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

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Updated: 11/08/2013

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400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 08/06/2013

                                                                                        Design: Yosida

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

                                                                               ...and everyday a doolally smile of the day
PS: The shortest distance between two people is a smile ...
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Halloween 2014

“The European Union is like a thirsty vampire feeding on UK taxpayers’ blood.” Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, on the EU’s supposedly unexpected 30-day demand for an extra £1.7bn from Britain.

Oh, and do pay up pronto, Cameron old boy!

This way to the Revolution

So, what are my stand-and-stare thoughts on this year’s EU pantomime which, like the Christmas season, keeps arriving earlier and earlier with every passing year?

Well, we live on a desperately overcrowded island, its whole infrastructure creaking as it struggles to cope ― yet suddenly it has to promptly pay an additional £1.7bn to the EU (trick) while at the same time being told to invite even more people onto its alarmingly listing little ship (treat).

The country is full and it is bankrupt with debt amounting to some 1.5 trillion, which the nation’s children and grandchildren will have to repay.

How ironic is that? Folk are desperate to pass on their wealth to the children, free of tax of course ― see the late Tony Benn’s just surfaced financial affairs and how his children avoid paying inheritance tax on his £5 million legacy (you have to laugh) ― just so the kids can then pay off the huge debts that their parents’ generation incurred.

Doolallyness alive and well and thriving all over the shop.

While history does not precisely repeat itself, the events that shape history certainly do. And with every passing day I sense revolution in the air. And Mrs Thatcher’s poll tax riots will seem like afternoon tea with the vicar.

“Can the customs officers who decided that Becky the Senegal parrot did not have the correct paperwork to enter Britain be put in charge of immigration?” Ilona Hopkins of Margate, Kent in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Has Britain lost its sense of humanity towards migrants? Perhaps we have. Perhaps that’s what happens to people when their hospitality and generosity is so abused?” Ziggy Starburst in a generously-commended online comment about uncontrolled immigration.

Trick or treat

Well, Halloween is here, and as featured in a Telegraph  article, so are the memorably tasteless costumes that go with the territory (and guaranteed to offend countless people).

It was a roundup of the usual suspects ― but one costume was particularly eye-catching:

Sexy Muslim girl outfit

You may have thought there was nothing more offensive than ‘blacking up’, but you’d be wrong.

You can now buy a “sexy burka Middle Eastern Arab girl costume” at aliexpress.com...

Paradoxically, the above little number drew loads of positive and admiring online responses, not just from the men but many of the female correspondents too, who quite fancied wearing it for a laugh.

I particularly like the silver pieces of four (play) hanging all over the shop, ho ho.


Yesterday I mentioned the dastardly tricks deployed by householders to ambush unsuspecting young trick or treaters. Also, above I mention in passing that, in a future EU-dominated world, Mrs Thatcher’s poll tax riots will seem like afternoon tea with the vicar.

Well now, on the wireless this morning, adults old enough to know better, were playing Trick-or-Treat Roulette.

Six cupcakes had been specially baked ― but one had been liberally laced with chili powder.

Everybody knew the score but nobody knew which cake contained the bullet. Obviously.

And if you chose that one ... well, you had to eat it in front of everyone.

Actually, I rather like that as a proper trick or treat for grown-ups. “More tea, vicar? And do help yourself to an exceedingly nice cupcake.”

Thursday, October 30th

For cunniling-um ... er...
read cunningly linguistic

Spotted in Italy by Stewart Evans

Making a meal of it

THIS, from Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times:

At last, the down-to-earth and likeable pop star Sting has given the public more information about the “tantric sex” sessions he enjoys with his wife, Trudie Styler.

We have all been on tenterhooks these past 24 years since he first revealed the marathon seven-hour lovemaking rituals. Sting explained that the seven hours actually include taking in a movie and having dinner.

Aha. I wish I’d known that standing in the queue at the Topkapi kebab house at two in the morning constituted tantric sex; I’d have felt so much better about myself.

Sting described tantric sex as “a spiritual act”. He added: “I don’t know any purer and better way of expressing a love for another individual.”

Has he never heard of Ferrero Rocher? Different strokes, I suppose.

Gosh, imagine that ... and all those years I thought I was enduring “tantalus sex” (tantalus: a case in which bottles may be locked with their contents tantalizingly visible); or perhaps, more correctly, “tantara sex” (tantara: a fanfare or blast, as when feeling horny, as on a horn or trumpet).

But there I was, taking her out for a drink, a meal, to the pictures, to a rugby game ― and I was experiencing tantric sex all along. Doh! Double Doh!!

You’re spoiling us, Mr Ambassador

On the wireless this morning folk were discussing tomorrow’s dastardly trick or treat to-do ― and apparently a favourite trick is to buy a box of Ferrero Rocher, carefully unwrap and remove the chocolates ... and then replace them with something else.

Top of the list appeared to be this...


First catch your sprout ... then cook it, dip it in chocolate and carefully replace it in the Ferrero wrapper.

What a delightfully rotten ruse.

Other tricks mentioned were:

     Substitute the cream filling in a chocolate biscuit with toothpaste.

     Take a couple of cupcakes, but instead of icing, swirl mustard.

     Or a doughnut filled with mayonnaise.

     And ― gulp! ― toffee onions.

I’d hate to play any of those tricks ― except, perhaps, the Ferrero Rocher, which would probably go down well, even with most children.

But think of the revenge of the kids...

An ambush to be avoided at all costs. Best disappear down the Crazy Horsepower for a few hours.

PS: This smashing clickbait headline just spotted:

‘Paul Daniels has tetanus jab after bite from stage rabbit’

                                Oh dear, Sting has tantric sex, Paul has tetanus sex.

Spell-cheque corner: A particularly good day today. My exceedingly clever computer suggested that ‘tantric’ should be ‘tantrum’. Hm, tantrum sex, rings a bell.
     ‘Ferrero’ came up as ‘Ferrari’ ― and ‘Rocher’ as ‘Richer’. How about that? For Ferrero Rocher read
Ferrari Richer (articulate accordingly, of course).


Wednesday, October 29th

Perfect juxtaposition, compliments of the Telegraph’s Sign Language Gallery

Look left ... right - quick, in you go
Spotted in Peru by Adrian Oates

For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand
Spotted in Brisbane by Charles Henshaw

The above is perfect foreplay stimulus apropos this story from a few days back...

Woman’s shock at finding CONDOM in a pack of cornflakes she bought from Tesco


A supermarket has been forced to apologise after a little boy opened a box of cornflakes ― and found a condom inside.

Tesco has launched a probe after the child tucked into his cereal ― bought from a store in Barnstaple, Devon ― only to find the unopened contraceptive swimming in his bowl. 

His uncle’s fiancée, who asked not to be named, managed to snatch the condom packet away before he could examine it ― but says she was soon bombarded with awkward questions. 

The woman claims it came from inside the packet of own-brand Tesco cornflakes.

Hm. Trick or treat? Whatever, these online comments added to the joy of the moment...

Toots: I think it may be a marketing ploy. Who remembers the little plastic toys we used to look forward to in our cornflakes in the 60s/70s? Well now, the whole thing has just gone 21st century.
     Other boxes may include the morning-after pill, small bottles of WKD vodka and solicitors’ helpline numbers.

Keith Lewis: The condom should prevent it happening again.

The Captain: Was it a corntraceptive?

As Tesco is learning to its cost, it never rains but it pours, and all over its cornflakes.

“Tesco sales are down ... every Lidl helps.” A letter in the Daily Mail from Tim Hall of Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria.

Tuesday, October 28th


Probably the wurst code word in the world

REMEMBER the above headline? A week ago I featured the tale of the commander of a Portuguese garrison in Goa who had urgently requested Lisbon to send a supply of artillery shells or anti-tank grenades (the stories vary), using the prearranged code word of chouriços, or sausages.

The Ministry of Defence in Lisbon, which had long forgotten the code word, duly despatched a large consignment of spicy sausages to Goa by plane.

Well, another cracker...

Blades on the ground

SIR – During the Second World War, the RAF in the Middle East sent a message to London requesting 600 airscrews. The message was misread as aircrews and 600 airmen were sent out round the Cape.
     A later signal read: “For airscrews read propellers”.
Adrian Holloway, Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire

I would like to think that that is a true story.

The word “airscrews” reminds me of the famously infamous advertising slogan “I’m Mandy, Fly Me”, and I’m pretty sure there’s a wonderfully dated mile-high joke in there somewhere ― but I can’t for the life of me think what it is.

Whatever, another brace of letters spotted in the Telegraph:

Alone in a crowd

SIR – My daughter was recently waiting for a lift to school, and when it failed to materialise she walked, arriving five minutes late. The school has a new rule which states that any pupils who are late will have to spend lunchtime in “isolation”.
     On being asked how it was, she replied: “It was packed.”
Stephen Blanchard, London SE26

Apt punishment?

SIR – Reading about the packed “isolation” room reminded me of a comparably ironic policy implemented by Strathclyde’s education department when I worked for it in the Seventies: persistent truancy was punished by exclusion from school.
Robin Dow, Stocksbridge, West Yorkshire

Yes, the nation’s descent into absolute doolallyness has an impressive track record.

And finally, another every day a day at school  spot, compliments of The Times  letters page:

Air in eggs

Sir, Fresh eggs lie horizontally at the bottom of a vessel of cold water because they contain only a small amount of air. As they age, more air enters through the shell.
     Eggs that are not completely fresh ― but still fine to eat ― will tilt upwards. If the egg floats, then it has gone bad.
Kay Bagon, Radlett, Herts

I remember my mother on the farm doing that test, especially if she had come across some eggs that had been laid away from the chicken shed, say in a nearby hedge.

Incidentally, looking at the name of the above letter writer, Kay Bagon, she nearly has the perfect surname apropos a letter about eggs.

