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

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Updated: 11/08/2013

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400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 08/06/2013

                                                                                        Design: Yosida

                                                                 ♫♫♫ TO SELF                            
It seems that the artist Leonardo da Vinci kept a notebook, Notes to Self, a list of “things to do today”: buy paper; charcoal; chalk ... describe tongue of woodpecker and jaw of crocodile...
     These are my Notes to Self, a daily record of the things that make me smile and which brighten up my day no end, whether read in a newspaper, seen on TV, heard on the radio, told in the pub, spotted in the supermarket, a good joke, a great story, a funny cartoon, a film clip, an eye-catching picture, 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 ...
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Thursday July 31st, 2014

Live at the White Horse

YESTERDAY I told the tale of happening to walk past the window of Bentley the Jewellers here in Llandampness.

Anyway, after I’d photographed the Bentley window, along with the noteworthy dress on display, I carried on with my stroll around town.

As I passed the White Horse pub, the chalk board at the entrance to the property, just off the pavement, caught my eye ― there it is up there, on today’s welcome mat.

I instantly noticed that something quite crucial was missing from the sales pitch. There’s “― Award Winning Evan Evans Ales”, “― Real Welsh Welcome”, “― Live Sports”, “― Live Music”...

But can you see what should, perhaps, be there?

I mean, why do you go to a pub? Well, for the company, for the fun, for the gossip, for the conversation...

Anyway, I popped into Spar to pick up the morning paper, and I said to Mr Patel, the proprietor: “Your young son doesn’t happen to have a bit of chalk upstairs, something suitable to write on a blackboard? I only want enough to scribble a couple of words.”

“I sell chalk!” he said with a wry smile. I explained that I really didn’t want a whole box, not because of the cost but it would be a total waste of chalk. “I sell it as individual sticks,” he said.

Brilliant, 10p, job done.

The early-morning after, as I set off on my walk, just before half-five, I make a detour past the White Horse. At that time of the morning there is nobody about, not even any passing traffic ― and I do my Tommy Tucker deed while “Sir” is preoccupied with “Miss” (fingers crossed).

In fact, the pub had added a poster to the board ― so here’s my added sales pitch...

See what I’ve done there? I reckon they’d missed out the most important attraction of all.

I mean, what with most young people now seemingly addicted to social media, there is less and less face to face contact in this doolally old world of ours ― people are no longer having actual conversations. And for a pub, live chat has to be the most powerful selling point of all.

As I stood back to admire my work, I was startled by a voice from behind. “Very nice.”

God, talk about a creeping Jesus. I never even heard the fellow ― an unfamiliar face ― approach. And funnily enough he looked something of a Jesus figure. He was about 40, I guess, a beard, a bit bedraggled ― my first thought was a homeless person.

But truth to tell he did not look dishevelled enough to be without shelter.

Perhaps he’s a drunk, I thought, still out on the town from last night ― and he was  clutching a bottle. But it was a plastic bottle of water. Yes, it could be full of vodka ― but really I could sense that he wasn’t drunk.

“Yes,” I responded, glancing at what he’d been watching me write on the board, “I thought it an important selling point to entice folk into the pub.”

“Do you have a cigarette?” he asked.

“Sorry,” I said, “I don’t smoke.”

I next expected him to ask for money. I had on me a few quid to buy a paper on the way back from my walk ― and perchance a couple of lottery tickets. There again, Mr Patel will give me credit for the paper until tomorrow, I thought, and I can give the lottery a miss. Hope he won’t feel insulted by how little I offer.

But what he said next surprised me. “By the way, I’m the Prince of Wales.”

And in a wee 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds burst of inspiration ― normally I’m a 0 to 60 in 10 seconds i.e. I think of a perfect answer 7.5 seconds too late ― anyway, in a flash I said: “And I’m the Duke of Edinburgh and me and your mum have been wondering where you’ve been hiding of late.”

His expression was a complete blank. And in that split-second I realised that I was actually dealing with someone who was clearly mentally challenged, to some degree or other.

Shut up, I said to myself, make your gentle excuses and quietly slide away ― which I did.

I haven’t seen him around town since. And my work of art is still on the pub board. Best 10p investment of the week.

And believe it or don’t, the two Euro lottery tickets I bought that morning (cost £4), won me £2.90. Well, it did generate a smile.

Wednesday, July 30th

A Llandeilo shop window

Bentley & Co, Jewellers: Gallery & Workshop

Hitting the right note

A WEEK or so back (July 18 to be exact) I acknowledged Llandeilo’s annual music festival.

Or more to the point, I mentioned in dispatches that most of the town’s shops had entered into the spirit of the celebrations with window displays to reflect the melodic nature of the week.

In particular, I shared a picture of a couple of music dictionaries in the window of Home & Interiors shop Coffor Bach ... one of the books opened up to project the word ‘Music’, while the other shared a few tuneful notes with us.

It was all very clever. If you need a refresher, here’s a link to that particular smile of the day ... ♫♫♫ ...

Well now, I have just walked along one of the streets in town, a road I normally just drive down ― and as a consequence I hadn’t noticed that one of the shops, Bentley & Co, the jewellers, had decorated its window rather eye-catchingly, and fortunately for me, the display was still holding on to its final note.

There it is up there, on today’s welcome mat. But what really caught my eye is the dress on the mannequin ― and here it is, in all its glory, made up entirely of rolled up old sheet music...

On the sunny side of the street

“Oh Mummy, he seduced and undressed
me on the sofa with his tonic sol-fa...”

How brilliant a creation is that? Marvellous.

Out of curiosity I Googled ‘picture of dress made out of sheet music’ ... and yes, there were a few examples ― but none quite as good as the above, in my humble opinion, anyway.

Tuesday, July 29th

The Sky falls in, but the caravan moves on

Sir Bradley Wiggins: “Team Sky and Va Va Froome can stuff
their caravan where the sun don’t shine”

Carry On Biking

EVERYONE just knew that the cycling spat between Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome would end in crashes and tears.

And that’s not hindsight. Pretty much everybody was saying so before this year’s Tour de France got going ― and lo and behold, within just a few days Froome had crashed out and Sky were stranded up that mountain creek without a back-up paddle.

So when I saw the above vintage photograph from the great outdoors of yesteryear, of a man taking a most unusual holiday back in 1940 ― well, I couldn’t resist.

Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford’s technical ability as a cycling coach is beyond question, but his man management remains problematic. The spat between Wiggins and Froome, which took root two years ago, should not have been allowed to fester.

Anyway, when Bradley found himself overlooked for the Team Sky squad for this year’s Tour de France ― he won the event two years ago but was injured last year ― Wiggo decided to switch his attention back to track racing, where he first made his mark.

So he entered the Commonwealth Games as part of the four-man England squad in the 4,000 metre team pursuit ― but the lads were well beaten to gold by world champions Australia.

But, speaking after his race, Wiggo said the team had always seen the event as a preparation for the Olympics in two years’ time. “It's been a great break from the road and a good start for Rio.

“Four weeks ago we sat in a room for the first time in six years and wondered how far we can go. We’ve had limited preparations for this and hopefully will look back in two years with gold medals around our necks thinking this was the starting point in Glasgow.

“I don’t want to sound like Roy Hodgson [England football manager], but there were plenty of positives.”

At least Wiggo hasn’t lost his sense of humour.


A Knight on a Sir Raleigh

Like many others, I believed that Bradley Wiggins should not have been knighted until he’d hung up his racing hat. I mean, there he was at Glasgow, Sir Wiggo, climbing the podium to receive ― a silver!

That was not in the script.

In my humble, all such honours should only be handed out when the recipient has finished doing what brought fame and fortune in the first place.

Imagine how wonderful it would be if Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Elton John et al had had to make the choice between a title and continuing to make the nation cringe as they persistently attempt to recapture their glory days on stage (albeit in the name of increasing their personal fortune, obviously).

Even better, imagine if such a rule applied in banking.

There would never have been the fuss of publicly having to strip Sir Fred the Shred; and poor old Mervyn King, retired Governor of the Bank of England, having failed completely to spot the ambush that brought the country to its financial knees, would still be basic old Mr Mervyn King and thus spared having to explain away the “Sir” because he was totally brilliant at his day job. Not.

Anyway, I’m returning to the Tour for one last visit, and all down to a marvellous Watts video of race highlights I’ve just watched online.

Yesterday I told the smiley tale of the rider fined for taking a roadside pee without exercising proper discretion.

I forgot to mention the most cheeky moment of the Tour, when rider Arnaud Démare decided to stop on a climb and walk into a stranger’s camper van to go to the toilet.

I bring it up again because about halfway through this 14 minute video, there’s a glorious sequence of riders taking ‘comfort breaks’ ― very funny ― and the cheeky moment featuring the fellow walking into the camper van is included.

Watts: Tour de France funnies and fails on Yahoo ... as Vincenzo Nibali celebrates his win

Watts rounds up all the triumph, tragedy and tomfoolery of the world’s greatest bike race with a Tour special, with exceptionally clever deployment of music and various sound effects to back up every sequence.

Highly commended:

Monday, July 28th

The Italian Job

YESTERDAY in Paris, Vincenzo Nibali, 29, won the 101st Tour de France. He took control of the Tour from stage two; in fact he wore the leader’s famous yellow jersey for 18 of the tour’s 21 race days.

In truth the race was over as a contest when his two main rivals, Britain’s Chris Froome and Spain’s Alberto Contador, both crashed out early with bad injuries.

Still, Italian Nibali was a worthy champion, indeed he came across as a most agreeable and modest fellow. So well done he.

(Is it not astonishing that those three words, The Italian Job, remain as evocative today as they did 45 years ago?)

The Tour de France itself, along with the fans decorating all the stages, was as doolally as ever, with some memorable images and tales of the unexpected.

My visual smile of the tour goes to this most magical of images...

Easy riders

Don’t move: a very young fan captures the magic of the passing parade

As it happens, I’ve noticed this kind of thing before out in France, during rugby internationals, where an artist on the touchline will capture the scene as the game unfolds, very much in the above fashion.

Marvellous. The above is obviously a carefully constructed set-piece. Made even better by that old VW camper, variations of which you will spot parked up all along the Tour.

The only shame is that the yellow jersey is not actually among the passing parade. Having gone to so much trouble to dream up such a magical moment I would have moved on to the next stage to try and capture the leader in the frame.

Still, great shot, and a worthy smile of the tour.

And so to my smiliest commentary moment.

When you gotta go...

Sports commentary and punditry is currently coming in for a great deal of stick here in the UK for its dumbing down and child-like nature. Especially the media’s obsession with having celebrities passing themselves off as sports experts ― who then go on to talk a load of glorious old bollocks.

However, the exception which challenges the rule is cycling, particularly road racing, such as the Tour de France.

As it happens, the commentators have to put in many hours as any one stage can last anything up to five hours and more.

This year the Tour was covered by three broadcasters: Eurosport, cycling’s most travelled and experienced broadcaster; ITV, relatively new to the game; and dipping its Welsh toe in the pedal clip for the first time, the Welsh language channel, S4C.

