HB
[HB - in dingbat font]
LOOK YOU!
[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:
 
Books at the Dragon's Garden, 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
01/10/2019

 
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)
 

 

Back after the break

"Ulrika Jonsson (52), Carol Vorderman (59) and Zoe Ball (49) all admit having more sex helps them cope better with the menopause." GP Dr Philippa Kaye says having an active sex life is a way of keeping the symptoms of the condition under control, and pleads with her patients to open up and embrace growing old.

Thus a Mail Online clickbait that embraced joy (mind you, I'm not sure pleading with her patients to "open up" was a particularly wise choice of words); whatever, I clicked to seek evidence of doolallyness (that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it).

I scroll down to the well to see if there are any comments to quench my thirst for knowledge and, um, tickle my T-spot (my Titter-ye-not-spot). Most in the "best rated" column range from "Way too much information", via "Old people don't have sex. What a silly story", to some not very gracious words about the above celebrity ladies.

The article featured the following picture ... by the by, my query in the caption...


Hang about! Is that Phillip Schofield before, er, coming out?

Mind you I rather liked the comment which pointed out that "there are some beautiful 50-something women out there, but for most of us they're out of reach", which drew this response: "Hm, just like classic sports cars." Yes, when you think of the MGBs, the TRs and Triumph Stag, the Austin-Healey 3000, and of course the E-Type, those classic sports cars look as good today as they did in the 50s and 60s. (I am slightly prejudiced because I owned some MGBs and TRs in my trainee-young-buck-about-town days; great pulling power, happy days and even happier nights.)

Be all that as it may, there's never any mention of the womenopause we men suffer, probably because of what the late, sexually voracious jazzman George Melly, who, on finding himself impotent at 70, said: "Upset? Certainly not. It's rather wonderful, like being unchained from a lunatic." (I always smile when I read that ... why, I'm unsure!)

But back to the aforementioned ladies and their sex lives: I also enjoyed this letter in the Daily Mail print version, from a Mike Picewicz of Blackpool: "Ulrika Jonsson is jubilant that her revived love life makes her feel as if she has lost her virginity again. That's virgin on the ridiculous!" Indeed Mike, everything in life these days is virgin on the ridiculous.

PS: My spellchecker ground to a stop at "Picewicz" ... and suggested "Pickwick", which rather tickled my O-spot (my Offbeat-spot).
18/02/2020

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Body language

"Within 10 seconds of meeting a stranger a set of survival traffic lights inside our brain will subconsciously switch on: green equals embrace; amber equals engage - but proceed with care; red equals stop, danger - treat as a roundabout, navigate at arm's length, with elevated caution." From Huw and Smile, where I explore why it is that some 'lucky' people cruise through life as if some unseen power - God/Mother Nature/Old Father Time/Mrs Jones Next Door - is clearing a path for them, while others travel a road littered with ambush after ambush. But most striking of all is an appreciation that our traffic lights instinct for survival should never cause us to have a flat in the smart lane.

It came to mind today following a visit to my local doctor's surgery for a spot of minor surgery to remove a B-spot (a spot of bother). Present was the doctor, a nurse - and a young lady trainee doctor. The atmosphere was perfectly relaxed, all lights on green. And unlike a routine doctor's visit, where there is no space to engage in small talk, this is different because the procedure, along with waiting for the local anaesthetic to work, enables spontaneous and friendly conversation.

I learnt that the visiting doctor's square mile is Winchester in Hampshire, but being naturally inquisitive I also learnt of a North Wales connection from a couple of generations back; we moved on to rugby and that she would qualify to play for either England or Wales, indeed given modern society's increasingly mixed heritage more and more of us could play for pretty much any of the Six Nations.

As the practice doctor reminded me, there's a youngster, Stephen Varney, playing for the Italian Under20 side - who actually speaks Welsh (his father is Welsh, his mother, although born in Wales her parents were born in Italy, hence his dual qualification).

And then he asked if I wrote letters to The Times, which I occasionally do. On the way home I realised why my name had likely triggered The Times connection. Last October I had a letter published which was about a personal experience while visiting a doctor. And here it is (the published version was marginally edited):

Grand standing: "Your correspondence about doctors watching how a patient stands to help with diagnosis ('Stand and deliver', letter, Oct 25), takes me back many moons and visiting a doctor's surgery in the Swansea area after hours for my first pilot's medical. I passed, and afterwards had an engaging and extended chat with the doctor. He told me that when I arrived in the car park, he was waiting at the surgery entrance, not so much to greet me, but to observe me getting out of the car (he had no personal details, i.e. my age, just my name). From that moment I have been fascinated watching people climbing in and out of vehicles and aeroplanes."

My letter drew a couple of responses to the paper. Dr Henry Guly of Yelverton, Devon, pointing out, under the heading "Miracle cures", the wise doctor observes that when a patient limps in with an injury from an accident from which he is to make a legal claim, a quick glance out of the window will note he can return to his car miraculously cured.

But this one I particularly enjoyed, from Roger Sykes of Sissinghurst, Kent under the heading "Next patient please: As a solicitor representing personal injury claimants, I was once told by a wise occupational health physician that he placed his waiting-room chairs at right angles to the door of his consulting room so that patients had to turn their head 90 degrees to see him when their name was called. This enabled him to discriminate between genuine and fake claims for whiplash."

For joy and doolallyness - read joy and wisdom.
17/02/2020

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Space to breathe

"There is enough room on the planet for all the peoples of the world, but there is not enough room for the boundaries that separate them." A line overheard on the radio, on a Welsh language religious programme, and attributed to the English crime writer and poet, Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957).

Pondering whether I'd, not so much heard it properly but translated it correctly from the Welsh, I searched the quote online ... with no success. But I did stumble upon some marvellous quotes by Dorothy Sayers, for example:

"My old mother always says, my lord, that facts are like cows. If you look them in the face hard enough they generally run away," from her novel, Clouds of Witness (1926). Well, if a cow trusts you, it will not run away, rather it will stretch its neck, stick out its tongue and lick you. I guess a trustworthy fact does the same.

Anyway, back with the quote at the top, Dorothy Sayers is presumably talking about tribalism, something I have written about previously, indeed I cover the very subject of tribalism and human boundaries in Huw and Smile, the chapter headed Sex, greed, tribalism and rock 'n' roll.

One other throwaway line with a neat twist in its tail (nothing to do with Sayers this time), which I also heard on the Welsh Radio Cymru, was on a programme of Welsh hymn singing, Gymanfa Eglwysi Cymraeg Canol Llundain (Singing Festival of the Welsh Churches of Old London Town), and after one particular hymn, the conductor, a lady by the name of Pat Jones said, in Welsh, obviously, but here translated: "If I were marking you all out of 10, it's the men that would receive full marks." There are some ironic and good-natured cheers from the men, and after a slight pause ... she adds: "And that doesn't happen very often."
16/02/2020

*************************

Hurry! Hurry! There's a storm comin' in

"♪♪♪: A way out here they got a name for rain and wind and fire; the rain is Tess, the fire's Joe, and they call the wind Mariah..." Yep, the song from Paint Your Wagon jumped to mind as yet another "bomb cyclone" weather system swept in for the second weekend on the trot.

"Knock-knock! Who's there? Dennis! Dennis who? Dennis the Menace - and I am coming for you!" At last - Dennis, a proper Nogood Boyo name for a proper menacing storm of wind and rain. Proper, as opposed to those wishy-washy names they insist on giving these badly-behaved storms increasingly coming our way.

Both print and broadcast media latched on to the name, witness this typical newspaper headline: "Storm Dennis proves real menace with 70mph winds, threatening floods and disruption to travel for the start of the half-term."

Incidentally, last weekend, as Storm Keira - when I see Ciara, which the weather system was actually called, I can't stop myself saying Kee-ara, so Keira it is - anyway, as Storm Keira was slowly winding itself up, walking home I was overtaken by a bus bearing the magnificent legend 'Windy Corner Coaches of Pencader' (near Carmarthen), and all the way home I couldn't stop hoping they'd called the coach Mariah (as opposed to Maria, as per Paint Your Wagon, which people like me would mispronounce).

Hopefully, and to balance the books, Windy Corner Coaches will paint their next new coach Dennis. In fact, I seem to remember travelling to school in a Dennis coach, which was its make rather than its name (a quick search online confirms that my memory was not playing tricks).

By the by, is it not time these storms were given proper scary name to make sure we pay attention and take cover? For example, next year: Storms Athena (goddess of war), Banshee, Cyclops, Delilah, Eris (the goddess of strife and the constant companion of Ares, the god of war), Favonius (god of the west wind) - and so on...

Those names would certainly make us pay attention - and hopefully add to our knowledge, especially so should we happen to bump into Boris Johnson, who excelled in Greek and Latin, on a friendly walkabout.

PS: We should feel sympathy for a fellow named Storm Denniss from Whitby in Yorkshire, who has received more than 50 threatening messages from online trolls (wind-up merchants more like) imploring him not to wreak havoc on their homes. One advised him to enrol on an anger management course to wean him off ripping roofs off buildings, flattening trees and flooding homes, advice which I believe he took in good part.

Mr Denniss has revealed that he was christened Storm because he was born on a particularly stormy evening. Mind you, Storm should be grateful that his parents had not just polished off a refreshing bottle of pop and been rather taken with the name Corona.
15/02/2020

*************************

Roses and violets abound

"Sajid Javid wishes Boris Johnson a 'happy Valentine's Day' as the relationship between the two former allies grew increasingly bitter after the Prime Minister, and his special adviser Dominic Cummings, forced him to quit as chancellor in savage reshuffle." A typical February 14 clickbait - but what did the cartoonists make of it all?

Paul Thomas of the Daily Mail, has Boris in dressing gown and slippers, reading a card just picked up off the mat, with Javid peering through the window of No 10, and Cummings coming down the stairs: "Roses are red / Violets are blue / I've had enough / Of working for you." Hm, 3/10, must try harder.

Meanwhile, Matt of The Daily Telegraph, has some unidentified fellow, who presumably works for Boris, with a bunch of flowers on the desk, and has just finished writing his card: "Roses are red / Violets are blue / I'd never forsake you / If Cummings told me to." Not up to Matt's usual standards, just 5/10, so a pass mark, for old time's sake.

But what would I write on my Valentine's card on behalf of the nation? Well, I'd depart the usual roses and violets, and, given the current political climate...

     She bathed with Labour red, and Tory blue;
     Didn
't care for Corbyn, but Bojo - woo-hoo!

Yep, time to come clean: I looked up the history of the familiar 'Roses are red, violets are blue' ditty ... and learned that the origins of the poem may be traced at least as far back as the following lines written in 1590 by English poet Sir Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), from his epic The Faerie Queen:

     She bath'd her breast, the boyling heat t'allay;
     She bath'd with roses red, and violets blew,
     And all the sweetest flowers, that in the forrest grew.

Now how elegant is that? (Spelling as per the original.) I have a way to go.

Be all that as it may, there have been some interesting messages in relation to Boris's political adviser, Dominic Cummings, he who has something of the (k)night about him, for example: it has been suggested that it is time to abolish the House of Lords and replace it with Dominic Cummings.

And best of all, Margaret Thatcher, who, off the cuff, came out with one of the funniest lines ever uttered by a politician: "Every prime minister needs a Willie." She meant of course Willie Whitelaw, who was her trusted and loyal deputy. So it has been asked if Dominic Cummings is Boris Johnson's Willie.

Well, Boris certainly wouldn't need Cummings as his willie, in the traditional meaning, that is, lower case - as far as we know, anyway. But watch this space. Stress does funny things to a man's libido, or so I read in the paper.
14/02/2020

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Chaotic space

"I'm not being driven out of Scotland by that bloody wee Jimmy Krankie woman." Boris Johnson's reported response to a suggestion that Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, should have a role at the 2020 United Nations Glasgow climate conference in November, prompting rumours that the summit might be switched to a London venue.

You have to smile at the idea of Nicola Sturgeon as that "bloody wee Jimmy Krankie woman".

However, do you suppose that the night after Boris won his thumping election majority, his mind, like those of all the planet's movers and shakers (think the world of politics, business, media and celebrity), was commandeered by a ghostly presence from chaotic space - no, not Boris's special adviser, Dominic Cummings, he who has something of the (k)night about him - but when he awoke he was convinced he was now in possession of the vision of legendary civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Never mind runways (Heathrow), railways (HS2) and bridges (Scotland-Northern Ireland), keep a sharp eye open for striking headwear, cravats and cigars, and all against a background of heavy duty chains of office from his Mayor of Old London Town days.


Boris, my Kingdom

And then today, February 13 (not quite Friday), in a day of the long knife with its dramatic Cabinet reshuffle...

"I do not believe any self-respecting minister would accept those conditions." Sajid Javid reveals he resigned as Chancellor following tensions between him and the Prime Minister's chief adviser, the aforementioned Dominic Cummings, and being asked by the PM to replace his political advisers.

Gosh, I was whisked back mega moons to 1976, to the moment in the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special, when an exceedingly elegant 32-year-old Angela Rippon was sat behind a desk, reading the news, a bulletin which was meant to be all about the Chancellor's statement from No 11 Downing Street, and she started by saying:

"There may be trouble ahead - but, while there's moonlight ... and music ... and love ... and romance - let's face the music, and dance..." Then the orchestra struck up, Angela stood up, did a huge kick across the desk - and newsreader no more, she proceeded to dance gracefully down the steps, joined by Morecambe and Wise in top hat and tails. Magic. And it all came flooding back because of that "bloody wee Jimmy Krankie woman".

Joy and doolallyness in excelsis.
13/02/2020

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Smile ... nod ... wink

The cheek of it: "It has been suggested that, now we have left the European Union, we should go back to a single kiss on the cheek. Certainly not. A handshake is more than sufficient." John Ralphs of Dunstable, in a letter to The Times.

Viral etiquette: "Now that there is a real risk that some of us may become infected with the coronavirus, can we all agree to stop shaking hands when we meet? As for the social kiss on each cheek, do not even think about it." Dr Michael Pegg of Esher, in a letter to - no, not The Times, but this time The Daily Telegraph.

Me? Unless courteously responding to another's mode of greeting, I only shake hands to offer up condolence or congratulations. I only embrace (or hug) when someone is off on a solo jaunt around the world - or just returned. And I only kiss those I quite fancy ending up in bed with.

Otherwise, I offer up a smile, or a nod, or where appropriate, a wink, or perhaps I will perm any two from three, indeed occasionally furnish all three - and do you know, it always draws a positive response, whether it's a smile, or a nod, or a wink, or perhaps a perm of any two from three, indeed occasionally all three.

Clearly, and more by luck than judgment, I am keeping ahead of the game.
12/02/2020

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It's raining trains

"The rail line is closed because a train has ... sorry, a tree has fallen on the tracks." Tuesday, 8:20am, Classic FM: Newsreader Moira Stuart suffers a minor derailment in the wake of the chaos following Storm Ciara raging across the nation, from tip to toe.

Well it made me smile. As it happens, a phrase I enjoy borrowing is Chicken Licken's "The sky is falling", uttered when the young chick goes to the woods and an acorn falls on its head. I mean, we've all been there and had degrees of sky falling on our heads, so a mental picture of Moira's train falling on the tracks gives a whole new meaning to that hoary old chestnut of train delays due to leaves on the track.

A quick rewind ... I switched from BBC Radio 2 as my default soundtrack along my journey through time, to Classic FM about four years ago, just to escape the increasingly child-like nature of the station, along with the doom and gloom of its ever-lengthening news bulletins.

And what happened? Exactly a year ago, Moira Stuart, having departed the BBC, joined the station - and hey presto, they started doing news bulletins every 20 minutes of a morning. Nothing against Moira, agreeable lady that she is, but I wanted to enjoy the calming sounds of Classic FM simply to escape the bloody news.

Whatever, all this talk of trains falling from the sky, today Boris Johnson gave the controversial mega-costly High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project, a green light. I fondly remember a cartoon from last year ... a grumpy-looking child has just opened a big box marked "HS2 Train Set", and what is inside is a jumbo toy white elephant.

And last weekend, a cartoon of two children in a playroom: one is playing with a traditional train set, while the other is holding a thick, heavy file, and he says: "For Christmas I got an HS2 train set viability report."

Finally, a bit of sky did fall on the head of Boris Johnson, ponder this letter in The Daily Telegraph from a Mary Work of Haltwhistle, Northumberland (Haltwhistle being particularly ironic in this context): "Something had to be cancelled this week. Sadly it turned out to be my Conservative Party membership, not HS2."
11/02/2020

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Strictly no smiling!

"There's no art in a passport photo." So declared BBC Radio 5 presenter Dotun Adebayo in a throwaway line about the merits of art versus photography, delivered over the weekend airwaves.

I was in my late-20s when I needed my first passport, and acknowledging passport photos as a source of great mirth, I decided to invest. The late Ryan Peregrine was a local wedding and portrait photographer of note - and not cheap, which is fair enough. Could he do me a quickie? "I don't do quickie," he insisted, with a smile, but agreed.

For a passport photo, eyes must be open and clearly visible (no glasses), and facial expression must be neutral (neither frowning nor smiling) with the mouth closed. Now I'm a natural-born smiler and Ryan, God rest his soul, managed to capture my smile without me smiling, which perfectly endorsed his talent.

My mug shot was a disappointment to all who wanted a quick chuckle, a perfect investment, as it turned out.

So yes, Dotun, there can indeed be art in a passport photo.

Incidentally, I haven't had a passport for many a year now - I did my gallivanting mostly between the ages of 30 and 50, and these days I'm happy to be spotted on the grassy knoll, simply watching the passing parade. I still have that original passport with its agreeable picture, but it's boxed away, somewhere in the attic.

Oh yes, my driving licence picture was taken in a photo booth. All that is missing is a number across the bottom.

Whatever, here is a happy snap I prepared earlier, much, much earlier, as it happens - and in my defence, someone must have shouted "Smile!":


Nogood Boy (pre Boyo days)

10/02/2020

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Mary Beard's Shock of the Nude (Monday, BBC2, 9pm)

"She showed us examples of 'totally in-your-face Greek male nudity' while barely explaining anything about these statues. Why did the ancient Greeks not like 'a big penis'? No idea: penises do not interest her." Camilla Long of The Sunday Times reviews, "out of curiosity more than anything", the first episode of Professor Mary Beard's two-part series, Shock of the Nude.

Not even curiosity got me to watch the programme. Mary Beard reminds me of that mad professor character in a Monty Python sketch, there to provide laughs for others. And what did Camilla Long mean by "penises do not interest her"? Anyway, this makes my joy and doolallyness spot today because Professor Beard claims that nude paintings have tended to serve as "soft porn" for the male elite, and she bemoans the lack of male nudes to balance the peekaboos, so to speak.

And then a letter in The Daily Telegraph from a Moira Singleton of Southampton ... Moira tells us that when she was a child she received a sound education in classical art from her mother. On one occasion, they were looking at a book of paintings by the old masters when, inevitably, they came across one "that depicted a group of nudes lounging and frolicking in bucolic surroundings". Moira continues:

"Totally baffled, I asked her what they were doing: 'Looking for their clothes,' she replied."

I am reminded of Ken Dodd and his silly song from 1965, when Adam stumbled upon Eve for the first time, and she offered him her apple - and all he could think of in the moment was to cry out, in a silly voice: "Where's me shirt? Where's me shirt?" I know the feeling.
09/02/2020

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Shouldergate: Shouldergreat or Shouldergrate?
(as per my Straight to the Point letter in the Daily Mail)

Breast dressed: "The off-the-shoulder dress as worn by Labour MP Tracy Brabin in the House of Commons this week has come at just the right time - so suitable for breastfeeding during prime minister's questions." Elizabeth Dean of Old London Town, in a letter to The Times.


And for my next number

Shoulder charge: "Tracy Babin's off-the-shoulder dress, drooping in the House of Commons to reveal naked flesh, left me shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Not because I thought it unbecoming. No, it's because it's only February and she was wearing no sleeves. How? It's so cold." Columnist Carol Midgley, also in The Times.

When I first caught a flash of this intriguing story in the clickbaits, I both smiled and rolled my eyes, a perfect tandem of joy and doolallyness. Being out of the loop of politics and mainstream news, a quick search online confirmed the brouhaha the dress has generated, a "disco outfit" being a typical description.

The worst aspect, as ever, were the trolls who came out from under the social media bridge and labelled her - and this is Tracy's own list of the abuses hurled at her: "drunk", "hungover", a "slapper", a "tart", "just been banged over a wheelie bin". She also tweeted: "I can confirm I am not a slag."

Tracy Brabin, 58, is a British actress and Labour politician, and MP for Batley and Spen, West Yorkshire, since October 2016 following the murder of the sitting MP Jo Cox - but all I could think of was this: what on earth made her do it? What were you thinking of, Tracy?

Surely the male equivalent would be Boris Johnson at the House of Commons despatch box, minus tie - which would be fine by me - but with four shirt buttons undone. Can you imagine the furore and abuse as the sky proceeded to fall on his head?

To slip off at my usual tangent, when ties began to be consigned to history, it was instructive to then observe the number of undone shirt buttons as a measure of the degrees we men really fancy ourselves. The Right Said Fred song I'm Too Sexy (For My Shirt) was clearly ahead of its time. There again, perhaps the song subliminally triggered the "Coo-ee, look at me!" idiot gene lurking within all us men (see also tattoos as shouty canvas art).

I often wonder what goes through the minds of women when they catch sight of say, Simon Cowell, aged 60, with shirt buttons undone to the navel. Do they sigh and gasp: "Move over, Tom Jones, this is what a real sex bomb looks like?" Scarcely believe, unless of course women really are dazzled and seduced by celebrity, money and power.

Mind you, the sight of Jacob Rees-Mogg lounging on the front benches minus tie with five shirt buttons undone would be a sight to raise the spirits no end.

Back with Tracy Brabin and that I'm Too Sexy (For This House) dress, by tonight it had attracted bids of up to 14,000 pounds in an eBay charity auction to end on Thursday. She will donate the proceeds of the 35 quid dress to Girlguiding, a suitably contrite return of serve I'd say.
08/02/2020

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Salad days

"Inspired by a rather epic rant on Twitter courtesy of author Elan Gale, that salads are dull and boring and flavourless, how do you, dear listener, prevent your salad being anaemic and bland with no personality and character? What would be the ingredients of your spectacular salad lunch today, a salad with oomph and va-va-voom? A salad with dynamism, individuality, idiosyncrasy, eccentricity - we could ask the same question of your socks, but we're not going to - we want to know all about your salads. You can send me a text on - - - - but do please make sure that it's safe to text me before you do so..."

Another memorable question posed by Vanessa Feltz on her early-morning Radio 2 show. I've included that last bit about the text because she issues that warning every morning - I mean, are there really people out there who text while driving in the dark of a winter's morn? Blimey. But I digress...

The question, asked earlier in the week, held no particular interest for me - until the very last message read out on the show: "For the last word on salad, with or without charisma, here's Geraint from South Wales: 'I like to enjoy a proper Welsh salad for breakfast ... of sausages, bacon, beans and eggs - now that is proper food.'" And Vanessa adds: "Can I argue with that? No I can't!"

Geraint from South Wales? Hm, could that be Geraint Thomas, the Welsh cyclist who won the Tour de France 2018? After all, these cyclists have to stuff themselves full of "proper food" to build up all the strength and energy they need to race. The thought lingered for a few days ... then I remembered something I had written in Huw and Smile, namely where I invite people to Google 'Picture of farmer's giant fried breakfast country living', again from 2018 - but here it is:


A farmer's sausage to make ends meat

It's an anonymous Welsh farmer's proper va-va-vroom-vroom breakfast. Glorious or what? It invites a line from Carry On Farmer: "My, that's a magnificent sausage you've got there, stranger."

The online comments ranged from "This is not a breakfast but a work of art" to "All I did was lick the screen and I gained 7lbs and 25 blood pressure points". Proper food indeed. And on that terrific/horrific calorific bombshell...
07/02/2020

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Blue by Huw
(with apologies to the ditty Blue Bayou)

"Is the colour of your bedroom walls keeping you awake?" Experts reveal how trendy grey could add to insomnia, while calming shades of blue allow people to nod off easily.

The above newspaper clickbait made me, er, click ... and I duly hurried on down to the comments, where I sort of knew what the reaction would be ... and yes, all 10 comments on the 'Best rated' first page can be encapsulated thus:

Batman, The Roost, UK: "Before I turn over to sleep, I turn off the light and close my eyes - and blow me, I can't see what colour the bleedin' walls are!"

But of course the commenters hadn't paid proper attention to the article because as the experts point out, many people spend an hour or more in their bedrooms with the light on before going to sleep, which is why the colour can be so disruptive.

Bright colours, apparently, can put your brain into an active state of high alert, whilst grey is quite suppressive and gets you down. The real champion when it comes to good sleep is blue - but not the blue emitted by mobile devices which keep the brain activated long after the bedside light has been turned off.

All that sort of makes sense. But while on the colour blue, a couple of letters spotted in The Daily Telegraph: Columnist Tamara Abraham had reported in the fashion pages that "petrol blue" is the new colour of choice for the Duchess of Cambridge. But as a Jeremy Havard points out, that colour is named after the bird called a petrel, and should therefore be spelt in the same way.

Then a Sandra Hancock follows up and clarifies that petrels are not blue but black and white, and that "petrol blue" is named after petrol's diffracted thin-layer blue - that delicate blueish colour you notice when you pour petrol from a container into say a lawnmower - and not a pelagic seabird. And yet, and yet: the blue petrel bird is described online as a bird with blueish-grey upperparts. So there! Oh, and I had to look up pelagic: found in open sea, as opposed to near the shore. Every day a day at school.

However, if you type "petrol blue or petrel blue" into a search engine - well, it's all very confusing, and Wiktionary under "petrol blue" shows how many different shades of blue there are. Talking of 50 Shades of Blue ... this set me thinking: given how addicted the BBC is to swearing in all its light entertainment shows, do you suppose the favourite colour of Director-General Tony Hall and his apparatchiks is Bleep Blue, or **** Blue as it is known at large.

And just to round off the blue theme, another newspaper clickbait made me, er, blink:

"Taking Viagra can make men see BLUE: Doctors in Turkey warn of visual problems from using the strongest dose of the impotence pill?" Seventeen men visited a hospital in Turkey with abnormal blue tinted vision after taking the pills, but the symptoms did wear off after some 21 days, without lasting damage. [As a Yorkshire Lad pointed out: "Not a good look when the side effects last longer than the pleasure they are supposed to provide." Blue boo-hoo!]
06/02/2020

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Slow, slow - slower ... slower - slow

"Searching for something that wasn't Christmassy, cartoony or celebrity, I came across The World's Most Scenic Journey - Minute by Minute (Channel 5). It was so compelling I watched the whole two hours. No commentary, no celeb waffle, just me on the journey, and the small amount of music was discreet and appropriate." Kath Almond, in The Sunday Times Culture Magazine, "You Say" section, published on 19 January 2020.

