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

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Updated: 11/08/2013

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400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 08/06/2013

                                                                                        Design: Yosida

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

                                                                               ...and everyday a doolally smile of the day
PS: The shortest distance between two people is a smile ...
Contact Me
Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Newman's Week in The Sunday Times

Light purrs make a heavy heart

Heavy purrs make a light heart

   (With apologies to the world of Proverbs)

THE David Cameron indiscretion will not go quietly into that good night, witness the funny and clever cartoon, above, as enjoyed in last weekend’s Sunday Times.

And I liked this letter in The Times:

Who’s purring?

Sir, David Cameron should go to Bletchley Park (of Enigma code fame) to learn how to keep a secret (“Queen purred when I told her that Scotland voted ‘no’ says Cameron”, Sept 24).
     On a recent visit to Bletchley our guide told us that a few weeks previously an elderly couple touring the site had realised to their complete surprise that they had worked in the same hut, but on different shifts, at Bletchley during the war.
     Because they were subject to the Official Secrets Act they had never discussed with each other ― nor with anyone else ― what they did between 1939 and 1945.
     That is how to keep a secret Mr Cameron.
ROGER HART, Witham, Essex

What I like about that tale of the unexpected is the fact it highlights the great truth that, if you know just one person you can trust absolutely to keep a secret, you are a very lucky soul.

Anyway, around midday today I happened to catch live on the box Boris Johnson, Mayor of Old London Town, in full flow to a packed house at the Conservative Party annual conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham.

“We can say with pride,” said Boris, ruffling his hair in that characteristic way he always does, “that London remains, not just the capital of England, but thanks to the wisdom of a clear majority of Scots, it is the capital of Britain, and the capital of the United Kingdom...” Applause... “You have permission to purr if you so choose.” Laughter.

The picture cut instantly to David Cameron in the audience ― who gently shook his head in a let-him-have-his-moment manner and laughed enthusiastically. Well, he would, wouldn’t he?

It was a good joke, well delivered and well received. Then Boris went on to talk to a brick. Yes, a brick.

Boris tells brick: ‘You will not be alone’

During his rousing and entertaining speech, Boris holds up Exhibit A, a brick, saying that a billion more would be needed to build new homes.

He produced the brick to make his point. “Behold this brick, given to me yesterday in Newcastle under Lyme,” he said. “They gave it to me in a factory that only started last year and has been propelled by the positive benefits of Help to Buy.”

He subsequently addressed the brick directly, saying that a billion more would be needed to build new homes. “You will not be alone, brick,” he said.

What I liked was his “Behold this brick...”, which proves what a great orator he is.

Boris, you too really are a brick.

But I did wonder if someone out there in the Twittersphere came up with the glorious headline Prick chats up Brick”. (Ivor the Search Engine could not find such an example.)

And incidentally, given that Boris is one of life’s natural-born public speakers, it was obvious that he regularly glanced down at a sheaf of notes with clear bullet points listed thereon. A lesson there for those who think they can address an audience without reminder points.

Whatever, news outlets enjoyed his speech, so much so they ran some of his more memorable quotes from history. Here are just three that tickled the old Look You  smileometer:

          “Go back home and prepare for breakfast.”
            Victory speech, Henley 2001.

          “The quality of Mersey is not strained.”
            His response back in 2005 when the people of Liverpool forgave him his indiscreet comments as a
            newspaper editor in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough football stadium disaster.

          “Mayoral culpa, mayoral maxima culpa.”
           On calling a St Patrick
s Day gala dinner in 2012 “Lefty crap”.

Above, I mention the Boris habit of fretfully ruffling his own hair when he’s about to say or do something significant.


“He left make-up with his hair nicely combed. When I saw him again, he looked like he had spent the previous 48 hours in a wind tunnel.” Comedian Paul Merton on Boris, who insisted on keeping his trademark “hairstyle” on Have I Got News For You.

Far be it for me to challenge Paul ― but see my take on the wayward hair, having both listened and watched Boris deliver his speech today.

’m rounding off September with a particular song ― a sad song, true, but what a great melody. And I really am a sucker for earworm music.

It has a special significance because from October there will be a subtle change to my daily appreciation of the things wot make me smile along my stroll through time...
Wake Me Up When September Ends – Green Day

Monday, September 29th

Sunrise awaited over the Black Mountain range (―10 minutes and counting)

Big silver birds decussate* the early-morning sky over the Towy Valley

Happiness is...

PRIOR to yesterday’s brief AWOL excursion, somewhere down that crazy river, I did my usual early-morning walk ― and my word, what a picture-perfect start to an extraordinary summer-like day it was.

Then, imagine reading this in the Telegraph:

Rising sun is key to David Attenborough’s happiness

Celebrities and Olympic champions have revealed what makes them smile as part of a charity campaign

Sir David Attenborough has revealed the rising sun never fails to make him smile as he joined 100 celebrities including the Prime Minister who were asked by a teenager what makes them happy

Hanni Blaskey, 13, from Hampstead, north west London, waited outside music studios and followed celebrities through airports in her determined bid to create a book for the BBC’s Children in Need appeal.

Among them, Scottish tennis player Andy Murray reveals his dogs make him happiest because they don’t know he is famous [I like that] while David Attenborough said the sun rising behind mountains never fails to make him smile.

Oh yes, I know precisely what Attenborough means: every day, compliments of my daily morning walk through the Towy Valley, I see the sun rising ― weather permitting, of course. And as it happens, always rising from behind mountains, whether they be the Carmarthenshire Fans or the Cambrian range.

In fact, I have a set routine: if the morning is overcast and dull I will depart for my stroll around sunrise time. If the sky is clear, or indeed reasonably clear, I will set off some 15 minutes or so early in order to catch the sunrise. Yesterday I set off just after 7.00.

There is  something quite magical about the sunrise, especially in this part of the world as we sit directly under a main air traffic lane and the endless early-morning con trails create such beautiful patterns ― as yesterday’s sunrise confirms rather spectacularly.

Anyway, back with young Hanni Blaskey’s book...

The teenager has gathered 100 handwritten notes and drawings after presenting her idea to the charity TV show and waiting outside stars’ dressing rooms.

American singer Nicole Scherzinger and pop star Pixie Lott both shared a love of sweets, but Sir Alex Ferguson looked a bit deeper and confessed the secret of his happiness is his 48-year marriage to wife Cathy...

What Makes Me Happy?  is on sale at Sainsbury’s.

Be all that as it may, yesterday was an extraordinary continuation of September’s glorious weather.

Towards the end of August I speculated that, this year, Mother Nature had forgotten to put her clock forward a month or so.

The seasons have been at least 30 days earlier than the norm. June and July were beautifully warm ― but August’s rather dull and damp weather had the chill of autumn in the air, with the leaves already beginning to turn to flame.

Indeed, I speculated, given how wayward our weather patterns have been this year thus far, should we perhaps expect some proper snow in November? Even October, perhaps, if Mother Nature really is playing her Joker card.

Well, this from the web site of ABC7 Chicago, dated September 02, 2014 (my interest triggered by an item on the UK’s television news):

Hello snow! Winter comes early in parts of Wyoming, Alaska and Canada

Summer is almost over, but Winter just can’t wait to get here

While you were busy celebrating the last unofficial weekend of Summer, parts of Wyoming, Alaska and Canada were being greeted by an early Winter with lots of snowfall. While these areas are typically associated with harsh winters, seeing snow come just at the end of August/beginning of September is a bit strange.

Well that’s it, I thought, buy a few huskies and a sledge ― but hang about, September has been an absolutely glorious month, virtually no rain, warm, and with plenty of sunshine.

In fact, the following headline was spotted in our papers around the same time that ABC7 of Chicago was talking about snow:

                        Autumn? It will be warm until November

Higher than average temperatures set to last for the next three months say forecasters

It will be fascinating to see what actually happens between now and the end of the year.

*  Oh yes, ‘Decussate’. Talk of coincidence, it was the ‘word of the day’ on this very morning’s Vanessa Feltz wireless show...

Decussate: when two swords cross; when you stretch out your legs and cross them; the criss-cross decoration on a cake...

And what a decussation of con trails to enjoy in the picture on today’s welcome mat. Count them...

A canoodle of decussations?


Sunday, September 28th

Saturday, September 27th

Splendidly packaged 5-star rubbish

Sign Language: Spotted in Malaysia by Grahame Gardiner

But anything you can do...

Noisy ink

Sign Language: A UK production spotted by Steve Weal

...we can do better

Sorry, Sir
(more exam howlers)
                                 Q: How are the main parts of the body categorized? (e.g. abdomen).
                                 A: The body is consisted into three parts --- the brainium, the borax
                                      and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain; the
                                      borax contains the heart and lungs; and the abdominal cavity
                                      contains the five bowels A, E, I, O, and U.

                                 Q: What is the fibula?
                                 A: A small lie.

                                 Q: What does
“varicose” mean?
                                 A: Nearby.

Headline of the day

                  Conservative minister for civil society quits over sex scandals

Brooks Newmark resigns after being caught sending explicit photographs of himself to women over the Internet...

Explicit photos? The mind boggles. And a minister for civil society? Did you know such a creature existed?

Are we, as a nation, okay in the head these days? And have conservative politicians, from Cameron to Newmark, lost all ability to sense an ambush when they enter the pass?

Given the exam howlers featured above, I put it to the House that Brooks Newmark should, henceforth, be known as Brooks Blackmark.

Friday, September 26th

Things are purrfect ... lovely ... of good report

HOW much would you give to be a fly on the ceiling when Prime Minister David Cameron has his next meeting with the Sovereign?

In the run-up to the Scottish referendum, the Queen, as her constitutional role requires, exercised total discretion ― including cleverly urging the Scots to “think carefully” before deciding whether Scotland should be independent of the United Kingdom.

Which is more than can be said for David Cameron. A Sky News  microphone picked up our blabbermouth PM boasting to former New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, that Her Majesty “purred down the line” when he called to inform her that Scotland had rejected independence.

MATT  of The Daily Telegraph  summed it up perfectly:

“It’s Prince Philip for you, Prime
Minister. He’s not purring...”

And I must say, I enjoyed these online comments:

woosie: Cameron shouldn’t have apologised to anyone but the Queen herself, directly, face to face! That lady is known to have an agreeable sense of humour. Let’s face it, she has to, being married to Prince Philip ― the King of the gaffe makers.
     Why should everyone have to go around apologising for every mistake they make just to please the thought police. The British used to be known for their sense of humour. Those were the days

jrm: The Queen has always appeared to be a dog person rather than a purring cat lover so let us hope next time she meets Cameron she will growl and bark ― and can I please be a fly on the ceiling?

This next one, particularly, hit the smileometer. I mean, just say what’s on your mind, won’t you...

jchkg: I think that Cameron was being polite about what the Queen said to him. It was probably more along the lines of “Well done, you snivelling, over-preened, cretinous oik, you managed to get something right. Now keep that rather odd, nauseating, rabid Marxist Milimong out of parliament and you may get an invite to the garden party at the palace

So there. Stick that where the sun don’t shine, Mr Cameron. Oh, and you too, Mr Milimong.

And my take on proceedings?

Two things: first, the notion that Cameron had to call the Sovereign to inform her “that Scotland had rejected independence”. Are we seriously to believe that the Queen ― a switched on individual by all accounts ― wasn’t aware precisely what was happening?

