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MY SQUARE MILE
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400 Smiles A Day
It seems that
the artist Leonardo da Vinci kept a notebook, Notes to Self,
a list of “things to do today”: buy paper; charcoal; chalk ...
describe tongue of woodpecker and jaw of crocodile...
These are my Notes to Self, a daily record of
the things that make me smile and which brighten up my day no
end, whether read in a newspaper, seen on TV, heard on the
radio, told in the pub, spotted in the supermarket, a good joke,
a great story, a funny cartoon, a film clip, an eye-catching
picture, a memorable song, something startling that nevertheless generates a spontaneous smile, curiosities spotted
along my walks through the Towy Valley...
This is a snapshot of life beyond the blue horizon...
everyday a doolally smile of the day
The shortest distance between two people is a smile ...
Sunday, August 31st, 2014
August 2014: sunrise, Dinefwr Park, Llandeilo
What is this life if, full of
We have no time to stand and stare?
William Henry Davies
YESTERDAY week, I speculated that, this year, Mother Nature had
forgotten to put her clock forward a month.
Everything in 2014 has been at
least a month earlier than the norm. The early mornings of late really
have been quite chilly ― and ubiquitous autumn mists have been the norm.
However, this morning’s sunrise was
beautiful, the air temperature agreeably short-sleeve-ish, from early ―
indeed, the forecasters are promising us a pleasantly warm beginning to
Still, nature’s autumn signposts
So I thought I’d share with you a
couple of photographs captured along my morning walk through the Towy
On today’s welcome mat, the rising
sun captured on Dinefwr Park. The wafting meadow mist quickly burns
away. Oh, and I liked that single con-trail as the plane heads for an
early-morning landing at Heathrow. Probably.
A week ago I also featured the
horse chestnut tree, its rite of passage from that large sticky bud that
looked alarmingly like The Scream (the painting by Edvard Munch) ―
via its beautiful candelabra-like flower that pulls in all the bees ― to
the fruit and the prickly casing that gives us the conker which will
eventually deliver the next generation.
The horse chestnut tree is the
first to take on its autumnal coat of glorious colours ― and this
morning I was captivated by this smashing scene...
Act IV, Scene I
“Oddly oddly onker, my first conker!”
A glorious horse chestnut slowly
morphs into its autumnal coat ... to the left, as we look, a sweet
chestnut holds on firmly to its default colour ... and to its
left, another horse chestnut, just beginning to take on its autumnal
And the conkers beckon.
(On finding your first conker of the season, it is wise
to say “Oddly oddly onker, my first conker!”
― this ensures good fortune and few tangles throughout the coming
What a handsome and smiley way to wave goodbye to August
and meteorological summer.
Saturday, August 30th
were to take part in this curious Ice Bucket Challenge currently doing
the online rounds to promote awareness and raise money for motor neurone
disease research, I would insist on holding an umbrella over my head.
Worthy as the cause is, it strikes me as a form of bullying. As indeed a
Sheila Corbishley points out in a letter to The Daily Telegraph,
adding, “people either want to donate or they don’t; they shouldn’t be harassed
into doing it”.
all that as it may, it has thrown up some smiley moments, none more so
than a piece in The Times.
Journalist Hugo Rifkind does an exceedingly witty
“My Week” diary of
people who have been hitting the headlines, usually for blush-inducing
reasons, little somethings they would rather we forgot all about.
week though, Rifkin did something different, he linked his diary to a
‘thing’ rather than the usual individual, in particular the afore
mentioned Ice Bucket Challenge.
to Hugo ― but first...
My week: Harrods ice bucket department
it’s been a strange week. First clue I had that something was up was
when Tony Blair and his wife came in, to buy an ice bucket.
need an ice bucket,” he says.
come to the right place,” I tell him.
I still don’t understand why,” says the wife.
“Because I have always done what I believe is right,” says Blair. “And
George told me to.”
Cherie says that lots of his old friends must have very nice ice
buckets, and she doesn’t see why he couldn’t just borrow one of them.
Tony says he’d thought of that, but Mubarak isn’t in charge of his own
ice bucket any more, and Gaddafi’s was seen being worn as a hat on the
head of somebody riding an armoured car on the way to Mali.
while he’s sure Cliff’s would still be fine, he isn’t prepared to risk
“Anyway,” says Cherie, “what are you even supposed to do with this ice
bucket?” And Tony frowns and says he has to fill it up and pour it over
Because George already has. After Donald Rumsfeld told him to. “And
would George jump in front of a bus if Donald Rumsfeld told him to?”
“Well, probably,” says Tony. And then they buy a big shiny gold one.
next day, it’s only Piers Morgan. He’s on the phone from LA. “I’m on the
phone from LA,” he says.
“Oooh, how impressive,” I say. As per the written instructions we have
here on the bit of paper with ‘WHAT TO DO IF PIERS MORGAN CALLS’ at the
he says he needs an ice bucket.
“Thought you might,” I say. “My friends say they’ll tell me why later,”
“Wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise,” say I.
apparently it also needs to be able to hold battery acid, broken glass
and spiky rocks,” he says, as though reading from a list.
“Nice friends,” say I.
Gwyneth Paltrow also wants an ice bucket. Only hers has to be
sure we’ve got them,” I say.
Tibetan crystal, she says. Or petrified redwood. Or anything else that
makes other people feel that their own inferior ice buckets reflect
badly upon their life choices. “That’s the only kind we sell,” I tell
she says she also needs some special ice cubes, of particular high
“Alas madam,” I say. “This is the Ice Bucket Department. And you’ll be
wanting the Fleece Credulous Celebrities Department.”
they put me on to you,” she says.
today it’s only Russell Brand and Jemima Khan. “Forsooth me old mucker,”
says Brand. “Could thee perchance assist us in our quest for an ice
wish people would stop asking me that. I mean, I’m the fuckin’ Ice
delectable lady friend,” continues Brand, “has demanded that I purchase
one forthwith. Although I am a monkey’s uncle, me old chimeroo, if I
pour over your head,” says Khan.
wash me ‘air?” says Brand.
“Yes,” says Khan.
She’s joking, I say. Because it’s actually to raise money and awareness
for motor neuron disease.
“Don’t know anything about that,” says Khan.
people all over the world are doing it, I tell her. It’s a massive
shrugs. “Maybe they also want him to wash his hair,” she says.
Boris Johnson comes storming in, looking confused, and says he’s been
told he needs a nice blanket.
you sure?” I say.
“No,” he says, and storms out again.
Well done, Hugo, an exceedingly perfect Boris. And an even more perfect
bit of scrapbook-cum-diary material. I could read that
piece for ever more and a day ― and still smile and giggle. It captures the
characters involved to perfection.
I particularly like the fact that it’s the Ice Bucket Department that
uses obscene language, rather than the usual suspect, Russell Brand.
Very clever. (Incidentally, on the printed page The Times
deployed the f-word in asterisk form.)
On the subject of obscene language...
Bless my soul
Three-year-old Scarlett-Rose Davis,
from Walsall, West Midlands, begged her grandparents to let her take
part in the ice bucket craze currently taking the world by storm.
But grandmother Carla Davis-Ball,
said she “could have died” when the little girl blurted out “fuckin’
hell” after the shock of having an icy bucket of water tipped over her
head ― and the episode was all caught on camera.
I’ve seen the clip on YouTube ― and
it is funny. Mostly because the little girl has no idea what she
is really saying. But three years of age? And why would her family post it online?
I am reminded of the time when I
first used such language in front of my parents. And I used both the
f-word and the c-word in a six-word onslaught. A double whammy. “Look at that f***** c*** go!”
I excitedly said pointing at a passing car. (I can’t
even bring myself to say it properly a lifetime later.)
I would have been about eight,
I guess, perhaps nine, and I would have picked up the words at school from older
pupils, and obviously not having a clue what they meant but they sounded
impressive, given the way they were deployed. Much like the little girl,
who would have obviously picked it up at home.
My parents were clearly shocked ―
but they were fairly laid-back characters and made no big fuss, they
simply told me in a rather firm manner that I should never, ever use those words again. And I
never, ever swore again in front of my parents.
In fact, I have managed to stroll
through time without
swearing, only occasionally breaking the glass case inside my head when I bang my
finger with a hammer, or on those exceedingly rare occasions when I’ve
lost my cool with someone and violence is simply not an option.
It is a funny old world out there.
Friday, August 29th
Tales of the Unexpected, Letters to the Editor, Columns and Jokes
THERE is so much stuff out there dedicated to tickling my smileometer ―
am spoilt for choice. For example:
The Good Book
My good friends
Chief Wise Owl and Mrs What A Hoot are safely tucked up in bed.
nightmare is unfolding:
a burglar is tiptoeing
about the lounge,
flashlight in hand ― when he suddenly hears a whisper: “Jesus is
He freezes and switches off his
light ... it goes all
quiet ... the burglar thinks it’s his over-active imagination and shrugs
it off. He continues his search ... but soon the voice, again, now quite
a bit louder: “Jesus is watching you!”
The burglar is suddenly scared
stiff. He stops dead in his tracks. “JESUS IS WATCHING YOU!”
He uses his flashlight to frantically search the room to find where the
sound is coming from.
He then spots a large parrot in a
cage in the corner of the room. His shoulders relax. “Was that you who
said Jesus is watching?” whispers the burglar.
“Yes,” says the parrot.
Highly relieved the burglar then
asks the parrot: “So what’s your name?”
“Moses?” the burglar chortles.
“That’s a stupid name for a parrot. What idiot named you Moses?”
“The same idiot who named the
Rottweiler in the other corner of the room Jesus.”
never thought of Chief Wise Owl as an idiot. There again, we all have
our blind spots.
Letters to The Times Editor:
Sir, I have just seen a high-vis
jacket on Clifton suspension bridge with “Explainer” printed on the
Means guide, I suppose.
SALLY SPARKS, Bristol
“Custom, then, is the great guide of human life.”
David Hume (1711-1776) ― Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding
Sir, When I recently rang my car
insurer to question the cost of the breakdown cover I’d been quoted, the
person I spoke to expressed his surprise at the rather large sum by
I’m all for informality in phone calls, but a few days
later someone at a government office ended our phone conversation by
signing off with “Laters!”.
DR MARIN DURRANI, Bristol
a fellow at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon who always says “Hellos”,
Mr Full Stop
Sir, I was having a conversation
with a rather bellicose county council road-man this week, who
repeatedly ended his sentences with “end of”. Is this a new fashion of
speaking punctuation, question mark.
ROGER PORTER, Whaddon, Bucks
I think it was last year I was
watching on TV a reluctant politician being interviewed while on the
have nothing more to add, end of,” he said. The interviewer kept
pressing the fellow ― and he kept ending his every brief response with
of”. It was all rather amusing. I did try to find it online, but sadly
no luck, end of.
Away from the letters, this from The Times Feedback
column, compliments of Rose Wild:
One man went to wow
Last week we published a fine
photograph of “the world’s first powered lawnmower”, 100 years old,
which has been proudly restored by Andrew Hall of Somerset.
Not to be outdone, the delightfully named Cynthia
Hayday emailed from Wortwell, Norfolk, to claim a place for her own
treasured antique: “I have an 88 year old (reluctant) lawn mower,” she
writes. “My husband.”
Yes indeed: Cynthia Hayday. An exceedingly wonderful name. Made even
better when it’s mentioned in dispatches by a Rose Wild.
And again from The Times, David Finkelstein’s Notebook
My oldest son has reached the age
where he is able to stay at home by himself. He is perfectly competent,
but that doesn’t stop Nicky and me being slightly nervous about it.
The last time we went out, we received what must be the
perfect text. It read simply: “Mum, how do I turn off the smoke alarm?”
Next, heard on the wireless, compliments of Alex Lester: “Time for some
ballistic statistics [BS], made-up stats, and frankly they’re all
plausible, in a bizarre sort of way. This from Malc, who never
Of TV presenters Ant and Dec, Ant
has two negatively magnetic arms and Dec has one negative and one
positive magnetic arm. That is why they always stand next to each other
in the same order.
The last time they switched sides they stuck together
and the floor manager had to use Cat Deeley to prise them apart. Ant is
always the one on the left...
There, when you next see Ant and Dec ... you will wonder and smile
regarding those magnetic
arms of theirs.
One more BS:
Six out of seven
dwarves are not Happy.
And this tale from the doctor’s surgery:
A woman and a baby boy are in the consultation room awaiting the
child’s first examination. The doctor duly examines the baby, checks his
weight, and being a little concerned, asks if the baby is breast-fed or
“Breast-fed,” the lady replies.
“Well, strip down to your waist,” the doctor says. She
does. He pinches her nipples, presses, kneads, and rubs both breasts for
a while in a very professional and detailed examination. Motioning to
her to get dressed, the doctor says: “No wonder this baby is
underweight. You don’t have any milk.”
“I know,” she says, “I’m his Grandma. But I’m glad I
And finally, memories of Benny Hill, compliments of a brief online
Pine: I think it was
the early 70s when the perfume “Charlie” was advertised everywhere.
Benny Hill, bless him, slipped into a sketch this immortal line: “I
could smell her Charlie from the other side of the room.”
