HALLOWEEN

If you’ve stepped inside a supermarket in the last couple of months, you’ll know ‘tis the season for…Christmas decorations and fireworks and six-foot tall, battery-operated, glowing-eyed skeletons.

Remember ‘Four Seasons In One Day’ by Crowded House, the New Zealand band that broke up in 1996 and reformed in 2006?

Between those years, the founders of the band, Tim and Neil Finn, toured under the name ‘Considerably Less Crowded House’.

Because there were only two of them. Geddit?

The song popped into my head last week when I wandered into a supermarket and was confronted by Three Seasonal Celebrations In One Shop.

In front of me stood a trio of colourful displays, all vying for my attention.

The Christmas Decorations Display.

The Fireworks Display.

And…the biggest of all…The Halloween Display.

Oh, how I loathe Halloween, Trick Or Treat, Rubber Bats, Pumpkins….and everything else associated with the spooky ‘celebration’.

In saner times, Halloween barely registered with us Brits.

BBC 2 might have broadcast a documentary about witches or ITV slipped an old Hammer film into the late-night schedules. But that was about it.

It’s no co-incidence that Halloween started becoming more popular here after 2003 when the law was passed to prevent under-18s from buying fireworks.

Retailers, desperate to replace their lost income, noted how popular Halloween was in America and saw it as a way to take more of our hard-earned cash. Thus, the British Halloween industry was born…

Looking at all three supermarket displays, I found myself shaking my head at this blatantly greedy attempt to empty the purses and wallets of a population still in a recession.

The displays were designed to persuade parents accompanied by wide-eyed children to spend money they can ill afford on horror masks, plastic spiders and other meretricious macabre merchandise.

Although there are still firework displays, for individual families November 5th is (pardon the pun) a bit of a damp squib, no longer such a big date in the calendar. And I don’t hear as many loud explosions during the run- up to Bonfire Night as I used to.

Unless I’ve been out for a vindaloo curry!

So there’s been a definite sea change from Rockets & Roman Candles towards Tricking & Treating and we can blame those damn Yanks, who’ve been Halloween crazy for decades.

Like most things American, where they lead, many Brits follow.

Some of you might think “Halloween‘s just a bit of fun for the kids”, but it’s also a worrying night for old people, especially those living alone.

They don’t want children and teenagers banging on their doors all evening, so they draw the curtains and switch off all the lights, hoping their evening won’t be disturbed.

They can of course obtain “No Halloween Callers Please” posters from their local police station. But they’d better hurry because I’ve got two-dozen stuck on my front window.

And if the kids don’t get the message, the six-foot tall, battery-operated, glowing-eyed skeleton standing in my porch should do the trick….a treat!

Magic

With the weather offering us little more than rain showers followed by the occasional rain shower, the highlight of last week for me was a fortunate encounter with Swansea magician and entertainer, Matt Steele.

This lucky meeting took place at one of my favourite coffee stops; and, due to the downpour outside, the place was crowded. Matt offered me a seat at his table, explaining that he’d be leaving soon to perform at a party. Little did I know that we’d all end-up having a party of our own!

Within moments of Matt delving into his box of tricks, he’d created, not only an amazing balloon helicopter, but a room full of laughter. He went on to bewilder and bemuse all of us there with his comedy versions of magic tricks. He went further to make sure that all the little children there had a wonderful balloon to take home with them.

It caused such a buzz that the manager approached us, not knowing whether to chuck us out; book Matt for a party, or ask him to make a balloon for his daughter.

You can see Matt’s work on Facebook. Like ‘The Occasional Twist’ http://on.fb.me/1zFyLyW  page and make your parties amazing!

http://on.fb.me/1zFyLyW

Party

Last week I was invited to partake in and celebrate a very special wedding anniversary. Can you imagine being married to the same person for 50 years? Clearly they were into ‘injury time’.

Such an achievement is seen as rare in today’s day and age, which is sad. The funny material for this occasion was so easy to write, to the point where the jokes were writing themselves. On occasions such as this it’s a blessing to be a comedian.

The lucky couple were a delight to meet and it was clear to see how proud they were of what they had achieved. Here we had a couple who were best friends and made for each other. It was an honour to be part of this amazing celebration.

My job was to face and entertain a varied age range for an audience and they were easy to work with and happy to engage.But another interesting statistic came to mind following this event.

People born between 1997 and 1999 have lived in three decades, two centuries, and two millenniums and they are not even 18 yet.  I bet you didn’t know that.

 

SAD

“The falling leaves drift by my window. The autumn leaves of red and gold”.

‘Autumn Leaves’. A beautiful song. Music by Joseph Koma. Words by Johnny Mercer.

