LOOK YOU ~ a rolling scrapbook of life, the universe and nearly everything...
ARCHIVE 2015 - NOVEMBER

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POSTCARDS FROM
MY SQUARE MILE
click... Smile
Updated: 11/08/2013

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

400 Smiles A Day
Updated: 08/06/2013



                                                                                        Design: Yosida

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

    
                                                                               ...and everyday a doolally smile of the day
PS: The shortest distance between two people is a smile ...
                                                                             
Contact Me
 
Monday, November 30th, 2015
 

A COUPLE of days ago, the following was my quote of the day:

Sweet sixteen

 “He’s the only bloke I know who fell in love with himself at 16 and has been faithful ever since.” Darren Gough, 45, retired English cricketer and bowler, on the maverick South African-born English cricketer Kevin Pietersen, 35.

Yes, it deserves a curtain call, if only because I’ve serendipitously tripped over a few other quotes that follow on quite perfectly...

Antiques Roadshow

  “I am quite enamoured with myself. My most treasured possession is me.” Nancy Dell’Olio, 54, Italian-British lawyer who first came to public notice some 18 years ago as the girlfriend of Sven-Göran Eriksson, then manager of the England national football team.

Ah, dear old Nancy Dell’Olio ― or Nancy Dool’Allio, as I affectionately think of her ― you have been missing for far too long from Look You. Welcome back.

Looking high, high, high

  “No ― you don’t put diesel in a Ferrari.” Johnny Mercer, 40-ish, Tory MP and former military man, responds when asked whether he had ever experimented with illegal drugs.

Now that’s a cracking quote, ho, ho, ho
! Sorry.

By the way, there are two characters that regularly feature hereabouts, both for very different reasons ― so it’s nice to stumble upon a quote that brings the pair of them together:

Dolphin meets shark

  “I just see him [Boris Johnson] in a room with Putin, naked from the waist upwards, wrestling fish.” Heidi Allen, 40, a Tory MP, paints a picture worth a thousand words; she also says Chancellor George Osborne is “too smooth” to be prime minister.

Hm, I can see where dear Heidi-Ho is going with her observation that Osborne is as smooth as your favourite cuppa: “You for coffee?”

Talking of things neatly juxtaposed, two memorable images spotted today ... there I am, scrolling down the Mail Online  home page, and I come across a smiley picture and headline ― so I click and enjoy---

The phone goes ... after a short break I return to the computer screen and continue to scroll down Mail Online’s  home page ... and I come across another smiley image and headline.

Hang about, I think, I’ve just enjoyed a brace of images that were simply made to juxtapose.

Anyway, before I get there, as a farmer’s son I can confirm that we all come out of the ground. After all, that’s where everything we eat comes from, whether we be carnivore, vegetarian or vegan. Indeed...

The answer lies in the soil

First on parade: potato farmer Ben Fletch pulled a root vegetable out of the ground at his farm in Kent last week and was agreeably surprised to find that it had assumed the shape of a lady’s legs and bottom in a somewhat suggestive pose...

 
Wardrobe malfunctions: it’s a bum rap as a titillating tater challenges a perfectly timed plumber’s smile

...and alongside, the winner of Australia’s most awkward holiday snap competition was a young married couple posing for a lovely family snap at the beach ― but the woman’s brother appeared to have had other ideas.

But was it a well-orchestrated set up? Probably. But it is rather smiley.

What is more, pulling two separate stories and images together keeps my juvenile gene happy.

And as a result my battery is fully charged until the morrow.
 


Sunday, November 29th

In for a penny...

A CURIOUS Mail Online  clickbait caught my eye...

Around the world in 45 toilets

Pictures capture some of the grim and glamorous loos around the globe to highlight World Toilet Day ― part of a campaign launched by the United Nations to underline the poor sanitation levels worldwide

Curiosity made me click ... my goodness, some extraordinary photographs of lavatories ― from the sublime to the ridiculous via some gloriously bizarre examples you would definitely not describe as bog-standard.

The one that earned my smile of the day, though, was this one...
 

Through the peehole: say hello to Keith, Bill, Mick and Charlie


Urinals inspired by a Rolling Stone’s lips and tongue ― as spotted in a Paris bar

♫  Under my thumb

Those Paris urinals really are rather smiley. However, never mind pointing Percy at the porcelain, I would feel a little apprehensive pointing the E-Type at the Jagger!

Be that as it may, the weird and wonderful toilets featured are well worth having a peep at ― simply Google ‘Around the world in 45 toilets’.

Incidentally, there was a reference in the comments section of Mail Online  to the gents’ toilet at the Philharmonic pub in Liverpool ... again, Google it because it isn’t included in the 45 listed by the United Nations; it really is worth a quick flash.

It is extraordinary in the extreme, the only Grade 1 listed toilets in England.

The pub itself is quite eye-popping too. I am not surprised that it draws folk from near and far to experience its glorious watering hole credentials.

Oh yes, cashing in on that Paris loo...

  “Mick Jagger and I have a great relationship except when we don’t.” Fellow Rolling Stone Keith Richards spins a curious philosophical line, probably while having a quick slash.

Civilization went that a-way

By a curious coincidence I recall a wee while back having a discussion with Chief Wise Owl about those things which indicate that, perhaps, we in the UK no longer live in as civilised a country as we would like to think.

The Victorians, for example, equated the railways with progress and civilization. But we seem to have been shunted into a siding.

I came up with a couple of examples to indicate our mislaying of things civilised ― obvious examples such as democracy, freedom of speech and travel, a reasonably efficient NHS, etc., are taken as read. It was the little things that occupied our thinking.

My first nomination was the Air Ambulance Service. I find it quite extraordinary that something as critical has to rely on charity to exist, rather than being part of the National Ambulance Service. Full stop.

My second example was the increasing lack of plentiful public toilets that are both clean and free at the point of use, whether it be pointing Percy at the porcelain or the E-Type at the Jagger.

In Llandeilo we have a public park, Penlan. It is a Green Flag Award winner; and events are often held there.

Many moons ago there used to be a public toilet present and correct. Now there’s just a notice at the entrance: ‘Nearest  toilets – Municipal Car Park ... Any enquiries, please contact Streetscene: 01554.784100’.

Those toilets are a quarter-of-a-mile from the entrance, half-a-mile and more if you are well inside the park.

Now as a man, if I am caught short, I can pop behind a tree, emergency sorted. But to expect a female to do that ― well, it’s ludicrous.

You can tell that it is men who sit on local councils and are responsible for closing so many of our public toilets.

‘Streetscene’, indeed. Piss artists, the lot of ‘em. 

 

Saturday, November 28th

Throw a cat a bone

IT’S good to see the French slowly but surely returning to a sort of normality.
 

  “It must have been like teaching a cat to bark.” A French football commentator on getting England fans to learn the Marseillaise prior to the England-France friendly at Wembley Stadium a few days after the Paris terrorist attack.

Clearly that Frenchman was not familiar with the very British cool cat determined to be more dog, as per the smiley telly ad from O2.

Continuing with things French...

  “There’s an old French saying: the only thing the English have ever cooked properly was Joan of Arc.” Stephen Clarke, 57, a British author who lives and works in Paris and has declared and explained his love to France: “I love France because here you are working for a living and not vice versa.”

 “I’m too sexy for my ex.” France’s former first lady Valérie Trierweiler, 50, taunts her ex-lover, President François Hollande, with a slogan on her T-shirt.

Moving on to things all Greek to me...

Secret places

  “When I wrote it the average man thought the clitoris was a Greek hotel.” Shirley Conran, 83, novelist and journalist, on her book Lace.

When I first encountered the word I thought clitoris was the holy grail of things heavenly, something found in a religious institution. I was clearly thinking of a cloister, a place where people can be private or secluded. Um...

Meanwhile, a response comment in the
You Say section of The Sunday Times:

It was a very good ear

Years should not be pronounced as “ears with a y”, Dave Meneer. It is purrs with a y, not a p.
Barbara Dixon

I spent a bit too much time trying to come to terms with that ― accent has a lot to do with it, methinks. However, it reminded me of a letter spotted in The Times  a short while back:

Meddling hands

Sir, Mathew Parris has reminded me of the advice I was given when my children were small by an old lady who had worked for an ENT surgeon: “Only clean inside the ear as far as one can reach with the elbow.”
Wendy Gasiorowska, Oxford

Hm, advice you intuitively know to be right. And I take it that’s ear pronounced, er...

Finally, the quote of the day, and that despite impressive competition:

Sweet sixteen

  “He’s the only bloke I know who fell in love with himself at 16 and has been faithful ever since.” Darren Gough, 45, retired English cricketer and bowler, on the maverick South African-born English cricketer Kevin Pietersen, 35.
 


Friday, November 27th

Oh what a grey day

CLICKBAIT headline of the day:

Elbows at the ready: It’s Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year

Nice one. Actually, television news today shows stores remarkably quiet and startlingly less chaotic than a year ago.

Mind you, the stores and supermarkets learnt their lessons well because some have cleverly introduced Black Fiveday, the whole pantomime spread across Thursday to Monday.

I can confirm this because yesterday I went to nearby Ammanford. I needed to do some basic shopping and was determined to avoid the Black Friday crowds.

Whilst there I needed a new landline phone so I popped into Argos.

As I looked through the catalogue, clearly looking helpless, as I always do when buying anything that is out of the ordinary ― from a phone to a car ― a lady approached, a sort of floor manager I guess, and asked if I needed any assistance.

I explained that I was looking for a Halo Statue. She gave me a quizzical look. “You know,” I said, lifting my fist to my ear: “As in ‘Hello, is that you?’, a cheap and cheerful home phone.” She laughed.

So she flicked through the catalogue ... and disappeared ... to return with some pricing sheets where we found precisely what I was looking for, a BT (‘UK’s best selling phone brand’, it said on the tin) Digital Cordless Phone with Answer Machine.

Now I spent but a measly £23 ― however, I did notice on the sheet that goods were heavily discounted, so obviously Black Fiveday had started on Thursday at Argos. Indeed the store was quite busy.

That brings me to this quote:

  “Can I declare that Selfridges has the worst customer service? Hundreds of staff and no one to help.” Boy George, 54, after a visit to the Oxford Street store.

Well, I guess that says more about Boy George than Selfridges. Yesterday when I visited Argos I dealt with three different females: the aforementioned floor manager, the cashier, and the girl at the collection counter ― and I found each and every one of them helpful, cheery and polite.

Mind you, I exchanged light-hearted banter with all of them, as is my wont, so I suppose that does help.

Could it be that George Alan O’Dowd demands people dance to his tune, Karma Chameleon? Perhaps he should be called Self-Important Boy George.

Along the same lines:

  “We have got to stop being polite. The first thing I would teach a girl of mine is ‘f*** off’.” Pantomime Dame Helen Mirren, 70, gives us a sneaky peep into the workings of her mind.

Indeed, if Mirren really had a daughter, I bet she would be going around dispensing quotes much like Boy George complaining that nobody really cares a fig. Or a f***.

Honestly, these slebs are slobs. Probably both Mirren and Boy George have witches and warlocks burnt into their genetic family trees.

Oh yes, Mirren also said this:

  “It annoys me when I see men with an arm slung around their girlfriend’s shoulders. It’s like ownership.”

Methinks the grand dame has already hit second childhood (or doolallyness), with a vengeance. Oh dear.

Meanwhile, on the sunny side of the street:

 “When I met the late Jackie Collins in the 1980s, she gave me one of her books. The inscription was so gloriously outrageous, I daren’t take it home.” Gyles Brandreth, 67, English writer, broadcaster, actor and former Member of Parliament ― oh, and one of the most gloriously posh accents doing the broadcasting rounds.

But what was that inscription? Ivor the Search Engine did his best ― but drew a blank. Perhaps it was something along the lines of the Mae West quote “A hard man is good to find”.

Mention of Mae West: “If I asked for a cup of coffee, someone would search for the double meaning.”

And how about this? “I speak two languages: Body and English.” How clever.

She also said: “A man’s kiss is his signature.” Now that’s  body language.

Back with Gyles Brandreth:

  “Just been at a meeting which proved Mark Twain was right. All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is assured.”

Indeed, Gyles, just look at Wednesday’s performance in Parliament, and featured in yesterday’s smile of the day.

WARNING: Chicane ahead

  “The meerkats drive me round the bend.” Lord ‘One lump or Two’ Sugar, 68, English business magnate, media personality (sic), and ex-political advisor to the Labour party.

Ah, but was Sugar being miserable to a default, or wonderfully witty? After all, the meerkats also drive me round the bend ... because I’ve just got my car insurance covered via their web site.

And on that note...

  “As I have got older and crabbier, I have become naughty behind the steering wheel. A lot of tooting goes on when I can find the horn.” The Honourable Susan Frances Harmar-Nicholls, 72, known as Sue Nicholls, an English actress (also known for her long-running role as Audrey Roberts in the British soap opera Coronation Street, apparently).