SeeBeeUK: That doesn’t make
any kind of sense, which is the main requirement of a joke.
Charlies ― slang ― women’s BREASTS.
Whitestones: Charlie is
also the phonetic alphabet word for the letter “C” ― and suddenly it
makes perfectly clear sense.
for my 5* smile of the day. Honestly, there are so many clever and witty
people out there dedicated to making my stroll through life a thing of
Do you know, if I
were still piloting, I’d
burst out laughing whenever I had to use
You see, the plane I learnt to fly on, a Piper Cherokee, had the call sign Golf ―
Alpha, Victor, Lima, Charlie.
Thursday, August 28th
David Coleman, who died in December 2013, aged 87
YESTERDAY, I smiled at
Colemanballs, the term coined by Private Eye magazine to describe
verbal gaffes perpetrated by sports commentators.
David Coleman was
famous for them, hence the eponymous expression.
Here are some more
fascinating dots joined together, compliments of Wikipedia:
The term “balls” was first
associated with David Coleman in 1957 when he was at BBC Midlands, Sutton
Coldfield, presenting a Saturday night 15-minute roundup of the day’s
football in the Midlands.
A technical hitch occurred and
there was a black-out, but Coleman could be heard calling out to the
technician in the studio: “Trust you to make a balls of that.”
Coleman’s association with these
verbal slips is so strong that he is often given erroneous credit for
the earliest example specifically referenced as a Colemanball; in fact
the broadcaster responsible was fellow BBC commentator Ron Pickering.
At the 1976 Summer Olympics in
Montreal, Pickering commentated on a race involving Cuban double-gold
medallist Alberto Juantorena, whose muscular build and nine-foot stride
contributed to his nickname El Caballo (the horse). Pickering
said “and there goes Juantorena down the back straight, opening his legs
and showing his class.”
[I actually remember it. Especially
so as the name Alberto Juantorena had that
ring about it.]
In terms of classification of the
individual examples, these fall into a number of distinct groups
including: tautologies such as “Stronsay is an island surrounded by sea”
and Coleman’s own “He’s 31 this year ― last year he was 30”;
unintentional juxtapositions where the viewer/listener knows what is
meant such as “Brendan Foster, by himself, with 20,000 people”, or “I am
not a man of faith, but my wife is”; and complete nonsense such as “Here
they come, every colour of the rainbow: black, white, brown”.
Others include addition of
pointless words or non sequiturs, intended to add effect, as in: “He
came in from the outfield there like an absolute rabbit.”
One category with many examples
is the use of the word “literal” to mean “figurative”, as in “And he
missed the goal by literally a million miles”. In most cases it is
possible to see the speaker’s underlying intent, even if the delivery
has left something to be desired.
Yet another group is that of
unintended puns, such as “There were 150 drug-related deaths in Glasgow
last year, an all-time high” (“high” of course being slang for the
euphoric state induced by many drugs).
Perhaps the most famous
Colemanball is that of cricket commentator Brian Johnston announcing
that “The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey” on a BBC Radio Test
Match Special, although this may be apocryphal...
Hold the Willey
It seems the famous cricket sentence was
mentioned in a letter sent to Brian Johnston by a listener, pointing out
that he really must be more careful with his commentary and not say
things like “The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey”, which could
In fact, Johnston had no
recollection of ever saying the line ― indeed he would have loved to
have come out with it ― but the clue came at the end of the letter.
It was signed by a Miss Tess Tickle.
A name thing
“Apart from my own name, the
Transpennine Express is the greatest misnomer of all time.” Lord
Adonis, 51, British Labour Party politician and former transport
secretary, is unimpressed by rail links in the north of England.
The Adonis quote leads neatly to a piece by Rod Liddle in The Sunday
You may now kiss the Kiss
A woman found herself expunged
from Facebook after she got married because her new name was deemed “too
New Yorker Melinda Kiss married
Bob Flecker, so her name was Melinda Kiss-Flecker. It doesn’t seem
terribly suggestive to me, but then I’m not sure what, in this context,
a flecker is.
More to the point, the following
people all have Facebook accounts ― I know, because I spent and
enjoyably puerile 10 minutes looking them up: Eaton Beaver, Anita
Hanjaab, Mike Litoris and a charming young lady called Connie Lingus.
I don’t know if they’re all
Talking of friends:
“I don’t mind being disliked
by complete idiots.” Richard Dawkins, 73, English evolutionary
biologist, writer and celebrated atheist. God forbid (a joke).
Ah, but Richard, what happens when
you are disliked by those exceedingly clever people you know damn well you should admire?
Finally, having mentioned Brian Johnson and his cricket commentary, how
could I round off today’s smile without providing a link to 83 seconds
of pure magic, the famous Brian Johnson/Jonathan Agnew Test Match Special
I dare you not to smile XL:
Wednesday, August 27th
Hill and Bruce Forsyth compare their chinny-chin-chins
(back in the everything-is-black-and-white day)
BBC’s Match of
the Day celebrates its 50th anniversary
fascinated with Jimmy Hill’s chin,”
confessed comedian Jasper Carrott
back in the Eighties, when Hill was a popular presenter on Match of
the Day, BBC television’s main football programme.
“What an incredible chin it is. You could get pickles out of a jar with
Funny how some jokes stick
in the memory for ever and a day. Sadly, Jimmy Hill, now 86, is suffering from dementia.
Fair play though, he would take all the jokes about his
eye-catching chin on the ― well, the chin (note the photo up there, with
Bruce Forsyth, a mere pup in the chinny-chin-chin stakes).
Anyway, Match of the
This, from last weekend’s Sunday
Times Atticus column:
Handbags at dawn
As if the BBC were not in enough
trouble, what with stitching up Sir Cliff, it is facing another
controversy. To coincide with the 50th anniversary of Match of the Day,
a spat has broken out over who first wore the sheepskin coat beloved of
football commentators. It has always been attributed to John “Motty”
Not so, says rival commentator
Barry Davies. “I was actually wearing a sheepskin coat before [Motson]
had one,” he snaps.
“Ha,” responds Motty. “Mine was
full length, he only had the jacket.” This is the sort of row referred
to in football circles as “handbags” ― which would go very nicely with
And in tribute to
his sheepskin ― just one of his glorious and memorable
This all brings me
neatly to David Coleman. But first...
A term coined by Private Eye magazine to describe verbal
gaffes perpetrated by sports commentators. David Coleman was famous for
them, hence the affectionately eponymous term. For example:
the fastest time ever run ― but it’s not as fast as the world record.”
David Coleman, who died last
December, aged 87, was the face and voice of BBC Television sport for 40
years, the anchorman for the flagship Grandstand programme on Saturday
afternoons and later the affable host of the popular quiz A Question Of
He became a ubiquitous presenter on
the BBC. Indeed, I have on an audio cassette tape ― yes, I still listen
to those ― a Monty Python-style comedy sketch where the omnipresence of
Coleman as a BBC presenter is central to the routine.
However, what I’ve done here in
reproducing the sketch in script form is to substitute Coleman with today’s
television equivalent, the equally ubiquitous Clare Balding.
The only other dated presenter
named in the sketch is Cliff Michelmore (my goodness, he is now 94) ― so I will use, I
dunno, the all-pervasive broadcaster Jeremy Vine, brother of Tim, the master of the
So here we go. Just imagine it
being spoken at a furious, excitable, high octane/octave pace, the way
modern TV and radio trailers are presented.
On BBC1 tonight, at 7.30,
Top of the Kop, the great soccer song contest, compared
At 8 o’clock, it’s a great new
series of old films, This Great Soccer Life, tonight with Clare Balding.
Part two of Tuesday Night is
Football Night with Clare Balding will be shown tomorrow and the
Wednesday film will be shown on Thursday instead of Friday, that’s
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, starring Albert Finney, Shirley Anne
Field, Rachel Roberts, Hylda Baker ― and Clare Balding.
At 10.20 it’s Come Dancing with
the Clare Balding Formation Dancers, backed by Clare Balding and the
Clare Balding Orchestra ― and of course, Clare Balding.
The programme is introduced by
Jeremy Vine ― in conversation with Clare Balding.
Silly ― but it still makes me smile all these years later.
the same cassette tape there’s lots and lots of Kenny Everett.
Cuddly Ken once told the
following joke on his BBC Radio 2 show ― and which many believe led to
his wonderfully entertaining Saturday morning show being pulled.
“Once Britain was an empire, and we were ruled by
an emperor. Then Britain became a kingdom, and we were ruled by a king.
Now Britain is a country, and we are ruled by ... Margaret Thatcher.”
Actually, that sounds very much like a Tim Vine joke. And a good one,
I’m a sucker for a joke with a twist in the
tail. Sadly, the BBC of the Eighties, clearly wasn’t. But the
Corporation was up to other unspeakable things behind the Green Room
How times have changed.
Tuesday, August 26th
Jokes vs. Letters
to the Editor
“I decided to sell my Hoover ... well, it was just collecting dust.”
Dave last week announced the winner of its Funniest Joke of the
Edinburgh Fringe Award.
Vine, 47, renowned for his one-liners, won the prize for the second
time, for a joke featured in his sell-out show Timtiminee Timtiminee
Tim Tim To You.
There it is, up
there. And very good it is, too. But I would suggest that the title of his
show is even funnier and cleverer. I mean:
Timtiminee Timtiminee Tim Tim To You
a couple more jokes plucked off the Vine ― the Fringe Vine, that is:
“I've got a friend who has a butler whose left arm is missing ...
serves him right.”
“I saw Arnold Schwarzenegger eating a chocolate egg. I said, I bet I
know what your favourite Christian festival is. He said, ‘You have to
love Easter, baby’.”
Now I didn’t get
that last one ― just like a few other folk online ― and then someone put us
“Hasta la vista, baby!”
it’s the way Timtiminee tells it. But back with that winning joke from Vine: it
rang a bell and teased away annoyingly at my memory bank...
In the meantime,
I read this online comment following Timtiminee winning his joke award:
Omargourd: Time Vine was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today
programme this morning ... he had presenter John Humphrys giggling away.
He also said he used to do paragraphs instead of one-liners.
reckon he was taken to court and received a short sentence!
a clever last line, Omargourd.
Then, just like that, I found the dust joke. I just knew that I’d heard it
previously (sadly, author unknown):
“Like most men, I can’t be bothered with cleaning. I’ve got a vacuum
cleaner, but I rarely use it. It just sits in the corner, gathering
And what was it Tim Vine said up there? “I used to do paragraphs instead of
one-liners.” So you can see what he’s cleverly done: he’s taken a joke
of 27 words, three sentences ― a paragraph ― and reduced it to one line
of 12 words.
And I particularly liked changing “vacuum cleaner” to “Hoover” to throw
us off the scent ― which merely proves that there really is nothing new
under the sun
Incidentally, I really did like this joke, spotted online, compliments of a
“I’m going to sell my Dyson ball cleaner ― when I get out of
hospital, that is.”
done. Now the different humour thrown up by letters to the newspapers.
This, from The Times:
Sir, In 1978,
aged 20, I was interviewed at a small West End firm of solicitors by the
After asking me whether it really was worth educating
women and whether I intended to get pregnant during the training (yes,
no) he asked: “What would you do if you came into my office and found me
in flagrante delicto?”
Having only a rudimentary grasp of Latin I said I would
get a bucket of water and throw it over him and then call the fire
brigade. He roared with laughter and I got the job. It was only several
years later that I got the joke.
JANET CLEGG, London SE24
Amo, amas, amat
indeed, Janet Clegg. Oh, and do you suppose Janet is related to Nick Clegg?
I mean, Nick still hasn’t got the joke, boom-boom.
Next, a thread
of letters in The Daily Telegraph:
SIR – Our new
pillows come with 48 pages of instructions. Why is life so complicated?
Kate Graeme-Cook, Tarrant Launceston, Dorset
I did find
myself wondering though how many languages are covered in those 48 pages,
which is another sign of the times..
Licensed to play
SIR – Forty-eight pages of instructions for a
pillow does indeed seem over-cautious. Upon reading the instruction
manual for a remote control model helicopter I received from my
grandchildren, I discovered the warning: “We recommend that you obtain
the assistance of an experienced pilot before attempting to fly our
SIR – I have bought a vibro-sonic jewellery
cleaner but am struggling with the instructions. No 4 reads “uft tray
and place into tus”.
Peterlee, Co Durham
jewellery cleaner? My little mind boggles. Ivor the Search Engine put me
right ... all I can say is, I hope Mr Leach isn’t tempted to pop his
crown jewels into the vibro-sonic cleaner (shades of the Dyson ball
And on that
SIR – I have
just purchased a pack of “Ultimate Cleaning Cloths” from my local DIY
store. On the pack it states “Warning: do not use as any sort of
While I realise it would be breaking this sound health
and safety advice, perhaps the world’s superpowers could rid themselves
of their nuclear arsenals and stockpile dishcloths instead.
They were only 50p for a pack of three.
Martin Horsfall, Newick, East Sussex
at dawn. And my
will be a crop duster. Shades of North By Northwest.
SIR – I
remember that at a dress rehearsal at Glyndebourne an alarm clock went
off in the stalls and the curtain had to be brought down. I am still
wondering why anyone would take an alarm clock into an opera.
