Last day of meteorological autumn

"Autumn ... the year's last, loveliest smile." William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), American romantic poet and journalist.

It has been a particularly colourful autumn. Yesterday I mentioned storm Arwen, the first named storm of the 2021-22 season, a particularly vicious affair which left a trail of death and destruction across the country.

What made the autumn of 2021 so colourful was the absence of storms and high winds. It was a particularly quiet season which of course meant the leaves remained on the trees much longer for us to treasure. Indeed, "the year's last, loveliest smile".

So much so, along my daily early-morning walk into town, I would pass a tree where its leaves would gently drift to the ground in an undisturbed manner...

The falling autumn leaves remain in situ on a grey, misty morn in SA19

In a typical Welsh autumn the leaves will blow away as they fall, but this year's quiet and remarkably windless season meant the leaves formed a perfect circle directly beneath the tree.

Wonderful. And such a rare sight to enjoy and smile along with.

Oh, and I particularly enjoyed the irony of the ambulance passing in the background, which I hadn't noticed at the time.


Storm Arwen rages across the UK

But what's in a name? ... "The Met Office has named the storm Arwen, the first named storm of the 2021-22 season." A typical weekend headline.

Ah yes, Storm Ahh-wen - or Arr-wen if you're Welsh - certainly left its DNA all over the shop.

When I first heard the name I presumed it was a Welsh girl's name that had somehow passed me by. After all, I'm familiar with Arianwen (Origin/meaning: Old Welsh "silver white"), so the romantic in me thinks that Arwen means "beautiful as a snowy landscape", or literally, "on white".

Imagine then my surprise then when I learnt from Saturday's Western Mail ("Arwen brings wind in her wake - but what's in a name?") that Arwen is the name of a character from Lord of the Rings, the story which began as a sequel to the 1937 children's book The Hobbit, and her name means "noble maiden" in the language created by author, scholar and Oxford don JRR Tolkien (1892-1973).

Every day is a day at school.

Indeed, do you suppose Tolkien's mum was amused, charmed and, whisper it, seduced by a Welshman? Perhaps JRR Tolkien was prone to singing "Lloyd George knew my father; father knew Lloyd George". (That's very much a 5* in-joke here in Wales.)


Sunday is knock-knock day

Who's there?
Boris who?
Lock the doors! Lock the doors!

Who's a pretty boy then? ... "Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, 64, and his relationship with his pet parrot, Boris, 6, is little better than with its namesake (christened in honour of PM Boris Johnson for its vocabulary and propensity to chatter loudly)." An intriguing opening shot spotted in TMS, The Times Diary.

It reports that Mr Speaker told the BBC that the feathered Boris has already mastered the crucial Speaker's cry of "Order, order!" and, confusingly, "Lock the doors! Lock the doors!" when he takes the train back to Chorley in Lancashire.

Annoyingly though, the parrot will not chat on cue: "Everything is on Boris's terms," Hoyle sighed.

At least, The Times Diary notes rather wittily, this one has less scruffy plumage.


Pause for thought

You what? ... "The best conversations are with yourself. At least there's no risk of misunderstanding." Olga Tokarczuk, 59, Polish novelist, activist and public intellectual, from her novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (2009). She is fond of the poetry of Englishman William Blake (1757-1827), from whose work, Proverbs of Hell, the curious title of her book is taken.

I was intrigued by Olga being described as a "public intellectual". Does it mean that when alone she is a "private dope", i.e. in public, a highbrow, but in private, a lowbrow? Hm, definitely a pause for thought.

Anyway, apropos "the best conversations are with yourself", I fondly remember my mother telling me: "There's nothing wrong in talking to yourself. And it's perfectly okay to answer back. But the moment you start arguing with yourself, go and see about it."

By the by, yesterday I posted about Joanna Lumley's new book about the Queen, and I was subsequently reminded of a recent comment by Prince Charles when he tried to allay public fears over the Queen's health:

"Once you get to 95 it's not quite as easy as it used to be. It's bad enough at 73!"

Ah yes, tell me about it.


Wordplay of the day - 4

Star scores ... "I can't imagine myself ever becoming a dame. I don't deserve a damehood! I've got an OBE-Wan Kenobi and that's good enough." English actress Joanna Lumley, 75, talking about her new book A Queen For All Seasons, which offers "insights from those who have met the Queen, including Tony Blair, Norman Hartnell, Cliff Richard and Noel Coward, as well as accounts from diarists and courtiers, family members and even those who have had fleeting encounters with her".

Joanna makes a welcome return following her quote from the other day, especially so on the day that a new Covid variant of concern (VOC) named Omicron (Omigod, a VOC it?!) came charging over the horizon:

"We've got used to using Covid passports and I'm about to have my booster jab, my third one, and I shall just go on being a pin cushion until they say it's time to stop."

