MEN WHO WEAR SHORTS IN WINTER

C.S. Lewis once wrote “When I became a man, I put away childish things”.

And while his Narnia books were written for children, old C.S. knew what he was talking about.

As soon as my voice started to break and I realised that I could have more fun with girls than pulling their hair and pinching them on the odd occasion, I swapped my short trousers for long trousers.

Actually, to be truthful, because I didn’t know any better, for the first three months I wore my long trousers over my short trousers.  I was such an idiot at 19.

I really was an idiot, because I was still in the Fourth Form.  The Head was unhappy with me and refused to let me leave school without a single exam pass. So I decided to put a smile on the Heads face. Not his actual face. I used a marker pen to draw a big toothy grin on his portrait hanging in the entrance hall.

He was more than happy to let me leave then. I swore never to wear short trousers again and immediately got told off for swearing by the Head because I was still standing in the entrance hall.

I don’t even wear shorts when holidaying in warmer climes. Walking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in seventy degree heat is definitely one of the world’s warmer climes…

So, last week I was enjoying a large flat white and a small squashed muffin in a well-known coffee shop and in walked a man old enough to know better, wearing shorts and sandals.

It was pouring with rain outside…a cold wind was whipping  leaves around…and I was wearing my waterproof coat , thick cords, boots and a baffled expression. Why would this man walk around, unselfconsciously, wearing shorts in November?

I’ll tell you why. Because he’s not alone!

It’s crept in during the last few years.  Grown men who insist on wearing shorts in all weathers. Their pale, bony knees pointing at us from beneath short shorts.  Long shorts. Baggy shorts. Saggy shorts. Khaki shorts. Larky shorts.

Put them away, you idiots. They’ll still be wearing shorts when it’s so cold, Jack Frost might start nipping at something more painful than their nose…

So what convinces a man that it’s okay to walk out of his front door, in the middle of winter, wearing shorts?  Assuming that he’s not on heavy medication.

It’s not a fashion statement because their shiny football tops reveal they think being co-ordinated means being able to walk and talk at the same time. Which, to be fair, many of them can do.

Perhaps they think “I’m hard, me!

Whether I’m cold, wet or in intensive care, these shorts are staying on ‘til April!”, so on their behalf  I looked up ‘Macho’ in the newspaper writers secret dictionary and here’s the definition.

MACHO:   A MAN WHO THINKS WEARING SHORTS IN WINTER IS A GOOD LOOK.

                  HE’S SADLY MISTAKEN…

Until the next time….

Has the world gone mad?

I paid a visit to a local hospital this week.  I almost couldn’t find the doors to get in due to the thick fog that had descended around the main entrance.  For once, this one couldn’t be blamed on the Welsh weather.

Patients in wheelchairs, many with drips attached,  a few with newly amputated limbs, smoking. Every visitor had to walk through them as they came in.  I think I must have passively smoked about 4 cigarettes as I walked passed.

Could this be a huge factor in the NHS being under so much financial pressure?

Surely it’s about time we all started taking responsibility for our own health?

Stats from 2014 show that smoking related diseases, costs the NHS approx £2 billion each year. In 2009, spending on cardiovascular disease caused by smoking cost £205.8 million.

A drug that can offer some women with advanced breast cancer nearly six months of extra life has been turned down for use in the NHS because of its high cost.

It doesn’t seem like rocket science to work out where I think the money should be going, what about you?

Mobile Phones

Do you remember the days before mobile phones? No?  Let me remind you.  You need some shopping, you write your shopping list.  Off you go to the supermarket.

Now, think back – what used to happen when your other half, back in the house, remembered something else that you had forgotten?

Back then, it was tough luck.  Nowadays, the aisles of our supermarkets are filled with people with their mobile phones welded to their ears, repeating what they can see on the shelves back to mission control in the house.

“I’m standing by the eggs”…”yes, they are organic”…”no, they are medium” … “no, they are not from caged hens”….”Yes, that ARE from Wales….” No, I don’t know what the chickens names were” !!!

