Just shop around to beat stress!

SHOPPING AROUND

We’re told the ‘high street’ is dead. The cause of death, according to the coroners in the media, is the internet.

Many of us don’t have the time or the inclination to go shopping and would rather come home from work in the evenings and spend hours hunched over our PC keyboards ordering clothes, groceries and household items.

In the words of Victor Meldrew . . . “I don’t believe it!”

I can only go by the evidence I see with my own eyes. When I wander around our towns and cities the streets seem busy with shoppers.

And I don’t just visit coffee shops! No, sometimes I go wild and pop into a tea shop.

If a town/city centre offers a variety of independent and chain stores, people will shop there, especially if new, innovative ideas attract them, like the latest from Marks and Spencer.

Based on an idea of comedienne Ruby Wax, who’s admitted to having had mental health problems, several M & S branches will offer stress therapy run by experienced volunteers in their restaurants, which, during these sessions will be called “Ruby’s Frazzled Cafe”.

A spokesman said: ‘Frazzled Cafe meetings are designed not just for the one-in-four Britons* who will suffer a mental illness at some point, but for the four-in-four overwhelmed by the stresses of modern life.

“They’re a simple, pressure-free way of tackling what can be a taboo subject – feeling stressed”

(*As the population of the U.K. is around 64 million, that’s 16 million of us. – which is astonishing.)

I hope the scheme spreads all over the UK. But we can all start becoming de-stressed by spending less time ordering online and more time in our shopping centres.

You might even spot me in a coffee shop. Or maybe a tea shop. I’m such a tease!

It’s nice to know I’m being checked out regularly!

CHECKING ME OUT

I have just realised that this will be the 144th page I’ve presented to the South Wales Evening Post and in addition to this, slightly surprised by the fact that I continue to come up with new ideas and stories on a weekly basis.

This was not something that I planned. I just happened to be approached and accepted the challenge in my usual enthusiastic way. Learning on the job is one way of describing the journey so far.

Having said that, it has now become a regular occurrence to be approached by the public while out on my travels, only to be complimented on my weekly newspaper articles.

It’s nice to learn that people are gaining some pleasure from my work. Even my doctor commented recently, which totally threw me as he was carrying out my first ever prostate examination at the time. My reply was quite high pitched.

Not the conversation I was expecting and not that I have a prostate issue, but I’m at the age where regular check-ups are advisory.

So if you are reading this, clearly you are checking out my column. If you are male and of a mature age then make sure you also regularly check out your prostate condition. You can thank me later.

The value of a white lie

WHITE LIES

We’re continually bombarded with ‘helpful’ statistics and expert information on how we should live our lives.

Invariably, sometime later another bunch of experts announce that the previous advice should be taken with a pinch of salt . . . unless you’re on a low sodium diet.

For example – the five ‘pieces’ of fruit and veg we’ve been encouraged to eat every day were recently declared inadequate and increased to ten.

That’s a lot. Who sponsored this new research?

The Grand Order Of Fruit’N’Veg Stallholders?

The line, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics”, was coined by Benjamin Disraeli, which is ironic, coming from a politician!

We’re told ‘lies and damn lies’ all the time, but we don’t get annoyed or incandescent with rage (I’ve always wanted to slip that expression into an article!) because we don’t realise we’re being lied to.

For example . . .Last Friday, while staring at my PC, desperately trying to think of a subject for this week’s column, I telephoned a restaurant to book a table for Saturday night. Obviously, as well as a table, when I got there I’d also expect to find chairs, crockery, glasses and food and drink.

Comedians are SO demanding . . .

When the restaurateur finished taking my booking she said, “I hope you have a lovely evening.”

Later, I realised she wasn’t referring to the evening I intended spending in her restaurant. She was referring to that very evening.

I’d never met the lady, so why would she care two hoots whether my evening was lovely or lousy?

The truth is, she didn’t care. It was a meaningless pleasantry she thought her customers would like to hear. In other words . . . a white lie.

Accidentally, she’d handed me the subject for this article that I needed.

So I did end up having a lovely evening!

Welsh Factor talented performers made a great night

JUDGING WELSH FACTOR 2017

The weeks are flying by and I can’t seem to remember the last time I spent two consecutive nights at home relaxing and watching TV.

Not that I’m complaining; it’s nice to be in demand and one of the highlights of last week was watching the talented finalists of the Welsh Factor competition, held at the Manor Park Country Club, Clydach.

And what a night it was. If you were there, you too would have witnessed a night jam packed with talent from all over Wales, including singers, dancers, stage and performing arts schools.

It’s safe to say that all the contestants that made it to the final of this competition are on their way to making it big in the entertainment industry.

In the under 12 category, Lauren May receive a standing ovation for her amazing voice.

The duo category went to two extremely hard working and polished dancers, ‘2 Unique.

There was one dance group that made the hairs at the back of my neck stand up, Ceili Dancers, with choreography to a standard seen at the West End.

My column space prevents me from mentioning all the category winners at this time, but rest assured I will have more tales to share in the months to come.

