Goodbye, Mr Bond

Goldfinger: "Choose your next witticism carefully, Mr Bond, it may be your last."
Mr Bond [eyeing the deadly laser burning its way towards his most animated organ]:
"Do you expect me to talk?"
"No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die."
Yes, voted the most memorable moment from a Bond film, even trouncing one of the simplest but most memorable lines in film history - "The name's Bond, James Bond" - delivered in Dr No by Sean Connery, who has died aged 90, in his sleep, in his Bahamas home.

Connery's "Bond, James Bond" line is in third place, just behind the Union Jack parachute spectacular as Bond skis off the edge of an Austrian mountain from The Spy Who Loved Me starring Roger Moore, with Carly Simon singing the Nobody Does It Better theme song.

In the end though, the definitive villain and personification of death, the Grim Reaper, pops round to collect all our souls. What did surprise me was that Sean Connery was 90 at his final "I'm ready when you are, Mr Reaper" curtain call, perhaps because he had kept such a low profile along his final lap. (It seems he had been unwell for some time and was apparently suffering from dementia, which would explain his absence from public life.)

But the screen James Bond was his picture-perfect creation. Goodbye, Mr Bond.


This is your captain speaking...

"Why hasn't John Sentamu, 71, the UK's first black archbishop, and newly retired, been given a peerage? And why doesn't he feature in the list of 100 Great Britons of Colour? Perhaps it's his wicked sense of humour." Thus the opening paragraph (more or less) of a pocket piece (the journalistic version of a pocket cartoon), as spotted in The Sunday Times under its Atticus banner.

Beneath the headline "John Sentamu: the very arch bishop", the columnist Roland White shares a joke Sentamu once told the General Synod about a 747 developing engine trouble over the Atlantic:

Bing-bong: "As we are losing altitude," says the captain, "some passengers must be dropped into the water, with their life jackets. As this airline operates an equal opportunities policy, we will do this alphabetically. Are there any Africans on board?" Silence.
     "Any black people?" Silence.
     "Anybody from the Caribbean?"
      A little boy tugs his father's sleeve. "Dad, Dad," he says, "What are we?"
     "Quiet, son," says his father. "We are Zulus."

In this age of Black Lives Matter, perhaps the order should be thus: Americans ... Brits ... Chinese ... before ending with the Zulus. Mind you, Donald Trump would doubtless insist we call him a Yank.

PS: Spellchecker moment ... Sentamu popped up as Santa - nice one, a Father Christmas of colour - followed by Sentiment, which perhaps helps explain the embryonic peerage. Hm, think nothing is best.


Breakfast like a king...

"The girls say, 'Daddy, can we have that black stuff?'." Ronnie Wood, 73, old-age pensioner, old-age rocker, old-age roller, and certainly old-age lover, reveals that his twins Alice and Grace, four, love caviar for breakfast. And unsurprisingly the sky proceeded to fall from a great height on the old rocker's head.

"Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper," goes the old saying, but I guess Ronnie is pushing his luck on that score. Perhaps a modern version should read: "Breakfast like a king, offer lunch as a free meal for needy children during school holidays, and hand over dinner to your friendly neighbourhood food bank."

Whichever version you prefer, the conclusion to be drawn is the same - breakfast is the most important meal of the day, whether it be caviar, or porridge, or full English. There was also a letter in the Daily Mail from a Brian Harding of Northallerton in North Yorkshire:

♪♪♪: You can't always get what you want ... "Why complain that you can only afford to give your child porridge for breakfast instead of caviar, like Ronnie Wood? Learn to play the guitar, join a band and tour the world playing to packed stadiums." 

There's no answer to that, as they say down the pub, but it does throw up an interesting starter for 10: caviar or porridge? Me, I'll eat whatever's available or plonked in front of me. After all, food is just fuel to propel me along the scenic route from A to B, with a stop along the way to take five on the grassy knoll. Let's see now, what sort of fuel goes down well in my cave?

Moroccan lamb cigars, and a pint of Guinness, for breakfast; honey-glazed spiced roast goose and confit potatoes, with a drop or two of Whispering Angel Rose, for lunch; banana, pecan and bourbon self-saucing pud, signed off with some Baileys, for high tea; After Eights, just after eight - oh, and a gulp or two, or three, or four, maybe more, of brandy and port, to wash down the joy and the doolallyness of the day.

Life can be exceedingly civilised and simple, really.


Apologies 'R' Us

"If the Rule of Six is still in place at Christmas, we're breaking it to have the rule of seven. We just are." Victoria Derbyshire, 52, British journalist and currently a BBC newsreader, in an interview with the Radio Times, for which she later apologised.

