LOOK YOU ~ a rolling scrapbook of life, the universe and nearly everything...

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Updated: 11/08/2013

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400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 08/06/2013

                                                                                        Design: Yosida

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

                                                                               ...and everyday a doolally smile of the day
PS: The shortest distance between two people is a smile ...
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Friday, January 31st 2014

Happy Neigh Year

YEP, it’s the Lunar New Year, also the Chinese Year of the Horse. The horse is part of a 12-year-cycle of animals that make up the Chinese zodiac.

This, from The Guardian:

The 15-day celebration of Chinese new year starts today, with the first new moon of the calendar year. The day marks the end of the year of the water snake and welcomes the start of the year of the wooden horse.

To bring you luck this new year, we’ve listed eight (a lucky number in China) things you possibly didn’t know about the year ahead.

Well, I am a horse. And a wooden one at that, it seems. Which explains why, back in the day, school teachers took great delight in telling me I was as thick as two short planks ― and was that sawdust on my shoulders rather than dandruff?

No they didn’t. The joke seemed just too inviting not to be a bit chippy about it. Oops, there I go again.

Whatever, I’ve selected three things from the Guardian  article, hopefully to brighten up my day just that little bit extra.

1)  The Chinese zodiac ― or Shēngxiào ― is a calendar system originating in the Han dynasty (206-220BC), which names each of the years in its 12-year cycle after an animal: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, in that order.
     According to the system, the universe is made up of five elements ― earth, water, fire, wood and metal ― which interact with the 12 animals, resulting in the specific character of the year ahead.

2)  People born in the year of the horse are said to be a bit like horses: animated, active and energetic ― they love being in a crowd. They are quick to learn independence ― foals can walk minutes after birth ― and they have a straightforward and positive attitude towards life.
     They are known for their communication skills ― and are exceedingly witty.

What can I say? Well, look what blew in on the wind, something from the Comment section...

Flatulentus:  I was born in the year of the horse (1978). I am not animated, active and energetic. I don’t like being in a crowd. I became financially independent at 23; I don’t know if that counts as early or not. My attitude towards life is strictly neutral. My communications skills are normal and although I can be witty at times I wouldn’t say that I am exceedingly so.

My turn:  Yes, I am  animated (especially when rattled), and definitely active and energetic ― witness my daily early-morning walks. I am perfectly happy in any sort or size of crowd ― but I also enjoy my own company and can be left to my own devices indefinitely. I became independent at 18, when I got a job away from the family farm.
     I have a positive attitude towards life, the universe and nearly everything. I communicate effortlessly, but like Flatulentus (we agree on just one horsey point of order), I suppose I can be sort of amusing at times but I wouldn’t say that I am exceedingly so.
     Oh, and I am very good at giving people a lift. Well, I am a horse.

I also enjoyed this, again from The Guardian  piece:

6)  Raymond Lo, a feng shui and destiny consultant, says the year of the horse is a year in which people are likely to stand firm on their principles, making negotiation difficult. For example, 1990 (the last but one year of the horse) was the year of the poll tax riots here in the UK. German reunification also happened in 1990, but we’ll ignore that. [I think what they mean is ... the German reunification is the exception which tests the horsey rule.]

But hang about, a destiny consultant? Good old Raymond Lo. Indeed, Lo and Behold. But why did nobody tell me about that job when I was in school? Just like nobody told there were jobs which offered the opportunity to travel the world, meet people ― oh, and spend your life as a buyer tasting, eating and purchasing chocolate.

Nice work if you can get it.

Anyway, I liked this online comment to round things off somewhat succinctly...

n1Cked: As a monkey I really couldn’t give a---

PS:  It is mentioned in heavenly dispatches that the Bible predicts ‘the yellow race will one day rule the world’. Or words to that effect. Most think this refers to the Chinese. However, there are many who say that these are words you never hear in the Bible.

Be all that as it may, whenever I visit the local Great Wall Chinese Takeaway, I am always on my very best behaviour and ultra polite ― unlike many of their late-night customers.

Put it like this: when the Chinese tanks eventually roll into Llandampness, their first port of call will be the takeaway because they’ll want to see their Naughty or Nice list.

Look, I’m not quite as daft as I look.

Spell-cheque corner:
‘feng’, as in feng shui, came up as ‘fang’; and ‘shui’ came up as ‘shut’. Fang shut, eh? Thank goodness I have now left the year of the water snake in my rear-view mirror.

Mind you, there’s a goat due up next.

Thursday, January 30th

Try, try and try again

IT’S that time of year: the RBS 6 Nations Championship  annual rugby union competition, starring, in order of success last year, Wales, England, Scotland, Italy, Ireland and France (the French, finishing bottom of the table? ― I know, unbelievable), gets under way this coming weekend in all its Cinemascopic, Stereophonic, Technicolor splendour.

International rugby, especially through the 70s and 80s, featured a smiley side-show: streaking. And some exceedingly high-profile streakers at that.

By coincidence, yesterday I mentioned the incident during the 1974 Oscars, when the unexpected entrance of a streaker interrupted David Niven in full flow...

Anyway, let’s go back to last December (following the death of Nelson Mandela), when I copied and pasted for future reference a Telegraph  letter, along with some online comments.

Team player

SIR – Nelson Mandela was the most honest, sincere politician I have seen in my lifetime. When he raced onto the pitch wearing a team shirt after South Africa won the Rugby World Cup in 1995, I knew he was someone special.
Mick Ferrie, Mawnan Smith, Cornwall

The comments then took off at a tangent...

JDavidJ: But remember, “he raced onto the pitch wearing a team shirt after South Africa won the Rugby World Cup”, so he was someone special.

Lordmuck: Personally, I reckon that the streaker Erica Roe was rather special too when she ran onto Twickenham, topless.

One Last Try: Twice as special. Strange, that she is remembered, by name and deed, after all these years.

JohnHB: Yes, where is she now, to add to the gaiety of our nation?

So I reversed Ivor the Search Engine out of the shed and clambered aboard the footplate...

Erica Roe (born 1957), also known as the Twickenham Streaker, is remembered for an extravagant topless run across the pitch of Twickenham Stadium during an England vs. Australia rugby union match on 2 January 1982.

Then I came upon this first-person account of her streak, penned in 2000. Now I have no idea whether the words coming up are actually Erica’s. However, they do make sense. And they also sound awfully realistic. More importantly, it’s a jolly good read. Oh, and do watch out for the engagingly posh  style of writing.

Enjoy, as they say:

Roe, Roe, Roe your boat,
Gently down the stream;
Merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream...

Erica Roe, who now lives in Portugal and started it all at Twickenham, says:

“I wasn’t even meant to be at Twickenham; I was supposed to be at work in my bookshop in Petersfield, Hampshire.

I blame my elder sister Sally, who was going to the game with a clutch of rugger-bugger friends, and roped me in. About 25 of us arrived and went straight to the beer tent, where we spent quite some time.

I was definitely tipsy. I couldn’t do anything so ridiculous as streaking cold-blooded! One of the guys in our group had the hots for me and kept getting too close for comfort, so my friend Sarah Bennett and I moved down to the front.

We were getting a bit bored, and thought we should do something. Within seconds we decided: ‘Let’s streak.’ It was an impulse thing. Half-time arrived: we threw our clothes off, I handed my bra to some people behind me ― along with my packet of Marlboro ― and off I went.

I remember running like hell, knowing I was being pursued, and looking back for Sarah, who didn’t join me. I heard all this screaming and thought, ‘I have to get off, the second half is starting’. But I quickly realised the roar was for me.

Then of course I behaved like an egotistical bitch, put my arms in the air and went, ‘Yes! Hi!’.

That was fun. Then I turned back to try and get Sarah to join me, which is why I was caught.

These days the police get very aggressive with streakers but they were gentle with me. I was lucky. I didn’t get fined or treated badly and didn’t have dogs yapping at my heels. A policeman famously put his helmet over my chest to protect my modesty...”

Here is a famous newspaper headline and picture from the morning after:

Titters at Twickers

Never mind ‘Spot the Boob’ – ‘Spot the Frowning Face’ in the crowd

Back with Erica:

“At Twickenham police station, they rang my poor parents, who had no idea. My father and two brothers had been watching the match on television. At half-time my father got up to get a cup of coffee. My brother shouted: ‘Pa!, Pa! A woman just ran across the pitch who looked like Erica!

But they all assumed it couldn’t possibly be me and resumed watching the match.”

Do you know, I vividly recall the incident on television. We only caught a too brief glimpse of Erica on the box ― in those days, half-time was just a few minutes and players didn’t leave the pitch ― and I remember the players looking round from their huddles to watch the drama unfold. And they all wore smiles.

Also, her pal Sarah did indeed enjoy a brief streak after Erica was, er, apprehended, or caught red-handed, you might say. Anyway, Erica, pray continue...

“The media reaction was incredible. Much of it was fun. But the whole experience has debunked all the intrigue one has about being famous and being in the media. Most boys and girls dream of being famous footballers, ballerinas or actresses. So when I got this chance, I grabbed it.

In this day and age people become famous for nothing ― like me, for instance! Fame is now a money-making thing, but it wasn’t then. Some people made a lot of money out of me, but not the large amount they could now.

In the three years afterwards, when I did personal appearances and opened shops, I only made about £8,000 ― not a lot.

People say if it happened now I’d be a millionaire or get my own TV show out of it. People did recognise me in the street which was nice at first, but then became disgusting. At any rugby event they rolled out the red carpet, kissed my feet and saw it for what it was ― fun. 

But when I was lowered onto the pitch from a helicopter at a football match in Bristol, men pushed onto me. That was smut. A guy from Penthouse or Playboy offered me thousands to take off my clothes but I told him he’d got the wrong end of the stick ― that I would never do such a thing.

The shitty Sun asked me to ‘model some fashion clothes’, which meant putting on the skimpiest clothes they could find. I hated that. I wasn’t model material. I was a short, fat little dumpling with big boobs and I wasn’t very attractive in clothes.

The streak was a strange lesson and I’m glad I did it. It has made me a better person and more content because people have this illusion that being famous is incredible, which it is ― but only if you’re famous for doing something worthwhile. I became famous, but only for my boobs.

I now live happily in Portugal with my three amazing kids and a man who loves me. I’m 43. We’re farmers and export sweet potatoes. I drive tractors and struggle in the mud. I’m going to build a mud hut beside the Atlantic. What else do you need?”

The online piece continued:

At this remove, it is interesting to recall the reaction of her father, Peter. “She spent her childhood in Africa where such things are not regarded with disfavour. It is seen as being perfectly natural.”

As the comments above mention, it is quite extraordinary that she is still remembered, both by name and deed, after all these years. There again, reading her account, perhaps it is not unusual that she is still remembered.

And the fact that the above pictures are in black and white adds a certain X-factor quality to the whole event.

The BBC describe it as “perhaps the most famous of all streaks”. She most certainly added to the gaiety of the nation. And the passing parade was fondly remembered.

Fondly remembered? Well, you know what I mean.

Oh yes, if you pop Busty Erica Roe first streaker at Twickenham into your very own Ivor the Search Engine, theres a 45-second BBC clip of the unveiling, Bill McLaren and all.

PS: I really enjoyed putting together today
s XL smile. Nothing to do with boobing along on the crest of a wave, I just enjoyed Ericas take on the whole episode. And delivered with such style. Just like her streak, really.

Incidentally, who won: England or Australia?

Wednesday, January 29th

British Hat Council advertisement,
Picture Post, 20 September 1952

Top o’ the morning

SIR – When a new colleague joined our company in 1952, his employer observed that he did not wear a hat, and posed the question: “And what do you take off when you meet a lady of your acquaintance in the street?”
Simon Edsor of London SW1, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Well, personally, I take off David Niven…

I say “I take off David Niven” ... I try very had to ooze his charm, elegance and good manners ― not very successfully it has to be said ― but I do have another trick up my sleeve.

But before I go there, how wonderful that there’s something called the British Hat Council, although today it is known as the British Hat Guild.

Anyway, back on January 6 I featured another Telegraph  letter, from a Ray Powell of Shefford in Bedfordshire:

“I am a runner. When out training in the morning, I have always greeted the people I pass with a ‘Good morning’. In the evening, it’s ‘Good evening’, and 98 per cent of people reply with the same greeting. But I have found that if I am on an afternoon run and say ‘Good afternoon’, very few people even reply.
     “This all changed about four years ago when I adopted different tactics. Now when I pass someone on my afternoon runs, I say, ‘How do?’, and always get a response.”

Yes, it was a rather silly letter, but as I explained back then, I am fortunate to have been born on the sunny side of the street i.e. I am a natural-born smiler.

When I am walking, whether in town or along my morning stroll, I have observed the following rule of thumb when closing in on a stranger (or perhaps a person I know only vaguely), and that’s irrespective of age, sex or background (as betrayed by appearance and body language):

A third will avoid all eye contact, staring resolutely at the ground as we pass; a third, as soon as they spot my degree of smile, will invariably return the compliment, although often enigmatically; and a third will spontaneously smile as soon as our eyes meet.

Verbal greetings are hardly ever exchanged in these fleeting encounters ― indeed, even when I cross paths with someone I know well, more often than not, just smiles are exchanged.

Yes, it’s my version of taking off my hat when I meet a lady of my acquaintance in the street.

It is one of the joys of putting Look You together that a simple but smiley letter, such as the one at the top about the hat, can take me down a most unexpected fork in the road. Welcome back David Niven...

The Moon’s A Balloon

James David Graham Niven was born in London in 1910. For years, his biography said he was born in Kirriemuir, Scotland, because he thought it sounded more romantic than London.

His father was Scottish, a British military officer who died at Gallipoli on August 21, 1915. He was a landowner who left his wife Henrietta with four children, David, Max, Joyce and Grizel.

Niven’s wit emerged early. He said as a child he felt superior to others because when reciting the Lord’s Prayer in church, he thought it was written “Our Father, who art a Niven…”.

When I next visit my Desert Island Video Jukebox, I shall click on The Lord’s Prayer ― and think of that.

Anyway, I’ve found some marvellous Niven quotes:

“Keep the circus going inside you, keep it going, don’t take anything too seriously, it will all work out in the end.”

I try very hard to stick to that notion. Indeed that could well be Look You’s motto.

[Telegram to Tony Curtis, his opponent for Best Actor Oscar (1958)] “Congratulations, chum, but I want to make one thing crystal clear. Unless someone happens to be looking over my shoulder, I shall be voting for myself.”

Back in the Seventies, streaking was the done thing ― for ‘selfie’ read ‘nudie’.

During the 1974 Oscars, the unexpected entrance of a streaker interrupts Niven and takes everyone by surprise...

  ...well, everyone expect Niven, who very calmly said: Well that, ladies and gentlemen, was almost bound to happen. Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?”

“I have a face that is a cross between two pounds of halibut and an explosion in an old clothes closet.” Yes, but it’s a face that generates a smile in the observer.

