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

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POSTCARDS FROM
MY SQUARE MILE
click... smile
Updated: 26/05/2013

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

400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 08/06/2013



                                                                                        Design: Yosida

 
                                                                 ♫♫♫ TO SELF                            
It seems that the artist Leonardo da Vinci kept a notebook, Notes to Self, a list of “things to do today”: buy paper; charcoal; chalk ... describe tongue of woodpecker and jaw of crocodile...
     These are my Notes to Self, a daily record of the things that make me smile and which brighten up my day no end, whether read in a newspaper, seen on TV, heard on the radio, told in the pub, spotted in the supermarket, a good joke, a great story, a funny cartoon, a film clip, an eye-catching picture, something startling that nevertheless generates a spontaneous smile, curiosities spotted along my walks through the Towy Valley...
     This is a snapshot of life beyond the blue horizon...

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

Sunday, June 30
Tiebreak


YESTERDAY, I touched on the subject of dress code out in Saudi Arabia, but it seems standards are slipping among members at Lord’s Cricket Ground as a picture guide of how to dress for those attending games recently emerged.

Using staff as models, the Marylebone Cricket Club make it crystal clear to even the most un-fashionsavvy of cricket fans coming to The Home of Cricket in St John’s Wood, North London, what is, and what isn’t, acceptable:

Acceptable dress

Unacceptable dress

All compliant with the Dress Regulations, including
the lady, far right, wearing a dress over leggings

Unacceptable: bare midriff; polo shirt; blouse over
leggings; no tailored jacket; no tie; jeans (any colour)

The guide comes in the wake of members’ complaints that the dress code was not being upheld and that some ― especially the newly allowed female members ― were attired “fit for a vigorous weeding session on the herbaceous border”, as one member put it.

And at least the jeans ban keeps Jeremy Clarkson well away from proceedings.

Anyway, here’s an amusing letter in response and spotted in The Times:

Knotty issue

Sir, Many of us who have to wear very formal dress for work can think of many “excuses” for not wearing a tie on a day off in the pavilion at Lord’s or anywhere.
     My sympathies are with the politician in Fiji who proposed a Bill to outlaw the necktie in the late 1970s. He cited three grounds: it is useless; it is a relic of British colonial rule; and it constricts the supply of blood to the brain.
     It is of course possible that in the pavilion at Lord’s these facts either do not matter or are seen as an advantage.
JAMES BADENOCH, QC, London, EC4

There was a ‘Not so fast, Kemo Sabe’ follow-up letter:

Throttled

Sir, Neck ties do not restrict blood supply to the brain, the relevant arteries lie deeper. If a tie feels tight it is more likely to be a sign of weight gain. It is fatty deposits in the arteries that reduce blood supply to the brain, not ties.
     Don’t shoot the messenger; an uncomfortable tie could be a timely warning.
BERNARD KINGSTON, Biddenden, Kent


“Don’t shoot the messenger” ― very witty. But why would someone wear a tie that feels too tight when it is perhaps the simplest job in the world to just loosen it a bit? Ah, but of course: reduced blood supply to the brain.

My grandfather’s moustache

Sticking with fashion and the like, here are a couple of images from Glastonbury that made me smile. The lady’s identity is unknown ― but I have a rough idea who the old bloke gurning away on stage is:
 

  

Finally, in today’s Sunday Times, Rod Liddle explores ― if that’s the right word ― the very subject that was yesterday’s smile of the day:

When a woman’s role is man’s work

The Saudis are once again the object of worldwide derision and hilarity, this time for holding a conference that debated the role of women in Saudi Arabian society. People are making a great meal of the fact that none of the invited delegates was actually a woman; there was just rank after rank of men wearing keffiyehs.

Fair enough, in my opinion. I am not sure that women have anything particularly useful to contribute to a debate about what they should be doing, either in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else. If women were allowed into such a conference, they would only try to change the subject every few minutes, or at least fail to stick to the point and wander off on boring digressions, or become unaccountably worked up and angry about things, or just spend the entire time accusing men of stuff. Not helpful, is it?

Once again this brave sheikhdom is showing us the way forward.

Either Rod has his tongue firmly in his cheek there ― or he’s been pigging-out on Loose Women on telly.

 

Saturday, June 29
Dress code

THIS MSN  news headline drew me in like a magnet:

                  Outrage as Saudi ‘women’s conference’ has male-only audience

A picture of a conference in Saudi Arabia on the subject of  'women in society' ― featuring precisely no female attendees ― has gone viral.

No birds allowed

  Many news web sites have gleefully picked up on the story, but because the picture first surfaced on Twitter ― “believe nothing you hear and only half what you see” should be Twitter’s motto ― all reputable outlets point out that the image has not been verified.

However, in the context of Saudi Arabia’s curious record on gender equality ― women are not allowed to drive, they must, regardless of age, have a male guardian, and will vote only for the first time in 2015 ― it is not too absurd to believe.

Mind you, others have commented that the scene featured above is not too far a cry from many male-dominated UK conferences. Hm.

What is also curious is that the man, third row back, third in from the right, is wearing what appears to be a flannel shirt, one of only two men (the other, just in front, to the right) not wearing the traditional Gulf attire. Perhaps they are journalists or some such like.

Also, front row, second in from the right ... that looks suspiciously like a woman to me. I’m not sure why, perhaps it has something to do with body language. There again, perhaps he  is just a big girl’s blouse.

Whatever, the fellow that really amuses me is, again front row, but this time, second in from the left ... I mean, did his mum never tell him to keep his legs together and not look so common as muck? But best of all, and assuming it really is a ‘women’s conference’, it looks as if he’s going:
     “Can’t hear you ― nah-nah-nah-nah
! ― can’t hear you ― nah-nah-nah-nah! ― can’t hear you...!

 

Friday, June 28
A Worthy effort


”YOU can’t buy this experience.” From a field somewhere in Somerset, a Glastonbury Festival reveller sums up his emotions now that’s he’s there, all present and correct.

Well, as I understand it, a couple of hundred quid, plus the dreaded booking fee, and the experience could be yours. But I think I know what he means: an experience not to be missed.

The media has been awash with stunning aerial pictures of the Festival at Worthy Farm:

Hello Mum!

Sweeping views: The sprawling temporary city which has sprung up on a dairy farm in Somerset

This morning I read this in The Sunday Times  ‘Pick of the day’ TV & Radio Guide:

Glastonbury

After a year off ― even the massed forces of the Pyramid stage and the Healing Field can’t take on the Olympics ― Glastonbury returns for its 43rd anniversary. Following the pattern set in recent years, the BBC has gone wild for the event, using three of its four main channels to cover the festival, plus the red button for more obscure stages.
     BBC2 is going for the popular vote, which tonight means Arctic Monkeys on the Pyramid stage; BBC3 strives for the youth market with Jake Bugg, Rita Ora and Foals; and BBC4 will be catering for the “serious” music fans with Seasick Steve and Chic.
     It is also, apparently, “the most digital Glastonbury ever”, which is just the kind of talk likely to confuse and anger fans of the Rolling Stones. A frenzy of activity, then, for those stuck at home rather than in the mud...

Intent on a good view

Colourful: A glorious colour-coded section of the seemingly mud-free site for those
prepared to pay that bit extra rather than hump their own tent to the Festival

Now I have to admit that most of the names appearing at Glastonbury mean absolutely nothing to me ― yes, I’ve heard of the Arctic Monkeys, just, and of course those good ole boys who seemingly gather no moss, the Rolling Stones.

What is more, I have never rated myself a “serious” music fan, but what the hell, I zap onto BBC4 at 9.00pm ― and the ever amusing Mark Radcliffe introduces US bluesman Steve Gene Wold aka Seasick Steve with his unique take on the blues using his own customised guitars, thus:

“I’m here at the West Holts Stage, and we’ve got a legend coming on the stage now ― festivals wouldn’t be the same without hearing his one-string diddley bo, his three-string trance wonder; he’s got the beard, he’s got the cap, he doesn’t spend a lot on dry cleaning, he’s been surfing, he looks quite tanned, so let’s sit back and enjoy Seasick Steve...”

“What’s up?” was Seasick Steve’s opening remark, which rather put me on yellow alert. But after that ― well, I was enthralled, especially his opening song Self Sufficient Man, which rather hit the empathy button. I thought he was wonderful.

Having never heard of him, I had a look online: Steven Gene Wold, commonly known as Seasick Steve, (born 1941) is an American blues musician. He’s old. He’s a red neck. He sings about lust...

I couldn’t establish why he’s called Seasick Steve, but I really was surprised to discover that he’s 71 going on 72. And what a colourful background the man has, best summed up by this quote of his:

“Hobos are people who move around looking for work; tramps are people who move around but dont look for work; and bums are people who dont move and dont work. I’ve been all three.”
 


Thursday, June 27
Few lawyers die well...

                                                  
16th century proverb

“Go up to a woman and say, in your best Cockney accent, in a tone of genuine curiosity: ‘What have you got in that handbag?’ It worked for me every time.” Rod Stewart, 68, on his most effective chat-up line.

Now if I were a lawyer, I would ask Rod this: “Now tell me, Mr Stewart, did this chat-up line sweep every gorgeous blonde off her feet when you worked as a common or garden labourer for Highgate Cemetery ― and then as a fence erector and sign writer ― or did it become fabulously effective only when you became famous and a celebrity?”

These things are important and brighten up the day’s news no end.

Talking of lawyers, this from last weekend’s Sunday Times  Comment section:

                            Poor lawyers at last

If you are a lawyer, prepare yourself for a shock. If you are not a lawyer, you’ll just have to try your very best to stop laughing.

Falling in line with lay opinion at long last, the Law Society has announced that there are too many lawyers (it’s thought they first discovered this in the mid-1950s, but have only just finished going through the small print).

Apparently, too many young people from the middle classes are studying law. At this rate, supply will soon outstrip demand and lawyers will have to ― m’learned friends might care to look away now ― reduce their fees. No wonder that the Law Society is so worried.

What makes the law such a popular career? The following elderly joke explains all:

An ambitious young solicitor, finding himself unexpectedly at the gates of heaven, protests to St Peter. “How can I be dead?” he asks. “I’m only 32.”

St Peter consults his notes, but is unmoved. “We just totted up the amount of hours you billed to your clients,” he explains. “According to our figures, you’re 395.”

Before you stop laughing, another Sign Language classic:

Shock! Horror! Honest lawyers discovered Down Under!

Born to practise law: spotted in Port Elliot, Australia, by Ken Harvey

Finally, this most amusing of quotes from the most unexpected of sources ― and no, it’s not from a lawyer:

“It is like shearing a piglet ― all squealing and no wool.” Russian leader Vladimir Putin, 60, passes an enigmatic remark on the contents of the computers of US whistleblower and former spy Edward Snowden, who is hiding in a Moscow airport as Washington appeals in vain for him to be extradited.

What an odd business all this whistleblowing is. Can you trust any of the people involved? Wonderful quote, by the way.

PS: Shock! Horror! Correction! The above quote is  from a lawyer. Wikipedia informs me that Putin graduated from the International Law branch of the Law Department of the Leningrad State University in 1975, writing his final thesis on international law.

Well, well. But now that I think about it, have you noticed that most of the world’s most notorious troublemakers have studied law? Study these two mug shots:
                                                                           

Oh dear, Vladimir Putin and Tony Blair, natural-born birds of prey from the same eyrie. Eerie or what?

Now c’mon, would you buy a used car from either of these characters?
 


Wednesday, June 26
50 Shades of Going Grey


LISTENING to Vanessa Feltz’ review of the newspapers on her early-morning wireless show, she mentions Matthew Parris, columnist with The Times, who was writing about those 50 unmistakable signs that you are over the hill ― yes, I’ve heard  a great deal about this list over recent days.

Anyway, Matthew, 63, had challenged one of the received wisdoms of impending decrepitude, namely the switch from BBC Radio 1 to Radio 2: “The way I know I’m past it is that I switch on Radio 2 ― and I think that it’s Radio 1.”

I know what he means. I have noted that Radio 2 has, over recent years, morphed into the swinging parent of Radio 1, and as we all know, swinging parents are rather boring to spend extended time with because of their child-like qualities.

Whatever, curiosity about the list got the better of me ― and I landed on a Mail Online  page:
 

                               The 50 signs of ageing:
           Hate noisy pubs? Feeling a bit stiff? It means you’re just getting old

   • Survey reveals physical and attitudinal changes that mean you’re ageing

   • More older people are challenging the “pipe and slippers” stereotype

Most of us like to think we’re young, or youngish, but yesterday researchers came up with a list of 50 tell-tale signs of ageing that might make you think otherwise.

The Engage Mutual Assurance study found that losing head hair but gaining it elsewhere, and declaring “It wasn’t like that when I was young”, are also an indication that your youth is firmly behind you...
 