The presenter, whose current affairs show on the BBC was axed in March amid cuts, tweeted to say her comment was hypocritical hypothermic hypothetical (oops, sorry about that, but I did get it right at the third time of asking - but you must admit, "hypothetical" was a long shot as a top-drawer excuse for engaging mouth before brain).

Incidentally, I saw a Newman cartoon where Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister's personal think tank, is presenting Boris with a file marked Rule of Six, but Boris says: "We'll stick with pride, envy, greed, wrath, sloth and lust."

Obviously it should have been the Rule of Seven (and Victoria would have been okay, bless), but gluttony had been omitted, what with Boris and his crash diet following his flirt with the Covid of Doom virus (I nearly said car-crash diet, but it's a bit too soon for that just yet).

Next apology...

"Did the honourable lady just call me scum?" Chris Clarkson, 37, Tory MP, responds to a taunt during an exchange in the Commons between him and Angela Rayner, 40, deputy leader of the Labour Party, for which she later apologised.

I see that there is already a novelty mug on the market featuring the above words. "It's proving surprisingly popular among male purchasers," at least according to LBC radio presenter Iain Dale, 58, whose web site is selling them. "Can designer scum underpants be far behind?" is enthusiastically doing the rounds.

Finally, and definitely the apology of the day...

"The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland has just opened a brand-new spanking pavilion." Spotted in The Scottish Farmer Magazine - while keeping abreast of all the latest ewes, ho, ho, ho.

Claire Taylor, the magazine's political affairs editor, says: "I can only apologise for a faux pas which has brought much joy to our readers. Please leave your whips behind and I'll make sure to improve my proofreading skills."

No need to apologise, Claire, the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade is what keeps me sane in this increasingly bonkers world.


MP of colour(ful) wit

"When Labour's Tulip Siddiq, 38, stood for Member of Parliament in Hampstead & Kilburn in 2015 she was warned that she wouldn't get elected with a Muslim surname. She was advised to use her husband's name. 'But, honestly,' she told fellow MPs recently, 'who wants to be Mrs Percy?'." Patrick Kidd in his TMS diary column, as spotted in The Times.

Yesterday it was an autumnal season of colour; today it's an MP of colour, both literally and metaphorically (as confirmed by her witty Parliamentary response).

Intrigued by her "Mrs Percy", I discover that her husband is one Christian William St John Percy, 36, shortened to Chris Percy (a company director and described as a "Mandarin speaking strategy consultant with a background in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office"), and they were married in 2013.

I also note that he is Christian by religion, which I guess explains the impressive "Christian William St John" moniker.

Patrick Kidd informs us that Tulip is rooted in her constituency of Hampstead & Kilburn, c/o Old London Town (a seat previously occupied by the actress Glenda Jackson); in fact Tulip's parents were married there and it's where she went to school. Patrick adds: "It means that, as sometimes happens, a moron tells her to get back where she came from [see Trumpety Trump], she can reply: 'It's only 20 minutes on the Jubilee Line.'"

Game, set and match to Tulip, methinks. I also learn that she is "the niece and granddaughter of two Bangladeshi Prime Ministers" - so just point Mrs Percy in the right direction and there'll be no holding her.


Season of colour

"Are limes the most beautiful of all street trees? A row of them can transform an ordinary street into an impressionist boulevard dappled with delicate light and shade..." The opening line from Nature Notes in The Times newspaper, compliments of British naturalist and writer Jonathan Tulloch.

Now that made me smile and nod because along my country walks I encounter many lovely limes, indeed I have captured some marvellous photos of them...

Autumn in the Park

An avenue of handsome lime trees line the lane to Penlan Park, Llandeilo

The lime is an enchanting tree, particularly colourful in the autumn. In the summer its intoxicating scented small white flowers draw bees and insects; and apparently makes a relaxing brew of tea which relieves high blood pressure, calms anxiety and soothes digestion (I've never got round to that, perhaps next year, if spared by Covid-19!).

Durable and light, lime wood is ideal for carving. Oh, and makes good piano keys. And on that note, Jonathan Tulloch adds the following: "The wind can still be heard murmuring musically through their canopies. Psithurism is a word commonly used for the sound of the wind whispering through leaves..."

"Psithurism" - pronounced with a silent "P" - but still an ugly looking word for such a beautifully seductive sound. Next time I go down to the woods - assuming I beat the falling leaves - I'll have to dream up a suitably handsome word to describe the bewitching sound of the wind whispering musically through the branches and the leaves.


