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MY SQUARE MILE
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400 Smiles A Day
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...
everyday a doolally smile of the day
The shortest distance between two people is a smile ...
Friday, February 28th
Where was Moses when the lights went out?
A remarkable satellite image has been released by the
NASA Earth Observatory website...
Light and shade
The stark contrast between North and South Korea ...
the South glows bright next to its neighbour
North Korea ― which is of course ruled by supreme leader
Cuddly Kim Jong-un ― is almost completely black appearing to show a
distinct lack of power or energy supply.
Outside of the relatively bright lights of capital city
Pyongyang, and a few other densely populated centres, the rest of the
country ― which has a population of 24 million ― is pitch black, looking
almost like a sea between South Korea and China.
If a picture paints a thousand words...
Yesterday I mentioned the tale of rugby-playing
politicians. Here’s another curious news item with a political bent,
spotted in The Sunday Times:
Conservative MPs are being warned: keep your hands off Winston
Churchill’s statue in Parliament
Tories rub the great statesman’s statue for good luck
before entering the chamber (rival MPs touch Lloyd George and Clem
Commons officials, who say the practice is damaging the
statues, have appealed in vain for MPs to stop. Now a protective fence
What is to be done? The MP Nicholas Soames is Churchill’s
grandson. Would it help if he volunteered to stand in the lobby before
big debates? Then Tory MPs could touch him instead.
Curiously, if you look closely at the above statue of Churchill you can
spot the shine on the tip of his left boot, which Tory MPs presumably
mistaken for a Genie lamp.
Doesn’t that explain precisely why the country is in a
mess? Our politicians have to touch statues, as if they’re Genies, for
good luck and guidance before legislating.
Mind you, over in North Korea the people have to rub
Cuddly Kim Jong-un’s feet ― his actual feet, that is, not a statue.
I felt I should add this:
Three men in a tub,
And who do you think they be?
The Cameron, the Clegg,
The elastic Miliband;
They all jumped out of a rotten manifesto!
Turn ‘em out, knaves all three.
PS: I did send Ivor the Search Engine
out on the off chance of finding ‘Churchill coming out of a genie lamp’
― Ivor came back with this, the insurance dog:
Mind you, Winston Churchill was known as the British bulldog. Oh yes!
Thursday, February 27th
curious piece from last weekend’s Sunday Times, compliments of
Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday, but for the first time in 22
years there was no corresponding match between the country’s MPs. The
Irish refused to travel to London, accusing one of the British players
of having made an “off-colour” joke at the expense of an Irish team
member last year.
It’s probably just as
well. During that game, a 19-5 victory to Ireland, there were two broken
legs and Tory MP Stephen Crabb ended up with his arm in a sling. And
that was supposed to be a friendly.
Well, only the one thing interested me: what was that “off-colour” joke?
So I sent Ivor the Search Engine off on his travels ... no luck though.
However, Ivor did come up with three possibilities.
Shaun shorn of dignity
Young Shaun was in his junior school class on the
fringes of Belfast, when teacher asked the children what their fathers
did for a living. All the typical answers came up: fireman, policeman,
salesman, butcher, baker, candlestick-maker (“Oops, sorry Miss, it’s my
mum that makes the candlesticks.”):
Anyway, young Shaun was being uncharacteristically quiet, so the teacher asked him about his father.
“My father’s an exotic dancer in a gay club in the City
and takes off all his clothes in front of other men. Sometimes, if the
offer’s really good, he’ll go out with a man, rent a cheap room and ―
well, they do things I’m not supposed to know about.”
The teacher hurriedly set the other children to work on
some colouring, and then took young Shaun aside.
She asked him: “Is that really true about your father?”
“No, Miss,” said Shaun. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to fib.
My father’s a politician ― but I was just too embarrassed to say in
front of the class.”
The urge to smack
Travelling in a train are ... the Irish republican
politician Gerry Adams, the Mayor of Old London Town Boris Johnson,
model Kate Moss, and famous Australian housewife Dame Edna Everage. The
train happens to pass through a dark tunnel and the unmistakable sound
of a fierce slap is heard. When they exit the tunnel Gerry Adams has a
big red slap mark on his cheek.
(1) Kate Moss thinks: “That
horrible Irish politician wanted to touch me and by mistake he must have
his hand on Dame
Edna, who in turn must have given me a right old slap."
(2) Dame Edna Everage thinks:
“This dirty Irish politician laid his hands on Kate and she smacked
(3) Gerry Adams thinks: “That
bloody English Mayor chap put his hand on Kate and by mistake she
(4) Boris Johnson thinks: “I
hope there’s another tunnel soon so I can smack that dreadful Irish
Last year, one of the rugby-playing English MPs told the
offended rugby-playing Irish MP that he
used to like the fact that, before Ireland joined the Euro, the Irish
punt rhymed with Irish politician.
Well, I think my money would be on that last one.
Sticking with rugby, especially so the crucial game
between Wales and England coming up in 10 days time, this quote from a
former Secretary of England’s Rugby Football Union: “Our relationship
with the Welsh is based on trust and understanding. They don’t trust us,
and we don’t understand them---”
Many a true word etc...
Wednesday, February 26th
Stocks and shares are like sex
“A bull market is like sex. It feels best just before
it ends.” Billionaire Warren Buffett, 83, whose investments have
consistently beaten the stock market over the past 50 years, quotes late
money manager Barton Biggs in advice for new investors.
Buffett added that new investors tend to buy shares when
the markets are rising and optimism is high, only to get disillusioned
when prices fall.
He advised investors to “keep things simple” by
“accumulating shares over a long period, and never sell when the news is
bad and stocks are well off their highs”.
Hm, if investing is like having sex, then it follows that these things
too will eventually pass. What was it the journalist and jazz supremo
George Melly said, when he realised, at the age of 60, that his
extravagant libido was finally on the wane ― but was strangely euphoric?
“I woke up one morning and felt as though I’d been unchained from a
Yes, greed, just like the sex urge, is an addiction.
Mind you, Warren at 83 is still going strong and can’t
get enough of money ― $58.5 Billion and counting ― and neither age nor
prostrate cancer has unchained him from that lunatic called greed.
He does have a thing about sex-related quotes though: “A
great reputation is like virginity. It can be preserved but not
Excellent quote mind, especially so as he said it to
Piers Morgan who, as we recall, lost his ‘virginity’ when he was
sacked as editor of the Daily Mirror after the newspaper
conceded that photos of British soldiers abusing an Iraqi prisoner were
And of course, a generation ago the BBC was trusted, not
just here in Britain but around the world ― and its reputation was lost
with the Savile scandal and everything else that has surfaced since.
Talk about loosing trust, eh?
PS: The ‘sex’ intro photo at the top is turning
into one of my handiest signposts.
Which reminds me: there was a thread of letters in The
Daily Telegraph about what women do with their wedding dresses
once past their ‘use by’ date (the dresses, that is). I liked this, in
particular the online response:
SIR – It is not true that all wedding dresses are worn
only once. I wore my wedding dress on our 25th, 40th and 50th wedding
Freda Poole, Farley
One Last Try:
With apologies to the
writer, perhaps this is a glimpse of a Daily Telegraph letter, dated
SIR – It is not true that all wedding dresses are worn
only once. I wore my wedding dress on our 25th, 40th and 50th wedding
spotted a thread of letters about us men and our beards. However, I
enjoyed this online response...
There was a young lad who joined the navy and like many
others decided to grow a beard ― he wrote home after about six months and
enclosed a photo of himself with his beard. In the letter he said:
“Don’t you think it makes me look like a count?”
His father shook his head and said: “Six months in the
navy ― and he still can’t spell.”
Finally, another Telegraph letter that
raised a smile:
SIR – In hospital, contemplating my lunch of grey mince
and overcooked sprouts, I looked with envy at the patient in the next
bed who was tucking into a plate of rolls and butter, cheese, tomato and
lettuce, dates and a big rosy apple. I asked her if she was a
vegetarian. She replied, “No, I just tell them I am ― you get much
Gillian Wynn-Ruffhead, Montgomery
Now you just know that that makes sense.
Tuesday, February 25th
TODAY, a quick stroll along the shady side of the
street ― well, I do have to regularly exercise and exorcise a
significant juvenile DNA strand embedded within my genetic code.
So where better to start than with the trusty Sign
Language gallery, those marvellous sights spotted by travellers as they wander and wonder at
the magic of the world about us.
For your eyes only
Spotted in Kuwait by Ghada Al-Bahar
what a juxtaposition I have coming up ― I am particularly charmed by the
jocular ocular double entendre ― but first, a quote heard on Radio
Wales this very morning:
“A double entendre does not exist until it has
been dipped in the rich sauce of the dirty mind.”
Terry Victor, lexicographer and editor of The New Partridge
Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, quotes English novelist
and journalist Angela Carter (1940-1992).
So, sauce at the ready?
A flash in the panhandle of
Sochi’s Olympic flame
Spotted during the closing ceremony of the
successful Winter Olympics of 2014
I’m sayin’ nuthin’. I shall now make my excuses and
But not before saying thanks for popping by. Do come
Putin on the Ritz
“HOT. COOL. YOURS.” It was the Winter Olympic Games’
rather fitting motto.
Or, as the intriguingly doolally Swiss-Russian Iouri
‘iPod’ Podladtchikov put it as he clutched his snowboard halfpipe gold:
“Hot. Cool. And it’s f------ mine!”
Well, you have to be essentially doolally anyway to
perform these extreme sports. In snowboarder speak, it was ‘iPod’ who
dethroned the Flying Tomato (American Shaun White, the red hot fav).
Iouri Podladtchikov’s nickname is ‘iPod’, a clever play
on his name. He is noted for the move he calls ‘YOLO Flip’, meaning ‘You
Only Live Once’. Marvellous.
His parents aren’t snowboarding fans. Both are
mathematicians, and his father is a professor of geophysics. However,
they support his endeavours and were “excited to hear about his gold
medal”. Even more marvellous.
Apropos ‘iPod’s’ reaction to winning gold, occasionally,
just occasionally, the proper deployment of an obscenity sounds just
right. Most times it doesn’t. For example, “I only told you to blow the
f------ doors off!”,
would never have worked. Not least because the line would not have been
endlessly quoted in the media, certainly it wouldn’t have been used in
the closing ceremony of London 2012.
Which brings me neatly back to Sochi 2014.
So startling was the youthful brashness of the
slopestylers and the freestylers as they brought their ‘wow’ factor to
proceedings, I did wonder if Tony Blair had offered the Russians some
input with his expertise on how to sex things up for public consumption.
The next event to hit the Olympic slopes, they say, is
‘Big Air’, a more extreme form of slopestyling. Ever more dangerous and
Yet as crashes littered the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park
(described as the happiest place at the Games), it was sobering to think
that in a Munich hospital, the handsome Russian ski cross athlete Maria
Komissarova was still lying with a broken back.
They are a different breed of athlete in a different
world and with a different language.
The good news? Britain, celebrating six Top 10 finishes
in ski and snowboard events, now thrive in this mad, mad world with the
likes of new personalities like Jenny Jones.
According to Mike Hay, Team GB’s chef de mission,
thrilled with the record-equalling haul of four medals and 14 top 10
finishes in all events, they look like the future. “That’s where we
should focus, where we have real talent. And that talent comes from the
snowdomes across our country.”
In the end, after all the fears and the controversies and
the politicking, Sochi was all about the athletes.
But surprisingly, the best laugh of the games came during
the closing ceremony. Much fun was had by all when that rotten,
refusenik snowflake, one of the five Olympic rings, refused to open
during the opening ceremony (appropriately symbolising, perhaps, the
fact that Russian did not quite embrace the Olympic spirit of
What made the media have such fun was of course that for
the television viewer watching Russian state TV channel Rossiya 1, it
cut from the reluctant snowflake to flawless rehearsal footage.
Well, we learnt, not so much that the Russians do indeed
possess a sense of humour, but more importantly, are prepared to laugh
Dancers mock the moment the ring failed to open – and after a suitable
they danced to complete the five rings
Don’t ring us
As always, it’s the silly thoughts that really tickle the
old funny bone. There is something quite noteworthy about a medal
ceremony within a closing ceremony.
