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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, a memorable song, 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 ...
Monday, March 31st 2014
A somewhat startling snack at Faro Airport, Portugal
(Sign Language spotted by Hugh Davis)
What’s in a name?
THERE’S nothing quite like a good opening line ― and what
better opening line than an eye-catching business name, especially so if
it deploys a clever pun to add to its unforgettableness.
March saw a series of letters in The Sunday Telegraph
suggesting that here in the UK we have an admirable track record at
this sort of thing.
It all began thus:
SIR – You report that Junk & Disorderly was
honoured for having the best punning shop name in Britain.
The best I’ve seen is a butcher’s in Tooting, called:
Halal ― Is It Meat You’re Looking For?
SIR – Until a few years ago, an antiques shop in Bures, Suffolk, bore
the name Den of Antiquity.
A hairdressing salon in Raynes Park, London, bore the
title Coiffure by Comber.
On the same street, a doctor’s clinic was denoted by
the plaque: Dr Hackett, Surgeon.
The letters then flooded in loads by loads...
My favourite punning shop name was a hairdresser in Plymouth called
Wright Hassall, a solicitors’ in Leamington Spa; Lock
Keepers, a canal-side hairdresser in Stone, Staffordshire; and
Scarper, builders in Nottingham.
Dr A V Parke:
Dolittle and Dally is an estate agent’s in Kidderminster.
Dr G P Cubbin:
Often parked near here [Bolton] is a painter’s van which bears the
legend: “Patel and Co., painters and decorators ― You’ve tried the
cowboys, now try the Indians.”
Albert Edward Short:
In Germany, I noticed a florist called Blumen Eck.
Over 60 years ago a butcher in the east of Glasgow had a window-sign
which read: “Always pleased to meet you – always meat to please you.”
(Just imagine: Bruce Forsyth hung, drawn and quartered.
Actually, there really is a pub in London called
The Hung Drawn & Quartered.)
I have seen several ladies’ hairdressers called Curl up and Dye.
Auckland, New Zealand has a Chinese Restaurant called
Marvellous. I’ve got loads more, but I shall keep them
for another day.
Before going though, I must mention this:
Gwynnie and Chris go blow jobbing
“Conscious uncoupling.” The expression used by
celebrated vegetarian actress Gwyneth Paltrow and singer Chris Martin to
describe the break-up of their marriage.
Conscious uncoupling, eh. When I heard that delightfully
doolally expression on the wireless, the very first thing that came to
mind was a line from a catchy song from 50 years ago: “The runaway train
came down the track, her whistle wide and her throttle back ― and she
blew, blew, blew, blew, blew...”
Incidentally, do you suppose that on the morning after
the uncoupling before, Chris Martin treated himself to a full XXL
So what else to do but add The Runaway Train
by Michael Holliday, a favourite from my Uncle Mac and his Children’s
Favourites days, to my Desert Island Video Jukebox:
The Runaway Train – Michael Holliday
From a great height
AS mentioned last Friday, the Welsh version gets round
the problem of Mothering Sunday v Mother’s Day (with its apostrophe
ambush) and settles for The Sunday of the Mothers.
Today though, I decided to take a peep at how mothers
cope out there in nature, in particular along my daily sunrise walk
through the Towy Valley.
No breakfast in bed, no chocolates, no flowers, no cards
out there on the wild side. Indeed, every day is
First feed of the morning
A White Park
mum spotted in Dinefwr Park & Castle, Llandeilo
Time for 40 winks
sheep of the family grabs a welcome break in the Towy Valley
As you will have noticed, nature has no conception of
black and white ― as long as you smell right, you’re my
cartoon in today’s Sunday Telegraph: Mum relaxing in bed, reading
a card from little Tommy Tucker, who is standing by the bed, hands on
hips in exasperation: “Flowers? It’s Mother’s Day, not a gay
Saturday, March 29th
Some change is gonna come
THE current pound coin, introduced in 1983, is too easy
to forge. In his recent budget speech, the chancellor said that one in
30 pound coins ― about £45m worth ― was a forgery.
One in 30 a forgery? Wow!
So the £1 coin has been redesigned. From 2017 the current
model will no
longer be around or round, but will be 12-sided (pictured above), like the old threepenny
bit. Or the thruppenny bit as it was called in the real world. Or indeed
the thruppence (3d). I never remember it being called the three-penny
Curiously, the thruppenny bit was probably Britain’s
best-loved coin because of its distinctive shape...
The 3d was phased out when decimal currency was
introduced in 1971, as it was worth 1.25p (a penny-farthing?), which
would have been very awkward.
The first pound coin was introduced by Henry VII in 1489,
and was known as the sovereign; the number of pennies in a pound became
fixed at 240.
The sovereign was the largest coin then produced in
England, and showed the king on one side, in full coronation regalia,
and the reverse depicting the royal arms, crowned and superimposed on a
magnificent double rose ― pictured below ― to mark Henry’s triumph in the
Wars of the Roses...
At a US auction last year, a Henry VII sovereign was sold
for $499,375 (about £300,000).
The government has yet to decide what will be shown on
the reverse side of the new £1 coin. I believe they are open to
The announcement of the new coin drew some
interesting letters and comments:
Sir, The threepenny piece may have been easy to identify
in the blackout, but it was never put into Christmas puddings.
It was a very heavy coin that many believed would
contaminate any food it touched. What did go into puddings was its
predecessor, the popular tiny, silver, threepenny “joey”.
TREVOR OSBOURN, Saffron Walden, Essex
Sir, The old 3d bit shape proved useful during blackouts? Is the Bank of
England showing remarkable foresight with its new £1 coin?
STUART TUCKER, Southwold, Suffolk
Sir, The new £1 coins will remind us how successive governments have
safeguarded the value of our money: what cost 3d back in 1971, when the
thruppenny bit fell to decimalisation, now costs ― wait for it ― just
Sir, The obverse of the new £1 coin should show what was on
the “tails” side of the old thruppenny bit: a design of the attractive
MICHAEL COLE, Laxfield, Suffolk
Sir, To reflect the
spirit of the age, the image on the new coin must be a “Banker rampant
on a field of gold”.
KEVIN DEEMING, Farnham, Surrey
However, a missive in the Daily Mail took a slightly
Look no further for a
face to put on the new £1 coin: Clare Balding [British television
presenter]. She seems to be on
MICK CROSSEY, Luton Beds
Very ho, ho, ho. I also liked this joke from The
Sticking with the light-hearted view, I enjoyed the
letter, spotted in The Daily Telegraph:
Those who tack
SIR – Will the new pound coin be made of steel, like all
the smaller denominations now are? Having magnetic coinage in one’s
pocket is a bit of a nuisance when standing behind the wheel of a yacht
that has a binnacle compass.
Corfe Mullen, Dorset
And a brace of smiley online comments...
Rochester: The original reason for the shape of a thruppenny bit was
to allow its removal from a Scotsman’s hand with a spanner.
Red, Axminster: A certain nationality (not a million miles from
these shores) will be busy filing down the sides of the £2 coins to make
the new £1 coins.
But my favourite response is this, again from The Daily Telegraph:
SIR – Why not mint
the new pound coin with four holes in it? This way, future generations
could use them as buttons, which is soon all they will be worth.
Jane Cullinan, Padstow, Cornwall
When in doubt, leave it out
HM! Should it be Mother’s Day or Mothers’ Day? Bugger it,
best not to use an apostrophe at all ― after all, and as previously
discussed hereabouts, some of the nation’s councils have already decided to
remove apostrophes from street signs altogether.
I noticed the above board this very morning outside a
prominent five-a-day emporium on Boot Hill, situated along the drag into
this ‘ere Dodgy City of ours (if you approach from south of the border,
down Ammanford way, that is).
And the apostrophe-less notice did make me smile.
Mind you, it would solve the great apostrophe conundrum
at a stroke if we in the UK called it by its proper name, Mothering Sunday
(or in Welsh, Sul y Mamau, literally Sunday of the Mothers). What’s
the betting though that someone would declare it Motherin’g Sunday.
Whatever, given that Mothering Sunday revolves around the
lady of the house, especially her being treated to breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, it
gives me a chance to do a little feature on food.
A rare bird (but never a turkey)
Let’s begin with Clarissa Dickson Wright, barrister
(disbarred for practising without chambers), cook, writer,
businesswoman, raconteur and freewheeling “fat lady”, who died the other
day, age 66...
Here’s lookin’ at you, Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary
Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmeralda Dickson Wright!
(Never mind Trilby, how did Elsie get in there?*)
Clarissa Dickson Wright became famous as one half of
Two Fat Ladies, an immensely popular television cookery programme
that ran from 1996 to 1999 and featured two well-spoken, hefty, not
conventionally beautiful women in late middle age who whizzed around the
country on (and in) a Triumph Thunderbird motorbike and sidecar.
They cooked the sort of dishes that require pounds of
butter and a churn full of cream. They were marvellous cooks and funny
and entertaining, although perhaps not to “manky little vegetarians” who
were the butt of many jokes (of a sandwich, “Delicious, despite its
When the pair reached points of interest ― an army
barracks, a bicycle rally, a farm or public school ― they would stop off
to prepare strongly flavoured meals boasting alarming calorie counts.
Clarissa had distinguished herself in her youth by
becoming the youngest woman to be called to the Bar ― but by middle-age
she had been called to the other bar.
Her mother, Molly, was an Australian heiress, who left
her £2.8m ― “an obscene amount of money” ― and she abandoned the law in
favour of a hedonistic lifestyle that revolved around wild parties,
extensive travel ― she frequently chartered planes and yachts in the
Caribbean ― and the consumption of two bottles of gin a day.
She eventually checked herself into a drying-out clinic
(“If I’d had another £100,000, I’d have been dead”). Her treatment was
successful and she never drank again.
I tell her story because of this letter in the Daily
Two fat lunchers
I NEVER met the Two Fat Ladies, but visiting a farm in
deepest Cumbria many years ago, I arrived to find a motorbike and
sidecar in the well-swept yard.
A well-spoken, suited young man answered the door and
told me the farmer had “gone fishing” and his wife was “out shopping”
― while the Two Fat Ladies cooked for a programme.
“Can I see?” I asked. “Oh, they’re not here,” he said.
“They’re at the pub for lunch.”
“Don’t they cook the lunch?” I asked. To which he
replied: “Don’t be silly.”
Ultimately, the TV programme showed them cooking in the
farm kitchen, along with the magnificent view from the yard ― but the
group of bikers they fed were at least ten miles away, in the next town.
BOB MASON, Chorley, Lancs.
Wonderful. Mind you, that is not a tale against the Two Fat Ladies, but rather the absolute
and grandiose dishonesty of television and its inability to paint an
honest-to-goodness picture of life, the universe and everything.
But a good story ― especially the two of them down the
pub having lunch. I do wonder, though, if there was a trailer on the
farmyard to transport the motorbike and sidecar about the country, for I
presume it was all for show.
* Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine
Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmeralda Dickson Wright was born on June 24
1947, the youngest of four children. “My parents had great trouble
deciding what to call me in the first place,” she explained about her
abundant christening, “but because suddenly they were so delighted they had finally
found a name, they got pissed on the way to the church.”
To decide which name should come first, “they blindfolded
my mother and turned her loose in the library, where she pulled out a
copy of Richardson’s Clarissa.”
I am still unsure where all the names come from ― but I shall keep
Ivor the Search Engine on his toes.
RIP Clarissa Etc Dickson Wright, you delightfully doolally creature you.
Sticking with the food theme, another Daily Mail
I’VE just eaten a traditional English shepherd’s pie:
lamb from New Zealand, sweet corn from the U.S., asparagus from Mexico,
carrots from Holland and green beans from Senegal. At least the spuds
were English, but washed down with South African plonk.
My meal was better travelled than I could ever hope to
MICHAEL TARRANT, Welling, Kent.
A tasty tale indeed. And this, compliments of Atticus in The
JUSTIN WELBY, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has revealed that he
occasionally enjoys a takeaway at home in Lambeth Palace (“No pizza,
thanks, just five loaves and a side order of two fishes”).
Speaking to the UCB Christian television station, he said
he often has to explain to various takeaway outlets that Lambeth Palace
isn’t a rival restaurant ― or a street.
The archbishop also recalled meeting one delivery man at
the palace gates. “Got a job at this place, have you?” asked the driver,
handing over the meal. “How many people work here?”
“Oh,” said the archbishop. “About half.”
Very good. Best of all, you can just hear that
Being that I’ve touched on a religious theme, together with yesterday’s
line about how confusing the English language can often be: “You say
Reading and I say reading ... let’s call the whole thing off...” ― well,
this letter from The Times follows on perfectly from the Lambeth
Church and politics
Sir, For some time I was puzzled by your front-page
headline, “Carey hits out at ‘naive’ bishops in poverty row”.
