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

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

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

400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 08/06/2013



                                                                                        Design: Yosida

 
                                                                 ♫♫♫ TO SELF                            
It seems that the artist Leonardo da Vinci kept a notebook, Notes to Self, a list of “things to do today”: buy paper; charcoal; chalk ... describe tongue of woodpecker and jaw of crocodile...
     These are my Notes to Self, a daily record of the things that make me smile and which brighten up my day no end, whether read in a newspaper, seen on TV, heard on the radio, told in the pub, spotted in the supermarket, a good joke, a great story, a funny cartoon, a film clip, an eye-catching picture, a memorable song, something startling that nevertheless generates a spontaneous smile, curiosities spotted along my walks through the Towy Valley...
     This is a snapshot of life beyond the blue horizon...

    
                                                                               ...and everyday a doolally smile of the day
PS: The shortest distance between two people is a smile ...
                                                                             
Contact Me
 
Sunday, August 31st, 2014


August 2014: sunrise, Dinefwr Park, Llandeilo

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

                     
William Henry Davies (1871-1940)

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 September.

Still, nature’s autumn signposts are everywhere.

So I thought I’d share with you a couple of photographs captured along my morning walk through the Towy Valley.

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...

Costume change: 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 hues.

Beautiful.

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 season.)

What a handsome and smiley way to wave goodbye to August and meteorological summer. 
 

Saturday, August 30th

Water waste

IF I 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”.

Spot on, Sheila.

Be 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.

Last 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.

Over to Hugo ― but first...
                                             

My week: Harrods ice bucket department

Monday

So 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.

“We need an ice bucket,” he says.

“You come to the right place,” I tell him.

“But 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.”

Then 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.

Then 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.

And while he’s sure Cliff’s would still be fine, he isn’t prepared to risk it.

“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 his head.

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?” says Cherie.

“Well, probably,” says Tony. And then they buy a big shiny gold one.

Tuesday

The 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 top.

Then he says he needs an ice bucket.

“Thought you might,” I say. “My friends say they’ll tell me why later,” he says.

“Wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise,” say I.

“But 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.

Wednesday

Gwyneth Paltrow also wants an ice bucket. Only hers has to be macrobiotic.

“Not sure we’ve got them,” I say.

Or 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 her.

Then she says she also needs some special ice cubes, of particular high quality water.

“Alas madam,” I say. “This is the Ice Bucket Department. And you’ll be wanting the Fleece Credulous Celebrities Department.”

“But they put me on to you,” she says.

Thursday

And 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 bucket?”

I wish people would stop asking me that. I mean, I’m the fuckin’ Ice Bucket Department.

“My delectable lady friend,” continues Brand, “has demanded that I purchase one forthwith. Although I am a monkey’s uncle, me old chimeroo, if I know why.”

“To pour over your head,” says Khan.

“To 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.

But people all over the world are doing it, I tell her. It’s a massive craze.

Khan shrugs. “Maybe they also want him to wash his hair,” she says.

Friday

Boris Johnson comes storming in, looking confused, and says he’s been told he needs a nice blanket.

“Are 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.

Oh, and 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 ― well, I 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. Downstairs, everyone’s nightmare is unfolding: a burglar is tiptoeing about the lounge, flashlight in hand ― when he suddenly hears a whisper: “Jesus is watching you.”

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.”

“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.”

I
’d never thought of Chief Wise Owl as an idiot. There again, we all have our blind spots.

Letters to The Times  Editor:

Inexplicable

Sir, I have just seen a high-vis jacket on Clifton suspension bridge with “Explainer” printed on the back.
     Means guide, I suppose.
SALLY SPARKS, Bristol

“Custom, then, is the great guide of human life.”
                                                                
David Hume (1711-1776) ― Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding
 

Surprise, surprise

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 exclaiming “Yowser!
     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

There’s a fellow at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon who always says “Hellos”, “Goodbyes” and How are yous?”.

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 move. I have nothing more to add, end of,” he said. The interviewer kept pressing the fellow ― and he kept ending his every brief response with end 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 column:

SMS SOS

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 disappoints”:

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 bottle-fed.
     “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 came.”

And finally, memories of Benny Hill, compliments of a brief online exchange:

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.

Thank you, Whitestones, 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 joy.

Do you know, if I were still piloting, Id burst out laughing whenever I had to use “Charlie”. 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

Play balls

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 beep-beep! 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 easily give offence.