As is my wont, I zapped between all of them ― especially so when the ad breaks came on, shhh, don’t tell anyone ― and found all three exceptionally good in their different ways.

Eurosport even boasted a daily poetry corner (indicating viewers, as well as cyclists, with style and rhythm?), and of course they had the amusing commentator Carlton Kirby, who delivered the witticism of the Tour, in my humble opinion.

Given that the cyclists spend such long periods in the saddle, and drink an awful lot of liquid to combat the heat and energy burn-up, they are allowed to answer the call of nature, the euphemistically termed ‘comfort break’, alongside the road, the only rule being that they must choose their spot carefully and must not, under any circumstances, frighten the women and the horses.

During the opening stages in Yorkshire, it was reported that an unnamed rider was nominally fined for “indiscretion”, but as a Eurosport commentator pointed out, such were the crowds all along the routes that it would have been rather difficult to find a strictly ‘no peeping’ spot anyway.

To which Carlton Kirby responded: “Ah, perhaps he was done for flamboyance.”

I laughed out loud. Made even better because every pub has one or two of those. You go to the toilet for a quick pee ― and someone will be there flashing it about and putting the rest of us to shame.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Vincenzo’, the Tour winner, came up as ‘Incense’, which, given the Italian connection, is rather good. ‘Nibali’ came up as a straightforward ‘Nibble’. But ‘Contador’, the Spanish rider who crashed out, came up as ‘Contender’. I am endlessly amused by these computer options.


Sunday, July 27th

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly...

A ‘Shed of the year’ finalist, 2014


               The Teapot, Serene and Genteel
The very sight of a teapot puts a smile on the face of most people. One cannot help but think of more serene and genteel times. From a whimsical child’s teapot to an elegant English Teapot, to collectible teapots that adorn some homes, they are a subtle reminder of all that is good in this world.
Barbara Roberts

Come and share a pot of tea,
My home is warm and my friendship’s free.

Emilie Barnes

Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company.


More than a toolbox

Yes, it’s that time of year again, and this most delightfully eccentric of British affairs, The Shed of the Year, is once more into its final stages.

“If a woman, as Virginia Woolf put it, needs ‘a room of one’s own’, a man needs a shed,” says The Sunday Times. “In this context, however, the word is a generous umbrella term for some of the structures on display, and ordinary they are not.”

On today’s welcome mat is Ian Hunter from Roxburghshire with his teapot-shaped shed.

Now how wonderful is that? A subtle reminder of all that is good in this world?

Built entirely from reclaimed materials, Ian uses the ground level as a drying shed for timber. Upstairs is a summer house accessed by steps through the teapot handle. And the spout doubles as a drawbridge.

The lid of the teapot can be opened and shut by winding a reworked old hand drill.

More than a toolbox, indeed.

And just to balance things, this smiley picture compliments of Sign Language:

Even better in HD

Spotted in Elland, West Yorkshire by Bruce Carlin

I always fear that creation will expire before tea time.
Rev. Sydney Smith

Saturday, July 26th

Francesca Jones (Wales) bewitches at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games

Gold in them thar valleys

“SOMETIMES sport delivers great scripts. Rhythmic gymnast Francesca Jones retires after an eventful career, with a gold on her very last routine and Wales’s first of the Games.” Gabby Logan, BBC Sport presenter and former Wales Commonwealth Games gymnast.


Imagine: over a period of three days you climb the podium five times to receive five silver medals at the Commonwealth Games ― and then you have to endlessly listen to the Canadian anthem as an exceedingly talented 17-year-old gymnast wipes the smile off your face at every twist and turn.

Next you have to gather and compose yourself and take to the floor to perform your sixth and final task, the individual ribbon rhythmic gymnastics discipline, in what will be your last ever public performance as you retire from professional competition at the grand old age of 23.

Do you feel down? Do you feel as if the sky is falling in on your head? That the whole wide world is against you? “I’m going to dance my heart out as if it’s the last routine of my life!” declares the up-beat Welsh gymnast.

And Frankie Jones, pictured up there on today’s welcome mat, proceeds to put the young Canadian whippersnapper in her bronze place, even allowing for a protest by the Canadians about the scoring.

In a telling way, Frankie Jones’s five silver and one gold is a more powerful CV statement than
Patricia Bezzoubenko’s impressive five gold and one bronze.

Indeed, Frankie sounds the sort of person I would be reassured to find alongside me in the trenches. “KBO”, as Churchill famously insisted.

(During WWII, Winston Churchill ended almost every telephone call with “KBO”, KBO being an acronym for “Keep Buggering On”.)

Anyway, here’s Frankie post KBO...

Incidentally, someone did mention that if Frankie had been a country, what with her haul of one gold and five silver medals, she would, at that moment, have been in ninth place on the medal table.

Mind you, Patricia Bezzoubenko, with five gold and one bronze, would currently be fifth.

I did, however, smile at how seemingly miserable the Canadian looked accepting the bronze; after all, she was hot favourite to make a clean sweep.

“But I’ll put a sprag in your wheel afore you gang far,” as miner Robert Sinclair once famously declared.

PS: Frankie carried the Team Wales flag at the Opening Ceremony, recognition of her dedicated services to rhythmic gymnastics in Wales.

Given her extraordinary achievement, what a perfect circle if she also carries it at the Closing Ceremony.

Friday, July 25th

Dock of the Bay by Bev Howe

Fancy woman

LAST Monday my smile of the day featured the type of female that triggers my ‘morning seller’ gene i.e. the woman who catches my eye at first light.

Using arm’s-length illustrations, I featured Gretchen Corbett (Beth Davenport in The Rockford Files) and Jackie Swanson (Kelly in Cheers).

But what of a female that makes me go weak in the knees ― without ever seeing her face or hearing her voice?

There she is, up there, on today’s welcome mat.

Well now, this morning I was looking for some old papers I needed to refer to and in the process delved into a big box of files I’d packed away when I moved home a couple of years back.

During the hunt I happened upon a 2003 scrapbook, where I serendipitously tripped over a Western Mail  newspaper cutting from May of that year.

Here’s part of said article...
                                 Artist with sensual style

BEV HOWE’S paintings celebrate the female form in a warm and sensual style.

Her latest collection has just gone on display at the Adam Gallery in Penarth.

The larger-than-life images were displayed for the first time just a year ago.

Howe [a UK and Canada based artist] started painting when she was 17 years old as she was fascinated by the human form but when her children came along she was forced to put her artistic ambitions on hold.

After gaining a fine art degree at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, Howe staged her first exhibition at the gallery of St Brides Hotel in Saundersfoot.

Her work has since gained several awards and been exhibited at galleries across Britain...

And here’s the painting featured in the newspaper piece and which had caught my eye...

Church on the Bay

Honestly ... talk about warm and sensual and sexy ― that’s got the lot. And in spades.

When I originally set eyes on the above image in the paper, I remember thinking in that first split-second, with my luck she turns around ― and it’s a fella sporting a beard, probably a resident of Tipi Valley, a famous hippy community just up the road from the family farm.

But just as instantly I noticed the very feminine arms and the cut of the body ― then I read the piece quoted above.

I have no idea who the model is.

And for that reason she remains my perfect specimen. (Assuming, of course, she’s not [Charlotte] Church on the Bay.)

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.


Thursday, July 24th

@michaelhogan: “Rod’s wearing hair by Gloria
Hunniford,  skin by World of Leather
and suit by BacoFoil.”

Commonwealth Games opening ceremony

I WATCHED the first 20 minutes or so of the opening ceremony, and while it was a wee bit smiley, I found it all a bit too CBBC, a bit too kids’ telly, for my taste.

It all started to go wrong for me when Rod Stewart appeared. I have nothing against Rod, a great character, and I enjoy listening to him singing.

The pertinent word is ‘listening’. The moment I see him ... well, with every change of camera shot, his bum gets bigger and bigger and bigger ― and he then floats up, up and away ... to eventually kiss some gorgeous blonde lady in the circle who shouts “I love you!” at him.

I blame Kenny Everett in those leopard print pants and his memorable take-off of Rod singing Do Ya Think I’m Sexy. Scarred for life, I am.

Also, Michael Hogan’s tweeted message, shared on the Telegraph’s  live blog of the opening ceremony, and featured above, did not help.

However, watching a report on television this morning, it seems that the stars of the show were the 41 Scottish Terriers, deployed to lead each country into the arena, and each Scottie labelled with the relevant nation...


Cute beyond. However, while the wee Scotties are smashing little dogs, it seems they can be more than a little obstinate at times, and last night was a case in point.

A couple of them refused point blank to trot along in front of the teams, and had to be carried instead ― as here, with the Kenyan team...

Lazy dork alert

Never work with children or animals, as WC Fields famously observed.

However, the opening ceremony itself came in for quite a bit of stick, much of it along the lines I outlined above, curiously. But a popular social media comment, it seems, was linked to the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum:

  “Be aware! This is what happens when the Scots are left to their own devices...”

No comment. But a very funny comment, though.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘BacoFoil’, the trade name used in the tweet to describe Rod Stewarts XL shinny suit, came up as ‘Backfill’. Now how funny is that?

Wednesday, July 23rd

Contents of a letter sent by a pupil to
British writer Philip Pullman, 67

Last will and testimonial match

THE above ‘hold the hatch, match and dispatch page’ request was tweeted to his followers by Philip Pullman.

It drew a great deal of interest; unsurprisingly his Twitter account received all sorts of suggestions about how best to die in dramatic fashion.

However, I liked this from a Richard Evans, who looked to Baron von Münchhausen, German nobleman and famous teller of tall tales.
“Captured by brigands, Baron Münchhausen was asked how he would like to die: ‘Of natural causes,’ he replied.”

Very clever.

Philip Pullman himself gave no indication as to what his response will be ― fair enough because I presume he will reply to the pupil direct ... and then await the obituary, with more than a passing interest, I guess.

However, he did indicate a liking for the response from a Joanne Harris, who describes herself thus: “Test-driver of experimental dream machines. Does a bit of writing.”

Joanne suggested this: “Aged 105, of spontaneous combustion brought on by a bottle of 1932 Armagnac and an eruption of over-exuberance.”

Nice one. I can see why Pullman liked it.

Mind you, “Burning up in an experimental dream machine during re-entry” would suit me rather well. Trouble is, that’s all too make-believe.

Historically speaking, I like this from ― who else but Oscar Wilde:
“I suppose that I shall have to die beyond my means. [When asked a large fee for an operation.]

I also like this from Jonathan Swift: “I shall be like that tree, I shall die at the top.” And perhaps taken out by the mother of all lightning strikes?

Now that would be dramatic.

So how would I like to meet my maker in the dramatic fashion insisted by that anonymous pupil? I rather like the idea of a lightning strike.

So, struck by lightning on the golf course immediately after a ‘hole in one’. A problem, though: I’d better start playing golf, first.

