Read the news – don’t make it!

Some loyal readers like my Uncle Cledwyn and my chiropractor  Arthur ‘Flat Nose’ O’ Toole the spectacularly unsuccessful (fought 20fights – lost 21) ex- boxer, have asked why I sometimes comment on news stories weeks after they’ve done the rounds.  Not that Arthur O’Toole ever went more than one round.  I had answers for them both, which can’t be repeated in a family newspaper.

I’m sometimes late catching up with news items because I’m a very busy man and although I buy papers every day, I don’t always get chance to look at more than the headlines.  Then there’s the magazines I buy (No, not from the top shelf) plus the ones I subscribe to that regularly pop through the letterbox.  Newspapers, their weekend supplements and glossy magazines pile up until I find time to read them before they go into the re-cycling.

While sorting through some old newspapers I saw an article about professional autocue reader Huw Edwards that brightened-up the early autumn evening gloom.

The article and the accompanying photos made me wonder if he’s going through a mid-life crisis, though as he’s 58 it’s doubtful he’ll reach 116.  I’m happy to be proved wrong, so will someone please call me on the day he celebrates that birthday?

The article focused on his obsession with his weight loss and virile new image, which led him to post lots of photographs of himself on social media in model-like poses which have been described variously as ‘relaxed’ and ‘sultry’.  Please stop laughing!!

He’s also posted one of himself straddling a motor bike wearing a suit and buckled shoes. Huw’s wearing the suit and buckled shoes, not the motorbike.

I’m not suggesting he’s a self-important narcissist, but I’m sure one photo revealed a love bite on his neck.  Self-inflicted.

His BBC colleagues are highly amused by Huw’s obsession with his slimline body and are just as eager to see his latest postings as he is to send them.

All joking aside, this proves that those whose job it is to read the news should strenuously avoid being in the news!

Perseverance and hard work is key to a successful column

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.

Telly repeats really take the biscuit!

Although Bank Holiday Monday August 26th seems ages ago, we remember it as a real ‘scorcher’.  It was so hot, I threw caution to the wind (even though there was no breeze that day) and removed my vest for the entire afternoon.

That was our last public holiday until December 25th and the short days and long dark nights of autumn and early winter will be with us before we know it.  Personally, I already know it, which is why I wear a vest.

Autumn is traditionally when the terrestrial TV companies bring out their big starry shows that attract high ratings.  Unfortunately, having ‘something good to watch on the telly at last’ is a double-edged sword for performers like yours truly as, with any luck, we’ll be out working several evenings a week.

If only there was some sort of technology that allowed us to record TV programmes so we could watch them any time we like . . .

During the summer months, TV bosses decamp to their bolt holes in Tuscany and San Tropez, seemingly indifferent to the fact they’ve left the schedules filled with endless repeats and films we’ve seen at least 10 times – since last Christmas!

And the stagnant TV menu card hasn’t just covered the desolate wasteland of afternoon programming; it’s also moved into prime time.

However, terrestrial TV did give us some new shows this summer.
‘Classics’ like “Britain’s Favourite Biscuit”, “Britain’s Favourite Chocolate Bar” and “Britain’s Favourite Takeaway” – and, without any sense of irony, the same channel broadcast “Britain’s Obesity Crisis”.

If John Logie Baird, the father of television, were alive today, he might wish he’d invented the widget instead.  Then again, he’d be almost 140, so probably wouldn’t be all that concerned.

If people can approach a broadcaster with a daft idea like “Britain’s Favourite Used Teabag” and get it commissioned, why bother wracking your brains trying to come up with an original sitcom or drama, then slog away for months writing and re-writing it?

So here’s my daft TV show idea for Summer 2020.  “Britain’s Favourite Repeat Of Summer 2019”.

Interested broadcasters, please form an orderly queue…

Brewing up some interest in local ventures

Now, those of you that read my column regularly will realise that I spend a lot of my time frequenting local coffee shops, where I meet some fantastic people and also do a lot of my creative writing.

But I’ve recently come to realise that I don’t think you go to a single town in Wales now and not see one of the major coffee house franchises somewhere along the high street.

Even in some of the small quaint towns and villages, you won’t have to look far to find one.  But this made me think, there are also some of the most beautiful small, independent local coffee shops in each and every town that are usually family run and which seem to be struggling to keep up with the coffee giants.

Years ago, this was where everyone from the community got together to catch up on the local news.  On a weekly basis, I’m seeing local cafes close as they are unable to compete.  This makes me sad.

I’ve decided to make a concerted effort from now on to search for the little local coffee shops.  And if they happen to be serving homemade cake, too, it would be very rude of me not to indulge!

Shopping around for the right career

I’ve got a theory. Well, I’ve got hundreds. But I never have the space in this esteemed publication to explain them all.  Don’t worry. I will . . . eventually.

The theory I present you with today touches upon something that concerns us all – the so-called ‘Death Of The High Street’.  I say ‘So-called’ because many towns still have thriving shops attracting regular customers – despite the predictions of every Doom Merchant.