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 Times:

You may now kiss the Kiss

A woman found herself expunged from Facebook after she got married because her new name was deemed “too suggestive”.

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 friends.

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 ‘legover’ crack-up.

I dare you not to smile XL:
                                                   
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsVTpX7LdZQ
 


Wednesday, August 27th


Jimmy 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

“I am 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 that.”

Funny how some jokes stick in the memory for ever and a day. Sadly, Jimmy Hill, now 86, is suffering from dementia. Poor bugger.

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 Day.

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” Motson.

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 the sheepskins.

And in tribute to
“Motty” and his sheepskin ― just one of his glorious and memorable Colemanballs*:

 

This all brings me neatly to David Coleman. But first...

*Colemanballs: 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: “That’s 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 Sport.

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 one-liner.

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
by Clare Balding.

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.

PS:
On 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, too.

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 sofa.

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.”

TV channel Dave last week announced the winner of its Funniest Joke of the Edinburgh Fringe Award.

Comedian Tim 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

Whatever, 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 right:

      “Hasta la vista, baby! D’oh!

Quite obviously 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.
     But I reckon he was taken to court and received a short sentence
!

Omargourd: What 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 dust.”

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.

Really clever. 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
Greg Foster:
     “I’m going to sell my Dyson ball cleaner ― when I get out of hospital, that is.”

Right, jokes done. Now the different humour thrown up by letters to the newspapers. This, from The Times:

Burning cheeks

Sir, In 1978, aged 20, I was interviewed at a small West End firm of solicitors by the senior partner.
     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:

Bedtime reading

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 product.”
Simon Funnell, Golant, Cornwall

Help manual

SIR – I have bought a vibro-sonic jewellery cleaner but am struggling with the instructions. No 4 reads “uft tray and place into tus”.
Joy Leach, Peterlee, Co Durham

A vibro-sonic 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 private crown jewels into the vibro-sonic cleaner (shades of the Dyson ball cleaner?).

And on that note:

Clean fight

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 weapon.”
     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

Hm, dishcloths at dawn. And my ‘second’ will be a crop duster. Shades of North By Northwest.

Opera buffoon

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

Indeed. But 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 grape Vine

“Some 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 up

TWO local Sign Language contenders spotted while strolling through Llandampness. The first, at Pedantry Corner...

Spotted outside the Spar Corner Shop
The Day That The Rains Came Down – Jane Morgan

Spotted outside The Cawdor Hotel
Happy New Year - Abba

Actually, even 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 dark
(or perhaps a guide to summer nights in outside)

Now here’s something most curious, something I spotted a couple of weeks ago, before the agreeably sunshiny weather of summer broke and the rains came down.

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...

Elementary, my dear Watson

The evidence?

Some towels, 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.

The conclusion?

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).

Intriguing beyond, though.

Meanwhile, sticking to sex and the rural theme...

Hungry cows get the horn

It’s early 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.

See for yourself, below ... first though, some online comments suggest that someone, out of sight, is driving the cows over the brow and toward the trombonist.

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 behave.

As someone 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.

For Pavlov’s 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

The 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.

Each variable 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 and Wales.

Enter 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 south-westerly direction...

     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.

Anyway, here’s the link:

                   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11041812/Mapped-the-best-places-to-live-in-England-and-Wales.html
 

That’s my home

I guessed that someday Acker Bilk’s That's My Home (over there as one of the
Signature Tunes  on My Desert Island Video Jukebox) would serve a purpose.

Personally, I 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 once, Ed].

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 stop. And if your heart agrees ― well, I think that’s called a jackpot rollover win.

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 into Sunday.

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 indeed, after How are you?, it is the default conversation topic.

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

Knock-Knock!
Who’s there?


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 trees.

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 time.

I mean, just look at the extraordinary chain of events, above, needed to deliver the conkers on show up there, on todays welcome mat.

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! Just Fishing.

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.

And I in turn pointed out on Thursdays smile that, although I have never worn a bra, I do understand 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

Red lips, 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 wheel.

Before I delve further, a brief piece from the Telegraph, dated March 2012:

                      
Who’s who in the Chipping Norton set?

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 scandal erupted.

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.

D’oh! 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 apostrophised “two 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 under Points:

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.
HB


                                                                                          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 party leaders.
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 or what?

