British Summer Time Ends

Fall back ... "Little things please little minds." Proverb, of Latin origin.

So I open up The Sunday Times, and there, front page, top left-hand corner...

Fall back in line: The Sunday Times reminds us to keep in sync

Well it made me chuckle. "Tock Tick!" indeed.

Regarding the proverb at the top: "Little things please little minds, i.e. people of limited intelligence are interested only in unimportant things." As Covid wrote: "Frivolous minds are won by trifles." Guilty as charged, M'lud, particularly so if it's a boozy Christmas trifle, laced with brandy.

Hang on; did I just say Covid back there? Of course, I meant Ovid (43BC-17AD), the famous Roman poet. D'oh!

Oh yes, The Sunday Times: today's issue is number 10,286 ... I had never registered that figure before, and I did not realise until today that the paper was founded in 1822. Gosh, 200 years, and still going strong.

Anyway, back with "little things please little minds", along with the counter, "and bigger fools look on". Well, thank goodness I have a frivolous mind won by trifles. It's what keeps me sane in this doolally world.


The Silken Road

Seasonal pointers ... "How do you know it's autumn? Leaves underfoot? Conkers on the ground? A chill in the air? Random fireworks announcing that Guy Fawkes Day is approaching fast? Easter eggs on the supermarket shelves?" A light-hearted question recently posed on the radio.

I chuckled at the Easter eggs suggestion - many a true word spoken in jest.

What always registers though, what with my early-morning walks into town, is how quickly dark mornings embrace my journey along what is mostly a country lane, which I can just about stroll along with my eyes shut. I even know where the ruts, or the apprentice potholes, are, sort of.

The other pointer is the explosion of spiders' webs all over the shop and parlours, especially on chilly mornings.

But here's the curious thing about this autumn, what with Halloween and the clocks falling back just a day away, is how incredibly mild this autumn has been.

That said, a couple of weeks back, we had a few really coldish mornings, and at the back of where I hang my hat I couldn't help but notice the webs covering the boundary hedge - so I took a snap...

The Welsh Silk Road winds its way into the woods

Yes, when I see those carpets of webs, I know it's autumn. And no wonder I forever see birds hunting for spiders and stuff around and inside the above hedge.


The Candy Floss Tree

Wafting on the breeze ... "A delightful and unusual small tree that exudes a sweet, burnt sugary smell from its attractively coloured autumn foliage, hence its name Candy Floss, or Katsura tree; it has heart-shaped leaves turning many colours over the season." Online information about a mysterious little tree along my morning walk.

Yesterday I shared the joy of the song The Candy Man and its relevance to the woodland songbirds in the heart of the Tywi Valley I'd taught some years back to take feed from my hand.

Well now, a week or so ago, a smiley and friendly face I regularly pass along my daily early-morning walk into town - we exchange fleeting words of a cheery nature, ships that pass in the sunrise, sort of thing - and one morning, within the town boundary, she said: "Have you enjoyed the scent of that tree just over there? It gives off a delightful chocolaty smell."

Actually, I hadn't. For two reasons. First, as a rule of big toe, I tend to walk on the opposite side of the street.

And secondly, my sense of smell isn't particularly sharp. Yes, I can sniff the difference between Chanel No 5 - the only thing Marilyn Monroe apparently wore in bed - and a gas leak. Or perhaps, more correctly, given the recent news of the effluent our water companies discharge into our waterways, I can detect the difference between Chanel No 5 and Channel No 2.

Also, people occasionally mention petrichor - the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil - but I can't say I detect that. Anyway, back with the tree: so I made a point of walking on the perfumed side of the street ... and yes, I did smell the seductive sweetness in the air...

So I searched online ... and came up with the quote at the top.

And I then pinpointed the cheekily seductive little tree along my walk, what with its heart-shaped leaves - and took a photo...

"Alright you super smellers, you hyperosmias,
gather round, the Candy Floss Tree is here..."

Katsura tree ... "But it's only in autumn when Cercidiphyllum japonicum, known as the Katsura tree, emits a sugary scent: 'Burnt brown sugar, cotton candy. Other people smell different aromas, different noses, different things,' said Michael Dosmann, curator of living collections at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University."

Ah, every day a day at school. Sweet memories are made of this.


The Candy Man

Making music ... "I was talking to a TV bigwig, and he said: 'Nobody under 35 knows who Sammy Davis is'. Well, you'll hear angry denials of that from younger people." Leslie Bricusse, the prolific British songwriter behind many of cinema's biggest hits such as Candyman and Goldfinger, said while working on the musical Sammy about his old friend, the late Sammy Davis Jr (1925-1990). Leslie Bricusse died on the 19th of October 2021, aged 90.

That Bricusse quotation rang a bell because I have a particular affection for the Sammy Davis version of The Candy Man, in particular where he speaks the opening words: "Alright everybody, gather round, the Candy Man is here. What kind of candy d'ya want? Sweet chocolate, chocolate malted candy, gumdrops? Anything you want! You've come to the right man, because I'm the Candy Man..."