For the Summer Olympics, the men’s marathon gets the
honour. For the Winter Games, it’s the Women’s 30 Kilometre Cross
Country Mass Start race, and the Men’s 50 Kilometre similarly named
event. Must be something about these endurance events: race a long time
― get the biggest audience for your medal ceremony.
Both medal presentations were unusual in as much that
both ceremonies featured clean-sweeps.
Marit Bjoergen from Norway celebrates her gold medal. She is one
of the most accomplished Winter Olympians of all time, with 10
medals, six of them gold. Well deserving of such a medal ceremony
Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach presented the
medals, and gave each Norwegian girl a kiss on both cheeks.
The next medal presentation was a Russian clean sweep in
the Men’s 50 Kilometre Cross Country Free Mass Start ― yes, who does
name these sports?
Given that during the opening ceremony, Bach had made
comments about discrimination and embracing diversity ― I was
disappointed that the German didn’t stop the world in its tracks and
kiss the Russian medallists. Can you imagine?
After all, fraternal kisses among socialist leaders were
not unusual ― my black and white television memories are awash with
Russian leaders kissing everyone in sight. And of course there’s the
famous Brezhnev-Honecker kiss. What was the joke at the time?
What did Soviet leader Brezhnev declare following that
mother of all smackers with the East German President? “As a politician,
rubbish ... but what a good kisser!”
As we would say here in Wales: Oh Thomas bach, you really
missed a trick there, look you.
‘Khutor’, as in
Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, came up as
‘Chute’, would you believe ― which is memorably ironic for such a
winter playground. In Russia.
Sunday, February 23rd
From Russia with love
WELL, the final day of the Winter Olympics is here ― so what has
lingered in the memory, from a Brit Award point of view, that is?
But before I go there, this comment appeared a week ago
columns of The Sunday Times
Culture magazine’s television and radio guide:
Move along there
Why are we subjected to hours of “bowls with housework”
(aka curling) when there’s fast and furious ice hockey on?
Paul Garforth, Berwick
Now here in the UK, curling is a sport that essentially
has its footprint and foothold in Scotland, which is why both our male and female teams
over there in Sochi were Scottish.
So I was amused that the above letter comes from
Berwick (-upon-Tweed, I presume), a town in the county of Northumberland, which is the
northernmost town in England, on the east coast at the mouth of the
River Tweed. It is situated just 2½ miles south of the Scottish border.
Whatever, I thought I would respond, so I submitted this
Ice hockey may indeed be “fast and furious”, as Paul
Garforth suggests, but the trouble is, I have to wait for the replay
following a particularly exciting sequence ― such as the puck hitting
the back of the net ― just to see what actually happened. Now with
curling, and to slightly paraphrase Joyce Grenfell: “Stately as a
galleon, it sails across the ice…”
As it happens, there was another letter in today’s Culture
magazine on the same subject:
What happened? Take 2
The BBC2 coverage of the Winter Olympics was superb, but
for one glaring omission: the lack of slow-motion replay for the
Are you sure, Tony? Something tells me we that we did indeed see some
slo-mo action ― but that would, of course, have spoilt a rather splendid
Sochi memories are made of this
So what does linger in the memory?
Well, there was the unbridled joy of Jenny “It’s
ridiculous! That’s me! From Bristol!” Jones winning bronze in the
Snowboard Slopestyle, Britain’s first ever Olympic medal on snow (as
opposed to ice ― there’s a black-ice joke lurking in there, somewhere).
And the marvellous girl-next-door persona of gold
medallist Lizzy Yarnold, here carrying the flag in the closing ceremony:
been an indescribable experience here in Sochi,” Lizzy said. “I came to
these Games with the goal of competing to the best of my ability, doing
my country proud, and supporting my team-mates across all of Team GB.”
Move to the top of The Class of 2014, Lizzy.
Oh, and how could I possibly forget characterful farmer
and father of Lizzy, Clive Yarnold, resplendent in
Crocodile Dundee hat sporting the Union flag...
...and pictured here with wife Judith and daughter Katie, declaring that
it is the duty of every parent to embarrass their children, especially
Indeed, he and Judith appear to have brought up three
astonishingly level-headed girls ― which suggests that that Yarnold
slice of advice should go into the ‘How to bring up your kids’ manual.
Back with the Olympics, I also vividly recall the intense
concentration in the ice-cool blue eyes of the aforementioned Scottish
girl curlers, captured in mesmerising close-up detail by the television
And of course poor old Elise Christie, forever in the
blue-on-blue line of fire, penalised in all three disciplines she took
So, with apologies to the ghosts of both Oscar Wilde and
Ian Fleming: To be disqualified the first time may be regarded as a
misfortune; to be disqualified the second time looked like carelessness;
to be disqualified the third time suggests enemy action ― but enemy
action from the enemy within.
Yet, even Elise’s tales of woe, unsurprisingly, made her
short track races unmissable theatre.
From Russia with love, indeed. Over to you, Matt:
Saturday, February 22nd
The love of money is...?
JUST occasionally, a rather serious political cum
philosophical conundrum will generate a generous smile. For example,
this recent letter, compliments of The Daily Telegraph:
SIR – Have I got this right? David Cameron’s “moral
mission” is based on the idea that the only way to motivate poor people
is to give them less money and the only way to motivate rich people is
to give them more money.
Which drew this online comment...
The Central Scrutiniser: Nigel Pedley ― No, the principle is that
you motivate poor people by giving them an incentive to work rather than
an incentive not to work, and you motive rich people by allowing them to
keep more of the money they earn rather than taking more of it from them
and giving it to the people who do not work.
Hm. I vividly remember the time when our top bankers were paid
extraordinarily high salaries, and all because, we were assured, that
“if we wanted the very best people running the show then we had to pay
the very best wages”.
Well, it was the very best that brought the country to
its knees ― and all because of personal greed. Despite their already
extravagant wages they were prepared to cook the books to generate every
higher profits, which in turn would boost their bonuses into the
And of course these exceptionally clever people brought
the whole house of cards tumbling down.
In 2014, the banks are still
paying huge wages and bonuses to attract the very best spivs around,
those solely attracted by the most humungous carrot on offer.
Then today, as if by magic, this story has surfaced and
is all over the shop:
BBC DJ claimed to be
car dealer to avoid tax
Chris Moyles claimed to be second-hand CAR DEALER to save
£1 million in celebrity tax avoidance scheme
Former BBC Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles claimed to be a
second-hand car dealer to save himself from paying HMRC £1 million in
A tax court duly
named Moyles as having taken part in a scheme called ‘working wheels’
which counted ‘450 fund managers, celebrities and other high earners
between 2006 and 2008’ as members...
Yes of course, Moyles has never dealt in second-hand cars. Indeed, he
has publicly admitted his “mistake” and said he had “learnt a valuable
I’m not sure “valuable” is the word he should have used.
Expensive would be more apt because you don’t need a degree in anything
to deduce that he’s going to receive the mother of all tax demands from
Oh yes, just to add the sublime to the ridiculous, I see
that footballer Wayne Rooney has just signed a 5½ year deal at a cool
£300,000 a week. Wonderful.
I guess if we asked those ‘450 fund managers, celebrities
and other high earners between 2006 and 2008’ ― that was in the period
leading up to the financial crash, remember ― how much is enough, they
would all answer “Just a little bit more”.
But what is most extraordinary about that ‘working
wheels’ fiddle is, that not a single one of them, despite having never
been an Arthur Daley trading in second-hand cars, sensed the ambush they
were riding into as they approached the pass.
Unbelievable. And so smiley in its shameless greed.
Yes, the love of money is
indeed the root of all doolallyness.
Friday, February 21st
conjunction of Moon, Venus and Mars
– as seen from Canada, 1st Dec 2002
A word in your award
This, from The Guardian newspaper:
‘Scotland, stay with us’ ― David Bowie weighs into independence debate
Singer gives statement through Kate Moss, who collected his best British
And this is how BBC Online reported it ― oh
yes, a point of order: the show was shown on ITV:
David Bowie, 67, is named best British male at the Brit Awards in London
― but the live TV show scores its lowest viewing figures since live
broadcasting of the show replaced pre-recordings in 2007
it’s a show I’ve never watched; however, I was drawn by the headlines
generated in its 2014 wake. This report, again from The Guardian:
David Bowie capped his surprise musical comeback by
winning best British male at the Brit Awards on Wednesday night, using
the occasion to make an equally unexpected intervention in the Scottish
The reclusive star did not attend the Brits ceremony at
London’s O2 Arena, choosing to remain at home in Manhattan, where he
lives a low-key existence with his supermodel wife, Iman, and their
Presenting the award, Noel Gallagher, looking
particularly glam in his jeans and trademark jacket, told the audience:
“You didn’t think he would actually be here? He is too cool for this
Instead he sent the model Kate Moss, billed as his
“representative on earth”, to accept the award on his behalf.
Kate walked to the stage looking cooler than cool wearing
Bowie’s original Ziggy Stardust costume ― first worn at his 1972 Rainbow
Reading a statement on behalf of the singer, Moss said:
“Good evening ladies and gentleman, David has asked me to say this: ‘In
Japanese myth, the rabbits from my old costume that Kate is wearing, live
on the Moon.
‘Kate comes from Venus and I from Mars, so that’s nice.
I’m completely delighted to have a Brit Award for being the best male ― but I
am, aren’t I Kate? I think it’s a great way to end the day.
‘Thank you very, very much. And Scotland: stay with
Major TomTom to Planet Earth
conjunction of Moon, Venus and Mars –
as seen from the O2 Arena, 19th Feb 2014
Oh dear, you just have to smile. Anyway, here are some
choice online comments from both Guardian and Telegraph...
severnboar: Following David Bowie’s example, I have just written
to The Queen to say that I have asked Naomi Campbell to collect my
well-deserved knighthood when it is awarded. I have also warned her that
I have requested that Naomi have a quiet word about the fate of the
Mosstrooper: Considering Bowie hasn’t paid tax in Britain since
1976, what has it got to do with him? Perhaps he should stick to what he
knows best ... wearing women’s underwear.
Dickfrancis: I’d be interested to hear Bowie’s new single ...
Donald Where’s Your Troosers.
Gelert: Sean Connery, resident of the Bahamas, tells Scots to
David Bowie, resident of Switzerland, asks Scots to vote No.
Dune1959: I think the more interesting comment came from Billy
Connolly, who, despite being determined not to try and use his fame to
influence anyone (good for him, take note Sean Connery) did let slip he
has more in common with a welder in Liverpool than a Highland farmer,
without disrespecting the latter.
I think that is one of the best arguments for the Union
I have seen.
Corneilius: As someone from Liverpool I would suggest a welder
from Liverpool has more in common with a Highland farmer than most of
the occupants of the City of London or the Home Counties.
Run for it Scotland, run as fast as you can and don’t
stop running until you get away from them.
Yep, I enjoyed those comments. My thoughts?
Well, if Neil Armstrong could deliver “That’s one small
step for a man” live from the surface of the moon, it seems strange that
45 years on Major TomTom (coo-ee, over here, David) needed his Earthly
Representative to instruct all those taking part in the latest Scottish
Play to “Stay with us”.
What is more, do you suppose that when David Bowie
electronically sent his message of goodwill to the Brit Awards from his
home in Manhattan, via his “representative on earth”, he accidentally
clicked on Moss instead of Moses?
However, on the plus side, how four little words,
casually thrown into the mix, can generate acres and acres of comment
which neither Bowie nor the Brit Awards would have attracted otherwise.
Thursday, February 20th
Headline of the day
(Compliments of Telegraph Online)
‘Dots of sauce on a
plate ― culinary masturbation. Lose 10 points’
Anthony Peregrine, our expat expert on the French
proposes a new scoring system for the Michelin restaurant guide
Are the French losing
their taste for the Michelin guide? Leading food critics are
increasingly sticking the knife into Michelin...
I did notice that later in the day the Telegraph had
removed the ‘culinary masturbation’ bit from their click-link ― I’m not
sure why because it really is a perfectly amusing turn of phrase to
describe those ridiculous blobs of sauce on a plate (blobs that might
well make you go blind while searching for them).
The child in all of nature
Do animals experience ‘fun’ the way we humans do,
especially so the kids of the species? If nature is inexorably locked in
a battle for the survival of the fittest, where did all the frolicking
It’s an interesting question, and has been endlessly
explored on programmes such as Springwatch, Autumnwatch...
