Here comes the sun

Come what May ... "So that's why they call it May - it may rain, it may be sunny, it may hail, it may be hot and it may be cold..." Writer and gardening expert Lynne Allbutt kicks off her regular Western Mail Green Scene column.

Yes, it's the last day of May - and what a strange month it has been weather wise here in the UK.

April - the frostiest, sunniest and driest on record - but May has more than made up for it with the weather stuck in an unsettled, turbulent pattern with troughs and drenching downpours sweeping endlessly across the country, indeed the month is set to be the wettest on record, especially so here in Wales.

Oh, and remaining unusually cold, reflected with the reluctance of the annual 50 shades of leaf burst to sweep onto the rural stage.

However, the month ended with sunshine and warmth as high pressure settled over the country. And on that score, walking into town on a beautiful morning, my eye caught the rising sun catching a tree on a private property...

The rising sun spins purple into scarlet

I don't know what the tree is with its copper/plum/burgundy/purple leaf* - some sort of Acer, perhaps - I mean, it's rude to stride onto someone's front lawn to inspect (obviously if I see the folk who live there I'll ask them).

Whatever, I was captivated by the way the sun streaming between the two properties captured just some of the leaves and gave them that vibrant scarlet tinge.

Every morning as I now walk past, and assuming the sun is shining, my eye is captured by the technicolour aspect of the tree. Astonishing how such a little thing can generate such huge delight.

* I never know which word best describes the colour - help yourself to whichever does it for you.


Sunday is knock-knock day

Who's there?
Father who?
Father Daniel Humphreys, the acting administrator of Westminster Cathedral, reminding you, Boris, that you're getting married at 2 o'clock, Saturday afternoon. Be smart, comb your hair - and be there in good time..."

The marvellous thing about this surprising tale of the unexpected is that the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg, she who has her finger on Downing Street's political G-spot, never tweeted the nation to keep it abreast of unfolding events. Neither did any other hack or paparazzo.

Goodness gracious me, perfectly kept privacy (rather than secrecy because it would quickly be made public) at No 10. How agreeably reassuring.

What I did learn today though, compliments of The Sunday Times, which only got hold of the story after the event, was that when Carrie Symonds, now Mrs Johnson, was first reported in 2018 to be romantically involved with Boris Johnson, she was swamped with unsolicited warnings about the supposed dangers of consorting with so notorious a scoundrel and bounder when it comes to the fairer sex and keeping his rocket in his pocket.

And then I read this: "From birth Carrie was no stranger to complicated romance. Her father was Mathew Symonds, one of The Daily Telegraph journalists who founded The Independent in 1986; her mother was Josephine McAffee, one of the paper's lawyers. Both were married to other people at the time Carrie was born, and they never lived together."

Wel-i-jiw-jiw, as we say down the Crazy Horsepower. Finally...

Speak now or forever hold your piece ... "...let's hope he keeps his trousers on and behaves himself." Christopher Goodyear, a member of the congregation at Westminster Cathedral for the marriage of Boris and Carrie, wishes the Prime Minister well.

Hm, if the events of history really do repeat themselves, we should keep an eagle eye on the Births, Deaths, Marriages, Civil Partnerships, Separations and Divorces corner of the newspapers...


Cummings and goings at Downing Street

MATT cartoon, The Daily Telegraph ... Two policemen on duty outside Number 10, and one is reading from a newspaper: "Oh yes, Mr Cummings does mention us - 'The two useless idiots standing on the doorstep...'."

Yes, Boris Johnson's former Director of Communications, Dominic Cummings, has broken his silence on his time in No 10, advising the world and its lover that everyone who disagreed with his solutions to life, poor eyesight, the coronavirus - and everything - were disastrously incompetent and should all have been fired during the course of the pandemic.

Oh, and at the same time subliminally confirming life's second greatest truth: Whom the gods wish to make mad, they first sprinkle with power, position, wealth and celebrity.

The whole Cummings circus drew loads of letters to the newspapers, and here are just a few that jostled the mind and tickled my old funny bone, all to The Daily Telegraph, as it happens. The first rather confirms what happens when individuals are sprinkled with power, position and celebrity...

Actuality ... "Is the man real?" Judith Barnes of St Ives, Huntingdonshire.

Let us pray ... "'Sir! Sir!' 'What is it, Cummings?' 'Please, Sir, Johnson had his eyes open during prayers.'" Richard Cutler of Newbury, Berkshire.

Soap Oprah ... "What next for Dominic Cummings? An interview with Oprah Winfrey, perhaps?" Jonathan Mann of Gunnislake, Cornwall.

Maximum points ... "If there were a Eurovision Whinge Contest, and we could field Prince Harry and Dominic Cummings, we would have a sure-fire winner." Sue Milne of Crick, Northamptonshire.

Indeed, Sue Milne. The moral of the tale is that rubbishing or railing against the institution you were once an essential cog of never elicits much sympathy and is likely to bite the biter back.

And on that thought, sweet dreams...


♪♪♪: Oh doctor, I'm in trouble...

Well, goodness gracious me ... "When I was a new GP my senior partner explained that I would often happen to see our patients in the street and in local shops: 'You will find it easier,' he said, 'if you wave a cheery 'Hello', keep walking and never say 'How are you?'." Dr Ruth Booker of Twickenham, Greater London Town, in a letter to The Times.

That drew this follow-up letter:

Say ahhh! ... "I am reminded by Dr Ruth Booker that my father, a small-town GP, when approached by patients at social events with a medical question, would simply ask them to remove their clothes. They soon understood." Hugh Cartwright of SW20, also of Greater London Town.

I presume Hugh's father said it with a smile.

I remember some years back walking into the local doctors' surgery, spotting a familiar character, and sitting next to him. "Long time no see," he said, "how are you?" "I'm fine, thanks." "What the hell are you doing here then, wasting the doctor's time?" It momentarily threw me: "Actually, I'm here to provide a blood sample prior to my annual MOT." And we both had a good laugh about it.

Talking of a small-town GP, living in such a place we would often mix socially with our local doctors in pubs, functions and such like, and I remember one occasion at the Crazy Horsepower when the gossip was of a well-known dignitary who had been hanky-pankying in his car atop a local mountain with a lady who was not his wife, had a heart attack - and died on the job.

The general consensus was that we all felt sorry for the poor lady involved - but if you had to go, well, that was the way to go.

