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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, June 30th 2014
Tall and tanned and young and
WITH the World Cup having reached the knock-out stages, there was a
letter in The Daily Telegraph about Brazilian football:
Why Brazil’s so good
– Why is Brazil so good at football?
It’s the fifth most populous country in the world, so
has a bigger pool to draw on.
Football is its national sport, to the point of
No matter how little wealth Brazilians may have, they
play, even barefoot in the sand or with a makeshift ball, and hone their
skills. (Pele could keep up an orange with his bare feet.)
The climate allows play all year round.
Because of poverty, there is a “hunger” to succeed.
Many of the top-flight players are from poor backgrounds.
There’s a good national scouting system.
Black and white players have played together for
decades, the first black player playing for Brazil 100 years ago.
I can’t think of any other country that matches all
Curiously, the current Brazil team does not appear to be up to the
standards of previous giants ― they only squeezed past Chile ― but of
course they are likely to come good and explode into proper life at any
Anyway, being that the above points are somewhat superficial in their
nature, I decided to respond, in my fashion:
Here comes the
John Murphy wonders why the
Brazilians are so good at football.
Well, some peripheral vision is
called for: most Latin players have a natural affinity with a football.
They make the ball sing and samba, the Brazilians especially so.
Caucasians are good at making the
ball march to a military beat ― the Germans are exceedingly fit for
In rugby, the Latin players, again,
make magic with the ball. But they are not as good as the Polynesians.
New Zealand rugby is as perfect a
sports machine as you will ever find: it has a spine of ruthless
players, with fun-loving Polynesians sprinkled all over the shop.
Also, there is much more than merely
training and playing in the sunshine all year round.
I was once told that prolonged
exposure to the sun rewrites an individual’s athletic DNA: think
Australia, a relatively small population ― just over 23 million ― yet
marvel at how good they are at so many sports.
As for Latins, Polynesians and
Africans, it is not just a peculiar relationship with a ball, but
the ability to run very fast over short distances, as well as
relentless pace over an extended distance, such as the marathon.
But don’t ask black people to play
water polo or ride in the Tour de France. Strange that.
Incidentally, England at both
football and rugby, have yet to combine the rhythm of the black man with
the relentless march of the white man (à la the All Blacks).
However, there are exceptions that
challenge every rule under the sun. I am fortunate enough to remember
Barry John, Phil Bennett and Richard Sharp (all rugby), and in football, George Best, Bobby Moore...
Unfortunately the Telegraph obviously thought my observations a load of
old bollocks because it wasn't deemed worthy of contributing to an
intriguing discussion about what makes certain nations good at certain
Never mind, mother
never bred a jibber, on with
Mention of England, above ... Jamie
Carragher is a retired English footballer who played for Premier League
side Liverpool for 17 years. He is currently a pundit on Sky Sports, and
I happened to catch him discussing England’s exit at the group stage.
I was struck by his verbal
elegance, and he appeared to be talking so much sense.
He said that if, before the start
of the World Cup, you had been given the squad lists for both England
(population 53m) and Costa Rica (population 4.8m) ― and told to take
your pick, then there was one, perhaps two, Costa Rican players you would
have genuinely wanted in your England squad.
Yet Costa Rica finished top of the
group ― with England bottom. And the Costa Ricans are already through to
the last eight.
So you don’t need to be an expert
to figure out that there is something sadly lacking in the modern England
psyche when it comes to getting the best out of the talent available.
Anyway, England are out ― but I did
enjoy the humour of the England supporters who arrived in Brazil just as the
England team were departing...
Speaking as someone who is
fortunate enough to have been to Rio, the trip will be worth every
penny. Bugger the football.
Luis Lecter: My teeth collided with his tasty shoulder
Luis Suárez has told Fifa,
football’s governing body, that he bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini in a
He wrote to football’s disciplinary
panel to claim the incident “in no way happened how you have described,
as a bite or intent to bite” and that, because he lost his balance, “my
face came into collision with the player”.
Wonderful. However, tonight Suárez issued a full apology
“to Giorgio Chiellini and the entire football family” for biting the
Italy defender during Uruguay’s 1-0 World Cup group-stage win.
shamed Uruguay striker was banned for four months by Fifa and slapped
with an additional nine-match international suspension after the
unsavoury incident last Tuesday.
the week that Barcelona are thought to be opening up the bidding process
for the highly rated Liverpool star, former England striker and BBC television
presenter Gary Lineker claimed the
Catalan giants had forced Suárez to apologise.
Personally, I think old Luis Lecter should have said something like
this: “I ate his shoulder with some Fifa beans and a nice little
I have never seen The Silence of the Lambs.
Sunday, June 29th
Do you take..?
THERE are, thankfully, many news stories
of the unexpected that whisk you into
natural-born LOL territory. And this delightful tale effortlessly claims
its smile of the day spot:
receives a marriage proposal from a Middleton in Chile
Prince Harry attracts the attention of TV reporter Bernardita Middleton,
tells him: “I am a Middleton, like Princess Kate. I be your next wife.”
And the delightful look on her face paints a thousand smiles.
Prince Harry arrived in Santiago at the start of a three-day tour of
Chile and promptly received a proposal of marriage from a girl named
brief walkabout in the country’s capital the Prince’s eye was caught by
a TV reporter in the crowd sporting a tiara. He
told her: “I like your tiara ― very smart.”
Bernardita Middleton, a television reporter with the morning show
Bienvenidos on Chile’s Channel 13, replied: “I am a Middleton, like
Princess Kate. I be your next wife Haaaaaary.”
Prince, who at 29 is the same age as Bernardita, even if they
have little else in common, giggled sheepishly before moving swiftly on.
Middleton is not an uncommon name in Chile, thanks to immigrants who
evidently have many descendants.
Prince had been laying a wreath at a monument to the country’s founder
Bernardo O’Higgins, himself the son of an Irish immigrant. O’Higgins was
the independence leader who, with Jose de San Martin, freed Chile from
Spanish rule in the war of independence at the beginning of the
reporter asked Prince Harry if he was happy to be in Chile. “It’s a little bit
colder than I thought it would be,” he said, on a morning when the
temperature hovered around 3C, in marked contrast to the heat of Brazil,
from where he had flown.
smashing story ― but where were Harry’s personal advisers apropos that
drop in temperature? Whatever, full marks to Miss Middleton for making her mark.
And what about the
founder of Chile boasting the glorious name Bernardo
O’Higgins? You could not make it up.
Be all that as it may, for some reason or other the marriage proposal brought to mind this letter spotted in
– During a recent rail journey, I read an article about the Virgin space
programme. This ambitious project deserves every success and will be a
feat of significant engineering achievement.
faith in the project suffered a setback, however, when none of the
toilets in my part of the Virgin train actually worked.
In for a penny, in for a pound, eh Mr Branson?
I say, I say, I say
“The dog has just eaten my
dictionary. I am lost for words.” Accountant Sarah Moncrieff’s memorable
lament on social media.
Don’t talk to me, Sarah:
My dog has just eaten my dictionary of rhyme;
Now I have to finish every sentence in miming.
Saturday, June 28th
The app that lets you say Yo ... and that’s it
(article compliments of The Times)
SIMPLICITY is at the heart of the
best new technology. Google’s front page has little more than a search
bar. Apple’s iPhone did away with buttons.
The latest idea from Silicon
Valley is “Yo”, an app that takes the fetish for simplicity to its
logical ― if faintly ridiculous ― conclusion.
Yo allows a person to send a
message to anyone who has also downloaded the app. Every message says
the same: “Yo”. That is all the app does.
Despite this, Yo is taking off.
Some 60,000 people have signed up in the three months since the app’s
launch, and four million Yos have been sent.
The industry commentator Robert
Scoble described it as “the stupidest but most addicting app ever”.
Yo has received $1 million in
funding from a serious group of investors, led by Moshe Hogeg, the chief
executive of Mobli, a photo-based social network. Analysts said that the
investment signals a new “tech bubble”.
Or Arbel, the Israeli engineer
who created Yo, said: “You usually understand what the Yo means based
on who you get it from and when you get it.”
He suggests that there are many
business uses for the app, such as coffee shops sending customers a Yo
when their order is ready. “Shouting your name is old-fashioned,” he
Ah, delicious doolallyness reigns, Yo.
Oh, and Yo would have to have been
created by someone called Or.
So, to understand
what Yo means you have to grasp who it’s
from and what time of day it arrives. Ah, smoke signals.
I’m not into this app business ― I
have enough things to distract me as it is ― but if someone did send me
an e-mail, say, and all it said was “Yo” ― well, I’d return the
post-haste (or should that read email-haste, as opposed to
Quite obviously “Yo”
is just another way of saying “Hello” or “Hey” or “Hi”.
But of course hearing someone say
“Hello” can range from a monosyllabic grunt of a “Hi” ― via a
bog-standard, sensibly vowelled “Hello” ― to the wonderfully overblown
and suggestive “Hell-Ooooooh”, as perfected by that glorious old smoothie, actor
But as mentioned, with Yo you have to work out
the context yourself. For example, a Yo from your pal at 12 Noon will be
read differently from a Yo at 12 Midnight from the Morning Seller of a
sweetie you met down the pub a couple of hours ago.
Or so it seems.
Hang on though, I’ve received a
response to my “Yo Ho”...
Well, there’s only one response
And as you’ve probably guessed, that means
“Uh-oh, the sun is over the yardarm ― see you soonest in the Asterisk Bar down
at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon ― Yo!”
Friday, June 27th
Women, and Champagne, and Bridges
(to slightly paraphrase Hilaire Belloc)
London: Now (2014), and Then (1930)
now. London’s bridges: In pictures
mentioned hereabouts many times before, smiles can be generated in all
sorts of surprising ways. Especially so when looking at distinctive
other day I featured my own pictures, of the tree with the cobwebs and
Today, though, a gallery of eye-catching images spotted online.
Photographs of bridges, no less, just like that of Richmond Bridge,
featured above, on today’s Welcome mat.
ghostly images, which juxtapose historic views with their present day
perspective, have been created using photographs showcased in Museum of
London Docklands’ new art exhibition Bridge, which opens
today, June 27.
original black and white photographs were taken by renowned late 19th
and 20th century photographers, with today’s up-dated views cleverly
juxtaposed to provide a perfect hybrid image.
picture of Richmond Bridge, at the top, is so eye-catching ― it’s the
buses, really, which combine to give it that marvellous perspective of
There’s a link coming up down below to a Telegraph gallery
of similarly juxtaposed views of many of London’s most historic bridges
across the ages.
is my favourite...
London Bridge: A pleasant evening Now (2014), and a windy evening back
cleverly juxtaposed images.
only have to see a picture of Tower Bridge (in the background) and those cranes alongside the
River Thames, and I am
instantly transported back to the day of Winston Churchill’s funeral.
written about this in a previous dispatch: it was a cold Saturday
morning, I had been working and arrived home just after lunch. The TV was on.
Churchill’s coffin had just arrived at the River Thames for its boat
journey to its final resting place.
my mind’s eye I can still see the boat bearing his coffin leaving Tower
Pier, Rule Britannia is playing ― and the cranes of Hays Wharf dip in
It caught everyone by surprise because in a day of meticulous planning it
was a spontaneous gesture by the dockers.
interesting to speculate that each and everyone of those crane operators
would have had experience of the Blitz, or indeed of fighting in the war
Those dockers, one suggests, would have had no political allegiance
whatsoever with Churchill ― but he had been their much admired war
leader, and that was all that mattered.
would have thought that such beautifully juxtaposed pictures of London’s
Bridges could generate such instant memories.