For example, watching young foxes at play; or adult crows
riding strong wind currents and diving toward the ground before pulling
out at the last, just like planes performing aerobatics.
Specialist Chris Packham believes they are not ‘playing’,
at least not in an anthropomorphic sense. Everything that looks to us
like play has a specific reason.
The fox cubs are learning the art of protecting
themselves, and of course, the need to learn to hunt; the crows are
perhaps showing who is the most eye-catching and natural leader of the
group, or indeed part of a sexual display to establish who will make the
Experiments have shown that play-deprived rats quickly
“succumb to rat-rage or scarper, quaking, to a corner; and the lack of
play is responsible, because if you let an isolated rat fool
around for just one hour daily, it turns into a normal chilled dude; and
there’s also evidence that primates (including humans) behave in the
More of that fascinating quote, via a link, later.
So who knows. But what ‘the experts’ do say does make
sense to those of us who stand and stare.
Well, today a 70-second video clip has gone viral ― if
you haven’t already seen it, the link will follow.
Don’t worry be happy
Acting the goat
Out with sheep, in with the goats ... Meet the Goats:
there’s Billy Goat, Nanny Goat
and the kids
The French Family Chèvre discover a sheet of bendy metal
in a field ― a shelter for the animals from the elements? ― which they
turn into a sort of trampoline which provides them with endless
The Billy Goat, on the left, is tethered, which he
clearly finds frustrating, and is ready to head-butt members of the
family that come sliding his way.
Here’s the link to the brief but exceedingly entertaining
Billy Goat Gruff guards against the Troll:
What a joyful video that is.
It does raise a fascinating query though. Are they just
curious? Overwhelmed with playfulness (including the adult)? Learning a
few tricks of the goat trade? Or are they perhaps inherent surfers?
It certainly looks as if they’re having fun ― and the
surfing adult does indeed have a wonderful sense of balance.
But what is intriguing about inherent goat behaviour is,
when left to their own devices, they will always look for the highest point
in their vicinity ― and climb it.
Whatever, it’s a marvellous video clip and deservedly
makes my smile of the day. So much so I’m going to add the link to my
Desert Island Video Jukebox...
I must also share with you this quote from Christopher
My men, like satyrs grazing on the lawns,
their goat-feet dance an antic hay.
GAVESTON, Edward the Second
Finally, and apropos the above behavioural play-deprived rats quote, I
came upon an online article headed
‘So you think you know why animals play...’
Here’s a comment, which I think sums up the piece
billsmith: Thank you, SciAm, for showing that an
article written in an easy-to-read, casual tone can still convey facts
without fluff and provide copious journal citations to back up those
Yes indeed, I commend the article to the house:
Wednesday, February 19th
Can you tell which One is the fake?
A CLUE: One features rather virtuously on a stamp; the other
has a rather viraginous stamp (“Shut the f*** up” has none of the
elegance of Mandy Rice Davies’s “Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?”,
but Helen Mirren’s effort will doubtless make it into a F*** U2
Anyway, quiz time: which One is fake?
The Moving Finger wags; and, having wagged---
---was discreetly chopped off shortly after
(see Royal Finger Cutter at the top)
And I bet you were wondering what the hell that torture
instrument up there was.
Actually, it’s the ultimate handcrafted cigar cutter.
Trust me, I’m a doctor
Back on February 10 I featured a series of Letters to
the Editor, about a doctor, his stethoscope and the police.
Dr Liz Sowler from East Lothian told the tale of her
father, a doctor in a small town in Scotland, speeding to a medical
emergency, and he was caught by a police car: “He waved his stethoscope
hopefully out of the car window,” said Dr Liz, “and the police overtook
him, waving a pair of handcuffs as they passed.”
Smashing tale, but Sue Ware from Neath in South Wales had
heard the same story but it was a different doctor in a different town
in the Usk valley.
Well, a couple more letters duly appeared in The Times:
Sir, I first heard the anecdote in 1973, when it featured
a consultant from the Birmingham Accident Hospital.
FRED TOLLEY, Surgeon Commodore RN (ret’d)
Barão de São João, Portugal
Sir, The stethoscope/handcuff
story has a long history. I first heard it in Toronto in 1970.
MICHAEL YOUNG, Cardiff
Given that the earliest recorded date of the tale, as detailed in the
Letters columns of The Times, is 1970, there is nothing
that does not persuade me that the father of Dr Liz Sowler was indeed
the doctor involved in the original incident.
Unless of course someone out there really does
But how about this to put a smile on your face, again
from The Times:
Benefit of doubt
Sir, A friend once parked
illegally in Bude, Cornwall. Returning to his car, he found a policeman
with notebook and pencil in hand. “Sorry, sir,” he said, “but I shall
have to book you” and duly took my friend’s name and address.
“Occupation, sir?” he said; my friend replied “Physicist”.
After a short pause the officer snapped his notebook
shut and said “Then we’ll say no more about it, sir”.
My friend was left wondering whether his good fortune
was because the officer couldn’t spell “physicist” or had misheard it
KEITH ALSOP, Devizes, Wiltshire
Five stars, no problem. And a golden stethoscope to hang above Keith
Tuesday, February 18th
Rock ‘n’ Roll @ Sochi
I MUST say, the Winter Olympic Games are turning out to
be exceedingly entertaining, much of it down, it strikes me, to the new
sports that have been added to give the whole proceedings a bit of
sexed-up glamour (Tony Blair has a lot to answer for).
There’s the curiously named Halfpipe Skiing (or freeski
halfpipe), which is astonishingly acrobatic. But best of all is the
Snowboard Cross, a
competition in which a group of six snowboard racers start
simultaneously atop an inclined course.
They go bombing down over a series of features ―
moguls (no, not David Attenborough taking 40-winks on the slopes),
obstacles, banks and jumps ― amazingly spectacular. Unsurprisingly, the
event is a carnage-strewn affair.
Claire Balding referred to it as the rock ‘n’ roll event
of the Sochi games. And I guess she is right. I mean, take a look at
Cleared for take-off
Staying upright is much harder than it looks, especially so when the
give the impression of flying through the air with the greatest of ease
Where’s the salt shaker?
Actually, at first glance it looks like a time-lapse
image, rather than a tailgating of snowboarders concentrating on throwing salt over the
tail of the racer in front. Wonderful picture though. The action shot of
I’ve also been looking back at some other great images
from Sochi ― and I have to say, I like this from the opening ceremony:
The horses whisper
... seemingly pulling the sun toward Britain
― fingers crossed!
Troika means a Russian vehicle, usually a sleigh, pulled
by a team of three horses.
That gives me an excuse to add a piece of music to my
Desert Island Video Jukebox, the Christmas music
selection ― weeeeell, only 10
months to go:
Yes, Prokofiev’s Troika, as atmospheric a piece of
festive music as you could wish for while quietly dreaming of a White Christmas:
One for the road
(but whatever can it all mean?)
Short back and sides
ANOTHER clutch of marvellously smiley signs spotted by
folk while on their travels. The above ‘Hair today, gone tomorrow’ notice
spotted in Bangladesh.
Then these two, which compliment each other in a
Mind your head!
From a Jack to a King
Spotted in Colombia by Tony Kemp Jones
Spotted in Brixham, Devon, by Ken Andrew
Now if the above had said ‘HUMP AHEAD’ ― well, it
would probably indicate a brothel or a dogging spot.
Best move on, I guess. However, the ‘SHORT CUT’ sales
pitch is pretty much perfect. And so funny. Not so much from a Jack to a
King as from a Dodd to a Clooney.
And talking of Mr George Timothy Clooney (Timothy
A curse on your Marbles
The row began when George Timothy Clooney, 52,
American actor, film director, producer, screenwriter and
a fellow who seemingly can drop a woman’s knickers at 40 paces,
was asked about some Greek sculptures or other.
Elgin Marbles, I learn, were taken to Britain from the Parthenon in the
19th century. During a press conference to promote Clooney’s new film,
The Monuments Men, inspired by the true story of a team of
soldiers on a mission to rescue valuable artwork stolen by the Nazis
during the invasion of Europe, old Georgie Porgie Puddin’ and Hairy
Pie declared that they should be returned to Greece...
needs to restore George Clooney’s marbles. Here he is plugging a film
about looted Nazi art without realising that Goering himself had plans
to plunder the British Museum.”
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, criticises the actor for
suggesting that Britain should return the Elgin Marbles to their place
of origin. Johnson also claimed the actor was “advocating nothing
less than the Hitlerian agenda for London’s cultural treasures”.
Much as I admire Boris, that quote of his didn’t
really make much sense to a simple soul like me. Unsurprisingly, Clooney
has come back.
He dismissed comments made about him by Boris as “too
much hyperbole washed down with a few whiskies”.
told the Huffington Post: “I’m a great fan of the mayor, and I’m sure my right honourable friend
had no real intention of comparing me to Hitler. I’d chalk it up to a
little too much hyperbole washed down with a few whiskies. I’ve found
myself in the same spot a time or two so I hold no ill will.”
Very good: George 1 Boris 0. And I tend to agree with
Georgie Porgie’s commendation to the House.
However, listening to Clooney offer up advice apropos the Elgin Marbles,
I am reminded of the anthropologist who asked Chief Sitting Bull what
the Native Americans ― or Red Indians as they were then known ― called
America before the White Man arrived: “Ours!”
Sunday, February 16th
Take a pew!
YESTERDAY I smiled at one of the cleverest tweets of
Today ― well, I feel this should really be a tweet too,
but rather, it would have to be one of the least wittiest tweets of 2014...
Meet the Chair: Mrs Odd Job
(hubby was in Goldfinger, where he got a
hat and got a head)
It’s a neat trick – but doesn’t she get tired? The Chair, that is.
Abramovich girlfriend sparks outrage after posing on naked
‘black woman’ chair for fashion website blog
Seat of Power
An image of Dasha Zhukova, the partner of Chelsea
Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, sitting on a chair made from the
mannequin of a half-naked black woman with legs in the air, recently
sparked a predictable internet firestorm after it was published online ―
on Martin Luther King Day.
In the image the 32-year-old Dasha Zhukova, looking so
delightfully prim and proper, perches on the extremely life-like black
In the crazy, grim world of fashion photography, this
does seem a step beyond the doolally, even in my scrapbook.
The editor of the magazine interviewing Zhukova,
Miroslava Duma, has since issued an apology and deleted the picture from
Instagram and cropped out the chair on fashion website Buro 24/7 after
the photo sparked an angry backlash.
The photoshoot was for an interview with fashion website
about Ms Zhukova’s new magazine
where she is editor-in-chief. (Ivor the Search Engine tells me that
Garage is a bi-annual magazine featuring art, fashion and visual
Hm, so was the chair picture meant to be amusing ha-ha or
amusing peculiar? Best of all though, what on earth was she thinking when she agreed to sit
in the hot seat? Did nothing warn her of the ambush round the next
Oh yes, do you suppose the chair comes in any other
colour? White, for example?
Well, yes it does, because the chair is similar to the
fibreglass piece “Chair” produced by Allen Jones, 76, a British pop
artist best known for his sculptures...
it nearly comes in white.
‘Dasha’, as in
the partner of Roman Abramovich, came up as ‘Dacha’ ―
which, amusingly, is a Russian word for seasonal or year-round second
homes. Now how funny is that? Apart from all the houses, Abramovich has
become the world’s greatest spender on luxury yachts, and has been
linked to five yachts in what the media labels ‘Abramovich’s Navy’.
Saturday, February 15th
Ne’er a crossword
CROSSWORDS are not my thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure
I’ve never tackled one in my life. Or more correctly, I’ve never
completed a crossword.
Probably, somewhere along the line, I would have had a go ―
after all, I do enjoy the clever deployment of words, especially so in an
amusing and smiley context ― but crosswords are something you perform
within the privacy of your own mind, which is not really my thing. I
like to share my silly thoughts.
Nevertheless, I’m full of admiration for those who are
good at it.
Which all brings me neatly to what was one of the
wittiest tweets of 2013 (only just caught up with it, but well worth the
“Is it me or are the puzzles on
The Guardian website really easy?”
is exceptionally clever.
