Don't be O'Freud

If the cap fits ... "Lucian Freud's portrait of the Queen looks more like Michael Portillo in a wig and a crown!" Joyce Edgley of St Helens, Merseyside, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

Not being familiar with Freud's portrait of Her Majesty, I did a quick search ... and it didn't 'alf generate a smile. So I searched artistic portraits of Michael Portillo ... so what do you think?

The Queen as Michael Portillo?

Michael Portillo as the Queen?

Now how amusing is that? The top one of our train buff is painted terracotta, while the second is obviously a normal but rather grand portrait.

So top letter from Joyce Edgley.

Yep, I guess Michael Portillo is somehow related to the Queen. Do you suppose though that when he visits her he spins his default televisual line on meeting people at work, rest and play: "Can I have a go, Your Majesty?"


Boris running early on time

Time out ... "Boris Johnson is already world-famous for being 15 minutes late." With apologies to the ghost of American artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987), in particular his famous quotation that, "in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes".

We have learnt, compliments of a photograph of Boris Johnson pausing for a minute's silence in front of a clock showing the time at 11am to mark the victims of the Plymouth shooting tragedy, but that a zoom-in of his watch showed the time at nearly 15 minutes past the hour.

With confirmation that the photograph had not been tampered with, it has been suggested by those close to Boris (who always offer him a big hand anyway when duty calls), that he deliberately sets his watch forward by 15 minutes in an attempt to avoid being habitually late.

But if you can fool yourself all of the time by being on time knowing that your watch is set a quarter-of-an-hour ahead, why can't you just be on time when it's set correctly?

Even more evidence that Boris may well be suffering from some sort of long Covid which renders him incapable of knowing whether he is coming or going, whether on time or not.

Oh dear.


Sunday is knock-knock day

Who's there?
Grim who?

A Stone stops rolling ... "You want to go easy on that stuff, mate. You don't want to end up looking like your son."
Charlie Watts's remark to the father of band-mate Keith Richards over his consumption of free champagne at a concert. The mild-mannered Rolling Stone drummer was baffled by the excesses of his bandmates' rock'n'roll lifestyle. Charlie Watts died after a period of illness on August 24, 2021, aged 80.

For those of us not familiar with the finer points of Charlie Watts, we have learnt following his death (isn't that always the way) that he showed us how a man could be - famous, rich, cool, modest and always classy.

We also learn that Charlie loved cricket. Renowned as a "roller" rather than a "rocker" (I like that), the ever-dapper drummer was entranced by the game's pace and flow, by the rhythmic knock of ball on bat, a rock star who preferred to spend his down time with a copy of cricket's reference bible Wisden rather than a bottle of Jack Daniel's.

By coincidence, Ted Dexter, the former England cricket captain, died on August 26, 2021, aged 86. 'Lord Ted' is described as both a wonderfully elegant player and an original thinker with an unpredictable mindset. When the telephone at home rang at an inconvenient time he answered: "This is Ted Dexter. I'm sorry I can't take your call at present. Please ring later," leaving the caller to assume that this had been a recorded response.

I'm with Lord Ted on that one. All my telephone calls are routed via an answerphone, primarily because all those exceedingly annoying cold and scam callers instantly hang up. Joy.


Cool for cats

Cat chat ... "Since Digby arrived in this house a month ago, my life has been bliss. I can genuinely ignore anything coming my way. When challenged, I reply: 'I thought you were talking to the cat.'" David Pilcher of Askham, Nottinghamshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Yesterday of course I mentioned radio presenter Paddy O'Connell, who mentioned that if he had a cat he would name it Tipples (triggered by the possibility of pubs facing shortages of drinks because of the lorry driver crisis and drinkers missing out on their favourite tipples). So the above letter generated a quick purr.

Pussy Galore ... "I share David Pilcher's sense of bliss regarding his feline co-habitee. When I don't hear my wife properly and ask 'What was that?' she frequently replies: 'I'm talking to the cat.'" Tim Bradbury of Northwich, Cheshire, in a follow-up letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Just the other day I had cause to visit the town of Kidwelly, just along the coast down west from Llanelli. Walking through the town I noticed an old chapel with its windows boarded up. However, every boarding was decorated with eye-catching cartoons of cats.

This one definitely made me purr...

Tommy Tomcat tackles the Tour de Tabby

What with all this talk of cats and the art of purring, I may have mentioned it before, but Mother Nature slipped up badly when she didn't give us humans the ability to purr.

When we embrace or stroke a cat and it refuses to purr, we don't say "Cheer up for Gawd's sake, it's not the end of the world you know"; instead we intuitively acknowledge that it needs a bit of time and space to resolve its issues.

How glorious it would be then if we had evolved the ability to communicate our pleasure - or displeasure - via a purr, and without each and every issue turning into the Spanish Inquisition.

And just imagine after love-making, we never have to think of the right words, or light up a cigarette, or whatever the fashion is these days. No, we just lie there and purr. Or not.

I mean, there is no such thing as a fake purr (Donald Trump, please note).


