LOOK YOU ~ a rolling scrapbook of life, the universe and nearly everything...
Archive 2013: March

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POSTCARDS FROM
MY SQUARE MILE
click... smile
Updated: 01/03/2012

ALSO...
for a taste of life on the wild side of my square mile, click...

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 ...
                                                                             
Contact Me
 

Sunday, March 31, 2013
Snap to it


MANY moons back I mentioned in dispatches a letter I’d spotted in The Times newspaper, from a fellow who was fed up with his local pavements continually littered with all those red rubber bands posties keep chucking away when delivering the mail.

Yes, it’s a national curse, and Llandampness is no different.

So the correspondent explained that he would regularly pick ‘em all up ― and pop them into the nearest post box. That amused me no end; so much so I began to collect the discarded bands myself.

Once I had a decent collection (a red rag of elastic bands?), I posted them into a wall post box in the town. I remember doing so wearing a ear-to-ear smile because, with Llandampness being such a small town ― a village if it were in England ― I personally knew most of the local posties anyway.

Chuffed with my little joke, the following day I passed the post box ― and there were the elastic bands I’d posted ... lying in a discarded rage on the floor.

Checkmate. A first class riposte from Mr Postie (and actually, I knew who was on that collection round). I laughed out loud.

So that was that, the end of the little game, castrated at birth with a tight elastic band.

Whatever, I noticed a year or so ago that the Royal Mail had changed the rubber bands from a bright red to a pale fawn colour. How odd, I remember thinking. The only reason I could see behind this evolution was ... well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, sort of thing.

If the Royal Mail couldn’t stop the posties discarding the rubber bands, then by making the colour less startling to the casual eye, and therefore more likely to blend in with the pavements, they hoped we wouldn’t notice.

Oh dear. Anyway, perhaps the Royal Mail should read this, another item from the Weird and wonderful column in The Sunday Times:

The very latex designs

Some people wrap elastic bands into a ball, but Preston Moeller, an American art student, has been more ambitious ― he has designed an office chair, pictured alongside, made from 65,000 rubber bands.

“When guests go to sit in it, they start by bracing themselves with their arms and slowly lowering themselves into the chair,” he says. “Within minutes, they’re jumping up and down on it. It’s a reliable chair and feels very safe ― every office should have one.”

Moeller, 26, from Cleveland, North Carolina, started rubber-band sculpting by making a small saxophone from elastic wrapped around chicken wire. He said: “Soon I had a whole band of instruments made from rubber bands.”

I am reminded of the fellow found wandering about rather aimlessly, with a rubber trumpet in hand. Yes, he was looking for a rubber band.

Headline of the day

                                           North Korea is funny ― so we have to take it seriously

It is a terrifying thought that this farcical regime could trigger the wars to end all wars...

The article didn’t bear thinking about. However, I did smile at this clever online comment...

Rightrightright: The son has got his fat on...
 

Saturday, March 30
Rotary watch

PRIDE of place on today’s smileometer goes to this eye-catching image from the 2012 Military Photographic Awards:

Blade Runner

Dust lights up the rotors of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter as paratroopers with 3rd Squadron, 73rd
Cavalry Regiment load for an air assault mission near Combat Outpost Ab Band May 23, 2012,
 Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. This picture gained a runner-up spot in the Pictorial section.
                                                                                           Picture: Sgt Michael J MacLeod/US Army/MCT Ph

A wonderfully atmospheric shot. A few days back I pondered whether that marvellous picture of a butterfly on a young girl’s nose was a photograph or a work of art. Well, I don’t have the same challenge with the above: it is definitely a photograph, which is also a work of art.

The day after

Given how cold the weather remains here in the UK ― and over all of northern Europe to be fair ― a couple of smiles left over from yesterday, both compliments of the Letters page of The Times:

Chips

Sir, It is traditional to set (plant) potatoes on Good Friday. Should I use an ice axe or cold chisel and hammer?
IVOR WILDE, Piddington, Northants

I think I would have headlined that letter ‘Gardening on the Wilde side’. Be that as it may, I was intrigued with the term ‘cold chisel’. Whilst I am vaguely familiar with a ‘rotary chisel’, I was unfamiliar with the term ‘cold chisel’, so I Googled said tool:

A cold chisel is a tool made of tempered steel used for cutting ‘cold’ metals, meaning that they are not used in conjunction with heating torches, forges, etc. Cold chisels are used to remove waste metal when a very smooth finish is not required or when the work cannot be done easily with other tools, such as a hacksaw, file, bench shears or power tools.

The name cold chisel comes from its use by blacksmiths to cut metal while it was cold as compared to other tools they used to cut hot metal. Because cold chisels are used to form metal, they have a less-acute angle to the sharp portion of the blade than a woodworking chisel. This gives the cutting edge greater strength at the expense of sharpness.

Thanks, Wikipedia, every day a day at school.

Anyway, there was a follow-up letter re planting of said potatoes:

Good Friday

Sir, My dad was a coalminer and, like Ivor Wilde, he always ’put in’ his potatoes on Good Friday. When I pointed out that Easter varies between March 22 and April 25, he said: “But, that’s the only day I can be sure of having off work.”
DAVID RAMSELL, Wychbold, Worcestershire

Honestly, we don’t know we’re born . Imagine, not having a break from breathing in all that coal dust. And to think there are some who still hanker after the traditional coalmining industry.

Sticking with things that go round and round, both literally and metaphorically, I was taken with this cartoon in the Driving section of The Sunday Times. The cartoon reflects our obsession with modernising everything rather than sticking a little longer with what’s familiar...
                                                                                     Road Runner
                                           
                                   


Good Friday 2013
A moment’s contemplation


VANESSA FELTZ early morning wireless show features a daily Pause For Thought; all week the theme has been building up to today, Good Friday.

There was one particular memorable Pause earlier this week which made me sit up, listen and think. Oh, and it also made me smile. It was delivered by stand-up comedian, writer and actor Paul Kerensa. She what you think...

Food for thought

Quiz question: what’s the most shoplifted book of all time? No, not 50 Shades  of Grey. I’ll give you a clue: this is Pause For Thought. That’s right, The Bible a.k.a. 50 Shades of Grace.

It’s the best selling and the most stolen ― even though ‘Thou shalt not steal’ appears quite early on. It’s probably not going from shops, but hotel rooms or churches ― you know, let it go on compassionate grounds, they’ll just be glad it’s being read.

Some folk think the Bible should be taken literally; others think that it should be literally taken, it seems. Shoplifting crimes used to be stereotypically ― well, stereos, typically ... technology, jewellery, alcohol perhaps, although what’s reported today aren’t luxuries: it’s basic food stuffs, groceries, nappies...

The head of a major supermarket chain predicted more food price hikes this year. Last year’s rises were just the tip of the iceberg, he said, and he’s just not talking about lettuce.

Shoplifting isn’t the answer, of course. But compassion is. One of those charities that collects food at supermarket checkouts offers those in need free access to life’s essentials. They’ve risen in dramatic numbers since the recession.

Some using these charities have said that if it weren’t for these banks of food they might have been shoplifting the same items up the road. They simply can’t afford to feed or clothe their families.

It’s Holy Week, traditionally a time of fasting. I never understood this as a child. I figured Lent was easy. You start with Pancake Day ― and then just go 40 days without pancakes. Or not smoke for 40 days, which was easy ‘cause I don’t smoke.

So what more can you do? Well, you can not only rein in over-consumption but also consider passing things on. The nice food you normally buy will be welcomed by your local bank of food who want good, in-date food for someone just needing a meal for their family.

You might have a local community charity that’s looking for quality furniture ― household items, maybe ― for the vulnerable and in-need.

The Bible, whether stolen or bought, talks of compassion. A new command I give you: Love one another, says the Good Lord ― and this for me is the crux of Christianity.

Whatever else comes in the way, whatever controversy, barrier or issue, the heart of Christianity is Love One Another.

That’s what my Bible says anyway. I know it also says ‘Property of Glendale Hotel ... do not remove’ ― Oops!

So there you go, how to make a point with some style.

So much so, this afternoon I popped into town and called with Chief Wise Owl and his Good Lady Mrs What A Hoot ― and after we’d shared a generous crash, bang, wallop of Glenfiddich (to keep out the cold, you understand) ― we got round to discussing the above Pause For Thought message.

Whilst I was as sure as sure can be that a comfortably-off small town like Llandeilo didn’t have a local charity bank ― excepting charity shops, obviously, which are a different animal ― but Chief Wise Old did seem to think that nearby Llandovery ― the next town up the A40 and similar in size to Llandeilo ― does indeed have some sort of charity bank for the locals.

We live and learn. And at least Paul Kerensa’s Pause For Thought did give me reason to stop ... and think...
 


Thursday, March 28
The Lady, the Tramp and the Pastafarians


THIS delightfully doolally tale from The Sunday Times  Weird but wonderful column tickled my Ho-Ho-Ho-Spot no end:

Spaghetti hopes

A religious group that claims to worship pasta says it will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights after the government in Poland refused to list it as an official faith.

A spokesman for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose members are known as Pastafarians, said: “Most religions were persecuted at the beginning of their existence. This is not the end.”

The sect, which was created in 2005 by Bobby Henderson, a physics student in Kansas, “believes” that the universe was created by an alien made of spaghetti.

Once I’d gathered by equilibrium, and gloried in the term Pastafarians, I visited Wikipedia:

The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) is the deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Pastafarianism, a movement that promotes a light-hearted view of religion and opposes the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in public schools.

Although adherents state that Pastafarianism is a genuine religion, it is generally recognized by the media as a parody religion.

Wonderful. Doolallyness at its most exquisite.

Meanwhile, back at my Desert Island Jukebox, it gives me an excuse to provide a critical link along my musical journey through time, when the magical world of Children’s Favourites (and then Jim Reeves) slowly but surely morphed into Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis et al ― and of course the beginning of those marvellous Rock ‘n’ Roll years.


That’s the way to do it

When I was first attracted to girls, when I was just knee-high to the local Don Juan, there was that messy business of kissing the girl of my dreams to negotiate and navigate safely and without incident, especially as spotted on screen in the cinema of my youth: Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!

And then Lady and the Tramp showed how it should be done. A starter-for-ten kiss ― I’m not talking here about the first-time-ever kiss ― but the first time I would kiss a girl I fancied something rotten ... well, it was a business fraught with ambushes, but Lady and the Tramp proved conclusively that it should be unexpected and startlingly pleasurable ― with a trail of smiles in its wake.

So what better than to provide the link to Bella Notte ― or Bella Naughty-Naughty, as I think of it ― from the film.

A kiss is not just a kiss – see the Pastafarian Tramp:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Er8wXuqdEY

It is no surprise then that the Pastafarian Kiss remains rooted in the Top Ten of the ‘best movie smackers of all time’.

Incidentally, wouldn’t it be just wonderful to be transported back in time and land inside the mind of the individual who dreamt up that truly iconic and endearing film scene. What was going on inside his ― or her ― mind to come up with such a thing of beauty?

That is indeed the way to do it.

 

Wednesday, March 27
The Butterfly On The Ball


THIS morning I happened upon this marvellously eye-catching and smiley picture...

Don't look now but...

Stella Ferruzola poses with a Blue Morpho butterfly on her nose at the Sensational Butterflies
Exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London                         
Picture: REUTERS 

Stunning image. Mind you, the trouble with modern photography is ... I found myself momentarily wondering if the picture has been Photoshopped. I mean, the butterfly is so perfectly framed against the girl’s face ... it seems too good to be true.

Are they two separate images? The butterfly superimposed to perfection onto Stella’s face? And there’s something about the bridge of Stella’s nose?

However, the moment passed and I was perfectly happy to accept it as seen and raise a genuine smile of appreciation.

In this context it doesn’t really matter if the picture is genuine or a work of art. However, it doesn’t bare thinking about if news photographs are faked.

We’ve just seen those Photoshopped images from North Korea of the multitude of hovercrafts carrying out a military exercise. And a year or so back those rockets being fired in Iran.

None of those photographs fooled the outside world ― but they were meant for home consumption, to show how butch those regimes are against the nasty world at large.

It really is a worrying development.

Believe nothing you hear and nothing you see? Oh dear.

The small print

This afternoon, I happened upon Laurie Taylor’s Thinking Aloud on BBC Radio 4 ― yes, I have my upmarket moments, don’t you know.

I rather liked this, when Laurie read out an e-mail sent to the programme in response to an item on a previous show about food. This then from a David Molyneux:

Your discussion about exaggerated, hyperbolic food language last week reminded me of the time when my daughter picked up a yogurt pot and read the contents, which stated there were ‘No artificial colourings, no flavours or preservatives and no added sugar’: “What a swizz,” she said. “There’s nothing in it.”

I shared Laurie’s amusement. Do you know, as I’m not allergic to anything, I never read the small print on the packaging, so I toddled off to the fridge where there were some yogurt pots...

Nestle Ski Smooth, no bits, all natural ingredients ... We make our delicious Ski yogurts with a blend of creamy yogurt, real fruit and a sprinkle of love
♥ ♥.

I liked that. However, on with the show...
                                                                   

All natural, yummy ingredients ... Free from artificials ... Low in fat ... Gluten free ... POTS NOT TO BE SOLD SEPARATELY

That’s probably why I never peruse the small print. I also enjoyed this little by-the-by comment from Laurie Taylor:

“I am reminded of Robert Robinson’s delicious remark that the national dish of America is The Menu.”
 