Present was one of our characterful local doctors, sadly no longer with us, who said we'd be surprised how many men come to such a sticky end - but we only hear of those caught out in such an unfortunate situation as the aforementioned local dignitary.

Ever since I've always registered those who die in publicly awkward situations that draw wel-i-jiw-jiw attention: a massage parlour (nudge-nudge, wink-wink), being visited at home by a lady of the night (who understandably fled the scene in a panic and on full bore), or "youngish" men coming to a sudden and surprising cropper while on holiday (no pun intended).

Yep, every day a day at the Inspector Clouseau School of "I suspect everything, and I suspect nothing".


Beauty and the Beast

Don't be a tosser ... "Only we humans make waste that nature can't digest." Charles J. Moore, American oceanographer and racing boat captain, known for articles that recently brought attention to the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch', an area of the North Pacific Gyre, one of the most remote regions of the ocean, strewn with floating plastic debris and its devastating effects on sea life.

First things first: what's a 'Gyre', as in 'North Pacific Gyre'? I learn that it's a large system of circulating ocean currents, particularly those involved with large wind movements. Every day a day at school.

Yesterday, I celebrated the beauty of the bluebell. Today, I juxtapose beauty and the beast, in particular the huge amounts of face masks and plastic gloves that are being casually discarded and which eventually find their way into streams, rivers and eventually the oceans, the 'Great Planet Garbage Patch'.

First, the beauty...

About a month or so ago, a clump of wood anemone caught my eye alongside the country lane I walk every morning. It was so unusual to see this pretty spring flower of ancient woodland, belonging to the buttercup family, away from their default location where they play perfect bridesmaids to the bluebells...

Beauty ... a roadside clump of wood anemone...

and the Beast ... a roadside clump of plastic gloves

And then, just a few paces further on ... Unbelievably, eight plastic gloves dumped alongside the road. Their location suggested they had been tossed out of a passing vehicle. Having slipped on my own gloves, I picked them up and popped them into a rubbish bin when I reached town. Words fail me - except:

We truly are a species of tossers.


The Flower Moon

Beautiful bluebells ... "It's bluebell time. I think my year is always divided into 'flowering times' rather than months or weeks [or seasons?]. I always use whatever is flowering as a marker: snowdrop time, daffodil time, primrose time, cherry blossom time, bluebell time ... The bluebells are a little late flowering this year, the beautiful blue carpets are usually at their best at the beginning of May..." Writer and gardening expert Lynne Allbutt kicks off her regular Western Mail Green Scene column.

Tonight, the full moon will reach peak brightness. It's the second and final Super Blood Moon of 2021. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes (my soul brothers and sisters, the ap Ache - "son of the Apache") as the Flower Moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared.

The Flower Moon sounds much more civilised than a Blood Moon, and tonight will see its closest approach to Earth - making it a supermoon, which equals big and super bright.

So how better to celebrate a Super Flower Moon than with a couple of bluebell photos...

Misty blues: a corner of a Towy Valley bluebell wood awaits the sunrise

And here comes the sun...

Spotlight on Bluebell: the rising sun breaks through the mist to shine a light

In the background of the above photo, the splashes of white are wild garlic flowers. Where bluebells and wild garlic flower together, it makes quite a striking image. I must have a peep what I have on file.

As I may have mentioned before, I do not rate myself a photographer - I have no interest in the technicalities of photography, but I always carry a little camera merely to capture the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade, as featured above.

By the way, late tonight I open the front door - and there, directly in my view, just above the horizon, the Super Flower Moon, hanging in a crystal clear night sky. And a beautiful sight it was, too. Hallelujah!


Where did the time go?

RADIO PICK OF THE WEEK: Why Time Flies (And How to Slow it Down) ... (Tuesday, Radio 4, 11am) ... "The Scottish comedian and writer Armando Iannucci, 57, returns to radio with an examination of why time seems to go faster as he gets older. He talks to scientists and philosophers and asks if having lots of new, stimulating experiences can put the brakes on time zooming by." My eye caught this programme listed as a pick of the week, so decided to give it a listen.

I was particularly interested because, walking through town the other day, this also caught my eye...

Llandeilo Church, and time goes missing in action:
"Tell me not in mournful numbers..."

Yes, the radio programme was interesting - apparently our feet age at a different rate from our heads because they are nearer the earth's centre of gravity (basically your head ages faster than your feet), just as clocks in space move slower than clocks on Earth.

It does explain why, as I grow older, I continue to walk at a brisk pace, and that despite my brain telling my feet to slow down a bit (basically my feet are younger than my head and will insist on doing their own thing and must be given their head).

Whatever, and interesting as the programme was, it was bogged down with too much baffling science and philosophy.

This is how I have always understood it: time drags when young because we are always looking forward to things: Santa, birthdays, holidays, dating (and a promise of things to come on the dating front), driving licence, drinking in the pubs, a new job - and on and on. Time can't go fast enough.

But once we bridge middle-age at 40, it's all downhill. We become increasingly aware that time is running out to do all the things we want to experience and enjoy before we drop off the perch.

God, never mind the Llandeilo church clock, where does the time go?


Britain's a world leader in rubbish

What do you think of the show so far? Rubbish! ... "Although we enjoyed our time in your country, we are not recommending any further tours to the United Kingdom. This has nothing to do with Brexit [or the Eurovision Song Contest], but litter. Of all the countries in the world we visit, on a regular basis, Britain is by far the worst for litter, especially on roads." John Read, the founder of the Clean Up Britain charity, was forwarded an email from an American travel company based in Washington that organises tourist trips to the UK. The message ended with an abrupt apology: "I'm sorry to say, you've lost our business."

The above is a repeat of my post of the 6th of May (as featured further down this page), where I quoted an article in The Sunday Times published on March 28. Oh yes, I inserted the Eurovision Song Contest reference myself, of which more later.

Given my appreciation of irony, walking into town this morning, and always on the lookout to clear the endless rubbish disposed of along the country lane I daily navigate, this is what I discovered...

A disposed Union Jac (Welsh version) carton confirms Britain as a rubbish country

When I say irony ... yes, a Union Jack carton chucked out of a vehicle. I placed it on an adjacent gatepost to capture an image. Disgusting is the only word. Why do people do it?

The culprit was obviously sticking two fingers up at the American travel company quoted above. There again, and bearing in mind that the carton would have been disposed of the previous day, Sunday, perhaps the guilty party was pissed off with the UK's "nul points" performance in the Eurovision Song Contest the night before.

