Racist? No, it’s just an honest view of the UK today

As you know, I loathe bullying, whether it’s by individuals or local councils, Government departments or vast conglomerates.  Not that there’s many tiny conglomerates . . .

Ganging-up against the old, the sick, the weak and the defenceless is indefensible.  I also like to call out people – protestors, students, any type of in-your-face vocal mob – who use their numbers to silence anyone who doesn’t agree with their point of view.  Because if there’s one thing I can’t tolerate it’s intolerance.

Veteran (he won’t mind me calling him that because he lives on the island of Antigua where you rarely see this paper on sale) comedian John Cleese has been getting a lot of flak lately, due to his comparison of the Great Britain of today and the country he grew up in.

In fact, his comments have been accused of being ‘racist’ and, although I abhor racism as much as bullying and intolerance, calling someone a ‘racist’ is one of the easiest, laziest ways to shut down the opinion of someone whose opinion you disagree with.

For the benefit of his critics who didn’t actually read what he said but nonetheless jumped on the ‘Let’s have a go at Cleese’ bandwagon, here’s his description of Britain 50 years ago.

“In some ways I found it calmer, more polite, more humorous, less tabloid and less money-orientated.”

If you disagree with that statement, you probably weren’t alive 50 years ago because despite all the technological advancements made since then, there’s no doubt that, in many respects, the Britain of 2019 is a somewhat coarser, more selfish place.

For a start, consider all the litter around today.
In the 1960s there were no McDonalds or KFCs around, so bone-idle boneheads didn’t drop their milkshake and burger cartons in the street.

If I have one tiny criticism of John Cleese, it’s a professional one.  He once famously announced the first rule of comedy was . . . “No puns! No puns! No puns!”

What title did he give to his classic sitcom set in a hotel?  “FawltyTowers!”

Let’s all start showing more compassion and set an example

People appal me at times.  Let me explain . . .

Last Saturday afternoon, I was driving towards Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli, when I noticed a lifeless body on the pavement.  What shocked me most was how many people drove past, slowed down for a look, yet nobody stopped to see if the person needed assistance.

I pulled over and ran to the still, lifeless body, but as luck would have it a police car turned up to assist.  I have no idea how long this young man had been lying there, but I soon discovered that he was unconscious, with a very weak pulse.

I didn’t find out what caused him to collapse.  However, what kind of a world do we now live in where we are willing to pass a scene like this and just blindly drive on?

If this was your son, brother, father, uncle, would you be happy knowing people just left him there with no assistance?

Had I not stopped, my conscience would have kept me awake that night with the thought that “I could have done something to help another human being at their time of need”.

How have we come to this?

The sooner we start showing compassion towards each other and accepting that every life is precious, the closer we will be to building a culture and society that is safe to bring our children up in.

Each and every one of us has an obligation to help when we can and set an example to the younger generation.

Who’s next for the big screen treatment?

Let me admit straight away that I think the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a bombastic load of old nonsense which goes on forever.  When it comes on the radio I switch off and have time to shave, iron my shirt and eat a full Welsh breakfast before I switch it on again.

I know I’m in the minority (because there’s only one of me) and understand why a successful film bearing the song’s title was made about Freddie Mercury and Queen.  I also appreciate that over his long and sometimes tempestuous career, Sir Elton John has sold zillions of records and entertained a lot of people at his live concerts.

So his bio-pic* “Rocketman” was inevitable, although it’s unusual for a film to be made about a real person while they’re still breathing and pounding their be-jewelled fingers on the keys of a million dollar piano.

But . . . you knew there was a ‘but’ on the way, didn’t you?
I was staggered to read a ‘Bye-O-Pick’ is planned about ‘Boy’ George.  As he was recently 58, I’m not sure how much longer he can get away with that ‘Boy’ monicker.

Freddie and Elton both have enough songs to fill several ‘Greatest Hits’ CDs, while I struggle to remember more than a couple of chart entries by George and Culture Club.

His biggest hit was about his ability to put his pet lizard at ease – “Calm A Chameleon”.

So, it seems any old pop act could have their careers immortalised on the cinema screen and three months later available on DVD and VOD.

For example . . .

“Kisses For Me” – the true story of rock ‘n’ roll rebels The Brotherhood Of Man.

Or how about “Shaddap You Face” – Joe Dolce sells six million records worldwide then does us all a big favour and vanishes into obscurity?

But the one I’d most like to see is ‘Chesney Hawkes – How I Made A 30 Year Career Out Of My One And Only Hit’.