Now that really did ring a bell because, just the other day I was driving into town and I spotted on the pavement a couple of fellows I know well, chatting away and I needed to toot the horn of acknowledgment ― but I didn’t know where it was.

Now I have owned the car for just over a year, which underlines the fact that for 12 months or so I never once had need to use the horn.

I rather like that. Even if I say so myself.
 


Thursday, November 26th
 

A Little Red Book at Lunchtime

JUST occasionally, something quite surprising unfolds in front of our very eyes, so much so it simply grabs our undivided attention and imagination.

Yesterday I happened to be watching live Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivering his joint Autumn Statement and Spending Review to Parliament.

Now I am not a political animal ― or a “potilical” animal as a sternly left-wing character at the Crazy Horse always used to say ― but politics these days is pure theatre. Glorious pantomime, even.

All down, of course, to the confusion, chaos and shouts of “BEHIND YOU!” within the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

The stage was set in the House of Commons with Osborne performing a spectacular U-turn when he surprised everyone by abandoning the much trumpeted and controversial plans to cut tax credits to the bone.

So it really was all set up for shadow chancellor John McDonnell in his response to the review to go for Osborne’s balls ― as obvious as throwing a ball for your dog to fetch.

Sadly though he delivered a response that had “yawn” written all over it ― until the moment it all went horribly wrong with McDonnell brandishing a copy of Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s Little Red Book and delivering a joke about the sale of public assets to the Chinese government.

“To assist Comrade Osborne about dealing with his new found comrades, I have brought him along Mao’s Little Red Book. Let me quote from Mao, rarely done in this chamber...”

There was uproar in the House. Speaker Bercow had to intervene. “Order, order! Will the House please be quiet. I want to hear what’s in that Little Red Book.” He pointed to McDonnell. “Continue...” That really was a funny moment with Bercow showing an admirable turn of comic timing.

“Thank you, Mr Speaker.” McDonnell reads from The Book: “‘We must learn to do economic work from all who know how. No matter who they are, we must esteem them as teachers, learning from them respectfully and conscientiously. But we must not pretend to know what we do not know.’”

McDonnell looks at Osborne: “I thought it would come in handy for you in your new relationship.” And he chucks the Little Red Book onto the desk in front of Osborne.

And then the sky proceeded to fall on John McDonnell’s head. And not just from the media, all referencing the death of millions ― somewhere between 20m and 100m ― under Mao’s rule.

Labour backbencher John Woodcock referenced the lyrics to the Beatles song Revolution, tweeting: “If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao...”

The next line is: “You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow.”

Watching the whole exchange live, I must admit I did  smile at the Little Red Book episode, not once thinking about the millions of deaths hidden between the Little Book’s lines.

And I did get the point McDonnell was attempting to make with his wee joke.

Given the furious reaction to quoting Mao and all those who died under his rule, should we therefore never, ever make a joke about Tony Blair?

I am reminded of the farming analogy apropos relativity: ‘It is wrong to steal your neighbour’s flock ― but hey, it’s okay to take the occasional lamb to supplement your own flock.’

Anyway, what really struck me after the pantomime was that, under a certain light, through slightly squinty eyes, George Osborne looks alarmingly like a younger Mao Tse-tung (or is it Mao Zedong? Apparently it’s a bit like the Welsh name David or Dai ... they are both correct, but it depends how Welsh you feel).

Anyway, the Little Red Book episode beckons...

 

   
John McDonnell waves the infamous Book ... Mao reads aloud the first draft ... Osborne looks his usual superior self

Take the money or open the box?

Well now ... my first observation? Look closely at the Mao and Georgie mug shots... Wow. Also, does not Chancellor George’s Big Red Box trump Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book?

Secondly, I am rather taken that both John McDonnell and Chairman Mao are wearing something red, something bled, something dead, on their lapels (or similar).

Finally, does not Chancellor Osborne have that sort of smug look that makes you want to give him a good slapping? Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Perhaps the electorate will give him that slapping if he ever leads the Conservatives and becomes Chairman Osborne.

Mind you, when McDonnell chucked The Book at Osborne, it gave the Chancellor some time to come up with a response to the response to the response.

Amid roars from Tory MPs, Osborne said: “So the shadow chancellor literally stood at the Despatch Box and read out from Mao’s Little Red Book.”

Opening the book, he went on: “Oh look! It’s his personal signed copy.”

That was a good line. However, my favourite response to the Little Red Book episode was this tweeted gem:

@KarimPalant: Some people are worried about Labour. They think it’s all over... It is Mao.
                          
Karim Palant is former head of policy for Ed Balls, he of Ed Stone infamy.

Mind you, I do wonder if the Little Red Book joke was thought up while the Labour frontbench team were squatting in front of the totem pole known as the Ed Stone ― and smoking a pipe of peace, or something.

Desert Island Book

Given my sheep farming analogy, above ― ‘It is wrong to steal your neighbour’s flock, but okay to take the occasional lamb’ ― the whole Little Red Book episode reminded me of a hit comedy song from the Fifties, namely Johnny Standley’s It’s In The Book.

The track begins with the glorious line “Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them ... it’s in the book!”. Simply substitute Little Bo Peep with Wee Jerry Corbyn ... and you’re in business.

Six minutes of yesteryear smiles ― here’s the YouTube link:

                                                                                                      It’s In The Book – Johnny Standley

 


Wednesday, November 25th
 

Tweet of the day

@guywalters:
Do the folks at Aveda really not know?
They even trademarked it
!

Pull the other one ... I guess the folks who live on the
hill at Aveda have their hands full with that one

On Monday I featured this clickbait, as spotted in the Telegraph:

Was Titanic inquiry scuppered by Freemasons?

A new secret archive shows a high level of Masonic involvement in the inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic

Well, this letter has just appeared in the paper...

Heroic Freemasons

SIR – The supposition that Freemasons influenced the inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic (report, November 23) is based primarily on circumstantial information interpreted by those biased against Freemasonry.
     Extraordinary life-saving contributions were made by several Freemasons during the disaster. For example, Harold Godfrey Lowe brought 118 passengers to safety and was the last to leave the lifeboats on being rescued by the Carpathia.
     Anyone wishing to become a Freemason must abide by strict standards of behaviour, upholding the law and working to benefit society.
Mike Baker, United Grand Lodge of England, London WC2

I’m sure Mike Baker isn’t suggesting that anyone not a Freemason wouldn’t be quite as brave as Harold Godfrey Lowe.

But it’s that final paragraph I enjoyed, which is much like saying: Anyone wishing to become a Banker must abide by strict standards of ethics, morality and honesty, upholding the law and working to benefit society.

A frog he would a-wooing go

Back on November 2, I shared off the interweb a brace of marvellous photographs where I suggested that perhaps, just perhaps, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was passing ― and she thought: “Hm, I’m no Princess ― but hey, why not? Come here, Kermit...”

And Kermit morphed into Mayor Boris Johnson.
 


Tanto Yensen photographs a male dumpy white tree frog in Jakarta


Unknown snapper photographs a male dumpy white Mayor in London

Well, the word on the streets of Old London Town is that, just a little later, Dame Helen Mirren just happened to be passing...

She was so delighted to see both Boris and Jeremy Paxman on the back of a bicycle made for two ― that after some affectionate effin’ and blindin’ in the traditional Dame Helen pantomime manner, she planted a slop of kissy-poos all over the pair of them ... and disaster upon disaster, both returned to their default existence.

 


Boris Johnson takes Jeremy Paxman for a ride in recognition
of Paxo’s final day as the BBC’s Newsnight presenter


Dumpy white tree frogs on a toy Vespa captured by
Kurit Afsheen in his back garden in Jakarta

White Man talk with forked finger

Mention of Boris, remember the glorious photo from last Sunday of the fellow cyclist giving Boris the old ‘up yours’ one-finger salute ― and Boris countering with his “How!” open hand salutation in greeting?

Well, I have just spotted this marvellous ‘official’ riposte from Boris to the forked-fingered cyclist:

  “I believe in tradition and we insist on the two-finger salute in London.”
 


Tuesday, November 24th
 

A tale of British Nationals: a Theatre, a Trust and a Treasure
 

ALAN BENNETT, 81, is an English playwright, screenwriter, actor, author and Honorary National Treasure. He was born in Leeds and attended Oxford University where he studied history and performed with the Oxford Revue. 

I recently came across a quote of his about the National Trust, which made me smile, and indeed with which I empathised.

Hm, I thought, I’ll hang on to this quote because something suitable to juxtapose is bound to turn up ― and, true to form, that something has just serendipitously landed in my lap.

A few entertaining dots need to be joined up first.

People who need people

The relevant tale starts three years ago, when Alan Bennett’s new play People  opened at the National Theatre, and in which the playwright took a swipe at the National Trust.

Bennett revealed that People  had been inspired by his sense of unease while visiting a National Trust house.

Set in a crumbling stately home, the play stared Frances de la Tour as the impoverished owner resisting its sale to the charity.

She plays ex-model and aristocrat Dorothy Stacpoole, who faces the choice of auctioning off the house, letting the National Trust open it to visitors, or selling it to a shady consortium.

Dorothy describes the National Trust as a “pretend England ... so decent, so worthy, so dull”.

In the meantime she allows the house to be used as the set for a porn film.

Critics described the play as “provocative fun”, raising the intriguing prospect of a running battle between the National Theatre, the National Trust and a National Treasure.

“Bennett’s play feels less like a class comedy than an old man’s rage against the sterility of today’s cautious, over-organised society, where all boxes must be computer-ticked, and all human spirit and oddity processed away,” said Ismene Brown in her review for The Arts Desk.

“Upending his cuddly reputation, Bennett gives the poor old National Trust a really bloody nose.”

In his introduction to the play, Bennett wrote: “Some plays seem to start with an itch, an irritation, something one can’t solve or a feeling one can’t locate. With People  it was a sense of unease when going round a National Trust house and being required to buy into the role of reverential visitor.”

He went on to express his dislike of being fed information about the room or its furniture by National Trust guides.

The play featured a running joke about the Stacpoole home’s collection of chamber pots which still contain the urine of famous visitors over the decades.

A National Trust statement added to the joy of the passing parade: “A Demos survey at the end of last year showed that the National Trust and Shakespeare were the top two sources of pride in being British.

“On top of that, we also look after over 550 chamber pots, though unfortunately most are empty.”

Right, those are all the relevant dots, joined up to paint a colourful backdrop. (Mind you, I was rather tickled with the notion that the urine of famous people never evaporates. Piss artists indeed.)

Now, the Alan Bennett quote coming up features his reaction after being mentioned in dispatches as the ideal person to take over the chairmanship of the National Trust.

But first, a warning...

                

“Far too stuffy and far too respectable. I really wanted to
 shout ‘FUCK’ at the National Trust at the top of my voice.”

Alan Bennett, National Treasure

“If you prick us, do we not bleed?”
Newton House, Llandeilo, owned by the Trust

The other early morning, a rather overcast and dull affair, I was on my regular walk and approaching Newton House, a property both owned and run by the National Trust ― and there was this banner hanging down...

From a distance and in the dim light it really did appear like a trickle of blood.

And I instantly thought of the Alan Bennett quote and his need to swear loudly and aggressively at the National Trust.

Indeed, I have much sympathy with Bennett’s views. Nothing against the Trust workers I bump into occasionally ― they are great, much like the local frontline bank employees we all encounter on a daily basis ― but senior management often has me scratching my head.

I think the problem is that the properties and estates the National Trust now run were originally the hallmark of the landed gentry and the ruling classes, exceedingly clever people who had the natural-born talent to see way beyond the end of their noses.

But these days the Trust appears to be run by well-meaning folk from the lower orders simply playing at being well-born and belonging to the class of the landed gentry or to the minor aristocracy.

What was it Dorothy Stacpoole said? “Pretend England ... so decent, so worthy, so dull.”

So how does one describe the folk who now live on the National Trust hill?

The nouveau genterie?

 

Monday, November 23rd

Word of the day

Joy (stay tuned).

Curious clickbait of the day:

Was Titanic inquiry scuppered by Freemasons?

A new secret archive shows a high level of Masonic involvement in the inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic

Imagine that: the inquiry team didn’t roll up their sleeves to get to the bottom of the affair ― but rather, rolled up their trouser legs and went for a paddle down by the sea shore.

Doolally clickbait of the day:

Amal Clooney reveals she will no longer wear her £450,000 engagement ring at work because the 7-carat diamond is too BLING for her human rights job

The lawyer will replace her emerald cut diamond ring from hubby George when working on serious court cases

Hello. Hello. Anybody there? Honestly, the line to Amal and Georgie Porgie is always engaged. Probably because they live in a parallel universe, somewhere over the rainbow, where reception is not all that clever.

Pause for thought of the day

  “People who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”  Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, effectively the dictator of the state.

So true, whether we’re talking about political elections or indeed Strictly Come Dancing ― at least if the word on the dance floor is anything to go by.