Bridge exhibition itself must be quite wonderful to see in the flesh, so
Here’s the Telegraph link ― well worth a click:
Thursday, June 26th
Flag of fortune
“Instead of lowering the flag of St George to half
mast, why not simply fly it upside down – the
universally accepted signal of distress – to
demonstrate the plight of English football?”
YESTERDAY I’d mentioned that someone had wondered aloud why the English
tend to write ‘England’ across their flags, whereas other countries, as
a rule of felt, do not deface their national flags.
And there’s your answer, up there,
welcome mat. If ‘England’ wasn’t there no one would realise that the nation was
crying out for help.
Incidentally, I am not taking the
piss. The above is a letter in the very English Times
newspaper, from a very English football fan (I presume): Frank Greaney
of Formby, Liverpool.
I also enjoyed these two letters, again from The Times:
Sir, As an admirer of Simon Barnes’s
insights into sport [Barnes is a Times columnist who has the answers to the secrets of Life,
the Universe and Everything], I could not believe his statement that
sport is “our holiday from worry”. Having supported England for 46
years, I can state quite categorically that this is not the case.
GORDON POTTER, Washington, Tyne and Wear
Abandon all hope
Sir, Gordon Potter is correct to
say that supporting England is not “our holiday from worry”. The country
used to have a fanzine called “It’s the hope I can’t stand”.
JA SUTHERLAND, Swindon, Wilts
Actually, I am taking the piss with those two letters. Neither
Gordon Potter nor JA Sutherland were talking about England, but in fact
Sunderland Football Club. Sorry, couldn’t resist the switch.
Also, Gordon Potter has been
supporting Sunderland for 60 years ― and the fanzine mentioned is also a
product of Sunderland. But it could belong to England.
Incidentally, and as a Welsh rugby
supporter, I know precisely what “It’s the hope I can’t stand” means.
I envy people who treat sport with
a quizzical look. I mean, it is such an emotional rollercoaster, made
worse because it is
totally beyond our power to influence it in any way, shape or form.
My brother has absolutely no
interest in sport, including rugby. When the Crazy Horsepower is packed
on international days, he will sit there with his gang with a look of
Fair play to him he doesn’t say
things like “bloody rubbish”, and engage those who are following the
game on the box in distracting conversation. I much admire his cool
detachment from those false gods, those impostors Rudyard Kipling
identified as Triumph and Disaster.
Back with the football, what has been occupying the World Cup stage
today is the Jaws of Uruguay, poor Luis Suárez and his biting of Italian
Old Luis obviously has a problem, a
default setting which is a dreadful liability ― and impossible to delete
in the heat of battle, I’d suggest.
Perhaps he should have his teeth
removed. I mean, when in future he takes to the field, the worst he can
then do is give an opponent a furious love bite.
And if my observations are correct,
the natural-born lower orders see love bites much as they see tattoos:
statements of love and affection and self-worth.
Problem sorted. No worries. Grab
As you would expect, the internet is awash with memes. It helps that Luis has a track
record with this sort of thing, and I did smile at this suggestion:
Here, Luis is featured in a
Liverpool shirt, when he last did the old ‘my bite is much worst than my
Very funny image, though.
A couple of letters in the Daily
Mail also made me smile, this from
of Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife:
“Forty years ago we used to
chant: ‘Norman Hunter bites yer legs!’
[Norman was part of the 1966 England World Cup winning squad with a
fearsome reputation as a ruthless tackler]. Now it’s ‘Luis Suárez bites
And finally this, from
Kevin Mason of
Sittingbourne, Kent ― and I can sense a nation sigh with relief:
“To look on the
bright side, at least we won’t have to put up with a Sir Wayne Rooney
Wednesday, June 25th
Exceedingly deflated in the Towy Valley
England’s coming home
WITH England now out of the World Cup and on their way home, a few
letters in the Daily Mail raised a wry smile:
“Do my England flags go in the
green bin or the black bin?” George Valentine of Rotherham, South Yorks
“One blue football boot, one pink ― nice. But is it so the player can
tell one foot from the other?”
Jennie Yardly of Liss, Hants
“I’ve been trying to get into the Brazilian spirit of things for the
remainder of the World Cup. What’s Portuguese for ‘sick as a parrot’?”
Phillip Smith of Weyhill, Hants
Anyway, you know what they say: It is an ill wind that blows nobody
At least most of the BBC’s 272
staff out in Brazil to cover the competition will be on the plane home
with the England team and the WAGs (including Coleen Rooney’s 15
suitcases), now that they are all surplus to requirements. Or should
that read “not fit for purpose”?
Oh yes, you may well be wondering
about the tree and the deflated balloons at the top.
Well, yesterday I featured that
distinctive Towy Valley tree draped with those eye-catching balloons that had
unexpectedly descended from heaven. Or somewhere.
And I had speculated that the
cluster had escaped a party or some such celebration somewhere ― or
indeed had been purposely released.
Well it suddenly dawned. What with
all the fine and settled weather over the past couple of weeks, the wind
has been gently blowing in from the east and the north-east.
And the balloons are red and white,
the St George’s Cross colours...
I will bet you anything that those
balloons were actually released from a party somewhere the other side of
Offa’s Dyke, probably on the night England played their first game
against Italy. Or more likely the night they lost to Uruguay and were
effectively eliminated after just two games.
This morning, though, they were
looking exceedingly deflated and very sorry for themselves ― as pictured
at the top ― much like the English players and their fans, I guess.
Incidentally, someone asked why the
English supporters always write ‘England’ across their flag, whereas other
countries, as a rule, do not deface their national flags.
Interesting observation, that. I
presume it’s something to do with the confusion between the Union flag
and the St George’s Cross, and that the English want to make it clear
that they too have their own flag (just as we Welsh do).
Anyway, I also enjoyed this letter
in The Times:
Happy and glorious
Sir, I note a strong correlation
between the vigorousness of football teams singing their national
anthems prior to matches and their success: the stronger singing side
wins. Should Gareth Malone be appointed England coach?
JAMES ROGERS, London SW18
Champion idea, James. But I sense
an ambush or two. Gareth’s father’s side is of Irish descent; and his
late grandmother, who was a huge influence, apparently, was Welsh and
imbued with the tradition of male-voice choirs, hence his high-profile
link to music and choirs.
So would Gareth’s heart be in the
England job? Hm.
Finally, a couple more letters from the Daily Mail:
“Did I really hear the ITV commentators talk about the names of the
Iranian players on their shirts being their ‘Christian names’?” Brian
Hunter-Rowe of Dorking, Surrey
“Do foreign footballers have tattoos in English?” Mike Picewicz of
Where is David Beckham when you need
Tuesday, June 24th
The smile has got its hat on
ALONG my morning walk I regularly pass a distinctive old tree. My guess
is that it’s yet another of those trees hit by lightning, and as a
result slowly but surely withering away.
What makes this particular tree so
eye-catching is that it is forever covered in cobwebs. Especially so in
autumn when the spiders appear to be at their busiest.
One misty morning last autumn it
was a particularly glorious sight ― and obviously I took a picture of
As it happens, I’ve been meaning
for a while to include the photo somewhere on this website.
Well now, on a glorious summer’s
morning, I’m heading for the tree, as usual ― and I stop: “What the
Draped over the tree, out here in
the wilds of the Towy Valley, a cluster of balloons.
So here are the two
Be sure to pop
into my parlour when you're passing
Now isn’t that wonderful? And the
thing is, if you look closely at the tree on the right, you’ll still
spot a few spiders’ webs weaved here and there.
When I arrived at the tree I looked
for a label or some such like dangling from the balloons.
Down the years I have stumbled upon
the occasional balloon, with a request attached to return to
sender ― I cover lots of fields along my walk ― and I always have
returned the attached card,
with an explanation as to how I found it.
And as you would expect, I’ve
always received a note of thanks, and often additional information about
the sender or the purpose of releasing the balloon.
Back with the above balloons: they
looked like a cluster that had escaped from a party or some celebration
somewhere ― or indeed, had been purposely released.
And then they’d eventually dropped from
the sky and draped themselves perfectly over this old tree.
A really smiley experience, though.
One of the great joys of my sunrise
walk is that I never know quite what to expect.
Monday, June 23rd
A face in the ‘Carnaval’ @ Llandampness
Faces and voices
on April 27 and 28, I did some features inspired by images from a
Jody Smith book called ‘Faces in Places’, a
collection of pictures from around the world of randomly occurring or
accidental human-like faces.
only rule being that any picture has to be natural, without any Photoshopping.
I duly found a horse chestnut bud
about to burst into leaf, which looked remarkably like
the famous painting of The
Scream by Edvard Munch.
Here’s a link back to those
two features should you want to refresh the theme:
face to face
Anyway, at the top I feature another amusing ‘face’ spotted on the same
chestnut tree ― and with the World Cup unfolding out in Brazil, I
thought this looked very “carnaval”, especially so with that glorious hat on.
The above all came back to me today when I spotted this astonishing picture
Faces in high places
lookin’ at me, smartass?
brace of B-2 Spirit aircraft from the U.S. Air Force have been deployed
at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire. It is very unusual for the bombers
to be stationed outside of the U.S.
high-tech aircraft, which has a wingspan of 52-metres and can fly for as
long as 44 hours, was photographed passing over Cornwall’s picturesque
In the above picture it’s
performing a mid-air refuelling with a KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF
The image was captured on June 11
by Senior Airman Christine Griffiths and has now been released by the
U.S. Air Force.
Amazing. And boyoboyo, that face.
A couple of letters from The
Sir, As someone born and bred in
Birmingham, I have a great affection for Wolverhampton: it is the only
place I sound refined.
DR MIKE ROOKE, Easingwold, N Yorks
Which drew this smiley response:
Sir, Dr Mike Rooke says that, as
someone born and bred in Birmingham, he has a great affection for
Wolverhampton because it is the only place he sounds refined.
That’s what he thinks.
PAUL QUINTON, Wolverhampton.
How funny. And I have a sneaky suspicion that the two of them probably
know each other rather well.
Sunday, June 22nd
Here’s lookin’ at somethin’ or other
YESTERDAY, I recalled a few tales I’d heard on the wireless from last
Well now, on Thursday morning,
someone on the radio mentioned this glorious quote: “Always keep a
bottle of champagne in the fridge for special occasions...” I can’t
recall whether it was Alex Lester, Vanessa Feltz or Richard Allinson
sitting in for Chris Evans.
Anyway, I smiled, naturally.
Intrigued, I looked it up online:
it seemingly belongs to one Hester Browne, a freelance writer, author
and journalist whose articles on dating and relationships, I learn,
regularly appear in UK Cosmo and other similar publications.
She lives in London and
Herefordshire with her two Basset hounds Violet and Bonham.
So there. Mind you, my mother did
warn me about those who live in two places at the same time: “Never turn
your back on them.”
Be all that as it may, later on the Thursday, I
visited Tesco in nearby Ammanford to get some stuff, including a few
bottles of their cheapie blended scotch whisky for my morning Celtic
coffee, which I enjoy hugely after returning from my sunrise walk
through the Towy Valley.
As I wondered down the drinks isle,
I was drawn to a champagne offer, or at least the Spanish equivalent:
“FreiXenet 2011 Vintage Especial Brut Cava” at
an “Especial” half-price of £7.49.
Let’s call it an impulse buy.