Some years back, when I daily walked the Tywi Valley, particularly during the couple of unusually cold Welsh winters which framed 2010, I befriended a whole crowd of woodland songbirds. I drilled them to come to hand to take feed.

And I always thought of The Candy Man song, but with my own words...

Alright you songbirds, gather round, the Candy Man is here.
What kind of candy d'ya want?
Sunflower hearts, peanuts, rolled naked oats, mealworms, suet pellets?
Anything you want!
You've come to the right man, because I'm the Candy Man...

Ah, wonderful memories.

PS: The computer Spellchecker came to a stop at Bricusse, and suggested Crocuses, followed by Bricks (well, Bricusse is pronounced Brick-us), Fricassee - and seven other weird and wonderful suggestions. Never a dull moment with my middle-age-plus computer.


Letters from Middle-Britain - 27

Name that child ... "Every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to be called Oliver, George and Arthur these days." Vincent Hefter of Old London Town, in a letter to the Daily Mail, wittily updates the once common names of Tom, Dick and Harry to the three most popular names for boys in England and Wales in 2020.

A couple of days ago I shared the weekly Daily Mail invitation for readers to add an amusing caption to a topical photo - the one where Boris Johnson in a "Bake Back Better" outfit was pointing off camera and saying "Look! There's the bun in the oven I made earlier" - and the author was one Vincent Hefter, who contributes regularly to the paper's "Straight to the point" letters column.

So I thought I would share a few of those missives, starting with good old Vincent and his play on Tom, Dick and Harry, above.

Anyway, to continue with a few more...

Bond. James Bond! ... "There was only ever one Bond and that was Basildon (previous letter)? Tell that to Brooke." Mike Jakins of Ash, Surrey. "Premium has also made many happy," added John Rusby of Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham.

Quite. And finally, some letters highlighting the thinking on the, um, smart side of the street...

Smart idea ... "These e-scooters are so stupid and dangerous, why aren't they called smart scooters?" M Busby of Birchington, Kent.

Smart slogan ... "Vote blue, go green, see red, get poorer." Peter Laurie of Colchester, Essex.

Smart strategy ... "Plan B! Was there even a Plan A? The Government needs to be proactive, not reactive." A Middleton of Hardwick, Cambridgeshire.



Ambiguity of the day

Game over ... "Sir, Thank you for the ambiguous headline 'Salah: I want to end career at Anfield' (Sport, Oct 23). As a lifelong Liverpool fan, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry." John Townend of Fetcham, Surrey, in a letter to The Times.

Just a couple of days ago I featured a Sunday Times "Typo of the day" - "McCarthy sacked by Cardiff after nice months" - so today's smile strolls along a similar path through the woods, which really is a gloriously confusing headline about Egyptian international footballer Mohamed Salah's future at Liverpool.

And it brings to mind a similar slip spotted just a few days back...

Egg on face ... "Headline: 'A World Cup every two years would finally kill football's golden goose' (18 October). For the record: it was the eggs that were golden." Roger Osborne of Snainton, North Yorkshire, in a letter to The Guardian.

Setting aside the fable of the goose that laid the golden eggs, I'm intrigued how The Times shows the date as "Oct 23", the month always abbreviated - but The Guardian shows the date as "18 October", the month always in full, and the actual date before the month rather than after, as with The Times.

It's an increasingly confusing, back-to-front, goose-and-egg world out there. Best to keep my head down.


Who called the cook a cock-up?

In for a Penny ... "Many years ago, I went into the fiction section of a bookshop and asked where I could find A Woman's Guide to Adultery by Carol Clewlow. Without so much as a blink, the young woman at the till smiled warmly and said:  'All the do-it-yourself books are on the second floor.'" Penny Jaques of Oxford, in a letter to The Guardian.

I initially read British novelist Carol Clewlow, 74, as Carol Clewless. I immediately issued an apology into the ether for my default problem with my eye reading things erroneously before my brain catches up to make sense of everything, a problem which does have its lighter moments, obviously (intriguingly, when I wrote Carol Clewlow, here the spellchecker suggested Carol Callow).

Whatever, I clicked on A Woman's Guide to Adultery ... and discovered that it's the tale of three women involved in adulterous affairs; also, the book has been made into a film. Hm, from Three Coins in the Fountain to Three Women in the Sack, in one effortless jump.

For some reason, Boris Johnson came to mind when I read about A Woman's Guide to Adultery. Well now...

Ten days ago I mentioned that the Daily Mail runs a weekly competition where readers are invited to write an amusing caption to adorn the most smilingly eye-catching picture of the week.

So, readers were invited to suggest what Boris Johnson was saying to Priti Patel as they try their hands at some baking in Manchester...

Boris: "Look! There's the bun in
the oven I made earlier."

The winner of the weekly book token for that wonderfully funny effort was Vincent Hefter of Old London Town, a regular contributor to the paper's Straight to the POINT letters column.

Meanwhile, back with Boris and the headline at the top, perhaps it should read:

Who called the cock-up a cook?