No, Jedi Lumley makes my joy and doolallyness of the day because of that wonderful bit of lightsaber wordplay compliments of one Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Joanna also makes this rather wonderful observation apropos her new book, a copy of which she has sent to the Queen (or at least to her assistant private secretary):

"He said very nicely that he would place it before Her Majesty. I like that wording as much as anything in my life. I don't imagine that she need open the cover."

Yes, proof that words matter, especially how they are packaged and delivered.


The power of an awe walk - 14

"What is autumn? A second spring, where every leaf is a flower." Albert Camus (1913-1960), French-Algerian philosopher and writer, Le Malentendu (The Misunderstanding), a play written in 1943 in occupied France.

I have just stumbled upon the above rather joyful quote - and I instantly thought of autumnal walks along the Towy Valley within my own square mile. For instance...

A misty autumnal November sunrise in the Towy Valley, near Llandeilo

It is not so much the colours, but the lingering mist that ticks the awe box.

PS: The computer Spellchecker came to a sudden stop at the French Malentendu (Misunderstanding), and suggested Lamented, followed by Talented. I adore my spellchecker, the source of endless joy and doolallyness.


For "Ho, ho, ho!" read "Oink, oink, oink!"

Sty as sweet as you are ... "Last Sunday I visited Peppa Pig World, as we all must. It is very much my kind of place. It has very safe streets, discipline in schools, heavy emphasis on new street transit systems." Boris Johnson, in a bizarre keynote speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI, the business lobbying group), insists on sharing the joys of a cartoon pig, as we all must.

During his "rambling, shambolic address" (sic), Boris lost track of his notes and mislaid his train of thought, impersonated a car, compared himself to Moses and went off on a tangent about his family outing with wife Carrie and son Wilf to Peppa Pig World at Paultons Theme Park in Hampshire.

Oink! Oink! Boris embraces piglets in blankets at Peppa Pig World

No surprise then that disquiet grows about potential dysfunction at Number 10 after that exceedingly odd CBI speech which Boris says "went over well".

It predictably drew some smiley cartoons and letters, especially so as spotted in The Daily Telegraph:

Bad hair day ... "Boris Johnson compared himself to Moses in his 'pig's ear' of a speech. Moses parted the Red Sea, while the PM cannot even part his own hair." Jonathan Mann of Gunnislake, Cornwall.

Deadline ... "Quite frankly after this speech something needs to be done. I don't think we can wait for the Ides of March." Roger Cousins of Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.

Help! ... "The PM needs a good PA. I suggest Suzy Sheep. She can do anything." Lynda Davies of Olney, Buckinghamshire.

Suzy Sheep? I duly googled the good lady ... and discovered that Suzy is the bossy but playful best friend of Peppa's - and instantly thought of Carrie, aka, Mrs Johnson.

Finally, MATT, the Telegraph's cartoonist, rounds it all off rather splendidly...

Two MPs are walking out of Parliament, and one says to the other: "Boris has made a U-turn. He's ditched Peppa Pig and is going to make a Thomas the Tank Engine speech."

Yes, but where's Thomas going to find the coal to fire up the boiler? And best not to think about Boris and his "mislaid train of thought".


A quick booster jab to the deltoid

Duty calls ... "We've got used to using Covid passports and I'm about to have my booster jab, my third one, and I shall just go on being a pin cushion until they say it's time to stop. Anything you can do, terrific." English actress Joanna Lumley, 75, "happy to be a pin cushion" in the battle against Covid.

That  brought to mind this amusing little missive spotted in a newspaper...

Properly vetted ... "Instead of getting my booster jab from the GP, I mistakenly walked into the vet's. The good news is that I'll be free of distemper and mange for the next year." Paul Garrod of Portsmouth, in a "Straight to the point" letter to the Daily Mail.

The bad news is - and you may well be ahead of me on this one - Paul, to the endless embarrassment of the family, keeps lying down on the mat in front of the fire and endlessly attempting to lick his crown jewels.


So near, yet so Marr

Hear ye, hear ye! ... "Marr announces he is stepping down as presenter on the BBC after 21 years." Andrew Marr, 62, British journalist and presenter of BBC radio and television shows, particularly those of a political flavour, says he is keen to do journalism with "no filter" and "wants to be free of BBC rules so he can speak out on climate".

Hm, I'm not sure what he can add to what the high-profile Sir David Attenborough has to say on the subject. Indeed, Marr will essentially be preaching to those who worship at his totem pole and already buy into the climate crisis.

