♪♪♪: Happy birthday Cap'n Tom

"My legs may be tired, but my mind is racing and I'm hoping to be back very soon with other ways in which I can help people, help others. Please always remember: 'Tomorrow Will Be A Good Day'." Captain Tom Moore's handwritten message to his now army of supporters on the morning of his 100th birthday as his NHS appeal hits 32 million pounds at its close. Oh, and he receives nearly 150,000 birthday cards.

When, some three weeks ago, I first saw a photo of Captain Thomas Moore with his family, I presumed he was with his granddaughter and great-granddaughter, so I couldn't stop smiling on learning that Hannah Ingram-Moore is actually his daughter, and Georgia his granddaughter...

♪♪♪: And if you should survive to 105,

Look at all you'll derive out of being alive...

We have since learnt that he married in 1968, when he was 48, which explains why a youngish-looking Hannah is in her late-40s. Oh, and that in 1983 he appeared on a Christmas edition of Blankety Blank with Terry Wogan (obviously born to be a star turn).

Clearly the good Captain - or Colonel as he now is - has a magnificent zest for life, and endorses the great truth that it's definitely worth every treasure on earth to be Young At Heart - as Frank Sinatra reminded us - and I'll definitely have what Tom's having, to paraphrase the lady in the restaurant in the film When Harry Met Sally.

My favourite moment from his 100-not-out day of celebration came when he read out his card from the Queen and, after a pause, added: "When the Queen is 100, who's going to send her a card?"

And a voice off-camera reassured the nation (presumably daughter Hannah, confirming good breeding and humour): "You are!"

I certainly hope we'll all be around to see that happen. And as it actually happens, Captain Tom definitely needs to survive to 105 to be sure. How about that?


Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!

"Congratulations are due to Carrie Symonds and Boris Johnson on the birth of their child, her first and his sixth (sic-th, some say seventh, but heck, who's counting)." A typical clickbait spotted today, and all over the interweb shop.

Whatever else may be said of the prime minister, no one can accuse him of living a quiet life in the inside lane. Just three weeks after flirting with the grim reaper and his scythe under threat of losing his life, Boris and Carrie can now celebrate and welcome a brand new one into their life.

Better to be born lucky than wealthy, my mother insisted, indeed luck is a much underrated factor in all aspects of life - politics, business and personal happiness - note how some individuals stroll through life as if some unseen power is clearing a path for them. Over recent weeks Boris has enjoyed more than his share of a guardian angel clearing a path for him. And good luck to him.

Meanwhile, back on the lockdown front:

"Shoppers flock to, and wait patiently in lengthy and snaking queues, as DIY and home improvement retailing company B&Q reopens its stores." Oh dear: B&Q & queue & queue & queue...


Still on the payroll

"We do consider both the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny to be essential workers." Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister, reassures children in the lead up to Easter that vital deliveries will run as normal following lockdown as her country battens down the hatches in the battle against coronavirus.

Smiley as the announcement was, I did wonder why she hadn't included Santa Claus, just to put the kids at proper ease. However, she has just announced that New Zealand has successfully halted the community transmission of Covid-19, effectively eliminating the virus. She then went on to announce the gradual relaxing of the country's strictest and toughest level of restrictions, so hopefully there will be no travel restrictions come Christmas Eve.

Clearly the New Zealanders are as good at putting coronavirus back in its box as their national rugby team is at putting the planet's fellow top rugby teams back in their box (mostly). Let's hope she is right and that she hasn't sneaked offside when the referee wasn't looking.

As it happens, I regularly pass a well-known and established Llandeilo staging post cum watering hole cum eating house, Yr Hen Vic (The Old Vic - or The Victoria as I remember it from my youth, and the pub where I had my first under-age and thoroughly satisfying if illegal pint - and still awash with the sort of character actors you find in any market town ... The Old Vic indeed). Whatever, there's a notice on the outside wall of the pub which never fails to generate a smile...

Nice to lunch, to lunch, nice

I have often thought whether, given how long such places are likely to remain closed due to the lockdown, it should actually read: "Quite nice Sunday lunches served from 2021."

However, Yr Hen Vic continues to provide quite nice takeaway Sunday lunches - roast dinner or vegetarian/vegan options - while sticking to the rules, obviously, so the notice doesn't need rewriting, except perhaps: "Quite nice takeaway Sunday lunches served from 12.15 to 2.20."

But I shall continue to smile whenever I pass by on the sunny side of the street. So here's lookin' at you, Yr Hen Vic.

"A Welshman, an Englishman and an Irishman were chatting in a pub ... God, those were the days!"


Laser sharp

James Bond: "Do you expect me to talk?"
Goldfinger: "No, Mr Bond, I expect you do die."
One of the great movie exchanges - which came to mind when I caught sight of this quotation:

"Who wants to play Cinderella when you can be one of the ugly sisters?" Leading roles aren't necessarily the most interesting, says the actor James Norton, 34, a contender to be the next 007, the big bad villain Corona virus willing, of course.

That set me thinking: if you were James Norton, who would you, rather play ... Justin Trudeau, PM of Canada (yes, he's been dogged by revelations that he morphed into a person of colour on a few occasions when in his late teens or early 20s, but hey, who hasn't done silly things at that age)? Or would you rather play good old bad old Trumpety Trump?

I mean, it's a bit of a no brainer, really. The Donald really is an ugly sister, a villain with bells on.

All this offers up a golden opportunity to show another of those glorious tweets that surfaced a few days back following Trump's suggestion that, for a fighting chance of survival against Covid-19, you should wash down your oysters with disinfectant...

The next round's on the Donald

How does he do it? How does old Trumpety Trump survive under that never-ending avalanche of falling sky?


