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MY SQUARE MILE
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400 Smiles A Day
It seems that
the artist Leonardo da Vinci kept a notebook, Notes to Self,
a list of “things to do today”: buy paper; charcoal; chalk ...
describe tongue of woodpecker and jaw of crocodile...
These are my Notes to Self, a daily record of
the things that make me smile and which brighten up my day no
end, whether read in a newspaper, seen on TV, heard on the
radio, told in the pub, spotted in the supermarket, a good joke,
a great story, a funny cartoon, a film clip, an eye-catching
picture, something startling that nevertheless generates a spontaneous smile, curiosities spotted
along my walks through the Towy Valley...
This is a snapshot of life beyond the blue horizon...
everyday a doolally smile of the day
The shortest distance between two people is a smile ...
Friday, May 31
Stranger and stranger
...and everyday a doolally smile of the day,
it says up there on my Welcome mat. So I was duly intrigued by
this headline and story:
Taxman tells owner of Mama Flo’s café she
owes £1BILLION in VAT
Florence Coke, 59, owner of Mama Flo’s in Gorton, Greater
Manchester, told how she “nearly fell over” after opening the
£979,092,858 bill from HM Revenue and Customs.
She was left angry
after the taxman threatened to seize her business assets if she failed
to pay up ― but HM Revenue and Customs bosses have since apologised
after realising Ms Coke only owed a little less than £17,000.
It turns out that her little business has only been going some three
years anyway. Even then, a VAT bill of £17,000 for a small business
seems rather high ― unless of course it’s for more than a quarter,
indeed, perhaps it is VAT due since she opened the business.
Whatever, that is pure speculation.
But what is not speculation is that it is doolallyness in
the extreme that the tax computer system does not alert and withhold
anything it generates which is totally out of synch with any particular
business’ normal trading figures.
Perhaps the £1Billion bill should have winged its way to
Starbucks, or Amazon, or Google...
Crazy world, crazy people.
Incidentally, with Google much in the news of late ― tax arrangements,
spying on us via our computer use, its reluctance to block child porn
(jailed for life on Thursday, April Jones’s murderer is the latest child
killer to use the internet to fuel his perversion) ― I thought this
letter in the Daily Mail from a
out in Alicante, Spain, was rather inventive:
“Does Google spy on us? The answer may be in the
name: G ΘΘ GLE ... or ... Go ogle!”
I guess the question they should ask Eric Schmidt, the
executive chairman of Google, and which has nothing to do with his
organisation’s tax regime, or whether it does spy on us, is this:
If, God forbid, it had been one of your children or
grandchildren instead of April Jones, are you saying that such a
horrific crime is a price you are prepared to pay to keep Google free to
promote extreme internet porn?
His answer would be fascinating in the extreme.
Crash, bang, wallop
Anyway, talking of the idiocy of the VAT computer, there
was also this story:
Driver made 17 whiplash claims in just eight years: He and his gang are
exposed by judge who rules that ‘bus prang’ was bogus
• Mohammed Saeed claimed he was
in a car hit by a National Express coach
• His string of other claims came to light when the bus
firm challenged the claim
• A judge has now ordered a perjury inquiry into
previous payouts made
The scale of ‘crash for cash’ scams is driving up
insurance premiums for innocent motorists. Experts believe about £60 of
a motorist’s annual car insurance premium pays for losses in the
industry caused by fake compensation claims.
Recently a gang in County Durham swindled so much money,
car insurance firms raised bills in the area by about £100 a year. The
60 gang members were all either convicted of the estimated £3million
fraud or admitted the crime during the past 18 months.
recently told MPs that half of all whiplash claims from car crashes ― an
estimated £1billion a year ― are fraudulent because symptoms are ‘too
easy to fake’.
Now you would have thought that, given the scale of these frauds, the
insurance companies would have some sort of linked computer claims
software that would alert them, especially so given that all the claims
would, by definition, have followed the same routine.
It all gives this recent quote a whole new life of its own:
“These insurance companies are taking all the pleasure
out of being alive.” Paul Morgans, the mayor of Bakewell,
Derbyshire, who cannot find a company willing to insure his town’s
“incredibly dangerous” traditional custard pie fight.
Imagine, insurance companies simply pay out these fake
compensation claims without a blink ― but don’t you dare throw a custard
pie at anyone.
What is even more alarming about the above ‘bus prang’ is
that it wasn’t the insurance company but National Express which decided
to challenge the claim because the driver had no knowledge of any
I think bringing back the stocks is long overdue. Then we can throw
custard pies to our heart’s
content at these absolute idiots who run the country. And not worry
about any insurance claims.
Thursday, May 30
I like these images because......
A BRACE of pictures generated different kinds of smiles
First up, this wonderfully eye-catching image from last
weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Don't look up!
Mega moons ago I had a phase of entering consumer
competitions; you know, the ones where you have to finish a sentence or
compose a slogan, all within so many words.
I was reasonable successful at it, my prizes ranging from
a rather swish and expensive Concorde holiday to America ― to a night
out with a handful of The Sun’s Page 3 girls.
Along the way I remember one competition where you had to
submit a suggestion of something really off-beat you would like to do,
an unusual holiday, perhaps, but something outside the normal parameters
of your day-to-day life.
If you were a winner the prize was to make the dream come
true. So by definition it had to be something reasonably achievable,
assuming the right people opened the right doors.
At the time, when they televised the Monaco Grand Prix,
along part of the course, one of the hotel swimming pools was clearly
visible as the cameras tracked the cars racing on by. And of course it was
Not many years after, the pool disappeared from view as
the race organisers erected more and more temporary spectator stands to
watch the race.
Anyway, my idea was this: I would like to attend the
Monaco Grand Prix, stay at that particular hotel ― but during the race,
I would enter the swimming pool and then proceed to plough up and down
during all the excitement of the event.
Now this would have grabbed the attention of the
television people; I mean, who was this idiot swimming in the pool
instead of watching one of the great events on the world’s sporting
Also, imagine the huge exposure this would give the
organisers of the competition ― I
can’t remember who was running it: I seem to think it was a chocolate
manufacturer, someone like Cadbury, but I can’t be sure.
Anyway, and much to my chagrin, I never submitted my
dream weekend. Typical of me because all my life I’ve had a go at many
things ― but once I’ve sort of cracked that particular art, I would lose
interest and move on to something else.
Which is a shame. I’m sure my swimming pool idea would
have gone down a bomb because of the interest the wheeze would have
attracted from the media.
Ah well, another one that got away.
The Great Walkway of China
The second photograph is this extraordinary image, which
makes me smile and feel faint, all at the same time.
Daredevil tourists have been photographed navigating an extremely narrow
and treacherous walkway on a sheer cliff face on a scenic mountain in
Shaanxi Province, China.
Fortunately the individuals are all attached to a safety
line attached to the rock face. The precipitous Chang Kong Cliff Road on
Haushan mountain was built more than 700 years ago by hermits seeking
‘immortals’ they thought were living deep in the mountains.
The walkway is alarmingly narrow and has been built
clinging to the absolutely vertical cliff. One misstep could see you
fall thousands of feet down the stone valley. However, anyone brave
enough to navigate the path does have to wear a special safety harness.
What could possibly go wrong? Here’s a link to a Mail
Online picture gallery ― some astonishing images from this
But rather them than me, for even though I did once hold a pilot’s
licence, I hate heights...
Wednesday, May 29
Serendipity at its most fortuitous
SOMETIME last week, it was Alex Lester (I think) who
mentioned on his wireless show something or other to do with a cartoon
cat that was always roaring off on its motor-sickle. SOL!
(smile out loud).
I thought at the time: how come I’ve never heard of a cat
and this wonderful motor-sickle?
I mean, that is so smiley; so much so, every time I’d see
a motorcycle I’d say to myself “Oh look, there’s a motorsickle”. There
again, I had only just woken up so perhaps I’d misheard what Alex had
And then it sort of escaped my mind. Until today ― when I
happened to hear Motorcycle Emptiness by the Manic Street
Preachers ― and it all came flooding back...
So I went online and searched “a cartoon cat and its
motorsickle”. The search engine duly challenged and corrected my
spelling and changed it to “motorcycle”. But I insisted...
Well, nothing at all ― except the following vintage
cartoon postcard of a cat riding its, um, motor-sigh-cle...
A variation on the theme of “beep-beep!”,
And it did generate a generous smile. However, what I did
serendipitously trip over was a YouTube link to ― ta-rah!
Arlo Guthrie and his Motorsickle song.
So off I went, riding pillion. And I smiled and smiled, and laughed and laughed.
I had never heard this before. It’s a live audio
recording: think Ronnie Corbett sat in his chair telling that rather
drawn out joke routine he made his own ― now put Spike Milligan in the
chair, and hand him a gui-tar...
I don’t want a pickle,
Just want to
ride on my motorsickle;
And I don’t
want a tickle,
rather ride on my motorsickle;
And I don’t
want to die,
Just want to
ride on my motorsighhhh-cle.
It is eight minutes of delightful silliness ― put to music. I feel my
sense-of-fun education has been seriously found wanting having not
previously made the acquaintance of Arlo Guthrie and his Motorsickle
not so much a song, more a cabaret act. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I
may well put it into the comedy section of my Desert Island Jukebox.
It’s a charmingly smiley way to roar off into the
distance and head somewhere beyond the blue horizon...
Tuesday, May 28
A kiss-me-quick cocktail, with a twist
“Why does he go everywhere hand in hand with his wife?
Tell him not to.” Lord Carrington, 94, British Conservative grandee,
on Prime Minister David Cameron’s unstatesman-like behaviour.
Yes, that is true. I’d never thought about it,
but the moment I read that, I did a quick SOL (smile out loud).
What is more, Chief Wise Owl down at the Crazy Horsepower
mentioned that he is also forever kissing his wife in public situations
i.e. party conferences.
Curiosity made me Google our Kissagrim PM ... my goodness
me, what a load of osculating on public platforms. And not just our
What is it with all these politicians? Is it some sort of
mid-life crisis? Also online, there’s a wicked spoof picture of Cameron
and Obama doing what comes naturally...
...at least I think it’s Photoshopped!
My SOL effortlessly morphed
into a LOL!
Last week I smiled at how the news was dominated by the
gay marriage debate in Parliament, and I recalled Danish comedian Victor
Borge pointing out that there were three distinct groups of people in
Denmark: male, female and convertible.
And I pondered why David Cameron and his fellow wussycats
were determined to turn Britain into a nation of convertibles, even
though the current climate is decidedly unsuitable to have the top down
(it’s the economy, stupid).
Down at the Asterisk Bar in the Crazy Horsepower, they
reckon there are four distinct groups of people in Britain: AC, DC,
AC/DC and TP (Three Phase: anything goes, from a blow-up doll to a nice
Given David Cameron’s propensity to hold his wife’s hand
and then kiss her in public, along with his haste in getting this gay
marriage thing all legal and above board ― and remember, he is a public
schoolboy where it seems AC/DC and TP is par for the course ― do you
suppose that he is a ... no, surely not?
you, why are both Cameron and Obama always making a point of kissing
their wives while in full public view? What is the subliminal message they are
Methinks they doth kith too
Talking of Three Phase and blow-up dolls, as I was, this from last
column in The Sunday Times:
Showing tonight ― Blow-up
A cinema manager
called police when he spotted a couple making love in the back row, but
officers arrived to find a customer canoodling with an inflatable woman.
A spokesman for the cinema in Guadalupe, Mexico,
complained: “He didn’t even buy a second ticket.”
And then this quote from the lovely Australian actress, singer and
“Most days I am dressed like an
angry lesbian. I am not a girlie girl.”
does an angry lesbian dress? Like a deflated inflatable woman, perhaps?
Spell-cheque corner: My made-up word
‘Kissagrim’ came up, somewhat predictably, as ‘Kiss grim’ ―
which was rather sweet, given the context.
Monday, May 27
Blank Holiday Special
AS THE day lengthens I awake earlier and earlier; indeed,
down the years I have realised that I need much less sleep in summer
than I do in winter. It’s my dominant caveman gene, don’t you know.
This very morning, as is par for my course, I was awake
before half-four. I turned on the bedside wireless ... Radio 2’s Alex
Lester with his Best Time of the Day Show was in full flow.
Today of course is the Spring Bank Holiday, and Alex was
busily promoting it as a Blank Holiday Special.
The point being made by Alex was that we should do as
little as possible on a Blank Holiday; most definitely as little as we
can get away with.
Alex advised us to forget going to the seaside and
getting caught up in those dreadful traffic jams which would result in
us returning home more stressed than we were before setting off.
Positively no DIY work to avoid the risk of ending up in
hospital minus a finger ― or worse.
Now there spoke a man with experience of bank holiday
hassle. But I liked the sound of this ‘doing as little as possible’.
Truth to tell, this is how I have lived most of my life:
do as little as possible without letting anybody down or indeed owing
anybody any money.
My philosophy doubtless explains why I have never
garnered position, power and possessions. Still, as mentioned in
previous dispatches, it’s been a laugh a minute; often two laughs a
Back with Alex Lester: he read out an e-mail from Dawn
that was ... blank.
