Five-star broadcast moments - 2

Gold! ... "I want two things: 1) An Olympic gold medal around my neck. 2) And to be mayor of Wolverhampton - I want one of those nice gold chains on my neck, calling all the shots. Everyone in Wolverhampton will have a nice ice grill and a nice big chain, courtesy of Ben Whittaker." Black Country boxer Ben Whittaker, the GB light-heavyweight from Darlaston, a town in the West Midlands of England, who has booked his place in the final, so at least guaranteeing himself a silver - and generating a memorable and epic gold broadcast moment along his journey towards, hopefully, the top step.

How apt then that just yesterday I featured a Q&A post about sports being mentioned in the Bible. The endless interviews with sports stars after they have just finished competing makes my heart sink. They are awash with the same old, same old tired questions and meaningless answers, especially when a fancied competitor has unexpectedly lost and they become tearful.

It is no surprise that increasing numbers of competitors go on to suffer mental issues when they are exposed to such overwhelming stress and distress.

Yes, there are golden moments when sports stars take interviews in their stride - Ben Whittaker, above, for example - but, are golden moments worth the price of the anguish of interviewing losers before they have properly regained their equilibrium and thoughts?

Why must competitors expose themselves to such endless mental anguish at our beck and call? I could happily do without all those track and pitchside interviews, especially all the tearful ones. Or perhaps only be fed the amusing and truly insightful interviews.

But perhaps that's just me.


Are any sports mentioned in the Bible?

Good luck and God speed! ... "If anyone competes as an athlete he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules." The Bible: 2 Timothy 2,5; alternatively, the New International Version: "Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor's crown except by competing according to the rules." Quite.

With the track and field events getting under way today in the Tokyo Olympics, I thought it a perfect time to share the question "Are any sports mentioned in the Bible?", as recently raised in the Question & Answer section of the Daily Mail.

A fascinating answer from a Roderick Taylor featured...

"There are many references to sports in the Bible. Archery features in the Old Testament, with David telling his friend Jonathan: 'I will shoot three arrows to the side of [the stone], as though I was shooting at a target' (1 Samuel 20,20).
     "In Lamentations 3,12, Jeremiah complains: 'He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows.'
     "Chariot racing could be inferred from 2 Kings 9,20, when it is reported that Jehu, the son of Nimshi, 'driveth furiously'."

Of course he does. I have seen Ben-Hur, especially that dramatic chariot race, although I accept that Charlton Heston doing his thing isn't exactly a documentary. Anyway, back with the Bible:

"In Hebrews 12, 1 the writer again uses the image of Olympian-style games with a host of spectators: 'Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.'"

While checking out the quote at the very top, I also came across this in 2 Timothy 4,7: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."


The power of an awe walk - 11

"I think that I shall never see
  A poem lovely as a tree.

  A tree that may in summer wear
  A nest of Robins in her hair.

  Poems are made by fools like me
  But only God can make a tree."
Yes, no apologies for repeating a snatch of Trees, by Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918, killed in action), an American writer and poet mainly remembered for his short poem titled Trees, published in 1914.

I repeat it because, yesterday, I shared a photo of not just how destructive we humans are in the way we discard our rubbish and poison nature in the process, but also make the countryside look so ugly.

But today, Mother Nature fights back...

Mother Nature puts human nurture in its place
Sweet chestnut tree at Dinefwr Park whispers "Coo-e, look at me"

The tree caught my eye, beautifully drenched in catkins and giving it a gently yellowish cast to the otherwise bright green foliage. Made even more glorious against the bright blue sky of July.

"A tree that may in summer wear
  A mass of catkins in her hair?"



Here's NOT lookin' at you

Same again, landlord ... "Britons drink 120 bottles of wine or 400 pints of beer every year - but still consume less alcohol than the French, Germans and Spaniards, report claims." A Daily Mail feature highlights an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report which claims Britons are the 16th biggest drinkers in the world but with some of the highest binge drinking.

At first glance that sounds bad ... and yet, and yet: that's just over two bottles of wine a week, or just over a pint of beer a day, which all sounds fairly reasonable. There again, if it's an average, then some will drink much more, hence the binge drinking twist in the tail of the report, I guess.

Anyway, it all brings me back to my daily duty of clearing the discarded rubbish along my early-morning country lane walk into town.

And here, a photo of the rubbish I can actually recycle, and collected over just a couple of days...

Fcuk me! Litter collected along my morning walk into Dodgy City

First, the vodka bottle: as you can see, there's quite a bit of liquid left in the bottle. At first I thought the disposer had peed in the bottle, but it was crystal clear, indeed a quick sniff confirmed it was alcohol.

But why would someone have thrown it away, though? Perhaps the guilty party was on their way home and didn't want to risk it being found and giving away that they had a drink problem, probably a drink-drive problem.

And then the wine bottle, also with some liquid remaining. Again a quick sniff confirmed it was wine. How curious. The Desperados tequila-flavoured beer bottle though was empty.

But how about that? Three glass bottles disposed of on the roadside. By the by, I couldn't resist including the FCUK URBAN bodyspray canister, found on a RURAL road, and a bit squashed by a passing vehicle. Honestly, what makes people chuck these things away rather than take them home to recycle?