Life was so much easier when you were out of reach. Has anyone ever got back to the car, loaded all the shopping into the boot and THEN got the phone call that something else was needed?

Here is the real question – has anyone pretended they had actually left the supermarket car park to avoid having to go back in for the forgotten item?

Ah, ok, just me then!

Pensioners In Charge

We’re well into the time of year known as Wint-umn. Well that’s what it’s called in my house.

Winter and Autumn meld into one long dark season that’ll hang around our damp, cold, street corners until March comes along and says in an authoritative voice “Oi! You! Stop annoying everyone and clear off out of it!”

It’s around now that pensioners start receiving their winter fuel allowance to help towards their heating bills.

I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of whether so-called wealthy pensioners should receive the same allowance as those who just scrape by on their State Pension, but if they paid their taxes and N.I. for 50/60 years, why the Hell shouldn’t they?

Oops! I just fell off the fence then…

I won’t qualify for it for many years, but £100 given to each individual towards heating their home through the coldest months of the year doesn’t seem a lot to me.

My heating bills from October to March are phenomenal – and I’m not particularly susceptible to the cold. Plus,when I’m out working several nights a week, my heating’s not on.

But my security lights and burglar alarms are – so be warned!

And if your attitude is “Why should pensioners get any heating allowance?” here’s a fact that might melt the ice-berg that occupies the space where your heart should be

Every winter around 25,000 old people die of hypothermia-related problems. Not in Omsk, Tomsk or Vladivostok. In Great Britain!

Because of Government and local council cutbacks, many day centres where pensioners could meet, have tea, coffee and a hot meal in a safe warm environment, are closing.

Think about what initiated these savings and cutbacks (here’s a clue – the banks) which affect the most vulnerable instead of the people who created them, and if you’ve got a social conscience you’ll go and bang your head against the wall with frustration.

While you’re at it, bang a banker’s head against the same wall.

Last Friday, once again generous Britons gave millions to the BBC’s annual Children In Need event in which well-heeled celebrities selflessly gave up their time to promote their new album…single…tour…West End show…or TV series.

That’s all well and good, although one newspapers allegation that the charity is sitting on £90 million accrued in previous years, is worrying.

But while the TV studio was packed with people handing over giant cheques on which the name of their company was WRIT LARGE, in the real world, thousands of pensioners didn’t tune in, because they’d gone to bed early to save on heating.

What should be the most respected section of society are choosing whether to have a hot supper or put their gas fire on for a few hours. It’s almost Dickensian.

Old people have knowledge, experience, patience… and don’t take themselves or the world too seriously. So I’m thinking of starting a new charity.

Not Pensioners In Need. That’s too patronising.   I was thinking….

Pensioners In Charge!

Form an orderly queue….

You can still teach an old dog new tricks

Technology is not for everyone and many refuse to change with the times and explore the opportunities. Last week, I spoke with Gareth Isaac of GI Carpets in Bury Port, who told me about a conversation he had with the local butcher.

Brian Budenis of Brian’s Butchers is also from Butry Port. He is 73. He wasn’t at all interested in promoting his business on Facebook, but Gareth persuaded him and took charge.  His Facebook page was born.

Very soon Brian started posting and to his amazement he had quite a following!

Its early days for him but he definitely got the basic idea of how to post photos and engage with his customers and the importance of how to make his page more interesting and informative. How to “meat” their needs… so to speak.

Two new customers came into his shop in the first week, one didn’t even know he had existed until Facebook and he also gained an order for a Christmas turkey! He’ll be stuffing the competition before he knows it!

More and more customers have been calling in. Brian is now hooked.

Who said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Limelight Performance Academy

My coffee shop encounter last week was with the wonderfully talented Principal and Musical Theatre Choreographer of the Limelight Performance Academy in Port Talbot, Jo Abraham.

