Amber flashing light ... asterisk-free zone dead ahead...

"Saddest news of the week - if, like me, you have a puerile sense of humour [guilty as charged, M'lud] - is that the village of Fucking [population 106], in Austria, is to change its name." Rod Liddle, 60, English journalist, as spotted in his Sunday Times column.

Yes, this is that rare occasion where we see the F-word used without asterisks in many of our newspapers, The Sunday Times included. Rod goes on to point out that the residents of the Austrian village are bored with sniggering foreigners taking photos of the sign bearing the name and, on a few occasions, filming themselves engaging in the activity mentioned with the sign in the background - and then stealing the sign.

Rod went on to suggest that they should have renamed the place after the village of Intercourse in Pennsylvania, or Beaverlick in Kentucky (an unincorporated community in Boone County), or Gofuku in Japan. Instead they've plumped for Fugging (same pronunciation as the original), which Rod is sure will forestall any titters, ho, ho, ho.

Meanwhile, on another front...

Rude health ... "A tripartite twinning between Condom in France, Hell in Norway and Fucking in Austria might have created solidarity in adversity and obviated the need for a name change - but good to know that Petting in Germany is still OK." Paul Tattam, Chinley, Derbyshire, in a letter to The Guardian.

Me? Well, given the township of Climax in North Carolina, I would have renamed the village Foreplay, which would be a reminder to all tourists that the first 10 seconds of encountering a local is all-important in establishing friendly rapport - or the first 10 minutes in any sexual encounter that may follow from that initial encounter.

But be warned, you could end up in the hamlet of Sodom in Denbighshire, North Wales, apparently named after the biblical town that was destroyed for its inhabitants' immortality

PS: First things first: the Austrian Fucking means "(place of) Focko's people", which is rather wonderful. Next, I checked out all those other place names. I like Gofuku, which translates into English as "not only her fabric but all kind of fabrics for a kimono". Oh yes, Beaverlick - described as "an unincorporated community", meaning not governed locally but part of a larger administrative division - was originally established as a fur trading community. Every day a day at school.

PPS: Spellchecker moment ... Fugging came up as Fogging, followed by Fudging, which was delightfully ironic. And Focko's people came up as Jocko's people - and who should come to mind but Alex Salmond, closely followed by Nicola Sturgeon, two exceedingly fishy people, sort of.


Sunday is knock-knock day

's there?
Yes who?
Yes! Yes! Yes!*
Hang about ... are you the Sally from Katz's Delicatessen...?

* "Yes! Yes! Yes!" No, not from When Harry Met Sally, but Canadian immunologist Sir John Bell, 68, and his amusing answer when questioned about whether life could be normal by spring after news about the Covid vaccine.

Yes, yes, yes, every day a day at drama school.


Making a meal of it

Quick takeaway ... "I sexually identify as a microwave dinner because I'm ready in five minutes, look nothing like my photos ... and I'm just satisfying enough for you to want me again when you're desperate." Spike, via email, and as spotted in The Sun.

Oh how I identify with Spike. And do you suppose the sender was a Mr Milligan, emailing from heaven?

As a bonus, and acknowledging that popty is the Welsh word for oven, and cinio is the Welsh for dinner, I guess that I sexually identify as a cinio popty-ping, which makes it more relevant, and just right to fill that gap between meals.


Metropolitan elite calling

Friday morning, Radio 2 ... "BBC News at 6:30, this is Tina Daheley: The Government's decision to place nearly all of England under the two highest levels of coronavirus restrictions when the lockdown ends next Wednesday looks set to face a challenge in Parliament ... and the Argentine football legend Diego Maradona has been buried in a private ceremony on the outsquirts - outskirts of Buenos Aires..." A gloriously smiley slip of the tongue by the newsreader and journalist Tina Daheley to cheer a Friday early-morning no end.

And I'm sure that Maradona too would also have smiled on his journey towards the Pearly Gates, what with his famous "Hand of God" goal against England in the 1986 World Cup. And on that note, the Daily Mirror did a brief and smiley leader and cartoon...

Hope Senor Maradona was not offside

Scroll forward to Friday midday ... and I'm watching one of my favourite telly programmes, Time to Remember on Spotlight TV, a Pathe News series of documentary films from the Fifties and Sixties looking back over the first half of the 20th Century.

Gloriously entertaining because the black and white films from the early part of the century are mesmerising, if only to see how people stop and stare at the camera because moving pictures are something new and magical.

But best of all there is a quite witty and insightful script delivered by various famous names of the Fifties and Sixties. The episode I watched today looked back at 1926, titled The Short, Sharp Shower, and took an extended look at the General Strike of that year (The Short, Sharp Shower because the strike lasted just nine days).

Featured were clips of BBC radio news of the day, which itself was in its infancy. But most evident was that each news bulletin started thus:

"This is London calling the British Isles..."

Scroll forward 94 years ... perhaps every BBC news bulletin should start thus:

"This is London's metropolitan elite calling the British outsquirts."


