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

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Updated: 11/08/2013

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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

Wednesday, July 31
July in review (compliments of HRH App)

Part One

WELL, no prizes for guessing the smiliest story of the month ... yes of course, the royal baby ― for all sorts of weird and wonderful reasons.

And still the smiles trickle in. Ponder this letter, spotted in The Times:

Prince George

Sir, It is true that Prince William and now George are in line to the throne, but in the UK we have direct succession. So, if by some calamity the Queen were to be predeceased by her son Charles before he ascends to the throne, her direct descendant and heir would be Prince Andrew, with his eldest daughter becoming the heir apparent.
ALASTAIR MUIR, Bearsden, Glasgow.


End of Part One

There’s a marvellous television advert currently doing the rounds, where a vet is inspecting Phoebe the cat and he calls urgently to his assistant: “Karen, Karen, I’ve got a cat with no pulse here ― I need adrenaline and an IV line ― quick as you can, please.” Karen comes to the table ... and slowly picks up the cat. Or does she?

Actually, it’s Nikita the hat (a Russian-style fur ushanka), not Phoebe the cat ― “Should’ve gone to Specsavers” ― and the ad ends with Phoebe staring at the vet from a nearby table and uttering a panicky “Gulp!”. It’s a wonderfully amusing advert.

If you haven’t seen it, or would like to see it again, especially Phoebe the cat and her gulp, here’s a quick link ― see you in 30 seconds:
Wonderful, eh?

Anyway, when I read Alastair Muir’s letter, above, I reacted just like Phoebe: “Gulp!

Part Two

Thankfully, this follow up letter eased my panic attack.

A foreign country

Sir, I fear that Alastair Muir is incorrect regarding direct succession ― unless the law has been changed in the past 250 years. In the 18th century George II was succeeded by his grandson George III, not by his second son William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.
TIM PRATT, St Just in Roseland. Cornwall


Part Three

Then, these two letters, apropos the moment Kate, William and Georgie Porgie made their first public appearance following the birth:

Sold out

Sir, While it was interesting to learn of Kate’s dress, I was rather taken with William’s shirt. Could you please let us men know who designed it and where I could buy one like it.
C. McGARR, Carlisle

Very witty. Although C. McGarr should have added: “And please don’t tell me that it is sold out.”

Then this:

Royal flush

Sir, Now that Prince William has been heard to say “I know how long you’ve all been sat out here”, I think it is time to give up the losing battle against this usage.
MICHAEL GARTON, Swerford, Oxon

Hm, I seem to remember that William then added: “You guys can all go back to normal now.”

I’ve been “sat” on this “guys” thing for a while now. Might as well go with the royal flow.

Part Four

Meanwhile, back on the family tree:

Loosely fitting genes

Sir, You performed a valuable duty in listing the family trees of the Windsors and the Middletons side by side. How refreshing to know that future monarchs will include as their ancestors such worthy individuals as a bank manager, draper, road sweeper, farm hand, joiner and lorry driver.
     No need for social engineering here. When Prince George of Cambridge accedes to the throne our monarchy will be firmly rooted in the common people instead of the aristocracy. Three cheers for the progress achieved by love and marriage.
DR BRIAN BUNDAY, Baildon, W Yorks.

Well, as I have mentioned previously, Mother Nature does her own social engineering. The most powerful genes in our family trees will always out ― whether they are a force for good or evil.

I mean, does anyone really believe that Kate’s assured performance in the public eye reflects her lorry driver, joiner, farm hand, road sweeper, draper and bank manager genetic hand-me-downs.

Kate’s performances underline her far from commoner roots, indeed, as we know, her paternal family tree can be traced back to Henry VIII.

Now there’s posh. And Kate is very posh ― in her gloriously understated way.

And yes, what about her parents? Here’s a series of letters from The Daily Telegraph:

Mr and Mrs Middleton

SIR – Christopher Wilson (“Step forward please, the Earl and Countess of Fairfax”, Comment, July 27) suggests that the parents of the Duchess of Cambridge be ennobled. What for? Surely the recent boost in support for our monarchy derives from the fact that the Duchess of Cambridge comes from an ordinary family, and that family, the Middletons, wishes to continue to live as such.
     Giving them titles would simply take away much of the additional support currently being given to our monarchy.
Stephen Ivall, Devoran, Cornwall

SIR – Intriguing as the speculation about creating an hereditary title for the admirable Middletons is, all the minefields of the situation could easily be avoided.
     The Queen might choose to recognise the couple’s services by appointing them to the Royal Victorian Order.
     This would avoid political intrusion, as the order is in the personal gift of the sovereign.
Jeffery Bates, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – The Middletons have done nothing more than be the parents of a lovely young woman who has happened to marry the second in line to the throne. Surely, their “manor house and burgeoning wealth” are not reasons for ennoblement?
     Such honours should only be given to those who have earned them through duty to the state and/or great philanthropy.
Patrick Nulty, Bingley, West Yorkshire

I submitted a response to that last letter:

By hook or by crook

Sir – “The Middletons have done nothing more than be the parents of a lovely young woman who has happened to marry the second in line to the throne,” points out Patrick Nulty.
     Patrick ignores at his peril “Rules for an agreeable walk through time – No. 1: Choose the right parents”.
HB, Llandampness

Sadly, my letter didn’t make the cut. My thinking and the Telegraph’s are poles apart.

Part Five

And finally, following the royal birth, there was some online poll to find the best ad created by an organisation in celebration of the happy event, and the winner was this, from Warburtons the Family Bakers, with a clever play on words...


Yes, those amusing if common or garden genes will find an outlet somehow, somewhere.

Spell-cheque corner: Perhaps the most predictable yet, ‘Swerford’, as in Michael Garton of Swerford in Oxon (Royal Flush letter), came up as ‘Swearword’. I should think so too.

Tuesday, July 30
Gone fishin’

LAST Saturday I shared with you a picture of the eye-catching ‘mackerel sky’ over the Towy Valley, a cloud formation which heralded the end of the heatwave and the approach of rain ― which duly arrived pretty much precisely as nature had promised, with some ferocious thunderstorms in tow.

This morning, along my early-morning walk it was really pleasant, sunny and warm. Well blow me, as I entered the very same field where I took the picture of the mackerel sky ― as pointed out, in Germany and France the cloud formations are known as ‘sheep clouds’, as their patterns often resemble a flock of sheep, a description I thought rather perfect ― there, in the middle of the meadow, was ... a dead sheep.

At least, from a distance it looked dead. Experience has taught me that it could have been one of two options: yes, it was dead; or it had rolled onto its back and couldn’t get up, something I encounter now and again.

As I neared I hoped that if it was the latter the predators hadn’t got to it ― the first thing the birds do is take out the eyes. I’m never sure whether it’s because the eyes are easiest to peck out and gobble, perhaps they’re a delicacy ― or the birds know that if the creature isn’t dead, take out its eyes and you hold all the cards. Perhaps it's a combination of all three.

However, as I got close, I could see that it hadn’t rolled onto its back ― but it was, much like the Norwegian Blue parrot of Monty Python infamy, very dead...

There were no traces of attack ― dogs, say ― in fact, superficially it looked in a perfectly good and healthy condition; it had also been recently sheared. Curiously, it didn’t look particularly old.

No predator had got to it either ― I did notice some crows and a couple of buzzards make a hasty exit from nearby trees as I neared the sheep. I placed my hand on the body ... it was still warm-ish. It had clearly not long died. As if it had woken up after a good night’s sleep, wasn’t feeling too well, laid back down ― and died.

Now why would I relate this story in a web site dedicated to the things that make me smile?

Well, in the very next field there’s an apple tree. This year was a glorious one for blossom, which suggests a bumper fruit harvest come autumn time. All the trees were aglow with beauty ― and this particular tree was no exception.

I would have taken a picture, so handsome was it in its spring finery. Unfortunately, the lie of the land around the tree makes it difficult to get a clean picture, so I didn’t bother ― I settled instead for the horse chestnut tree, as featured in the picture gallery above ... you know, the tree that looks like Wales.

Anyway, back with the apple tree. It is also one of the trees I use as a candy dispenser for the songbirds I attempt to seduce into my hand. As I went under the branches to place some bird seed on the trunk where the branches shoot out, I noticed a tiny little apple had fallen and lodged in a little crevice.

I stepped out from under the tree and looked over it ― wow! I hadn’t noticed on my approach ... the tree is plastered with tiny little apples, no bigger than my fingernail...

Indeed, if you didn’t stand and stare you could easily miss them, as indeed I had previously done, which rather surprised me because I am quite observant.

I also had a quick look over some nearby hazel trees ... they too are awash with nuts.

So there you have it: in one field, death ... in the next, new life bursting out all over. All reassuringly smiley.

With the heat wave having now taken a rain check ― although a brief hot spell is again forecast over the next couple of days or so ― I was delighted with this letter spotted in The Times, which rather confirms how confusing we Brits find having to cope with a heatwave:

Some like it hot

Sir, It is interesting to observe how our institutions reacted to the heatwave.
     My hospital moved to “Heatwave level 3 amber alert”. This states that the uniform policy should be adhered to and if any staff member requires an exception a risk assessment should be carried out and the reasons for any change clearly stated. Any resulting action must be agreed by the matron/manager of that area.
     My golf club indicated that shorts are acceptable but only with long socks.
     My Pall Mall club agreed that I could remove my jacket but not if I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt (which I was).
     It is good to know that sartorial standards were maintained even in sub-tropical Britain.
Chairman, Chelsea & Westminster NHS Foundation Trust


Monday, July 29
Liar, liar, pants on fire

“IF  YOU missed the first two hours of the show, don’t forget, you can always listen back on liar – er, online.” The Freudian slip of the year, surely, by Nikki Bedi at 4:07 this morning as she sat in for Alex Lester on his Radio 2 “Best time of the day” wireless show.

After her glorious slip of the tongue, Nikki moved on without giggle or comment, as if it had never happened. I found myself wondering what had subconsciously triggered such a thought. Had someone said something nasty rather than nice about her online? Perhaps she was thinking something like: “Liar, liar, Twitterati pants on fire!

Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie – revisited

Talking of Twitter, yesterday I enjoyed perusing that picture of William, Kate and the royal baby confronted by the world’s media, and I mentioned the BBC’s royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell.

On that Tuesday, in the anticipation of the first appearance of the royal couple and bambino, the media restlessness had been building through the afternoon. Suddenly, Twitter was alive with reports that Kate’s hair stylist and a Baby Car Seat had been spotted entering the hospital via the tradeswoman’s entrance.

This was put to Witchell, live on the BBC News channel: “Our audience is much too intelligent to be taken in by all the stuff they read on Twitter.” Oh yeah, I remember thinking.

Whatever, minutes after, this picture appeared...


Yes, Kate’s hairdresser, Amanda Cook Tucker, and an aide carrying The Royal Baby Car Seat, touch down at base camp.

Oh dear, believe nothing you hear and only half what you read on Twitter. Yes, but which half?

War of the words

Sticking with Georgie Porgie, the continuing US obsession with British Royalty brings to mind a memorable exchange on the current rerun on ITV4 of the American sitcom Cheers. (Incidentally, and as I have mentioned before, down the years I have shared a drink and a chinwag with every single one of those beautifully drawn characters who frequent that Boston bar.)

Anyway, one of the more recent characters is Englishman Robin Colcord, a millionaire industrialist, a glorious prototype of the bankers that would eventually bring the world to its knees.