Back on the 30th of December I shared my enjoyment of this enchanting 42-mile "slow TV" trip by steam train - I quoted Jeremy Paxman's thoughts on the magic of a steam engine: "It is the nearest we human beings have ever come to creating a living, breathing organism" - every mile of a journey from Fort William, through the Scottish Highlands, to Mallaig on the west coast.

On the very day Kath Almond's appreciation of the rail journey was published, BBC4 broadcast a 150 minute "slow TV" special: All Aboard! New Zealand By Rail, Sea and Land, a journey through the country's landscapes by train, car and boat - the clever editing of the train travelling parallel to a main road, and then, as it crosses said road, the camera seamlessly switches from being on the front of the train on the track, to being on the front of the Land Rover for the road journey - magical. I had to rewind to work out how they had pulled off that clever little trick.

Again no celebrity presenter, no commentary, just the occasional caption joining up the dots along the way, like this one on the wilder scenic South Island: "Local legend says these mountains were carved by an inexperienced demigod - who cut out a wall when he meant to carve stairs. D'oh!" Actually, I added that last bit.

For me, the only problem with the New Zealand trip was that it lasted 150 minutes, whereas 120 minutes seems a perfect length for some slow, relaxing TV. However, I did respond to Kath Almond's mention of the Scottish trip, in particular that these kinds of programmes are more suited to the BBC because there are no commercial breaks to spoil the laid-back nature of the journey, which is the whole point of such productions. My comment was published under today's date:

"Having watched The World's Most Scenic Journey (Channel 5) and All Aboard! New Zealand By Rail, Sea And Land (BBC4), all 'slow TV' should be on the BBC. Good as Channel 5's slow train was (rhythmic chugging, mesmeric clickety-clack), the need to run ads and shouty trailers every 12 minutes or so fragmented the banquet into frustrating appetizers and aperitifs."
05/02/2020

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Drop dead gorgeous

"Nature gives to every time and season beauties of its own..." Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English writer and social critic, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1939).

About a week ago I was on my early-morning walk into town, quite gloomy, not quite sunrise, and on a slightly different route to my normal one ... I register ahead, on the verge, a white plastic bag. Nothing unusual in that, I come across lots of discarded bags and packages of all sorts that people throw out of their vehicles. I do my little bit for the environment and collect and dump all the rubbish into bins in town.

However, as I near the white plastic bag I smile, for what is there is not a white plastic bag but a welcome mat of snowdrops. Fast-forward a week or so, and today along my walk into town there are swathes of snowdrops, especially along the banks of a stream that runs alongside the road for a couple of hundred yards or so. Beautiful. So in honour of this gorgeous little flower, here's a photo of mine...


Look you: Raindrops keep falling on my head!

Incidentally, the other morning along my walk I spot in the hedgerow my first primroses of the year - 10 days earlier than I did last year, in the same spot. But of course this start to the year has been considerably milder than last year, which I guess explains their earlier appearance. Another welcome beauty.
04/02/2020

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And the winner is...

"Ah lovely listener, it's that juncture in the programme where I flounce around the furniture of your soul to learn even more about you than I already know ... since the Baftas occurred last night - with the Oscars coming up next weekend - here's today's question: If there were a Bafta award for best film scene - just one scene - from any film you have seen, what do you think ought to win the gong?" Vanessa Feltz poses her daily question on her early-morning BBC Radio 2 show.

I didn't even have to think about it. It's a scene compliments of my favourite film, Casablanca, and a line delivered by the only character from fiction I would love to have been in real life: yep, the morally ambivalent Vichy French police chief, Captain Louis Renault, who morphs from a witty Nogood Boyo into an exceedingly witty Verygood Boyo by film's end, one of the best character turnarounds in cinema history. First though, some context to set up the scene...

Near the beginning of the film we are made aware that Rick's strained romance with Yvonne has run its course, ponder this brief exchange between a neglected and drunk Yvonne and a neglectful and sober Rick:

Yvonne: "Where were you last night?"
Rick:
"That
's so long ago, I don't remember."
Yvonne:
"Will I see you tonight?"
Rick:
"I never make plans that far ahead."

The relationship is finished and he escorts her from the club to a taxi waiting outside to take her home. And this is the scene I think deserves a Bafta: as the taxi departs, Rick returns to the club, but sitting alone at a table outside, enjoying a drink, in full chief-of-police uniform, is Louis Renault, who was watching and listening. Rick joins him:


The beginning of a beautiful friendship?

Louis: "Hello Rick."
Rick:
"Hello Louis."
Louis:
"How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Someday they may be scarce..."

I was in my mid-thirties when I happened to catch on telly Casablanca for the first time, and being single, footloose and fancy free, and still just about firing on all cylinders, the line instantly registered as wonderfully wise and witty.

As I grew older I came to appreciate the line more and more, especially so given humanity's confused sexuality exploding all over Mother Nature's prime directive. Wonderful line though, a variation, I guess, on making hay while the sun shines, and making love when it rains. And to make the point, I must share more of the above conversation:

Louis: "How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Someday they may be scarce. But I think I shall now pay a call on Yvonne, maybe get her on the rebound. Hmm?"
Rick:
"When it comes to women, you
're a true democrat."

For a moment there I intuitively thought of Bill Clinton, who, if memory serves, was also a true democrat. No, hang on, he's a Democrat with a Capital D, an UPPER CASE Democrat.

Whatever, for proof of Casablanca's sparkling and enduring dialogue, especially surrounding the above scene - and why lines from the film dominate the list of 'Top 100 Best Movie Quotes' - visit YouTube and search 'Casablanca Misinformed' ... and be impressed by the number of memorable lines in just 2:30 minutes of magic and mystery.
03/02/2020

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Tattarrattat!

"Not since 01/01/1010 and 11/11/1111 in medieval times has there been a date like it. Today, being the 2nd of February 2020 - 02/02/2020 - becomes that rarest of international palindromes: it reads the same forwards and backwards, whichever side of the pond you live." Rare because if, like America, you put the cart in front of the horse, i.e. put the month first, followed by the day, it still reads 02/02/2020.

The palindrome also works for 02/2/20, but why you would put a 0 in front of the first figure but not the middle one is unclear. And it works for China and a few other countries which put the year first: 2020/02/02.

Intriguingly there won't be another date like it until 12/12/2121. After that the next will be 03/03/3030, followed by 04/04/4040 ... and every succeeding millennia up to 09/09/9090. Then of course 31/12/9099 becomes 01/01/9100, and the game is lost.

And here's another strange fact about dates in UK format: on a day in King Alfred's reign, 28/08/888, all the numerals were even numbers, and that did not occur again until 02/02/2000, because every date in the intervening 1,114 years had 1, 3 or 9 in it. Every day a day at school, even if occasionally useless but curiously amusing.

There's another smiley fact to note about 02/02/2020: it is the 33rd day (a palindrome) of a leap year, with 333 days (another palindrome) to go before 2021. Just some of those delightfully useless facts one registers when standing on the grassy knoll observing and embracing the passing parade.

I say useless ... there are familiar palindromic words: madam, civic, radar, level, racecar, kayak, refer... the longest palindromic word in the Oxford English Dictionary is the wonderfully onomatopoeic "tattarrattat", coined by Irish writer James Joyce (1882-1941) in Ulysses (1922), a word which represents a rhythmic knock on the door. "I recognised his tattarrattat at the door." Yep, a bit more style than a common or garden knock-knock, suggesting a visitor with hat set at a jaunty angle.

Now if I had only known all that a little while back, the first page of Huw and Smile might have sounded like this:

Tattarrattat!
Who's there?
Huw!
Huw who?
And a yoo-hoo to you, too!
Very droll - come in, come in...

Not quite James Joyce, I know, but mother never bred a jibber.
Just after 2am: 02:02:20 on 02/02/2020

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For 'smart', see 'dumb'

"If the world go wrong, it was, in some off-hand manner, never meant to go right." Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English novelist and social critic, Bleak House (1853).

Some things never change, just the words we use. Think 'smart', as in 'smart motorway', or 'smart metre', or 'smart thinking', or indeed 'smart humour' (remember alternative comedian Jo Brand calling for battery acid, rather than the coffee actually used, to be thrown over Nigel Farage, and oh how the metropolitan elite thought it so smart and witty). To update Mr Dickens' quotation:

"If the world go dumb, it was, in some off-hand manner, never meant to go smart."
 
01/02/2020

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Reflecting on days of whine and poses

"Brexit Day dawns: Wales' political leaders speak out as 'historic' new chapter to begin." Western Mail front page headline on the morning of Friday, January 31, 2020.

With Big Bad Ben not prepared to get out of bed for less than half a million quid to bong Britain leaving the EU, there were lots of ideas floated: from a public holiday next Monday, February 3, 2020, via beacons lit and church bells ringing across the length and breadth of the country, perhaps a quiet meal of fish and chips washed down with a nice bottle of Somerset sparkling wine, to the Brexit hour marked with a one-minute silence.

The one that tickled my JD-spot (my Joy & Doolallyness-spot) was the suggestion - given almost half the nation did not vote for Brexit - that perhaps the bells should indeed be rung, but half-muffled, as at a funeral. Whatever, it seems that everything was to be low key with everyone doing their own thing, indeed The Times' Friday front page captured the moment rather well...


Silence in court!

It is wonderfully ironic that Big Ben, apart from its smiley face (think Boris), is covered in scaffolding. Let's be honest, both Britain and Boris have a great deal of repair and restoration work to carry out.

Anyway, the whole "Bung a bob for a Big Ben bong", which gloriously backfired, added to the bonkersness that gripped the country since the referendum. I never argued with the democratic decision of the electorate, but everything that has happened since confirms that our movers and shakers have mislaid their marbles, all epitomised by that great poser of an ex-Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, who inelegantly showed what happens to those consumed by power and ambition.

And what could be more tolling and telling than the row over the "missing" Oxford comma on the 50p piece ("Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations"). I referred to it yesterday, so here's my singalong contribution...

"♪♪♪: Philip Pullman says Oxford comma, I say Cambridge* flush; he says harry and tarry, I say flow and glow - it's too late to call the whole thing off." (*Cambridge is flat, so there's no need to pause when you walk and talk, hence a Cambridge flush, meaning no need for a comma. So according to my Huw and Smile style guide, I should punctuate as I speak, end of.)

So how will little ole me mark Britain leaving the EU? Well, my mother was amused, charmed and captivated by a lark (as opposed to an owl), so, given that I will be in bed before 10 o'clock tonight, I shall set my alarm for 11pm - and at that curious witching hour I will ponder for a second or two that this is now the first day of the rest of Britain's life (or should that be the UK, I never know which), then turn over and go back to sleep.

See you all in those sunlit uplands we've heard so much about.
31/01/2020

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Corona goes pop!

"Google searches for 'Corona beer virus' surge as people confuse the Mexican pale lager with the deadly outbreak that's killed 132 people in China [up to 213 as I write]." A newspaper clickbait spotted Thursday - but as a point of order, is Corona a beer or a lager?

Just a week ago I mentioned in passing that I pick up all the rubbish along my daily take-me-home-country-roads walk into town, and I shared this photo of two of the most totally bonkers bottles people had simply tossed out of their vehicles.

Anyway, and with tongue-firmly-in-cheek, I mentioned back then that "when I first heard the expression 'Corona virus', I thought of that bottle, and had visions of Chinese people getting sloshed out of their minds on Corona Extra - but of course I now know that it's actually coronavirus, and a whole different ball game".

Who would have thought that there really is a whole swathe of folk populating the globe who actually think (or at least suspect) that the increasingly deadly disease is linked to a Mexican beer that has not only crossed the Great Wall of Trump but also the Great Wall of China?

Oh yes, beer or lager? Well, it clearly says on the label: "Imported beer from Mexico."

And finally, to add to the doolallyness of the passing parade...

"The 'Brexit' 50p coin is missing an Oxford comma, and should be boycotted by all the literati." Philip Pullman, 73, English novelist, takes aim at the message on the Brexit commemorative coin - "Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations" - and that there should, apparently, be a comma after "prosperity".

Lord Adonis, 56, Labour politician and journalist, along with Alastair Campbell, 62, Labour spin doctor, have both said they will refuse to accept the coin. I would love to be behind them in the queue when they are given a Brexit 50p coin in their change. Incidentally, the Pull-me-Push-me quote above should have read "boycotted by all literate people" - oops! That doesn't include me obviously because I am clearly an illiterate person, which I won't argue with, so all rejected 50p coins welcomed with open palm.

Needless to say, the sky duly fell from a great height on the assertion that there should be a comma after "prosperity". Essentially, it appears that 48% of those who voted in the EU referendum think there should be, whilst 52% believe there shouldn't. Joy and doolallyness indeed.
30/01/2020

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It was a time of truthfulness, it was a time of, er, superior footwork

"In answer to that perennial question asked at job interviews, what would your response be if asked 'What is your greatest weakness?'." Thus Vanessa Feltz' Wednesday poser asked of her listeners on her early-morning Radio 2 show.

One responder effortlessly climbed onto the podium and the gold medal spot: "Without thinking I replied 'Chocolate eclairs'. They fell about laughing - and I got the job." Tracey from Guzzle Down in Devon. No it wasn't - I didn't actually catch where Tracey was from, but I think Vanessa said Worcester.

That brought to mind my tale from a couple of days back, and well worth a repeat, when a Dr Rhoda Pippen of Cardiff recalled interviewing a candidate for a junior doctor appointment, and towards the end of question time she asked him if he had anything to say or ask. He asked if the panel would accept an unsolicited testimonial, and produced a Woolworths weight card (with an inspirational-type message on) from his pocket, which read: 'You are an achiever with good prospects of success.' He got the job.

And what that proves is, just like Tracey above, if all things are fairly equal, humour will get you the job because a workplace infused with good, clean fun inspires a happy environment.

I was never asked about my greatest weakness - the first half of my working life was spent as a paid slave, before becoming self-employed (an unpaid slave), but in an interview for a sales manager's job I was asked what I saw myself doing in 5 years' time ... I paused and smiled: "I quite fancy doing your job." I got the job.

My new boss duly told me that my response to doing his job is what had pulled me out from a competent field. Humour got me over the line. We went on to become good pals, and we shared many a laugh together.
29/01/2020

*************************

A hop, step and jump too far

"If the first thing you do each morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long." Misattributed to that masterful wordsmith Mark Twain (1835-1910; however, a quick search online suggests that the advice belongs to French writer Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794), best known for his witty quips and aphorisms, who advocated: "Swallow a toad in the morning and you will encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day."

Now that's a classic glass half-empty view of life - amusing as it is - but nevertheless an observation which suggests that Trouble-with-a-Capital-T lies in ambush around every corner. However, Chamfort also said this: "The most wasted day of all is that on which we have not laughed." Now that gets my vote...

The first thing I do of a morning as I tuck into breakfast, my first course of five of the day - at this time of year some soup, bread and cheese - is ponder what tickled my funny bone most the previous day, and what it is that will make the cut for my daily joy and doolallyness spot here on Look You. So, Mon-sewer Chamfort (to quote John Wayne in The Comancheros), makes it on both quotes.

It probably says much about my mindset, but I rather like my way of starting the day, at least better than swallowing a toad, which would, I guess, leave a nasty taste in the mouth for the rest of the day. I mean, doing it my way and I'm already Cheshire-catting it before I even meet anyone.

Hence the glass half-full route to best observe and embrace the passing parade from the relative safety of the grassy knoll. To be fair though, the moral of the quote is, if you've got something yucky to do, do it first thing, otherwise the thought of it will get yuckier and yuckier as the day unfolds. And this is how Mark Twain actually added his own spin to the Chamfort quip:

"If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first."
28/01/2020

*************************

Frying today, freezing tomorrow

"Am I alone in thinking in Fahrenheit on a hot day and Celsius when it's cold?" Mark Carlisle of Hillsborough, Co. Down, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

The joy of the letters pages of newspapers is that you regularly read something where you agree absolutely with the author, when really you've never consciously thought about it before. In the imperial vs metric battleground - the BBC insists in giving distances in kilometres when there isn't even a single kilometre signpost in the country - I belong firmly in the imperial camp because those are the measurements that are burnt onto my brain's hard drive.

Mention an inch - or a foot, yard, mile, ounce, pound, stone, hundredweight, pint, gallon - and an instant point-of-reference image appears in my imagination. Mention any metric measurement, and I have no idea - well, apart from a metre, which is a stride, which is a yard (more or less).

And so it is in the Fahrenheit vs Celsius camp. I mean, when, "Baby, it's cold outside", I think of zero degrees as the roundabout with black ice on and to be navigated with great care, yet when it's really hot I automatically think 100 degrees and why it's essential to stay out of the kitchen.

So no, Mark Carlisle, you are not alone. Oh, and acknowledging that every day is a day at school, today I learnt that the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales intersect at -40 degrees, i.e. -40 Fahrenheit = -40 Celsius. That should impress them down at The Crazy Horsepower Saloon.

And while on the subject of letters to the editor ... with pharmacists, under new NHS guidelines, being urged to start friendly chats with shoppers about weight loss, a Dr Rhoda Pippen of Cardiff, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, reminded us about those distinctive weighing machines found in Woolworths. You put money into the machine and out would pop a printout card with both your weight and an inspirational-type message on it, for example: "Do not walk through time without leaving evidence of your passage."

Anyway, Dr Rhoda tells this glorious tale, which embraces the great truth that a sense of amusement is essential for a jolly journey through life, whether you are an amusing individual, or a person hard-wired to embrace the notion of being amused: "I recall interviewing a candidate for a junior doctor appointment. Towards the end of our questions, I asked him if he had anything to say. He asked if we would accept an unsolicited testimonial and produced a Woolworths weight card from his pocket which read: 'You are an achiever with good prospects of success.' He got the job." 10/10!
27/01/2020

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"...and don't call me Shirley!"

"Prince Charles triggers controversy after it emerged he flew 16,000 miles in just 11 days using three private jets and one helicopter before proudly posing with climate activist Greta Thunberg in Davos." A newspaper clickbait spotted Sunday morning ... I duly roll my eyes at the delightful doolallyness of it all, make my excuses and move on without clicking...

A couple of hours later, perusing The Sunday Times ... my eyes alight and light up at cartoonist Nick Newman's Photobubble...

What makes me smile is not so much the wit of the exchange but, given how short Greta is, Charles appears to be bowing the way people do when they meet and shake hands with him. Marvellous.

What baffles me though about all these movers and shakers, these high flyers, who obviously care about climate change - from actress Emma Thompson, via Harry and Meghan, to Charles - is that they don't think through their actions, and how exposed they then become to ridicule and hilarity, which rather extinguishes their torch of hope.

Probably like most people, I first became aware of this curious hypocrisy when actress Emma Thompson flew 5,400 miles from her 60th birthday party in Los Angeles to join an anti-flying climate protest in London, and declaring that "we should fly less". Indeed, the delightfully dotty dame wanted to be arrested at the Extinction Rebellion protest to make her point and so enhance her credentials.

What she should be arrested for is a total lack of peripheral vision, the ability to spot and avoid the obvious ambush. Ditto Charles, Harry, Meghan, et al...
26/01/2020

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#SeduceSomeoneInFourWords

"Your visa got approved." How @GermanyDiplo Twitter account, which represents the German foreign ministry's English-language channel, got seduced into some witless banter on social media, and responded with a perceived ho-ho-ho to the trending hashtag inviting the world and its lover to "Seduce someone in four words".

The sky duly fell with a great thump on the head of the Deutschland government's foreign ministry department, especially as Germany's visa process is recognised as being complex and the very opposite of seductive; a process which, according to one Twitter user, made people feel "less than human". The joke was deleted hours later, the ministry noting: "Being funny is apparently not always our strong suit."

In the interests of research I sought out the hashtag ... most responses seemed to be variations on the theme of "You hungry? I'm cooking!" Mind you, I did smile at the photo of the seductive mouth of an alluring female about to insert a stick of rock candy into her mouth: "Wanna be that candy?" Oh er missus!

And there's a glorious 5-second clip topping #SeduceSomeoneInFourWords, of a spaniel dog holding a milk bottle in its mouth off which a pet lamb is feeding. Glorious. Check it out. The only marginal pity is that the dog isn't a border collie. (Search: 'Secret Life of Dogs: Jess the Springer Spaniel feeds an orphaned lamb with a bottle.')

However, as to the hashtag itself, I reckon "SeduceSomeoneInFiveWords" would have been better for the sake of perfect balance because the question is five words long. Indeed, Belgium's ministry of foreign affairs took the point and tweeted five words: "Some beer, chocolate & waffles." (Perhaps though they decided that "&" doesn't count as an actual word, which is fair enough.)

France's ministry for Europe and foreign affairs took "foreign affairs" to heart and, with a Gallic shrug, contributed only three words: "Hi, I'm French." There again, the pedant would read that as four words: "Hi, I am French." A win-win situation.

I did search a Tony Hall (Chief Sitting Bull at the BBC) typically seductive Corporation tweet ... with no luck. Perhaps: "Over 75? Pay up!" (I've used the Belgian trick and counted "75" as one word.)

Me? Given that the female of the species is reputed to be effortlessly seduced without need of words by someone bearing power, or money, or fame, or a celebrity status, for those of us bereft of such things, humour is listed as an essential tool of the trade. Women, apparently, love to be laughed into bed, so I'll go with: "Joy and doolallyness unbounded." Or perhaps: "50 shades of jollity."
25/01/2020

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World War Flu ... ACHOO!

"I once heard an announcement on the New York City subway telling passengers to 'cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm if you don't have a tissue'. It's, erm, stuck with me ever since." Columnist Helen Rumbelow, writing in The Times on the 11th of January 2020.

I mention the date, not just because it, erm, stuck with me too as I had never heard the handy advice before, but critically it was well before the current Corona virus thingy spreading across the globe. Oh yes, I wrote it as 'Corona virus' because that's how I first imagined it - or more correctly 'Corona Extra virus' - that is before seeing it written in the media. A quick pause for thought here...

Along my daily early-morning three-mile round-trip walk into town - weather permitting - to collect the morning paper and any bits and pieces needed to see me through the day, I pick up all the rubbish along the way (my modest contribution to clean up the environment). I won't even begin to list right now the more extraordinary things I come across. Apart from rounding up the usual suspects, I am endlessly astonished at the empty glass bottles thrown out of vehicles.

If cans and bottles (plastic and glass) are newly disposed of and not crushed, broken or soiled, I take recyclable things home to put in the blue bin - apart from glass bottles obviously, which I take to the council dumps dotted about Llandeilo. But here's the thing ... a photo of two bottles recently picked up off the verges...


And that's just the tip of a glass iceberg. Anyway, when I first heard the expression 'Corona virus', I thought of that bottle, and had visions of Chinese people getting sloshed out of their minds on Corona Extra - but of course I now know that it's coronavirus, and a whole different ball game. By the by, if the Corona Extra is the Eric Morecambe, the Ernie Wise is the 20cl bottle of Prosecco thrown onto the roadside by a passing vehicle. Gulp!

See what I mean by the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade? Oh yes, apropos the "cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm", there's even a Sesame Street song: "♪♪♪: Lift your arm up high, bend it towards your face - sneeze right there in the bendy place ... achoo, achoo!" Visit YouTube: "Elmo & Rosita: The Right Way to Sneeze".
24/01/2020

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♪♪♪: Move Over Darling Megxit

"Will Harry and Meghan be allowed to call any future profits they make 'royalties'?" Vincent Hefter of Old London Town makes a welcome return to the Daily Mail's Straight to the POINT column.

The media is now awash with wit and humour following Harry and Meghan's decision to step back from royal duties - but to hang on to the 'Sussex Royals' tag. For example, Sussex Royals sounds very much like a British variety of potato (or, given their move to Canada: "We say potayto, they now say potahto!" - ah, but should they have called the whole thing off?). Whatever...

Just think about that potato angle: Sussex Royals, Jersey Royals, Cornish Kings, King Edward, Purple Majesty, British Queen, Duke of York (a bit mushy, gone off the boil) and Charlotte (a tasty variety rapidly establishing a smiley reputation). Incidentally, there's a report by the memorably named Mushroom Bureau that one in 20 British people believes potatoes and parsnips grow on trees. Hm, and whilst we're on field patrol, where and how does a pineapple grow? Answers on a handy stalk...

Also, what with Veganuary, Dry January and Meg'n'Harry all over the shop, there's a campaign to abandon January, skip February, and fast-forward - or better still, spring-forward - to March. Top thinking.

I shall leave you with another Vincent Hefter right royal gem in the wake of news that the Queen's supposedly favourite grandchild, Peter Phillips, 42, son of Princess Anne, has been, according to The Sun, "forced to do a tacky Chinese milk promo to rake in cash" ... hm, can a cheesy ad be far behind?

And where is Peter's 9-year-old daughter, the wickedly amusing Savannah, when you need her to divert attention? Anyway, if you seek out the ad on YouTube, never mind the Jersey Royal potatoes, look out for the Jersey Royal moo-cows doing their thing.

So this is how Vincent saw the Chinese take-away episode: "So what if Peter Phillips is trading on his status. If you're a member of the Royal family, why not milk it?"
23/01/2020

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Humanity in the palms of our hands

"The American century - and the European half millennium - is coming to an end. The world century is beginning." Rosabeth Moss Kanter (b.1943) - no, me neither - she is one of America's best-known management thinkers, a social scientist, and a best-selling author; she holds a Professorship at Harvard Business School, specialising in strategy, innovation and leadership for change.

A social scientist, eh. Hm. Anyway, the quotation was written in 1995, when Greta Thunberg wasn't even a glint in anyone's eye, and the damage being done to the planet by ambition and greed was conveniently brushed under a booming balance sheet by the world's movers, shakers and opinion formers, i.e. specialists in strategy, innovation and leadership.

I happened upon Rosabeth's quotation just yesterday, and I presumed (a dangerous thing, I know) that when she wrote it she was thinking of the planet becoming one global village, its inhabitants wondering hither and thither without a care, and everyone trading with no talk of horrid things like trade barriers, tariffs and Donald Trump.

But of course in the quarter-century since, things have changed dramatically. Global warming and the way we have raped, pillaged, burnt and poisoned the planet has altered our perception of what ambush awaits. Suddenly the world century takes on a different meaning, suggesting that if we do go down - well, all 7.7 billion of us now crammed into the same overcrowded lifeboat, will all go down together.