This gifted young lady teaches pupils between the ages of 3 to 24 and promotes musical theatre, contemporary dance, performing arts, drama, singing, free running …. is there no end to this lady’s talents?

The Academy is currently working on “We Will Rock You” – a show to be performed in December at Port Talbot Community Centre.  They also have two elite teams going to Kent on the 23rd November to take part in the finals of the Street Performing Championships.

It’s extremely refreshing to see an up and coming performing arts company nurturing and developing young talent that will form part of TV and stage in the future. I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing performers from Limelight entertain at Wales’ biggest talent show, Welsh Factor.  They are not to be missed.

If I had my way there would be a funding grant available for every child to attend a performing arts academy. What a brilliant way to build confidence, social skills and prepare them for a much brighter future.

Spelling It Out For The Fame Game

Ever had two different thoughts on one day and then realised they’re connected? Please say ‘Yes’ or we’ll get nowhere with this.

I was thinking about celebrities whose names are, despite their fame, often incorrectly spelt in newspapers and magazines.

If you’re a fan of Judy Dench….Shane Ritchie….Matt Munroe…Cliff Richards… or… Brian “It’s A Puppet!” Connolly, you’ll realise I deliberately misspelled their names – but that’s how I’ve seen them spelt in print many times.

For the record, here’s the correct spelling(s) – Judi, Richie, Monro, Richard and Conley.

The L.A. Times has dropped the second ‘t’ in veteran American actor Elliott Gould’s first name on no less that 47 occasions. His agent complains, but it keeps happening.

Edgar Allan Poe’s middle name is invariably spelt ’Allen’ in the ‘papers.  Obviously there’s no point in his agent tapping at the editor’s chamber door….

These mistakes aren’t confined to print. James Bolam was being interviewed on Breakfast TV and the on-screen caption spelt his name ‘Bollom’.

It was corrected after a couple of minutes, but how does a mistake like this happen? The man’s been a star for over 45 years!

Then, at the weekend, the BBC Sport website made a blunder with Scarlets and Wales lock forward Jake Ball’s name. Adding the word ‘sack’ after his surname was plainly somebody ‘trying to have a laugh’. Not very funny, in my book. Some heads should roll at the Beeb. Let’s hope Jake saw the funny side, as he’s such a big lad I wouldn’t want to cross him!

I get angry at what you might consider a trivial matter because these mistakes are a result of sloppy research, no research or plain ignorance. If you’re happy to accept information that’s based on such shaky ground, so be it.

My second thought was about the song “If I Never Sang Another Song” which has been recorded by many people, including Matt Munroe.

No, I’m messing with you. Matt Monro.

See how my two thoughts were connected?

Anyway, the song contains this line “I was the celebrity celebrities would die to meet”.

The song, the confession of a once-famous singing star that he doesn’t miss his glory days, is especially poignant when you hear Matt Monro’s recording.

When Don Black wrote those lyrics back in the 1970’s, celebrities really were celebrities who’d worked hard over many years to reach the very top of the pile as singers, actors/actresses, comedians, musicians, etc.

Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, Burt Lancaster, John Wayne, Fred Astaire, Henry Fonda, James Stewart and many other ‘greats’ were still alive and working.  When one of them appeared on “Parkinson” it was an event!

Today, anyone willing to sit around in a house full of cameras with a bunch of fellow deadbeats, behaving as obnoxiously as possible, is considered to be a ‘celebrity’.

Most mercifully disappear from view within a few months, but some mysteriously manage to create a career and get their faces all over the media – even though they can’t actually do anything!  They star in their own series, sometimes travelling all over the world, despite the fact they can barely string a coherent sentence together.  Then they turn up in ‘celebrity’ versions of existing game and quiz shows.

It’s madness.

As is the fact newspapers have trouble spelling Dame Judi Dench’s name correctly, but have no problem with Kim Kardashian…whoever she is!

Kelly Marie

The world of entertainment can be a lonely uphill struggle and it takes years to learn the ropes, make connections and become established.  Last week I met up for coffee with my good friend Kelly Marie to catch up on the world of music and entertainment, which is something that she is extremely passionate about.

