Bits and pieces - 2

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

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

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

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


Gold under that there bed

Stormy weather ... "So you decide to put something under the bed for a rainy day. What will it be: dollar, euro, bitcoin or gold?" Host Richard Quest's question to correspondents, guests and viewers on his CNN show, Quest Means Business, a regular programme which explores the world of business.

It's a show I don't normally watch, but tonight, Wednesday, I happened to zap upon the station, as is my wont, and was intrigued by the question.

A financial expert interviewed went for the dollar; a business correspondent smiled and decided 50% dollar, 50% gold; other guests plumped for gold. And that was my instinctive response. Richard never gave us the precise viewer results, except that gold was the overwhelming choice.

Perhaps my decision to opt for gold was subliminally influenced by the sight of The Girl in the Golden Gown, namely pictures all over the shop of the Duchess of Cambridge at the premier of the new Bond film, No Time To Die...

A Bond lady to die for

Kate Middleton: all elegance, class
and a Golden Eyeful

Talk about looking effortlessly elegant, with a natural smile to die for. And I do like the Cheshire Cat grins of those fellows in the background looking on. Mind you, she is a vision of memorable loveliness.

Lucky Prince William: gold both under and in the bed.

Home Page


Five-star letters from Middle-Britain - 8

Keeping the faith ... "With regard to the article on tennis star Emma Raducanu's pendant cross which she wore during the US Open tournament ('UK's ethnic minorities are keeping the faith', Notebook, Sep 27), and questions about who is 'keeping the faith' in British society, I was recently in our local jeweller's waiting for a watch repair when a young man came in wanting to buy a cross for his girlfriend.
     "Various models were brought out for his perusal. After a while, not finding what he wanted, he asked: 'Have you got any of those with the little man on them?'"
Ann Rignall of Kenilworth, Warwickshire, in a letter to The Times.

Now how smiley is that? And you can hear that "young man" asking the question. Truly a memorable missive.


Sea front view

I see no ships ... "If this is Keir Starmer's 'big vision' he should have gone to Specsavers." Tory MP and party co-chairman Oliver Dowden on the Labour leader's 11,500-word essay on how he would change a post-pandemic UK.

With the Labour Party's Annual Conference 2021 now under way in Brighton, much amusement has been generated over the apparently heavy-duty, wide-load composition of that essay. I have no comment because I haven't read it, surprise, surprise!

However, I was reminded of Winston Churchill, who is reported to have started a speech with an apology for its length because he hadn't had time to make it shorter.

Given the time Keir Starmer would have had to put his essay together, it doesn't take much imagination to conclude that it should have been just 500 punchy words in length for maximum impact.

The following also surfaced, and note the author:

Quote of the day ... "I have read the 11,500 words. We were told it was 14,000 words - so there is 2,500 missing. That must be where the politics was. The rest of it is banality after banality." John McDonnell, Labour MP and former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking at a Brighton fringe event about Keir Starmer's policy pamphlet.

Oh, and talking of the bracing air of the seaside resort of Brighton...

Brighton breezy ... "Your restaurant critic Marina O'Loughlin describes Brighton as 'a heady combination of bracing, breezy and ever so slightly sleazy' (Magazine, last week). Nice, but no description nails it quite as well as this, from the late novelist and newspaper columnist Keith Waterhouse: 'a town that always looks as if it is helping the police with their inquiries'." Adrian Brodkin of Old London Town, in a letter to The Sunday Times.

Ouch! - but funny. I am of the opinion that the media is awash with individuals who 'always come across as if they should be helping the police with their inquiries'.

Jimmy Savile would be Exhibit A. Now I had not the faintest idea what he was actually up to behind the scenes, but as a broadcaster he always came across as someone ever so smarmy and false. I was never a fan.


Nothing new under the sun
(incorporating 'Sunday is knock-knock day')

On keeping young ... "I will never be an old man. To me old age is always 15 years older than I am!" Bernard Baruch (1870-1965), American financier and statesman - 'Sayings of the Week', The Observer of London, 1955.

Who's there...?

So there I was this Sunday morning, breakfasting like a king (at least in the mind), and perusing The Sunday Times ... and I land on the Jeremy Clarkson column. He kicks off thus:

"Every morning, while my eggs are boiling, I turn to the obituaries section in The Times and console myself by noting that most of the people were 15 years older than me when they opened the door to find Mr Reaper standing there with a scythe and an apologetic demeanour...