Typo of the day

"McCarthy sacked by Cardiff after nice months." A Sunday Times, Sport section, front page headline which, unsurprisingly, made me blink.

It's not just The Guardian newspaper that gets ambushed with misprints to become the butt of endless jokes. Oh no. I read on:

"Mick McCarthy's reign as the manager of Cardiff City [Football Club] ended in ignominious fashion as he was sacked after nine months in charge following yesterday's 0-2 home defeat to Middlesbrough. The 62-year-old left his position in the wake of an eighth successive loss after the club's supporters had angrily turned on him..."

Obviously, for "nice" read "nine". And the proof of the typo is in the reading...

Have a nice day: unfortunate typo in The Sunday Times Sport section

And there's an ironic symmetry where it says: "Continued on page 9..."

Anyway, to put the sacking of poor Mick McCarthy into context: "No longer nice to see you, to see you no longer nice." (With apologies to the ghost of Bruce Forsyth.)


Cop Out at Cop26

Under Global Warming ... "Welcome to Llareggub. Please drive carefully." If Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) were alive today and currently writing Under Milk Wood, and given how the use of language has changed over the past 70 years, he would probably name the village at the heart of the play, Ffokcuf.

There again, perhaps not. Someone who has a little ball bouncing along the top of every written and spoken word has no need to use blunt, in-yer-face obscenity to make a point, or indeed render something witty and amusing. Llareggub read backwards will do.

However, given the ubiquity of signs such as "Welcome to Llandampness ... Please drive carefully" at the approach to our villages and towns, he would have somehow incorporated such a welcome sign into Under Milk Wood.

Which brings me neatly to next month's date in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss the end of the world.

With events surrounding Cop26, the UN Climate Change Conference, taking on a somewhat despondent feel, what with countries with sky-high carbon emissions such as China wanting to hold their coal and gas economic advantages until the death (pun intended, for that's how single-minded they seem), perhaps every road approaching Glasgow's Scottish Event Campus should display large billboards carrying the message: "Welcome to the end of the world. Pease drive carefully."

Those world leaders who do attend might not pay much notice, but Greta and the media would doubtless embrace the urgency and the irony.

PS: The computer Spellchecker came to a stop at Ffokcuf, and suggested Focus, a variation on Focem, which curiously the computer advises me to consider using Ofcom instead, the regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries.


Yesterday, a llama-llama-ding-dong;
Today, a Daisy, Daisy

♪♪♪: ...give me your answer, do! ... "Be careful of words ... they can be both daisies and bruises." Anne Sexton (1928-1978), American poet, known for her highly personal, confessional verse.

The Anne Sexton quotation is well worth a repeat, especially so with a Strictly Come Dancing contestant named Tilly Ramsay, 19, being called a "chubby little thing" live on air - and the sky subsequently falling on the head of LBC's veteran radio presenter Steve Allen, 67.

Whatever, back in June 2020 I did a feature on the glorious oxeye daisies that decorate summer's roadsides around Llandeilo...

16/06/2020: Three Musketeer Daisies escape the short-back-and-sides trim

To peruse my observations from back then, have a peep here...

Be all that as it may, the beautiful oxeye daisy with its large blooms traditionally appear from June to September.

They are so eye-catchingly bright they appear to 'glow', especially so in the evening light, hence the occasional names of 'Moon daisy' and 'Moonpenny' (perhaps a close relative of 007's Miss Moneypenny, who always appeared to glow as M's PA in the Bond films).

Anyway, along my late-October morning walk into town, in particular the stretch of road where the above photo was taken, a lone daisy has currently captured my attention, so I took a picture of its defiant stand against autumn's falling leaves and politics, along with the shortages of gas, HGV drivers, turkeys, pigs in blankets...

22/10/2021: A lone Musketeer Daisy makes its last stand

Good old Moonpenny, makes me smile every time I pass by.


♪♪♪: You CAN'T call me Al

♪♪♪ ... "A man walks down the road, / It's a road in a rural world; / He is surrounded by the sights and sounds, the sights and sounds, / Creatures in the field..." With apologies to Paul Simon and Al.

Along my daily early-morning walk into town I pass a field which, back in the summer, was fenced into paddocks, with a stable built thereon. I waited for the horses to appear. However, recently a few alpacas appeared.

I say alpacas ... a fellow villager I regularly meet walking his dog mentioned that he had spoken to the folks who owned them, who confirmed they were actually llamas.

The other morning I happened to see them grazing in one of the paddocks, so took a quick photo...

♪♪♪: You can't call me Al-Paca...

...but you can call me Llama-Llama-Ding-Dong

The light wasn't particularly good for my little camera so the picture isn't as sharp as it should be, but it does the job.

I searched online for the difference between a llama and an alpaca ... the most obvious being that "alpacas have small, blunt faces with short ears, while llamas have more-elongated faces with banana-sized ears".

So, given those "banana-sized ears" of my friendly neighbourhood camelids, I guess the ears have it, the ears have it.