Oh yes, those tiny blue bow ties? What could they be? Some decorations on a packet of chocolates or some such like? Odd or what?

"Curiouser and curiouser," said Aunty Alice.

PS: I did like one comment in response to the Daily Mail headline featured at the top, this from a Firkham of Lincoln (hm, I wonder if Firkham uses Fcuk bodyspray?): "Drinking rum before 10 in the morning doesn't mean you're an alcoholic, it's just that you might be a pirate, oh arr!"

Yo-ho-ho, me hearties!


Quote, unquote

All in it together ... "We're very Covid-conscious. We've flown around the world to try to miss out." Petra Ecclestone, 32, billionaire British heiress, model, fashion designer, socialite - and daughter of Bernie Ecclestone, 90, business magnate - who has travelled with her family to seven countries in a bid to escape the virus.

Ah, the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade. Some people exist in a parallel universe where they appear to possess as much empathy with fellow human beings as an amoeba has with a dolphin. But you have to laugh.

So that's the doolallyness taken care of - now for a bit of joy...

Good place to hang out ... "I don't care if my breasts reach my belly button. I am not wearing a bra." Gillian Anderson, 52, American actress, vows never to wear a bra again after getting lazy during lockdown.

From a man's perspective I can only presume that wearing a bra must be, not so much like having to wear a jockstrap all the time, but more akin to a cricket box guard, ouch.

I am unashamedly on Gillian's side, but definitely not with Petra.


Bojo and Dom: pistols at dawn?

Do not enter box unless exit is clear ... "This might be in bad form, but worth asking anyway: given that Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings (the prime minister's former chief adviser but now spitting fire and brimstone) have both been touched by coronavirus, could it be that the two are now suffering a form of long Covid which renders them, not so much incapable of thinking outside the box, but more alarmingly, inside the box?" Thus a question I posed in a letter to the Western Mail.

Yes, the relationship between Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings has indeed "fallen off a cliff" and thrown Downing Street into turmoil after Cummings accused the PM of telling aides to make a series of false accusations. The pantomime season has started extra early this year.

Following the extraordinary detailed allegations made by Cummings against Johnson in his television interview with the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg, in which, and I quote a headline - "leaves one gasping at his audacious contempt for democracy in general and the Prime Minister in particular" - the episode gives "rolling one's eyes" a whole new slant.

And talking of box, I guess it truly is bad form to wonder aloud if things on the crown jewels front are still firing on all six cylinders for Boris. I mean, does Covid-19 affect an individual's sex drive? And if so, no wonder Boris doesn't seem to know whether he is coming or going these days.

Mention of Boris's sex drive reminds me of the American academic fellow, pollster and pundit, Frank Luntz, 59 (who simply calls himself a "word guy"), and who has been in the news because of his analysis of whether America's culture wars will become Britain's too.

He is a long-time acquaintance of Boris, 57, helping him in the 1980s to become Oxford Union president, and that's back in the days when wokeism wasn't even a twinkle in anyone's eye.

Whatever, Luntz still crunches the numbers on his old chum: "I've polled 1,000 women asking if they would sleep with Boris," he told a recent gathering. "Twenty per cent said: 'Never again.'"

And that's why, obviously, he is a celebrated "word guy".


Sunday is knock-knock day

Who's there?
Space who?
Space Oddity:
"Major Bezos to ground control..."

Flicking through The Sunday Times ... my eye lands on the following cartoon...

With Sunday being knock-knock day, how could I not share the above.

Planet Earth is blue,
And there's nothing I can do...



Letters from Middle-Britain - 25

Freedom ahoy! ... "Boris Johnson labelled July 19 'Freedom Day', but added that we should carry on wearing masks, work from home, and not gather in large groups [outside of controlled mass events and attractions]. We will still be tracked-and-traced and may need to self-isolate if we have been in the vicinity of someone who has tested positive and we are subsequently pinged. Freedom at last." James Kenny of Brinklow, Warwickshire, in a letter to The Sun.

Yes, all very confusing...

Covid compliance ... "Surely if we all wanted to be 'as safe as possible' at all times, shouldn't we wear masks, life jackets, and stab vests?" Keith Macpherson of Clevedon, Somerset, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

And let's not forget those hi-vis vests...

Easy does it ... "Almost all restrictions lifted but we must go slowly. Regaining our freedom and going slowly - are they really compatible?" Neil Coppendale of Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, in a letter to the Daily Mail. A view endorsed by composer and impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber, who cancels his new Cinderella show due to Covid: "A Freedom Day has turned into closure day."

Yes, Boris Johnson is becoming a master of the confused message, blowing all hot and cold. What strange tune is he playing?


Bezos comes back down to Earth

Great truth ahoy! ... "The cleverest people do and say the most stupid things." This came to mind in the wake of Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos successfully completing his space jaunt, when he made the following statement, which even at the time had ambush written all over it: "I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this."

What was he thinking? Indeed, the following newspaper clickbait rather sums it all up: "Amazon customers slam Jeff Bezos for 'tone deaf' victory lap and thanking them for paying for his space dream after 'ignoring' workers' demands and paying minimal rates of tax for years."