However, I shall leave the last word to Anonymous:


Tuesday, July 22nd

The Commonwealth Games start tomorrow,
23rd, at Glasgow’s Celtic Park

When Team Scotland proudly revealed its bold tartan parade
costume to the world, the sky proceeded to fall in on its head

Dressing on the sunny side

NOT being a fashionista, the Team Scotland  outfits passed me by. However, social media got quite excited:

  @almurray: “What in the name of British Home Stores is that?”

   @bonGarcon: “The ‘well plaid’ puns about the Scotland Commonwealth Games outfits have already started...”

   @hugorifkind: “I can’t stop looking at this. It’s a colour which clashes with itself.”

   @andynairn: “I’m petitioning Google to expunge all images of Scotland’s Commonwealth Games kit.”

   JA: “They look like a Paddington Bear tribute group.”

   Mr Ploppy: “My eyes, they burns...”

   Western Lad: “Will they be dancing the ‘Gay Gordon [Bennett]’?”

   Grayson Perry [the cross-dressing potter]: “I hate kilts. They are like the coward’s transvestism.”

I particularly enjoyed this letter in The Times:

Tartan ‘tat’

Sir, If the cringeworthy uniform to be worn by Scots competitors at the Commonwealth Games is an example of Scottish decision-making, it will do much to swell the No vote in the independence referendum.
     Frankly, one would not do that to a sofa.

At least I shall keep a sharp eye open for the outfits when they enter the parade ring on Wednesday evening.

Be all that as it may, the hullabaloo reminded me of a brace of recent letters spotted in The Daily Telegraph:

Dress for success

SIR – As a current A-level student, I read with interest your report regarding the theory that wearing a lab coat could improve performance in a science exam. What shall I wear to help me in my politics exam tomorrow?
Alice Roberts, Kineton, Warwickshire

Playing politics with an A-level examination

SIR – Alice Roberts asks what to wear for her politics exam.
     A fixed smile will do. Also, she should avoid answering any of the questions.
David White, Grantham, Lincolnshire

Very witty response. Perhaps, though, David White should have added: “Also, she should avoid answering any of the questions, and do so at great length.”

Monday, July 21st

“THIS is Jim Rockford. At the tone leave your name and message I’ll get back to you...”

  BEEP: “This is Shirley from the bank. The answers are no, no and yes. No, we won’t loan you money; no, we won’t accept any co-signers; and yes, your account’s overdrawn. I get off at 4.30.”

Yep, one of my favourite TV series: those marvellous answerphone messages at the start ... the great theme music ... the hero permanently harassed and frequently roughed-up by dodgy characters and villains ... the sexiest lawyer in the whole wide world...

Yep, James Garner as the wisecracking and world-weary private detective Jim Rockford, a wrongly accused ex-convict starting life over in a beachfront trailer home, on The Rockford Files, who has just died aged 86.

James Garner definitely had that X-factor thingy.

If Sam Spade was a tough guy [obituarised the LA Times], Jim Rockford was ... well, he could throw a punch, but he didn’t like to because it hurt his hand.

Rockford’s idea of a good time was eating Oreos [a sandwich cookie] and fishing with his dad, not spending a lost weekend with some smoky blonde. And tough talk just wasn’t his thing; when some hood was beating the tar out of him, Rockford spluttered: “Does your mother have any idea what you do for a living?”

Still, the perennially broke investigator always managed to set things right, and by the end of every episode of “The Rockford Files”, Rockford — a.k.a. actor James Garner — also gave viewers something they weren’t getting from other tough guy heroes: laughs.

Garner’s seemingly effortless flair for delivering humorous dialogue — and delivering straight dialogue humorously — made him one of television’s biggest stars.

I never missed an episode of The Rockford Files. No secretary for our Jimbo, just an answerphone. And it was endlessly reassuring to watch a detective series where you were never quite sure whether our hero would actually get the better of his adversaries.

Unlike Columbo, say, who always got his man (or woman). Bo-ring.

But most of all, I was madly in love with Beth Davenport (Gretchen Corbett, now 66), Jim’s long-suffering bulldog of an attorney. A smart and assertive, tough-talking but also attractive and sexy, young woman...

Gretchen takes me back more moons than I care to remember, for she reminds me of ... well, not quite the girl-next-door, but a young lady that lived just up the street. She too was a little something special, delivered to earth on one of those extra-smiley sunbeams.

Back with Rockford, Beth was a perfect contrast to most of Jim’s disreputable pals and hangers-on, especially Angel. But Angel too always made me smile ― like so many similar characters I’ve encountered down the years at the Crazy Horse, and later the Crazy Horsepower.

Curiously, there are very few women in films and television that I truly fancy. Gretchen was one. Another was Jackie Swanson in Cheers. She was barman Woody Boyd’s girlfriend before becoming Mrs Kelly Gaines Boyd.

Kelly was a totally spoilt and naive little rich girl, perfectly portrayed by Swanson (now 51).

But as with Beth in The Rockford Files, both girls had those magical qualities that make girls irresistible. Most of all both were blessed with a perfectly agreeable nature, and if you have that quality, every other positive human characteristic tends to follow and fall into place...

Gretchen Corbett as Beth Davenport

Jackie Swanson as Kelly Gaines Boyd

Obviously, I am attracted to a certain type of female, who must be blessed with a nice nature.

Incidentally, Gretchen Corbett was also to feature in an episode of Cheers...

Gretchen Corbett (Diane’s friend) with Ted Danson (Sam) and Shelley Long (Diane)

Gretchen was Sam’s blind date in a most entertaining episode ― but why she had to dress like Woody Allen remained a bit of a mystery.

Well who would have thought, a tribute to James Garner morphs into an A to O of the sort of woman who triggers my H-Spot, my Hallelujah Spot.

Anyway, back once more with James Garner:

“Marriage is like the army. Everyone complains, but you’d be surprised at the large number of people who re-enlist.” James Garner, survived by wife, Lois, whom he married two weeks after they met in 1956; his stepdaughter Kimberly; and his daughter Greta, who is known as Gigi.

And the very last message on Jim Rockford’s answerphone?

BEEP: “Hey, Rockford, this is Old Nick. I got a job lined up for you but my contacts tell me Big G is waiting for you at reception. If it don’t work out I’ll still be here.”

Finally, a YouTube link to ‘Rockford Files Answering Machine Messages Only (complete season 1). Entertaining ― oh, if you keep wondering who Noah Beery is ... he was Jim’s dad, Rocky:

Sunday, July 20th

Unforgettable sights and sounds

PERSONALLY, I wouldn’t want AA Gill, television critic of The Sunday Times, within a million miles of my fondly imagined South Sea Island Paradise.

But I quite enjoy reading his reviews, even if it is whilst crouched behind the sofa.

For example, today he began his weekly piece thus:

World Cup

You’ve probably forgotten by now, but the very best bit of the BBC televising of the World Cup was the final five-minute montage of the music and images of Brazilian football. It was just beautifully done, elegiac, but without pretension. Whoever the editor was who got all that together in a tearing hurry, take a bow.

You’ve probably failed to remember that it was the same with the Olympics ― the compilation edits at the end were sublime little bits of television.

Montage is the cutting together of images to make a visual mosaic: it elicits rather than imparts emotion, information or plot. It’s a particular television skill. It was invented by cinema, but it doesn’t really suit the monolithic self-importance of the wide screen.

Where it really works is on the internet, and your telephone; and lots of people do it really badly on YouTube. When you see it made with this much skill and thought, it’s like the broadcast version of keepy-uppies.

Montage is having a moment ― or perhaps that should be three or four moments, all spliced together...

Old Breakdown Gill got a bit pretentious there (“It was invented by cinema, but it doesn’t really suit the monolithic self-importance of the wide screen” ― whatever that means). Definitely not Crazy Horsepower Saloon chit-chat.

Neither is the word “elegiac”. Truth to tell you would be much more likely to hear “threnodic” bandied about down at the Asterisk Bar.

Anyway, I hadn’t seen said montage ― I’d gone to bed before the end of the programme ― so thank goodness for YouTube.

It really is a stunning piece of appreciation of Brazil, its music, and of course the World Cup. Even if you have no interest whatsoever in football, take a peep ― so many magical moments. I was particularly captivated by the young girl dancer strutting her stuff. Marvellous. Here’s the YouTube link...

BBC Sport World Cup 2014 ― Closing Montage:

Now isn’t that worthy of all the plaudits? (I nearly said “How’s about that, then?”, God forbid.)

Oh yes, AA Gill wonders who the editor was. Well, all he had to do was Google it ― if you search “We spoke to the guy who made the BBC’s Word Cup final montage”, you’ll see that it’s a fellow called Tom Gent, and he answers a few questions on the putting together of the sequence.

As you might have guessed, he didn’t have to pull it “all together in a tearing hurry”. All that was left to slip in quietly at the whistle were just a few images from the final itself.

Passport to power

Mention of the cutting together of images to make a visual mosaic, and what with Germany winning the World Cup and Angela Merkel having just celebrated her 60th birthday ― I came across this wonderful montage, compliments of Mail Online.

Changing faces: Angela Merkel, pictured left to right
 from top left, 1991 to 2014...

Angela Merkel: 60 on July 17, 2014

Marvellous. Mind you, much as I am a big fan of Angie Baby, she is coming in for a bit of stick for not standing up to the big bully boy on the block, Vladimir Putin.

Watch this space.

Saturday, July 19th

And now for something vaguely familiar...



As Monty Python’s live show nears the end of its run, Matt Hyde, the chief executive of the Scout Association, has shared a letter he received as a child from John Cleese after asking whether the actor had a fan club. “There is no John Cleese fan club (despite my importance) because they were all murdered in 1983 by Michael Palin’s fan club,” Cleese wrote. “I enclose a photograph to remind you of my importance.” A few days later Hyde then got an unsolicited letter from Palin, who suggested that rather than murder, it had been a “merciful release for those poor deluded victims.”
(Compliments of Patrick Kidd, Times Diary)


No prizes for guessing

“’WIN two free tickets to Monty Python’s Live Show’. I presume second prize is three free tickets.”
Alan Jacobs of Biddenham, Bedford, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Believe it or don’t

“It’s a bunch of wrinkly old men trying to relive their youth and make a load of money ― the best one died years ago! Sir Mick Jagger, 70, on the Monty Python revivalists, namely Eric Idle (71), Michael Palin (71), Terry Jones (72), Terry Gilliam (73), John Cleese (74) and Graham Chapman (48 – but very deceased).

Yes, Mick Jagger was joking. And apparently, all part of a promotional video for the Monty Python Live ― One Down, Five To Go show.

Incidentally, tomorrow night, Sunday, the final show of 10 will happen at London’s  02 Arena, and will be broadcast live on Gold at 7.30pm.

And the Monty Python Flying Circus will be no more. Apparently.

However, all this talk of wrinkly old men trying to relive their youth...

Shake well before use

When ageing pop and rock stars ― no names no pack drill ― take to the stage to relive their glory days, do you suppose their children feel as embarrassed as the rest of the nation’s children do when their  parents take to the dance floor to perform You’re The One That I Want  one more time for old time’s sake?

