Picture this – the world’s gone selfie mad

You know when you read a newspaper headline and it takes a moment for it to register?

Well, I read one the other day that took a full minute to sink in.
And this is it…“Since 2011, 259 people have died while taking selfies!”

According to the American Journal Of Family Medicine, 159 of these selfie deaths occurred in India, followed by the United States (14 deaths) and Pakistan (11 deaths).

The most common selfie-induced death was from drowning and the second was . . . wait for it . . . while trying a take a selfie in front of a moving train!

Let me clarify for any of you in doubt. The trains in question weren’t moving away from them; they were moving towardsthem!

The researchers admit the figure is probably much higher than 259 because many deaths aren’t linked to selfies. For example, if someone falls from a great height or is swept out to sea by huge waves, their smart phones tend to go missing.

In our narcissistic selfie society everyone with a smart phone thinks they’re a star (It’s partly your fault Mister Cowell!). Selfie-takers think the world hungers to know where they are and what they’re doing 24/7.

Over a year ago I wrote an article about how a theatrical performance I attended was spoiled by a self-obsessed couple (don’t write and tell me a couple can’t be self-obsessed because they definitely were).

They were sat in the row immediately in front of me. Before the show (and all through the intermission) they took selfie after selfie of themselves, in basically the same pose.

No. I don’t know why, either.

Had they been upstairs in the balcony and stepped back a little too far in their eagerness to photograph themselves, there might have been two more added to the 259 in the headline.

But, at least, I would have enjoyed the show in peace. The world has gone mad for sure.

Perseverance is the key to success for this columnist

I’m often asked, “How long does it take you to write these columns and where do the ideas come from?”

So, it’s about time I shared the secret, despite the fact that it’s not a secret.
There are always ideas floating around in my head. Sometimes I overhear a conversation and I instantly see this as an idea that can be expanded upon or developed into an article.

There are also other voices floating around my head, but I’m having therapy for those.

Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV can and often be a source of material and inspiration.  Often, my close friends share ideas with me and encourage me to write about certain topics. Most are thought-provoking and topical. Some I couldn’t possibly publish!

These ideas are scribbled down as rough notes in the first instance.
Sometimes, the notes remain there for months until the opportunity arises to turn them into a story good enough for you, the reader.

After all, my main aim is to inform, entertain and sometimes stimulate or challenge your thinking. Yes, there is method in the madness.

So, in general, the collation of ideas is an ongoing process. However, pulling it all together is where the hard work comes in.

Like most things in life, perseverance through the doubts and insecurities is the key to success.

Not everything works all of the time. But, from the fantastic feedback I get, I think we might be getting it right most of the time.

It’s not as easy as it looks…so think before you heckle!

No pun intended . . . but people have funny ideas about what it’s like to be a comedian.

If I’m introduced to someone in this way . . . “Meet Phil. He’s a comedian”, nine times out of 10 the person I’m being introduced to will say, “Tell us a joke!”.

This request to instantly demonstrate what I do for a living never happens with any other profession.

If I was introduced as an architect, I wouldn’t be expected to whip out my pen and design a kitchen extension on the back of a napkin.

And if I was introduced as a proctologist, no one would drop their trousers and say, “I wonder if you’d take a look at this . . . ”

Because stand-up comedy is everywhere these days (on TV, radio, You Tube and everywhere else) some individuals incorrectly think they’re just as funny as ‘That bloke I saw on the telly last night’.

However, they won’t put their head above the parapet by writing jokes, creating a little act and doing open mic nights in comedy clubs before spending years learning their craft.


They find it much easier to become hecklers.

I’ve only one piece of advice for hecklers. Even if the two pints of lager you’ve consumed convince you that you’re the funniest person in the room, think carefully before you interrupt a comedian’s performance. You may have your mates on your side. The comedian has the greater advantage. He has the microphone!

As for heckler ‘put-downs’, there are many strong ones I can’t repeat here, but I prefer the subtler ones.

For example, when a drunk heckles me and the only laughs he/she gets are nervous little ones from their equally drunk mates, I give it a moment, look at them and say . . .  “Comedy’shard…isn’t it?”

Hearing the rest of the audience react with laughter and applause, hecklers usually keep quiet after that.

If they don’t, I have an arsenal of those strong ‘put-downs’ I can’t mention . . .
Well, I could mention, but I’m told the editor of this newspaper would prefer not to be landed with a court case . . .

Our community spirit shows through in darkest days

Despite the terribly challenging weather over the past week, many of us have had to brave the elements and continue with our travels and engagements.

As you read this I am in Derby (the place, not the horse race) and far away from the mayhem.

Events and activities in Wales were cancelled for safety reasons, and rightly so considering it was extremely difficult to even stand up straight in that high wind!

The news footage and social media videos of towns and villages close to us was disturbing, to say the least.

Homes and businesses suffered and will continue to be affected during the clean-up operation over the next few weeks, possibly months for some.

It is at times like these that the Welsh really show what community spirit is all about. We all pull together so that some type of normality can be restored.