Secondly ― and with apologies to the ghost of Lewis Carroll:

The Mad Hatter called to account


          “Let the jury consider their verdict,” Prince Philip said, for about the twentieth time that day.

          “No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first ― verdict next ― grovelling apology afterwards.”

          “Stuff and nonsense!” said David Cameron loudly and unwisely. “The idea of having the sentence first!

          “Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.

          “Won’t, WON’T, WON’T!” said Cameron, stamping his little foot.

          “Orf with his head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Everybody jumped to oblige ― with
            much too much enthusiasm, if truth be told.

          And the people of the United Queendom purred down the line, with great pleasure.

Thursday, September 25th

Breast in the business

Sign Language: Spotted in Turkey by Daryl Mullins

( . ) ( . ) ( . )
  Points of order

NOW you know me and all that online clickbait waiting to ambush me out there...

“I had third breast implant so I can turn off men”

Titwillow, titwillow, titwillow!

American Jasmine Tridevil, 21, a massage therapist in Tampa, Florida, claims that she had plastic surgery and a third breast implant to get famous, land a reality show on MTV ― and become “unattractive to men” because she doesn’t “want to date anymore”.

Yes, an eyeful of a smiley story indeed; I first nibbled at the titwillow titbait on, of all places, the Telegraph  web site ― which played the story with a very straight bat, albeit clearly with just the hint of tongue-firmly-in-bosom, if all that makes sense.

By today, however, the joke was done and dusted. This in Mail Online...

They’re fake! Woman who claims to have surgically implanted third breast is a self-
proclaimed hoaxer who once reported a ‘3-breast prosthesis’ stolen from luggage

The woman calling herself Jasmine Tridevil, real name believed to be Alisha Hessler, lost a bag at Tampa International Airport earlier this month. 

Once the bag was found, an inventory was taken by airport security as a matter of course, and a $5,000 ‘3-breast prosthesis’ listed as one of the contents.

Ah well, it was a fun-fondled picture-story while it lasted. But hang about...

             I shared a drink with the fellow who danced with the girl with three breasts

As it happens it took me back to my youth, and recollections of a local girl who, rumour had it, was blessed ― or indeed cursed ― with three breasts.

But not like our friend Jasmine Titwillow (to the power of 3), rather she had the standard female breasts ― but also a breast in the centre of her back. Not a significant affair, a molehill, really, compared to the default mountains, but it was regarded by those with inside information as a proper breast.

I remember one of the gang dating her, and of course down the Crazy Horse all of us wanted to know: “Well? Give us the low-down, what is she like?”

“She’s a lovely girl,” he teased. “Yes? Yes?” we demanded. “Well, she’s a tad reserved ― but,” he fondly remarked, “she’s tremendous fun to smooch with and run your hand up her back...”

Wednesday, September 24th

The Salmond run

NOW that the dust has settled on the Scottish independence referendum thingy, and even though I’ve previously and respectfully laid to rest
“the Scottish cross” affair, I thought I’d take a look at some of the more light-hearted after-shocks generated.

I wasn’t really interested in the circus that led up to the actual vote ― I had no say in the matter anyway ― but I couldn’t help but follow the various developments in the news.

Indeed, in the televised debates between Alex “Yes” Salmond and Alistair “No” Darling, a Malcolm Clark in a letter to The Daily Telegraph  saw “Two Scottish men shouting at each other, and they didn’t even have the decency to do it in a Glasgow pub”.

The confrontation reminded me of the famous salmon run, when the fish return to their native streams to spawn, especially so when they have to avoid the bears waiting in hungry ambush.

In the first run, Darling, the nasty big brown bear with the deceptively nice name who wanted Scotland and the Union to remain lovers, managed to grab a juicy Salmond for dinner.

During the second run, the cunning fish managed to avoid the grasp of the greedy bear and slipped upstream.

However, there was a note of caution: once the Salmond has spawned, it deteriorates rapidly and dies.

In fact there was a really bad omen in the lead-up to the big day when Alex Salmond took that other ambush thingy called the “ice bucket challenge”:

You could see from his expression that he was just a pretend Salmond who clearly did not enjoy jumping the rapids, so the chances of him successfully going upstream to spawn were indeed slim.

“Save your breath to cool your porridge.” London Mayor Boris Johnson following the convincing “No” vote, inviting a period of goldfish-like silence from Alex Salmond.

So what of the comments? Well, here
’s a selection of letters to the newspapers...

From Robert Aspinall:

Can the time-expired phrases “too close to call” and “go down to the wire” be despatched to a fiery grave following the hostilities?

From GF Casey:

Alex Salmond has certainly given credence to the law of unintended consequences. He has probably succeeded in dividing Scotland, and he appears to have united England. It was not what he planned but it may have considerable benefits for the English.

From Lucienne Charnley:

Funny, isn’t it? The Scots hate the English ― [or the effing Tories, as David Cameron insisted] ― and now they hate half the Scots, too.

From Raymond Whittle:

At one stage during the Scottish referendum campaign Alex Salmond told us: “The English will dance to a Scottish tune.” Even though he lost, it seems now that he was right.

From Michael Stanford:

As the Scottish National Party blames the BBC and everyone else for the referendum result, perhaps it should ponder a piece of betting-shop lore that has been the salvation of many gamblers. If you make excuses for beaten horses, you’ll end up living in a cardboard box.

From David Cole:

Scotland has spoken. May we now hope that it will shut up?

Oh dear, David Cole, perhaps some things are best left thought but unsaid. Im sure Confucius had something to say on the matter: He who kicks a nation when its down, trips and falls heavily?

From Cate Goodwin:

The slogan for one side was “No thanks” while the other just had “Yes” without the “please”. Look who came out on top.

[“If you have good manners, people will like you. And if they like you, they will help you.” Good manners are more important than a good degree, says Kate Reardon, editor of Tatler.]

Certainly Cate Goodwin was onto something there.

From John Godfrey:

Well, that solves the problem of having to think up a new name for Union Street in Aberdeen.

From Robert Readman:

This week Vivienne Westwood, the fashion designer, made all her models at London Fashion Week wear “Yes” badges in support of Scotland’s bid for independence because, as she told her adoring audience, she hates England.
     Obviously her hatred doesn’t extend to refusing a damehood.

From Malcolm Allen:

If it was “Yes”, I vowed never to drink Scotch whisky again. Phew, what a relief.

From Michael Nicholson:

In a statement on devolution, the Prime Minister says that matters will move forward swiftly “in tandem”. It is to be hoped that he means “in parallel”, or the process may last for a very long time.

From William Wyndham:

Now we can see a master plan that rights the British constitution, while winning the Tories the general election in 2015...

It was a longish letter ― but I did smile at the wit of this online response from, I believe, a UKIP supporter...

Geoffrey Woollard: “Now we can see a master plan that rights the British constitution, while winning the Tories the general election in 2015.”
     William Wyndham is whystling in the wynd.

From Dr C Jones, Dr Garretts Drive, Conwy:

The card of a referendum on full independence is one that can only be played once in a generation. However, this is a card which should only be played when one is certain of victory.
     This was Alex Salmond’s great mistake.

Hm, from a Dr C Jones of Dr Garretts Drive. Now there’s a name and address to conjure with. I did check, and there is indeed such a Drive.

From Ronald Emler:

On hearing that Scotland had voted “No”, my 11-year-old grandson said: “That’s good.” Asked why, he replied: “Because we won’t have extra geography lessons.”

From Drew Brooke-Mellor:

How can we motivate 84 per cent of voters to turn out at the general election?

From Jerry Hibbert:

Drew Brooke-Mellors asks: “How can we motivate 84 per cent of voters to turn out at the general election?”
     Surely the important thing is that everyone has a right to vote, not that they exercise that right. Better that they don’t vote at all than they vote aimlessly because they have been told that they should.

And finally...

From William Jupe:

At the next election, should I vote for what is best for me, or my community, or England, or the United Kingdom, or Europe, or the world?

Well, in my humble opinion, William Jupe, an election is pretty much the only time in a democracy when you are allowed, indeed encouraged, to be totally selfish (presuming you have no children under voting age), because everyone else has a vote and they can look after themselves.

Now I dont vote because it makes not a blind bit of difference to me personally which party is in power (between you, me and the bedpost, none of them could organise a leg over in a bordello on a lads night out anyway).

Obviously I review my options at every election.

In the meantime, while I reserve the right to comment on politicians both individually and collectively ― see the aforementioned leg over observation ― I do not sit in judgment on any particular party because I forfeit that right by withholding my vote.

Indeed, I will not be joining any revolutionary movement by The Peoples Popular Front of Llandampness  (or indeed The Popular Peoples Front of Llandampness) unless I have previously deployed my X to express my crossness.

Tuesday, September 23rd

A misty September sunrise captured through the leaves of
a sweet chestnut tree on Dinefwr Park & Castle Estate

September song

TODAY is the autumnal equinox, the first official day of the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and leaves turning to flame.

However, first a letter that caught my eye in The Daily Telegraph:

Merchant of Beijing

SIR – I read that the entire works of Shakespeare are to be translated into Mandarin.
     When will they be translated into everyday, understandable English?
Roger Croston,
Christleton, Cheshire

Now that did generate a smile. Along my stroll through time I’ve been reliably reassured that I am the most average person in the world. Probably. Something I should be proud of because it means I can mostly see the wood and  the trees. Probably.

Under the radar

As I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned here before, most of the writings of Dylan Thomas go straight over my head. Except Under Milk Wood.

Now as I understand it, Thomas’s play for voices was commissioned by the BBC, the rider being that it must appeal to the average Welsh radio listener i.e. me, your common or garden Mr Ordinary. Which is why I understand it, obviously.

Thomas clearly put in much work to make it so ― which explains its universal appeal.

Jeremy Paxman, English broadcaster, journalist, author and recently retired presenter of BBC TV’s Newsnight, says that poets must start engaging with ordinary people.

Recently judging this year’s Forward prize for poetry, one of poetry’s most prestigious awards, he said that poetry “has rather connived at its own irrelevance”.

He called for an inquisition in which poets would be “called to account for their poetry”. [Ah, only Jeremy would call for an inquisition ― and why did I automatically think “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” right there? Whatever...]

Shelley had it that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”, and that “poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds”.

For Jeremy Paxman, though, it is an art form that has “connived at its own irrelevance”, as he believes that poets today have stopped talking to the public and are only addressing each other.

Paxman called for poets to appear before a panel of the public where they would have to “explain why they chose to write about the particular subject they wrote about, and why they chose the particular form and language, idiom, the rest of it, because it would be a really illuminating experience for everybody”.

I wholeheartedly agree. Just imagine if our poets decided that, once a year, they would write a poem which would appeal directly to those of us of average intellect. You know, the way the great popular song lyricists of yesteryear did with so much style. Just think what a wonderful world it would be.

And just to prove the point, think “September Song” from the Thirties, the American classic composed by Kurt Weill, with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson.  

“September Song” is based on a familiar poetic metaphor that compares a year to a person’s life span from birth to death.

Woody Allen reckons that the song may be the best American popular song ever written. I mean, just enjoy the rhythm and simplicity of these words...