Kelly can be considered a mover and shaker in this arena, as over the past few years she has been responsible for the success of many live performers in the area.

Here we have a lady that has the ability to get things done and knows what it takes for her acts to succeed and earn a decent living from a very competitive and demanding profession.

Every performer starting out needs someone like Kelly Marie to guide them in the right direction and steer them away from the pot holes and dangers that every new performer is guaranteed to encounter.

If you are into the music scene locally, no doubt you would have seen a few of the acts that this talented lady works with. There is a downside to this story, I ended up paying for the coffee and cake, again!

Russell Kane’

I’m in the Brangwyn Hall on November 18 with Ignacio Lopez and an up-and-coming comedian you’ll probably hear about soon called ‘Russell Kane’.

Nearly five years ago I saw Ignacio at one of his first ever gigs in the Uplands with none other than Russell Kane. It’s great to see Ignacio grow as an act, getting funnier and playing bigger shows.

Over a coffee-fuelled catch up, I reminded Ignacio of that show five years ago. He laughed, “I was only on the show because I’d offered to sell tickets! The promoter begrudgingly gave me five minutes before Russell and I had a great time, half my family was there.”

I asked what his family had thought. “They loved it, they were crying with laughter. A lot of Russell’s jokes come from growing up with really relate-able characters, that inspired me starting out. Russell’s a genuinely nice guy and his comedy comes from a good place. Like you Phil!”

Aww, flattery gets you a mention in my column!

Good influences in stand-up are important, many try to shock or cause offense to get publicity but you just have to remember why you do comedy. Laughter is a positive thing!

Stress

So there I was, sat up in bed, silently ruminating (they can’t touch you for it as long as you’re wearing a nightcap) about various subjects I could entertain you with this week, when my ‘phone went. It just got up and walked off.

Not really. That was just a figure of speech.

Unlike Neath’s Katherine Jenkins, who’s a peach of a figure. I answered the ‘phone and it was a fellah calling for a taxi. This happens occasionally as my ‘phone number is just one digit away from that of a local taxi firm.

As he was calling at such a late hour, interrupting me mid-rumination, I gave him a right earful – before asking him where he was, where he wanted to be taken and how much he’d be prepared to pay me.

Ten minutes later, I was dressed, in my car and on my way to pick up my first ever customer who was standing outside Sam and Ella’s Take-Away, holding a nasty-looking kebab in one hand and his girlfriend with the other.

I said, “Sorry mate. You can’t bring that unhygienic thing into my car!” So he told his girlfriend to walk home, kissed her goodnight and got in.

And it’s lucky for me he did, because he was a classical violinist, still sober enough to engage in conversation about the possible content of this week’s page. He said “Why don’t you write about Strauss!” and I said “I don’t know much about the composer of The Blue Danube.”

It turned out he still had a large chunk of kebab stuck in his mouth and what he was trying to say was “Why don’t you write about stress?” I thought that was a great idea. Well I did, once I’d calmed down.

Because I know all about stress. Not only because I’m a comedian and I’m so familiar with those last few minutes before I step on stage to entertain people, when my heart is beating slightly faster and my adrenaline is pumping and I’m wondering why I chose this way to make a living , but also in everyday life – just like most people.

Yes, lots of us suffer with stress on a daily basis. Just driving back and forth to work and being stuck in endless traffic jams, or witnessing thoughtless drivers speeding through red lights can stress us out, as can hanging around waiting for ‘buses and trains that are delayed or cancelled.

But most of us cope with these things and life’s other annoyances. It’s when we’re faced with major – and sometimes long term – problems that we find it hard to cope. That’s when it begins to affect our health, leading to high blood pressure and in some cases strokes and heart attacks.

The good news is, there are plenty of ways we can reduce stress. And I’ll be checking them in readiness for a future column. In the meantime if you want to chill out, I recommend ruminating.