It also drew this letter to The Times:

Weightless wonder ... "Your report was headlined 'Amazon delivers boss into space'. I would be slightly more impressed if they could just deliver my ordered paperback, which was due on Saturday but has still not arrived [Thursday]." John Roberts of Heaton Mersey, Lancashire.

You have to laugh. Also, some online comments caught the eye...

"Hold-Fast c/o UK: I can't decide who is the bigger Dickhead: Jeff or the capsule."

And just to remind ourselves...

Jeff Bezos rides a todger into space

...which drew this cheery observation:

"POW c/o Birmingham: It really is quite an amusing shape, isn't it? My guess is the designer must have been doodling when Jeff came in, and then he tried to pass off his todger doodle as a rocket design. I guess he just had to go with it from then on."

Top marks. Oh, and rather unkindly...

"Mike c/o Carlisle: I thought he was going home."

And finally...

"Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) c/o The Milky Way: Totally not overcompensating for something."

PS: Spellchecker moment ... the computer, rather unsurprisingly, came to a stop at todger, and suggested dodger, a rather neat sidestep, I thought.


Where Harry hangs his hats - and Boris provides an answer

Family trade off ... "Prince Harry is to release a memoir giving 'an accurate and wholly truthful' account of his life as a member of the Royal Family. Harry explains:
     "'I'm writing this not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become. I've worn many hats over the years, both literally and figuratively, and my hope is that in telling my story - the highs and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned - I can help show that no matter where we come from, we have more in common than we think'."
A hold-the-front-page story spotted all over the media shop.

So, Harry, you plan to publish a tell-all memoir, and that despite all your please for privacy and vows never to cash in on your royal status. And yet, and yet ... you still identify yourself as Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex.

Hm, are you sure we have "more in common than we think"?

And what does "an accurate and wholly truthful" account mean? Surely something is either truthful or not? Or is this a subtle version of you and Meghan's memorable "my truth, my whole truth, and nothing but my truth", as featured in your Soap Oprah interview?

Yep, even more Confusions 'R' Us - and talking of which: from Harry hanging up his hats - to Boris putting on his white lab coat:

Beating obesity ... "It is reported that Boris Johnson has poured cold water on proposals for a tax on sugar and salt. That will be a solution." Stephen L Phillips of Chirk, Denbighshire, North Wales, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.


Nose to the grindstone

Return to work ... "Have you noticed that nobody works these days? Everybody works hard or incredibly hard." Ian Sandison of Colinsburgh, Fife, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

And that observation drew a thread of smiley responses to the Telegraph:

Incredibly industrious ... "Since everyone is now working 'hard' or 'incredibly hard', it follows that when they take time off, it is always 'well deserved'." Joseph Kerrigan of Old London Town.

Challenging nature ... "In Government pronouncements especially, people 'work tirelessly' at all times. Quite an achievement, upsetting the laws of physiology." Bill Davidson of Balderton, Nottinghamshire

Coasting constituency ... "Spare a thought for those of us in the population who just do the 'bare minimum'. There is no political party that aims to get our vote." Anthony Hunt of Chester.

And I am with Anthony Hunt of Chester - ah, Chester: I remember it well, fond memories - anyway, I am with Anthony all the way.

I was never driven by ambition for position and reward. In every job, I did just what was expected of me, meeting every target and deadline. No more, no less. I was never part of the workforce that worked 'hard' or 'incredibly hard' to climb the greasy pole, or perhaps move on to greener pastures to satisfy ambition. I was never part of the workforce that was unproductive, or didn't pull its weight, and as a consequence moved on, or was dismissed.

So I was part of that group of employees that every organisation depends on to get things done without excessive supervision. In other words, I was never promoted, I was never sacked. Even when I became self-employed I did just enough to pay the bills and, importantly, not to let any client or customer down.

It has been a most agreeable stroll through time and space. Simply doing the 'bare minimum' without drawing attention. I have a degree from the University of Life in it.


Bezos has a blast

"Jeff Bezos hails 'best day ever' after successful Blue Origin space flight." The richest person on the planet, along with his "crew" of three, successfully completed a suborbital flight lasting 11 minutes on the New Shepard rocket ship made by his space company, Blue Origin.

Back on terra firma, Bezos added: "I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this."

A Blue Damascene Phallic Symbol

Jeff Bezos rides a cock-horse to cross
the Karman line into space (sort of)

Breaking news: A billionaire driven by ambition and greed suddenly discovers on his damascene journey that Earth is beautiful and fragile - and insists that corporate giants (such as Amazon) must stop contributing to the pillaging, raping, burning and poisoning of our precious planet. (Er, perhaps I made that last bit up.)

Anyway, I can only repeat what I said yesterday: Yep, the whole world's gone mad - except for thee and me - etcetera, etcetera...


Go mad responsibly

"For supporters who are planning to watch the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium without a ticket, boo the players 'taking the knee', stick a lit flare up their bottoms and unleash unbecoming criticism of any England player who, God forbid, fails to convert his penalty, please do so responsibly." Gareth Southgate, England football team manager, issues a "Dear England Supporter" message prior to the final on Sunday the 11th of July 2021.