Very amusing. I ticked about half of them. Funnily enough, as for many of the others i.e. No. 10) Forgetting people’s names, and No. 11) Choosing clothes and shoes for comfort, rather than style ― well, I have always forgotten people’s names, and never, ever been concerned with fashion and style.

Also, I was never a Radio 1 listener, always a middle-of-the-road music man, as my Desert Island Jukebox will increasingly show as I add to the selections. In other words, I’ve been a Radio 2 listener from its launch.

However, going back to Matthew Parris and Radio 2 sounding like Radio 1, a while back this headline appeared apropos the latest radio listening figures, in particular Chris Evans attracting an impressive 10m listeners:

          Chris Evans trounces his ranting rival: Radio 2 breakfast show sees boost in
                   listeners after ratings slump for Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw

   • Older men turned off by Grimshaw's immature banter tune in to Evans

I laughed out loud at that point. If older men think that Chris Evans is mature, I hate to think what Radio 1 must sound like.

Whatever, if I’m at home at that time of the morning I do listen to Chris Evans. It’s like being back at school, and I’m in class waiting to have my name ticked on the Radio 2 register so that I can then bugger off and do other things ― like listening to my type of music on iPlayer or YouTube.

What I enjoy though about The Chris Evans Radio 2 show is  its extraordinary child-like quality: great in small doses, what with all those hooters and bells when someone does something right ― or wrong. And his very young son, Noah, doing some of the links. Indeed, Chris is most at home when he chats to the children who phone his show.

It is all part of the dumbing-down at the BBC. Chris was originally a Radio 1 Jock, then he moved to Radio2 ― essentially his character hasn’t changed (apart from giving up the drink and the partying), so he treats his Radio 2 listeners as he did his Radio 1 listeners.

His next step with the BBC will be either Radio 3 or Radio 4 ― and the dumbing down process will be complete. Every listener will then be treated as if they’re still at school, probably aged about 15 or 16.

Old, older, oldest

Anyway, back to the 50 Shades of Ageing ... personally speaking, I notice that there are two significant things about growing older that aren’t on the above list:

As you may well have noticed, I keep referring to ‘the wireless’ rather than ‘the radio’. Dead giveaway, that.

And ― well, I’ve mentioned this before:

When I was 39½ and handed the baton of middle-age (the average life expectancy of a UK man back then was 79), I mentioned to Old Shaggy down at the Crazy Horse (as it then was), that I was now applying quality control to the women that caught my eye.

He smiled the smile of the tiger and said it was a sign of growing older (as opposed to growing old), and that my testosterone (Formula: C19H28O2) was starting to play hard to get: ‘The Retreat of the Fright Brigade’, as he called it.

As the years have drifted on by, I still think of that conversation because, as mentioned in previous dispatches, I now prefer a good joke to sex, for the simple reason that I can enjoy a good joke or a great story over and over in my mind by just thinking about it, whereas sex ― well, I have to go through that tiring rigmarole each and every time.

Indeed, having the other day shared with you Esther Williams’s exquisite description of Lana Turner and Fernando Lamas having sex in the next door dressing room, and all transcribed into the sounds of an orchestra ― well, every time I now hear a great piece of music a smile creases my face and I think: ‘Ah yes, those were the days, my friend, I thought they’d never end...’

Oh, and as for No. 1 on the above list, ‘Feeling stiff’ ― yes, tell me all about it. And of course, unfortunately, not necessarily in the right place.

 

Tuesday, June 25
I (nearly) see the (super) moon


ONLINE news web sites have been awash with picture galleries of the supermoon that was on full glow Sunday night into Monday morning. Somewhat annoyingly, many of the pictures have either been taken with powerful zoom lenses ― or Photoshopped ― which rather defeats the object of nature doing its very own zooming and Photoshopping.

Take this one, spotted in the Huffington Post:

Clearly the moon is never that size, relative to the building in the foreground, that is. Yes, it’s an eye-catching picture for sure, but totally meaningless as an image of a supermoon.

Sadly, cloud cover meant I never saw the Supermoon of 2013 on full beam. Today though, it was there, nearly all present and correct.

My first sight of the supermoon was this morning at four o’clock, just after I got up ― the haze gives it a certain ethereal feeling... 
 

    

Just over an hour later, along my early-morning walk through Dinefwr Park, I captured the second picture, above, through the fancy ironwork atop one of the towers at Newton House. And the final image in the series ― well, I turned through 180º... and the sun was about 20 minutes into its super-sunny journey through Tuesday...

Mind you, neither of my moon pictures gives any notion that I have just photographed a ― well, a supermoon. It could be a bog-standard old moon. What is fascinating though, just a day after the full moon proper, a significant ‘dent’ can be seen at about 5 o’clock as it already begins to wane.

Walking backwards to Christmas

Back on December 9, last year, I featured a picture of Yr Hen Vic, the Old Victoria pub and restaurant in Llandampness. What had caught my eye was a new notice board on the wall outside ... I smiled, for I had never seen anything like this before:


 

How delightfully novel, I thought at the time, to show that they were 82.25% full at that moment for their Xmas Day Lunch. Off the top of my head, I reckoned that if they have, say, 124 covers, then 102 ― give or take a childs high-chair ― are already booked.

But as I got nearer ... I registered that the notice board actually said 822596 ― The Old Vics actual telephone number. D’oh! So I had a good laugh, as you would ― but be honest, from a distance that 96 really does look like %. That’s my story ― and I’m sticking to it.

Well, the story and picture make a return visit on the 25th of June, precisely six months before next Christmas Day ― because the notice is still there. In fact, it has never gone away. It makes me smile every time I pass it.

Actually, it makes perfect sense to keep it there. Not all restaurants in the area do Christmas Day lunches, so theres always a demand ― and what better than a 364-day reminder to get your booking in early.

Break a turkey leg.

 

Monday, June 24
Salad days

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents ― and boyoboyo, I could have murdered a classic salad: carrot, iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, white cabbage, cucumber and radish...

Hold it there

Before we make a meal of that opening line of mine, who could possibly have guessed that a picture of a just unwrapped candy bar (spotted online, compliments of Imgur), and looking as sad as this first image coming up, could generate such a generous smile...

A chocolate bar that just...

A cheeky chalk pub sign that...

...well, just doesn’t want to go there

...well, killed my enthusiasm stone dead

So there goes a great story line that opens with me eating a salad. Bugger. Good pub sign though.

But thereby hangs a tale. They say everyone has a book in them ― actually, I feel much as presenter Roy Noble on Radio Wales does: my book is more a leaflet.

However, I did attempt to write that novel once: all about three teenage girls being kidnapped, held for ransom and the ensuing search for them. It was set in west Wales, and the whole adventure reached a climax on the expanse of Pendine Sands.

I remember it well because I wrote it at the time I owned my last sports car, an MGB GT. Those days you could freely drive along the sands and I vividly recall timing everything because it involved a helicopter sweeping down.

Do you know, that bit of research, involving me driving along the sands, at speed, was as exciting as if I’d had the book published.

It was long before Top Gear did that marvellous sequence on Pendine Sands, indeed these days I believe you have to obtain special permission to drive along the sands.

Anyway, I sent the book off to several agents and publishers ― but all rejected. I mentioned it to a pal of mine who did freelance work for the BBC, and he said he knew someone in publishing who owed him a favour, so he asked her if she would have a quick look at my effort ― and she agreed.

I duly received a reply. There were no wasted words involved, but I knew she had read the book because of the little things she referred to,

Essentially what she said was this: a good story, nicely rounded characters with believable dialogue ― and an exciting climax. But the book was a bit disjointed and lacked proper structure. What I needed to do was read similar novels to gain a feel as to how I should structure my tome. It made perfect sense.

But there the whole adventure came to a juddering halt. As I’ve mentioned before, I never read books. Not because I don’t like books, but rather ― you know how certain doors have either ‘Occupied’ or ‘Unoccupied’ showing ... well, my mind is always showing ‘Occupied’.

My brain doesn’t allow me any free time to sit down and read books. Even articles in newspapers and magazines pushes the envelope to the limit.

So my book remains somewhere in the attic.

Now where’s that salad?

 

Sunday, June 23
Baby, it’s brass monkeys out there


BACK on the 7th of June I did a piece on Esther Williams, the ‘million dollar mermaid’ of classic Hollywood, who had just died aged 91, and who was also a noted disher of juicy gossip.

I’ve been listening to A String of Pearls  on iPlayer, a BBC Radio Wales  music show where presenter Dewi Griffiths plays music from the golden years of entertainment, that period from the Thirties through to the Fifties.

When a major star from those days dies he gives a little potted history and plays a relevant piece of music. For example, I had no idea that it was Esther, along with Ricardo Montalban, who made the song Baby It’s Cold Outside popular.

I was fascinated to learn the following about the song, compliments of Wikipedia:

Frank Loesser wrote the duet in 1944 and premiered the song with his wife, Lynn Garland, at their Navarro Hotel housewarming party, and performed it toward the end of the evening, signifying to guests that it was nearly time to end the party. Lynn considered it “their song” and was furious when Loesser sold the song to MGM.

The lyrics in the duet are designed to be heard as a conversation between two people, marked on the printed score as “wolf” and “mouse”. [I shall rechristen that reference as “Tom” and “Jerry”!]

Every line in the song features a statement from Jerry, followed by a response from Tom. Usually the Tom part is sung by a male and Jerry by a female.

Criticisms of the song stem from a reading of the lyrics, not as Lady Jerry wanting to stay and only putting up a token protest for the sake of appearance as supported by lyrics such as, “The neighbours might think...”, “My father will be pacing the floor...”, but instead as Jerry genuinely wanting to leave but being stopped by Tom who is being coercive in his pleading with the mouse.

Examples of questionable lyrics in this regard include, “I simply must go”, “The answer is no”, “I’ve got to go home”. There is also the line “Hey, what’s in this drink?”, which could be taken to sound suspiciously like Jerry has been drugged.

Wel-i-jiw-jiw, who would have thought? Anyway, to continue:

In 1948, after years of informally performing the song at various parties, Loesser sold its rights to MGM, which immediately inserted the song into its 1949 motion picture, Neptune’s Daughter.

The film featured two performances of the song: one by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban, and the other by Betty Garrett and Red Skelton, the second of which has the roles of cat and mouse reversed. These performances earned Loesser an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Coming up, theres a link to the back-to-back performances, but first, remember this?

Esther Williams, in her 1999 memoir, The Million Dollar Mermaid, dishes the dirt as few others have. Esther could be shameless, and shamelessly funny ― so I selected this little cracker, which is worth a repeat if only for the orchestral crescendo representing the act of making love in all its mad, passionate glory, bearing in mind of course Esther’s part in Baby It’s Cold Outside.

On Lana Turner’s Latin lover:

During the making of The Merry Widow, Fernando Lamas and Lana Turner had begun a hot ― very hot ― affair. On the surface, at least, it looked like a great match up. Fernando was very much a ladies’ man, and Lana certainly liked men.
     Lamas had taken just one look at the blond-and-creamy Lana, liked what he saw, and started showing up at rehearsals wearing a skin-tight brown dancer’s leotard, which made no secret of his masculine charms.
     Lana was obviously impressed ― and Lana had been impressed by the best, including seven husbands and a legion of lovers, among them Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Victor Mature, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, and Robert Taylor. Fernando was now about to join those distinguished ranks.
     The first delicate hint I had of their affair came one afternoon as Fernando was on his way to the makeup department, situated next to the stars’ dressing rooms. I heard Lana shout from her dressing room window ― and I mean shout ― “Fernando Lamas
! Get your Argentinean ass in here!
     Fernando, who was always accompanied by an entourage of adoring sycophants, needed no further encouragement. With the grace of a Latin cavalier, he bowed to his gentlemen friends and scooted into Lana’s dressing room, which was situated right next to mine.
     Like the dressing rooms of most MGM stars, mine was furnished with a couch, a table, and a couple of chairs. Lana, however, had demanded ― and got ― a huge bed with pink satin sheets and pillows, plus there were mirrors everywhere. From the sounds coming through the wall between Lana’s dressing room and mine, I could tell that she and Fernando weren’t going over their lines.
     I’m afraid that I was a bit curious, but then, how could I resist? I placed an empty glass against the wall between our rooms and pressed my ear to it. The sound I heard, magnified by the water glass, was rather like listening to a symphony.
     The first movement began with gentle strings and sighing woodwinds. The second movement, which started with mounting rhythm, brought in the whole brass section, with trumpets and tubas blowing like crazy. The third movement was filled with pounding kettledrums and marimbas (the Latin touch), which reached a wild and ecstatic crescendo. What followed was diminuendo ― back to the sighing woodwinds.
     “Oh, Fernando, oh, Fernando,” Lana moaned.
     Oh well, I thought to myself. At least she remembers his name.
     Many years later, after Fernando and I were married, I hesitantly confessed to him that I had eavesdropped on his matinee with Lana.
     “My dear,” he said with a grin, “I am flattered.”