Monday, October 27th

   ♫ ... Happy ghost-busting birthday to you...

TODAY is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dylan Thomas.

Truth be told I have grown somewhat weary of tales of the man himself, what with his brief and troubled walk through time.

No less a figure than the novelist and Booker Prize winner Kingsley Amis once dismissed Dylan Thomas as an outstandingly unpleasant man. Mind you, the words pot, kettle and black float effortlessly above that quote.

Also, the London media has been overly obsessed with whether Thomas hated the Welsh language itself (rather conveniently ignoring the fact that two of his children have wholly Welsh names); oh, and how precisely should one pronounce the name Dylan ― Dill-an or Dull-an ― yawn!

All that really matters is his written and verbal legacy. Which, let’s be honest, is rather good.

So I thought I would celebrate the day with just a couple of my favourite Thomas quotes.

Singy-songy words

The first is a reported slice of badinage. On one of his trips to America he was asked by a reporter the purpose of the visit, and he supposedly responded thus: “The sole purpose of my visit is to seek out beautiful women wearing nothing but diaphanous mackintoshes.”

What a perfect image. And as if by magic...

Beth Marsden’s ‘Transparent Mac’

A couple of months back at the local supermarket, I was next in turn for the kiosk. In front of me an attractive lady, 30-ish, wearing a poncho-style diaphanous mac, the sort used to protect against a rogue shower.

As she departed I approached the familiar young girl at the checkout, who, with a serious face and frosty tone asked: “What are you smiling at?” She then smiled broadly.

“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me,” I said.

“Try me,” she said ― so with nobody waiting behind I joined up all the dots that had led to my smile.

Having encountered this young lady at the checkout on previous occasions I had quickly established that she was clearly not the default kind of person you would expect to find manning (womanning?) a checkout at a supermarket ― but in casual conversation I’d learnt that she was earning some spare cash between leaving school and going off to college.

She was a well-spoken, chatty, cheery sort, and even though I was old enough to be her grandfather she was the type you could effortlessly have a jokey conversation with ― even exchange a bit of risqué banter ― without causing any sort of confusion or offence.

Indeed, she could give as good as she got, witness her opening remark as to why I had a silly grin on my face.

When I’d finished the “diaphanous mackintoshes” tale she surprised me by responding ― in an exaggerated Welsh accent:
“I’m fast. I’m a bad lot. God will strike me dead. I’m eighteen. I’ll go to hell. You just wait ― she tells the old goat in front of her ― I’ll sin till I blow up!

She was quoting Mae Rose Cottage from Under Milk Wood, seventeen
and never been kissed, who dreams of meeting her “Mr. Right”, and who spends the day in the fields talking to the nanny goats and daydreaming, and unseen, draws lipstick circles around her nipples.

“But I haven’t drawn lipstick circles around my you-know-whats,” says the girl in the supermarket, laughing. “I know my Under Milk Wood ― hello, there’s somebody waiting behind you.”

It was a memorable exchange, especially where she says “she tells the old goat in front of her”, because in Under Milk Wood ― well, I checked and this is how the sequence unfolds:

SECOND VOICE: The afternoon buzzes like lazy bees round the flowers round Mae Rose Cottage. Nearly asleep in the field of nanny goats who hum and gently butt the sun, she blows love on a puffball.

MAE ROSE COTTAGE (...Lazily...):
                                                         He loves me.
                                                         He loves me not.
                                                         He loves me.
                                                         He loves me not.
                                                         He ... loves ... me
! --- the dirty old fool.

SECOND VOICE: Lazy she lies alone in clover and sweet-grass, seventeen and never been sweet in the grass,
ho ho.


SECOND VOICE: Down in the dusking town, Mae Rose Cottage, still lying in clover, listens to the nanny goats chew, draws circles of lipstick round her nipples.

MAE ROSE COTTAGE: “I’m ... fast... I’m a bad lot. God will strike me dead. I’m seventeen. I’ll go to hell.”

SECOND VOICE: She tells the goats.

MAE ROSE COTTAGE: You just wait. I’ll sin till I blow up

SECOND VOICE: She lies deep, waiting for the worst to happen; the goats champ and sneer...

I actually miss seeing the young girl in the supermarket. Whenever I saw her about the store she would always give me a cheeky smile.

Sadly I never asked her is she was off to college to study drama because she seemed born to be an actress, the perfect Mae Rose Cottage.

I bet she goes far, whatever her chosen subject.

As it happens, my second Dylan Thomas quote comes from Under Milk Wood: “He kissed her once when she wasn’t looking ... but he never kissed her again even though she was looking all the time.”

As I understand it, the BBC commissioned Under Milk Wood as a radio play, with presumably the proviso of no bad language, and that it had to be understood and appreciated by your typically average Welsh listener i.e. me (bearing in mind that most of Dylan’s poetry goes straight over my head).

What is fascinating about that last quote is this: if within the privacy of your own imagination you substitute the word “kiss” with the f-word...

I bet that many a lady reading it thus, will duly wear a wry smile as she remembers the time when she had, perhaps, enjoyed a few drinks too many ― but not necessarily drunk ― and wondered why the fellow who had had his way with her paid very little attention to her thereafter.

Indeed, I fear I may well have to plead guilty in the court of ‘Nogood Boyo Bad Behaviour’.

And on that note, I think I shall leave you with the following magical and lyrical use of words by Dylan Thomas...

Captain Cat (thinking of Rosie Probert):

                                                                   I’ll tell you no lies.
                                                                   The only sea I saw
                                                                   Was the seesaw sea,
                                                                   With you riding on it.
                                                                   Lie down, lie easy.
                                                                   Let me shipwreck in your thighs.

Now that’s what I call singy-songy words.

Man overboard


Saturday/Sunday, October 25th/26th

Memories are made of this

                                                 Chuck Ricker

AS I again disappear down that crazy river for a couple of days, and prompted by the above picture-trip to my memory vault, I was amused last night by a list of the worst chat-up lines ever.

And yes, they were delightfully cringeworthy.

Mind you, given that the clocks change this weekend, I thought this worthy of a marginal paraphrase:

“I’m wearing a magic watch. It tells me you’re not wearing any underwear ― no, hang on, I must have forgotten to turn it back an hour this morning.”

I like that, I could imagine using it in my roll-in-the-hay day. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this online comment...

Gompei: The best chat-up line I was ever at the receiving end of
wasn’t even a chat-up line at all.
     I was sitting opposite a girl at a party and she just patted the empty seat next to her while looking at me.
     We dated for 6 years and almost got married. Although the relationship didn’t end in the way I expected, I still remember that pat with a smile.

As you’d expect, that drew loads and loads of ‘recommends’.

I am reminded of the famous quote from Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980):

“If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.

I also like this one of hers:

“I have a simple philosophy. Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. And scratch where it itches.”

See you Monday, if spared.


Friday, October 24th

The flamed and feathered blooms of old England
Glories of the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society

Displayed traditionally in beer bottles, the society’s tulips await judging at its annual show

THE above eye-catching picture in the Telegraph, together with the following letter and attendant online comments of relevance and choice, captured my imagination no end ― and deserve a smile of the day spot and to be shared with as many people as possible...

SIR – I enjoyed the Gardening article by Charles Quest-Ritson on the Dutch garden of historic bulbs, the Hortus Bulborum. The collection of English Florists’ Tulips there, with their flamed and feathered marking, were supplied by the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society.
     This society has been growing English Florists’ Tulips since 1836. Some of the varieties grown have very long lives, and flower year after year for decades. Unlike most viruses, those that affect the tulip (and produce its markings) do not appear to mutate.
     The blooms today are just as illustrated hundreds of years ago.
Tim Lever, Beachampton, Buckinghamshire

Anneallan: What a wonderfully quirky picture. They would make striking centrepieces for tables at mass catering events.

Johnny Norfolk: Is that the best they can do? Old brown beer bottles to display them?

Astrantia: The beer bottle was the container easiest to hand which holds a tulip flower upright. Don’t forget that these societies, like the Auricula Society, was the hobby of the working man.

Lordmuck: Availability ... there’s plenty of empty beer bottles up North.

JDavidJ: It may be a cheap and easy way to make sure everyone uses the same container. Differing vases could distract the judges from the focus of their attention.
     In a couple of years they may have to use empty pill bottles instead.

Those comments add so much to the photograph and the way different individuals perceive things differently. It
’s the old beer bottle half-full half-empty character trait.

As I always maintain, smiles come in all shapes and sizes. For example, another recent Telegraph  letter:

Today’s news

SIR – Radio Four’s Today programme yesterday interviewed a woman who claimed to have married herself. I couldn’t help recalling the words of a former Today presenter, the late Robert Robinson: “If this is news, on what basis do we ever leave anything out?”
Michael Stanford, London SE23

Thursday, October 23rd

Sex and the Valley Boy

Tom & Jerry Kirsty

“HE pulsates sexuality. I can only imagine he is a killer in the sack.” Broadcaster Kirsty Young, 45, presenter of Desert Island Discs, 72, says she could happily have cast away with Sir Tom Jones, now 74.

“I am grateful,” continues Kirsty, with legs firmly crossed,  “that I was interviewing him in the autumn of his years, because God only knows, if he had walked into my studio 30 years ago, I would not have been responsible for my actions.”

Given that 30 years ago Kirsty would have been ― now let us see ... just sweet 15? ― she may well have got excited at the sight of Jimmy Savile, God forbid, such is the nature of celebrity attraction of those on the totem pole.

And the higher up the totem pole the sleb, the less those staring in awe are capable of spotting the ambush.

Whatever, back with Sir Tom: being that he has allegedly entertained more women than I’ve encountered hot dinners, I am somewhat taken aback that our red tops ― and indeed our very blue tops ― are not pulsating with ladies marking the great man out of ten.