Here's NOT lookin' at you
(incorporating Wordplay of the Day - 2)

Lagergeddon? The hopocalypse? The bitter end? ... "Pubs face shortages of Brits' favourite beers and lagers amid the lorry driver crisis. Drinkers have been warned they may not be able to get hold of their favourite tipples..." British television and radio presenter Paddy O'Connell, standing in for Vanessa Feltz on her early-morning Radio 2 show, picks out a Sun newspaper headline that tickled his funny bone. He continues: "...That's a great word, 'tipples'. If I had a cat, that would be its name, Tipples."

I have to say, that did make me smile. Not just the marvellously named Tipples, but lagergeddon, hopocalypse, the bitter end...

Yesterday, my joy and doolallyness contribution endorsed the observation that there really is nothing new under the sun. Well, after coming to terms with Tipples and lagergeddon, I set off on my morning walk into town.

It's a picture-perfect sunrise - and I appreciate that, just occasionally, there is something different under the sun. I pass a field gateway, and I am suitably captivated by the sight: I stand and stare...

Say misty for me: a captivating sunrise over the Towy Valley at Llandeilo

...the cloudless sky, the gentle meadow mist, the rising sun just peeping through a perfect gap in the leaves - and that lone contrail in the sky. Here in Llandeilo we lie directly beneath a busy transatlantic air lane, and pre-pandemic early mornings would normally see the sky awash with contrails.

But this morning, just the one. And these days that is pretty much par for the course.


Nothing new under the sun - 1

The last word ... "Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind." Henry James (1843-1916), American novelist and a naturalised English citizen, from Henry James: A Life in Letters, published in 1972.

How here's a funny thing. When I left home to work in a faraway place with a strange sounding name - yes okay, it was only Southampton, but when you're a country boy raised on a farm in west Wales, well, Southampton could have been on another continent.

Anyway, my mother gave me some advice, which has remained with me ever since:

"Wherever you go, whoever you meet, be pleasant and considerate and sunny - and be sure to always say please and thank you, people notice such things. What you will then find is that strangers will intuitively offer up goodwill. On the other hand, if you treat people harshly and expect them to be at your beck and call, you will find that strangers - well, they won't be obtrusively unkind and difficult, but they will not go out of their way to go that extra inch, or indeed extra mile, to help you. It's called instinct."

What wise words those were. Oh, and mother had never heard of Henry James.


Gobbledegook watch - 1

Unmasked on the bus ... "On my local bus there is a notice asking passengers to wear a face covering but pleading for tolerance towards those who do not. It explains that there are many valid reasons, not always obvious, why a person may not be wearing one, including health, age or equality. What on earth does this mean?" Edward Jenkins of Coventry, Warwickshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Indeed, and setting aside the positives and negatives of face masks, I guess the "equality" objection is the one you would call a curved load of old bollocks (originating from the expression "a curved ball", meaning being surprised when someone does something you least expect).

That the author of the above letter comes from Coventry brought to mind the famous Lady Godiva, an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman, who is mostly remembered for a legend dating back to around the 13th Century, in which she rode naked - covered only in her long hair and a face mask - through the streets of Coventry to gain remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, imposed on his tenants.

Um, I may have imagined that bit about the face mask.

However, it is apparently true that the name "Peeping Tom" for a voyeur originates from the Lady Godiva legend, in which a man named Thomas watched her ride and was struck blind - or was it dead?

And hey! Be careful what you watch out there from behind the curtains.


Headline joy and doolallyness - 1

Joy ... "Sex toys firms set to come together." Sex toy and lingerie firm Lovehoney is merging with a German rival to create a dominant online erotic empire ["For you, Tammy, ze war with sexual discontent is over!"]. The coupling with Wow Tech will bring together brands including Fifty Shades of Grey, Happy Rabbit and We-Vibe...

Yes, where else but The Sun newspaper would you spot such a clever play on words in a headline? The article goes on to explain that the coupling comes after the lockdowns caused a huge rise in demand for "sexual wellness" products...

"Well, well, well," as they say down the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, "your place or mine?"

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

Doolallyness ... "Do you really need to wash your salad with soap?" That's what a new range of veg cleansers would have us believe...

Yes, a curious headline spotted in the Daily Mail. With people desperate for their five-a-day, the pandemic brought a surge in demand for subscription services like fruit-and-veg boxes, along with the latest consumer trend: fruit and vegetable washes, sprays, wipes and powders.

Despite the popularity of these washes, experts including the NHS, the Food Standards Agency and Fresh Produce Consortium all claim water is sufficient to clean produce: "One of the best ways of washing veg is to use running water and people don't realise that," says food industry expert Nellie Nichols, former Head of Food at Pret, the international sandwich shop franchise based in the UK.

So, given that most people appear to be morphing into Simple Simon and Silly Simone meeting a pieman on their way to the fair, the Daily Mail concludes: "Still, fruit and vegetable washes are convenient, lovely-smelling and fun to use. Here we test the most popular ones..."

Indeed, and here are the products tested and rated: Dirt Destroyer (2/5), Bacteria Buster (4/5), Veggi Wipes (4/5), Nose-Friendly (3/5), Soft and Silky (3/5), and Essential Oils (4/5) - and hey ho, the wheel has gone full circle and we are back with "Sex toys firms set to come together".