Diana Crook, Seaford, East Sussex
should not the letter headline have read Nessun Dorma?
And finally, a couple of letters in the Daily Mail, which join up
perfectly the circle in the Jokes vs. Letters to the Editor battle:
Heard it on the
people may find Tim Vine’s award-winning Hoover quip funny ... but I
think it sucks.”
Lester Haslam of Woodford Green, Essex
“Did Tim Vine get Tommy Cooper’s joke book for Christmas?”
Andy Webb of Telscombe Cliffs, E. Sussex
So that’s where I first saw the paragraph version of Tim’s winning joke.
Tommy Cooper’s joke book.
As for Jokes vs.
Letters to the Editor ... well, it’s an honourable draw, I guess.
Spell-cheque corner: ‘Timtiminee’,
came up as ‘Titmice’ ― but what the hell is that? Ivor? Hm, the tufted
titmouse is a small, cheery-voiced woodland bird from North America. How
wonderful is that? A cheery-voiced woodland bird.
Timtiminee Timtiminee Tim Tim To You
Oh, and ‘Horsfall’, as in Martin Horsfall, one of the letter
writers, came up as ‘Shortfall’. Oh dear.
Monday, August 25th
Sign Language contenders spotted while strolling through
Llandampness. The first, at Pedantry Corner...
though it’s still only August, the New Year advertising board at The
Cawdor was eye-catching ― and what about that really stylish writing?
A shot in the
(or perhaps a guide
to summer nights in outside)
something most curious, something I spotted a couple of weeks ago,
before the agreeably sunshiny weather of summer broke and the rains came
It was just
before 6 o’clock, quite a warm dawn, I was crossing a field on the
outskirts of Llandeilo as I set off along my morning walk...
some bits of ― well, clothing I guess (I didn’t inspect too closely
because I didn’t want to contaminate a possible crime scene!)
― a pair of flip-flops (bottom right corner), a hair brush (just to the
right of the large towel), a couple of bottles of water----
There was nobody
about ... it was exceedingly strange ― and rather unsettling...
A little later,
everything had been cleared.
Well, my guess
is that someone had been hanky-pankying under the stars ― and instead of
a cigarette (or possibly an e-fag), they had gone for a dawn stroll
(perhaps up to nearby Dinefwr Castle to watch the sunrise), which had
coincided with my coming along and happening upon the scene of said seduction (allegedly).
sticking to sex and the rural theme...
Hungry cows get
morning in Peabody, Kansas, and farmer Derek Klingenberg is calling in
his cattle. By trombone. He strikes up with a version of Royals, by
Lorde, Lorde (sorry, Lorde).
After a minute
or so ... farmer Klingenberg’s herd appears, slowly but surely, over the
horizon. He is duly surrounded by cattle and is obviously waiting to soak
up the applause ― which, rather rudely, the cows don’t deliver.
But they do keep mooing for more.
yourself, below ... first though, some online comments suggest that
someone, out of sight, is driving the cows over the brow and toward the
Well, for a start they move too slowly and randomly
for a bunch of cattle being herded
― true, some of the late comers tend to jog, but that’s how cattle
brought up on a farm, all animals will respond to regular stimuli ― just
calling out or rattling a bucket, will do ― both of which they will
associate with tasty treats.
So my guess is
that Farmer Klingenberg has been schooling the cattle for a while now.
And to great effect.
Dogs read Klingenberg’s Cows.
The video is
exceedingly smiley, though.
Serenading the cattle with my trombone
Sunday, August 24th
The best place to call home in England and Wales
Home is where the head (and the heart) is
I WAS intrigued
by the following curious/intriguing clickbait headline (along with the
above image) on Telegraph Online’s home page:
Mapped: the best places to live
in England and Wales
Find out how desirable the area you live in is. The Telegraph has ranked
all 7,137 areas using economic, health, and crime statistics
Telegraph has constructed an index of the best places to live in England
and Wales using official data on average weekly incomes, crime rates,
health, home ownership, and economic activity.
was given an equal weight to produce a ranking of all 7,137 areas, each
with a minimum of 2,000 households and a maximum of 6,000, in England
the name of a town or city in the search box or zoom in to find out how
you or your friends fare in our quality-of-life league table...
There’s a link coming up which will take you to an interactive map (an
XL and live version of the one on today’s welcome mat) and you can click on any
location that takes your fancy.
For example, I
naturally clicked on my own square mile...
Llandeilo area: Ranked 1925 out of 7137
Then, some 15
miles up the A40, in a north-easterly direction...
Llandovery area: 4576 out of 7137
Next, some 15
miles down the A40, in a westerly direction...
Carmarthen: 6404 out of 7137
And as a
matter of personal interest, some 20 miles, as the crow flies, in a
Kidwelly: 3257 out of 7137
I’m not sure what to make of those astonishing variations within
one county ― all mostly Welsh-speaking and boasting similar DNA
traces I would say ― but it is quite a fascinating way to spend 15 minutes.
Oh yes, while
Test Valley in Hampshire is deemed the best place to live in England and
Wales, I couldn’t for the life of me find the perfect home from home,
the little heaven (or haven?) that actually rated 1 out of 7137.
That’s my home
I guessed that someday Acker Bilk’s That's My Home (over there as
one of the
on My Desert Island Video Jukebox) would serve a purpose.
discovered quite early in adult life that the best place to live is
inside my head.
I get on with
pretty much everybody I invite in there. And of those I’m wary of ―
well, good fences make good neighbours.
Crucially, I do
not envy anybody I welcome inside, whether it be their position in
life, their fame, or indeed their fortune.
And every glass
in there is half-full ― and regularly topped up.
Oh, and perhaps
best of all, the microclimate is just perfect. The sun always shines, even on dark and stormy nights.
In other words,
you could plonk me down anywhere in the world and it would be the best
place to live at that particular moment in time [cliché allowed just this
Indeed, in my
twenties I worked extended periods in Tregaron in mid-Wales,
Southampton, Chester and Colwyn Bay in north Wales. And I thoroughly
enjoyed myself in each and every place, with some wonderful memories of
the people I befriended and the things we did.
So I have no
doubts that the best place to live is all down to what goes on inside
your own head.
If your head
tells you it’s the best place in the world to live, it’s the best place
in the world to live. Full
if your heart agrees ― well, I think that’s called a jackpot rollover
BRRR PS: Yesterday, I
mentioned that Mother Nature had this year forgotten to turn her clock
back (or was it forward?), and the seasons were running at least a month
ahead of schedule. Autumn is already in the air.
And I wondered
if we should expect proper snow in November this year, October even.
Well blow me, in
the news today:
Northern Ireland shivered through its coldest August night on record as
the mercury plummeted to -2C in Katesbridge, Co Down, overnight Saturday
Hm, so shouldn’t the Telegraph have included
weather in its index?
I mean, the weather dominates life in
the UK. It determines the general public mood, it influences what people
carry in their pockets and bags and vehicles, it shapes outfits, and
are you?”, it is the default
The weather is so changeable, in fact
it is not uncommon for one village to see bright and warm sunshine when a
neighbouring town is soaked following a downpour.
This regional variation is caused by
microclimates, small areas where the atmospheric conditions are
different enough to cause fluctuations in weather patterns.
Just a thought. Especially having mentioned the
microclimate inside my head.
In the meantime, my search for Area
1 out of 7137
goes on ... oh, and Area 51 will be doubly interesting.
Saturday, August 23rd
Autumn, knocking gently on the door, already
We’ll fight and we’ll conker
again and again
With apologies to the ghost of David Garrick (1717-1779)
IT SEEMS that Mother Nature
forgot to put her clock forward a month this year (or was it back?).
Whatever, everything in 2014
has been at least a month earlier than the norm. June and July were
beautifully warm ― but the weather forecasters are already talking of an
autumn chill in the air.
As someone who daily walks the
Towy Valley at sunrise, I concur. Right now the early mornings are
really quite chilly and awash with ubiquitous autumn mists.
And to rub home the point, a light duvet was added to the bed a
couple of weeks ago now.
But the real reflection of a
wayward clock is out there in nature itself. I mentioned on Thursday
that I’ve been helping myself to an abundance of ripe and juicy
blackberries for a week and more.
There are mushrooms popping up
all over the shop; both apples and conkers are really plump on the
And already the hawthorn trees,
weighed down with berries,
are taking on their distinctive scarlet overcoat ― and it isn’t even the
end of August yet.
Going back to the conkers:
back in April, I featured the horse chestnut tree. Before it starts to
flower, large, sticky buds appear, out of which sprout the leaves,
then the flowers ― and eventually the fruit, the beloved conker of
all our Boy’s Own childhoods.
But I’d spotted quite a few
amusing ‘faces’ dotted about the buds, and one of them was quite
startling, in as much that I was reminded of the famous painting, The
Scream, by Edvard Munch.
I show again that bud ― and
next to it the stunningly beautiful flower that eventually emerged from
the angry young bud...
A ‘candelabra’ between two thorns!
All today's images compliments of yours truly
Given how miserable The
Scream looked back in April, it is somehow apt that, after
flirting with us in its glorious flowery form (and before the
conker eventually falls out of the seed pod), the whole thing looks
incredibly prickly and ― well, awfully thcream-ish.
The above sequence of
photographs confirms rather elegantly why my early-morning walk is one of the prime simple pleasures
numbered along my stroll through
mean, just look at the extraordinary chain of events, above, needed to
deliver the conkers on show up there, on today’s
Incidentally, given how
wayward our weather patterns have been this year thus far, do you
suppose we should expect some proper snow in November this year?
Even October, perhaps, if
Mother Nature really is playing hard to get.
We should be told by our
weather experts, ho, ho, ho!
Hello Boys, again
Last Wednesday, early-morning, Vanessa Feltz
shared with us the simple pleasure a woman experiences taking off her bra
at the end of the
day ... something we men would never understand, she reasonably pointed out.
in turn pointed out on Thursday’s
smile that, although I have never worn a bra, I do
the pleasure ― indeed the blessed relief ― of unclipping a bra and slipping it off after a long
night on the trail of the lonesome pine.
Algebra was always much more interesting after that. And today, the
glorious word candelabra bring the memories flooding back.
Friday, August 22nd
blue eyes, little white lies
“TAKE comfort from the fact
I got a C and two U’s. And I have a Mercedes Benz.” Jeremy
Clarkson, 54, celebrated English columnist, motoring correspondent and
all-purpose meeja bad boy, has reassurance for youngsters disappointed
with their exam results.
Jeremy also confirms that he
carries around in his Mercedes a spare apostrophe rather than a spare
Before I delve further, a
brief piece from the Telegraph, dated March 2012:
Who’s who in the Chipping
The ‘Chipping Norton set’ is a
close group of powerful politicians and media elite who reside in and
around the Oxfordshire town of Chipping Norton. Chipping Norton sits in
the Cotswold Hills in West Oxfordshire.
The group which includes Prime
Minister David Cameron, former News International chief executive
Rebekah Brooks, Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and daughter of media
mogul Rupert Murdoch, Elisabeth, met socially until the phone hacking
Members of the group have
since been under scrutiny for their connections with each other and the
hacking scandal which caused the News of the World to print its last
edition on July 10, 2011.
“I am beyond
ecstatic.” Jeremy Clarkson on the news that Rebekah Brooks had
been cleared of all charges in the phone-hacking case.
So who needs to keep the Chipping Norton set under scrutiny when members
of the group, some boasting a C and two Us, are floating about, high on laughing gas.
There again, perhaps the
U’s” on Jeremy’s CV was a cunning ploy to subliminally underline how useless he was at school
and to throw us off the scent. Hm. A
little white apostrophe? The man is a tease.
Anyway, back to business...
In his Sunday Times
column, Jeremy recently wrote this:
“For reasons I
can’t explain, I’m especially troubled by people who have thin lips.
They can appear to be amusing and kind, but I’ll have already decided
that actually they are not.”
So I submitted a brief letter
to The Sunday Times ― and they published it as their lead letter
Read my lips
Jeremy Clarkson has a problem
with thin lips. Very perceptive and spot-on, which is presumably why he
always gives David Cameron a very wide berth.
Pic: Dominic Lipinski
Now c’mon, you have to laugh.
Oh yes, just before the last
general election, in May 2010, the following letter appeared in The
Daily Telegraph. I was particularly struck with its central theme, and
duly saved it for future reference:
If the photo fits
SIR – An interviewee on
Newsnight said that she would vote for Nick Clegg because she did
not like David Cameron’s lips.
Since such superficiality is not atypical, much money
could be saved if manifestos were replaced by the photograph albums of
Michael Nicholson, Dunsfold, Surrey
Superficiality, eh? Well, 60% of what we are is written into our faces ―
including our lips. Jeremy Clarkson knows this ― but his need to keep in
with David Cameron overrode his inherent survival instincts. Interesting
PS: I do hope you
noticed the extraordinary coincidence of the name of the photographer
credited with the above photograph of David Cameron.
Finally, and before leaving Jeremy in peace, this has just appeared in
Jeremy Clarkson is not
‘untouchable’ says BBC
Jeremy Clarkson is not “untouchable” and Top Gear will change as a
result of its racism scandals, the head of BBC television has said, as
he warns no star presenter is bigger than the corporation.