A clip round the ear

"Soon, I won't need a barber, I'll need a sheep shearer." Bob Fletcher of Rochdale, Greater Manchester, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Hm: "Shorn back and sides, please."

"How come Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's hair always looks immaculate? Is her husband a hairdresser?" Mick Wheeler of Writtle, Essex, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Hm: Perhaps Nicola's hubby is a sheep shearer...

Nearly a shorn-back-and-sides in the Towy Valley

Incidentally, I also saw a letter from a Tom Gough of Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, who identified himself as Almoner of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. He was urging the government to relax the lockdown rules for nursery growers and garden centres because they hold hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of perishable stock desperately wanted by the public and which is likely to go unsold - a plea that makes absolute sense given that supermarkets are currently and properly selling this stuff anyway.

Whatever, Tom Gough's letter transported me to Old London Town and the annual Lord Mayor's Show, especially all the various Worshipful Companies that are seen on parade.

My favourite is from 2017, the Worshipful Company of Woolmen (which dates back to 1180, a time when 90% of England's taxes came from the wool trade, a period in the nation's history when farmers and land owners would have headed Britain's Sabbath Times Rich List), in particular that the 2017 Lady Mayoress, one Samantha Bowman, is a Woolman, a title with a touch of wonderfulness about it.

And most memorable of all, when the Worshipful Company of Woolmen reach the point along the route where the Lord Mayor and his good lady Woolman are stationed to acknowledge the passing parade, they stop and the leader of the flock lifts his hat and shouts: "Three cheers for the Lord Mayor and Mayoress: Hip-hip!"

And there came forth the enthusiastic response: "BAAAAAAA!"


Nature and nurture at work, rest and play

Off-putting litter: "It is sad to see that discarded blue plastic gloves are becoming as prevalent in the countryside as single-use carrier bags once were. And I am reluctant to pick them up." Diane Ribbins of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

I agree with that observation about discarded plastic gloves: mostly blue, a few white and the occasional black one. These are mostly on roadsides: I presume that people use them when they go shopping or fill up with fuel, and then on their way home they just roll down the window and chuck them away. Astonishing really that people will do this without any concern for the damage these dangerous things can do to wildlife, especially so when they wash into our streams, rivers and then the seas.

But this morning, something different. Along my morning walk I divert into Dinefwr Park and take a walk through the bluebell woods. Not my usual route, where I seem to be the only person that shares the track through the woods with the deer, the badger and the fox, but this time along the public footpaths now laced with bluebells in their prime...

I have just navigated a kiss-gate, and a little further along ... I can't believe my eyes: someone has discarded a white plastic glove onto the bluebells...

Nature ... Beauty

Nurture ... Beast

Given my joy at capturing a white bluebell amongst the blue, I thought the juxtaposition was irresistible, and shows what an idiot species we really are when we don't engage our brains. I can only deduce that the guilty party must have used the glove to navigate the gate - and then whipped it off and simply chucked it away, onto the bluebells.

Doolallyness in excelsis.

Oh, and I did carefully pick it up - I have my special technique to avoid directly handling these things - and then I deposit it into a roadside bin just after leaving the Park.


Dettol: Terms & conditions apply

"As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstances should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body through injection, ingestion or any other route!" RB (Reckitt Benckiser, a British multinational), the company that makes Dettol, after President Trump said it would be "interesting to check" whether a disinfectant injection could help combat coronavirus.

"Have you injected your Dettol today? Twitter ruthlessly mocks Donald Trump for suggesting Covid-19 can be treated by injecting disinfectant.

This episode is as perfect an example of joy and doolallyness as I have ever observed from the grassy knoll. That Trump should suggest such a doolally thing is beyond comprehension. He is peddling quack advice, as perfect a snake oil salesman as you can imagine.

On the joy side there are endless examples of people taking the piss with lots of inventive style. I particularly liked this one...

For three Weetabix and a cup of tea...

...read three Brillos and a Domestos

And I enjoyed these comments:

Here, There & Everywhere: Donald Trump must have a twin brother the planet knows nothing about. One person alone could never crease the world with so much hilarity.
Clementine: Trump is getting more orange by the day.
Check Mate: Too much Dettol?

After doctors responded with horror following Trumpety Trump's suggestion that disinfectant, heat and light treatments should be considered to combat coronavirus, the President has since defended his doolallyness by claiming he spoke "sarcastically" when repeatedly suggesting people inject disinfectant to cure the disease: "I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters - to see what would happen."

Well, we know what happened: the sky fell on Trumpety Trump's head with a mega thumpety-thump.

Indeed, The Washington Post posed an interesting question: "A stable genius or dangerous ignoramus?" No more bets, please.

PS: The spellchecker came to a sudden stop at Dettol, and suggested Ditto; also Weetabix, and suggested EweTube. Curiouser and curiouser, said Aunty Alice.


Honestly, I could Scream!

"People create Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa out of lentils, Matisse's Dance out of sausages and Edvard Munch's Scream out of slippers and clothes, as they make art out of household objects during lockdown." An eye-catching artistic clickbait catches the eye and invites me to click. The creations really are rather clever and inventive - search them out online.

I was particularly captivated by efforts to recreate the Scream, especially the one made out of slippers and clothes, and featured below. However, and dare I suggest, Mother Nature does an even better job as she reacts to what we are doing to the planet, particularly so when you ponder how pollution, both in the air and in the rain, is making our trees especially vulnerable to a host of nasty diseases...