Indeed, and having given a bit more thought to my knock-knock post of yesterday about the song contest, I smile when Brexit is blamed for the UK's zero points. The decline began long before we left Europe. The previous occasion the UK finished last with no points was 2003, when we were a fully paid-up member and Brexit was just a twinkle in the eye of one Nigel Farage.

Whomsoever it is at today's BBC that selects the tunes for the Eurovision Song Contest, I would happily put in charge of the jukebox down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, for it would surely remain eerily silent.

BBC Radio 2 is currently promoting "A Dance Through The Decades", a stream of music that begins with the Sixties. I appreciate that Radio 2 has morphed into the swinging parent of Radio 1 (yawn!), but why would it ignore the Fifties and the birth of rock and roll, the genre of music that inspired the Beatles, the Stones and everything that followed.

Has no one at Radio 2 seen those black and white films of young people dancing to Bill Haley's Rock Around The Clock, or seen on YouTube today's youngsters shuffle dancing to Elvis and His Latest Flame, a song from, er, the 50s?

Perhaps the Beeb's metropolitan elite and its focus groups should move, not just out of London, but to a parallel universe.


Sunday is knock-knock day


- - - - - - - - - [SILENCE!]

Knock-knock! Hello, hello, anybody there?

- - - - - - - - - [SILENCE!]

Hello, this is James Newman ... there must be someone at home who's prepared to vote for me...

Yes, the UK came last for the second year running in the Eurovision Song Contest proper (no contest in 2020), with singer-songwriter James Newman, 35, who performed his self-penned dance track, Embers, scoring the dreaded "nul points".

I happened to watch about 30 minutes or so of this annual musical circus, including the UK song ... my initial reaction was that it rated zero on the 'catchy and melodic' score, and even worst, to my ear anyway, occasionally out of tune, so stood no chance - as indeed confirmed on this morning's news.

Here's one reaction that made 'Quotes of the day':

"@piersmorgan: The UK didn't get 'nul points' in the Eurovision Song Contest because of some sinister revenge for Brexit. We got 'nul points' because we had a crap song, performed by a crap singer who gave a crap performance. End." Yes, the British broadcaster, journalist and meeja personality Piers Morgan, taking no prisoners.

However, the response that generated a smile was this:

"@innocent: If the UK getting zero in Eurovision isn't a sign of the world slowly returning to normal, we don't know what is."

Yes, bonkersness is reclaiming its default power of attorney over the nation.


50 shades of green

Amber gamblers ... "While I agree that holidays are essential, foreign holidays are not. The amber list is for essential foreign travel. Our country is glorious in all weathers and seasons. Enjoy it." Chris Long of Ivybridge, Devon, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Indeed, Chris Long. In fact, all this talk of traffic lights and applying common sense judgment to what is green, amber and red when deciding to go on holiday, brought to mind our glorious countryside here in the United Kingdom.

For example, we embrace the beauty of autumn leaves with great joy. Less well appreciated is the birthing process.

With spring running a little late this year due to an unseasonably cold and wet May, the trees are currently sprouting into leaf all over the shop, and in 50 shades of green, particularly eye-catching when caught by the rising sun...

50 shades as the green leaves of spring burst onto nature's glorious stage

The above I happened to catch the other morning, between the May showers and rainbows, as I walked home from Llandeilo.

However, be warned: just like autumn, the wonderful spectacle lasts but a few brief weeks before the green leaves of spring all morph into what I call the Sherwood green of summer, where Marion and Robin blend discreetly into their surroundings to do their thing.

Stop, stare and enjoy. Oh, and don't forget the bluebells beneath.


Awake but not awoke

Thou shalt / Thou shalt not ... "Ah lovely listener, it's that moment of the programme again where I pierce the carapace of your resistance and ask you a deep and personal question in order to get to know you even better than I do already." Yes, Vanessa Feltz on her morning Radio 2 show. She continues:
     "All week on Pause For Thought we've been asking what would be a suitable 11th Commandment. So today I am asking, what would be your 11th Commandment? You don't have to be religious to take part, just come up with an essential rule for life.
     "It can be something deep and profound about relationships, or saving the planet - or something trivial like 'Thou shalt always replace the loo roll when it runs out', which is quite a good one, actually..."

Vanessa went on to explain that a popular 11th Commandment is "Thou shalt not get caught", so she discouraged listeners submitting it because it wouldn't get a mention. Which was amusingly ironic given that the BBC has just been horribly caught with its pants around its ankles over the Princess Diana-Martin Bashir interview apropos all the faking and lying that went on to secure the interview.

Anyway, some great answers came in, but one that tickled my old funny bone, and particularly relevant here on Look You, is: "Thou shalt have fun." Great one that.

I wasn't sure what mine would be ... however, later in the day I was amused by a headline in the Daily Express: "Snowflake world where everyone takes offence."

Hm, a world where everything is now racist or sexist: statues (slave trade connections); blond hair (Hitler's Aryan master race); afternoon tea (both racist and sexist because women sit around eating cucumber sandwiches and scones with jam while white men get to rule and bully the world); trees (grown in the gardens of many a stately home that almost certainly had links to the slave trade); flags, especially the Union Jack (eh?).

And on and on, wokedom running rampant...

Regarding that flag business, there was a gloriously doolally protest from the pupils of Pimlico Academy secondary school, London, who forced the school to stop flying the Union Jack, arguing that it featured no black colour so didn't represent ethnic minorities - which drew this marvellous response:

Flying the flag ... "Students protesting against flying the flag of the Union Jack at Pimlico Academy may be interested to know that there is no black in 33 of the 57 mainland African countries either. The colour of a nation's flag does not indicate the colour of its population." Joyce Henry of Colby, Isle of Man, in a letter to The Times.

Watch it, Joyce, because the students at Pimlico Academy - who have just forced the head of the school to resign following a row over uniform policy which the pupils insisted was racist - will want your place of residence changed to the Isle of Somewhere (which reminds me of a beautiful song), or perhaps even the Isle of Ethnicity.

Like everything else in life, wokedom - which in its pure form, i.e. an awareness of issues that concern social and racial justice - is perfect, but has gone completely over the top (see above list of bonkersness).

So, my 11th Commandment? "Thou shalt not woke on the wild side."