The sort of thing that, once you’ve seen it, you wonder
why you never thought of it yourself.
From crosswords to crossroads.
September 18, Scottish voters will be asked the yes/no question: “Should
Scotland be an independent country?”
Now that’s what I really call arriving at the crossroads. Or more correctly, a
fork in the road. Will the Scots fork off to the right? Or disappear
down the wrong?
have not really followed the arguments, except in headlines and
highlights. Probably because Alex Salmond, the current First Minister of
Scotland, has the face, voice and body language that puts me on red
rightly or wrongly,
warn me that here lies a shark, a polecat, a sparrow hawk, a grey
squirrel, a roundabout i.e. a person to be approached with great care, navigated
at arms length with wits on full alert ― and exited with a huge sigh of
other words, a born troublemaker. After all, he is a politician.
that end, a few newspaper letters tickled my intuitive prejudices,
the first from The Sunday Times:
Dominic Lawson [columnist] was quite correct to ask that Alex Salmond
produce a plan B for a Scottish currency.
The only quibble I have with the article ― as many
Scots would ― is that the appeal to Salmond in the last sentence should
not have read, “Come on, big fella, put your money where your mouth is”,
but rather, “Come on, fella, put your money where your big mouth is”.
Phil Johnson, Bishopton, Renfrewshire
This, from The Daily Telegraph:
SIR – If Scotland feels left out of the sterling area,
Alex Salmond could consider monetary union with Armenia. Its currency is
the dram, which should suit nicely.
Mark Horne, Odiham, Hampshire
And of course, if the whole independence thingy goes ahead and it then
starts to come apart at the seams, well, the Scots could change the name
of the currency to the wee dram.
Here’s lookin’ at you, Alex...
Finally, and again
from The Sunday Times:
Prime Minister David Cameron
says stick with nurse, while Salmond says go for it. Which of them is
brave, brilliant and buccaneering?
Alasdair Frew-Bell, Manchester.
Hm, so will the Scottish people remain in the ward with Nurse Cameron,
or end up in intensive care with Dr Salmond?
Only time, ladies and gentlemen
please, will tell.
Spell-cheque corner: ‘JamieDMJ’,
the tweeter who posted the crossword at the top, came up as ‘Jimmied’ or
‘Jemmied’ ― to force open (a door, window, etc) with a jimmy.
Intriguingly, Jimmy is a generic name to call a Scotsman
you don’t particularly want to refer to by actual name i.e. Cameron to
stick a spoke in your independence wheel, Jimmy!”
St Valentine’s Day, 2014
A rotten/clever tease of a Valentine's message,
spotted in the Launceston Examiner, Tasmania
and is Alex male or female, butch or effete?
I won’t send roses
“IF A man presented me with a bunch of catkins he’d
just been out in the wind and the rain to pick, just for me ― I’d be
putty in his hands.” A lady on the wireless emphasising that
overwhelmingly the flowers that will be presented today ― particularly
roses ― will have incurred an alarming number of air miles before
arriving in our shops.
Said lady went on to point out that there really are many wild
flowers out there right now, especially catkins, those dangly,
furry flower clusters of tiny leaves and petal-less
flowers, produced by trees such as willows, birches, alders, and
Yep, it’s the thought that counts (see further down for a
bird-in-the-hand, with catkins: Flower Power Gallery).
And of course, this song:
I won’t send roses – from Mack & Mabel and sung by Robert Preston
Sir, Here in Norfolk we are used to “doing different”,
but this notice in a local pub raised a few eyebrows as it seems a bit
racy even for us ― “Valentine’s Day Romantic Dinner, £49.50 for 2
tickets, Extra person £25.”
ROGER BURFORD, Norwich
Normal for Norfolk
Sir, The Norfolk pub offering
tickets for an extra person at its romantic Valentine’s Day dinner
understands, as did Miss Austen, that a single lady dining with a
gentleman is in need of a chaperon.
FIONA PUSHMAN, Basingstoke, Hants
Hm, I like the surname, Fiona.
And how about this? Froggy speaks with forked-tongue:
Grab a bite
Sir, I note with interest that Raymond Blanc advocates
not eating after 7pm (“Wine-loving British women ‘are too fat’”, Feb 4),
yet his restaurant, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, does not open until
WENDY BRIERLEY, Nether Alderley, Cheshire
All the above, compliments of The Times Letters page.
Gold run: Fizzy Lizzy slides to Sochi triumph
Finally, a nod and a wink in the direction of
Lizzy Yarnold, 25, from Sevenoaks, who tonight won
Britain’s first gold medal at the Sochi Winter Olympics, beating
American Noelle Pikus-Pace in the skeleton (where you hurtle down an
ice-track on a tea tray, head first, at 80mph).
Clearly never one to get carried away by the occasion,
she declared herself “chuffed” to have struck gold on Valentine’s Day...
Nice touch: Lizzy holds a red envelope during the
ceremony after her win – before handing it to James Roach,
her boyfriend (a technician with the British bobsleigh team)
Thirty years to the day after Torvill and Dean’s gold
medal in Sarajevo, Lizzy succeeded her landlady Amy Williams, who won
the same event in Vancouver four years ago, by sliding to victory almost
a second ahead of her nearest rival (a second is as good as a minute in
this slide-rule sport).
A word, too, for the other man in Lizzy’s life: Mervyn, the
The name of the sled has its origins in the summer job
she took with Hardy Underwriting, an insurance syndicate at Lloyd’s of
London, where she met senior executive Mervyn Sugden, of Haslemere,
Surrey. He was so impressed by her fortitude that he sponsored her on
the early stages of her career.
It also tells us something important about Yarnold’s
personality that she buys her Christmas presents in the summer.
Preparation, control and steeliness are her watchwords.
and steeliness sound like three key ingredients essential for an
ideal simple life, as explored in yesterday’s
smile of the day.).
Nothing is left to chance. She even secreted that
Valentine card in a friend’s bag before the race.
Back in Haslemere, meanwhile, the real Mervyn was
wondering whether her other talents might now be put to use. “She was
working in the catastrophe modelling team,” he said. “I don’t know
whether she can tell us when it’s going to stop raining.”
Thursday, February 13th
A MATURE-SOUNDING Welsh lady called Dorothy was on the
wireless, telling tales from yesteryear about typical Welsh Valley
humour in her home village. It was a story her grandmother had told her
about a sudden death in the locality.
There was a fellow
living up the top of the village, known to everyone as Long Ted [Dorothy
didn’t say whether he was very tall or rather short]. Anyway, he passed
away suddenly ― and a good mate went to see his wife and to offer
condolences. “Would you like to see Ted?” the widow said.
“Yes, I’d like to see Ted one last time and say goodbye ―
we go back a long way, Ted and me.” So the wife took him into the
parlour where Ted was laying.
So he said to the wife: “Well I know this is a strange
thing to say ― but Ted looks better now than I’ve seen him looking for
And the wife said: “”Yes, we just had a week in Porthcawl
― and it done him the world of good.”
Well I laughed ― and
my granny said: “You shouldn’t laugh, it isn’t funny you know.”
Oh yes it is, granny, very funny. And you just know that the story is
true because people really do say things like that. Even today.
A grounded bird
I noticed this online teaser for ten:
Flappy Bird taken down:
App creator removes addictive smartphone hit from app store
read the headline, Vanessa Feltz was on the wireless, reviewing the
morning papers. Take it away, Lady V:
interesting piece in the paper ― in several papers ― about the inventor
of a mobile phone game; apparently it’s a highly compulsive game ― I’ve
never played it, but apparently once you start you can’t stop.
It’s called Flappy Bird and it was such a big hit that it
was making its inventor ― Vietnam based Dong Nguyen ― over £30,000 a
day. That’s how successful it was; so you would imagine that he would be
extremely interested in keeping that game going for ever and ever ― but
that couldn’t be further from the truth.
With its booming popularity, however, Nguyen began
receiving abusive messages from users who had become haunted by its
trickiness. In one of the game’s more light-hearted reviews, he was
called an ‘evil genius’ for devising such a devilish game. Other
messages were sent with an angrier tone as players became increasingly
So he said he could not stand it anymore. He didn’t need it.
didn’t want it. All that money was ― and I quote, “Interfeering with my
simple life” ― so he has withdrawn it from use. You can’t play it
[“This bird is no more, ‘e ‘as ceased to be, ‘e’s kicked the
bucket, shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined
the bleedin’ choir invisible ― THIS IS AN EX-FLAPPY BIRD!
THIS IS A FLOPPY BIRD!].
Yes, it has just disappeared because he couldn’t bear
anything interfering with his simple life.
And it made me think
about the simple life ― so I’d ask you this morning the three key
ingredients for your ideal simple life. If you could lead the ultimate
simple life as you see it ― maybe you do live such a life: a
place, the time, could be a companion...
Here are just some of the triple-ingredients listeners recommended:
Tea, sleep, love.
My woman, my boy, my golf clubs.
Tea, hot bubbly bath, a beach
Stability, loyalty, romance.
Eat, sleep, banjo.
Easy-going partner, always tell
the truth, treasure good friends...
Much as I like the thought of the banjo, I guess the last one comes
Personally, the question rather threw me. I lead a
simple and a contented life, but I’m not sure why.
I can only surmise that I’m a simple soul because it’s an
inherently genetic thing: I’ve never been ambitious, never felt the need
to earn a fortune ― and I guess I get on with pretty much everybody,
which is quite an essential ingredient for a simple life recipe, I would have
Then I happened upon this quote at the bottom of a
newspaper page, compliments of Sir Thomas More (1478-1535),
known to Roman Catholics as Saint Thomas More; an English
lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance
work of fiction and political philosophy, published in 1516, in Latin.
The book is a frame narrative primarily depicting a fictional island
society and its religious, social and political customs (so it says on
“Nobody owns anything but everyone is rich ― for
what greater wealth can there be than cheerfulness, peace of mind, and
freedom from anxiety?”
And there you have it, Vanessa, three simple ingredients to a simple
life: cheerfulness, peace of mind and freedom from anxiety.
PS: While searching for a lead-in, headline photo, I found the
wonderfully memorable epitaph to Rex the dog. But even better,
yesterday, oral sex was my thing ― and today I found a rather apt
gravestone, which I have quietly inserted into yesterday’s
dispatch from The Smiley Front. Just a quick stroll down...
Wednesday, February 12th
Word of mouth
“THE great oral sex debate: am I alone in thinking oral sex is not
proper sex?” ponders columnist Rebecca Holman
State of Virginia plans to make oral sex illegal for teens, but those
same teens can still legally have vaginal sex. Rebecca Holman asks if
that’s the right way around...
First thing this morning I spotted the above slice of
online foreplay riding high on the Telegraph’s home page
‘Top Ten Most Viewed’ tales of the day.
Mind you, I did wonder if it was April Fool’s Day: I
mean, the State of Virginia? And it does sound like an invitation to
those teens to try this grown-up thing called oral sex.
Whatever, I resisted the click ― in school I was
average-minus in oral, but average-plus in practical; all-in-all
I was probably the school’s most average pupil. Ever. The same was
possibly true in academic terms as well.
So I smiled at the delightful doolallyness of the
Telegraph’s headline, made my excuses ― and, deploying
my inherent rhythm method, withdrew precoital.
before admiring this gravestone...
Meanwhile, back live...
“Their sex scandals involve people actually
having sex.” French intrigues have
the vital ingredient British ones lack, observes Ian Hislop, 53, editor
of Private Eye magazine.
Ian was obviously referring to the scandal involving
President Hollande, 59, and his Last Lady, 60, First Lady, 48, and
Reserve Lady, 41, so to speak. (Intriguing age scale: as Hollande grows
older his women grow younger.)
Meanwhile, here in the UK we had that short, sharp burst
of hot gossip involving Liz Hurley, 48, and Bill Clinton, 67, fiercely
denied of course by Liz.
Talking of Liz and Bill:
alleged charisma is merely proof to me of the potency of cheap music.”
Ann Leslie, 73,
British journalist, who writes for the Daily Mail.
