Be ashamed of your lack of tolerance

They say writing is 10 percent inspiration, 90 percent perspiration – unless you’re a writer who lives in the middle of the Sahara, in which case….how do you prevent your sweaty fingers from sliding off the keyboard?

Before I begin scribbling my weekly witterings, I usually have no idea what to write, so very often perspiration wins over inspiration.

But there are times when an experience will cause me to rush to my laptop to get the words down, fast.

Such an incident happened at a motorway services on the M5.

I had no business being on the M5 because I was driving from Bridgend to Carmarthen, but that’s another story…

After I’d got my coffee from the machine, told the till lady “I’ve only got a £20 note, sorry” and she’d replied “That’s alright, love. You can owe me the extra 35 pence”, I went outside with my cup.

No….it couldn’t have been a cup because I heard the till lady remark “That mug’s going outside!”

It was a bright, crisp winter’s day and as I sat on a bench watching the steam rising from my cappuccino – everyone needs a hobby – I was joined by a lively group of disabled people and their carers.  They were in great humour, clearly enjoying being out on the first dry day we’d had for ages. Their loud laughter wasn’t an issue for me.

Well it’s been such a long time since I’ve heard any.

But I was astonished by the reaction of other adults sat around us, who stared inappropriately and disapprovingly at the disabled people, while ignoring the bad behaviour of their own children.

I have no idea why these intolerant onlookers were so annoyed by a group of wheelchair users, but obviously they didn’t have the common sense to think for just one moment that they and their annoying offspring might one day be involved in an accident or develop a serious illness that could render them ‘disabled’.

I can only put their appalling attitude down to ignorance, which in 2016 is inexcusable – but extremely common.

The chilling words of The Spirit of Christmas Present have stayed with me since I first read “A Christmas Carol”…

“This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both.

But most of all, beware this boy”.

I believe ‘This boy’ was lurking amongst those insensitive onlookers that day – and they revelled in his presence.

Shame on them.

A taxing time spoils the fun

Following on from my column last week and in particular my Brecon snow item, which incidentally generated many comments of joyous banter . . .

I was amazed to read that dozens of motorists were issued with tickets for parking alongside the country roads whilst out enjoying with their families. Clearly that took the fun out of it.

Another setback for good relations between the police and public.

Once again the public and working classes amongst us are taxed by stealth.

All they were doing was taking their families out into our beautiful countryside and enjoying what nature has to offer. While I understand the need to keep our roads safe, couldn’t the authorities have handled this differently by directing the traffic instead of just fining them?

What message are they sending out?

What was supposed to be a fun day out for many families turned into a bit of an expensive trip!

Time for us to pull together

I admire people who have the ability to reinvent themselves, or learn new skills to improve their current lifestyle and circumstances.

These are the people that make a difference to our communities, towns  and country.

Life’s contributors.

We all know someone who is constantly learning something new or improving their skills.

We see them attending classes, night school and college, networking events and workshops, we even read about them in our local newspapers.

Many of my close friends and connections are like this or have these traits and I have found to my advantage that more often than not, these qualities can be quite contagious.

With redundancies increasing in the area as a result of challenges in the steel industry and the knock on effect to businesses far and wide, help, guidance and encouragement is now needed to assist our communities to develop and grow so that they can continue to support their families and have a purposeful future.

If there’s one thing us Welsh are good at, it’s pulling together in times of need.

Get on with it – time does fly!

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it – the older I get, tempus does fugit remarkably quickly.

It’s only January but already several show business personalities have left us: actor Alan Rickman, the theatre impresario and discoverer of The Bee Gees, Robert Stigwood; Lemmy from Motorhead; broadcaster and “Crackerjack” host Ed “Stewpot” Stewart;  and David Bowie, who, at 69, died just days after his latest album was released.

As ill as he must have been, he kept writing and recording almost to the end.

When I was a lad, when any of her contemporaries died, my Gran would always comment… ”But she was no age!”

My Gran was almost 80 at the time – proving that to some people, being old is all in the mind.

For others, it’s how out of breath they get when they bend down to do up their shoelaces.

Today, 69 really is no age, so it was a shock when I woke up and saw the reports of David Bowie’s death on the TV breakfast news.

