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

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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

Monday, September 30
September smileometer stories

Three brief but entertaining items from recent Sunday Times  Weird but wonderful columns:

Startling Discovery

A father of three got so drunk on a night out that he tried to have sex with a Land Rover. Daniel Cooper, 24, had previously tried it on with the counter of a kebab shop, magistrates in Flintshire, north Wales, heard.

“He was seen to enter a kebab shop where he was simulating the sex act against the counter,” the court was told. “Then he did the same to a Land Rover Discovery parked nearby.”

Cooper, of Holywell, admitted indecent exposure.

The Land Rover cannot be named for legal reasons.

What a wonderful last line. Mind you, the imagination boggles as to where precisely on the vehicle he was having said sex.

Now, if it had been a sexy Range Rover Evoque...

Ten days ago I did a feature on pet owners that look like their dogs. Well, this gives me an excuse to run again one of my very favourite observations of the subliminal link between people and the pets they choose ― not to mention things like vehicles.

Yes of course, it’s good old Posh Spice aka Victoria Beckham and her position as a creative design executive responsible for the interior of the Range Rover Evoque.

I know she wasn’t responsible for the exterior design of the vehicle itself — but take a look, alongside....

Isn’t that astonishing? Just as owners tend to choose dogs which are a reflection of their own image, so Victoria has clearly chosen to work with a Range Rover that is a spitting image of what she must see in the mirror every day.

Just admire the cut of those jibs.

If I said you had a beautiful body...

Love my tender

John Ward, a car enthusiast, claims he has built the world’s smallest fire engine after converting a Reliant Robin into a working tender. The three-wheeler has six hoses, a ladder and a brass bell, and it carries the motto:

“You’ve not been put out until we put you out”

Ward, from Spalding in Lincolnshire, said: “With all these cuts to the service I wondered how small you could go, and there isn’t much smaller than a Robin, unless you go down to a bike. I’ve done some speed trials with it and it handles well up to about 60mph. If you have a fire in a phone box, we can put it out.”

Three wheels on my wagon

I have told this true story before, but it can stand a replay. Mega moons back, not long after Concorde had come into service, a local carpenter and jobber, Big Jack, all 20-stone-plus of him, drove a little Robin Reliant.

Every time he climbed into it you held your breath, just in case the whole caboodle tipped over.

One day he called at a Llandampness petrol station, and Brian Rees, the husband of the lady who ran the shop and fuel station, was covering for his wife, and he went out to serve Big Jack ― those were the days, before self-service pumps.

Brian, no longer with us, sadly, was one of Llandeilo’s great characters. As he filled up he said to Jack: “Do you feel totally safe in this?”

“What do you mean?” said a defensively gruff Big Jack.

“Well, with just the one wheel in the front do you worry that if you go round a corner a bit too fast you might ― well, topple over?”

Big Jack pulled himself up to his great height. “Look,” he said, “Concorde has only got three wheels, and if that’s good enough for Concorde it’s good enough for me.”

A nose for theft

Police hunting a woman who stole a £95 bottle of perfume from Boots in Salisbury, Wiltshire, described the suspect as wearing sunglasses, a joke moustache and a fake nose.

Finally, this letter from The Daily Telegraph:

Theatre rhythm

SIR – As a young junior anaesthetist in the Sixties, I worked with a surgeon known as “Lucky Frank” ― lucky because he was the only person in the world who could not be operated on by Frank.
     He was notoriously slow and on one occasion we tried to speed him up by playing The Flight of the Bumblebee through our piped music system with, unfortunately, minimal effect.
     Normally we played cool jazz through this system, and, as patient ventilation in those days was by manual bag-squeezing, some interesting chest movement rhythms could be seen in the anaesthetised patient.
Dr Sydney Berger, Manchester

And on that note: my Desert Island Video Jukebox ― a trawl through the music that has signposted my stroll through time, from conception to 30/09/2013 ― is coming along nicely...

Sunday, September 29
Seduced by a whisker

A BRACE of smiley images caught my eye today. Yesterday I mentioned the alarming tale of a pilot and his first officer falling asleep while flying a freight plane ― and waking up minutes before they were due to land.


QWERTY nods off at the controls

This tiny palm squirrel can fall asleep ANYWHERE, including Its Master’s Keyboard

Wildlife film maker Paul Williams, 34, has taken in an orphaned palm squirrel after it was separated from its mother. After a month of being nursed back to health, the wee creature now travels with the BBC’s Natural History Unit film crew and has become an ‘honorary member’.

Looking at the above picture of QWERTY, and being that it is so tiny ― called a palm squirrel because it can fit snugly into the palm of a human hand: note the size of its head relative to the laptop keys ― perhaps the name should be lower case i.e. qwerty.

The name’s Sauce. Tardar Sauce

Yesterday I also featured variations on the theme of a Bond villain’s cat. Well, today I spotted what must be the definitive version of what a bad cat should look like.

Not so fast, Mister Tweetie Pie

I tawt I taw a puddy tat a creepin' up on me,
I did I taw a puddy tat as plain as he could be...

What a wonderful look that is. It probably won’t affect her famous mood, but Grumpy Cat now has an endorsement deal. The frown-faced Internet sensation, real name Tardar Sauce, is now the spokescat for a Friskies brand of cat food.

And I bet you anything that old Grumpy Cat is actually a sweet little Puddy Tat.

The name’s Ram. Randy Ram

Watching Countryfile  on television tonight, the programme visited the Shropshire town of Ludlow during its annual food and drink festival.

Presenter Matt Baker visited a lady farmer who breeds the county’s native but now rare heritage breed, the Shropshire Sheep. And a fine specimen it is too. What I enjoyed though was, during the visit to the farm, the ram was released to join the sheep because the tupping season is now upon us. Or upon the sheep, at least.

But what made me smile was the name of the ram: Special Agent.

This scrapbook isn’t just thrown together, you know.

What made the whole episode extra smiley was ... as soon as 00? joined the flock, I felt like bursting into a famous rugby song:

♫♫♫ The ram was ramming it here, the ram was ramming it there, ramming it here, ramming it there, ramming it everywhere...

And he really was. Old Special Agent couldn’t keep himself off the girls. I was reminded of Sir Tom, the Towy Valley’s very own ram raider:

And on that note ... oh, before I go:

Spell-cheque corner: The term ‘spokescat’ came up as ‘spoke scat’ ― and I thought, don’t be so bloody personal.

Saturday, September 28
Pussycat Galore

“WITH Bond, you would be mad not to take any role. I would even play the dog.” Joanna Lumley, 67, English rose, actress, author, television presenter, voice-over artist and former model, who dreams of being a Bond bitch.

A dog? A dog, Joanna? Surely, you are a natural-born pussycat if ever I saw one. Many a red-blooded villain would have dreamt of a little Lumley draped across his lap, gently purring away as he stroked her...


A little pussy never hurt anyone – but a big cat is a whole new ball game

Mind you, I’m not sure which of the above two want to be a Bond villain when they grow up. Great image though.

Incidentally, Joanna would have made a memorable Miss Moneypenny, no?

Cock of the walk – 1
(Stallion alert

  “I think Ed should just go on travelling around the country exposing himself to many people.” Labour MP and former Cabinet Minister Dame Tessa Jowell, 66, could have chosen her words more carefully in her enthusiasm for the Opposition leader.

Cock of the walk – 2

“Godfrey Bloom makes Jeremy Clarkson look like a Fabian [member of a British socialist organisation whose purpose is to advance the principles of socialism via jaw-jaw rather than war-war].”
Harriet Harman, 63, Labour’s deputy leader, takes a swipe at the MEP of “sluts” and “bongo-bongo land” infamy.

Cock of the walk – 3

  “I’m thinking I might stand in the next election as an independent for Doncaster North, which is where I’m from. Thoughts?”
Jeremy Clarkson, 53, English journalist and famous motormouth, tweets his 2.3 million followers that he may run as an independent for the parliamentary seat ― the one that Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (he who should be exposing himself nationwide) has held since 2005.

Clarkson later claimed he was drunk when he said he wanted to stand against Mister Ed ― he now wants to challenge deputy prime minister Nick Clegg at Sheffield Hallam instead.

RIP: Cock of the walk – 3 (revisited)

  “I am about to embark on my longest ever trans-London bike ride. Almost certainly I shall be killed.” Jeremy Clarkson, again ― and the British political establishment quietly goes about ordering some really nice flowers.

RIP – 1

“Our grandparents’ generation fought the Hun; we have Ryanair.” Rachel Johnson, 48, English journalist, author, editor and television presenter (and sister of Mayor of London, Boris), moans that Budget airlines are the closest we come to a near-death experience.

Hold the front page...

                              O’Leary: Ryanair to ‘stop annoying passengers’

Boss of budget airline Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, 52, announces that it is to reform its “abrupt culture following increasing attacks over its treatment of passengers”.

Yes, and pigs might fly. Every organisation ― big, small, caring, indifferent ― reflects the ethics, morality and honesty of the person at the very top, its Chief Sitting Bull. Or indeed its Chief Sitting Cow. I shall watch this airspace with interest.

RIP – 2

Mention of Clarkson being dispatched and Johnson moaning about near-death experiences, today news emerged that a pilot has confessed on a BBC Radio 5 live show that he and his first officer fell asleep while flying a freight plane ― and woke up minutes before they were due to land.

The pilot, who was referred to as “John”, said he and his co-pilot were towards the end of a long overnight shift that started at 1.30am. The two were due to land at around 9am in Spain.

But after flying through the night, the pair both fell asleep shortly before they were due to land.

Pilot John said: “We had a long series of flights through Europe arriving down in Spain at 9am, by which time you are feeling less than fully alert. Basically, I woke up and looked across to find my first officer was asleep as well.

“We both just looked at each other and thought ‘oh crikey that was not good’.”

I’m not surprised. This afternoon I was watching a bit of rugby on the telly ― and nodded off. Now I’m not short of sleep ― I sleep soundly ― I don’t live a stressful existence, I don’t go through different time zones... yet I can nod off effortlessly in front of the box, even when I want to watch something.

Imagine being sat up there for hours on end, with flickering screens all around and nothing of note happening ― God, it really must be a struggle to stay awake doing what is essentially a boring job, take-off and landing excepted, of course.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Jowell’, as in Labour MP and former Cabinet Minister Dame Tessa Jowell, came up as ‘Jewell’. Honestly, my computers sense of the ridiculous is coming on in leaps and bounds.


Friday, September 27
A nasty crosswind in the valleys

A LITTLE while back I saw a Sign Language photo that tickled my juvenile streak no end ― but I thought no, I can’t be this childish in front of the world and its dog.

Well blow me, the following tale has just surfaced in the Western Mail:

Residents get wind of an awkward name switch

Welsh spelling “will make village laughing stock”

People living in the small Welsh Valleys village of Varteg are kicking up a stink about plans to re-christen it Y Farteg  (‘Y’ meaning ‘The village of...’).

Language campaigners support the change saying the current name is incorrect as there is no V in the Welsh language (and that is why we are so polite).

But locals say renaming their village Y Farteg  would make them the butt of jokes saying it sounds like a “schoolboy’s playground insult”.

“Can you imagine,” said villager Ray Leyshon, 62, “the bus going past and some schoolboy shouting: ‘You are going to Fart Egg?’ It is just a bad yoke.”

Many road signs in Wales display place names in both English and Welsh ― and Torfaen council is now consulting on which form should be used in Varteg, which has a population of about 1,000 people.

Despite the letter V, Varteg is recognised as an old Welsh word. But what does Varteg (or Y Farteg) actually mean? Well, all Ivor the Search Engine could find is that, somehow, the letter V crept in under the wire when no one was looking because Varteg is shown on an old map of 1901.

There is also Mynydd Farteg Fawr (Large Farteg Mountain) and Mynydd Farteg Fach (Little Farteg Mountain), although the name of the village was Varteg Hill.

Do you suppose that somewhere in the distant past the mountains were threateningly volcanic and were christened Little and Large Farting Mountains? (Are there not a Little and Large Farting Molehills on TV?)

Perhaps the revised sign for Y Farteg
 should also show a wind-sock with the
warning 'Beware nasty crosswinds'

Anyway, confusing or what? However, I did establish that the other name on the above sign, Garndiffaith, means ‘The Rock of Desolation’ ― so perhaps it is best that we remain in the dark about Varteg.

Oh yes, Ivor the Search Engine did point out that the story has even appeared in The Washington Post.

Right, here is the
Sign Language photo that had threatened to bring out the worst in me ― but suddenly seems reasonably funny, in a strictly contextual sense, you understand:

A perfect fashion statement for the people of Farteg

Spotted in Sicily by Sheira Pullin

Quite what significance the name of the shop has ... well, I admit that it is totally lost on me. Mind you, that the sketch of the farting person is a registered trademark is a hoot.

I wonder if the shop next door is called The Poop Deck?

On a roll

Keeping up with the crosswind theme, the hamlet of Shitterton in Dorset has been voted the UK’s most unfortunate place name. The tiny collection of homes, which lies between Dorchester and Poole, is widely considered to be the most embarrassing place to live, at least according to a survey by www.findmypast.co.uk from last year...


This from Mail Online:

It beat the neighbouring valley of Scratchy Bottom near Durdle Door in Dorset, and Brokenwind in Aberdeenshire.

Shitterton is a very literal English translation of the village name recorded in Norman French in the 11th century Domesday Book as Scatera or Scetra.

It means a little town that is on the stream of a midden or sewer.

The unfortunately-named hamlet also beat off competition from Crapstone in Devon, Ugley in Essex, Back Passage in London, Sandy Balls in the New Forest, Old Sodbury in Gloucestershire and North Piddle in rural Worcestershire.

Contenders for the UK’s most unfortunate street name included Slag Lane in Haydock, Merseyside, Pratts Bottom in Kent and Hooker Road in Norwich.

