It’s not as easy as it looks…so think before you heckle!

No pun intended . . . but people have funny ideas about what it’s like to be a comedian.

If I’m introduced to someone in this way . . . “Meet Phil. He’s a comedian”, nine times out of 10 the person I’m being introduced to will say, “Tell us a joke!”.

This request to instantly demonstrate what I do for a living never happens with any other profession.

If I was introduced as an architect, I wouldn’t be expected to whip out my pen and design a kitchen extension on the back of a napkin.

And if I was introduced as a proctologist, no one would drop their trousers and say, “I wonder if you’d take a look at this . . . ”

Because stand-up comedy is everywhere these days (on TV, radio, You Tube and everywhere else) some individuals incorrectly think they’re just as funny as ‘That bloke I saw on the telly last night’.

However, they won’t put their head above the parapet by writing jokes, creating a little act and doing open mic nights in comedy clubs before spending years learning their craft.

No.

They find it much easier to become hecklers.

I’ve only one piece of advice for hecklers. Even if the two pints of lager you’ve consumed convince you that you’re the funniest person in the room, think carefully before you interrupt a comedian’s performance. You may have your mates on your side. The comedian has the greater advantage. He has the microphone!

As for heckler ‘put-downs’, there are many strong ones I can’t repeat here, but I prefer the subtler ones.

For example, when a drunk heckles me and the only laughs he/she gets are nervous little ones from their equally drunk mates, I give it a moment, look at them and say . . .  “Comedy’shard…isn’t it?”

Hearing the rest of the audience react with laughter and applause, hecklers usually keep quiet after that.

If they don’t, I have an arsenal of those strong ‘put-downs’ I can’t mention . . .
Well, I could mention, but I’m told the editor of this newspaper would prefer not to be landed with a court case . . .

Our community spirit shows through in darkest days

Despite the terribly challenging weather over the past week, many of us have had to brave the elements and continue with our travels and engagements.

As you read this I am in Derby (the place, not the horse race) and far away from the mayhem.

Events and activities in Wales were cancelled for safety reasons, and rightly so considering it was extremely difficult to even stand up straight in that high wind!

The news footage and social media videos of towns and villages close to us was disturbing, to say the least.

Homes and businesses suffered and will continue to be affected during the clean-up operation over the next few weeks, possibly months for some.

It is at times like these that the Welsh really show what community spirit is all about. We all pull together so that some type of normality can be restored.

Already we are seeing and hearing stories of community spirit and bravery that are so uplifting and demonstrate the good that people can do during times of crisis and chaos.

I’m often reminded that it is important to focus on the positive and count my blessings, but I admit that this line of thinking isn’t always easy.

What a carry on about comedy!

CARRY on and keep calm, Jason!

I recently got into my car to drive to a meeting on a gloriously sunny Autumn morning. The birds were singing (an Abba medley, since you asked) and I was in a good mood.

And then I switched on the Jason Mohammad programme on BBC Radio Wales . . .

Jason seems personable enough, but so obsessed with sport, any subject under discussion (Brexit, Trump, Kim Kardashian’s behind) invariably includes his opinion of ‘last’s night game’, forgetting that not all his listeners share his interest and that there are many sport-free radio stations they can turn to.

Like the last letter in this sentence, that’sbeside the point.

His phone-in that morning was about ‘60 Years Of The Carry On Films’.

Some of the later ‘Carry On’ films were pretty weak. In fact, the final one, ’Carry On Columbus’, made in 1992, is now unwatchable. But, from 1958 and for two decades, cinema audiences flocked to see them.

From the off, it was obvious Jason had a bee in his bonnet about the films and was annoying his guest, ‘Carry On’ expert and writer Robert Ross by constantly repeating “Those films were just smut”.

Intrigued, I pulled over to the side of the road to listen.

Mr Ross vainly tried to explain that, as well as enjoying the performances of Sid, Kenny, Babs and the gang, the public loved the innuendo and double entendres and it’s impossible and pointless to criticise any art form of the past from today’s “We know better now!” Politically Correct viewpoint.

As Jason persisted with his ‘smut’ line, the patient Mr Ross said something I didn’t catch and Jason suddenly cut him off, surprised that a guest should get so annoyed with his uninformed accusations.

I’m convinced Jason never saw a ‘Carry On’ film in a cinema filled with an audience howling with laughter. I’m willing to guess he has only seen brief excerpts on TV . . . between sporting events.