Edvard Munch's Scream:

a slippery customer  ...  via the real thing  ...  to a conker cracker

When the horse chestnut - or the conker tree as I know it, and particularly vulnerable to something really nasty called 'bleeding canker' - bursts into leaf and prepares to flower, there's a magical moment that lasts but a day or so, when the leaves begin to explode out of the bud ... and as you can see, above, captured compliments of a local tree, it really is Edvard Munch's Scream writ large.


Too quiet by half

THE END BEGINS: "When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere." Thus the arresting chapter heading and first sentence of The Day of the Triffids, a 1951 post-apocalyptic novel by the English science fiction author John Wyndham (1903-1969). With most people in the world blinded by an apparent meteor shower, an aggressive species of mobile carnivorous plant-like creatures known as Triffids emerge from the crash craters and start killing people.

This, from April 5 (see down below): "A rather glorious early-morning Sunday in early April, and I am on my daily exercise walk along local country lanes ... just me, the sheep and their lambs (bleating away as if they are lost ... thinks: perhaps I should pen a song and call it All in the April Morning!); also, a few grey rats with bushy tails and exceedingly good PR, wild flowers putting on a glorious show along the hedgerows - oh, and the birds of the air with hanky-panky on their minds ... especially a woodpecker furiously morse-coding his tap-tap-tap of love. No vehicles or people spotted or engaged."

A sheep of colour on parenting duty

Ebony and Ivory, with waggly tails...

This, today's diary entry: "A rather glorious Wednesday morning in late April, and I am on my daily exercise walk along local country lanes ... just me, the sheep and their lambs, a few grey rats with bushy tails and exceedingly good PR, wild flowers putting on a glorious show along the hedgerows - oh, and the birds of the air with hanky-panky on their minds ... and there's that woodpecker again, furiously morse-coding his tap-tap-tap of love. No vehicles or people spotted or engaged."

And there you have it: a day I happen to know is Wednesday, but starts off sounding like Sunday, and you know there is something seriously wrong somewhere.

Incidentally, and I don't want to alarm you: coronavirus is an anagram of carnivorous.

PS: Author John Wyndham's full name: John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris. Where did that Beynon come from? Perhaps I missed my vocation and been a proper author.


60 minutes of calm and joy along country roads

"Look ahead ... look left ... look right ... look up ... look ahead ... look behind ... look left ... look right ... look ahead ... and always listen..." Not so much my Green Cross Code but my Green Daily Exercise Code along local country roads and through bluebell woods. You never know what you'll spot lurking there, demanding attention.

For example, today I spot parked up a road sweeper truck. It belongs to John Jones & Son Ltd, a firm from just down the road at Cross Hands, a family run company with over 25 years of experience which specialise in haulage and plant hire, especially road sweeper trucks. Anyway, I digress...

So I look left ... I pause and smile - and reach for my camera...

Defence is always the best form of attack...

A Premier Division player?

Do you suppose they also have a Midfielder Division? And a Striker Division?

I know, I know, very childish - but it tickled my funny bone no end - and made my smile of the day. Incidentally, I see the truck bears the name Rebbeca Jade (a former glamour model and TV presenter best known for her work on adult channel Babestation - currently living in Llanelli, Google enlightens me).

Whatever, given the sweeper roll, perhaps the truck should be rechristened Sophie Ingle, the current captain of the Wales women's national team, a defender (and therefore a sweeper) boasting 97 caps.

Bring her on!


Lethal weapon 2

"Some years ago, the Duke of Edinburgh was asked by a German news agency what he would like to be reincarnated as. A lethal virus, he said, to reduce the population of the planet. Has anybody seen him recently?" A few days back, Emma Duncan, columnist for The Times, recycled the Prince Philip quote, which I too have previously shared hereabouts. However, Emma's addendum query did generate a fresh smile.

Well would you believe it, just today, Prince Philip has thanked key workers who are ensuring the "infrastructure of our life continues" during the Covid-19 pandemic. In a rare statement "on behalf of those of us who remain safe and at home", he recognised the "vital and urgent work being done by so many to tackle the coronavirus pandemic".

The 98-year-old duke thanked medics and scientists, people working in food production, postal workers, and those collecting our rubbish.

Yes, but has anybody seen him? Whatever ... and talking of those collecting our rubbish:

Happy clappers: "My road turns out to clap the bin men. I wonder which of us is more embarrassed." Lucy Wiseman of NW11 (the Golders Green area of Old London Town), in a letter to The Times.

Nice one, perhaps the author should be called Lucy Wisewoman. There again, perhaps not, because it was suggested that a much better course of appreciation would be simply sticking a large "THANK YOU" note on the bins instead - and why not also above her letterbox thanking the postman.

But best of all, methinks, why not an "IOU" note, to be cashed in come Christmas. Now there's a thought.


Joy and doolallyness in excelsis

"Gary Lineker says scoring goals is better than sex. The nation's women breathe a sigh of relief." Ralph Doncaster of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail ... and Tom O'Toole of Bebington, Wirral, also in a letter to the Daily Mail: "How nice of Gary Lineker to give 140,000 pounds of TV Licence Payers' money to the Red Cross."

It's a bit of a shame that Tom O'Toole wasn't the author of the letter about scoring goals being better than sex. Whatever...

With 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore having both captured and reflected the heart and soul of a nation not represented by the powerful, the rich and the famous, and without, I guess, having ever posted a tweet - an astonishing 26 million thank-you pound-notes to the NHS as I write, so I presume a knighthood will be enclosed in his birthday card from the Queen - I was amused by those letters about the BBC's most precious asset, Gary Lineker, who of course has a degree in tweeting.

Gary is apparently to give a month's BBC salary to the British Red Cross emergency team - nice work if you can get it. Also, and on a more frivolous note, I was particularly enamoured by his claim that scoring goals is better than sex.

