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

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

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

400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 19/11/2012



                                                                                        Design: Yosida

 
                                                                 ♫♫♫ TO SELF                            
It seems that the artist Leonardo da Vinci kept a notebook, Notes to Self, a list of “things to do today”: buy paper; charcoal; chalk ... describe tongue of woodpecker and jaw of crocodile...
     These are my Notes to Self, a daily record of the things that make me smile and 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
 

Thursday, January 31
Nudge-Nudge, get yourself connected to the real world


JUST A few days ago I saw a marvellous photograph featuring Chinese artist Liu Bolin ― yes, you know the fellow, he who paints his entire body to exactly match the scenery behind him.

I have previously featured Bolin’s extraordinary talent as my smile of the day, so when I saw one particular example of his new work I thought, yup, a bit of copy and paste ... this will definitely come in useful one of these days.

And, sooner rather than later, that day has arrived. It all began with this headline and picture in the Telegraph, from a piece by a Max Davidson:

                                 It’s time to switch off your mobile and set yourself free

Experts have found an effective new formula for happiness ― ditching the smartphone

That’s enough mobile phones: “I found myself paying closer attention to the
world around me, and having conversations that felt like real conversations.”

Will miracles never cease? I learnt yesterday that there is a team of officials in the Cabinet Office known as the Nudge Unit, charged with suggesting “ways people can make small changes to improve their lives”. Naturally, this sent the taxpayer in me into a lather of indignation. No wonder the national debt is so mountainous if crackpot initiatives like this are given the green light in Whitehall.

But then, wonder of wonders, out of the Behavioural Insights Team, as it is formally known, emerged common sense so beautiful and bracing that it was like being nudged by Marilyn Monroe.

Suppose, asks Prof Paul Dolan of the London School of Economics, a former stalwart of the unit, a man who nudges for England, happiness is not owning the latest, smartest mobile phone, but is, in fact, having that phone switched off? Suppose silence truly is golden, a necessary antidote to a shrill, intrusive world?

The problem with smartphones, warns Dolan, an expert on happiness, is that they distract users’ attention from the people around them. “Turning your phone off and enjoying being with your friends is much better for you than constantly checking your phone and emails,” he told an audience at the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia.

What? Enjoy the company of your friends when you could be reading tweets from Wayne Rooney or perusing the weather forecast in New York? The professor is flying so much in the face of fashionable opinion that, the next time he switches on his mobile, he may find he has been denounced as a fascist Luddite by the Twitterati.

But he is hardly a lone voice. He is only articulating something that millions share: a vague sense that our super-connected world is also dangerously disconnected from things that matter...

Speaking from a ‘stand and stare’ point of view, I tend to agree with all of that. I have a pay-as-you-go mobile, but strictly for emergency use only. I carry it with me when I go walking, as well as when I jump in the car.

Fortunately, the only times I have used it thus far are occasional calls to my landline answerphone to make sure the mobile is still charged and working ― and to remind myself how the blasted thing works.

Coincidentally ― there goes that word again ― back on January 7, I featured a piece on some research carried out in Finland, observing how people in all walks of modern life spend their lives staring down at their mobiles ... this headline summed up that particular article...

                                                Why we never look up any more: Photos capture the way mobile phones
                               have changed the way we interact with the world around us...


Both articles say the same thing, which neatly takes me back to Chinese artist Liu Bolin. In his specialised form of genuine art ― people turn up in their droves to simply watch him gradually being painted out of sight ― he is camouflaged so well it is sometimes almost impossible to spot him.

His latest exhibition, Hiding in the City, at the Eli Klein Fine Art gallery in New York, shows him melting into various urban backdrops, including a picture of a mash of mobile phones...

Traditionally we can’t see the wood for the trees
Nowadays we can’t see the world for the message

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)


Now how wonderful is that? I was more than happy with my headline for this picture, and indeed the Thoreau quote. Both sit comfortably alongside what the Nudge-Nudge Unit conclude i.e. we really can’t see what’s happening around us for all the information and communications coming at us from all angles and at the speed of light.

The smile of the day is clear: Dump Thumbelina and escape from under her thumb culture.
 


Wednesday, January 30
Looking for a good time?


THERE IS nothing like a dame; and there is definitely nothing quite like a good opening line: “So what’s a bad girl like you doing in a nice place like this?” ― and that is definitely nothing like a good opening line.

Well, truth to tell, it depends on the delivery ― or more properly, the messenger. If it draws a smile ― bingo, back to my HOUSE!

The above nonsense came to mind when I caught up with the latest Sign Language picture gallery in the Telegraph. Honestly, these pictures generate so much pleasure.

For example, here’s what I call a brace of perfect ‘opening lines’, irresistible invites to ‘come in, come in’, and both spotted here in the UK...

Without rhyme, but with rind and reason

Quick one for the pavement

Spotted in Devizes, Wiltshire by Jerry Whiteside

Spotted in Manchester by Gill Emerson

Perfect RSVP invites

Now how could you resist such ‘opening line’ invites? I’d pop into both businesses like a shot; and I’m as sure as sure can be that the welcome would be wonderful.

I presume the first pavement board is for a butcher’s shop. When I spotted the ‘Bacon’ sign-off, the first thing that crossed my mind was that the famous ‘Roses are red, violets are blue...’ was the work of Francis Bacon (1561-1626), an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist and, crucially, author.

However, a quick Google reveals the origins of the poem can be traced at least back to lines written in 1590 by Sir Edmund Spenser (c1552-1599) from his epic and incomplete poem The Faerie Queene.

Whatever, a perfectly smiley invite to pop in for a butchers.

As for the pub board ― how could anyone walk past that without popping in for a quick pint or ten? Honestly, that invite would sit perfectly outside the Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.

Incidentally, as far as I can tell, the scribble at the very bottom says: PLEASE DRINK REsponsibly!

I particularly enjoyed how they ran out of space to responsibly write ‘responsibly’. My Smileometer is off the scale.

 

Tuesday, January 29
“Hello, my name’s Geraint Woolford.”
“How strange, my name’s Geraint Woolford too.”


GOING ONLINE is much like entering the pass ― fingers-crossed, no ambush lying in wait, please God.

Agreeably, I seem to trip over the most surprising of things once I enter the pass. On today’s Telegraph  home page ‘Most viewed’ list was this teaser for ten:

                  Two retired policemen with same name ended up side by side in hospital

The only two men in Britain called Geraint Woolford ended up in neighbouring beds in the same hospital ― and discovered that they were both retired policemen who had worked for the same force.

Intrigued, I joined them on the beat...

Geraint Woolford, 77, was a patient at Abergele Hospital in North Wales when Geraint Woolford, 52, was admitted.

The more senior Mr Woolford is a past president of the Conservative Club in his hometown of Llandudno. Meanwhile, his namesake is the current vice-chairman of the Conservative Club 34 miles away in the town of Ruthin.

The pair had never met before and after checking back in their family trees found they were not related. Checks with the public records office showed they are the only two people in Britain called Geraint Woolford.

Having two patients on the same ward with the same name caused a headache for staff who had to make sure they were dealing with the right one. The older Mr Woolford, who underwent a hip replacement operation, had arrived on the hospital ward first.

The younger Mr Woolford, who was in hospital for a partial knee replacement op, said: “They had to double check and triple check everything. But we’ve both definitely had the right operations. It was just uncanny that we ended up in the neighbouring beds. I think the hospital would have been glad to see the back of us. It was a nightmare for them.”

A hospital spokesman said: “It was an amazing coincidence ― the chances of the only two Geraint Woolfords in the country being admitted at the same time must be millions to one.”

Here's lookin' at me: the Hopalong Geraint Woolfords
                                                                           Pic: Andrew Price


How come, I thought, that this is the first I’ve heard of this extraordinary story? Why hasn’t the Western Mail, the ‘national newspaper of Wales’, carried the tale? So I scrolled back up to the top of the Telegraph  page: 8 Dec 2009
!

So I Googled the story ... and yes, other newspapers had indeed carried it ― back in 2009.

I’ve noticed this before, how dated stories suddenly appear from nowhere into the ‘most viewed’ list. I can understand it once the story is on the list, because visitors to the web site like me will click out of curiosity.

But how do these dated stories suddenly appear in the ‘most viewed’ in the first place when there are no obvious links to current stories. I mean, there is clearly no hidden agenda in the tale itself. Strange.

Since I started this online diary cum scrapbook, and if I had the software to check how many times I’ve actually used certain words ― excepting one-two-three-four-five-letter words used to join up all the dots ― I guess the most used word, after ‘doolally’ of course, would be ‘coincidence’ ― but a tale like this pushes happenstance to the limits.

Incidentally, reading the story, there was concern that the hospital would get the two patients mixed up. Well, I reckon they would have been the two safest hospital patients in the country ― in the world ― for rather obvious reasons.

Great story though. How I missed it the first time around I shall never know.
 


Monday, January 28
Gotcha by the balls


CHIEF WISE OWL has been busy with his scissors yet again: another series of intriguing and amusing letters spotted in The Times:

Motorway cue

Sir, Perhaps a police officer could confirm the rumour that bored traffic policemen play “speeding snooker”, where cars are apprehended in colour order: yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black. On a busy road the game is lengthened by interspersing reds between the colours in order to “clear the table” in one shift.
DAVID FINNIGAN, Leatherhead, Surrey


Then came a follow-up letter:

Seeing red

Sir, The snooker balls approach to the selection of police targets is probably true. We asked a policeman friend if he had a clue why, as an amiable middle-aged couple, we had been chosen to have our car searched for explosives by police, plus two delightful spaniel sniffer dogs, while one of us was trying to catch a train at Paddington station a few years ago.
     “What colour is your car”, he asked. “Bright red”, we said. “Ah yes,” he said, “snooker.”
HILARY and ROBERT BRUCE, London W9


My first reaction was to smile ... before realising that over the past 20 years I’ve owned a couple of cars, both red, which, given the above “speeding snooker” game, meant that my car was as irresistible to a police jam sandwich as a jar of strawberry spread is to a traditional British snack.

Quite how I’ve managed to escape being snookered while behind the wheel comes as a bit of a shock. Mind you, over the past 20 years I’ve probably done just average mileage; what is more, I tend to keep to the speed limits and drive in an orderly fashion along mostly country roads.

Whatever, the above gives me the opportunity to feature a truly smiley picture I first spotted back in August last year ― and I’ve been patiently awaiting an opportune moment to share it with you...

Big boys’ toys

A $9,995 Mustang pool table for the Top Gear aficionado who has everything

Now isn’t that too delightfully doolally for words? I tell you, it’s a parallel universe out there.

Meanwhile, back with the “speeding snooker” game, another letter:

Pot white

Sir, Presumably, if traffic officers were forced to apprehend a speeding white car, this would count as an “in off”.
     Would the officers have to let the motorist off with a warning, and start the “break” again?
DAVID READ, Littleham, Devon

 

Wel-i-jiw-jiw, as they say down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, every day a day at a speed awareness school.

And as Chief Wise Owl pointed out, the car to own is obviously a white one. But I do feel sorry for those who own pink cars for they are quite rare and likely to be snookered rather often.

Anyway, here’s an observation apropos our love-hate relationship with the police. We Brits have gone from PC 49 (1947) via PC Plod (Sixties) to PC Pleb (Downing Street, 2012). Whatever next?

Sticking with the sort of games that pass the time during a night shift, yet another surprising letter from The Times:

Dead cert

Sir, You report that the Taiwanese bet on the death of patients, but they are not the first. In his memoir of 1920s Dublin, the surgeon Oliver St John Gogarty describes a nightly hospital sweepstake where the person who draws the first “stiff” of the morning wins the prize.
     There was a second inter-hospital competition in which nurses took the temperatures of all patients in a selected ward and added them up, the ward with the highest aggregate being the winner.
ALAN CAMERON, Consultant Surgeon, Ipswich


It’s a fascinating world out there: what is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare and place bets...?

Spell-cheque corner: ‘sniffer’, as in ‘sniffer dogs’, came up as ‘snuffer’, while ‘Gogarty’, as in ‘Oliver St John Gogarty’, came up as ‘Go Arty’. Cool! But the snuffer dogs were a worry.
 


Sunday, January 27
One for the road


“DON’T look like trash, don’t get drunk, don’t be sick down your front, don’t break your heels and stagger about in the wrong direction at midnight.” Joanna Lumley, 66, English actress, voice-over artist, author and former model, offers up advice to today’s “laddish” women.

Hang about though ... surely, Joanna is best known to today’s young women, especially the “laddish” ones, as Patsy Stone, Edina Monsoon’s best friend in the hugely popular British television series Absolutely Fabulous? Here’s Patsy, the one holding the glass and stoned, obviously...
                                                              
  
                                                                                                                                                                                      ...as you can see, what today’s “laddish” young women subliminally admire is someone who looks like trash, gets drunk, is sick down her front, breaks her heels and staggers about in the wrong direction at midnight.