Open sesame

Expelliarmus! ... "New Zealand's official Wizard is fired after a dubious joke about women that drew much criticism." The Wizard of New Zealand QSM (Queen's Service Medal), Ian Brackenbury Channell, 88, educator, comedian, illusionist and politician, also known by his shorter name, The Wizard, loses the role he has held for 23 years, saying he has been "cancelled".

There is something delightfully bonkers in the notion that New Zealand has an official Wizard on its books, presumably to protect itself from attacks by goblins and other malevolent spirits. Mind you, the All Blacks rugby team and its haka, what with its incantation and much hocus-pocus, does have a bit of wizardry about it, granted.

Officially, Ian Brackenbury Channell is not sufficiently "inclusive". Christchurch city council, which employed The Wizard, said he was out of keeping with attempts  to "increasingly reflect our diverse communities and showcase a vibrant, diverse, modern city that is attractive to residents, domestic and international visitors, new businesses and skilled migrant workers", gulp.

Anyway, this is what The Ex-Wizard of New Zealand QSM, had to say in response to his cancellation:

Events, dear girl, events ... "No doubt there will be implications in the area of spells, blessings, curses and other supernatural matters that are beyond the competence of mere Prime Ministers."

I shall - abracadabra! - look upon New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a different light from now on, perhaps with a touch of goblin, along with a hint of some other malevolent spirit not yet identified.

And finally...

Wizard idea ... "You report that New Zealand has sacked its 'official Wizard' for his comments about women. Perhaps he might be asked across the Tasman Sea and become the Wizard of Oz." Suzie Marwood of Old London Town, in a letter to The Times.


Health and fashion special

A tight fit ... "Can you fit into the clothes you were wearing when you were 21?" An intriguing question heard on the wireless.

It seems that if you can no longer fit into the jeans you wore when you were 21, you are at risk of developing diabetes even if you are not overweight, an expert in the disease has warned. The eyebrow-raising findings were presented at the recent online annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

Well, yes, I can fit into the trousers I was wearing at 21 because I am the same weight and shape now as then. I am currently at my fighting weight of 12st. My sparring weight is 12st 7lbs. However, I also have a sweet tooth and enjoy my chocolates, so, if I overindulge, as is my wont, my weight will slowly but surely creep up.

Whenever I feel my belt tightening I check my weight, and if approaching 13st, I will go on the moderate but unfailingly reliable EL slimming diet. That's EL as in Eat Less!

It works a treat and I generally aim for my sparring weight, which I am usually perfectly happy with. Occasionally though, I will stick to the EL diet to bring me back to my fighting weight, where I now am.

Oh yes, there was a follow-up question to the above: "What were you wearing back then?" Hm, exactly the same as now. Well, not literally. Let's just say that, as a clothes horse, I am the height of fashion every 15 years or so, and then for just about a month or so.

Off the top of my head, the only difference between now and then is that, at 21, trousers always had turn-ups, those dastardly collectors of dust and dirt. And I wore a tie pretty much every time I got all dressed up to go out gallivanting. And I wasn't a fan of the tie even back then.

Oh, and as mentioned the other day, just like Prince William, who doesn't wear a wedding ring because he has never worn jewellery of any sort, I too have never worn jewellery. William though does wear a watch, which is something functional rather an item of jewellery, but I don't, as a rule, wear a watch - well, time is forever all around, and so I don't need one.

And I can't remember when I last turned up late for an appointment or a date (but that date business was a long, long time ago).


Pass the rubber

Spinning a line ... "A protruding pencil of tenderness..." The phrase that earned American novelist Jonathan Franzen, 62, a nomination for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award back in 2010, which he bemoaned at the 2021 Cheltenham Literature Festival.

I like it that he "bemoaned" his Bad Sex Award.

I like it even more that The Literary Review concluded at the time that his writing showed "a propensity for innuendo which comes over a bit Benny Hill". Ah, Benny Hill. Anything innuendo-ish draws out the Benny Hill crack in all of us.

Anyway, it's worth sharing the, um, Jonathan-cum-Benny Bad Sex passage in full:

[Spot the C-spot] ... "One afternoon, as Connie described it, her excited clitoris grew to be eight inches long, a protruding pencil of tenderness with which she gently parted the lips of his penis and drove herself down to the base of its shaft."

Blimey. As Casanova once memorably attributed his good fortune with the ladies to: "Just spin 'em a line - and the longer the line the more they love it."

By coincidence, I happened upon the following "Spot the..." visual challenge in Mail Online...

Spot the C-spot ... you have just 19 seconds to ring the bell

Actually, it's "Spot the pencil" - but you can see where I'm coming from (lead in my pencil and all that; there goes my Benny Hill once more, sorry).

Anyway, back with Jonathan Franzen at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. I learn that he also discussed "white privilege" - oh God, here we go again, the age of woke is beyond broke: "I'm a privileged white male writer and it is past time to be questioning in a serious way, collectively, what that privilege means."

At which point I came to my senses, made my excuses, withdrew, and left.


