OAPs have earned respect

Having once failed to place an ‘envy wedge’ between the old and the young, certain politicians are again criticising the elderly for having a regular pension and owning their home.  Damned cheek!

Pensioners are only in that fortunate position because they worked all their lives to put a roof over their heads, foregoing foreign holidays and many luxuries that today’s youngsters take for granted.

A while back, these ‘stirrers’ in high office maintained that senior citizens were better off than the under-35s.

Fact. One in six pensioners is living in poverty.

The ‘stirrers’ are now calling the State Pension a ‘benefit’ and that senior citizens are becoming a strain on the economy.  Well, pardon us all for growing old!

Let’s get this straight. The State Pension (the lowest in Europe by the way) is not and has never been a ‘benefit’.  Today’s retirees are entitled to their Pension because they’ve paid into the system for 40 years or more.

Here’s another Fact. While it’s not easy to get a mortgage these days, the night time economy – millions spent every week in bars and nightclubs – relies on the under 35s disposable income.

You can’t go out every weekend, knocking back pints, shots and Prosecco Collapso until dawn and save up for a large deposit on a house.  It’s basic maths…innit?

It was once commonplace for couples – now today’s pensioners – to live with their in-laws for the first few years of their marriage, which often led to tensions. but it was the only way the newly weds could save a deposit for their own place.

While saving-up, their idea of a wild night out was going to the pictures, a bag of chips on the way home and falling asleep in front of the telly before midnight – which is now the time when many of today’s youngsters are just going out!

And next time you see a queue waiting outside a mobile phone shop, eager to buy the latest £500 model, there won’t be many pensioners in the line.

Stirrers…I’m on to you!

Trio are riding high to make a difference for others

There are people in our communities passionate about making a difference.
I am fortunate enough to get to meet so many of them in my line of work.

Let me explain.

On June 6, Joe Williams, Leah Ravuoco and Sophie Thomas will be travelling up to Llandudno in readiness for a 309 mile bike ride, which will hug the Welsh Coast all the way back to Llanelli.

With an elevation gain of 20,791ft through the hills, the first leg of their ride will be approximately 130 miles before they can get some sleep, ready for the remaining miles on Sunday.

They did ask me to join them, but my cycle shorts are in the wash.

This intrepid trio are raising money for the Jacob Abraham Foundation in aid of suicide awareness.  Both Joe and the girls want to raise awareness about male suicide, each one of them being personally affected, having lost a loved one, friend or colleague.

The money raised will go towards providing suicide prevention and intervention training, helping to give support quickly to those who in need of it.  It’s giving me saddle sores just thinking about the miles they will cycle. Well done guys – and good luck!

I will keep on ‘rambling’ as long as I’m allowed to!

Until I was asked to write a regular column for three local newspapers, I never imagined I’d be asked to write a regular column for three esteemed newspapers.

I mean, who’d be daft enough to believe a stand-up comedian could fill a page with informative and (hopefully) amusing content week after week, never running out of things to say?

That was a rhetorical question because obviously I know who was daft, err, astute enough to ask me, but he’d rather remain anonymous.  He has a family and a wide circle of influential friends, so you can’t really blame him, can you?

It was a leap of faith on his part and mine when I first started writing for the papers because, although as a comedian I express all sorts of views and opinions in my act, it’s different to the discipline of setting time aside every week – even when I’m on holiday – to write them down in a coherent style.

The only way to find out if I could deliver the goods every week was by learning on the job – one that I soon started to love, once I had a half-dozen columns under my belt.

When there’s a news story I feel the need to comment on, the words can come fairly easily.  But most weeks, I spend so long trying to get a piece right, re-writing and changing things, I feel like the sculptor who when asked how he managed to create a statue of a horse said “I keep chipping away at the stone until all that’s left is a horse” .

The importance of local newspapers in this digital age is brought home to me every time I’m approached by a member of the public who says they enjoy reading my ramblings every Wednesday.  They really make me feel part of the community and I hope to continue ‘chipping away at the stone’ for them every week in this paper for as long as I’m allowed.

Mum’s dress sense makes a lovely story

A lovely story was brought to my attention last week, which made me think of the challenges many families are faced with at this time of year. Let me explain.

Year 11 “proms” have exploded in popularity in recent years, it’s a lucrative industry and the talk of many young people for months beforehand.  It’s scary how much money is exchanged for the “night of young people’s lives”.