So here’s the link to Baby It’s Cold Outside, including the fascinating Jerry & Tom role reversal, which I had never heard before. The sequence is very entertaining ― oh, and what a handsome creature Esther Williams was:

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

PS: Mind you, for balance, you have to watch the Cerys Mathews (as Jerry, obviously) and Tom Jones (as, well, Tom) video for the perfect interpretation of what it says about the song up there, compliments of Wikipedia. Oh, and if only for the final line from Cerys: “Bloody freezin’, init!

It is a glorious Tom & Jerry cartoon made human.

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


Saturday, June 22
Always the Twain we shall meet


JUST the other day I quoted Bob Geldof in the wake of his appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival, where he apparently sang the old protest songs about global poverty, plus the end of civilisation as rock bands know it ― and all that jazz. Yet, he added, he could have written those songs last week, so little has the world changed and moved on.

And I noted that his observation merely confirms something I have long suspected i.e. that all the plays, books, films, poetry, songs, tweets, columnists, phone-ins and Question Times in the world do not change the course of history one jot.

Life, it seems, has a momentum all of its own, otherwise those great Shakespearean plays, not to mention the wonderful books that litter the nation’s bookshelves, would have gone on to change the world for the better, and not just for now but for ever more and a day.

Which set me thinking: as I slowly put together my Desert Island Jukebox, I wondered what book I should take with me to my fondly imagined South Sea Island Paradise. In addition, that is, to the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

Well, I would take a Dictionary of Quotations ― in fact, between you, me and the man from the CIA, I would trade in the Bible and Shakespeare for the Complete Works of the Smart Quotation.

No matter where you open any Dictionary of Famous Quotations, there you will see the answers to life, the universe and pretty much everything. But nobody takes a blind bit of notice.

As it happens, today I wandered into a web site awash with quotes belonging to Mark Twain (aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens, as featured in the above portrait in all his glory, smoking his pipe of peace). I quote the introduction:

There is absolutely no human experience from birth to death and beyond that Mark Twain has not commented on — and in phrases more robust, humorous, sad, wise, stinging and sigh-inducing than anything you or I will ever string together.

You see, Mark Twain has a quote for every possible occasion.

He’s the guy who came up with some of the zingers that are so classic you thought Moses brought them down from the mountain along with the Ten Commandments. For example:

       • “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
       • “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”
and
       • “Golf is a good walk spoiled.”

And his quotations really do go on and on and on. Here I’ve selected just a few that caught the eye, indeed a couple of them have already found themselves into my scrapbook.

So, are you sitting comfortably? Let’s kick off with a slice of Twain wisdom beyond:

     
• The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little.

      • When we remember we are all doolally, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
          (Slightly paraphrased to taste.)

      • If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat.

      • A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.

      • There are times when one would like to hang the whole human race, and finish the farce.

      • The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.

      • Humour is mankind’s greatest blessing.

      • Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
          (How beautiful is that?)

      • You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

      • History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme a lot.

      • If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there 10 years later.

      • Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Parliament; but I repeat myself.
          (Gently paraphrased.)

      • Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.
          (See, a hundred years plus on and there’s nothing new under the Sun.)

      • 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.
          (Sally Bercow, please note.)

      • Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.

And I particularly empathized with this one:

      I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.

And how about this for insight, wit and wisdom, all packed tightly into just 16 words:

      My books are like water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Fortunately everybody drinks water.

And on and on, page after page...

Mark Twain was lauded as the “greatest American humorist of his age,” and christened “the father of American literature”.

It seems that whenever the man opened his mouth, insight, wit and wisdom came tumbling out. Someone said that Stephen Fry, with his nearly six million Twitter followers, is the modern Mark Twain. Are they mad?

No, Mark Twain would definitely be a guest at my fondly imagined dinner party of significant characters from history. Stephen Fry would not.


PS: Mark Twain was born (1835) shortly after a visit by Halley’s Comet, and he predicted that he would “go out with it,” too. He died (1910) the day following the comet’s subsequent return...

                                                                            

Here, Halley’s Comet captured on 8 March 1986 (I missed it - probably looking out for Bill Haley and his Comets), due again on 28 July 2061 (bugger).
 


Friday, June 21
Enough already


“IN THE tabloid press, so much is written about benefits abuses ― young women having babies to get state handouts. But that’s enough about Kate Middleton.”
Dave Prentis, 63, General Secretary of UNISON, the UK’s second largest trade union with members in the public services and the essential utilities.

So trade unionists do have a sense of humour after all.

Lies, damned lies and a lovely meal

“I tell a lot of lies because I am a great believer in the white lie. After an awful meal, I will say: ‘Well, that hit the spot, it was lovely’. Why would I want to go around upsetting people?”
Joanna Lumley, 67, English
actress.

Yes, but is Joanna actually telling us the truth there? Mind you, of late some of Joanna’s quotes have been a bit on the doolally side of the street, but on this one I agree absolutely with her.

After all, there is all the difference in the world in telling a white lie to oil the day-to-day machinations of life ― and telling a black lie to break a trust. The interesting part though is the grey area in between.

A couple more Times  letters that registered on the daily Smileometer:

Little knowledge

Sir, David Rooney need not worry too much about schools losing their swimming pools. My school had no pool, but I still obtained a certificate: “25 yards Breaststroke ― Theory”.
BILL REAY, Longhope, Glos

That sounds suspiciously like my early sex education and the end of term ‘behind the school shed’ report: “Hubie has grasped the theory ― but he must try harder.”

Hedge funds

Sir, An unofficial notice in a lay-by on the North Devon link road reads, “when the hedgerow is full, please use the rubbish bin”.
COLIN MUNRO, Taunton, Somerset

The above letter brings to mind these Sign Language gems:

The hole in the ground

Definitely no Welsh-American bankers here

You’ve been had – Spotted in Wales by Gita Judah

Gorgeous Georgeous welcome - Spotted in Brockenhurst by Nicola Cook

Hats off

This afternoon I popped into town. As I approached The Cawdor Hotel, the posh hostelry situated on the main drag through Dodgy City, I could see a crowd of people milling about outside, all dressed to kill, with a few ladies sporting hats that would have done Royal Ascot proud.

Also, some of the crowd were drifting down the trail to the church located on Boot Hill. A wedding party, obviously.

Right, I thought to myself, as I neared a couple of the women with the pretty hats, I shall stop and ask: “Excuse me, do you know the winner of the 2.30?” But as I got within “Pardon me” reach, someone else from the wedding party approached and engaged them in conversation ― and the moment was lost.

Anyway, returning to The Times’  Letters page:

Mother’s favourite

Sir, My mother, who lived to be 99, knew she had a favourite among the four of us (report, June 11). It was, she firmly stated, the one she was with.
IONA WAKE-WALKER, Bemerton, Wilts

Great name, Iona. It would be a hoot if you’re a sleepwalker.

So close, yet so far

Sir, Your letter referring to a “Mother’s favourite” being the one she was with, reminds me of when someone raised the same question with my father. It was, he said with all seriousness, whichever was farthest away.
OSCAR MOSELEY, London SW4

Hm, Moseley? That is nearly one of Britains more intriguing surnames.

Whatever, given the topic of Royal Ascot featured in yesterday’s smile of the day, and the Queen’s captivating smile when presented with the Gold Cup, I thought this:

You are my sunshine

If, just after 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, the Queen had been asked which of her children was her favourite, and if her smile is anything to go by, she doubtless would have said “Son No. 2”.
     Incidentally, what do you suppose the Duke of York actually said to her, which clearly amused her so?
HB, Dodgy City, Way Out West (all obscenities dully deposited at the Sheriff’s Office).

 

Thursday, June 20
A Windsor Delight plus passion and fashion


I AM not a gambling man. Yes, I buy lottery tickets, but that’s not really a gamble because the odds stretch from here to the outer edges of the universe.

No, I am not a gambler in the proper sense: I do not follow or back horses or dogs. Yes, I watch races like the Grand National because they are part of our national fabric, much like Trooping the Colour; and yes, I will have a bet, normally something connected to the name of the horse, which is nearly as bad as buying a lottery ticket, really.

I also enjoy watching on television the passing parade that is called Royal Ascot. It is not just observing thoroughbred horses turned out at their very best, but the eye-catchingly wonderful outfits and often outrageous hats on show in the public parade ring.

Today, Ladies’ Day, there was added interest because the Queen owned the bookies’ favourite, a filly called Estimate, running in the Gold Cup, the most prestigious race of this summer meeting.

And of course the race left its mark. It was the first time in its 207-year history that the title had been secured in the colours of a reigning monarch. And a rip-roaring race it was too, with Estimate having to beat one and then stave off another.

The headline of the race goes to Mail Online:

                                                                      One has won!

                                                  Hats off as royal winner raises Ascot roof

The history books may record 2013 as the 60th anniversary of the coronation, but the tears of joy in the Queen’s eyes today left no doubt about the highlight of her year so far

The Queen looked ecstatic on the third day of Royal Ascot today as her horse Estimate strode home to win the meeting’s prestigious Gold Cup. The dark bay thoroughbred filly was the 7/2 favourite and won by a length ― much to the monarch's delight, who became the first reigning monarch ever to win the trophy.

When later the Ascot crowd were shown a recording of her reaction on the big screen, delight echoed around the racecourse. They loved her passion; they loved her joy; most of all, one suspects, they loved her ability to lose just a smidgeon of self-control.

There would be no ‘post-match’ one-to-one for Clare Balding. Also, the Queen had been scheduled to present the trophy to the triumphant owner. Who would step in? In the end, the Queen’s second son, the Duke of York, did the honours.

Royal Ascot is never going to be able to follow that. It does not really need to.

And what about this for a proper Smile of the Day:

The Queen cannot hide her delight with the elegant trophy

In the build up to the race, Channel 4 did a piece on Estimate, which featured not just the horse but the groom, Kirsty Chouffot, who looks after the day-to-day needs of the filly at trainer Michael Stoute’s stable. And what a handsome creature Kirsty is. She was too nervous to speak to camera before the race, understandable given the obvious ambush of saying the wrong thing.

After the race, both Kirsty and Michelle Allen, who rides the filly on the gallops, were given credit by trainer Michael Stoute for relaxing the Gold Cup winner.

These two would have relaxed me too...


Michelle Allen, left, jockey Ryan Moore
and Kirsty Chouffot, with Estimate

After the presentation, Kirsty was actually interviewed, and was still rather nervous and giggly, which added to her obvious physical charms. I also caught myself smiling when I later learnt that her full name is Kirsty Mercedes Chouffot.

Rising to the occasion

I was also suitably amused by a reference to Mary Berry, Queen of The Great British Bake Off. As I wrote a while back, Mary Berry meant nothing to me, until I happened upon a television programme about her life ― and I was captivated...

A classy lady is our Mary Berry. Anyway, I quote from Mail Online:

Earlier, Mary Berry, perhaps auditioning for a part in The Great British They’re Off, revealed that 70 years ago she had owned a pony called Kerry Lass. Her winnings in gymkhanas paid for the horse’s shoes. “It was £1 for four in those days,” she said.
     But the man from the Racing Post wanted to know why, when making white chocolate muffins, the raspberries inside became very wet.
     “Ah,” she replied, “raspberries do that. Put in some blueberries as well and that will help.”

You don’t just get racing tips at Royal Ascot.

PS: Oh yes, a stewards inquiry into the machinations and manoeuvres over the closing stages of the Gold Cup left the placings unaffected, but caused a bit of a stir in the jockeys’ diaries.

Ryan Moore, on board winner Estimate, has been banned for two days for an accidental drift into another horse (changing lanes without indication?), while Mickael Barzalona, on third-placed Top Trip, has been banned for three days for a deliberate illegal move (undertaking on the blind side?).

Incidentally, if Ryan Moore received a two-day suspension for careless riding, do you suppose he was offered a Gallop Awareness Course to wipe the slate clean, as happens with motorists (Speed Awareness Course) when they are caught speeding?

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Chouffot’, as in Kirsty Mercedes Chouffot, came up as ‘Chuffed’. I should say so.

 

Wednesday, June 19
Pussy in Booties

“I NEVER thought I would fall in love like this, with a cat. But there is no marriage yet for human beings and animals.” Karl Lagerfeld, 79, German fashion designer, artist and photographer based in Berlin, on his muse and pet Siamese cat, Choupette...
                                                    

Lagerfeld, with a name like that, should immediately seek the advice of those Aussie lads in the Foster’s ads, who will doubtless insist that he move to London forthwith. Let’s face it, it’s odds on that David Cameron will soon make the marriage possible. Good call, good call.

Also, with a name like Choupette, every time Lagerfeld leaves or enters the home, he will just say: Ciao, Pet!

Actually, looking at the picture, above, the pussy man reminds me of a classic Dnob baddie ― that’s Bond spelt backwards ... Pussy Galore to Dnob: “No, Mr Dnob, I don’t expect you to die, I expect you to curl up on the sofa alongside me and purr.”