Surely bishops live in palaces, not in poverty-stricken
housing. Ah yes!
Row as in “dispute”, not as in a line of houses. No wonder foreigners
find English difficult.
JOHN BIGGS, Oundle, Northants
Finally, and taking in both food and the proper use of language, this
neat little online comment...
Fallick Alec: My wife sent me shopping to get an aubergine and if
they had any eggs to get 6. She asked why I bought 6 aubergines ― I
said: “They had eggs.”
Very Baldric, Fallick Alec.
Thursday, March 27th
Dwarfed by the world’s biggest ocean liner, Queen Mary II’s captain
perches on the bow of his vast ship
Queen Mary 2 is the largest ocean liner in the world and recently her
Chief Sitting Bull got a fresh view of her size and
CAPTAIN Kevin Oprey stood precariously on the ship’s
bulbous bow, which protrudes from the front of the 151,200 tonne liner,
to pose for a portrait with his ship.
The photographs, taken to mark the tenth anniversary of
the liner coming up in May this year, were shot while she was docked at
a port off the coast of Bali.
It took months of strategic and safety planning to work
out how to get Captain Oprey onto the bulbous bow, which helps to
stabilise the ship and streamline movement, and dips in and out of the
water depending on currents and swell.
But it was an idea too good to pass up.
“When I suggested we photograph the captain standing on
the bulbous bow, they all looked at me like I was a tiny bit mad, but
the fact it hadn’t been done was why we had to do it,” photographer
James Morgan told Mail Online.
Mr Morgan said
“safety was paramount” and they used two safety boats to transport
Captain Oprey to the bow. He took the pictures from a small boat
floating in front of the Queen Mary 2.
Impressive. I particularly like how they cleaned the algae off the bow
to stop the Captain sliding off.
Wonderful pictures, though.
There were some interesting comments about the difference
between a cruise liner and an ocean liner. This ticks the box...
Interesting snippet from Google ...... An ocean liner is a ship designed
to transport passengers from point A to point B. The classic example of
such a voyage would be a transatlantic crossing from Europe to America.
Because a ship could encounter any type of weather on
such a voyage, an ocean liner must be built strongly, using a great deal
of steel in the hull. Their bows are long and tapered to allow them to
cut through the waves. They have a deep draft in order to be more
In addition, in order to make the voyage within a
reasonable time, they are built so as to be able to go fast.
Cruise ships generally leave and dock at the same port,
and are designed for leisure rather than speed and strength.
Going back to the photographs, not only does the Captain remind me of
Chief Sitting Bull, standing there, arms crossed, but also Fred Astaire,
as if about to launch into a tap dance proper.
All of which neatly leads me to the following
Telegraph letter from a few months back and found lurking in
my scrapbook proper.
SIR – Your reference to “the joys of reading” reminded me
of the time John Betjeman [famous English “poet and hack”, 1906-1984]
was in the audience at a lecture given by Lord David Cecil on the
pleasures of reading.
After the lecture, Cecil expressed his surprise to
Betjeman at seeing him there. Betjeman replied that he had been misled.
He had expected the lecture to be about the pleasures of Reading.
That is so funny. It reminds me of the song Let’s Call
The Whole Thing Off ― yeeees, you know:
You say either and I say either ... either, either,
neither, neither, potato, patattah, tomato, tomata ― let’s call the
whole thing off...
Following on from the above examples the song rather loses its edge
with some silly examples of two countries divided by a common language. However, I can imagine this line fitting in
Reading and I say reading ...
let’s call the
whole thing off...
Here’s the actual clip from the film Shall We Dance, where Fred
and Ginger perform the song and tap dance wearing roller skates ―
astonishing; XL so as Ginger appears to be also wearing high
heels. And then comes the surprising and dramatic crash at the end:
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off – Fred & Ginger
Wednesday, March 26th
“OVER the years, Michelle Hather has studied for 30 GCSEs
and nine A-levels. Is she some kind of genius? No, she’s just helping
her kids through their exams.”
A clever headline spotted whilst flicking through a
somewhat dated Good Housekeeping magazine loitering with intent
on the table in front of me in the doctor’s surgery waiting room
(nothing serious, just a routine visit, and brightened up no end by the
These days, though, I tend to rely a lot on Rod
Liddle’s column in The Sunday Times to keep me posted
on the more doolally tales of the week, those stories just disappearing into
my rear-view mirror.
For example, talking of Michelle Hather, above, doing the
best for her children, this, from a couple of weeks back:
Complicated things, diets, don’t you think? So hard to
know if you’re doing the right thing. Take Murray Young, from Essex,
whose weight soared to more than 18 stone despite the fact that he was
eating a bowl of Special K with some fruit every morning for breakfast.
How did that happen, he wondered, lost in a sea of
compacted lard. A nutritionist revealed that the flaw in his diet plan
was the double cream (and jam) he put on the cereal every time he ate
it. To the extent that he sometimes swallowed 8,000 calories a day. “I
thought it was healthy,” he complained, “because of the Special K.”
problem was exacerbated by the fact that he has reinforced concrete
between his ears.
Oh dear ... and then last Sunday, again from Rod (warning: he has a
thing about lard):
No ball games ... ever again
Asked what they most enjoyed about their childhood, most
parents replied “playing outdoors”. However, they have no intention of
letting their own children do the same. This is the depressing news from
a survey last week, which may explain why our kids are turning into
buckets of lard.
Parents disapprove of the outdoors, fearing that some BBC
light entertainer is almost certainly hiding in the hedge with a bag of
lemon bonbons, or indeed that hit-and-run drivers are waiting to mow children
down. In the same week, Bristol council drew up plans to stop children
playing ball games in parks or climbing trees.
There’s no point in kids going outside, as there’s
nothing left to do there. Stay on the sofa, children, with crisps and a
And another Liddle gem, on a slightly different subject ―
but the victims were probably smeared with lard (mind you,
that is my presumption):
A Stockport dominatrix has been fined £8,000 because her
sex dungeon contravened fire regulations.
It was the manacles and the gags that did for her, I
suspect. The clients experience a bit of judicious singeing and think
it’s all part of the package until it’s too late and there’s nothing
they can do.
Lorraine White was
described in court by her solicitor as being “of good character”. No
question about that, I’m certain.
Perhaps they meant “Lorraine’s a bit of a character, m’lud; you’d like
her ― a lot”.
Anyway, time for a bit of proper class, spotted in a
letter to The Times:
One good deed
Sir, I once lost my
air ticket, all my money and credit cards at Heathrow (don’t ask) before
boarding a flight to Paris.
Desperate, I approached a money exchange counter and
appealed to the lady across the glass. Without question, she reached
into her handbag and gave me £100, enabling me to buy a new ticket. On
return, I sent her a cheque and called her employer to tell him of her
I always remember this if I witness someone else in
difficulties. Surely, by example we learn?
ATHENA STRUTT, Stutton, Suffolk
that a wonderful tale. But I bet that in those opening few seconds of
the exchange between Athena and the lady behind the money exchange
counter, the Good Samaritan thought: Dolphin/shark? Pussycat/polecat?
Sparrow/sparrow hawk? Red squirrel/grey squirrel? Roundabout/lay-by?
Whatever, you know the routine, that’s how life in the
real world works. Athena is clearly a dolphin, a pussycat, etc...
talking of money exchange:
“Only invest in businesses that are so simple
and transparent that they can be run by an idiot and still make money ―
because sooner or later they will be run by an idiot.”
Warren Buffett, 83,
American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist,
widely considered to be the most successful investor of the 20th century
with a net worth of some $60 billion, offers up advice in his most
recent Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter.
And of course,
the advice is also true of countries and their governments. Sooner or
later a country will be run by an idiot. The trouble is, cunning idiots
are like busses, they tend to come along together: Blair, Brown,
Tuesday, March 25th
So long, farewell...
HERE’S a thread of delightfully smiley letters spotted in
The Times, and all sparked into life compliments of a somewhat
low key missive, way back at the beginning of the month...
Sir, Sir Tim Rice laments the lack of interest in new
material for musicals. However, if the songs are good enough, then they
at least will survive. In 1933 Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach wrote
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes for the musical Roberta; the show
has sunk mostly without trace, but that song will surely last for ever.
ANTHONY ROBERTS, Shoreham by Sea, W Sussex
And so, tally-ho!
Sir, Mr Roberts’s letter brings to mind the experience of
an erstwhile colleague at a crematorium. At the request of the family of
the bereaved, he had arranged to play over the loudspeaker system Ella
Fitzgerald’s beautiful interpretation of the song Every Time We Say
Unfortunately, in that era of pre-digital equipment,
the sound system operator erred catastrophically and broadcast, to the
assembly in the crematorium chapel, the equally beautiful, but wholly
inappropriate recording of Ella’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
JOHN W. SPENCE, Swansea
Sir, My mother wanted Smoke Gets in Your Eyes at
her cremation. She still had a sense of humour even at the age of 107
when she died.
ELISABETH PARKMAN, Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Sir, Mr Spence’s letter regarding inappropriate
recordings at crematoriums reminded me of the funeral service of a war
veteran when it seemed fitting that the retiring music should be a
recording of Vera Lynn singing We’ll Meet Again.
It was unfortunate, to say the least, that the wrong
track was played and the service ended with Wish Me Luck as You Wave
Me Goodbye. Cheerio, Here I Go on My Way ― which prompted some
exuberant members of the congregation to do just that.
THE REV PETER LIDDELOW, Barnet, Herts
Sir, Mr Spence’s letter reminded me of my Mum’s funeral when, we too,
chose Ella Fitzgerald’s Every Time We Say Goodbye as a finale to
We all remained seated until the end of the song and as
we began to file out we left to She Wears Red Feathers and a
BARBARA BIRD, Leeds
I presume, Barbara Bird, that the Guy Mitchell song at the end of the
service was a deliberate choice rather than someone forgetting to switch
off the crematorium’s jukebox. Mind you, if it was an “Oops, sorry!”
moment, it would have raised many a smile anyway.
Sir, I have made arrangements that my “exit number” will
be Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone, as sung by George
PROFESSOR JOHN MURRELL, Homerton College, Cambridge
Songs to die for
Sir, My father, a lifelong member of the Salvation Army,
used to tell the story about the funeral of a Salvationist who was being
lowered into his grave in silence. The Salvation Army officer leading
the funeral service suggested they all sang a “chorus” as those around
symbolically threw some soil on to the top of the coffin.
In the spontaneous way the Salvation Army often does,
he struck up the chorus Who’ll Be the Next to Follow Jesus as
those in the funeral party tried to stifle their laughs.
BARRY NATTON, Birkenhead, Wirral
Sir, Bob Hope, when asked what he wanted played at his funeral, replied:
JOHN RATCLIFFE, Cavendish, Suffolk
Intrigued, I climbed aboard Ivor the Search Engine...
31 July 2003:
BOB HOPE was buried under overcast skies in Los Angeles yesterday,
following a private funeral mass at dawn, attended by about 100 family
members and close friends.
The legendary comedian died on Sunday night of
pneumonia. He was 100.
The funeral mass at St Charles Borromeo Catholic
Church, near to Hope’s Toluca Lake estate, was held at 6:30am. No
details were available about the service, which was kept a family
The fifth of seven sons, he was
born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham, England on May 29, 1903. His English
father, William Henry Hope, was a stonemason -- his Welsh mother, Avis
Townes Hope, an aspiring concert singer.
Well, well, I had no idea his mother was Welsh. Every day a day at
school. But no clue as to the music played.
Meanwhile, back at the
Last Chance Saloon jukebox...
[in a lively manner:
with spirit or vigour (used as a musical direction)
incidentally, this explanation is to satisfy my ignorance; con brio is an expression
never heard in the bible ― as far as I know ― or the Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy
Horsepower Saloon. Anyway, let’s start again...]
Sir, On leaving the crematorium (after my funeral) I should like the
jolly march Blaze Away played by André Rieu.
My husband never listens to a word I say, but he reads the letters in
The Times very carefully.
SUSAN SMITH, Leicester
Oh my goodness my Guinness, how witty is that?
Sir, A former vicar of this parish told me that having conducted a
cremation service for a butcher, mourners departed to Bach’s Sheep
May Safely Graze.
JOHN WILLIAMS, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire
Sir, A group of us from our local male choir are sometimes engaged to
sing at the local crematorium. We are known informally as the Cremtones.
TIM O’HAGAN, Bridgend
Sir, My lovely wife Marion has requested Bing Bong the Witch is Dead
as the parting music at her funeral, which is hopefully very many years
hence. I just thought it wise to point out in advance, who made this
NICK JENKINS, Rochester, Kent
Sir, I would like Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb played at my
cremation, hoping that it is true.