Yes, the world gets more spectacularly doolally by the hour ― and where would my daily Smileometer be without these celebrities? Mind you, I am quietly concerned about Joanna if her recent utterances are anything to go by.


Nineteen Eight-Four

I was suitably amused by this headline and opening couple of paragraphs:

                                                Why can’t we laugh at the old jokes any more?

A ‘racist’ joke in Fawlty Towers has been cut because it might offend. Well, it might ― if you didn’t get the joke.

Strange place, the past. It appears to have been full of people who had next to no understanding of 21st-century mores. For some reason, they all seem to have carried on as if it didn’t remotely matter how their 20th-century attitudes and language would be judged by us, their descendants and superiors, in 2013.

This week the BBC was confronted with this problem when airing a repeat of Fawlty Towers. The episode had a scene with the words “wogs” and “niggers” in it. The old major, played by Ballard Berkeley, is explaining the difference between the two. The line gets a big laugh from the studio audience. Or it used to. This time, the BBC cut the line out.

It is impossible to make sense of the censored dialogue without quoting the line. Very sensitive visitors to my scrapbook should look away now and study the football results...

In his anecdote, the Major tells Basil Fawlty that he went to a cricket test match with a woman who “kept referring to the Indians as niggers. ‘No, no, no,’ I said, ‘the niggers are the West Indians. These people are wogs.’.”

So there you have it, and no marks for guessing that a raging debate followed online.

One of the things I remember from the time when I was just a boy and the devil called my name, was someone asking “What’s a wog?”. And the response? “A wump of wood.”

So here I am, old enough to know better and the devil still calling out my name...

There are the two online comments I actually recall from the Fawlty Towers comment board, the first from a Joe Walker, who reminded us of this exchange from the television series Yes Minister:

HUMPHREY, A VERY CIVIL SERVANT:   All we know about (this leader of an African republic) is that he’s an enigma.

JIM, A DELIGHTFULLY SILLY MINISTER:   Humphrey, I don’t care for that word.

HUMPHREY:   What, Minister ― enigma?

JIM:   Oh. Ah...

Very clever, that ― and just to prove that we can still laugh at the old jokes, this from a
Dave Sampson:

What’s black and slides down Nelson’s column?

Winnie Mandela....

The devil’s work

If you recall, at the end of 2012 I chose my ‘quote of the year’ as this, compliments of Chrissie from Norfolk: “Always remember that men are just small boys in long trousers. That way you won’t expect too much of them and you won’t be disappointed.”

Well, tonight the truly “laddish” Top Gear was back ― with loads of beautiful-looking women in the audience ― and I couldn’t stop thinking of Chrissie’s little gem.
                                           
♫♫♫  When I was just a boy and the devil called my name…

Incidentally, when Jeremy Clarkson did “The P45, the smallest car in the world” sketch ― whatever you think of Clarkson, he is a brilliant comic actor ― I’m amazed that when he appeared in the Dragons’ Den  with his wonderfully silly P45 invention, and was duly ridiculed, why didn’t one of the judges simply hand Jeremy his cards?
 


Saturday, January 26
Hokey pokey politics

“If I were Ed Miliband, I would keep my powder completely dry at the moment.” Former prime minister Tony Blair offers advice to the current leader of the Labour party in the wake of David Cameron’s announcement that the Tories will hold an IN/OUT, SHAKE IT ALL ABOUT referendum on European membership in 2017.

The great shame is that Blair never thought to keep his  powder dry rather than sex-up that infamous war dossier which took Britain to war out in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do these politicians have no ethics, morality or honesty at all?

Talking of Tony Blair, yesterday I introduced you to Wally Fawkes aka Trog, the satirical cartoonist, in particular his exceedingly smiley image of the old Queen Liz behind the bar down at the old Queen Vic.

While researching Wally, I came across a marvellous Tony Blair cartoon. Now who remembers these famous Blair quotes?

“I think most people who have dealt with me, think I’m a pretty straight sort of guy. And I am.” Tony Blair, on the BBC’s On The Record, during the controversy over an exceedingly generous donation to the Labour Party by Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, 16 November 1997.

A point of order: Tony Blair assures us that he’s a pretty straight sort of a guy ― but it is only others who can say whether we are straight or not, surely? Indeed, beware of people who keep telling you that you can trust them.

Personally, I suspect Blair is pretty much like every other politician: he can’t even sleep straight in his bed of a night. But I digress:

“A day like today is not a day for sound bites, really. But I feel the hand of history upon our shoulders. I really do.”
Tony Blair, arriving in Belfast for the talks which produced the Good Friday Agreement to bring some temporary peace and quiet to Northern Ireland, 8 April 1998.


And here it is: ‘The Hand Of History’, a wonderfully smiley yet alarmingly unsettling cartoon of Tony Blair by Wally Fawkes, which appeared in The Sunday Telegraph  on the 12th of April 1998...

                         

Crouch, touch, paws, engage

Anyway, back with the UK’s promised referendum on European membership. This has generated quite a stir the other side of the Channel, as you would expect ― honestly, they are all like a bunch of cats on heat, as this curious quote reflects:

“Say that Europe is a soccer club. You join this soccer club, but you can’t then say you want to play rugby.”
Laurent Fabius, 66, the French Foreign Minister.


Well, perhaps
Laurent should remember one of life’s great truths: soccer (or football) is a gentleman’s game played by bullies, while rugby is a bully’s game played by gentlemen.

Personally though, I’m with MATT,  the Telegraph’s master cartoonist, on this one...

 

 

Are we nearly there yet?”


Yes, MATT  reminds us that political creatures, whether here in the UK or within the EU proper, are just a bunch of little kids who always want to arrive before they depart i.e. they have no idea whether they are coming or going.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Crouch, touch, paws, engage’ is not an error ... Miaow!
 

Friday, January 25
Don’t judge a book by its cover


Two weeks ago I featured the Duchess of Cambridge’s much commented-upon first official portrait.

Unsurprisingly, folk extended their arms in the direction of said painting, closed one eye, stuck their thumbs up and focused on what they saw. Some turned their thumbs down, mostly those with a supposedly professional eye.

I’ve just come across a couple of comments, one which says nothing, and one which says something revealing:

“I can’t remember a royal painting as bad as this. She deserves better, we deserve better and the people of the future deserve better.” David Lee, editor of the art magazine Jackdaw on the portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge.

 

                                                                        

“The portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge resembles the cover of a romantic novel.” Sara Stewart, Fine Art Commissions, London.

That first, overwhelmingly pretentious comment, from David Lee says just “I don’t like it ― nah, nah na-na nah”; it’s a nothing comment, offers no insight whatsoever. But Sara Stewart’s comment ― well, I smiled as soon as I read it and I now look at the portrait in a slightly different light.

Curiosity made me Google Sara Stewart ... I landed on Fine Art Commissions, and a brief biography of Sara Stewart ― along with a portrait...
                                   
                                                                                                    ...the wonderful thing is ― nah, nah na-na nah
! ― doesn’t Sara’s portrait also look like the cover of a romantic novel?

Anyway, what’s wrong with a portrait looking like the cover of a romantic novel, if that is a true reflection? Indeed, the rise of Kate Middleton from the ranks to being the darling of the nation has a touch of the romantic novel about it, surely?

Keeping to a royal theme, I came across this marvellous cartoon by a Wally Fawkes (Trog):

Queen Liz at the Queen Vic

Trog’s 2005 cartoon of Queen Elizabeth II


Wally Fawkes (born 1924 in Vancouver, departed in 1931 for Britain) is a British-Canadian jazz clarinettist and, until recently, a satirical cartoonist. As a cartoonist, he generally worked under the name of ‘Trog’, until failing eyesight forced him to retire from cartooning in 2005 at the age of 81 to concentrate solely on his clarinet playing.

I wondered where the idea for the above cartoon had come from ― the heading above the cartoon is mine ― so I wondered whether the Queen had visited the set of any of our soap operas, most of which I am aware have a pub at the centre of the action.

I Googled the query ― and here she is, behind the bar on the Eastenders  set...
                                                                                                                                 

Incidentally, there’s an exhibition of Wally Fawkes’ work currently on at London’s Cartoon Museum in Great Russell Street, and will also feature cartoons by his former jazz colleague, the late Humphrey Lyttelton.
 


Thursday, January 24
Pinch yourself

It never fails to raise a smile of anticipation when I spot a Telegraph  picture gallery headed Sign Language, a collection of the amusing and the confusing, as spotted by readers on their travels both at home and abroad.

Today I happened upon a couple of pictures which clearly sit comfortably alongside one another...

 

Avoiding a cold snap in the nether regions north of the border

Please don’t tell me it’s a dream

                                 Spotted in Aberdeen by Sally McGrath

         Spotted in Shenzhen, China, by Sam Baird


As always, the Chinese translations are wonderful and funny ― but brutally honest. It’s the literal translation that makes them so memorably noteworthy.

It brings to mind a letter spotted last month in The Times:

Police state

Sir, You report (Dec10) that South Yorkshire Police states that its 280 cardboard cut-outs of officers have reduced crime by 50 per cent in some areas.
     Just imagine what real police officers might do.
RICHARD MORTON, Ilkley, W Yorkshire


Sparrow or sparrow hawk?

 “I don’t like myself so why should I want to see anyone else like me.” Chris Packham, 51, TV wildlife presenter, who plans to have no offspring of his own...
                                                                                        

                                                                                                                              Funny that, for while I admire hugely both his wildlife knowledge and his talent for sharing his understanding and enthusiasm for wildlife, my instincts have always sensed an individual whose toes I really wouldn’t like to step on, even accidentally.

I always sense a roundabout, a person you approach with caution, navigate at arm’s length with your wits about you ― and sigh with relief as you speed away in one piece. Indeed, he’s had a peep behind the mirror and, fair play, seems to agree.

Dead end piece

  “I received an ‘I wish you were dead’ Tweet just now. My dear friend, I am in my 80s, just be patient.”
Richie Benaud, 82, Australian cricket veteran and commentator.

Spell-cheque corner: The computer suggested Beau for Benaud ― which I guess is the very last thing that horrible twitterer thinks of Richie Benaud.

Mind you, Richie Benaud’s tweeted response can be regarded as very beau geste, literally a ‘fine gesture’.

 


Wednesday, January 23
Time for another laugh

“Good humour is one of the best articles of dress one can wear in society.” William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863).

I tripped over Mr Thackeray’s little gem today ― and thought it so good I decided I must somehow include it on the welcome mat at the top of the page.

While on the subject of good humour...
 

“I’ve been and panic-bought a cabbage.” Jen, from Lampeter in mid-Wales, a lady of mature-sounding age, phones a Radio Wales programme to deliver an update on the snowy conditions in her home town.

Oh yes, it was a red cabbage ― but unforgivably I didn’t catch the recipe involving said vegetable.

Who the Fook?

Later, with flurries of snow falling on my head in Llandampness, I bumped into Ivor the Engine at the Crazy Horsepower ... I’m not sure how we got round to talking about Ned Kelly (1854-1880), the infamous Irish Australian bushranger; however...

“Did you know,” says Ivor, “that Ah Fook was Ned Kelly’s first victim?” I chuckle, as you do. “They are also believed to be Ned Kelly’s last words before he was hanged.”

Very funny, Ivor ― but as a matter of ‘every day a day at school’ interest, when I got home I Googled ‘Ah Fook’...

Well, would you believe it:

Ned Kelly’s first brush with the law came when, at age 14, he was charged with beating up a Chinaman.

Ah Fook had asked Ned’s sister for some “water” (Fook was possibly a police spy, checking out unlicensed ‘sly grog’ sellers; indeed, Ned’s mum was to be later charged with selling ‘sly grog’), and had become abusive when she only gave him water.

When Ned told him to “Clear out you Chow!”, Fook brandished a bamboo stick at him, whereupon Ned took the stick, hit him, and chased him away.

Ned was later locked up in remand for 12 days, but was not convicted. It has been said that Ned hated the Chinese presence in Australia for several reasons, one being that he blamed them for his friend Joe Byrne getting addicted to the opium drug, provided in their ‘opium dens’.

What is it about the Irish ― overwhelmingly a delightful and charming people ― that they struggle to get on with anyone but their own tribe? One of the great mysteries of life, surely?

The Lord works in mysterious ways

What I also learned on my visit today to the Crazy HP was that David Cameron has been feeling a little down of late, worried by the state of the world and its travails ― the economic situation, the EU, Afghanistan, global warming ― God, I really must catch up with what’s happening out there on the shady side of the street.

Anyway, taking a break from all the pressure, Cameron happens to spot a personal ad in The Times: 

                                                        “Need help? Call Jesus on 020 1660 4820”

Out of curiosity, with a hint of desperation at the gloomy sky threatening to fall on his head, the Prime Minister called the number...

A Mexican showed up with a carpet cleaning machine and a hoover.

