is quite stunning. The border collie not quite as dramatic, in my humble opinion ― but very handsome and friendly, the way collies are, although it does look as if it’s had too severe a haircut.

I decide to show the lovely collie in memory of the dogs I was brought up with on the farm, not to mention Pussycat at my previous abode, and of course Whisper, the rowdy but joyful collie I was recently introduced to along my morning walk.

Fans can adorn their chests with a whole host of creatures’ faces; from docile dogs to snarling bears and even a hairless cat.

The designers behind the quirky T-shirts began with dog prints, but branched out to other animals when the 3D shirts caught on. Michael McGloin, from New Hampshire company The Mountain, said: “A light bulb just went off and I realized this is what we had to do.”

Online comments were very favourable. But there were one or two doubters.

Yes but no

Red Max: Am I the only one who has noticed that none of the ‘shirts’ actually exist and what is shown here is a series of animal images Photoshopped onto the same T-shirt? The haven’t even bothered to try and disguise the fact that it is the same shirt by moving it about a bit! I am betting that any of the real shirts (if they exist at all) don’t look anywhere near a good as these mocked-up images.

Of course Red Max is right. All the T-shits show the same kinks and the like ― see the above pair, a rather obvious kink along the bottom, about a third of the way in from the left. However, these images have been done for promotional purposes, and clearly have been Photoshopped.

However, there were plenty of comments from people who have either seen the T-shirts worn, or indeed have bought some themselves, and the overwhelming verdict was that, whilst they were not quite as dramatic as in the pictures ― understandably ― they were hugely effective and drew comments whenever they were spotted.

If you fancy having a look at all the different creatures on display, here’s a link to the Mail Online  article. They really are hugely eye-catching and well worth a quick look...



Tuesday, February 19
Face to face

YOU know my default setting: within seconds of meeting someone my instinct clicks in and tells me whether I’m confronted by a dolphin or a shark, a pussycat or a polecat, a sparrow or a sparrow hawk.

My instinct telegraphs me as to whether it’s metaphorically okay to step forward and embrace ... hold my ground, just in case ... or take a figurative step backwards and proceed with absolute caution. And my instinct has never once been found wanting.

Down the years I have sort of worked out how my brain does this: 60% of what we are is written into the face; 30% is measured in the voice; and the remaining 10% we wear on our sleeves, our body language and general appearance.

On another level, there are faces and faces. Faces that I catch myself staring at, mostly out of curiosity. It can range from say, a stunningly handsome female to ― well, let’s just say someone who, at that moment immediately following the Big Bang, was clearly near the back of the queue marked ‘Oil Painting’.

Of those individuals you see and would never describe as being blessed with good looks, whether male or female, they often have faces cram-packed with character and personality, and I am intuitively drawn to them.

In short, I am endlessly fascinated by faces.

So I was intrigued by this letter in The Daily Telegraph; not so much the letter itself but the photograph that accompanied it, and which is coming up:
Caution: smoke signals on the road ahead

What message does pipe smoking send?

SIR – When my father was teaching me to drive, he always warned me that the two types of driver one should automatically distrust were those who wore hats at the wheel ― all right for ships’ captains, he supposed ― and those who smoked pipes while driving.
     His sister-in-law took to smoking a small clay pipe while driving her Bentley, but at least she didn’t wear a hat.
Dr John Gladstone, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire

Here’s that characterful photograph:

From the delightfully ridiculous...

...to the deliciously sublime

Put that in your pipe: a cigar in an improvised holder in
Plaza de la Catedral, Havana, Cuba       
 Photo: Alamy

A member of the Mangueira samba school performs during Rio’s Carnival parades               Photo: Vanderlei Almeida / Getty Images

I take it as read that the mesmerising ‘pipe smoker’, above, is a fella. But what a truly intriguing face. Then a day or so later, photographs began to appear of the Carnival parades at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro ― and I was totally captivated by that girl’s wonderfully handsome face. Magic.

Sticking with trust, this curious letter also appeared...

Some trust in chariots, and some in Shire-horses

SIR – Michael Davies, the late and much-admired judge, said he never trusted a witness with a double-barrelled name or one who wore a beard.
Mark Solon, London N1

Gosh, much-admired by whom? What an extraordinary thing for a judge to say. I mean, does it therefore follow that Michael Davies trusted everyone with a bog standard name? And who was clean shaven?

So I Googled the much-admired judge ... this from The Daily Telegraph  Obits:

Sir Michael Davies, who died on 5 September 2006, aged 85, was one of the most colourful English judges and the first appointed to the High Court bench specifically to oversee defamation cases.

Although he presided over the jury list for just three years from 1988, they were litigious times for celebrities, and Davies saw to it that he sat on all the most newsworthy cases, involving such plaintiffs as Lord Aldington, Sonia Sutcliffe, Koo Stark, Andrew Neil and Elton John…

One consolation for the press was Davies’s penchant for playing to the gallery. His reputation in the Inns of Court was that of an interrupter, a talker. One barrister described him as “a well-meaning show-off” who enjoyed seeing his name in print. His utterings often made good copy, and Private Eye had fun lampooning him under the soubriquet Mr Justice Cocklecarrot…

Answer that bloody thing

Personally, I never trust anyone who never answers his or her mobile ― but always checks to see who’s calling. I think I’ve told before of the two regulars at the Crazy Horsepower ― no names no pack drill.

One, whenever his mobile rings, always checks the caller, but never, ever answers. The other, a busy fellow, and whenever his mobile rings, always walks away from the crowd to a quiet corner ― and answers the mobile without ever looking to see who’s calling.

It goes without saying that the fellow who never answers is as bent a shepherd’s crook; the other chap as straight as a yard stick.


Monday, February 18
Desert Island Jukebox

UNCOMPLICATED music has always tickled my H-Spot, my Hallelujah-Spot. No matter whether it’s traditional popular music, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, classic, country and western, choral, blues, religious, you name it ... as long as it’s melodic, rhythmic and catchy ― sold to the smiling fellow over there in the corner with glasses and a beard.

My favourite ever radio show ― in a musical context that is ― was Kenny Everett and his Saturday morning BBC Radio 2 spot.

Cuddly Ken, as he was affectionately known, was one of radios great innovators, the funniest DJ of our time and a one-off who zanily burst the boundaries of broadcasting: the jokes, the jingles and the high jinks, the interviews, the comic characters and the naughty bits.

Or, as Kenny put it himself, “an entirely new concept in radio programming thrusting forward the barriers of fun into a whole new world of wit and wonder” (and can he say bum on the BBC?!).

But even more than that, it was the breadth of music he played.

It ranged from what he labelled “disco fodder”, via pop songs (both ancient and modern) to classical music (those marvellous pieces of music advertisers enjoy using to sell us things, which itself tells us something quite significant about popular ‘serious’ music).

Cuddly Ken knew all about earworms, the sort of tunes that go round and round inside our heads.

Radio 2  is my default station ― sorry, it was  my default station. A few years back, with the station, much like the rest of the BBC, becoming obsessed with attracting a younger audience, Radio Wales  became my default setting ― but then a few months ago they re-jigged the station output, especially the daytime schedule.

These days Radio Wales  is all yap, yap, yap ― like a little dog that just will not stop barking. It’s a talking shop, really.

Christ, how I yearn for a couple of hours or so a day of proper popular music ― with just the one presenter linking the songs. Something akin to the sort of music that Kenny Everett played. Indeed, something along the lines of Sunday Club on Radio Ulster.

Whatever, these days it’s no big deal because I now have what I call my Desert Island Jukebox, and all compliments of YouTube.

The astonishing thing about YouTube  is that it is rapidly becoming so comprehensive that, no matter how obscure your choice of music, or how dated, it’s likely that someone will have posted it on the channel. More than that, it will often be accompanied by a lovingly crafted video. TLC set to music.

Now music is a very personal thing. One person’s choice of music is often another’s poison. Be that as it may, this is my  scrapbook cum diary, so I am going to start my very own Desert Island Jukebox (see alongside). Tracing my musical journey from ‘the big bang’ to the present, if you like...

                                                                                                                                                                                     ...when life was black and white and relatively straightforward ― to the Stereophonic, CinemaScopic, Technicolor and somewhat doolally world of today.

I will now start adding my links. And given that I was fortunate enough to have been born on the sunny side of the street, my jukebox will, by definition, be awash with the sort of music that makes me smile.

The first one up has to be the Desert Island Discs  radio programme theme music, Sleepy Lagoon. I remember as a youngster becoming quite addicted to this piece of music. I had little interest in the programme itself, but the theme music was magic.