NIGEL OSTROWSKI, Edinburgh
Sir, I played the organ at the funeral of an opera lover. During the
service a friend of the deceased stood with one hand on the coffin and
sang Puccini’s aria Your Tiny Hand is Frozen.
GEOFFREY HEATH, Hogshaw, Bucks
Very good, most enjoyable. Oh, and I enjoyed this ‘I nearly died’ letter:
Sir, I was told by a very old Evangelical Christian of my acquaintance
that a revivalist meeting was held in the north of England to which the
mayor and corporation were invited.
As they had not appeared at the appointed hour, it was decided that the
congregation should launch into the opening hymn; whereupon the
dignitaries, led by the mayor, duly appeared, and processed up the aisle
to the sound of several hundred lusty voices singing See the Mighty
Hosts Advancing, Satan at Their Head.
ANNA KNOWLES, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys
Anyway, back with the jukebox playlist to die for. And to start once
more at the very beginning...
So long, farewell...
Frank Sinatra sums up humanity to perfection. He has a song for every
section of society. At the head of the totem pole are the movers and
shakers of modern Britain, including the wealthiest top third of the
They are all, by definition, driven by ambition and
greed, even the professional classes these days, so what else but Frank’s I Did It My Way (the
fiery furnace will feel like home from home).
Then there are those at the bottom of the pile, those who live a hand to
mouth existence ― what else but Frank’s That’s Life (there’s a
marvellous live performance up there on my Desert Island Video Jukebox,
but here’s the link anyway:
That’s Life – Frank Sinatra)
And finally, those in the middle (the squeezed middle?), folk who live a
reasonably responsible and contented
lifestyle. What else but It Was A Very Good Year (the broad,
sunlit uplands will seem familiar).
And on that note, here’s the link to that last one, the song that is my
choice as I exit the departure gate...
It Was A Very Good Year – Frank Sinatra
Where’s that pheasant plucker?
COINCIDENCE is the word that follows me around like a
shadow. I mean, yesterday I told the tale of the pheasant that decided,
out of a clear blue sky, to visit my garden. Never had such a caller
Having thrown it some seed, which it duly gobbled up ― do
pheasants gobble? ― whatever, I sort of expected to see it back again
today. After all, birds quickly learn on which side of the fence their
goodies are buttered.
But no return visit. Instead, and unbelievably, I came
across this story in The Telegraph:
Henpecked family in fear of ‘holy terror’ pheasant
An unpleasant pheasant is terrorising a
Cambridgeshire farming family and
leaving visitors and pets fearful of attack whenever they venture out of
In scenes worthy of a Hitchcock film, a furious pheasant
is besieging a farmhouse and leaving a terrified family too fearful to
venture outside without protection.
[There was a picture of said angry pheasant ― but it
didn’t look particularly furious to me ... back to the tale...]
Farmer’s wife Anne-Marie Hamilton said their feathered
terrorist has also been menacing visitors to Wood Farm, attacking
vehicles and chasing cats and dogs.
A delivery driver was trapped at the farm in Weston,
Cambridgeshire, for 20 minutes after the male bird blocked his path,
flew at the bonnet and then chased his van.
Mrs Hamilton, who described the pheasant as “a complete
lunatic”, said family and visitors can only venture into the farmyard
armed with “a big stick” to deter the pheasant from attacking.
“It’s an absolute nightmare,” said Mrs Hamilton. “Even
when you can’t see him, you can hear him lurking about. He’s never far
away so you can’t let your guard down. He’s a holy terror...”
The British Trust for Ornithology said pheasants were
known to be territorial and would protect their territory, but said that
the Wood Farm bird was “a little extreme”.
Mrs Hamilton, who with her husband Robert, has lived on
the arable farm since 1986, said she was used to pheasants visiting but
had never had to face such aggressive behaviour before.
"He really has been terrorising us,” she said. “He’s not
at all wary of people, or dogs. He chased my poor Jack Russell all the
way down the farm track and back home. The poor dog was exhausted.
“One young girl was having her first driving lesson on
our land and could not move the car because the pheasant would not leave
it alone. I don’t think we’ll see our delivery driver for a while
either,” Mrs Hamilton added.
When the bird is not rampaging around the farm and seeing
off her dogs, cats and visitors’ vehicles, the pheasant has taken up
residence outside her patio doors.
“Frankly I’d like to see him in a pie but some of my
friends have become quite fond of him. They think it’s quite a laugh but
they don’t have to live with him.”
Paul Stancliffe, from the ornithology trust, said: “It’s
the start of the breeding season so the pheasant sees everything as a
threat. He’s trying to get everyone and everything off his territory so
he can install his harem.”
Goodness, I hope my pheasant doesn’t come back and treat
the garden like his personal massage parlour, nudge-nudge, wink-wink,
know what I mean, Mellors.
The comments were entertaining too. From a farming family
being terrorised by a pheasant ― oh come on, whatever next? ― to the
observation that the birds are not called wring-necked pheasants for
nothing (ho, ho, ho).
And this from the memorably named
Aberrant Apostrophe: Living next to farmland, we
often have pheasants in our garden. Until recently the three males and
couple of hens got on reasonably well. However, now the weather has
turned warmer the larger one has chased the other two males away and is
now proceeding to build up his harem ― five hens to date. Our record is
13 hens, so he has some way to go...
Many suggested calling in the pheasant plucker, or indeed
the pheasant plucker’s son...
And then I found this amusing little strip cartoon online
― mind you, I think that’s a miniature joey on the barbie:
Some online comments pointed out that you can’t kill the
pheasant now because it’s out of season ― so the family Hamilton will
have to wait until October 1st to hit him with a 12 iron. That’s a
12-bore iron, I presume.
Amusing tale, though.
Sunday, March 23rd
UP THERE in
Notes to Self I establish that this web site is
a daily record of those things in life wot make me smile and brighten up
my day ― whether read in a newspaper, seen on TV, heard on 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, a memorable song,
something startling that nevertheless generates a spontaneous smile,
curiosities spotted along my walks...
Last Friday, it was something spotted along my morning
walk vis-à-vis my first bluebell of the season. Yesterday, it was again
something spotted along my walks, namely the little lambs that now dot
the fields here, there and everywhere.
Today, it’s again nature that tickles the old
smileometer. At the top is a photograph I took last July ― yes,
even during the summer months I put feeders out for just a few hours a
Now the Candy Man treats attract all sorts of songbirds,
but in the above they are pretty much all sparrows ― during last
summer’s agreeable weather they bred at a prolific rate and the parents
regularly brought their young to the feeders.
Along my daily early-morning walks I set out to lure the
birds into my hand ― witness the photos all over
and its tributaries ― but at home I don’t interfere, I just watch the birds through the window.
Well now, this morning, I happen to look out into the
garden ... and there, larger than life and twice as exciting ― this cock
A pheasant? I couldn’t believe my luck. What a glorious
sight. After taking a few pictures through the window, I quietly and
slowly venture out ... the bird surprises me by not making its excuses
and leaving ― but it does ease itself gently away from me. Actually it
appears remarkably tame.
So I throw a little seed on the paved area just outside
the kitchen door. I often do this anyway because some birds will only
feed off the floor ― blackbirds for example.
Anyway, I watch from the kitchen ... Joseph ― well, just
look at that amazing technicolor dreamcoat ― eventually works his way to
then open the kitchen door ... this time it even allows me to photograph
it at fairly close quarters, above.
Obviously the way to a bird’s heart really is through the
Yes, I’ve seen pheasants reasonably close before ― never
along my morning walks, curiously, rather on the family farm ― but I’ve
never been this close to one.
How exceedingly beautiful it is.
My, my, Mother Nature has tickled my old smileometer three
days on the trot. I wonder what tomorrow will bring, if spared, of
Saturday, March 22nd
Springtime for Hubie
JUST yesterday I featured the appearance of Solitaire, my
first bluebell spot of the season. To me the bluebell heralds the
arrival of spring proper.
Having said that, today it has turned noticeably colder.
Ah well. However:
Saturday’s Western Mail newspaper includes
the Weekend Magazine. Today’s cover page is the above, with a ―
well, not so much a catwalk but a sheepwalk of smile-inducing faces.
Yep, sheep and lambs do have that look about them which
encourages a smile. They are inherently photogenic.
So I thought I’d enter into the spirit of Weekend’s
invitation and search out some of my own photographs that have, over
recent years, made me smile...
This is a marvellous image because, at a casual glance,
the lightning-hit tree in Dinefwr Park, Llandeilo, looks for all the
world like a shepherd, an old boy stooped and wizened by the passing of
the years ― but recognised by the sheep as their guardian.
Then there’s this ‘Ride ‘em cowboy’ picture ― lambs enjoy climbing all
over their mums, a mountaineering exploit which never fails to generate
As for the ‘I hate bathtime’ lamb, the little thing was
fast asleep in there when I first spotted it, in what I initially
thought to be a curiously abandoned heavy-duty washbasin ― bit I guess
it’s something the farmer uses as a handy feed tub.
And there we have it. Fortunately, I never have to wait for springtime to
raise a smile.
Rites of spring
Surely in rural England spring is heralded by the
farmers’ first crop gun ― hopeless as a bird deterrent but very
effective against peace and quiet.
DEREK WALDUCK, Snape, Suffolk
There is something inherently
funny in someone called Walduck complaining about a farmer and his gun.
Shame Derek does not live in a place called Snipe. Anyway, on with the
Sir, The sighting of
a humming-bird hawk-moth, and hearing the first lawnmower. That’s
nothing. I’ve just seen the first caravan.
RAYMOND JONES, Porth, Mid Glamorgan.
So much for The Times’ letter writers ― but here in rural
Wales (as opposed to rural England), in my square mile at least, spring
is heralded by the arrival of Solitaire (see picture at the top).
Yes, I spotted my first bluebell yesterday, the Vernal
Equinox as it happens, the first day of spring (according to nature,
that is, rather than the meteorological mob who welcome spring on the
1st of March).
To repeat my annual lecture:
Over the past 15 years I’ve kept a record of the first
bluebell of the season ― excepting 2001, the year when Foot & Mouth
struck and the countryside was out of bounds.
I’m never sure whether it’s the very same bluebell each year.
Whatever, along my springtime early-morning walks I
divert through the bluebell woods. I pass one particularly secluded and
sheltered south-facing spot in Castle Woods, a real suntrap, a spot
where a solitary bluebell always but always appears a good few days
ahead of her brothers and sisters, and a week or so ahead of her cousins
and the rest of the family ― which is why I call ‘her’ Solitaire.
As a rule of thumb, her appearance varies between March
18 and March 30 ― excepting the occasional wayward year.
Spring 2006 was really cold and late, and the bluebell
did not appear until April 8; in 2010, following an exceptionally cold
start to the year, it was on April 5; as it was last year, 2013, after
the heavy snows and the really cold weather of March.
In 2008, with its unusually mild winter and spring,
Solitaire appeared, astonishingly, on February 28. I even had a letter
published in The Times about it. Well, it made a change from a
missive about cuckoos, swallows, lawnmowers, crop guns and caravans.
In 2012 the fragrant bluebell trumped our national flower
here in Wales, the daffodil, and appeared on St David’s Day, March 1.
This year, though, I am really surprised that Solitaire
took so long to appear, given that it’s been such a mild winter ― wet,
yes, but I could count the truly frosty mornings on the fingers of one
Even the carpet of lush, green foliage that precedes the
flower has been really mean spirited this year.
Clearly Solitaire hates the extreme wet as much as she
dislikes the really cold weather.
However, something out of the ordinary happened this year. Around a
month or so ago I began my regular detours through the bluebell woods
... and the landscape had changed rather dramatically.
Right near the spot where Solitaire resides, the raging
storms of winter had brought a healthy, mature beech tree crashing
There’s the fallen beech, behind Solitaire
But here’s the thing. The disturbed ground around the
base of the tree was littered with bluebell bulbs. The roots had
spectacularly churned up the ground and thrown bulbs up all over the
Rather than leave the bulbs to their fate I collected
them ― many of them were starting to sprout ― and planted them in other
places, some in my garden.
I’m unsure whether they will flower this year ― the shock
may well have withdrawn them into their shell, so to speak, but
hopefully next year they will flourish. Fingers crossed.
Actually, in the above photograph, you can see that the
bulbs around the base of the tree which somehow managed to remain in the
soil, are sprouting well. Mother Nature doesn’t give up that easily.
Looking into a girl’s eyes
Apropos the meteorological spring, no wonder our
forecasters are so bad at telling the weather. Someone once told me this
as the definition of a meteorologist: a man who can look into a girl’s
eyes and tell whether.
Given that most of today’s male weather forecasters
appear to be gay ― well, no wonder they can’t tell their weather from
their whether. There again: a meteorologist is a man who can look into a
man’s eyes and tell whether.