Of course it is. A football doesn't know you're a celebrity, Gary, so you have to work hard at it whenever you want to score. However, if you're a top totem pole celebrity, women, Wales's very own Sir Tom has regularly pointed out, will throw their knickers at you and worship at your totem pole, no questions asked, meaning, you don't have to indulge in engagement, humour, seduction and foreplay, it's all wham, bam, thank you ma'am.

So of course scoring goals is much more satisfying than scoring with the opposite sex.


The way through the bluebell wood

"They shut the road through the woods
  Seventy years ago.
  Weather and rain have undone it again,
  And now you would never know
  There was once a road through the woods ...
   ...  But there is no road through the woods."
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), English journalist, novelist, short-story writer and poet, from his celebrated poem The Way Through the Woods.

Saturday, and my daily exercise on a still, cool-ish and cloudy-ish morning takes me through a local wood to see how the bluebells are coming along ... rather nicely, thank you very much. The bluebell fragrance wafts seductively on the gentle breeze.

Whenever I visit this particular location I am always reminded of Kipling's wonderful poem about the disappearing road through the woods ... the opening lines above, together with the last...

The way through the bluebell wood...

...where the ring-dove broods, and the badgers roll at ease...

In fact there has never been a road through these woods, especially where this photo was captured this very morning ... the well-worn narrow path is the sole footprint of the creatures of the wood: the deer, the badger, the fox...

I always feel humbled as I tread carefully along this path when I need to enter or exit the woods and its bluebells...


"History is written by the victors."

"We have never heard the Devil's side of the story, God wrote the book." Anatole France (1844-1924), French poet, journalist and novelist.

My parents were faithfully religious, regular attendees at the local Baptist chapel, indeed my father was a deacon. Growing up I was obliged to attend on a fairly regular basis, up until the age of about 15, when I began to take rain checks and claim my 'freedom'. Although I remain a fully paid-up member, I find no need to attend. Why so?

Well, I am undecided as to whether there really is a God, so all in all, and down the years, I have kept an open mind ... and decided that, weeeeell, there probably is a God (at least, 52% of me says yes, and 48% says no, just like the EU referendum figures in fact, how odd).

So, if it turns out that, actually, there is no God ... well, no harm done, and hopefully my 52% belief means I may have done some good rather than bad along my walk through time. However, if there really is a God - well, hopefully I will be slightly ahead of the game.

Incidentally, when I prepared to leave home for the big, wide, wicked world, my mother told me this. "God and the Devil will battle for control of your soul. Treat people well and you will find that those you have never met before will spontaneously respond positively and treat you kindly. Treat people badly and you will find that those you have never met before will do no more for you than they feel obliged to do, sometimes less."

I understand totally what she meant. And isn't it strange that we can say the same about the internet: God and the Devil battle for control of our souls ... 52% of the internet is a wonderful place, full of positivity and goodwill - but 48% of the internet is the playground of the Devil, full of fake news, negativity and evil.

Is it a conscious or unconscious decision to stay on the sunny side of the street?

Here endeth the first lesson. Well, nearly:

"If 50% of Americans think Donald Trump never says a foolish thing, he will still say foolish things." With apologies to the ghost of Anatole France, author of the quotation at the top - who actually said: "If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing." Amen.


Please, Sir, I want less

School's in: "Sir, Sir Keir Starmer [KCB, PC, QC, and leader of the Labour Party] suggests that schools should be the first to reopen after lockdown. Exactly how many pupils does he think can be accommodated in the average classroom if they are practising safe distancing? I calculate probably no more than six or seven." Pamela Hart of Watford, Hertfordshire, in a letter to The Times.

What first tickled my funny bone about that letter is the double "Sir" at the beginning: "Sir" to address the editor, and "Sir" to address the subject matter of the letter, Sir Keir Rodney Starmer, to give him his full name.

Suddenly you grasp that we do indeed now live in a parallel universe (I blame the Chinese and the Donald), where the nation's Prime Minister, and an Old Etonian to boot, is mainly known by his first name alone, even when being addressed by leaders of other countries (from Donald Trump to Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway) - but that the leader of the opposition, the Labour Party, and a factory worker's son to boot (whose middle name is Rodney), boasts a knighthood.

Intrigued, I clicked ... it seems Rodney was once the Director of Public Prosecutions, and then appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath for "services to law and criminal justice" in the 2014 New Year Honours, hence the "Sir". But hang about: The Order of the Bath? Run the water and click...

In the Middle Ages, knighthood was often conferred with elaborate ceremonies (shades of David Cameron and the curious incident of the pig in the night-time involving said oink and a "private part of 'Call-me-Dave's' anatomy"). These rituals usually involved the knight-to-be taking a bath (possibly symbolic of spiritual purification, shades of baptism) during which he was instructed in the duties of knighthood by more senior knights. He was then put to bed to dry ... enough already.

Honestly, sounds like something out of Monty Python - and anyway, they should all be hung out to dry.

Be that as it may, my point about Sir Keir Rodney Starmer is, you would think, what with him being a QC and all (a Queen's Counsel, or Queer as a Coot as Eric Morecambe would say) he would have first thought through the business of reopening schools and the relevant point made in Pamela Hart's letter about safe distancing. More proof of the lack of peripheral vision in the nation's movers and shakers.

Sigh ... there really is no hope for us - so we might as well smile and/or roll our eyes at the sheer joy and/or utter doolallyness of the passing parade.

PS: My spellchecker came to a stop at Starmer ... and suggested Starker. Hm.