“I wonder why it is, that young men are always cautioned against bad girls. Anyone can handle a bad girl. It’s the good girls men should be warned against.”

“You can count on Errol Flynn, he’ll always let you down.” He and Flynn were apparently good friends.

“I’ve been lucky enough to win an Oscar, write a best-seller ― my other dream would be to have a painting in The Louvre. The only way that’s going to happen is if I paint a dirty one on the wall of the gentlemen’s lavatory.”

“Much in life is simply a matter of perspective. It’s not inherently good or bad, a success or failure; it’s how we choose to look at things that makes the difference.” Hear, hear.

Finally, some thoughts on acting that today’s performers would do well to keep in mind.

“Can you imagine being wonderfully overpaid for dressing up and playing games?”

[About the costumes he wore during the filming of Bonnie Prince Charlie, 1948]:
“I asked Jack Hawkins to tell me honestly if I looked like a prick. He said, ‘Yes, and so do I’. And he did too. We all looked like pricks.”

This isn’t work. It’s fun. The whole thing is fun. I hear actors say, ‘I have to go to work tomorrow’. Nonsense. Work is eight hours in a coal mine or a government office,” he explained. “Getting up in the morning and putting on a funny moustache and dressing up and showing off in front of the grown-ups, that’s play, and for which we’re beautifully overpaid. I’ve always felt that way. After all, how many people in the world are doing things they like to do?”

“Actors don’t retire. They just get offered fewer roles.”

One final thought. David Niven was noted for his charm and good manners. Another Telegraph  letter, this time from Gillian S Lambert of Tadworth in Surrey:

“Good manners are all very well but recently it came as a shock when I was offered a seat on the tube for the first time and realised I must look much older than I thought.
     “My husband’s moment of truth came at a dinner party when the host’s son addressed him as ‘Sir’ ― it quite spoilt his evening

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Edsor’, as in Simon Edsor, author of the first letter, came up as ‘Decor’, followed by the suggestion ‘Adsorb’, followed by ‘Bedsore’. Ouch!

Best of all though, the computer did not recognize ‘Niven’ ― and suggested ‘Invent’.

PS: Talking of ‘Invent’ ... earlier I used the headline
The Moon’s A Balloon, the title of David Niven’s successful first memoir. On my Desert Island Video Jukebox, I have We Three - My Echo, My Shadow and Me  by the Ink Spots.

The video that accompanies it has a gallery of some of the most wonderful moon shots you are ever likely to see. Well worth a look ― and a listen (I particularly like the moon seemingly hanging from a crane):
My Echo, My Shadow and Me (We Three) – Ink Spots

Tuesday, January 28th

This from Daniel Finkelstein’s Notebook column in The Times:

Almost hygienic

I am a particular fan of enthusiastic claims that produce an unintentional effect of anticlimax. Bathetic is one of my favourite words.

[Hello, here we go again, another word you never hear in the Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon...

        1)  showing bathos: a sudden ludicrous descent from exalted to ordinary matters or style in speech or writing.
        2)  insincere or excessive pathos.

Right, let’s start again ― take it away, Daniel...]

I am a particular fan of enthusiastic claims that produce an unintentional effect of anticlimax. Bathetic is one of my favourite words.

I could never be moved from my preferred hair salon because of its claim to be “Hendon’s most hygienic barber”. I was also a dedicated patron of a dining establishment which for almost a decade sported a large banner identifying it as “LBC Indian Restaurant of the Year 1999”.

When visiting a friend in hospital I was always cheered up by a sign proclaiming that the unit she was being treated in was “Britain’s Second Best Stroke Unit” because I knew that when my friend recovered she would find it funny.

And I have always wished I could have been the recipient, as was Queen Victoria, or so the story goes, of the Ottoman Empire’s Order of Chastity, Second Class.

Yet despite all this, I couldn’t help but be disconcerted when, upon leaving a local restaurant this week, I noticed a certificate proudly announcing that the place had been given 4 out of 5 for food hygiene.

Thanks Daniel, that really tickled the old smileometer. Yep, it’s that missing star that gets you in the end.

And then this article in The Daily Telegraph:

10 historical quotes we all get wrong

Houston, we have a problem ― none of these famous ‘quotes’ are accurate, writes Theo Merz

The piece was a roundup of the usual suspects ― stick the headline into Ivor the Search Engine’s  boiler if you want to catch up with them ― but the following Comments tickled me no end...

NowNow:  Why is this [article] in the Men section?

Huwwuh:  Only men say or contemplate important matters. This allows women to multitask and concentrate on the trivial.

Mr Pugg: One for the girls---

“In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.” Margaret Thatcher.

And another---

“I’d much rather be a woman than a man. Women can cry, they can wear cute clothes, and they are the first to be rescued off of sinking ships.” American actress Gilda Radner (1946-1989).

Anyway, here are two of the quotes explored, and as it happens, both by women:

1. Let them eat cake

Though most of us know Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, never said “let them eat cake” when told that the people of France had no bread, it’s too good a line to let go.

The quote comes from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions ― written before Marie Antoinette was queen ― and is attributed to “a great princess”.

6. I can see Russia from my house!

Sarah Palin’s grasp of foreign policy ― or lack thereof ― made her the subject of much mockery during the 2008 US presidential campaign.

When quizzed about how Russia’s proximity to her home state of Alaska had shaped her understanding of the country, the Vice Presidential candidate told ABC News’ Charlie Gibson: “They’re our next door neighbours and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”

Comedian Tina Fey parodied this with the line “I can see Russia from my house!” which is the more memorable quote and only slightly more ridiculous than what Palin really said.

Many commenters pointed out that Sarah Palin, far from being ridiculous, was absolutely right. Here’s just one representative comment:

Grant24: Re. Sarah Palin comment. She was quite correct in her statement. There is an Alaskan island that is 25 miles from the Russian mainland. The elevated terrain in Russia is easily seen from the island. The author’s comment, “only slightly more ridiculous than what Palin really said”, reveals much about the author.

There was some discussion about the distances involved, but essentially she was absolutely right. Be all that as it may, I was looking for the smiley stuff.  And here’s why I quoted both Sarah Palin and Marie Antoinette. Tally ho!

Leigh_vermier7: When Palin was told it was too cold to boat between Alaska and Russia, she said:
                                   “Let them heat kayak.”

Now that deserves the full 5-Star Smileometer acknowledgment. To continue...

Maximar: A fire would sink the boat, silly ... You can’t have your kayak and heat it too.

CastlronWithRustSpots: Nice one
! Canoe do better than that.

DrCoxon: An examination howler [mythological?] ― “Magellan circumcised the globe in a 40ft cutter.”

Chippychap: Or ― “The Indian army is made up of white officers with black privates.”

Yes, the comments can be endlessly entertaining ― if, that is, you can spare some time and patience to battle through the undergrowth.


Monday, January 27th

Another finger or fudge?

Should this billboard be wearing a condom?

Spotted at Cromford Road, London by Twitterers Galore

So did Samsung really cock up their billboard ad?

Back in November, Samsung’s billboards generated a bit of a stir world-wide after what seemed like a curiously mis-spelt word made it onto their huge billboards.

The original idiom, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ ― coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) in his play Richelieu in 1839 ― is now displayed as per the Samsung ad.

It would appear that Samsung clearly did not use their Galaxy Note 10.1 to create the ad because the auto-spell-check did not kick in. Or did Samsung overrule the correction?

Closer inspection notes that ‘pen’ and ‘is’ have become conjoined, with a comma added between the word ‘penis’ and ‘mightier’, which indicates that it was intentional ― after all, ‘The pen is, mightier than the sword’ or ‘The penis mightier than the finger’, do not make sense.

Presumably they are trying to say that the ‘Galaxy Note pen’, the one being promoted, will be great in correcting such mistakes ― if you were to make any.

The very same advert was erected in Egypt, Pakistan, Kenya and France. At least according to Twitterland (caution: proceed with eyes wide open). So either the English speaking people in the marketing division are not that talented in spotting mistakes OR this is another clear indication that it is intentional.

However, the Kenyans found the ad offensive and forced its removal from sniggering over the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.

All along, Samsung remained schtum about the wording. Hm.

However, when repeatedly asked about the ad, Samsung issued this statement:

The alleged typo on a Galaxy Note 10.1 billboard, of course, is fake. Attached is the actual photo from Cromford Road, London, as well as the link on Google maps of the actual site below...

Hm XL. Call Exhibit B:

Compelling prima facie evidence of serious and unwelcome
sexual harassment against this billboard?

Spotted at Cromford Road, London by, er, Samsung

What a curious condomdrum ― oops, conundrum. So has the picture at the top been Photoshopped, rather cleverly (it has to be said)?

Or did Samsung actually put up the ‘penis’ ad, take some photos, and then take it down immediately to replace it with the proper ad? And then slip the dodgy picture into the Twittersphere?

It’s a rather wonderful thought. And if that is so, then what a marvellous marketing trick because the publicity generated is huge.

The give away is that the only picture you will find of the ‘offending’ ad is the one at the top, taken at Cromford Road, SW18. Ivor the Search Engine  noted that the building in the background is present in every ‘penis’ picture he could find.

So once again, you pays your money and takes your choice.

Just remember though: believe nothing you hear and only half what you see.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Cromford’, as in ‘Cromford Road, SW18’, came up as ‘Comfort Road’; and yes, it is a comfortably well off area of London (I note a 5-bedroom semi-detached has just sold for £1,100,000).

Which made me smile because there’s currently a documentary on television called Benefits Street, which is generating a great deal of brouhaha ― I haven’t seen it ― about James Turner Street in the Winson Green area of Birmingham, where many of the residents are supposedly living on benefits.

Oh dear, Comfort Road and Benefits Street. Say no more.

Also, ‘schtum’ came up as ‘chum’. It tickles me no end that the computer decided to arbitrarily remove the letters ‘s’ and ‘t’ to come up with ‘chum’. Shades of yesterday’s ‘Thwaites’ tale.

PS: This, from Daniel Finkelstein’s
Notebook in The Times:

Docu-soap dodger
Without wishing to enter into another row about Benefits Street, I have to admit being quite amused by The Guardian’s report of the anger of one resident of James Turner Street.

He was furious at the way the residents had been portrayed. “It’s bollocks,” he said before explaining that he hadn’t been able to be featured on the programme himself because he was in prison when it was filmed.

Sunday, January 26th

One for the road

THE RED neon sign above the THWAITES brewery in Blackburn, Lancashire, has blazed out like a beacon across the town for decades.

But shortly after the firm announced they would be axing up to 60 jobs, the letters H, I and E mysteriously disappeared, leaving a rather indignant message...

Hey, you! Yes, you!

The first sightings were made at around 4:40pm on Friday. Within 15 minutes the entire sign was blacked out before the lights were restored to normal working order. But not before the smiley sign had been captured for posterity.

Presumably the abbreviated sign was aimed at the bosses.

Hm: 15 minutes of fame? Or quarter-of-an-hour of infamy?

You pays your money...

I have previously featured a man who was caught making love to a Land Rover; and a fellow who married a car after experiencing many four-wheeled lovers; and now this, compliments of
Weird but wonderful in The Sunday Times:

Kinks trolley

A drunken passenger on an Aberdeen to Glasgow train was ordered to do 100 hours of community service after trying to have sex with the train’s refreshment’s trolley.

Andrew Davidson, 25, from Angus [oh gosh, an Aberdeen Angus], cried out “I want to kiss you” as he forced himself on the trolley [oh dear, even worse, an Aberdeen Angus bull in a china shop].

Grant Bruce, defending, told Perth sheriff court: “It is something that has never happened before and is unlikely to ever happen again.”

Somehow or other, the abbreviated THWAITES sign brought to mind that tale of the unexpected.

Spell-cheque corner: This computer of mine never fails to amaze me. When it came up against ‘THWAITES’, it suggested ‘THWARTS’, which, given the context, is astonishing. The next suggestion was ‘THWARTERS’, followed by ‘THWARTED’.

But the next suggestion was ‘TWITS’. Even better.

It was only then I realised how many cheeky or naughty words you can make up from the letters ‘THWAITES’.

Saturday, January 25th

A finger of fudge: Tesco gets a bit cheeky

REPORTS confirm that, last year, shoppers got behind the supermarket’s cracking new range of confectionary.

So popular was the delicious-sounding Welsh Lady Ass Fudge (above) that Tesco didn’t even have to offer a BOGOF deal to ease things along.

Actually, it took me a while to figure out what on earth it was the price label was saying ... yes of course, it’s an abbreviation for ‘assorted’. D’oh!

Keeping to the juvenile theme, Tesco’s mistake was nothing as compared to Screwfix, suppliers of trade tools, accessories and hardware products:

                 Screwfix accidentally prices everything at £34.99

A massive price glitch at Screwfix overnight Thursday into Friday morning meant that the DIY firm accidentally priced everything on the website at £34.99. Eagle-eyed bargain hunters saved hundreds, and in one case, over £1,000. One even £3,000, it seems.

The firm realised their mistake by mid-morning, but by then some canny shoppers had already picked up their bargains in-store.

One picked up a £200 multi-cutter for just £34.99. Another collected £1,130 worth of drills from their local store for just £139.96 ― saving nearly £1,000. One lucky individual bought a ride-on tractor mower ― which normally sells at £1,599.99. 

I did wonder if someone had gone and bought a shed load of sheds.

Indeed, it seems one lucky customer bagged a log cabin priced at £3,199 ― but it’s unclear whether that person actually managed to collect the cabin before Screwfix realised what had happened and put a stop to it all.

But it seems that if the goods had been paid for ― and collected ― end of story, contract signed, sealed and delivered. The whole shebang is legally binding.

Oh yes, do you remember this wonderfully witty observational online comment from a little while back, where onliners were pointing out how to get a replacement dishwasher pipe a mouse had chewed through ― someone even kindly generated a direct link to Screwfix and said pipe?

        Hugh Rhynall: I rang Screwfix and they told me very abruptly they were not a dating agency.

Perhaps the headline to the above price glitch should read:

                               Screwfix in mega cockup 

Friday, January 24th

Cock of the walk

THERE’S an old Welsh saying: clefyd y gala  ― literally, penis fever. But as with many a translation, there is much more to it than that. (When I first heard the name Gok Wan on the wireless, my ears flapped, for that is Welsh for ‘weak penis’. Honest, cross my heart, etc.)

Anyway, ‘penis fever’: essentially, it embraces the notion that any heterosexual man, irrespective of his default ethics, morality and honesty, when confronted by a desirable female who flicks her hair and smiles ― and her body language whispers “Hello big boy!” ― the male brain effectively shuts down by instantly transferring all the blood from its own hard drive to the software at the business end of things.

It is something to do with the survival of the species.

Three stories this past week highlight this fever, and a trio of tales at both ends of the age scale.