See you in the cheap seats…

*Pronounced ‘Bye-O-Pick’ and not, as some broadcasters mis-pronounce it…‘BIOPP-ick’!

Tribute to comedy giants really hit the heights

This week’s newspaper column is being written from a Virgin Atlantic Dreamliner, 35,000 feet in the air en-route from Miami to London.  We even have an internet connection to help with the research.  This certainly helps keep us occupied during a long haul nine-hour flight.  How times have changed.

In addition to this, the onboard film selection is something of a treat.  Never have I witnessed such a choice of new and old films.  My choice of film on this occasion was the latest blockbuster, ‘Laurel and Hardy’.  It was a partnership that one time made them the world’s greatest comedy team.

With the golden era of Hollywood films behind them, diminished by age, the duo set out to reconnect with their adoring fans by touring variety halls in Britain in 1953.  But there were big challenges relating to health and management which gives us a true insight into the tough world of entertainment.

I must admit, I was truly moved by the story – and Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly played the heroes of comedy amazingly well.

‘Farmyard weddings’ in a field of their own

In this fast-moving, often baffling world, the minute I accept I’m the only one I know who hasn’t changed with the times, everything changes.

Frequently, I’m baffled by something brand new.  Take weddings . . .

Couples once got married in a church “In the sight of God” or a Registrar’s office in the sight of the Town Hall.  Teenagers, whose parents disapproved of them marrying, would sneak off to Gretna Green.  Trouble was, once both sets of parents realised, they’d all rush to the railway station to prevent the couple from leaving town.

Nine times out of 10, the youngsters were caught because even on a crowded platform it’s not hard to spot a girl in a long white dress holding a bouquet and a boy holding a girl in a long white dress.

In the mid-90s, rules governing where marriages could take place were changed and provided venues obtained the necessary licence, you could get married practically anywhere before six pm.

Personally, I think it’s best to get married as early as possible.  That way, if it doesn’t work out, you’ve got the rest of the day to yourself.

A whole new world of opportunities opened up for hotels as wedding venues, where you could also have a quick sauna and spa treatment before the ceremony.

But in 2019 things are changing yet again.  According to a famous department store that’s “Never knowingly undersold”, the latest trend is for ‘Farmyard weddings’.  I kid you not!

The New Age bride and groom can go barefoot or wear wellies.  The guests sit on bales of hay.  And music is provided by wind chimes.

However, if the ceremony’s carried out in a cow field, no one should give the groom a big pat on the back.

That’s all fine and dandy on sunny days, but what’ll happen should dark clouds appear?

To misquote Jimmy Webb’s “Macarthur Park” . . .

What if someone leaves the wedding cake out in the rain and all the sweet green icing starts running down?

Don’t ask me.  I’m baffled yet again.

Let’s spread a bit of positivity, my friends

Ok, I need you to be honest with me here, how many times in the last month have you complained about something?

It might have been about slow service, cold food, bad customer service, waiting a long time for something?

We have become a nation of complainers, no longer afraid to speak up when something isn’t right – and in some cases, rightly so.

Now then, how many times in the last month have you said thank you or complimented someone about something?  I bet not half as much as you’ve complained about something, but if I’m wrong, well done!

Imagine you are walking down the street and a complete stranger walks up to you and says “I absolutely LOVE that jacket, it looks amazing on you”.

How would that make you feel?  I bet you’d feel good; I know I would.

So why do we spend so much time putting each other down and being negative about things?   Let’s spread a bit of positivity my friends.

Try it this week.

If you have great service somewhere or see something you like, say something.

Let me know how it goes . . .

Such a public inconvenience

It’s a delicate subject that affects each and every one of us.  When you’re out and about and suddenly feel the ‘need ‘To go’, exactly where can you go ‘To go’?

Supermarkets have toilet facilities, but what if you’re miles from one?  How about a public loo?

Possibly not. According to the Royal Society for Public Health, councils in Wales and England have closed more than 700 public toilets since 2010.

The RSPH found out that some people who require liquid medication every day are reluctant to take it before they embark on a long car or coach journey, in case they’re caught short.  Failure to take their medication can affect their health.

The RSPH believe public toilets aren’t a luxury and should be regarded as essential parts of the community like street lights and pavements.

The lack of places ‘To go’ doesn’t just affect people with weak bladders or similar medical conditions.  Life is being made difficult for young children; women who are expecting; and people who work outside for a living.