How funny is that. I was sold on the Blank Holiday
Now my Look You day runs from noon to noon: I
wrote up yesterday’s smile last night; I then tend to think about it
along my early-morning walk, polish up my thought processes the best I
can ― and then I post online around noon.
So noon arrives, job done ― and I think, right, I am now
entering into the spirit of the Blank Holiday. I shall put my feet up,
listen to a bit of radio, visit my Desert Island Jukebox, catch up with
the newspapers ― and watch a bit of telly, especially now that
Springwatch is back for a run.
And as if by command, after a beautiful weekend, the rain
began to pour down at noon. A perfect day to put my feet up.
Reading yesterday’s newspaper, I read this brief obituary:
Eddie Braben, who has died aged 82, was Morecambe and
Wise’s television scriptwriter during their golden decade at the BBC
between 1968 and 1978. Many considered the Liverpudlian to be the unsung
genius of British comedy.
In July 1969 Bill Cotton, BBC Television’s head of light
entertainment, signed Morecombe and Wise to do 13 shows a year for the
BBC for three years. Cotton commissioned Braben to write a whole show
for BBC2 and, three shows later, Braben became Morecambe and Wise’s
The shows became a national institution and Braben
shaped Britain’s cultural landscape of the 1970s.
The Daily Telegraph
Today, having caught just a slice of it yesterday on BBC
Radio Wales, I listened to this on iPlayer:
Another chance to hear Aled Jones in conversation
with legendary comedy writer Eddie Braben, who sadly passed away this
week. This programme was first broadcast in October 2012.
I remember listening to the programme first time round. It was even
better this time. Eddie Braben was an exceedingly witty and funny man
and he comes across wonderfully so in this conversation.
“Why do you still keep training alongside the players?”
Eddie Braben once asked Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool Football
Club manager in his later years, when most managers of his age would
coach from the sidelines.
“When I die,” replied Bill, “I want to die fit.”
I must tell that to my doctor. Anyway, the programme is
awash with tales like that.
If you are able to access the BBC iPlayer, then the link
is below. Alternatively, simply put Aled Jones into the iPlayer search
box. It will remain available until 3.02PM Sunday, 2 June 2013
Sunday, May 26
Symmetry in emotion
LAST Sunday I shared the experiences of a picture-perfect
spring morning: bluebells and wild garlic in abandoned glory; and the
spectacular 40 shades of green as all the various trees were coming into
Well blow me, today, a repeat performance ― no hot air
balloon this Sunday though ― but just a week on and there are subtle
differences all over the shop.
The bluebells in south and south-west facing woodlands
are fast wilting and disappearing amongst the sprouting ferns; and the
vibrancy of the difference shades of green on the trees is already
morphing into that blanket ‘Sherwood green’ I mentioned.
To compensate though, there’s blossom and golden chain
everywhere ― oh, and those eye-catching candles on the horse chestnuts are
just about coming into their own.
However, what made me smile this morning was something
I’ve never quite experienced before.
The forecast had promised a great day. I was out and
about at five. The sun rose perfectly into a near clear sky, just wisps
of high, horizon cloud floating about; plus lots of mist down in the
valley. But as I walked across Dinefwr
Park, ahead of me the full moon in all its glory was preparing to set
over Dinefwr Castle.
What made it so extraordinary was that the sun was rising
directly behind me ― and as I followed my shadow onwards and upwards towards the
western horizon, the moon was setting directly in front of me.
Now I have witnessed plenty of memorable sunrises and
moonsets, but this morning the whole shebang was in such perfect
symmetry it made me blink at the wonder and the beauty of nature.
Mind you, you’ve got to be up and about bright and early
to capture much of it.
I’ve posted a Towy Valley sunrise and moonset over on
corner. Link here...
Talking of weather, I particularly enjoyed this amusing
letter in today’s Sunday Telegraph:
SIR – Some years ago I was in a pub in a remote part of
the Scottish Highlands. One of the locals was chatting to me and
mentioned the midge problem and that the best deterrent was brown sugar,
rubbed all over one’s face.
“It stops them biting, does it?” I asked, and with
guffaws from his pals he replied, “No, but it rots their teeth!”
Ray Byrne, Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire
Saturday, May 25
“A woman who
carries a polecat by the tail learns something she can learn in no other
With apologies to Mark Twain.
following is a headline (or variations thereof) that all newspapers
carried this morning:
£100,000 bill for Mrs
Speaker as judge rules she DID libel Tory peer Lord McAlpine on Twitter
Speaker’s wife Sally Bercow is facing a six-figure payout
for libelling a Tory peer on Twitter. She has lost a High Court battle
with Lord McAlpine over a tweet suggesting he was a child sex offender.
Mrs Bercow now faces a crippling payout and legal costs
totalling more than £100,000 after the court decided the message was
The tweet ― sent to
her 56,000 online followers on November 4 last year ― said:
“Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*”
Sally Bercow can best be described as the Patron Saint of
Serendipitous Schadenfreude (the faculty of making happy and
unexpectedly malicious discoveries of another’s
absolute inability to spot an ambush at 140 characters).
It is obvious that Sally has been placed on this planet
to delight all of us who stand and stare at the passing parade. And she
does not disappoint.
It was Gore Vidal (1925-2012) who said: “Every time a
friend of mine succeeds a little part of me dies.”
Every time Sally Bercow opens her mind and mouth a little corner
of my heart goes hop, skip and jump ― and I hear a voice inside my head
saying: “My round next.” Following our Sally down her dead end alley is
an expensive business.
usual, the Telegraph’s
sums it all up perfectly...
“After a week of
it’s good to laugh again.”
Incidentally, Sally Bercow would do well to remember another
“It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three
unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience,
and the prudence never to practice either of them.”
Friday, May 24
A history lesson in Sign Language
TIME to catch up with a snatch of British history,
compliments of a few Sign Language gems, those confusing and
amusing signs and shop notices spotted by Telegraph readers
on their travels about the UK.
Starting with the Great British Flood, or in this
case, as the Telegraph pointed out, Noah’s lark:
Noah takes a
two they hurried into the ark / Spotted in London by Brian Minkoff
What did the
Romans ever do for our comfort?
furnishings / Spotted in the UK by Roy Wallis
spend a groat
by the late Michael Winner? / Spotted in Bibury, the Cotswolds by Paul
Where all the
stars hang out
food at rock bottom prices / Spotted in London by Stephen Lee
A moment to reflect
While this scrapbook cum diary is dedicated to the things
that make me smile, it would be amiss not to acknowledge the dreadful
things that happen in this increasingly confused and troubled world of
How ironic then that the restaurant in London with its
Afghan roots provides an unfortunate and cursory link to the dreadful
happening in Woolwich.
Who would have thought that the killing of one person
would leave such a profound mark on a nation.
Excepting the brutality of the killing itself, two things
linger in the mind.
First, the bravery of those three women who confronted
Hindsight tells us that the men were determined to wait
for the police and to then confront them ― but the women were not to
know that as events unfolded.
Secondly, when I saw that dreadful image of one of the
alleged killers with his victim’s blood on his hands ― and it became
known that the murdered man was a soldier ― I instantly thought Macbeth.
What came to mind was the historical incident involving
Peter Brierley, the father of a soldier killed in Iraq, who, back in
2009 following a commemoration service at St Paul’s for the 179 British
personnel who had died during the conflict, refused to shake hands with
a troubled Tony Blair because the politician had “blood on his hands”.
The former prime minister was ushered away and afterwards
Mr Brierley, from Batley, West Yorkshire, said: “I understand soldiers
go to war and die but they have to go to war for a good reason and be
properly equipped to fight.”
The murder of Lee Rigby underlines the great truth that
wheels turn in a ruthlessly unforgiving manner, whether literally or
Thursday, May 23
Dancing around the totem pole
I REGULARLY trip over things which generate a generous
smile, but they still don’t quite make the daily cut.
Mind you, I often file away such examples ― then out of
a clear blue sky I either spot, hear or read something which instantly has me reaching
into my memory cabinet and filing system.
Here’s a perfect example of a smile which I enjoyed but
then stashed away somewhere inside my head. It’s a letter spotted in The
An iconic figure
SIR – Charlotte Rampling, the
actress, is described as exuding “iconic wattage” (Seven, April 28).
These days, anyone who has been on the television becomes a celebrity,
but what does it take to become an icon?
In the fullness of time, she will become a “national
treasure”, and then what?
Anthony White, London N16
Surprisingly, no one came up with a response or suggestion, not even
the online comments.
My immediate thoughts on Charlotte Rampling’s “iconic
wattage” ― whoever Charlotte is when she’s at home ― is that, to those in
the know she clearly burns brighter than other common or garden icons.
Whatever, just the other day, by coincidence, this letter
in The Times:
Sir, I have recently seen the
following referred to as “iconic”: Harris Tweed, the Bradford Odeon, Mrs
Thatcher, H&M clothes, The Rite of Spring, the roof of the Sage
concert hall in Gateshead, Fawlty Towers, Top of the Pops,
Amy Whitehouse, and the front door of Paul McCartney’s childhood home.
What does the word mean?
There came one response:
Sir, The examples Ken Smith gives would suggest that
“iconic” now means “quite well known”.
RODDY WALDHELM, Edinburgh
Hm. Well, my mind goes back to May 11, when I did the
celebrity totem pole thingy. This is how I think it all works...
A different kind of pole dancing
If, as you go about your daily life, you encounter people
you have absolutely no reason to personally know, but they either stop
and stare or acknowledge you in some way or other, then you have
attained a degree of fame (or indeed infamy) and you are now on the
bottom rung of the totem pole.
As the flames flicker and the drums kick into life, we
plebs begin a little war dance around your pole.
When these complete strangers then engage you in
conversation ― as if you are an old friend ― and worse, they nod
and shake their heads at everything you say (while probably
having their fingers firmly crossed behind their backs and
hoping that they
are nodding and shaking in the right places), then you are now a
celebrity. You move a few rungs up the totem pole.
And our dancing becomes a wee bit more
The next stage is when you say something vaguely
amusing ― and we, the great unwashed, slap our thighs in yee-haa!
fashion and fall about in a heap of helpless laughter. You
have now achieved iconic status.
The flickering flames, the beat of the drums, not
the dancing, now become ever more furious and frenetic.
The final stage is when those you meet ― whether
they be the great unwashed or indeed fellow celebrities from
lower down the totem pole ―
morph into bunnies caught in the headlights of fame. We are
both dazzled and bamboozled and unable to say anything sensible
in your presence.
You are now
near the top of the
totem pole and you spread your wings. You clearly possess the answers to life the universe and
You are now a national treasure. Like, um, Jimmy
The drumming and the dancing and the whooping
reach a crescendo...
Where to next?
Anthony White asks: what next? What comes after national
treasure? I am stumped here. A military or state funeral, I guess, but
at the moment we don’t have a suitable term that readily embraces such a
However, I have my own thoughts on national treasures: it
is ‘things’ that we should label treasures, surely?
For example, England has Stonehenge and Big Ben; Scotland the
bagpipes, kilts and whisky; Ireland claim Guinness and the Blarney
Here in Wales our national flag with its dragon,
which makes it
instantly recognisable alongside the top national flags of the world,
definitely claims national treasure status; oh, and the Millennium
Stadium in Cardiff (not so much the stadium itself, but rather that it
is situated right bang in the middle of the City, something incredibly
rare, as anyone who has visited stadiums around the world will testify
to ― ah, the joy of tumbling out of the hotels, pubs and restaurants and
straight into the stadium).
But do people qualify as national treasures? I guess they
do, but the real test is that you must remain instantly recognisable
even after everyone who has lived during your lifetime has died.
Shakespeare, obviously. And Isambard Kingdom Brunel, for he was central
to what made Britain Great.
It is a fair bet that Churchill will become a National
But will our present Queen? Hm. The answer would appear
to be yes ― but only the passage of time will tell.
Sticking with The Times, this letter tickled my
old funny bone:
Dash it all
Sir, I have two questions for
Giles Whittell, who pronounced in the Thunderer (May 10) that commas get
in the way of clarity. Does he find inspiration in cooking his family
and his dog? Or does he find inspiration in cooking, his family and his
PIPPA KELLY, pedant with a dog who eats shoots and leaves
Now I probably use too many commas because I deploy them as if I am
speaking the lines. If I would pause naturally while saying it, I insert
a comma. Mind you, I enjoyed these responses:
Watch this space
Sir. Pippa Kelly could have
gone one further with an inclusion of the late-lamented Oxford comma.
And “found inspiration from cooking, her family, and her dog”.
GABRIELLE HOLMWOOD, Chester
I’m with Gabrielle on that one. But here’s the letter I particularly
Sir, Lawyers are the first to argue that the absence of commas leads to
improved clarity ― my will includes none at all ― but Pippa Kelly shows
how their presence can often pinpoint one meaning to the exclusion of
Lawyers work an adversarial system, where the
possibility of different interpretations is a major source of revenue,
so I’m not surprised the legal profession is anti-comma. In my judgment,
however, the pertinent comma has no case to answer.