The weather and the times they
Thursday, March 20th
Signs of the times
SIR – I support
Cambridge City Council’s decision to remove apostrophes from street
As a teacher, I notice that some children cant put them
in the proper place. Others dont use them at all. Its my opinion that
they shouldnt have been included in the English language in the first
Furthermore, punctuation is a hindrance to a childs
ability to write. Commas semi colons hyphens speech marks where does it
end a childs creativity should be free of the burden of punctuation
speling allso neads too be delt wiv i prepoze that orll
speling rools shud be remuved our kids wud hav a briter fucha and it wud
put the grate bak into britten.
Richard Townend, Selby, North Yorkshire
That smashingly witty letter was published in The Daily Telegraph
― I particularly liked the idea of putting
grate back into britten”
― and it generated this worthy online comment...
One Last Try:
This was obviously meant for publication on 01 April. Well done Richard,
I love it, it is almost musical in construction, starts off slowly,
rising to a crescendo, in concert with the rising hackles of Disgusted
of Tunbridge Wells.
Perfectly summarised, OLT. Meanwhile...
Okay class ... pay attention
perhaps Mr Pie, Mrs Pasty and Ms Sandwich make exceedingly good cakes
(which would of course explain the missing apostrophe in ‘cakes’)
Or do you suppose that many of these things are done
deliberately, especially that professional ‘Sign’s’ effort up
there? After all, such mistakes generate an extraordinary amount of
publicity and harmless fun ― always good natured, never nasty (well,
ignoring the trolls).
And you know what they say: all publicity is good
publicity (unless you’re the BBC, obviously). Hm.
Splitting Julia’s hairs – but which is correct?
Julia knows all about beauty – welcome to her parlour (?)
Welcome to Julia Know’s beauty parlour (?)
For all we know, Know could be Julia’s surname.
As I hint at above, who would have thought that such a
simple little thing as an apostrophe ― whether missing in action or present and
incorrect ― could generate so much innocent pleasure.
Wednesday, March 19th
One for the road
YES, the St Patrick’s Day theme continues ― but there is
a specific reason for the extended celebrations.
But first, a newspaper cutting that’s been sitting on my
desk since last December (from The Sunday Times, Atticus
Is you is or is you ain’t
The BBC reporter Giles Dilnot has stumbled across a
marvellous new game that will help us through the long winter evenings.
Simply type a politician’s name into Google after the word “is” and see
what people are asking about them online.
For example, here’s what voters want to know about the
home secretary: “Is Theresa May ... turning into Cara Delevingne?” (Miss
Delevingne, m’lud, is a model and actress).
The comments range
from simple abuse (“Is George Osborne ... a psychopath?”) to the
slightly bizarre (“How tall is Oliver Letwin?” ― note: the search
engine will occasionally rearrange the question to taste). But
there’s particularly bad news for the environment secretary, of whom
people ask: “Who is Owen Paterson?”
Interesting. However, given that search engine questions change by the
day, by the hour, by the minute, I tried again:
“Is There--- ?” instantly came up on Bing as “---life
after death?” ― but asking “Is Theresa May---?” drew a blank.
On Google, “Is Theresa May---?” drew “---married?”,
followed by “---racist?”
On Bing, “Is George Osborne---?” drew “---a mason?”,
followed by “---a psychopath?”, while Google’s “Is George Osborne---?”
drew “---a good chancellor?” (well, it is Budget day), followed by
“---related to the Queen?”
The Oliver Letwin and Owen Paterson responses remained
just the same.
Out of curiosity I entered “Is Tony Blair---?”, and also
“Is David Cameron---?” ― both drew the same most asked question,
So it set me thinking ... with Mick Jagger all over the news following
the apparent suicide of his girlfriend, L’Wren Scott, I typed “Is Mick
The most asked question on Google was: “...in Coronation
The most asked question on Bing was, again: “...dead?”
Gulp. What is this thing called interweb I’m dabbling with?
Anyway, back with the sad Mick Jagger business, he issued this
statement: “I am still struggling to understand how my lover and
best friend could end her life in this tragic way. We spent many
wonderful years together and had made a great life for ourselves. She
had great presence and her talent was much admired, not least by me...”
What is so surprising about this tragedy is that, despite
a ‘lover and best friend’ relationship over a significant period of 13
years, Jagger appears to have had no sense whatsoever of impending doom
and gloom ― which suggests no empathy whatsoever with her state of mind.
How curious. How sad.
Be all that as it may, and returning to St Patrick, I
typed in the question: “Is Blarney Stone...?” Unsurprisingly, Google
changed it to: “Where is blarney stone?”
Back in 2002 the James Bond movie franchise was
celebrating its 40th anniversary, and the media had wondered allowed if
there were any actual people called James Bond lurking out there in the
Indeed there were. I recall one such individual, a
40-year-old James Bond from Bristol, being interviewed on the wireless
about his famous name.
His heavily pregnant mother and father (Mr & Mrs Bond,
obviously) had gone to see the first Bond film, Dr No, back in 1962. His
father had enjoyed the line where Sean Connery says: “Bond. James Bond.”
So much so, both he and his wife decided that if it was a boy they would
name him James.
Of course back then they would have had no idea how
world-famous the name would become. They liked it because it sounded
The real life James Bond went on to tell the tale of
finding himself in the same restaurant as Pierce Brosnan, the then film
Bond. He asked the waiter to take his card to Brosnan ― and of course
the actor was naturally intrigued and invited him over to join his
company. I hope the real-life one said “Bond. James Bond”.
Anyway, back with my search engine question: I amended
the question to “Is there a person called---?” ― the four top online
questions users were asking Google were ... Paddy Power, Harry Potter,
and Google ― but when I added Blarney Stone the search engine drew a
You can see where I’m going with this: Alice and Benny
Stone wonder what they’re going to name their bouncing baby boy. We know,
they decide between them, we’ll call him Barney ― but we’ll quietly slip in an extra letter which
won’t offend anybody.
Years later, across a crowded room, Stone Jr spots a most
handsome young lady. He approaches her: “Hello!”
He smiles and presents her with his card. “Stone. Blarney Stone.” There,
I bet you smiled.
Probably the best opening line in the world.
Google came up with individuals named Barney Stone ―
Stone is a quite familiar surname anyway ― but just think what that
extra “l” in the name would mean. After all, Blarney is very much an
acceptable sounding name ― and it trips off the tongue.
Mind you, imagine though if someone like Gerry Adams had
been christened Blarney Stone ― oh God, it’s not worth thinking about.
Still, it was a good game whilst it lasted.
The Day After The Day Before
Irish eyes still smiling
LOOK, you cannot have a St Patrick’s Day craic without it
tripping over into the next day.
So: yesterday I rather enjoyed sharing some memorable
Irish quotes, whether by Irish folk (alive or dearly departed), or
unforgettable words out
of the mouths of Irish characters in fiction.
“O’Flattery will get you nowhere.” TOM FOOLERY,
Irish time traveller.
Or perhaps it should read:
“O’Flattery will get you anywhere.”
Well, they do say Tom Foolery’s a taxi
The next comes from the controversial TV comedy
FATHER TED, about Irish
priests, set on the fictional Craggy Island, off Ireland’s west coast,
and the show starred Dermot Morgan as the Father Ted Crilly, alongside
the Father Dougal McGuire (Ardal O’Hanlon):
Father Ted: “It’s not as if everyone’s going to go off
and join some mad religious cult just because we go off for a picnic for
a couple of hours.”
Father Dougal: “God, Ted, I heard about those cults.
Everyone dressing in black and saying our Lord’s gonna come back and
judge us all!”
Father Ted: “No, no, Dougal, that’s us. That’s
“The heart of an
Irishman is nothing but his imagination.” GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
The playwright was born in Dublin. He moved to London when he was 20 and
later said: “Put an Irishman on the spit and you can always get
another Irishman to turn him.” He helped found the London School of
are no more Irish than Black Americans are Africans.” Controversial
musician BOB GELDOF, who was born in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, in
“The boys of the NYPD
Were singing Galway Bay,
And the bells are ringing out
For Christmas day.”
Shane McGowan and the POGUES with their iconic tale of
the American-Irish experience, Fairytale of New York.
(See Bob Geldof
“Oh, Danny Boy, the
pipes, the pipes are calling,
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side.”
(which was actually composed by an English lawyer called Frederic
Weatherly in 1910 but written to a melody called The Londonderry Air) is
a song played frequently at funerals, including those of John F. Kennedy
and Elvis. The melody is believed to have been penned by the blind Irish
harpist Rory Dall O’Cahan in the late 16th or early 17th Century.
“May you have the hindsight to know where you have
been; The foresight to know where you are going; And the insight to know
when you have gone too far.” IRISH BLESSING.
And these, about the Irish, compliments of our old friend ANONYMOUS:
“For every solution they have a problem.”
alcohol so the Irish wouldn’t rule the world.”
“Most of the Irish
are over here, singing about how wonderful it is over there.”
And a couple of online comments:
CROMWELL, my personal hero, on CONNEMARA: “Not enough water to drown
a man; not enough trees to hang a man; not enough earth to bury a man.”
Possibly apochryphal but accurate.
clever line that is. However:
situated at the very edge of Europe, on the west coast of Ireland, is
one of the most beautiful, unspoilt places it’s possible to find.”
At least, according to
Connemara Tourism. And I believe
And on a much more serious note:
Last weekend, Eddie Haughey, Northern Ireland’s
wealthiest entrepreneur, and head of Norbrook Laboratories, was one of
four people killed in a helicopter crash while taking off in thick fog.
It has since been revealed that Haughey was suing the helicopter
manufacturers over alleged faults.
Which prompted this exceedingly wise comment...
fly in a helicopter whose manufacturer you are suing.
Finally, a line that could well have been written by Dylan Thomas:
“If it’s only a kiss you want, I can kiss you with my
clothes on.” Katie O’Reilly
to Captain Lord Blackthorn in Titanic Rhapsody. Author JINA BACARR.
What a smiley line that is. All I know about Jina is, that she’s
American and loves dark chocolate truffles and rainy days in museums...
How can you not lover her?
as in the Irish port ‘Dún
Laoghaire ― pronounced Dun-leary’, came up as
‘Laugharne’, which, given the mention of Dylan Thomas, just up there, is
amusing beyond. Also,
‘Connemara’ came up as
‘Cinerama’, which sounds just perfect for one of
most beautiful, unspoilt places it’s possible to find’.
Saint Patrick’s Day, 2014
na maidine dhuit
(Top of the morning to you)
More-uh nah mod-gin-uh g-wit
AS SOON as I saw the picture, below, of William
and Kate on a visit to the 1st Battalion Irish Guards for their annual
St. Patrick’s Day Parade at Mons Barracks in Aldershot ― I smiled XXL.
The Prince was attending in his role as Colonel of the
Regiment, while Kate was there to present the traditional sprigs of
shamrocks to the Officers and Guardsmen of the Regiment.
But what was the joke?
“Many people die of thirst but the Irish are born with one.”
That’s the best I could come up with.
Actually, the line
belongs to the late comedian and writer
SPIKE MILLIGAN (1918-2002), who
took Irish citizenship (his father was Irish) after the British
government declared him stateless.
Stateless? Only Spike, eh?
Incidentally, what a wonderful picture that is. The
jollity is infectious: Kate laughing and grabbing her hair; William with
the fingers on his right hand extended, a curious human physical
expression of genuine hilarity; the fellow behind William with his
somewhat inscrutable hint of a smile; and perhaps best of all, the soldier’s boss,
alongside Kate, has that
wonderfully gentle smile which says “Very good”.
I did attempt to find out what it was the soldier had
said and which they all found so amusing ― no luck though, just a general
curse from the meeja that they couldn’t hear what Kate was saying as she
handed out the sprigs of shamrock.
set me thinking ... hm, I know, I’ll send Ivor the Search Engine off
to look for some memorable Irish quotes, whether by Irish people (alive
or dead), or indeed Irish
characters in fiction...
“Irish women are always carrying water on their
heads, and always carrying their husbands home from pubs. Such things
are the greatest posture-builders in the world.” PETER O'TOOLE
“Dublin University contains the cream of Ireland: Rich and thick.”
Playwright and novelist SAMUEL BECKETT
(1906-1989), who was born in Dublin.
“Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food
groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat.”
American writer ALEX LEVINE.
And I must say, I really
enjoy my Gaelic cum Celtic coffee, an XL version of which I enjoy every
morning after I return from my Towy Valley walk.
“The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God
For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.”
G K CHESTERTON (1874-1936),
The Ballad of the White Horse.
[The Irish] is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use
SIGMUND FREUD (1856-1939), the founding father of psychoanalysis.
Overheard at O’Banion’s Beer Emporium:
“Pardon me, darlin’, but I’m writin’ a telephone book. C’n I have
Author HENRY D. SPALDING, Lilt of the Irish:
Encyclopaedia of Irish Folklore and Humour.