Letter of the day

First class delivery

SEVERAL organisations, including the Royal Mail, want to use drones to deliver goods. To alleviate traffic chaos on the school run, don’t drive your kids to school, just drop them off.
David Alderson of Winchester, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Bonus smile of the day

Yesterday I mentioned that a TV programme review in The Sunday Times  had drawn me in ... Blackpool rock‘n’roll ... here is the review in full:

 

PICK OF YESTERDAY

Arena: Night and Day
(BBC4 9pm)

Compiling old film clips to make an atmospheric documentary around a theme ― the sea, cycling, steel ― has become a commonplace technique, but Arena’s archive contains such riches it makes the format shine again.
     Celebrating the show’s 40th anniversary ― which makes it the world’s longest-running arts documentary strand ― Night and Day mimics 24 hours of dawn-to-dusk activity.
     So the film begins in the morning, as Jeffrey Bernard rises at 6am, Poly Styrene brushes her teeth and George Melly discusses Magritte’s shaving habits, and eventually descends into the nocturnal world of Warhol’s Superstars.
     If one clip shines brightest, however,
it is the sequence from 1989’s film about Blackpool, where George Formby fans play along with their hero on a screen before them. Even among such illustrious company, it is the purest expression of joy.
Victoria Segal

 

Turned out nice again

To repeat what I said yesterday: Arena  is not a programme I intuitively gravitate towards ― celebrities as a breed tend to leave me cold ― but I was sold on that last line about the expression of joy.

So I watched ― and enjoyed ― the whole shebang, especially so the George Formby sequence. Joy is the right word. I haven’t stopped smiling.

There is definitely not enough Joy in the world. So thank you, thank you, Victoria Segal, for drawing me in.

Below, there’s a link to the BBC iPlayer, where the programme will remain until December 20.

The George Formby sequence starts at around 42m into the programme ― watch out for the glorious Eric Sykes cigar box sketch which immediately precedes the Formby sing-along and play-along.

Honestly, five minutes of heaven.

And talking of heaven, I’m sure the angels don’t actually play harps, but ukuleles. I mean, they create sounds which are so much more uplifting and cheery and joyous than harps.

Also, below the iPlayer link is a YouTube link to the original Arena episode and features the full George Formby Segment.

Incidentally, where the George Formby fans play and sing along with their hero, I think I spot one female amongst all the men.

Oh, and the one prominent fellow who isn’t singing along I presume to be the film’s producer or such like, and who is there simply to sample the joy of the occasion.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06qn31v/arena-night-and-day

YouTube: Arena – Blackpool (1989) – George Formby Segment

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Amal’, as in Amal Clooney ― I’m not sure I should share this with you, but this is what my computer suggested ― came up as ‘Anal’ (Freudian theory: relating to adult personality traits that are considered to have originated during or be characteristic of the anal stage of development, e.g. obsessive neatness, stubbornness, and meanness). Just saying, like.
 


Sunday, November 22nd
 

A Tale of Two Mayors of Old London Town
(with a quick visit to Blackpool thrown in for good measure)
 

KEN LIVINGSTONE, former London mayor (2000-2008), has “unreservedly” apologised for suggesting a shadow defence minister and Labour colleague who criticised him, needed “psychiatric help”.

Livingstone had originally told the Mirror newspaper: “I think he [Labour MP Kevan Jones] might need some psychiatric help. He’s obviously very depressed and disturbed ... he should pop off and see his GP before he makes these offensive comments.”

Kevan Jones ― who has suffered with depression ― said the comments were “gravely offensive”.

Livingstone initially refused to apologise despite being urged to do so by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who had just given him a new policy role ― but he duly tweeted that the comments should not have been made.

Mind you, I regularly refer to politicians and celebrities as being delightfully doolally, but that’s more a common behavioural observation as famous people struggle to cope with constantly being in the limelight with their every move and utterance coming under surveillance ― which is slightly different to specifically attacking an individual as needing “psychiatric help”.

I never fail to marvel at how Kate Middleton remains cool, calm and collected under such intense pressure.

Anyway, so much for Labour’s new “kinder politics” brand. Well, they are politicians after all (believe nothing they tell you and only half what they actually show you).

However, Look You is all about the joy of life ... so, with Ken Livingstone down your way at Old London Town, current Mayor Boris Johnson was most certainly up your way.

How fascinating then to observe how two London mayors respond to those who don’t quite share their view of the yellow brick road ahead.

Now we know how Ken Livingstone thinks. On the other hand, Boris’s big dream is to make cycling safer in the capital, compliments of a segregated cycle superhighway where bikes do not have to share the road with cars and other vehicles, especially buses and lorries.

But one cyclist made his views of the London Mayor very clear...

I see your one and raise you five

“HOW, PALEFACE!
The unidentified cyclist raised his middle finger at Boris as they passed over
Vauxhall Bridge. The Mayor appeared oblivious to the insult though, raising
a high-five to the fellow in the red and black cycling top

Boris shrugged off abuse from passing commuters as he opened London’s first segregated cycle superhighway.

Speaking at Vauxhall Bridge last Thursday, he laughed off three separate verbal attacks from cyclists using the new highway, before admitting there is still a lot of work to do on making London’s transport system better for cyclists.

But fair play to Boris, that’s how you react to someone who thinks you’re a bit of an inferior human being.

And I bet the fellow in the red and black top felt a little bit scalped at Boris’s cool-for-cats reaction.

  “I believe in tradition, and we insist on the two-finger salute in London.” Boris Johnson responds publicly to the fellow cyclist who gave him the one-finger gesture.

Blackpool rock‘n’roll

Perusing the Sunday Times  TV & Radio Guide, the ‘Critics’ Choice’ and ‘Pick of the day’ was a BBC4 programme called Arena, featuring highlights from the past 40 years of the arts documentary series...

The write-up by Victoria Segal concludes thus:

“If one clip shines brightest, however, it is the sequence from 1989’s film about Blackpool, where George Formby fans play along with their hero on a screen before them. Even among such illustrious company, it is the purest expression of joy.”

Arena is not a programme I intuitively gravitate towards ― anything featuring a celebration of celebrities tends to leave me cold ― but I was sold on that last line. I think it was the word joy.

To be continued...  
 

Saturday, November 21st

LAST Monday I shared with you just a few of those curious, strange, silly, wonderful, funny and downright weird events that make up Allen Foster’s entertaining and smiley contribution to the social history of Wales, as detailed in his book Foster’s Welsh Oddities.

I quote:

Find out about such curiosities as: * the Welsh beach that whistles * the ferocious bull that once stopped a train * one of the strangest wills ever admitted to probate * the pioneer Welsh explorer who laid the foundations for the first overland expedition of America * how a young Welshwoman single-handedly captured a dozen French soldiers and helped to foil an invasion.

I was very curious about
* one of the strangest wills ever admitted to probate * so Ivor the Search Engine  went looking for ‘strange Welsh wills’ ― and stumbled upon a Guardian  newspaper article headed...

10 of the strangest wills of all time

Leaving instructions for what should happen to your finances after your death is a serious matter ― but for some the temptation to cause mischief or raise a smile from beyond the grave is too much to resist

At 3) was this one...

A boozy weekend

We all like to think that our friends will raise a glass to us when we’ve gone, but Swansea man Roger Brown made sure of it. The 67-year-old lost his life to prostate cancer in 2013, leaving behind a secret bequest of £3,500 to seven of his closest friends, with the proviso that they use it for a boozy weekend away to a European city.

“We would like to formally apologise to Roger’s two sons, Sam and Jack, for taking away some of their inheritance,” beneficiary Roger Rees told the South Wales Evening Post after the friends spent a weekend in Berlin. “We spent most of it on beer, the rest we wasted.”

It’s a smashing little story ― follow the link up there, which will take you to the local newspaper with full story and pictures.

Anyway, the Guardian  article finished off with this practical warning:

Will power

While it might seem hilarious to write jokes into a will, it’s not without risk. Emma Myers, head of wills for Saga Legal Services, says: “Tempting as it may be to go out with a laugh, it’s probably better to err on the side of caution and to take your will seriously.

“If you absolutely insist on a joke, or an odd request, check to see whether this could invalidate the will and avoid doing it if it could. For more outlandish requests, it may be better to use the non-legally binding letter of wishes.”

When I read about Roger Brown and his will it reminded me of another Welsh funeral tale, which I think I have mentioned in a previous dispatch.

But it’s certainly worth a repeat...

Here’s lookin’ at you, Dai

A group, similar to the Swansea lads in the above tale, were in the pub discussing their own funeral arrangements, as you do, and one said that he had left instructions that money should be put behind the bar for the crowd to enjoy a jolly session after his final departure.

Another of the group of friends smiled and said it was a great idea and, if he survived him, he would certainly come straight back to the pub after the funeral to raise a glass to celebrate their friendship.

“Oh no,” said the fellow, “I’ve left instructions in my will [probably the aforementioned ‘letter of wishes’] that the funeral cortege should leave the house some 30 minutes or so earlier than needs be, and that the hearse will then pull up outside the window of the pub ― just out there...

“Because, when you lot have your first final drink on me, I want to be there to enjoy it as you wish me luck as you wave me goodbye.”

As far as I am aware, the instructions were followed to the letter. Smashing tale.

Finally, and I’m not sure why, this wonderful quote sprung to mind:
 

  “Superb for bedding. Best up against a wall.” The stated characteristics of a rose named after actress June Whitfield ― or more correctly, June Rosemary Whitfield, CBE, an English actress, well known and treasured in the UK since the 1950s for her work in radio and television comedy. She has just celebrated her 90th birthday.
 


Friday, November 20th

Corrections and clarifications


LAST Monday the Times 2 newspaper supplement ran a feature headed ‘The 10 science questions parents should know: A recent study showed most of us can’t answer basic kids’ questions about the world. Here are the essential answers...’

The Q&A feature included: ◊ Where do rainbows come from? ◊ Does air weigh anything? ◊ Why is the ocean salty? ◊ Why do stars twinkle? ◊ Why does rain fall in drops? ◊

And also this one:

How come words appear backwards in a mirror?

A flat mirror reflects the light bouncing from whatever we hold up to it ― whether it’s a newspaper or our own adorable faces ― in straight lines. So the left side of your face appears on the left side of the mirror, the right side on the right. 

If you really want to, you can see your true image ― your face in the world ― by using two mirrors. Set the mirrors at a right angle, like two walls meeting in the corner. When you look at your face in the corner you will see ― up close, in real time ― what you look like to others.

I was intrigued with that ‘two mirrors’ routine ― but I quickly realised that every mirror in my home is actually fixed to a wall, so I don’t have a free mirror to create the right angle. Ah well.

It mostly intrigued me though because I have noticed that when you look at someone’s reflection in a mirror, and that person is standing fairly near and alongside you, you notice curious aspects of that face that you hadn’t noticed before. It really is quite curious.

Anyway, the point is, when you read something like the above, in The Times  of all newspapers ― well, you take it as read that they do know what they’re talking about.

However, a few days later, this letter appeared in the newspaper...

Mirror, mirror

Sir, Your article on science questions for parents perpetuates the myth of mirror writing. There is no such thing.
     Try this. Write on a clear acetate sheet and hold it up to a mirror with the writing facing you. Look in the mirror. The writing will still be the right way round.
     Turn the sheet so that the writing is the wrong way round and its reflection will be similarly reversed. The only reason writing on an ordinary sheet of paper seems to be reversed is that you have to turn the paper round to point it at the mirror. The reversal happens in your hand ― it has nothing to do with the mirror.
Geoff Endacott, FRAS [Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society], Chippenham, Wilts.

Well now, I just intuitively knew that to be right ― but I tested it out anyway.

Now I didn’t have an acetate sheet to hand, or indeed any thin sheet of transparent and flexible material; however, the margin of any newspaper page will do ― it is incredibly thin paper ― so just write your name, or whatever, on it ... and follow Geoff Endacott’s instructions...

Magic. And a long-held myth bites the dust.

On a slightly different tack, this letter in The Sunday Times  Motoring section...

Sky’s the limit

Much has been written about pollution from diesel cars. On a flight to England from Spain the pilot told us that we had used nine tons of fuel ― enough to power the average car for about 75,000 miles.
     Pollution from diesel cars must be minute compared with the thousands of planes in our skies.
David Pearson, Stanmore, London

And the following Sunday the paper published this response:

Air miles

David Pearson says his flight from Spain used enough fuel to power a car for 75,000 miles. But the fuel used should be divided by the number of passengers. If there were 200, each would have used about 375 miles worth of fuel.
     Not bad compared with the 1,250-mile journey.
Carl Wright, Forres, Moray

Honestly, nothing is ever quite as straight forward when you put a bit of lateral mileage into your thinking.

And talking of a glorious bit of lateral thinking, plus lots of wisdom, this, compliments of a Telegraph  letter...