Tuesday, March 26
Bojo’s mojo goes AWOL

“SUPPOSING he became Prime Minister, the idea of Boris Johnson’s finger on the nuclear button ... one day he would get it mixed up with the one to call the maid.” Writer and former Fleet Street editor Max Hastings on the prospect of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, entering 10 Downing Street.

Yes, but what a way to go.

Last Sunday morning, political interviewer Eddie Mair asked a very flustered Boris Johnson about a number of notorious incidents from his past. The questions were based on Mairs meticulous research of the London Mayors misdemeanours.

Traditional allies agreed the interview had damaged Johnson’s image and ambitions for the very highest office in the land. “There’s no doubting that Brand Boris is looking a little tarnished.”  

Here’s a flustered Boris from last Sunday...

                                                                               ...and above, a wonderful Adams cartoon sums it all up, reminding us
                                                                               of the infamous zip-wire incident. Clev-er.
No rubber necking

I didn’t see the “car crash” interview, but last night I did watch the BBC documentary, Boris Johnson: the Irresistible Rise, in which Michael Cockerell interviewed the London Mayor.

As I watched, what I could hear inside my head was Scott Joplin’s catchy and melodic little number, The Entertainer ... and I was mildly amused that Boris should be questioned by someone called Cockerell about that rocket Bojo really should be keeping in his pocket.

Anyway, this morning I read a review by the Telegraph’s  Benji Wilson. Heres a starter for 10:

When Twitter started trilling on Sunday with “Boris Johnson in car crash TV interview”, I dropped everything, croissant included, and high-tailed it to YouTube.

It was vintage Johnson ― on the face of it taking a rinsing from Eddie Mair about past indiscretions, and yet once the harrumphing was done the abiding feeling was, “that was another wonderful piece of telly starring Boris Johnson”.

It was the exact same effect induced by Michael Cockerell’s film  Boris Johnson: the Irresistible Rise  last night on BBC Two. Regardless of what you think of Johnson’s politics or predilections, the man is TV gold.

In the name of journalistic objectivity, Cockerell’s film dutifully included musings from Boris’s sister Rachel, his father Stanley, former editors and school chums. Some of it was moderately revealing, but the money shot was the blond bombshell, live and unleashed…

At the end of the documentary, the Mayor of London was asked about his political ambitions, but revealed instead that he’d “like to be the lead singer of an international rock group”.

This morning, Boris visited London Bridge station to launch Gigs 2013, a busking competition. A reporter asked the Mayor what piece of music he’d like played at his funeral.

“Ah!” cried Mr Johnson. “Is that an event you’re looking forward to?”

He pondered for a moment. “Maybe Three Little Birds,” he concluded triumphantly. “Three Little Birds! Yup!

And with that, he abruptly turned to your bemused sketch writer [Michael Deacon] and serenaded him with the above rendition of Bob Marley’s 1980 hit single: “Smiled with the risin’ sun, three little birds on my doorstep, singing’ sweet songs of melodies pure and true…”

I clicked on the link ... Three Little Birds ... and was taken aback to see 40 million hits...

However, back online, I enjoyed these comments about the Boris Johnson documentary:

FatManInASwivelchair: Boris was shown up for the empty head vacuous buffoon he is. The fact that the Conservative voter is so devoid of anyone with any talent to support and are pinning their hopes on this bozo is hilarious.

BoBoBolinski: “Boris was shown up for the empty head vacuous buffoon he is.
     Amazing how one programme can elicit two entirely different points of view from two viewers. I thought exactly the opposite. He is obviously very bright, the buffoon is the act.

Julian4006: The archetypal showman. A study in chaos guided by a shrewd strategic brain and he succeeds on the principle that the more chaos he creates the more he stays ahead of the game because, despite the buffoonery, he always seems to have an objective.
     Would he make a good PM? Probably; on the basis that he disproves the adage that you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. He does try very hard to do just that.
     I would say that when he makes his move you should vote for him as he could not make much more of a mess of the country than the last 20 years of politicians, and at least if the country went to the dogs, we’d be laughing most of the way.


I agree with that last comment. Whatever, the final word goes to The Entertainer himself, Bojo regaining his mojo:

“He was perfectly within his rights to have a bash at me ― in fact it would have been shocking if he hadn’t. If a BBC presenter can’t attack a nasty Tory politician, what’s the world coming to?”
Boris on his uncomfortable interview with the BBC’s Eddie Mair.

And on that note ... back to my Desert Island Jukebox...

When I was young, about 11-12, my parents insisted that I should have piano lessons. I failed miserably, mostly because my heart wasn’t in it. And anyway, the lessons were on Saturday mornings and I would rather be listening to Children’s Favourites  on the wireless.

As the years drifted on by I regretted not grasping those lessons, not least because I saw that if you could sit at the old Joanna down at the Crazy Horse Saloon, the free beer came flooding in.

Now to be fair I could have gone back to the piano at any time ― even now ― but the urge, like so many other things in my life, never burned bright enough.

However, I am pretty sure that if, as a youngster, I had been exposed to Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer, or better still, Winifred Attwell’s Poor People of Paris ― I think I would have been hooked and my journey through time might have had a different beat. But who knows? Still, I’m happy with my lot, piano player or not.

Here’s a link to The Entertainer, played by someone who identifies himself only as Chocotiger. It is mesmerising in the extreme ― much like watching Bojo, really...
                                                                        
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cFkae0j_Ns
 

And of course, Winifred Atwell’s catchy Poor People of Paris. Magic:
                                                                                                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O50GfY29Iaw

 


Monday, March 25
A load of snowballs


WITH extravagant amounts of snow deposited about the nation ― extravagant in as much that we are now officially into spring, with Easter on the doorstep ― I was rather taken with this wintry tale from Germany.

A snow news day

Traffic police had no hesitation in giving a ticket to a Volkswagen Beetle parked overnight in a restricted zone. It was only when the officers tried to scrape snow off the number plate that they realised the vehicle, pictured below, was made entirely of snow.

Practical jokers had left the snow sculpture ― complete with wheels, headlights and wing mirrors ― in a car park in Aachen, Germany.

Snow parking zone

Sleeping snowman

‘Achtung!’ in Aachen

‘Do not disturb’ in London

That car is indeed impressive. The police said: “We can take a joke as well as the next person, and it was a very convincing prank but, whether it was made of metal or snow, it was still causing an obstruction.”

I do note, however, that the police humoured humanity by sticking a ‘ticket’ on the car. Perhaps the police were in on the prank all along. And why not?

As for the sleeping snowman ― makes a change from a sleeping policeman ― I spotted that second image online during the snows back at the beginning of the year. I know little about the eye-catching sculpture, except that it was tagged ‘Snowman in a London Field / Rex’.

I just thought the juxtaposition of the two images exceedingly smiley.

Capote kaput

Oh yes, the icing on the cake, so to speak ... this delightfully doolally news story:

Truman Capote’s cremated remains invited to attend ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ Broadway premier

Joanna Carson, former wife of comedian Johnny Carson, still keeps the remains of the celebrated author Truman Capote (1924-1984) in the Bel Air bedroom where the writer died in 1984.

Producers of the new ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ Broadway show, which stars Emilia Clarke as Holly Golightly, wanted to fly in Truman Capote’s ashes from Los Angeles to attend the premier and opening party.

Do not Go Lightly into that good night, eh? Dylan Thomas must be smiling, up there.

We used to say “Only in America”. These days, though, these doolally stories are just as likely to surface here in the UK.

Crazy world, crazy people. But where would my smileometer be without them?

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Aachen’ in Germany came up as ‘Apache’, which tickled my Ho-Ho-Ho-Spot no end.
 


Sunday, March 24
Bang
! The Messy Conception

THE Universe is awash with original sin. Hence why it was never The Immaculate Conception. Whatever, this headline and picture drew me in:

New image confirms Big Bang

Image of the “oldest light” in the universe confirms Big Bang theory: Planck has mapped the cosmic microwave
background to great precision, but found nothing clearly incompatible with the standard cosmology.

Hm, a cosmic microwave, along with our universe which happens to look like an egg ― and we all know what happens when you put an egg in a microwave: a very big and messy BANG!

But which came first? God or the egg? Whatever, according to Science Now:

If the universe were ice cream, it would be vanilla. That’s the take-home message from researchers working with the European Space Agency’s orbiting Planck observatory, who today released the most precise measurements yet of the afterglow of the big bang — the so-called cosmic microwave background radiation.

The new data from Planck ― I refuse to comment on that handle ― confirm cosmologists’ standard model of how the universe sprang into existence and what it’s made of. That may disappoint scientists who were hoping for new puzzles that would lead to a deeper understanding.

According to Planck, the universe consists of 4.9% ordinary matter, 26.8% mysterious dark matter that has revealed itself through only its gravity, and 68.3% weird, space-stretching dark energy.

Those numbers amount to roughly 3% more dark energy and 3% less dark matter than previous result. The Planck team also pegs the age of the universe at 13.8 billion years, 100 million years older than previously found.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, believe nothing you hear i.e. big bang ― and only half what you see i.e. the curate’s egg.

But what did tickle me is that, as a rule of thumb, humanity reflects what’s going on in the universe: 10% of humanity is made up of ordinary matter; 30% is made up of mysterious dark matter; and 60% is weird beyond.

Just to confirm that ‘60% weird beyond’ statistic, back in February, this curious tale surfaced:

                                                                 
‘Croc’ spotted in Thames

A reported sighting of a crocodile in the River Thames last week sent the public into a tailspin

A crocodile has been spotted on the loose in the River Thames, a cyclist has claimed.

Retired lecturer Richard Smith, 64, said he saw the 4ft-long beast as he biked by the river. He said: “I thought it was a bit of tree, then I realised it was a crocodile. I went back but it had gone.”

Mr Smith said he had previously seen a goose “suddenly pulled below the surface” in Reading, Berks — and another local said the same thing had happened to a swan further along the river.

Police urged people to report any sightings. But expert Shaun Foggett said it was “highly unlikely” there was a crocodile as the river was too cold for them to survive...

See what I mean? And anyway, Crocodile Reading doesn’t quite have that ring to it. However, just the other day:

                  Crocodile spotted in River Thames turns out to be James Bond prop

What can I add? Well, this online comment ― but first a few dots need to be joined up:

For those in faraway places with strange sounding names, Reading is a large town and unitary authority area in the ceremonial county of Berkshire ― Berks for short ― and is located in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet.

QuentinUK: The people of Reading thought it was a real crocodile, oh what Berks.

Now if a retired lecturer can’t tell the difference between a real crocodile and a James Bond prop, I’m not sure what to make of those Planckers working out the age of the universe from a dodgy photograph.

Believe nothing you hear and only half what you see.

I’m not sure where we go next ... I know ... a far away place with a strange sounding name.

Desert Island Jukebox

I have my favourite and probably much overused words, phrases and sayings, my special little clichés, I guess. I used one of them above: For those in faraway places with strange sounding names. And as if to prove the point, yesterday I mentioned Keukenhof and Anna Paulowna, both in Holland.

When I write about something very British, I am aware that there is a real possibility of someone in another country reading it and not knowing what the hell it is I’m on about ― that is why I painted the brief picture of Reading, as detailed above.

So it’s a perfect time to add another song to my Desert Island Jukebox.

My last two additions featured the harmony singing of the Mills Brothers and the Star Sisters. Back then, my natural progression was into the melodic and more modern sounds of Ray Conniff, who has indeed already featured as my Christmas song.

So what better than the sweet sound of the Ray Conniff Singers pointing the way to those Far Away Places...

                                                                                                                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-7Ge5Sx86M


Saturday, March 23
Tulips from Amsterdam

FOLLOWING on from yesterday’s weather report, what with all the floods, the snow and the really cold weather refusing to release its grip on the nation ― mind you, in this corner of the world all we’ve had to suffer, apart from some rain, is the bitingly cold easterly wind ― I guess it’s time for a bit of an escape into a world of riotous colour.

Newspapers, magazines and online web sites are currently awash ― no weather pun intended ― with articles and glorious pictures of holiday destinations. I was particularly captivated with a piece about the land of the tulips.

Two marvellous pictures grabbed my attention. First...

A Windmill In Old Amsterdam

Never mind the tulips, there are still around 1,100 working windmills ―
essentially ships rooted to the land ― dotted across Holland

“For all the colours and forms, and the brilliant millions of petals and leaves in their kaleidoscopic arrangements at Keukenhof, what really knocks me out is the perfume. I am not so much tiptoeing through the tulips as tottering, in a daze of pleasure, along these gardens’ 10 miles of pathways.”

The words of Tim Pozzi in The Daily Telegraph, as he takes a spin through Holland’s most dazzling spring floral displays.

“Here are multitudes of daffodils, carpets of crocuses, seas of narcissi, alliums and anemones, and those tulips – cream mixed with pink and orange and interspersed with purple, variegated, fringed, dwarf, star-shaped, goblet-shaped.

“But every once in a while I am overwhelmed by an invisible blanket of perfume – the intoxicating bouquet produced by thousands and thousands of hyacinths. Wau! As the Dutch say.”

And here’s the second picture...

A Wind Turbine In New Amsterdam

Acres of colour sprawl across the landscape of Anna Paulowna in North Holland, 
highlighting the patchwork rainbow of the nation’s tulip fields. 
Pic: Normann Szkop

The old and the new

Beautiful images, both of them. But what is so striking is the juxtaposition of the old windmill and the new wind turbine. Fascinating.