First there’s this curious business of the sexual harassment allegations against Liberal Democrat Lord Rennard, 53 (just about still middle-age).

According to the women involved it would seem that Rennard was reading “Hello big boy” body language when really what they were saying was “Hello fat boy, now bugger off!

My guess is that the default setting on his brain’s auto-body-language-checker ― similar to our computer’s auto-spell-check ― needs a good seeing to.

I liked this from Tory peer Lord Tebbit, 82, describing the whole affair as “a farrago of nonsense” (shame he did not say: “a Farage of nonsense”. Anyway: “Surely, matters of this kind would be best dealt with by a high-heeled shoe firmly placed on the miscreant’s foot, a knee in his groin or a slap in his teeth.”

Be all that as it may, let’s get back to ‘penis fever’ proper.

First, we’ve been enjoying this business out in France (very middle-age-going-on-older), as indeed the French themselves have, surprise, surprise, especially as they are supposed to be so laid-back about sex in all its guises.

Here’s the latest headline (from the Telegraph):

                         François Hollande meets Pope Francis

The unfortunate timing of François Hollande’s first audience with Pope Francis today has prompted smirks in France, amid the complications in the president’s love life

The cartoon in Le Monde featuring François Hollande on a scooter
with two helmeted ladies and the caption “Who am I to judge?”

François Hollande, 59, held his first meeting with Pope Francis, 77, this morning. Unfortunate timing for the French president as he faces the wrath of French Catholics over abortion, gay marriage and total confusion over his love life.

The progressive Argentinian pontiff is highly unlikely to mention "l'affaire"  with Julie Gayet, a 41-year old actress, or the distress of Valérie Trierweiler, Mr Hollande’s 48-year-old official partner.

Le Monde newspaper summed it all up with a cartoon of Mr Hollande on a moped with two lovers on the back and Francis smiling magnanimously and saying: “Who am I to judge?”

Those were the words the Pope used last year in surprisingly tolerant remarks about homosexuality and which Mr Hollande might be glad to hear again today.

And here’s the meeting. But what is the Pope saying?

The Life of François

“You are not a bad man ...
just a very naughty boy.”

Which brings me neatly to the real naughty boy of the Class of 2014 (mind you, we haven’t left January yet), this compliments of Mail Online:

You won’t be smirking much longer, my lad: Father of public
 schoolgirl who ran away to Caribbean with her boyfriend
arrives on the island ... and he does NOT look happy

Ravil Gainiyeva (left), the father of runaway teenager Indira Gainiyeva, appeared
stony-faced as he arrived in the Caribbean to be reunited with his daughter

Indira and her boyfriend Edward Bunyan (young-age, obviously), are believed to have ran up an estimated £3,000 credit card bill after they sneaked out of school last Monday and flying to Spain where they caught a second flight to the Caribbean.

It seems that the ‘no limit’ card was Edward’s own ― but presumably in his parents’ name ― so no jiggery-pokery there. Gosh, imagine that: having a ‘no limit’ credit card at age 16.

Again, be all that as it may, I rather liked these two online comments:

Kay: How are they still alive? My mum would have murdered me by now.

gbizzle: The honeymoon’s over---


Thursday, January 23rd

A quick low flyer for the road

LIVING in the Towy Valley means regularly spotting low flying military aircraft and helicopters. True, there’s been a dramatic decline in flights over recent times, obviously down to a significant cutback in military budgets.

However, two of the great sights and sounds are the Chinook helicopter and the Hercules transporter.

The Lockheed Hercules C-130 military transporter, flying low over the countryside, looks so graceful as it hugs the terrain ― heres a picture I took of one navigating the Towy Valley, and previously featured over on Postcards From My Square Mile (Smile)...

                                                       ...and those four turboprop engines really do purr like a pussycat. They sound just like what you would imagine a Rolls Royce engine to sound like ― but they are in fact Allison turboprops with six-bladed propellers.

Form an orderly queue...

Five C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft line up before flying during a readiness
week at Yokota Air Base, Japan. The 374th Airlift Wing uses C-130s
to support combatant commanders in the Pacific region

The C-130 (with many variations on the theme) is one of the only military aircraft to remain in continuous production for over 50 years, undoubtedly helped by its takeoff capability from short and unprepared strips.

Whenever one flies over, especially if I am actually on my regular morning walk, I really do stop, stare and listen...

So my attention was grabbed by a gallery of pictures, a series of stunning images showing a year in the life of the largest air force in the world.

The United States Air Force has operations all over the world and enlists photographers to capture the action. The service’s specialist Airman  magazine has curated the most eye-catching imagery from the past 12 months for a special issue entitled  ‘Year in Visuals’.

I have selected a couple, both involving the Hercules transport. The one above, obviously ― and this astonishingly striking image:

Don’t look now ― but we’ve got a tailgater...

Aircrew from the 919th Special Operations Wing admire their aircraft,
the MC-130E Combat Talon I, during its final flight before retirement

Now that’s what I call an atmospheric picture. I presume it was taken from the back of a similar aircraft flying in tandem, as the Hercules often do when spotted in this part of the world.

Stunning image.

Wednesday, January 22nd

How twittyfilarious

JUST perused a list of some wickedly whacky and wonderful tweets wot surfaced in 2013. Here’s a selection:

Posted by a relative (probably) of Casey Jones, the famous railroad engineer, who recounts tales from darkest Germany...

     @October_Jones: “IS A DOLPHIN WHAT?! Hitler’s wife answering the phone.

Very clever. Next:

     @Scriblit: Why did they make Courtney Cox?
                          Because Lisa Kudrow.

Now I did laugh at the word play there ― but the names meant absolutely nothing to me. A quick trip on Ivor the Engine’s footplate (where is  Casey when you need him?), and I discover that they are both American actresses from the sitcom Friends  ― a series I’ve never watched, excepting bits and pieces as I zap through the channels. Next:

@MichaelSpicer: Job interview tip. Tell them you’re not an applicant, you’re an appliCAN.
                                     Lick finger, hold it against buttock. Make sizzling noise.

Yep, I had an XL laugh there too because I instantly thought of Young Shagwell down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon: the lads are always trying to wheedle information out of him regarding his latest conquest and demanding he offers up marks out of 10 ― and the opportunities to challenge Young Shagwell come thick and fast.

But fair play, he is quite discreet about the many loves of his life; he has however one little routine when someone won’t let go: just like Michael Spicer’s advice up there, he will lick his finger, but hold it against the back of his other hand ― and he will make a sizzling sound, but the giveaway is the discreet level of sizzle.

It’s quite funny, actually. And of course it doesn’t really say anything ― it’s all in our imagination. Next:

                                     1)  Go to the vets

                                     2)  Tell them your fish is poorly

                                     3)  Put a fish finger on the examining table

                                     4)  Do a sad face

Perhaps it’s me, but I find that really hilarious.

First past the four-poster

More thoughts on that French affair, and a growing call from women in the meeja as to whether it’s time to “do away with these ludicrous first ladies”, whether it be Valérie Trierweiler or Michelle Obama.

I enjoyed this, compliments of Atticus (Roland White) in The Sunday Times:

Perhaps the most shocking news from France last week was that Closer  magazine, which exposed President
François Hollande’s affair with an actress, receives a €558,000 (£460,000) annual subsidy from the government. In a separate development, the president promised to cut public spending. I wonder where he’ll start?

PS: The American satirist Stephen Colbert, according to Janice Turner in The Times, joked that the French first lady was simply the woman the president had sex with last. But while concealed by the respectability of marriage, added Janice, that is no less true in the White House.

Mind you, after ‘the word on the street’ tale I reported yesterday regarding the Obamas ― well, I’m not sure what to think.

Tuesday, January 21st

Both ends of a love story?

PROBABLY like most of the population, I have enjoyed the tale of the modern-day Romeo and Juliet ― the life and exciting times of the young runaway school lovers ― with a mixture of envy and incomprehension.

Wait till I get you two home! The public school runaways
firmly grounded under the watchful eye of his MOTHER

Mum (thinks, possibly): You little trollop – you have led astray my innocent boy

Young love, first love

Edward Bunyan, 16 (something of a juvenile Tommy Tucker according to the word on the street), and Indira Gainiyeva, 17, may be back in their luxury hotel, but they are being chaperoned by his mother Suzannah, above left, with the two runaways, who flew to the Caribbean to collar them.

Do you suppose young Edward is related to the famous English Christian writer and preacher, John Bunyan (1628-1688). He was the author of arguably the most famous published Christian allegory, The Pilgrims Progress. Oh I do hope so.

Anyway, the pair sparked an international manhunt when they fled £30,000-a-year Stonyhurst school last week using an unlimited credit card. The pair, who have been dating for months, were seen in beachwear strolling along the ocean in Punta Cana and eating outside the hotel.

They have spent the last seven days duping the authorities, hopping from one five-star hotel to the next. But very soon they will be flown home for a roasting from their school, the authorities and their parents

Lancashire police said: “They will be given a welfare de-brief by police following their arrival back in this country. This will signal an end of police involvement in this matter.” Mind you, some reports say that police are considering charges ― but what on earth would that achieve?

Well, I wish I’d had the guts to do what they did. Mind you, that ‘unlimited credit card’ facility would have a big bearing on any decision as to whether to take flight or not. (Perhaps any possible charges may well have to do with misuse and abuse of that ‘unlimited credit card’.)

Anyway, I enjoyed these two highly ‘recommended’ online comments:

C Nancy: I have memories of my mum looking more angry when I used to put my elbows on the table.

Salah, Iraq: All these images [and words] for a running couple would encourage more teenagers to do the same. The media can turn a donkey to a horse if they want to...

What a wonderful observation: “the media can turn a donkey to a horse if they want to...” How true. And it can work the other way too if the media decides to sink its teeth into a thoroughbred and turn it into a jackass.

Finally, this comment rather sums up the whole adventure:

                                                John: All’s well that ends well ― and a good holiday to boot -:)

And then, at the other end of the ‘Love Bookcase’:

Is the Obama marriage on the rocks? Astonishing claims emerge
of ugly fights over that selfie and even a Presidential affair

Love is all around

Mrs Obama, reports in America claim, will stand by her husband until his presidency ends, when he will move back to Hawaii and she will stay in Washington with the children. It follows a string of allegations about tensions dating back years, including supposed affairs and feuds over his ‘careerism’.

The couple are under intense scrutiny after another marital feud allegedly broke out over that world-famous selfie, above left.

But what about that picture of Michelle Obama, letting it all hang out? An awful lot of online comments took it as read that the photo of her going bananas is a Photoshopped effort i.e. Barack Obama has been added to the mix.

But who was she shouting at? If that is  what she was doing. Whatever, a rather scary image.

But, but, but ... you know me: believe nothing you hear and only half what you see...

Blue Monday (Number 2), 2014

A blue, blue Monday

SOMETHING delightfully funny and clever spotted online ― see above, compliments of Anonymous ― and brought to you in recognition of an annual ambush labelled ‘Blue Monday’.

Yes, just like buses, you wait 11 months, and two come along in tandem. And that’s not counting ‘Black Friday’, the last working Friday before Christmas when folk overdo the celebration and tend to get into all sorts of trouble.

Anyway, back with ‘Blue Monday’: we had one just two weeks ago ― the Monday on which most employed folk returned to work following the Christmas and New Year holidays.

And now today’s ambush, which supposedly falls on the Monday of the last full week of January.

It seems the date is calculated using many factors, including: weather conditions; debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and our ability to pay, highlighted by the arrival of a bumper festive credit card account demanding attention); time elapsed since Christmas; time since failing our New Year Resolutions; low motivational levels ― and all endorsed by the desperate need to take some action...

And just to heap misery upon despair, some are having a ‘Dry January’ ― no alcohol for a month ― and ‘Blue Monday’ is the very day when they feel overwhelmed with a need to celebrate with a proper drink because they have more than a sneaky suspicion that the whole notion of ‘binge sobriety’ is a total and absolute waste of time i.e. you either have a drink problem or you don’t, and a ‘Dry January’ is neither here nor there, neither shaken nor stirred.

Whatever, I think an XL smile is called for...

Spotted @peachesandcream (Periwinkle Jones):

You’ve seen nothing until you’ve seen a picture of...

...a pigeon having a job interview to become a pigeon

Now how delightfully funny is that? Just such a clever and witty caption, compliments of Periwinkle (I presume).

There, Blue Monday  seen off in some style!

See you Tuesday.

Sunday, January 19th

‘Over there, Gordo ... perfect mistress material’

IT must be Sunday because the newspapers are awash with the tail of the weak ― oops, the tale of the week.

What? Gordon Brown does not have a mistress?
As scandal grows around
François Hollande, French journalists shocked to learn British statesman did not  sleep around

So declared a headline in today’s Sunday Telegraph ... oh dear, another laugh-out-loud moment (and yes, again I was on my own, when I am strictly supposed not  to laugh out loud).

Anyway, never mind the ‘British statesman’ bit, that headline is funny because Gordo, bless his little cotton socks, always came across as the British politician least likely to be a hanky-panky-merchant with a mistress soothing his furrowed Brown.

But, you never can tell. If life has taught me anything, then it is that that fellow in the office or down the pub, the one you think least likely to be having a bit on the side ― well, as I say, you never can tell...

Then I flick through The Sunday Times, and alight on the
People of the week column ― and there, this photograph and caption...

Either this is the singer Susan Boyle giving it large at the British
Pipe Band Championship ... or Gordon Brown has been
letting himself go since he left 10 Downing Street

Oh dear, how funny is that? And the likeness is truly remarkable. But I am reminded: there are some things you should not be photographed doing in public, or in private come to that ― and pretending to be a Bagpussycat when you are clearly not is one of them.

Meanwhile, back with The Sunday Telegraph, another headline:

                             Hollande and Gayet: a French farce

François Hollande’s charm and humour has attracted a trail of powerful women ― now he’s paying the price, says Anne-Elisabeth

Hm. Charm and humour, eh? Now I have no idea whether that is so ― but wasn’t it Henry Kissinger who said that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac?

Anyway, some undercover work ... the following Letter to the Editor, along with an online comment, again spotted in the Telegraph:

Affair and square

SIR – It is surprising that France’s first lady should be hospitalised due to shock over her partner’s alleged affair, when she herself allegedly continued an affair with Monsieur Hollande for some four years while he was with Ségolène Royale.
Narguesse Stevens, Newton Abbott, Devon

John M: To Narguesse Stevens’ letter regarding the Hollande affair(s), your point is perfectly observed. In my view it is stuff like this that makes the French such a delightful people to be neighbours with and observe in action.

Indeed. A couple of days ago, in my
Mandy Rice-Davies Quote of the Day, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy branded Hollande

It seems the full quote is this:

“When one is a public figure and president, one must be careful to avoid being ridiculous.” Sarkozy tries not to revel too much in the problems of his successor.