Or does the thought of another few million quid added to the inheritance fund, compliments of astonishingly gullible punters, override the human default position?

It was a dark and stormy morning

Over the past couple of days the meeja has been awash with spectacular pictures of the lightning strikes that have been here, there and everywhere over the UK. (One Met Office report quoted 3,000 lightning strikes across the UK in just two hours.)

But now for something definitely, positively completely different...

Some clouds have no obvious silver linings

It was a most pleasing sunrise ... but the rising sun quickly disappeared behind some ominous looking cloud.

I caught the above before any storm had manifested itself ― but the cloud moving in looked exceedingly scary and threatening.

So I made my excuses and hurried on home.

Friday, July 18th

♫♫♫   A music dictionary   ♫♫♫

Virtuosic vision

THIS week has seen Llandeilo hosting its annual music festival. Music that is listened to and enjoyed on the more serious side of the street, I would suggest.

Pretty much all of the shops in town have entered into the spirit of things and have something in their windows to reflect the nature of the week.

I particularly enjoyed what I spotted in the window of Coffor Bach, Home & Interiors (“Welsh gifts with a stylish, contemporary accent”, look you). Coffor Bach, incidentally, means a small chest or trunk:

(Tap-tap-tap): “Okay guys, listen up...”

So clever, a couple of music dictionaries ... which open up to project some harmonious messages.

At the very top, on today’s Welcome mat, is the corner of the page of the dictionary on the left.

Incidentally, I like the reflection of the double-yellow lines in the window: in musical terms I guess that would be a maxima, a whole note (definitely no stopping).

I also enjoyed the clarinet in front of the books ― nice touch.

Happy birthday...

While on the subject of music, earlier this week I signed up to be a full member of the Angela Merkel Fan Club.

Yesterday, the good lady celebrated her 60th birthday ― and there’s been an item all over the interweb, where, at a televised press conference in Brussels, a German reporter serenades her with the traditional “Happy Birthday” song.

It’s a delightfully cringeworthy version ― he attempts to get everyone else to join in, without much success ― and Merkel sits awkwardly sporting a somewhat sheepish grin.

But there are two aspects of the episode which really did strike me as I watched it ― here’s a brief clip of the memorably melodic moment...


First, I was quite taken aback that a German reporter sings to a German Chancellor ---- in English. Except for the personalised line, of course.

I can only presume that the song does not work ― or perhaps rather does not scan ― with a German translation. Mind you, in my tongue we sing the whole ditty in Welsh ― and crucially it scans perfectly.

There again, the press conference follows a EU meeting of ministers in Brussels, so perhaps the German reporter appreciates that there are many nationalities present, and there is a greater chance of everyone joining in if he actually sings it in English. Yes, that has to be it.

The other gem from the video report is that Angela Merkel enjoys a 70% satisfaction rating with the German people.

Somehow I’m not surprised ― but 70%? Wow. Respect.

Ironic beyond

In this morning’s Daily Mail, there was a letter from a Tony Heaton of Doncaster. This missive would have obviously gone to print yesterday, and presumably well before the news broke of the downed plane in Ukraine:

“Which country is supplying the rockets that Hamas is launching into Israel? The international community should be looking into this. No rockets, no retaliation, no conflict.”

Thursday, July 17th

Sign Language: “Odour eater” ... spotted in Shanghai by Bill Dixon

Wafting in on the breeze

HOW wonderful it is when three silly smiles converge on an inevitable collision course ― and as a bonus it enables me to both exercise and exorcise the demands of my juvenile gene----

At the top, an eye-catching effort spotted in The Daily Telegraph’s  Sign Language gallery, those marvellous pictures submitted by readers of curious notices and signs spotted on their travels about this entertaining old planet of ours.

And then the following piece, compliments of Rod Liddle in last weekend’s Sunday Times.

In fact, I had glanced at this curious tale last week, but Rod puts it across rather entertainingly...

An ill wind that blows plenty of good

Here’s something to cheer you up.

Apparently, inhaling other people’s flatulence can stop you having a stroke or getting cancer, heart disease and indeed dementia.

This is the conclusion of research from Exeter University; the gas released ― hydrogen sulphide ― is beneficial to our immune systems. I am not sure how this important research was carried out: 100 or so subjects strapped down like laboratory beagles while white-coated professors continually broke wind at them, maybe?

Either way, next time you’ve eaten a plate of sprouts [or some curry] and are in a lift, or on a crowded train ― let it rattle.

And proudly explain to your disgusted fellow passengers that you are in the business of saving lives.

Tailwind Tours ‘R’ Us
“Choose the healthy option, you know it makes sense”

Sign Language: “Flatulence will get you anywhere” ...
spotted in Bratislava by Dave Jones

Wednesday, July 16th

Fully paid up member

I DID wave the World Cup circus a fond farewell yesterday ― but it refuses to go gentle into that good night. And why should it?

On Pause For Thought on Radio 2’s Chris Evans Breakfast Show  this morning, Methodist Minister Leslie Griffiths mentioned that women are at the centre of so many news items this week. I quote:

David Cameron’s government reshuffle has brought the number of women in the Cabinet up to five. That’s the world of politics.

Meanwhile, the Church of England, not to be beaten, will soon be ready to accept women as bishops ― did you see on the news all those deliriously happy faces when the vote was announced?

And then there was that one woman, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, jumping for joy as she watched her team win the World Cup. I just love the photograph of her standing in the middle of the players----

I’ll finish off Leslie’s thoughts on Merkel in a moment ― but first I send Ivor the Search Engine off to track down said photograph ... and I land on a Guardian  article where journalist Philip Otterman traces Merkel’s slowly blossoming relationship with her nation’s football team since she first came to power nine years ago.

Gosh, she’s been in power nine years?

Anyway, here’s the picture Leslie Griffiths was referring to...


Angela Merkel poses with the German team in the changing
room after the players won the World Cup final

This is how Otterman describes the above scene in his Guardian  article: “Merkel framed by a crowd of sweaty, cheering footballers---”

That’s fine. Straight to the point. But here’s how Minister Leslie Griffiths describes the very same scene:

“A pink-coated flower with the white-shirted players fanning out around her like the petals on a daisy.”

Isn’t that wonderful? Have another look ... a perfectly painted picture.

As for the two descriptions ― well, I’ve always maintained that every article, every paragraph, every sentence we write discloses something about ourselves. While not necessarily doing the same about the person or thing we are writing about.

Back with the German Chancellor: The Guardian  article also takes us back to the World Cup of eight years ago, which was held in Germany...

2006: Angela Merkel’s picture with the squad was fairly formal

Eight years ago Germany finished in third place, beaten at the semi-final stage by Italy.

Oh yes, I must share with you an online comment from The Guardian  article. Someone had posed a question about Angela Merkel, which was answered thus ― and the response was duly awarded top marks in the ‘Recommended’ stakes:

City Model: “What has ‘that woman’ done to deserve to be up there?” Eh? Run one of the most economically and socially successful countries in Europe, that’s what. And wear a cute outfit.

Nice one. Especially those final five words. If you look at both pictures, she is wearing the same style of outfit: “I am dependable. I am reliable. I am not a follower of fashion. What you see is what you get. Resistance is futile. You will be effortlessly embraced within our loving family...”

I am fully signed up to the Angela Merkel Fan Club.

“Ours is perhaps not the most stirring of national anthems. I feel sorry for the Royal Family who have to hear it everywhere they go. At least it’s short.” TV choirmaster Gareth Malone.

The trouble is, Gareth, the Germans beat us on that score as well.

If the best anthems shall inherit the earth, then I would not only treat every German you meet with respect, but every Russian as well (including Vladimir Putin). Not to mention the Welsh. Are you listening AA Gill?

Agony Aunt

Tory MP Tracey Crouch, 38, a qualified coach and manager of the Meridian Girls under-18 football team in Kent, may have an answer to console male footballers who cry when they lose. A week ago she sent the following advice to Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari:

  “When my girls went out of the cup, they cried. We bought them ice cream and they stopped crying. Happy to help.”

Let’s hope no one attempted to cheer up a Brazilian defender after their thrashing by the Germans by offering a fizzy drink, in particular a 7UP.

Now whether such advice by Tracey was very wise is another thing. Just a month ago she was hot news in the gossip columns after her boyfriend unceremoniously dumped her by text message, which she received during a Commons vote ― and unsurprisingly, she was seen wandering about the House in tears.

Now there is all the difference in the world between a broken relationship and a broken football game ― but you’d think she would have sensed the ambush before tweeting the above helpful advice to Brazil’s now ex-manager.

Ho-hum. Sniff.

Tuesday, July 15th

Parting thoughts

YESTERDAY I mentioned the Celtic rule of support when it comes to sport. ABE (Anyone But England). Out in Brazil it’s ABA (Anyone But Argentina).

But what of the English? Well, last Sunday I quoted The Sunday Times; this is what The Times  had to say on the subject:
                Forget 1966 and all that as England fans get behind Germany

For just as long as anyone alive can remember, England football fans have had a useful rule of thumb for deciding who to support in any important international fixture that does not involve England: [ABG] ― cheer the one that isn’t Germany.

Generally speaking, it works pretty well. But Argentina is a problem.

First, Argentina is in South America, and we do not tend to like teams from South America, what with their falling over and their biting and everything.

Secondly, there was that other problem, the one from a few years ago, which there is really no need to go into here...

Argentinian banner unfurled before a World Cup warm-up match against Slovenia in Buenos Aires, June 7

Now, extraordinarily, and to the utter dismay of tabloid headline writers everywhere, a significant portion of the British public find themselves supporting Germany.

Nothing about 1966, or the war, or the Dambusters  theme, or anything like that: just Englishmen and women shouting, “Come on Deutschland!”.

It may be a cultural shift that represents a complete rejection of all those values that have made this country great ― jingoism, racial stereotyping, blinkered nationalism ― but Germans living in England reacted with a complete lack of surprise at the volte-face...

Well, I have a theory. We Brits yearn to be ruled over by someone like Angela Merkel. Without the European Union angle, obviously.

Why do I say that?

We are desperate for another Margaret Thatcher to sort us out. And Merkel fills the bill to perfection.

And she rules without all that handbagging business that so infuriated the left.

But most of all, and as I mentioned yesterday, Merkel has so much of that clever Star Trek creation, the Borg Queen, about her. We Brits are desperate to be told: “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.” You mark my words.

(I know, I know, but “you euro my words” sounds too wet and limp and useless.)

Private words

During the World Cup final, there was one image that puzzled me. What was Putin doing there, sitting next to Sepp Blatter, president and head honcho of Fifa?

Then someone mentioned that it’s Russia who hosts the next World Cup.

Fair enough.

However, given all the alleged corruption and profiteering supposedly uncovered by The Sunday Times  investigation into all things Fifa, I was tickled by this photograph from Sunday night...

Vladimir Putin: “The Sunday Times will attempt to explain the big suitcase you'll find
under your bed when you return to your room as the final payment for handing the
Russian Federation the next tournament. Just ignore them and they will go away...”