I don’t know about you, but I’m once more whisked back to Children’s Favourites  on the wireless, and another regular from those years. I am reminded of the opening lines from the Ronnie Hilton song about A Windmill In Old Amsterdam:

♫♫♫
       
A mouse lived in a windmill in old Amsterdam,
              A windmill with a mouse in and he wasn’t grousin’;
              He sang every morning, “How lucky I am,
              Living in a windmill in old Amsterdam
!

Also, these lines never fail to generate a smile:

              A little mouse with clogs on,
              Well I declare
!
              Going clip-clippety-clop on the stair,
              Oh yeah
!

Well, how could I resist not putting a link to the Ronnie Hilton hit ― and a really strange and weird video to accompany the song:
              
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fg7w49UnGA


Friday, March 22
Whatever the weather


“Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” Mark Twain.

Today’s Live Guardian News Blog: 10.01GMT

Good morning. It’s 22 March, the third day of spring, and Britain faces a day of heavy snow, blizzard conditions ― and flooding. We’ll be covering it live throughout the day here.

Already more flooding is expected in the south-west due to heavy rain yesterday and overnight. The Environment Agency has 18 flood alerts in place along the south-west coast warning of expected flooding, with a further 80 alerts issued to areas at risk.

And snow is expected to hit everywhere north of the M4 motorway west of London, with the north-west, north Wales and south-west Scotland worst affected...

Spring 2013

TRANQUILLITY BASE: A white house at the edge of a snow-covered forest in Mold, North Wales
                                                                                                                                           
  Pic: Mail Online/PA

In Northern Ireland, heavy rain is expected to turn to up to 30cm (12in) of snow across the hills of Down and Antrim, while on the east coast rain and sleet could cause localised flooding.

Cold gale-force winds will sweep across the country creating blizzard conditions and temperatures are expected to fall well below freezing...

What an astonishing range of weather for such a small country.

“I’ve lived in a good climate, and it bores the hell out of me. I like weather rather than climate.”
John Steinbeck.

This, from Guardian News, one year ago...

March 2012 was one of the warmest, driest and sunniest on record: the warmest over the UK as a whole since 1997, and the sunniest since 1929. Many places recorded record-high temperatures during a remarkable fine and warm period in the last 10 days.

Spring 2012

RELAXEVOO: these three girls were among hundreds of sunbathers at the Glasgow
Botanic Gardens enjoying record-breaking March temperatures                      
Pic: PA

A new March temperature record for Scotland was achieved on 27 March 2012, when Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, reached 23.6°C, the third successive day when the Scottish monthly record was broken, the warmth aided by air descending in the lee of the Highlands.

Aside from brief unsettled spells, high pressure dominated the UK weather for the second successive month, to such an extent that this was the fourth most anticyclonic March in 140 years of records.

The month extended and intensified the long period of deficient rainfall over central and south-eastern England that has now lasted for nearly two years.  
 

Gosh, yes, remember the drought from a year or so ago? Britain itself was heavy with child, christened Olympics 2012 ― and then the nation’s waters broke ... and it hasn’t stopped raining or snowing since.

Now that’s what makes the British weather such a joy, and anything but a bore. We really have no idea what’s waiting in ambush from week to week, month to month, year to year, decade to decade...

Shame on our politicians and water chiefs that they have ignored the various historical warnings ― from that exceptionally long hot summer of 1976, to the deficient rainfall in the two years prior to summer 2012 ― and not prepared the nation for the extended drought that is likely to hit us sooner rather than later.

Be that as it may ― and to paraphrase Samuel Johnson:
                                                     
No, Sir, when a man is tired of the Great British Weather, he is tired of life.

 

Thursday, March 21
Wales on parlour invitation alert


WHAT a headline to wake up to (compliments of WalesOnline):

                            Asbestos-contaminated tarantula ‘could be on the loose’ in Cardiff  

A web of intrigue surrounds a gruesome discovery in a 19th century attic ― where a large tarantula skin, potentially contaminated with asbestos, has been found.

The shock find was made during a routine survey by Cardiff asbestos specialists Kusten Vorland. And a spider expert warned the beast that shed the skin could still be at large ― and possibly twice the size...

Talk about “Will you walk into my parlour?” said an asbestos-dusted tarantula to a human fly. Mind you, I find it somewhat amusing that someone should be worried that its dust is worst than its bite.

It sounds much like having a fear of being attacked by a lion but worrying whether it would have bad breath.

Whatever, and as you would expect, the meeja has not taken a too serious view of said giant spider...
 


Twitter page ‘I Loves The Diff’ mocked up a poster of said tarantula
and its mate terrorising the residents of Roath in Cardiff

Meanwhile, back in the attic...

After three days in the empty house, on The Parade, in Roath, surveyor Katie Parsons-Young led her team into a pitch-black attic at 4.30pm on Tuesday. [It took them three days to reach the attic?]

In a scene reminiscent of horror flick Arachnophobia, Katie ― no fan of creepy crawlies ― got the shock of her life when lifting up one of the floorboards and spotting a large, hairy leg.

She told WalesOnline: “We had lighting in there so we moved the lighting to the other area of the attic where I was and could see there was something...”

Hang about, hang about ― have you seen this other headline?

             The Amazing Spider-Man beard: IT administrator’s bizarre sculpted facial hair

Chad ‘Tarantula’ Roberts


An IT administrator has sculpted his facial hair into the Spider-Man logo. Chad Roberts’ spider beard won Best in Show at the second annual Garden State Beard and ’Stache competition in New Jersey. Mind you, with a surname like Roberts he must have his roots ― or his hairy legs anyway ― somewhere in a Cardiff attic.

Anyway, Chad styles his beard with extra strength hairspray and says too many gels and waxes can weigh it down. Currently his beard measures just over 35 centimetres (14inches) long. This isn’t the first time the 35-year-old from Richmond in Virginia has made headlines with his whiskers...

So it was Chad the Cad’s hairy leg all along. Honestly, believe nothing you hear and only half what creeps all over you.

Load the Jukebox

It’s time to get back to my Desert Island Jukebox. The trail so far: there’s the music I would have been exposed to from the moment of conception, compliments of my mother (The Lord’s Prayer); Xmas melodies (Jolly Old St. Nicholas); primary school sing-songs (Daisy Bell); and Children’s Favourites (Nellie the Elephant).

Now I come to the music I was intuitively drawn to as a youngster, and it’s noticeable that I was attracted to harmony.

For example, the sort of popular music and singers that would stop me doing what I was doing, and make me listen, was that provided by the Mills Brothers and the Andrews Sisters.

So my first choice from that time will be Glow Worm by the Mills Brothers. Not only did I like the catchiness of the melody, but I was captivated by the clever and memorable lyrics. I remember thinking: if this is what popular music is all about ― boyoboyo, am I in for a treat.

Sadly, the lyrics in subsequent songs rarely lived up to the cleverness of Glow Worm.

Then I searched YouTube for an Andrews Sisters ditty ... and I came across a group called The Star Sisters, a female Dance/Pop trio from the Netherlands that were very popular during the 1980s, most notably as the ladies who performed the chorus as members of Jaap Eggermont’s studio act (? ― see below).

Now I had never heard of The Star Sisters ― but I was duly captivated, not just by the eye-catching video, but the girls themselves.

I quote an online comment from Hdhdl: It’s a video clip for “Stars on 45 proudly presents The Star Sisters”. Stars on 45 was a Dutch studio project by Jaap Eggermont. He produced several successful medleys in the eighties and this is one of them with the Dutch group The Star Sisters (Patricia Paay, Yvonne Keely ― sisters in real life ― and Sylvana van Veen).

As I say, I had never heard or seen this before. It’s a remarkable take off of the Andrews Sisters. It seems the medley I have chosen charted internationally in 1984.

I also enjoyed this online comment from Jim Green: Love the music. I am desperately in love with the girl on the right ... and the one on the left ... and the one in the middle as well. But, the one on the right is especially beautiful.

Okay Jim, you have the one on the right ― I’ll have the one in the middle. Gosh, that takes me back to my youth and how we joked about the girls we fancied on our nights out on the town.

Sometimes our dreams really did come true, and I did have the one in the middle. More often than not though, dreams simply never materialised. But, as ever, I just picked myself up, dusted myself off and started all over again.

Anyway. here’s the link to the Star Sisters Swing Medley (so good and witty ― in my humble opinion ― I didn’t want it to stop; thank goodness for the replay button):
                                                                            
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jZKhC7CtEI


And here’s Glow Worm by the Mills Bros. I have plumped for a version without a video ― excepting the eye-catching glow worm ― because it helps concentrate on the wonderfully clever lyrics of Johnny Mercer (1931-1976):
                                                                                                                     
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WuZ3zV_w4Y


Wednesday, March 20
One born every minute


WITH high performance expectations now the norm in all areas of life, is having the baby’s father in the delivery room simply piling more pressure on an already stressed woman? Is the presence of a man a hindrance rather than a help?

Hm, can’t say that’s something I’ve ever given any thought to. Anyway, it was Vanessa Feltz who posed the questions on her early-morning wireless show: apparently, the story was in the morning papers, so Vanessa asked her listeners to let her know the good, the bad and the ugly of the delivery room.

Not a feature I could relate to or empathise with ... whatever, I enjoyed the tale of Ed, who was told to “Sit!” in the chair in the corner ... it was a particularly hot day, with a nice breeze wafting in through an open window ― and he promptly fell asleep ... to be woken by the sound of a someone saying “Wake up, Dad!”.

But best of all was Matt: while waiting for his wife to give birth he went round and re-set all the clocks in the ward to British Summer Time ― and when the ice machine broke down, he mended that too.

Cool.

The baby shortly arriving...

By coincidence, the story that surfaced later in the day was the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duchess of Cambridge at Baker Street to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the underground transport network ― and Kate was officially presented with a badge...

 
Kate shows the Queen her ‘Baby on Board’ badge – shame there wasn’t a camera
behind Kate to capture the Queen’s “We are amused” look, as I’m sure she was.


When I first saw the image I thought it was a novelty present with a difference, but it seems not. The badges, available from Transport for London, are designed to overcome the awkwardness often felt by pregnant women when travelling on the underground and they have to stand ― and to hopefully encourage others to give them a seat.

No handicap

Later on, Vanessa in her Jolly Good Fellow spot ― where she has a chat with a listener whose birthday it is and she plays the song that was No. 1 on the day that person was born ― she spoke to a Pat Watts in Solihull, born in 1957.

What generated a smile though was that Pat owns a horse called Shergar, celebrating its 32nd birthday later this year; so named because Shergar won the Derby the year the horse was born.

[Shergar was an acclaimed Irish racehorse, and winner of the 1981 Epsom Derby by a record 10 lengths, the longest winning margin in the races 226-year history. Two years later he was stolen from the Ballymany Stud in Ireland, by masked gunmen from the IRA, with the body never discovered.]

Now that’s what I call a talking point. Also, Pat Watts is married to someone called Den Watts ― which hugely tickled Vanessa, but meant nothing to me.

So I Googled the name ... ah, Dirty Den of Eastenders infamy. Never watched Eastenders, but I am familiar with the character Dirty Den from meeja coverage; also, that the actor who portrayed him, Leslie Grantham is a convicted murderer.

Strange old world we live in, where someone who kills another human being, and having served a term in jail, is still considered worthy of celebrity status. Crazy world. Crazy people.

Incidentally, the song that was No. 1 on the 20th March 1957, the day Pat Watts was born, was Tab Hunter and Young Love.
         http://www.youtube.com/Tab Hunter - Young Love


Name that pet

To add to the joys of unusual names, Alex Lester on his extra-early wireless show, had listeners revealing the most unusual pet names they had encountered.

Dean the Trucker owned a Pyrenean mountain dog called Bacon. Quite how a dog would end with such a name we never found out. Could be that the dog was a bit of a philosopher, a statesman, a scientist, a jurist, an author even. Or perhaps it was owner Dean the Trucker who was all those things.

Russ from Whitley Bay had a goldfish called Bob ― he must have liked his name, according to Russ, because Bob would swim round and round his bowl repeating the name to himself, ho, ho, ho!

Oh, and I was definitely amused with Steve in Southend who owns a tortoise called Fluffy.  Now the logic behind that does make sense.

At that point, Alex Lester recalled a previous tale of some house painters, working at the front of the house ― and the lady of the house came rushing out: “Shut the gate, shut the gate ― quick, quick, QUICK! ― shut the gate ― the tortoise has just left the house.”

I know the feeling.
 


Tuesday, March 19
Shanks’s pony and some superior verbal footwork


YESTERDAY, my opening headline read: ‘Much more important than life and death.’

Those words, of course, belong to the legendary football coach Bill Shankly, who managed Liverpool Football Club from 1959 to 1974.

Coincidentally, on Sunday I shared a few memorable quotes from the famous American Football coach Vince Lombardi (1913-1970). He and Bill Shankly were cut from the same cloth. And both, curiously, born in the same year.

William ‘Bill’ Shankly (1913-1981), affectionately known as ‘Shanks’, was a Scottish footballer and manager who is best remembered for his management of Liverpool. He is widely regarded as one of football’s most successful and respected managers.

Shankly and Lombardi were soul mates, both blessed with an extravagance of wit and wisdom. Whilst Lombardi was perhaps best remembered for his wisdom, Shankly will always be acknowledged for his wit.

Before I catalogue a few Shankly quotes, I should point out to those from faraway places with strange sounding names, who are perhaps not familiar with the English football scene, that Everton is also a Liverpool City football club. There is no love lost between the two clubs.

