Don’t feed the monsters beneath our feet!

Sidmouth is a beautiful seaside resort on the South Devon coast, with a long promenade, ice cream parlours and cafes, impressive sandstone cliffs, a repertory theatre and so much more.

Overlooking the town and the sparkling green waters of the English Channel are pretty gardens which can be reached – provided you don’t get out of breath easily – via a vertiginous wooden staircase.  You can take a more leisurely walk along a winding path, but it’s not so much fun!

I’m making it sound a delightful place to visit because it is.  Well, on ground level it is.  Because up until a few weeks ago a hideous, smelly monster was hiding in the sewers below the town.

It was an enormous fat berg measuring two hundred and ten feet long, created from tons of cooking fat that people had poured down their drains over many years.

The thought of a mountain of congealed fat clogging the sewers is bad enough, but what’s worse was the fact that stuck within the fatberg were thousands of wet wipes that householders had flushed down their loos, despite the many warnings against this practice.

But this doesn’t just happen in Sidmouth.

People (not you, of course!) in your town, city and village are still doing it, as well as all over the UK.

Last month, during a charity litter-pick along the banks of the River Thames, 77% of all the litter items collected were wet wipes.  Around 4000 were picked up within a distance of 400 metres (around 1300 feet)!

You’d think everyone would know by now that wet wipes take hundreds of years to break down and when they eventually do, they become environmentally unfriendly micro-plastic pieces.

And ,to borrow an old phrase, “Don’t you know there’s a war on…against plastic pollution?”

Talking of which, I hope everyone who bought Comic Relief Day plastic noses re-cycled them the day after and didn’t throw them in their household rubbish.

Otherwise, one day soon, sewer workers are going to discover one gigantic red nose covered in wet wipes blocking the sewers beneath your streets!

My favourite gym machine? The vending machine, of course!

Over the past few days I have witnessed more cyclists and joggers on the roads than at any other time I can remember.  Sweating, red faced and panting heavily whilst maintaining that focused and determined look through gritted teeth is not something that I personally feel the need to participate in, but hats off to those of you that do.

Well done and keep it up, if it makes you feel good.

A close friend recently challenged me to start training for the London marathon next year, I’ve now come to the conclusion that I don’t need friends like this.

My exercise regime is far less strenuous and more of a leisurely pace these days, weather permitting of course.  Let’s face it, there’s no point suffering to stay healthy is there?

I’ve been a member of a gym for over a year now, but apparently you actually have to turn up for it to have any effect.  Who knew?

I do have a favourite machine in the gym though, known as the vending machine.

On a serious note though, I really must make more of an effort to look after myself and stay in shape.  At this point in time, I’m a bad example.

Old sayings ripe for parody

“Never Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth” is one ofmany old sayings or ‘maxims’ that are ripe for parody.

Before becoming famous TV and radio personalities, those supreme wits Frank Muir and Denis Norden were two of Britain’s top comedy writers, up there with Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.

In the 1950s and 60s, Frank and Denis penned hundreds of parodies of old sayings, the most famous of which concerned an Eskimo who lit a fire inside his one-man canoe to keep warm and it went up in flames.

Thus proving…”You can’t have your kayak and heat it”!

Although “Never look a gift horse in the mouth”– not turning down a freebie when it’s offered – appears to be sensible advice, sometimes freebies can end up not being so ‘free’, as a friend of mine recently found out.

He was offered two free tickets for one of the hottest musicals in the West End by someone he knew in the cast and as the price printed on each ticket was £150, on the surface he’d been presented with a £300 gift horse.

However… to get to London he had to spend more than £100 on train tickets, then £250 for a hotel ( breakfast not included) and £130 on meals and taxis etc.

So you can see that ‘free’ evening in a London theatre cost him around £500. He could have had a week in Langland Bay for that!  Or a month in Aberystwyth.

As it turned out, he said the show was sensational, he had a great time and he’ll be able to pay off his credit card bills by December 2026.  If he wins the Lottery.

While I was writing this, I suddenly had an idea for a Muir and Norden type parody and while nowhere near their standard, I had to pass it on.

North Wales residents are warned that because undertakers along the M4 corridor won’t allow their funeral cars to be driven at more than 20 miles per hour, they can…

“Never book a swift hearse in the south!”

I’ll get me coat…

£15 for a cup of coffee – call for the men in white coats

In the late 70s, an old tramp – or ‘Gentleman Of The Road’ to give him a more respectful title – wandered around town asking passers-by, “Could you possibly spare 10 pence for a cup of coffee?” in an accent best described as ‘Cowbridge Posh’.