Boris vs The Rest

"'Tis the season to be jolly, but it is also the season to be jolly careful, especially with elderly relatives." Prime Minister Boris Johnson sounds a warning over household mixing at Christmas.

"Have you pressed the button by mistake, Prime Minister? It's not our end, Prime Minister, it could well be yours." Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle jokes with the PM after Boris lost sound while appearing remotely from Downing Street after self-isolating following contact with someone exhibiting Covid symptoms.

Some clever and witty verbal footwork by Mr Speaker to keep one step ahead of Boris's own oral dexterity. Others though wait ominously in ambush...

PM's priorities ... "I am tired of Boris Johnson telling us he is as 'fit as a butcher's dog'. I would rather he told us that he was fit to be our Prime Minister." Philip Hall of Petersfield, Hampshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Oh dear, "fit as a butcher's dog". For a moment there I had visions of someone having to throw a bucket of cold water over Boris and Carrie after an encounter of the sexual kind. Meanwhile...

Come again? ... "What the people of this country want is for Boris Johnson to stop saying 'what the people of this country want...'." Alan Cleaver of Whitehaven, Cumbria, in a letter to The Guardian.

And finally, a penalty shootout:

Bass-ackwards on a jass-ack ... "Boris Johnson claimed the UK's response to the virus exemplified the 'sheer might' of the union (Report, 18 November). It has been widely accepted in Scotland that this was a spoonerism." Andrew Johnstone of Dundee, in a letter to The Guardian.

I trust Boris mucks out the stable after him.


Mirror, mirror on the wall...

"Jane Seymour, a 69-year-old British-American award-winning actress, has insisted she could easily pass for 25 in a new mini-series as she hit back after producers got a younger actress to play her role in flashback." Now that was a newspaper clickbait that made me smile ... so, purely out of nosiness, you understand, I clicked:

What do you see? ... "Jane Seymour should go to Specsavers if she thinks she could pass for 25." Helen Penney of Longborough, Gloucestershire, in a brief and to-the-point letter to the Daily Mail.

Nice line - and I'm glad it's a fellow female that said it to a fellow female. Fellow female? Is that right? Whatever...

A couple of days ago I wrote about sex and death going hand in gland, in particular how the obituaries occasionally now mention how the dearly departed lost their virginity, as well as sometimes how precisely they died (I wonder if anyone has died while losing their virginity?).

Anyway, there was a gloriously amusing item from a month or so ago I'd meant to add, but forgot, so I shall do it today - and here it is...

The good fight ... "I wouldn't normally expect to find amusement in the Death Announcements of your paper, but Wednesday's notice about Stephen Davenport - a former sub-editor for the Telegraph who, according to his family, died after a long battle with cliches - caused me to chuckle." John Morris of Malton, North Yorkshire, in a letter to, yes, The Daily Telegraph.


And what do you think of the show so far? Rubbish!

"If you're going to collect rubbish, make sure it's photogenic rubbish." With apologies to actor and fellow Welshman Richard Burton(1925-1984), who actually said: "If you're going to make rubbish, be the best rubbish in it."

Gosh, Burton dead 36 years. Anyway, regular visitors will know that along my daily walk into town (a mile or so of a busy country lane) I collect the rubbish people chuck away without due care and attention for the environment.

Anything recyclable, and isn't extensively crushed or mucky, I take home, give it a quick rinse where necessary, and pop it into a blue bag. Recently I missed a few days because of wet weather, so I had a particularly busy morning catching up: see here...

A load of old rubbish

Good riddance to bad rubbish along a mile or so of country lane near Llandeilo

Ponder on the above: a brace of lager cans; a couple of energy drink containers; a glass Pepsi bottle - and a blooming 5 litre container of screen wash. Now c'mon, who the hell would chuck that out of a vehicle rather than take it home to recycle?

And of course there was all the other stuff that went straight into the bin in town. Obviously David Attenborough's plea to save the oceans and the planet is falling on a multitude of deaf ears.

Incidentally, the individual who drinks Galahad lager isn't being a Galahad, i.e. one who is pure, noble and unselfish.

Oh yes, I notice also from the above photo that the plug socket on the wall never made the acquaintance of a spirit level. Damn! Only marginal, true, but now that I've noticed it - I won't stop noticing it. Ah well.


Sex and death go hand in gland

Stirring encounters ... "I am very amused to read details of how Sir Sean Connery lost his virginity [in an air raid shelter on the battlements of Edinburgh Castle during the Second World War]. I trust this will now become a standard piece of information in future obituaries." Roger Cookson of Old London Town, in a letter to The Times.

Hm, if Connery was born on 25 August 1930, and the war in Europe ended on 8 May 1945, and in Asia on 2 September 1945, then he would have lost his virginity when he was 14 coming on 15. Perhaps even 13 coming on 14. Impressive.

Also, the obituary of the English actor Geoffrey Palmer, who died on the 5th November 2020, aged 93, informed us that he was in his twenties before he lost his virginity, to a "sweet, delightful girl, but no, it wasn't a huge passion...". So I guess that puts the event nearer 29 than 20.