Be all that as it may, The Sunday Times' weekly "speech bubble" entered into the spirit of things, highlighting Prime Minister Boris Johnson's degree in superior-footwork when it comes to avoiding questions to do with running the country...

Andrew Marr hands Boris Johnson an invite to spin a line

Whenever I catch sight of Andrew Marr questioning the ethics, morality and honesty of politicians like Boris and Matt Hancock, I smile and think back to 2012 when, aged 53, he was photographed in a late-night clinch with a female producer outside a bar in Soho, kissing and slipping his hand inside her jeans. "I embraced a colleague too enthusiastically," he said, and admitted that his wife was "very cross".

Mind you, it's rather a challenge to imagine Andrew Marr as Mr Casanova of this parish. But there again, I guess that's the cock-of-the-walk start a celebrity status gives you.

Yes, it all adds to the joys and the doolallyness of the passing parade.


Quote of the Cop26 summit

Cop that! ... "Unfortunately it turned out just the way I had expected, and the way many others had expected; they even succeeded in watering down the blah, blah, blah, which is quite an achievement." Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, 18, reacts to the climate deal reached by world leaders at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.

What an extraordinary totem pole Greta Thunberg has become. Indeed, her "blah, blah, blah" was the most memorable and oft quoted line of the whole Cop26 summit.

But she did let herself down badly with a couple of outbursts of bad language after she was filmed joining in with a rude chant outside Cop26, and worst, another incident featuring the f-word, something which she herself quickly acknowledged:

Asterisk strike ... "I am pleased to announce that I've decided to go net zero on swear words and bad language. In the event that I should say something inappropriate I pledge to compensate that by saying something nice."

A touch of humour from the young Swede, something we don't automatically associate with her public persona. But more importantly, she has hopefully learnt that using bad language to make a point actually weakens the message because you simply endorse the observation that you can't think of something more powerful or memorable to say.


What's new in the city, pussycat?

Style setter ... "Designers hope that the outfits worn by Sarah Jessica Parker in the new TV series of Sex in the City will boost fashion sales." A comment spotted online, which argued that the lady is a style genius and doubtless responsible for the current resurgence of dungarees as a fashion statement.

Sex in the City is something I have never watched, but I am familiar with its existence (well, I've probably seen it featured on Channel 4's Gogglebox, which I regularly watch in order to be both amused and kept in touch with telly programmes I would never otherwise be familiar with).

Indeed, when I happened to spot the above headline about Sarah Jessica Parker, a star of the show it seems, it instantly generated a smile.

Just last Sunday morning I caught the end of the paper review on Radio Cymru's Dewi Llwyd ar Fore Sul (Dewi Llwyd on Sunday Morning), the BBC's Welsh language radio station.

Both reviewers were asked to offer up their favourite light-hearted news items. Dr Zoe Morris-Williams said that, like many women in their early-40s, she was happy to see Sex in the City returning - and she told the tale, in Welsh obviously, of her young daughter, Hannah Mary, looking through the family's DVDs and asking her dad if she could watch "Sex and the Kitty".

Much laughter in the studio. Zoe added that the answer was a firm "No!".

I empathised with young Hannah because as someone brought up in a wholly Welsh environment, and while I have no recall of actually having to learn English, in those early years it meant English words were often pronounced with a Welsh emphasis.

I particularly remember a Sunday school trip to Aberystwyth (I think), and approaching the village of New Quay, where I saw a welcoming road sign, pointed to it and announced to the world in general but no one in particular: "New Kway!" The adults and older children in the bus duly fell about.

So New Quay has affectionately remained New Kway ever since.


Point of order

Word order matters ... "A reader sent me the pew sheet from Chester Road Baptist Church in Sutton Coldfield, which last Sunday announced: 'We will remember those killed and injured in conflicts during our morning service.' Also known as the Battle of the Psalm." Spotted in the TMS column in The Times.

When earning my bartending degree from the University of Life, I fondly recall chatting to a retired English master holidaying in the area, and he said this about the art of the written word: "Of course grammar, spelling and punctuation are all-important, but the true gift is the ability to write in a way that is easy to read, as if the author is speaking the words, with a little ball bouncing along above every word."

He added: "I say 'gift' because it is a skill that is pretty much impossible to teach."

Indeed, and never mind "Word order matters", "Thinking order matters" too, i.e. the talent to think outside the box. Ponder the following, compliments of journalist Madeline Grant writing in The Telegraph:

From the National Trust to the BBC, Britain is full of organisations that have forgotten their purpose
"Faced with a proverbial problem, the National Trust has a novel solution. After rangers at a popular beauty spot in East Hampshire complained that their bins were overflowing due to a recent influx of dog walkers, the Trust took a somewhat counter-intuitive step - removing dog-waste bins altogether.
     "This, they say, will encourage dog owners to take their rubbish away with them, though it doesn't take a member of the nudge unit to imagine the more likely outcome: increased fouling, perhaps even systematic fly-tipping of those insalubrious little baggies."