Sunday is knock-knock day

Today, another knock-knock with a difference, and inspired by yesterday's post of round-the-world sailor Robin Knox-Johnston's revelation of the odd reason why his triumphant return to Falmouth 50 years ago had to be delayed: "Can you slow down? The mayor's wife has a hair appointment."

The mayor speaking - who's there?
Yes I heard you the first time - but who's there?
Oh dear, sounds like another bad hair day...



♪♪♪: I say wait, you say weight, let's call the whole thing off

"Can you slow down? The mayor's wife has a hair appointment." Robin Knox-Johnston, 81, British round-the-world sailor, reveals the odd reason why his triumphant return to Falmouth 50 years ago following his record-breaking, single-handed, non-stop circumnavigation of the globe had to be delayed.

Wait, wait! Meanwhile, on the weight front...

"Oh no! Her diet has just cost us 10,000 quid." Roger Law, 79, British caricaturist and creative director of TV show Spitting Image, reacts after being forced to discard the waxwork model of Adele following her seven stone weight loss.

If I were Roger Law I would hang on to the heavyweight model of Adele because ... well, remember this from October 13?

"I've gone back to being an entire barrel." Dawn French, 63, British actress, admits she has put weight back on after previously losing seven stone. Intriguingly the British singer-songwriter Adele, 32, has recently also lost seven stone. Will she too eventually go back to being an entire barrel?

Watch this space, Roger Law. You may still have to roll out the Adele barrel.


Shut that door!

Gove's door is open to interpretation ... "Your report of Cabinet Minister Michael Gove saying the 'door is ajar' on Brexit talks (October 19) reminded me of the stage direction given by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett that a door should be 'imperceptibly ajar'. When a stage manager asked how this should be effected, Beckett explained: 'It means the door is shut'." John Bevis of Ironbridge, Shropshire, in a letter to The Guardian.

Along my journey through time and space, and observing the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade from my vantage spot on the grassy knoll, I have noted that when God slams shut the door, he always leaves another off the latch nearby for those natural-born "lucky" people amongst us to gently lean against and push open.

However, I guess "imperceptibly ajar" sounds much more elegant and God-like than "off the latch".


Letters from Middle-Britain - 10

Something fishy in lockdown
(All spotted in The Daily Telegraph)

The French want to have our fish and eat it ... "[With fishing rights likely to tip the scales in a Brexit trade deal] ... The European Commission does know that if the United Kingdom leaves the EU with 'no deal' it also has 'no deal'. I am not entirely sure it has worked this out." Jonathan Fulford of Bosham in West Sussex.

Fair catch ... "We should let them have all the fish they want. We can catch it. They can buy it." Michael Dines of Lowestoft in Suffolk.

Those two letters perfectly sum up why I enjoy the wit and wisdom of the letters pages of our newspapers.

And with Covid-19 continuing to hit the headlines, in particular the Mayor of Manchester attempting to squeeze more money out of Downing Street, the following three missives also tickled my WW-spot, my witty-and-wise-spot:

Write-off ... "In essence, Andy Burnham, The Mayor of Manchester, has been arguing with the loss-adjuster, rather than putting the fire out." Andrew C Pierce of Barnstable in Devon.

Save our NHS ... "Forgive me, but I always thought that it was the role of the NHS to protect the public, not the role of the public to protect the NHS." Clive R Garston of Old London Town.

Lockdown, firebreak, circuit breaker ... "When the Dutch boy removed his finger from the dyke, the problem returned." Diann Pollock of Upton in the Wirral.

Nothing more to add, really.


Coronavirus Through the Looking Glass

First come, first served ... "Inscribed on a beam next to the bar in our local: 'If you want to drink longer, come earlier'." Roy Hesketh of Skipton in North Yorkshire, in a letter to The Sunday Times, shares his local pub's foolproof way to stay ahead of the revised beat-the-bug 10 o'clock closing time. Thirst come, thirst served!

That letter appeared just before the latest round of strict local lockdowns where pubs and bars can only remain open if they serve 'substantial' meals - substantial illuminated in more detail in yesterday's joy and doolallyness post.

However, the following letter from a Leonard Macauley of Staining in Lancashire, has just surfaced in the Daily Mail:

Save Our Pubs ... "When I called into my local hostelry at 7pm, I was told I couldn't buy a drink without eating, but it was too late to order a meal. Therefore, though the pub was open for another three hours, there was no way I could have a drink. Lewis Carroll would have been proud to have devised such rules."

Yup, every day, in every way, Boris is turning into that White Rabbit that led us down the hole into that unforgiving underground warren...