Anyway, the above letter was published following Connery's obituary back at the beginning of the month, but since then there has been much written about obituaries and what details they reveal, especially regarding death.

The Times will attempt to include the cause of death for those under 90 (the three main causes remain cancer, heart failure and complications arising from dementia or Alzheimer's). Apparently not all newspaper obituaries go into the cause of death.

The Daily Telegraph's dabble with the idea came to a sticky halt. The first subject under the new regime was a New Orleans jazz musician who had apparently died of an exploding penis implant which, unsurprisingly, was too much information both for the readers and for the editor.

Perhaps that's the way Bond, James Bond, and his overstretched penis, should finally leave the stage; exploding, not stirred.

Oh, and while on the subject of obituaries...

The good fight ... "I wouldn't normally expect to find amusement in the Death Announcements of your paper, but Wednesday's notice about Stephen Davenport - a former sub-editor for the Telegraph who, according to his family, died after a long battle with cliches - caused me to chuckle." John Morris of Malton, North Yorkshire, in a letter to, yes, The Daily Telegraph.

Here's the actual notice:
Death Announcements ... "Stephen Davenport: Born on 9th January 1955. Formerly sub-editor for The Telegraph. Died on 18th October 2020, after a long battle with cliches."


Sunday is knock-knock day

Who's there?
Spell who?
... H ... O...



You for coffee?

Trouble brewing ... "Why do so many people arriving at government buildings, Downing Street included, turn up clutching takeaway coffees? Should we have a whip-round to provide some kettles?" Vincent Hearne of Indre-et-Loire, France, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

It's not so much the nation's movers and shakers entering No 10 clutching disposable coffee cups, there are flocks of people wandering our streets clutching such things.

Many moons ago, around the time the word stress mutated from aircraft components (which caused flying machines to crash) to human neurons (which causes people's brains to crash), I remember reading a list of things to do to help relieve said stress.

The only one I remember, and thought rather splendid, is "Get up 15 minutes earlier". Imagine the delight of relaxing with a cup of coffee before leaving home for work and not having to wander the streets looking like lambs that have lost their way. And you certainly would not be dying for a cuppa as soon as you arrive at your destination.

So in answer to Vincent Hearne's question, perhaps we should instead have a whip-round to provide all those arriving at Downing Street with very loud and persistent alarm clocks.


Here's lookin' at you

Gutless Guinness ... "Your Chief Reporter Sean O'Neil laments the introduction of alcohol-free Guinness, but it could have its advantages. Years ago, after downing three pints of Guinness on an empty stomach, I awoke the next day to find that I had a mild hangover and a fiancee. The hangover soon went but the girlfriend lasted a considerable time." Alan Blackwood of Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, in a letter to The Times.

Hm, a hangover and an engagement, after just three pints of Guinness? It must have been Alan's first pub visit.

Mind you, to truly know someone you either have to live with them (when Boris met Carrie), work hand-in-glove with them (when Boris and Carrie met Lee and Dominic), or - this compliments of my degree from the university of life working as a barman - be in their company when they are drunk and you are sober.

Observing people's character transmute as they get progressively drunk is an education. Ponder what uninhibited dark forces - or unmitigated joy - Boris Johnson, Carrie Symonds, Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings reveal when drunk and disorderly. Who, for example, might become alarmingly objectionable and aggressive, even violent - or perhaps strip to Big Spender while dancing on the table.

Observing people drunk is a key to identifying how they might react and behave when put under extreme stress, whether in a relationship, or in a demanding work environment. An absolutely fail-safe, 100% expose of character, when all nurture (software) is overwritten, corrupted or deleted by nature (our DNA's hard drive).


Keep calm and Carrie on

Who is running the country? ... "Parliament (rarely), the Prime Minister (erratically), Dominic Cummings (unaccountably), Michael Gove (surreptitiously), Rishi Sunak (generously), Carrie Symonds (probably)." Norman Fox of Needham Market, Suffolk, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, and fortuitously published on the morning Dominic Cummings was later pictured walking out of No 10 carrying his cardboard box, presumably filled with all his worldly political possessions.

What a wonderful picture it was of Cummings crossing the doorstep with his cardboard box, looking for all the world as if he was going to spend the night sleeping on the streets. Oh, and he was following hot on the heels of Lee Cain, Downing Street's former Director of Communications, who had already left the building, which, incidentally, prompted this gem:

Some mistake? ... "Someone was in charge of communications?" Alan France of Marlow, Buckinghamshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Carry On ... "What a Carrie on at No 10 with all the Cummings and goings." David Evans of Wilmslow, Cheshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Hm, perhaps that should read What a Carrie on at No 10 with all the Cummings and Cainings.

Carrie is on the line ... "After Dominic Cummings left No 10, I've been waiting for the call from the Prime Minister with the offer to carry on the good work. But so far she has not rung." John Ward of Spalding, Lincolnshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

And finally...