"This means I have 15 years left, and that's plenty. It took 15 years to get from my birth to my O-levels, and that felt like for ever. So there's still time to cram in a lot more fun and games. Except, of course, there isn't, because the perception of time is not constant. When you're 15 years old, 15 years is 100% of your life, but when you're 60, it's 25%. Which means that time, for me, now, is apparently moving four times as fast as it used to..."

Interesting that. Not just revisiting the great truth that "old age is 15 years older than I am", but the different pace of time.

When I was young and growing up, time dragged because I was always looking forward to things: Santa, holidays, birthdays, dates, on a promise - etcetera, etcetera. But as I've grown older, I've become aware of the clock ticking at an ever more furious pace, with so many things to do and see and write - etcetera, etcetera...

'Twas ever thus.


For Prince Philip, the Hairy Bikers were king

"Prince Philip was a Hairy Bikers fan who wouldn't let anyone touch his barbecue, his family has revealed. For a man who never needed to do much cooking, the revelation may come as a surprise: the Duke of Edinburgh loved cookery programmes." A typical headline in the wake of "Prince Philip - The Royal Family Remembers", a television documentary in which members of the family pay tribute to the Duke.

I didn't see the Prince Philip programme. However, I was rather taken with The Times headline at the very top when I learnt that one of the Hairy Bikers is named Si King (perhaps he should be a Hairy Helicopter Pilot rather than a Hairy Biker: I say "Sea", you probably say "Sigh").

Whatever, I also learnt from media reports that Prince Philip was blessed with a keen sense of fun, forever playing practical jokes on the family. As to his love of cookery programmes, he was known as "master of the barbecue", so everyone had to keep clear.

Regarding the Hairy Bikers being one of his favourite shows, I did wonder if the Duke was winding them all up.

Now I would have thought more the Duke's cup of tea would have been the English celebrity cook, restaurateur, television personality and "gastronaut", Keith Floyd (1943-2009), who published many books combining cookery and travel. He hosted cooking shows for the BBC, forever taking a "quick slurp" from a wine glass always near to hand.

I fondly remember Keith on a "supposed" bicycle tour of Spain: in one memorable scene he was barbecuing away, and propped up in the near background was his bike. But instead of the usual water bidon clipped to the frame, there, bold as brass, a bottle of wine.

He was one of life's natural-born entertainers, hic! Here's lookin' at you, Keith.


Funny you should say that

Straight ahead ... "Driverless vehicles on smart motorways: what could possibly go wrong?" Graham Ludlam of South Wingfield, Derbyshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail - a missive previously featured here last Monday, the 20th of September.

I revisit that letter because it perfectly juxtaposes with - ta-rah...

Fork handles ... "The government says not to worry, the lights won't go out this winter. Time to buy candles." Barry Tighe of Old London Town, in a letter to The Guardian.

How true. And don't forget the matches, Barry. The last thing you will need to do is hunt some dry bits of old fork handles to rub together to get a spark going.

Oh yes: yesterday, reflecting on the Indo-Pacific security alliance between the US, Australia and Britain, which has been driving Emmanuel Macron doolally, I shared visions of an enraged Macron making a guest appearance in Alice in Wonderland: "The President of France was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting 'Off with his head' or 'Off with their heads' about once in a minute."


Gallic gall ... "I now see why there will be a shortage of toys at Christmas this year (report, September 22). France has thrown them all out of the pram." Robin Eatwell of Uckfield, East Sussex, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Very good. Indeed, Robin Eatwell could well dine out on that effort.


Um, you know, that fella

"And I want to thank that, uh, fellow down under. Thank you very much, pal." Joe Biden appears to forget the name of Australian PM Scott Morrison as a new Indo-Pacific security alliance is announced between the United States, Australia and Britain, drawing much fury from China and France, especially so Emmanuel Macron.

How curious it is that the world appears to be a much more uncertain and dangerous place under Joe Biden than it was under Donald Trump.

Biden comes across as someone who doesn't seem to have a grasp of what is happening all around him. He appears vague, dithery and intermittently confused; indeed, he has a superficial touch of senility about him, definitely someone you imagine that Putin and Xi Jinping could effortlessly ambush on a dark and stormy night.

Donald Trump on the other hand was a real maverick, so much so that nobody really knew how he would react to any given situation, not even his own side. And in a curious way that made him a safer pair of hands because foreign leaders, like Putin and Xi Jinping, never knew quite what to expect so never pushed their luck and take unnecessary risks.

