Still spreading a little happiness

Happiness! Happiness! The greatest gift that I possess.I thank the

Lord that I possess, more than my share of happiness!

So sang Ken Dodd back in 1964. And after making people laugh for more than 60 years, Doddy has learned that if you bring happiness to other people, it’ll make you happy too.

Why else would he still be taking his “Happiness” tour around packed theatres at the age of 88?

It’s not as if he needs the money . . . as some of us remember!

Four years after Doddy’s song reached Number 14 in the charts, The Beatles suggested that “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”.

I don’t suppose a song with that title would get much radio airplay in 2016 and as I’m partial to the occasional pastry, taken fresh from the oven, I prefer to think that happiness is a warm bun.

It’s not easy to come up with a definitive description of happiness that would apply to everyone, because what makes one person happy, such as their football team winning a match, baffles anyone not interested in football.

Likewise, football fans may not understand why finding a rare vinyl album in a second-hand shop might bring a warm glow to the heart of a collector.

Most of us only realise how relatively happy and contented we are when something suddenly occurs out of the blue to make us unhappy.

If you’re a Swansea resident, chances are you’re happy most of the time because a recent survey by a well-known property website revealed that out of 100 towns and cities in the United Kingdom, your city has been voted the 33rd happiest place to live.

Topping the list is Leigh-On-Sea in Essex, followed by Troon, Harrogate, Hertford and Lytham St Anne’s.

How was the list compiled?

Well, 24,000 people across the United Kingdom were asked to rank 12 factors about their local area, including friendliness of their neighbours, how much they feel they can be themselves and the quality of local services.

Two major reasons why residents were happy with their home towns, were ‘space’ and ‘close proximity to the sea/a beach’.

Considering Hertford and Harrogate are land-locked, I’m surprised that Swansea, with its own beach plus the glorious Mumbles and The Gower right on the doorstep, isn’t Number One!

Incidentally, Cardiff was way down the list at Number 93.

I bet that put a smile on your face!

Time for synchronised slimming

Prepare to be shocked. Even though I’m quite interested in the Rio Olympics, I think TV coverage has gone way over the top.

24/7, presenters and pundits constantly prattle on about Gold and Silver – possibly referring to the piles of money they’re making.

Presumably, the BBC’s over-the-top coverage, sometimes on BBC One and Two during prime-time, is to justify sending 455 staff and freelancers to Rio.

The BBC has even sacrificed their most intelligent channel BBC4 on the altar of sport for the duration of the Games, which is ludicrous.

Frankly, I don’t care how many medals are won by “Team GB” (What’s wrong with calling them “The British Team?”) and I’m amazed that Knighthoods and Damehoods are dished out like sweets to people because they can run or swim faster than someone else.

The hype around the 2012 London Olympics included the idea that it would encourage everyone to get involved in sport and become fitter.

As that didn’t happen and there are more obese people around than ever, perhaps there should be a new Olympic sport?

Synchronised slimming!

Enjoy our lovely countryside

Some of last week was spent in a beautiful part of England, Tring in Hertfordshire. Rest assured, my main purpose for this journey was very much work related, but as most of you regular readers of my column know, I always mix work with pleasure. And why wouldn’t I? Life is short enough as it is. Balance is key!

Three days in a country hotel and woken up by the wildlife surrounding us was a truly grounding experience and one that I could easily handle more of.

Peacocks, squirrels and rabbits roamed freely, without a care in the world and most of the time were not at all concerned with the occasional comings and goings of the hotel residents.

Just sitting and observing such natural beauty reduced my stress levels to zero. Highly recommended. This made me think. Sometimes, the simple things in life are the best.

We have so much wonderful countryside and wildlife in Wales, why not switch off the TV, put down the social media for an hour or two and get out there and enjoy. You know it makes sense.

The price of charity

They say, ‘Charity begins at home’, and it certainly does in my case because every week, I receive several requests to appear in or organise charity shows via my letterbox and in-box.

Most people in the public eye, when asked to give their time to aid worthy causes, are happy to help when we can, but, just like everyone else, we have to make a living.

There’s only so much charity work one person can commit to and occasionally the date of a charity show clashes with a paid gig that we’re booked (and contracted) for months beforehand.

So, whenever I reluctantly turn down a charity event, unless the organisers know me as someone who’s usually pleased to help, I suspect my genuine ,“I’m really sorry, but I’m not available that night”, doesn’t go down too well.