Lateral thinking - 1

The French can stuff their turkey! ... "If the French stop us having turkey at Christmas, we could always eat cake. Walter Smithwhite of South Shields, Tyne & Wear, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

The splendidly named Walter Smithwhite invokes the ghost of Marie-Antoinette as the French hint that they will not send us their turkeys should the UK, come December, suffer a scarcity due to a shortage of butchers, lorry drivers and competent politicians.

Budget biscuits ... "When offered Rich Tea biscuits at home, my late father used to say: 'If this is what the rich have for tea, heaven help the poor.'" Mary Reid of Salisbury, Wiltshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Ah, Rich Tea biscuits, the poor man's cake.

Reaction to Rich Tea biscuits ranged from a Paul Blundell insisting that it is the only biscuit, including varieties for dogs, that his border terrier insistently barks "thanks, but no thanks" - to a Rosemary Eustace telling us that her four elderly sheep would kill for the five they have every morning and evening. Crumbs.



♪♪♪: Let me take you down,
        'Cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields;
        Nothing is real,
        And nothing to get hung about,
        Strawberry Fields forever.
                                                The Beatles

Look away now ... "Daniel Craig's 'garish' Strawberry Fields pink blazer ridiculed at the No Time to Die film premiere." A typical clickbait from the morning after the night before.

Now I covered that particular event a couple of weeks or so ago, in particular the Duchess of Cambridge looking effortlessly elegant and classy in her golden eyeful dress - click here to share the joy.

However, much was made of Daniel Craig's pink suede jacket - comments ranging from someone wondering why he had turned up dressed as their nan's sofa, to looking like an Austin Powers tribute act.

Be all that as it may, the Daily Mail runs a weekly competition where readers are invited to write an amusing caption for the most smilingly eye-catching picture of the week. So readers were invited to suggest what Daniel Craig was saying to Kate...

Daniel Craig: "Welcome to Butlin's,
we hope you have a great holiday."

The winner of that gloriously witty effort was Mike Wilson of Churchdown, Gloucestershire. Top marks.


Five-star letters from Middle-Britain - 9

Impolite flight ... "Columnist and leader writer Tim Stanley is concerned that British Airways staff, in the interests of diversity and inclusion, will stop addressing their passengers as 'Ladies and Gentlemen'. He would be even more distressed if he were to learn that most aircrew already refer to them as 'self-loading freight'. Captain Colin Cummings of Yelvertoft, Northamptonshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

How wonderful is that? And when you see how passengers are squeezed onto aircraft these days they do look like sheep being loaded onto a transporter.

Anyway, never mind "Ladies and Gentlemen" and all that jazz, why not just say "Greetings, folks...", and said as if there's a little ball bouncing along above every word. That would do it for me.

Incidentally, I note that Captain Cummings lives in a village called Yelvertoft, a curious looking and sounding place name.

A quick click informs me that the name has its origins in "curtilage of Gelfrith" - toft (Old English), as in Yelvertoft, meaning curtilage, the plot of ground in which a dwelling stands, so probably the cottages of Gelfrith (and as far as I can tell, the homestead of a man called Gelfrith, perhaps a priest, Amen).

Every day a day at school.


Space tourism a-go-go a-no-no

Earth comes first ... "The Duke of Cambridge took aim at space tourism on the day William Shatner, 90, the Star Trek actor, became the oldest person to go to space." Prince William said the "world's greatest brains" should focus on saving the planet.

I guess most of us will nod in agreement with that sentiment. Especially so when those behind Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX keep spouting that space tourism, despite its huge carbon footprint, may help us find extraterrestrial life and other planets to colonize, ho-hum.

But here's the thing: do you suppose Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Elon Musk are shapeshifters, the offspring of William Shatner who crash-landed here, perhaps in Roswell in 1947, and they are all desperately trying to work their passage home at our planet's expense?

And to shoot off at a tangent, as is my wont, I also happened to spot this headline: "This is why Prince William never wears a wedding ring."

It's a detail that has passed me by in the decade since Prince William and Kate Middleton were married.

The topic resurfaced when The Duke of Cambridge launched his Earthshot prize. I learn that: "Prince William is not one for jewellery, has never worn any. It's all down to personal preference and is something the Duchess of Cambridge is totally happy with."

So I have something in common with William. I too have never worn any jewellery. As a bonus I have never had a tattoo either and I guess William hasn't.

And of course his genetic inheritance plays a part: "William's decision isn't without royal precedent. His grandfather Prince Philip, who was happily married to the Queen for the best part of seven decades, didn't wear a ring either, though Prince Charles does wear a wedding band."

I wonder what all that says about William, Kate and me?


Last week in the rear-view mirror

Nice to tweet you, to tweet you nice ... "Hello literally everyone." Tweet from Twitter as tens of millions of people world-wide turn to its service after Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram go crash, bang, wallop and go missing in action somewhere offline.

I am just catching up with some of the more memorable "Quotes of the last week". Although the Facebook crash had no effect on my stroll through time and space I rather liked Twitter's tweet.

Meanwhile, at the Tory Party Conference...