Gosh, imagine what Jesus would find, what with all those things that have, down the years, been brushed under the carpets at Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street…

Talking of Prime Ministers

Welshman David Lloyd George (1863-1945), 1st Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor, was a British Liberal politician and statesman. He was the first man to rise from humble beginnings to become prime minister of Britain.

He was nicknamed ‘The Welsh Wizard’ by his admirers, ‘The Goat’ by those who mistrusted him and his sexual shenanigans ― but the press labelled him ‘The Man Who Won The War’ (the First World War, that is).

However, he still found time for a colourful personal life, noted for his inexhaustible sexual appetite and his inability to keep his Stephenson Rocket in his pocket.

In a radio drama about him on Radio Wales, he says this: “Love was an undercover operation. Every tree in the park, every grave in the cemetery, seemed to have eyes...”

Do you know, I have a feeling the script writers may well have got their Lloyd George and their Dylan Thomas mixed up ― well, it is  a good line.

 

Tuesday, January 22
Joking apart

Chatting to Chief Wise Owl today, the subject of practical jokes came up, in particular that dreadful prank the Australian radio station pulled when the Duchess of Cambridge was in hospital with morning sickness, and which resulted in such dreadful consequences.

We both found it extraordinary that ‘modern humour’ deemed it okay to use a hospital with its full-frontal vulnerability as fair game for a laugh.

The subject came up because CWO gave me a series of letters from The Times  detailing how a practical joke should be played. First, a letter to set a background to the main story, but which is wonderfully smiley in itself...

Heat proof

Sir, In the days before parking meters, traffic wardens would patrol streets where one was able to leave a car for a limited period. They judged the time the car had been parked by feeling the bonnet. If it was cold, expect a ticket.

When the VW Beetle first appeared on our streets many wardens were unaware that the engine was at the rear. As a consequence the bonnet was always cold, which resulted in tickets being issued even if one had arrived just minutes earlier.
DAVID HOUSDEN, Elton, Cambs

The pros and cons of the VW Beetle

Sir, A quirk of the early Volkswagens was that they had no petrol gauges. In the 1950s a colleague in my publishing office boasted about his new VW’s low petrol consumption. So for a few weeks we used to top it up secretly, so that its miles per gallon became so amazing that even he stopped boasting.

Then we reversed the process and used to drain it. After running out of petrol several times, he stopped boring us about his Beetle altogether.
JOHN HEMMING, London W8


Now that’s what I call a proper practical joke. Indeed those were the days when petrol caps did not have locks and siphoning was a relatively simple task, excepting the occasional mouthful of petrol if you were not well practised in the withdrawal method. And all done with the siphoned tank’s full agreement, of course.

I’m reminded of the original Candid Camera  television series and the marvellous tricks and jokes they played. No shouting, no effin’ and blindin’, no aggression ― just puzzled people pushing back their flat-caps and scratching their heads trying to make sense of it all.

Curiously, I found the Jeremy Beadle reincarnations nowhere near as clever and amusing as the original Candid Camera. But there again, I am perhaps one of only 6,000 people in Britain who didn’t find Mr Bean’s appearance in the Olympic Opening Ceremony funny (however, Edmund Blackadder amuses me no end, which I guess proves it has nothing to do with an intuitive dislike of Rowan Atkinson, the actor involved).

Anyway, back with Candid Camera: one of the more memorable wheezes was the car freewheeling down a gently sloping road into a garage forecourt and stopping in front of some petrol pumps.

“Fill her up,” says driver Jonathan Routh (and host of the show) to the attendant, as was the case back then, no self-service in those days.

After paying for the petrol, Routh seeks help from the attendant when he can’t start the car. The attendant duly checks a few things and then asks Routh to open up the bonnet ― and there’s no engine.

The bewildered attendant looks under the car, even in the boot, for the engine ... after all, how did the car arrive there in the first place?

The attendant next calls out his colleagues, including what looks like a mechanic, to solve this baffling problem and mystery. “I’ve just driven from Basingstoke,” insists Routh. “There was definitely an engine there when I left.” Then a policeman arrives... Truly funny.

Another of my favourites was the carpenter called in to put up some office shelves. He measures the first shelf, and as he’s got his back turned to trim the shelf to size, one of the walls gently closes the gap a couple of inches. Of course the carpenter is totally puzzled when the shelf is marginally too long.

He measures again and goes to cut ― meanwhile the wall moves back a couple of inches. Clever stuff.

And of course the fellow in the shop who, when the shopkeeper’s back is turned, dips his hand into an aquarium full of goldfish, grabs one and quickly swallows it ― much to the horror of others in the shop. Of course what he was actually eating was a slice of carrot already concealed in his hand, which looked exactly like a wriggling goldfish. Marvellous.

Weather is here, wish you were lovely

Sticking with curious happenings, last month farmer Keith Potter was baffled by a postcard delivered to his home 100 years after it was sent.

The postcard was delivered to Paradise Farm, Christian Malford, Wiltshire. The original postmark on the postcard was January 3, 1912 and it was posted from Monkton Farleigh, near Bradford on Avon. Here’s characterful-looking farmer Keith Potter with the postcard delivered in 2012 but posted in 1912...
                                                                                                                 
The postcard was addressed to Vida Doel but the farm has been occupied by the Potter family since 1925. Mr Potter, 65, has no idea why it was delivered 100 years later. He wondered if it had been stuck behind a machine or a drawer in a sorting office somewhere.

A spokesman for the Royal Mail said: “There are also two postmarks ― the original one and a very recent one. Everything points to this being put back in the Royal Mail system.”

Hm. Anyway, this letter from The Times  in response to the above...

First class

Sir, So I’m not the only person who finds mischievous pleasure in buying old postcards at antique fairs and re-posting them to their original address.
STEPHEN O’LOUGHLIN, Huddersfield, W Yorks

Yes, I like that very much, essentially playing a joke where you don’t really know what the end result is, the above tale being the exception which tests the rule, obviously. I wonder if Farmer Potter had anything to do with it in the first place?

Whatever, here’s a link ― hope it works ― to the ‘missing engine’ prank ... note Routh’s cigarette with all those petrol fumes; oh, and the mechanic in his white overalls and wearing a tie. And here’s a tip: watch it with the sound off, for it somehow makes it much funnier knowing what the situation is:
                                                                                                    
http://www.chak89.tv/view_video.no-engine

 

Blue Monday

Switched on the wireless first thing this morning, just after five, as usual, and Vanessa Feltz was asking her listener to let her know about “the last thing that made you smile”.

Apparently, the third Monday in January i.e. today, is known as ‘Blue Monday’, and is traditionally associated with depression due to the culmination of factors including miserable weather, Christmas debt and failed New Year’s resolutions.

So Vanessa was busily trying to get me into a good frame of mind from the word go. Which is quite amusing, really, given that I am irresistibly attracted to the things in life that make me smile (which probably explains why I have never watched soaps on the box, except when zapping through on my way to the sunny side of the street).

Anyway, having just woken up, I couldn’t for the life of me think what the last thing was wot made me smile, which itself made me smile given that this scrapbook revolves around those endless things that exercise my old chuckle muscle.

Anyway ... the last thing that made me smile? I hardly ever remember my dreams even, certainly not last night ― so no smiles there.

Then I remembered, sort of ... the last thing I did last night before switching off the computer and toddling off to bed was prepare the picture I used to illustrate yesterday’s smile, of the horses and the fondly imagined Tesco sales pitch. There, it makes me smile, just thinking about it.

Anyway, what was it that made me smile today?  What came out top of the
Look You Smileometer on Blue Monday?

Well, the media has been awash with glorious and amusing pictures reflecting the snowfall up and down the land.

There were snowmen galore; and what has made an appearance this year is the snowdog, inspired it seems by the appearance last Christmas of The Snowman And The Snowdog, the sequel to Raymond Brigg’s classic Christmas tale.

However, my favourite was a snowman with a difference, a Tour de Force pedalling that extra mile:

Wiggo chills out in the back garden

Picture submitted to Mail Online  by Lizzy Eddy, an impressive
sculpture of a snowman riding a bicycle built for one.

Mind you, I’m never sure these days whether photographs are real or beautifully crafted things compliments of Photoshop or some such like. Is the above real or a work of art? There were no clues spotted in the accompanying article.

However, the one giveaway which suggests that everything is not quite what it seems is the fact that it must be pretty much impossible to build such a complex thing without disturbing any of the snow build-up on the bike itself. I mean, if you simply touch the branch of a tree carrying that much snow ― it all comes crashing down.

Be that as it may, it still makes my favourite picture of the day, irrespective of how the Wiggo snowman got there. Oh, and closely followed by this one...

   to   

A clever spot of driving captured by Lauren Haynes, of a romantic
picture of two hearts driven into the snow in Brighton.

Again, I wasn’t sure whether the tracks had been spontaneously created and spotted by Lauren ― or were they deliberately shaped by a clever bit of driving? Whatever, it makes no difference because the picture does what it says on the tin: Look At Me, Look You.

Naughty but nice

Also in the papers today, plenty of tips how to turn Blue Monday into Red Hot Monday. I liked this one...

Pump up your feel-good chemicals!

The ‘cuddle hormone’ oxytocin, released during sex and orgasm, helps us feel more cared for, can help soothe relationship spats, and can make people act with more caring and generosity. So treat yourself to some loving this January ― especially today ― ‘Blue Monday’...

I found myself wondering ... why isn’t there a perfume or aftershave called Oxytocin? I mean, imagine the sales pitch: Oxytocin ― the original sin.

Mind you, there does appear to be something called Oxytocin Nasal Spray, marketed as Oxytocin Factor. Hm, perhaps that’s the real X Factor.
 


Sunday, January 20
A girth of mirth

“The horse is a thing of beauty but it is still something to eat, a source of protein far superior to much that pleases the British palate. French chef Raymond Blanc, 63, who says he has been relishing horse meat since he was a child.

It wouldn’t surprise me if horsemeat is one of the healthier ingredients to be found in a Tesco burger.”
Martyn Pitt, of Gloucester, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Yes, the comments keep coming. In fact, both Raymond Blanc and Martyn Pitt are on the button if this paragraph from today’s Sunday Times  is anything to go by:

The real joke about the Tesco Irish horseburger is that its buyers may in fact have eaten something healthier than they intended. Horse has higher levels of iron than beef, less saturated fat and more omega 3 fatty acids.

I was duly inspired to do a little visual joke after spotting something similar elsewhere within The Sunday Times, and wondering what would happen if Tesco teamed up with a cooking personality from yesteryear, Graham Kerr, 78:

 

A light at the end of the Tesco horseburger tunnel

No animals were harmed in cooking up this promotional image      Pic: Me

I captured the above image along my morning walk: a particular parcel of land I trek through nearly always has some horses in attendance, and I make friends with most of them. Above, they spot me, and rather dramatically race towards me out of the rising sun.

There was a picture of some horses in the snow in The Sunday Times, with the punch line “Tesco launches new range of frozen meals”, but given that those gee-gees up there were hot-footing it towards me, I thought I’d add my own rather obvious extra ingredient.

On the same subject, another couple of letters from The Daily Telegraph...

Animal Farm

SIR – How have horses acquired a more powerful trade union than cattle, sheep and pigs? If the latter group had allowed us to ride on their backs, would they too be awarded the same protection from ending up in our kitchens?
Brian Christley, Abergele, North Wales


Another school of thought

SIR – Eating horse is like eating dolphin. However, I hope the rejected burgers have been given to charity and not thrown away.
A C Kidman, Fletching, East Sussex


Now there’s an interesting three-course meal that would put a smile even on the face of Hannibal Lecter: Chunky Dolphin Soup for starters; Saddle of prime Welsh Cob steed as main course; and to round things off, a Juicy Lucy Pudding (a fruity, guilt-free dessert that’s both delicious and nourishing ― the fruits of the forest ― but we won’t tell Hannibal that).

Things that walk into bars

Finally, there’s an old joke that needs updating:

A horse walks into a bar. “Why the long face?” asks the landlord. “Been to Tesco recently?” says the horse.

I’ve also been trying to come up with something similar here:

A zebra walks into a bar code ...... nobody pays a blind bit of notice, they just go “beep!” every time they walk past...

Hm, nearly there.

 

Saturday, January 19
It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it

In a mixed seminar, women and men were divided into gender groups and asked to correctly punctuate this sentence:
“A woman without her man is nothing.”

Nearly all the men wrote: “A woman, without her man, is nothing.”

Most women, however, wrote this: “A woman: without her, man is nothing.”

Chief Wise Owl shared the above with me today. He added that some bright spark enquired as to what percentage of the women wrote this instead: “A woman without her man is like a fish without a bicycle.”

That last quote is now widely attributed to the American feminist Gloria Steinem, 78, but seems to have originated as an anonymous graffito.

“A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle” was penned as a Woman’s Lib slogan, but was met by the male response: “Yes, but who needs a stationary haddock?” Well, anyone who’s hungry and isn’t going anywhere in a hurry, I guess.

