|LOOK YOU : JANUARY 2021|
It's back ... Sunday is knock-knock day
Last Sunday I excused myself apropos my regular knock-knock routine because it was - ta-rah! - 'Belly laugh day', and that deserved a bit of a nod and a wink all of its own.
However, missing it must have been some sort of premonition because - well, let English writer and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, 72, explain (as spotted in The Daily Telegraph):
"I am a devotee of knock-knock jokes and I am down in the dumps
today. A new survey has revealed that my favourite form of
childhood joke is on the way out. The knock-knock joke it seems,
has had its day.
Never fear, Gyles, I shall do my best to maintain the jest.
Carry On Knock-Knock!
They dyed with their bootees on
"Covid: Customers caught on CCTV fleeing salon mid-treatment as it is raided by police." Gwent Police received a report that Euphoria Tanning Hair & Beauty in Cwmbran, South Wales, was open and operating despite the current coronavirus regulations. CCTV footage showed people fleeing during the raid, while police found evidence of tanning beds in recent use and beauty treatments taking place.
Ambush at the KO Salon ... Euphoria turns to Crestfallen
You have to smile at the unfortunate lady fleeing with the towel still in good order. So I guess police would have wanted to feel their towels, rather than their collars.
Whatever, one thing invariably links to another - the customers at Euphoria fleeing mid-treatment reminded me of a marvellous Snowwoman captured as a thaw set in. I christened her, for rather obvious reasons, Twiggy...
Say hello to Twiggy before she melts into the undergrowth
I bet the ladies fleeing the police raid felt a bit like Twiggy, here, when they arrived home and looked in the mirror.
Incidentally, the owner of Euphoria Tanning Hair & Beauty has been handed a 1,000 quid fixed-penalty notice for a "blatant bleach" - oops - "blatant breach" of coronavirus regulations, with the customers fined an unspecified amount.
Talk about an expensive hairdo.
Getting on Gwynnie's wick
Boom time for candles ... "Gwyneth Paltrow unveils her new Goop scented candle called ... 'This Smells Like My Orgasm'!" Back in 2020, when Covid-19 was just getting its feet under the table, the now 48-year-old American actress caused quite a stir when she offered a Goop candle for sale called "This Smells Like My Vagina" - which quickly wafted out the door, selling at about 60 quid each - to be duly superseded with the orgasm-scented candle mentioned in the above headline.
I remember at the time a clear warning being issued: "Fake candles available online - reviews say most men can't tell the difference."
Anyway, I was reading the tale of Londoner Jody Thompson who was lucky enough to win one of Gwynnie's fragrant lady garden candles in a quiz. Back home, during a quiet, contemplative moment, she lit the candle and primed herself to wax lyrical about the joy...
However: "The candle exploded and emitted huge flames, with bits flying everywhere," she said. "I've never seen anything like it. The whole thing was ablaze and it was too hot to touch. There was an inferno in the room."
Clearly the earth moved for Jody, but not quite the sort of climax she was expecting. Indeed, it was suggested that it could have been the wrong time of the month. There again, it could have been one of those fake candles warned about.
I also noted what English journalist and columnist Rod Liddle, 60, had to say in The Sun: "I've got a bunch of candles which look a bit like my old fella, except slightly longer - 10 quid for a dozen, and they won't blow up."
Clearly Rod is not familiar with the blow job candle: you blow it out ... and it always springs back into life, as if by magic.
Talking of the earth moving, I tripped over this headline in the
I was a bit disappointed because it demanded a celebration of that famous Times newspaper headline from the 1930s which won a prize as the dullest printed headline: "Small earthquake in Chile, not many dead."
Perhaps the Western Mail headline should have read:
And we're back with Gwynnie's candles. Let there be light.
Letters from Middle-Britain - 17
Smart but not safe ... "Calling a motorway smart is no more convincing than a country inserting Democratic into its title. Or even, perhaps, United." Sir Michael Ferguson Davie Bt, of Bath, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.
A farewell kick under the table to old Trumpety Trump, I guess. Incidentally, intrigued by the Bt after the author's name - I discover that it signifies "Baronet": a member of the lowest hereditary titled British order, with the status of commoner but able to use the prefix "Sir". Every day... et cetera, et cetera.
Screen age kicks ... "Will the generation of children born during the Covid-19 pandemic be known as the 'baby zoomers'?" Nicholas Hinde of Felsted, Essex, in a letter to The Times.
Nice one - and sticking with the pandemic...
New wave ... "The new Brazilian strain of the virus should be called the BossaNovid-19." The Three Bs, in a letter to the Daily Mail (oh, Three Bs: that's Bob Boulton of Bristol).
Highland jig ... "The place to go in Scotland? Loch Doon." Beatrice Coleman of Staines, Surrey, in a letter to the Daily Mail.
Compare and contrast ... "The contrast between England and Scotland is revealed by the fact that whereas in England churches can open but golf courses are closed, in Scotland churches are closed but golf courses are open." William Burgess of Leeds, in a letter to The Guardian.
Seriously offside ... "Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson wants the Government and the public to 'cut football some slack'. The way footballers behave, they're slack enough already." John Cartlidge of Doncaster, in a letter to The Sun.
And another full house of wit and wisdom.
"I have just heard from a short swearer..." Vanessa Feltz, on her early-morning Radio 2 weekday show.
So I switch on the wireless - Vanessa now starts at four o'clock of a morning, rather than five, so I miss the first hour or so of her show - anyway, "a short swearer"[?]. My ears flap. Was this a diminutive personage who curses to excess? Or someone who barks obscenities in brief bursts of asterisks?
I listen with anticipation - but what she actually said, referring to a previous item that I had missed was, "a shorts wearer", d'oh! Apparently quite a few had been spotted during the cold snap, especially of the Postman Pat variety (and how handy that Pat can be male or female).
Coincidentally, such a person - "a shorts wearer", that is - was entertainingly interviewed on ITV last Saturday afternoon as one of an army of volunteers who had rescued the day's horse racing from the cold weather.