Normal service now resumed...

Bye, bye soccer...

I happened to catch comedian Jasper Carrott on tonight’s The One Show. Very funny man is Jasper. He is one of those individuals that you only have to look at ― and you catch yourself smiling. Even when he is not smiling. That, is a gift from the gods.

Anyway, he is now 69 ― and looking remarkably fit and well. He was talking about his grandchildren: “The other day I was playing piggyback with my young granddaughter ― after about an hour I fell off...”

Monday, July 14th

Bless you, my Sun

“Ahh, it looks just like a football”
BBC commentator Mark Lawrenson sets foot on the first rung
of the Dylan Thomas Poetic Licence  ladder as he observes
the sun setting over Rio and the World Cup Final

It's a funny old game

OVER recent days I’ve used social media images of the statue of Christ the Redeemer to reflect the despair of Brazil following its footballing defeat at the feet of Germany ― so how nice to share the magical shot, above, of the sun setting, as caught by the helicopter floating over Rio during the World Cup final.

Awesome shot.

Anyway, the final.

Normally, I never watch the build-up to major sporting events. Much too much bollocks spoken, nonsense just to fill the space available. For example, last night’s World Cup final kicked-off at eight, so my usual routine would be to switch on just a few minutes before.

However, curiosity got the better of me, so I start with the BBC...

Don’t suit you, mate

My oh my, how wonderful it would be to meet the fellow ― and it has to be a man ― who instructed the BBC’s World Cup final pundits to come to the Rio party, arguably the planet’s capital of cool, dressed as if going to a funeral, “but be sure to wear your favourite tie”.

Some suggested they looked like sales reps. Others noted that Rio Ferdinand, left, looked like a budget airline pilot.

Sadly, the BBC lot were less Reservoir Dogs, more wet pussies.

Meanwhile, the ITV crowd had taken the other fork in the road and appeared to be attending a beach party. And why not?

As for the game, a few paragraphs from the Telegraph:

Germany deservedly lifted the World Cup because of the team’s resilience and intelligence, because of the tackling of the outstanding Jérôme Boateng, because Bastian Schweinsteiger kept going even when battered by Argentine tackles, even when bruised, even when bloodied as his cheek was opened up.

And because of a moment of brilliance from Mario Götze (Mario de Janeiro?).

Schweinsteiger though was the best player on the pitch, spilling sweat and blood for the cause.

My thoughts? So many crucial passes were a foot too far in front of the striker, or six inches too far behind ― and players kept slipping and sliding as they swivelled to get at the ball. But that was because both defences were brilliant and attackers had to hurry their passes and shots.

It is defences that win championships and World Cups, and last night there were two brilliant defences on show.

But the Germans were that little bit more efficient in nullifying all threats.

Incidentally, perusing the above picture of the German team holding up the trophy ... not a tattoo in sight. And as we all will have observed along our walk through time, a tattoo is a classic sign of a lack of self-esteem.

No lack of such self-confidence with the Germans. Especially so their leader, Angela Merkel.

The more I see Angela, the more I see the Borg Queen: “Resistance is futile.”

Incidentally, there was an incident during the game when an intruder ran onto the pitch. As always happens now, television does not show such demonstrations so as not to provide the oxygen of publicity.

The smart money says it was Angela Merkel.


As a Celt I have always felt ever so slightly guilty about our sporting ABE support policy (Anyone But England).

However, I see that out in Brazil they operate an ABA policy (Anyone But Argentina).

Yep, it’s the same the whole world over: tribalism rules, ok?

Finally, I enjoyed this online comment following the final whistle, which wonderfully summed up England’s woeful performance out in World Cup 2014...

John Goatbirth: COME ON ENGLAND
                               Did we win

Sunday, July 13th

Tall Order

WELL, another relaxevoo day in front of the telly coming up: stage nine of the Tour de France this afternoon; followed by World Cup Final tonight.

But first, poor old Brazil.

Last night I watched the first-half of their misery-laden third-place play-off performance against Holland ... before departing for beddy-byes.

This, from the Guardian:

Wilful cruelty, needless indignity or sheer torture? Luiz Felipe Scolari and his Brazil players could take their pick after finding the third-place play-off anything but a road to redemption.

Instead, a second stumble in the space of a week ensured they headed off into highly uncertain futures with the jeers of the Brasília public ringing in their ears.

Well, well, who would have thought when watching the opening ceremony of World Cup 2014 (ironically, a half-hearted affair, compliments of that great gift called hindsight) that within three weeks Brazilian football and its passionate supporters would experience a conscious uncoupling

Even worse, that Germany would cause Brazil to sob rather than samba.

Many silly people have written Brazilian football off for years to come. Total rubbish. Football is in their genes (it’s that exposure to the sun I mentioned just the other day).

Look, give ‘em a World Cup or two and they’ll be back, firing on all cylinders.

* Conscious uncoupling: Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin recently announced that, after more than 10 years of marriage, they had decided to separate. The couple said in a joint statement that they were to “consciously uncouple”.

They stressed, in the statement, that while “in many ways we are closer than we have ever been”, they had come to the conclusion that “while we love each other very much we will remain separate”.

It all sounded wonderfully amiable. And I guess that sums up the Brazilian love affair with football. They have consciously uncoupled ― but they’ll be back in bed together in no time. All they need is a win or two under their belts.

Before leaving Brazil to sort itself out and pick up the pieces, I enjoyed this highest rated comment on the Guardian website...

Meltwaterfalls:  “Brazilian football is truly in the doldrums”?
                               True, but as an Englishman in my early 30s, Brazil’s doldrums are the equivalent of England’s high point of my lifetime.


Tonight is the big night, the World Cup Final. And I bet Angela Merkel will be there with her enthusiastic and passionate support, arms in the air. So...

You pays your money: Argentina vs. Germany. Messi vs. Merkel. Nature vs. nurture. Flamboyance vs. simplicity. Spontaneity vs. order. Uncertainty vs. dependability. Ambivalence vs. determination.
     Interesting (delivered with an exaggerated German accent, of course).

Seriously though, shall I support Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Argentina or Andrea Merkel’s Germany?

I must quote a few lines from a Sunday Times  leader ― which is written from an England point of view, and addressed to the Germans:

We need Hans

Tonight you face Argentina in the World Cup final. To be frank, we’ve not been getting on very well with them either. In fact, England fans have suddenly noticed how much they have in common with you Germans.

You gave our country the Angles and the Saxons. You sent the Hanoverian monarchs to reign over us, and you introduced us to Christmas trees.

[The ST could also have added: We adore your cars ― Vorsprung durch Technik  and all that jazz; we’ve fallen hook, line, etc with the German duo of Lidl and Larger (oops, Aldi); and it seems that a German football jersey is impossible to get hold of in London these days.]

So tonight we will be on your side. Los geht’s, Deutschland! Or, as we don’t say here very often: “Come on, Germany!

I’ll go with that: Los geht’s Deutschland! Or more correctly, in Welsh: Dere mlaen yr Almaen!

(I shall be posting this ― and  turning off the computer ― well before the final starts. I wonder what, if spared, I’ll be reflecting on come the morning?)

Saturday, July 12th

Tour de France 2014:  Matteo Trentin edges out Peter Sagan in a
thrilling photo-finish to win stage seven - after 145 miles of racing!

A damned near-run thing

THE above eye-catching image has been all over the meeja shop today.

Italian Matteo Trentin yesterday piped Slovakian Peter Sagan by the narrowest of margins to claim racing team Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s first win of this year’s Tour de France, a boost for the Belgian squad who lost Briton Mark Cavendish following a bad crash on day one in Yorkshire.

It was an extraordinarily tight margin after 234.5km (145.7 miles) of racing ― the second longest stage of the Tour ― and afterwards Matteo dedicated the win to his absent friend.

Just think on that. They race for nearly 150 miles ― and it finishes that  close. And take it from me ― I watched it unfold on live TV ― Peter Sagan was not best pleased that he had failed yet again to win a 2014 stage. Remarkable.

Imagine if Formula 1 could come up with finishes like that. Well, we and wee Bernie Ecclestone can dream...

On a wing and a prayer

While on the subject of photo-finishes ― and you know me and the curious world of coincidence ― the image below has just exited the dark room:

Should have had a flutter! Extraordinary moment a seagull beat
horse into third place after it photobombed the race finish

The bird swooped down to clinch second spot by a beak in the 19.10 race at Brighton last Tuesday evening.

Luke Morris, riding Sagesse, came in second to Richard Hughes on Jewelled at the East Sussex racecourse, but he was just edged by the seagull who was the unofficial second.

Apparently, and somewhat surprisingly given the number of birds forever floating above our racecourses, especially those near the coast, it’s the first time a camera has captured such a memorable moment.

Luckily the race wasn’t decided by a nose, otherwise the bird would have duly veiled said schnozzles and blown a raspberry at everyone.

Lee McKenzie, who provided notes on the race for the Racing Post, said: It flew home up the final stretch and clearly beat the next horse by a long beak. Pity it wasn’t the next race on the card (7.40) won by Byrd In Hand from Hawk Moth, with another flyer Abigails Angel third.

Yes, I did check out those winners ... spot on.

Friday, July 11th

Turn over your papers now

EVERY year university lecturers submit a series of silly answer papers to the Times Higher Education magazine’s exam howlers competition, writes one Maddie Cannon [hang on to that name] in the Telegraph.

This year’s crop ― including describing Hitler’s role in World War Two as “overlooked” and saying the hole in the ozone layer is caused by “arseholes” ― have had teachers up and down the country in stitches.

Whether intentional, mistaken or simply a bid to make their teachers laugh, we round up the worst howlers of all time.

I pick out a few of those on parade:

     Why are there rings on Saturn?
Because God liked it, so he put a ring on it.

     Give a brief explanation of the meaning of the term ‘hard water’:

     What is the process for separating a mixture of chalk and sand?
A process called flirtation.

I like that because you appreciate what it is that was struggling to separate itself from the student.

     To change centimetres to metres, you…?
Take out centi.

     What is a vibration?
There are good vibrations and bad vibrations. Good vibrations were discovered in the 1960s.

I know. I was there. And I remember it.

     Name one of the early Romans’ greatest achievements:
Learning to speak Latin.

     What is meant by the term ‘hermaphrodite’?
Lady GaGa.

     What do we call the science of classifying living things?

     A star in the sky suddenly brightens to many times its original brightness and then fades gradually
     over the next several years. Hypothesise what happened in terms of a star’s life cycle:

It just had a hot flush and is probably going through menopause.

     Write two hundred thousand in figures:
“Two hundred thousand in figures.”

     What is the main reason for Divorce?

     Brian has 50 slices of cake. He eats 48. What has he now?

     Explain why phosphorus trichloride is polar:
God made it that way.

Poor old God has a lot to answer for.

     What happens to your body as you age?
When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental.

That’s presumably what will be happening to Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic space rocket thingy.

     Name a major disease associated with cigarettes:
A premature death.

     How can you delay milk turning sour?
Keep it in the cow.

     What is a fibula?
A small lie.