As to the increasingly enraged Emmanuel Macron, Alice in Wonderland comes to mind: "The President of France was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting 'Off with his head' or 'Off with their heads' about once in a minute."

Ah, the joys and the doolallyness of the passing parade.


♪♪♪: Well, goodness erinaceous me (revisited)

Prickly subject ... "Word of the week is 'erinaceous', which refers to someone or something that looks like a hedgehog. Come on: you know this one will come in handy." Times columnist Ann Treneman's 'word of the week', and quoted yesterday, is repeated today - because, because...

In celebration of Ann Treneman's sharing of the word "erinaceous", yesterday I shared the picture of what, at first glance looked like a hedgehog decked out in camouflage gear, having safely crossed the main road, and desperately clambering over the kerb to find the relative safety of the pavement.

Well now, this very morning, I visit Google's home page - and, truly goodness erinaceous me...

Google's erinaceous doodle welcomes the first day of autumn in the UK

How about that? Google's amusing daily doodle celebrates the arrival of autumn with a hedgehog in full camouflage outfit.

Coincidence is alive and well and hiding under every gathering of fallen autumn leaves.


♪♪♪: Well, goodness erinaceous me

Prickly subject ... "Word of the week is 'erinaceous', which refers to someone or something that looks like a hedgehog. Come on: you know this one will come in handy." Times Notebook columnist Ann Treneman shares a word certainly not heard floating about in the Asterix Bar down at The Crazy Horsepower Saloon.

Well blow me, talking about coming in handy: walking into town on a misty September morning, and I spot what looks like a hedgehog in camouflage gear having safely crossed the main road, and now desperately clambering over the kerb for the relative safety of the pavement...

A Llandeilo hedgehog heavily camouflaged out on manoeuvres

Now that's what I call a coincidence. And definitely what I call "erinaceous", at first glance anyway. What made the episode even more amusing, it was the only tuft of grass "littering" the kerb for as far as the eye could spy.

Oh yes, Ann's word of the week drew this response to the paper:

Vowels, please ... "Ann Treneman speaks more truthfully than she knows when she tells us that the word 'erinaceous' will 'come in handy'. It will provide an answer to the frequently asked quiz question 'Name a word containing all the vowels'. Though, as Eric Morecambe would be quick to say, they are 'not necessarily in the right order'. You need 'facetious' for that." Joan Oliver of Old London Town, in a letter to The Times.

PS: Paul Sheppy added that Joan Oliver could also try 'abstemious'. Yes, every day a day at school.


From Napoleon to Bezos

No bod in the pod ... "Driverless delivery pods on roads 'within two years'." Headline spotted in The Times.

Yes, it seems that delivery pods could be introduced to Britain's highways and byways within a couple of years under plans designed to revolutionise online shopping.

Gosh, how about that? Over 200 years Britain has morphed from Napoleon's nation of shopkeepers into Bezos' nation of delivery drivers, indeed, shortly to become a nation of driverless delivery pods.

Straight ahead ... "Driverless vehicles on smart motorways: what could possibly go wrong?" Graham Ludlam of South Wingfield, Derbyshire, in a letter to the Daily Mail.


Are you listening, God?

The last word ... "To listen to some devout people, one would imagine that God never laughs." Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), Indian journalist, philosopher, poet and yoga guru, from his book The Hour of God, and Other Writings (published in 1959).

The first thing I did was smile - instantly followed by a recall of Woody Allen's memorable quote: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans."

Or, if you're a politician, especially Prime Minister Boris Johnson: "If you want to make God laugh, show him my 2019 manifesto."

As it happens, I've never been one to make plans - it's mostly been a stroll through time and space on a wing and a prayer, so to speak.

Be that as it may, most people do make plans so my guess is that God, contrary to what some devout people think, never stops laughing - except of course when he spots the Devil lurking in the bushes, which these days would appear to be quite often.

PS: Spellchecker moment ... the computer came to a stop at "Aurobindo" (as in Sri Aurobindo), and suggested "Eurobond". Talk about lateral thinking.


BBC Radio 2's stunt double revisited

Over to you, Paddy and Ronaldo ... "Here's a roundup of today's entertainment news - I'm reading from The Sun's front page here: 'MAN EWE EXCLUSIVE: WHAT A TO-DO RON RON! Ronaldo moves out of mansion after he's kept awake by sheep. Christiano and his family have switched mansions after bleating sheep kept waking them...' [background noises of bleating sheep added for comical effect]." Yes, I am paying a return visit to yesterday's tale of presenter Paddy O'Connell sitting in for Vanessa Feltz on Thursday morning.