This saddens me and creates an undeserved feeling of guilt as I seldom turn down genuine charities, especially those close to my heart.

I’m well aware how privileged I am to have a public profile that makes me ‘attractive’ to charities and every year I’m involved in raising funds, awareness and taking part in benefit nights.

Hopefully, one day these charities will be a thing of the past, together with cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and other conditions that directly affect our everyday lives and those of people we care about.

But what charities help comedians who’ve fallen on hard times or become too ill to work?

Apart from The Entertainment Artistes Benevolent Fund who run Brinsworth House, the home for retired entertainers in Twickenham . . . that’s about it.

Which is ironic, considering the amount of fundraising that many entertainers are involved with over their lifetime.

I recently attended a charity ‘do’, with a talented entertainer whose biggest concern wasn’t, “Will the audience like me?”, but whether she’d be able to pay her rent.

This established performer was on her third charity event this month and without regular paid work, it’s highly unlikely she’ll ever be in a position to buy a home, let alone have a brief holiday to recharge her batteries

Let me just clarify. If you ever need my help to raise funds for a charity, please contact me and I’ll do my best to assist.

But please try and be understanding if there’s already something in my diary for that date.

It’s probably another charity show!

Think about cyclists

Is it just my imagination or are there really more cyclists on our roads these days?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed so many more brightly coloured and lycra clad two wheel enthusiasts whilst on my travels.

From the early hours of the morning to the darkest hours of the night.

Their energy and commitment must be applauded as every form of exercise is without doubt a step in the right direction.

On a personal note I’m not sure if I would enjoy clocking up the miles in all conditions with view to keeping fit and healthy.

But not everyone thinks like me – fortunately.

And before you say anything, I already know that I would look ridiculous is colourful and tight fitting lycra.

I do like seeing these crazy people head down and peddling but can’t help but think as to how vulnerable they are on our ever increasing busy roads.

Time to THINK BIKE for our two wheeled population – this is something that we should all be embracing, after all, cyclists have been around a lot longer than us motorists.

Just a thought . . .

More Hollyhead than Hollywod

One of my favourite films, the 1964 classic “Zulu”, was recently shown as part of the Film Fridays series in Swansea Grand Theatre’s Arts Wing.

Other Welsh-flavoured films screened included “Only Two Can Play” – much of which was filmed around Swansea and Llanelli – and John Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley”, all of which was filmed in Hollywood.

“Zulu” is often described as ‘arguably the greatest portrayal of Welsh heroism on the silver screen’.

I’d venture to say it was the ‘only portrayal of Welsh heroism on the silver screen’, certainly when it comes to the portrayal of stoic, courageous Welshmen in battle.

It made me think of films that ‘might have been’ if the writers and directors had infused them with a little Welsh-ness.

For example…

THE LLANDUDNO THAT TIME FORGOT.

MERTHYR ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS.

DIRTY BARRY

PORTH  BY NORTHWEST.

A FISH CALLED RHONDDA.

THE GRAPES OF ROATH.

THE GOWER-ING INFERNO.

MISKIN IMPOSSIBLE – 1 To 5.

A BRIDGEND TOO FAR.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF PENARTH

Perhaps you can think of a few more….?

Price to pay for our culture fix

The Welsh Rip Off?

How much are we prepared to pay – or how much can we afford to pay – to satisfy our appetite for culture?

We all need culture whether it’s Film, Literature, Opera, Jazz, Folk Music, Comedy, Theatre or Eisteddfods.

Last year, when it was announced that a play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, was opening in London this summer, I wrote an article about it for the South Wales Evening Post entitled “Theatre of the Absurd Ticket Prices”.

Actually they’re two separate plays – Part One is a matinee, Part Two is performed in the evenings. And you have to pay separately for each show.

What ‘HP’ sauce!

Geddit?

The plays have now opened to positive reviews and are already booking to 2018. So Ms. Rowling can stop worrying about paying her heating bills this winter. Ha! Ha!

Obviously fans will want to see both plays, otherwise they’ll be missing out. The combined cost of tickets, hotels and rail fares for a Welsh family or four to see both plays would pay for a week in Majorca.

Talking of costs, Abergavenny recently hosted the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru (our National Eisteddfod), which was apparently very successful. It might have attracted a lot more people if the ticket prices had been more reasonable.

I understand adults paid around £20 to enter the Maes, reducing to £10 after 4pm.  Additionally, tickets for evening concerts ranged from £10 to £25.