September Song

When I was a young man courting the girls,
I played me a waiting game;
If a maid refused me with tossing curls
I’d let the old Earth take a couple of whirls
While I plied her with tears in lieu of pearls;
And as time came around she came my way,
As time came around, she came...

When you meet with the young girls early in the Spring
You court them in song and rhyme;
They answer with words and a clover ring
But if you could examine the goods they bring
They have little to offer but the songs they sing;
And the plentiful waste of time of day,
A plentiful waste of time...

Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December,
But the days grow short when you reach September;
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame,
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.

Oh, the days dwindle down, to a precious few,
September, November...
And these few precious days I’ll spend with you,
These precious days I’ll spend with you...

Now I understand ever word of that.

One subtle difference between Walter Huston’s original version and others is the final line. Huston sings, “These precious days I’d spend with you.” Modern singers sing, “These precious days I’ll spend with you.”

The difference is between a proposal offered but not yet accepted ― I would spend with you if you accept ― and one accepted ― I will spend it with you.

There are so many wonderful and varied versions to choose from, including the original. But I’ve gone with Old Blue Eyes, as per the above lyrics...

                                                          September Song – Frank Sinatra

When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame...

Autumn's chestnut trees at Dinefwr Park & Castle, revisited
(Costume change: Act IV, Scene II - see August 31)


Monday, September 22nd

A suitable case for vetting

Sign Language: really furious sheep spotted somewhere in Sweden by Julie White

I say, I say, I say

“I’ve written a joke about a fat badger, but I couldn’t fit it into my set.”
Masai Graham at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

[I did half-expect a self-deprecating joke about herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the Masai Graham ― perhaps there was, but it didn’t tickle the meeja’s funny bone, so no dust trail generated.]

Whatever, talking of wildebeest, badgers, sheep and all things vaguely veterinary, time for a Times  letter...

Fair charges

Sir, Our previous vet, whose surgery overlooked his car park and the bus stop, adjusted his charges according to the quality of the car. Those arriving by bus or on foot elicited a much lower rate ― everyone considered this a fair arrangement.
CAROLINE LAVENDER, Kilmington, Devon

The doctor will see you now

I am reminded of the doctor who, many moons ago after I’d completed a medical for a pilot’s licence, telling me that whenever possible he would glance out the window to watch his patients climb out of their cars because that told him something quite fundamental about the state of both mind and body.

Ever since I can’t stop myself observing folk getting in and out of their vehicles. It really is quite mesmeric.

Sorry, Sir
(suitable exam howlers - at medical school, perhaps?)

                                                         Q: What are steroids?
                                                         A: Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.

                                                         Q: Name a major disease associated with cigarettes.
                                                         A: Premature death.

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

In a pickle

That last one set me thinking: Richard Branson recently reiterated his plan to fly with his children, God rest their soul, on the inaugural flight of his long-planned commercial space operation, Virgin Galactic, and all that despite the relatively untested nature of the technology and a departure date which has slipped repeatedly off the launch pad.

If old Rich doesn’t get his finger out perhaps the spaceship will have to be rechristened Virgin Galactic Incontinental. Hope there are plenty of toilets aboard.

Sunday, September 21st

...or suffer a clip round the ear

Mrs Mills answers all your hotel problems

IT’S been much too long since I shared a smile with the lady from The Sunday Times;  yes, you know, she who sorts out all your problems of a personal nature ― so this duly tickled the ivories along my funny bone, or something like that.


How can I be sure of getting an undisturbed night’s sleep without resorting to the “Do not disturb” sign, which inevitably gives the impression that the last thing I’m doing is sleeping? This is especially embarrassing when travelling alone.

In my experience, hanging the sign on the door has no effect whatsoever. The chambermaid still erupts into the room with a vacuum cleaner, a filthy duster and an annoyed expression.

If you really want to keep people out, writing “Having sex” in black marker pen on the “Do not disturb” sign is the only way to do it. So stop being so uptight, or remain forever tired.

And at the other end of the peace and quiet scale ― a letter in The Daily Telegraph:

Oh Brother bother

SIR – The Rt Rev Kieran Conry’s advice [Put up with noisy children in church, Catholic Church tells priests: The Rt Rev Kieran Conry, chairman of the Church in England and Wales’s evangelisation committee, says the sound of children talking is a “really good noise” to hear during services] reminded me of the time at Mass when a young mother stood up and began to make a hasty exit with her squalling infant.

     The priest turned to reassure her: “Don’t worry, my dear, he isn’t bothering me.”

     “No, Father,” she replied, “you are bothering him.”

Margaret Kimberley, Mersea, Essex

Saturday, September 20th

♫  Something in your eyes 

“Pandas have a look that no-one else, apart perhaps from
Dusty Springfield, has ever successfully carried off.”
Broadcaster Sandi Toksvig compares and contrasts


THE above quote from the sometimes toxic Sandi Toksvig tickled my old smileometer ― so much so I couldn’t resist hunting down a couple of images to compliment and endorse the observation.


Incidentally, did you see that recent tale of giant panda Ai Hin out in China that had duped its keepers into giving it more food by appearing to be pregnant?

Never mind when Sally Sally fooled Harry Harry with a faked foetus, I’m thinking the clever China babe should be renamed Hi Hun.

A visit to the smile vault

Clearing my desk today ― or at least attempting to ― I came across a few mislaid articles and quotes from some months ago I’d saved and intended to include in my scrapbook.

Perusing them again ... well, they still made me smile ― so better late than never.

First, an item from Daniel Finkelstein’s Notebook  column in The Times:

Sting in the tale

Attending an excellent speech by Professor Anthony King about the way governments blunder, I particularly enjoyed his opening remarks about his first involvement in British political discussions after his arrival from Canada as a young man.

“I was forever being told ‘We’ve got to grasp the nettle’. And I always though this very unwise. The whole point of nettles is that you shouldn’t grasp them.”

He’s got used to the British now, but he says he still prefers a Dutch saying: “If you’ve got a hot potato, put it in the fridge.”

Very good. Indeed, perhaps that’s what Parliament should do with the fallout from the Scottish independence referendum and the devolution drama as it enters a new phase ― don’t rush in where angels fear to tread, simply stick it in the fridge for a wee while.

There again, those who hesitate get lost.

As it happens, there was also a letter in the Business  section of The Sunday Times  which neatly linked to nettles, hot potatoes and fridges:

Certainty would kill the markets stone dead

I have lost count of the times I have heard so-called financial experts say: “The one thing markets hate is uncertainty.” Surely the opposite is the case; markets exist only because there is more than one view about something ― uncertainty, in other words.
David Langfield, Pyrford, Surrey

That’s what I enjoy about the letters pages, so much wisdom.

Meanwhile, back with Daniel Finkelstein:

Own goal

I understand that Jeremy Clarkson has been attacked for calling his new black dog Didier Dogba [Didier Drogba is an Ivorian professional footballer who plays for Chelsea in the Premier League as a striker, and is the all-time top scorer and former captain of the Ivory Coast national team ― and Clarkson is a dedicated follower of Chelsea.]

Apparently, some people regard calling the dog Didier Dogba as racist. I have to say that if I were Clarkson, I wouldn’t have seen that coming.

Until now the only thing stopping me calling my cat Chairman Meow, was that I did not have a cat. Should I get one, I will now think twice about the name, not wishing to embroil myself or the cat in a race row.

I am sure that, if I think hard enough, there are other names I can come up with. My friend called his cat Jenkins after the SDP leader Roy Jenkins. Unfortunately it wandered into the middle of the road and got run over.

Ho, ho, ho, middle-of-the-road, very witty.

Perhaps, though, Clarkson should have named his dog Didier Dogma. Whatever, the article drew a letter:

Pun dog

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein will be amused to note that Didier Dogba was the name of a greyhound that had a (mostly unsuccessful) career at Wimbledon and Hove between 2007 and 2009.
     I am aware of at least one other greyhound named after a footballer ― Kenny Dogleash ― born in the same litter as the more successful and recently retired Muzzle Tov, in whom I was fortunate to own a stake.

And this online contribution from
Mag Olag: “We’ve got a boxer dog called Tyke Myson.”

Which is particularly clever given that a tyke can mean a dog, especially a mongrel. Even better if Mag Olag and Tyke hail from Yorkshire.


Friday, September 19th

Alive and still kicking

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

Grave matters

IT WAS back on July 23 I featured the above Boot Hill tale of that marvellous note sent to Philip Pullman.

So I duly speculated how precisely I would prefer to meet my Maker, in the dramatic fashion insisted on by the anonymous pupil ... I rather liked the idea of a lightning strike. Quick and to the point.

So, struck by lightning, on the golf course, just after a ‘hole in one’.

Well blow me, a letter in The Times:

Holed out

Sir, Apropos the death of an angler in the excitement of hooking a salmon, golf can be equally hazardous. I was once called when an elderly golfer sank a last putt to score a net 65, by far the best score of his life, and promptly collapsed and died.
     It was a double tragedy. He hadn’t signed his card and under the rules was disqualified. I put it to the committee that if it was possible to win the Victoria Cross posthumously, surely the same could apply to the monthly medal. They were unmoved.
ERL ANNESLEY (retired GP), Edwalton, Notts

So the moral of the tale: If ever I sink that ‘hole in one’, then I must immediately sign my card, hopefully just before I’m sunk by that bolt from the blue.

Keeping to the theme of dramatic ways to meet our Maker ― this piece from Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times:

Never saw that one coming

There are dignified ways to depart this life, and there are those which are slightly less so.

Zheng Gang, 23, expired of a heart attack while locked in a cubicle at a Chinese sperm bank during the act of attempting to make a deposit. It was his fourth visit to the clinic that week.

Staff wondered why he was taking so much longer than usual to come up with the goods, and the answer, they discovered after breaking down the door, was that he was dead. Half-dressed, exotic magazine open beside him.

Poor bloke.

Given his name, I guess it’s what you would call a Gang Bang.

What was it Winston Churchill said:  “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”

And in today’s Daily Telegraph:

Better safe...

SIR – On checking into my hotel room, I was grateful for the warning displayed on my room safe, which was 6in by 4in across: “Caution ― suffocation danger exists.”
John Stephen, Paphos, Cyprus

Someone online suggested that it’s to stop people popping their pets in there for safe keeping ― which did generate a smile.

However, a bit of lateral thinking is called for here:

Room safe = something of value to hide = risk of bandits paying visit to extract goodies from safe = high possibility of strangulation or similar as bandits demand access to said safe = “Caution ― suffocation danger exists”

Simples, as they say somewhere or other.

Talking of meeting our Maker, today we discovered the outcome of “the Scottish cross” affair.

Suffice it to say that a hugely deflated Alex Salmond has already resigned his position both as leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party and as First Minister, hours after losing the independence referendum in a quite significant manner, especially so given how close it was all supposed to have been.

So how best to acknowledge an event that has left its mark, whatever the future holds?

This is what I came up with ... simple and to the point ― and hopefully with due respect to the fallen...

Salmond’s leap too far


Thursday, September 18th

Too close to call ---

A triple dead-heat at Evangeline Downs, Louisiana

Apocalypse Now

A WEE while ago (I blame “the Scottish cross” effect for that “wee” business), listening to Alex Lester on his exceedingly-early-morning wireless show, somehow or other he got around to discussing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse  ― yes, you know, as described in the last book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation.