He was a star who seemed to have been around forever and would always be around forever.

Whether or not you liked his songs, you couldn’t help being aware of them because they were regularly played on the radio – and will continue to be.

Even if he was only remembered for performing “Heroes” on the 1985 Live Aid concert, that’d be quite a legacy.

He had the massive Wembley crowd ‘in his pocket’ that day and immediately afterwards he enthused, “Let’s do this every year!”

He also had a successful film career and made a memorable cameo appearance as himself in an episode of “Extras”, sharing an excruciatingly funny scene with Ricky Gervais that brilliantly exposed the empty nature of ‘celebrity’.

There aren’t many pop performers around whose careers have been as long and consistently successful as Bowie’s –  only McCartney, Jagger and Rod Stewart come to mind.

So, you have to take your hat off to the singer who adopted and discarded so many personas, from Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke to The Goblin King and The Man Who Fell To Earth.

A true musical innovator has left us, so if you’re considering being creative this year – writing a book; painting; singing; or playing a musical instrument – whether you’re an Absolute Beginner or already a Star, man, don’t delay.

Get on with it!

Because tempus really does fugit remarkably quickly.

PS: For those who didn’t go to the ‘Grammar’ and do Latin at school, tempus fugit is Latin for ‘time flies’.

Let’s teach tolerance

While running a few errands last week, I popped to get some milk and a few other essential ‘comedian’ staple items (chocolate, cake and Gaviscon) and could hear quite a commotion going on a few aisles away.

As I wandered around the shop, I realised a group of utterly fantastic carers were taking some adults with learning difficulties to do their weekly shopping.

Some of them were getting quite animated and excited at the prospect of doing their shopping and the joy on their faces was worth its weight in gold.

However, the actions of a young family to firstly stand and stare and then drag their children away to the sounds of “come away from there quickly”, as if they were in some mortal danger really took me by surprise.

What are we teaching these young children by not letting them interact in different social situations?

Everyone is different. It’s what makes the works go around. Let’s teach our children to be tolerant and accepting of everyone around them.

Take a trip to the heartland and enjoy our natural beauty

Over the weekend, my travels took me to Brecon, which is a place of so much charm and character, and one that I have many fond memories of.

Having decided to take the scenic route over the Brecon Beacons, I passed the Storey Arms on the A470 and was fascinated to see the mountains were totally covered in snow and this made the usual spectacular views even more beautiful.

Every available space on the roadside was lined with parked cars, with families venturing out to explore this beautiful part of Wales and play in the fresh snow.

Both children and adults alike could be seen sliding down the mountains on sledges and clearly having a great time!

This was such a refreshing change to the continuous rain that we have all experienced over the past few months.

I’d love to see more snow forecast, as long as I remember to stock up on 30 bottles of milk and 20 loaves of bread first.

Why not take a trip for yourself and share the beauty of what we have virtually on our doorsteps?

It’s all to easy to be left out in the cold

I read this recently in a newspaper:

Rough sleepers on London’s streets have more than doubled in five years because of a lack of support for people arriving from EU countries; cuts to benefits; a chronic housing shortage; and the “longstanding legal injustice” where many homeless people are not considered a priority for help.

How is this happening in the 21st Century which, in the 1980s, held the promise of a bright, shiny future full of exciting innovations?

While I didn’t really expect we’d be hovering 20 feet above the traffic wearing jet-packs, it seemed possible we might be pedalling Sinclair C5s (£399 in 1985*) to our hi-tech offices to work on state-of-the-art Amstrad computers.

The reality is much grimmer.

Every Welsh town and city has a homeless problem. In London, rough sleepers bed down in shop doorways along The Strand – just feet away from West End theatres, a few hundred yards from Downing Street and less than a mile from Buckingham Palace.

Unseen numbers huddle next to warm air vents at the rear of hotels and restaurants. Many of them sleep during the day when there’s less chance they’ll be attacked.

What a way to live.

Most of them are youngsters whose home lives were so appalling they had no alternative but to run away, while others were drawn to the bright lights of London. They all discovered the grubby reality hiding in the shadows beyond the neon glare of Piccadilly Circus.

There have always been people living on the streets.