Fortunately, the default setting on
my internal barometer is set at ‘fair’. If asked “How are you?” I will
respond either “Average plus, going on average plus-plus” ― or “Fair.
Rising to set fair.”
So everyday is a celebration,
really. Mind you, if I had a bottle of champagne every time my barometer
was fair and rising I’d be half pissed all of the time. Or should that
pissed half of the time?
Whatever, I was totally sold on the
notion of having a bottle of champagne under starter’s orders. So if
Uncle Ernie, or Auntie Camelot, or the executors of some hitherto
unknown relative who has decided to leave me a fortune, get in touch ―
well, the bottle will be whipped out of the fridge a bit smartish I can
And anyway, if nothing
extra-special surfaces ― well ... now that I have finished working and
as a consequence heard the bell sound for my final lap ― fortunately I have no idea how
long that final lap is ― so every time I reach the end of a month, I’ll
crack open the champers. Starting next month.
Well blow me, yesterday I watch the
rugby ― Wales play South Africa in the second test of their short tour,
having been given a bit of a stuffing by the Springboks in the first
Remarkably though, Wales lead from
the off ― and it really does look as if they are going to win for the
first time ever in South Africa...
I instantly think of that bottle in
the fridge, just waiting to be seen off in a celebratory fashion.
Wow, and what a celebration it will
be. Sadly though, Wales lose, yet again, at the death.
A penalty-try meant a win for the
Springboks by a single point. Bugger, bugger, bugger.
Meanwhile, the bottle awaits that
It’s a knockout
Talking of losing: at the World Cup
in Brazil, England lost their two opening games ― and were then
dependant on Italy doing them a favour and beating England’s two rivals
to progress any further.
And the headline?
They think it’s all
over, it is now: Costa Rica beat Italy to send England home after just
two games ... their worst performance at the World Cup since 1958
Costa Rica upset the odds,
beating the Italians 1-0 after a 44th minute header by Bryan Ruiz. So
England have been eliminated after failing to beat Italy and Uruguay in
the their two opening fixtures.
It is the first time since 1958
that England have been knocked out in the tournament’s group stage. They
are currently bottom of Group D with one game left ― on Tuesday ― but it
is mathematically impossible for them to progress.
Presenter Garry Lineker had even
sported an Italian jersey for their game against Costa Rica...
Be all that as it may, I did enjoy this clever and witty response from
Lineker following Italy’s loss:
typical. What have the Romans ever done for us?”
Saturday, June 21st
The snake whisperer
(see tale No. 2)
Lol on the
THREE totally diverse radio items
tickled my fancy last Wednesday. Today I had another listen to all three
on the iPlayer, just to make sure I have the finer points of each tale
1) First up
Heard on Alex Lester’s extra-early
morning show on Radio 2.
Alex has been running a thread “My
dad’s better than your dad”, inviting listeners to tell tales out of
school. Tales with tongues in cheeks, clearly.
Patrick Webster: My
dad did nothing all day. The next day mum asked him what he was going to
do. “Nothing,” he said. “You did that yesterday,” mum said. “Ah,” my dad
said, “but I haven’t finished yet.”
2) Midday magic
Late morning I was listening to
Shân Cothi on Radio Cymru on her Welsh language magazine
programme of music and chat, Bore Cothi.
One of her guests was a character
from Llanelli, one Geraint ‘The Snakeman’ Hopkins.
No, the nickname has nothing to do
with a certain rather personal attribute. Actually, Geraint is a bit of a
Welsh media personality, especially known for his work with reptiles,
snakes in particular (there he is, pictured at the top).
Oh, and he tells a
The volunteer reptile expert ― the
snake whisperer ― says he regularly receives calls from the police and
local councils to deal with reports of snakes on the loose, an essential
service he provides free of charge to the community of Wales at large,
fair play to him.
He receives about one or two calls
per week. It is a fact of nature though that during the warmer weather
snakes come out to play, and over the summer months he will receive 100
calls and more as a consequence.
On Shân’s show he explained that
snakes are perfect escape artists. They often escape from homes where
they are kept as pets; also, people buy them as pets but rarely realise
quite what a handful they become ― and they then release them out into
the wild. Very naughty.
Also, snakes in the wild are losing
their territories ― houses and commercial properties being built,
especially out in the countryside ― and they look for new homes, and houses
are an obvious target.
Geraint went on to tell this
wonderful tale from a few years ago:
He’d received a call from
the police that a woman in Llanelli, not far from where he lived, had
got up in the night to go to the toilet, wearing just a dressing gown.
A snake had escaped from next
door. Now it hadn’t come up the toilet, as snakes often do ― another
reason to always keep the lid down, although larger snakes can easily
push up the lid to escape.
Anyway, she was sitting on the
toilet ― the next thing she knew the snake had wrapped itself around her
legs. But instead of getting up straight away, which would have likely
made the snake release its grip and slither away ― she froze.
The snake tightened its grip
because it was now drawing the heat from her bare legs. She called out
to her husband ― who called the police ― who called Geraint.
The husband explained that it was
slightly awkward because she had no clothes on, apart from the dressing
gown. “Can you cover the private parts you don’t want me to see?” asked
Geraint, somewhat innocently.
“Never mind her private parts,”
said the husband. “Just get the bloody snake off.”
“So I had to go on my knees, and
all the while not looking at this lady’s private parts. Getting the
snake off was quite a job, it was trying to bite her ― it was a boa
constrictor, not particularly large and its bite is relatively harmless.
Eventually I got the job done. But the poor lady had been there, sat on
the toilet, for an hour and more.”
“Did she get over it?” asked
Shân with much feminine concern.
“I think so ― but it took me more
time to get over it, I can tell you. There was a write up about it in
the local paper. They headlined it “Snakes and Bladders”.
3) Last past the post
Then late afternoon, I was listening
to Laurie Taylor on Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed (I get
around the radio dial).
A few listeners had responded to
the previous week’s topics, in particular a feature about the lack of
women visiting high street betting shops. Laurie then reads out an
Mr K G Banks picks up on
our betting shops discussion:
Laurie ― The local turf accountant I
sometimes frequent remains a solidly male bastion, albeit with a
strongly far-eastern image, many of the regulars hailing from, or having
family roots in, Hong Kong.
The only women here are behind
the counter, and while I won’t earn any plaudits in some quarters for
saying this, I do rather enjoy being addressed by them as “love”, or
better still, “darlin’”.
So much friendlier than the
But while Mr Banks was looking
around his local turf accountants ― it’s a rather wonderful euphemism,
isn’t it, turf accountant? It’s like calling your mistress a mattress
Well anyway, John of Cambridge
goes on to say...
So I left John of Cambridge to it while being preoccupied with the
thought of a mistress being a mattress councillor:
darlin’, and lie down on top of me...”
Friday, June 20th
in the world?
“I AM fascinated by the growing science behind the energy of
consciousness and its effect on matter ― how negativity changes the
structure of water, how the molecules behave differently depending on
the words or music being expressed around it.”
Gwyneth Paltrow, 41, American actress, singer, food writer and a
celebrity who speaks in lyrical if enigmatic tongues.
has Gwynnie got herself a job on the side as a translator in faraway
places with strange sounding names?
Words don’t come easy
Sign Language: Spotted at Lake Ashi, Japan by John Raine
Whatever can it all mean? Especially that last sentence?
Say nothing is
All very Gwynnie,
though ― and the following seems like a perfect place to finish:
“Glastonbury Festival is the most bourgeois thing on the planet.
Anywhere Gwyneth Paltrow goes and you can live in an air-conditioned
yurt is not for me. We will leave the middle classes to do Glastonbury
and the rest of the great unwashed will decamp to Knebworth and drink
lots of beer and have fun.”
Bruce Dickinson, 55, English musician, airline pilot, broadcaster and
lead singer of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden gets snooty about pop
festivals, pointing out that it is Knebworth not Knobworth.
Thursday, June 19th
White Horse, Llandampness
following headline and article, spotted in the Telegraph, tickled my old smileometer
What’s the worst question
to be asked in a job interview?
Are cryptic questions any good at
picking the best candidate? And what’s a ‘whole person’ interview?
If you were a Disney
cartoon character, who or what would you be? Count to 11 in 3.5
intervals. How many ping pong balls fit into a 747?
These are not idle riddles to
help you and your fellow layabouts while away a sunny Sunday afternoon
at the pub, but genuine questions put to job-seekers by interviewers at
British companies over the past year.
The round-up of left-field
questions, compiled by Glassdoor, a career website, is valuable and
Not only does it allow us to
scratch our heads along with the candidates (you start at -3, not zero,
if you want to get to 11 in 3.5 intervals, by the way) but it also says
much about the modern workplace and the reliance on business psychology
that has come to dominate office life.
Hm. Now I’d be hopeless at today’s job interviews. Incidentally, the
picture at the top fascinated me no end. Wanting a CV for just three days’
work behind a bar?
Whatever, that one about counting
to 11 in 3.5 intervals, I took it as meaning count to 11 in 3.5 time
intervals i.e. in 3.5 second
I thought it was a test as to
whether you could count along two separate avenues simultaneously ―
multi-tasking? ― without obviously using your fingers to count to 11 as you
counted out 3.5 seconds between each number. Now that would be a fascinating
test of something, but I’m not sure what.
But it’s all to do with
mathematics. I’d have failed. (And should it not have been “count to 11
in 3.5 increments”?)
Be all that as it
when I worked behind a bar, many
moons ago, I could count up the cost of a round of drinks as I served ―
and quite a large round as well.
I remember one time I served about
20 drinks to the landlord of another pub during a darts dinner. About
half-an-hour later he ordered another round of drinks. I had no idea
that it was precisely the same round, but after I gave him the cost he
smiled and said: “Very good, exactly the same as last time.”
I was really chuffed at that
because it’s quite easy to make a mistake, even if putting them through
the till because you can miss a drink ― or worst, put one drink through
twice. And you would not want to do that to the landlord of another pub.
Incidentally, regarding that 3.5
interval question, a
answered online thus: “Funnily
enough I just said start at 0.5 to get to 11 in 3.5 intervals.”
Anyway, as for the Disney character I would like to be ― well, no problem:
Bagheera, the black panther from The Jungle Book. Actually, I probably
have a lot of Baloo the Bear in me too ― but I like Bagheera for his
infinite common sense and wisdom.
But most of all I want to be
Bagheera when he utters one immortal line.
When King Louie is singing I
Want To Be Like You, and he demands Mowgli give him the “secret of
man’s red fire”, Baloo and Bagheera creep up to rescue Mowgli.
But Baloo gets caught up in the
furious beat of the song and he says of King Louise when he realises
wants the secret of fire: “I’ll tear him limb from limb, I’ll beat him,
I’ll ... I’ll ― yeah, well man, what a beat...”
And Bagheera says the line I’ve
been dying to utter all my life:
“Will you stop that silly beat
business and listen...”
It’s my favourite film line because
in the same circumstances I can hear myself saying it.
There’s a link to the classic
coming up down below...
As for the ping pong balls, I’d have replied: “I presume ‘ping pong
balls’ is a euphemism for bollocks ― so, 400 people on a jumbo, half of
them will be male, times two balls, equals 400 ping pong balls.
Back with the
Telegraph piece, in particular those balls:
As to the question itself,
it was asked at Goldman Sachs. This is an investment bank with such a
fearsome reputation for intellectual superiority that its employees used
to be known as Masters of the Universe.
Maybe years of focusing on table
tennis, rather than credit-default swaps, may explain why it ― along
with many fellow Wall Street banks ― had to go running to the US
Treasury to be bailed out.