No, of course Gareth didn't issue such a message - however, I was inspired by this extraordinary utterance spotted in The Mail on Sunday's "QUOTES of the week":

"For people who are protesting and looting, please do so responsibly." Duduzane Zuma, son of former South African president Jacob Zuma, issues a plea after violent unrest sweeps the country, sparked by Zuma's imprisonment.

Yep, the whole world's gone mad - except for thee and me - etcetera, etcetera...


Sunday is knock-knock day

Who's there?
Confucius who?
No, no, not Confucius - Confusions!
Oh! Confusions who?
Confusions 'R' Us!

"Britain sweltering in 'freedom day' mayhem." As Britain enjoys a heatwave it faces disruption to food supplies, transport networks and industry as Covid-19's third wave intensifies, hours before Boris Johnson is set to lift most pandemic legal restrictions.

Thus the front page of today's Sunday Times, reflecting conflicting evidence and mega confusion over rules as to whether restrictions should be relaxed - "a threat to the world", argue some health experts.

As a fear of "ping-demic" chaos grows - the number of people ordered to stay at home by the government's Test and Trace app, and increasing numbers of staff having to self-isolate - there are fears as to whether the Prime Minister may be forced to reimpose lockdown restrictions if Covid cases continue rising into the autumn.

Confusions 'R' Us, indeed.

Inside, The Sunday Times features this painting, adding a smiley-come-thoughtful speech bubble...

July 19 ... Pandora's Box moment

Woman (Mrs Johnson?): "If not now, then when?"

And yet, and yet ... out here on the grassy knoll - far, far from the madding crowd, admittedly - everything appears remarkably calm, stress free and, um, whisper it, normal.


Tread carefully

"I'm tired of Junk: I'm still more tired of Rhyme.
  But the Passing Parade gives me pleasure all the time."
With apologies to the ghost of Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), Anglo-French writer, orator, poet, sailor, satirist and historian, compliments of his poem 'Fatigue'.

Yesterday, I shared a picture of the curiously abandoned tractor tyre found along my morning walk into town.

I have now spoken to Andrew, proprietor of the dealership and repair shop just opposite specialising in ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles), garden machinery, mini diggers and dumpers, and my thoughts originally were that some lads leaving the pub a few doors down had, for a laugh, climbed over the fence into his yard and somehow got the tyre out onto the road and had a bit of fun with it - before dumping it there.

Andrew smiled: "Yes, I noticed that tyre - but no, I don't do anything with tractor tyres. There are plenty of old quad bike tyres around here, but no tractor tyres."

Discussing the abandoned tyre we speculated whether someone had dumped it to avoid the charge for taking it to an official dump, probably around ten quid. However, being that the tyre, although worn, appeared in good condition, and could still be worth anything up to hundred quid - new tyres can cost around three hundred pounds - so the whole thing remained a mystery.

Oh yes: who had subsequently collected or moved it?

So fast forward a couple of weeks ... walking past the local rugby ground, every Saturday morning, as I do, I regularly observe a crowd of youngsters, mostly female, leave the gym next door to Andrew's business, and head for the rugby ground just across the road.

I presume they are a women's rugby team, and I often stop to watch their intriguing training regime ... and what did I see...?

Llandeilo RFC's heavy duty crowd doing a bit of TTT: tractor tyre training

Would you believe it? Yes, the tractor tyre had actually been purposely dumped opposite the road entrance to the gym - and there it now was, being used as a training aid. Wonderful. (I presume it's the same tyre as featured yesterday. And anyway, there were quite a few other tyres of different sizes doted about, a couple you can see in the background.)

It gives a whole new meaning to carrying a spare tyre around all day.

Every day is indeed a day at school. And talking of which, the short, comic poem by Hilaire Belloc, which I paraphrased at the top, actually goes thus:

"I'm tired of Love: I'm still more tired of Rhyme.
  But Money gives me pleasure all the time."


Gripping stuff

Tyred out ... "Drive softly because you tread on my dreams." With apologies to the ghost of William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet and dramatist, from his poem 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven' (1899).

Back on the 16th of March 2021, I shared a picture of a shredded car tyre found by the side of the road...

The curious case of the end of a car tyre

                                                 ...and, not unnaturally, pondered how the hell it had ended up there (see here). Yep, one of life's curious little mysteries. And I will never know the answer.

And then, a few weeks ago, one early morning along my daily walk into town, I come across this...

An abandoned tractor tyre tired of life?

Now how the hell did a heavy-duty tractor tyre end up on the pavement into town?

Well, just opposite is a dealership and repair shop specialising in ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles), garden machinery, mini diggers and dumpers, but even though the gates into the premises are locked I imagined that some lads leaving the pub a few doors down the night before had, for a laugh, climbed over the fence into the yard and somehow got the tyre out onto the road and had a bit of fun with it - before abandoning it there.

By the following morning the tyre had gone. Hm, curiouser and curiouser, said Aunty Alice.

When I next see Andrew, proprietor of the aforementioned business, I will ask him about the curious case of the mysterious tractor tyre in the night.