Bernie refreshes the parts other Casanovas can't reach

"Bernie Ecclestone, 89, has revealed he and wife Fabiana Flosi are expecting their first child, a boy, in July." A typical clickbait that was all over the shop a week or so back ... which drew the following letter to the Daily Mail from a Joan Hill of Carrickfergus, County Antrim: "Surely at 44, Bernie Ecclestone's wife Fabiana is rather old to be having a baby."

Given that Joan was being wickedly ironic, I did smile out loud because my mother was nearly that age when I arrived on the scene. Anyway, I also came across this clickbait, complements of The Sun newspaper: "Who is Fabiana Flosi? Fabiana is a 44-year-old Brazilian. It's not known exactly what her career was before she met billionaire Bernie..."

A typically teasy "Nudge-nudge, wink-wink, know what I mean, chief?" line from The Sun - incidentally, Flosi is a really neat surname in this context, if you know what I mean - whatever, The Sun clickbait reminded me of the famous line from telly's The Mrs Merton Show from the 1990s, starring Caroline Aherne, who famously asked Debbie McGee (b.1958) why she had married magician Paul Daniels (1938-2016): "So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?"

Anyway, all the above brought to mind this glorious quotation:

"The right diet directs sexual energy into the parts that matter." Barbara Cartland (1901-2000), writer of romantic novels, in The Observer, January 11, 1981.

It strikes me that if Bernie Ecclestone brings out a book called Bernie's Most Excellent Diet, it would be a world-wide best seller. Alternatively, what about Bernie's Best Mates Ride to the Rescue?


♪♪♪: He's gonna find out who's naughty and nice

Early Christmas: "To occupy my self-isolation time, I have been writing my Christmas cards. Is it too early to post them?" Alan Pitt of Elton, Cheshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

I smiled out loud when I read that ... it sent me clicking and scrolling back to December 15 last year, and my joy and doolallyness spot of that day, with emphasis on the joy ... on that Sunday morning I had switched on the radio, and the Reverend Emlyn Richards, a celebrated minister of religion here in Wales, an individual blessed with a gloriously smiley way with words, an eloquent raconteur if ever there was one - and he was delivering the early-morning service on Radio Cymru, the Welsh language station.

He told the tale of receiving through the post, in July, an envelope that clearly contained a greetings card. He recognised the writing and the postmark, which indicated an old friend living in England: "It was a Christmas card ... 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'."

Pause for thought: Just before 10:30 this morning, I turn on the telly and tune into the BBC News channel to catch up with the headlines and the weather forecast. Along the bottom of the screen, headlines are rolling over under a general heading "Coronavirus: Ending lockdown", with brief details of where each country was at. Then this came up:

"Austria allows garden centres and DIY stories to reopen."

Now I have heard of a Freudian slip ... was this a Covidian slip, as in many a slip twixt fingers and brain? There again, a DIY story could be the perfect definition of fake news.


♪♪♪: Always look on the bright side of life

"Do remember, they can't cancel the spring." David Hockney, 82, a British painter, photographer and a smoker of 60 years who insists in a letter to the Daily Mail that "smokers have developed an immune system to coronavirus", makes a repeat appearance ... which reminds me: "Spring has sprung, the grass has ris', I wonder where the bluebell whitebell is..."

Easter Monday 2020, April 13: despite continuing blue skies smiling on me, the beautifully warm weather of recent days has been replaced by a really cold northerly wind, with frost in the air by evening.

Leading up to a typical British Christmas you will regularly hear the weather forecasters, in response to the question "Will we have a white Christmas?" respond with, "Not this year, sadly, indeed statistically here in the UK we are more likely to have snow at Easter than Christmas."  And today I exhibit proof of the Christmas egg becoming an Easter pudding.

But not this year. Below, the first photo is one I took a couple of days ago, Easter Saturday, in my favourite local bluebell wood. The beautifully shimmering, azure carpets are just beginning to come into their own, with the steep woodland slowly morphing into a slithering waterfall of blue. And of course I always seek out the individual white one because it contrasts so perfectly with the blue...

♫♫♫:  You're a white bluebell,

I'm a blue bluebell...

...and you're a white bluebell too...

...but covered in snow...

                                                                  ...but the second photograph ... well, this was taken on the 6th of April 2008, in the same bluebell wood, from pretty much the same spot, following a sudden fall of snow. Imagine that, bluebells covered in snow. Oh, and Easter Sunday in 2008 was on March 23, three weeks earlier than this year.

And there you have the glorious unpredictability of the British weather. Rarely do we suffer any extremes of weather, say like the destructive floods from earlier this year, but often we do experience frustratingly wayward weather which we can't really depend on to make outdoor plans. Mind you, global warming could change all that.

PS: First came the floods ... now we have the plague ... the locusts must be on their way because they are currently eating east Africa out of house and home.


Stirling stuff

"Sir Stirling Moss, motor racing legend dies aged 90 after a long illness: 'It was one lap too many, he just closed his eyes,' said wife Lady Moss, adding: 'He died as he lived, looking wonderful.'." "He died as he lived, looking wonderful." What memorable words to say about someone.

"Who do you think you are, Stirling Moss?" was the routine question posed by police officers to motorists of my generation pulled over for speeding. Back then there were no radar guns, so a patrol car had to pace you for a minimum of 3/10ths of a mile (if memory serves) before flashing you down.

Many moons back I was stopped for doing something like 35 in a 30 limit, through a small village in north Wales, at night with no other traffic about - and I knew they hadn't paced me all the way through the village. However, I was ever so apologetic and polite to the two officers who stopped me ... I never got a ticket, just a warning letter ... there's a moral lurking in there somewhere.

Oh yes, I measured the built-up limit through the village, just in case, and it was under 3/10ths of a mile!