True to form, Robin is running verbal rings around Sam, the bar owner. Standing alongside Sam is Woody, the simple but honest country-boy bartender: “These English guys are clever, Sam. No wonder we lost that war.”

“No, Woody, we didn’t lose,” says Sam. “That’s a war we won.”

“Oh, right,” replies Woody ... there’s a rather puzzled pause before he continues: “So how come we still speak English then?”

And best of all, the “live” American audience laughed its little socks off at the cleverness of the punch line.

Which set me thinking: as the years drift on by, more and more countries around the world will begin to wonder why they all speak English as their chosen second language.

Yes of course, English is established as the language of communication around the globe ― but how precisely, the world will increasingly ponder, did English reach this exalted gold medal position.

Gold medal territory

Over the weekend I watched the two-and-a-half-hour ‘director’s cut’ of Olympic Opening Ceremony 2012 – Isles Of Wonder, on BBC3.

Having watched the whole ceremony live a year ago, I wondered how it would look now, especially with the element of surprise removed.

Well, I enjoyed the first hour, but was genuinely puzzled at the number of black and coloured people in the opening sequences ― absolutely fair as the nation’s modern history unfolded, obviously, but I couldn’t understand why Britain’s multiplying multiculturalism wasn’t actually highlighted as the ceremony progressed.

Still, Danny Boyle, the architect of the ceremony and a film maker, is allowed to colour history to taste, I guess.

Oh yes, I still didn’t catch myself smiling at Mr Bean (well, he is probably the nation’s most acquired taste).

I then fell asleep during the second hour of the ceremony.

And I couldn’t bring myself to watch the final 10 minutes. Paul McCartney brings to mind a once great prize fighter who went those three prize bouts too many ― dear old Mick Jagger continues to duck and dive with aplomb, while Paul has lost his once superior footwork for he now floats like a bee and stings like a butterfly.

So, having watched the opening ceremony a second time, it lost its Gold medal status and had to make do with Silver. Mind you, I guess that has something to do with losing the surprise effect; also, me being a wee bit more critical and cynical ― and of course, falling asleep, a ruthless judgmental factor if ever there was one. 


Sunday, July 28
Great Expectations

“THE mercury rose, the crowds gathered, a bundle of royal joy emerged, but the Cambridges kept their cool.”

Yes, the Sunday papers were awash with tales of the expected. The Sunday Times  stork delivered a 16-page souvenir supplement ― the above quote being the opening shot.

As soon as I opened the paper’s special delivery I was confronted by a two-page photo-spread, an amazing image of the view from Kate and William’s perspective ― the global press ranged in front of them.

I hadn’t seen the picture before. As it happens, I’ve given the image a quick short-back-and-sides due to lack of space ― the crowds extend way to the left of Kate and William, the media is stacked much higher in front of the couple (there are probably step ladders stacked upon step ladders), and presumably the meeja mob extends out to the right, as far as the eye can see, probably.

But the picture is mesmeric. I didn’t give the happy couple with their bambino a second glance ― my eyes darted over the gathered throng ... and many things puzzled me beyond...

Welcome to your world, sweet prince

For example, why is that lady in the white top and holding a mike (directly in front of Wills and Kate, slightly off-centre) looking so angry when all around appear quite jolly? I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt: she’s obviously a foreign reporter, perhaps Italian, and she’s concentrating on what the couple are saying so that she can translate for her audience.

Just above her, slightly to the right, the fellow in the blue shirt, staring at his phone, head tilted ... why is he looking so annoyingly soppy? Back to the angry-looking woman ... to her left, past the lady with the colourful dress, the one next to her: why is she holding up a spotted tie? True, it goes with Kate’s spotted dress ― then I realise it’s the cover of her mobile gizmo thingy.

And look at those two police officers, far left, clearly passionately, desperately in love and thinking about producing their own little prince or princess ― they appear to have their hands stuck firmly in each other’s back pockets, a sure sign of deep-rooted love ... no, hang on, she has her other arm round another officer. Shame, they seem to be linked to hold the clicking crowd at bay. Quite what is happening in front of them is unclear.

Now let your eyes dart back to the right side of the picture ― and there you see two girls seemingly watching events on a small screen when in fact the whole thing is unfolding live in front of them, just a few feet away. A sign of the times?

Back with the royal couple, in front of them, the lady in the bright red dress ... now look to the right, past the fellow with his back to us ... there, crouched and partly hidden by a mike, is the BBC’s royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell. I enjoyed this from a Tanya Gold, again in The Sunday Times, writing about television’s blanket coverage of the happy event:

“Nicholas Witchell, who I can never watch without hearing Prince Charles say, ‘I can’t bear that man,’ looked exhausted, as if he had just produced a baby; why doesn’t he quit and do PR for a regime that appreciates him, such as North Korea?”

Very good. And I agree with Tanya regarding the ‘I can’t bear that man’ quote. Indeed, I have never understood why the BBC kept Witchell as their Royal correspondent following that memorable comment from Charles. Talk about how to get up one’s nose.

Before departing the photograph, I shall leave the final comment to Tanya Gold, commenting on the fact that the doolallyness highlighted in the above image is driven solely by the needs of a rolling news service:

“As all midwives know, ‘It’s a boy!’ and analysis do not belong together, even on 24-hour news, a medium designed solely for the apocalypse.”

Well said, Tanya, a memorable description of news channels everywhere.

Finally, this amusing tail-gunner Comment piece, compliments of The Sunday Times:

Out of the mouth of babes, [and fools and horses]

Prince George of Cambridge is just six days old, but what an eventful life it has been. His picture has appeared in newspapers across the world. He has been presented to the Queen. He is already the owner of a pet crocodile, a gift from Australia’s Northern Territory.

Given the great media interest in young George, it would be no surprise to learn that Nicholas Witchell, the BBC’s royal correspondent, already has a glass pressed against the nursery wall in the hope of catching the baby’s first words. Most children just pick up what they hear most frequently: mama, dadda, Queens Park Rangers nil. But according to Gyles Brandreth we can expect something a little more sophisticated.

On Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, the broadcaster and royal biographer told how Princess Margaret had visited Lord Olivier just as the great actor’s son had managed to say “Daddy” (followed shortly afterwards by “You were splendid, darling”).

Bursting with pride, Margaret revealed that her own son, Viscount Linley, had also spoken his first word. “I’m pleased to tell you,” she said, “it was chandelier.”

Where were Del Boy and Rodney when the nation needed them...


Saturday, July 27
Something fishy in the air

“WE’VE had a colder than normal winter, a wetter than normal spring ― and we’re having a hotter than normal summer. With a drier than normal autumn, we’ll have had a totally normal year.”
Ian McGarrigle of Corringham, Essex, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Ten out of ten, Mr McGarrigle. A little piece of me hopes that Ian is actually related to that great Scottish poet, William McGonagall.

Meanwhile, back on the warm front, we’ve certainly enjoyed a gloriously sunny and hot July. In point of fact, although June wasn’t particularly bright and sunny, it was a surprisingly dry month. The fields are rock hard.

It seems though that the current settled spell is now at an end. Indeed, this very morning, just before seven, I noticed a stand-and-stare ‘mackerel sky’ gracefully moving in from the south-west...

Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high

Mackerel sky: the dividing line on a beautiful if slightly misty morning in the Towy Valley is quite
dramatic ... in truth, my little camera doesn’t do proper justice to how striking the sky looked

Every day a day at school spot: this from a weather website...

‘Mackerel sky’ is a popular term for a sky covered with extensive cirrocumulus (high-altitude cloud formed of icy particles) or altocumulus (white or grey patchy cloud with a rounded outline), arranged in somewhat regular waves and often showing blue sky in the gaps. The pattern resembles the scales on a mackerel, thus, the name.

In Germany and France the cloud formations are known as ‘sheep clouds’, as their patterns often resemble a flock of sheep [I can see the sheep in the above image]; also, such cloud formations are sometimes called ‘buttermilk sky’.

And of course there is weather lore associated to a mackerel sky. For example: Mackerel sky, mackerel sky – never long wet, never long dry.

These formations often form well ahead of depressions and their associated fronts. Mackerel skies (as well as mares’ tails) describe forms of cirrocumulus and twisted sheaves of cirrus respectively implying strong high-level winds. [Obviously our new, bestest friend ― or enemy ― the jet stream.]

If such clouds precede an approaching warm front, they will thicken and winds will veer from north-westerly to more south-westerly directions. Often the winds will strengthen, too. The typical width of an approaching warm front is about 300 miles from the first hazy clouds to the onset of rain.

If you see a mackerel sky, then you are about 250 miles ahead of the rain. The typical moving speed of a system is about 30 mph. Consequently expect the weather to change within the next six or eight hours.

The rain actually arrived in Llandampness just before five. Okay, 10 hours, but all the above are estimates. I am mightily impressed.

A proper early summer

One of the agreeable features of the past month or so has been hearing on the wireless all the traditional golden-oldies called ‘summer music’. Normally we don’t get to hear them ― it sounds all too ironic given our traditional summer weather.

One of my favourites is Nat King Cole’s Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer. Indeed, I saw someone online describe it as sounding like a Christmas Carol for the summertime. How apt, I thought, for it is one of those marvellous sing-along songs. Must add it to my Desert Island Jukebox.

Incidentally, talking of a Christmas Carol, the ‘XMAS DAY LUNCH: BOOK NOW’ notice pinned to the wall outside Yr Hen Vic  pub and restaurant in Llandampness, and featured on Look You back on June 25 ― has now gone. Along with all the other amusing notice boards. Actually, they’ve been painting the place. And smart it looks, too, all in its black and white livery.

Anyway, back with the music: this morning I also heard on the wireless five minutes of musical heaven, the classic Summertime, as performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

As I listened ... I thought, what a masterful performance it is ― definitely another for the Jukebox. But I instantly thought of a certain high-profile bambino, newly arrived on the scene:

Oh your daddy’s rich and your ma is good lookin’;
So hush little baby, don’t you cry...

So here is the link to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong ≈ “Summertime”:

And of course, Nat King Cole ≈ Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer:

And how could I ignore good ole “Buttermilk Sky” ― see above! Here’s a link to the brief final scene from the 1946 movie Canyon Passage. In the scene are Hoagy Carmichael, Dana Andrews, and Susan Hayward. The song is written by Hoagy and Jack Brooks:

Here’s the full song. Funny how, when you know the proper meaning of “buttermilk sky”, it adds another dimension to the lyrics; oh, and another reference to Christmas:

Friday, July 26
Bearing in mind

This amusing letter in The Times  triggers a motoring theme:

Sexist garages

Sir, Many years ago, in an attempt to avoid being ripped off by a garage, I asked a colleague to diagnose a problem with my car (“Sexist rip-off garages and how the fair sex can get a fairer deal”, July 20). He took a look at it and wrote down the problem for me: “N/S wheel bearing”.
     Full of confidence, I rang the garage and asked them if I could book in my car to have the wheel bearing fixed. “Do you know which one it is love?”, I was asked. “Yes,” I said proudly, “it’s the north-south.” There was a silence followed by raucous laughter.
     I think I was probably overcharged.
SUE RANKINE, Bowden Hill, Somerset

Wonderful, the gift of being able to laugh at oneself.  Mind you, what puts a question mark against the story is the curious fact that Sue’s colleague didn’t indicate whether it was a front or rear bearing. Hm.