Spell-cheque corner: I was intrigued what the computer would make of the Welsh place names. Well, the village of ‘Varteg
’ came up as ‘Vertex’, meaning apex: the highest point of something ― hm, back with the mountains, now how intriguing is that? And ‘Farteg’ came up as ‘Farther’, which I guess could be read as Fart-her.

‘Garndiffaeth’ beat the computer hands down. It drew a blank.


Thursday, September 26
Twice the name, twice the fun

YESTERDAY I mentioned Tian Tian, the perhaps pregnant panda of Edinburgh Zoo fame, and I actually referred to her as Tian Twice. Now thereby hangs a tale.

First thing yesterday morning I visited the local doctors’ surgery for my annual MOT check-up with Karen, a practice nurse.

I arrived in plenty of time. The waiting room was quite full. In a place like Llandampness pretty much everybody knows everybody, so all over the shop people were enthusiastically greeting each other: “Hello, fancy seeing you, haven’t seen you for ages ― how are you?” “Fine, thanks ― and you?” “Yes, fine...”

That was a typical exchange ... there’s something really funny being in a doctors’ reception awash with people feeling fine. But I know what they meant.

Then, over the public-address system: “Mr Thomas Thomas to the treatment room, please.” And I smiled. I watched a somewhat frail looking gent ― vaguely familiar but I couldn’t quite place him ― walk past, with his daughter I presumed. He walked unaided, but as I say, he was quite fragile; indeed he could well have been around the century-not-out mark.

Anyway, it was the name. I remember in my youth, back on the farm, there was a fellow in the area who was known to everyone as Twm Twice, and I was intrigued by his nickname.

Just like the gent I had seen in the surgery, his name was also Thomas Thomas. Now Thomas can be a first name as well as a surname (obviously). Thomas becomes Tom ― Tom Jones, Tom Thomas ― and the Welsh for Tom is Twm ― Twm Thomas. So he was known to everyone as Twm Twice, which is really funny on the ear, probably because of the alliteration.

Hence my referring to the panda as Tian Twice ― but it doesn’t quite flow off the tongue like Twm Twice. Bad call.

Oh yes, a quick PS: there’s also a rumour that the nickname Twm Twice had a sexual connotation ― but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Yes, it’s an amusing old world out there if you pay attention.

Last week I made a diary note of a
Trending now  headline...

          Bad science: wind turbines blamed for ‘causing bats to explode’

And I remember thinking: Could we not send all our celebrities and national treasures into close contact with wind turbines ― just to see if it’s true?

Anyway, in The Times  Feedback column, where readers contact the paper with their thoughts, this appeared:

Brickbats and beetles

“I know it is the silly season,” writes Chris Stubbings (no it’s not, Ed), “but the article entitled ‘Fear of exploding bats’ really takes the biscuit. One dead, unexploded bat, with no obvious sign of trauma, does not constitute a warning that large numbers of bats can explode because of wind turbines.”

Quite right, Chris Stubbings, you tell ‘em.

Tell me again

You don’t need me to regularly remind you that we live in a doolally world. It was recently announced that the age of jury service is to be raised by five years to include 70 to 75-year-olds (in a move expected to cut the cost of compensating jurors taking time off work). Here’s a letter spotted in The Times:

Too old to try?

Sir, At the age of 70, after 17 years’ service and at the peak of my competence, I have recently been forced to retire as a magistrate.
     However, now I am amazed to find that although I am deemed to be too old to deliberate on thefts and drink-driving, I am not considered to be too old to deliberate on rape and murder on a jury.
     Some logic.
TONY STANLEY, JP (Supplemental List), Newton Solney, Derbyshire

So let’s get this straight: An expert in the criminal justice system must retire at 70 ... yet we, the great unwashed, will be eligible to sit as jurors until 75?

Talking of bats...

“I was summoned recently for jury service. I asked to be excused on the basis that I was well-known and would be a distraction. The judge had never heard of me.”
Sir Terry Wogan, 75 (note the age), Irishman, broadcaster and often described as among Britain’s best-loved and wittiest entertainers.

I’m unsure whether old Wogan is a bit miffed that m’learned friend His Honour had no idea who he was, or if he is being a bit self-deprecating in the fact that he is not quite the National Treasure he thinks he is.

Strange fellow, Wogan. I enjoyed him hugely on his morning wireless show, but whenever I see him on television I am overwhelmed with a need to throw a bucket of cold water over him to wipe the smirk off his face.

But hang about: Wogan is 75, and the changes to jury service will be legislated through an act of parliament early next year ― in 2014...

You are probably ahead of me: what on earth was he on about? Obviously a joke. But what a strange joke.

Whatever, I have a new hero ... this headline surfaced today:

“I see you’ve been in quite a lot of films”: D-Day veteran, 90,
meets Brad Pitt but has to admit he doesn’t know who he is

A British D-Day veteran who was personally invited to a Hertfordshire World War Two film set by actor Brad Pitt was forced to look him up online because he had no idea who the Hollywood star was.

The superstar, worth more than £100 million, met with 90-year-old Peter Comfort to talk about his latest film, Fury, but the WWII veteran admitted he had to use the internet to find out who Pitt was...

The famous actor had invited Peter Comfort ― smashing surname ― to the set of the new blockbuster in Hertfordshire to hear a first-hand account of life inside an amphibious Sherman tank.

Mr Comfort is the last WWII survivor of a Sherman tank-assigned regiment. And my goodness, he does look well.

So how agreeable, a brace of heroes for my Comfort Zone scrapbook ... Peter, above, obviously, and the unnamed panda featured yesterday, and pictured, just below...


Wednesday, September 25
Pandas in Labour

“OUR policy review resembles a pregnant panda ― it’s been a very long time in the making and no one’s quite sure if there’s anything in there.”
Jacqui Smith, 50, a member of the Labour Party and former home secretary, suggests it’s time for the party to announce some eye-catching politics ― which Ed Miliband certainly did today with a promise to freeze gas and electricity (and oil?) prices until 2017. [
The fear is, however, that this may cause future power cuts and that we will all freeze to death instead.]

That time of the month

Relaxez-Vous: what is this life if, full of care, we have no time to sprawl and stare?

With pandas in the news, especially so with the picture today of a group of 14 artificially-bred panda cubs born between July and September and put on display in China’s Sichuan province ― I found myself wondering what has happened to Tian Twice up there in Edinburgh Zoo?

It’s pretty much exactly a month since I did a feature on the cute little lady who was playing hard to get in the sex stakes (she had to be inseminated ― twice, just to be sure, to be sure ― as I recall).

So, why are we waiting?

Mind you, Tian Twice should not allow TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham within a million miles: “Pandas in the wild are a terrible waste of money. It’s ridiculous, but these pandas in Edinburgh Zoo are fantastic ambassadors for keeping the zoo industry going, even if the species should be allowed to die out.”

I have a feeling that Chris, 52 (do I sense a midlife crisis?) has fully bought into his celebrity status, and that he firmly believes, what with millions of fans and followers hanging on his every word, that he really did come down the mountain loaded with tablets of insight, wit and wisdom to share with his people.

He even has his thoughts on the trial badger cull currently under way to find a way to eradicate TB in both badgers and cattle: “I feel sick and disempowered, betrayed, angry and crushed by the corruption of all that I know is right.”

He’s beginning to sound like the bore down the pub who has the answers to all of life’s problems. If he bought the property next door the first thing I’d do is prepare to move home because every instinct in my body tells me that as a neighbour he’d be Trouble, with a capital T.

Oh dear. Anyway, back with the safer side of wildlife, that thing called politics...

A matter of trust

A week ago I happened to catch Laurie Taylor’s Thinking Allowed on BBC Radio 4. He told a wonderfully amusing tale at the start of the programme, which was a lead into an item on political disaffection amongst white, working class people.

I have just caught up with it again on iPlayer ― so over to you, Laurie:

Some years ago I was asked by a national newspaper to follow a Labour candidate around a disadvantaged London constituency as he canvassed support in a Parliamentary by-election.

“What we want,” said the features editor, “is a little ― a little local colour.” But there wasn’t much colour to be found in the grey, high-rise housing estates where the Labour man went looking for support.

He did however devise a way to speed up his canvassing, so when we arrived at a particular landing in a tower block, he’d ring these four bells in the hope that four constituents would all open their doors and he could then deliver his brief election message to an audience.

And I soon knew that message by heart: “Hello, good morning,” he’d say with an exceedingly jolly and enthusiastic delivery, “I’m your Labour candidate, you can trust me because I come from around here.”

Well, on one landing this line failed spectacularly because although four bells were duly rung, nobody at all appeared.

But finally, one door was opened to the extent the security chain allowed ― and an elderly lady’s face became half visible: “Hello, good morning,” said the candidate briskly, “I’m your Labour candidate, you can trust me because I come from around here.”

The lady was singularly unimpressed. “I wouldn’t trust anyone that comes from around here,” she said firmly as she closed the door.

Oh dear, you can actually see and hear that old dear giving the politician short shrift. A smashing story.

Sticking with the political theme, this letter from The Times:

Scrap economy

Sir, The Mayor of London’s likening of signs of improvement in the UK economy to the refloating of the Costa Concordia is unfortunate. Once righted she will be towed off to be broken up for scrap.

We are waiting, Boris...

Tuesday, September 24
 iSpy with my little eye

YESTERDAY I smiled at a series of Sign Language  photographs that really tickled my juvenile funny bone.

Today, I’ve been amused by something similar ― but different. Here’s an eye-catching Mail Online  headline and photo montage:

‘Antonio’s flamenco concert cancelled owing to verruca’: String of
whimsical adverts that keep being posted in corner shop window 

     Prank posts have been turning up in the shop for six months
Amusing one liners are all written in the same handwriting
Owner of the shop is the only one who knows joker’s identity


The entertaining posts have got locals in the village of Borough Green in Kent gossiping and wondering just who is the mystery prankster giving locals a laugh as they pass by or enter the shop...

‘The Greatest Cape’: what a clever play on words. Brilliant. As for the author, well, it could be the shop owner himself, who has hit on a sure-fire way of generating interest in his shop.

This also hit the smileometer:

That’s entertainment, folks. Indeed, I’ve been puzzling what message I’d put in the window ... but I decided instead to concentrate on the above and figure out what precisely the ‘Telepathic’ advert is saying------

First things first ... actually, it doesn’t say ‘Telepathic advert’ at all, but rather ‘Teleprompter message’:


In the above ad I use the word ‘fondled’ ― I wasn’t sure though whether it was the one I needed, so I visited the computer’s dictionary, but rather to click on the Thesaurus.

However, I couldn’t help but notice how the word ‘fondle’ has two diametrically opposite concepts, something I’d never thought of:

fondle [fóndl]

1. stroke lovingly: to stroke, handle, or touch something or somebody gently, in a loving or affectionate way
      idly fondling the cat's ears

2. touch in an aggressive way: to touch or caress somebody in an aggressive or unwelcome way
      he fondled me, your honour

[Late 17th century. Back-formation from obsolete fondling  foolish person, from fond.]

And on that note, it is time to add another of my signature tunes to the Desert Island Video Jukebox:

Don Williams, Country Boy:

Oh yes, with Johnnie Ray’s Walkin’ In The Rain  link having been severed ― I tell you, my Video Jukebox is just like the proper thing ― I thought I’d replace it with a seasonal effort, Autumn Leaves  and Walkin’ In the Rain  in perfect and harmonious tandem:

Monday, September 23
Convenience store humour

YESTERDAY I mentioned that I was born age 46 going on a streaky 16. Or should it be 16 going on a streaky 46?

Whatever, time to exercise and exorcise another bout of juvenility, and what better way than a quick stroll down The Telegraphs  Sign Language Lane picture gallery:

For what we are...

...about to receive

Spotted in Vancouver by Ian Pitch

Spotted in Thailand by Antranik K


May the Lord make us...

...offer up a smile of appreciation

Spotted in Passau, Germany by Husam Fakhry

Spotted in London by “Blake”

Well, they all made me smile, especially in juxtaposition. When I first saw the Holy Crap one, my first thought was that Richard Dawkins, the celebrated atheist, had launched his own breakfast cereal.

Oh, and do you suppose that R. Soles is cobbler Hans Christian Anderson by another name? I couldn’t resist engaging Ivor the Search Engine for a quick peep:

Designer Cowboy Boots Since 1975

R. Soles was established by Douglas Berney and opened on the Kings Road, Chelsea in 1975. We are now one of the few remaining independent shops and continue to offer our own unique styles and the highest quality cowboy and biker boots for men and women...

So there you go. Every day a day at school. Anyway, back to the default 46-years-of-age tomorrow. Probably.

Sunday, September 22
Keep taking the tablet

LAST Wednesday the nation smiled/giggled/chuckled/laughed ― or perhaps simply collapsed in a heap on the floor ― at the BBC television newsreader who grabbed a ream of photocopier paper he mistook for an iPad ... and continued delivering the news to camera as if nothing untoward was unfolding in front of our very eyes.

I did a little feature on it. Remember this?

As you can probably guess, the media in general and the newspapers in particular have been dining out on the story ― and it continued in the weekend papers.

My favourite piece is from The Sunday Times ... Speakeasy by Matt Rudd, which definitely deserves its place in my Scrapbook of Lifes Passing Parade:

Midlife brain burps

Just imagine. You’re about to go live on the BBC news channel. You’re the newsreader, no less. You’ve remembered to put your trousers on (a must, since the powers-that-be insisted, for reasons known only to themselves, that the news must be read standing up). You’ve checked your flies. You’ve got your teeth in. This is not your first rodeo. Lights come on, cameras roll and suddenly to your horror you realise you are holding an enormous packet of photocopier paper.

“This is not an iPad,” you think to yourself. “I’m supposed to be holding an iPad but this is just ... a big stack of paper. What should I do?”

Well, obviously, you put it down on the floor, out of shot, with an awkward smile and get on with your bulletin about drunk tanks. But that’s not what Simon McCoy did. Oh no, he decided to style it out, perhaps in the hope that viewers wouldn’t notice. “In the rush of live news, he didn’t have an opportunity to swap the items, so simply went with it,” explained a spokeswoman some time later.

