Are you being served? No!

I recently visited Newport on business and set off early in case I ran into heavy traffic or a jack-knifed lorry. Luckily, I didn’t meet any such problems.

You seldom do when you travel by train.

I arrived early and wandered into a cafe, sat down and was immediately approached by a pleasant lady who asked me if I wanted to order a hot drink.

She didn’t work there. She was just the curious type. (Joke!)

I said: “I’d like a coffee and a cheese toastie, please. And I’d like the coffee with the sandwich and not before. Thanks.”

What, apart from a glass of water and a biscuit, could have been simpler?

Two minutes later a cup of coffee arrived – just as I hadn’t requested.

A couple sat at the next table and ordered two full English breakfasts.

A different waitress asked if I wanted any sauces.

I looked down at the table and said “I’ve got nothing to put the sauce on”.

She went away.

Twenty five minutes had passed.

Two full English breakfasts were served to the couple on the next table.

By now my coffee was cold and my temper was hot, so I said to one of the waitresses “Excuse me. That couple arrived after me and they’ve already been served.”

She said “Your breakfast won’t be a minute!”

I said:“I didn’t order a breakfast. I ordered a cheese toastie!”

Behind the counter, all four waitresses huddled together, muttering in between giving me sideways glances, until eventually the waitress who’d taken my order said, “I forgot to put your order in! It won’t be long!”

No apology. No offer of a free hot drink to make amends for their sloppiness.

So, I paid for my cold coffee and headed for another cafe, where I ordered a toasted tea cake that took 20 minutes to reach my table, despite the place being almost empty.

The waitress’s excuse?

“We had to wait for the tea cake to toast!”

Oh! The tea cake required toasting before it became a toasted teacake! That explains it!

Newport has a new £100 million shopping centre, complete with several well-known chain restaurants that pride themselves on efficient, pleasant service.

The two independent cafes I visited will need to raise their game in a hurry if they want to survive.

After my meeting, I was asked where I’d like to have lunch.

My reply?

“Swansea!”

A parking nightmare

Last Friday evening, I left home early, but not early enough I discovered, to attend an event at the ever popular Ffwrnes Theatre in Llanelli.

As it happened, it was the same evening that the carnival was taking place and it was also the switching on of the Christmas lights.

Cars were left parked in places that weren’t designed for parking as all the car parks within a half mile radius were full.

Now, here is my real gripe.

There is an old, long-standing multi-storey car park in the middle of Llanelli.

Yes, here we have an ideally located facility and an asset to the community which is vital if you want to bring business into the heart of a town centre, especially with an out of town shopping centre a mile away!

The multi storey car park closes at 7pm, unbelievable.

Who makes these decisions?

Clearly someone who doesn’t understand business or economics.

I personally spoke to four people who were unable to park.

Therefore, they decided to head off home.

Just think of the business that was lost that evening.

This is just the tip of the iceberg . . . shocking!

Local heroes pack a punch

As you know, I love a local hero.

There are so many of them living in our communities that we never get to hear about.

The Seishin Karate Club has been around in Llangennech for about four years and is run by one such hero.

Alan Bowen has been running classes mainly out of the community hall, but also has a few classes in Swiss Valley.

Alan is also a dab hand at arranging a whole host of activities for the local children, Easter Egg hunts, Christmas parties etc.

Every year, he arranges something for Children in Need, last year raising a staggering £1000 for the charity by staging a “kickathon”.

This year, about 60 students took part in a “punchathon” – and after finding out they managed 50,000 punches I was very relieved to hear it was punch bags they were using, not each other!

Do you have a local hero in your town or village?

Let me know about them and what they do!

These people are at the heart of our communities and often use their own spare time to keep our children entertained and off the streets.

So, why are there more questions than answers?

If you ever feel the need to delve into the mysteries of the human condition, you could spend months in dusty libraries, studying the works of philosophers like Plato, Descartes and Bertrand Russell.

If you persevere, eventually you’ll penetrate the deep complexity of their opinions on the ultimate purpose of the human race.

Alternatively, you could switch the radio on and listen to some Golden Oldies, like Johnny Nash’s big hit from 1972 that contained these wise words . . .

There are more questions than answers

Pictures in my mind that will not show

There are more questions than answers

And the more I find out the less I know.

The more I find out, the less I know.

Isn’t that deeply profound?