Could it possibly be ― and I may be indulging in some sort of treason here and be dragged kicking and screaming to the stocks by knickerless women ― could it be that our Tom is not all that proficient in the sack, a problem perhaps of having women such as Kirsty lining up to be laid, and as a consequence the birds have been reluctant to come out of the trees just in case it reflects on their own uselessness between the sheets rather than Tom’s?

Indeed when you never have to dazzle, amuse, charm and seduce the girls into bed, it must be tempting to simply perform a wham, bam, thank you ma’am routine.

After all, we men are only as good in bed as the lady leading us a merry and elegant slow, slow, quick-quick slow foxtrot.

In light of Kirsty’s breathless observation, I look forward to enthusiastic reports if only to confirm that her fantasy is not just a damp squib (squid?!), but it really is alive and well and as spine-tingling as standing naked under a waterfall.

There again, Sir Tom might be blessed with the inherent gift of only bedding women of absolute discretion ― which sadly rules out Kirsty, at a stroke.

Whatever, talking of sex...

“I really don’t like old women talking about sex. Or old men for that matter. I think after 65 you should really shut up.” Dame Eileen Atkins, 80, English actress and occasional screenwriter.

“Things like drugs, alcohol, smoking ― that’s all over. Sex, who knows? But as far as I can tell, I think it is probably over.” Sixties star Marianne Faithfull, 67, English singer, songwriter and actress.

Oh dear, Marianne, at 67 be sure to keep out of Dame Eileen’s way ― although Kirsty, at 45, can let it all hang out.

“Never have an affair with anybody that you wouldn’t enjoy having lunch or dinner with in 25 years’ time.” Game of Thrones actress Dame Diana Rigg, 76, offers up her advice on love, marriage and everything.

I’m still trying to work out the logic of all that. I would have thought that you don’t really need to look further than the first bend along the road, what with its stress-laden ambush.

Or best of all, early on in the affair get the object of your desire thoroughly drunk ― while you remain sober, or at least, sober-ish. That will tell you everything you ever need to know what nasties lie hidden on that individuals hard-drive.

And on that beep-beep note...

Spell-cheque corner: My computer, in its infinite wisdom, decided that ‘knickerless’ should in fact be ‘knackeries’. As they say down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, there’s no answer to that.

Wednesday, October 22nd

Tuesday:  The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge await the arrival of the
president of Singapore, Tony Tan Keng Yam, at the start of his state visit

Back on track

I KNEW something had been missing of late off the front pages.

Grounded for more than two months while battling severe morning sickness ― and the first picture I see of Kate, she’s smiling.

If ever I need a Patron ― or indeed a Patron Saint ― for Look You, a wee website which, after all, celebrates the smile in all its glorious forms, then who else?

The home stretch

Flicking through last weekend’s Sunday Times  Home supplement, this caught my eye:

Luxury wellness communities are the latest craze in holiday homes, I learn:

“Now you can buy a retreat with vitamin showers, posture-friendly floors and macrobiotic meals on site. And forget Zumba ― think triathlon training, aquatic suspended-gravity exercises and yoga on horseback...”

Here comes the sun

Horseback yoga at the new Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Va.
Have you ever tried yoga on horseback?


Next year, 49 homes will be launched at the newly opened, equestrian-themed Salamander Resort & Spa, set in 340 acres at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Middleburg, Virginia ― hunting country much loved by Jackie Kennedy.

Although the exact plans have yet to be revealed, prices will start at $1.5m, and falconry, hot bamboo-stalk massages and horseback yoga will be on offer...

What a marvellously eye-catching picture that is.

But hot bamboo-stalk massages?

PS: I must finish with this classic clickbait from the day’s online headlines:

      Conman faked being in a coma for two years but was caught walking around Tesco

As if Tesco didn’t have enough problems already, already ... witness these two letters spotted in The Times:

Tesco sweetener

Sir, My latest Tesco mail-out contains a voucher for a free test for type 2 diabetes as well as a coupon for free chocolate or blueberry muffins.
     Is this extremely amoral or superbly ethical?

Not-so-ready meals

Sir, Now that former Ikea boss Mikael Ohlsson is joining Tesco, does this mean I will have to assemble my ready meals myself, using wordless diagrams, only to find out that two potatoes are missing?


Tuesday, October 21st

Not a sausage: the perils of code words

Spotted in The Daily Telegraph, a cautionary tale from Goa in selecting your code words carefully:

Probably the wurst code word in the world

SIR – You report that a terror suspect is alleged to have used the code word “sausage” to buy a gun.
     It is not the first time such a code word has been used. When in 1961 Goa, Portugal’s small enclave in India, faced the military might of India and was running short of artillery shells or anti-tank grenades (the stories vary), the commander of the Portuguese garrison sent an urgent request for replacements to Lisbon using the prearranged code word of chouriços, or sausages.
     The Ministry of Defence in Lisbon, which had long forgotten the code word, duly despatched a large consignment of spicy sausages to Goa by plane.
Richard Symington, London SW17

And with one bound, we jump from code words to meaning of words. This, from The Times:

It’s no secret

Sir, Rob Mathews says he is unable to understand management consultancy. It’s simple: management consultancy is common sense overlaid with gobbledegook.
     The gobbledegook comes in various layers of opacity. The fee is in direct proportion to the opacity and size of the ensuing report.
JOHN GARDNER, Winchester

That reminds me of the fuss at a top firm of management consultants when it was reported that someone had called the gook a gunt ― but it turns out that actually, someone had questioned who the hell had called the gunt a gook.

Ahh, the old ones, slightly paraphrased, are best ― and not an asterisk in sight.

Be all that as it may, a few choice responses to the management consultancy letter...

Nous, no practice

Sir, This may help Rob Mathews: a management consultant is someone who knows how to make love in 120 exciting, spectacular and exotic ways, but does not know any women.

Sir, I thought a management consultant was someone to whom you lent your watch so as to enable them to tell you the time.
TONY WESTHEAD, Amersham, Bucks

Top-notch watch

Sir, If a management consultant uses a client’s watch to tell them the time, be assured the client is someone with a very expensive watch who doesn’t know the time of day.
LEON POLLOCK, Fellow of the Institute of Consulting, Sutton Coldfield, W Midlands

Ah yes, knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing i.e. politicians and civil servants.

Advice watch

Sir, Tony Westhead is describing a general consultant. A management consultant would borrow your watch to tell you the time ... and keep your watch.
KERRY THOMAS, Tilehurst, Berks

So there.

Never forget to check your rear-view mirror

Yesterday I mentioned that my mother advised me never to get a tattoo ― and I have since observed that a tattoo is a sure sign of lack of self-esteem, no matter how successful or rich the wearer.

Well then...

“I would love a tattoo. I just don’t know where to put it. My dad would kill me.”
     TV chef Jamie Oliver, 39½ (nearly)

“There’s a weird thing about wearing this much jewellery ― [80 grand’s worth] ― it feels like having sex all day long. It gives you this buzz, it’s quite pleasant.”
Actress Sienna Guillory, 39½ (more or less), who was bedecked in diamonds when she attended the opening of the new Gismondi London store. [Gismondi = “Give us the money” store?]

In the meantime, David Beckham sings a little tune that’s goin’ ‘round and ‘round inside me

♫♫♫ Ink, a dink a dink, a dink a dink, a dink a doo...

...It’s got the whole world swoonin’

Do you know, Sienna Guillory has hit on something. That is probably why celebrities cover themselves in jewellery and tattoos. They are furiously making love to themselves all day long.

Whatever, is it me or does David Beckham, up there, really look like something the cat brought in, what with all those tattoos?

And on that score, a couple more letters from The Times:

Tat for tat

Sir, Tattoos. Was there ever a more apposite three-letter start to another word for eyesore?

More tat

Sir, If I am prejudiced against people with tattoos, does this make me a tattooist?

Hm, tat dragged in by the cat.


Monday, October 20th

Curious news from the front

IT all kicked off with a newspaper article about a survey by the John Lewis upscale department store ― noted for its Christmas advert, coming soon to a TV near you ― which has been taking a poke and a peep into men’s underwear, so to speak.

Here are two relevant points of interest:

Norwich (East)

Less is more in Norwich, which is the Y-Fronts capital of Britain, according to John Lewis. Fittingly, televisions most famous Y-front wearer, Alan Partridge, also hails from the region.


Welshman have been crowned Britains underwear “fashionistas” by John Lewis, with the colour of their most popular pants ― blue ― the best selling underwear colour. Blue pants outsell all others by 21pc in Wales.

Then this appeared in the letters page of the Telegraph:

Expiring underpants

SIR – After more than 40 years in general practice I can confidently assert that the spectacle of the typical Englishman in his underwear is little short of tragic. Retailers should put a use-by date in their products.
     Incidentally, although I live in Norfolk, I do not wear Y-fronts.
Dr David Bryce, Norwich

I am unsure why the Good Doctor should be ashamed of Y-fronts. I mean, how many people does he show them to? On the other hand, perhaps he just wants to distance himself from Alan Partridge.

Whatever, a couple of days later, another undercover letter:

Underlying condition? It’s the underwear

Are your undergarments adversely affecting your health?

SIR – As a boy seaman confined with an ear infection in the Royal Naval Hospital in Singapore, I was asked by the surgeon admiral whether I wore underpants.
     My answer in the affirmative was declared to be the cause of my condition. Is there any evidence to support this diagnosis?
Nick Young, Cavendish, Suffolk

The above was trumped by this wildly witty response spotted in the comments section...

Stigenace: Might there have been a misunderstanding about his cochlea?

Good, eh?

I also submitted a response to the letter from the anti-Y-front doc ― which did  make it into print.

Mother knows best

SIR – The only advice my mother gave me regarding clothes was to make sure that everything I wore was clean, fresh, properly aired and with no holes surplus to specification. Nothing else matters.
     She also advised me never to get a tattoo. Indeed, I have observed that a tattoo is a sure sign of lack of self-esteem, no matter how successful or rich the wearer.