Home Page


The importance of being ... memorable

Smoke signals ... "May I take this opportunity to thank the compiler of quick crossword 15,962 (5 July) for using my surname, however inadvertently, in answer to the clue: start to smoke. There are very few of us around, and seeing my surname in the crossword made this one feel very happy." Roger Lightup of Salford, Greater Manchester, in a letter to The Guardian.

Crash, bang, wallop ... "I am pleased that Roger Lightup has seen his surname in print. I, however, have a much better chance, especially on car insurance claims." Annette Dent of Keighley, West Yorkshire, exchanges details with Mr Lightup in the letters page of The Guardian.

Stop taking the, er... "The letters from Roger Lightup and Annette Dent remind me of my old London Transport photocard, where I wrote just my initial and surname in the space for 'Name of holder'." Andrew Holder of South Wonston, Hampshire, amusingly continues the thread.

He, she, um ... "Readers could spare a thought for those of us whose forename and surname can be transposed. My late father, Austin Jayne, was once admitted to a woman's ward at a local hospital." Hilary Jayne of Ealing, London.

That last one reminds me of the marvellously named English professional racing cyclist Pfeiffer Georgi. Foreign television broadcasters often show her name as Georgi Pfeiffer, which is quite amusing because she has one of those glorious names that makes sense whichever way round you say it.

Finally, to complete a royal flush of letters on memorable surnames...

Who's a pretty girl then? ... "A surname can certainly make a difference. I often get asked: 'Is that your real name?' Yes, it is." Dr Polly Bird of Bedlington, Northumberland, rounds off this entertaining thread with a flourish.


God vs the Devil

First, a word from God ... "On telling my wife that a refund had arrived she replied: 'Praise the Lord.' Our Google device immediately answered: 'You're welcome.' I can't persuade it to repeat the trick, so perhaps the Almighty is now using modern technology to communicate." Kevin Croot of Coggeshall, Essex, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

However, in the opposite corner...

I, robot ... "I am always puzzled when filling in a form to be asked to confirm that I am not a robot. Surely it would be very simple to program a robot to recognise the box to tick next to the words 'I am not a robot'." Cdr Vernon Phillips RN (retd) of Mere, Somerset, in a letter, also to The Daily Telegraph.

Interesting that, because I seem to recall that whenever I've had to fill in a form online I am confronted by visual challenges to confirm that I am not a robot ("click on the three photographs with traffic lights in them"). There again, perhaps robots can now sort out such challenges with, um, their eyes closed.

Whatever, it goes to prove that navigating life online is to be continually confronted with the positive aspects of life, the universe and everything, i.e. God, or the negative ambush of evil lurking around every corner, i.e. the Devil.

Proceed with care.

PS: Apropos why robots have not been programmed to tick the "I am not a robot" box, Steve Cattell of Hougham, Lincolnshire, enlightened us: "The process is not to do with ticking boxes but with time for the website to check your history and cookies, and ensure that it is dealing with a personal computer, not a bot."

Proceed with care, indeed.


Euro 2020 postscripts

Banker bet ... "There is talk of an additional bank holiday if England win Euro 2020 on Sunday. Will an existing one be cancelled if they lose?" Derek Wellman of Lincoln, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

I repeat the above because there have been some marvellous follow-ups...

In memoriam ... "If, as reported, the nation has been devastated by the defeat, the promised bank holiday could be replaced by a day of mourning." Sid Bocking of Abridge, Essex, in a letter to The Times.

Creative practitioners ... "Besides yellow and red cards, should referees be able to give out Equity cards?" John Gilbert of Reepham, Norfolk, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

And that letter offers up a perfect introduction to perhaps the puniest and smiliest line of the Euro tournament following England's 2-1 semi-final win over Denmark:

"THEY THINK IT'S FALL OVER." Headline in the Scottish edition of the Metro newspaper after Raheem Sterling was brought down for a controversial and game-winning penalty during England's victory over Denmark.


Football's gone AWOL - at least it's not coming home, just yet

Satnav goes haywire ... "England's footballing navigational aid takes the scenic route in the final; Italy's takes the direct route." A thought that came to mind in the wake of England's failure to consummate their love affair with the game of football in general, and Euro 2020 in particular.

Monday, the morning after the night before, I turn on the bedside radio and I catch the tail end of an overnight phone-in on BBC Radio 5 about the Euro final, something I would not normally listen to, but one contributor puts across an intriguing point that tickles my imagination.

Roger of Birmingham: "Gareth Southgate is the best PR man that England has ever had and he ought to be their Director of Communications. But he lacks proper football knowledge to be the manager of the team."

Phone-in host Dotun Adebayo challenges Roger rather forcefully on this, arguing that he is the first manager of England since 1966 to get the team into a meaningful final: "What did Gareth Southgate do wrong?"

Roger replies: "He didn't do anything wrong - but he didn't quite get it right. Set aside the argument that England had an easier path to the final - Germany, by common consent, are nowhere near the force they once were - but Gareth lacks sufficient knowledge of the game because he doesn't know his best team. Leading up to this tournament he hasn't once played the same team. He hasn't picked the same eleven in any game, including the final where he made one change following the semi, and that from a fully fit and available squad."