A role for rabbits in prisoners’ rehabilitation
 


Peter Rabbit rushes in where radishes fear to tread

 

SIR – Prisoners at HM Prison Standford Hill complain that rabbits are decimating the vegetables they are growing in the prison’s grounds. There is a call for severe action to be taken against the rabbits.
     I disagree. I think the rabbits should be taken on to the prison payroll, because they appear to have done more to educate the prisoners as to the impact of crime on victims than any human intervention has achieved.
Mike Owen, Claverdon, Warwickshire
 

 

Thursday, November 19th

Pussycats, sex and chocolates

IT ALL kicked off with this Daily Telegraph  letter...

Back to nature

SIR – When I was 12 years old, I was required by my biology teacher to keep a nature diary. I could never think what to put in it, and the only entry I remember including was: “Saw a cat jump over a wall.”
     The teacher was unimpressed. Little did he know that it wasn’t even true.
Tony Joseph, Bristol 

Wonderfully smiley, that. But what prompted such a letter to a newspaper?

I wonder, though, how the teacher would have reacted if Tony had written: “Saw a cow jump over the moon and Spot the dog laughed his head off ― then mum woke me and said it was time to get up and go to school...”

“I’ve got a cat that’s more rock‘n’roll than all of them put together.” Noel Gallagher, 48, outspoken rock star of Oasis fame, after criticising many of today’s pop stars and striking a familiar note.

I’ve been looking for an excuse to share a photo of ― surprise, surprise ― a cat doing what comes naturally. Or perhaps, more correctly, not doing its thing because it should be patrolling the house for those mouses or mices or whatever.

Yes indeedy, a pussycat spotted on a web site featuring the latest internet craze where pet owners share pictures of cunning animals blending into the background.

After all, there’s nothing a pet likes more than hiding in its surroundings when it doesn’t want to be found...

I spy, with my little eye...

Curses! A pussycat thought it had found the perfect hiding place

That picture captures in just a handful of pixels why the internet was invented with cats in mind.

Meanwhile, back with human pussycats...

 “I have had marriage proposals ― and all kinds of other proposals ― and get asked out for dinner a lot and that’s really nice, but I am not a sex symbol.” Carol Kirkwood, 53, one of the BBC’s most experienced and beloved weather presenters. Single Carol has been flooded with date offers from viewers since she appeared on Strictly Come Dancing.

The point is, Carol, there is all the difference in the world between being a sex symbol ― and being simply sexy, which is why, I guess, you are being asked out for dinner a lot.

I mean, I learnt very early in life that often the least likely girls were far and away the sexiest.

  “Obviously, I am overweight ― I don’t want anyone’s sympathy. I want your chocolate.” Coleen Nolan, 50, singer, television presenter and author, best known as the youngest member of the girl group The Nolans (in which she sang with her sisters), and for being a panellist on the chat show Loose Women.
 

  “Anything is good if it’s made of chocolate.” Jo Brand, 58, English comedienne, writer and actress, pictured above, who clearly goes through life demanding your chocolates ― or else, sunshine. You do not mess around with Double-O Brand.

I do so hope Jo has put her name forward in the search for the new black polo neck sweater donning hero, the Cadbury Milk Tray Man: “The name’s Brand. Cadbury Milk Tray Brand.”
 


Wednesday, November 18th
 

This gem from a recent Daniel Finkelstein Notebook piece in The Times:

Lady of the lamp

I pricked up my ears at the news that some of Baroness Thatcher’s effects ― handbags, hats and so forth ― are to go on sale. I love political artefacts, me...

In the latest volume of Charles Moore’s biography of the former prime minister, the footnotes contain many tremendous little details.

Such as the fact that the plea to help Grenada, sent to the British government by the Organisation of East Caribbean States, didn’t arrive because it had been faxed by mistake to a London plastic bag manufacturer.

My favourite gem is that after the 1984 Brighton bomb, Mrs Thatcher always carried a torch in her handbag in case something similar happened again.

As a symbol of her grit, her preparedness and a degree of private trepidation, I want ― I really want ― the torch.

Yes, a little gem indeed. And proof that nothing ever changes. Ponder how many people nowadays send emails and all sorts of electronic messages ― to the wrong person. And yes, yes, resulting in huge embarrassments all round.

The other point of course being Mrs T not wanting to be caught short a second time without a torch; indeed,  memories from schooldays rekindled and slightly paraphrased: Where were Moses and Margaret Thatcher when the lights went out? In the dark.

Yesterday I mentioned that, as I was putting the day’s smile bulletin together, storm Barney Bear was blowing up a right old hooley outside. But I had torch, candles and matches ready, willing and able on the kitchen table, just in case of a power cut.

As it happens, the electric didn’t go off, despite flicking ominously a few times. But when one is born and bred on a farm in Wild Welsh Wales you know that power cuts during storms are likely. So you prepare for the worst.

And having lived the past seven years in rural locations, you just sense that when Abigail’s Party or Barney Bear blows in from the windy Atlantic, or there’s snow about, especially that wet snow which then freezes on the power lines and the weight of the ice brings them crashing down ---

Well, you learn to have everything at hand rather than searching high and low in the dark for matches, candles and torches.

Now who would have thought that a simple country boy like me shares preparedness and a degree of private trepidation with the memory of Mrs Thatcher?

Incidentally, on the wireless this morning I enjoyed the tale of someone looking out the kitchen window and finding a trampoline on the lawn ― when in fact they didn’t own one.

Actually, yesterday afternoon I also moved everything in the garden likely to blow away on the wind, into the shed ― which I guess is a terribly boring and grown-up thing to do.

There again, while the Ferengi have Rules of Acquisition, we humans have Rules of Ambush Avoidance.

Name?

Last Monday I mentioned the headmaster called Mr Head; also the lady called Claire Herring ― and I speculated whether she was a redhead ... perhaps partial to scarlet clothes and/or lipstick ... or possibly an expert at dispensing clues or pieces of information which are, or are intended to be, misleading or distracting ― and was she therefore affectionately known to friends, colleagues and family as Red Herring.

Anyway, a glorious letter in The Daily Telegraph:

Gift of life

SIR – While investigating my ancestors, who were called Pleasance, I discovered a name which brought a smile to my face. A family in 19th-century rural Norfolk, called Pleasants, named their son Christmas.
Veronica Whittall, Esher, Surrey 

How totally wonderful is that? Indeed Christmas was at one time a familiar Christian name.

There’s a famous Welsh Nonconformist minister, Christmas Evans (1766–1838), regarded as one of the greatest preachers in the history of Wales.

He was also known as The One-Eyed Preacher of Wales ― because he really did have only one eye, having lost the other in a youthful brawl.

As for the name Christmas ... well, note his date of birth: 25/12/1766.

And finally, sticking with names, this gloriously witty clickbait...
 

Too much Hassel?

At the age of 63, actor David Hasselhoff changes his name --- to David Hoff

 

But before I go...

  “I am not some over-the-top Mr Ego. David Hasselhoff is fiction. At home, I am just David, and he’s sensitive, emotional, a gentleman.” Yes, the one and only David Hoff.

The one drawback with that declaration is ― you are probably ahead of me already ― only others can pronounce you sensitive, emotional, a gentleman ... or in other words, an all round good egg.

Now for all I know David Hoff may well be a fellow that nobody speaks ill of and by definition fits the above specification to perfection ― but you get my point.
 


Tuesday, November 17th
 

A big hand please, ladies and gentlemen

A LETTER spotted in The Times:

Happy time

Sir, In your latest Luxx supplement [a quarterly 64-page luxury glossy magazine, inserted as a supplement to the daily newspaper], which was dedicated to expensive wristwatches, I counted 63 images of watches.
     In 50 of those the hands were set at around either ten minutes past ten or ten minutes to two. My wife claims that these settings are designed to create the impression of a smiley face. Can this be true?
George Rosie, Edinburgh

                        
“Hello Tissot ... being that you have the time, I have the inclination”

As time goes by

Sir, It is said that the hands of most watches for sale in France are set at ten past ten in memory of King Louis XVl, who was guillotined at that time.
Pauline Wynne, Bury, Lancs

Sir, Not only does setting the hands of a watch at 10.10 give it a happy face, the hands also stress the maker’s name, giving it more prominence. Additionally the date feature is normally set to “8” as this is considered lucky in some Asian communities.
Chris Cuss, Cheam, Surrey

Well, well, time and tide indeed. And every day really is a day at school.

That time of year

Even though November has been damp and blowy ― as I write, Barney Bear is blowing up a storm outside so I have flashlight, candle and matches on the kitchen table ready in case of a power cut ― everyone comments on how astonishingly mild it is, with folk reporting flowers blooming in their gardens.

Actually, behind my home a bramble sticking out of the hedge like a sore thumb is in full, glorious flower. Quite bewildering.

And that brings me neatly to another newspaper missive:

Sense and Prejudice, Pride and Sensibility

In this unseasonably warm November, I’ve just started reading Jane Austen’s letters. She reports that November 17, 1798, is ‘very pleasant out of doors at noon’ and ‘I have not taken to fires yet’.
Miss FM Latty of East Bridgford, Notts in a letter to the Daily Mail.

How about that? Over 200 years ago, and nothing new under the sun, so to speak.

Oh, and I really like the style of writing: ‘I have not taken to fires yet.’

On November 17, 2015, I report that I have taken to the central heating for some 45 minutes around the time I get up of an early-morning ― and about 30 minutes leading up to beddy-byes time, just to nip the chill in the bud.

I am clearly getting delicate in my second childhood.

However, caution must be exercised at all times ... a clickbait in today’s Telegraph...
 

El Nino: British winter could feel longer and colder

This year’s El Nino will be one of the strongest in 50 years and is likely to bring a cold snap at the end of winter


And there you were thinking I was only experiencing troubles coming to terms with all those weird and wonderful diet and health clickbaits I endlessly trip over.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Tissot’, the Swiss watch manufacturer of note, came up as, er, ‘Tosspot’. Honest. Say nothing is best.
 


Monday, November 16th

MY UNDIVIDED attention was captured by an article in the Western Mail  newspaper; or more correctly, it was the picture that beckoned...
 

“What am I doing? Well, all us nice girls love a man in uniform ― and
we’ll do anything to catch his eye and get him down on one knee”


“What’s a nice girl like you doing in a bad place like this?

 

June 2011: A Welsh fireman rescues a sheep from a rooftop in the village of Pontycymer in South Wales, the ewe having climbed up there via a flat roof backing onto a sloping field behind the house.

 ☼     ☼     ☼     ☼     ☼

Fish falling from the sky, a parrot found hundreds of feet inside a mine and a duck sparking a gold rush ― just three of the weirdest things to happen in Wales. And there are plenty more featured in Foster’s Welsh Oddities, a new book of Wales’s quirkiest characters and most extraordinary facts.

There were 21 weird and wonderful things listed in the newspaper article, and here are my five stars...
 

 

1In October 1909, John Evans of Llanidloes in Mid Wales bought a pony from William Thomas of Llanelli in South Wales. Just a few days later it was found in its old owner’s street ― having escaped and walked nearly 80 miles home.

Instances of cats and dogs travelling substantial distances to get home are well recorded ― indeed my own family had a cat trek five miles across country to return home after its mate went missing, presumed dead. But a horse? Doubtless all animals have this intuitive and precise ability to navigate great distances in the dark, so to speak.

2)  A denim-clad corpse discovered on the shore in Pwllheli in November 1991 was taken as far as a Home Office pathology lab before anyone realised it was a latex mannequin.

Hm, not so much “D’oh!” as “D’mb!”. The sort of thing I would end up doing.

3)  In October 2001, an escaped psychiatric patient in Aberystwyth stole a bus and drove himself home ― picking up passengers along the route.

Do you know, I have a vague recollection of that story, but I didn’t realise that it involved a psychiatric patient. That really is quite a smiley story. Obviously there was no accident or I probably would have remembered it.

4)  A gravestone epitaph at a church in Conwy claims that a man by the name of Nicholas Hookes, who died in March 1637, was the 41st child of his mother, Alice Hookes.

Blimey. I’m not sure where we go from there. I know:

5)  During a wedding in Porthcawl in 1927, the bride’s name was Pheasant, the groom’s name was Partridge, the vicar was called Reverend Woodcock and one of the bridesmaids was Miss Dove.

Goodness me, I hope it wasn’t a shotgun wedding. Actually, it reminds me of something recently spotted:

  @guywalters: Our son’s school has just appointed a new headmaster called Mr Head.

This neatly leads me to...

Scarlet woman

Mention of Mr Head and nominative determinism, there was a letter in The Times, from a Claire Herring, Director of Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust apropos the somewhat problematic sale of Wentworth Woodhouse, an impressive Grade 1 listed country house in South Yorkshire.

I found myself wondering if Claire is a redhead, perhaps has a penchant for scarlet clothes and lipstick, or indeed is an expert at creating scenic diversions with her arguments ― and is she affectionately known to friends, colleagues and family as Red Herring?