But let’s not forget that food banks are ever more present in our community and on a daily basis families face tough choices to decide where limited money is spent and for some, prom remains just a dream, for fear of putting more pressure on their families.

I’ve recently been made aware of heart-warming action being taken by a mum in Llanelli who wants to enable other young people to have their dream come true, just as her daughters did. Local mum, Shareen Geers and like minded mums all over social media have gathered a collection of prom dresses, to be gifted to Year 11 young ladies to make their dreams come true.

If you know of someone who faces a financial challenge and is unable to afford a prom dress, then please contact me via this paper and I will connect you with Shareen, so that every young lady is given the opportunity to shine at their special prom.  Don’t you just love a feel good story?

Together, we can make a difference.

Are we really living in the past?

Many comedians, after they’ve established a rapport with their audience, like to inter-act with individuals.  Using charm and persistence, they can get them to reveal what they do for a living, where they live and even details of their love life – which, of course, amuses the whole audience.

However, if the comedian insults the audience to the point where they get embarrassed and offended, then such performers are guilty of ‘biting off the hand that feeds them’.

Lord Julian Fellowes could be accused of biting off the hands of British audiences…right up to the shoulder!  An actor before he wrote “Gosford Park” and won an Oscar for best screenplay, Lord Fellowes, never one to shy away from self-promotion, has been touring America to plug his new film.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or laugh even louder when I read he’d complained to the American press that while the USA is a forward-looking society, the UK is ‘living in the past’.

The nerve of the man!

As far as I recall, everything he’s written has been set in previous eras and he’s made a lucrative living from it.  He’s probably best known for creating “Downton Abbey”, which, you may or may not forgive him for, depending on how forgiving a nature you have . . .

The long-running series has come to an end, but he’s written the screenplay of a film version which will be released later this year.  Although not a huge fan of his work, I do admire his work ethic – he’s a one-man script factory!  He never stops.

Apart from writing countless episodes of “Downton Abbey”, he wrote “The Young Victoria”; “Vanity Fair”; and a TV version of the Titanic tragedy; and has written a new series called “Belgravia” set in the 1930s.

I should also mention the film he’s been promoting in America, “The Chaperone”, is set in the 1920s.

Note than none of them are futuristic science-fiction epics.  I don’t for one minute believe us Brits are ‘living in the past’.  But I know a portly, titled gentleman who definitely is!

Tech may be moving quickly, but some of our roads aren’t!

Isn’t this time of year uplifting?  It’s much easier to wake up in the morning when the sun is streaming through the window and the birds are singing.

Having said that, it’s not easy getting a good night’s sleep in a strange bed.  This week’s column comes to you from a hotel room a long way from home.  Life on the road is far from glamorous.

Last night, the maid in my hotel room just turned my bed down. She’s not the first woman to do that either!

Traveling and being away from home has become a way of life, but modern technology has helped in such a way that staying in touch with family and friends is easier than ever.  I regularly Skype call my Cocker Spaniel when I’m away.

How times have changed over the past 20 years . . . Think about it, we didn’t have all this technology back then.  It was so much harder to stay in touch. Or was this a good thing? Did we talk more face to face?

Technology may be moving on, but things are far from perfect.  The traffic in our towns and cities remain a battleground and seem to be getting worse.  Swansea, Llanelli and even Ammanford have turned into a war zone recently and there are many frustrated drivers, including myself, close to breaking point.

I remember my grandad always used to say, “You’ve got to pick your battles.”
Which is why he was dishonourably discharged from the Army.

Insulting my inner Welshman

I’ll get to the point I want to make in a minute.  Meanwhile…

As a youngster, I thought “Pride comes before a fall!” referred to mishaps that befell big-headed jockeys, steeplejacks and trapeze artistes.  Not that I used the words ‘Mishaps’ or ‘Befell’ back then.

However, it began to make sense the first time l felt proud my hard work had paid off and I achieved some success.  Then “Lady Luck” vanished and I learned that after something positive happens, life can often slap us in the chops – reminding us we’re nobody special.

Perhaps some individuals go from the cradle to the grave bathed in a golden light, never touched by tragedy or disappointment.  I’d say “Good luck!” to them…but obviously they don’t need it!

After many career “Ups” followed by a similar number of “Downs”, I thought it’d make sense to lock my Pride away in the basement. Without Pride, I couldn’t fall, right?

Yes! I’m getting to the point!