“Lost: Heartbeat. Last seen being chased away
by an Irishman’s shameless grin. Reward if returned.”
Author K. E. WHITNEY, What
Happens in Ireland.
I wonder if it’s
the same person overheard at
― what an exceedingly good name for a watering hole that is ― as the
person involved in the Lost & Looking ad from
What Happens in Ireland.
Finally, and given that William and Kate feature in today’s smile of the
day, I had to share this gem, again from
K. E. Whitney’s
What Happens In Ireland:
Kate giggled. “Excellent choice.”
“I always make excellent choices.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Of course I do. I picked ye, didn’t I?”
...to be continued...
Sunday, March 16th
Let sleeping beauties lie
A CAT sleeping in a weird and wonderful place seemed most
appropriate today ― and here’s why: two extraordinary contradictory
headlines spotted online apropos the exceedingly agreeable
weather we’re currently enjoying over most of the UK.
This, on The Telegraph home page:
Make the most of it: weekend sunshine could be last for weeks
Britain basks in spring sunshine but forecasters warn it
could be last “long spell” of fine weather in coming weeks
Typical, I thought. That’s why my home town is
affectionately known as Llandampness. But then I visit Mail Online:
Britain is on course for the hottest ever summer ... and it started
Forecasters say warm days are here to stay until the end of this month
Oh dear, must go and lie down in a darkened room ...
which coincidentally brings me back to the cats. But this time not a
photo but a cartoon spotted on the
Tumblr blogging website ‘Cats sleeping in weird places’:
Well that did make me smile ... it rather perfectly
captures how pets and pussycats come to dominate people’s lives.
There was a Channel 4 programme tonight: Live From
Space ― Lap Of The Planet
I spotted that it was on telly compliments of The
Sunday Times TV & Radio Guide’s
Pick of the day.
The blurb said this:
This live broadcast from the International Space Station
and Mission Control in Houston promises to be a far-out trip. Over 90
minutes, viewers will watch as the ISS makes an orbit of the Earth,
witnessing a sunrise and a sunset as it travels at more than 300 miles
I dunno, ‘300 miles per minute’ doesn’t quite paint a
picture in the mind of speed and motion. Or at least no proper idea of the extraordinary speed of
17,000 mph the whole kit and caboodle is travelling at.
For example, most of us can picture five miles in our
minds, the sort of distance we are intimately familiar with and travel regularly
― in my case it’s the
precise distance from home to the farm where I was born and bred to live
a life of jollity and contentment. And where the
family still farm.
But the point is ... when the ISS passes overhead, it
covers that five miles in just one second.
One second? Wow!
Meanwhile, I am still trying to make sense of those
weather headlines. My guess is that Mail Online is focussed
only on the south-east of England i.e. London-centric, as the meeja
tends to be ― whereas The Telegraph forecast is looking at
the UK as a whole.
I shall watch the nation’s weather with increased
interest over the rest of the month...
Saturday, March 15th
Birds in flight
FIRST things first: congratulations to Ireland on winning
rugby’s Six Nations title in a most entertaining and thrilling game against
out in Paris. Well deserved.
And a special nod and a smile to BOD (Brian O’Driscoll,
35) who played his last game for Ireland and was named MOTM (Man of the
Match), and who has entertained us royally down the years.
BOD is the most-capped player in rugby union history,
having played 141 test matches ― 133 for Ireland (83 as captain), and
eight for the British and Irish Lions.
He has scored 46 tries for Ireland and one try for the
Lions in 2001, making him the highest try scorer of all time in Irish
Rugby. He is the 8th-highest try scorer in international rugby union
history, and the highest scoring centre of all time.
BOD holds the Six Nations record for most tries scored
He has scored the most Heineken Cup (European club/regional competition)
tries (30) for an Irishman.
Brian O'Driscoll was chosen as Player of the Tournament
in the 2006, 2007 and 2009 Six Nations Championships (probably 2014 will
be added to the list).
Big silver bird in sky
The curious case of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, the one that did not go
‘ping’ in the night ― or did it? ― continues to baffle. What
an odd business. Mind you, I have a sneaky feeling that someone,
somewhere knows what happened but for whatever reason they are not
prepared to share their insight just yet.
Meanwhile, along my early morning walks one of the
ever-present features, especially on clear, cloudless days as we have
enjoyed of late, are the aircraft contrails, as visible in the
photograph at the top of one of the little songbirds I feed along the
Here in Llandampness we live under one of the major
air-lanes that guide European and UK air traffic out toward Ireland and
then the Atlantic ― here’s a chart of the lane as it crosses south and west
At Strumble Head on the Pembrokeshire coast, traffic will
either bare slightly left and head for southern Ireland and then out
over the Atlantic ― or bear right and head up for Ireland, and then
A truly fascinating two minute video of air traffic
movements over the UK and Europe has just been released by NATS Holdings
(formerly National Air Traffic Services),
the UK’s leading provider of air traffic control
services. Each year they handle 2.2 million flights and 220 million
passengers in UK airspace.
This visualization ― Europe 24 ― was
created from real flight data over a 24-hour period. It shows the air
traffic which flies on a typical summer day (in 2013) and highlights the
intensity of the operation in Europe.
It is truly fascinating, especially as it shows traffic
approaching overnight from America (00:00 to 09:00) and heading for the
UK and Europe.
Now here’s a picture I took on one particular morning
walk, at sunrise ― and it shows the number of aircraft contrails heading
Now click on the link below ― and you will dramatically
see all this traffic approaching overnight from America and heading into
the rising sun. Two minutes of magic.
It is mesmerizing in the extreme...
Friday, March 14th
For Health & Safety ...
Sickly & Dangerous
EVERYONE has busy and stressful days at work. So much so
that getting the job done as quickly as possible seems to be of more
importance than observing basic safety procedures.
A memorable set of photos from around the world have
emerged online of workers who seem quite content to endanger their lives
to get the job done ― and all of whom cheated death (we presume).
So much for health and safety!
Overground, underground, dangling free
decidedly precarious ...... via the distinctly ridiculous ...... to the
From ... a roofer who refused to be diverted from
reaching the heights because his ladder was too short ― so he just
plonked another ladder on top...
Via ... a worker dangling down a manhole with his
co-worker holding on to his jeans for dear life ... what makes it even
funnier is that the fellow hanging on to his pal could have been a model
for the cartoon character at the very top ― if he’d been wearing a hard
To ... a man working on the underneath of a truck by
propping it up using a few flimsy pieces of wood which could slip at any
time (I can hardly bear to look at that image).
What makes all of these pictures so exceedingly ironic is
that they are gathered together on an entertaining web site called
ho, ho, ho!
Then came this somewhat hilarious picture of a man using
a concrete cutter with a plastic container over his head...
nah-nah-nah ― can’t hear you!
The fellow above reminded me of the lamb I came across
last year that had somehow managed to trap itself inside a plastic
container. It was a strange but funny thing to behold ― actually it took
quite an effort to free the lamb without hurting or damaging the poor
thing. Fortunately it didn’t appear to have been trapped all that long.
back with the crazy workmen, I liked these online comments...
Liana: This is
why women live longer than men, some would say.
enough a report the other day said that the age gap between male and
female deaths is closing because women are now increasingly involved in
jobs previously undertaken by men involving danger and extreme stress.
runnyhorse: The man with the bucket on his
head is quite funny, and in a strange way, clever!
gmt: The guy with the bucket over
his head should go on Dragon’s Den.
Lewis: The head bucket also acts
as a sound barrier.
Actually, that last one is a good observation because
those cutters make quite a deafening noise; in truth he should be
wearing proper ear protectors and goggles.
Still, crazy world, crazy situations, crazy people.
Thursday, March 13th
Naughty and not quite so nice
toddled off to bed last night I was still smiling at the day’s most
memorable news headline:
Nigel Farage ‘employs both his wife and mistress
at public expense’.
Well blow me, this morning I visit the newsagent to pick
up a newspaper ― and I’m confronted by the front page of The Sun newspaper,
above ... so I’m still smiling.
If you recall, it seems that UKIP leader Nigel Farage
pays Kirsten, his wife, and Annabelle Fuller, his press officer, out of
European Union allowances.
His UKIP colleagues speak of his weakness for “crumpet” ―
which I thought was rather French, and made it a bit of a mystery as to
why he is so determined to get us out of Europe. Odd in the extreme.
Anyway, a weakness for crumpet. How wonderful. However, and looking at
a picture of Nigel and his press officer, the delectable Annabelle of the
...I guess I’d be addicted to crumpet too.
Incidentally, a wonderfully startled look, Nigel ― like a
bunny caught in the headlights ― and we all know what bunnies get up to
when left to their own devices. Either that or Annabelle is hiding under
the desk doing something we could not possibly mention in a family-friendly
“Hallo, Rabbit,” he said, “is that you?”
“Let’s pretend it isn’t,” said Rabbit, “and see what happens.”
A. A. Milne
Just a couple of days ago, I mentioned in dispatches
Rose Wild and her Feedback column in The Times (in
connection with the use and misuse of commas). Well, that particular
column actually started thus:
What would Thumper’s mother have said?
All right, hands up. Who is familiar with the Thumperian
Many of you, I expect, but it’s a new one on me ― not the
principle itself but its name and derivation. Apparently it comes from
the sage advice, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say
nothing at all” (not my grammar, I hasten to add), given to Thumper the
rabbit by his mother after he made a disparaging remark about Bambi in
Walt Disney’s eponymous film.
We’d never go quite so far as to apply the Thumperian
Principle to posting comments on thetimes.co.uk but we do
try to keep the conversation civilised...
Hello, we’re back with rabbits again. Hm, Nigel “Thumper” Farage. Oh
what a farrago.
Anyway, the Thumperian Principle came to mind earlier this week
following the sudden death of
Bob Crow, the leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT),
who has died aged just 52. He was well-known for his quips, comments and
talent for getting up everyone’s nose except those of his members. Which
is what he was paid to do anyway.
This comment of his came to mind when I heard of his
“I won’t shed one single tear over her death. She
destroyed the NHS and destroyed industry in this country and as far as
I’m concerned she can rot in hell.” On the death of Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher.
I remember thinking at the time, what a dangerous thing
to say i.e. beware the Thumperian Wheel Principle (what goes around
Well Bob, you can now tell Margaret to her face.
National Smile Day
Not long ago a group of Conservative MPs called for the
August bank holiday to be renamed in honour of Margaret Thatcher.
As someone memorably observed: “For the first time in my
working life I’d rather work than take Margaret Thatcher bank holiday
off in her memory.” A feeling shared by the electorate it seems as the
proposal was backed by just one in eight voters.
how politicians can never spot or sense the ambush ― mind you, I suppose
a Thatcher-Crow Bank Holiday at the end of October when the clocks go
back has a certain ring of British truth about it. After all,
politicians and trade union leaders have shafted the nation to
destruction over the past 60 years.
Be all that as it may, and given Nigel Farage’s alleged
love of crumpet, imagine the joy of a spanking new bank holiday called
National Crumpet Day.
And if ever we leave the EU, as Nigel wants, it could
effortlessly be changed to National Trumpet Day.
as in the
‘Thumperian Principle’, came up as
‘Thumper Ian’. The first person that came to mind was Ian Hislop, 53,
British journalist, comedian, writer, broadcaster and editor of the
satirical magazine Private Eye. My guess is that Ian would rather enjoy
Wednesday, March 12th
Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles awake you when you rise.
Thomas Dekker (1570-1641)
REMEMBERING that this scrapbook cum diary is dedicated to
those things in life wot make me smile ― well now, clicking on The
Telegraph website, I came upon a little feature under
Self improvement tasks.
Discover the health benefits of smiling
A smile can go a long way ― especially when it comes to
your health. Flashing a timely grin
will not only win over more friends, your mood and stress levels will
Everyone can fit a smile into their day, no matter how
packed the schedule. And smiling is good for you, even if you don’t much
feel like smiling.
Cognitive behavioural therapy suggests that our minds
will often follow the lead of our bodies ― so if you smile, you’ll
assure your brain that everything’s OK, thus improving your mood.
However, a big toothy grin might feel out of place on a
rush-hour train, so follow the lead of the Buddhist practice of the
half-smile: allow the corners of your mouth to upturn, stopping when you
feel any tension...
Focus on maintaining this exercise for 10 minutes once a
day ― it will relax the muscles of your face, easing tension in both
mind and body...
You will enjoy a pleasing shift in your mood, allowing
you to meet the demands of the day calmly and positively.
And who knows, 500 years later, folk will still be taking about your
smile. Indeed, the
smile on the face of the Mona Lisa is so enigmatic that it disappears
when it is looked at directly, says a US scientist.