As to the ping pong question? The
answer is 31 million balls, that is if you used all of the cabin as well
as the hold space.
However, if you’re a very clever
candidate you would note that all those little balls would weigh a
remarkable amount ― about 83 tonnes, and if they were golf balls they’d
weigh 1,395 tonnes, enough to make it impossible for a Boeing 747 to
I hope you enjoy your career at
Very good. I also enjoyed these online responses, the first one is
particularly clever, in my humble opinion:
Big blue monkey: The answer to the ping pong question would vary.
I would answer three because I know for sure that three ping pong balls
can fit into a 747 ― the question doesn’t ask for the maximum amount.
That aside, it’s all nonsense. An interview should
figure out if you can do the job and fit in with the company.
Brainteasers are just a waste of time.
James Thornley: I responded to a job advertisement in the New
Scientist. The interviewer looked at my CV and said, “You're a Taurean,
aren’t you”. I replied, “I'm also a science graduate”.
It was downhill from there.
Ditchdigger3: The (probably apocryphal) story I like is the
answer to an Oxford exam paper.
The question “Is this a question?” provoked the one
“If it is, then this is an answer.”
Oh yes, were you
wondering about that “whole person interview” thingy?
fashion in recruitment, according to Claire McCartney, talent planning
adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is
“whole person interviews”.
is business-speak for asking people about their home life and personal
views, as well as their work experience. It usually involves
psychometric testing as well as an interview.
adopted by John Lewis and the NHS, is about “getting a sense of the
values of the candidate and whether they are a good match for the
cultural ethics of the company”, says Ms McCartney, who adds that this
is important at a time when trust in corporations and big organisations
is so low.
Finally, over to Disney, King
Louie, Mowgli, Baloo ― and of course Bagheera ― and if this doesn’t make
you smile ... well, I’d see about it:
want to be like you:
Wednesday, June 18th
Wicked Willie takes the Road to Rio
(but more in Hope than Lamour)
Stick ‘em up
drawer: something incongruous about a Bible and a condom as welcome
gifts.” A Tweet from BBC sports reporter Gabby Logan as she
settled into her World Cup hotel in Brazil.
Hm, Gideon’s Bible
meets Gulliver’s Travels i.e. the Messiah meets a very naughty boy who
is forever playing Little & Large. (Is that a gun in your pocket,
with no love
The Sunday Times ... I couldn’t resist the lateral link between
‘going viral’ and ‘going venereal’ ― see ‘top drawer’, obviously.)
Michael Gove, the education secretary, last week called
for British values to be promoted in schools. Judging by the response on
Twitter, part of being British is to tease Gove.
Under the hashtag #British values, a contributor suggests that it means
“moaning that there isn’t such a thing as British values”.
“Digging up a f****** car park for the 500-year-old remains of a king,
then having a ‘legal battle’ about where to f****** rebury him.”
and getting pointlessly angry.
“Surely an essential British value is not to bang on about British
values?” David Ashford of Almondsbury in Gloucestershire makes a
perfectly valid point in the Letters page of The Daily Telegraph.
All to pot
one emigrates to Australia because of the success they’ve made of their
lives elsewhere, and no one smokes dope because they’re fed up with
being the life and soul of the party.”
Jeremy Clarkson in his Sunday Times column.
I caught myself smiling and nodding. Oh, and just to endorse the dopey
Tweetie Pie Corner
feels like a hundred lifetimes ago, so it is like digging up an old
grave.” Katy Perry on her failed 20-month marriage to Russell
Brand ― and for some reason dragging the 500-year-old bones of King
Richard III into the argument.
No peace for the wicked then. Hang on. Was King R3 wicked? Probably.
Doing the Khan-Khan
“Happy birthday you beautiful diamond-encrusted revolutionary. I love
you x” Jemima Khan’s recent message to Russell Brand.
I wonder. Is this what is known as
an oxymoronic tweet? After all, a proper revolutionary wears just a
camouflage outfit and carries an AK-47, whereas Brand wears a hi-viz
jacket over his camou-combo, jewellery and tattoos ― and carries only a
wet fish boasting a foul mouth.
Mention of Russell Brand wearing a
hi-viz jacket over his camou-combo reminds me of my recent Ballistic
Statistics list, in particular this one: 5% of workmen wear camouflaged
clothes under their hi-viz jackets.
It all came to mind apropos the British values
diversion, above. This online comment, from
“Apparently, 95% of Britons believe that the first
test of Britishness should be the ability to speak English. The other 5%
didn’t understand the question.”
Tuesday, June 17th
The meadow in the mist at Newton House,
And the yellow God
forever gazes down
BACK at the beginning of May, I shared some photographs of the meadows
at Dinefwr Park, all dressed up in the brilliant yellow of dandelions.
Well, the flowers quickly turned to seed ― and they have long dispersed with the
here we are, and the meadows are back, all dressed to kill in one of
nature’s favourite colours.
time thought the flowers are meadow buttercups and cowslips.
are now ready for harvesting ― hay or silage, often depending on how
settled the weather is.
are currently enjoying a beautiful summer spell. Around sunrise ―
five o’clock, a stunning time of day to go for a walk through the
countryside ― the meadows are awash with a light summer mist, which
quickly burns away.
mornings though, there’ll be a really thick mist, which lingers awhile.
For example, the picture at the top, taken from the meadow in front of
Newton House, was captured last week.
following day, at about the same time, from the same meadow, from pretty
much the same spot, this picture...
The castle in the early-morning sun at Dinefwr Park
rolling sea of yellow. All very eye-catching and sighful.
the past couple of days the field has been cleared of its crop ― and
nature is already under starter’s orders to bring a bit of order back to
There’s never a dull moment along my morning walk...
Monday, June 16th
If you are of a nervous disposition
– look away, now
Remember the EnglandKini I featured just a couple of days back? Yes you
do, that glorious Borat-style variation on the mankini now favoured by
England footballers and their supporters (allegedly).
now, this Telegraph headline, unsurprisingly, caught my
If this is what ‘spermosexual’ means, then God
help us all
Now you know me and my slow, slow, quick-quick slow
brain ― the seeing part works a split-second ahead of the
make-sense-of-it-all part ― which means I often read things a little bit
wrong ... before my brain hopefully catches up and auto-corrects it all.
with that headline ― d’oh!
This is what it actually said:
If this is what ‘spornosexual’ means, then God
help us all
Spornosexual? Now there’s a word you never hear in the Bible. Or in the
Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.
Anyway, back with the Telegraph:
If you’re confused by the new term ‘spornosexual’ ― a
more extreme sex and body-obsessed male ― Louisa Peacock brings you
terrifying evidence of what this means in practice
If you thought the
mankini was bad, the penchant for men revealing way more than they need
to when on the beach, well, it has now reached a whole new level. The
half-thong mankini hybrid...
Hands up ... who left the
budgie cage door half-open?
Bobby and Harry from TOWIE (?) on holiday on some faraway beach
[No, no, no
it’s not Bobby and Harry from the Towy Valley]
Louisa Peacock continues:
genuinely sorry I had to share the above picture with you. But really, we need to take note. If this is what some
men think makes them look sexy, then we are all doomed.
Brace yourself, though, because there’s much, much more of it to come,
if we are to believe the rise of so-called ‘spornosexuality’.
Twenty years ago, Mark Simpson coined the term ‘metrosexual’. Now, a
new, more extreme, sex and body-obsessed version of men exists, he says
― and they’re called spornosexuals.
encapsulates the new breed of male who thinks nothing of using (and
abusing) products and practises and pleasures previously only the domain
of women and gay men. Practises including wearing half-thongs to the
[Yep, fongs ain’t wot they used t’be. Sorry.]
‘Spornosexuality’ is an evolutionary step backwards for men. Its rise is
a triumph for narcissism, but anyone familiar with Oscar Wilde’s The
Picture of Dorian Gray knows you should never prioritise looks
And at that point I made my excuses and left...
However, the more I learn about these spornosexuals ― incidentally, I am
still none the wiser as to who Bobby and Harry from TOWIE really are ― the more
I am convinced that my brain was being incredibly clever when it read
the headline as ‘spermosexuals’ because, because ― well, they all strike
me as just a load of celebrity wankers.
And did you note the
author of the Telegraph article? Louisa Peacock.
Say f*** all is best!
Sunday, June 15th
Cut and run
The Italian Job
(Italy 2 England 1)
ALL together now, start clapping:
“The self-preservation so-sigh-ety...”
The unfortunate injury to physio Gary Lewin while celebrating England’s
ultimately inconsequential goal against Italy last night ― and which has
grounded him for the remainder of the World Cup ― reminds me what a
delight it is watching a recording of a football match where the result
is already known, in particular the extravagant and increasingly
doolally goal celebrations...
And they then go on ― to lose the
I often wonder how stupid the
players must feel when watching themselves the following day during
match analysis, especially so where they peel off those jerseys, get
themselves booked ― and miss probably the next crucial match.
There again, perhaps footballers
are beyond self-analysis.
Sadly, the absurdity is also
spreading into rugby.
Staying with England’s World Cup adventure, I must share this with you,
from Rod Liddle’s Sunday Times column:
He shoots, he scores
Hilarious goings-on at the Sinn
Fein World Cup sweepstake when that lovable little republican squirrel
Martin McGuinness drew ― go on, guess who. Yes, England!
How mad is that?
Mr McGuinness tweeted his
astonishment at this rib-tickling irony, though he failed to add the
little quip that it wouldn’t be the first time he’d had Englishmen in
his sights. Missed opportunity, there, Marty. Ireland, sadly, failed to
I was reminded of the Ulster
Unionist councillor who was asked, some years back, whom he intended
cheering for when Italy played Ireland: “It’s a choice between the whore
of Rome,” the man replied, “and her daughter.”
Incidentally, I wasn’t delighting in England’s loss ― hopefully I am
slightly above all that nonsense ― after all, I have nothing to smirk
As a rugby man, South Africa
yesterday gave Wales a bit of a stuffing. To the tune of 38-16 (the
equivalent of 4-1½ in football terms).
Mind you, England also lost against
New Zealand in the rugby. And I’m really afraid to pop up from behind the sofa
to see how the England and Wales Cricket Bods are doing against Sri
So come on, England!
Mind you, this letter in The
Daily Telegraph sums it all up rather well:
A sporting chance
– Given our lack of success in team sports on Saturday, may I suggest in
future playing New Zealand at football, Sri Lanka at rugby and Italy at
Michael Forward, Northampton
Forward thinking indeed. Mind you, be careful what you wish for,
Michael: New Zealand might beat us at football, Sri Lanka at rugby and
Italy at cricket.
Saturday, June 14th
Here we go, here we go, here we
“HOPE springs eternal in the overpriced replica shirt ―
and no amount of historical reflection will drain the optimism from many
England fans as Roy Hodgson’s team takes on Italy tonight (kick-off
Thus The Sunday Times'
opening shot in their TV listings for tonight.
Talking of “overpriced replica
shirts”, this perfectly doolally story surfaced suddenly from behind the
sofa just the other day:
Asda seems to have scored an own goal with a “wearable England flag”
for the World Cup that shoppers have compared to a Ku Klux Klan outfit
Look away now: Yours for £3, the accessory has a large St
Cross with the a-peeling word “England” and a triangular white hood
After the wearable flag was spotted
on sale, shoppers took to Twitter to make the unsavoury comparison;
also, to comment on the quality of the printing, with the word “England” just peeling
One person called the flag
“klantastic” and many called for it to be removed from sale.