Because he was always cheerfully polite, most people happily handed him 10 pence.  However, even back then you’d have been hard-pressed to find a café selling coffee for just 10 pence a cup.  And, other than in Italian-owned cafés with a Gaggia machine, the coffee we drank was pretty grim.

That’s probably why we were a nation of tea drinkers. Now we have a choice of exotic beverages, like the ‘Double Skinny Latte’, the ‘Flat White’, the ‘Cappuccino’ and the ‘Macchiato’.

“‘Ere, Doris! Didn’t we have a Macchiato last year in Sorrento?”

“No love. It was a McDonalds and we were in Saundersfoot!”

Today, the average cost of a coffee house cappuccino is £2.67 and, although it’s obviously cheaper to make a cup at home, that £2.67 also pays for staff wages; heating and lighting; and sometimes a ‘free’ biscuit the size and texture of a shirt button.

Personally, I really enjoy the lively atmosphere of cafes and coffee shops, being a self-confessed ambience chaser.

£2.67 is a give-away price compared to what a ‘stylish’ new establishment in Kings Cross, London is charging for a cup of coffee made from Yemen coffee beans . . . £15!

For that I’d want a three-course meal, dancing ’til dawn to Andre Rieu and his orchestra . . . and a cab home!!

The café is so up-market it employs ‘cafeliers’ (a new word on me) instead of baristas.

According to the owners, customers happily pay £15 for what they say is one of the world’s greatest coffees.

It would have to be!

If, back in the 70s, that tramp had asked “Spare £15 for a cup of coffee?” most people would have called for the men in the white coats.

I feel the same about anyone who, during the course of a working week, is willing to spend £75 on their daily coffee.

Is the kettle on?

Use it or lose it – we can’t argue with that!

As we get older it’s so important to keep exercising in order to stay fit, flexible and healthy.  I’m sure I am not alone in hearing the snap, crackle and pop when I jump out of bed in the morning.

Unfortunately, it’s not my breakfast cereal, it’s my knee joints warming up!

We are told to keep mobile by so many medical professionals on a daily basis, but how many of us manage to fit in some daily exercise?

Use it or lose it is the motto.  Now we can’t argue with that!

Unfortunately, the challenges of today’s daily living, plus the long, dark winter days and poor weather conditions does not help with the motivation needed to wrap up and get out there for some fresh air.

We can clearly see that phones are getting much smarter and thinner.  People, not so much.

Before you ask – I weigh 14st naked.  That’s if the scales in Boots The Chemist is anything to go by.

My case comes up next week!

Unbelievable world of celebrity

It’s my own fault really. When I see newspaper headlines about D-List ‘celebrities’ (often literally of the ‘car crash’ variety) who I’ve either never heard of or wish I hadn’t, I should turn the page quickly.

But, as I’m always searching for ideas to amuse and inform readers of this column, I tend to cast my eyes over the article and shake my head in disbelief at what celebs think they can get away with.

I’m not referring to performers or writers – people who make a living through talent and hard work.  I mean ‘celebs’ like the ex-topless model who’s rarely out of the news thanks to a series of dramas, most recently a motoring mishap and subsequent court appearance.

After the hearing, she admitted being ‘pleased’ to get a three-month driving ban because she thought she might be jailed for two years.

She added: “As soon as the ban is over I’ll buy a new car!” – even though she’s supposedly so badly off she has to sell her country mansion.

So, how did someone with no discernible talent, other than the ability to remove her clothes and smile at the camera, get so rich before (apparently) becoming less rich?

A publisher offered her a deal to write her autobiography, which sold by the bucket load!  Further autobiographies and novels with her name on the cover followed. They  made her a fortune.

But she didn’t write one word of any of the books. They were penned by ghost writers. And the ‘celeb’ has admitted she hasn’t even read all of them!

When each book was published she toured major book shops to promote it. I’m not sure whether she actually signed the books or whether she hired a ghost signer to do it for her.

Last week, she was photographed having a ‘boozy afternoon out’ with some girlfriends.  Was she celebrating yet another book deal?

Please form an orderly queue for signed copies….

Keep an eye out for the entertainers of tomorrow

The world of entertainment fascinates me, and always has.
Being around talented and creative people can often be an uplifting experience. This is why I am always willing to support and encourage new talent in our area and very often I see this creativity breaking through in the final stages of the Welsh Factor talent shows.

The entertainers of tomorrow all have to start somewhere and without the up and coming talent there will be no entertainment venues left open in the future. We owe it to our communities to support these venues and live entertainment.