Anyway, I knew that the following letter, spotted in the Telegraph  a while back, would fit in perfectly some day:

Give a cat a bad name ...

SIR – Further to your report of Marks & Spencer refusing to send a greetings message to a man called Dick (May 9), a friend of mine received flowers via the M&S service and the card read: “With love from Steve, Kerry and the cat (name too rude to print).”
     The cat’s name was Puss.
John G Randall, Wigan, Lancashire


Doolally beyond. And just yesterday, this story landed online:

    Married politician: I fathered child in UFO tryst with alien “Cat Queen”

A Labour councillor and known extra-terrestrial enthusiast has claimed he fathered a child with an alien ― and he has sexual relations with the extra-terrestrial about four times a year.

Simon Parkes, a 53-year-old driving instructor and married father-of-three who sits on Whitby Town Council, said his wife was very unhappy with the revelation. Here is Simon Parkes’ drawing of his alien Cat Queen”, as featured on a Channel 4 television programme...

                                                                             

Parkes added: But it is not on a human level, so I don’t see it as wrong. What will happen is that we will hold hands and I will say ‘I’m ready’ and then the technology I don’t understand will take us up to a craft orbiting the earth.”

(Actually, between you, me and the CIA agent monitoring this, in that drawing it looks as if Simon has unfortunately met up with Charles Saatchi dressed in alien Cat Queen drag.)

Anyway, Simon said people claim he is mad because they have not shared his experiences.

Yep, they’re all out there ― or should that be up there?

And now this delightful tale:

             “I said I wanted a graduation CAP!
             Student ends up with a cat drawn on her head after bakery fails listening test...

When Laura Gambrel, 22, from Indiana, graduated from university in May, her mother ordered a picture of her face on a cake. She instructed the local baker to draw a graduation cap on her daughter’s head, but the worker must have misheard the request and instead drew on a cat.

The family were so amused by the mix-up that they decided to keep the cake.

Mind you, me being a natural-born cynic, I often wonder how many of these things are carefully set up. I mean, think of the publicity all this has generated. Still, as long as it’s done with a smile on its face, who cares.

So what else could I finish with but a YouTube link to a whole lot of cats doing their thing. Yes, it’s Gloria Estafan and the Miami Sound Machine  performing Bad Boy.

Every time I look at this video, I can’t help but think of that crazy German wanting to marry his cat, especially when we come to one of the Bad Boys admiring the centrefold of Playcat Magazine. Priceless...

                                                                                                   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukA8ocBJu2M

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Dnob’, as in Bond spelt backwards, came up as ‘Snob’. Now how did the computer know what Lagerfeld looks like?
 

Tuesday, June 18
Boats and planes and trains
Books and plays and tweets


YESTERDAY morning, Bob Geldof was a guest on the Chris Evans breakfast wireless show; Bob reflected on the success of the weekend’s Isle of Wight Festival ― at which he was a star turn ― and how much “fun” he’d shared with the audience.

Somehow, my imagination can’t quite grasp the concept of Bob having “fun” ― at least, in the traditional sense. He may well be in possession of a sophisticated sense of humour, but he certainly doesn’t come across as an individual blessed with a sense of fun. A rather serious individual is our Bob.

Be that as it may, he did say something fascinating: at the Festival he sang the old protest songs about global poverty and all that ― yet, he added, he could have written them all last week, so little has the world changed and moved on.

And there’s the rub: all day yesterday, and along my country walk this morning, I found myself thinking about what Bob Geldof had said.

In fact, his observation merely confirms something I have long suspected: horror of horrors, but all the plays, books, films, poetry, songs, tweets, columnists, phone-ins and Question Times in the world do not change the course of history one jot.

Life has a momentum all of its own, otherwise those great Shakespearean plays, not to mention the wonderful books that litter the nation’s bookshelves, would have changed the world for ever more and a day.

Yes, okay, you can argue that the Bible has left its mark on mankind. But there again, if religion had never been invented, the world would still be in a mess because humanity would have come up with something else with which to exorcise its inherent and all-consuming tribalism.

But even more than that, humanity is probably doomed because the lessons of history, and indeed as often expressed in Bob Geldof’s songs, are never grasped because each and every generation learns only from its own mistakes ― and then it’s too late: the moving wheel turns, and, having turned, keeps on turning...

You what?

Perusing The Sunday Times  TV & Radio Listings, I noticed under Tuesday’s You Say column (comments submitted by readers about the programmes they watch and listen to), this:

Just checking the programmes for tonight: Watchdog, Crimewatch, Springwatch, Crimewatch Update ― that’s the problem. There’s nothing to watch.
Andy Parker, Norfolk


Hm, perhaps all these programmes should come under the general title InvestiGate.

 

The old land of my mothers is dear to me

Finally, watching the Rugby Under-20s semi-final between Wales and South Africa out in France ― which Wales won and are now through to Sunday’s final against England ― before the game the national anthems were sung, and I am as sure as sure can be that the French announcer at the ground, in announcing the Welsh anthem of Land Of My Fathers, actually said Land Of My Mothers.

The commentators never mentioned it, so I guess the error was down to a combination of my casual ear and not quite grasping what the announcer had said in his broken French accent.

Now there’s a thought though: Land Of My Mothers. Perhaps I should start a campaign. I mean, the poor old female of the species doesn’t get a mention in the original ― after all, today the female is as important in the front line defence of freedom as the male...

 

Monday, June 17
One day my prints will come


“I AM still waiting for my prince. I am looking, I want a British man, though. The problem is they cannot handle a woman who has intelligence and beauty. The men here are intimidated.”
Annunziata Dell'Olio, 51, better known as Nancy Dell'Olio, an Italian-American lawyer who first came to public notice as the girlfriend of Sven-Göran Eriksson, then manager of the England national football team.

Oh Nancy Dool’Allio, where have you been of late? I have missed your insightful view of life, the universe and the male of the species.

Do you know, Nancy, you are growing more like Cupid Stunt by the day.

Mind you, if you do find your prince ― and when you do I am pretty sure the wedding will be a rather grand affair with some memorable photographs ― be sure to first read this letter, as spotted in The Times:

Lavish nuptials

Sir, I wish Tamara Ecclestone and Jay Rutland a happy and enduring marriage (report, June 12: [“Nuptials reported to cost £12m”]). Sadly, however, having officiated at marriages for more than 50 years, my experience suggests that the chances of a marriage surviving are in inverse ratio to the expense lavished on it.
THE REV ALAN ROBSON, Trimingham, Norfolk

Yep, you sort of intuitively agree ... The Good Reverend is right.

Good evening

One of my favourite wireless programmes in the music arena is Sunday Club on BBC Radio Ulster.  Host John Bennett plays popular music from the Thirties right through to the present day; he also throws in a slice of classical, along with a couple of comedy and novelty records.

Last week, John played a comedy sketch featuring the late and hugely talented Peter Cook (1937-1995), English actor, satirist, writer and comedian; an extremely influential figure in modern British comedy, Cook is regarded as the leading light of the British satire boom of the 1960s.

In the skit, Peter Cook delivers a speech where he takes off an elderly British Prime Minister with Scottish roots. It has become known as The Macmillan Sketch.

Today I found a recording of that very same routine on YouTube. It is exceedingly witty and funny, alarmingly cruel in its own little way, but done with great affection, the notable difference between comedy from yesteryear and today.

It is definitely worth a listen. In the speech, Cook, as ‘Macmillan’, refers to a visit to the States back in the Sixties and meeting a “young and vigorous President”.

If you are unfamiliar with that coded message, it is worth joining up just a few dots first:

When US President John F Kennedy met with Conservative British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in Bermuda in 1961, Kennedy, in conversation with Macmillan, and as an aside, said: “I wonder how it is with you, Harold? If I don’t have a woman for three days, I get blinding headaches.”
     On later recounting this to his private secretary, Macmillan is reported as saying: “Gracious me, I’d rather have the headache.” (Source ... President Kennedy: Profile of Power)

So
here is the link to the Peter Cook skit, highly commended to the House and all who sail in it. Incidentally, it is said that Macmillan actually saw Cook perform this routine. Sadly, Hansard does not record his verdict, but I like to think he enjoyed it.
                        
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb2zuuuFqCA


Spell-cheque corner: ‘Göran’, as in Sven-Göran Eriksson, came up as ‘Groan’. Now there’s something I must definitely enquire of Nancy Dool’Allio should I ever be fortunate enough to bump into her. And if I do, it will all be done in the best possible taste, of course. But of course.
 

Sunday, June 16
O mein Papa


THIS MATT cartoon, compliments of The Sunday Telegraph, alerted me to what day it is today:

 
    “Hello, is that the CIA?
     
Does my family know
      
 it’s Father’s Day?”

Oh dear, so funny.

Then I came across this in The Huffington Post, a publication which runs a Cute Kid Note Of The Day column. And as it is  Father’s Day, here’s a rather perfect fit.

Fortunately, the author of the day’s Cute Kid Note has a very understanding dad called Mike Moore (American, I presume) who was prepared to share it with the world:

     Title: Dad Is Really Cranky

     Author: Lucy

     Age: 7

     Scene setter: Dad, who fortunately found this “intervention” comical, says that Lucy wrote her message after she and her sister Lilly were sent to their room for “behavior issues”.

 

Now how wonderful is that? It is both so perfectly child-like ― it clearly never crossed Lucy’s mind to treat that as a first draft and copy it out somewhat neater onto a fresh piece of paper ― and also so grown-up with the opening sentence which asks her dad to “try and work on that?”.

Oh, and signed, Love, Lucy.       10/10

Given that some people would say that I get up much too early, could it be, perhaps, that is why some others think I’m  a bit cranky too?

Whatever, two perfect smiles for Father’s Day.

PS: It would be amiss of me not to put a link to Eddie Calvert’s O Mein Papa, a UK No. 1 hit back in 1954. Now isn’t it strange how many instrumentals made No. 1 back then. These days, unless there’s a voice singing, the Jocks will talk over it. What am I saying? They talk over the song whether there’s someone singing or not:

                                                                                                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6tlYlIeWOc

 

Saturday, June 15
White horses on the radio

                                         

THERE’S a note pad on my bedside table; as indeed there is on the kitchen table, and also on my work-cum-office desk. These pads are there simply for me to jot down those little things heard on the radio ... you know, those white horses, or white caps, that stand out in a sea of often mindless chatter and music.

This afternoon I had a quick look back over recent days ... and here are some highlights, compliments of the wireless which is forever on in the background.

Sun, sea, sand and ... um?

Being that I awake earlier and earlier as daylight lengthens ― but only until a week today when, would you believe, daylight starts to shorten already ― whatever, I now get to hear more and more of Alex Lester on his extra-early-morning wireless show.

Just the other morning, a male listener had e-mailed him a message along these lines:

At the weekend I’m off to Majorca for a week with my mates. A week of sun, sea, sand and ... um, I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, something else which also starts with an ‘s’: sun, sea, sand ― nope, I can’t for the life of me think what it is.

Well now, in came some prompts from other listeners. Here are my favourites:

Stars? ... Sangria? ― No, a bit of a girlie drink, that ... Spandex? ― No, ditto the Sangria ... Speedo? ... Suncream? ... Sandals? ― Oh, and don’t forget the Socks? ... Sandwiches? ― You’ve got to avoid the Spanish Stroll: you’ve heard of Montezuma’s Revenge, the Aztec Two-Step, the Delhi Belly, Mummy’s Tummy (the Egypt version) ― but in Spain they call it the Spanish Stroll because, well, mañana is soon enough to sort it all out...

Oh yes, I was scrolling through the television satellite stations ― and I saw a programme called Sun, Sea And A&E. Now how apt could that be, I wonder.

Bloody L

Next up was Vanessa Feltz, and she wanted to know of our experiences while walking in someone else’s shoes; tales of the times, perhaps, we had to be a last-minute, unexpected deputy, and what happened ― that sort of thing.

I was intrigued by this tale from a Jeff:

“In the Sixties my brother was due to take his driving test but he broke his arm, so he wouldn’t have been able to take the test. As he desperately needed the licence for work, I took the test for him ― at that point I’d been driving for three years ― and I failed!

Talk about driving in someone else’s shoes ― but as always with these kinds of tales you are dying to know what happened next ... but we never did find out.

Big, bigger, biggest, bloody 'ell!

Then on to the Chris Evans class of 16-year-olds (it’s fine listening to Chris with his hooters, clarions and bells in small doses), and a female listener wondered aloud why beds are always bigger when you get them home than what they appear in the showroom.

Chris responded: “Funny that, televisions the same.” And I have to agree on that one. I recently bought a TV and it was a toss-up between two sets ― I opted for the smaller size. Good call, good call ― but more by luck than judgment.

“Oh yes,” added Chris, “the bill always looks more when I get it home.”