Also, Manchester United and Manchester City are near-neighbours, and are fierce rivals of Liverpool.

In American Football terms, Liverpool and Everton would be the equivalent of New York Giants and New York Jets, with Manchester United and Manchester City comparable with the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills, rivals within the same local division.

Right, some Bill Shankly quotes, kicking off with yesterday’s headline:

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

Anyone who follows sport ― football, rugby, American Football, whatever ― will smile at the truth of that observation.

Okay, on with the show:

On a wartime Scotland v England match: “We absolutely annihilated England. It was a massacre. We beat them 5-4.”

     “The trouble with referees is that they know the rules, but they don’t know the game.”

Rugby union fans will raise an extra smile right there.

     To a journalist who suggested Liverpool were struggling: “Ay, here we are with problems at the top of the league.”

     Talking to a reporter about player Roger Hunt: “Yes, Roger Hunt misses a few, but he gets in the right place to miss them.”

     “The difference between Everton and the Queen Mary is that Everton carry more passengers!

     To a local barber, who in 1968 had asked: “Anything off the top?” Shanks retorted: “Aye, Everton!

     “I always look in the Sunday paper to see where Everton are in the league - starting, of course, from the bottom up.”

     “If Everton were playing at the bottom of the garden, I’d pull the curtains.”

     After beating Everton in the 1971 FA Cup semi-final: “Sickness would not have kept me away from this one. If I’d been dead, I would have had them bring the casket to the ground, prop it up in the stands, and cut a hole in the lid.”

     “There’s Manchester United and Manchester City at the bottom of Division 1, and by God they’ll take some shifting.”

     To player Tommy Smith during training: “You son, could start a riot in a graveyard.”

     To Tommy Smith after he’d turned up for training with a bandaged knee: “Take that poof bandage off ― and what do you mean YOUR knee, it’s LIVERPOOL’S knee!

     To player Ian St John: “If you're not sure what to do with the ball, just pop it in the net and we’ll discuss your options afterwards.”

     Shankly explaining rotation of players to a reporter: “Laddie, I never drop players, I only make changes.”

     On hearing a rival manager was unwell: “I know what’s wrong ― he’s got a bad side!

     Shankly on boardroom meetings: “At a football club, there’s a holy trinity ― the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don’t come into it. They are only there to sign the cheques.”

     “If you can’t make decisions in life, you’re a bloody menace. You’d be better off becoming an MP!

     “Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple.”

Rugby union fans will generate a mega smile there ― see last Saturday...!

A favourite Shankly quote followed his signing of Ron Yeats: “I’ve just signed a colossus, come in and walk around him!

Whatever our sport, we’ve all known “colossus players like that. In rugby union, I think of Phil Bennett, the great Llanelli, Wales and British Lions outside-half, the man who made possible that great try scored by the Barbarians against New Zealand back in 1973...
                                                          

                                                                                                                      ...any other fly-half in the world, at any point in the history of the game, with the All Blacks bearing down on him, would have kicked to touch to relieve the pressure ― and received a polite round of applause from the crowd for his efforts. But not Benny...

Perhaps my favourite Shankly quote though is this, when he was asked what result would please him most in a crucial derby between Manchester United and Manchester City (I think): “I hope they both lose.”

We must all feel like that about close rivals.

Finally, here’s a quote that will strike a chord with every supporter who follows sport in a modern stadium on match day:

Shanks to the Anfield PA during a match: “Jesus Christ, son, can you not talk into that microphone when the players are in the penalty box. You’re putting them off, you’re doing more damage than the opposition.”

The final quote goes to Shankly’s wife, Nessie: “I could always rely on Bill to clean the cooker whenever Liverpool lost.”

Wonderful beyond.
 


Monday, March 18
Much more important than life and death


“Would the BBC remind pundit Jonathan Davies that his job is to provide objective analysis on a rugby game, not to act as cheerleader for Wales.”
Paul Williams in a You Say comment in the TV & Radio section of The Sunday Times Culture magazine.

Incidentally, it was a comment submitted and printed just prior to last Saturday’s game ... a game which inspired one of the nation’s red top newspapers to print the result in bold print on its front page thus:
                                                                                                                                              Champs 30
                                                                                                                                              Chumps 3

Well, I thought Saturday’s game, enjoyable as it was, had now been done and dusted and locked safely away in the memory box ― then this very morning, I read the comment at the top, and crucially also stumbled upon the unforgettable picture coming up.

To say I burst out laughing is an understatement. It has to be one of the funniest pictures I’ve seen for a while, particularly so when appreciated in tandem with the Paul Williams comment.

On the touchline stand some of the key media players and co-presenters covering the Wales-England game. In the English corner, the cheerleading three musketeers: BBC programme host John Inverdale, left, along with pundits Sir Clive Woodward and Jeremy Guscott. Oh, and Welshman Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Davies.

The picture has been clearly captured off the television, just as Inverdale is signing off the day’s live coverage...

Spot the Welshman

Defining image of Wales v England (16/03/2013): Jiffy, does his best Cheshire Cat impression

What makes the picture so memorable is that the Englishmen look so spectacularly crestfallen after such genuine high hopes. It is not so much that England lost, but it was the manner of the loss.

The result really was such a surprise to everyone, and as much as Jonathan couldn’t hide his delight, the English couldn’t hide their disappointment.

A wonderful image, compliments of the BBC, which deserves a stand-alone status in the Smile of the Day gallery. Definitely a contender for the 2013 Picture of the Year.
 


Sunday, March 17
Dancing on air


SWITCHED on the computer first thing ... Google appears as my home page ― I am overtaken by some superior footwork and a giggle...
                                     
...yes, it’s the St. Patrick’s Day Google Doodle. Not just a common or garden doodle, but an animated doodle of Riverdance, the traditional but hugely smiley Irish step dancing routine known for its furious leg movements while the arms are kept largely stationery.

Particularly amusing in cartoon form ― there’s a YouTube link at the bottom which will take you to the Google Doodle and some furious action. In the meantime, a perfectly gorgeous morning seller spotted in a St Patrick’s Day parade in San Francisco...
                         
                                                                                                                     ...compliments of
ZUMA/Rex Features. Lovely.

Sticking with St. Patrick, around mid-morning, the wireless is on in the background, and I just catch the tail-end of a conversation where someone or other mentions in passing that the Patron Saint of headaches is St. Aspirin, ho, ho, ho!

“No, honestly,” insisted the fellow, “that is true.”

So I Googled it ... and landed on HowStuffWorks, compliments of the Discovery  web site:

There is  a patron saint of headaches, even though he suffered much worse than a temporary pain in his own temples. Denis was the first bishop of Paris. When Emperor Decius persecuted the Christians, he had Denis imprisoned and tortured, then beheaded in 258.
     Legend has it that Denis picked up his own head and walked away. His followers retrieved his body after it was thrown into the Seine River. October 9 is the Feast of St. Denis.

Hm, I’m still not sold ― so I Googled “Is there a St. Aspirin”?

Well blow me, there is indeed a St. Joseph’s Aspirin, but it’s an American trademark ― there’s an amusing 30-second ad, link again, below.

Game thoughts

Oh yes, when I collected a Sunday paper this morning, I did what comes naturally and perused all the front pages ― most of the papers featured the Wales rugby rout of England, at least to some degree or other.

A couple of the red tops ― Welsh editions I presume ― featured the splash headline The Joy of Six, which rather threw me because I wasn’t sure at first what the significance of Six was ― apart from a play on the word sex, obviously. I could only think that it was to do with Wales winning the SIX Nations championship.

Also, one of the red tops carried this bold front page headline: Champs 30 Chumps 3 ... Ouch! In fact, although Wales were superior in most positions, if England had not butchered those try-scoring chances they created early on ― well, who knows? Momentum change is critical in rugby.

In other words, we should not get too carried away. After all, last year, Wales won the Grand Slam, then toured Australia with the best available team ― and lost the Test series 3―0.

However, back with yesterdays great win...

Mind over matter

“No image of England’s implosion stands out like the countless defeats they suffered in individual physical battles. Win the battle with the man opposite, Vince Lombardi always said, and the scoreboard takes care of itself. You will never see better proof than yesterday.”
Paul Hayward reporting on the Wales-England game in The Sunday Telegraph, quotes the legendary American Football coach Vince Lombardi.

It’s a great Vince Lombardi quote. And the man was full of them, whether talking about sport or life itself:

     “It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men.”

     “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”

     “In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.”

     “Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins, is the man who thinks he can.”

     “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

     “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”

     “We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time.”

     “After the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and all the pomp and fanfare has faded, the enduring things that are left are: the dedication to excellence, the dedication to victory, and the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.

For some reason, I am reminded of this great
Stan Laurel observation in the 1930s film Brats: “You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead.”

Yes indeedy, it is all in the mind.

Here’s the St. Patrick’s Day Google Doodle Riverdance link, along with a glossary of St. Patrick’s Day Google Doodles since 2000:
                   
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgn4a3SMRRY

And the St. Joseph’s Aspirin ditty from an ad for the product:
                                                                                                       
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iY6oyGgqMPA

 

Saturday, March 16
Signs of the times


OFTEN, something ridiculously simple and silly can create much delight ― and no, I’m not thinking of the relative ease with which Wales brushed England aside 30-3 to win the Six Nations Championship, and of course deny England the Grand Slam ... yet again!

However, before anxiously composing myself to watch the rugby on the box, a couple of marvellous pictures had earlier caught my eye, the first spotted in the Telegraph’s  Sign Language picture gallery...

 

Which way?

Thataway!

Pointless Post spotted in Cyprus by Keith Hughes

Telling Post spotted Somewhere or Other by Anonymous

Ironically, the pointless signpost above, spotted in Cyprus, raised a smile before news broke that Cypriot savers must pay up to a 10 per cent levy on bank deposits in order to receive a 10bn Eurozone bailout to recapitalise their banks ― at least, the Cyprus parliament is to vote on whether to impose the bank savings tax.

Goodness, can you imagine something like that happening in the UK?

Do you know, the notion of impending revolution grows stronger by the day.

Oh yes, the second image ― the confused signpost ― was something I just happened upon online; sadly, I am unable to credit it, which is a shame for it is very amusing; and doubly ironic given the Cyprus problem.

Head versus heart

Anyway, back to the rugby. What a disappointing performance from England though, for I really thought they would be a threat. I agreed with the bookies, who are rarely off the pace with their odds and forecasts. Here I quote the Winning Line column from this morning’s Western Mail:

Every right-minded Wales fan believes Rob Howley’s men can deprive England of the Grand Slam and, in the process, nick the Championship from them too.

But the bookies disagree ... there’s something about the calmness and sure-footed nature of England coach Stuart Lancaster that makes you believe his side will edge it.

Much talk has been made of the Millennium Stadium factor affecting the young English players, but Wales have not won a home game this season (but won three away games leading up to this encounter, which is revealing in itself).

Add all that together and it has to be an away win by one to five points, despite the obvious fire the Dragons will be breathing. Such a forecast is available at 7/2, but widening the score to one to 12 points gives a less attractive 11/8.

Interestingly, a Wales win by 1-12 points was 15/8. Sadly it didn’t show the odds for a Wales Win by 13-24 points or indeed 25-36 points, which, in hindsight, would have been fascinating.

The article mentions the Millennium Stadium factor, and I have to agree, for I can’t remember such an electric atmosphere. I guess that must have had some effect, given the inexperience of the England players.

Anyway, it was a most smiley result for we Welsh, misery beyond for the English.

 

Friday, March 15
U-turn if U want 2

ALTHOUGH I come from a farming background, which I guess makes my known genetic background working class going on landed gentry, I have always sensed that somewhere along one of my family tree branches, someone from Upstairs had a bit of hanky-panky with someone from Downstairs.

I say that because I sense that I would feel as much at ease and at home attending a Buckingham Palace Garden Party (never been, and unlikely to be invited), as I would at the Vicar’s Tea Party or indeed regularly seen at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at the Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.

In other words, passing the time of day with anyone, whether in a bar, a bus, a train, a plane, a parlour ― no matter what their background ― doesn’t phase me one bit. Actually, spending a little time with those outside my comfort habitat adds hugely to the pleasures of life.

Which brings me neatly to the now somewhat dated world of the ‘U’ and the ‘non-U’.

It was Nancy Mitford back in the Fifties who popularised the designations ‘U’ and ‘non-U’. It defined ‘Upper class’ and ‘non-Upper class’ behaviour and language, and she has since been widely credited with their invention.

In fact, the terms originated in 1954 in an academic paper on ‘Upper-Class English Usage’ by Alan Ross, Professor of Linguistics at Birmingham University.

Here are some obvious examples. ‘U’ first, with ‘non-U’ riding tandem and doing all the hard work (I sense that my Desert Island Jukebox choice of Daisy, Daisy is very ‘U’):
                                                                                               
Bike/Bicycle  -  Cycle
                                                                                                Knave of Hearts  - 
Jack of Spades (as in playing cards)
                                                                                                Scent  - 
Perfume
                                                                                                Spectacles  - 
Glasses
                                                                                               
Die  -  Pass on
                                                                                               
Sofa  -  Settee/Couch
                                                                                               
Pudding  -  Sweet
                                                                                                What?  - 
Pardon?
                                                                                               
Dalliance  -  Hanky-panky

                                                                                                Lavatory/
Loo  -  Toilet
                                                                                                Biscuit  -  Cookie
?