As I recall, ‘Doom Merchant’ wasn’t a career choice when I left school. The closest would have been Coal Merchant or Wine Merchant, while the Merchant Navy wasn’t an option as I have phobias about sea creatures and deep water.  It’s so bad I have to hire someone to feed my goldfish every day.

My theory suddenly came to me one day, just like the very first time Edison illuminated his workshop – it was a light bulb moment!

I realised many of our High Streets and shopping centres started to decline 15 or so years ago after the day each and every British shop assistant was invited to a secret meeting in a secure and remote location where they were brainwashed en-masse.

Under hypnosis they were told that, despite it being the height of rudeness, it’s now absolutely fine to engage in a loud personal conversation with another staff member while a customer tries to pay you for an item.  Bonuses will be paid if you avoid eye contact.

They also received firm instructions to stop greeting customers with the pleasant “Can I help you?” in the time-honoured tradition and instead replace it with the annoyingly bland “Are you alright there?” – which isn’t so much a greeting as a half-interested enquiry into how much longer you intend cluttering-up their shop.

Once I realised that “Are you alright there?” was every shop assistant’s meaningless new mantra, spoken robot-style, I wanted to reply. “No. I’m not alright here. So, I’m going to walk over there and see if I feel any better.”

I didn’t, of course. Because I’m too well-mannered.  Maybe that’s why ‘Shop Assistant’ was never a career choice for me . . .

Worth capturing every magic moment

My good friend and official show photographer, Rob Jones from Porthcawl, has taught me many valuable lessons over the years and is a firm believer that magic moments and memories must be captured and recorded on a regular basis.

At long last I’m now beginning to understand the importance of capturing memories of special occasions.  After all, family, friends and events have helped shape us and turn us into the people we are today.

Looking back has so many benefits and often helps us relive feelings of joy and reflect on the good times. On occasions, it allows us to reflect on the people that we now so dearly miss.

Like everything else though, there is always a downside.  Like the hair cut, clothes and, in my case, a slimmer version.

With dementia become more of a concern to many families, taking a trip down memory lane while looking through old photos can be such a blessing and often provide that much needed relief to the pain and suffering attached to this debilitating condition.

We may not yet have a cure for dementia but our minds can still benefit and be stimulated by pictures of days gone by.

Festival’s ‘florets’ funny lost its impact for me

Whether they keep them hidden inside expensively tailored suits or beneath creased tee-shirts and un-pressed jeans, comedians have a concealed arsenal of weapons about their persons.

They bring out the cache at every performance, so that when the time comes for them to vacate the stage, they’ll be able to do so with the sound of the audiences’ laughter still ringing in their ears.  Well, that’s the theory…

As my more astute readers (that’s 99% of you – sorry, Uncle Cledwyn!) realise, the comedian’s arsenal is comprised of monologues, jokes, gags, one-liners, witty observations and carefully rehearsed, sharply honed ad-libs.  They are all created in the hope that every audience they perform to is reduced to helpless laughter.

However, comedy is subjective and what amuses one laughter-lover, might leave 20 other people cold.  I think those 20 people were at my last-but-one gig.  And that laughter-lover stayed home!

I’ve been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival several times and have seen many brilliant performers who created waves of laughter with great material.  So, when I read what was voted ‘The Best Joke’ of this year’s festival, I was a little disappointed.

Here it is, uncut and uncensored . . .

I keep randomly shouting out “Broccoli” and “Cauliflower”. I think I might have Florets.

It’s very cleverly constructed and the judges obviously liked it, but the joke lost its initial impact with me because I had to look up what the word ‘Florets’ meant.

Budding comedians make note.  Never tell a joke you think only a small percentage of the audience will find funny.  Try for maximum laughs from the maximum number of people for the maximum time you’re on stage.

Next stop . . . Hammersmith Apollo!

Well, that’s the theory . . .

The Edinburgh joke disappointed me because it reminded me of one I noodled around with years ago but never put in my act . . .

I come from a long line of sooth-sayers. Except for my grandfather who went around shouting “Cream of tomato!” “Mulligatawny!” and “Carrot & Coriander!”  He was a soup-sayer !

You know what?  I might head to Edinburgh next year and see if it wins!

Why am I always stuck in the slow lane in supermarkets?

There are two possible queues in the supermarket . . . Why is it the one you decide to go for is always the slowest to move?

There is always that one customer in it who has picked the only product in the whole store with no price on.  Or the checkout operator decides to plonk the ‘checkout closed’ sign right before your shopping pile. Does this only happen to me?

It’s the same at the cashpoint.  I always end up standing behind the person who decides now would be a good time to print out and check a monthly statement, check the balance on all four of their accounts and then print out receipts for each transaction!

Then, there is that fleeting thought that goes through your mind . . . shall I change queues?  You battle with this little voice inside your head telling you “NO!” as you know that, as soon as you move, your original queue will move at the speed of light!

So, you move queues anyway, despite the little voice and Yes, your original queue starts moving quicker than Usain Bolt off the starting blocks . . .

Please tell me this doesn’t only happen to me?