The Horsemen, as I recall, are called Conquest (riding a white horse), War (red), Famine (black) and Death (astride the pale horse).

But Alex being Alex, he was much more interested in what the horses themselves were called. Or at least, what the chaps down the pub would think they were called.

With the help of his listeners, Alex decided they were Dobbin, Trigger, Mr Ed and Champion the Wonder Horse (with Conquest on his  back, obviously).

But I got to thinking: what would I call the Four Horses of the Apocalypse Apocryphal? Remember, my Horses will, by definition, be galloping towards us along the sunny side of the street.

Hm, I thought: horse racing. That’s where you’ll find the most marvellously inventive and witty names.

So I reverse Ivor the Search Engine  out of the shed and point him in the right direction: bring me the most clever and amusing names out there...

I really wasn’t disappointed. When you have a moment, try it and chuckle.

Whatever, I thought that Comply Or Die  would make a good name for Conquest’s  horse. Great internal rhyme, too. Oh, and COD (no, not Cash On Delivery but Comply Or Die) won the Aintree Grand National in 2008. COD indeed.

But here are my favourite names for the Alternative Four Horses of the Apocryphal Grand National ― and just
imagine these names being furiously called out as they head for the exciting run-in to the photo-finish as featured
on today’s welcome mat...


                                           Hoof Hearted

                                                                Ha Ha Ha

                                           You’re a Nation

Just imagine DoReMiFaSoLaTiDo being frantically repeated on the run in.

Similarly Hoof Hearted and You’re a Nation ― both so clever and without being offensive.

As for Ha Ha Ha, in a six-race career, it finished last twice and pulled up on two other occasions. Very Ho Ho Ho.

However, I did wonder whether there’s a nag out there called Horse With No Name.

I see that the rules apropos naming thoroughbred racehorses are strict but simple ... but (in the UK anyway) they must not contain more than 16 letters, including spaces. Also, a name cannot be reused for 17 years after the year of birth of the horse with this name.

Oh yes, famous names of certain winners of major races i.e. Red Rum, Desert Orchid, Arkle, Shergar ... have a special restriction placed upon their reuse.

Interestingly, Horse With No Name  precisely fits the 16 rule. Currently there is  a filly with this name, born in 1998, so the name becomes available next year, 2015.

Oh, and I also came across a much quoted horse called Tonto Goldberg (?). So Ivor the Search Engine  was sent chuffing...


Looking for a good time?

A man boards an aircraft at Miami. As he settles in, he glances up and notices the most beautiful woman in the world heading in his direction.

He can’t believe his luck when she occupies the seat right next to him. Not being backwards in coming forwards he strikes up a conversation: “Welcome aboard,” he smiles. “Business trip or pleasure?”

She turns and smiles: “Business. I’m going to the Annual Nymphomaniacs of America Convention in Boston.”

He gulps. Here’s the most gorgeous woman in the world, sitting next to him, and she’s off to a lay convention in Boston, his home town.

Struggling to maintain his composure and enthusiasm, he calmly asks: “And what is your particular input at this convention?”

She smiles sweetly (thank God, he thinks, she’s got a sense of humour). “Lecturer,” she responds. “I use information learned from my personal experiences to debunk some of the most popular myths about sexuality.”

“Really?” he says. “And what kind of myths would they be?"

“Well,” she explains, “one popular myth is that Afro-American men are the most well-endowed, when in fact it’s the Native American Indian who is most likely to possess that trait.

“Another popular myth is that Frenchmen are the best lovers, when actually it is men of Jewish descent who are far and away the greatest.

“I’ve also discovered that the lover with absolutely the best stamina is the Southern Redneck.”

Suddenly, the lovely lady becomes a little uncomfortable and realizes she’s offering up much too much information at first contact. “I’m sorry,” she says, “I shouldn’t really be discussing all of this with you when we haven’t yet been properly introduced.”

“Tonto,” the man says, extending his hand in greeting, “Tonto Goldberg ― but my friends call me Bubba...”

Wednesday, September 17th

Train of thought

WELL, it’s the last day before “the Scottish cross”. The day when the Scots are invited to put a cross on a piece of paper, the result of which will automatically make half the people of Scotland very cross indeed.

(In the backstage world of theatre, some believe that the play Macbeth is cursed, and will not mention its title aloud, referring to it instead as “the Scottish play”. Hence my reference to the Scottish independence referendum, which will doubtless turn out to be cursed, as “the Scottish cross”.)

Anyway, so what made me smile XL compliments of “the Scottish cross” and its passing parade?

Well, there was all the talk of certain high-profile organisations and banks based in Scotland migrating south to England if the ‘Yes’ vote prevails.

In particular the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) ― in the financial crisis of 2007-08, RBS went from one of the world’s largest banks to a basket case that almost brought down the entire UK financial system ― so I really did laugh out loud at the wit and wisdom of the MATT  cartoon, above.

Then last weekend, this curious story broke:

            BBC tells Proms stars not to mention the Scottish referendum

Presenters and stars of Last Night of the Proms such as Sir Terry Wogan, Katie Derham and Katherine Jenkins told to focus on “the music” and steer clear of “political and topical” issues

i.e. “the Scottish cross”. Indeed, the Monday after there was a letter in The Times:

Be forgot

Sir, How ironic that, whereas the Proms in the Park in Glasgow broke its link with the Royal Albert Hall before the traditional rendition of Land of Hope and Glory, prommers south of the border finished the Proms season in their usual way with Auld Lang Syne.
ALAN STARR, Huddersfield, W. Yorks

Well, well. They broke the link. How gloriously childish.

Honestly, the BBC really is morphing into Fawlty Towers with each and every utterance and action.

Next, I enjoyed this in the Telegraph:

                      North Korea ‘backs Scottish independence’

Exclusive: Kim Jong-un’s regime would support an independent Scotland under Alex Salmond and is hoping to trade its natural resources for Scotch whisky, officials tell Telegraph


“I see no UFOs, only Low Flyers”

Make mine a large one

With the juxtaposed pictures of Alex Salmond and Kim Jong-un looking skywards ― I couldn’t resist inserting my own caption, as above.

You see, “low flyer” is what the regulars at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon call a dram of The Famous Grouse Scotch whisky: “How about a wee low flyer before you go?”

Now, a tandem of letters from The Times:

To a degree

Sir, If the Scottish sciences are voting “no” and the arts “yes”, where does this leave the philosophers?
ALF MANDERS, Alcester, Warks

Le Penseur

Sir, Alf Manders notes that the Scottish sciences are voting “no” and the arts “yes”, and queries where that leaves the philosophers.
     Thinking about it, presumably.
DEREK CANNON, Bassenthwaite, Cumbria


And finally, I liked this from The Daily Telegraph:

Post early

SIR – Yesterday I sent Christmas cards to all my friends and relatives in Scotland to avoid the possibility of paying overseas postage.
Moira Brodie, Swindon, Wiltshire

First class, Moira.

PS: Apropos the Telegraph’s  Top 10 Most Viewed online stories ― see yesterday ― at precisely 20.30 tonight, ‘Vagina-like’: The new Colombian women’s cycling team kit causes controversy,  is still in third spot.


Spell-cheque corner: ‘Penseur’ (as in Le Penseur, The Thinker, the bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin), came up as ‘Poseur’.

The Poseur!

That has to be the best alternative suggestion in the colourful history of ‘spell-cheque corner’. Priceless.

Tuesday, September 16th

Six of the best

The girls of the Colombian cycling team take a curtain call

Fanny by gaslight

I KNOW, I know, this featured yesterday as my smile of the day, yours truly having originally picked the tale up compliments of Mail Online.  But the story will not go gently into that good night. Today it’s all over the shop.

Anyway, I click on the Telegraph’s  home page ― and there, down the right-hand side of the page, the Top 10 Most Viewed online stories (at any given moment in time).

Well, at 3.30 this afternoon, here’s the Top 10 rundown [for the benefit of those in faraway places, etc, I shine a few explanatory shafts of light]:

     1)  ‘Vagina-like’: The new Colombian women’s cycling team kit causes controversy

     2)  David Cameron begs Scots not to leave the UK [yes, it’s Alex Salmond’s Scottish play thingy]

     3)  Condoleezza Rice pushed to lead scandal hit NFL [American football’s controlling body clearly in deep shite]

     4)  Only a monetary ‘nuclear bomb’ can save Italy now says Mediobanca [says the Italian investment bank]

     5)  ‘Fed up’ Ronaldo could return to Old Trafford [Manchester United Football Club ― pass]

     6)  Top 100 world universities 2014/15 ― QS rankings [Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), a British company
            specialising in education and study abroad ― pass]

     7)  Rio: Sir Alex was a genius ― and he even said sorry once [Sorry, nothing to do with the girl from Ipanema,
            but Rio Ferdinand speaks of the ex-Manchester United Football Club boss ― yawn ― again ― pass]

     8)  15 things all men should know by the age of 30 [I clicked, purely in the name of research, you understand
            ― the biggest load of old bollocks you ever read. All men should ignore every list ever published in
           the history of the universe ― yawn ― forward pass ― scrum down]

     9)   Referendum: latest poll tracks [Alex Salmond’s Scottish play thingy ― yawn-yawn ― again]

     10)  British backpackers murdered in Thailand named

Remember, this is The Daily Telegraph, one of the UK’s more serious newspapers.

But what a priceless snapshot of the UK at a crucial cross-roads in its history.

I was tempted to comment on the two young people murdered out in Thailand, in as much that it only crept in at 10 ― but for all I know the story was much higher up the list earlier in the day.

However, as a snapshot of what interests the readership of the paper, it is exceedingly wonderful. And it set me wondering if the newspaper’s online reader is a wholly different beast to the print one.

Whatever the truth of that, the Telegraph  has a long way to go to catch up with the eye-catching clickbait nature of Mail Online. In my humble opinion, that is.

By the way, I am not surprised that the Colombian story remains stuck at number one, even in the Telegraph. I mean, when yesterday I first saw the picture ― well, it’s perfect clickbait, and it duly featured as my smile of the day.

This is how today’s Telegraph  article about the Colombian girls kicked off:

This weekend the Colombian women’s cycling team revealed their new kit ― and a bit more than they bargained for. Radhika Sanghani reports

Now I must be honest, I too thought it was “the Colombian women’s cycling team” ― but apparently not so. This online comment in response to the Telegraph  piece...

Richard C: Does this author check facts before writing an article? This is not “Colombian women’s cycling team”, in fact it’s a team called IDRD-Bogotá Humana-San Mateo-Solgar. It’s equivalent to calling Team Sky the “British men’s cycling team”.

Similarly, “who had the idea for these ill-thought through uniforms is still a mystery” is incorrect. Most Spanish-language media seem to attribute the design to a member of the team. Most cycling kit looks pretty awful when the riders are standing up, this one looks quite nice when the riders are actually on their bikes...

Well, yesterday I mentioned that in a video piece I’d seen featuring one of the girls being interviewed, the kit looked okay, something Richard C  confirms.

And to quote what I then added: So I guess it’s all down to the photographer’s greatest trick of the trade: perfect lighting. In the ‘Fanny by gaslight’ picture the subdued light seems to cast an exquisite shadow precisely where you really don’t want it to be cast.