Anyway, back with Foster’s Welsh Oddities, penned by Allen Foster. It is published by Hale Books, priced £8.99.

Here are some background facts noted online about the book and its author...

Ideal for trivia lovers and those interested in the more esoteric aspects of life in Wales, Foster’s Welsh Oddities  is a wonderful collection of Wales’s quirkiest characters, most extraordinary facts and strangest coincidences.

Discover the lucky, unlucky, strange, silly, downright weird, wonderful and funny events that make up Allen Foster’s entertaining contribution to the social history of Wales.

Find out about such curiosities as: * the Welsh beach that whistles * the ferocious bull that once stopped a train * one of the strangest wills ever admitted to probate * the pioneer Welsh explorer who laid the foundations for the first overland expedition of America * how a young Welshwoman single-handedly captured a dozen French soldiers and helped to foil an invasion.

Allen Foster, author of the bestselling Foster’s English Oddities  and Foster’s Irish Oddities, was born in Dublin in 1974, and works as a researcher and writer. Allen currently lives in the heart of the Irish countryside in County Meath, and spends far too much time hunting down oddities and long-lost nuggets of history.

While on the subject of names, I enjoyed this wee piece from the TMS Diary in The Times...

Darling of the Great Escape

The historian Patrick Bishop’s latest book is about Bill Ash, the model for Steve McQueen’s character in The Great Escape. Ash was also the unwitting forebear of a running joke in Blackadder  [a popular period British sitcom].

Bishop says that when Ash was stationed as a pilot in Britain in the war he was told off for calling his groundstaff by their first names. Taking this to heart, he turned to his fitter and issued a string of orders by surname alone, to the amusement of other officers.

The fitter was a Corporal Darling.

Finally...

  “I am swooning and drooling with pleasure. You may touch me, smell me and pick me but please always respect and thank those who bred me.” Stephen Fry, 58, author and actor, who has had a rose named after him.

Ah, watch you don’t prick yourself, Stephen.

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Pwllheli’, a coastal market town in north-western Wales, where the denim-clad latex mannequin was discovered on the seashore, came up as ‘Wilhelm’. I’m not sure what that tells us about Welsh Oddities, so best to leave it at the pathology lab’s back door ― and run.
 


Sunday, November 15th

A quick foxtrot

DONNING my Victor Silvester trousers (bags of ballroom), I must confess to having never watched the popular television series Strictly Come Dancing, except when catching glimpses while zapping through the channels.

Or, given my Victor Silvester trousers, perhaps that should read zipping through the channels, ouch.

However, a few letters in The Sunday Times  You Say column caught my eye.

Off-putting

Recently in Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1), Claudia Winkelman [a co-presenter] said she felt “norshus”. So did I when she said it.
Edward Baker

I think I know the feeling, Edward Baker. Meanwhile...

Horwible

Does Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood have to use the very offensive term “spastilistic”?
Adam Manktelow


Which drew this response:

Handiwork

Adam Manktelow complains about Craig Revel Horwood using an offensive term to describe dancers’ inarticulate use of the hands. He does not say the made up “spastilistic”, but “spatulistic”, like a spatula, cutting and lacking shape.
Sravik Qxuibet (someone who actually dances ballroom), London

Ah yes, the folly of deploying words you never hear in the Bible, or indeed down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, come to that. And there is something delightfully ironic about the misunderstanding and usage of the English language being pointed out by You Sayer Sravik Qxuibet.

Sravik must have many a frustrating laugh communicating the name Sravik Qxuibet to call centres.

Many shades of confusion

About a week ago I shared a letter spotted in The Times  apropos an episode of Downton Abbey  (another popular television series I have never watched) featuring a scene with a principal character wearing sunglasses at the racetrack (the year being 1925, or perhaps 1926) ― whereas sunglasses were only invented in 1929 by Sam Foster, of Foster Grant.

And I included a brief history of sunglasses, compliments of the interweb, which rather confirmed the above.

Well now, a few days later, this letter appeared in The Times:

Out of the shade

Sir, The Downton Abbey  characters were quite correctly portrayed wearing sunglasses at a racetrack in 1926.
     The glasses, known as “Crookes Lenses” were an unintended by-product of Sir William Crookes’s research on different chemical formulations of glass to find one that would prevent glass workers developing cataracts.
     By 1920, led by Wingates (a Wigmore Street opticians) sunglasses had become the height of fashion.
WH Brock, Emeritus professor of history of science, University of Leicester

Marvellous. That’s why I enjoy the Letters pages so much.

I shall include the above as an addendum to my original piece ― under the headline ‘Detention after school’.

And finally...

The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane

  “I’ve got more chandeliers in my toilet.” Elton John complaining about the dim lights as he made a speech in the US ambassador’s London residence.
 


 
Saturday, November 14th

WHAT can one say? You go out for a meal, go to a rock concert, a football match...

It was just a few days ago, on Armistice Day, that I gently reminded myself that Look You is all about the smiley and curious everyday things that catch the eye, arrest the ear ― or simply tickle the imagination ― with the occasional sad observation that the world is not just a ball of delightful doolallyness, but much like a variation of the curate’s egg, pathetically putrid in parts.

Goodness me.


As it happens, I’d been pondering on yesterday’s reported ‘death’ of Jihadi John ― all the ‘experts’ are agreed that the Paris attack was not a spontaneous reaction to that but rather it was a well-planned and stand-alone operation ― but what puzzled me was why our leaders made such a high-profile issue of Jihadi John’s ‘evaporation’ as they all strutted the world stage.

It strikes me that taking out these major terrorist figures would be much more effective if nobody said anything, that the deaths were not even reported.

It would leave the senior leaders of Islamic State wondering what the hell was going on; and presumably, a significant measure of distrust would fester within the ranks. No?

And also, it would not obviously invite or trigger a murderous response along the lines of the Paris killings to trump the West dominating the headlines.

Curiously, as I write this, on the wireless The Eurythmics sing I Saved The World Today...

              
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
              
Hey, Hey, I saved the world today,
               Everybody’s happy now,
               The bad thing’s gone away,
               And everybody’s happy now;
               The good thing’s here to stay,
               Please let it stay.

Sadly, Mr Cameron, the real world doesn’t quite work like that.

But what do I understand?

Whatever, and with all of us now frontline troops, it seems somehow appropriate to have kept faith with the poppy as a tribute to all those senseless deaths on Friday night.
 


Friday, November 13th

Trouble, with a capital T

THE moment I saw the two words that are coming up, compliments of the day’s first clickbait, I just knew it meant trouble: mycoplasma genitalium.

Mycoplasma genitalium: hundreds of thousands could already be infected by new sexual disease senior doctors warn over STI

Hm, so best to keep my rocket in my pocket.

And talking of rockets, I saw this Obituary link the other day:

Roy Dommett, rocket scientist ... Scientist who developed Britain’s Cold War nuclear arsenal ― with a sideline in Morris dancing

I half-expected a further Obituary notice along the lines of:

Joe Bloggs, brain surgeon ... Surgeon who pioneered brain transplant ― with a sideline in drain and manhole covers

Yes, a rocket scientist and a brain surgeon I definitely am not. Mind you, and given how intrigued I am by the workings of the mind, I suppose I could get away with describing myself as a trainee brain scientist (university degree not essential).

Whatever, back with mycoplasma genitalium, a few clickbaits further down the page was this gem...

Michael Palin: how to stay married for 49 years (sex has nothing to do with it)

That made me smile, mostly because my response would have been this...

Me: how to stay single for 49 years (sex has everything to do with it)

When I look back at my more settled relationships, it wasn’t so much that I fell out of love with my girlfriends, but rather fell out of sexual attraction (or lust, I guess). The sexual magic had made its excuses and left, so it was best to call it a day rather than pretend.

And it should be noted for the record that I remained on friendly terms with pretty much all my ex-girlfriends ― and still do, as it happens.

Now whether that breakdown in sexual magic was because of me (probably) or because of my girlfriends (possibly), I really can’t be sure.

But it resulted in my remaining unattached, a state of affairs I’ve been completely happy with. Perhaps nature programmed me thus. (A couple of lines from Billy Joel’s Piano Man  spring smilingly to mind: “Now Paul is a real estate novelist / Who never had time for a wife...”)

Sticking with sex, this clickbait also made me smile...

Retired hairdresser Roy Boddington, 74, needs paramedics and an ambulance after taking two Viagra pills for night of passion with a 27-year-old woman

I’ve mentioned before about a doctor pal telling me we would all be surprised how many older men ― and indeed a few not so older men ― find themselves with problems, occasionally fatal, following over-vigorous sex with a younger woman of their acquaintance.

But of course we the public only get to hear about it when it’s in the public eye and impossible to keep under wraps. As with the above tale of the retired hairdresser (who really did nearly curl up and dye).

What made the above story doubly ironic was me checking my inbox a little later, and there in the junk folder, the message “Viagra_Cialis@ ...” ― @ some Canadian pharmacy, I think it was.

Needless to say, I yet again made my excuses, etc., etc...

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, vinyl to vinyl...

Talking of people flirting with death, or indeed facing the final curtain, I heard on the wireless that Monty Python’s irreverent hit Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, from the 1979 film The Life of Brian, has replaced Frank Sinatra’s My Way  as the most popular song played at funerals ― the first time Old Blue Eyes has been toppled from the number one spot since 2002.

I maintain that you could split the nation down the middle with two Frank Sinatra funeral songs: My Way  and It Was A Very Good YearMy Way  belongs to those who insist that the other half should do precisely what they are told.

And the other Sinatra classic belongs to those who are just here for the ride and determined to experience a joyful time while dancing along within the passing parade.

And finally

With Christmas rapidly coming up on the rails, I smiled at this tweet, which I have marginally paraphrased, [thus]...

@DPMcBride: I think the Queen should applaud Chelsea [Football Club and England’s rugby union team] in her Christmas message for adding to the gaiety of the nation during an otherwise bleak Autumn.

And finally, finally

Having mentioned above Billy Joel’s Piano Man, I like the opening verse, which could well be set in my local Crazy Horsepower Saloon.

Oh, and I particularly appreciate how the final line of this opening stanza has been craftily amended to rhyme with the second:

               ♫♥♫♥♫♥♫♥♫♥♫♥♫
               It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday,
               The regular crowd shuffles in;
               There’s an old man sitting next to me,
               Making love to his tonic and gin...

Brilliant. And while we’re on about poetry, and for Welsh speakers, here’s a really clever couplet, compliments of poet Twm Morys, and as heard on S4C tonight:

                                                                    Dechrau brân yw ‘deryn du;
                                                                    A dechrau mul yw sgwarnog.

Literally:

               The beginnings of the crow is the blackbird;
               And the beginnings of the mule is the hare...

Remembering of course that much like English, the Welsh word for hare, ‘sgwarnog’, can also mean a false trail, a wild goose chase. All exceedingly clever, Twm Morys.
 


Thursday, November 12th
 

Which sort of car are you?

They say you are what you eat, and that pets look like their owners. But what about cars? Take our personality quiz to find out which sort of car best matches you...

Yes, a Telegraph  clickbait ― but I gave the quiz a miss, as is my wont.

However, it did set me wondering. And it’s going to take a bit of serious thinking as to whether I can get away with calling myself an E-Type Jag, or perhaps I’m more of a Mini Cooper S. There again, those who know me best might well label me an old Austin 7. Or in my dreams, a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost...

Be all that as it may, mention of Rolls-Royce delivers me perfectly to this intriguing clickbait:

While Volkswagen recalls 8.5m vehicles across Europe and 11m worldwide, Rolls-Royce announces recall of its Ghost series (it’s only one car though, which makes it at least the joint smallest recall in history)

Now that’s a worthy smile of the day.

This particular £200,000 R-R Ghost has thorax air bags fitted to both front seats, and the word on the street is that they may fail to meet the side impact performance requirements demanded by regulators.

While Rolls-Royce, (irony alert) which is owned by BMW, has said it will replace the airbag modules free of charge, the owner faces an inconvenient wait while the problem is remedied.

Tut-tut, should not R-R offer a Silver Ghost as a courtesy car? After all, good manners maketh the marque.

Oh yes: the other smallest recall ever? A solitary 2014 Chevrolet Volt electric car, part of an eleven-car manufacturer recall to fix an incorrectly assembled inner tie rod on the front steering assembly of affected cars.

They simply fitted a bow tie. Allegedly.

Boris ahoy
!

As I write, the northern part of the UK is being battered by Storm Abigail. Abigail? Who on earth came up with such a wishy-washy name for something so fierce?

In truth the name suggests party time i.e. Abigail’s Party, a play for stage and television devised and directed in 1977 by Mike Leigh, a suburban situation comedy of manners, and a satire on the aspirations and tastes of the new middle class that emerged in Britain in the 1970s.

Someone suggested that the storm should be named Abigale, which I rated a 5-Star blast of storm-force wit.