Was a £600 penalty highway robbery?

HIGHWAY ROBBERY

I never understood what people meant when they said, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” until a week or so ago when I read about a Llanelli man who last July painted “Happy Birthday“ (plus his girlfriend’s name) in the middle of his street.

The message came from the heart and the paint came straight from B & Q. Other paint suppliers are available, by the way.

He must have done it when there was no traffic around, otherwise a passing lorry might have squashed his plans . . . and everything else.

The man gave away his identity by signing it, “Love Dai”, followed by a drawing of a heart and a large ‘X’.

Either he didn’t realise that painting words two-foot long on a stretch of tarmac is just as anti-social as writing them two-foot high on a wall, or he didn’t care. In any case, that birthday greeting got him into such a deep mess that last month he ended up with a £600 fine!

How matters got that crazy would take ages to explain, so here’s the short version . . .

When originally confronted about his act of vandalism, he admitted he’d done it and received a £75 fixed penalty fine . . . which he failed to pay. He was then prosecuted for ‘Making unauthorised marks on the highway’ (Dogs do that every day and get away with it) but he didn’t turn up at court.

In his absence, he was fined £220, plus £351 costs and a £30 ‘victim surcharge’. Err . . . excuse me, M’lud!

Who was the ‘victim’ in this matter? The road?

This July, hopefully ‘Dai’ will wish his girlfriend ‘Happy Birthday’ the traditional way – with a card – while wondering why in 2016 he didn’t think things through before he bought the tin of paint, became overcome with emulsion and had his ‘brush’ with the Law.

Attitude is so refreshing in this day and age

POSITIVE ATTITUDE – BNI BUSINESS AWARDS

Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting the BNI Business Awards held at the Diplomat Hotel, Llanelli.

This was their very first awards dinner for the Llanelli Business Network International group.

The group has been established and has served the local community for more than nine years.

In addition to this, the generous businessmen and women and their guests raised a substantial amount of money for the MIND charity, which is supported by the members.

The award recipients were: Gareth Isaac of G I Carpets and Flooring, John Lewis, of Tegeus Computer Services and Graeme Fox, of Davies Craddock insurance brokers. True contributors and well-deserving winners.

This event clearly demonstrated to me that we have so many hard working ambassadors within our communities that have a hugely supportive and professional network behind them.

This group has a clear aim to serve the community and help local businesses thrive and grow so that they can reach their true potential.

They demonstrate a ‘Givers Gain’ mentality which in this day and age is so refreshing to witness.

Accordion thefts? That’s quite a racket

Feeling low? The state of the world getting you down?

Then let me try and cheer you up . . .

What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians? A drummer!

That’s a favourite joke among musicians – though not with those who hit a percussion instrument for a living.

Musicians have a jokey definition of ‘Perfect Pitch’ – which is ‘throwing an accordion into a skip without touching the sides’.

From the laugh-out-loud reaction that joke always receives, I was convinced that there’s little love around for the accordion these days.

So, I was very surprised to read a report in this newspaper about a man with possible links to Port Talbot who the police want to interview about the theft of accordions with a total value of £150,000 from a music shop in Berkshire.

The fact that someone broke into a music shop and (out of all the instruments on display) decided to steal accordions is in itself rather strange.

But it turns out he broke into the same shop twice and stole accordions both times!

Last August, his haul totalled £130,000 and, more recently, he nicked another £20,000 worth of instruments!

Why someone was so fixated on stealing these instruments puzzled me at first.

Then it dawned on me the man isn’t a common or garden burglar – although they are about, so make sure your shed is always locked.

He’s really a philanthropist who intends distributing them to all the buskers in our towns and cities.

Well, be honest, you’ve heard enough street accordionists struggling to get a recognisable melody out of their battered, wheezing ‘squeeze boxes’ and failing.

That’s not just because they failed their music theory exams.

It’s mainly due to the fact their instruments are really very ancient and missing several buttons that are vital to help them play in tune.

But soon they’ll be replaced by shiny new ones with all the buttons intact, thanks to the mysterious man with ‘possible’ links to Port Talbot.

Will they get rid of the old ones by throwing them in a skip, trying not to touch the sides?

That’s why Welshmen like playing the goat..

What’s special about St David’s Day?

Saint David was born towards the end of the 5th century. He founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Pembrokeshire at the spot where St David’s Cathedral stands today.

The date of Saint David’s death is recorded as 1st of March. The year, however, is uncertain, but it’s thought to be around 601.

That’s round about the same time as the news starts at teatime in Wales. For centuries, March 1st has been a national festival.

Indeed, the 17th-century diarist Samuel Pepys noted how Welsh celebrations in London for Saint David’s Day would spark wider counter-celebrations among their English neighbours and life-sized effigies of Welshmen were symbolically hung.

By the 18th century, the custom had arisen of confectioners producing “taffies”— gingerbread figures baked in the shape of a Welshman riding a goat on Saint David’s Day.

This tradition can often be seen re-enacted in Ammanford on a Saturday night. Happy St David’s Day.