So yesterday, Tuesday, I submitted a letter to the Western Mail about Rosabeth's world century prediction. Today I collect the paper - and I smile when I see the front page...

Unbeknown to me, today was the day the paper launched its #Do1Thing campaign to Save Our Planet, eleven pages inside dedicated to the cause. And yes, my letter was published.

I forever jest that Coincidence should be my middle name - I have no official middle name, just a collection of nicknames accumulated down the years - but my life has been awash with curious little coincidences, just like submitting my letter about the world century and having it published on the day the Western Mail launches its SOP - Save Our Planet campaign.

Mind you, if we are brutally honest, we are not talking about saving the planet - the planet has survived everything the universe has to throw at it, and it will survive our brief stroll through time and place. No prizes for working out that, after we have made our excuses, along with all the species we will drag down with us, nature will regroup and start all over again.

So in truth we are talking about saving humanity, rather than the planet. Perhaps the campaign really should be called SOS - Save Our Species. And who knows, if it does all go wrong ... in another 65 million years dinosaurs could once again be roaming the planet. Or perhaps something in between: Homosaurus.

And on that alarming bombshell, we had all better #Do1Thing (at the very least)!

PS: My spellchecker came to a stop at Homosaurus - and suggested Hoosiers (natives or inhabitants of the state of Indiana, US). Do you suppose that's where Donald Trump comes from?
22/01/2020

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A pint, three straws and a packet of Nutts

"Is Professor David John Nutt pulling our plonkers when he says people should drink less by ordering one pint of beer or glass of wine and three straws, then sharing it with friends?" Columnist Carol Midgley poses an interesting question in The Times in the wake of Professor Nutt's book 'Drink? The New Science of Alcohol'.

Unsure whether Carol was pulling our plonkers - I mean, what if you draw the short straw? - anyway, I searched online Professor John's gloriously oddball proposition...

David John Nutt (b.1951), English neuropsychopharmacologist - never mind a play on nominative determinism (whether someone's name reflects their work or line of thinking), that extravagantly stretched occupational word sounds like something that should be sung by Mary Poppins, Bert and a host of cartoon characters - whatever, the good Professor specialises in the research of drugs that affect the brain, as well as conditions such as addiction, anxiety and sleep. Also, the following clickbait came up:

"Government chief drug adviser David Nutt sacked over cannabis stance - The Guardian, 30 Oct 2009." The Government's drugs tsar was forced to resign for challenging its hardline policy on cannabis and ecstasy. [A few days later three more scientists resigned from the Government's drugs advisory body following the sacking of Professor Nutt.]

Carol Midgley used words like horror, joyless, infantilising and backwash to describe Professor David Nutt's pint-and-three-straws proposition and its consequences. What came to mind was my barman's degree from the University of Life ... I could picture three of the regular lumberjacks in the Asterix Bar with a pint and three straws in front of them - and disaster, two go down for a sip at the same time, they accidentally head-butt each other, there's a shemozzle and a fracas - and it's a Wild West late-afternoon brawl down at The Crazy Horsepower Saloon ... result, chainsaws at dawn.

Honestly, the passing parade really does get more doolally and nutty by the minute. Anyway, here's lookin' at you, straw dogs or no.
21/01/2020

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Say cheese!

"I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief and meets the same legal criteria for being considered a protected characteristic under the same section of the Equality Act that prohibits religious discrimination." Judge Robin Postle makes a landmark ruling at an employment tribunal. (I originally read that as Judge Robin Apostle: apostle of course meaning each of the twelve chief disciples of Jesus Christ; or, a vigorous and pioneering advocate or supporter of a particular policy, idea or cause. Hm, many a misread word gives cause for curious concern.) Whatever!

"You can't eat cheese if you're a vegan? It's just a crime against cheese-lovers. I considered signing up for Veganuary, but I can't give up my cheese." Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of this UK parish, announces a curd upon your vegan house.

The last time Their Honours came into conflict with Boris, they ruled unanimously that, in suspending parliament - a prorogation upon this House! - he had misled Queen, Parliament and country. However, at the resulting general election, the country sat in judgment and decided that Boris should be given the benefit of the doubt and be free to roam unrestricted on the Brexit front.

On the vegan battlefront, it will be interesting to see whether the country eventually comes down on the side of Boris and decides that the love of cheese makes Veganuary simply a passing fad.
20/01/2020

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Borehole ahoy!

"All my life, 90% of men have bored the arse off me." Women taught me everything, says the English actor Brian Blessed, 83 (as spotted under 'Quotes of the week', The Sunday Times).

In Huw and Smile, in the chapter headed 'Sex, greed, tribalism and rock 'n' roll', here, just a brief snatch:

A voice on the wireless reminded us how a brace of famous spiritual figures coped with this hard-core addiction thingy called sex. First was the glorious tale of English actor Brian Blessed (b.1936), who went to Everest in 1990, and along the way met the 14th Dalai Lama (b.1935), and the blessed Blessed broached the subject of sex - you can actually hear Brian saying this: "I was 57 and I said: 'You're my age, I'm really randy, I can shag anything - now how have you got on for sex all these years?' And The Dalai Lama replied: 'I do sometimes think of a beautiful woman and then I chant my mantras loudly and take a cold shower.'."

Even better, St Benedict (480-547AD) dealt with sex thus, at least according to the voice on the wireless: "Whenever he felt the stirrings of lust, he would hurl himself into a thorn bush." And verily, the alternative comedians of the day did add: "What a prick, eh?"

And on that score, this clickbait from March 2019: "Ehud Arye Laniado, 65, billionaire diamond trader, dies from a reported heart attack during penis enlargement surgery at private Paris clinic." Gosh: and the moral of said sorry tale? Mother Nature only gives you the heart to handle the penis she blessed - or cursed - you with.

Returning to the quote at the top, do you suppose that 90% of women would say: "All my life, Brian Blessed has bored the arse off me."
19/01/2020

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Life's too short not to say "Just one for the road, then!"

"If drinking just one extra glass of wine or pint of beer over the recommended daily limit will shorten one's life by 30 minutes [according to an international study of 600,000 drinkers published in The Lancet medical journal], then by my calculations I should have been dead for more than six years by now." Graham Barnes (Age 73) of London SE9, in a letter to The Times (marginally paraphrased here to join up some dots regarding the source of the claim, which was all over the media like a bulbous red nose).

Graham Barnes's letter generated a response from a Maureen Ann Peacock of Oxford, who reminded us that, according to the Queen Mother's former equerry, Major Colin Burgess in Behind Palace Doors, the Queen Mother would have "a gin and Dubonnet at noon followed by red wine at lunch, and sometimes a glass of port ... a couple of martinis were served at 6pm ... one or two glasses of pink champagne accompanied dinner". She died aged 101.

Churchill was known as a regular drinker. He always had a glass of whiskey by him, and he drank brandy and champagne (his truest passion) both at lunchtime and dinner, but most historians reject the commonly held belief that he was an alcoholic, indeed not even an excessive alcohol drinker. He was just a regular tippler. He died aged 90, way past the three-score-years-and-ten promised age of mankind (see the Bible, Psalm 90, verse 10).

When I earned my degree from the University of Life working as a barman, I observed something interesting. Most heavy drinkers clearly suffered some sort of mental anguish, went on to suffer poor health, and died relatively young - yet a chosen few followed the Queen Mother and Churchillian path to longevity.

Those who clearly had an addiction to alcohol abused their eating habits. Drink took the place of a meal, a deadly recipe. Yet those who one would regard as regular, even heavy drinkers, enjoyed good health and lived to a decent old age - but they all embraced their food and never seemed to miss a meal (if they did, it was the exception that challenged the rule).

And what do we know about both the Queen Mother and Churchill? Yep, they loved their food and ate regular meals.
18/01/2020

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I must go down to the sea...

"Fish oil can boost sperm count and make men's testicles BIGGER, study at the University of Southern Denmark claims." Scientists in Denmark analysed the testicles and sperm of more than 1,600 young and healthy men going through national service fitness testing and found those taking Omega-3 ejaculated more sperm.

Thus a textbook joy and doolallyness clickbait that grabbed me by my, er, very average scrotum - but made me smile and click (the erectile "BIGGER" was the headline's, not mine). As usual, I hurriedly scrolled down through the article because in the basement lurked the Comments section, waiting to grab me by my, er, average-plus imagination.

True to form, the commentaries ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime to the droll.

JJ of B1: "Come again?"
Mr T of TQ: "Been using fish oil for years. Now I have to use a wheelbarrow to carry mine around."
Halfords of TQ: "So you were the fellow who wanted a heavy-duty tyre for his barrow."
MIC of Suffragette City: "Someone send Harry a few gallons so he can grow a pair."
Lady Godiva of CV1: "Been downing the stuff for years. Still no balls - eye-catching breasts though, shyly shrouding under all this hair."
Mr B of UK: "What a load of old bollocks."

Talking of national service fitness testing, I remember from years ago the tale of three Welsh brothers, Tomos, Rhisiart and Harri, joining the army and going through the entrance medical. The doctor noticed that the first brother in front of him, Tomos, was rather well blessed in the cockpit area, but nothing unusual, the law of averages and all that. He passed his medical with flying colours.

The second brother, Rhisiart, also passed his medical, but the doc did register that he too was well endowed in the cock-a-doodle-doo department, which was somewhat of a coincidence, even if they were brothers (as opposed to identical twins).

And then Harri, the third brother ... well, you're probably ahead of me already and can guess what's coming: "I don't mean to be overly personal," said the doc to Harri, "but in the interest of medical research, I couldn't help but notice that all three of you brothers are exceptionally well endowed. Is this a family characteristic?"

"Oh no, I don't mind you asking," said Harri. "You see, our mother only had one arm, and when we were very young that's how she used to lift us out of the bath."
17/01/2020

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Kamasutra Kamikaze Bed

"Artificial intelligence, smart hands-free sex toys and transport technology are the big trends at this year's Sin City annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES)." Thus an eye-catching clickbait apropos the annual 52-year-old show held in Los Angeles, which showcases the next-generation innovations set to revolutionise the way we live and, er, make mad passionate love (adult-only companies are welcomed at the CES).

From a loyal robot called Rollbot (with a teddy bear face) that brings you a toilet roll should you be caught short (unless you're in the woods, I guess), via a smart anti-snore pillow that could save your marriage, to a robotic "sex bed" that teaches you lots of new positions, and niftily called the Kamasutra Bed (it changes shape at the flick of a button to help couples keen to try out X-rated positions).

I have rechristened it the Kamasutra Kamikaze Bed because I am reminded of a conversation with a doctor pal who said I'd be surprised how many men of a certain age (and getting younger, apparently) actually meet their maker when involved in over-energetic and furious sex.

We only hear of high profile incidents where some unfortunate fellow comes unstuck in the back of a car in a parking area atop the Black Mountain, or on a bed in a massage parlour in Cardiff (or knocking shop as they are known with a nod and a wink down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon).

So the Kamasutra Bed really could be the Kamasutra Kamikaze Bed to those who are not quite up to it.

PS: I had originally misspelt Kamikaze, so the spellchecker put me right, having also suggested Kawasaki, which had a certain va-va-voom about it. However, I was disappointed that it hadn't, given the context, suggested the Krankies, the married Scottish comedy duo who recently retired and revealed details of their kinky sex life during what they describe as their "dirty thirties". The mind boggles.

PPS: When the spellchecker came to Krankies, it suggested Crankiest. Never a dull moment on the joy and doolallyness front.
16/01/2020

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There's The Sun, The Moon, The Balloon, and Harry

"Get a Harry's Trial Set now..." Thus an online advert looking me straight in the eye - and here's me thinking it must be some brand new electronic board game, a sort of modern-day Snakes and Ladders thingy, a game to help us avoid the ambush after ambush that lies around every corner, where today we're a ladder, tomorrow a snake - Harry of course being a certain individual currently in the news and warily navigating ambush territory.

But no: "Everything you need for a smooth shave." There again, if it had been about Prince Harry, then it should read: "Everything you need for a close shave."

Whatever, Catherine Howe's song Harry ("There's the sun, the moon and Harry") came to mind, first released in 1975, but reissued in 1984 due to public demand with the birth of, ta-rah, Prince Harry.

Except today of course the sun becomes The Sun (all that tabloid attention), the moon becomes The Moon (as in The Moon's A Balloon), and of course poor old Harry becomes the Duke of Sussex, where the Duchess seemingly wears the trousers (now there's an expression I haven't heard for many a moon). Ah, but is there a possibility that Harry might become the Duke of Suss-ex?

And talking of tabloids, I caught sight of this clickbait:

"Harry and Meghan's dogs 'flown to Canada' bombshell." I do so hope they travelled Flyby Mary Poppins, safely ensconced within that carpet bag in the cargo hold, and incidentally - important this - the only airline with zero carbon emissions (presuming of course that Mary doesn't belch or fart to excess at 30,000 feet).

Here's wishing safe and happy landings all round.
15/01/2020

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Are you awoke at the back?

"In 2019, the University and College Union in Britain decided it was perfectly OK for white folks to self-identify as black, so long as they...
     A)  Were attending a job interview
     B)  Blacked up properly (think Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and his 'blackface-cum-redface' incident)
     C)  Were dancing
     D)  Felt like it

Answer: D) The far-left leaning union prides itself on always recognising the right of people to identify as anything they want, even when to the casual glance they are clearly not. Even as grey squirrels, if that is what grabs their bushy tails and dipped eyes."

The above is a quick grab of a quiz doing the rounds to test if we have been paying attention over the past decade, the woke decade, 10 years of gender fluidity and conformity of speech.

Mind you, I enjoyed the grey squirrel reference because I recently saw this headline:

"First they cloned Dolly the sheep. Now they're targeting grey squirrels: Researchers plan to engineer males by DNA editing to spread infertility through the grey population and bring red squirrels back to Britain." For 150 years they have wreaked havoc on Britain's woods and wildlife, but the destructive reign of the grey could soon be over...

Yes, I know what they mean: the grey is a rat (with a fancy tail), the red is a pussycat (with extra bushy tail and cute ears); or, in human terms, Jeremy Corbyn is a grey, Boris Johnson is a red.

Mind you, I did like the thoroughly modern woke solution that the greys should self-identify as red. Problem solv-ed, as Inspector Clouseau would say.
14/01/2020

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The Prince and the Showgirl

"We all thought Meghan Markle had married into Royalty when, in fact, Prince Harry had married into show business." Clive Whichelow makes a pithy 'grassy knoll' observation, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Indeed, Katie Hurlow, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, decided that she must watch The Prince and the Showgirl again because "I cannot remember whether it is a comedy or a tragedy". Intriguingly, The Prince and the Showgirl was originally called The Sleeping Prince. Thus just a brace of smiley comments spotted in the never less than witty and wise Letters pages of our newspapers.

Several correspondents also suggested that anyone seeking to understand Prince Harry's decision to step away from royal duties would find clues in the lyrics of various popular songs: Rex Harrison's I'm An Ordinary Man from My Fair Lady, or There Ain't No Pleasing You by Chas and Dave, both good starting points. I also liked the notion of Meat Loaf's I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That).

Alan Sabatini points out that Harry says he wishes he hadn't been born a prince, but, "had he been born a pauper would he dream of being a prince?". And if Meghan didn't want an extended family for her son, "she should have married Tom or Dick, but not Harry". That gem from Camilla - gulp, surely not? No, hang on, Camilla Coats-Carr of Teddington, Middlesex. Phew! Mind you, I'm not sure what Thomas and Richard's thoughts are on the matter.

And Eric Howarth sums up the gloriously entertaining doolallyness of it all: "What a wonderful diversion while waiting for Big Ben and Independence Day."

"There are no happy endings in history, only crisis points that pass." Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), American professor of biochemistry and fiction writer, in The Gods Themselves (1972).
13/01/2020

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Roots, belonging and place

"WHERE ARE YOU FROM? IS IT WHERE YOU WERE BORN? HOW ABOUT YOUR PARENTS? THEIR PARENTS?" Thus the opening gambit in an eye-catching if in-yer-face entire back-page advert, compliments of the HSBC UK banking group, in today's Sunday Times newspaper - copied here in full...

Now if you peruse all the questions asked, along with the presumptions suggested, which clearly set out to establish where you believe your roots are, and what it is you strongly identify with ... there is one critical question missing: What tribe do you identify with?

In my book I have a chapter called 'Sex, greed, tribalism and rock 'n' roll' - it explores the three things, addictions if you like, that are hard-wired into all of us, indeed all living creatures: sex, greed and tribalism (rock 'n' roll is there as a bit of background music). It is all to do with Mother Nature's prime directive, 'The Survival Of The Fittest'.

We are all tribal, whether we care to admit it or not. The population of Britain became one huge tribe during the Second World War, which is why, against the odds, it enabled the nation state to withstand and overcome the Nazi challenge. Nature is very clever when it comes to survival, which is why we become increasingly tribal when our freedoms, indeed our very existence, are threatened.

In my book I list the tribes I intuitively identify with, listed here in diminishing order of belonging:

     Family, friends and colleagues (the banker tribe which tops the list, everyone's list, I guess). Then comes...
     Community
     Welsh-speaking
     Welsh
     Sporting entities
     British
     European
- or more correctly, Caucasian
     'The West'
     Humanity
- just in case, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours, etcetera, etcetera...

Whisper it, but I haven't included religion, perhaps historically one of humanity's more tribal factions.

Clearly if something changed dramatically in the life and times of the nation - something similar to the Second World War, say - then my priorities would change, and the British tribe would shoot up the table of belonging and place. I believe that's how Mother Nature makes sure survival works.

In the meantime, I'm happy with my tribes as they are.
12/01/2020

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♪♪♪: By the light of the silvery wolf moon

"Wanted: Super-talented weirdos, misfits and true wild cards to shake up Whitehall." Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister's key adviser at Downing Street, has launched an appeal for an unusual set of people with different views of the world, particularly younger ones, as he reveals plans for a massive shake-up of the civil service.

The sky threatened to fall on Number 10 - but the appeal was lit-up by this one particular response:

"My career as an entertainer has been the perfect mask for my work in espionage." Uri Geller, the 73-year-old Israeli-British illusionist, magician, spoon-bender and self-proclaimed psychic, answers the Downing Street adviser's job advert for "weirdos", claiming that his "genuine" psychic powers could help settle Middle East tensions. A source close to Geller elaborates to The Daily Telegraph: "Uri is 100% serious about taking up a role in Government. He concedes that his application might be one of the more unusual received by Dominic Cummings but hopes that he can see the potential value of having Uri on board."

Joy and doolallyness is the name of my game, and I am spoilt for choice. I saw the Uri quote last night, under a full moon, which just happened to be the first full moon of 2020, the Wolf Moon, so named by the indigenous inhabitants of North America (tribes of colour?), from the packs of wolves that howled amid the first deep snows of winter.

Best of all though, I enjoyed the following overview of the job advert as submitted by a Ken Gregory of Wilmslow, Cheshire, in a letter to the Telegraph: "I note that Dominic Cummings is seeking weirdos and wild cards to shake up the civil service, but that he will be ruthless with those who don't fit in. Surely the nature of weirdos and wild cards is that they don't fit in." 10/10, Ken, move to the top of the class.

Do you know, I can hear Cummings and Geller crooning a duet at Number 10, with Dominic on violins and Uri on spoons: "♪♪♪ By the light of the silvery moon, we want to spoon, to our Bojo we'll croon love's tune..."
11/01/2020

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And on yet another bombshell: Is your bathroom cabinet racist?

"As we know, everything in life is now racist. Everything you say, everything you do, everything you think: it's all racist. History is racist. Travel is racist. Capitalism is racist. Climate change is racist. Jeremy Corbyn is racist. Dogs are racist. Comedy is racist. Television is racist." Thus Jeremy Clarkson's opening shot across the bows in last weekend's Sunday Times. [It takes me a week to get through the paper - anyway, Jeremy continues]: "And now comes news that the Lake District, the least racist thing on earth, is racist as well."

Yes, I remember just the other day reading about racist Lakeland. The national park's chief executive, Richard Leafe, argued that the Lakes should turn over a new Leafe and do more to attract a wider range of visitors beyond the able-bodied white middle class, i.e. more Asian, black and minority ethnic visitors, as well as the young and those who are less able in terms of their mobility. As Clarkson observes: "Crikey. So this land of Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth is also ageist and disablist." And couldn't-care-lessist too, I would add.

Be all that as it may, when I read Clarkson's opening gambit and his list of things that are racist ... there was something missing, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. So I followed my nose and had a search online ... Bingo x 2!!

"LIVE VIDEO: Chimney of Sistine Chapel as conclave votes for Pope - will smoke be black or white?" BBC News tweet in 2013. "This tweet from the BBC is crass and unnecessary. Do we really need silly innuendo about the race of the next Pope?" Labour MP David Lammy responds to the BBC tweet ... he later apologised when it was pointed out that white smoke traditionally emerges from a Vatican chimney to signify a new pontiff has been chosen.

"If cauliflower is racist, the racists are winning." America's young Democratic starlet, AOC, has said that growing cauliflower highlights why a lot of garden projects fail in New York in "communities of colour", and that this supremacist variety of cabbage is "a colonial approach to environmentalism".

The words 'Asylum', 'Taken Over' and something beginning with 'L' flashed through my mind.

Blimey, I hate to think about all those rugby players who have grown cauliflower ears down the years. How will they cope with the abuse? And I'm nervous of having visitors needing to use the toilet because the bathroom suite is, er, white.

Even worse, my toothpaste is racist too. I must go and lie down in a darkened room...

PS: The media darling of the left in the US Congress, AOC (see above), is one Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. AOC also happens to be the monitor screen I am currently looking at and rolling my eyes.
10/01/2020

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And on that bombshell

"MEGXIT" Exclusive: Palace Bombshell ... Civil war as Harry & Meg quit the Royals ... Queen sad ... Charles and Wills furious. Thus this morning's Sun newspaper front page with its eye-catching MEGXIT headline.

In Huw and Smile I dedicate one segment (Chapter 4: 'A flavour of the passing parade') to the Harry and Meghan wedding - I mean, it was pure and glorious theatre, on a pure and gloriously sunny spring day, when a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love - along with many events, happenings and entertaining quotations surrounding the whole shebang.

For example, in the run-up to the happy couple's big day, Germaine Greer predicted that Meghan will not be corralled for long: "She'll bolt. She's bolted before."

But who would have predicted that Harry would also bolt? And on that bombshell, indeed.

And here's a paragraph from my book, what was intended to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek:

Thinking of what Germaine Greer had said of Meghan - that she's a bolter - do you suppose that the Queen gave Harry and Meghan the title of Duke and Duchess of Sussex to cover all the bases, I mean, if the worst comes to pass, then Meghan will become the Duchess of West Sussex, and Harry the Duke of East Sussex? A cunning plan or what? But best not go there.

As previously mentioned, it never crossed my mind that they would both bolt. It's all beginning to look a lot like an episode from The Simpsons. And on that theme, here's another paragraph from Huw and Smile:

In the lead up to the nuptials I also learned that Meghan's estranged half-brother, Thomas Markle Jr, warned an expectant world that Meghan marrying Harry would be like the Simpsons marrying into the Windsors - which I must say conjures up a glorious pause for thought ... Meghan being Lisa, obviously. Hm, many a true word...
09/01/2020

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Christmas to a tee

"Now that we've disposed of both turkey and pudding some days ago, has anyone any idea of what to do with all the golf tees from the crackers?" Sandra Carter of Loughton, Essex, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Suggestions from readers included "excellent markers in seed trays" and "stick in a row upside-down on top of your fence and you'll see the end of pigeon deposits". I'm not sure about the practicality of sticking golf tees upside-down on top of a fence.

Whatever, I am reminded of a tale from the 1980s, about Jack, a local successful and characterful car dealer who'd got hold of a good-as-new Jaguar XJ-Something-Or-Other at a knock-down price. One day shortly after, he took Pat, his rather delightful secretary, out for a 'jaunt' in his posh motor. These days our cars are full of electric and electronic wizardry, but back then such things were something of a novelty and only available in the more expensive and up-market cars.

Anyway, he's driving along and points out to Pat all the gizmos: "This switch," he says, "drops the window - all electric, no winder." She is suitably impressed. "And this opens the sun roof, all automatic ... and this moves your seat back ... and this reclines it." Which the seat does, along with Pat blissfully ensconced. She smiles: "No wonder everyone fancies buying a Jag if they win the football pools."

A little later, as the seat returns to the upright position, Pat notices something on the floor. She reaches down and picks it up - it's a golf tee: "What's this?" He smiles, for Jack the Lad is a keen golfer. "Oh that," he says. "That's what we rest our balls on before we drive off."

"Blimey," she says, "Jaguars think of everything."
08/01/2020

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Normal service resumed ... so here's lookin' at you, 20/20
 


   A near-neighbour welcomes in the New Year

RESOLUTIONS UPDATE: "As my one and only new year resolution, I am pledging to give up being a Remainer during January. So, from February 1, I promise to become a Reminder." Alan Ponsford of Tisbury, Wiltshire, in a letter to The Times.

Nice one, Alan ... "♪♪♪: When the weather is yucky, I know I'll get lucky / If I go messing about in Roget's Thesaurus." With apologies to Josh MacRae (1933-1977) and his 1966 song Messing About On The River. Gosh, until I visited YouTube today I hadn't heard that song since Junior Choice days (or Children's Favourites as it was until 1967), yet the title and its catchy melody remain burnt onto my brain's hard drive.

Talking of resolutions, of which I have none ... let's eavesdrop on a couple of bar staff down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon discussing trade: "Dry January is a disaster. The only people in here are livestock farmers, slaughterhouse workers, game shooters, deer stalkers and butchers, all drinking to forget Veganuary."

Mind you, being a market town it is still busy enough to have a brace of barmen on duty! (With thanks to Telegraph cartoonist Matt for a bit of lateral inspiration.)

PS: The spellchecker suggested 'Legendary' for 'Veganuary'. Hm, say nothing is best.
07/01/2020

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♪♪♪: On the Thirteenth Day of Christmas...

"If decoration be the appetizer of Christmas, hang on until Twelfth Night." With apologies to the ghost of William "If music be the food of love, play on" Shakespeare.

Along the narrow, bendy and busy country lane between Llandeilo and the village of Penybanc, there's a bridge and a Y-junction, with blind bends going both left and right which slows traffic right down. As vehicles bear left towards Penybanc there is ample room for something coming the other way to pass, as well as space for a walker to stand safely alongside a sweeping retaining wall that is part of the bridge.

Well now, near the beginning of December 2018 someone had draped a large snowflake decoration on the limb of a low slung tree behind the wall, meaning it was fleetingly in everyone's eyeline as they drove, rode or walked past. It generated an instant smile. By the next day, and to add to the gaiety of the passing parade (literally), someone had added a candy cane adornment.

