LOOK YOU ~ a rolling scrapbook of life, the universe and nearly everything...
ARCHIVE 2014 - JUNE

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POSTCARDS FROM
MY SQUARE MILE
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Updated: 11/08/2013

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

400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 08/06/2013



                                                                                        Design: Yosida

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

    
                                                                               ...and everyday a doolally smile of the day
PS: The shortest distance between two people is a smile ...
                                                                             
Contact Me
 

Monday, June 30th 2014
♫♥♫♥♫♥♫♥♫♥♫♥♫

Tall and tanned and young and lovely

KO OK?

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

SIR – 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 fanaticism.
     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 these characteristics.
John Murphy
, London SE9

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 time.

Anyway, being that the above points are somewhat superficial in their nature, I decided to respond, in my fashion:

Here comes the sun

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 purpose.

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 focussed Caucasian 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 maintaining a 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...

Yours etc...

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 sports.

Never mind, mother never bred a jibber, on with the show...

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.

Finally:

          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 freak accident.

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.

The 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.

In 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 Chiellini.”

And 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:

Prince Harry receives a marriage proposal from a Middleton in Chile


Prince Harry attracts the attention of TV reporter Bernardita Middleton,
who 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 Middleton.

On a 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.”

The 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.

The 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 nineteenth century.

A TV 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.

A 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 The Daily Telegraph:

Virgin’s territory

SIR – 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.
     My faith in the project suffered a setback, however, when none of the toilets in my part of the Virgin train actually worked.
Colin Cummings,
Yelvertoft, Northamptonshire

In for a penny, in for a pound, eh Mr Branson?

And finally:

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 said.

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 its 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 following message post-haste (or should that read email-haste, as opposed to snailmail-haste?):

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 Leslie Phillips.

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 left:

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)


Richmond Bridge, London: Now (2014), and Then (1930)
 

Then. And now. London’s bridges: In pictures

AS mentioned hereabouts many times before, smiles can be generated in all sorts of surprising ways. Especially so when looking at distinctive photographs.

The other day I featured my own pictures, of the tree with the cobwebs and the balloons.

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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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 continuity.

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.

Here is my favourite...

 


London Bridge: A pleasant evening Now (2014), and a windy evening back Then (1937)
 

Such cleverly juxtaposed images.

I 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.

I’ve 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.

In 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 elegant salute...

It caught everyone by surprise because in a day of meticulous planning it was a spontaneous gesture by the dockers.

It’s 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 itself.

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.

Who would have thought that such beautifully juxtaposed pictures of London
’s Bridges could generate such instant memories.

The Bridge  exhibition itself must be quite wonderful to see in the flesh, so to speak.

Here’s the Telegraph  link ― well worth a click:

                                                   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/10927792/Londons-Bridges-Now-and-Then-In-pictures.html
 


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?

HELP!

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, on today’s 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:

Watching sport

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”.  Exactly.
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 detached interest.

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 Giorgio Chiellini.

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 another Foster’s.

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 bark’, routine.

Very funny image, though.

A couple of letters in the Daily Mail  also made me smile, this from
Ken Fisher 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 yer shoulder!’.”

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 now.”

 

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 good.

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 Blackpool

Where is David Beckham when you need him?
 


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 it.

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 hell?”

Draped over the tree, out here in the wilds of the Towy Valley, a cluster of balloons.

So here are the two compare-and-contrast images:

Be sure to pop into my parlour when you're passing

October 2013

June 2014

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

BACK 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.

The 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 online...

Faces in high places


You lookin’ at me, smartass?
 

A 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.

This 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 northern coastline.

In the above picture it’s performing a mid-air refuelling with a KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall.

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.

Listen

A couple of letters from The Times:

Birmese

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:

Talking posh

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 Wednesday.

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 be totally 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 tell you.

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 test.

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 extra-special celebration.

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:

    Bloody typical. What have the Romans ever done for us?
 


Saturday, June 21st

The snake whisperer
(see tale No. 2)

Lol on the wireless

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 correctly noted.

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 tale well.

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 e-mail:

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 formal “Sir”.

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 councillor.

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:
“Come over here, darlin’, and lie down on top of me...”
 


Friday, June 20th

What 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.

But 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 best.

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

 @  The White Horse, Llandampness


THE following headline and article, spotted in the Telegraph, tickled my old smileometer no end...

               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 great fun.

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 intervals. D’oh!

