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.

It’s far too early to be talking turkey!

We’re well into spring.  We’ve had some mild, sunny days and the early evenings are lighter for longer.  So, what better time to start seriously thinking about where to go for Christmas lunch?

Actually, I can think of a much better time.  Midnight on December 24th.

However, according to a deluge of unsolicited e-mails I’ve received recently from hotels and restaurants, I should look at their ‘sumptuous’ Christmas menus and consider how many lunch guests to pay a deposit for.

Yikes! It’s not even Easter and they want me to start spending money on Christmas!

But that’s our world today.  We are constantly cajoled, pushed, persuaded…blackmailed even…into spending money on events and ‘special days’ from January to December.

You may remember my article about the naked greed of supermarkets which, from the moment they’ve sold the last garden table, chairs and parasol set on August Bank Holiday Monday, cover all bases in their effort to prise every last coin out of your hands.

Overnight, shelves groan under the weight of Halloween tat.  Posters go up advertising November 5th Fireworks for sale . . . to adults only.  And, as the staff hang tinsel and plastic Santas on the remaining shelf space, the same 25 Christmas songs we hear every year start playing in the background.

And all this happens, not as Johnny Mathis tells us “Because a child is born” but because the owners of supermarkets and the manufacturers and importers, whose goods we buy, want to take our cash from us.  It’s as simple as that.

So, when an ad pops up on my laptop, asking “Have you thought about spending Christmas and New Year with us at the No Sea View Hotel and ‘Spar’ (the shop is open Christmas morning for those last-minute gifts like a packet of cooked ham and a can of WD40”) I shout at the screen in my best

Noddy Holder voice…

“No! Because it’s April. NOT Chriiiisss…mas!”

Get involved now and give patients a tonic

Spring is in the air and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, along with Keep Wales Tidy are hoping to secure £50,000 of National Lottery funding as part of this year’s People’s Projects.  Were you aware of this?

Now, we all know or can imagine how miserable it can be to be stuck inside a hospital ward, so wouldn’t it be great if the team could transform some of the hospital grounds for patients, staff and visitors to sit out in and enjoy?  Part of the healing process even.

If successful, the money would be spent on transforming unloved areas at three hospitals – Morriston and Gorseinon in Swansea and Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda in neighbouring Cwm Taf.

The aim is to create quiet havens that will benefit the health and wellbeing not just of patients but visitors and hardworking staff.

But Keep Wales Tidy is only one of five groups in Wales in the running for the funding and the decision on who will get it rests on a public vote.  Voting closes on Monday, April 15.

I have just cast my vote. Pop along to the website and register your vote now.  Let’s help make a difference today.

Too much of a good thing!

I’m beginning to think it is possible to have ‘too much of a good thing’, when the ‘good thing’ in question is a 51-year old television situation comedy once regarded as a classic, but having been re-created, re-staged and re-imagined so many times since it ended, even its most loyal fans must think “Enough!”

“Dad’s Army” began its nine-year, 80-episode run on BBC One so long ago (July 1968) the first two series were in black and white!  Younger readers, ask your parents . . .

Between that first episode and the final one broadcast in November 1977, a successful feature film spin-off was released in 1971 and in 1975 a stage version was written by the series creators Jimmy Perry and David Croft, featuring the original cast performing songs and comedy routines.

It played to packed audiences in the West End from October 1975 to February 1976 before touring theatres around the UK later that year and the public clamoured to see their comedy heroes in the flesh.

When the TV series finished and the actors and writers moved on to other projects, it wasn’t a case of “At ease men! The war is over. You’ve all been de-mobbed!”  Because “Dad’s Army” continues to march on and on – and I don’t just mean the BBC2 Saturday evening repeats that have been running for decades.

In 2007 and 2009 a whole new bunch of actors appeared in a stage tour based around three old episodes ‘stitched’ together and in 2016 a new “Dad’s Army” film was released (escaped?) which misfired on so many levels that it’s best-forgotten.

And now in 2019, the Gold Channel have re-made three 50-year old ‘lost’ episodes of “Dad’s Army” with a new cast.

If these three shows do well, some bright spark at the BBC might consider re-making all 80 episodes.  To which I would say, in the languid style of John Le Mesurier …”Do you really think that’s wise?”

Put that light out!

The sound of springtime – now where are my earplugs?

Don’t you just love nature and waking up on a sunny Sunday morning to lawnmower and petrol strimmers howling in the background?  Yes, I bet you do.

Having done a late night gig, Sunday morning is the only chance I get to have that extra hour of quality rest to recover from the demands of the weekend – but clearly others among us have their own ideas at this time of year.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to a well-kept back yard and a neatly-trimmed bush, but a few of my neighbours have taken this too far and have invested in those high powered, turbo-charged, petrol-driven hedge cutters.

Their enthusiasm for these new gadgets has meant that the whole street wakes up early to find out where the noise is coming from.  I honestly thought that a Formula One racing team had relocated their practice sessions to Ammanford.

But, don’t worry about me, I’ve sorted it and will be ready for next weekend as I’ve invested in a large box of ear plugs.

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?