XXL ... XL ... L ... M ... S

Small talk ... "Mathew Parris (My week, Oct 14) bemoans the fact that everything now starts at medium and he can't get a small size in anything, well he clearly doesn't shop at Marks and Spencer. I long for the day when I can arrive at the checkout counter without the slight feeling of inadequacy when I hand over my pack of briefs identified with a large 'S' on the packaging." Chris Akerman of Guildford, in a letter to The Times.

Chris should not worry because, as I was told many years ago by a wonderfully characterful lady: "It's not the size of the barrel but the power of the shot!"

And on a similar note, what with the nation pushed into further strict lockdown measures, there is much confusion over what Tier 1, 2 and 3 actually mean, for example: "In Tier 3 all pubs and bars that don't serve food must close but restaurants can stay open. Pubs and bars can only remain open if they serve 'substantial' meals."

Never mind size on the Y-front front, here we are well into the Why-o-Why-front, meals that have to be identified as XXL, XL, L, M and S. The government says that a substantial meal is "a main lunchtime or evening meal, and pubs and bars may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal". So a packet of crisps and a pork pie has to be a medium or small, and is definitely a lockout.

In conclusion, I guess that if you have something to eat with your drink - crisps, nuts, pie - it's just a snack, but if you have a drink to accompany what you are eating, then it's a proper meal.

Simples, as that amusing meerkat character on the telly says.


Caught in last week's Sun newspaper front page headlights

Wednesday ... "Cad that got the cream." The headline that accompanied a photo of actor Dominic West, 51, and his wife Catherine FitzGerald, 49, putting on a show of unity after he was pictured canoodling, kissing and fondling the bum of actress and co-star Lily James, 31, in a faraway place with a familiar sounding name, Rome.

And in yesterday's Sunday Times, columnist Camilla Long digs in her own sharp claws: "The real loser is Lily James, who has gone from Disney princess to park boozer." Meanwhile, back with The Sun:

Friday ... "Where Regals Dare ... Queen out at last - and slams virus horribilis." The Queen made her first public appearance since the start of the Covid pandemic yesterday ... Her Maj was maskless at Porton Down, Wiltshire, the UK's top secret science and technology laboratory, because all 48 staff had tested negative and kept their distance. She branded the virus horrible on her first major outing in 220 days.

Unsurprisingly a bit of sky did fall on her head, reasoning that she should have worn a mask anyway, which I guess makes sense because of the subliminal message passed on to the nation, given that 11.5 million had already just been plunged into further strict lockdown measures.

Saturday ... "Our man in Washington probed over Trumpy-Pumpy ... Married ambassador bedded journo." Britain's ambassador in Washington, Kim Darroch, was investigated by US officials over fears that he leaked White House secrets to his journalist lover. Lord Darroch, 66, was eventually cleared of passing information to ex-CNN reporter Michelle Kosinski, 46. The glamorous American reporter has denied an affair.

Ah, Trumpy-Pumpy, a neat variation on my own Trumpety Trump moniker. Incidentally, Lord Darroch of Kew - as he became on his retirement from the Foreign Office last December - must have been dreading the headline Lord Darroch - Kew scandal.

When I pick up my morning paper from the corner shop I always peruse the front pages to see what catches the eye - and The Sun, along with The Daily Telegraph's MATT pocket cartoon, never fail to raise a sneaky smile first thing of a morning...


Sunday is knock-knock day

Today a knock-knock with a difference ... Sunday morning, I'm watching the Tour of Flanders cycle race on Eurosport, and up pops a live picture from the car of UAE Team Emirates which is tracking the race, as they do, and is carrying the team director, mechanic, food, drink, and all the spare bikes stacked on the roof - and before any conversation between car and race commentator, the front seat passenger answers his mobile - and responds thus...

"Look, I'm in the middle of a race - give me a call tomorrow sometime." Sports Director Allan Peiper receives the unfortunate call while live on TV - and race commentator Carlton Kirby, noted for his sharp and droll turn of phrase recaps the comical incident thus: "Would you like to change your electricity supplier?"

It was such a funny response, and a perfect knock-knock moment; indeed it followed Carlton Kirby himself being caught out on the boundary. These Covid days the commentators are not at the race location but working remotely, usually from their homes. Today it was Carlton Kirby, and his expert summariser was the Irishman Sean Kelly, regarded as one of the best ever pro cyclists.

Anyway, they obviously converse with each other prior to the broadcast to establish the link, but being a celebrated European cycle race, and before the actual broadcast itself we see and hear onscreen the prelude to the Eurovision anthem, Te Deum (which precedes many major European broadcasts, such as the Eurovision Song Contest).