Tastes in comedy have changed, yet those old ‘Carry Ons’ are still enjoyed by TV viewers born long after they stopped making them.

For more than 60 years, the films inspired many writers and comedians of modern comedy, including a series far more crudely explicit than any ‘Carry On’ . . . the smut-filled ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’. I wonder if Mr Mohammad is a fan?

Full steam ahead for another great day out

One of the great things about living in Carmarthenshire is that there is always something interesting to do right on your doorstep.

Last Sunday, I was lucky enough to be invited out on a train journey which included a three-course Sunday lunch onboard.  No, this wasn’t the Orient Express by any means. But, for me, it was as close as it gets here in Wales.

The Gwili Railway in Bronwydd, Carmarthen, is where my journey started – and the scenery and service were quality, to say the least. It certainly was an adventure and one that I had heard about many times before. But I’d not bothered to enquire further as I didn’t think that this was worthy of an afternoon out.

Well, let’s be honest, we all get it wrong . . . occasionally. This service is run entirely by the most enthusiastic volunteers that I have met.

We were served up the most delicious Sunday roast by smartly dressed waiters, as the train ambled through the type of stunning scenery that can only be found here in Wales.

Topped off with delicious apple crumble and custard, there was no better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

What an experience – and one I will definitely be repeating. Now then – where shall I go next Sunday?

Lay off our elderly folk – they don’t deserve to be criticised

There’s an insidious trend in the media, fuelled by various politicians and other influential figures (who would do well to choose their words more carefully), to blame everything that’s wrong with society, with the exception of Simon Cowell’s bizarre haircut, on those ‘terrible people . . . ‘The Elderly’.
Take last winter, when we were told very bluntly that hospital bed shortages were caused by ‘The Elderly’.

How dare old people get flu and pneumonia and fall over on slippery pavements, breaking arms and legs?
It’s an outrage!

Some under-30s complain that ‘The Elderly’ are the main cause of the housing shortage because they’d rather stay in their three or four-bedroom houses than sell up and move into a one-bedroom, no-garden flat overlooking the gasworks.

These whingers don’t consider that to own their home, ‘The Elderly’ had to scrimp, save, maintain and work hard for it over 40 years.

They don’t consider that many of ‘The Elderly’ need extra bedrooms so that grandchildren can stay overnight.

Not all old people sit around the fireside, wistfully thinking about the past.
Many have a wide circle of friends and relatives who stay with them for fun weekends and celebrations.

When marriages fall apart, where do sons and daughters (and their children) usually turn for shelter and emotional comfort, often for the long term?
Mam and Dad’s house!

That wouldn’t be possible if Mam and Dad lived in a small flat with a gasworks view.

When, provided they eat their greens, today’s under-30s eventually reach their 70s, I wonder ifthey will contribute as much to society as today’s ‘Elderly’?

For the record – many of my mentors, that have shaped and guided me, provided wisdom and encouragement over the years are now well into their 70s and I will always remain grateful for their engagement and sharing.

Oh brother…. what a year!

Feeling gloomy?  Depressed?  You’re not alone.

Unless you’ve just won the Lottery, many of us think that, so far, 2018 is a big disappointment.

There’s still a loud, unpleasant Trump in the White House. Kim Jong-Un is still on the verge of exploding in a giant fireball of anger and Emmental cheese (his favourite food). And Vladimir Putin, according to some newspapers, is planning to invade the UK.

As around 300,000 Russians already live in the UK and Russian businessmen own British newspapers and football teams, hasn’t it already started?

Perhaps we’d better learn the Russian for ‘Welcome’?
Dah-broh poh-zhahl-oh-vat!

Then, there’s the fast-moving revolution regarding how men should behave towards women, which spread from Hollywood to all corners of the world, including Fishguard.

While I agree there have been too many examples of powerful men – in all walks of life – taking advantage of younger women (and a change was overdue!), has it gone too far in the opposite direction?

I ask this because last week a lady on Breakfast TV claimed that winkingis now considered sexual harassment. Hearing that, I phoned our local monastery to ask if they had any vacancies for a monk.

And recently a well-mannered mate of mine opened a shop door to allow a young girl to enter the building, only to receive a scowl and a tetchy. “I can manage on my own!”

The way we’re supposed to behave and interact with each other today has become a social minefield.

Add to all these things the persistent wet weather we’ve been subjected to and it’s no wonder so many usually cheerful people are looking down in the mouth.

So, what can we do to offset this mounting mass of misery?
Don’t ask me.  I’ve just shaved my head. I now answer to the name of Brother Philip . . .