"Wel-i-jiw-jiw," as they also say down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon.



Heartbreaking ... "Was it worth it? Probably not. Did I lose my legs for nothing? Looks like it. Did my mates die in vain? Yep." Former royal engineer and bomb disposal specialist Jack Cummings, 33, from Didcot, Oxfordshire, offers up his precious thoughts at the chaos in Afghanistan after the West's withdrawal.

A couple of articles in The Sunday Times on the crisis juxtaposed quite intriguingly. The first was headlined "View from Sleepy Joe's home town: he's done what everyone else promised..." - and the second: "...but live on television he just looks like a dolt".

That second one about his television appearance - I caught a bit of it on the news and my eyes couldn't stop rolling. Anyway, the piece was written by Josh Glancy, the Washington correspondent for The Sunday Times, and begins thus:

"After days of being guarded more closely than Kabul airport, President Biden finally fielded inquires on his chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. The conversation was chaired by George Stephanopoulos, the former Bill Clinton adviser turned news presenter. Things didn't go well."

Stephanopoulos asked Biden: "When you look at what's happened over the last week, was it a failure of intelligence, planning, execution or judgment?"

Josh Glancy goes on to point out that you can't do justice to the dazzling incoherence of Biden's response without quoting it verbatim and at length...

"Look, I don't think it was a fa ... look, it was a simple choice, George," the president replied. "When the ... when the Taliban - let me back - put it another way. When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government, get in a plane and taking off and going to another country, when you saw the significant collapse of the ta ... of the ... Afghan troops we had trained - up to 300,000 of them just leaving their equipment and taking off, that was - you know, I'm not ... this ... that ... that's what happened. That's simply what happened."

Pure word salad, as Josh Glancy points out. I call it doolallyness in extremis. Biden - the most powerful individual on the planet, remember, with his finger on all sorts of dodgy buttons - is clearly entering the doddery stage of life. This is troublesome for all of us, not least the Afghan people.

Back with soldier Jack Cummings, who asks if it was all worth it. Well, a whole generation of tech-savvy young has caught a glimpse of freedom, women especially, who are now used to a free press, TV shows making fun of the president, enjoying yoga, fast food, and importantly, have been given inspiration for their dreams.

They will not easily surrender their freedoms, surely?


The last word

And finally ... "The nation's favourite epitaph might well be Spike Milligan's 'I told you I was ill', but it is surely equalled by that of the American actor Mel Blanc who voiced cartoon characters including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Tweety Bird - and of course the stammering voice of Porky Pig in the classic Looney Tunes sign-off. It read: 'That's all, folks'." Adrian Brodkin of Old London Town, in a letter to The Times.

Yes, that Mel Blanc one is perfect. And I particularly liked this one...

Watch it ... "As he is notorious for his mercurial attitude to timekeeping, I frequently threaten, should I survive him, to have my husband's headstone inscribed: 'The late, late Paul Burden'." Jo Burden of Marlow, Buckinghamshire, also in a letter to The Times.

And, with a twist in the tail...

Last meal ... "Raymond Hockaday's letter on mushroom risotto reminded me of a Croatian saying: 'All mushrooms are edible, some only once.'" Oliver Capon of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in a letter to The Times.

Anyway, what would my headstone say? I guess something simple like "Thanks for the memories".


Five-star broadcast moments - 3

Shades on ... "We are now approaching our finishing point, La Manga del Mar, a highly desirable Mediterranean corner of Spain where you find exceedingly expensive properties, many occupied by the sort of characters you wouldn't really want to live next door to. Indeed, as someone once memorably noted, 'a sunny place for shady people'." Carlton Kirby, the principle cycling commentator for Eurosport, covering Stage 8 of La Vuelta, the annual three week, 21-stage race primarily held in Spain, as a helicopter shot takes in the gloriously sunshiny La Manga view.

Now I may have slightly paraphrased what Carlton actually said, but not that memorably witty quote at the end, which certainly generated a chuckle. I had never heard it before, and Carlton couldn't remember who'd coined it, so, a quick click and nick...

On the shady side of the street ... "The French Riviera, that dazzling Mediterranean coastline from St Tropez to the Italian border, has drawn many writers over the centuries, beginning with the Italian poets Dante and Petrarch in the 1300s. It was the English playwright and writer Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), who knew the Riviera intimately, who called it 'a sunny place for shady people'."

Yes, I'm sure Somerset Maugham would happily include today's Spanish coastline in his witticism.

Oh yes, I also discovered that the American singer-songwriter Lawrence Rothman, 39, has a seething garage-rock song called Sunny Place for Shady People...

Hm, an okay sound, but I think I'll stick with the fascinating witches who put the scintillating stitches in the britches of the boys who put the powder on the noses of the faces of the ladies of the harem of the court of King Caractacus - who just happened to be passing by...

Every day a day at school, eh?


Events, dear boy, events - 1

Will 'The Crown' dare to show us the real Diana? ... "The sudden death of a public figure can dramatically change the way we think about them - or the way we think we think about them. Out of pity - or perhaps guilt - we instantly forget all the times we criticised and ridiculed the deceased, and convince ourselves that they always had our full admiration and respect." Thus Telegraph columnist Michael Deacon kicks off a piece about the new series of The Crown, set in the 1990s, and why he'll be particularly interested to see how they portray the last years of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Confession time: like the vast majority of people, I have never watched The Crown (some 7-10 million people in the UK are estimated to watch the Netflix series, and that out of a population of 54 million aged 16 and over - the actual viewing figures are a closely guarded secret).