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 the news:

                     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.

Well, well.

But surely, Top Gear is a recorded programme, so it’s the producer who has the final word on anything and everything that is broadcast. No?

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, Wiltshire

     17)   Playing Pooh Sticks at 100 Acre Wood, East Sussex

     21)   Picking blackberries on Box Hill, Surrey

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 tale, above.

Listening to music ― most types of music, really ― gives me great pleasure.

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 a 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 particular pleasures.

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.”
 

 

Vanessa continues: “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 agreeably amusing.

But, it brought back many pleasurable memories.

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 of this.
 


Wednesday, August 20th


Long time no see
[as 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.
Simon Edsor, London SW1

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.

Be all that as it may, it did 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 there, here are some responses that made the printed page:

How am I? You really wouldn’t want to know

Jan Reeks, Gloucester: My late stepfather’s response was usually: “Another day nearer death.”

Graham Spencer,
Hereford: My father would often reply: “Not much better for your asking, thank you.”

Andrew Gulliver,
Grimsby, Lincolnshire: 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

Garry Petherbridge,
Leigh-on-Sea, Essex: 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.

Angela Weallans,
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.”

Patricia Evans,
Sandhurst, Berkshire: My friend’s late mother always replied, “One foot in the grave and the other on a banana skin.”

Michael Glover,
Dinton, Wiltshire: 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 about the famous racing stable in the West Country?

Whatever, on with the show...

Derek Cheeseman,
Broadstone, Dorset: I sometimes borrow a line from Lieutenant Commander Data, the android of Star Trek fame: “My biological and psychological systems are functioning within normal parameters.”

Neil Buchan,
Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire: Depending on who’s asking, my usual response is, “How long have you got?”.


Bernard Kerrison,
London SW4: A bore is a man who, when you ask him how he is, tells you.

Happy returns

Peter Waine, Pewsey, Wiltshire: 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.

                  It 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.

However, my default response, whether to the barmaid or the vicar, is: “Oh, average plus.” Entertaining exchanges invariably follow.

Indeed, 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.

Curiously enough, 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 response.”

     “Sensible is a very apt word to use,” said Ken, laughing...

Unnatural-born entertainers

I’ll never understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay.
Robin Williams
’s 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.

Who 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 ourselves smiling.

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

Passed tense, fuchsia uncertain

SUCH a delightful little smiley tale to kick-start the day. And I did like the “Northumberland Country Counsel” bit. Very witty.

Speaking of 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 HORSES’.

“Obviously 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 say.

However, Ivor did consciously couple with a brace of glorious images from the Telegraph’s  Sign Language 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


The Duchess of Cambridge attends the WWI 100 Years Commemoration
Ceremony at Le
Mémorial Interallié in Liège, Belgium, August 4, 2014
 

Another class, another pussycat

YESTERDAY, I smiled at cats in all their photogenic glory. From Small to XXL.

By default, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, came instantly to mind.

Now there  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 street...

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.

What I particularly remember was how elegantly she bowed her head when the national anthem played and William saluted.

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 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, Belgium.

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, Belgium....


Kate, with French President Francois Hollande and Queen Mathilde of Belgium

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 looks.

Kate 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 tumbleweed rolls...

“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).

Camilla continues: “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 unfortunate individuals.
 


Sunday, August 17th

Pussycat, pussycat

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 share.

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 odd feature.

The most famous is Grumpy Cat, an internet superstar known for her morose looks, serious under bite and dwarfism...

                    ...yet she 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.

Whatever, 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.

But 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.

The 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?)

As it says on todays 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?
Stephen Rees-Jones, Bywater Cruises, Dulverton, Somerset

Nanny knows best

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.
Shirley Puckett, Tenterden, Kent
 


Saturday, August 16th

Weigh in, way out

THE nation, it seems, is slowly sinking under the weight of its occupants.

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.

Perfect advice, Joan, dispensed with humour. And I particularly enjoyed the following counsel, spotted in a letter to The Sunday Times...

Spelling it out

Rod Liddle (“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.


Smashing.

The problem 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 that children should be skinny and near the bone.

And you instantly appreciated 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.

Aircraft, for example. We went from the slim 707 to the jumbo 747 ― in the blink of an eye...



 

          ...the 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.

Sing something simple

But here’s 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 ― a 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 inspection.