With the sheep still bleating, Paddy continues to read from The Sun: "Manchester United's new signing, 36, who loves his rest between matches, has moved from one seven-bed home to another. A source in Cheshire said of his old home: 'The sheep were very noisy early in the morning.' Full story - page seven."

It was such an entertaining tale, especially so with the background sheep bleating away for effect - and Paddy amusingly doing his nut because he couldn't concentrate on the job at hand because of the racket.

The episode probably explains why I actually had a dream about it last night - and normally I hardly ever remember my dreams. Whatever...

I dreamt that scientists had crossed a cockerel with a ram - a Cockerambo - an exceedingly impressive creature, apparently, but the problem was that it didn't 'alf make a racket first thing in the morning with its endless cock-a-doodle-bleats.

So how about that? A Cockerambo. So no wonder Ronaldo was also doing his nut.

And then the alarm woke me up...


BBC Radio 2's stunt double
(incorporating Wordplay of the Day - 3)

"Hello, good morning," says this sultry cum seductive cum somewhat low-pitched, male-sounding voice on the wireless. "I am Vanessa Feltz..." Yes, it's British broadcasting presenter Paddy O'Connell, mostly heard on Radio 4, but sitting in for Vanessa Feltz on Thursday morning.

Well, it made me laugh. And he kept saying throughout the show that he was Vanessa, in particular that he was her radio stunt double - and I began to believe it.

Many more amusing moments ticked the joy box. Paddy read out an email from a listener in Australia, and he said that if someone lived to on the other side of the world he didn't particularly want to hear from them because he didn't want to know what dreadful news would be coming his way some 12 hours or so later, which I thought rather funny.

And then, somehow, Ken Dodd and sex came together, and Paddy told these Doddy jokes:

"Do I believe in safe sex? Of course I do. I have a handrail around the bed."

"I thought I was marvellous in bed until I realised I was attracting girlfriends that all suffered from asthma."

And then he spoilt it all by telling a Tony Blackburn joke: "A man just threw milk, cream and butter at me. How dare he!" (Yes, I know, it's really an ear joke, rather than an eye one - but still, I had to share it because it's worth a quick groan. And rather good on the "Wordplay of the day" front.)

Over and out.


En garde!

The last word ... "Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense." Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), American novelist, poet and playwright, Reflections on the Atomic Bomb (1946).

How about that? There were no 24-hour TV news channels back in 1946, and certainly no internet, mobile phones and social media to bombard Gertrude's every waking minute with conflicting bits of information about this, that and the other. Especially so the other.

And then, suddenly, I am confronted on my computer screen with something that makes me chuckle with much enthusiasm...

En guard! Just enough information to make me smile

Now that's how you get your message across. Yes, it's an advertising board outside a fencing academy in California. How clever and witty.

The next time I watch some fencing on the telly - probably that will be 2024 and the Paris Olympics - I will doubtless remember the advice in that notice, and enjoy the fencing even more.

En guard, indeed.


It's a tiebreak

"Marks & Spencer no longer sells suits for men at more than half of its 254 larger stores as the pandemic hit 'fast forward' on the trend for casual wear: is this the beginning of the end for the traditional suit-and-tie look for men?" A headline spotted online.

As reported, hardly anyone wears a suit-and-tie to work now. Curiously though, shirts remain as they were, designed to accommodate the tie. And what about all those lovely ties? Well now...

Knotty tie etiquette!

Undress code: Feel free to remove your ties and relax!

Apparently skirts made out of ties are quite the fashion these days. Now I've never been a big fan of the necktie, but the above certainly caught my attention in the passing parade and generated a generous smile.


Two fat ladies - 88 ... Oops!
Wills and Kate - 88

I like handicrafts, but this takes the basket ... "Regarding changes of direction in later life, aged 88 and still interested in how things are made, I looked up basketry courses and found one that includes 'make your own coffin'." Monica Channell of Old London Town, in a letter to The Guardian.

And then this...

Wolf-whistle cycle ... "As a young PE teacher I was used to builders wolf-whistling as I walked to school. I am now 88 and was surprised but comforted by a passing young man looking at my mobility scooter and remarking: 'Great wheels!' It brought back memories." Jacqueline Williams of Shaftesbury, Dorset, in a letter to The Times.