Whatever, the above headline and opening shot caught my eye - and reading on I learnt the following tale, which rather custom-fits my Look You joy and doolallyness brief, especially as just yesterday I featured a piece about Harry and Meghan seemingly losing their way along their personal highway to privacy and fulfilment.

During the recording of BBC Radio 4's The News Quiz in 1997, the English humorist, writer and satirist Alan Coren (1938-2007), was asked about Diana's campaign against landmines: "I don't know much about landmines or Diana," he said, "except that you'd be mad to want to poke either of them."

The studio audience roared with laughter, and the episode was aired the next day. A day later, Diana was dead.

In a panic, the BBC locked the tape of the episode away - perhaps even wiped it clean - so it could never be broadcast again. If it had been, Michael Deacon in the Telegraph quite reasonably concludes, listeners would no doubt have been outraged by the joke. Including those who had so enjoyed it.

PS: I have introduced the headline "Events, dear boy, events" because Diana's death was truly a mega event in the life and times of the nation. Indeed, the world is experiencing a tidal wave of "Events" nowadays, so I guess it will make more appearances further down the dusty, twisting track.


Ah, THAT Afghanistan!
see yesterday...

Lost for words ... "The world is exceptionally fragile right now. As we all feel the many layers of pain due to the situation in Afghanistan, we are left speechless..." The Duke and Duchess of Sussex issue a statement on the state of the world.

Yes, we feel their pain.

But hang about ... they then go on to issue nearly 200 additional words on their speechlessness.

It duly drew this response from presenter Simon McCoy of GB News (a British free-to-air television news channel): "Only Harry and Meghan would break their silence to say they're speechless." And then Simon bursts out laughing - but he does apologise for his involuntary reaction.

Yes, we feel his shame.

It strikes me that what Harry and Meghan need is 1) a professional speech writer; 2) a super-professional sub-editor to go over everything before they issue any sort of public statement, verbal or written (imagine: after "we are left speechless....", they'd said nothing at all and drifted into the silence, indeed how effective that would have been).

Otherwise, it just makes one convinced they are both well on the road to Deolali, or Doolally Tap (tap being Urdu for fever), or as we know it best, Doolally.


Where is Afghanistan?
(with apologies to BBC's House of Games)

Order! Order! ... "It took the Taliban less time to assume control of the whole of Afghanistan than it will have taken Britain to recall Parliament." Dave Alsop of Churchdown, Gloucestershire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Yes, today, for one whole day, Parliament discussed the crisis in Afghanistan. Quite what they hoped to achieve in a day that 20 years of dialogue and deliberations have already failed to achieve is a mystery.

Proceed with care ... "Harold Macmillan was a British prime minister, a world statesman, a former soldier and certainly no appeaser. In retirement - he died in 1986 - he would frequently tell his audiences: 'First rule of politics: never invade Afghanistan.'" Norman Cowling of Newton Abbot, Devon, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Apparently he added, with a smile and a simile: "Afghanistan rather resembles Clapham Junction. It is a useful place from where to go everywhere else, but nobody actually wants to stay there."

It was Macmillan who also famously responded when asked what he feared most as prime minister: "Events, dear boy, events." Boris will know of what he spoke: first a pandemic, and now the chaos of Afghanistan. Events, indeed.

Finally, I rather like this...

Trump card ... "Not being Donald Trump is insufficient qualification to be president of the United States." Edward Hill of Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Yes, it's another curious mystery, and rather alarming, that the best two people America can up with to be the most powerful individuals in the world, are Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Proceed with care, as they say.

See also: tomorrow...


A new race in town

Final journey ... "You may bury my body down by the highway side. So my old evil spirit can catch a Greyhound bus and ride." Robert Johnson (1911-1938), American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter.

Strange how things link together. I happened upon the above quote, which rather captured my imagination.

Then I read that dog racing, better known as greyhound racing, is in steep decline, an industry accused of consistently putting profits before animal welfare; indeed Steve Lancaster, attorney for Southland Park greyhound race track in West Memphis, Arkansas, has announced that 2022 would see the end of live racing at the track.

I can understand why.

And then, along my morning walk into town, I discover that there's a new game in town: Greyhound Bus Racing...

Beat that Greyhound: On yer marks, get set... Olympics here we come

The above is obviously just an individual in training. In reality, several will race, and apparently, the moment a bus leaves a stop further back down the road, a gun is fired and off they all go ... the target is to arrive first at the next bus stop up the road, just ahead of the bus, hopefully.

It looks awash with joy and doolallyness.


Five-star letters from Middle-Britain - 6
(today only, incorporating National Tell A Joke Day)

Sac the fact-checker ... "It was instructive of Edmund Pottinger ('Whale endowed', Letters, last week) to point out that the bar stools on tycoon Aristotle Onassis's super yacht Christina O were in fact covered in whale foreskins rather than whale scrotums, because there is of course a vas deferens between them*." Adrian Brodkin of Old London Town, in a letter to The Sunday Times.
"*Editor's note: this is especially so, given that whales do not possess a scrotum."