What I found on YouTube  were several instrumental versions, similar to that still used on the show, first aired in 1942 and still going strong ― but I came across a few vocal versions, something I had never heard before. I was captivated. There’s a grand Doris Day version, but I have gone with the Platters.

The beauty of having this kind of jukebox is that I can change what I’ve got on the list at any time. Who knows, in a few months I may revert to the radio show version of Sleepy Lagoon.

I thought I would also add a second ‘disc’ today. So what would be my theme song? That song which should reflect my course through life following ‘the big bang’, or the moment of conception, as one would say in polite conversation.

And what does it say up there on my Welcome mat? “A snapshot of life beyond the blue horizon.” So I guess it has to be Beyond The Blue Horizon.

My favourite is the Michael Nesmith version, all 5.45 minutes of it, with those opening two minutes of wake-up sounds: ticking clock, cockerels crowing, alarm going off, a yawning Nesmith, a whistling Nesmith, farmyard birds clucking, a tractor chugging away ― particularly apt given I was brought up on a farm. Marvellous.

However, I also enjoy the Lou Christie version, mostly because it is accompanied by a quite magical video, with some delightful eye-catching images. Do a sit and stare and listen ― look out for the two youngsters captured in silhouette, the photographer and the prairie dog (at least I think it’s a prairie dog), the pretty young thing cupping a rainbow in her hands...

Oh, and the fellow riding a bicycle towards the camera, who happens to pass a topless girl going the other way.

Now if the look on that chap’s face doesn’t make you smile ― well, all I can think of is that, at the moment immediately following the big bang, you would have been at the rear of the queue marked ‘Sense of fun’.

Up on the Jukebox I include both versions ― but here is the Lou Christie Beyond The Blue Horizon  link:


And the Sleepy Lagoon link:



              Put another nickel in,
              In the nickelodeon...


Sunday, February 17
Woof, woof, woof. Whine, bark, growl, howl, woof, woof.

(Court translation: ‘Ello, ‘Ello, ‘Ello. What ‘ave we got ‘ere then?)

AH YES, the curious case of PD Peach, the police pooch that did  bark in the night ― and left his paw prints all over the shop, or at least all over the Witness Statement.

This, spotted in today’s Mail Online:

                            “I chase him, I bite him...” ― the crime report written by a DOG


Police are under investigation for jokingly filling in a witness statement in the name of a force dog, pictured above.

Officers became exasperated when prosecutors asked for an account of a crime from a ‘PC Peach’, not realising it was actually a PD Peach, the name of an Alsatian police dog.

So they completed the form as if it had been written by the dog, and signed it with a paw print.

The dog’s ‘statement’ is alongside: “I chase him. I bite him. Bad man. He tasty. Good boy. Good boy Peach.”

The form was pinned up at a West Midlands Police station last week for the amusement of colleagues, who are often at odds with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) over the handling of cases.

Another officer took a photo of the statement and it found its way to a ‘cop humour’ page on Facebook last Friday.

The image was later deleted but the dog section of a different force, West Yorkshire, enjoyed it so much they posted the image on Twitter in a tweet that was shared many times over.

The CPS, however, failed to see the funny side. Officials are believed to have complained to police that their mistake has been turned into a very public joke.

This is being considered by West Midlands Police’s Professional Standards Department and the officer who shared the picture, PC Mark Tissington, referred himself to the internal discipline unit.

Sources say he is unlikely to be reprimanded.

I should bloody well hope so, too. Here are a couple of typical comment board reactions:

TL Berry, Bedford: Absolutely brilliant ― funniest thing I have seen for ages: “Bad Man. He Tasty”. LOL
! Just like CPS to take offence, no sense of humour and generally incompetent.

Chelle7666, Mochdre: Brilliant :) - maybe the police could investigate where people’s sense of humour has gone. LOL.

A few intriguing points: That last message is from
Chelle in Mochdre, a small village in North Wales, just to the west of Colwyn Bay. The joke being that Mochdre translates literally as ― well, ‘moch’ is Welsh for ‘pigs’ and ‘tre’ is Welsh for ‘town’ (or ‘dre’, allowing for mutation).

So Mochdre becomes ‘Town of pigs’. Honest, cross my heart ― and all that.

The second point: Comment board messages about the Peach story were regularly, and understandably, signed off with a quick LOL. Surely, it should have been BOL: Bark Out Loud?

Oh yes, imagine PD Peach arriving in court: “Will the witness please place his left paw on this juicy bone, lift his right paw and repeat after me: Who’s a good boy then?” 

Finally, we all make mistakes and errors of judgment, which invariably make us look silly. The best thing is always to ignore it and let it become a one-day wonder, especially so with this kind of story and given how the media quickly moves on when it is bored.

However, make a fuss, as the CPS has apparently done, and the whole thing takes on a life all of its own. Every country in the world has police dogs, so they will enjoy the story.

Indeed, as we speak I can picture someone in China busily translating Peach’s statement into Chinese characters...

Saturday, February 16
The road ahead

THIS scrapbook is a daily record of the things wot make me smile, and as a consequence brighten up my day no end ... well, that’s what it says on the tin ― or rather, the welcome mat, up there at the top.

So it’s my duty to deliver.

As soon as I saw this in the Telegraph’s  Sign Language Picture Gallery,  I smiled...


Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?

Spotted in Japan by Malcolm Halcrow

I think it’s the line ‘The smile makes everyone all over the world’. My initial reaction was ... this doesn’t make sense ― remembering of course that it was spotted out in Japan, and I think we all appreciate the light touch of the translations into English in that particular corner of the globe ― but it does  make sense in a simplistic, child-friendly way.

And how could I not include these two images as well?


Heaven this way

No second opinion

Spotted in Trondheim, Norway by Edward Sutton

Spotted in Santa Fe County, New Mexico by Michael Astbury

End piece

Even though this is a web site dedicated to the doolallyness of life and the smiley consequences of such loopiness, just occasionally I include a slice of reality ― simply to remind myself how fortunate I am to have a) chosen the right parents, and b) to have been born on the sunny side of the street.

Coming up are a couple of recent quotes, both serving as bookends to humanity’s often pathetic walk through time.

If you are not in the mood to have your heart broken, look away now.....

“I’m looking for someone to play with...” What a five-year-old boy wandering the streets at 9.20pm in the Holywell area of Flintshire, North Wales, told police before they found his mother drunk in bed at home.

The above headline filled the front page of the Western Mail  on January the 4th. Thankfully, the mother has since been given an eight-week suspended sentence and a year-long supervision order ― I say “thankfully” because nothing would have been served by locking her up. What the 35-year-old single mother needs above all else is help.

And at the other end of man’s inhumanity to man...

“At least in Auschwitz I have friends. In here I have nobody.” An elderly Polish patient’s last words before she died at the scandal-hit Stafford Hospital.

I don’t know. First we had the dreadful Jimmy Savile business ― and now this surrounding the Staffordshire hospital crisis, where hundreds of patients are known to have died despite repeated warnings that care was not good enough.

! Normal service will be resumed tomorrow, fingers crossed...


Friday, February 15
Seven degrees of deception

IT ALL began last Tuesday, when inspectors from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), along with police, raided Farmbox Meats, a meat processing company near Aberystwyth in Mid Wales.

The business had been supplied with horse carcasses from a slaughterhouse in West Yorkshire, and the FSA allege that the horse meat was then passed off as beef, with oodles of extra profit, presumably.

The most astonishing thing about all this horse meat business is that a supermarket, say in Aberystwyth, could be selling burgers and other processed meat products that can be traced back through as many as seven separate agencies dotted all over Britain and Europe ― all the way back to a fellow with a pony to sell at the monthly horse sale in Llanybyther, a small town just down the road from Aberystwyth.

Crazy. Even more bizarre, and bearing in mind that these are relatively cheap products, how can all seven participants in this supply chain be earning anything worth while?

The whole nonsense was perfectly captured by Daily Telegraph  cartoonist MATT


“I see a lot of travel: UK, Belgium,
 Romania, Holland, France, Ireland...”

Farmbox Meats is a processing plant owned by a Dafydd Raw-Rees, 64, who has run his plant for the past three years. [Thinks: Raw is a rather unfortunate name for someone dealing in unprocessed meat. Also, Dafydd is the Welsh name for David, which in turn is shortened back to Welsh as Dai, with a suitable nickname added i.e. Dai Rawhide.]