Dressed for the part ... "In recent weeks I have seen Boris Johnson dressed as a warehouse operative, a construction worker and a laboratory assistant. Does he, I wonder, have a prime minister's outfit?" Charles Dixon of Hastings, East Sussex, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Poor old Boris, he has become the very embodiment of the famous Peter Principle: "Members of a hierarchy are promoted until they reach the level at which they are no longer competent."

However, and in Boris's defence, I cannot think of any senior politician in the country, of any political persuasion, who would not effortlessly succumb to the Peter Principle.

So we just have to keep calm and Carrie on. Oh, and hope Nigella Lawson supplies plenty of her special Buttered Toast. Crumbs.


"Naked because clothes define the world"

Is a naked statue fitting for a famous feminist? ... "It's very tiny, actually, it is doll-like in its perspective, incredibly perky breast, very nipped-in waist, quite a prolific amount of pubic hair, actually, someone tweeted that they thought her pudenda looked like broccoli - but who am I to comment on that..." Melanie Abbott, BBC journalist, reporting for Radio 4's Woman's Hour from Newington Green, north London, on the unveiling of the nude statue honouring English writer and advocate of women's rights, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797).

I'd switched on the radio in the kitchen, still tuned to Radio 4 from the previous evening - and I landed on Woman's Hour, to be greeted by the above. Seldom can one word trigger such a smile.

True, I had to look up pudenda for it's not a word bandied about in the Asterix Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower, and discovered that pudendum is a woman's vulva, but usually deployed in the plural, hence pudenda, so that's okay then. Ask no questions.

Anyway, I was captivated by the broccoli description - and had to search and click...

Mary, Mary, quite contrary...

...how does your ladygarden grow?

The whole thing is way over my head, but it's fair to say that the sky duly fell on the head of British artist Maggi Hambling, 75, and her Mary Wollstonecraft sculpture. For example...

"Broccoli is just celery with great hair," wittily wrote one critic. "It looks like someone stuck a Barbie doll on top of a kebab," observed another. "A miniature metal sex doll on top of a wonky phallic column - or is it a gnarled tree trunk?" questioned another. "A silvery mess," added someone else.

"About as artistic as Tracey Emin's unmade bed, replete with the usual arty-farty, gobbledygook nonsense about 'she is Everywoman...ready to combat the world!'" was a succinct verdict. "Why all the controversy? It is a wonderful tribute to feminists and hibernating hedgehogs everywhere," unsurprisingly drew a curtain call response.

And on that prickly observation, I shall make my excuses and leave. See you the morrow.


A journey through autumn leaves - 3

"A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand ... the last leaf whirling in the final brain of air..." E. E. Cummings (1894-1962), American author and poet, A Wind Has Blown.

The 2020 autumn has been a particularly colourful one; indeed images from across the country suggest a much better display than here in west Wales. But the clue is posted just a few days back (A journey through autumn leaves - 2, Nov 12), with the picture of a wild west wind blowing away the leaves at Penlan Park, Llandeilo.

And there's the rub: down the western side of the UK we are exposed to more than our fair share of wild winds and storms, especially so this autumn. And whilst the trees have been as generously colourful as everywhere else, the storms have blown the leaves away.

And mention of Penlan Park and its beech trees, here's a photo taken just a few days back, which highlights the problem to perfection...

Mother Nature, whisper, a bit thin on top

"It was a beautiful, bright autumn day, with air like cider and a sky so blue you
could drown in it." Diana Gabaldon, 68, American author and poet, Outlander.

In a perfect autumn the trees would hang on to their leaves for as long as possible, all over, as per those colourful leaves up there in Penlan Park still holding firm downstairs - but the storms have blown away all those exposed leaves upstairs, just as nature has made me a bit thin on top as I too navigate autumn: "Golden leaves of autumn, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing..."

And so a fond farewell to the fading leaves of autumn 2020.


Boris has morphed from Churchill into Jim Hacker
                                                                         (of Yes, Prime Minister fame)

From leader to follower ... "Last year, I voted in Boris and thought we were getting another Winston Churchill..." Tony Maxfield of Ipswich and his opening shot in a letter to The Sun.

The above set me thinking...

"I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify..." Thus the opening shot of a speech by US president elect Joe Biden after he was acknowledged by Thomas, Richard and Harriet - but not Donald - as the election winner. I wasn't sure whether to chuckle or roll my eyes. We always hear these meaningless "all things to all peoples" proclamations on the steps of No 10 when there's a new PM.

Why not just say: "I will do my very best for you all - whether you come from the left, the right or the centre. Just remember though, always there are events, dear people, events..." (To slightly paraphrase Harold Macmillan's memorable line.)

Boris Johnson was elected leader of the Conservatives because he was seen as the man to bring Brexit to some sort of workable conclusion. The country agreed. And I guess the country was right. But then, into the valley of death rode an event.