Quite, Madeline Grant, you only have to take a quick peep at the photo I featured yesterday: despite all the publicity about throwing away our litter when on the move resulting in the shocking pollution of our rivers and oceans - "Don't be a tosser" - people continue to chuck away their litter without a thought or a care for the environment.

How stupid are the bosses at the National Trust not to spot the ambush of removing their dog-waste bins?


Where the sun don't shine

Don't be a tosser ... "Brits cost the NHS a fortune every year by shoving beer bottles, deodorant cans and toothbrushes in their rectums, study reveals." An eye-watering headline spotted in Mail Online.

Yes, about 400 "foreign" objects are retrieved from British rectums per year a new analysis of NHS data has found.

My first reaction was that many people have obviously taken the message "Don't be a tosser" about throwing away rubbish and decided, curiously, that it was best to shove it up their backsides until they came to a suitable bin.

However, last weekend, over just two mornings, here is the rubbish collected along my daily two mile early-morning walk into town...

Rubbish in the countryside: our addiction to a throwaway culture

I don't include crisp packets, along with food and chocolate wrappers, obviously, they were popped into a roadside bin along the way, but above are just the things that are easy to collect and take home to put in the recycle bag (I was intrigued by the "Dragon Soop" can though: "Caffeinated alcoholic beverage, 7.5% vol", apparently).

Mind you, I do include in the photo a discarded lighter picked up along the way.

Whatever, back with all those things pushed up rectums: I read on and learn that people do it for, gulp, "sexual pleasure". It made my eyes water, just thinking about it. And it gives a whole new meaning to the line from the song: "You're a pink toothbrush, I'm a blue toothbrush, / Have we rubbed up against each other somewhere before?"

Be all that as it may, the last word goes to a couple of comments spotted, er, down below...

"Zombieworld, French Southern Territories: The only thing that has ever been up there was a doctor, once, very briefly. I will be more than happy to keep it that way for the rest of my life."

"MC, Ace lawyer: What, a whole doctor?!"

Now that brought a different kind of tear to the eye.


The power of an awe walk - 13

"How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and colour are their last days." John Burroughs (1837-1921), American naturalist and nature essayist, earns a well-deserved replay.

Yes, autumn is a joyously colourful season. As the following spotted along my early-morning walk into town testifies...

Golden eyeful

Where sheep may safely relaxevoo and, um, put their feet up

Yep, another delightful sight, guaranteed to generate a smile and lift the spirits.


Hm, tastes of chicken

Swedes show their questionable taste ... "Not content with foisting Abba on us once again, the Swedes have come up with another innovation that might polarise popular opinion: a vegan burger that tastes of human flesh." English journalist Rod Liddle, 61, tickles the more extreme taste buds in his regular Sunday Times column.

How curious: whatever the core subject, there's no escaping Abba these days (see yesterday).

Whatever, that shouldn't distract from the even more curious main course, the vegan burger that tastes of human flesh: Rod also informs us that this delicious Swedish product has been created by the company Oumph! - Epic Veggie Eating - "after extensive research".

Rod goes on to put the Liddle but Largish boot in: "That's all very well, but what kind of human flesh? One assumes Swedish human flesh - and so you might expect the blurb on the packet to read: 'Incalculably bland in both texture and flavour, but with a faint aftertaste of self-righteousness and herring.'"

Discussing this with my pal Chief Wise Owl, he posed a rather obvious question: "'After extensive research, a vegan burger that tastes of human flesh'? How do they know? Are the Swedes closet cannibals?"

I think I shall go and lie down in a darkened room and listen to some Abba.

PS: Just heard on the radio that the Chief Sitting Bull of the Scandinavian ready-to-assemble furniture retailer IKEA is the new prime minister of Sweden. He is currently assembling his cabinet.


Lockdown Down Under

Tweet of the day ... "I'm confused, has Auckland been chosen @lonelyplanet's number one city to visit, because if you visit it now you will be lonely?" A pause-for-thought moment pondered aloud by an Auckland resident on Twitter.

New Zealanders have responded with bemusement after locked-down Auckland topped the Lonely Planet list of best cities to visit. The travel guide praised the country's largest city for its vibrancy and considerable natural assets including volcanoes, islands, beaches, wine regions and cultural offerings.

The only snag is that Auckland has been in lockdown for just about three months after an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant. The outbreak grew to more than 4,500 cases with about 150 infections reported each day over recent weeks.