It is remarkable how obese we’ve become.

And the 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?

Sorry, Sir
(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) ― therefore: 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 actually are.

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, Julie.

Sorry, Sir
(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 drink.
                    A: Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutants like
                        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 they are proper smile-of-the-day material.

 

Thursday, August 14th

Monkey Business - the Marx Brothers done proud

“Would you like to have anything before lunch?”
“Yes, breakfast.”

 

     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!

Macaque is the new black

The story is both curious and amusing. Are we really supposed to believe that old smiler macaque ― 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 the world that it’s a monkey selfie, there’s no way round it.

Macaque is 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.

 

Test paper

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...

Sorry, Sir

                      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

Reading between 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 yesterday)?

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?”

A little 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.

These 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 2002.

Memories are made of this

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.

Anyway, the 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?”

So funny. 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 steps.

Now this scrapbook cum diary isn’t just thrown together, you know. Everything is linked:

“Can you ride tandem?”


♫♫♫  Boris, Boris, give me your answer do yes or no!
 

When TV 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.

Paxman and 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.

Whatever, time for those PG Tips links:

                                                               PG Tips: Can you ride tandem?

                                                                                   PG Tips: A Shifter & Sons Removals
 


Tuesday, August 12th

Newman’s Week
@ The Sunday Times


Son of Thatch-err?

Quotes from the political front

“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 Telegraph.

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 opinions, then?

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 London’s mayor:

“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.”

Whatever, Boris.

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 last April:

  
Boris Johnson lets the chainsaw loose on HS2 [high speed rail line] opposition in Tory heartlands

“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 Greenwich 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

Sir, 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 toms eye

More smashing letters from The Times:

West Country wit

Sir, Bristol’s 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 appointment necessary”.
ROSE SANGUINETTI, Wedmore, Somerset

Cats eyes
!

Sir, 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 removed.”
JOSEPH FISHER, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne


Do you know, suddenly I’m back in the day, when I was an apprentice young buck about town, and I never really appreciated what the girls meant when they said “Will you stop your nonsense
!”.

But hang about:

Less swagger?

Sir, Apropos 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

Hm, what 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.

Whatever, talking of euphemisms, another collection of letters from The Times  which I’ve been hanging onto for a while now, awaiting that opportune moment:

Sloth powders nose

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 level.
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:

Monkeying around

Sir, 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 Naked diner.

Spending pennies

Sir, In 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

Comic turns

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:

Not flush

Sir, My 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 line...

No, seriously

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 comedians.
KENNETH NOBLE, Lingfield, Surrey

Comedy guards

Sir, Further 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 lines.
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 season ticket.
JO COLE, Hinxworth, Herts


Funny guards

Sir, I 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

Sir, Cheerful 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 captain speak-ing?

Sir, Humorous 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

Listen up

Sir, On 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 overhead lockers.
     A steward’s voice, loud and clear, asked everybody to sit down quickly as the captain could not see to reverse. There was instant obedience.
VERONICA METCALFE, Gloucester


All charm

Sir, I 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 back.”
GERALDINE KENNY, Worthing


Finally, and sticking to the business of getting from A to B as quickly and as effortlessly as possible:

Congestion beater

Sir, The 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


Highway Patrol

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 citys streets.

"The tortoise did try to make a run for it, but our officers are pretty fast," said the Alhambra Police Department on its Facebook page.

10-4.

 

Saturday, August 9th

As the old crow sing, so sings its fledglings – French proverb

A blind man shoots sometimes a crow – Flemish proverb

Crowblack-bobbing roof

IT’S been a smashing week way out west, here in Dodgy City ― weather wise, anyway. My morning walks have been a delight.

Around sunrise you have this wonderful meadow mist all over the shop. It quickly burns away.

Some mornings 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.

Following the 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.

This morning, 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 striking sight.

Carry on taking the pills

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 sillyness.

Anyway, first thing this morning, while grabbing some toast before setting off on my walk, I peruse The Sunday Times  telly listings.

I spot this under ITV3...

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

Sir, Titles 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

Curiosity got the better of me. Off chuffed Ivor the Search Engine =====


                          Sexual Offences: A Practitioner’s Guide -
£73.03

                          Bribery: A Compliance Handbook – ONLY £75

Yes, it really did say .03 and ONLY.
 


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

Rev Richard Coles, 52, found fame in the British pop duo, The Communards ― the tall, speccy one ― then found religion.

