The sound of silence? If only…

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse.
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes.

I can relate to the lady in the nursery rhyme, even though I’ve no clinking, tinkling silver objects attached to my brogues.

And the closest I ever got to owning a horse was a Christmas present from my Uncle Doris (don’t ask!) which I realised he’d mislabelled when I unwrapped it to find it was a “My Little Pony” annual (the previous year’s, bought in a remainders bookshop) meant for my cousin Philomena.

Being 15 at the time, I was so disappointed. I was expecting my usual “Care Bears” annual. I relate to the lady on the white horse because I hear music everywhere I go.

And I don’t want to!

Background music/elevator music/lift music – like the Devil it has many names – started when the Muzak Corporation decided waiting rooms, hotel lobbies and shops etc were too peaceful!

So, they infested public spaces with bland tunes played in a soporific style by anonymous musicians. Since then, ‘mood music’ has spread like the common cold and now supermarkets have their own radio stations.

Why?

When I’m checking the ‘best-before date’ on a sliced loaf, I don’t want to hear Adele screeching one of her life-sapping dirges.

Surprisingly, some people are able to ignore background music. I was once in a supermarket that was playing pop music so loud I only bought a few items because I had to escape the cacophony.

When I mentioned the annoying music to the check-out girl, she listened for a moment and said “Oh, I just blank it out!”

If background music is designed to encourage shop customers to stay longer and buy more, what genius decided banks should shatter their customer’s eardrums with foreground music?

I walked into a bank recently and was astonished to hear rap music blasting out around me. It sounded ridiculously incongruous in a business environment.

When I asked a staff member why they were playing completely unsuitable, loud music, she said: “Sorry, I can’t hear you because of the completely unsuitable, loud music!”

No. She admitted that several customers had complained. But added: “We have to follow Head Office instructions!”

I immediately left the building, wondering if Head Office is located somewhere near the Ninth Circle Of Hell.

Busy hospital brings problems

I recently had to visit a relative in Morriston Hospital. The new structural design looks very impressive and there are cafés and shops to cater for most patient and visitors needs.

Without doubt, this establishment now covers a huge part of the landscape in the Morriston area, and attracts patients from all parts of the country, to be cared for and treated by some of the leading names in modern medicine.

However, the biggest challenge I faced on this particular day was parking. It took me just over 25 minutes to find a space.

Along with about 20 other drivers, I seemed to go round and round in circles with not a parking space in sight.

I was beginning to think it would be easier to have been flown in by helicopter as the helipad seemed to have the only free parking space!

Clearly, the hospital is getting busier by the day and ongoing development is on the cards to facilitate our health and wellbeing needs – well, if we can manage to find a place to park anyway!

Revving up the competitive spirit

I’m writing this item whilst suffering from aching arms, wrists and shoulders.

On Friday, I spent the evening Go Karting with a team of lads from the Llanelli based BNI business network group. This was supposed to be a relaxing social get-together or a team bonding exercise.

But, gather a bunch of males together in such a situation and it always seems to turn into something much more competitive. I’m aware that many businessmen can be a different breed, which could be one of the reasons that they do so well in businesses.

However, on the evening in question, I witnessed a determination far beyond that of a social end-of-week get-together. A few drivers pushed the track rules to the limits, while others effortlessly calculated their moves in order to take advantage of the mistakes that other drivers made.

It provided a sequence of events that Sir Alan Sugar would have gleaned so much character information from – and no doubt he’d have turned these skills to his advantage. And there you were thinking that I lead a sedate life, eating cake in coffee shops . .

Farmers – are in a field of their own?

There’s countless things we can do to make ourselves feel good. I’m not exaggerating. They really are countless, so don’t try countig them all because by the time you’ve finished, you’ll be feeling less than good. Which will defeat the point of the exercise.

Personally I’ve always believed there’s no point in exercise. But I digress…

Here’s some examples of things we can do to feel good. We could go for a stroll through our beautiful countryside.

We could make a donation to charity.

We could indulge in one of life’s greatest, yet simplest pleasures. No, not the one you’re thinking of. I’m referring to a cup of tea and some cake.

Or we could do all three things at the same time.

“But how is this possible?” I hear you ask. And in reply I say “Don’t jump the gun and be patient!”.

I hadn’t heard of Open Farm Sunday until recently, even though when it comes around on June the 5th it will be for the eleventh time in as many years.