Most shops, cafes and restaurants have remained closed, although the city is currently cutting back on restrictions.

No wonder then that the New Zealand rugby teams, both men and women, currently touring Europe, have looked so angry and pissed-off as they perform their cultural offering of the haka.

Incidentally, when I first saw the headline "Lockdown down under", I thought, why are they discussing my sex life?

Anyway, off at a tangent: just a few days back I mentioned that ever since Abba stopped performing as a group, all of half a lifetime ago, the men have regularly appeared in the media and we have watched them age alongside ourselves - Bjorn, the oldest of the group, appears to have a head start in hanging on to some youthful looks.

The women though have been remembered much like Marilyn Monroe because I can't recall ever seeing them over the past 40 years, except as they were in their glorious prime in those eye-catching videos.

And I then saw this letter, which duly tickled my old funny bone:

Abba Who's Who ... "I used to distinguish the members of Abba as the blonde, the brunette, the chap with the beard and the other one. Now both women are blonde and both blokes have beards!" Brenda Spray of Romford, Essex, in a letter to the Daily Mail.


Thereby hangs a leaf

"And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
  And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
  And thereby hangs a tale."
Jaques, or "The melancholy Jaques" as he is known, a nobleman and one of the main character in Shakespeare's As You Like It.

That came to mind when, on a still, grey and misty-ish early-morning, I noticed a single autumnal leaf ready to fall and rot and rot, but seemingly floating magically in mid-air...

A falling autumnal leaf snagged by a spider's thread

Closer inspection revealed that it had been caught on a spider's gossamer thread.

Bearing in mind yesterday's thread, it ironically endorses the fragile nature of existence as we ripe and ripe, and threaten to rot and rot - but hang on for dear life.


The final journey

"The Lord is my shepherd: therefore can I lack nothing.
  He will make me to lie down in green pastures: and lead me besides still waters...

Today I attended the funeral of my brother, farmer Bill, who died a couple of weeks back, aged 85 years.

He passed away peacefully in hospital following a heart attack at home the previous day. Paramedics attended without delay and he was given commendable attention. He was taken to hospital, made a slight recovery overnight, but deteriorated rapidly during the day and the doctors called in the family to be there at the end.

Yes, it comes as a shock to the family, but if you have to go - well, that is the way we would all like to go, without too much fuss or bother as we topple off the perch.

Bill had lived a full and entertaining life as a farmer thriving, literally, off "green pastures". He had both worked and played hard, enjoying a tipple or four, maybe more, along the way - so memories shared were of events that made those who knew him smile.

One example mentioned during the eulogy was when Bill and son Phillip were at an auction for farm machinery. Phillip was bidding for some equipment and was wondering who was bidding against him, turned to look - and yes, it was his father.

Along the same theme, there was a recent tale in a newspaper, from a contributor called Ey Up, who reflected that "no one born after 1970 in my family ever seems to turn lights off", and in today's world of Cop26 and escalating energy prices, pointed out that "you just cannot avoid saving money on electricity if you turn the blessed things off..."

Then a lightbulb moment from Ey Up: "A dying Yorkshireman [fondly imagined as a breed with deep pockets and short arms], lies on the sofa, family gathered round. 'Are you all here - wife, children, grandchildren?' 'Yes, Dad, everyone's here.' 'Then why's the kitchen light on?'"


Autumn leaves in Penlan Park
(incorporating 'The power of an awe walk - 13')

"♪♪♪: The falling leaves drift by my window; / The autumn leaves of red and gold..." The opening line of the celebrated song "Autumn Leaves" makes a guest repeat appearance from a few days ago.

Just a casual walk in the park in autumn generates more than a fair share of awe...

Penlan Park, Llandeilo ... "♪♪♪: The autumn leaves of red and gold..."

Now how did the English poet John Donne (1572-1631) put it? "No Spring, nor Summer beauty hath such grace, / As I have seen in one Autumnal face."


Memories should be made of this

How was it for you? ... "We're just trying to work out whether we slept together. Once you get to our age you forget." Novelist Jilly Cooper, 84, after bumping into Coronation Street veteran actor Bill Roache, 89.

Perhaps the Queen has the best idea on ageing, and that's to ignore its onset...

All in the mind ... "We are keeping our powder dry and maybe in a decade or so it might be appropriate to try again." Giles Brandreth, 73, after the Queen, 95, turned down his invitation to accept The Oldie Of The Year award.

And talking of growing older, I have just seen a photo of Abba as they now are as they reunite for their first new album in, gulp, 40 years...

Abba 2021 - Bjorn, the oldest, looks the most youthful

Ever since Abba stopped performing as a group all of half a lifetime ago, the men have regularly appeared in the media and we have watched them age alongside ourselves - Bjorn, 76, the oldest of the group, appears to have a head start in hanging on to some youthful looks.