Viewers noticed. YouTube noticed. Newspapers began describing him as “veteran newsreader Simon McCoy”, which is only one notch down from “national treasure Simon McCoy”. Everyone, in short, had a jolly good laugh.

We shouldn’t laugh. I forbid you to laugh. Veteran newsreader McCoy, 51, is merely middle-aged. He is enjoying what psychologists describe as the afternoon of life. What middle-aged man hasn’t mistaken an enormous wodge of paper for an iPad? Who hasn’t tried to do a PowerPoint presentation with a colleague’s packet of Ryvita? Who hasn’t gone the whole day before realising one’s underpants are tucked into one’s shirt, one’s sweater is on inside out and one is still wearing one’s slippers?

[I had a bit of a Y-front moment there: “one’s underpants are tucked into one’s shirt”? I can’t picture that. Should it not be “one’s shirt tucked into one’s underpants”? Perhaps I am missing a rather obvious insider joke. Whatever, sorry Matt, pray continue...]

Last week, at exactly the same time McCoy was pretending he was holding an iPad, new research was published claiming men officially stop caring about stuff at the age of 46. We lose interest in fashion. We abandon the need to “be cool”. The desperation to conform goes out of the window, along with the embarrassment that comes when you don’t. In short, the 46-plus group no longer gives a monkey’s.

So what if my underpants were sticking out? So what if McCoy just read a news bulletin holding a thing that wasn’t an iPad? It could have been worse. He could have grabbed that Sex and the City box set or a well-thumbed copy of Dan Brown’s Inferno. With age comes perspective.

So it is with trepidation that we should absorb the news that Google is going to cure ageing. Here I am on the cusp of no longer having to give a monkey’s and it could all be snatched away. The search engine giant has recruited Art Levinson, the Apple chairman no less, to launch Calico, a company that will focus not just on diseases but also on problems affecting mental and physical agility.

Old age is a solvable problem. “In Silicon Valley parlance, this mortal coil is a bug, not a feature,” said Valleywag, a tech website.

Sure, there is an upside here. Life is too short. It would be nice if all those smartarses who made us waste half our brief existences playing Angry Birds did something for the greater good. But we should also note the downside. The joy of mistaking an iPad for something that looks nothing like an iPad and ploughing on regardless would be snatched away.

We would still be young at 51. And 61. And 101. And that’s a far more terrifying prospect than realising you’re holding a stack of paper live on air.

That is such  a smiley piece. My own enjoyment is endorsed by the fact that I was born circa 46 years of age, with a streak of juvenile 16 as highlights. I never at any stage developed an interest in fashion, and the need to “be cool” was something I experienced only in the summer of 1976 ― “Phew! What a scorcher” ― or when visiting countries that have revolutions because it is gets so bloody hot under the midday sun you just want to kill someone, anyone.

In other words, I was born wearing, not so much a purple hat, but a violet one. And it was probably a fedora.

Oh yes, I liked the name of that tech website, Valleywag. I mean, it sounds like the name of a character from the Welsh valleys, say Merthyr Tydfil, or perhaps Treorchy ― which brings me neatly to another addition to my Desert Island Video Jukebox.

Today I happened upon a smashing version of Eli Jenkins’ Prayer from Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood.

It is performed to perfection by the Treorchy Male Choir ― or Treorci, to give it the proper Welsh name. And just to give the whole thing that something extra, the accompanying video is as perfect as anything I have seen on YouTube.

I have also taken the opportunity to add 96 seconds of a traditional Welsh sound by Plethyn, a group no longer performing together, sadly.

So here’s the link to Ely Jenkins’ Prayer:

And now Plethyn with Cerdd Wefus  (Lip Music):


Saturday, September 21
Undercover work

“I REALLY can’t get my knickers in a twist about my age and ageing in an industry that caters to the ids of 14-year-olds.” Vera Farmiga, 40, American actress and film director.

I appreciate precisely what she means ― but I wasn’t absolutely sure what “ids” meant...

id – theoretical part of human psyche: in Freudian psychoanalytic theory, the part of the psyche that is unconscious and the source of instinctive primeval impulses and drives. The other parts of the psyche are the ego and the superego.

So, mention of instinctive primeval impulses and drives, today I smiled at a marvellous picture featured online ― it whisked me effortlessly back to my boyhood id:

Spotted knick

Some very naughty boys watch Bolivian dancers perform during a parade to mark
the traditional “Day of America” festival, in central Oviedo, Spain

Isn’t that a magically caught moment? I guess most of us fellas have been there, a young lad’s peep show ― which would, in the great scheme of things, lead eventually to the “if I show you mine will you show me yours?” ploy. Sweet memories indeed.

But hang about ... what precisely was the meeja full of back at the beginning of the week? This from Mail Online:

Flirty Susanna Reid flashes her knickers on BBC Breakfast

Susanna Reid has accidentally treated viewers to a flash of her knickers on Monday morning’s BBC Breakfast

Flash in the pan

The 42-year-old TV presenter gave those at home more than they’d bargained for when she inadvertently offered a cheeky glimpse of her underwear as she crossed her legs on the sofa. 

Sitting alongside co-host Bill Turnbull, the Strictly Come Dancing contestant gave an eyeful of her black and white striped undies as she chatted away, much to the surprise of eagle-eyed viewer, Mohammed Patel.

The 28-year-old IT consultant from Sheffield said: “I was eating my breakfast, watching the news as I always do. Just before they switched over to the regional news, Susanna crossed her legs over and I caught a flash of brilliant white. I spat my cornflakes out. I thought it was hilarious. I had to rewind it to have another look to make sure.”

I never saw it or watched the video ― I mean, c’mon, shades of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct it clearly ain’t. Oops, did I say that? I may have seen the Sharon flash, but I never rewound the tape to check it out. Honest.

But the thing about the Susanna Reid picture is that you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s the men in the meeja who got themselves ever so excited about this pretty meaningless picture and splashed it all over the shop.

Never mind shades of Sharon, I would suggest more shades of Silvio (Berlusconi, from yesterday): wet nose, slavering, tongue hanging out, tail wagging at the thought of yet another glimmer of knicker...

The brutal truth is that we men never really grow up, especially 28-year-old IT consultants from Sheffield, it seems.

Be all that as it may disappoint the female half of the population, I have the answer for Susanna. Here’s the very model of a perfect pair of modern bloomers for her:

Knickerbocker glory

A model displays a Spring/Summer design by Agatha
Ruiz de la Prada during Madrid’s Fashion Week

Doolallyness rules, OK?

Still, very funny though.

Spell-cheque corner: Keeping up the juvenile theme, ‘undies’ came up as a rather smiley ‘undoes’, while ‘Agatha’ as in Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, said designer of that extraordinary body warmer, above, came up as a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek ‘Gather’.

“Gather round, gather round, for a magical mystery tour down under...”

Friday, September 20
Old sea dog days

ARRR, I be recallin’ them well ― no, hang about, Talk Like A Pirate Day  was yesterday. Let’s start again.

Ah yes, I remember these well:


Now c’mon, are those back-up passport photos just too wonderful for words? Having said that, it’s magical beyond how the heads tilt precisely in that first one. I guess the photographer started with the dog...

Well, there’s one similar headline and image today that hit the old smileometer with a flourish:

Dog that looks like Putin

The Russian president has a reputation as a bit of a Rottweiler. But perhaps there is more to the canine comparison than Vladimir Putin’s fierce bite.

This dog in the Ukraine ― codename KGB K9 ― seems to mirror Putin’s steely gaze and high forehead. The comparison was first highlighted on Russian news site obozrevatel.com [gosh, how times have changed].

There was also another Putin story...

Putin: Berlusconi would not be on trial if he was gay

Russian president Vladimir Putin has divulged what he believes to be the real reason former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been prosecuted in court.

It’s because Berlusconi is heterosexual. “He is on trial because he lives with women,” Putin declared to a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. “If he was homosexual no one would have lifted a finger.” [I am thinking that it should be called the Vladimir International Discussion Club ― well, who the hell is going to argue?] 

Such an outburst should not come as a surprise. Putin and Berlusconi are old friends, and the Russian president has often come to his counterpart’s defence. Putin’s latest remarks come just three months after he signed anti-gay legislation, banning homosexual “propaganda” in Russia.

Give a dog a bad name...

The wonderful thing about the internet is how I can engage Ivor The Search Engine to look out for a photograph or some such like that will highlight something I may have noticed, as with the above Putin-Berlusconi image ― well bugger me, up popped the picture of the dogs.

I’ve no idea whose dogs they are ― but they reflect the human characters to perfection.

Putin: not so much a Rottweiler but rather something small, aggressive, forever baring his teeth, always looking for a quarrel and prepared to take on anyone who dares question his authority.

Berlusconi: a bit of a pussydog really ― just like Old Shaggy down the Crazy Horsepower Saloon ― wants to be friends with anyone and everyone (especially those of the female persuasion), wet nose, tongue hanging out, slavering, tail wagging at the thought of yet another quick hump ... but great company I would guess (at least if he really is anything like Old Shaggy).

The juxtaposition is quite something, even if I say so myself.

And then I tripped over this picture:

Black & White and loved all over

Again no idea whose photo it is. I mean, the image is obviously Photoshopped ― but that’s okay. When the result is as smiley as that, weeeeell, be my guest.

WEIGH anchor and hoist the colours me hearties, September 19 be International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Here be me starter for ten:

     “Ahoy there me hearty ― ‘ave ye seen me buccaneers?”

     “Aye, they be under ye buccin’ hat.”

     “Arrr, ye scurvy dog! I be keelhaulin’ ye, yo-ho-ho an’ a bottle o’ rum...”

That be me own contribution to ye day.

Mind ye, I be rather likin’ what I see ‘ere. It be Oscar Wilde, who now be safe and sound in Davy Jones’ Locker, who say: “Be yourself; everyone else be already taken.”

But ... By the Powers!:

But this be worth ye prize piece o’ eight:

A Hoy There. Shiver me timbers!

Wench ahoy

Pieces o’ ten jolly chat-up lines:

     An’ what be a saucy scrumpet like ye doin’ aboard a right fine ship like this?

     Arrr, they be sayin’ ye can reduce the size of a scallywag’s problem at a stroke

     I be lustin’ to drop anchor in ye lagoon

     Avast there: if I be sayin’ ye have a vast stern and fine bow, would ye berth it against I?

     Aye, that be a hornpipe in me pocket ― an’ I be ever so glad to eye ye again

     Avast there me proud beauty! You be wantin’ to know why me Roger be so Jolly?

     Would ye like to scrape the barnacles off me rudder?

     Arrr me buxom beauty, prepare to be boarded.

     Well blow me down ... and thar she blows, me hearties!

     Arrr me lass, would ye mind me firin’ me cannon through ye porthole?

Phew, that be all I can take o’ that. I now be exhausted ― and dyin’ to talk tidy once more...


Wednesday, September 18
Go to work on an iPad

FAR and away the silliest cum smiliest tale today happened just after 10 o’clock this morning ― anyway, allow the day’s headlines to run with the story:

Who says TV news is fake? Simon McCoy shows off the
latest must-have gadget for BBC newsreaders, a ream
of photocopier paper that he mistook for an iPad

“I spy, with my little eye ... something beginning with 'i'---”  “Copy!

The 51-year-old broadcaster was doing a piece to camera from the Corporation’s newsroom about ‘drunk tanks’* ― with the refill pack of A4 paper clearly visible in his hands.

Viewers saw McCoy holding the packet in a full-length shot as he hosted the item live on the rolling BBC News channel without any explanation. But the BBC later said he had picked it up by mistake.

* ‘Drunk tanks’: proposed holding cells for binge drinkers to sober up ― hence the drunk woman on screen behind McCoy ― and, just like car pounds, they will be billed for their overnight stay.

Oh dear, it’s the funniest thing since Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks ― and poor old Simon looks as if he too should have spent some time in a ‘drunk tank’. There’s a video of the piece all over the internet shop.

Actually, and to be fair, he looks as if he was on the way to load the paper into the photocopier ― but suddenly remembered he had to deliver the news.

Mind you, I have always wondered about this modern fad of presenters wandering about on screen and holding those tablet thingies. They appear to serve no purpose other than to make them look cool, or whatever the modern expression is.

But even more doolally is this business of a presenter walking though a crowd and talking earnestly to a camera in the far distance ― while the crowd look on as if they’re expecting some people in white coats to rush up and say “There, there, it’s okay, we’re here now”.

Perhaps they will now begin to realise just how silly they all look. Indeed, we need a suitable term that goes even beyond ‘dumbing down’.

Go to work on an egg

  “As a viewer I want to watch great drama, I don’t want to see a geezer cookin’ a boiled egg.” Ray Winston, 56, English film and television actor, complains that when he turns on the TV these days all he sees is cookery programme and Big Brother “and all that kind of stuff”.

Talking of cooking a boiled egg ... a thread of letters from The Times:

Lemon curd

Sir, You report on the lack of culinary skills (“Beans on toast too complicated for one in ten”, Sept 2). When I was serving at my fundraising stall at the village “Summer Fun Day” at the weekend, a young mother stopped. She surveyed the homemade preserves. “Lemon curd? What do you do with it?”
     She returned later to buy some.
GLENDA M. BREWIN, Willington, Derby

How to boil an egg

Sir, In 1956, as a 21-year-old in a bedsit in a strange town, I bought The Penguin Cookery Book. One of its first pages advised how to recognise boiling water. I still refer to it occasionally.
DAVID EVANS, Ashton-under-Lyne

Sit on bed

Sir, As a student in the 1960s I relied on Katharine Whitehorn’s Cooking in a Bedsitter. She suggested boiling eggs in a kettle.
LIZ WHITTLE, Usk, Monmouthshire

I like that boiled egg in a kettle idea. Also, here’s a You Say contribution from The Sunday Times:


For the past 22 years, I have been able to poach an egg. Having watched Celebrity Masterchef (BBC1), I now realise I need to purchase a green pod in order to cook an egg.