Open Farm Sunday is the one day a year when farmers open their gates to the public, allowing them a rare glimpse into the day-to-day running of a working farm.

The first Open Farm Day attracted 30,000 visitors. Last year’s attracted 291,000!

Over 200 farms take part in this annual event and if you want to find out where the closest one is to you, just visit the website  www.openfarmsunday.org  and put in your postcode.

One Carmarthenshire farm opening to the public on June the 5th from 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 pm is in Esgair, Llanpumsaint.

The owners, Nicky and Martin, will allow visitors in to see their cattle and pigs, learn about growing barley, view the vintage combine harvester, enjoy a walk around the farm, take in the views and see how they manage their hedgerows to benefit wildlife.

And when you’re worn out from all these activities, you can enjoy a cuppa and a Welsh Cake.

Entry is free, but if you’d like to make a donation to Macmillan Cancer Care – and why wouldn’t you? – it would be greatly appreciated.

So on June the 5th  treat yourselves to a taste of life down on the farm.

But don’t forget to close the gate when you leave!

There’s only one way to finish this item – with “The Archers” theme.

All together now….

Rum-tee-tum-tee-tum-tee-tum

Rum-tee-tum-tee-dah-da!h

All geared up for a ride in the country

Having suffered a slight knock-back by not receiving a personal invitation to The Queen’s 90th birthday party (I blame the postal service for this one, therefore won’t take it too personally) some retail therapy was needed.

I needed something to help me relax, unwind and to enjoy the summer heatwave that is destined for Wales this year.

Heatwave? Well, that’s according to my sources at the BBC in Cardiff; we live in hope!

Off I went to look at bikes and to treat myself to something comfortable, shiny and with a roar that made the hairs at the back of your neck stand up.

Within about three minutes of my arrival at JT’s motorcycles Swansea showroom, they had me sitting on an engineering masterpiece while daydreaming of long winding roads through Wales with the wind in my face and not a traffic jam in sight (that Del bloke is one hell of a salesman).

And that’s what it was like on Sunday while riding through Aberystwyth, Devil’s Bridge and the spectacular Elan Valley. More of this is needed, so where should I go next?

Eurovision still hits the right note

Well, the weekend came and went at an alarming speed once again. How does that happen?

For many, Saturday night was spent in that good old traditional way, tuned in to The Eurovision Song Contest.

Personally, it’s not the same without the grand master commentator, the late Terry Wogan. Without him, the magic has gone.

Social media went crazy for the 26 performers, with comments good and bad from all parts of the globe, which demonstrates that this long standing event clearly still commands a huge following.

Love it or hate it, people are still drawn to it and the whole production looks like there was no expense spared.

It was ‘showbiz’ at the highest level, despite the fact that not all the performers had the magic ingredients worthy of such a platform.

I failed to understand the new voting system and so did everyone else I asked.

Could the new system have been designed by Ian Duncan Smith? You know, the one he created to stop poor people receiving benefits?

Just asking?

If you have no regrets, you haven’t lived

Sinatra’s “New York, New York” is a really stupid song.

Take the line…

“Regrets? I’ve had a few. But then again…too few to mention.”

If they’re too few to mention, Frankie baby, why bother to mention them?

Yes, you’re right. I’m feeling grumpy.

I’ve been wondering whether I’ve always made the right decisions in my life, whilst secretly knowing I haven’t.

Because nobody goes through life without making wrong decisions. That’s what makes us human.

Well, that and staring out of our front room window on rainy autumn afternoons, jangling the loose change in our pockets while commenting on the shoddy job the neighbours across the road made of trimming their front hedge.

I regret the time I was distracted by a telephone call as I took an iceberg lettuce out of the fridge. I placed the lettuce on the kitchen table, ran into the hall to take the ‘phone call and 15 minutes later I was horrified to see the iceberg had rolled off the table and fallen onto – and destroyed – my recently-completed, freshly-painted, delicately-constructed model kit of HMS Titanic.

A prime example of history repeating itself – albeit in miniature and in my kitchen, rather than the frozen North Atlantic.

With BHS in the news – and not in a good way – I regret the changes that have occurred in our town centres. We’ve lost C&A, Blockbusters, Woolworths, Berni Inns, Dolcis, Our Price, Past Times, Barratts . . . and many more. To be replaced in the main by pound shops, charity shops and cash-for-gold shops.