Every day a day at school, eh? Especially so given that today, 16th of August 2021, is National Tell A Joke Day. Of course the fact that the bar stools on the Onassis yacht were covered in whale foreskins is itself not a joke, although the thought does sort of grow on one.

However, do you suppose if the legendary opera soprano Maria Callas, who, back in the day, was having an affair with Onassis, despite the fact that they were both married, had gently stroked one of those bar stools, it would have become generously inflated?

Oh yes, every day a day at school: vas deferens? Obviously that had to be a witty turn of phrase, but it went straight over my head, so a quick click: "The duct which conveys sperm from the testicle to the urethra." I nearly wrote Aretha there, as in Aretha Franklin, which, as you will doubtless agree, suggests a vast difference.

Ah, the joy and the doolallyness of a passing super yacht, encapsulated in another gem of a letter.


Sunday is knock-knock day

- - - - - - - - - -


- - - - - - - - - -


- - - - - - - - - -


- - - - - - - - - -


♪♪♪: Keep a knockin', but you can't come in...

...come back tomorrow night and try again

Through the glass front door loudly, as spotted on my daily walk.


Reflections of Tokyo 2020 2021

Pentathlons and the instinct for survival ... "You have to shoot a gun, ride a horse... paint a watercolour of Portmeirion, rustle up a Welsh rarebit, and give an emotive and amusing reading of Under Milk Wood." The Guardian website, albeit paraphrased here to provide a Welsh flavour*, struggles to explain the Olympic Modern Pentathlon as Kate French and Joe Choong of Team Great (see yesterday) both win Gold.

Reflecting on Tokyo 2021 (why, forever more and a day, it'll be known as Tokyo 2020 is one of life's sweet mysteries), I have always thought of the Triathlon as a perfect test of athleticism - a multi-discipline sport where you have to master swimming, cycling and running - yet it was the Modern Pentathlon that captured my imagination, especially so with competitors having just 20 minutes to get to know their horse for the show jumping event.

As previously mentioned hereabouts, it is well established that within the first 10 seconds of meeting a stranger our instincts will alert us with extraordinary precision on a traffic lights basis as to how we should respond (sometimes it takes years to understand why that red or amber flashed, but that's another story).

Anyone who has observed how pets and domesticated farm animals react and respond to strangers will know of this instinct for survival. Females leading their animals at agricultural shows are always communicating with their charges. True too of female jockeys who continually speak to their horse, as well as pat, stroke and twiddle its ears. Some men also do this, the top jockey Frankie Dettori is a classic example.

Back with the women's Modern Pentathlon, the German female competitor, Annika Schleu, was left sobbing and tortured after her curiously stubborn horse sent her tumbling from first place to 31st in four mad and distressing minutes, perfectly reflecting how the more stressed, emotional and aggressive she became, the more the ironically named Saint Boy dug its heels in.

No matter whether you're a human, a bull or a horse, always go with your instincts for they will never let you down. Annika Schleu was obviously communicating exceedingly bad vibes to bad boy Saint Boy.

Incidentally, isn't it interesting how we Brits excel at sports where you have to master a range of talents? A nation's instinct for survival?

* This is what The Guardian's website actually had to say about the Olympic Modern Pentathlon, before I gave it a Welsh twist: "You have to shoot a gun, ride a horse... paint a watercolour, make a scone, and give a dramatic reading of The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner."


The whole world is mad... 2
(...except for thee and me, etcetera, etcetera)

The B-word ... "Until this week I had never heard of the renamed indie rock band Sea Power ('Band drops British over isolationist, antagonistic nationalistic fears', report, August 10). From now on I shall fly only Airways and watch only the Broadcasting Corporation." Charles Foster of Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Yes, you and me, Charles. Indeed, as the country increasingly appears to be running up the white flag to advancing "wokery", I shall in future travel only on Rail, and deal only with Telecom (or T for short).

What is more, I now live on a group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe called Isles, where the time right now (August 13) is simply Summer Time (♪♪♪...where the livin' is uneasy, fish are lyin' low - and the corn is as high as a cancel culturist's eye...).

Mind you, come the Paris Olympics of 2024, and these Isles will offer up full support for Team Great - which, truth be told, sounds rather splendidly supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.


The Great British Car Journey

Those were the days ... "There'll be no climate control, no sat nav, no power steering or air bags. In fact, no frills at all." Classic car fan Richard Usher, former owner of Blyton Park racing circuit and Auto Windscreens, opens a museum at Ambergate, Derbyshire, dedicated to the British motor industry.

Somewhere in Derbyshire is said to be dead centre of Britain, so the location sounds perfect. Add to that the museum's exhibits which consist of over 130 cars that illustrate the history of British car design and production between 1922 and the present day - well now; it sounds a perfect day out for all petrolheads.

Talking of British cars...

Minnie Driver, 51, the British actress (who should have been one of the drivers in The Italian Job; sadly though she wasn't even born back then), has just compared cars to lovers in a recent edition of The Times. I am reminded of the tale from yesteryear of four women at a party discussing their partners' and beaus' lovemaking.

