|9: LOOK YOU : SEPTEMBER 2020|
Meet a schattenparker, i.e. yours truly!
German manhood ... "I note with interest that Carol Midgley [journalist, feature writer and columnist] is keen to encourage men to sit down when urinating, citing the German word for a man who does so (sitzpinkler) in support. However, she may wish to know that this is one among many German insults for a male who is seen as not manly enough. Others are..." Rachel Bochenski of Old London Town, in a letter to The Times.
As the notice in the gents of a local pub from yesteryear memorably instructed: "We aim to please. You aim too, please." Whatever, I like the sound of sitzpinkler - the online dictionary says "sit pissers" - however, I still pee standing up, phew. And here are other German words mentioned by Rachel...
someone who doesn't like cold showers...
Rachel adds that "no German worth his salt would want to be any of those" words. Oh dear, I must be a pepper man then as I am all schattenparker because, come the summer months, I always try to park in the shade of buildings or trees when I go shopping or similar. Oh, and I'm not keen on cold showers.
However, I have never taken luggage to the airport the night before - but I do turn up at prearranged appointments anything up to 15 minutes before time, if only to avoid the hassle and stress of being delayed along the way.
Pepper it is, then.
Spellchecker moment ... einchecker popped up as
unchecked, which is rather good when you ponder that the
German word is to do with checking in luggage at the airport.
Missing in action, presumed, er... again!
Rule of six ... "Wedding ceremonies and receptions with up to 15 people are currently allowed to go ahead in England, while hunting and grouse shooting groups can continue to hold gatherings of up to 30 people." Any gathering of more than six people in England is now illegal unless it meets one of the exemptions ... two cited in the headline featured here.
I mention England because all four UK nations appear to have their own confusing rules of six, which proceed to give us all a headache as we attempt to read between the numbers. However, where there's a will there's a way - or perhaps more correctly, where there's a willy, there's a way...
Shootout ... "I'm not normally one to grouse, but can you still invite 30 people to a shotgun wedding?" Tim Lidbetter of Kingston upon Thames, Old London Town, pens a wonderfully witty letter to The Guardian.
Meanwhile ... I've been missing in action - again - for a few
days. This time not the computer, but there was a sort of glitch
between my web site and the host. Hopefully now all sorted and
Small earthquake, dull headline
"Leighton Buzzard hit by two earthquakes in one day, the third and fourth in two weeks. Nobody injured." The Bedfordshire town has been hit by two aftershocks in the space of a few hours - two weeks after the first 3.5 magnitude earthquake rattled homes.
The "nobody injured" in the above headline reminded me of the celebrated "Small earthquake in Chile" newspaper headline from the 1930s. It was speculated that English journalist Claud Cockburn (1904-1981), famous for his saying "believe nothing until it has been officially denied", and working as a sub-editor at the time, made up the headline.
However, in his autobiography A Time of Trouble he described how the sub-editors on the London Times invented a competition with a small prize to see who could write the dullest headline.
It had to be a genuine headline, that is to say one which was printed in the next morning's newspaper. Cockburn added: "I won it only once, with a headline which announced: 'Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead'."
Which brought to mind a quote from the Bible, Luke 21:11, which sits comfortably in these troubled times: "Great earthquakes shall be in diverse places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven."
Oh dear, lots of those around, and one day they will all arrive together - and that will be that. God 0 - the Devil 1.
In the meantime, we should be grateful for small earthquakes.
Up the creek
Peerless plum ... "Giles Coren (Comment, Sep 19, and letters, Sep 22 & 23) refers to the humble damson as 'a small, shittier, plum'. I disagree entirely: it is a delicacy around which numerous dishes have been woven, including damson crumble, damson cheese, magret de canard aux quetsches, tarte aux quetsches, clafoutis aux quetsches, zwetschkenknodel, zwetschkendatschi..." The tasteful opening shot of a letter to The Times, from a Michael Mackenzie of Old London Town.
The elegant juxtaposition of the above letter in response to Giles Coren's common or garden language is rather wonderful. Michael Mackenzie goes on to list in his letter other wonderfully looking and sounding dishes.