Following the anthem the screen goes blank for several seconds as we await the opening titles - but Carlton doesn't realise that his microphone is already switched on to broadcast and we can hear him say to Sean: "Bloody awful tune - shall we play Danny Boy, Sean?" There's a hearty chuckle down the line, and Carlton rounds off the exchange: "That would be more like it."

I've heard that Eurovision signature prelude many a time but never given it much thought. But I will next time. And of course Carlton is very much a Europhile: I mean, he works for Eurosport, and not only has he lived on the Continent but he speaks, and has a grasp of, some European languages.


Every day a day at school - 5

Knock it back ... "When pouring limoncello, the best place is the sink." Richard Kerley of Edinburgh, in a letter to The Times.

Nine words that certainly made me smile. But what the hell is limoncello? Click ... Click ... "Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in Southern Italy, especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the coast of Amalfi..."

Interesting, as they say, especially if, like me, you've been brought up on mild, bitter and Guinness.

However, Richard Kerley's dismissive line drew this response from a Lesley Turner of Hadleigh in Suffolk: Lost in transition ... "Pour it down the sink? No, just drink it in Italy. Having discovered it many years ago on the Amalfi coast, we brought some back with us for special occasions, but in the cold light of UK it tasted like a well-known cold cure. The moral of the story is to go to Italy more often."

And if you live in Edinburgh, which has an even colder light of day than Suffolk, then I guess you would be tempted to pour it down the drain. It made me think of Guinness, which always seems to taste a touch better in the craic of Ireland, as indeed does Scotch whisky in the crack of Scotland.

Be all that as it may, as I am currently watching the Giro d'Italia bike race around Italy, and what with its eye-catching background canvas, I can see why Lesley Turner suggests that the moral of the limoncello tale is to go to Italy more often.


♪♪♪: High on a hill was a lonely goatherd
             (Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo...)

"Yodelling 'superspreader' concert is blamed for turning Swiss region into a Covid hotspot." The concert, which was attended by 600 people, is believed to have made the Schwyz canton in Switzerland a coronavirus hotspot.

When I read that headline the first thing I did was smile. I know, I know, that's awfully bad form - but what came to mind was The Sound of Music and Julie Andrews magically appearing over the horizon.

And of course it also brings to mind the recent White House Rose Garden 'superspreader' event to unveil Trumpety Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, and which led to the coronavirus outbreak in the White House.

And to endorse the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade, this letter in The Guardian, compliments of Kathrine Pattrick of Woodford Green in Old London Town: "My granddaughter celebrated her ninth birthday recently at school and when I asked her if her class sang Happy Birthday, she said that they didn't because of the fear of spitting. They hummed it instead, she said."

How delightful is that? Do you suppose the children also made intuitive hand-washing gestures as they hummed?


Bandits at 12 O'clock ... and 11 O'clock ... and 10 O'clock...

Seagulls declared public enemy Number One at seaside resorts ... "I'm fed up with these humans. They leave rubbish everywhere, their noise stops me sleeping and they're breeding out of control. Something must be done about them." C Gull, putting the bird's point of view on a Sunday Times comment board.

Clearly Alfred Hitchcock was way ahead of his time with his film The Birds. But I have to sympathise with C Gull about us humans and the rubbish we drop all over the shop.

I've mentioned before that along my three mile round-trip walk into town of an early morning to fetch a newspaper and buy any bits and pieces needed, I pick up all the rubbish chucked away, whether out of vehicles, by bike riders, or indeed walkers (I often come across a trail of sweet wrappers, tut, tut).

The first mile or so of my walk is along a country lane, and quite a busy one as it happens. The other day I missed three mornings because it was all wet and horrible so on my next walk - well, here's a photo of most of the stuff I picked up along the way...

Discarded rubbish along just over a mile of a Welsh country lane

I haven't included a couple of cans and bottles squashed by traffic - they went into a rubbish bin as I hit town, along with some crisp packets and several chocolate and food wrappers  - but all the above I am able to recycle via my blue council bag. Oh yes, there was also a discarded face mask, yuk (or ach y fi, as we who speak the two spokes say).

Included in the above photo is a packet of Amber Leaf tobacco, and marked "UK Duty Paid" (I pick up these packs quite regularly so it's obviously the same local suspect). What was unusual about this particular one was that it was still more than half full, so presumably it had been discarded in error. Or, the guilty party had decided there and then to join the million or so in the UK who have given up smoking due to the increased Covid risk.

Whatever, the above image endorses C Gull's observation that we "leave rubbish everywhere". Sadly it really is a small percentage of people who do it because it's the same stuff I always collect, as per the aforementioned tobacco packet.