Anyway, it seems that both UK and Irish meteorological agencies have combined to come up with storm names, via social media suggestions, which will “help raise awareness of severe weather and ensure greater safety of the public”.

But Abigail? And Frank? And Katie? And Nigel? And Steve? And Wendy? (The letters Q, U, X, Y and Z, curiously, are not being used.)

I dunno, ‘A’ should have been something like Amphitrite, what with her connections to the sea, whence all these storms come. (In ancient Greek mythology, Amphitrite was a sea-goddess.)

Surely we need angry names like Gorgon, Hades, McEnroe, Naomi, Poseidon, Titan ― and while I appreciate that Z is not allowed, Zebedee would have been a perfect name for the mother and father of all storms that spring out of nowhere and threaten to morph into a hurricane (sorry, Mr Fish).

Be all that as it may, the next storm should be named Boris ― after Karloff if it looks to be a bit of a horror, but after Johnson if it’s a bit of a storm in a teacup, especially so given the Mayor of Old London Town’s recent visit to China.

Come on, Met Office; get your limp-wristed teapot act together. And give these nasty storms names that fit the profile.  
 

  Armistice Day, 2015  

LOOK YOU is all about the smiley and curious everyday things that catch my eye, arrest my ear, or simply tickle my imagination ― with the occasional sombre observation that the world is not just delightfully doolally, but much like a variation of the curate’s egg, pathetically putrid in parts.

As to those things that catch my eye, Mail Online  is right up there as an interweb flag-bearer. Not so much what it covers, but rather how it presents its contents to a casual peruser like me.

Mail Online  is the closest I know to flicking through a print newspaper, and to my mind that is precisely what makes it the most read online English language newspaper in the world.

Being that today is Armistice Day, I was rather taken with the eye-catching nature of this Mail Online  clickbait from a few days back...

Muslims urged to join remembrance of Britain’s war dead
as Royal British Legion promotes £20 poppy hijab

 

The headscarf is on offer at the charity’s website for £20, where it is described as ‘a symbol of remembrance that would appeal to British Muslims’. It was first launched last year by a pair of smaller charities, but after they found themselves unable to cope with the demand they passed on responsibility to the Legion. The hijab was created by a young Muslim fashion designer, who said she was keen to face down the small minority of Islamic radicals who spurn Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day.

 

I liked that story. Indeed, I am not in the least surprised that those headscarves are so popular.

And finally...

An item that I am sure would have entertained all those who gave their lives to protect our freedom; a tale prompted by the unprecedented rate at which British society is changing ― whether for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, through sickness and in health... well, who knows?

Anyway, my tale started, surprise, surprise, with a clickbait...

How good is your knowledge of Britain?

As a poll suggests half-of-us can’t find Isle of Man on a map, test your knowledge of UK geography...

Well, that instantly reminded me of something from my schooldays:

          Teacher: Right, children, last night’s homework. Tommy: where is the Isle of Man?

          Tommy Tucker: Well, Miss, my dad says it’s nowhere near the Virgin Isles.

What I particularly remember on hearing that is looking up on a world map where both the Isle of Man and the Virgin Islands were. And of course you never forget.

A few years later I was also to learn how confusing accents can often be: apparently, in the American Virgin Islands, sex is something they do in the sack; but in the British Virgin Islands, sex is something they carry stuff in.
 


Tuesday, November 10th

Hello children, everywhere

I HAVE probably said this before: I was born middle-aged, but with a juvenile streak.

That is why, of an early morning when I am at home or in the car, I listen in to DJ Chris Evans on his Radio 2 Breakfast Show.

Evans, at 50 years of age, appears to have bypassed adulthood completely. He went straight from the childhood of being a Radio 1 jock ― to the second childhood of today’s Radio 2.

So I listen to him with his Tarzan wake up call, along with his bells, hooters, claxons and canned applause which he uses to endorse anything insightful, witty or wise that tumbles out of his north and south.

It is a quite extraordinary thing to listen to, and with my juvenile streak it is the equivalent of plugging in an electric car for a quick boost ― and then I’m right for the day. I return to my default middle-aged persona.

Anyway, yesterday early morning, Evans was being his usual child-like self ... and I was perusing the Sunday Times Culture magazine’s TV & Radio listings for the day, as I always do ― and I noticed this...

Say hello to the Teletubbies

From the right: Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po

 

PICK OF THE DAY

Teletubbies
(Cbeebies, 7.25am)

Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po return in their first new episodes since 2001, romping on a greensward that is apparently a synthetic replica of their original playground. Starting with many “Eh-Oh!”s and a group “big hug”, a friendship-themed opener continues with footage (on a tummy screen) of children bonding by making hand prints, and then shows flowers blooming...

 

It was the “big hug” that set my imagination off along the scenic trail. The first thing that came to mind was new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to bring “a new kind of politics” to political proceedings in general and Westminster’s weekly Prime Minister’s Questions in particular.

Parliament was to be less Punch and Judy, more Richard and Judy. In other words, Westminster was set to become a world of “BIG HUGS”.

And of course, the greensward of the House of Commons seating added to the Teletubby effect.

So needless to say, I watched the Teletubbies on the children’s channel. And the more I looked, the more I saw senior political figures. For example, going from left to right, as in the above group photo...

Tinky-Winky: Who else but Mayor of London Boris Johnson ― and that triangular antenna on his head is the political equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle. Once people are drawn into the Boris Triangle ― well, they all become fully paid-up members of the Boris Club.

But I guess if the ghost of Groucho Marx is around, he would still refuse to join.

Dipsy: David Cameron, who appears to be heading down Doolally Avenue at a rate of knots ― and his antenna, of course, resembles a dipstick. In political terms it is Cameron’s middle finger expressing his thoughts apropos anyone who doesn’t see and do things Dave’s way.

Laa-Laa: Jeremy Corbyn ... not much to add, really, except for that curly antenna on JC’s head ― in political terms, he has a tail on his head, and a tail with a rather obvious and suspicious looking twist in it. Proceed with caution.

Po: Who else but Speaker of the House of Commons, wee Jonny Bercow. Po’s antenna resembles a stick used for blowing soap bubbles, but in political terms it is the equivalent of a Parliamentary Black Hole. If you upset Po you have to jump through it ... and probably never be heard of again.

But hark, it grows ever darker in Political Teletubby Land.

Here’s something wonderful spotted online and certainly worth sharing...

Teletubbies vs Monsters Inc
by marcelorse


Author’s Note: Please do not critique this entry or you will have nightmares this night

Mind you, it is Boris, Cameron, Corbyn and Jolly Wee Bercow who should be having nightmares. I mean, look who has just invaded their House of Commons greensward ― and I do not mean a grinning Chris Evans, top right corner. Yes of course, it is...

Big Bad Russian Bear Vladimir Putin.

And the one-eyed EU monster? Why, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker (his father was frightened by a dive-bomber, apparently). What is more, if Dipsy Cameron doesn’t do what Jean-Claude tells him, the sky in the form of a Junker will fall on his head, from a great height.

God, it’s all happening out there.
 


Monday, November 9th

MY first cock-up of the day ... this clickbait beckoned, see...
 

The Lame Duck Lamine Diack scandal will taint our joyous Olympics

If the former president of the world athletics body is guilty of taking bribes to cover up doping, we might as well rip up our memories of London 2012

World Anti-Doping Agency commission leader Dick Pound says Russia seems to have been running a “state-supported” doping program, adding, “I don’t think there’s any other possible conclusion.”

Ignoring the fact that it is impossible to rip up memories ― yes, you can box them up in the attic ― I’ve mentioned before how the eye part of my brain registers life, the universe, newspaper headlines and everything, a split-second before the make-sense-of-what-I-see part of my brain catches up and sorts it all out.

Hence, Lamine Diack initially registering as Lame Duck. Clever brain, really, in a roundabout sort of way.

Then I read this headline...

                      Putin tops competition

I gulped. Who the hell has he had put down now again? And has it anything to do with this doping scandal? Then I read the next bit...

                      Putin tops Forbes most powerful people list

Phew. However, mention of Putin...

When I left home for the first time to face the big wide world and earn a living, my mother gave me some advice, a variation on the Bible’s “Do to others as you would have them do to you”.

She said: “Treat everyone as if you’re doing business with yourself. When you get to my age you appreciate some things. Mostly though, that the wheel always turns full circle.

“If you treat people badly it will not become readily obvious to you the damage they are doing to your reputation behind your back ― until it’s too late, that is.

“However, treat people well and you will quickly become aware how willing people are to help you out, to do you a good turn, offer to lend you something without you necessarily even having to ask...”

My goodness me, was that a great truth. Indeed, Putin springs to mind. Most of the world understands that he was actively involved in providing the missile that brought down the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, with total loss of life.

And what seems likely to have happened to the Russian airliner over the Sinai desert?

Talk about the wheel turning full circle. With a ruthless vengeance.

Meanwhile, my personal health and safety watch gets more confusing by the day...

Cooking with vegetable oils releases toxic chemicals linked to cancer

Scientists warn against the dangers of frying food in sunflower oil and corn oil over claims they release toxic chemicals linked to cancer. They instead suggest olive oil, butter and lard as replacements

However, to kind of balance the books...

The best diet yet? Scientists say eating nuts, soy and leafy vegetables is the route to slashing your risk of heart disease

The diet, known as the Portillo Portfolio Eating Plan is packed with nuts, soya, leafy vegetables, oats, beans and pulses

You noticed that eye-brain error again. I read Portfolio as Portillo ― probably subliminally influenced by a clickbait from the Daily Mail  some 18 months ago:

Michael Portillo photographed leaving flat of young female researcher from television show Great British Railway Journeys who is 34 years his junior (but he insists she is just a good friend)...

Obviously old Michael is on a perfect diet. And he would probably really appreciate this headline:

                 12 amazing things to do this weekend in London

And this:

                 Three glasses of fizz a day ‘could improve memory’

And definitely this:

How BEER makes men better in bed: Expert reveals how a pint or two boosts libido and helps sex last longer

Dr Kat Van Kirk, a certified sex therapist from Los Angeles, claims...

I wonder if she’s related to James T. Kirk of Star Trek fame ― then I could say: “It’s sex, PussyKat, but not as we know it.”

I mean, after a few pints and some glasses of bubbly, we tumble into bed with Jessica Rabbit ― and wake up the following morning with, er, whisper it, Maleficent of Sleeping Beauty infamy.

But the secret is, cut out the bubbly, and then we won’t remember what we’ve been up to.

Anyway, with all these health and safety warnings driving us all doolally, you know my policy: everything in moderation.

But then, just as I was about to put my feet up and whistle a happy tune...

Eating “everything in moderation” is probably making you fatter

After five years, participants in the American survey who ate the widest variety of food had gotten the widest, gaining 120% more in waist size than study participants who had much less varied diets

So it’s official: Malnutrition is the way forward.
 


Sunday, November 8th
 

  At the going down of the sun and in the morning... 

 

Remembrance Sunday, 2015: The Queen led a service at the Cenotaph in central London, laying a wreath on behalf of the nation, while the Duchess of Cambridge empathised from the Foreign Office balcony. Prime Minister David Cameron was the first politician to lay a wreath of poppies at the base of the Cenotaph, followed by the leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP’s Angus Robertson (inset).  
(Above shared via Mail Online)

 

Jeremy Corbyn criticised for not bowing deeply enough at Cenotaph

Somewhat predictably the Labour leader was mocked on Twitter for his “disappointingly poor bow”, and that “his nod was as good as a wink to the nation’s blind bats”. The Left-winger, who has previously described the tradition of wearing a poppy as a “mawkish festival”, was using today’s events to repeat his opposition to all conflict.

He was mocked by some for failing to bow properly after placing his wreath. His hand-written message thereon read: “In memory of the fallen in all wars. Let us resolve to create a world of peace.”

Poor sod, he can’t win.

As it happens, I watched BBC1’s Remembrance Sunday Cenotaph coverage on the uninterrupted red button option ― avoiding presenter David Dimbleby, who still thinks Prince William is flying search-and-rescue helicopters ― and thoroughly appreciated the wonderful refrains of the massed bands, especially so the lighter musical touches during the March Past.

Watching some of the marching old boys singing along to The Quartermaster’s Store, Roll Out The Barrel ― and something to do with a private part of Hitler’s anatomy ― was very smiley.

However, back with Jeremy Corbyn, how intriguing it is, despite the half-hearted nod, to observe him slowly but surely morphing into an Establishment figure. In the past he has been mocked for his dress sense, not wearing a poppy ― and refusing to sing the national anthem.

But here he was today, neatly dressed, wearing a poppy ― and singing along with the anthem. Well, sort of mumbling along like a Womble of Wimbledon Common.

But how about the Duchess of Cambridge, above, pictured during the two minute silence? I have said it before, and I’ll doubtless say it again: when Kate goes about her official duties she has such a natural smile, which means she always looks so cheery and clearly puts people at ease. She makes it all look oh so effortless.