Caught in the slips ... "Former BBC journalist and Royal Correspondent Michael Cole, 78, welcoming a memorial to pioneering female cricketer Rachael Heyhoe Flint, Baroness Heyhoe Flint (1939-2017), recalls asking her if it was true that she wore a box protector while playing - something men wear to protect their, um, Crown Jewels (note the Royal Correspondent connection). She replied: 'Oh, yes, I called it my man-hole cover.'" An extra-smiley tale spotted in the Daily Mail.

How funny. Oh, and you can't keep the coronavirus out of even cricket - here's a popular Indian joke:

"Why doesn't China have a cricket team? They eat bats and don't understand the concept of boundaries..."

Actually, China should have a cricket team because they can lay low the whole world with just one bat. Allegedly.


English as she is Pronounced

Name that drink in one ... "The chamber of the House of Commons often comes across as a playground for grown-ups. Yesterday, this spilt over into Portcullis House, an office building for members of parliament and their staff, when the MPs' coffee shop unveiled a new drink: the Choconuttynana. Hopefully they will have to ask for it by name." A smiley tale spotted in The Times Diary.

Running the risk that curiosity may kill the Carmarthenshire Cat, I searched online ... and compliments of 'la petite pie: Magpie Make & Do' - Choconuttynana Loaf, and I quote: "I love banana bread - it has that unmistakable taste of childhood nostalgia - and always tend to whip up a cheeky loaf if I have any bananas on the turn."

But more intriguing is the Choconuttynana drink: Chocolate syrup, Banana liqueur, Frangelico hazelnut liqueur, Creme de Cacao chocolate liqueur, cream, and crushed ice. Tally ho!

I particularly enjoyed the link between the House of Commons coming across as a playground, Choconuttynana loaf having that unmistakable taste of childhood nostalgia - oh, and the drink is pronounced (I think) Choco-nutty-nana - na, na, na-nana being the key ingredient.

Here's lookin' at you, hic!


"Greetings!", G-Day celebrations, and revisiting English as she is Spelt

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys..." London North Eastern Railways conductor's announcement that prompted a complaint from a non-binary passenger - and a grovelling apology from the company.

Apparently, the revised greeting goes something like this: "Good afternoon, thems and theys."

And talking of a woke on the wild side...

"Blown sand and surface water too dangerous." Health-and-safety reasons why an annual D-Day re-enactment was axed at a Devon beach where American soldiers trained for the Omaha landings.

What I guess will become known as G-Day - Grounded Day, as opposed to Groundhog Day.

Apparently though, the heavy rains and storms of a turbulent winter and spring have impacted the beach at Saunton Sands, North Devon quite badly, especially so as it is in a particularly sensitive and protected area, and to avoid further damage the cancellation understandable. But it was a funny excuse.

Finally, a reminder to proceed with care...

"We misspelled the word misspelled twice, as mispelled, in the Corrections and Clarifications column." The Guardian in 2007, as the newspaper - famous for its misspelling mistakes - celebrates its bicentenary.

And fair play, The Guardian has been having a good laugh at itself and revisiting some of its more memorable errors. Well worth a future return for a good humoured smile or ten...


English as she is Spelt

Education is important, but opening the pubs is importanter [from yesterday's post] ... "Some universities claim it is now 'white, male and elitist' to expect students to have good English." Spelling and grammar are 'elitist' and a form of white supremacy, claims Hull University.

My goodness my Guinness, we truly live in a world of woke bonkersness. Yes, there's a noo set of speling rools so nobody gets anyfink rong and everyfink rite.

And on that theme, there was a wonderful question on BBC2's House of Games celebrity quiz show:

Why did the Royal Mail recall the promotional material issued with its Celebrating Glorious England stamp sets in 2007?
A)  They'd forgotten to put a football on there
B)  'Isle of Wight' was misspelled as 'Isle of White'
C)  They featured a Welsh bridge
D)  They used the wrong flag to represent England

I guess the answer is easy knowing what came before the question. Yes of course, B).

And there lies a funny thing. Shopping in my local supermarket, I notice something odd...

Never mind brown eggs, try these weight eggs - delicious!

Yes, they'd spelt 'White eggs' as 'Weight eggs'.

I know, I know, the eggs were perhaps being sold by weight. But were they? That's a new one on me, but I understand nothing about such things. Whatever, I liked my little yoke and it made me smile, bearing in mind the 'Isle of White' cock-up of course.


Dear friend ... "My internet security provider has warned me that emails with bad spelling and grammatical errors could be dangerous spam. Or from the University of Hull." Tony Stafford of Andover, Hants, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

And while we're at it, let's not stop at spelling, let's refresh jografee, too.


Sunday is knock-knock day


- - - - - - - - - [Silence!]

Knock-knock! Hello, hello, anybody there? I'm dying for a pint!

There's nobody here - come back tomorrow, we'll be open then...

Yes, pubs and restaurants are opening indoors from Monday, May 17 - and while you're waiting for the doors to open, here is your starter for ten (pints):

A Sunday Telegraph MATT cartoon ... A somewhat bewildered looking fellow is walking past a closed pub, and is glancing at a notice board outside:

5 --- 6 PM

6PM --- NEXT

Oh yes, sometimes fact is even funnier than fiction. I particularly like this actual notice spotted outside a pub in Taunton, Somerset:


So, here's lookin' at you - tomorrow obviously, when hopefully there will be someone there to respond to my knock-knock!


Yesterday's 'tomfoolery' is today's 'Rudeworks ahead!'

Look away now ... "Smart motorway staff 'blocked from activating signs over fears they looked like male genitalia', former worker claims." Christopher Challis, 41, who operated cameras and road signs at a CCTV centre on the M25, in a statement to MPs investigating the controversial introduction of smart motorways.

Smile! ... Smart erotica on the M25 to Heaven

Caution: Rudeworks ahead ... Strictly members only
"Here's another fine mess you've gotten us into, Boris!"

Yes, I rolled my eyes - and smiled - in tandem, something I do with alarming frequency these days.

Christopher Challis went on to explain: "Somebody in their wisdom, higher up in Highways England, had suggested it looked like a penis, because the two red Xs looked like balls. We were told 'you can test it but don't implement it'."

And what do you suppose they thought the '40' represents? Maximum strokes per minute?