How about that? Two letters from a brace of exceedingly sporty 88-year-old ladies.

With regard to my "Oops!" in the headline...

The word on the street is that the game of Bingo is joining the 21st century as "woke millennials" ditch traditional calls such as "Two fat ladies - 88" for fear of upsetting anyone. They are said to be tired of the old calls and prefer the more modern "Wills and Kate - 88" (I guess you have to actually say it as "ate-e-ate" to make it work).

Dozens of changes could see "Gluten free (83)", "Amazon Prime (49)", "Lads on tour (54)", "Recycle more (74)" - and the rather marvellous "Not another Brexit debate (48)" - becoming part of the game's famous calling routine.

Oh, and "Time for tea - 83" will now be "Gluten-free - 83".


Five-star letters from Middle-Britain - 7

Prickly point of order ... "Does the Football Association of England (FA) employ a person solely to source strange fonts for England footballers' shirts? Why did Declan Rice's shirt have a cactus on the back and front rather than the No 4?" Lester May of Old London Town, in a letter to The Sunday Times, Sport section.

Now that made me chuckle, even without ever having seen Exhibit No 4 - so naturally I searched Lester's point of order...

An air of untouchability: Declan Rice's cactus 4-play

Wonderful - and yet another exquisite example of the joy and the doolallyness of the passing parade becoming more delightful and bonkers by the day.


Staying alive for ever and a day

"Who wants to live for ever? Silicon Valley billionaires Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg do ... It was reported last week that they are among the backers of a new 'rejuvenation company', Altos Labs, to ultimately work out how we might live for ever - or is it merely a vain personal attempt to cheat death?" As spotted in today's Sunday Times.

Yes, more passing parade doolallyness embraced from the grassy knoll.

The Sunday Times also did a brief comment piece on the story, which made me smile and rate worthy of sharing here...

Jeff versus death

Good morning. This is your Sunday Times braintransfer summary for September 12, 2121. Today's weather forecast: a balmy 42C. Here are the headlines:
     President Bezos is leading celebrations to mark the centenary of the discovery of eternal life, as foreshadowed 100 years ago by a report in this thoughtpaper [blink twice for archive braintransfer]. Modest crowds of 18 billion have gathered in hoverchairs at the White Shed in Washington.
     In other news: average NHS waiting times have reached 32 years. The Galactic Entity of China has reported its "historic territorial right" to Alpha Centauri. Scientists have backed Covid booster jabs for winter. Ant and Dec have declared themselves "completely overwhelmed" by their 119th National Television Award for simply being Ant and Dec.
     And cabinet insiders have revealed that Boris Johnson, 157, his hair still a mess atop an ill-fitting suit, now in his 26th term as prime minister, has told colleagues: "I'm wondering if this immortality thingy was such a good idea."

Oh yes, I added that bit about Boris's "hair still a mess atop an ill-fitting suit". Well, I guess that's a given.

Best of all though, I enjoyed the news that the Galactic Entity of China has reported its "historic territorial right" to Alpha Centauri.

Yep, nothing new under the Big Bang, indeed it has been reported that it says this in the Bible: "The yellow race shall inherit the earth." And I presume it means China with its cheap but rubbish imitation goods.


Where I hang my hat

Hat of defiance ... "My aunt did not powder her nose or put on her glasses before answering the phone (Letters) but, during the war, she always put on her hat before going into the air raid shelter. She said: 'If Hitler does arrive, he won't find me improperly dressed.'" Shirley Puckett of Tenterden, Kent, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Further to the recent Telegraph letter featured here from a Ros Fitton wondering if she was the only person who dabbed on some perfume before sitting in on a Zoom meeting, a series of letters followed about ladies who, before answering the phone, would powder their nose or put on their glasses (I pop on my specs in case I need to make a note of something), and, amusingly, about ladies and their hats.

Hat of convenience ... "My grandmother, who lived in deepest rural Suffolk, always wore a hat to visit her lavatory, a bucket in an outhouse. She had a special hat for the purpose, which hung ready on a hook by the back door." JE Crooks of Old London Town.

And this charmer of a missive...

Habit of a lifetime ... "Some years ago, in the village where I then lived there was a retired school matron and daughter of a Church of England minister. She had a sharp mind and a generous sense of humour. When she eventually died and her coffin was brought into church, a quiet chuckle spread among the congregation at the sight of her Sunday hat perched among the flowers on top.
     "While planning the service, she had informed the curate:
'I've never in my life been into church without my hat and I'm not starting now.'"
Christine Knights-Whittome of Winchester, Hampshire.