That rang a bell: I seem to remember much amusement in the meeja about Sarkozy’s height (1.69m – 5' 6½") apropos standing next to Carla Bruni (1.75m – 5' 9"), or at least the lengths he would deem necessary to go to in order to disguise his shortfall; especially so standing on a sneaky platform in platform heels when speaking publicly...

Tall tales of the Expected


So Ivor the Search Engine  did his thing ― and found this in The Guardian  newspaper:

Nicolas Sarkozy stands accused of manipulating his height

He has been mocked for wearing stacked heels and standing on tiptoes in official photographs, and now Nicolas Sarkozy is embroiled in a new controversy over the alleged lengths he will go to in order to make himself look taller in public.

A worker chosen to stand on the podium behind the French president at a visit to a Normandy factory has admitted in a Belgian TV report that she was chosen because her small stature wouldn’t make the president look short. The report on the Belgian state channel RTBF said a group of specially selected workers of smaller stature had been bussed in to stand behind the president at the Faurecia  auto parts company...

Oh dear, never mind standing tall, you just have to chuckle at how careful celebrities and those in power should be when sitting in judgment on others.

Good smiley story though.

Saturday, January 18th

Don’t tell him, Pike!

THE other very early morning, I was driving into town, and along the way came upon some temporary roadworks with attendant traffic lights. They were on red. I waited ... and waited a little more ... the restricted length of road was only about 30-40 yards and I could clearly see that nothing was coming the other way.

Hm, that’s odd, I thought. Shall I go? Then a vehicle pulled up behind me ― suddenly there was a lady at the window: “They’re stuck on red,” she said. “They have been since last night.”

I thanked her with a quick thumbs up, and as there was still nothing coming the other way, off I went.

Further on there was another set of traffic lights, and this lot were working. Anyway, I had now parked up and as I walked past this second set I couldn’t help but notice the name of the operating company on the lights ― there it is up there.

And of course the first thing that came to mind was that famous comic line from the legendary sitcom, Dad’s Army: “Don’t tell him, Pike!

And it seemed that that was the instruction the defunct set of lights, stuck on red, had been given by its control system: “Don’t tell him that it’s safe to go. Yours etc, Pike!

When I approached the faulty set of lights on my return journey, they were still on red. But now workmen had arrived and a fellow in a hi-viz coat was waving me through anyway.

Talking of traffic lights, this spotted in Mail Online...

When red light shows wait here! Moment law-abiding PEDESTRIAN stops -
and waits by roadworks sign intended for traffic

Shop assistant Imogen O’Neil, 18, was being driven home by her mother on Thursday when she spotted the unusual scene in Coventry.

Waiting in a queue of vehicles at some temporary traffic lights, on red, Imogen noticed a girl alongside, waiting on the pavement, at the lights.

She thought it so curious and amusing she took a photo (alongside). When the lights turned green, the girl carried on walking.

The photo has now gone viral.

At the end of the article, Mail Online  added this, rather unkindly, I thought:

Do you know this girl? Is it you? Mail Online wants to talk to you. Get in touch: 0203 615 0193

The online comments were quite predictable. Although people were having fun, they weren’t being particularly cruel. Well, one or two were, but you always get your occasional poison pen contributor, your common or garden troll.

The following selection of comments summed up the response pretty well:

Will: What a great story, some people are magnificently dim.

Fugazi Fubar: She certainly is not a cyclist then. Red lights mean peddle faster.

Buttercakes: Awww, bless her. I don’t think it’s right to laugh at this woman. She’s not out seeking attention. Perhaps she just had an off moment or perhaps she has autism where she takes everything literally. We’ve all had off moments. How would you like to have your off moment go viral? Not nice.

Carol: Ahhhhh bless, she has made a lot of people smile, including me.

Liz: What an idiot. She obviously needs to get out more.

I thought that last one quite clever and witty.

But I’ll tell you what nobody mentioned: it’s a perfect sitcom moment. Which is why I think it’s all a wind-up, a bit of a joke; that the girl at the traffic lights is a pal of Imogen, and between them they have cooked up a bit of a wheeze to play on the viral world.

After all, the girl cannot be identified from the photograph ― and as I write I’m not aware of anyone having come forward, not that she would, anyway.

So that’s my guess. That it’s all a rather clever jape. And it has worked, with bells and flashing red lights on.

Imogen and her pal should write a proper sitcom.

Friday, January 17th

Bottled memories
(a letter to The Times)

Sir, Your report of the finding of a bottle with a letter after 23 years in the North Sea reminded me of another such message in a bottle.
     In 1915, as Private Thomas Hughes of the Durham Light Infantry was returning to the Western Front, he wrote a letter to his wife, put it in a bottle and dropped it into the sea. He was killed a few days later.
     In 1999, 84 years later, the bottle was brought up in a fishing net off the Thames Estuary and after much research returned to Hughes’s daughter, Emily Crowhurst, who was 2 at her father’s death.
     Mrs Crowhurst was living in New Zealand, and the letter is now in the possession of the Durham Light Infantry.
BRIAN TURVEY, Mansfield, Notts

What a touching story. And here
’s another brace of smashing letters from The Times, also to do with love, hence the French connection (at least compliments of the heading):

Coup de foudre

Sir, I telephoned my mother one evening in 1975 to tell her that I had met the man I was going to marry on a bus that afternoon (“I met a good-looking man on a train but it was hardly a brief encounter”, Jan 7).
     In a manner that would have done credit to Lady Bracknell she inquired, after a lengthy pause: “Tell me he was at least driving the bus and not just taking the fares.”

You tell her, mum. But first things first ... I had to look up the French headline:

coup de foudrea sudden unforeseen event or instantaneous and overwhelming passion, such as love at first sight; it is French, literally, “stroke of lightning”.

Okay, so lightning can strike twice, a response to the above letter...

On the buses

Sir, “I telephoned my mother one evening in 1975 to tell her that I had met the man I was going to marry on a bus that afternoon.”
     A true Lady Bracknell would surely have commented not just on the suitability of the groom, but also on the somewhat unconventional venue for the wedding.

How clever is that? Yes, I had to read it a second time too to get the joke.

Talking of the suitability of the groom, the bride, the mistress, the bit on the side, the whatever ― that Paris Mismatch hot gossip thingy will not go away. Indeed, here is the picture of the day, compliments of Mail Online:

The awkward moment when François Hollande was pictured together
with his Full Hand, or is it his Hands Full? Yes, his First Lady, his
Next Lady and his Last Lady, the mother of his four children

President Hollande can be seen having his hand held by Valérie Trierweiler (circled, centre),
in the presence of
Ségolène Royal, who is the mother of his children, (circled far left),
and his alleged mistress French actress Julie Gayet (in black, circled far right),
 during his election campaign in 2012.

I spy, with my little eye...

Yes, yes, yes ― but who is that dark-haired, eye-catchingly handsome creature in the centre? And who is she eyeing as if there’s no tomorrow? The camera? Or the fellow in the front row? And is she saying “Keep you eyes off that Trierweiler beeech”?

Oh yes, Segolène Royaland looking straight ahead, clearly not interested in the latest score ... and shades of Chief Wise Owl, next to her, far left: now he looks as if he knows precisely what the score is.

It’s a bit of a throwaway phrase I often use ― ‘if a picture paints a thousand words’ ― but how about that picture, eh? A thousand words and counting...

Anyway, back with the hot gossip. It emerges that Ms Trierweiler allegedly “took one pill too many” after Hollande’s affair with Ms Gayet was revealed to her last week, hence suffering “a bad case of the blues”, and is still being treated for stress and exhaustion in hospital.

Finally, the Mandy Rice-Davies Quote of the Day:

                         Former president Nicolas Sarkozy branded Hollande “Ridiculous!”.

Well he would, wouldn’t he?

Spell-cheque corner: This computer of mine can be both cruel and clever. ‘Segolène’, as in Segolène Royal, the Previous Lady, came up as ‘Semolina’. And ‘Sarkozy’ came up as ‘Sarcoxie’, ho, ho, ho.

Incidentally, Sarcoxie is a city in Jasper Carrott OBE ― oops, sorry ― a city in Jasper County MO (Missouri).

Thursday, January 16th

RBS risk fuelling pay row as it considers how to avoid EU bonus cap

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which is 81% owned by taxpayers, is keen to keep pace with Barclays and HSBC, which plan to hand out ‘allowances’ to their Chief Sitting Bulls. (I believe these CSBs are now labelled spivs, people who are there purely to satisfy their own personal ambitions and greed with no considerations whatsoever for the banks’ customers.)

RBS risks fuelling the row over pay as it considers how to follow rivals that have devised cunning ways to avoid the EU bonus cap and maintain their bankers’ multimillion-pound pay cheques...

‘I can’t give you a bonus ... but
there’s a £2m reward for the
person who finds my umbrella’

Well I laughed out loud.

And yes, I was alone (supposedly we do not laugh out loud when we are left to our own devices).

Liddle by Liddle

(This piece, compliments of Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times)


The Manchester United footballer Chris Smalling is in trouble for having attended a fancy-dress party decked out as a suicide bomber. A photograph of him appeared wearing a cross expression, an Arab-type headscarf and a bomb around his waist. He has since been dragooned into apologising for “insensitivity”.

Insensitivity to whom? Britain’s community of suicide bombers? Almost every fancy-dress outfit, these days, offends someone ― as our supermarkets found a few months back when they were forced to remove axe-wielding psycho fancy-dress outfits from their stores, in case they hurt the feelings of axe-wielding psychos.

I suppose you could get away with dressing up as a member of the Howard League for Penal Reform or maybe an insurance loss adjuster, but that’s about it.

Incidentally, you’ll be able to see Mr Smalling at the World Cup in Brazil this summer, doing a much less convincing impression of an international-class defender.

But there again Rod, perhaps Mr Smalling will offer up a more convincing impression of a footballer than you did as a husband.

What a curious thing to say, that observation of mine, you may well say.

But before we go there, it did seem strange that Rod didn’t twig the insensitivity towards the victims of suicide bombers, or indeed those who have suffered at the hands of axe-wielding, knife-wielding, gun-wielding psychos.

Whatever, back with Rod’s impression of a husband. Yesterday I wrote the following line apropos the love triangle thingy unfolding over there in Paris, France:

                   “Serial love rat pictured visiting love nest for steamy three-hour romp”

As is my wont, I reversed Ivor the Search Engine out of the shed and requested him to bring me the heads of notorious love rats. Off he went: chuff, chuff, chuff...

...chuffed, chuffed, chuffed ― yes, he returned with a wide smile: Ivor led me up a siding labelled Independent  newspaper ― an article from 2004...
                        The complete history of the Love Rat

Rod Liddle’s extra-marital antics have kept the public entertained of late, but has he really taken brazen philandering to its limits? Adrian Turpin trawls the sewers to bring you the tales of other cheating rodents

And I couldn’t believe it, there was our Rod, by hook or by crook, the very first in the rat run book, and a tale I wasn’t even aware of. So here is the exceedingly smiley ― well, not so much a pen-picture but more a penis-picture, of Rod, compliments of the Independent:

Rod Liddle, 43

Rat sheet: The story so far, for those who have been a long, long way away. The former editor of the Radio 4 Today programme has been caught having an affair with 22-year-old Alicia Monckton, previously a receptionist at The Spectator magazine ― this despite marrying his girlfriend of 11 years, the television presenter Rachel Royce, earlier this year.
     The subsequent spat has been conducted largely through the press, although Royce did also buy 10 bags of manure and send them to The Spectator’s  offices.

Rat chic: Not according to Royce. “Frankly it’s only because he’s bloody famous that a 22-year-old girl is going out with him anyway.”

Sewer depths: Cutting short his honeymoon claiming work pressure. Monckton met him at the airport.

Rat trap: Royce reportedly found a half-used packet of Viagra in his pocket. He claimed it was story research.

Gnawing doubt: How can there be any? He even looks a little ratty.

Rodent rating: 4 rats.

Oh dear. Given that it was Sigmund Freud who postulated the existence of libido, I thought, hm, never mind schadenfreude, that story is pure shatonfreud.

And I enjoyed the thought of Rod with a packet of Viagra in his pocket, and all in the interest of research of course. Whenever I see a picture of Rod in future, what I will see is that photo of the Purple Pellet Eater. Perhaps he carried out too much research, which has affected his hue.

Any anyway, the Indy points out that he even looks a little ratty. Hm, they have a point ― so here’s another famous meeja figure, Roland Rat. A likeness? You decide...


If you fancy reading about all the other love rats and their various rodent ratings, just pop ‘The complete history of the Love Rat’  into your very own Ivor the Search Engine ... chuff, chuff, chuff...

PS: Just noticed this in my Junk Inbox...
        Barclays Bank PLC: Your account might have been compromised

I guess the only thing that might have been compromised are Barclays’ multimillion-pound pay cheques...

Wednesday, January 15th


An affair to remember

You know me, just reading a headline in a newspaper, whether it be print or online, is nine-tenths of meeja lore.

Just a dozen words or so satisfy my curiosity apropos what is essentially a here-today-gone-tomorrow news story.

For example, let’s follow the tale that has, over the past few days, been all over the place. And I mean all over the shop. What follows are all headlines:

François Hollande’s alleged scooter trips to visit ‘mistress’

‘First Girlfriend’ hospitalised with ‘a bad case of the blues’ after Hollande ‘affair’ claims

Valérie Trierweiler admitted to Paris hospital to ‘get some rest’ after learning of president’s alleged affair in apartment linked to Corsican mobster

“French ‘admirably relaxed’ on sex”
François Hollande is the latest French politician to have a high-profile ‘affair’; Christine Odone wishes we shared the Gallic attitude to these stories...

Hollande dodges ‘affair’ questions

Hollande ‘affair’: “With the greatest respect, there was un éléphant dans la salle

French leader’s media conference at Élysée Palace brought great anticipation, but no satisfaction

So French women get furious after all
As the First Lady Valérie Trierweiler retreats to hospital, have our sisters across the Channel become not so famously relaxed about affairs, asks Celia Walden

President Hollande is ensnared in a drama which once would have been the subject of Élysée whispers yet has now gripped the attention of the world

Is Hollande’s ‘mistress’ pregnant? Internet ablaze with rumours as President refuses to say if Valérie is still First Lady

Hollande ‘mistress’ to sue French magazine
Julie Gayet to file invasion of privacy charges against Closer, which published photos of her and man said to be French leader

Red-faced government staff insist French president’s ‘mistress’ who had been nominated for prestigious public role is no longer being considered

Hollande is turning on French women

Riding snide-saddle

“If President Hollande cannot conduct an affair without getting caught looking ridiculous on a scooter, has he got the nous to run a country?” Broadcaster Janet Street-Porter

François Hollande ridiculed in video game parody of his secret scooter trips to visit alleged ‘mistress’ Julie Gayet
Online game lampooning French President has been shared 73,000 times

Okay, now a quick détour ― how very French ― via the inside pages:

Stable relationship

SIR – How very lucky we are in this country to live in a monarchy where our head of state is quite happy to have a string of racehorses, whereas France’s equivalent allegedly has a string of mistresses.
David Scott of Corfe Castle, Dorset, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph


manonthebus: All very well, but of course in France Le Pres actually runs things whereas our own Queen is allowed only to advise.