Back with Stirling ... after the great man received his knighthood he was good-humouredly warned by a policeman against speeding out of Buckingham Palace: "Who do you think you are, Stirling Moss?"

"Sir Stirling, actually," he replied with a smile.

He stood for a certain style of Englishness: dashing, daring, debonair. If he had been born in 1920, rather than 1929, he would doubtless have been a World War II pilot because he fitted the profile perfectly, and he "spoke the jargon or slang of the Spitfire ace, in fast, clipped English, where chaps were addressed as 'old boy', and gals were 'crumpet', and accidents were 'terrible shunts'."

Jackie Stewart, 80, and a fellow racer of note, said: "He walked like a racing driver should walk, he talked like a racing driver, he looked like a racing driver, and he set a standard that I think has been unmatched since he retired." Yep, the sort of chap one would be happy to sit next to on a flight to the other side of the world.

Jackie Stewart's marvellous line reminded me, curiously, of John Wayne: He walked like a cowboy should walk, he talked like a cowboy, he looked like a cowboy, and he set a standard that I think has been unmatched since he departed the scene in a cloud of dust and a hearty: "If everything isn't black and white, I say, 'Why the hell not? '." Amen to that. And I'm not too convinced he used the word "hell" either.


Nice to see you...

"A poster appeared in a Sheffield street a few days ago showing a photo of the late Bruce Forsyth, host of the popular telly show The Generation Game, accompanied by a twist on his famous catchphrase: 'Nice two metre ... two metre, nice'. Perhaps in a few weeks another Brucie favourite will magically appear to highlight good behaviour: 'Didn't they do well?'." A news item just spotted.

Hopefully we will soon see a picture of a fully mended Boris Johnson declaring: "I'm in charge!"

Talking of 'Nice two metre ... two metre, nice', I mentioned a handful of days back that, being a grand old imperialist of yore, I am social distancing, not at two metres but two yards - or six feet, which handily also happens to be my height - so I was hoping that those critical few missing inches won't come back to haunt me.

And then I stumbled upon a marvellous comment about meticulous social distancing (and the author deploying an exceedingly smiley username compliments of a public forum with engaging facilities for witty wordplay):

Jim Carner: "I strimmed the overgrown graves in the churchyard. All occupants were two metres apart. And deep."


If the cap fits

"Coronavirus lockdown sees surge in demand for jigsaw puzzles." A Daily Mail headline from a few days ago ... which drew this letter from Paula Morle of Reading in Berkshire: "A jigsaw bought from Amazon three weeks ago for thirteen pounds is now on sale for forty quid. What a rip-off." And today, as if by magic, this headline appeared: "The world has less billionaires in 2020, but Amazon boss Jeff Bezos is still the richest - for the third year in a row."

When you are driven by ambition and greed, nothing as common as a coronavirus sticks a sprag in your wheel.

Finally, on the jigsaw front, a fitting comment:

Jiggery Pokery, Sunny Side of the Street, UK: "I bought a jigsaw which says 5-10 years. I did in in two days. And before you ask, I didn't buy it at IKEA, so there were no instructions. Oh, and I asked the wife to get me another, and she brought home a Black+Decker Smart Select Jig Saw, with Curve Control technology - that's the jig saw, not the wife."

PS: Today has been a Very, Very Good Friday. For the first time since I began collecting all the rubbish people drop, or throw from their vehicles, along the local country lanes I walk every day (except when the weather is really ghastly and horrid and I take a rain check), today I did not have to pick up a single bit of rubbish. Astonishing. Will the good news last? I fear not when lockdown is lifted.


An f-word to enjoy

"He is all day figuring away with her." Thus complained a lady in 1782 about Charles James Fox (1749-1806), a prominent British Whig statesman, a former Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons, and a notorious Lothario to boot, about his affair with Mary 'Perdita' Robinson (1758-1800), one of the leading actresses of the day.

Now doesn't that f-word beat our modern-day f-word hands down when it comes to turning a vulgar word into an elegant one? I mean: "Figuring away with her" ... perfectly wonderful.

Today's f-word gained notoriety on that fateful night back in 1965 when Kenneth Tynan swore live on air, and the BBC felt it had every right to chuck it into the nation's living rooms. Today of course it is impossible to think of anyone within the BBC, especially in drama and light entertainment, who can express themselves without extravagant use of obscenity in order to make a point: "The following programme features strong language and adult humour."

It is a most curious phenomenon to observe.

As it happens there's been some correspondence in The Times newspaper about the history of the four-letter word. A Sheila Taylor told us that the first recorded use of the f-word, at least according to Melissa Mohr in her book Holy Sh*t: a Brief History of Swearing, where she quotes a late 15th-century poem written by the Carmelite monks of the town of Ely in Cambridgeshire. Put in modern English, it reads: "They [the monks] are not in heaven because they f*** the wives of Ely."

Go figure, as doubtless they would have said back in 1782.

I have always thought of obscenity as a safety valve between losing one's cool and the act of violence. But when swear words are used as standard conversational currency, there is nowhere to go when blowing a fuse, other than walking away, or launching into violence.

I particularly enjoyed the following exchange spotted online, quoting from Shindig, the fourth episode of the science fiction television series Firefly (which I must confess I have never seen)...

Kaylee:  "Come on, admit it. It's true."
Simon:  "No, I won't, because it's not. I use swear words like anybody else."
Kaylee:  "Oh really? See, I never heard you. So when is it that you do all this cussin'? After I go to bed-"
Simon:  "I swear ... when it's appropriate."
Kaylee:  "Simon, the whole point of swearin' is that it ain't appropriate."