At a time when we’re told to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and stay hydrated by drinking lots of water every day – apart from our usual intake of teas and coffees – many people are reluctant to venture out in case they suddenly need a loo.

A spokesman for the British Toilet Association – no I didn’t know they existed, either – explained that many people have been in touch with them to confess they feel like prisoners in their own homes, spending less time out and about.

The knock-on effect is they don’t exercise and over time they’ll become obese, adding more patients to the already over-stretched NHS.  A definite lack of joined-up thinking.

So here’s an idea . . .

Let councils re-open their closed-down, tastefully-tiled Victorian toilets, re-install attendants in their peaked caps and crisply-ironed brown overalls to keep an eye on things and charge customers 30 pence entrance fee.

The annual revenue earned would pay for the upkeep. Any other problems you need solving?

Quality relaxation with loved ones

I don’t know about you, but the summer months are quickly approaching and my mood is lifting just thinking about it.

Last week, I took a short stroll along the Llanelli coastal path towards Burry Port and couldn’t help but think what beautiful scenery we are blessed with in this part of Wales.

Many of you have already booked your holidays to far away sunny places and offers from our local travel agents are very tempting.

The conversation I regularly hear is that it’s cheaper to secure a holiday overseas than it is to stay here in beautiful Wales.

Yes, money is tight for many, yet everyone should be entitled to quality relaxation time with loved ones.

Even walking down the seafront in Mumbles takes me away from the day to day challenges, yet it’s so much more appealing when the sun is shining and the tide is in.

Now then.  Here is my challenge to you: Give me your 10 best reasons as to why people should visit this part of Wales this summer.

The best presented case will receive a personalised gift from me . . .

Banking on more time off?

My mind permanently fizzes with questions like “Why do we have Bank Holidays even if we don’t work in a bank?”.

We’ve recently been drowning in Bank Holidays.  If you missed one, another was due any minute.

Monday May the 27th – the Spring Bank Holiday.  Monday May the 6th- the May Day Bank Holiday.  Monday April the 27th- the Easter Bank Holiday.  And just before that, the Good Friday Bank Holiday.

TV bosses didn’t consider any of them special as the schedules were exactly the same as any other weekday, stuffed with cheap lifestyle shows, looking-for-antiques shows and consumer advice shows.

Plus, the lunchtime show featuring a coven of women who spend most of the hour complaining about how terrible men are.  Until they bring on a ‘hunky’ good-looking actor to talk about his new film/series and then drool over him in a cringe-worthy manner that, should the  sexes be reversed and four middle-aged men leered over a young actress, the #metoo brigade would rightfully demand it be taken off the air.

Someone with his tongue firmly in his cheek described Bank Holiday Mondays as ‘A chance for fat, bald men in vests to sit outside pubs drinking all day, occasionally swearing at their unruly children’.  A little cruel perhaps – though some of you will know it’s not entirely untrue.

So! Do we really need Bank Holidays?  Go on. Ask yourself.  I’ve got nothing to do for the next five seconds.

Those of you employed by someone else probably enjoy them.  While the self-employed and retired can take ’em or leave ’em.

England and Wales get eight Bank Holidays a year, Scotland gets nine, including St. Andrew’s Day, while Northern Ireland, including St. Patrick’s Day, gets 10.

Whether it’s unfair Wales and England don’t have a day off work for their patron saints depends on your opinion of Bank Holidays.  I’m not sure we shouldhave a Saint David’s Day Holiday.

For starters, I wouldn’t fancy drinking outside a pub all day in my vest – not in March!

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get laughter on prescription?

Laughter comes in many forms: the giddy giggle, the mild chuckle, the gutsy guffaw, the sarcastic “ha!”  Its meaning is just as varied, signalling everything from amusement to discomfort and distain.

For researchers, understanding how our brain interprets this complex behaviour is serious business.  Yes, people are actually paid loads of money to research this stuff.

Every day we are faced with varying degrees of stress and challenging situations.  And, as time goes on, as we get older, relaxation and laughter can slow down the ageing process.

We are bombarded with information relating to weight loss, diets, exercise and such like.  But little is said about the huge health benefits of laughter.  This is probably because of the lack of understanding by the masses . . . up to this point!

Over the years, while attending many conferences, I have been party to such a discussion, that left me convinced that the benefits of humour and being around uplifting people can add years to our lives, reduce the need for anti-depressants and keep our brains active for much longer.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could get laughter on prescription?

After all, laughter is the best medicine.  Unless, of course, you are diabetic. Then, insulin works better.