Today, they’re called ‘homeless’, but in previous decades they were called tramps and portrayed in newspaper cartoons and TV comedy shows as middle-aged men who wore battered trilby hats and flea-bitten old overcoats. They slept on park benches under newspapers and had crafty ways of finding their next meal.

In reality, many ‘gentlemen of the road’ once had jobs, families and comfortable homes and had fallen on hard times due to marital breakdown, bankruptcy, drink or mental issues.

They wandered around towns and cities, looking in litter bins for fag ends and food scraps.

It only takes a shove or two in the wrong direction from Lady Luck and any of us could fall on hard times.

You might do well to think about that next time you pass a genuine homeless person on the street.

*Sinclair C5s now sell for around £5000. As I rarely use mine these days I’ll consider any reasonable offer….

Bending the checkout rules

There I was, in the five items or less aisle, and the checkout operator stares at me and says, “you have six items there.”

And there was me thinking that we were still in the season of goodwill.

Well that was short lived!

I was determined to stand my ground and appeal to her better nature.

It was only one item over. I thought, let’s see if I can turn the argument to my advantage, even though, by this time, my stubborn persistence meant that the manager was now on scene.

Then it came to me in a flash, I leaned over and calmly took hold of the ‘next customer please’ divider that you put between your shopping and the person behind you, and strategically placed it so that it separated my Toilet Duck from the other five items.

I paid for my 5 items, removed my glasses and summoned my best high pitched falsetto voice. “Just the Toilet Duck, please, pet.”

I didn’t hear her reply due to the rounds of applause and hysterical laughter coming from the queue behind me….

I have to share this gem

My job takes me far and wide and not often do I find the time to chill out and really relax with friends in a restaurant that gives me the urge to return time and time again.

But on reflection, I think I have discovered it…..

Is this one of Wales’s best kept secrets?

Not far from my home town, there lies a gem of a restaurant called Dwbis in Cross Hands.

Blink and you’d miss it.

What started in 1994 as a take away underwent refurbishment and an extension in 2005 to become a unique Indian restaurant owned by chef Dwbi, who was trained by the best and continues to pass on his skills and expertise to his kitchen staff.

People travel from as far as Carmarthen, Llandeilo and Llandovery just to experience this unique cuisine and warm hospitality.

When you come across something this good, it would be selfish for me to keep it to myself.

My resolution? Not to make any resolutions

Forget New Year Resolutions. I’ve started 2016 as I start every year – with a clean slate. More about this later . . .

First, let me ask how long it took you to break your first New Year’s Resolution? One day? Two days? Three minutes?

I have never once broken a New Year’s Resolution.

Because every December 31st I make the same New Year’s Resolution – which is . . . not to make any New Year Resolutions.

Oh, I’ve come close to breaking my annual resolution on many occasions.

Over the years I’ve almost given up chocolate, alcohol and popping bubble-wrap during performances of the Welsh National Opera. But thanks to my amazing willpower and strength of character, I’ve never weakened.

Readers, to refrain from making resolutions, you have to rigorously resolve to be rigidly resolute.

When you get down to it, New Year’s Resolutions are just promises you make to yourself after the festive excesses, either to stop some, or all, of your bad habits (drinking, smoking, chewing your nails, chewing someone else’s nails) or to begin something self-improving (dieting, jogging, taking out a gym membership).

But, here’s a tip, never take out a gym membership for your partner, unless you want them to become your ex-partner!

The problem with promises is, they’re such delicate creations.

As Mary Poppins famously said: “Promises are like pie crusts. They’re easily made, easily broken.”

Not that you should take notice of all her wise little sayings.

Someone in her position as a live-in Nanny should know better than to recommend a spoonful of sugar to children to help them swallow their medicine every night before bedtime.

Think what it would do their teeth over the years!

And what if the medicine the child had to take was insulin?

If nothing else, it proves conclusively that Ms Poppins definitely wasn’t practically perfect in every way.

As I said earlier, I start every year with a clean slate.

On the first of January I get the ladder out of the garage, climb up onto my roof with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge, and I give just one of my slates a clean.

There are 204 tiles on my roof and as I’ve only lived in my house for six years, it’s going to take me quite some time to clean them all.

That’s quite a daunting prospect.

You know, on reflection, maybe it might be easier to make the occasional New Year’s Resolution . . .