And to prove my point, here’s a different picture of the girls:

Shine a little light on me

Making a mountain out of a mole hill?

On the sunny side of the street

Now come on, you have to smile along with the girls, not to mention the delightful doolallyness of the whole episode. It all adds to the gaiety of the passing parade. (Anything to get away from Alex Salmond and his jaunt, somewhere over the rainbow.)

However, apropos the original photo of the Colombian girls, the following online comment about the kit tickled my juvenile streak no end...

Ziggy Starburst: I like ‘em. Big thumbs up from me.

Yes, it’s all in the mind, as they say.

Monday, September 15th

If you want to know the score...

...I’m unsure where you should look

Chain reaction: time to change gear

VERY rarely when perusing Mail Online  am I stopped dead in my tracks ― or indeed pulled up short when taking a quick peep at any other online subject matter for that matter.

But the Colombian women’s cycling team’s startling kit design ― featured above ― did just that as the girls appeared to show a little bit too much as all eyes were drawn to the bizarre new flesh-coloured design stretching across their lower torso and asterisked area.

Unsurprisingly, the bizarre outfits caused quite a stir on social media ahead of a race in Italy this week.

The team were meant to be showing the world what they were made of as they posed in their relatively new kit. Sadly, many ranked it among the worst kits ever seen at a sporting event.

As the smiling athletes took to the stage, they seemed blissfully unaware of the blunder, which left them looking completely exposed at the nether-nether region.

It is difficult to ascertain whether the seemingly outrageous new strip was a publicity stunt or a genuine fashion faux-pas, but the team may think twice about turning out in it again. 

However, in a televised English language interview one of the girls said that they had been wearing the kit back home in Colombia all season without any adverse comment; indeed, in the video clip of the girls in their outfits they didn’t look anywhere near as suggestive as in the photo.

Truth to tell they didn’t even warrant a second glance. Quite strange.

So I guess it’s all down to the photographer’s greatest trick of the trade: perfect lighting.

In the above ‘Fanny by gaslight’ picture, the subdued light seems to cast an exquisite shadow precisely over where you really don’t want it to be cast.

Exceedingly smiley, though.

Great balls of fire

Now you know me, I’m not much of a Renaissance Man, much more of a Juxtapositional Man. Show me something promising and I’ll plonk myself down alongside it and look totally at home.

But how to compliment the glorious Colombian girls and their ‘see-through’ kit?

Well, how about this? Here’s another article tripped over online (and dated 30 April 2014 NOT 1 April 2014):

MEN! Protect your package from RADIATION with Wireless Armour

Anti Wi-Fi boxer shorts are lined with silver to shield your groin from mobile phones

Y-Front Wi-Fi: Amo, amas, amat, a(r)mour...

The cotton in the Wireless Armour underwear is woven with a mesh of silver, and this silver ‘cage’ stops electromagnetic radiation seeping through the pants.

This creates a so-called Faraday cage and shields 99.97% of Wi-Fi radiation. [It kills 99.97% of all known calls of a bollocks nature(?)]

Silver also makes the briefs antimicrobial and keeps them smelling fresh!

Wireless Armour underwear was expected to arrive in July, costing £35 ($58) a pair.

Obviously a product to be sniffed at.

Are you watching, you game Colombian girls?

Sunday, September 14th

Letters of note

“I AM persecuted with letters ― I hate letters ― nobody knows how to write letters; and yet one has ‘em, one does not know why ― they serve one to pin up one’s hair.”
Mrs Millament, The Way of the World,
a play written by English playwright William Congreve (1670-1729). It premiered in 1700 in the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields in London. It is widely regarded as one of the best Restoration comedies and is still occasionally performed.

I was flicking through A Dictionary of Famous Quotations  ― one of my favourite things to do ― and I stumbled over the above quote.

It made me smile XL. It’s the line “they serve one to pin up one’s hair”. Restoration comedy indeed. Wonderful.

So I thought I’d share with you just a few recent suitable Letters to the Editor.

The first is from The Times  ― it appeared back at the beginning of August; I didn’t include it in my scrapbook back then but I liked it and my instinct made set it one side. You will see in a few seconds why ― oh, and I’m sure the marvellous Mrs Millament would have kept her hair dangling about her shoulders after reading these...

Magic wardrobes

Sir, Like many of your readers I too have had things mysteriously disappear, sometimes to reappear.
     On the other hand I quite often discover a garment in my wardrobe which I have never seen in my life before
WENDY DAVIES, Ottery St Mary, Devon

Well blow me, then this in today’s
Sunday Telegraph:

Fairy bookmother

SIR – Lynne Truss described finding mysterious pencil marks in the margins of her books. Our dad, aged 90, has people “breaking in” and leaving entire books in the house ― sometimes whole piles of them.
     He’s never seen them before, let alone read them, so they can’t have been lounging on one of the many bookcases in another room all this time. They come with increasing regularity and cover wide-ranging topics.
Sue Swanston, Amble, Northumberland

Meanwhile, in a different direction, and back with The Times:

Stepping out

Sir, I am following your advice, walking to the shops and swinging “my arms in rhythm with my stride”. I can report that it improves fitness and also allows me to make scrambled eggs and milkshake on the way home.
NIK WHITE, Peel, Isle of Man

And this missive, especially so bearing in mind that dreadful fire at Manchester Dogs’ Home and the public’s extraordinary rescue response...

Grandest dog

Sir, There can have been no dog grander than the puppy of Alexander Pope’s spaniel, Bounce, which he sent to Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1736, with the epigram engraved on its collar:

          “I am his Highness’ dog at Kew;
            Pray tell me sir, whose dog are you?”


And finally, another Daily Telegraph  effort, which rather sums up much of the doolallyness engulfing the nation these days...

Without question

SIR – I was filling in a form at the Citizens Advice Bureau and on the middle of the second page, it asks:
           “Can you read English Y/N”.
Roy Goodall, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex


Saturday, September 13th

On the sunny side of the garden...

A late-summer squatter moves in

Less is often more

BACK at the beginning of the year I wrote about my regular detours through the bluebell woods, walks which actually start well before the bluebells themselves make their grand appearance.

I especially enjoy the dramatic change along the woodland floor as it morphs from mulchy brown to vibrant green to elegant blue.

More correctly, I wrote of my first bluebell wood walk of late-winter/early-spring 2014.

This year the landscape at one particular spot had changed rather dramatically. The raging storms of winter had brought a healthy, mature beech tree crashing down.

As a result the disturbed ground around the base of the tree was littered with bluebell bulbs. The tree roots had spectacularly churned up the soil and thrown bulbs up all over the shop.

Rather than leave the bluebells to their fate I collected them ― many were just starting to sprout ― and planted them in other places, some at home in my garden.

I also potted many with a view to replanting them later in the year at the family farm where I’ve already planted an avenue of trees along the lane that winds its way up to the property.

I was unsure whether the disturbed bulbs would have flowered this year ― the shock could well have withdrawn them into their shell, so to speak.

However, many did flower. But here’s the thing: after the bluebells had made their appearance and gone to seed, out of one of the largish pots something was growing, a long-stemmed plant I didn’t recognise ― it sprouted to nearly five feet.

I wondered what it was ... eventually, towards the middle of August, it flowered ― and there it is up there, on today’s welcome mat.

Yes, a solitary sunflower.

I have no idea where it came from. Did I pick it up with the bluebells? Unlikely.

However, I’d bought some compost for the pots, so I must presume that the little sunflower seed was hiding in there.

I’ve only ever previously seen sunflowers in a chorus, the instantly recognisable mass of swaying yellow we are all familiar with.

Indeed, on the Tour de France, for example, there are fields and fields of them ― and stunningly beautiful they look as the bikes rush on by and the cameras pick out the best shots to include both riders and sunflowers.

But here we are, at the bottom of my garden, this one solitary sunflower ― which was so eye-catching in its pomp and glory that it grabbed my undivided attention every time I glanced out of the window.

It was wonderful. The fact that there was just the one somehow made it more impressive.

And as a bonus, one day I spotted a butterfly paying it a visit ― so I rushed out with my Box Brownie ... I’ve added the picture to my Flower Power Gallery, alongside.

Isn’t it often the case? It’s the little innocent things that provide so much pleasure.

Less is indeed often more.

Friday, September 12th

...even better with a nice Chianti

Spotted in Yorkshire by Zena Nattriss

Sign Language à la carte
(separate smile for each item on the menu)

“This show is about perception and perspective. But it depends how you look at it.” Felicity Ward, 34, Australian comedian, being extremely witty at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Yes, just a quick byte today, compliments of the Telegraph’s  Sign Language gallery ― I find the Red Lion board on the above welcome mat wonderfully smiley XL.

As indeed the following...

Undersold to eye-catching effect

Spotted in Paris by Pascal Jacquemain

Spotted in Llandeilo by Yours Truly

The Llandeilo board is outside Yr Hen Vic  (The Old Vic pub). I pass it every day ― and it never fails to generate a smile. And yes, the place does figure well in dispatches from the front by those who do indeed indulge in them quite nice Sunday lunches.

Sorry, Sir
(suitable exam howlers)

                                     In nineteenth century Russia, the pheasants led horrible lives.

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

Thursday, September 11th


Always be switched on off
(every day a day at school spot)

Dangerous waters revisited

A letter in The Daily Telegraph  caught my eye:

Shark practice  

SIR – “Sharks kill more men than women” (report, September 5). I think statistics will show that women kill more men than sharks.
Nigel Hawkins,
Braunton, Devon

This is how the report dives in at the deep end:

Sharks are nine times more likely to kill men than women,
new research from Australia shows

Men are targeted in 84 per cent of all unprovoked shark attacks, and make up 89 per cent of all shark bite fatalities ― which means that women are statistically more likely to survive a shark attack.

The numbers are from a study out of Bond University in Queensland to be published in the international journal Coastal Management this week.

Report author associate professor Daryl McPhee told the Telegraph the results were so surprising that he had to double-check them.

“Potentially men spend more time in the water, and are more risk-prone,” he suggested.

It drew this online comment...

The Hidden Paw: Have you also considered that men kill more sharks than women, but conversely (and rather darkly) it may be also true that men kill more women than sharks?

You’re toast

It was back at the beginning of March that the pine-end advert on a bus stop shelter in town captured my attention: “More people die each year from toasters than piranhas.”

My curiosity, compliments of Ivor the Search Engine, led me to another advertising campaign which stated that significantly more people are killed by toasters than sharks.

Game of the day

Intrigued, I searched online for some match statistics: an Environment Forum on the Reuters  web site, dated 17 January 2008, states that, in 2007, faulty toasters killed 791 people worldwide ― sharks, nine; also, 592 people were killed by chairs ― sharks, still nine.

The most recent list of ways to die covered an alarming range of mishaps: current figures suggest that...

     Sharks kill five people annually
     Roller coasters, six
     Falling out of bed, 450
     Aircraft crashes, 1,200
     Texting while driving, 6,000
     And globally, lightning kills somewhere between 6,000 and 24,000 annually

It seems that reliable statistics from countries where lightning strikes are a common feature of day-to-day life and death, are unavailable.

Incidentally, I presume that the chairs and beds deaths are caused by people banging their heads as they fall; and I guess that elderly people dislocate something or other and then die from the complications.

