Perhaps old adages need a little bit of a ‘tweak’

You’re never too old to learn something new.  That’s what ‘they’ say. Whoever ‘they’ are.

Despite investigating the matter for years, across several continents where I interviewed some of the world’s greatest philosophers (and if you believe that I have a couple of bridges for sale that span the River Severn which can be yours for the bargain price of £100,000 each. Cash only!) I was unable to discover who ‘they’ are.

‘They’ are those mysterious creators of wise sayings, commonly known as ‘old adages’ which people have used for centuries.

Inevitably, as the generations pass on, many adages fall out of use, but I still occasionally hear them used, as I did last week when I walked past (at a social distance) two people in the street having a conversation  and one was saying “Yes . . . he’s as dim as a Toc H lamp!”.

I’ve not heard that one for decades and never understood what it meant.  But as information is now available at the touch of a button, I found out that Toc H is a Christian movement that started out as a rest and recreation centre for British soldiers in Belgium in 1915.

The person who created Toc H was the Reverend Phillip Thomas Byard ‘Tubby’ Clayton – who  must  have taken ages to sign cheques.
‘Toc’ stands for the letter ‘T’ in the Army signals spelling alphabet and the organisation’s symbol is an ‘Aladdin’ oil lamp with a pale yellow flame.

After years of wondering, I found out what “Dim as a Toc H lamp ‘ meant in a matter of minutes, proving you’re never too old to learn something new . . . or something created in 1915 in this particular case.

Perhaps old adages would have a better chance of surviving if they were ‘tweaked’ a little to appeal to the modern generation.

“There’s no fool like an old fool” could be replaced by “There’s no fool like an American President with a comb over!”

While “Dim as a Toc H lamp” could be updated to “Dim as a Love Island contestant”.

Let’s see what ‘they’ have to say about that!

Mind stimulated by pictures of days gone by

My good friend and award winning 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, family, friends and events that 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 and sometimes of the people that we now so dearly miss.

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

With dementia becoming 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.

We all have the freedom to disagree with disagreements

Free Speech is great…in theory.  It enables us to say what we like, when we like, unhindered and uncensored.

Such freedom applies to all us, whether we write for newspapers . . . stand on stage telling stories that create laughter by touching the audience’s collective funny bone . . . or just sit around with our friends and family, expressing our honest opinions.

However . . . in a civilised society, Free Speech should never be used to incite violence – something that was often forgotten during recent demonstrations.

You can never truly win an argument by throwing stones at the person with an opposing view to yours or by shouting them down.

As I’ve said before – one thing I can’t tolerate is intolerance.

Writing for this newspaper I’m in a privileged position, well aware that one comment out of place can get up more people’s noses than a warehouse full of Vic inhalers.  I’m obliged to state that inhalers with names other than Vic are available. ‘Colin’, for example.

There are people out there – not you, obviously – who on seeing something in print they object to, put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to complain about it.  I’ve done it myself. Usually when the thing I see in print is my tax bill.

I’ve always tried to avoid offending or insulting people, aware we need to be ‘woke’ these days, especially if we’re in the media.

But in the interests of balance, I think it’s only fair that if a group or an individual object to something – whether it’s a comment by J.K.Rowling (that up and coming writer set for big things in future, you mark my words) or a statue of an historical figure who, in their view, has a lot to answer for – anyone who holds a strong opposing view should have access to the same platforms as the objectors, to present a rational counter argument without being called offensive names.

In other words, if we disagree with what they’re disagreeing with, we should be as free to disagree with their disagreement as they are to disagree with whatever they found disagreeable in the first place.

Now that’s Free Speech!

We need back-to-back sunny days for the perfect summer

Well I’ve dusted off my Speedos, filled up the paddling pool, repaired the barbeque and prepared the patio area in readiness for the best summer to date.

Let’s face it, this is probably the only year we have all had more than enough time to prepare the garden!

Already every garden in the street is blooming and the local garden centres are picking up more business now we are all allowed out to play again.

Got to say though, there is still always one clever so and so who decides to put the strimmer on at 7am on a Sunday morning.

Now, what we actually need for a perfect summer in Wales is our sunny days to run one after the other. Back to back, not three days of sunshine followed by three months of rain in two days.

From February to November, we probably get enough sunny days to make a whole sunny summer, they are just randomly dotted throughout the year, scattered between rain, snow, hail, sleet and thunder.

Just about anything is available to arrange on the internet now, so surely there is something the Met Office can do to make sure summers are always sunny?

Maybe Elon Musk can launch a few cloud busting satellites?

Actually, I wonder if controlling the weather will be a thing of the future?
Off to make a few enquiries . . .

Theatre and arts are not only for the elite

Even if you’ve never visited a theatre, music venue, comedy club, cinema, museum or art gallery in your life or haven’t done so for a long time, you’ll be aware that without paying customers our arts and culture world is currently struggling for survival.

The theatre industry has been particularly devastated and with Christmas pantomimes unlikely to happen, hundreds of provincial theatres for whom panto is their biggest annual earner, could be in real trouble in 2021 – which is shocking.