Hot tip

On the Ken Bruce show, someone called Tony got in touch and said:

“Hi, Ken. Further to your advice on how to get rid of squirrels off the bird feeder: smother the nuts in curry powder, you said, because birds can’t taste it but the squirrels can and will leave them alone―”
     “I can’t remember giving that advice,” said Ken, “but mind you, that doesn’t mean I didn’t offer such advice. I can’t remember anything I said before seven this morning.”
     Anyway: “My wife spotted the birds helping themselves to the nuts,” continued Tony, “and sure enough, the squirrels didn’t touch them.
     “However, I was woken this morning by much louder than normal bird noises, only to see the bird bath absolutely full, with many other birds trying to get into it. I have therefore come to the conclusion that the birds may not taste the curry powder going in ― but they sure as hell feel it going out...”

Very funny. So those are my radio waves. But here’s a letter spotted in the Daily Mail:

God v The Devil

After his assertion about the Queen [that she had been chosen by God to do her duty], can we assume Archbishop Justin Welby considers Assad, Hussein and Gaddafi to have been chosen by God also?
SIMON GILBERT, Stansted, Essex

I did think of responding thus: Assad, Hussein and Gaddafi were chosen by the Devil. After all, I definitely remember being told when very young that God and the Devil would battle for possession of my soul.
     A bit of standing and staring along my walk through time confirms that God claims some 90% of the population into his flock, to some degree or other ― and the Devil claims the other 10%, the troublemakers of the world. Sadly, the Devil’s children end up in positions of power i.e. Assad, Hussein, Gaddafi, etc, etc...


Finally...

Who you lookin' at?

The front page coming up grabbed my attention at the newsagent ― but first, a few dots joined up:

Francis Davidson Fraser, 89, known as Mad Frankie Fraser, was once one of the East End’s most feared gangsters who spent 42 years in prison for 26 violent offences, including his role in the infamous torture trial of 1967.

He reportedly became involved in a row about his criminal past with another resident at a London care home...
                                                                             

ASBO, for those in foreign parts who are not perhaps familiar with the lingo, means an official Anti-Social Behaviour Order. As an enforcer for his paymasters, Charlie and Eddie Richardson, Fraser was convicted of beating, slashing and pulling out the teeth of rivals with pliers. He was released from prison in 1989.

Frasers son, David, revealed the existence of the ASBO in a documentary to be broadcast tomorrow night.

Incidentally, I think we know who won the battle for Mad Frankie Fraser’s soul.
 


Friday, June 14
Another brick in the wall

TODAY I came across a perfect combination of Sign Language photographs ― those amusing and confusing signs spotted by Telegraph  readers on their travels ― and a real-life drama unfolding on the streets of Sutton in south London...

Truth to tell, I’m not sure the funny photos would have made the final cut were it not for the real-life photo coming up, which allows me to compare and contrast. Whatever, first up, a brace of those rather puzzling signs:

NO WAY THROUGH!

Crash course - spotted in the UK by Iolo Davidson

Lorry laughs – spotted in Dorset by Melvyn Hayward

Looking at the first one above ... why? What is the notice doing there? Mind you, if any lorry driver had crashed through that wall, then “Drive” would have come to a full stop at the bridge the other side.

As for the second photograph, that HGV sign is clearly something lifted by someone ― students perhaps ― and fixed at the most inappropriate place they could find. Still, it does register on the smileometer.

But let’s go back to that first picture, for there’s something not quite right about it.

First, the sign itself somehow doesn’t feel appropriate. It also looks so pristine that I initially thought it had been Photoshopped onto the wall ― but no, if I zoom into the corners, the pins that fasten it to the wall are clearly visible.

Secondly, it was spotted in the UK, but no precise location given, which is odd. So perhaps the notice was put there for a bit of a laugh ... which is fine.

Finally, the wall may well have been damaged previously by vehicles reversing or turning, and owner of said wall got fed up with all the hassle. So I’ll give the picture the benefit of the doubt and go for that final option.

As mentioned previously, it is doubtful either of the above would have made my smile of the day. However, I then spotted this extraordinary picture and story in Mail Online:

The driver could have just tried ringing the doorbell: Car barely has a scratch on
it after crashing through the wall of a house in Sutton, south London
 


Definitely, positively, indubitably NO WAY THROUGH!

It is not the most conventional way of making an entrance. The vehicle crashed through the side of a couple’s house and into their living room ― demolishing a near-perfect square of brickwork in the process.

The driver was taken to hospital but the injuries sustained were not thought to be serious.

There was nobody in the house at the time, but bizarrely, the car appears almost unscathed ― the back half, anyway ― and is even thought to be preventing the partial collapse of the semi-detached home...

Whatever the story behind the story ― what precisely happened is unclear ― but it is an astonishing picture and compliments perfectly the first picture above. Dare we say ... another prick in the wall?
 


Thursday, June 13
If the shoe fits

A FEW more tales from the sunny side of The Sunday Times  street. In fact a return trip to Tabloid week, compliments of the ever amusing Roland White.

First though, yesterday I mentioned the song Walks Like Me Nana, performed by boyband The Wanted. While I found the song (actually called Walks Like Rihanna) tuneful and catchy, The Wanted  meant absolutely nothing to me. Ditto something or other called N-Dubz.

So, keeping up with the theme, take it away, Roland:

Fits like a glove

Hurrah! Dappy from N-Dubz made a brief appearance in the news last week. He is undoubtedly Tabloid Week’s favourite rapper, mainly because he affects a bad-boy image yet calls himself Dappy, which is what a three-year-old might say when searching for a lost plimsoll: “Mummy, where’s my dappy?”

Daps was name-checked in a story about his cousin and band-mate Tulisa Contostavlos, who was last week arrested over an alleged cocaine deal, after an undercover operation by The Sun.

In her meeting with undercover reporters, the singer and former X Factor judge seems to have been very indiscreet. She revealed she had broken up with her lover, the footballer Danny Simpson, after a row about some £1,000 Louboutin shoes.

As the paper explained: “During one row she had shoved a pair of the designer shoes into a Tesco bag. She claimed he was furious and ... said: 'What bird does that?' Tulisa said Simpson claimed other girls he gave Louboutins showed their appreciation by performing a sex act.”

The paper did not reveal the nature of the act, but we can only guess that a Louboutin sex act is different from, say, a Clarks sex act.

Well now, you can imagine Danny Simpson down the pub with his mates: “I gave her a good Louboutin going-over last night ― whoa
! ― that put the smile back on her face, I can tell you.”

Mind you, if I had to judge my sex life in such a fashion, where do you suppose sandals and socks fit into the great scheme of things?

If it’s a sponge, call it Victoria

A doctor in America celebrated a baby’s arrival by ordering a cake in the shape of his wife giving birth. The order was revealed by Robert Bennett, a pastry chef in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He said: “People are being very creative. He loved it. Our cakes are 100% edible.”

Never mind the image of a Caesarean Sponge Cake ― what must Mary Berry be thinking? ― you are probably ahead of me already: who would order a cake that is only 99% edible?

Roland White again, this time under the
Atticus banner:

Eenie, meenie, miney, mo ― hic!

As a thrill-seeker who lives for the next adrenaline rush, I read a biography of Stanley Baldwin during my holiday and thought you might like this anecdote.

Sir Austen Chamberlain, who served as foreign secretary when Baldwin was prime minister in the 1920s, was once dining at a grand house when the hostess noticed the butler seemed unsteady on his feet. Furious, she handed him the following note: “You are very drunk; leave the room immediately.”

Summoning great dignity, the butler placed the note on a silver salver, surveyed the table in search of its most likely target, then placed the tray in front of Sir Austen.

Now that’s one of those tales that you do so hope is true. But as always, you want to know what happened next...

Finally, this from The Sunday Times 
Quotes of the Week column:

“Here in England you have to prepare for all weather surprises.” Another amazing revelation from Pippa Middleton, official sister to the Duchess of Cambridge and now offering advice to Wimbledon tennis fans.

Look, Sunday Times, you can make all the fun you like about Pippa’s advice, but how regularly do we hear tales of people getting caught out with the British weather while inappropriately dressed or prepared: from those turning up at Glastonbury without a pair of wellies ― to the more serious problems of people setting out on snowy winter journeys in their cars without being adequately prepared, or worst, climbers having to be rescued because they are simply not dressed for the job at hand.

And more worryingly, such people are often from The Sunday Times  side of the street (which is why the paper, presumably, carried this memorable warning: Caution: Ozzy Osbourne is not a qualified medical professional).

Be that as it may, you keep on dishing out the advice, Pippa. I’m on your side.

Spell-cheque corner: Those sex-inducing shoes called ‘Louboutin’ came up as ‘labouring’. Honestly, the irony of this computer of mine knows no bounds.
 


Wednesday, June 12
All the President’s Trees


TODAY I caught up with last weekend’s Sunday Times  ― no big deal there because, as a rule of thumb, I am neither a reader of the news pages nor the heavy-duty columnists: I’m invariably out of my depth; and anyway, there’s nothing I can do about it, except keep my head down and trust in God.

Hence why my scrapbook is all about the things wot make me smile.

Anyway: the day before yesterday (we Welsh have one word for all that: echdoe;  as we do for ‘the day after tomorrow’: drannoeth); anyway, echdoe, I shared with you the view of the horse chestnut tree in full bloom that is the spitting image of Wales all dressed up in its Sunday best (see the Flower Gallery, alongside).

Okay, are we sitting comfortably?

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Abraham Lincoln.

This, from The Sunday Times  Tabloid week column:

There used to be something called the Silly Season. It was the time of year when parliament packed up for summer and newspapers supposedly had nothing serious to write about. So we scoured the country for vicars on pogo sticks and people who had discovered the face of Christ in some chicken giblets.

Thanks to Twitter and the rest of the social media, the silly season is now a permanent session. But it must still have been cheering for traditional readers to see a picture in Thursday’s Daily Mail of The Tree That Looks Like Abraham Lincoln...

               

“The presidential tree gazes out over the countryside near Glewstone in Herefordshire,” the caption explained. “Passers-by can pick out Abraham Lincoln’s long neck and scruffy beard.”

Not all passers-by, though. The Daily Mail’s website disagreed. It claimed the tree looked like Elvis. And in the Daily Mirror it was The Tree That Looks Like Sir Bruce Forsyth. You can see why the Mail website preferred Elvis; he made a much better headline: “Yew were always on my mind.”

Well now, after all that, I’m glad I kept The Tree That Looks Like Wales just between you, me and the security agencies keeping an eagle eye on all things email-ish, rather than submit it to a newspaper, otherwise I’d be a contender for a Silly Season Award.

Talking about Silly Season...

Pole axed

A Telegraph Pole, thought to be Britain’s oldest working example, has been retired after 119 years...

Hang about, hang about: 119 years? In the meeja today news that t
he world’s oldest person, and the oldest man ever to have lived, has died of natural causes in Japan aged 116 years.

I’m sorry, I’ll read that again ... bugger, it said “telegraph pole”. And I though it was all about a Polish person who worked for the Telegraph. D’oh!

Let’s start again:

Pole axed

A telegraph pole, thought to be Britain’s oldest working example, has been retired after 119 years. Dated 1894, it was used to hold telegraph wires before a telephone exchange opened on Kirkwall, Orkney, in 1923. It will go to the Orkney Museum.

Don’t call me, I’ll call you.

Talking of getting things mixed up...

Walks like me Nana

On the wireless, Walks Like Me Nana, by boyband The Wanted, is playing. Typical earworm music, quite tuneful and catchy, the sort of song that should be entered for the Eurovision Song Contest.

Allow me to rewind a few days ... Alex Lester played the song on his exceedingly-early-morning wireless show. A listener sent him this message: “The first time I heard Walks Like Rihanna, I really thought the boys were singing Walks Like Me Nana...”

And do you know, whenever I now hear that song, that’s all I can hear: “Walks like me Nana...”

I can’t stop smiling. Indeed, I am reminded of the song Dream a Little Dream Of Me, as made popular by The Mamas And The Papas. For years and years I thought Mama Cass sang “Say ninety-nine and kiss me”.

I intuitively thought of that tale of the young army recruit having his first detailed medical, carried out by an exceptionally attractive young female doctor.

When the doctor came to the bit where she examines his crown jewels, taking them gently in her hand and instructing the soldier to say “Ninety-nine!” ― as they do ― the young soldier goes: “One, two, three...”

Spell-cheque corner: The Welsh word for ‘the day after tomorrow’, drannoeth’, came up as ‘dragnet’ ― which is rather good considering that when we were young, time dragged because we were always looking forward to things: Christmas, school holidays, birthdays, the next stolen kiss...

Also, ‘Glewstone’, the place where the tree that looks like Abraham Lincoln hangs out, came up as a rather ironic ‘Gladstone’, another famous politician. Believe it or don’t, but Abraham Lincoln and William Ewart Gladstone were both born in the same year, 1809. Wel-i-jiw-jiw, as they would say down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.