But here’s the really nasty twist: people kill many millions of sharks annually ― according to the word on the line, anyway ― so contrary to Nigel Hawkins’ thoughts, women doubtless kill more sharks than men (in the name of sport, that is).

Oh yes, toasters are potential death traps because they contain exposed live electric elements and the way they work invites one of the commonest causes of serious home accidents ― electric shocks caused when using a metal knife to prise out a slice of stuck toast or similar. 

I’m pretty sure I’ve always switched off the toaster at the wall socket if I’ve ever needed to poke about inside a toaster to retrieve a crumpet ― but I can’t be sure. However, I am now.

So, if repeating this tale saves just one life, it’s a job well done and deserving of its smile of the day accolade.

Finally, I can do no better than repeat Reuters reporter Alister Doyle: “But I still can’t shake off being more frightened of sharks than toasters.”


Wednesday, September 10th

  Turn the iClouds inside out ... till the boys come home


Through the dark cloud shining

ON TODAY’S welcome mat, MATT  of The Daily Telegraph  and NEWMAN of The Sunday Times,  both capture the delightfully doolally nude photos shemozzle in their own inimitable style.

Tweetie Pie Corner

   “Celebrities: make it harder for hackers to get nude pics of you from your computer by not putting nude pics of yourself on your computer.” A helpful tip from Ricky ‘Marmite’ Gervais, 53, English comedian (“and please, please, let him follow his own advice”, pleads The Sunday Times as an addendum).

Yes, this “nude pics” business really is confusing to a simple country boy like me. Why on earth would anyone put such things on their computers if they dread them being hacked.

Do you suppose the slebs involved secretly want their pics to be picked?

Being hacked these days is a default setting on computer use, especially in the case of said slebs (see phone hacking scandal).

Whenever I switch on the computer I slip on my General George Armstrong Custer hat because I realise I am heading for the Little Bighorn and Chief Sitting Bull.

But first I’ve got to get through the pass, the Badlands ― and that’s where the bandits and the renegades wait in ambush.

In other words, I avoid putting anything on my computer that would bother me if it was hacked or hijacked or whatever. Paradoxically, everything on my computer I share with the world anyway i.e. this ‘ere Look You and 400 Smiles A Day (see upstairs).

There was a smashing Speakeasy piece by Matt Rudd in The Sunday Times. Here’s a grab:

                This text has been written using Romance Auto Delete. Kiss kiss

What, exactly, has email given us? What have texting and Skype done for civilisation?

I only ask because last week a love letter sent by Elizabeth Taylor to Richard Burton in 1974 went on sale for £35,000 and I can’t help thinking things might have been different if Liz had had an iPhone.

“I wish I could tell you of my love for you, of my fear, my pure animal pleasure of you, my jealousy, my anger at you, at times,” she wrote with an actual pencil on actual paper. “Most of all my love for you, and whatever love you can dole out to me ― I wish I could write about it but I can only boil and bubble inside and hope you understand how I really feel.”

If Liz had had internet access there would have been less boiling and bubbling. The letter would have been cut, pasted, selected and deleted into a more concise, less passionate missive.

Burton would have emailed straight back, “Thanks doll. I’ll Skype you tonight. Dick.” She would text, “Missing you,” and he would text back, “Am in meeting,” and she would reply, “Still missing you x”. After another hour of this he would have updated his Facebook status to “It’s complicated”.

Then a hacker on 4Chan would steal some nude photographs and then where would we be?

I found that perfect smile of the day material. Funny ― and so true. But I did wonder why Liz’s letter contained no obscenities, something she was noted for in her word-of-mouth communications.

Anyway, Matt continues:

How many great romances would have been less great with email, I wonder.

Romeo and Juliet would have had a happy ending, but if Frida Kahlo had been sitting at a computer, would she still have told Diego Rivera: “My body is filled with you for days and days. You are the mirror of the night. The violent flash of lightning. The dampness of the earth. The hollow of your armpits is my shelter. My fingers touch your blood”?

Would Robert Burns still have written, “The lover who is certain of an equal return of affection is surely the happiest of men”, if the lover then just replied with a text?

If Napoleon had been Snapchatting Joséphine, would he still have signed off with, “Until then, mio dolce amor, a thousand kisses; but give me none in return, for they set my blood on fire.”

No. Smiley face.

Even in the age of instant communication, relationships should begin in letters. There is something special about putting pen to paper and something not special about Gmail. Plus, when you have been married for 10 years, you will have something to remind you why you fell in love in the first place.

A thousand kisses.

Brilliant. But who the hell Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo? So I back Ivor the Search Engine  out of the shed----

Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez, known as Diego Rivera (1886-1957), was a prominent Mexican painter and the husband of Frida Kahlo de Rivera, known as Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), also a famous Mexican painter and best known for her self-portraits.

Be that as it may, I was struck by the Diego Rivera and Dylan Thomas likeness...


I wonder if the Mexican, away from his talent, was as objectionable a human being as the Welshman is supposed to have been away from his writing? The passport-style photos suggest yes.

When I have some time I must investigate further.

Incidentally, reading Napoleon’s “a thousand kisses”, I wondered where I’d picked up the expression “a thousand thanks”. Mind you, these days, though, I’ve gone up to “a hundred thousand thanks”.

That’s inflation for you. “A million thanks” lies in ambush somewhere along my journey through the pass.

Oh, and remember, girls: A stitch in time saves embarrassment on iCloud Nine.

Tuesday, September 9th


Somewhere down the crazy Rivers

“MY daughter Melissa says, ‘I don’t want to hear about it, I don’t want to talk about it’, but I say it’s coming. It’s inevitable. It’s no longer an abstract thing. It’s like ― God, I’m in my eighties. Nobody, when I die, is going to say, ‘How young?’ They’re going to say, ‘She had a great ride.’.”
Joan Rivers, who died last week, aged 81, in an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine just a few weeks before her sudden death.

It also turns out that Joan Rivers “banned” US First Lady Michelle Obama, pop star Adele, and US talk show host Chelsea Handler from attending her funeral (stick with it).

Anyway, there’s a couple of Rivers tributaries, so to speak, that caught my eye. The first, a Times  Comment piece published on the day before her funeral last Sunday.


              Joan Rivers left instructions for her own funeral, which should be followed in spirit

Joan Rivers had a UK tour planned for the autumn. It was going to be called “Quick, Before They Close The Lid (Seriously, this one could be IT). Alas, it was. Rivers died on Thursday in a New York hospital.

Fortunately, she left strict instructions for her funeral, which will take place in a synagogue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It is not known yet whether the Temple Emanu-El will do exactly what Rivers asked for. The dignified terms of a Jewish funeral will no doubt be a suitable way to commemorate her life but there is another way.

“When I die”, Rivers once said, “I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action. I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way.

“I don’t want some rabbi rambling on; I want Meryl Streep crying in five different accents ... I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag. And I want a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyoncé’s.”

From her big break on The Johnny Carson Show in 1965 until her last days as a performer of 81, Joan Rivers was one of those comedians who pushed at the boundary of what can be counted as grounds for humour.

She was not averse, for example, to making jokes about the Holocaust in which many of her family members were lost. “The trouble with me”, she once said, “is I make jokes too often. That’s how I get through life.”

She could be acerbic, even cruel. Elizabeth Taylor was upset to hear she had more chins than the Chinese telephone directory. Cindy Crawford would hardly have enjoyed hearing that the way to confuse her was to ask her to spell “mum” backwards.

As Joan Rivers readies herself for her own “red carpet show for dead people” the comedy must, by her own demand, go on.


Apropos that wish-list of famous faces who should stay away, she told The Sunday Times  that those she wanted kept away from her funeral included Obama, who she branded “a tranny”, Adele for being “fat”, and Handler, who she dubbed “drunk” and a “whore”.

A tranny? Well, Michelle Obama is either a transistor radio (unlikely, because you can switch a tranny off); a photographic transparency (hm: what you see is what you should get); the transmission in a motor vehicle (hm, again: a motor mouth); a derogatory term for a transvestite (no more bets, please).

Rivers also discussed how she knew death would soon be “inevitable”, because of her advancing years, and revealed she had been trying to help her daughter Melissa come to terms with her mothers mortality (see quote at the top).

So how did her final curtain call go last Sunday? Even in death Joan Rivers got what she wanted: an all-singing, all-dancing, star-studded funeral. “It was a wonderful celebration for a lady who had a great footprint,” said Judge Judy. “It was an outpouring of love from everybody. Joan would have loved it.”

I must say, I liked the “great footprint” bit.

Anyway, here’s the second Rivers tributary, spotted on the Letters page of The Daily Telegraph:

Jacobean Joan

SIR – Joan Rivers’ advice, “No man will ever put his hand up your dress looking for a library card”, has some lineage.

In his Playgoing in Shakespeare’s London, Andrew Gurr relates an intriguing anecdote from Peacham’s Compleat Gentleman (1622). A tradesman giving his wife leave to attend a play in the city warned her to have care of her purse. She returned to say she had lost it while sitting among some gallants in a box.

          “Quoth her husband, ‘Where did you put it?’

          ‘Under my petticoat, between that and my smock.’

          ‘What (quoth he), did you feel nobody’s hand there?’

          ‘Yes (quoth she), I felt one’s hand there, but I did not think he had come for that.’.”

Michael Harrison,Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Joan Rivers would have enjoyed that ― as she would this, spotted on the comment board...

Grizzly: I’m reminded of a very good TV play some years ago, which had a scene where a rustic, naïve, young Welsh lad was trying his hardest to seduce an older, unmarried, worldly-wise, English mother of two.

“Steady on, Boyo,” she rebuked him for his clumsy attempts at wooing her, “I’ve got to look after what’s left of me virginity!

Yes, Joan would definitely have loved that one.

Monday, September 8th

Excuse me repeating myself ― but...

Aussie rules: spotted Down Under by George Topfner

MORE delightful signs that should definitely be read ― as spotted in The Times  Letters page...


From Joan Salter:

Can there be a more superfluous sign than the one I saw outside a heavily fortified building in the vast expanse of the Arizona desert: “State prison ― Do not pick up hitchhikers”.

It has a centre?

From Ros Longland:

Joan Salter asks if there can be a sign more superfluous than the one warning against hitchhikers outside an Arizona prison.
     On entering Swindon there is a sign that says For Swindon Town Centre follow the signs “Town Centre”.

Inane signs

From Jim Smith:

Some years ago, when arriving to play against Chippenham Cricket Club (coincidentally for Swindon), I was always bemused by the sign: “Spectators Welcome on Match Days”.

From Ian Hale:

Working as a bank teller in the early 1970s I was always amused by a sign on the wall next to the telephone.
     “In the event of a raid:
         1)  Slam till drawer closed
         2)  Stamp on alarm
         3)  Make no sudden movements”.

From Geoff Deighton:

An alarming sign is that near Ripley in Nidderdale [Yorkshire Dales]: “Bedlam: please drive carefully”.

Proceed with caution

Apropos that sign about driving carefully, it is worth repeating a smile from August 27 last year: Having just watched Stage 4 of the classic Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain) cycle road race, which came to a sudden conclusion at Fisterra Fin Del Mundo ― the commentator informed us that it translates as “The End of the World”.

How very apt, I remember thinking, given how dramatically the place sticks out into the Atlantic.