Anyway, Raw-Rees said that, until three weeks ago, his plant specialised in processing beef, but that he had recently been contracted to process horse meat sold in Belgium.

He confirmed his plant was visited by police on Tuesday but denied passing off horse as beef: “We would never confuse horse meat with beef, we are just a cutting plant. I merely debone the meat and send it back as part of the contract. The horse meat is sold in Belgium.”

Dai Rawhide referred queries to Colin Patterson, his plant manager. When contacted by The Daily Telegraph, a man answered the phone as Colin, then hung up. When contacted again, he said he was in fact “Dai the cleaner”, adding that Mr Patterson was unavailable.

Dai Wipe and Go

Yes, good old Dai the Cleaner, just another of the hundreds, nay thousands, of Davids – or Dais – I have encountered along my walk through Welsh Wales.

And then, today, this news headline has been all over the shop...

                                                       Asteroid 2012 DAI 4 brushes by Earth

God, I thought, there’s even a Dai out there in space. Mind you, here in Welsh Wales, Asteroid 2012 would be known as Dai Close Shave. But then the making-sense-of-what-my-eyes-see part of my brain caught up:

                                                        Asteroid 2012 DA14 brushes by Earth

Bugger. Not DAI 4 but DA14.

So there I was, thinking about all the Dais I have known ― or rather, those with splendidly clever and memorable nicknames.

Most of them have been mentioned as regulars at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, a collection of the great characters I have shared a pint or hundred with down the years.

The first I remember all those years ago was Dai Fly By Night: he was a night fisherman of note, but the regulars at the Crazy Horse were never quite sure what he was actually up to when he was casting his fly. In other words, a perfect twist in the tail of his nickname.

Dai One Eye: no, not a one-eyed supporter of the Scarlets, his local rugby team; indeed Dai had 20/20 vision, both literally and metaphorically. No, Dai lived at No 1 High Street.

Dai Aphanous: always spinning a line, is Dai. A few years back he returned from a holiday in Spain. “How did you find the señoritas, Dai?” “Just like the Welsh girls back home: I would spin them a line ― and the longer the line the more they loved it.”
     Yes, Dai Aphanous is the Welsh version of Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s notorious spin doctor.  But why Dai Aphanous? Well, most of the time we all see through him and can spot his spin at 40 paces. Be that as it may, one of life’s great characters is Dai Aphanous.

Dai Version: whenever Dai tells a tale, whether it be a joke or a true story, it never sounds the same as it does from the lips of someone else, and all because he always takes us along the scenic route ― which explains why his tales are always endlessly entertaining.

To go off at a slight tangent, much like Asteroid Dai Close Shave (rather than the one that exploded rather spectacularly this morning over Russia), I am reminded of two business men from a village in Carmarthenshire, not a million miles from Llandampness, both with the very Welsh surname Evans.

One is an undertaker, the other a travel agent.

The travel agent is known as Evans There and Back, the undertaker is Evans One Way.

And there you have it, from Dai Rawhide to Evans One Way, in one easy jump.

Valentine’s Day 2013

TODAY is as grand a day as any to underline the delightful doolallyness of we human beings, with perfect examples of what keeps me endlessly amused here at Look You  i.e. attraction, seduction, sex ― and the creature comfort version of having a cigarette afterwards.

Dateline London Zoo

Celebrity pianist Richard Clayderman has just held a “private concert” at London Zoo to serenade endangered giant tortoises ― in an effort to encourage them to mate.

Clayderman, 59, whose track “Ballade Pour Adeline” is one of the biggest selling recordings of all time, played the famous tune on a grand piano transported to the zoo’s giant tortoise enclosure.

Himself an animal-lover, Clayderman said he jumped at the chance to perform for the endangered species.

The zoo’s Galapagos tortoises ― 70-year-old Dirk and his three female companions, Dolores, 13, along with Dolly and Polly, both 17 ― looked suitably impressed with their private recital, and the hope is the romantic music may make them more amorous.

My goodness ... it all reminded me of a cartoon from mega moons ago...

If music be the food of love, rock on, Dirk

                                             Dolores: “Faster! Faster!
                                             Dirk: “Ballade Bloody Adeline, my arse. At my age it’s Viagra I need.”

Incidentally, the romantic pair featured above are actually Aldabra giant tortoises mating at the Artis Zoo in Amsterdam, image compliments of Wikimedia Commons.

Keep taking the pills

And as if by magic, this headline caught my eye today:

                               A wife’s higher salary can affect men in the bedroom:
                            those with well paid partners are more likely to take Viagra –

A study found that husbands who earn less than their spouses are more likely to take Viagra and similar drugs than those who are the main breadwinners...

Hm, I must have a quiet word with Ivor the Engine. His beloved Glad Eyes owns and runs a very successful little business, and Ivor readily acknowledges that she earns more than he does.

Keep taking the pills, Ivor.

Organ recital

Going in a slightly different direction, a truly bizarre headline:

                       Sea slugs have a disposable penis that drops off after sex …
                          then they grow another one, say astonished scientists

Japanese researchers were flabbergasted when they realised that a group of Pacific Ocean sea slugs called Chromodoris reticulata  would lose their penises 20 minutes after mating.

Hm, shame the slug isn’t called Chromodoris erecticus. Anyway, what surprised the scientists wasn’t that the creature’s penis falls off — which apparently is totally normal in certain parts of the animal kingdom (sic ?
!?) — but that it grows back, allowing the slug to mate again.

Hm, the animal kingdoms version of having a quick fag after ― I mean a quick cigarette after.

The rest of the slug’s sex life is just as complicated. First of all, every Chromodoris reticulata  has both a penis and a fanny, and both slugs donate sperm to each other at the same time. Then their penises fall off. God, no wonder.

Also their penises are “equipped with spines.” Scientists aren’t sure why the slugs mate this way, but one researcher speculates that it’s to clear out rivals’ sperm.

On reflection, perhaps the Chromodoris reticulata  should be called the Stephen Fryiculata. After all, Stephen Fry does draw a lot of barbed comments ― and crucially appears to enjoy making love to himself.

Meanwhile, on the comment board front...

Fish: Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “they got engaged but then she broke it off”.

English Cad: Hate it when that happens.

TerenceH: My wife wants to know ― if humans are able, through some future hybrid gene therapy, to grow new ones ― will they be better or just as pathetic as the one that falls off?

My comment: There’s an instruction used by the referee in rugby union to stop players stuffing the ball up their jerseys, so to speak, to kill time: “Use it or lose it.” If they then don’t make use of the ball within five seconds ― sounds like my sex life ― possession goes to the opposition.
     The Pacific Ocean sea slugs with their free and easy penises would make useless rugby players: they would use it and still lose it.

Two for the road

In the tale of the tortoises, dear Dolly and Polly remind me of an exchange from the sitcom Cheers: Carla the waitress is expecting twins and she is becoming increasingly ratty and miserable ― if that’s possible ― about the forthcoming event, and is dreading the day.
     “Hey, Carla,” says Sam the randy bartender (once the bar owner), “everything will be okay, trust me.”
     “Yeah, thanks, Sammy,” says Carla. “What the hell do you know about it?”
     There’s a bit of a pregnant pause: “Look, Carla,” says Sam, “I had twins once ― it was the happiest day of my life.”

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Clayderman’, came up as ‘Letterman’. Ah yes, would that be the French Letter Man?

Also, ‘erecticus’, as in ‘Chromodoris erecticus’, came up, curiously, as ‘practices’, with ‘heretics’ a second choice. Hm, food for thought for ye of little faith. 

Wednesday, February 13
Groundhorse Day


NO dodgy meat sold here ― and that’s straight from the horse’s mouth.” Pavement board outside a butcher’s shop in mid Wales ― and apparently doing a galloping trade.

Who would have thought that, just about a month ago, when most of us shared a smile and a laugh at the thought of horse meat in the nation’s beef burgers ― and I initiated a rumour that a cooking personality from yesteryear, a certain Graham Kerr, 78, the famous Galloping Gourmet, had been signed up for a new series ― the story would still be running and running.

Many a true word spoken in jest, particularly about that Galloping Gourmet. You watch.

With the going getting soft-to-heavy, hot on the heels of the Tesco burgers outrage came the revelation that Findus beef lasagne contained up to 100 per cent horsemeat. For many web pranksters, the fresh scandal offered up endless opportunities to flex their comedic muscles in a serious of visual gags, showing what Findus products should look like if the packaging was totally honest...


Very good. I particularly liked this next one ― because, in my humble opinion, the prankster didn’t get it quite right...