Nice one, Kaylee.


Never give a sucker an even break diagnosis

"Might I have been infected by the early stages of the coronavirus after a long telephone conversation with somebody in China?" And: "I am wondering whether I could have picked up the virus from a Chinese takeaway?" A doctor reports two patients arriving at a London A&E department for coronavirus advice.

That first enquiry is not so doolally as one would initially think because there is a gloriously baseless conspiracy doing the rounds about the link between 5G and Covid-19. It seems that celebrity influencers and that naughty Red Hiding Under the World Wide Web Bridge (the ultimate troll?) are furiously pushing conspiracy theories online that link the coronavirus to the new, super-fast wireless technology. Golly gosh oh Gee 5.

As to the second, I guess yes if it was a takeaway in a Chinese market in Wuhan - anyway, best not go there.

As reported, it turns out that there is such a thing as being a tiny wee bit too cautious. And how easy it is to promote conspiracy theories online.

A pause for thought, compliments of Karen Blixen (1885-1962), a Danish author, from her tale The Deluge at Norderney (1934): "I know a cure for everything: salt water, in one form or another - sweat, tears or the sea."


God's country

"Seven o'clock on a rather glorious early April Tuesday morning ... I am on my daily exercise walk along the country lanes of west Wales ... shades of last Sunday morning, as it happens: again just me, the sheep and their lambs, those few grey rats with bushy tails and exceedingly good PR, the birds of the air tweeting 'If I said you had a beautiful body will you hold it against me', and the wild flowers putting on a gloriously colourful slide-show along the hedgerows. Suddenly, strolling around the corner towards me is ... God. 'What are you doing here?' I enquire in a gobsmacked fashion. 'Working from home,' he replies." Me, with apologies to the folk of Yorkshire, who also claim to have seen him walking their byways and bridleways.

Being that God is an expert at self-isolation, I forgot to ask him, given that I am a grand old imperialist of yore and social distancing not at two metres but two yards - or six feet, which handily also happens to be my height - so I was looking for reassurance that those critical few missing inches won't come back to haunt me. Typical.

Incidentally, I don't think He has read my book because I have a chapter headlined 'Hello! Is that really you, God?'.

There I convince myself that, given the bonkersness of the modern world, I must be God (or Mistar Duw in the language of my default Welsh corner of heaven), and that I am playing a complex computer game called The Creation, a game to resolve, among many other things, precisely what it is I am going to do with this handsome little lump of joy I've fashioned and baptised with an extravagance of life-giving water, and christened Planet Earth ... before making the whole shebang live.

By the by, He didn't mention anything about me messing about at being Him - so Mum's the word (that's Mum as in Mother Nature).


Who said that?

Capricious companion: "Living alone, and self-isolating, I find that I occasionally talk to myself. I have noticed recently that I receive an increasing amount of verbal abuse. To whom should I complain?"
Susan Fuller of Coventry, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

The obvious answer is that Susan Fuller should complain to - ta-rah - Susan Fuller. Susan of Coventry should send herself to Coventry, i.e. deliberately ostracise herself, typically refuse to talk to herself, avoid her own company, and acting as if she herself no longer exists. However, on a more down-to-earth note...

Like Susan Fuller, I too live on my own (as opposed to alone, a subtle difference). Also, I guess I am what the English writer and broadcaster Julie Burchill calls herself, namely a "hyper-social lone wolf".

For example, if I did a year happily doing a stint as a barman aboard the QE2 (I earned my degree from the University of Life working as a barman at my local Crazy Horse Saloon remember), and was then dropped off to spend another year on a desert island with just my eight recordings and all the other little knick-knacks allowed for company, I would be happy as a pig in shite. Which is why lockdown is a doddle.

Indeed, my mother had spotted my dual-carriageway personality from an early age, and I remember her telling me: "It's okay to talk to yourself, it's even okay to answer back. But the moment you start arguing with yourself, make an appointment to see the doctor." I have yet to catch myself hurling verbal abuse at myself - yes, I have often called myself an idiot apropos some of the stupid things I have done along the way, but I have no recollection of having ever challenged that opinion.

Wordplay of the day: "If you insult Italian bakers they will beat the focaccia." I obviously took it as read that focaccia is something that comes out of an Italian oven, but I had to look it up: Italian bread, similar in style and texture to pizza dough.) Every day a day at school.

Did I rise to the occasion?


.-..  ---  .-..

"O, how this spring of love resembleth
     The uncertain glory of an April day."
Proteus, from Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Corona - oops! - The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
(Well, a clever pun is always worth a repeat - see March 27 to join up all the dots).

Whatever, seven o'clock on a rather glorious Sunday morning in early April, and I am on my daily exercise walk along local country lanes ... just me, the sheep and their lambs (bleating away as if they are lost ... thinks: perhaps I should pen a song and call it All in the April Morning!); also, a few grey rats with bushy tails and exceedingly good PR, wild flowers putting on a glorious show along the hedgerows - oh, and the birds of the air with hanky-panky on their minds. No vehicles or people spotted or engaged.

Suddenly, above my head: .-..  ---  .-..  .-..  ---  .-..  .-..  ---  .-..  Yep, a woodpecker furiously morse-coding a LOL ... that's LOL as in pre-social media days, i.e. lots of love ... lots of love ... lots of love...

I am reminded of David Niven sharing with the world his tale of losing his virginity as a young lad with Nessie - "a honey-blonde, pretty rather than beautiful, the owner of a voluptuous but somehow innocent body, and a pair of legs that went on for ever" - yes, Nessie was a Piccadilly tart with a heart: "Slowly, dear, more slowly - whoa! Yer not a woodpecker."