The description on Asda’s website
simply says: “Support England in the world cup with this unique wearing
You do wonder what went through the minds of the people at Asda when
they did their bit of grey-sky thinking.
I did however enjoy this online comment...
Fransiscanian: Of course there is always the possibility that the
Klansmen will stop wearing the ridiculous hood in order not to be
associated with the England football (= “soccer”) team.
It’s a win-win situation.
(Probably a lose-lose, but you know what I mean!)
And now for something completely different ― well, slightly different...
If the England players and supporters struggle tonight with the scorching heat
at the Arena Amazonia in Manaus, here’s an interesting piece of kit that will
certainly keep them cool.
UK firm ThumbsUp!
have designed a skimpy EnglandKini, emblazoned with the England flag.
Compare and contrast
While it’s unlikely we’ll see Wayne
Rooney and co in the Borat-style novelty gear, right, the creators are hoping
to send some over to the England camp.
The company said: “It’s the perfect
kit to keep cool in Brazil and it’ll definitely keep their Brazil Nuts
The company claims football fans
are going crazy for the mankini as it’s quite a lot cheaper than an
official England Jersey, which is on sale for £90.
In comparison, the EnglandKini is
available from Amazon for just £7.99. (Thinks: should that not say
available from “Carry On Up the Amazonia” for just £7.99?)
Here are my favourite online comments apropos the St George’s VeryCrossKini...
Alan Gilbert: The cross is the target for the riot police’s
Salah, Iraq: It is good in airports when passing through security
And this, with an eye on the 2022 World Cup, bribery and corruption
charges excepted, of course...
Andrea: That’ll go down well
Sadly I will be in
bed when England do their thing, so I'll have to wait until the morning
when it may well be:
There they go, there they go, there
Friday, June 13th
Road Runner relatives
A letter in The Daily Telegraph:
– The cooker goes beep; the washing machine goes beep; the delivery
man’s van goes beep; the telephone goes beep; the smoke alarm goes beep.
Car horns go beep and the microwave goes beep. It could drive you
beyond the wit of technologists to invent a different sound?
are some of the responses:
A domestic chorus of beeps, pings and
– John Leach bemoans the fact that every item of equipment seems to emit
a “beep”. One exception is the microwave, which “pings”.
with considerable ingenuity, have invented a name for it ― popty ping
(popty being the Welsh for oven).
Spot on, Sid Davies.
– I have a washing machine that gives a short rendition of Jingle Bells
to show that the programme has finished.
I wish it
just went “beep”.
Roger T Simpson,
– My mechanical heart valve makes a barely audible, high-pitched click,
which I can hear when I lie awake in the night.
I find this reassuring; my surgeon tells me that if the
sound stops, so do I.
guess, Tony, that you don’t hear the click that stops you dead in your
tracks. (It is said that you don’t hear the bullet that kills you.
Presumably because it travels faster than the speed of sound.)
Now for a couple of online responses:
Sguest: The letters about beeps remind me of the guy who changed
his car horn to fire the sound of gunshots. He found that people moved
out of the way much faster than before!
Peddytheviking: A fellow student at Bristol had a
microphone in his car connected to a loudspeaker hidden behind his
radiator grill. I was waiting at a red light when he came up behind me
(unnoticed), when suddenly this voice boomed out “Good Morning, Peddy!”.
He also used it to ask fellow motorists to move along a
little more quickly.
Those two online comments remind me of the tale I’ve mentioned here before, of
me walking along the pavement in Llandampness one morning ― and walking
towards me is a blonde lady, not of my acquaintance. A white van passes
me and heads towards the lady ... and a loud wolf-whistle blasts from a
loudspeaker in the van.
Everybody looks around ― and the van disappears. As I close in on the
blonde our eyes meet, we smile and I say something along the lines of
“Now that’s what I call an opening line.”
stops and says: “That made my morning...”
Different people react in different ways.
Whatever, all this beep-beep stuff reminds me of another great tale:
The road reverser
Some time back,
Alex Lester on his Radio 2 early-morning wireless show, mentioned that
the fellow responsible for the rather clever beep-beep warning device on
a reversing vehicle no longer tells anyone that it is his invention,
simply to avoid smart-aleck responses and abuse (albeit mostly good-natured
made no attempts to verify its truth because it is such a smiley story
to repeat and delight people.
By the by
Never mind hiding your invention
under a bushel, I have often wondered how many
people hide precisely who they are. Or more to the point, who actually
they are descended from.
For example, I shouldn’t imagine
anyone in the UK called Beeching will be overly eager to explain that
they are related to a certain Baron Beeching, aka Dr Richard Beeching
(1913-1985), a fellow infamous for wielding his ruthless axe over our precious
and much-admired railway network back in 1964.
Indeed, if your name happens to be
Brocklehurst, would you readily admit that your great-great-grandfather
could well be the individual who first introduced the grey squirrel into
Even more intriguing, do you
suppose that the descendants of Cherie and Tony Blair, say in a hundred
years and more, will eagerly wear their genetic inheritance, their family tree, on their sleeves?
(Think Iraq slowly unravelling in front of our very eyes, and all the
lives lost due to that allegedly sexed-up dossier.)
Spell-cheque corner: ‘Dr Beeching’, the railway
axeman, came up
as ‘Dr Beaching’, followed by ‘Dr Breaching’. Rather good, I thought.
Thursday, June 12th
Google’s view of the opening ceremony of World Cup 2014
(liked the tree but I’m not sure about the drums - see below)
Road to Rio
THE 20th World Cup begins at Sao
Paulo’s Arena Corinthians with a pageant featuring 600 dancers and an
LED football made up of 90,000 light clusters
(thus, according to The Sunday Times' programme guide).
Daphne Cornez, the spectacle’s
Belgian director, has promised “a tribute to Brazil and its treasures:
nature, people, football”; yet it ends with Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and
Claudia Leitte singing the abysmal tournament anthem We Are One, which
has nothing to do with either Brazil or football.
Hopefully ITV’s coverage will cut
away during it to show host Adrian Chile’s reaction.
As the ceremony starts at 7.15 and
lasts just 25 minutes, Chiles has a lot of time to fill before his
beloved Croatia play the hosts at 9pm.
Well, mother never bred a jibber, so I decide to watch the opening
ceremony ― truth to tell, I quite enjoy this sort of over-the-top
Wow, why are there so many empty
seats in the stadium?
Whatever, after 10 minutes, I catch myself yawning. Never mind a
picture, that’s definitely worth a thousand words apropos how the
ceremony is going.
So I click on the
Telegraph’s live blog ― brought to us by someone called
Alan Tyres ― who turns out to be
wonderfully witty with his observations.
Before I highlight a few of his choice comments ― well
trust the Aussies to come up with an image to put Rio in the shade...
Can you see
what it is yet?
A giant hot air balloon in the shape of Rio’s Christ The
(in an Australian football jersey), flies over the Sydney skyline in
of the Australian team ahead of the World Cup in Brazil
Brilliant. Or, good
call, as the Aussies would say.
here are a few of
comments re the opening ceremony...
all about to start
19.02: The more homely sight of Adrian Chiles now. Definitely
more conga than samba, is our Adrian. He’s alongside Patrick Vieira,
Fabio Cannavaro and Lee Dixon.
[What a great line,
more conga than samba. That would suit me, too.]
Ian Wright, on the beach, doing an outside broadcast and showing us the
sights. “There’s Sugarloaf Mountain, which is called that because ...
erm ... do you know [name of cameraman]... because it looks like a
sugarloaf I guess.”
Oh crikey. Now Ian Wright has got hold of
a man with a surfboard. “Yes!
This is hot. What is your name man?” Where is this going? What is he
going to do now? The unfortunate surfing man is a German called Stefan.
He gets hugged, several times, by the former Arsenal star.
Savage tweet incoming...
Yay. Representations of Brazilian nature first. God I
love an opening ceremony. People dressed as trees. Ladies in green gowns
throwing some hippy type shapes.
This is all quite delightful and very
soothing. We’ve not had a single samba rhythm yet, nor anyone banging on
Some people on a trampoline there. We’re
listening to ambient music. It all represents the Brazilian love affair
with nature. Or the Brazilian love affair with psychedelic drugs. One of
I hope Enya’s got her lawyers going through this music
with a fine-tooth comb.
Poor Clive Tyldesley [commentator] now just saying Brazilian things at
random. “Carmen Miranda ... The Girl From Ipanema...” Where the hell is
Andy [Gray?] when you need him?
For me, Clive, she’s
tall and tan and young and lovely.
Well this has all been splendid. Now we seem to me to be
moving on to a representation of football. Some kids dressed as referees
are on the pitch, they think it’s all over, it is not yet but will be
shortly I suppose.
The central dome thing has opened up and it reveals Claudia Leitte, the
Brazil singer, and now J-Lo and Pitbull, all three of whom could
probably do a job in midfield.
All three of the aforementioned are now singing the
official World Cup song and I hate to say it, but even by the standards
of official sporting tournament songs, it is officially awful. In
fairness the sound quality is really bad.
Blimey. I think maybe J-Lo’s mike wasn’t working? I am
assuming as in a malfunction, rather than as in “turning Linda
McCartney’s mike down”.
We’re back with Adrian Chiles. Is that it? I think that might be it. Wot
no speech? I can’t believe Sepp is going to miss out on a chance to say
a few words, is he?
I really liked the introduction stuff with the ambient
music and the trippy dancers. The J-Lo song bit was pretty awful,
although that might have been tech difficulties. And then, well, it kind
Overall, quite charming but a bit of a throwback. London 2012 opening
ceremony’s crown as the best opener ever is still firmly in place.
Still, lots of fun had by all concerned, it was over pretty quickly, we
didn’t have to listen to any speeches from Sepp Blatter ― and now on
with the football!
Wednesday, June 11th
A toast to doolallyness
BUT first ... Yesterday I featured some amusing tales from
Fink (Daniel Finkelstein, aka Baron Finkelstein OBE, Times
columnist). This piece of his, also worth sharing:
A fellow peer tells me that a relative responded to news that she had
been granted a peerage by saying: “Oh dear. I will just have to add you
to the list of people who will have to be shot after the revolution.”
I tell her to reply as the great
Labour right-winger (and later Liberal Democrat) Tom McNally did when
the left-winger Eric Heffer said he would be shot come the revolution.
“Oh no, Eric. They’ll shoot you. They will send me to America to
negotiate a loan.”
The above tale leads perfectly to this piece by
Rod Liddle, from last
weekend’s Sunday Times:
All day I faced the Baroness waste
It’s only just June, but already things are hotting up in the Most
Demented Baroness of the Year awards. Baroness Trumpington  was on
excellent form on Radio 4’s Today programme, lecturing the presenter,
Evan Davis, about how things were much better in the old days when men
could grope women in the back of taxi cabs without censure.
She seemed a shoo-in until
Baroness Rawlings  opened her well-bred gob. Her advice to the poor
on how to make ends meet included encouraging them to grow their own
Another piece of advice involved
saving the crusts of melba toast to use on the next morning’s boiled
eggs. Plus a lengthy peroration on how to avoid washing linen napkins by
folding them into the shape of a duck.
Rawlings still trails in the
lifetime achievement award behind the Dowager Lady Birdwood [1913-2000],
who thought Hitler was a bit of a pinko softy.
Incidentally, has anyone eaten
melba toast since 1973?