CHRIS WHITBY, Peckleton, Leics
How intriguing is that? Especially that Chris Whitby’s will includes no
commas. For that to work it must be written in short sentences. To avoid
longer sentences at Her Majesty’s
pleasure, so to speak, ho, ho, ho.
It all makes sense to me.
A boy named Sue meets a girl named Bill
Tales of the comma
instantly whisked me back to 1974 and a record released
by Jim Stafford, now 69, an American comedian, musician and
David Cameron would have been eight years of age back
then; a gay marriage would have been a soldier getting hitched while
surrounded by lots of Gay Hussars, but probably not the Queen’s Own
And the song that caused such a stir back then? My
Of course, it’s not until we get to the end of the song
do we realise that it actually reads My Girl, Bill.
So clever. So witty. And all down to that little comma.
It’s on YouTube if you want to check it out:
Wednesday, May 22
The perfumed garden
LAST Sunday, on that glorious early-morning I wrote about, I
mentioned that the bluebells were now in their glory, the woods a
perfumed garden of delight.
Bearing in mind the tale of the lamb with its head stuck
in a bucket, perhaps I should have written this (with apologies to Tommy
Thumb’s Little Story Book):
Little Blue Bell,
Come waft your bouquet,
The lamb’s in the meadow,
Wandering any which way.
Chief Wise Owl ― or more correctly his good lady, Mrs What A Hoot, handed me this
intriguing column from The Times’
Bluebells are out in the woods, and spreading. Soon there
will be whole carpets of them, a beautiful violet-blue. The bells are
long and narrow, with turned-up edges, and they nod at the top of the
stalks, all on one side. When the wind sweeps through the wood, both the
flowers and the shiny green leaves tremble.
There are often wood
anemones growing nearby, sometimes even trailing over the bluebell
leaves. They are delicate white flowers with a yellow centre, and
sometimes have a pink underneath.
I shall pause there, for back on April 5 I wrote this in my smile of the
day following the spotting of Solitaire, my first bluebell of the
The early bluebell is very difficult to spot at this stage, hidden
amongst the rich, green and abundant foliage. I really have to get down
and peer. No doubt Solitaire would have been present and correct
yesterday, but I just didn’t spot her.
fact, the bluebell’s little bridesmaids, the pretty wood anemone, have
been in attendance for a couple of weeks now ― but looking rather sorry
for themselves first thing of a morning as they shelter from the cold
(and await the arrival of the bride, obviously).
year, I’ve given Solitaire pride of place and showcased her up there in
the Flower Power Gallery.
the current 2013 spring weather, it will be fascinating to see how
quickly ― or reluctantly ― all the other bluebells decide to catch up
and make their grand entry.
Well, it has been nearly seven weeks from that first
bluebell to the endless perfumed carpets now on view.
Now I always think of the wood anemones as the bluebell’s
bridesmaids, especially in those early days before the bluebells
overwhelm them ― this year I did manage to catch a picture of a very
early bluebell slowly rising above these delicate little white
flowers, first thing in the morning when they were not fully awake
and alert, it’s true, but it proves my point...
The bluebell arrives early for a dress rehearsal,
surrounded by her sleepy bridesmaids, the wood anemone
Meanwhile, back with
Another flower of the bluebell woods is ramsons, or wild
garlic. It has a pungent smell of garlic, and grows in colonies away
from the bluebells. Numerous little star-shaped white flowers sparkle on
the flower heads.
Well, far be it for me to challenge what Derwent May says, but along my
morning walk, there is a south-facing corner of Castle Woods
that is a mass of wild garlic. Right now, a substantial part of the woodland floor looks as if
there has been a sudden and heavy snowfall.
But most surprising of all, there are spots where the
bluebells and the wild garlic grow happily together...
The bluebell and the wild garlic seemingly buck the trend
and flower side by side in the Towy Valley
I guess the
apparent phenomenon is most noticeable this year because the cold spring
delayed everything ― ponder the bluebells taking some seven weeks to
become really established ― so everything is coming into flower at the
same time and the normal rules of engagement might not apply.
Derwent May finishes thus:
Above all these flowers, the fresh green leaves of the oak trees are
beginning to open.
Which is precisely the observation I recorded last Sunday beneath the
hot air balloon floating by.
Finally: as for the seemingly unusual combination of the
wild garlic and the bluebell, I have just captured a neat close up of the
pair ... it will now take pride of place in the Flower
Tuesday, May 21
From GCE to ECG in one effortless leap
MY MOTHER always insisted that everything in life goes
round in a circle: “Treat people badly and you will find yourself caught
up in one ambush after another; treat people as decent human beings ―
well, you really will be pleasantly surprised.”
And of course, our journeys though life underline this
philosophy to perfection.
A while back there was a newspaper article by a Nigel Farndale regarding our
responses to telephone cold callers, and why there really is no excuse
for us to be so rude. I enjoyed this extract:
I once went to Dharamsala to interview the Dalai Lama and
asked him probably the most original question he had ever been asked,
one that he had surely never had fired at him before, nor will have
again. What is the secret to achieving happiness?
His answer, which I often think about, came without
hesitation and was two words long: “Be kind.”
It was almost as if people had been asking him that one
all his life.
Those who work in call centres don’t ring people up just
to annoy them ― they’re doing a job.
I’m feeling warmer to cold callers already. It's good to remember that kindness, even to a salesman,
doesn’t cost anything.
Quite right, too. Mind you, most of the time I neatly sidestep the cold
caller issue because if I’m not right next to the receiver when it
answerphone kicks in and cold callers simply hang up. As for a mobile,
I only carry that for personal emergencies, so it is always switched off
Reflecting on the Dalai Lama and his “Be kind” advice, I
remember the Crazy Horsepower’s own Dalai Lama, Chief Wise Owl, telling
me something quite profound and somewhat similar: “We always remember
those individuals who are nasty bits of work, people who treat us badly; we
also never forget those individuals who are genuinely nice to us.”
And do you know, he is spot on. I really do recall the
genuinely nice people I have met along my walk through time.
Anyway, today I completed a different kind of circle. But
a circle never the less.
When I was at school I sat a GCE examination ― a General Certificate of
Education, or something similar. And today, now that I am much older, I
sat an ECG examination ― an Electrocardiogram. Take it from me, mirror circles
don’t come much more perfect than this. GCE : ECG.
Yes, today I visited my local doctors’ practice to check out a
potential ambush I’d experienced over the weekend: nothing spectacular,
but better safe than sorry.
I duly had an audience with a really pleasant and kind
young lady doctor, who thought it best I had an ECG, something I’d
never experienced before. So I was transferred into the safe hands of an
equally agreeable and kind nurse.
As she wired me up I mentioned that I felt a bit like James
Bond in Goldfinger, when he’s at the mercy of that laser beam as it
slowly tracks towards his crown jewels...
Goldfinger: “Choose your next witticism carefully, Mr
Bond ― it may be your last.”
Bond: “Do you expect me to talk?”
Goldfinger [looks back, smiling]: “No, Mr Bond, I expect
you to die!”
At which point the nice nurse smiled and said: “No, I
definitely don’t expect you to die ― and you must not talk during the
So that shut me up.
I call it nerves. Actually, my blood pressure reading was
higher that it should be ― and yes, I do suffer this white coat syndrome
thingumajig, or white coat hypertension as it’s properly called, the
curious phenomenon where patients exhibit elevated blood pressure in a
I never understand quite why I suffer this sort of stress
because, touch wood, along my stroll through time, thus far anyway, I’ve
had no reason to feel wary of doctors and nurses.
Anyway, I was reminded of that marvellous caption
competition moment from Have I Got News For You, featuring the one
and only Boris Johnson:
“Will someone please call a male doctor...”
Oh dear: Boris, Boris, what would we do without you to
brighten up the political landscape? Mind you, when I saw that clenched
fist I did have a rather unsavoury thought. But that’s me and my one
track mind. Probably.
Later in the day I popped into the local Co-op for a few
things. As usual I checked out the ‘Reduced to clear’ corner ...
invariably a few bargains there ― and I saw this tease of an offer:
It was a selection of four different cheeses ― but as
noted on the package: “1 missing”.
Now I am endlessly intrigued as to how that single packet
of cheese went missing. Was there a cock-up during packaging? Did
someone nick it? Did an employee at the back of the store have a quick snack
when no one was looking? Did a mouse grab a quick bite when no one was
looking? Or more correctly, a rat?
How fascinating is that?
Mind you, the price drop from £2.89 to £1.94 was
exceptionally mean given the intrigue behind the missing block.
But it did say cheese ― at least I smiled as I grabbed a
picture of it.
Monday, May 20
You are my sunshine
make me happy when skies are grey)
TODAY’S news was dominated by this gay marriage
extravaganza. Many moons ago I remember Danish comedian Victor Borge
(1909-2000) pointing out that there were three distinct groups of people
in Denmark: male, female and convertible.
It seems that David Cameron and his fellow wussycats are
determined to turn Britain into a nation of convertibles, even though
the current climate is decidedly unsuitable to have the top down.
Whatever, I may well have mentioned before that, outside
of a bit of sport ― rugby, American Football, and over recent years the
Tour de France (the very model of a modern circus) ― I am not a great
watcher of television.
Yes, I enjoy factual programmes like Countryfile, Great
British Train Journeys, the occasional Horizon ... oh, I also appreciate
some comedy ― MASH, Dad’s Army, Cheers, Have I Got News For You ― but I
hardly ever follow any drama and the like.
I was a great fan of Dallas when it was in its prime ― so
delightfully doolally ― and I have always enjoyed Star Trek, especially the
Yes of course, I blame Jeri Ryan ― or rather, Seven of
Nine ― the real man’s litmus test as to whether he’s about to go
Here she is, wearing the family heirloom, with
distinction; something Victor Borg(e) would have greatly appreciated, ho, ho, ho...
We are a
Babe, you will be assimilated...
Tonight, I just happened once more upon what is far and
away my favourite episode:
to watch over me
The Doctor tries to introduce (and subliminally seduce) Seven of Nine
to the concept of dating ― and things
Voyager makes first contact with the Kadi, a ritualistic
race boasting a bland culture with many social protocols. Seven of Nine,
meanwhile, takes the advice of the Captain ― and the Doctor gives her
classes in social skills in general, and dating in particular.
A significant sub-plot involves an ambassador from the
Kadi, Tomin (played hilariously by Scott Thompson), visiting the ship,
with Voyager's own Ambassador Nelix in charge of his well-being.
However, all the best laid plans and all that: Tomin is
rapidly seduced by the food, the drink, the socialising and the women ―
and in front of our very eyes the Kadi Ambassador morphs from preacher
to party animal. Brilliantly scripted and acted. And exceedingly funny.
It would be akin to a member of the Amish staying at the
Crazy Horsepower Saloon and succumbing to all the usual suspects.
In the meantime, the Doctor finds himself falling for his
student. The Doc and Tom Paris make a bet about Seven’s potential, with
the Doctor furiously coaching her (Seven later finds out about the bet
and that is really the end of any designs the Doc has on Seven).
Also, hold the front page: we meet an unfamiliar ship’s
crew member who isn’t killed after delivering just a couple of lines ―
and he has a personality. He is the one Seven of Nine asks to dinner ...
she ends up injuring him while attempting to perfect her dancing skills.
The episode is the sort of romantic comedy-drama that the
Americans do with bells on. It has a very witty script and is more about
laughs and singing and exploring Seven of Nine’s feelings, confirming
that she does indeed have a heart beneath the cat suit and the Borg
It’s always worth a look to enjoy the music, the funny
lines and guest Scott Thompson’s memorable performance.
There are plenty of marvellous lines, for example:
Doctor to Seven: “They say gossip travels faster than
Tell me about it, Doc.
Doctor to Seven: “What
are your likes, your dislikes?”
Seven: “I dislike irrelevant conversation.”
Don’t we all Seven, don’t we all.
Doctor: “You’re a woman, Seven.”
Seven: “Is that an observation or a diagnosis?”
Doctor: “A simple biological fact, with repercussions
that are hard to deny.”
Seven: “What is your proposed treatment?”
And then, what leads to my favourite line from all of Star Trek:
Tomin the ambassador is drunk at a party given in his
honour; he attempts to chat-up Seven. But Seven is in a foul mood after
finding out about the bet. Tomin grabs Seven’s arm: “Remove your hand,
or I will remove your arm.”
Tomin is deeply insulted and throws a wobbly ― but he
collapses in a drunken heap ... he wakes up in sick bay, and the first
person he sees is Seven: “Ah, Seven of Mine ... assimilate me.”
Ah, Seven of Mine. Is there really a better line in all of Star
If I said you
had a wonderful body...
Doctor and Seven of Mine (finally out of her cat suit)
Whatever, Robert Picardo, who plays the Doctor, and Jeri
Ryan, who plays Seven, both have great singing voices in real life, and
in this episode the Doc discovers that Seven can actually sing ― in the
link coming up, watch out for the contemptuous looks she gives the Doc ―
but it leads to their duet, You Are My Sunshine.