At the time I remember thinking that one of said shorts wearer's distant female ancestors had probably been hanky-pankying with a Viking warlord (these things burn themselves onto our genetic inheritance, indeed see yesterday's tale and photo of Andrew RT Davies and his unbuttoned shirt while out and about in the cold weather of south Wales).
Anyway, enough of "a shorts wearer" (it would be fascinating though to meet "a short swearer"), so let's move on.
I often play The Health Lottery. It's a quid a go, and you have to pick five numbers from 50, rather than six from 59 as with The National Lottery, so the prizes are much smaller, the top daily prize being 25 grand.
However, on the ticket it says this: "PLAY WED OR SAT FOR FREE 100K DRAW ENTRY." When I go online to check my numbers, across the top of the page is this message: "Congrats to our latest 100K winner: Ms Groom from Hampshire!"
That has been there for several weeks, so if I don't see my own name up there, I long to see the following: "Congrats to our latest 100K winner: Mr Bride from Wiltshire." Obviously Ms Groom and Mr Bride should then get together for a photo shoot.
Well, it tickled my old funny bone anyway.
Subliminal messages ahoy!
Female perspective, please ... "Would someone from the opposite sex (female), who I greatly admire, advise me why about 90% of women, particularly on TV, can only see properly in one eye, due to their very groomed hair hanging over the other eye?" Malcolm Davies of Porth, Rhondda, in a letter to the Western Mail.
Interesting, indeed I would also add this query: Why do so many celebrity women on telly wear such huge, opulent rings that to the casual eye look like knuckle dusters? Is it a subliminal message along the lines of "Watch it buster, or you'll feel this in your mug"?
By a kind of coincidence, Vanessa Feltz, writing in today's Daily Express, wonders why women are far more observant than men. She quotes Tony Barnes, Scotland Yard's only e-fit officer, who confirms that women, with an eye for detail, make better witnesses than men. Well, I feel I should stick up for us men, for example, this observation:
Since we chaps gave up wearing ties, I observe that the number of undone shirt buttons suggests how sexy we think we are - see television personality Simon "Sex Bomb" Cowell, 61 (below), with shirt unbuttoned like a prime beef version of Tom Jones...
Button up and fly right
Never mind things on the sex bomb front, here in Wales there's been a bit of excitement on the political front when the Welsh Conservatives appointed a new Senedd leader after Paul Davies resigned following a row over drinking alcohol in the "tearoom" area of the Welsh parliament building during lockdown - and the new leader of the Welsh Tories, for the second time, is one Andrew RT Davies, 51.
Andrew is married with four children and is a partner in the family farming business near the market town of Cowbridge, South Wales.
But here's the thing: last Sunday he was interviewed on the farm about his new role, in a snowy landscape, without an overcoat, with a couple of shirt buttons undone. Shiver me timbers, so to speak.
But was the subliminal message "I am a Viking warlord" or "I'm too sexy for my shirt"?
It really is a curious and joyfully doolally world out there.
A snowy day in Llandampness
Evolutionary query ... Fresh snowfall highlights how rare it is to observe footprints that point precisely ahead. Feet splay, often to extreme angles, and I often wonder why this evolutionary bias. Me, thinking aloud, as perfectly highlighted in this photo...
A curious mystery in the snow
Once you notice this curious trait, it's impossible to not wonder at how unusual completely parallel feet are. A quick look online comes up with this explanation:
"Most of us are born with our feet turned inward or outward. Doctors refer to this as 'torsional deformity'. This is due to the position we're in as we develop in the womb. The body often corrects this as we get older. Within the first few years of life, most of us are walking normally."
Well, observation of footprints in the snow suggests that most adults do not walk "normally", at least in the parallel feet department - being overweight or wearing unsuitable footwear is also sited, which definitely makes sense.
Do you suppose it has something to do with the switch from hunter to gatherer? If you had to chase your free lunch across the plains, then feet pointing straight ahead would be essential I'd have thought. Indeed that might help explain why an amusing one-time girlfriend called me "The Caveman" - oh yes, my feet show up perfectly parallel in the snow.
Anyway, and having enjoyed a bit of snow over recent days - I say enjoyed, probably because it's my Viking Caveman DNA kicking in, and it brings out the child in me - I rather liked these confused looking sheep, as spotted along my walk home from town...
A snowy day in Llandampness
say confused ... these days and years settling snow is quite rare in this
corner of the planet.
Belly laugh day
Tweet of the month from @SarahSurgey1: "My top 3 assumptions when the doorbell rings: 1 Murderer. 2. Police telling me everyone is dead. 3. The book I ordered about positive thinking."
Sunday hereabouts is traditionally "Knock-knock" day. This morning though, January 24, after a delightful walk along snowy lanes, I hear on the radio that today is - ta-rah! - "Global Belly Laugh Day".
I learn that it's recognised as an annual fun day, a day dedicated to celebrating the gift of having a hearty chuckle at anything and everything that tickles the old funny bone, where our sense of fun (as opposed to our problematic sense of humour, a different animal entirely) is given a good airing.
Hm, in other words: embracing the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade. Let's be honest, every day is Belly Laugh Day here on Look You, a corner of the planet where we accentuate the positive, et cetera, et cetera...
This all neatly brings me back to the above tweet. Me? I read
The Power of Positive Thinking years ago, so my top 3
assumptions when the doorbell rings:
Happy, belly laugh days.
Welsh dragon revisited
Confucius, he cautions ... "I thought I'd found an ideal mask, combining protection and patriotism, with a colourful Welsh dragon. I checked the label: 'Made in China.'" Harry Hudson of Chepstow, Monmouthshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.
How about that, a smiley addendum to yesterday's post about the Welsh flag being voted the world's coolest.
And when the pandemic has finally been seen off, and masks no longer required, crossed fingers, I'm looking forward to seeing, at a rugby international, this image in the crowd...
...but instead, painted in the form of a face mask.
Dragon try and conversion
"Welsh flag wins vote as the world's favourite." Headline spotted in the Western Mail.
Above, one of my favourite Welsh flag images, cleverly combining the nation's emblem with its love of rugby.