Hence my toast and egg (with lion) image, above, deserving of another
Sticking with these doolally rulers of ours, it brings me neatly to
Baron Prescott, aka John Prescott, 76, a life peer in the House of
Lords, and who was the Deputy Prime Minister of the UK from 1997 to
He was nicknamed Two Jags while in
office for having ― ta-rah ― two Jaguar cars.
Right. A couple of delightful
letters spotted in The Times:
Sir, I read that John Prescott is selling one of his Jags to reduce air
pollution. Surely he should be buying as many Jags as possible, as he
can only drive one at a time.
As the owner of four old
V8-powered cars, I believe I am doing the right thing for the
environment by preventing others from driving them.
PETER LLOYD, Hatfield Peverel, Essex
Sir, So John Prescott is selling one of his two Jags to help reduce air
pollution and now they can both be out on the roads at the same time.
Good thinking, that. Perhaps I can save time by selling
one of my two watches.
NICK CAMPLING, Peterborough, Cambs
And this man was our Deputy Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007?
What better way to head for the bell than with this quote from former US secretary
of state Hillary Clinton, on how she reacted to David Miliband (brother
Ed is current leader of the Labour Party) when he was British Foreign
“He caused me
to gulp and smile simultaneously.”
If there are eight better words to
sum up what it takes to be noted in my scrapbook cum diary ― well, I’ll
have to put my thinking cap on.
PS: How reassuring to note that, just occasionally, others share my
observations, in particular one from last Monday. This letter in today’s
Daily Mail, from
of Chelmsford, Essex:
Obama chewed gum throughout the D-Day ceremonies, something we expect
from uncouth football managers.”
Tuesday, June 10th
Sign language: amusement park
@ Hope Township, New Jersey
Spoil sport (statistically speaking)
“EVEN fairytales, the ones we all love with wizards
or princesses turning into frogs or whatever it was. There is a very
interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog. It is
statistically too improbable.”
Evolutionary biologist and scientist Richard Dawkins, 73 (just past
the promised age – of doolallyness?), saying that parents should avoid
reading fairytales to their children. He also has Santa firmly in his
Peter Arnold of Wellingborough
responds in The Times Letters page:
Will Thomas the Tank Engine and
friends [horror of horrors, and Welsh penfriend Ivor the Engine?] be
next to be axed by Professor Dawkins, on the grounds that
locomorphogenesis is statistically unlikely ― and also they were the
construct of an Anglican clergyman?
The readers of the Daily Mail also take issue. This from
Rick Taylor of Eynsham, Oxfordshire:
Richard Dawkins says a prince
can’t turn into a frog because it’s “statistically too improbable” ― but
he believes in the statistically improbable notion that a frog could
evolve into a prince.
Back with The Times. This from
Chris Bow of Stapleford,
Professor Dawkins thinks it is
“statistically too improbable” for one living creature to turn into
another (The Frog Prince). Are the odds any better for billions of atoms
to turn naturally by chance into a living cell?
Checkmate, indeed. In fact, many firmly believe that we have already begun our
journey back into the primeval swamp and, by devolution, back into
billions of atoms.
This letter, also from The Times, from
The Rev David A Baker of
East Dean, East Sussex:
There was an interesting
juxtaposition in your news pages (June 5).
On page two you reported that Archbishop Justin Welby
spent his day in Nigeria working for the release of 200 abducted
schoolgirls. On the facing page you reported that the scientist Richard
Dawkins was chiding parents for reading fairy tales to their children.
It is hard to imagine either of them doing what the
Ouch! Staying with The
Daniel Finkelstein’s Notebook;
Finkelstein OBE, to be precise (all self-explanatory ― see below...)
There’s more to the state opening
than dressing up
“It’s the day of the year that
does us the most damage,” says one of my fellow peers as we bump into
each other on the day of the state opening of parliament.
It’s not that I can’t see his
point. All that dressing up and so forth looks ― is ― remote from
people’s lives. Yet, rather diffidently, I have to reply that I don’t
The ceremonial of the Queen’s
Speech is a celebration of the stability of the country, and a statement
that the law must not be regarded as a plaything of parties. It must be
administered in the interests of the country as a whole.
Perhaps this sounds a bit much. I
wondered if it was as I wrote it. So I hope that I will be forgiven for
admitting that I approve of it also because it was rather beautiful. I
was seated a few feet away from a real queen, wearing a real crown, full
of real diamonds, sitting on a real golden throne.
It was like an illustration from a
fairytale. Nobody tell Richard Dawkins.
I enjoyed that last paragraph. As it happens, the whole piece leads
directly to this marvellous tale, again from the Good Baron:
While a group of us wait for the
ancient ceremony of the lanterns (checking, essentially, that Guy Fawkes
isn’t in the basement) to be completed so that we can enter the chamber,
Michael Grade is persuaded to tell a story about his uncle, Lew Grade.
The great impresario was
recruiting a salesman. A young man came to see him, and Lew, already
smoking a cigar at nine in the morning, bade him to sit down on the
other side of his huge desk.
“You want to be a salesman?”
asked Grade. “Here’s my water jug. Sell it to me,” he challenged,
handing the man a pitcher.
There was a pause, then the young
man got up, walked round the desk and picked up Grade’s waster paper
bin. He placed it on the desk, slowly got out a box of matches, and set
light to the contents of the bin.
Then he turned to Grade and said:
“Would you like to buy a jug of water?”
A certain smile, a certain frown
Yesterday, I rounded off my D-Day
appreciation with that split screen image out in Normandy of Barack Obama and
Vladimir Putin looking at each other.
Well now, today, a rather jolly
photograph has surfaced...
We are not
(use approved by royal warrant)
“Who do you think you are, Mrs Putin?”
The tale behind the picture is this: Stefanie Dolson, the lady on the
left, had accidentally slipped off the stage, behind, during an event honouring the
NCAA Champion UConn Huskies Men’s & Women’s Basketball teams in the East
Room of the White House.
As she fell, Obama moved quickly
and ‘rescued’ her from a really nasty fall.
She then recovered her poise and
posed for the assembled media ― probably to shouts of encouragement from
Slip-up or no, you clearly do not
‘upstage’ your President in his own House.
Smiley picture though.
Monday, June 9th
D-Day through the rear-view mirror
“FEW who saw the D-Day commemorations on Friday will not have been moved
by the sight of men, now in their late eighties or nineties, making what
in many cases was their final pilgrimage back to the Normandy beaches.
“The 70th anniversary of one of the
greatest battles in history, which secured the survival of democracy and
freedom in the West, was probably the last of its kind...”
Thus the opening remarks from
yesterday’s editorial section of The Sunday Times.
Apart from the veterans themselves, it is curious what lingers in
the memory from last Friday.
In the morning there was the
Service of Remembrance in Bayeux Cathedral ― Bayeux being the first city
to be liberated ― and in particular the blessing of a new cathedral bell
to mark the 70th anniversary, of which The Queen is one of the
(A rather difficult concept to
grasp that: I mean, what will the Queen get the bell on its first birthday?)
Whatever, it’s the pure sound the
bell made when struck that remains in my memory. Beautiful.
During the service that followed, at the cemetery,
Barack Obama reminded us of what had put him in the White House in the
first place; he is a natural-born orator.
He described D-Day as
“democracy’s beachhead”, a perfect turn of phrase.
The shame was, later in the
afternoon when the veterans, world leaders and re-enactors gathered on
Sword Beach, Ouistreham, for the main commemoration event, Obama couldn’t
stop chewing his gum.
It’s always those little things
that distract and annoy and give the game away.
Talking of that main event, whenever I watch a major ‘national event’
here in the UK ― trooping the colour, royal wedding, state funeral ― the
media always make a point of emphasising that no other country does it
Now I accept that national
compliment at face value because I have nothing to compare it with ― the
extraordinary precision displays of, say, the Chinese, doesn’t count
i.e. the Beijing Olympics, for the obvious reason that that is not
really a state event.
However, back on Sword Beach, and
watching the arrival of the leaders in a painfully slow trickle, while
the poor old veterans had to sit out in the burning sun ― well, I
couldn’t stop smiling.
It was so delightfully chaotic and
of those high profile guests appeared to have been briefed: How were
they supposed to engage with the children that greeted them and
then accompanied them into the arena? Were they supposed to meet and talk to
The whole shebang was running an
hour late in no time. The French appear to have no sense of time and
timing, the one thing that state events here in the UK pride themselves
But it was great fun to watch. Even
if it was with an underlying sense of apprehension that something could go badly
wrong at any moment.
The other thing I noticed was, how
effortlessly the Royal Family chatted with the veterans, compared that
is to most of the other world leaders. But there again, that is their
day job, talking to people. And it showed.
Even Kate ― pictured at the top ―
made it look ridiculously easy in Arromanches, late afternoon, when the
focus switched to the British event.
And crucially, the veterans, too,
clearly enjoyed the exchanges with both her and William.
Mind you, when Kate and William
mixed and mingled, I guess the organisers had made sure that the empty
chairs strategically placed were next to the veterans who would be
easy-going, chatty and amusing.
Then we watched former servicemen of
the Normandy Veterans’ Association march through the seaside town to
honour the men they fought alongside. And for the last time under their
flag. All incredibly moving.
I mentioned the other day the old boy who chatted up interviewer Sian
Williams: “And where are you from then...?”
I also remember comedian Eddie
Izzard being interviewed in the studio about the great work he does to
raise money to support the veterans ― but I couldn’t take my eyes off
Eddie’s vivid red fingernails (his contribution to “demystifying
Trouble was, his startlingly painted fingernails
were so mesmeric ... I honestly can’t remember a thing he said.
Since I began these D-Day tributes here on Look You, there’s been a
thread of perfectly juxtaposed photographs. So what better way to sign
off than with that memorable split television screen image of Barack Obama and
Vladimir Putin at Sword Beach.
After all, these are
the men blessed/cursed with the power to avoid/seek another D-Day.
When they caught sight of
themselves on the big screen ― triggered by a ripple of amusement running through the
crowd ― both turned to look at each other, Putin with a
A memorable ‘selfie’ ― with a
difference. Certainly different from the last one Obama was
ambushed with out in South Africa.
Sunday, June 8th
Iconic images of D-Day
AROUND 50 words captured my undivided attention today.
Whenever clips of the D-Day
landings are shown on television, the image, above (captured from a
famous piece of film), always features.
And ‘iconic’ is a proper use of the
word in this context.
Incidentally, do you ever wonder
about those houses? Were people actually living there when the invasion
landed on their doorstep? Had the Germans commandeered the properties
when they prepared their defences? Did the occupants abandon the
properties of their
own accord as they sensed the worst? What happened to those people?
Today though, I caught up with a
letter from yesterday’s Daily Telegraph:
The D-Day heroes
– A shot of D-Day often shown on television is of British soldiers
preparing to disembark from a landing-craft, one of whom is shown
looking to his right and out to sea.
I have often wondered what happened to him and if he
survived the day. Does anyone know?
Donhead St Mary, Wiltshire
Now I don’t know
about you, but I instantly knew what Diana Goetz is referring to. It is
as famous a piece of film as the actual landing sequence featured at the
Also, the soldier in question exhibits a particularly memorable look,
not least that he appears to be a really agreeable sort of chap. The
sort of fellow you would want to be liberated by.
reversed Ivor the Search Engine out of the shed and off I went...
wasn’t overly confident because it’s a film clip. But there again, it is
now quite easy for those with the technical expertise to capture a still
off a film ― see the photo at the top ... and suddenly, there it was...