Back in 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 Communards.

These days he is a much in-demand broadcaster too, indeed he is a regular on Have I Got News For You.

Peruse this Pause 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 1?

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  motoring section:

Risqué assessment

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

                                         

The registration 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 chuckle: M9 TOY
 


Thursday, August 7th

♫  The six-five special’s steamin’ down the line

 

               Bridal trains

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.
Charlotte Chesyre, St Albans, Hertfordshire

 

  Over the points, over the points, over the points...

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.

First though, the music suggested:

     Another Town, Another Train (Abba)

     Crazy Little Train of Love (Hank Snow)

     Life’s 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 (4-6-2) wouldnt get in the way?

     Anneallan: My husband loves steam trains, so I have a vague idea of what you speak.

Exceedingly witty, Mr Grizzly.

Right. Here’s a selection of the comments:

     Was he railroaded into this marriage?

     The bride will have been ten minutes late arriving.

     Delay caused by the wrong kind of confetti on the line?

     She appears taller than the groom ― could be wearing Kate’s high-heeled platforms.

     I wonder how long her train was?

     Presumably the best man was Michael Portillo (presenter of Great British Railway Journeys).

     And the service featured readings from the Old Bradshaw’s, obviously.

     Ah, it seems such a tender moment.

     The ‘happy couple’ sat in the station photo booth, with all the guests, for the wedding album.

     Was the groom warned to take his baggage with him?

     The gifts were destroyed in a controlled explosion for being unattended suspect packages.

     Do you think the marriage will stay on track?

     Or 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 bowlful died.
     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.

     A 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 end.
 


Wednesday, August 6th


Raiders of the Lost Ark: “Touché ― arrgh!!!”*
(* touché: an acknowledgment of a hit by ones opponent!)

Watch it

I FLICK through The Sunday Times  TV & Radio listings ... and stumble upon Films of the week: Best FilmRaiders 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 inspiration.

Hm, I’ll watch that, I thought, even though I know every twist and turn and can quote most of the dialogue.

I’m probably 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 Rear-view Mirror.

Then I suddenly remember, a few days back, hearing something relevant, on the wireless ― so I reverse Ivor the Search Engine out of his shed ... bingo!

This from the Telegraph:

                  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).

Dimitrios 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.

“There 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 appreciate it.”

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.

It’s glorious comic cuts stuff for us grown ups.

Also, Raiders 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 something new.

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”

But eventually, 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!).

I 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 Hampden Park

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 secure gold.

Frankie Jones sounds the sort of person you'd be reassured to find alongside you in the trenches.

I 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 Dixon award.

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, girl.

Inside track

As I’ve 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 proper discretion?

Well, last 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 Commonwealth Games.

Rohan Dennis of Australia took silver, just ahead of Wales’s Geraint Thomas with bronze.

“I can’t 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

Alex Dowsett’s 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 the situation.

“I’ve been 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.”

Geraint Thomas, 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 weeks...


Geraint Thomas with his bronze medal: remember,
60% of what we are is written into our faces

Geraint Thomas 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 occasion.

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 this angry.”

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 flowers.
 

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 World War

What can one say on a day like this?

Well...

A final farewell

10.40am 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.  

The 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”.

Here 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 came.

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:

                   http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04cp610/world-war-one-remembered-across-the-commonwealth

The sequence comes up at 1:31 into the broadcast. It is some 3½ minutes ― the 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.

It was exceedingly touching to watch everyone leave the Cathedral clutching a long-stemmed poppy...
 


Sunday, August 3rd

Surprise, surprise

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 the arrangement.

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 Times  Notebook:

Art of embarrassment

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.” And then 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:

Judicial jousting

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 “most offensive”.
     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:

Wanton

Sir, 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 red umbrella.
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:

Dolly brolly

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 carrying it.
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

Sir, I 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 the night:

Speedboat

Sir, You 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.
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 Times:

Hypocritic oath

Sir, An ethical oath for bankers. Yes, that should do the trick.
GRAHAM CORY, Daventry, Northants

The thought of a spiv having to take an ethical oath ... well, theres 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.
 

Its 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 Westminster Abbey.

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 her.

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.

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Previously on LOOK YOU......


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

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

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

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

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

2008
Sep to Dec '07

June to Aug '07
March to May '07

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

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