Already we are seeing and hearing stories of community spirit and bravery that are so uplifting and demonstrate the good that people can do during times of crisis and chaos.

I’m often reminded that it is important to focus on the positive and count my blessings, but I admit that this line of thinking isn’t always easy.

What a carry on about comedy!

CARRY on and keep calm, Jason!

I recently got into my car to drive to a meeting on a gloriously sunny Autumn morning. The birds were singing (an Abba medley, since you asked) and I was in a good mood.

And then I switched on the Jason Mohammad programme on BBC Radio Wales . . .

Jason seems personable enough, but so obsessed with sport, any subject under discussion (Brexit, Trump, Kim Kardashian’s behind) invariably includes his opinion of ‘last’s night game’, forgetting that not all his listeners share his interest and that there are many sport-free radio stations they can turn to.

Like the last letter in this sentence, that’sbeside the point.

His phone-in that morning was about ‘60 Years Of The Carry On Films’.

Some of the later ‘Carry On’ films were pretty weak. In fact, the final one, ’Carry On Columbus’, made in 1992, is now unwatchable. But, from 1958 and for two decades, cinema audiences flocked to see them.

From the off, it was obvious Jason had a bee in his bonnet about the films and was annoying his guest, ‘Carry On’ expert and writer Robert Ross by constantly repeating “Those films were just smut”.

Intrigued, I pulled over to the side of the road to listen.

Mr Ross vainly tried to explain that, as well as enjoying the performances of Sid, Kenny, Babs and the gang, the public loved the innuendo and double entendres and it’s impossible and pointless to criticise any art form of the past from today’s “We know better now!” Politically Correct viewpoint.

As Jason persisted with his ‘smut’ line, the patient Mr Ross said something I didn’t catch and Jason suddenly cut him off, surprised that a guest should get so annoyed with his uninformed accusations.

I’m convinced Jason never saw a ‘Carry On’ film in a cinema filled with an audience howling with laughter. I’m willing to guess he has only seen brief excerpts on TV . . . between sporting events.

Tastes in comedy have changed, yet those old ‘Carry Ons’ are still enjoyed by TV viewers born long after they stopped making them.

For more than 60 years, the films inspired many writers and comedians of modern comedy, including a series far more crudely explicit than any ‘Carry On’ . . . the smut-filled ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’. I wonder if Mr Mohammad is a fan?

Full steam ahead for another great day out

One of the great things about living in Carmarthenshire is that there is always something interesting to do right on your doorstep.

Last Sunday, I was lucky enough to be invited out on a train journey which included a three-course Sunday lunch onboard.  No, this wasn’t the Orient Express by any means. But, for me, it was as close as it gets here in Wales.

The Gwili Railway in Bronwydd, Carmarthen, is where my journey started – and the scenery and service were quality, to say the least. It certainly was an adventure and one that I had heard about many times before. But I’d not bothered to enquire further as I didn’t think that this was worthy of an afternoon out.

Well, let’s be honest, we all get it wrong . . . occasionally. This service is run entirely by the most enthusiastic volunteers that I have met.

We were served up the most delicious Sunday roast by smartly dressed waiters, as the train ambled through the type of stunning scenery that can only be found here in Wales.

Topped off with delicious apple crumble and custard, there was no better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

What an experience – and one I will definitely be repeating. Now then – where shall I go next Sunday?

Lay off our elderly folk – they don’t deserve to be criticised

There’s an insidious trend in the media, fuelled by various politicians and other influential figures (who would do well to choose their words more carefully), to blame everything that’s wrong with society, with the exception of Simon Cowell’s bizarre haircut, on those ‘terrible people . . . ‘The Elderly’.
Take last winter, when we were told very bluntly that hospital bed shortages were caused by ‘The Elderly’.

How dare old people get flu and pneumonia and fall over on slippery pavements, breaking arms and legs?
It’s an outrage!

Some under-30s complain that ‘The Elderly’ are the main cause of the housing shortage because they’d rather stay in their three or four-bedroom houses than sell up and move into a one-bedroom, no-garden flat overlooking the gasworks.

These whingers don’t consider that to own their home, ‘The Elderly’ had to scrimp, save, maintain and work hard for it over 40 years.

They don’t consider that many of ‘The Elderly’ need extra bedrooms so that grandchildren can stay overnight.

Not all old people sit around the fireside, wistfully thinking about the past.
Many have a wide circle of friends and relatives who stay with them for fun weekends and celebrations.

When marriages fall apart, where do sons and daughters (and their children) usually turn for shelter and emotional comfort, often for the long term?
Mam and Dad’s house!

That wouldn’t be possible if Mam and Dad lived in a small flat with a gasworks view.

When, provided they eat their greens, today’s under-30s eventually reach their 70s, I wonder ifthey will contribute as much to society as today’s ‘Elderly’?

For the record – many of my mentors, that have shaped and guided me, provided wisdom and encouragement over the years are now well into their 70s and I will always remain grateful for their engagement and sharing.