@WW2Today: 0725 British troops now begin landing on Sword
beach – No. 4 Commando, aboard a LCI(S) landing craft
it is indeed as iconic a picture as the one at the top. And what of all
those expressions, unsure what sort of ambush awaits? The image really
does focus the mind.
found the photo on an imaginative Twitter site, WW2 Tweets from 1944
(@WW2Today), which attempts to capture the day’s events as if Twitter
had been in existence back then.
the caption to the image.
Unfortunately though, I found no information about that particular
so hope the Telegraph receives a positive response. After
all, someone out there will know.
might even enquire about those houses and their occupants.
Saturday, June 7th
ON Thursday, in the lead-up to the
commemorations out in Normandy, I featured some juxtaposed photographs
of Edwin “Ted” Hunt, 94, a D-Day veteran: two images, one showing Ted 70
years ago, in uniform; and of course what he looks like today.
something similar climbed the smileometer, the photographs of Bernard
Jordan, 90, from Hove, the glorious old boy who enjoyed an away-day with
a difference ― and now safely home at The Pines residential care home in
yesterday, there was a story all over the newspapers, of something
memorable that had happened the previous day.
Another 89-year-old British D-Day veteran had taken part in a carefully
planned tandem parachute jump with the Red Devils, having jumped from around 5000ft in the skies of Normandy, in
front of the Prince of Wales.
Jock Hutton was one of the first Allied soldiers to land in
Nazi-occupied western Europe in the early hours of June 6, 1944.
on Thursday he jumped on to the same drop zone his comrades did 70 years
ago with 13th (Lancashire) Parachute Battalion to secure Ranville, the
first village liberated on D-Day.
Prince Charles watched from outside a military tent as Jock leapt
from a civilian Skyvan aircraft and on to a patch of land a few yards in
front of him in a tandem jump with Colour Sergeant Billy Blanchard.
Jock, about to land ― complimented by a resplendently witty cartoon
by The Daily Telegraph’s
even more glorious by the fact that the Queen is 88, of
the same generation as these veterans...
Here’s lookin’ at you
After arriving on terra firma, Jock Hutton, who lives in Maidstone,
Kent, hurriedly dusted himself off, put on his beret, saluted ... and
joked that his only disappointment was the lack of Calvados on landing.
Stirling-born former paratrooper said: “It was very humbling and I’m
highly privileged to be here.”
Asked to describe how he felt, he said: “Poetry.” He went on: “I was
very relaxed with all my companions in the aircraft, but I wanted to get
out of that door.”
again the term Hero seems absolutely spot on.
“FOR these men, now aged around 90,
living life to the full is the best remembrance. The men who died as
teenagers gave up their youth and their future so that life could be
lived and enjoyed.”
The BBC’s billing for the Radio 4 programme D-Day: A
Family Affair, exploring what “remembrance” means.
Having today watched much of the
televised commemoration ceremonies of the 70th anniversary of the allied
invasion of German-occupied France, I was struck by how active,
articulate and amusing so many of those elderly gents are.
Unassuming, unpretentious and
unforgettable, all with tales to tell that were often poignant and very
moving. And of course, the ever present humour, especially the one old
boy, still a glint in his eye, gently chatting-up interviewer
Sian Williams: “And where are you from then...?”
And fair play to Sian, who
responded: “South Wales ― Llanelli, actually...”
What better way,
though, to remember the day than with a
tale that only a very few people knew about as we watched the various
This tale of magic and mystery only
hit the media late-afternoon, early-evening, so the story is still
unfolding at a rate of knots.
This, from Telegraph Online:
The Great Escapade
On a day of sombre reflection and deep felt gratitude
for the bravery of the men who stormed the Normandy beaches, one D-Day
veteran in particular seemed to embody all their pluck, determination
and even humour with his actions 70 years later.
Bernard Jordan, who served with the Royal Navy during
Operation Overlord, had been looking forward to joining the events in
northern France to pay tribute in person to his comrades who fell during
But on being told by staff at The Pines residential care
home in Hove that they had not been able to get him onto an organised
coach trip for the anniversary events, he took matters into his own
Wearing his D-Day campaign medals out of sight under his raincoat,
Bernard Jordan, 90 (some reports put him at a sprightly 89), set off under his own
steam and headed for Normandy...
to Operation Overcoat
Bernard Jordan (pictured, left, now and, right,
during his time as a British serviceman)
It seems that
Bernard joined some former comrades on a coach, before arriving at a
hotel in Ouistreham, north-western France, 12 hours later.
Back in Hove,
Sussex Police were called and launched a search for Mr Johnson, who is a
former mayor of the town.
However, the care home later received a phone call
from a younger veteran, telling them he had met Mr Jordan on a coach to
France and that he was safe and well.
He called the care home himself
today to reassure them he is well and that his friends are going to make
sure he gets home safely when the commemorations end.
Chief Superintendent Nev Kemp,
police commander for the City of Brighton & Hove, later tweeted:
this: 89yr old veteran reported missing by care home who said he can’t
go to Normandy for #DDay70 remembrance. We’ve found him there!”
Peter Curtis, CEO of Gracewell Healthcare, the company that owns Mr
Jordan’s care home, said staff had attempted to book him on an official tour.
said: “In fact staff at the home tried to get Mr Jordan on to an
accredited tour with the Royal British Legion, but due to the last
minute nature of the request this was not possible.
Jordan was reported missing to the police yesterday evening as a matter
of caution because he did not return form his normal trip to town and
when he left had not told us he was still intent on trying to get to
Normandy. We can confirm that he attended the D-Day commemorations in
Jordan has full capacity which means that he can come and go from the
home as he pleases, which he does on most days. At no stage was he
banned from going to the commemorations. At Gracewell Healthcare we
celebrate the individuality of our residents’ lives and are in awe of
the part Mr Jordan played in the D-Day invasion 70 years ago.”
Councillor Garry Dunn, a friend of Mr Jordan for almost forty years,
said: “He is such a wonderful chap. He was always very modest about the
war. I know he was involved in D-Day but he would never talk about it. I
think he is the perfect example of a generation who did their duty, but
didn’t feel they had to tell people what they had done.
makes me proud to be British because he is a proud Briton. He put his
town and his country first, before him. Rather than himself, people are
more important to Bernie.”
the moment it is not known what his wife Irene, who lives at the same
care home, thinks about Bernard’s great escapade. She will probably
smile and say
PS: I can only reiterate the Telegraph’s
All the planned events in
all the world cannot better sum up what drove all
those marvellous men all of 70 years ago.
Spell-cheque corner: ‘Ouistreham’, in
north-western France, and identified as Sword Beach during the invasion, came up
on the computer as ‘Upstream’, which
is delightfully ironic when you remember what then happened once the
bridgehead had been established.
Thursday, June 5th
Seventy years on
THE news today has been awash with the preparations and build-up to the
70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, centred around the date of
invasion, tomorrow, June 6, known of course as “D-Day”.
Watching the lunchtime television news, there
was a live report by Simon McCoy from Arromanches on the Normandy coast.
As he did his piece to camera, a Lancaster bomber and a Spitfire flew low
overhead ― he stopped, glanced up and I think he said something like
Unbelievably, just as the roar of those
distinctive Merlin engines rattled out of the telly, above my home a
low-flying military jet ― probably a Eurofighter by the level of noise ―
whooshed overhead, as they often do in this corner of the world.
It was as astonishing a coincidence as I have
experienced in a while.
Anyway, what later captured my imagination
and generated a gentle smile of appreciation was a picture gallery, compliments of
Telegraph Online. It was headed...
Veterans recall their roles in the D-Day landings
What the Telegraph had done was
publish photographs of some of those veterans still alive and kicking ― now aged 90 or
thereabouts ― and perfectly juxtaposed those images against pictures of those
very same individuals taken 70 years or so ago.
Here’s an example:
EDWIN “TED” HUNT, 94
It must be increasingly difficult
for newspapers to come up with something different and eye-catching as
these veterans slowly leave the stage, but this idea certainly works.
Edwin Hunt, above, was a captain in the Royal Engineers,
commanding 15 of the Rhino ferries on Gold Beach on D-Day.
Asked what his most vivid memory of
D-Day was, he replied: “My most satisfying memory is seeing how the
wounded were being so quickly attended to and being returned to England
by landing craft. It was hugely reassuring to me and my men that if we
did get injured we could be back in England that afternoon.”
It really is worth having a look at the gallery for similarly
striking pictures and memories. Here’s the link:
Wednesday, June 4th
That special “how-now pow-wow” moment
An exceedingly short story
LAST Friday evening I happened upon the BBC’s The One Show, which was
broadcasting live from the Hay Festival of Literature ― the “Woodstock
of the mind”, according to Bill “I did not have sexual etc” Clinton ― spot the roll in the Hay-on-Wye, up there on my
Anyway, a guest on the show was Rob
Brydon, 49, Welsh actor, comedian, radio and television presenter.
He was duly invited to
come up with a 25-word story by show’s
end ― and here it is:
The writer at his paper strewn
desk wondered aloud: “Can I write a story in twenty-five words? Of
course, how difficult can it---”
Of course, the second thing I did was count the words ... I guess the
missing word is meant to be ironic. Or something. Perhaps they said “25
words or less”, but I don’t think so.
Mind you, I’m not sure whether the tale is
Rob’s own work or that of the ubiquitous scriptwriters who make
celebrities sound wittier and wiser than they really are.
Be all that as it may, the more I pondered on that 25-word
challenge, the more I thought ... hm, must have a go...
But what to write about? Well, my inspiration
came from this headline and article in The Daily Telegraph:
Why the English can’t say hello
anthropologist Kate Fox suggests we revive
the phrase “How do you do?” to help shy English people greet one another
As a greeting, the phrase “How do
you do?” has somewhat fallen out of favour in recent years.
Now a social anthropologist has
called for a campaign to bring it back, arguing the English have not
known how to interact since its passing.
Kate Fox, the co-director of the
Social Issues Research Centre and fellow of the Institute for Cultural
Research, claimed the demise of the greeting has left England puzzled.
[Incidentally, should one greet Kate with “Hail fellow, well met”?]
Its loss, she said, has left people
unable to meet one another and instinctively know how to respond, with
its replacements offering an array of opportunities for faux pas.
Speaking at the Hay Festival, she
argued that “every other nation on Earth” had developed a simple,
standardised greeting understood by all ― except England.
[In Welsh we have “Shwmae” ― which
means “Hello, how wonderful to see you and how the devil are you?” ― but
critically it’s a phrase that doesn’t demand an answer, just a nod and a
smile. Anyway, back with the article...]
When asked about the “death” of
“how do you do” as a phrase, Kate Fox told the audience: “I know people think
that ‘how do you do’ is an archaic, stuffy, sort of upper classy-type
thing to say.
“But we really should be mounting a
campaign for its revival because since ‘how do you do’ declined as a
standard greeting we haven’t known what to say...”
Interesting. So I had a wee
think about that exceedingly short story challenge ― and here is my 25-word effort, which I
“Hello,” said the cheery new barmaid, “how
are you?” “Oh, average-plus – it could be average-plus-plus before
night’s end – RSVP?” She smiled exponentially.
Ah, but will my story be found
under autobiography or fiction? Just bear in mind that we make our minds
up about strangers within the first 10 seconds ― and the above exchange
takes about 10 seconds in real time.
Point of order: Someone is bound to
take issue, but I take it as read that RSVP counts as one word. At least
it does in my dictionary.
Whatever, I thoroughly
enjoyed one particular online comment in response to the Kate Fox “how do you do”
Are you sitting comfortably?