Yet, when she has to do solemn ... well, none of the Royals do reverence quite like Kate.

Oh yes, the other thing I noticed today ... not a single camera spotted within the March Past itself. Yes of course, they were all marching, arms swinging ... but still, how refreshing.

Finally, yesterday I shared the tale of the American youngster ― probably aged about 13 ― explaining his thinking with a stick picture of himself scratching his head, with a thought bubble containing the answer.

At the other end of the scale, a desperately moving quote spotted in today’s Sunday Times ― and this seems a proper day to share it:

  “You only get one mum and mine has gone.” Florence McDonald, 13, sends a public message to her father, who has admitted murdering her mother.
 


Saturday, November 7th

It’s a thinking game

TALK about smiling out loud. I spotted the following in Mail Online, and it definitely deserves to be shared. It’s part of a school examination paper completed by a young American lad...

For lateral thinking, read literal thinking

 

The American youngster, in explaining his thoughts, responds with a stick picture of himself scratching his head, with a thought bubble containing the answer.

I know the feeling. Sometimes, you just know the answer ... but you have no idea how you got there. My excuse is intuition.

Whatever, the whimsical ― and agreeably mirthful ― response has left the first-grader’s mother (pictured, inset, with the boy) feeling “proud” and certain that he is “going places”.

It has also gone viral after the mother posted an image of the answer sheet online.

Good luck to him.

And staying with the world of
educashun, this letter in The Times...

 

Bard is barred

Sir, Julian Fellowes [creator and writer of the popular and historical television drama Downton Abbey] says that only those who have been to university can comprehend Shakespeare’s plays.
     That would exclude Shakespeare, then.
Professor Norman Hammond, Cambridge

Touché, as they say.

Indeed, the letter leads me neatly to another Times  missive...

Dazzling Downton

Sir, The latest episode of Downton Abbey contained a scene with a principal character wearing sunglasses at the racetrack. I gather the year was meant to be 1925 or 1926.
      Sunglasses, however, were invented in 1929 by Sam Foster, of Foster Grant.
G Traynor, Dublin


Oh dear, back to school and university, Julian Fellows.

Yes, there is no hiding place with historical drama on the telly, what with millions of pairs of eyes watching every move. Or any sort of drama, really. And errors clearly break the make-believe bond between film maker and watcher.

I curse the one where a car has been on a long journey, or perhaps involved in a chase, and arrives at its destination trailing white smoke from its exhaust, a sign that the car has just been started up in cool or cold weather.

Meanwhile, on the subject of sunglasses.

Every day a day at school corner

The first embryonic sunglasses date back to prehistory when the Inuit peoples wore flattened walrus ivory “glasses”, looking through narrow slits to block harmful reflected rays of the sun.

It is said that Roman emperor Nero took delight in watching gladiator fights through polished diamonds or emeralds, playing with the image and colour distortion created by their lustrous facets. While they did not protect from the harmful rays of the sun, the concept of changing the vision through coloured lenses places these items as valid precursors of modern day sunglasses

Sam Foster did indeed start his sunglass company, Foster Grant, in 1919, and sold the first ever modern and mass produced sunglasses in 1929 at the Woolworth on Atlantic City Boardwalk.

So here’s lookin’ at you, Sam.

Addendum dated 15/11/2015

Detention after school

A follow-up letter apropos sunglasses, again as submitted to The Times:

Out of the shade

Sir, The Downton Abbey  characters were quite correctly portrayed wearing sunglasses at a racetrack in 1926.
     The glasses, known as “Crookes Lenses” were an unintended by-product of Sir William Crookes’s research on different chemical formulations of glass to find one that would prevent glass workers developing cataracts.
     By 1920, led by Wingates (a Wigmore Street opticians) sunglasses had become the height of fashion.
WH Brock, Emeritus professor of history of science, University of Leicester 
 


Friday, November 6th

Wales turning over a spring leaf

LAST Wednesday I featured a couple of eye-catching tree images showing off this year’s glorious autumn colours.

So I thought ... hm ... I should update the picture that takes top billing in my Flower Power Gallery, over there on the extreme right of the page, namely a horse chestnut tree in full bloom, looking remarkably like a map of Wales.

So I feature below a couple of images of Wales in its autumn colours ... the first taken at the start of October 2014, when the leaves were beginning to change colour ― and highlighted rather eye-catchingly by the rising sun...

 

                          
The changing face of Wales in Autumn, compliments of a friendly neighbourhood horse chestnut tree


The second image was taken near the end of October 2015, with the leaves about to take their leave ... captured with a flash to highlight the colours because the sun rises from the opposite side ― and from the other side the tree looks little like Wales, even as a mirror image.

Also, I thought I would add one of the above autumnal images to my Flower Power Gallery proper to compliment the one in full bloom up there on the side-entrance welcome mat.

So I’ve decided to go with the ‘dark’ one, with the leaves just starting to morph into autumn mode.

It has a certain mood about it with that rising sun catching and highlighting the tints and hues of a few of the leaves; and it has an ambience of nature preparing to hunker down for the winter that is heading relentlessly towards it from just over the horizon...
 


Thursday, November 5th

Out of Africa

  “A LOT of people still think I am black. Because of my voice and my hair, a lot of black people still tell me I am just passing as white.” Welsh singer Tom Jones, 75, who wants to have his DNA tested to discover if he does indeed boast black ancestry.

It’s a fascinating story. Tom explained to The Times  magazine that medical staff were confused when his mother Freda Woodward, who was of Welsh and English descent, gave birth to him in 1940 in Pontypridd, South Wales.

He said: “When I was born, my mother came out in big dark patches all over her body. They asked if she had any black blood and she said she didn’t know. I’m going to get my DNA tested. I want to find out.”

Now all that points to why I don’t watch television programmes like ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, where celebrities trace their family trees to find out precisely who they actually are.

Indeed, I have never shown any interest in tracing my own ancestry, although taking a DNA test to trace my genetic stroll through time would be truly fascinating.

After all, I too will have black ancestry. By definition, we are all out of Africa, most of us having followed the scenic route. Me? Africa ... the Pyrenees ... the Alps ... Scandinavia ... Wales...

But that is another story for another time.

As for my traceable ancestry ... look, hanky-panky is as old as time, and proper contraception in the form of the Pill has only been around for a couple of generations ― so in truth we have no idea where our family trees take an unofficial undercover fork away from the official.

I remember a landlord at the Crazy Horse once saying that while none of us have any guarantee who our father is, at least we know who our mother is.

But I challenged him on that because you only need to go back a few generations, and if a young girl had a baby ― or indeed an older singleton ― then often the baby would ‘officially’ be the offspring of a sister, or occasionally even the baby’s grandmother.

Sometimes the baby would be handed outside the immediate family. Crucially, the child would never become aware of such events. Shame and scandal in the family to be avoided at all costs, sort of thing.

Unsurprisingly, the immediate community would be aware of what had happened, but it would never become official gossip, only ever discussed in nudge-nudge, wink-wink, hush-hush terms. No red top journalism or social media back then, remember. That was the way of the world.

Even I am aware via handed-down gossip that some people within the community are not who they think they are. And when you become aware of it, it instantly makes a curious sort of sense.

So you see how easily our ancestry can be a minefield of known unknowns.

  “If Tom Jones turns out to be black and has been masquerading as a white man all these years, will we now have to call him ‘Uncle Tom’ Jones?” Clive Whichelow, of London SW19, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Meanwhile, behind the bike shed...

  “As non-binary, I am as female as I am not.” Sainsbury’s former pin-up girl Jack Monroe, 27, and a chef specialising in recipes for life, who has come out as transgender, makes a puzzling statement.

While on the subject of things “non-binary”, whatever that really means, I recall the other day smiling at Germaine Greer offering up her thoughts on the transgender Caitlyn Jenner who has made Glamour magazine’s list of ‘women of the year’: “Just because you lop off your dick and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a f****** woman.”

Reading Janice Turner’s column in The Times  today, she mentioned the spat between Greer and Jenner ― and Janice mentioned in passing that Jenner “still has a penis”.

Honestly. For a simple country boy like me, it’s all getting more confusing by the minute. Swing low sweet chariot, and all that jazz.

Imagine though, being able to make love to yourself. Goodness.

And Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times  doesn’t help...

More than a slapped limp wrist

Another one of life’s harmless little pleasures has bitten the dust. It is no longer lawful to make rude hand gestures to homosexuals.

A gay chap called “Tim” has just won £7,500 in compensation from a locksmith who, whenever “Tim” walked by his shop, would imitate a teapot or do that limp wristed thing with his hand.

The judge deemed this discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, even though no words were used. “Tim” argued that the gestures had tipped him into depression. This is the first time a case against a business of nonverbal discrimination has been won.

At the time of writing I believe it is still permissible to grin broadly at lesbians and frown disconcertingly at transgender people. But watch this space.

Yes, wasn’t the speaking clock called “Tim”? At the third stroke it will be precisely one minute to midnight...

Above, I mentioned Janice Turner of The Times. She began her column thus:

When in doubt, just blame the tidy person

It is the fate of every tidy person to marry an untidy one...

At that point I smiled because only yesterday afternoon I was listening to Laurie Taylor’s Thinking Allowed on BBC Radio 4 ― and he was discussing that very thing, a tidy person learning to live with an untidy person.

And he said this:

  “I’m horrible, I am. I deliberately mess up the things my wife has left around, untidily, in order to make it look even more untidy.”

That did make me laugh out loud. I mean, it’s the thought of what goes through the mind of Mrs Taylor when she comes across the extravagantly untidy mess she has left in her wake.

Do you suppose it has ever registered with Mrs Taylor? And I take it as read that she never listens to her husband on the wireless.
 

Wednesday, November 4th
 

♫  The autumn leaves of red and gold

WITH our recent beautiful weather ― at least in this corner of the world ― having finally broken down, I guess it offers up a perfect opportunity to reflect on this year’s extravagant maelstrom of arboreal colour. (I read that last bit in The Times  and thought it well worth a flash repeat.)

While the UK’s own vibrant autumn compares more than favourably with New England’s spectacular fall, here in West Wales we tend to suffer three problems.

First, given our range of trees ― unlike the dominant red-hot native maples of North America that is ― the UK’s colour extravaganza is quite a spread sheet.

First to enter vivid mode, back in September, was the horse chestnut ... and the last to splash out on the colour front is the oak, just recently gone native (see the photo from last Sunday of the two oaks on the valley floor directly beneath Dinefwr Castle). Consequently the early leaves are well and truly gone before the later trees catch the eye.

Secondly, the UK is exposed to the depressions ― and occasional hectic storms ― that sweep in off the Atlantic and bring down the leaves. But this year, high pressure has blocked the wayward winds.

Last but not least, the frost. Following a night of frost the subsequent warmth of the rising sun breaks the fragile connection between leaf and branch, which causes the leaves to fall in extravagance.

Mind you, walking along the edge of a south-facing woodland about an hour or so after sunrise on a picture-perfect frosty morn is quite an experience as the leaves drift gently to the ground ... like giant, multi-coloured snow flakes.

But this year, despite high pressure, the breeze remained stubbornly southerly to south-easterly, so no frost.

Normally, the joy of a traditional autumn starts to unfold in September/early October, when the trees just begin to change colour. And this year was no exception.

It is as if Mother Nature has gone round in the middle of the night with a giant palette on which there are blobs of lime, yellow, gold, orange, red, purple, browns... and she then proceeds to dab splashes of colour on the trees, usually around the outer edges first ... before slowly embracing the whole tree.

It is all rather beautiful.

As a bonus, and all down to this year’s extended autumnal season, I have witnessed two curious visions.

One morning, a couple of weeks back, through the mist of the Towy Valley, I saw something unusually eye-catching: a tree that was changing colour rather spectacularly from its outer edges in.

However, as I neared, I realised that it wasn’t quite what I had thought...

 


Autumn 2015 gradually unfolds in the shadow of Dinefwr Castle


Note at field level, to the right of the image, the marvellous eye-catchiness of that tree…

Actually, it is two trees. The ‘centre’ is a young-ish ash tree, still green and covered in seeds. And directly behind it, a mature wych elm (Ulmus glabra  or Scots elm), the only elm that is regarded as being truly native to Britain, and already a riot of yellow.

Quite an unusual sight.

The other memorable autumn spectacle is a clump of trees in Dinefwr Park, a cluster I have featured before and fondly think of as ‘The roundabout’, and all because folk are regularly spotted strolling around it.

Before the National Trust bought this land it was commercially farmed, quite intensively, actually, but the Thomas family who owned it had an interest in nature, particularly trees, and down the years planted lots of them about the farm.

Especially clusters of trees. But never planted willy-nilly. Oh no, planted with lots of imagination...
 


Autumn 2015’s extravagant maelstrom of arboreal colour on show in Llansunshine


Yes, the thinking farmer’s clump of some 25 trees; from the extreme left: sweet chestnut, sycamore, copper beech, common beech, sweet chestnut. The tallest tree, in the middle, at the back, is also a sweet chestnut. Near perfect symmetry.