The Welsh flag has again been voted the world's "coolest", compliments of the grand finals of an international knockout tournament. Over the past few weeks, 256 nations' flags were pitted against each other in a public vote in the World Flag Tournament finals staged on Facebook.
And what could be cooler than wearing the flag on your face...
The Welsh dragon flag has been in use since 1485, but the official 3:5 flag was only adopted in 1959. Actually, the red dragon has been recorded in use as far back as 829AD, and generally believed to have been the battle standard of King Arthur (5th/6th centuries), along with other Celtic leaders, but dating back to Celtic times (when BC morphed into AD, an exceedingly interesting time to have lived).
I've always noticed when watching the Tour de France that whenever the cameras notice a Welsh flag along the route - quite a few of them, especially since Geraint Thomas burst on to the scene and went on to win the race in 2018 - the camera will zoom in for a close-up, which is not a surprise because the flag is exceedingly photogenic and, er, "cool".
- ' ""
lookin' at you.
Blowing in the wind
"In his inauguration address, President Joe Biden called on Americans to be 'different and better'..." A typical newspaper headline the morning after the day before.
Thursday morning, and I peruse the newspaper stand at my local corner shop to see how the front pages sum up the inauguration ... and I note there isn't a common theme, say how, all of 60 years ago, John F Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country" grabbed not just America's attention, but the planet's.
Reflecting on Joe Biden's call for a "different and better" America is a pretty pointless exercise - I mean, do we really think that the 74 million who voted for Trump in 2020 will decide, hm, let's all be different and better under Biden. Oh that life was that simple.
I didn't watch or listen to the inauguration live, just made do with highlights on the news, and it did strike me that the 46th President didn't say anything that tickled my R-spot, my Reality-spot.
Anyway, back with the newspaper front pages, here's what the bold print headlines had to say...
"Day of history and hope", declares President
As I said, no common factor grabbed the newspaper editors. And true to form, The Sun front page raised a smile.
But here's the thing: his inaugural address was 20 minutes long. Why so long? Churchill famously apologised for the length of one of his speeches because he'd not had time to make it shorter. Five minutes is long enough to say something relevant and memorable. A slice of humour wouldn't have gone amiss either, especially given Trump's two-fingered salute to proceedings.
If only Biden had smiled and borrowed a line from Casablanca, suitably updated: "Of all the democracies, in all the nations, in all the world, he walked into ours..." Just like the original, paraphrased quote, it would still be remembered 80 years hence.
Oh yes, one thing old Trumpety Trump will be proud of.
The crowd at his inauguration was definitely bigger than at
Joe's, ho, ho, ho.
Mr Clever and Mr Stupid - curious bedfellows
"Lord Sumption tells stage 4 cancer patient her life is 'less valuable' ... 'Who are you to put a value on life?' responds 39-year-old Deborah James, with bowel cancer, during debate over cost of lockdown." A typical clickbait following a heated television debate over the weekend - and it is fair to say that the sky duly fell on the Bad Lord's head, and from a great height.
At the risk of repeating myself: clever people do and say the most stupid things. Ponder the following exhibits for the prosecution...
Former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption, 72 (publicly telling a lady fighting cancer that her life is "less valuable" - he and others, doctors on the front line for example, may logically and rightly think so under certain circumstances, but surely you don't say it directly to a person with cancer), and English broadcaster and journalist Jeremy Clarkson, 60 ("fed up" with "whinging" parents complaining about unacceptable free school meals when he was sacked by the BBC for punching a producer because the meal he was offered was unacceptable).
Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock, 42, playing rugby with his sons in a London Park - not forgetting Boris, 56, and his recent bike ride - and the four members of the Welsh Senedd (Welsh Parliament) drinking wine at a Senedd tea room meeting, despite a lockdown ban on alcohol (none may have technically broken any rules but it is alarming that not one had the vision, wit and wisdom to spot the inevitable ambush).
And then I caught sight of English celebrity chef Rick Stein, 74, on BBC Two's Rick Stein's Cornwall, cooking some beef steaks in a Cornwall field, surrounded by a herd of inquisitive beef cattle (would you not like to meet the people who thought this a jolly wheeze?).
Back with Lord Sumption, one comment tickled my old funny bone: "Is the life of a Supreme Court judge more valuable than the life of a Common or Garden judge?" Indeed Judge, Your Honour.
Cleverness and stupidity are intriguing bedfellows, especially as the above exhibits are all male.
PS: Spellchecker moment ... the computer came to a stop at
Sumption, and suggested Gumption,
which implies that computers, in the clever/stupid analysis,
like the rest of us, are easily led. Amen (see yesterday).
Say a little prayer
"Is the word 'amen' sexist? Until a few days ago most people would have guessed that it probably wasn't. No more than the words 'omen' and 'acumen', or anything else with the word 'men' or 'man' in it." A rather intriguing clickbait spotted bobbing up and down in the passing parade - and it effortlessly generated a knowing smile apropos the bonkersness of said passing parade.
At the end of a prayer at the US Congress, a Democrat representative from Missouri, Emanuel Cleaver, 76, who is also an ordained United Methodist minister, took it upon himself to say "amen and a-woman". This was duly greeted with the sky falling on his head, with a rush of fury and accusations of "political correctness" gone mad.
Cleaver eventually had to say it was just a silly "light-hearted pun", indeed many rushed to his defence, pointing out that Amen is a Latin word that means "truly" or "so be it".
It's a great truth that really, there is nothing new under the
sun. I remember the following from my schooldays, all of 60
As to Emanuel Cleaver's "amen and a-woman", I would only
question why he didn't say "amen and a-women" for perfect vocal
and visual balance. Whatever, so be it.
Letters from Middle-Britain - 16
Made in China ... "A team of international scientists has landed in Wuhan to investigate the origins of coronavirus. Good luck with that." Simon Crowley of Kemsing, Kent, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.
Yep, that certainly raised a smile, given how China kept finding reasons to delay their arrival.