However, and considering the number of accidents the race participants had suffered along the way, I was disappointed that neither the camera nor the commentators pointed out a sign or banner that read:

                        “Welcome to the end of the world ― please cycle carefully!
And on that note...

Lean to

Sign Language: Spotted near Glastonbury, Somerset by Anonymous

You couldn’t, as they say, make it up.

And nearly on the sunny side of the road, too.

Sunday, September 7th

                      Find out your lifespan with a piece of string

To live a long life, keep your waistline at half your height

Probably like most people who perused that headline on the front page of The Sunday Times, the first thing I thought of was ― hm, now where’s that measuring tape? Anyway, back with the article...

THROW away those expensive fitness gadgets, the health apps and the digital scales. Scientists have come up with a simple formula to tell you if you are dangerously overweight ― and all you need is a piece of string.

A new scientific study to be published tomorrow, is based on 20 years of British medical records and is the first to quantify how many years you will lose to obesity as measured by your waist-to-height ratio...

String theory

Why would you use a piece of string when the very next thing you do is measure it against a tape? Cut out the middle thingy, say I.

Whatever, I don’t have any fitness gadgets, health apps or digital scales. In fact I don’t have a weight problem.

But, curiosity killed the tomcat...

As it happened, I had no need for a passport until my late twenties ― I was a late starter in life ― indeed, measuring my height for said passport was the first time I’d properly done so as an adult.

I was a whisker short of 6' 1" ― so I plumped for 6' ½" rather than just 6'. Something told me that that ½" would come in handy one day.

So my waist should be 36"-plus-a-little ... my waist, the paper informs me, is the halfway point between the lowest rib and the hip bone, although researchers say it is good enough to measure the narrowest point ― just do not cheat and breath in ... I play by the rules and I measure 38-plus-a-little. I’ll plump for 39".

Oh dear. Given my age, I will plop off my perch a month or so earlier than nature intended. Fingers crossed that its a February. Every little day helps.

Ah well, I can live with that.

In the meantime, what I’ll do is just gobble a banana rather than a Mars bar when I feel a quick graze coming on.

Talking of which, last Wednesday I featured the marvellous BIG BANANA car from America. Well, there’s something new to learn every day:

The Fusspot

“People grumble about the weirdest things. The Zetter [in London] was the first hotel to have condoms in a vending machine on each floor. One guest actually seriously moaned that we were out of banana flavour, and he was allergic to strawberries.”
Justin Pinchbeck, former general manager of the Zetter hotel

Delightful. Gives a whole new meaning to being the flavour of the month.

Saturday, September 6th

Spotted in New Zealand by Anonymous

Sign language

WHILE The Daily Telegraph’s  web site boasts a marvellous gallery of amusing and confusing signs and notices, as sent in by readers as spotted along their travels through time and space ― see today’s welcome mat ― The Times  recently ran a thread of entertaining letters on the subject...

The World in a grain of sand

From Alan Tritton:

In 1984 I was driving south from Swakopmund to Walvis Bay in what is now Namibia. To my left were the towering sand dunes of the Namib desert, stretching all the way to Walvis Bay. I turned a corner on the road and there was a large sign saying “Sand ― Beware Sand!”.
     As there had been nothing but sand all the way south, this seemed an unnecessary and quite inane sign.

Hm, I can only think that there was, perhaps, a ‘sand trap’ at that spot, where the sand would blow across the road and suddenly stop to form its own dune ― and it was probably a warning to alert drivers that they might encounter a sudden dune in a dip.

From Hywel Mathews:

In my first year as a games teacher in a grammar school in Aberystwyth many years ago, I inherited this sports day sign: “All other races start here”.

Well, it made me smile. Indeed, you could say that “All other journeys start here” is a great truth about life itself.

Indeed, I am reminded of the tale of the tourist out in Ireland asking directions, to which the local replied: “To be sure, if I were goin’ to Sligo I would not be startin’ from here.”

From Russ Randall:

On visiting Alvar Aalto’s Reference Library in the National Pensions Institute in Helsinki in 2002 I was disconcerted to read a small notice on the reception desk saying “Sing Here, Please”.

Obviously a disconcerto.

From Pamela O’Cuneen:

In the 1970s there used to be a sign on a kiosk in Cecil Court, near St Martini’s Lane, London. It read:
“Ears pierced while you wait”.

Way to go

From Elizabeth Smith:

Pamela O’Cuneen may be glad that a Worcester barber still offers the type of service she saw in 1970s London:
“No appointments needed ― hair cut while you wait”.

From Bob Dowling:

As a junior anaesthetist at the Whittington hospital many years ago, I was always relieved to get my patients to sleep before they saw the sign over the theatre door: “Dept. of Neurosurgery ― No Exit”.

From Frances Smith:

I saw this sign in a car park in Mevagissey, Cornwall: “If £2 coin rejected please bounce on concrete and try again”.
The coin was rejected; we bounced, and all was well.

Laboured humour

From Dr Owen Gallagher:

I was being shown around the maternity unit of a hospital in Ontario and when I came to the labour ward the sign on its doors read “Push! Push!

From Dr Michael Bott:

Some years ago I delivered babies at a maternity home whose delivery ward was on the second floor. Patients well on in labour were carried up to it in a lift. As they entered the lift they could read a big sign above it with a reminder of a famous song: “You should have danced all night”.

Travelling light

From Jim McGriskin:

Many moons ago I saw this sign in Sydney’s Town Hall station “Northern line ― go downstairs. Western Line ― go downstairs twice”.

Hm, that sounds like a rule to a private game played by those who work there. In the UK (less Scotland?) the game is called Mornington Crescent.

From Philip R Grant:

On the new Edinburgh trams: “Passengers who leave the tram of their own accord do so at their own risk”.

Now thats definitely a Mornington Crescent rule.

Meanwhile, the Chinese, as usual, have some thoughts on the matter...

Confucius he say: “Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance”

“But better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without”
Sign Language: Spotted in Yunnan, China by Ali MacKenzie


From Enid Deeble Zyat:

There used to be a sign outside a shop in the south of France which read “American spoken ― English understood”. Always made me smile.

And that’s the name of the game here at
Look You.

Friday, September 5th

(NATO @ Newport)

OVER the past couple of days there’s been no escaping the high-profile NATO Summit held here in Wales.

Mind you, I see that high-powered hot air blowers are about to be banned by the European Union ― so where on earth will our world leaders go next to do that which comes naturally?

And on that subject, I had a letter published in the Western Mail  (our national newspaper here in the Land of the Dragon) ― a missive I’d hoped to submit to the Editor in the ‘ironics’ font mentioned in last Monday’s smile of the day. Sadly, though, I haven’t yet got my fingertips on it.

So here’s my contribution, in my favourite Comic Sans MS font ― I mean, what else could I use in a scrapbook-cum-diary celebrating the things spotted on the sunny side of the street.

We are all prisoners to their actions

From Yours Truly:

Given the cost, disruption, hassle and stress generated by the NATO summit at Newport, should not one suitable and out of the way location, somewhere on the planet, be set aside for all future meetings of world leaders.

I suggest Alcatraz. And a bare cell set aside for each person attending, just to remind our movers and shakers that humanity is by definition a prisoner to their every action and reaction.

I did think to add Philip Larkin’s famous verse, suitably paraphrased, of course, to my contribution ― but I’ll include it here, instead.

First, the usual f-word warning:


                           This Nearly Be The Perverse by Philip Larkin (Nearly)

                           They fuck you up, your World Leaders.
                              They may not mean to, but they do.
                           They ply you with vows, the blighters,
                           And add some extra, just for you.

I’d never read Larkin’s complete poem until I decided to play around with his famous opening verse ― but mother never bred a jibber, so here it is, compliments of Wikipedia...

‘This Be The Verse’ is a lyric poem in three verses of four iambic tetrameter on an alternating rhyme scheme [what the f***?], by the English poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985):

                            They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
                               They may not mean to, but they do.
                            They fill you with the faults they had
                               And add some extra, just for you.

                             But they were fucked up in their turn
                               By fools in old-style hats and coats,
                             Who half the time were soppy-stern
                               And half at one another’s throats.

                             Man hands on misery to man.
                               It deepens like a coastal shelf.
                             Get out as early as you can,
                               And don’t have any kids yourself.

That is rather good, you know, perfectly sums up those genetic hand-me-downs none of us can actually hide from an observant world.

And the use of the f-word is quite powerful in the way it adds to Larkin’s heart-felt despair at his own family tree. (I empathise with his message ― and I got on well with my parents.)

Whatever, I hope all the NATO leaders have actually read ‘This Be The Verse’. Even better if they get around to reading ‘This Nearly Be The Perverse’

Me old China

Finally, and keeping to the theme of World Leaders, my favourite clickbait headline of the day:

                  China ‘has breached terms of Hong Kong handover’

Now that has  to be the least surprising headline of the new millennium thus far.

Thursday, September 4th

Ashes to ashes, crumbs to crumbs...

“I HAVE no desire to be a centenarian. I think 90 is a great time. You have had a good innings. I don’t think very old age can be very nice, if you haven’t got your marbles.” Mary Berry, 79, English food writer, television presenter, cook, bottle washer and, er, ever rising star of The Great British Bake Off.

A couple of days back I smiled extravagantly at Carry On Baking, starring those infamous brace of brats, AA Gill and MB Alaska (Melted Bake Alaska).

I also mentioned my admiration for Mary Berry ― but truth to tell I don’t quite understand why suddenly Our Mary keeps dropping these curious quotes all over the meeja, as above.

Well I do understand, really. Until The Great British Bake Off  popped out of the oven, nobody outside the cooking and baking world had really heard of Mary ― yet she has enjoyed an exceedingly successful career, indeed she has published more than 70 cookery books, which by any measure is quite staggering. I mean, nearly a book for every year of her life.

But once Bake Off took off, what with its insatiable need to generate never-ending and high-profile publicity, she is obviously obliged to give endless interviews to the media.

And she probably feels it necessary to make pointless quotes, such as the above.

These days however, every time I see Mary, I am reminded of a piece by the Telegraph’s  Michael Deacon, reviewing the return of the new series of Bake Off.

Heres just a slice ― or two ... or three ... or four... maybe more...

The regal charms of Mary Berry

It’s all Paul Whitehouse’s fault. A few months ago, he and Harry Enfield made a one-off programme celebrating 50 years of BBC Two, in which they did impressions of the channel’s best-loved stars. Whitehouse’s impression of Mary Berry ― performed with a graceful simper ― consisted of a single, unimprovable line. It was: “Wouldn’t I make a wonderful queen?”

I now find it impossible to watch The Great British Bake Off. Because every single time Mary Berry appears on screen, I hear that line.

Promoted to BBC One, the baking contest returned for a new series on Wednesday. For me, though, Whitehouse’s impression had infected the entire programme, like some kind of satirical fungus.

“Very good distribution of the cherries,” Mary Berry would say. “Wouldn’t I make a wonderful queen?” And: “You’ve got a lovely spiral in this Swiss roll. Wouldn’t I make a wonderful queen?” And: “In my book, that tastes absolutely scrumptious. But I must ask you one question. Wouldn’t I make a wonderful queen?”