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 may, 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 Simon Coulter 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 that he 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 Disney song 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 take off.

I hope you enjoy your career at Goldman Sachs.

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 liner:
     “If it is, then this is an answer.”


Great stuff.

Oh yes, were you wondering about that “whole person interview” thingy?

The new fashion in recruitment, according to Claire McCartney, talent planning adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is “whole person interviews”.

This 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.

This technique, 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.

So there.

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:

I want to be like you:
                              
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEEPaYD5KZE
 


Wednesday, June 18th

Wicked Willie takes the Road to Rio
(but more in Hope than Lamour)

Stick ‘em up

“Top 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, etc, etc...)

To sir, with no love

(compliments of Going Viral in 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”.

Another suggests: “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.”

Oh yes, and getting pointlessly angry.

Yes, but

“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 down under

“No 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 point:

Tweetie Pie Corner

   “It 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. Deep down.

Whatever:

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 Oldgit13:

“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, Dinefwr
 

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 breeze.

But here we are, and the meadows are back, all dressed to kill in one of nature’s favourite colours.

This time thought the flowers are meadow buttercups and cowslips.

The fields are now ready for harvesting ― hay or silage, often depending on how settled the weather is.

We 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.

Some 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.

The 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


A rolling sea of yellow. All very eye-catching and sighful.

Over 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 things.

There’s never a dull moment along my morning walk...


Monday, June 16th

If you are of a nervous disposition
 – look away, now

Come again?

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).

Well now, this Telegraph  headline, unsurprisingly, caught my eye:

            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.

Back 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:

I’m 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.

The term 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 beach.

[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 over character...


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 match.

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 qualify.

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 about.

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 Lanka.

So come on, England!

Mind you, this letter in The Daily Telegraph  sums it all up rather well:

A sporting chance

SIR – 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 cricket?
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 go...

“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 11pm).”

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” launched
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 George’s
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 away.

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 flag!

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 covered.”

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 rubber bullets.

Salah, Iraq: It is good in airports when passing through security controls.


And this, with an eye on the 2022 World Cup, bribery and corruption charges excepted, of course...

Andrea: That’ll go down well in Qatar.

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 they go...
 


Friday, June 13th

Road Runner relatives

A letter in The Daily Telegraph:

Beep, beep, beep!

SIR – 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 beeping mad.
     Is it beyond the wit of technologists to invent a different sound?
John Leach,
Peterlee, Co Durham

Here are some of the responses:

A domestic chorus of beeps, pings and jingles

SIR – John Leach bemoans the fact that every item of equipment seems to emit a “beep”. One exception is the microwave, which “pings”.
     The Welsh, with considerable ingenuity, have invented a name for it ― popty ping (popty being the Welsh for oven).
Sid Davies, Bramhall, Cheshire

Spot on, Sid Davies.

SIR – 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,
Northampton

SIR – 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.
Tony Parrack, London SW20

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.”

She 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 stuff).

I have 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 the UK?

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 nonsense...

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 now, 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 Redeemer statue,
(in an Australian football jersey), flies over the Sydney skyline in
support of the Australian team ahead of the World Cup in Brazil

Brilliant. Or, good call, as the Aussies would say.

Anyway, here are a few of Alan Tyre’s comments re the opening ceremony...

They think it
s 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.]

19.07: Oh I say! Its 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.”

19.09: 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...

Amit Katwala: Ian Wright doing his best to deflate my World Cup bubble of joy. He was Bin Laden’s favourite player you know. #justsaying

The ceremony gets under way...

19.16: 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.

19.19: This is all quite delightful and very soothing. We’ve not had a single samba rhythm yet, nor anyone banging on a drum.

19.18: 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 the two.

19.22: I hope Enya’s got her lawyers going through this music with a fine-tooth comb.


19.25:
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?

19.26: For me, Clive, shes tall and tan and young and lovely.

19.30: 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.

19.35: 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.

19.36: 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.

19.39: 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”.

19.41: Wait, what?! That’s it?! 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?

WRAP: 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 of ended.

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
Danny The Fink (Daniel Finkelstein, aka Baron Finkelstein OBE, Times  columnist). This piece of his, also worth sharing:

Peer pressure

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 [91] 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 [75] opened her well-bred gob. Her advice to the poor on how to make ends meet included encouraging them to grow their own quinces.

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 outing.

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 2007.