Well, as a rule of thumb, I mostly say: bike ... Jack of Spades ... perfume ... glasses … die ... sofa ... pudding ... pardon? ... ah yes, lavatory/loo or toilet? I tend to ask for the place where all the big boys hang out, but nobody believes me, especially the girls. So I ask for the loo.

See what I mean by a mixed cocktail of a background.

But hang about, where did the American ‘non-U’ come from? I mean, the Biscuit – Cookie?

Well, here’s the latest from the Telegraph’s  Sign Language picture gallery, and what prompted the above piece in the first place...

I say, how terribly ‘UE’ ― or should that be ‘non-UE’?

Spotted in a Nashville motel by Jim Donahue

How glorious is that? A perfectly wonderful smile of the day.

Actually, it reminded me of the very first picture and comment I posted on Look You’s sister web site way back in 2007 (400 Smiles A Day). It’s still there ― but here it is again ― truth to tell I have repeated it once before, but as I say, a good picture/story/joke bears repetition...

What are U lookin’ at?


I did, I saw you, U, yew and ewe,
No matter what your  point of view.
(Poetic licence applied for.)

And on that note, I shall bid U a fond farewell. Until tomorrow, if spared ... see U.
 


Thursday, March 14
Dai the Who?


JUST last month I mentioned how those fellows named Dai that I have personally known along my stroll through time have pretty much all been blessed with handy and smiley nicknames which help identify them in conversation and so help avoid untold confusion and false gossip.

For example, there was Dai Fly By Night, a night time fisherman of note, but nobody was quite sure what he actually got up to when he was supposedly casting his fly.

Dai One Eye, who happened to live at No 1 High Street.

Dai Aphanous, always spinning a line, but we always see through Dai and spot him coming at 40 syllables.

Dai Version, whenever he tells a story or joke, always takes us along the agreeably scenic route.

I have since been reminded of the poultry farmer near Llanelli called Dai Eggs ― until his wife gave birth to twins, that is, when he then became known as Dai Double Yolk.

As it happens there was a discussion on the wireless about a book called Welsh Nicknames,  penned by journalist Les Chamberlain. It seems the author has, over the past 40 years or so, been making a note of all the nicknames he has encountered along his jottings through time, from the obvious to the inventive, with explanations where available.

What tickled me though were the people who then rang the show with nicknames they had personally encountered (and presumably not spotted in the book).

But before I go there, enjoyed today, in The Daily Telegraph, these letters, roughly along the same lines:

What do I look like?

SIR – Some years ago, I was introduced to a married couple, Pat and Sandy, at a party. I innocently asked which was which, to which the husband angrily replied: “Do I look like a woman?”
     To this day, I still don’t know whether he was Pat or Sandy.
John W Skeeles, Hitchin, Hertfordshire

SIR – Like Mrs Kim Dace (Letters, March 12), I, too, was named Kim more than 50 years ago by a mother who wanted a short name ― indeed, one that could not be shortened any further.
     As I went to an all-boys’ school, there was no confusion as to my sex. None the less, I was teased mercilessly, as Kim was most definitely considered to be a girl’s name. The only other male Kim anyone could ever think of was Kim Philby, who was a bit odd and beyond the pale.
     The irony of having a name that can’t be shortened was that, to my mother’s horror, most of my friends lengthened it to Kimbo.
Capt Kim Mockett, Littlebourne, Kent

Ah yes, the best laid plans of mice and mums go awry in their efforts to head off the ambush before entering the pass. However, Kimbo does suggest that he was much liked by his friends (it
s a little observational trick: note how family, friends and colleagues address someone).

And anyway, imagine being mocked at school for having the name Kim ― and then having a surname like Mockett...

SIR – I was astonished to discover recently that Her Excellency the Governor General of Australia is (also) named Quentin.
Quentin Henderson, Gingerland, Nevis, St Kitts and Nevis


Gosh, never mind being called Quentin, imagine being a redhead living in Gingerland.

 

The Hey Wayne Any Which Way...
                                                                            


Right, back with Dai Snakes and Ladders (he was forever saying “Back to square one”), including all the others blessed, or cursed, with a memorable handle, in particular those nicknames submitted to the radio show.

For example, John Davies, a character who was a poacher of note and always spotted hanging about near rivers ― a variation on Dai Fly By Night? ― and he was known to everyone as John the Baptist.

And the fellow who won £25,000 in the early days of the Premium Bonds ― back then quite a significant windfall ― and was thereafter known to one and all as Two-Five-Treble-O. That is so clever, and totally believable.

But nicknames are not just reserved for the Welsh. There was the Scotsman who had lived in Wales for many moons and was now part of the landscape: his name was Campbell Baxter ― affectionately known as Two Soups.

Then there’s identical twin brothers Tommy and Terry Thomas, who were a bit “twp”, as we would say in Welsh, meaning, they were just a wee bit on the “thick” side. They became known as Thomas Twp and Thomas Twp Too.

But I particularly liked this, the fellow known simply as Midnight ― because he was always saying “At the end of the day” (50 shades of Dai Snakes and Ladders).

Finally, I must share this Dai Aphanous tale...

In Llandampness there was a fellow known to everyone as Dai SS. One day someone asked him where the SS had come from: “See those houses up there on the hill? I built those, and do they call me Dai the Builder? No!
     “And that bakery in the main street: I set that up and ran it until it was the best and biggest bakery in west Wales, and then a national firm of bakers made me an offer I couldn’t refuse ― and do they call me Dai Crumbs? No
!
     “And see these awards? I won these at the Eisteddfod for writing prose and poetry, and do they call me Dai the Bard? No
!
     “Six times I played scrum-half for Wales, and do they call me Dai Scrumptious? Do they hell
!
     “You get caught with one bloody sheep...”
 


Wednesday, March 13
To have and to hod


“I HAVE so much more material to draw on for work ― rubble, bricks ― and I know I can carry it now. I’m not going to drop it, and if I do, I’ll sift through it.” The actress Kate Winslet, 37, talks about her art (although she may be announcing she’s decided to become a hod carrier, The Sunday Times  wittily observes).

Holey predictive

Given the construction industry feel of the Kate Winslet quote, above, this headline tickled the lateral thinking part of my brain:
                                                      
Britain’s pothole problem deepens

With spring just around the corner, potholes are ‘popping up faster than daffodils’, according to a new report

I was rather taken with the image of potholes ‘popping up faster than daffodils’. Whatever, lets continue and join up a few of said potholes…

It’s official: Britain’s roads continue to deteriorate, with potholes that are bigger and more numerous than ever before.

A survey carried out by the AA of more than 22,000 people has revealed that in the last two years a third of AA members have suffered pothole damage to their cars ― and the situation looks set to worsen thanks to 30 per cent more potholes being reported on our road network than at the start of 2012.

The local roads in Scotland and Yorkshire and Humberside were rated as the worst in Britain by those taking part in the AA Populus poll, with 40 per cent rated as being in poor, very poor or terrible condition.

Northern Ireland, Wales and London were revealed to have the best roads. However, 50 per cent of all respondents said that the pothole problem had grown in the last 12 months...

I quote the above ― not a particularly smiley contribution to my scrapbook I admit, the potholes popping up faster than daffodils excepted, of course ― because I so enjoyed the following brief online exchange on the comment board...

Phrancofile: Absolutely right re the pothole issue. However, some local authorities are using potholes as a political point to visibly demonstrate how short of funds they are because of the constraints imposed by central government. A disgraceful situation from which we all suffer and another example of unjointed-up government.

Gladys Pew: Is that disjointed or unjoined-up government?

Phrancofile: Sorry
! I didn’t notice what the over-zealous predictive text had decided what’s best.

Gladys Pew: I hate predictive text 50% of the time, and love it the other 50%.

That’s the wonderful thing about this predictive text thingy, it never spots the ambush hiding round the next sentence. Be that as it may, the following earned my smile of the day, and it is positively, definitely non-predictive...

1066goldberg: Could we not fill these potholes with goldfish, or koi carp? Or perhaps plant roses and flowers in them. The bigger ones could be used for children’s paddling pools. We could also store nuclear waste in them which means it would be spread around the country giving everyone a fair chance of developing leukaemia ... you just have to use your imagination.
     There again they could start to use some of the road tax we pay to repair the roads. But that’s a stupid idea.


Top drawer, 1066andallthat. How to make a point with great humour. Mind you, the thought of driving down a road awash with mini-mini-roundabouts overflowing with snowdrops and daffodils and bluebells and roses ― well, it’s too joyous for words. And what about potholes with herons busily fishing for goldfish or koi carp? Magic.

Postscript to yesterday’s ‘concatenation of circumstances’ which brought about the downfall of ex-minister of the realm Chris Huhne and his dashingly clever (allegedly) ex-wife Vicky Pryce, both now in jail.

I am totally taken aback how someone such as Price allowed herself to be drawn into this episode; indeed I had no idea how high she had climbed within the circles of power, as detailed in this online comment in the Telegraph...

John Cameron: Vicky Price was described as “one of the most intelligent, powerful and trusted women in the country”. Yet she acted like an idiotic teenager as she turned what is a fairly common occurrence these days into the most poisonous public marriage-breakdown anyone can recall.
     She even claimed she wanted to “expose her husband’s wrongdoing but not to end his career”, which is like Judas Iscariot feigning surprise that Jesus ended up on the cross.
     The fact that such a self-destructive person was head of the Gordon Brown Government’s Economic Service during the catastrophic years of 2007-2010 explains a very great deal.


Astonishing that she was at the heart of government. As for Chris Huhne, this joke is doing the rounds.

Who’s the only 16-stone man who ever rode a Derby winner?
     Lester Piggott’s cell-mate
!

 


Tuesday, March 12
A concatenation of circumstances

THERE was only one ‘Hold the front page’ tale today ― a story dripping with a smile of “there but for the grace of God go I” for very many people I suspect.

But first, a letter spotted in The Times...

Legalese

Sir, It was told of the 18th-century Scottish judge, Lord Monboddo, when explaining the nature of speaking the truth to a child who was not able to swear an oath, that “ifyou tell an untruth, you will involve yourself in a concatenation of circumstances, extrication from which will be difficult, if not well nigh impossible”.
THE REV PATRICK TUFT, West London


Wow, ‘concatenation’: now there’s a word I have never, ever heard in the Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, never mind when I was a child.

Flash, banged-up, walloped – what a picture, what a photograph

Now I am sure that former cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce would be more than familiar with concatenation ... the process or state of being linked: the linking of things together or the state of being interconnected.

Huhne and Pryce have each just been jailed for eight months for perverting the course of justice. Huhne had admitted asking Pryce to take his speeding points (following a speed camera flash) to avoid losing his licence back in 2003, and Pryce was convicted of having agreed to do so.

Pryce, 60, went to a newspaper with the story after their marriage broke up.

The judge said Huhne, 58, had fallen from a “great height” but any tragedy was their “own fault”.

Huhne, who resigned as an MP after pleading guilty, told Channel 4 News  ahead of sentencing that his actions in 2003 had spun into a “massive, devastating set of consequences for family, for career and for everything”.

Hm, a concatenation of circumstances, extrication from which will be difficult, if not well nigh impossible.

The Telegraph’s  Adams captures the whole episode perfectly...
 

Doing porridge
(British slang for serving a prison sentence)

Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold.  Vicky Pryce has now learned that revenge is a dish occasionally served as cold porridge.

Points of order: Speed cameras first made their appearance in the UK back in 1991. Now ponder these statistics.

     4500 speed cameras were on UK roads in 1999 and there were 1 million speeding convictions. This increased to approximately 5000 cameras and 1.6 million convictions in 2002.

     6000 cameras were in place by the end of 2004 with over 2 million speeding convictions for the year.

     1 in 5 drivers have been caught for speeding since 1996 (that’s 7 million prosecutions).

     £120 million was generated in speeding fines in 2003

And of course it’s not just the points on the licence, or the fines, or the possible disqualification, but also the hefty increase in insurance premiums ― and if you don’t tell your insurer you will not have any cover if something nasty happens (remember, when making a claim, insurers will now often ask to see your driving licence just in case there’s something you haven’t told them).

It is no wonder then that down the years, since speed cameras were introduced, I personally know of enough people to fill a mini-bus who admit to having successfully distributed penalty points among the family to avoid a possible disqualification.

Truth to tell I probably know enough people to fill a proper bus who have wisely asked for any camera evidence first (because they were unsure who was driving at the time!), before committing themselves to sharing the points.

Personally, and more by luck than judgment, I have avoided points of any sort on my driving licence. The closest I came was mega moons ago, before speed cameras, even before radar guns, when I was supposedly paced through a little village in North Wales for O.3 of a mile ― the minimum distance required by law ― when I knew damn well that the police patrol car behind me hadn’t.

I later went to measure the built-up area through the village ... it was 0.2 of a mile, so I was ready for the court case.

However, what I got was a letter telling me to be more careful in future.

Whatever, back with Huhne and Pryce: when you are in the public eye and have dreams of holding positions of power and influence, you take the speeding points and a possible disqualification on the chin. After all, these are people who can well afford to employ a driver when essential.

I guess Chris Huhne could plead: “But I am only Huhneman.”  
 

Monday, March 11
A green thought in a green shade


BACK on February 24 I featured a trinity of delightful notices spotted in China by Daily Telegraph  readers on their travels; a few Chinese signs which also carried English translations (The green, green grass of everybody’s home).

All three were friendly warning notices to protect the environment, in particular a series of variations on the theme of ‘Please keep off the grass ... Thank you’.