Danny Cohen, the director of
television, likened the BBC to a football club, saying no-one is bigger
than the team regardless of their value.
Saying Clarkson still “doesn't
see a problem” with some of the language he used, he added the Top Gear
presenter continues to think the BBC “overreacted” to accusations of
racism on the show.
Speaking at the Edinburgh
International Television Festival, Cohen has now confirmed the scandal
will “impact” on how the show is made in the future, as he reiterated he
was “incredibly unhappy” about Clarkson’s language.
Earlier this year, the
long-running BBC programme was criticised after a video appearing to
show Clarkson using the n-word while reciting the nursery rhyme Eenie
Meenie Miney Moe was leaked online.
In a separate incident, Ofcom
ruled that the presenter deliberately used racist language by referring
to an Asian man as a “slope” during Top Gear’s Burma special,
criticising the BBC for allowing the offensive material to be broadcast.
Cohen, who was previously
defended Clarkson by saying he is not a racist, has now admitted the
pair “feel differently” about recent controversies.
But surely, Top Gear is a recorded programme, so it’s the
producer who has the final word on anything and everything that is
Indeed, the n-word fiasco
wasn’t even broadcast (and there is genuine doubt whether Clarkson
actually says the n-word anyway). It seems some back-room apparatchik
leaked the suspect outtake to the media.
That is not a surprise because
the word on the street is that Clarkson is not a popular bunny the other
side of the clapper board.
And on that bombshell...
Thursday, August 21st
Never mind your 15
minutes of fame...
...enjoy a 15 minute head start on life
Life’s simple pleasures
EATING fish and chips by the sea is one of the greatest “simple
pleasures” enjoyed by people in Britain, according to a new survey.
A poll of the outdoor
activities favoured by families found that the three most popular
excursions in England all revolve around food.
The favourite activity
nominated by parents was eating a fish supper by the sea, with afternoon
tea coming second and picnicking third.
Perusing the list of strictly
English pleasures, here are just three examples:
6) Marvelling at Stonehenge,
17) Playing Pooh Sticks at 100 Acre Wood,
21) Picking blackberries on Box Hill,
I include that last one because every morning for the last week or so,
along my morning walk, I’ve been pigging out on a riotous crop of plump,
juicy blackberries. It really is a very good year for fruitfulness.
And do you know what I
particularly like? That blackberry which isn’t quite ready for the picking
and has that deliciously bitter little twist in its taste.
Anyway, it all got me thinking. What would I list as my simple
pleasures (whether outdoors or indoors).
If you are wondering about that 15 minute period on the clock up there
on today’s welcome mat----
Well, more moons ago than I
care to remember I learnt that if I had a timetable to adhere to ― say
catching a train at eight in the morning ― I would always get up 15
minutes earlier than I would normally need to in order to allow me to
arrive there on
time, all things being equal.
I found that those 15 precious
minutes magically nullified the hassle, panic and stress associated with
thinking that you weren’t going to get to the station on time.
Mind you, given how much the
pace of life has speeded up over recent years, these days I need to get
up 30 minutes earlier, probably a full hour to be on the safe side, to
ensure I meet a specific deadline.
Anyway, what are my pleasures? They really are all so simple.
My morning walk through the Towy Valley, obviously ― see the blackberry
Listening to music ― most types of music, really ― gives me great
And of course what this web site is all about. I experience enormous delight
from being consciously aware of the things all around me which generate
smile, a chuckle, a laugh...
For example, yesterday morning
Vanessa Feltz was discussing the above list of life’s top pleasures ―
and as is her wont on her early morning wireless show, she invited listeners to let her know of their
It was a roundup of the usual
suspects, really ― until a listener called Josanne (I think) offered up
her simple pleasure. Vanessa takes up the tale:
“Taking her bra off after a long day ― ahhhhh!
If you’ve never worn one, ladies and gentlemen, you won’t know the
blessed relief. If you have, you will know exactly what Josanne means.”
“Yes, the pleasure of taking your bra off. Could I add in parentheses:
(Or getting someone else, someone you like, someone you love, to take
your bra off---). Am I allowed to say that on Radio 2?
“Carmela [the show’s producer]
says NO, I’m not allowed to say that, so I won’t say it. I won’t even
think it. I haven’t even planted that thought in your mind----”
It became a bit of a running joke, a bit of light relief ― Hello Boys,
and all that ― throughout the show. It was
But, it brought back many
No, I have never worn a bra ― but I do remember
the simple pleasures ― indeed the blessed relief ― of unclipping a bra and slipping it off after a long
night on the trail of the lonesome pine.
Ah yes, discovering a love of figures.
Algebra was always much more interesting after that.
Yep, memories are indeed made
Wednesday, August 20th
Long time no see
the mountaineer said to the sailor]
Wonderful, marvellous, fantastic
THE following letter appeared in a
recent issue of The Daily Telegraph:
How are you?
SIR – My late
father’s invariable reply to the question “How are you?” was “Better in
health than in temper.”
I now know exactly what he meant.
It seemed such a strange letter to find in a national newspaper ―
I mean, what triggered Simon Edsor to write on
the subject in the first place? We should be told.
all that as it may,
tickle my smileometer because I have my own couple of favourite responses to
the question; indeed, I have mentioned them in previous dispatches ― so
I duly submitted a missive to the Telegraph.
Before we go
here are some responses that made the printed page:
am I? You really wouldn’t want to know
Gloucester: My late stepfather’s response was usually:
“Another day nearer death.”
Hereford: My father would often reply: “Not much
better for your asking, thank you.”
At Grimsby Baptist Church we are encouraged to respond: “Better than I
deserve.” This reflects God’s grace, which by definition and experience
gives us far more than we could ever merit.
One thing never to say when asked how you are
When faced with the
question “How are you?”, it is polite to respond with, “Very well, thank
you,” or even “Fine.” The answer should certainly not be “I’m good”.
The question is in relation to one’s state of health or
wellbeing, not one’s moral behaviour.
Worcester Park, Surrey:
When my mother was asked
how she was, her response was either, “Up and down like Tower Bridge,”
or, “All right, down one side.”
My friend’s late mother
always replied, “One foot in the grave and the other on a banana skin.”
A common response around here
is “Right side of the turf.”
THINKS: Do you suppose
“around here” is anywhere near yesterday’s exceedingly smiley story
famous racing stable in the West Country?
Whatever, on with the show...
I sometimes borrow a line
from Lieutenant Commander Data, the android of Star Trek fame: “My
biological and psychological systems are functioning within normal
Depending on who’s asking, my usual response is, “How long have you
A bore is a man who, when you ask him how he is, tells you.
This week I have been training my daughter’s labrador, Clarence, to
respond to the question “How do you do?” by offering me a paw to shake.
I got an extra shake yesterday: perhaps he’d remembered
it was my birthday.
I liked the “One foot in the grave and the other on a banana skin”
response. Must remember that one.
Sadly, the Lieutenant Commander Data one, “My biological and
psychological systems are functioning within normal parameters” is a bit
too complex for my brain to remember ― I mean, if I can’t remember my
car’s number plate after 13 years, what hope have I got with that?
Anyway, this was my letter. Sadly, the Telegraph didn’t
find it in the least bit interesting or entertaining ― but I have to say I get many a laugh
from the exchanges that follow my responses.
ain’t what you feel it’s the way that you feel it
“How are you?”
“Well, if you gently tap my forehead it will show fair to set fair.” And
I always but always experience a sunshiny reaction.
default response, whether to the barmaid or the vicar, is: “Oh, average
plus.” Entertaining exchanges invariably follow.
if I am asked by a particularly eye-catching female, and my intuition
suggests an ambush-free pass, I will add “Play your cards right and I
might be average plus-plus by night’s end”. It always leads to shared
laughter ― which is all I can reasonably expect at my age.
So why the letters editor was not amused is a mystery. I am obviously
wasting everybody’s time writing to the paper.
I used the weather glass routine just today. Walking towards me in town
was one of our local characters, Ken Griffiths. A smile
instantly creased my face.
“How are you?” he said.
“Well, if you gently
tap my forehead...”
“That’ll teach me to ask you a reasonable question like that again,” said Ken.
“Well no,” I
said, “it’s a fair question and it deserves an honest and sensible
“Sensible is a
very apt word to use,” said Ken, laughing...
never understand how he could
be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay.”
daughter Zelda on the
suicide of her father.
It never fails to amaze
how many celebrities whose day job it is to make us laugh ― whether
they be comic actors or comedians, male or female ― are such desperately
sad and unhappy characters once the spotlight is switched off.
would guess that it
really is all just an act.
Yet, is it not funny, though, how those individuals who make us laugh in real life,
in the real world
... do not dress up as clowns, pull comic faces, do funny walks ― oh,
and rarely tell jokes, and never do stand-ups ― yet the moment we see
them approaching across the office floor or along the pavement, we catch
Ken, the chap
who I’d exchanged greetings with previously, is such a character.
Whenever I see him approach I smile and I am overwhelmed with the need to
say something to hopefully amuse him.
And fair play, he is easy
to make chortle and laugh.
Thank goodness for characters such as Ken.
Tuesday, August 19th
“Anybody who thinks there’s something wrong with this road
sign at Middle Greens, Morpeth, please write to the director of
vocabulary and spelling at Northumberland Country Counsel.”
Facebook entry, Morpeth Matters, May 2014
SUCH a delightful little smiley tale to kick-start the day. And I did
like the “Northumberland Country Counsel” bit. Very witty.
which, the following tale compliments of Richard Allinson, standing in
for Chris Evans on his breakfast wireless show, yesterday morning ― just
checked it out on iPlayer to get the facts right:
Talking of those signs that no one likes, this from Norm [of
Cheers?]: “I used to do a lot of travelling in the south of England, and
my route regularly took me past a famous racing stable in the West
Country. One day, there was a sign, home made, that said simply ‘SLOW
there’d been a local disgruntled punter who’d lost a few shillings,
maybe quite a few hundred quid, on one of their nags because on the
notice, in large red letters, someone had painted the word
‘VERY’ at the top of the sign.”
Obviously the above happened in the passed tense, back in
the day before everyone carried a camera of some sort or other about
their person ― otherwise someone, probably Norm, would have taken a
quick snap and posted it online.
Ivor the Search
Engine did have a quick check just in case there was a picture lurking
online, but couldn’t find anything. A conscious uncoupling, you might
did consciously couple with a brace of glorious images from the
gallery, a collection of those amusing and confusing signs spotted by
readers along their walk through time...
Spotted at Northumberland Country Counsel?!?
On no account frighten the servants and the horses
Sadly, no ... spotted in Ramsey, Isle of Man by Sam Arthur
Spotted in Chesterfield by Tobias Reynolds
Mind the hump
Sticking with things heard on the wireless, on Alex Lester’s very early
morning wireless show, his ‘4:40: What I’ve learnt over the past 24
hours’ spot, this from...
Craig the Suppressed Husband: “Live like a rock ‘n’ roll star,
dance like nobody’s watching and make love like you’re being filmed ― is
sadly not a lifestyle change my wife wants to share with me.”
As Alex observed: “It’s probably that last bit, Craig.”
Monday, August 18th
Duchess of Cambridge attends the WWI 100 Years Commemoration
Ceremony at Le
Interallié in Liège,
Belgium, August 4, 2014
YESTERDAY, I smiled at cats in all their photogenic glory. From Small to
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, came instantly to mind.
goes one camera-friendly pussycat. Kate doesn’t do bad photographs. No
matter what she is up to, whatever mood she needs to project, she always
looks attractive. And is seemingly always purring.
Which is quite a
trick when you consider that she is not pretty in the traditional sense.
But she is strikingly handsome.
She has that
sort of face that, in everyday life, we find ourselves staring at,
whether in the pub, the supermarket, walking towards us down the
Back at the
beginning of the month I marvelled at how suited she is to her day job.
Also, how astonishingly in charge she is of the world about her. Right
from that wedding day at Westminster Abbey.
particularly remember was how elegantly she bowed her head when the
national anthem played and William saluted.
thinking: it appears to be a straightforwardly simple thing to do, but
you can’t be taught to perform things as gracefully as that, as if
you’ve been doing it all your life.
You either have
the regal gene ― or you don’t. And Kate does.
She is helped of
course by always having that smile handy to put everyone at ease. Yet
when she has to be serious she does it to perfection.
Look again at
the picture on today’s welcome mat. It was taken during the World War
One 100 Years Commemoration Ceremony at Le Mémorial Interallié in Liège,
Such an elegant
image. The lady has class. The lady is definitely not a tramp.
But the real evidence of her natural-born
style is the picture, below, again taken at the WWI Commemoration at Liège,
Kate, with French President Francois Hollande and Queen Mathilde of
Now that is a
remarkable image. If you block out Kate with your hand ...
you wouldn’t give the picture a second glance ... I mean,
it’s just a run
of the mill official function photograph.
But take your
hand away ― and you can’t help but notice how awkward everyone else
is clearly a woman totally at ease with herself.
Talking of some unseen power clearing a path through life...