I guess that reaction is what you would call a woke on the wild side in these strange times. Perhaps it was a nod and a wink (nearly wrote wank there, phew) to actor John Barrowman and his tomfoolery, in particular his tale of slapping his penis on the windscreen of someone's car (see yesterday's doolallyness).

The top rated comment on Mail Online was...
MissLolaRose21, LolaLand, UK: "Since when do a man
's balls resemble crosses?"

If they do, a quick visit to A&E is called for. Or perhaps the local election voting booth? But let's not go there, we don't want to encourage Boris and yet another fine mess.


Tomfoolery by the Barrow load

Just put it away, John ... "What, dear reader, does the word 'tomfoolery' mean to you? To this innocent flower it means starting a food fight or placing a whoopee cushion under Grandma. But I have much to learn..." Thus the opening challenge of an article in The Times by journalist and columnist Carol Midgley - shades of yesterday's slice of doolallyness and the world of the "shagologist" - but let's not jump the gun.

To me, tomfoolery means finding oneself alone in someone's kitchen, discovering a tray of eggs, but with enough time to hard-boil two or three and then place them back at random in the tray; or picking up the phone, dialling a random local number and asking to speak to Mydrim Tonk because you'd been given this number to call (endless pleasure in the unexpected confusion).

But no: Carol enlightens us that tomfoolery, apparently, also means "placing your penis on a colleague's shoulder", as if it were Long John Silver's 'Who's-a-pretty-boy-then' parrot. The British-American actor John Barrowman MBE, 54, who is accused of doing this on the sets of Doctor Who and Torchwood, as well as constantly exposing himself and "slapping" said penis on the windscreen of someone's car, has reportedly admitted to "tomfoolery", but insisted it was never intended to be sexual.

Carol added: "I just hope that when he slapped his manhood on the windscreen, the driver made haste with the wipers."

Oh dear, every day a day at reform school.

Gosh, if I indulged in that sort of tomfoolery I'd be told to stop messing around and put away my little pinkie. I guess Barrowman is well blessed in the Long John Silver stakes and could afford to flash it around somewhat flamboyantly.

Incidentally, what of the name Barrowman? Where does it come from? Do you suppose that back in his ancestors' day the family acquired that name because the males of said family were all generously blessed in the manhood department; so much so it was a joke that they needed a wheelbarrow to carry it around to ease the load?


Come again?

Woman's Hour gets down and dirty ... "On the BBC's Woman's Hour website there is a question: 'What do the terms angling, rocking, shallowing and pairing mean to you?' Clue: it is nothing to do with fishermen in Jersey where Boris sent two patrol vessels as parts of a thinly veiled headline-grabbing pre-election stunt." That opening shot across the bows compliments of an article in The Sunday Times - what can best be described as a teasy bit of foreplay, given what's to come ("Woman's Hour turns into a lads' world when talk gets dirty", May 9).

Following my finally catching up with yesteryear's news that Tracey Emin had married a rock of ages back in 2015 (see the post just a couple of days further down), I reasonably concluded that I haven't been spending enough time on the grassy knoll observing and embracing the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade - and I promptly caught up with the above news item.

I duly learn that "angling, rocking, shallowing and pairing" are four hitherto "unnamed" ways women can bridge the "orgasm gap"; indeed, on the Woman's Hour website there followed a full-on discussion with a shagologist called Devon. She apparently provided an explicit guide of almost veterinarian detail: "Shallowing is probably my favourite," she cooed, much like a woodpigeon on a promise.

A producer later chirruped that "many men" had sought out the programme and were "thankful" for "information they didn't have before". As I write I have not sought out the opinion of the lads at the Asterix Bar down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon. All I can say is: Well-i-jiw-jiw, heaven's above.

Mind you, I am rather taken with the term "shagologist". I looked it up online ... what initially came up was "Sunday Times columnists". Honestly! Cross my heart... I did also try "shagology" ... all that came up though was "shakeology". I fleetingly wondered if it had anything to do with the Welsh singer/songwriter Shakin' Stevens.

But no, I learn that "shakeology" is a "nutrient-dense superfood protein shake - contains so much nutrition your body craves: digestive enzymes, prebiotics, adaptogens, fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, all crucial to being healthy and feeling great - all formulated with globally harvested ingredients".

Hm, pass! I'll stick with a pint or two of Guinness.

PS: Spellchecker moment ... the computer, unsurprisingly, came to a sudden stop at shagologist - and suggested hagiologist, which means a writer on the lives of the saints. As I said: Heaven's above.

I know I'm repeating myself: my faithful old spellchecker never disappoints.


Peerless and priceless

Peerless wit ... "Former Prime Minister Lloyd George reportedly said of hereditary peers that their only qualification is to be first of the litter - and: 'You would not choose a spaniel on those principles.' Spot-on." Peter Bloomfield of Petworth, West Sussex, in a letter to The Sunday Times.

Spot-on, indeed - Spot of course being a one-time popular name for a dog, but not necessarily a spaniel.

Priceless words ... "@hattiepeverel: Vincent Price was taller than Katie Price and heavier than Alan Price. I only know this because I looked at a price comparison website." Now that's a perfect dawn chorus, i.e. a glorious tweet of the day.

Go compare, indeed - and as The Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Leader of the House of Commons, said: "I hate it when people compare Boris Johnson to God. I mean He's good, but He's no Boris Johnson."


Do you take this lump of granite...?

Rock of ages ... "How fares Tracey Emin's marriage to a Gallic boulder...?" A hold-that-thought moment spotted in the Daily Mail.

At first I'd read it as "Gallic bounder", which would of course make sense - but no, it did indeed say "boulder".

Clearly I am not spending enough time on the grassy knoll observing and embracing the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade, so I had to do a bit of clickety-clicking ... and this is what I learnt:

In March 2016, Tracey Emin, 57, an English artist known for her autobiographical and confessional artwork - ah yes, I remember with dread, that unmade bed - announced that she had married a rock. She made the relationship public at the opening of an exhibition of her work in Hong Kong, telling the media that she had, the year before, exchanged vows with a sizeable stone in the garden of her home in the South of France...

"Be my rock, my shelter, my crazy lover, my best friend..."

Tracey Emin marries her Gallic bounder of a boulder in 2015
(and is she stepmother to that stepboulder?)

Obviously we are not talking about a 69-carat Cartier rock in the Liz Taylor/Richard Burton mould here, but literally a rock, the real thing (see above).