Just to balance the books, this extraordinary picture spotted in a reputable online journal:

A spanner in the works

South Australia police released this photograph, saying that a driver has been remanded in
custody following a string of driving offences, including driving without a steering wheel...

Stories don’t come more staggeringly doolally than this. It’s a tale where you are desperate to know the full story ― I mean, how did the driver end up with such a smallish wrench for a steering wheel?

I guess we won’t find out until he (or she ― times they are a-changin’) appears in court.

Meanwhile, back on two wheels, this again from The Times:

Saddle wars

Sir, Overtaking horses is a hazardous operation as much for cyclists as horse riders (“Wiggins effect  blamed for saddle wars on the roads”, July 19).
     When approaching a horse from behind I have rung my bell, which invariably spooks the horse. I have tried overtaking silently, which also spooks the horse because it seems to sense your presence before the rider. In both instances I have received a stream of expletives.
     Perhaps an experienced rider could advise cyclists how to behave when confronted by a horse’s rear end.
JEM COOK, Manton, Wilts

As someone who has never been confronted by a horse’s arse while on a bike, I was nevertheless struck by an instant response to the problem. However, I waited to see what would be suggested...

Horse and cycle

Sir, I share Jem Cook’s concerns regarding the best means, when cycling, of approaching a horse and rider from the rear.
     I find that simply calling out the words “cyclist behind” when about 30m away works best; riding silently past with no warning is inviting trouble and the human voice ― provided the tone is unstressed ― is less likely to spook a horse than the sound of a bell.
     This method (almost) always works for me.
STAN COOKE, Ponteland, Northumberland

Apart from the thought that too many Cook(e)s spoil the broth, Stan’s suggestion is precisely what came to mind when I read the original, except I would call out “Angel Gabriel at six o’clock” ― yes, okay, the regulars at the Crazy Horsepower insisted it should be “Bandit at six o’clock” ― but we won’t go down that road.

It did also strike me that if coming up behind horses is a regular occurrence cum problem for some cyclists, why not tie to the bike a low-key variation on the theme of those delightfully melodic wind chimes some have outside their home, and which are always agreeably tickled by the breeze.

I’d enjoy finding out how that would work in reality. My guess is that the horse would pick it up from some distance and not be spooked.

And anyway, think of the pleasing musical accompaniment along your ride ― and no bleedin’ disc-jockey to talk over the music.

Thursday, July 25
Ear to the ground


DO YOU KNOW, I reckon that aliens really did land at Roswell 66 years ago. They were the Ferengi, above, who instantly morphed into “hue-mon” form and became the movers and shakers of Earth. One clearly became a scriptwriter on Star Trek.

If you are unfamiliar with the television series Star Trek, the Ferengi are troublesome extraterrestrials, a really dodgy alien race. They and their culture are characterized by a mercantile obsession with profit and trade, not to mention their constant efforts to swindle unwary customers into unfair deals.

They are also known for their business acumen and for rampant misogyny, often forcing their women into the sex trade.

Their home planet, Ferenginar, is the centre of the Ferengi Alliance and is governed by the Grand Nagus and a Commerce Authority made primarily of the Council of Economic Advisors (formerly Board of Liquidators).

Now does all this start to sound familiar?

Anyway, like most of their culture, their religion is also based on the principles of capitalism: they offer prayers and monetary offerings to a “Blessed Exchequer” in hopes of entering the “Divine Treasury” upon death, for they fear an afterlife spent in the “Vault of Eternal Destitution”.

(“Blessed Exchequer”: remember Chancellor Gordon Brown raiding our private pensions ― the equivalent of creeping upstairs to raid the kids’ piggy banks for money to go down the pub to buy everyone drinks and show big ― and then shortly after awarding himself a 25% pension increase? Clearly Brown is a Ferengi – see later.)

The Ferengi have their own Bible, The Rules of Acquisition, the pursuit of profit at any cost being their guiding principle. Wikipedia list most of the rules ― I have chosen at random just a handful:

               Once you have their money, you never give it back
               Enough ... is never enough
               Don’t trust a man wearing a better suit than your own

               Never be afraid to mislabel a product
               Always insist on using your own scales

Now if those examples don’t remind you of the politicians and bankers who brought the world to its knees ― just think ‘libor’ interest rates instead of ‘scales’ ― then you clearly live in a parallel universe called “Divine Treasury”.

Incidentally, while we have 10 Commandments, the Rules of Acquisition total some 300.

As to what others think of the Ferengi, here’s a memorable exchange between two senior female officers on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine...

Kira Nerys: “The Ferengi are greedy, misogynistic, untrustworthy little trolls, and I wouldn’t turn my back on one of them for a second.”

Jadzia Dax: “Neither would I. But once you accept that, you’ll find they can be a lot of fun.”

“Greedy, misogynistic, untrustworthy little trolls, and I wouldn’t turn my back on one of them for a second.” Now who does that glorious description remind you of?

I know, I know, you are spoilt for choice.

UFA spotted at News International

UFA? Unidentified Flying Alien. Last Tuesday I mentioned in dispatches Rupert Murdoch aka the Dirty Digger, owner of The Sun  and The Times, and how those two newspapers had, in their own entertaining ways, announced the Royal birth. Remembering all the while, of course, that Murdoch is the Grand Nagus of Republicana.

Ever since, I can’t get it out of my mind that Murdoch is slowly but surely morphing back into a proper Ferengi...


Blood brothers (from the left): Rupert Murdoch, Quark (a typical Ferengi), and Gordon Brown
“I wouldn’t turn my back on one of them for a second”

It’s those ears of Rupert Murdoch ― the Ferengi have evolved huge wrap-around ears which allow them to hear a whisper (plus all the juicy gossip doing the rounds) at 40 paces: “All the better to do a bit of phone-hacking, my dear.”

And Murdoch’s ears are definitely getting bigger and bigger and taking on a life all of their own. As are Gordon Brown’s...

Wednesday, July 24
Family trees – no Windsor dieback spotted yet

WITH George Alexander Louis now safely on the register, an oft repeated claim made during mum’s pregnancy was the welcome introduction of some common or garden genes into the Royal family line.

Much has been made of Kate Middleton’s commoner roots, yet we are told that there are some impressive genes hidden away in her background.

Royal ancestors and Yorkshire mill owners reveal the Middleton family to be far from the middle-class average. In fact, her paternal family tree can be traced back to Henry VIII.

However, the family then slid downmarket for some generations...

At one point they lived in stables ― before marrying into the Luptons of Leeds. The Luptons were an upper-middle-class family of merchants and property developers. While not aristocrats, they were definitely genteel.

Isn’t that interesting? Now those who live in a community, and are familiar with tales of the unexpected handed down the generations, will be all too aware that powerful genes will always out ― whether good, bad or just plain ugly ― no matter how far back the generations they go.

Also, few of us are who we think we are. Just be aware that hanky-panky has been around for ever and a (K)night, indeed it’s just over the last generation or so that contraception has given a kind of order to things.

If you do not live in a community and not party to hand-me-down gossip, think Boris Johnson and how his impressive genetic inheritance, with its splash of European Royalty, fashions his words and actions. What is more, it is claimed that one in five Britons are descended from the aristocracy.

The one thing about Kate is that, from the wedding to the presentation of the newborn baby to the world, she appears to be totally in charge. Only powerful inherited genes allow her to conduct herself thus on the grandest stage without a lifetime of preparation.

Not only that, if you ignore the grand, sweeping, self-important things people say and do and instead focus on those spontaneous, seemingly unimportant throwaway things that tumble out, then those little happenings tell you everything you ever need to know.

For example, Kate’s first official public engagement with William was naming a RNLI lifeboat in North Wales ― and impressively she had learnt the words of the Welsh national anthem for the occasion.

When the Gods smile – wave!

Kate and the S-factor: Self-assured,
serene, savvy, sympathetic – and a smiler

From that moment I was aware that she is nowhere near as common or
garden as many wish to make out.

A laboured kind of humour

Another curious thing I noted yesterday was on an MSN  web page, a list of what was regarded as the top 25 celebrity tweets about the Royal birth.

First up was this...

Tweetie Pie Corner

    “The official easel. We really are a marvellously bonkers country.” Stephen Fry, 55, actor, author, playwright, poet and film producer; a Twitter phenomenon with almost six million followers.

Well, if Stephen Fry is rated the nation’s foremost wit ― as that following suggests ― and the above is the top-rated quote about the Royal birth ... well, I think the nation needs to go back to the laugh-a-minute drawing board. I mean, many of us have labelled the UK a marvellously doolally country since I can’t remember when.

Mind you, I did trip over this tweet elsewhere, from the splendidly named Mrs Stephen Fry: “The Royal Baby arrived at 4.24pm yesterday. Typical Amazon ― I ordered a kettle.”

Now that did make me laugh.

Going back to the 25 Top Tweets, none of the rest were worthy ‘smiles of the day’ material. Even Jeremy Clarkson’s effort was pretty pathetic given how good his columns are: “Call it Prince.” Not that Jeremy’s tweet doesn’t raise a smile, but so many others suggested something similar.

Actually, The Sun  front page eventually did it so much cleverer...

As a dedicated follower of those who deploy clever word-play, how about that: “The baby formally known as Prince...” Brilliant beyond.

So why are slebs like Jeremy Clarkson and Stephen Fry nowhere near as amusing on Twitter as they are in print or on the radio or television? Well, on Twitter they have no script-writers, editors and sub-editors to polish it all up.

In Twitterland, every tweet is straight out of the rough. Very rarely do you spot a hole-in-one.

Actually, politician John Prescott had a good tweet, which surprisingly didn’t make the Top 25 list: “Great to hear the Duchess of Cambridge has gone into labour. Is she an affiliated member?”

I liked that. But politicians always leave themselves wide open the moment they engage finger tips before brain. This masterful response from Wossup:

        “Kate was in labour for 13 hours. No big deal, really. We suffered 13 YEARS of labour.”

Boom-tish! Or “Boom-boom!”, as Basil Brush used to say. Or even “Bust-bust!”, given the state of the country when John Prescott and Labour departed Downing Street with their tails between their legs.

Tuesday, July 23
Sun of a gun

TODAY has been dominated by the first sighting of mum, dad and baby, post-easel moment.

However, my smileometer hit the heights first thing this morning.

Whenever I happen to catch the newspaper reviews on the wireless or television, there are two constants which perfectly reflect the British sense of fun: The Sun newspaper’s clever front page word play; and The Daily Telegraph’s MATT  cartoon.

Both feature regularly in my smile of the day scrapbook, but today, by common consent, The Sun  front page excelled itself and climbed onto the top step of the podium...

One-off special offer for One

Fair play to The Sun, that really is such a clever front page.

Mind you, I can’t help wondering what the paper had up its sleeve if the baby had been a girl.

At the other end of the socio-economic scale (the ABC1 readership), lurks The Times  newspaper, and it ran with a wrap-around cover spread, a picture across both front and back pages, a rather splendid image of William and Kate.

The smile that goes that extra mile though is the wonderful thought that both above newspapers are owned by that old phone-hacking President of the Republicans, Rupert Murdoch.

Be that as it may, nestling between The Sun’s  Gold medal and The Times’  Bronze effort, is The Daily Telegraph's MATT  with Silver, with his cartoon acknowledging homes all over the country being safely delivered of an excess of supplements and souvenirs in celebration of the Royal birth...

"PUSH ... PUSH!"

And the band played on

Finally: Where were you Sir Cliff, not holding centre court in front of Buckingham Palace when the Royals needed you?