As for me, last Saturday I had the pleasure of putting on another successful Phil Evans and Friends Comedy Special at the Pontardawe Arts Centre. This is a venue that has been promoting live entertainment in many forms for as long as I can remember. It’s run by a small group of hard working staff who have a passion for live entertainment. It really is a jewel in the heart of the community.

Keep an eye on this venue and make it a goal to go out and see more live shows; it really will lift your spirits.

Daytime viewing is so testing

People who work between midnight and dawn, such as nurses, doctors, police, fire and ambulance services etc are said to be on the ‘Graveyard Shift’.  Anyone over 60, unfortunately stuck in front of the terrestrial TV channels every weekday must feel they’re on the ‘One-Foot-In-The-Graveyard Shift’.

Cheap daytime ‘lifestyle’, ‘property’, ‘cookery’, ‘antique hunting’ and ‘consumer’ programmes – all of which are apparently made in batches of 5000 – are in the same time slots five days a week, year in, year out.

If you started watching on a Monday morning switching between BBC One and Two, ITV One and Channel 4, by Wednesday lunchtime you’ll be convinced you’ve broken a mirror and the bad luck fairies had condemned you to re-live Groundhog Day for all eternity.

Whenever I’ve been home with man ’flu, watching a few hours of daytime TV is a real motivator to get well as quickly as possible.

I don’t see the point of watching shows in which families are flown to the other side of the world to see if they’d like to settle there, then after a day or two they realise, “Hey! If we move here we won’t be able to visit Mum and Dad every day…or see Phil Evans ‘live’!”

Everybody back on the plane! Thanks for the free holiday!

If the programmes are depressing, the ads in between are worse.

One features an unknown actor, who has waited 75 years for this sort of TV exposure, who smugly boasts to his uninterested neighbour that his family won’t have to worry about paying his ‘final expenses’ because he’s had the foresight and the cash to pay for them himself.

How cheery this one must seem to not-so-well-off pensioners on cold, grey wintery afternoons in the middle of “Countdown”, the title of which unfortunately reminds viewers of a certain vintage they’re living on borrowed time.

If ever I enter politics, I promise to scrap daytime TV and bring back The Test Card.

It might sound a bit retro, but just think.  No more Jeremy Kyle!

We’re all being driven to distraction

Traffic jams and potholes in our towns and cities at the moment are causing so much stress and frustration that even playing Buddhist meditation music in the car while driving won’t help reduce our blood pressure.

Everywhere we go, we currently face these obstacles on a daily basis – and it doesn’t seem to be improving any day soon.

Even if we use public transport, the same challenges are faced. It’s got to the point that I’m now all for ‘by pass roads’ more so than ever before.

Congestion and poorly maintained highways are now among the biggest complaints that our local authorities are faced with, yet the solution to the problems are a long way off.

As for me and the town of Ammanford, the congestion issue is almost grinding the roads into the town to a halt at times and a huge risk to road safety.

I wonder how the Dalai Lama would deal with this?

Hardy’s tale marked him out as a special person

When politicians or famous academics die, because they lived in worlds we’d never have access to, their passing doesn’t affect us emotionally to any great extent.

But . . . when someone who made us laugh dies, whether they’re comedians, comedy actors or much-loved broadcasters with a sharp sense of humour like Terry Wogan, their death takes us aback.

We somehow can’t believe that a person who had us doubled-up with laughter has left our lives.  It feels so unfair.

Recently, that great comedy actor Clive Swift who played Hyacinth Bucket’s husband Richard in the BBC sitcom “Keeping Up Appearances” died at the age of 82. He was the perfect, patient foil to the monstrous Hyacinth.

R.I.P. Clive.

Around the same time, comedian Jeremy Hardy, who appeared on many Radio 4 comedy shows and always seemed to be on tour, died aged just 57.

He was described by Rory Bremner as ‘Funnier than the lot of us – a unique comedian and lovely man’. That he had a social conscience was evident in his politically-based comedy.

But it was something he mentioned in a newspaper interview years ago that revealed what sort of man he was in real life. He’d been having breakfast in a South London café, when a young father and his small son, aged five or six, came in and sat at the next table.

The boy’s talking and laughing inexplicably irritated the father who suddenly, at the top of his voice, screamed “Shut it…you little…$%*~!” using an expletive so strong the whole of the café went silent. The boy was terrified and the father glared menacingly at the other customers, daring them to complain.

Jeremy said: “I suddenly knew at that moment the poor child’s life was going to be absolute hell and there was nothing I could do about it.”

He left the café with tears in his eyes, the incident staying with him for a very long time afterwards. Just as I haven’t been able to forget that interview.

R.I.P Jeremy.