Asked about her 2015 wedding on a recent BBC 4's Woman's Hour, she replied: "I haven't seen him for quite some time and I might be looking elsewhere." Fingers crossed, the Daily Mail sympathised, they've just hit a rocky patch.

But what about all those little pebbles? After all, they must now be cobbles; indeed, the kids grow up so fast these days they will in no time be troublesome boulders. Oh, and is that a stepboulder in the photo?

Yep, whom the gods wish to make mad, they first sprinkle with creative ambition and loads more money than sense. But, how dull life would be without all this glorious doolallyness to keep us entertained?


Election footnotes

Downing Street refurbishment ... "Please, please, please, can we go back to talking about Brexit, or Covid, or statues, anything but who paid to decorate the Prime Minister's flat. Quite frankly I couldn't give a flattened sombrero." Philip Collison of Terrington St Clement, Norfolk, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

That letter was actually published a week before the elections of last Thursday - I point that out because the electorate gave their verdict, agreeing with the flattened sombrero view of things, witness the Conservatives in the Hartlepool by-election, where Boris Johnson overturned a majority of 3,500 at the last general election to take the seat - which had been Labour held since it was formed in 1974 - with a majority of 6,940.

With a figure of 200k being bandied about for the refurbishment of the four-bedroom flat (including 840-quid-a-roll gold wallpaper and a 10 grand sofa), there is talk of an official inquiry, see here:

"We are now satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred." The Electoral Commission announces an investigation into the refurbishment of Boris Johnson's Downing Street flat.

The smart thinking suggests that the investigation will cost an awful lot more than the makeover itself, which is almost certainly true, and a sure sign of doolallyness on high.

What I don't quite understand about all the fuss though is this: no matter how much was spent, or who paid for it, neither Boris nor the Tories will financially gain anything further down the line because the flat and its contents belong to the nation.

Finally, a quick word on the Labour party and leader Sir Keir Starmer's disastrous performance in England's elections, a new phrase surfaced:

A Starmer: an affliction where you struggle to get out any words of interest to anyone.

Oh dear - but I know what they mean. Whenever I catch sight him on telly he does possess the power to make me nod off, which is something you can't say about Boris.

PS: Spellchecker moment ... the computer came to a stop at Starmer's - as in Sir Keir Starmer's - and suggested Starker's, which rather confirms that the Labour leader was caught with his pants down regarding the election disaster - followed by Stammer's, which follows on cleverly from the phrase 'A Starmer'.

I've said it afore, and I'll say it agin: the old spellchecker never lets me down.


Sunday is knock-knock day

- - - - - - - - -
Hello! ... Hello, anyone there?
- - - - - - - - -

Driverless disparity ... "I consider it utterly ludicrous that we should consider allowing self-driving cars on the roads when we still have drivers on trains ['Self-driving' cars to be allowed on UK roads in 2021]." Gerry Woods of Brigg, Hampshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Indeed, the government has confirmed that drivers will not be required to monitor the road or keep their hands on the wheel when the vehicle is driving itself.

However, the driver will need to stay alert and be able to take over when requested by the system within 10 seconds. If a driver fails to respond, the vehicle will automatically put on its hazard lights to warn nearby vehicles, slow down and eventually stop.

Given that drivers often struggle to stay awake when physically in charge of a vehicle, it suggests that there will be plenty of hazard lights and cars coming to a sudden halt. And what happens if the problem is the automatic system that puts on the hazard lights to warn nearby traffic, slow down the vehicle and make it stop?

It certainly helps explain why there was nobody at home to answer the knock-knock on the door.


Medical shorthand

One for the road ... "Further to the letters about medical abbreviations, working in A&E in Manchester in the 1980s, the commonest injury abbreviation was PFO (pissed, fell over)." Dr John Burscough of Brigg, Lincolnshire, in a letter to The Times.

And there were more missives deserving of a mention...

Sunbathe with care ... "When I was a medical student in the early 1980s on attachment to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, deckchair assistants on nearby Boscombe beach often found unwell elderly people at the end of the day and sent them to A&E. The two abbreviations used were FID (found in deckchair), and FDID (found dead in deckchair)." Dr Alison Otto of Overstone, Northants.

Practical medicine ... "Once upon a time Oxfordshire ambulance service used CMP for a sudden death at home: cancel milk and papers." Philip Spinks, retired paramedic, Stratford-upon-Avon.

And this, a 5* response:

Emergency over ... "As a junior doctor in A&E my favourite abbreviation was LOLINAD (little old lady in no apparent distress)." Dr Fiona Cornish of Cambridge.

Shame it wasn't Dr Fiona Cornish of Camborne. But that's just me. Anyway...

Whenever I next catch sight of Nicola Sturgeon working herself up into a right old lather over independence for Scotland, I shall think LOLINOB (little old lady in need of break), with emphasis on the LOL, obviously.

Where's Alex Salmond when you need him?


The British Broadcasting Conundrum

"The BBC is failing to hold ministers to account ... As the crony contracts kept coming, where were the media?" A clickbait compliments of The Guardian, a left-hand-drive newspaper, caught my eye on the 1st of May; a headline to an article by George Monbiot, 58, a British writer known for his environmental and political activism, putting the boot into the BBC for not calling the Government to account.

Meanwhile, on the sunny side of the street - or is it the shady side of the street? (Delete to taste.)

"It is the BBC's greatest single ambition to remove Boris Johnson from power ... The attacks on the PM are from the 'blob' - the people who lost the EU referendum and the 2019 general election." A clickbait compliments of The Daily Telegraph, a right-hand-drive newspaper, caught my eye on - yes, the 1st of May; a headline to an article by Charles Moore, aka Baron Moore of Etchingham, 64, a British journalist and a former editor of The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator, putting the boot into the BBC for inexcusable political prejudice.

So, the BBC? Sunny or shady? Shady or sunny? The BBC noes to the left? The BBC noes to the right? You pays your money...

I am no standard bearer for today's BBC - their whole light entertainment and comedy output has become excessively child-like for my taste, even if I am approaching my second childhood - but as a proper spectator sport, stood as I am on the grassy knoll observing the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade, I do have some sympathy for our national broadcaster caught in a lose-lose / loose-loose situation, witness the above two clickbaits.

However, back with the politics: a stunning result by the Conservatives in yesterday's Hartlepool parliamentary by-election, where Boris Johnson's party overturned a majority of 3,500 at the last general election to take the seat - which had been Labour held since it was formed in 1974 - with a seismic majority of, gulp, 6,940.