JDavidJ: And we all get to see how well the horses perform in their activity.

Caught in the slips

Sir, M. Hollande might reflect on the scene in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels  when one of the antiheroes has been arrested in Paris for fighting with his wife.
     He pleads with the French policeman: “But she caught me having an affair, that’s French
!” The policeman gives him an utterly contemptuous look and says: “To ‘ave an affair is French. To get caught is American.”
Ralph Lloyd-Jones of Nottingham, in a letter to The Times

The lesson of François Hollande’s affair is that the ‘first lady’ concept is weird
Leaders will often have partners. But there’s no need for a formal position...

“This will not end well” ― Online comment by MG of Worcester

See what I mean? You can follow the twists and turns of this tale simply by keeping track of the headlines, with just the occasional Letter to the Editor  or comment thrown in.

I must say, those final five words ― “This will not end well”  ― are perhaps the best, despite the stiff competition from what has gone before.

Allow me to share with you my observations. First and foremost, I haven’t come across such dedicated use of the word “alleged”, along with extravagant deployment of quotation marks, for a long, long time.

But let’s pick the bones out of that little lot.

Well, the idea of zooming off on a scooter to enjoy a bit on the side adds comic value from the word go ― and the picture of Le Pres on that scooter with those twin wheels at the front makes the whole thing hilarious, so perfectly child-like.

I smiled at the ‘First Girlfriend’ bit rather than First Lady ― oh, and how deliciously French to say that the First Lady had been hospitalised with “a bad case of the blues”. Neat turn of phrase.

Then there’s the “president’s alleged affair in apartment linked to Corsican mobster”. It gives a whole new meaning to that tabloid favourite: “Serial love rat pictured visiting love nest for steamy three-hour sex romp”.

Hollande ‘affair’: “With the greatest respect, there was un éléphant dans la salle”.  How wonderful is that? Despite French women supposedly being relaxed about affairs and all that jazz, the thought that they too have phantom elephants in the room when there is hanky-panky in the air suggests that the French enjoy revelation and titillation as much as the rest of us.

Oh, and I do enjoy the elegance of this headline:
French leader’s media conference at Élysée Palace brought great anticipation, but no satisfaction

And finally, this curious headline:

Hollande is turning on French women

What does it mean? That Hollande is totally pissed off with the behaviour of French women and he is turning on them? Or that French women are really turned on by Hollande and his Carry On Le Pres thingy?

You pays your money...

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Gayet’, as in Julie Gayet, the alleged ‘mistress’ in this Carry On extravaganza, came up as ‘Gayety’. Gosh, talk about the gayety of the passing parade. How does  my computer do it?

Tuesday, January 14th

Another lay-by moment

A WEEK last Sunday I shared with you a letter spotted back in December in The Sunday Times  edition of Driving, a missive from a Louise Cave of Seaford:

Computer says no

Is it possible to buy a new car that doesn’t have a computer? Garages employ programmers instead of mechanics, and we can no longer tinker under the bonnet in case we disrupt some electronic wizardry.

That rang an alarm bell, so I duly responded, and my letter was printed on January 5.

Rise in the recovery position

Is it my imagination or have I seen a marked increase in newish cars on recovery trucks (presumably suffering from computer problems)? Perhaps the recovery firms could tell us.

I was particularly intrigued whether that observation is actually so ― or just a prejudiced illusion that whilst computers are great, everything electronic has a frighteningly brief work-life span.

I did so hope that the AA or Green Flag people would respond for it would be fascinating to establish whether I’m only seeing what I want to see i.e. someone in total empathy with Louise Cave and her desire for a car free of computers.

Well, this Sunday just gone, I duly perused the In Gear  Letters section on Page 3 to see if there was a response ... nothing.

I was somewhat disappointed, especially as my missive had been the paper’s lead letter.

Anyway, I flick on through the motoring section, as I do, and arrive at the middle-pages spread, where Jeremy Clarkson and his middle-aged spread hangs out (along with his regular reports on the latest motors of note).

And, there he is, the car in the spotlight being the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, a snip at £88,967.

I’m not really interested in the stuff about the car, but Jeremy’s views on life, the universe and everything are always given a good airing before he starts on the car. And his opinions are always worth a quick read...

       The hybrid Panamera is technologically clever but not what you’d call attractive

There was a letter in last week’s edition of Driving that suggested we were seeing many brand-new cars on the back of breakdown trucks these days because their new-fangled and complicated modern-day electronics had all gone wrong.

[Hang on, I thought, that’s me, that’s my letter he’s on about. Goodness gracious me. And I didn’t say ‘brand-new’ either but rather ‘newish’ cars ― but hey, I’m not going to let that stand between Jeremy, one of life’s agreeable shop-window tossers (who adds considerably to the joys of The Sunday Times), and my 15-seconds of fame by proxy.]

Anyway, let’s move on with Jeremy.

You hear this kind of thing quite often. People are always saying their car has “blown up” because of malfunctioning electronics. That every time they drive past Rugby on the M1 their vehicle just stops. That their burglar alarms are activated by their neighbours’ television remotes. That they’d only had the car a week before the windows all started to go up and down by themselves.

Plainly these people are the disciples of Charles Babbage, the 19th-century engineer who believed the fallibility of man would one day be overcome by the unerring certainty of machinery and once, having found countless mistakes in a set of astronomical tables, exclaimed: “I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam.”

If you go to the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester you can see what he’s on about. You stand there looking at the rods and the cogs and the flywheels pumping and churning away and you think, “That piston will hit that wheel next time round”. But it never does. Everything misses everything else by exactly the same margin every time. For ever.

Electrical equipment, however, is different. It can do the same thing over and over and over again, but then one day it will just freeze and you have to turn it off and then on again, or tap the viewing card with your teeth, or unplug the system and leave it be for three minutes.

[Ah yes, I do recall that quote I shared with you the other day, compliments of Anonymous: “If I am ever on life support, unplug me ... leave it be for three minutes ... then plug me back in ... see if that works...”]

Take my iPhone, continues Jeremy. The on/off button is wonky, which means I now have the devil’s own job trying to shut it down. And I’m fearful whenever I succeed that I will not be able to turn it back on.

To make matters worse, I am no longer able to lock the screen, which means it rings people I don’t like and takes endless photographs of the inside of my jacket pocket. As I write, I should imagine it’s busy downloading Whitney Houston’s greatest hits, or perhaps it’s calling the speaking clock ― in Sydney...

To me both mechanical and electrical engineering are from the implausible end of science fiction. I understand neither. How does a battery store electricity? How does a gearbox work? I let people explain from time to time and my eyes glaze over in wonderment...

I can, if pushed, make a shepherd’s pie. I could also paint a picture of a dog in such a way that you’d say, “That’s a dog”. I can arrange flowers and saw wood and do many things in an amateurish way. This is why I have very little respect for cooks or painters or carpenters. Because I can sort of do what they do. But I cannot do any kind of engineering. Which is why I genuflect whenever I am in the company of a man with a BSc.

It’s also why I enjoy this job so much: because week in and week out I am left dumbfounded by the abilities of those who know how to make a clutch.

Which brings me to the new Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid. Here we have a car that features electrical and mechanical engineering in equal measure. It is witchcraft and sorcery. Myth and legend. Charles Babbage and Steve Jobs. And I don’t understand any of it, or what it’s for.

Predictably though, Jeremy is not impressed with the car as a whole. He concludes thus:

This is Porsche, right? Purveyor of fine sporting automobiles to the world’s banking fraternity? Is this company seriously suggesting that a man who buys and sells oil and gas for a living is going to give a stuff about whether he’s producing too much carbon dioxide?

Does it think he’s going to drive round and round looking for a charging point and then wheel out a flex, just to save a polar bear from having a mild asthma attack? I very much doubt it.

The headline to the article said it all:

             A brilliant feat of pointless engineering? Guilty as charged


The Clarksometer, eh? Shades of Look You’s Smileometer?

Whatever, Jeremy’s article gives a little insight into my subliminal thinking.

Much as I enjoy reading Jeremy, AA Gill and a whole bunch of other top writers, I am overwhelmed with the thought that they are all a bunch of 5-Star tossers. Yes, endlessly entertaining tossers who add to the gaiety of the passing parade. But tossers nevertheless.

And what was it Jeremy said up there?

I can, if pushed, make a shepherd’s pie. I could also paint a picture of a dog in such a way that you’d say, “That’s a dog”. I can arrange flowers and saw wood and do many things in an amateurish way. This is why I have very little respect for cooks or painters or carpenters. Because I can sort of do what they do.

And there’s the key. This is why I am never in awe of writers in general and columnists in particular. I can sort of do what they do. Nowhere near as good, clearly ― but that’s not the point. I can do it.

What a revelation today’s smile of the day has been. Every day is indeed another day at school.

Evolution and incubation

While on the subject of Porsche, if the Panamera Hybrid is not to Jeremy’s taste, the famous Porsche 911 is a winner in every sense of the word.

I have just seen a gallery of pictures of the Porsche 911 Tagra through the ages...

How eye catching is that? From 1967 to 2014. The subtle difference from model to model ― study the evolution from bottom right to top right to bottom left to top left ― but all instantly recognisable as the 911 Tagra.

Yet that latest version could be from a parallel universe where they insist on drawing smoother lines. Wonderful.

Spell-cheque corner: the Porsche ‘Panamera’ Hybrid came up as Porsche ‘Panacea’ Hybrid. As I regularly point out, you really couldn’t teach this computer of mine a thing about life, the universe and everything.

Monday, January 13th

This should not take long

YES, it’s the potential ambush that lies in wait for each and everyone of us. Unsurprising then that the meeja has today been awash with this story.

It’s the 15-minute home test that supposedly spots signs of Alzheimer’s; a test developed by US researchers to track the condition of healthy older people. One section is featured above.

Now mother never bred a jibber ― so here goes:

1)  No problem with this one.

2)  Dominoes and, er, a tlq  (well it says not to worry about the spelling ― and it looks to me like the symbol for a tlq, and tlq as we all know is the Klingon word for heart, cross my tlq  and hope to jat’yln; oh yes, Klingon hearts also have lots of loose ends). Either that or it’s a representation of the first step in how to tie a bow tie.
     Actually, between you, me and the CIA, I haven’t got the slightest idea what that symbol or thingy is.

3)  Hm. They are both tools, both have metal at the business end, both have wooden handles, and both are T-shaped ― at least that’s true of the traditional corkscrew.

4)  Again straightforward.

5)  Yep, six different varieties of apples and six different varieties of potatoes ― actually, when I began to name different fruits and vegetables I sort of went blank and started to panic a bit ... as always happened when I first glanced at an exam paper back in the school day ... but the different varieties of fruit and veg duly came quite easily.

Anyway, I read both Telegraph  and Mail Online  articles about the test ― and hurried to the comment sections.

Predictably, Telegraph  readers took a more measured and serious approach to the subject than Daily Mail  readers.

When I visited Mail Online  there were already over a thousand comments ― and of the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ I perused, they really were a revelation.

About a third of the responses took the whole thing rather seriously; about a third were somewhat perplexed by the exercise; and a third were exceedingly entertaining.

Apropos Q2) ― some thought the dominoes were dice (fair enough), but most were unsure about the second part and whether it was a pretzel or a rope, in particular a certain type of knot. I’ll come back to that later.

But it’s the corkscrew and the hammer that got folk going. Here’s a pick of the ones that tickled the old smileometer.

♫♫♫   If I had a hammer

mjcgto: As a 67-year-old, I’m thinking this ... a type of hammer is a “sledge”, a sledge is used in say the Alps where they serve Gluhwein, which mainly consists of wine, you need a corkscrew to open a bottle of wine. OK, maybe Alzheimer’s has set in early :-)

SRowe18: Perhaps I have early onset as well, because that corkscrew/hammer one perplexes me too. What do you say? One smashes things, and the other opens things to get you smashed?

Village Idiot: How are a corkscrew and a hammer similar? Well, they can both be used to open a bottle of wine, one is just more elegant than the other. [That response sounds very un-village idiot to me.]

Drunken Drivel: Neither are any good for fixing a laptop.

Bob: Neither is allowed in your hand luggage ... both attract VAT @ 20% ... both can be used to remove a tortoise from its shell...

Marbles: They both produce lots of force in a localised area. Simple. [Classy response.]

Angry of Roda: Yes ― the answer is that they are both used for mugging little old ladies ... well I don’t know either!

spasiba: Both are not made out of cheese and both have one letter “e” in their spelling. [That is quite clever, at least the letter “e” bit.]

Tak-Tak: No you silly! They both come in handy to unclog the toilet when out of a ― watchamacallit? A rope.

KayleighJ: Both words have two vowels.

Ceebee: I answered 1942. EEK! [Ah yes, the answer to life, the universe and EVERYTHING.]

Heartless Cow: Corkscrew and hammer are both types of ride at the funfair.

RK: Ha-ha ― you are wrong. The corkscrew and hammer are both sexual positions, very similar in nature.

Steve: They can both be a source of a headache.

thenervoussurgeon: No problem, the hammer knocks nails and things in, the screwdriver screws them in, all questions took about one minute, so looks good.

Rufus McDufus (responding to thenervoussurgeon): Screwdriver? Someone call the looney van. We’ve got a live one here.

Willis Hide: Easy-peasy. Got all of ‘em correct. I’m probably the smartest person on this sight.

u2funee (responding to Willis Hide): pretii sure the spellign mistake was done on purpos.

And then this thread from the Telegraph...

Tess Tickles: I hath a far quicker and more accurate test without ye need of diagrammes and ye lyke. Ask thineselfe or thine partner if thou wilt vote for Cameron next election. If ye answer be yes then I amst afraid thou art already too far gone.

axoz75: You clearly have a problem.

Tess Tickles: Yea I doth. Canst thee help me? I do thinke mine wife doth hath a lovre. Shouldst I approach her and hath itte outte or gette a private detective to follow her?

Son of Casandra: Suggest ye gette owt ye olde chastitie belte.

A very smiley little exchange, really made by axoz75 seemingly not being amused. Meanwhile, back with Mail Online...

eblue: Oh crap I think I’ve got Alzheimer’s ‘cause I don’t know how a corkscrew and a hammer are alike ― and I don’t know if I’m looking at a photo of a rope or a pretzel.

Brian K: The Stafford knot, sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Staffordshire knot, is a distinctive three-looped knot that is the traditional symbol of the English county of Staffordshire and of its county town, Stafford. It is a particular representation of the simple overhand knot, the most basic knot of all.

And here it is...

Lauren: Yep, just the kind of tests we love to do ... ones with no answers.