Wonderful. But hang on. If a fibula is a white lie, I guess a fibulua is a medium size lie, a grey one ― and a fibularis (which rhymes with Polaris) is a big lie, a really black one.

     Give the meaning of the term ‘Caesarean section’:
The caesarean section is a district in Rome.

Ah, and what did the Romans ever do for us?

     What is a turbine?
Something an Arab or a Shriek wears on his head.


 If you threw a red stone into a Blue Sea, what will it become?

Simply, a wet stone.

Now the above question baffled me completely. Thankfully, comments online came to my rescue. I liked this...

CrankyMiddleAgedGuy: Having been a teacher and done teacher training, some of these questions are badly framed. For example, “If you threw a red stone into a Blue Sea, what will it become?”.
         The answer given is technically correct. In exam conditions, when short of time and under pressure, it is not unusual to not recognise what the question is supposed to be asking.
         Remember: the purpose of an exam is to test knowledge, not to determine if you are on “the same wavelength” as the examiner. A better question would be, “If you threw a red stone into a Blue Sea, what colour would the stone appear to be?” It is quite possible the student knew the answer to that question.
         I see a lot of this sort of poor question setting in my son’s GCSE practice exams and marking schemes. For example, I’ve often discovered “explain”, but it should be “explain and give an example of”.
         It says a great deal about the quality of the people who set exam papers today.

One final Q&A:

Suggest one reason why it is a good idea to collect data by asking the public to observe when conkers open:
  So the government doesn’t have to do it.

I sympathise completely, for I haven’t a clue what all that is about ― and I couldn’t find anything in the comments section to help. I can only think that it will give a general picture of when autumn officially arrives.

Finally, I thought these comments were more than fair, indeed they attracted a large number of positive ticks...

Thebleedinobvious: These are clearly not the “worst howlers of all time”. Some of them suggest that the next generation of comedians might be a lot better than the current crop, assuming the whole thing wasn’t made up by Phil Space.

I come across the name Phil Space quite often apropos the increasing volume of rubbishy articles spotted online. They are of course penned by Phil Space. Very good.

Rewboss: No, these are not genuine; they’re just jokes, some of them older than I am. If you are going to just cobble an article together from a couple of Buzzfeed lists, at least try not to pass them off as real.

George: They are not howlers, just “witticisms”, and besides, I suspect three-quarters were made up by English teachers. Stuff like this adorned the cork boards of every school and college I went to.

DavidofKent: For such a bunch of stupid questions, many of those answers are the best I have read in years. Well done, those students. I particularly like “Write two hundred thousand in figures”: the answer was the sort of thing I would have loved to have written in my exams, had I had the courage.

Joseph: I stand by the European Studies exam from the 1970s on which a pupil wrote, “The French national anthem is the Mayonnaise”. Another favourite, in maths: If I have £12.43 in one trouser pocket and £45.71 in the other, what have I got? “Someone else’s trousers.”

Oh yes, remember I said to remember the name of the person who penned the article for the Telegraph?

Bikboks: How naive you are Maddie Cannon ― you ought to go off

Oh, Bikboks, nearly  a pass mark. You should have said: “You should be fired!

Thursday, July 10th


YESTERDAY, while empathising with Brazil’s footballing grief (well, sort of), I said this:

Before the birth of the internet and social media it would have been left to newspaper cartoonists to take a more light-hearted view of the event ... but these days there are imaginative and witty people dotted all over the globe, folk who are eager to instantly share with us their spin on events.

And I gave examples of such humour as spotted on the interweb.

Well, right on cue, I pick up this morning’s Daily Telegraph ― and there’s MATT  (above), emphasising precisely the point I’d made. Very clever.

Back with the social media crowd, I thought this effort also delightfully imaginative, the German shark in hot pursuit of the Brazilian dolphin...

What I particularly like about the above (authors unknown) is the home-made nature of it ― note the stone holding down the flag, bottom left. Wonderful.

Do you know, I can just imagine the German equivalent of the Crazy Horsepower Saloon and some of the locals dreaming up a bit of a wheeze to stick up there on the wall and then the web.

And I’m delighted to promote their humour.

Incidentally, last night I sat down to watch the Argentina-Holland semi ... yawn! Ten minutes into the second-half I called it a day and toddled off to bed.

This morning, I listen to Radio 2’s 5 o’clock news to find out which country had made it through to the final ... nothing. Not a word. So the game really was as dull as I thought it was.

Incidentally, yesterday morning, the Brazil-Germany game was the lead item on the news ― and remained so well into late morning, such was the impact of the result.

Oh yes, after returning from my morning walk, I discover that Argentina had made it through following a penalty shoot-out.

Hm, so it’s going to be Messi vs. Germany. Sounds good.

Sticking with Germany, and by implication Angela Merkel and the EU, there was a letter in today’s Daily Telegraph, something about the European Arrest Warrant  helping to keep the public safe, blah, blah, blah.

Sad to say it was mostly straight over my head. However, the letter was signed thus:

Karen Bradley MP (Con)
Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime
London SW1

Yes, you probably spotted it too, as did loads of people on the online comment section.

Surely, should it not be ‘Minister AGAINST Modern Slavery and Organised Crime’?

Whatever, I enjoyed this particular response...

The Hidden Paw: No, I think they’ve probably got that right, judging by my tax bill.

Wednesday, July 9th

The moaning after the night before

If you don’t want to know the score,
 look away now

They think it’s all bossa nova. It is now!

A MAIL ONLINE headline perfectly sums up the misery of Brazil’s defeat in the World Cup. A result that has been described as the most remarkable in footballing history.

Who would have guessed that Germany would make Brazil sob rather than samba.

To put the 7-1 result into context, its the equivalent in rugby union terms of England defeating New Zealand in a World Cup semi-final to the tune of 70-10. Quite unthinkable.

As it happens, I haven’t watched many games this World Cup campaign, but I did watch last night’s extraordinary performance, especially so as I’d explored both Brazil and Germany’s inherently different styles of play back on June the 30th.

However, I guess Brazil’s collapse last night was more an emotional thing. They still have the skills, obviously ― defence was very dodgy though ― but it was that crucial top two inches that went AWOL. In my humble opinion.

Smile though your heart is aching

Before the birth of the internet and social media it would have been left to newspaper cartoonists to take a more light-hearted view of the event  ― after all, it is  only a game, however seriously we may view it ― but these days there are imaginative and witty people dotted all over the globe, folk who are eager to instantly share with us their spin on events.

For example, Christ the Redeemer, the iconic statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, is normally seen as an image of hope ― but the famous landmark was quickly Photoshopped at the expense of the defeated host nation, following their semi-final humiliation.

A perfect example is seen up there on the welcome mat ... it really is rather clever. And without causing undue offence, I would suggest.

I also like this skilful morphing of a cheerful Brazilian child slowly engulfed by the torn asunder emotions of a nation as the game unfolded in all its horror ― and finishing off with the official emblem of World Cup 2014...


Alongside, far right, is a marvellous example of a professional cartoon, which represents the logo being redrawn to highlight all the alleged corruption surrounding Fifa, the World Cup organisation.

Yellow Jersey

However, before we get too carried away with Brazil’s unfortunate plight, just remember that a few days ago a British Royal, the Duchess of Cambridge, presented a German (rather than an Englishman who crashed out), with the cherished first stage Yellow Jersey of the Tour de France.

How deliciously ironic was that?

German Marcel Kittel then went on to win the London stage, as well as the first stage on the Tour’s return to French soil. And I did notice that Kittel celebrated his wins on English soil with huge emotion ― but displayed none at all winning out in France.

Let’s be honest, Angela Merkel is already wearing the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de EU. Yes, there are a few stages left, but does anyone really doubt that she will eventually climb the podium in Brussels.

And all done without a single shot being fired in anger. Respect.


All that is missing from the above rather clever effort is Merkel wearing the Yellow Jersey ― which would represent both stealing the shirt off Brazil’s back, and of course highlighting the fact that she is the real power in the Tour de Europe right now.

Thank goodness the German national anthem is such a stirring piece of music to sing along with!

PS: I shall finish today as I did yesterday: If you personally know any Germans, be very, very nice to them...

Tuesday, July 8th

(especially if you're German)

Rolling rocker gathered no Moss

“Kate Moss burned my teddy bear. She wanted to cause me as much emotional damage as possible.”
Pete Doherty, 35, English musician and frontman for British rock bands The Libertines and Babyshambles.

I had no idea what all that was about ― but it did make me smile. So I sent Ivor the Search Engine  out on a scouting mission...

Well, it seems that English supermodel Kate Moss, 40, was so determined to get revenge on her rocker lover Pete Doherty that she torched his beloved childhood teddy bear. The bitch.

She dated The Libertines star for two years until their split in 2007, and he has now revealed the depths of hatred Moss had for him following the break-up. She targeted his most precious item and torched it.

Doherty tells British magazine Event: “It’s a big, genuine and totally heartfelt regret that I didn’t keep my eye on Pandy, who was my first-ever teddy bear. My sister gave him to me as a huge gesture of love and kinship.

“I held on to Pandy all my life but he ended up getting burned by Kate, along with a lot of other stuff, when we split up. There was no need for that unless she simply wanted to cause me as much emotional damage as possible.”

Say nothing is best.

So, having not said anything ... I then stumble upon this from Rod Liddle:

I think, therefore I ... shock myself

Most men would rather receive an electric shock than sit quietly and think for 15 minutes, according to an experiment devised by some nasty-minded scientists in the US.

The subjects were given a choice of doing nothing or administering unpleasant shocks to themselves, and two-thirds chose the latter option.

Introspection is not a terribly male trait, is it?

Women were far less likely to give themselves electric shocks when they had the opportunity ― and there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest this was because they were confused by the instructions on the apparatus or expected men to press the button for them.

Well, all I can say, Rod, is that women would much rather set fire to your teddy bear. Which is a worry.

Baby Winston

“Prince Harry isn’t alone in thinking Prince George ‘looks like a young Winston Churchill’. To me, most babies look like him. The rest resemble pickled prunes, so George is lucky.” Peter Saunders of Salisbury, Wiltshire, in a letter to The Sunday Telegraph.

Now that did make me smile ― and resembling a pickled prune didn’t stop my mother insisting that I’d been born lucky.

And crucially, I believed her. (These things are very much in the mind.)


About a week ago I compared and contrasted the well documented and historical samba style of Brazilian football ― with the ruthlessly efficient marching band style of the Germans.

Even so, and like everyone else, I was quite astonished at what I watched tonight.

I shall sleep on it.

PS: Yesterday I finished my smile of the day thus: If you personally know any Germans, be very, very nice to them...

The advice still stands. With lederhosen and bells on...

Monday, July 7th

Tour de Fun lands in England

Silsden, a very civil parish in West Yorkshire,
 welcomes very civil riders to The Tour 2014

Once upon a bike...

IT ALL began some four years ago. One idle July afternoon, I was zapping through the television channels, as is my wont ― after all I am a bloke ― and I landed on Eurosport, and something called the Tour de France was in full flow.