As someone who never watches cookery programmes, I suddenly grasp what Ray Winston is on about. But what the hell is “a green pod to cook an egg”? A quick trip down Ivor the Search Engine Lane...


Never mind dumbing down, even doolally isn’t an adequate word.

Lucky dip

Oh yes, yesterday I visited the local Co-op supermarket, and on the way out a couple of the female staff were selling raffle tickets to raise money for a local charity: 25p a ticket, 5 for a £1. I handed over a pound and picked five tickets out of a bucket: if a number ended with 0 or 5, I won a prize ... I had a 5 ... I won a cookery book!

“Thanks ― but no thanks,” I said with a smile. “Cavemen don’t do cookery books. If either of you fancy it, be my guest.” They both returned my smile and thanked me ― then folded the winning ticket and put it back in the bucket, and the book returned to the prizes shelf. Which was fair enough.

Incidentally, with Ray Winston declaring his aversion to cookery shows on television, Vanessa Feltz asked her early-morning listeners what they wanted banned off the telly: sport, all soaps, ads, BBC trailers which think they’re ads, reality shows, everything except sport...

My favourite was this, from Non: “My telly ain’t dirty, it don’t need no soap.”

I know what she means.

Tuesday, September 17
Clever is as clever does

YESTERDAY I explored the intelligence of dolphins. In my own little way I concluded that they really are bright and clever ― just like your pet pooch ― but not particularly intelligent as in “you are being very wise today, Mr Dolphin”.

Well, Chief Wise Owl today handed me a letter which was published a week ago in The Times. Talk about that ubiquitous word ‘coincidence’:

A little kindness

Sir, Kevin Maher (times2, Sept 9) says that being clever is a myth. Whether or not this is true, people who think themselves clever would do well to heed Dr F. J. Johnson’s advice to a newly elected young don at Jesus College:
     “It’s no use trying to be clever ― we are all clever here; just try to be kind ― a little kind.”

Now isn’t that wonderful? But it also rang a bell ... I went back through some files where I keep those bits and pieces wot tickled me at the time and I’d decided, hm, this will come in handy one of these days.

So, back at the beginning of the year, there was much meeja discussion, letters and comments about telephone cold callers who disturb us at home, usually when we’re having food or watching our favourite telly show.

What I remember though is being astonished at how ignorant and rude people freely admitted to being when answering the phone to such callers.

I tend to avoid the cold-call problem because, if I’m not near the telephone, the answerphone clicks in after just three rings, so cold callers instantly ring off. My mobile is always switched off anyway ― I carry it strictly for emergency use.

If I happen to be caught by a cold call, whether on the phone or at the front door, I always politely make my excuses and leave. (Living in the country means that doorstep cold callers are rare.)

Anyway, The Daily Telegraph’s  Nigel Farndale wrote this under the headline:

Why I’m feeling warmer to cold callers

You could call it Farndale’s First Law of Interconnectedness ... I once went to Dharamsala to interview the Dalai Lama and asked him probably the most original question he had ever been asked, one that he had surely never had fired at him before, nor will have again.

What is the secret to achieving happiness? His answer, which I often think about, came without hesitation and was two words long: “Be kind.”

It was almost as if people had been asking him that one all his life.

Those who work in call centres don’t ring people up just to annoy them ― they’re doing a job. It’s good to remember that kindness, even to a salesman, doesn’t cost anything.

Clearly two great men, Dr F. J. Johnson (whoever he) and the Dalai Lama, think precisely the same.

                                 Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. (What a political slogan that would make.)

Oh yes, the one thing we can say about dolphins is that they do have a reputation for kindness, at least in their interactions with people. Rarely will they attack a human, and if they do there is always a specific reason ― being hassled or feeling threatened ― yet there have been no reports of fatalities. Indeed there are quite a few instances of dolphins actually helping people in distress at sea.


Ever so gently sliding laterally ― a few letters spotted in The Daily Telegraph:

Untidy genius

SIR – Reading the warning that a cluttered desk might jeopardise my professional future, I was quickly heartened by Albert Einstein’s adage: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
    Professor Thomas J Wolfensberger, Perroy, Switzerland

SIR – Having spent many years talking to people about the creation and propagation of original thinking (and examining their desks while they are not looking), I can only say that I have yet to meet anyone with an interesting mind who has a tidy desk.
    Richard Watson, Lewes, East Sussex

[Note: As previously mentioned in dispatches, in my humble opinion, Mr Watson, there is no such thing as “original thinking”, just intelligent lateral thinking. Every single thought is triggered by something we were already thinking of. Indeed, talking of lateral thinking...]

Neat reversal

SIR – I noted with interest that in Kelly Hoppen’s immaculate house she said that “I’ve got a secret, messy drawer beside the bed ― I even get a weird thrill when I open it” (Features, August 19).
      I know what she means, but with me it’s the drawer that’s tidy.
Philip Glascoe, Sturry, Kent

What a perfectly tidy and smiley note on which to toddle off to bed.

Monday, September 16
Hitchin' a ride

“FOR instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons.”
     Douglas Adams (1952-2001),
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“For God’s sake, will you two stop mucking about”

And God created Adam and Eve ― and little baby Flipper arrived on the scene

A WEEK ago yesterday, I read the following tail-gunner piece in the Comment column of The Sunday Times:

Flipper fails on porpoise

For years it has been assumed that dolphins are highly intelligent. They communicate by individual whistles [as does the Midwife Toad, ho, ho, ho ― see yesterday’s smile of the day ― anyway, sorry Sunday Times, pray continue]...

Dolphins communicate by individual whistles, they seem to have good memories and ― perhaps most telling of all ― no dolphin has yet been known to watch a single episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

But if any dolphin is reading this they should prepare themselves for a shock. Scientists now claim that the intellect of the average dolphin is about the same as a can of Tesco tuna in brine (not the exact description, other brands are available).

Not only are dolphins dimmer than the average chicken, says Justin Gregg, a zoologist, but they are also capable of gang rape and acts of violence. So don’t be taken in by those winning smiles.

We seem desperate to find intelligent life to share our burden. As well as dolphins we have placed great hope on chimpanzees, elephants, ravens, pigs and even people who appear on reality TV shows. But as far as intelligent life this side of Mars goes, it looks as if we are probably it.

Unless, of course, that’s just what the dolphins want us to think.

Hm, are you up there, watching, Douglas Adams?

I had a response to the above piece up my sleeve, but I thought ...  no, hang about, I’ll wait to see what sort of replies, if any, there’ll be in the paper before I commit my thoughts into this ‘ere scrapbook of mine.

And indeed, a response there was, a Dear Editor letter, straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak:

For flip’s sake

In a humorous editorial, it was suggested I stated that dolphins are dimmer than chickens and capable of gang rape. I did not. Dolphins do not engage in rape ― a myth based on a misunderstanding of dolphin socio-sexual behaviour ― and are not dimmer than chickens.

In my book on dolphin cognition, which was the focus of the article “Jack the Flipper kills smart dolphin myth” (News, last week), I concluded that there is good reason to believe that dolphins are intelligent. But I also point out that many other species that we often think of as unintelligent sometimes produce unexpectedly intelligent behaviour as well.

Animal cognition is a lot murkier and harder to interpret than most people realise, especially when trying to make cross-species comparisons.
Justin Gregg, Research Associate, Dolphin Communication Project

So there! But how do I  see our smiley friends from beyond the blue horizon?

Much as I adore dolphins, I have never thought of them (or any of their cetacean cousins) as being particularly intelligent. Bright and clever, yes, but not exceptionally sensible or rational.

Your dog is bright and clever ― you can teach it to do tricks and it learns things quickly ― but it is not intelligent, at least not in the human sense.

Real intelligence ― or inherent wisdom as I prefer to think of it ― is the ability to sense the ambush before entering the pass, the gift of making sensible decisions and judgments before taking the first step.

We all know such people, individuals who appear to have some unseen power clearing a path for them along their walk through time. What they all possess is wisdom.

If dolphins and the like were blessed with wisdom, then the moment they hear the distant sound of an engine they would have quickly learnt to recognise approaching death and destruction ― and get the hell out of there. Think how many dolphins are drowned in nets meant to catch tuna, simply because pods of dolphins tend to indicate tuna below.

Even whales, which might not be able to outpace modern whaling fleets, would have learnt to keep to the deep, surfacing for a few seconds only to take in air before disappearing back into the depths and beyond the harpoons.

Mind you, we humans are no better. If we possessed wisdom, our movers and shakers would have spotted at 40 paces the property bubble with its attendant financial crash of 2007-08.

As for the repeated historical lessons apropos Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria ― well, ambush territory sporting a balaclava and continually whistling a warning tune.

Dolphins still make me smile though.


Sunday, September 15
Inspector Clouseau lives

BACK on September 6, I told the tale of observing a passing heron’s surprisingly sizable flight-feather ‘gyrocopter’ magically and gracefully to earth in a field deep in the heart of the Towy Valley (doesn’t quite scan as elegantly as ‘deep in the heart of Texas’; still).

Well, I recently read this in The Sunday Times  Weird but wonderful column. It’s about a stork, actually ― but that’s close enough:

Tinker, tailor, soldier, stork

Police in Egypt detained a stork on suspicion of spying. The bird was captured by a fisherman on the banks of the Nile when he spotted it was carrying an electronic device. Fearing espionage, he took it to police in the city of Qena.

Officers suspected that the gadget might be a “beumb” i.e. a bomb, but wildlife experts they called in revealed it to be a tracking device used to plot the movement of migratory birds.

Not a nasty special delivery after all then. Smashing tale.

Move over, darling

Here are some memorable letters from The Sunday Telegraph  about moving home, the one featured last in this thread appeared just today:

Dangerously empty

SIR – Oliver Pritchett (Lifestyle, August 4) asked who would move house and take the loo roll holder with them.
     Friends with boys aged four and ten bought a £400,000 house. Not only was there not a sheet of loo paper, but every light bulb had been removed, and incredibly (the vendors had family too) the battery had been removed from the smoke alarm.
Helen Davis, Bradpole, Dorset

Moving in the dark

SIR – On the subject of moving house, my wife’s family once moved into a house late one evening, all natural light gone, only to find that the light fittings had all been snipped off where the wire entered the ceiling rose.
Mik Shaw, Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex

Missing shed

SIR – Upon reading Mik Shaw’s letter on the subject of moving house in the dark, I was reminded of our move to Fareham, in Hampshire, many moons ago.
     The removal men asked where we wanted the lawnmower put. “In the shed”, we told them. “What shed?” came the reply.
     It had been removed along with all the light fittings
P J Kelley, Poole, Dorset

Off the rails

SIR – When we moved into our new house late one winter’s afternoon, the curtains had been left for us, as negotiated as part of the sale. They were in a neat pile on the floor of the conservatory.
     The vendors had taken all of the curtain rails.
Sandra Turner, Hadleigh, Essex

At that point, it’s best to draw a veil over the extraordinary behaviour of some of our fellow human beings. Indeed, I am nearly lost for words. However...

Things that go beep in the night

Now I’m always going on about coincidence. Well, listen to this.

Last Thursday morning ― I meant to tell the tale at the time but forgot and the letter above about the missing battery from the smoke alarm reminded me ― I hear the intermittent, tell-tale beep of the smoke alarm. I change the battery.

That afternoon, the wireless was on and Louise Elliott on Radio Wales had a guest, an expert on amphibians. They were discussing toads, in particular the marvellously named Midwife Toad.

These little creatures are not native to the UK but are common in Europe. It is believed the Midwife arrived in Bedfordshire in 1903 in a delivery of plants from France.

As far as is known they are not a threat to native species (unlike, say, the grey squirrel is to the red).

Curiously, these toads have established a thriving colony in mid Wales, near Llandrindod Wells.

Anyway, Midwife toads have two curious characteristics. When it comes to mating, the female develops the eggs and then transfers them to the male; he then carries them around as a string of eggs coiled around his back legs ... quite what Egyptian police would make of this little “beumb” ― well, I hate to think...

When a man’s gotta do...

The Midwife toad and his very own 16-plus-pack

A few weeks after taking possession of the eggs the Midwife male will head for water to release the tadpoles.

The second unusual characteristic is their extraordinary mating call, which sounds exactly like a smoke alarm that’s running short on battery life.

The expert in the studio told a tale of someone in England who could hear this beeping sound, changed the detector batteries, exactly as I did that morning ― but the beeping continued.

Overwhelming curiosity lead him to eventually discover the toads. They will, when in the mood, apparently answer back if you whistle to them.

Below is a link to their smiley mating call ― and all beeped with a Welsh accent:

Saturday, September 14
Headline act

JUST a couple of days back I wrote about the simple joy of spotting online news headlines which are unintentionally juxtaposed (or perhaps even intentionally for all I know).

There was the Pope and Richard Dawkins competing for our attention ― I didn’t bother to click either story, but the Pope won hands down in the Top Ten ‘Most viewed’ and ‘Most commented’ sections.

Well, today something similar but different:

Balloonist’s bid to cross Atlantic ends after 12 hours----

Voyager leaves solar system 36 years on----


Incidentally, I saw a piece on the television news about Voyager. It is, apparently, about the size of an E-Type Jag; and it has nowhere near the computing power of your mobile phone. And yet it is still working and sending messages back to earth, and likely to do so for a few more years yet before its batteries finally give up the ghost. Amazing.

Hm, do you get the impression that as a species we are travelling backwards through time at a rate of knots? I sense that everything is much too complex these days, from cars to mobile phones, and there’s now a much greater chance of something going wrong?