I’m no expert, but I know what I like and this is a
wonderful minute-plus worth of entertainment. As you watch the clip,
look out though for something really amusing.
As the doctor sings he walks around the console he has
just been operating ― and suddenly, a ‘But they’re only joking’ moment
unfolds. You can see that someone behind the camera, a member of the
crew perhaps, catches his eye ― and his gaze lingers ... just that
little bit too long.
You will probably need to watch it a couple of times to
appreciate the moment ― but I find it wonderfully smiley.
Anyway, I thoroughly appreciate the duet, which will go
on my Desert Island Jukebox, just below Daisy Bell...
You Are My Sunshine ― Seven of Mine and the Doc:
Sunday, May 19
On days like these...
skies are blue and fields are green, I look around and think – blimey!)
WHO would have thought: the second day running and the
Towy Valley generates my smile of the day.
Today’s smile though is somewhat different to
yesterday’s: goodness gracious me, picture perfect mornings don’t come much better than
From the word go, just before half-five, it looked and
felt great: still, chilly and cloudless with just a few high, wispy
clouds ― and a light mist floating about the meadows...
Sunrise, looking out from Newton House over Dinefwr Park and Castle
As the sun rapidly climbs ― alarmingly we are just a
month away from the longest day when the sun reaches its zenith in the
sky ― the temperature rises and within a couple of hours I am in
The bluebells are now in their glory ... what a
spectacularly uplifting sight they are; however, the leaves are rapidly filling the woodland
canopy so the bluebells’ days are already numbered. Even the oak and
the ash, the last kids on the block, are now sprouting their leaves.
However, as I walk along the valley, to one side of me
Castle Woods is a glorious sight with all sorts of leaves exploding into
life. There in profusion are eye-catching shades of green ― from the
yellowish-pinkish-olive glow of the oak leaves, often burnished with
brown in their infancy ― to the vivid greens of the sycamores and the
And yet, within a few brief weeks this kaleidoscopic 40
shades of green will become one amorphous mass of ‘Sherwood green’.
The whole scene is made even better because Castle Woods
rises sharply, so rather than just look at a row of trees at the wood’s
edge, there are layers upon layers of green canopies rising into the sky
with dramatic effect ... with the occasional copper beech dotted amongst
And to top it all, overhead a hot air balloon floats ever
so gently by ... I recognise the red dragons dotted about the balloon:
it’s the one that regularly flew from the farm where I lived in the
cottage for three glorious years until ― gosh, until a year ago now. How
time floats on by when you’re having fun.
Anyway, I managed to capture the balloon behind the
emerging olive glow of an oak tree with its male catkins, looking much
like strings of greenish-yellow beads dangling beneath the leaves...
One final lick
postscript to yesterday’s tale of the lamb with its head trapped
in the bucket, dear Lisa, dear Lisa: I hadn’t really paid much
attention to these
mineral containers before ― so I had a quick look at the
label on the bucket:
Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, selenium,
cobalt, iodine, manganese, zinc ― and a whole load of different
vitamins: “A molassed
(sic) lick designed to be fed to ewes
pre-lambing and lambs up to slaughter, to increase lamb
performance and growth as well as improve foot and skin
condition and reduce the incidence of parasitic attack.”
What I did notice though was the enthusiasm with
which both sheep and lambs were tucking into the lick.
Alongside, a sheep and her two young jet-black
lambs are enjoying the treat...
What I also had a close look at was ... how difficult
it would have been for yesterday’s lamb to be so precise as to
place both its feet through that handle to get itself trapped...
A song for the occasion
So how else to pay tribute to today’s picture perfect
than Matt Monro’s On Days Like These, the theme song from The Italian
Job, with that Lamborghini Miura climbing the Alps before meeting its explosive end
this video is minus the film credits and the sound of the car.
A song from 1969, perfect in the wake of the Rock ‘n’
Roll years to add a bit of calm to proceedings...
On Days Like These – Matt Monro
Saturday, May 18
Looking a little pail around the shanks
UP THERE on the Welcome mat I list the usual
suspects that are likely to provide amusement along my stroll through
the day, including anything startling that might generate a spontaneous
smile, especially those curiosities spotted along my daily walk through
the Towy Valley.
Well, here we are ... very early this morning, I am
walking across one of the larger valley fields, a meadow awash with
sheep and lambs. In the distance I spot something strange. It looks like
a sheep with some sort of container over its head ― the animal kingdom’s
version of a brown paper bag...
As I get nearer I can see that it’s actually a lamb, a
teenage lamb (in human terms, that is).
But how odd, I think. Not the container itself: that
could be an empty mineral lick put there for the sheep; or indeed a pail
that might have washed up following a recent flood. But what precisely
I quickly see that it’s an empty bucket of mineral and
vitamin lick. Whatever, I can’t figure out why the container doesn’t
simply slide off when the lamb dips its head.
As I get nearer I can’t help but smile: the lamb is
bleating away, made somewhat eerie by the echo from inside the container
― and nearby its mother, repeatedly calling out, and clearly not
understanding why her child will not come when called. Kids today,
It’s at moments like this I wish I could understand the
animals. As I’ve mentioned before, I wouldn’t want to talk to the
animals à la Dr Dolittle ― I mean, in no time we humans would impose out
ethics, morality and honesty on the creatures, and that really would be
the end of life as we know it.
Imagine how wonderful it would be though to understand
the birds and the dawn chorus. What are they saying to each other?
Similarly with this lamb and its mother: what precisely
are they communicating?
Anyway, as I approach the poor lamb I can see what the
The bucket must have been on its side and somehow, when
the lamb went to investigate and poked its head into the container, it would have disastrously placed both
front feet inside the handle ...
then as it lifted its head to pull away, the handle would have shot up
the lamb’s legs ― note the above picture ― and it was instantly trapped
with no way out.
Or at least, getting out would have been much too complex
a manoeuvre for it to deploy.
As I smiled and watched, it began to move towards a
backwater ― oh-oh, rescue time. There’s no doubt that once it entered
the water, the container would fill and that would pull its head down
into the water and it would drown.
But curiously, as its front feet touch the water it pulls
back ― note its back legs as it decides to retreat rather sharpish.
Anyway, come here you silly thing...
Catching it was easy because it couldn’t see me. However,
once I got hold of it, it began to struggle like mad. Then followed
quite a tussle to get the container free.
I had to get its legs out and free of the handle. It
really was a tight fit. The lamb vigorously resisted, so I had to force
the first leg, but all the while mindful that I didn’t damage its leg.
After a few seconds, it was out. The second leg was easy ― and the
bucket was free.
Off it shot to its mother ― and the first thing it did
And it suckled and suckled and suckled ... its mother
eventually got fed up ― probably she had no milk left anyway ― as you
can see from the final picture, her back leg is already beginning to
move forwards, to push the lamb away...
It’s likely that the lamb had been trapped overnight, and
clearly it was thirsty as hell.
So my good deed for the day done ― with a smile.
Mind you, even if I hadn’t come along, and assuming the
lamb kept out of the water, it would have been rescued anyway because
the farmer would later be doing his rounds, and there’s no way he would
have missed the poor thing with the big white bucket over its head.
I have previously seen pictures of animals with their heads
stuck in unusual contraptions and containers, or indeed trapped in some
freaky situations. Here are links to a couple of sites that will
positively raise a
smile ... some quite memorable images on show...
The World’s Top 10 Best Images of Cows with their
And also, 12 Bizarre Stories of Animals Getting Stuck:
Friday, May 17
Crouch, pencil, thumb, draw...
YESTERDAY, all my troubles seemed so far away, now it
looks as though they’re here to stay ― no, hang about, the Beatles and
the Rock ‘n’ Roll years featured in yesterday’s smile...
However, yesterday I also featured some images of a
rather beautiful blackbird ― so today my spirits were lifted by some
rather curious images of a royal bird, if Her Majesty will forgive my
turn of phrase.
This, from a couple of weeks back, compliments of
Welsh Rugby Union’s portrait of Queen
Elizabeth II gets mixed reception
It’s just as well the 133rd official portrait of the
Queen was unveiled in Wales because it’s hard to see it ever taking
pride of place over the mantelpiece at Windsor Castle
what is this?”
The Queen, as spotted at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
The Queen, as spotted ― yes, but where?
Now my immediate reaction on seeing the Welsh Rugby Union
version was ― yes of course, I smiled ― but the first person that came
to mind was Brian Moore, the former English rugby union footballer, who
played as hooker and is now a rugby presenter and pundit for BBC
back with Metro’s take on events:
Apart from its large
hands, masculine face and, dare one say it, slightly oversized bosom,
the painting is spot on.
Neither impressionistic nor photo-realistic, the work by
Cardiff-born artist Dan Llywelyn Hall seems to owe more to satire.
It has been criticised by both professional critics and
Rugby fans who saw the portrait at the Millennium Stadium
were not impressed. “It is a shocking portrayal,” said David Frazier,
38. “She looks like a caricature of her Spitting Image puppet.”
However, Mayfair art gallery owner Francis Kyle was more
measured in his response. “It has a positive quality, a certain
thoughtfulness, alertness,” he said. “What is strange is that the Queen
is very small and petite and fine featured. You wouldn’t think that to
look at this.”
It is described by
the Welsh Rugby Union as “an imposing three-quarter study painted in an
Whatever works for you, as they say. Hm, but what of that other mysterious
Well, this from The Daily Telegraph
SIR – I have been writing to a
prisoner on death row in Texas for 10 years. He has no access to paint,
crayons into a powder, mixed with water to make a paste (“Why is it so
hard to paint a portrait fit for a Queen?”,
Features, May 3).
This is a recent portrait he sent me of the Queen,
looking, I think, particularly jolly.
Lesley Fernandez-Armesto, London NW8
Now how fascinating is that? And I agree, the portrait
does indeed look rather jolly.
But what fascinates is that the prisoner, with an obvious
artistic bent, should be refused access to proper paint.
Thursday, May 16
Meanwhile ~ back on my Desert Island Jukebox
SO WHERE were we? First up was my mother’s genetic
hand-me-down notes, perfectly summed up by The Lord’s Prayer as
performed by Andrea Bocelli and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
However, the first earworms that really lodged themselves
inside my young brain were the Christmas ditties i.e. Ray Conniff’s
Jolly Old St. Nicholas a typical example; quickly followed by sing-along
songs from primary or junior school, catchy little numbers like Daisy,
Then came Children’s Favourites on the wireless ― I mean,
what is there not to smile about when you hear Nellie the Elephant, the
sort of jolly little novelty earworm that really does lodge itself in
the brain, indeed the sort of music today’s children will never
Next in line was the anthemic music I was intuitively
drawn to: Ray Conniff, Jim Reeves, Perry Como, Patti Page ― with a hint
of Ella, Sarah and Billie...
And then, right out of the rhythm and blue, came Rock ‘n’
Roll. The first I remember of this new wave of music was Bill Haley &
His Comets; so what else but Rock Around The Clock, which hit the top in
Hot on Haley’s tail came Elvis ― his first hit in
Here in the UK, a while later, came The Beatles (first
hit 1963) followed closely by The Rolling Stones (1964).
Bill Haley then sort of disappeared off the scene.
However, the interesting thing about Elvis, the Beatles and the Stones
from a personal viewpoint is that I was not an overwhelming fan. I
thoroughly enjoyed what I liked, but I was very selective as to what I
was attracted to. I certainly wasn’t the traditional
bunny-caught-in-headlights fan who liked everything.
However, before I come to my Rock ‘n’ Roll Jukebox
selections, the other day, this letter appeared in the Western
Mail, just before that brief and enjoyable dry, sunny and warm spell
SIR ― As I was
closing our curtains last evening, Mrs Blackbird was busy somehow
finding worms in our sun baked lawn to feed her youngsters; as I was
opening them at 6.30 this morning she was back finding more worms for
It is wonderful to realise that some species still take
responsibility for their offspring, without relying on state aid.
BRIAN CHRISTLEY, Abergele, Conwy
Now that made me smile. Out in the back garden over the winter months,
six blackbirds have been regular visitors ― four male, two female ― and
I have to say they were thriving on the state aid put out for them.
But they were present and correct only when the weather
was at its coldest; as soon as the temperature rose they were off,
thereafter only returning when the temperature suddenly dropped again.
But they are wonderful guests: the way they hop along ―
and those tails sticking up in the air are a joy to watch.
Mind you, they were forever squabbling amongst
themselves. There was a dominant male, Mr A Scargill-Blackbird, and a
dominant female, Mrs M Thatcher-Blackbird. Needless to say, it was the
female that always seemed to have the last word.
As it happens, one recent bright and sunny early morning,
I photographed a Mrs Blackbird going about her duties in Llandeilo’s
the early bird...
I first photographed Mrs B while facing into the sun,
which created a rather atmospheric image with the moisture glistening on
the grass ... then I slowly circled to catch her with the sun behind me
... and just look at that load of worms she has in her shopping beak...