I’m a man approaching 35 (I won’t say from which direction) who’s survived many life experiences; travelled the world; met and worked with major entertainment stars; performed to audiences who laughed loud and long, making me feel a 100 feet tall; and also performed to audiences whose crossed-arms, sour-faced reactions made me want to leave comedy and become a monk.

So, life has led me to believe that there really are more questions than answers.

For example . . .

Do feminists believe a miss is as good as a male?

When Donald Trump was a kid, did he invite his friends around for a comb-over?

If we’re descended from the apes, why doesn’t my cousin Harold like bananas?

Did the Lilliputians have a small town mentality?

If a dog is man’s best friend, why hasn’t my Spaniel ever bought me a pint?

If birds suddenly appear, every time you are near . . . have you got bread crumbs in your hair?

Does the NASA space programme costs billions because there’s no such thing as a free launch?

If Simon Cowell is so rich, why can’t he afford shirts that button-up to the neck?

The old song warns us ‘Never smile at a crocodile’, but if we did smile at them occasionally, would they change their bad attitude?

If a psychic midget escaped from prison, would the newspaper headline be “Small medium at large”?

If ‘Opportunity’ seldom knocks twice, is it employed by Parcel Force?

They say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. But if they’re so tough, why don’t they hang around and protect the rest of us?

Thanks to temporary insomnia, I’m writing this at three o’ clock in the morning.

So here’s another question:

It doesn’t show, does it?

We share the fear after Paris

On Saturday we woke up once again to more shocking and tragic news of so many lives lost on Friday night in Paris.

To murder innocent people who have no hope or chance of defending themselves in any way is pure evil.

It is cowardly – and hiding behind religion doesn’t fit anymore.

We, therefore, continue to live in challenging times and while peace in our lifetime is unlikely to happen, we mustn’t give up hope.

Strong leadership is needed right now as we must continue to protect the lives of vulnerable and innocent people.

We must all stand strong to ensure evil does not win.

So many of us are fortunate to live in safe towns and countries where freedom is taken for granted, but as Friday evening’s atrocities showed, everything can change so quickly.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and loved ones of the people who lost their lives in Paris.

Mind your manners – please

Call me old fashioned, but I’m a big supporter of please and thank you.

It costs nothing to be polite and to appreciate an act of kindness.

Far too often I witness such acts being totally ignored.

Take last week for instance.

I saw a young man hold a door open for a middle aged lady in a busy Swansea shop and was shocked to see that this gentlemanly gesture was totally ignored.

Fair play to him, he just smiled and went on with his day.

This also happens on our busy roads. If I’m stuck in traffic, I often let people in if safe to do so, but unfortunately very few people acknowledge the gesture.

Are we becoming a nation of arrogant individuals, or is it that we are so preoccupied in our own little world that others don’t matter or deserve acknowledgment for being polite and courteous anymore?

Write and let me know your stories if this has happened to you.

The best story will win an extremely popular gift from Evans HQ!

Good luck and get writing!

Ducked a heckle and missed a jibe

It took years before I enjoyed being on stage, without dreading I wouldn’t get any laughs. I still don’t take audiences for granted, because they can cause even the most experienced comedian to have an off-night.

In his review of a recent stage show starring comedian Kevin Bridges, Brian Ferguson, of The Scotsman, stated…

“…the audience was the worst-behaved I had witnessed in 25 years of attending events. I was actually amazed Bridges did not walk off in disgust well before he hastily wrapped up his show.”

Bridges, who is no shrinking violet when it comes to silencing a heckler with a pithy put-down, was constantly interrupted by individuals who presumably thought (wrongly) they were funnier than the man they’d paid good money to see.  Their selfish behaviour ruined the evening for Bridges and the audience.

You might expect persistent hecklers in a comedy club or a ‘room-over-a-pub’ gig, but this was the prestigious 3,000 seater Edinburgh Playhouse!

While I don’t feel nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ when comedians wore suits and ties – or even a tuxedo – on stage, I realise why they changed from street clothes into expensive stage suits and would never consider swearing on stage. It was a mark of respect to their audience, who expected them to look and behave like the ‘larger than life’ stars they were.

Before a gig, I invariably make a point of changing out of the clothes I creased on the car journey, even if it’s only into a clean shirt and trousers. That’s why dressing rooms are called ‘dressing rooms’ and not ‘texting, breaking-wind and moaning-about-the-fee’ rooms.

But, when ‘Alternative Comedy’ arrived, ‘gag’s were replaced by ‘observations’ and suits were replaced by t-shirts and jeans, breaking down the ‘them and us ‘barrier between the audience and the performer.