We are familiar with "the wrong sort of leaves/snow on the line"; well, Boris was undoubtedly the right sort of leader for Brexit, but the wrong sort of leader for Covid-19, unable to capture and reflect the appropriate mood. But if the Tories had known about the pandemic, who would they have plumped for, Michael Gove?

And who would the nation have voted for, Jeremy Corbyn? (Keir Starmer wasn't a runner, and however good we sense he might have been the only real decision he has made thus far as leader is expelling Corbyn, done it would seem to me, from the safety of the grassy knoll, without due care and attention, and lacking a sense of wisdom with regard to inevitable ambush consequences).

In America, if there had been no pandemic and the presidential contest had been all about "the economy, stupid", Trump may well have crept home again.

And remember, Churchill was a perfect wartime leader, but hindsight suggests he was alarmingly suspect as a peacetime premier.

Choosing a leader without the gift of premonition remains a lottery, however clever we think we are. It will forever be a toss-up between a Churchill and a Hacker.


Sunday is knock-knock day

Who's there?
Princess who?
Princess Nut Nut ... and you're fired, Lee Cain - and take your mate Dominic Cummings with you!

Now you'd have thought that someone as allegedly clever as Cain and Cummings - or should that now read Cain and Unable? - would have come up with a wittier and more roll-off-the-tongue-ish nickname for Carrie Symonds than Princess Nut Nut. I'll have to give it some thought...

...well, and given the Carrie connection, what about Princess Leia Origami (rather than Organa as per the original), fearless on the battlefield and dedicated to ending the tyranny of the Empire of the Spin Doctors.

PS: Someone suggested Princess Nut Nut because she has Boris by the balls. However, there is a suspicion that his ineffectual leadership and lack of balls during the pandemic (too many U-turns) hints that the coronavirus he caught during the overture to the chaos has somehow performed a psychological castration job, perish the thought.

This could run and run...


Quote ... unquote

"Definition of a real music aficionado? A man who hears a beautiful woman singing in the bath ... and puts his ear to the keyhole." Brian Kay, 76, English radio presenter and bass member of the King's Singers during the group's formative years from 1968 until 1982.

All I will add is this: I am listening more and more to Classic FM. But am I telling the truth?

"It is always the best policy to speak the truth - unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar." Jerome K Jerome (1859-1927), English author and humorist, writing in the illustrated monthly magazine The Idler (1892).

"Boris Johnson is perhaps the best liar ever to serve as prime minister." Rory Stewart, 47, the former Tory MP and Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom, expelled by the parliamentary party over Brexit.

Given that Rory was awarded the OTB - Order of the Tory Boot - and is probably prejudiced, then it is perhaps wise to reserve judgment.


"You're not wearing mink knickers, are you?"
                                                                                         Prince Philip

Number crunching ... "Who knew there were 17 million mink in Denmark?" Carole Cronin of Chelmsford, Essex, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Who, indeed? This hit the headlines with news that mink are the latest animal to be infected with Covid-19, and that Denmark plans to slaughter all 17 million of its stock. There are, gulp, 1,139 mink farms in Denmark employing some 6,000 people (there are three mink for every Danish person), and provide 40% of the planet's fur supply.

Compliments of those daily doolally delights that Covid insists in unveiling, we learn that the main market for Danish mink is China. Hah! What goes around comes around, then. I trust Denmark hasn't imported any bats in a dodgy trade deal.

Anyway, I searched mink quotes on the world wide web of joy and doolallyness - I'll return to Prince Philip at the bottom, where knickers properly belong.

"Every woman should have four pets in her life. A mink in her closet, a jaguar in her garage, a tiger in her bed, and a jackass who pays for everything." Paris Hilton, 39, American meeja celebrity.

"You gotta get up early in the morning to catch a fox and stay up late at night to get a mink." Mae West (1893-1980), legendary American funny lady.

"The trick of wearing mink is to look as though you were wearing a cloth coat. The trick of wearing a cloth coat is to look as though you are wearing mink." Pierre Balmain (1914-1982), French fashion designer. Absolutely, Monsieur Balmain: just think of those individuals where you never notice what they're wearing.

"'What?' I said defensively, clutching the mink and my dignity. Since I was barefoot, mostly naked and completely hungover, I was pretty sure I grasped only one of them." Karen Chance (?), American urban fantasy novelist, whatever that is when it's at home. Good line, though.

"I joined PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] for minks and dogs. I need my beef, my chicken, my seafood." Waka Flocka Flame, 34, American trapper - oops - rapper.

"My mother was the biggest influence on my life. I remember once refusing to get on a bus with her because she was wearing a mink, and I thought we should be taking a taxi. She just said 'who cares what people think?', and I remember sitting on that bus, being bitterly embarrassed, but knowing somehow that she was totally correct." Tony Wilson (1950-2007), British record label owner, presenter and journalist.

Finally, back with Prince Phillip: "You're not wearing mink knickers, are you?" Yes, said to Canadian fashion reporter Serena French, 28 at the time, at a World Wildlife Fund function. The sky duly fell on the head of Philip, that being par for the course given his famous non-PC and ripe one-liners, but Serena says it's a quip she remembers fondly.