Let the music play
Right, Rock ‘n’ Roll time. First up it has to be the man
who was initially out of the blocks and defined the genre...
Bill Haley ― Rock Around The Clock:
I wasn’t sure which of the Elvis songs to pick. This
particular track isn’t my favourite, but it’s a screen test at Paramount
Studios in 1956, and it clearly shows what the man had: the music, the
presence, the delivery, the looks, the charisma ― and yet Elvis suffered
dreadful lack of self-esteem. Yes, that’s all in the genes, no matter
what gifts nature sees fit to bless you with.
Oh, and watch out for the hair doing a solo turn near the
end ― it’s worth watching for that alone.
Elvis ― Blue Suede Shoes:
Finally, The Beatles. Well, after the above about Mrs
Blackbird, what else?
The Beatles ― Blackbird:
Wednesday, May 15
The man who put the world in a box
I SWITCH on the computer first thing to check the Met
Office rainfall radar to see if the rain of the last 20 hours or so has
relented to enable me to set off on my morning walk.
As I’ve mentioned before, my home page is Google; after
all, it is the site I visit most in order to help join up all the dots
of the things that tickle my old funny bone.
As a bonus, the occasional Google Doodle is something
quite fascinating anyway ― and this morning was a perfect example.
The moment I saw it ... well, it was like listening to
Chris Evans on Radio 2 of a morning: I was instantly whisked back to my
Frank Hornby’s 150th Birthday
Frank Hornby, model railway creator, celebrated in Google Doodle
This, from Guardian Online:
Briton born 150 years ago in 1863 was also the
inventor of Meccano and Dinky Toys
The birth of one of the world’s greatest inventors of
toys is celebrated with a Google Doodle featuring trains, tracks and
other model railway paraphernalia.
Frank Hornby, the inventor of Hornby model railways,
Meccano and Dinky Toys, was born 150 years ago in Liverpool. He had no
training as an engineer or craftsman but began making toys for his
children in 1899.
He cut out pieces of metal to construct bridges and
buildings but realised that if he made interchangeable components, they
could be used to make a variety of objects.
He began marketing his Mechanics Made Easy toy sets in
1902 and these rapidly sold out. By 1907 he had registered the name
Meccano. The kits were made in Liverpool and exported all over the
Hornby became a millionaire and was elected Conservative
MP for Everton in 1931.
In 1934, he began selling Dinky Toys ― robust metal
vehicles ― and also began developing railway sets.
It’s the level of realism that proved the key attraction
to everything Hornby designed. The things he made didn’t look like toys,
but precise versions of the real world, manufactured with exacting
His products were not packaged with the amoebic forms and
infantilising colours of today’s toys, but gained their magical quality
simply from taking things of fascination ― industrial machines, trains,
boats and planes ― and shrinking them to the scale of 1:48, reducing the
entire world to something that can fit in a box.
Enthusiasts around the world still collect Hornby train
sets, Dinky Toys and Meccano models. The modern business also make
Scalextric cars and Airfix kits
He died in 1936, age
73, two years before his company began selling Hornby Dublo model
Gosh, imagine being blessed with a mind that could invent things that
would give so much pleasure to millions of children (of all ages) around
I remember having a bog-standard railway set, and I
always pestered my parents for a larger set and to then hopefully expand
my railway set ― but to no avail.
My father had never had anything like train sets and
Dinky Toys when he was growing up, obviously, so hindsight suggests that
he had no idea how much pleasure these things gave a child.
But it never really bothered me; after all I lived on a
farm and once outside the door it was a great big playground where I
could put my own imagination to work and drive my own make-believe train
around the fields.
Mind you, how ironic that just today, a story broke about
a model railway fan in Buckfastleigh, Devon, who has been ordered to
dismantle his £10,000 train set in his loft by his housing association
on health and safety grounds so that repair work to a chimney can be
Father-of-three Robert Burdock, 61, has 63 locomotives
which whizz along 70ft of track around the perimeter of his attic. His
train set includes hand-crafted stations, depots, streets and tiny
figures ― which are all enjoyed by his grandchildren and
My goodness, what must it be like for a child to play
with a £10,000 train set. Never mind a child, I’d like to play with
that set myself.
The folk who put the trains in a tube
Incidentally, how about this for an uncanny coincidence:
flicking through my TV guide to see if anything of interest catches the
eye, I see that tomorrow evening, Thursday, this is on:
– An underground History ... Marking the 150th
birthday of the world’s first underground railway...
Caution: Keep clear of the doors
Talk about catching the passing parade: here, Chancellor
of the Exchequer William Ewart Gladstone, along with directors and
engineers of the Metropolitan Railway Company, take an inspection tour
of the first underground line on May 24, 1862. The London Underground
duly opened the following year on January 9, 1863.
PS: I note that Google celebrates “Frank Hornby’s
150th Birthday”. That always puzzles me. After all, we won’t be
celebrating “Jesus Christ’s 2,013th Birthday” come the 25th December.
Now I can understand the London Underground celebrating
its 150th birthday ― after all it is still going strong ― but how long do
you suppose we have to be dead for others to stop celebrating our
birthday rather than, say in Frank Hornby’s case, commemorating the
memory of the man and his exploits?
Tuesday, May 14
LAST Sunday I read this short piece in The Sunday
Times Comment section:
Thereby hangs a tale
The author Dan Brown has revealed that he hangs
upside-down to beat writer’s block, which might explain a lot about his
novels. While the cure is unusual, he is not alone in suffering lapses
Scott Fitzgerald once described how he beat writer’s block by taking a
bus trip and getting his hair cut (providing the idea for his
unpublished novel, Tender is the Scalp). Hilary Mantel takes a bath
(Buff up the Bodies); Laurence Sterne had a shave
Journey Through the Looking Glass (?!)].
Does such a condition really exist? Writer Philip Pullman
says he doesn’t believe in it and he might have a point. Why does it
affect only writers? Why do we never hear about accountant’s block? Why
do software writers at Microsoft never complain about Office block?
There is anecdotal
evidence that footballers can suffer from a closely-related condition.
As soon as Fernando Torres joined Chelsea from Liverpool he began to
suffer from striker’s block, an uncanny inability to find the goal. This
trouble can usually be cured by a large injection of cash. Alas, in most
cases this injection is unavailable to writers.
Now that was quite amusing; it seems that author Dan Brown has revealed
an eccentric ritual called ‘inversion therapy’. He uses gravity boots to
hang upside-down as a method of relaxation. And it helps him write.
I was reminded of a memorable Sign Language
warning notice spotted in Luang Prabang, Laos by Polly Mansell...
Especially if it's up your backside...
I’m with writer Philip Pullman on this one. It’s a load
of old bollocks. I think I’ve said it before: if a plumber turns up at
your home at eight in the morning, on the dot, to do a job ... then at
nine he says he has to go home to hang upside-down because he is
suffering from plumber’s block ― well, you’d stick a sink plunger
somewhere relevant, and probably not up his nose.
Dan Brown is a professional writer for God’s sake, and to
turn round and say he can’t write is a nonsense.
Having said that, I do believe that there is such a thing
as politician’s block. When a party is in opposition it always maintains
that everything the party in power does is a nonsense and is certainly
not the answer to the country’s problems. More importantly, the
opposition insists that it has the answers to make everything okay.
Yet, when it eventually gains power it is as useless at
sorting out the mess as the previous lot. So I guess that can only be
“He had the mien of a prime minister in his first
year. He talked, he walked like a prime minister. Then things got
difficult. He no longer gives that impression.”
Broadcaster Sir David Frost on David Cameron ― which rather confirms
my notion of politician’s block.
Never give a sucker an even break
Back with Dan Brown ― on the news today, this, from
Enter the Inferno: Dan Brown’s “worst book yet” tops bestseller lists on
its first day
Bestselling writer Dan Brown unleashed his latest page
turner today as eager fans made Inferno an instant chart-topper.
The writer, whose sales have already exceeded 200 million
with his previous novels, has published his latest thriller starring
Harvard professor Robert Langdon.
But despite a history
of strong sales, his new adventure has once again come under fire for
the novelist’s literary abilities, with one reviewer calling it his
worst book yet...
And there you have it. The silly upside-down story explained in one easy
lesson. Dan Brown has a book to sell so he dreams up the most outrageous
thing he can think of ― no problem for a novelist of course ― and the
media predictably laps it all up.
What Inspector Clouseau would call “Ah yes, the hanging
upside-down from ceiling ploy ― Kato?”; and hey presto, the sort of publicity that money just can’t
Not being a book reader, I have no thoughts on what Dan
Brown is like as a writer, so I shall leave the final verdict to the
highest rated comment spotted on Mail Online...
Sugarplum, France: Worst author ever. Favourite
quote: “Bonjour” he said, in flawless French.
just add a quick SOL (SMILE OUT LOUD)!
Monday, May 13
At least half a bubble off plumb
REFLECTING on the things wot made me smile over the
weekend, I rather enjoyed watching the London Sevens tournament at
Twickenham, where the safari-themed fancy dress outfits were as good as
But before I get to the fancy dress, first this...
The curious case of the invited obscenity
During the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race back on March
31, a cursing cox turned the airwaves blue. The BBC, in its infinite
wisdom (sic), had decided to mike-up the two coxes ― and the Corporation
had to grovel and apologise for invading our homes on that Easter Sunday
afternoon with a wall of obscenity.
During the weekend’s London Sevens, a mike on the end of
a long boom hovered and hoovered above every half-time huddle ― and the
Sky Sports commentators continually apologised for the “industrial
Watching ‘The Road Runner’ show a.k.a. Have I Got News
For You, on the BBC, it seems that each and every guest is contracted to
utter as many obscenities as possible during the recording ― only for
producer Richard Wilson to then “beep-beep” each and every profanity
It seems you don’t have to be half a bubble off
plumb to work in broadcasting, but it clearly helps.
Richard Wilson recently complained that he finds it
impossible to get many female guests to appear on his show. Joanna
Lumley, Dawn French, Dame Helen Mirren, Victoria Wood, Julie Walters,
Caitlin Moran and Fiona Bruce have all declined repeated invitations to
appear on Have I Got News For You.
“We have asked them to come on until we are blue in the
face,” said Wilson. “They won’t do it.”
Surprise, surprise, Richard old boy. The clue is in your
remark that you have asked them “until we are blue in the face”. Perhaps
you should cut out this obsession with obscenity.
Good, clever humour, which Have I Got News For You certainly has in
spades, does not need it.
Mind you, it really is a bolt from the blue that the
famously foul-mouthed Dame Helen Mirren with her “industrial” genetic
background has repeatedly turned down invitations; the show would appear
to be a vehicle perfectly suited to her talents.
Dr Livingstone, I presume?
Anyway, back to the IRB London Sevens, and the
safari-themed fancy dress outfits on display in particular. I have never
seen so many memorable outfits: lions, tigers, zebras, monkeys ― and
more Dr Livingstones than Stanley could shake a knife at.
My particular favourite were the two girls walking
towards the camera dressed as monkeys; as they walked past, the camera
followed them ― and of course they were baboons not monkeys because they
sported the two most glorious red bums you have ever seen.
I have searched the internet for a picture of them ―
someone must have captured that memorable image ― but so far without
Along my online search, I did came across an eye-catching
fancy dress photograph from the London Sevens ― but from the tournament
What makes me include it in my smile of the day is that
the BBC invited visitors to their web site to suggest a caption. Here
are the top six:
Gareth Jones, Isle of Anglesey
“Trust me ... the best place to hide is in a crowd.”
The woad to Twickenham.
“Smurfette and Grandpa just called, they’re on their way. I hope they
can find us amongst the crowd.”
“Why is it always Smurfette that gets the attention?”
“Which do we sue first? The tanning salon or the online hat shop?”
“Are you sure ‘indelible’ means easily removed?”
That’s very good and well worth a smile of the day spot. However, the
picture that caught my attention from the weekend just gone is this
I presume they were suffering the after-effects of all
the horse meat we’ve been eating over recent years without realising it.
(Incidentally, is that Tony Blair in the background, in the pink shirt?)
Anyway, looking back to the 16th of January, when all the
Tesco horseburger fuss and subsequent jokes first broke ― I blame Labour anyway,
seeing Tony Blair up there standing in the horseshit!
this is what I said at the time:
My favourite joke goes to ReyLuis with this clever
Is it a coincidence that ‘HAMBURGERS’ is an anagram of
Yes, I did check it out ― and it works. My own effort?
Well, I was chatting to Dai Aphanous down at the Crazy Horsepower late
afternoon and I told him that I’d eaten some of Tesco’s burgers, so I
went to see the doctor, just in case. “What did he say?” said Dai.
Oh, I said, he was quite unconcerned, but the Doc did
add: “Just to be safe I’ll make out one of these...” He reached for a
pad on his desk and started scribbling out a per - a per - a per-
“A prescription?” volunteers Dai.
“No, no,” say I, “a permit to shit on the road.”
I do hope the lads above had their permits safe and
sound, just in case.