Anyway, talk of something simple and silly hitting the smileometer with a bang ― some magical gems spotted online:

Animal prints: Picture perfect moments ruined as pets photo-bomb
their owners (and each other
!) with hilarious results

These pictures might need a little editing before they make it into the family album as cats, dogs and even horses photo-bomb them. And in a sign that things are getting out of hand, animals are even photo-bombing other animals.

While the laughing horse (“Why the long face?”) is pure joy ― the juxtaposition between horse and girl is perfection ― it’s the cat peeping round the corner at the dog which claims the gold.

Now c’mon, have you ever seen such an evil look? It’s all in the eyes. Compare it with the cat alongside. Wouldn’t it be great to know precisely what the Machiavellian Moggy is planning to do to the overly pleased as Punch Pooch. Magic.

With digital cameras and computer thingamabobs you can do almost anything to pictures these days. But even the most Photoshop-savvy of photographers might struggle to fix the above snaps after the unwitting subjects found themselves ‘photo-bombed’ by their friendly neighbourhood creature comforts.

From a laughing horse to curious cats, if there’s one thing these photos show it’s that no creature can be trusted around a camera.

There’s another featuring a horse that has highly commended written all over it ― and there’s that eye again:


Smile: The kids upstaged by a slightly manic looking horse

And finally, the holidays are over:

Look away now: first day back at school goes off with a bang

None of the above pictures are identified, so I have no idea who they are or where they’ve come from. But what all the pictures prove is that spontaneous visual humour is infinitely more rewarding than the Photoshopped variety, entertaining as many of them can be.

PS: Congratulations to Non Stanford from Swansea who this morning, in the gloom of Old London Town, generated a mega smile as she became World Triathlon Champion. Triathlon is not just a tough sport, but the fastest growing Olympic event, apparently:


Friday, September 13
A postbox over troubled waters

   THE other day I mentioned in passing the memorable practical jokes that were played out in the original UK Candid Camera television series: there was the moving wall space behind the carpenter’s back as he trimmed a shelf to fit; and the car in the garage forecourt, having just filled up with petrol, is found not to have an engine...

It’s good to see that amusingly original practical jokes, without ‘victims’ shouting, swearing and loosing their cool in frustration, are still alive and well and popping up in the most surprising of places.

There’s something fishy going on: Mysterious red postbox
 appears overnight in middle of RIVER THAMES
 ― Royal Mail say they know nothing about it

Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire, was best known as the home of celebrity spoon/mind-bender and illusionist Uri Geller. But now residents of the town are scratching their heads over the appearance of a Royal Mail letterbox ― in the middle of the Thames.

An incredulous postman spotted the traditional box embedded into one of the buttresses of a brick bridge. As he didn’t have a boat handy, he took a photo from the riverbank to prove to his bosses just why he hadn’t been able to make this particular collection in his van.

Posting a letter would be tricky too, and with the box nestled just a few feet above the water line, it would be likely to become waterlogged in the winter as this stretch of the Thames regularly floods.

Nobody knows how the object got there, although Geller speculated to the BBC that it may have been left by a ghost [Ghostman Pat, and his spoon-fed black and white cat?].

Unfortunately, the Royal Mail has revealed that the box is “not an operational posting facility”, which means that the famous river inhabitants Ratty, Mole and friends will need to continue to use alternative locations within the town.

A window of opportunity

The postbox really is a great practical joke. Made even better given how much care went into ensuring that it looks so realistic. Oh, and the best part? Royal Mail calling a postbox an “operational posting facility”.

Between you, me and the nearest e-mail box, I think Royal Mail put that there themselves so that they could launch the expression “operational posting facility” on an unsuspecting world.

Perhaps it’s all part of a cunningly frank plan by Royal Mail to show the City that they really are a “blue-sky thinking organisation determined to push the envelope way beyond the letterbox, and perfectly placed to face a 21st century challenge”, what with the £3billion sale of the organisation to the public now in the post.

Whatever, as a practical joke ... 10/10.

More comments, please

Yesterday I smiled at a thread of comments on a Telegraph  letters page. Well, you wait ages, and two come along together.

Today, it all began, quite innocently, with a comment in response to a published letter apropos the hassle involved in moving bank accounts. The contributor begins by quoting a paragraph from said letter:

JDavidJ: Transfer of bank accounts is very different from changing your mobile phone provider and it is worrying that a member of the treasury select committee should think otherwise. Cannot the committee say ‘job well done’, and move on to other initiatives that might even be supportive to our banks?" ― Stuart O’Nions.

Indeed. Switching a mobile account, unless the phone number changes, only affects the account holder. Changing a bank account may affect dozens of third parties, and any hiccup can result in penalties, loss of benefits etc. This needs to be thoroughly and carefully.

The Central Scrutiniser: JDJ ― your post needs to be thoroughly and carefully completed!

A little later...

The Central Scrutiniser: I think this tends to happen more and more as you get older ― you start doing something, then... 

Just a couple of minutes later...

The Central Scrutiniser: ...you start doing something else completely...

Peddytheviking: Some things are better left unsaid.

The Central Scrutiniser: It reminds me of Hylda Baker, who, when asked the time, would say:
     “Ooooh, it’s twenty past ...  I really must get a little hand put on this watch.”
I have no idea why it reminded me of that, but it did.

That is such an amusing response to JDJ not posting his comment in its completeness(?). It is quite reassuring that something so innocent can turn out to be so entertaining.


“Do you know a man by the name of LaFong, Carl LaFong?” Oh dear, I am still laughing at yesterday’s WC Fields-related YouTube video clip. “Capital L, small a, capital F, small o, small n, small g. LaFong, Carl LaFong?”

Wonderful. It is up there with “Don’t tell him, Pike!” from Dad’s Army, the Monty Python dead parrot sketch, the crashing chandelier from Only Fools and Horses, the “I only told you to blow the bloody doors off!” from The Italian Job...

Again, it is quite reassuring that something so silly can turn out to be so exceedingly smiley.


Thursday, September 12
Here’s your starter for 10

YOU know me, I’m very much a starter for ten man, meaning, I am perfectly satisfied reading brief (but entertaining) previews about the day’s television and radio programmes without then feeling obliged to watch or listen.

Also, I feel perfectly at ease just perusing those online newspaper home page headlines ― you know, the opening line which invites you to then click and read on. Between you, me and the nearest online gate-post, I now have an honours degree in expanding any given headline to fit my prejudices. LOL XXL.

Take today’s Telegraph  home page. Here are two “Click me! Click me! headlines, and as if by magic, set on opposite sides of the page:

Professor Richard Dawkins: Atheists are winning the war against religion,
author of The God Delusion has said...

Pope reaches out to atheists: Pope Francis has struck a surprisingly conciliatory tone towards
atheists and agnostics, saying that God will “forgive” them as long as they behave...


Talk about DOUBLE LOL XXL: God will “forgive” them, as long as they behave...  Well, nothing I could possibly read further would shift me off my seat up there on the fence, so I made my excuses and left.

Oh yes, I did note that, while the Pope story featured in both the ‘Most viewed’ and the ‘Most commented’ Top Ten, there was no sign of the Richard Dawkins story.

Now I believe this has nothing to do with the Telegraph  readership’s religious beliefs, but rather, I contend that the moment most of us catch sight of Richard Dawkins, we appear to be overwhelmed with a need to bop him on the nose.

The good professor is a curiously unlovable fellow.

I have a dream

Returning for a moment to The Sunday Times  Critics’ Choice of the day’s telly programmes, there was a review of Pat and Cabbage, a sitcom about a couple of misbehaving sixty-somethings. Here’s a grab:

One of them, Pat, needs to get a job, but is distracted by a recently acquired addiction to computer games, and her children are unsupportive in her quest for employment. “I have a dream,” Pat moans on her way to an interview, “where one day, this age group will be valued by everyone, not just the car-insurance industry.”

I am highly unlikely ever to watch the programme, but I thought Pat’s line a little gem of wit and wisdom.

Right, back with today
’s Daily Telegraph ... there was a letter in response to a missive published back on September 9. Here’s your starter for ten:

Thou or you?

SIR – Allison Pearson’s ideas about how Shakespeare would write Downton Abbey (Features, September 5) were ingenious and amusing, but included a common misunderstanding: she has Carson addressing Lord Grantham as “thou”.
     Thou in Shakespeare is a bit like tu in modern French. Romeo and Juliet, for instance, address one another as you at first. We think of thou as a way to address God because that is the form in the 1552 Book of Common Prayer. However, the decision to address God as a father, rather than as a Lord, was not taken lightly. It was a matter of intense controversy at the time.
Philip Roe, St. Albans, Hertfordshire

Well, Welsh is like French: we have “ti” and “chi”. Ti (tu), is how I would address anyone I am very familiar with, of any age, except perhaps someone really elderly. Chi (vous), is where I show intuitive respect.

Anyway, here’s the marvellous response to the above letter (with a brilliant Telegraph  headline):

To thee or to not to thee

SIR – There is no need to look to France to explain the use of “thee” and “you” in Shakespeare. In a BBC play, not so long ago, an elderly lady firmly rebuked an over-familiar young man with the words: “Don’t thou thee me!” The play was located in the North.
Daniel C Davies, Cardiff

Chris Evans, DOL! (D’oh! Out Loud)

Perusing the Letters Comment section, I stumbled upon this entertaining thread of comments, all kicked off by the news that smaller, wipe-clean plastic banknotes could be introduced by the Bank of England from 2016, matching some currencies across the world.

Here we go:

rjw23: Having family on New Zealand, we are there as often as we can be and find plastic notes so much better.
     They slip into wallet or purse much easier, are impossible to tear and don’t jam in machines or go soggy if they meet water. I simply cannot understand why it has taken the Bank of England so long to consider them. If they are harder to forge, as well, that must be another, even more important, reason for having them.

Hm, if they slip into wallet or purse much easier, then, from a male point of view, they will also slip out of my back-pocket much easier when I am not looking. Incidentally, I was intrigued by having a family on  New Zealand rather than in. A whole new type of thee and you ball game?

Anyway, the first response to rjw23 was this one ― I also show the new contributor’s avatar, the reason will become clear as the comments unfold:

Cuthbert J Twillie: I seem to remember that plastic bank notes were used in the Isle of Man at least 25 years ago when I last visited ― I was amazed then that they were impossible to tear (not that I often go around tearing up banknotes...).

Neil Ashley: Cuthbert J Twillie ... are you also Mahatma Kane-Jeeves?


  Cuthbert J Twillie: Well ... all I can say to that is, that a woman drove me to drink and I didn’t even have the decency to thank her.

Naomi Onions: I get Mahatma Kane-Jeeves but you’re going to have to help me out with Cuthbert J Twillie.

Hugh_Mungas_Willy: He’s a distant relation of mine, on my mother’s side.

[Now there’s a man who clearly responded to the junk e-mail inviting him to add 4" to his WMD.]

Neil Ashley: Mahatma Kane-Jeeves was W C Fields’ pseudonym as a screenwriter on, among other films, ‘It's a Gift’. Cuthbert J Twillie was the name of his con-man character in ‘My Little Chickadee’.

The Central Scrutiniser: Neil ... have you ever thought of going on Mastermind?

Naomi Onions: Ah, and I thought it was another pun.

DrNickelBockle: Do you know a man by the name of LaFong, Carl LaFong? Capital C, small a, small r, small l, capital L, small a, capital F, small o, small n, small g. LaFong, Carl LaFong?

Zaharadelasierra: DrNickelBockle ... Why? Capital W, small h, small y, question mark. Why?

And there, LOL (capital L, capital O, capital L), I made my excuses and left...

But not before I encountered
Naomi Onions on another Comment thread, this time about a news story about wind turbines killing golden eagles in the Highlands ― but fellow commenters(?) hadn’t heard the story and couldn’t even find it online.

Naomi Onions: I heard this story on the news this morning. On the BBC, Radio 2, actually. During the, ahem, Chris Evans Breakfast show. I was on the school run! I couldn’t help it!

Well, Naomi has the perfect excuse, the kids wanted to listen to Chris ― but I don’t even have that luxury.

I am really not sure what I’d say if someone happened to call on me early morning and caught me listening to the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on the wireless.

PS: Apropos LaFong, Carl LaFong, Capital C, small a...

Watch this 46-second clip ― and mind you don’t die laughing:


Wednesday, 9/11
Composing the perfect picture

TODAY’S smile of the day is a smile of wonder. Wonder at what a little piece of technology called a camera can create for posterity. For example:

New York remembers its fallen

Twin towers of light rise above Ground Zero on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks

As mentioned in a previous dispatch (I think), if I were packed away to that mythical South Sea Island paradise of Desert Island Discs  fame, together with my eight records, a book of my choice and a luxury item, the first thing I would do is trade in the resident bedside Complete Works of Shakespeare  and the Bible  for the Complete Works of Memorable Quotations.

After all, the answers to life, the universe and nearly everything are found in the unforgettable things people have said down the ages. For example:

“Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences.” Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer.

See what I mean: just eleven words, two commas and a full stop that sets your brain racing.

Mind you, my mother, in the language of the hearth, used to say: “Treat people with respect because you will find along your walk through time that the wheel always turns full circle. Always.”

And anyone who had paid attention to Mr Stevenson and my mum will already have realised that there are good, bad and ugly consequences. And they will pay you a visit sometime, somewhere along your journey, whether they be good, bad or ugly.

Anyway, back with Desert Island Discs. What about that book of my choice? Well, as I’m a reader of people rather than of books, I would take a comprehensive album of photographs.

But would I plump for an album of the very best of modern photography (wildlife, landscape, sport, all the startlingly high quality photographs we now view as a matter of course), or an album of photographs from the early days of photography, those black and white (or sepia), rather grainy images that grab our attention whenever they suddenly appear in front of us?

For me it’s a no-brainer. Wonderful as modern photograph is (see above), the trouble is, when you’ve seen the very model of a modern picture, no matter how technically perfect and eye-catching it is, once you turn the page, the image quickly fades from the memory.

But look at old photographs ― well, they really do paint a thousand words.