Following the Changing the Guard ceremony, the Band of the Scots Guards performed Congratulations! ― and the heavens opened.

Monday, July 22

“MAKING love is like making bread. You have to make it fresh every day.”

When I first read the above, I instantly presumed it was a quote from Paul Hollywood, the co-presenter of the TV hit show The Great British Bake Off  ― who went off to America to launch a similar show, The American Baking Competition, and promptly had an affair with his American co-host, Marcela Valladolid.

This is a headline spotted in today’s Mail Online:

            Hollywood's TV career in US is toast after his affair with presenter: Bake Off star is
                dropped by TV bosses as angry viewers react against his ‘sexy senorita’ Marcela

Disappointment: The show was panned by critics who said Marcela Valladolid and Paul Hollywood lacked chemistry. Producers had hoped the show would draw big audiences and follow in the footsteps of the hit show The Great British Bake Off...

“Lacked chemistry”, eh? I guess they both specialised in physics. Whatever, back to the quote at the top: “Making love is like making bread. You have to make it fresh every day.”

It wasn’t a Paul Hollywood quote after all ― shame on my presumption, sorry Paul ― actually it belongs to Sandie Shaw, 66, English pop singer, who was one of the most successful British female singers of the 1960s and probably the first singer to regularly perform on stage barefoot. Crumbs, indeed.

In 1967 she was definitely the first British act to win the Eurovision Song Contest  with Puppet On A String.

I’m sayin’ nuthin’.


“They love tarmac; they are allergic to grass; and they don’t understand Morris dancing.” David Gower, 56, former England cricketer and captain (and countryman of note), who wants to educate “townies” on the ways of the countryside.

Gower also believes that too many rural issues are decided by city dwellers: “I worry about a time when townies decide to arm pheasants.”

When I first read that second quote of his, I thought he’d said peasants. Now there’s a thought.

The one thing that baffles me about the many “townies” moving into the country is this: as soon as they have formed a ‘townie tribe’, they set about changing the countryside back into the sort of place they ran away from in the first place. I have never understood that desire.

Hold the front page

Clearly the Duchess of Cambridge would, first thing this morning, have had a note pushed through the door: “Please be in the right place between 5:00am and 5:00pm on Monday, July 22, to receive a special delivery.”

Just before toddling off to bed, I catch news of the Royal birth. Now I don’t pretend to understand anything about babies ― but I did smile at the weight of the baby: 8lbs 6oz.

That is quite an impressive weight, given that Kate is regularly advised by a watching media that she’s too thin, especially so during her pregnancy. However, some expert or other declared the weight as “spot-on normal”. Indeed the baby is the heaviest Royal baby to be born in recent history.

Clearly Kate is one of these natural-born slim individuals.

Oh yes, it’s a boy, and that despite the smart money, as reflected in all the betting odds, deciding it would be a girl. Which all reflects that the smartest people in the country know as little as the rest of us about life, the universe, babies and everything. Except of course the bookies, who lulled everyone into betting on a girl.

As a special bonus, the weight was announced in good old imperial. Nice one.

Incidentally, have you noticed how the media in this country, especially programmes such as Countryfile and Springwatch, always declare distances in kilometres ― yet every single road sign in the country says miles.

What on earth will the real ET make of us?

Sunday, July 21
Froome here to e-tournity

IT ALL began in Kenya 28 years ago ― and reached a climax today along the Champs-Élysées as Chris Froome won the 100th edition of the Tour de France.

Over the past three weeks the whole Tour has generated so much enjoyment: not just the racing itself, but the sights and sounds of France; and of course, the fans.

A couple of images sum the whole thing up. First, the winner of the Tour, with of course the regulation and exceedingly agreeable pretty girls thrown in for good measure...

Out of Africa

Chris Froome dedicated the win to his devoted mother who helped
him shape his dream before she died in 2008.

Froome trails in his wake the very model of a modern upbringing. He was born in Kenya after his grandparents emigrated there from Gloucestershire to run a crop farm. His first cycling mentor out on the mountains of Kenya, David Kinjah, remembers Froome as a fun-loving teenager who loved riding bikes.

“My first impression of Chris Froome was just another kid whose parents wanted to pay me some money to teach their boy,” said Kinjah.

“But soon I found out that Chris was just a poor white boy, his mother wasn’t rich and we had not agreed on any money to pay me. And soon when we started to be friends, I never charged his mother any money because Chris was quickly becoming one of us and he loved to be in the village with us. He was like one of us, our brother.”

So it is unsurprising then that Froome, the Kenya-born, South Africa-educated, Monaco-domiciled British cyclist, confesses to feeling “divided” on the issue of where to call home.

Mind you, as the British anthem played, his eyes started to blink at an alarming rate.

Whatever, I enjoyed this brief online exchange about Froome, his background and his chosen sport:

          Artobuk: “Not really a Brit; not really a sport.”

          Loominer: “Not really a Brit; not really a sport; not really a good comment.”

Finally, how could I leave out the crazy fans and their dedicated doolallyness. So I managed to find a picture that not only looks great, but has Made in Britain written all over it:

Out of Liverpool

Ticket to ride?

So well done, Chris. And what a welcome change to have a champion so well-mannered and polite, even under extreme provocation.

Saturday, July 20
That was the week that was

HEADLINE of the week, spotted in yesterday’s Western Mail:

            The festival that’s got everything ... including the Kitsch & Sync

Wales Millennium Centre’s annual Blysh Festival of alternative arts and entertainment could have been created for the Cardiff-based dance group, the Kitsch & Sync Collection.

Rosalind Haf Brooks, Kylie Ann Smith and Kim Noble joined forces because they shared an interest in bringing their weird and wonderful world of larger-than-life characters to the eye-popping celebration of circus, cabaret, vaudeville and more...

With a name like Kitsch & Sync, they deserve every bouquet that is thrown at them, including the one that looks like the you-know-what...

Newspaper letters of the week:

Bright side

“I see that optimists live seven and a half years longer than pessimists. Does this mean they are both right?”
Adrian Roberts of Barripper, Cornwall, in a letter to The Times.

Hm, the seven-and-a-half-year hitch.

The Fox & Hounds

“Tony Blair was forever debating the fox and David Cameron gay marriage. Under both, people were dying unnecessarily in NHS hospitals. Priorities.”
David Le Clercq of Bournemouth, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Well, Tony Blair is an expert at running with both the fox and the hounds, while David Cameron is an ex-public school boy (I’m saying no more than that).


“Driverless cars? If they form linked convoys, will they be called trains?”
W. Bullock of Trowbridge in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Hm: ♫♫♫The Six-Five Special’s comin’ down the lane / The Six-Five Special’s right on time...

Gosh, that takes me back.

Hi, I’m on the Six-Five Special

The inappropriate use of mobile phones reminds me of a polite notice I have seen recently taped to the front of a till in a busy café on a university campus: ‘We appreciate your phone call is very important to you, therefore we will not interrupt it to serve you until you have finished it.’”
Hayley Keating of Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, in a letter to The Sunday Times.

“Talk of mobile morons reminds me of a sign outside a church in Sicily: ‘God may call you at any time, but it won’t be on your mobile. Switch it off.’”
Winston Halstead of Driffield, East Yorks, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Back in 2007, I read an American magazine article about risk assessment and insurance liability in connection with use of mobile phones in vehicles, something that was greatly troubling the Americans.

Intriguingly, no distinction was made between hand-held and hands-free devices because it seems the brain functions required for driving are the same ones that are used for conversing; also, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the risk of having an accident while conducting a call was equivalent to the risk of driving while drunk.

But here’s the thing: mobile phone users are 500 times ― repeat, five hundred times ― more likely to be involved in an accident than non-users (source: Risk & Insurance, December 2006, Liability, Page 52);

And remember, that’s not using a mobile while driving, but simply owning a mobile. What are these things doing to our brains?

To the manners born

“I do not subscribe to the view that mobile phones are making us intolerably rude. People are either rude or not. Simple.”
Michael Ross of Dunkeswick, North Yorkshire, in a letter to The Sunday Times.

Talking of mobiles and cars, time for another look at a favourite headline of mine:

Believe nothing you hear and only half what you see

Here is possibly a perfect example of why you should believe only half what you see.

I saw the following photograph under this heading:

                                                    Appalling parking

Photos taken from Facebook pages dedicated to poor parking...

Now what this picture doesn’t tell you is whether, at the time that particular car arrived in the car park ― perhaps it’s a hospital car park ― that the place was full, with one parking space, but that the car in the next bay was untidily parked leaving just enough room for the white car to park as shown.

But once all the other cars disappeared, the above looks as if it is the one at fault.

Now I have no idea if what I suggest is true, but you can see how dangerous a world we live in with everyone carrying cameras and determined to be prosecutor, judge and jury.


Friday, July 19
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

WHEN the weather is this warm, I don’t like to think about things too much. It cooks my brain.

As it happens, today I was easily captivated by three images, all of which needed very little imagination to clock my smileometer.

  Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside,
            I do like to be beside the sea
            I do like to stroll upon the Prom, Prom, Prom
            Where the brass bands play:
            So just let me be beside the seaside,
            I’ll be beside myself with glee.

Now you have to admire any song that includes the line “Tiddely-om-pom-pom!” and gets away with it. Anyway, first up, if you’ll pardon the “Tiddely-un-pun-pun!”, is this:

 ♫♫♫ And there's lots of girls beside, I should like to be beside...

Beside the seaside! Beside the sea! ♫♫♫

A new book of ‘cheeky’ seaside images, from the 1950s to the 1970s ― Saucy Postcards: The Bamforth Collection ― offers a unique look at Britain’s changing sense of humour.

Well, humour is humour, and I find the above very smiley.

Then there’s this picture, which has been all over the shop today...

 Whipping allowed

“99 for me; 999 for Trigger”

Now I don’t know if the above is spontaneous, or if the photographer saw the horse and rider and asked that they approach the ice-cream van head on: after all, if you were riding that horse you wouldn’t approach the van like that for an ice-cream, you would approach side on so that the rider is closer to the window.

Whatever, it doesn’t matter because it generates a perfect smile. And all supplied by Mrs Whippy.

(Incidentally, there was a rumour that Mrs Thatcher, before she entered politics, had a hand in the invention of soft-scoop ice-cream. Hm, if she had, perhaps she would have become famous for carrying a whip rather than a handbag.)

Horses for courses

“The nutter quotient will increase significantly as we near the top of the mountain.” Eurosport commentator on the crazy fans that follow the Tour de France, many dressed in weird and wonderful fancy dress costumes.

So I put my feet up and watched Stage 19 of the Tour. Today though, early in the race, along a quiet but gently climbing stretch of road ― I blinked ... what in the world is that?

It was a fellow dressed as a jockey, running along the side of the road, keeping pace with the early racers ― with a horse on his back. Oh dear me, I laughed out loud. And laughed. And laughed.

It was such a hilarious image. Far and away the best fancy dress outfit I’d spotted along the Tour. The commentators didn’t mention it so I can only presume that he had been spotted along previous stages ― many of the fans make repeated appearances along the various stages.

I shall search the internet, just in case an image of the horse riding the jockey surfaces, somewhere along the home straight.

After all, many hands make smile work.

Thursday, July 18
Comfort break

PERUSING some delightfully silly Sign Language pictures, I instantly escaped back into my Carry On Childhood phase ― which isn’t all that hard, really. After all, I do listen to bits of the Chris Evans wireless show in the mornings.