The women though have been remembered much like Marilyn Monroe because I can't recall ever seeing them over the past 40 years, except as they were in their prime in those eye-catching videos.

It took some adjusting.

Addendum (15/11/2021):
Abba Who's Who ... "I used to distinguish the members of Abba as the blonde, the brunette, the chap with the beard and the other one. Now both women are blonde and both blokes have beards!" Brenda Spray of Romford, Essex, in a letter to the Daily Mail.


♪♪♪: Music while you hang on...

Out of tune ... "Having spent many hours over the past few weeks listening to noisy, tuneless recordings on phone lines, I would be delighted to hear some soothing classical music. At the local swimming pool recently the radio was blaring out 'Your sex is on fire' at 7.30am. I asked the attendants if they could play something by Mantovani instead." Barbara Dixon of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Barbara Dixon? The Barbara Dixon? Surely not!

Anyway, Barbara's missive rang a percussive bell and generated a smile, especially the Mantovani suggestion, a name familiar to people of, er, a more mature age: Annunzio Paolo Mantovani (1905-1980), known mononymously as Mantovani, was an Anglo-Italian conductor, composer and light orchestra-styled entertainer with a cascading strings musical signature.

Talking of people of a certain age, the American actress and supermodel Jerry Hall, 65 (married to the billionaire media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, 90), recently appeared on the television show Celebrity Antiques Road Trip, where famous people trawl antique shops for items to sell at auction, for profit, hopefully.

I enjoy the non-celebrity version, but never watch anything with "celebrity" in the title, so did not see the show. However, the word on the auctioneer's podium is that Jerry, used to the finer things in life, finds it difficult to know the difference between valuable antiques and tat, and she made a series of losses on the show. She ended up with just half the money she started off with.

Be that as it may, this letter surfaced:

Going, going... "What do you mean Jerry Hall wouldn't recognise an antique? She married one!" Regular contributor Vincent Hefter of Old London Town, in a straight-to-the-point letter to the Daily Mail.

Say nothing is best. Just smile.


Fishy business

Gone fishin' ... "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you annoy the French for a lifetime." The words of a wise man, probably a descendant of Confucius, to a student of philosophy squatting at his feet, compliments of MATT, the Telegraph cartoonist.

That cartoon came to mind whilst perusing the top quotes of last month, October, in particular this little gem:

Spinning a line ... "It's late Octoberitis. It's Trafalgar Day on the 21st and Agincourt Day on the 25th and the French are always a bit touchy then." Jacob Rees-Mogg, 52, Leader of the House of Commons, explains Emmanuel Macron, 43, President of France, and his fish-war antics.

Apropos the original quote - "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime" - these are the words of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551BC-479BC). I was amused though to learn that just 150 years or so later, the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384BC-322BC), came up with this version:

Fish is off, dear ... "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Give a man a poisoned fish, you feed him for the rest of his life."

And who said the Greeks don't have a sense of humour?


Autumn leaves in Dinefwr Park

"♪♪♪: The falling leaves drift by my window; / The autumn leaves of red and gold..." "Autumn Leaves" is a popular song and jazz standard composed by Joseph Kosma in 1945, with original lyrics by Jacques Prevert in French and later by Johnny Mercer in English.

The mention of lyricist Jacques Prevert there reminded me of Eric Morecambe and his legendary introduction of the late Andre Previn as Andrew Preview on the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special of 1971. Would Eric have introduced Jacques Prevert as Jack Pervert? Probably not.

Whatever, yesterday I featured a clump of trees slowly taking on an autumn hue and preparing to shed their leaves. Well now, walking into town today I navigated a carpet of fallen leaves, and I couldn't help but notice an extravagance of sycamore leaves and their eye-catching shape.

So I picked up a handful of the largest leaves, and with the Olympic rings in mind, set them out on a clear bit of path along the way.

However, just as the linked Olympic rings represent the universality and the spirit of Olympism, the autumn leaves represent the universality and the spirit of seasonality - so I decided to place them in a circle.

What came to mind though, typically, was the engaging nursery rhyme "Falling Leaves", with its catchy musical singalong version...

Turning over an old leaf

"♪♪♪: All the leaves are falling down,
Orange, yellow, red and brown;
Falling softly as they do,
Over me and over you..."

Oh yes, the fifth leaf represents the season of confusion, which is becoming a feature of modern weather patterns, what with global warming casting its net far and wide and remorselessly.

Anyway, to quote the proverb mentioned just a few days ago: "Little things please little minds..."


The power of an awe walk - 12

"How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and colour are their last days." John Burroughs (1837-1921), American naturalist and nature essayist.