I guess with today’s top photographers, no matter how talented they are, they have such wondrous equipment they point their cameras and take hundreds of images and hope that there is one magical photo in there.

And if there isn’t ― weeeeell, a bit of Photoshopping, and Bob’s your uncle, Fanny’s your aunt.

Of course there are glorious examples of modern photography which challenge the rule. Take the 9/11 picture at the top: it really is a stunning composition ... the two shafts of light, obviously, but great thought has gone into what the picture is attempting to say, in particular, the Statue of Liberty, all lit up with nowhere to go, there in the foreground.

It’s a magical and thought-provoking image. Okay, for all I know, Lady Liberty could have been Photoshopped into perfect place ― but it really doesn’t matter. It paints a marvellous picture.

Be all that as it may, when you look at old photographs, you realise that, given the nature of those early cameras, the photographer had just the one shot, one chance to get it right, so the subject matter had to be composed with infinite care.

Never mind a thousand words, in that one picture they needed to tell a short story. First, a title ... then a perfect opening line to draw us in ... and finally the composition had to tell a tale that made you want to ask...

Talking of which, The Famous Five Ws Go To War:

Sent to hell on double-decker buses

Max Hastings is apparently one of Britain’s greatest war historians. In his new book to mark the centenary of World War I, he reveals the very human stories behind the war.

There was an extract in today’s Mail Online, where he tells the story of the heroic fighting around Ypres, where the horror of trench warfare first emerged in all its blood-soaked futility.

The Belgian town came “to represent all the blood-letting horrors of World War I”. 

I was mesmerised by this picture:

Ready to fight: British troops from the 2nd Royal Warwickshire Regiment are ferried to Ypres
 in 1914, on the same buses that would, just months earlier, have taken them to work in the City

At the place immediately dubbed ‘Wipers’ by the British Tommies, there would be five gruesome battles over the next four years. And five questions have followed ever since. What? Where? Who? When? Why?

In this abattoir called ‘Wipers’, more than a million men of all nationalities would die or be wounded. The toll of British dead alone would top 200,000 in this ongoing Flanders nightmare. (Did you feel your shoulders slump right there?)

And doesn’t the picture, above, say something quite huge. Especially that fellow on the left, a local I presume, his forlorn look and body language seem to anticipate what will happen to him, his town and those poor soldiers.

Even though there was terrible suffering surrounding 9/11 ― people jumping to their deaths to escape the horror ― they had little time to think about what was happening to them. But those WWI ‘victims’ had four years to ponder on their fate, if indeed they survived that long.

Stunning as that 9/11 picture at the very top is, the WWI image overwhelms my imagination.

Tuesday, September 10
Making a bit of a splash

WHAT happens when a body is immersed in water?
      The bloody doorbell always rings twice ― and sod
s law dictates that Ive missed that sexy little postwoman yet again.

I spotted the following smashing story yesterday ― but only caught up with its conclusion today. But first, just to get us in the mood:

      Fatima Blush:  “Oh, how reckless of me. I made you all wet.”
      James Bond:   “Yes, but my martini is still dry. My name is James.”

Man finds 007’s submarine car from The Spy Who Loved Me worth
$1m after he buys storage container contents blind for just $100

When a New York small business owner bought a storage container in a blind auction for $100 he hoped he might be able to double or even triple his money by selling its contents.

But inside he discovered one of the world’s most legendary film cars ― albeit he didn’t recognise it having never watched a Bond film ― and is now set to make at least 10,000 times what he paid for the container.

James Bond’s Lotus Esprit submarine car, which featured in the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me, is up for auction today in London where it is expected to reach $1million (£640,000).

From a Lotus Esprit de Corpse to a Lotus Esprit de Cor Blimey


Its owner, who has chosen to stay anonymous, found the abandoned car after buying the storage container in Long Island in 1989. The submarine Lotus Esprit is said to be fully operational, but not so as a road vehicle.

The car was used during underwater filming in the Bahamas.

Going ... going... (or rather: Gurgle ... gurgle...)

Well, the submarine car was sold last night for £550,000 ($825,000 ― only  8,250 times what the serendipitous owner paid for it, as opposed to the anticipated 10,000 times, shock, horror).

Peter Haynes, from RM Auctions, said the auctioneer was pleased with the price despite it coming in at under the estimated prices of between £650,000 and £950,000.

While the seller will have been hugely delighted, it was still quite a way short of the most expensive Bond car, the famous Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger, which sold for £2.6m in 2010.

Don’t park there

The sale of the submarine car brought to mind a couple of recent, and as ever, smiley, Sign Language pictures:

Doing it the French way

Doing it the Welsh way

Spotted in France by Paul Beresford

Spotted in Anglesey by Mathew Woolmer

So no parking beyond the blue horizon, unless of course, you are a 00-Something ― or perhaps, unless you are Anglesey resident Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who might, just might, be able to drive on water.

Monday, September 9
More nesting dolls

TODAY, former BBC director general Mark Thompson has been facing MPs’ questions over the size of some extraordinary severance deals agreed during his time with the Corporation.

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten, along with head of human resources ― that title, ‘human resources,’ makes me cringe whenever I see or hear it ― anyway, Patten and BBC personnel manager Lucy Adams, are among seven giving evidence.

I watched some of it on the BBC’s own news channel ― how delightfully ironic ― and gosh, so shifty did they all look I couldn’t stop myself smiling.

A couple of days back I mentioned an apparent Queen Mother quote; allow me to slightly paraphrase it: “Never trust a corporation that hides ever larger bosses inside ever larger bosses.

A very British Broadcasting Corporation of nesting vipers

Former director general Mark Thompson (circled left) and Lord Patten (right) blame each other over who was responsible for lavishing licence payers’ money on over-generous pay-offs. There has been much criticism of pay-offs totalling £25m to senior outgoing staff ― £2m more than was needed.

The row centres on the £949,000 given to Thompson’s then-deputy Mark Byford in 2010, a personal and social friend of the then director general. Thompson insists he told the BBC Trust about the deal, something trustees ― including Lord Patten ― deny.

Apart from the above nesting dolls image (each individual desperate to hide inside the person sitting next to them), the Machiavellian Seven remind me of a group of poachers wearing camouflaged clothing ― but forced to wear hi-viz jackets over their outfits to give the bailiffs, we the Great British Public, a fighting chance.

And still they disappear into the undergrowth.

Patten vs. Thompson

In the unfolding local derby between Thompson and Patten to establish which one of them we should be able to throw the least farthest ― does that make sense? ― I am reminded of Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool football manager, who, when asked which result would best please him in the game about to take place between Liverpool’s two nearest rivals for the Championship, replied: “I hope they both lose.”

Incidentally, hasn’t the term ‘BBC Trust’ morphed into an oxymoron?

Brand ****

If one instance sums up the decline of the BBC, then it’s that infamous phone call made by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. It followed a BBC Radio 2 broadcast of an advance-recorded episode of The Russell Brand Show on Saturday 18 October 2008.

In the show, Brand and Ross left lewd messages on the voice mail of Andrew Sachs, including, unforgivably, comments about Sachs’ granddaughter, Georgina Baillie. The two originally called Sachs as a guest to interview on the show, and after he failed to answer the telephone, Brand and Ross left the messages on his answerphone.


“Hugo Boss made the uniforms for the Nazis. But they did look f****** amazing.”
Russell Brand, 38, comedian (sic – or perhaps that should read sick), has a pop at the sponsor of the GQ Man of the Year awards before being thrown out of the event.

The following front page duly appeared on the news stands...

According to The Sun  front page, Brand wears a Hugo Boss jacket to an exclusive Oscars party — six months before his Nazi jibe about the firm designing SS uniforms.

He chose the slim-fit wool number for a star-studded bash at Hollywood’s posh Chateau Marmont.

The Sun  also revealed how at the GQ Men of the Year ceremony he slagged off the German firm, which had splashed out £250,000 sponsoring the event.

Doesn’t that say everything about the state of modern celebrity. I mean, you really do have to laugh at the utter doolallyness of it all. And there are probably many people who hang on every syllable uttered by Brand.

Brand **** indeed.


Sunday, September 8
Final boarding call

“I AM quite superstitious. When I get on to a plane I have to kiss my hand three times and tap the plane three times. If I didn’t do that and the plane went down, I would know it was my fault.”
Sienna Miller, 31, English actress, model, fashion designer and nervous high flyer.

“I’d be happy to be forgotten, to be honest.”
Sienna Miller, again, when asked how she would like to be remembered

Let’s hope that one of these days Sienna doesn’t get all confused and taps her hand three times and kisses the plane three times ― and it goes down. She would definitely be remembered then.

If ever I meet Sienna and she offers up a triple cheek kiss and then taps the cheek of my arse three times ― then boyoboyo, I can take it as read that she is about to fly me to the moon.

Pondering on the notion that the white-hatted Sienna would instantly morph into a black-hatted villainess if the plane really did come down (I hate to think what the black box would tell us), here are a couple of recent letters compliments of The Times:

Booing black hats

Sir, The booing of villains is not confined to the theatre, opera and golf course. David Leonard, for many years the villain in York Theatre Royal’s pantomime, often entered Bettys Tea Rooms to a chorus of hisses and boos from the clientele.
DR JOHN BURSCOUGH, Hibaldstow, Lincs

Sir, F
. Vickers is correct up to a point about the booing of golfers. Supporters of Matt Kuchar reward a good shot with a long shout of “Kuch”, while fans of Luke Donald elongate his first name in response to a good shot. The only player who is booed is Boo Weekley, who is booed on an almost daily basis.
TOBY SHEARLOCK, Wallington, Surrey

Well, I hope Boo Weekley is booed in a limp, floppy and shaky manner, as befits his full name.

Mind you, I like the idea of pantomime booing. It would go down well in the Asterisk Bar at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon. There are one or two regulars that would thrive on it.

An apple a day

“Elizabethan ladies kept apple slices under their armpits to absorb sweat, before passing them to potential suitors as keepsakes.”
Nigella Lawson, 53, celebrity chef and recently divorced, retweets a word of not-so-sound advice.

Who would have thought: the Elizabethans were into their very own 5-a-day routine, albeit for a different reason to the modern one.

But hang about though, a little bird tells me that the Journal of Neuroscience  reports that humans, like butterflies and rats (Beauty and the Beast?), may use chemosignals to attract mates:

Researchers simulated the scent of sweat, then had participants take a whiff while scientists measured their physiological vital signs ― body temperature, skin response, ear pulse, blood pressure, heat rate, and breathing. The results revealed that the simulated sweat scent improved the participants’ moods as well as their level of physiological and sexual arousal. The longer they lingered with the smell, the better they felt.

This might be why our bodies are naturally conditioned to sweat a little when first talking to someone of sexual interest. Sure, it’s nerves, but it might be beyond that.

Hm, this also might be why it’s been shown that couples who workout together hanky-panky together.
I tell you, those Elizabethans with their apple slices under their armpits were no fools.

One liners

And then there’s the odd headline that tickles the old smileometer without ever having to click to read the article:

                       “More than half of us lie about reading classic novels”

Well, never mind War and Peace, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is still on my ‘To Read’ list.

And I enjoyed these ‘Trending now’ beckoners:

                  “She doesn’t ask for shopping money: why man wants to marry goat”

There really is no need to click because it would spoil the tale unfolding inside my head. But at least you can take it as read that there’ll be no arguments over whether to call the children the kids.


Tweetie Pie Corner

    “Victoria Beckham’s bike stolen: Posh tweets shot of picked lock”

The delightful and utter doolallyness of celebrity and social media.

And finally, a couple of gems heard on the wireless:

“Do you have to go to public school to be depraved?” Vanessa Felts recalls from her college days asking her dad to help with a debate address she had to deliver in response to the above motion. He responded with apparently a marvellous speech, which began thus:
                                       “The higher the brow, the lower the loins...”

“Celebrated 44 years of marriage yesterday...” So said a radio show host reading out a greeting from a listener ... some applause, compliments of the host ... before continuing with the greeting:  “Three of them were happy.”

I think that last one was a joke. I’m still working on Vanessa’s dad’s line...

Which reminds me: try saying this very fast, in the manner of red lorry, yellow lorry ― without simply reading it off the screen. Try it down the pub with the regulars...

                                             Ken Dodd’s dad’s dog’s dead

Spell-cheque corner
: ‘Hatted
’, as in ‘Sienna would instantly morph into a black-hatted villainess’, came up as a rather obvious if clever ‘hated’.

Saturday, September 7
Putin Putdown

“JUST a small island no one pays any attention to.”
Reported comment about Britain by Dmitry Peskov, official spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who later denied that he had ever said such a thing, heaven forefend, etc, etc...

“Never trust a country that hides ever smaller dolls inside even smaller dolls.”
As the Queen Mother, God rest her soul, always insisted after a few G&Ts over the eight. Allegedly.

Russian rulers hiding inside ever more, erm, suspect, Russian rulers

Vladimir Putin, Boris Yeltsin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Leonid Brezhnev, Nikita Khrushchev, Joseph Stalin,
Vladimir Lenin, Nicholas II, Catherine the Great and Peter the Great (the Tiny

And your response, Prime Minister?

Sadly, David Cameron didn’t count to ten, or better still, sleep long and hard on it, before responding to the Russian put down.

                 “We invented every sport played around the world”

Mr Cameron duly offered reporters a few thoughts on why Britain is much more than “just a small island” to whom no one pays “any attention”.

His remarks were robust. No one could deny his sincerity. But his grasp of facts was perhaps a little less persuasive. He said Britain has invented “every sport currently played around the world.”

Participants and followers of kabaddi might beg to differ; likewise fans of American football, ice hockey, pétanque, wrestling, most track and field disciplines, skiing, handball, basketball and volleyball.

He was on surer ground when he said: “Britain is an island that has helped to clear the European continent of fascism and was resolute in doing that throughout the second world war.”

Less convincing was the declaration: “Britain is an island that has invented most of the things worth inventing.”