And here's The Sun front page from the time...

Santa Baby, just slip some...

...mink knickers under the tree

Marvellous. And what about the juxtaposition of Maggie at M&S and Philip's minx mink knickers.

Sadly, the passing parade is now that little bit duller with Philip having departed the public stage.

PS: Spellchecker moment ... Waka, as in Waka Flocka Flame - unsurprisingly came up as Wanka - but Flocka slipped quietly under the radar.


A journey through autumn leaves - 2

"O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
  Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
  Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
  Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
  Pestilence-stricken multitudes..."
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), mostly just Shelley, English Romantic poet, Ode to the West Wind

Golden leaves of autumn, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing

Penlan Park, bandstand and beech trees, Llandeilo - under a wild west wind

To be continued...

PS: Spellchecker moment ... Bysshe, as in Percy Bysshe Shelley - pronounced BISH and named to honour his grandfather, Sir Bysshe Shelly - came up as By she, which, if you search photos of the poet makes you wonder what my spellchecker knows that I don't.

PPS: Spellchecker moment ... BISH came up as BASH. Hm, interesting: Sir Bish Bash Shelly.


Letters from Middle-Britain - 11

Covid-19 death toll graphs and projections were wrong ... "Sir Patrick Vallance [the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser on SAGE], today's Groucho Marx: 'I have projections - and if you don't like them, I have others.'" George Kelly of Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Ah, the witty Groucho Marx (1890-1977): "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." Mind you, a variation on that famous political joke can be traced back as far as 1873, as reported in a New Zealand newspaper of all things, when Groucho wasn't even a projection in his mother's eye. Yep, nuthin' new under the sun.

SAGE, incidentally, is the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, which is, of course, supposed to lead the Government out of the wilderness. However...

Loose talk ... "SAGE: Having the wisdom of experience or indicating profound wisdom. A misnomer?" Jenni Wilson of Osterley, Middlesex, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Who's in charge? ... "Who is actually running this country - scientists or professional footballers? I think we should be told." Martin Pitt of Hardwicke, Gloucestershire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

In other news, Nigel Farage has declared that his Brexit Party is to be rebranded as an anti-lockdown party called Reform UK - which drew this response:

I name this ship ... "Has Nigel Farage considered forming the Latest Bandwagon Party?" Dr Michael Paraskos of Old London Town, in a letter to The Guardian.

Perhaps Nigel should join the Monster Raving Loony Party - I mean, he is increasingly looking the part and would add hugely to the joy and the doolallyness of the passing political parade - or the passing potilical parade as a regular at my local Crazy Horse watering hole of yesteryear used to say without ever realising he was saying it delightfully wrong.


A journey through autumn leaves - 1

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun..."
John Keats (1795-1821), English Romantic poet, To Autumn

First leaves of autumn emerge through the Towy Valley mist

A perfect spot to stand and embrace just one little corner of God's Country

To be continued...


Light the blue touch paper

"Fireworks lit up the night sky over London, England, after Joe Biden was characterised to be the apparent winner of the presidential election." America's ABC News network loses the plot over Guy Fawkes fireworks as they sprayed the night sky over Old London Town the weekend of bonfire night - previously known as Guy Fawkes - and nowadays celebrated on the nearest weekend to November 5.

This year all official bonfire night celebrations were cancelled, but plenty of fireworks were launched by individuals, which makes it a classic case of the lit sky falling on ABC as four centuries of history went up in smoke as ABC misinterpreted the rockets and firecrackers exploding over the British capital...

Light the blue touch Democratic firecracker ... not!

The following immediate reactions to the ABC presumption tickled my old funny bone:

Daniel Hannan: "Shall we tell them? I wanna tell them!"
Russ: "Fireworks lit the sky the weekend of bonfire night. Who knew?"
Anon: "As happy as we are to see the back of the oompa loompa ... this happens annually to celebrate the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605."

PS: Spellchecker moment ... oompa loompa (or Troompa Loompa as he is sometimes called, alongside my own Trumpety Trump), came up as oomph loops, which is rather splendid.


Sunday is knock-knock day

(And someone's knockin' at the White House door...)

's there?
Biden who?
Biden my time to evict you.


The passing parade revisited

Covid-19: "Regarding this pandemic, I have concluded that Spitting Image is using the real Boris Johnson and the country is being run by the show's puppet of the PM." Robert Marshall of Sheffield, in a letter to The Sun.

Never mind Edvard Munch and his Scream, how does Mother Nature see events?

Yes, some things never change
(compliments of a budding horse chestnut tree)

 April 2020              November 2020
1st Lockdown            2nd Lockdown

Yes of course, it's very easy to sit in judgment when we're blessed with a degree in hindsight and don't have to make actual decisions, witness the following contribution to add to the joy of the passing parade...