How wonderful is that? I guess the phrase "a generous sense of humour" was a starter for ten on the joy front.


Meanwhile, back in the saloon bar

Hard act to follow ... "The Sentinel, a daily regional newspaper circulating in the North Staffordshire and South Cheshire area, report on a local solicitor, Iain Haley, seeking clemency for his client, who had stolen a packet of Viagra from a pharmacy: 'He is not a hardened criminal.'" Stephen Cooper, 46, from Leek, was already banned from the pharmacy after attempting to steal the drug on a previous occasion.

But did solicitor Haley's defence stand up in court? Sort of. Magistrates ordered Cooper to pay 57 quid compensation, which was not regarded as being particularly stiff.

And sticking with bar room humour, the British celebrity portrait photographer Andy Gotts tells GQ Magazine that he has a couple of techniques to get famous people to pose for him as they really are. One, he tells them to embrace their inner child, which tends to lead to them pulling faces (go goggle Google to see examples of such work).

If that fails, he tells "the walrus joke", which always gets some reaction, be it laughter or disgust: "What is the similarity between a walrus and Tupperware? They both like a tight seal."


Meanwhile, back in the schoolyard

Are you a TWAT? ... "City workers adopt insulting nickname for colleagues who work no more than three days a week at company headquarters, in particular those who spend an extended weekend at home and only come in to the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays." A clickbait spotted on the Mail Online home page.

Well it made me chuckle, much like a cockerel with a sore throat. Oh, and what about those of you who only spend Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in the office? Are you a WTF?

And keeping to the subject of working from home, I smell a smiley pussycat...

Scents of occasion ... "Am I the only person who puts on perfume before attending a Zoom meeting?" Ros Fitton of Solihull, West Midlands, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.


Blue and green should always be seen

Blue-sky thinking ... "'There is one spectacle grander than the sea,' the French author Victor Hugo (1802-1885), wrote. 'That is the sky.' Now a study illustrates the power of both sights: it suggests that studying photographs of a blue yonder makes us feel better about ourselves." Thus the opening shot of an article in The Times reporting on a study by Anglia Ruskin University London...

It goes on to explain that researchers found that presenting people with pictures of the natural world boosted how favourably they thought about their own appearances. Photographs of green landscapes viewed on a computer, helped to nudge people towards a healthier body image. The effect was significantly stronger when they were shown blue views, whether sky or sea.

Well, given where I live, along with my lifestyle, I daily engage with the natural world, especially on the blue and green front (see yesterday's post). In fact I instantly thought of one of my favourite photographs captured some years ago, on the 9th of November 2005, actually...

The morning after: the River Towy in full flood, creating a perfect reflection

This was the morning after an intense storm had passed through. The valley was extensively flooded, which is normal following heavy rains, but so still was the day that it created a perfect reflection. The bottom half is normally land, as captured below on a different occasion...

The River Towy: out of sight and out of mind when minding its own business

As a bonus, a passing hot air balloon of a red persuasion added to the blue and green scene.

The Anglia Ruskin study involved one group of volunteers viewing images of landscapes where the predominant colour was green. The second were shown images of the natural environment where blue was the dominant colour. The third group were shown pictures of buildings.

The results showed that viewing images of nature, but not buildings, resulted in more positive body image.

Green spaces produced a modest lift in how positive people felt about themselves; with blue spaces, such as coastal scenes and rivers, the effect was more significant.

Those who were shown images of the built environment had a slightly poorer body image afterwards.

The findings were presented yesterday at the British Science Festival in Chelmsford, the county town of Essex.


Summertime - and the UK livin' is easy

Weather forecasting ... "Apropos the UK's somewhat fickle weather forecasts (Letters, 3 September), I was reminded of the words of a visiting American acquaintance in the 1980s: 'I'm not sure why you Brits bother with weather forecasts. There are only three states of weather in the UK: it's just stopped raining, it's raining, or it's just about to rain.'" Ray Woodhams of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, in a letter to The Guardian.

Walking into town on a beautiful September morning, I capture the sunrise peeping through the trees...

A balmy September sunrise breaking through the Towy Valley meadow mist

Yes, the day dawns to offer up yet another glorious embrace of balmy early-autumn sunshine and unnaturally high temperatures - which made me smile given the above letter. However, I know what Ray Woodhams' American acquaintance was getting at.