Findus Keepus

I’m thinking ... those should be the heads of beef cattle, yes?

Spread betting

Anyway, bookmaker Paddy Power also joined in the fun, offering odds on which animal would be the next to make its way into Britain’s food chain: the favourite was deer at 2/1, followed by donkey, dog and rabbit. I dont quite follow that because venison (deer meat) is already, and quite properly, in our food chain; as is rabbit.

Me? With Dr Ozzy no longer dishing out advice in The Sunday Times  Magazine, Dr Wunderbar down at the Crazy Horsepower insists that I’ve really got to watch what I eat, so I’ve started following all the racing on Channel 4, hosted by the omnipresent Clare Balding (whether on the flat or over the jumps).

Indeed, there is a further rumour that Clare and Wee Willie Carson will host the new series of Galloping Gourmet. Not withstanding that someone mentioned in passing that Wee Willie had been found in a hotdog. They are awaiting DNA tests and the weigh-in results.

Be that as it may, a few online comments:

Skc74 of Old London Town: “The Findus horse burgers are OK, but I prefer their quarter pandas. Brilliant.

BUJ of Birmingham: “I think the mafia are after me ― I woke up this morning only to find a Findus lasagne in my bed.

Jardine, Leeds: “Forget about Findus lasagne. Has anyone tried Asda meatballs? They really are the dogs bollocks.

Nice one, Jardine. Indeed, this could take us into some interesting territory: fancy some spaghetti bollock-neighs?

I discovered oats in my porridge this morning. Is this a conspiracy by the horse community?

A starter for ten, there, Thatlldo.

Oh yes, I remember ReyLuis pointing out that ‘HAMBURGERS’ is an anagram of ‘SHERGAR BUM’. Well now, Paul Morley of Skipton, in a letter to the Daily Mail, points out that ‘LASAGNE’ is an anagram of ‘NAG SALE’. More brilliance.

Incidentally, the term ‘Horsegate’ keeps popping up all over the place. Surely, shouldn’t it be ‘Stabledoor’? As in shutting-of after Triggermortis has made a bolt for it.

Warning: Dr Wunderbar is not a qualified medical professional. Caution is advised.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Dr Wunderbar’, came up as ‘Dr Wonderbra’, which is quite amusing given that wife of the good doctor is known affectionately as Mrs Va-Va-Voomderbra.

Also, ‘bollock’, came up as ‘bullock’, which is perfectly ironic.

Tuesday, February 12
That special Tom and Jerry moment

JUST occasionally, something so delightfully amusing suddenly manifests itself in front of my eyes ― so much so, it deserves the smile of the day spot all to itself.

This, from the Telegraph’s  Sign Language picture gallery...


     Joining up all the dots

Button your lip: spotted in California by Steve Green

Curiosity killed the mouse

Intrigued by the wheeze, I Googled it and found that, unsurprisingly, it’s a novelty item on general sale ... then at one outlet promoting the item, I read this by the business owner, an American, probably a lady, or perhaps a POSSUM ― look out for the tell-tale clue...

“Not too long ago, I noticed this in the background of a movie, as a prop. However, I can’t remember what the movie was; I believe it was a scene in a hotel ... or some kind of front desk scenario, where an item just like this was in the background as a prop.
     “I remember noticing it because the concept was so cute...
     “I have tried looking this up, so far no results. Nothing else like it ― at least from my research. If you happen to come across this listing and have any information, or know the movie or show that I’m referring to, please contact me ― I would greatly appreciate it -:)”


Monday, February 11

A snowy day in Hamden Town

Here’s a picture that made me smile. Following the huge snow storm that swept the north-east of America, some eye-catching photos are emerging from under the blanket of snow.

But how about this...

0 to 60 inches of snow in 24 hours

Cars are buried in snow near Hamden, Connecticut, USA          Picture: Craig Ruttle / AP

I find the above quite mesmerising. Imagine having to dig your car out from under that little lot.

Bonus smile

This exchange spotted tonight on sitcom Cheers.

Waitress Carla approaches the bar where bartender Woody is at his station. Carla, as per usual, is in her delightfully entertaining foul mood and is convinced the sky is falling in on her head: “Good things happen to everyone but me...” She then fires off a litany of current disasters in her life. “How do you keep such a sunny disposition, Woody?”

“Well, I close my eyes and think a happy thought.” To demonstrate, Woody closes his eyes ... and his terribly earnest expression slowly but surely melts into a handsome smile ― then he opens his eyes.

“What was your thought?” asks Carla.

“I’m glad I’m not you.” And Carla blows the generous top off a pint of Guinness into his face.

Top drawer writing and acting. Mind you, I am rather taken with Woody’s way of keeping happy ... eyes closed, think a happy thought...


Sunday, February 10
The hunt for read...

YES, I am always on the lookout for that magical headline which generates a smile and draws me in. And there are always bonus points when the headline boasts extra-clever word play.

Today, in the Sport section of The Sunday Times, on the rugby pages, I spotted near-perfection. Six words that had been expertly hung before being put into the oven.

First, a few dots need joining up: yesterday, Wales defeated France out in Paris, something of a surprise, to be honest. Earlier in the afternoon, Italy played Scotland up at Murrayfield. Italy were the favourites, having defeated France the previous weekend.

But, as often happens, Scotland won, and did so quite handsomely, 34-10. As the game between France and Wales had highlighted, it wasn’t so much that both Italy and Wales were good but that France were poor.

Whatever, up at Murrayfield, the man of the match and star of the show was Scotland scrum-half, Greig Laidlaw. And the headline?

                                                      Italy are laid low by Laidlaw

Brilliant. My smile of the day. Mind you, shame, in an artistic sense, that it wasn’t England that Scotland had defeated in such grand fashion, bearing in mind what the anthem of the England supporter is: ♫♫♫ Swing low, sweet chariot... Imagine: England are laid low by Laidlaw.

Today though, England defeated Ireland out in Dublin ― and I was reminded of a recent comment by a Dubliner: “Dublin is the largest city in the world ― it’s Dublin every day.”

Top bonus points to that Irishman.

Happiness is...

Meanwhile, I spotted this online headline...

                                Experts have found an effective new formula for happiness

I didn’t bother to click because it reminded me of another of The 101 best pieces of advice ever received, some of which I featured back at the beginning of January:

Julian Fellowes, 63, actor and writer

The best piece of advice I ever received was from my mother: “If you want to be happily married, marry a happy person.” I am glad to say I took her at her word.

And isn’t that the truth? It applies to all sorts of relationships. If you make friends with individuals who never moan or complain or run people down behind their backs ― magically, you find that you find it increasingly difficult to moan or complain or run people down behind their backs.

Even better, have you noticed that far and away the best businesses or organisations to deal with are those which have at the very top an individual blessed with a happy disposition.

And the worst to deal with are those with a greedy, ambitious and miserable old bastard at the helm.

Many a true word spoken in jest

Yesterday I wrote of the report that your friendly neighbourhood farmyard is awash with gay animals waltzing about with limp ankles ― and the day before it was POSSUMS: Persons Of Same Sex Undertaking Marriage Sojourn ― so today, down at the Asterisk Bar, Ivor the Engine mentioned this in his regular Sunday Lesson:

“Homosexuality was once a criminal offence ― remember those high-profile raids on certain public toilets in the area? Or those caught on badger watch where there were no known badgers in residence? Then I woke up one morning to find that gay relationships had been legalised ― fine by me, live and let live is my motto.
     “Next, civil partnerships were introduced ― and now, with a quick nod and a wink, we have gay marriage.
     “Given that everything in life goes round in circles, including Planet Earth itself, how long do you suppose before heterosexuality becomes a criminal offence?”

Well, Ivor did make us laugh. And Old Shaggy and Young Shagwell are doing their best to build up a store of memories before we have to change their names by misdeed poll...

Cock and bullshit

Finally, yesterday I smiled at the Sri Lankan prisoner who concealed a mobile up his arse so that the guards wouldn’t find it ― but then it started to ring and the fellow had to be rushed to hospital to have the handset removed...

Anyway, today I read this:

                 Doctors warn about worrying rise in DIY penis implants which could lead to fatal infections

Australian researchers made the discovery after nurses reported an increase in male prisoners with skin infections on their genitals ― due to having foreign bodies inserted.

Doctors have reported a worrying trend of male prisoners using melted toothpaste caps, buttons, dice, and deodorant roller ball to “extend” their manhood...