For Labour it was not so much a by-election, more a bye-bye election. Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.

Mind you, it has been suggested that Boris won so handsomely because he declared war on France - front pages and TV news bulletins yesterday morning, election day, were awash with images of gunboats off to Jersey to see off the French. And let's be honest, we all want to see off that Macron fellow and his bolshie fishermen.

I guess it all goes to prove that whatever the BBC, or any other arm of the media, declares, it will all be rendered irrelevant by the gut instinct of the Great British Public when it places its cross in the box. And declaring a fishy war on the Frenchies helps (British fish and French fries fried the order of the day).

This is wonderfully reassuring to a political ignoramus like me.


Politics and litter bugs

What do you think of the show so far? Rubbish! ... "Although we enjoyed our time in your country, we are not recommending any further tours to the United Kingdom. This has nothing to do with Brexit, but litter. Of all the countries in the world we visit, on a regular basis, Britain is by far the worst for litter, especially on roads." John Read, the founder of the Clean Up Britain charity, was forwarded an email from an American travel company based in Washington that organises tourist trips to the UK.

The message ended with an abrupt apology: "I'm sorry to say, you've lost our business."

The above appeared in The Sunday Times, back on March 28, under the headline "Britain's a world leader in rubbish ... it's up to us to pick up the pieces".

Walking into town early on a beautiful if frosty and cold Bank Holiday Monday morning to beat the incoming rain and collect the morning paper, I registered the following planted outside homes along the way: one impressive Welsh Dragon flag, three property-for-sale boards - and 10 election campaign boards, all for the same candidate.

With today, Thursday, being election day for the Senedd (Welsh Assembly), such an explosion of election boards indicates that Llandeilo, politically speaking, is a one-horse town - which does sort of make sense because the town, apart from the alternative handle of Llandampness, is also affectionately referred to as Dodgy City (well, apart from the cowboys, Boot Hill, or Bridge Street, does climb straight through the church graveyard).

Reflecting on those one-party boards, today's election suggests a one-horse race in Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, but I did ponder if this means the candidate involved will run the race wearing blinkers, oblivious to the views of other runners?

Back along my daily walk into town, and after an exceedingly social Sunday with the pubs now unlocked after lockdown (at least for drinks and food outside), I pick up for recycling - well, here's the evidence...

One day's discarded litter collected off a mile-and-a-half stretch of Welsh road

...eight plastic bottles and one glass bottle, two beer cans (one squashed), and four plastic glasses.

For disposal into a bin along the way, three face masks (one black, one blue and one pink, yuck), various food wrappers - and, curiously, an umbrella (which I had hung on a wall the day before, but someone, presumably after a visit to the pub, had used it as a lightsaber and it was now well broken).

Incidentally, within the town itself a council employee clears the streets and parks of rubbish every morning, and does a proper job, but the built-up roads and country lanes leading in and out of town tend to be left for the occasional clear, which is where I do my bit.

When one of our political parties, whether in Cardiff or London, comes up with a plan to rid the country of this dreadful curse of discarded rubbish, through both education and effort on the ground, I may well consider voting for them. But I'm not holding out any hopes.

Incidentally, after a wet and windy Bank Holiday Monday, I only picked up one Pepsi Max can on the morning after, which had probably been chucked out of a passing vehicle anyway.

Back to square one...

A corporate rebranding bravely dispenses with vowels

Absrd ... "The announcement by the financial services company Standard Life of Aberdeen that it would henceforth be known as Abrdn (pronounced 'Aberdeen') was greeted with widespread derision ... The company hailed its choice as a switch to an 'agile, digitally enabled brand'. What does this mean? Who can tell?" A grab from a lead article in The Times.

What does it mean? Well, someone out there has the answer...

Vowels missing in action ... "Abrdn - clearly run by wnkrs." Steve Fleming of Claygate, Surrey, in a letter to The Guardian.

Clvr nd fnny rspns. (Indeed, a) ld f ld bllcks frm nrth f th brdr.

Never mind missing vowels, English is a funny old language anyway. I mean, lots of silent consonants - knickers, mnemonic, psychology, wrong - or, where letters that don't appear are nonetheless pronounced, as in nu(l)clear, law(r) and order, good morning(k), evening(k), surprising(k), complaining(k) ... Yes, where does that annoying K come from?

Burdensome brand ... "Your article on Abrdn and the silent P in PG Wodehouse's hero Psmith [from the comic novel Leave it to Psmith] reminded me of an English class when a fellow pupil at my school pronounced the P in psychology during a recitation. 'No, no boy,' our popular English teacher announced, smiling. 'The P is silent, as in swimming.' The penny eventually dropped and the reminder has stuck with me ever since." Dale Lyons of Birmingham, in a letter to in The Times.

And that reminds me of a sign I once saw pinned to the wall when visiting the bathroom for a pee: "We aim to please - you aim too, please."


Lady Chatterley revisited, a BBC buck, and a big bun in the oven

"If this filth is to your liking may we suggest that you move to the cesspit that is Hebden Bridge." A sign put up in Cornholme, a village in West Yorkshire, after steamy novels and pornographic literature were secretly left at their free roadside library.

Hebden Bridge, a market town just up the road from Cornholme, I discover, compliments of a curiosity click, is known as the lesbian capital of the UK, and is said to have more lesbians per square foot than anywhere else in the country.

Wel-i-jiw-jiw, as they would say down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon. And shouldn't that be "more lesbians per square inch than anywhere else in the country"?

Meanwhile, back with the more mundane stuff, so to speak...

"I've a huge amount to earn." Amol Rajan, 37, Indian-born British journalist and broadcaster who has been the BBC's Media Editor since 2016, tweets after landing a job on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. He quickly corrected his typing error, adding the missing letter to the last word of his message: "I've a huge amount to learn."

Hm, a subliminal slip of the subconscious?

Next, a reminder that there definitely isn't one born every minute...

"Congratulations, you've had a toddler!" Maternity ward staff at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, to first time mum Amber Cumberland, 21, after she gave birth to 12lb 14oz daughter called Emilia, the second biggest in the UK.

And that drew this response...

Big birthday ... "On the subject of large deliveries, after I had arrived as a (wartime) Lammas Day baby, my mother sent a telegram to her mother-in-law: 'BOY BORN 1ST 7LBS 6OZ STOP BOTH WELL.' My grandmother is said to have exclaimed: 'My! He was a big baby." David Reid of Otford, Kent, in a letter to The Times.