 Little & Large

Where silly word-play hangs out: spotted in Schiedam, the Netherlands, by Nick Roe

Bearing in mind that the Netherlands ― indeed all the Nordic countries ― speak English, often better than the English, could it be that WC Verhuur is more than familiar with the English sense of humour?

A dedicated follower of fashion

Just to balance the books ― in a sex discrimination context, you understand ― this little gem:

 Err on a G-String

Where silly toilet humour hides away: spotted in China by Colin Goldsack

Mind you, I do find myself wondering what exactly I would find if I went inside and then through the beaded curtain into the back room.
Whatever, I feel myself suitably refreshed just thinking about it.

Wednesday, July 17
A nation waits (...and waits ... and waits ... and waits)
                                                                                     (with a nod and a wink to the opening lines of Casablanca)

“THE bunting’s up, the coin’s been minted, media surrounds the hospital ... all that’s missing is the baby (but she’s not called Waity Katy for nothing!). Even the Queen’s getting antsy...”

The headline of the day (compliments of MSN) as the Royal Baby circus enters its AD phase (Absolute Doolallyness). Mind you, I liked the cheeky “Waity Katy” reference. And of course, Her Majesty getting antsy:

“I hope it comes soon because one is going on holiday.” The Queen, in reply to a question from a 10-year-old girl while on a visit to the Lake District.

Does one hear the sound of breaking waters, one wonders? Pondering on the quote, I can’t quite see what difference it makes whether the Queen is on holiday or not.

Oh yes, she didn’t say “one is going on holiday”; she said “I’m going on holiday”, just like the rest of us would. One simply couldn’t resist the naughty little tweak.

Incidentally, watching the television news tonight, the waiting media pack, drawn from all over the world, is now a headline story in itself, all interviewing each other like crazy about the event. Wonderful.

Keeping your cool while all about you...

Yesterday morning, Vanessa Feltz shared with her listeners the media’s tips on how to stay cool during this heat wave. Today, she was at it again.

So what do you do if your home is hot, hot, hot? It seems that following yesterday’s show, Vanessa spoke to a scientist who told her to make a funnel of windows i.e. don’t open all the windows, open just a window in one room ― then open another in a room leading off to create a funnel of air.

As soon as I heard that I intuitively knew it made sense. Mind you, I wouldn’t have called it a funnel of air, but rather a draught.

So I did just that ... I opened a window next to where I spend most of my day when at home, sat at the office desk in the corner of the lounge. Then I opened the kitchen window, which opens out on the opposite side of the property.

And do you know, as I write this, I really can feel the draught drifting by. Wonderful piece of advice. Thank you, Vanessa.

Mind you, she did rather spoil it all by adding that we should only use one bed sheet when we retire for the night. Do we really have to be told something that basic?

It’s much like weather forecasters telling us to drink plenty of water and to slap on the sun scream ― oops, screen ― if we intend spending more than a passing few minutes out in the midday sun...

Talking of mad dogs and Englishmen

I find it particularly magical how one individual subject can grab my imagination one day ― and a thread forms. For example, on Monday it was my delight at the O2 Be More Dog advert, where the cat morphs into a dog.

Then yesterday, I captured this marvellous picture of the cat relaxing in the morning sun in an open window:


Well blow me, today this story was all over the shop:

                                     Fire-fighter rescues dog trapped on ledge

It looks like cats aren’t the only ones who live dangerously on the edges of window ledges

This little Chow had to be rescued by a New York fire-fighter when it
found itself precariously perched on an outside window ledge

It seems that the pooch somehow got out of the apartment window ― the window even had a protective window guard, but the dog somehow managed to climb over it. Or something. It then found itself trapped on a ledge that is only a few inches wide and couldn’t get back inside. Help!

Very good. But you try convincing the pussycat, above, to be more dog.

Royal Warrant of Doolallyness

Thursday early-morning, as I prepare to post this bulletin, I read this online:

                        “Royal Baby: what if we’re at the wrong hospital?

The world’s media are outside St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, but the Duchess of Cambridge could give birth in Reading.” Telegraph headline.

To paraphrase Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek fame: “Please God, make it so.”

Tuesday, July 16
Cool for cats

SO, how best to keep cool in this hot weather? Vanessa Feltz on her early-morning wireless show ― these days I catch about 15 minutes of Vanessa before I set off on my walk ― discussed the problem because the newspapers were full of advice on how to keep cool.

The top tip being to put your pillow in the fridge before going to bed. Now that does sound a truly cool idea.

The suggestion of standing naked in front of an open fridge door was pooh-poohed because that would make the room warmer i.e. the motor would be going full pelt to keep the fridge cool and thus generate an awful lot of extra heat.

Mind you, perhaps standing in front of an open fridge would make you think of a certain Morecambe and Wise sketch as performed to the music of David Rose and The Stripper. Double cool.

Whatever, Vanessa recalled interviewing a fellow some years ago who, when the snow fell, made a load of snowballs and stashed them away in the freezer. Then when a heat wave arrived he would fetch them all out and give them to the children to go outside and play snowballs.

What a wonderful image.

Mind you, as someone who is up and about at first light, I’ve found that just stepping outside is much like stepping into the fridge. Out in the countryside the air temperature drops dramatically as earl-morning mist develops.

Today for example, along my walk, between say, half-five and half- six, it was so cool and agreeable; between six and seven it was brilliantly pleasant; from seven on, with the sun already beating down from a cloudless sky, it was starting to feel uncomfortable.

As for the rest of the day, simply staying indoors and looking at something cool helps. For example:

The U.S. Department of the Interior has amassed a stunning collection of photographs documenting the diverse landscapes of the United States and gathered it in an Instagram account...

 G&T, lemon, hold the ice!

Montana: Inside a snow cave high on the Swiftcurrent Pass at Glacier National Park

The images come from photographers around the country who have captured moments in time in public lands, such as national parks, to dramatic effect. The Instagram account has also captured a significant following with its depictions of U.S. natural beauty.

There’s a link below to a selection of the pictures.

Oh, in the comments section of the Mail Online  web page was this response from Croc Hunter of Yorkshire: “When I first saw the snow cave picture I thought it was a load of penguins. Isn’t it funny what the mind makes us see.”

So I went back up to have a look ... how doubly cool!! Remembering of course that I too have a brain where the eye-part registers a split-second before the reasoning-part. Mind you, rather disappointingly, I did not spot the penguins.


Be more cat

Talking of cool, returning from my early-morning stroll through the Towy Valley, and walking up Bridge Street into Llandampness ― just saying that name makes me feel cool ― there, sprawled across the frame of an open window was this pussycat...

Be more dog? Meh!

The kitty-cat seemed to be watching me with a degree of cool contempt, which I rather liked.

Be that as it may, here’s the link to the Mail Online  web page ― worth visiting if only to see the picture of the thunderstorms over the Grand Canyon:

Monday, July 15
O2 be a dog

“HAVE you ever noticed how easily puppies make human friends? Yet all they do is wag their tails and fall over.” Walter Anderson, 68, American editor, writer and author of The Confidence Course, Seven Steps to Self-Fulfillment.

The above quote came to mind when I saw the latest O2 TV  ad, Be More Dog...

If you haven’t seen this really clever and amusing ad, take a quick peep ― here’s a link:

Right. What tickles my old funny bone though is that the O2 advert links back perfectly to Walter Anderson’s The Confidence Course, Seven Steps to Self-Fulfillment.  I mean, it really is all there in the O2 ad, the seven steps taken by the cat:
                           • Dig hole to bury bone in garden
                           • Chase cars
                           • Fetch sticks
                           • Jump in lake
                           • Carpe diem: “It means grab the frisbee”
                           • Run wild and free with all the other bow-wows
                           • Stick head out of window of speeding car

And there you have it. Seven steps to heaven. Walter Anderson really must be quite chuffed.

Oh, and just to complete the journey, MATT  ― who else? ― comes up with a cartoon about the weather that gives a nod and a wink to the idea that we should all be more dog:

 Heatwave to last at least until August

One final thought: do you suppose Boris Johnson, at some stage in his life, soliloquised “O2 Be More Dog, or not 2 Be More Dog: that is the question...”?

I mean, think back just a year, to the Olympics, when Boris entertained the world by dangling from a hiccupping zip-wire. I would guess that incident was Boris definitely being more dog. (We won’t talk about the more personal things that label our Boris being more dog. This is a family web site. Mostly.)

Anyway, Be More Dog Boris jumped to the fore when I read this rather sweet letter in The Times:

Lost on Enoch

Sir, Your report that Boris Johnson has joked that women “only went to university to find themselves a husband” reminds me of an interview with the late Enoch Powell.
     Reminiscing on his time at Trinity College, Cambridge, he revealed how he had immersed himself in his Classical studies and rather let the social life of university pass him by.
     Was he not interested in the multitude of young ladies starting to come up to university at that time? “I did rather wonder what they were doing there”, was his response.
BRIAN HOPPER, Oxted, Surrey

Oh Enoch, those rivers of blood were obviously being pumped to the wrong place. Unlike Boris’s torrents of raging stuff...

Sunday, July 14
Sun, cycling and crouched in the slips

YES, Britain continues to bask in glorious summer weather; indeed, forecasters predict that the heat wave will continue into August ― but you know what lying little toads those forecasters are! (Only joking, weather boys and girls.)

And Team Sky’s Chris Froome wins stage 15 in the Tour de France, on Bastille Day, in glorious fashion to extend his overall lead. (Slowly but surely you begin to grasp why Wizard Wiggo aka Sir Bradley Wiggins wasn’t all that keen to defend last year’s hard-earned title.)

Oh yes, England win an epic cricket match to go 1-0 up against the Aussies in the Ashes series.

Remember this headline?

                   Australians warned to avoid Britain because it will become “unbearable”
                    thanks to tennis and rugby wins and imminent arrival of royal baby...

No mention of the heat (or the cricket; mind you, the First Test was a damn close run thing, so best not to gloat).

But you know me: it’s the doolallyness that really attracts me to things. In a parallel universe, I am that inquisitive moth that is irresistibly drawn to the flame. So here we are, the picture of the century...

One is born every now and again

 Snakes and ladders!

A collection of 93 empty ladders dutifully standing to attention, many with heads suitable bowed,
outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, as members of the meeja
reserve a place outside where the Duchess of Cambridge will give birth ... any day soon –

Now is that not a priceless image? Especially with just the one fellow sat at the front. And proof, if proof were needed, that position is nine points of paparazzo lore. 

(Apropos the expression ‘snakes and ladders’, my ever-reliable computer spell-cheque tells me that ‘lore’ is also the area on a snake’s face between its eyes and its mouth.)

Oh yes, you must remember this headline:

                             Royal baby name: print off your own sweepstake’

Well blow me, take a peep at this:

 A Bridge too far?

Jessica Bridge, Public Relations Executive of Ladbrokes (the global betting and gaming group),
poses for a picture in front of the Lindo wing with the odds for the royal baby

How can one not be extravagantly entertained by such things. Mind you, perusing those odds suggests some insider trading to me.

Saturday, July 13
Left, right and centre ― and left holding the baby

“UNTHINKABLE!  Prime Minister David Cameron’s reaction to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) proposal that MPs should receive a £10,000 pay rise.

!  Tory MP David Davis’ view of the proposed pay rise for MPs.