Tunnel vision ... "If Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer can see all the things that Prime Minister Boris Johnson can't, how did he manage to hit a cyclist [and no, it wasn't Jeremy Corbyn]?" Jay of Plymouth, in a text to The Sun letters page.

And that's why I enjoy the letters pages of newspapers.


The passing parade writ large

US Election: "Biden urges calm and unity as his lead widens over Trump / Trump told to stop 'trespassing' as Biden prepares for victory / Advisers urge Trump to prepare for defeat / What happens if election results are contested?" Clickbaits invite me to, er, click. I resist. However, some thoughts from a broad grassy knoll...

Yes, some things never change

November 2016           November 2020
Trump wins              Biden wins

Yes, a nation divided: half the population driven doolally by Trumpety Trump and overwhelmed with a need to Scream, and half will be driven doolally by Sleepy Joe and will doubtless need to Scream. Incidentally, is that the Golden Gate Bridge in the background?

Meanwhile, in other news...

RSVP ... "Are there any illegal raves for the clinically vulnerable over-60s?" Dave Preedy of Crewe, Cheshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Indeed, and I guess both Trump and Biden would welcome a visit to such a rave.


Wisdom gone AWOL

"I can buy Babycham but I can't buy baby milk." Following the imposition of the 17-day "firebreak" lockdown in Wales, with stores banned from selling non-essential items, new mother Zoe Price hits out after staff at a Cardiff Tesco prevented her from buying formula milk.

The non-essential measure drew a wide range of responses. In the Telegraph, Richard Woodmore of Penpedairheol, Caerphilly - how perfectly Pen-pedair-heol rolls off the tongue, meaning the junction of four roads - anyway, Richard wanted to ask First Minister Mark Drakeford whether buying a poppy is an essential or non-essential item.

However, Fiona Davies of Kent reminded us that we don't buy a poppy, we donate - generously, hopefully.

In the Daily Mail, Keith Garnett of Bridgend pointed out that a non-essential item in the Welsh Assembly is an ounce of common sense, which an awful lot of folk here in Wales would agree with; did they really not spot the non-essential ambush? Also in the Mail a P Minall of Leverington sang a little ditty: "♪♪♪: We'll keep a welcome in the hillside... when you come home again to Wales - but not at the moment!"

And this caught my eye:

Half empty ... "Which half of the population considered period products to be 'non-essential' (Wales: Tesco apology after false claim of sale ban on period pads, 27 October)?" Pam Lunn of Kenilworth, Warwickshire, in a letter to The Guardian ... which drew the following response...

Penny wise ... "Which half of the population considered period products to be 'non-essential'? The same half that has been closing public toilets as if they are going out of fashion." Huw Beynon of Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, in a letter to The Guardian ... Hang about, that's me!

Yes, I had some positive responses to my penny-for-your-thoughts missive. Let's be honest, only men lacking wisdom and foresight (as opposed to a foreskin) would consider closing public toilets on such a scale. I mean, if I get caught short I can pop behind a tree or a hedge, what professional male road cyclists quaintly call a comfort break, but obviously women can't shelter behind said break (at least I've never seen a female cyclist take a quick comfort break by the side of the road).

Sadly, male movers and shakers find it impossible to think outside their box of ambition, power and greed.

Here endeth the comfort break lesson.


Donald the Elephant Trumped?

"Before I ask you my next question, let me just put up a tweet that Margaret Thatcher has just put out..." Mathew Amroliwala, 58, BBC News presenter, interviewing Malcolm Rifkind, 74, British politician and former government minister who worked as a Cabinet Minister under Margaret Thatcher, about the uncertainty over the American presidential election result, and who in response utters an elegant chortle on news that his former boss was tweeting from beyond the grave. Amroliwala (compliments of his ear piece?) realised his slip and corrected himself. "Theresa May, sorry."

Wednesday morning, 11 o'clock-ish, and I turn on the telly to catch up on the latest Shit's Creak episode - Trump's version of Canada's Schitt's Creek - and I am greeted by the joy and the doolallyness of the above exchange. Perhaps Mathew Amroliwala is a fan of Rod Stewart - and Maggie May involuntarily sprung to mind. Yep, the ghost of Maggie Thatcher is alive and well, and if you are a non-believer, she will get you in the end.

Anyway, yesterday I shared my letter about Trump and Biden's Battle of the Little Big-White-House - and today there's a response in the Western Mail, from Dafydd F Jones of Wrexham, which is worth sharing:

I have good news and bad news...

The letter from Huw Beynon reminded me of the story which I read in the excellent Welsh book 'Poeri yn Wyneb yr Eliffant' ['Spitting in the Face of the Elephant'] which recounts the struggles of the Welsh pioneers who travelled across the prairies of North America to reach Salt Lake City.

To reach there they had to travel through Nebraska, where they often found water which was undrinkable. Many became ill and there were serious losses among the stock travelling with them.

Huw Beynon refers to General Custer, Chief Sitting Bull and the Battle of Little Bighorn. The story referred to above is that, in order to do battle with Chief Sitting Bull, General Custer and his force had to travel through Nebraska and they, also, suffered harrowing experiences.