Internal rhyme ahoy! ... "I know there has been a certain raucous squawkus from the anti-Aukus caucus." Prime Minister Boris Johnson sounds like a character from Alice in Wonderland as he makes light of the major diplomatic row between Aukus - the trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and the US - and France.

Yes, Boris is becoming more like the White Rabbit with every passing day as he disappears down the hole and we all follow. And poor old Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour party with his dreary 90-minute conference speech, didn't help...

Poetry and prose ... "Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York, once said that politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose. The exuberant Boris Johnson and pedestrian Sir Keir Starmer seem to be doing things the other way round." Michael Stanford of Old London Town, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

And finally, a dose of reality...

Remember, remember ... "Discussing the party conferences, my hairdresser said: 'You can understand where Guy Fawkes was coming from, can't you?'" Sally Lynes. also of Old London Town, in a letter to The Guardian.

Yep, November the 5th is looming. And threatening to go "BOOM!".


(Throwaway) Bits and pieces - 3

Pssst! ... "Don't be a tosser. Stop soiling your community or you'll go blind." What should be a public information notice.

As regularly featured hereabouts, I am always taken aback by the volume and variety of rubbish I collect along my two-mile walk into town every morning, most of it along a quite busy country lane.

Yesterday morning I picked up the following...

A tosser discards a used pizza box on the roadside

I mean, it's a 12" pizza, a large box to just chuck away - especially so as this is what it says on the back...

Do you suppose the tosser couldn't read?

Now the recycling message can't be much clearer. So I presume the tosser involved is already losing his sight after too much tossing.

There's no hope for us, honestly.


♪♪♪: It's life, Jim...

But not as we know it ... "Yes, it's true, I'm going to be a rocket man." Canadian actor William Shatner, 90, who became a cultural superstar for his portrayal of Captain James T Kirk of the USS Enterprise in the Star Trek franchise, prepares to become the oldest person ever to slip the surly bonds of earth to "touch the face of God" for real.

Let's hope he keeps an eagle eye out for those dreaded Klingons on the starboard bow. Anyway, our hero continues:

"What do the space guys do if they have to go to the bathroom?" Reminded that the flight will last just 11 minutes, he deadpanned: "Yeah, but you know, when you're 90, 11 minutes can be a long time."

As someone who is increasingly woken in the middle of the night by the bladder alarm, that did make me chuckle.

Our Captain Kirk also, quite naturally, added that he was both "thrilled" and "terrified" ahead of the space flight, now postponed because of high winds until this Wednesday the, er, 13th.

Let's hope the social media headline doesn't read "Shatner shat himself".

Finally, and in a tangential way, the following quotation also generated a nod and a smile:

No more boarding calls ... "One of the joys of old age is the thought that I will never see Heathrow again." British novelist Penelope Lively, 88, gives up international travel.

Great surname, by the way, made even better given that she was born Penelope Low, but married academic and political theorist Jack Lively in 1957.


It Ain't Half Busy Mum

Atten-SHUN! ... "Apropos the panic buying of fuel due to a shortage of lorry drivers, the Government says the Army has been put on standby. A bit worrying that as I thought the Army was always on standby." Ian Harrington of Axminster, Devon, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

The above missive came to mind this morning perusing The Sunday Times ... I stumbled upon this smiley Newman cartoon...

♪♪♪: Soldier Santa baby, hurry
down the chimney tonight...

The most worrying aspect in this messy business is: what happens when there's a shortage of army personnel?


♪♪♪: Oh doctor, I'm in trouble...

Say ninety-nine ... "I went to the doctor the other day, and he said: 'You've got hypochondria.' I said: 'Oh God, not that as well.'" English comic Bob Mortimer, 62, quips about his health problems.

Yes, humour is a tried and tested way of facing up to life's trials, troubles and tribulations.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence...

A little ray of sunshine ... "Whenever you feel sad and angry that the world is cruel and uncaring, just remember that you'll be dead soon and out of your misery." Fellow English comic Ricky Gervais, 60, accentuates the negative in his usual droll fashion.

Both quips made me smile and respond with a "Well, goodness gracious me!" to earn their place in the joy and doolallyness firmament.


Letters from Middle-Britain - 26

Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow ... "Apropos the current fuel shortages, when they could not afford to buy fuel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his wife, the singer Constanze Mozart, would apparently waltz around the house to keep warm. Should we all be booking dance lessons?" Tricia Barnes of Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Or, at least in my case, break the habit of a lifetime and actually start watching Strictly Come Dancing to pick up tips (traditionally, I am strictly a smoocher).

Meanwhile, back on the fuel front...

Sky falls on PM's head ... "There is an old farming adage: 'Never look to the skies for a living.' It applies to energy production, too." Brian Morris of Wellesbourne, Warwickshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Talking of weather, a few days ago, following many damp and grey days here in Llandampness, watching the forecast on BBC Wales, Sabrina Lee said: "Tomorrow will be a much more cheerful day."

Which made me smile. And sure as hell beat "be sure to take an umbrella" or "rap up warm", the child-like advices increasingly dished out by our forecasters.