Before lock down, the West End attracted visitors from all over the world, annually boosting the economy by many millions – which has evaporated this year.

Closer to home, the restaurants, bars and hotels surrounding Cardiff Millennium Centre used to benefit from the audiences visiting the venue, generating more income for the Chancellor.

When lock down happened, huge West End shows, rock & pop concerts and theatre tours were cancelled overnight, putting thousands out of work – not just  the stars, but all the musicians, drivers, riggers, caterers, set designers, carpenters, electricians, sound and lighting technicians, stage managers, bar and front of house staff…and many more without whom ‘ the show can’t go on’.

The announcement that the U.K. Government has agreed to pump £1.5 billion into arts and culture might have delighted many, but I’d guess it also annoyed members of the public who think the world of theatre and live performance is purely for the elite and has no connection with their lives.

TV is their sole source of entertainment with its hundreds of channels plus the bewildering choice of films and series provided by streaming services.

However they fail to appreciate that many actors, writers and directors who provide their TV entertainment, initially learned their skills with amateur dramatic societies and  youth theatre groups prior to taking the plunge into professional theatre, grafting away anonymously for years before getting that first break in TV or film.

TV addicts disinterested in theatre should consider that without it, their nightly entertainment could well consist of wall-to-wall, mind-numbing reality shows featuring z-list nonentities.

Having planted that thought, I shall now exit…stage right!

You can only get a cwtsh – that ends with a ‘sh’ – in Wales

The good old Welsh Cwtsh is certainly suffering due to the two-metre rule, so until it is safe to cwtsh once more, here is an interesting fact for you.

How do you spell Cwtsh?  Well, let me enlighten you. It’s ‘sh’ not ‘ch’.

Trust me, I’ve done my research on this – and the evidence is conclusive.

You know how you pronounce ‘bach’ in Welsh? Well, that’s how ‘ch’ is always pronounced in Welsh.  Now try saying ‘cwtch’ . . . I rest my case!

Over the years, I have researched this topic and consulted with people who are considered well-versed on the subject.

The way I think of the word ‘cwtsh’ is quite simple.  I split it: cwt-shhh, like something soft and quiet.  Same as the word Welsh. Wel-sssh. Not Welch!

So, there you have it, it is cwtsh!

If you are still going to insist on the English spelling ‘cwtch’, you surely need to replace the w (not a vowel in English) with a U.

Also, if you spell it ‘cwtch’ you are making it English – and you can only get a cwtsh in Wales . . .

Counting down the days until Wales can get together and cwtsh once more!

Now that’s what I call a zinger!

When something annoying is done or said to us, we’d love to come back with an immediate witty put-down, but most of the time we can’t think of the right words.

Legendary “Fools and Horses” writer John Sullivan created hilarious insults – real comedy zingers – between Del Boy Rodney and Uncle Albert.  Down the Nag’s Head, everyone insulted Boycie.

But even John said that in real life, when someone annoyed him, he was rarely able to come back with a fast and witty response.  He’d work on the insults he wished he’d thought of at the time and put them into his scripts.

A friend of mine who works in the comedy field (the one next to the comedy farm) once landed a well-deserved zinger when a married couple he hadn’t seen for a while came to stay with him and his wife for the weekend.

From the moment the guests arrived on the Friday, their behaviour was unbelievably rude.  On the first evening, they shared bottles of Chardonnay provided by my friend.  The next night, they all went out to dinner at a local restaurant, where the male guest, being a wine expert, ordered a very expensive bottle of vino, which they all polished-off before the main course.

As my friend then ordered a bottle of the same Chardonnay they’d sipped the night before, the wine expert’s wife pulled a face and said “Oh we don’t want that rubbish!”

My friend, his hackles already raised having suffered 24 hours in their company, replied “You quite happily drank it last night!” to which the obnoxious female guest said snootily… “I didn’t say I enjoyed it!”

Not the subtlest thing to say to someone who’s house you’re staying in!

He has no idea how he did it, but my friend immediately came back with a zinger that silenced her for the rest of the evening.  “Yet you didn’t refuse a second glass!”

The master of the witty insult was Noel Coward who once remarked of Winston Churchill’s son Randolph… “There goes Randolph. Completely unspoilt by failure!”    Now that’s what I call a zinger!

THINK BIKE for our two-wheeled population

Is it just my imagination or are there really more cyclists on our roads these days?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed so many more brightly coloured and lycra-clad two wheel enthusiasts whilst on my travels.  From the early hours of the morning to the darkest hours of the night.  Their energy and commitment must be applauded as every form of exercise is without doubt a step in the right direction.

On a personal note, I’m not sure if I would enjoy clocking up the miles in all conditions with view to keeping fit and healthy.  But not everyone thinks like me – fortunately.

And before you say anything, I already know that I would look ridiculous in colourful and tight-fitting lycra.

I do like seeing these crazy people head down and peddling but can’t help but think as to how vulnerable they are on our increasingly busy roads.

Time to THINK BIKE for our two wheeled population – this is something that we should all be embracing, after all, cyclists have been around a lot longer than us motorists.  Just a thought . . .