LOOK YOU : October to December 2019

♪♪♪: 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.


♪♪♪: 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.


♪♪♪: 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".


♪♪♪: 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.


♪♪♪: 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?


♪♪♪: 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).


♪♪♪: 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.


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!


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.


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.


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!


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...


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...


"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."


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.


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!


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.


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.


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."


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...


♪♪♪: 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.


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.)


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.


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).


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.


♪♪♪: 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.


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.  


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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...


"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!).


♪♪♪: 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.


♪♪♪: 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.


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.


♪♪♪: 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."


♪♪♪: 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.


♪♪♪: 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.


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.


♪♪♪: 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?


♪♪♪: 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?


♪♪♪: 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!


♪♪♪: 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.


♪♪♪: 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."


♪♪♪: 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".


♪♪♪: 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.


♪♪♪: 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?


♪♪♪: 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.


♪♪♪: 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.


"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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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)"

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




"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.


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!


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...


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.


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."


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).


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.


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?


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?).


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!"

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