What is wrong with us that we can't even be bothered to take the stuff home and simply pop it in the bin?


The Bojo Mojo - 2

"Boris's idea of fine dining was Pizza Express." Petronella "Petsy" Wyatt, 52, British journalist and author, and former girlfriend of Boris Johnson, 56, says that he once turned down a homemade risotto for a packet of crisps.

And there we see the start of the Boris journey into becoming a "fat, yellow, bouncy Labrador" - see below, just a couple of days back. Advantage Petsy.

Meanwhile, the other side of the net...

"You have got to search for the hero inside yourself and hope that that individual is considerably slimmer." Borrowing a line from the pop group M People, Boris tells the virtual Tory conference that, compliments of a "world beating diet [sic]", he has lost a couple of stone since contracting Covid-19.

Deuce, methinks.


Snippets, compliments of the passing parade

"Can I put that quote on the back of my next book?" Nick Robinson, 57, presenter on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, puts a cheeky request to Sir Nicholas Soames, 72, and grandson of Winston Churchill, after the former Tory MP said "his dismal style of interviewing and clever dickery is quite pointless".

Good word, dickery - the spellchecker came up with dickers, which could be a word heard in the snug to describe someone who's a bit of a, er ... prick. Whatever, and talking of things pointless...

"Look, I take absolutely no pleasure in saying this but I have been quiet for long enough. A Twix is not a chocolate bar - it is a chocolate biscuit [unfortunately though, both variations are subject to a VAT charge of 20% because there is a chocolate covering, crumbs]." Richard Osman, 49, British television presenter and Pointless star, can hold back no more.

And talking of biscuits...

"I've gone back to being an entire barrel." Dawn French, 63, British actress, admits she has put weight back on after previously losing seven stone.

Seven stone? Gosh. Roll out the biscuit barrel, indeed ... intriguingly the British singer-songwriter Adele, 32, has recently also lost seven stone. Will she too go back to being an entire barrel? Watch this space...


The Bojo Mojo - 1

"Boris Johnson is a fat, yellow, bouncy Labrador ...  He longs to be loved and cannot understand it when he is not." Extracts from Diary of an MP's Wife, by Sasha Swire.

As someone who enjoys observing the passing parade from the vantage point of the grassy knoll, I've been absorbed by some wonderfully quotable extracts compliments of one Sasha Swire - smiley sample, above - but who the hell is Sasha Swire when she's at home? Well...

Alexandra Patrusha Mina Swire, 57, Lady Swire, commonly [sic] known as Sasha, is an English author and journalist, and the wife of the former Conservative Party junior minister Sir Hugo Swire. She is the writer of the 2020 memoir Diary of an MP's Wife.

If she were a regular at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon she would be known as the Mina Bird, an omnivorous common or garden bird with a strong territorial instinct, which has adapted extremely well to urban environments.

Whatever, her description of Boris as a yellow, bouncy, fat Labrador (obviously written before his Covid-19 illness and subsequent diet and loss of weight) is truly a nugget, just perfect. Meanwhile, on another front...

"Boris Johnson has gone from Charles II to Cromwell in less than a year." Tom Holland, 52, English historian and author, on the PM's apparent change of personality.

Hm, from Cavalier to Roundhead, in one feverish leap? I'm not too sure, mind, because Bojo's latest hope for a time without Covid restrictions sounds delightfully Cavalier: "We are working for the day when... hairdressers will no longer look like they are handling radioactive isotopes."


Sunday is knock-knock day

"The former health secretary Alan Johnson joins us on the line from Hell." BBC 2's Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis (she meant Hull).

Whenever I now see or hear the name Emily Maitlis, 50, a British journalist, the first thing that springs to mind is the sky falling on her head back in June 2019 when she was pictured on a busy train journey between Cornwall and Old London Town, with her whippet dog Moody occupying the throne alongside her...

"Me and Moody on the line from, um..."

Ah, the train companion from Hull, er Hell. There just has to be a "Knock-knock!" joke lurking in ambush, in there somewhere ... a work in progress...


Every day a day at school - 4

"Few have been taught to any purpose, who have not been their own teachers." Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), English painter specialising in portraits, from Discourses on Art (1769).

Now that's a line which illuminates the 'Every day a day at school' headline at the top in a wonderfully elegant way. Yep, more often than not we learn the hard way, from bitter experience.

"Meanwhile ... across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this Earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us..." (With apologies to the Voice of Planet Earth, Richard Burton, and Jeff Wayne's musical version of The War of the Worlds.)

ET calling ... "We are all Martians." Martin Ward, professor of astronomy at Durham University, on the unearthly implications of research showing that certain bacteria could survive the journey from Mars to Earth.