 

Tuesday, June 11
Tailgating

AS is well known to regular visitors to my little web site, I am a great fan of newspaper Letters pages, especially those endlessly amusing and witty tail-gunner efforts.

Often, a thread will materialise, so the joy of a scrapbook like mine is that I can sequence them in one fell swoop.

I do occasionally buy The Times; however, Chief Wise Owl is my man who keeps a regular eye on the Letters to the Editor page, and he has just handed me the following, which stretched over a few weeks.

Right, here we go, the rather innocent letter which kicked it all off:

Rear view mirror

Sir, You report (May 15) that 73 per cent of motorists feel concerned when driving behind an older motorist.
     I (79 years old) feel concerned when a young motorist is driving 6ft behind my back bumper.
TONY BOX, Edinburgh

Duel

Sir, Tony Box’s letter reminded me of a young colleague who remarked that old people drive too close to the car behind them.
CHARLES MURRAY, High Harrington, Cumbria

Dragsters

Sir, I am 69, which is an awkward age to be a motorist. I am concerned about both the confused old folk driving in front of me and the young drivers behind me who show an unreasonable fixation with my car’s exhaust pipe.
BILL URMENYI, Worcester Park, Surrey

Boxed in

Sir, I feel that Mr Tony Box is perhaps one of those drivers who when approaching a 30mph sign have to speed up.
GEOFFREY PEAKE, Stalybridge, Cheshire

Tearaway

Sir, I’m afraid Geoffrey Peake has the wrong idea about my driving. I may be 79 but I used to be an RAF jet pilot, and I still drive like one.
TONY BOX, Edinburgh

Sir, I have observed a correlation between a driver wearing a hat and the propensity to drive below the speed limit. In the light of Geoffrey Peake’s observation, I wonder if Mr Box wears a hat.
PETER SERGEANT, Loughborough, Leics

Head for the road

Sir, From my observations it depends on the hat. A baseball cap, usually worn backwards, often produces the exact opposite result to the correlation observed by Peter Sergeant.
DAVID HORNER, Oxford

Round the bend

Sir, I doubt if any of your helpful advice to motorists is as vintage as my Great-Aunt Janet’s to me, as a learner in the 1950s: “And when you’re going round a corner dear, always drive on the right-hand side so you can see what’s coming.”
MARY BAKER, London SW7

Tally-ho!

A ‘Sign Language’ classic, compliments of the Telegraph: spotted in Oxfordshire by Giles Hudson

Up and away

Sir, I note that Tony Box, an ex-RAF jet pilot, admits to still driving like one at the age of 79. I am an ex-Army glider pilot and at the age of 87 I find that all too frequently I park like one.
A. M. JONES, Widmerpool, Notts

Dash it all

Sir, I note with some trepidation the proliferation of ex-pilots on our roads. I seem to recall a case of a V-bomber pilot having an accident in Newmarket and being let off with a caution when he described how he had tried to avoid the crash by pulling the steering wheel back to fly over the obstacle.
MARTIN AVONS, Attleborough, Norfolk

Sir, As a 79-year-old motorist who was an RAF wireless operator in the 1950s, I sometimes have an urge to send Morse code on the car horn.
DAVID PARSONS, Chichester

More rudder

Sir, My brother, who learnt to fly with the RAF before he learnt to drive his Hillman Imp, never drove really fast. But neither did he slow down at roundabouts, he merely banked ― a somewhat queasy experience for his passenger.
JOAN SAXON, Hemel Hempstead, Herts

 

Entertaining beyond ― especially that last one. So much so it prompted me to submit a letter to The Times, a slightly edited version of the following, even though the moment, sadly, has probably flown.

Low flyer

Sir, For reasons that need not detain us here, I have just overtaken the letter apropos the RAF pilot who, when driving a car and approaching a roundabout, doesn’t slow down but merely banks (June 1, “More rudder”).
     Speaking as an ex-bog-standard prop pilot, I owned a series of sports cars between the ages of 18 and 35 ― when a young man on the prowl should own a sports car ― and I was known as a bit of a low flyer i.e. I drove much too fast, probably not so much down to speed but rather the wonderful exhaust growl cars like the famous TR3 made when on full gearbox alert on twisty country roads.
     However, I have now reached that age when, as a front seat passenger in a vehicle approaching a bend or roundabout, I find my right foot involuntarily pressing the imagined middle pedal in front of me.
Hotel Bravo @
whiskey-whiskey-whiskey.lima-oscar-oscar-kilo-yankee-oscar-uniform.charlie-oscar.uniform-kilo
[HB @
www.lookyou.co.uk]

Incidentally, I liked the letter pointing out that we should be wary of drivers wearing baseball caps. I actually wear a baseball cap, but only when I go for my morning walk. Indeed, I have left instructions with those who cull the deer on the local Dinefwr Park Estate, that if anyone catches me wearing the baseball cap backwards ― I should be shot.

Also, I could well now be one of those drivers who, when approaching a 30mph sign, does speed up.

Regarding the smashing letter from Mary Baker about the advice to approach a corner on the right-hand side so you can see what’s coming ... when I drove much too fast for comfort, if I was travelling along a standard main road and approaching a left-hand bend, I approached on the right-hand side of the lane, as near the crown of the road as possible, and then I would cut across the corner, exiting while hugging the nearside verge.

Approaching a right-hand bend I did the opposite. I entered the bend hugging the verge ― and exited hugging the crown of the road.

So there was indeed method in Great-Aunt Janet’s seemingly mad advice after all.

I shall now glide to a standstill and park up for the night.
 


Monday, June 10
Imagine

♫♫♫ ... “IMAGINE there’s no countries,” sang John Lennon, “it isn't hard to do...” And thereby hangs a most agreeable tale of the unexpected.

Imagination is a fine and wonderful thing. It comes in all shapes and sizes. However, what triggers my imagination may not necessarily trigger yours. And vice versa, of course.

A week ago yesterday I smiled at the kettle that looked like Hitler. Now if I had glanced at that kettle on a billboard, where it was first observed, and without being prompted, I doubt very much whether I would have spotted Mr Hitler coming to the boil in front of my very eyes. But once the lateral similarity had been pointed out ― well, I thought it wonderfully amusing, hence appearing as my smile of the day.

However, my imagination does indeed notice things that remind me of something else entirely, and I am duly whisked away on a delightful flight of fancy. And “flight of fancy” is an apt expression.

First though, another beautiful morning, and if the weather folk are right, today is the last day of the current sunny, warm and perfectly settled spell we’ve enjoyed over the past couple of weeks or so, especially out here in the west.

And anyway, the gardeners and farmers (having now cleared their first harvest cuts) are already calling for some rain ― but not too much, you understand.

So this morning was a perfect way to catch up with nature. The birds are still singing: those little songbirds close at hand; and in the woods all around the drawn out and distinctive cooing calls of the woodpigeon.

The little male songbirds, with their short, sweet and endlessly repeated mating calls, always make me think of the master of the one-liner, comedian Tim Vine: “If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me? If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me? If I said...”

No, not Tim Vine’s line, admittedly, but there’s no doubting that he would have come out with it if Dr Hook hadn’t got there first.

As for the extended cooing of the woodpigeon, well, that reminds me of Ronnie Corbett sat in that chair delivering his somewhat rambling anecdotes, where he is always diverted along the scenic route...

Just like the woodpigeon, really: “Your eyes are the eyes of a woman in love, and oh how they give you away ... they say no moon in the sky ever lent such a glow, some flame deep within made them shine ... those eyes are the eyes of a woman in love, and may they gaze ever more into mine ... crazily gaze, ever more, into mine.”

If ever a bird deserves to woo his woman, it’s the woodpigeon. It’s a glorious sound, especially so when you have several of them in the surrounding woods competing for the No. 1 spot.

And yes of course, the above words belong to Frankie Laine and his big hit of yesteryear, A Woman In Love ― I’ll have to put a link at the bottom.

So much for the birds ― now the flowers. The bluebells are disappearing fast. There has also been a perfectly wonderful display of blossom this year ― oh, and the horse chestnut candles are now fully lit in all their glory...

I was framed


A handy, large picture frame outside Newton House, Dinefwr Park, invites
 those with a camera to 'engage imagination' ... well, I did try...

But now we come to a proper slice of my imagination. At the top I quoted John Lennon: “Imagine there’s no countries, it isn't hard to do...”, and mentioned a most agreeable tale of the unexpected, where I can’t but help noticing that there really is a country out there in nature, simply staring me in the face.

Along my walk there’s a glorious horse chestnut tree, currently awash with flowers ― then the other day, I noticed something rather smiley.

The edge of the tree is a near-perfect image of Wales jutting out into the sea. So much so it takes pride of place in my Flower Power Gallery at the very top.

Whatever, back with nature, the one disappointment this year is that normally, when in full bloom, this particular tree is buzzing with a quite extraordinary numbers of bees; standing under it you feel as if the whole tree is about to take off ― but this year ... well, just a gentle murmur.

Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come, remembering the problem of the disappearing bees; not to mention the disease that is also threatening the horse chestnut.

Finally, a link to the song of the woodpigeon, A Woman In Love, compliments of Frankie Laine...
                                                                                                          
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBHUaH8rILA
 


Sunday, June 9
Ono memento

“Everything has complexity. Everything has simplicity. You just grab it.” Yoko Ono, 80, Japanese artist and peace activist, known for her work in avant-garde art, music, fashion and filmmaking, and for her marriage to John Lennon.

Yoko Ono never fails to generate a smile; and to paraphrase Cupid Stunt, “always in the best possible taste”. Yes, she always brightens up the passing parade no end.

That quote of hers is a perfect example, whatever it means; however, when I read “You just grab it”, I was instantly transported back to earlier in the year when I saw this:

A collection of drawings created as a wedding present for Beatles singer John Lennon in 1969 entitled “Fashions for Men” has inspired Yoko Ono’s quirky foray into menswear design...

   

Now how wonderful is that? Not so much avant-garde as en-garde.

The first thing that came to mind: what would the regulars in the Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon say if I walked in wearing one of those outfits?

The possibilities are endless. Probably something like: “You need balls to wear that, Hubie.”

And then I thought, hm, what about a caption comment?

“Have you been seein’ Mary Poppins’ friend
Bert behind me back - again?”

♫♫♫

             Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim, chim cher-oo!
             Good luck will rub off when I shake 'ands with you;
             Or blow me a kiss, and that’s lucky too...

             Though I’m covered with soot, from me head to me toes,
             A sweep knows he’s welcome wherever he goes...


Finally, a bit of sense amongst the nonsense:

“I do not really feel I should be here. All I do is ride a bike.” Laura Trott, 21, the cheery and ever-smiling double Olympic cycling champion on receiving her OBE at Buckingham Palace.

Well said, Laura, the whole business is now a devalued nonsense.
 


Saturday, June 8
All things bright and beautiful


IT DID cross my mind to give my early-morning walk a miss today, what with so much rugby on the box from early: first up, at six o’clock, Wales out in Japan; then at half-eight, New Zealand entertain France; and finally, at half-ten, the Lions against Queensland Reds on their tour of Australia.

A scrum-down of a rugby morning.

Still, with the weather so perfect I decided to go for a brief stroll through Dinefwr Park to enjoy the sunrise before settling down for a surfeit of crouch ... touch ... engage!

And boyoboyo, was my walk a lucky decision. The picture below sums it all up…

                                                                             ...but there’s much more to the story than meets the eye.

So much so, I have done a special feature over on 400 Smiles A Day...
 

Friday, June 7
Final splash


THIS Mail Online  story and picture caught my eye:

Esther Williams, the swimming champion-turned-actress who starred in glittering and aquatic Technicolor musicals of the 1940s and 1950s, has died. She was 91.

Following in the footsteps of Sonja Henie, who went from skating champion to movie star, Williams became one of Hollywood’s biggest moneymakers, appearing in spectacular swimsuit numbers that capitalized on her wholesome beauty and perfect figure.

Williams’ co-stars included the pick of the MGM contract list, including Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Ricardo Montalban, Howard Keel ― oh, and Tom & Jerry...

Octopussy Galore!

Lustrous beauty Esther Williams is rescued from a grabby octopus
by Tom and Jerry in the film 'Dangerous When Wet'

Later, I read this on the Telegraph  website:

   Esther Williams, queen of Hollywood gossip: the movie star’s life in her own words

Esther Williams, the ‘million dollar mermaid’ of classic Hollywood, was also a talented disher of dirt. In these highlights from her memoir, she offers revelations about Marlene Dietrich, Lana Turner and a merry-go-round of glamorous lovers.

Esther Williams may have been known as a swimmer first and a movie star second, but if there were an Oscar for Hollywood gossip, that would be her real achievement. Her 1999 memoir, The Million Dollar Mermaid, dishes the dirt as few others have. Williams could be shameless, and shamelessly funny.

Williams’s fame, and scant clothing, led her to see the machinery of Hollywood sharply ― the lust, the greed, the vanity… and the prehistoric facelifts. Here are some edited highlights.