Indeed, what with America concurrently burning and drowning, and both record rainfall and extreme temperatures triggering catastrophic floods and wildfires all over the globe, who would have thought that a bog-standard and a much mocked British summer would be so reassuring and inviting.

Yes of course, the UK suffers its floods and wildfires following those rare but increasing extended dry spells, but nothing compared to events elsewhere.

One slowly grasps why the UK and Ireland are identified as countries best placed to maintain orderly civilisation within their own borders when the four horsemen come galloping over the horizon - presuming of course that our politicians prioritise huge investment in farming, water, police, and border forces, the four essential factors necessary to survive a cataclysmic event labelled "when", not "if".

Oh, and further along my walk into town this morning, I capture the sun rising over the Black Mountain, the Llandeilo rooftops and a misty Towy Valley...

A balmy September sunrise over the Black Mountain and the Llandeilo rooftops

Dry wit ... "Re weather forecasts (Letters), I visited the Lake District once and asked a local if it ever stopped raining there. She replied: 'I don't know, I'm only 13.'" Ian Garner of Keighley, West Yorkshire, in a follow-up letter to The Guardian.



Afghani-shambles extra, extra, read all about it

Accentuate the positive ... "Never in our wildest dreams could we have believed we could beat a superpower like America with just our Kalashnikovs and a few Toyota pickups." Taliban commander and religious leader Maulawi Hafiz Mohibullah Muktaz, 35, after taking over Bagram air base, once the stronghold of Western forces in Afghanistan.

Ignore the negative ... "An extraordinary success." President Joe Biden, 78, defends the chaotic withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan after 20 years of death and destruction.

Jacob's Crackers ... "The nature of bad news infects the teller." Said by the first messenger in Act 1 Scene 2 of William Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra - to which Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, 52, in his weekly Mail on Sunday newspaper "Jacob's Weekly Wisdom" corner, says: "The news from Afghanistan as desperate people try to flee has an effect upon us all."

Apart from the headlines, I never listen to or watch the news these days, especially so on the BBC, mostly because the presenters radiate gloom and negativity - but as always, good old Will Shakespeare has a line to explain it all to perfection.

Incidentally, apropos the first quote above, compliments of the Taliban leader, I may have added that bit about "a few Toyota pickups". I mean, for more than a quarter-of-a-century, Toyota's sturdy pickups and SUVs have been the Taliban's rugged vehicles of choice. Astonishing.

No wonder then that Jeremy Clarkson and his gang couldn't get the better of a Toyota pickup on their Top Gear show, no matter how badly they treated it.


Headline of the day - 2

Watch your step ... "Every time I try to be more like Greta Thunberg, I just keep putting my carbon footprint in it." Columnist Martin Hemming of The Sunday Times, explains that, however dedicated he is to nudging down his carbon footprint, Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion insist that he is still killing the planet.

Yes, I know what he means: never mind if you don't fly and cycle everywhere, have solar panels on your roof and use a heat pump, boast a native garden and plant a tree every week, eat locally-produced organic food...

However, if you have children who still need nappies - and you send emails, watch Chris Packham videos on YouTube about saving the planet, use cotton tote bags, feed the garden birds, rinse the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, and, hush my mouth, gulp down a sneaky bacon sandwich when nobody's looking...

Yep, you can't win when you're up against Greta and Extinction Rebellion. The Sunday Times headline continues: "Could punching a methane-burping cow in the face soon be a morally defensible act?"

It seems that burping and farting livestock are a huge contributor to greenhouse gases and will be the death of us all. Hang about though...

Do you suppose that the dinosaurs were not wiped out by a rogue asteroid but rather billions of creatures on the planet burping and farting methane and generating unspeakable amounts of greenhouse gases?


Reasons to be cheerful - 5

One funny step for a man ... "This week's witticism from my brother came as I unloaded my Henchman tripod stepladder from my truck. He asked: 'Is that your step-ladder - or is it your real ladder?'" A cheery comment by Lynne Allbutt, nature lover and garden design expert, in her Saturday Green Scene column in the Western Mail newspaper.

Yes, top-step marks.

Also, this very morning, walking into town, I spot something bright and cheerful, so to speak...

Spot the Bus: A spot-check along my morning walk into Llandeilo...

Yes, a minibus covered in contagious measles of the technicolour variety. And exceedingly cheery on the eye.