And then there’s the curious business of Tony Blair, 60,
and Wendi Deng, 45. Here’s an up-dated headline and opening shot from
Blair, Wendi and the email trail: 300 pages of messages fuelled
the suspicions of Murdoch about wife and ex-PM
Ms Deng, who in a love-struck note praised Mr Blair’s
“good body”, his “really, really good legs”, and even his “butt”, has
met Mr Blair at least eight times.
On one occasion they
were together at her husband Rupert Murdoch’s London home when he was
out of the country. They also met aboard music mogul David Geffen’s
yacht in the Mediterranean and at the Mayfair private members’ club,
home of the exotic Loulou’s nightclub.
I revisit the above tale because I rather enjoyed this online Comment (Loulou
and Lalakin riding in tandem was too good to miss anyway, irrespective
is hilarious ― surely as the wife of Rupert Murdoch she would think most
other men had good bodies, legs and butts!
Tony must have been over the moon to think that at least one person in
the world, other than Mrs B, actually liked him; and the funniest part
is that Ms Deng’s staff felt uncomfortable, very Downton Abbey!
Cheered me up for the day!
I know what Lalakin means, the tale does hit the old
schadenfreude smileometer with a flourish.
“Blair has long
been the butt of jokes. Now it seems he’s the joke of butts.”
Peter Maller of Henley-on-Thames, in a letter to the Daily Mail.
Hopefully, Peter Maller, you are not now living at Henley-in-Thames,
or even worse, Henley-under-Thames, what with those dreadful floods you
are suffering up there. Talking of which...
used to rule the waves. Now the waves rule us.”
Collin Rossini of Dovecourt, Essex, in a letter to the Daily Mail.
fully qualified carpenters required; top wages paid. Immediate start:
overtime guaranteed. Call the office and ask for Mr Noah.”
Raymond Gallagher, Crowborough, Sussex, in a letter to the Daily Mail.
Anyway, enough of the gloom. A letter in The Daily
SIR – While I was on a bus in Barbados recently, an
elderly Bajan lady boarded and said “Good morning” as she took her seat.
Almost all the other passengers, around 25 people, replied with the same
Perhaps the sunshine helps.
I guess it’s much more than sunshine, Brinley. It’s a community thing.
Probably most of the passengers knew each other, to some degree.
I remember many moons ago a girlfriend coming down from
London to stay with me in Llandeilo. On the Saturday morning we walked
into town and she was intrigued that I exchanged fleeting pleasantries ―
a smile, a quick “Hello”, even the occasional brief exchange ― with
pretty much everyone I passed.
Llandeilo is a community. I know most people, to some
degree or other.
Say goodnight, Hubie
Last thing tonight, I spotted yet another slice of online foreplay creeping in
at the bottom of the Telegraph’s home page:
Are we having more
sex because of the floods?
extreme weather in the UK right now may have a silver lining in the
shape of a baby boom, writes Dr Brooke Magnanti...
I know The Daily Telegraph has a spanking
new editor ― do you suppose he is somewhat obsessed with sex? Watch this
Spell-cheque corner: ‘precoital’, as
opposed to postcoital, came up as ‘recital’. Honestly, this computer of
Tuesday, February 11th
Dear Sir or Madam
YESTERDAY I was endlessly entertained by a thread of
Letters to the Editor, compliments of The Times; today it’s
The Daily Telegraph’s turn:
Women, kick off your heels; men, cast off old ties
(Sadly I could only find a picture of a high heel wearing
a bow tie, rather than a tie ― but bow ties are rather characterful
anyway. Back with the letters...)
What is the point of high heels and ties?
SIR – I share Cristina Odone’s joy at seeing Emma
Thompson shrug off her “painful and pointless” high heels at the Golden
I feel exactly the same way when I see Richard Branson,
Jeremy Paxman and other high-profile men shrug off the tyranny of the
tie. Ties must vie with high heels for the title of most uncomfortable
and pointless item of clothing.
Truth to tell, I included the above letter so I could
repeat this tale, spotted in the Comments section...
remember a cartoon in one of the Wicked Willy books in which the blonde
considers the gift of high heels and says “They’re very nice, but I
couldn’t possibly walk in them”, and Willy replies “Walk in them? You
take them off when you get out of bed”.
Clearly the gag would have been lost on Dr Field.
And I enjoyed the logic of this response to the good doctor’s missive...
don’t believe women are under any compulsion to wear high heels. As a
man, however, I was for many years forced to wear a tie, even in factory
temperatures in the high 90s.
Then the correspondence does what it nearly always
The long good tie
SIR – A tie is
uncomfortable only if the collar size is wrong. And as for pointless:
choosing a tie to reflect one’s mood can brighten the morning and smooth
the path to the office. Wear a tie at home to reduce heating bills: it
increases body temperature by around 3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex
SIR – The long tie first appeared around 150 years ago. Has it suddenly
become uncomfortable and pointless, as Dr Steven Field suggests?
I have found over the years that my informal ties have
enhanced my rapport with both the patients and their parents at my
children’s hospital clinics.
Professor Julian Verbov, Liverpool
Hm, Professor Verbov puts down his good bedside manner to
his informal ties. Well, 60% of what we are is written into the face;
30% into the voice; and just 10% into body language (including
superficial appearance, such as ties).
That is why we have made our minds up when meeting
strangers within the first 10 seconds or so. And our instincts are
Children are particularly brilliant at reading these
signals because education has yet to subliminally convince them that
being clever is more reliable than instinct in deciding to what degree
they should trust the person in front of them.
Just to go off at a slight tangent, here’s a quote that
surfaced today ― no pun intended ― in the wake of the horrendous floods
affecting parts of the country:
“If you buy a house on a flood plain you know the
risks.” Outrage nationwide as Environment Agency boss Lord Smith,
62, suggests flood-hit families must share the blame for damage to their
Today there were 16 severe flood warnings ― meaning
risk of death ― in place; two were in Somerset and 14 along the River
Thames in Berkshire and Surrey.
Can you believe that at a time of huge stress and
heartbreak for the affected householders and businesses, the idiot boss
of the Environment agency attempts to shift blame onto them? And
what of the planners who allow houses to be built on flood plains? Never
mind Wicked Willy, Smith sounds a proper Woeful Wanker.
How on earth do individuals who have
no empathy with those they serve end up in such powerful public
Remembering what I said up there apropos how we
intuitively judge people by face, voice and body language, this online
comment rather confirms that others also notice the connection
between appearance and character:
toots: Labour Lord “Chris” Smith gets my vote for
having the most peculiar and disagreeable countenance in
...and you can’t disagree. He really does look like the baddie from a
scary children’s story, the sort of bloke you certainly wouldn’t want
living next door. In fact he does remind me of some dodgy character from
literature ― but my mind is blank...
Anyway, back with ties:
Prince of ties
This photograph of Prince Charles appeared ― and, many
letter writers to The Daily Telegraph wondered aloud
about the tie...
...was it an RAF tie,
asked Bob Jones of Radcliffe-on-Trent?
No, responded Jon Andrews of Epsom in Surrey, the Prince
was wearing a University of Wales tie, with stripes diagonal to the
left. The RAF tie has stripes to the right.
N K de Courcy-Ireland
of London W8 disagreed: “The Prince’s tie was the regimental tie of the
Queen’s Dragoon Guards, as he is our Colonel-in-Chief. Our previous
Colonel-in-Chief was the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who was
appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the Queen’s Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards) when
she was Duchess of York. It was her first regiment.”
Readers continued to tie themselves in knots over the
significance of the Prince’s tie:
According to Peter Crouch of Camberley in Surrey: “The
Prince of Wales was wearing the country tie of the Royal Thames Yacht
Club. In 1974, he succeeded Lord Mountbatten as Commodore, a post now
held by the Duke of York.”
Meanwhile, Dr John Black of Henleaze, Gloucestershire,
suggested this: “The tie worn by the Prince of Wales is very similar to
the one I bought from Tesco’s just after Christmas. It has vague
similarities to the regimental tie of the Royal Army Pay Corps, in which
I was proud to serve many years ago.”
J P G Bolton of Bishops Lydeard, Somerset, added a note of
sanity: “The Royal Air Force? The University of Wales? The Queen’s
Dragoon Guards? It would seem that the tie is not infallible in
conveying a person’s club, military or academic affiliations.”
Finally, Paul Parker of Hampsthwaite, North Yorkshire,
delivered this beauty:
“When appearing as an
advocate in magistrates’ courts many years ago, I often wore a tie with
a distinctive stripe. When
asked once, by the chairman of the bench, which regiment it represented,
I could only reply that it was the 5th Marks & Spencer Light Cavalry.”
Paul Parker is docked half-a-mark though for not saying it was “the 5th
Marks & Spencer Light Cavalry Twill”.
Monday, February 10th
TIME to catch up with a thread of entertaining letters
(on gently related topics), compliments of The Times:
Not fade away
Sir, Great to see that Acker Bilk, 85, is still with us
(birthdays, Jan 28). I seem to recall that he was the top act at the
Barnet Jazz Club (held fortnightly in a Scout hut) when I was a
Second on the bill was an unknown new group of
youngsters called the Rolling Stones.
BRIAN LOUDON, London NW6
What a wonderfully upside-down internal rhyme of a name
that is: Brian Loudon of London.
Anyway, and yes indeed, I too am a fan of Acker Bilk. Actually, he
features three times on my current Desert Island Video Jukebox
playlist, alongside, under three different headings. Quickly moving on...
It suits you
Sir, When I bought my
first stethoscope in Edinburgh almost 50 years ago, the elegant young
assistant measured out some two feet of rubber tubing and informed me
that stethoscopes were “being worn long this year”.
He was right, as the instrument was more useful as a
fashion accessory placed casually around the neck than a diagnostic
HARVEY BERTFIELD, FRCSE, Bowdon, Cheshire
of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Ivor
the Search Engine informs me)
mentioned “the elegant young assistant”, were you, like
me, somewhat caught out when the “elegance” belonged to a male?
Sir, I long envied a
friend who never got a parking ticket, no matter where he parked his
slightly battered Jaguar in central London. He achieved this by leaving
a well-used stethoscope on top of the dashboard in the window of his
car. He was not a doctor.
ANDREW KNIGHT, Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire
Sir, Avoiding parking fines in London by leaving a
stethoscope on the dashboard so traffic wardens think the driver is a
doctor? It must have happened a long time ago. The vultures that operate
there now would give a ticket to a corpse.
TONY PHILLIPS, Chalfont St Giles, Bucks
Sir, My father was a
GP in a small town in Scotland. Speeding to a medical emergency, he was
caught by a police car. He waved his stethoscope hopefully out of the
car window; the police overtook him, waving a pair of handcuffs as they
DR LIZ SOWLER, Musselburgh, E Lothian
Oh dear, Dr Liz, there’s always someone determined to stick a spoke in
your wheel and stop you dead in your tracks:
Hit or myth
Sir, The anecdote about the speeding doctor, the
stethoscope and the policeman waving the handcuffs has a familiar ring.
I have heard the same story but it was a different doctor in a different
town in the Usk valley. Now I wonder who else has heard it? Urban myth
in the making, methinks.
SUE WARE, Neath, W Glamorgan
Ah well. When I hear a great story or a good joke,
perhaps an urban myth, I too always personalise it ― it happened to me,
or one of the colourful characters down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon ―
it makes the tale easier to tell, and probably makes it that little bit
more believable in the telling.
There again, perhaps the father
of Dr Liz Sowler was the doctor involved in the original incident.
Talking of doctors and stethoscopes, there is currently a
BBC2 television documentary series, Inside The Animal
Mind, which focuses on how animals see, hear and smell. One example
in the first programme was quite astonishing: how a spaniel could detect
the smell from a canister at the bottom of a lake.
This starter for ten review of the programme and said pooch, by Sam
Wollaston of The Guardian:
I knew dogs were good with their noses. I didn’t know
they were that good.
Fern here ― a cutely life-jacketed sprocker (half
springer, half cocker) spaniel hanging eagerly over the front of a
rubber dingy ― sorry, dinghy...
sniff out a tin of pork under seven metres of water and a further metre
of silt at the bottom of lake on a howling windy wet day in Northern
Ireland. As Chris Packham says, it kind of makes a mockery of those
fugitives running down creeks to escape baying bloodhounds in the
So this letter duly appeared in The Times
following its review of said programme:
Sir, Fern, the dog locating a scent source under water,
is not a police dog (TV review, Jan 29) but a search dog with the Search
and Rescue Dog Association (Ireland North).