There’s also been a rise in barber shops owned by and catering for young men with hairstyles so severe they look like a deranged sheep-shearer was let loose on them, leaving just a tuft on top . . . out of spite. When I was a kid, barbers were ‘Brilliantined’ old men in brown overalls containing enough static electricity to power a small village.

Having learned their trade in the army, they only knew one style – and it wasn’t flattering!

But they took great pride in their premises and swept them clean – inside and out – several times a day. From what I’ve witnessed, today’s young barbers prefer to stand outside their shops, texting and smoking, littering the pavement with cigarette ends and their presence.

Not an ideal way to entice new customers.

I’d promise not to be so grumpy next week . . . but I might regret it.

Washouts and water shortages – it could only happen in Wales

Following a washout Bank Holiday weekend, where plans of outside activities were again quashed and disappointed children were spotted in every street, town and village across Wales, temperatures soared last weekend and were apparently hotter than abroad!

Only in Wales can you be paddling around in wellies one weekend and swapping them for flip flops the week after!

I suppose we shouldn’t complain. I think the reason we live in a country blessed with such beautiful greenery is mainly due to the regularity of rainfall and constantly changing conditions.

In addition to this so called summer heatwave, I have just read that there will be a water shortage from July onwards.

Therefore, to deal with this challenge, Swansea Council have already decided that the Leisure Centre Baths will shut lanes 5 and 6, just to be on the safe side.

You can’t please everyone!

It’s hard to believe that today’s column is my 100th attempt at trying to get it right and pleasing everyone.

But, as I get older, I’m more convinced than ever, that pleasing everyone is one hell of a burden to bear and an unhealthy one at that.

I think it’s far more important to stand for what you believe in.

So, if you have read my column and followed me from the start, I personally thank you as your loyalty is truly appreciated.

I also know that at times my comments and views have been challenging for many, and that may have been my intention –  you never know.

After all, I’m a comedian and doing my job.

Values are often compromised when trying to be all things to all men, therefore being true to oneself leads to a better night’s sleep.

Over the past few weeks, our politicians have worked long and hard to plead with us to vote for them. Some succeeded, but a few were under-prepared, therefore less convincing.

Could this be down to the fact that they didn’t truly believe in what they stood for.

Now, that’s something to think about!

Just how welcoming are we here in Wales?

Anti-Semitism in Britain has come to the foreground in recent days and I’m sure we all agree it has no place in today’s society.

But, here in Wales, I’ve noticed another kind of intolerance, bordering on pure hate.

I recently read a letter in a Welsh newspaper – not this one, I hasten to add – written by a buffoon suffering from raging indignation of the pen.

The target of his bilious outpourings?

The English!

He blamed the problems we face in Wales, such as the economy, overcrowded schools and doctors’ waiting rooms – possibly even the appalling Spring weather – not just on the English Parliament, but the English who move here to work, conveniently forgetting that they pay taxes and help the economy by shopping and eating-out locally.

And that ‘migration’ between England and Wales is a two-way street.

I recognised him as a dimwit when he referred to English people who move to Wales as ‘incomers’ – an archaic, pejorative word I’ve always loathed.

It’s worrying that a Welsh person could harbour such a medieval attitude against the English in 2016.

Is the cave he lives in detached or semi-detached from reality?

Presumably, he won’t watch TV in case an English actor suddenly appears to affront his sensibilities and won’t buy a newspaper that might contain words written by an English person.

He seemed oblivious that many different nationalities live in Wales, including English people and those whose parents came from England in decades past.

Conversely, when Welsh people move to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and further afield to achieve their ambitions I doubt that they’re referred to by the disdainful term ‘incomer’.

I’ve never been called that on the many occasions I’ve work outside Wales and I don’t consider my English colleagues and friends who’ve moved here as ‘incomers’.

We don’t define ourselves by our nationality.

We’re all just people!

I’m sure the bitter and twisted letter-writer isn’t the only person in Wales who yearns for the good old day’s when only Welsh people inhabited our villages, strangers were shunned and we all married our cousins.

However, the fact is, if you constantly keep looking back at the past you’ll end up banging your head on the doorway to the future – something the splenetic writer’s clearly done.

Several times.

Either that or he’s on heavy medication.

Can I suggest that from now on, we consign the word ‘incomer’ to history and replace it with ‘welcomer’?