As I suspected, across the gulf of space, the Martians sent us Donald Trump to undermine life here on Earth - and without the need to fire any shots ... so far anyway.


Time to meet your maker...

Passion killer ... "So love-making is good for the heart (Mail article)? But take care as it can cause injury. One of my friends had what he thought was a heart twinge, and told his wife they'd better give it a rest. However, at that moment the chandelier gave way. His heart's okay, but they needed a lot of plaster. For both the ceiling and his leg." Jim Munday of Shotley in Suffolk, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

I'd heard of couples having it away while hanging from the chandelier, but always thought it some sort of sexual innuendo to underscore the fact that they were metaphorically floating somewhere near the ceiling.

Seriously though, many moons ago I recall a conversation in the Crazy Horsepower Saloon about a well-known dignitary who came to a sticky end in the back of his car, with a lady who was not his wife, atop a local mountain. Everyone in the pub thought, well, if you've got to go ... but we all felt sorry for the lady caught in that unfortunate situation and having to explain it all.

A doctor present in the bar told us that, actually, we'd be surprised how many men do die "on the job", but we only hear about those caught in the public eye, such as our mountain lover ... or the politician infamously massaged to death in a Cardiff parlour ... oh, and mustn't forget the hold-the-front-page tale from some years ago of the Cardiff businessman who died while being entertained at his home by a lady of the night, who unsurprisingly fled the scene in panic and which lead to all sorts of lurid headlines before the truth finally emerged.

So, whenever I now here of a relatively young and seemingly fit man suddenly meeting his maker, especially when on a holiday break, I wonder about the story behind the story.

And we should all steer well clear of those chandeliers.


Letters from Middle-Britain - 9

Say ahh! ... "I have received an email from the Government urging me to download the new NHS Covid-19 app. As I do not have a smartphone, can I ask my doctor to prescribe one?" Allen Brown of Stubbington in Hampshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

I sense a remake of an old film: Carry On App The Kibosh!

Peekaboo ... "Gwyneth Paltrow baring all at 48? Darn it, I live at 49 and I didn't see anything." Ben Higgs of Haddenham in Buckinghamshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

I am reminded of one of my favourite nicknames, Dai One Eye - not because he had lost the use of one eye, but he lived at No 1 High Street. And made even funnier because he was a dedicated Welsh Nationalists boasting some heavy duty political prejudices.

The joy of painting ... "Isn't a female old master simply an old mistress?" Dr Allan Dodds of Bramcote in Nottinghamshire, in a letter to The Guardian.

Ah, the joy of living dangerously. And staying on the subject of artists, but more piss artists...

Grounded ... "If students act like thoughtless children and ignore Covid-19 containment regulations, then being sent to their rooms, until they learn to behave, seems a reasonable consequence." John Wright of Sutton Coldfield in West Midlands, in a letter to The Times.


Proud Britons

Smoke signals ... "Yesterday, I spotted an elderly gentleman smoking a pipe and at the same time trying to wear a face mask. It just makes one proud to be British." David Belcher of Thatcham in Berkshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Chat-up line ... "I've never ever been on a date with someone I haven't slept with first. What's the point?" Julie Burchill, 61, English journalist, writer and broadcaster who describes herself as a "militant feminist", doesn't waste time.

Burchill also makes one proud to be British. But why did I never meet a few Julie Burchills when I was a trainee young buck about town? It would have saved so much time, effort and money:

Me: "I'm a man of very few words. Do you or don't you?"
Julie: "As a matter of fact, yes I do. My place or yours?"
Me: "Look, if you're going to argue, forget about it."


Get lost - but here's a map anyway

"I want to hear about your favourite put-downs and gentle rebukes." Vanessa Feltz challenges her Radio 2 early-morning listeners to come up with their favourite polite insult.

But hang on, isn't 'polite insult' an oxymoron, a phrase in which two words of contradictory meaning are used together, e.g. 'wise fool', albeit for special effect? Well, yes, but people can be very clever with their jibes and veiled taunts. Of those mentioned, here are my five favourites, in reverse order...

5)  With all due respect... (a favourite used by lawyers when cross-examining someone they think is lying)
4)  I don't care what they say about you, you're okay
3)  You are proof that God has a sense of humour
2)  I like the way you try
1)  I'd agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong

I really do like that last one, very clever, dying to use it.


Rule of six rules, KO?

"If I had shares in a tinsel company, I'd be thinking of selling up." Dominic Cummings Sandbrook, 46, British historian, lecturer and columnist, is not looking forward to a Covid Christmas following news that any gathering of more than six people is illegal, unless it meets one of the few exemptions. Other rules of six are available, depending on where you hang your hat in the UK.