"Mine is like an E-Type Jag - the coupe model, that is: fast and thrilling, never a soft top in sight," says one.

"Mine is kind of a Bentley Continental GT: smooth, comfortable and oh so powerful," says the next.

"Mine is more a Mini Cooper S: not very big, but compensates by being a riot to handle with the ability to access even the tightest of corners," says the third.

"Mine is a bit of an old banger, a Wolseley 16/60," sighs the fourth. "Unreliable and needs starting by hand."


Clue 22 across ... very cross

The Guardian: Corrections and clarifications ... "Quick crossword Number 15,991 (7 August, page 54) provided an unexpected challenge when clue 22 asked for a 'hard smooth-textured daily product (7,6)..."

At this juncture my mind wandered off the point of order - and back to my days as a trainee young buck about town, in particular a female I encountered regularly in my work and who provided an unexpected challenge, and for whom I would have gladly taken to the bullring and killed forty bulls to impress her. And yes, she was both hard on the outside and smooth on the inside - and her name? Abigail Thomas*.

Our Abigail had a turn of phrase that could equally be deployed as a knife to slice through the toughest of beefsteaks - or indeed a spoon to gently nosedive into a tub of marginally melting ice cream. I often wondered if she was a relation of Dylan Thomas. And by one of those delightful coincidences, she fits the crossword clue (7,6).

Whatever, I am distracted - The Guardian's correction and clarification continues:

"...that clue should have said 'dairy' product."

Ah-ha! Given that I am not a crossword whizz, a quick search online came up with: "Cheddar cheese."

Staying with Abigail and The Guardian, this recent correction also caught my eye:

The Guardian: Corrections and clarifications ... "The term 'sex' should have been used instead of 'gender' in the headline 'How gender, age and ethnicity determine how Covid may affect you' (8 July, page 7)."

It's a right old confusing world out there: AC, DC, TP (Three Phase) GK (God Knows). Any day soon I expect to read about a transgender Mary Poppins and a Bert of colour (mind you, after a day sweeping chimneys, our Bert was often a man of colour anyway).

Hm, best to stay put on the grassy knoll and keep my head down and mouth shut.

*Abigail Thomas: Only the name has been marginally paraphrased to protect the guilty, the innocent, the sexy...


What's new for supper, pussycat?

Unusual tastes ... "Your article on unsafe cat food ('Thousands of cats killed by disease linked to their food', Aug 6) notes that the Food Standards Agency said 'that there was no evidence of a risk to human health'. Is this warning directed at those inclined to eat their pet's food?" Jamie Rankmore of Old London Town, in a letter to The Times.

Here, kitty kitty ... "Jamie Rankmore wonders whether the Food Standards Agency is concerned that people may be eating pet food, with its reference to 'a risk to human health'. Perhaps the real concern is that some pet owners are eating their cats." Rob Symonds of Finstock, Oxfordshire, responds to the above with a follow-up letter.

Indeed, Rob Symonds. It reminds me of the tale I may have mentioned in a previous dispatch, of the old boy found dead at home, but curiously curled up in a foetal position on the fireplace mat.

At the inquest it was revealed that he owned no pets but that his kitchen cupboards were full of cat and dog food tins.

The verdict was that this was his main source of nutrition, and that one night he lay down in front of the fire, bent over to lick his balls - and had broken his back in the process, resulting in his being unable to move and telephone for help.

He sadly died before family members had called to see why they hadn't heard from him.

So let that be a warning to steer clear of your pet's favourite food, however yummy it looks and smells.


Members of the bench

Didn't he do well ... "Nice to sit here, to sit here nice." The inscription on a memorial bench at Wentworth golf club in memory of member and regular player Sir Bruce Forsyth (1928-2017), the British entertainer and presenter whose career spanned more than 70 years.

Nice one, a perfectly paraphrased inscription of his most famous line, "Nice to see you, to see you nice".

It reminded me of a photo I recently saw of a bench at Deal in Kent, a quaint, quirky and quintessentially English seaside town which is part of the famous White Cliffs Country. Oh, and also famous for its bracing sea air - or so I thought...

Deal or No Deal?

"The Deal air done me on favours" ... No favourable wind for poor Kathleen

I like to think that Kathleen M Bunting (1935-2010) had a sense of fun. After all, she made it past the promised age, although we don't know whether she enjoyed good health along her walk through time, space and the bracing sea air dealt her at Deal.

By coincidence, I have just come across this bench in the centre of Llandeilo...

Deal me in

Happy days: A smiley bench notice spotted in King Street, Llandeilo

That set me thinking ... what would my bench say? Well, what else but:

"Sit here awhile and embrace the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade."


Olympian pause for thought

Play to your strengths ... "Some of Team GB's most impressive performances have been in the swimming and equestrian events, so why didn't we enter a team for the water polo?" My good pal Chief Wise Owl reflects on Team GB's impressive returns from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with an interesting bit of lateral thinking down at the deep end.

Yes, it gives a whole new meaning to the water jump.