I mean, I had no particular interest in bike racing, and I was aware of the famous race, but no more than that.

However, I was instantly hooked.

It wasn’t so much the delightful and absolute doolallyness of the race itself with its mad and exceedingly entertaining followers, but mostly the glorious helicopter shots of France.

Having never been to France ― no particular reason, just one of those things ― I was captivated by the variety and spectacular beauty of the country.

And being from farming stock I could see clearly what they farmed, and just as importantly, how they set about it. As a man of the Towy Valley, it was truly fascinating.

And I become a fan...

“We’re just going to draw the raffle now”

Then two years ago, someone called Bradley Wiggins suddenly appeared at the head of the race ― and duly won. Indeed, how could we forget the opening line of his victory speech, quoted above.

Last year Chris Froome ― or Va Va Froome as some wits have christened him ― won the 100th edition of the race.

I now watch bike races from around the world.

And do you know, since I began following these cycling Grand Tours on television, I have learned more about the history and geography of the places they visit than I ever did at school, thanks to those breathtaking helicopter shots and the worthy efforts of the commentators to explain and entertain.

And then, three days ago, here was the Tour de France, in England. Yorkshire, to be precise.

Germans on top

Didn’t you just know it? The perfect opening day, which begged for a British winner, what with Kate, William and Harry present and correct ― Brit Mark Cavendish was one of the favourites but crashed on the home straight ― ended with the Duchess of Cambridge presenting German Marcel Kittel with the first stage Yellow Jersey.

And having won Stage 3 again, today, I must say that Kittel comes across as a most agreeable sort of fellow. The sort of chap you really wouldn’t mind seeing moving in next door. How ironic.

Between you, me and the crash barrier, the Germans are already wearing the Yellow Jersey in the European Union anyway ― yes of course, there are a few stages left to run before they climb the podium in Brussels to officially claim first place ― but watch this space.

Oh, and there’s the World Cup semi-final against Brazil tomorrow night.

If you personally know any Germans, be very, very nice to them...

Spell-cheque corner: Would you believe it.  The town of ‘Silsden’, featured at the top in the smiley pic of the bike crash, came up as ‘Slide’. I dont care how clever you are, you would be hard pressed to come up with such a glorious alternative.

Sunday, July 6th

Feeling frisky

IN THE face of a new extremist bomb threat to transatlantic aircraft, the government has announced a dramatic increase in airport security amid fears in the US that terrorists in Syria and Yemen were developing explosives that could be smuggled on to planes undetected.

And theres that curious business that mobile phones must be fully charged before being taken aboard flights.

Which must make all air travellers rather nervous. But I did enjoy how The Daily Telegraph’s  MATT  was able to manufacture a smile out of something so serious.

But that is the talent that all the great cartoonists are blessed with.

Looking at the cartoon, I found myself wondering if I had any suitable images in my picture files. After all, I’ve taken hundreds of snaps of birds landing on my outstretched hand to grab a quick nibble.

And I did come across this, which tickled me no end.

The Candy Man becomes a Jobsworth

“I know you’re only off to the field next door –
but a security check is a security check”

Saturday, July 5th

Oh what a curious civil war

You say, look you

YESTERDAY I mentioned that there are three specific newspaper columns that pull me in.

There’s the Letters  pages (not strictly columns, but you know what I mean), and then there’s the ‘They said what?’ celebrity quotes in the Western Mail.

I never got round to the third.

Well, The Sunday Times  Culture Magazine features a weekly ‘You say’ column, where readers are invited to submit comments about television and radio programmes. And indeed their thoughts on the programme makers themselves.

It’s a hoot. And I hardly watch any television. Most of the time I have no idea what ‘You sayers’ are on about, but the comments are rarely less than entertaining.

So much so, last Christmas, Culture’s holiday edition covered the whole two week period, and because there was so much programme information to pack in, the ‘You say’ column was dropped.

So I sent in my own comment, with tongue slightly in cheek ― and Culture duly printed it after the holiday:

Withdrawal symptoms

The outrage, the insight, the wit, the wisdom, the appreciation, the delightful doolallyness ― I am suffering withdrawal symptoms with no You say fix in the Culture Christmas edition. Welcome back.

Anyway, each day the main television page will include a ‘You say’ corner which will feature comments from readers. So each morning, as I peruse the TV and radio listings to see if there’s anything on telly or radio which might appeal, I always read the comments.

Well now, yesterday morning, the day’s comments were taken up by responses to a previous contributor. The original did not ring a bell, but as always I keep the papers for a month or so, just in case I need to refer back, so I looked up the original comment...

And here it is ― the observations are clearly directed at the programme makers:


All the TV programmes have become so boring. All you seem to do is create ghastly hospital programmes and endless cooking programmes, which include simply disgusting food. Masterchef is nothing more than a disaster ― so many ingredients to disguise the real quality of the food.
     There are no more natural comedians ― you should come to Norfolk, where one thing leads to another. What has happened to your imagination? Do you rely on repeats as it is more economical?
     What we need is more romance, adventure, and not all those boring law cases, murders, etc.
     What you need is revolution and new ideas. Why don’t you employ somebody like Boris Johnson, or even Nigel Farage? Too scared? Rightly so.
     I never watch anything on the television anymore. It is just so stale, and why do we have to pay for a television licence if we have such distaste for the many rubbishy programmes you expect viewers to watch?
Sarah Holt-Wilson
                                    15-Love to Roundhead Sarah, I’d say.

Okay. Now here are the responses ― and this is precisely why I enjoy ‘You say’ so much:


My goodness, Sarah Holt-Wilson’s fiery rant against all things “telly” was excellent. I don’t agree with anything she said but you have to admire her energy.
     One point though: she says she never watches anything on television, so how can she comment? However, I give her full marks for ferocity.
Diane Allen

For someone who says she doesn’t watch television, Sarah H-W has an awful lot to say about it. Maybe if she watched occasionally she would find it isn’t quite as bad as she thinks it is.
Pam Maybury

If Sarah Holt-Wilson no longer watches her TV then she need not buy a licence. An acquaintance of mine only watches DVDs and hasn’t bought a licence for years.
Anne Colman


How on earth do her views qualify for publication in ‘You say’? Do people not read their own letters and realise what they are saying makes no sense whatsoever?
Les Driver

                                         Game to the Cavaliers

So there, Sarah Holt-Wilson.

Well blow me, on today’s TV page, there was this comment:

Play again

Thank you so much for printing my letter. Probably the first and last letter I will ever have printed.
     I have been teased by the whole family and friends. It is so good to make friends laugh in these desperate times, I feel so sorry for people in the Middle East and further afield who can never have the peace of mind that we have in some areas in England.
     I will say no more, but a huge thank you for publishing my letter ― everyone who has spoken to me agrees with my views.
Sarah Holt-Wilson

Everyone, Sarah? Are they afraid of incurring your wrath or what?

Whatever, you were exceedingly good value ― and I was inspired to submit this comment:

Roundheads vs. Cavaliers

‘You say’ has to be the most amusing of British newspaper columns; it is also the equivalent of a radio phone-in, or even TV’s Question Time.
     On the one side you have the Roundheads, the 10% of the population, the rabble, who are driven doolally by every issue under the sun and insist it is only their opinion that counts ― on the other the Cavaliers, the 10%, the loyal servants, who feel just as strongly about maintaining the status quo.
     In the middle sit the great unwashed, we the perplexed 80% whose reactions range between LOL and SOL (Scream Out Loud).
     The authoritative ‘You say’ example was Roundhead Sarah Holt-Wilson’s list of complaints about things she never watches ― and the delightful responses from the Cavaliers (Diane Allen, Pam Maybury Anne Colman and Les Driver).
     Keep ‘em coming folks.
PS: The Cavaliers seem a lot more fun ― and as a fashion statement the Cavalier hat is way ahead of the game.

As I say, ‘You say’ is a rather smiley experience.

Oh yes, as someone who is not as well up on things Roundheads and Cavaliers, as one should be, I had a nose around on YouTube ― and found this delightful singy-songy contribution...

Horrible Histories: the English Civil War Song...

Friday, July 4th

Emin: The bedrock of modern doolallyness. Amen.

Attention grabbers

THERE are three sorts of newspaper columns that draw me in like a magnet.

The first is not strictly a column, but rather, the Letters  page. Always full of insight, wit and wisdom. For example:

Throttle back

“Tracey Emin’s controversial artwork, her unmade bed, which has just been sold by millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi for £2.2 million, must be a fake. My teenage daughter insists she bought it three years ago and that it’s been in her bedroom ever since.” Sandra Parsons of Keston, Kent, in the Daily Mail.

What is extraordinary is that people can now buy artworks of “millionaire art collector” Charles Saatchi publicly throttling Nigella Lawson at Scott
’s restaurant last year ― and even loopier, Saatchi stands to profit from what is now called “throttle art”...


Saatchi Art is the ironic shop of choice for these prints, and Charles Saatchi enjoys a minority interest in this online shop (which takes a 30% cut of all sales).

The whole world is mad, except for thee and me ― etc, etc...

Handy landline

“So Harry Wallop isn’t going to miss his landline. How else will he find his misplaced mobile phone?”
im Matthews of London NW1, in The Daily Telegraph.

Very good. Also Tim, out in the country, beyond the confines of the M25, a mobile signal can often be problematic. And a landline works through a power cut (indeed, major power cuts such as happened last winter, and lasted for more than a week in some parts, will knock out transmitters as well, so no signals for mobile use).

Hawking’s joke

“The ‘joke’ told by Stephen Hawking about the building of an intelligent computer which is asked the ultimate question ‘Is there a God?’ (Answer: ‘There is now’) is, as I am sure he would acknowledge, derived from a short story by Fredric Brown, Answer (1954).” Alan Nisbett of Steyning in West Sussex, in The Times

Hang on, hang on: I thought
I  was God, and this whole madness we call the Universe is all unfolding inside my imagination. Or, if you are reading this, then you are God, and I am just a figment of your imagination.

Anyway, on with your Letters  show...


“It is interesting that among the Wimbledon commentators, Mark Petchey is familiarly referred to as Petch. Had his actual name been Petch he would probably have been called Petchy.”
Peter Hamilton of London SE3, in the Telegraph.


“Wimbledon is quintessentially English (well, except for the bottled water, which is quintessentially French).
John Holmes of Matlock, in the Mail.

Alight, going out

“Recently, when our train was held up at Clapham Junction, the guard advised us to ‘detrain’ When were railway passengers last invited to ‘alight’?” Patricia Nice of Tilford, Surrey, in the Telegraph.

Or even to “get off?

Setting the place alight  

“Patricia Nice was told to ‘detrain’. A headline in our local newspaper ran: ‘Fire on bus, passengers alight’.”
D B Davies of Aberystwyth in Cardiganshire, responds to Patricia.

Incidentally, do you suppose Patricia Nice pronounces her surname nice or Nice? I suppose it depends how nice immediate members of the Nice family are.