It’s all wonderfully amusing. Every Member of Parliament is insisting what a rubbish idea this pay rise is ― given the economic squeeze on the common people and the great unwashed, that is.

But do you know, I have a sneaky suspicion that it will still go through on a nod and a wink ― while every MP continues to plead what a silly idea it all was. I mean, such a significant rise just wasn’t cricket.

Which once again brings me neatly to the marvellous MATT  from The Daily Telegraph...

“This is not the time to put up our
pay. We should wait till the whole
country’s distracted by Kate’s baby”

Talking of Kate’s baby (officially due today, the meeja keep reminding me), and also remembering this link I spotted online: Royal baby name: print off your own sweepstake’ ― I really enjoyed the wit of this letter in The Times:

No more bets, please

Sir, The speculation about the sex of the baby expected by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge puts me in mind of my late mother, who prided herself on her ability to foretell the sex of unborn babies.
     She was right about half the time.

How very droll.

Go figure

A few day ago, this curious Welsh story broke all over the shop, the tale of a grandfather and veteran councillor, who was reprimanded by Bridgend council bosses for making what was claimed to be a “sexist” remark about a colleague’s figure.

Mel Winter, 71, was carrying a cup of coffee in each hand when Labour councillor Hailey Townsend, 29, asked if he wanted her to open the door for him at their council HQ.

Mr Winter replied: “With a figure like that, you can hold the door all day.”

Offended, Mrs Townsend  reported the remark to senior council officials. Mr Winter (I wonder if he’s a Tory?) was summoned by council legal director Andrew Jolley and warned about his behaviour.

By one of those smashing coincidences, which is a feature of this ‘ere scrapbook, just the other day I was catching up with Mrs Mills ― yes you know Mrs M, she who sorts out all your personal problems, courtesy of The Sunday Times  Style magazine:


In our office tea room just now, I told a female colleague ― helpfully, I thought ― that she probably needed to adjust her décolletage (in truth her boobs were almost completely on show). Instead of being grateful, she slapped me. What is going on?

A gentleman does not notice such things ― instead he emails everyone else in the office.

Wonderful, Mrs Mills. I thoroughly enjoyed the “What is going on?” bit. As you will have noticed, my life is one long “What is going on?”.

Mind you, “décolletage” is definitely a word you never hear in the Bible or the Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon. I do not think I will be deploying it soon.

Just another nobody

Incidentally, back with poor old Mel Winter of Bridgend council being called to account over his love of figures, do you suppose Dr Hook (& the Medicine Show, as was), can expect a rather serious phone call from Bridgend councillor Hailey Townsend, along with the council’s legal director Andrew Jolley, apropos the Good Dr Hook’s famous hit: “If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?”

Oh Dr, you’re in trouble...


Are We  having a ball?

Tonight, I caught the beginning of the televised highlights of the Queen’s Coronation Festival Gala from Buckingham Palace ― and sighed with relief when the agreeably elegant presenter Sophie Raworth, in welcoming the audience, didn’t ask “Are We ready to enjoy ourselves?”.

Mind you, it would have been a joy to watch the Queen having to respond with an air-punch accompanied by an enthusiastic “Yeeeees!”, as is de rigueur in today’s dumbed-down BBC when many people are gathered together.


Friday, July 12
“What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why...”

WARNING! Girls, this is what happens when you don’t listen to your father and decide to spend the night with the Knight who came in from the cold, old Mick Jagger:


Believe it or don’t, it’s not a Photoshopped image. At least, this is what it says online:

             Forget plastic surgery ― exercising your face with a pair of RUBBER LIPS
                    will make you look “youthful and vibrant”, say Japanese designers

     Japanese designers have come up with a novel mouthpiece that can “maintain the perfect visage” and keep a face “youthful and vibrant”

     By making sounds while wearing the Face Slimmer, users can allegedly tighten their facial muscles and even reduce wrinkles around the eye

     Not the first time Japanese designers have come up with bizarre beauty contraptions ― tongue exercisers and rubber masks also claim to slim the face

     Apparently you only need wear it for a few minutes a day, and all in the privacy of your own home

In other words, you don’t need to go down the pub sporting your Jaggers, your little red roosters. I’m sayin’ nuthin’.

Sorry, love

Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win is still generating all sorts of news, reactions and wonderful headlines. This letter in The Times:

Murray mania

Sir, “Murray ends 77-year wait for British win” ― yes, and a lesser-known 117-year wait for the Scots, too.

Then I spotted this in the Daily Mail

And now for something completely different

With Andy Murray’s amazing win at Wimbledon, maybe the BBC will repeat the old Monty Python episode called The Science Fiction Sketch.
     In it, they made out that during Wimbledon fortnight, aliens were changing everyone into Scotsmen, as it was well known Scots were the worst tennis players in the world. But then, they had never met Andy.
MARTIN RICHMOND, Brightons, Falkirk


“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
 But spare your country’s flag,” she said...

Talking of Scotsmen, there’s been a bit of a stink over Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond sneaking a jumbo-sized Scottish flag, the Saltire, into the Royal Box at the Wimbledon final, when the house rules strictly prohibit flags larger than 2’ x 2’.

Alongside, David Cameron looks unimpressed as he glances behind him in the Royal Box to see Salmond set to unfurl the giant flag.

You can understand why Wimbledon has that ban-the-banner rule: to deploy such a flag you’d have to jump to your feet and wave your arms about a lot ― which would really infuriate all around you.

In the second picture, Salmond beams as he holds the flag aloft behind the Prime Minister’s head as Dunblane-born Andy Murray is crowned Wimbledon champion.

Many interpreted it as a cheap and nasty political stunt to gain support for Scottish independence.

The shame is that Cameron didn’t have his jacket on when he first spotted the flag ― and his jacket off when Salmond began waving it about. That would have added a certain something.

But here’s the thing: remember from a few days ago, when I shared with you the picture of Charles Saatchi with one hand grabbing wife Nigella Lawson’s throat ― with his other hand seemingly clenched into a threatening fist? Well, I said this:

Chief Wise Owl always insists that we should ignore the grand, sweeping, self-important things people say and do, for it’s always those spontaneous, throwaway and seemingly insignificant little things that give the game away and inform an observant world everything it needs to know about us.

And so it is with this business of Alex Salmond sneaking that flag into the Royal Box. What he is clearly saying is this: “I’m a politician. Rules are for the little people, the fools who vote me into power.”

I actually feel sorry for the people of Scotland with this man in charge: he is a natural-born troublemaker and will probably leave quite a mess in his wake. Everything about him indicates a shark, a polecat, a sparrow hawk, a roundabout ― an individual to be navigated with your wits about you...

A typical politician then.

Thursday, July 11
Tales of the unexpected, with first class delivery

“GET me a skinny frappuccino. I have no idea what that is ― I would like to think you would be presented with a tiny Italian man.” Miranda Hart, 40, English actress, writer and comedienne, and a person of generous proportions.

Very funny. As is this one:

“He spiked my drink with speed. I didn’t mind too much. Got loads of hoovering done.” Sarah Millican, 38, English writer and stand-up comedienne.

And this one:

“My sister was with two men in one night. She could hardly walk after that. Can you imagine? Two dinners.  Sarah Silverman, 42, American actress, writer and comedienne.

Cartoon, first class

With news that the government is to privatise Royal Mail, the nation’s postal service, Downing Street informs us that it has opted to float the company on the London Stock Exchange rather than sell it to a private buyer.

Members of the public will be able to buy shares, alongside larger institutional investors, while employees of Royal Mail would be given 10% of shares as part of a stock market floatation.

The Daily Telegraph’s  MATT  sums it all up rather wonderfully:

“We tried to deliver your
Royal Mail shares, but
you were out”

Headline, first class

                                        British will be “unbearable” in summer, says Australia

Australians warned to avoid Britain because it will become “unbearable” thanks to tennis and rugby wins and imminent arrival of royal baby...

Now that has to be the online headline of the day. I didn’t click any further ― and anyway, just below the above headline was this link:

                                              Royal baby name: print off your own sweepstake


Honestly, there is so much to smile about in this doolally world of ours. Even when things go wrong:

A stick up, first class

                                                             Was she embarrassed? Mmm

The moral of this story is: never keep your cold-sore cream next to a tube of Super Glue. A 64-year-old woman, ill in bed, woke up in the night and reached for her cold-sore cream, only to discover that she’d used the wrong tube. She dialled the emergency services for help, but ― with her lips glued tightly together ― all she could say was: “Mmm.”

The woman, from Dunedin, New Zealand, told a local television station: “I couldn’t tell them where I lived, I couldn’t tell them my phone number. I had to tap on the phone: one tap for no and two taps for yes, and then it took a long time to narrow down the streets and then all the numbers too.”

Police, believing she’d been attacked and gagged, sent a team of dog handlers. Doctors eventually freed her lips with paraffin oil.

The story comes compliments of The Sunday Times' 
Weird and wonderful column.

What baffles me though is why the police weren’t quickly able to identify her telephone number and address, even if she was ex-directory. I always thought the police ― in this country at least ― had the authority, in certain emergencies, to establish this information from the phone companies. For rather obvious reasons.

Be that as it may, but one should add that, lucky for the lady from Down Under, the cold-sore cream was not an antiseptic cream for vaginal or anus rash. Ouch!

Wednesday, July 10
On yer bike

LAST Sunday I mentioned in passing that it was that time of year again. Yes, I am now into the delightful doolallyness that is Le Tour de France.

(Actually, I also admitted to that awful thing we men have an honours degree in: continually switching between channels i.e. Le Tour v the Wimbledon Men’s Final.)

Whatever, today was a special day out in France, particularly so given that I mostly watch the race for the sights, the sounds and the crazy fans.

True, last year I developed an interest in the race itself when Bradley Wiggins suddenly appeared at the top of some mountain or other claiming possession of the yellow jersey ― and two weeks later he was down from the mountain loaded with tablets of wit and wisdom. Oh, and the yellow jersey.

No Wiggo this year though, but Englishman Chris Froome is favourite and appears to be charging out from under the Wiggins shadow.

Anyway, apropos today’s events, this from the BBC’s web page on Stage 11 of the race...

Time and tide wait for no man

The 100th Tour de France has served up some visual treats so far ― remember those roads hanging off the Corsican cliffs with blue skies above and sparkling seas below? ― but the setting for the end of today’s stage takes things up a notch...

The riders will finish a 33km individual time trial in Mont-Saint-Michel, a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey and walled village on a tiny island off the Brittany coast.

There is only one road on and off the island ― a 3km causeway ― and it is covered at high tide. I just hope the organisers read their tide tables correctly, otherwise this could be the most dramatic stage yet...

Yep, hello and welcome to Stage 11 of the 2013 Tour de France, and welcome to the first ‘race of truth’ of this year’s race. That is what individual time trials are known as, because it is just man (and bike) against the clock.

Today’s route, which starts in Avranches, is not long enough for anybody to do serious damage to the standings at the top of the General Classification, but it is still a chance for race leader Chris Froome ― who won bronze in this discipline behind Sir Bradley Wiggins at the 2012 London Olympics ― to extend his advantage on his rivals before the race gets to the Alps...


Now here’s the thing: excepting the subliminal message when I wasn’t paying attention, I was simply unaware of this extraordinary abbey and walled village at Le Mont-Saint-Michel. What a sight. I am not surprised that it is the second most visited place in France ― no prizes for guessing the first.