Down the years it has been one of those eye-catchingly delightful sights along my walk through Dinefwr Park, Llandeilo: a clump of trees - a copse? - prepares to shed its leaves, and to the music of The Stripper by the David Rose Orchestra, but that could be my imagination...

A snapshot of New England in the fall as spotted in Old Wales in the autumn

Yep, a delightful sight to guarantee an awe smile.


Halloween, rear-view mirror

Go figure ... "Halloween was confusing. All my life my parents said, 'Never take candy from strangers'. And then they dressed me up and said, 'Go beg for it'." Rita Rudner, 68, American stand-up comedian.

That quote chimed with the following newspaper letter spotted just a few days ago...

No trick, just treat ... "I can support the view (letter, Nov 1) that most young people are a pleasure to know compliments of this Halloween vignette. My daughter-in-law answered the doorbell to find a small female ghoul aged about six or seven standing there with a bowl. Having forgotten to lay in a stock of sweets, she told the girl: 'I'm terribly sorry, I don't have any sweets in the house at all.' Raising her bowl, the girl replied: 'Oh... would you like some of mine?'." Sheena Mackay of Old London Town, in a letter to The Times.

I am reminded of a letter along a similar theme from a few years back, when someone who had just moved from, I think it was a small Gloucestershire village, told the tale of local lady who, on Halloween, and before darkness fell, would take her young children to visit elderly people, especially those who lived on their own, and offer them some delicious homemade cakes and treats she herself had baked.

Such a memorable tale. And a reminder that most human beings, whether young or older, are a pleasure to know.

All the real problems of the world are generated by just 10% of the population. So give that troublesome lot a wide berth for an agreeable stroll through time and place.


Remember, remember...

MP Owen Paterson and a Government that can't think three moves ahead ... "Yesterday's U-turn on addressing the parliamentary standards issue is indicative of a Government that seems unable to think through problems. Is there no one in Downing Street capable of making at least three sound moves in a game of chess?" Terry Smith of Old London Town, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, commenting on the latest Westminster "parliamentary standards issue" (the phrase on the street is "sleaze and jiggery-pokery") as Boris Johnson and the Tories are caught in the nation's headlights as they scurry across Whitehall.

"Politicians, like vampires and rats, do not like bright lights." Stuart Mariner of Salisbury, Wiltshire, in a letter, also to The Daily Telegraph.

It is beyond ironic that today's media is awash with tales of the resignation of Owen Paterson in the wake of some ill-considered political shenanigans - and that on the same day we celebrate Guy Fawkes' gunpowder plot.

I say "celebrate" because increasingly the word on the street, again, suggests that more and more people now understand where Guy Fawkes was coming from.

Boris Johnson's unruly hair caught in the skies above Llandeilo

As to the fair point that Boris Johnson and his troops can't think at least three moves ahead, I guess it's more that they are cursed with tunnel vision, able only to spot what is directly in front of them, i.e. usually only as far as the next general election.

Whilst tunnel vision is essential in a specialist or expert, we critically need politicians and a Government blessed with peripheral vision, an ability to spot both ambush and opportunity lurking just off camera.

It is astonishing that Boris didn't spot, or more importantly, sense, the ambush labelled Owen Paterson.

Snap! ... "Better to be labelled Captain Hindsight [leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer] and learn from your mistakes than Captain Blindside and not see what's coming." Cliff White of Steyning, West Sussex, in a letter to the i newspaper.
Friday, 5 November 2021
Guy Fawkes Night, UK


The Other Life of Brian

Sexiest woman in the world "loves sex" ... "I have the libido of a 15-year-old boy. My sex drive is so high. I'd rather have sex with Brian all the time than leave the house. He doesn't mind." Megan Fox, 35, American actress and model, back in 2008 when she was voted the sexiest woman in the world by readers of FHM magazine, shares a little bit too much information, although boyfriend, future husband (but recently divorced), American actor Brian Austin Green, 48, is presumably happy to have that on his CV.

Perhaps that CV should read LV, as in Libidinous Vitae. And talking of libido...

The recently invested English actress Dame Maureen Lipman, 75, celebrated her day being made a dame by the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle, at the Polish Hearth Club in Old London Town, by remembering her late partners, Jack Rosenthal (married 1974; died 2004) and Guido Castro (married 2008; died 2021). She honoured them in verse:  "Irreplaceable Jack and irrepressible Guido / Reminding me that I once had a libido."

Indeed, any mention of libido, particularly from a male point of view, would be amiss without a reminder of what the legendary jazz singer and writer George Melly (1926-2007), who had a reputation for bonking anything and everything that moved - AC, DC, Three Phase - and admitted finding himself impotent at 70, responded thus when asked if he was upset: "Upset? Certainly not. It's wonderful. It's like being unchained from a lunatic."