For example: ‘The grass is smiling at you. Please detour’; ‘Protect greening so as to endow benefit to descendants’; and ‘Ecological protection ties everybody’s heart’.

All rather wonderful.

Well, I have just spotted this article:

                                China officials caught spray-painting grass green in Chengdu

The grass actually is greener in the south-western Chinese city of Chengdu, but only because it has been dyed

In China’s sprawling smog-blanketed cities, life can sometimes seem a little grey. But Chengdu’s officials hit upon an easy solution to cheer up their city’s appearance: specifically, a chemical solution called Top Green Turf Greening Agent (2 to 1 Tom Jones, 10 to 1 the Green field?)...

Goodness, is that the original Fat Chinaman in the back? (Note how the truck is listing to
star-aboard.) And why are the two not holding the spray guns not wearing their masks?
Very inscrutable, those Chinese

Chinese reporters filmed workers from Chengdu’s municipal landscaping department as they busily painted the grassy verges of the city’s roads with a fluorescent green spray.

“Two workers were spraying the grass, turning the yellow grass into green. Were they painting the grass?” said He Tao, a Chengdu resident, to the China Daily newspaper...
                                                                                           
 (Pic: Confucius? Actually, Anonymous)
“Wouldn’t that pollute the environment?” added He Tao.

Not according to Mr Yang, a salesman for Top Green, the makers of the dye. “It is absolutely not toxic. It is just a green dye. We have been selling it to the Chengdu government for at least five years, and we have lots of other government clients, like the city of Tianjin, and many north western provinces. We also sell it to golf courses,” he said.

In Chengdu, locals were aghast at the lengths their officials would go to in order to beautify the city. “Why do they not use the money to build schools?” asked Wu Tingyu, a resident, on Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.

“Who are they trying to please?” asked the official Weibo of Changhong, a giant Sichuanese electrical equipment company. “Do they think it is like dying your hair?”

Meanwhile, one comment translated by ChinaSmack, a blog, asked: “Can you also dye the sky blue?”

Yes indeed, it’s the same the whole world over: “Why do they not use the money to build schools?”

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Chengdu’ came up as ‘Changed’. Honest, cross my heart and all that.

Also, from last Saturday ― I forgot to share this little gem ― I smiled at Jeremy Clarkson upsetting folk Down Under in Aussieland: “You can take them out of England, but you just can’t take the convict out of them.” Believe it or don’t, but my friendly neighbourhood spell checker suggested that  ‘Aussieland’ should be ‘Assailant’. I’m saying nowt.
 


Sunday, March 10
Grounddog Day


OVER the past month or so dogs have featured regularly in my scrapbook. It is not so much that the dogs per se make me smile, but rather it’s what the owners expect of the dogs, and in particular what they put many of the poor things through ― and how this reflects itself through their hounds of choice.

And of course, with dogs being man’s best friend, they oblige with stunning agreeability. Two images captured my imagination today as I flicked through some picture galleries.

With Crufts 2013, the world’s biggest dog show, having been in full flow all week in Birmingham, I was captivated by these two Afghan hounds wearing hoodies backstage during the first day of competition ― and looking totally pissed off with it all.

From hoodies...

Where did  you get that hat? Bo-ring!

These boots were made for running

A pair of Afghans wait patiently for their big moment at Crufts
                                                              
Pic: Darren Staples / REUTERS

Huskies wearing protective booties and eager to please
                                                                 Pic: Bob Hallinen/AP

                                                                                                            ...to booties

Back at the beginning of February I featured a memorable picture  of a couple of huskies during a training session at Feshiebridge in Aviemore, Scotland.

Well, I see that the world’s most famous sled dog race, the 2013 Iditarod, is under way: a couple of lead huskies pictured, above. The race, which began a week ago, is a gruelling 1,000-mile trek from Anchorage across the snowy wilderness to the old gold rush town of Nome on Alaska’s western coast. And the dogs are clearly having fun.

Incidentally, all the huskies wear booties during the race, which in this instance does make sense.

A clear round

However, my picture of the day is this perfectly adorable image, again from Crufts...

  Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Supercollie!

An unidentified collie performs a jump during the agility competition
                on the fourth day of Crufts dog show           
Pic: AFP/GETTY

What a wonderful picture that is. It is not so much the quality of the image itself, but rather the way the photographer has captured the dog clearly looking at its master or mistress.

It is already in my ‘Picture of 2013’ countdown.

Incidentally, there’s a marvellous Telegraph  picture gallery of the Iditarod sled dog race, especially so some aerial shots of the race itself ― click here:
                                                            
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Iditarod-sled-dog-race-Alaska.html#?frame=2503237


Saturday, March 9
King Canute on the Seashore

                                                                      

Long ago, England was ruled by a king named Canute. Like many leaders and men of power, Canute was surrounded by people who were always praising him. Every time he walked into a room, the flattery began…

Hang on, hang on ... yesterday I smiled at tales of
The Travels of Jeremy Clarkson into Several Remote Nations of the World, in particular Russia and Australia ... in Aussieland Jeremy flipped as he was mobbed by photographers at a posh restaurant in Sydney where he was spotted with former mistress Phillipa Sage.

So today I decided to quietly diddle a diary doodle, with King Canute as my template. Just bear in mind that the BBC’s Top Gear telly show, Clarkson’s other plaything, was recently awarded the planet’s ‘Most Watched Factual TV Programme’ by Guinness World Records.

King Clarkson on the Aussieshore

In the late 20th―early 21st centuries, the English media was ruled by a king named Clarkson. Like many leaders and men of power, Clarkson was surrounded and followed by people who were always praising him. Every time he walked into a room, the flattery began.

“You are the greatest man that ever lived,” one would say. “O Jezza, there can never be another as mighty as you,” another would insist. “Great Clarkson, you are the mightiest of all,” someone else would sing. “Nothing in this world dares to ignore your wisdom.”

But the king of the media was not a fool, and he grew tired of hearing such foolish worship.

Sage and Clarkson stuffing

One day Clarkson, 52, was having dinner with his former mistress, one Phillipa Sage, 43, at a fashionable eatery in Sydney, and in the background his colleagues, as usual, were busily praising him to excess.

Weary from such adulation, King Clarkson decided to teach them a lesson. “So you say I am the greatest man in the world?” he asked them. “O king,” they cried, “there never has been anyone as mighty as you, and there never will be anyone so great, ever again!

“And you say all things obey me?” Clarkson asked.

“Absolutely!” they echoed in chorus. “The world bows before you, and gives you honour. Top Gear is now watched in 212 territories across the world ― it has officially been named the ‘Most Watched Factual TV Programme’ by Guinness World Records, O Mighty One.”

And a handy lackey waved a picture of him holding the Guinness World Record plaque...
                                                                                                                                             

“I see,” the king answered. “In that case, see those confounded paparazzi scum outside this restaurant? Watch this.”

And with that King Clarkson walked out in the company of his ex-mistress ― and the paparazzi went mad; in modern parlance, they went totally bananas at such a God-given photo opportunity. The great Clarkson then confronted the photographers: “I command you to stop following me. Snappers, stop your snapping! Do not dare invade my privacy!

He waited a moment, quietly ― but the paparazzi took not a blind bit of notice as they clicked away.

“How dare you! Clarkson shouted. “Convicts, turn back now! I have ordered you to retreat before me, and now you must obey! Go back!!

His friends stood behind him, alarmed, and wondering whether he was not suddenly mad.

“Well, my friends,” Clarkson said, turning to his colleagues, “it seems I do not have quite so much power as you would have me believe. I was unable to turn back the paparazzi tide.”

However, deep inside, King Clarkson was building up a head of steam, like an old-fashioned locomotive on heat, and he vowed never to return to Australia, pointing at the paparazzi and claiming: “You can take them out of England, but you just can’t take the convict out of them.”

Later, Clarkson addressed his colleagues: “Perhaps you have learned something today. Perhaps now you will remember that there is only one King who is all-powerful, and it is he who rules the BBC and the World; it is he who holds the power to hire complete idiots and then fire them after a few weeks of incompetence and send them on their way with bulging bags of gold as compensation.
     “I suggest you reserve your praises for him, the great Lord Patten, current chairman of the BBC Trust, known within the Corporation as Batten Down The Hatches For In Patten We Trust.”

The Top Gear officers and courtiers hung their heads and looked foolish.

Some say Clarkson took off his crown soon afterwards, and never wore it again.

Postscript, compliments of topspeed.com:

Regardless of Clarkson’s “Eh, whatever” response to the Guinness World Records award, we tip our hats to the empire that Jezza and his cohorts have built since 1977.

We tried finding out who owned the record for ‘Most Watched Factual TV Programme’ before Top Gear, but the record seems to not exist in the 2012 edition of the book … Hm, interesting … We did, however, find out that you can submit your own world record. We wonder if there is a weird publicity stunt behind all of this. Nah, they would never…

Plus, Clarkson just looks oh so happy holding that plaque in the press image [above].

 

Friday, March 8
Follow that star

FIRST thing I do when I awake, as always, is switch on the bedside wireless ... Sara Cox is standing in for Vanessa Feltz for the week.

Sara invites her listeners to contact the show and name their “Night Shit Star”. Eh? My ears blink ― no, hang on, ears don’t blink, they flap.

I listen more carefully. Sara’s accent is the very antithesis of the elegant and educated-sounding Feltz voice. Sara speaks in a somewhat exaggerated Northern accent ― she hails from Bolton ― which is fine, but it does, curiously, make her sound somewhat child-like and not always easy to understand. It’s very odd.

Anyway, back with the “Night Shit Star”: I listen extra-carefully ... she is actually inviting those who have been working nights to get in touch and nominate their ... “Night SHIFT Star”. Phew.

After a bite to eat, and before I depart on my morning walk, I switch on the computer for an hour or so. I am greeted by another eye-catching Google Doodle...
                                                                 
                                                                                                                                                      ...but what on earth is it?

I click on the doodle ... International Women’s Day. Gosh, no wonder, I gently muse as I scan the montage of somewhat chubby female cartoon faces looking out at me, that I’ve remained single. Only joking.

Actually, the doodle is fit for purpose because it draws me in. And yes, the doodle artist Betsy Bauer has cleverly incorporated the Google letters in the white spaces around those faces. But you have to concentrate to spot it ... it’s something like those 3-D images where you have to stare and adjust your eyes to spot the dolphin hidden within.

Mind you, I’m not sure about the woman, bottom right corner ... it’s the moustache ... truth to tell, the first thing that came to mind was Private Joe Walker, the spiv in Dad’s Army who is always on the make.

Perhaps the woman with the moustache is supposed to represent the lesbians of the world. Hm ... could it be that one in every 27 women is a lesbian? That sort of makes sense.

There again, if today’s meeja is anything to go by that’s a very conservative guess. The media does appear to attract gay people like moths to a pink flame.

After my walk I pop into the corner shop for a morning paper. As usual, I peruse all the front pages ... I am drawn to the Daily Star...
                         

                                                                                  ...oh no, what on earth has Jeremy Clarkson been up to again, if you’ll pardon the pun? You have to hand it to the newspapers, they know how to wind our celebrities up with their extravagant headlines.

Old Jeremy ‘What a North and South’ Clarkson ― a ‘Night Shit Star’? ― apparently flipped when mobbed by the paparazzi at a posh restaurant in Sydney, Australia. He had been spotted dining with former mistress and colleague Phillipa Sage, 43, who works for the Top Gear Live show.

As the Top Gear crew stepped off a water taxi, Jeremy confronted photographers and ordered them to stop following him. Old Big Mouth allegedly threatened to throw one of the snappers into the briny outside the Sydney restaurant: “That bald-headed bloke ― I was getting ready to throw him in the water.”

Fuming Clarkson, 52 ― have you noticed how celebrities are always fuming, usually after the love rats are caught sharing a romantic dinner or leaving their love nests? ― anyway, Jezza threatened never to return to Australia after claiming: “You can take them out of England, but you just can’t take the convict out of them.”

Oh that smooth talking Englishman. You’ve just got to laugh though.

Anyway, before the Top Gear team arrived in Australia, they did a bit of filming for the car series in Russia.

The Hunt For Red Mickey Mouse

Tweetie Pie Corner

  “Sadly, some animals were harmed during rehearsals for Top Gear Live in Moscow.” A tweet posted by Jeremy Clarkson, together with a close up picture of a dead mouse, which lay twisted and flattened in the road following rehearsals for his show in Russia.

The headline which accompanied the story read:

Animal rights activists outraged as 'oaf' Jeremy Clarkson posted picture
of a squashed dead mouse 'killed during Top Gear rehearsals'

You really couldn’t make it up.

I am reminded of my favourite quote from last year: “Always remember that men are just small boys in long trousers. That way you won’t expect too much of them and you won’t be disappointed.”

But I really do wonder about the extent of the doolallyness infecting our celebrities. Do you suppose they’ve all been eating too much horse meat infected with Bute, that dodgy horse drug?

I mean, tweeting a picture of a dead mouse?

 

Thursday, March 7
Memories are made of this


Memorable breakfast

“My wife and I tried two or three times in the last 40 years to have breakfast together.  It was so disagreeable we had to stop.” Winston Churchill, emphasising that the first meal of the day is not so much about what or when you eat, but who you eat it with.