I didn't read the Coren article referred to - I rarely do read him because his rather vulgar writing style suggests the sort of person I would not choose to sit next to on a flight to the other side of the world, so why waste time reading him? And anyway, you would think that a columnist for The Times would have a more stylish and amusing way of describing an unacceptable plum in his mouth, rather than just "shitty".
However, perhaps he originally wrote "a small, Schittier, plum" - see my Emmy Awards post re Schitt's Creek from just a couple of days back - and his computer's autocorrect changed it back to "shittier".
Or am I the one up the creek without a chuckle?
Every day a day at school - 3
"The hidden plastics in your teabags: in incredibly worrying news for serial tea drinkers, tea bags have been found to contain particles of plastics." Unbeknown to tea drinkers across the country, tea manufacturers have been using plastic in teabags. Scientists have now discovered that this plastic is shedding micro particles by the billions straight into our hot cups of tea, and then into our bodies.
Perusing the above clickbait reminded me that I had heard this curious news before, that as of September 2019, around 96% of the tea bags used in the UK contain non-biodegradable polypropylene fibres woven into the bags. Unsurprisingly there was a Fred and Ginger, a song and dance, a fuss - so much so that manufacturers are now hastily converting to fully plant-based and biodegradable tea bags.
It seems that PG Tips and Yorkshire Tea are currently leading the way, replacing the oil-based plastic with a plant-based plastic, PLA, a biodegradable bio plastic.
But for goodness sakes, why would they need to use plastic in a tea bag in the first place? And then I happened to hear a science programme on the radio where the question was asked, and this was the response:
"When you pour boiling water over your tea bag, what do you do next? That's right. Most of us will use a spoon to squeeze the tea bag against the side of the cup to lure out all the strength and flavour. And of course the tea bags were simply splitting apart, which made a real mess of your cuppa, generating lots of complaints - hence the use of plastic to seal the bags and make them more robust."
And yes ... I nodded and smiled, for I do that. I also squeeze all the liquid out of the tea bag before disposing of it into the food recycling bag. And suddenly you realise why tea bags needed to be reinforced. But at what cost to our bodies and the environment? Oh dear, another paragraph added to humanity's ever lengthening suicide note.
Yep, every day really is a day at school - just as yesterday.
Missing in action, presumed, er...
"In the Emmy Awards 2020, Shit's Creek opened the ceremony in historic form as it sweeps the comedy categories and won the first seven gongs of the night, including Outstanding Comedy Series." Heard on Radio 2's early-morning news bulletin last Monday - and my ears blinked, or flapped, or whatever they do when they're caught by surprise!
Now I'd never heard of Shit's Creek ... and thought it a rather wonderfully rude title for a sitcom, especially one from Canada - oh, and hearing it said on the BBC news first thing in the morning added to the agreeability quotient.
Only later when I went online did a clickbait enlighten me that it is actually Schitt's Creek. And I did a wonderfully smiley "D'oh!". What a clever title for a comedy programme. And I must catch sight and sound of it.
Anyway, I've been missing in action ... a week ago my computer went dead, no power. So I rang my friendly local shop where I buy everything computer related - who thought it sounded like a dud PSU (power supply unit). So I dropped it in for repair. They had just used up the last unit in stock and had to order the part, which took longer than it should because of Covid-related delays ... they also gave the machine a service.
When collecting it I mentioned that my PC, a traditional desk/tower version, which perfectly suits my needs, is actually now in its 11th year, and this was the first major breakdown suffered (minor glitches and frustrations excluded). Andrew, the boss, said that the average life of the type of tower computer I have is four years, so we both agreed that the machine has served me well.
I then told him what an engineer once told me many moons ago: that any piece of equipment - camera, video recorder (which dates the tale), lawn mower, car, lorry, tractor, whatever - that is operated by just the one individual, will last at least twice as long before anything goes seriously wrong. And we both smiled that my computer - I'm the only one that works on it - endorses that astute observation by said engineer.