She was not “sniffing out a tin of meat from the bottom
of the lake”, she was searching for a large canister of pig meat, which
closely resembles human flesh. So far Fern has located eight bodies from
beneath the water surface.
We are all very proud of her.
NEIL POWELL, Training Officer, Search and Rescue Dog Association
(Ireland North), Newcastle, Co Down
I saw the documentary, and what I remember, apart from
her remarkable talent, was, that
Fern’s reward for pinpointing the location of the canister was... being
thrown a ball to play with ― and she was delighted.
Incidentally, is that why so many of us humans enjoy pig
meat, because it closely resembles human flesh? It is probably written
into our DNA, inherited from our days as cannibals.
Sticking with death...
Sir, It is
encouraging that “people are becoming more comfortable talking about
their mortality and planning their own funerals”. However, there may be
limits to “taking the guesswork out of a situation at a time of grief”.
I recently attended a funeral where a late mourner
arrived just as the coffin entered the church. We all heard his
smartphone announce: “You have reached your destination.”
BERNARD KINGSTON, Biddenden, Kent
I remember reading about someone who insisted on having a mobile inside
the coffin with him, plus just the tip of an aerial poking out of the
ground ― just in case he woke up after being buried.
End of the road
Sir, Apropos your funeral satnav tale, in 1967 a sign
outside an undertaker in Edgbaston read “Do not enter box unless your
exit is clear”.
JIM HAWORTH, Abingdon, Oxon
Following the recent death of Pete Seeger, American folk singer,
songwriter and activist, at the age of 94, this letter appeared, again
in The Times:
Sir, In Britain you
know that a cause is lost when people at a rally start singing “We shall
TONY WOODHEAD, Lindley, W Yorks
I wonder if that song has ever been sung at a funeral
service? Especially if the exit is not clear.
Spell-cheque corner: ‘Sowler’, as in
Dr Liz Sowler, whose doctor father had the handcuffs waved at him for
came up as ‘Slower’ ― I kid you not, Dr Liz Slower. I mean, I couldn’t
make that up. And ‘satnav’ came up as ‘satang’, which I discover is a
monetary unit out in Thailand.
Talk about every day being a day at school.
Sunday, February 9th
DMITRY MEDVEDEV, 48, the Russian prime minister, has been
mocked online after footage seemingly showed him dozing off during the
opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics...
The clip sparked a flurry of ridicule, according to
The Sunday Times, mostly puns on the
prime minister’s surname, which is derived from the Russian for bear.
“The Bear is sleeping,” wrote one user. “Good night, sleep well, Bear,”
said a second. “Dream on, Medvedev!”
Hm, sort of punny, but not particularly funny (in my humble opinion).
The question I asked myself was this: Where was the hare? And the alarm clock?
Yes of course, how could we forget the popular ‘Bear and
Hare’ Christmas television advert from John Lewis. For ever more and a
day I will think of the Russian PM when the ad is mentioned in
As another internet user wrote: “It’s hard to imagine
a worse time to take a nap, at a ceremony watched by 3bn.”
Poor bugger. Not only that, there was that high-profile
hiccup with the snowflake that wouldn’t morph into an Olympic ring ― but
even before that, Russia’s Olympic venture got a chilly Twitter
reception from journalists who discovered that Sochi’s hotels weren’t
The BBC reporter Kevin Bishop found a welcoming picture
of President Vladimir Putin in his hotel’s reception but no floor, while
Dan Wetzel, a Yahoo sports writer, made this poignant appeal: “I am now
in possession of three lightbulbs. Will trade for a door handle.” He
included a picture of said lightbulbs.
Talking of pictures, here are two of my favourite tweets,
with added observations to boot:
Tweetie Pie Corner
There’s clearly one instruction missing:
“Please use paper on both sides”
You will be marked for ‘presentation’,
‘technical merit’ and ‘artistic impression’
Apropos the notice directly above, comments online
suggest that the instruction to refrain from flushing the toilet paper
is quite common in many a far away place with a strange sounding name.
Well, well. For some reason, I am reminded of what an
American DJ once said (according to Radio 2’s Alex Lester):
haven’t been to a toga party you don’t know sheet.”
Finally, how could I not smile along with Jenny Jones,
33, who has made
history today as Britain’s first Olympic medallist on snow after 90
years of trying, winning bronze in the splendidly named Snowboard Slopestyle
competition. (Britain though has previously won 22 medals on ice ― well, we are
a nation noted for skating on ice, most of it very thin.)
And of course her parents, a midwife and a retired
fireman, normally banned from watching her live because they make her
nervous, were there to surprise her.
Unsurprisingly they said they were proud of their supremely focussed,
“no fuss” daughter. Her mother said: “I did text her last night and said
‘love you, xxx’. That was it. That is all she could manage. She doesn’t
want her mind cluttered with anything. It’s best to keep it short.”
I enjoyed these two online comments, spotted on the Guardian
done, great achievement, especially from a nation that has no snow!!!!
Jimmyji: Britain, a NATION that has no snow?
Aha, I see. You have anticipated the result of the Scottish referendum
this coming September----
Saturday, February 8th
The best laid plans and all that
I WAS going to share some funny tweets serendipitously stumbled upon
along the road to the launch of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi ― but that will
have to wait.
Today, my good pal Chief Wise Owl told me a marvellous story concerning Alan Bennett,
English playwright, screenwriter, actor, author and raconteur par
Oh, and it helped erase a little of the misery of Ireland
giving Wales a good going over on the rugby field this afternoon.
Anyway, I arrive home and I reverse Ivor the Search Engine out
of the shed and go looking for more fine detail on the smashing tale to do with
Alan Bennett ... no luck ― but I do come across a Spectator
blog by journalist Rod Liddle, dated September 2012.
Three northern breakfasts
Breakfast is simply more fun in the North. Ask Alan
I’ve been in Scarborough, working on a story, writes Mr.
Liddle. Stayed in a perfectly nice hotel and this morning came down for
my breakfast. I was greeted at the entrance to the dining room by a
waitress who addressed me thus: “Good morning sir. Have you had
I said well, yes, I’m 52, you know. I’ve had loads of
them. This response seemed to satisfy her and nothing more was said on
the matter. If I’d said no, I’ve never had breakfast in my life, would
she have explained to me what breakfast was, do you suppose? Told me
about Kellogg’s and stuff? Very odd.
A few months ago I was in South Shields working on a
story, and in another perfectly fine hotel. At breakfast this nice
Geordie waiter came up with his pen and pad and said: “Good morning sir.
Would you like any kind of juice?”
Yes please, I replied, I’d like
some orange juice.
He wrote this down.
And would you like tea or
Yes, coffee please, filter
He wrote this down.
And would you like a cooked
Yes please, I said. I’d like
scrambled eggs on toast, please.
He wrote this down.
Brown or white toast sir?
He wrote this stuff down too. Then he looked up at me
from his pad, narrowed his eyes, and said the following:
“You may have noticed, sir, that my pen does not work.
However, I am optimistic that I will be able to read your order from the
indentations I have made on the paper.”
And off he went.
Both of these incidents made me laugh a lot, later.
Neither were quite as funny, though, as Alan Bennett’s anecdote about
staying in a guest house in Hartlepool and overhearing the following
conversation snippet, between a businessman guest and a waitress:
Businessman: “Excuse me, but do
you have any fresh grapefruit, as opposed to tinned?”
Waitress: “Why? Are you diabetic?”
First things first: perhaps someone should tell Rod that
“Good morning sir. Have you had breakfast
before?” is Northern speak for “You look to me like someone in need of a
bloody good slap.” Oh, and is all this “Working on a story” code for
“Having a bit on the side”? Having a good breakfast, that is.
And I find it hard to believe
that Rod is quite as polite as he makes out.
Anyway, here come
Bella Tiranah: Yes, yes, yes. But were either of
those who waited on you black, bent or a ‘religious nutter’? And if not,
why are you wasting our time?
Rod Liddle: Oooh,
I do love a bit of satire.
Rod, I am disappointed. That sounds like a stock answer straight off the
shelf. Meanwhile, back with the good stuff...
toast, Rod? Dear o dear. I like it brown, but only once it’s been
through the toaster. Otherwise, it’s like barbecuing rabbit: I suppose
you could, but what’s the point?
A Brummie workmate [a native of the British city of Birmingham] said to
me one day, speaking about “The North”, that, “You’re all brown sauce and
A Blooming Hestanthal favourite, no doubt.
And as if by magic, here’s that story told to me by Chief Wise Owl:
Alan Bennett pops into a take-away. Alan gives his order. Alongside him,
a youngish fellow, who has also just ordered. “Oh!”
adds the young man. “Gimme a kestrel as well.”
Goodness, thinks Bennett, what an earth is the world
coming too ― and isn’t the kestrel a protected bird under British law
And then the young man is handed a can of lager...
Anyway, back with the blog...
Prince Rupert: Completely off the point about
breakfast but in tune with oranges, I read some time ago about some
graffiti written on a wall in Belfast, before the peace agreement was
signed, and Ian Paisley was shouting “Never!”
etc, and the graffiti said: “The people of Ulster say NO!”
And some wag had written next to this, “But the man from
Del Monte he say YES!”
― and next to this someone had written “And he was a good Orange man”,
boom-boom. That last bit was mine, not a bomb going off.
Daniel Maris: Didn’t James Joyce write a poem
about the Irish sense of humour that led someone to fling lime in
Parnell’s eye? [Charles
Stewart Parnell (1846-1891), Irish landlord, nationalist political
leader, land reform agitator, and the founder and leader of the Irish
The one thing people from that
benighted corner of the island like to think is that they are a
good-humoured sociable breed ― even as they are at each other’s throats
AGS: If they are at each other’s throats, Mr.
Maris, it is only because you and your kind are not readily to hand.
Daniel Maris: I remember now ― the poem referred
Shame that AGS added “Donkey” as it rather distracts from
the wit of the response. Whatever...
Baron: Baron’s preferred answer to a question he’s
asked (not often, now, and mostly at tobacconists, baker shops and in
the rural wilderness of East Anglia), “What would you like, love?” is:
“That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for all my life.” More often than
not it causes a slight confusion that has to be dealt with quickly.
wonderful answer. I must remember that next time I’m asked it. Oh, and I
must flash my Working Man’s Brief Case at the same time, nudge-nudge,
Just as an afterthought, I wondered about canned
grapefruit, diabetes and added sugar ... this online exchange, from
artmuzz: I have been
buying canned grapefruit from Tesco and according to the ingredients
there is no sugar added. However, when I look at the nutritional
information on the can there is 13.1% sugar.
I like canned grapefruit for the convenience but I’m
not sure if it is as healthy as the fresh grapefruits.
lu_: I assume this is added sucrose or fructose and not total
sugar content; then you’re probably dealing with BPA from the can,
definitely better fresh.
PS: I hate breaking bad news:
BPA (Bisphenol A) is a compound used in plastics and as a sealant in
It was designed as an artificial Estrogen originally.
It promotes all sorts of health problems from cancer to
hormonal dysregulation. It should be avoided by all
people but particularly pregnant women and young males.
It’s in a lot of clear hard plastics; it’s not in all
cans, but it is in the majority.
Well, I reckon we have two choices,
presuming no inherent health problems. 1) We avoid all food and drink.
2) We eat, drink, be merry and make mad passionate love ― but only in
I think I’ll stick with the second option, excepting (at
my age) the mad passionate love bit.
Friday, February 7th
Sochi under the searchlight
SOCHI 2014 kicked off with some spectacular fireworks.
There’s something truly mesmeric about a firework display, and the
opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games did not disappoint.
While it is best to be actually present at any
pyrotechnic display, television is a good second best simply because of
the different angles on offer, especially from the air.
However, a perfectly captured still image takes some
Fireworks explode to announce the start of the opening ceremony –
remarkably like a headdress of feathers over the Fisht Olympic stadium
Under Russian Skies
To begin at the beginning: It is winter, moonless night
in Russia’s largest resort city, starless and bible-black...