As soon as I saw the name Dominic I intuitively started writing Cummings - well, Boris's right-hand-drive man does poke his finger into most pies these days - but of course it was another Dominic lecturing us.

Mind you, even before Christmas arrives, I would dread being a pumpkin farmer, or say a business making spooky Halloween outfits, because trick or treat is already banned in some places where local lockdown applies, indeed with news of a 200 quid fine for naughty knock-knockers.

There again, Boris might ban it right across the UK before the end of the month ... and is that a nationwide sigh of relief cum cheer I hear?


Sunday is knock-knock day

Who's there?
No one...
No one who?
[There's a deathly hush...]



The biter bit

"I wish a lot of luck to Harry - he's going to need it." The President of the United States reacts to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's intervention in the US election.

I did smile when I caught sight of that under Quotes of the Day from a week or so ago. What came to mind was something from my list of Greatest Truths Ever Uttered: The wheel always turns full circle. When Donald Trump was admitted to hospital with coronavirus, I guess Harry and Meghan could have reacted similarly to events.

And talking of reactions to Trump being caught in the slips by Covid-19, I smiled at this morning's MATT pocket cartoon on the front page of The Daily Telegraph. A reporter is standing outside the White House and is speaking to camera: "World leaders have sent their best wishes. Vladimir Putin says he will take care of the election."


Come again?

"Police in Vietnam have seized 324,000 used condoms which were being recycled and repackaged to be sold as new." Police in Binh Duong, Vietnam, have busted an illegal condom-reselling organisation where paid workers were tasked with cleaning the rubber contraceptives before reshaping them with wooden dildos...

So now you know: if you visit Vietnam take your own; including face masks, because you don't know where they've been either. And perhaps that place in Vietnam - Binh Duong - should be renamed Binh Con-Dom.

Oh dear, it's one of those stories that sum up the joy and doolallyness of the passing parade to perfection. But what was not explained was how the recycling operation got hold of all those used condoms in the first place. And who counted them? The mind boggles.

That said, the owner of the raided warehouse, Pham Thanh Ngoc, 33 - who'd have thought: her name rhymes with Penis! - was arrested and claimed she had been receiving the condoms once a month from an unknown person who is said to collect them from the bins of Binh hotels. As to counting them, the suggestion is that the police worked it out by weight.

Anyway, various newspaper articles were awash with photos of bag upon bag of the used condoms, along with an impressive wooden dildo standing tall on a work bench. Talk about the worst job in the world - I mean: collecting, washing, dildoing and packaging all those condoms - nearly as bad as being poor old Kayleigh McEnany, 32, the current White House press secretary who has to explain away Trump's comings and goings.

However, I resisted the notion of using one of the photos - they're there on Google if you fancy a quick peep - instead I thought I'd raise the bar and recycle a photo of something I've shared with you before.

More moons ago 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...

From condoms to calling cards - perfect recycling

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, past its use-by date.

As mentioned previously, 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 pedigree. And now I'll be able to add the curious case of Vietnam's recycled condoms.

PS: Spellchecker moment ... McEnany, the White House Press Secretary, almost popped up as McNearly, which was a bit of a shame (the computer actually suggested McNealy).


The psychology of panic-buying

"Covid panic-buying starts again as shelves stripped of toilet roll ahead of local lockdowns." Clickbait pictures show no toilet rolls on the shelves of some Asda stores in Wales as supermarkets like Tesco and Morrisons reintroduce limits on some foods.

Oh dear, press replay...

Sales alert ... "At what point does 'panic buying' become 'judicious forward planning'?" John Armstrong of Hartest, Suffolk, in a letter to The Guardian.

Methinks John has it the wrong way round: at what point does "judicious forward planning" (what I call lateral vision) become "panic buying" (tunnel vision)?

When the first wave of Covid-19 eased and lockdown rules were relaxed, but with much talk of a likely second wave come the winter months, those with lateral vision would have been buying a few extra long-lasting foods on every shopping trip - topping up the freezer, along with tinned foods like beans, tomatoes and rice, packets of porridge oats, along with some toilet rolls - you know the kind of stuff - so when the second wave arrived, a little earlier than anticipated ... well, a touch of the be-prepared equals no panic.

However, those cursed with tunnel vision, who find it impossible to think in a Cinemascopic fashion - well, there they are, down the shops, stripping the shelves.

Essentially, panic buying helps people feel in control of events they have no control over, whereas "judicious forward planning" puts people in control of events they have no control over. Simple, really.

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