Which drew this online response:

Stigenace: I guess HB is not writing about cultures where tattoos are a rite of passage and indicative of “rank, social status, power and prestige”. (http://www.zealandtattoo.co.nz...)

ilPugliese: He might be commenting on how their belief systems are faulty.

Indeed, ilPugliese, indeed.

PS: My mother also insisted that I should never put on damp clothes, hence why they should always be aired. If I got wet either walking or singing in the rain, say, then it did not matter so much if my body heat naturally dried out my clothes ― but wearing damp clothes was a no-no, a killer. And I guess she was spot on.

Sunday, October 19th

Picture story of the week

The Queen and Prince Philip walk through a sea of ceramic red poppies at the 'Blood
Swept Lands and Seas of Red' installation at the Tower of London, last Thursday

YESTERDAY I smiled rather agreeably at a Dinefwr Park skyline decorated with the flaming leaves of autumn. Twenty-four hours later and I am captivated by a different sea of red.

Today’s Sunday Times  features a startling picture similar to the above ― and I must agree with the newspaper that it is indeed the picture story of the week.

Cut down in their prime

By November 11, Armistice Day, 888,246 poppies will have been planted in the artist Paul Cummins’s installation ― one flower for every British or Commonwealth military death during the First World War.

With almost all of the poppies now in place, the Queen looked suitably sombre as she walked through the sea of ceramic crimson blooms during a tour of the Tower of London.

An image both moving and smiley (in an exceedingly heart-warming way).


The Telegraph  newspaper has just announced its sixth book of unpublished missives submitted to its Letters page, What Will They Think of Next, and a few choice examples appeared in the paper to herald its publication.

Given the presence of the Duke of Edinburgh, above, himself a former naval officer of course, I enjoyed this:

Royal flushes

SIR – Many congratulations to Prince Philip on his 93rd birthday. I see he is going to Germany on Thursday. Where does he get his travel insurance?
Brian Baxter, Oakington, Cambridgeshire

Saturday, October 18th

Costume change: Act IV, Scene III


Flaming beauties

HAVING followed the changing hues of the two large chestnut trees at Newton House in Dinefwr Park & Castle (see August 31 & September 23), I couldn’t resist this up-dated fleeting glance, caught as the rising sun popped out from behind some fast moving clouds.

The two chestnuts are extreme left ― and in between the smaller sweet chestnut (plus the two next along), all three sweets desperate to hang on to the green leaves of summer in this current spell of stormy but balmy autumn weather.

A smashing sight to greet me along my morning walk through the park, especially so Newton House itself, looking dead smart in the spotlight.

Oh yes, yesterday I smiled at the tight isobars climbing all over ‘weather girl’ Carol Kirkwood’s warm front ― indeed there was a letter I’d meant to share with you about the flibbertigibbet nature of our weather here in the UK, so this then from The Times:

Climate exchange

Sir, September was notable for its warmth and low rainfall, while August was wet and cool.
       Presumably this means that between August 1 and September 30 our weather was staggeringly average.
       Should this be a cause for concern?
CLIVE HUMPHRIES, Croesau Bach, Shropshire

Friday, October 17th

A warm front on a stormy day



Bill Turnbull, BBC Breakfast presenter: “I was taking great interest in your isobars there. Would you say they are tightly packed?”

Carol Kirkwood, weather lady: “Yes, they are quite tightly packed ― there’s a bit of a squeeze going on.”

An entertaining innuendo-laden exchange on live television ― I mean, just look at those isobars on her, um, that weather map ― however, I feel a variation on a theme coming on:
     Q:  Define a meteorologist.
     A:  A fellow who can look at a girl’s isobars and tell whether.



Storm in a D-cup

THE above naughty but nice exchange unfolded last Tuesday morning ― and all to do with that monster of a storm stretching all the way across the north Atlantic, from the coasts of Portugal and Spain up to Greenland, flirting with France and the British Isles along the way.

Hence the current wet and stormy weather here in Llandampness, along with all points west, south, east and north.

The massive system, along with two hurricanes named Fay and Gonzalo, is creating extreme weather in the Atlantic ocean.

Back at the beginning of September, this headline was spotted in our newspapers:

                              Autumn? It will be warm until November

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

I wrote about it at the time and mentioned that I’d make a note in my diary in November just to see how accurate the forecast would turn out to be.

Well, so far so good because all they mentioned was the higher than average temperatures ― and to be honest, today it really is quite balmy, that huge storm dragging warm air from south of the border, down Azores way, air originally part of tropical storm Fay, the forward scout for Hurricane Gonzalo which has just trampled all over Bermuda.

Whatever, enough serious stuff already, back with those squeezy isobars, the smiley warm front...

              In for a penny in for an innuendo? Yes sir, we all love a bit of it

When it comes to titillating innuendo, Britain stands proud. Long may we hold firm and keep it up

Thus confirmed a recent Telegraph  headline. 

Despite the occasional half-masted attempt to stop it, the BBC continues to spank out innuendo aplenty ― see the forecast, above, not to mention The Great British Bake Off  with all sorts of things rising to the occasion all over the shop.

Anyway, this smiley snatch from the Telegraph  piece:

But the best place historically for such stuff is BBC radio’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, where Samantha ― the show’s fondly imagined, non-existent scorer ― was once said to be “going out for ice cream with her Italian gentleman friend” and was “looking forward to licking the nuts off a large Neapolitan”.

There were complaints earlier this year that Samantha’s treatment was sexist and, despite being imaginary, her innocence needed protecting. The BBC thankfully refused, and vowed to let Samantha keep satisfying legions of men up and down the country.

Nothing can go on forever, sadly, and one loss to that show was the regular mention of Lionel Blair. When introducing the round called “sound charades”, tribute would be paid to the former Give Us A Clue  host with lines such as: “Who can ever forget the joy on Lionel’s face as he tried to pull off Twelve Angry Men in under two minutes.”

And then these online comments, the first a reminder that often the old ones are the best...

John Green: Man walks into a bar and asks for a double entendre and the barmaid gives him one ... ker-tish.

Jhm22: In the savoury biscuit section of my local supermarket, I couldn’t help noticing the brand ‘Salticrax’. Made me wonder for a moment...

Makka2000: Innuendo ― isn’t that an Italian suppository?
Blonderella: Only for men.

Ker-tish indeed.

Thursday, October 16th


YESTERDAY morning, a funny thing happened on my way to Look You. (And you were, perhaps, wondering about Wednesday’s solitary question mark, wearing nothing but a smile.)

Enjoying a coffee while listening to Shân Cothi on Radio Cymru, the Welsh language station, I learnt that yesterday, Wednesday 15th, was Diwrnod Shwmae Su’mae (“Howdy doody, nice to see you, to see you...” day), 24 hours dedicated to promoting the idea of starting every conversation with “Shwmae” (Hello, the south Wales version), “Su’mae” (north Wales speak) or “Shwdi!” (Crazy Horsepower Saloon lingo).

The annual campaigning day aims to show that here in Wales the Welsh language is a part of us all ― fluent speakers, learners or those shy about their Welsh.

Being that English is the default language of communication, even in an essentially Welsh Llandampness ― excepting of course those individuals we always speak Welsh with anyway ― if you start a conversation with a face not entirely familiar, whether at a supermarket checkout, bank, pub, wherever, with a cheery “Shwmae, shwmae”, it is quite surprising how many will respond in Welsh.

Anyway, also on Shân Cothi’s programme was a feature involving a local school, Ysgol Bro Dinefwr, which was holding a Diwrnod dim ysgrifennu (a no writing day) and instead were having a Diwrnod siarad a gwrando (a speaking and listening only day).

So pens and paper banned for the whole day with everyone having to concentrate on the spoken word.

What a splendid idea. So I thought I’d join in...

So here I am today, having enjoyed a day of not so much speaking and listening but rather looking and listening (I resisted the temptation of talking to myself).

So, by chance I came across on Twitter a cartoon by Peter Brookes of The Times.

Two things I need to point out for those in faraway places, etc...

There is currently a ‘feeling nuts’ campaign in the media, which is to draw men’s attention to testicular cancer, with chaps grabbing their privates, à la Michael Jackson in his performing prime.

And of course, last Friday, as previously covered hereabouts, Ukip and Nigel Farage gave David Cameron and the Conservatives a bit of a bloody nose in a by-election.

So here’s the cartoon:

No prizes for guessing who’s feeling Cameron’s nuts

Brilliant. Indeed, seeing that cartoon of Farage grabbing Cameron’s bollocks reminded me of this fabulously memorable ‘feeling nuts’ picture from 1987...

Caught offside

Vinnie Jones, now 49, was a professional soccer player, and still holds the record for the fastest yellow card (three seconds). He was indeed a mean machine on the football pitch. The fans worshiped him, which rather underlines the association between war and sport.

The unfortunate chap on the receiving end of the grab is Newcastle United’s Paul Gascoigne, now 47, who was an exceptionally talented young footballer and was, to boot, a bit of a nut case, in an amusing sort of way, always doing silly things both on and off the pitch.

Sadly, Paul has been much in the news of late because he has become a slave to the demon drink. Exceedingly sad. What the Gods give they quickly take away.

Anyway, back with that picture, I don’t think Vinnie ever expected to be caught on film, but the image has entered sporting folklore, probably because never has one shot so perfectly highlighted the characters of the two people featured.

So that’s what I smiled at yesterday, but never wrote about ― and as I mentioned at the top, hence the smiley question mark, below, ho, ho, ho...

Wednesday, October 15th

Tuesday, October 14th

“We can’t bomb Isil in Syria, but we
could send in Jeremy Clarkson with
an offensive number plate”

Stone me

“THEY wanted blood. One said they were going to barbecue us and eat the meat.”
Jeremy Clarkson, 54, English broadcaster and dedicated shite-stirrer of note, describes how he and his Top Gear team had to flee Argentina with tails-between-legs after they were pelted with stones by an angry mob, furious about their H982 FKL car number plate that appeared to refer to and mock the Falklands conflict.