Sunday, May 12
IT ALWAYS surprises me how something rather simple and
somewhat silly can generate such amusement. It all began with this
headline and story:
Wallace and Gromit back UK tourism
Wallace and Gromit are to feature in a £4m campaign to
boost UK tourism
The Nick Park-created animation duo will appear in TV
adverts designed to inspire Britons to take holidays in their own
The pair, who will also feature in cinemas, will be seen
on their travels, discovering what tourist chiefs describe as “the best
of the UK” ― including Loch Ness, Stonehenge, the Giant’s Causeway and
the Wales Coastal Path, which
provides a continuous 870 mile walking route around the whole of Wales ―
from the outskirts of Chester in the north to Chepstow in the south.
And as a bonus, you can then of
course walk from Chepstow to Chester along the Offa’s Dyke Path (look
out for Claire Balding and AA Gill doing their thing).
Anyway, I perused a series of images featuring Wallace
and Gromit at certain locations around the UK ... as soon as I saw the
Welsh one I smiled and thought: hm, I must paste that into my scrapbook.
However, I am now going to jump the gun a little. After
reading a Mail Online article about the ad campaign, I had
a quick look at the online comments ― as I do.
Normally, when I encounter a somewhat thought-provoking
or smiley contribution, I tend to add it as a postscript to the subject
time though I’m going to quote a particular comment first; so this,
from, surprise, surprise, Kansas in the United States:
Wallace and Gromit I know and love, but who is Kim
Kardashian and what does she do for a living?
[I’m not sure where dear old Kim came from, but
let’s plough on.]
And does anyone else think that the beautiful grinning face of Wallace
looks a lot like the front end of a 1950 Ford pickup truck?
Now I had no idea what an American 1950 Ford pickup truck
looked like, except that it might look like Wallace, so Google here I
“Gromit, old pal, I’ll ... need assistance: come over here lad ―
no need to feel sheepish”
The Ford truck that thinks it’s a Wallace
Wallace and Gromit in the advertising campaign
the compare and contrast is so smiley. Whenever I catch sight of Wallace
again I will automatically think 1950 Ford pickup truck.
Be that as it may, the ad image that really made me
giggle though was the pair at Titanic Belfast,
visitor attraction and a monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage on the
site of the former Harland and Wolff shipyard in the city's Titanic
Wallace and Gromit say cheese at Titanic Belfast
Wallace and Gromit have recreated the famous scene from
the movie Titanic outside Belfast’s landmark tourist attraction, as part
of the campaign encouraging people to holiday in the UK.
Now how perfectly smiley is that?
Saturday, May 11
Celebrity is a foreign country
“A NEW way has been found of ruining people’s
reputations before anyone has established their guilt.”
Charles Moore, 56, Margaret Thatcher’s biographer and a former editor
of the Telegraph stable of newspapers, as well as The Observer, on the
spate of arrests of veteran male entertainers for alleged historical
sexual offences following the Jimmy Savile scandal.
“The post-Savile witch-hunting of ageing celebs echoes
the Soviet Union.” Barrister Barbara Hewson goes over the top
while calling for an end to “the persecution of old men”. Hewson,
specialising in reproductive rights, has also called for the age of
consent to be lowered to 13.
Do you know, in the immediate wake of the Savile scandal,
there was a discussion down at the Crazy Horsepower ― probably echoed
across the country ― wondering just how many “victims” were simply
jumping on the bandwagon in pursuit of a cash settlement or whatever.
Indeed, perhaps there really was a witch-hunt unfolding.
Well, among those to have since been convicted is former
BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall, who admitted 14 charges of indecently
assaulting girls, including one aged nine, between 1967 and 1985.
Suddenly “the persecution of old men” takes on a whole
in The Daily Telegraph sums up the whole sorry episode much
more succinctly than either Charles Moore or Barbara Hewson...
“Is that famous old man calling for
us to leave the EU, or has he just
been arrested for sex offences?”
The celebrity totem pole
Personally, I believe it’s not “the persecution
of old men” we as a society should be preoccupied with, but the
active “prosecution of celebrity”.
becomes famous something happens in the psyche of those of us in
the gallery who stand and stare. We become rabbits caught in the
headlights of celebrity. All that matters is the specific talent
that makes someone a sleb; we seem to automatically override
anything rumour or instinct tells us about the negative aspects
of a celebrity’s character, hence all the troubles at the BBC
down the years.
Successive director-generals, along with other
high-ups at the Corporation, insist they knew nothing about all
the scandals fermenting under their watch. Yet it now transpires
that most within the BBC knew what individuals such as Savile
and Hall were up to.
Remembering that the love of gossip is one of the
things that sets us apart from the animals, it really is quite
inconceivable that successive director-generals at the BBC had
no idea what was going on.
So why did they do nothing about it? Well, we,
the great unwashed, are dazzled by the slebs clinging to the
totem pole; but the thing is, those already on the totem pole
are dazzled by those higher up the pole.
Savile and Hall would have been at the very top
when those sexual shenanigans were unfolding, and it now seems
that even director-generals were afraid to confront them.
crazy situation, highlighted by this perfect celebrity quote:
“Bandon, my home
town in County Cork, has threatened to put up a statue of me. They want
to bring attention to the town but I must write to them and beg them not
to because it is such a waste of money and it will be hideous.”
Graham Norton, 50, an Irish comic presenter, based in the UK and host of
comedy chat show The Graham Norton Show.
Goodness me, imagine it, a town of 1,500 people perfectly
caught in the headlights of celebrity. It is doolallyness beyond. Thank
goodness Graham agrees, assuming he doesn’t have his tongue firmly in
his cheek, which is quite possible, such is the self-importance of our
Perhaps Bandon in County Cork should put up a totem pole
rather than a statue.
all the above reminded me of another Rod Liddle piece:
Light my fire
Whose side should one take in the entertaining spat
between the gay lobby and a director of studies at Wolfson College,
Cambridge ― a man with two names? Tim Winter is a Muslim convert who has
adopted the dual Islamic name Abdal Hakim Murad. He’s also tried to grow
one of those exciting Islamic beards that all the really serious ones
A video has emerged of him delivering his opinions on
homosexuals. “You are an ignorant people. Because you don’t even
understand what your bodies are for. Even the animals know,” he opined.
He also compared gays to “arsonists”, although this may be a simple
confusion over what “arsonists” means.
Old Abdal has said
that this is a very old video and he no longer thinks homosexuals are
ghastly and aberrant, and he has been supported by his university...
Yes, it’s a jungle of doolallyness out there. But I’ll tell you what,
the word arsonist will for ever more and a day conjure up a little smile
whenever I hear or see it.
Friday, May 10
The camera and the passing parade
LAST Tuesday I was duly captivated by the picture of
Wales and Ireland as captured by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield from
the International Space Station.
It was a photograph which underlined so many modern
scientific advances: first and foremost the impressive act of putting a
space station up there to enable a human in orbit to take the picture;
secondly, the digital innovation in camera technology to capture such a
quality photograph of high definition ― and then the ability to put that
picture up on the internet in the blink of an eye for all of us to share
But pictures are pictures, and nothing has really changed
since the birth of photography. The extraordinary definition and beauty
of modern photography tends to divert us from its purpose, namely that
the camera evolved to capture for posterity the passing parade.
And just to prove the point rather spectacularly, here’s
a famous photograph from way back in 1869 ― just 17 years after
photography was first officially recognised ― celebrating the joining up
of two tracks to establish America’s first transcontinental railroad...
Captured: a memorable moment in time
And what a memorable image it is. It celebrates the
symbolic importance of the moment when the westward Union Pacific and
the eastward Central Pacific came together in Utah in 1869, and the
enormous repercussions of the conquest of the West by iron and steam.
There followed the emergence of settlers, cowboys,
frontier towns, prairie cornfields, the near-extinction of the bison,
the cattle trade and of course the early clashes between US troops and
Indians. (Are you a General George Custer or a Chief Sitting Bull
person? I’m unashamedly a Chief Sitting Bull fan.)
Anyway, what catches the eye in the above photograph is
not so much the two ‘chief executive officers’ ― or whatever it was they
were called back then ― shaking hands there in the middle, but rather
the two fellows in the background: one holding up a bottle of something
celebratory (one presumes), and the other chap holding what looks like a
Oh yes, and pretty much everybody sporting a hat or cap ―
yes, even white hats and black hats on view ― but best of all the fellow
just above the four, bottom extreme right, lifting his cap to the
While context and surroundings may change, human nature
doesn’t, and the camera is always there to capture it for posterity.
And crucially, the technical quality of the photograph is
secondary to the eye-catching characteristic of the image.
Thursday, May 9
Friend, Welshman, Countryman...
(be a pal and lend me your troll)
“A FRIEND”, according to the Urban Dictionary,
is someone who knows you really well but loves you anyway.
However, I was rather taken with this definition, compliments of public
relations consultant Charles Saatchi, 69:
“A friend is someone who will help you move house.
A real friend is someone who will help you move a body.”
Especially if it’s moved using a supermarket trolley (see
later). Whatever, do you suppose Charles Saatchi is talking from
Shop till you drop from shock
Rarely do I visit one of the big supermarkets ― I don’t
count the local Co-op, which I think of as more a corner shop than a
supermarket. Anyway, the other day I visited a Tesco store in a town just down
the trail from Dodgy City.
At the checkout I waited my turn and watched Barbara, a
serious-looking but clearly efficient, middle-aged checkout lady ― so
the challenge was to put just a hint of a smile on her face when it came
to my turn in the firing line.
As she began to check my things through she asked if I
needed help to pack ― which was quite funny considering that she was
just about to pass through a packet of toilet rolls. “That’s okay,
thanks, I should be able to manage,” I said. “Mind you, I have reached
that stage in life where I now buy a six-pack for the bathroom cabinet
rather than the drinks cabinet.”
Barbara sort of smiled. I duly paid my dues and she
handed me the change and the receipt along with some other bits of
paper. One was a “Tesco Price Promise” and it read: “Today you saved
£3.48 at Tesco compared to shopping at Asda, Sainsbury’s or Morrisons
... Every little helps...”
“Oh,” I said to Barbara, “could I also have a slip
showing how much I didn’t save through shopping at Tesco’s rather than
Asda, Sainsbury’s or Morrisons.”
She gave me a stern look. I smiled. She sort of smiled. I
laughed. She sort of laughed. “That’s a very good point,” she said,
slowly entering into the spirit of things.
Next in the checkout line was a lady of about 30, rather
sophisticated looking, who was watching and listening with amusement.
“Oh,” added Babs, “are you collecting the Pyrex
vouchers?” She held up a sheet of reddish little stickers.
“Sadly,” I said, “my best-before days of handling very
hot stuff have long disappeared in my rear-view mirror.”
“Shame,” said Babs, “I would have given you a bonus one
for brightening my day.”
“Give them to the lady here, if she’s collecting them.”
“Thank you,” said the next customer. And the three of us
parted company with a smile.
As I left the store, pushing my Tesco trolley, I remembered a Sign
Language picture from a little while back ― and its time had come...
Pushing the boundaries
Spotted in Paxos, Greece by Elizabeth Henwood
Spotted in Tesco, SA Something Or Other by Yours Truly
As I unloaded the trolley into my car, I pondered on that
warning notice, pictured above. My first thought was: no wonder Tesco
profits have recently taken a dive; I mean, if they will insist on using
American words, what do they expect? “Facility”, indeed. What’s wrong
with “premises” or “property”?
Also, I was intrigued with the warning notice itself. I
felt like attempting to leave the “facility” with said trolley to see
what would happen ― but then I saw a Tesco worker collecting trolleys,
so I approached him and asked whether it really meant what it said.
“Well,” he said, “follow me.” And he took one of the
trolleys with him. “Trouble is,” he added, “I bet this won’t work
because as the trolleys get older and banged about a bit the magnetic
mechanism in the wheel fails and the store tends not to repair them.”
That made me smile, I can tell you, whatever the end
result would be. Anyway, we all headed for one of the exits. “See that
line on the ground, across the entrance ... buried underground there is
a magnetic strip, so when the trolley passes over that line a wheel or
wheels should lock and the trolley is rendered unusable.”
However, and as he predicted, the wheel locks didn’t work
and the trolley left the facility with a hop, a skip and a jump,
shouting “I’m free, I’m free...”.
Yes indeed, and as Barbara said, every little helps to
brighten up the day.
On yesterday’s Thinking Allowed on BBC Radio 4,
host Laurie Taylor read out some responses to the previous week’s
the ‘Great British Class Survey’, a unique piece of research conducted
by BBC Lab UK and academics from six different universities, who devised
a new way of measuring class, a system which doesn’t define it by
occupation but by the different kinds of economic, cultural and social
resources or “capitals” that people possess.
A load of old nonsense if you ask me. You either have
class or you don’t. And we all know people who are blessed with oodles
of true class, individuals who are a pleasure to know and to do business
with. And as far as I can tell, about 10 per cent of the population are
talking of Tesco, this was the clever Thinking Allowed response that
really made me smile:
“Last word goes to Lawrence
Scott for this very important new piece of ethnographic research:
'Laurie, observation of my Tesco’s disabled parking spaces indicates
that wealth is now considered a disability.'”