The story goes that before the Battle of Little Bighorn, General Custer called his men together and told them: "I have good news for you and bad news. The bad news is that we are all going to die. The good news is that we will not have to go back through Nebraska."

As I write, it certainly looks as if the next episode of Shit's Creak will show old Trumpety Trump beating a retreat, probably through Nebraska ('Spitting in the Face of the Elephant in the Room'?).

But who knows what ambush lies just around the next corner?


Campaign slogan

"Ah, lovely listener, it's that moment of the programme, the juncture where I dust the skirting boards of your soul in an attempt to get to know you even better than I do already..." Yes, it's Vanessa Feltz, again, and the morning challenge on her Radio 2 show. "Today is the day when the people of America make their choice of President - so I need you to create your own 2020 presidential campaign slogan, using your surname, followed by 2020, followed by the last thing you said out loud."

Well now, I had to think about that ... and it was at the end of a telephone chat with my sister-in-law, last night: Beynon-2020-Cheerio!

Actually, I said it in Welsh, Hwyl, one of many Welsh words for cheerio, but I guess I am allowed to translate for general consumption. And what a perfect word because it really is cheerio for one of the presidential candidates. Also, there lies a coincidence because this very morning I had a letter in the Western Mail about the American election:

The Battle of Greasy Grass revisited

History has a habit of echoing itself. Over the past four years President Donald John Trump has morphed into General George Armstrong Custer. Testimony suggests that if Custer had waited for the reinforcements that were on their way, the battle that ensued could well have turned out very differently.

But no, Custer presumably wanted to be the one to "Make America Great" - without the "again", obviously. Well, Tuesday is Trump's Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Mind you, the notion of Joe Biden being Crazy Horse or Sitting Bull generates a wry smile (ponder his "What kind of country we're going to be - four more years of George, er George, er..." when he appeared to forget the US President's name during an election address and had to be prompted by his wife - was he too thinking of Custer and the Little Bighorn?).

Mind you, could it possibly be that Biden will turn out to be the curiously named Lame White Man, the only Cheyenne chief to die in the Battle of the Greasy Grass, as the Sioux called it? Now there's a thought to unsettle the soul.

Bang the drum, sound the bugle, let battle commence.

PS: Yesterday I mentioned meeting along my walk into town "one woman and her dog", and when she asked me how I was I replied "Good!", which is of course not answering the question. This morning we again crossed paths, this time she was accompanied by a gentleman. We exchanged the usual passing pleasantries, and she enquired, with smiley emphasis: "How are you?" "Excellent!" Phew!


Think before you pause

"We now welcome Senior Rabbi at Finchley United Synagogue, Jeremy Lawrence: good morning Rabbi, how are you?" 5:45am: Vanessa Feltz on her Radio 2 show introduces the day's guest speaker in the Pause for Thought spot ... let's pick up that intro:

Vanessa: "Good morning Rabbi, how are you?"
Rabbi: "Good morning Vanessa - I'm good."
Vanessa: "I know you're good, you're a Rabbi - but are you well?"
Rabbi: "Er, yes, I'm well..."

Ouch! But a memorably amusing ouch. I enjoy listening to Vanessa of a morning because I am endlessly impressed by her command of the English language - her vocabulary embraces University, Comprehensive and Primary (or Social Media, as I call it) - which I guess is what makes her such an entertaining raconteur. I miss her morning cheeriness when she's gallivanting the airwaves, covering for other presenters.

Anyway, precisely an hour following the above exchange, I set off into town on my daily exercise walk (downpours permitting) to collect the morning paper (along with bits and pieces needed to see me through the day - strictly one day at a time in these curious times). Just as I set off, jogging towards me, one woman and her dog.

I regularly meet her, often in company, but this morning it's just her and the dog. I don't know her name, we are just nodding acquaintances, albeit cheery and civilised ones, and this morning, as we pass, without pause, she brightly articulates: "Hello, how are you?" "Good!" I say. And I don't believe I just said that.

About a mile further on I hear behind me the tap, tap, tap of jogging footsteps. I stop, turn, smile and say "I must tell you this." She stops, and I repeat the Vanessa exchange - and I say how I cursed myself for having responded to her question with "Good". She laughs - and one woman and her dog disappear down the road.

Never a dull moment, thank God - and of course credit to a certain Rabbi on the wireless. (Tune in tomorrow, there's a sequel.)


Sunday is knock-knock day

Today, yet another knock-knock with a difference, in fact the opposite of knock-knock, whatever that would be: let-me-out, let-me-out / out, damn-tight-spot, out! I don't really know; whatever, it was triggered by the story that some pubs have been unnecessarily draconian in imposing Covid one-way systems. The journalist James Melville spotted one sign on a pub door that read:

"Customers caught exiting the building by this door will be asked to leave."

A quick peep online found lots of variations on a theme...

 Heaven's Exit?

Hm, the opposite of knock-knock is possibly "Leave-the-building, now!"

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