Also, and as mentioned in the above BBC piece, I was taken aback with the beauty of Corsica. My goodness, how the stunning aerial shots from the helicopters that follow the Tour must give the French tourist industry an annual head start in the holiday promotion stakes.

I mean, is there any other country in the world that has this God-given opportunity to showcase its country in this way?

Despite having visited many a corner of the world, I have never been to France. Not even for a rugby match, which is quite extraordinary when I think about it. I’m not sure why. I definitely have nothing against the French, indeed of the French people I have met they were/are charm personified.

(Mind you, I’ve never been to the summit of Snowdon, which is pretty disgusting, really ― and that despite working in north Wales for a period when I was in my 20s.)

However, back in France, today’s permanent race backdrop of Mont-Saint-Michel sort of made up for my not having seen it in real life.

PS: I’ve been intrigued by this kissing business on the podium at the end of each stage, when the riders are presented with flowers, a stuffed toy animal and the stage jersey.

On the first day, there were just two “mwah, mwah!” cheek kisses; on the second day, “mwah, mwah, mwah!”; on the fourth day, “mwah, mwah ― oops!” ― both riders and girls were unsure whether to go for the third.

However, it now seems to have settled down like this: the Continentals, or what I label the Latin Continentals, do a three-kisser. The rest of the world come in two by two. Unless of course I have misunderstood some unwritten social rule.

Finally, how else to round off today’s smile than with this shot spotted online...


(or perhaps) Ouah!

Tuesday, July 9
Everything stops for tea

SMILES come in all shapes and sizes. Often even the silliest of things delight. Today, I stumbled upon this Mail Online feature from last April:

       If birds had arms: The internet trend migrating to a screen near you

Internet trend which emerged in 2008 appears to again be rising in popularity

The feathered creatures evocative expressions have continued to inspire flocks of creative internet users to Photoshop them into a variety of unlikely poses and situations.

The computer-edited images show tough birds wielding bats, drinking tea, thrashing guitars and even shaving their armpits.

Despite the meme being at least five years old, amateur photo-editors refuse to be grounded and continue to spread their wings and create their own oeuvres.

“Posts have to be a BIRD with arms, not a human with bird head, not an armed bird. Just BIRDS with arms,” the forum’s rules demand.

And here is the
picture, compliments of ‘birdswitharms.tumblr.com’ that hit my smileometer ― for rather obvious reasons:

“Fancy a cuppa, old bean?”

“No thanks. A few nibbles from the Candy Man will do me just fine.”

Now how amusing is the above? So I delved into the pictures of the Towy Valley songbirds which come to my hand in search of something to eat, in the hope of finding an image to balance the cup of tea picture ― without the need to Photoshop it, obviously.

Well, it works for me.

Here is the link to the Mail Online  web page ― the above tea drinking bird is just a starter for ten, with some truly creative images on show. Well worth a peep:

Monday, July 8
7 Up – 7 Down

I ROUNDED off yesterday’s smile of the day featuring Andy Murray’s Wimbledon success with this little piece spotted online:

The magic power of seven: Murray’s win came on 7/7 and 77 years after Fred Perry (...and Murray broke Djokovic’s serve in the seventh game of each set).

And I added: When I next pop into town, I shall buy a scratch card which features the number 7.

Well, I duly bought a scratch card called “Ruby 7s Doubler” ― featured here ― at the local Co-op...

When I got home I couldn’t believe it when I saw the serial number at the bottom: 077.

My heart sank. This card would not be a winner. While the purchaser cannot see the serial number of the scratch card being bought, the retailer can, so seeing 077 on a 7s Doubler would surely be too much of a temptation for the person selling the card not to grab the card for themselves.

And yes, it was £2 down the drain. However, I have a cunning plan ... to be continued...

Today’s Daily Telegraph  included several letters about the Murray win ― this one caught my eye:

Annus Murrabilis

SIR – Tennis is a gentle game, so why has the clenched fist become a universal gesture for players and spectators alike?
Anthony Messenger, Windsor, Berkshire

Allow me to join up a few relevant if lateral dots. Over recent weeks the nation has been mesmerised by the curious tale of a celebrated British food writer, journalist and broadcaster:

TV cook moves out

Nigella Lawson, 53, removed her wedding ring and moved out of her family home after photographs emerged of her husband, the millionaire former advertising mogul Charles Saatchi, grasping her throat in a restaurant in central London...

Saatchi, 70, appeared voluntarily at a police station and was cautioned for the assault, saying he had held Lawson’s neck to “emphasise my point” during a “playful tiff”.

Hm. Then, over the weekend, this rather unsurprising headline broke:

“I’m divorcing you, Nigella”: Saatchi breaks news to TV chef in exclusive statement to the Mail On Sunday and says he’s “sorry it’s over” ... but insists his wife also put HER hand on HIS throat

Right, back to the letter about the clenched fist ... I submitted this response to the Telegraph:

Don’t shoot the Messenger

Sir – Anthony Messenger ponders the significance of the clenched fist in modern sport. It is called body language and it confirms that we now live in an alarmingly aggressive and threatening world.
     In that infamous photograph of Charles Saatchi with his hand around Nigella Lawson’s neck, I haven’t heard anyone discuss what his other hand is telling us.
HB of Dodgy City

You see, Chief Wise Owl always insists that we should ignore the grand, sweeping, self-important things people say and do, for it’s always those spontaneous, throwaway and seemingly insignificant little things that give the game away and inform an observant world everything it needs to know about us.

Yup, Chief Wise Owl is spot on.

Finally, I did chuckle at this quote on the throat grabbing incident from ex-racing driver
Sir Jackie Stewart, 74:

“If I did that to my wife she would hit me over the head with a frying pan. Nigella is quite capable of doing that as, let’s face it, she has lots of frying pans.”


Sunday, July 7
A magic moment in time

WELL, there’s only one picture that tops the day’s smileometer. Oh, okay, two then:


Andy Murray today made history as he impressively secured victory against Novak Djokovic. The 26-year-old Scotsman won in three straight sets (which seemed like five sets, so intense was the contest) ― taking the first 6-4, the second 7-5 and the third 6-4.

At times, the tension ratcheted to an almost unbearable level, no more so than in the final game as he conceded a string of match points before finally clinching victory to the delight of fans and girlfriend Kim Sears.

Also, after yesterday’s smiley collage of eye-catching pictures of the handsome Kim ― is it me or does she remind you of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge? ― it would be sadly amiss not to include a picture of her sharing Andy’s moment of glory.

Actually, I only saw the third set in its entirety because I was watching the Tour de France ― yes, it's back in all its glorious doolallyness ― and I kept zapping between the two events. I know, I know, only a man behaves like this.

Whatever, well done Andy. What I saw was rather impressive.

Oh, and well done to Sue Barker for asking some intelligent questions of both Andy and Novak after the match. I have a thing about the idiocy of the questions asked of sports stars after the event.

Finally, I’m always tickled by amusing little observations in the meeja, so I particularly enjoyed this, as spotted on the Mail Online  website:

                              The magic power of seven

Murray’s win came on 7/7 and 77 years after Fred Perry (...and Murray broke Djokovic’s serve in the seventh game of each set).


Wonderful. When I next pop into town, I shall buy a scratch card which features the number 7.

Saturday. July 6
Pictures that paint a thousand words


“OUTRAGEOUS!  Ian Robertson, 68, Scottish broadcaster, writer and rugby union commentator for BBC Radio, on Lions coach Warren Gatland’s decision to drop BOD, (Brian O’Driscoll, Irish rugby legend) from his match squad for the third and deciding test against Australia in Sydney’s Olympic stadium ― a comment which today came back to bite the Scotsman on the bum.

Somewhere over the rainbow, in Oz

A Lions fan on safari celebrates a famous 41-16 win over the Aussies

“My girlfriend and family suffer far more than me during major tournaments.”
Andy Murray, finalist in Sunday’s Wimbledon men’s singles.

Last Thursday, in the wake of Andy’s nail-biting quarter-final win, I noted that his girlfriend and mother were forever on screen during a break in the tennis ― which led to thoughts of Supertramp’s Breakfast in America  with its relevant opening line: “Take a look at my girlfriend...”

The Telegraph  duly obliged with a collage of marvellous shots...

“Are those tennis balls in your pocket or...?”

Kim Sears, Andy Murray’s girlfriend, takes the scenic if emotional route

Friday, July 5
A shed load of fun

HEADLINES don’t come much more satisfying than this:

         100-year-old upturned boat crowned Shed of the Year beating competition
                        from a pirate ship, a TARDIS, and a fully stocked pub

The uniquely designed shed with an upturned boat for a roof ― and looking somewhat out of place at 750ft above sea level ― battled stiff competition and a strong current to emerge the winner from a crop of 1,900 quirky and creative sheds from across the country.

Nestled in the Welsh Cambrian Mountains near Machynlleth in mid Wales, Alex Holland’s winning design was constructed from recycled materials and features a wood burner, a gas cooker and an eco-friendly solar panel to generate electricity for the LED lights, a 12v sound system and even a fridge.

Oh, and the shed roof is made from a clinker-built boat that is 14ft long and 7ft wide at its widest point. It was an inshore fishing boat made between 1900 and 1910, and which earned its keep in Cardigan Bay.

Almost 14,000 public voters helped whittle down the search for the nation’s best shed, with the ultimate winner picked from the public’s short list by a panel of high-profile judges.

Alex Holland’s victory was announced as part of the celebrations for National Shed Week.

Marvellous. Back on April 7, I smiled at the pick of the entries for this memorably eccentric British event which seeks out the UK’s most wildly wacky and wonderful sheds.

The one that caught my eye, and featured as my smile of the day back in April, was indeed Alex Holland’s man-shed ― or beret-shed as it came to be known here at Look You. True, it was the least sophisticated-looking of the entries ― but it oozed character. And character is something sadly lacking in our modern world.

What also attracted me to the shed was a curious sort of lateral thinking. The first picture I spotted of the shed was the one below ... and alongside, what laterally and literally, came to mind ― remember this?


Yes, the first thing I thought of when looking at the shed was ― oh look, a Sioni Winwns  shed i.e. a beret-shed ― and then in my mind’s eye I recalled the picture of the wonderfully handsome Kate, captured when she attended the Cheltenham Festival a few years back. Definitely worth a revisit.

Every day a day at school spot: Sioni Winwns  (pronounced, as near as dammit, Shaw-nee Wee-noons), is the Welsh term for the Breton door-to-door onion sellers that, once upon a time, regularly visited Wales to sell their wares.

Yes, my mind works in very lateral ways. Best not to enquire, really ― but I do get many a laugh out of it along the way. And anyway, any excuse to show a picture of Kate...

Cleared to land

Mention of the delightful Kate ... I was listening to Radio Wales’  A String of Pearls on iPlayer ― music from the golden years of entertainment, the Thirties through to the Fifties ― and presenter Dewi Griffiths played the song that was a tribute to Amy Johnson (1903-1941), the pioneering English aviator.

During her life, Johnson was recognised in many ways. In June 1930, Johnson’s flight to Australia was the subject of a contemporary popular song, “Amy, Wonderful Amy”.

Also ― and I like this ― she was the guest of honour at the opening of the first Butlins holiday camp in Skegness in 1936. From 1935 to 1937, Johnson was the President of the Women’s Engineering Society. Not a lot of people know that.

Anyway, the point I want to make is this: why don’t we hear more catchy, earworm songs as tributes to today’s high-profile celebrities.