But it’s always concerned me that as Johnny gazed out of his window, creating those sublime lyrics, he ignored the potential havoc the falling leaves were capable of wreaking in his backyard.

If they’d clogged his drains, they’d have created a flood hazard which he’d only become aware of when water started seeping over his front doorstep during the next heavy downpour.

You can tell Autumn’s a worrying season for me…

It makes other people anxious too, as it heralds the arrival of overcast skies, high winds, rain, shorter days and longer nights, creating a ’Sorrowful season of dark, dismal, dread. It’s ochre smudged, mud-trudged landscape wallowing in a silted sea of soul-sapping sadness’, to quote the famous poet.

I can’t remember his name, but he updates his work every week in the Gents at Pont Abraham services just at the end of the M4.

Squirrels gather nuts for their long hibernation – an old Celtic word meaning “We won’t have to send any Christmas cards again this year.” – but humans don’t hibernate – although some policemen must do, because I haven’t seen one patrolling our road for years.

Most of us can cope with the long, dark day s, but thousands of people really dread Autumn as they suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

S.A.D. is more than just feeling cheesed-off that it’s been raining since breakfast. It’s like a cloud constantly hanging over you.

Sunlight can stimulate a part of the brain called the hypothalamus and there is a theory that S.A.D.is caused by reduced exposure to sunlight in the Autumn and Winter months, which can affect people’s moods, appetite and sleep.

And you always thought my ramblings were just thrown together…..

In particularly bad cases, people are helped by a light box. It’s not a box that doesn’t weigh very much. It radiates day-light equivalent illumination.

But there are simpler ways to combat S.A.D. If it’s the weekend and the weather is cold but dry, wrap up and take a walk in the park, even if it’s just for half-an-hour.

The fresh air and exercise will really improve your mood and your health.

For working S.A.D. sufferers, a hectic, stimulating day can take their mind off the problem. If they’re retired, a cheap, effective way of combating S.A.D. is to pop into a warm, brightly-lit supermarket, sit in the cafe with a hot drink and a ‘paper and watch the hustle and bustle for a while – better than sitting in the house alone watching Jeremy Kyle.

S.A.D. sufferers should swap depressing TV soaps for comedy shows & films and go to comedy clubs. If they have children or grand-children, they should take them to a pantomime filled with silly slapstick and witty wordplay.

When S.A.D. threatens to spoil your life, laughter can be the best medicine.

But for chronic indigestion, Gaviscon’s much more effective.

Doom and gloom

The tabloids, news and radio interviews continue to be shocking, labouring on the negatives and therefore magnifying doom and gloom, which in turn makes us feel low and powerless. Is this what they want to achieve?

I can’t help but feel that this is a time for strong leadership, even if this means a cull of the non contributors. In case you hadn’t noticed I am referring to the people who should be leading us.

At this rate there will be a big price to pay next May. Mr Farage is demonstrating some classic leadership techniques and the public are starting to pay attention. I’m not a fan of his, but he is a great tactician and interesting to observe.

Public confidence is low and getting lower and history has demonstrated that this is when people change for change sake.  Dangerous times for sure. Cracks have been appearing and getting wider.  Here we might just have history in the making.

Maybe a new party is exactly what we need to shake things up a bit and instil a more positive outlook.  The Cwtsh Party may not be as daft as some first thought…

Carbtober

Picture the scene.  Mid afternoon, minding my own business, sitting in my favourite coffee shop, the weather increasingly dark and dismal.

Just as I’m about to pull out my healthy bag of acorns to accompany my organic tea with soya milk, I happen to look up and glance around me at what is going on at everybody else’s tables.  A strange ritual has begun. I like to think of it as Carbtober.

It’s the time of year where everyone feels the need to eat as much as they can. Has it hit you yet? We are behaving like squirrels.

What happens to our bodies at this time of year that we feel the need to constantly eat comfort food? It’s almost as if we’re getting ready to hibernate.

Just for the record I took one last look around the coffee shop and felt extremely left out.  A few cakes, packet of biscuits and a cappuccino later, I was heading back to my cave to Cwtsh down until next March.

 

Plastic Surgery

Six months ago I loaned a friend £5,000 to have plastic surgery and I’ve been unable to get my money back. The operation was so successful, I have no idea what he looks like.

Many glamour models fade from view as they get older, but former model and weightlifter Jodie Marsh is the host of a new American TV series that features people who’ve had disastrous plastic surgery. That’s quite an achievement, so I take my hat off to Jodie. After all, she’s taken much more off for me in the past.