Wednesday, May 8
The perfect fan base
On weekday mornings my bedside wireless is tuned into BBC Radio 2; come
the weekend and I tend to have it on BBC Radio Wales.
However, overnight and up until five in the morning,
Radio Wales broadcasts BBC World Service programmes. Over the Bank
Holiday weekend just gone, I caught the tail end of two programmes and a
brace of delightful tales.
The first was on a show called World Football. If
you are unfamiliar with the trials and tribulations of the game of
footie, all you need to appreciate apropos this particular story is that
away fans are always segregated from home supporters, normally in a
sectioned-off end of the ground (‘sectioned’ being the appropriate word
given how opposing fans have this intuitive urge to abuse and kill each
Fans are kept apart not just here in the UK, but all over
Europe ― and all over the World as far as I can tell. Football, for some
reason, draws the seriously doolally supporter who is more interested in
a shemozzle than watching the football.
So today I went on iPlayer to just check that I have my
facts about both stories correct. Okay, here we go, the footie story:
Away support of one gets free trip to
Swedish league game
STOCKHOLM, April 29: Brommapojkarna midfielder
Bojan Djordjic has offered to pay for the team’s away support who
attended last weekend’s game, as guests of the club at a home game of
choice ― the gesture, however, is unlikely to break the bank.
When the Stockholm side visited Mjallby in the Swedish
first division on Sunday, the away section was populated by just a
single, yet exceedingly vocal and enthusiastic Brommapojkarna fan.
“When I saw him, in his club shirt, singing, cheering and
applauding, all by himself, I decided I had to do something,” Djordjic
said. “So I’m going to pay for him to travel to a game of his choice and
he’ll get to meet the lads.”
The fan in question, Ander Ung, used to coach one of
Brommapojkarna’s junior sides, before moving 660 kilometers from
Stockholm to Ystad in southern Sweden 20 years ago. He has not been to a
home game since.
“You have to lift up people like that,” Djordjic said.
“After the game I got hold of his number through Twitter and I called
him from our bus. After he got over the shock, the warmth and the joy in
his voice was unbelievable. He deserves this.”
Ung said there was no need for the 31-year-old
ex-Manchester United midfielder to pay for his trip, but Djordjic
passionate support, Brommapojkarna fell to a 4-2 defeat and are
currently 14th in the Swedish championship.
Now isn’t that a wonderful tale. Proof that even football boasts
players and supporters who actually do wear white hats.
And so to the second tale, caught on The Arts Hour, again on the
BBC World Service, and featuring Academy award-winning American actress
Iron Man 3 star Gwynnie wants to know what
Justin Bieber looks like in the steam room
“Gwyneth Paltrow,” said the female host, “is married to
Chris Martin, Coldplay’s front man. Gwynnie is a bit of a goody
two-shoes, Pollyanna, holier-than-thou figure ... the cleanest-living,
Earth Mother you could find in a sun-dappled field with a basket of
freshly picked strawberries ― you get the picture...”
Anyway, we eavesdrop on a chat between Gwyneth Paltrow
and BBC radio presenter Simon Mayo, mostly about the Iron Man film.
Gwynnie mentions that her 7-year-old son Moses (no jokes, please, just
keep taking the tablets) is a Justin Bieber fan and that she took him to
a Bieber concert. “I can tell you my ‘once I was in a steam room with
Justin Bieber’ story,” says Mayo.
“Is that true?” interrupted a somewhat surprised but
“Yes, it’s true.”
“Did you see his junk?” asks Gwynnie.
There is a momentary silence, with a bit of giggling in
the background. “Is that a Californian expression?” asks Mayo. “I can
tell you,” he continues, “that he has a tattoo of a Native American on
his left shoulder. But he was wearing a towel. Does that answer your
“Yeah. Did he have his monkey in the steam room?” asks
Gwynnie with a distinct giggle in her voice.
“Well, he did have a member of staff in there ― and
they were having a big argument...”
It was an entertaining if delightfully doolally sleb interview. However,
what sticks in the memory is the question: “Did you see his junk?”
Yep, class distinction is alive and well and living in
America. Clearly a man is identified as either belonging to a class
labelled “Antique”, “Treasure” or “Junk”.
Anyway, the expression “junk” was rather telling. But
what would the female equivalent be?
Indeed I found myself wondering what would happen if our
Gwynnie overheard husband Chris on the phone to a mate: “No, I can’t
come out tonight, I’ve promised the wife I’d take my junk down the tip
And just to underline the point about antiques, treasure and junk, what
did I see today in the Telegraph’s Sign Language
Spotted in Singapore by John Varnham
Priceless. I bet they do a roaring trade. And do you
know, if I walked past that shop, I would go in and buy something. On
principle. And just to be able to write about it.
Tuesday, May 7
A whole different perspective
BACK on April 28 I featured one of the most surprising
headlines I’d encountered since starting this online diary cum
scrapbook: Wales ― the most photographed country from space.
And all because the astronauts were looking for the
elusive Welsh dragon featured on the nation’s flag ― well, okay: and all
because the man originally in charge at Nasa, George Abbey, had Welsh
roots and the astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) duly
obliged his regular requests.
And the photographs keep on coming. On April 28 I was
captivated by a
marvellous picture of Wales by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is
still up there, but about to come back down to earth with a bang.
In the meantime, Chris’s delightful pictures keep
all compliments of Twitter ― and here’s the Canadian’s latest in a
series of images of the planet taken from the ISS.
Celtic gems: The silhouettes of Ireland and Wales captured in
this beautiful picture taken from the ISS by Chris Hadfield
The first thing I noticed ― after appreciating the beauty
and perspective of the picture ― was the curious shape of the Gower
(and the south-western tip of Wales). I
was going to say Gower looks like a sore thumb, but it’s more like a little thumb on
the open left hand of Wales.
Here’s a tightly cropped picture of Gower and the south
Chris Hadfield’s previous picture of Wales:
Compare and contrast. We are used to the usual
perspective of Gower and the south west, looking from a southerly point
of view ― but how different it looks
from the east.
the observant will note that both pictures were clearly
taken on the same orbit, for example, the cloud formation: see the white
strip of cloud down there in the south west, present in both
Wonderful couple of images, and this latest one claims
exclusive rights to my smile of today.
Monday, May 6
“I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade”
Alan Seeger, 1888-1916
Shake, rattle and roll
“I think one of them is keeping me alive, but I don’t
know which one it is, so I will keep taking them all.”
Pop singer Cliff Richard, 72, one of the original stars of the rock
‘n’ roll years, who takes nine tablets a day.
Dai Version down at the Crazy Horsepower pondered if,
before he goes on stage these nights, someone has to give him a good
shake ... he then tends to rattle a bit ... but boy can he still roll.
Today though, I’ve been greatly entertained by death: a mixture of
smiley Sign Language pictures from the marvellous Telegraph
gallery, along with some memorable Mark Twain quotations.
where best to start than with one of Twain’s most famous:
reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
This quote came after hearing that his obituary had been published in
the New York Journal.
Mistaken publications of obituaries aren’t as rare as one
would suspect. A fairly recent example is of Dave Swarbrick, 72 (like
Cliff), the British folk/rock violinist. For many years Swarbrick
suffered steadily worsening health because of emphysema.
He was however killed off mistakenly by The Daily
Telegraph in April 1999, when the paper reported that his
visit to hospital in Coventry with a chest infection had resulted in his
He did at least get the opportunity to read a rather
favourable account of his life, not something we all get to do, and to
deliver the gag: “It’s not the first time I have died in Coventry.”
The wall of death
in Jamaica by Anonymous
“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and
billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest
inconvenience from it.” Mark Twain.
The final fork in the road
Spotted in the
Bahamas by Ali Bentley
“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter
saying I approved of it.” A particularly unforgettable Mark Twain
And so much more memorable than
The Witch Is Dead,
the song propelled into the charts by opponents of Margaret Thatcher
with its attendant fuss over whether a few seconds of it should have
been played on the BBC’s pop chart show the Sunday before her funeral.
The long goodbye
in Surrey by Keith Hughes
And finally, this gem from Twain’s “The Last Words of
Great Men”, 1869:
“A distinguished man should be as particular about his last words as
he is about his last breath. He should write them out on a slip of paper
and take the judgment of his friends on them.
“He should never leave such a thing to the last hour of
his life, and trust to an intellectual spurt at the last moment to
enable him to say something smart with his latest gasp and launch into
eternity with grandeur.”
Now how wonderful is that? I am neither great nor distinguished, but it
set me thinking as to what would be appropriate ‘last words’ for me. Or
rather, what would I like my last words to be ― after all, I could be
knocked over by that dreaded bus, or drop dead from a massive heart
attack, or whatever.
Best of all though, I like the bit about taking the judgment of
Sunday, May 5
To Hull and Baloo
LAST Tuesday I featured a few of those marvellous Chinese
signs translated into English, a special language that is affectionately
referred to as Chinglish. One of them was this...
“Hullabaloo” is a smashing old English word, now hardly
ever used, sadly. Being such an onomatopoeic word, I decided that I
really should start using it.
Well blow me, today I flick through all the various
Sunday Times sections ... and I come to the Sport, and
the picture on the front page is a celebration of Hull City’s football
team yesterday gaining a draw and winning promotion into the Premier
League of British football. A result that will be worth £120m to them.
I saw it on the news last night, and as you can perhaps
imagine, there were huge celebrations at the final whistle. So much so,
this is the front page of The Sunday Times Sport...
Honestly, you couldn’t make it up. And so clever.
Do you know, my stroll through time is one coincidence
after another. Great fun though. All I now want to see is the word
“baboosh” ― another of those glorious Chinglish words ― featured on a
front page splash somewhere.
Meanwhile, back on the doolally front ... this is from
the Rod Liddle column in The Sunday Times. Oh, and it makes my
smile of the day because of the final four words in his piece...
Man is an irrelevant issue for Orbach
The radical feminist author Susie Orbach admits she is
puzzled by heterosexuality.
“I am always perplexed as to how heterosexuality
happens,” she said, before suggesting that women were actually
“programmed” to be lesbians.
This is an interesting, if counter-Darwinian, view, from a writer whose
contribution to her cause, as author of Fat Is A Feminist
Issue, has been to insist that all women have a duty to be as fat as
I suppose if women had followed this advice, there would
indeed be little heterosexuality taking place.
heterosexual but has now decided she is a lesbian and is in a
relationship with Jeanette Winterson, whose most famous novel is Oranges
Are Not The Only Fruit. No indeed, no indeed.
Talking of oranges being not the only fruit ― while smiling no end
at the thought:
“Her connection with humanity was a very loose thread.
Emotionally, she was not in touch with herself or anybody else. As well
as being such an intelligent woman, I would say she had psychopathic
Actress Andrea Riseborough, 31, on Margaret Thatcher, whom she
played in a TV drama, The Long Walk to Finchley, back in 2008.
Dear old Maggie refuses to go gently into that good
night. Mind you, I am gently amused that someone who would have been 26
at the time she played Maggie, thinks that she can work out her state of
mind during her rise to the top from a script writer’s thoughts.
you, Andrea could possibly be right anyway; after all, it takes one to
know one. Meanwhile...
“The presence of
the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and Conrad Black [a
convicted felon for fraud who for a time headed the third-largest
newspaper group in the world] was a useful reminder of the Dark Side of
Thatcher, generally overlooked by her uncritical obituaries.”
Broadcaster Richard Ingrams, 75, editor of The Oldie Magazine, on
those who attended Thatcher’s funeral.
If Jeremy Clarkson outlives Richard Ingrams, it will be
fascinating to hear his thoughts on those who attend Richard’s funeral.
Saturday, May 4
A SERIES of letters in The Times bumped up
the old smileometer:
Make it snappy
Sir, I was astounded
to read in your report from Australia (“Swimmer caught by croc escapes
from 'death roll'”, Apr 23) that “the crocodile struck without warning”.
G. HENDERSON, Porthcawl, Bridgend
Very smiley. There was a follow up missive:
Sir, I wonder if the
crocodile that attacked a swimmer “without warning” was related to the
one you recorded a few years ago as devouring an “attractive girl”.
CHARLES BOASE, Monmouth
For some reason, the above reminded me of a letter from a good many
moons ago, also in The Times, which has lingered long in the
Sir, Your tips on how
to avoid a shark attack remind me of Spike Milligan’s advice, given in
his war memoirs, on how to avoid seasickness: namely, to go and sit
under a tree.
T. WHITEHEAD, Mansfield, Notts
And talking of sharks, this from the Daily Mail:
ambulance chasing lawyers (Mail)? I thought unscrupulous lawyers were
JAMES BUGG, Witney, Oxon
Meanwhile, back with memorable snaps, this headline and composite
picture spotted in Mail Online drew me in:
The pictures that make you look twice: Intriguing
illusions that were created with no camera trickery
These clever photos merge apparently
mundane elements into incredible juxtapositions which have a
mind-bending hint of the fairytale about them. With cameras often
believed to reflect the real state of things, to create a facsimile of
the true state of the world, so when photographs show something wildly
chimerical it delights the imagination.