Bloody hell. Now I am aware that people insert their manhoods into  foreign bodies i.e. sheep and hoover attachments ― at least that’s what I’ve heard in passing down at the Crazy Horsepower ― but inserting foreign bodies into their manhood? I’m feeling quite faint at the thought.

Incidentally, yesterday I was unable to show a picture of the mobile the Sri Lankan had hidden up his backside ― but today, the picture is online. Well, actually it’s an X-ray from the hospital, apparently.

But it hurt so much just looking at the image, I couldn’t bring myself to copy and paste...

Saturday, February 9
Believe it or don’t day

1: Wales win at rugby out in France

Say nothing is best.

2: Oh what a gay day

Yesterday it was all: “I now pronounce you POSSUMS: Persons Of Same Sex Undertaking Marriage Sojourn.”

Well bugger me ― in a manner of speaking, I hasten to add ― what headline did I spot today?

                                        Attenborough documentaries “ignore gay animals”

Now c’mon, you’ve got to laugh ― anyway, let’s have a quick peep, through slightly parted fingers of course...

Sir David Attenborough’s documentaries are not a true reflection of nature because they fail to acknowledge animals’ “gay” behaviour, an academic has claimed.

Dr Brett Mills of the University of East Anglia accused the veteran broadcaster of espousing the idea that all animals are heterosexual despite a wealth of evidence that they engage in a variety of sexual activity.

Shots of male chimpanzees cuddling, for example, are described to the viewer as no more than male bonding but could in fact be driven by sexual motives [he said in a “nudge-nude, wink-wink, know what I mean, chief?” sort of way, I trust].

Similarly, a scene in which a male Buff-Breasted Sandpiper stalks towards another with his rear in the air may not be meant to intimidate a rival, as described by Sir David, but as a prelude to “homosexual mounting”...


No, I checked out the date, just in case I’d done a Rip Van Winkle: it is not April Fools’ Day, honest. Mind you, a male bird called the Buff-Breasted Sandpiper is asking for trouble ― and I’m not sure about that Bluebird of Happiness perched on Rip Van’s weapon, what with its tail in the air and all that.

Anyway, if what Doctor Dolittle And Often says is true, then the wonderfully entertaining blackbirds I’m watching through the window, feeding away on the lawn with tails in the air as they hop about challenging each other as to which one is Top Bird ― yes, they are black, so they’re all definitely male ― behind my back the little rascals have clearly turned my garden into The Gay Four And Twenty Club.

Still, let’s go straight to the comment board apropos the article about gay animals...

Far and away the highest rated online comment I saw was this from Lullabell of Herts: Oh please, give it a rest.

Be that as it may, let’s share a smile anyway ... just to be getting on with, here’s a glorious picture of some dogs participating in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s Dog Carnival, image compliments of Angel Medina G/EPA...


"Dogs often try to hump your leg ... does that make them legbians?" Online comment by Fairdgar

Now if that picture doesn’t bring a smile, nothing will. Mind you, I feel sorry for that little dog if the big one experiences a fruity moment, be it gay or otherwise. No wonder it has its little tail firmly tucked in between its legs.

Back to the comment boards:

Tiddly Pom: At last, poofins, gayzelles and homoles are coming out, and are loud, proud and fabulous.

VulcaSidraw: And the Queen of the jungle? The mighty Loin!

Dunnitbefore: To accuse the BBC of ignoring homosexuality is a bit like accusing the Pope of ignoring Catholics. BBC and homosexuality have been bedfellows for years.
     I had the misfortune to listen to the News Quiz on Radio 4 last night. It was appalling. Full of bigoted homophiles ranting on about the rest of the population who apparently “haven’t moved on”.
     Ah yes, Autumn, when all the trees come out as gay and colourful.

Cyphre: Never mind gayness, why have animals been denied the vote for so long? There can be no more disenfranchised group than insects when it comes to having their voice heard in the government of this country. Science has proven that earwigs are incredibly underrepresented in academia...

NinjaMatty69: I am pretty sure their behaviour is not intended to be homosexual. When we had dogs, at certain times they would hump absolutely anything including my leg, my bed post, a tree etc. etc. Clearly their primal instinct is to shag and not any instinct to be gay!

NinjaMatty69s comment is a perfect response to the story. Both in its simple truth and smileyness.

Along my morning walks through the Towy Valley I regularly encounter fields awash with cattle of various descriptions. When a cow comes on heat and there’s no bull running with the herd, the other cows will get all worked up and mount that cow. In fact, so frustrated does she become that she too will mount the other cows, as if attempting to trigger a reaction from a bull that must be hiding behind a tree somewhere not a million miles away.

Crucially, the cows only behave like this when one of their numbers is in frustrated mode.

Mind you, the lot I feel sorry for are beef heifers and bullocks (a castrated male) running together. When one of the heifers comes on heat, the bullocks will attempt to do the job. They know precisely what’s got to be done, they mount, but the kit doesn’t work. It’s all very frustrating.

Actually, it’s the heifer I feel most sorry for. Bullocks should never be allowed to run with females. It takes the expression ‘prick tease’ to another level completely.

3: It’s behind you: now that’s what I call bum timing

Here’s a headline that made me blink:

                     Sri Lankan prisoner’s plan to conceal mobile from guards by hiding it in
                       his back passage foiled when device started ringing from rear-end

The 58-year-old convict at Welikada prison, Kotte, Sri Lanka, was in possession of a mobile phone ― which prisoners are not allowed ― but before concealing the device however, he forgot to turn it off or put it on silent/vibrate before hiding it in his rectum, and his plan was foiled when the phone started ringing from inside him.

He had to be taken to hospital to have the handset removed...

So that’s why they call it a ring tone. What made it worse, the call was probably from a firm of solicitors wondering if he had recently suffered serious personal injury.

There was no picture of the phone to see its size and shape ― but my eyes are watering just thinking about it.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Welikada prison’, came up as ‘Walked prison’, which was a rather amusing thought; and the ‘homoles’, as in ‘gay moles’, came up as ‘homeless’. Wonderful.


Friday, February 8
I now pronounce you, er...


“My mother-in-law’s got more chins than a Chinese phonebook,” Les Dawson once observed. “But she’s got the things most men desire: muscles and a moustache.”

Well, after this week
s Parliamentary vote, gay comics will now also be able to do father-in-law jokes: “My father-in-law fell down a wishing well. I was amazed, I never knew they worked.”

But before we get there: “I now pronounce you man and man...”

No, that doesn’t sound quite right now does it? What about “I now pronounce you Man United.”? No again; I mean, imagine the build up to the marriage vows: “Before we proceed, if anyone here knows of any lawful impediment to this marriage, show your red card now or forever hold your offside line.”

Talking of which, Ivor the Engine told me the tale of attending a wedding and a young minister was doing his first wedding. He duly asked: “Does anybody here have any reason why these two should not be married?” Someone in the congregation, gulp, raised their hand! A deathly hush fell over the place ― but the young minister, thinking on his feet, and obviously a 0-to-60 in 2.5 seconds man, asked: “OK, does anybody else have any reason...?”

Back with “I now pronounce you Man United ... You may now kiss your ---” Hm, what we need is a suitable word for gay married couples.

Watching a rerun of the magical sitcom Cheers on ITV4 just last night, Frasier declared that he and Lilith were now POSSLQS, pronounced possl-queues:
Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters.

And there it was, POSSUMS: “I now pronounce you POSSUMS ― Persons Of Same Sex Undertaking Marriage Sojourn ― you may now kiss your POSSUM.”

Appendix: Use of the word “sojourn” means that divorce is irrelevant because the journey can be concluded at any time by either of said POSSUMS.

POSSUMS Arnold-Balding

I read that Alice Arnold, former BBC Radio 4 newsreader, and Clare Balding, omnipresent meeja operator, following the equal marriage bill, are preparing to convert their civil partnership accordingly. It offers up all sorts of possibilities for reworking of Les Dawson jokes.

Alice Arnold: “I took Clare for better or for worse. But she turned out worse than I took her for.”

Anyway, back with Les, and nothing to do with marriage or POSSUMS or mother-in-laws:

A bit of fancy footwork

“In awe I watched the waxing moon ride across the zenith of the heavens like an ambered chariot towards the ebony void of infinite space wherein the tethered belts of Jupiter and Mars hang, for ever festooned in their orbital majesty. And as I looked at all this, I thought ... God, I must put a roof on this toilet.”