The first recorded case of reconstructive surgery dates back to Ancient Egypt, which is surprising when you consider that The Sphinx has badly needed a nose job for centuries.

The first plastic surgery as we know it, was carried out by an American surgeon in 1927 to cure a cleft palate. Since then it’s saved the looks and mental well-being of thousands upon thousands of people who’ve been ill, badly injured, burned or born with a facial disfigurement.

Today, thanks to the proliferation of celebrities – i.e. anyone who’s  stood in front of a TV camera for more than two minutes- having boob jobs, nose jobs, neck jobs etc., ( all of which cost big money, so they’re not bob-a-jobs), plastic surgery is so common with the general public, it’s almost treated like a visit to the dentist.

As I hate visiting the dentist – unless he invites me to tea – I won’t be having any bodily enhancement. Even though some ladies have commented I could do with an extra inch or two . . .  on my biceps!

Because all surgical procedures have in-built risks and can be traumatic for the patient, I don’t understand why anyone would want to go under the knife voluntarily for the sake of vanity.

Most of us don’t look like Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt.

For example, Mrs. Betty Williams-Pryce, our local postmistress, doesn’t resemble either of them. But we do the best we can with what we’ve got . . . without resorting to plastic surgery.

There was a time when the only people who felt compelled to (and could afford to) undergo  plastic surgery voluntarily were Hollywood film stars, anxious to hang on to their perfect looks and prolong their careers.

Eventually, at some point they were forced to bow to the fact that even with face-lifts and wigs, the public would no longer accept them as a dashing leading men or glamorous leading women.

I can relate to that.

I no longer get offered the tousle-haired, debonair young man parts that Hugh Grant has rejected. Hard to believe I know.

When their tucks become un-tucked, former matinee idols move into character parts – wise old mentors, crooked politicians etc – until the day they swap the six am make-up chair for an all-day rocking chair on the porch of their ranch, where they reminisce about all the gorgeous leading ladies they seduced when they were young, virile and impossibly handsome.

Yes, you’re right. I can’t relate to that.

Time Flies

It is the second week of October, the nights are drawing in and winter is around that corner. How did that happen?

I’m still wearing my Hawaiian shorts, my beige socks and sandals firmly in place and I’m firing up the barbecue. This can’t be right. Summer is over already? This year seems to have flown and the shops already filling up with Christmas stock.

They say that with age comes wisdom, but doesn’t time also seem to go so much quicker the older you get?

I bet we all started off the year full of good intentions. The New Year’s resolutions went out the window in the second week of January and now, in a few months time, we do it all over again. Now that’s a scary thought.

But, personally, my main concern is this.

Has anybody been out and checked if we have enough grit for the whole inch of snow that will grind the country to a halt this winter?

Some of us need to keep moving you know, people to see, places to be…. the life of a comedian never has time to stop for the weather!

Phil Evans Exposed

You may have heard that I have been persuaded to do a one off show.

PHIL EVANS EXPOSED!

The pressure has been on for some time to put on a one off show where I get to be interrogated   by fellow comedian and broadcaster Daniel Glyn.  It’s finally going to happen, at the Best Western Diplomat Hotel Llanelli on Saturday 1st Nov 2014.  Is Llanelli ready for this?

This is something that I have been trying to avoid for a few years now, but the excuses have finally run out, no longer can I say I’m washing my hair tonight, I’ve got to go to Tesco’s to do the shopping, my hamster is ill….. I can’t avoid it any longer, so here it is.

The show will be an opportunity for followers to see, hear and partake in the questioning and interrogation of my journey from birth to the current day.  There will be highs and lows… let’s face it, anything could happen!

This promises to be a memorable evening of amusing anecdotes, funny stories and an insight into the world of the Cwtsh and how it all came about.  You won’t want to miss this!

 

Mr & Mrs, Game Show

The highlight of last week for me was being asked to host a fund raising event in Llangynidr New Village Hall near Crickhowell. This is a beautiful part of the country, picturesque and idyllic, but were they prepared for some entertainment Phil Evans style?

It was lovely to see such a great turn out for such a good cause, raising much needed funds for the local school.

At the end of the evening, I had to put all of my improvisation skills to the test, by hosting a “Mr & Mrs” style quiz show! Having never done this before I’m pleased to report that it was a hilarious end to the evening, thanks to the contestant and audience participation. Trust me; this was nothing like the old TV version and could have ended in tears.

Working unscripted with a live audience can be both challenging and rewarding, but the risk paid off and this is something that I would love to do again, ideally as a TV recording.

So next week I intend putting time to one side to contact show producers. Why not? Life is all about taking risks… you never know unless you give it a try!