...the wind whistles ... a distant bell tolls ... a
“If most people have a
family tree, we have a family tumbleweed and it just keeps rolling along
picking up dirt and debris.”
Camilla Cleese, 30, comedienne, makes fun of her father John Cleese’s
succession of troublesome wives (including Camilla’s own mother, the
late American artist, Barbara Trentham, wife number two).
“Actually, when my parents
divorced I remember thinking: ‘Oh good ― they won’t be yelling at each
other any more and I can have two Christmases’.”
Yes indeed, there does appear
to be a God, who clears a path for some fortunate individuals.
And there does also appear to be a
Devil, who continually throws obstructions into the paths of some
Sunday, August 17th
I REMEMBER reading that there are many more pictures of cats on the
internet than there are selfies (or selfish as someone rather cleverly
referred to them the other day).
Anyway, it seems that
pussycats have colonised the interweb
because they have a common bond that nations around the world
The flood of
pictures is no surprise because cats are photogenic
creatures anyway. No matter what mood or state they are in, they will
take a fantastic picture. Especially so if they sport some unusual or
The most famous
is Grumpy Cat, an internet superstar known for her morose looks, serious
under bite and dwarfism...
has “authored” two books, has a range of iced coffees called
Grumpuccinos (according to The Sunday Times anyway) and
will star in her first film this Christmas.
Last week her
business empire was valued at £60m. It gives a whole new meaning to
purring with delight.
Grumpy’s fame is
attributed by those who understand these things to the universal
understanding of what a frown is.
earlier this year I featured marvellous pictures of pussycats sleeping
in weird and wonderful places, images that were sprawled all over the internet.
Well now, today
I spotted a delightfully eye-catching photograph online, of a pussycat XXL
model, fast asleep ― yes, a lioness in absolute relaxevoo mood.
the nature of precisely how the lioness was sleeping rang a bell. So I
feature again one of the images of cats sleeping in odd places ― and
juxtapose it against the sleepy lioness:
Cats are cats are cats … but size does matter
How about that?
The parallel is quite wonderful. It seems the big cat was photographed
by Petr Banny as it relaxed in the late afternoon sun of the Serengeti
National Park, Tanzania.
little cat, on the other hand, was photographed (snapper unknown)
relaxing in the setting sun that is bouncing off the wall of the room
that is home. (Thinks: what made it climb all the way up there? An
instinct for survival, do you suppose?)
says on today’s
welcome mat: never forget to smile.
Oh yes, keeping to the grumpy but smiley theme, a brace of letters
spotted in The Daily Telegraph:
Narrow boat, long face
SIR – My
business partner and I operate horse-drawn boat trips on the Montgomery
Canal and sponsor a gurning competition at the local canal festival. We
have been asked to submit a risk assessment.
Where do we begin?
Bywater Cruises, Dulverton, Somerset
SIR – It is
entirely correct that Stephen Rees-Jones and his business partner should
be required to submit a risk assessment for their gurning competition.
I have it on my old nanny’s authority that if the wind
changes, the contestants’ faces will stay like that.
It might also help if the horses on the horse-drawn
boat trips wore high-visibility jackets in case any strollers on the
footpath failed to notice them.
Saturday, August 16th
Weigh in, way
THE nation, it seems, is slowly sinking under the weight of its
Obesity is becoming a
Great XL problem.
“Eat three meals
a day. Try not to graze. You are not a cow.”
Joan Collins, 81, is
clearly no fan of dieting.
“Some hot tips for losing those stubborn pounds: number one best
exercise ― push yourself away from the dining table.”
Joan Collins, again.
Joan, dispensed with humour. And I particularly enjoyed the following counsel,
spotted in a letter to The Sunday Times...
Spelling it out
(“Drop the staple gun, Doc, and tell Fatty to grow some willpower”,
Comment, last week) would have welcomed the advice of my GP in a local
practice with every modern computerised aid, but still blessedly
traditional in its approach.
When told I should lose weight, I asked
what diet she recommended. She replied: “I’ll spell it for you in
capital letters. Pen handy? E. A. T. New word. L. E. S. S.”
Francis Hitching, Oxford.
clearly and increasingly starts at a very young age. I caught part of a radio phone-in
the other day about the problems of obesity, and there was an elderly
gentleman speaking ― I think he was a retired doctor ― and he emphasised
“children should be skinny and near the bone”.
what he meant. There is something quite alarming in seeing a child waddling along on the crest of a wave of lard.
Also, and to
develop a psychological theme, there is the subliminal affect of the
world about us.
example. We went from the slim 707 to the jumbo 747 ― in the blink of an
transformation perfectly captured, above, in the Pan Am 707 Slim-Jim to
the 747 Roly-Poly.
But most of all,
the Mini car. Remember how delightfully cheery and playfully
pussycat-ish those original little Minis were?
But look at them
today. From the happy-go-lucky and bouncy first Mini ― to the decidedly
miserable and alarmingly polecat-ish Mini Countryman of 2014 (below). Could
their misery simply be down to having put on so much weight?
Isn’t that image
remarkable? Only when you see them juxtaposed like this do you realise
quite how overweight the modern Mini has become. It is now a tank.
something quite spooky. Over on my Desert Island Video Jukebox, under
‘Music my mother told me to enjoy’, there’s a Welsh song, Talu’r Pris Yn
Llawn ― ‘Paying the price in full’ ― by Côr Theatr Ieuenctid Maldwyn
young people’s mixed choir from Montgomeryshire, some 60 in number.
This youth choir
was exceedingly popular back in the Eighties. The clip I feature was
filmed in 1991. Of the three comments on the site, one refers to the
“80s hairstyles and Laura Ashley scarves” ― a very smiley observation ―
and another remarks on “how slim all the girls are”.
And it is a most
remarkable thing to behold. It is worth you having a look at it just to
take in the choir’s slimness. All the choir, that is. Here’s a YouTube link…
Talu’r Pris Yn Llawn – Côr Theatr Ieuenctid Maldwyn
Now isn’t that
amazing? Just think of a similar gathering of young people today,
especially in a choir where they’ll be conveniently lined up for
It is remarkable
how obese we’ve become.
frightening thing is, this change has happened over just one generation.
What on earth
will we be like another generation or two down the line?
(a suitable exam howler)
Abstinence is a good thing if practised in moderation.
Friday, August 15th
Easy come, easy go
“I LOST about $27m (£16m). I know that is a lifetime of money to most
people, but I am a big girl.” Courtney Love, 50, American
singer-songwriter and actress, on the “eye-watering” amount of money she
has blown in recent years.
After I stopped laughing, I reached for pen and paper...
If we ignore the richest 5 per
cent in the country ― those with more money than sense ― and the poorest
5 per cent ― those poor buggers who literally have no two pennies to rub
together ― then we are left with the 90 per cent who make up the “most
people” Courtney refers to.
Let’s assume that “most people”
fall within the average wage catchment group ― so, going on strictly current values, the
average UK wage is £26,500.
Let’s be generous and call it
£30,000. The average person expects to work for 50 years (17 to 67) ―
50 x £30,000 equals £1,500,000 ... er, quite a way short of that £16m
which, according to Courtney, is “a lifetime of money to most people”.
Actually, £16m equates to an
annual income of £320,000.
As I said, you have to laugh.
And it merely highlights how out of touch with reality celebrities
Even more out of touch
“A love of money and a
loathing of lies.” Julie Burchill, 55, English writer,
self-declared “militant feminist” and known in the trade as an “absolute
cult”, on what drives her ever onwards and upwards.
The one big flaw in Julie’s
statement is of course that a love of money and the telling of lies go
together like a horse and carriage, love and marriage...
Back to the drawing board,
(more exam howlers)
The three kinds of blood vessels are arteries, vanes, and caterpillars.
To be a good nurse, you must be absolutely sterile.
Q: Name the four seasons.
A: Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar.
Q: Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to
A: Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large
grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists.
Now I have no idea whether
these really were
written by real
students in real classes ― quite possibly ― but
proper smile-of-the-day material.
Thursday, August 14th
Monkey Business - the Marx Brothers done proud
“Would you like to have anything before lunch?”
Macaque is the best
form of defence
Who should own the
copyright of that famous monkey selfie ― a portrait of a
grinning black macaque taken by the creature itself [and
pictured above]? Wikipedia
says it belongs to nobody, as a non-human
pressed the shutter.
But the British
photographer David Slater, who “set up” the shot, argues that it
is his and is about to sue.
For its part, the macaque
is adamant: “Slater is a grasping idiot,” it told me yesterday,
on a satellite phone from the Sulawesi forests. “The only reason
the photo was of interest to people is that it was what you
narcissistic, overdeveloped apes call a selfie. Otherwise it
would just be another boring photo of a monkey. Hence the
copyright is mine. Why did you think I was grinning?”
Contribution compliments of Rod Liddle (below), in The Sunday Times
I'm sayin' nuthin' about your family tree, Rod!
the new black
The story is both curious
and amusing. Are we really supposed to believe that old smiler
I have christened him Boris ― would simply reach round to press
the shutter? More like the camera would have automatically
clicked once a beam was broken.
I suppose too that David
Slater could have been some distance away, in a hide, watching
proceedings, and having put some bait down to attract Boris into
the frame, would have operated the shutter by remote control.
But I guess, having told
that it’s a monkey selfie, there’s no way round it.
now the new grey.
Bollocks, as the
other Boris would say.
Mind you, I liked this suggestion from
Peter D. Mitchell
of Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, in a letter to the Daily Mail:
“All the photographer has to do is buy the
copyright of the self-portrait from the monkey. A bag of peanuts
and a banana would suffice.”
Brilliant. The only thing I don’t like about that idea is ―
well, I tend to eat a lot of bananas and peanuts myself.
Over the coming
days I will feature occasional smiley excerpts from Anguished
English by Richard Lederer, a book of sentences which were
actually written by real students in real classes in the United States.
Who knows where
the authors are by now. Probably movers and shakers, if the state of the
world is anything to go by...
Having one wife is called monotony.
Inhabitants of Moscow are called Mosquitoes.
Arabs wear turbines on their heads.
Mind you, when you think about those answers, they are brilliantly
clever and truthful. I mean, many would describe Putin as a mosquito;
and the Arabs do control the world’s energy sources.
Oh, I have no
observation whatsoever to make on the first one, coward of the county that I am.
Wednesday, August 13th
the tea leaves
YOU really can’t keep a good man down. Yesterday, I featured the picture
of Boris Johnson ‘saluting’ with his left hand ― and it prompted me to
juxtapose it with a photo of Benny Hill doing something rather similar.
Well, would you
believe it ― today I see a picture of Boris pointing with a cup
and seemingly asking his
inquisitor for a refill. Adam Boulton of Sky, perhaps (again, see
Anyway, the very
first thing that came to mind today was ... do you remember the glorious PG
Tips ads with those funny chimpanzees?
“Avez-vous un cuppa?”
background info on PG Tips, compliments of Wikipedia:
In the 1930s,
Brooke Bond launched PG Tips (pronounced pee-gee tips) in the UK
tea market under the name of Pre-Gest-Tee. The name implied that
the tea could be drunk prior to eating food, as a digestive aid. Grocers
and salesmen abbreviated it to PG.
In 1956 PG Tips
began using anthropomorphic chimpanzees in their TV advertisements.
These were dressed in human clothes and were known as the ‘Tipps
family’. Their voices were often provided by celebrities, such as Peter
Sellers and Bob Monkhouse.
By 1958 PG Tips
had risen from fourth to first place in the British tea market.
advertisements were stopped in the 1970s after complaints by animal
rights organisations. However sales dropped and the chimps were bought
back 18 months later.
The last ‘Tipps family’ advert was broadcast in
Memories are made
There are two PG TV
ads that spring instantly to mind. First, the Tour de France one ―
and that was long
before Bradley Wiggins furiously peddled onto the scene to capture
Britain’s first win in the legendary race.
And of course the “Coo-ee, Mr Shifter” piano classic.
chimp cyclist crashes but is comforted by a French lady chimp:
“Avez-vous un cuppa?” he asks. And the female chimp sooths him with a
hot pot of tea.
He then asks
her: “Can you ride tandem?”
There’s a link to the 30-second ad, below. Also, a link to the other memorable
one, Mr Shifter, the piano being hauled upstairs ― obviously inspired by
the legendary Laurel & Hardy film of the piano being carted up those
scrapbook cum diary isn’t just thrown together, you know. Everything is
“Can you ride tandem?”
“Boris, Boris, give me your answer do
yes or no!”
journalist Jeremy Paxman recently presented his last edition of the BBC
Two programme Newsnight after 25 years at the helm, the
production team as a goodbye gift reunited him, on a bicycle made for
two, with his old adversary Boris Johnson.
Johnson are both keen cyclists. In the clip, the pair were filmed riding
a tandem bike, with Paxman behind the Mayor of London.
“It is not
delightful to cycle in London,” protested Paxman as
they set off on their bike along London’s streets, streets paved with
politicians’ promises. “It is a bloody nightmare.”
I dunno. It would have
been so much better if they had both sat down with a few bottles of
champagne ... now that would have been entertaining.
for those PG Tips links:
PG Tips: Can you ride
PG Tips: A Shifter & Sons Removals
Tuesday, August 12th
@ The Sunday Times
Son of Thatch-err?