Rules confusion ... "The appeal to protect others by asking us to 'behave as if you have the virus' does not appear to be working. Would it not be better to tell us to 'behave as if everyone else has the virus'? This approach is certainly keeping me indoors." Roger Williams of Clitheroe, Lancashire, in a letter to The Times.
How wonderfully wise. Sliding off at a tangent, as is my wont, do you suppose those from outside his home town who know Roger refer to him as The Clitheroe Kid, or is that just my schoolyard humour?
Vacant vaccine ... "Why is the Government still planning the vaccination rollout five weeks after it started and not five weeks or more before?" Hugh Ellwood of Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.
I bet Israel, which tops the world-wide vaccination league by an arm and an arm, were planning the vaccination rollout five months before. To be fair though, England is way ahead of our European cousins.
Mind you, here in Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford is under fire over his 'go-slow' Welsh jabs strategy, see here...
Vaccination race ... "The First Minister of Wales recently stated that Covid vaccination was not a race or a competition ... it certainly is a race: a race to stop vulnerable people dying, a race to stop the NHS being overrun, and a race to lift the lockdown and resurrect our businesses and our sanity..." Tom Jenkins of Llanedi, Carmarthenshire, in a letter to the Western Mail.
Hear, hear. And on the subject of getting jabs into arms rather sharpish...
Toot-toot ... "To deal with the logistical problems of delivering the two jabs, may I suggest Lord Prescott be made vaccine tsar." Nicholas Royall of Eastbourne, East Sussex, in a letter to the Daily Mail.
Indeed: John Prescott, 82, a Labour politician who served as Deputy Prime Minister of the UK from 1997 to 2007, famously owned two whole Jaguar cars, and he became known as Two Jags; he also admitted having an affair with one of his secretaries, and he then became known as Two Shags; and finally, he punched some idiot in Rhyl, north Wales, who violently threw an egg at his head, and he then became known as Two Jabs, simply perfect to become the vaccine tsar.
Ooh arr ... "Perhaps the raven missing from the Tower of London has picked up a Corvid virus?" J. Luxon of Western-super-Mare, in a letter to the Daily Mail.
And there you have it, another perfect royal flush of wit and
wisdom, with a brace of jokers thrown in for good measure.
Sunday is knock-knock day
Yesterday, a nod and a wink to the imaginative use of words; today,
ditto, even if in a more child-like manner - but just as good.
Reasons to be cheerful - 1
"I may consider applying for a civil partnership with one of your yoghurts. I love them that much." Don Goodwin.
So I open the above pot - and there, writ large across the protective cover seal, the above legend ... and I did what I was supposed to: I smiled.
Now I have no idea who Don Goodwin is - but, also printed around the edge of the seal was this: "Fancy seeing your review of the good stuff here? Get in touch! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject 'my seal of approval' for your chance to be featured!"
I remember a time when the above sort of challenge would have been a competition with prizes, for example: "Complete the following with inventiveness and wit, in 18 words or less: 'Collective Dairy yoghurts are so good... I may consider applying for a civil partnership with one of your yoghurts. I love them that much'."
As to what I would say in response to the above challenge, well, I am currently blank. I'll have to sleep on it.
Historically, the top prizes for such competitions would often be things like a holiday, or a car, even a generous cash prize, and in return the companies would end up with lots of exposure in the media, as well as a raft of potential slogans that would otherwise cost a fortune through an advertising agency.
These days you simply have to call a number, which is expensive, but then winning comes down to a lottery - or, as with Collective Dairy, above, you submit an email in the hope of seeing your name in print, as with Don Goodwin (but, as far as I can tell, no prize).
used to occasionally attempt slogan-type competitions, and won
many a prize, mostly minor, runner-up prizes, but among my top
efforts were a sail board (never got to grips with the
endeavour), a night out with The Sun's
Page 3 girls (never got to grips with that prize either - that's my
story and I'm sticking to it), and a Concorde holiday for two in
America. Happy days.
Spot the difference
Conspiracy ahoy! ... "The media use the term 'conspiracy theory' (Columnist Daniel Finkelstein, Jan 13: 'Why does the US fall for conspiracy theories?'). It seems wrong as 'theory' suggests a scientific basis. This is very misleading. Therefore, I propose instead the more accurate term 'conspiracy fantasies'." Peter van der Hoek, Papendrecht, Netherlands, in a letter to The Times.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the street...
Conspiracy ahoy! ... "Harriet Friedmann (Letters, 14 January) suggests that we find an alternative to 'conspiracy theory', since 'theory' implies a degree of seriousness and veracity. She suggests 'conspiracy myth'. How about 'conspiracy bollocks'." Richard Burtle, Laceby, Lincolnshire, in a letter to The Guardian.
Those letters were, intriguingly, published on the same morning, meaning that one wasn't triggered by the other. "Conspiracy ahoy!", as the lead-in to both letters, was mine, given the common subject matter. So, we'll have none of that 'conspiracy theory' business, ho, ho, ho.
What's interesting though is that The Guardian letter has the feel of the saloon bar about it, while The Times letter has the snug written all over it.
As to the American conspiracy addiction, Finkelstein in The Times argues that America was founded on the imagination of its settlers but many citizens now believe reality is whatever they want it to be. Hm, from Gunfight at the O.K. Corral to the Apollo moon landings, from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump, Americans do appear to live in a curious make-believe world.
Talking of Nixon and Trump, I enjoyed this paragraph, compliments of Daniel Finkelstein: "When the Hollywood actor Ronald Regan set his sights on the White House, the studio boss Jack Warner quipped: 'No, no, Jimmy Stewart for president, Ronald Regan to play his best friend.' But many others thought Regan perfect casting after Watergate - handsome, a little bit cowboy but not too much, genial and uncomplicated. Regan himself used to say that he couldn't understand how anyone could be president without having been an actor."
Indeed, how different the last four years could have been if old
Trumpety Trump was an actor rather than a reality TV star imbued
with the bonkersness of modern celebrity.