Some more Les jokes to keep the mood going:

A Cairina moschata waddles into a chemist’s shop ― a Muscovy Duck to you and me: “A tube of Lypsyl, please.”
     The chemist says: “Certainly, ducks. That’ll be £2.99.”
     “Just put it on my bill ... and don’t call me ducks.”

“My lad chewed and swallowed a dictionary. We gave him Epsom salts ― but we can’t get a word out of him.”

Hm, obviously they now need to give him a Thesaurus, three times a day, after meals...

A fistful of confetti

Let’s return to Lady Claire of Balding. This headline caught my eye:

       Clare Balding beats all Royals to claim “most fascinating person in Britain” title

Sports presenter Clare Balding has been named the most “fascinating” person in the public eye by upmarket society magazine Tatler, beating the Queen, Prince Harry and the Middleton sisters.

The publication, which measured the individuals most searched-for on its online “Tatler List” of notable figures, found Balding had moved ahead of all members of the British Royal family.

She also beat Mayor of London Boris Johnson in 20th place and actress Emma Watson in 28th. Balding’s partner, Alice Arnold, came in at 14th.

But here’s the clincher which suggests that you should take the above listings with a fistful of confetti: the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s dog Lupo came in 50th.

PS: Saw Chief Wise Owl tonight and he said I should write a novel. Apparently, he read the opening shot to yesterday’s smile:
The aliens are coming. They’ll be here week Monday, noon, on the dot--- ― and he couldn’t wait to see what happened next...

Thursday, February 7
ET Returns

THE aliens are coming. They’ll be here week Monday, noon, on the dot. You intuitively know that they mean “on the dot” ― so don’t be late.

Initially they have asked to meet just two Earthlings: the very finest of mankind, the crème de la crème of humanity; and the best of the very worst of mankind, the Joker in the pack, the one person who perhaps should have represented the best but has been led astray by those three dreaded black swan feathers: position, power and possessions.

What a challenge. ET and his mates clearly want to see what makes us tick ― and just as importantly, what makes us explode when the ticking stops.

Obviously the best of the worst, the Joker, is a bit of a breeze, so many perfect examples to choose from. But the crème de la crème of mankind?

The first name that sprung to mind was Nelson Mandela ― and yet, and yet ... he would have known what Winnie was up to in her spare time with all that dreadful necklacing business, and tellingly did nothing to stop it (he was a powerful figure, even when in prison, and his word would have been enough to put a stop to it, in my humble opinion).

ET will sense all of that. Sorry, Nelson.

Here in the UK, we have David Attenborough ― but what of that calamitous  ‘sleight of hand’ regarding the polar bear cubs, when millions of us were fooled by the dishonesty of the scene? Yes, yes, I know, the truth was hidden in some out-of-the-way web page visited by one man and his dog ― not good enough, so sorry old bean, bad show.

And anyway, Attenborough has spent most of his working life in television, perhaps the most dishonest medium ever invented. ET won’t be impressed with all of that.

Then there’s Mary Berry ― not to be confused with Mary Beard. Now the name Mary Berry has been familiar to me for some time, simply from regular mention in the media, but I wouldn’t recognise her if she was sitting opposite me on the train.

Then I happened upon The Mary Berry Story on TV, in which Mary charts her life from childhood in Bath during WW2 (dodging Hitler’s bombs), along with a dedicated dislike of school ― until she discovered domestic science ― via London in the 1960s when she got her first big break, to becoming the nation’s baking queen and a “national treasure”.

The Swinging Sixties were an ideal time for a determined young woman to spread her ideas and methods to a hungry population. In some marvellously touching trips down memory lane, Mary reveals how a stern father, contracting polio at 14, an inspirational teacher, losing a 19-year-old son in a car accident ― how all these events influenced a career which has spanned over 50 years.

This from The Sunday Times: Her achievements are astonishing; more than 70 cookbooks with sales numbering 6m, and she came across ― particularly in relating the story of the death of her child ― as a genuinely decent, low-key Englishwoman.

Perfectly summed up. Suddenly, even the world of television seemed honest, faithful and true.

Incidentally, I did a bit of Googling ... and came across this in the Daily Mail, dated October 2011 ― very important that date, long before news broke of horse meat in our burgers. I quote:

A stint doing catering at Bath College followed. Then, at 17, Mary went to study domestic science at a school in France. “I hadn’t been away from home before and I remember staying with a family who had ten children.

“Our first meal was horse meat. I’d just left my pony back in England and I cried all the way through the meal.”

What can I add?

Merry Berry! A dolphin, a pussycat, a sparrow, a lay-by (someone you would instantly pull in to have a chat with).
Image: Clive Conway

Anyway, back with ET and the two Earthlings requested for that crucial first meeting. I propose Mary Berry.

Oh, and the Joker? Tony Blair.

I think the aliens will be most impressed with our rediscovered honesty.

PS: For UK viewers, The Mary Berry Story  is available on iPlayer until February 16 ... a rather reassuring way to spend a couple of hours, reflecting on what humanity is actually capable of when it puts its mind to it.

Wednesday, February 6
Galanthophiles ‘R’ Us


YES, we’ve had a covering of snow ― with more on the way it seems, but you know what rascals these weather forecasters are ― so it’s snowdrop time of year again...


The above picture was captured in the Towy Valley, just before sunset during a rather cold snap, with the flowers already having shut up shop for the day.

Anyway, this, from the Nature notes column in The Times, compliments of one Derwent May:

Snowdrops are little white bells that nod and sway in the wind, smelling of vanilla or honey. They are now appearing in many damp places, especially in wet woods and on the sloping banks of streams.

Because of erosion after flooding, they sometimes tumble into a stream, and are swept along until their bulbs get lodged in the bank further down. There, in due course, they may flower again.

In the past they were planted as symbols of purity in churchyards and around convents, and can still be found there, sometimes among ancient ruins...

How delightful: so much insight, so few words.

I guess most will be surprised that snowdrops smell of vanilla or honey. Well, because they are so tiny and hug the ground, we simply never bring one up to the nose, as you would say, a rose.

And they are not the sort of flower you pick into a little bouquet and hold up to your nose to take in the bouquet. The snowdrop is a flower that has evolved to simply sit there and bask in our admiring glances.

In fact, the word galanthophile comes from the formal botanical name for the genus, Galanthus, which derives from the Greek gala, milk, and anthos, flower. (Words from gala include galactose, milk sugar, and galaxy, originally meaning the Milky Way.)

Bingo! Suddenly you appreciate why they smell of vanilla or honey.

They are a delightful little flower and they never fail to generate great pleasure when I spot them along my walks, as I did this very morning.

Up there in the Flower Power Gallery, I decided to combine my appreciation of the snowdrop with my affection for one of the many little songbirds I’ve befriended along my morning walks…

Tuesday, February 5
Ash dieback blame culture

THE European Court of Justice has just ruled that passengers stranded back in April 2010 by Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcanic ash deserve full compensation from airlines.

Most accept that an airline should be expected to provide alternative flights for those booked on the cancelled flights; however, that an airline should provide compensation seems wholly unreasonable. The airline did not create the emergency, indeed, is it not what insurers call an ‘Act of God’? Something that cannot be directly blamed on any individual or organisation.

It is the blame culture gone doolally.

As someone pointed out: it is much like being stranded on the M25 following an unexpected and heavy snowfall ― and then making a claim for compensation against Toyota.

Incidentally, if you had trouble pronouncing the name of that volcano ― well, here’s a rerun of something from 2010, a letter spotted in The Times:

Ash tip
Sir, The continued problems of atmospheric ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano make it increasingly important to be able to remember the name.
     May I suggest a somewhat bucolic “Hey, a fella yokel

Yes, that is  really helpful ― but I enjoyed this online response even more...

Cane Blake wrote:
Thank you indeed Dr Robert, now all we need is a similar device for the latter part of your surname.

Another great tip

Talking of an ash tip, there was a discussion on the wireless apropos the puzzling art of adequately tipping service providers: restaurants, hairdressers, newspaper boys and girls, postmen and postwomen, rubbish collectors ― yes, it was a roundup of the usual suspects...

It had been brought into focus by a listener complaining that a supermarket delivery man had actually asked for a tip. I must be honest, it took me by surprise that they expect to be tipped, not that I have ever had any such delivery to bring the problem into sharp focus.

Anyway, one person telephoned the show regarding the bin men and said: “I only tell them where the tip is.” Ho, ho, ho!