Andrew Melville: When meeting a
woman, one should say: “Your breasts are as the golden orbs of the twin
suns of the planet Firton. May they suckle a nation of warriors and
never run dry.” This greeting should be followed by a stiff, half bow ―
in the direction of the nearest post box.
When meeting a man, one should
remain silent, but offer him a kipper, with one’s left hand!
Children should be lightly slapped
on the elbows with one’s banjo. One might wish to recite some verse from
the later chapters of the Book of Nigel, if one knows the child well.
If one is not certain of the
person’s sex, or indeed if it is in a state of flux, it is sufficient to
grasp one’s own genitals, sniff one’s hand and declare: “May the Lord
protect us from the like ‘o thee!”
Application of these simple rules
quickly puts everyone at their ease, and allows for friendly social
Oh dear, LOL XL! And what about
that perfect line: “If one is not certain of the person’s sex, or indeed
if it is in a state of flux...”
It is little moments like this that
make this scrapbook cum diary worth all the gentle effort and
I shall now half bow in the
direction of the nearest watering hole ... and bid you a fond farewell.
Until the next time---
Tuesday, June 3rd
ONE of the joys of keeping this scrapbook cum diary is
the curious way surprising things come together.
Yesterday, I smiled
at the joys of the BBC’s shipping forecast. I provided a link to
an actual forecast (which was
preceded by the famous Sailing By melody,:
[from Scilly Automatic to Mumbles]), the
only time that the
shipping forecast has been delivered simultaneously on both radio and
It was all part of the BBC’s Arena Radio Night back in 1993.
Well, if you did watch it, you
would, like me I’m sure, have been transfixed by the voice and delivery
of Laurie Macmillan with her relaxed, reassuring tones. Poetry in motion
I was tickled when she read the
weather reports from coastal stations for “two-three-double-o [23:00]”, in particular the Mumbles
one, just down the road, the gateway to The Gower: “South-west by south,
seven; continuous moderate rain, one thousand metres; nine-nine-eight,
Hm, typical for this corner of the
world, I thought. Particularly the bit about the pressure “falling
Or perhaps these days it should simply be LOL!
I especially enjoyed how she signed
off: “So on behalf of all of us here at Radio 4, this is Laurie Macmillan wishing you a quiet night.”
was sad to learn that Laurie died from breast cancer in 2001 aged just
54. She was an announcer and newsreader on BBC Radio 4 for more than 25
years, during which time she was heard by millions of listeners across
regular on the Today programme and the shipping forecast, she epitomised
the cool, measured tones of Radio 4. She firmly believed in the
importance of clear and direct spoken English and she was highly
respected among her peers.
However, even Laurie Macmillan was not immune to the hazards of live
radio. On one occasion she read an outdated shipping forecast in its
entirety. Realising her mistake, she promptly apologised to her
listeners and read the correct version.
But here’s the thing: in the film
which accompanies her broadcast there’s a brief clip, unsurprising given
that it’s the shipping forecast, of someone putting some money into a
Lifeboats charity appeal box.
Well, the following thread has just
surfaced in The Times Letters page:
Rattling the tin
Sir, Collecting house-to-house for
Christian Aid in a well-to-do area recently, my request was met with “no
thank you, we’re all right”. I bit back the retort that others were not
all right, and that was why I was collecting, but what should I have
DR TONY HARKER, Oxford
Chugger & glugger
Sir, I live in a moderately
well-to-do area and am besieged by charity collectors. Residents do not
want to be harangued on their doorsteps, and I think Dr Harker was
rebuffed quite politely.
Our collector left a letter saying he had called twice
and could we leave our envelope outside or drop it in at his house. Keen
C WRIGHT, St Albans
Sir, Dr Harker’s response to the reluctant householder might have been:
Christian Aid is down to its last £26 million, there is a pension
deficit of £8m to fund and we need to find £126,000 every year to pay
the chief executive.
NEIL STUART, Keswick, Cumbria
Sir, Having collected for Christian Aid for many years my wife and I
found that it was quite different with the Poppy Day collection. Then,
quite often, people came to the door, money ready, before we knocked.
RICHARD PETTET, Storrington, W Sussex
Sir, At one mansion I visited, the door was opened by a man holding a
very large glass of wine. His smile widened as he saw my red Christian
Aid bag. “Rather you than me,” he said and gently closed the door.
RICHARD GUNNING, Wallington, Surrey
And now, we’re back with the shipping forecast, sort of:
Sir, Collecting house-to-house for
Lifeboats I asked one householder if he would like to contribute. He
thought carefully for a moment and replied: “I don’t think I’ll be
travelling by sea again, so no thank you.” A response I found difficult
to reply to.
HARRIET LEAR, Barcombe, E. Sussex
Sir, Once, when doing door-to-door collecting for the RNLI [Lifeboats],
I was amused to be asked by a householder why we people came so far
CATHERINE CRAIG, Harvington, Worcs
Sir, Collecting for the Children’s
Society one rainy night I was startled by the woman who answered the
door: “Darling, do come indoors,” she said, “you will get soaked out
I then realised that she was talking to her cocker
JOHN FIDLER, Lancaster
Sir, While collecting for
Lifeboats last year a colleague was given a large donation by a man who
said “I can never thank you enough, you saved my dog last year”.
He added as an afterthought: “You pulled my wife out as
ELIZABETH DEAN, London W11
Monday, June 2nd
Moderate or poor. Becoming good.
The Shipping Forecast is back
“A BRIEF disappearance reminded us
just how much we come to rely on our radio favourites,” wrote
Shilling in The
Last Friday, I mentioned in passing
that someone at BBC Radio 4 had forgotten to click on a link and the
early-morning shipping forecast had not been broadcast, the first time
in its colourful history.
Anyway, the newspapers had a field
day with fond reminiscences of this curious British institution.
Jane Shilling continues...
Stuck with a fossilised blob of Blu-Tack to the wall
next to my desk is a map of Britain printed on a curling scrap of
inspiration fails, instead of chewing my pencil or making yet another
cup of coffee, I turn to my left and read the list of the shipping areas
printed on the map: Viking, Forties, Cromarty, Tyne, Fisher, Dogger,
Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland...
Something about that
incantation, and the image it conjures of sailors far from the warmth
and comfort of home, is always enough to send me back to work...
a somewhat bizarre early morning/late night radio ritual that is indeed
deeply embedded in the British psyche.
You listen to a
mantra, delivered by a soothing, soporific voice. You are aware ―
vaguely ― that these adorable words are names, and that those names
refer to significant and often dangerous blocks of sea around our island
nation, stretching all the way from North Africa up to Iceland.
Exactly why the
Shipping Forecast is held in such affectionate esteem by the British
public is a topic of considerable discussion here in the UK.
Many people compare
the forecast with listening to poetry. The BBC’s Arlene Fleming is one
of the presenters: “It is poetry!
There is a natural rhythm to it ― just like the sea.”
This may help
explain why the Shipping Forecast has enthused so many artists, poets
I had forgotten all
about the song coming up, that is until I heard it today on Radio Ulster’s
Sunday Club, compliments of presenter John Bennett and iPlayer.
Yes, it’s The Weather
Forecast by the Master Singers (available on YouTube,
thank goodness, with a masterly and glorious
tapestry of a slideshow as a backdrop).
It is such a joy to
watch and listen to ― so clever ― oh, and watch out for this: “Fog has
develo-ped overnight in much of England ― and parts of Wales...” And the
picture of Wales shows palm trees and a tropical storm. LOL!
Also below, there’s a link to an actual
shipping forecast (preceded by the famous Sailing By melody which
signifies that the late-evening forecast is due next). It’s the
only time that the
shipping forecast has been read simultaneously on both radio and TV,
all part of the BBC’s Arena Radio Night back in 1993.
Oh, and during the forecast, do listen out for the
gloriously named Scilly Automatic, the famous weather station ―
which sadly no longer features in the 2014 shipping forecast. Shame.
First then, Weather Forecast
by the Master Singers:
And the Arena Radio Night shipping forecast, with added Scilly
Sunday, June 1st
A sculpture by Jens Galschiots
A letter in The Times:
Sir, As suggested by your science
editor, I have tested my life expectancy by standing on one leg with my
eyes closed to see if I could meet the two-second minimum.
Within milliseconds my dalmatian knocked me over.
Hopefully, she was not trying to tell me something.
NICK FORD, Chiddingly, E. Sussex
Well, mother never bred a jibber...
Goodness gracious me: wobble, wobble, wobble...
Who would have thought
that standing on one leg with eyes closed could be such a challenge ―
but I did manage the two-second minimum. Just. So hopefully I’ll
make it to the end of this particular smile of the day.
Curiously though, once past that
two-second barrier it was relatively easier. Relatively.
With eyes wide open it was a
dawdle. How odd. Something to do with having a point of focus to help
balance, I guess.
Anyway, here’s how The Independent reported the test:
tests that tell if you’ll live to a ripe old age
Working out how long you’ve got to live could all come down to sitting
down and standing on one leg. Scientists believe that some simple tests
are able to predict whether someone in middle age is at risk of an early
of 53 who can stand up and sit down fewer than 23 times a minute ― 22
times for women ― are twice as likely to die before reaching 66,
researchers have found.
Conversely the ability to balance on one leg for more than 10 seconds
with eyes closed, and to stand up and sit down in a chair 37 times in 60
seconds ― or 35 times for women ― makes it extremely likely that a
53-year-old will still be healthy 13 years later.
study by the Medical Research Council tracked 5,000 people born in 1946
throughout their lives. Aged 53 they completed the tests during home
visits from specially trained nurses.
the standing on one leg with eyes closed test, men and women were able
to hold the position for less than two seconds were three times more
likely to die before the age of 66 than those who could hold it for 10
seconds or more.
Those unable to do the test at all were more likely to die in the
following 13 years.
Dr Rachel Cooper at
the Medical Research Council said: “The majority of these studies are
done in older people but we have shown that even in this younger age
group, where you would not expect pre-existing disease, we are still
seeing these measures are picking up some underlying ageing and disease
And on the comment
Andrew James: I’d
love to know how long they think a ballerina or a gymnast will live for!
Yes but no but yes
but no ― ballerinas and gymnasts do it with eyes wide open.
Wcocoop1: I can’t do any of this stuff and I’m only 14.
Andrew Moss: Bad luck, mate.
Hm, so if you fail the two-second test, you haven’t got another leg to stand
There again, Jake
the Peg and his wobble board has got it made. But best not to go there.
My guess is, if you
fail the test but fall down laughing, you will probably beat the odds.
Time to replace the grimace with a smile that’s worthy
1st of the month, especially when that first day is the official start
is no ignoramus
Nine-year-old Audrey Bruben, of South River, New Jersey, poses with
Genny, a two ton hippo, as the new Hippo Haven opened at
Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey
that fails to generate an XL smile,
I really would see about it.
my photo of the month ― and there are still 29 days to go.
Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
the day 2013: Nov
Smile of the day
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013: Jan
Smile of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
Smile of the day 2012 (Jan-Mar)
.. Smile of the day 2012
(Apr-Jun) .. Smile of the
day 2012c (Jul-Sep) .. Smile
of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
Previous 2011 smiles:
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jan-Jun)
.. Smile of the Day 2011 (Jul-Sep)
.. Smile of the day 2011
Smile of the Day 2010
(Jan to Jun) 2009
March to May '07
June to Aug '07
Sep to Dec '07
You are here, way out west,
aka Dodgy City
Previously on LOOK
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day
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