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:

One Jags

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 Secretary:

“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
Don Townshend of Chelmsford, Essex:

President 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 sights.

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, Cambridgeshire:

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 other did.

Ouch
! Staying with The Times, and Daniel Finkelstein’s Notebook; or Baron 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 agree.

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:

Sales pitcher

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 amused (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 said media.

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 “Godparents”.

(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 better.

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 doolally. Few 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 veterans?

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 in.

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 transvestism”, apparently).

Trouble was, his startlingly painted fingernails were so mesmeric ... I honestly can’t remember a thing he said.

Final thoughts

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 marvellously mischievous look...

 


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

SIR – 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?
Diana Goetz, 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 top.

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.

So I reversed Ivor the Search Engine out of the shed and off I went...

I 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

Yes, 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.

I 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.

Thus the caption to the image.

Unfortunately though, I found no information about that particular soldier.

I do so hope the Telegraph  receives a positive response. After all, someone out there will know.

I might even enquire about those houses and their occupants.
 


Saturday, June 7th

Freedom fighters


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.

Yesterday, 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 Hove.

Also 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.

Scot Jock Hutton was one of the first Allied soldiers to land in Nazi-occupied western Europe in the early hours of June 6, 1944.

And 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.

Heres Jock, about to land ― complimented by a resplendently witty cartoon by The Daily Telegraph’s MATT  ― made 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.

The 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.”

Yet again the term Hero seems absolutely spot on.
 


Friday, June 6th

Battle Stations

“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 ceremonies unfold.

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 the invasion.

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 hands.

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...

From Operation Overlord 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:

  “Love 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.

He 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.

“Mr 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 Normandy today.

“Mr 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.

“It 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.”

At 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
“Typical!.

PS: I can only reiterate the Telegraph
’s  opening paragraph: 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 “Perfect timing”.

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...

                 In pictures: 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

Perfectly juxtaposed.

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:

                 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/10877864/In-pictures-Veterans-recall-their-roles-in-the-D-Day-landings.html?frame=2932028
 


Wednesday, June 4th
Greetings!

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 Welcome mat.

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

Author and 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 have called Strictly entre-nous:

“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” issue.

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 intercourse.

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 application.

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

Collect call

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 TV.

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 indeed.

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, falling quickly.”

Hm, typical for this corner of the world, I thought. Particularly the bit about the pressure “falling quickly”. Hey-ho! 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.”

It 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 the world.

A 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 said?
DR TONY HARKER, Oxford


Well...

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 or bullying?
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:

Sea view

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 inland.
CATHERINE CRAIG, Harvington, Worcs

Charity begins...

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 there.”
     I then realised that she was talking to her cocker spaniel.
JOHN FIDLER, Lancaster


Bitch overboard

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 well.”
ELIZABETH DEAN, London W11
 


Monday, June 2nd

Pressure. Easing.

Moderate or poor. Becoming good.


Oh yay! Oh yay! The Shipping Forecast is back


“A BRIEF disappearance reminded us just how much we come to rely on our radio favourites,” wrote
Jane Shilling in The Daily Telegraph.

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 newspaper.

When 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...

It is 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 and singers.

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:
                                                     
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4z2jwDcb9wI


And the Arena Radio Night shipping forecast, with added Scilly Automatic:
                                                                                                                  
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnQ2Lk20n3U

 

Sunday, June 1st

A sculpture by Jens Galschiots

A letter in The Times:

Woof test

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:

                   The simple 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 death.

Men 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.

The 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.

In 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 process.”

And on the comment board...

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 on. Literally.

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. So there.

Time to replace the grimace with a smile that’s worthy of any 1st of the month, especially when that first day is the official start of summer:

... This hippo-pot-amus, 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


Now if that fails to generate an XL smile, I really would see about it.

It’s my photo of the month ― and there are still 29 days to go.

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Previously on LOOK YOU......


Smile of the day 2014: May
Smile of the day 2014: Apr
Smile of the day 2014: Mar
Smile of the day 2014: Feb
Smile of the day 2014: Jan
Smile of the day 2013: Dec
Smile of the day 2013: Nov
Smile of the day 2013: Oct
Smile of the day 2013: Sep
Smile of the day 2013: Aug
Smile of the day 2013: Jul
Smile of the day 2013: Jun
Smile of the day 2013: May

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

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

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

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

2008
Sep to Dec '07

June to Aug '07
March to May '07

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

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