I guess it really is a great truth that a machine gets used to the way a unique user operates it, and in its own little way, anticipates and handles the routine and rhythm of everything that comes its way.
Every day is indeed a day at school.
Tour de France ahoy!
"They are riding into a headwind. Observe the tops of the poplar trees flanking the road - other trees are available, but clearly these are quite popular." Carlton Kirby, Eurosport's principal cycling commentator, delivers a typically amusing line along Stage 14 of the Tour de France (Clermont-Ferrand to Lyon, all 197 kilometres of it - or 122 miles, as we say here in Llandampness).
Carlton Kirby is great company along these lengthy bike races. His humour ranges flamboyantly between the playground and the school staff room. I particularly like his "other trees are available", a dig at that horribly overused expression heard pretty much on every other radio and television programme. Can they please stop it?
Staying with Le Tour...
I am no artist (that's in painting, not as in piss-, although some will challenge that assumption), and as I have mentioned hereabouts previously, I enjoy watching on BBC4 The Joy Of Painting with Bob Ross (see here). As you will also gather from the above, I enjoy following the Tour de France, and this year, for the first time ever, I have been well and truly mesmerised by the extraordinary light and shade of the magnificent mountains that are such a glorious background canvas to the race.
Between Le Tour and its participants, along with Carlton Kirby and Bob
Ross, I really am enjoying 2020's
curiously bizarre race with Covid-19 hanging over it like a
black sky waiting to fall on everyone's
Ambush just ahead!
"The trick to social distancing is acting like your mother-in-law's around every corner." Health advice from Stockport council - unsurprisingly the sky duly fell on the council's head from a great height, and it has now apologised.
Oh dear, mouth in gear, brain in neutral. Now how does the adage go? Engage brain before mouth.
"And how would you like your hair cut today, sir?" goes a joke as old as a barber's pole. "In complete silence," comes the answer. Officials at a job centre in Stroud took exception to an advert placed by a local salon keen to recruit a new "happy" stylist because it discriminated against "unhappy" people - which, strictly speaking, it does. Just as an ad for a sociable bar tender discriminates against someone who doesn't like people. Or an athletic gym instructor against an unfit and overweight smoker.
Whatever, just like Stockport council, the job centre in Stroud duly acknowledged it had made a mistake.
What would I do without so much joy and doolallyness and
mothers-in-law around every corner?
Proceed with care - asterisk-free zone ahead...
"Can you imagine telling Picasso what had to be in his fucking paintings!" Kirstie Alley, 69, American actress and spokesmodel (sic), hits out at the Oscars over their new "representation and inclusion" rules for Best Picture Film hoping to win top prize, insisting that filmmakers will have to hire more black, female, LGBTQ or disabled cast and crew, and address themes that affect these communities.
I fondly remember Kirstie as Rebecca Howe in the sitcom Cheers, a role for which she won an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe as the neurotic corporate executive, i.e. the bar manager. After three years of suppressed attraction for barman Sam, the two have sex in the Cheers office, leaving it wrecked. Sigh, the best I achieved was a slightly torn bed sheet - whatever...
Continuing along the asterisk-free zone, I was reading about Kim Darroch, 66, who resigned as British ambassador to America last year after his unflattering remarks about Donald Trump became public (he labelled the Trump administration "clumsy and inept" - and Trump in turn branded him "stupid" - you know, typical schoolyard stuff), and reveals a novel method of grabbing Boris Johnson's attention.
In a memoir, Collateral Damage, Darroch recalls visiting a Boston restaurant with foreign secretary Johnson when their party was spotted: "We heard, in an unmistakeably British accent, the cry, 'Hey Boris, you fucker!'"
Darroch, now a peer, explained to their startled and somewhat alarmed American bodyguards that this was a traditional British greeting of friendliness, indeed a goodwill greeting often heard in the Asterix Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon. Mind you, in Boris's case, the greeting could have referred to his inability to keep his rocket in his pocket.
Anyway, if only Jeremy Corbyn had greeted Boris Johnson thus during
their exchanges in the House of Commons, it would have made it
much more entertaining.