Professor Margaret Livingstone of Harvard University says
the smile only becomes apparent when the viewer looks at other parts of
The Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the early
1500s, has intrigued art lovers for five centuries because of its
subject’s mysterious smile...
The Charge of the Smile Brigade
400 Smiles A Day,
the opening line goes thus:
Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative: Children
smile 400 times a day, adults just a miserable 14....
So it goes without saying that
is dedicated to membership of The 400 Club.
And do you know, I didn’t have to look further than
The Telegraph home page itself to set me off. A brace of
teaser headlines beckoned:
Welcome to Paradise: inside the world of legalised
When Germany legalised prostitution in 2002 it triggered
an apparently unstoppable growth in the
country’s sex industry ... It’s now worth 15 billion euros a year and
from 12-storey ‘mega-brothels’ to outdoor sex boxes
Paradise is a brothel in
I started smiling there and
then. Anyway, to continue:
Paradise is a brothel in
It’s one of Germany’s “mega-brothels” and, like a lot of
those establishments, it has a Moroccan theme. Picture a Sultan’s palace
crossed with a Premier Inn, then wedge it between anonymous office
blocks on an endless industrial park and you’re there: Paradise...
Honestly, and amused as I am, I’m well past this sort of stuff ― so I gently made my rather
limp excuses and left.
But smiling broadly as I departed ... then this caught my
Nigel Farage ‘employs both his wife and mistress at
UKIP leader pays Kirsten, his wife, and Annabelle Fuller
out of EU allowances, former colleague claims
How very French, I thought. So why is Nigel determined to
get us out of Europe? How odd.
Anyway, and just for the record ― I don’t
want to end up in court ― I quote:
His UKIP colleagues
have spoken of his weakness for “crumpet”, but Nigel Farage has
described as “absolute nonsense” a claim made by a fellow MEP that his
“former mistress” is on his taxpayer-funded payroll.
Nikki Sinclaire, a former UKIP MEP who is now an
independent, used a debate at the EU assembly, where members are
protected from libel actions, to allege that Mr Farage had an affair
with his press officer Annabelle Fuller.
Mr Farage, 49,
declined to respond during the session, but later told The Telegraph
he had never had an affair with Miss Fuller and said the claims were
A weakness for crumpet. Crumbs. How exceedingly wonderful, Mr Kipling.
Tuesday, March 11th
Comma in a coma
PUNCTUATION, or lack of it in modern writing, has been
much in the news of late. Especially so the fast disappearing comma.
I don’t know about you, but these days I often have to
read a longish sentence a second or third time ― just to understand its proper meaning. And
I’m not just talking internet comment boards and the like where
punctuation is being dispensed with anyway ― but also so-called quality
newspapers, especially the online versions.
I must say I tend to use commas as I do in speech. If I need
to pause when speaking, then I do the same when writing. Perhaps
it’s because I’m not a fast or speed reader.
Anyway, some wonderful correspondence on the subject,
spotted in The Times ... first up, these letters from a month or
Pause for thought
Sir, You say we need not lament the decline of the comma
(leader, Feb 8)? More than one expert in jurisprudence has noted the
huge significance of the poet Geoffrey Hill’s line “To dispense, with
justice; or to dispense with justice” (from his sequence The Mystery
of the Charity of Charles Péguy, 1983).
The comma assures justice is done: lives are saved.
JOYCE MILNE, Claygate, Surrey
Sir, How appropriate that you should draw attention to
the importance of punctuation (“Why the comma is heading towards its own
full stop”, Feb 8). In the same issue appears the headline “Muslim free
school ordered to close”.
In this case, the correct presence or absence
of a hyphen between the first two words does matter.
PATRICK WEST, Deal Kent
Sir, There is the old one about County Hall asking the
school to submit a list of all staff, broken down by age and sex. The
omission of the comma would make a huge difference to the meaning but
possibly not to the length of the list.
DAVID TERRY, Droitwich, Worcs
Sir, The parish church at Bunny [in Nottinghamshire] is dedicated to St Mary
the Virgin. We in our group of parishes are defenders of the comma,
especially since we received a letter addressed to “St Mary the Virgin
THE REV JIM WELLINGTON, Keyworth, Notts
How wonderful. The notion of a virgin bunny suggests that all of nature
is slowly but surely turning gay ― which hints that Mother Nature has
laid an ambush to stop our gallop through life. And that’s
all of her creations.
What a gay day, as someone on telly used to say.
Oh yes, Ivor the Search Engine discovered, as only Ivor
could, that the organist at St Mary the Virgin Church, Bunny, is a Mrs
Claire Bonney. Internal rhymes always make me smile.
Anyway, let’s jump forward to last weekend and the Feedback column in
The Times. Columnist Rose Wild writes about the invitation David
and Samantha Cameron
extended to the Queen to lunch at Chequers, where it seems she was treated to
“bread and butter pudding”.
Reader Barry Hyman pounced on the story, for
punctuational reasons. “Ever had ‘lamb and bread and butter pudding with
ice cream’?” he asks. “Who says you don’t need a comma before the word
Aficionados of the Oxford comma debate will be glad to
know that the new [Times] Style Guide, soon to be with us, has modified
its advice on the subject.
“Avoid the so-called Oxford comma; write ‘he
ate bread, butter and jam’ rather than ‘he ate bread, butter, and jam’,
except where to do so might create nonsense or confusion: ‘for
lunch they had lamb with roast potatoes, and chocolate mousse’.” Or
bread and butter pud, indeed.
Finally, back with a couple more letters from The Times:
Save the Commer
Sir, The late Frank Muir once spoke at a meeting of the
Galley Club (a monthly get-together of publishers and printers), and was
relating tales of his wartime experiences in Iceland.
He was in command
of an army Commer truck [a British commercial vehicle brand which
existed from 1905 until 1979], on patrol on icy roads in the wilds of Iceland,
when the vehicle skidded into a ditch. Frank’s SOS back to headquarters
read: “Regret to report that Commer has come to a full stop.”
DAVID GREGSON, Ilketshall St Andrew, Suffolk
Sir, We read of Frank Muir’s wartime exploits in Iceland.
While living on a farm there he contracted TB from unpasteurised milk
and had one testicle removed.
Years later during a panel game another participant accused him of being
diabolical. “No,” Frank corrected him, “I am monobolical”.
DR DAVID A. HARRIS, Harwell, Oxon
Clever. Sticking with Frank Muir, I have previously told this tale
of rural folk from his autobiography, A Kentish Lad.
But it’s worth a repeat.
The one thing we are intimately
familiar with here in rural Wales is driving along narrow country lanes,
where you can only pass another vehicle by either going onto the verge,
with all its attendant risks, or reversing to purpose-built mini lay-bys
strategically placed along the lanes.
Anyway, Frank tells this tale of approaching a blind
corner on such a typical country lane:
Round the corner ahead came a woman driver, in a
clapped-out, dented Morris Minor. She missed the wing of my beautiful
Lagonda by a centimetre, wound down her window furiously and yelled at
I snorted, drove on round the corner and hit a pig.
Monday, March 10th
“We won a gold medal and it feels amazing”: Britain’s blind skier
Kelly Gallagher (above, left) takes gold in the Super-G Skiing (and her
sighted guide who shouts instructions through
Bluetooth headset gets one too)
Jade Etherington, 23, (with guide Caroline Powell, 19) became Britain’s
first alpine skiing medal in 20 years with silver in the visually
impaired downhill at the Sochi Paralympics ― and I duly shared their
purringly wide smiles of satisfaction.
Fast-forward downhill a couple of days: visually-impaired
skier Kelly Gallagher, 28, and her guide Charlotte Evans,
23 (pictured celebrating, at the top) earned Britain its first ever gold
medal at the Winter Paralympics.
And there was more good news for the British team as Jade
Etherington and Caroline Powell won bronze, their second medal of the
Games following Saturday’s
When Kelly accepted her gold medal this afternoon, she
shared the podium with Charlotte Evans (her eyes as she
speeds down the alpine course).
Kelly, who hails from Northern Ireland, has congenital
oculocutaneous albinism, a disorder which involves a lack of pigment in
the skin, hair and eyes and which also causes vision problems like
When she skis, she can’t see anything at the snow level,
and the only way she can tell how fast she is moving is with the force
of the wind in her face.
Kelly Gallagher hitches an invisible tow from guide Charlotte Evans
Gallagher was born with her sight affected. “I’m lacking
a pigment in my body that lets too much light into my eyes and affects
my skin ― it’s a condition called oculocutaneous albinism. The good
thing is that I’ve had it since I was born, so I haven’t had to go
through having perfect eyesight and then suddenly losing it. I’m 28 now,
I’ve had time to find ways around it and have learnt to cope with it.”
Her guide skier Charlotte wears an orange hi-vis jacket.
“I can see that little dot, and just have to try to follow it.”
Apart from the courage of these girls in hurtling down
the slopes at up to 65 mph ― there are regular tumbles and injuries ― in addition to
Kelly’s marvellous Que sera, sera thoughts on her
disability, above, it is worth
repeating Jade Etherington’s quote from a couple of days ago:
“I can see just colour and shape. It’s hereditary. My mum
has it as well and it gets progressively worse. I can’t drive, I can’t
go anywhere on my own, which is frustrating. But although the condition
will get worse, my life won’t.”
We have so much to learn from these girls.
Peace, purrfect peace
EARLY this morning I decided that today I would feature
a few more pussycats sleeping in weird and wonderful places,
irrespective of the outcome of the England-Wales rugby international up
I have always maintained that if Mother Nature had kept
an eye on her magical evolutionary ball she would have given us humans
the ability to purr. When happy and contented and pleased with
ourselves, we would purr to our heart’s content.
If unhappy with our lot, definitely not a purr within
That’s what I like about cats. You know where you are
with them. When happy they purr and are delighted to be stroked. And you
know when they’re not because their silence shouts “leave me alone”. And that is
precisely what happens. There’s no confusion with life’s pussycats.
Imagine what a boon that would be for us, never having people
say “C’mon, cheer up, it’s not the end of the world you know!”.
They would instantly know that you just want to be given some time and
space and to be left well alone.
Anyway, back with cats and their purrfect secret of how
to cope with life, the universe and everything:
Relaxevoo in a suburbanite jungle
Now that’s what I call getting away from it all. Chilled out
in the extreme. Wonderful.
Whatever, Wales duly lost ― the omens were not good when
the powers that be at
Twickenham decided to fire two loud shots during the Welsh national
anthem ― so no matter how much I’m sympathised with, there’ll be no
At the final whistle I switched to ITV ― hey-ho, James
Bond’s Live and Let Die was showing ― looking for solace I
found Solitaire and her tarot cards (which reminds me to add the
marvellous version of Solitaire by the Carpenters to my jukebox,
As for Live and Let Die,
so many clever visual jokes
with matching funny lines...
The topless double decker bus chase (so very James Bond,
that), the wingless plane chase (“Same time tomorrow, Mrs Bell?), the
stepping-stone crocs (‘Warning: Trespassers will be eaten’) ― and of
course the speed boat chase and the unforgettable Sheriff J W Pepper
(“Ten fingers on the fender ... Nobody cuts and runs on Sheriff J W
Pepper ― and that’s him speaking by the by.”).
The speed boat sequence is so good I duly forgot all
about the rugby and ended up purring with delight. I’ve added that as
my Desert Island Video Jukebox.
Mind you, given the rugby result, I am thinking that perhaps I should also add
Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy to my jukebox...
Saturday, March 8th
LAST Tuesday, a Christmas-themed toilet roll featured
apropos the newspaper letters regarding the availability of coloured loo rolls. Today, it’s a Christmas
snow globe, with fireworks. It will become obvious in a moment.
Yesterday, as a consequence of young Gemma Worrall’s
memorable tweet about “Barraco Barner”, and in particular her reference
to “our president” and the troubles in Ukraine, my guess was that she
subconsciously thought East v West in the wake of all the
rekindling of yesteryear’s cold war confrontations as stoked up by the media.
In other words: “Obama is West, Putin is East, and never
the twain shall meet.”
Of course yesterday was also the opening ceremony of the
Winter Paralympics in Sochi ― and Vladimir Putin was there looking
thoroughly inscrutable and exceedingly Confucian.
Be that as it may ― incidentally, isn’t Vladimir a
marvellously hostile sounding name? ― anyway, credit where credit’s due:
thus far the Sochi opening and closing ceremonies have been quite
wonderful theatre, full of glorious music, movement, grace and colour
(with magical use of light and shadow). Made all the more dramatic by
As ever, I was struck by what a marvellously musical and
stirring national anthem the Russians have ― certainly one of the
planet’s top three, according to my humble ear anyway. The German anthem
is also up there, what you might call the world’s best ‘fit for
What other anthem should make the top three? The rules
forbid me to vote for my own Welsh anthem, so I shall leave that
decision to others.