 

♫♥♫♥♫♥♫

All this punctuation business brought to mind Cole Porter’s song, What Is This Thing Called Love?

Consider these options:

                                      What is  this thing called, love?

                                      What is this thing called? Love?

                                      What? Is this thing called love?


Anyway, we know that punctuation is there to make the written word easier to read, and more importantly, to help make sense of it.

As a point of order, today’s print media keeps punctuation to a minimum, which explains how often I have to re-read a sentence because first time around it simply doesn’t make sense.

However, punctuation can be used to great comic effect. Read this paragraph:

Dear Jack,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy ― will you let me be yours?
     Jill

Now, approached from another angle:

Dear Jack,
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn
! For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
     Yours, Jill

Is this a glass which I see before me?

Shooting off at a slight tangent, how about this? An applicant for a job arrived at the interview and was asked to separate the words in this sentence: “Thejobsarenowhere.”

Well, what did you make of it?

Most people, of course, end up with: “The jobs are nowhere,” but that’s only because they’re thinking negatively.

Those of a positive bent come up with this: “The jobs are now here.”

Now isn’t that clever. I have to admit that I came up with “The jobs are nowhere” ― and I really don’t think I could be described as a glass-half-empty person.

I think it has something to do with the way you scan the written word; for example, I am aware that the seeing part of my brain operates fractionally ahead of the reasoning part of my brain.

That’s my story ― and I’m sticking to it. Fill it up, landlord.

Finally, how about this, a letter in today’s Daily Telegraph:

Unpredictable texts

SIR – One night, to reassure my sister about a relation sick in hospital, I sent a text saying: “He’s fine.” Unfortunately, the predictive text changed it to: “He’s gone.”
Zippy Milburn, London SW17


I found myself pondering whether Zippy Milburn is actually called Dippy Milburn ― Slack Alice, even ― before, that is, the predictive text got hold of it.

I’m not familiar with predictive text, but it sounds much like the suggestions thrown up by my computer’s spell-check thingy, or what I call my computer’s spell-cheque.

Remember these recently highlighted examples?

Following the shemozzle between Manchester City football manager Roberto Mancini and his troublesome player Mario Balotelli, the computer suggested Mario Belatedly, which was really putting the boot in.

Lionel Messi, football player of the year, came up as Lionel Messy; and curiously, Viscount Linley became Viscount Lonely.

But best of all, Tesco morphed into Tosco. Clever computer.

 

Friday, January 18
Snowbound

“A Government warning said anyone travelling in snowy and icy conditions should take a shovel, hat, blankets, a supply of food and drink, de-icer, rock salt, a torch and spare batteries, a petrol can, first-aid kit and jump leads. I felt a right prat on the bus.”
Bob Lowe, of New Milton in Hampshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

 

I awoke this morning and gritted my teeth. Yes, the snow had arrived, as forecast, although here in Llandampness it was but a modest covering.

Mind you, walking along the country road outside the bungalow was much like edging carefully along a wubbering springboard.

Whatever, a winter wonderland of pictures were plastered all over the media, probably because proper snowy conditions are quite rare in this country. Mind you, this is now the third winter in four we’ve had major disruption due to a dump of snow. Its rarity probably explains why we are so useless at coping with it.

Retro pains and pleasures

Anyway, many of the pictures looked back at previous hard winters.

In a perfect world I would now show an image that would somehow connect the slippery topic of the past couple of days i.e. the horse burger scandal ― to the snow.

And would you believe it, just sitting there in a Telegraph  picture gallery, was a photo from January 1940, of a car almost buried in the snow near Macclesfield, just to the west of the Peak District.

But best of all – what does it say on the notice board?

 

Horsepower grounded in the snow near Macclesfield in Cheshire
                                                                           
 Photo: Hulton Archive

Children sledging down a hill in Devon in the hard winter of 1963
                                                                                        
Photo: ALAMY

A rest home for horses? Whoa, do you suppose that Tesco ― other supermarkets are also available in a roundup of usual suspects ― went on to build a knacker’s yard on the site? Well, our supermarkets do appear to delight in putting down most other businesses in the high street.

Anyway, as for the second picture, those children do bring a smile to the face ― but what caught my eye is the lady in the centre, walking away and dressed in the dark clothes. Oh how the world of fashion has changed. She looks as if she’s just been to church, probably wearing her best shoes as well.

It is an image that is both puzzling and amusing.


Wubbering Heights

Back at the beginning of the month, I ever so discreetly pointed you in the direction of a Guardian  newspaper article all about last year’s most coveted and dreaded literary prize, the 2012 Bad Sex Award shortlist ― just in case you missed it, especially so the wonderfully witty comments section, the link coming up once again, er, down below.

However, I must bring you this particular example:

The Divine Comedy by Craig Raine
And he came. Like a wubbering springboard. His ejaculate jumped the length of her arm. Eight diminishing gouts. The first too high for her to lick. Right on the shoulder.

Then came this online comment...

EmpireHancock: I will know no rest until I have used the phrase “like a wubbering springboard” in day-to-day conversation.

Handy name, incidentally: EmpireHancock. Be that as it may, I duly entered into the spirit of things and took up the challenge ― as you probably noticed, above: “the country road outside the bungalow was much like edging carefully along a wubbering springboard”.

I must also quote these couple of online comments apropos the original challenge...

Celsius233: “Is that a wubbering springboard in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?”

Farawayfromleeds:
                               
All I want is a room somewhere,
                               
Far away from the cold night air,
                               
With one enormous chair.
                               
Oh, wouldn’t it be wubberly?

What is there not to smile about in this doolally world of ours? Here’s the link to the Guardian article:

                                                                                              http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/bad-sex-award-2012-shortlist

 

Thursday, January 17
The Burger Handicap: runners and riders

The horse meat burger saga continues to sizzle apace. This morning, the cartoonists had their say...
 

The Daily Telegraph’s MATT

The Daily Mail’s MAC

“You remember you wanted a pony?”

“HE’S BEHIND YOU! The Tesco burger man

What wonderful expressions, whether it’s the overjoyed young girl heading for a nasty fall or the startled horse as it attempts to avoid a nasty put down.

The MAC cartoon was mentioned in a newspaper review on the wireless this morning ― I thought the caption mentioned in the dispatch was “He’s behind you! ― The Tesco burger van”.  I had smiley visions of a Tesco delivery van, with its corporate slogan “You shop ... We drop” plastered on the side, chasing the poor creature down the home straight.

Eating on the hoof

What makes this burger shemozzle so entertaining is its schadenfreude nature, which rather explains why the story looks as if it will run and run.

On the one hand (ho, ho, ho), experts now say that supermarkets may well have been selling beef contaminated with horse meat for years and years due to lax food regulations ― the Food Standards Agency was criticised after admitting it had never carried out tests for horse meat on food sold in Britain ― yet we know, all things being reasonably equal, that horse meat poses no health risks. Which means there are no handicapped jokes.

Unless, of course, we suddenly hear of something called Mad Bucking Disease, gulp, and we have  to see the doctor for that previously mentioned permit to shit on the road.

Whatever, on the other hand, there’s a sense of delight in seeing the supermarkets being called to book. We all know that, while they’ve been raking in billions in profits, they have also been riding their suppliers into the ground with extravagant use of the whip.

From the farming industry struggling to make any profits, to cheap child labour in far away places with strange sounding names, they represent everything that is wrong with this country and why we as a nation find ourselves in such a mess.

People holding powerful positions in society, driven purely by personal ambition and greed with no regard for the sort of world they are handing the nation’s children and grandchildren. And that includes their own descendants because when the revolution rides into town, do these people really think they’ll be safe hiding behind electrified fences patrolled by armed guards?

I guess if a Gallup poll ― sorry, the subject matter just invites puns and the like ― if a poll was carried out, people would not be too upset at finding horse meat in their burgers but rather pleased that the supermarkets are having their comeuppance because of their arrogant conviction that they can do as they please.

Incidentally, if the Food Standards Agency had never carried out tests for horse meat on food sold in Britain, what made it do so now? Hm, I sense a whistleblower. Perhaps a man with a red flag?

Anyway, I’m sliding away from the smiley aspect of the situation. A letter in The Daily Telegraph  caught my eye...

Salami slalom

SIR – Many people will happily consume salami, several brands of which contain donkey meat. What’s the difference?
Ruby Gordon-Wilson, Newick, East Sussex

A comment board response from The Hidden Paw: Usually about 3-4 hands (12-16 inches).

Also spotted online...

Jptaylor: On Terry Pratchett’s fantasy planet Discworld, certain catering establishments have on the menu: “Curry with meat: $3. Curry with named meat: $3.50.”
PS: Luckily I wasn’t drinking coffee when I saw today’s Matt cartoon.

Anneallan: The last couple of days have shown just how many horse related words and phrases are contained in the English language. I've enjoyed them all.

Life and death: a fine margin

“I’m going to go and do the lottery.” What a witness claims the Vauxhall high-rise crane driver said after his lucky escape from yesterday’s dramatic helicopter crash in central London which resulted in the death of the pilot and one person on the ground.

What was remarkable about the crane operator, who would normally have been in the cab when it was hit by the helicopter, is that he survived because he was late for work. Site workers said the man had never been late before.

Paul Robinson, 42, a lorry driver, said the operator would have been “wiped out” if he had been on time. Instead, he was still climbing up the crane’s shaft when the crash occurred. He is understood to have been delayed while dropping his children off at school.

The crane operator, who had been harnessed to the structure, was said to be recovering from his ordeal last night.

As for doing the lottery, I would guess that he has already had his stroke of luck in winning life’s rollover jackpot.

Just before I sign off, here’s another extraordinary headline I spotted yesterday:

                                          Swedish woman crashes train after taking it for a joyride

A Swedish cleaner stole a train and took it for a joyride before driving it into an apartment building...

That was so good I didn’t bother to click to find out more ― in fact I was reminded of we men’s favourite Swedish lady, who also went for a joyride on a train.

It’s one of my favourite Abba song ― and my goodness me, they really knew how to perform melodic, catchy and rhythmic melodies. Remember this?
                                                         
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HnOFwqpLRQ

 

Wednesday, January 16
Every Little Bit Helps

Today’s smile of the day was effortlessly spotted coming up on the rails...

                                          Horse meat found in burgers on sale in Tesco

Tesco Group Technical Director Tim Smith says the company is investigating how horse meat came to be in burgers on sale in some of their stores.

Scientific tests have found traces of horse DNA in burgers in some of the UK and Ireland’s leading supermarkets. The inspection revealed horse meat accounted for approximately 29% of the meat in Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers...

Tesco, surprise, surprise, has unseated the product from its shelves. No more Tesco Dobbin
s Delights for you.

The burgers were supplied to Tesco by Silvercrest, an Irish company, but suppliers in continental Europe are suspected of being the source of the horse meat found in beef products.

It also emerged that other supermarkets, including Lidl, Aldi, Dunnes and Iceland, are also selling burgers containing horse meat. Asda and the Co-op have removed some frozen products because they use the same supplier.

Reaction overwhelmingly suggests that supermarket customers see the story more as an excuse for a bit of a laugh rather than mounting anger at the possibility of having eaten horse meat. After all, Dobbin’s Delights and Gee-Gee Joints are officially on the menu in other parts of the world, France for example.

The news caused a torrent of gags to be unleashed on Twitter and Comment boards. Incidentally, hope you got my little headline joke: Every Little Helps is Tesco’s current sales slogan, so it seemed quite natural to insert ‘Bit’, for rather obvious reasons.

Including ‘a bit  of a laugh’, as above; indeed, looking at all these burger pictures today is making me so hungry I could eat a horse...
           

                                                                ...make mine a 2 Hands, please (that’s a John Wayne Burger: 8” tall, for the unsaddled).
 

                      Horsemeat burgers: the best and worst jokes

Spot the difference

A bog standard Sir Loin Burger Tesco sleeve...

...however, an anonymous Photoshopper leads the field

So here we go then, gags spotted or overheard today:

     At least the Tesco burger is a stable diet.

     A Tesco burger walks into a bar. “Pint, please”. “I can’t hear you,” says the barman. “Sorry” replies the burger, “I’m a little bit horse”.

     Those Aldi horse burgers were nice, but I prefer My Lidl Pony.

     The Food Standards Agency confirm that all those who ate horse burgers are in a stable condition.

     Two Tesco burgers please ― hold the dressage.

     Visited my local Tesco’s today ― I can confirm that the going in the car park is good to soft.

     I paid a visit to Tesco’s cafe and the waitress asked if I wanted anything on my burger: “Yes, a fiver each way.”

     I've just checked the Tesco burgers in my fridge ... and they’re off!

     Those Tesco burgers gave me the trots, they won’t be on sale furlong.

     Never mind the burgers. I've long thought that their huge sausages are very suspicious...
                                                                                                                                     

Hm, do you suppose black stallions provide bigger sausages? Anyway, on with the BBQ...

     I like my burgers Medium to Redrum.