Hm, perhaps finding myself nodding and smiling at both Maureen Lipman and George Melly's thoughts on libido is the way nature sticks a sprag in all our wheels, eventually.


The Silken Field

Howzat, Howitt? ... "Will you walk into our open-plan reception?" said a zillion spiders to a fly; "'Tis the greenest open-plan reception that ever you did spy..." With apologies to the ghost of English poet Mary Howitt (1799-1888).

Just a few days ago I shared a photo of the boundary hedge at the rear of the property where I hang my hat, which was covered in spiders' webs (the hedge that is, not my hat), and it took on the appearance of a silken road winding its way into the woods.

Well now, it took me back to 09:53 precisely on the 9th of November 2005 - or so my digital photo footprints tell me - and an early-morning walk through the Towy Valley. The day before, the field I was now navigating was totally covered in water, a regular occurrence when the river floods.

And then something strange caught my eye in the distance. So I went to investigate...

Spiders create extraordinary webs of seduction in the Towy Valley

Yes, parts of the field, especially along hedges and under tree cover, covered in spiders' webs, certainly a wel-i-jiw-jiw sight, and as far as the eye could see. So I took a closer look...

Oh what beautiful webs we weave, when first we practise to achieve

In the background you can just about see the River Towy, still up to its brim, but the water had receded from this particular field - so in less than one day the spiders had woven this astonishing sight.

But how did the spiders survive the flood? Was there a Jesus Christ Spider to lead them through the flood?

It's a phenomenon that occurs quite regularly in Australia, as the many photos online suggest. As far as I can tell, when the spiders sense a flood they seek refuge in nearby hedges and trees. When the water recedes, down they come and weave this magical web.

Well, depending on how long they've been stuck up a tree sheltering from the water, I guess they're a little bit hungry when the all-clear is sounded, so these extravagant webs are woven to catch all those flies that can't resist a visit to the spider's parlour.


Another quick jab to the deltoid

Off to get the booster shot ... "'How are you feeling today?' says the lovely lady medic as she goes through the set routine to make sure I am a fit and proper person to receive the booster shot. 'Where would you like your jab?' says the nurse. I say, in the Bahamas please. She packs and we leave for the airport. I have nothing but praise for the NHS." Sadly, that wasn't me, but a funny tale that was told to me by someone who had spotted it on Twitter as a 'Tweet of the day'.

In fact, I was going to give that response, but the nurse asked: "Which arm do you want your jab?" This rather put a sprag in my spare wheel. But I did tell her the above - and she laughed with admirable enthusiasm, which, after all, the tweet deserved.

It's funny how humour has played a part in my three jabs. For the first, click here: A quick jab to the deltoid

And the second, featuring a funny MATT cartoon, click here: Add a little seasoning

Yes, pretty much everything is funny if viewed through Cinemascopic 3-D glasses. Happy days.


Reflections on last week's budget

Cheers! ... "Why is Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak making booze cheaper? I'm puzzled: are unhealthy livers official Tory policy?" Sebastian Monblat of Sutton, Outer Old London Town, in a letter to The Guardian.

Yes, a curious business. That said, the more alcoholically potent red wine and white cider will be marginally more expensive.

What a pity Rishi Sunak hadn't made the popular liqueur Blue Curacao more expensive too, then it could have prompted a headline along the lines of "Red, white and blue drinks flag a more expensive night on the tiles".

Whatever, I particularly liked the following response as to whether the budget had made us better or worse off...

There's nothing in it ... "The Guardian's budget calculator says I will be '.00 pence better off' after last week's budget, whereas the Daily Telegraph reckons I will be '.00 pence worse off'. I think I prefer the Telegraph's assessment as I prefer to be 'no worse off' rather than 'no better off'." John Rathbone of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in a letter to, yes, The Guardian.

Now how does that old song go? "♪♪♪: You've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don't mess with Mister Rishi-Sunak-in-between..."

Oh yes, along the way I also learn that the colours of the Union Flag represent the following: White - peace and honesty. Red - hardiness, bravery, strength and valour. Blue - vigilance, truth, loyalty, perseverance and justice.

Yep, that covers all the bases of positive human behaviour. Do you suppose someone should tell the nation's movers and shakers?

PS: The computer Spellchecker came to a stop at the surname Monblat, and suggested ManBat (where did that come from?), followed by Moonlit and Monolith. The computer also stopped at the surname Rathbone, and suggested Rat bone (and where did that come from?), followed by Redbone and Raytheon. Every day a day at Spellchecker school.


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.

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