Now I'm a rugby man, and I have noticed down all the years that I have followed my local team, the Llanelli Scarlets, or indeed Wales, when they go on a golden run of results, the team remains unchanged.

And here's another thing: when a team is playing well, rarely do they suffer injuries or lose players through cards, so the best XV, in the mind of the coach, is always available for selection. At the other end of the scale, when a team hits a poor vein of form, they suffer endless injuries and get shown a litany of yellow and red cards. Such is life when the positive side of the brain is in command.

Every day is a day at school.

Oh, and just to endorse what Roger of Birmingham was arguing, this letter in The Times, from Alistair Forsyth of Aberlady, E Lothian:

Euros defeat ... "As a Scot and obviously a neutral observer, can somebody explain why Gareth Southgate invited three players who came on late to take penalties, all of whom failed to score? Surely, players who had been on the field for some time would be far calmer and have a better feel for the task."


Sunday is knock-knock day

Who's there?
Opportunity who?
Opportunity, who only knocks once!

The morning of the confusingly titled Euro 2020 final between England and Italy kicks off in 2021 with a smile, compliments of The Sunday Telegraph front page: yes, it's a MATT cartoon...

The usual confused looking fellow is walking past a hospital, and is looking up at a huge banner hanging over a wall at the entrance to the hospital, a banner which carries this message:


Indeed, MATT.

Also, inside The Sunday Telegraph, there's a brief Comment piece which blasts off thus...

Rocket man ... "Richard Branson blasts off on his rocket today, weather permitting, taking an early lead in the battle of the billionaires to make it into space. The next prize will be the moon; after that, Mars. The madness won't end until Elon Musk has been catapulted through a black hole..."

Well, if Rocket man Branson took an early lead, so did England against Italy with a gloriously taken goal. However, the Italians slowly but surely took control of the game, finishing 1-1, even after extra-time. And then the dreaded penalties ... Italy win 3-2.

And back to square-one go England after showing much promise during the competition. Will it be another 55 years before England make it to another final? I hope not. After all: Opportunity knocks only once.

PS: Will an existing bank holiday now be cancelled (see yesterday's slice of joy)?


Five-star letters from Middle-Britain - 5

Banker bet ... "There is talk of an additional bank holiday if England win Euro 2020 on Sunday. Will an existing one be cancelled if they lose?" Derek Wellman of Lincoln, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

How wonderful is that? The late Edward de Bono, he of lateral thinking fame, would be proud of such a train of thought.

But who on earth first floated the idea of such a thing with the country struggling to exit the pandemic and desperate to start firing on all cylinders once again?

The word on the street is that this particularly bonkers thought-bubble wafted out of No 10, which again hints at the suspicion that Boris Johnson is showing worrying signs of suffering from some sort of Long Covid which is affecting his thinking.

Whatever, the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade encapsulated in one gem of a letter.


Carry On Chuckling

Cripes, Gramps! ... "Shedding light on grandfatherly duties, British actor, broadcaster, writer, former politician and omnipresent media personality Gyles Brandreth, 73, cheerfully reveals on ITV's This Morning: 'I'm taking my grandchildren through the Carry On films.'
"Visibly surprised to learn Gyles has subjected youngsters to the incorrigible and sexually suggestive antics of Sid James and company, host Phillip Schofield anxiously inquires: 'How old are they?' Gyles mischievously responds: 'They're getting older by the minute, I can tell you.'"
A smiley tale worth sharing, as spotted in the Daily Express Hickey gossip column.

That brought to mind a memorable exchange in one of the Carry On films. No, not the one voted the funniest one-line joke in film history, as uttered by Kenneth Williams as Julius Caesar in Carry On Cleo, as he is chased by those out to assassinate him: "Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me."

The one that makes me chuckle is from Carry on Cowboy, a romp of double entendres through the bars and bedrooms of the Wild West.

Sid James is the black-hatted outlaw Johnny Finger, alias the Rumpo Kid. He enters Stodge City's saloon and is approached by the owner, Belle Armitage (Joan Sims), who instructs him in no uncertain manner to hand over his gun. As he obeys and hands it over, Belle looks down at his weapon and says, suitably impressed: "My, but you got a big one."

And Johnny Finger responds: "I'm from Texas, ma'am. We all got big ones down there."

And there, in that one exchange, the Carry On franchise summed up in a nutshell.

There's a brief clip featuring the above scene on YouTube, see 'Carry on Cowboy Hilarious Scenes'.


Football's coming home

Modesty ... "'These players have a level of humility that really is important, we pride ourselves on it,' says England's football manager (Gareth Southgate says 'We can't be shrinking violets'). Delighted to see the England team are proud of their humility." Dr Peter Phillips of Swansea, in a letter to The Times.

I share that letter because it reminded me of the following quotation:

Pretentious? Moi? ... "The primary condition for being sincere is the same as for being humble: not to boast of it, and probably not even to be aware of it." Henri Peyre (1901-1988), French-born American linguist, Literature and Sincerity (1963).