Fair enough, so long as you don’t rate things like paper, gunpowder, the compass, printing, bells, cutlery, coffins, banknotes, the telescope, kites, silk, lightning rods, swivel chairs, morse code, safety pins, telephones, televisions, nylon, jeans, gas masks, barbed wire, traffic cones and the internet*.

     *As opposed to the world wide web, which was  invented by a Briton.

So there. Mind you, looking at this picture of Cameron and Putin outside 10 Downing Street...

One man and his dog went to mow, went to mow a reputation...


On reflection

Look, David Cameron should have had Boris Johnson whisper, off mike, that, Vladimir is not exactly statuesque, which perhaps explains why he jumps up and down and bangs the table a lot ― which probably also explains why he will be more suited inside a Matryoshka nesting doll rather than standing tall on a plinth ― but you don’t hear us Brits banging on that he is just a short-arse no one pays any attention to.
     Oh yes, and which language do you suppose is the world’s favourite second language, eh Vladimir? Here’s a clue: it isn’t Russian.

Then Boris could have denied ever having said such a thing, even though his statement, just like Peskov’s aside, would all have been too alarmingly true.


Incidentally, in the above pair of images, were you wondering about the one next to the picture of our great leaders? Was it some sort of subliminal message about who exactly is leading whom on a leash?

Every Saturday, the Western Mail  carries a Welsh Homes supplement. I have no interest in property, but I always flick through ... what invariably catches my eye is the page headed My Favourite Room.

The nation’s movers and shakers are invited to show us their ― well, their favourite room. There’s also a secondary feature: In My Treasure Chest Would Be... and the VIP of the day lists two or three of their favourite items.

Here’s the intro to today’s piece.

When she’s not out at the theatre or admiring original artwork, Jen Thornton, who works in communications for National Theatre Wales, loves nothing more than relaxing in her living room in Cardiff city centre’s Hayes apartments...

As for the items in her Treasure Chest, this was her favourite:

“I have to choose the first piece of art I ever bought for my flat ― a sculpture made out of resin coated wire of a man walking his dog. It’s really striking and the first piece of art that I bought to start my collection.
     I bought it through a scheme with the National Theatre which aims to get people buying original artwork ― and I guess once you’ve caught the bug, you can’t really stop.

Well, when I landed on the page, my eyes were drawn to the sculpture and it made me smile. I really like it. Especially so seeing it up there in tandem with our great leaders.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Kabaddi’, a wrestling sport played in South Asia, came up as ‘Abide’ (♫♫♫: I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless ... O Lord, abide with me). And ‘pétanque’, a form of boules, came up as ‘peanut’. Wonderful.


Friday, September 6
Knock me down with a fevver

IT IS often the simplest of things that provide the greatest of innocent pleasures.

As I will have mentioned many times before, I thoroughly enjoy my morning walks through the Towy Valley countryside.

I always set off around sunrise. My walk on the wild side can vary anywhere between five and seven miles, subject of course to which particular route I take. It can last anything from two to three hours, depending again on what has grabbed my attention along the way.

My walks are always across agricultural land, with some woodland thrown in for good measure. I traverse eight separate parcels of land, all farmed by different owners or tenants, including the National Trust.

I encounter sheep, horses and cattle (as well as the Trust’s herd of White Park cattle ― see 400 Smiles A Day). And of course, an endless parade of wildlife, in particular the Forty Shades of Birds (40 or thereabouts, anyway).

There are the birds that live on or around the two oxbow lakes along my route, not to mention the backwaters dotted here, there and everywhere ― oh, and I must not forget the songbirds I’ve befriended and who treat me as their Candy Man, what with all the goodies I feed them.

But here’s a strange things. The smaller the birds, the less wary they are of me. As you go up the scale ― coots, ducks, geese ― the more nervous and unsettled they are when humans approach. Except the swans, which aren’t in the least bit perturbed by my uninvited company.

But perhaps the most nervous bird of all is the heron. For such a big bird it is incredibly jumpy of people presence. As soon as it senses a human ― it’s off.

A few years back I happened to creep up on a backwater via some adjacent woods and captured a reasonably decent picture of a grey heron ― but the bonus was, it had company, something quite unusual...

The ghost of herons past?

Curiously, a little egret shadows a grey heron on a fishing expedition

There’s another backwater, in the shadow of Dinefwr Castle, where I often spot herons hanging out; one day a few weeks back, there were five of them there.

But today, just the one, and as per usual, as soon as it sensed my presence, off it went ― and then something rather wonderful happened.

As it crossed in front of me, climbing away, it shed one of its main feathers, what I believe they call a contour feather, or flight feather.

Now there’s been a couple of previous occasions along my walks when a shed feather has floated to earth in front of me. Smallish feathers, and they drift down on the breeze in a gentle, reassuring way.

But this feather was a biggie. It headed to ground, the quill end pointing directly downwards. But the blade, the feathery end, began to rotate, much like a helicopter blade ― and it headed gently but purposely towards the ground, rotating magically as it did so.

It was totally mesmeric, one of those wholly unexpected things which instantly burn themselves onto your hard drive. It happened so quickly though that I had no chance to burn in onto my camera’s hard drive. It was over in a matter of seconds. But the image will remain in my mind’s eye for ever and a day.

I rescued the feather ― and her it is...

Never mind Forty Fousand Fevvers on a Frush...!

Just Firteen inches of exquisite aerodynamics

How awesome that observing something as simple as a feather float to ground could create so much exquisite pleasure.

My smileometer hit the gong ― with bells on. What a joy to write about such a magical experience. 

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Fousand’, as in the old song ‘Old Billy Browns very fond of having sprees / When hes had a drink or two he cant pronounce his Ts i.e. Forty fousand frushes wiv forty fousand fevvers ’round their froats’ ― well, ‘Fousand’, came up as ‘Foulard’. Perhaps it should have been ‘Fowl ard’.

Thursday, September 5
Out of the Shadows

Online headline of the day:

        Cliff Richard announces 100th album ― threatens to never stop

Well, I burst out laughing, right there and then. I had no need to click.

Now Cliff is not my kind of singer, but I would never mock or begrudge him his extraordinary 54 years of success. Actually, I really did like his Devil Woman  from 1976 (mind you, I did actually click on Ivor the Search Engine to confirm some of the facts and figures I’ve used here).

Whisper it, but I actually do remember his first hit way back in 1959, Living Doll. And of course the song that in 1968 should have swept all before it in the Eurovision Song Contest, Congratulations (there was talk of rigging of the Spanish vote by state television on behalf of General Franco’s fascist regime ― Congratulations  lost to Spain’s entry La, la, la  by just one point. La, la, la indeed).

Cliff had the last laugh though, as the song is still going strong. Indeed, wasn’t it played at the changing of the guard outside Buck House following the birth of Georgie Porgie? Amazing.

Despite the fun many make of Cliff, he remains the third-top-selling singles artist in the UK’s history (just behind Elvis and The Beatles, top), with total sales of over 21 million units in the UK, and has reportedly sold an estimated 250 million records worldwide.

Good on him.


I visited Ammanford today and had two amusing experiences.

First, I was tailgated by a tractor. I kid you not. So I exit the country road from home onto the A40 main road. I need to turn left ― to my right a tractor is approaching, but far enough away. Off I go, about half-a-mile to the eastern roundabout for the town of Llandeilo.

I proceed through town at a leisurely pace, there’s no heavy traffic, no hold ups, no need to stop even at the zebra crossing. However, from the moment I exit the roundabout I notice the tractor catching up with me at a pace; by the time I’m approaching the town centre it is right behind me. And I mean right behind me.

I see in my rear mirror that it’s a green, rather large tractor, a John Deere, I guess, with a mower fixed onto the back (I think). Driving through town and it’s right up my arse. The tractor is so big and high that I can’t see in my mirror who’s driving, but I think I know who the tractor belongs to and who is probably at the wheel.

Owning a distinctive 23-year-old Saab means the locals instantly recognise my car, which is why the tractor is playing games with me. The 30 limit through Llandeilo and nearby Ffairfach measures a couple of miles or so.

I stick to the limit, as does the tractor, obviously. Modern tractors can travel at 30mph anyway, although it’s very confusing to try and establish what the specific speed limits for various types of tractors are these days.

Whatever, I have a quiet smile to myself because I don’t feel threatened in any way. Suddenly the tractor turns left at a junction ― and I’m sure I know who it is now.

For about two miles or so in moving traffic with no hold ups, I was tailgated by a tractor. That’ll make a perfect tale down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.


In Ammanford I visit the Tesco store. When I arrive at a checkout I’m greeted by a smiling face, an older lady, let’s say. She could be a mother, even a grandmother. It’s difficult to guess what age she is.

There’s nobody else behind me. “Oh,” she says, “would you mind closing the gate for me, please?” She points to the ‘gate’ that indicates the position is now closed ― well, it is lunchtime.

“Of course,” I say and I shut the gate. “I’m a farmer’s son and all my young life I had my parents shouting at me to ‘Shut that gate!’.” She laughs. In fact I sense that she could well be a farmer’s wife herself, earning a bit of extra money to boost the family earnings in tough times.

Anyway, I assume that she is Welsh speaking ― which indeed she is. We exchange some chit-chat as she scans and I pack. I pay, and she says: “Thanks again for closing the gate and saving me having to come round.”

“No problem,” I say. “It’s important to keep the gates closed because I guess there are quite a few old cows wandering about a big old place like this.”

“Oh yes,” she says with a big smile. Then she hurriedly adds: “But there are some really nice people here too.”

“Isn’t that the truth about every place of work that has ever existed,” I say.

She smiles again ― and we part with a cheery goodbye.

It was one of those unexpected but agreeable little exchanges that brighten up the day no end. However, next time I visit that store I’ll try and pick out who the old cows are. And who the nice ones are, of course.

On yer bike

Yesterday, Boris Johnson featured apropos the big blue cock in Trafalgar Square. Today Boris surfaces once more, this time in connection with the blue colour-coded Barclays Cycle Hire, a public bicycle sharing scheme in London ... the scheme’s bicycles are popularly known as ‘Boris Bikes’, after Boris, of course, who launched the scheme.

ET Returns ~ the director’s half-cut

Even Boris riding a bike and waving generates a smile of the day


“If they give us another £100 million for our bike scheme, I promise I will change my name to Barclays Johnson.” Mayor Boris’s appeal to Barclays Bank over his cycle hire project.

Remembering it was Barclays that was at the centre of the great interest rate ‘fix’ scandal called “libor”, Boris should be careful that he does not end up being called Liebore Johnson.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Libor’, as in the rate ‘fix’ scandal, came up as ‘Labour’, which is really ironic given that the economic scandal unfolded because of Labours lax controls over the nations spivs ― you know, those who ran the banks, spivs who boast a college education.

Now I maintain that Tony Blair was definitely a bit doolally while Prime Minister, a condition which is par for the course at 10 Downing Street. Well, it just isnt me that thinks that, you know. This quote has just surfaced:

“He should shut up and go away. He has lost the plot, he really has.” Ex-Labour minister Clare Short attacks Tony Blair, who has described MPs' vote against military intervention in Syria as "shocking".

Wednesday, September 4
Cock of the walk

ALONG my regular morning walks through the Towy Valley ― and depending on which particular route I take ― there is one sight that currently never fails to raise a smile.

Never mind the horse chestnut tree looking like Wales (featured alongside, in the Flower Power Gallery), silhouetted perfectly against the sky, even from a distance of a mile or more, is what looks like a giant cockerel ruling the roost atop a tree...


As you can see from the close-up, it even has a couple of legs on which to crow the life into the dawn. How marvellous are the weird and wonderful shapes trees grow into. It always pays to keep eyes peeled when out and about in the country.

Every time I now see it, I am reminded of that tale from a month or so back, when a giant 15ft blue cockerel sculpture ― simply called Cock ― took its place on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

London mayor Boris Johnson had agreed to unveil the sculpture ― probably with a sense of mischief because as a former editor of The Spectator (1999-2005), he would have been more than aware that media sub-editors would have been champing at the bit. And they didn’t disappoint.

Headlines ranged from The Daily Telegraph’s  suitably restrained...

                        Boris unveils big blue ... erm, bird----

To the Radio Times  (no less), with its irresistible...

Boris Johnson unveils big blue cock in Trafalgar Square

"Can this cockpit hold the vasty fields of France?" King Henry the Fifth

The nudge-nudge, wink-wink feel of the headlines must have had something to do with Boris’s blue blood, what with him being descended from European royalty, at least in part. Mind you, I am taken by how large and ― well, out of place? ― the Cock looks there.

Anyway, here are some reports from 25 July, first up, The Guardian:

       Big blue cock erected on fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square

There is simply no other way of putting it, and nor would earthy British wit have it any other way. A giant bright-blue cock ― its feathers proudly upstanding, its coxcomb as stiff as a pennant in the breeze ― has been erected in Trafalgar Square, London, and no double entendre is too good for it.

Hahn/Cock, the latest work to fill the square’s empty fourth plinth, is by Katharina Fritsch, the German artist (‘hahn’ is German for cockerel, and it carries a similar double meaning in Germany).

Gleefully feminist, the work pokes amiable fun at the vainglorious statues of men (Nelson, George IV, and generals Havelock and Napier) that surround it in this most imperial of British public spaces. “Humour is always a big thing for me,” said Fritsch. “It stops things from becoming too severe. I like English humour. It is so often very dark.”

The sculpture was unveiled by Johnson, who, despite his claim that “my critical faculties are exhausted by this wonderful sculpture” had plenty to say, not least a thinly veiled jibe at David Cameron’s recent efforts to crack down on online pornography. “If you were to Google the sculpture in a few years’ time,” he said, “search engines would collapse at the behest of the prime minister. Er, quite properly of course.”

He warmed to the theme later. “You would be forbidden by prime ministerial edict from looking at it,” he told journalists. After a meaningful pause, he added: “Quite right too.”