Call ‘Exhibit A’

Jeremy Clarkson’s taunting Porsche with its
red-rag-to-Argentinian-bulls number plate

Call ‘Exhibit B ― Nos. 1 to 5’

Clarkson’s Porsche handaxed and banjaxed and
stoned deep in the heart of enemy territory

Call first witness for the defence

“Top Gear production purchased three cars for a forthcoming programme; to suggest that this car was either chosen for its number plate, or that an alternative number plate was substituted for the original is completely untrue.”
Andy Wilman, 52, executive producer of Top Gear, the most widely watched factual (
factual!?) television programme in the world, according to the Guinness World Records book, 2013.

Hm, Andy Wilman inviting a Mandy Rice-Davies response: well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Call second witness for the defence

“We would never, ever make a joke about the Falklands conflict.”
Richard Hammond, 44, noted for co-hosting Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson and James May, speaking on Monday’s Chris Evans wireless show, clearly singing from the Top Gear hymn sheet as distributed by Andy Wilman, and reassuring listeners that the H982 FKL cock-up was just that, a purely fortuitous balls-up.

Oh c’mon, Richard, have you never, ever read Jeremy Clarkson’s columns? Where nothing is off limits?

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury

Given that Top Gear’s production team is, by definition, stacked to the ceiling with bright young things, not to mention the three clever old farts who front Jeremy Clarkson’s Alternative Flying Circus, are we seriously to believe that not one single person spotted the ambush labelled FKL ― but the moment it went online those curious odds and sods who hang out in Twitterland spotted it instantly?

Yes, why does television find it so easy to be economical with the actuality?

Many see Clarkson as a cross between a court jester and the Pied Piper, hence millions hanging on his every word.

Much as I enjoy reading Jeremy as a perfect charge point to top-up my rogue juvenile gene battery ― along with watching Top Gear and listening to Chris Evans on the wireless ― I tend to think of Clarkson as more of a General George Custer, a clever fellow but lacking any sense of instinct and ambush.

When you dedicate your professional life to rubbishing everything and everybody, albeit tongue-in-cheek, you must, surely, sense that one day you will ride into Little Bighorn, where Chief Sitting Bull will be waiting in ambush, sporting the mother of all grins.

Be thankful, Jeremy, that you and your colleagues escaped with your scalps.

Next time, though, Chief Crazy Horsepower might not be quite so incompetent.

And on that bombshell...

Monday, October 13th

Cock of the walk strip

LAST Friday, I think it was, I was perusing the Telegraph’s  online ‘Most viewed’ Top Ten clickbait list, and there, sitting at No. 1:

                     “Dwarf stripper gets bride pregnant on her hen night”

As is my wont, I resisted the bait ― and instead imagined how the conversation would have gone: “Hello, big boy ― and what’s your name then?” “It’s Rooster Little, darling, but my pals call me Foghorny Legover...” And it all just sort of went downhill from there...

Well blow me, on the Top Ten list at No. 10, was this:

    “Dwarf handed colouring book and crayons by waitress while on date with fiancée...”

I gave a sort of juvenile giggle ― before again moving quickly on...

Well blow me one more time, on the Saturday morning, that last story featured in the Western Mail, the national newspaper of Wales, under the headline “Small blunder is no big thing for forgiving James”, mostly because, I presume, the incident happened at a Harvester Inn in Cardiff.

Anyway, I shall leave both stories in the capable hands of that other Rooster Little, Rod Liddle, as per his weekly Sunday Times  column ― well, he does have a way with crowing:

                         My baby’s dad? Well, he wasn’t Bashful

A Spanish bride-to-be was enjoined by her prospective husband to thoroughly enjoy her hen night.

And so she did. The girls went to see a dwarf doing a striptease, as you do. And nine months later the now married woman surprised her husband by giving birth to a dwarf, claims the website LasCincoDelDiaDelilah.

[No, I jest, I added Delilah, it just sort of tripped off the tongue; the website is actually LasCincoDelDia. Anyway, back with Rod...]

Apparently the husband was unconvinced by an initial defence of “coincidence” and the woman eventually confessed all.

How low can you go? Oh, about 3ft 6in, if I’ve had a few.

Meanwhile, another dwarf, James Lusted, 26, who is actually 3ft 7in, decided to take his fiancée Chloe Roberts, 20, out for a romantic meal at a restaurant in Cardiff. And what do you think happened when he sat down at the table?

This is the thing: in general, people mean well. There is no malice in them. They try to do the best they can ― but sometimes, through no fault of their own, they get it slightly wrong. So imagine how Mr Lusted felt when he was handed a colouring book and crayons. It would sap your confidence, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, this is the column to turn to first for dwarf-related news and comment.

Apropos that colouring book and crayons tale, this again from Saturday’s Western Mail:

It was only when the waitress heard James’ deep voice that she realised her embarrassing blunder.

But it was the highlight of the night for James and his bride-to-be Chloe Roberts, who have been laughing about it ever since.

James said: “As I said thank you to the waitress she heard my voice and knew I wasn’t a child. She immediately put the colouring book behind her back in shock. But I am man enough to see the funny side ― I would never take offence.”

I mean, you do have to feel sorry for the waitress. As Rod Liddle said, she meant well.

In fact, when I saw a picture of James I recognised him as an occasional presenter on the Welsh-language television channel S4C, and as much as I’ve seen of him ― er, you know what I mean ― he seems a jolly sort of fellow who really would see the funny side.

Apparently, he also competed in the World Dwarf Games twice and played badminton at national level.

How does the saying go? “Fate is what happens to you, destiny is what you do with it.”

Incidentally, do you suppose the Spanish lady is now known as Snow White? And the stripper Happy?

Oh yes, this spotted in today’s Telegraph Top Ten, straight in at No. 5, if you’ll pardon the expression---

                              Martin Amiss: how Hitler had sex

Now quite why anyone would want to contemplate Adolf Hitler’s sex life rather escapes me, so I again resisted the clickbait, mostly because I’m convinced Hitler would have deployed the Blitzkrieg method:

          Adolf Hitler: When push comes to shove I am a man of very few words ― do you or don’t you?

          Eva Braun: As a matter of fact, yes I do ― my place or yours?

          Adolf Hitler: Look, if you’re going to argue, forget it ― I’ll just send the boys round...

Sunday, October 12th


Saturday, October 11th

Okay class, pay attention

WITH the cast list of the brand new Dad’s Army  film having just been announced, the papers have been awash with pictures of the original platoon.

There was one photo that instantly caught my eye, not just because I hadn’t seen it before, but I could suddenly spot several post-war British prime ministers staring out at me...


Before I share my Parliamentary thoughts, take five and a long look at the above to see who you can spot ― just remember that we are talking core character ... we’ll compare notes in a moment...

In the meantime, a couple of letters spotted  in The Daily Telegraph:

What he always wanted

SIR – I recently heard some expert refer to a “set of behaviours”. Can anyone tell me where I might purchase one as an anniversary gift for my husband?
Mary Ross, Warrington, Cheshire

                 ...which drew this instant online response...

Stigenace: From the same store that sells “skill sets”.

Brilliant. Game, set and match, I’d say.

Bearded gent on high

SIR – When the late novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard was small there was a picture on the wall of the study belonging to her grandfather, the composer Sir Arthur Somervell, that was treated with such reverence she believed it must be God.
     Imagine her disappointment when an inventory compiled by removal men listed it as “Bearded gent in beaded frame signed J Brahms”.
Garry Humphreys,
London N13

That seems an ideal junction at which to return to the Dad’s Army platoon to compile an inventory of British Prime Ministers.

Seven faces staring out at me ― but I actually spot eight PMs:

Capt. George Mainwaring ― Gordon Brown: Brown gave the impression that he knew what he was doing ― even fooled the Labour party into voting him prime minister without any opposition ― yet he was clueless.

Sgt. Arthur Wilson ― Anthony Eden: at heart a “man of peace”, with breeding.

LCpl. Jack Jones ― Margaret Thatcher: “They don’t like it up ‘em
!” Say no more.

Pte. James Frazer ― Harold Macmillan: “Wind of change / Events, dear boy, events.” Yes, we’re all doomed.

Pte. Charles Godfrey ― Harold Wilson and/or Ted Heath: Both rather wishy-washy prime ministers.

Pte. Frank Pike ― Tony Blair: With the gift of hindsight, “You stupid boy

Pte. Joe Walker ― David Cameron: Just a spiv with a college education.

Feel free to disagree.

Friday, October 10th

Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip, clearly in Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah mood

(REUTERS) ― Britain’s anti-EU UK Independence Party [Ukip] won its first elected seat in parliament on Friday by a landslide and came a close second in another vote, proving it poses a threat to the country’s two main parties in a national election next year.

I am not a political animal, but I am truly fascinated by the rise of Ukip.

Last Tuesday, this letter appeared in The Times:

Wear Ukip? No!

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein may be right on the narrow point (“Ukip is doomed to be the dead parrot party”, Oct 1) but he misses the wider picture.
     Ukip is to policy what the catwalk is to fashion: it launches outrageous and populist policies not in expectation that they will be adopted, but in order to watch the mainstream parties manufacture high street versions that are buyable.
     We will never wear Ukip, but everything on offer at the election will have been influenced by it.
JANE SHAW, Dorking, Surrey


Well done, Jane Shaw. Move to the top of the class. Honestly, that is such a wise letter.

Ukip has wriggled its way into the public consciousness because of Europe. Nothing more, nothing less.

For many, many moons, the majority of British people have wanted out of Europe, at least in some form or other.