The road less travelled

"Why Wales should be cheering on England to victory tonight...
"Forget the War on Woke boo boys and the gammons with bald heads, red faces and England shirts - they have nothing to do with an England team who are at the forefront of the UK's culture war, argues author Laura Kemp, who lives in Wales and is married to a Welshman."
The headline and opening shot of an article in today's Western Mail, the morning of the England-Denmark semi-final in Euro 2020.

The article by Laura prompted me to respond (published Thursday):

Danes have enjoyed great levels of support

Laura Kemp has chosen the wrong game to explore her worthy argument that "Wales should be cheering on England to victory tonight..." (Agenda, July 7).
     When Wales played Denmark in the first round of knockout games, they experienced what England suffers in every sport: it was Wales vs The Rest of the World - every neutral supporter has been behind Denmark 100% in every game because of what happened to Christian Eriksen in their opening game (he collapsed with a heart attack and flirted with death, but thanks to immediate medical attention, survived).
     And look how well the Danes have believed and performed. More importantly, how Wales were dismantled and beaten by such overwhelming support for Denmark (Wales duly defeated 4-0). No wonder England haven't won any football trophy since 1966.
     The reason why England, and also the Great Britain team, suffer such hostility is too complex to explore here, but ponder this: if there was no such thing as a GB team in the Olympics, would cyclist Geraint Thomas have enjoyed such acclaimed success if he hadn't originally been part of a hugely successful British track cycling team? And then an English/British team called Sky?

Back with the England vs Denmark game: Thursday, the morning after the night before, one set of football players and supporters will echo the words of Uncle Willie in the film High Society: "My dear boy, this is the sort of day history tells us is better spent in bed."

As it happens, it was the Danes who were confined to beddy-byes, beaten 2-1 (albeit compliments of a dodgy penalty against them). But that's life.


A bridge not too far

Poker face ... "Bridge, a trick-taking card game using a standard 52-card deck, played by four players in two competing partnerships, has become high society's favourite pursuit during lockdown, especially since it is easy to play the game on Zoom. One trusts they remember the old convention that playing bridge is like sex. If you don't have a good partner, you need a good hand." A smiley tale spotted in The Times' TMS column.

Now how does that old saying go?

Life with men is like bridge: you need a Heart to love them; a Diamond to marry them; a Club to beat them; and a Spade to bury them.


♪♪♪: Sometimes the snow comes down in June...

BBC Radio 4 podcast ... More Or Less: Behind the stats
23 June 2021: "Delta causes; blue tits; and that one-in-two cancer claim ... Should we worry about the Covid-19 Delta variant? Plus how much do blue tits eat? "

Tit becomes a boob ... "Alexa censors the phrase 'blue tit' from a recent podcast by BBC Radio 4's More or Less, an investigative programme about the accuracy of numbers and statistics in the public domain." Tim Harford, 47, English economist, journalist and broadcaster, the show's presenter, joked that "big tech has crossed a line" after Amazon's Alexa "bleeped out the word bluetit", which was a reference to the bird in the name of a podcast, adding: "Sorry, Alexa, you won't stop us talking about blue tits, grey tits, or even the Indonesian fluffy backed tit babbler."

Well, that's the end of civilisation as we know it. Alexa has turned into a snowflake.

And how should I caption the following to avoid the wrath of the snowflake generation?

Tits ahoy! A great tit trumps a blue tit to a free Welsh breakfast

Oh, and I hate to think how I should caption a photo of "A blackbird in the hand is worth two in the bush", which is lurking somewhere in my photo files. Probably.

Finally, back with the More Or Less podcast headline - I never listened to the podcast itself, not my scene, I was simply attracted to the snow coming down in June woke-up call - and whether we should worry about the Covid-19 Delta variant, this caught my eye:

Departure lounge ... "After the new Delta variant, will the next ones be called EasyJet and Flybe?" Colin Hainsby of Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail.


Sunday is knock-knock day

Who's there?
Grim who?

Last Sunday's knock-knock took a Grim Reaper diversion, featuring Edward de Bono, famous for his "lateral thinking". Well, here's another death that caught the eye.

A recent obituary was of Brian London, boxer, born on June 19, 1934. The former British heavyweight champion contested the world title twice, once in 1966 against Muhammad Ali, who knocked him out in the third round. Nevertheless, London said he'd given his opponent a real fright. Asked how he'd done this, he replied: "Well, he thought he'd killed me."

Muhammad Ali himself was unusually becalmed before that fight. He announced that he was abstaining from "talking and popping off". Yet he did make one typically bombastic statement of his opponent. If the strong and durable fighter known as the "Rock of Blackpool" won, Ali would retire and London would be the "next prime minister".

Brian London died following a long illness on June 23, 2021, aged 87.


When political bouncers turn to spin

Howzat?! ... "Last Monday, the prime minister could be found gibbering at the camera on a factory visit, wearing not just a hard hat and a hi-vis jacket but also a white lab coat. Finally, he possesses all three Infinity Garments. I'm sure he'll wield his power responsibly..." Marina Hyde, English journalist and Guardian columnist, bowls a wonderful delivery to confuse No 10's opening batsman (more of 'Infinity Garments' later).

Walking into town yesterday morning, Friday, I am greeted by an AA roadside board which reads - well, let's take a look...