When I hear people announce “I’m a proud Welshman” so frequently it becomes monotonous – a certain daytime Radio Wales presenter is particularly guilty of this – I want to say “Look! I’m Welsh, too, and very happy to be.  But do us all a favour and stop throwing the ‘P’ word around willy nilly!”

Willy Nilly isn’t the presenters name by the way.

To the point…

My inner Welshman was insulted recently when, in an episode of the TV series “Holiday Of My Lifetime”Len Goodman took Toyah Wilcox back to somewhere she went on holiday as a child… Llangollen.

So internationally famous, everyone knows how to pronounce it.

Toyah pronounced it correctly.  Everyone they met during the show pronounced it correctly.  But Len insisted on continually mispronouncing it….

LAN-GOL-AN!

And then, during the closing credits, he had the nerve to say…
“I did my best with the Welsh pronunciations!”

Because this was blatantly untrue, I became so outraged, my Pride returned to such an extent I’m applying for a daytime gig on Radio Wales!

There’s a lot of virtue to be found in ‘not fitting in’

Well – I’m glad Easter is over, there is only so much chocolate one can eat.
Safely.  Personally, I didn’t have any Easter eggs, but everywhere I went there were chocolate eggs for sale.

For the record, I’ve picked a few up today at a fraction of the price they were last week.  It was worth the wait.

Don’t judge me on this. We all like a bargain from time to time. We all have our funny ways and if we were all ‘perfect’ or the same, life would be so flipping boring, and I wouldn’t have anything to write about every week.
In fact, you would probably see me sitting in a coffee shop somewhere, staring into my cup. Can you imagine?

We should all embrace and celebrate our differences.  Many of the greatest people in history often didn’t fit in. Yet not fitting in turned out to be a huge asset for them.

They possibly didn’t know this at the time, but by being true to themselves and applying a good work ethic, they stood out and greatness was achieved.

Maybe this is something we could all think about?

Seeing a film can be quite an experience

I’m just about old enough to remember when people didn’t go to ‘The Multiplex to see a movie’, they went to ‘The pictures to see a film’.

In fact, unless the attraction was a three-hour epic, cinemagoers could see two films – the main feature plus a ‘B’ film…and a newsreel.

If some cinemas, affectionately known as fleapits, were in need of refurbishment, audiences didn’t care as long as the film was engrossing.  This was long before the shiny new multiplexes opened and the behaviour of audiences, changed – for the worse.

I don’t think actress Helen Mirren has paid to see a film in a cinema since 1969, because at a recent Warner Brothers event to promote her latest film, she bad-mouthed – using a very discouragin’ word – a certain well-known streaming service, announcing “There’s nothing like the experience of seeing a film in a cinema”.

She’s right. Seeing a film in a cinema today can be quite an experience!

I’ve had to confront rowdy audience members who were spoiling the film for everyone else and a friend of mine’s visit to see the new version of “Dumbo” in a Cardiff cinema with his family was ruined by the antics of several noisy, restless teenagers (for whom the film was totally unsuitable) until an usher ejected them 30 minutes before the film ended.

Ms. Mirren lives in a different world to ours, where she sees films in a studio screening room or at premieres.  So, she’s unlikely to be surrounded by annoying idiots talking, texting or calling their mates on their mobiles.

She won’t be distracted by thoughtless people munching their way through industrial-sized portions of sweets, popcorn and nachos covered in cheese and noisily slurping sugary, fizzy drinks.

The old fleapits were drab and the carpets were sticky, but the only mischief teenagers got up to was snogging in the back row or, if you didn’t have a girlfriend, smoking Woodbines with your mates down the front.

Aha! Now that revived a few memories didn’t it?

See you in the cheap seats….

This was not something that I planned

I have just realised that this will be the 250th page I’ve presented to the local papers and, in addition to this, slightly surprised by the fact that I continue to come up with new ideas and stories on a weekly basis.  This was not something that I planned.

I just happened to be approached and accepted the challenge in my usual enthusiastic way.  Learning on the job is one way of describing the journey so far.

Having said that, it has now become a regular occurrence to be approached by the public while out on my travels, only to be complimented on my weekly newspaper articles. It’s nice to learn that people are gaining some pleasure from my work.

Even my doctor commented recently, which totally threw me as he was carrying out my first ever prostate examination at the time.  My reply was quite high pitched.

Not the conversation I was expecting and not that I have a prostate issue, but I’m at the age where regular check-ups are advisory.

So, if you are reading this, clearly you are checking out my column.  If you are male and of a mature age then make sure you also regularly check out your prostate condition. You can thank me later.