Lost in France: What was the article about?

seanOhn: I think Suarez dominated the game. Best of luck to Liverpool going forward.

Handsome Jack: Fuhgeddaboutit!

Snotcricket: I’ll remember that!

Happily Single: OMG LOL! I have had a good giggle at all these comments! You lot are all a screwdriver short of a tool box, lol!

That last comment from Happily Single  reminds me of this: over the Christmas holidays our local Co-op store was selling boxes of chocolates aimed at children (presumably):

Co-op Christmas Elves Chocolate Tool Kit: a spanner, a screwdriver, a hammer ― and a something or other...

As I looked at the display I distinctly remember having a juvenile moment while thinking of a sales pitch:

              And all because the lady loves her tool kit ... Mmm, melts in the mouth, not in the hand...

Thought for the Day

So the fellow looks at his pet monkey walking across the room, banana in one hand, can opener in the other. “You don’t need a can opener to eat a banana,” he says. “Silly monkey.”

“I know, I know,” says the monkey. “I’m not dumb. I need the opener to get at the can of custard.”

Sunday, January 12th

40 days and 40 nights

The Daily Telegraph’s  MATT offers up a little light and welcome relief in the wake of the never-ending storms, floods and power cuts that Britain has suffered since the beginning of December.

Oh yes, MATT flanks Noah who, with his mobile dead in the water, uses a more traditional and reliable method to find out if anyone needs rescuing down there in the frightfully posh Thames Valley.

The above also brings to mind recent letters, again spotted in The Daily Telegraph:

No charge

SIR – Having been experiencing a lack of power since Monday evening, I’m now even more keen on prolonging the life of the land line, as all our mobile phones have long-since died, because we cannot recharge the batteries.
     We are relying on a relic of the Eighties: a twirly-cord telephone that works simply from the telephone socket. The teenagers jump every time it rings.
Belinda Hunt, Crowborough, East Sussex

As someone pointed out, if a mobile is an essential component of modern lifestyle, then a vital bit of kit is a charger to use in the car. Even if you don’t own a car, I’m sure the nice but powerless people next door would allow you to use their car as a charger in an emergency (assuming their car hasn’t drowned).

SIR – In the last few days, BBC news has advised me of strong winds, measured in miles per hour; heavy rain, gauged in millimetres; and massive waves, in excess of 30 feet. Distances under a mile are given in metres. It’s small wonder schoolchildren struggle with simple daily arithmetic.
Peter Harrison, Northiam, East Sussex

Tell me about it, Peter Harrison. It is all so very confusing. And I would challenge the statement that only distances under a mile are given in metres. I am forever baffled why programmes like Countryfile  and Springwatch  always quote UK distances in kilometres, even though every road sign in the country states miles.

This next letter also surfaced around the Christmas period:

SIR – On BBC Radio 4’s Today yesterday, presenter Justin Webb was interviewing a woman in the South of England, one of many unfortunates without electrical power. “People get their power from various companies,” he said. “Do you know neighbours who fared any better?”
Michael Rogers, Sevenoaks, Kent

D’oh! However, I doubt very much whether Justin Webb ― another in an endless line of BBC presenters one is overwhelmed with a need to slap ― was inferring that various power companies have their own separate power lines.

My guess is that he was referring to the different levels of customer service ― updates regarding repairs, reconnections, compensation, etc ― from the various suppliers.

Let’s hope that’s what he meant. Otherwise there really is no hope for the BBC.

Finally, there was another related letter about the flooding and loss of power, but signed thus:

Penny Wride
Stone, Gloucestershire

Which drew these responses:

Zaharadelasierra: “Penny Wride”. Is this name for real? Yours faithfully, Tuppenny Busfare Esq...

Geoffrey Woollard: Odd, innit, Zaharadelasierra?

Saturday, January 11th

Graveyard shift @ Westminster City Council, London

Shop aground

BRITISH families should stop buying new cars, fridges, washing machines, televisions, printers, etc and instead repair them when they fail in a bid to save the environment, a senior Government adviser has said.

Professor David MacKay, the energy department’s chief scientific adviser, said that electronic equipment and cars should be kept for as long as possible and then disassembled so that components can be recycled.

Householders “buying lots of stuff and then throwing it away” make it “difficult” for ministers to reduce the country’s energy consumption, Prof MacKay said.

Oh that life were that simple, Mr Prof. Indeed, the above promotion by ― yes, Westminster City Council ― rather encourages the nation’s disposable mindset.

Then this letter appeared in The Daily Telegraph, which perfectly summed up what I felt like shouting at the trees along my morning walk through the Towy Valley:

Ever decreasing circles

SIR – My washing machine needs a new bearing, which should cost less than £50 to replace, but the machine is made so that the whole washing drum has to be replaced, costing £180. A new machine, with warranty, costs about £220.
     Where is the logic in getting my old machine fixed?
Ian Tyler, Marston, Lincolnshire

And another point, Ian Tyler: replace the drum, and Sod’s Law dictates that another component will then pack up ― and you are suddenly seriously out of pocket.

Anyway, as you will have noticed, it is not so much the letters in newspapers that I enjoy, but the comments available on the web pages. For example, another letter from the Telegraph, followed closely by a few choice comments...

The Mousetrap

SIR – A mouse has chewed the hose of my dishwasher. A new hose costs £15.99. Call-out and labour for a local repairman would be £65. If I get the manufacturer of the dishwasher to come to repair it, I will have to pay £95.
     If we wish to avoid being a throw-away culture, perhaps manufacturing mouse-proof hoses would be a good start.
Penny Elles, Cove, Dunbartonshire

Grizzly: The woman is asking for a mouse-proof hose. Is this a spelling mistake? A mouse-proof house  would surely be much cheaper for her in the long run.

The Central Scrutiniser: Penny Elles ― It never ceases to amaze me how incapable some people are of carrying out even the most basic maintenance or replacement of user-replaceable parts like this. Do you call out an electrician when a light bulb stops working?
     Buy yourself a replacement hose and fit it yourself.
     Oh, and buy yourself some mouse traps while you are at the hardware store.

Zaharadelasierra (cleverly responding to The Central Scrutiniser, and a reminder just how careful you have to be when not only carrying out repairs on the hoof but expressing precisely your thoughts when contributing online):

I have just had my kitchen light bulb “pop”. I tried to follow your advice but am finding it difficult to fit the replacement hose. Fortunately the rubber insulated me from a serious electric shock.

Peteh: Penny Elles ―
http://www.screwfix.com/p/wash... £3.49 from Screwfix, plus £5 delivery, fit it yourself, a 10-year-old could do it

I was mightily impressed that
Peteh had gone to the trouble of seeking out a hose and providing the online link. Top man, top hose, top ho

And finally, who else but the gent who was confused by the instruction on the deodorant stick ― ‘Remove top and push up bottom’ ― yes, the one and only:

Hugh Rhynall: I rang Screwfix and they told me very abruptly they were not a dating agency.

See what I mean? Even a somewhat serious topic suddenly takes the funny fork in the road and
magically morphs into the smile of the day.

And whenever I see the name Screwfix I will for ever more and a day remember that joke.


Friday, January 10th

In loco parentis

“NEVER iron clothes while they are being worn.” Rowenta felt the need to take the place of a parent and caution users of its irons thus. And you think I jest, yes?

In creaseless parentis

“I’M not doing the ironing because I have to, but if I get a chance, I find it immensely therapeutic.”
Kirstie Allsopp, 42-year-old mum-of-four and
British TV presenter known for the Channel 4 property programmes: Location, Location, Location; Relocation, Relocation; Location Revisited ― what, no I’m Going Loco, Loco, Loco (?); The Property Chain; Kirstie’s Homemade Home and Kirstie’s Handmade.

Phew! And she finds time to do the ironing?

Anyway, Kirstie continues: “I’m absolutely convinced that those repetitive tasks that one does every day, organising and regularising one’s home, and keeping it tidy, [are] enormously therapeutic. I know it is for me, and I have many, many working mum friends who feel the same.”

As a mere man, I reckon what she said made total sense. Curiously though, the sky fell on poor Kirstie’s head. Something to do with the feminist debate and how she was letting the side down badly.

Personally, I don’t mind ironing. Well, as someone who lives on his own, I have to. I mean, it would be most agreeable if there was no need to iron ― but I find that it gives me the chance to catch up on some radio listening where I need to give my undivided attention to what is actually being said (I normally mega-multi-task when the wireless is on in the background!).

Whatever, these two online comments tickled the old smileometer:

Peter Griffiths: The trouble with washing and ironing is, you get it all done, then six months later, you’ve got to do it all over again.

Oldgit13: Blimey, you do it twice a year? You haven’t got the hang of this Spring cleaning business, have you?

Very funny. But I’ll leave the last word to Kirstie, who proffers advice to Mary Beard, 59,
Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, who it seems is about to deliver an important lecture: “Well, for God’s sake don’t say you like ironing or a bit of tidying up. You’ll never hear the end of it.”

More finger and fudge

Yesterday I smiled at Anna Soubry’s quote about Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP ― “Farage looks like somebody has put their finger up his bottom and he really rather likes it” ― and Ivor the Engine’s subsequent hunt for a photo that best suited the quote.

Well blow me, perusing the Western Mail  today, my eye fell upon a photograph of Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, announcing the Scottish Government’s Legislative plan for the coming year to Parliament at Holyrood, Edinburgh...

“We really must do this again ... soon”

Gosh, never mind Nigel Farage, Alex Salmond fits the bill perfectly.

What is most surprising though about the above picture is that it’s a press handout by the Scottish Parliament.

What were they thinking of? Forget the finger-up-the-bum thingy ― the smug look on the face of Salmond invites you to give him a good slap.

I mean, you have to smile at the doolallyness of the thinking behind the release of the picture.

PS: Talking of consumer warnings on things, whether it’s an iron or Alex Salmond...

Spotted on Tescos Tiramisu dessert (printed on the bottom of the box):
                                                                    “Do not turn upside down” (D
oh! Too late! You lose!)

Now you would think that someone would have twigged that such a warning should go on the front of the sleeve.

Oh yes, you think the warning at the very top about “Never iron clothes while they are being worn” is a rather good joke? Well, watch this YouTube clip (after the intro ad, it takes a few seconds to build up steam, but stick with it) ― and be sure to read the amusing comments (especially the ones about how professional the presentation is, and the flash of body armour as worn by the presenter):

Thursday, January 9th

AXE Deodorant in convenient long-lasting stick form
will make any woman near you ready for mischief

Stick with it

“I was confused when I bought a deodorant stick which said ‘Remove top and push up bottom’ ― I had difficulty walking properly but when I farted at least the room smelled nice.”
Hugh Rhynall shares a wee bit too much information in an online comment

As you may have guessed, we are heading in a certain direction here ― incidentally, AXE Deodorant? A somewhat unfortunate brand slogan? Mind you, the thought of all those women ready for mischief does redress the balance somewhat.

Whatever, I have only just caught up with this glorious festive quote from a couple of weeks back...

Finger or fudge

“Farage looks like somebody has put their finger up his bottom and he really rather likes it.”
The spirit of goodwill to all men temporarily eluded defence minister Anna Soubry, 57, (who later apologised to the UKIP leader).
The Independent newspaper’s Simon Carr has previously stated that Ms Soubry “has a record of unusually free speech”.

“Unusually free speech”, eh? Nice turn of phrase. But what an image Anna’s quote conjures up.

So I reversed Ivor the Search Engine out of his shed and said: “Bring me the head of Nigel Farage, confirming perhaps Exhibit A up his bottom and as a consequence looking somewhat pleased with himself.” Chuff, chuff, chuff...  

...chuffed, chuffed, chuffed... Yup, back came Ivor with a smile and couple of fascinating images...

                         Is this what Nigel would look like?


                      Or is Nigel actually saying: “Honestly, it felt this big! It could have been Miley Cyrus behind me.”

So there we go, you pays your money ― and my juvenile streak satisfied for another little while.

Just call her Mummy Bear

“Of course we are not going to call it Rocknroll. I’m a f****** grown-up.” Kate Winslet, 38, English actress and singer, who is married to a gent called Ned Rocknroll (husband No. 3), discussing their new baby son.

A few days later (compliments of The Sunday Times):
Kate Winslet has named her new son Bear, it has been revealed. The bad news is: the poor little chap, Bear Rocknroll, will probably be teased rotten at school. The good news is: he should have no trouble getting into the Cubs.

For some reason, Kate brought to mind a letter from a little while back and spotted in The Times:

All human life

Sir, When recently perusing your births, marriages and deaths page, it occurred to me that this does not include a divorce section. The page could then be fondly referred to as “hatched, matched, detached and dispatched”.

And just in time, too...

  “Cricket rules are bewildering. I have had marriages that have lasted less time
                      than a Test match.”
Kathy Lette, 55, Australian writer and wit.

Spell-cheque corner:Soubry’, as in ‘Anna Soubry’, the lady with the ‘finger up the Nigel Farage bottom’ came up, if you will pardon the expression, as ‘Sourly’. Nigel would have liked that.

Wednesday, January 8th

Hold the front page ... seriously

THERE’S something quite wonderful in seeing a grand old cliché regain its original effectiveness and power, and in the process prompt the use of yet another cliché ― “Hold the front page!” ― one more time.

Yes, Hell has officially frozen over — the tiny hamlet in Michigan, that is.

Around 600 local residents have been blighted by extreme temperature and deep snow caused by the polar vortex currently affecting the U.S.

Temperatures have plummeted to -20C, even dropping to -33C when taking wind-chill into account, with many vehicles left stranded...

The town of Hell is situated 60 miles west of Detroit, and received its chthonic moniker on October 13, 1841. 

Derek Wallbank, reporter for Bloomberg News, got to deploy the famous headline when he tweeted news of its incongruous weather on Tuesday.

Yes, yes, I know, a couple of things: I can sense you thinking what I’m thinking ... what the hell does chthonic  mean? Definitely not a Crazy Horsepower word. Well...

                      of the underworld: relating to the underworld as described in Greek mythology

And secondly, where in God’s name does Hell come from?

This, compliments of Wikipedia:

Name check

There are two theories for the origin of Hells name. The first is that a pair of German travellers stepped out of a stagecoach one sunny afternoon in the 1830s, and one said to the other: “So schön hell!” (translated as, “So beautifully bright!”). Their comments were overheard by some locals and the name stuck, at least in casual use.

Soon after Michigan gained statehood, a fellow called George Reeves was asked what he thought the town he helped settle should be called, and replied: “I don’t care, you can name it Hell for all I care.” The name became official on October 13, 1841.

The second theory is tied to the “hell-like” conditions encountered by early explorers, which included mosquitoes, thick forest cover and extensive wetlands.

Which makes the headline “HELL FREEZES OVER” even better.

So what’s in a name?

Well, the name Hell did send me scurrying to the Telegraph’s  Sign Language gallery for some other memorably named places spotted by the newspaper’s readers on their travels around the world:

Up a Lazy river by the old mill run...