Right, back with that ash cloud, I was attracted to the thinking behind this letter in the Telegraph:


SIR – I feel like starting a club for those of us who were not flying on the day of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, who have not had an accident at work or in the car, who were not mis-sold credit insurance or other absurd policies by the banks, and who cannot find any reason for claiming against the banks for the Libor debacle.
     I feel that we are missing out.
Jerry Arnull, Merrow, Surrey

Hm, Mr G Marx springs to mind: “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” Quite right, Groucho, for you know what will happen, dont you? The moment you join Jerry Arnulls club, all sorts of things will start going wrong along your previously trouble-free walk through time.

Talking of bin men and rubbish, a couple of believe-it-or-don’t letters on the subject (Telegraph):

Out of sight, out of mind

SIR – It’s sad that Earl’s Court is removing litter bins because they attract rubbish (report, February 1). I hope they don’t apply the same principle to sewers.
Michael Austin, Abingdon, Oxfordshire

SIR – When walking my dog, I used to pick up roadside litter and put it in two litter bins. The bins have since been removed by the waste management company used by the council, which said that somebody was depositing too much rubbish in them.
Christopher Weeks, Wareham, Dorset

Doolallyness is everywhere. And, to be frank...

Addressing a problem

SIR – I sent two letters from Florida. One, to London, UK, arrived via UKraine.
     The second was addressed to London, GB, and arrived via GBralter.
Diane Minkoff, Edgware, Middlesex

SIR – When living in Swaziland, envelopes had to be marked “via Johannesburg” or they would be sent to Switzerland.
Michael Ogden, Amesbury, Wiltshire

A quick canter to the fridge

The horseburger scandal is still alive and bucking, especially with news just released that Asda has had to clear its shelves after burger meat was found to contain 80% horse...
Any more bids?

“Is it true that in future supermarket burgers will have to be paid for in guineas?” Ken Mullins of  Chesterfield, Derby, in a letter to The Daily Mail.

And on that subject, have you seen this video clip, of a pantomime horse entering a supermarket branch? The things pranksters get up to. Priceless.

The Tesco Handicap

Monday, February 4
English, as she is spoken

OH BORIS, OH PATRICIA, I wrote yesterday, I shall definitely make a point of watching Sky Atlantic  tomorrow night i.e. tonight.

To recap: I’d read a review of a series of short character-based comedies, each lasting some 10 minutes or so ... one though had caught my eye: Jessica Hynes, the writer and star of Patricia, holds her own in a tale of a lady councillor. Under fire for closing a nursery school, Patricia dodges blame by mixing cunning and apparent dottiness.

So what did I think? Though no doubt officially an imaginary figure, she noticeably has a bosom like Ann Widdecombe (correct) and, like Boris Johnson, cycles everywhere and talks nonsense as an evasive tactic (correct) . Could she be BoJo in drag (no, no, a thousand times no)?

What Boris Johnson proves, just like all great comedians ― Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Eric Morecambe ― is, that it is essential to have a comical look about you which makes people smile affectionately towards you without you actually having to say or do anything.

Even Ann Widdecombe, for all her cleverness, looks doolally in a delightful sort of way; daft as a bat, as they say down at the Crazy Horsepower.

And Patricia, sadly, didn’t look funny in that essentially smiley sort of way. Also, she did talk nonsense as an evasive tactic, but it came across as rubbish, whereas Boris has only to open his mouth and the words sound terrific as they tumble out like a circus performer on speed ― see yesterday’s speech at the opening of the Shard viewing platform.

In short, Boris is educated, Patricia was not; Boris has terrific command of the English language, Patricia did not. Nevertheless, Patricia was quite entertaining in her own silly way.

Sign up here

Staying with the English language, here are some more delightful Sign Language examples submitted by readers of the Telegraph  as spotted on their travels ― although occasionally you don’t even need to leave your chair in front of the computer screen to do the spotting...


A further education text test

Siesta time: now noon to midnight

Open University advert, spotted by Pascal Jacquemain

No, not at the Open University, but in Ayamonte, Spain / R Steele

Straight to the point: a really good screw

“Screwed by Mellor. Screwed by Max.” Antonia de Sancha, 51, English actress and businesswoman, who was advised by PR guru Max Clifford, 69 (currently facing allegations of sexual abuse), looks back on her kiss-and-tell affair with former Tory Cabinet minister David Mellor, 63 (a liaison which became public knowledge in 1992).

Sunday, February 3
Shard, ribbon, scissors, Boris

There’s a new game in Old London Town…

Shard blunts scissors, scissors cuts ribbon, Boris covers everything

Boris has a trial run in anticipation of his triumphal walk up Downing Street
With Boris Johnson, above, is Irvine Sellar, developer of the Shard         Pic: Mathew Lloyd

Well, it was a toss-up between the above headline/caption and this: “I woke up this morning with this ribbon tied neatly around my penis. I have no idea where I sleepwalked to last night, but it seems I won first prize.” Cut.

To put the above picture into context, this
FINAL WORD, ever so slightly paraphrased, from today’s Sunday Times:

                                                         A monument to self-confidence

The Shard opened its viewing platform to the public on Friday. This weekend the first visitors, at a mere £24.95 entry fee i.e. £25.00, are gazing over London after being whisked 800ft by lift to the 72nd floor of what is western Europe’s tallest building.

The official opening ceremony was enlivened by a speech from Boris Johnson, the mayor. Trying to describe the Shard’s distinctive architecture, he said: “It’s something prodding up through the frail integuments of the planet like an intergalactic spear.” He also compared it to “a cocktail stick emerging through the skin of a super-colossal pickled onion”.

Are we missing a trick here? Skyscrapers are excellent in their way, but the capital already boasts a colourful attraction that prods up through the frail integuments of the planet to a height of almost 6ft. Never mind the Shard; when is London going to open Boris to the public?

Keeping to the Boris theme ― after all, it’s his first visit of 2013 to my little scrapbook ― I read this review of a short character-based comedy which will appear on Sky Atlantic  at 9pm tomorrow night, Monday evening, that is. I quote...

Common Ground

Jessica Hynes, the writer and star of Patricia, holds her own in a tale of a lady councillor. Under fire for closing a nursery school, Patricia dodges blame by mixing cunning and apparent dottiness.

Though no doubt officially an imaginary figure, she noticeably has a bosom like Ann Widdecombe and, like Boris Johnson, cycles everywhere and talks nonsense as an evasive tactic. Could she be BoJo in drag?

Oh Boris, oh Patricia, I shall make a point of watching Sky Atlantic  on Monday night.

Sing something simple

Finally, and back with the Shard, first thing this morning, Richard Allinson invited his Radio2  listeners to suggest songs he should play to celebrate the opening of the Shards viewing platform. There were some excellent choices. Here are just a few...

     High Hopes – Frank Sinatra

     I Can See For Miles – The Who

     Elevation – U2

     Smooth Operator – or anything by Sharde, sorry, Sade

     Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin

     When I’m Cleaning Windows – George Formby (I particularly liked that)

     Long Tall Sally – Little Richard – or was it Little Ri-Shard?

     It’s A Long Way To The Top – AC/DC

     Theme From Shaft – Isaac Hayes

Every day a day at school: I will know no rest until I have used the word “integument ― meaning a protective layer: an outer protective layer or part of an animal or plant, for example a shell, rind, husk, or skin ― in casual conversation in the Asterisk bar down at the old Crazy Horsepower Saloon.

Saturday, February 2
I’m Mandy, fly me

FOLLOWING Wales’s walloping on the rugby field by the men of Ireland, Chief Wise Owl and me lifted our spirits with a discussion on another thread of letters spotted in The Times, this time though some missives which depart from the norm ― but nevertheless a fascinating series with a most unexpected and glorious twist in the tail.

First, for those in faraway places with strange sounding names i.e. Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, let’s join up some dots left over from all of 50 years ago......

The Profumo Affair was a 1963 British political scandal named after John Profumo, the then Secretary of State for War. His affair with Christine Keeler, a model, showgirl and the reputed mistress of an alleged Soviet spy, followed by lying in the House of Commons when he was questioned about it, forced the resignation of Profumo and damaged the reputation of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government.

Macmillan himself resigned a few months later due to ill health.

Crucial to the infamy of the court case, with its tales of wild parties, paid sex and nuclear secrets, was Welsh-born Mandy Rice-Davies, a socialite and supposed good-time girl, noted today for her small part in the Profumo affair and her association with Christine Keeler.

On 28 June 1963, appearing as a witness in the trial of Stephen Ward, an osteopathic physician and artist who became notorious as one of the central figures in the Profumo case, Mandy Rice-Davies earned her place in the modern books of quotations when, in reply to the defence barrister putting it to her that one of the men on a certain list, Lord Astor, had denied any involvement with her, replied: “Well he would, wouldn’t he?”