To be clear: Mary Berry didn’t actually say, “Wouldn’t I make a wonderful queen?” This happened solely in my delirious brain. But it was overpowering. There was nothing I could do to prevent it. In desperation I turned to my wife. “I just can’t get Paul Whitehouse’s impression of Mary Berry out of my head,” I wailed.

Queen Mary III of England, Wales & NI (?)
("Let Them Eat Victoria Sponge")

“Neither can I,” she said. “Still: wouldn’t she make a wonderful queen?”

I just wish I could stop imagining Mary Berry saying, “Wouldn’t I make a wonderful queen?” Apart from anything else, it makes me feel guilty, because in reality Mary Berry would never say something so crass. She’s modest, charming and impeccably well-mannered.

Just a few of the qualities that would make her a wonderful queen.

Now isn’t that just wonderful? Thank you Michael Deacon for a smiley piece.  Mind you, now I can’t get Mary as a wonderful Queen out of my mind either.

As it happens, her quote about the hurdles of longevity brought to mind a story I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before. But like all good tales it bears repeating.

99 not out

Mary’s fear of life when the Queen proper drops her a congratulatory line, along with a Royal Victoria sponge cake, reminds me of the tale, perhaps apocryphal, of the teacher discussing attitudes to old age with a class of teenagers.

“Who would want to live to be a 100 anyway?” reasonably asked one of the girls, something all of us have probably asked somewhere along the very early stages of our walk through time.

To which the teacher responded: “Someone who is 99.”

There’s no answer to that.

Except for what is perhaps my favourite quote, said to me many moons ago by a local farmer, one of life’s great characters: “May you live for ever and die suddenly.”

Meaning of course, may you enjoy good health into old age, and when the time comes, simply plop off your perch without fuss or bother to anyone.

We should all be so lucky.

Wednesday, September 3rd

♪: Yes, we have a banana...

Steve Braithwaite’s home-made Musa bambino (bigbananacar.com)

Driving the motorist bananas

IN THE letters corner of Driving, The Sunday Times  vroom-vroom section, a brace of missives beckoned:

Off screen

From Michael Kenney:

Drivers who phone and text are increasingly being blamed for accidents. At the same time, basic controls on many new models are being consigned to what is in effect a tablet.
     Adjusting the air-conditioning via a touchscreen must be more dangerous than answering a phone, so why is nobody accusing car makers of putting cost-saving before life-saving?
     Perhaps it is time for the Euro NCAP safety tests to start deducting stars for driver distraction.

Yes, you do wonder what these car makers are thinking of. Truly bananas.

Candid cash-cow cameras

From George Ingram:

So the war on motorists continues (“Not so fast: 70mph motorway speed cameras rolled out”, News, last week). We all know that excessive speed can kill, but so do people using mobile phones at the wheel, exhausted HGV drivers, uninsured or unlicensed motorists and a host of other factors including the increased volume of traffic.
     The truth is that it’s easy money to install a camera and collect the cash rather than spend funds actively policing our roads. It’s perhaps time for the voting motorists to hit back.

Well, I responded to that last one ― and it was published last Sunday.

Stress code

From Yours Truly:

In criticising the war on speeding motorists, George Ingram is right about the myriad things that cause motor accidents. However, the slower we are travelling, the less likely we are to kill ourselves.
     Many moons ago, when the word “stress” first appeared outside things metal, I recall perusing “Ten top tips to avoid stress”. One has stayed with me: “Get up 15 minutes earlier”. Okay, today you need to get up an hour earlier, but it does avoid the stress of being late.

My home town of Dodgy City is twinned with Tombstone, just down the mostly dead-straight old dusty Roman road we call the A40 ― and it set me thinking how often the following would make a suitable epitaph up there on Boot Hill...

Slow, slow, quick-quick dead


PS: When putting a date to A Statistic on the above gravestone, I did toy with 1869-2014, 1869 being the year Mary Ward (1827-1869), an Anglo-Irish amateur scientist, became the world’s first known fatal motor vehicle accident victim. The accident happened, ironically, pretty much in the dead centre of Ireland.

But I decided to go for Anonymous Statistic, aged 40, the age at which we become middle-age and enter the prime of our lives.

Here’s a link to Wikipedia’s intriguing tale of the death of 42-year-old Mary Ward ... and below it, a link to the UK’s equally startling first motoring fatality, the 45-year-old Bridget Driscoll ― and note, apart from both ladies being in their 40s, the speed involved in Bridget’s death:



Apropos the smashing and appealing photo of the banana car up there on today’s welcome mat, an online contributor, Phantomsby, suggested that t
he Bananacar should be the Miliband Brothers’ Battlebus of choice.

Brilliant. There again, we do have more than enough bananas, thank you very much.

Tuesday, September 2nd

A taste of the Sahara at Wimbledon 2014?

Well there was all that Saharan dust about
But don’t tell The Great British Bake Off

(Classic Sign Language: spotted by Mike Lewis)

Should have been left in the oven a little longer

“LOQUACIOUS, dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls.”
AA Gill, television pundit of The Sunday Times, and his memorable description of the Welsh people back in 1998.

This quote has, unsurprisingly, already appeared in a previous dispatch. But I do enjoy it. Probably because I haven’t a clue what some of those words mean ― certainly words you never hear down in the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.

There’s something rather wonderful in the notion of writing off a whole nation, as you would an old car that won’t get through the MOT anymore.

My only wish is that on a dark and stormy night Gill would bump into ex-rugby man Scott Quinnell, who is the very antithesis of a “dark, ugly, pugnacious little troll”.

My guess is that Gill, somewhere along his crawl through time, had his manhood called into question by a Welsh lass ― and he’s been taking it out on three million Welsh people ever since. A rather dispiriting notion.

Either that or he should have been left in the oven a wee bit longer rather than being introduced to the world in a half-baked state.

However, I always enjoy reading his television reviews because he talks such a load of old bollocks ― the sort of bullshit that is so adored by the chattering classes ― but fair play, he does it with a certain style.

Others would appear to agree with my thoughts. A couple of comments in The Sunday Times’  own reader response column dedicated to the world of broadcasting.

You say

Sue Hodnett: AA Gill describes The Great British Bake Off (BBC1) as “grey television”, but that is its appeal. There are a whole swathe of us who are fed up with sex, violence, politics and aggression. How lovely it is to watch real, nice people trying their very best to make good cakes...”

Christine Bartlett: At last I have found something in AA Gill’s page that I can agree with
! I quote from his review: “The Great British Bake Off is one of those programmes that makes me doubt, even after all these years, that I still know anything about television.” I’ve always thought that AA Gill knows nothing about television.

What neither Sue Hodnett nor Christine Bartlett knew when they submitted their comments for publication was, that in the very same issue of the Culture magazine, the most watched programme lists for all channels for week ending August 10, the week Bake Off returned for a new series, was ― ta-rah ― Bake Off, with a viewing figure of 8.51m.

However, on last week’s televised episode of Bake Off there was a high-profile shemozzle which made the front pages ... for those in faraway places with strange sounding names...

          Bearded Belfast man puts Baked Alaska (BA) into a shared fridge (ambush alert)
          Elderly lady takes BA out of fridge for no more than 40 seconds in order to put in her own
          Bearded man discovers BA has melted in 25 degree heat and chucks into bin in HUFF XXL
          Bearded man eliminated by judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood - no BA presented for judging
          Elderly lady faints not long after, badly injures herself in fall and has to depart show

Great British Bake Off BOGOF: banish one get one flushed

Beard in the left corner vs. a beard in the right corner ― and the Telegraph's MATT

Above, there is 69-year-old Diana Beard, 31-year-old construction engineer Iain Walters ― and of course the ghost of 1,165-year-old King Alfred (849-899).

That fridgid feeling

I am not a watcher of the Great British Bake off ― my days of putting buns in the oven have long past ― however, I did watch the first of the current series (the one that made AA Gill want to thcream and thcream and thcream), just to grab a feel for what all the excitement was about.

So I’ve smiled hugely at the current shemozzle over the Diana Beard-Iain Walters melted Baked Alaska episode, what with its climate change consequences.

I was surprised that none of the Bake Off team could find it in their hearts to forgive Iain his wobbly, especially so Paul Hollywood given his recent experiences in time and tight spaces with ladies of a sexy persuasion.

The observant will be aware how the brain controls our moods and health, so could it be that Diana Beard’s fainting attack after that controversial episode could have been triggered by the stresses and strains at the time of filming, particularly her seemingly playing a lead part in Iain being shown the red card?

Especially so as the lady disclosed that she had never before suffered such an attack. Hm.

However, given that Diana will no longer appear, could it be that Mary Berry ― I am a Mary fan, incidentally, having happened upon a recent documentary about her fascinating walk through time ― could it be that Mary has insisted, given the lack of adequate refrigeration during that episode, that Iain’s red card be rescinded to yellow and he be invited back onto next Wednesday’s Mary-go-round?

After of course being sent to the naughty corner to bake a hundred tea cakes as punishment.

Now c’mon, everything on television is choreographed to within an inch of its life ― especially so the pathetic committee-generated ‘witticisms’ of the two female Bake Off presenters.

Watch this time and space.

Great fun though. But don’t tell AA Gill...


Monday, September 1st

Lady in Red ~ discreetly revisited (at the house of Hilary Pute)

BACK at the beginning of August I smiled at a thread of letters in The Times. To recap:

This from a Dr SR Cavanagh: 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.

Then this from a
Sheila Moss: Dr SR Cavanagh’s mother’s fellow undergraduate 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.

And from
Eddie Poyner: 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.

I revisit the above letters because I just happened upon this online clickbait headline:

                           The best way to attract men? Wear red

Colour enhances a woman’s sex appeal and makes her more approachable, according to psychologists at Central Normal University in Wuhan, China. They also claim that women also find red attractive in men ― but the effect isn’t as powerful...

Ah yes, it’s the same the whole world over. Mind you, I like the thought of a Central China Normal University.

Anyway, I didn’t click. I took it as read (red?) that there is nothing new under the sun. Even the Confucian one.

In fact, the subject drew another letter to The Times:


Sir, As a stipulation for being employed as a statistician with an accountancy firm in the 1930s, my late mother-in-law was told not to wear pink when attending audits since it might “inflame the men”.
     Doesn’t seem to work nowadays, sigh.
JUNE KEEBLE, Storrington, W Sussex

Perhaps not. But the boys do increasingly wear pink, presumably to inflame the men.


Sign Language goes back to school

Pelase Sir ~ Spotted in Greensboro, N. Carolina by Anonymous

Plese Miss ~ Spotted in Bailey, Colorado by Lynn Billings

...which leads perfectly to another letter spotted in The Times:

No, seriously

Sir, Your report that social networking media plan to designate satire by a special tag reminded me of a proposal to create a new typeface, akin to italics, to alert American readers to the concept of irony.
     The font would be known as ironics.

Sorry, Miss
(suitable exam howlers)

                               We had a longer holiday than usual this year because the school was closed for altercations.

                               Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet.

                               Q: Give the meaning of the term Caesarean Section.
                               A: The Caesarean Section is a district in Rome.


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

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

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

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


You are here, way out west,
at Llandeilo

aka Llandampness
aka Dodgy City



Previously on LOOK YOU......

Smile of the day 2014: Aug
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)

Sep to Dec '07

June to Aug '07
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As it was in the beginning:

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

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

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400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 17/05/2009

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