Spotted in Velikiye Lazy, Ukraine, by Ron Manley

All in all though, it would be best to be born here, because:

This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship...

Spotted in Košice, Slovakia, again by Ron Manley

Spell-cheque corner
Velikiye’, as in Velikiye Lazy, Ukraine’, came up as Velocity’. Which is proper smileometer stuff.

Tuesday, January 7th

A scene from the John Lewis Christmas advert

The bear and the hare

I’VE just been reading about the successes ― or otherwise ― of Britain’s major retailers over the festive season.

But more intriguingly, what part the Christmas advertising campaigns with their huge production budgets played in producing the real winners and losers.

Top of the Tills we now know was John Lewis, with both its results and Bear and Hare  television advert.

What I found particularly interesting about the ad was what various ‘experts’ had to say. Here’s what TV critic AA Gill thought, compliments of The Sunday Times,  when the Christmas ads were launched back in November:

Gillie on the prowl

When exactly did Christmas commercials become a destination thing? John Lewis’s cartoon was apparently the most YouTubed advertisement since the last most YouTubed advertisement. “There won’t be a dry eye in the nation,” the hyperbolic pre-publicity promised.

Well, it left me Scroogeishly dry-eyed. It was a sickly, anthropomorphic cartoon about a hare getting a bear an alarm clock. The animation was tedious, the concept idiotic, the purpose cynically saccharine. And what would a bear do with a hare? [Er, it’s make-believe, Gillie, just think Disney.]

Christmas ads mine a narrow range of fixed, sticky sentiment ― simple, childish, snot-ragged melodrama that reminds you of how good advertising used to be, how witty and skilful, and of how comparatively sophisticated it assumed its audience to be...

[Eh? Ad agencies assuming its audience to be sophisticated? I always presumed that an ad was designed to first target a specific section of the audience, then to catch the eye, next to inform, and finally to entertain ― if they manage all four points ... well, magic ― witness the Yellow Pages  ad I recently featured. Whatever, let Gillie finish off...]

Advertising is just a rictus of celebrity these days, with power ballads and animated soft toys.

So that’s telling you, John Lewis. Mind you, I do sympathise with that last sentence ― what made the Yellow Pages  ad particularly good was the fact that most people had no idea who the star of the advert was. There was no power ballad. And definitely no soft toys.

Me? I enjoyed the John Lewis ad hugely, doubtless helped by the accompanying song.

Now here’s what Roger Pride, Chair of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)  in Wales, had to say ― this on Christmas Eve and well before the final results were announced.

Christmas? What’s Christmas?

Marks and Spencer and John Lewis are the only two of the major retailers to have created a designated hashtag for their ads ― #magicandsparkle and #bearandhare respectively..

Here, John Lewis leads the way with their hashtag mentioned 28,000 times compared to just 3,500 for M&S.

From a personal perspective, I prefer Bear and Hare to Magic and Sparkle.

I think the power of the idea “imagine as an adult you saw Christmas day for the first time” is huge. And it is executed brilliantly.

The Disney-inspired animation is perfectly crafted and with a soundtrack of Lilly Allen’s version of the Keane track Somewhere only we know, the film is high on emotion.

The fact that the track reached number one in the charts is also a major bonus for John Lewis...

The big question however is “do the ads work?” Do these campaigns actually influence the way we shop and influence us to switch brands? Well, according to research undertaken by the online community Netmums, they do.

They surveyed 5,749 mothers and found that the John Lewis ad was the clear favourite with 31.5 per cent of the vote.

Second was M&S with 16.7%, followed by Morrisons and Tesco respectively.

Perhaps more significantly it was also found that 17% of mums claimed the commercials influence where they shop, and one in nine changed stores after seeing a festive ad.

Well now, how fascinating are those two views?

On the one hand you have Roger Pride, who has to use facts to make sense of all this advertising and see what works and what doesn’t.

On the other hand you have AA Gill, a man who spends every minute of his life sitting in judgment on his fellow human beings, who has to do nothing at all except write a whole load of old bollocks ― and as long as he does it colourfully, well, the cheque will always be in the post, no matter how little he understands about life at the sharp end.

I enjoy reading AA Gill because there’s something mesmeric in seeing the world through the eyes of someone who clearly has as much empathy with the real world as an amoeba has with a dolphin.

And how wrong he got the John Lewis ad. His view has schadenfreude  writ large all over it.


Yesterday, I featured the halterneck dress worn by Marilyn Monroe, the one which floated up over a subway grate in The Seven Year Itch, the one which has just been voted the most iconic screen costume of all time.

Intriguingly, the online Comments were pretty much agreed that it was a worthy winner. Such unanimity is unusual in itself.

I had a look at the list, and as you’d suspect it was dominated by female costumes. Michael Jackson’s red leather Thriller  suit (1983) features, and John Travolta shares a place with Olivia Newton-John’s traffic-stopping ensemble while dancing in the final scene of Grease (1978).

But who would I have voted for? Who else but James Bond. True, the bikini worn by Ursula Andress in Dr No (1962) as she emerged from the sea is featured ― but what about this from Goldfinger (1964)?

Somewhere in South America: a drugs production plant is infiltrated by James Bond wearing a wet suit and a rubber duck on his head!

Using a paste-like explosive, he sets several barrels of nitro glycerine to explode then rushes outside and tears off the wet suit to reveal an immaculate white tuxedo...

And of course the pièce de résistance ... just as that which makes Monroe’s dress stand out and memorable is the billowing, so Mr Bond inserts the carnation in his buttonhole to round the whole thing off.

Now that is class, and gets my vote. Alongside Marilyn, of course.

Monday, January 6th

Here’s definitely lookin’ at you

I SEE that the white halterneck dress worn by Marilyn Monroe, the one which floated up over a subway grate in The Seven Year Itch, has been voted the most iconic screen costume of all time.

The blonde bombshell’s billowing frock from the 1955 film beat Dorothy’s ruby slippers and blue gingham dress, as worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz, to be named the favourite in a survey conducted by the British Heart Foundation.

Talk about coincidence, just the other day I quoted the wonderful ‘thank you’ note
Marilyn Monroe sent to her Los Angeles lawyer ― and I’ve just borrowed her smiley line in a ‘thank you’ note of my own.

I regularly visit a good friend of many years, who hasn’t been in the best of health over recent times, but she loves her cooking and it helps keep her focussed.

Just after Christmas she insisted on presenting me with an XL bowl of soup she had made featuring the usual festive suspect, the left-over turkey. There was enough for a couple of meals ― and it was truly scrumptious.

When I returned the bowl I wrote a simple message on a Post-it note and stuck it to the bowl:

Thanks for the soup. I added a dash of double cream and a splash of whiskey. Delicious. Not enough whiskey though to repeat what Marilyn Monroe wrote to her Los Angeles lawyer, a Mr von Fuehlsdorff: “Thank you for your champagne. It arrived, I drank it, and I was gayer.”
! HB

As I guessed, she enjoyed the Monroe line, especially so as her default setting for the word “gayer” is the BC one (think BC/AD rather than AC/DC).

A quick plug

Last Thursday I mentioned the letter in the paper imploring you to sort out that loose bath or sink plug ― and I shared with you the marvellous Bathtub Test tale.

Well, you know me and my tangential thinking ― blow me, I have since come across this memorable quote:

    “If I am ever on life support, unplug me ... then plug me back in again ... see if that works.”

Which is rather clever, given the number of times that instruction pops up in this complex digital and computerised world of ours ― but where does the quote come from?

Ivor the Engine did his best to find the author ― unsurprisingly the quote is all over the internet like a rash, but no luck establishing who the witty line actually belongs to.

Head banger

Talking of life support, and given the serious head injury sustained by Michael Schumacher following his skiing accident, it seems he would be dead anyway if he had not been wearing a helmet.

The media has been busy pondering the frightening level of fatal and serious head injuries suffered by car drivers and passengers in day to day road accidents, and whether we should now all wear helmets in cars. After all, racing drivers do.

But, as Tony Pay points out in a letter to The Daily Telegraph:

Motor races are relatively short in time, on wide tracks known to the drivers. There are no oncoming drivers, no distractions from passengers or in-car entertainment, and the drivers are reasonably competent.
     Few of these conditions apply on the road. Far more head movement is needed, communication and indeed conversation within the car are important driving aids, particularly on long journeys, and I doubt whether passengers, particularly children, would wear helmets.
     Seat belts are easy to use and monitor, airbags provide protection, and safety is a fundamental factor in the design of today’s road vehicles. Wearing a helmet in a road car is potentially dangerous.

That makes sense to me. However, I did enjoy this online comment:

Chezz: I wear a safety helmet 24 hours a day. Indoors, in case the ceiling falls in, and outdoors in case I get hit by an asteroid.

Afternoon slump

SIR – I am a runner. When out training in the morning, I have always greeted the people I pass with a “Good morning”. In the evening, it’s “Good evening”, and 98 per cent of people reply with the same greeting. But I have found that if I am on an afternoon run and say “Good afternoon”, very few people even reply.
     This all changed about four years ago when I adopted different tactics. Now when I pass someone on my afternoon runs, I say, “How do?”, and always get a response.
Ray Powell, Shefford, Bedfordshire

Coincidentally, the letter I refer to previously about the loose plug prompted this response from
manonthebus: I congratulate Richard Fordham on the maddest letter to the Daily Telegraph for at least a week.

Well, I guess the Ray Powell letter grabs this week’s maddest letter to The Daily Telegraph.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Ray’s letter (but I did enjoy the precision that 98 per cent reply with the same greeting).

But why though should people refuse to respond to “Good afternoon” but always respond to “How do?”. I can only think that somehow Ray Powell’s delivery has also significantly changed.

So I looked at the world of saying “Hello” through my eyes...

Morning Lisa

I was fortunately born on the sunny side of the street i.e. I am a natural-born smiler.

When I am walking, whether in town or along my morning stroll, I have observed the following rule of thumb when closing in on a stranger (or perhaps a person I know only vaguely), and thats irrespective of age, sex or background (as betrayed by appearance and body language):

A third will avoid all eye contact, staring resolutely at the ground as we pass; a third, as soon as they spot my degree of smile, will invariably return the compliment, although often enigmatically; and a third will spontaneously smile as soon as our eyes meet.

Verbal greetings are hardly ever exchanged in these fleeting encounters ― but, as someone nearly once said, a smile, especially an enigmatic one, paints a thousand words. Hello Mona Lisa.

Sunday, January 5th

Now you see it

THE curse of the ghostly apostrophe strikes again. The above Sign Language special was spotted at the entrance to a café in St Austell, Cornwall by Garry Powell ― but, No Dog’s what, though? No Dog’s Bollocks?

The notice duly triggered a line of thought...

Being that I always set off on my regular morning walk around the time the sun rises (or is presumably rising, given how overcast our winter has been thus far, even when it’s not actually raining) then at this time of year I don’t start much before c.08:00.

Which means that just after I set off, or indeed as I return towards civilisation, I tend to meet dogs exercising their owners.

Now I have no trouble with dogs ― I was brought up on a farm so there were always dogs around; also, until some 18 months ago I lived in a cottage on a local farm, and the folk who lived in the big house on the hill had a delightful collie bitch, Tuppy ― I christened her Pussycat, given her magical nature and eccentricity ― and we got on famously.

Overwhelmingly the beasts I meet along the urban-ish part of my walk are fine, and I get on well with most of them (dogs and  owners, that is).

But just occasionally I will come face to face with a belligerent dog ― well, not so much a hostile dog but a hard-line owner. The dog is, after all, just an extension of its master’s default characteristics.

More Sign Language: "Led astray"

Spotted somewhere or other by Colin Rance

The dog barks twice

It doesn’t help that on my walk I often wear a navy anorak, which looks suspiciously like the coats posties wore before they started wearing hi-viz jackets. And of course some dogs think I’m the postman and bark furiously at me.

I was once told why dogs behave this way toward visitors to the home, especially postmen. It seems that a dog takes its duties of protecting the leader of the pack i.e. its human owner, very seriously, and will bark and indulge in a song and dance when anyone approaches.

Of course most of time the owner tells the dog to behave itself or to shut up ― and the dog begins to think how useless it is at protecting the leader of the pack.

But then the postie arrives with the mail ― the dog barks ― the postie pushes the letters through the letterbox and retreats. The dog then barks furiously for a second time ― suddenly the postie is gone, whether on foot or in a van.

Job done, the dog thinks, as it chases the van down the farm lane, I am actually quite good at this job when left to my own devices.

So when dogs see me in my dark blue coat they think, ah, a postman ― grrrrrrowl! ― but then get a little miffed when I refuse to quickly retreat. They become ever so slightly aggressive.

Not long back, a very cross collie-cross ran towards me across a field, barking furiously as it circled ― chased by its owner. “Sorry, sorry. He thinks you’re a sheep and wants to round you up. He might just nip ― but he’s okay.”

I quickly moved on, tail firmly between legs. He might just nip, indeed.

Anyway, I was amused when I came across Ten resolutions that dog-owners would like their dogs to make (all compliments of Deborah Ross in The Times):

          1) I will live less in the moment and plan more for my old age

          2) I will not blithely wander about the place with a massive boner

          3) I will help out around the house a little more and roll on dead things a little less

          4) I will remain calm around cheese

          5) I will avoid fox poo as if it were the plague

          6) I will give up digging holes in the garden and read more good books

          7) I will look at my owners as if to say: “You enjoy yourselves. I’ll be fine on my own” whenever
                they leave the house without me

          8) I will suggest we go to a movie if my owner looks too bushed for a walk

          9) I will endeavour to be a good boy, the best boy, the bestest boy in the whole wide world and
                mummy’s favourite little fella, as per

          10) I will sort out all those boxes in the garage

All very entertaining, especially 5) ― oh dear, all very whiffy.

Mind you, the business about remaining calm around cheese rather baffled me. Do dogs have a thing about cheese?

Lay-by moment

Back in December, this letter appeared in The Sunday Times  In Gear motoring section:

Computer says no

Is it possible to buy a new car that doesn’t have a computer? Garages employ programmers instead of mechanics, and we can no longer tinker under the bonnet in case we disrupt some electronic wizardry.
Louise Cave, Seaford, East Sussex

My 24-year-old Saab has no computer, rather obviously, but the above missive did trigger a tangential thought ― so I wrote to In Gear, and the letter was published today:

Rise in the recovery position

Is it my imagination or have I seen a marked increase in newish cars on recovery trucks (presumably suffering from computer problems)? Perhaps the recovery firms could tell us.
HB of Llanpuzzled

I do hope the AA or Green Flag people respond. It will be fascinating to establish whether I am only seeing what I want to see i.e. I am in total empathy with Louise Cave and her desire for a car without computers.

At the moment I am seriously thinking of down-sizing the Saab. But what to get? I might just go for a classic Morris Minor. Well, I’ve already got the hat.