All of which reminds me of the tale about the spectator at the London Olympics of 2012 who spots an athlete carrying a cylinder three time his height on his shoulder, and asks: "Are you a pole vaulter?" To which the athlete replies: "Nein, I am a German. But how did you know my name was Walter?"

Boom-boom! As Basil Brush was apt to say.


Wind-up radio

Money for Nothing, BBC Radio Wales, 9.00am ... Bridie Pritchard answers the phone in response to a call from broadcaster Owen Money: "I think I know who this is. It's not really Owen Money, is it? It's Richie."
     Owen Money: "No, it really is Owen Money, Bridie, it's not a wind-up. You're my bride of the day. Honestly, on my mother-in-law's life..."
Thus a telephone conversation on Owen's Saturday morning show, a call set up by her family and friends as a surprise on the morning of her wedding.

It's an entertaining and amusing regular spot on the programme, especially as the brides are taken by surprise, but always enter into the spirit of things. And I thought Owen's line to convince Bridie was a neat play on the standard "honestly, on my mother's life".

Later in the conversation, Owen asks Bridie what her future husband, Craig Bradfield, does for a living. "He's a plasterer." To which Owen replies: "Oh, you can never get hold of any of them. They've all got mobiles but they never answer, have you noticed?" Bridie laughs, as I'm sure we all did, including any tradesperson listening because to get them to answer the phone is a challenge.

One of the things I fondly recall from my days as a dedicated regular at the Asterix bar down at my local Crazy Horsepower Saloon was a couple of characters, both self-employed tradesmen. One, whenever his phone rang, would look to see who was calling, and I can't remember ever seeing him actually answer.

The other, as soon as his phone rang would leave the company he was with and move to a quiet corner, and always answer without ever looking to see who it was that was calling.

And I remember thinking: I would give the chap who answered his phone without looking a blank signed cheque without hesitation, but never to the fellow who looked but didn't answer.

Truly a tale of our mobile times.


Ye Olde Curiosity Olympics

When someone's everyone ... "Dr Richard Budgett, the British medical and science director of the International Olympic Committee, said: 'Everyone agrees that trans women are women' (report, July 30). Who are these 'everyone'?" Alan G Barstow of Onslunda, Skane County, Sweden, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Hm! "Curiouser and curiouser," said Aunty Alice. Incidentally, I note that Dr Richard Budgett, 62, won an Olympic rowing gold medal in the coxed four at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. I presume he wasn't the cox.

Talking of rowing, the world-famous Henley Royal Regatta, a rowing event held annually on the River Thames by the town of Henley-on-Thames, gets under way next week.

With broadcasters much in the news these days, what with the inability of their presenters to enunciate clearly, I enjoyed this tale from a Michael Gaine, whose father rowed for Leander, arguably the world's premier rowing club, based at Henley-on-Thames (founded in 1818), and apparently he would often make up a guard of honour at crewmates' weddings.

At one, a boy saw the arch of blades they had formed outside the church and was heard to say: "Hey, mum, look at them oars." To which she replied: "Them's not 'ores, them's bridesmaids."


One for the road

Breakfast call ... "Good morning Matt and crew. Could you please give a superheroes mention to all the litter picking heroes across Britain, who daily clear up people's litter? Thank you, from Scott, a proud member of Leicestershire Litter Wombles." Comedian, actor and writer Matt Lucas, standing in for Zoe on BBC Radio 2's The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show, reads out a message from a listener on this morning's show.

Well, that made me smile. And I thought, hm, I'll drink to that, even if I don't think of myself as a hero, just someone who feels bad about all the discarded litter, so do my bit to clear it up.

Anyway, it sent me looking through the photographs I have of the extraordinary rubbish I collect along my daily walk into town.

Just over a week ago I shared a photo of some glass bottles of vodka, beer and wine that people had chucked away - so here's a mixed collection of drink containers picked up off the road and verges from about a year or so ago...

Ponder: these are drink containers chucked out of vehicles along a country lane

An astonishing collection of cans and bottles thrown out of vehicles, with just three out of the ten being non-alcoholic drinks. Quite a worry, really.


The whole world is mad... 1
(...except for thee and me, etcetera, etcetera)

Knife and fork off ... "Knives and forks are racist, according to some Canadian food writer no one's ever heard of, as they are 'an echo of European colonial powers looking to tame the wildness out of the people they controlled'. On that basis, then, so is sanitation, running water and modern medicine. People talk such rot these days, don't they?"
Columnist Sarah Vine of the Mail on Sunday kicks off a new spot here on Look You, a little corner to reflect the exponential explosiveness of the doolallyness of the passing parade.

Sarah reminded us, compliments of Monty Python's Life of Brian, what the Romans did for us (not forgetting, of course, the inherent racism of education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, public health...!).

Curiosity (I know, I know, it can kill the Carmarthenshire cat) made me search "some Canadian food writer" - and discovered chef Joshna Maharaj, who wrote: "Why the way we teach table manners is actually kind of racist."

As the above quote about the Romans hints at, and what I was always taught: "When in Rome..."

I also learn that Joshna suffers anosmia, the complete loss of the sense of smell. No, nothing to do with Covid-19, but something she has suffered from since 2015. Which I guess is a challenge if you're a chef.