I spotted this online, from the Guardian  newspaper, dated June 2014:

         British people favour leaving the European Union, according to poll

Nearly half would vote to leave while only 37% would vote to stay, though the picture changes if membership is renegotiated

An interesting point of order is how many of our laws are now ‘made in Brussels’ and then merely rubber-stamped here in the UK with our own parliament having absolutely no say in the matter.

While pro-Europeans may quote a 2005 UK government estimate of 9 per cent of laws being made in Brussels, a House of Commons library paper concludes: “All measurements have their problems and it is possible to justify any measure between 15 per cent and 50 per cent or thereabouts.”

Viviane Reding, a Luxembourg politician and European Commission Vice-President, puts the figure at 70 per cent, though she did say that that was the percentage of laws in the UK “co-decided” by the European Parliament, whatever that actually means.

Goodness, 70 per cent of our laws that the UK Parliament seemingly has no say in whatsoever? Wow!

Both main British parties have consistently ignored the views of the majority regarding Europe ― then suddenly, the elephant on the doorstep, Ukip.

David Cameron has already promised a referendum ― not that that means anything ― but nothing yet from Labour.

It’s going to be ever such a fascinating journey from now to the general election next May.


A couple of letters, spotted in The Times:

Doe, d’oh, do

Sir, Following your “Correction and Clarification” (Oct 1), that “the female of the red deer is a hind, not a doe”, could I please ask for assurance that a ray remains a drop of golden sun, and that “me” is still an acceptable name to call myself?

I’m ashamed to say I originally read that as ‘Archdeacon of the Moon’ ― what an appointment, I thought, nearer my God to thee, and all that...

Ivor the Search Engine  put me right, though: The Archdeacon of the Meon supports clergy and parishes in the deaneries of Fareham, Gosport, Bishop’s Waltham and Petersfield, all in the Portsmouth-ish area.


Sir, Writing as someone who is ― um, how shall I put it? ― over 25 (“To er is human, but only for the elderly”), I find that my favourite and indeed most useful word in a crisis is “doo-dah”.

Indeed, Gaye Poulton ― and I guess Nigel Farage may well have been singing this today:



               My oh my, what a wonderful day.
               Plenty of sunshine heading my way...

Thursday, October 9th

95-year-old Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, hero
of this once Great British Parish ~ see below

There are war stories and there are War Stories

PERUSING yesterday’s TV listings in The Sunday Times  Culture magazine, the first programme given special attention under Wednesday’s Choice was this:

A magnificent man

Britain’s Greatest Pilot ― The Extraordinary Story of Captain Winkle Brown
(BBC2, 7pm)

We rarely preview a repeated documentary, but few subjects deserve the attention more than Eric Melrose Brown, the 95-year-old former Royal Navy officer and test pilot whose life story is told here by the man himself.

He was at the Munich Olympics, the Nuremberg rallies, the liberation of Belsen and the trial of Hermann Göring, and served on the Atlantic convoys and in the Battle of Britain.

If you missed it in June, watch it now. If you saw it then, you will probably want to watch it all over again.

This morning I submitted the following to
You say, The Sunday Times  comment column given over to its readers to express their opinions on television and radio programmes:

A magnificent man...
      ...in his often dodgy flying machines

Thank you for highlighting the repeat of Britain’s Greatest Pilot ― I missed it first time round. Apart from Captain Winkle Brown’s natural-born talent and bravery, I enjoyed the way he used simple English to deliver throwaway lines to such great effect.

And what about that first ever landing of a jet plane on the heaving deck of an aircraft carrier ― and seemingly hundreds of men in suits rush out from every bolt hole to surround him and congratulate him (no live TV coverage back then, in December 1945, remember).

He then picks himself up, dusts himself down ― and takes off again. There are people like Winkle out there now, probably reading this ― but sadly they are not running the country.

What can I add?

Well, he flew aircraft from Britain, the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records  as holding the record for flying the greatest number of different aircraft.

The official record is 487, but includes only basic types. For example Captain Brown flew fourteen (14) versions of the Spitfire and Seafire and although these versions are very different they appear only once in the list. The list includes only aircraft flown by Brown as ‘Captain in Command’.

Because of the special circumstances involved, he doesn’t think that this record will ever be beaten.

Captain Brown also holds the world’s record for the most carrier landings, 2,407, partly compiled in testing the arrestor wires on more than twenty aircraft carriers during World War II. A US naval pilot got as far as 1,600 before calling it a day.

Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown takes off in the de Havilland Sea Vampire on that day in
December 1945 - as the many aboard the Royal Navy carrier HMS Ocean can testify

What I also noted in the documentary was his meticulous research and preparation, especially before those dangerous test flights; indeed he himself put such detailed groundwork down to his staying alive in the air.

Yep: homework, homework, homework...

Here’s a short YouTube extract from the documentary of that famous first landing of a jet on an aircraft carrier ― and the crowd rush forward to surround the plane...
Captain Eric Brown – Feeling’s believing

The cat’s whiskers

Should you wish to see the full documentary it will be available on iPlayer for four weeks ― just search ‘Britain’s Greatest Pilot’ ― or click on the following YouTube link. It is a quite remarkable story and it does make you wonder if, just like pussycats, some people too are blessed with nine lives:
Britain’s Greatest Pilot

Wednesday, October 8th

Ashes to ashes, rust to rust

LAST month I parted company with my faithful old Saab.

I say faithful: it was, at nearly 25 years of age, just starting to unravel at the seams, in a yellow-alert sort of way.

Nothing serious; mechanically it was still pretty sound, little things needing attention, for sure ― but the body was beginning to suffer from that brown sauce curse, the dreaded rust.

So I decided to part company with 900i while it was still roadworthy with a current MOT, and I could drive it unhindered to the scrap yard where I got a hundred quid for it, which was really it’s market value, give or take.

Anyway, with the displaying of the road tax disc on the windscreen also now, coincidentally, a thing of history ― as confirmed up there on today’s welcome mat ― I had to laugh XXL at this Daily Telegraph  cartoon, compliments of who else but the other always welcome...

Many a true word, etc...

I really do enjoy Matt’s humour, along with his extravagant talent to spot the smile in any given situation. And the gormless looking characters are so lovable. I mean, look up there at the perplexed old boy with the pipe...

Indeed, a year or so ago I saw Matt, aka Mathew Pritchett, 50, interviewed about his work and I have to say I smiled when he said that with every passing day he and his wife were growing more like the couple regularly featured in his cartoons.

How wonderful. Truth to tell, I too am growing more like the fellow up there with the pipe, and becoming increasingly confused at the comings and goings in life, the universe and nearly everything.

So my driving wheel has turned full circle. I was brought up in the country so I was driving about the farm from an exceedingly young age ― tractors and a pick-up truck.

They didn’t let me near the car until I was 17. Anyway, when I started work I needed my own wheels, so a cousin of mine, a thoroughly endearing Arthur Daley type character, great company but sadly no longer with us, found me a little second-hand Austin A30 ― the forerunner to the Mini, really.

“Just use this for the time being,” he reassured me, “and I’ll find you something befitting.” He clearly empathised that a baby Austin wasn’t quite the thing for a trainee young buck about town to be seen even dead in, let alone alive and sniffing.

To be honest the A30 didn’t particularly hinder my gallivanting after the girls ― but about six months later, cousin Brian turned up at the farm with a second-hand Triumph TR3 sports car.

It was love at first sight.

I’ve driven all shapes and sizes of cars since, but nothing has ever come near the TR3 for out-and-out pleasure, mostly because, I guess, I was the proud owner of a sports car at 18, the age at which the male of the species should be bombing along our highways and byways in a flirty machine with a pretty young thing in the passenger seat.

“It’s the car, right?” Batman once famously said about the Batmobile while chatting-up a bird. “Chicks love the car.”

Everything is relative, so I was a sort of daft-as-a-bat man zooming about Llansunshine in my TR3.

Crucially too I never had a crash while driving it. Or in any of the other sports cars I owned, a few minor and inconsequential bumps and scrapes excepted. More by luck than judgment, if I am honest.

Mind you, I did have my share of incidents with other cars I’ve driven. But I am still here.

Anyway, as I say, the wheel has now turned full circle, so I thought I’d get myself one of these new Minis. They really are rather agreeable little motors ― less of the little, actually ― but the price was just too steep considering the low mileage I am likely to do, plus I am only looking for a reliable runabout.

So I plumped for the very basic and bottom of the range Kia with its 7-year guarantee (or 100,000 miles), which suits me just fine. And at £8,000 pretty much half the price of a Mini.

And I have to say, for a 1.0 litre car it has astonishing pep, especially when I relate it back to that first A30 I owned, the last time I drove anything so starved of power and punch.

But here’s the thing, although there is no road tax to pay on this particular model, I had to have a tax disc to display, just for the month of September.

Now you would have thought, given that new registrations came into effect in September, with loads of new cars sold, the DVLA would have tied in the abolition of the tax disc with the September registrations ― or waited until next March when the next new registration numbers come in.

No wonder the country is in a mess when it is run by clowns who couldn’t organise a leg-over in a bordello on a lads’ night out. (I know, I know, I may well have used that line before, but it is all my own work and I’m quite proud of it.)

Be all that as it may, and given that I can now remove the tax disc, what shall I stick in the holder?

While I ponder, here’s a brace of perfectly juxtaposed letters spotted in the newspapers. The first in the Daily Mail, from a Brian Rushton of Stourport-on-Severn, Worcs:

“Now that we don’t have to display a tax disc, what’s the best way to utilise my collection of Guinness labels?”

Very good, Brian ― but here’s the second, as spotted in The Times, from a
Ron Osmond of Hinckley, Leics:

“For those readers wondering what to do with redundant car tax discs, I find that they are very attractive when glued to the outside of Guinness bottles.”

Ahh, spot the difference in agreeable humour between a Daily Mail  and a Times  reader. Marvellous.

But back with my now redundant windscreen tax disc holder. What shall  I stick in there?