Saturday, January 4th

Evolution going forward selects reverse

A NEW American study shows that 33 per cent of our trans-Atlantic cousins don’t believe in evolution.

The Pew Research Centre found that a third of Americans are convinced that Charles Darwin was wrong, and that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time, indeed that we are the only human form to ever set foot on this planet.

“I have taken great care not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.” Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, from his Tractatus Politicus (Political Treatise).

I think I know what he means, but it is difficult not to laugh, weep or think some humans are way beyond delightful doolallyness (which is the staple diet of this web site). However, I guess the ghost of Baruch will probably allow me to smile through slightly parted fingers, from behind the sofa.

“There are people out there without a sense of humour. And they are heavily armed.” Michael Palin, 70, English comedian, actor, writer, television presenter and famous Monty Python star, on the perils of parodying Islam.

“Was Mikhail Kalashnikov a villain or a saint? The answer rather depends on which end of his gun you happen to be looking at, at the time.” Jeremy Clarkson, 53, columnist and bosom buddy of Piers Morgan, on the death of the man who designed the rifle named after him.

Nope, there is definitely evolution ― but sadly, we are beginning to trudge backwards towards Christmas and the trees.

Weight and see

“It’s not that obesity runs in your family, it’s that no one runs in your family.” Anonymous.

“Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average. Which means you’ve already met your New Year’s resolution.” Jay Leno, American comedian, writer and talk-show host, sticks his chin out.  

With all this talk of Kalashnikovs and obesity, I rather enjoyed this peep into the future (sadly, artist unknown):

Evolution: chewing the fat

Very smiley.

Finally, and in keeping with today’s theme, the tweet of the day:
“I’m addicted to eating Christmas food. I’ve tried going cold turkey, but it’s just making matters worse.” Chris “I am the Conservative MP for Daventry and a not bad football ref! Heaton-Harris, 46, dips into the Tory 'mani-feasto'.

And not a bad wit either, if his Twitter account is anything to go by:

“Have agreed to go to yoga five nights a week. I fear I may be overstretching myself.”

“My New Year’s resolution was supposed to keep a diary, but due to a typo I now have to get up at 5am every morning and milk the cows.”

Those are rather neat word-play tweets. As ATTICUS in The Sunday Times  points out: if ever the voters of Daventry decide to look elsewhere, the festive cracker joke market is his for the taking.

I just hope they are all his own work and not nicked ― well, he is a politician, and it is always a pointless exercise to try and lift a politician just to see how far you can throw him (or her).

Friday, January 3rd

Meŏw Lounge

“WHEN we stood back to admire our wrinkled, uneven labours, we found we had papered the cat to the wall.” Jilly Cooper, 76, English author, journalist, jolly good egg and no mean pussycat herself (pictured above in 1974), recalls how she and her late husband once tried their hand at DIY.

That’s very funny, Jilly Cooper. I mean, you can just picture that big bubble on the wall.

By one of those smashing coincidences, and while perusing a picture gallery on MSN of the most phenomenally photogenic creature comforts (literally) of 2013, the two images that caught my eye involved cats.

Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, June 2013

Watch out Boris, there’s a Morris about

A cat named Morris is pictured in his home city of Xalapa in Veracruz,
Mexico, where he ran for mayor in June on an anti-corruption ticket
with the slogan: “Tired of voting for rats?”

Morris came fourth in a field of 11 candidates, which clearly reflected the thoughts of many a Mexican [shades of the UK’s Screaming Lord Sutch (1940-1999) and his Monster Raving Looney Party with its ‘Home for the Protest Vote’ attraction].

I have featured the next pussycat before, but the smileometer reading hits the bell every time I see a photo of this delightful moggy. So here we are again...

New York, October 2013

I don’t believe it!

Internet celebrity Tardar Sauce, otherwise known as ‘Grumpy Cat’,
arrives in a limousine ahead of picking up a lifetime achievement
award at the annual Friskies Awards in New York.

What can you do but smile. At every level. Grumpy Cat reminds me of Old Shaggy down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.

Old Shaggy always looks grumpy, but in fact he is anything but. I may have mentioned this before, but if I walk into the Asterisk Bar and my pals aren’t there and Old Shaggy is in attendance and not in meaningful conversation with somebody, I will always join him for a chat and a laugh. Forever good value is Old Shaggy.

As his nickname suggests, the women of the world also find him entertaining ― in all sorts of ways. Even now, with age overtaking him at a rate of nots (Not tonight, Shaggy), he still makes the girls smile with his cheeky come-to-bed asides.

Meanwhile, sticking with the pussycat theme:

      @liz_buckley: “My office password’s been hacked. That’s the third time I’ve had to rename the cat.”

So, what else could I link to my Desert Island Video Jukebox but Bad Boy by the Miami Sound Machine and Gloria Estafan ― the official version of course, featuring those naughty cats.

Oh yes, talking of Old Shaggy, there’s a scene in this amusing video ― where the Smoothie Cat XL is charming the bird (Gloria Estafan) out of her tree, and his tail pops up between them ― and I am reminded of the Crazy Horsepower’s up and coming Casanova, Young Shagwell. Honestly, the spitting image.

Watch and see what I mean:

Thursday, January 2nd

Chain reaction

Continuing the “Hello 2014!” theme, a letter spotted in The Daily Telegraph:

A New Year’s resolution to plug a missing link

SIR – Around a third of your readers are likely to have a bath or sink plug that has become detached from its chain.
     Instead of replacing it, my suggestion is to go as early as possible in 2014 to a hardware store and invest a few pence in a suitably sized key ring. These are made of stronger metal than the original ring, and they go round one and a half times. They are virtually impossible to break.
     It’s one small way to improve the lot of humankind.
Richard Fordham, Upton Grey, Hampshire

SIR – My New Year’s resolution is to try not to let my blood pressure rise when I read or hear the phrases “to die for” and “ticks all the right boxes”, and when the BBC report distances in the UK in kilometres.
Jonathan L Kelly, Yatton, Somerset

A few priceless contributions to the debate about the sink-plug, as spotted in the Comments section:

manonthebus: I congratulate Richard Fordham on the maddest letter to the Daily Telegraph for at least a week.

Bhutanbeau: Yes. And his mad letter reminds me of this pearl:

The Bathtub Test
During a visit to an old people’s home, I asked the manager how he would determine whether or not a patient should be institutionalized?
     “Well,” said the manager, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup, and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to empty the bathtub.”
     “Ah, I understand,” I said with just the hint of a smile. “A normal person would use the bucket because it’s ― well, the reason is rather obvious.”
     “Oh no,” said the manager, “a normal person would pull the plug. Would you like a bed near the window?”

Zaharadelasierra: What puzzles me is how Richard Fordham plans to keep the water from draining out of the washbasin plug-hole if he replaces the plug with a key-ring ― no matter how many times it “goes round”

Those responses certainly generated a smile. And I have to admit that I too want a bed near a window because ― yes, my first thought was the bucket. D’oh

♫♫♫: There’s a hole in my cranium dear Lisa, dear Lisa ― a huge black hole.

Do you take this man?

I seem to remember from many moons ago some famous American starlet responding thus to a taunt from another actress about her having been married many, many times: “At least I married every man I went to bed with!

I thought it was Zsa Zsa Gábor, now 96 would you believe, who married nine times ― but Ivor the Search Engine cant find the quote at all. Did I dream it?

It could be, thinking about it, that it was a line from a comedy sketch.

Whatever, anything a woman can do...

                       “I’m not a lover and a leaver ― I married all of them”

Britain’s most wed man ― dubbed Lord Of The Wedding Rings ― vows EIGHTH bride, 30 years his junior, will be his last

Britain’s most married man ― who has tied the knot an incredible eight times ― is set to have his life story made into a film. Ron Sheppard, 65, from Martock, Somerset first walked down the aisle 47 years ago and has since fathered eight children and has 13 grandchildren.

His current marriage to Filipino bride Weng Platino is his most successful and has now lasted 10 years.

He has written an autobiography called Lord Of The Wedding Rings and is set to have a film made about his eventful life as the UKs most married man.

The tale was discussed with much enthusiasm down at the Crazy Horsepower ― Chief Wise Owl reported that, apparently, the fellow no longer has the Wedding March played at his weddings but rather a hearty and joyful rendition of “Here we are again, happy as can be...”.

I also enjoyed this letter in The Times:

Spoiler alert

Sir, I well remember the episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads  ― and how it ended [Bob and Terry, the Likely Lads, go to extraordinary and amusing lengths ― successfully ― to avoid hearing a football score in order to watch the match ‘as live’ later that evening, so they sit down in front of the telly ... only to discover that the match had been abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch; funny episode].
     I am reminded of it when my husband closes his eyes, presses the mute button or sings loudly to drown out announcements of the results of football, rugby and cricket matches.
     The children were, from an early age, aware that they should never reveal the score, so our daughter felt she was keeping to the rules when, on one occasion, she told him not to worry because there were no goals scored.
NICOLA BENNETTS, Upton Cheyney, Bristol

Yep, that closing of eyes, look away now, sticking fingers in ears while singing or humming rather loudly, certainly rings a Big Ben.

Spell-cheque corner: This from yesterday ― I didn’t want to cut across the special Telegraph  version featured ― but I wished you a Happy New Year! Or Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!, as we say in Llandampness (see directly below), but the computer decided that the Welsh version should read ‘Blaydon Need Dad!’ ― which by any measure is rather wonderful. And I dont care how vivid your imagination, you would never come up with that.


New Year’s Day

2014: Up periscope

Happy New Year! Or Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!,  as we say in Llandampness (and Llandampness being the operative word hereabouts today ― my God, rain from dawn to dusk, and then I lost track).

Anyway, talking of something new...

Scientists, according to Alex Lester ― yes, he off the early-morning wireless ― are just months away from coming up with rather simple and novel mind controls that will make keeping to New Year resolutions a bit of a doddle.

The announcement is due in April. April the 1st, to be exact. Which is a bit of a worry, not to say a dead giveaway.

In the meantime, all we can do is peep through slightly parted fingers, from behind the sofa, at some classics from the past:

“A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.”

“Every New Year is the direct descendant, isn’t it, of a long line of proven criminals?”
     American poet Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

“Good resolutions are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”
     Playwright and poet Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).

Far be it for me to challenge the ghost of Oscar Wilde, but I’d have thought that those ‘good resolutions’ do indeed have a bank account, however they are invariably returned ‘Refer to drawer, please represent’. A couple of bounces and the ‘please represent’ is deleted.

Back to checks and balances.

“Be at War with your Vices, at Peace with your Neighbours, and let every New Year find you a better man.”
     One of America’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), in the 1755 Poor Richard’s Almanac.

I really like that one, wise beyond. War and Peace in a sound bite. See, they were scribbling memorable tweets long, long before Twitter was just a 01101001011 in a mad inventor’s eye. Anyway, perhaps that should now read ‘War and Peace in a sound byte’.

“I know. I’m lazy. But I made myself a New Year’s resolution that I would write myself something really special. Which means I have until next December, right?”
Actress and writer Catherine O’Hara, playing Macaulay Culkin's mother in Home Alone.

“Many years ago I resolved never to bother with New Year’s resolutions, and I’ve stuck with it ever since.”
     Baseball star Dave Beard.

Those last two are very much my style. I don’t bother with New Year resolutions ― and I really have resolved to write that book before the end of the year.

Staring into space

Given that the weather today was so bad, I didn’t even leave the house. So this morning, at 11.15, I watched the New Year’s Day Concert ‘live’ at the Musikverein concert hall, with Daniel Barenboim conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Marvellous. And so good I watched the highlights on BBC4 in the evening as well. Curiously, the highlights were 35 minutes longer than the ‘live’ broadcast!?

Truth to tell, the morning programme should have said ‘as live’, because the concert actually started at 10.15am. And it had been edited.

Be all that as is the way of this duplicitous broadcasting world of ours, what is slightly frustrating is, and just like when I hear the William Tell overture I can’t stop thinking of The Lone Ranger, when I hear the Blue Danube Waltz I think of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

But what I did find mesmerising about the concert was the curious conducting style of Daniel Barenboim. It was quite distracting, in a smiley sort of way. He looked so deliciously full of himself I was overwhelmed with a need to give him a good slap.

Still, it didn’t stop my enjoyment of the music.

PS: Despite the rain, and having watched Mary Poppins  the other day (for the first time), I didn’t watch The Sound of Music  this afternoon (having seen it before) ― but watched instead some exciting American College Football on ESPN.

Super spell-cheque corner: Today, I hand over to the Telegraph  web site, where I spotted the above New Year resolutions. But here’s the thing: apropos the Oscar Wilde quote, it seems the Telegraph  had originally published the quote thus:

“Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”

Which drew this online comment:

Sharmi: “No, no, no. The curse of Websterism has strucked (sic) again. Wilde wrote 'cheques'. Try and keep up, Telegraph, it’s 2014 here.
     “We’re all doomed. DOOMED. It’s the fault of the Telegaffe. Their stuff is writ by children.”

Well now, just imagine that, they got check  and cheque  mixed up, one of my standard Look You  jokes. All my Christmases arrived on New Year’s Day.

Also, this quote had featured online:

          Ring out the old, ring in the new,
                Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
                The year is going, let him go;
          Ring out the false, ring in the true.
                               In Memorium
, [Ring out, wild bells], by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892).

Which drew this online Comment:

Jackdawes: “Re Alfred, Lord Tennyson, it’s In Memoriam, not -um. I’m giving up pedantry next year.”

Very good. (Jackdawes, eh? I know his cousins, Jayson and Crowblack.)

Whatever, a Telegraph  editor did publicly acknowledge the mistakes, and thanked Sharmi and Jackdawes for flagging up the errors.

At least full marks to the Telegraph  for sticking up its hand. However, given the extraordinary mistakes obvious to all who read online publications, including ‘quality’ newspapers, do you suppose that they now use predictive sub-editors?


Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2013: Dec
Smile of the day 2013: Nov
                                                                                                                                    Smile of the day 2013: Oct
Smile of the day 2013: Sep
Smile of the day 2013: Aug
Smile of the day 2013: Jul
Smile of the day 2013: Jun
Smile of the day 2013: May
Smile of the day 2013: Apr
Smile of the day 2013: Mar
Smile of the day 2013: Feb

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

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

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


You are here, way out west,
at Llandeilo

aka Llandampness
aka Dodgy City

Previously on LOOK YOU......

Smile of the day 2013: Dec
Smile of the day 2013: Nov
Smile of the day 2013: Oct
Smile of the day 2013: Sep
Smile of the day 2013: Aug
Smile of the day 2013: Jul
Smile of the day 2013: Jun
Smile of the day 2013: May

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

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

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

Smile of the Day 2010
2010 (Jan to Jun)

Sep to Dec '07

June to Aug '07
March to May '07

As it was in the beginning:


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

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

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

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