Woke on the wild side
"A woke joke isn't going to be very funny." Monty Python star John Cleese, 80, says political correctness is stifling comic creativity.
Oh I don't know - I rather like these...
"I keep hearing the term LGBTQ+. But asking what it means, I can
never get a straight answer."
Actually, I added the Welshman - I didn't want to miss out on the traditional opening line to a good joke. For example, and bearing in mind political correctness and sexism...
An Irish woman (First Minister Arlene Foster), a Welshman (First
Minister Mark Drakeford), a Scottish woman (First Minister
Nicola Sturgeon), and an Englishman (Prime Minister Boris
Johnson), are standing at the top of Ben Nevis. Arlene Foster
throws her hands in the air and shouts "This is for my country!"
- and jumps off the cliff. Mark Drakeford throws his hands in
the air and shouts "This is for my country!" - and follows
Arlene over the edge. Nicola Sturgeon shouts "This is for
Scotland!" - and pushes Boris over the cliff.
Letters from Middle-Britain - 8
How ironic, because as I write, AstraZeneca pauses its trial of Oxford University's coronavirus vaccine after an unexplained illness in a volunteer. Something not unexpected in such trials, apparently, but it does put a huge question mark against Russia's announcement that they have a vaccine ready, willing and able.
Dead man walking ... "'Police shoot dead man...' says your headline (5 September). Have they run out of live ones? One for Pedanticus, I think." Val Spouge of Braintree, Essex, in a letter to The Guardian.
Shades of the Lynne Truss bestseller, Eats, Shoots and Leaves. On another front, someone does need shooting, metaphorically speaking...
Baby it's cold outside ... "Has Ed Sheeran lost his mind, naming his baby daughter Lyra Antarctica? Her life will be a misery at school." Bernard Granger in a letter to The Sun.
It's not clear why Sheeran and partner Cherry Seaborn named their child - full name Lyra Antarctica Seaborn Sheeran - after Antarctica. Someone amusingly suggested that they named their daughter after the place of conception, but the ice-covered landmass, the site of the geographic South Pole, is virtually uninhabited and surrounded by the rather stormy Southern Ocean. Hm, perhaps Seaborn is a clue...
Be all that as it may, it adds to the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade.
Finally, yesterday I featured England footballers Phil Foden and
Mason Greenwood caught offside the naughty line in
Iceland. Well now, a neat letter in The Sun, from a Pete
Kane of Leyton, East London: "I think I am missing out on
life. I go to Iceland in Leytonstone at least once a week and I
have never seen ladies in there like the ones Greenwood and
Foden were meeting."
"Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth." The England footballer and Manchester United captain Harry Maguire, 27, who is appealing against a conviction in Greece for assault, resisting arrest and attempted bribery, cites Buddha as an authority and a last line of defence (Maguire, like Buddha, plays as a central defender, so it should all be second nature).
When I read the above, the first thing that came to mind was Catherine Howe's marvellous 1975 song Harry - "There's the sun, the moon and Harry..." - re-released in 1984 due to public demand with the birth of Prince Harry, which is delightfully ironic given the current brouhaha surrounding Harry and Meghan.
Anyway, perhaps the song should again be re-released in support of Harry Maguire. I wonder though what Buddha would make of it all. And just as if England manager Gareth Southgate didn't have enough on his plate with the sun, the moon and Harry Maguire, the England team play a friendly over in Iceland - and the sky falls on many heads with this headline:
"England football stars caught in 'inappropriate' virus breach with models." Phil Foden, 20, and Mason Greenwood, 18, have been sent home and fined by Icelandic police for a "serious" breach of coronavirus protocols while in camp with the England international side.
The above rather winningly spotted on the website Yahoo Sport.
Asked if the duo had invited the Icelandic beauty queen Nada Sif Lindal Gunnarsdottir, 20, and her cousin Laura Clause, 19, to their rooms, as a local website claimed, the England manager said he was "still getting to grips with the details of the incident", which strikes me as a rather unfortunate choice of words.