I’m a fan of the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru and truly believe that we should support Welsh culture and tradition. So why do they make it hard for low earners with families to experience Welsh culture?

They MUST get the pricing right because they’re clearly way off the mark, excluding so many people, families, young and old. I was also told that the wheelchair access was quite poor, too.

It’s not just visitors who have to pay through the nose. For individuals and small businesses (and bigger ones just trying to make cost savings) who want a stand there, the price of marketing their goods is beyond most budgets.

By pricing so high, it turns the event into a very middle-class activity, whereas being able to embrace the Welsh culture should be available to all.

Will I be seeing the Harry Potter plays?

Only when the tickets are reduced to a quid-each*.

*Quidditch.

Geddit?

Exercise of the mind

On Sunday I got up early, having had a late night, to get creative in readiness for today’s column, which can be challenging, especially if you are not in the right frame of mind.

So, to start the creative process, I thought it best to visit the gym as exercise is something that many say is good for the brain. It also makes you sweaty and tired, but then that’s a story for another time.

Despite having arrived early, I was surprised to see that many other people had the same idea, maybe not for the same reasons as me, but I’m sure you get my drift.

I witnessed men and women of various ages working out on a day of rest, keen to stay fit and younger looking, which I’m sure you will agree is a good thing.

However, I also couldn’t help but notice that many wore ‘make up’, including blusher, bright lipstick and brightly coloured designer sportswear – and yes, the ladies were just as colourful!

I never knew that going to the gym was such a social occasion for so many. We live in interesting times and for the record I’m truly enjoining life’s rich tapestry, as it does help me become more creative. Just sayin . . .

Opinions matter

Opinions matter – but please let’s have a friendly debate.

The world is constantly changing and so are opinions, which we often find challenging due to the fact that we also have our own opinions.

We are fortunate to be living in a country that, in the main, grants us freedom of speech and more and more people are now stepping up to the plate and confidently speaking up, which can so often be a double-edged sword.

We have discovered that social media is  great for putting your opinion across, but it also gives idiots a voice, too, far too often without any repercussions.

Friendly debate will soon be a thing of the past, if our politicians, world and industry leaders don’t control their emotions and show evidence of professional respect, while setting an example for generations to come.

Education is key for a balanced debate and there IS always two sides to an argument (did you see what I did there?) .

As a comedian I’m often asked, “What happens to jokes that aren’t funny…. Well, they become politicians!”

Summer’s rubbish…if you don’t use a bin

I was reading The Evening Post recently (No, I wasn’t in a coffee shop at the time, some of you might be surprised to learn) and although it was jam-packed with interesting articles – as always – one in particular caught my attention. Part of it is reproduced here…

A dedicated cleaning team is now on hand at two Blue Flag beaches on Gower to keep them looking their best throughout the school summer holidays.

Swansea Council has placed two members of staff at the busy beaches of Caswell and Langland until September.

I also read articles in other Welsh newspapers about the tons of rubbish being left behind by bone-idle, bone-headed day-trippers on Barry Island beach and that the streets of Cardiff City Centre were in a disgusting state due to discarded food cartons and hungry seagulls tearing open piles of bin-bags awaiting collection.
Not a great sight to greet tourists who flock to Wales this time of year, or for the residents and workers.

You’ll remember the mountains of detritus left behind after Glastonbury and similar scenes of discarded bottles, nappies (and worse) the morning after other summer festivals around the U.K.

That all adds up to an awful lot of rubbish, carelessly and lazily left behind.
Britain appears in danger of becoming a massive ‘Council Dump’ from Lands End to John O’ Groats, by way of The Gower.
So, what’s going on?  Read this further extract from the Post’s article…
The two additional members of staff are responsible for emptying bins, litter-picking and cleaning facilities including toilets.

Two people may be responsible for cleaning-up the mess, but thousands of us (myself excluded, of course) are responsible for creating it.
As my Uncle Cledwyn used to say about space travel, “It’s not rocket science”.
He was a lovely chap, but could never master a metaphor.

Anyone who spends a day at a beach, park or beauty spot – taking along cans, crisps and sandwiches – will, after devouring their feast, have accrued a substantial pile of rubbish.

If they can’t find a bin, they shouldn’t just dump it wherever they like. That’s slovenly, anti-social, irresponsible and, when I am elected President, it will become a capital offence.

They should bag it, take it home and deposit each item in the appropriate re-cycling box.

It’s a simple ‘no-brainer’ – even for day-trippers with no brains.