I have selected this little cracker:

On Lana Turner’s Latin lover:

During the making of The Merry Widow, Fernando Lamas and Lana Turner had begun a hot ― very hot ― affair. On the surface, at least, it looked like a great match up. Fernando was very much a ladies’ man, and Lana certainly liked men.

Lamas had taken just one look at the blond-and-creamy Lana, liked what he saw, and started showing up at rehearsals wearing a skin-tight brown dancer’s leotard, which made no secret of his masculine charms.

Lana was obviously impressed ― and Lana had been impressed by the best, including seven husbands and a legion of lovers, among them Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Victor Mature, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, and Robert Taylor. Fernando was now about to join those distinguished ranks.

The first delicate hint I had of their affair came one afternoon as Fernando was on his way to the makeup department, situated next to the stars’ dressing rooms. I heard Lana shout from her dressing room window ― and I mean shout ― “Fernando Lamas! Get your Argentinean ass in here!

Fernando, who was always accompanied by an entourage of adoring sycophants, needed no further encouragement. With the grace of a Latin cavalier, he bowed to his gentlemen friends and scooted into Lana’s dressing room, which was situated right next to mine.

Like the dressing rooms of most MGM stars, mine was furnished with a couch, a table, and a couple of chairs. Lana, however, had demanded ― and got ― a huge bed with pink satin sheets and pillows, plus there were mirrors everywhere. From the sounds coming through the wall between Lana’s dressing room and mine, I could tell that she and Fernando weren’t going over their lines.

I’m afraid that I was a bit curious, but then, how could I resist? I placed an empty glass against the wall between our rooms and pressed my ear to it. The sound I heard, magnified by the water glass, was rather like listening to a symphony.

The first movement began with gentle strings and sighing woodwinds. The second movement, which started with mounting rhythm, brought in the whole brass section, with trumpets and tubas blowing like crazy. The third movement was filled with pounding kettledrums and marimbas (the Latin touch), which reached a wild and ecstatic crescendo. What followed was diminuendo ― back to the sighing woodwinds.

“Oh, Fernando, oh, Fernando,” Lana moaned.

Oh well, I thought to myself. At least she remembers his name.

Many years later, after Fernando and I were married, I hesitantly confessed to him that I had eavesdropped on his matinee with Lana.

“My dear,” he said with a grin, “I am flattered.”

Wonderful tale, memorably told, especially the orchestral interlude. I wish I could put that up on my Desert Island Jukebox.

Should you fancy reading some more of Esther’s delightful gossip, the link to the Telegraph  web page is here:

              http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/10106164/Esther-Williams-queen-of-Hollywood-gossip-the-movie-stars-life-in-her-own-words.html
 


Thursday, June 6
Crumbs
!

“As you get older, food replaces sex in your life. I’m thinking of putting a mirror on the ceiling over the kitchen table.” Barry Cryer, 78, British writer and comedian, offers up his view on ageing in The Now Show, BBC Radio 4, 11 April 2008.

Very witty, Barry Cryer. Right, let’s jump forward five years: nothing to do with Barry Cryer, but it is to do with a quick nibble of something naughty but nice:

“You can’t blame him, things happen and boys will be boys. If a boy goes into a cake shop he will try every cake, whereas a girl will just stick to the one she likes.” The ever delightful Mary Berry, 78, British food writer, baker and television star, offers up a rather elegant excuse for her Great British Bake Off co-star Paul Hollywood, who has reportedly strayed from the marital path.

Paul Hollywood (born 1966) is an English baker and celebrity chef. Apart from being co-presenter with Mary Berry of The Great British Bake Off, he apparently also presents a series called Paul Hollywood’s Bread, in which he reveals the secrets of breads from all over the world and shows how a loaf can be transformed into delicious dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Stick with me while I join up all the dots ― the bottom line is well worth the wait of the baking.

Anyway, Paul
and wife Alexandra sadly parted company recently after the TV star went to film a US version of The Great British Bake Off.

A promotional video on CBS’ web site, “Who Is Paul Hollywood?” interviews several British women on the street in London. They crow about his good looks and “strong hands.” One smiling lady observes: “You’d like to be dough wouldn’t you, with Paul Hollywood. Who wouldn’t? I don’t mind him kneading me!

It is understood he grew close to co-host Marcela Valladolid, 34, hence “the boys will be boys” quote from Mary Berry.

Wife Alexandra admits that since the split, “Times are hard”.

Anyway, here’s the aforementioned bottom line:

“Should the programme Paul Hollywood’s Bread now be called Paul Hollywood’s Toast?” J Grinham of Portsmouth, Hampshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Yes, rather good, that, and all compliments of the wonderful twists and turns of the English language.

Back with that original quote from Barry Cryer, which is definitely worth a replay: “As you get older, food replaces sex in your life. I’m thinking of putting a mirror on the ceiling over the kitchen table.”

As I have mentioned before, as I get older, I find that a good joke is a great substitute for sex. And talking of sex, never mind five a day, I’ve been into five a year territory for longer than I care to remember (and yes, I can still  feel my nose growing).

Whatever, the trouble with sex is that you have to go through the whole rigmarole every time you indulge, whereas a good joke ― well, I can play it over and over in my imagination and laugh out loud every time, for example: “I only told you to blow the bloody doors off!

Talking of mirror, mirror, on the ceiling...

“If you don’t spend your time looking in the mirror, you don’t realise you are older. One of the good things about playing a nun is that I don’t have to spend a lot of time looking in the mirror.”
Jenny Agutter, 60, British film and television actress, who plays a nun in the TV series Call the Midwife, and pictured here, looking spiffingly well I would say...

Also, she joins up the dots beautifully ― but I don’t quite follow what Jenny’s getting at though.

I look in the bathroom mirror every day, but it never strikes me that I am getting older, probably because the change is so gradual. However, when I look at a photograph from my 20s I can’t but help notice the difference.

Mind you, I do sympathise hugely with actors and celebrities ― Jenny, for example ― who are regularly exposed to films and television programmes recorded when they were at their peak of physical attractiveness. It has to be a wee bit daunting.

Finally, and keeping it in the mood:

“You know you’re getting old when the things you kept for ‘best’ are being used every day.”
Chris Atkin of Retford in Nottinghamshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Someone did tell me the other day that I always look as if I’m off to a wedding, a christening or a funeral. Best kit forward, indeed. (That’s a joke, incidentally, because I always look as if I’m off to round up the sheep. Hopefully, that’s also a joke, remembering that I have now reached that stage in life where I prefer a good joke to bit of hanky-panky!)
 


Wednesday, June 5
Letters of note

HERE ARE some delightful smiles compliments of my newspaper ‘Letters’ and ‘Quotes’ cuttings. First, this from The Daily Telegraph:

Van ordinaire

SIR – Our local news reported that a cyclist was stopped by a policeman because he was riding a very expensive bike but not wearing correspondingly expensive cycle gear.
     What should I be wearing, as a Renault Kangoo owner, so that I don’t attract the attention of police officers?
Roger Crawshaw, Bristol

A brace of online responses caught the eye:

Toots: Probably something coming apart at the seams ― in a rust colour.

Ibeagle: Now, now ― I have owned two Kangoos (Kangi?) and they are extremely versatile and economic vehicles and jolly comfortable, too.

Then this follow-up letter in the paper itself:

Belt up

SIR – Roger Crawshaw asks what should he wear as a Renault Kangoo owner to avoid attracting the attention of the police.
     A seat belt would be a good start.
David Robinson, Wiveliscombe, Somerset

An innocent look also helps. Assuming of course that you chose the right parents. What is called a head-start in life.

Apropos the shocking reputation of our banks and those who run them, this from The Times:

Oversold

Sir, You report (“How reforms set off the Big Bang and made the City an international player”) asserted that “Financial services ... remains one of the few industries in which the UK can be said to be a world leader”.
     In recent years we have had missold endowment mortgages, missold pensions, missold payment protection insurance, record household debt, a credit crunch, a housing bubble caused by reckless lending, a double-dip recession caused by reckless lending, taxpayer bailouts of failed banks, obscene bonuses funded by fantasy finance, and now savings rates which don’t keep up with inflation.
     Could we please stop being a world leader in financial services?
CHRIS RATCLIFFE, Sheffield

Also, this from a ‘Quotes of the day’ column:

“Banks have brought us down – brought the entire global economy down. Yet none of you have gone to jail. I don’t understand how you can sleep at night.” Widow Joan Woolard, of Spalding, Lincolnshire, who attended the Barclays Bank annual general meeting in London, dismissing the bosses as “a bunch of crooks”.

Good on you, Joan Woolard, for articulating what we all think.

But then, what do we go and do as a nation? We shower these ‘orrible people with knighthoods and peerages, honours that were historically given to individuals who showed bravery in battle or did a service for the country.

That policy all changed in the Sixties, when Harold Wilson became prime minister ― and from that day to this the country has been taken over by a bunch of the most heartless spivs you would ever want to meet on a dark and stormy night.

Next, this letter from The Daily Telegraph, which did unexpectedly generate a gentle, reassuring smile:

Isolation treatment

SIR – I had radioactivity treatment for thyroid cancer (report, May 28). The hospital had a lead-lined bed-sit where I spent a few days in isolation. When I left I was checked with a Geiger counter and had to wear a necklace warning that I was radioactive ― “in case of a car-crash”, I was told, cheerfully.
Liz Wheeldon, Seaton, Devon


And while on the subject of health:

“My wife said jogging would add years to my life. She is right. I already feel 10 years older.”
Michael Simkins, 56, English actor.

“We can put a robot on Mars but we can’t stop our noses running, it’s ridiculous.”
Ozzy Osbourne, 64, English heavy metal vocalist/songwriter (and part-time doctor of timely advice).

I remember from my school days that, if your nose runs and your feet smell, then you are probably standing on your head.

Talking of which, Dr Ozzy has featured large in my scrapbook cum diary since it began, in particular his weekly column in The Sunday Times  Magazine, Ask Dr Ozzy, which carried this memorable warning:

                           Caution: Ozzy Osbourne is not a qualified medical professional

What tickled me about the warning is, that the crème de la crème of British newspaper readership had to be reminded that Ozzy Osbourne is not actually a proper doctor.

His column has now gone to that final departure lounge in the sky ― indeed I read recently that Ozzy has suffered a drink and drugs relapse and is living apart from his wife ― but I did keep this memorable question submitted to Dr Ozzy, indeed it could well have been his sign-off piece of advice:

A friend of mine says iPhones can now be used to diagnose kids’ ear infections. How does that work?
Ollie
, Hull
     You pick it up, dial your doctor’s number, and say: “I’d like to bring little Johnny in for an ear exam.” Next...!
 


Tuesday, June 4
From the sublime to the ridiculous

THE ABOVE is a heading I deploy quite often ― probably because it sums up perfectly the range of things wot make me smile.

Take today. This morning I popped on the TV to watch live The Coronation: 60th Anniversary Service at Westminster Abbey. I enjoy watching these pomp and ceremony to-dos. It’s the one thing in this country we still do well.

And of course the magnificence of the buildings in which these ‘events’ unfold.

Two things made me smile XL during the programme. The first came in the hour leading up to the Service, when David Dimbleby and Sophie Raworth (looking wonderfully elegant in blue with zero bling), joined up all the dots.

There were interviews with the Maids of Honour at the Coronation, all still alive and kicking, and all titled ladies, as you would expect. I particularly enjoy how the upper classes and ruling gentry of yesteryear deploy words. Their use of language is so elegant.

One of those interviewed, and looking back 60 years, was The Hon Margaret Rhodes, Cousin of the Queen. This is part of what she said: “I was having my second baby, which was very unhandy at that moment, but I wore my wedding dress which had been severely let out to hide various bits of my anatomy...”

How could you not like someone who describes her pregnancy as being “very unhandy at that moment”, and that her dress had been “severely let out”.

Marvellous. I’ve never heard anyone use the word “unhandy” before. And yes, it is in the dictionary.

The second smile, a rather different kind, materialised when The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, read The Blessing:

“GOD grant to the living, grace; to the departed, rest; to the Church, The Queen, the Commonwealth, and all mankind, peace and concord; and to us sinners, life everlasting: and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen.”

Perhaps I haven’t been paying attention when I have previously listened to The Blessing ― but I was rather taken with the line: “and to us sinners, life everlasting.”

At that moment I felt at one with the Dean of Westminster...

Now to the ridiculous:

And you thought Tom and Jerry was just a cartoon?

Anyone who watches Tom and Jerry knows that, much against the odds, Jerry pretty much always comes out on top, although I guess many of us have a sneaky sympathy with Tom.

Well, have a look at these, spotted today on the Mail Online  website...