Hm, is it only me that smells a shit-stirring rat?


Give a dog a bad name

"Do you have to worry about his romantic urges?" Boris Johnson, whose Jack-the-Lad Russell-cross dog Dilyn is proving tricky and embarrassing, questions a police dog handler about the behaviour of his German shepherd dog Zorro during a visit to officers at Surrey Police's HQ in Guildford where he watched a display by the force's canine unit. The officer replied in the negative.

"My dog is endless ... always on people's legs." Boris goes on to complain to Zorro's handler about Dilyn's sex drive and need to endlessly get his leg-over - before going on to confirm that, actually, he's had the little devil neutered.

Just a few days after the above exchange, it was announced that Boris and Carrie Johnson are expecting their second child, sometime this winter. Boris is set to become a father for a seventh time. And talking of which, a cartoon in The Sunday Times is worth sharing...

There was an old rascal who lived in a shoe,
He had many children and knew what to do...

"Do you have to worry about his romantic urges?" A reporter asks Carrie Johnson about Boris's sex drive and need to endlessly get his leg-over...

I can't tell a lie, I made that last quote up. However...

Snip-snip! ... "Dilyn has been neutered to stop him from exercising his romantic urges on people's legs. Boris could have been sorted out at the same time..." Rosie Wilcox of Bolas Heath, Shropshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail.

A week or so ago I mentioned that, as Boris had perilously flirted with Covid-19, could it possibly be that he is now suffering a form of long Covid which renders him, not so much incapable of thinking outside the box, but more alarmingly, inside the box, and which would help explain his somewhat erratic decision making during the pandemic.

Also, and with tongue firmly in cheek, I wondered aloud if things on the crown jewels front were still firing on all six cylinders for Boris, especially as these days he doesn't seem to know whether he is coming or going. Obviously the news on the new baby front puts that rumour to bed.

Finally, it is definitely worth repeating Boris's pal, the American pollster and pundit, Frank Luntz: "I've polled 1,000 women asking if they would sleep with Boris," he told a recent gathering. "Twenty per cent said: 'Never again.'"


Raindrops and sunshine - in extremis

"Now the UK needs 'more capacity to store water when it rains'." The country needs to prepare for both floods and droughts becoming more common and invest in reservoirs, an infrastructure expert has warned.

Reports on how climate change is already measurably impacting the world surfaced last Thursday (the above headline sums up reports all over the media as the call comes on the day that leading meteorologists have warned that the UK will see an increase in extreme weather events due to the climate change).

Hm, tell that to those here in Wales who insist that no more reservoirs must ever again be built in the country.

Be that as it may, today's erratic and potentially dangerous weather is not a topic of conversation one would imagine generating a wry smile, but we think of opening a chat with mention of the weather as something typically and comically British. But here's a curious thing...

Last weekend on the TV channel Talking Pictures I watched the classic Laurel and Hardy western, Way Out West - and a smile never left my face.

Most of us will be familiar with the musical gems from the film - that memorable dance routine; and who would have thought that The Trail of the Lonesome Pine would make No. 2 in the pop charts of 1975, only robbed of the top spot by Queen's million-selling mega-hit Bohemian Rhapsody, which remained there for nine weeks.

Whatever, back with the film: Stan and Ollie amusingly thumb a lift from a passing stagecoach. They climb aboard and Ollie sits next to a posh-looking lady. And his opening line to her? "A lot of weather we've been having lately."  And that was filmed in 1937.

The lady doesn't respond, so Ollie follows up with: "Only four months to Christmas..." Hang about: also in the news on Thursday, the high-end department store John Lewis shares its predictions for the top 10 toys for Christmas 2021 - which is only, er, four months or so away.

"♪♪♪: Raindrops keep fallin' on my head ... Those raindrops keep fallin' on my head, they keep fallin'... So I just did me some talkin' to the sun - and he stepped up to the plate and stopped sleepin' on the job!"

Too much rain, too much sunshine - honestly, we can't win these days.


Sunday is knock-knock day

Who's there?
Oo De!
Oo De who?
Oo De Lally - quick, let me out of this starting gate, I've got a race to run...

I am forever captivated by the glorious names owners give their racehorses. Yesterday, Saturday, I happened to watch the 1.20 at Goodwood, and one of the horses running was captivatingly named Oo De Lally - and I thought: how about that, I know its cousin, Oo Doo Lally.

Anyway, it won the race at 10-1. What also registered was how the commentator and pundits delighted in repeating its name. And yes, it does roll beautifully off the tongue: Oo De Lally.

I know, I know, second childhood beckons.


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.

Home Page
Huw and Smile 2021: July
Huw and Smile 2021: June
Huw and Smile 2021: May
Huw and Smile 2021: April
Huw and Smile 2021: March
Huw and Smile 2021: February
Huw and Smile 2021: January:
Huw and Smile 2020: December
Huw and Smile 2020: November
Huw and Smile 2020: October
Huw and Smile 2020: September
Huw and Smile 2020: August
Huw and Smile 2020: July
Huw and Smile 2020: June
Huw and Smile 2020: May
Huw and Smile 2020: April
Huw and Smile 2020: January to March
Huw and Smile 2019: October to December