I had previously been drawn by this headline in Mail Online:

Muesli? No thanks, I’ll have snipe and a pint of port: From Churchill to 007,
a new book reveals the unlikely breakfast that fuelled our greatest heroes

As Sir Winston Churchill settled into his seat on a flight to the U.S. in the summer of 1954, a steward handed him the breakfast menu. It was clearly not to his liking. Taking his pen, the great man crossed out the items described on this meagre bill of fare and began scrawling out his own, very specific demands: a brace of snipe washed down with a pint of port.

Some suggest this was a joke, but in any case it was beyond the capabilities of a small in-flight kitchen — even for a Prime Minister.

When that hand-written list came up for auction four years ago, it revealed that the brace of snipe was only the start of it. Churchill’s early morning feast of choice actually extended across two separate trays.

The first groaned with poached eggs, toast, butter and jam, and a hefty selection of meats. The second bore a nod to good health with a token grapefruit, but alongside that was a bowl of sugar, a whisky and soda and one of his favourite cigars.

Memorable or what? However, the author of a book* highlighting the great Prime Minister’s eating and drinking habits says he was rarely up in time for breakfast, and started drinking Pol Roger champagne as soon as he surfaced, which perhaps puts the glorious quote at the top into context.

Incidentally, I have noticed in life that those who drink heavily, but retain a great appetite and eat heartily and regularly, invariably live to a grand old age. Most people who drink heavily tend not to eat as they should, and that is the death of them.

 *  The Breakfast Bible  written by food journalist Seb Emina (real name) and edited by sunny-side-up Malcolm Eggs (yes, that name would push coincidence just that little bit too far).

Memorable manners

“I remember the line in the film ‘Waterloo’ when the British army are making an unwise move. When it is pointed out to Napoleon, he replies ‘Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake. That is bad manners.’.”
Ascanius delivers an online comment apropos the current political situation in the UK, and that all Labour has to do is sit back and watch the Conservative party engineering its own debacle.

That does make sense. Actually though, Napoleon sounds terribly British up there.

Memorable goodbye

“People of Groupon ... After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding — I was fired today. If you’re wondering why ... you haven’t been paying attention.”
Andrew Mason, 32, founder and former CEO
of struggling online retailer Groupon*, fired amid concerns over the future of the company.

 * Groupon (a portmanteau derived from “group coupon”) is a Chicago-based deal-of-the-day website that features discounted gift certificates usable at local or national companies. Andrew Mason graduated from Northwestern University in 2003 with a degree in music.

To paraphrase Eric Morecambe: Andrew Mason clearly pressed the right buttons on his keyboard ― but not necessarily in the right order.

But I do admire his humour.

Memorable sentence

“Piso was a Roman magistrate. A man was brought before him charged with murder. Piso condemned him to death and ordered a centurion to take him for execution. On the way the alleged victim was found to be alive.
     “The centurion took them both back to the court whereupon Piso condemned all three to death. The condemned, because he had been sentenced to death, the centurion for disobeying orders, and the victim for causing the deaths of two innocent men.”
Wuffothewonderdog (a British bulldog?) suggests in an online comment that perhaps our politicians have had too much of their education in the classics.

Are you paying attention, Boris?

Memorable crap

This letter spotted in The Daily Telegraph:

Bottom line

SIR – In addition to displaying the price of an item, a local, well-known supermarket also offers, in smaller font, useful information to assist price comparison, such as “42p per 100 grms”.
     I found myself searching for the best buy in toilet rolls recently, and was somewhat taken aback to read the small print: “34p per 100 shts”.
Gail Wilson, Tickenham, North Somerset

Very good, but perhaps Gail should have written: “I was somewhat caught short when I read the small print...”
 


Wednesday, March 6
I know an old lady ― oh, and an elephant


MEANWHILE, back on my Desert Island Jukebox project...

Well, I’ve already covered my genetic inheritance, the sort of music my mother enjoyed and is therefore ingrained in the earliest rings burnt into my DNA core; then came the Santa Claus clause i.e. Christmas music; and of course the memorable sing-along music of junior school.

So next up in my musical stroll through time is Uncle Mac and Children’s Favourites. Imagine, today’s children will never experience the joys of the novelty records that were such a feature of the air waves for those growing up through the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies.

A survey has just revealed that, owing to the pace of modern life, childhood now finishes at age 12; indeed many parents feel their kids’ childhood has disappeared by the age of 10. It seems children are now worried about their looks, sex and crucially, their popularity as endorsed (or rubbished) on social media.

When Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart took over the Saturday morning wireless spot in 1968, he went on to host what then became Junior Choice for another eleven years, attracting over 17 million listeners. Astonishing.

But what song should I choose to best sum up the music from back then? It’s an impossible task, really, with so many smiley songs ― anyway, I have plumped for a record that, whenever I hear it these days, unfailingly makes me smile: Mandy Miller and her Nellie the Elephant.

However...

                          
                                                                                         
“There was an old lady who swallowed a Findus lasagne. She’s dead, of course.” Eddie Sanders of Birmingham in a letter to the Daily Mail.

That letter, together with the ongoing horse meat scandal, reminds me of another favourite from those Uncle Mac days: I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, the Burl Ives classic.

Before we get there though, and given the horse meat saga, it brought to mind a Christmas novelty number ― which has stubbornly stood the test of time ― so I had a bit of fun messing around with the lyrics...

♫♫♫

                          

On the first day of shopping my Tesco sold to me, a partridge in a beef mince.

On the second day of shopping my Aldi sold to me two turtle doves in a cheeseburger and a partridge in a beef mince.

On the third day of shopping my Asda sold to me three French hens in a shepherd’s pie, two turtle doves in a cheese-burger and a partridge in a beef mince.

On the fourth day of shopping my Lidl sold to me four calling birds in a hotchpotch, three French hens in a shepherd’s pie, two turtle doves in a cheeseburger and a partridge in a beef mince...

There, little things please little minds. Anyway, back at the Jukebox:

So my next song has to be I Know An Old Lady ― but not the standard Burl Ives version. The one I’ve chosen is indeed Burl Ives, but an extended version featuring a delightful video cartoon by The National Film Board of Canada.

Also, I was torn between the standard Mandy Miller version of Nellie the Elephant ― or the extra-giggly version by the Toy Dolls. I plumped for the Toy Dolls  version (incidentally, there’s an online comment there about the Toy Dolls version which I must share)...

Bradius123: Make mad passionate love to moi ... nearly 3 million hits ... makes me feel better about the world :)
(A couple of the words used by
Bradius123 have been sub-edited to taste
! Two words, the second one is me, the first word, four letters, starts with F, followed by three asterisks.)

First though, the Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, the cartoon version ― other versions are also available, as with Nellie the Elephant ... see the YouTube listings:
                                                                              
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiESiO6tLM8

And Nellie the Elephant, the Toy Dolls version:
                                                                                                   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eti21PVHXrg

 


Tuesday, March 5
The doctor will see you now


GIVEN how Rupert Murdoch never stops subliminally targeting his readers and viewers with his republicanism, this Times  front page tickled me no end...
                                                             
                                                                                                 ...it’s the juxtaposition of the ‘Failings in NHS (National Health Service) cost 30,000 lives every year’, with a picture alongside of the Queen leaving the private  King Edward VII’s Hospital in London, looking well and cheerful following her overnight stay after being admitted with symptoms of gastroenteritis.

Look folks, old Rupert ain’t nicknamed The Dirty Digger for nuthin’.

Whatever, just the other day I remarked that the Queen, at 86, appeared not just in rude health but likely to see an awful lot of us out.

And then she’s admitted to hospital. D’oh!

But what is  remarkable, given that gastroenteritis is quite a debilitating illness, especially so to an elderly person, she appears to have ridden the storm exceptionally well. As I say, she is 86 going on 87.

I liked the MATT  cartoon, of a doctor reassuring the bed-ridden patient who’s looking very sorry for himself:
“You can’t catch anything from the Queen by licking a stamp.”

IQ and QI

Talking of illness, I’ve been wondering of late why life is just one big headache ... and, between you me and the Welcome mat at the top, I’ve never thought of myself as the brightest bulb on the planet.

Well, a couple of headlines in today’s newspapers offered up some clues. The first in the Telegraph:

                           Why sex is a “better headache cure rather than painkillers”

Sex appears to be a cure for headaches, researchers have suggested...

God, no wonder ― and then this in the Mail:

         Having sex can make you BRAINIER ― especially in the first flushes of love

Having sex on a regular basis could boost your brain power, new research suggests. Blood samples taken from people who had recently fallen in love showed that they had higher levels of nerve growth ― crucial to a human's well-being and mental alertness, say University of Pavia researchers.

What can I add? Well, a few online comments made me chuckle, including this brace of beauties from a
Steve of Bridgend:
               
This is why of course I have an IQ of 69.
                An orgasm a day keeps the doctor away
! But what happens if your partner IS a doctor?

Hugh Avonalaff, London: “If we make love six times a day, we will have the IQ of Einstien.” Do it seven times a day and you may even be able to spell Einstein correctly.

Very witty, Avonalaff. I couldn’t help thinking that it should be Avinalaff, but perhaps that handle was already taken.

I see no ships...

A few days ago, this picture and story was all over the media...

A quick visit on spec ~ even a quick poke in the eye
 

A Kent motorist made quite an oversight this week ― when a silver Ford crashed
off the high street and ploughed into a Specsavers opticians
        Pic: Ben Bridges

Recalling to mind the company’s long-running advertising slogan “Should’ve gone to Specsavers”, the unlucky driver careered off the road and lodged the Ford Fiesta in the window display of the opticians’ branch in Sevenoaks.

Luckily no-one, including the driver, was hurt, given that the store was actually open with staff and customers inside ― the red stuff on the floor is not blood but thought to be from a snapped servo fluid pipe. Doubtless, passers-by couldn’t believe their eyes when they spotted the car stuck in the shop window.

The driver was not named by police.

All this took me off at a tangent. Another headline:

                                                    More hot air in the wind turbine debate?

Yes, but not what you might expect. The head of the National Trust, Dame Helen Ghosh, has insisted the giant constructions can be a “graceful” addition to the landscape. “If you think back to what the railways looked like to the 19th century mind, or indeed the 18th century when the canals were coming through, I think we have to have our minds open to how the wind turbine will appear to us in 100 years,” she told The Sunday Times.

A few days later, this appeared:

“New National Trust head Helen Ghosh says one day, wind farms will be admired as railways are now. She should definitely go to Specsavers.” Anthony Baird of Welwyn Garden City, Herts, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Hang about, Anthony, perhaps it was Helen who crashed into the Specsavers window.

Be that as it may, do you suppose that in a 100 years, the media equivalent of Michael Portillo and his wardrobe will be travelling the country filming a series of television programmes called Ghosh
! A Quick Spin Around Great British Wind Turbines?

Stranger things have happened when a nation is all at sea.

 

Monday, March 4
Don’t tell me ... I never forget a face


REMEMBER the cat and the house that looked like Adolf Hitler? I featured these nearly two years ago now, but they are well worth another look, especially so given the context of today’s smile.

    die Kitler              der Hitler               das Haustler

  

I hope die/der/das is correct (female/male/it?).

Anyway, the house became an internet hit when someone spotted the lateral similarity to the Führer. It stands just a few hundred yards from Swansea docks, seriously targeted by Hitler’s Luftwaffe. But it remained untouched. Did the house know something others didn’t?

Mind you, I don’t care much for the future of that pole standing in front of the house. Whatever, there were a couple of quotes I liked, and they too are worth a repeat.

A near neighbour: “People are joking that the house is the third on the Reich and that we live on the Western Front. You have to see the funny side of life sometimes.”

And another neighbour: “If it starts attracting the wrong sort of people, I might speak to the owner and see if he’ll let me paint the front door another colour – or give the roof a centre parting instead.”

And now for something slightly different. Late on Tuesday evening, after writing up today’s smile, I happened to click on the Telegraph’s  web site to catch up with the latest goings-on in the world at large ... the web site had already posted some of Wednesday’s ‘Comment’ contents ― and I came across this brief piece:

Bird of pray

When news went round that a house in Swansea looked like Hitler, there were many people who doubted it ― until they saw the photograph. After that it was found that any number of cats, and even a goldfish, looked like the unlamented Führer. So the idea that a church might accidentally look like a chicken could not be ruled out a priori.

[Every day a day at school: a priori ... 1)  a. Derived by or designating the process of reasoning without reference to
particular facts or experience. b. Knowable without appeal to particular experience.
     2) Made before or without examination; not supported by factual study.]

Yet it still seemed unlikely until photographic evidence was provided: the Church by the Sea at Tampa, Florida, not only resembles a chicken, but a chicken with attitude.

These unintended lookalikes are a welcome change from the City skyscrapers given nicknames because of their contrived shapes: the Cheesegrater, the Helter-Skelter, the Walkie-Talkie. Those are as unsatisfactorily inauthentic as chicken nuggets made in the shape of dinosaurs.

I had already stumbled upon this curiosity because the Church has become an internet sensation after people noticed its resemblance to a chicken, as pictured alongside. Its windows have been compared to eyes, while its red tile roof looks like a beak and wings. Church goer Dee Dee Parker said the congregation is “glad we can make people smile”.

Built in the 1940s, the church has a tall cross which lights up to direct fishermen back to the land. It wasn’t intended to look like a chicken ― the church’s bird-like features are used as a compass to direct sailors; its wings represent East and West, while its beak and tail symbolise North and South.


                                                   Picture: GUZELIAN

But where has it been hiding since ... the 1940s? Anyway, back on terra firma, I also enjoyed this story...