     A horse fell in love with a cow, nothing more to say on the matter...
                                                                                                                 

     It looks as though a few mad cows have been indulging in some horse-play.

     Why are they only removing them from the stores now? Fetlock of good that will do for those who have already eaten them.

Apropos those last two images, it always surprises me the pics I suddenly remember taking and I find hiding away in some forgotten corner of my computer. Whatever, to shoot off at a delightful tangent...

     Has anyone tested Tesco’s veggie burgers for uniquorn yet?

     Traces of Zebra found in Tesco barcodes.

     Tesco, Twitter, newspapers and web sites are flogging a dead horse repeating all these endless jokes.

Be that as it may, and much as I enjoyed the
My Lidl Pony joke, my favourite goes to ReyLuis with this clever effort:

     Is it a coincidence that ‘HAMBURGERS’ is an anagram of ‘SHERGAR BUM’?

Yes, I did check it out ― and it works. My own effort? Well, I was chatting to Dai Aphanous down at the Crazy Horsepower late afternoon and I told him that I’d eaten some of Tesco’s burgers, so I went to see the doctor, just in case. “What did he say?” says Dai.

Oh, I say, he was quite unconcerned, but the Doc added: “Just to be safe I’ll make out one of these...” He reached for a pad on his desk and started scribbling out a per - a per - a per-
     “A prescription?” volunteers Dai.
     “No,” say I, “a permit to shit on the road.”

I know, I know, I’ve used the joke before, but it’s so good ― and so perfect in this context ― I think it can stand a few shovel-full of repeats.

SPELL-CHEQUE WATCH
! ... For “Tesco’s”, my computer suggested “Tosco’s”. I couldn’t possibly comment.
 


Tuesday, January 15
                           
Last
Thursday I featured those wonderful letters about doctors, as spotted by Chief Wise Owl in The Times.

Well, not to be outdone, here are a series of equally smiley letters about vets, as spotted by yours truly in The Daily Telegraph.

As mentioned before, the beauty of featuring these letters in my scrapbook is, that I can take letters published over many days and put them together as one continuous thread.

So here we go ― and they really are rather good:

Pet doctor

SIR ― Tim Stafford Thornton wonders whether he should take his troublesome knee to the vet instead of the doctor.
Vets are allowed legally to treat humans although doctors cannot treat animals. In my experience, vets offer the efficiency, pragmatism, charm, humour and common sense so often lacking in the NHS.
Elaine Griffin, Bassingham, Lincolnshire

European vets were military medics in WW2

SIR ― During their advance through Europe in the Second World War, leaders of 45 Commando, in which my father, Hugh, served, preferred the help of local vets to doctors in the event that one of the men was wounded or fell ill. They took the view that if a vet was capable of curing an animal that couldn’t tell him where it hurt, there would be no misunderstandings arising from the language barrier.
     It is recorded that this practice saved the lives and limbs of many servicemen.
Richard Muir, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire

SIR ― My friend’s father always said: “A doctor asks what is wrong; a vet tells.”
Mabel Green, Leek, Staffordshire

SIR ― I also find it easier to book a same-day appointment with my cat’s vet than with my GP. However, I also have to pay £50 for my cat’s annual vaccination and one-minute check. I would complain bitterly should it cost me the same hourly rate to see my GP for a check-up and annual flu jab.
     This just shows the esteem in which we hold our pets nowadays.
Adrian Waller, Woodsetts, Nottinghamshire

Bend over

SIR ― The enthusiasm recently displayed by your correspondents for consulting a vet instead of a doctor would, I fear, soon wane upon the first requirement for a temperature reading.
John Benson, Harpenden, Hertfordshire

Final word of comfort

SIR – A vet may be better at reading a patient’s mind than a GP. But if the vet can’t find a cure, or it is too expensive, his treatment would be to put the animal down.
John Proudley, Sowerby, North Yorkshire

 

Now aren’t those wonderful? And do you know, as someone brought up on a farm, my parents echoed the thoughts of the above correspondents in their admiration of the local vets ― and that despite having local doctors my parents had the highest regard for.

Mind you, perhaps my parents were influenced by the fact that my uncle ― my father’s brother ― was at one time the Chief Veterinary Officer for the UK.

Local people and family members could never make out why I didn’t go on to study and hopefully qualify as a vet ― after all, taking basic qualifications as a given, it isn’t what  you know in this old world of ours, but rather, who  you know.

However, training to be a vet seemed too much like hard work ― after all, as one of the correspondents above points out, you can’t ask an animal what the problem is ... oh, and where precisely does it hurt, you old cow?


Ewe bend

Staying with the animal kingdom, I have written before about my experiences with upside-down sheep ― well, imagine spotting this headline and article:
                                                        
Terry the upside-down sheep

Coming up, the link to a mind-bending video of a sheep with an upside-down HEAD ... and Allan McNamara of Middlesbrough in North Yorkshire, the man who filmed it, insists that it’s no fake.

Look a bit closer at the picture alongside ... and you will notice something very odd about this sheep.

Seemingly quite happily defying nature as it nibbles grass, it is indeed a sheep with an upside-down head ― but is it real?

[Actually, I contend that it’s more a back-to-front head rather than an upside-down head ― but that doesn’t distract one iota from the intriguing image.]

The owner of the YouTube video of the weird animal insists that it is genuine; the clip sparked curiosity and doubts among onliners, becoming an internet hit with almost 50,000 views in just five days.

Allan spotted the creature while walking through the countryside with a friend. The 30-year-old computer technician believes it had twisted its spine...

EweTube link, below, compliments of Allan McNamara
 

While it would be fairly easy to Photoshop a picture of the kind shown above, the video coming up looks genuine enough. So much so, it drew this response on the comment board...

Vet18, Norfolk: This sheep has probably got torticollis (a neurological condition) sometimes caused by the bacteria listeria. Actually pretty common ― we see a dozen or so of these a year at our vet practice.

I did a quick Google ... indeed Vet18 is spot on. On the Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) web site, it was also called the uncomplicated ‘twisted neck’.

Well, it’s something I haven’t spotted along my walks ― as yet, anyway ― so here’s the YouTube link...

                                                                                                                                   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYvEy95SI_k
 


Monday, January 14
I’m sorry, I’ll subtitle that again

The BBC’s
mangled subtitles regularly get viewers’ vicars in a whist―

I’m sorry, I’ll read that again: the BBC’s mangled subtitles regularly get viewers’ knickers in a twist, especially so when told during one local BBC news broadcast that a town was expecting a visit from the “Arch bitch of Canterbury”.

How delightful is that? Now that’s what I call a proper Freudian slip.

As I’ve mentioned on here before, the BBC is regularly criticised by deaf groups over “ludicrous” computer-generated subtitles. For example, Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, was famously labelled “Ed Miller Band”. Hard-of-hearing viewers have been left “utterly perplexed” by errors in the live captions.

Oh yes, remember this? In another embarrassing faux pas, a reporter visiting a farm spoke of how the pigs “love to nibble anything that comes into the shed, like our wellies” ― unfortunately the subtitles beneath the report changed the last word into the delightfully childish homophone “willies”...
                                                                                                 

Yes indeed, that slip we could well call a poke in a pig.

And of course there’s the infamous example when, during the Queen Mother’s funeral, the solemn words “We’ll now have a moment’s silence for the Queen Mother” became “We’ll now have a moment’s violence for the Queen Mother”.

All of which, topically, brings me to Northern Ireland and the campaign of street demonstrations and violence that started just over a month ago, when Belfast councillors inexplicably voted on 3 December to limit the days when the union flag flies over Belfast City Hall.

I see that the cost so far of policing the flag protests is believed to be over £7m. It is astonishing that no politician in Belfast sensed the ambush they were charging into when they made that decision over the flag. Did they not grasp what history was shouting at them from inside the pass? Unbelievable.

Be that as it may, this all brings me back to the BBC’s mangled subtitles: the Ireland rugby team was once renamed the “Island” rugby team. Now that is a quite wonderful slip because rugby union is the one aspect of Irish life where north and south come together as an island ― and always have without any demonstrations or violence from participants or supporters.

The sport is organised on an all-Ireland basis with one team, one governing body and one league for both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Ireland is the third-oldest rugby nation after England and Scotland respectively, and the game was organised there fractionally before here in Wales, surprisingly.

A lesson for politicians everywhere, there, methinks.

Anyway, back to subtitling ... this afternoon I popped in on Chief Wise Owl at his home to collect some Times  letters he had saved for me. As it happens he wasn’t there so I had a chat with his good lady, Mrs What A Hoot.

The television was on in the corner, the BBC’s News Channel as it happens, and as Mrs What A Hoot is slightly deaf she had the subtitles on, with the sound turned right down.

What came on was Adele winning her first Golden Globe award, taking home the honour for best original song in a motion picture. “Oh my God, oh my God, oh, oh my God!” she gushed in her acceptance speech, much like a geyser on heat; she dedicated the Skyfall prize to her partner, Simon Konecki, and their three-month old son.

However, the subtitling come out thus: “Oh my Guard ... oh my Guard ... oh, oh my Guard.

Now I put it to the House that computer-generated Freudian slips don’t come much better than that. Thinking about it after, I can only presume that the technical observer, who would have repeated what Adele was saying into a microphone for the computer to then change into subtitles, was an American. Fascinating stuff.

By one of those delightful coincidences, given that above I mention “The Island rugby team”, one of the letters Chief Wise Owl had saved from The Times  was this, a classic example of my motto, every day is a day at school:

Field Survey

Sir, With reference to letters on games, pastimes and sport, there are only three sports, which are hunting, shooting and fishing. The rest are all games or pastimes. Hence a game of cricket, football, rugby, etc; and the pastimes of synchronised swimming, diving, jumping, etc.
     We do not have the Olympic Sports but the Olympic Games.
BRIAN STORRINGTON, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

 


Sunday, January 13
The overtaking parade

Here’s another gem from the Telegraph’s  Sign Language series, a picture gallery featuring some of the weird and wonderful things spotted by readers on their travels about the planet...

Puttin’ on the Ritz


                                                                                Spotted by David Drew in Kolkata, India

I’ve got your number

Back in October, I featured some letters from The Sunday Times  motoring section, missives to do with personalised car registration numbers. Now I’ve never purchased the right to display a personalised plate, but I enjoyed this letter:

On reflection

The DVLA may not have issued the number plate SEX, but it has issued X92, which looks pretty innocuous until you read it in your rear-view mirror.
Vic Brown, Morpeth, Northumberland

If you write X92 on a piece of paper ― be sure to write it as printed ― it is indeed surprisingly smiley.

What is more, add ed (with a curvy flourish) to the X92, and it really becomes a bit of a hoot.

The things people catch sight of in the mirror, eh?

Be that as it may, seeing the ‘Glamour’ car reminded me of something I read somewhere online just recently:

A sexy little number ― or perhaps not

If you are struggling with finding that perfect birthday present for that special someone ... how about a moderately offensive car number plate?

Car registration sales firm Regtransfers.co.uk has taken the strange decision to put a range of rude registrations up for sale. Imagine the delight on the face of your loved one as he or she eagerly opens up the birthday package to reveal a number plate that reads PEN 15, ORG 45M or even BO11LOX.

Even if the recipients do turn out to be less than keen on the idea of driving a car with ‘53XEY’ emblazoned across the front, they’ll soon perk-up when they realise how much these number plates cost. That sexy little number will set you back £9,000 but you’ll need just under £23,000 for BO11LOX. The PEN 15 plate is on the market for £90,000 and ORG 45M is a staggering £135,000.

Despite strict rules banning “number plates likely to cause offence or embarrassment”, Regtransfers.co.uk insists that these plates are perfectly legal and fully expects someone to cough up the kind of prices it is quoting.

A note of caution though ― the DVLA says: “If we are made aware that a previously issued number is deemed offensive, we would consider withdrawing the number.” In the past, a number of questionable registrations have been banned including DR12UGS, PE12VRT and MU12 DER.

                                                              ♫♥♫♥♫♥♫
                                                                                       Happy birthday to you,
                                                                                       Happy birthday to you,
                                                                                       Happy birthday dear ORG 45M,
                                                                                       Happy birthday to you...
!

Imagine a lady with a vehicle bearing this registration number, reversing into a tight space, and behind is a fellow offering guidance: “You’re okay, love, just keep on coming…!
 


Saturday, January 12
Photoshopping online

It was, perhaps, the subject blessed with the most smiles potential for a while ― yes of course, the official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge. Yesterday it caught my eye and made the smile of the day spot. Today, a quick visit to Mail Online  came up with this...
                                                     Now this is an art attack!
                                    Internet pranksters run riot with Kate’s new portrait

Some aspiring artists have lent a hand ― and some Photoshop skills ― to try to improve Kate Middleton’s first official portrait which was unveiled yesterday to mixed reviews. The Duchess of Cambridge declared she was “thrilled” with the work by Paul Emsley but others were not so impressed.

Robin Simon, editor of the British Art Journal, described the painting as “rotten”...