Back with yesterday’s opening ceremony, I was greatly
amused that the conductor of the disabled choir was the spitting image
of Groucho Marx. Oh, and how elegant the ballerinas looked.
Here are some memorable images...
To flag up or not to flag up...
The most intriguing point of interest leading up to the
ceremony was what part Ukraine would play. The Ukrainian team had
announced only a few hours earlier that it would not boycott the games,
but said it could yet pull out of the 10-day event if the situation in
The appearance of biathlete Mykhaylo Tkachenko drew a
roar from the capacity crowd at the Fisht Olympic Stadium. Entering
alone, in a wheelchair with the Ukrainian flag, he wore a suitably
I’m still trying to work out what the significance of his
rousing welcome was in the great scheme of things.
Back with the ceremony, I was particularly impressed with
the performers simulating the Russian flag moving in the wind. Truly
And of course the massive ship that crossed the arena, a
giant ice-breaker ― how ironic, ho, ho, ho ― but what a sight.
And as with the Winter Olympics opening and
closing ceremonies, the fireworks were wonderfully over the top.
As to what tickled me the most ― well, I’m back with the
snow globe at the top...
Shake well before use
dance in a giant inflatable ball filled with confetti
Great balls of flurry
There were several such inflatable balls in the arena,
and it was really amusing how they elegantly glided across the floor,
with of course the confetti looking just like the snow in a snow globe
after having given it a good shake.
“I can see just colour and shape. It’s hereditary. My mum
has it as well and it gets progressively worse. I can’t drive, I can’t
go anywhere on my own, which is frustrating. But although the condition
will get worse, my life won’t.”
Jade Etherington, 23, who today became Britain’s first
alpine skiing medal in 20 years with silver in the visually impaired
downhill at the Sochi Games.
Jade Etherington (left) and her guide Caroline Powell
The 22-year-old from Lincoln and her guide the
19-year-old Caroline Powell ― who are making their Games debuts ―
completed a whirlwind journey from total strangers to Winter Paralympic
medallists in 11 months by winning silver in the women’s downhill in
Sochi on Saturday, only their third competitive downhill run together.
Jade has only 5% vision. As she follows Caroline down the
course they communicate via radio, meaning complete trust is crucial to
the partnership working.
And just to endorse her lack of vision, after crossing
the winning line she crashed straight into the hoardings. After a few
heart-stopping moments ... she picked herself up, dusted herself off ―
and smiled all over again.
It is really humbling to watch these disabled athletes
hurtling down the slopes. Respect indeed.
Friday, March 7th
Spring has sprung and the birds are tweeting
SOMETHING quite intriguing surfaced today ― and as often
happens hereabouts, it began with a smile. This headline says it all...
“Our president ... Barraco Barner”: Blackpool beautician sparks
worldwide Twitter merriment
after getting Barack Obama’s name spectacularly wrong in tweet about
What a beaut
When a young British beautician realised relations
between Russia and Ukraine were a cause for concern, she decided to
share her feelings on Twitter.
Unfortunately, young Gemma Worrall, 20, did
something next that most people appear to do when tweeting, texting or
posting a comment online ― she clicked ‘send’ without pausing just a few
seconds to check her facts and/or spelling (predictive text?).
She wrote: “If barraco barner is our president, why is he
getting involved with Russia, scary.”
Within hours, Gemma was trending around the world as her
message was retweeted more than 6,000 times and screengrabs of the
message shown on television news programmes in Australia, India and
Wags even set up spoof Twitter accounts for “Barraco
Barner ― UK prez” and “Michelleo Barner, First Lady of the United States
of Great Britain”.
Sadly though she was sent bullying messages, calling her
“stupid cow” and “oxygen thief”. I mean, a bit of gentle ribbing, fine
― but aggressive cyber bullying? She didn’t deserve that.
Today Miss Worrall said her parents were “fuming and
embarrassed”. She added: “I have an English GCSE but maybe I should stay
out of politics. I had a bit of a ditzy moment.” Tweeting about “Barraco
Barner” being “our president” was a mistake she now regrets.
“I will definitely
think before I tweet in future,” added Gemma.
What generated most of the ribaldry though was not so much the “Barraco
Barner” but that “our president” bit.
am fairly sure that Gemma didn’t mean “our president” as in president of Britain, but rather as
president of the “West”.
Indeed, in that photo up there she is sporting
a pair of ‘American flag’ hot pants, or whatever it is they are called these
days. But I am not sure what that says.
“our president”. It’s all
tribal, you see. Since this messy Ukraine business exploded into life,
the media has been awash with talk of the return of the Cold War. So ... Obama is West. Putin is East.
And never the twain shall meet.
could well be an instructive insight into how the
Each and everyone of us is tribal, including Gemma,
an inherent condition built into our
genes. In fact we belong to many tribes. So it set me thinking: how many
tribes do I belong to?
At the base of the pyramid, and the most powerful tribe
of all: close family, friends and colleagues, those we identify most
strongly with; those individuals we may well be prepared to lie on
behalf of, should push come to shove.
Then comes the community tribe, including pub, rugby or
club, chapel or church ― and so on.
Next I identify strongly with the Welsh-speaking tribe,
quite a powerful entity that. Then comes the Welsh tribe. After that, I
identify myself as British.
Curiously I do not feel part of a European tribe, but
rather a ‘West’ tribe. And that’s it.
The West is at the top of my tribal pyramid. At least it is
until extra terrestrials arrive. Then we will all club together and
belong to the Earth tribe.
Mention of Obama, just the other day I spotted online
this marvellous spoof picture, an image that surfaced following news
that America’s CIA is spying on all of us as if there’s no tomorrow...
Wonderful. And many a true word...
PS: Back with Gemma and
Barraco Barner, the tweet I saw endlessly quoted online was this one
from former footballer turned DJ and wit, Ian Wright:
Ian Wright MBE: “BARRACO BARNER!!!!!!!
My stomach can’t take no more!”
Hm, do you suppose the meeja sees Ian Wright as the new
Thursday, March 6th
Sign Language: Spotted in Norway by Rev’d John
[Anagram of Ikke tiss her! = Eek! Shit risk!]
In for a penny
JUST the other day I smiled at a thread of letters about
coloured toilet rolls, all compliments of The Daily Telegraph (no
subliminal message intended).
Today, a step further ― in for a pound? ― compliments of
The Times. Here’s just part of a recent leader column:
Relief For All
Access to public lavatories should not depend on wealth
A private company in New York has announced its intention
to open ― in public places, for public use ― a number of what Americans
insist on calling restrooms. (Or, when they are being even more
euphemistic, comfort stations). The proposed cost of access to what we
in Britain prefer to call a lavatory is $8 a day. So much for spending a
Nonetheless, fair enough. If an entrepreneur spots the
chance of squeezing a buck, albeit from somewhere as sensitive as the
communal bladder, the instinct of this newspaper is to wish that
entrepreneur the best of luck.
And yet, as regards the provision of public conveniences,
we also can’t help thinking that if the State is to have any role in our
lives, surely it must have one here. Everyone ― male and female, young
and old, rich and poor, sober and well-refreshed ― is familiar with the
problem (and pain and panic) of being caught short in public.
We can all agree then that the discreet, swift and hygienic
alleviation of such distress is best not dependent on whether you’re
good for eight dollars...
I am sure I have mentioned before that we all have
personal signposts as to what constitutes living in a civilised society
― I take
the obvious things like freedom, justice, NHS etc as read.
idea of civility, as should be worn on a nation’s sleeve, is that the
Air Ambulance should be part of the basic Ambulance Services and not have
to rely on charity (especially so when you ponder the importance of that golden hour
following a nasty accident or sudden illness) ― and that public
conveniences should be plentiful, clean and free at the point of use.
Whatever, The Times leader prompted the following responses:
Sir, Nearly 40 years ago we had a similar experience to
the Rev Barry Tomlinson (“A blessed relief at last for parishioners”). A
few parishioners objected to adding a WC and tiny kitchen to our Grade
1-listed parish church.
Most were rarely, if ever, seen in the church, but as
residents in the parish they had this right. Despite the plan having all
the necessary approvals it went to a consistory court which lasted for
Representing the parish, our rector called the
long-standing verger as a witness and asked him if he had ever been
asked for a toilet. He replied: “Them that knows goes before they
ANTHONY HILLARD, Guildford
How wonderful, that sounds straight out of Dad’s Army. Anyway, to
Sir, Your mention in today’s leader of the American
euphemism “rest room” reminds me of a story I heard when I was
researching a book on Holy Trinity Church, Stratford, Shakespeare’s
An American woman approached a new volunteer working with
the crowds of visitors to the grave and asked him where the rest room
was. “We don’t have one,” was his reply. “Just use one of the pews.”
VAL HORSLER, Deal, Kent
Now that is truly smile of the day material.
All the above brought to mind a couple of memorable
At a pinch
“I last had my bottom pinched 15 years ago and I am 71
now. So you can imagine at the time how thrilled I was at the
compliment.” Carla Powell, Italian wife of Margaret Thatcher’s foreign
policy adviser, Lord Powell.
“A man pinched my bottom once. It was a stranger in a
busy place, a nightclub. I smashed him in the face.” Nancy Dool’Allio –
oops, sorry – Nancy Dell’Olio, 52, Italian-American lawyer.
Now which of those two delightful ladies would you rather
sit next to on a flight to the other side of the planet?
Finally, and sticking with The Times:
Sir, How disappointing: your report of unexploded ordnance
on the Isle of Lewis avoided the immortal headline “Shell found on
TINA SIMPSON, Pitlochry, Perth & Kinross
Apropos the Sign Language photo at the top i.e.
‘Ikke tiss her!’
in Norwegian ― well, never mind my anagram,
the computer suggests
‘Ikea toss her!’.
Say nothing is best.
Wednesday, March 5th
Cats sleeping in weird places
There’s nothing quite like pictures of pussycats to make
the old smileometer go “Boing!
Had you noticed that cats sleep for about 16 hours a day?
Despite being at their most active at dawn and dusk they
seem to spend the rest of their time sleeping in odd positions. And the
more uncomfortable those positions look, the more relaxed they appear.
I first noticed the sleepy pussycats in a Daily
Telegraph gallery of images taken from the popular Tumblr
blogging website ‘Cats sleeping in weird places’ ― link coming up down
Here are just a couple that caught my eye, in addition to
the one at the top, that is. So first up...
I only have to look at the above and I am overwhelmed
with a need to toddle off to bed to grab forty winks.
These two online comments say it all...
Lord Snooty & His
Pals: There are not many photographic subjects that come close to
the cat family for sheer aesthetic grace and beauty.
Travel Lite: No wonder cat pictures outnumber ‘Selfies’ by two to
Hear, hear. Or should I say purr, purr.
I like this ... the sheer class...
The elegance of this photograph is quite magical. The way
the girl is squatting with the open book with cat on her lap. The old-fashioned
writing with pen ― gosh, remember that?
And what about those intriguing opening words: “My life
seems so full now...”
You just want to know more.
Here’s a link to the Tumblr
Tuesday, March 4th
A Festive Halleloojah!
(see letter down below)
Loo and behold
NOW who would have thought that a most entertaining
thread of letters (spotted in The Daily Telegraph) would start ―
and tickle my old smileometer ― thus:
SIR – Why is it
impossible now to buy blue lavatory rolls? Unless we find some soon, I
will be forced to redecorate my bathroom.
Michael Draper, Nether Wallop, Hampshire
I guess it is safe to presume that Michael Draper wrote that letter with
his tongue firmly in his cheek, if you will pardon my somewhat unsavoury
the responses came in thick and fast...
Singing the blues
SIR – Perhaps Michael Draper should nip over to France
for blue toilet rolls. Last year in Provence I came across toilet rolls
in all manner of colours, including black. It may be cheaper than
redecorating his bathroom.
JDavidJ: It should be pointed out that according to strict PC
rules, black should now be ‘paper of colour’.
SIR – My sister brings me green loo rolls from Rome; maybe the Italians
also sell blue ones.
E F Stokes,
SIR – I have found blue loo paper extremely hard to find for the past
two years. I used to buy pale green, but that disappeared, so then I
changed to pale blue paper.
There are shelves and shelves of beige and white ―
obviously for a lot of boring people with boring bathrooms.
Hm, and Marilyn does appear to know her
All white now
SIR – It is apparently only the British that have this
peculiar love affair with coloured loo paper. In most other countries,
including the design-obsessed United States, it comes in only one colour
Dr Wynne Weston-Davies,
SIR – During my 28 years in America, I was never called upon to conduct
a study of the usage of coloured versus white loo paper. However, I can assure Dr Wynne Weston-Davies, from
personal observation, that a significant percentage is, in fact, paper
Do you suppose that Michael Hooley (nearly a dodgy name
there) is referring to black
Anyway, on with the show...
