[HB - in dingbat font]
[a.k.a. The Daily Doolally Post]

The joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade, as embraced from the grassy knoll
♥ ♫

[A wolf-whistle - in
silent jazz mode,
i.e. a smile]

October 2019: The Book has landed ... Huw and Smile - see below ... one tiny step for humanity, one giant leap for me, HB
Available at ... Amazon Books: Huw and Smile ...
Also, off the shelf at:
Igam Ogam & Crown Stores, all at Llandeilo (or Llandampness to those of us in the know)


Self-published, with much thanks to www.publishandprint.co.uk

Shwmae, hello, welcome...

Children smile up to 400 times a day, adults - on a good day - up to 40 (the hassles and stresses of modern life, especially so here in the UK with its 5Bs - Brexit, Brussels, Bercow, Bollocks and Boris (coming up on the rails) - ruthlessly neuter humanity's default ode to joy mindset). My smileometer, according to a local jollyologist, currently registers some 200, so I must be halfway toward second childhood. Hm, perhaps I never left the first. Anyway, Huw and Smile - an antidote to the public commotion known as a hue and cry, see the aforementioned 5Bs - chronicles the squalls and passions of sex, greed, tribalism, rock'n'roll ... and much else besides ... a nod and a wink to a world gone bananas, a thousand days or so of the eye-rolling hysterics and doolallyness of flame-fanning topics such as Brexit, Trump, Social Media and Huawei (or Why-Why? as they say down the pub). Essentially it's B-Day plus 1,000 - that's B-Day as in Brexit-Day, but you may wish to put your own spin on B-Day! Whatever, Huw and Smile has a craic at doing so with its hat set firmly at a jaunty angle - and hopefully a little ball bouncing along above the words. Happy days.
Yours, in the best of bonds,
Huw Beynon

To waft some electronic smoke signals downwind, e-mail me at: look_you@hotmail.co.uk
In the meantime...
...a rolling register of embraceable joys and disposable doolallyness to help lift the spirits and boost the smile quotient...
(Point of order: both joy and doolallyness effortlessly embrace delight, irony and bonkersness)


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...

   Daily Express: "Day of history and hope", declares President
   The Times: Time for unity
   Daily Mail: Don's gone ... let's go Joe
   The Guardian: "Democracy has prevailed", President Joseph R Biden Jr
   i: Ready, steady, Joe!
   Daily Mirror: A day of history ... a day of hope
   The Daily Telegraph: "End this uncivil war"
   Daily Star: Incredible sulk [underpinning an image of a green and angry Donald Trump]
   The Sun: Goodbye Grumpy ... Hello Sleepy
- First Lady Gaga (Full coverage: Pages 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 28 & 29)

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 years ago:
     "Why do we say amen and not a-women?"
     "Well, we call them hymns, silly, not hers."

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.

And finally...

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

's there?
Says who?
Says me, that's who!

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 hello@thecollectivedairy.com 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).

I 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...

...and is that the sun shining from a place where it shouldn't shine?

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.


Fanny business

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...
Visual artist Juliana Notari and her giant Diva va-va-vulva sculpture
(One small step for a woman, 33 giant strides for a man)

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 Notoriety.


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

Who's there?
That's impossible. Opportunity does not come knocking twice.



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...

Spring arrives early in West Wales - despite a little snow
Primroses spotted on a rural hedge bank on, gulp, December 30, 2020

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 target.


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 - 14
(compliments of The Sunday Times)

"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.

I have always thought that "Jeremy Clarkson is away" should read "Jeremy Clarkson is a way over the top". And on that bombshell...


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...

Gritter Thunberg helps rid the black ice that could crash humanity over the cliff

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?

Charles bows to a higher authority

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

Who's there?
Gritter who?
Gritter Thunberg, your friendly neighbourhood Scottish road gritter: Drive if you must, I won't judge you...



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
(and fusing 'Letters from Middle-Britain - Number 13')

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.
New Year's Day, 2021


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!
New Year's Eve, 2020

Back to square one...
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