Life can be a drag
"Ah, lovely listener, it's that moment in the programme where I dust the skirting boards of your soul in an attempt to get to know you even better than I do already..." Yes, Vanessa Feltz and the morning challenge on her Radio 2 show. "To celebrate Series 2 of RuPaul's Drag Race UK being on the BBC iPlayer from today, I want to know your Drag Race name: your star sign plus the last thing you ate..."
So the first thing that tickled my C-spot - my Curiosity-spot - was ... What the hell is Drag Race UK? (Later I went online: "Following huge success in the US, RuPaul comes to the UK in search of the most charismatic, talented and glamorous drag queens from across the land." Wel-i-jiw-jiw, as they say down the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.)
Anyway, before discovering all of that, and as I mentioned above, I was tickled by the notion of "your star sign plus the last thing you ate". Here are some of the responses to Vanessa's question: Libra Sausage, Leo Clementine, Gemini Quiche, Aries Lemon Puff... Yep, all very smiley.
Given that when I heard Vanessa ask the question, I was in the process of preparing some breakfast for myself, and 'Sagittarian Ultra Vitamin D' doesn't count as eating because you have to swallow the tablet without chewing (these grey days, my early-morning walks mean I rarely see the sun, so I compensate) - hence I had to think back to last night, and the last thing I ate... So, say hello to...
Sagittarian After Eight (which actually I ate just after seven). Yep, that sounds okay should I ever decide to become a drag queen.
Anyway, while on the subject of food, something else also heard on the radio: "Bread is a lot like the sun. It rises in the yeast, and it sets in the waist." Very clever, I like that.
Back with Vanessa, a week or so back, a question she asked of us listeners was this: "If you were blessed with a superpower, and you had to choose between being able to speak every language on the planet, or play every musical instrument, which would you choose?" Now that deserves a pause for thought...
Given that English is considered to be the world's lingua franca
and accepted as a global means of inter-community communication,
and that pretty much every country on the planet now teaches
English as a second or third language of communication, I guess
I would go for the - ta-rah:
- musical superpower. Now that would be a blast.
Boris gets on his bike
Covidgate ... "Johnson's Olympic Park bike ride 'didn't break rules': a storm in a teacup or eroding public confidence?" Downing Street has defended Boris Johnson for riding his bicycle on a "local" exercise run - seven miles from home.
Yes, the above clickbait sums up all the headlines in the wake of the Boris Bike exercise ride across east London.
The Daily Telegraph front page carried a wonderful pocket cartoon by the ever-reliable MATT ... Two farmers chatting in a field overlooking a lone cyclist on a winding road passing through what looks like the Scottish Highlands, and one says to the other: "There's Boris on one of his local Land's End to John O'Groats bike rides."
Ouch! ... "If he doesn't stop riding that bike of his to faraway places with strange sounding names, someone is going to stick it where the sun don't shine." Thus my pal Chief Wise Owl on the incident, adding: "But have you seen this picture, which challenges the rule about where the sun don't shine?"
Boris on a visit
to a Bristol vaccination centre...
Yes indeedy, Boris challenges the rule about where the sun don't shine, and that it really does shine out of his backside.
However, Boris certainly abides by one rule - well, today I had a letter on the subject published in The Sun:
"Clever people do and say the most stupid things. Boris Johnson is a smart fellow, but what made him take that bike ride?"
I mean, he may well have been technically correct and didn't break any of the confusing lockdown rules, but it really is a concern that nothing inside that clever head of his warned him of the inevitable ambush, and that the sky would fall on his head. And from a great height.
So beware all humans and inventions preceded by the word "clever" or "smart", because it is odds on that they will lead you further into the wilderness, rather than away from it.
Happy exercising, preferably on a bicycle made for two, with a guardian angel riding tandem.
PS: Spellchecker moment ... the computer came to a stop at
Covidgate, and suggested Cogitate. Hm, I shall
reflect on that.
Corrections and clarification ... "Vagina and vulva were both used to describe a sculpture ('Giant vagina triggers fury in Bolsonaro's divided Brazil', 4 January, page 25). Only vulva was correct." Spotted in The Guardian, yesterday, the 11th.
Well now, having not read the article referred to, or spotted the story elsewhere, I couldn't resist some foreplay - or a quick click, as they say online.
First though, I had to check and confirm the difference between a vagina and a vulva (I mean, I have been known to struggle to tell my arse from my elbow) ... Tick, every day a day at school. Next, said sculpture...
Yes, it's a huge, handmade 33-metre long hillside sculpture (108ft in old money), made of pink concrete and resin that looks like a human vulva...
There's, um, a rainbow round my shoulder...
Now that would look interesting sat next to Dorset's 180ft tall Cerne Abbas Giant with his impressively prominent 36ft erection. After all, what is good for Dorset's Cerne Abbas gander is good for Brazil's Diva goose. And I speak as a gosling, if you were to see what I mean.
While on the subject of corrections and clarifications, here's another spotted in The Guardian, towards the tail-end of 2020...
"An article incorrectly referred to a ban on 'new petrol and electric cars in 2030'; it is petrol and diesel engines that will be subject to the ban ('Why did it take nine hours to go 130 miles in our new electric Porsche?', 28 November, page 50)."
Never mind vaginas and vulvas, it's a very confusing world out there.
Thought for the day: If, come 2029, and you have a petrol or diesel vehicle which has some legs left in its wheels, but the engine is a bit suspect, make sure you order a new one before the ban comes into effect.
PS: Spellchecker moment ... rather unsurprisingly, the computer came to a stop at
Notari, as in visual artist Juliana Notari, and suggested Notarise, followed by
Five words that say everything
Vaccine hold-ups ... "The imposition of bureaucratic barriers to the recruitment of vaccinators exemplifies what is wrong with the NHS. It is badly managed and poorly led, not because the people are inadequate but rather because it is too big to be nimble..." Huw Wynne-Griffith of Old London Town, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.
I've mentioned before that as well as my daily paper, the Western Mail ('national newspaper of Wales'), I will regularly and randomly buy another daily, hence the range of letters I quote hereabouts, especially so the wit and wisdom featured under my regular 'Letters from Middle-Britain' banner (see a good one just a couple of days back).