Over the following days other festive decorations were added, mostly anonymous. The display took on an original and colourful little life all of its own. But here's the thing - especially with Banksy's street art forever in the news - a few children had hung some marvellous road art of their own creation on the twigs, many made up of several circular slices of wood, about the size of the original Wagon Wheels confectionary, one side with some eye-catching festive art, and on the reverse the names and ages of the artists involved.

Who would have thought that a simple snowflake adornment in a rural location could generate so much innocent delight? Scroll forward to December 2019, and a conversation with a local pondered if the pleasure would be repeated, especially as the lady who had hung the 2018 snowflake had moved out of the area, so I decided, as a starter for 10, to hang a couple of festive decorations myself ... and the inevitable unfolded...
 

                      

Above, just a corner snapshot of 2019's efforts, a mixture of standard Christmas decorations and some original art works by local children. The close-up of an albino Rudolph with a button for a red nose generated an XL smile - oh, and in the background you can make out a marvellous Wagon Wheel slice of wood with a Santa painted on. Quite wonderful.

I particularly liked old Rudolph because it has 'Joy' written on it. And what is my book and this web site all about? Yes of course, the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade. But I did wonder about Rudolph and whether he was a homemade effort ... however, on the back it said '8XM224 - Pretty Perfect Presents by Langs'.

Ah well, but it did the job perfectly and was properly eye-catching, which is the name of the game - and as it happens, old Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was the final item of Xmas decoration left on the tree by today, the Thirteenth Day of Christmas (Rudolph, incidentally, had lost his red nose - but later recovered by me from the river bank below - which did make me wonder whether the button had been added after purchase). The button wouldn't stick back on, so I kept it as a memento.

As I said above, it's marvellous how something as simple as that original snowflake from a year back can generate so much joy and amusement.
06/01/2020

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♪♪♪: On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

     

"Unwelcome gifts? First unwanted Christmas present was returned at 7.02am on December 25." A post-Xmas headline that drew a smile - ah, but was the unwanted gift a partridge in a pear tree?

All we know is that payment systems firm PayPoint found that the first forlorn item was returned to a Collects+ store in Salisbury at 7.02am on Christmas Day. Some 38 minutes later, the next parcel was returned in Glasgow at 7.40am. In Enfield, north London, a single person returned seven parcels...

A total of 419 parcels were shipped back to their destination by the courier using drop off points on Christmas Day.

On the sunny side of the street, I enjoyed the following two letters about Christmas gifts - but sadly none about twelve drummers drumming being returned to sender.

JUST WHAT I WANTED: "Last year I received a much-desired washing machine with a special port for adding errant socks to the ongoing wash. This hatch has never been needed." Sue McFadzean of Swansea in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Now here's a funny thing when it comes to washing machine and socks: I have never lost a sock in the wash. Mind you it does help that I tend to wear just one model of sock so I can mix 'n' match at will, so perhaps I haven't been paying close attention.

SLIPPERY SLOPE: "I received a pair of M&S slippers for Christmas and luckily I spotted the warning label 'Suitable for vegans' just as I was about to eat them." Derek Long of Sheffield in a letter to, again, The Daily Telegraph.

Mind you, a pair of 'slippers' made out of banana skins would definitely be suitable for vegans - but very difficult to remain upstanding without falling over.

Derek went on to point out that there was no apology to eco-warriors that the M&S slippers had been transported 10,000 miles or so by boat and road. Hm, a slippery carbon footprint that. But Derek did add: "They are very comfy though."
05/01/2020

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♪♪♪: On the Eleventh Day of Christmas...

"Why was he so cross?" Thus a memorable question posed by Gretl von Trapp (the youngest child in The Sound of Music), and asked of Max Detweiler (her 'Uncle Max', a music agent and producer, her father's good friend and best man at his wedding to Maria), in connection with a prickly exchange between Max and Herr Zeller (the film's main antagonist).

I was reminded of the above scene in the film (shown over the Christmas holiday) when I spotted this clickbait online: "Rock musician Meat Loaf accuses Greta Thunberg of being 'brainwashed' into thinking climate change is real."

The Sound of Music scene takes place as Max and all the von Trapp children rehearse for the music festival where the family will later perform their disappearing act. The rehearsal is interrupted by an angry Herr Zeller, the town's Gauleiter (a political official governing a district under Nazi rule), and he is doing his nut because the von Trapp family were not flying the flag of the Third Reich at their home now that the Anschluss (the [forced] union of Austria and Nazi Germany in 1938) has occurred.

And Zeller demands to know when the Captain is due back from his honeymoon because he is already aware von Trapp has been conscripted into the German navy with immediate effect.

Anyway, back with that question posed at the top - and it's a timeless exchange that could have endlessly taken place, not just in Britain, but all around the world over the past three years or so, what with Brexit, Trumpety Trump, Social Media, Garry Lineker, Uncle Tom Cobley and all and all...

Gretl von Trapp: "Why was he so cross?"
Max Detweiler (with a resigned sigh): "Everyone is cross these days, darling."
04/01/2020

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♪♪♪: On the Tenth Day of Christmas...

A WAY WITH WORDS: "Could you tell me where I can get a copy of the dictionary Camilla Long uses for her TV reviews? The verb 'to enshitten' isn't in mine and I wish it were." Martin Henry of Good Easter, Essex, in a letter to The Sunday Times, [another of the Five Golden letters carried forward from the Fifth Day of Christmas].

"To enshitten" is not something you hear in the Bible; certainly I've never heard it down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, not so much in the Asterix Bar but in the snug. So I decided to look it up online ... Urban Dictionary to the rescue: 'Enshitten - to make something shitty, e.g. You will not enshitten this project with your tomfoolery.'

Then I thought hm, now how would Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons, deploy it, especially given all the problems the Conservatives and Brexiteers had with the last speaker of the Commons, John Bercow: "You will not enshitten this House, Mr Speaker, with your personal beliefs and prejudices. Begone, dull care! I prithee begone from me! Begone, dull care, you and I shall never agree."

Yep, I can hear dear old Moggy deliver those lines in his super-posh, pussycat accent ... sounds just about purrfect. Incidentally, the words "Begone, dull care..." come from a song by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), English composer, conductor and pianist. Very much Made in Britten.

Oh yes, the rather wonderful place name Good Easter - where the author of the above missive dwells, a village in the Chelmsford district of Essex - does not refer to the Christian festival, but to the 11th-century Estre, from Old English eowestre meaning a sheep fold, or 'a place at the sheep fold or pen'. The Good part is derived from the Anglo-Saxon woman's name Godgyth or Godgifu, the lady who most likely owned the hamlet back in Ye Olden Days. Every day a day at school at Look You.

PS: As with "bollockspeak" from a few days back, my spellchecker came to a sudden halt at "enshitten", again coming clean and declaring "no spelling suggestions". However, at "Begone" it suggested "Begonia". Hm, a bit of colourful language you probably will hear in the Bible. But how about this? "Godgifu" came up as "Goodwife". Good Easter indeed.
03/01/2020

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♪♪♪: On the Ninth Day of Christmas...

"I think the yellow card is fair because I was rude, but I was rude to an idiot. And for some reason I was rude, but I was and because I was I clearly deserve the yellow card. I had bad words with the guy." Jose Mourinho, 56, Portuguese football manager, current manager of Tottenham Hotspur, and a star of any passing parade, explains his yellow card in his club's 1-0 defeat at Southampton following a heated argument with Southampton goalkeeping coach Andrew Sparkes over what is understood to be frustration and annoyance at time-wasting tactics as the home team protected its 1-0 lead.

Ah, Jose 'I Am The Special One' Mourinho, never a dull moment. The above "He said what?" was all over the morning media following Tottenham's New Year's Day away loss at Southampton ... there's nothing to add to the pure joy and doolallyness of the incident and the quotation. After all, 'The Special One' deserves a float in the passing parade all to himself.
02/01/2020

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♪♪♪: On the Eighth Day of Christmas [New Year's Day]...

"2020 is the perfect year to wish everyone 20/20 vision, especially the Prime Minister, given the long and winding road ahead." Huw Beynon of Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail ... hang about, that's me! And it made the lead letter in the paper's Straight to the Point column.

The final throwaway line that made me SOL (SMILE OUT LOUD) in 2019 was Dame Edna Everage describing her mega-sized superyacht, Ocean Widow, as "three times the size of Wales", and that a trifling cruise ship overtaken by Ocean Window the previous day was "quarter the size of Swansea" (to join up all the dots, see the Seventh Day of Christmas, below).

The first thing that made me smile in 2020 was some correspondence in The Times on the subject of Britain needing to get its transport infrastructure sorted - but before discussing bottomless money pits like HS2, or a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland, a smiley plea was made to first sort out the massive delays on the A303, the only direct road available to serve the West Country, the busy-busy road that passes Stonehenge.

The Rev Nigel Jackson-Stevens of Barnstaple, Devon, suggests a practical new year's resolution might be to override the environmentalists, preservationists and archaeologists, and build a dual carriageway somewhere south of Stonehenge - or better still, "give the stones back to the Welsh".

What a splendid idea. But where to rebuild Stonehenge? And what to call it? Cylch Meini Mawr Tywysog Cymru (the Prince of Wales Mega Stone Circle)? Oh yes, that should go down well with the natives.

Continuing a Welsh theme, I see that Ivor the Engine is on track to return to television as a live-action version 60 years after the much-loved children's favourite first aired. I remember it from the Seventies because I seem to recall that it was on telly in the lead-up to the Six O'Clock News. And it always generated a wide smile.

Ah, welcome back Jones the Steam, Evans the Song, Owen the Signal, Morgan the Roundabout... and all is well with the world. However, a Major Allwys Wright of Berkshire did wonder if the new Snowflake-generation Ivor will be a "non-binary vegan engine fuelled by a bio-degradable sustainable gluten-free power source"?

"Let's hope Boris has 20/20 vision: Here's wishing everyone a new year awash with 20/20 vision, especially so a certain B Johnson Esquire of SW1A (with a nod and a wink to one Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP and Leader of the House of Commons, who insists on the Esquire appellation in a style guide edict to his staff)." Huw Beynon of Llandeilo, in a letter to the Western Mail ... hang about, that's me, again! Wel-i-jiw-jiw! Hm, a double-top, a good start to the year.
01/01/2020

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♪♪♪: On the Seventh Day of Christmas...

Dame Edna Rules The Waves (BBC1, 9.05pm): "I was inappropriately touched by the taxman," says Dame Edna Everage (b.1934), bedecked in the usual Technicolor explosion of purple and fuchsia, who has been hiding out on Ocean Widow, her mega-sized superyacht - "half the size of Wales" - sailing in shark-infested waters, where the taxman fears to tread.

But the elusive squillionaire agreed to return for one more show broadcast from the waves, with, er, a live studio audience. This was as good a way as any to see out 2019, full of the usual Dame Edna withering celebrity put-downs.

On her sofa was reality TV star Sharon Osbourne (b.1952), a devotee of the plastic surgeon's knife: "Of course I recognise you," Edna says, "but you have been to the panel beaters a few times." She also described Sharon as a shapeshifter - and enquired about having her vagina, or "front-botties as the medical profession calls it", landscaped for old time's sake.

Oh, and a Gwyneth Paltrow jade egg was found hiding in the sofa. They also discussed something called a coffee enema, to which Dame Edna said: "I had a coffee enema once; I fell asleep, but my bottom stayed awake all night."

We know how the media likes to explain size and scale by saying something is twice the height of a double-decker bus, or the size of Wales. So Dame Edna describing her superyacht as half the size of Wales was a nice one. Later in the show she described it as twice the size of Wales, and later still, three times the size of Wales.

I think she said Wales, rather than whales. No it must have been Wales because she described having passed a common or garden cruise ship the previous day, which was "quarter the size of Swansea".

And then there was a curious and superfluous cameo appearance by Countryfile's Anita "Can I have a go?" Rani, dressed as an eco-warrior to shoehorn in a message about single-use plastic ... surely Greta would have been a much better shoo-in. Anyway, after Anita Rani had departed, Edna did offer up what must have been a "Can I have a go?" in-joke: "I thought that girl would never go."

As I said, it was a good way to see out 2019 - and I was in bed way before the New Year fireworks proper.
31/12/2019

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♪♪♪: On the Sixth Day of Christmas...

SLOW-TV HEAVEN: "It is the nearest we human beings have ever come to creating a living, breathing organism." Jeremy Paxman (b.1950), British journalist, author and television presenter, from a few years back while peering out of a steam train carriage window as he followed the river Severn from the sea to its source on Plynlimon in mid-Wales.

His definition of a steam locomotive jumped to mind while watching the World's Most Scenic Railway Journey - Minute By Minute on Channel 5. Every mile of the stunning 42-mile journey by steam train - the iron road to the isles by iron horse - from Fort William to Mallaig on the west coast, through the Scottish Highlands, recorded in loving, steadily chugging detail from the front-end of the engine (The Lancashire Fusilier on Jacobite duties), the train's roof, the footplate, from inside the carriages, and from the air ... the beautiful scenery interspersed only by the occasional whistle, the scrape of shovel, and the testimony of driver Ian Riley and train guard and manager Florence MacLean.

The rhythmic chugging of a steam engine as it pulls away and slowly builds up steam and speed - or works its socks off to climb over an incline - is mesmeric in the extreme. And when the whole caboodle is in cruise mode, the clickety-clack of the rails is just as hypnotic. The engine also had a proper butch-sounding whistle, unlike its Flying Scotsman cousin's whistle which always sounds somewhat lacklustre, as if it has a bad throat and badly in need of a special Helen Mirren "for cough" mixture.

Oh, and the sheer joy of watching a factual TV programme without a celebrity presenter saying "Can I have a go?". Slow TV in excelsis.

Where the track ran alongside a road it was intriguing to see traffic actually slow right down to take in the sight and sound of an iron horse in full gallop. And then the beautiful scenery - the aerial view of the train crossing the Glenfinnan viaduct, also now known as the Harry Potter viaduct, was stunning - and did they really stop the train alongside a particularly photogenic Loch Eilt just for the driver to take a picture with his mobile phone, because no reason was given for the brief stop in the middle of nowhere? I hope so.

Mind you, I would have enjoyed some explanations too as to what all the levers and valves were for as they tugged here and spun a control valve wheel there.

Finally, all such programmes should be on the BBC because Channel 5's perfectly acceptable need to run ads and shouty programme trailers every 12 minutes or so to pay the bills simply broke the gentle magic of the journey into frustrating appetizers and aperitifs.
30/12/2019

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♪♪♪: On the Fifth Day of Christmas...

"...The Sunday Times letters page gave me five golden missives, brief points of order that were quirky, witty and slick as a whistle." The paper looked back over 2019 and shared with us the pick of their pops, 17 of the pithiest efforts submitted by readers. Here are just a couple of the five that particularly caught my eye and tickled my old M-spot (Merriment-spot) - but first a November 2019 headline spotted on the front page of, yes, The Sunday Times:

"Clarkson's climate bombshell." Britain's biggest petrolhead has admitted that he has no doubt about the existence of climate change after an epiphany on the other side of the world...

Let's be honest, Jeremy Clarkson has been taking the epiphany out of Greta Thunberg for a while now, describing her as a "spoilt little brat" and "to shut up and go back to school".

He in turn has long been accused of "bollockspeak" as he lectures us from his totem pole on high, especially when it comes to climate change - the argument from Greta and her followers being that he and his team's carbon footprint as they all power their mega expensive motors around the racetracks and backwaters of the world is the equivalent of a ginormous tidal wave of ordinary motorists simply going about their daily treks.

Anyway, here are the two letters that generated my own tidal wave of a smile:

WOOLLY THINKING: "Jeremy Clarkson says that no sane person would buy a cardigan for twelve-hundred pounds because it's just bloody knitwear. He often writes about cars that cost a hundred-grand and more. Why? It's just bloody transport." Sid Bocking of Abridge, Essex. (I first read it at Sid Bollocking - which is what Sid does with some style, indeed Abridge Too Far for Jeremy, I would suggest.)

HIGH GROUND: "I have read Jeremy Clarkson's column (News Review) twice and still have no idea what point he was trying to make. What is he growing on that farm of his?" Jim Gibney of East Clayton in Buckinghamshire. (Again I nearly read it as Jim Gilbern, in memory of Gilbern Sports Cars, a Welsh car manufacturer from 1959 to 1973. It is so easy to get side-tracked by anything and everything involving J. Clarkson Esquire.)

Apropos the other three golden missives that surfaced on the Fifth Day of Christmas ... well, just for now I shall keep them in the boot with my spare wheel, just in case I have a flat day on the joy an doolallyness front.

PS: My spellchecker came to a sudden stop at "bollockspeak", merely declaring "no spelling suggestions".
29/12/2019

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♪♪♪: On the Fourth Day of Christmas...

"FILM: The Ipcress File, 1965 (BBC2, 2.55pm)." A spy investigating the kidnap and brainwashing of Britain's leading scientist uncovers evidence of high-powered double-dealing. Thriller with Michael Caine (Harry Palmer) and Sue Lloyd (Jean Courtney).

In an idle moment of zapping, I stumble upon a film I had heard of, but never seen, The Ipcress File. Harry Palmer, our antihero, burst onto the scene in the mid-Sixties as an antidote to the James Bond films: "Palmer. Harry Palmer!" Nope, doesn't quite have the same ring to it. He also wears glasses, which sits well with the name Harry Palmer. However, and just like Bond, he likes girls, as well as books, music and cooking - but: "I like birds best." And that leads to one of the smiliest screen seduction moments ever.

He certainly charms one lady, Jean Courtney, but she's no Honey Rider or Pussy Galore, just a fellow civil servant he works with, and who has actually been sent to keep an eye on him. Talk about double-dealing. Mind you, she is not a bad looker, and clearly didn't come up the Thames on a pogo stick. They are in her flat, and Harry goes in for a gentle kiss... "Do you always wear your glasses?" she asks. "Yes," he says. "Except in bed." And they again share a kiss...

She then gently pulls back, looks at him ... and slowly removes his glasses. And the camera cuts away, and we are left to imagine the rest, which is how the best seduction scenes should always end. And do you know, I can't think of a better seduction sequence in all of the Bond films, indeed I will fondly remember the glasses ploy long after the modern obsession with wham-bam-thank-you-mam sex has reached a forgettable climax.

Not so much well done Harry, but much more well played Jean Courtney. And it's only the Fourth Day of Christmas.
28/12/2019

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♪♪♪: On the Third Day of Christmas...

"Already this morning I have killed a fox with a baseball bat. How's your Boxing Day going?" A tweet to his 179,000 followers by lawyer Jolyon Maugham, 48, a British barrister, a QC, a founder and director of the Good Law Project, through which he played a key role in bringing to court a number of legal challenges to the Brexit process.

True, the above was released into the tweetosphere yesterday, Boxing Day - but the shite really hit the fan today, the Third Day of Christmas, just as the sky proceeded to fall with a bang on the hapless barrister after "he clubbed a fox to death with a baseball bat while wearing a kimono", tra-la.

It seems he was awoken early on Boxing Day morning to the sound of a commotion in his back garden. Still nursing a hangover he pulled on the first garment he could find - his wife's green satin kimono (ah!) - armed himself with a baseball bat and ventured out into the jungle of a metropolitan elite's London garden ... there he found a fox trapped in the protective netting surrounding his hen house.

Given all the social media commotion and brouhaha, RSPCA investigators have already visited the property and taken photographs in the garden as part of an animal cruelty investigation. In his defence, he said that his violent response was at least in part triggered by the grief of losing chickens to foxes in the past...

But as has been pointed out, in the court of public opinion, foxes hold a royal flush including feral instincts, outrageously handsome, half-dog, half-cat, with a rogue streak of magic and mystery.

One of life's Top Ten Greatest Truths insists that 'The cleverest and most intelligent amongst us are also the most naive and stupid'. (For the record: clever people are blessed with tunnel vision, the ability to see with precise clarity what is directly in front of them, but that is counterbalanced by a total lack of peripheral vision and common sense to spot the ambush lurking round the next bend or ten.)

While I reserve judgment on why he decided to kill the fox himself, rather than call the RSPCA to do away with old troublesome Basil Brush, I am left truly gobsmacked that he chose to tweet the world about what he had just done. I guess it's the "baseball bat" that really lit the blue touch paper, hugely menacing is a baseball bat - oh, and asking how their Boxing Day, the national day of foxhunting, or Foxing Day as it is known in the trade, was going, d'oh!

Did no hint of peripheral vision in his extravagantly clever brain warn him of the consequences of showing off about killing something with a baseball bat? And he's a barrister for God's sake. How stupid can a QC be? Or is he so addicted to social media adulation that all he saw was something opportunistic stride in through the door, just as common sense flew out the window.

Now how did that Eric Morecambe joke go? "He's a QC you know. Oh yes, Queer as a Coot!"

So, six impossible things for a QC to do before breakfast: wake up hung-over; sort out a shemozzle in the garden; slide into a too-small kimono; grab a baseball bat; club a fox to death; report yourself to the RSPCA for killing Exhibit A.

The doolallyness of the passing parade captured in one extraordinary event. Oh, and can you hear the ghost of Basil Brush laughing?
27/12/2019

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♪♪♪: On the Second Day of Christmas...

"Some folk want their luck buttered." Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), English novelist and poet, in 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' (1886) - not so much 'The last word' spotted in the morning paper, but more 'The first few words', and thereby hangs a delightful coincidence.

Hours later, and in a typical blokey way, I'm zapping along the telly channels ... and land upon the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (BBC4), presented by mathematician Hannah Fry: "Over three nights she will examine the intersection between luck and maths, exploring probability, algorithms and data. First, she sets out to find the luckiest person in the audience."

There follows a series of simple 'heads or tails' type of choices by the sizeable audience to find the one individual who gets all eight guesses right, and is then crowned the luckiest individual present.

I am whisked back to my twenties when I overhear my mother tell a visitor that "this boy was born lucky you know". I remember thinking: I must try the football pools and spot-the-ball competitions, and buy a few Premium Bonds. Yes, a few minor wins, but essentially money down the drain (except for the Premium Bonds of course). So much for being born lucky.

Mega moons later I realised what my mother had actually meant by "luck": when God slams one door shut, he will leave another off the latch, nearby - but you have to push ever so gently against it to gain admittance. It was a lesson well learnt - so yes, my continuing game-of-chance frolics are a perfect example of "wanting my luck buttered".

And it set me thinking: we all know the occasional "lucky" person who goes through life, cruising along the middle lane, as if some unseen power - God, Mother Nature, Lady Luck, Old Father Time, Mrs Jones Next Door - is clearing a path for him or her; even when there's a diversion, that individual still arrives on time and unflustered.

I wonder if mathematics and Hannah Fry can explain that curious thing called "born lucky"? The smart money says no. But the smart money also suggests that a geneticist might.

"Luck is preparation meeting opportunity." Oprah Winfrey, 65, American talk show host, in an interview (1991).
26/12/2019

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♪♪♪: On the First Day of Christmas...

   

"Definition of the Day itself (Words and Music, BBC Radio 3): Christmas, noun, a day set apart and consecrated to gluttony, drunkenness, maudlin sentiment, gift taking, public dullness and domestic behaviour ... ♪♪♪: I'm dreamin' of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know..." Hm, interesting definition by the liberal metropolitan elite at the BBC, so time to do my own school-report-style thingy on a family gathering of eight:

Gluttony: 10/10 - yes, well overdone. Shame we can't build up a credit, say like a camel does with water, even if it means having a hump on our backs. Imagine the joy of not then having to eat or drink anything at all until New Year's Day. Bliss! Out of curiosity I weighed myself first thing Christmas morning ... and then Boxing Day morning first thing - gained just over 1kg, alarmingly nudging 3lbs.
Drunkenness: 5/10 - not too much, not too little, just right, just about average, a perfect pass mark.
Maudlin sentiment: 0/10 - glorious failure, hooray!
Gift taking: 5/10 - not overly generous, not too mean, just perfectly sensible, another pass mark.
Public dullness: 0/10 - laugh a minute, sometimes two, perfect fail.
Domestic behaviour: 10/10 - no issues, see above, plenty of joy, gossip and laughter, full marks.

Summary: Just right, a perfectly balanced family get-together, which I guess reflects the experiences of most people reading this, a world far removed from the madding crowd that is the aforementioned metropolitan elites, the Chief Sitting Bulls and Chief Sitting Cows at the BBC, who put together the above definition of Christmas (and perfectly illuminates why the BBC has morphed from the nation's favourite Auntie into its dreaded stepmother - who or what, as the national broadcaster, does the BBC think we are?).

Pause for Thought: "He certainly wouldn
't have got a visa." Jesus would struggle to get into the UK, unless we were short of carpenters, says Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Well, given that the country has an ongoing problem with a shortage of quality tradesmen, Jesus would move to the head of the queue, no problem.

And I say that with a brace of blokes sitting round the Christmas dinner table who are skilled carpenters - but are still working on the miracle front.

Happy First Day of Christmas.
25/12/2019

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Gift-wrapped by Mother Nature

                   

"Parents who pranked toddler with banana taken aback by her joy." Expecting the full waterworks, one dad, a comedian and online content creator from Los Angeles, Justice Mojica, decides to test and capture his two-year-old daughter with an early Christmas present and see what her reactions will be when he plays a practical joke on her with a dutifully packaged "worst Christmas gift ever" ... but little Aria, having been gifted an everyday household item as a present, does not react in a sad, mad or bad way, instead she squeals "Banana!" ... then hands it to her mum to peel, and proceeds to eat it with unbounded delight.

How could I not be captivated by this festive tale, especially so given the cover of my Huw and Smile book - especially so given the banana thread running through it.

Anyway, Aria's pure joy and delight has, unsurprisingly, gone viral - you may well have seen the clip floating about the online ether. Also most predictably, the trolls lurking under the interweb bridge have labelled it fake - as they do, just to stir things, irrespective of the fact that the one thing you can't do is fake the emotional reactions of a two-year-old to a surprise event.

Her father confirms that Aria is a cheery and amusing little soul anyway, which suggests that she, just like the banana, has been gift-wrapped by Mother Nature. The amusing episode also validates a brace of marvellous old sayings: 'It's the thought that counts', and, 'Never look a gift horse in the mouth' - or if it's a gift banana, stick it straight in your mouth and smile.

If you haven't seen the clip, simply search something like this: 'Dad who pranked girl with banana for Christmas taken aback by her joy'. And while there, watch 'Pregnant Turkey Prank', where a father teaches his three young daughters how to carve the turkey, but first you have to get the stuffing out ... you're probably ahead of me already ... joy and doolallyness in one funny clip.