“With the staging of a world event comes the world,” BBC
host Claire Balding had curiously warned us before we entered the
“Tonight, Russia’s many diverse regions are flying to us,”
added Hazel Irvine from inside the Fisht tank ― and Hazel was armed with
endless Russian facts with which to impress us. For example, Russia
covers one-eighth of the world’s surface, with nine time zones and 185
Wow, now I didn’t know that. Also, Norway, surprisingly,
is the most successful nation in winter Olympic history with 306 medals,
a third of them gold.
As for near-neighbour Denmark, “believe it or not, it has
only one winter medal ― a silver”.
Should I believe it? Or not? Oh go on then, yes (I did
check it out: one medal in curling).
“Keep your eyes on the big flakes!”
Hazel suddenly instructed ― what, Putin and pals? ― no, five huge snow
flakes expand, blossoming into the Olympic rings, reminiscent of the
London 2012 pyrotechnics.
Well, four of them did. There was one refusenik
snowflake, a ring that refused to open, appropriately symbolising the
fact that Russian did not quite embrace the Olympic spirit of tolerance
You could picture the poor sod who was in charge of the
snowflakes being hauled off to Siberia as President Putin made his
entrance looking eerily like Mr Burns from The Simpsons (description
compliments of the Daily Mail).
I wasn’t going to mention the refusenik snowflake ― it’s
too easy to mock something going wrong in such a complex presentation ―
that is, if it hadn’t been for a couple of official images of Putin preparing for
case of Vladimir Putin and the Fifth Ring that did not bark in the night
It seems that if you were watching Russian state TV channel Rossiya 1,
then it cut from the
reluctant snowflake (left) to flawless rehearsal footage (right)
Anyway, on with the show:
Enter stage left, 11-year-old Liza Temnikova, playing the
character of Lubov (Love), who will float into the air on a giant kite,
and whose dreams will “take us on a journey across this vast land”.
She then takes-off in her white dress ― I sense a parody
of Alice in Wonderland meets The Snowman ― and I wasn’t to be
Lubov takes us on an enchanting journey through Russian
history, visually colourful and elegantly presented, albeit a clever piece of
political propaganda (surprise, surprise). It makes fabulously
fascinating television, which is not easy for this kind of Cinemascopic,
I even enjoy the Bolshoi Ballet’s interpretation of the
560,000 words in Tolstoy’s War & Peace ― which, incidentally, I
can now cross off my ‘Must read’ list. (Note to the Bolshoi: I haven’t
read Lady Chatterley’s Lover either.)
Then the Revolution of 1917 arrives in the form of a
giant red steam train, floating across the stadium to symbolise
“Bolshevism, Lenin, Trotsky, civil war, a bloody end to the era of the
Czars, the Soviet Union and Communism”.
Mind you, and much to my chagrin, given my Welsh heritage
that is, I had never quite appreciated the mesmeric musical rhythm of a
steam train on full bore.
Is that why we love Ivor the Engine and Thomas the Tank
And finally the arrival of the Olympic torch, and the big talking point
of the night would be, that one of the six torch bearers was Alina
Kabaeva, widely rumoured to be Putin’s lover, but described on
television as merely “a very, very talented rhythmic gymnast”, but no
more than that.
As someone pointed out, considering the incredible nature
of the spectacle that had gone beforehand, “it was disappointing, not to
say disturbing, that this was the image that we were left with as the
ceremony came to a close”.
closing ceremony of our last games was 100% homosexuals prancing about.
Thanks Putin for some normality. Do they take heterosexual asylum
Now there’s a thought. Do you suppose that the fifth snowflake refusing
to open into an Olympic ring at the start of the ceremony was a message
from the Gods on Mount Olympus, that you don’t mess around with the
Apropos that snowflake that refused to open in the night, a few
suggested online that the guy responsible for operating his ring was
probably gay and this was his protest ― and I did smile at this
Thursday, February 6th
Mind the prick
WELL, the front pages this morning were a fiesta of
doolallyness. Here’s the top-half of the Daily Mail ― and
beneath, the memorable front page of The Sun:
Whenever I read or hear the name Liz Hurley, there’s just
one image burnt onto my hard drive. Yes, that glorious safety-pin dress,
above. And ― shock, horror ― that’s all of 20 years ago.
I do so hope that the Hurley-Clinton story is true ― if only
to justify the Sun’s front page play on Clinton’s quote following his
denial of the affair with Monica ‘I did NOT have sexual relations with
that woman’ Lewinsky.
Liz has denied that any hanky-panky took place. And the fellow
who made the claim now says he was under the influence of drugs at the
time he shared the secret with the World and its Mistress. What is more,
know what he was saying anyway (mind you, many online comments are
wondering aloud how much pressure has been put on said sneak).
Be all that as it may, perusing the photographs published
of Liz and Bill back in the night ― just a starter for 10 on the
front page of The Sun ― the images are all over the shop today.
never mind there being no smoke without fire, there is certainly
no smouldering without passion. You get the impression that if Bill wet
the tip of his index finger and placed it on the back of his other hand
― well, the sizzle would fizzle off the scale.
I had to go and lie down in a darkened room to get over
the photos ― but all I could think of was ... what fun it would be to
undress Liz out of that golden-safety-pin dress.
who is that fellow in the safety pin picture with Liz?
that Hugh Grant has gone from childless playboy to largely absent father
of three in 15 months has set off a national conversation about men and
commitment...” Sunday Times headline.
Well I dunno, I haven’t heard anyone discussing it,
especially in the Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, which is an
undisputed sounding board and barometer of national conversation.
Mind you, I also liked this Sunday Times
Atticus piece penned by Roland White, and spotted in a separate
Apparently there are some species of grasshopper that,
like the actor Hugh Grant, possess testicles amounting to more than half
their body mass.
I am indebted to Professor Petter Bockman of the
University of Oslo for this indispensable nugget of information. He has
also advanced the theory that the larger the testicles, the more likely
a creature is to cheat on its missus. Which is possibly why female
grasshoppers, if you look closely, always wear a rather bitter
Professor Bockman’s previous research “proved” that there
are gay penguins.
It is cold, dark and
miserable in Oslo at this time of the year.
Very good, Roland.
Meanwhile, back at the coal
Hugh Grant: have you noticed how he has suddenly become super
virile following the phone hacking scandal? Now I presume that he
stopped using his mobile when it became known how easy it was to listen
in on conversations.
And you know what they say: excessive use of the mobile
and other electronic equipment near the head burns away essential junctions within the
brain and affects how we perform in all sorts of ways. Burning our
bridges behind us, so to speak.
Do you know, I have personally observed that the memories of those
who regularly use mobiles start to play tricks much earlier in their
lives than is healthy. Hm, I wonder?
There was a study in America some years ago which
concluded that if you owned a mobile you were 500 times more likely to
be involved in a road accident. Yes, that’s FIVE HUNDRED.
Oh, and that statistic had nothing to do with using the
mobile while driving. Just owning a mobile puts you in the high risk
There has also been much said about men leaving their
mobiles switched on whilst the phone is parked-up somewhere in the vicinity of the
You know what they say: if you crack an egg onto a hot
pavement and surround it with mobile phones, switched on and
transmitting, the egg will be cooked to a frazzle in no time (allegedly!).
Make of all that what you will. Especially apropos Hugh
Grant’s bollocks suddenly finding their default setting and exploding
Finally, and returning to the Daily Mail front page, I must
mention the curious case of Tony Blair and Wendi Deng.
Deng Dong, the wecked wetch
It is claimed Wendi Deng wrote a note to herself while
still married to Rupert Murdoch, rhapsodising about former prime
minister Tony Blair’s “good body”, his “really, really good legs” ― and
even his “butt”.
Written in broken English by a woman to herself, pouring
out her love for a man called Tony, the passionate note has mysteriously
surfaced amid the flotsam and jetsam of a shipwrecked marriage.
Vanity Fair claims to provide startling new revelations
about Miss Deng’s relationship with Mr Blair, revealing they were once
seen feeding each other during an intimate dinner. Staff were shocked on
another occasion last year when Miss Deng announced she would be
spending the weekend alone at the Murdoch’s California ranch.
Whatever ... this is Wendi on her Blair infatuation (from the notes to
“Oh, shit, oh, shit.
Whatever why I’m so missing Tony. Because he is so charming and his
clothes are so good. He has such good body and he has really, really good
legs Butt ... And he is slim tall and good skin. Pierce blue eyes which
I love. Love his eyes. Also I love his power on the stage ... and what
else and what else and what else...”
What else, indeed?
And on Google’s Chief Sitting Bull, Eric Schmidt:
“Lisa [girlfriend of
Eric Schmidt] will never have my style, grace ... I achieved my purpose
of Eric saw me looking so gorgeous and so fantastic and so young, so
cool, so chic, so stylish, so funny and he cannot have me. I’m not ever
feel sad about losing Eric ... Plus he is really ugly ... I’m sooo happy
I’m not with him.”
Hm. And what is the second greatest truth ever uttered?
Whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make doolally.
Wednesday, February 5th
IT SEEMS that a growing number of Britons are shunning
traditional funerals and going for a somewhat off-beat send-off.
Last September I told the tale of Welshman Billy Jones,
83, who made the last leg of his final journey on a JCB digger similar
to the ones he had driven for 40 years before he retired.
The grandfather’s coffin was lowered into the bucket of
the JCB for the journey to his funeral service. Mourners clapped and
cheered as the coffin arrived at Coychurch Crematorium in Bridgend,
South Wales, on
driver Billy Jones was carried to his funeral in the bucket of his
favourite JCB digger
Mike Ryan, a funeral director from Newport, quoted some
unusual requests: a self-employed painter and decorator who wanted to be
transported in the van that had been his “office” for the past 10 years.
Then there was the HGV driver who wanted to be taken on
the back of a lorry, his dying wish being that he should be driven over
the Severn Bridge and back one final time because he’d made the journey
pretty much every working day of his life.
Also, many are customising their funerals. Crazy Coffins,
a Nottingham firm, has made caskets in the shape of a guitar and a
Rolls-Royce. It is now working on a replica of a Jack Daniel’s bottle.
And then there’s 79-year-old Malcolm Brocklehurst who has
commissioned an aeroplane-shaped coffin painted in tangerine, the shirt
colour of his beloved Blackpool football club.
“My last wish when I pop my clogs is to have a party at
Blackpool football club,” said Brocklehurst. “We had a dress rehearsal
where I went in a white sheet as the ghost of myself so I could see how
it would work.”
Oh dear, glorious doolallyness, even on that last lap
after hearing the bell.
But what about this as a curtain call? Caught dead to
rites, you might say...
On the highway to heaven:
US biker is buried in leather astride
his beloved 1967 Harley-Davidson in a transparent casket
Angels to angels, dust to
dust: dedicated biker Billy Standley is gently lowered by crane into his
Looking one corner ahead
Dressed in his leathers and sunglasses, and sitting on
top of his 1967 Electra Glide cruiser, Billy Standley of Mechanicsburg,
Ohio, who died last week, was taken on a last ride to his grave.
The body of the 82-year-old, who died of lung cancer, was
visible through the transparent and reinforced Plexiglas casket that his
bike had been placed in. He was escorted to the ceremony by a procession
He started the
funeral preparations himself, buying three large burial plots next to
his wife, Lorna, so the hole would be big enough to accommodate his
unique casket. Bill and his sons had spent years preparing for the
somewhat unusual burial.
It didn’t actually say whether his wife had already been buried in a
sidecar, which is an image too good to let go.
If I had been standing by the side of the road when
Billy’s funeral procession passed ― well, the word gobsmacked springs to
mind. I just hope I’d have had the presence of mind to grab a photo.
As some pointed out, good job he wasn’t a dedicated
trucker ― mind you, he once worked as a bareback rodeo rider, so that
would have been interesting. Or the captain of an oil tanker.
I wonder if the captain of the Italian cruise ship which
ran aground off the western coast of Italy a couple of years back, one
Francesco Schettino of Costa Concordia infamy, wished he’d gone down
with his ship.
Back with Billy: some even speculated that a rotten thief
in the night might dig him up and steal the bike ― unless of course the
machine has been embalmed with superglue to give it a proper sticky end.
Oh dear, smiling to the last.
May Billy Standley, bless, rest in peace. And the
Harley-Davidson, bliss, rust in pieces.