The variety of views on offer reminds me to remove my blinkers. Mind you, the Daily Mail and Guardian view of the passing parade is as wide as the Grand Canyon - and yes, I'm the tiny figure down below furiously white-water rafting the Colorado River and hoping for the best.
The other morning it was The Daily Telegraph, and on the letters page was a perfect example regarding the vaccine distribution hold-ups across the UK, the lead letter from a very Welsh sounding Huw Wynne-Griffith, even if a resident of Old London Town - and the opening paragraph is quoted above.
"Too big to be nimble." Five words that sum up everything that is wrong with this confused old world of ours. From Facebook (too big to regulate the doolallyness that has overtaken the joy it was originally created to spread), to the EU (from the failure of Eurozone leaders to promptly deal with the debt crisis of 2012, the migrant crisis of 2015, and now the availability of vaccines across the Union).
That Britain was the first in the western world to sanction a Covid vaccine confirms how nimble it could be now that it was free of EU shackles and diktats. But then Britain's NHS has had its problems in recruiting vaccinators - well, we're back to something that is just "too big to be nimble". Game, set and match to Huw Wynne-Griffith.
Pause for thought:
Why such a fiercely independent and tribal individual like
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is desperate to join
the ever burgeoning bureaucratic nightmare that is the EU is one
of life's curious mysteries.
Sunday is knock-knock day
Letters from Middle-Britain - 15
Testing, testing ... "Our 'world-beating' test-and-trace system appears to have gone off the radar. Has it sunk without...?" Angela Lansley of Liverpool, in a letter to The Guardian.
Yes, why is Boris addicted to churning out meaningless phrases like "world-beating", something akin to arranging a face-to-face meeting with Nicola Sturgeon without being kitted out with a cricket box guard to provide protection to the, um, shall we say, pelvic region? I mean, just in case.
This won't hurt ... "Yesterday my mother-in-law had her first Covid vaccination. She is 83 and extremely vulnerable. Before the injection, she was asked: 'Are you pregnant?'" Dr Roger Onyett of Topsham, Exeter, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.
Hopefully the individual giving the jab did add: "I have to ask because it's a [cricket] box I have to tick." Or, on a lighter note: "This is the problem with everyone wearing a mask. You could be a highwayman - or more correctly, a highwaywoman - attempting to beat the system and insist that I stand and deliver."
Staying with vaccinations...
This will definitely not hurt ... "Having the Covid vaccine is a jab well done." George Valentine of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail.
I half-expected that letter to be compliments of regular correspondent Vincent Hefter of Old London Town. Whatever...
China and the virus ... "Please would someone explain why a country with apparently nothing to hide refuses to co-operate?" Elizabeth Prior, definitely of Old London Town, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.
Confucius, he say nation that shits on weighbridge does business on very large scale.
Blown fuse ... "I wrote to my energy company with a query. Ironically, I've received a letter informing me they do not reply to letters." Brian Best of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire in a letter to the Daily Mail.
Hm, Brian coming off second Best. But you have to smile - otherwise you really would go doolally.
And there you have it, five of a kind, letters that endorse why
the bottom-right corner of a letters page regularly underwrites
both the bonkersness and the joy of the passing parade.
Mother Nature working overtime
New year, no fear ... "We are all glad to have seen the old year out, so as we enter 2021, let's look forward to the positives and try to forget the gloominess of 2020. I have spotted snowdrop and crocus shoots beginning to show, as well as daffodils popping through the soil. In a few weeks we will be able to enjoy lovely gardens, roadside bluebells and colourful parks..." Thus the opening shot of a letter from a Myra Cope of Crewe in Cheshire, as spotted in the Daily Mail.
Myra Cope mentions the snowdrop and bluebell, but of course sandwiched in between the appearances of those two gems of nature will be the subtle beauty of the eye-catching primrose. And there lies a curious tale of the unexpected.
Along the narrow country lane I regularly walk, come February and I spot primroses in the hedge bank. Over the past couple of years I have noted in my diary the date I first register them: 2019, and it was St Valentine's, February 14; 2020, and it was a couple of weeks earlier, February 2.
This year - oops, this winter - I spotted a single cluster, all of five weeks earlier, on December 30, the morning of the full moon they call the Cold Moon, occasionally the Long Night Moon (it is in the sky for a full 15 hours, making it the longest full moon of the year).
Anyway, there was a report recently that emissions from vehicle exhausts are acting as a fertiliser for a group of rural 'thugs', aggressive nitrogen-loving plants such as nettles, docks and thistles, which outcompete traditional flowers and put them to the sword. But curiously the rush of nitrogen can positively benefit some species of flowers.
Now the spot where these newly-spotted primroses can be seen is in a sheltered stretch of narrow road, under an avenue of trees - but here's the thing: this cluster is at precisely exhaust height. Well fed by the nitrogen of the passing parade, obviously.
And here's a brace of photos I took on December 31, one up close, the other a wider shot confirming a sprinkling of snow on the ground, clearly a nod and a wink to December's Cold Moon...
arrives early in West Wales
a little snow
Climate change is indeed with us.
♪♪♪: Tweet, tweet-tweet, tweet-tweet
Neil Hamilton @NeilUKIP: "Nigel Farage goes from 'bloke' to 'woke' - he wants Tony Blair to be the Vaccine Tsar. Has Nigel lost the plot?" Neil Hamilton, 71, British politician, non-practising barrister and former teacher who is acting leader of the UK Independence Party since 2020. He is a member of the Welsh Senedd (Parliament) for Mid and West Wales since 2016.
Hm, so Neil must represent me in the Senedd. Every day a day at school. Also, I worry that he's a non-practising barrister and an acting leader of the UK Independence Party. Shouldn't he get a proper day job rather than all this practising and acting? Anyway, his tweet drew this response:
Paulski @GenericBlog: "If Tony Blair is the solution... then not enough dead people is usually the problem." Ouch! Taking the nation to war with Iraq over those supposed weapons of mass destruction is the sky that keeps falling on Blair's head. And from a great height.