Kate Through the Looking Glass


One newly adapted portrait has been given a makeover with Mr Bean’s face placed over the Duchess’s ― very funny; another the botched fresco of Jesus which became an internet sensation last year; and in yet another, the face of Vigor from Ghostbusters II is used to terrifying effect.

But far and away my favourite smile generator is this...






 

The artist is anonymous. In fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the painter is someone famous, probably a well known artist even.

Every time I look at it my face lights up. Compare and contrast ... it’s the attention to detail ... for example, I hadn’t registered the subtle difference in Kate’s eyes, something our anonymous artist has exaggerated to great effect.

Wonderful. Ten out of ten.

PS: The 101 best pieces of advice ever received:

Viscount Linley, 51, furniture maker

My father advised me to always strive to do better, learn from my mistakes and aim for perfection. Within my business I encourage this and am always asking: “is this the best of the best?”.
 


Friday, January 11
Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter ~ Oscar Wilde

Apropos
the smiley end of the news spectrum, the meeja has today been getting its knickers in a twist over the first official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge, by the artist Paul Emsley, 65.

The response to the painting suggests we should perhaps redefine the old expression “the curate’s egg: good in parts” as “Kate’s first portrait: good in parts”.

She is known around the world for her youthful energy and captivating smile, but the painting of the Duchess unveiled today portrays a more mature Kate, and if Oscar Wilde is correct, then Paul Emsley is mellowing in his old age...

 


Gently smiling with her face framed by her glorious hair, the artist admitted it was difficult to paint such a beautiful woman. At Kate’s request, the oil on canvas painting portrays her natural rather than official persona.

I’m unsure what to make of it. It was quite revealing that after reading a brief online Telegraph  article, I perused the comments section, and the one contribution which drew a huge number of ‘recommends’, far in excess of other comments, was this one...

Oldgit13: One of the prettiest young women around today with the most beautiful and uplifting smile. I barely recognise her from this attempt.

And I have to mention this other one, given that I spend much of my time at the Crazy Horsepower in the company of Chief Wise Old...

Notwiseoldowl: Kate is a vibrant and lovely young woman. The artist has managed to portray her as a dowdy middle aged lady. And I don’t like to say this but the flesh tone is that of the recently deceased ... they should do as Lady Churchill did with Graham Sutherland’s portrait of Winston, burn the damned thing.


Yes, I know what both
Oldgit13 and Notwiseoldowl mean ― mind you, I wouldn’t like to comment on the flesh tone without actually seeing the painting in the flesh, so to speak, for the image tones I’ve seen online vary hugely ― but the relevant part is this: At Kate’s request, “the oil on canvas painting portrays her natural rather than official persona”.

What Kate’s look made me think of was this: I attend the funeral of a drinking pal, a regular at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, someone I know well and have shared many happy and funny moments with ― then after the funeral service I look for his nearest and dearest to share a few words of appreciation of times past, but I don’t want to approach them with a long face so I wear a gentle smile, which hopefully transmits my fond memories of their loved one.

By one of those curious coincidences, the very last thing I saw last night before switching off the computer was a just-released picture of Kate enjoying a family night out at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate her 31st birthday.

The Duchess, who spent four days in hospital before Christmas after being struck down by a severe form of morning sickness, went to see the Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza  show with the Duke of Cambridge, her parents, her sister Pippa and brother James.

The Duke and Duchess and their guests sat in the Royal box at the venue, though St James’s Palace said their visit on Wednesday night was entirely “private”.

Clearly the picture was not captured by a professional because if I zoom in, it becomes very grainy; I guess it was taken by a member of the audience, either on a mobile phone or a little compact camera ― photo compliments of ikonpictures...
                      
                                                                                                      
...I like it because it captures so wonderfully Kate’s default look, as if she’s saying: “Look, you really are very naughty, this is a private visit ― but I’ll give you just the hint of a little smile anyway.” I much prefer this smile to the one in the portrait.
 


Thursday, January 10
The doctor may well see you now

                                        
                                                                               With
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) coming under increasing pressure and scrutiny, not least the perceived drop in the standards of service and TLC prescribed by our local general practitioner doctors (GPs), Chief Wise Owl handed me a series of wonderful Letters to the Editor as spotted in The Times...

Vocational GPs

Sir, I suggest that the doctors of an earlier generation, whose surgeries were open on Saturday and Sunday, who routinely carried out home visits after hours, and who were pillars of their local society, entered the profession as a vocation.
     Today’s practitioners see medicine as a good career choice. Furthermore, I can confirm as an estate agent that most GPs entering a new practice and seeking a home specifically request that it should not be too close to their surgery.
TIM BLENKIN, York

A doctor’s calling

Sir, Just when my embattled GP colleagues thought that things couldn’t get any worse, they are accused of lacking a sense of vocation by an estate agent.
DR BOB BURY, Leeds

Healthy living

Sir, My father ran a busy, single-handed, north-west London medical practice until his retirement in the 1960s. He held two surgeries every day except Sunday, was on night duty every night, and had a secretary/receptionist/dispenser for two hours every weekday.
     He died aged 98.
EDNA THOMAS, Windsor, Berks


Unhealthy living

Sir, On the topic of single-handed GPs, my father ran a busy, single-handed, Swansea medical practice until he died in 1983. He held two surgeries every day except Sunday, was on night duty every night, often seeing patients who were not his own (as their own doctor refused to come out). My mother was his secretary and receptionist with three young children to look after.
     He died aged 57.
RAVI MIDHA, Caswell, Swansea


As I read that last letter, I was overtaken with thoughts of the famous Monty Python sketch about “kids today don’t know their born”, with each story teller topping the one before with the extravagance of his tale ― and then came that dramatic twist in the tail of Ravi Midha’s letter.

So thanks, Chief Wise Owl, for those. As it happens, I too spotted a letter in The Daily Telegraph, which rather dramatically highlights why our National Health Service is under such financial strain.


Longer lives heap more pressure on the NHS

SIR – Although it is good news that, for a variety of reasons, “we’re living longer than we thought” (report, December 18), it should be remembered that, generally, while every year’s rise in life expectancy produces 42 weeks of healthy life, it also brings 10 weeks of illness ― thus heaping even greater stresses on the NHS.
Dr Michael Irwin, Cranleigh, Surrey

Truly a pause for thought moment, there ... meanwhile, back with Chief Wise Owl, he also handed me another Times  letter, a proper little gem, which does somehow juxtapose with the above subject matter:

Britain’s problem

Sir, Stephen King, Chief Global Economist of HSBC [British multinational banking and financial services company with its headquarters in London], writes about “Britain’s problem: ‘You don’t make anything’.” (Opinion, Dec 11).
     And what does HSBC make?
ANNE-MARIE SUTCLIFFE, East Rudham, Norfolk

Now that’s what I really call a twist of the knife in the tale.

Finally,
The 101 best pieces of advice ever received it was perhaps the easiest, and most appropriate ― choice I’ve had to make thus far:

Justin Webb, 52, BBC Radio4 Today presenter

                                          
                                                                                                                                       
A cardiologist friend once told me: “Lifestyle changes don’t add up to much, mate, just take the pills and hope for the best.”
 


Wednesday, January 9
Top hat and tales of the unexpected

You know what it says up there on the Welcome Mat: ...and everyday a doolally smile of the day.

Honestly, there are so many things lurking out there in the meeja undergrowth ― and all dedicated to putting a smile on my face.

Yesterday it was the crazy world of polka-dot football; the day before how wedded (welded?) we are to our phones and other mobile devices; and the day before that, the delightful world of Pippatips and Cock-a-doodle-do (the worst individual sentence about sex) ― and back and back and back...

Today I spotted a fashion picture gallery ― not exactly my scene, but there was one image included in the ‘Hello Big Boy’ introductory collage which pulled me in like a magnet:

                                       Men’s fashion: only for the brave

Amid the wonderful displays at London Collections there have also been a few “You’re not going out in that!

As models dressed in outlandish outfits stalked the catwalk, British Fashion Council member David Gandy has vowed to make London the “menswear capital of the world” ― meanwhile male models wearing planks of wood across their faces stalk the catwalk.

The ambassador for Men’s Fashion Week said the event would be “bigger than ever” this year...

Where did  you get that hat?

Looking at the images, especially the ones where the male models have sawdust rather than dandruff on their shoulders, I felt much like that little boy who ― well, imagine Danny Kaye doing the honours:

Now Saturday came and the streets were just lined with thousands, and thousands, and thousands of people, and they all were cheering as the artillery came by, the infantry marched by, the cavalry galloped by. And everybody was cheering like mad ... except one little boy.

You see, he hadn’t heard about the magic suit and didn’t know what he was supposed to see. Well, as the King came by the little boy looked ― and, horrified, said:

♫♫♫

           “Look at the King! Look at the King! Look at the King, the King, the King!
            The King is in the all together
            But all together the all together,
            He’s all together as naked as the day that he was born.
            The King is in the all together
            But all together the all together
            It’s all together the very least the King has ever worn.”

            All the courts positioned to call an intermission,
            His majesty is wide open to ridicule and scorn.

            The King is in the all together
            But all together the all together
            He’s all together as naked as the day that he was born;
            And it’s all together too chilly a morn
!

Anyway, I couldn’t resist adding my own captions to the men’s fashion week in London...

Plankety Planks / Pic: Vladimir Potop

Board meeting / Pic: Getty Images

“Look, I wanted a Top Hat straight off the Top Shelf
― I didn’t mean you should call in a bloody carpenter.”

“God, I really did have a shed-full last night ― truth
to tell my head still feels like the side of a shed.”


Away from the splinter movement, I was mesmerised by this image...
                                                                                                                

                                                                                                                                                                                                             ...yes, it’s the fashion world’s idea of what an orange, genetically engineered with a banana, would look like.

What’s there not to like?
 


Tuesday, January 8
Faced with an open goal


As mentioned in passing, just the other day, I am not a natural-born football supporter; I tend to watch the game from behind the sofa, through slightly parted fingers.

However, watching the most talented in any sport is a joy, and football is no exception, and that despite the suspect behaviour of all participants.

So step forward Lionel Messi, the 25-year-old Argentinean forward who plies his trade with Barcelona ― or should that be Barth-elona?

Whatever, Messi strengthened his claim to be considered the greatest footballer of all time by winning a record-breaking fourth consecutive Fifa Ballon d’Or last night.

The award is given annually to the global player who is considered to have performed the best in the previous season. It is awarded based on votes by coaches and captains of international teams, as well as journalists from around the world.

Messi took the honour ahead of Barcelona team-mate Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo at an awards ceremony in Zurich.

The Argentinean enjoyed a remarkable 2012, even by his own high standards, most notably surpassing German Gerd Muller’s 40-year-old record of 85 goals in a calendar year, finishing with an incredible 91.

Messi ― the computer spell-check suggested Messy, the very antithesis of his footballing skills ― anyway, Messi, wearing a polka-dotted dinner jacket and matching bow tie, said: “To tell you the truth, this is really quite unbelievable. The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words. I would like to recognise my other colleagues from Barcelona; Andres, it has been great to train and play alongside you...”

Well done that man. It also goes without saying that his eye-catching outfit generated an instant smile; it predictably drew its fair share of online comments. Here are just a couple, which rather reflect the sum of the reaction...

Awanohi: A truly brilliant player, dressed by Disney.

Hardrain Gonnafall: When you have that kind of talent, you dress like you want to and don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks.

Lionel Messi spotted accepting his fourth Fifa Ballon d’Or

The first thing that came to mind when I spotted the outfit was ― and I never saw anyone else take this track ― that clearly each polka-dot represents a goal he has scored.

Oh how I’d wish that to be true.

Calling, pot, the, black, the, kettle
(rearrange into a well known phrase or saying...)

Staying with football, last Friday I featured the high-profile altercation between Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini and his fellow-countryman (and one of his star players), the Italian striker Mario Balotelli.

Remember this?
                          
                                                                                                                       ...talk was rife that Mancini would be exceedingly keen to pass Balotelli (in red) on ASAP in the current transfer window.

Well, Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister of Italy and football club AC Milan owner ― and a man noted for his ethics, morality and honesty ― has described Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli as a “rotten apple” after it was suggested the striker could make a return to the Stadio San Siro.

The controversial owner of AC Milan was talking on Monday after the Fifa Ballon d’Or gala in Zurich.

“The name of Balotelli never came into my thoughts,” said Berlusconi, who last year served a prison sentence for tax evasion (oh dear, what was it I said earlier?). “He is a rotten apple and could infect every group where he goes, even Milan.”

Yes Silvio, that really and truly does tend to happen. In fact, and more to the point, the way any organisation conducts itself ― neighbourhood pub, local council, high street or online giant, famous football club, the BBC, Channel 4, News International, Barclays Bank, the Government of the day ― is a precise reflection of the ethics, morality and honesty of the person at the very top, its Chief Sitting Bull, or let’s not be sexist, its Chief Sitting Cow.