The court burst into laughter and the phrase came to be used in various circumstances, helped by the touch of innuendo from the court case.

Indeed, 50 years on and the phrase is regularly deployed both in the media and in the real world to cleverly call into question someone’s account of events.

But did Mandy Rice-Davies really say what the quotation books attribute to her? Sir Ivan Lawrence QC, in a letter to The Times  just last month, said that is not actually what she replied.

However, before we get there, at the height of the Profumo Affair in 1963, Christine Keeler sat for a photographic portrait that became as famous as the court case itself. The photo shoot was to promote a proposed film, The Keeler Affair, a flick that was eventually only distributed outside Britain.

Keeler had previously signed a contract which required her to pose nude for publicity photos, but was reluctant. The film producers insisted so Keeler was persuaded to sit astride an imitation of an iconic Fritz Hansen  plywood chair, so that whilst technically she would be nude, the back of the chair would obscure most of her body ― and the result was a quite memorable image...


                                                                                                                                                                                                         …oh, and Dame Edna takes the piss ― and all done in the best possible taste, of course. Incidentally, that marvellous Keeler photograph proves beyond any doubt that obscene language, overt sex and gratuitous violence in films and on television is glorious proof of a lack of imagination at the sharp end, the production point.

Meanwhile, back with the letters:

The first missive does indeed come from Sir Ivan John Lawrence QC, 76, a distinguished and much respected criminal barrister, who was also a British Conservative politician from 1974 to 1997. Right, here we go...

Mandy didn’t say that, did she?

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein’s article was, alas, not wholly accurate. It is not just that June 30, 1963, was a Sunday, and our criminal courts do not sit on Sundays, it is also that Mandy Rice-Davies did not actually say in court what your distinguished writer says she said.

It is indeed widely accepted that, when Lord Astor’s denial of the suggestion that she had slept with him was put to her in cross-examination by Stephen Ward’s defence counsel James Burge, she answered: “He would (say that), wouldn’t he?” But what she actually said was: “Of course it’s not untrue that I have had relations with Lord Astor. I’m not going to perjure myself in court.”

I am sure of this because I was Burge’s pupil, acting as his junior in the committal proceedings at Marylebone Magistrates’ Court, and anxious to impress with my note-taking efficiency. I have before me, as I write, the precise note. With all my imperfections, I could hardly have avoided recording such a significant and witty statement had it been uttered.

Never mind, it has been an amusing ― and useful ― aphorism for nearly 50 years.

Well, who would have believed it? However, a few days later came this response:

She did, didn’t she?

Sir, Mandy Rice-Davies did, indeed, say, “He would, wouldn’t he?” when questioned about Lord Astor’s evidence at Marylebone Magistrates’ Court.

This is confirmed on page 6 of The Times  of July 1, 1963, the day after Ms Rice-Davies gave evidence.

Sir Ivan Lawrence’s assiduous note-taking related to an earlier exchange, which is also given verbatim in The Times report of that day.
DR JOHN DOHERTY, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Now it’s getting exciting: Sir Ivan Lawrence QC, distinguished and much respected criminal barrister ― and a Conservative politician to boot ― is seemingly talking through a very private orifice. Typical lawyer and politician.

All rather delightful ― then comes this bolt from a very blue affair:

Well, I did say that, didn’t I?

Sir, I too was present at Stephen Ward’s hearing at Marylebone Magistrates’ Court in June 1963 and most certainly did say: “Well he would, wouldn’t he?” The correct quote by the way.

It was said in reply to Mervyn Griffith-Jones (prosecution) when it was put to me that Lord Astor had denied any sexual allegations in regard to myself. The palest ink is not always better than the best of memory, Sir Ivan ― besides I have before me the court transcript.
MANDY RICE-DAVIES, Virginia Water, Surrey.

Now how terrific is all of that? I always sensed that someone called Rice-Davies back in the Sixties would have been more than just a pretty face, as her original court response testifies; she
was never going to be browbeaten into submission by a pack of natural-born bully-boy lawyers. Plus of course, there’s her clever play on the Chinese proverb: “The palest ink is better than the best memory.”

And to show up someone who is both a lawyer and a politician, the two professions we hold in perpetual contempt, well, it’s a stroke of pure smile-of-the-day stuff.

So Mandy, here’s lookin’ at you...
...and nine cheers to boot. In the days when I was busily clocking up air miles, it would have been a real pleasure, Mandy, to have you fly me to the Moon.

Incidentally, she wrote a book, The Mandy Report, which I see was actually rather cleverly formatted as a tabloid-style magazine, and inside Mandy claimed to have serviced the likes of Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Robert Mitchum, Bob Hope, George Hamilton and many others...

Mostly, the men denied it, of course, but to paraphrase Mandy herself: “Well, they would, wouldn’t they?”

Friday, February 1
“Woof! Woof-woof! Woof-woof-woof-woof-woof-woof!
(“Yes. It’s true. We really are man’s best friend.”)

THERE ARE few things more certain to put a smile on the face of we humans than our dogs. True, there are people who inflict great cruelty on their pets, but they impose great cruelty on everything within their orbit.

I have never kept a pet. However, I was brought up on a farm where we had both working dogs and working cats (to keep the vermin at bay), but they would regularly wriggle their way into our affections.

I have previously written about Tuppy ― or Pussycat, as I call her ― my neighbour’s dog at my last place of abode, and she never failed to put a smile on my face with her eccentric but lovable behaviour.

Knowing how vicious all creatures become when their young are threatened, it has always intrigued me how both dogs and cats allow we humans to pick up their very young, even remove them from their bosom, without their becoming aggressive and vicious. Now that’s what I call absolute trust. It’s shameful that we often betray that trust.

Anyway, I have come across a couple of pictures which say so much about our relationships with our dogs...

Put that away ― you don’t know where its been!

The “ayes” have it: huskies during a training session at Feshiebridge in Aviemore, Scotland,
where the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain held its annual sled dog rally.
Pic: David Moir

Huskies always bring to mind sheepdogs. Anyone who has worked with border collies will know that you can spend all day rounding up sheep off the mountain, at the end of which the dogs may well look shattered as they pant with tongues hanging out, but if you suddenly point and say “Fetch!” ― they will be off as if they have a rocket up their arse.

They have endless energy and enthusiasm to please.

I am not familiar with huskies, but from what I see of them, they are exactly like collies in their work ethic and need to show willing to the pack leader. Great photo, above.

Talking of border collies...                                                                                                                                            Home

Say Caerphilly!

Dogs’ toy gives pets a toothy grin when they play “Fetch!

A new creation has put a novel twist on what can sometimes become a tiring game of fetch: the Rogz Grinz ball, designed by Porky Hefer ― great name ― features large grinning teeth, so when your dog runs back with the ball, it will also greet you with a warm, toothy grin.

Created by South African based company Rogz, the Grinz ball can be stuffed full of your doggie’s favourite treats, ensuring even the laziest pooch will go after the toy.

Two perfectly smiley photographs.

PS: Along my morning walk I recently met two ladies out walking their dog, a border collie, which reminded me very much of Pussycat. But the dog’s name was Whisper, which certainly made me smile.

I enquired where the name had come from, but the owner wasn’t sure. “Actually,” said the lady, “it’s a most inappropriate name because she is anything but a whisperer.” And right on cue, Whisper started barking furiously. Not in any aggressive way, just the way collies do when they become excited.

Smashing name though.

PPS: Finally, it’s well worth three minutes of your life watching this little puppy battling to join his dad on a treadmill. Hugely smiley:

                                                                                                                                                                     Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2013: Feb

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

Previous 2012 smiles: Smile of the day 2012 (Jan-Mar) .. Smile of the day 2012 (Apr-Jun) .. Smile of the day 2012c (Jul-Sep) .. Smile of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
Previous 2011 smiles:  Smile of the Day 2011 (Jan-Jun) .. Smile of the Day 2011 (Jul-Sep) .. Smile of the day 2011 (Oct-Dec)

 Previously: Smile of the Day 2010
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Previously on LOOK YOU......

Smile of the day 2013: Feb

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

Smile of the day 2011 (Oct-Dec)
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jul-Sep)
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jan-Jun)

Smile of the Day 2010
2010 (Jan to Jun)

Sep to Dec '07

June to Aug '07
March to May '07

As it was in the beginning:


Here's lookin' at you @
400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 19/11/2012

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

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