Also, a Bentham wittily commented online: "I'd be careful about having a dalliance with a woman called Sif", but I guess with a woman called Clause you could say that the lads thought all their Christmases had come at once. And then this full moon headline appears in Mail Online:
"Shamed England stars Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood return to the UK as it emerges they tried to sneak FOUR women into Iceland quarantine hotel - and photo shows midfielder exposing his backside to one of them."
Ah yes, joy and doolallyness all over the shop - and it all
neatly takes us back to where we came in: "Three things
cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth."
Sunday is knock-knock day
"So this fellow is chugging along in his lorry, and he registers in his rear-view mirror a car flashing its lights ... and tooting its horn ... and flashing its lights... So the lorry driver stops, climbs out and goes back to the car, which has also pulled up behind him: 'What's the problem, chief?' 'You're losing your load!' The lorry driver rolls his eyes, sighs and says: 'I'm a gritter.'" A great joke heard on the radio this morning.
I know a local council worker who drives one of those yellow gritting lorries - you know, the ones adorned with marvellous names like Alexander the Grit, Snow White, Usain Salt, Basil Salty, Brad Grit, David Plowie, oh, and the glorious Gritsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Anti-Slip Machinery - and I can't wait to tell him the joke, although I guess he will already know it.
Funnily enough, whenever I see a gritting lorry doing its thing I'm reminded of one of my favourite TV ads, from the 1960s, back in the day when telly was in black and white.
It's an American ad, and it's a dark and snowy night, a man leaves the house, climbs into his car and drives through a blizzard. You can just about see through the grainy gloom that the car is a Beetle, and as he's driving along, one of those distinctively laid-back American voice-overs ponders aloud: "Have you ever wondered how the man who drives the snowplough ... drives to the snowplough? This one drives a Volkswagen. So you can stop wondering."
So there you have it, everything a good joke, a good name and a
good ad should be. Actually, I wonder if there's a gritter out
there bearing the designation True Grit. There certainly should
be. Even a Rooster Meltdown.
Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow witted
"Will the new series of Strictly have to practise social dis-dancing?" Vincent Hefter of Old London Town, and a master of the witty word-play, in a letter to the Daily Mail.
On the subject of social distancing, Hilary Rose in The Times told the tale of a friend (of a friend of a friend?) reporting on conflicted attitudes on a BA flight from Greece. With BA desperate to recoup its lockdown losses, the passengers were "crammed in like sardines" for the four-hour flight, although everyone was wearing masks. On landing, the flight attendants reminded all the passengers to observe strict two-metre social distancing as they disembarked. Ho-hum.
Meanwhile, on a TUI Airways flight:
"The flight was full of selfish 'covidiots' and an inept crew who couldn't care less." Passenger Stephanie Whitfield describes a flight from the Greek island of Zante to Cardiff which led to 200 passengers having to self-isolate after some of those travelling tested positive for Covid-19. Another passenger, Nigel Harris, felt that everyone behaved reasonably well, including the crew. Ho-hum.
On another battlefront, Boris is desperate to get everyone back to the office and their desk, but politicians continue to display their inability to think outside the box (and I don't mean box as in what cricketers wear, although, mention of Boris...):
Back to school by bus ... "I would have thought that if the Government was serious about getting people back to the office, it wouldn't have had a Cabinet minister telling us about it from his study at home." Simon Morpuss of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph. Ho-hum.
Spellchecker moment ... covidiots popped up as
co-idiots, which was rather good.
Joy and doolallyness around every corner
"Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift." Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born wizard of physics and philosophy.
Yesterday it was a U-turn around every corner; today it's joy and doolallyness ... so there I am, walking home from town, this time along part of the busy A40 - and I stop and smile ... a smile of joy: there on the verge stands a solitary September sunflower, elegantly and defiantly standing up to the madness of the passing parade, especially so with traffic seemingly back up to its pre-Covid volume. It was very busy on the A40.