Anyway, when I first heard on the radio about that original tweet from Neil Hamilton, I thought Nigel Farage wanted Tony Blair to be, not the Vaccine Tsar, but the Vatican Tsar - I seem to remember Blair, with much fanfare, being officially received into the Catholic Church back in 2007. There again, I am easily confused.
Staying with the world of tweet, tweet-tweet, tweet-tweet, I did like this effort:
Royal Armouries [the UK's National Museum of Arms and Armour] @Royal_Armouries: "We're recruiting a new Head of Marketing & Communications. Could your next role be managing this loose cannon? Boom-boom!"
Yes, okay, I added the "Boom-boom!" I mean, such an irresistible
Immunity from prosecution
The Truth About Boosting Your Immune System (BBC One TV, 9pm): "The 'immune-boosters' that actually work: A guide to strengthening the immune system during cold and flu season, examining some of the so-called 'miracle' products that claim to help." A BBC investigation reveals how to help your body fight off infection: six volunteers try to boost their 'gut diversity' in a comprehensive guide which takes in stress, drink, sleep, exercise, massage, superfoods and supplements that claim to help, in an effort to avoid prosecution by Mother Nature.
The pandemic has pushed our immune system centre stage. I spotted the above compliments of a Mail Online clickbait - and yes, a quick click and peruse ... exploring the latest science to reveal what we can do to keep it healthy - then a scroll down to the comments section for a smile and a laugh to boost my own immune system.
So, first up...
The Fish, Birmingham: "My grandad used to have toast with his butter! He gave up smoking in his late 80s! He lived to age 93! If only he'd taken his health more seriously he'd have lived a much longer life!"
Which drew this response...
Kraken Pair, Old London Town: "Good to see your grandad passed on his fondness for exclamation marks!"
Smile and a laugh? Yep, tick.
Seriously though, I read recently that nearly half the UK's population suffer from some degree of allergy, and even though I am no doctor or scientist, that suggests that half the UK's population has, not so much an immune system with a door ajar, but certainly a door off the latch for any passing virus or infection looking for a new home to push against and stroll through.
Also, I am taken aback how many people these days burst into tears at the slightest trigger (bereavement and watching your home and possessions go up in flames excepted, of course), which suggests that emotionally, there's a window round the back of the immune system that is slightly open for that dreaded virus to sneak through.
In conclusion, I
guess Mother Nature is focussing on ridding the planet
of her single biggest cock-up. Oh dear.
Letters from Middle-Britain
"POINTS OF THE YEAR ... Sometimes quirky, often witty, always sharp: your best observations from 2020"
As mentioned in a previous dispatch, my favourite newspaper visit is the letters page, indeed I think I have also mentioned that The Daily Telegraph readership rates its letters page the most interesting read in the paper, just ahead of the obituaries page.
I have selected just a few of the letters featured in The Sunday Times' 2020 rear-view mirror; actually, I may have featured one or two previously. Enjoy...
Galloping gourmet ... "In his A Life in the Day, David Gandy [40, English male fashion model], tells us he 'lives off coffee in the mornings', has 'something brunchy, like eggs, about midday' and yet gets through 'more than 4,500 calories a day'. What does he have for dinner - a horse?" Gareth Cox of Old London Town.
Child's play ... "Sarah Baxter bemoans the lack of books 'about how to resist the tyrannical demands of your own children'. Let me write one for her. Chapter 1: 'No.' The end." Brenda Gilligan of Lincolnshire.
Seventies revival ... "Speaking of the things that have been rediscovered in our lofts over lockdown, I found a crushed velvet dress from 1970. It is, strangely, now three sizes too small for me. My partner has not been able to rediscover any clothes from this era, as he is still wearing them." Linda Miller of Norfolk.
Hm, I feel roused to repeat a line from my Christmas Day post about my 25th December lunch of beans on toast with some scrambled egg for decoration (even though I eat quite well I never cook more than one course per meal, rather I enjoy a meal of many courses spread across the day): "It probably explains why my 39-ish-year-old FFWC suit (Functions, Funerals, Weddings and Christenings) still fits and sits like, er, a glove."
Meanwhile, back on the straight and narrow...
Parting shot ... "If we really have left Europe, why are we being asked to stay two metres apart?" Lord Archer of Cambridgeshire.
I am reminded of the letter in The Daily Telegraph on the 15th of December last, just before the UK-EU trade deal was agreed, from a Tom Merchant of Maresfield in East Sussex: "Does the EU agreeing to 'go the extra mile' herald a shift our way? It could have said 'go the extra 1.60934 kilometres'."
Away match ... "While the columns by Patricia Nicol and Martin Hemming were entertaining, in each case the most striking piece of information fell at the bottom: 'Gillian Reynolds is away' and 'Jeremy Clarkson is away'. Really? Where? And how did they do it?" Richard Hodgkinson of Sheffield.
have always thought that "Jeremy Clarkson is away" should read
"Jeremy Clarkson is a way over the top". And on that
Follow that gritter
True grit ... "Greta Thunberg, who turns 18 today [January 3], shuns flying but insists she does not mind if others decide to jet abroad..." Opening line of a front page article and accompanying photo, compliments of yesterday's Sunday Times, see here...
At least it helps illuminate yesterday's knock-knock joke: "Gritter who? Gritter Thunberg, your friendly neighbourhood Scottish road gritter: Drive if you must, I won't judge you..."
It is astonishing that Greta is only 18 - we have watched her morph from schoolgirl in 2018 to grown-up in 2021, and already she is one of the most recognisable faces on the planet (and named Time magazine's person of the year in 2019 for her activism: "I don't need to fly to Thailand to be happy.").
As has been pointed out, she has one of those distinctively plain but memorable faces that never shows her age, or any wayward emotions - except memorably when Donald Trump made an unexpected appearance at the UN's 2019 climate summit.
You can't help but admire her. Her mother frankly admitted that Greta starting the school climate strike all the way back in 2018 came as a relief, because it saved her from her eating disorders.