One for the road

"Brewery opens up drive-through beer collection station for those looking to ease the pain of coronavirus lockdown without making physical contact with staff." The Castle Rock Brewery in Nottingham came up with the plan after its 22 pubs around the country were closed by the lockdown, with punters placing orders via their online shop and the orders being placed in the back of their vehicles without anyone having to exit the vehicle.

The above clickbait generated a smile because, first thing this morning I happened to catch on the BBC World Service (a gem of a radio station) a programme called The Food Chain, which was exploring the impact of stockpiling and lockdown on the global food chain.

I learn that BC (Before Coronavirus) 50% of money spent on food and drink is spent away from the home. This changed dramatically following lockdown, particularly so when people began to panic-buy and hoard a range of things, the most high profile of course being the toilet roll.

A guest on the programme was Amsterdam based Hanneke Faber, President Global Foods & Refreshments at Unilever, the familiar British-Dutch company which owns so many famous global brands. She listed the things people are hoarding - canned food, pasta and rice being the more obvious examples. But here's what she added about the variety of hoarding in different countries, and bear in mind the clickbait at the top...

"In the UK there is much higher alcohol sales, which is not true in Europe. In the US there is significant hoarding of big tubs of ice cream, which is seen as a staple and a must-have in America." Both revelations flag something revealing about our nations. And then Hanneke was asked about her own nation: apparently the Dutch are hoarding peanut butter and sausages, which she agreed is not the healthiest of diets either.

Pause for thought: Amo, amas, amat - I love, you love, he/she/it loves - the only bit of Latin I remember from schooldays. However, and being endlessly inquisitive, I discover that the word 'purchase' in Latin is the memorable emptio, which to the Welsh is perfect because when we can't think of the proper Welsh word we add the letter 'o', i.e. enjoy becomes enjoyo, or joio for short.

So, given all the stockpiling - and deploying artistic licence to extreme - I have come up with: emptio, emptias, emptiat - I purchase, you hoard, he/she/it panic-buys.


Luke 13:5 Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish

"Just before lockdown I was accosted outside parliament by a fellow wearing a sandwich board who advised me to repent because resisting Covid-19 was useless, it being God's judgment upon us." Sir Desmond Swayne, 63, Conservative MP for New Forest West. He continues: "A few paces later, an elderly lady told me that closing down the economy was folly. The pandemic was designed to strengthen humanity by culling the weak and infirm."

Yep, on the one hand we have God ... and on the other the Devil ... both doing battle for control of our souls. Mind you, it has been suggested that Swayne's brace of interlopers were BBC political presenter Andrew Marr and BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, both in disguise and on ambush duty, which is a rather jolly thought to harbour.

And on the theme of God versus the Devil, far and away the best notion at this stage of proceedings is perhaps to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Take Myleene Klass, 41, a British singer, pianist and model - oh, and mother of daughters Ava Bailey and Hero Harper. Myleene has been pondering the long-term consequences of lockdown: "There's either going to be a divorce boom or a baby boom - and I've got a good midwife and lawyers, boom-boom!"

Actually, I added the boom-boom, couldn't resist, sorry, wearing my lower klass on my fingertips.


When fact overtakes fiction

"Coronavirus: Man jailed by Westminster magistrates for coughing on police officer." A man who coughed on a police officer and claimed to have coronavirus was today jailed for six month. Adam Lewis, 55, who had been seen trying the door handles of cars in the area, told the officer: "I am Covid and I am going to cough in your face and you will get it."

Hands up all those who remember Not the Nine O'Clock News, the popular British satirical TV sketch show of the late 70s and early 80s which launched the careers of Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones and Pamela Stephenson.

Well, there's a sketch in which a sergeant (Rowan Atkinson) orders a racist constable (Griff Rhys Jones) to stop arresting black people on trumped-up charges. "There is no law," he tartly explains, "against coughing without due care and attention". Well, forty years on, there actually is.

And talking of the wheel turning full circle...

"Britain expects that every person who is not a key worker to do his and her duty - and stay at home." Boris Johnson's signal from his flagship 10 Downing Street to the fleet as the Battle of Coronavirus was about to commence on 23 March 2020. (With apologies to the ghost of Horatio Nelson, the 1st Viscount Nelson, and his message to the fleet just before the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.)


Goatbusters: Today Llandudno ... tomorrow the world!

"Wild Kashmiri mountain goats roam the seaside town of Llandudno in North Wales, drawn from the rocky hillsides of nearby Great Orme, home to some 200 wild goats, by the empty streets during coronavirus lockdown." A story making many a "and finally..." spot in the news, not just here in the UK but much further afield. The headline of the day though goes to the Western Mail:

Goats establish their Right to Roam under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000
(but ignore the strict two metres social-distancing rule - no buts, you go tell them!)

These handsome goats are thought to be descended from a pair of India goats presented by the Shah of Persia to Queen Victoria in 1837. The goats were then a gift to the Lord Mostyn of the day from Queen Victoria. Although originally in the ownership of the Mostyn Estate in Llandudno, the goats are now regarded as wild animals.

Anything but wild though when awaiting communion...

"Your reserved goat has arrived, Rev. Andrew."
Rev. Andrew of Holy Trinity was unavailable for a rebuttal

Finally, my favourite comment on the goat invasion...

Alexandra of Old London Town: "The streets look really empty ... Llandudno's become a goats town!"

"Never approach a goat from the front, a horse from the back, and a fool from any side." You may substitute Donald Trump in a certain spot if you wish to update the old proverb.
01/04/2020 (And no, it is not an April Fool's Day joke.)

Home Page
Huw and Smile 2020: January to March
Huw and Smile 2019: October to December