And just a hundred paces or so further on, a discarded drink carton, but a carton with an eye-catching difference. So I collect it for disposal, as is my wont - but as I pass a gateway into a field, I pop it on the gatepost and take a photo ... so here is joy and doolallyness perfectly juxtaposed...
road to freedom is bordered with sunflowers"
Luxury Milkshakes? The mind boggles. Do you suppose there were some gold earrings or cufflinks inside, similar to what you get in Luxury Xmas Crackers? Sadly there are no cows in the field as a background canvas to my photo.
Whatever, I take the carton home and wash it. I shall pop it in my rucksack when I go for my country walks, just in case I come across a herd of nosy cows as a suitable background canvas, something similar to the image already on the carton. Watch this space.
Anyway, I found the whole episode suitably amusing and worthy of
being my post of the day.
U-turn around every corner
Saturation point ... "It's time we stopped this general bout of self-recrimination and wetness." Prime Minister Boris Johnson leads for the second day running as he joins the chorus of disapproval after the BBC announced it would tamper with Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory at this year's Last Night of the Proms.
And the sky began to gather over the BBC, looking ready to fall from a great height...
Let Britannia rule ... "The words of Rule, Britannia! do not need to be 'fixed' as Andrew Lloyd Webber suggests. We need the BBC and like-minded minority groups to stop seeking reasons to be offended, then inflicting their ridiculous views on the rest of us." David Vincent of Hawkhurst, Kent, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.
Last orders ... "The BBC is so dysfunctional it couldn't organise a singalong in the Royal Albert Hall." Chris Hall (ironically) of Devizes, Wiltshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail.
Please note ... "I intend to sing Britannia Waives The Rules." AE Bailey of Shepherdswell, Kent, in a letter, also to the Daily Mail.
And just to prove that it isn't just Boris Johnson's government that is addicted to making U-turns...
All together now! ... "Both pieces will now include a select group of BBC singers. This means the words will be sung in the hall, and as we have always made clear, audiences will be free to sing along at home." The BBC announces - or rather the brand new director-general, Tim Davie, declares - that Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory will be sung at the Proms.
Incidentally, the BBC pronounces that "audiences will be free to
sing along at home"... wow, does the BBC really believe that it
should decide what we all sing along to when at home? Tim Davie
has a big job ahead.
Happy New Unlocked Year
Order! Order! ... "Of course we know that there is still going to be more of this disease, this wretched Covid, still to come, and although we know there will be more outbreaks we are also absolutely confident that we are going to be able to deal with those outbreaks." Prime Minister Boris Johnson tells his Cabinet the country will cope with further Covid-19 outbreaks.
Allow me to wish you a Happy New Unlocked Year. It's the 1st of September 2020, in the Year 1AC, which has to be the first day of the rest of our lives as we aim for some form of normality, a chance to draw a line under the last six months and mark a new phase of the nation's response to the pandemic in which the economic recovery can finally take centre stage and hopefully gather up a head of steam.
Across the channel the Tour de France is under way, and that despite protestations given the Covid spikes all over France, but as the organisers of the race said, backed by the government presumably, life has to get back to normal, and the Tour is perfect motivation, not just to the French public but a watching world.
In other words, and accepting basic precautions, we should go down the Sweden track and take whatever Covid has to throw at us on the chin - or more correctly the nose and mouth - otherwise we will spend the rest of our lives hiding in the trenches. And I speak as someone who has heard the bell for my final lap (happily no one has told me whether I'm on a 1,500 metre lap or a 10,000 one).
Incidentally, I've plumped for the Year 1AC rather that 0AC because it makes much more sense to say I am now navigating the 1st Anno Covid rather than Zero AC.
Oh yes, I have a new song to wash my hands to, namely Abba's Happy New Year ... when you have a moment, pop into YouTube and search out the song, especially the one that displays the lyrics ... and just check out those words and ponder them in a Covid context.
And whilst on YouTube, I clicked on The Day Before You Came - double irony - with the added bonus of enjoying the one Abba song that explains everything about what made their songs so memorable.
But I digress - Happy New Unlocked Year.
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