To witness that kaleidoscope of autumn colours together in one Cinemascopic shot is incredibly rare. What is also noticeable, the sweet chestnut extreme right, which is shielded from the autumn sun as it crosses quite low in the sky, has retained its green leaves longer.

Wonderful sights to enjoy.

Finally, something truly unusual about this autumn: given that most leaves have remained in situ, how intriguing to watch them lose that “maelstrom of eye-catching arboreal colours” and morph into something surprisingly dull. The trees and their leaves have lost their lustre.

Who would have believed that in the normally wind-swept land of the west of Wales. In the land where there be lots of dragons.
 


Tuesday, November 3rd


...Blind F-bends directly ahead...

☼     ☼     ☼     ☼     ☼     ☼     ☼     ☼     ☼     ☼
 


Wicked Willie dreams of Fantastic Ms. Fanny

  “Just because you lop off your dick and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a fuckin’ woman.” Germaine Greer, 76, the feminist lioness, still fiery, still outspoken ― offers up her thoughts on the transgender Caitlyn Jenner, who has just made Glamour  magazine’s list of ‘women of the year’.  “I’ve asked my doctor to give me long ears and liver spots and I’m going to wear a brown coat but that won’t turn me into a fuckin’ cocker spaniel.”

Sometimes, just sometimes, an obscenity in its proper context definitely adds a little something to proceedings.

Anyway, Cardiff University has just whipped up a petition with a couple of thousand signatories calling for Greer to be banned from giving a campus lecture on the grounds of her alleged “transphobia”. Ho hum.

Rear-view mirror

A few days back, I featured a couple of curious clickbaits:

             
Nearly half men in London feel like crying once a month

             
Lesbian couple search for ‘dream’ sperm donor: intelligent, kind and no desire to be a dad

Now it
’s the crying once a month bit that’s a dead giveaway. So I posted an observation:

Have you noticed over recent times that men and women, in ever increasing numbers, are finding it more and more difficult to do what comes naturally and mate?

It is as if we humans are slowly but surely morphing into a third gender, turning asexual, androgynous, neutral, sexless ― or whatever the appropriate expression is.

So I’ve been wondering precisely what Mother Nature is up to. It’s as if the Good Lady has finally realised that we humans were ― are ― her single biggest cock up.

But how has she managed to stop us mating in such ever greater numbers?

Then I saw this clickbait in the Telegraph:
 

Britain’s oldest tree appears to be undergoing a sex change after 3,000 years of doing what comes naturally

Researchers discover branch which has suddenly grown berries

Now there’s interesting. Air pollution and acid rain from both industry and the combustion engine, along with chemicals and pesticides, are just some of the things under suspicion.

There is also growing concern in the scientific world that the fertility of a generation of men is being put at risk because a hormone found in the Pill is getting into drinking water.

Pollution due to the chemical, a powerful form of oestrogen, is causing up to half the male fish in our lowland rivers to change sex, research shows.

Experts believe the hormone could be getting into drinking water and affecting men’s sperm counts. They say sewage treatment does not remove the chemical entirely from drinking supplies, although the water industry insists there is no evidence of a risk to health.

Well, Britain’s oldest tree suggests otherwise: “They would say that, wouldn’t they?”.

After all, the oestrogenic compounds, the active ingredient in most birth control pills, winds up in rivers, lakes, estuaries and the seas ― and all this water eventually falls as rain and is sucked up by, er, our friend the 3,000 year old tree.

So the fish in Britain’s rivers, along with the trees in our woods, may be the aquatic and forest equivalent of miners’ canaries, warning us to take much greater care in the future if mankind is to avoid more dangerous threats to our very existence.

Mind you, it is now probably too late anyway.

Be that as it may, you have to hand it to Mother Nature. What a clever and painless way to rid the planet of her most problematic child. Just stop us reproducing. Convert us all into a bunch of wankers.

Finally, a letter in the Telegraph, which rather underlines the consequences of inventors and scientists coming up with clever things without thinking through the dumb consequences:

Walk, don’t run

SIR – Mr Rentoul asks: “Who has ever seen a police officer, on routine patrol, suddenly start running?” I well recall, as a young probationer constable, being told by my section sergeant: “Don’t run ― it panics the public.”
John Pott, Bognor Regis, West Sussex

That’s similar to the priceless tip to every paid slave when at work and desperate to take five: always carry a piece of paper ― preferably a file ― and walk briskly; then everyone will think you’re exceedingly busy and won’t rope you in to do a little something extra for them.

 

Monday, November 2nd

  “The sunshine of socialism, friends. I couldn’t think of a better prescription for what our country needs to break through the narrow, nasty, divisive politics of the Conservatives.” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the Scottish Labour conference.

I’m never sure whether Corbyn is totally bonkers ― or a really sharp political operator who is slowly but surely lulling the Tories into the pass where the mother of all ambushes awaits.

 

  “I don’t believe there is no such thing as a good Conservative.” Jonathan Coe, 54, English novelist and satirist.

Hm, Jonathan flirting dangerously with a double negative, there ― which brings me neatly to something just spotted in Mail Online…

How good is YOUR grammar? Take our 15-question quiz to find out whether you belong at the back or the front of the class

Academic John Sutherland, one of Britain’s most celebrated professors of English literature, is here to test, stretch, amuse and instruct you with his definitive quiz on all things grammatical

The test highlights common inaccuracies as well as less known mistakes 

As someone whose grammar and spelling is not all that clever ― hence my regular ‘Spell-cheque corner’ footnotes ― I did click and found the quiz quite an every-day-a-day-at-school experience.

As it happens, one of the questions was on double negatives...

Q8: One of the red-line rules still taught schoolchildren is to avoid double negatives. Is there any defence for two of the most famously chanted of our time: “We don’t need no educashun” and “I caint get no sadisfacshun”?

ANSWER: They are not, in situ, double negatives in the logical sense ‘neg+neg = positive’; e.g. “I haven’t not thought about this.”.

They are intensifiers or multipliers of the negativity ― something made clear by the choral chanting “no! no! no!” in the background of the Stones track.

Orwell hated the N2, and his mocking example about “not unblack dogs chasing not unsmall rabbits across not ungreen fields” is tediously cited. 

Double negatives do not, it should be remembered, obey the rules of logic, so “I don’t know nothing” doesn’t mean “I know something”, but notice that “not inconsiderable” does mean “considerable”, so here two negatives do make a positive.

But the following was the one that topped my chuckle of the day smileometer...

Q15: One for the Dylanologists. Is their man’s “Lay, Lady, Lay” an offence to grammar?

ANSWER: You lie down on the bed, you lay something on its flat surface (e.g. an eiderdown). 

The college-educated Dylan knows that, but he wants to suck some juice out of the demotic meaning of “lay” ― as in Dorothy Parker’s sardonic “If all the girls at Vassar* were laid end to end I should not be surprised”.

Questions
extracted from How Good is Your Grammar  by John Sutherland (Short Books, £9.99).

* Vassar College is a private, coeducational, liberal arts college in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, in the United States. Founded as a women’s college in 1861 by Matthew Vassar, the school became a coeducational institution in 1969.

In view of Dorothy Parker’s witty observation, do you suppose that the marvellously named town of Poughkeepsie was known locally as Poughkeepsie-Upsie?

Smiling off the day with politics, Boris Johnson featured recently ― and here he is again...

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge was passing ― and she thought:
“Hm, I’m no Princess ― but hey, why not? Come here, Kermit...”

Tanto Yensen photographs a male dumpy
white tree frog in Jakarta, Indonesia

Unknown snapper photographs a male dumpy
white Mayor in Old London Town, UK


Kate, that’ll teach you to kiss any old frog that catches your eye. But there again, give a frog enough rope...

Spell-cheque corner: ‘Tanto Yensen’, photographer, came up as ‘Yanto Jensen’, which will appeal to every Welshman with an eye for a good old-fashioned Welsh Christian name and a classic British car.
 


All Hallows, 2015
 

The morning after the Halloween night before



2015/11/01, 8:00 AM: Witch Way Lay Lane, Dinefwr Castle, Towy Valley

 

Stand and stare

A picture-perfect early-morning ... dawn’s thick mist slowly burns away and the rising sun lights up the autumn leaves.

Last night, up in the mist-shrouded castle, the Wicked Witch of the West counted all her witches out .... and then this morning she counted them all back in. Halloween done and dusted.

Just the cravat of a misty neckband remains, and soon that too will disappear into legend.

Meanwhile, deep in the castle dungeons, the witches are preparing breakfast and they are busily stirring their boiling cauldron:

(Caution: the following Simply Nigella “uplifting” recipe can seriously damage your health.)

2nd Nigella:
“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
 Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
 Richmond sausage, and thick-cut Danish bacon,
 Beef, ham, chocolate and oodles of sugar---
 For a charm of powerful trouble,
 Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

Bon appétit, girls. And Nigella.
 

 

Halloween, 2015  

 “I need to laugh more and drink more glasses of champagne ― even when there is nothing to celebrate.”  English actress Celia Imrie, 63, contemplates her next 20 years.

Yes, another outing for Celia’s splendid advice. True, I have no need to smile and giggle and laugh and chortle more, after all, my ho-ho-ho card is well marked.

However, I have a bottle of champagne in the fridge and this afternoon’s Rugby World Cup Final is as good a reason as any to open it.

Two reasons, really. First: Wales not involved (sadly), therefore that removes all the stress, so I can just lie back and enjoy with no prejudicial reason to celebrate or drown my sorrows.

Second: Australia and New Zealand are the two teams that probably deserve to be there and most likely to put on a good show ― Australia’s fifty-ninth-second escape against Scotland compliments of a refereeing error not included because the Aussies would possibly still have won in the seconds remaining.

So here’s lookin’ at you, chaps.

But before we get there, listening to BBC Radio Wales’s Money for Nothing (music from the Fifties through to the early Eighties) this morning, I heard this:

  “Demons are a ghoul’s best friend,” said a listener to host Owen Money, in celebration of the day ― to which he replied: “I shall use that tonight. After all, I am known as The Thief of Bad Gags.”

Well, the interweb declares both exceedingly old gags, but I had never heard them before ― and they definitely generated a smile.

Funnily enough, on the next programme along, comedian Rhod Gilbert in casual conversation, said this:

  “I don’t like Halloween ― Christmas, fine, but Halloween is not my thing. So, kids, DON’T call. And if you come round with flour and eggs I shall turn you into a cake.”

Which I thought was exceedingly funny.

And then this clickbait:

Earth set for near-miss with asteroid today

A ‘Halloween asteroid’ [a ‘Flour & Eggs asteroid’, perhaps?] will pass by Earth today closer than any other for nine years, according to Nasa


There was another so-called
‘near-miss’ mentioned in dispatches back on October 11. So it’s only a matter of time before one of those things has our number on it.

So, champagne and rugby, here we come...
 

   New Zealand 34 – 17 Australia


I thought the game a little bit flat, actually. Probably because the All Blacks were in charge from beginning to end and the Aussies were never really in it, apart from a brief flurry of action in the last quarter.

New Zealand worthy winners though.

Mind you, that Haka of theirs is getting more theatrical and OTT by the performance. At this rate there’ll be a drinks interlude before long.


PeeS: Yesterday I mentioned the underpants I’d spotted in Tesco with the curious ‘keyhole opening’ feature, along with the sticker attached which declared ‘new improved fit’.

Well blow me, this very morning in the Telegraph:

Fit to sit

SIR – I have just purchased a new pair of trousers. A label on them says “New and improved fit”.
     Surely this depends on what size and shape the wearer is.
Wendy Breese, Lingfield, Surrey 

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Previously on Look You...
Smile of the day 2015: Oct
Smile of the day 2015: Sep
Smile of the day 2015: Aug
Smile of the day 2015: Jul
Smile of the day 2015: Jun
Smile of the day 2015: May
Smile of the day 2015: Apr
Smile of the day 2015: Mar
Smile of the day 2015: Feb
Smile of the day 2015: Jan
Smile of the day 2014: Dec
Smile of the day 2014: Nov
Smile of the day 2014: Oct
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)

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)
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 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


Reception

You are here, way out west,
at Llandeilo

aka Llandampness
aka Dodgy City

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Previously on LOOK YOU......


Smile of the day 2015: Oct
Smile of the day 2015: Sep
Smile of the day 2015: Aug
Smile of the day 2015: Jul
Smile of the day 2015: Jun
Smile of the day 2015: May
Smile of the day 2015: Apr
Smile of the day 2015: Mar
Smile of the day 2015: Feb
Smile of the day 2015: Jan
Smile of the day 2014: Dec
Smile of the day 2014: Nov
Smile of the day 2014: Oct
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)
2009

2008
Sep to Dec '07

June to Aug '07
March to May '07

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

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Postcards from my Square Mile @
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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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