PS: Just heard this on the radio: What did Adam say the day before Christmas? "It's Christmas, Eve." And I say it's a Xmas cracker!
24/12/2019 

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Skippy hops into a JCB

"I texted a friend to ask if one of my godchildren, two years old, is still obsessed with mechanical diggers: 'Oh yes,' came the reply, 'diggers and kangaroos. If you can find a toy that combines the two - that would be the Holy Grail.'" Tim Stanley, Daily Telegraph columnist, shares his joy of shopping for other people's children at Christmas time.

I was duly impressed by the "one of my godchildren" line. Whatever, my C-spot (Curiosity-spot) was suitably tickled by the notion of a Holy Grail called Digger the Kangaroo, so I went online and searched toy JCBs and toy kangaroos...

                          

Problem solv-ed, as Inspector Clouseau would say: so you stick 'Keith the Kangaroo' (above, and a marvellous moniker for a toy kangaroo) into the JCB cab ... hey presto, the Holy Grail. Mind you, I guess it would be a challenge to find a kangaroo to neatly fit into the JCB cab (various sizes of toy diggers and kangaroos available, obviously, depending on how much money you want to spend), so that's where visiting a toy store beats online shopping by a country mile. One Holy Grail, made to measure.

Incidentally, young kangaroos are called joeys, and while female kangaroos are called does, flyers, or jills, the lads are called bucks, boomers, old man, or jacks. And therein lolls a neat little diversion>>>

A JCB digger (Joseph Cyril Bamford [1916-2001], the British business man who founded the company), in Welsh is nicknamed a 'Jac Codi Baw', which translates directly as Jack Lifting Dirt/Soil/Whatever-the-task-at-hand, which is as good a Welsh tag as a microwave being called a 'popty ping' (cooker that goes ping).

Mind you, strictly speaking it should be Jo Codi Baw, Jo short for Joseff, the Welsh form of Joseph, or indeed Jo short for Josephine in these days of equal opportunities - but Jac Codi Baw rolls best off the tongue. Oh yes, I suppose a toy JCB should be called a Joey Codi Baw.

I shall keep JCB-ing for verbal gold in them thar Welsh hills.

PS: Within minutes of searching online, the web sites I visited carried endless ads for toy JCBs and kangaroos. I smiled the smile of Keith the Kangaroo in his digger.
23/12/2019

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Fourth Sunday of Advent Bookends

"Struggling mum overwhelmed by kindness of strangers." Homeless mother Rachel Finn, 39, with just 14 pence to her name will get two thousand pounds to set up a new home after thirty thousand pounds was raised for her and the Rock Foundation foodbank in Grimsby in less than 24 hours.

"The most extravagant advent calendars of 2019, from rare whisky and luxury beauty products - to the one-hundred-grand Tiffany jewellery countdown." Tiffany & Co unveiled the world's most expensive advent calendar: the eye-popping monster, four feet tall, 11 stone in weight and costing 104,000 smackers for 24 gifts, each worth between a hundred and thirteen-thousand pounds, but only one was available in the UK, exclusively at Harrods. Form an orderly queue, Ladies and Gents...

Just a couple of the more extreme newspaper clickbaits (Mirror and Telegraph) spotted over recent weeks. Mind you, I did enjoy this letter in the Daily Mail from a Norman Stephenson of Milton Keynes: "Rod Stewart says he's just like anyone else, and then reveals he bought wife Penny a white Bentley as a Christmas present last year." I guess it would have been the Continental Convertible, which I see was priced back in December 2018 from 175,100 smackeroonies ... I like the 100 quid latched onto the 175 grand.
22/12/2019

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Tippling and Tickling

"Looking for the perfect present for the good sport in your life?" The Knob Handled Tippling Stick from Purdey (the British gunmaker specialising in high-end bespoke sporting shotguns and rifles), is a quirky accessory perfect for any field sports enthusiast who enjoys the occasional tipple. But what makes this walking stick unique is that the knob handle unscrews to reveal a discreet glass flask hidden in the shaft, perfect for when you fancy a quick tot of whisky or brandy.

                                      

Confession time: I had never heard of a tippling stick (above left), until one turned up on the BBC's The Repair Shop to be restored to its former glory - and I was seduced. Yes of course I'm familiar with a tickling stick (above right), as made famous by comedian Ken Dodd (1927-2018), but out of the blue I appreciate that no person should be without both a tippling and a tickling stick about their person, even if only metaphorically.

Now I am not a field sports person, but I do go walking in the countryside, and often I will take a thumb stick, so if there was a Tippling Thumb Stick on the market - well, now you're talkin'.

Incidentally, the other morning along my morning walk into town I was passed by a hefty lorry bearing the name GT & E Feeds Ltd - one of those bulk delivery trucks that supplies farms with feed.

Hm, GT & E, I thought? The first thing that tickled my I-spot (my Imagination-spot) was: Gin, Tonic & Ecstasy. Whilst I enjoy a G&T, I've never needed to partake of the drug ecstasy, but I couldn't help but ponder that a combination of gin, tonic and ecstasy would get the old cows on a roll, no problem.

When I arrived home I searched GT & E Feeds Ltd ... "Animal feed to the farming community for over 40 years", and based in Llandovery, just up the track. And the names of the principals? Griff Thomas and Eirian Edwards. GT & E explained in one. So here's lookin' at you, GT & E!
21/12/2019

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Spiders and flies

"Will you walk into my parlour?" said a Supreme Court spider to a Prime Minister fly-by-night;
"
'Tis the prettiest little ambush parlour that ever you did spy."
[With apologies to the ghost of Mary Howitt (1799-1888).]

Thus the cleverly attired subliminal message of Supreme Court President Lady Marjorie Hale (above) and her large flesh-eating camel spider brooch for the beleaguered Prime Minister Boris Johnson back in September as she delivered her Brexit bombshell ruling: "Parliament has not been prorogued," and declared the action of discontinuing Parliament without dissolving it "unlawful, void and of no effect".

Naughty boy, Boris, detention and a thousand-and-one lines: "I am NOT the very model of a modern prime minister and I must not push my luck."

The ruling triggered accusations that the Prime Minister had misled the Queen (rather than tell a straight lie), indeed the general view insisted that if Lady Hale was wearing her XL spider brooch, it meant she was "about to eat a hapless Prime Minister alive", and that Boris was already wrapped up in silk, soon to become "the shortest-serving Prime Minister there has ever been".

And look where we are today, just three months on: "MPs back Johnson's plan to leave EU on January 31."

And now I will put to the House a splendid new parlour game to enjoy over the Christmas holiday. I have observed along my walk through time and place that, as a rule of thumb, 90% of the population are flies, and the remaining 10% are the spiders, the movers and shakers who call the shots, whether in politics, business, media, trade unionism, local government, sport, community, families...

The game is called - surprise, surprise - Spiders and Flies: of the nation's movers and shakers since referendum day, the 23rd of March 2016, name your spiders and your flies.

I shall set the ball rolling with a few of the more obvious flies: David Cameron, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson, Michael Heseltine, John Major, Tony Blair, Marjorie Hale, John Bercow, Gina Miller, Andrew Neil, Steve Bray (the fellow outside Parliament with his loudhailer shouting "STOP BREXIT!", nominative determinism, with amplifier full on), Gary Lineker, Lilly Allen, Hugh Grant...

Yet such is the law of the jungle, this time next year, 20/20 vision may well suggest some flies and spiders swapping rolls. And on that bombshell...
20/12/2019

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Geraint Thomas: The Road Will Decide (BBC1 Wales, 9.00pm)

"It's the Tour de France and Welshman Geraint Thomas, 33, has a lucky wishbone hanging from the computer on the handlebars of his bicycle." A documentary following the 2018 Tour de France winner as he battled to retain the title. The film captures the intensity of his 2019 journey as he negotiates 21 stages and 3,500km (2,200 miles) in 23 days, while facing extreme weather conditions - climate change, with bells on - cancelled stages and intense competition, not least from his young colleague Columbian Egan Bernal, 22, who goes on to win the race.

It was an entertaining watch, but what stood out on the joy and doolallyness front was his fellow team rider and Welshman Luke Rowe, 29, informing a surprised Geraint that he has already been fined twice during the race: taking food and drink after the cut-off point during a stage, and urinating in public along the route (what is quaintly known within the sport as taking a 'comfort break', essential given the volume of liquids they take on, especially when it's very warm; oh, and taking a quick pee is often executed on the move).

It took me back to 2014 when Le Tour started in Yorkshire to huge crowds along the two stages held in the county. I watched it on Eurosport, where one of the sport's more entertaining commentators is one Carlton Kirby, a character blessed with a witty aside or amusing schoolyard-ish response to any situation.

His fellow commentator mentioned in passing that the previous day one of the riders had been fined 100 Swiss francs (not Euros, curiously) for taking a comfort break without due care and attention to the sensitivities and sensibilities of the watching spectators along the route. The commentator sympathised because so numerous were the crowds, even out in the country where such breaks are normally taken, finding a suitable stretch of road would have been a challenge. But, when you've got to go...

Carlton Kirby pondered: "He must have done it too flamboyantly!" Or what we call down at The Crazy Horsepower Saloon when taking a comfort break, "too boastfully", i.e. putting the rest of us in the shade and to shame.

Incidentally, I'm a great fan of women's cycling (yes, why are the Dutch girls so spectacularly good at it, the current crop often compared as a group to the best All Blacks rugby and Brazil football teams of yesteryear?), but as stages get longer and longer - and women have to take on as much liquid as the men - I've yet to spot a female cyclist take a quick comfort break along the way. How do they pull it off?

Answers on a postcard to Look You...
19/12/2019

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"How Boris turned me from communist to Tory"

"Last week I greatly enjoyed my stint at being not a Shy Tory but a Wry Tory, which means I know very well what Boris Johnson is but, as the Shangri-Las sang, 'He's good-bad - but not evil!' ... so, like a vast number of Labour voters, I took a deep breath and chose the good-bad bounder over the evil, Jew-baiting racist." Thus Julie Burchill (b.1959), English journalist, writer and broadcaster who describes herself as a "militant feminist", and claiming both headline and quote, as spotted in The Sunday Telegraph.

I connect with the "good-bad - but not evil" bit ... the line comes from Give Him A Great Big Kiss, released in 1964 and featured on the Shangri-Las' 1965 album Leader Of The Pack (irony beyond) - I mean, we all know people we never believe a word they say, but we adjust accordingly and we are happy to share a drink and a laugh with them down the pub ... and then there are those we rate as thoroughly bad eggs, bastards, individuals to be avoided at all cost.

Julie Burchill went on to say that she was brought up in a communist household by a trades union organiser father who would shout "Tory!" at the television with such rage that, as a tot, "I believed it to be a swear word".

Meanwhile, on the other side of the net, Janice Turner in The Times writes that on election eve, the Guardian journalist and Momentum activist Owen Jones posted a photograph of himself in a grinning thumbs-up with a young woman whose T-shirt read: "Will suck dick for socialism."

So Jones, a Labour insider with a million Twitter followers and a national newspaper column, thinks a woman offering sexual favours in return for votes is the way forward. And the Labour movement ponders what went wrong? Yep, it's a jungle out there, doolallyness in excelsis.

The last word on the swing high, swing low business of politics, also goes to Julie Burchill:

"Ideally, I'll get my party back at some point before I expire. But I must confess that I enjoyed my one-night stand with the enemy immensely - and who knows, I might just do it again."
18/12/2019

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Dilyn takes a curtain call

"Should Boris Johnson and Dilyn the Downing Street dog care to enter the 'Owner Most Like Its Dog' class next summer at the Chiddingstone Fete Dog Show, I can assure him that he would stand a very good chance of winning first prize." Amanda Streatfield of - yes, of Chiddingstone, in the Seven Oaks district of Kent - in a letter to The Times.

That tickled my old funny bone because I had only just noticed an online link for people who look like their dogs - just search the topic and a gallery of astonishing images will materialise in front of you ... this one instantly captured my imagination:

Wonderful, even if the blue jumpers are a cunning subliminal ploy.

Apropos nothing to do with Boris or Dilyn, first thing this morning I happened to hear the tail end of Radio 2's repeat of Sounds of the 70s with Johnnie Walker, and his main guest was Andy Fairweather Low (b.1948), Welsh singer and songwriter, and founder member of 1960s group Amen Corner. And exceedingly good value he was too.

Andy was born in Ystrad Mynach, near Caerphilly, South Wales: 'Ystrad' means a wide, flat-bottomed valley, and 'Mynach' is Welsh for monk, but the reason for the name and the curious juxtaposition is unknown. Mind you, Fairweather Low and Ystrad Mynach don't exactly go together like, um, a horse and carriage, love and marriage - but it works.

Whatever, Andy's Wide-Eyed and Legless was played, a song released in 1975, and a lady rang the show: "When the song first came out, me and my sister had just started going to pubs, and I remember my mum warning us not to end up wide legged and careless..." I seem to remember that line from the 70s, but it's still funny though.
17/12/2019

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Nogood Doggy Dilyn: a shaggy dog story

"THE DOG'S BOLLOX!" Yes, you remember the naughty but natty Sun newspaper front page headline from the morning after the election exit poll the night before - see the image just a few days back - featuring Boris embracing Dilyn the Downing Street dog, his and girlfriend Carrie Symonds' Jack Russell cross (and another reason to add "X" at the end of BOLLO-).

Dilyn the pooch did his fair share of campaigning, indeed he was also spotted all over the shop in the post-election celebrations. I think I've mentioned before that the Jack Russell Terrier is considered one of the best ratters, so Number 10 now has all the bases covered: Larry the Downing Street cat looks out for the mice, and Dilyn takes care of the men, or more correctly, the rats.

But I've been doing Dilyn an injustice, in as much that I've been mispronouncing his name to imply that it is some sort of cute variation on the name Dylan, as per the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. How wrong could I be?

Guto Harri (b.1966), Welsh writer, broadcaster and strategic communications consultant (gosh, there's posh), who was in fact director of communications for Boris Johnson when he was mayor of Old London Town, writing in The Sunday Times, pointed out that Dilyn should not be pronounced Dill-Ann, but Deal-in, "dilyn" being the Welsh for "to follow", or "to pursue". How appropriate is that in the wake of the election result? Or indeed Boris's interesting and rather colourful private life?

Why, as a Welsh speaker, I never twigged the correct pronunciation of Dilyn rather escapes me. I can only think that I was thrown by the capital "D", along with the subliminal notion of Dylan Thomas swirling around my brain. D'oh!

Guto also enlightened us that Boris had taught himself the Welsh for his killer slogan "Get Brexit Done" - "Cyflawni Brexit" - and, as a variant on his "oven-ready [Brexit] deal", his insistence that "you can pop it in the popty ping", popty ping being the glorious Welsh expression for microwave.

PS: My spellchecker came to a stop at "Cyflawni Brexit", "Cyflawni" being Welsh for "to make complete" - and suggested "Cyclone". How delightfully apt!
16/12/2019

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Christmas in July and yesterday's news

"A few years back I received a Christmas card from a friend, an Englishman as it happens, in July - and no, it wasn't a late or wayward delivery. The poor fellow, I thought to myself, he has clearly lost it. So I opened up the card, and inside he had written 'May the blessing and joy of Christmas be with you throughout the year'." The Reverend Emlyn Richards delivers the early-morning service on the Welsh language station Radio Cymru.

Now that made me smile XL. He didn't say whether his friend was also a minister of the gospel, but the smart money says yes.

I'd turned on the radio - still tuned to Radio Cymru from the Saturday night before - and instantly recognised the distinctive voice and delivery of Emlyn Richards, always perfect value to just sit, listen and ponder, witness the typical little tale from above. Just one of the many other amusing anecdotes he told, was the following:

"When I was in college in Aberystwyth, I took on a holiday job, cleaning the train carriages at the railway station. I was not particularly overjoyed doing this work, but I was reassured by something a co-worker said, that there were 'perks with the job'. What were these perks, I wondered. 'Every morning', he said, 'we get a free copy of pretty much every Fleet Street newspaper' - and it was the truth ... until I discovered that they were yesterday's papers. Nothing new..."

They sound like my sort of papers. Excepting a major hold-the-front-page story, I am happy to do without today's news - no news is good news - and as long as I can peruse whatever's lurking inside the papers, especially the letters pages with their insight, wit and wisdom, I'm happy as a pig in you-know-what. Amen, Awomen.
15/12/2019

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Hands up all those waiting for a hands-on experience!

"Let the healing begin..." Four words spotted on many a Saturday front page, as Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledges to bring a Brexit-torn country together - from Workington Man to ex-Speaker of the House of Commons John "Bollocks To Brexit" Bercow - after the worst night for the Labour Party since 1935.

Time, methinks, for a selection of the more amusing quotes to surface during the election campaign...

"I have a horrible suspicion that when my daughter, and my dog, open their advent windows on December 13 [that's yesterday, the morning after election day], they will see a photograph of John McDonnell [Labour's Shadow Chancellor] holding my wallet in his hands, with Diane Abbott [Labour's Shadow Home Secretary] cackling in the background. And no treat." Rod Liddle, Sunday Times columnist, dreading a walk on the gloomy side of the street - but instead, daughter and dog open the advent window to see a photo of Boris and dog Dilyn cavorting on the sunny side of the street. Phew!

"This is not a time for easy answers, as much as I wish it was. I wish there was some silver bullet ... but I also wish I was a size 10." Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, following the election result. She retained her seat, and is now expected to throw her hat into the ring for the leadership of the party.

And then I saw this "Behind you!" picture of Boris Johnson giving his constituency winner's speech following the Uxbridge and South Ruislip result...

...and best of all, Bojo totally unfazed regarding all those delightfully doolally creatures behind him. Now why doesn't this sort of thing happen in America? I mean, it would be rather wonderful to see Donald Trump standing there with that lot in attendance. There again, old Trumpety Trump would doubtless look perfectly at home. Anyway, it brought to mind this post-election quote:

"I am a single-issue politician - it's my intention to abolish gravity. I failed to do that in Islington North [Jeremy Corbyn's seat], but I will do it in the next election." Monster Raving Loony Party treasurer Nick "The Incredible Flying Brick" Delves. To be honest though, Boris Johnson did appear to suspend gravity. For a while, at least.

Hallelujah, glory be, Amen, Awomen.
14/12/2019

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The day after the day before

"Given that Prime Minister Boris Johnson, at least according to his political and media adversaries, is 'a known liar, a cheat, a fraud, and an outright charlatan who can't be trusted to deliver on literally anything he says', please explain why, in the UK's December 2019 election, he delivered the Conservative Party's strongest election performance since Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s?" What a wonderful university interview question that would be, even for those not intending to study politics, psychology, philosophy...

After all, I guess that 99.9% of those who voted in the general election will not have studied for a degree in politics, psychology, philosophy...

The question came to mind when I caught on the radio some examples of curve-ball interview questions asked of students looking for university places. The one that tickled my A-spot, my Ambush-spot, was this: "Describe yourself in three words." And the response? "No good at maths." And the fellow on the radio said: "That wasn't the brightest of answers, now was it?"

Au contraire, Mr Presenter. I thought it brilliant because it displays honesty and humour - and if I were an Admissions Tutor at the University of Life ... interview passed with honours.

Me? In three words? "Nod. Wink. Smile." Or perhaps: "Traffic lights aficionado." This Green-Amber-Red human nature trait is explored in my book, but should I someday soon be caught short on joy and doolallyness, i.e. nod-wink-smile, here on Look You, I shall explore further what is, really, my specialist Huw and Smile subject.

Why people doubted Boris Johnson's ability to win the election is beyond me. Back in 2008 he stood as a Tory candidate for Mayor of London - remember, "London is a Labour city" has become a political commonplace - and won, not just the first time, but secured a second term, which is hugely impressive. Mind you, even those who did have faith never dreamt of an impressive 80 seat majority in the general election.

As it happens, I caught the opening few minutes of Question Time Election Special - the Result on BBC1, and one of the panellists was Stephen Kinnock (b.1970), MP for Aberavon in South Wales (son of Neil Kinnock, Leader of the Labour Party from 1983 until 1992), and this was his opening line: "Boris Johnson is a known liar, he lied to the Queen, he lied to our country..."

I was astonished that host Fiona Bruce didn't come back with something like this: "Whilst I won't embarrass you, Stephen, by asking you to rate your own honesty and trust - after all, publicly criticising another person's morality is putting yourself on a pedestal - but can you put hand on heart and name a politician you personally know who has never lied, and is a person blessed with absolute trust? Remember, the annual Veracity Index regularly confirms politicians as the least trusted professionals in the country."

But she didn't - and he just rambled on and on - so I made my excuses and zapped downmarket to watch Gogglebox to catch some brutal honesty and insight into the hugely flawed human condition.

I shall leave you with American poet, philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), and his wonderful line from Worship: "The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons."
13/12/2019

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Hold the front page - and no tongues!

The Election (BBC1/ITV/C4/Sky News, 10.00pm): "The combined BBC, ITV and Sky exit poll is suggesting that Boris Johnson is on course for a majority, with the Conservatives on 368 seats, and Labour way down on 191 seats - we are looking at a Conservative majority of 86 seats..." Watching, I visualised the shoulders of the 52% who voted Brexit back in 2016 unwinding with a sigh of relief (and a smile), while the shoulders of the 48% who voted Remain tightened with a grimace (and a frown).

Oh dear, a Cold Moon day for Jeremy Corbyn and his followers, both literally and metaphorically (see yesterday).

The exit poll and what followed was of course pure hold-the-front-page theatre - and talking of which, at 11.45pm I happened to zap upon ITV, and they were about to do a front page review of Friday's morning papers. Clearly all the newspapers had prepared a series of front pages to reflect whatever the exit poll said, they then made their choice, pressed a button - and the papers went to print.

The lady doing the review said that obviously Boris Johnson hadn't been out and about much during the day because the papers were using the same photographs, one of them a picture of Boris clutching his pet dog Dilyn. The picture was on the front of The Daily Telegraph, and the reviewer said there was one other paper using the photo, which she would leave until last - and it was The Sun front page:

"I can't believe The Sun has done this," she said. "I'm not going to repeat it - but I'll show it to you..."

I burst out laughing. Typical - and very funny how they inserted the blue X to remove the back-end offence (yep, it's all in the mind). Gosh, I haven't heard the expression "The dog's bollocks" since can't remember when. It means, of course, "a person or thing that is the best of its kind", coming from a male dog's habit of licking its balls, and something which must taste rather yummy because a dog spends so much time engaged in this activity.

Oh dear, I'd watch Dilyn's tongue, Boris, you don't know where it's been.

Whilst the Sun is very much a Tory paper, the Daily Mirror is hard Labour, and its front page had a close-up of the Prime Minister's unsmiling face, warning its readers of the "Nightmare before Christmas". You pays your money...
12/12/2019

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♪♪♪: I see the moon, the moon sees me ... once again!

"The final full moon of the year is known as the 'Cold Moon', sometimes the 'Long Nights Moon'." Wednesday morning, just before 5 o'clock, I'm awake and ready to rise and shine - my mother was amused, charmed and captivated by a lark, as opposed to an owl, remember (see 26/11/2019) - and I can hear a furious downpour pounding away outside. Anyway, I get up, turn on Radio 2 and Vanessa Feltz (again, see 26/11/2019), and prepare a cuppa and a bite.

Out of the corner of my eye, and through the kitchen window, I catch something bright and low in the western sky. I blink. It's the moon - and I can see it clearly despite the kitchen's bright lights. I smile, and pop outside. The heavy showers have passed, the sky is fleetingly cloudless and crystal clear - and the moon is there, bright as a Richard Burton multi-million pound jewel presented to the love of his life, Elizabeth Taylor. In fact, the moon I spy with my little eye is as bright as this stunning image captured from the International Space Station...
 


 

The moon remains mesmerizingly crystal clear for some 15 minutes, before cloud and lots more rain moves in. I then go on the computer ... and discover that tomorrow, Thursday the 12th, election day here in the UK, is actually Cold Moon day. Yet the fleeting Wednesday moon I espied was so gloriously full of itself - well, it looked perfect to my casual eye. Whatever, my trip online endorses the old adage that every day is a at school.

It is called the Cold Moon as an acknowledgment of the first proper cold temperatures of winter. And the Long Nights Moon comes complements of it being near the winter solstice and its longest night of the year: the full moon takes a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite the low sun, so the moon will be above the horizon longer than at other times of the year. I guess that explains why it appeared so bright - it is opposite the low sun, and thus a perfect time of year to observe and photograph.

Oh, and the marvellous expression Long Nights Moon comes, unsurprisingly, compliments of Chief Sitting Bull and his tribal friends. Well, Long Nights Moon does sit comfortably alongside Dances With Wolves. Hm, beware the Ides of the Long Nights Moon (see: joy and doolallyness in one).

It also reminds me of a character from my Crazy Horse bartending days, and a regular known as Phil Full Moon (his erratic behaviour was governed by the moon, but curiously more so by the New Moon than the Full Moon). He also acknowledged his short-circuiting brain during moon phases - he would introduce himself as Phil Full Moon, indeed if he was around today and on social media he would probably tweet something like this: "I try to avoid staring at a full moon ... it makes me feel quite queer ... must make sure I don't vote for Corbyn by mistake, lol." Lol, indeed.

So imagine that: if the clouds hadn't cleared between 5:20 and 5:35 on Wednesday morning, something completely different would have captured and captivated my smile of the day.
11/12/2019

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Make me cross ... very cross

"Voters should be disenfranchised should they be unable to name the current home secretary or chancellor." Keeping up with yesterday's political theme - phew, only two more sleeps before the BBC's principal political interviewer, Chief Sitting Bullshit Detector (one Andrew Neil Esq), abandons his demands that Boris Johnson come and worship at his totem pole - there's a suggestion from some think tank or other that every voting slip should have a question at the top, similar to the suggestion above.

The only votes that then make the count cut (oops, nearly came a cropper there) are those of the electorate who get the answer right, and so by definition have a sort of grasp of modern politics, i.e. who's who and what's what.

It's a suggestion that perfectly embraces both the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade. Those who take an interest in politics, especially so a passing interest, point out that senior political figures, such as the home secretary or chancellor, rarely last long in their posts - here today, gone tomorrow - and are, by and large, unmemorable anyway.

Well, I have a Baldrick, a cunning plan, indeed something I mention in my book, Huw and Smile ... in order to ensure that we are fit and proper persons entitled to vote on the 12th, the ballot paper should have a relatively simple choice question at the top, before we go on to vote for our preferred candidate:

Please indicate with a cross (X) the current leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition:
     A) Jeremy Vine
     B) Jeremy Corbyn
     C) Jeremy Clarkson
     D) Jeremy Paxman
     E) None of the above

A wrong selection, or indeed a refusal to answer, would of course render the vote spoilt. And there you go, we are all happy bunnies. (It would be interesting though if we had compulsory voting, how many would get it wrong.)