                          Sorry, Google, it'll take more than a search engine to replace Grandma

The internet is no match for the time-worn wisdom that grandparents can offer children

It was a piece by grandmother Jan Etherington, who argued that despite the cleverness of the internet, there was a difference between knowledge and wisdom; and that the world wide web (www) could never replace the tender loving care (TLC) of granny and granddad (note the upper case of TLC).

I liked this little tale from her piece very much:

However, while figures show that nearly half of three and four-year-olds are technologically literate, there is, in my experience, a brief window when your grandchildren believe you know it all.

I had just strapped Ruby, then four, into her car seat and headed into the city traffic, when an announcement came from the back seat. “Rosie [her playmate] has got a baby sister.”

“Oh, that’s nice.”

“Where do we come from, Nana?”

I sighed. I last had this conversation 30 years ago. “Well...” I offered a well practised, U-certificate version of the mysteries of birth. There was a silence as we stopped. Then…

“Really?” said Ruby, unclipping her seat buckle. “Only Rosie said she comes from Bournemouth.”

A couple of online comments added décor to the piece.

Neilneilorangepeel: But Google has never told me that if I pull a funny face and the wind changes ― my face will stick like that. Although my wife reckons it just might be true in my case.

Seneca: Knowledge is knowing the tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting one in your fruit salad.

 

Sunday, March 3
Weather lore and behold


THIS morning, just before seven, I set off on my regular walk ... at this time of year, daylight expands at an impressive rate of 25 minutes or so a week ― from the 1st of February to the 1st of March, there’s just short of an hour more daylight at sunrise, and nearly an hour more at sunset.

Today the weather forecast was spot on: there had been a sharp overnight frost and the countryside looked like a Mary Berry special, sprinkled with icing sugar. At 07:00, the sun rose blood red into a clear blue sky. It really was a beautiful morning to be out and about in the Towy Valley.

Now I am familiar with an “Indian summer”; however, with meteorological spring now with us, last Friday evening Derek the Weatherman on our local BBC TV news warned of an “Apache frost” over the weekend. Wel-i-jiw-jiw, every day really is a day at school.

Sadly though, when I later related the tale down at the Asterisk Bar, Dai Version ― he who, whenever he tells a tale or joke, takes us along the scenic route ― pointed out that what Derek had warned us of was “a patchy frost”.

Oh bugger. An Apache frost and an Indian summer somehow balance the weather lore books rather splendidly.

Anyway, while at the Asterisk, Chief Wise Owl gave me three smashing letters, as spotted in The Times:

Waist not

Sir, In response to Bernard Kingston’s demand for a “gadget that measures our daily calorie intake and usage, and is worn like a watch”, we already have such a gadget.
     It is called a belt.
IAN CHERRY, Preston, Lancs


Very witty. Indeed, I have noticed recently that I have started using a fresh outer hole on my belt. Time to watch my daily calorie intake and usage, methinks.

Cut here

Sir, Like many older people, I find increasing difficulty in opening securely packaged wrappings. So I bought a pair of scissors. The scissors were packaged in heavy plastic which, to help with opening, had a dotted line and a scissor logo on it. Unfortunately, I had no scissors.
     A little later I bought a Swiss Army knife. This splendid knife was packaged in even heavier plastic which my new scissors could not cope with. What I needed was a Swiss Army knife.
JAMES MACDONALD, Ickleton, Cambs.

I know what he means. But what I find odd is that James had no scissors in his possession at all. It must be unique for a home not even to own one pair of scissors. I’ve just been round my place ... there are four scissors of different sizes, as well as a garden shears and a couple of secateurs (which are perfect for opening securely packaged wrappings).

Also, I have a couple of sturdy kitchen knives which could be deployed, rather carefully, to stab open the package. It’s an odd world.

Mind you, the letter writer probably noticed an ideal subject on which to submit a letter to The Times ― and it worked.

 

Guilty as charged

Just the other day, a UK judge described a jury as suffering “absolutely fundamental deficits in understanding” when they failed to reach a verdict.

Mr Justice Sweeney said he had never seen a situation like it in 30 years after being presented with a list of 10 questions by the jury, following nearly 14 hours of deliberations.

They included: “Can a juror come to a verdict based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it, either from the prosecution or defence?”

The judge said: “Quite apart from my concern as to the absolutely fundamental deficits in understanding which the questions demonstrate I wonder ... the extent to which anything said by me is going to be capable of getting them back on track. In well over 30 years of criminal trial I have never come across this at this stage, never.”

It brought this letter of response:

Forked tongue

Sir, It is not only juries who may be confused by the judge’s use of words they do not understand. There used to be a story of the Crown Court judge who loved using long words.
     In a rape case, when the accused went into the witness box and before he had begun to give evidence, the judge questioned him in an attempt to enlighten the jury as to the nature of his defence. “Am I right in thinking that your defence is first that it is a case of mistaken identity; and secondly that the woman consented?”
     “Yes,” replied the accused, delighted that the judge understood his unusual defence.
     “So your defence is bifurcated?” asked the judge.
     “What, already?” the accused replied.
LORD MILLETT, House of Lords.


Right, the first job was finding out what “bifurcated” means: “to fork or divide into two branches”. With hindsight, the clue was in the letter heading.

I’m thinking: to the accused, the sound of the word bifurcated must have sounded like “bloody f***ed!”. And to add irony to injury ... bifurcated means, in a manner of speaking, to fork off...

 


Saturday, March 2
Life’s a beach ― and then the Aussies bowl an LBW


“THE Welsh coastline is like a centuries old oak staircase. The Australian coastline is like one made out of bamboo.” Johnny Boy posts a comment on a Telegraph Travel web page.

Yesterday I mentioned in passing that I already had in mind a neat little story with a Welsh theme for St David’s Day ― but I was agreeably diverted by the Google Doodle Dragon.

Well, better a day late than never. This was the headline in the Telegraph  that beckoned and sucked me in like quick-sand...
                                     
Australians “insulted” at praise for Welsh beach

The Australian media has responded with disbelief to a poll that placed a Welsh beach among the top 10 in the world

In an article entitled “YOU’RE JOKING: This British beach is NOT better than ours”, the results of a TripAdvisor survey were opposed in vigorous terms.

The inclusion of only one Australian beach ― Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands ― was described as “one insult.”

But it was the presence of Rhossili Bay in Wales ― ahead of well known Australian stretches of coastline such as Bondi Beach and Byron Bay ― that was most fiercely contested.

“We simply could not believe it when we discovered a beach in south Wales on the list,” wrote Anthony Sharwood on
The Australian website. “No, not a beach in New South Wales ... We’re talking about a beach in south Wales, UK. As in, she sells sea shells by the Welsh sea shore.” (That’s nearly as good as the Google Doodle Dragon.)

The gently curving arc of sand to the west of Swansea in the Gower Peninsula came third out of European beaches, and was placed at number 10 in the worldwide list.

The journalist decided to research the attraction of the three-mile bay, which was included for its good surf and its attractive rural setting. Citing a surfing website, he pointed out that the current water temperature stood at six degrees. “In other words, swim here if you’ve always wanted to be an icicle,” he said.

The presence of Russian holidaymakers ― mentioned by a nearby proprietor tracked down by the newspaper ― was also mocked. “Cavorting flabby middle-aged Russians? No thanks. Sounds even more grotesque than the steroid-fuelled bodybuilders at Bondi.”

Instead, the paper argued, Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay ― listed as having the whitest sands in the world in the Guinness Book of Records ― merited an inclusion above Rhossili Bay...

                                                                                                                                            Photos: AP

Rhossili Bay in Gower, South Wales  and  Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay, Australia

Incidentally, if you look at the Rhossili picture, above left ... in the far distance, the other side of the estuary along the south west Wales coast, is a golden stretch of sands that stands out even at this distance.

That is the famous Pendine Sands, a seven-mile length of beach, Britain’s birthplace of speed, where historically many land-speed records were broken ― until speeds got so fast that even a seven-mile stretch was never enough for adequate acceleration and braking.

I remember many moons ago, the three Top Gear presenters did a high-speed feature with high-performance cars along Pendine sands: a Porsche, a Jaguar and a BMW...
                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                               ...with the tide coming in as they swished and spun through the water, it really was visually spectacular and must have impressed viewers wherever the programme is seen around the world (a link coming up).

I’ve actually sped along Pendine Sands ― in an MGB GT ― but that was before they closed it to the great unwashed.

Incidentally, and back with the best beaches in the world, for the record, the winning beach was actually voted as Rabbit Beach in Lampedusa, Sicily.

Now we come to the most entertaining part about Rhossili v Hyams, the Telegraph’s  comment board...

Mark Chisholm: Well I guess that it might be a bit chilly in Wales right now, but that hardly detracts from it’s beauty. However there is one thing that Aussies might want to consider when comparing beaches.
     Off the top of my head I cannot recall any incident that involved a surfer, swimmer or paddler being eaten by a bloody great nobby, stung by something really ball-breakingly venomous or bitten by a snake deadly enough to kill an entire herd of buffalo.
     Nor was it the policy to ship prisoners off to Wales as a punishment when somewhere far crapper existed on the other side of the world.

And in similar vein...

George: Might have something to do with the funnel-web spiders, redback spiders, taipan snakes, coral snakes, puff adders, reticulated adders and huntsman spiders which have pink skin and weigh half a pound...
     The sea wasps, box jellyfish, Portuguese men-o’-war, lion jellyfish, sea snakes, tiger sharks, white tip sharks, black tip sharks, great white sharks, thresher sharks and hammerhead sharks, all right next to a big hole in the ozone layer so you can add terminal skin cancer to your already deadly heat-stroke.
     Oh, and the salt water crocs.

Ted Sanityville: They probably misunderstood “welsh beach” for their Prime Minister.

Now that one did make me chuckle. As did this one...

Stevie Aitch: “Lovely buoy.”

And here is the comment with the highest recommends (at the time of viewing)...

Progressive Party: The main attractions of Rhossili Bay are its sand and scenery. The next attraction is that it is not full of Australians.

Following that last comment, and in the interests of balance ― as well as a bit of fun ― I clicked on The Australian  link above ... but no responses. Perhaps this comment on the Telegraph  web site gave a clue...

Alicia Smith: I live in Australia and this is the first I have heard of this story. It hasn’t been prominent in the press here.

That makes sense; after all, they already have a beach at number three. How many do they want? Anyway, this final comment retains the balance rather splendidly.

Veverk: Say what you want about Australia and Aussies, but we have a beautiful country with happy, unpretentious people, not to mention loads of natural attractions, lovely weather and a booming economy. That’s why Australian cities are consistently voted near the top of world rankings for living standards.
     What has Britain got? Well, it’s an over-populated, ex-empire with plenty of ‘culture’ which is drowning in debt, the economy is on life support, education standards are falling and the people (much like the weather) are utterly miserable, as the majority of comments on here illustrate perfectly.


Mind you, there were a few responses to the above along the line: Happy and unpretentious people? Tell that to the Aborigines, sunbeam.

Also: For the most part you are brash and arrogant, and the aborigines clearly recognise that. Zero sensibility.

Saying that, we have nothing to brag about here in Britain. It was our shared ancestors, after all, who went to America and stuffed the Native Americans.

Be that as it may, I really did enjoy the article and its responses.

Boys will be boys

Even if you hate Top Gear and think of the presenters as The Three Tossers, it’s worth watching these two clips, if only for the Pendine Sands sequence, much of it filmed from the air; also, Clarkson’s description of the Jaguar he is driving is a hoot.

Incidentally, the first link, below, takes you to Part One ― the link to Part Two will automatically come up at the end of Part One. If not, it’s here:
                                           
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZukTKnvCaow

                                                       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DX11UMVaxQE

 

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi 2013 (St David’s Day)
Say it with flowers


AWOKE with a climatological bounce in my heart. Yes, it’s March the 1st, the first day of the meteorologist’s spring. Oh, and it’s that other day of the year when I officially put my feet up and say “Sod it!”.

No, it’s not a Bank Holiday, but it is what I regard as my Banker Holiday.

I already had in mind a neat little story with a Welsh theme for today’s smile spot, so I turned on the computer ... I have Google as my home page, for no other reason that it’s the web site I use the most, if only to explore my motto that every day really is a day at school.

And suddenly, there it was, something totally unexpected, the Google Doodle with a bugle (sort of). And with a smile on its face.

Today's Google Doodle marks the feast day of St David, the patron saint of Wales

Now how good is that? I mean, there’s the dragon, the recognised Welsh symbol ... carrying a leek, the national emblem of Wales ... breathing fire which magically morphs into daffodils, our national flower. (All that is missing is an area of rainforest ‘the size of Wales’!)

I am so impressed with the Google Doodle Dragon that, later in the month I may well give it a run up there, on my Welcome mat.

The drawing has been met with a warm response online. And to be honest, it was only then that I realised the doodle spells out the search-engine giant’s name. D’oh!

I had to look closely, mind ... but there it is: the daffodils and the flames spell the letters ‘G-o-o’; the dragon’s tail forms the shape of an ‘e’, and just in front, the letter ‘l’, sort of; but the middle ‘g’ is the hardest to spot. There again, a bit of imagination works wonders.
 


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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)

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)
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Home   2010 (Jan to Jun)   2009   2008   March to May '07   June to Aug '07   Sep to Dec '07


Reception

You are here, way out west,
at Llandeilo

aka Llandampness
aka Dodgy City

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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)
2009

2008
Sep to Dec '07

June to Aug '07
March to May '07

As it was in the beginning:
ST DAVID'S DAY, 2007

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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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