Hm, Lammas Day? Another quick curiosity click ...  "Lammas Day, also known as Loaf Mass Day, is a Christian holiday celebrated in some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, on the 1st of August. The name originates from the word 'loaf' in reference to bread, and 'Mass' in reference to the primary Christian liturgy celebrating Holy Communion."

Every day a day at school, hence one 'big bun in the oven'.


Reflections (Dawn Chorus Day)

"A still, clear, frosty, cold, picture-perfect start and morning ... overcast by midday ... showers into afternoon ... brighter by evening, still cold." Thus the entry atop my diary for yesterday, Sunday the 2nd of May 2021, Dawn Chorus Day here in the UK.

Yesterday morning, as per my usual routine, I set off on my daily walk into town, just before 7 o'clock, to collect the morning paper. I was taken aback by how cold it was - I was suitable dressed because a look out of the kitchen window observed the hedge and lawn coated in frost.

Despite the cold, the birds along the country lane were singing away. When I arrived in town I passed a familiar face walking his dog and I remarked, with a smile, that I was dressed on this May morning as I was back in mid-winter, which was actually true.

Now I keep a daily diary, where I note three things: at the top the weather that day (a throwback to my flying days - I held a private pilot's licence and weather could literally be a matter of life or death); next down I simply note where I have been that day, and if I have seen or experienced something, or indeed met someone, worth making a note of for future reference; finally the one thing that day that made me smile the most (joy), or shake my head in disbelief (doolallyness).

My diaries are quite entertaining to look back through.

Anyway, I flick back through the diary to the beginning of this year ... and this, my weather entry for the 2nd of January 2021, precisely four months ago:

"A still, frosty, cold and clear start ... high cloud slowly moving in from early morning ... some snow late morning ... then an overcast, grey, cold day ... spits and spots of rain/sleet/snow by evening."

Talk about snap! The only difference being that the increased heat from the spring sun turned the sleet and snow of January into the rain of May. But what a cold spring we are having. Brrr!


Sunday is knock-knock day

Who's there?

Yes, today is Dawn Chorus Day here in the UK...

A Celtic dawn in May heralds a dawn chorus

First thing this morning, around 5 o'clock, I switch on the radio, and birds are singing like mad. Yes, radio stations across the UK and Ireland (with the occasional dip across the channel) join together to broadcast the dawn chorus in real time. Magnificent, uplifting and heart-warming.

Enigma code cracked: equals tweet, or tweet-tweet (♪♪), or tweet-tweet-tweet (♪♪♪)!


Perfection wrapped in small packages

"While hundreds of people celebrated the reopening of outdoor hospitality last Monday, newlyweds Ross and Sasha had more reasons to toast a drink than most. With just six guests, the groom having never met the bride's family, and a reception on one of Cardiff's busiest streets, the wedding was far from traditional.
     "But despite completely coincidentally arranging the ceremony for the same day hospitality reopened, Ross, 22, and Sasha Kahler, 21, said their day was 'perfect'..."
The opening paragraphs of a story in the Western Mail under the headline "Happy couple celebrate their 'perfect' day as pubs reopen".

That story rang a bell. Just a day or so before, Vanessa Feltz on her early-morning BBC Radio 2 show had a birthday conversation with a female listener who had married during lockdown with just a few guests, on a day she recalled as "perfection".

"Funny you should say that," said Vanessa. "Over the past year I have spoken to two women I personally know who got married under lockdown, and both said exactly what you said about it being a perfect day."

Hm, as someone who has never had to think about arranging a wedding ceremony, or indeed getting married, perhaps it is now time for couples to plump for smaller weddings. I mean, think of the reduced costs, not to mention guests feeling obliged to buy presents perhaps the couple don't really need and certainly won't quarrel over when they divorce.

I feel the same about funerals. They should be small, private and personal affairs. It has been a relief over the past year to avoid funerals and instead send a carefully composed brief note celebrating some fond or amusing moment about the deceased.

I am always struck how positively families respond to such a note because that is how they want to remember that individual. After all, why go to a funeral to pay your respects when someone is dead? Do that when the person is alive. And the family will know how you feel without having to turn up at the funeral to publicly endorse it.

And on the subject of the deceased, I presume that both Captain Sir Tom Moore and Prince Philip would have chosen a lockdown funeral out of choice.

I am still taken aback by how little we knew about Prince Philip's life, his achievements and his sense of fun. And what a 'perfect' funeral he had. That lone piper slow marching and fading out of the chapel still lingers...


Chaos theory, a quick snifter, and a bra, bra black sheep

"@pmgentry: A professor of mine went to hear [French philosopher] Derrida speak once. The entire talk was about cows: everyone was flummoxed but listened carefully, and took note about ... cows. There was a short break, and when Derrida came back, he was like, 'I'm told it is pronounced chaos'." A recent tweet of the month - which earned my smile of the day.

I'll tell you what though: there's an awful lot of cows spotted on Downing Street these days. Or bullshit as they call it down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon. And talking of Number 10...

"A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry." Ecclesiastes 8.15 (King James Version). And Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons, endorses the Good Book thus: "As the pubs are now starting to reopen it is reassuring to have divine approval for visiting them."

And talking of dying for a quick snifter...

"I remember fellow athlete Brendan Foster asking one of our Russian handlers where was the nearest nightclub. He replied: 'Helsinki!'" Sebastian Coe, who won four Olympic medals, including the 1500 gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, recalls the deprivations faced by athletes at those Olympic Games.

Ah, those were the bad old days, before the Soviet Union morphed into the current bad new days called Russia and the Putin Club. Finally:

"I feel strongly that if we had more women scientists we would have fewer helicopters on Mars and more sports bras that don't require strong arm contortionist skills to get into." English journalist Jojo Moyes is unimpressed after Nasa celebrated the first controlled flight on another planet by its drone ingenuity.

I know nothing of sports bras, but I well remember from back in the day, when I was a trainee young buck about town in my TR3, that you needed contortionist skills to undo a common or garden bra.

Whatever, and back with that mini chopper, when the Mars helicopter success was announced by Nasa, there were quite a few women scientist present, so I don't think Jojo Moyes should be holding her breath for an easy-fit sports bra any day soon.

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