For example, the opening words to the original Amy song take off like this:

          There’s a little lady who has captured every heart, Amy Johnson, it’s you;
          We have watched and waited since the day you made your start, Amy Johnson, it’s true...

Now imagine if the object of that hit song had been ― oh, let’s see ― Pippa?


          There’s a little lady who has captured every heart, Pippa Middleton, it’s you;
          We have watched and waited since the day you made your mark, Pippa Middleton, it’s true...

          Pippa, wonderful Pippa, how can you blame me for loving you;
          Since you won the praise of every nation,
          You have filled my heart with admiration...

I can see such a song sweeping all before it in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Thursday, July 4
Take a look at my girlfriend...


  “LYING on my bed, treating myself to a Milky Bar to celebrate.” Andy Murray after his nail-biting, epic quarter-final victory at Wimbledon.

Heres today’s Daily Telegraph  front page:

The headline, in red, reads:
Congratulations Andy, but please don’t put us through that again

So I’m listening to Vanessa Feltz on her extra-early breakfast show, and as usual, she reviews the morning’s newspaper front pages.

Now Vanessa’s producer, Scotsman Phil McGarvey, has a knack of choosing perfect music to reflect the topic of discussion. Vanessa duly mentions how Andy Murray had put the nation through the wringer, reflecting the Telegraph headline.

We were then treated to Supertramp’s Breakfast in America ― just remember, any break in play in the television coverage of Andy Murray while on court, and the camera lingers on his attractive girlfriend; or his mother, probably because some sections of the media reckon Andy’s a bit of a mummy’s boy.

Anyway, off we go with Breakfast in America: “Take a look at my girlfriend, she’s the only one I got.” Now that really made me chuckle. Mind you, we have to ignore the next line: “Not much of a girlfriend, never seem to get a lot...”

And then we come to this deadly line: “Could we have kippers for breakfast, mummy dear, mummy dear?”

And then the song continues: “I’m a winner, I’m a sinner, do you want my autograph? I’m a loser, what a joker.
I’m playing my joker upon you while there’s nothing better to do...”

Yes, all very droll and entertaining.

A memory invoked

It’s strange how something like the above triggers some lateral memories. Now Vanessa’s producer only has to press a button to call up any piece of music he wants.

I’m reminded of an entertaining wireless show from yesteryear, when the wireless really was called the wireless, and the presenter would interview the public at say Wimbledon or the Motor Show, but first ask them to choose a piece of music.

The staff back at Broadcasting House would then race against the clock to find the record in its vast library ― and more often than not succeed.

Sweet memories indeed.

Back on the newspaper Letters front, this spotted in the Telegraph:

Festive lights

SIR – The prospect of domestic power cuts this coming winter is indeed grim. We can only hope that these will not spoil our enjoyment of the traditional Christmas illuminations, which of course begin in late November.
Professor Gareth Williams, Rockhampton, Gloucestershire

The above reminds me of this: back on June 25, I shared with you the notice board on the wall outside Yr Hen Vic  pub and restaurant in Llandampness: “XMAS DAY LUNCH, BOOK NOW: 822596”. As mentioned, it has never been taken down since last Christmas, a marketing ploy I rather like.

Blow me, tonight, I’m on the computer, writing up today’s smile, as it happens ― the television in the corner is on, but I’m not really paying attention ― suddenly, out wafts a Christmas song.

It’s an advert. A Co-operative supermarket ad. And it does precisely what it says on the tin: it grabs my attention and generates a huge smile.

It really is a neat twist and is clearly meant to leave me, the consumer, wondering what it’s all about, and all within the first few seconds of the advert:

A child wakes up, Andy Williams’ “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” starts to play, and a white substance falls from the sky ... surely, it can’t be? In June? Well, nothing surprises us with the British weather.

But we soon realise it’s blossom falling from the tree and summer is in full swing, which the Co-operative is re-branding as the “most wonderful time of the year” for its food lines. The light-hearted twist works a treat, especially so when the seasoned chicken is placed on the table.

Christmas isn’t the only season to be jolly!

Rather good and quite effective. I presume the germ of the idea is rooted in the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 because he uses the song all year round as one of his signature tunes.

As I keep insisting, there really is nothing new under the sun, just lots of lateral thinking.


Wednesday, July 3
Please mark out of 10

EARLIER this afternoon I mentioned to fellow-imbiber at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, Chief Wise Owl, something rather amusing I’d noticed on my early morning walk. He smiled: “I’ve got just the letter for you at home, just spotted in The Times.”

So before I come to what I’d spotted on my wanderings, here’s the letter ― and the relevant clue is in its headline:

Like my walking?

Sir, I often wonder, seeing so many employees from the public and private sector walking down the streets with their work identification badges hanging around their necks, whether and how the public are supposed to respond.
     Do workers wear them in case they become lost, or perhaps even forget where they work and feel the need to be repatriated ― or are we expected to close in on them, read the badge description, and comment on how well they and their employers are contributing to society?
STEPHEN WILLIAMS, Saffron Walden, Essex

My other vehicle’s a Roller

Okay, here we go: along my walk through the Towy Valley, it is almost exclusively over agricultural land. However, just occasionally I will execute a brief detour along a stretch of country road, a lane, really, a crescent access road that services half-a-dozen or so properties and farms. It’s a public road and maintained by Carmarthenshire County Council.

Parked just off the lane was a small, sit-on road roller (pictured here), the sort used on minor road maintenance ― repairing potholes, say ― where it’s big, heavy-duty brother would be surplus to requirements.

But what tickled me was the notice pinned onto the back of the machine (also shown here, just below the roller) ... you know, the sort of thing we increasingly spot on the back of commercial vehicles zooming up and down our highways and byways.

However, ponder the absolute doolallyness of the notice: I would suggest that 99.9% of the folk who pass and notice this machine will never have sat on, let alone operated, a heavy-duty, specialised commercial vehicle such as a road roller.

So why the hell are we invited to pass judgment on something we have not the slightest idea what we’re talking about?

But that’s how our nation operates these days. The media is awash with journalists and columnists sitting in judgment and telling everybody just how they should be doing their jobs when in reality they themselves wouldn’t have a clue how to do it.


Crazy world, crazy people, crazy Carmarthenshire County Council.


Tuesday, July 2

BACK in February, I featured an amusing little tale about the West Midlands Police being under investigation for jokingly filling in a witness statement in the name of a force dog.

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

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

In the dog house

Well, it all came back to me today while looking through another of the Telegraph’s  regular Sign Language picture galleries, and when I came upon one of the images, a wee voice inside my head said “Fetch!”, hence revisiting the above.

Not so much because a great joke, or indeed a cracking good tale of the unexpected, always stands a repeat ― I must say I still enjoy the “Age if Under 18: 4” bit ― but rather because of what is part and parcel of the next photograph.

More often than not, every picture in a Sign Language  gallery will carry a caption, which is invariably amusing. The Telegraph  clearly has a rather clever and witty sub-editor ― which brings me to the picture coming up.

Yes, there’s the marvellous caption at the bottom of the picture ― but, what is it that actually links this photograph to the above statement from PD Peach? Well, prepare to deploy a cunning smile.

Hogan’s a hero

Surely 100% off

Spotted somewhere in the UK by Police Dog Hogan

Nod and a wink

Yesterday I mentioned that Mick Jagger considers the occupation of rock singer as being “intellectually undemanding”. This got me thinking...

Isn’t that also true of being a celebrity, even a common or garden one? As far as I can tell, whatever a celebrity says, we, the great unwashed, the people, nod and shake our heads (fingers crossed in the right places).

Even worse, a celebrity only has to say something vaguely amusing and we slap our thighs in “Eee-hah!” fashion and roll about the floor in helpless laughter.

I would guess that life for a celebrity doesn’t get much more “intellectually undemanding” than that.

Monday, July 1
Rolling along on the crest of thousands of waves

Tweetie Pie Corner

  “THE last time the Rolling Stones wowed a West Country crowd quite like they did at the Glastonbury Festival on Saturday night, was when they played the Stonehenge opening ceremony in 2300BC.”
Joke doing the rounds on Twitter late on Saturday.

With Glastonbury 2013 all done but not yet quite dusted ― hold the front page: and all in glorious sunshine ― it seems the Rolling Stones did indeed leave their Stonehenge mark on proceedings.

Talking of ‘hold the front page’, I did experience an XL smile when I saw this morning’s Daily Mail  front page:


I also enjoyed catching up with this tail-gunner Comment piece in yesterday’s Sunday Times:

                                                                       Jumpin’ Jack hack

We all know that Frank Sinatra had suffered regrets, although ― as he explained very carefully in My Way ― they were too few to mention. But who’d have thought Sir Mick Jagger would be looking back so ruefully upon his rock ’n’ roll career.

Speaking to John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, he complained: “It is a slightly intellectually undemanding thing to do, being a rock singer ― but, you know, you make the best of it.” Apparently he once even toyed with the idea of becoming a journalist (which to be honest, Sir Mick, can be just as intellectually undemanding but it doesn’t pay so well and rarely seems to impress leggy supermodels).

Let’s imagine that young Mick had decided on a career in journalism. Like Mr Humphrys, he might have been a distinguished foreign correspondent. Like Mr Humphrys, he might have built a reputation as a fierce no-holds-barred interviewer. And last week, just like Mr Humphrys, he’d have trudged through the crowded fields of Glastonbury on his way to interview a wealthy rock star ― probably wondering where it all went wrong.

The magic of 69

Well done Sunday Times, a very entertaining piece. Incidentally, it was also reported on the wireless that in that very same interview, Mr Humphrys, 69, asked Sir Mick, also 69: “How long are the Stones going to carry on for?”

To which Sir Mick replied: “How long are you going to stay as presenter of the Today programme?”

How wonderful: the biter bit.

Whatever, all this “Sir Mick” business also makes me smile. It is one of those curious things that marks Britain as a leader in world doolallyness ― I mean, The Sunday Times  has to refer to the senior Rock ‘n’ Rolls Royce of his age as “Sir” Mick.

Perhaps the Daily Mail  headline should really have read:

As it happens, I never did watch the old Jagger Jigger on Saturday night ― even though I really do like one or two of their songs, I am not a fan of the Stones ― but I did subsequently catch a couple of highlights on the telly.

What an entertaining looking bunch of rolling stones they are. Sadly they have definitely gathered a bit of moss along the way. However, I was mesmerised how much of a Matchstick Man Mick really is, especially so with that large head atop such a frail-looking body. But he knows how to perform.

I was intrigued to learn that Mick spent weeks scrutinising videos of the headline acts for the previous four years simply to learn from their performances what worked and what didn’t.

No wonder the Stones are still box office.

At moments like this you wish that just a few of Britain’s recently retired movers and shakers ― Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King ― had done their homework and paid as much attention to the nation’s history to see what worked and what didn’t i.e. Afghanistan, boom and bust, short-term rollover employment contracts which dangle jumbo-sized GM carrots ― then you sense the country wouldn’t be in such a mess today.

Finally, and to add perfect balance to today’s smile of the day:

“Apologies for suggesting that the Lord Michael Heseltine was more than 800 years old. We know the noble lord looks good for his age, but the copy should have said he was in his ninth not his 90th decade.”
Saga magazine apology.


Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2013: Jun
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)

 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


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Previously on LOOK YOU......

Smile of the day 2013: Jun
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)

Sep to Dec '07

June to Aug '07
March to May '07

As it was in the beginning:


Postcards from my Square Mile @
Updated: 11/08/2013

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

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