Guillotine falls on PM's head ... "If the lights go out, so will you, Prime Minister." Mick Bridgstock of Rushden, Northants, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Yes, Boris Johnson is becoming a master of waffle. Indeed, with every passing day he looks more like the White Rabbit from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. To be continued...


Pump up the volume

Queue here, please ... "Beer shortage soon. Panic buy here." A sign outside The White Hart pub in the village of Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire.

As is the way with these things, a variation on the theme has been appearing outside pubs all over the shop - and why not, it certainly generates a smile.

Talking of pubs, here's something which has a bar-room feel about it...

Leg over ... "My father was a toolmaker. In a way, so was Boris Johnson's." No, not heard in the Asterix bar down at The Crazy Horsepower Saloon, but a rather risque joke delivered by, gulp, Sir Keir Starmer, he who is exceedingly serious of face and character, at last week's Labour Party Conference.

I mean, it's a rather jolly joke, especially as the word on the street about Stanley Johnson, father of Boris, suggests that when it comes to getting one's leg over, the old adage "like father, like son", is applicable, with balls - oops - with bells on.

Oh, and talking of shortages and queues, back at the start of the fuel crisis, a BBC reporter called Phil McCann was filming at a petrol station while standing in front of motorists filling up their vehicles and, um, their spare fuel cans.

How good is that? Well worth a mention on the joy and doolallyness front.


♪♪♪: Overhang, underhang, dangling free

Swipe me! ... "Over or under? Original patent confirms that the 'correct' way to hang the toilet roll is OVER - as experts warn hanging paper the other way round can increase your risk of coming into contact with bacteria." A Mail Online headline catches the eye and I am infused with a quick dose of joy rather than bacteria.

So I peruse ... a survey found that 42% of us - the same number that offers up the answer to life, the universe and everything - get exceedingly irritated by "wrong way" toilet rolls. This of course means that 58% don't give a shite.

Anyway, every day is a day at school, and the original patent for the toilet roll holder shows that the paper should hang over the top of the roll.

A 2011 study also found 19 types of bacteria lurking under cover in the bathroom and around the roll. Those ever-present experts that lurk around every corner of life, the universe and everything, say having an underhanging roll increases the chance of you touching a surface.

Now that would have been that, I would have rolled my eyes, tore myself away and moved on - if I hadn't spotted the following in connection with this rolling news story...

Toilet roll hangover

"If only all of life was this clear and this

Brilliant. Incidentally, Jason Alexander, 62, is an American actor and comedian - who sports a beard. Oh, as I do, even though I have never thought of myself as cool. Or bad, come to that. Just someone trundling down life's middle lane, whistling a happy song - wandering underground, overground, Wombling free...


Bond. James Bond

"On this day ... in 1962 Dr No, the first James Bond film, had its premiere in London. The Vatican described the film as 'a dangerous mixture of violence, vulgarity, sadism and sex'." As spotted in today's Times newspaper.

And this in The Daily Telegraph:

Unstirred ... "Am I alone in thinking the new and overlong James Bond film, No Time to Die, is not as smart as it thinks it is?" Alan Stanley of Old London Town, in a letter to the Telegraph.

I can't vouch for what Alan Stanley says as I haven't seen the film. Indeed, I can't even remember when I last saw a Bond film. Be that as it may, the overlong tag is something I have registered in many a media dispatch about No Time to Die since its release.

Talking of "overlong", about a week ago I did a feature on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's 14,000-word essay on the party's future direction. The policy pamphlet was much criticised for being too long and heavy-duty. Since then he has given a 90-minute speech to the annual party conference, and again "overlong" was the much used word.

As previously mentioned, I believe it was Winston Churchill who got up to speak and apologised to the audience for the length of his address because he hadn't had time to make it shorter.

It was definitely the French writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778), who said: "One always speaks badly when one has nothing to say."

I remember someone saying that, if you are not a talented and recognised raconteur, you should never speak publicly for more than six minutes, for that is the maximum you can hold someone's attention. Preferably any public address should be much shorter than six minutes.



Next question ... "Why are train drivers paid more than lorry drivers?" Steve Cattell of Hougham, Lincolnshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

With a dearth of lorry drivers causing shortages in the delivery of fuel, food and goodness knows what else, the above conundrum popped into mind this morning along my early morning walk into town as I was passed by a HGV.

Also, I happened to stumble upon - well, let's rewind: back in July I shared a couple of tales of vehicle tyres found by the roadside, one of them a shredded car tyre...

End of the road for a shredded tyre

For more details of the curious case of the tyres that appeared to tread clumsily in the night, see here ...

Anyway, at the very same spot where I found that shredded tyre, today a variation on the theme...

The result when not keeping in trim

Yes, a wheel trim - so I propped it up against the same road sign I hung the shredded tyre on for one of the local council lads to collect and dispose of.

It's a strange old world. So hey, let's tread carefully out there.