Before leaving the world of ladders, Lynne Allbutt gave us some sobering statistics: "Falls from ladders account for an average 14 deaths per year. According to the government's Health & Safety Executive statistics, falls from ladders account for almost a third of all injuries, as well as being the number one cause of workplace deaths."

So hey, let's be careful out there.  


Stop taking the piss

New balls, please ... "What's he doing in there? It takes Stefanos Tsitsipas twice as long to go to the bathroom as it takes Jeff Bezos to fly into space. Interesting." Tennis star Andy Murray tweets his anger at his opponent's "20-minute toilet breaks" during his five-set, first-round defeat at the US Open.

The most amusing aspect of Andy Murray's complaint about his Greek opponent's extended comfort breaks, which clearly pissed-off the Scotsman, was that it happened at Flushing Meadow, ho, ho, ho.

Why tennis players need 20 minutes to go for a pee remains a mystery. Perhaps the Greek was taking the Tsitsipiss.

Obviously tennis folk have never watched road cycling where the men take their comfort breaks by the side of the road, in fact often not even stopping, they simply slow down and pee on the move as the camera discreetly pans away.

I have told the tale before about Tour de France 2014, which began in Yorkshire with two stages, before moving on to London for the final UK stage before transferring back to France.

During the second stage in Yorkshire, Eurosport's Carlton Kirby was discussing with a fellow commentator one of the riders who the previous day had been fined 100 Swiss francs for taking a comfort break in an inappropriate place and without due care and consideration for spectators.

Both commentators sympathised with the rider because there were millions on the roadside watching the race. Yes, even out in the country, where the riders naturally take their comfort breaks, and it would have been difficult to find a spot with no spectators about.

There was a slight pause in the conversation, and Carlton Kirby concluded: "Perhaps he did it too flamboyantly."

I mentioned above that men take their comfort breaks on the move. Now I enjoy watching the women race, too - but curiously I have never seen a female rider take a comfort break by the side of the road!


Reasons to be cheerful - 4

Wel-i-jiw-jiw! ... "When did the Flowerpot Men come out?" A question spotted online made me blink. I mean, who knew that Bill and Ben, the famous Flowerpot Men, were gay? I read on...

"Bill and Ben were first seen on BBC TV, along with little Weed, on 18 December 1952." Phew, the questioner was obviously asking when they had made their first appearance on telly, not if they were gay, or indeed smoked pot.

The illumination continues: "The characters were originally part of a BBC series called Watch with Mother..."

And here's another funny thing. Walking down New Road in Llandeilo this very morning, I hear voices above me: "Shwmae! Shwmae!" I look up...

Bill and Benni look startled by the passing parade at Llandeilo

Well blow me, it's the Welsh Bill and Benni, the Flowerpot Semi, sitting atop a bay window observing the passing parade, and greeting me with a "Shwmae! Shwmae!" (that's Welsh for "Flobado! Flobado!" in Flowerpot speak, meaning "Hello! Hello!" of course).

I say Bill (blue for boys) and Benni (red, going on pink, for girls), but you may well stick with Bill and Ben.

Anyway, the amusing sight made me smile, I can tell you.

PS: Spellchecker moment ... the computer, rather unsurprisingly, came to a stop at "Flobado!", and suggested, in this order, "Forbade!", "Flubbed!" (meaning to botch or bungle), and, gulp, "Libido!". Say nothing is best.


Sock it to 'em

Socks in the sun ... "I was in Ceylon as it was then when my feet got badly sunburnt. Since then I have always worn socks with sandals (Diary of a Modern Dad: 'My son wears socks and sandals - who cares? Not him...', Features, Aug 26). The Romans also did so, as can be seen on some of their statues." Brian Robinson of Pickering, North Yorkshire, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.

I'm with Brian Robinson and those Romans.

As it happens I can't remember when I last wore sandals - it must have been during my school days. However, as global warming takes hold, and if ever I do decide to go with sandals sometime in the future, I will make a point of wearing socks, if only to annoy those fashionistas who insist that it ain't the done thing because fashion is more important than character.

Ya boo sucks, as the child within would say. However...

Passion killers ... "I have always found that wearing socks and sandals is a cheap and effective form of contraception." Julian Badenoch of Cowes, Isle of Wight, in a follow-up letter to The Daily Telegraph.

Well, if Julian engages with those who refuse to indulge in intimate relationships on the strength of a character judgment based on socks with sandals, then good riddance to bad rubbish I'd say.


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?"

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