Peace on earth and goodwill hunting to all who venture into the polling booth come Thursday - and hopefully in the process make Brexit (or Bregsit as they say in the meeja) disappear off the air waves in a final eruption of smoke signals. Make it so! (Oops, again:  I'm getting my Chief Sitting Bulls and my Captain Jean-Luc Picards mixed up.)
10/12/2019

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Subliminal politics

"I treat politics as something as knotty as the Cross Hands roundabout, a maze, a labyrinth to navigate and exit as rapidly and as safely as possible ... So, do I keep to the left? Or do I keep to the right? Or do I stick to the middle lane? I will probably vote 'None of the above' come December 12." Me, HB, floating voter of this parish. Be all that as it may, passing by a local house I notice the following bilingual political placard outside - and take a hurried snap:

Given my ignorance of the finer points of the current political scene, I ponder if Welsh Labour is a spanking, brand new party. When I arrive home I do a quick online search of the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency ... and find just four candidates standing: Labour, Plaid Cymru, Conservatives and Brexit Party.

So Maria Carroll is very much Old Welsh Labour - but obviously desperate to distance herself from New English Labour and Old Magic Grampa Jeremy Corbyn himself, and all, and all, tra-la. That's a cunning old subliminal wheeze you've got going there, Maria. Respect.

Incidentally, does this tsunami of political placards, this visual tidal wave of grey noise all over the shop, actually work? Has anyone ever said "Oh look, Dai One Eye is voting Welsh Labour - I will do the same!"?

By the by, Dai One Eye is neither a comment on Dai's visual acuity nor his hard-wired political prejudices, he just happens to live at No. 1 High Street.
09/12/2019

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True courage

"Courage is taking on a terrorist, not scoring a penalty in football or notching up a century in cricket." A newspaper headline following yet another terrorist attack in London which claimed the lives of two innocent people, and exposing the nation's vulnerability to the lone wolf who has to get lucky just the once - and underscoring our careless use of language when describing sports stars or celebrities as heroes.

What set this attack apart was the willingness of members of the public, who would have had no idea that the suicide vest the terrorist was wearing was fake, to risk their lives tackling the perpetrator. Had they obeyed the standard police advice of "run, hide and tell", the death toll might have been higher.

And then, just yesterday, this newspaper headline:

"Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins mugged after stepping in to aid pensioner." In a statement, Jenkins' agent said: "Katherine was on her way to a rehearsal for a charity carol concert when she witnessed an older lady being viciously mugged and intervened to help. As a result, Katherine was then mugged herself, but helped the police identify the perpetrators and two 15-year-old girls were arrested on suspicion of robbery. Katherine still managed to perform at the concert as she didn't want to let the charity down."

Two things are brought into sharp focus here. First, we never know how brave we are until that split-second when we intuitively react to a given situation - well, all except Donald Trump who, back in February 2018 following yet another of those dreadful mass school shootings in Florida, when law enforcement officers were somewhat reluctant to enter the school, boasted that he would have charged into the school during the shooting even if unarmed: "I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon."

Reassuringly, the rest of us do seem to have that bravery gene lurking in our DNA. Secondly, and as per the opening headline, it is text book doolallyness when sports stars, doing what they love doing - and getting handsomely rewarded for it - are described as courageous and heroic.

The Australian Test cricket all-rounder and gloriously cavalier character, Keith "Dusty" Miller (1919-2004), had a distinguished Second World War record as a Mosquito pilot. When asked by chat show host Michael Parkinson about the stresses and pressures of cricket, Miller famously responded with this admirable sense of proportion: "There's no pressure in Test cricket. Real pressure is when you are flying a Mosquito with a Messerschmitt up your arse."

"Courage and endurance are useless if they are never tested." Penelope Fitzgerald (1916-2000), English novelist and biographer, in The Bookshop (1978).
08/12/2019

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A blessed Cinemascopic view of life

"Clearly he is a member of Densa." Mary (of Giles and Mary, Wiltshire), on Gogglebox, passing comment on one of the participants in a programme called First Dates, a Channel 4 reality show which has aired since 2013 apparently, where couples are filmed having a meal together on their first date ... cringe ahoy!

I enjoy watching Gogglebox because I get to see clips of shows I would never watch - such as First Dates, along with other trendy or startling television shows of the week - but more importantly I enjoy the extravagant views of 'ordinary' if delightfully eccentric armchair critics watching at home. Their colourful views invariably confirm that I really haven't missed anything of note by not watching the actual shows they discuss.

I particularly enjoy the views of Giles and Mary - they rather remind me of the popular American comics George Burns and Gracie Allen (who had a television show back in the Fifties), but reinvented for modern British times. Anyway, Mary passed the above remark, I think it was about the male participant on First Dates - or was it the female? - indeed it could have been about both of them. Anyway, I had never heard the term 'Densa' before, but guessed it was the very antithesis of Mensa. So I searched...

And there is indeed a special club for those 98% of us who don't make it into Mensa, the high I.Q. society - and Densa sounds just about perfect.

But hang about, there has to be something in between Mensa and Densa. After all, I guess we all personally know people who go through life as if some unseen power is clearing a path for them - God, Mother Nature, Lady Luck, Old Father Time - and such fortunate souls possess one clear trait: they are blessed with more than their fair share of common sense, or perhaps you may call it inherent wisdom, or indeed instinct. But they all have that peripheral vision thingy that enables them to spot or anticipate the infuriating ambush hiding in plain view just round the next bend or two.

We also know that the cleverest, the most intelligent of people on the planet, can do spectacularly stupid things, and all because they are cursed with tunnel vision, that one thing that makes them able to concentrate absolutely on what is directly in front of them, a talent which makes them clever beyond at their chosen subject. But they lack peripheral vision.

So I guess we need a new grouping to cater for people who are not particularly intelligent, but are blessed with that critical survival instinct: Sensa? As in Common Sensa!?

And there we have it, a new game in town: does he or she belong to Mensa, Sensa or Densa? Happy spotting.
07/12/2019

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♪♪♪: Happy, happy talk

"Llandrindod Wells named the happiest place to live in Wales." Thus a Western Mail headline following a survey of 22,000 people by Rightmove, the UK's 'largest online real estate portal and property website', which asked them how happy they were with aspects of where they live: things like community spirit, security and safety, shops, sports facilities, health and wellness - and not least how friendly and polite the natives are.

The happiest place in Britain, and earning the gold medal, is Hexham in Northumberland, with Harrogate in Yorkshire taking silver, and Richmond-upon-Thames the bronze. Llandrindod Wells in mid-Wales came in fifth - well done all at LD1 - with Monmouth in south-east Wales seventh.

However, and given that I both go to bed and get up of a morning with a smile on my face - also when I walk the busy little county road into town and back, people in passing vehicles always smile, or wave, or toot, or flash their lights, or if they're overtaking me from behind a quick flash of indicator light after passing (the equivalent of one motorist acknowledging another with a subtle raised index finger off the steering wheel), even occasionally stopping for a chat - so I nominate SA19 7SU as not just the happiest place in Wales - and indeed Britain - but in the whole wide world. (Spot the subliminal message!).

But here's the thing: the day after the above headline, the Western Mail then carried this headline: "Llandrindod Wells top for cyber shop." The Royal Mail named the town's inhabitants as the most prolific online shoppers in Wales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Apparently, the most high-volume shoppers over the two days were in central London, Kirkwall and Lerwick in the north of Scotland, and LD1 in Wales. (There's a special equation to work it out - parcels accepted into the network weighted against the number of delivery points, or something.)

Now I don't know about you, but I find those two juxtaposed headlines a bit of a challenge to get my imagination around. I mean, happy people would rather go out shopping and meeting people rather than doing it online, no? Perhaps isolation has something to do with it, see Kirkwall and Lerwick up there in Orkney and Shetlands.

Whatever, happy days - and yet again delivering Look You's manifesto pledge to spend as much time as possible chilling out on the sunny side of the street.
06/12/2019

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Cool for cats

"The madness of Christmas is summed up by Advent calendars for cats." Janet McDonagh of Cumbria, in a letter to the Daily Mail. Can that be right? So off I go for a bit of the old Googly-Woogly ... well blow me, I spot an Advent calendar for cats at twelve quid, and one for dogs at ten pounds (no surprise though that pussycats are more expensive to please than pooches).

So I then Google 'Advent calendars for...' - just to see what the Top Ten 'most searched for' currently are - and, starting with the most popular search: men / women / kids / babies / dogs / boys / girls / her / toddlers / cats...  

Which set me thinking ... apart from your nearest and dearest, and those reliable friends who respond to a call for help before you have even put the phone down - who are the people or professions you most appreciate for being ready, willing and able in an emergency, and therefore would happily present them with a specialist Advent calendar of gratitude?

I guess the banker choice is health, so top of the list would be the local Surgery - Advent calendars for doctors / nurses / receptionists (important to have the first-contact individual on your side). Then it gets interesting...

Neighbour(s) / plumber / electrician / carpenter (cum builder) / dentist / computer engineer / motor mechanic...

I did think politician - but given all the promises of free give-away things like cake and broadband by Labour's Jeremy Corbyn if he becomes prime minister, I did smile at one helpful aside, that the Jeremy Corbyn Advent Calendar only goes up to December 12, election day.

PS: Perhaps the most civilised approach to the subject of avoiding opening windows on Advent calendars came compliments of a letter to The Times, where a reader suggested sticking Post-it notes labelled 1 to 24 on the contents of the wine rack. A very merry Advent indeed - and here's lookin' at you, Carol Chambers-Workman, out there in Shipochane, Bulgaria.  
05/12/2019

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The pound in your pocket

"When asked what I would like for my 90th birthday, I replied nothing because I have all I need," wrote Bob Wharne of Sandbach, Cheshire, in a letter to The Times. However: "I was overwhelmed and humbled when the family produced a party bag containing a one pound coin for each year of my life with instructions to donate the coins to whatever good cause I chose."

That smiley letter took me back to the late Eighties, a good few years following the introduction of the 'round pound' coin to replace the paper note in 1983, and the tale of a newly married couple.

Having acquired an empty one gallon bottle of Bell's Scotch Whisky from their local pub, they decided that every time they made love they would pop a pound coin into the bottle. As an annual wedding anniversary present to themselves they would empty the bottle and spend the money on a holiday.

After the first year they were able to treat themselves to a fancy cruise. After the second year it was a more modest holiday in the Costa del Sol. After the third year and a baby it was a weekend break to take in the Blackpool Lights. After five years, and another baby, the wife was dying for a holiday, but was much too wary to tip out the bottle and count what was there.

Incidentally, a full gallon bottle (4.5 litres) of pound coins, according to Royal Mint calculations, can hold anywhere between 2,000 and 2,500, all depending on how much space has been taken up by the gaps between the rounded coins - and whether the contents have been shaken rather than stirred. Care should be taken though because a full bottle becomes very heavy and liable to smash because the pressure of the coins weakens the glass.

Oh yes, Dai Version down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, he who always takes the scenic route, suggests that a bog-standard concrete mixer will hold 15,000 used condoms. There's a curious juxtaposition lurking in there somewhere.
04/12/2019

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Routemaster moment

"Winston Churchill's state funeral was held in London on January 30, 1965, on a bitterly cold, grey day. It was a cavalier dollop of dramatic licence that the 19-gun salute in his honour, as depicted in The Crown (Netflix), took place in glorious sunshine with trees in full leaf." Charles Foster shares his Routemaster moment in a 'You say' observation in The Sunday Times Culture magazine's TV and radio listings pages.

I recall that day in 1965, it was a Saturday - and yes, a bitterly cold easterly was blowing - I'd been working in the morning and returned home in time to see the funeral cortege reach the River Thames for its journey to Waterloo Station, and then the dramatic moment all the cranes along the river lowered their jibs, as if bowing their heads. It's a particularly vivid memory.

Anyway, Routemaster moments are an amusing strand in The Sunday Times, where historic drama series are brought to task for featuring something which only became available in a later time period ... the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time. It began when a television series set in the late 1940s/early 1950s featured an AEC Routemaster bus - which did not appear on London roads until 1956.

It's much like watching a car reach the end of a long journey or dramatic chase - and belching white smoke from the exhaust, which of course indicates the car has just been started from cold. Then a wee voice inside your head whispers: "Pssst! They're only joking you know, just actors messing about!" And that magic thing called escapism is broken.

Oh yes, and people out in the countryside surprised by helicopters suddenly appearing overhead or in front of them. God, in the country, you can hear helicopters approaching from miles away, even the smaller ones.

Anyway, Routemaster moments are both annoying and amusing, in equal parts. So keep your eyes peeled - but as mentioned, it does spoil the magic.
03/12/2019

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More rhyme and reason

"There was a young man from Peru / Whose limericks stopped at line two..." Yesterday I shared Gyles Brandreth's tip that the secret of learning a poem by heart is to learn just two lines at a time - and he gave the amusing example quoted here.

Well now, I spent today wondering why the young man from Peru's limericks always stop at line two, indeed why did he always came to a grinding halt immediately after the foreplay bit that should put us all in the mood for more?

Given that mother never bread a jibber - and accepting that I am not a poet, and boyoboyo, do I just know it - I thought, hm, I must have a go at explaining the curious phenomenon that is young Mr Anonymous of Peru:

    Limerick dysfunction

     There was a young man from Peru
     Whose limericks stopped at line two...
     But why you may ask,
     Was this such a task?
     Premature climax is the clue.

PS: I now expect to be bombarded with ads and junk emails apropos erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, and all down to my data trail - but I was only looking for lateral word clues, honest. And I did learn that premature ejaculation is also called premature climax. Bingo (sort of)!

Also, and speaking as an apprentice at this poetry lark, I rather like the fact that Peru, two and clue rhyme, which I think is really quite neat. I also fiddled with the final word being blue, ado, boo-hoo or achoo! (bless!).

I thank you.
02/12/2019

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With rhyme and reason and rhythm

"This is the night mail crossing the Border / Bringing the cheque and the postal order..." WH Auden (1907-1973), and a glorious example of this English-American poet's positively hypnotic verse, written in 1936 as part of a commentary for a celebrated black and white documentary film about the night mail train that travelled from London to Scotland. It is, according to Gyles Brandreth, one of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall's favourite poems, simply because its exquisite "rhyme and rhythm" has never come off the rails of her memory track.

Indeed, Gyles tells us that all he wants for Christmas is for his grandchildren to learn a poem by heart, and he enlightens us that the secret of learning a poem by heart is to learn just two lines at a time:

     There was a young man from Peru
     Whose limericks stopped at line two.

That's it. And that definitely delivers Look You's manifesto pledge to spend as much time as possible chilling out on the sunny side of the street. Thank you, Gyles.
01/12/2019

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The importance of not being earnest

"At seventy-seven it is time to be in earnest!" Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English writer, poet, critic and lexicographer (famous for his A Dictionary of the English Language), in A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775). Dr Johnson died age seventy-five (the line was written when he was 66), which is why I inserted an exclamation mark at the end of his quotation.

I guess Clive James, who died a few days ago at the age of eighty (see notes from the 28th, below), would have said "At eighty-one it is time to be earnest." I shall leave my idea of the age at which it is time to be earnest hanging in the air. Mind you - and far be it for me to challenge Dr Johnson - but it must surely be possible to be amusing and sincere in your actions, words, or intentions, without being too earnest.

PS: Today is Saint Andrew's Day. Perhaps just for 2019 it should be known as Sinner Andrew's Day, if only as a reminder that God and the Devil never stop skirmishing for control of our souls. Poor old Andrew ... the royal formerly known as Prince!
30/11/2019

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Please step forward the real Lorraine Kelly

"Lorraine cries on her ITV morning birthday show." Lorraine Kelly breaks down in tears as she is named National Honorary Colonel of the Army cadets while Chris Kamara jumps out of her XXL cake of many tiers during surprise 60th birthday special. Thus a clickbait headline spotted today. Hang on though, surely the headline should have read:

Lorraine sheds tears as man explodes out of tiers!

But why Please step forward the real Lorraine Kelly as per my headline of the day? Well, back in March 2019, with a view to avoiding a 1.2 million quid tax bill, Lorraine convinced Judge Jennifer Dean that she should be treated as a "self-employed star" who performed the role of a "friendly, chatty and fun personality" on her television show, rather than a boring old fart who should pay top rate tax like other people who are just being themselves.

As someone called Steve Brookstein claimed at the time: "I'm glad Lorraine Kelly is just a character, because when I met her she was a right bitch." Now that may well have been delivered with a smile, but nowadays, when I peruse anything about her, I always wonder which Lorraine am I seeing? The "fun personality" or the "bitch"? Hm, don't cry for me, Corbynista.

Whatever, there were lots of amusing comments online about Lorraine's exploding cake of many tears:

Maz: "Lorraine Kelly has the interview skills of a squirrel."
Cold Pop: "Actually, I
've been interviewed by a squirrel. He was lovely. Very keen to know how I keep my nuts dry."
Lucy-Lucy of Lancashire: "It's a mystery to me how she has her own show, and why she has lasted so many years."
Silvio Borisconi, UK [c/o No 10?]: "She knows where the bodies are buried at ITV."

And on that bombshell...
29/11/2019

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"Stop worrying - - - nobody gets out alive."

"Whoever called snooker chess with balls was rude, but right." Clive James, the Australian writer and broadcaster known around the world for his dry wit, has died at the age of 80 having been diagnosed with leukaemia back in 2010. Both the above quotations are his, in fact the media has been awash with his witticisms following his death on the 24th. And then I saw this quotation attributed to him: "Common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense, dancing."

Hang on, I thought, I've come across that quotation before, because I wasn't quite sure whether I agreed with it or not (a sense of humour is subjective, common sense is objective, definitely not the same thing). So I searched ... and found it originally attributed to a William James (1842-1910), American philosopher and psychologist, and described as the "Father of American psychology".

Now Clive James would have been the last person to plagiarise, so I guess he would have used the quote in his writing, acknowledging its source I presume, but some search engines would have swept it up and actually attributed it to him.

Anyway, William James is awash with great quotations. I particularly like the following: "The art of being wise is the ability to know what should be ignored." Ah yes, my pal Chief Wise Owl to perfection.

And this: "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated." Rewind a couple of days to the 26th - and my radio chat with Vanessa Feltz, in particular the kind words said after, not just by Vanessa, but echoed by Zoe Ball and Sara Cox - and as I said back then, I'd never had quite as magical a birthday present as that.

Indeed, the craving to be appreciated (tick!).
28/11/2019

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♪♪♪: How much is that doggy in the background?

"The one with the waggly tail..." Wednesday first thing, just awake, my in-between-birthdays day ... I switch on the bedside radio - and I happen to catch the tail-end of the repeat of Friday night's BBC Radio 2 Sounds Of The 80s with Garry Davies ... a lady from Newcastle, Jo Thomas, calls in for a request: "Hi Jo, how are you?" There's a doggy yap somewhere. "Did I just hear something barking in the background, or was that just you being excited?" asks Gary. "Yes, it's a dog, a Golden Doodle, a Golden Retriever-Poodle-cross, he's gorgeous and he's big, like 35 kilos." [Converting to my imperial mindset, that's five-and-a-half stone, quite big indeed.]

"What's the dog's name?" Gary enquires. "Jeff." There's a Gary giggle and a pause, as if he's thinking, like me, that it's a very human name to give a dog, indeed I personally know quite a few Jeffs. Anyway, Gary continues: "What's your husband's name?"

And here my mind races ahead of the game, and I wonder if Jo is going to say something like Ruff, or Gromit, or Snoopy, or Spot, or Churchill, or Muttley, or Rover (think Frank Sinatra and Love's Been Good To Me: I have been a Rover). Anyway: "Roland," she says. And I feel a bit let down. All I can think to myself is ... gosh, I hope he's not a rat.

Talking of dogs, I enjoy watching Watts Zap shorts on Eurosport: it's a perpetual collection of the best and most memorable clips from all the sports the channel covers, whether the brief sequences be spectacular, disastrous, glorious, funny, astonishing, exciting, embarrassing... clips put to bits of ironic music or various tongue-in-cheek sound effects. It really is rather clever and entertaining.

Anyway, not long back I happened to catch a glimpse, compliments of a short promo-type film, of a top mountain biker in New Zealand, where a farmer deploys him as he would his dog to round up sheep on some very rolling countryside - and bring them to him, exactly as you would see in proper sheepdog trials. Job done, and the cyclist returns to the farmer who pets and strokes him as he would his dog. It's really amusing.

Just search Sheepdog trials in Rotorua 2019, or Crankworx Rotorua: Loic Bruni herding sheep bike video.

For a taste of the proper Watts Zap sequences, some versions are available on YouTube, and well worth a quick look: Watts Zap Cycling is always good value.
27/11/2019

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♪♪♪: Happy birthday to - Me!

"And it's a very happy birthday to our jolly good fellow himself, Huw Beynon in Carmarthenshire in Wales - Hi Huw!" Yes, the one and only Vanessa Feltz wishing me a happy birthday, live on her show at 6:15 this morning, the 26th of November. Vanessa has a Jolly Good Fellow spot on her show every morning, normally though it's someone calling the show to wish another person a happy birthday, but of course I have never done things by the book, so I call in to wish myself a happy birthday.

I guess the fact that I share something special with the Queen helped me make the cut - and that is, of course, my two birthdays: today is my official birthday ... my unofficial one, my actual birthday, comes up on the 28th. To which Vanessa responded: "If I had known about the royal connection I would have decked out the studio in bunting."

In my chat with Vanessa I go on to explain how I came to be blessed with a brace of birthdays; how I came to be named Hubert (morphing into Huw around my late teens-early twenties); how I came to win a holiday in America, flying there in Concorde; and my appreciation of the film Casablanca.

I also explained that I'm a regular listener to her early-morning show because my mother was amused, charmed and captivated by a lark, as opposed to an owl, and, together with my farming roots, I'm an early bird, it's in my DNA.

What I had also meant to tell Vanessa was that I regard her as just about the best raconteur on the radio. Anyone that can make a visit to the dentist sound entertaining is blessed. And I particularly remember, when she hadn't been doing the show long, her telling the tale of going to buy a bed, but armed only with imperial measurements - that's me all over with my inches, feet, yards and miles - and being met by a group of young sales people who were strictly metric. The unfolding confusion was memorably amusing.

Anyway, after our chat and some music had played, Vanessa says: "Zoe just came in to say what a charming gentleman Huw was - and I second every word." And then just at the end of the programme, Vanessa adds: "I've just heard from Sara Cox and she said 'Huw was absolutely brilliant, wasn't he' - heartily endorsed by Zoe, by Sara and by me."

And to cap it all, at the start of Zoe's Breakfast show, she says: "Thank you so much to Lady V - and how lovely was Huw, happy birthday, Huw, a true gent there." I had to go and lie down in a darkened room to get over all those words of wonderfulness. (What if I wake up and find it was all a dream?)

My next task is to drop producer Tom a line to express my appreciation, not just to him for setting it all up, but to those three delightful ladies for their kind words. I mean, I've never had as magical a birthday present as that.

Incidentally, it's all there on BBC Sounds for the next 30 days: just search 'Vanessa Feltz' - if it doesn't show the date, 26/11/2019, then look for 'Childhood books reimagined' as a subheading.

♪♪♪: Happy official birthday to me, happy official birthday to me, happy official birthday dear HB, happy official birthday to me... And so to bed.
26/11/2019

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A hand-baaaaag!?

"Ah, lovely listener, it is that juncture in the programme where I lol against the lintel of your soul in an attempt to get to know you better than I do already." Thus Vanessa Feltz on her early-morning Radio 2 show - and she goes on to delight in Lizzo's itsy bitsy teenie weenie white leather handbag (about half the size of a matchbox) as showcased on the red carpet at an awards ceremony.

So I had a quick search ... Melissa Viviane Jefferson, known professionally as Lizzo, an American singer, rapper and songwriter. The 31-year-old songstress, I read, made a huge splash at the 2019 American Music Awards, in her larger-than-life mini dress by Valentino, and carrying a tiny, smaller-than-life Valentino custom handbag made by the fashion powerhouse, of which there are, apparently, only three known to exist in the whole universe. Lizzo herself, while on the red carpet, apparently joked she had "a flask of Tequila ... a tampon or two ... some condoms" stuffed inside.

So Vanessa wanted to know of her listeners: "What could she possibly have in there because it's much too small for a lipstick, or a door key, or a credit card? What is it that this tiny, twinkly reticule [a small fabric handbag] could possibly hold, what tiny things that give pleasure could come in something so small? Nothing illegal, only things we can talk about on the radio." What indeed. The first thing that went through my mind when Vanessa mentioned nothing illegal - was a tiny powder puff. Listeners suggested perhaps her 'missing' earring, some contact lenses, a spare fingernail...

Lizzo's own suggestion that the handbag - or purse, or finger bag, or whatever - could perhaps contain condoms, took me back more years than I care to remember. A girlfriend gave me a birthday present, a Working Man's Brief Case, slightly larger than a box of matches - see below, where I've added a 50 pence coin for scale purposes...

 

But here's the thing: the Brief Case was stuffed full of condoms - coloured ones. In fact, I still have the black one somewhere, still unsealed, but way, way, way past its climax date.

Incidentally, I still use the Brief Case - it's the perfect size for business cards, or HB cards as I call them - and it always generates a laugh when I explain its colourful history. So you see, a bit of recycling that again definitely delivers Look You's manifesto pledge to spend as much time as possible chilling out on the sunny side of the street.
25/11/2019

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♪♪♪: Young at heart

"And here is the best part, you have a head start / If you are among the very young at heart." Ah yes, forever young. The evidence suggests that we really are as old as we feel. Indeed, experts have concluded that we have three ages:

Chronological age: the official number we enter into forms.
Biological age: how old our bodies are.
Subjective age: how old we feel.

Far be it for me to call out experts (liar, liar, pants etc...), but surely we have four ages:

Archaeological age: how old other people think we are.

Now c'mon, there is nothing quite so uplifting as being asked your age and people responding with a smile and saying: "Gosh, what's your secret?" I always respond: "Choosing the right parents."
24/11/2019

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♪♪♪: Just tea for two - or three - or four - maybe more

"Would you drink a cup of tea made by this man?" [Mail Online headline, accompanied by a picture of the Prime Minister rustling up a brew]: Boris Johnson prepares a cuppa for his constituents while out canvassing in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat, provoking outrage online by putting milk in cup FIRST in campaign video.