Reading Silvio’s comments about Mario, I was going to say, talk about the Berlusconi calling the Balotelli black, but thought better of it just in case someone decided it was somehow racist.

But you have to smile at the delightful doolallyness of it all.

I’m not sure why, but I was reminded of a recent letter in The Times:

Stand and deliver

Sir, George Osborne [Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury of the United Kingdom] would be well advised to echo the thought of that other famous economist (and bank robber) Willie Sutton, who when asked why he robbed banks replied: “Because that’s where the money is.”
JOHN LEY, Littlehampton, W Sussex
 


Monday, January 7
Life on the small screen


This headline in Mail Online  drew me in...

                      Why we never look up any more: Photos capture the way mobile phones
                               have changed the way we interact with the world around us

Long, long ago, a telephone was a way of contacting somebody if they happened to be at home. Now, the phone has become a 24/7 necessity.

Society has become fixated by a hand-held device that has transformed the way we communicate, enabling us to send instant messages, photographs, audio recordings and videos to friends and family across the globe.

With access to the internet, applications, games and even banking on a mobile, people rarely spend a moment looking up at their surroundings.

Instead, with their heads bowed, they become mesmerised by technology, to the point where playing on their mobile phone supersedes interacting with others.

A series of photographs were taken by a mobile researcher from Finland, who has captured people from all walks of life on their mobile phones...

Here’s just one example from a gallery of images...
                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                                  ...but we don’t need to be shown any photographs. All we need do is stand and stare, whether on the pavement, in the pub, the café, the supermarket, the train...

But what fascinates me even more is this: if ET really landed on Planet Earth today, the first thing he, she or it, would notice, would be this greeting routine where a multitude of ever so strange and curious Earthlings just stand there with their arms outstretched holding something shinny in their hands, devices which endlessly emit flashes of light.

How odd, ET would doubtless think. Not so much Men in Black but Humans in Odd Skins.

And just to prove the point, here are a couple of photographs involving presidents of the United States of America, but images separated by nearly 60 years...
                                                                     
Say cheese, Mr President

Press photographers wait for Dwight D Eisenhower, 1951
                                                           Photo: Gordon Parks / LIFE Magazine

Crowd members photograph Barack Obama, 2009
                                                    Photo: Pete Souza / White House


Do you know, I first became aware of this extraordinary phenomenon when I was watching on television the Olympic Torch make its way around Britain prior to the Games ― and everywhere the Torch went there would be masses of people, all with their arms outstretched holding their mobiles or cameras.

It was a quite surreal thing to behold ― as the Obama photo above underlines to perfection...

Finally,
The 101 best pieces of advice ever received it was difficult to find something apt ... I then spotted this:

James Cracknell, 40, Olympic rower

Abraham Lincoln said: “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe”. No wonder he’s the only US President with a statue in Parliament Square. It took me years to understand the value of this but I genuinely try to abide by it.

And I bet the statue of Lincoln has had a few cameras pointed at it over time. But I like the advice: do your research, your preparations, your sharpening i.e. do your homework thoroughly before you start doing anything...

Oh that todays media interviewers would do that. Does the BBCs coverage of the Thames Jubilee Pageant back in June spring effortlessly to mind?
 


Sunday, January 6
Pipp-a-doodle-doo
!

This, spotted in The Sunday Times, part of a collection of the most toe-curling literary quotations of 2012...

Best of Pippatips

[Pippatips are tweets spoofing the over-obvious ideas and explanations in Pippa Middleton’s book Celebrate]

   1)  “Many ready meals aren’t quite ready to eat, you’ll often need to pop them in a microwave or oven first.”

  2)  “The cold, white stuff on many of your lawns is snow ― frozen, fluffy rain that falls from the sky.”

  3)  “In the cold you can wear hand-socks (called mittens or gloves) to keep your fingers and palms and backs of your hands toasty.”

  4)  “Breakfast in bed can be anything from a pot of tea with a few digestive biscuits to a tray laden with early morning goodies and flowers.”

  5)  “In a sack race ... the first person to cross the finish line is declared the winner.”

  6)  “Conkers is a game where each player has a conker threaded onto a piece of knotted string and pairs of players take turns to hit each other’s conker.”

From twitter.com/Pippatips, except the last three, which are from Celebrate itself

Go boldly

Talking of things literary, along with proper English Usage ― not my strongest point as you may have noticed ― I came across this...

Partridge [A Guide to Good English  by Eric Partridge] cites: “Avoid the split infinitive wherever possible; but if it is the clearest and most natural construction, use it boldly. The Angels are on our side.”

Apart from the fact that for years I thought a split-infinitive was something a Chinese tart wore, I was suitably amused that the most famous split infinitive of all (apparently) occurs in the opening sequence of the Star Trek television series: “...to boldly go where no man has gone before.” (Here, the adverb “boldly” splits the full infinitive “to go”, or so I am boldly told.)

Whatever, the juxtaposition of the word “boldly”, as deployed by both Partridge and Star Trek, suggests that the angels are indeed on our side.

My Dearest Jane

“One of his more benign observations on his employers came in a letter to me in the late Sixties: ‘My sports editor on The Sunday Times is leaving. I shall be lucky if I ever get anyone so indolent and disinterested again. In 20 years not one word of praise or blame. Only the wage packet on the dot each month. What more can you want’.”
A quote from My Dearest Jane, Letters from a Wayward Father ― a collection of letters from the racing journalist Roger Mortimer to his daughter, Jane Torday.


What a smashing quote. And I agree absolutely with that sports editor, whoever he was. If someone is doing his or her job to an acceptable standard, without fuss or bother ― leave well alone. Do not praise do not criticise, just post the bloody cheque. It juxtaposes perfectly with the adage “never complain, never explain”.

And so to
The 101 best pieces of advice ever received:

Geoff Boycott, 72, cricketer

I took Uncle Algy’s advice: “When two people get involved in a run-out, one of them is going to be very disappointed. Make sure it’s not you.”

Which brings me back to The Sunday Times  and their most toe-curling literary quotations of 2012...

Cock-a-doodle-doo!

Worst individual sentence about sex

Truth to tell I couldn’t bring myself to write the example quoted ― and that from someone who drinks in the Asterisk bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.

However, below is a link to a Guardian  newspaper article apropos the 2012 Bad Sex Award shortlist ― I commend it to the house, and be sure to peruse the wonderfully witty comments section, er, down below.

My favourite, I think, comes from NT86: This is my kind of cliterature.

Oh, and the references to Rolf Harris are a hoot...
                                                                                  
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/nov/20/bad-sex-award-2012-shortlist


Saturday, January 5
Monkey business

 

Pictures are wonderfully entertaining ― but often ruthlessly cruel.

I’ve just spotted a photograph of a monkey in a zoo in China. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary. What makes it smiley though is that it is hugging a radiator for warmth during an exceedingly cold spell.

Someone ― no names, no pack drill ― pondered aloud if Manchester United and England footballer Wayne Rooney had his roots in Sichuan Province out in China. Especially his hair roots.

Well, what do you think?
                         
                           

The monkey’s hair-line is what does the trick because not long back Rooney had a high-profile hair transplant ― and I guess that’s what makes the picture so special in that particular context.

Just in case someone suggests that I should look in the mirror before pointing fingers ― here’s a picture the family took of me on Christmas Day, opening the only present I got...
                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                                                                                                              ...actually, the picture was captured by Lucy Ray at Longleat Safari Park (while I was on a visit to see my pals!).

As for the bananas ... don’t laugh: dotted about this scrapbook of mine is plenty of evidence of my admiration and fondness for the banana. I quote a previous post:

On the Seventh Day, God – or Mummy Nature as I call Her – poured Herself a large glass of something yummy, put Her feet up and contemplated what She had learnt over the previous six days of intense evolution. Could She come up with the perfect creation?

Well, in the morning She fashioned the banana, Her all-purpose, all-singing, all-dancing herb-cum-fruit: the colour is pure, bright and sunny; easy to harvest and transport; grows all year round; ripens best off the plant; no need to wash hands or fruit before eating; no messy peeling, just a quick zip-a-dee-doo-dah; tastes great; no bones or pips; easy to eat, even for those with no teeth; even easier to digest; full of goodness, contains three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose – which combine with fibre to generate instant, sustained and substantial energy boost; can be safely eaten even as it begins to go off, when it turns all gooey and browny; a sure way to cure a hangover i.e. a banana milkshake sweetened with honey.

Oh, and as a super-duper bonus, the magical banana can be used as an emergency Post-it note, even a postcard.

And here’s the proof, a banana I posted a few years back to a local pub ― on May the 3rd, very important that date ― and duly delivered the following morning by Royal Mail, albeit in a plastic bag because it had become slightly squashed along its journey through the postal system...
                                                                         

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           ...and the message on the reverse of the banana?  “May the 4th be with you. From: The pick of the bunch.”


And talking of Monkey Business, today I shall allow
Groucho Marx to hijack The 101 best pieces of advice ever received:

“He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot ― but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot.”
 

Friday, January 4

                                  MASKS
                                  She had blue skin,
                                  And so did he.
                                  He kept it hid
                                  And so did she.
                                  They searched for blue
                                  Their whole life through,
                                  Then passed right by---
                                  And never knew.”

                                                         
        
Shel Silverstein, Every Thing on It

Every day a day at school spot: The lyrics of ‘A Boy Named Sue’, the song made famous by Johnny Cash, is a poem by Shel Silverstein.

A Cock of the Walk Named Roberto

On the last day of 2012 I shared with you what I rated my quote of the year: “Always remember that men are just small boys in long trousers. That way you won’t expect too much of them and you won’t be disappointed.”

Well, who would have thought that the great truth oozing out of every pore of that quote would be so spectacularly verified so soon into the new year.

First things first: back in December I happened upon a Telegraph  picture gallery titled Sexy Managers Calendar 2013.

Cartoonist James Husbands has produced a collection of ― described as sometimes disturbing ― images of some of the most recognisable managers in world football as you’ve never seen them before for his ‘Sexy Managers’ calendar (there’s a link just round the corner, so to speak ― and well worth a peep too).

Although I am not a natural-born football supporter ― I sort of watch the game from behind the sofa through slightly parted fingers ― but I do find the behaviour of the players, managers, supporters and owners of the clubs hypnotic in the extreme; much like watching a kind of U-boat pantomime where someone is always shouting “Dive-dive-dive!.

Anyway, one manager featured in the calendar is Roberto Mancini, 48, an Italian former football player and current manager of Premier League Club Manchester City; indeed last season he guided the club to its first league title in ― a suitable fanfare, please ― 44 years.

(All you need to know at this point is that Manchester City play in a sky blue kit, although arch rivals Manchester United in their red kit, who have won a dozen league titles in that 44 year period, would probably call it Blue Moon.)

Be that as it may, you know how it is: as soon as you spot some individuals you start to smile ― and sometimes it’s a grin which straddles that dangerous territory between smiling with them and smiling at them.

Roberto Mancini perfectly fits the bill ― but I’m never sure quite why. At first I thought it was his cock-of-the-walk persona, an aggressive little farmyard bantam, always with a big hard on.

Curiously, he always looks smaller than he actually is: Wikipedia has him down as 5ft 10½in (1.79m), which is not particularly short, but it could be that he is slight of build which makes him look somewhat frail. Whatever, he is one of those characters that, whenever the camera focuses in on him ― I am sort of mesmerised by the fellow.

Then I saw James Husbands’ take on him...

Mancini sports his ManCity kit

March 2013: Roberto poses under the blue moon, wearing only his City scarf

Put ‘em up, put ‘em up

This very morning the media was awash with pictures of an altercation between Mancini and one of his star but somewhat wayward players, fellow Italian Mario Balotelli.

The incident happened towards the end of City’s Thursday morning training with watching photographers able to capture the images of the clash. The snappers reported that Balotelli dived in recklessly on team-mate Scott Sinclair.

In the ensuing confrontation Mancini was pictured angrily shouting at his wayward striker and reportedly charged up to remonstrate with him, which resulted in a bit of an altercation, as captured in these memorable pictures by Eamonn and James Clarke...
                         
                                                                                                                       ...Mancini was seen trying to continue the incident even after the pair were pulled apart by members of the coaching staff. Balotelli for his part was not seen to fight back and left the training ground minutes after walking off the training pitch.

The training pitch confrontation is the latest, and potentially most serious, incident of Balotelli losing control during training. His position at the club had already been cast in doubt after Mancini appeared to lose patience with him last month, with the suggestion he may be sold in the current transfer window should a buyer be found.

I laughed at this online comment from the memorably named PanchoPuskas: He’s a clown, doesn’t know how to behave and knows nothing about the profession he gets paid millions for. Time for him to go. And maybe Balotelli should join him.

I wonder if PanchoPuskas is a Man United fan? Whatever, when I ran a spell-check on the days efforts, I was greatly amused when the computer, confronted by Balotelli, suggested Belatedly. I sometimes worry about how clever these computers are getting.