 

Timid tomcat Mango looks like he’s lost his natural feline hunting skills, after letting a tiny mouse steal
the food from his bowl. Owner Chris Brown captured the moment his pet looked terrified by the
cheeky intruder, and simply made do with sipping water while the mouse tucked in. Mango
eventually summoned the energy to take a closer look at his new companion, but looked
more interested in making friends than demonstrating his killer instinct.

Perusing the comments, I was surprised that nobody questioned quite how these pictures came to be taken ― one presumes the mouse is also a pet; but I was astonished how many people said their cats and dogs were, like Mango, right little cowards when it came to the moment.

I wish all the cats I see along my morning walk through the surrounding countryside felt the same towards the wildlife they are ruthlessly dispatching ― made worst by the fact that all the pussycats look sleek and well fed, which probably makes them even more ruthless killers.

And I like cats.

Whatever, the very last picture featured in the article was this:

                                                                                           

Be afraid, Jerry. Be very afraid. And it does look as if the little mouse is saying a quick prayer.

Mind you, Jerry always finds a way out of the ambush...
 

Monday, June 3
A cut above the rest


FIRST THING this morning, as usual, I switch on the bedside radio and join the entertainingly witty Alex Lester on his early-early wireless show.

He is discussing with his listeners something called a ‘sore tour’; you know, that trip where things don’t go quite as planned: a day out, a holiday, or perhaps you were scarred by a school trip where the unexpected threw everything into total confusion.

I enjoyed this tale from Ted. Alex takes up the story:

“On a tour of the Imperial Was Museum with the family” ― a slight typo there methinks, Ted; the Imperial War Museum is still going strong, as far as I’m aware. Sorry, Ted:

“On a tour of the Imperial War Museum with the family, an actor dressed as a Sergeant Major strode toward us...” ― I’m in two minds about actors at museums because I’m such an old fuddy-duddy, really; you’re trying to look at the exhibitions and along comes someone: ‘Hello, I’m Nell Gwynne, buy my oranges’, sort of stuff ― leave me alone, I want to say, I’m looking at the exhibits.

Back with Ted: “An actor dressed as a Sergeant Major strode toward us ― he winked at me ― then shouted at my long-haired, teenage son: ‘You ‘orrible little man ― stand up straight and get your ‘air cut.’ It made my day ― and you should have seen his face.”

Smashing story. You can visualise it happening. A perfectly smiley start to the day.

For ‘secret escapes’ read ‘secret escapades’

Later, on another beautiful day, a call at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon for a pint or two to wash down the dust of the afternoon. The hot story under discussion was the reported hanky-panky at the seat of power i.e. 10 Downing Street ― best summed up by this Mail Online  headline and opening gambit:

                           Internet speculation rife over identity of mystery pair involved
                          
in No. 10 secret love affair as PM holds crisis talks over tryst

     • Identities of people involved or details of relationship cannot be disclosed
     • They are middle-aged figures and the affair has now concluded
     • Mr Cameron was “stunned” when told the identities of alleged lovers
     • He “immediately realised the importance of the story”, sources revealed
     • “None of us could believe it when we first heard it” said senior source

Speculation is rife over the identities of two people allegedly involved in a secret affair which could have serious political implications for David Cameron and his government.

The internet has been awash with rumours since details of the relationship emerged last night. It comes as David Cameron holds crisis talks at Downing Street after being told of the alleged affair which has potentially significant political implications for him.

For legal reasons, Mail Online cannot disclose the identities of the people involved or any details of the relationship ― or even how long it lasted.

It does not involve anyone serving in the Cabinet.

The Prime Minister and his aides also discussed the possible fallout should details of the affair become public. The situation was labelled “dynamite” and a “complete mess” by senior party sources.

At the Crazy Horsepower, the hot money was on, surprise, surprise, Boris Johnson. But hang on, I said, do you seriously think this headline would shock a nation and bring a Tory government crashing down:

                        Boris Johnson affair has serious political implications for Tory Party

Much laughter. But, Chief Wise Owl peers over his glasses: “Unless, of course, that affair was with Mrs Samantha Cameron ― highly unlikely I grant you ― but I suggest that such an affair would result in some serious fallout, a whole new balls-up game.

True, that would bring the sky crashing down on No. 10.

So who was my unlikely lover of choice? They say it does not involve anyone serving in the Cabinet. Pish. You know what lying bastards these politicians are. I think it could be Chancellor George Osborne, especially as the story is that the affair has now concluded.

Why do I say that? Well, remember Georgie Porgie taking everyone by surprise with his crying at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral service in St Paul’s Cathedral...

At the time, some argued that the tears would soften Osborne’s unlovable image. I wasn’t sure about that at the time. I’m even less sure now.

Be that as it may, I think he started to cry when he received a text telling him the affair was over...

Now there’s a cracker. What a story that would make. Shame it’s straight out of my imagination.

Finally, Chief Wise Owl handed me this delightful letter, as recently spotted in The Times:

Judicial clangers

Sir, Gary Slapper’s “ten classic judicial clangers” (May 23) reminded me of a case at Liverpool Crown Court. The judge was asked by the defence counsel that, if he was considering a custodial sentence, could he do so in terms of months as his client had terminal cancer.
     The judge sentenced him to 60 months’ imprisonment.
FRANK GREANEY, Formby, Liverpool

Best bit of all? A journalist called Slapper.

The smiles just keep on comin’, folks. 

 

Sunday, June 2
Lancing the boil


OVER THE weekend the meeja has been awash with tales of the kettle that is a spitting image of that ‘orrible little bloke from World War II, you know, the fellow who only had one ball (allegedly).

Anyway, this from today’s Sunday Times, the Weird but wonderful column:

Whistle while you work...

A kettle sparked controversy after customers noticed that it bore an uncanny resemblance to Adolf Hitler...

 

JC Penney, a US department store, advertised the $40 (£25) kettle, pictured above, on a billboard in California.

Users of social media websites noted its likeness to the Nazi leader. Within hours of appearing online, the kettle sold out on JC Penney’s website and is now trading for almost $200 on eBay.

One user of the Reddit website quipped: “I’m a little Nazi, short and stout.”

JC Penney said: “If we had designed the teapot like something, we would have gone with a bunny tea kettle J”.

Now this is what smiles of the day are made of.

Do you know, I had a quick look online for a picture of Hitler ― and I found the one above. Magic. Yes, there’s the hair ... and the moustache ... you can easily imagine the spout being the Nazi salute ... and there’s that one ball ― oops, bell ― but it’s the tie that sets it off to a tea!

Incidentally, the tale was mentioned on Have I Got News For You  last Friday, and one quip stuck in the memory ― I think it was from Paul Merton: “There is a problem with the kettle: it only has one boil.”

Wonderful.

Sticking with The Sunday Times, a week ago this letter appeared:

Woman about the house

Your report “By George, he’s got it” (Focus May 5) lists women’s qualities in the workplace as, among others, being reasonable, patient, cooperative, supportive and good listeners.
     Is there a recorded instance of them also showing these qualities at home?
Simon Sinclair, Stockport, Cheshire


I held on for a week to see if there were any responses in today’s paper ... sadly, no.

Also, and given the day, I enjoyed this Atticus piece:

I say, I say, I say

Spare a thought for the Queen today on the 60th anniversary of her coronation. Not only has she tendered remarkable service to the nation and the Commonwealth, she has put up with Prince Philip’s sense of humour uncomplainingly as well.

Even on her great day 60 years ago he didn’t let up. Thomas Blaikie, an authority on modern etiquette, recounts in The Lady magazine how the Queen donned the Imperial State Crown just before joining her husband at the Abbey portal. He greeted her with the words: “Where did  you get that hat?”

The nation really will miss the old boy when he’s gone.

Finally, and apropos Hitler only having one ball, I discovered this 1:18 of delightful silliness on YouTube ― look out for the images, especially the salute that is definitely up the spout, the Teletubby Hitler, as well as the line “...the fishes got out their dishes and they had scollops and bollocks for tea”:
                                                                                                              
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c1GhbpObv0

 

Saturday, June 1
Right place, right time


YESTERDAY afternoon I happened upon Springwatch in the Afternoon on BBC2.

This is a new series which compliments the evening Springwatch Live now on. On Friday, host Nick Baker handed the baton to professional cameraman Gordon Buchanan, who then introduced some classic films from the archives.

Gordon confirms over and over how some of the very best wildlife moments have actually been captured by viewers, mostly in their back gardens. What is more, viewers’ wildlife experiences have revealed fascinating insights into animal behaviour never captured before.

The first piece of film shown is, I believe, the most requested of all the clips seen on Springwatch. It features a family of stoats putting on an extraordinary show of acrobatics in Brian Alison’s garden in Dumfriesshire.

They are unbelievably playful little creatures and their displays are quite breathtaking. If you did not see the Friday afternoon programme, there’s a link below to the BBC iPlayer.

There’s a link as well to a fascinating BBC film of a stoat chasing and killing a rabbit that is much bigger than itself.

Also, toward the end of yesterday’s afternoon episode, there’s a sequence filmed by cameraman John Aitchison, which concentrates solely on the beauty of nature.  He looks for shapes, colours, patterns ― but most of all, the effect light has on the subject matter.

And on that note, this morning I was out and about as usual, just after five. It was a beautifully sunny and pleasant start to the day, but I’d noticed summer mist lingering in the Towy Valley.

Instinct diverted me to Penlan Park, which overlooks the town of Llandeilo, as well as the Towy Valley as it rambles north-eastwards towards Llandovery and beyond.

The view that greeted me was nothing short of breathtaking...

 

Looking out over the Llandeilo rooftops, the mist gets thicker and thicker as the eye travels up the valley. The village of Llangadog, some 5-6 miles away, is hidden under the mist, as is Llandovery about 12 miles up the A40. The Cambrian mountains are on the horizon.

It looks as if I’ve photographed it in sepia ― but I haven’t, it’s in standard colour, auto pilot.

At moments like this I wish I had a proper interest in photography, along with a quality camera and lens. But hey-ho, as Nick Baker says at the beginning of yesterday’s Springwatch in the Afternoon, it’s not all about technology and quality cameras, but rather being in the right place at the right time.

And the best camera in the world is the one you’ve got with you.

And that is undoubtedly true ― actually I’m really quite pleased with the above picture given the little camera I am still using.

Fabulously beautiful.

Flower power

When I returned from my walk, I switch on Owen Money on Radio Wales; he hosts a Saturday morning request show which plays music from the 50s through to the 80s.

Every week he has a ‘phone the bride’ feature, where he surprises someone getting married that day.

Today he rang Andrea from Ystrad Mynach in south-east Wales (getting married for the second time), to Martin from Cardiff (also getting hitched a second time). We learn that Martin is a lecturer at a local college.

They are both middle-age with six children between them.

Andrea was a truly bubbly and cheery character. It seems she had herself prepared all the food for the buffet reception being held at the local rugby club. One of the questions Owen invariably asks the bride is: did your man help with any of the arrangements?

“Yes,” said Andrea, “Martin actually made the cakes and the flowers ― the bouquets and the bridesmaids’ flowers.”

“Really?” said a somewhat surprised Owen. “What does he teach at college? Origami?”

“No, welding.”

Much laughter, including from myself.

But the thing is, welding is quite an art. Or at least, proper welding is. Ask those who regularly use welders ― farmers and contractors, for example ― and they will tell you that it is rare to find a person who is exceptionally good at the craft.

Owen also asked who was giving her way: “My father, who’s very proud. Actually, when it comes to the bit ‘Who gives this woman away?’, he’s going to say ‘I do ― but she keeps coming back’.”

Owen also established that she and Martin were spending their honeymoon in a caravan at New Quay on the west Wales coast. “Remember,” says Owen, “to warn any likely visitors: If it’s rockin’ – no knockin’.”

Silly, but funny.

Anyway, here’s a link to Springwatch in the Afternoon, especially the wonderfully entertaining stoats. You simply must watch them (available until 3.44pm Friday, 14 June 2013):
                                               
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b021m530/Springwatch_in_the_Afternoon_Episode_5/

Also, the YouTube BBC film: Stoat kills rabbit 10 times its size ― although, whoever it was that decided the rabbit is 10 times the size of the stoat, needs to go back to college, pronto. Nevertheless, it is an impressive bit of larking about followed by some lethal hunting and dispatching...
                                                                                                      
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNbqvqf3-14

 

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                                                                                                                                    Home
                                                                                                                                   
Previously on Look You...
                                                                                                                                   
Smile of the day 2013: May
                                                                                                                                   
Smile of the day 2013: Apr
                                                                                                                                   
Smile of the day 2013: Mar
                                                                                                                                   
Smile of the day 2013: Feb

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

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

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


Reception

You are here, way out west,
at Llandeilo

aka Llandampness
aka Dodgy City

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Previously on LOOK YOU......

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

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

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

Smile of the Day 2010
2010 (Jan to Jun)
2009

2008
Sep to Dec '07

June to Aug '07
March to May '07

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

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Postcards from my Square Mile @
smile
Updated: 26/05/2013

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


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

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