Should this find a home at the entrance to Downing Street?

Yes, there's a Storytelling Festival spinning a line over the weekend, July 2-4. And it set me off on a lateral journey...

Perhaps the AA should stick a similar but permanent board to the above at the entrance to Downing Street. Indeed, 'Beyond the Border' sounds just about right.

When Matt Hancock, officially playing a straight bat but caught out on the boundary - or was it in the slips? - when breaking the 7th Commandment, Boris said that he had accepted Hancock's apology, and now considered the matter closed. Michael Gove, Cabinet Office Minister in the current administration, subsequently endorsed the prime minister's position.

Then Hancock resigned and Boris switched from bowling bouncers to delivering spin, and surprised us by saying that, actually, as well as accepting Hancock's apology he had sacked him anyway. It's not that we don't know that politicians are regularly caught leg-before when batting away questions involving ethics, morality and honest, but that they unconditionally accept that we fall for such endless spin.

Incidentally, and observing the passing parade from the grassy knoll, the swiftness with which Matt Hancock walked out on his marriage following the disclosure by The Sun newspaper of his 'Hands ... Face ... Embrace' hokey-pokey with an aide, suggests that it merely speeded up the inevitable.

Also, as someone who lives in a market town community where nothing goes on without generating a wealth of juicy gossip, I always smile when I see seemingly fit and married middle-aged-plus men regularly out and about on 'training runs' and showing off their physical prowess by effortlessly, er, hurdling fences and doing endless press-ups (in the style of Mr Hancock).

Oh yes, the aforementioned Michael Gove and his journalist wife Sarah Vine have just announced that they too have agreed to separate, a joint spokesman for the couple has said.

Say nothing is best, just wait and see what comes out in the wash.

PS: So I Googled 'Infinity Garments': 'An infinity dress, also known as a convertible dress, is a dream of a gown that can simply be styled differently in 27 different ways without having to disclose sleeves, without the use of a belt, or even adding any accessories.' Yep that's Boris, metaphorically speaking, at least.

I also learnt that 'the symbol of infinity is used to remind us of balance, focus, harmony, peace, and oneness.' Um, perhaps not so much Boris after all.

Every day a day at school.


Winning and losing graciously - and, um, cheers!

Experts, eh? ... "It's nice again to once more have 82 million people who think they are the coach of Germany rather than 82 million virologists." German footballer Leon Goretzka says Euro 2020 (being played in 2021) has given his compatriots something else other than the pandemic and Covid to express their expertise on after losing to England.

Following England's 2-0 defeat of Germany in the Euros last Tuesday - a whole new experience for two generations of Germans - this also caught my eye...

Don't mention the war ... "Whatever comes up during the Prime Minister's meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, I wonder if he will have been advised not to mention the football." K B Moore of Exmouth, Devon, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

As it happens, reports today confirm that Merkel did congratulate England on their win. Staying with football...

Aguaplaning ... "Agua!" Portugal's superstar footballer Cristiano Ronaldo reportedly knocks 4billion dollars off Coca Cola's share price after flamboyantly sweeping the drink away at a Euros press conference - and telling people to drink water instead.

But here's the funny thing: prior to that incident the presence of the two bottles of Coca Cola in a prime position in front of the players and managers at every press conference hadn't registered (perhaps they had subliminally, certainly not consciously), but now, the first thing my eye is drawn to are those two bottles standing proud and offering up the victory salute.

Surely 4billion dollars should have been added to Coco Cola's share price given the old maxim that there is no such thing as bad publicity, especially so when it involves a celebrity of both notoriety and popularity like Ronaldo.


Thursday, 1st of July
International Joke Day 2021

I say, I say, I say! ...  "I tell ya, muggers are jerks, but you still gotta hand it to them." Thus begins another International Joke Day on the interweb, an observation of life, the universe and everything, in an American accent...

And here's my contribution...

Clockwork rage ...  "I used to have gadgets that ran like clockwork: all I had to do was wind them up. These days I only have gadgets that wind me up." Anonymous.

I stumbled upon the above witty contribution in my diary - but it had no author indicated. As here on Look You, I always acknowledge a good line or joke, unless of course it's my own - and I don't claim the above as mine. I even Googled it to see where it comes from ... nothing.

I may well have heard it down the pub. Or perhaps compliments of my good old pal, Chief Wise Owl...


You say pronounciation,
I say pronunciation...

Come again? ...  "Pacifically." The word voted the most annoyingly mispronounced, according to a new poll - it should be "specifically".

And here is the best response spotted thus far...

If I had a hammer ... "An editor on the radio station where I worked years ago rang me to ask if the actors in the play I had just reported on had broken all their teeth. 'You said they were hammer chewers,' he explained. 'It is "amma-ter".' I have said 'amateur' that way ever since." David Beake of Budock Water, Cornwall, in a letter to The Guardian.

And that came to mind today while watching the Tour de France, and Eurosport's commentator Rob Hatch talking about new stars of the sport having worked their way up through the "'ammer chewer ranks", ho, ho, ho.

There, you will now never stop noticing the people who talk endlessly about "hammer chewers".

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