This is as good a juxtaposition of joy and doolallyness as I have spotted today. Given that there are so many contentious issues up for consideration in the coming election, there is something spectacularly bonkers in the notion that social media is getting its nappies all wet and messy over whether Boris should put the milk in first or last. Actually, the problem perfectly reflects Brexit: half the country thinks milk first, half insists otherwise.

Given the confusion regarding which party to vote for this time around, I rather like this helpful idiot-guide, as suggested by a Bernard Airlie in a letter to The Times, and here paraphrased by the addition of an additional option:

If you want a socialist state, vote Labour (or SNP in Scotland).
If you want to cancel Brexit forthwith, vote Lib Dem.
If you want to waste your vote, vote for one of the minority parties.
If you don't like any of these, vote Conservative.
If you don't trust any politician further than you could throw the ballot slip inside the polling station
(folded into a paper aeroplane of course), spoil the ballot paper.
(With 'None of the above' available as a choice, spoiling the ballot paper is the nearest we have to a protest vote.)

Given that we are where we are, a Geoffrey Silman, also in a letter to The Times, reminded us that Emily Thornberry (Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary) says that deploying nuclear weapons would be a collective decision. And Geoffrey wonders aloud whether there would be time for a referendum, ho-ho-ho (and given it's the run-up to Christmas, ho-ho-ho seems a most apt response to things political on my part).

PS: Yesterday I shared the delightful Freudian slip compliments of a traffic and travel reporter, that a road in north Wales remained "fully clothed - um, closed" - and I went on to share yesteryear's joy of fully naked roads ahead: no delays, diversions or, crossed-fingers, stray deer, horses and cows to bring you to a messy stop. Well blow me, today a lone sheep brought the A55 North Wales fast dual expressway from Chester to Holyhead to a standstill for 40 minutes while police captured the "very evasive" animal. How could I have left sheep off my list of unexpected full stops, that most Houdini of all God's creatures.
23/11/2019

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♪♪♪: The long and winding road

"Holywell Road in Flintshire remains fully clothed - um, closed - in both directions following an accident earlier this morning." Radio Wales Breakfast with Oliver Hides, Friday morning, 7:22 ... and a delightful Freudian slip by traffic and travel reporter Hannah. Now that definitely delivers Look You's manifesto pledge to spend as much time as possible chilling out on the sunny side of life. I mean...

When we set off on our motoring journeys, we can only dream of having a fully naked road ahead ... no traffic, road works, accidents, diversions - and all the lights on green. My goodness, my Guinness, it takes me back to age 18 when I was that trainee young buck about town, a TR3 sports car, pretty girl alongside, the top down, the sun on our faces, the wind in our hair - and gloriously empty roads to accentuate the distinctively throaty and echoing growl of the TRs of the day. Happy days and naughty nights.

Gosh, how I survived unscathed suggests I also had a guardian angel on board, looking after both me and my passenger(s). It wasn't so much the joy of relatively quiet country roads, but there was always the risk of a deer rushing across the road, or a horse or cow having escaped from a field, just round the next blind bend and standing slap bang in the middle of the road - remember, the Highway Code says that we must never navigate a bend at such a speed that we can't stop before hitting whatever comes into sudden view and is blocking the road.

Anyway, here's lookin' at you, Guardian Angel.
22/11/2019

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Joy and doolallyness writ large

"I had a chocolate milkshake on the way there - and I'll be having Champagne when I get home." Jockey Racheal Kneller, 32, who answered a desperate owner's Twitter SOS for a jockey at Lingfield when the intended rider's flight from Ireland was grounded, climbed aboard at the last minute to ride Ruacana, and not only won the Flat Jockeys Can Jump Handicap Hurdle but also rode her first winner of the season, after grabbing a quick McDonald's thirst quencher on the way to the racecourse.

A joyful and smiley story, as spotted in a newspaper's Quotes of the Day - but just below was this:

"Dear Father Christmas. Can you help? Can we have a home for Christmas? Mam wants us to be all together. Can you give us some food and can I have just a nice doll for Christmas? Thank you." A letter from a seven-year-old found in a Christmas postbox at the L6 Community Centre in Everton, Liverpool.

This letter has drawn some thought-provoking reactions, from the shock and distressing nature of its contents - think food banks and people sleeping rough - to those questioning whether it's simply a political message masquerading as a child's letter to Father Christmas. If you search out the letter - "Child asks Santa for food and a home in heartbreaking Christmas letter" - it certainly appears to be written in a child's hand, although some do question that.

The letter features no punctuation (the question marks added by publishers). However, what struck me about the message is that it has an adult flow, makes a powerful message in just 38 words, indeed the lack of punctuation could be the old throw-sand-in-the-eyes ploy, as Inspector Clouseau would say.

Whatever, the two eye-catching quotes provide perfect bookends apropos the interesting times we now live in.
21/11/2019

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♪♪♪: Come fly with me...

"Maude 'Lores' Bonney's 122nd Birthday." Today's eye-catching Google Doodle features a young woman in flying helmet and goggles, and a biplane flying from Australia to the UK. I had never heard of her, so given my modest flying CV (or See Me as we say way out west, here in Llandampness), I click and explore...

She was born Maude Rose Rubens (1897-1994), in Pretoria, South Africa, but she adopted the name 'Lores' later in preference to her given name (a neat barrel roll around the moniker Rose). The family then moved first to England, where she was raised, before moving to Australia. There, her passion for flying was sparked when, in 1928, she joined her husband's brother on a flight (interesting that, because my interest in flying was triggered when I joined a cousin, Brian Rees, on a joy-flight in a little Auster from Swansea to explore my square mile from a different view point).

Lores made history just five years later as the first woman to fly solo from Australia to England in a gruelling 157-hour journey, navigating heavy storms, surviving two dodgy landings, even running into a herd of water buffalo during her 1933 voyage (♪♪♪: Mooove over, darling). She had to do all of her own aircraft maintenance, and had to navigate her way halfway across the world without a radio. Four years later she became the first person to fly solo from Australia to South Africa. The outbreak of the Second World War sadly put paid to her bucket list of frontier flights to conquer.

She died in Queensland in 1994, aged 97. And here's the joy-and-doolallyness thing about the Google Doodle that tickles my C-spot (my Curiosity-spot) ... it says that it's her "122nd Birthday". It always seems odd to celebrate someone's birthday when they're dead. Commemorate their date of birth/death, for sure...

Do you suppose that come December 25 we will see a Google Doodle that says "Jesus Christ's 2,019th Birthday"? In other words, where is the cut-off point when you stop using the word birthday to celebrate the memory of someone's journey through time, place and a frame of mind?
20/11/2019

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♪♪♪: Everybody! Have a drink, have a drink, have a drink on us...

"Pernod Ricard, the world's second-biggest spirits maker, sued over 'forced drinking'." Pernod Ricard, the French drinks company, which posted record sales last year, is facing court action accused of piling "constant pressure" on staff to consume alcohol on the job.

Yes, it's a believe-it-or-don't story on the front page of Tuesday's Daily Telegraph, and as it happens sitting alongside a MATT cartoon taking the piss out of Prince Andrew's tone-deaf (or was it a car-crash) interview apropos alleged sexual shenanigans, no sweat, and "letting the side down" (less fake news, more f*** knows, if you ask me) - so this tale of drinking on the job we can take as jonac news.

When I started reading it I thought it was all to do with those individuals employed as drink tasters who make sure the product maintains quality standards (incidentally, I don't know about you, but I was never told at school that there were jobs for tasting chocolates and drinks, and even a condom on-the-job tester, bugger). However...

It is reported that one current and two former employees have accused Pernod Ricard of strong-arming them into drinking at work as part of a drive to increase sales, leading to addiction, poor health and even hallucinations. The firm strenuously denies the allegations. Watch this glass-half-empty space.

Anyway, all that explains why this extraordinary story brought to mind Lonnie Donegan's 1961 hit, Have A Drink On Me, as featured in my musical headline of the day. I don't know about you, but Oscar Wilde's observation that life imitates art far more than art imitates life, comes across as being one of life's inescapable truths. The modern world is one big Monty Python sketch: "And now for something which is not completely different." Here's lookin' at you.

PS: My easily led spellchecker suggested for Pernod either Period or Pardon. You what?
19/11/2019

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♪♪♪: Drive me to the moon, let me handbrake-turn among the stars

"Britons drive a total of 592,920 miles in their lifetime - the same distance as a return trip to the moon." A study of 2,000 drivers by Webuyanycar.com found that we spend 3.7 years (some 32,000 hours) driving - and an agonising eight months (c.6,000 hours) stuck in traffic jams. The study also found we will spend 61 days (c.1,500 hours) washing our cars.

The study also found that if you start driving at 17 and continue until 81, you'll spend more or less the same amount of time looking for a parking space as you do washing your car. A definite positive of living in rural Wales confirms that the wasteful hours spent looking for a parking space and stuck in traffic jams don't apply, so you can just get on with doing your thing on the sunny side of life. Mind you, we do spend more time washing our cars due to all that shite on those country roads taking us home.

All that said, it would be intriguing to know how much time we spend hanky-pankying in cars, talking on the phone while not paying attention to the ambush on the road ahead, doing our nuts at other road users, and experiencing alarming degrees of road rage resulting in raised blood pressure.

Back with driving to the moon and back, I mean, it would be a rather splendid roundabout to navigate. But if you had to land, do a three-point turn while avoiding all those potholes (or craters, as the Man on the Moon calls them, indeed those of us here on Earth might have to refer to them as craters before long too), then it would be a nightmare.

Follow that car!
18/11/2019

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♪♪♪: Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great...

"Pornography and doughnuts: just the thing on a Sunday morning, it seems." Thus a bit of prosing foreplay spotted at the beginning of a Sunday Times piece about Zaucey - never heard of it, but an adult streaming service, I learn - anyway, Zaucey is screening X-rated versions of popular television shows, such as The Great British Bonk Off (starring Mary Cherry - on top? And Paul Hardywood - kiss me Hardy Wood, below?), which of course gives a whole new dimension to expressions such as 'bun in the oven' and 'soggy bottoms'.

Other Zaucey titles include Poledick (for Poldark) and Gobblebox (for Gogglebox), which I must admit tickled my 400-smiles-a-day target no end. I believe there's also a Hard Brexxxit version, but sadly not starring Boris or Nigel. It is suggested that Strictly is ripe for a bit of Zaucey drizzle, if only because they will not need to change the name - which, ho-ho-ho, again took me back to the playground of my youth.

When Come Dancing, with its famous bandleader and presenter Victor Silvester (1900-1978), first hit the telly screens back in the Fifties, there were lots of jokes: "Why did the spermatozoa head for the ballroom? Because the TV show is called Come Dancing, silly." ... "I've just bought the new Victor Silvester trousers - very posh, bags of ballroom."

Oh yes, the doughnuts mentioned in the opening line. Greggs, the bakery chain, has pledged to join the battle against obesity by offering customers a "diet doughnut" - by adding a hole - in marketing terms, a ring doughnut. Before fools rush and fall right in, people who have serious weight issues, and need to go on a crash diet, should just eat the hole. Brilliant.

Apropos the above musical headline - I am now quite addicted to these musical themes - the line of course comes from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life: "♪♪♪: Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great; if a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate." Visit YouTube and search "Every sperm is sacred - Complete". Very funny, especially this warning in the comments section: "Just wait until Biggus Dickus [of Life of Brian fame] hears of this." However, a couple of moot points raised down below in said comments:

One contributor is unsure what is more funny: an eye-catching Oliver-style musical sketch about sperm, or the fact that they got a whole bunch of young children to prance and sing along about sperm.

And another commenter wonders aloud what the process was of asking those children's parents if they could be in the sketch, especially the 'naked' kids in the tin bath while a fellow singing about sperm splashes water all over them. I doubt that it would be allowed today. Anyway, and given that we always look on the bright side of life on this side of the web, enjoy the sketch, it is funny and very 1980s - and very, very Monty Python cum Michael Palin.
17/11/2019

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♪♪♪: I'm dreaming of a white - oops! - I'm dreaming of a Snowflake-free Christmas...

"Irish academic calls for the term 'Anglo-Saxon' to be dropped from modern speech because it has 'links with white supremacists'." Early medieval England specialist Mary Rambaran-Olm, an independent scholar and author - raised in Canada and now based in Ireland - claims the term is used by white British people and should be banned.  She argues that white supremacists use the term to make some sort of connection to their heritage [which fellow historians challenge as fake facts] or to make associations with 'whiteness', but they habitually misuse it to try and connect themselves to a warrior past.

This is a story spotted in the Daily Mail. Historian Tom Holland tweeted that the idea to ditch the term Anglo-Saxon was: "Mad as a bag of ferrets, as they say in Deira [a former northern Anglo-Saxon kingdom in Britain]." Do you suppose, given Mary's Canadian roots, that she has been worshipping too long at the totem poles of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Generation Snowflake? Meanwhile, in another corner of the paper:

"Am I the only TV viewer distressed by the over-use of Anglo-Saxon profanity the F-word?" Walter Brown of Loughborough, in a letter to the Daily Mail. I know what Walter means. I earned my degree from the University of Life as a barman, so bad language was par for the course, but it is curious how many people, especially in the entertainment world, find it impossible to connect without profanity for illumination, emphasis and humour. Now here's a thought: Mary Rambaran-Olm should also battle to ban the F-word, given its Anglo-Saxon roots and links with white supremacists. But what would the BBC do if it was banned from using the F-word? Probably become the British Buggered Corporation.

Incidentally, if ever I happen to meet Mary Rambaran-Olm, I would probably hand her a packet of Strepsils Extra Strength Lozenges. She would doubtless give me a quizzical look. And I would respond, with a smile: "For cough."
16/11/2019

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♪♪♪: I'd ride a million miles for one of your smiles...

"Russ Mantle is the wheel thing, a marvel of the modern world. Aged 82, he has just become the first person in the UK to cycle a million miles in a lifetime, having kept up an average of 40 miles a day, 14,700 miles a year, even into his eighties." Now that's an opening line and a half, and it certainly raised a smile of wonderment.

And he has done it in some style, preferring walking shoes and black trousers with cycle clips (remember those?) to cycling shoes and lycra shorts. And no modern lightweight bike for Russ, a Holdsworth steel-frame road bike from 50 years ago still serves him well. He has never worn a helmet, declaring: "I like the freedom, the wind on my head." He took no water bottle to combat dehydration: "Why carry that extra weight?" Indeed, and by definition decreed to be blessed with "a keen interest, pursued in a very English way".

That brought to mind the memorable English celebrity cook and bon viveur Keith Floyd (1943-2009), who was on a cycling cum foodie tour of  Andalusia in southern Spain (allegedly, but I sensed the bike spent its time in the back of the film crew's van!). Anyway, during one session of outdoor cooking, there in the background was his bike, neatly parked up. But where normally you would see a bidon, that simple plastic water bottle specifically designed to clip on to the frame, there instead was a bottle of wine, handy for a quick slurp or two, or three, or four, maybe more. How marvellously memorable was that?

Now c'mon, how can modern-day cooks and celebrity chefs like Paul Hollywood hope to compete with the joy and delightful doolallyness of Mr Floyd? Here's lookin' at you, Keith, whether up there in the gallery or down in the cellar - thanks for the memories and providing us with more than our fair share of laughs, indeed like Russ Mantle you were blessed with "a keen interest, pursued in a very English way".
15/11/2019

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♪♪♪: I see the moon, the moon sees me, down through the leaves of the politicians' money tree...

"Catastrophic wildfires blaze across the world - from Australia ... via Asia, Africa, South America and California ... to Alaska - how curious then that in 2019 one of the more familiar utterances by UK weather forecasters has been that of 'a month's rain falling in just a single day', accompanied by dire warnings of serious flooding." Yesterday morning, Wednesday 13th November, 7:15am, I am walking into town to collect my morning paper, including some nicks and snacks to sustain me through the day, and I am accompanied on a clear and frosty morning by a glorious full moon, slowly setting. Unfortunately it is either behind or to the side of me so I have to stop now and again to turn and just bathe in its wonderfulness.

Just 12 hours later there is snow falling, about half-an inch before it decides to call it a day and move on (snow had fallen the previous weekend over mid and north Wales). By Thursday morning, following some overnight rain, the roads are clear, but snow cover remains on the verges and fields. Here in Llandampness it really is early to have snow, even if by afternoon it has all gone. I am suitably reminded of a letter in last weekend's Sunday Times, which is worth sharing and nodding along with:

Cold front
In September this newspaper reported that a team of climate scientists from University College London was predicting one of the coldest winters in the past 30 years. Now you report the Met Office saying that "warm winds may feature all winter" (News, last week). Perhaps meteorologists should be charged with predicting something easier - like the election.
Alan Webber, Wincanton, Somerset

Or perhaps meteorologists should be charged with looking into a person's eyes and telling whether. I know, I know, one from the schoolyard, but still funny. Don't you just love experts though? Talk about covering all the bases.
14/11/2019

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♪♪♪: You're a pink toothbrush...

"DON'T use your electric toothbrush as a sex toy!" Anne Henderson, an esteemed UK gynaecologist, warns women to avoid the practice as they could injure themselves. A wel-i-jiw-jiw (well-I'll-go-to-the-foot-of-our-stairs) clickbait spotted in Mail Online ... I couldn't stop myself clicking - I mean, this is joy and doolallyness writ large - and scrolling briskly down below to the Comments, I did notice along the way Gwyneth Paltrow's Jade Eggs mentioned in dispatches, as you do... Anyway, comments, suitably paraphrased to tickle the H-spot, the Hallelujah-spot:

Man Talk: Last night I mistakenly used my wife's electric toothbrush - and it tasted a bit G-whizz.
Mr T: Nothing wrong with keeping the old G-spot clean and fresh - but three times a day?
Brummie Love: Why not buy a proper toy, for heaven's sake?
Rick Smith: Before buying any sex toy you should think long and hard.
Dai Central 'Eating: NEVER use a sex toy to clean your teeth - that's why I
've only got a couple of front teeth left and why they now call me Dai Central Eating.
S39: Most MPs talk out of their backsides so using electric toothbrushes doesn
't seem to have any long-term effect on what they spout.
CR: The other day I visited the birthplace of the person who invented the toothbrush - and there was no plaque.

While scrolling down the Comments page, I inadvertently clicked on a side bar ad for Zendium Toothpaste: "You take great care of your body, now do the same for your mouth."

I am not really surprised at the above clickbait. In my book, Huw and Smile, in Chapter 10: 'Believe it or don't', I explore the more extravagant headlines and clickbaits spotted in our national newspapers (thus hopefully avoiding fake news). Here's one of my favourites, which is explored in the book with gusto:

"Stop cleansing your vagina with a cucumber: Leading doctor warns wacky trend could increase your risk of infections like gonorrhoea and even HIV." Vaginas are 'self-cleansing' says Canadian gynaecologist Dr Jen Gunter... Gosh, imagine if her surname began with a C - that really would give nominative determinism a run for its money.

And on that note, time to grab my toothbrush before toddling off to bed.

♪♪♪: You're a pink toothbrush, I'm a blue toothbrush, have we met somewhere before?
13/11/2019

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♪♪♪: Faraway places with strange sounding names

"There are no restrictions on what you can call your house as long as you use the house number." Now that's a surprising admission by one Martin Whittaker, Clerk to Rooksdown parish council, Hook, in the county of Hampshire. He enlightened us, in a letter to The Times, that this rarely causes any problems; however, in a recent discussion one particular clerk had an application from a dwelling that, with a distant view of Corfe Castle in South Dorset, was to be renamed Far Corfe View. The local authority, surprisingly, was powerless to prevent it. Wel-i-jiw-jiw, as we say out here in Llandampness. I mean, it would be a splendid name to deploy down the pub - "Well here's Dai Far Corfe View, look you" - but to make it official? Blimey!

Curiosity took me to a search engine: Corfe Castle is a fortification standing above the village of the same name on the Isle of Purbeck peninsula in the English county of Dorset.

Sometimes I sits and smiles and thinks what joy ... and sometimes I just sits and rolls my eyes and thinks what doolallyness. (With apologies to Winnie the Pooh - or perhaps that should be Satchel Paige?)

PS: As you may have noted (♪♪♪), I have recently been overtaken by some musical inspiration, quite why I am unsure (the wolf-whistle at the front door - ♥ ♫ - does not count).

PPS: The computer's spellchecker came to a full stop at Purbeck ... and suggested Pubic. Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.
12/11/2019

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♪♪♪: And off she went with a Trumpety-Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump...

"Antiques Road Trip (BBC1, 3.45pm): Charlie Ross and James Braxton battle for profits among the hot gardens and orchards of Kent, criss-crossing the area in a classic Alfa Romeo Spider sports car, affectionately christened Nellie the Alfa..." Well it made me laugh. Anyway, given that the two presenters are forever and good-humouredly insulting each other, I do so hope that sometime during the week-long trip the one already in the driving seat says to the other: "'Will you climb into my parlour?' said a Spider to a fly-by-night; 'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy'."

Actually, the smiley Alfa moniker reminds me of Pat Moss-Carlson (1934-2008), sister of racing driver Stirling Moss, and one of the most successful female motor racing rally drivers of all time. She first made her name in the mid-50s, racing a rugged Triumph TR2 sports car. She called it Fruity given the distinctive sound of the exhaust.

In the 60s, as a trainee young buck about town, I owned a TR3, and I can confirm its uniquely characteristic growl. I have never named any car, but if I had I would have christened the TR3 Randy, if only because it sounded much like the deep-throated roar of a rutting buck on a promise. It was far and away the best car I have ever owned - I mean, I was 18, the only age at which anyone should own a proper sports car (I always smile when I see 59-year-old Jeremy Clarkson pretending to be 19 when he's bombing about in those sporting stallions). Happy days and naughty nights.
11/11/2019

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"Arise, Sir ... or are you a Dame?"

"Recipients of honours often struggle for words as the Queen pins on their medals, but will soon have a new topic of conversation: sexual orientation and gender." Thus the headline and opening paragraph of a front page article in The Sunday Times. Apparently the government is about to start collecting data (there's the latest plague word again, spit) to ensure those decorated are "fully representative of UK society". Nominees will be asked for their socio-economic background, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and whether they have a disability.

This tickled my C-spot (my Curiosity-spot), especially so given my headline from two days back - Is that a confused orientation in your pocket...? - the glorious tale of Ria Cooper, the lady who decided to launch herself into the sex industry, but at an instructive moment in filming - "lights, camera, action!" - was found to be in possession of a jumbo willy: ♪♪♪ 'You are nothing like a dame...', as the revisited song might sound like today, given the prevailing winds.

Incidentally, my headline - Is that a confused orientation in your pocket...? - was patently a play on the famous Mae West quip: Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me? But I do wonder how Mae would have responded if confronted by Ria Cooper. Or more to the point, if it had been a Roy Cooper, with no gun - or anything else in 'his' pocket for that matter - just a lady garden. We do indeed live in interesting times.
10/11/2019

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Little Red Tractor trumps The City

"After the Lord Mayor's show cometh the shit-cart." Thus the old proverb, meaning, bringing up the rear of the Lord Mayor's parade is a team to clear up the manure of the pageant's horses (it is always amusing to note those taking part in the Mayor's parade neatly side-step any such droppings, while the armed forces march straight through it). With the election campaign in full swing, all our political parties clearly need a shit-cart to bring up the rear. Anyway...

Watching Saturday's marvellously diverting and colourful Lord Mayor's Show, the Lord Mayor of Old London Town, William Russell, arrived at his official residence in the City, Mansion House (next door to the Bank of England), in the eye-catching 262-year-old golden stagecoach, the oldest working ceremonial coach in the world, drawn by six magnificent horses - and at the head of the world's largest unrehearsed parade: 7,000 people, 200 horses (oops, 280 horses, see below), 150 floats and many marching bands.

Ten minutes prior to his arrival, the Lady Mayoress, Hilary Russell, who is involved in agriculture and a member of The Worshipful Company of Farmers, arrived, driving herself, in a sparkling red Massey Ferguson 4708 tractor - which just happens to be blessed with 80 horsepower. Ah yes, the real power behind the throne!

We country folk know that the answer to life, the universe and everything, does not lie in the City of London and the Bank of England, but in the soil, which of course thrives on all that horse shit.
09/11/2019

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Is that a confused orientation in your pocket...?

"Don't flaunt your body - sexuality scrambles the mind." Training advice for female executives at British accountancy giant Ernst & Young. That certainly makes sense, indeed it reminds me of a tale shared by Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times: it seems Humberside police have got their hands full sorting out yet another important case that perfectly reflects the times that we live in. Ria Cooper, 25, was approached via WhatsApp to make a pornographic film after she had decided to launch herself into a career in the sex industry, as you do.

Things seemed to be going along swimmingly until the cameraman - who was also her co-star - suddenly spotted that Cooper was in possession of a - er, how shall I put this? - a weapon of mass destruction, an XL penis. The shoot came to a premature climax, and as a consequence Cooper has contacted the police and alleged that she is the victim of a "hate crime".

Now what was my word/expression of the year? Ah yes: doolallyness - present and correct, all over the shop.

PS: My computer's spellchecker came to a full stop at WhatsApp ... and suggested What Sapp. It's good to have a spellchecker with a sense of humour.
08/11/2019

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Greta's great / Greta grates

"I now call my wife Greta, given that what she says is usually irritating - and correct." Robert Crampton, 55, English journalist, who writes under the banner headline Beta male. He adds: "At the moment she's Bruce, as in Springsteen, as in the Boss. But Greta is more zeitgeist, I reckon. No disrespect to Brucey."

First things first: beta and zeitgeist are not words heard in the Bible (I'm fairly sure) or used as communicative currency in the Asterisk Bar down at The Crazy Horsepower Saloon (I'm absolutely sure) ... essentially, an alpha male is the leader or most dominant man (mentally or physically) in a pack or situation - see Trumpety Trump ... for now, anyway; a beta male is the male below him (or second in command: must try harder - beta, better, best) - see Jacob Rees-Mogg or Michael Gove ... for now, anyway; and an omega male is the lowest ranking male - omegod, I'm an omega (must try much, much harder). Oh, and a zeitgeist: the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time. Meanwhile, back on the Greta front...

"Dear journalists who call us hypocrites, you're right." Celebrities including Benedict Cumberbatch, Jude Law, Sienna Miller and Emma Thompson (who famously flew more than 5,000 contrail poisoning miles to attend an Extension Rebellion protest in London) will carry on living 'high carbon' lives while joining Extinction Rebellion protests (con-trail seems an appropriate word to describe their fraudulent sermons on the mount). Whatever, this is what happens when we worship at the foot of the celebrity totem pole: Do as I say, not as I do. That also explains why the zeitgeist down at the Crazy Horsepower is: Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we frizzle to extinction. And, surprise, surprise, the last word goes to you-know-who...