Headline of the day - 4
(incorporating 'Sunday is knock-knock day')

Hello, can you hear me? ... "'Missing' drunk man accidentally joins his own search party for hours until he hears them call his name." Spotted in The Sun: "Beyhan Mutlu, 50, was drinking with Turkish friends when he wandered into the woods, and when he failed to return was reported missing."

How about that? A brace of joy and doolallyness "headlines-of-the day" two days running.

It seems our Turkish friend had a little bit too much to drink, so perhaps thought he was a Turkish Paddington Delight and went into the woods to do what bears do in the woods - and got lost.

Anyway, a search and rescue party was organised - and off they went in search of Paddington Beyhan.

Somehow or other he inadvertently joined his own search party. According to local reports, realisation set in as volunteers began calling out his name. He replied, somewhat sheepishly rather than bearishly, one presumes: "I am here..."

As someone suggested: perhaps it wasn't so much a rescue party, more of a party than a rescue.

Whatever, when old Paddington Beyhan fully grasped all the bother he had caused, he reportedly told the police: "Don't punish me too harshly, officer. My father will kill me..."

There's something rather wonderful in the notion of a 50-year-old being afraid of his father.

As regularly reported hereabouts, there is nothing new under the sun. In 2012, there was an equally amusing story when an Asian tourist who went missing in Iceland was found in her own search party after she failed to recognise her own description released by police.

Oh, and as mentioned at the top, today's tale is definitely a variation on Sunday's regular knock-knock routine.

PS: Spellchecker moment ... the computer came to a stop at "Mutlu", as in Beyhan Mutlu, and suggested "Mule", followed by "Muttley" (at which point I generated a peculiarly wheezy sort of heavy smoker's laugh).


Headline of the day - 3

The Pied Piper of Silly Billies ... "Twenty-car convoy trails tanker for miles in Northamptonshire in desperate hunt for petrol ... only to discover that it is carrying cement." A Mail Online headline: "HGV driver Johnny Anderson had noticed a string of about 20 cars in his wake as he trundled along a dual carriageway, but curiously, nobody was overtaking him..."

When the tanker eventually turned left into a road that would take it to its construction site destination, driver Johnny Anderson noticed that the line of cars followed and pulled up behind his truck.

When Johnny climbed down from his cab and went to investigate, he said: "The man at the front wound down his window and asked me which petrol station I was going to. When I said I wasn't, he asked me 'why not?', and when I said I wasn't carrying petrol he actually said 'you could have stopped and told us you weren't a petrol tanker'. I couldn't believe it - I just went full McEnroe and said 'You cannot be serious!'."

That is such a great tale of the unexpected. To the casual eye, a tanker is a tanker is a tanker, but as someone who once worked in the ready-mixed-concrete business, a cement tanker has a very distinctive shape, especially at the rear - it is full of cement powder which is blown into tall silos.

The above tale adds so much to yesterday's headline, see below...


"Please don't panic buy!"
(Arguably the four most useless words in the English language)

1st October 2021 ... "'It's worse than trying to get tickets for Glastonbury!' Furious Ocado customers say deliveries for Christmas are already booked up just hours after slots went online." A headline spotted in Mail Online.

Getting a grip ... "The Government is inept at dealing with the problems facing Britain today - the fuel crisis, food shortages, Covid-19, M25 eco-protestors and the cross-Channel migrants. Boris Johnson must get a grip now or the public will lose faith in him." Mark Twiddy of Old London Town, in a letter to The Sun.

Gobbledygook ... "No turkeys for Christmas! I can't see why. There are plenty in Parliament." John Brady of Worcester, in a letter to the i newspaper.

And just to prove that all sides of the political divide are losing faith in you-know-who, he who is in desperate need of a short-back-and-sides, this spotted in the Daily Mirror...

The Boris Bunker: If you didn't smile you'd go mad

Yes, you know it's pretty bonkers out there when all political parties are massing their tanks on Downing Street.

PS: I occasionally feature a Spellchecker moment, where the computer suggests a smiley alternative for a word it doesn't recognise. For example: Mark Twiddy, above, came up as Mark Tidy, Tweedy, Tiddly, Teddy, Titty, Twatty... Mark could dine out on those suggestions.

Also today, 'spelling and grammar suggestions' apropos my headline 'Please don't panic buy'. It suggests:
doesn't panic buy
---------- OR -------------
don't panics buy

Well it made me smile. While the second suggestion makes no sense, I rather like the notion that the individual known as Please doesn't panic buy.


Bits and pieces - 2

Rogue remains ... "The warning on the packet said: 'Although we do our very best to take out all the bones, some may remain.' The meal was macaroni cheese." Michael Franklin of Tring, Hertfordshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Given that we are now at that time of year when warnings abound about being extra careful picking and eating wild mushrooms, I well remember the advice that all mushrooms are edible, some only once. And then this additional tip surfaced:

Mindful foraging ... "The best advice I've heard on going mushrooming is 'always save one to take to the hospital'." Michael Heaney of Kidlington, Oxfordshire, in a letter to The Guardian.

Now what was it the British novelist and journalist Shirley Conran, 89, said? Life is too short to stuff a mushroom.

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