She has overcome autism, which has defined her distinctiveness and her immunity to groupthink and what her opponents have to say about her, facing up to people as diverse as Donald Trump ("Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill!"), and Jeremy Clarkson ("Shut up and go back to school").
Oh, and people like me making knock-knock jokes, even if all done in the best possible taste.
Of course Greta got her own back on old Trumpety Trump when he lost the 2020 election and she recycled his anger management tweet right back at him, clever girl.
"I don't care," she told The Sunday Times Magazine when asked about celebrities who fly around the world voicing passionate concern for the environment. "I'm not telling anyone else what to do ... And I don't think it's selfish to have children. It is not the people who are the problem, it is our behaviour."
Remember this from January 2020?
On second thoughts, Gritter Thunberg is most apt because she will have played a significant part in hoping to stop humanity slipping and sliding on black ice and crashing over the cliff the way those lemmings do, which funnily enough also live in her corner of the world.
More power to her elbow, say I.
Sunday is knock-knock day
Hope springs eternal
"Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come whispering 'It will be happier'." Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), British playwright and poet laureate during much of Queen Victoria's reign, from his play The Foresters - or Robin Hood and Maid Marion - and first produced with success in New York in 1892.
Ah yes, Robin Hood (c.13th/14th century AD), a charismatic individual who was both invincible and invisible at the same time. Every day a day at school. (Tick!)
"We may resign ourselves to a distinctly anxious winter and spring. Bad times alternate with good seasons and we must take both as they come and make the best of them." So said a Daily Telegraph leader on the 24th of December, 1920.
The wheel goes round and round. (Tick!)
"There are years that ask questions and years that answer." Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), American folklorist (one of my words of the year), author, anthropologist and filmmaker, and written in 1937; 84 years on and it seems perfectly apt.
Yep, there's nothing new under the sun. (Tick!)
So here's lookin' at you, 2021. And here's hoping you have lots
of answers up your sleeve.
New Year Resolutions
Fly me to the, er... "I am impressed by Sir David Attenborough's commitment no longer to fly and am happy to make the same promise - if and when I reach 94." Christopher Timbrell of Kington Langley, Wiltshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.
Yesterday I rounded off 2020 with three of my favourite quotes of 2020. Today I thought I would kick off 2021 with three examples, spotted on perhaps my favourite float of the passing parade, namely the Letters to the Editor corner of our newspapers, a source of endless wit and wisdom compliments of the Great British Public's celebrated humour and sense of fun.
And talking of flying with Christopher Timbrell into old age...
No party, please ... "The Duke of Edinburgh may well not want any fuss or major celebrations for his 100th birthday on June 10 ('If living to 100 earns you anything it is the right to not be thankful for it'), but I hope he has a laugh when he gets the Queen's telegram." Joan New of Salisbury, Wiltshire, in a letter to, again, The Daily Telegraph, the Telegraph being an endless source of amusing missives.
"Let's just say we have a rather reluctant celebrant," said a royal aide, possibly ducking to avoid a low-flying port-and-brandy glass. Hm, a reluctant celebrant? Glorious. That's me, from birthdays to New Year's Eve. Pass!
But what a shame the gods saw fit that Trooping the Colour, the Queen's official birthday parade, is celebrated this year on June 12 (held annually on the second Saturday in June), rather than June 10. Bugger. That would have been delightfully interesting.
Vetements de cheval ... "The French had Cardin (Obituary, Pierre Cardin [1922-2020], Dec 30), the British have the cardigan." David Nickson, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, in a letter to The Times.
Very witty - vetements de cheval, incidentally, meaning clothes horse - but here's the thing: in the year 2120, the smart money says that the cardigan will still be a familiar garment, but Pierre Cardin's futuristic and stylish designs of the day will only be accessed through historical files. Indeed, who will be the Pierre Cardin of the day in 98 years' time?
PS: Spellchecker moment ... the computer came to a stop at
vetements, and suggested vestments, or vest-ments in
my smiley world, which I thought rather splendid. The old
spellchecker never lets me down.
Quotes of the year
"Nothing in the history of disappointment compares to our seven-year-old daughter realising she's the daughter of key workers." NHS doctor Mike Hunter after schools were closed in March due to the Covid crisis - except for the children of vital staff.
That is my favourite quote of 2020. I empathise absolutely with that seven-year-old. Yes, I had a love-hate relationship with my school years: I loved the company and the fun of school pals - oh, and fantasising about the girls - but hated having to learn inside-out knowledge about things like Latin, Shakespeare, chemistry... Yes, I belong in the Mark Twain camp: "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."
"People who menstruate. I'm sure there used to be a word for them. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?" JK Rowling speaks out on sex and gender issues in June amid a monumental row with trans activists.
And the sky duly fell from a great height on Rowling's head and she became a cancelled person. This gets my seal of approval because, not only is it a period joke - both literally and metaphorically - but she has enough, er, balls, to stand up to the bullying of those who want to censor what we think and have to say on all sorts of subjects. Power to her opinions.
"News channels ... can we stop asking morons on the street what they think about things." Jeremy Clarkson urges broadcasters in September to stop the surge of vox pops.
What I particularly rate about this quote - and I speak as a regular reader of his columns in The Sunday Times - well, it's always a joy to read his, um, moronic but entertaining thoughts on the joys and the doolallyness of the passing parade.
And if this blog is about one thing, then it's about the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade.
PS: Spellchecker moment ... Whilst the computer never gave a thought to Wumben and Woomud (I must have used them previously), it came to a stop on Wimpund, which came up as Wimped, followed by Wimping, Impend, Impound and Wampum (white strings of shell beads, the origins of which can be traced back to Hiawatha).
Happy New Year!
Huw and Smile 2020: December
Huw and Smile 2020: November
Huw and Smile 2020: October
Huw and Smile 2020: September
Huw and Smile 2020: August
Huw and Smile 2020: July
Huw and Smile 2020: June
Huw and Smile 2020: May
Huw and Smile 2020: April
Huw and Smile 2020: January to March
Huw and Smile 2019: October to December