Anyway, we’re back with the quote Chrissie from Norfolk so memorably shared with us: “Always remember that men are just small boys in long trousers. That way you won’t expect too much of them and you won’t be disappointed.”

Dear Chrissie from Norfolk: You understand your men inside out...

This all leads me perfectly to another in The 101 best pieces of advice ever received:

Lisa Armstrong, Telegraph fashion editor

My mother taught me how to remain sane when faced with the implacable logic of small children [especially small boys in long trousers?]: always give them choice, but controlled choice with inbuilt distraction. Not “would you like to eat your vegetables?” but “would you like to eat your vegetables from a green or a yellow plate?” Worked like a charm.

PS: Here’s the link to the smiley football calendar:
                                                                                 
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Sexy-football-managers-in-pictures.html
 


Thursday, January 3
Make Room For 101


My grand plan was to round off each day’s smile bulletin with another in The 101 best pieces of advice ever received roll call. However...

Wendy Holden, 51, author

One should always be slightly improbable.

I like it. There’s something rather grand in the thought that others can’t quite make you out, can’t quite figure out what makes you tick.

I mean, human beings are, by definition, totally predictable. That is why opinion pollsters only have to interview a thousand carefully selected individuals to establish precisely what a nation is thinking. Yes, pollsters will often interview 1,500 (belt), even 2,000 (braces), just to ensure that their sample cross-section of the population is accurate.

So there is  something rather attractive in the notion of behaving in a slightly improbable manner ― which brings me neatly on to a couple of images from The Best of Sign Language, the weird and wonderful signs spotted by Telegraph readers on their travels about the planet.

And talking of things slightly improbable...

 

'Order by the bowel', spotted by Charlotte Williams in Vienna

'One careful owner', spotted by Saralie Pincini in Ontario


Google the front page

Watching tonight’s half-nine news review of tomorrow’s newspaper front pages on Sky News, the guests were discussing a Financial Times  newspaper headline: “US clears Google’s core search business”. It seems that Google does not unfairly manipulate its search results.

However, one of the paper reviewers pointed out what Google actually knows about you.

If you search Paris Hilton, Google will instantly know from your previous search trails whether you are looking for web sites involving the celebrity or the hotel...

I smiled benignly, for I think it’s fair to say ― at least from what I know of the lady ― that Paris Hilton is someone you would describe as being “slightly improbable”.

Yes, curiosity killed the cat ... and up came Paris Hilton Twitter. No surprises there because I’ve never, ever searched hotels or holidays, yet I’m always looking for celebrity background information when I use their quotes.

But here’s something really odd. As I typed in Paris Hilton (PH) ... the first option that came up was PH Twitter, followed by PH Shoes, followed by PH Hot

So I Google Paris Hilton ho ― and up came PH homophobic rant ― but once I added the “t” to complete the Paris Hilton hot search, the Google suggestions disappeared and I was invited to “Click” ― which I did and up came this:

Paris Hilton hot ― Video Dailymotion. Adult content. Over 18 only. Find webcam hotties, erotic dancers and hard-bodied guys [ho, ho, ho!] on Dailymotion’s sexy channel. No pornography.

So I chuckled, made my excuses and left.

But I returned to Paris Hilton on Twitter ... and searched best quotes...

“I’ve only done it with, like, a couple of boyfriends. People think I sleep with everyone, but I’m not like that. I like kissing, but that’s all I do. I’m not having sex for a year, I’ve decided. I’ll kiss but nothing else.” Paris Whitney Hilton, 31, American heiress, socialite, television personality, businesswoman, fashion designer, entrepreneur, model, actress, producer, author and singer – phew! – reveals that she had sex with only two men in her life, GQ magazine, August 2006.

“I want kids next year, so I’ve got to get my body ready.” Paris Hilton, planning for motherhood, September 2007, but so far, still getting ready.

“Every woman should have four pets in her life: a mink in her closet, a jaguar in her garage, a tiger in her bed, and a jackass who pays for everything.” Paris Hilton.

Wow, that last one, how clever, respect. But something didn’t feel quite right about the quote ― so I Googled it … ah, it actually belongs to the wonderfully witty and wise Mae West. Suddenly its cleverness made sense.

And on that note, I shall leave you with another Mae Oui  classic: “A hard man is good to find.”

 

Wednesday, January 2
Advice is seldom welcome...
                                                                  ...and those who want it the most, always like it the least
                                                                                                                          Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773)

I was idly perusing the Telegraph’s  web site ... suddenly, the following headline threw me a wink and a smile and beckoned me to click on and to come in, come in:

                                                                             The 101 best pieces of advice ever received

Introduced by the Telegraph’s  agony uncle, Graham Norton, 101 well-known people from all fields of work and life pass on the best pieces of advice they have ever received. Read on for enlightenment...

Before doing just that, I had to first pick myself up, prick myself sharply ― and read that all over again ... yes, Graham Norton is ... the Telegraph’s  agony aunt – oops, agony uncle. No, it is  agony aunt: a big bloomer of a clue coming up...

And we wonder why the country is in a permanent state of doolallyness? Thankfully for me, mind, otherwise I’d have nothing to write about. Anyway, I was intrigued to see what Aunty Graham had to say...

Even the most wizened of misers will be generous with one thing ― their advice. People love to give it. No matter how sad the jilted lover, everyone else will be only too happy to tell him or her about the other fish in the sea. Patience may be a virtue, but wise friends can’t wait to reveal their trite insights into how best to navigate a path through the emotional maze of life.

The modern world means that to even approach a computer results in a tsunami of memes telling you to be strong, or kind, or explaining why friends are like your knicker drawer.

Hang about ― and never mind Graham and his bloomin’ “knicker drawer” ― I feel an Every day a day at school  spot coming on: a tsunami of memes?

A meme (pronounced meem ― so why isn’t it spelt meem?) is “an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”. An internet meme is a concept that spreads from person to person via the online world.

The concept of the meme was created by Richard Dawkins for his 1976 book The Selfish Gene as an attempt to explain the way information spreads, although his concept involves a much broader category of cultural information.

So there we go; meanwhile, back with wee Graham and his knickers...

Yes, to give advice is clearly one of the greatest pleasures in life, so why, then, do so few people ask for it and an even fewer number actually take it?

We can all recognise the wisdom in really good advice but when we are hunched, sobbing on the bed, very little really helps. Of course, I know what the Persian Sufi poets said: “This, too, will pass,” but in reality, until it does, I’m going to feel like moving to Minsk to start a new life.

I firmly believe that the vast majority of those who write to me in the Telegraph  aren’t really looking for advice. Composing the letter will probably have been the most helpful part and they will have decided on a course of action long before I respond with a lovingly composed epistle...

I lost the will to go on right there ― but the prospect of 101 bits of advice fascinated me no end ― so I swiftly scrolled down ...
as I browsed the list, I realised that there are two types of advice. The first is the one you can do nothing about. For example:

Sir Richard Branson, 62, entrepreneur

My mother, Eve, always taught me never to look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. A setback is never a bad experience, just another one of life’s lessons.

Jilly Cooper, 75, author

My darling grandmother told me: “Whenever you meet anybody, look for something nice to say about them, because even if they’ve got a hideous face they might have fantastic ankles or lovely hair, and compliments do cheer people up enormously.” She did cheer people up and I always wanted to emulate her.

George Carey, 77, former Archbishop of Canterbury

On becoming Archbishop in 1991 a student of mine said: “George, power changes people. Be yourself, always. Your integrity is crucial to all you stand for. Value and honour all people and laugh, often, at yourself and the ridiculous antics of the Church.”

Matt Pritchett, 48, Telegraph cartoonist i.e. MATT

Advice from my grandmother: “Never grow old.”

Now the thing about all the above dos and don’ts ― fascinating as they all are ― is that they are genetically based. For example, we normally need critical advice at decisive moments, the very moments when our thinking tends to be under extreme stress or pressure ― and at such moments our default genetic settings kick in. And all the advice in the world counts for nothing. We do what comes naturally.

For example, “never looking back in regret and moving on” is built into our genetic make up. As is the gift of being able to “cheer people up”. Interesting that Jilly Cooper said of an ugly person that they might have “fantastic ankles or lovely hair” rather than “a sunny disposition or a welcoming nature”.

Also built into our DNA is the quality of “being yourself”, especially so when you become rich, powerful, famous ― as is the ability, crucially, of being able to “laugh at yourself”. This is a gift. You either have the ability ― or you don’t. You can never be taught to laugh at yourself when truthfully, deep down, you feel a bit of a fool and all you want to do is hide.

And finally, dear old MATT’s  advice: never grow old. That is the one thing above all else that is programmed into us at the moment of conception: we are all born either young, middle-aged or old ... we all know children who are miniature grown-ups, and elderly people who behave like kids; I am reliably informed that I was born middle-aged, which was a bugger when young ― but once I crossed 35 I’ve been way ahead of the game.

Be all that as it may, I guess this sums it all up:

Richard Madeley, 56, TV presenter

Passed on to me by the playwright John Mortimer, who received it in turn from his father: “All advice is useless.”

Now isn’t that the truth? However, there is a second kind of advice, which is ever so useful. And that’s the sort of advice that you can ponder and sleep on. and yes, you realise that you really can apply it to your lifestyle.

I’ve picked out some of my particular favourites, and I shall round off future smile bulletins with an example...

Advice of the day

Stephen Bayley, 61, author, design guru

I have three favourites: 1. The old Foreign Office directive: never tell a lie but never tell the whole truth, and never miss an opportunity to go to the lavatory. 2. From Henry David Thoreau: “Beware of all enterprises requiring new clothes.” 3. From Jay McInerney: “Treat everyone you meet as if you have secret information that they are about to become extremely rich”.

Those are really wonderful, especially about never missing an opportunity to go to the lavatory. When I plan to have an away morning or afternoon ― say a dreaded shopping expedition or a business meeting ― I make a point of drinking hardly any liquids in the hours leading up to my jaunt.

Not that I am overwhelmed with a regular need to go for a pee, but if I do need to spend a penny, I really can’t be bothered with the hassle of a) finding a public toilet and b) making sure I’ve got change.

I always think it’s the mark of a truly civilised society if there are plenty of public toilets ― and that they are clean and free at the point of use; oh, and the other indicator of a civilised society is having the Air Ambulance as part of the nation’s Ambulance service rather than being dependant on charity.

Back with Stephen Bayley’s No 3: “Treat everyone you meet as if you have secret information that they are about to become extremely rich.”

Along the same lines, I’ve discovered that if you talk to everyone you happen to end up in close proximity to while passing the time of day, whether in a pub, on a train, in a slow moving queue... I have found that, as a rule of thumb, one in every ten strangers will eventually open up all sorts of unexpected and extraordinary doors for you.

Yes of course, often you will curse the moment you opened your big mouth to speak to someone ― but the thought of that tenth stranger you are likely to strike up a conversation with, well, it makes everything okay.

To be continued...
 

New Year’s Day 2013
Lucky for some


A Happy New Year to you!

These days the world welcomes the New Year and its extravagant promises with ultra-spectacular fireworks displays.

For mega moons Australia, with its Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House as a backdrop, had the field pretty much to itself. Helped of course by the logistical fact that it was the first country to welcome in the new year ― New Zealand and a few Pacific Islands excepted, of course.

Oh, and in 2013, for just the second time, residents in Samoa were also among the first people to welcome in the new year ― rather than being the last. The island country lost a day as it changed its time-zone at the end of December 2011 by moving to the west of the International Date Line in an effort to boost its economy by doing business with Australia and New Zealand on the same day and thus avoiding confusion over weekends and holidays.

So for years Australia had this fantastic exposure on the 31st December/1st January. And still does. Slowly but surely though, other countries realised that eye-catching fireworks displays were loved by the camera. Colourful explosions offered up priceless exposure to a watching world.

Even London, which traditionally handed out some sparklers and let off a few bangers and rockets, is now up there with the best ― witness the Jubilee and Olympics displays of 2012.

Watching highlights of the 2013 efforts from around the world, the one that really looked spectacular and I guess claimed first prize came compliments of the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, in particular the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifu. The display exploding off that structure was quite something to behold.

However, as often happens, less is sometimes more.

The one picture that winked at me across a crowded gallery and beckoned me to click and come on in ― indeed it also made the front page of the Independent  newspaper this very morning ― is the one coming up, and it duly claims pride of place on my online mantelpiece...

Off to a sparkling start

Revellers write the year 2013 with sparklers during Hogmanay street party celebrations in Edinburgh


Now that’s what I call a smiley picture to welcome in the New Year. Just four people and a some sparklers ― and I particularly enjoyed how the lady tracing the ‘0’ is perfectly captured.  Definitely a 20 out of 13.
 
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Previously on LOOK YOU......

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

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

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

2008
Sep to Dec '07

June to Aug '07
March to May '07

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

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Here's lookin' at you @
400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 19/11/2012


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

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