Got it ― and I often do wear a hat...


Tuesday, October 7th

A smiley missive spotted in The Times:

Faraway humour

Sir, Your story “Why sex is no laughing matter in Yorkshire” (Oct 1) reminded me of an interview with Ken Dodd following the comedian’s debut at the London Palladium, when Ken was asked by Granada TV’s Bob Greaves whether he’d been apprehensive about his reception in the capital.
     “Yes, a little,” replied Ken. “I mean, you can tell a joke in Liverpool that’s guaranteed to get a laugh, but they wouldn’t laugh at it in London.”
     “And why do you think that is?” asked Greaves.
     “Well, they can’t hear it,” Dodd replied.
BJ WEBBER, Bournemouth

Oh dear, never mind “never forget to smile” ― I laughed out loud just there. It’s the unexpected twist in the tale, I think. Anyway, very funny.

And talking of getting a laugh in London, I see that Boris Johnson, mayor of Old London Town, has joked his way into the new Oxford Dictionary of Quotations:

                                   “My policy on cake is still pro having it and pro eating it.”

Wonderful, so very Boris; I mean, you can hear him saying it as he gives his blond thatch a quick ruffle.

Three more letters to The Times,  which generate variations on the theme of a smile:

Work, not luck

Sir, Peter Cave (letter, Sept 30) refers to pension tax arrangements for “those fortunate enough to have spare earnings”.
     My observation is that spare earnings are not usually attributable to good fortune.
DEREK WALDUCK, Snape, Suffolk

People problems

Sir, Clive Aslet [Editor at Large, Country Life  magazine] advocates killing creatures that destroy the environment [deer, mink, badgers, magpies...] and whose numbers are out of control threatening other species.
     Presumably he exempts the creature most responsible by far for such crimes: homo sapiens.
MAGGIE BARRETT, Sanderstead, Surrey

Editor at Large, eh? Sounds like something that should be culled. Whatever...

Pause for thought

Sir, Tim Montgomerie calls me a “contrarian”. I’m not one.
PETER HITCHENS [journalist, columnist and author], Derry Street, London W8

This exchange spotted on a Telegraph  comment board:

Steviebaby: I switched the TV on this morning, to watch the Liberal Democrats conference in Glasgow. After five minutes I switched off, then moved the position of my chair to face the lounge door, which I had just finished painting.

Stigenace: I hope it was magnolia. You wouldn’t want a ‘racy’ colour such as beige as it’s inclined to over-stimulate.

Headline, again in the Telegraph:

According to new research, clocking up 7.6 hours of sleep every night will cut down our
chances of taking sick days ― just don’t skim over the quality vs. quantity issue

Yep, it’s the uninterrupted sleep that does the trick, no doubt.

Whatever, this comment tickled my old smileometer ― and I don’t think it’s from David, incidentally...

Cameron: Good news for insomniacs: Only three sleeps till Christmas.

Yes, I know, only 11 weeks ... oh, and I enjoyed the formal use of the word till instead of until”, because till can also mean a cash register ― I mean, till and Christmas go together like a horse and carriage...

Monday, October 6th

Turning over an old leaf

LAST Saturday I featured the first real fall of autumn leaves in the wake of a wet and windy Friday night into Saturday early morning ― and I cursed not having taken a picture of the carpet of leaves covering the road into town, as captured in the car’s headlights.

Well blow me, this morning was a repeat performance, mucho heavy rain ― and this time quite a stormy night.

So no walk again today due to the rain and wind. I drive into town for a paper, just after 7 o’clock, dawn breaking in the driving rain, and as I motor through the tunnel that is the avenue of trees along the way ― I am greeted by another substantial fall of leaves.

So this time I actually stop and take a photograph from inside the car...

Autumn leaves at first light

A stormy and wet early-morning - but there’s light at the end of the tunnel

A smiley sight, to be sure. And being a Monday morning quite a few vehicles have already passed this way and cleared some of the leaves off the road...

    Last Wednesday, the 1st of October, I featured a few smiley alternative sounds to wake up to of a morning, rather, that is, than the annoying wail of an alarm clock ― see the Rise & Shine section of my Desert Island Video Jukebox, alongside.

So imagine my delight in reading this weird and wonderful quote:

“I slowly open my eyes. I start the day by ‘oil swilling’ to detoxify. I then engage with pranayama and a light meditation along with some of my favourite mantras.” Early mornings with the actress Sadie Frost ― the 49-year-old actress, producer and ex-wife of Jude Law ― is clearly a bit of a hoot.

Hmm, ‘pranayama’? Breath control, apparently. Right, deep breath, and back with our Sadie:

“If a drawer is untidy, my energy is wrong.”

I shall leave you to meditate on that for a while ... thinking about it, and the state of my drawers ― furniture wise, that is ― I should be shattered all of the time ... right, Sadie again:

“I try to do two big walks on Hampstead Heath every weekend with my dogs. I really believe that being around nature and all those trees and oxygen is such a healing experience, especially early in the mornings ― if you can get there before 8am that’s just fantastic.”

Well, I can’t argue with that ― apropos all those trees: see autumn’s falling leaves, above ― and why I enjoy my daily early-morning walks, and always before 8am. Except in the deep mid-winter, obviously, when 8am is pretty much the start time.

But everything in life is relative.

Sunday, October 5th

Saturday, October 4th

Autumn arrives with a fall in the Towy Valley

I’ve just blown in...

A COUPLE of days back I mentioned how the settled and warm weather of September had provided perfect conditions for this year’s bountiful blackberry crop.

However, I had noted on Thursday’s weather forecast that the glorious and welcome fine spell was due to finally break come the weekend.

And this morning ― well, no morning walk because it was wet, precisely as the forecasters had promised. So just after seven I drive into town for a paper and some groceries.

The forecast had promised a wet and wind night, and even though the wind had died down by dawn, as soon as I drive off I couldn’t help but notice the leaves and small branches littering the country lane that delivers me into Llandampness.

There’s one spot where the trail travels many hundreds of yards through an avenue of traditional British trees ― sycamores, beech, oaks, ash, hazel ― and the sight of this length of road in my headlights was astonishing.

The road was a carpet of leaves, made more spectacular because being an early Saturday morning, just one or two vehicles had previously passed so virtually no leaves had been cleared off the road by the disturbed air flow.

Just after lunch, the weather now beautifully sunny, I walk up the road to photograph the spot. Traffic had now cleared the leaves off the road itself, but you can still see where some remain between the vehicle tracks...

  When autumn leaves...

...start to fall

Imagine, first thing this morning the whole road looked like that verge, up there. Oh dear, why did I not capture a shot in the headlights? Especially as I had a camera in the car. D’oh!

Because September had been so settled ― no wind, and no frosts, obviously ― very few leaves had been dislodged. But last night’s wind ― it wasn’t a storm ― had blown off the more fragile leaves with a bit of a vengeance.

I noted during the past week that the media has been awash with glorious scenes of autumn colours coming into their own ― with promises of a spectacular October.

But what folk don’t quite realise, and why we will never compare with places like New England, say, is that we are subject to depressions and winds sweeping in off the Atlantic ― and what do they do? Dislodge all the colourful leaves, that’s what.

While on the subject of autumn and its fruitfulness, a few letters from The Times:

Core values

Sir, My late father, who loved his Russets and Cox’s English Pippins, considered French Golden Delicious to be a contravention of the Trades Descriptions Act.

Apples appeal

Sir, Several years ago, on finding no sign of the quintessentially British cooking apple, The Bramley, on the shelves of a national supermarket, I asked why. “We’re changing countries” came the enigmatic reply.
PETER SERGEANT, Hathern, Leics

Sir, Curiously, French Golden Delicious ― or simply “les Golden” as they are known there ― do taste more delicious when you buy them in France.

Sir, My late father always called them Golden Suspicious.
BEVERLEY JUGGINS, Eckington, Worcs

Well, apropos French Golden Delicious tasting more delicious in France, that observation is true of every fruit and veg under the sun. The closer and sooner you buy it to the point of production and harvesting, the tastier it will be.

That is why the blackberries I pick deep in the heart of the Towy Valley taste so juicy and exceedingly moreish.

Friday, October 3rd


A THREAD of letters beckoned, compliments of The Times:

Don’t think twice

Sir, Columnist Ben Macintyre proposes that the Nobel prize for literature should be awarded to Bob Dylan. When the Minnesota minstrel was asked what his songs were all about, he replied: “They’re all about three minutes.”
DR JOHN DOHERTY, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwicks

Best not ask

Sir, Dr John Doherty recalls the interview in which Bob Dylan responded to the question asking what his songs were about by saying that they were all about three minutes. Rather than being an admission that his songs did not mean much, this was his way of pointing out the inanity of the question.
     In fact Dylan never interpreted his own songs. To him it would have been the same as a comedian explaining why his jokes were funny.
JAN ZAJAC, West Milton, Dorset

Don’t think twice

Sir, Jan Zajac reminds us of Bob Dylan’s wit. At a press conference at London’s South Bank to announce the film Hearts Of Fire  (1987), an earnest journalist inquired whether Dylan might be bored by filming on location.
     Dylan looked down on the journalist, and after brief consideration, mumbled: “I don’t know, will you be there?”
JOHN MILLAR, Perceton, Ayrshire

Sir, I am reminded of the great US singer-songwriter, Don McLean.
     When questioned about his 1971 hit, “just what does American Pie  mean?”, McLean replied: “It means I never have to work again.” Fortunately for many of us, he continued to do so.

Virgin on the ridiculous?

Back on September 22nd, I featured this exam howler:

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

And I added the following...

Branson in a pickle

That Q&A 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.

Well now, this letter spotted just after, in The Times:

Counting down

Sir, In Times Diary  (Sept 23) you report Tom Bower’s claims that Virgin Galactic will not go to space for ten years. I’m not sure what he knows that our wonderful engineers in Mojave, California, don’t know ― but please watch this “space” over the next few months.