Quotes from the
“HE treats his political ambitions a bit like he treats his hair. He
wants everyone to think he doesn’t really care, but he actually really,
really does care.”
Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal
Democrats, on Boris Johnson, Mayor of Old London Town, especially in
light of the news that he wants to be an MP again ― or perhaps
Newman’s Week, up there on today’s welcome mat, really
does hit the spot.
“If Boris Johnson has ambitions to become Prime Minister one day, he
should buy a comb and start using it now.” Ted Shorter of
Hildenborough, Kent, in a letter to The Sunday Telegraph.
“My wife said something was up a fortnight ago, when Boris Johnson had
his hair cut.” Geoff Chessum of London EC2, in a letter to The Daily
That is very clever, Mrs Chessum. Now we shoot off at a slight tangent:
“What significance should one attach to the fact that, in your
front-page photograph of Boris Johnson (August 7), he is saluting with
his left hand?” Graham Plumbe, Crookham Village, Hampshire, in a
letter to The Daily Telegraph.
There was much ado and comment in the meeja (both social and unsocial) about that salute ― and here
it is, along with what instantly came to my mind...
Boris and Benny supposedly always chase the girls
but do they make them cry?
[All that is missing is the famous Yaketa Sax:
Benny Hill does what comes naturally...]
By the left...
Apropos the question as to why Boris is saluting with his left hand,
well, there were a few online suggestions:
Perhaps he plays for the other
side? AC/DC? Three Phase, even?
Or could it just be that the
photo was reversed? It happens quite often.
Rather like his policies and
Actually, I happened to catch that saluting sequence on the television
news ― in fact he is not saluting at all, he was simply shading his eyes
from the sun as he approached reporters and photographers who were waiting
for his arrival.
Look at the
image again and you can see his hand’s shadow fall across his eyes.
How easy it is
to create a false impression with a quite innocent photograph. It’s very
funny, though. Especially when juxtaposed with Benny Hill and his
legendary penchant for chasing the wenches.
Anyway, back to business: this is what Boris had to say about his ambition to become an
MP, which, if successful, would overlap with his current term as
“Power will not dribble away until the last moment when a successor is
elected. Until that time, the mayor sits like a gigantic Buddha over
everything and he is immovable. You can put jemmies under his vast
buttocks but he sits there and he controls.”
And then there
was this quote:
“For all his bluster, Boris Johnson is a slippery character.” Adam
Boulton, political editor of Sky News.
I presume that
the Boulton quote is media shorthand for “The bastard got the better of me
every time I interviewed him”.
Seriously though, Boris has a lot of catching up to do if he has serious
designs on becoming leader of his party (and perhaps one day PM).
Here’s an Independent newspaper headline and comment from
Boris Johnson lets the
chainsaw loose on HS2 [high speed rail line] opposition in Tory
“It’s bollocks,” Boris Johnson
said. “They’re not campaigning for forests, they’re not campaigning for
butterflies. They pretend to be, obviously, but what they’re really
furious about is that their house prices are getting it.”
But there is something he said
that is just downright weird. “It’s tragic,” he said. “We have protest
groups talking about ‘this ancient woodland’ when actually there’s no
tree in this country that’s more than 200 years old. Most mature trees
die at about my age, the average life expectancy of a tree can’t be more
than about 60 years.”
Sometime, when he is not too busy, the mayor should visit
Park, within the city over which he presides, to apologise in person to
the magnificent trees there that are known to have been planted in the
year 1664, and to others believed to be even older.
Here are two letters that
appeared on the issue in The Times:
Boris at bay
Boris Johnson says there is no tree in this country older than 200
years. Perhaps his father, a trustee of Plantlife International, could
tell him this is bollocks.
SIMON GREY, Grizebeck, Cumbria
Sir, In suggesting that there is no such thing as ancient woodland
because there’s no tree in this country more than 200 years old, Boris
Johnson shows that he cannot distinguish between the wood and the trees.
ALIENA FLORES, London SW15
What can one add ― except that it was an astonishing thing for a
supposedly clever man to say.
Incidentally, in that first letter, The Times actually
published the word bollocks as b******s. Curious. Especially so as it
was published in full in The Independent.
But what of Boris and his own over-active bollocks? I can only
repeat what I suggested yesterday. He should stop his nonsense and allow
his pockets to be picked?!
Monday, August 11th
Bringing a tear
to a tom’s eye
More smashing letters from The Times:
new residents’ parking zone system prompted some people to protect
“their” patch of road.
However, the neighbour who painted “Parking fine here”
outside his door quickly deleted it.
DR GILBERT HOWE, Bristol
Sir, Regarding Christopher Drewett spotting a sign in Gloucestershire
which read “cats eyes removed” [during road resurfacing], we also had one. Ours was near the vets’ surgery, and someone had added “No
ROSE SANGUINETTI, Wedmore, Somerset
Letters referring to the removal of cats eyes reminded me of a summer
job in 1940 with a vet. One day he left me in charge. During his absence
a lady came in holding a cat. I asked what the trouble was.
She replied: “It’s a tom and I want its nonsense
JOSEPH FISHER, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne
Do you know, suddenly I’m back in the day, when I was an apprentice
about town, and I never really appreciated what the girls meant when
they said “Will you stop your nonsense!”.
But hang about:
the letter about a tomcat having its “nonsense” removed, as a vet I’m
used to clients’ euphemisms when discussing delicate matters or the
intimate areas of their pets.
My favourite was the lady who brought her dog in for
castration and announced “he’s here to have his pockets picked!”.
LOUISE MILLS, Coleford, Somerset
with Mayor of Old London Town Boris Johnson having just revealed
that he wants to be an MP again, and presumably has designs on being
Prime Minister somewhere not too far down the line, should he not first
stop his nonsense and allow his pockets to be picked?
But it wouldn’t
be Boris then though, would it? He’d be much like the King without his
most remarkable suit of clothes. Gosh, an erectionless Boris.
Unelectable, I'd say.
talking of euphemisms, another collection of letters from The Times
which I’ve been hanging onto for a while now, awaiting that opportune moment:
Sir, A Swansea
scientist (report, Apr 23) says that “sloths take 30 days to digest a
leaf, and go to the bathroom once a week”. This takes euphemism to a new
ANDREW DAKYNS, Eastbourne, E Sussex
Well, it makes a
change from sitting down to watch telly and being greeted with: “This
programme features strong language from the start.”
Funny old world.
Meanwhile, back with the sloths:
There seems to be a trend for the jungle makeover.
I have just read, in a travel guide to Ecuador: “Guests
can watch humming-birds feed on nectar as they dine in the chic dining
area, and marvel at the low grunts of black howler monkeys as they
luxuriate in their Philippe Starck bathtub.”
CAROLYN EARDLEY, London NW10
Hm, and I presume the guests will be next door in the Starck Bollock
The Living Bible David is hiding from Saul and Saul enters the cave to
“go to the bathroom”
(1 Samuel xxiv, 3).
HARRIET LEAR, Barcombe, E. Sussex
Cowboy and India
Sir, A while ago, when my children and I were out on the range at a ranch
in Montana, a big cowboy wrangler shouted across to one of us: “Stand up
in your stirrups, India, your horse needs to go to the bathroom.”
ANDREW KNIGHT, Shipston on Stour, Warks
I’ve said it afore, and I’ll say it agin: the letters pages of
newspapers are a treasure trove of smiles.
PS: Apropos yesterday’s tail-gunner piece about the giant
tortoise detained by Los Angeles police after a brief chase, should not the Alhambra Police
Department Facebook page be called its Mugshotcharge page?
Sunday, August 10th
LAST Thursday I
enjoyed the music and the puns surrounding the couple who got married at
St Pancras railway station.
Back in May, I
smiled at the following brace of missives spotted in The Times newspaper:
somewhat tedious journey on a Virgin train from London to Carlisle this
week was considerably enlivened by a visit to the bathroom facilities.
A bright female voice exhorted me not to put various
items down the loo, including “your mobile phone, old sweaters, hopes,
dreams and goldfish”.
SHEILA GEWOLB, London NW8
Off his trolley
Sir, Sheila Gewolb’s pleasant reminder of what not to flush down the loo
of a Virgin train reminds me of a train trip in Wales. The trolley
steward wandered down the carriage offering, among other items, “ice
creams, vipers noses and sea snake venom”.
DAVID FINDLAY, Shrewsbury
Well now, another thread of letters in The Times, along a similar
Sir, As our
train arrived at London Victoria this morning the guard said: “Please be
sure to take all your bags, lap-tops, mobile phones, coats, papers,
sandwiches ― and if you have any children, please take them as well.”
I’m beginning to wonder whether the 08.14 from
Lingfield is seen as the ideal platform for apprentice stand-up
KENNETH NOBLE, Lingfield, Surrey
to Kenneth Noble’s letter about the comic guard on the Lingfield to
Victoria train, while travelling on the East Coast express from King’s
Cross to Leeds recently the “train manager” apologised as we arrived at
Wakefield station by saying: “Unfortunately my mother-in-law lives in
this area, hence the dark stormy clouds overhead.”
As we pulled into Leeds he pointed out Elland Road
football stadium with the words: “Manchester has its Theatre of Dreams ―
sadly we only have the Comedy Playhouse.”
In view of the dire standard of some comedians on TV
these days, producers could do worse than make tracks to their nearest
station in search of new talent. I suspect they might be on the right
CHARLES GARTH, Ampthill, Beds
Sir, On a First Capital Connect train from King’s Cross to Peterborough,
I was amused by the announcement: “This service has just commenced its
descent into Stevenage.”
Going in the opposite direction one morning a trainload
of grim-faced commuters drawing into the terminus was heralded by,
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now arriving into London Kings Cross ― the
capital awaits you!”
It almost justifies the king’s ransom FCC charges for a
JO COLE, Hinxworth, Herts
remember well our train was stationary outside Elsenham on its way to
Liverpool Street. On being reprimanded by the ticket inspector that his
season ticket was out of date, my travelling companion replied, “Well,
it wasn’t when I got on.”
FRANCIS LAMBERT, Saffron Walden
guards also offer timely advice. Once on a tram in Rotterdam we were
advised to be aware of the man by the doors in the red jacket because he
was a pickpocket.
GRAHAM HEAD, Banstead, Surrey
This is your
announcements are not restricted to railways. On a recent Qantas flight
the captain announced that they would shortly be dimming the cabin
lights. “This is nothing to worry about,” he continued, “we do this to
enhance the appearance of the cabin staff.”
MALCOLM WILKINS, Gravesend, Kent
a recent internal flight in the US, as soon as the plane came to a stop
and before the seat belt sign had been switched off, most passengers
jumped up, as seems the custom, to retrieve their luggage from the
A steward’s voice, loud and clear, asked everybody to
sit down quickly as the captain could not see to reverse. There was
VERONICA METCALFE, Gloucester
see that not a lot has changed at Heathrow (“£125,000 for visitor
bullied at airport”, Aug 5). In 1981, flying out of Heathrow and
carrying an Irish passport, I was asked where I was going. “To Portugal,
to join my husband.”
“Good,” said the immigration officer. “Don’t come
GERALDINE KENNY, Worthing
Finally, and sticking to the business of getting from A to B as quickly
and as effortlessly as possible:
amazing point about the Porsche driver banned from driving for six
months for driving at 149mph is not the speed but that he was doing it
on the M25, surely our most congested stretch of road.
Was he in fact airborne?
DAVID HUDSON, Croydon
So how else to finish but with the news headline of the week, as
reported on the BBC:
US police detain
giant tortoise after brief chase
Police in Alhambra in
greater Los Angeles have recaptured a giant tortoise called Clark after
a brief chase along the city’s
"The tortoise did try to
make a run for it, but our officers are pretty fast," said the Alhambra
on its Facebook page.
Saturday, August 9th
As the old
crow sing, so sings its fledglings –
A blind man
shoots sometimes a crow –
IT’S been a smashing week way out west, here in Dodgy City ― weather
wise, anyway. My morning walks have been a delight.
you have this wonderful meadow mist all over the shop. It quickly burns
though, as today, there is quite a thick mist which lingers and it takes
a good hour or so to clear ― slightly longer down in the valley.
This time of
year the local skies are also filled with crows, masses of them. They
are rooks, probably.
breeding season there are huge numbers of them. They leave their
rookeries to visit the local farms to feed ― as autumn approaches I will
hear gunshots echoing around the valley as the birds are culled to
lessen the damage they do.
Anyway, on a
misty morning such as today, they seemingly become disorientated and
they swirl noisily above the town before landing on houses and
properties to await the burning off of the mist.
hundreds of them were perched neatly along the rooves of a street of
houses. It was a most entertaining sight.
The picture at
the top was just one house ― it isn’t quite as sharp as I would like
because of the mist and the poor light. If you look carefully there are many birds perched on
the roof itself.
Indeed, if I
zoomed back to take in a wider view to include more properties, then the
birds lost their magical definition.
But it was a
Carry on taking
Last Wednesday, I listed some of the films I tend to watch over and over
when they appear on telly.