Give us a clew

“It’s no good telling us that the sail of the AC72 catamarans in the last America’s Cup race was the same size as a Boeing 747 wing. We want to know how many cricket pitches you can fit into it.”
Tony Phillips of Chalfont St Giles, in The Times.

Precisely, Tony Phillips. Who the hell can relate to the size of a Jumbo’s wing ― and I’ve stood directly under one, somewhere in Africa, as I recall.

Be all that as it may, I presume that the headline “Give us a clew” had to be some sort of joke or pun, no? So I reached for the dictionary:
“Naut. Either of the lower corners of a square sail or the after lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail.”

Every day a day at school.

And my second daily port and stilton of call?

My next favourite column is “They said what?” in the Western Mail,  quotes of the day which encompass the doolally, the curious, the tease, the funny ― and of course, the wise. For example, first up...

The doolally:

“David Cameron is incredibly witty, incredibly bright, and incredibly genuine.” Helena Bonham Carter, 48, English actress who sees absolutely no wrong in the Prime Minister and his wardrobe full of Magic Suits.

The curious:

“The first time I went to Wales I thought I had landed in a land of hobbits. Everybody was really small and the houses were small and the writing was backwards.” David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff, 61, American celebrity, who has a Welsh girlfriend, Hayley Roberts, 33.

I though at first that The Hoff had been reading too much RAC Gill ― oops, sorry, Green Flag Gill ― bugger, I’ll get it right in a moment ― AA Gill (phew!) ― who famously described us Welsh as “loquacious, dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls”.

Lol, as they say. After all, the day you allow a wanker to get under your skin, well, you’re buggered.

The Twitter Tease:

“Rabbit ate my parsley. I am eating the rabbit.” Jeanette Winterson, 54, English writer, broadcaster and activist, who enraged animal lovers with her Tweets, which included pictures of one really gutted bunny.

The funny:

“I phoned the local gym and I asked if they could teach me how to do the splits. The fellow said ‘How flexible are you?’. I said ‘I can’t make Tuesdays’.” Tim Vine, 47, English comedian and master of the one-liner.

The wise:

“A great reputation is like virginity. It can be preserved but not restored.” Warren Buffett, 83, American business magnate and philanthropist.

What a great quote that is. And well worthy of a repeat.

A senior BBC figure, Alan Yentob, said on television recently that the BBC had lost the public’s trust following all the scandals ― Savile, the huge pay offs to senior figures, etc, etc ― but trust was slowly but surely being regained.

Er, I guess Warren Buffett has my vote.

Oh yes, that third newspaper column which ensures my daily attention?

To be continued...

Thursday, July 3rd

Come in, come in

Wicked Willie rides again...

All hail the Nouveau-Queenie

  “I DO have a real cock ... a psychic cock ... I do ― I mean, I love my vagina, but maybe it’s that that’s got me here, I don’t know...”
There is nothing like a Dame: Dame Helen Mirren, 68, English actress, collects her Glamour Icon award at Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year Awards ― and seemingly intent on convincing us that she really is nothing like a Dame..

And actors wonder why we call them “luvvies”.

Anyway, it seems that host Graham Norton had joked earlier in the evening that he couldn’t receive an award because he had a “cock”. Are you sure about that, Graham? Perhaps you have a real fanny? Or a psychic fanny?

Dame Helen rose to the Norton challenge, clearly. Mind you, if it was only “cock” and “vagina” she tickled her audience with ― phew! She is normally quite addicted to rampant obscenity during these occasions.

Dame Helen, bless, would feel quite at home in the Asterisk Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower.

Caught on the horniness of a Davina

  “I do have quite a few tattoos. I have a pair of horns on my hips so when I am wearing a bikini it looks like there is some sort of goat down my pants.” Davina McCall, 46, English television presenter ― who has hosted a show called The Jump, ho, ho, ho!

As long as its not the ghost of famous yesteryear prime minister David Lloyd George hiding down there, you’ll be fine, Davina ― you know, the fellow who knew all our grandfathers, nudge-nudge, wink-wink (Lloyd George was known as the randy old goat of politics, the Old Shaggy of his day).

**** plaques

As English Heritage tightens up on its blue plaque awards, it seems that
Dame Elizabeth Taylor was denied such an honour (she was born in London to American parents and held dual citizenship of the UK and the US).

By coincidence, Radio Cymru, the Welsh language wireless station, recently revisited an interview between two celebrities no longer with us: Ivor Emmanuel, one of the stars of the film Zulu, and the great rugby legend and character Ray Gravell.

Ivor spoke of his friendship with Richard Burton, both hailing from the same village in South Wales.

Apparently, Burton had been pencilled in for a main role in Zulu, but given his rather wild lifestyle at that time, he was considered too high risk for the trip to Africa. He was instead signed up for his distinctive delivery of the opening and closing narration to the film.

Anyway, Ivor Emmanuel went on to talk about his memorable first encounter with Elizabeth Taylor. No, it wasn’t her beauty or her distinctive violet eyes he recalled, but it was the first time he had ever heard a woman swear.

And it was no slip of the tongue either; she swore like a trooper from the 24th Regiment of Foot (Ivor and Ray had, remember, been discussing Zulu).

How odd then that Helen Mirren’s dodgy language has its genesis in Elizabeth Taylor’s method communication.

Even more remarkable is the notion that two such talented and good looking women lack self-esteem, to the extent that they need the prop of talking in tongues (obscene) to hide their insecurity.

Perhaps English Heritage should revisit their Elizabeth Taylor blue plaque denial ― but offer instead a different kind of blue plaque.

Wednesday, July 2nd

Kick start every day with a smile

Al Paca goes Al Truism

THE Rzeszów University of Information Technology and Management Centre Zoo in Poland has imported a crew of alpacas ― 35 females and 3 males (lucky boyos) ― from Chile.

The delightful animals are to be used in children’s therapy.

How wonderful. But never mind children, they would work wonders for many adults ― especially politicians.

Incidentally, see at the very bottom, left, of the above photo ... where did  they get that little straw hat?

Anyway, sticking to the smile trail...

Three little piggies

If you don’t eat you don’t crap ... and if you don’t crap you die
(and that’s why politicians are purveyors of quality crap)

Chewing the fat

Labour leader Ed Miliband (along with brother David) should stay clear of  photo shoots, especially so those involving food in any shape or form.

Last month, Ed (that’s him on the right, above) did what for the rest of us would be a perfectly normal thing to do: he enjoyed a bacon sarnie at a café in New Covent Garden in London ― a photo shoot to keep Labour supporters onside.

And yes, it backfired spectacularly.

For Twitter’s Photoshoppers it was a gift from the gods. They transposed the image of him scoffing his ham roll onto a memorable cross-section of scenes familiar to us from yesteryear.

The Telegraph  has a marvellous gallery of the Twitterati’s efforts ― including the one of the three little piggies, above ― and it all kicks-off with the actual photo that triggered imaginations all over the land.

I particularly liked this online comment:

Gompei: That weren’t no bacon tree, that were an ‘am bush.

How true. And what a self-inflicted ambush it were.

The gallery is well worth a quick click:


Tuesday, July 1st

Paul, the choosy cephalopod, 2010

Happy Birthday, etc...

FOUR years have passed, unbelievably, since I launched the daily aspect of this Smile of the Day scrapbook cum diary.

And even more remarkably, I haven’t missed a day, excepting those two computer breaks ― a few days in September 2012 when I changed my computer; and then back in April this year when the software that lifts this whole caboodle up onto the internet called it a day and had to be replaced (including the 100,000 click service, of course).

So not bad. In fact, I’m about to take a bit of a break ― or at least a more restricted contribution. But more of that a few days further down the line.

Anyway, I had a look at what made me smile back in July 2010...

Oh, ref

The football World Cup was on ― out in South Africa. Oh yes, and those dreaded vuvuzelas were going full blast and sounding like a swarm of bees going berserk inside your head, and driving everyone doolally.

And, the star of 2010 was Paul the Octopus, the only faultless superstar of World Cup 2010 with his remarkable run of predictions. There he is up there, on today’s Welcome mat.

Yes, the whole world was just as doolally back then. Thank the Lord.

Paul the psychic octopus maintained his flawless performance in the final by correctly predicting Spain’s victory over Holland.

Dubbed the “oracle octopus”, punters gambled on the mystic mollusc’s predictions and duly won around half-a-million squid ― sorry, quid ― during the month-long tournament, at least according to bookmakers William Hill.

What I liked back then was the conspiracy theorists. Sceptics suggested that somehow or other, Paul the Octo in his tank was being manipulated towards the correct flag.

But as I concluded, that meant a human being was actually making those astonishing predictions ― on Paul’s behalf.

And that was even more impressive than a bloody octopus making the call.

Having said all that, Paul has a lot to answer for.

During this year’s tournament there is no escaping the bloody psychic animals: there’s Yalu the Elephant, Flopsy the Kangaroo, Madame Shiva the Guinea Pig, Big Head the Turtle, Alastair Campbell the Donkey (so I believe) ― and here in Wales, Nanny the Goat.

Gimme strength.

Yes, Paul has many pretenders, mostly copycat candidates proposed by those seeking to boost visitor footfall or readership ― how gullible we are ― but none with the accuracy or animal magic of the choosy cephalopod.

Earlier, I mentioned the dreaded vuvuzelas. And yesterday I discussed the magic of Brazilian football down the years. Well now...

Tall and tanned and young and lovely

Something has been amiss watching Brazil at this World Cup. No, it’s not the quality of the Brazilian football ― even the best team in the world is allowed the occasional blip ― but something much more basic.

It’s the support inside the stadia.

Where’s the music, the drums, the samba...? Yes, the pretty girls from Ipanema are there in droves ― but where’s the rhythm of the crowd?

Or is it that I am not picking it up over the non-stop waffling of commentators and pundits?

Time, surely, for all sports broadcasts to offer us the red button option of no commentary, just the background sounds ― as if we are actually there, inside the stadium.

There must be very few viewers who need to be told that the round thing is the football; and that those players with high numbers on their backs are frustrated U-Boat captains i.e. whenever they enter the penalty box a little voice inside their head goes: “Dive! Dive! Dive!

Yes, where has  that samba disappeared to?


                                                                   Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2014: Jun
                                                                   Smile of the day 2014: May
Smile of the day 2014: Apr             Smile of the day 2013: Dec
Smile of the day 2014: Mar             Smile of the day 2013: Nov
                                                                   Smile of the day 2014: Feb             Smile of the day 2013: Oct
 Smile of the day 2014: Jan          Smile of the day 2013: Sep
Smile of the day 2013: Aug
Smile of the day 2013: Jul
Smile of the day 2013: Jun
Smile of the day 2013: May
Smile of the day 2013: Apr
Smile of the day 2013: Mar
Smile of the day 2013: Feb

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

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

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


You are here, way out west,
at Llandeilo

aka Llandampness
aka Dodgy City



Previously on LOOK YOU......

Smile of the day 2014: Jun
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)

Sep to Dec '07

June to Aug '07
March to May '07

As it was in the beginning:

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

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

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

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