Also noteworthy, this brief news item from last weekend’s newspapers:


Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin boss, has told staff at his head office that they can take holidays whenever they fancy and for as long as they like, provided their absence doesn’t affect the company or (he added, more chillingly) their careers. “We should focus on what people get done, not on how many hours or days worked,” he said.

Dear God

Excellent quote, incidentally. But ... do you suppose that Richard is, quite naturally, getting a wee bit nervy and jittery about this journey into the unknown, in as much that he is subconsciously ‘clearing his desk’.

After all, that business with the staff and their holidays will go down well on his CV should the unthinkable happen: “So, Sir Richard,” says Saint Peter, looking up from his notes and peering over his glasses at our Rich, “and what did you do back on Earth that should earn you free passage through these Pearly Gates?”.

Let’s face it, doing your very best for your fellow human beings, rather than being obsessed with power, money and the material things of life, will go down well with the definitive powers that be, whether they be those up in heaven or those deep inside our own heads as we face up to the inevitable.

I might even drop a “Dear Sir” line myself to a newspaper, with just that tease of a thought.


Thursday, October 2nd

A most unusual and eye-catching half-ripe blackberry spotted deep in the
heart of
Texas ― er, the Towy Valley (note the lethal thorn, top-right)

On Blackberry Hill

BACK on August 21, I mentioned in passing a poll of the outdoor activities favoured by families, which found that the three most popular excursions in England all revolve around food.

The favourite activity nominated by parents was eating a fish supper by the sea, with afternoon tea coming second and picnicking third.

Perusing the list, this one caught my eye: Picking blackberries on Box Hill, Surrey

I included it because “every morning for the last week or so along my morning walk, I’ve been pigging out on a riotous crop of plump, juicy blackberries ― it really is a very good year for fruitfulness”.

As a point of interest, what I particularly enjoy is the blackberry which isn’t quite ready for the picking, is somewhat reluctant to let go, as if demanding another couple of days in the oven ― and when popped into the mouth has that deliciously bitter little twist in its taste.

It makes the next few ripe blackberries downed doubly delicious. It is, as Inspector Clouseau would doubtless say, the sweet and sour ploy to fool the taste buds.

Anyway, since August I’ve been picking non-stop along my walks. Friends and family who haven’t been able to get out and about to collect their own have been given loads ― and they in turn, fair play, have been baking blackberry tarts for me. Yum, yum.

Apparently the warm weather of September has been ideal for the growth of the brambles, which then produce the fruit with great gusto and enthusiasm.

Oh, and I note on today’s weather forecast that the glorious and welcome fine spell is due to finally break come the weekend.

As a matter of interest, this article appeared just the other day in The Daily Telegraph:

Thorny problems: what’s the right way to prune blackberry bushes?

Our gardening agony aunt, Helen Yemm, answers your queries
(Shame she isn’t called Helen Yumm-Yumm

Bramble ramble

Q: I will soon be at the end of my supply of blackberries, courtesy of a wild bush at the bottom of my garden. I have always cut off the stems that do not bear fruit ― assuming they might be suckers and take strength away from the fruit-bearing stems.
     Later on, I cut back the stems that have fruited. I recently read that I am doing this completely the wrong way around
! Is there a right way?
Jean Grasby, via email

A: I have also been feasting off the bramble bounty provided by the hedges of my allotment ― I agree, it is a lovely late-summer treat. Maybe it is coincidence, but the best blackberries are produced in this rather wild hedge where a large patch of comfrey has established itself and is expanding annually.

Pruning out the shoots that have borne fruit is the right thing to do, since they won’t fruit again and will eventually die back. The long, invasive shoots produced each year will develop roots and subsequently new shoots from their tips where they make contact with the ground. This is how brambles become so invasive.

In my old garden, I used to train most of these potential invaders to grow along the hedges from which they sprang, eventually snipping off their tips. They then produced fruit the following year. Admittedly it was easy: the rough field hedges were rarely cut, so training the brambles on to them to produce as much fruit as possible was a process barely interrupted over the years.

You could do something similar, just snipping the ends off new shoots and training them horizontally, so that they don’t take root.

There was one comment online...

Astrantia: You’re better off with a cultivated, and therefore thornless, blackberry. We have a Loch Ness, which is easy to deal with. Tie in the new ‘canes’ onto wires in one direction, with the fruiting ‘canes’ in the opposite direction.
     When it stops fruiting, cut those canes to ground level and await the next lot of canes which will occupy the newly vacated wires. Easy.

Apropos that photo on today’s welcome mat of the beautiful half-and-half blackberry, only when I loaded it onto the computer did I notice on its exceptionally shiny surface my reflection holding the camera above the bush in order to photograph the berry in situ, so to speak.

Only made possible because of the swivel view screens that modern cameras have...

A selfie with a difference


Well, if this weekend is the end of the fine weather and the blackberry harvest, the above selfie is as good a way as any to wave goodbye and say thanks a bunch to autumn’s exceedingly abundant fruitfulness.

Wednesday, October 1st

The Hale Dreamer, the all-singing,
all-dancing, all-in-one alarm clock

Rise and shine

LAST NIGHT, I drew a melodic line under September with Wake Me Up When September Ends – Green Day---


---this morning I greet October with a collection of marvellous sounds to wake up to.


To start at the very beginning: a few moons back, listening to Alex Lester on his extra-early-morning wireless show on BBC Radio 2, he mentioned that, back in the heyday of the cassette player, one of his pals, a bit of an electronic wizard, had, compliments of a timer switch, wired up his bedside cassette player as an alarm clock.

When the machine switched on at the pre-set time, a tape would start to play the sound of applause ― softly and gently at first, but the volume would gradually get louder and louder ... and this would act as an alarm clock.

How marvellous, I remember thinking, I must play around with that novelty idea.

Now my default bedtime routine is straightforward. I go to bed around 10 o’clock. I turn the bedside radio on. If there is nothing of particular interest I’ll switch off, then flick the alarm on, turn the light off, lay my head on the pillow ― and in no time at all I’m off, somewhere over the rainbow.

The only problem is, I can never remember my dreams so I have no idea where precisely I’ve been overnight.

Anyway, the next thing I know, I hear that little click the alarm makes before it actually goes off proper. I reach out and switch it off ... next I turn the light on, and then the radio.

Depending on the time of year, it will be somewhere between 4 o’clock and 5. In the summer I need six hours sleep, in the winter seven, sometimes eight. (As I may have mentioned before, my mother was dazzled, amused, charmed and ― whisper it, seduced ― by a lark rather than an owl, hence my somewhat off-beat sleeping patterns.)

Once awake I will listen to the radio for a few minutes ― usually the aforementioned Alex Lester ― then arise and hopefully, fingers-crossed, shine.

As I grow older I will occasionally awake in the middle of the night and go for a pee. Curiously, I often have real problems then going back to sleep. I will listen to the radio. Sometimes I’ll just get up.

Whatever, I’ve been doodling with the notion of what sounds I would ideally wish to wake up to if I had the need.

Different agendas, different sounds, obviously.

So here we go ― and take it from me, it is worth listening to this selection, for I found online some great sounds that will generate plenty of smiles.

The first sound that came to mind for that reluctant, exceedingly early wake-up call, was a car engine refusing to start ― and here it is, 21 seconds of delight:
Sound effects – Car engine refusing to start

Now that sound would wake you up good and proper ― and  get you out of bed. Even though the clip lasts just 21 seconds, it could effortlessly be repeated over and over in a loop to draw it out to make a proper alarm clock call.

I enjoyed the two online comments “Nice” and “Am I the only one who thinks this is hilarious?” No, I also think that it is wonderfully amusing.

As are my next two choices, the obvious wake-up sounds of farmyard cockerels crowing:

                                                                                     Cocks crowing compilation - 1

                                                                                    Rooster crowing compilation - 2

I mean, how funny are those laughing cockerels?

Magic moments

Next, my perfect sound to wake up to: steam trains climbing the Lickey incline, just south of Birmingham, the steepest sustained main-line railway incline in Britain.

What is so wonderful about this first clip is that, at the beginning, the sounds of the train and its whistle are quite distant, but as it approaches the camera at the top of the incline the Puffing Billy (to the power of 2) gets louder and louder and louder ― and all rounded off with a get up you sleepy head blast of the whistles.

                                                                                Steam Trains on the Lickey Incline

And this, the same climb, but from a different angle, with a better view of the second engine...

                                                                             Twin Steam Trains on the Lickey Incline

I am totally seduced by those two clips. I don’t know what it is about steam trains that reach in and touch a man’s soul ― even those folk who don’t actually remember the steam trains in service react with wonder and awe.

I can only think that it’s the extraordinary power and rhythm of a steam train on full bore ― amazing and totally magical, even just experiencing it on film.


Anyway, I can’t really complete my roll call of wake-up sounds without some proper music, so what better to greet the day than the stirring theme music from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Richard Strauss’ Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

I fondly remember this as the music the BBC used to introduce coverage of the Apollo space missions to the moon.

And what a sound to wake up to:
Opening music to 2001: A Space Odyssey


And finally, there I am, awake, and I’ve got eight minutes to spare to gather my thoughts (and things), before I begin my stroll through the day ― so what better than Sunchyme (what clever word play), the original version that is, lasting an exceedingly wonderful 8.26. Just right to greet the day.

This music transports me back to my African roots. I can imagine one of my mega-mucho-great-grandfather ancestors strolling barefoot along a west African beach, in the company of a handsome and sexy female ... magic...

                                                                                       Sunchyme – Dario G

Naturally, I have added these magical wake-up sounds to My Desert Island Video Jukebox (Rise & Shine), alongside.


                                                                   Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2014: Sep
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: Sep
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
March to May '07

As it was in the beginning:

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

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

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

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