What I didn’t
mention were the Carry On films. Not that I will particularly watch any
one film ― mind you, I do have a soft spot for Carry On Cowboy ―
but rather, when I sit down to watch a bit of television and I zap
through the channels, as is my wont ... well, if I land on a Carry On
film I will stay with it and endlessly chuckle at its delightful
thing this morning, while grabbing some toast before setting off on my
walk, I peruse The Sunday Times telly listings.
I spot this
06.35 FILM: Carry On Matron Stars Sid James. Crooks set out to
steal contraceptive pills from a hospital. Funny. (1972)
Oh dear, I laughed out loud at that 10-word summary.
I won’t watch
‘cause I’ll be doing my own Carry On Morning Walk ― but I don’t need to,
really, for that line will go round and round inside my head for the
rest of the day.
Shame that the
Carry On films had finished before Viagra arrived on the scene. Now that
would have been funny.
Talking of Carry
On ― this smashing letter in The Times:
You must obey
spotted in a window of a legal bookshop in New Square, WC2: Sexual
Offences – A Practitioner’s Guide; Bribery – A Compliance Handbook.
BARBARA DIGBY-JONES, London SW5
got the better of me. Off chuffed Ivor the Search Engine =====
Sexual Offences: A Practitioner’s Guide -
Bribery: A Compliance Handbook –
it really did say
Friday, August 8th
Your number’s up
I HAVE a problem
remembering numbers and things, especially car registrations. I’ve owned
my current Saab some 13 years ― and still I can’t remember the bloody thing.
True, it is an
incredibly awkward combination to recall, so I have it written down in
the little ‘Working Man’s Brief Case’ I carry in my breast pocket ― I mean, imagine having the car
stolen when I’m on my travels and I can’t remember the number.
Now if I had a
number plate similar to one of those on today’s welcome mat ---- both
spotted on the same day while walking through Llandampness.
URU ― now
come on, how could I forget that? Wonderfully memorable. And the
ZZZ is a
hoot ― mind you, I’d be a bit nervous coming up behind this vehicle on a
motorway because I’d probably drop off to sleep, despite the YELL
bit. The power of the subliminal message, and all that jazzz.
Whatever, I am
in the process of changing cars ― time to downsize from my
faithful old 900, methinks.
So it was with
exquisite serendipity that I happened to be listening to Chris Evans on
the wireless this very morning...
Pause For Thought
From Rev’d Richard
Coles, cleric and broadcaster
Richard Coles, 52, found fame in the British pop duo, The Communards ― the tall,
speccy one ― then found religion.
September 2011, the chart song Don’t Leave Me This Way was
chosen for the end of a funeral service. What nobody predicted 25 years
previous was that the parish priest leading the coffin out of his church in
Finedon, Northants, would be the tall, speccy one from The
These days he is
a much in-demand broadcaster too, indeed he is a regular on Have I
Got News For You.
For Thought, and you will
probably understand why...
A RECENT survey
showed that vicars have one of the highest levels of job satisfaction in
Britain ― good news ― but that bare statistic fails to capture the
downsides of this life, like having to wear black in midsummer, people
expecting you to do something when it all goes pear-shaped on public
transport, and making strangers feel guilty.
I would add to these
trying to buy a car. This week I turned up in my dog collar to test
drive a modest estate model, suitable to my station in life (too lazy
for gears, and with room for three dachshunds, a meat bingo and a George
the Third tallboy).
The salesman who looked
after us was unfailingly polite and professional, but I steeled myself
for the look of disappointment that would follow when I said, “just the
basic spec, please”.
If he felt disappointed
he didn’t show it. What he did show me, as he cunningly led me through
the showroom, was the top of the range model, glossy and black,
turbocharged litres crammed under its sleek bonnet, its interior clad in
softest hide, smelling of Alan Sugar. “And this one?” I croaked - - - -
By the time he’d
finished, I had, in my mind, sold the church silver to make it mine, all
mine, because ---- I’M WORTH IT!
And at that moment I
remembered the words of Jesus: “For what shall it profit a man if he
shall gain Bluetooth connectivity and lose his own soul?” I paraphrase.
A moment’s satisfaction,
I guess; perhaps the more lasting pleasures of going about in a machine
that does its job beautifully well; but is it really suitable to turn up
in a funeral cortege driving a gleaming, growling V6, number plate RIP
No, I concluded,
and turned away from the gleaming beast in the showroom and configured
something vicarish instead (with one concession to the devil ― the dogs
get a heated cup holder).
Very smiley. And I liked that “just the basic spec, please”. Snap!
However, talking of
registration numbers ― this letter in The Sunday Times
When working in Fleet
Street in the heady early 1970s I used to delight in seeing Fiona
Richmond’s famous Jaguar E-type (along with gorgeous actress at the wheel) with
the number plate FU2 (“2RUDE: blushing DVLA officials slap ban on risqué
64 plates”). That, no doubt, would upset a legion of people nowadays.
Jeremy Haworth, Reading
number FU2 is no longer on the DVLA database. Obviously. Sadly.
PS: Spotted today, an eye-catchingly big and blue 4x4 Ford
Ranger (I think) pick-up truck, rolling along on the crest of some
XL spare-tyre sized wheels ― the number plate, though, made me
Thursday, August 7th
The six-five special’s steamin’ down the line
SIR – The change in
the marriage laws gives couples the opportunity to marry in
unusual places and breathes life into buildings that have seen
better days. My daughter’s wedding on the concourse at St
Pancras station was unique and personal ― and the magnificent
building was an ideal backdrop to a perfect day.
Over the points, over the points, over
THE above letter and picture compliments of today’s Daily Telegraph.
Just a little smile there,
mostly just interesting though ---
however, those who contribute to the online comments section had a bit
of a ball with their observations and puns.
though, the music suggested:
Another Town, Another Train (Abba)
Crazy Little Train of Love (Hank Snow)
Railway to Heaven (an old gospel song ― who else but Johnny Cash)
The Railroad Runs Through The Middle Of The House (Alma Cogan)
Freight Train (Nancy Whiskey)
Rock Island Line (Lonnie Donegan)
Last Train To San Fernando (Johnny Duncan)
Runaway Train (Michael Holliday)
Hot Rails to Hell (Blue Oyster Cult)
And many, many more ― oh, and I particularly enjoyed this exchange:
Anneallan: Chattanooga Choo Choo ― though the Atlantic might get in the way.
Grizzly: The Atlantic was always 4-4-2, Anne. Maybe a Pacific
get in the way?
Anneallan: My husband loves steam trains, so I have a vague idea
of what you speak.
witty, Mr Grizzly.
Right. Here’s a selection of the
Was he railroaded into this marriage?
bride will have been ten minutes late arriving.
caused by the wrong kind of confetti on the line?
appears taller than the groom ― could be wearing Kate’s
wonder how long her train was?
Presumably the best man was Michael Portillo (presenter of Great British
And the service featured readings from the Old Bradshaw’s, obviously.
it seems such a tender moment.
‘happy couple’ sat in the station photo booth, with all the guests, for
the wedding album.
the groom warned to take his baggage with him?
gifts were destroyed in a controlled explosion for being unattended
you think the marriage will stay on track?
will one of them go off the rails (cue Hot Rails to Hell)?
Silly but smiley. Which is the name of the game hereabouts.
And talking of really, really
clever puns ― a letter in The Times:
Strictly for birds
Sir, At the risk of causing
another corncockle panic, may I remind Derwent May’s Nature Notes that
elberberries, eaten raw, are poisonous to human beings. One or two will
do no harm, but members of a family in Sweden who each consumed a
We must respect our elders.
DAVID FRENCH, Bath
Meanwhile, spotted on the jokey side of the track:
Where’s Felixstowe? At the far end of Felixsfoote.
book fell on my head yesterday. I only have my shelf to blame.
Spell-cheque corner: ‘Chesyre’, as in Charlotte Chesyre, mother
of the bride at St Pancras, came up as ‘Cheesier’, which tickled me no
Wednesday, August 6th
Raiders of the Lost Ark:
“Touché ― arrgh!!!”*
(* touché: an acknowledgment of a hit by one’s
I FLICK through
The Sunday Times TV & Radio listings ... and stumble upon
Films of the week: Best Film – Raiders of the Lost Ark,
Wednesday, BBC3, 9pm.
I am not a
cinema goer. The last time was back in 1996, a crowd of us from The Crazy
Horsepower went to see Independence Day. A load of old bollocks,
really, with hardly any likeable characters saving the world.
These days I
only watch a film if it’s on telly and it happens to catch my eye as I
peruse the listings. Whatever, back with The Sunday Times...
It may be one of the movies that helped create the summer
blockbuster industry in which Hollywood now invests so heavily, but
Steven Spielberg’s 1981 film about the daring archaeologist Indiana
Jones (Harrison Ford) had a fairly modest budget.
These days, as
escapist movies grow ever more glossy and over inflated, the appeal of
this witty, rollicking yarn is increasingly akin to that of the
Saturday-morning serials of the 1930s and 1940s from which the film drew
Hm, I’ll watch that, I thought, even though I know every twist and turn
and can quote most of the dialogue.
hooked because the hero just has to be Welsh. I mean, with a name
like Jones? Down the Crazy Horsepower he’d probably be known as Jones
Then I suddenly remember,
a few days back, hearing something relevant, on the wireless ― so I
Ivor the Search Engine out of his shed ... bingo!
This from the
Raiders of the Lost Ark is most re-watched film
Research reveals that the average Briton has watched their favourite
film 29 times
Can you ever
have too much of a good thing? Apparently not, according to new
research, which reveals that, on average, Britons have watched their
favourite film an astonishing 29 times.
The survey of
1,000 Britons found that Steven Spielberg’s 1981 epic, Raiders of the
Lost Ark, was the most re-watched film, followed by Star Wars (1977) and
Back to the Future (1985).
Tsivrikos, the University College London teaching fellow who carried out
the research for Sky Store Buy and Keep, which provides a film
downloading service, blamed modern technology for this trend of
re-watching the same film time and time again.
“With so much
modern technology to distract us, it’s no great surprise that when it
comes to relaxing and watching a film, we struggle to switch off and
concentrate on the plot.
is only so much detail and drama the human brain can handle in one
sitting, meaning attention levels will dip during the duration of a film
and we may need to re-watch it a number of times to fully understand and
Hm. So I peruse the top ten list: Raiders, followed by Star Wars, Back
to the Future, Home Alone, ET, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Independence Day,
Titanic and Alien.
So why do I
enjoy watching Raiders over and over? Well, as with so many of the films
listed above, it’s really like watching Tom & Jerry meets The Road
Runner, but in real-life action.
comic cuts stuff for us grown ups.
has one of the wittiest visual gags in all of filmdom ― East meets West,
the cutlass-wielding man in black meets the impatiently sweaty white fellow with a gun
― and there it is up there, on today’s welcome mat.
So funny. Slays
me every time.
But what are the
films I watch whenever they appear on telly?
Well, at the top
is Casablanca. That Telegraph line “There is only so much detail and
drama the human brain can handle in one sitting” says it all. I always spot
And the one person from the world of make-believe that I
would have enjoyed being in real life is without doubt Vichy Captain Louis Renault, an
unabashedly corrupt police official who loves the girls to bits ― oh, and
delivers great lines of witty banter: “How extravagant you are, Rick,
throwing away women like that. Someday they may be scarce.”
“Welcome back to the fight, Louis. This time I know our side will win”
when push comes to shove, our Louis comes down on the side of good.
Nothing like a
5-star redemption to lift the soul.
So what comes after Casablanca in my most watched films?
Well, there’s Raiders, of course ― and then
comes The Life of
Brian, The Jungle Book (mega moons back a girlfriend presented me with
the video, which I really enjoy watching, hush my mouth ― it’s the music
you know, which also explains why I’ll watch Mary Poppins and The Sound
of Music when they’re on, shhh!).
will also watch the first three Bond films: Dr No, From Russia With Love
and Goldfinger. And how could I forget The Italian
Job ― that most marvellous of capers which boasts the most perfect
opening and closing sequences anyone could ever wish for......
Tuesday, August 5th
Welsh gymnast Frankie Jones receives the prestigious David Dixon award
during the 2014 Commonwealth Games closing ceremony
Frankie Goes to
Last Saturday I
wrote along these lines...
Imagine: over a period of three days at the Commonwealth Games
you climb the podium five times to receive five silver medals ― and
listen to the Canadian anthem as a talented 17-year-old gymnast puts you
in your place.
Finally you have to gather and compose yourself for what will be your
last ever public performance. And you glide serenely over the rainbow to
Frankie Jones sounds the sort of person you'd be reassured to find
alongside you in the trenches.
also added that
Frankie carried the Team Wales flag at the Opening Ceremony, recognition
of her dedicated services to rhythmic gymnastics in Wales ― and given
her extraordinary subsequent achievement, what a perfect circle if she also carries
it at the Closing Ceremony.
Well, she did not
carry the flag ― that honour went to cyclist Geraint Thomas (more of him
in a moment).
However, Frankie received
a much bigger honour. At the closing ceremony at Hampden Park last
Sunday, she was handed one of the most prestigious honours, the David
The award is presented to
one individual at each Commonwealth Games and marked Jones’s
contribution to Team Wales and her spirit of fair play.