Make sure you capture those magic moments while you can

My very good friend and official show photographer, Rob Jones from Porthcawl, has taught me many valuable lessons over the years.
He 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 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 provides 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.

Don’t waste the opportunity. You can thank me later.

Lonely feeling when you can’t sleep

There’s a song by Frank Sinatra that begins “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning . . . When The Whole Wide World Is Fast Asleep . . . ”

It’s a favourite of mine, despite the fact that in real life it’s impossible for the whole of the worldto be asleep at the same time – due to international date lines and different time zones!

BTW (as the kids say, or By The Way to you and me): Did you know that Canada has six different time zones?
You didn’t?

Then you should get up early and watch repeats of ‘The Chase’ on ITV 4, because that’s where I learned this fact.

Even though the song is factually incorrect, in the middle of the night, if you find it impossible to sleep, it can feel like you’re the only person who’s awake, if not in the whole wide world, then certainly in your street.

A few weeks ago I stayed overnight in a hotel and, even though I’d had a small night-cap downstairs in the bar and read for half-an-hour (in bed, not in the bar) before I switched off the light, I just could notfall asleep.

I had nothing on my mind apart from the same thought that swims through everyone’shead as it hits the pillow . . .

“What doesITV One Wales’ presenter Andrew Jones do between his final 30-second news bulletin on ‘Good Morning Britain’ and his lunch time bulletin at five to two?”

I did consider counting sheep, but even if I’d phoned a farmer friend and asked him to bring some to the hotel, the lift only held a maximum of 10 farm animals, so it hardly seemed worthwhile.

Besides, their bleating would have prevented me from sleeping, as would the sound of the night manager banging on my door.

I decided watching TV might help and did eventually start to doze around 6.15 a.m. to the sound of . . .

“Goooood Morning! I’m Andrew Jones with the news from Wales . . . ”

Too busy to acknowledge others’ kind acts?

Call me old fashioned, but I’m a big supporter of please and thank you.
It costs nothing to be polite and to appreciate an act of kindness.

Far too often I witness such acts being totally ignored.
Take last week, for instance. I saw a young man hold a door open for a middle-aged lady in a busy Swansea shop and was shocked to see that this gentlemanly gesture was totally ignored.

Fair play to him, he just smiled and went on with his day.
This also happens on our busy roads.

If I’m stuck in traffic, I often let people in if safe to do so, but, unfortunately, very few people acknowledge the gesture.

Are we becoming a nation of arrogant individuals, or is it that we are so preoccupied in our own little world that others don’t matter or deserve acknowledgment for being polite and courteous anymore?

Write and let me know your stories if this has happened to you.
The best story will win an extremely popular gift from Evans HQ!

Good luck and get writing!

Fame, Films, Canaries and Cwmtwrch!

If you visit Lower Cwmtwrch today, you’d never know that flesh-hungry aliens once walked the streets, terrorised the residents and called into the ‘pub for a couple of pints and a game of darts.

The aliens sneakily landed on New Years Eve, knowing their presence would hardly be noticed amongst the cacophony of fireworks, renditions of “Agadoo” and general revelry for which Lower Cwmtwrch is renowned, not just at the turn of the year but most Saturday nights.

As I reported back in July 2017, the aliens were characters in the new science-fiction comedy film “Canaries” and were accompanied by a film crew under the supervision of Swansea-born director and writer Peter Stray.

One year on, “Canaries” can be seen in selected cinemas around Wales and on Sky Cinema. There will also be a gala screening in Ystradgynlais on October 21st, at the Brecon road cinema,  followed bya cast and crew Q & A session.

“Canaries” stars Kai Owen, Robert Pugh, Hannah Daniel and Cwmtwrch-born Craig Russell, who is also the producer. Apart from Craig’s home town, locations included Washington DC, Vietnam and Martha’s Vineyard – on a budget of less than £30,000!

Because the cast and crew believed in the script, they were willing to defer salaries and Craig explained that the film also had enormous help from the local community. “My mother, who owned the post office, together with Ruth Levy, did all the catering, and housed the cast, crew . . . and the aliens!

“We filmed next to my mother’s shop in a converted chapel, knocked on doors asking if we could plug things in and filmed late into the night, but no-one complained. They even closed The Castle pub just to let us film.”

An eerie alien invasion movie with a dash of Welsh humour sounds like a winning formula that’ll appeal to science fiction fans around the world….and possibly other worlds too!