Many of the
incredible images in this set play with our sense of perspective by
bringing side by side two elements that are, in fact, distant from each
other in depth.
What fascinates is that a kind of camera trickery is
engaged, but does not involve Photoshopping, where two or more images
are merged to produce one seemingly genuine picture.
My favourite from the above set is the woman serenely
delivering a speech ― while seemingly floating on a magic carpet, thanks
to a perfectly placed shadow of a flag flying behind the photographer.
It is all about being in the right place at the right time.
The whole series of clever photos ― some by accident,
some by design ― prove that there is more to them than meets the eye.
The south Wales seaside town of ‘Porthcawl’ came up as ‘Poetical’ ―
which is exceedingly whimsical and would have doubtless pleased the
ghost of Dylan Thomas no end.
I was disappointed though that ‘chimerical’ was not
challenged by the computer spell-check, for not only is it a word I am
unfamiliar with, but I can’t
say that I have
ever heard it mentioned in dispatches in the Asterisk Bar
down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.
Chimerical: imaginary ―
nonexistent, existing only in somebody’s imagination, or
wildly improbable or unrealistic.
Anyway, here’s a link to the picture web site ― well
worth a quick look:
Friday, May 3
Revenge of the fruitcakes
“IT IS very tempting to vote for a collection of
fruitcakes, loonies, closet racists and clowns.” Cabinet Minister Ken Clarke and
his fellow Tories on the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the lead up to
Thursday’s local elections.
The above is a rerun of part of a quote from yesterday’s
smile of the day, when I enjoyed the sights and sounds of Conservatives
doing their best to belittle those who were intending to vote UKIP ― not
to mention that splendid
cartoon ― and of course it backfired spectacularly, as some
observers had indeed
UKIP duly surged to the party’s best ever showing in a
local election, averaging 26% of the vote and winning 150 council seats.
It gave rise of course to one very smiley headline, compliments of UKIP
leader Nigel Farage:
“Send in the clowns”
And just to add the icing, on tonight’s Have I Got
News For You, Ian Hislop inadvertently referred to Ken Clarke as Ken
Clown ― made sweeter by the fact that it was quite obviously a genuine
slip of the tongue rather than a well-crafted joke. Very funny.
But UKIP’s night wasn’t all smiles:
“I don’t call it defecting, I call it upgrading.”
David Meacock, a former Conservative councillor, now a UKIP local
election candidate standing in Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire.
‘defecting’ flirts rather ominously with ‘defecating’.
Phew. Sadly though, it’s back to the departure gate for Meacock as the Conservatives retained the seat.
However, it’s right and proper to give the last word on the
subject to Nigel Farage following his electoral triumphs:
“I am very ambitious. I want our country back. We have a
political class which has given away our birthright, given away our
independence and virtually bankrupted the country.”
A light lunch
Precisely a week ago I detailed how I would have tackled
what Winston Churchill typically enjoyed for dinner at his Kent home:
oysters; fried fillet of sole, wrapped in smoked salmon; fillet of roast
venison with pâté de foie gras and truffle sauce; ripe stilton with
port; baked tart with ice cream (not forgetting the champagne and the
I would have eaten that five course meal spread over the
day: essentially the starter for breakfast, the main course for dinner
(lunch?) and the pudding for high tea (incidentally, if a nibble between
breakfast and lunch is called brunch, then I guess a meal between tea
and supper should be called tupper).
Anyway, this letter appeared in The Daily Telegraph:
SIR – I was interested to read that Princess Margaret
believed “three or four courses for lunch and five for dinner are
sufficient” (report, April 26). In this household, lunch consists of one
course and dinner, two. My GP would have something to say if we took
four courses for lunch, and five for dinner.
Lynne M Collins, Hadleigh, Essex
My goodness, imagine that, more courses than you could shake a college
I enjoyed these online
comments, kicking off with this effort from the memorably named
(I’m expecting any day now to hear from Farageforpm):
Whilst I agree it sounds like over-eating, it’s the size
of the courses that matters, is it not? I mean, melon balls for example?
There isn’t much in them is there? Princess Margaret was well known for
having a fag between courses too. (Cigarette that is).
I particularly enjoyed the fag joke. And then the comments
shot off at a bit of a tangent, and somehow settled on the fish course
in general, and salmon in particular.
As it happens, someone posted a response, but erroneously
typed salmond instead of salmon. Now Alex Salmond is a Scottish
politician and current First Minister of Scotland; he is the driving
force behind Scotland wanting to break away from the UK and gain
independence, something which will be put to the vote in 2014.
Speaking as someone who merely stands and stares at the
mad world of politics, the curious thing about Salmond is that he comes
across as a bit of a troublemaker, an individual that it is impossible
to feel affection for.
Which probably suggests that Scotland is unlikely to gain
independence, at least on his watch. But what do I understand.
Anyway, apropos the misspelling of salmon, this witty response from
Salmon is a fish, Salmond is a fish out of water :o)
Meanwhile, there was a discussion about whether the
midday meal should be labelled lunch or dinner.
Grizzly: Children go to school. At midday they have a
meal. That meal is called “dinner”. I know that because the school
employs “dinner ladies” to look after the children and ensure that they
eat their dinner.
Now, if that meal was called “lunch”, then surely the schools would
employ “lunch ladies”. They don’t.
Tea for two in Hong Kong
Talk of lunch ladies reminds me of spending a few days in Hong Kong
moons ago than I care to remember, actually. Anyway, on the advice of a
receptionist at our hotel, me and my pal
hired a taxi one afternoon to take us round and show what was worth seeing.
It was a great investment, helped by the fact that our
taxi driver, born and bred in Hong Kong, was a bit of a character. He told us
that many businessmen in HK didn’t partake of lunch in the traditional manner,
but would visit certain joints to meet girls and have a “sexual” lunch.
These girls were known as “lunch girls”.
How civilised, I remember thinking. Anyway, it was now about
four in the afternoon and we were returning to our hotel, driving down a narrow
side street ― and walking along the pavement towards us were two lovely
looking Chinese girls.
The driver looked at us, then at his watch ― and with a
huge grin said: “It’s nearly tea time.”
Thursday, May 2
Wake up call
I’M USUALLY in bed by ten of an evening ... as soon as my
head hits the pillow I’m off, somewhere over the rainbow ― I’m never
sure where because I don’t remember my dreams ― anyway, the next thing I
hear, just before five, is that little click the alarm makes before it
goes off proper.
However, last night, in the early hours, I was awoken by
the sound of music. In a haze I thought I’d left the bedside wireless
on. But no, the music seemed to be coming from the lounge. Had I left
the radio or television on overnight?
I rather nervously got up to investigate: the light was
on in the lounge ... I cautiously pushed open the door ― and there were
two goats ... playing guitars.
They saw me and stopped. “Who are you?” I asked.
“We’re the goat buskers!”
I’ve been laughing at that all day. I actually heard it this morning,
after the click of the alarm and I’d turned on the wireless ― and Alex
Lester on his Best Time of the Day Show was relating a joke
submitted by a listener.
That set my smileometer up for the day.
The next thing that made me laugh out loud was a
cartoon in The Daily Telegraph ― no surprise there. First
though, a bit of background information to help join up the dots,
compliments of an online headline:
Judgement day: Millions of voters go to the polls in local elections
fearing big losses at the hands of the UK Independence Party and Labour
More than 2,400 seats up for grabs in 34
county and unitary councils in England and Wales
• Conservatives braced
to lose hundreds of seats with the UK Independence Party (UKIP)
predicting big wins
• Nick Clegg suggests
the Lib Dems could be pushed into fourth in the popular vote
Ed Miliband under
pressure to make gains in the south to prove he is on course to become
Okay, we’re now back on track:
Have you got a light, boy?
“Voters who back the UK Independence Party are
racists. UKIP’s politicians are clowns who attract waifs and strays; it
is very tempting to vote for a collection of clowns.”
That’s how Tory Cabinet Minister Ken
Clarke, 72, pictured above, has described UKIP in an increasingly bitter
war ahead of today’s election.
“Clown or fruitcake?”
That is so funny. I would have to declare myself a
fruitcake ... I think ... therefore I am.
What struck me though in the Ken Clarke
quote was the inference that those who back UKIP are all racists. Is he
really suggesting that other parties, including the Conservatives,
harbour no racists at all?
Scarcely believe. And what about all the clowns currently
in Parliament, with no UKIP member in sight?
Talking of racism, here’s a recent something from my cuttings file,
compliments of The Sunday Times ATTICUS column. Again, a
few dots need joining up:
Springclean Time in Paris
Britain’s first youth police and crime commissioner, who
stepped down from the role over offensive comments she made on Twitter,
is “pleased” police are taking no further action against her, her lawyer
Paris Brown, 17, was meant to be providing young people’s
views on policing but instead had her own mobile phone seized as
officers investigated her tweets amid claims they were homophobic,
racist and violent.
The teenager, who was to earn £15,000-a-year from the
role, previously apologised for causing offence with messages she
actually posted between the ages of 14 and 16.
She denied being
anti-gay or racist, and said she is against taking drugs, insisting that
a reference on Twitter to making “hash brownies” was from a Scooby Doo
film. The offensive tweets have now been deleted.
Right, here’s the piece:
At Atticus, the customer is always right. However, our
public engagement people are examining this exchange between The
Sheerness Times Guardian and a reader angered by a report about Paris
Brown, who quit as Kent police’s youth commissioner.
Reader: “[I object to] the snide, insensitive comment
made by political editor Paul Francis, quote: ‘The sight of an
overweight teenager struggling to contain her emotions.’ Was there
really any need for him to comment about her weight...? Talk about kick
someone when they’re down.”
Times Guardian: “He
described her as ‘overwrought’ not ‘overweight’.”
Wednesday, May 1
What do you want to make those eyes at me for?
AS I never tire of pointing out, one of the enduring
charms of we human beings is our ever-inflating doolallyness. Just last
Monday I featured this story:
Man fined for racism after Welsh sheep slur
An English tourist fined for racism after he branded
Welsh people “sheep shaggers” claims he was using “a term for people
living in the countryside”
It involved an Englishman named Taaffe, Tony Taaffe, as
I’m sure you recall.
Well, today I just couldn’t believe my luck as I perused
some online news stories.
Welsh woman fined for “racist” insult after
calling father’s mistress an “English cow”
A Welsh woman was convicted yesterday of racially abusing
her father’s mistress by calling her an “English cow”
in North Wales heard that Elen Humphreys, 25, went to Angela Payne’s
house in Rhyl to collect some of her father’s belongings and told her:
“Leave well alone, you English cow.”
Ms Payne reported Humphreys to police, saying the
comments were the “final straw”.
Humphreys was ordered to pay Ms Payne £50 in compensation
and was given a 12-month conditional discharge after pleading guilty to
racially aggravated harassment.
The case comes just two days after English tourist
Anthony Taaffe was fined £150 on the same charge for calling security
staff at a Welsh holiday park “a bunch of sheep shaggers”.
Prosecutor James Neary said Ms Payne contacted police
last November because Humphreys’ mother had previously been warned by
officers about her conduct.
He added that Humphreys, of Garndolbenmaen [a
surprisingly near place with a strange sounding name, but known
colloquially as Garn], near Porthmadog, had called Ms Payne other names
before the incident.
Andrew Hutchinson, defending, said that Humphreys’
parents had been married for 32 years but her father had then started
the other relationship and gone “backwards and forwards” between the two
running high,” he said...
You really couldn’t make it up, as they say down at the Crazy
Horsepower. Mind you, I’ve never heard sex described as going “backwards
and forwards” before. Every day a day at school.
Anyway, I searched through some photographs I’d taken along my walks
through the Towy Valley...
English cows and a pretty Welsh sheep
“What are you lookin' at?”
Actually, they are not English cows but Welsh bullocks,
mostly ― and the sheep is just a nosy old cow.
Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013: Jan
Smile of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
Smile of the day 2012 (Jan-Mar)
.. Smile of the day 2012
(Apr-Jun) .. Smile of the
day 2012c (Jul-Sep) .. Smile
of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
Previous 2011 smiles:
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jan-Jun)
.. Smile of the Day 2011 (Jul-Sep)
.. Smile of the day 2011
Smile of the Day 2010
(Jan to Jun) 2009
March to May '07
June to Aug '07
Sep to Dec '07
You are here, way out west,
aka Dodgy City
Previously on LOOK
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013: Jan
of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
of the day 2012c (Jul-Sep)
Smile of the day 2012
Smile of the day 2012 (Jan-Mar)
Smile of the day 2011
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jul-Sep)
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jan-Jun)
Smile of the Day 2010
2010 (Jan to Jun)
Sep to Dec '07
June to Aug '07
March to May '07
As it was in
ST DAVID'S DAY, 2007
Postcards from my Square
Here's lookin' at you
400 Smiles A Day
What A Gas
400 Smiles A Day