A thoroughly deserved winner of the David Dixon award ― or what I call
the Churchill KBO award (Keep Buggering On).
Here’s lookin’ at you,
mentioned in previous dispatches, road cycling is blessed with more than
its fair share of characters, both riding the bikes and also
commentating and punditing(?) on events. Remember the glorious tale
of the cyclist fined for taking a ‘comfort break’, a quick pee, without exercising
Thursday afternoon I watched England’s Alex Dowsett produce a brilliant
late rally to claim gold in a closely fought men’s time-trial at the
Rohan Dennis of
Australia took silver, just ahead of Wales’s Geraint Thomas with
describe just how happy I am with today,” said Dowsett. “It goes a lot
deeper than simply winning the gold medal. I fought like I have never
fought before ― no one wanted that more than me today.”
Angry young man
victory went some way to making up for missing out on selection for
Movistar’s Tour de France team. The talented
Essex rider had been earmarked for the nine-man squad but fell ill in
the weeks leading up to the race and subsequently had to be omitted.
“It was a bitter
disappointment not being selected for the Tour,” Dowsett added. “I spent
the whole month fairly angry, not at anyone in particular, just angry at
angry, angry, angry all this month. Ever since I was a kid I have pulled
something out of the bag when I have been really angry, so it’s pretty
special to have won the gold medal.”
alongside Dowsett, was then interviewed about his medal, which everyone
agreed was most impressive given that, unlike the other two medallists,
he had only just come off the Tour de France after three gruelling
Geraint Thomas with his bronze medal: remember,
60% of what we are is written into our faces
is recognised as a genial, hard working team member and much liked, both
by his own team and other riders ― they all refer to him simply as “G”,
which is always a sign of mutual affection, something which the above
photo of him with his medal underwrites.
And he is
blessed with the ability to deliver a suitably amusing comment for every
In the televised
interview he duly congratulated Alex Dowsett, alongside him, and then
proclaimed to the interviewer: “Next time I race Alex I shall first send
him a huge bouquet of flowers, which will hopefully make him feel really
good about himself. I certainly won’t want to race him again when he’s
Geraint was duly rewarded for his good humour last Sunday when he provided
one of the most memorable moments in Welsh Commonwealth Games history
with a brilliant gold medal ride in the men’s road race in atrocious
conditions in Glasgow.
There was high
drama as he overcame two stoppages, including one puncture with just a
handful of kilometres to go ― but he had built up just enough of a lead
to allow for the change of wheel.
Personally, I think he is entitled to send himself a huge bouquet of
Monday, August 4th
The sun rises this morning behind wild poppies growing on
the verge of a Flanders
field on a day which marks 100 years since Britain entered the First
What can one say on a day like
A final farewell
Glasgow Cathedral, Across The Commonwealth: a service to honour and
reflect on the Commonwealth servicemen who fought alongside Britain.
Perhaps the most moving moment of a dignified and understated service
came when Joanne Thomson, a young actress and graduate of the Royal
Conservatoire Scotland, read from memory the heart-rending words of the
wife of the poet Edward Thomas.
Helen Thomas described their last night together at Christmas before he left for the
front, after joining the Artists rifles in July 1915.
poignancy of their parting was captured in the single word, “Coo-ee”,
which they repeatedly called to each other as he walked away from his
wife and family after a night of “talking, crying and loving”.
is just a flavour of Miss Thomson, reading Mrs Thomas’s words:
I stood at the gate watching him go; he turned back to wave
until the mist and the hill hid him. I heard his old call coming
up to me: Coo-ee! He called. Coo-ee! I answered.
Again through the thick air came his Coo-ee! And again went my
answer like an echo ... Coo-ee! So faint now that it might be only
my own call flung back from the thick air and muffling snow. I
put my hands up to my mouth to make a trumpet, but no sound
Panic seized me, and I ran through the mist and the snow to the
top of the hill, and I stood there a moment dumbly, with straining
eyes and ears. There was nothing but the mist and the snow and
the silence of death.
Then, with leaden feet which stumbled in a sudden darkness that
overwhelmed me, I groped my way back to the empty house.
Five weeks later the poet’s observation post took a direct hit. There
were no survivors.
As I write I am unable to find a direct YouTube link to the reading.
However, it will be available on the BBC’s iPlayer for a week: either
simply search World War One Remembered, or click on the link here:
The sequence comes up at 1:31 into the broadcast. It is some 3½ minutes
length of a typical pop song ― of heart-breaking emotion. So powerful.
Every world leader should be forced to watch and listen.
But I doubt whether it would make a blind bit of difference.
Politicians, world leaders and power brokers have a different genetic
composition to the rest of humanity. They dance to a different tune.
Finally, and being that today I feature poppies on the welcome mat, it
is appropriate that everyone attending the service at
Glasgow Cathedral found a poppy placed on their seat, which Reverend Whitley,
minister of the Cathedral, asked them to take
away and place where they feel appropriate.
was exceedingly touching to watch everyone leave the Cathedral clutching
a long-stemmed poppy...
Sunday, August 3rd
I HAVE a contract with the adult world about me: I won’t send you any
cards on your birthday, anniversary or at Christmas ― and I certainly
won’t give you any presents (something that you probably don’t really
want, anyway); and in return you don’t send me any cards or give me
presents (something that really and truly I don’t actually want, anyway).
It works a
treat. And as far as I can tell, everyone but everyone is delighted with
And just imagine
all the hassle and stress it saves in the lead up to Christmas. Heaven.
Now I don’t
include in that deal presenting a little something ― a bottle or a box
of chocolates, say ― if someone has done me a good turn or an unexpected
favour. That is different.
Be that as it
may, I rather liked this tale as told by Daniel Finkelstein in his
I notice that
Ed Miliband decided to give Barack Obama a plastic bag full of DVDs as a
present. It wasn’t, perhaps, the classiest gift, but I am sympathetic.
The choice of present for a man who has everything is a nightmare.
I have always
loved Rod Stewart’s story of buying a Christmas present for Elton John.
He spent quite a while looking for just the right thing before settling
on an £85 novelty miniature fridge, to put under the piano.
Sitting in Sir
Elton’s lounge with the fridge wrapped and by his side, Rod heard his
fellow pop star say: “So, here is your Christmas present.”
as he handed it over, Sir Elton added: “It’s a Rembrandt.”
Now you tell me that my contract with the world about me is not way
ahead of its time.
A ready answer
The other day I mentioned that when it comes to a touch of repartee I’m
a basic 0 to 60 in 10 seconds man i.e. I think of a perfect answer 7.5
seconds too late. In other words, if you can’t come up with an answer
within 2.5 seconds, just bite your tongue and smile.
Yes, I have my
occasional moments, but I really do enjoy the company of those who are
blessed with a 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds sort of mind, even if their
rat-a-tat-tat humour is at my expense.
This all brings
me neatly to this glorious letter in The Times:
Sir, Ian West
clearly lacked the wit or courage of FE Smith (aka Lord Birkenhead) who,
according to Churchill’s Great Contemporaries had a titanic
argument with a judge which ended with the judge accusing him of being
To which Smith replied, “In fact we both are but the
difference is that I am trying to be and you can’t help it”.
PATRICK ARBUTHNOT, Amersham, Bucks
Saturday, August 2nd
What's a naughty umbrella like you doing...
...hanging out in a nice place like this?
(cartoon by xXEmilySweetXx)
Lady in Red at
the house of Hilary Pute
GIVEN that the
agreeably warm and extended sunny spell came to a sudden end this morning, I was
reminded of a recent and amusing thread of letters in The Times:
Your report that men viewing women wearing red consider them to be
sexually receptive reminds me that while my mother was a medical student
at Trinity College Dublin in about 1913, another undergraduate was
severely rebuked for offensive, unladylike behaviour.
She had walked through the Trinity grounds carrying a
DR SR CAVANAGH, London SW13
Here’s a response ― and spot the subtle error, confirming the adage that
we should believe nothing we hear and only half what we read:
Sir, Dr SR
Cavanagh’s mother was rebuked for carrying a red umbrella in 1913. The
same happened to me in the mid-1960s.
When she first saw my new red umbrella, my mother (who
was very straitlaced) had a fit. I was perplexed until she explained
that prostitutes had red umbrellas and I should never carry one,
especially in London.
I used it often and was never propositioned while
SHEILA MOSS, Allestree, Derbyshire
Sir, At a St Andrews university debate I recall it being stated that red
gowns were introduced in the late 1800s so that students could be more
easily spotted entering houses of ill repute.
A member of the audience asked if that was why divinity
students continued to wear black.
EDDIE POYNER, Lanark
Rouge et noir
enjoyed the letter by Sheila Moss but may I correct the record: it was
not my mother but another undergraduate who was rebuked for her red
umbrella at Trinity College Dublin.
My mother carried a black umbrella.
DR SR CAVANAGH, Barnes, London
Very good. Staying with The Times and tales of ships that pass in
report that Costa Concordia is travelling north “at two
knots per hour”. This is a measure of acceleration, not velocity, so
Genoa may soon see the arrival of a supersonic wreck.
Sir, An ethical oath for bankers. Yes, that should do the trick.
SANDY SKINNER, Winchcombe, Glos
As a matter of interest I did check that out. Yes indeed. The report
mentioned should have said “travelling north at two knots”, full stop,
heave to, avast, or whatever. Every day a day at school at Look You.
Finally, and to really sign off with a mega smile, again from The
GRAHAM CORY, Daventry, Northants
The thought of a spiv having to take an ethical oath ... well, there’s
no answer to that, really.
Friday, August 1st
A touch of class
Mr & Mrs WWW (William Wales of Windsor*) set off on honeymoon
* Styles & Titles: In his military life, the Duke
of Cambridge is known as Flight Lieutenant William Wales (being the
elder son of Charles, Prince of Wales). At St Andrews University, where
he first met Catherine Middleton, he enrolled under the name William
Wales and his fellow students called him Steve to prevent journalists
from picking up stories.
But the newspapers (and all the rest of the meeja one
presumes) were already on his case compliments of something that was
furtively known as HRH PH - Hot Really Hot Phone Hacking.
the little things that say so much
I AM a big Kate fan. Mostly because she delivers precisely what it says
on the tin.
Her inherent talents became
obvious when she made her first public appearance proper, back in 2011 at
As someone from the supposedly
common or garden middle classes, Catherine Middleton appeared to be
astonishingly in charge of the huge event that was unfolding all around
When the pair left Westminster
Abbey, I couldn’t help but notice how elegantly our Catherine bowed her
head when the national anthem played and William saluted (as featured on
today’s welcome mat).
I remember thinking: it
appears to be
a straightforwardly simple thing to do, but you can’t be taught to
perform things as gracefully as that, as if you’ve been doing it all
your life. You either have the regal gene ― or you don’t.
And the more we learn about
her genetic family tree ― including an aristocratic trace it seems ― the
more we appreciate that such dominant genes, for better or worse, will always out, no matter
how deeply they are embedded.
Indeed, what with her
natural-born smile, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge was clearly born to do what she does so well.
Fate, after all, is what
happens to you, destiny is what you do with it.
Best foot forward
However, should not mum have a
quiet word and insist that when Kate visits a place where she is
likely to be asked to perform something athletic ― such as at the
Commonwealth Games ― she should get herself an elegant pair of trainers
or some such like...
Thick end of the wedge
After watching the athletics
at Glasgow’s Hampden Park, Kate, along with Mr Kate and brother-in-law,
played a game of ‘three tins’. The game, apparently, involves knocking
down three tins with a ball before running into the middle of a square,
rebuilding them and hopping over the tins three times.
Kate smiled serenely after
completing the task in her high-heeled wedges
Clearly she adores her wedgie
footwear, and can impressively perform extraordinary gymnastic tricks
while wearing them ― but she looks all wrong jumping over a hill of
beans in this crazy world of ours in a pair of wedges.
Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
the day 2013: Nov
Smile of the day
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013: Jan
Smile of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
Smile of the day 2012 (Jan-Mar)
.. Smile of the day 2012
(Apr-Jun) .. Smile of the
day 2012c (Jul-Sep) .. Smile
of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
Previous 2011 smiles:
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jan-Jun)
.. Smile of the Day 2011 (Jul-Sep)
.. Smile of the day 2011
Smile of the Day 2010
(Jan to Jun) 2009
March to May '07
June to Aug '07
Sep to Dec '07
You are here, way out west,
aka Dodgy City
Previously on LOOK
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2014:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day 2013:
Smile of the day
Smile of the day 2013: Jan
of the day 2012d (Oct-Dec)
of the day 2012c (Jul-Sep)
Smile of the day 2012
Smile of the day 2012 (Jan-Mar)
Smile of the day 2011
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jul-Sep)
Smile of the Day 2011 (Jan-Jun)
Smile of the Day 2010
2010 (Jan to Jun)
Sep to Dec '07
June to Aug '07
March to May '07
As it was in
ST DAVID'S DAY, 2007
Postcards from my Square
Here's lookin' at you
400 Smiles A Day
What A Gas
400 Smiles A Day