A starring roll for all the liturgical seasons
SIR – In the good old
days, most supermarkets sold toilet rolls in the full range of
liturgical colours. A priest friend of mine used to change them with the
seasons, so his loos would sport green for the season of Trinity, purple
for Lent and Advent, and pink for saints’ days.
Alas, this practice has largely died out and white
predominates, so it is Christmas all year round.
SIR – My heart goes out to all those who struggle to find loo paper to
match their sanitary decor. I know the problem. My bathroom is brown.
SIR – I am obliged to carry sheets of white toilet paper with me at all
times as I am excruciatingly intolerant of the dyes used in coloured
Barbara A Southward, Southend on Sea, Essex
Grizzly: Barbara A Southward ― That is more data than we need. A
real lady would never divulge such personal information in a public
Well, Mr Grizzly, a gentleman would never point out in a public forum
that a lady is not really a lady. Mirror, mirror on the wall...
A roll in the hay
SIR – I remember a
retired gamekeeper and his wife living up in the hills who always had a
bucket of dried hay.
William Tait, Edinburgh
I’d have thought a bale of hay would be more appropriate; a bale of
straw, even. You can tell I’m a country boy.
U and non-U
SIR – Anyone who
matches the loo paper to the colour scheme ranks with those naff people
with a fluffy cover for the seat.
Michael Ellwood, Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Right, remember the festive loo roll intro photo at the top? Well...
Merrily we roll along
SIR – Christmas wouldn’t be the same in our house without
Christmas-themed toilet rolls. These are removed from their holders at the same time
as the Christmas decorations, and any unused paper stored for next year.
Kevin Leece, Gravesend, Kent
JDavidJ: I suspect that the first retailer to bring out lavatory
paper with politicians faces on would make an absolute killing (which
reminds me of a Steptoe and Son episode, where a picture of Hitler is on
the next piece of newspaper to come off the string).
Stand and deliver
SIR – My father
returned from a visit to Switzerland in the Thirties with a decorative
loo-roll holder which, when a piece of paper was pulled, played the
national anthem. As we were a patriotic family, this caused a dilemma:
to stand or not to stand.
Cilla Hall, Bicknoller, Somerset
Okay, let us return to the letter that kicked it all off...
SIR – Why is it impossible now to buy blue lavatory
rolls? Unless we find some soon, I will be forced to redecorate my
Michael Draper, Nether Wallop, Hampshire
Mr Draper might
consider purchasing a blue lavatory roll dispenser; a search online produced
this amusing item. It is a Danish website; they sell almost anything,
except live giraffes.
[Very clever ― remember the young zoo giraffe with the wrong sort of
genes that was killed and fed to the lions?]
Anyway, I had a look at the relevant web page:
Mr. P The
This is what the entertaining English-language blurb
Keep it neat and clean, stay
cool. Do not let any longer your toilet roll standing around ready to
fall and roll away, as this is far from being cool. Keep it somewhere
safe with Mr. P The Wiper, then you can take it out at any time to go
wherever you need to go: 21.00 EURO
Meanwhile, back online...
Michael Draper --- Perhaps the room could be fitted with a blue light ―
and white rolls used. It would also prevent addicts from injecting drugs
(so I’m told) ― because users can’t find the veins, apparently.
Morrison’s lavatories [the supermarket people] have
blue fluorescent lights. I’m not sure why addicts don’t mark their veins
with a felt-tip pen before they go in, but perhaps heroin removes the
last vestige of common sense.
Well, well, every day a day at school. But why would addicts find a
supermarket lavatory a suitable loo for treatment?
Finally, what I enjoy about these letters, and in
particular the comments, is the extent individuals online will go to in
offer help. I mean,
searched for that item ― and provided a direct link to the page.
In fact, back in January, this letter featured as a smile
of the day:
SIR – A mouse has
chewed the hose of my dishwasher. A new hose costs £15.99. Call-out and
labour for a local repairman would be £65. If I get the manufacturer of
the dishwasher to come to repair it, I will have to pay £95.
If we wish to avoid being a throw-away culture, perhaps
manufacturing mouse-proof hoses would be a good start.
Penny Elles, Cove, Dunbartonshire
Which drew this response:
Penny Elles ― £3.49 from Screwfix, plus £5 delivery, fit it yourself, a
10-year-old could do it!
I was mightily impressed that
had gone to the trouble of seeking out a hose ― and again the online
direct link was provided. As I wrote at that time: Top man, top hose,
And of course, it gives me an excuse to repeat this
I rang Screwfix and they told me very abruptly they were not a dating
‘Lostock’, as in the letter from Dorothy Haydock of Lostock in
Lancashire, came up as ― well, I half expected the computer to suggest
which would have been funny ― but it
came up with
‘Lipstick’. How does that work?
Monday, March 3rd
David Shrigley’s London Tube Map (as a flag?)
Where the old trade’s plying an’ the old flag flyin’
A COUPLE of days ago I tackled the “If Scotland votes for
independence, will it still be legal to fly the Union Flag?” conundrum,
and explored what a “Scot free” flag would look like.
Well, some other letters and comments along similar
lines, again in the Telegraph, caught my eye:
Put the flags out
SIR – London will shortly boast its own .lon domain name,
and I think we should have a flag. My front garden flagpole last
Saturday week flew the Cross of St George for England rugby. The Sunday
after, I raised the Olympic flag.
I fly the appropriate flag for the 4th of July, on
Bastille Day, and whenever my Argentine mother-in law wafts in for
The branding opportunities are endless for proud
Londoners: T-shirts, bumper stickers, tea trays, etc. Perhaps the
adoption of a flag would even spawn an independence movement, which is
all the rage at the moment.
Tony Parrack, London SW20
London on the map
SIR – Tony Parrack should have no fear. London has its
own “flag” already. The London Underground map must be one of the best
known images worldwide.
The branding opportunities sought by Mr Parrack are
well in place.
Oliver Smith Boyes,
Worthing, West Sussex
Hm, interesting idea, but the trouble with the famous diagrammatic map
of London’s Underground system ― designed by Harry Beck in 1931, a
London Underground employee ― is that it was so brilliant that it has
been copied all around the world.
So by definition it no longer has that distinctive and
exclusive London trademark look. Mind you, at the top I’ve flown David
Shrigley’s eye-catchingly smiley London Tube map.
Anyway, I liked these two online comments...
One Last Try: The flag for London should comprise any colour,
except red, white or blue, to reflect the national flags of the majority
of the population.
William Stanier: Cut a rectangle from a Jackson Pollock
‘painting’. The swirling mess of colours would perfectly represent the
London of today.
I really liked that Jackson Pollock idea ― so good old Ivor the
Search Engine had a look online. Ivor came up with two
suggestions. The first is indeed a Pollock ― flipped from ‘Portrait’
format to ‘Landscape’, to better represent what it would look like as a
Hm, I don’t think the Pollock quite makes it as a flag ―
mind you, that yellow circle thingy does have an M25 feel about it ―
anyway I had a look at Ivor’s second choice...
Unsurprisingly, the interweb is awash with Pollack-like
paintings ― there are even Apps that help create the magic ― so here’s
the alternative. I have no idea whose painting it is ― but what a
marvellous flag it would make for London. Again I’ve turned it through
Best of all it has that vibrant quality, which I think is
crucial for a flag. I mean, most of the flags of the world would be
quite meaningless to a visitor from Mars because they all look so much
As for the above, and apart from the “swirling mess of
colours [that] would perfectly represent the London of today”, the green
splodges obviously represent the many open spaces and parks dotted about Old
Oh, and the splashes of blue clearly represent the Thames
breaking its banks...
Now the above, as a flag, would always draw the eye.
‘.lon’, as in
will shortly boast its own .lon domain name’,
came up as
‘.loon’. Do you suppose my computer has a personal view on Mayor Boris
PS: Previously I mentioned that the original design of the London Underground map
was so brilliant that variations on the theme have been copied all
around the world.
If you have a moment, it really is worth having a look at
the following Noupe web site, which shows metro and underground
maps from around the world; they endorse how the London map has been adopted and
adapted to taste. I commend it to the House and all Underground
Sunday, March 2nd
The shock is worse than its bite
WALKING through Llandampness this morning ― and it was
indeed a very Llan-dampness morning ― my attention was captured by a
large advert panel on the pine end of a bus stop shelter.
So much so I actually stopped and read it ― there it is,
It’s an ad campaign by Remember A Charity In Your Will. The words
at the bottom of the ad say this:
You never know when a
toaster might turn you into brown bread, so it’s important to be
prepared. After taking care of loved ones, please think about including
a gift to charity in your Will.
A clever ad because a) it made me stop, stand and stare; b) it made
me smile; and c) it made it as my smile of the day.
will I include a gift to charity in my will? Well, not in my current
will, no. But will I have anything left to leave anyway? Short of
winning the lottery, or Uncle Ernie coming up trumps, no.
I will stick with giving just a little bit here and there while I am
Well now, by a quite remarkable coincidence, while on a quick visit to
Mail Online, my attention was captured by this headline, picture
montage and story:
The bride and groom who didn't make a wedding list end up on big day
with 27 toasters
A bride and groom who made the mistake of telling guests
they had everything they need ― and definitely didn’t want any toasters
― were shocked when they opened their presents on their big day to
discover they had been given ... guess what? Yes, 27 toasters.
Mike Seymore, 44, and Victoria, 37, from Batsford,
Nottingham, did not send out a wedding list to guests before their big
day, provoking 27 of their 80 friends and family to play the silly
The couple realised they had been taken for a ride when
their best man, Rob Kanok, 40, said: “Please raise your glasses for a
toaster to the happy couple...!”
They had noticed though that many of the packaged presents looked
similar in shape and size.
The happy couple donated most of the toasters to charity.
Good joke though. But imagine, reading that story on the
very same day I spot the ad which tells me that more people die each
year from toasters than piranhas.
Which set me off on a train of thought: Chuff, chuff,
chuff ― Ivor the Search Engine disappears down the track...
An Environment Forum on the Reuters web site, dated
17 January 2008, states that, in 2007, faulty toasters killed 791 people
worldwide ― sharks, nine. Also, 592 people were killed by chairs ―
sharks, still nine.
And here’s the really nasty twist in the tale: people
kill many millions of sharks annually.
Incidentally, toasters are potential death traps because
they contain exposed live electric elements and the way they work
invites one of the commonest causes of serious home accidents ― electric
shocks caused when using a metal knife to prise out a slice of stuck
As for piranhas, many hundreds of people are injured
annually, to some degree or other, but it seems that there might just be
the very occasional death resulting from such an attack.
Back with the toasters and the sharks, Reuters reporter
Alister Doyle says: “But I can’t shake off being more frightened of
sharks than toasters.”
Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant, 2014
Saint David’s Day, 2014
Google doodle leeks online
GOOGLE has celebrated St David’s Day with a doodle
depicting a red dragon (well, sort of red) straight off the Welsh flag,
and is seen taking tea with a woman wearing the traditional Welsh
national costume of a tall bonnet and a long red dress.
Well, it made ms smile.
St David’s Day ― or Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant ― is the
feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and falls on the
first day of March every year.
So here’s lookin’ at you, Ddraig Goch (Red
Dragon), especially as spotted on a rugby ball.
Flying high, high, high
Talking of flags and national identity, a letter in
The Daily Telegraph, from a Hugh Foster of Farnborough in Hampshire,
posed this question: “If Scotland votes for independence, will it still
be legal to fly the Union Flag?”
The Telegraph suggested a revised flag ―
incidentally, the Cross of Saint David is
normally a yellow cross on a black field, although it has also appeared
as a black cross on a yellow field. It is occasionally used as an
alternative to the traditional Red Dragon flag of Wales.
The Cross of Saint David can be seen throughout Wales,
though not as frequently as the Red Dragon. On St David’s Day it
often plays a central role in the celebrations.
So, the revised Union Flag, compliments of The Daily
Telegraph ― but before we go there...
First catch your Union Flag
Gut the St Andrew’s Cross
Trim with the St David’s Cross
Then allow to simmer ---- ta-raaah!
A design without the St Andrew’s Cross of Scotland but with
the Cross of St David (as featured on Wales’s dragon-less flag)
While the above design remains as distinctive as the
traditional Union Flag, I’m not sure that it’s vibrant enough. Anyway,
it’s a good game, but unlikely to come to fruition.
But there again, what do I understand about politics,
especially so the Scotch variety.
Oh yes, given that Wales is not directly represented on
the traditional Union Flag, I still think the example on my Welcome
mat up there at the very top is far and away the best I’ve seen.
From a distance it is unmistakably the British flag ― but
anyone looking at it would be drawn to the curious dragon in the centre
... and wonder about its significance.
And that’s all we ask. It’s then up to us as Welsh people
to convince the curious to “Pop west sometime and see us!”.
Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
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
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