Greta strikes again

"Collins Dictionary's 2019 word of the year is ... 'climate strike'." Not wishing to be pedantic - see below - should that not be expression of the year? Whatever, my word/expression of the year hasn't changed over the past four years: doolallyness is all over the shop.
07/11/2019

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10 smiles or less? Please use next lane

"'Less votes ...' says Beth Rigby on Sky News. Please can someone take this excellent reporter to one side to remind her of her responsibilities with regard to the English language." Thus a Charles Foster commenting in The Sunday Times Culture magazine You Say corner. Now I am the last person to sit in judgment on things pedantic, especially on finer points such as less or fewer - if it sounds right and slips off the tongue, I will go with it - but stick with me on this one for a nice twist in the tale.

So a Simon Wynn responds insisting that it is Charles Foster who needs correcting over his allusion to the so-called less v fewer dos and don'ts: "These rules exist only to serve pedants, having been hijacked from a Mr Baker's 1770 treatise on English grammar. He [Mr Baker] expressed only a preference for fewer over less, so let's use 'less' more often." Yep, I can see where Simon Wynn is coming from: less/fewer, both pass the tongue and bouncing ball test. However...

Here is a Paul Stringfellow with his return of serve: "Thanks to Simon Wynn's example of pedantry in his less v fewer rules. As a result of his wisdom I hope I have fewer money than him." Boom-boom, as my foxy friend would say. Anyway, I shall keep my eyes peeled for further developments.

Oh yes, going back to the original comment about Beth Rigby of Sky News, a Michael Cook arrived from a different direction: "It's annoyin hearin her talkin about MPs votin about leavin the EU." Gee, I know what Michael means - and she is far from being the only one in the meeja who no longer hang their g-strings on the end of words. It's very distractin, indeed where is Professor 'Iggins when you need him? "Ay not I, O not ow / Pounding, pounding in our brain / Ay not I, O not ow / Don't say 'Rine', say 'Rain' ... Eliza: The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain!"

Oh look, here comes the sun - I'm orf.
06/11/2019

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Remember, remember...

"Perhaps Guy Fawkes had the right idea after all ... boom-boom!" (With due apologies to Basil Brush.) Given the political nonsense of the past three years or so - Brexit and Bercow to name just a brace of bonkersness - this was the observation that made me smile the broadest and loudest. The annual Veracity Index confirming the level of trust we have in the nation's professions, has politicians rooted firmly in the basement (nurses currently at the top, incidentally). The word on the street underlines the great truth that, four out of every five of us out here in the real world would not trust a politician further than we could throw them. I presume the odd one out of that Parliamentary flush is what is known as a donkey voter, an individual so rooted and addicted to political prejudices that he or she really would vote a donkey into office. And that works right across the political spectrum.

It is not so much that we believe politicians are devoid of all ethics, morality and honesty - yes, 10% are, but that merely reflects the population at large - but that we have no trust in their powers of judgment. They keep making disastrous calls on our behalf (Theresa May calling an election, David Cameron calling a referendum, Gordon Brown selling our gold at a knock-down price, Tony Blair going to war...). Be that as it may, and never mind our lack of trust in MPs, more ruinously we no longer trust Parliament itself, especially so the House of Commons. The new speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, has quite a challenge to right the wrongs of the Barking Bercow era (who will the fellow bark down at now, given his loss of authority to treat with distain those squatting at the foot of his throne?).

In the 414 years since Guy Fawkes and a group of plotters attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament, nothing much has changed. Thankfully, the power of the X on the voting slip can be just as explosive as a keg of dynamite. Uncle Jeremy of Wombledon Common for PM, anyone?

PS: I smiled the smile of the cynical over a Bernie cartoon of a forlorn-looking fellow standing next to a smokeless wigwam of wood: "What's the best way to light a bonfire?" he asks a fellow entering stage right, who happens to be dragging a heavy piece of instantly recognisable white goods found in the home. And he says: "Whirlpool tumble dryer." Ouch!
05/11/2019

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Extinction Rebellion ahoy!

"A British Guide To The End Of The World (BBC4, 9pm)"
"The End Of The F****** World (C4, 10pm; then All 4)"
WELCOME TO THE END OF THE WORLD ...
PLEASE DRIVE CAREFULLY

Perusing Monday's TV listings, I was overwhelmed with the need to add the 'drive carefully' caution - well you don't want to become a lemming and drive straight off the edge of the cliff, now do you? However, reading further I learn that A British Guide To The End Of The World is a documentary charting efforts to prepare for the nuclear age: "It wasn't an explosion, it was the creation of another sun," says a former soldier who was present at an early British nuclear test, perhaps ironically detonated on Christmas Island, slap bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I've mislaid my dark glasses, so I shall pass on watching that. The End Of The F****** World is a "new run of the black comedy about damaged characters ... Apocalypse now, and every night until Thursday." Pass again.

Talking of Extinction Rebellion, why do they always go on about saving the planet? The planet has, thus far anyway, survived everything the universe has to throw at it, indeed experts tell us that 99% of all species in the history of the planet have become extinct, but nature keeps on coming up with something new to fill the gaps. Scientists have been astonished how nature is flourishing around Chernobyl, when they expected most things to die off given the alarmingly high levels of radiation. Nature adjusts and carries on.

What Extinction Rebellion should say is that they are desperate to save Humanity. But if you were God, Mother Nature or Old Father Time, would you not regard we human beings as your single biggest cock-up because, let's be honest, we have pillaged, burnt, raped and poisoned the planet and its species at an unforgivable rate. It's your call.

Incidentally, a John Heywood of SW7, in a letter to the Telegraph, recalled his history master's explanation of the difference between rebellion (equals failure, as with the Jacobites) and revolution (equals success, as with the French). And John wondered aloud if Extinction Rebellion is naively pursuing a self-fulfilling prophecy. Incidentally, even though I went to grammar school (John Heywood says master, I say teacher, let's call the whole thing off), I never paid much attention, so I had to look up Jacobites - but I did have an idea about the French. Yes, every day, albeit rather late in the day, really is a day at school.
04/11/2019

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Boris and Dilyn watch the rugger ... bugger!

"Hope the Election goes better than the rugby, Boris!" Thus a morning-after-the-night-before front page photo caption. Just yesterday, I reckoned that the Matt cartoon of the dog and the cat relaxing on the sofa while watching the rugby, with a nervous human watching from under the sofa, rather than from behind as we are supposed to, was actually unfolding at 10 Downing Street. Well blow me down with a feather: the front page of The Mail On Sunday has a photograph of Boris Johnson, sporting an England shirt, watching the World Cup final, on the sofa, with Dilyn the dog on his lap. No sign of Larry the cat, fearing perhaps a boot up the backside in frustration at what was happening out in Japan, the moggy having hurriedly made his excuses and left. After all, England had robbed Boris of a magnificent photo opportunity on the team's return to Blighty. Bugger and double bugger!

In fact there's been a bit of a brouhaha and a whiplash response following the game, not so much about the result because England were fairly beaten, but I had noticed during the presentation that several of the England players had removed their runners-up medals as soon as they departed the podium, indeed one refused to even put it on during the presentation. The England players were branded petulant and sore losers online, and comments on social media were withering, this a typical example: "England having a temper tantrum, refusing to wear their medals. Pathetic."

I remember at the time thinking, gosh, imagine Olympic silver and bronze medallists refusing to wear their medals for the podium anthem and photos. I mean, the sky really would fall on their heads - and rightly so. What were the English lads thinking? And as pointed out elsewhere, even the All Blacks walked off the field wearing their bronze medals - and Wales steadfastly proud, even if weighed down by the lead medals for fourth place.
03/11/2019

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England mislay their sparklers, rockets and bangers

"England 8/15 odds-on favourites to lift Rugby World Cup ... South Africa 7/4 to win." Thus a Friday newspaper headline. So, it's first thing on Saturday morning, the day of the big game, and I spot a Matt cartoon on the front page of The Daily Telegraph: a dog and a cat are relaxing on a sofa, watching telly. Hiding beneath the sofa is a fellow, barely able to force himself to peep up at the TV in the corner. And the dog says to the cat: "He's OK with fireworks, but the rugby makes him terribly nervous." Matt clearly knows his rugby - unlike the Telegraph's betting expert (note expert in italics) who suggested prior to the final that "an England win by 1-12 points at 13/10 seems a sensible bet".

But here's the thing about the Matt cartoon: there was no indication that we were peeping in through the window at No. 10, yet when I saw the pooch and the pussycat relaxing on a pea-green sofa, I instantly thought of Larry the Downing Street Cat and newcomer Dilyn the Jack Russell Welsh Rescue Dog - and that it was actually Boris hiding beneath the sofa, more nervous, I would suggest, about Nigel the Brexit Bulldog Bogeyman than fireworks or the rugby.

Anyway, congratulations to South Africa, who surprisingly overpowered and outclassed England, winning 32-12, indeed the Boks have the distinction of becoming the first side to lift the Cup having lost a pool game en route, after meeting defeat in their opener to New Zealand (and yes, the All Blacks were well beaten in the semi-final by England - and yes, yes, it's a strange and curious game, rugby). Anyway, not many would have predicted the final score, certainly not me - definitely not the aforementioned betting expert, suggesting an England win by 1-12 points.
02/11/2019

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Glass half-empty or glass half-full?

"The No. 13 on the front of a house loses its owners 22,000 quid in value." At least according to Land Registry figures. But hang about ... No. 13 is only bad news for half the population, because the buyer has an instant discount of 22,006 quid (to be precise), but of course once they move on, everything balances out again, d'oh! However, the wise buyer will immediately change No.13 on the front of the house to The Baker's Dozen. What is known as a win-win situation - or as they say down the pub, a glass half-full or a glass half-full situation.

PS: Property specialists Stone Real Estate should have released this tale of the unexpected last month, on Friday September 13 (to be precise). Stone me! And talking of Friday the 13th, it seems that it's a good day to fly because many superstitious people refuse to travel and many flights are nowhere near full; for the same reason, long car journeys are much more agreeable because the roads are significantly quieter. Every day a day at school.
31/10/2019

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Hold the front page smiley election awards

"Country will go to the polls on December 12." A typical front page newspaper headline, compliments of the Western Mail, on the Wednesday morning after the night before when Boris got the nod to saddle up and enter the parade ring.

An election it is then ... I can now occasionally, just occasionally, safely return to visiting the news and dipping my toe into political programmes and articles to see what politicians and pundits (those experts who are so often spectacularly wrong) have to say for themselves. Whether I will actually vote is another thing entirely.

Anyway, I scan the newspaper stand at the corner shop ... most papers, just like the Western Mail above, offer a straight-to-the-point front page headline on the election announcement. Mind you, I did like Matt's pocket cartoon in The Daily Telegraph, featuring a grumpy-looking couple out shopping, and he says to her: "At least a December election will put a stop to all that 'Season of Goodwill' nonsense."

So which paper topped the smiley podium? The Sun's front page said "New Year's Leave" - but you needed to read the smaller print above the bold headline to appreciate the humour, to wit - "If Boris wins Dec 12 election, we can get Brexit done by ... New Year's Leave", so bronze only this time. Silver went to the Daily Mail's "Don't let the Grinch steal your Christmas", with a picture of Jeremy Corbyn.

But gold went to the Daily Mirror's "It's time to stuff the turkey", with a picture of Boris's head atop an actual turkey. Eye-catching and amusing, what a typical and topical red-top headline should be.
30/10/2019

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Singers that should be heard and not seen

"Some people are blessed with the kind of face that looks good with a bald head. I am not one of those people." Elton John, 72, explains with a smile, why he wears a wig. Interesting that because he is one of those singers I enjoy listening to only. I find his appearance so strange-going-on-startling that it distracts from properly appreciating his writing and singing skills, so Elton is strictly a sound only man.

I began listening to popular music by wireless and records only, before videos, but just around the time singers began to regularly appear on television. I recall seeing Roy Orbison on telly for the first time - and being totally put off in a curiously comical way by how spectacularly miserable and humourless he looked as he sang Oh, Pretty Woman. So I decided there and then that Roy should be a heard and never seen singer. And then there was Diana Ross of The Supremes fame, always coming across as someone who needed a good talking to, detention and a quick hundred lines, indeed always looking the part of the spectacular diva she would go on to become. Ms Ross, again, should be heard and not seen.

These days I am totally put off by how pleased Robbie Williams looks with himself, and Adele always appears to be in such a filthy mood when singing, never mind all the potty language when she stops warbling. Adele, like Robbie, should definitely only be heard and never seen. And then there's Gregory Porter, pleasant voice, indeed he comes across as a decent sort of chap - but there's that curiously diverting thing he wears on his head, a fusion between flat cap and balaclava. I am totally mesmerised and distracted by his headwear, so much so I do not properly appreciate his singing. I mean, why does he wear it? Like Adele, Robbie, Diana and Roy, Gregory is strictly sound only.

I could go on - but you get the picture.

Talking of music, I happened upon the tail end of Radio 2's Pick of the Pops for 26 October 1981, the top three songs. How about this for variety?
3) The Tweets
- Birdie Song
2) Laurie Anderson - O Superman (all eight minutes of it
... oh, and a perfect Trumpety Trump theme song - just pay attention to the words!)
1) Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin - It
's My Party (a remake of the 1963 Leslie Gore hit)

And there, in just three songs and 15 minutes of musical joy and doolallyness, proof that you should never impose your musical tastes on others.
28/10/2019

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Brexit anniversary card

"The year is 2192," tweets Julian Popov, former Bulgarian environment minister, popping off a bottle of bubbly in celebration of a rather splendid joke. "The British prime minister visits Brussels to ask for an extension of the Brexit deadline. No one remembers where this tradition originated, but every year it attracts many tourists from all over the world." The tweet duly went viral and endlessly retweeted. Even Downing Street joined in: "The trouble is, it's not a joke," a government source lamented. "We keep going round and round. I despair."

Hopefully card manufacturers are joining in and planning to bring out Brexit anniversary cards, in fact here's a verse I prepared earlier for Boris to send Jeremy and amigos come 23 June 2020 - on what could be the fourth anniversary of the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union:

Brexit buses are red,
Remain flags are blue,
Bercow is barking,
And so is EU.

26/10/2019

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CAUTION - MEN AT WORK, REST AND PLAY

"Man caught 'trying to have sex with a plastic traffic cone' in a train station lift, and charged with outraging public decency, is spared jail." Trevor Smith, 48, while high on drink and drugs, was seen sitting on the floor with his trousers and underpants pulled down and 'thrusting his hips' towards the object by shocked staff at Wigan North Western station on April 14, before telling police that his trousers had simply 'fallen down'.

A clickbait, as spotted compliments of our leading online newspaper. Hm, for underpants read Why-fronts - and pray, where was John Major's infamous Cones Hotline when it was so desperately needed? And if our felon's pants had simply fallen down, perhaps it's the cone that should have been charged with outraging public decency.

By the by, John Major, you will recall, was calamitously undermined by reports that he tucked his shirt into his Y-fronts, and that he kept his pants up by attaching a paperclip to his belt. A clip 'round the ear is what Major was in need of. Also, cartoons of the day had Major wearing his Y-fronts over his trousers (an anti-superhero), so we were never again quite able to see him as the man you would follow out of the trenches and over the top.

Anyway, just a quick scroll down the newspaper's home page, another clickbait had me rolling my eyes...

"Man arrested for having sex with a cuddly toy in front of horrified shoppers at a Florida Target store." Cody Meader, 20, was seen dry-humping and ejaculating on a stuffed Olaf snowman toy from the movie Frozen ... he was arrested and charged with criminal mischief.

First things first: what is an Olaf toy? A quick search ... hm, must have been the 24-carrot nose that triggered the fellow's testosterone. And what the hell is dry-humping? Hm, nothing like dry stone walling then ... but doesn't that make 'dry-humping and ejaculating' some sort of oxymoron? Anyway, was the Florida toy boy sporting a Trumpety Trump MAGA baseball cap? Make America Grate Again.

Honestly, the world has gone bananas and bonking bonkers. Man's stiff-upper-lip has been supplanted by a limp-upper-lip and a stiff-lower-dipstick. Still, it boosts my 400-smiles-a-day target no end.
24/10/2019

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Come on in, the welcome's warm and colourful

"With half-term coming up," Vanessa Feltz asked of her Radio 2 listeners at 5:15 this Tuesday morning, "be the tour guide of your local neighbourhood and sell it as a place to visit." Well now, as previously mentioned in dispatches, mother never bred a jibber - but I needed a bit of time to ponder, so along my early-morning walk into Llandeilo to collect my morning paper, I was suitably accompanied by a gloriously colourful autumnal sunrise...

Llandeilo: a charming market town boasting a historic single-arch bridge (b.1848) that continues to put modern structures to shame, and one that a visiting and daring Flying Circus pilot flew under for a bet back in the Thirties (stand below the bridge and picture the little biplane doing its thing under the 143ft [43m] arch); a riot of colour, not just the houses along CinemaScopic Bridge Street (what we locals call Boot Hill because it bisects a graveyard at the top) but the autumnal hues coming into their own across Dinefwr Park with its Old Town Castle and New Town House, not forgetting its White Park cattle and rutting deer; a place where everyone says "Shwmae, shwmae!", a welcome so good they say it twice; oh, and somewhere to perhaps pick up a copy of Huw and Smile (see details at the top).

Apropos that plane flying under Llandeilo bridge, down the years there were tales circulating that it was a Tiger Moth flown by World War II Hurricane pilot Hardy McHardy, a local character of much note ("McHardy's the name, Lloyds' the bank, in the red!" was a legendary introductory line of his, perfectly reflecting a chaotic financial actuality), but that was not so. Many moons back I was enlightened by a couple of elderly gents, both now dead, who remember the incident from the Thirties when a visiting Flying Circus came to town, and that the daredevil event was executed early on a Sunday morning. There were no flying rules back then, as there are now, but it was a stunt that could have been frowned upon locally, hence why the early start - something that would have been witnessed only by farmers, fishermen and presumably those alerted by the sound of the plane doing a trial run or two (without actually winging it under the bridge).

Below, I feature two pictures, which give an inkling of the exploit ... the first gives an idea of size and scale ... the lorry clearly verifies that a small biplane, such as a Tiger Moth, would certainly clear the arch, approaching from behind the camera - but note the sharp bend in the river as you exit the bridge...
 


 

The image below gives a proper idea of that turn, which would take some proper flying skill ... the pilot would have flown upstream, approaching from the left as we look...
 


 

What we don't know is what trees and/or bushes would have lined the river bank to the pilot's left as he exited the arch, hence needing to probably make a tight turn and climb following the course of the river. It would have been a marvellous deed to perform, but clearly more than possible. As someone with a bit of piloting experience, I would have enjoyed having a go - and I say that as someone who has navigated life in the middle lane, not too fast, not too slow, but I did own a series of sports car as a youngster, and the roar of a TR3 with the wind rushing through my hair and a pretty girl alongside was a proper va-va-vroom affair. So I'm quite envious of those magnificent men in their flying machines - sigh!
22/10/2019

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EEK!
She stared at his wretched computer,
"Just take it right out of the house!"
...
(She isn
't afraid of computers,
She's only afraid of the mouse.)

Again with thanks to Vincent Hefter of Old London Town. I like that because everyone knows that the internet was invented with cats in mind, so hoots mon, with all those mooses on the loose aboot you and me's hoose - I mean, no surprise that pussycats would go on to rule the whole shebang. Purrrrrrrrrrrrr...
20/10/2019

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Foreplay meets wordplay

"Not having sex needn't be a hindrance to wedding bliss. Next week we're celibating our 30th anniversary!" Ah, never mind the joy of sex, embrace the joy of the English language ... Vincent Hefter of Old London Town, in a 'Straight to the Point' letter to the Daily Mail. Vincent is a regular contributor to the Letters page, and his wisecracks always generate a smile. He is a master of wordplay, so I sent the Mail Letters team an email, a few brief words in appreciation of his ability to boost my smile quotient toward that magical 400-a-day target. Next, I blink when I spot the name Vincent Hefter in my inbox ... the Mail never published my missive, but they did forward it to Vincent - which was rather splendid of them - and it was an email from Vincent thanking me, which was even more splendid. I responded, and he kindly gave me permission to quote here on Look You! any missive of his that tickled my funny bone - or indeed anything that caught my eye on his blogs (one such magical mystery tour being www.thevicarsknickers.blogspot.com).

"After his ungallant remarks about women chefs ['he' being British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal], I come not to bury Heston, but to braise him - overnight in a slow cooker." Vincent, again in the Daily Mail, a response to Blumenthal's thoughts on the shortcomings of female chefs ("It is one thing to have a 9-5 job and quite another to be a chef with kids" and women "not being able to lift heavy pots and pans after childbirth"). Needless to say the sky duly fell on old Chicken Licken Heston - and he instantly discovered that the sky is even heavier than chef's pots and pans, possibly even the heaviest thing in the universe, especially so when it decides to fall on your head.
16/10/2019

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Stuck on you!

"Extinction Rebellion activist glues himself to the top of British Airways plane at London City Airport." Morning newspaper headline - and this is what Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick had to say about the Paralympic athlete responsible (who was presumably doing a screen test for Gorilla Super Glue): "My early understanding is somebody has been arrested after they - presumably bought a ticket, went through security perfectly normally, went up the steps of a plane and hurled themselves on top of a plane. Actually, that was a reckless, stupid and dangerous thing to do for all concerned. But I think you can see that it's quite a hard thing to predict or stop from happening." The protestor hurling himself on top of the plane sounds suspiciously like Britain crashing out of the EU. Talking of which, some 220 miles or so to the north-west of London, at Thornton Manor on the Wirral...

"Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have had a detailed and constructive discussion. Both continue to believe that a Brexit deal is in everybody's interest. They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal." The latest Brexit development, also spotted in the morning newspaper. Hm, beware the light at the end of the tunnel say I - see previous post. Anyway, this is how cartoonist Matt saw it on the front page of The Daily Telegraph. A senior police officer, standing at the entrance to Thornton Manor, is addressing the gathered media: "Police were called to the Brexit talks after the Taoiseach superglued himself to the backstop."
11/10/2019

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Habits and Prejudices 'R' Us

"Curious things, habits. People themselves never know they had them." Agatha Christie (1890-1976), English writer, author of The Witness for the Prosecution (1925). "Curious things, prejudices. None of us appreciate we have them, let alone how deeply ingrained in our psyche they are." Me, Welsh scribbler, author of Look You (2019), with due apologies to the ghost of Dame Agatha. Oh, and talking of fixed-term prejudices, as I write, there is a glimmer of light at the end of the Channel Tunnel, which suggests that Brexit will not run and run as long as The Mousetrap (1952). Let us all hope and pray that it won't be Boris meeting the Orient Express coming the other way (Murder on the, and all that jazz).
10/10/2019

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Hard-wired behaviour

"Sex, greed, tribalism & rock 'n' roll." The Chapter 5 heading in my book, the longest chapter and one that could possibly stand alone as a separate book (hm, two books for the price of one, a bargain). The chapter is split into its constituent sections and explores the three powerful addictions hard-wired into our DNA - not just humanity but all of the planet's creatures - and all to do with Mother Nature's prime directive, the survival of the fittest. Oh, the rock 'n' roll is there as a background track, something so beloved of television productions, often drowning out the dialogue or commentary (hopefully though not so in my case). Anyway, I digress ... I furnish "Sex, greed, tribalism & rock 'n' roll" with gloriously doolally examples of the most powerful people on the planet succumbing to these addictions and making complete dicks and fannies of themselves.

But here's the thing ... on September 29, 2019, The Sunday Times, Business & Money section, carried on its front page the following bold headline, a tale concerning a famous British-based, international shoe manufacturer: "Clarks rocked by claims of racism, sexism and fraud." Blimey, my C2DE chapter heading artfully converted into an ABC1 newspaper headline.
08/10/2019

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Do, re, mi, fa, so...

"Why do thick people start every sentence with 'so'?" John Potter of Walsall in a 'Straight to the Point' letter to the Daily Mail. Well, mother never bred a jibber - and the paper published my response: "Look, we're only trying to grab your attention."

PS: John Brookes of Kidderminster also enlightened us that horse racing people start sentences with "Listen...", as in: "Listen, do you want to know a secret?" Presumably as in which horse is on a tight rein and which one is to be given its head?
04/10/2019

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Oh come, come

"One said it takes the average woman 13 minutes to achieve orgasm. That sounds a long time to me." Sex surveys should all be ignored, says the bonkbuster author Jilly Cooper, 82. Gosh, 13 minutes sounds like an eternity to me (no wonder I was more likely to be spotted on a list of 'worst ever lovers' rather than a 'best ever' one). Actually, when I was a trainee young buck about town vroom-vrooming it behind the wheel of a Triumph sports car, I recall a Jilly review of an MGB sports car - she came across as a bit of jolly-hockey-sticks bonkbusting journalist even back then - which carried this racy headline: "You can do it in an MGB!"

I was so inspired that I wrote my own headline (duly redacted), and here made public for the first time: "You can do it in a TR3!" Anyone familiar with being a passenger in a TR3 will be mightily impressed - but I should make clear that it was really all about having the perfect navigator alongside who knew the way to San Way-Hay (no names, no pack drill - oh, and 'way-hay' is listed in the Urban Dictionary as an expression of delight, ecstasy, satisfaction and self-achievement, all rolled into one ... just think 'a roll in the way-hay' - and who am I to argue?).
02/10/2019

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Hold the 5-a-day

"The banana is back in the bowl." Rod Stewart, 74, gentleman of this planet's celebrity parish, who has eight children with five different ladies, announces - in his own colourful way - that he won't be having any more children. This quote surfaced in the spring of 2019, and it features in Huw and Smile - my book has a banana thread running through it - and I thought, hm, it must be a code used by rock legends about bent willies catching up with all of us eventually, and yes, even rockers.

Actually, Rod has just revealed a successful if classified three-year battle with prostate cancer: "If you're positive, and you work through it and you keep a smile on your face, you survive ... I've worked at it for two years and I've just been happy - and the good Lord looked after me." Good for Rod - and I liked how the "good Lord" sneaked in there at the end. Oh, and "the banana is back in the bowl" really was a hidden rock legend code about his sex-drive not firing on all cylinders - I mean, I can't imagine that a bouncy sex life with Maggie May, way-hay, goes hand in hand with cancer treatment.

Be that as it may, I am reminded of a smiley schoolyard giggle jiggle: "Hand in hand ... hand in gland ... gland in hand ... gland in gland ... gosh, ain't life gland!"
01/10/2019