And some more facts and figures from the cockpit:

What would Lord Nelson say? A giant rooster ― the symbol of France ― has taken up a perch beneath the admiral’s statue in Trafalgar Square, which celebrates Britain’s 1805 defeat of Napoleon’s armies.

The 15.4ft fibreglass artwork took its place on the vacant Fourth Plinth and will stay up for 18 months. “I definitely never thought about the French thing. But it’s a nice humorous side-effect to have something French in a place that celebrates victory over Napoleon,” Fritsch told The Guardian newspaper.

She also said she hoped the double meaning in the work’s name would appeal to the British sense of humour. “I know they like to play games with language,” Fritsch said, adding that her sculpture mocked male posturing in a square full of military statues.

The only tenuous argument put forward is the artist’s dubious claim that the “cockerel is a symbol for regeneration, awakening and strength”.

The Fourth Plinth was erected in 1841 for an equestrian statue that was never completed. 

It remained empty for a century and a half, and since 1999 has been occupied by artworks erected for 18 months at a time. They are paid for by the Mayor’s office and Arts Council England.

The previous occupant, a boy on a rocking chair by Scandinavian artists Elmgreen & Dragset, has been bought by the Arken Museum of Modern Art in Ishoj, near Copenhagen in Denmark. In 2009, Antony Gormley's One & Other saw 2,400 members of the public take it in turns to stand atop the plinth for an hour at a time.

Boris Johnson said: “Katharina Fritsch commands tremendous respect internationally and her giant blue...” ― a gentle, meaningful pause ―  bird, will provide a striking new focal as well as talking point for Londoners and tourists alike.”

Sacré bleu

Well, I just knew that no good would come of plonking that very French, that, that very blue cock of the walk, right in the middle of Old London Town. It was a bad omen, a portent that something nasty would soon be cooking in the kitchen. And it wouldn’t be that big blue ... erm, bird.

So what happened with the Government’s Syria vote? Yep, the Frenchies suddenly replaced us Brits as America’s bestest friend. It was like being back in the schoolyard and neither captain wants you in their team.

We’ll know that things have really taken a turn for the worst when the French start beating us regularly at rugby once more. And sacré bleu, France lifts the 2015 Rugby World Cup after defeating Wales in the final at, erm, Twickenham.

True, the bird will have flown its cockpit by then ― but will it have left its mark on our shoulders?

Tuesday, September 3
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

HERE’S another in Culture Magazine’s  television Choice previews ― and a line nearly to die for:

A man to avoid
Trauma – Level One
(ITV, 9pm)

“You really do not ever want to meet me in a professional situation,” says one of the doctors in this series, “because, almost by definition, it is the worst of times.”
     He can say that again. Filmed in the specialist centre of Southampton General, the first of a two-part series grabs you by the throat with the frightening severity of the cases it follows, and it doesn’t let go until the very end, when you know the fate of each of three patients who are filmed.
     All their lives seem to hang by a thread, and all were injured in road-traffic accidents.

I was captured by the line that you do not want to meet the doctor in a professional context because it will be “the worst of times”. Wow.

You know how I have this thing, that within seconds of meeting a stranger my instincts will tell me whether I’m in the company of a dolphin or a shark, a pussycat or a polecat, a sparrow or a sparrow hawk, a lay-by or a roundabout...

My instincts do not tell me whether the person in front of me is likely to be the next Mother Teresa/Nelson Mandela, or indeed the next Hitler/Myra Hindley ― but what it does tell me is whether it is okay to step forward and embrace, or hold my ground, even take a discreet step backwards, and then proceed with extreme care.

My instincts have never once let me down. In fact, you could say that my instincts tell me whether the person in front of me is likely to lead into the best of times ― or the worst of times...

We are gathered here today

Yesterday, I featured Welsh entertainer Elvis Preseli & The Undertakers. Well blow me, I flick through the morning’s Western Mail ― and I am confronted with this marvellous headline, picture and story:

He did it his way: Last wish granted for JCB driver

Retired JCB driver Billy Jones was carried to his funeral in the bucket of his favourite JCB digger

Billy Jones, 83, told his family that he wanted to make his final journey on a yellow digger like the ones he had driven for 40 years before he retired.
     The grandfather’s coffin was gently lowered into the bucket of the JCB for the moving journey to his funeral service. Mourners clapped and cheered as the coffin arrived at Coychurch Crematorium in Bridgend on the JCB.
     His proud daughter Trudi-Ann, 48, said: “He talked about his own funeral and this was what he wanted. When dad died, we told the funeral director about dad’s wishes and they said we could do it.”
     Billy worked as a JCB driver at Neath Port Talbot Council for 40 years before he retired when he was in his sixties.
     Trudi-Ann said: “He loved his working life ― everyone would wave at him in the cab of his JCB. When he was driving along he would stop to give people lifts, that’s how he was. Everybody knew him as Billy the JCB driver.”
     Billy, who died peacefully at his home in Port Talbot, leaves his wife Carol, daughters Trudi-Ann and Emma, and grandson Carwyn.

Wonderful tale. On Radio Wales  the story was featured and the unusual request was discussed with Mike Ryan, a funeral director from Newport.

He was asked what was the most unusual request he’d had for that final journey.

Well, he’d buried a local self-employed painter and decorator who wanted to be transported in the van that had been his “office” for the past 10 years. The family cleaned the van out ― and that was his hearse. Job done.

Then there was the HGV driver who wanted to be taken on the back of a lorry, his dying wish being that he should be driven over the Severn Bridge and back one final time because he’d made the journey pretty much every working day of his life. Again no problem.

Not only do these stories make you smile but they really are quite touching in their special little way.

Yep, smiles of the day come in all shapes and sizes.

Monday, September 2
Handsome is as handsome does

“SHE is not a looker.” John Inverdale, 55, English radio and television broadcaster ― and not exactly a front runner in the male pin-up stakes ― landed in extremely hot water after his ‘live’ comment about the 2013 Wimbledon winner, Marion Bartoli.

He quickly apologised. Marion, to her credit, brushed off his remark, saying: “It doesn’t matter, honestly.”

Good for her. As it happens, over the weekend I caught a bit of the World Rowing Championships out in Chungju, South Korea. Inverdale was the presenter out there.

Helen Glover and Polly Swann won gold for Great Britain in the women’s pair. Inverdale duly interviewed the girls ― here’s Helen Glover, a teacher by profession...

I was really disappointed that John didn’t sort of balance the books and say to her: “Now you are  a looker.” Not many of us men would have argued. Actually, the above photograph doesn’t really capture how mesmeric-looking Helen is.

Still looking

Talking of not being a looker, I remember mega moons ago at the Crazy Horse Saloon, chatting to barmaid Pearl of Joy ― nickname is a clue ― and she recalled how one of the regulars, Jac the Joiner (no, he wasn’t a carpenter, but whenever someone bought a round he joined the crowd), anyway Jac had said to her: “I like you, Pearl. I always put great personality before looks.”

Pearl of Joy enjoyed repeating the tale for she knew she wasn’t a “looker”. But boyoboyo, did she make up for it on the character and personality front. It was Pearl who memorably told us regulars that “it isn’t the length of the barrel, lads, but the power of the shot”.

At the Crazy Horsepower Saloon today I mentioned the above Pearl of wisdom, and we got to chatting about this Welsh thing with giving people nicknames. I liked the story of Dai ‘Wizard of Oz’ Evans, the foreman at a farmers’ co-op. He would go to lunch early and return late. There was a pub across the road called The Rainbow, and if anyone called to see the Wizard of Oz between noon and two, the staff would say “He’s probably over The Rainbow”.

I also enjoyed the tale of the fellow known to everyone as Snowy, presumably because of his head of white hair from quite a young age. He had a son nicknamed Sleet. Why Sleet? “He’s not quite as thick as his father.”

I do so hope that is true.

And of course, how could I forget Elvis Aaron Preseli. Now I must be honest, I thought that Welshman Elvis Preseli was so called because he was born in the shadow of the Preseli Mountains in north Pembrokeshire, west Wales. Not so.

Here’s a typical Comedy Club intro to Wales’s own Elvis Preseli & The Undertakers:

ELVIS PRESELI was born at Mountain Asheville, Rhondda Cynon Taff, north of Cardiff, the only child of Vernon and Gwladys Preseli, who came to the Valley looking for work. Vernon became a miner and Gwladys became a scrubber. As an only child Elvis felt lonely and had it not been for his love of music and his close friendship with his pet lamb, Mozart, he may have grown up to be a Weirdo.

Travelling the globe on his musical WORLD tour, Elvis has picked up many skills and has learned from some Great Masters, and the skills learned have catapulted him to the Grade of 20th Dan in the ancient art of COOKING. Elvis is a specialist in the Burger style and has been bestowed the title of The Burger King. Not bad for an undertaker who just loves singing.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Elvis Preseli & The Undertakers, the only bald, Welsh-speaking Non Elvis Song Singing Elvis Tribute Act In The WORLD. You are witnessing a Legend in the making. Welcome to my world, won’t you come on in...

There’s lovely, look you. And talking of pets, a letter from The Times:

Wiedersehen, pet

Sir, My wife was a refugee from Eastern Europe at the end of the war so our daughter asked her to come to her primary school class to answer questions about the experience as a child of fleeing westward.
     Bombs over Vienna, overcrowded trains, long-distance walks were passed over with polite interest. The crucial question was, what did you do with your pet cat when you left?
     “We didn’t have a pet cat so it wasn’t a problem.”
     “Yes,” the little girl insisted, “but if you had had a pet cat, what would you have done with it?”
     Good to see that children’s priorities are constant.
DAVID SHEPHERD, Woodstock, Oxon

What a wonderful question that is. Personally, I have never owned a pet ― sharing next door’s pets, as I did when I lived in the farm cottage, doesn’t count; indeed, I was brought up on a farm with cats and dogs, and even though they were treated like pets, they weren’t. They were working animals, so you definitely had a different relationship with them.

Yes, but no, but yes ― what would you do with the cat? I guess if you have never owned a pet, then the answer would be to leave the pet to fend for itself. But what if you did have a cat or a gerbil or a dog? Or indeed a Mozart the Lamb, as Elvis Preseli did? It really is a great conundrum.

Final thoughts

If memory serves, it was not long before the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted to hospital to give birth to Georgie Porgie that Nelson Mandela, 95, was really poorly in his hospital bed, and in truth, the news reports were elaborately preparing us for the inevitable.

Well blow me, I see that he has spent his first night in almost three months at his home in Johannesburg after being discharged from hospital in Pretoria.

Family members have spoken of their happiness at having Mr Mandela home again for the first time since June.

However, Andrew Harding, the BBC’s Africa correspondent, adds this rider: “When patients are discharged from hospital, it normally implies that they are on the mend. That is clearly not the case with Nelson Mandela.”

It brought to mind this smiley letter from a few days back and spotted in The Daily Mail:

“Will the indestructible Nelson Mandela one day receive a telegram from George VII?”
Eddie Sanders, Birmingham

Sunday, September 1
! Thief!

THERE is much frustration and annoyance at the growing menace of street clutter. Yeeees, you know: those road signs and the like that appear here, there and everywhere and are quite overwhelming in their confusion when you’re driving along and desperately trying to sort out where exactly you need to go.

Or more properly, where you’re allowed  to go.

Back in January the government claimed that more than 9,000 traffic signs had been taken down in England alone in the last year as it published new guidance aimed at reducing street clutter.

I was reminded of a recent picture, a perfect example of confusion unlimited ― probably taken in America, or perhaps Canada ― but it could well have been here in the UK. Mind you, it could also have been a place making and selling road signs.

No way, no how, no kidding


And the second memorable picture? Well, this is the work of artist Clet Abraham and spotted in Chelsea, London. He is known for altering street signs across Europe and putting a smile on the face of something rather boring.

The Banksy of Street Clutter. Very clever and witty, I really do like the furtiveness of that sign very much.

It all brought to mind a couple of recent Sign Language gems:

Cross my heart and hope you don’t die

Spotted in Columbia, Maryland by Jerry Stott

And then this, spotted near a place of learning:

Back to school

Spotted in Sacramento, California, by Anonymous

The above was seen near a junior school, and believed to have been done deliberately to make drivers aware that they really should proceed with caution.

Hm, definitely better than ‘Slow Children’.

Hello, good evening ... and goodbye

The other day I gave a couple of examples of why I enjoy the Critics’ choice/Pick of the day preview write-ups in The Sunday Times TV & Radio guide.

Yesterday, I really was going to mention in passing Saturday’s preview, which was about a new series of Through The Keyhole. I vaguely remember seeing this when it first appeared as a segment on TV-am, hosted by Loyd Grossman, the American-born food-show host and purveyor of spaghetti western sauce and strangulated vowels.

And then David Frost took it over as a proper series.

Not my type of entertainment though. However, I’ve been aware of a new series because of a most peculiar trailer spotted on television featuring a rather strange host. Talk about dumbing down.

Anyway, this was the opening shot in the programme preview:

Through The Keyhole
(ITV, 9.20pm)

Sir David Frost should look away now; and Loyd Grossman will be turning in his gravy. Tonight, ITV revives the celebrity-home-identification panel show under the deranged chairmanship of Keith Lemon (the luridly comical creation of the entertainer Leigh Francis). “Oo ‘abitates in an ‘ouse like that?” the permatanned Lemon shouts at this evening’s guests, Eamon Holmes, Martine McCutcheon and Dave Berry.

I was going to mention the above because of that celebrated opening line: “Sir David Frost should look away now; and Loyd Grossman will be turning in his gravy.”

Loyd Grossman turning in his gravy! How clever. But who would have thought that on the very day that line appeared in print, and at perhaps the very time the new series of Through The Keyhole  was aired on ITV, David Frost would permanently look away after he died of a heart attack aboard the Queen Elizabeth.

I’m not sure whether much stranger things have happened at sea.


Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2013: Aug
Smile of the day 2013: Jul
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: Aug
Smile of the day 2013: Jul
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

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