Let me offer this theory…

Perhaps modern comedy audiences mistakenly think that, because they’re watching a stand-up who dresses and swears just like them, they’ve got carte blanche to be abusive and obnoxious during his act.

The comedian/comedienne is expected to take it on the chin….”Because comedians love hecklers!”.

Let’s knock that myth right out into the stratosphere where it belongs.

We love hecklers about as much as they’d love someone standing over them where they worked – office, factory or shop – constantly shouting out “You’re rubbish, mate!”

Next time you feel like heckling a comedian, you might want to bear that in mind…

P.S. In case you didn’t ‘get’ the heading DUCKED A HECKLE AND MISSED A JIBE, it’s a riff on DR JEKYLL AND MISTER HYDE.

Too soon for Christmas

Ok, I’ve seen it all now! Christmas decorations going up in November. I thought Easter eggs in Tesco on Boxing Day was bad enough. Are we all going mad?

Good lord, you’ve only just taken the Halloween decorations down!

Why not just put ALL of your Happy Birthday, Easter, Halloween and Christmas decorations up on January 1st and just leave the whole lot there all year?

I witnessed a rather elderly chap in Morriston yesterday, up a very wobbly looking ladder, balancing a gigantic inflatable reindeer in one hand.  He was clinging on for dear life with the other, while his wife stood in the garden below in the pouring rain shouting “left a bit, right a bit….” what worried me more is that they were both soaked already and she was holding the plug!

A few gusts of wintery Welsh wind and I’m sure we are going to see Rudolph taking off across Wales, so keep a look out for him flying over a town near you any day soon!

We must never forget them

Whilst writing this week’s column I felt a strong urge to mention Remembrance Sunday, an event that has meaning for so many and is held in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth as a day to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts.

I have only recently discovered the significance of the poppy, which to my surprise was inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields”. I read that the opening lines refer to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the churned-up earth of soldiers’ graves in Flanders, a region of Europe that overlies a part of Belgium.

This is truly a day to remember and one we should never forget. So many have contributed and paid the ultimate price so that we have choice and freedom of speech, enabling me to share my views openly (subject to the Editor’s approval, of course!)

It’s time to give us more time!

What’s the greatest gift anyone can give you?

Would a £500,000 yacht, moored in Swansea Marina, float your boat?

Or, perhaps, you’d rather give a Rolex watch the time of day?

There’s something to be said for £100,000 being paid into your bank account. Something like…“Yippee!”

No, the greatest gift we can give anybody is time – although donating a kidney runs a close second.

I’ve noticed BBC One and ITV One are incredibly mean with their time when it comes to ‘opting out’ for ‘The news, travel and weather where you are’ during their breakfast programmes.

They’ll happily repeat the same news stories every 15 minutes, then grudgingly hand over to the regions for the minimum possible time, before repeating the same news stories all over again.

BBC Wales’ three-minute bulletins appear every half-hour and invariably lead with a scare story about the Welsh NHS; include a clip promoting a programme ‘On BBC Wales this evening’; and must feature a sports story accompanied by pointless footage of players running around in tracksuits, training.

BBC Wales is so obsessed with sport, Jason Mohammed could turn a radio broadcast covering Martian spaceships landing in the Mumbles into a debate about the offside rule, without taking a breath.

On ITV’s ‘Good Morning Britain’, at 10-past the hour they break away from important stories like ‘Who’s being killed-off in tonight’s nail-biting episode of Emmerdale?’ or “You can eat lard straight out of the packet while watching Jeremy Kyle and still retain a beach-fit body’ and opt out to the regions – for one measly minute!

ITV Wales bulletins invariably lead with a scare story about the Welsh NHS and must feature a sports story accompanied by pointless footage of players running around in tracksuits, training.

Then there’s a 10-second ad for the company ‘sponsoring’ the weather forecast, which I suspect isn’t ’live’ because the forecaster wears the same outfit she wore on the six o’clock news the previous evening.

Then, it’s “Now back to Ben and Wotsername in London!” for more vital soaps‘n’showbiz news.

It’s all so rushed and rudimentary it’s hardly worth presenter Andrew Jones getting out of bed for his couple of minutes on screen.

Especially when he announces at 10-past eight “We return at five-to-two with the lunchtime news!”

I often feel like ‘phoning ITV Wales to enquire what he does to occupy his time for the next five hours or so….but frankly, I just don’t have the time.