PS: Just before going to bed tonight, I hear this news item on
A Harley-Davidson motorcycle
... I hold my breath: the speculation that a thief might dig up Bill
Standley and steal his Harley-Davidson was a rather smiley notion ―
motorcycle, donated last year to Pope Francis, is being sold at a Paris
auction to benefit charity.
It’s unknown whether the pontiff ever rode the custom
2013 Dyna Super Glide that was a gift from Willie Davidson, a retired
Harley-Davidson designer and grandson of the company’s co-founder...
Tuesday, February 4th
For ever more and a day
YOU know how it is, a headline or an image catches your
eye ― and no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get that first
impression out of your mind.
It’s a bit like meeting people for the first time: in
those initial few seconds your brain decides dolphin or shark, pussycat
or polecat, sparrow or sparrow hawk, red squirrel or grey, lay-by or
roundabout ... and your brain is simply unable to override that thought.
You may well decide to ignore what your brain is telling
you, but you can never delete that initial impression off your hard
Anyway, here’s a headline ― and a picture to go with
Is this the birthplace of British civilisation?
Or simply true to type?
Gosh, is this really where QWERTY was born?
My goodness me, I thought, in that initial burst of
revelation, it really is the birthplace of the typewriter. More than
that, the planet was previously occupied by a giant race of people who
obviously kept dinosaurs as pets.
Even more remarkable, they were into computers because
the above is more in line with a modern keyboard than the traditional
typewriter, pictured alongside.
No, hang on, I’m getting a bit silly now.
Anyway, I read on:
One million-year-old remains of the first settlers found
buried under a £15-a-night caravan park in Norfolk
Scientists now believe early humans created their first
settlement at the Manor Caravan Park (pictured above) in Happisburgh,
Norfolk, after finding a series of stone tools and fossilised animal
The artefacts have been dated to nearly one million years
ago, which makes them the oldest found in Britain ― and suggests the
species that lived there was a primitive predecessor of modern humans.
They could have been
the Homo antecessor or the Homo erectus species. The discoveries are to
be revealed in a new Natural History Museum exhibition...
Now how disappointing is all of that?
But no matter how hard I try, those caravans can’t
replace the computer keyboard now burnt onto my hard drive.
Monday, February 3rd
That’s My Home > > > >
As for man, his days are as grass...
ONE benefit of an online newspaper over a print version
is the ability to serendipitously trip over a story which is, strictly
speaking, old news.
example, this tale from last November, a rather whacky practical joke
(spotted compliments of Mail Online):
What on turf is growing on my desk? Engineer returns from
to find office pranksters have covered his entire
workspace in GRASS
The green, green grass of Mowvember
Charlie Harris (pictured), 32, was greeted with a swathe of lush
on a bed of earth, sprouting between his computer, coffee cups and
I want to be a lawn
The elaborate prank was planned by colleague Daniel
Hurlbert, 33, who carried it out with the help of work mates at the DIY
marketing company, Home Improvement Leads, in Austin, Texas, where the
The prank was the culmination of a series of escalating
Daniel Hurlbert said: “After many years of honing our
pranking skills this was perhaps the best one yet. The idea came fairly
organically ― [ho, ho, ho] ― I asked the engineering team for an epic
prank for Charlie, as he was going on holiday for so long.
“We bounced ideas
around until eventually I said, ‘he’s going to be gone so long, we
should just grow a lawn on his desk’...”
When I first saw the pictures I thought, hm, they’ve bought some
turf and covered his desk. But no. They covered the desk with soil and
planted proper seeds. After a week they feared the worst when nothing appeared.
After another week there were seedlings sprouting all over the shop.
By the third week there was a lush covering ... and the
joke worked a treat, much to Charlie’s amusement, it appears.
However, as someone from a farming background, it did
seem most unusual to grow that lush a covering of grass in just three
Then a comment online simply said “Already proven fake” ―
the notion being that Daniel, Charlie and Uncle Tom Cobley and all were
actually playing a joke on the viewing public.
And of course it worked because the story went VD (viral
dysentery), and generated many a laugh in the process.
There again ― and as the online
comment warned ― believe nothing
you hear and only half what you see.
And talking of a smiley moment passing by on the shady
side of the street...
Jon Snow, 66, is an English journalist and television
presenter, best known as the longest-running presenter of Channel 4 News
― and as doolally as a dingo with a hard on, at least if his latest
utterance is anything to go by.
Jon Snow admits that he thinks about sex every time he meets a woman
Viewers are used to Jon Snow’s sober presence on the
nightly news. But they might be shocked if they knew what was going
through his mind.
The veteran Channel 4 host has confessed he thinks of sex
every time he meets a woman. And he says he likes to consider ‘what
could be’ with his female friends and co-workers.
Insisting it is a ‘natural animal element of sustaining
life’ for men to think of all women as potential sexual partners, he
said being a man was ‘all about women’.
What tickled me though was the idea that he thinks about sex
whenever he meets a woman, irrespective of age, appearance, or indeed
any inherent quality control. I am fairly sure I never thought that, even back in the day when I
quietly fancied myself as a young buck about town.
Personally, my guess is that nature is slowly but surely
castrating him, as it does all us men as we grow older, and poor old Jon
is desperately trying to convince himself that he’s still got it.
And if it helps keep his end up ― well, why not.
surprising of all though, and as a typical celebrity, nothing seems to have warned
him of the ambush ahead once he uttered such a delightfully doolally comment. For example:
“Jon Snow says he thinks about sex every time
he meets a woman. I bet no woman thinks about sex when she meets Jon
Snow.” Commentator Julie Burchill.
I also enjoyed this letter in the Daily Mail:
The other morning, my
wife looked up from the Mail and asked: “Do you want to make love to all
the women you meet?”
“No,” I stammered, not knowing where this was going.
“Then, according to Jon Snow, you aren’t normal,” she
“Okay,” I said, trying to prove my normality, “there
“Who?” she demanded ― and that’s when the argument
There are some thoughts best kept to yourself, Mr Snow.
TERRY PAYNE, Woodmansterne, Surrey
But the final word goes to this online comment (the very last word does
Sandra: Ah sweet, I think of a hot coco every time I
see Jon Snow ― bless!
Sunday, February 2nd
IT has to be a first. The same subject ― more or less ―
has hit the smileometer three days on the trot.
On Friday it was a celebration of the
Chinese Year of the Horse. I am, of
course, a horse.
Yesterday it was a celebration of things Sagittarius i.e.
half-man, half-horse. I am, of course, a morse.
And now today ... well, before I go there:
Too close for comfort
I happened to turn on the wireless, just after seven this
“I am shortly to go away for quite a long time, so I’m
going to hold you close this morning...”
Thus broadcaster and celebrated lesbian Clare Balding (about to jet
off to cover the Winter Olympics) greeted me on Radio 2’s Good Morning
Sunday (“a topical faith show with inspirational music and chat about
ethical and religious issues”, at least that’s what it says on the tin).
Oh dear, you have to laugh. Not long ago Clare was effin’
and blindin’ on the TV panel show Have I Got News For You,
sounding as if she was the Devil’s spin doctor and the very model of a
modern two-faced celebrity.
Where does the BBC find all these split-personality
slebs? (Or should that be spilt-personality?) Has the Corporation learnt
nothing from the fallout of Savile, Hall and goodness knows who else?
Extraordinary how gullible we, the Great British People,
Then I read this in the Mail:
The BBC just loves
swearing ― until it gets a dose of its own @!X*!
The corporation, writes Peter Hitchens, refused to accept
a complaint about bad language transmitted without warning on national
radio on Tuesday, January 21 at 2.15pm ― because the complainer’s letter
began by repeating precisely the same words that they had used on air.
The BBC told Colin Harrow that his letter’s tone and
language were “unacceptably abusive or offensive”.
In other words, the
BBC are ready to transmit words into our homes which their staff are not
prepared to read...
You really couldn’t make it up.
Sign of the times
Anyway, back with Sagittarius and the world of the
As I recall, the Sagittarius sign reflects bravery,
direction, focus, poise and thought!
What is more, according to my Horseyscope, a Sagittarian represents an
inner spirit to free one’s self from mankind’s animalistic nature, and
perchance to enhance the purpose of the soul.
Hence the human fighting to get out of the horse, I
guess. Unfortunately, given that my bottom half is the horse, I still
need a permit to poop on the Queen’s public highway.
Whatever, I’m not sure what to make of all those gifts
the world of astrology has blessed me with ― but it brings me neatly to
this cartoon, spotted in the Western Mail some time back,
and duly cut out and pasted into my old-fashioned, print scrapbook:
Centaur of attraction
That really could be me up there, you know.
Which might explain why I have remained a bachelor.
Mind you, I certainly don’t
look the type given to brawling and uncivilized
behaviour, a central trait of the centaur. A quick kick in the bollocks,
perhaps, if someone crept up behind me without fair warning.
Be all that as it may, I previously forgot to wish you
Kung hei fat choy!
Happy Chinese New Year (I am advised under caution), from your friendly
neighbourhood Sagittarian morse!
Saturday, February 1st 2014
Boy morphs into man
YESTERDAY I celebrated
the Lunar New Year, also the Chinese Year of the Horse.
Just this morning though, the penny dropped ... 2014
should be an extra special year for me ― hey, I’m a Sagittarian, which
means I am actually that Archer-half-man, half-horse thingy ― a morse? ―
armed with a bow and arrow to nip any mischief at source.
Apparently, and according to my personal Horseyscope, this
half-human, half-beastie creature represents the Sagittarian’s
inner spirit to free itself from mankind’s animalistic
nature, and thereby enhance the purpose of the soul.
It symbolizes the animal natures and desires of man, as
well as its spiritual aspirations. In Greek mythology, centaurs were
adventurous, brave, and wise; they were also given to brawling and
uncivilized behaviour. Oh dear.
The glyph for Sagittarius is a straightforward one ― it
depicts the archer’s arrow slung in a bow. This glyph-hanger symbolizes
the desire for direction, a higher purpose, oh, and abundance.
I dunno, it sounds like a load of old bollocks to me. But
that’s just me. O me of little faith.
Curiously, I can’t find anything that says Sagittarians
‘believe nothing they hear and only half what they see’!
So, looking for something to generate a smile, I clamber
aboard Ivor the Search Engine ... chuff, chuff, chuff...
Sagittarians are known for their worldly pursuits,
gamesmanship, cosmopolitan attitude and knack for doing things in a big
condoms are the sportier models. They come equipped
with travel cases.
are the ones that go with you and grow with you. They promise a lot and
they are extra thick to protect against fluids of a dubious nature. The
archer symbolizes Sagittarius. When you want to be on target with Cupid’s
arrows, you want a Sagittarius
Now how wonderful is that?
And thereby hangs a true tale. A girlfriend once gave me
as a present a packet of
― and yes, they really were all coloured ― but it’s the presentation pack that
made me stand up and take note. It remains the most memorable gift I
have ever received...
A travelling man:
toothbrush and briefcase in breast pocket
Size really matters: a 50 pence coin offers up a sense of
(mind you, I’m not sure the Queen is amused at being used as
Travelin’ Man – Ricky Nelson
Now isn’t that a most wonderful present? A leather
‘Working Man’s Brief Case’. Mind you, I did wonder why she had ‘Brief
Case’ printed on it rather than ‘Briefcase’? Was she trying to tell me
And of course, what with my
condom-always-to-hand days having long disappeared, even out of my
rear-view mirror, I now use the ‘brief case’ as my calling-card holder.
My cards fit perfectly into the case. And best
of all, when I whip it out to present a lady with my card, it always
offers up a conversation starter for ten:
“Have you come far? And do you come here often?”
Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day 2013:
the day 2013: Nov
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013: Jan
Smile of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
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
Smile of the Day 2010
(Jan to Jun) 2009
March to May '07
June to Aug '07
Sep to Dec '07
You are here, way out west,
aka Dodgy City
Previously on LOOK
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013: Jan
of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
of the day 2012c (Jul-Sep)
Smile of the day 2012
Smile of the day 2012 (Jan-Mar)
Smile of the day 2011
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
ST DAVID'S DAY, 2007
Postcards from my Square
Here's lookin' at you
400 Smiles A Day
What A Gas
400 Smiles A Day